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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)


4. Flight

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There were too many voices. Everyone talked at once. Everyone except Bella, sitting by my side with her arms around me, muted by grief. My eyes focused on a spot on the floor as a distraction, because I could not bring myself to look into their eyes again. I had seen the horror in their expressions when Edward had carried me weeping through the door. They had run to us, desperate to soothe, to calm, to placate; until they saw my eyes – my crimson, guilty eyes. Of them all, it was Esme who had run from the room to contain her abhorrent reaction. That’s how I understood how dire the mistake had been: even Esme could not face me.

They understood immediately. I had attacked a human. I had drunk his blood. I had killed.

“We have to leave,” Carlisle had declared, his voice always collected and in control. “Did anyone see her?”

“Just me,” Edward answered. “And Jacob.”

“Jacob?” Alice asked, her voice contemplative. I could almost hear her internal dialogue. So that’s why I couldn’t see it.

“He took Nessie down,” Edward added. He must have heard their jumbled thoughts, full of concern and disgust. “No, he never intended to hurt her. He was trying to stop her from killing him.”

“So where is he now?” Jasper queried. “Why isn’t he here?”

From the corner of my eye, I could see Bella’s head shoot up toward Edward. It was the first sign of life she had shown since pulling me down by her on the sofa.

“He knew what he was doing,” was all Edward replied. “He understood very quickly. I would have argued with him if I didn’t agree with him so much. And his blood was everywhere.”

I didn’t like it. The answer was too cryptic.

“I don’t understand….” Rosalie added. “What is he doing? Why is his blood everywhere?”

Was she actually showing concern for Jacob?

“He put it all together in his head very quickly, I was … impressed,” Edward explained. “She was at the crime scene and overheard where the shooter was. She spoke to Newton, and I think he sort of recognized her. They took Jacob’s car from Forks, even though Nessie drove, with the whole police department as witnesses. The police found Jacob with a gunshot wound next to the body.”

Finally, I ripped my eyes from the spot on the floor and looked up at my father with near disbelief.

Edward sighed in defeat. “He’s going to confess to the killing to keep Nessie… to keep all of us, safe.”

I was standing in front of Edward before I had even made the decision to stand, my fists pounding on his unyielding stone chest as the steamy tears rolled their way down my cheeks again.

“But he DIDN’T!!” I shouted. “He didn’t lay a finger on him. He barely knew what was going on! He even tried to stop me before I took off after the guy. You can’t let him do this!!”

Edward seized my hands to stop the flailing.

“Rosalie, Emmett,” Carlisle called out. “We need money, passports, credit cards, the usual. Also, in my office, third door on the left side, grab the binder labeled “Moose” and burn the rest. Alice, Jasper - go down to the cottage, grab some of Nessie’s things that she’ll need. We’ll send movers for the rest after we’re sure it’s safe, but make sure there’s enough for at least a few weeks.”

The family flew out in every direction. Carlisle turned next towards Bella, slowing down to near human speed and sitting beside her on the couch. He put his arm around her and kissed the top of her hair.

“Bella, I am going to be very unfair and ask you to help us,” he whispered. “We have to get Nessie out of here, but you’re going to need to stay behind. Sue will need you to comfort her, and someone needs to make arrangements for Jacob’s defense. Also, they’ll expect you and Edward at the funeral.”

Funeral. That word hit me with a force I could not have anticipated. The funeral. They would lay Charlie’s body down in a cold, lonely grave. We would never see his face again.

“Of course, you’re right.” Bella’s lips barely moved. “Edward and I will stay behind and make sure everything’s tied up. Thank you, Carlisle.”

Esme returned from the kitchen at last, walking over to me and pulling me out of Edward’s grasp and into her own soothing embrace.

“My baby,” she cooed. “I’m so sorry. I didn’t mean to upset you. I’m sure I would have done the same thing.”

Surprisingly enough, I felt betrayed by her empathy. I wanted them to be angry with me. I wanted them to call me out for losing control, for creating the situation we now found ourselves in. I wanted Esme mad at me most of all, because surely if she could find anger, then they truly had a grasp on just how foolishly I had acted.

“Renesmee,” Edward whispered. “Believe me, there is plenty of anger, but yelling will get us nowhere.”

I hated that he could hear my thoughts right now. I wanted to be able to marinate in my self-disgust undefended.

“Bella, get him out of my head,” I growled. My mother broke from her reverie and looked up, horrified at the voracity of my tone. I tried to soften my voice in appeasement. “Please, I need some privacy now.”

“Edward, I’m sorry, I think she’s right,” Bella agreed. I could tell by the frustrated pang that crossed his face that she had shielded me. “She needs to sort this out on her own.”

Carlisle nodded his consent with Bella’s actions. “It will be better for her to find her own peace with this.” He stood up, taking his keys out of his pocket and placing them in Esme’s hands. “As soon as the others are ready, take Alice, Jasper and Nessie to the airport. I’ll call on my way to the hospital and arrange the tickets.”

“Yes, that’s a good idea,” Edward was answering to someone’s thought. “She’ll be safe there while we take care of everything.”

“Safe where?” I asked.

“I think Jacob’s plan will work in taking any speculation off of you,” Edward said to me. “But, just in case, we want you untouchable. You need to disappear for a while.”

“Yes, but where am I going?” I asked again.

“Someplace safe,” Esme smiled.

Alice and Jasper rejoined us, each carrying an overly laden baggage, hastily packed with bits of fabric flowing over the sides. Edward grabbed the bags and dashed towards the garage. Rosalie reemerged from upstairs with two handfuls of cash, both greenbacks and some others, and three passports in her mouth, pursed between her lips.

“Won’t SOMEONE please tell me where I’m going?” I demanded, my voice growling again. The human blood was fueling my strength, but I wasn’t quite sure yet how to gain control of it. Anger was not an emotion I had had much need of. The sound of my voice was echoing off the walls. It even surprised me.

Carlisle came to my side, throwing his embrace around me and Esme. He rocked us gently, like he did when I was baby.

“You have too much going through your mind right now, dear,” his soothing voice explained to me. “I know we’re being a little short on details, but we’re doing everything to protect you, Jacob, and our family. Please understand that if we don’t tell you too much, it’s for your protection. We’ll work everything out one way or another, and we’ll explain then.”

Fine, I thought bitterly. Carlisle kissed my forehead, then Esme’s.

“Let’s give them a few moments alone, shall we?” he whispered in Esme’s ear. His eyes dashed to Edward, reemerging from the garage, and Bella, rising off the couch to be at his side. Esme loosened her grasp on me, and she and Carlisle slipped seamlessly out of the room.

I turned to Bella and Edward. I couldn’t decipher their expressions. Tension, perhaps? Concern? Worry? Blame?

As if a wave were crashing over me, the events of May 14 flashed through my mind and forced closed my throat in a meek gasp. Charlie’s dead. Jacob will be arrested. We are leaving. We are leaving because of what I did.

“I’m so sorry,” I mouthed, no words coming from me as my tears burst forth once more. “This is all my fault.”

Please, I thought confident that Bella’s shield was still wrapped around me. Please, yell at me. Justify my guilt. Tell me what a horrible thing I’ve done.

“Renesmee,” Bella began, her words smooth but stern, “I was raised the daughter of a cop. When you’re a cop’s kid, you always know that there may be a day when he goes to work and never comes home, even in a little po-dunk town like Forks. Charlie knew that, too. He accepted that possibility every time he put that badge on and stepped out the door. He never failed to accept that truth with anything less than pride. Don’t you dare corrupt his memory and sacrifice with any trace of your guilt.”

Bella knew exactly what to say to drag me out of my self-pity. Her words were harsh, but effective.

“Now, as far as for your actions,” she continued. “That will be your cross to bear. You have taken a human life. You can’t undo it, so saying you’re sorry is worthless. Anyway, I don’t want you to forget it. I want you to remember it in every micro-crystalline detail. I want you to remember the taste of every drop of blood you swallowed. I want you to feel every shred of guilt you must be feeling right now. I want you to recall with perfect clarity what you were thinking as you drank his life away. I want you to feel like you are unworthy. And then I want you to remember…. I want you always, always to remember and never, ever forget how ashamed I am of you at this moment.”

I thought that’s what I wanted to hear her say, but as her speech registered in my consciousness, my soul felt crushed. Edward’s eyes would have broken me if I looked any longer. It was clear he agreed with her word for word.

“Now, you go with Alice and Jasper, and you let us fix this mess,” he added. “You don’t even blink without checking with Alice first. If you get out of line in anyway, Jasper has our permission to render you catatonic.”

Okay! I raged in my head, though kept my face demure and obedient. It’s not like you caught me hunting a whole village! It was just one, freaking, bank-robbing murderer. It was almost just. It was biblical: a life for life, and eye for an eye.

But I only nodded respectfully. Suddenly, I recalled Jacob’s plight. Would I be able to find out what was happening wherever it was we were going?

“If Jacob should…”

Edward’s right eyebrow arched.

“We will make every possible resource available to him. But, the legal process takes time.”

“Nessie?” Alice called from the garage. “Nessie, we’re ready. Let’s go.”

I looked at my parents, their faces softening at our departure. Would they let me hug them? Or were they too disappointed in me? My question was quickly answered when Bella threw her arms around me, then, too, did Edward. They both kissed a check and stroked my face.

“We do love you,” Bella whispered. “I know we are being harsh, but we do love you more than anything, and we need to take these actions to ensure everyone’s safety, most importantly yours.”

“Alice and Jasper will keep you in good care until we get resettled. Try to be strong, my girl,” Edward added.

After that, time seemed to lose measure. We drove wordlessly to the airport, Esme dropping us at the curb without a good-bye. Our only bags were mine. Alice checked us in as Jasper and I waited in the food court. He threw down a tray with a bottled water and a wrapped hamburger in front of me.

“Perhaps you’re forgetting why we’re here,” I retorted bitterly. “I’ve already eaten - as if I would touch it anyway.”

“My apologies,” he smiled. “You might have to get used to it. You won’t have many opportunities for hunting the next few weeks where we’re going. Human food might become necessary.”

“I don’t suppose you’re going to tell me where that is?” I asked in a classic this-is-so-unfair teenage whine. Jasper gave a wry smile and shook his head back and forth. “What will you and Alice do, then?”

“We’ll go back to the main land every so often.”

The words were out of his mouth before he had realized he’d given away the purse.

“Isle Esme?” I asked, full of anticipation. Jasper hissed at his own gaffe, but nodded his head nonetheless. “We haven’t been there since I was three.”

“It was Carlisle’s suggestion,” he conceded. “It’s very remote. No contact with the outside world. Nobody knows of it except as required by law. And it’s the type of place that … gives you time to think.”

I opened the hamburger and gave it a small sniff. It was simply vile. To appease Jasper, I took the smallest nibble and nearly gagged as I tried to swallow. A sip of the water cleared my throat. I looked up at Jasper to gage his reaction, but his attention had shifted to one of the overhead flat screen TV’s. A news anchorwoman sat at a desk with an icon of a police cruiser over her right shoulder with the caption “Police Chief killed in line of duty” written along the crawler on the bottom of the screen. I picked out the voice stream that matched the twitching of her mouth and listened.

“….and it all happened earlier this morning in the otherwise peaceful former logging town of Forks, Washington. We go live to Martha McGuire with the story.”

The image shifted to blonde women in a gray business suit, a large microphone in hand, standing in front the bank where I had held my grandfather’s hand just hours before.

“That’s right, Catherine. There’s an overwhelming sense of grief in this small town of 3200, where around 7:46 this morning its chief of police, Capt. Charles Swan, a twenty-seven year veteran of the force, was shot and killed in a failed robbery attempt at the First National Bank you see behind me.”

Charlie’s photo in uniform was flashed up on the screen. I felt my breath catch and my insides twist. Jasper didn’t hesitate to keep from making a scene by breaking out into a torrent of tears. I felt my muscles relax and a sense of calm descend over me as he pulsated waves of relaxation in my direction.

“According to Officer Michael Newton, who I just finished speaking with, three shots were fired, two by the robber, and one by Chief Swan, as the robber fled the scene from the back of the bank in a late model Passat. Now, Catherine, as unusual a morning this was in Forks, the story doesn’t stop there. State police were able to track down the getaway car just a few miles outside of town and used canine units to follow the scent of the suspect into the edge of the Olympic National Forest. One mile off of the highway, they found the robbery suspect deceased, along with another man who has been taken into police custody for questioning.”

The camera flashed back to anchor woman. She was clearly surprised by the twist in the story. I could not help forgetting that I was not.

“Are they saying if this second man is an accomplice to the robbery, or just in the wrong place at the wrong time?” she asked.

“They aren’t saying much of anything at this point. The only information we have on the second man is that he is a twenty-three year old local. Police aren’t saying at this time what his connection to the events of this morning might be. Also, the Forks Police department is trying to locate another individual they feel might have had some knowledge of today’s events for questioning. She’s not being called a suspect, just a person of interest at this point. She is described as 16-17 years old, approximately 5’5”, long black hair, ivory skinned, brown eyes, weighing about 115 lbs.“

Jasper pulled me up by hand so hard I nearly felt pain. He led me through the crowded food court, his eyes searching for Alice. He found her just stepping away from the ticket counter, three boarding passes in her hand. His words were near-silent and highly accelerated and I had trouble following them.

“We need to get on the plane now. How much longer before it takes off?”

“50 minutes. What’s happened?”

“The news has broken. The police are looking for Nessie.”

“We’ll get on now. Keep her calm.”

Keep her calm? The police were looking for me for good reason. Had they forgotten that I had killed a man? I should be found. I should be made to answer for my actions.

I felt … nauseous? I had never been physically ill before, but I imagined this must be what it felt like. A cold sweat was forming over my brow, and my mouth was going dry. The whole room started to spin. I couldn’t keep my legs straight; my knees wanted to buckle. Jasper slid his arm around my waist and supported me through the security check. A few minutes later, I was lowered into a first class seat.

“I’m sorry for this, Nessie,” I heard Jasper whisper in my ear as he sat down beside me, “but it’s probably better if I just put you under the rest of the way.”

My eyes felt too heavy to debate him. I could hardly string a coherent thought together before everything had gone black.

I don’t know how much later it was when my eyes fluttered open to a very bright room, the sound of crashing tides filling my ears.

I sat up, and went outside to walk the beach of Isle Esme.