15 Step is going to be posted chapter by chapter. I don't intend on it being too long but... we'll see. This story is Bella's POV. Everyone is a human. I did attempt to keep a decent amount of the original stories in this tale.
Disclaimers - The characters, naturally, are Stephenie Meyer's and I've just warped 'em a little to suit our, er, "needs." The titles of the chapters and anything in italics do not belong to me, either. The titles are actually song titles and the italicized bits are pieces of lyrics that I've pulled from songs.
And, this goes without saying, these stories are intended for mature, adult readers. Well, adult, at least. Eighteen and over only.
And thank you everyone for being so patient (and for the encouraging emails and comments reminding me that not ALL of you are all that patient).
Chapter Eight – Run, Devil, Run
Something changed in Edward after our fight. It was so imperceptible I didn’t even notice it at first. Occasionally I would catch him watching me with a curious expression, one that shifted between almost confused and something much darker, but it disappeared the moment he knew I was looking at him. The argument seemed to have awakened something--sparked a new emotion inside of him-- but I couldn’t be sure. I wasn’t even sure if it was a result of our fight or just the natural progression of our relationship. I just knew something was different.
And that’s what it was now: a relationship. In the weeks following our argument, we moved from ‘casually dating’ to ‘boyfriend and girlfriend’ seamlessly and unconsciously. Neither of us ever said anything about it and I didn’t want to admit that I wasn’t entirely comfortable with the change in status. I felt a little out of control, like I might lose myself in the situation.
I liked Edward. A lot. Even if I wanted to bail, to protect myself, I wasn’t so sure I would be able to anymore. I kept trying to reign myself in, remind myself to be careful. To keep myself safe. There was just something about us that seemed to just make sense, albeit abstractly but I still wasn't sure being with him was a good idea. Honey, I'm a prize and you're a catch/ and we're a perfect match/like two bitter strangers/ and now I see the long and short of it/ and I could make it last...
But I couldn't stay away.
I just wasn’t girlfriend material- it was a role I didn’t know how to play and the concept trampled all my self-imposed rules into the ground, yet I couldn’t stop myself. Edward was a strong force I felt drawn to, whether I wanted to or not. Despite my best efforts to keep my own struggle tucked neatly away, I sometimes wondered if he could my sense my uncertainty. There was a desperation to his kisses now, his caresses more demanding, almost possessive.
Every morning Edward would be waiting for me in the parking lot at school and we would walk to homeroom together. He seemed to have this need to touch me, whether it was pushing an errant lock of hair behind my ear or resting his hand against the small of my back as we walked. The public display of affection, no matter how subtle, was still vexing for me and I felt uneasy. But, when night fell and I was restless in my bed, I let my hands wander and remembered each and every one of Edward’s caresses until I finally drifted, happy and sated, to sleep.
Edward’s affections, unfortunately, also drew the attention of others to me. If Lauren and her clique hated me before, they definitely thirsted for my blood now. The first time we passed them in the hall Lauren’s jaw dropped and Jessica’s eyes narrowed to reptilian slits. I couldn’t help but give them a small smug smile every once in awhile. I tried not to think about how ironic it was that I was more worried about someone liking me than hating me.
Lauren Mallory and her ilk weren’t the only ones who disliked me. Edward insisted that I eat lunch with him and his friends, which included Rosalie. She vacillated between completely ignoring my presence to making snide comments, and it was all I could do to keep from lunging over the table and throttling her. Instead, I kept up my role of Edward's girlfriend and tried not to snarl at Rosalie often but sometimes it was just exhausting. It helped that everyone else seemed to be fine with me sitting with them and, while it was nice, I wished that I could have escaped to the familiar, comfortable confines of my truck instead.
“So, Bella, any exciting plans for the weekend?” Alice asked me one day as she nibbled delicately on a carrot stick. Her inky black hair was sticking out in every direction, shocking against her alabaster skin. Her boyfriend, Jasper, had his arm slung lazily over the back of her chair, sucking Dr. Pepper through a straw, looking content as always. His eyelids were at half mast, with only a little blue sparkling through. Emmett and Rosalie had been whispering to each other but stopped when Alice spoke.
“I’m going to Port Angeles,” I replied, picking at my sandwich. “There’s a band I want to see.”
Edward stiffened next to me and frowned.
“I like live music!” Alice chirped. Her eyes were the color of topaz and glittered almost eerily under the harsh fluorescent lighting. “What are they called? Maybe we could all go.”
I hid a tight smile, squashing down images of poor sweet Alice getting pummeled in a mosh pit. Alice was nice and I liked her but I couldn’t help myself. “You wouldn’t recognize the name. It’s a hardcore band. You know, rough. Sort of like punk.”
“Sounds… mean.” She studied another carrot stick before popping it in her mouth. “It doesn’t sound like something I would like.”
“It’s not for everyone,” I agreed, wryly.
“You didn’t tell me you wanted to go to Port Angeles,” Edward grumbled angrily in my ear.
I looked at him, surprised. “I didn’t know I had to.”
“Is that asshole going to be there?”
Rolling my eyes, I shrugged. “Don’t know and don’t care.”
“I’ll go with you.”
“You don’t need to,” I shot back. “I don’t need you to babysit me and I know you don’t like that kind of music.”
“You do need babysitting,” Edward retorted, running a hand through his chestnut hair, exasperated. I could see the sharp line of his jaw pulse as he spoke. “You have an uncanny ability to get into… trouble.”
“And by “trouble” he means “fights”,” Rosalie interrupted, a little gleefully. I ignored her.
“I’m going to the show,” I told Edward firmly. “You can’t tell me what I can and cannot do.”
“I’m not trying to!” he protested, his brows coming together, irritated. “I’m just trying to keep you out of trouble.”
I dropped the bread I had been playing with onto the tray and glared at him. “Edward, I am a big girl. What are you going to do if people start moshing around or something? Beat up everyone in a ten foot radius?”
Rosalie laughed. “He’d probably like that.”
“Rose, shut up,” Edward snapped. The azure of Rosalie’s eyes frosted over and she huffed, shifting a perfect wave of corn silk hair behind her shoulder as she looked at Emmett, silently demanding he step in. Emmett frowned at his brother.
“Edward –“ Emmett cut in warningly. “You promised not to be a dick to Rosie anymore.”
“Then tell her not to be such a bitch.”
Another exasperated huff slipped from her lips and I quickly shoved some scattered notebooks into my bag before I slid my chair away from the table and stood up. Everyone looked at me, surprised. I wasn't in the mood for the Rosalie & Edward Show. Even Jasper’s eyes widened a little. He shot me a small smile, like he didn’t blame me for fleeing. Why can't anything be easy?/ (why can't everything be easy?)/ You wanted out, 'fore you/ Get pulled, right the fuck back...
“I’ll be in my truck,” I said to Edward and gave Rosalie a pointed stare. “I’d like to relax for a few minutes before History and this… bickering isn’t exactly making me feel all Zen and shit.”
Edward called after me as I stormed away and I saw Lauren and Jessica exchange a triumphant glance a few tables over. Annoyance rippled through me and I gritted my teeth, throwing the heavy lunchroom doors open viciously, stuffing my earbuds into my ears as I headed to the parking lot. Take all your reasons and take them away/ To the middle of nowhere, and on your way home/ Throw from your window your record collection/
They all run together and never make sense.
Fifteen minutes and five songs later I was finally beginning to relax. The air inside the cab was chilly and I tugged my hood over my knotted hair, drawing it over my eyes, comforted by the darkness as I wriggled my back against the driver side door, stretching my legs across the bench seat. I didn’t want to go back inside the school and debated just cutting for the rest of the day but knew I couldn’t. Charlie would kill me.
Charlie still hadn’t forgiven me for my outburst at the diner and I was worried that the icy silence between us would continue until I finally graduated and moved out. I hoped if I kept up my good behavior he would warm up to me again but, as one week slid into the next without me getting in trouble, I was starting to have my doubts.
A movement disrupted my thoughts and it took me a split second to understand that I was the thing that was moving. I realized I was falling backward before I heard the screech of the door hinges. Blinded by my hood, I threw my arms out, scrabbling to catch on to something before I tumbled out of the truck and onto my head. A startled shriek burst from my lips even as strong arms were wrapping around me, stopping my fall.
“The fuck?!” I yelled, yanking my hood off. Edward looked down at me, faintly amused.
“I should have known you’d have those stupid ear plugs in,” he said, helping me right myself. “I assumed you heard me knocking on the window.”
I glowered at him. “If I had heard you knocking I would have sat up.”
Edward grinned. “I guess I didn’t think that far ahead.”
“Uh huh. You totally did that on purpose.”
“Maybe,” he agreed, his voice mischievous. “Anyway, I came to get you so you’re not late to class.”
“Thanks, I guess.” I grabbed my knapsack and hopped out of the truck. A chilly light drizzle was falling, icy pricks against any exposed flesh. I shivered and pulled my hood up again.
Edward was silent until we entered the school, his fingers drumming against my wrist. I noticed that he never really held my hand. Instead, he just kept a steady touch, or curled his fingers lightly around my wrist. I was going to call him out on it when he stopped and turned to me, his expression serious.
“I want you to know that I’m not trying to tell you what to do and I’m sorry you feel that way. There is just something about that guy that makes me uncomfortable. I swear he’s up to no good. It was like I could read his mind, that first day I ran into you in Port Angeles. It makes me nervous.” Edward licked his lips and I momentarily lost my train of thought as it shifted to ideas of other things Edward could lick. I shook my head, dispelling the mental image.
I sighed and gave him a wan smile. “Edward, I appreciate the concern but I’m going to that show, whether you want me to or not. I wish you wouldn’t worry so much.”
“I’d like to come.”
“You aren’t going to have a good time.”
“I might.” He arched his eyebrows at me, a small smile on his lips. “You never know.”
“Fine,” I grumbled. Edward grabbed my hand and kissed it.
“Have fun in History,” he called as he sauntered away. I laughed, surreptitiously glancing down at my hand, where I could still feel the warmth of his lips.
I carried that thought with me as I sat down, spreading my books on my desk and ignoring the daggers Lauren was glaring in my direction. I wasn’t uncomfortable under her gaze and I didn’t even care that she talked about me behind my back. If she said it to my face, however, that was a different story.
And fear is not respect/ Correct/ But it's the best you're gonna get/ Sharp blow to the bridge of the nose/ Sharp blow and anything goes (Elbow – Little Beast).I knew what they all said about me. Most of the rumors were crazy or outlandish. I’d heard that I’d been in jail or a mental institution. It was whispered that I was sent to Charlie after viciously attacking my mom and putting her in the hospital. I was on drugs. Others were more simple, like I was just really mean. Which wasn’t exactly rumor when you thought about it.
The rumors and whispers were actually helpful and I saw no need to dispel them. If there was one thing that I learned from being the perpetual New Girl it was that kids are not nice. At all. Being the new kid is like going to prison for the first time. The best way to survive is to go up to biggest and baddest guy on the cell block and punch him in the eye. At least, that’s what I saw on TV.
High school is a lot like prison. The scarier you are, the more people will leave you alone. And I liked being left alone.
My thoughts faded in and out as the teacher droned on about the Revolutionary War and I absently doodled on my notebook. By the time the bell ran the margin of my paper was covered with intricate, even curlicues.
Edward was waiting for me after class, leaning against a row of lockers. A freshman hovered nearby, obviously trying to get into a locker that Edward was blocking but apparently too scared to ask. Edward eyed the younger boy up and bared his teeth in a predatory grin.
“Problem?” he asked, cocking his head lazily at the boy--he couldn’t have been older than fourteen. His tone was calm but cold, dangerous. The kid shook his head and bolted.
“What was that about?” I asked as he put his arm across my shoulders.
Edward shrugged. “All he had to do was say ‘excuse me,’ but since he was a chicken shit he didn’t. I couldn’t help myself. I can’t stand pussies.”
I snorted. “I was just thinking about how mean people can be and that was fucking malicious,” I told him. “I mean, shit, I know I’m a total jerk but I wouldn’t go around harassing kids for no reason.”
“Oh well.” Edward seemed absolutely unperturbed by his behavior. Before I could say anything, he stopped and kissed my cheek. I looked through the double doors that led into gymnasium and groaned.
“Ugh, gym,” I griped. “My favorite. At least it’s floor hockey today.”
“Well, don’t get into any fights,” Edward replied, that same crooked smile playing on his face.
I laughed. “Don’t jinx me.”
As much as I hated gym, I did like hockey. It had always been a favorite of mine. There was something very empowering about running around with a giant stick.
In Phoenix, floor hockey was separated by gender, and boys and girls did not play against each other. Forks just threw us all into together and, more often than not, the girls cowered against the wall as the boys beat the shit out of each other on the floor. As I headed out of the locker room, I noticed that both Jessica and Lauren were inching their way across the gym, looking for a safe refuge as the boys banged their sticks on the ground and called out taunts to each other. I grinned and took my place on the floor.
“Okay kids,” Coach Clapp hollered over the din of chatter. “Play fair and NO excessive physical contact. Understood?”
Everyone grumbled their agreement and he blew the whistle. Immediately, the puck whizzed past my face and I spun and raced after it. I caught up quickly and swept my stick across the floor, sending the puck in the other direction. Tyler Crowley on the opposing team blocked it and spun the puck right back in my direction. I lunged, catching control of it once again and passed it to Mike Newton, my breath heaving.
“Nice, Swan!” Mike yelled at me as he agilely got control of the puck and ran down toward the opposing team’s goal. Out of the corner of my eye I saw Lauren and Jess whispering as I sprinted by them, my focus on the game.
Out of nowhere, I saw a hockey stick moving, tripping up my feet. My momentum was too much and I hit the floor like a ton of bricks, sliding across it painfully on my shoulder, my teeth clacking together from the impact. Over the din of female guffawing I heard the Coach blow the whistle.
“Swan!” he yelled, over to me from across the gym. “You okay?”
I gritted my teeth against the pain and got to my feet as I retrieved the stick from the ground. Jessica and Lauren were still giggling in their corner and I wanted to wipe Lauren’s smirk right off her pretty little face. With my hockey stick.
“You wanna play games, Lauren?” I asked in a deadly voice. They stopped laughing, their faces going white as I approached, brandishing my hockey stick. “I’ve got a game for you.”
“Bella, don’t!” A familiar female voice said in my ear. I felt a cool hand grip my wrist and I tried to yank away, turning and finding myself face to face with Rosalie. She jerked on my wrist again and I hissed. Rosalie’s eyes flashed.
“Why are you going to get yourself expelled over two cunts?” she asked loudly.
“Hey!” Jessica yelped, offended.
“You’re fucking stupid to even be messing with her, Stanley. Don’t think I’m doing this for you.” Rosalie looked back to me and lowered her voice. “Seriously, Bella, is it worth it? What the fuck is the point? Who the fuck cares about those vacuous twits. Don’t be stupid.”
I stared at her for a moment as her words processed and I realized that she wasn’t in gym clothes. That was all I needed to snap out of it.
“What the hell are you doing here?” I asked her curiously, eyeing up her tight jeans and expensive looking sweater."And why are you to help me out?"
Rosalie shrugged. “Dropping some papers off for the Coach. I have office duty this period.” She didn't respond to my second question and I could tell by her expression she wasn't planning to.
“You’re welcome,” she said pointedly, raising a perfectly sculpted eyebrow. A few people were staring at us but Lauren had gotten brave again and was whining to the Coach about how I had tried to assault her. Thankfully, the Coach didn’t see anything and brushed her off.
“Thanks,” I muttered.
“You and Edward with your tempers,” Rosalie sighed dramatically. “I can’t wait to see how this relationship turns out. I sure hope you don’t crash and burn. Or kill each other, for that matter.” Then she turned and walked away, leaving me standing there alone, clutching a hockey stick and wearing a stupefied expression.
“Rosalie said you tried to decapitate Lauren in gym class.”
I laughed and rolled over on my bed to look at Edward. He was sitting in my computer chair, his feet up on the rickety old desk, grinning at me.
“I wasn’t going to decapitate her,” I retorted, returning his smile and patting my bedspread, motioning for him to join me. “I was just going to knock a few teeth out.”
“Rose is lucky you didn’t knock her teeth out.” Edward crawled into my bed and pulled me to him, shifting so he was lying down and I was on top of him. I propped my weight on my elbows and leaned in to nuzzle his nose.
“Mmm,” I murmured. “That she is.” Then I remembered what Rose had said. “She also said you and I had tempers and that she hoped we didn’t crash and burn.” I left out the part about us killing each other.
Edward froze beneath me. “She what?” he asked in a scathing voice.
“It’s nothing. Just ignore her.” I kissed his lips but he didn’t respond. Frowning, I looked at him. “Now what’s your problem?” I huffed. “Forget about Rosalie.”
Edward hesitated and I took the opportunity to nibble at his neck, giving him small, slow kisses until I felt his body relax again.
“You’re right,” he whispered, reaching up and caressing my hair. “I have far more important things to think about. Like you.”
I smiled and he pulled me down into a kiss.
“Ahem,” a gruff voice coughed from the door way. I flipped off of Edward, nearly falling off the bed in the process as Edward hurriedly sat up. Charlie was standing by my partially open door, looking quietly mutinous.
“Bella, your mother is on the phone,” he said, his disapproving gaze sliding from me to Edward and hardening. Edward had enough grace to look chagrined.
“I don’t want to talk to her,” I told him in a pleading voice. “Can you just tell her I’m not here? Or in the shower?”
Charlie sighed. “No. Go downstairs and talk to her. You can’t keep avoiding her calls.”
I tried to keep my features calm and neutral as I stood and stomped out of the room.
Charlie and Edward followed me to the kitchen and I picked up the phone.
“Hello?” I said dully.
“Bella!” My mother’s shrill voice pierced my ear and I brought the phone away from it, wincing. I knew both Edward and Charlie were eavesdropping and I didn’t care.
“How are you, darling? Did you get my present?” Renee was oblivious to the chill of my voice.
“Oh, good! Oh, before I forget - Charlie says you have a boyfriend now! I'm so surprised!”
I eyed Charlie, one brow raised and he coughed and looked away. “Oh, he said that, did he? Well, I suppose I do.”
Renee completely ignored my response and launched into something banal, blabbering on about how wonderful life was in Florida and I just stood there like a statue, focusing on breathing, trying not to listen to her words. Edward watched in silence, his eyes dark.
“That’s great, Mom,” I said through clenched teeth. “Um, listen I have to go so – “
“Okay, Bella,” Renee interrupted, sounding distracted. “I bet you probably want to get your homework done so you can see that new boy. Just listen to me, honey, and be careful. Use protection! God knows you don’t want to make the same mistake I did.”
Charlie’s eyes widened and a small groan escaped his lips.
A sharp, painful sensation encased my body and my fingers curled tightly around the receiver of the phone in a stranglehold.
“Mistake?” I laughed bitterly into the phone. “Did you actually just call me a mistake?”
“Er, honey, that’s not-“
“Why are you calling me, Mom?” the word was drenched in acidic sarcasm. “To tell me how wonderful your life is? To remind me how much better off you are now that I’m not around? How fucking happy you are that I’m not your problem anymore?” My voice rose in volume and turned frosty. With a pained look in his eyes, Charlie tried to shush me but I turned away, my whole body trembling.
“Bella!” Renee admonished. “What’s gotten into you?”
“Nothing,” I sneered. “It’s none of your fucking business, you fucking bitch.”
“That’s enough.” Charlie tried to grab the phone from me and I ducked out of his reach. My mother said something but I couldn’t listen to her anymore. I wanted to reach through the phone and slap her.
“Don’t call me again, Renee,” I yelled into the phone. “Just do me one last fucking favor and never talk to me again.” No matter which way you go/ No matter which way you stay/ You're out of my mind, out of my mind/ Out of my mind, out of my mind/ I was walking with a ghost...
Charlie finally wrestled the phone out of my hand and motioned for me to go sit in the living room. Edward reached out toward me but I shook him off and flounced over to the couch.
“Jesus Christ, Renee, what were you thinking?” I heard Charlie hiss into the phone. “I knew you were selfish but…” a pause, then Charlie’s voice got louder. “She’s a teenager, for Chrissakes! She needs a parent!... I did not poison her against you!” I strained to hear Renee’s voice but couldn’t.
Then Charlie’s tone iced over completely. “That is her choice, Renee. You’ve left me in charge of her. When you called you told me you needed me to take in Bella because you were in between jobs and didn’t have enough money. You lied to me, Renee but what you’ve done to your daughter is even worse.” The phone gave one last feeble chirp before Charlie slammed it down.
“You.” He pointed at Edward then jerked his thumb toward the door. “Go home.”
Then he looked at me. “Don’t move. We need to talk.”
“Why am I in trouble for this?” I snarled. “She’s a bitch and I told you I didn’t want to talk to her.“
I crossed my arms over my chest, biting my lower lip to keep from screaming at Charlie. My body was still shaking but I felt scarily calm. Numb. As soon as the thought crossed my mind, however, Renee’s words came back to me. Her cheery voice as she described how happy she and Phil were in hot, sunny Florida. I looked out the bay window of the living room, into the dark gloom and green wetness of Forks and another surge of hatred coursed through me. Charlie was watching me cautiously and I shot him a black look. I opened my mouth to say something but he made a rude noise at me.
“Bella, be quiet for one goddamned second. Please.” Charlie rubbed his face tiredly. “You’re not in trouble.”
“Bella, I’ll call you in a little bit, okay?” Edward stood awkwardly and leaned over to kiss my cheek, ignoring the low growl that came from Charlie. I didn’t pull away but I wanted to, which made me feel even worse. My skin prickled uncomfortably and I shivered a little, wrapping my arms around myself. Nothing felt right. There's a war inside of me/ Do I cause new heartbreak to write a new broken song/ Do I push it down or let it run me right into the ground/ I feel like I wouldn't like me if I met me/ Well I can't stop talking for fear of listening to unwelcome sound...
“’Kay,” I replied, still glowering at Charlie as he ushered Edward out the door. He stood there for a few moments even after the door had shut behind Edward. With a heavy sigh, Charlie finally came back and slumped into his favorite armchair.
“Bella,” he began and I opened my mouth to interrupt. He held up his finger. “Listen to me for just one second.
“If you don’t want to talk to your Mother ever again that is your prerogative. I won’t interfere. If she calls I’ll tell her your unavailable. However, I will also let you know each time she tries to contact you and leave the choice up to you.”
“I’m never talking to her again,” I spat.
Charlie looked at me, sadly. “When you were a baby you were so… stubborn. Just like you are now. But you were a lot happier back then, I guess. I wish I had done things differently for you, Bella. Maybe if I had stepped in, maybe if I had tried to convince Renee to leave you with me everything would have turned out differently. Better.”
“When your mother left me, I offered to take you. I could tell Renee was restless, I saw how quickly she lost interest in… everything. First it was art class, then yoga, then guitar lessons. Then me.” Charlie’s eyes clouded over and he was silent for a second, lost in his own memories. “Renee called me about a year and a half after she left. You were probably about six and she asked me to take you in, just for a little bit. I said no.
“I learned later that she had left you with some neighbors for six months.”
“The McKays,” I whispered. “They had a son my age.”
Charlie sighed again. “Listen, kid. I don’t regret much in my life, but there isn’t a day that goes by that I wish I had agreed. I know I’m not your Dad, but that doesn’t mean I don’t love you like you’re my own.”
I couldn’t breathe. I just stared at Charlie in shock. Finally, my brain shifted gears and I choked out a weak, “Thanks, Charlie. That means a lot to me.”
A dreadful awkward silence ensued. I shuffled my feet for a moment before hopping up from the couch. Charlie was still leaning against the door frame, watching me with a sad but wary expression. I approached him, intent on sliding past him when I changed my mind. Impulsively, I threw my arms around his waist and hugged him.
Charlie returned the hug and sighed. “You’re a good kid, Bells, even if you are a damn trouble maker. I just wish I knew how to take some of your anger away."
“It’s okay,” I mumbled into his flannel shirt. “I’ll figure it out somehow.”
Before Charlie could say another word, I released him and raced up to my bedroom. Along the way, I tried to remember the last time Renee told me she loved me.
Dear Snarkier Than You - thanks as always for reading this shit. And making me write it. Love you!
Hey kids! Sorry, no lemons. I blow, I know.
Don't worry, Edward and Bella are going to have a little more, ahem, "alone time" in the next chapter. And quite possibly some explosions... in more ways than one. ;)
Please feel free to leave comments!
I will also post this at FanFiction.net shortly. Like tomorrow.
Title - Run, Devil, Run - Jenny Lewis & The Watson Twins
Spit on a Stranger - Pavement
Easy Eats or Dirty Doctor Galapagos - Man Man
Looking for Astronauts - The National
Walking with a Ghost - Tegan & Sara
You wouldn't like me - Tegan & Sara