Chapter 32: Assorted Truths – Bella's point of view

"Just as much as we see in others we have in ourselves. " (William Hazlitt)

I simply couldn't believe the nerve of that boy to talk to me about all of this again. As if he had any business to poke his pale nose into my relationship with Jake or with any of the kind and considerate people I got to know in La Push. I couldn't exactly count Quil in that number any more, but even his behavior would never be reason enough for me to shy away from a whole village which I had spent the major part of my childhood in. I had deserted them once before and now there was nothing short of a lightning bolt striking me down that would get me to do so again. As I stomped to my truck after the last class that day, I was fuming.

Edward's arrogant and belittling attitude had proven my point: He would never tell me anything about his family if he could help it.

I had to dig for information elsewhere. One source of information could be the tribe's legends, if they really were about the Cullens in some twisted way. Another could be his siblings. They seemed to be more reasonable than him, so maybe I could try asking one of them.

Yes, I was going to do that first thing tomorrow, I resolved as I drove off the parking lot a little faster than was necessary. I usually wasn't a very temperamental person but maybe this was just another part to discovering myself and getting what I wanted.

The first victim of my curiosity would obviously have to be Jasper. I knew him the best-though that was hardly much-and he seemed to be more open-minded than his bronze-haired brother.

On Saturday I gate-crashed the Black's family gathering just as I had previously announced to Jacob. I hadn't seen Rachel in far too long and if I didn't get over my fears of seeing her again maybe I never would.

Thankfully, seeing her again wasn't awkward at all .

When I rung the bell on the front door, Jake opened and hugged me to him before quietly pulling me inside the house.

He grabbed my hand and I followed him silently into the kitchen. As the kitchen wasn't separated by a wall and a door from the living room area, this was fairly easy to do. Rachel stood there with her back to us, working away on dinner while she was joking with a male who was hidden from sight by the stairs.

With as much stealth as we could muster we tip-toed up to her, signaling at the man now coming into sight to keep quiet. He nodded his head of brown hair and grinned at us. He seemed like a very friendly person and looked surprisingly exotic for someone who went to college in Washington State. I could imagine him surfing on some southern island, but not taking notes on math or languages.

But wasn't it Rebecca who was with the Hawaiian surfer?

I shook away my confusion, gave him a conspiratory smile and loudly cleared my throat just as I stood behind Rachel.

Rachel flinched and almost dropped the cutting knife, but caught herself. Even before she turned around she was yelling at me. "Leah Clearwater, some time between second grade and now it stopped being funny to..."

When she saw me standing before her with a huge, but apologetic smile on my face, her angry face dropped and quickly moved from one of confusion to surprise and then to elation. She kept that expression on as she fiercely hugged me. She didn't even notice that her younger brother still held my hand.

Later, we sat around the Blacks' big, round kitchen table and listened to each others' tales of the past years.

I had just finished telling them about my sunny years in Phoenix and about how much leaving had hurt me-it felt good to have told them all my side of the story so maybe they could forgive me-when Rachel officially introduced my to her boyfriend.

"While it was nice to know that I have reason to forgive you for your long absence from town, Bella, I also have quite the tale to tell. Your sneaking up to me- move had me so confused that I forgot to introduce my significant other. Bella, this is Akeela Finau, Akeela, this is my childhood friend Bella Swan."

We smiled at each other over the table and he winked at me.

"Finau? Isn't that the same last name as Rebecca's husband? Are you from Hawai too?" I asked Akeela.

He smiled at my question - he had probably already answered it quite a few times over the course of the few hours he had spent in La Push since his arrival -and patiently explained. "We're distant relatives, actually, but that tends to happen on an island. His grandfather's cousin is my grandfather. We sometimes see each other at family gatherings. While he is a surfer I chose to leave Hawai to study literature on the continent. The world is just a big village, after all."

"Do you miss the sun?" I immediately had to know.

"Yes, sometimes", he wistfully replied. "But it is worth the rain and the darkness", he said and shared a loving smile with Rachel.

"I can relate", I laughed.

"We met our second semester at university", Rachel continued to tell their tale. "He was sitting outside even though it should have been much too cold for anyone, let alone for someone who looks like he just walked off a beach. Akeela was reading a book with his wonderful nerdy reading glasses on under a tree in front of my dorm at Washington State. When I saw the calm on his face and his smile as he turned the pages of his old, worn book, I knew I was at home. He was so at ease with himself and his surroundings."

"I had actually stared at her quite a while before she noticed me sitting there", Akeela supplied and winked at Jacob. "I pretended to read when I saw her looking over and I had to smile because I caught her staring at me. Women. They think they are so subtle."

Rachel elbowed him softly in the ribs, but smiled at him. "I'm glad though, or we wouldn't have met."

"Yes, and I'm afraid that my move to ask you out wasn't all that smooth, either..."

Our laughter filled the house as Rachel and Akeela told us of their road to today. They would be staying for a few weeks while they wrote their term-papers and I was happy to get to know them. Rachel had changed so much since I had last seen her that she was a completely new person. And I wasn't the little girl with scraped-up knees anymore, either.

On Monday, it was time to carry out my plan to squeeze information out of Jasper. I knew that he was in my English class, but as it wasn't yet Tuesday I had to catch him between lessons or corner him after lunch.

My mission proved to be much easier than anticipated. When I walked to my locker before first hour I saw him and his girlfriend Alice standing by a locker just at the last corner before my own. They were talking quietly among themselves, but something seemed to be amiss. Alice's smile seemed a little strained and Jasper's shoulders were tensed. I hesitated for a while, not wanting to disturb them, but then Alice spotted me and greeted me over Jasper's shoulder.

"Hello, Bella", rang out her cheery voice as Jasper turned around. "It is nice to see you. How are you today?"

"I'm fine, thanks. You're okay, too?" I asked, expecting a polite lie that promptly followed.

"Yes, thank you. I will leave you two to talk." Alice smiled at me and abruptly left. I hadn't expected her to tell me what was wrong (we weren't friends at all, so why would she?), but her behavior confused me a little. Jasper squinted after her, as if trying to figure something out and then turned to me.

"I'm sorry, I didn't mean to disturb you two. I was about to leave, but I was already here, so here I am", I awkwardly apologized.

"It's fine, Bella", Jasper calmed me down. "It's just that somethin' is botherin' Alice and she won't tell me what it is."

He seemed genuinely worried about her and his voice sounded different. I placed my hand on his arm in sympathy. It was cold, as expected and I had to stop myself from asking him about it now.

"I'm sure she will come around. Us girls sometimes need to figure things out for ourselves before we feel comfortable discussing them with anyone. I'm convinced that it has nothing to do with you, I sometimes do the same. She'll talk to you on her own time."

Jasper sighed and smiled at me a little sadly. "Thanks for the pep-talk, I really hope that you're right. She's never been like this before. But on to other matters, I shouldn't bother you with this. "

"I came to find you because I was hoping to speak to you after school. It seems like you are the only one I could ask about this... I really need to ask you about something your brother said the other day. Edward won't talk to me with honesty and I don't really know your other siblings or your girlfriend. There's something I really need to know regarding your family." I tried to stay vague with my request so I wouldn't immediately scare him off.

"Sure, I was in fact waiting for you to come to me with your questions." He smiled at my puzzled expression and went on to explain.

"I am aware of what goes on in the other Cullens' lives. I figured if you really wanted to know you would eventually go look for information elsewhere than with Edward. It looks like I was right." He winked at me, then added. "Don't let him bother you, it's a wonder he talks to you at all. I'll meet you after school in front of the gym and we'll talk then."

"Thanks, Jasper. I know that I haven't really had a chance to get to know you all that well, but I really appreciate your straight-forward way of talking to me. It means a lot to me to go without twisted rhetoric."

We smiled at each other as the bell rang and we parted ways.

After my last class for the day, Housing and Interior Design, I rushed to pack my things and get to the gym. Usually I lingered after class and needed a long time to gather my things. I could really see myself starting a career as an architect after school and taking Interior Design and Physics in school was the closest I could get to this path right now.

While I waited for Jasper to arrive I fidgeted nervously. I absolutely couldn't mess up this conversation. I couldn't have another Cullen lie to me or try to placate me and I didn't want to risk the tentative friendship I felt I had built with Jasper over the course of the last few weeks.

I calmed down a little, though, as I saw Jasper sauntering over to me with a slight smile on his lips.

"Let's take a walk, shall we?" he offered and we left the building into the cold autumn air.

After a few minutes of aimless wandering I started to speak. "Edward said something the other day. He mentioned being able to read minds- everyone but my own. And he keeps telling me to stay away from him and from La Push. I'm curious about 90% of the things he says, but the mind-reading really irked me. Please don't be mad at me for I consider you to be something close to a friend, but I have to ask you: What is it that he won't tell me?" I felt better now that the dreaded question was out of the way. It was phrased open enough to allow any kind of answer and wasn't limited on any one kind of topic. Now I only had to wait, hope and maybe prod a little more.

"I think I will start by telling you a little bit about myself. If you should notice that I am leaving things out of the story, for I have no doubt that an observant person like you will see this, please accept it as it is for now. I don't mean to distrust you, but some things are simply not mine to share with anyone outside of the family." He briefly closed his eyes and then began to explain.

"I was born in Texas and had a quite happy childhood there. I was raised by my parents on a small farm together with my younger siblings, Anna and William. I had my own horse which I loved dearly and I used to ride around our land for hours. I helped arrange all our family's business deals even at a young age because I am able to accurately perceive others' emotions.

"One day I was fetched up by three female gang leaders. I was going to offer them directions for they seemed to be lost on our land one evening, but they attacked me as soon as I got off of my horse and took me with them. For the next years I only knew the terrors and bloodiness of the gang wars and I almost forgot the idyll that I was born into. That is, until Alice found me unsupervised one day. I had become valuable to the gang-leader because I had a way with other people, so her people hardly let me out of sight. This particular evening I had managed to get away to a local bar, though, and there she was waiting for me. She has a talent for knowing things and she knew where to find me...

"She convinced me that there was something other than the twisted games for power the gangs were playing and I went with her to the Cullens. I'm the newest addition to the family and sometimes it is hard on me to remember all that I have gone through in the past." He sighed and rubbed his temple.

"Do you all have a way of knowing unusual things? The way you described it, you know emotions, Alice knows where to find others and Edward really knows other people's thoughts?" I was flabbergasted. Was he trying to tell me that Edward had told me the truth?

Jasper only nodded in response and gave me a moment to mull over my previous conversations with Edward.

"But why can he not read my thoughts?"

"I'm not really sure about it. I have some trouble getting a read on you, as does Alice. It might be a talent of yours..." He genuinely seemed clueless. "Our talents go a little further than your description, though. Alice is what you might call a psychic, but only randomly. Edward is a mind-reader, but not on all people. I can see people's emotions and even reach out with my own", he struggled to explain.

"You see them?" I was surprised.

"Yes, it's like what the Buddhists call an aura. It is a little like a soft glow of light emitting from the people and even animals surrounding me. It shows me their emotional and physical state even when I close my eyes. I can push out my own radiating emotions to calm down birds, for example. It sounds a little crazy, but it really is a wonderful thing."

Jasper seemed a little anxious of my reaction. I hurried to reassure him.

"It does seem strange if you never heard about it, but I don't think you are crazy. My mom Renee went through a Buddhist phase once and dragged me along to yoga classes so I'm familiar with the concept of auras. Don't the colors symbolize the emotions?" He nodded. "I just never knew that people other than ascetic monks could see them. Wow. You really are a special lot!" I exclaimed.

After a moment of thought I had another question for him. "Can the others do stuff like that, too?"

He laughed at my excited expression. "No, not exactly, but they are very special people in their own way. Esme and Carlisle are overly compassionate and understanding and devoted to their family. Rose is beautiful and still able to repel any boy thinking of approaching her, have you noticed?" I smiled and nodded.

"And Emmett, you could have guessed, is just about the strongest guy you will ever meet."

He took a breath and then answered my unasked question. "That does not tell you all the answers you want, but it does help to sort this out a little. We are all special people with difficult pasts and therefore we don't really mingle with the other students so much. We fear the discovery of our abilities by the others and we have others to fear, like the gangs I escaped from. It is like being in a witness-protection-program. Most of us have died to their original families. Some of our last names and relations were changed and it is of the utmost importance that no one knows the complete truth about us. It would be dangerous to us and to the person with the knowledge. For the public, Rosalie is my twin-sister, although she is from New York. It is the reason why I had to drop my accent. And that is just one example of what we have to do every day to ensure everyone's safety.

"Edward is right about this- associating too closely with our family might prove fatal. I cannot tell you anymore without making a few phone-calls and talking to the family and I can't promise you if I will be successful. Don't count on it." He was very serious and completely honest with his words. His honey-colored eyes were boring intently into mine as he talked to me.

"It is very important that you understand this: You may under no circumstances talk to anyone about anything you noticed about us. We do not want to be in danger because of you and we don't want to endanger you or anyone else by dragging you into this. A slip-up would force us all to leave town and build new alibis for ourselves. There is almost no one besides you who knows about our secrets and we want to keep it that way. I trust you to protect our secret as though it were your own. The fact that you suspected anything of us was almost reason enough to make us leave before, so don't take this lightly. Only my assessment of your emotions and Alice's ability were what kept us here."

I gasped at this revelation. "I didn't want you to have to leave!"

"You did not know at the time and Edward did not handle this ideally." He offered me a small smile. "No use crying over spilled milk, I'm actually quite impressed with your ability to stand up to Edward."

"I'm still sorry about this. I understand that you couldn't and can't tell me everything about this and I promise to honor and keep your secrets", I vowed.

"Thank you. That is all I wanted to hear. Did you realize that this vow means includes not arguing publically with Edward anymore, though?"


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