Post Reply chapter 15: pressure
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Posted 12/2/08 , edited 12/2/08
morning, I lay in bed for a few seconds absorbing that. Last spring break, I'd been
hunted by a vampire, too. I hoped this wasn't some kind of tradition forming.
Already I was falling into the pattern of things in La Push. I'd spent Sunday
mostly on the beach, while Charlie hung out with Billy at the Blacks' house. I was
supposed to be with Jacob, but Jacob had other things to do, so I wandered alone,
keeping the secret from Charlie.
When Jacob dropped in to check on me, he apologized for ditching me so much.
He told me his schedule wasn't always this crazy, but until Victoria was stopped,
the wolves were on red alert.
When we walked along the beach now, he always held my hand.
This made me brood over what Jared had said, about Jacob involving his
"girlfriend." I supposed that that was exactly what it looked like from the outside.
As long as Jake and I knew how it really was, I shouldn't let those kinds of
assumptions bother me. And maybe they wouldn't, if I hadn't known that Jacob
would have loved for things to be what they appeared. But his hand felt nice as it
warmed mine, and I didn't protest.
I worked Tuesday afternoon—Jacob followed me on his bike to make sure I
arrived safely—and Mike noticed.
"Are you dating that kid from La Push? The sophomore?" He asked, poorly
disguising the resentment in his tone.
I shrugged. "Not in the technical sense of the word. I do spent most of my time
with Jacob, though. He's my best friend."
Mike's eyes narrowed shrewdly. "Don't kid yourself, Bella. The guy's head over
heels for you."
"I know," I sighed. "Life is complicated."
"And girls are cruel," Mike said under his breath.
I supposed that was an easy assumption to make, too.
That night, Sam and Emily joined Charlie and me for dessert at Billy's house.
Emily brought a cake that would have won over a harder man than Charlie. I
could see, as the conversation flowed naturally through a range of casual
subjects, that any worries Charlie might have harbored about gangs in La Push
were being dissolved.
Jake and I skipped out early, to get some privacy. We went out to his garage and
sat in the Rabbit. Jacob leaned his head back, his face drawn with exhaustion.
"You need some sleep, Jake."
"I'll get around to it."
He reached over and took my hand. His skin was blazing on mine.
"Is that one of those wolf things?" I asked him. "The heat, I mean."
"Yeah. We run a little warmer than the normal people. About one-oh-eight, oneoh-
nine. I never get cold anymore. I could stand like this"—he gestured to his
bare torso—"in a snowstorm and it wouldn't bother me. The flakes would turn to
rain where I stood."
"And you all heal fast—that's a wolf thing, too?"
"Yeah, wanna see? It's pretty cool." His eyes flipped open and he grinned. He
reached around me to the glove compartment and dug around for a minute. His
hand came out with a pocketknife.
"No, I do not want to see!" I shouted as soon as I realized what he was thinking.
"Put that away!"
Jacob chuckled, but shoved the knife back where it belonged. "Fine. It's a good
thing we heal, though. You can't go see just any doctor when you're running a
temperature that should mean you're dead."
"No, I guess not." I thought about that for a minute. "… And being so big—that's
part of it? Is that why you're all worried about Quil?"
"That and the fact that Quil's grandfather says the kid could fry an egg on his
forehead." Jacob's face turned hopeless. "It won't be long now. There's no exact
age… it just builds and builds and then suddenly—" He broke off, and it was a
moment before he could speak again. "Sometimes, if you get really upset or
something, that can trigger it early. But I wasn't upset about anything—I was
happy." He laughed bitterly. "Because of you, mostly. That's why it didn't happen
to me sooner. Instead it just kept on building up inside me—I was like a time
bomb. You know what set me off? I got back from that movie and Billy said I
looked weird. That was all, but I just snapped. And then I—I exploded. I almost
ripped his face off—my own father!" He shuddered, and his face paled.
"Is it really bad, Jake?" I asked anxiously, wishing I had some way to help him.
"Are you miserable?"
"No, I'm not miserable," he told me. "Not anymore. Not now that you know. That
was hard, before." He leaned over so that his cheek was resting on top of my head.
He was quiet for a moment, and I wondered what he was thinking about. Maybe I
didn't want to know.
"What's the hardest part?" I whispered, still wishing I could help.
"The hardest part is feeling… out of control," he said slowly. "Feeling like I can't
be sure of myself—like maybe you shouldn't be around me, like maybe nobody
should. Like I'm a monster who might hurt somebody. You've seen Emily. Sam
lost control of his temper for just one second… and she was standing too close.
And now there's nothing he can ever do to put it right again. I hear his thoughts—
I know what that feels like…
"Who wants to be a nightmare, a monster?
"And then, the way it comes so easily to me, the way I'm better at it than the rest
of them—does that make me even less human than Enbry or Sam? Sometimes
I'm afraid that I'm losing myself."
"Is it hard? To find yourself again?"
"At first," he said. "It takes some practice to phase back and forth. But it's easier
tor me."
"Why?" I wondered.
"Because Ephraim Black was my father's grandfather, and Quil Ateara was my
mother's grandfather."
"Quil?" I asked in confusion.
"His great-grandfather," Jacob clarified. "The Quil you know is my second
"But why does it matter who your great-grandfathers are?"
"Because Ephraim and Quil were in the last pack. Levi Uley was the third. It's in
my blood on both sides. I never had a chance. Like Quil doesn't have a chance."
His expression was bleak.
"What's the very best part?" I asked, hoping to cheer him up.
"The best part," he said, suddenly smiling again, "is the speed."
"Better than the motorcycles?"
He nodded, enthusiastic. "There's no comparison."
"How fast can you… ?"
"Run?" he finished my question. "Fast enough. What can I measure it by? We
caught… what was his name? Laurent? I imagine that means more to you than it
would to someone else."
It did mean something to me. I couldn't imagine that—the wolves running faster
than a vampire. When the Cullens ran, they all but turned invisible with speed.
"So, tell me something I don't know," he said. "Something about vampires. How
did you stand it, being around them? Didn't it creep you out?"
"No," I said curtly.
My tone made him thoughtful for a moment.
"Say, why'd your bloodsucker kill that James, anyway?" he asked suddenly.
"James was trying to kill me—it was like a game for him. He lost. Do you
remember last spring when I was in the hospital down in Phoenix?"
Jacob sucked in a breath. "He got that close?"
"He got very, very close." I stroked my scar. Jacob noticed, because he held the
hand I moved.
"What's that?" He traded hands, examining my right. "This is your funny scar, the
cold one." He looked at it closer, with new eyes, and gasped.
"Yes, it's what you think it is," I said. "James bit me."
His eyes bulged, and his face turned a strange, sallow color under the russet
surface. He looked like he was about to be sick.
"But if he bit you… ? Shouldn't you be… ?" He choked.
"Edward saved me twice," I whispered. "He sucked the venom out—you know,
like with a rattlesnake." I twitched as the pain lashed around the edges of the hole.
But I wasn't the only one twitching. I could feel Jacob's whole body trembling
next to mine. Even the car shook.
"Careful, Jake. Easy. Ca in down."
"Yeah," he panted. "Calm." He shook his head back and forth quickly. After a
moment, only his hands were shaking.
"You okay?"
"Yeah, almost. Tell me something else. Give me something else to think about."
"What do you want to know?"
"I don't know." He had his eyes closed, concentrating. "The extra stuff I guess.
Did any of the other Cullens have… extra talents? Like the mind reading?"
I hesitated a second. This felt like a question he would ask of his spy, not his
friend. But what was the point of hiding what I knew? It didn't matter now, and it
would help him control himself.
So I spoke quickly, the image of Emily's ruined face in my mind, and the hair
rising on my arms. I couldn't imagine how the russet wolf would fit inside the
Rabbit—Jacob would tear the whole garage apart if he changed now.
"Jasper could… sort of control the emotions of the people around him. Not in a
bad way, just to calm someone down, that kind of thing. It would probably help
Paul a lot," I added, teasing weakly. "And then Alice could see things that were
going to happen. The future, you know, but not absolutely. The things she saw
would change when someone changed the path they were on…"
Like how she'd seen me dying… and she'd seen me becoming one of them. Two
things that had not happened. And one that never would. My head started to spin
—I couldn't seem to pull in enough oxygen from the air. No lungs.
Jacob was entirely in control now, very still beside me.
"Why do you do that?" he asked. He tugged lightly at one of my arms, which was
bound around my chest, and then gave up when it wouldn't come loose easily. I
hadn't even realized I'd moved them. "You do that when you're upset. Why?"
"It hurts to think about them," I whispered. "It's like I can't breathe… like I'm
breaking into pieces…"It was bizarre how much I could tell Jacob now. We had
no more secrets.
He smoothed my hair. "It's okay, Bella, it's okay. I won't bring it up again. I'm
"I'm fine." I gasped. "Happens all the time. Not your fault."
"We're a pretty messed-up pair, aren't we?" Jacob said. "Neither one of us can
hold our shape together right."
"Pathetic," I agreed, still breathless.
"At least we have each other," he said, clearly comforted by the thought.
I was comforted, too. "At least there's that," I agreed.
And when we were together, it was fine. But Jacob had a horrible, dangerous job
he felt compelled to do, and so I was often alone, stuck in La Push for safety,
with nothing to do to keep my mind off any of my worries.
I felt awkward, always taking up space at Billy's. I did some studying for another
Calculus test that was coming up next week, but I could only look at math for so
long. When I didn't have something obvious to do in my hands,
I felt like I ought to be making conversation with Billy—the pressure of normal
societal rules. But Billy wasn't one for filling up the long silences, and so the
awkwardness continued.
I tried hanging out at Emily's place Wednesday afternoon, for a change. At first it
was kind of nice. Emily was a cheerful person who never sat still. I drifted behind
her while she flitted around her little house and yard, scrubbing at the spotless
floor, pulling a tiny weed, fixing a broken hinge, tugging a string of wool through
an ancient loom, and always cooking, too. She complained lightly about the
increase in the boys' appetites from all their extra running, but it was easy to see
she didn't mind taking care of them. It wasn't hard to be with her—after all, we
were both wolf girls now.
But Sam checked in after I'd been there for a few hours. I only stayed long
enough to ascertain that Jacob was fine and there was no news, and then I had to
escape. The aura of love and contentment that surrounded them was harder to
take in concentrated doses, with no one else around to dilute it.
So that left me wandering the beach, pacing the length of the rocky crescent back
and forth, again and again.
Alone time wasn't good for me. Thanks to the new honesty with Jacob, I'd been
talking and thinking about the Cullens way too much. No matter how I tried to
distract myself—and I had plenty to think of: I was honestly and desperately
worried about Jacob and his wolf-brothers, I was terrified for Charlie and the
others who thought they were hunting animals, I was getting in deeper and deeper
with Jacob without ever having consciously decided to progress in that direction
and I didn't know what to do about it—none of these very real, very deserving of
thought, very pressing concerns could take my mind off the pain in my chest for
long. Eventually, I couldn't even walk anymore, because I couldn't breathe. I sat
down on a patch of semidry rocks and curled up in a ball.
Jacob found me like that, and I could tell from his expression that he understood.
"Sorry," he said right away. He pulled me up from the ground and wrapped both
arms around my shoulders. I hadn't realized that I was cold until then. His
warmth made me shudder, but at least I could breathe with him there.
"I'm ruining your spring break," Jacob accused himself as we walked back up the
"No, you're not. I didn't have any plans. I don't think I like spring breaks,
"I'll take tomorrow morning off. The others can run without me. We'll do
something fun."
The word seemed out of place in my life right now, barely comprehensible,
bizarre. "Fun?"
"Fun is exactly what you need. Hmm…" he gazed out across the heaving gray
waves, deliberating. As his eyes scanned the horizon, he had a flash of inspiration.
"Got it!" he crowed. "Another promise to keep."
"What are you talking about?"
He let go of my hand and pointed toward the southern edge of the beach, where
the flat, rocky half-moon dead-ended against the sheer sea cliffs. I stared,
"Didn't I promise to take you cliff diving?"
I shivered.
"Yeah, it'll be pretty cold—not as cold as it is today. Can you feel the weather
changing? The pressure? It will be warmer tomorrow. You up for it?"
The dark water did not look inviting, and, from this angle, the cliffs looked even
higher than before.
But it had been days since I'd heard Edward's voice. That was probably part of
the problem. I was addicted to the sound of my delusions. It made things worse if
I went too long without them. Jumping off a cliff was certain to remedy that
"Sure, I'm up for it. Fun."
"It's a date," he said, and draped his arm around my shoulders.
"Okay—now let's go get you some sleep." I didn't like the way the circles under
his eyes were beginning to look permanently etched onto his skin.
I woke early the next morning and snuck a change of clothes out to the truck. I
had a feeling that Charlie would approve of today's plan just about as much as he
would approve of the motorcycle.
The idea of a distraction from all my worries had me almost excited. Maybe it
would be fun. A date with Jacob, a date with Edward… I laughed darkly to
myself. Jake could say what he wanted about us being a messed-up pair—I was
the one who was truly messed up. I made the werewolf seem downright normal.
I expected Jacob to meet me out front, the way he usually did when my noisy
truck announced my arrival. When he didn't, I guessed that he might still be
sleeping. I would wait—let him get as much rest as he could. He needed his
sleep, and that would give the day time to warm a bit more. Jake had been right
about the weather, though; it had changed in the night. A thick layer of clouds
pressed heavily on the atmosphere now, making it almost sultry; it was warm and
close under the gray blanket. I left my sweater in the truck.
I knocked quietly on the door.
"C'mon in, Bella," Billy said.
He was at the kitchen table, eating cold cereal.
"Jake sleeping?"
"Er, no." He set his spoon down, and his eyebrows pulled together.
"What happened?" I demanded. I could tell from his expression that something
"Embry, Jared, and Paul crossed a fresh trail early this morning. Sam and Jake
took off to help. Sam was hopeful—she's hedged herself in beside the mountains.
He thinks they have a good chance to finish this."
"Oh, no, Billy," I whispered. "Oh, no."
He chuckled, deep and low. "Do you really like La Push so well that you want to
extend your sentence here?"
"Don't make jokes, Billy. This is too scary for that."
"You're right," he agreed, still complacent. His ancient eyes were impossible to
read. "This one's tricky."
I bit my lip.
"It's not as dangerous for them as you think it is. Sam knows what he's doing.
You're the one that you should worry about. The vampire doesn't want to fight
them. She's just trying to find a way around them… to you."
"How does Sam know what he's doing?" I demanded, brushing aside his concern
for me. "They've only killed just the one vampire—that could have been luck."
"We take what we do very seriously, Bella. Nothing's been forgotten. Everything
they need to know has been passed down from father to son for generations."
That didn't comfort me the way he probably intended it to. The memory of
Victoria, wild, catlike, lethal, was too strong in my head. If she couldn't get
around the wolves, she would eventually try to go through them.
Billy went back to his breakfast; I sat down on the sofa and flipped aimlessly
though the TV channels. That didn't last long. I started to feel closed in by the
small room, claustrophobic, upset by the fact that I couldn't see out the curtained
"I'll be at the beach," I told Billy abruptly, and hurried out the door.
Being outside didn't help as much as I'd hoped. The clouds pushed down with an
invisible weight that kept the claustrophobia from easing. The forest seemed
strangely vacant as I walked toward the beach. I didn't see any animals—no birds,
no squirrels. I couldn't hear any birds, either. The silence was eerie; there wasn't
even the sound of wind in the trees.
I knew it was all just a product of the weather, but it still made me edgy. The
heavy, warm pressure of the atmosphere was perceptible even to my weak human
senses, and it hinted at something major in the storm department. A glance at the
sky backed this up; the clouds were churning sluggishly despite the lack of breeze
on the ground. The closest clouds were a smoky gray, but between the cracks I
could see another layer that was a gruesome purple color. The skies had a
ferocious plan in store for today. The animals must be bunkering down.
As soon as I reached the beach, I wished I hadn't come—I'd already had enough
of this place. I'd been here almost every day, wandering alone. Was it so much
different from my nightmares? But where else to go? I trudged down to the
driftwood tree, and sat at the end so that I could lean against the tangled roots. I
stared up at the angry sky broodingly, waiting for the first drops to break the
I tried not to think about the danger Jacob and his friends were in. Because
nothing could happen to Jacob. The thought was unendurable. I'd lost too much
already—would fate take the last few shreds of peace left behind? That seemed
unfair, out of balance. But maybe I'd violated some unknown rule, crossed some
line that had condemned me. Maybe it was wrong to be so involved with myths
and legends, to turn my back on the human world. Maybe…
No. Nothing would happen to Jacob. I had to believe that or I wouldn't be able to
"Argh!" I groaned, and jumped off the log. I couldn't sit still; it was worse than
I'd really been counting on hearing Edward this morning. It seemed like that was
the one thing that might make it bearable to live through this day. The hole had
been festering lately, like it was getting revenge for the times that Jacob's
presence had tamed it. The edges burned.
The waves picked up as I paced, beginning to crash against the rocks, but there
was still no wind. I felt pinned down by the pressure of the storm. Everything
swirled around me, but it was perfectly still where I stood. The air had a faint
electric charge—I could feel the static in my hair.
Farther out, the waves were angrier than they were along the shore. I could see
them battering against the line of the cliffs, spraying big white clouds of sea foam
into the sky. There was still no movement in the air, though the clouds roiled
more quickly now. It was eerie looking—like the clouds were moving by their
own will. I shivered, though I knew it was just a trick of the pressure.
The cliffs were a black knife edge against the livid sky. Staring at them, I
remembered the day Jacob had told me about Sam and his "gang." I thought of
the boys—the werewolves—throwing themselves into the empty air. The image
of the falling, spiraling figures was still vivid in my mind. I imagined the utter
freedom of the fall… I imagined the way Edward's voice would have sounded in
my head—furious, velvet, perfect… The burning in my chest flared agonizingly.
There had to be some way to quench it. The pain was growing more and more
intolerable by the second. I glared at the cliffs and the crashing waves.
Well, why not? Why not quench it right now?
Jacob had promised me cliff diving, hadn't he? Just because he was unavailable,
should I have to give up the distraction I needed so badly—needed even worse
because Jacob was out risking his life? Risking it, in essence, for me. If it weren't
for me, Victoria would not be killing people here… just somewhere else, far
away. If anything happened to Jacob, it would be my fault. That realization
stabbed deep and had me jogging back up to the road toward Billy's house, where
my truck waited.
I knew my way to the lane that passed closest to the cliffs, but I had to hunt for
the little path that would take me out to the ledge. As I followed it, I looked for
turns or forks, knowing that Jake had planned to take me off the lower
outcropping rather than the top, but the path wound in a thin single line toward
the brink with no options. I didn't have time to find another way down—the storm
was moving in quickly now. The wind was finally beginning to touch me, the
clouds pressing closer to the ground. Just as I reached the place where the dirt
path fanned out into the stone precipice, the first drops broke through and
splattered on my face.
It was not hard to convince myself that I didn't have time to search for another
way—I wanted to jump from the top. This was the image that had lingered in my
head. I wanted the long fall that would feel like flying.
I knew that this was the stupidest, most reckless thing I had done yet. The thought
made me smile. The pain was already easing, as if my body knew that Edward's
voice was just seconds away…
The ocean sounded very far away, somehow farther than before, when I was on
the path in the trees. I grimaced when I thought of the probable temperature of
the water. But I wasn't going to let that stop me.
The wind blew stronger now, whipping the rain into eddies around me.
I stepped out to the edge, keeping my eyes on the empty space in front of me. My
toes felt ahead blindly, caressing the edge of the rock when they encountered it. I
drew in a deep breath and held it . . waiting.
I smiled and exhaled.
Yes? I didn't answer out loud, for fear that the sound of my voice would shatter
the beautiful illusion. He sounded so real, so close. It was only when lie was
disapproving like this that I could hear the true memory of his voice—the velvet
texture and the musical intonation that made up the most perfect of all voices.
"Don't do this," he pleaded.
You wanted me to be human, I reminded him. Well, watch me.
"Please. For me."
But you won't stay with me any other way.
"Please." It was just a whisper in the blowing rain that tossed my hair and
drenched my clothes—making me as wet as if this were my second jump of the
I rolled up onto the balls of my feet.
"No, Bella!" He was angry now, and the anger was so lovely.
I smiled and raised my arms straight out, as if I were going to dive, lifting my
face into the rain. But it was too ingrained from years of swimming at the public
pool—feet first, first time. I leaned forward, crouching to get more spring…
And I flung myself off the cliff.
I screamed as I dropped through the open air like a meteor, but it was a scream of
exhilaration and not fear. The wind resisted, trying vainly to fight the
unconquerable gravity, pushing against me and twirling me in spirals like a
rocket crashing to the earth.
Yes! The word echoed through my head as I sliced through the surface of the
water. It was icy, colder than I'd feared, and yet the chill only added to the high.
I was proud of myself as I plunged deeper into the freezing black water. I hadn't
had one moment of terror—just pure adrenaline. Really, the fall wasn't scary at
all. Where was the challenge?
That was when the current caught me.
I'd been so preoccupied by the size of the cliffs, by the obvious danger of their
high, sheer faces, that I hadn't worried at all about the dark water waiting. I never
dreamed that the true menace was lurking far below me, under the heaving surf.
It felt like the waves were fighting over me, jerking me back and forth between
them as if determined to share by pulling me into halves. I knew the right way to
avoid a riptide: swim parallel to the beach rather than struggling for the shore.
But the knowledge did me little good when I didn't know which way the shore
I couldn't even tell which way the surface was.
The angry water was black in every direction; there was no brightness to direct
me upward. Gravity was all-powerful when it competed with the air, but it had
nothing on the waves—I couldn't feel a downward pull, a sinking in any
direction. Just the battering of the current that flung me round and round like a
rag doll.
I fought to keep my breath in, to keep my lips locked around my last store of
It didn't surprise me that my delusion of Edward was there. He owed me that
much, considering that I was dying. I was surprised by how sure that knowledge
was. I was going to drown. I was drowning.
"Keep swimming!" Edward begged urgently in my head.
Where? There was nothing but the darkness. There was no place to swim to.
"Stop that!" he ordered. "Don't you dare give up!"
The cold of the water was numbing my arms and legs. I didn't feel the buffeting
so much as before. It was more of just a dizziness now, a helpless spinning in the
But I listened to him. I forced my arms to continue reaching, my legs to kick
harder, though every second I was facing a new direction. It couldn't be doing
any good. What was the point?
"Fight!" he yelled. "Damn it, Bella, keep fighting."
I didn't want to fight anymore. And it wasn't the light-headedness, or the cold, or
the failure of my arms as the muscles gave out in exhaustion, that made me
content to stay where I was. I was almost happy that it was over. This was an
easier death than others I'd faced. Oddly peaceful.
I thought briefly of the clichés, about how you were suppose to see your life flash
before your eyes. I was so much luckier. Who wanted to see a rerun, anyway?
I saw him, and I had no will to fight. It was so clear, so much more defined than
any memory. My subconscious had stored Edward away in flawless detail, saving
him for this final moment. I could see his perfect face as if he were really there;
the exact shade of his icy skin, the shape of his lips, the line of his jaw, the gold
glinting in his furious eyes. He was angry, naturally, that I was giving up. His
teeth were clenched and his nostrils flared with rage.
"No! Bella, no!"
My ears were flooded with the freezing water, but his voice was clearer than
ever. I ignored his words and concentrated on the sound of his voice. Why would
I fight when I was so happy where I was? Even as my lungs burned for more air
and my legs cramped in the icy cold, I was content. I'd forgotten what real
happiness felt like.
Happiness. It made the whole dying thing pretty bearable.
The current won at that moment, shoving me abruptly against something hard, a
rock invisible in the gloom. It hit me solidly across the chest, slamming into me
like an iron bar, and the breath whooshed out of my lungs, escaping in a thick
cloud of silver bubbles. Water flooded down my throat, choking and burning. The
iron bar seemed to be dragging me, pulling me away from Edward, deeper into
the dark, to the ocean floor.
Goodbye, I love you, was my last thought.
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