Hey there Twi fic fans! This here is the second installment of Osa Bella, Chapter 6. If you're new to the story, please start at the beginning. It'll make more sense that way.
Osa Bella has its own little home here, where you can download pdfs of the story and peruse a lot of geeky extras like playlists (which you can stream and/or purchase), random thoughts I have and other bits of research I've collected.
But please do come back here to leave comments if you have them. I really appreciate comments, more than I can say.
Okay, enough prattling on. Here's Chapter 6!
My interest in Edward Cullen was going to lead me into serious trouble—this I knew just six weeks into the school year. Without my consent, several times a day my mind rifled through the moments I'd spent with him, mental images I'd filed away for safe keeping. At night when I was alone it was the worst, and thoughts of him often interrupted my sleep. I started taking more Klonopin.
I had two hypotheses about this fixation. Either something about Edward reminded me of Zack at that age, or I was sabotaging myself from getting into any relationship with promise of a future. Or both. I was afraid to fall in love again—that much was true. Investing energy into someone impossible like Edward was safe because it could never turn into a real romance. What I needed was a man who might be a possibility.
If Jake was potentially my King of Wands, I'd have to find a way to let him know I was interested without pressure. I cherished Jake's friendship and hated the idea of appearing desperate. I called him to feel him out.
"We should go see that new movie that came out."
"Face Punch," I said. "Lots of action."
"I saw it with Embry and Quil last week. It sucked."
"Well how about something else?"
"There's nothing out I really want to see."
This was typical, and I wasn't dense. If a guy is interested in you, he wants to be around you. Jake wasn't interested, and I wasn't going to chase him. I had some dignity left. Not much, but some.
Derek Banner, on the other hand, had potential. He was smart and had his shit together. He was attractive in a grown up kind of way. Like you knew he paid all his bills on time, could change a tire on the side of the road, and remembered to send his mother flowers on Mother's Day.
I caught up to him after his fifth period class and asked about the Thoreau club idea. "I've been thinking about that Kermode bear," I said. "I'd love to figure out why it was so far south. Think that might be a good project for the club?"
"That's a great idea," Derek said. "I spotted a film about Kermodes on Netflix. Why don't we get together and watch it? Then maybe we can show it to the students at our first meeting."
We decided to watch it at Derek's house, and he offered to cook. That seemed like a good sign. When I arrived Friday, he’d set a lovely table in his small dining room, which overlooked the back yard and the river.
“Mind if I say grace?” he asked before the meal.
“Of course not,” I said. I hadn't said grace since I was a kid at my grandma's table, but it didn't seem at all awkward when Derek said it.
The pork tenderloin in brandy sauce he made was better than any single thing I’d ever cooked in my life. Granted, that wasn’t saying much other than I was pretty sure I wouldn’t do well to try and repay the favor of a home cooked meal. After dinner I helped him clean up and we sat together on the couch and watched the DVD.
“Sorry, that was no Planet Earth,” Derek said. “But at least we know something about the plight of the Kermodes up in Canada now.”
“Let’s not make the kids suffer through that.” I laughed. “But I do like the idea of studying the unusual bear activity around here. As long as it’s safe.”
“Right,” he said. “As long as we’re not having the kids take pictures at close range.” He elbowed me.
“It’s a good opportunity to teach them some wildlife safety tips. Something you should have been taught before Hurricane Ridge.”
“Ha. I carry pepper spray. That’s my bear safety training from Chief Swan.”
“Pepper spray is your friend in a bear attack. Luckily bear attacks are rare, unless you provoke one or it’s a mother protecting cubs.”
“I’ll try to remember that, though hopefully I won’t be in a situation where I’ll need to.”
"Better bring it when we hike at Lake Crescent this spring." He smiled. "Just in case."
That was a good sign. In fact, things went so well that at the end of the night I wondered if he might kiss me. I don’t know why I wondered that, since he hadn’t made any overtures in that direction. We’d sat on the couch for ninety minutes during a bad movie and he didn’t even move to sit closer. And when I paused for a bit too long on the stoop pretending to fish for my keys as I was leaving, he just smiled and repeated that he’d had a good time.
I'd had a good time too. There was no drunken sex or inappropriate midnight ship boarding involved, but still, the company was good and the drama was nonexistent. And I could definitely deal with that.
We set a first Thoreau Club meeting date and hand-selected a few members to start. Mike Newton was my first choice. Mike spent a good deal of time in my office throughout his high school career, sweating over this exam, crying over this girl—most recently, Jessica. He was a good kid but his moodiness concerned me. It was beyond a normal teenager's mood swings. When he was feeling good he lit up the school like a flood light but when he was down, you had to scrape him off the pavement. Many times I’d encouraged his parents to get him into treatment but they always blew me off. Thoreau club would be a good distraction for him and an easy way for me to keep a close eye on him during his final year of high school.
We also asked Paige Lee to join. She was a good student, had a great sense of humor and both Derek and I had really enjoyed having her on the hike at Hurricane Ridge. All she had to hear was Mike was in and she was sold. Two other students, Angela Weber, a straight-A student and ivy league hopeful, and Eric Yorkie, the school’s social butterfly, also joined. We thought four students would make for a good, intimate and manageable group so we started there.
For our first meeting we met after school in Derek’s classroom and I pitched the bear project.
“At the store we’ve been hearing weird things customers are seeing with the bears,” Mike said. “One guy came into the store the other day and said he found a bear sleeping next to his car. He made a bunch of noise and when the bear woke up, it didn’t even move until he said he actually asked it to.”
“He asked it to move, and it moved?” Paige asked. “That’s impossible.”
“Maybe not,” I said. “I once heard a Radiolab story about this blue whale who thanked a group of divers for saving its life."
"What?" Paige said. "No way!"
"Seriously" I said. "It was trapped in about two tons of fishing line off the coast of California. The crew of a fishing boat heard about it and got a bunch of divers to try and save it. The divers worked for hours and hours, just cutting through all of this netting. They thought it was going to die before they could free it. But they managed to cut it loose, and then suddenly the whale was just gone, like it vanished.
“Then one of them saw the whale directly below him, swimming up like a submarine on the attack, but then it stopped right under him and just nudged him with its nose. Like it was thanking him. It did the same thing to every diver.
“The crazy thing is, the whale wouldn’t leave. It just stayed with the divers, like it owed them something. The divers had to get back in the boat and motor away to tell the whale it was okay.”
“That’s incredible,” Derek said.
“So maybe the bears are trying to tell us something,” Mike Newton said.
”We should start tracking all of these bear incidents,” Angela said. “We can get the police reports on bear sightings and just keep a log of what they’re doing. Maybe there’s a pattern.”
“Maybe their behavior will change over time, too,” Derek suggested. “And we can derive some meaning from it.”
“Then we can write something up on it,” Angela went on. “We can do a feature in the school paper.”
“Sounds like we’ve got our first project,” Derek said, and began making notes on the board.
I watched him write all of the kids’ ideas down on the board and smiled. He looked over and caught me watching him, and I’m pretty sure I saw a small smile grace that focused face that was meant just for me.
My plan to invest my energy into something with potential, away from Edward Cullen? It was working. Tuesday Thoreau club meetings became the highlight of my week. Derek and I were having regular coffee dates to plan what we’d do week to week, and I was becoming as interested in deciphering the strange bear behavior as I was in deciphering the strange behavior of divorced males who wanted to regularly spend time with me but never wanted to make any moves.
From a little research, the kids learned that the bear behavior was concentrated around Forks. Charlie contacted the Port Angeles police department to compare notes for us and we were definitely seeing a spike in bear sightings they didn't have. La Push had them too, so I had another excuse to call Jacob. When I told him I was co-facilitating a club with a guy, he was suddenly, annoyingly, interested. He offered to have us bring the club to the reservation and meet with the elders to talk about the bears.
“Since when are you such a naturalist?” he asked me.
“I know, right?” I said. “I’ve just been getting more into it with this club.”
“Does your co-facilitator have anything to do with it?” he asked.
“What’s his name? Maybe I don’t want him coming here,” he teased. “He’s got too much influence over my Jersey girl.”
“Oh, please,” I said. “When are we getting drunk, anyway? I owe you an embarrassing moment, as I recall.”
“You do, don’t you?” Jake said. “But I’m swamped this weekend grading mid-terms. We’ll have to try in a couple of weeks.”
I hung up and leafed through a pile of paperwork trying to decide which I’d procrastinate on first, when there was a knock at my door.
“Come on in,” I said, not looking up.
My heart stuttered and stopped as I looked up and saw Edward, perhaps the last person I’d expected. I actively avoided him since the Monday after Seattle and was just beginning to feel normal again. But there he was, closing the door to my office, trapping me inside that small space with him and all that thick, tousled hair of his and it was as if no time had passed at all.
“Well, hi there,” I said, motioning to him to take a seat, feeling the smile spread across my face. “What brings you here? Is everything going okay?”
“Yeah, just fine,” he said, then paused. I’ve never known anyone who could communicate so much with a look as Edward Cullen. All of the Cullens had that gift, but Edward was especially good at it. And this look told me, “I know you’re not going to believe this, but…”
“I want to join the Thoreau club,” he said.
I gave him my “no shit?” look.
“Seriously,” he said. “Why are you looking at me like that?”
“You don’t like clubs,” I said. “But of course you can join. You don’t need to ask—you can just come to the meetings. Do you know the other students?”
“Not very well,” he said. “Angela Weber is in it, right? She’s in a few of my classes. In biology she and Mr. Banner were talking about the bear project. It sounded interesting.”
“It will be," I said. Undoubtedly. With Edward in the mix, there was no way this could not be interesting. "We meet Tuedays at 3:15 in Mr. Banner’s room.”
"I'll be there," he said.
“I’m glad you changed your mind.”
“Me too,” he said. Then he lingered as if he planned to say something else. “By the way, Mercy is playing in Port Angeles next month.”
“Really? I didn't see that advertised anywhere.”
“She promised Alice she'd play a set for her birthday. Would you like to come? I'll put you on the guest list.”
“Yeah, of course,” I said. "I'd love to see Mercy again."
“I’ll let you know when she books the date,” he said, smiling as he backed out my door.
And just like that, without thinking, without realizing what I'd actually done, I accepted a date with Edward Cullen.
I had to go into Port Angeles for a conference later that week and met Illeana for lunch at the Black Bird. She was late, her face flushed and panting as she rushed to meet me.
“What’s wrong?” I asked. “You look like you just hiked 17 miles.”
“Girl, you aren’t going to believe this,” she said. “I’m pregnant.”
I jumped right out of my seat and and threw my arms around her. “No way!”
“Si! Can you believe it? Just took the pregnancy test today. It’s brand new, don’t tell anyone.”
“Does Carl know?’”
“Claro que si, tonta,” she said. “He died a little when I told him. He’s one happy man.” She blushed.
“Oh, very happy, I see. When are you due?”
“Not 'til July. I told you it’s early. I could lose it, you know,” she looked worried. “Ay, all that wine!”
“You’ll be fine,” I said. “Do you have names picked out yet?”
“Perla for a girl. I always loved that name.”
“Perla Rogers. Sounds lovely. What about for a boy?”
“Edward,” she said. “It’s such a good solid man’s name, you know? Strong sounding. Classic.”
“Wow,” I said, mildly stunned. I tried to ignore that little zing I felt, the one you get when you feel like the stars are aligning in some meaningful way. It was the exact feeling a girl gets when someone inadvertently mentions the name of her crush.
“What? You don’t like it?” she asked.
“I love it,” I said. “It’s perfect.”
I left lunch feeling dejected. I was happy for Illeana, but her pregnancy was another reminder of something I'd wanted but didn't have at this point in my life—a family. I was thirty and didn’t even have a boyfriend.
Could things progress romantically with Derek Banner? He was easy to be around, had a good sense of humor and had a good attitude about just about everything. He was smart and the kids respected him. He was also very kind and generous with them. He’d make a great father and probably not a bad husband, either. For someone.
The person who would be really great with kids was Jacob—if he ever grew up. Bastard. Why couldn't he be into me? It would be so much easier. He was gorgeous, fun to hang out with and a terrible flirt. He knew nearly everything there was to know about me and the sex, the few times it happened, had been quite good. But he was always blowing me off for something else. Like grading papers. It just didn’t make sense.
Then the vacancy in my collection of imaginary suitors was suddenly, inappropriately filled by a man who was barely a man. Edward Cullen, the high school boy who looked like a movie star and never brought a book home but got straight As and smoked in the parking lot and wouldn’t surrender any of the secrets to his dark and mysterious past. What did his house look like? Did he have posters or fine art hanging on his bedroom walls? What did he do in the evenings and on weekends? What else was in his music collection? Who was his first kiss? Who was his first… had he had a first?
I really wanted to just know him, and not in any therapeutic or professional way. And that just couldn’t be.
Tuesday, I was anxious all day anticipating Thoreau club. Would I be able to act normal around Edward? Would our strange meeting in Seattle ever surface? Would he bring up the Mercy Brown show?
In Derek's lab after school I took a seat and waited, nervously tapping my pen on the table until I caught a strange look from Derek. He smiled at me.
"Yeah," I said. "Too much coffee this afternoon."
"They make decaf, you know," he teased.
"By the way, Edward Cullen is joining Thoreau Club," I said.
"Really?" He was surprised. "Well, I never would have expected that."
Mike walked in with Jessica, who had also decided to join. This would make Mike happy only as long as Jessica didn’t dump him, but it would make poor Paige miserable. Angela and Erik strolled in together and several agonizingly long minutes later, Edward walked into the room and sat in the chair directly across from me and smiled. Did my heart actually stop for a few beats?
"Glad you made it," I said as casually as I could.
"Thanks," he said.
The other students were surprised and rather pleased that a Cullen had joined their group. The Cullens were minor celebrities at Forks High by this point in the year, often dished about and rarely spoken to.
"Welcome Mr. Cullen, Miss Stanley," Derek said. "We'll catch you up on what we're doing here."
Angela laid out an enormous local map, on which she’d marked the areas of concentrated bear activity. She recounted several stories of bear sightings from around Forks, Port Angeles and Olympic National Park that she’d collected from the police and from the National Park Service. Forks and La Push definitely had seen a spike in bear sightings far above what was being reported in the rest of the county.
"La Push?" I said. "We should go out there next week. My close friend can probably get us a meeting with the elders to talk about what they've seen out there."
"Who's your friend?" Edward asked.
"Jacob Black," I said. "Our families go back a long time."
"Oh," Edward said.
"Do you know him?"
"I was just curious," he said.
“Did you hear any any reports of the Kermode bear?” I asked Angela.
“You know, nobody believed me when I told them about that,” she said. “They said it’s not possible. I need to send them your photos from Hurricane Ridge.”
“Seriously, it’s not like we don’t have evidence,” Paige said.
“So we have one Kermode bear sighting, which is crazy since they don't live down here," Erik said.
"And a record breaking number of bear sightings around Forks and La Push since the summer, but no reports of any human getting hurt.”
“Do you think those things are connected?" I asked.
"Who knows?" Angela said. "Maybe there’s some explosion in the bear population, and that lead to the genetic variant for Kermodes being carried this far south. Or maybe something else is causing the existing bears to gravitate more towards humans.”
For the first time in the meeting I noticed Edward fidget a little in his seat, almost as though the topic had become uncomfortable for him. But he said nothing. Derek started writing down things on the board.
“People, we need some hypotheses to start with,” he said.
“Ugh, Mr. Banner, do you have to make it feel like homework?” Jessica said.
“If we consider Miss Swan's story about the blue whale, then one hypothesis is that the bears are trying to tell us something,” Angela said. “Maybe the bears losing their fear of humans is the message.”
“Yes, but what might the message be?” Derek pressed them.
“We miss you?” Angela tentatively suggested and Paige and Erik laughed.
“That’s stupid,” Jessica said. “Bears don’t even like humans.”
“You don’t really know that,” Edward said quietly. Mike Newton glared at him, presumably for crossing his girlfriend, but Edward ignored him.
“Do we really know how bears feel about anything? Can we even argue that they have emotions the way humans do?” Derek asked.
“Yes,” I said. “I think they do.”
“Based on what evidence?” Derek asked.
“I don’t know,” I said. “It’s just a gut feeling.”
“Well, this is science.” Derek said. “Feelings don’t count unless they’re backed by evidence.”
“Fair enough,” I said.
“So, what—we’re doing a bear feelings project now?” Mike rolled his eyes. “Miss Swan, does everything have to be related to feelings?”
I laughed. “Well, what’s your hypothesis then?”
“I think the bears are trying to warn us about something,” he said.
“About what?” I asked.
“I don’t know,” he said. “Maybe there's some new threat in their environment.”
“Like global climate change?” I asked.
“No," he said. "Something more immediate."
"Like what?" I asked. "Some type of predator?"
"Hunters," he said.
"There are hunters every hunting season," I said. "But this is no typical hunting season behavior, right Edward?"
"Right," he said and nodded. "I've never seen anything like it."
"You're a bear hunter?" Paige asked.
"Not exactly," he said. "My family has done a lot of hunting of big game, mostly up in Alaska."
"So what do you make of the bears, then?" Paige asked him.
"I think Angela and Mike are both right," Edward said.
"That's a cop out," Mike said.
"Whatever," Edward said, dismissively. Mike glared at him, but Edward just kept his expression casual and unaffected. It was real obvious Mike didn't like him, and just as clear that Jessica could not take her eyes off of him the entire length of the meeting. But I couldn't blame her for that.
“Okay, we’ve got two different hypotheses,” Derek said, writing them on the board. “Let’s try to make the best cases we can for each of these.”
The kids began to debate all the possible interpretations of the bears' behavior as I considered all the possible interpretations of Edward Cullen's behavior. What was he doing here? I tried to tell myself that he was just there because he had an interest in philosophy and nature, and I could see that fit his personality and what little I knew about him.
But it was also true that he wasn't social, and that was the mystery here. I did my best to keep my eyes off of him, not completely because that would look as suspicious as looking at him too much. It took all of my resolve to hold myself in check when I was that close to him, and now I faced being in this situation with him every Tuesday afternoon.
Derek wrapped the discussion up and we adjourned. I went back to my office to grab my bag and stepped out into the empty hallway to see Edward, leaning against a locker, waiting for me.
"Hi," I said, my palms tingling. We walked together out to the parking lot.
"What did you think of the meeting?"
"Interesting," he said. "I learned a lot."
"Yeah," he said, smiling. "I'm glad I joined."
"I wonder what we'll find out at La Push," I said as we approached my car. The smile faded a little from his face.
"I'm interested to hear what you find out."
"You're not coming?"
"I can't make it next week," he said. "Dentist appointment."
My heart sank, right through the bottom of my feet, and he must have picked up on that, because he was smiling again. And I was confused again about what was actually happening between us, and whether it was one sided on my part or whether I was in the middle of a much bigger problem than I originally realized.
"I'll come back in two weeks," he said, leaning on the hood of my car as I put my bag inside. "Don't worry."
Yes. The problem at hand was much bigger than I originally thought.
Derek strolled out of the building and over to his car across the parking lot. He saw us and waved. I waved back, but noticed that Edward did not.
I arranged for the meeting with the elders of the Quileute tribe the following week after school. Jacob came out of the Tribal Council office and immediately sized up Derek with a heartier than necessary handshake and a not so subtle once over. Then he picked me up in an embarrassing bear hug. The kids laughed as I tried to hide my blushing face. If there was a more obvious signal that Jacob had tapped this ass, I couldn’t think of what it was. I had to hand it to Derek though, he just smiled, politely, at Jacob’s nonsense.
Billy and a couple of the other Quileute elders, Sam Uley and Quil Ateara Senior, introduced themselves. They were interested to hear what the kids had dug up about the bear activity because they had been dealing with a lot of bear weirdness at La Push too, doing things like hanging out in people’s outbuildings, wandering up onto their porches. From the looks of things there was more bear activity in La Push than in all of Clallam County.
The kids started talking about their ideas that the bears were warning people of some danger or simply wanting to be near them, and the elders were even more interested. Their discussion reminded me of an old Quileute legend I thought might be of interest to the kids.
"Don't you have a legend about shape shifters?" I asked Jacob. "I read something about that in the book Billy gave me for my birthday."
This piqued the kids’ attention—especially Mike’s.
“Quileutes are supposedly descended from wolves," Jake explained. "The legend says when a certain danger presented itself to the tribe, some of the members took on the form of a wolf form in order to offer protection. There are some legends from other tribes where people have taken other forms. Birds, snakes. No bears that I know of, though.”
“Do you have members in wolf form now?” Mike asked.
“They’re just stories, Mike,” Jacob laughed, and the elders smiled kindly at my small pack of eager students.
“Well, I’ve been doing some research on this,” Mike said. “And I found out that there’s an old Cherokee clan called the Ani Tsa’ gu that disappeared into the woods and became bears.”
“Why would they do that?” Paige asked.
“I don’t know. It was hundreds of years ago, supposedly. And this was a legend from the midwest, like Wisconsin. Do you know anything about that?”
“Tell us the story,” Jake said.
“Well, supposedly there was a kid, a member of this clan, and he would disappear for hours and hours every day. He started growing long brown hair all over his body and his parents told him to stay out of the woods, but he said he couldn’t, that he’d already begun some kind of transformation.
“Then he asked his parents to join him. He told them that they were always struggling because there was never enough food to go around, but if they transformed, they would never be without. So his parents went to the council, and the council made a choice to leave and to go into the woods with the boy.
“There were neighboring clans that saw them leaving and they called to them, begging them to change their minds. They were afraid they'd be lost forever. But the clan was already beginning to transform. And then they were gone.
“Weeks later, some members of the clan came back to the settlement and said, ‘Where we have gone, there is always plenty for all of us. From now on, we will be known as bears and when you are hungry and in need, come into the woods and call us and we will come give you our own flesh. Don’t be afraid to kill us, for we will live on always.’”
“Real spirit bears,” I said in a hushed voice.
“I’ve heard that legend,” Billy said quietly.
“The elders gave special songs to the clans to call the bears in times of need. But the clan was never seen or heard from again. Just the bears.”
Angela took notes furiously as Mike spoke. “But we’re in the Pacific Northwest,” she said, looking up from her notebook. “You said this clan was from Wisconsin?”
“Sure, but let’s say they really did become bears,” Mike said. “Bears are nomadic. They can move anywhere. Over hundreds of years, why couldn’t they migrate west?”
“Good work, Mike,” Derek said, redirecting the line of thinking a little. “We should look at some of the themes of these legends and see how they inform modern philosophy regarding how we live today.”
“What if someone was invoking the bear call, and not knowing it?” Angela asked, her face pinched in concentration under her horn rimmed glasses.
“Over the entire county?” Derek said.
“Well? Why not?” I said. “Maybe the bear call isn’t just one person singing a song or making a noise. Maybe our culture—the way we live—somehow signals to the bears that we are in need.”
“But we aren’t,” Paige said.
“Yeah,” Erik added. “We aren’t starving, for the most part.”
“Maybe we need something else,” I suggested. “Not physical comforts.”
“Yeah, but what?" Paige said.
"Maybe we need protection,” Mike Newton said.
"It's getting late," Derek said. "We'd better get going."
“Thanks for the visit,” Billy smiled. "We enjoyed talking with you."
Jacob walked us out to the cars and hooked his arm around my shoulders. “You should bring the kids out here again,” he said. “They’re a great group.” He reached his hand out to Derek again. “Nice to meet you.”
“Sure thing,” Derek said.
“Bella, don’t make plans for Friday,” Jake said. “I’m taking you to dinner.”
“I’m busy,” I said, utterly annoyed. It didn’t phase him.
“Saturday then.” He kissed me on the cheek.
In the car, Paige and Erik teased, “Woohoo, Miss Swan has a boyfriend!” From the corner of my eye, I surveyed Derek for a reaction, but found none I could decipher.
“No, I definitely do not have a boyfriend,” I said. “More like an annoying younger brother.” Still no reaction from Derek. “I’ve known Jacob Black since I was born. That’s why he thinks he can act like a fool. It’s a childhood friend thing.”
“Yeah, sure Miss Swan,” Paige teased.
“I thought he was awesome,” Mike said. “You should go out with him.”
“Okay, that’s enough dating advice for Miss Swan,” Derek finally interjected.
“Not that I don’t need it,” I teased them.
Damn that Jake. As soon as he thought I might be unavailable, he was interested. Then I laughed at myself. I understood how he felt. We always want what we think we can't have.