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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)


6. Numb

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“How is she today?” Alice asked, walking in from the beach with a bowl full of sea glass.

I must have fallen asleep on the sofa. It was so comfortable out in the uncluttered sitting room, the doors open to the sea breeze that would rush in and cool me off. The bedrooms did have very comfortable and aesthetically pleasing beds, but the pounding of the sun, even in the short early winter days, made them hot well into the night. Sleeping was nearly impossible. I would try for hours before giving in and dragging a pillow to the sofa to bed down there instead.

I opened my eyes to see Jasper sitting across the room on an armchair, starring at me expressionlessly. I stared back at him just as stoically.

“Waiting for me to burst into flames or something?” I asked quietly. He gave me a crooked smile without moving a single other muscle in his face. Alice flitted to his side and sat on the arm of his chair. She held up her bowl of scavenged treasures, inviting him to look. Something about me this morning, though, had caught his attention. His gaze did not break from mine.

My daily diagnosis session. What was I projecting this morning? More frustration? More helplessness? Or just endless bitter, bitter grief, blame and self-loathing yet again?

But after weeks of crashing waves, burning days and sticky, humid nights, and near isolation from everything that defined my world and gave me comfort, the emotional pool had run dry. I sat up on the couch and stretched, getting oxygen into my muscles. Alice found these human aspects of mine so endearing. Again, as I arched my back and threw my arms back and forth, she titled her head and cooed, but Jasper’s small chuckle gave her a start.

“What is it?” Alice asked him.

“She’s numb this morning,” he stated. “About time.”

“Being numb is a good thing?” I debated. “Do tell.”

“Being numb is a better thing,” he corrected. “It’s the best mood you’ve been the whole time we’ve been here.”

“Right, numb is definitely an improvement. Maybe now you won’t complain so much about breakfast,” Alice chirped and danced off to the kitchen.

I groaned. I wasn’t that indifferent. Although her cooking had improved with practice, I felt so weighted down by the human food I had been forced to endure for the last several weeks.

“Not steak and eggs again!” I argued.

“What else?” Jasper laughed. He must have sensed my disgust.

“Can’t I just hunt down a shark or a whale or something?”

Jasper smirked. “Cold-blooded animals don’t taste right.”

Yes, I guess that was likely. There were certainly hierarchies of taste. I had gotten by most of my life on deer and elk, but herbivores tasted none so good as the occasional brown bear or bobcat I was able to track through the forests of Washington. And then there was one prey that was far beyond any of them…

I shuddered at the recollection of the taste of human blood. It had taken all of three weeks for my body to process it all out of my system. Now in the two weeks since, I was going through withdrawal. As if Isle Esme’s climate weren’t enough to contend with, I had been suffering night sweats and jitters. Alice had tried to curb the effects by taking me hunting on the mainland, but the moment we pulled the boat into port, I picked up the scent of a group of fisherman unloading their early morning catch. Jasper had detected my instinct shifting fast enough to stir the boat back out to open sea.

The moment was broken by the ringing of Alice’s phone, bringing me back to my senses with the aftertaste of remorse still dancing on my tongue. In the kitchen, between the banging of a pan on the stove and the closing of the cupboard, I heard her flip it out of her pocket and answer.

“Hello?... Yes, she seems to be doing better today. At least the constant stream of tears has stopped. What’s happening there? ….. No, I’m nearly as blind as a bat with my radar jammer nearby. … Should I just put you on speaker? Okay, wait just a second.”

Alice reentered to find me folding my blanket and Jasper fingering through the bowl of sea glass. She set her cell phone on the table between us.

“It’s Edward.”

With a flick of her finger, the speaker phone engaged, and I could hear the reverberation of empty air.

“Daddy?” I asked meekly.

I hadn’t spoken with him in five weeks, though he or Bella or Carlisle called everyday to inquire after me. A lack of communication with those I loved was one of my punishments, Alice had explained earlier.

“He was arraigned today,” was his simple response. The he in question was clear. But, the woeful tone of my father’s voice was unexpected. What was it that was leading him to sound so weary? “He pled not guilty by reason of self-defense. The DA is pushing for involuntary manslaughter. Carlisle is trying to find some ‘expert’ witnesses to attest that the neck injuries were caused by his struggle through the forest, causing the blood loss.”

“How will they explain that they can’t find his blood anywhere in the forest then?” I asked dully. I had already mapped out in my head the possible scenarios that would be pursued by the DA, but this was a problem I had discovered with this particular scenario.

“It’s Forks, dearie,” Alice smiled. “Remember the near constant presence of rain? They’ll just say it washed away.”

“The sun was shining that day.”

Alice’s smile faltered. “We’ll just have to hope that they didn’t go too thoroughly over the crime scene before the rain came back that night.”

“The bigger problem we’re running into right now,” Edward continued, “is explaining the circumstances that Jacob was found in.”

“Meaning?” Jasper asked, staring at the phone on the table before him.

“He had just phased to hold down Nessie when the shot was fired,” Edward answered. “Naturally, the DA is curious why Jake was naked when he was found and no clothes in sight.”

Everything that morning had happened in such a blur, it had not even registered with me that Jacob hadn’t had any clothes on. He was always very cautious not to phase in front of me, or anyone else for that matter, to avoid the awkwardness. My mind suddenly replayed the image in my brain, and I realized my father was right. I felt my face flush with the realization that as Jacob had pinned me to the earth, his bare body had been holding mine down. Jasper gave me another revealing smirk. Again, I flushed, but this time from knowing that Jasper had sensed my momentary sensation of… something I had never felt towards Jacob before. Something I had never felt toward anyone before.

“Maybe write it off as a spirit-quest Quileute thing, just circumstantial that the gunman ran into him while he was out there,” Alice suggested. It didn’t sound like an all-together bad idea. The Quileute were a relatively small and culturally isolated tribe, and not much of their customs had been studied or documented off the reservation.

“That’s certainly an argument we will be trying,” Edward agreed from afar. The use of the word we had not escaped me.

“How is he?” I asked bluntly. Again, the he in question was all too clear.

“Jacob is doing fine, considering” Edward answered. “He is handling everything with so much maturity and class. He doesn’t think too much about how much of a sacrifice he’s making. He just goes from day to day happy that the police don’t seem to be interested in you anymore. He’s glad you’re safe, and he never stops thanking us for getting you out of harm’s way so quickly. Of course, Leah is not your biggest fan right now.”

I felt the well of tears pooling up again. Jacob had many good qualities. His near devotion to me was something I had always taken for granted. I had never questioned why. All that I had changed the morning my grandfather died. Jacob had ceased to be my constant companion, but he had thrown himself to the wolves, so to speak. He was living his whole life for my sake.

“He is a fool,” I concluded. Jasper and Alice were taken aback. Even a small gasp from the phone’s speaker told me Edward was surprised as well. “Why is he doing this? It’s not like he couldn’t escape if he didn’t want to. He could easily leave Washington and go anywhere - they’d never catch him. Why is he insisting on this drama?”

“He is doing what is necessary to keep our family safe,” Edward rebuked. “You would do well to remember that.”

“What about him, though!” I shouted. “What if he gets convicted? Unlike you, he’s never killed a person in his life. Is he expecting me to just sit aside and go on living my life while he sits in prison for a crime he never committed?”

“Jacob trusts us to do what’s right,” Edward returned, as always satiny smooth while being bluntly harsh. “We will get him through this. Jacob is part of our family, and we don’t abandon our family.”

“Dad, I’m so scared for him,” I whispered. The tears again had found their way down my cheek. “I do understand what he is doing. But I couldn’t endure if something happens to him because of what I did. If he is convicted, I’m not sure I could….”

My voice tapered off. I looked up from the phone to Jasper and Alice, hand in hand, their gazes full of curiosity and concern.

“…you’re not sure you could go on living.”

Edward completed my thoughts so succinctly. I swallowed back my tears and nodded. Although he could not see me, I’m sure my silence served as a confirmation.

“He is doing all this because of how much he loves you, Nessie,” Edward continued. “He would rather face a 20-year prison sentence than see you suffer a moment if it was in his power to stop it. We’ll see you soon, sweetheart, and it may all make better sense then. Alice, take me off of speaker.”

Alice snatched up the phone and hit its keypad in half a second. She left the room and resumed her post at the stove. Jasper threw his arm around me and lowered me to the couch, holding me on his lap like a child seeing Santa. I turned my head onto his shoulder and let the tears flow freely. He made no attempt to calm or sedate me. He had been right. Numb was better.

“You’re not going to swing me?” I asked him through gasps, surprised that he was allowing my wallowing to endure.

“Not all painful tears are wrong,” he answered, stroking my cheek. “No, you cry until you can’t cry anymore. I can’t think of a better way to deal with what you’re feeling.”

“You can’t be serious!”

Alice’s voice rang out from the kitchen with abhorrent disgust. My mind immediately was busy constructing dire realities of yet another twist of fate against us.

“Fine!” she added after a moment. “I guess it’s a small sacrifice. But you’re darn well better have a Lamborghini for me for this one, Edward Cullen! Wait a minute… Well, it’s vague, like it always is when I see Nessie, but she and Bella might actually look very good. We’ll see you a few days then.”

I heard her flip phone close and felt a slight spark of hope. We’ll see you a few days. Either Edward was coming to us, or better yet, we were leaving the island and going to him. Either would be a welcome change.

After a few minutes, Alice bore a tray of juice, bloody steak, and eggs over easy and set in on the table in front of me. I rolled my eyes in disgust, but hunger won in the end. I set about eating my human food like the good little half-human they wanted me to be.

Jasper stood to put his arms around Alice. He must have sensed that she needed comforting, but her face revealed only frustration.

“Nessie, you’ll need to pack your things, we’ll be leaving tonight,” she informed me. “Jasper and I need to hunt before getting on the plane. I trust you’ll be okay here for a few hours by yourself?”

I nodded obediently. It wasn’t as if I was going to throw a wild kegger.

“Carlisle has found a new house and taken a job,” she continued. “Esme has been setting up everything with the movers and all of things are supposed to be there tomorrow, so I guess it’s time to move on. We’ll also need to do some shopping on our way.”

That was assumed with Alice. But the bitter tone of the word “shopping” made it sound like a very unpleasant thing. Could Alice find shopping for anything unpleasant? Would my world never cease flipping itself on end? I looked up at her, eyes full of curiosity.

Her teeth clenched as she answered through a manufactured smile.

“School uniforms.”