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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.


8. Chapter 8

Rating 5/5   Word Count 2402   Review this Chapter

Paris

Chapter Eight

I went home to cook Charlie dinner. Guilt had become my frustratingly constant companion and my lack of enthusiasm in Charlie’s meals was just one more piece of the insanely large pie. Jacob didn’t come in for dinner for once. He had taken to eating with us nightly in order to protect me from my vampire stalker, but today he was too agitated and I was a little frightened at his waning control. For once he agreed to do as I asked and go run around as a wolf for a while until he could be safely human. I was not going to risk Charlie’s life by inviting an unstable werewolf into the house no matter how well Jake meant. I felt responsible for my father’s safety, knowing that all these dangers surrounded him because of me. Victoria could so easily decide that getting to me would be easier through Charlie just as James had with Renee. It was nice to have something besides Edward to keep me up at night.

I took great care slicing and cooking the ingredients, slicing the peppers exactly the same size and emptying them of seeds with surgical precision. I browned the chicken just enough so that it would not dry out, simmering the peppers and onions in their juices and adding spices carefully, tasting at every turn to make sure everything tasted just right. My fingers were burned by the spitting pan and my tongue felt uncomfortable with the overload of spices, but when Charlie came home it smelled so good that he actually smiled at me before giving his standard concerned look. He seemed more cautious today; the night before he had confronted me about my falling grades. After shouting at each other for a full quarter hour he had just watched me storm out into the rain and had watched me storm back in an hour later with large, pained eyes. I had become a mystery to him and he was lost as to what to do. I had never shouted at him before. I hadn’t even known that I was able to shout at him. I smiled at him cautiously now, and motioned toward the food.

“Sorry,” I muttered, unable to meet his eyes. I picked up the pan and filled a plate for him, then scattered some chicken on it for myself and moved them to the table, picking at it with my fork until he took his first bite.

“This is good, Bells,” he said and I knew that he was apologizing, too.

“Thanks.” I popped a piece of chicken into my mouth but my tongue was too numb from all of the meticulous testing to taste it properly. My lips burned, too dry.

We ate in silence for a while. I wished that I had something to say. Charlie did not eat with the gusto he used to. He was too busy watching me eat. Finally he opened his mouth.

“Jake not with us tonight?” I could tell by his voice he was trying his best to sound casual.

I shook my head.

“Billy wanted him to eat at home for once,” I muttered. I was a better liar when I kept my voice down.

Charlie wrinkled his forehead at me.

“You two haven’t had a fight, have you?” He asked in his over-protective father voice. I hated that voice. It always seemed to be asking me if he should beat someone up. It didn’t help that the time he had once used it most was with Edward, after we had returned from Phoenix a lifetime ago.

“No,” I muttered. I was telling the truth now, but I did not want to be pressed for details. We had not fought. But the image of me holding onto Jake as my anchor, his own strong arms encircling me as I breathed in his scent and felt myself turn hollow and brittle, made me just want to forget everything. I suddenly found myself wanting to fall into a deep lethargic state and never surface. I knew the sleep would not come, though, and my body refused to allow me to lose consciousness. I stood up from the table, bumping awkwardly against my chair behind me, and took my and Charlie’s dishes from the table. I systematically filled the sink, submerged the plates and the utensils, and began to scrub. The hiss of the water and the warmth of the steam distracted me enough so that I did not notice Charlie entering the kitchen behind me rather than going straight into the living room to watch some sport or other.

“Bells?” he said quietly, and I was startled into dropping a soapy glass back into the sink, splattering myself with hot water.

“Yeah, Dad?” I asked, fishing my hand around, trying to find the glass again.

There was a pause. I finished scrubbing one glass, and then the other.

“You know, I love you, right Bella?”

His voice was so soft but I could hear him perfectly. I turned to look at him. His words were cliché and sounded funny as they left his mouth but in his eyes there was real fear. I could see how scared he was of losing me again, of having me fall deeper into the numb existence I was trying so hard to reclaim.

“I know, Dad.” I wasn’t sure what else to say. “I love you, too.”

He hesitated, then left the kitchen. He left me with an oddly empty feeling, different from the hollow pain that had consumed me earlier, and a sense that there was something I should have said but didn’t.

After finishing the dishes I tried to do some homework. It was frustrating to stare at the pages of English questions and math problems and realize that I did not understand a thing they were asking me to do. I was almost shocked to realize just how little I had been paying attention in my classes. I suddenly caught an image of myself failing to graduate because of my inability to concentrate while under constant threat of death or pain. The idea of graduating had not even felt like an option until this moment. Now I realized that I had to face myself as I was: human. I was going to be expected to act like it, to leave Forks someday and go out into the world. The idea of the world expecting me to act like a real person was for a moment more frightening than Victoria. With a sudden nervous energy I found myself using my insomnia to work through weeks of work rather than to stare at the ceiling, trying not to think. Being productive gave me a new purpose, something new to think about. I had known this for months after Edward had left but had forgotten in my current bout of unending fear. It was nice to have a purpose in doing something again.

Jake came at around three in the morning, through the front door. My window was now ever-open, but he had learned that it made less noise to check up on me walking up the stairs than it did falling from great heights. He seemed shocked to find my light on and my textbooks open but he recovered quickly.

He came over and sat down next to me where I was sitting on the floor. There was not enough room on my desk to fit all of the books and worksheets I needed to catch up.

Jake looked at the spread of papers, vocabulary lists, failed homework and tests, essays, and books for a moment. He looked at me, half covered in open notebooks with more words scribbled out than left alone and pages of messy and incoherent notes. Then he began to laugh, loud uncontrollable laughter that seemed to echo in the quiet room.

“Jake!” I elbowed him in the ribs, but my elbow was only badly bruised as it bounced off of his chest. “Charlie’s sleeping down the hall!”

Jake stuffed a fist into his mouth, but the laughter encompassed his entire body so much that he was almost shaking the floor of my bedroom. I reached out and grabbed him by his shoulders, struggling to hold him still but it only caused my own body to tremble at the same frequency as the room around me. I felt my insides jiggle as if I was made from gelatin, and before I knew it giggles were escaping from my own mouth. I was not the sort of girl who giggled, the sort of girl with the long hair and the cute clothes. I did not know how truly long it had been since I had felt like laughing at all. But I suddenly had no control over myself. I began giggling so much that my body was shaking from my own laughter rather than from Jacob’s; I was forced to let go of his shoulders to hold my stomach for once to hold my laughter in rather than my pain. Unbalanced, I fell backwards from my sitting position to the floor, my head bouncing loudly off of my open chemistry text and sending papers flying everywhere. The snowfall of crossed out and failed equations covered my face, and I laughed harder, curling myself in a ball to clutch better at my cramping stomach. Jake did not dare remove his fist from his mouth but his laughter grew and the entire world vibrated around me. I cheeks hurt and my throat became sore as I gasped for air, coughing up each breath as my chest swelled. I lay there and closed my eyes, waiting for the laughter to slow and my breath to even. Jacob’s fit ended first, and he lay down next to me with his hand on my arm until I was also done. The papers wrinkled and rustled underneath him. He ran his hand up and down my arm soothingly, and soon enough I was able to breathe properly. The smile did not for once leave my face; I did not open my eyes but instead just lay there and focused on the warmth of Jake’s hand and the cold of the floor beneath me. We lay there like that for a long time, breathing together like we shared a single pair of lungs. We didn’t talk. I reflected on the miracle of Charlie’s not waking up, his ability to heavily sleep through anything. I opened my eyes and saw that the clouds covering the sky were beginning to take on a lighter hue. Day was coming.

I turned to face Jake. His eyes were open; he had been watching me the whole time. I smiled at him and he grinned back. My grin. My Jacob.

His grin widened as I realized that I had said the last two words aloud. I felt myself blush a deep red. I bit my lower lip and tried to look pale again. Jake’s eyes sparkled.

And then he was kissing me and I was kissing him back and his arms were encircling me and I was holding tight to him around his neck and everything was so warm and so real and I felt alive. I was so aware of everything, the strength of his arms and the warmth of his lips and the bumping of his nose against mine and the tickling of his eyelashes on my cheek. I entwined my fingers through his hair and tugged at it without even thinking about it first. I breathed heavily, deeper than I had in months. Jacob was everywhere, everything, so much that it took me several moments to realize the absence of my heartbeat. What had been quietly and distantly thumping and speeding in recent weeks was suddenly just…gone.

Without thinking I pulled away from Jacob, both of us breathing heavily. I was shaking all over.

“Bella?” His voice was pained, nervous. I saw the hope in his eyes and I smiled instinctively to reassure him. I reached out, took his hand in mine. I could never hurt Jake.

“Charlie,” I whispered. His face relaxed at my smile and he nodded. He sat up slowly, never taking his eyes off of me.

“I should go,” he said but he didn’t move. His huge thumb was stroking the entire length of the back of my hand. The warmth of it comforted me, made my lack of heartbeat feel somehow less important. He leaned in and kissed my cheek tenderly and then grinned, unable to be gentle with me anymore as he pulled me roughly into a hug. Squeezing all the air out of me, he laughed in my ear.

“I’ll be back soon to pick you up for school,” he laughed, and then he was gone, out the window and running into the woods.

I stood up, looked at the wrinkled and torn pages around me. An involuntary smile took over my face, and I bent down to start gathering them together. I put my notes in a pile and my homework for the day, somehow miraculously finished and understood for the first time in many weeks, in folders and packed up my bag. I could hear Charlie getting ready outside my room, and once I was done organizing my school bag and making my bed I ran downstairs to catch him before he got to work.

Over his cup of coffee Charlie looked fairly shocked to see me. It was incredibly rare for me to be outside of my room at the hour that he left for the station. I held out my hand hesitantly to him, hugged him briefly. It was an awkward hug but also something I knew I had to do.

“I’m sorry, Dad,” I whispered.

After Charlie left, I made myself some coffee. Being up all night was going to make my new resolution to pay attention to my classes despite everything else more difficult than it might otherwise have been.

My free hand, then one not holding the coffee cup, traveled on its own the way to my chest, directly over where my heart was supposed to be. Its distant beating was gone again, and I knew that when Jake came to pick me up he would be in a better mood than he had been for a long time. I knew that there would be more than one reason behind his grin.

My heart had left again. Edward had left again.

I finished the coffee, gathered up my bag, and tried to wait for Jacob and think of nothing but the upcoming school day.