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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.


7. Chapter 7

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Paris

Chapter Seven

School was torture.

I went every day, of course, because I had to. And because Charlie’s warning was still throbbing in my ears, and I could not survive leaving for Florida. But I went every day expecting to see him, to pass by him in the hallways or to see him and Alice in the cafeteria. It never happened. But it didn’t stop my newly-recovering heart from speeding up every time I turned a corner. I had forgotten the downsides of having a heart again. All I could be thankful for was that the heartbeat was still faint.

My dream, the one where he left me again and again in that empty field with nowhere to go, came back to haunt me every night. It seemed my brain had used up its creative resources that one night. For me it felt like from the moment I realized that Edward around, somewhere, time seemed to move unearthly slow. Sleeping became an impossibility, as if rather than becoming numb my body wanted to become hyperaware. Insomnia, my new best friend.

Edward did not leave Forks.

He did not attempt to contact me, either.

He followed me instead.

Edward stayed just nearby enough for Jacob to smell him almost wherever we went. Jacob began driving me to and from school, even though it made him late for his own ever day. I could tell he was terrified that Edward would try and talk to me if he left me alone even momentarily. It was the tightness in his hands on the wheel, the way his eyes stayed on me no matter where I was and not in a romantic but instead in a watchful way. A warning way. His face was permanently etched in a deep scowl whenever he could smell Edward, which was practically always. Jake never would have told me just how often Edward was really around, but his expression always did. Only when we went to La Push did Edward truly stay away, and even then he patrolled the treaty’s border until we returned. Sam told me privately that they were able to smell his trail when they went out searching for Victoria.

I personally was unable to even understand what Edward was doing here at all. He had left. He didn't love me. There was no reason for him to have come here at all. Not to check up on me. Not to check on of anyone: he had cut ties with anyone he might have known in Forks: a “clean break”. It was something that was impossible for me to understand, his coming back.

But I was all too easily able to understand my own reaction. My paranoid checking over my shoulder, which began when I had first learned of Victoria's hunting plans, grew more frequent and desperate. It was not just in school, but everywhere I went. Even Charlie noticed my constant staring out of windows and behind furniture, and it made him worried. My clumsiness worsened as time I used to spend concentrating on my feet was put into looking everywhere else instead. My grades suffered worse than they ever had in all my year of emotional overloads. It was too hard to concentrate on math homework when the cool breeze from my open window kept ruffling the papers in such a way that made me jump up to make sure that it wasn’t a vampire—friend or foe—climbing into my room.

One of the worst parts of Edward’s coming back, though, was Jacob’s reaction. Despite all of the time we were spending together Jake had cooled toward me. I could not blame him. He was not stupid; he could see the inexplicable hope that snuck its way through my defenses. No matter how many times I told myself that Edward did not love me anymore I could not hide the effect that my newly rebeating heart had on me. The lack of explanation concerning his return made it difficult to be certain about my feelings concerning anything. Even though it killed me to see the pain I was causing Jake.

A week of this painful stalking passed, then two. The scar did not fade from Jacob's arm, and he refused to tell me who had started the fight, which made me suspect him. It might have been an unfair assumption, but I knew from experience just how much better Edward was at keeping his temper than Jake. It didn’t matter though. It scared me too much that they had been fighting, it scared me that Edward knew what Jacob was thinking when even I didn’t. It scared me that I could not talk about this with Jake at all. I could not even imagine bringing it up. Just one look at his face and I felt suddenly hesitant even taking his hand. It was like losing him all over again, even while he sat there next to me. Jacob cared about me. Jacob loved me. But the anger in his eyes told me that he would almost rather see me dead than with Edward again. And how could I blame him? He had thought I was his. I had led him on, unintentionally but still. I had kissed him and been held by him before Edward’s return and now I was uncertain placing a hand on his shoulder. I was hurting him in the worst way, and I could not stop myself.

Underneath the complexity of all of this, one thing was shockingly and irrevocably clear: I needed to talk with Edward. The strongest calling of my soul pulled me to him, if only to see his face. If only to hear his voice. His explanations were only partially what I craved…no matter how many times he taunted me in my dreams, Victoria’s smile marring his perfect face, it did not quench my thirst to be in his presence. It was a thirst I resisted, an urge I tried to throw out or avoid. I tried logic, reasoning with myself. Edward did not love me, of that I was certain. But that he did not want to see me did not present itself as fact. He had come back. He was stalking me for goodness’ sake, he was choosing to put himself around and near me. He had to want to see me. But no, I was able to contradict that notion all too easily simply by remembering the look in his eyes they day he had left. Black, expressionless. Cold and inhuman. He was sincere in his desire to leave me. He did not want to see me.

And then, so easily, the answer to the mystery of his presence was made clear: guilt. He must have somehow learned of the threat Victoria presented and felt guilty for putting me, a mere weak human, in so much unnecessary danger. He must have believed it to be his own fault. That was why he followed me; he was waiting for Victoria to come so that he could end her and be free of me. His haste to not leave my trail must be a tribute to his eagerness to leave. It made sense to me, in the most terrible and painful of ways. I could not even turn to Jake for relief, not anymore. But I could not blame Edward for it, just as I could not blame Jacob for his cold distance. It was becoming more and more apparent just how weak and human and selfish I really was and it left a vile taste in my mouth.

But I could not stop wanting to see Edward.

As I sat in class staring out the window and listening to the sound of my plummeting grades as I ignored the lectures I tried to think up ways to see him. There was no way I could catch him unawares. He would smell me even when he could not hear my thoughts, and besides that there was no way for me to even know which direction to head in. I knew I could not count on Jacob to help me. It almost made me laugh, the idea of me asking. But the laughter turned into a gasp of pain before it even made its way out of my throat. I knew that if I really tried to do this, and if I succeeded, it might destroy any relationship Jacob and I might ever have had. I’d be left with myself belonging to two people who did not want me but could not throw me back. I would never be happy. Not that I really was anyway.

I shook my head. I would be insane to give up so much.

In my peripheral vision, Mike Newton was staring at me. Somewhere else in the room Angela was turning her head constantly to check up on me. I had been near normal for a while, and none of them could understand how quickly I had reverted back to my old ways. Angela had tried to talk to me, quietly, but I had just shrugged her off. I was hurting her, too. It was a relief when the bell rang, even though it meant checking up and down the halls for any sign of vampiric activity before continuing on.

I stood outside, allowing the rain to bounce off of my scalp as I looked for my ride. The cool air always increased my hyperawareness, which was obnoxious. I could not look at one place for more than a few seconds, my head moving as though I was a chicken or some other annoying bird. When I finally found Jake’s Rabbit, parked in the farthermost spot in the lot, I sighed in relief and hurried over.

Even though it was old, Jake’s car had always been very shiny due both to the constant rain and the precise care he used to give to it. In the past weeks mud and bird droppings, however, ceased to disappear as quickly as they once had from the windshield and the sides. Jake just did not have the time anymore to do what he had once most loved. He was too busy taking care of me, watching for Victoria and Edward. He didn’t need to do it all. He shouldn’t do it all. But even though both of us knew his actions were ridiculously overreaching, the guilt that covered me in its constant cloak was an even darker shade because if it. I was costing him everything, his every happiness.

There was something different, I realized that as I threw my bag in the backseat and slid into the car beside him. His scowl was deeper, and his eyes angrier. He clutched the steering wheel with more fierceness than he had in the days previous. I reached out a hesitant hand to cover one of his own, easing it from its grip and taking it in mine. He was scaring me and I was shaking slightly.

“Jake?” I asked, and as my voice cracked I tried to pinpoint the exact moment in the past weeks when I had officially become terrified of my best friend.

Jake grunted, but his hand was gentle and his face softened. He squeezed my palm to his. He sped up the car and I knew he was uselessly trying to outrace Edward, hidden behind us somewhere in the woods.

“Jake, what’s going on?”

I asked him that a lot. Every day, in fact, mornings and afternoons when he picked me up. I had never felt so ignorant, being a human and not having a channel I could tune my head into to get the latest news. I never knew if I was really asking about Victoria, or about Edward, or about Jake himself. It seemed an all-encompassing question that had not once been satisfactorily answered.

Jake sighed, a great gust of air swelling from his chest and out into the air around us. It seemed to warm the car. Then he pulled over abruptly, just as he had that day when he had first kissed me. The day that Edward had shown up again. He could not say difficult or personal things to me if we were moving. That was another thing that had changed. Back before, when he was my Jacob, he had preferred to do everything while moving and swiftly.

I stared at him and he stared at me. His face looked so old, something that was again my fault. His eyes had hardened so much and for a moment I felt so sick for the old Jacob that I nearly burst into tears. How could so much have changed in such a very short space of time?

He took a breath.

“The head bloodsucker came to us today,” he began. His voice sounded scratchy like he had a sore throat. The fear there registered with me before his words did, and the anger. “He wanted to renegotiate the treaty.”

I closed my eyes, trying to understand. It was so hard to get past the obvious pain Jacob was in. He had not shown me this pain before. He had refused to show it to me. All I wanted to do was to take him in my arms and hold him, I felt so guilty, but I forced his words to make sense first.

“Carlisle came?” I breathed.

“The doctor leech, yeah.” Jake’s voice hitched and my arm went out to him without me telling it to. I wacked him by accident on the shoulder before I managed to simply lay my hand there.

“What do you mean, renegotiate?” I asked, still trying to understand.

“He wants to be able to share lands.” Jake’s disapproval was so obvious it made me shudder briefly. “He wants us to take Victoria down together.”

I opened my eyes. It was now making sense.

“He knows about Victoria?”

“He wants…” Jake paused, took a breath. It was so difficult for him to go on that I suddenly knew exactly what was happening.

“He wants the others to be able to come back,” I stammered. “He wants them all here to end Victoria.”

“Yes,” Jake said. His eyes burned into my own.

I tried to accept this, tried to understand. It validated my theory concerning Edward’s return: he had found out about Victoria and was now only staying out of guilt to protect me. He was so desperate to get away that he was enlisting his family’s help in the matter. The Cullens wanted to come back to Forks.

“What did Sam say?” It was the only thing left to be known.

Jacob’s entire body stiffened and involuntary growl escaped him. He was so wolflike for a moment that I was terrified he was about to change and claw me to bits.

“He said we need the help.”

They were coming back. The Cullens were coming back, after I thought that I’d never see them again.

For a moment I saw them all: Alice, Jasper, Esme, Carlisle, even Rosalie. I saw them in school, at their home, with me.

But they would not want to be with me. They were here to help Edward and that was all. I was going to be haunted everywhere by images of my past and I wasn’t sure if it would be better just to have Victoria kill me and be done with it.

I turned to Jake, and I clung to him.