Chapter Three: Trouble
"Well, the good news is they're not going to arrest me for kidnapping," Jacob said. Though his voice held a joking tone, Ness wouldn't have put it past her father to do such a thing. She'd listened in on his conversation with Alice and it more or less went as she expected: her parents were furious that Ness and Jacob visited Renee.
They were expected to come home immediately. Ness would still be allowed to have her birthday, but after that she was "grounded", whatever that meant.
"It just means you can't do anything fun," Jacob translated.
The two of them were sitting in the spare room Renee insisted they take. It was intended for Bella when she visited; it made Ness glad they came seeing all the effort Renee put into the furniture and decorations that would have suited Bella's taste. It was too bad Bella herself would probably never see it.
"Fun like what?" Ness asked, frowning. She had known her parents would be against her coming here, but didn't expect them to react this strongly. Ness couldn't imagine how they would feel if they knew what else she and Jacob were planning.
"Alice is threatening to join us on all our hunts for now on," Jacob warned her. "And Bella may try to murder me again, imprint bond or no."
Ness clenched her hands together to keep them from breaking anything in the room. She remembered vaguely how tense everyone was when Jacob brought Charlie in to see Bella after her transformation. It was a risk, but the reward was Ness having her maternal grandfather in her life. Why couldn't the same apply to her grandmother? It didn't seem fair.
She heard Renee approach their door; Renee knocked before letting herself inside. "I'm sorry we only have the one extra bed, Jacob," she apologized, "but Phil and I will make the couch as comfortable as possible for you. Ness, here are the coloring books I promised." Renee held out a small stack of flimsy-looking books and a case of colored pencils.
Ness flipped through the pages curiously. Some of them looked fairly standard- cars, dinosaurs, horses and so forth- while others had such distinct drawings that they had to be from popular television shows and movies. She lifted her eyes and managed a "thank you".
"You're welcome," Renee beamed. "I was thinking after we eat I could take you to the pool. Would you like that?"
"She's so polite!" Renee gushed to Jacob. "All right, you two. Get cleaned up. I hope you like fish, because we're eating tuna melt nachos!"
Fish was actually one of the first human foods Ness learned to eat; her grandfather often had it for his meals, and she'd been curious what it tasted like. One bite from Renee's fish was enough for Ness to tell this wasn't fresh. That made eating it a little more difficult, but she managed, taking frequent sips of milk that Renee had poured for her.
While they ate, Renee peppered Jacob with questions about his senior year and what other colleges he was scouting. He hadn't actually been to school since Ness was born, but he was working on his GED, which was what he told Renee.
"As for colleges, I'm kind of looking all over the place. I don't really have anywhere specific in mind. I might even take a year off to do some traveling."
"Ness," Renee continued, turning to the girl, "are you excited to start first grade? My classes are always a little scared and a little excited at the same time."
"Yes," Ness agreed, "that's how I feel." Though the feelings had nothing to do with school.
Renee continued to pepper her with questions as they ate. Ness tried to answer truthfully as much as she could. It was a good distraction from the food. She saved up her own questions for when the meal was over. Mostly she watched, noting how different Renee and Phil's dynamic was from her parents'. Phil cleared the table when they were finished while Renee went to get towels for their trip to the pool. Ness knew about pools from her preparations with Jacob, but she knew it would be different being there in the flesh.
Renee insisted on helping Ness put on a lotion called "sun screen". Ness noted how humans had so many more steps to accomplish things than vampires, but they had a certain freedom that vampires lacked. Going out during a cloudless day, for example.
At the pool, she saw so many different shapes and sizes of humans. Some were swimming, some laying out in the sun, all looking content despite their short life spans. A group of children invited Ness to play a game called Marco Polo. She already knew how that worked thanks to Jacob and quickly won the awe of the others. Ness was surprised when Renee said it was time to get back to the house. Phil bought them all ice cream- to cool them off, he claimed- and while she ate hers, Ness communicated silently with Jacob about what they were going to do next.
Her parents never threatened to restrict her before. Even when the Volturi were a threat, she had the freedom to hunt and visit Charlie. Were they really going to supervise her every move when she came back? Jacob didn't respond to her worries and questions with words, but Ness could read his face well enough to know what he was thinking.
Which was why, when they had a moment alone again, they both had the same solution: "Let's not go back."
Ness couldn't even imagine the response to that, but she and Jacob already planned out so much. They both wanted to see this all the way through, both for themselves and for each other. The only problem was they would have to lie to Renee again, and Ness hated doing it after finally meeting the woman.
She could at least give her grandmother one bit of truth, though. As they were leaving, she hugged Renee as tight as she dared and whispered, "I love you."
The declaration stunned the older woman for a moment. Then her mouth pulled into a huge smile. "I love you, too. Come back and see me soon."
Ness knew promising that was an extremely bad idea. She would hurt Renee's feelings if she never kept it, and if she did come back she would look far older than she should. But when Renee looked at her with those kind eyes, Ness couldn't help but nod.