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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3. Chapter 3 - Bella
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I was pressed so tightly to Jacob that the hard pelt of rainwater on my skin turned to steam between us.
As rational as I thought I was capable of being, I couldn’t stop crying. And rationally I wanted to, as every hitch and breath was excruciating. I can’t express exactly how humbling it is to be pressed up against someone – it’s just Jacob, I reminded myself – bridged by ropy strings of salty mucus with the low slosh of water in my stomach rising in my throat. So I wasn’t surprised when Jacob stopped me, stilling my awkward flailing with my name. Usually everything that passed through Jacob’s filter became simpler, easier. But the complications underfoot made me uncharacteristically angry with him. Why am I always flotsam drifting between two tides?When did Jacob become a tide?And who in their right mind would put lips like those on a man? WHEN DID I START CONSIDERING JACOB A MAN?!?
I was cold, wet, bruised and angry and this was just enough. “Jacob Black. Let me go.” The quality of my voice, both raspy and low-pitched would have made me inaudible to anyone else, but I knew he heard me. The tide had pulled back at that exact moment, bringing an instant of near silence to the beach. His left eyebrow arched ironically, the long filaments of his lashes beaded with rain, and his stupidly lush lips quirked.
“If that’s what you want...” He agreed and I applauded my victory. The moment he released me, however, I realized my body had the consistency of Jell-o. Barely. My teeth came down hard on my tongue as I fell backwards, taste buds registering the saltiness of my own blood. Jacob’s hands caught my wrists before I hit the ground and absorbed most of the energy from the landing. My arms were slick with water, though, and I slid easily out of his grasp. His fingers tangled with mine a moment longer than was absolutely necessary as I lay there. “Of course,” he offered, crouching low by my upturned head, “you know I’ll never let you go. Not really.” He absently thumbed my frown, as if reshaping the architecture of my lips. They tingled where his rough fingers ministered. “Not even if you try to kill yourself again,” his voice was thick with emotion, deep with meaning.
“I didn’t… That’s not… ” Everything in my head fizzled out, the balloon of my emotions deflating as quickly as if they’d been punctured.
The crackle of brush alerted me for the first time that we were not alone– a brown form in cut-off sweats peeling from the dark trees honestly attempting to make as much sound as possible. Sam. I knew this was for my benefit – as Jacob didn’t need a warning and Sam was capable of moving more noiselessly than anyone had a right to.
“If you’re done playing,” the words cut me to the quick and I could almost hear the bones in Jacob’s body snapping into attention beside me, “perhaps we can move this away from the Beach.” Despite being thinner than Jacob and carrying a pair of shorts in his left hand, Sam crackled with intensity. “You may not have noticed, but not all of the vampires in our acquaintance stick to the Pact.” He threw the shorts towards Jacob and offered me a mandatory hand, every muscle in my body throbbing as I came to my feet.
My thoughts snapped with my jaw: Victoria. The Wolf Pack. James… Edward. My shame was so intense that I almost wished Jacob had left me in the Pacific. The explanation in my own words, the usual shambling string of half-truths came down to: I jumped in the water so I could hear Edward Cullen’s voice. No thought given to Renee, Charlie or the Pack who were risking their lives for the Quileute and by extension myself. No thought for Jacob. Only for Edward, Bella Swan. How long will you be adrift – clutching at the broken things that wash up onto shore? I didn’t have an answer for that. This was not the first time the ever present hole in my chest ached – the aftereffects of a heart flayed raw – but it was the first time I realized that the fibrous new growth of anger was just as resilient – if not moreso – than the paper thin growth of affection.
I wanted to explain myself, to make atonement if it were possible, but when I looked at Jacob my mouth went dry and my heart dropped into my abdomen. I was a little intimidated by Sam and… Jacob Black was not wearing a stitch of clothing.
Jacob looked at me – my eyes dragged upwards from the dark thatch at the juncture of his thighs – and his eyes were fathomless. Sam dropped my arm as the black cotton skated up Jacob’s lean hips, actually taking a step back from me. The way Jacob knew me – without my having to say anything – was so uncanny at times that I hoped, prayed, that he had no idea how warm I was. The corner of his mouth turned upwards slightly, almost ruefully.
“Did you hit your head?” The words were Sam’s, softer edged than I deserved and slightly uncomfortable. I shook my head. “I’m sorry we can’t be more considerate,” he made a waving gesture with his hand, before adding, “about everything.” There were worlds of meaning in his last word, some on levels I couldn’t comprehend. “But there are things going on right now that are bigger than you, bigger than me.” He looked at Jacob, whose face had closed to focused attention. “I have to go to the Clearwater’s. Now. Bella, do you need to go to the hospital?”
“No,” the word flew out of my mouth with the velocity of a bullet. “No,” I amended, still raspy but with less force. “I’m fine.” I had no idea how I would explain this to Charlie.
“I don’t think –“ Jacob was right behind me, one hot hand going to my hip easily, almost casually. I shivered under the possessive touch and the palm fitted itself against me like a second skin. He was extraordinarily large.
“I’m fine.” I tried to put every ounce of meaning within the two words. It seemed to be enough for Sam.
“Jacob,” there was a tone to Sam’s voice that sharpened it, stiffening Jacob behind me. His words to Jacob were a tumble of vowels and exhaled breaths – Quileute. I could only catch names: Jacob, Harry, Leah, Seth. “Take her home. Don’t leave until you hear from me,” he said in English as he turned to leave. He paused a moment, then threw over his shoulder, “Try to stay out of trouble.” I thought the words were directed at me, but he was looking at Jacob.
The dark copper curls broke through the surf like the popping of a cork, black water churning where the pale torso emerged. Victoria blinked the salt water out of her eyes, strong white legs kicking in place as she hung suspended near an outcropping of rocks.
She had been so close this time. Within a heartbeat of the bitch. Victoria had been drawn to the slowing tattoo of a human heart – one human heart - momentarily afraid that the life would extinguish before she could claim it. No fair if she dies before I kill her. For James.
But the wolf had been faster.
Wolves. The surface of the water was oily with their musk making her reflexively gag. She had never seen their like. Underestimated them. Been hurt by them. By children.
Take her home, their voices travelled to her with the clarion quality of a bell.
Her lips curled as she dropped beneath the skin of water, strong arms propelling her towards the shore. Towards Forks.