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Bella

Summary:
Twilight had passed. The new moon was out. Alternate approach to the second book.


Notes:
Spoilers: New Moon. Was begun before Bella became friends with Jacob (though that is not when it takes place).


3. Chapter Two

Rating 5/5   Word Count 3627   Review this Chapter

Chapter Two

Now that I had decided on a plan of action, being around Bella wasn’t as uncomfortable as it had been before. Nothing had changed, of course—not at first—but for some reason I cannot explain, I could feel some part of her relaxing, as if she was ready to have her end goal reached and her life rebuilt and returned to her, though it was not yet time.

At least, that’s what I was hoping she was feeling, because I didn’t want her to suffer longer than she absolutely "had" to.

It was ridiculous, really, even insane for me to think about Bella and feel about Bella the way I did. I tried to convince myself of that plainly obvious fact, to no avail. I had known her, what, a day? One measly little day in a life-span of eternity, and I couldn’t get her out of my head. I couldn’t stop feeling as if we were connected, like siblings, yin and yang, black and white. Me—the vampire who thinks and acts like a human. Her—the human who thinks and acts like a vampire.

It was egotistical of me, that much was obvious. The fact was made even more prevalent when I caught myself believing that I was the best thing that had ever happened to her. Afterall, I had cried for her, and I would now care for her, and change her back into what she once was so that I could turn her into a monster and rejoin her with her one true love—

Realizing what my mind was thinking and my heart was believing without my permission made me angry. I didn’t have anyone to rightfully be angry at; I didn’t feel exactly like I should be angry at someone else. Of course it was my fault, but I wouldn’t be thinking such things if Bella was good and whole, now would I? It was foul of me, channeling my own angers and shame away from myself by comparing myself to someone I didn’t know or understand. Petty and childish—but effective. I could deal with my own issues later; whether it was healthy or not, my life was Bella now.

Not that it was hard to change the focus of my existence. It shouldn’t be, since I am in fact an everlasting vampire without someone to love eternally. To put it in the barest and rudest of terms, vampires are constantly looking for distractions, something to occupy their time, and Bella was mine. But she was more than a hobby—far more. Bella was special, that much no one could deny, and now knowing exactly how special made me all the more determined to keep her around and help her heal before granting her wish.

The first day I woke her up at noon, not sure of how long she wanted to sleep. I had led her to her room a little after night had fallen, and she laid down shortly thereafter. I couldn’t be sure of when she fell asleep for the simple fact that she was not one to express any emotion or change, even in her breathing or heartbeat, though I figured it didn’t take her long. In order to be kept up one would have to have emotions to sustain the required, extended restlessness.

She had changed into some clothes I had scrounged up for her to go to sleep, and in the morning she brushed her teeth, combed her hair, took a bath—did everything she needed to take care of herself properly—before changing into fresh clothes that were actually mine. From there I led her back down to the kitchen to make her something to eat.

I had gone shopping a bit the night before, and as I was about to figure out something to do—I could only cook a few things: eggs, bacon, grits, etc; I wasn’t sure what she wanted, and that had been worrying me—when she put her hand on my shoulder. A moment of wordless communication passed between us then, and though her eyes betrayed nothing but the infinite numbness I was expecting, there was something there. I didn’t understand it, and so stunned I didn’t push against her. She set about making herself something to eat.

Relieved, and surprised, I sat down at my small kitchen table and watched her for a long moment. She had found some thick Texas-style bread and then proceeded to cut out holes in them and fry them up with eggs and peppers. I was impressed, beyond a doubt, and couldn’t keep silent for long. As she flipped her two slices over for the first time (she must have been hungry) I blurted out, "You can cook?"

Bella nodded, everything about her slow, deliberate, even rhythmic. She would make a fantastic vampiress, I decided. "It’s one of my talents." She shrugged, although that might have been to address a kink in her back instead of her statement. "I cooked for my mother growing up, three meals a day for my father and myself when I lived with him, and then did the same for my mother and her husband when I moved back with them, until school let out and I left and ended up here."

Her voice was a soft whisper, almost painfully beautiful—she would also make an overwhelming vampire. Although I suppose that my opinion didn’t matter much, seeing as how easily affected I obviously am.

"Didn’t leave much room for leftovers, eh," I grunted, staring down at the tile floor thoughtfully.

A long silence dragged on, and I thought that she had either not heard me or just wasn’t going to answer, before she whispered, "I never served leftovers. I always needed something else to do."

"Did you always cook all three meals?" I responded quietly with a question, intent.

She paused before answering. "Not...before."

The next pause was pregnant. Luckily I was observant, since I’m a vampire, because if I was my normal human self...that could have ended badly.

The implication wasn’t too clear, but it was there, clouded and to be examined. Something else to do...rather than think about the one that left her. Needed...to keep from going insane. To keep from being overwhelmed? Overwhelmed by what? Emotion?—or a manifestation that stemmed from pain and morphed into something much more horrible?

What could be more horrible?...A nightmare?

The room was silent except for the crackling and the sizzling of the oil in the large cast iron skillet (no Southern girl, human or otherwise, should ever be without a cast-iron skillet) frying Bella’s breakfast to perfection. I almost missed being human at times like these, when the vaguest of recollections come to me, and I remember how delicious warm, simple foods were—fried eggs, fried bacon, grits with sugar, and honey if we behaved—and how comforting the kitchen was, Mama cooking and scolding us little rascals, her children, as we flooded the small house trying to steal sweets and beat on one another. Now all I had were the years ahead, and the moment I was currently living. Some things last forever—blood isn’t one of them, and neither is cold.

I was so lost in my own thoughts that I didn’t notice Bella as she sat across from me with her plate of food and a glass of water. I cursed myself incessantly as she dug in; I had forgotten to buy orange juice, or even milk, of all things!

"I’m sorry," I murmured, unnecessarily embarrassed by my oversight. "I forgot to get you something else—anything else—to drink." Probably had something to do with my own beverage preferences.

Bella looked at me, chewing slowly, blinked once...twice, and then spoke. "It’s fine. It doesn’t matter. It’s good that you remembered I have to eat regularly."

I frowned; was that a joke? It couldn’t be; she wasn’t smiling, or even inflecting, but the dry sarcasm—however faded—was still there. Or so I thought. It was hard to tell, but a skeleton is better than a ghost, right?

When she was done eating Bella got up and rinsed her plate off, scrubbing the grease away from all dishes thoroughly, then taking the time to dry each one, shining them as far as I could tell, and then putting them away. I was dumbstruck, though not as utterly as I had been the day before. I couldn’t comprehend her level of emptiness, and I didn’t want to—even her determination and stubbornness, however passive, surprised and impressed me. Why go on living when you were so gone? We could all stand to learn a thing or two from this remarkable little lady.

Then I began to grow fidgety, each second bringing us closer to when she would be out of things to do and I would be forced to find something to occupy her time—it was my house, she was my guest; it was my plan, she was going along with it—while I had no idea as to what that something should be. I hadn’t even thought of it before, despite my endless existence and thinking time. That only fueled my inner anger and made me start to hate the decided "source".

When she was done with the dishes she turned to me, waiting. I gnawed on my lip nervously, and I knew that if I could I would have broken out into a cold sweat right about then.

Bella was patient, and not even my rapid mental functions could prevent a few seconds of vast silence passing before I could satisfy the need for a plan.

"Would you like to come with me to work in the garage?" I suggested lamely, nervously, more unsure of myself than any vampire should ever be.

Bella nodded, and I turned around, grateful for the plan of action, and began to lead her out of the main house—which was small, closer to a shack, and barren—and back into the garage in which we had first met—which was large, generously equipt, and the best, and only, one for miles.

My garage was more than a garage; far more. It was my workshop, my business center, my hobby, my distraction, my life. That much was painfully obvious for anyone to see as soon as you walked in—no, even before that: when you first came into view of it.

First of all, the place was huge. Gray and made of sheeted metal (here’s a bit of trivia: I built it all myself, pretending to have hired others, which I easily could since the location is so remote, and so now it feels even more precious to me), tall and wide. Inside I stored my equipment, my tools, my cars and my other vehicles, including some trucks and a few motorcycles. There was even a little office and a storage room and an unplugged refrigerator for show. I’d probably have to start actually using it, for Bella. It was weird thinking of her as a human with needs and frailties and all the rest.

I noticed that Bella was examining her surroundings when she bumped into me, her face tilted up, eyes wide and taking in everything. I smiled and moved out of her way, watching her as opposed to following her gaze. It was an amazing sight, I knew, and already improvement was evident in her. Maybe there was hope for her, afterall, even if all she had left was me.

I turned to one of three cars out in the open—this one I was just replacing a single part in, even more of a piece of cake than my work usually is, for me. I patted the hood tenderly; I really liked that car, it was a great car I had built up myself, from scratch, and finally had the last part I needed (which had been a bit hard to find).

I was turning back to my baby with the part in hand, only to discover that Bella was staring at both me and it. This unnerved me, especially since she seemed so intent, so bright, even. I realized right then and there that if there was one thing Bella was not, it was dead. Dead in the functioning sense of the word. Even empty and beyond cold, she was never dead; she was no zombie. I could tell that she had persevered for her parents. A lesser person would have wallowed.

"Um...I just have to put this one last part in, if you want to do something else—" I stated, clearing my throat, almost cursing my lack of humanity. Some things are impossible to do without a heartbeat, working glands, the typical bodily fluids, etc.

Bella shook her head minutely, as she always did. "No, it’s no problem. A 1986 Volkswagen Rabbit?"

Her words held no emotion, but my look made up for that. I just blinked at her once...twice...thrice...six times, mouth agape, before shrilly croaking out, "How did you know?"

She shrugged, but her posture held something I couldn’t quite place. Her hand skimmed over the surface of the hood, fingers barely touching the glossy surface.

I frowned. "Uh...Bella?"

She turned to me, one eyebrow raised infinitesimally.

"Are you into cars?"

Bella shook her head lightly, and I got the feeling that if she was her normal self she would have smiled or laughed at the thought. "Not at all. I trust myself around mechanics about as much as I trust myself around electronics. Too much math and too many dangerous parts. My best friend was into cars." She was looking down by then, and once more I sensed that dash of sarcasm bordering on humor—her mind was like a graveyard haunted by ghosts, and that irked me. My eye twitched; having someone around without having their emotions was acting as a black hole to my own feelings, leaving me drained and borderline depressed-psychotic.

"What happened to him?" I asked softly. I didn’t miss the past tense when she spoke of her friend—was he dead?

She turned to me, no shrug this time, no bodily movement of any sort. "He’s not dead."

It was as if she had read my mind, and that in and of itself was very, very creepy. "Oh..." I frowned, growing more frustrated by her lack of an answer than I should have. "What happened to y’all?"

Bella tilted her head to one side, and I figured that that was what she was doing instead of allowing her mouth to twitch into a half-smile.

"Did the two of you fall out when you...changed?"

I guessed, and I was really wrong, apparently, to induce such a "strong" reaction (for that one, anyway). Bella swung her head all the way to one side and then all the way to the other and then back to its original position. How a human could swish around their blood so much and notseem human was beyond me. "We didn’t become friends until four months after Edward left."

Now I knew I was getting somewhere! This was vital, that much was obvious. I leaned forward, the master cylinder in my hand, and gazed up at Bella. "What was his name?"

"His name is Jacob."

The inflection was faint, but it was there. My eyes widened even further, but I forced myself not to dwell on the fact. It was a small victory, hardly even a change—the tone hadn’t reached her eyes—and if I fussed over it I would not only miss my chance, I might also scare it away. So I kept talking.

"So...Jacob..." I mused, my mind working swiftly to supplement the conversation and keep her going. "Why did you become friends when you did?"

Bella walked around the car and pulled a short but unsullied stool out from beneath one of my workbenches—a stool I had forgotten even existed—and placed it a few feet from me, standing alone on the dirt floor. Her hands folded in her lap and she stared at herself in the surface of the car as she spoke.

"I needed a mechanic. I had found these two motorcycles, after my first brush with danger, and they were perfect for my ‘hearing voices’ objective. I got them for free, but they weren’t in working condition. The mechanic in the nearest town was far too expensive—it would have been cheaper to take it to the nearest city, which was too far away. But then I remembered Jake—Jacob Black. His father was a friend of my father. I took them to him, offering him one of them as payment, and I would even buy the necessary parts. Finally he gave into that deal, and so he started working on them.

"I would hang out at his house when he worked on the bikes. It was...fun. I had a great time, even laughed and meant it, when I was around him. He was only sixteen, but he wasn’t as young or immature as he could have been. We started doing our homework together, too, and hanging out a lot, whether or not we were working on the bikes. Because of Jake I regained my will to live, my love of life, smiling and laughing for the first time in a long time.

"Even Charlie noticed the difference. He was the reason I had even found out about the voice I could hear; he pointed out my...odd behavior, and so I went out with a friend, did something stupid, and wanted more. He was so happy to see me happy, for the first time in a long time. It...tortured him...seeing me the way I was. Empty..."

Bella paused there, and I could feel the presence of so many things going unsaid. I hungered to hear, to know more, but I didn’t want to push it. Instead I tucked away these questions to explore some other time.

"It wasn’t the same, of course," she continued, her voice a whisper, painful to hear in it a lack of emotion that should have been there; even more painful that the emotion itself would have been. "Jacob was no substitute. The hole in my heart was still there. But the pain...dulled somehow. Ached, but became easier to push aside. He made me strong. But...in time being with him produced a new hurt."

I had to push forward on that; it was too obvious and poignant not to. "What new hurt?"

She looked up at me, and for a moment her eyes seemed lighter, and a glimmer of pain lingered a millisecond longer than it had before. "Jacob loved me, wanted to be with me. I wasn’t ready, of course, but he was...‘willing to wait’."

This bothered her more than it should have; Bella wasn’t peeved at Jacob, or because of Jacob, not directly.

"Why was that such a bad thing?"

Looking back on it, some divine power must have been blessing me every step of the way, because I always knew the exact question to ask and precisely how to word it—such as at that moment (and later, even when it seemed as if I asked the wrong question at first, the action always yielded the best possible results). "Because I was broken!"

Her outburst bordered on loud, and the sound echoed through the metal garage as more of her words should have, though they didn’t for the lack of proper human inflection. I flinched back, shocked and surprised, my eyes wide. Silence thrummed for prolonged second after second.

Bella lowered her gaze. "Damaged. I was damaged goods, no longer whole, irrevocably broken. He could never heal me, never change me back into what I once was. But he didn’t see that. He didn’t see the truth. It would be wrong, dishonest, horrible of me to give in, to let me have me, though it would have been easier...I wasn’t worth it."

Her voice lowered to a whisper before fading away.

I inched closer to her, making sure to be as non-threatening and gentle as was inhumanly possible. "Why didn’t you let him in?"

Bella looked up at her, her eyes darker than before, unbearable sadness overwhelming my very soul—this wasn’t all of her pain, only a small slice of it, the second largest slice that couldn’t even compare to the agony I would have to work much harder to see.

"I didn’t deserve him, or the reprieve that he could bring. He deserved better than the broken me. Beyond that...I could never love him as I had loved Edward, and I didn’t want to deprive him of the real deal, the love that I had felt, the love that he should have returned just as strongly. Jacob was too good for the half-assed emotions I felt for him, and I know that he should have a chance to get over me and find someone that would make him truly happy."

In an instant I was up and standing by her side. My hand rested on her shoulder lightly, and I could have sworn that she leaned into the comforting touch just a little bit. "You loved him." It was a statement, not a question.

Her voice was equally soft. "I still do. It hurt to leave."

I nodded, understanding, but Bella wasn’t looking at me. She was staring at the floor. Her need to cry—her want to cry—overwhelmed me even more than it had the first time she opened up to me. Or perhaps I was just confusing my own need, my own want for hers. Bella was too buried, more than likely, to feel those things at that time. It didn’t matter. Her lack of tears, her lack of emotion, was painful when face-to-face with her potent memories.

I lifted her up easily and pulled her into a firm hug, careful to be gentle. I probably bruised her, regardless, but she never complained. She didn’t hold me in return, nor did she stop me or push me away or resist in any way, shape, or form, and for the first time in all of my life—human or vampire—I felt small, weak, and overwhelmed, unable to overcome. I couldn’t do it, and in that moment, I knew I was the greatest kind of failure.

I sobbed into Bella’s shoulder, and time passed.