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Paris

Summary:
What if Bella had never jumped off that cliff? What if Alice had never seen her die? What if the Cullens had never had a reason to return to Forks? AU


Notes:
There are a few passages in this story taken directly from New Moon by Stephenie Meyer. That's because, in order to write this Alternate Universe successfully, I have to be able to take scenes already in the canon and alter them to fit the consequences of the different choices in my own universe. The characters are still the same, so they would still say and think very similar things to what they said and thought in the original story. That being said, obviously the entire Twilight Universe belongs to Stephenie Meyer. I am not that brilliant.


10. Chapter 10

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Paris

Chapter Ten

I first spotted Alice on my way to English.

To be more accurate, she spotted me. Hours before, no doubt, when I had first looked myself in the mirror that morning and having seen the exhaustion and dread etched between my eyes though it better to walk the less-taken routes to my classes that day. There were small, grimy alleyways in between Forks High’s many buildings that most students, being social creatures, generally avoided using, preferring the larger and more clearly designated pathways with their friends. Lately it had felt safer, both for me and for my fellow classmates, that I take the alleys. If Victoria was to corner me there it was more likely that I be alone and the only one to be harmed.

In recent weeks it had seemed that Victoria had become a much lesser threat than other visitors circling Forks. There were whole minutes that I forgot her entirely. According to Jake she was still hanging around, but farther away, on the outskirts of the forest where she was more difficult to catch. The wolves were hypothesizing that it was the Cullens’ return that was making her more skittish. I didn’t pay as much attention as I should. Edward’s stalking—and then disappearing again—seemed to me a much greater concern, be it reasonable or not. Even knowing that he did not love me anymore, he was still able to make my heart race faster than any terror ever could.

Alice looked no different than she had those many months ago. It was strange, but even knowing that she was immortal and supernatural I still expected some growth, some change. I guess it was just the human in me. After all, I looked different myself.

She smiled at me and I stopped moving. Her smile was (deceptively) angelic, and suddenly I felt myself whooshing back to another time, a time that despite the vampires surrounding me felt much simpler than my life now. For a moment I was tempted to close my eyes and pretend to myself that nothing had changed. But everything had changed too much. I had changed too much.

And even as I knew all of this, accepted all of this, I felt such a rush of joy in seeing Alice that without even deciding to I ran to her, wrapped my arms around her tiny frame and squeezed her tightly enough to break a normal person’s bones.

“I’ve missed you,” I breathed, letting her go. Her smile widened briefly, but then disappeared as she took me in. I knew she must be noticing the dark circles beneath my eyes, the stringiness of my hair, the way my clothes had obviously been just thrown on rather than carefully selected. It took less than a second for her to note all that was wrong with me. Then she smiled serenely back at me.

“I’ve missed you, too,” she said.

I did not know what else to say to her. I stood there feeling (and looking) awkward while she never lost her serene smile. For the briefest moment, I longed for Jacob. I knew he would threaten and glare, but at least he would give me something here to react to. And I wouldn’t be feeling any of the uneasiness that had given such uncertainty to my posture; Jake could almost always make me feel more comfortable than I should in any situation. Except for the times that he made me more confused than anything else.

“He’s not here,” Alice said softly, answering the question I was doing my best not to ask. I felt myself stiffen from the knees up, an instinctive reaction. My eyes and face hardened into a cold expression, but Alice did not look phased.

“Why are you here?” I asked. My voice had an edge to it that I ordinarily did not like to hear. Now, though, I was seeing the hurt expression in Jake’s eyes as he told me of the Cullen’s accusations, that he was a danger to me. A soft rumble of anger stirred in my chest.

Alice looked slightly surprised.

“You were in danger,” she said, as if it was the most obvious thing in the world. As if she and the others cared about the safety of me, a lone human.

“I’ve been taken care of,” I said coldly. Alice raised her eyebrows.

“Bella. You’ve been surrounded by young werewolves. Surely you’ve seen how unstable they can be?” Her voice was deceptively reasonable, but I refused to be conned.

“They’re not unstable,” I snapped, partly offended by her words and partly guilty as I pictured Paul losing control the night before, knowing that her words were somewhat true. “They care about me,” I added nastily, to make up for my wavering certainty.

Alice’s eyes searched my face, as if she could read my thoughts. But there was no vampire who was able to do that. Not a single solitary one, and I was happy for it.

“Maybe they do,” she said softly, “but that does not change how safe you are with them.”

I looked away. Far away I could hear the distant bells that told me just how late I was to class. I licked my lips, slowly, and tried to come up with the words to excuse myself. Alice took a step, farther away from me. I glanced up at her; she was still watching me.

“I can’t see them,” she explained, frustration in her voice and face. I found myself continuing to watch her as she took another step backwards. “The dogs, they’re invisible to me. It took a while for us to figure it out, but I can’t see them at all. When you’re with them, your future disappears too. Victoria disappears.” I had never sound Alice so annoyed, so frustrated. Her little arms hung at her sides, fingers clenched into fists. Her eyes held me tight, their honey color the only thing that kept me from being frightened of her. If she had been thirsty I might have found myself shaking. I watched her take a deep breath of air she did not need, and her large eyes turned pleading. “Come with us, Bella. I can’t protect you nearly so well when all your decisions are wrapped around wolves.”

For a moment I thought about it. I saw myself back the way it was, with Carlisle and Esme and Emmett and Jasper. I saw myself in their open house, with the sun pouring in and that feeling of security wrapping itself tight around me like a flannel blanket. But there was too much missing, too much different. Without Edward there, at my side, loving me, what did any of it mean anyway?

I blinked, breaking Alice’s hold on me.

“I have to go to English,” I said, and forced myself to start walking.

Alice didn’t follow me. She didn’t even turn around to watch me go, I’m pretty sure; I know I would have felt the weight of her eyes on my back. When I finally made it to the correct classroom (it took several tries, my mind was so out of order), I was so intent on slipping into my seat as quietly and unobtrusively as possible that I tripped over somebody’s bag and went flying, banging my arm on a desk and scattering books loudly. The teacher raised her eyebrows and several of my classmates smirked nastily, but I fell into my seat finally and the lesson continued. I looked down at my hands as I pulled a notebook from my bag and saw that my fingers were shaking.

I could not concentrate on the lesson. Alice’s face kept swimming in front of my eyes, distracting me from anything anyone might say to me. I pretended to take notes but found myself doodling obscure shapes instead, circles and spikes and funny swirls. Nothing on my paper made any sort of sense, but I was beginning to think that nothing anywhere made sense any more and being able to concretely isolate things to a sheet of notebook paper calmed me somewhat.

My English teacher kept me after class, but instead of lecturing me on my lateness instead commented on the paleness of my face and how twitchy I seemed, and asked if I needed the nurse. I found myself nodding and smiling at her, and checking in with the nurse. Someone called Charlie and before I knew what was really going on I was falling asleep in the cruiser.

For once, I did not dream. Or if I did I forgot about it. I could feel the rush of the rain and the forests going by but I could not see them. In the background I could hear Charlie trying to tell me something but I could not understand it. It was a low murmur to the other sounds of the car and the wind and the drops on the cool window which my head was resting against. I couldn’t remember anything after that.

When I woke up, I was in my own bed. The room was unnaturally cold, and I could feel a breeze from the open window. I breathed in what felt like new air and it woke me up slightly. I did not want to leave the warmth of my blankets. I glanced over at my alarm clock, which read some obscenely late number I did not want to think about. Then something bumped and I froze.

It was too dark to see anything. I listened intently; I could feel someone’s eyes on me. Where were they?

“Jacob?” I hissed, not meaning to. I didn’t know if I was asking if the presence belonged to Jake or if I was just calling on him to protect me. It didn’t matter. If it was Victoria I was dead already.

There was a hiss, like a sharp intake of breath. The room was beginning to become clearer, and I was able to locate the sound to somewhere by the window. I could hear the patter of rain falling through it and against the panes. I tried to take deep, calming breaths. I reminded myself not to scream, not to make any sound that might attract Charlie. The shape by the window became clearer and clearer as my eyes adjusted: someone too white, someone who was still as stone.

I pressed my lips together. I closed my eyes as gently as I could. Maybe it would be faster than Laurent had inferred. Maybe she would leave me here, peaceful like, so that Charlie wouldn’t find me in tattered bits. An involuntary whimper escaped me and I gripped my fingers into fists, tangles in my sheets.

There was a rustling sound, and the window slammed shut so sharply I sat up without meaning to. I managed not to scream but my eyes were wrenched open. I sat there as still as a statue or a vampire for almost ten minutes, waiting for my eyes to adjust. When they did, I could see no one in the room.

I reached over and hesitantly switched on my bedside lamp. My eyes hadn’t lied; there was no one in my room anymore. I glanced at the window; the glass had shattered when it had been slammed shut, the only proof the visit hadn’t been a dream.

I threw off the covers and flung my legs around, bare feet resting against the cold wooden floor. I stood, took a step, and tripped over something, falling flat onto the floor.

I picked myself up slowly. I generally kept my room neat to avoid accidents like this. I inspected my foot to check for sprains, broken bones, or bruises (of which there were none) before looking over to see what had caused me to go flying in the first place.

It was just a floorboard, wrenched from its spot in my floor. I reached over to inspect it, see what had thrown it from where it had been nailed in. It was colder than the rest of the floor, as if it had been kept in ice. The nails were neatly placed beside where it had been before I’d jostled it with my foot. And there was where it was: a simple hole in the floor.

I picked up the nails hesitantly, aware of the danger they could pose to me and my lack of grace. I put them on a dish that I kept thumbtacks in on my desk, then got down on my hands and knees and peered into the hole. There were things in it. Carefully, nervously, I reached in my hand and pulled them out.

There was a photograph, a CD, and a note. The picture was folded down the middle. I unfolded it, not to look at it but to refold it inside out. I put it aside, trying not to think too much. I was not going to allow myself to look at it too much. It hurt too much.

The CD I recognized too. I lifted it by one edge, as if it was a dead mouse, and watched the rainbows spread across its one half. They reflected off of the disc and onto my arm. I didn’t put it down but put it in my left hand, not caring about smudging or scratching it.

The note was what I was most nervous of. It was the only thing I hadn’t seen before. I picked it up and the ink, being fresh, smudged onto my thumb. It made the tail of the y a dark blot.

The handwriting was too familiar. Just like the picture and the CD, too painfully and concretely familiar. I stared at it for many minutes, the blurred outlines of letters, before I focused my eyes enough to really read it.

I’m sorry.

The CD was suddenly in pieces in my hand; I had squeezed it too hard. One of it’s sharp edges cut a slight scratch on my palm. Blood blossomed from it, dotting the rainbows in a sickening red.

I closed my eyes, glanced back at the note and the CD and the photograph. I tried to figure out what to do next. I tried to understand what anything meant anymore.