Post Reply chapter 10: the meadow
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Posted 12/2/08
JACOB DIDN'T CALL.
The first time I called, Billy answered and told me that Jacob was still in bed. I
got nosy, checking to make sure that Billy had taken him to a doctor. Billy said
he had, but, for some reason I couldn't nail down, I didn't really believe him. I
called again, several times a day, for the next two days, but no one was ever there.
Saturday, I decided to go see him, invitation be damned. But the little red house
was empty. This frightened me—was Jacob so sick that he'd needed to go to the
hospital? I stopped by the hospital on the way back home, but the nurse at the
front desk told me neither Jacob or Billy had been in.
I made Charlie call Harry Clearwater as soon as he got home from work. I
waited, anxious, while Charlie chatted with his old friend; the conversation
seemed to go on forever without Jacob even being mentioned. It seemed that
Harry had been in the hospital . . some kind of tests for his heart. Charlie's
forehead got all pinched together, but Harry joked with him, blowing it off, until
Charlie was laughing again. Only then did Charlie ask about Jacob, and now his
side of the conversation didn't give me much to work with, just a lot of hmms and
yeahs. I drummed my fingers against the counter beside him until he put a hand
over mine to stop me.
Finally, Charlie hung up the phone and turned to me.
"Harry says there's been some trouble with the phone lines, and that's why you
haven't been able to get through. Billy took Jake to the doc down there, and it
looks like he has mono. He's real tired, and Billy said no visitors," he reported.
"No visitors?" I demanded in disbelief.
Charlie raised one eyebrow. "Now don't you go making a pest of yourself, Bells.
Billy knows what's best for Jake. He'll be up and around soon enough. Be
patient."
I didn't push it. Charlie was too worried about Harry. That was clearly the more
important issue—it wouldn't be right to bug him with my lesser concerns.
Instead, I went straight upstairs and turned on my computer. I found a medical
site online and typed "mononucleosis" into the search box.
All I knew about mono was that you were supposed to get it from kissing, which
was clearly not the case with Jake. I read through the symptoms quickly—the
fever he definitely had, but what about the rest of it? No horrible sore throat, no
exhaustion, no headaches, at least not before he'd gone home from the movie;
he'd said he felt "fit as a fiddle." Did it really come on so fast? The article made it
sound like the sore stuff showed up first.
I glared at the computer screen and wondered why, exactly, I was doing this.
Why did I feel so… so suspicious, like I didn't believe Billy's story? Why would
Billy lie to Harry?
I was being silly, probably. I was just worried, and, to be honest, I was afraid of
not being allowed to see Jacob—that made me nervous.
I skimmed through the rest of the article, looking for more information. I stopped
when I got to the part about how mono could last more than a month.
A month? My mouth fell open.
But Billy couldn't enforce the no-visitors thing that long. Of course not. Jake
would go crazy stuck in bed that long without anyone to talk to.
What was Billy afraid of, anyway? The article said that a person with mono
needed to avoid physical activity, but there was nothing about visitors. The
disease wasn't very infectious.
I'd give Billy a week, I decided, before I got pushy. A week was generous.
A week was long. By Wednesday, I was sure I wasn't going to live till Saturday.
When I'd decided to leave Billy and Jacob alone for a week, I hadn't really
believed that Jacob would go along with Billy's rule. Every day when I got home
from school, I ran to the phone to check for messages. There never were any.
I cheated three times by trying to call him, but the phone lines still weren't
working.
I was in the house much too much, and much too alone. Without Jacob, and my
adrenaline and my distractions, everything I'd been repressing started creeping up
on me. The dreams got hard again. I could no longer see the end coming. Just the
horrible nothingness—half the time in the forest, half the time in the empty fern
sea where the white house no longer existed. Sometimes Sam Uley was there in
the forest, watching me again. I paid him no attention—there was no comfort in
his presence; it made me feel no less alone. It didn't stop me from screaming
myself awake, night after night.
The hole in my chest was worse than ever. I'd thought that I'd been getting it
under control, but I found myself hunched over, day after day, clutching my sides
together and gasping for air.
I wasn't handling alone well.
I was relieved beyond measure the morning I woke up—screaming, of course—
and remembered that it was Saturday. Today I could call Jacob. And if the phone
lines still weren't working, then I was going to La Push. One way or another,
today would be better than the last lonely week.
I dialed, and then waited without high expectations.
It caught me off guard when Billy answered on the second ring.
"Hello?"
"Oh, hey, the phone is working again! Hi, Billy. It's Bella. I was just calling to
see how Jacob is doing. Is he up for visitors yet? I was thinking about dropping by
—"
"I'm sorry, Bella," Billy interrupted, and I wondered if he were watching TV; he
sounded distracted. "He's not in."
"Oh." It took me a second. "So he's feeling better then?"
"Yeah," Billy hesitated for an instant too long. "Turns out it wasn't mono after all.
Just some other virus."
"Oh. So… where is he?"
"He's giving some friends a ride up to Port Angeles—I think they were going to
catch a double feature or something. He's gone for the whole day."
"Well, that's a relief. I've been so worried. I'm glad he felt good enough to get
out." My voice sounded horribly phony as I babbled on.
Jacob was better, but not well enough to call me. He was out with friends. I was
sitting home, missing him more every hour. I was lonely, worried, bored…
perforated—and now also desolate as I realized that the week apart had not had
the same effect on him.
"Is there anything in particular you wanted?" Billy asked politely.
"No, not really."
"Well, I'll tell him that you called," Billy promised. "Bye, Bella."
"Bye," I replied, but he'd already hung up.
I stood for a moment with the phone still in my hand.
Jacob must have changed his mind, just like I'd feared. He was going to take my
advice and not waste any more time on someone who couldn't return his feelings.
I felt the blood run out of my face.
"Something wrong?" Charlie asked as he came down the stairs.
"No," I lied, hanging up the phone. "Billy says Jacob is feeling better. It wasn't
mono. So that's good."
"Is he coming here, or are you going there?" Charlie asked absentmindedly as he
started poking through the fridge.
"Neither," I admitted. "He's going out with some other friends."
The tone of my voice finally caught Charlie's attention. He looked up at me with
sudden alarm, his hands frozen around a package of cheese slices.
"Isn't it a little early for lunch?" I asked as lightly as I could manage, trying to
distract him.
"No, I'm just packing something to take out to the river…"
"Oh, fishing today?"
"Well, Harry called… and it's not raining." He was creating a stack of food on the
counter as he spoke. Suddenly he looked up again as if he'd just realized
something. "Say, did you want me to stay with you, since Jake's out?"
"That's okay, Dad," I said, working to sound indifferent. "The fish bite better
when the weather's nice."
He stared at me, indecision clear on his face. I knew that he was worrying, afraid
to leave me alone, in case I got "mopey" again.
"Seriously, Dad. I think I'll call Jessica," I fibbed quickly. I'd rather be alone than
have him watching me all day. "We have a Calculus test to study for. I could use
her help." That part was true. But I'd have to make do without it.
"That's a good idea. You've been spending so much time with Jacob, your other
friends are going to think you've forgotten them."
I smiled and nodded as if I cared what my other friends thought.
Charlie started to turn, but then spun back with a worried expression. "Hey, you'll
study here or at Jess's, right?"
"Sure, where else?"
"Well, it's just that I want you to be careful to stay out of the woods, like I told
you before."
It took me a minute to understand, distracted as I was. "More bear trouble?"
Charlie nodded, frowning. "We've got a missing hiker—the rangers found his
camp early this morning, but no sign of him. There were some really big animal
prints… of course those could have come later, smelling the food… Anyway,
they're setting traps for it now."
"Oh," I said vaguely. I wasn't really listening to his warnings; I was much more
upset by the situation with Jacob than by the possibility of being eaten by a bear.
I was glad that Charlie was in a hurry. He didn't wait for me to call Jessica, so I
didn't have to put on that charade. I went through the motions of gathering my
school-books on the kitchen table to pack them in my bag; that was probably too
much, and if he hadn't been eager to hit the holes, it might have made him
suspicious.
I was so busy looking busy that the ferociously empty day ahead didn't really
crash down on me until after I'd watched him drive away. It only took about two
minutes of staring at the silent kitchen phone to decide that I wasn't staying home
today. I considered my options.
I wasn't going to call Jessica. As far as I could tell, Jessica had crossed over to the
dark side.
I could drive to La Push and get my motorcycle—an appealing thought but for
one minor problem: who was going to drive me to the emergency room if I
needed it afterward?
Or… I already had our map and compass in the truck. I was pretty sure I
understood the process well enough by now that I wouldn't get lost. Maybe I
could eliminate two lines today, putting us ahead of schedule for whenever Jacob
decided to honor me with his presence again. I refused to think about how long
that might be. Or if it was going to be never.
I felt a brief twinge of guilt as I realized how Charlie would feel about this, but I
ignored it. I just couldn't stay in the house again today.
A few minutes later I was on the familiar dirt road that led to nowhere in
particular. I had the windows rolled down and I drove as fast as was healthy for
my truck, trying to enjoy the wind against my face. It was cloudy, but almost dry
—a very nice day, for Forks.
Getting started took me longer than it would have taken Jacob. After I parked in
the usual spot, I had to spend a good fifteen minutes studying the little needle on
the compass face and the markings on the now worn map. When I was reasonably
certain that I was following the right line of the web, I set off into the woods.
The forest was full of life today, all the little creatures enjoying the momentary
dryness. Somehow, though, even with the birds chirping and cawing, the insects
buzzing noisily around my head, and the occasional scurry of the field mice
through the shrubs, the forest seemed creepier today; it reminded me of my most
recent nightmare. I knew it was just because I was alone, missing Jacob's carefree
whistle and the sound of another pair of feet squishing across the damp ground.
The sense of unease grew stronger the deeper I got into the trees. Breathing
started to get more difficult—not because of exertion, but because I was having
trouble with the stupid hole in my chest again. I kept my arms tight around my
torso and tried to banish the ache from my thoughts. I almost turned around, but I
hated to waste the effort I'd already expended.
The rhythm of my footsteps started to numb my mind and my pain as I trudged
on. My breathing evened out eventually, and I was glad I hadn't quit. I was
getting better at this bushwhacking thing; I could tell I was faster.
I didn't realize quite how much more efficiently I was moving. I thought I'd
covered maybe four miles, and I wasn't even starting to look around for it yet.
And then, with an abruptness that disoriented me, I stepped through a low arch
made by two vine maples—pushing past the chest-high ferns—into the meadow.
It was the same place, of that I was instantly sure. I'd never seen another clearing
so symmetrical. It was as perfectly round as if someone had intentionally created
the flawless circle, tearing out the trees but leaving no evidence of that violence
in the waving grass. To the east, I could hear the stream bubbling quietly.
The place wasn't nearly so stunning without the sunlight, but it was still very
beautiful and serene. It was the wrong season for wildflowers; the ground was
thick with tall grass that swayed in the light breeze like ripples across a lake.
It was the same place… but it didn't hold what I had been searching for.
The disappointment was nearly as instantaneous as the recognition. I sank down
right where I was, kneeling there at the edge of the clearing, beginning to gasp.
What was the point of going any farther? Nothing lingered here. Nothing more
than the memories that I could have called back whenever I wanted to, if I was
ever willing to endure the corresponding pain—the pain that had me now, had me
cold. There was nothing special about this place without him. I wasn't exactly
sure what I'd hoped to feel here, but the meadow was empty of atmosphere,
empty of everything, just like everywhere else. Just like my nightmares. My head
swirled dizzily.
At least I'd come alone. I felt a rush of thankfulness as I realized that. If I'd
discovered the meadow with Jacob… well, there was no way I could have
disguised the abyss I was plunging into now. How could I have explained the
way I was fracturing into pieces, the way I had to curl into a ball to keep the
empty hole from tearing me apart? It was so much better that I didn't have an
audience.
And I wouldn't have to explain to anyone why I was in such a hurry to leave,
either. Jacob would have assumed, after going to so much trouble to locate the
stupid place, I would want to spend more than a few seconds here. But I was
already trying to find the strength to get to my feet again, forcing myself out of
the ball so that I could escape. There was too much pain in this empty place to
bear—I would crawl away if I had to.
How lucky that I was alone!
Alone. I repeated the word with grim satisfaction as I wrenched myself to my feet
despite the pain. At precisely that moment, a figure stepped out from the trees to
the north, some thirty paces away.
A dizzying array of emotions shot through me in a second. The first was surprise;
I was far from any trail here, and I didn't expect company. Then, as my eyes
focused on the motionless figure, seeing the utter stillness, the pallid skin, a rush
of piercing hope rocked through me. I suppressed it viciously, fighting against the
equally sharp lash of agony as my eyes continued to the face beneath the black
hair, the face that wasn't the one I wanted to see. Next was fear; this was not the
face I grieved for, but it was close enough for me to know that the man facing me
was no stray hiker.
And finally, in the end, recognition.
"Laurent!" I cried in surprised pleasure.
It was an irrational response. I probably should have stopped at fear.
Laurent had been one of James's coven when we'd first met. He hadn't been
involved with the hunt that followed—the hunt where I was the quarry—but that
was only because he was afraid; I was protected by a bigger coven than his own.
It would have been different if that wasn't the case—he'd had no compunctions, at
the time, against making a meal of me. Of course, he must have changed, because
he'd gone to Alaska to live with the other civilized coven there, the other family
that refused to drink human blood for ethical reasons. The other family like… but
I couldn't let myself think the name.
Yes, fear would have made more sense, but all I felt was an overwhelming
satisfaction. The meadow was a magic place again. A darker magic than I'd
expected, to be sure, but magic all the same. Here was the connection I'd sought.
The proof, however remote, that—somewhere in the same world where I lived—
he did exist.
It was impossible how exactly the same Laurent looked. I suppose it was very
silly and human to expect some kind of change in the last year. But there was
something… I couldn't quite put my finger on it.
"Bella?" he asked, looking more astonished than I felt.
"You remember." I smiled. It was ridiculous that I should be so elated because a
vampire knew my name.
He grinned. "I didn't expect to see you here." He strolled toward me, his
expression bemused.
"Isn't it the other way around? I do live here. I thought you'd gone to Alaska."
He stopped about ten paces away, cocking his head to the side. His face was the
most beautiful face I'd seen in what felt like an eternity. I studied his features
with a strangely greedy sense of release. Here was someone I didn't have to
pretend for—someone who already knew everything I could never say.
"You're right," he agreed. "I did go to Alaska. Still, I didn't expect… When I
found the Cullen place empty, I thought they'd moved on."
"Oh." I bit my lip as the name set the raw edges of my wound throbbing. It took
me a second to compose myself. Laurent waited with curious eyes.
"They did move on," I finally managed to tell him.
"Hmm," he murmured. "I'm surprised they left you behind. Weren't you sort of a
pet of theirs?" His eyes were innocent of any intended offense.
I smiled wryly. "Something like that."
"Hmm," he said, thoughtful again.
At that precise moment, I realized why he looked the same—too much the same.
After Carlisle told us that Laurent had stayed with Tanya's family, I'd begun to
picture him, on the rare occasions that I thought of him at all, with the same
golden eyes that the… Cullens—I forced the name out, wincing—had. That all
good vampires had.
I took an involuntary step back, and his curious, dark red eyes followed the
movement.
"Do they visit often?" he asked, still casual, but his weight shifted toward me.
"Lie," the beautiful velvet voice whispered anxiously from my memory.
I started at the sound of his voice, but it should not have surprised me. Was I nor
in the worst danger imaginable? The motorcycle was safe as kittens next to this.
I did what the voice said to do.
"Now and again." I tried to make my voice light, relaxed. "The time seems longer
to me, I imagine. You know how they get distracted…" I was beginning to
babble. I had to work to shut myself up.
"Hmm," he said again. "The house smelled like it had been vacant for a while…"
"You must lie better than that, Bella," the voice urged.
I tried. "I'll have to mention to Carlisle that you stopped by. He'll be sorry they
missed your visit." I pretended to deliberate for a second. "But I probably
shouldn't mention it to… Edward, I suppose—" I barely managed to say his
name, and it twisted my expression on the way out, ruining my bluff "—he has
such a temper… well, I'm sure you remember. He's still touchy about the whole
James thing." I rolled my eyes and waved one hand dismissively, like it was all
ancient history, but there was an edge of hysteria to my voice. I wondered if he
would recognize what it was.
"Is he really?" Laurent asked pleasantly… skeptically.
I kept my reply short, so that my voice wouldn't betray my panic. "Mm-hmm."
Laurent took a casual step to the side, gazing around at the little meadow. I didn't
miss that the step brought him closer to me. In my head, the voice responded with
a low snarl.
"So how are things working out in Denali? Carlisle said you were staying with
Tanya?" My voice was too high.
The question made him pause. "I like Tanya very much," he mused. "And her
sister Irina even more… I've never stayed in one place for so long before, and I
enjoy the advantages, the novelty of it. But, the restrictions are difficult… I'm
surprised that any of them can keep it up for long." He smiled at me
conspiratorially. "Sometimes I cheat."
I couldn't swallow. My foot started to ease back, but I froze when his red eyes
flickered down to catch the movement.
"Oh," I said in a faint voice. "Jasper has problems with that, too."
"Don't move," the voice whispered. I tried to do what he instructed. It was hard;
the instinct to take flight was nearly uncontrollable.
"Really?" Laurent seemed interested. "Is that why they left?"
"No," I answered honestly. "Jasper is more careful at home."
"Yes," Laurent agreed. "I am, too."
The step forward he took now was quite deliberate.
"Did Victoria ever find you?" I asked, breathless, desperate to distract him. It was
the first question that popped into my head, and I regretted it as soon as the words
were spoken. Victoria—who had hunted me with James, and then disappeared—
was not someone I wanted to think of at this particular moment.
But the question did stop him.
"Yes," he said, hesitating on that step. "I actually came here as a favor to her." He
made a face. "She won't be happy about this."
"About what?" I said eagerly, inviting him to continue. He was glaring into the
trees, away from me. I took advantage of his diversion, taking a furtive step back.
He looked back at me and smiled—the expression made him look like a blackhaired
angel.
"About me killing you," he answered in a seductive purr.
I staggered back another step. The frantic growling in my head made it hard to
hear.
"She wanted to save that part for herself," he went on blithely. "She's sort of…
put out with you, Bella."
"Me?" I squeaked.
He shook his head and chuckled. "I know, it seems a little backward to me, too.
But James was her mate, and your Edward killed him."
Even here, on the point of death, his name tore against my unhealed wounds like
a serrated edge.
Laurent was oblivious to my reaction. "She thought it more appropriate to kill
you than Edward—fair turnabout, mate for mate. She asked me to get the lay of
the land for her, so to speak. I didn't imagine you would be so easy to get to. So
maybe her plan was flawed—apparently it wouldn't be the revenge she imagined,
since you must not mean very much to him if he left you here unprotected."
Another blow, another tear through my chest.
Laurent's weight shifted slightly, and I stumbled another step back.
He frowned. "I suppose she'll be angry, all the same."
"Then why not wait for her?" I choked out.
A mischievous grin rearranged his features. "Well, you've caught me at a bad
time, Bella. I didn't come to this place on Victoria's mission—I was hunting. I'm
quite thirsty, and you do smell… simply mouthwatering."
Laurent looked at me with approval, as if he meant it as a compliment.
"Threaten him," the beautiful delusion ordered, his voice distorted with dread.
"He'll know it was you," I whispered obediently. "You won't get away with this."
"And why not?" Laurent's smile widened. He gazed around the small opening in
the trees. "The scent will wash away with the next rain. No one will find your
body—you'll simply go missing, like so many, many other humans. There's no
reason for Edward to think of me, if he cares enough to investigate. This is
nothing personal, let me assure you, Bella. Just thirst."
"Beg," my hallucination begged.
"Please," I gasped.
Laurent shook his head, his face kind. "Look at it this way, Bella. You're very
lucky I was the one to find you."
"Am I?" I mouthed, faltering another step back.
Laurent followed, lithe and graceful.
"Yes," he assured me. "I'll be very quick. You won't feel a thing, I promise. Oh,
I'll lie to Victoria about that later, naturally, just to placate her. But if you knew
what she had planned for you, Bella…" He shook his head with a slow
movement, almost as if in disgust. "I swear you'd be thanking me for this."
I stared at him in horror.
He sniffed at the breeze that blew threads of my hair in his direction.
"Mouthwatering," he repeated, inhaling deeply.
I tensed for the spring, my eyes squinting as I cringed away, and the sound of
Edward's furious roar echoed distantly in the back of my head. His name burst
through all the walls I'd built to contain it. Edward, Edward, Edward. I was going
to die. It shouldn't matter if I thought of him now. Edward, I love you.
Through my narrowed eyes, I watched as Laurent paused in the act of inhaling
and whipped his head abruptly to the left. I was afraid to look away from him, to
follow his glance, though he hardly needed a distraction or any other trick to
overpower me. I was too amazed to feel relief when he started slowly backing
away from me.
"I don't believe it," he said, his voice so low that I barely heard it.
I had to look then. My eyes scanned the meadow, searching for the interruption
that had extended my life by a few seconds. At first I saw nothing, and my gaze
flickered back to Laurent. He was retreating more quickly now, his eyes boring
into the forest.
Then I saw it; a huge black shape eased out of the trees, quiet as a shadow, and
stalked deliberately toward the vampire. It was enormous—as tall as a horse, but
thicker, much more muscular. The long muzzle grimaced, revealing a line of
dagger-like incisors. A grisly snarl rolled out from between the teeth, rumbling
across the clearing like a prolonged crack of thunder.
The bear. Only, it wasn't a bear at all. Still, this gigantic black monster had to be
the creature causing all the alarm. From a distance, anyone would assume it was a
bear. What else could be so vast, so powerfully built?
I wished I were lucky enough to see it from a distance. Instead, it padded silently
through the grass a mere ten feet from where I stood.
"Don't move an inch," Edward's voice whispered.
I stared at the monstrous creature, my mind boggling as I tried to put a name to it.
There was a distinctly canine cast to the shape of it, the way it moved. I could
only think of one possibility, locked in horror as I was. Yet I'd never imagined
that a wolf could get so big.
Another growl rumbled in its throat, and I shuddered away from the sound.
Laurent was backing toward the edge of the trees, and, under the freezing terror,
confusion swept through me. Why was Laurent retreating? Granted, the wolf was
monstrous in size, but it was just an animal. What reason would a vampire have
for fearing an animal? And Laurent was afraid. His eyes were wide with horror,
just like mine.
As if in answer to my question, suddenly the mammoth wolf was not alone.
Flanking it on either side, another two gigantic beasts prowled silently into the
meadow. One was a deep gray, the other brown, neither one quite as tall as the
first. The gray wolf came through the trees only a few feet from me, its eyes
locked on Laurent.
Before I could even react, two more wolves followed, lined up in a V, like geese
flying south. Which meant that the rusty brown monster that shrugged through
the brush last was close enough for me to touch.
I gave an involuntary gasp and jumped back—which was the stupidest thing I
could have done. I froze again, waiting for the wolves to turn on me, the much
weaker of the available prey. I wished briefly that Laurent would get on with it
and crush the wolf pack—it should be so simple for him. I guessed that, between
the two choices before me, being eaten by wolves was almost certainly the worse
option.
The wolf closest to me, the reddish brown one, turned its head slightly at the
sound of my gasp.
The wolf's eyes were dark, nearly black. It gazed at me for a fraction of a second,
the deep eyes seeming too intelligent for a wild animal.
As it stared at me, I suddenly thought of Jacob—again, with gratitude. At least I'd
come here alone, to this fairytale meadow filled with dark monsters. At least
Jacob wasn't going to die, too. At least I wouldn't have his death on my hands.
Then another low growl from the leader caused the russet wolf to whip his head
around, back toward Laurent.
Laurent was staring at the pack of monster wolves with unconcealed shock and
fear. The first I could understand. But I was stunned when, without warning, he
spun and disappeared into the trees.
He ran away.
The wolves were after him in a second, sprinting across the open grass with a few
powerful bounds, snarling and snapping so loudly that my hands flew up
instinctively to cover my ears. The sound faded with surprising swiftness once
they disappeared into the woods.
And then I was alone again.
My knees buckled under me, and I fell onto my hands, sobs building in my throat.
I knew I needed to leave, and leave now. How long would the wolves chase
Laurent before they doubled back for me? Or would Laurent turn on them?
Would he be the one that came looking?
I couldn't move at first, though; my arms and legs were shaking, and I didn't
know how to get back to my feet.
My mind couldn't move past the fear, the horror or the confusion. I didn't
understand what I'd just witnessed.
A vampire should not have run from overgrown dogs like that. What good would
their teeth be against his granite skin?
And the wolves should have given Laurent a wide berth. Even if their
extraordinary size had taught them to fear nothing, it still made no sense that they
would pursue him. I doubted his icy marble skin would smell anything like food.
Why would they pass up something warmblooded and weak like me to chase
after Laurent?
I couldn't make it add up.
A cold breeze whipped through the meadow, swaying the grass like something
was moving through it.
I scrambled to my feet, backing away even though the wind brushed harmlessly
past me. Stumbling in panic, I turned and ran headlong into the trees.
The next few hours were agony. It took me three times as long to escape the trees
as it had to get to the meadow.
At first I paid no attention to where I was headed, focused only on what I was
running from By the time I collected myself enough to remember the compass, I
was deep in the unfamiliar and menacing forest. My hands were shaking so
violently that I had to set the compass on the muddy ground to be able to read it.
Every few minutes I would stop to put the compass dowr and check that I was
still heading northwest, hearing—when the sounds weren't hidden behind the
frantic squelching of my footsteps—the quiet whisper of unseen things moving in
the leaves.
The call of a jaybird made me leap back and fall into a thick stand of young
spruce, scraping up my arms and tangling my hair with sap. The sudden rush of a
squirrel up a hemlock made me scream so loud it hurt my own ears.
At last there was a break in the trees ahead. I came out onto the empty road a mile
or so south of where I'd left the truck. Exhausted as I was, I jogged up the lane
until I found it. By the time I pulled myself into the cab, I was sobbing again. I
fiercely shoved down both stiff locks before I dug my keys out of my pocket. The
roar of the engine was comforting and sane. It helped me control the tears as I
sped as fast as my truck would allow toward the main highway.
I was calmer, but still a mess when I got home. Charlie's cruiser was in the
driveway—I hadn't realized how late it was. The sky was already dusky.
"Bella?" Charlie asked when I slammed the front door behind me and hastily
turned the locks.
"Yeah, it's me." My voice was unsteady.
"Where have you been?" he thundered, appearing through the kitchen doorway
with an ominous expression.
I hesitated. He'd probably called the Stanleys. I'd better stick to the truth.
"I was hiking," I admitted.
His eyes were tight. "What happened to going to Jessica's?"
"I didn't feel like Calculus today."
Charlie folded his arms across his chest. "I thought I asked you to stay out of the
forest."
"Yeah, I know. Don't worry, I won't do it again." I shuddered.
Charlie seemed to really look at me for the first time. I remembered that I had
spent some time on the forest floor today; I must be a mess.
"What happened?" Charlie demanded.
Again, I decided that the truth, or part of it anyway, was the best option. I was too
shaken to pretend that I'd spent an uneventful day with the flora and fauna.
"I saw the bear." I tried to say it calmly, but my voice was high and shaky. "It's
not a bear, though—it's some kind of wolf. And there are five of them. A big
black one, and gray, and reddish-brown…"
Charlie's eyes grew round with horror. He strode quickly to me and grabbed the
tops of my arms.
"Are you okay?"
My head bobbed in a weak nod.
"Tell me what happened."
"They didn't pay any attention to me. But aftet they were gone, I ran away and I
fell down a lot."
He let go of my shoulders and wrapped his arms around me. For a long moment,
he didn't say anything.
"Wolves," he murmured.
"What?"
"The rangers said the tracks were wrong for a bear—but wolves just don't get that
big…"
"These were huge."
"How many did you say you saw?"
"Five."
Charlie shook his head, frowning with anxiety, He finally spoke in a tone that
allowed no argument. "No more hiking."
"No problem," I promised fervently.
Charlie called the station to report what I'd seen. I fudged a little bit about where
exactly I'd seen the wolves—claiming I'd been on the trail that led to the north. I
didn't want my dad to know how deep I'd gone into the forest against his wishes,
and, more importantly, I didn't want anyone wandering near where Laurent might
be searching for me. The thought of it made me feel sick.
"Are you hungry?" he asked me when he hung up the phone.
I shook my head, though I must have been starving. I hadn't eaten all day.
"Just tired," I told him. I turned for the stairs.
"Hey," Charlie said, his voice suddenly suspicious again. "Didn't you say Jacob
was gone for the day?"
"That's what Billy said," I told him, confused by his question.
He studied my expression for a minute, and seemed satisfied with what he saw
there.
"Huh."
"Why?" I demanded. It sounded like he was implying that I'd been lying to him
this morning. About something besides studying with Jessica.
"Well, it's just that when I went to pick up Harry, I saw Jacob out in front of the
store down there with some of his friends. I waved hi, but he… well, I guess I
don't know if he saw me. I think maybe he was arguing with his friends. He
looked strange, like he was upset about something. And… different. It's like you
can watch that kid growing! He gets bigger every time I see him."
"Billy said Jake and his friends were going up to Port Angeles to see some
movies. They were probably just waiting for someone to meet them."
"Oh." Charlie nodded and headed for the kitchen.
I stood in the hall, thinking about Jacob arguing with his friends. I wondered if he
had confronted Embry about the situation with Sam. Maybe that was the reason
he'd ditched me today—if it meant he could sort things out with Embry, I was
glad he had.
I paused to check the locks again before I went to my room. It was a silly thing to
do. What difference would a lock make to any of the monsters I'd seen this
afternoon? I assumed the handle alone would stymie the wolves, not having
opposable thumbs. And if Laurent came here…
Or… Victoria.
I lay down on my bed, but I was shaking too hard to hope for sleep. I curled into
a cramped ball under my quilt, and faced the horrifying facts.
There was nothing I could do. There were no precautions I could take. There was
no place I could hide. There was no one who could help me.
I realized, with a nauseous roll of my stomach, that the situation was worse than
even that. Because all those facts applied to Charlie, too. My father, sleeping one
room away from me, was just a hairsbreadth off the heart of the target that was
centered on me. My scent would lead them here, whether I was here or not.
The tremors rocked me until my teeth chattered.
To calm myself, I fantasized the impossible: I imagined the big wolves catching
up to Laurent in the woods and massacring the indestructible immortal the way
they would any normal person. Despite the absurdity of such a vision, the idea
comforted me. If the wolves got him, then he couldn't tell Victoria I was here all
alone. If he didn't return, maybe she'd think the Cullens were still protecting me.
If only the wolves could win such a fight…
My good vampires were never coming back; how soothing it was to imagine that
the other kind could also disappear.
I squeezed my eyes tight together and waited for unconsciousness—almost eager
for my nightmare to start. Better that than the pale, beautiful face that smiled at
me now from behind my lids.
In my imagination, Victoria's eyes were black with thirst, bright with
anticipation, and her lips curled back from her gleaming teeth in pleasure. Her red
hair was brilliant as fire; it blew chaotically around her wild face.
Laurent's words repeated in my head. If you knew what she had planned for you

I pressed my fist against my mouth to keep from screaming.
Posted 12/22/08
omg i'm so scared for Bella!!!!
Twilighter
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Posted 4/15/09
This chapter is so amazing.....
finally the book starts to get interesting...I think it's like that with all of Stephenie's books,
she really takes her time to get into the book before it gets interesting!
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