chapter 15. PRESSURE
IT WAS SPRING BREAK IN FORKS AGAIN. WHEN I WOKE UP on Monday morning, I lay in lit for a few secondes absorbing that. Last spring break, I'd been hunted par 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 loups were on red alert.
When we walked along the plage 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 toi 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 a dit 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 loup things?" I asked him. "The heat, I mean."
"Yeah. We run a little warmer than the normal people. About one-oh-eight, one-oh-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 toi all heal fast—that's a loup thing, too?"
"Yeah, wanna see? It's pretty cool." His eyes flipped open and he grinned. He reached around me to the gant 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 couteau back where it belonged. "Fine. It's a good thing we heal, though. toi 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 toi get really upset ou 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. toi know what set me off? I got back from that movie and Billy a dit 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 toi miserable?"
"No, I'm not miserable," he told me. "Not anymore. Not now that toi know. That was hard, before." He leaned over so that his cheek was resting on haut, retour au début 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 a dit slowly. "Feeling like I can't be sure of myself—like maybe toi 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 ou 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 toi know is my seconde cousin."
"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 plus to toi than it would to someone else."
It did mean something to me. I couldn't imagine that—the loups 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 toi stand it, being around them? Didn't it creep toi out?"
"No," I a dit 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 toi 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 toi 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 toi 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 suivant 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.
"Yeah, almost. Tell me something else. Give me something else to think about."
"What do toi 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 loup 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, toi 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 toi 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 plus secrets.
He smoothed my hair. "It's okay, Bella, it's okay. I won't bring it up again. I'm sorry."
"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 par 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 l’espace at Billy's. I did some studying for another Calculus test that was coming up suivant 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 loup 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 l’amour 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 a dit 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 beach.
"No, you're not. I didn't have any plans. I don't think I like spring breaks, anyway."
"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 toi 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 toi 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, uncomprehending.
"Didn't I promise to take toi cliff diving?"
"Yeah, it'll be pretty cold—not as cold as it is today. Can toi feel the weather changing? The pressure? It will be warmer tomorrow. toi 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 situation.
"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 toi 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 suivant 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 rendez-vous amoureux, date with Jacob, a rendez-vous amoureux, 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 jour 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 cuisine table, eating cold cereal.
"Er, no." He set his spoon down, and his eyebrows pulled together.
"What happened?" I demanded. I could tell from his expression that something had.
"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 toi really like La Push so well that toi 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 toi think it is. Sam knows what he's doing. You're the one that toi 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 par the small room, claustrophobic, upset par the fact that I couldn't see out the curtained windows.
"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 animaux 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 Raiponce roots. I stared up at the angry sky broodingly, waiting for the first drops to break the stillness.
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 ou I wouldn't be able to function.
"Argh!" I groaned, and jumped off the log. I couldn't sit still; it was worse than pacing.
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 par 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 plus quickly now. It was eerie looking—like the clouds were moving par their own will. I shivered, though I knew it was just a trick of the pressure.
The cliffs were a black couteau edge against the livid sky. Staring at them, I remembered the jour 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 plus and plus intolerable par 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 ou 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 chercher 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 secondes 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 l’espace 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.
toi wanted me to be human, I reminded him. Well, watch me.
"Please. For me."
But toi 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 seconde jump of the day.
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 plus 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 par the size of the cliffs, par 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 par pulling me into halves. I knew the right way to avoid a riptide: swim parallel to the plage rather than struggling for the shore. But the knowledge did me little good when I didn't know which way the rive was.
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 oxygen.
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 par 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 toi 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 plus of just a dizziness now, a helpless spinning in the water.
But I listened to him. I forced my arms to continue reaching, my legs to kick harder, though every seconde 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, ou the cold, ou 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 toi 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 plus 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 or 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 plus 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 nuage 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 l’amour you, was my last thought.