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Chapter 15: Reunion
Deep in the forest, high up on a branch, I stalked a mountain lioness as she in turn stalked her prey, a squirrel of all things. I paused, watching the cat twitch her tail in preparation, as the wind changed direction, to send my scent washing over her.
She spun around hissing, and then growled a warning at me. For some strange reason, out of all the animals in the forest, I could understand carnivores. Just the meat-eaters, though, though I could just understand deer slightly, but nothing else. It was weird, but helpful, to me at least, when I hunted.
What are you doing! Get away! The cat hissed out this warning as she swiped her hooked claws at me. I shrunk down lower, before I pounced, just like this lioness was about to. I tackled her off the branch and we tumbled down to the forest floor.
I found my meal at her throat which I sunk my teeth into, as I began to feed on the slightly appetising feast. She struggled widely and I held her still as her teeth struggled to find purchase at my neck, and her claws at my arms and chest. Soon her shrieks and struggles ceased, and she fell silent as the only sound was of me feeding on her hot, wet blood.
Finally, she was drained and I buried the body quickly, while I wiped my face with my shirt. Everyone teased that I was a messy eater, kind of like Emmett. I often returned from hunting trips with bloodstained and torn clothing. The ones that were unrepairable, I threw out and Alice took great pleasure in buying me more. She was such a good sister.
I brushed the dirt off my plain black tee with a silver patter running down the front, looking like a great shining dragon, before I inspected the damage. A few tears in the design but no great big rips. I said a prayer of thanks; this was one of my favourites.
I sniffed, and tried to pick up Alice’s scent. I found it and set off at a run to the north, before I found Alice confronting a giant black bear.
I found it quite amusing that such a tiny pixie could not be the least be fazed by a monstrous black bear as it towered over her. Her eyes were almost golden – I knew if she fed on the bear there would be some left over.
So I darted to her side and grinned as the bear roared unhappily and swiped with a massive paw at us both. I caught it in a hand easily and threw it back, sending the bear off balance and to be tackled by Alice who sunk her teeth into its hairy throat.
They crashed to the ground in a flurry of fur, leaves and limbs, as Alice began to drink. I wandered to her side, and picked up a forearm and sunk my teeth into the vein, feeding on the fallen bear we shared.
Usually, when my kind is hunting, we don’t share, vegetarian or not. If there is a limited source of food then yes but by normal standards, no, we don’t. But, my family has learnt to share. We must hunt carefully to keep a steady rate of both carnivores and vegetarian prey in supply.
Depending on how thirsty you are an elk, moose or bear can feed at least two of us. We can have one to ourselves first, if you’re dead thirsty and of course, no one is stupid enough to try and share another vampire’s first feed of the fortnight when they’re desperately thirsty. It was just plain foolish.
But Alice knew that she couldn’t consume the bear in one go by herself without being completely uncomfortable. So that’s why she let me help, and to not throw me at against tree or to snarl a warning. She was kind and considerate, and had some humanity in her to keep some manners with her while she hunted. Not me though; I once threw Emmett into a boulder when he wandered too close to my grizzly. I was rather overprotective of my food; Jasper had found that out on my very first hunt,
She finished first and waited patiently for me. I released my teeth from the furry limb and rose from my crouched position as Alice effortlessly lifted the bear over her tiny shoulder. Together, we disposed of the corpse easily by hiding it in some thick scrub.
And then we began to run back, without speaking once. We had gone home beforehand to find some clothes and we had left them in bags in a tree near the edge of Bella Swan’s lawn.
Alice was inside first and into the living room, to sit on the makeshift bed that she wouldn’t need. I followed in to see that Bella had made one up for me as well, but on one of the armchairs. A tiny glimmer of hope that she was trying to accept me as a friend sparked up inside of me. Was she being friendly or just humouring me?
I heard Bella scoff down her dinner in a rush, gulping down a few gallons of milk, before she came into the room.
Alice patted her pillow as I sank into the armchair. “Thanks,” she said.
“You’re early,” Bella stated, her face lighting up and her voice adopting an elated tone.
She sat down next to Alice and leant against her. My sister sighed and hugged Bella to her. I moved to sit down on their other side, leaning back against the couch.
“Bella. What are we going to do with you?” Alice sighed.
“I don’t know,” Bella admitted. “I really have been trying my hardest.”
“I believe you.”
“We believe you,” I corrected in a hard voice. “I believe you as well Bella.”
Bella seemed surprised that I believed her. She fell silent until she worked up the courage to talk again.
“Does – does he…” She took a deep breath. “Does Edward know you’re here?” She gave a shiver and kept breathing out loud raspy breaths. Damn you Edward, I wish you could see what the hell you have done to her!
“No,” Alice and I answered at the same time, and in the same flat, unhappy voice. She, like me, was still angry at him. She hadn’t seen what I had seen, physically, but she knew enough.
Bella kept talking. “He’s not with Carlisle and Esme?”
“He checks in every few months.”
“Oh.” Bella paused as she gathered her thoughts. “You said you flew here… Where did you come from?”
“We were in Denali. Visiting Tanya’s family. Shayla drove while I flew. She’s a speed demon when it comes to that car.” I snorted at this remark.
“Is Jasper here? Did he come with you?”
Alice shook her head. “No, it’s just us. He didn’t approve of my interfering… We promised….” She trailed off and then her tone of voice changed. “And you think Charlie won’t mind me being here?”
“Charlie thinks your wonderful, Alice.” She turned her head to me. “I don’t think he’s ever met you Shayla.”
I shook my head. “No, never. I hope he approves.”
“Well, we’re about to find out,” Alice said, glancing towards the door.
I pricked my ears and cocked my head to the side, as a car pulled up outside. Bella jumped up and hurried to the door to open it and go outside. I heard her and Charlie converse in muffled tone about Harry before Bella spoke again. “Um, Dad? You’ll never guess who’s here.”
Alice and I moved closer to the door, still out of sight. She moved into the doorway before I did and spoke first. “Hi Charlie,” she greeted in a subdued voice. “I’m sorry we came at a bad time.”
From my place behind Alice, I could see him peer at Alice expectantly, as though he expected someone other then the tiny girl in front of me. “Alice Cullen?” he asked, bewildered. Apparently he had a soft spot for Alice, even calling her an angel at times. “Alice, is that you?”
“It’s me,” she confirmed. “I was in the neighbourhood.”
“Is Carlisle…?” he asked, trailing off. I knew he wasn’t talking about Carlisle really.
“No, it’s just my sister and I.”
“Your sister?” he glanced around and I decided it was my turn to show my face around him.
I stepped out into his view line. “Hello Chief Swan. My name is Shayla; I’m Alice’s younger sister.”
He blinked confused. “I didn’t know Dr Cullen had a kid…”
“He didn’t, I’m adopted as well. He took me in when I was thirteen. I got sent to boarding school in Australia for two years when I turned fourteen and I returned around last year sometime. So… yeah.”
Yep, that was my cover story for being away. Apparently I was a ‘difficult child’ because my parents had died young and my previous foster parents were drug addicts and did a lot of other criminal behaviour. The best option was either sending me to boarding school or to be put medication. Since Esme didn’t want me on drugs and Carlisle didn’t believe that they would work (of course not, I can’t eat), they sent me away. But when I came back, I was a changed girl and have had no problems since. Well, no ‘human’ problems.
“They can both stay here, can’t they?” Bella suddenly asked, almost pleading. “I’ve already asked them.”
Charlie looked uncertain but then he answered mechanically, “Of course. We’d love to have you both.”
“Thank you Charlie,” Alice answered for us both. “I know it’s horrid timing.”
“No, it’s fine, really. I’m going to be really busy doing what I for Harry’s family; it will be nice for Bella to have some company.”
“There’s dinner on the table for you Dad,” Bella informed him next, and he murmured a thank you, before he shuffled towards the kitchen.
We went back to the couch and Alice pulled Bella towards her shoulder. “You look tired,” she stated, not asking, but stating a very obvious fact. Bella had faint shadows underneath, like she was a vampire who had just fed, but still slightly thirsty.
“Yeah,” Bella agreed, shrugging. “Near-death experiences do that to me… So, what does Carlisle think of you being here?”
I sniggered quietly. Alice shot me a ‘shut-up-and-behave’ look before she answered Bella. “He doesn’t know. He and Esme were on a hunting trip. I’ll hear from him in a few days, when he gets back.”
“You won’t tell him though… when he checks in again?” Bella wasn’t talking about Carlisle now, Alice and I knew that.
“No. He’d bite my head off,” Alice replied grimly. I grimaced at the thought. Edward defiantly would not be happy about this.
Bella laughed once, a quick, short laugh, before she sighed and lay back onto Alice’s shoulder. She shut her eyes, and eventually, she drifted herself to sleep.
I knew I had to pretend to sleep so Charlie wouldn’t think that it was odd that Bella’s two closest non-human friends did not sleep. So I snuggled down into the makeshift bed and closed my eyes.
It was for a fair few hours I sat there, just sat there, before the sun rose from behind the horizon. I peeked a little and tilted my head listening, but there were no sounds of life in the house apart from Bella’s now peaceful sleep and Charlie’s snore. Huh, guess he wasn’t the ‘Wake up at the crack of dawn’ person.
But a few hours later, he did wake up and peeked into the living room before he called out softly to us, whispering our names and when I poked my head u expectedly, he asked me if I wanted breakfast. I nodded, not seeing another option, and followed him into the kitchen, poking Alice as she slid from Bella’s hold to follow us.
While the chief went out to tack the trash out, Bella gave me a quick demo on how to hide and eat human food. All I had to do was to chew it as much as possible so it was almost liquefied, and then swallow it. Sure, it would be thrown up later but that was tough luck. I had no other option. Alice on the other hand was an expert on hiding human food in other places, so she wouldn’t have to empty her stomach later. I knew that she had the better option but I took the easy way out.
It was bacon and eggs for breakfast, or just bacon for me, after I told Charlie I wasn’t fond of eggs. He smiled slightly, and told us he wasn’t either but Bella apparently loved them. I smiled back and tucked in.
It was gross, swallowing the bacon as he talked to Alice. When they got onto the subject of Bella, I listened eagerly.
“How bad was it, Charlie?” Alice asked softly.
Charlie sighed. “Real bad.”
“Tell me about it. I want to know exactly what happened after we left.
Charlie paused as he got up to shut a cupboard door, and to switch off a dial on the stove.
“I’ve never felt so helpless,” he began slowly. “I didn’t know what to do. That first week – I thought I was going have to hospitalize her. She wouldn’t eat or drink, she wouldn’t move. Dr Gerandy was throwing around words like ‘catatonic,’ but I didn’t let him up to see her I thought it would scare her.”
“She snapped out of it though?”
“I had Renee come to take her to Florida. I just didn’t want to be the one… if she had to go to a hospital or something. I hoped being with her mother would help. But when we started packing her clothes, she woke with a vengeance. I’ve never seen Bella throw a fit like that. She was never one for tantrums, but, boy, did she fly into a fury. She threw her clothes everywhere and screaming that we couldn’t make her leave – and then she finally started crying. I thought that would be the turning point. I didn’t argue when she insisted on staying here… and she did seem to get better at first…”
He trailed off and it was obvious how much this pained him to talk about this. In the other room, I heard Bella shift and her breathing sped up. Ah, she must be awake now and, knowing her, probably listening to our conversation.
“But?” Alice prompted, allowing Charlie to resume his previous talk.
“She went back to school and work, she ate and slept and did her homework. She answered when someone asked her a direct question. But she was... empty. Her eyes were blank. There were lots of little things – she wouldn’t listen to music anymore; I found a whole heap of CDs broken in the trash. She didn’t read; she wouldn’t be in the same room when the TV was on, not that she watched it much before. I finally figured it out – she was avoiding everything that might reminder of… him.
“We could hardly talk; I was so worried about saying something that would upset her – the littlest things would make her flinch – and she never volunteered anything. She would just answer if I asked her something.
“She was alone all the time. She didn’t call her friends back and after a while, they stopped calling.
“It was the night of the living dead around here. I still hear her screaming in her sleep…”
He gave a shudder and I realised. Bella hadn’t fooled him. He knew what was happening, the screaming, the nightmares... I shuddered too before I heard Bella sigh sadly.
“I’m so sorry Charlie,” Alice said back glumly.
“Me too,” I agreed as I pushed my plate forward, unable to swallow any of the nasty stuff down anymore.
“It’s not your fault girls.” The way he said made it clear who was responsible. My dumb, idiotic brother. “You, Alice, were always a good friend to her. And Shayla, I don’t know you all too well but you’re a good kid and perhaps even a better friend to my girl. Not too many around these days. Stay like that.”
“Thank you Chief.” I nodded my head respectively.
“She seems better now though,” Alice resumed the previous conversation.
“Yeah. Ever since she started hanging out with Jacob Black, I noticed a real improvement. She has some colour in her cheeks when she comes home, some light in her eyes. She’s happier.” He paused and his voice was different, almost with a proud tone in it. “He’s a year or so younger then her, and I know she used to think of it as a friend, but I think it’s something more now, or headed that direction anyway.” Charlie said this in a tone almost belligerent. It was a warning, not for us, but for us to both pass along. “Jake’s old for his years,” he continued on, sounding kind of like he was bragging and he was getting defensive as well. “He’s taken care of his father physically the way Bella took care of her mother emotionally. It matured him. He’s a good-looking kid too – take’s after his Mom’s side. He’s good for Bella you know,” he insisted.
“Then it’s good she has him,” Alice agreed. I nodded my head when Charlie eyes me warningly, as though I didn’t agree. If Jacob made Bella happy, who was I to stand in their way?
Charlie sighed and let out a big gush of air. “Okay, so I guess that’s overstating things. I don’t know… even with Jacob, now and then I see something in her eyes, and I wonder if I’ve ever grasped how much pain she’s really in. It’s not normal, Alice, and it… it frightens me. Not normal at all. Not like someone… left her, but liked someone died.” His voice cracked a little but he held on to keep talking, in a hopeless tone.
“I don’t know if she’s going to get over it – I’m not sure if it’s in her nature to heal from something like this. She’s always been such a constant little thing. She doesn’t get past things, change her mind.”
“She’s one of a kind,” Alice agreed.
“And Alice …” Charlie hesitated, speaking only to Alice for a moment. “Now, you know how fond I am of you, and I can tell that she’s happy to see you, but… I’m a little worried about what your visit will do to her.”
“So am I, Charlie, so am I. We wouldn’t have come back if we’d had any idea. I’m so sorry.”
“Don’t apologise honey. Who know? Maybe it’ll be good for her.”
“I hope you’re right.”
There was a long silence as Charlie ate and Alice ‘ate’ as well. Forks scraped against plates, and while Charlie chewed nosily.
“Girls, I have to ask you something,” Charlie said awkwardly.
I tilted my head, confused, but Alice was calm. “Go ahead.”
“He’s not coming back to visit, too, is he?” Charlie had suppressed anger in his voice as he made it perfectly clear who he meant.
I hid my anger at Charlie very well while Alice answered him, in the most calm and reassuring voice that she could. “He doesn’t know I’m here. The last time I spoke to him, he was in South America.”
“That’s something at least,” Charlie snorted. “Well, I hope he’s enjoying himself.”
I narrowed my eyes at this accusation and for the first time, Alice’s voice gained a bit of steel in it. “I wouldn’t make assumptions Charlie.” Her eyes flashed when she used that tone.
Charlie scooted back on his chair, making a horrible scraping noise, as he took the plates to wash in the sink.
In the other room, Bella ‘woke up’. I grinned at Alice. We both knew she was listening. “Alice, Shayla?” she called in a raspy voice.
“We’re in here Bella,” Alice called, adding no hint in her voice that we had heard her eavesdropping.
Charlie left then to arrange the funeral but we stayed another day, talking to Bella about our family, about all but one. We explained where we were living now, what we were doing, and Alice explained about her past. And then after a brief pause, we talked about the spring break and kept on talking until Charlie returned, just after dark. We ‘slept’ in the living room again.
The next morning, Charlie tiptoes down the stairs, wearing an old suit that was too small for him, as the jacket hung open and was perhaps a little tight. The tie was a little out of style too. I could tell Alice and Bella were also awake and we let him go.
As soon he was gone, Alice sat up, fully dressed like me. “So, what are we doing today?” she asked.
“Yeah, what’s on the agenda for today?” I asked too in a teasing voice. “Is it going to be bungee jumping, kayaking or sky-diving?”
Bella laughed in time with me before she told us that she had some chores to do, since she has been neglecting them in order to spend more at La Push.
While she worked, we talked some more. While Bella started with the bathroom, Alice leant against the doorjamb and asked question about her, or rather, our high school friends. Her face and voice sounded casual but she disapproved of how little Bella could tell of them.
When Bella was scrubbing the bathtub, the doorbell rang. Alice jumped, surprised and a little worried judging by her expression. Hang on, Alice was never surprised.
“Hold on!” Bella shouted as she got up to rinse her arms off.
“Bella,” Alice suddenly said, slightly frustrated. “I have a fairly good guess who that might be, and I think we’d better step out.”
“Guess?” Bella echoed, slightly confused.
“If this is a repeat of my egregious lapse in foresight yesterday, then it’s most likely Jacob Black or one of his…”
“Mongrel friends,” I finished.
Bella stared. “You can’t see werewolves?”
Alice grimaced. “So it would seem.” Alice was annoyed by this fact, very, very annoyed.
The doorbell rang again, buzzing quickly and impatiently.
“You don’t have to go anywhere, Shayla and Alice. You were both here first.”
We laughed darkly. “Trust us Bella; it wouldn’t be a good idea to have me, Shayla and Jacob Black in a room together.
And then, after Alice kissed Bella’s cheek and I gave her a one-armed hug, we vanished out of Charlie’s back window.
The doorbell rang once again.