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Choices

Summary:
Choices Banner This story takes place in Eclipse when Riley goes to Bella’s room to gather her belongings for Victoria. This is what could have happened if Bella had arrived while he was still there, and the events following. Written pre-Breaking Dawn, so that book will be disregarded here. This will include my idea of how the series would have ended.


Notes:
Choices Banner *Written before Breaking Dawn was released, so that book will be ignored with this story.


24. Strategy

Rating 4.5/5   Word Count 2695   Review this Chapter

Chapter 24: Strategy

EPOV

I spent the rest of the evening wondering if I had made the right decision. I knew how much dealing with Victoria herself meant to Bella, but I hated the idea. Naturally, I wanted to protect her from the monster that had stolen everything from her. Of course, rationally, I knew that Bella was more than strong enough for it - Victoria wouldn’t stand a chance against her.

I suppose it was this realization that led me to give in, eventually. That knowledge mixed with the despair I saw on her face when she brought it up, the look in her eyes every time we visited Charlie’s grave. She ultimately needed this to complete her healing process, and as much as I abhorred the idea of her facing Victoria, I wanted her to heal. After watching the events at our training sessions, I had to admit she was more than capable...she was amazing. The way she had looked right before she had thrown us all into the forest - it had been almost frightening. The wind blew all around her, her hair flowing wildly. She appeared so incredibly fierce, yet she was still the beautiful, sweet woman that I love - she’d looked like a goddess.

Aside from everything else, I knew this was what she wanted more than anything right now, and I could ultimately deny her nothing. I wanted her to be happy...maybe this would help to clear the way for that to happen. My family and I would be right there, by her side. There was no way any harm would come to her, but we would let her take the lead in this.

The following morning found all of us sitting around the dining room table. I had called a meeting to decide upon our strategy. Unsure of how we should go about hunting Victoria, I was hoping Jasper had some ideas. He was the one with the strategic skills, aside from which, I was horrible at tracking.

Jasper explained that he thought she was probably still somewhat in the area, since the wolves, or at least Paul, had run into her. We couldn’t understand why she would still be around here, unless she was looking for more relatives of Bella. We knew that wasn’t an issue, as Bella didn’t have any more living relatives, but of course Victoria wouldn’t know that. He suggested that after a couple of months, if we found no leads, then we would come up with new locations to search. Bella was disgruntled at the idea of two months passing with no results, but Jasper explained that due to Victoria’s evasiveness, she may not stay in the area the entire time. Since we wouldn’t know when or if she’d come back, it was best to wait an ample amount of time.

Jasper suggested we track in shifts, two at a time, each shift lasting one week. If anyone caught her scent, they were to call home immediately. This made me think of another issue...the wolves. We’d agreed to give them access to our lands if they caught her scent, but that was when we weren’t hunting her ourselves. I decided I’d better call Jacob.

When I reached him, I explained we were going to start actively hunting Victoria, so they shouldn’t need to cross the boundary line now. If they did come across her scent and if it ran into the boundary line, he should call and let us know so that we could pick up the trail, and we would extend the same courtesy. It was just easier on everyone this way; we were fairly familiar with each other’s scents, but when hunting, it would be better if we didn’t all run into each other in the woods. He understood. I also explained to him that we were going to try to let Bella take care of the final act, and requested that he try to persuade the wolves to agree to this if they caught her. He said he’d do what he could; he wanted Bella to be the one to end this too.

Bella insisted on us taking the first shift. She was very eager to start looking for Victoria - it was like she couldn’t sit still. We spent the week combing through the surrounding area. I personally enjoyed it - it gave me more much desired alone time with Bella. She was still feeding, so that she would be prepared at all times in case she needed to be, which was wonderful because we could communicate silently. When our week ended, we returned to the house, Bella frustrated that we didn’t find anything. Alice and Jasper reassured her that they would do their best as they left for their shift.

The next couple of weeks were fairly uneventful. I spent most of my time trying to keep Bella’s mind off of the hunt, that so far, hadn’t produced any new leads. One afternoon, after Rosalie and Emmett had returned, Carlisle and Jasper taking their place, Alice came bouncing down the stairs to where Bella and I sat on the couch, where we were talking with Esme.

"All right, Bella, get your purse, we’re going shopping!" Alice exclaimed. She reached out and pulled Bella from the couch.

I rolled my eyes. "Alice, that’s not a very good idea, for more than one reason," I said, exasperated.

"Actually, it’s a great idea, even Carlisle thinks so," Alice said. "Bella’s been cooped up with all of us, she needs to get out there in the world again. Plus, her wardrobe is sorely lacking, not to mention boring."

I looked at Alice, then at Bella. She was uncertain. Her thoughts told me that she was nervous about being around humans. "Esme, did Carlisle really approve of this? What about Bella being around humans? He wasn’t concerned at all about that? And what if someone recognizes her - she’s supposed to be dead," I questioned.

"Yes, your father did actually think it’s a good idea. He’s not very concerned about Bella’s reaction to humans - he doesn’t even think she’ll have one, due to her...unique transformation. Both Alice and Rosalie would be with her, just in case. As far as someone recognizing her, he said it shouldn’t be a problem as long as they go far enough away. With the way we drive, a trip to Seattle is easy enough. They’d be back by tonight. It would be nice for her to do something normal, Edward. Even you have to see that," Esme explained.

I turned to Bella. "Do you want to go? How do you feel about this?" I wanted to be sure she was comfortable. I knew that nothing would happen to her with my sisters along for the trip, but it was still up to her.

"Well, it does sound like fun...I might be able to keep up with Alice better now. It does make me a bit nervous, though, the thought of being around humans. I don’t know..." Bella trailed off, trying to decide.

Alice interrupted. "It’ll be fine, Bella - there’s nothing to be nervous about! Wait - see..." The familiar blank stare crossed Alice’s face. Bella burst out laughing as she shared her vision. What was she laughing about? I shook my head, smiling, as I saw the scene in Bella’s mind. The three of them were in a store, and Alice was jumping around from display to display, throwing things at Bella, as Rose paraded around the store in a new dress. The staff was just staring, completely bewildered, as the three of them tore the store apart. There clearly wasn’t a problem with Bella being around the human sales clerks.

"Go, Bella. Have fun. I’ll miss you," I said, gently kissing her forehead.

Rosalie came gliding down the stairs. "Glad to see you’re up for it, Bella. I was getting incredibly bored. This will be nice," she said as she joined Alice and Bella.

"Let’s go, let’s go, let’s go!" Alice commanded, pushing the other two out the door. "Bye Edward! Esme!" she called out over her shoulder. I watched as a dazed Bella got pushed into Alice’s shiny Porsche. As Alice started the car, I heard Bella’s thoughts. "Wait, what have I gotten myself into?"

BPOV

We arrived in Seattle in no time. Alice loved her Porsche, and I could see why. I may have to consider getting a faster car now. I was beginning to see Edward’s point about driving. Regardless, I knew I’d always keep my truck - it had been a gift from Charlie, and now held a permanent parking space in the Cullen’s garage. After the news had been released of the ‘bear attack,’ Edward had gone back to Charlie’s and gotten my truck. He’d wanted to wait for the news to become public so it would look like someone had stolen it, knowing the house was empty. That’s exactly what the police had assumed, and it hadn’t been pursued, since it’s owner was presumed dead. I was grateful to be able to keep it.

Alice had parked the car and was already around to the other side, pulling me out. "C’mon, Bella, snap out of it - there’s work to do!"

"Easy, Alice. You’re going to wear her out before we even get to the first shop," Rosalie murmured.

The first store was a small boutique of some sort. It looked very expensive, but it had it’s advantages; from what it looked like, there was hardly anyone in it. I paused outside the entrance. I was still feeding, so I would be prepared for when we found Victoria, but this might be different.

I was nervous to be around humans again. The vision hadn’t shown me having a problem, but sometimes Alice’s visions weren’t certain - what if this was one of those times? I didn’t know what to expect, but I also knew that Alice and Rosalie wouldn’t let me do anything I’d regret. They both stood beside me, one on each side.

Rosalie whispered under her breath, "Are you ready, Bella? You’ll be fine. Let’s go in." They waited for me to move forward. I took a deep breath, and readjusted my sunglasses to hide my pitch black eyes, then started through the doorway, with them accompanying me.

As we entered the boutique, I looked around, trying to appear normal. The sales girl closest to the front approached us, offering her help. I glanced at her, and slowly started to relax. I didn’t feel anything, or smell anything for that matter. It was much like hunting animals - it certainly wasn’t appealing. I suppose that if I did attack her, the blood might taste alright, but I had no intention of doing that...eewww. Just the thought of it was making me slightly sick to my stomach - not that it was possible. The idea sounded even more disgusting than attacking animals. Maybe human blood wouldn’t taste all right after all. Thankfully, I would never have to find out.

Rosalie and Alice were smiling hugely, having heard my thoughts, thanks to my gift. They were both ecstatic, and a bit proud as well. If I could have blushed, I would have. Alice dismissed the sales girl, telling her she knew what she was looking for. She dragged me towards the back of the store, pulling items as she went. She pushed me into a dressing room, and I starting sifting through her selections. After I found one I liked, I tried it on, and stepped out to show her. As I opened the door, I was pummeled with a huge assortment of things - clothes, hats, and shoes. Alice was tearing the store apart, bouncing from one side to the other. She was a tiny blur, moving so fast she appeared to be a designer fabric tornado. Clearly, Alice had been trying to repress her shopping addiction for too long.

Suddenly, the door next to me flew open, slamming into the wall, and Rosalie strutted out, showing off her new find - the red dress from Alice’s vision. She pranced through the store, turning in front of the large mirrors, striking various poses. Sure enough, I looked up, and saw three sales clerks completely overwhelmed, all huddled together near the front of the store, as if trying to hide.

Alice paused her madness briefly, and turned toward the clerks up front. "Excuse me, I would like my sister to try on this blue dress, but I don’t see her size. Can you check to see if you have another one?" All three clerks stood frozen, until the two further back pushed the other one slightly forward.

"Just let me check for you, miss," the girl replied hurriedly, rushing out of sight.

Alice waited, tapping her foot impatiently. When I thought she wasn’t looking, I reached out and started to pick up a plain looking t-shirt to try on.

"Don’t even think about it, Bella." Alice interrupted me, scowling.

Eventually, the sales clerk resurfaced looking frazzled. "I’m sorry, miss, but I don’t have anymore in that particular style. Perhaps I can interest you in a different dress - this green one would be lovely, I think."

Alice sighed in frustration. I could tell this wasn’t going to be pretty, so I disappeared back to my dressing room to sort through the rest of Alice’s selections. I listened as Alice explained to the girl why the green one, as well as the lavender one, and the pink one, would not do. She was going over every fine detail of the midnight blue dress, from the way the light silk fabric would fall across my silhouette just right, to the satin edging, all the way down to the type of stitching used on the hems.

After about twenty minutes of insistence, Alice had the sales girl on the phone with the designer’s firm, ordering the dress in Edward’s favorite color for me. She even convinced them to customize it, changing the neckline from rounded to a plunging V, with a sheer lace inset. I had no idea where she thought I would ever wear this, but by now, I knew better than to interrupt her when she was on a roll.

After we’d made the rest of our selections, which were quite extensive, Rosalie paid the clerks, and Alice threw an extra thousand on the counter. "For your trouble, and cleanup efforts, ladies. Thank you," she smiled brightly at them. As we left the shop, they just stared after us, dumbfounded.

The next few shops were a bit more crowded, but it was still fun, and I never had any problems. It was quite the experience, shopping with my two new sisters. They both had incredible taste. I often began to object to spending so much, but Alice and Rose told me it was not an issue, and that they wanted to do this for me. I still did what I could to limit the purchases made for my benefit.

When we arrived back home, Edward met me at the car, opening my door for me. "I’ve been waiting for you," he said softly, kissing my forehead. "Did you enjoy yourself?"

"It was a lot of fun," I said, as he began to collect my bags from the car. I told him about my reaction - or lack of one - to the humans I’d been around. He smiled, his eyes shining with happiness for me.

"That’s wonderful, love. I’m glad that won’t be a problem for you," he said sincerely. He took my bags from me, and we went inside, joining Rosalie and Alice, who were already showing off their purchases to Esme and Emmett. I laughed to myself, remembering the afternoon’s events. Edward and I curled up on the couch, and spent the rest of the evening watching movies with the family. It was a relaxing way to end the day, and even if it was only for a few minutes at a time, I was able to push Victoria out of my mind and enjoy myself. She was still there, on the edge of my thoughts, but for at least one night, I wanted to let her go - she was starting to consume me, and it was more than disconcerting. I had to find her soon.