Bella sat tiredly on her bed. She knew that she should be preparing to leave but she couldn't find the energy. She stared out the window at the fluffy white clouds drifting through the bright afternoon sky. When she was a child, she used to love days like this. She would spend hours staring at the shapes that the billowy clouds made and imagine the shapes that they resembled.
She couldn't do that anymore. Her life had been turned upside down and, at times, she felt like she was spinning in an uncontrolled spiral and she wasn't sure if or when it would stop.
She thought about how she had gotten here and she realized that Edward was the bane of her existence. Everything that was going on started with him and, unfortunately, had to end with him and she was going to be leaving soon to go to him.
Bella bit her lip and sighed. She really didn't want to see him. Although her body craved to be near him and reacted in an embarrassing way to him, she was beginning to hate him.
Forcing herself up, she walked over and picked up her bags. She didn't have a lot of clothes with her, just the articles that Alice had shoved into the duffel before leaving. She looked around the room one last time to make sure that she hadn't forgotten anything and left the room.
Carlisle, Esme, Alice and Jasper were all waiting for her at the bottom of the stairs. Everyone had the same look of resolution on their beautiful faces except for Alice. She was looking down and playing with the bottom of her shirt. She appeared nervous and twitchy, and Bella had to fight the urge to ask her what was wrong. She knew whatever it was, she wasn't going to tell her now, in front of everyone.
"Bella, you and Jasper are going to drive," Carlisle said. "The rest of us are going to take the portal. We're hoping that Edward will allow us to talk to him before you get there."
Bella just nodded. She knew that there was nothing she could say. All of the decisions had been taking away from her over the last few days. She thought about her life before and regretted not being more of a part of it. She had choices then, and had thrown them all away. Now she missed them and regretted her actions before.
Esme walked over to her and gave her a quick hug.
"It'll be okay," she whispered. "You'll see."
"Yeah," Bella replied. There was no point in sharing her misgivings about all of this. She was going to change into something and the next thirty six hours or so would decide what she would spend the rest of her life as. Yep, she thought to herself. No reason to panic.
"We'll be waiting for you guys," Carlisle said more to Jasper than to Bella. "Be safe."
Alice never looked up and Bella wanted to run to her and find out what was wrong. Alice had put her life on the line for her and now she wouldn't even look at her. Something was definitely going on.
The three of them left.
Jasper took Bella's bags away from her and took them outside. She didn't see where he took them and she didn't move. Only a moment later he returned.
"Why don't you sit down," Jasper said and gestured to the couch in the other room. "We're not supposed to leave for another couple of hours."
"Why?" Bella asked walking toward the couch and plopping down. "They'll get there momentarily and it will take us a lot longer driving."
"They want to make sure we're still here when they arrive," Jasper explained. "We're not sure how tuned Edward is to you now. It will be better if he doesn't immediately suspect that we're following."
Bella thought about this for a minute and frowned.
"Jasper," she began slowly. "What would happen if you just transitioned me and we said to hell with Edward?"
Jasper looked at her with a curious gaze and then slowly sat next to her, so close that she could feel the heat from his body. The proximity made her uncomfortable and she wondered why he had chosen to sit so close.
"Bella," he said as he gazed into her eyes. "I don't know if I even could. You're not like other fledglings."
"But could we try?" She was hoping that if they could, she could avoid the entire Edward issue.
"I don't think that's a good idea."
Jasper continued to stare at her and Bella wondered what was going on in his head. She was afraid to ask though, so she instead broke his gaze and stared at the floor.
She felt Jasper sigh and relax back into the couch. She was a more than a little shocked when Jaspers hand clasped hers and held it. She risked looking back at him and involuntarily smiled when she saw tat his head was leaned back against the couch with his eyes closed. He looked very young to her in that moment.
Jasper must have sensed her gaze because he slowly turned his head and opened his eyes. He brought his free hand up and cupped her face gently. Bella didn't move.
"Bella," he whispered. "Don't you think that if I thought that I could get you through your transition without Edward, that I would?"
"I…uh…I….don't know," Bella stammered. She was surprised by the intensity of his eyes and a little scared at the meaning behind his words.
"If I knew that I wasn't risking you, I would do it," he continued. His head dipped slightly closer to her. "I would take you through the transition this minute."
Then he kissed her. His kiss was soft and sweet. Without thinking, she kissed him back. Her lips parted and Jasper's kiss became deeper. He released her hand and pulled her closer to him and Bella could feel the heat of his body against her.
Instinctly, she ran her hand through his hair and rested her finger tips on the back of his neck. She heard him moan and began to feel her pulse quicken. She had only kissed a few boys in her life and all of them had been before her father's death, but Jasper was not a inexperience teenager. He was a man who had seen more than a few years and knew how to kiss. He knew how to hold her.
He ran his hand down her back and stopped at her waist. His hands twisted the bottom of her tank top. His lips left her mouth and Jasper trailed kissed along her jaw and onto her neck. She could feel his mouth on her neck and, suddenly, an image of the previous night flickered through her mind. The image of another man at her neck.
"Jasper," she said breathlessly. "Stop, please."
He slowly released her but didn't lift his head. Instead he buried his face into her neck.
"I'm sorry," he whispered and the feel of his breath on her skin caused her to shiver. "I shouldn't have done that."
Bella didn't say anything. Instead, she moved away so that his head was no longer on her shoulder. She looked up at him and saw regret in his eyes.
"No, I'm sorry," she said feeling guilty about the look on his face. "I just…."
"You don't need to explain. I can feel the bond you share with him."
"No," Bella said quickly. "That's not it. It's just…"
But the words trailed off. She really didn't know what it was. Jasper was right, she was strangely bonded to Edward, but she wasn't sure that she wanted to be. The man had destroyed her life.
There was nothing said between the two of them. Each was lost in in their own thoughts. Bella was confused. She had felt her body react to Jasper's kiss, but before now, she had never even considered him as a potential boyfriend. As she thought about it, she realized that she could easily allow herself to like him and that scared her.
On the other hand, there was Edward. She didn't particularly like him, but her body said otherwise. No man had ever made her feel like she did when she was with him, and her reaction to him scared her.
With a deep sigh, she chastised herself for letting herself think about this. She was in no position to get involved with anyone.
Jasper broke the silence and Bella's mental babble.
"Well," he started. "At least you know that you have options."
The tone in his voice broke Bella's heart. He was trying to be light hearted, but it came out strained and curt. She was disturbed. She had not seen Jasper like this before. He was always so confident and aloof. Now, he was almost vulnerable.
"I'm going to get something to drink. Want something?" She had to get up and move. Sitting here, close to him, was not helping her clear her mind and she was determined to put this behind them. They had a long trip ahead of them and she needed a few minutes to gather her thoughts.
"No, thanks," he said. Bella got up and went to the kitchen and retrieved a bottle of water. She stood in the kitchen longer than necessary and finished half of the bottle. When she went back to the living room Jasper was gone.
"Jasper?" Bella called but didn't get an answer.
Shrugging her shoulders, she sat down on the couch, leaned her head back and closed her eyes.
She didn't fall asleep, but she did let her mind wander. Bella wasn't sure how long she sat like that when she heard the front door open and close again.
"Bella?" Jasper called to her.
She turned her head without lifting it.
"It's time to go," he said. "Carlisle just called. Everyone made it back."
"Does Edward know we are on the way?"
Jasper shrugged and looked away from her. "Carlisle didn't say. We'll know soon enough."
Bella slowly lifted herself off of the chair and ran her hands through her long hair.
"Alright then," she said moving toward Jasper. "Let's get this over with."
Bella was surprised to see that they were taking a sleek black Lincoln town car. The ride was smooth and the miles flew by in silence. Jasper seemed distracted and Bella didn't want to start a conversation in fear of where it would lead.
After a few hours in the vehicle, Bella dared to speak.
"Jasper," she said quietly. "Where exactly is Carlisle's house?"
Jasper looked at her in surprise and Bella thought that he must have assumed that she knew where they were going.
"Kansas," he replied.
That at least explained the lack of trees around the house. Bella stared out the window. There wasn't much to see. The sun had fallen and the night sky didn't illuminate much. Jasper took a similar route as Edward had, avoiding any towns or real civilization. The landscape was barren and Bella assumed that there must have been a lot of farms in this area.
"Bella, you should sleep."
"What?" Bella hadn't been paying attention.
"I said, that you should sleep."
As much as Bella wanted to argue and tell him that she wasn't tired, she didn't. Her gut was telling her that things were going to get really stressful soon. Curling up in the seat, with her face toward the window, she forced herself to get some sleep.
Bella awoke as Jasper was pulling into the long driveway that led to the house. Wiping the sleep from her eyes, she saw the rolling hills and the small pond that she had discovered her gift at. The sun was coming up and she was surprised that she had slept the entire way.
After a moment of confusion, Bella realized that she was parched. Her throat was dry and gritty and she craved something to wet it. Sitting up she reached for a bottle of water and took a long drink. A few gulps in, her throat seemed to close up and she began coughing and sputtering the little bit that she had gotten down back up.
"Are you okay?" Bella saw the concern in his eyes as Jasper asked.
"I'm fine," she finally gasped, ending the coughing fit. Her throat was still dry and it made her voice hoarse. "Must have went down wrong."
Jasper frowned at her explanation as they rounded the last curve before reaching the house. Bella thought that it was strange that she had not picked up anything from Edward, and was worried that maybe he had bolted again.
As the car engine quieted, Bella opened the door and got out, gratefully stretching her body. Jasper came up behind her and they walked together towards the house. As Jasper reached for the door, it opened and Carlisle was in the doorway with a big smile.
"Any problems?" he asked.
"Not one," Jasper responded back. "What about here?"
Carlisle's eyes flickered for a moment and then steadied. "Everything's under control."
Jasper and Bella walked into the house and Carlisle closed the door behind them. Bella was surprised that everything was exactly the same. Even though she had only been gone for a couple of days, she had expected to see some change in the place, but everything was as it was when she left.
"How's Edward?" she dared to ask.
"He's fine," Carlisle responded flatly. "He's up with Alice right now. I'll call up and tell them that you're here."
"No," Bella said quickly. "That's okay. You don't need to bother them."
Carlisle raised his eyebrows but didn't comment. Bella didn't wait for any more. She headed to the staircase and took them up to her former room. She knew that eventually, she would have to face him and make a decision about her future path, but she wasn't ready for that yet.
Reaching her room, she stepped in and shut the door. Walking over to the bed, she flopped down onto the bed face down. She let herself cry. She cried for what she was becoming, for what she was. She cried for her mom, dad and sister. She even cried for Mike Newton. She clenched her hands into fists and raised them over her head to shelter her already hidden face. She felt her nails bite into her palms, but didn't care.
She laid there sobbing until her body was spent and her chest was sore. Her breath came in short pants and ever draw of air burned her lungs. Lifting her head up to allow for more air to come in, she caught sight of the tear stained pillow top. It was red. Blood red.
She wiped her arm across her face and looked at her arm. The moisture was tinged pink and she cold smell the metallic odor that identified what was happening. Sucking in a deep breath, she let out a pierced scream.