Walking with the Ghost
I was staring at a changeling: enormous and angular, comprised of russet skin and heat. A blazing, glorious sun that washed over me in ways subtle and wise, burning away the shadows of twilight...
After jumping into the waves at First Beach, Bella comes out from beneath the overwhelming shadow of Edward Cullen. In that moment, she becomes a woman, finding the reasoning, intelligent person who existed pre-New Moon. And sees, truly sees, Jacob Black for the first time.
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2. Chapter 2 - Jacob
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I followed tensely, tufts of shed undercoat drifting behind me like brown dandelion fluff, catching in the low lying ferns and in the stunted saplings that grew close to the ground. Sam, a shadowy form several feet to my front left, continued on through the thick woods surrounding First Beach. He was limping slightly, compliments of the leech we had momentarily lost, although his gait had grown increasingly easier as our legs ate the miles. My mind recycled a litany of profanities laced with worry for Bella, the refrain of which Sam caught and lengthened his stride.
Jacob. Please. I knew Sam’s patient appeal referenced the string of vivid fantasies that filtered through my mind in the space of a heartbeat. In my defense, over half of those fantasies featured the dismemberment of a red-haired blood-sucker. The imagined reception afterwards – featuring one Bella Swan – was, perhaps, when my thoughts got away from me. They had a tendency to do that.
I can’t help it.
You never can. Sam’s chuffing sounded eerily like laughter, close enough to be in my ear.
Victoria’s scent in the woods – sickeningly sweet like sugar from the cane – was everywhere and nowhere. We had followed the trails for days and nothing here was fresh. But if she came back up along the beach, using the water as her medium… My mind flickered over a dark shore and a bone white driftwood tree.
She should be at Billy’s. Sam thought as our passing rousted a flock of sparrows, who took off into the sky under a furious upsurge of wings. I don’t like that she wanders with Victoria loose. It’s not very wise.
My thoughts warred. I worried about the same thing and yet, bristled at a perceived slight to Bella. Sam caught all of the chaotic mind work, but didn’t immediately respond. He was only three years older than I was, but had the patience of a much older man. I know, my thoughts finally coalesced, but she really is very stubborn about certain things. Like most of the women in my life. I knew Sam could feel the uneasiness in my response – fueled by the knowledge that what I shared with Bella was far more intense than love, but unsure of where I stood. I didn’t like it. But did I have a choice?
First Beach, Sam decided and we changed directions completely in synch with one another. Sam was already running normally, the aftermath of Victoria’s escape no longer visible.
Although the wind was against us, I caught Bella’s scent almost immediately.
I could be surrounded by a thousand strange scents and I would be able to find hers in a heartbeat. It was laced with the smell of ripe strawberries and the underlying perfume of her body. I could smell every mood that passed through her as her body shifted and reacted to stimulus, to me. But I would never tell her that. I knew the scent of Bella’s anger.
My worst fears, however, could never compete with reality. This is Bella’s truck. Sam thought with great certainty. It had, after all, sat in our drive for decades before it was hers. Both of our eyes found the narrow pathway that led to the cliffs.
No! The word was a sonic boom between us and I sprung so suddenly and with so much force that I was nearly a quarter mile ahead of Sam when I landed. The air was heavy with the threatening storm, the dirt of the path giving way to rock in an instant. Her smell was thick on the cliff face, caught in the ferns that pressed against her jeans and the rocks she had touched.
Shoes. Shoes on the cliff’s edge. Without conscious thought – although Sam caught my intent immediately – I jumped off the cliff.
I broke through the surging current as a man, coming up for air and then breaking through the rough surf. The undertow was very strong, but I was stronger. The lightning in the horizon added to my fear. Bella, Bella, Bella… After a lifetime of panic, I caught the dim flutter of something dark on the water, clinging to the churning foam like unanchored seaweed.
She was as cold as ice when I caught her, bringing her above the waterline. Still, her skin a bluish white. “Bella, Bella…” We were on the beach in a moment, Sam coming through the tree line as I carried her limp body away from the water.
“Is she breathing?” He asked. He caught the terse shake of my head as I laid her on the beach, supporting her neck. We had both grown up near the water and were familiar with drowning. The waters of First Beach were mercurial and had taken lives before.
She was as tiny as a child and her mouth was coppery and cold beneath mine, my hands shaking as I pressed against her chest hoping that I didn’t break her ribs. I had no idea how long she had been in the water or whether she was still alive. I have never hated another being in my life so much as I despised the Cullens at that moment. What choice do we have in the wake of their destructive path? They had made monsters of the Quileute and stolen the life of the only person I would ever love, as surely as if they had fed on her. My breath was hot and staccato against her cheek as I willed Bella to life.
“Please, Bella…” My own voice startled Sam: a dark, husky whine that was more feral that man. Above us, the storm broke overhead, needle pricks of cold rain ricocheting off my naked body, off the translucent skin of Bella’s face.
She seized beneath me, bubbles breaking on her mouth as her lungs worked to expel the water she had swallowed. I moved back, slightly, as she struggled to turn, falling on her side as she vomited on the shore.
“That’s a good sign,” Sam offered, wanting but not wanting to interfere.
Her arms wobbled as she tried to lift herself, collapsing under the weight of her body. She was completely exhausted and I pulled her to me, bringing her cold body against the heat of my chest. I could feel the hitch of her heart through the transparency of her wet shirt, her wicked coughing as her body clutched for air. My breath, I thought with a primal satisfaction. She was breathing my breath.
“J-Jacob?” Her throat had been burned by the water, but the syllables of my name had never sounded sweeter. She questioned as if there was ever a doubt I wouldn’t always be there.
“I’m here.” I said, hoping she didn’t notice the huskiness of my own voice. Everything I wanted to say choked at my throat, broken and unformed thoughts too strong to fit into a vocabulary I was capable of. Although I knew I was unconditionally and irrevocably in love with this small, willful girl – I had never believed it was possible to feel what I felt at that moment. I caught high notes of emotion: fury, awe – something I could understand. The rest was completely beyond me. And it hurt.
I don’t know if she heard me, but something turned in my abdomen when her dark eyes finally reached mine. The look of wonder painted there was raw and obvious. She was such a cautious person – except, apparently, when attempting to get away from me – and I was instantly worried. Had she hit her head? A darker thought, was she seeing me?
And then her palms were cupping my face, one thumb tracing the contours of my mouth. Sam actually looked away from us, pity in his eyes, moving back towards the trees. My own breath stilled, rain showering us where we sat on the beach. But time quite suddenly stopped when she ran her tongue along the rough surface of her thumb, tasting the rain from my face. I was keenly aware of my own nudity at that instant, the shadowy impression of her aureole through the wet cotton of her shirt.
For one long moment, I was watching her tremble on the edge of a precipice less real and yet more dangerous than the one she had already, stupidly, taken. She was walking with the ghost but I was the one possessed. I ached. “Bells,” her name was another word for stop.
She burst into tears.