New Moon from Edward's POV. So far I'm up to the end of Chapter 2 - Stitches.
5. Chapter 5
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Thankfully, by this time I had pulled into the obscure driveway that led to the house. Grinding to a halt, Bella and I both looked up at the mansion and stared, incredulous. Alice had outdone herself. A soft glow radiated from the front of the house - she had turned on every light in the front windows of the first two stories. To add to the soft brilliance that illuminated the driveway, she had strung Japanese lanterns from the porch eaves, intensifying the blazing luminosity that lit up the surrounding forest. And of course, littering the porch steps were crystal bowls overflowing with the hideously pink roses that I had worked relentlessly to de-thorn last night - only to have Alice remove the stems. Typical.
Beside me, Bella moaned in horror. It was worse than she had envisaged.
I breathed in deeply a few times - for the calming effect rather than the air really. “This is a party,” I said, more for my benefit than Bella’s. “Try to be a good sport,” I admonished her.
“Sure,” she mumbled, horrified into near silence. I came around the truck and held my hand out to help her out of the cab, both of us still blinded by the incandescent building.
Finally tearing her molten chocolate eyes away, she looked at my outstretched palm, and then my face. “I have a question,” she said. Oh not again. If she mentioned the unlikely prospect of me agreeing to transform her - destroy her soul - one more time….
“If I develop this film, will you show up in the picture?” she asked teasingly, tossing the camera back and forth in her hands. I crumpled over with laughter and didn’t stop until I had led her from the car to the house and opened the door for her. The thing was - her joke didn’t exactly merit riotous laughter. Evidently, my subconscious had permitted me one last, true laugh before I was thrown to Alice’s pink and whimsical world.
We entered through the door into the grandiose living room. The color of the room was usually an impeccably clean white, so it took a second to adjust to the rosy hue that radiated from every flat surface in the immediate area.
“Happy birthday, Bella!” sang my family in unison. The blood rushed to her cheeks, turning her face a deep scarlet as she quickly pretended to have a sudden fascination with her toes. I choked back the burning sensation that rose rapidly in my throat at the sight of her flaming cheeks. Sometimes I forgot that even I had limits.
I followed Bella’s appalled gaze and noticed the enormous birthday cake and heap of shiny packages on a table next to the piano. It was worse than either of us could have imagined. Bella looked almost upon the verge of tears. I encircled her waist with my arm, holding her tightly to me and lightly kissing the top of her head. Together, we would get through this.
Carlisle and Esme were nearest to us, apologetic smiles upon both of their ever-youthful lips. Esme hugged Bella tenderly and kissed her forehead, while Carlisle put his arm around her shoulders.
“Sorry about this, Bella. We couldn’t reign Alice in,” Carlisle whispered loudly, indicating the dense multitude of flowers.
Then, Emmett and Rosalie stepped forward. Emmett’s broad smile gave away his happiness, while Rose did her best to hide the malicious thoughts that snaked across her mind. The result was a stoic goddess - not smiling, but not glowering either.
“You haven’t changed at all,” Emmett teased. “I expected a perceptible difference, but here you are, red-faced just like always.”
I hadn’t thought it possible, but Bella’s rosy face turned an even deeper red. “Thanks a lot Emmett,” she mumbled, slightly embarrassed by her scarlet cheeks.
Emmett laughed his deep, booming laugh. “I have to step out for a second - don’t do anything funny while I’m gone,” he said with a flagrant wink at Alice.
“I’ll try,” Bella said, still trying to hide her blush.
Alice danced over to Bella, her enormous grin exposing her pristine teeth. I watched Bella’s face carefully, and caught the flash of a frown that flickered across her face when she saw that Jasper would be staying right where he was - a safe distance away from her. I had warned her not to take it personally, but I could see that his avoidance still bothered her. Bella didn’t understand how infinitely more difficult it was for Jasper to hold back his desire. He had not had as nearly as much experience being vegetarian than the rest of us - and Bella’s flushed cheeks weren’t helping anything.
“Time to open presents,” Alice announced, gripping Bella by the elbow and half-leading, half-dragging her to the table where the dreaded packages awaited.
“Alice, I know I told you I didn’t want anything--”
“But I didn’t listen,” Alice interrupted. “Open it,” she demanded, thrusting a large, rectangular box in Bella’s direction. Weighing the parcel in her hands, Bella tore off the glossy paper to reveal the box which had previously contained her new stereo. She stared at the box, puzzled, still trying to determine what our present actually was. Hoping for an indicator as to what it was, Bella opened the box, only to discover that it was completely empty.
“Um, thanks,” she said, still bewildered.
“It’s a stereo for your truck,” said Jasper, laughing. “Emmett’s installing it right now so that you can’t return it.” Even Rosalie cracked a smile at the expression on Bella’s face. It was difficult not to.
“Thanks Jasper, Rosalie,” Bella said when she had recovered slightly. “Thanks, Emmett!” she shouted, although Emmett could hear every word she said anyway. Emmett laughed from inside the truck, and Bella laughed with him.
“Open mine and Edward’s next,” squealed Alice, holding out a small glittering square and almost jumping up and down with anticipation.
Bella turned to face me, her dark eyes flashing fury. “You promised,” she accused threateningly. I opened my mouth to answer as Emmett came barreling through the door.
“Just in time,” he said, pushing closer to get a better view of the gifts. By this time, even Jasper had glided nearer to watch the proceedings.
“I didn’t spend a dime,” I assured Bella, grateful that Emmett’s distraction had given me time to think. I swept a rogue wisp of hair from her forehead, sending prickles of electricity through my fingertips.
“Give it to me,” she yielded, sighing heavily as Emmett chuckled quietly behind her. Alice eagerly shoved the square into her waiting hands. Rolling her eyes at me, she slid her finger under the paper and pulled up the tape. “Shoot,” she mumbled, removing her finger from the paper.
A single, luscious, ruby-red drop of Bella’s blood welled up from the slice on her finger. Time stopped.
“No!” I bellowed, launching myself at Bella. The jarring impact of my body hurled her across the table, flinging everything - cake, presents, flowers - to the ground as it collapsed. Bella’s bewildered eyes looked dazedly up at me from the shards of shattered crystal. I didn’t have time to contemplate the extent of the injury I had inflicted upon her as Jasper hurtled headlong at me, slamming into my granite chest with an ear-splitting crash. I held my ground as he snarled and attempted to fight his way past me, teeth like razors clenching together mere centimeters from my face. A thunderous rumbling erupted from within Jasper’s chest as we fought, both of us locked in a struggle for our hearts’ greatest desires.
Emmett’s iron grip shot out from behind Jasper, encasing him within a marble prison. Jasper’s ravenous eyes were honed on Bella, as he continued to flail wildly, searching for access to Bella and the succulent delicacy that now seeped from a jagged laceration stretching from her wrist to her elbow.
I looked from the face of the monster that had previously been Jasper to the terrified eyes of my love, now lying on the floor surrounded by crystal…and blood. A dizzying mixture of love, fear, and desire churned like liquid behind my seamless exterior. A low moan escaped from behind my clenched teeth, decibels below anything a human could hear. How could I ever have been so selfish, to let anything like this happen to Bella? Oh God, what had I done?