Bella doesn't dive off the cliff. She and Jake find some happiness. Her life can only go so far though.
This story is a bare-bones version. It's more compact and concise than I like, but I can't seem to find the time to flesh it out. I want to post it here to get it 'off my mind' so to speak. I need the brain space for other things but this story keeps coming back for attention.
1. The Story
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Bella had climbed single-mindedly up the cliff intending to make her dive but half way up had slipped and badly wrenched her ankle. She sat in the cold wind and the beginnings of a rain storm feeling like an idiot for taking off on another of her experimental adventures in hopes of hearing voices. She knew someone would come along eventually. She didn't have long to wait.
The triumphant look on the red headed woman's face was enough to put Bella into panic mode. Victoria advanced slowly savoring her revenge. Bella scrambled backwards on her hands and tried to turn to crawl away but Victoria placed one foot on her back and pinned her to the ground like a bug.
The brief thought that Edward's voice wasn't there when she could really use a bit of help flashed through Bella's mind.
Victoria gloated as salt water dripped from her clothes and hair onto Bella's back and legs. She was enjoying torturing Bella. Victoria wanted a slow, painful, horrible death for this human. This was just the first stage. She slowly brought more pressure down on Bella's back until her breathing was nothing but shallow sips of the cold damp air.
Bella's ribs hadn't broken yet but the pain and the pressure let her know there was very little time before something gave. Her ribs and spine were both straining in excruciating agony and without any air getting into her lungs her vision was full of sparkles and blackness. The blackness was slowly edging in taking over everything else she could see. Her ears were full of a roaring that was part ocean and part deafness. Strangely the scent of the sea and of the scrub grass on the cliff around her was still faintly reaching her brain as she slipped over the edge into blackness.
Suddenly the pressure was gone and Bella felt herself snatching at consciousness as her whole body spasmed like a landed fish, convulsing in it's effort to obtain oxygen.
Her hearing was the first sense to really return and she almost wished it hadn't as her ears filled with horrible snapping and grating sounds accompanied by viscous growling and shrieking. Bella's face was still pressed into the dirt by the weakness her body hadn't yet been able to counteract. She twisted her head just enough to see a blur of movement, browns and reds, fur and skin and teeth all flashing through exchanges too fast for her to follow. Spots kept swimming in front of her eyes making it hard to tell if it was all part of her brain making things up for her vision to try and follow. There was a last grating crack and then the relative stillness of the roar of the ocean returned.
A hiss and then a terrible stench filled the air.
Bella felt the heat of warm hands run across her back and down her right arm. Her body began to shake again violently as she tried to get some control to return to any part of her anatomy. She didn't have the breath yet to speak and couldn't even shake her head. Any effort at motion sent spikes of pain down her spine. The shaking hurt terribly but she couldn't make it stop.
"Bella, Bella, are you alright?" She knew that voice, it was Jake's. Surprise and horror washed over her as she realized he had stopped Victoria. She hadn't believed what he had been telling her about being able to take on a Vampire. The other voice had been Sam's and she could hear someone else speaking with them. They were talking about the incredible chance of catching the leech by surprise and taking her out. One of them had been torn up a bit but he was already healing. They were thrilled with what they had accomplished.
Jake and one of the others carefully rolled Bella into Jake's arms and Jake slowly lifted her off the cold hard ground. The spasms in her body eased against Jake's warm chest and Bella slipped away into unconsciousness.
It was weeks later before Bella could really breathe easily again. The huge bruise on her back had made life miserable and with the sprained ankle she hadn't been able to move at all. Crutches had been impossible against the pain in her back and hobbling around on one foot almost as difficult. Jake had been there the whole time. He had enlisted Emily's help for a few things and with Charlie around they had managed to get Bella through the worst of it.
Even after her recovery Jake was always there. The voice was gone, the threat and the desire to find danger were gone as well, but Jake stayed.
With no more vampires around the whole pack had relaxed and things had gone back to a more care free lifestyle that helped the days pass. The months had rolled by and life had moved on to the slow and steady beat of all things normal.
At the dinner after her graduation Bella thought Jake seemed really nervous. Billy and Charlie held up the whole conversation and talked to those around them animatedly while Jake seemed completely intent on his food one moment and then stared off into space the next. Bella nudged him with her foot under the table a couple of times but all she got was one of his grins in return before he went back to his food. After they had all eaten, Charlie and Billy started acting funny as well, slapping Jake on the back and giving him a punch in the arm before suggesting that Charlie would take Billy home and Jake and Bella could spend some time together.
They all left the restaurant. Bella and Jake drove to their spot on the beach, Jake continued to be distant.
Bella wasn't sure what was going on but from Jake's behavior something was up. She started to feel as nervous as Jake looked. It had been a long time since she had felt anything but content. She had done an incredible job of keeping herself on a very even emotional level. She never let herself sink too low and since nothing ever pushed her towards any kind of a high anymore she just kept herself in that area where there was figurative fresh air and sunshine and not much else. So far, it was working. This strangeness from Jake was making a tiny crack in her armor and she felt her breath catch a few times as the hollowness that had never completely gone away started to edge around all the barriers she had created to keep it seperated from her life.
Jake came out of himself enough to notice Bella becoming upset and turned to take her in his arms.
"Hey, you okay Bells?"
Bella nodded, unwilling to trust her voice.
"Sorry, I've been kinda lost in thought tonight. I haven't been a very good boyfriend this evening, have I? Let me make it up to you a little."
Jake kissed Bella slowly and deeply. He had been much more careful with his displays of affection since one of his excited embraces had accidentally caused a tiny fracture in on of Bella's ribs a few months before. They both knew from what had happened to Sam and Emily that there was a certain degree of control and restraint required in their physical relationship and Jake had learned his lesson. They were comfortable with each other but had kept it to this level rather than seeking anything more intimate. The kiss worked to help Bella pull herself back together and they found a place where they could sit down together and lean into one another for a while.
Jake reached into the pocket of his suit and pulled out a folded envelope and two small boxes. He handed Bella the envelope first.
"Jake, what's this?" Bella asked as she opened the envelope. It looked like a piece of junk mail, stationery from some corporation with a congratulations you've won something type message. It was addressed to the parents or guardian of Bella Swan making it unusual for the kind of form letter it appeared.
"It's your ticket to college Bells. Your dad already checked it out and it's legit. Some kid in Tulsa won this scholarship last year and the year before that it was a girl up in Nome. It's a huge thing. It's a check every year for three years to spend on your education. With both our summer jobs we could barely make a dent in a semester of tuition for you Bells, but with this you can go to a good school and not have to get into debt so far that we could never get back out."
"Jake, I don't know about this."
"Come on Bella, it's a great thing. You've got your acceptance to a couple of schools already, we weren't sure about the money but here it is. You know how much your dad wants this for you," he continued much more quietly, "and so do I."
"Jake, you realize this means I leave and don't come back for anything but a few holidays for the next three years right? If I'm going to make it through a four-year program in three years I have to do all the summer semesters as well..."
"Sure, sure, but that brings us to our next subject."
Jake handed Bella the first of the two small boxes, inside was a little bag and inside the bag was a bracelet with a carved wooden wolf charm. Bella stroked the charm with her fingertip and held it out to Jake to put around her wrist.
"It's beautiful Jake. I'll treasure it."
"I'm glad you like it. Look Bells, I want you to remember me and think of me and of course call me whenever you need me but I also want you to know that I don't want you to feel guilty about having a life while you're away. I don't want you to feel like you're tied down. For that reason, what's in this box can wait until you're ready. I know what you think about marriage and I know you know how I feel about you. Five years, ten years, fifty years, whatever, I'll be here for you if you need me."
Jake put the second small box back in his pocket. Bella kept her eyes focused on the little wolf charm stroking it with her finger. The envelope and the little charm represented a course in life all paved out for her. No decisions to make, nothing to change, just keep going like she was, and things would fall into place eventually. No need to feel passionately about anything, decisions based on the hand of fate instead of having to work it out herself. Simpler this way...
The rest of that summer had flown by. Bella had contemplated a degree in mythology but found she couldn't face it after all and instead of the liberal arts school she had been considering as her first choice she started that fall at a business school where she worked towards a double major in finance and business. She found a job as an entry level bookkeeper for a small business and between classes and work managed to keep herself too busy to think.
At first she called Jake two or three times a week, and then it was a couple of times a month. At Thanksgiving she decided to stay at school to try and get more work done. Then at Christmas her mother asked her to come visit. It was Spring Break before Bella and Jake spent any time together. Bella hadn't realized just how much stress she had taken on until she found herself relaxing in Jake's company. Jake was true to his word and kept things light for that visit and following ones. He was there cheering louder than anyone else at her college graduation and was pleased when she told him about a job she had been offered in Seattle.
Bella worked for two years for the company in Seattle and on the fifth anniversary of her graduation she told Jake she was ready for the second box. She knew it was time, Jake really would wait fifty years but she could give him this happiness long before then. She knew she loved him for what he had done and what he meant to her and maybe it was enough that he loved her the way he did. They could make it work.
Jake was incredibly happy, he almost broke another of Bella's ribs in his enthusiasm. He proposed to her on their beach and they set the wedding date for a little over a year later.
A month or so before the wedding, Bella switched over to another department so she could telecommute most of the time and only drive in to work a couple of times a month. Her job paid well and she was able to rent a small house in La Push a few weeks before the wedding. She had been living with roommates in Seattle and Jake had continued to live at home while he worked and took internet courses and night classes toward his technical degree in automotive repair.
Bella knew she was frustrating Jacob by not moving in with him as soon as they had a place but she wanted one thing she was really committing to in this marriage, her heart was still divided, her mind had become more her own over time, but this she could give. She hadn't been able to work up a depth of emotion over the dress, the decorations, the flowers, or much of any of the wedding planning. She had gone through it all carefully and methodically making sure it was all handled but she simply had the sense of a job well done and not the thrill of having planned her perfect day. She so badly wanted to at least feel like she was giving something to Jacob, after all he had done for her, she wanted that from her wedding to him.
The ceremony was lovely. They were married on their beach and their friends and family were there with them. The party afterwards went perfectly and everyone enjoyed themselves. Bella had hoped for some sense of euphoria but the whole day was more like slipping on a pair of comfortable old shoes while wearing very uncomfortable heels. Jake wanted this so much and Bella wanted Jake to be happy and she needed Jake to be happy herself. It all fit together.
That night Jake carried Bella over the threshold of their little home for the first time. They were married, and Bella was content.
With work, friends, family, Jacob's school, community involvement and just general life, the first year of marriage went by quickly. Bella could see how happy she had made Jake and both of their families. Everything in her life was going smoothly and she settled into the routine and let it keep her busy and sort of numbly pleased with her life. No matter what she did, Bella always felt like she wasn't giving all of herself, like she hadn't completely committed to her marriage. She threw herself even further into doing things she knew Jake would like. She volunteered more in the community and started working with the cultural preservation societies. She joined the board of a planning committee for a festival in Seattle and spent every spare minute helping to organize the festival.
As the festival approached Bella began to feel exhausted. She could barely make it through meetings and work. She ate more take-out and fast food and felt the ill effects a good part of the time. She tried not to let Jacob see how she was feeling but after one week of feeling ill Jake caught her losing her dinner into the kitchen sink. The next day Jake made Bella stay home and stay in bed, just to make sure she did, he took the day off as well.
The following day Bella had meetings in Seattle. She made it through the early meeting, but she barely made it to the ladies room before throwing up. That was when she began to get an idea of what was wrong with her. She had a few hours before the afternoon meeting so she left work and went to a drug store to buy a pregnancy test. Two came in the box, both came out positive.
Four days after finding out she was pregnant Bella still hadn't found the perfect way to tell Jacob. It was the second day of the festival and they had both been too busy or too tired to really spend much time together. This evening was a big event with fireworks planned following the performers. Jake and Bella had already spread a blanket out on the lawn in the park to save themselves a good spot next to a few of the other guys from the pack. Bella was on her way back from her second trip to the restrooms when she spotted a stall selling beautiful handmade clothing and accessories. On one of the display shelves was a pair of baby size moccasins with wolves beaded across the toes. They were perfect.
Bella felt the most joy and excitement she had experienced in a long time as she pictured Jacob's face as he opened the gift she was about to give him. Maybe he would look surprised and confused for a moment at first but then his face would light up and even though it was after sunset her personal sun would radiate from his face. It felt so good, so right for a change like this all actually was Cinderella's glass slipper here in a baby size 3 in her hands.
Bella made her way back to the blanket but Jacob wasn't there. Her excitement was too much for her to just sit and wait so she made her way back towards the food stalls, a sure bet for locating her always hungry spouse. Sure enough, she spotted his large form silhouetted next to one of the food booths. His name was on the tip of her tongue when the first of the fireworks burst overhead. The light illuminated Jake's face just long enough for Bella to see his expression and to register the feminine form next to him. Cinderella's slipper shattered like the flimsy bit of wishful thinking it had always been. She knew that look. Even after all these years Sam had it on his face when he looked at Emily.
Bella realized she had fallen to her knees on the grass and there was a woman she didn't know asking her if she was alright and trying to help her to her feet. Bella was still clutching the tiny shoes hard enough to crush them flat and without really thinking she stuffed them into her purse and said something to the woman about having stumbled in the dark, thanked her for her help and bolted away. All she knew was she had to run.
Her mind was screaming that this couldn't be happening and her stomach was heaving. She had her arms wrapped tight around herself as she stumbled behind the line of food vending booths and found a large trash can to be violently sick into. With an empty stomach and a mind gone blank and numb she made her way from darkness to darkness avoiding the people and the light on the main thoroughfare. Her feet took her to the parking lot where the car was, she had to get away.
She stumbled to a stop in front of the car she had arrived in; Jake's car. She crumpled to the asphalt on the passenger side and began to sob silently. The whole world spun around her and she couldn't have stood if she wanted to. The rough paving cut into her arms and knees but it was steady and cool and hard... she couldn't let her mind go that direction, she's worked so hard to stay where the comfort came from warmth and the give of human flesh. Gone... both were gone...
Time passed, Bella wasn't really aware of how much but the fireworks had stopped and concert music had been playing for some time. Random thoughts had begun to flash through Bella's mind, thoughts of ending it all, thoughts of the baby and of Jacob. She knew what she had to do, it was what he had done, she had to erase herself from Jacob's life, only she would do it because it was the best thing she could do for Jacob and not because she was simply moving on. She couldn't really move on, Jacob had been what moved her and now for a while his baby would be, but after that... Well, she wouldn't be an ex, she wouldn't be a Leah, remaining as a painful reminder that life wasn't fair. 'Life's not fair, and then you die.' She'd heard that somewhere, maybe in a movie...
She knew what she had to do. She used her key to open the car and began quickly removing her few possessions from it and stuffing them into her purse. Sunglasses, small bottle of lotion, a pair of sandals from the trunk, a few other items... She removed the key from her key ring and stuck it behind the sun visor. She locked the car and walked away.
She thought maybe she could find a cab... her mind was in business mode, organizing what she had to do. She had almost made it out to the street when a large warm hand fell on her shoulder. For just a moment, everything was alright, it had all been a mistake and things would be normal again. Bella spun, expecting to meet Jake's eyes but instead found the concerned gaze of Seth.
"My mom sent me to find you, she... well, they wanted to make sure... You already know, don't you? I'm really sorry, we all are."
"I'll be okay." The zombie voice, but at least she had managed that much.
"Can I do anything?"
"I could use a ride back to..." she hesitated, it wasn't home anymore, "his house, I'll need to pack."
The ride back in Seth's truck was silent. Bella's mind ran over her list again and again keeping from straying to anything but the detailed plan she had written in her mind. All business, she could avoid the emotion for the most part. Silent tears ran down her face and dripped noiselessly onto her blouse but she did her best to ignore them.
They pulled into the driveway and Bella hurried to open the door and put her plan into effect. She grabbed trash bags and began to fill them with her clothing, shoes, and other belongings. Seth stayed outside for a few minutes but then came in to see what he could do. Bella had him go find some of Jake's sporting goods and camping gear to fill the empty half of the closet. She had to disappear but make it look like she had never been there in the first place.
Emily arrived a short time later and began to quietly help Bella with her task. She tried to talk Bella into staying with her for a few days but Bella just shook her head and silently continued to stuff her things into bags and boxes and have Seth carry them out to his truck. Bella changed the bedding and threw it all into the washing machine. Emily arranged auto magazines to fill spaces left in bookshelves and gathered up anything feminine, they both had tears running down their faces as they worked together erasing memories Jake and Bella had built over the last year and a half.
In only a short time Bella's presence was almost completely removed from the house. Last to go were the pictures, she replaced them with photos of friends and family in a few places and just packed the rest quickly into a box. She opened every window in the house as wide as it would go and left all the fans running. She knew it would barely help to remove her scent from a place she had lived for this long but it was a gesture more than anything. Again, she left her set of keys and walked away.
Seth took her and the small truck load of things to her dad's house. She had him help her quietly unload everything onto the back porch and then she went upstairs to her old room and collapsed into bed.
The next day was Sunday; Bella let that day slide past her. Charlie came in to talk to her at one point but Bella didn't even roll over. She just told him she had left Jacob and she would talk to him about it another time. She didn't say anything else and Charlie left her alone.
On Monday, Bella got up early, got herself ready and made breakfast for Charlie and herself. Bella did her best not to let the zombie behavior that so bothered her father show through as she explained that she and Jacob had simply decided it wasn't working and to end things now while they were still on good terms. Bella was surprised at how easy it was to lie to her father and how hard it was to admit how much this was the truth to herself.
Bella went ahead with the next phase of her plan; she removed her name from all joint accounts and left the savings to Jacob. She took enough from their checking to get an apartment and a few things to start out but left the rest. She filed a petition for the dissolution of their marriage and set things in motion for the 90 days it would take until their divorce could be finalized. She knew neither of them would contest anything, they didn't have any joint property by the end of the day anyway. Bella talked to Sam and made sure he would get Jake to sign the paperwork as soon as it was delivered so they could both move on. Sam was as careful and cautious around her as any of them, treating her like she might shatter at any moment. She knew better, this wasn't as bad as... well; it was something she had considered a few times and knew she could live through. Zombie mode for a while and as time passed whatever else she could do.
Within the week Bella had found a tiny apartment for rent in Seattle near her office and thrown herself back into her work.
Jacob called her cell phone a few times but Bella never answered it, she knew from example how to make a clean break.
Bella found a doctor and went for her first appointment, the baby was fine and all was going well. It was a few days later that the blood work came back and she got the bad news. Cancer. Bella was shocked to find herself relieved in a way, brain cancer, something she could count on to finish erasing her from Jacob's life and from her own endless emptiness. They thought she had a chance to gain a few years of time if she started aggressive therapy and had immediate surgery but of course this would be a choice to give up her pregnancy. The doctors tried to convince her it would be a better option but Bella saw things from another side of life where death was friendlier than a wasting continuation of existence.
Three months later the divorce was final and Bella was starting to be visibly gaining weight. What she couldn't hide with bulky clothing she let people believe was post-divorce weight gain. She kept working and she kept to herself. Bella functioned mostly on a kind of zombie autopilot. She did what she was supposed to and she took care of herself so the baby wouldn't suffer but her life was like it had been after he left. People eventually quit inviting her to join them for lunch or social events and days and weeks would go by where she had little memory of what had happened.
With all the work hours she was putting in, Bella was able to put most of her earnings into a savings account. She saw a lawyer about setting up a trust fund for Jacob's baby and a will giving Jake custody. In her mind, the baby was already Jacob's and not hers. She knew it would be a boy and the ultrasound simply proved the fact. She knew he would be like his father, a werewolf, and that he would need to grow up with the pack. She knew from the night at the festival what she would have to do. It was all clear as crystal to her. She wasn't sure if it was right or that Jacob's son would ever understand but somehow the choice was made. She was almost grateful to the fates that had helped things line up the way they had, she was getting time off for good behavior in a twisted way.
Once during a phone call with her mother she almost broke down and confessed her secrets. The thought of her mother telling Charlie and then word getting back to Billy and Jacob... She couldn't do it. This was something she was doing for Jacob. This was a way to give him back the unconditional love of another human being without asking him to try and divide his loyalties between her and the woman he was meant to be with. And then she would be gone shortly afterward.
Two weeks before her due date Bella threw herself a private baby shower. She bought a car seat and a few outfits, and the other little necessities Jacob's son would need for the first week. She put the car seat together and stowed it in the trunk of her car. She packed everything for herself and the baby into two duffel bags and put them in the car as well.
Bella took her maternity leave when her doctor told her she could go into labor any day. She filed away the other part about having anywhere from a few weeks to a few months beyond that birth for her death to follow.
Two days later, she went into labor. She drove herself to the hospital while the contractions were still relatively mild. The labor was long, they told her that was normal for a first baby. The delivery itself went relatively smoothly. Jacob's son was born healthy and well. Bella spent her two days in the hospital with little William Charles Black as her only company other than the nurses. Jacob's son looked just like him in a tiny scrunched up blue-eyed sort of way.
Bella took little Billy home and spent a few weeks just with him. She took pictures and wrote him letters and let her heart be completely full and completely broken all at the same time for a short selfish month. After that she couldn't tempt fate anymore by leaving a helpless infant alone after the sudden end that was coming to her.
The drive to Forks was over with quickly. The five minutes parked in front of Sam and Emily's house lasted forever. When Emily came to the front door Bella was once again grateful to whatever bit of fate was keeping an eye on her. She could trust Emily.
Bella asked Emily to get in the car and go for a drive. When Emily saw the gauntness of Bella's face and the baby asleep in the back seat she quickly climbed in the passenger side. While they drove, Bella told Emily everything, she gave her the packet of legal documents for little Billy and the box of personal items and letters that Jake's son might eventually want, or not, but Emily would have them for him. When they stopped at the edge of the highway where an almost invisible road led off into the trees Emily and Bella were both in tears.
Bella got Emily to promise that she wouldn't tell the pack until that night. They'd be able to tell from the scent left on the baby who the mother was but Emily would stay away from them on a pretense of running errands for a few hours. By then Bella hoped what she was planning would have worked out. If not, they would come get her, there would be a few days or weeks of awkwardness and then some sadness but their lives would go on.
Bella embraced Emily next to the car and gave her the keys. She kissed Jake's son once gently on the cheek and then, taking her small backpack from the back seat, she turned and strode away down the overgrown road without turning to look back. She didn't hear Emily drive away but the roaring in her ears was drowning out almost all noise anyway. Bella stumbled through the overgrowth for over two hours before she saw the house come into view. It looked as empty as she felt. The clearing had grown over with small trees and shrubs almost to the front steps. Bella didn't even try the front door; locked or unlocked she wouldn't be able to bring herself to go inside, the front steps were all she needed.
Bella sat on the steps and let her body and mind rest for just a few moments. Then she got out a pad of paper and a marker and began to write in large letters.
Alice , I hope you can see this note.
Bella tore off the sheet with the large letters scrawled across it and placed it on the porch.
The next page was quickly filled as well.
I need to talk to you please, if that's alright.
And the next,
Alice, I need to ask Carlisle for a favor.
And the next,
The kind he did for Esme and Rosalie and Emmett and
That page she tore off with a space left at the bottom, unfinished but she hoped Alice would understand.
I don't know if your family will take me.
I can accept their decision about this request.
Asking is all I have left. I miss you all so much
Bella let the notepad fall to the steps at her side without tearing off the sheet she had just finished. There was so much left unsaid but no amount of ink and paper could contain it all. This would either work or it wouldn't. Bella felt completely drained of the last reserves of herself. They had all poured out into this effort. She slumped against the railing, closed her eyes, and let time flow past her.
The white pages of paper fluttered around the steps and Bella heard them sail away into the foliage around her.
Bella recognized the voice, she opened her eyes but even then couldn't see anything beyond a blur of light. Her mouth tried to form a name in response but no words came out, her body had betrayed her at the last moment.
"Bella, Alice said to tell you ‘welcome to the family', the rest has to wait."
Cold, hard, sharpness began to flicker over Bella's swiftly numbing body. It took only moments to feel the burning that followed. It was agony, horrible and unending, but a small part of Bella's treacherous brain knew it would pass and she had hope.