Post Reply chapter 6: SWITZERLAND
Posted 12/5/08
AS I DROVE HOME, I WASN’T PAYING MUCH ATTENTION TO the road that
shimmered wetly in the sun. I was thinking about the flood of information
Jacob had shared with me, trying to sort it out, to force it all to make
sense. Despite the overload, I felt lighter. Seeing Jacob smile, having all the
secrets thrashed out . . . it didn’t make things perfect, but it made them
better. I was right to have gone. Jacob needed me. And obviously, I
thought as I squinted into the glare, there was no danger.
It came out of nowhere. One minute there was nothing but bright highway
in my rearview mirror. The next minute, the sun was glinting off a silver
Volvo right on my tail.
“Aw, crap,” I whimpered.
I considered pulling over. But I was too much of a coward to face him right
away. I’d been counting on some prep time . . . and having Charlie nearby
as a buffer. At least that would force him to keep his voice down.
The Volvo followed inches behind me. I kept my eyes on the road ahead.
Chicken through and through, I drove straight to Angela’s without once
meeting the gaze I could feel burning a hole in my mirror.
He followed me until I pulled to the curb in front of the Webers’ house. He
didn’t stop, and I didn’t look up as he passed. I didn’t want to see the
expression on his face. I ran up the short concrete walk to Angela’s door as
soon as he was out of sight.
Ben answered the door before I could finish knocking, like he’d been
standing right behind it.
“Hey, Bella!” he said, surprised.
“Hi, Ben. Er, is Angela here?” I wondered if Angela had forgotten our plans,
and cringed at the thought of going home early.
“Sure,” Ben said just as Angela called, “Bella!” and appeared at the top of
the stairs.
Ben peered around me as we both heard the sound of a car on the road;
the sound didn’t scare me — this engine stuttered to a stop, followed by the
loud pop of a backfire. Nothing like the purr of the Volvo. This must be the
visitor Ben had been waiting for.
“Austin’s here,” Ben said as Angela reached his side.
A horn honked on the street.
“I’ll see you later,” Ben promised. “Miss you already.”
He threw his arm around Angela’s neck and pulled her face down to his
height so that he could kiss her enthusiastically. After a second of this,
Austin honked again.
“’Bye, Ang! Love you!” Ben shouted as he dashed past me.
Angela swayed, her face slightly pink, then recovered herself and waved
until Ben and Austin were out of sight. Then she turned to me and grinned
ruefully.
“Thank you for doing this, Bella,” she said. “From the bottom of my heart.
Not only are you saving my hands from permanent injury, you also just
spared me two long hours of a plot-less, badly dubbed martial arts film.”
She sighed in relief.
“Happy to be of service.” I was feeling a bit less panicked, able to breathe a
little more evenly. It felt so ordinary here. Angela’s easy human dramas
were oddly reassuring. It was nice to know that life was normal somewhere.
I followed Angela up the stairs to her room. She kicked toys out of the way
as she went. The house was unusually quiet.
“Where’s your family?”
“My parents took the twins to a birthday party in Port Angeles. I can’t
believe you’re really going to help me with this. Ben’s pretending he has
tendonitis.” She made a face.
“I don’t mind at all,” I said, and then I walked into Angela’s room and saw
the stacks of waiting envelopes.
“Oh!” I gasped. Angela turned to look at me, apologies in her eyes. I could
see why she’d been putting this off, and why Ben had weaseled out.
“I thought you were exaggerating,” I admitted.
“I wish. Are you sure you want to do this?”
“Put me to work. I’ve got all day.”
Angela divided a pile in half and put her mother’s address book between us
on her desk. For a while we concentrated, and there was just the sound of
our pens scratching quietly across the paper.
“What’s Edward doing tonight?” she asked after a few minutes.
My pen dug into the envelope I was working on. “Emmet’s home for the
weekend. They’re supposed to be hiking.”
“You say that like you’re not sure.”
I shrugged.
“You’re lucky Edward has his brothers for all the hiking and camping. I don’t
know what I’d do if Ben didn’t have Austin for the guy stuff.”
“Yeah, the outdoors thing is not really for me. And there’s no way I’d ever
be able to keep up.”
Angela laughed. “I prefer the indoors myself.”
She focused on her pile for a minute. I wrote out four more addresses.
There was never any pressure to fill a pause with meaningless chatter
around Angela. Like Charlie, she was comfortable with silence.
But, like Charlie, she was also too observant sometimes.
“Is something wrong?” she asked in a low voice now. “You seem . . .
anxious.”
I smiled sheepishly. “Is it that obvious?”
“Not really.”
She was probably lying to make me feel better.
“You don’t have to talk about it unless you want to,” she assured me. “I’ll
listen if you think it will help.”
I was about to say thanks, but no thanks. After all, there were just too
many secrets I was bound to keep. I really couldn’t discuss my problems
with someone human. That was against the rules.
And yet, with a strange, sudden intensity, that’s exactly what I wanted. I
wanted to talk to a normal human girlfriend. I wanted to moan a little bit,
like any other teenage girl. I wanted my problems to be that simple. It
would also be nice to have someone outside the whole vampire-werewolf
mess to put things in perspective. Someone unbiased.
“I’ll mind my own business,” Angela promised, smiling down at the address
she was working on.
“No,” I said. “You’re right. I am anxious. It’s . . . it’s Edward.”
“What’s wrong?”
It was so easy to talk to Angela. When she asked a question like that, I
could tell that she wasn’t just morbidly curious or looking for gossip, like
Jessica would have been. She cared that I was upset.
“Oh, he’s mad at me.”
“That’s hard to imagine,” she said. “What’s he mad about?”
I sighed. “Do you remember Jacob Black?”
“Ah,” she said.
“Yeah.”
“He’s jealous.”
“No, not jealous . . .” I should have kept my mouth shut. There was no way
to explain this right. But I wanted to keep talking anyway. I hadn’t realized
I was so starved for human conversation. “Edward thinks Jacob is . . . a bad
influence, I guess. Sort of . . . dangerous. You know how much trouble I got
in a few months back. . . . It’s all ridiculous, though.”
I was surprised to see Angela shaking her head.
“What?” I asked.
“Bella, I’ve seen how Jacob Black looks at you. I’d bet the real problem is
jealousy.”
“It’s not like that with Jacob.”
“For you, maybe. But for Jacob . . .”
I frowned. “Jacob knows how I feel. I’ve told him everything.”
“Edward’s only human, Bella. He’s going to react like any other boy.”
I grimaced. I didn’t have a response to that.
She patted my hand. “He’ll get over it.”
“I hope so. Jake’s going through kind of a tough time. He needs me.”
“You and Jacob are pretty close, aren’t you?”
“Like family,” I agreed.
“And Edward doesn’t like him. . . . That must be hard. I wonder how Ben
would handle that?” she mused.
I half-smiled. “Probably just like any other boy.”
She grinned. “Probably.”
Then she changed the subject. Angela wasn’t one to pry, and she seemed
to sense I wouldn’t — couldn’t — say any more.
“I got my dorm assignment yesterday. The farthest building from campus,
naturally.”
“Does Ben know where he’s staying yet?”
“The closest dorm to campus. He’s got all the luck. How about you? Did you
decide where you’re going?”
I stared down, concentrating on the clumsy scrawl of my handwriting. For a
second I was distracted by the thought of Angela and Ben at the University
of Washington. They would be off to Seattle in just a few months. Would it
be safe then? Would the wild young vampire menace have moved
elsewhere? Would there be a new place by then, some other city flinching
from horror-movie headlines?
Would those new headlines be my fault?
I tried to shake it off and answered her question a beat late. “Alaska, I
think. The university there in Juneau.”
I could hear the surprise in her voice. “Alaska? Oh. Really? I mean, that’s
great. I just figured you’d go somewhere . . . warmer.”
I laughed a little, still staring at the envelope. “Yeah. Forks has really
changed my perspective on life.”
“And Edward?”
Though his name set butterflies fluttering in my stomach, I looked up and
grinned at her. “Alaska’s not too cold for Edward, either.”
She grinned back. “Of course not.” And then she sighed. “It’s so far. You
won’t be able to come home very often. I’ll miss you. Will you e-mail me?”
A swell of quiet sadness crashed over me; maybe it was a mistake to get
closer to Angela now. But wouldn’t it be sadder still to miss out on these
last chances? I shook off the unhappy thoughts, so that I could answer her
teasingly.
“If I can type again after this.” I nodded toward the stack of envelopes I’d
done.
We laughed, and it was easy then to chat cheerfully about classes and
majors while we finished the rest — all I had to do was not think about it.
Anyway, there were more urgent things to worry about today.
I helped her put the stamps on, too. I was afraid to leave.
“How’s your hand?” she asked.
I flexed my fingers. “I think I’ll recover the full use of it . . . someday.”
The door banged downstairs, and we both looked up.
“Ang?” Ben called.
I tried to smile, but my lips trembled. “I guess that’s my cue to leave.”
“You don’t have to go. Though he’s probably going to describe the movie for
me . . . in detail.”
“Charlie will be wondering where I am anyway.”
“Thanks for helping me.”
“I had a good time, actually. We should do something like this again. It was
nice to have some girl time.”
“Definitely.”
There was a light knock on the bedroom door.
“Come in, Ben,” Angela said.
I got up and stretched.
“Hey, Bella! You survived,” Ben greeted me quickly before going to take my
place by Angela. He eyed our work. “Nice job. Too bad there’s nothing left
to do, I would have . . .” He let the thought trail off, and then restarted
excitedly. “Ang, I can’t believe you missed this one! It was awesome. There
was this final fight sequence — the choreography was unbelievable! This
one guy — well, you’re going to have to see it to know what I’m talking
about —”
Angela rolled her eyes at me.
“See you at school,” I said with a nervous laugh.
She sighed. “See you.”
I was jumpy on the way out to my truck, but the street was empty. I spent
the whole drive glancing anxiously in all my mirrors, but there was never
any sign of the silver car.
His car was not in front of the house, either, though that meant little.
“Bella?” Charlie called when I opened the front door.
“Hey, Dad.”
I found him in the living room, in front of the TV.
“So, how was your day?”
“Good,” I said. Might as well tell him everything — he’d hear it from Billy
soon enough. Besides, it would make him happy. “They didn’t need me at
work, so I went down to La Push.”
There wasn’t enough surprise in his face. Billy had already talked to him.
“How’s Jacob?” Charlie asked, attempting to sound indifferent.
“Good,” I said, just as casual.
“You get over to the Webers’?”
“Yep. We got all her announcements addressed.”
“That’s nice.” Charlie smiled a wide smile. He was strangely focused,
considering that there was a game on. “I’m glad you spent some time with
your friends today.”
“Me, too.”
I ambled toward the kitchen, looking for busy work. Unfortunately, Charlie
had already cleaned up his lunch. I stood there for a few minutes, staring at
the bright patch of light the sun made on the floor. But I knew I couldn’t
delay this forever.
“I’m going to go study,” I announced glumly as I headed up the stairs.
“See you later,” Charlie called after me.
If I survive, I thought to myself.
I shut my bedroom door carefully before I turned to face my room.
Of course he was there. He stood against the wall across from me, in the
shadow beside the open window. His face was hard and his posture tense.
He glared at me wordlessly.
I cringed, waiting for the torrent, but it didn’t come. He just continued to
glare, possibly too angry to speak.
“Hi,” I finally said.
His face could have been carved from stone. I counted to a hundred in my
head, but there was no change.
“Er . . . so, I’m still alive,” I began.
A growl rumbled low in his chest, but his expression didn’t change.
“No harm done,” I insisted with a shrug.
He moved. His eyes closed, and he pinched the bridge of his nose between
the fingers of his right hand.
“Bella,” he whispered. “Do you have any idea how close I came to crossing
the line today? To breaking the treaty and coming after you? Do you know
what that would have meant?”
I gasped and his eyes opened. They were as cold and hard as night.
“You can’t!” I said too loudly. I worked to modulate the volume of my voice
so Charlie wouldn’t hear, but I wanted to shout the words. “Edward, they’d
use any excuse for a fight. They’d love that. You can’t ever break the
rules!”
“Maybe they aren’t the only ones who would enjoy a fight.”
“Don’t you start,” I snapped. “You made the treaty — you stick to it.”
“If he’d hurt you —”
“Enough!” I cut him off. “There’s nothing to worry about. Jacob isn’t
dangerous.”
“Bella.” He rolled his eyes. “You aren’t exactly the best judge of what is or
isn’t dangerous.”
“I know I don’t have to worry about Jake. And neither do you.”
He ground his teeth together. His hands were balled up in fists at his sides.
He was still standing against the wall, and I hated the space between us.
I took a deep breath, and crossed the room. He didn’t move when I
wrapped my arms around him. Next to the warmth of the last of the
afternoon sun streaming through the window, his skin felt especially icy. He
seemed like ice, too, frozen the way he was.
“I’m sorry I made you anxious,” I muttered.
He sighed, and relaxed a little. His arms wound around my waist.
“Anxious is a bit of an understatement,” he murmured. “It was a very long
day.”
“You weren’t supposed to know about it,” I reminded him. “I thought you’d
be hunting longer.”
I looked up at his face, at his defensive eyes; I hadn’t noticed in the stress
of the moment, but they were too dark. The rings under them were deep
purple. I frowned in disapproval.
“When Alice saw you disappear, I came back,” he explained.
“You shouldn’t have done that. Now you’ll have to go away again.” My
frown intensified.
“I can wait.”
“That’s ridiculous. I mean, I know she couldn’t see me with Jacob, but you
should have known —”
“But I didn’t,” he broke in. “And you can’t expect me to let you —”
“Oh, yes, I can,” I interrupted him. “That’s exactly what I expect —”
“This won’t happen again.”
“That’s right! Because you’re not going to overreact next time.”
“Because there isn’t going to be a next time.”
“I understand when you have to leave, even if I don’t like it —”
“That’s not the same. I’m not risking my life.”
“Neither am I.”
“Werewolves constitute a risk.”
“I disagree.”
“I’m not negotiating this, Bella.”
“Neither am I.”
His hands were in fists again. I could feel them against my back.
The words popped out thoughtlessly. “Is this really just about my safety?”
“What do you mean?” he demanded.
“You aren’t . . .” Angela’s theory seemed sillier now than before. It was
hard to finish the thought. “I mean, you know better than to be jealous,
right?”
He raised one eyebrow. “Do I?”
“Be serious.”
“Easily — there’s nothing remotely humorous about this.”
I frowned suspiciously. “Or . . . is this something else altogether? Some
vampires-and-werewolves-are-always-enemies nonsense? Is this just a
testosterone-fueled —”
His eyes blazed. “This is only about you. All I care is that you’re safe.”
The black fire in his eyes was impossible to doubt.
“Okay,” I sighed. “I believe that. But I want you to know something —
when it comes to all this enemies nonsense, I’m out. I am a neutral
country. I am Switzerland. I refuse to be affected by territorial disputes
between mythical creatures. Jacob is family. You are . . . well, not exactly
the love of my life, because I expect to love you for much longer than that.
The love of my existence. I don’t care who’s a werewolf and who’s a
vampire. If Angela turns out to be a witch, she can join the party, too.”
He stared at me silently through narrowed eyes.
“Switzerland,” I repeated again for emphasis.
He frowned at me, and then sighed. “Bella . . . ,” he began, but he paused,
and his nose wrinkled in disgust.
“What now?”
“Well . . . don’t be offended, but you smell like a dog,” he told me.
And then he smiled crookedly, so I knew the fight was over. For now.
Edward had to make up for the missed hunting trip, and so he was leaving
Friday night with Jasper, Emmett, and Carlisle to hit some reserve in
Northern California with a mountain lion problem.
We’d come to no agreement on the werewolf issue, but I didn’t feel guilty
calling Jake — during my brief window of opportunity when Edward took the
Volvo home before climbing back in through my window — to let him know
I’d be coming over on Saturday again. It wasn’t sneaking around. Edward
knew how I felt. And if he broke my truck again, then I’d have Jacob pick
me up. Forks was neutral, just like Switzerland — just like me.
So when I got off work Thursday and it was Alice rather than Edward
waiting for me in the Volvo, I was not suspicious at first. The passenger
door was open, and music I didn’t recognize was shaking the frame when
the bass played.
“Hey, Alice,” I shouted over the wailing as I climbed in. “Where’s your
brother?”
She was singing along to the song, her voice an octave higher than the
melody, weaving through it with a complicated harmony. She nodded at
me, ignoring my question as she concentrated on the music.
I shut my door and put my hands over my ears. She grinned, and turned
the volume down until it was just background. Then she hit the locks and
the gas in the same second.
“What’s going on?” I asked, starting to feel uneasy. “Where is Edward?”
She shrugged. “They left early.”
“Oh.” I tried to control the absurd disappointment. If he left early, that
meant he’d be back sooner, I reminded myself.
“All the boys went, and we’re having a slumber party!” she announced in a
trilling, singsong voice.
“A slumber party?” I repeated, the suspicion finally settling in.
“Aren’t you excited?” she crowed.
I met her animated gaze for a long second.
“You’re kidnapping me, aren’t you?”
She laughed and nodded. “Till Saturday. Esme cleared it with Charlie;
you’re staying with me two nights, and I will drive you to and from school
tomorrow.”
I turned my face to the window, my teeth grinding together.
“Sorry,” Alice said, not sounding in the least bit penitent. “He paid me off.”
“How?” I hissed through my teeth.
“The Porsche. It’s exactly like the one I stole in Italy.” She sighed happily.
“I’m not supposed to drive it around Forks, but if you want, we could see
how long it takes to get from here to L.A. — I bet I could have you back by
midnight.”
I took a deep breath. “I think I’ll pass,” I sighed, repressing a shudder.
We wound, always too fast, down the long drive. Alice pulled around to the
garage, and I quickly looked over the cars. Emmett’s big jeep was there,
with a shiny canary yellow Porsche between it and Rosalie’s red convertible.
Alice hopped out gracefully and went to stroke her hand along the length of
her bribe. “Pretty, isn’t it?”
“Pretty over-the-top,” I grumbled, incredulous. “He gave you that just for
two days of holding me hostage?”
Alice made a face.
A second later, comprehension came and I gasped in horror. “It’s for every
time he’s gone, isn’t it?”
She nodded.
I slammed my door and stomped toward the house. She danced along next
to me, still unrepentant.
“Alice, don’t you think this is just a little bit controlling? Just a tiny bit
psychotic, maybe?”
“Not really.” She sniffed. “You don’t seem to grasp how dangerous a young
werewolf can be. Especially when I can’t see them. Edward has no way to
know if you’re safe. You shouldn’t be so reckless.”
My voice turned acidic. “Yes, because a vampire slumber party is the
pinnacle of safety conscious behavior.”
Alice laughed. “I’ll give you a pedicure and everything,” she promised.
It wasn’t so bad, except for the fact that I was being held against my will.
Esme brought Italian food — the good stuff, all the way from Port Angeles
— and Alice was prepared with my favorite movies. Even Rosalie was there,
quietly in the background. Alice did insist on the pedicure, and I wondered if
she was working from a list — maybe something she’d compiled from
watching bad sitcoms.
“How late do you want to stay up?” she asked when my toenails were
glistening a bloody red. Her enthusiasm remained untouched by my mood.
“I don’t want to stay up. We have school in the morning.”
She pouted.
“Where am I supposed to sleep, anyway?” I measured the couch with my
eyes. It was a little short. “Can’t you just keep me under surveillance at my
house?”
“What kind of a slumber party would that be?” Alice shook her head in
exasperation. “You’re sleeping in Edward’s room.”
I sighed. His black leather sofa was longer than this one. Actually, the gold
carpet in his room was probably thick enough that the floor wouldn’t be half
bad either.
“Can I go back to my place to get my things, at least?”
She grinned. “Already taken care of.”
“Am I allowed to use your phone?”
“Charlie knows where you are.”
“I wasn’t going to call Charlie.” I frowned. “Apparently, I have some plans
to cancel.”
“Oh.” She deliberated. “I’m not sure about that.”
“Alice!” I whined loudly. “C’mon!”
“Okay, okay,” she said, flitting from the room. She was back in half a
second, cell phone in hand. “He didn’t specifically prohibit this . . . ,” she
murmured to herself as she handed it to me.
I dialed Jacob’s number, hoping he wasn’t out running with his friends
tonight. Luck was with me — Jacob was the one to answer.
“Hello?”
“Hey, Jake, it’s me.” Alice watched me with expressionless eyes for a
second, before she turned and went to sit between Rosalie and Esme on the
sofa.
“Hi, Bella,” Jacob said, suddenly cautious. “What’s up?”
“Nothing good. I can’t come over Saturday after all.”
It was silent for a minute. “Stupid bloodsucker,” he finally muttered. “I
thought he was leaving. Can’t you have a life when he’s gone? Or does he
lock you in a coffin?”
I laughed.
“I don’t think that’s funny.”
“I’m only laughing because you’re close,” I told him. “But he’s going to be
here Saturday, so it doesn’t matter.”
“Will he be feeding there in Forks, then?” Jacob asked cuttingly.
“No.” I didn’t let myself get irritated with him. I wasn’t that far from being
as angry as he was. “He left early.”
“Oh. Well, hey, come over now, then,” he said with sudden enthusiasm.
“It’s not that late. Or I’ll come up to Charlie’s.”
“I wish. I’m not at Charlie’s,” I said sourly. “I’m kind of being held
prisoner.”
He was silent as that sunk in, and then he growled. “We’ll come and get
you,” he promised in a flat voice, slipping automatically into a plural.
A chill slid down my spine, but I answered in a light and teasing voice.
“Tempting. I have been tortured — Alice painted my toenails.”
“I’m serious.”
“Don’t be. They’re just trying to keep me safe.”
He growled again.
“I know it’s silly, but their hearts are in the right place.”
“Their hearts!” he scoffed.
“Sorry about Saturday,” I apologized. “I’ve got to hit the sack” — the
couch, I corrected mentally — “but I’ll call you again soon.”
“Are you sure they’ll let you?” he asked in a scathing tone.
“Not completely.” I sighed. “’Night, Jake.”
“See you around.”
Alice was abruptly at my side, her hand held out for the phone, but I was
already dialing. She saw the number.
“I don’t think he’ll have his phone on him,” she said.
“I’ll leave a message.”
The phone rang four times, followed by a beep. There was no greeting.
“You are in trouble,” I said slowly, emphasizing each word. “Enormous
trouble. Angry grizzly bears are going to look tame next to what is waiting
for you at home.”
I snapped the phone shut and placed it in her waiting hand. “I’m done.”
She grinned. “This hostage stuff is fun.”
“I’m going to sleep now,” I announced, heading for the stairs. Alice tagged
along.
“Alice,” I sighed. “I’m not going to sneak out. You would know if I was
planning to, and you’d catch me if I tried.”
“I’m just going to show you where your things are,” she said innocently.
Edward’s room was at the farthest end of the third floor hallway, hard to
mistake even when the huge house had been less familiar. But when I
switched the light on, I paused in confusion. Had I picked the wrong door?
Alice giggled.
It was the same room, I realized quickly; the furniture had just been
rearranged. The couch was pushed to the north wall and the stereo shoved
up against the vast shelves of CDs — to make room for the colossal bed
that now dominated the central space.
The southern wall of glass reflected the scene back like a mirror, making it
look twice as bad.
It matched. The coverlet was a dull gold, just lighter than the walls; the
frame was black, made of intricately patterned wrought iron. Sculpted
metal roses wound in vines up the tall posts and formed a bowery lattice
overhead. My pajamas were folded neatly on the foot of the bed, my bag of
toiletries to one side.
“What the hell is all this?” I spluttered.
“You didn’t really think he would make you sleep on the couch, did you?”
I mumbled unintelligibly as I stalked forward to snatch my things off the
bed.
“I’ll give you some privacy,” Alice laughed. “See you in the morning.”
After my teeth were brushed and I was dressed, I grabbed a puffy feather
pillow off the huge bed and dragged the gold cover to the couch. I knew I
was being silly, but I didn’t care. Porsches as bribes and king-sized beds in
houses where nobody slept — it was beyond irritating. I flipped off the
lights and curled up on the sofa, wondering if I was too annoyed to sleep.
In the dark, the glass wall was no longer a black mirror, doubling the room.
The light of the moon brightened the clouds outside the window. As my
eyes adjusted, I could see the diffused glow highlighting the tops of the
trees, and glinting off a small slice of the river. I watched the silver light,
waiting for my eyes to get heavy.
There was a light knock on the door.
“What, Alice?” I hissed. I was on the defensive, imagining her amusement
when she saw my makeshift bed.
“It’s me,” Rosalie said softly, opening the door enough that I could see the
silver glow touch her perfect face. “Can I come in?”
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