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Before sunset

Bellie Award Nominee for best one-liner. This was wrong. Her heart belonged to another, to Jacob. It was wrong to want him: want his blood, want his soul, want his kiss. But how could Renesmee refuse, when Mathias was offering himself to her so willingly, in anyway she was willing to accept him? And if Moira really could save the Cullens, Mathias was part of the package. Besides, wouldn't Jacob want her to be happy until they could be together at last? Rated R for language, mature themes (lightly lemon in later chapters)


2. May 14

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May 14

It was not the first time that I had this dream. It was the first time, however, when Jacob had not been there to wake me before I died.

I was in a cage, trapped, with an audience of several dozen vampires, their eyes sanguine and glaring. The room was dim, but I could see frescoes on the walls and ceiling. Behind the throng, Bella and Edward were crouched, ready to strike. But strike at who? Their hungry eyes were black; their trajectory would bring them straight to my throat. With a blood-curdling growl, they leapt forward. Just moments before their teeth sank into my flesh of my arms, the cage was gone and I was flying high above them all. Not jumping, but flying. I looked down at the crowd below, and gasped at my mother and father, their bodies aging, deteriorating, their hair turning gray, their flesh softening and their bones crumbling. The mob of red-eyed vampires then turned on them, ripping them to pieces in moments. And I, flying above them, was unable to help. The bodies of the others vanished, and I began to plummet, unable to stop, not sure if I was going to survive. I was going to crash, the floor was just inches away, and then… I was dead.

I was covered in a cold sweat, barely able to suppress a panicked scream from passing beyond my lips. Edward and Bella did not rush into the room. Of course not: whenever this dream had hit me before, Jacob had nudged me awake before the crashing part.

As I regained consciousness, I wondered if my father hadn’t seen what had just run through my mind. Or weren’t they concerned for me? I looked over at my alarm clock - 5:47 a.m. What were they doing anyway? I could hear their voices in the parlor.

Really, out of their room before the crack of dawn? How unusual. Why? Was something wrong?

I crept lightly to my door and pressed my ear against it. They were using nearly inaudible whispers. It wasn’t like them to work so stringently on keeping me out of a conversation. And why didn’t my father sense my spying? Suddenly, I realized: Bella must have be shielding him. This realization only brought on more questions. Shielding him from what? As I listened on, I could hear Alice’s voice, too. Had she seen something coming? Is that why she was here in the wee hours of morn?

“But you say we won’t do anything,” Bella asked, much confusion in the tone of her voice. “Then, why would we leave?”

“I didn’t say we wouldn’t do anything. I just said I couldn’t see any of us doing anything that would cause us to leave. Sometimes the catalyst for a course of decisions never makes itself clear. You know what they say about butterfly wings, right?” Alice answered. “And, there are also my blind spots to consider.”

I could picture her in my mind throwing her head back to indicate my door. Alice was extremely frustrated by her near inability to see my future.

“Where are we going? When?” Edward asked. “All of us?”

“Yes, don’t worry, no Cullen will be left behind. I can’t see if Jacob will be with us, but that doesn’t surprise me so much,” she answered. “I still can’t see exactly where we’re going. There’s a few alternatives that Carlisle’s been working on recently. That’s why I wanted to come and talk to you. No doubt, your desires for Nessie’s arrangements will be a prime consideration. I want to know what you think the best course of action is. With a little planning, we can try to push the future in one direction or another.”

“What are our options?” Bella answered.

“I see two primary options. He thinks maybe Maine. He’s found a location where school year weather is agreeable for us. But, he’s also thinking of Scotland.”

“Scotland?” both Bella and Edward asked, seemingly surprised, before Bella continued. “You mean, completely leave the country?”

“I wouldn’t take it too seriously as an option, Bella,” Edward interrupted, the sound of his footfalls suggesting he was pacing around the parlor. “He’s just looking at the climate issues. Forks’ climate has been very good to us. It makes sense to take that issue seriously under consideration for our next home. But, I don’t think Carlisle will have considered what the cuisine in Scotland would be like.”

No bears or lions, I thought. Just lots and lots of fluffy woodland creatures. Yuck.

I heard my father’s steps approach my door. My body temperature had cooled, and the sweat of my bad dream had started to evaporate. I was shivering. Not a moment had passed before I heard the light tapping of Edward’s hand at the door.

“Everything alright, Nessie?” he called, his voice returning to full volume.

I’m fine,” I thought, testing to see if the shield was still on him.

His response determined it wasn’t. “Then what are you doing up this early?”

An image of me falling through my dream ran through my head before I was able to stop it. I heard the door knob turn immediately and felt his amber eyes search me out. He was surprised to look down after a near-desperate glance at an empty bed and find me stationed next to the door.

Damn it, I clenched my teeth, he’s going to take this way too seriously. “Don’t worry about it, Edward, it was only a dream. Don’t let it bother you. I’ve already forgotten what it was about. You know, sometimes a cigar is just a cigar….”

He leaned over to me, and ran his hand over my hair, smoothing it down. His amber eyes dropped their gaze into mine, illuminated by the shaft of light from the open door. By this time, Bella was behind him, looking over his shoulder, her concern adding to his own.

“You’re as bad a liar as your mother,” he smiled, bringing me close into his embrace, as though I were still a little girl needing her father’s protection. “And you don’t forget anything.”

Bella leaned down beside us, her porcelain hand outstretched to mine. “Do you want to show me, love? Maybe I can make something of it?”

“Oh! Me too!” Alice leapt half way across the room, as though I was offering to read tea leaves for her. Her pixie figure assumed a reclined position next to my mother, her delicate fingers twittering out to me.

“Well, okay,” I reluctantly agreed. I freed my arms from my father’s embrace and took up their hands. I relaxed my consciousness, and let the mental fragments of memory flow through my hands into their minds. The warm sensation of ease that I always experienced during these “mentographies” belied the panic that I recalled at the falling end of my dream. After a few seconds, they withdrew their hands. No doubt my father was in the loop as well.

I had expected that their reactions would be swift and reassuring; “Oh, honey, it was just a dream. Go back to sleep. Mommy and daddy are here and nothing’s going to happen to you.”

But that wasn’t their reaction. Not even, “It’s nothing to worry about, kiddo.” No, they were disturbed, extremely disturbed, by my dream. But I had dreams all the time, most of which I’m sure my father had witnessed. Nothing had caused this reaction, not even the time I dreamt that I hunted Jacob through the forest until I cornered him at a rock outcropping, broke his neck, and drank his blood. Edward had actually been rather entertained by that one.

“It’s only a dream,” I tried to reassure them, looking back and forth between the three of them. This seemed in reverse. I was the one with the bad dream. Shouldn’t they be comforting me?

Was it possible their faces were even whiter than usual?

Finally, my father’s face broke into a comforting smile. “Of course, it’s only a dream,” he chuckled. “What are we all getting so upset about? You’re okay, right? Go back to bed, darling.”

I knew from their reactions, though, it was something. Something in my dream had upset them.

“No, that’s okay,” I said, turning away from Edward and coming out of my room. “I’d have to get up in a half hour anyways. Besides, the sun will be out today; maybe I should walk to school.”

I needed some time alone to think. No, actually, I needed some time alone to feel. Something was changing between us. All my life, it had always felt like we were united - Edward, Bella and Renesmee against the world. Something was shifting, and that something was rattling our alliance apart. I wanted a little distance between my family and my life to sort that out. No luck, though.

“I’ll walk with you,” Bella declared, traipsing off to fetch her shoes.

“Mom, sun?”

Already the dawn was breaking. The sun would soon be overhead. Explaining away my crystalline mother would be a little beyond my abilities.

“I’ll only walk as far as the edge of town,” she assured me, slipping on her boots. “We’ll stay in the forest.”

“Maybe I should come, too?” Edward queried.

“No, they need some girl time,” Alice interrupted. As close was Edward and Bella were, nearly inseparable for more than a twenty minutes it seemed, Edward was not immune from the occasional misunderstanding of female behavior. “Besides, I think maybe we should talk to Carlisle before he leaves for the hospital. Nessie, Jacob is coming over this morning to work on Rose’s suspension. Do you want me to pass along anything?”

“When is he coming, exactly?” I asked, suddenly tempted to skip school. Edward flashed me a disappointed grimace, and I quickly abandoned the plot.

“He said he’d be over around eight,” Alice answered.

“Ask him if he can pick me up from school this afternoon,” I returned, rounding the corner of the bathroom to wash my face. “Better yet, ask him if he’ll walk me home from school. Why not take advantage of the monthly appearance of sunlight?”

I suddenly had a flash of walking side by side with Jacob, his brown skin soaking up the radiant heat of the midday sun, and I, somewhat luminous but not with the rest of my family’s multihued brilliance, next to him… My breath caught for a moment in the back of my throat. Edward grimaced again.

“Mom, can you grab my bag from the foyer? I think I left it next to chaise.”

“Got it.”

“Bella, you’ll be careful to stay in the forest, right?” Edward asked.

Bella nodded, and ran to kiss him a little too passionately. Alice looked away, as did I.

“Let’s go, then?” Bella asked me. She was down the front stairs and 500 yards into the forest before I could throw my back pack over my shoulder.

Alice looked disapprovingly at me, shaking her head from side to side.

“I see you inherited Bella’s keen fashion sense,” she sighed. My hoodie, jeans, and baseball cap failed to impress, but they were sufficient deflectors to too much sun exposure.

“Like mother, like daughter,” Edward stated before embracing me, “and one of their most endearing qualities. Diamonds in the rough, the both of them.”

I smiled up at my father, his amber eyes shining at me. I loved this man with a depth far beyond my years.

“I love you, too,” he returned my sentiments. “Hmm, you’re as tall as I am.”

He was right. For the first time, I was looking nearly eye to eye with him.

“Fabulous!” Alice exclaimed. “Now I can get all those clothes I bought for Bella over the years out of storage.”

I flashed her disapproving glances. Still, sometimes, she did pick out something just divine. Charlie always liked when Alice dressed me. When I was younger and smaller, he called Alice the painter and I was her canvas. Now I was trying to fit in as a high school student, and an unexceptional one at that, so showing up every day with a Gucci bag and designer clothes was banned.

“Go catch up with your mother now.” Edward rescued me from yet another fashion argument with Alice. He gave me a slight nudge towards the door.

I cleared the threshold and leapt into the forest, trying to gain on Bella. I could see her slowing ahead of me. No need to rush too much; school didn’t even start for an hour yet. After two minutes, we were walking side by side through the forest. We would cut across the back woods of Forks, avoiding streets and trails. After six years of hunting expeditions, we knew these parts well. After a few more minutes of walking at only a slightly non-human pace, I decided to break the silence.

“So, what is it?” I queried, looking at her alabaster skin with a sideways glance.

“Am I that obvious?” she answered back, with a smile of someone whose bluff had just been called. I nodded. She looked back over her shoulder as if trying to determine the distance back to the house. “I guess that we’re far enough that he won’t hear us. Of course, he’ll know all about this conversation as soon as you get home, so I better be careful with what I say.”

“I can try not to think about it,” I volunteered. Keeping things from Edward was nearly, but not wholly, impossible. I had managed once or twice to do it. For example, the time Jacob had snuck me out of Charlie’s house when I was supposed to be sleeping to go down to La Push and play in the sand.

“There’s no need for that,” she reassured me, taking up my hand for a minute in her own. “It’s nothing that needs to be kept from him. In fact, he knows. My concern is that you have a chance to noodle this through without his constant surveillance.” She paused for moment, as if trying to determine the right words to start out. “I know you heard what Alice was saying this morning. I heard you wake up from your dream, but I wanted your father’s attention to be on the topic on hand, so I blocked him out for a few minutes.”

“Oh, so that’s why,” I commented. Bella nodded and continued.

“What Alice said isn’t really a surprise, Nessie. We’ve been talking about it for the last year or so. The family has been in Forks for nearly nine years now, these last few years for our benefit. Staying any longer would be… unwise. We’ll just wait out the end of the school year.”

It wasn’t a surprise to me at all. From what I could gather, the average Cullen homestead project ran about 5-6 years. We had overblown that by a long shot. There had never been extended family before to take into consideration. Charlie and Sue, the Blacks, the wolves… even the sucky weather was a friend to us.

“So, we move,” I agreed as a leapt over a tree that must have fallen in the last storm. “It’s not like we won’t be able to come back and visit.”

“Actually,” Bella corrected, a slight apprehension in her voice, “it is like that. We would have to make a clean break. Charlie and Sue could maybe come see us, but it would be best if we didn’t come back to Forks for many years.”

“What about Jacob?” Is that what she was getting at? Jacob wasn’t a Cullen, wasn’t a vampire, wasn’t a member of the coven. But he was part of my family.

Bella smiled reassuringly. “Edward and I agree that Jacob should be invited to come with us. But, it will be his decision if he wants to leave his pack.”

“So what you’re saying is, Jacob has to choose between us or his pack?” I demanded. That seemed unfair.

“He will have to choose between you and his pack.”


Bella looked at me tenderly, her face and body turned towards me, her hand caressing my face. I looked at the ground, trying to piece together the pieces of the puzzle that had been building in my mind for the last few months. Jacob was my friend. My earliest memories - and I remembered everything I had ever seen - included him. I couldn’t imagine myself without him. But, could I imagine myself with him? Suddenly, the thought seemed more natural than breathing and more instinctive than hunting. Jacob was meant for me.

Then we heard the shot.

Bella and I turned towards town. Shots were not unheard of in Forks, but only hunting rifles and only during the fall hunting season. This was no hunting rifle. This was a revolver, and there was no reason for any hunters in town this late in the spring. There were only a few people who legally owned revolvers in Forks. Among them was the chief of police.