Update: Okay - better late than never, right? Here's the .pdf!
Wow, I've missed you guys! It's really quite weird waiting an entire week between updates. The original story was written all in one go, of course with the exception of this middle section which is being gutted and rewritten, so I have to wonder what it's like to read this with all the time in between. But I had a great time with Mama Myg this weekend, which was the reason I had to take a little more time. And by the way, Mama Myg - God help me - now wants to read Osa Bella. I kind of told her about it, but not about some of the lemony goodness that happens here and there, so now I'm all, fuck, what am I going to do? Avoidance right now is the plan. But she'd love you guys, really.
Anyway, when we last left it, Bella was a wee bit manic, or a lot bit manic, had gone to work, called Jake and accused him of being a wolf, quit her job, was worried about bears in the woods behind school, was planning on hooking up with Edward at her house after work, and then leaving with him for Port Angeles for a few days until this whole bear business got sorted out. She spoke to Charlie but didn't tell him much other than there was a new "guy" in her life. It was all going sort of okay until she pulled down K Street and spotted the muscular dude and the motorcycle at her place. Jake. Fuck. This can't be a good thing, I think.
And that's where we pick up today.
I will get your .pdf up later - sorry but I've got some photocopying to do before I head home to Mr. Myg and the baby cubs. And right now, it's looking like chapter 24 will come out next Wednesday. Sorry! But I do believe that once that chapter is done, we'll be back to the twice weekly updates. I'll keep you in the loop.
Encounter with a Wolf
I kept driving, right on past my house, without another glance at Jake. I felt his eyes follow me. Within thirty seconds he and his Harley appeared in my rearview mirror. Good. He wouldn't be at my house when Edward arrived. That felt like the priority right then, that Edward and Jacob not have some big confrontation in my front yard. Maybe inciting Jacob to chase me wasn't the best plan, but it was the only one I could think of in the moment so it would have to do. I hit the gas and prayed Charlie was busy on the other side of Forks, because I most definitely was going to be breaking the law.
As I zipped around the edge of town with Jake tailing me, I almost wished I'd taken Edward's car to work that day. Though, it had been difficult enough fending off the "where's your cast?" questions from coworkers and students. "Where'd you get the two hundred fifty thousand dollar car?" might have been a bit trickier to manage. My Mini was cute and quick, but it was no Vanquish, didn't really handle all that much better than a Civic. Now I regretted I passing on a 325i I'd looked at, because I could really use a car that cornered right about now.
I'll head straight to Port Angeles, I thought. Edward can meet me there. Jake wouldn't follow me for that long before getting the hint, right?
On the main road I cruised up to 70, then 75, then 80, then 90—fast even for me. I felt invincible, like my car could actually handle the curves and the bumps at high speed. Although the rough ride convinced me that my next car would have to be a sportscar. Without question. I called Edward.
"Babe?" I said when he answered. "Can you pack me a bag?"
"Hey, where are you? I'm at your place."
"There's been a little complication," I said. "I'll meet you in Port Angeles."
"What's going on?"
"Jacob was waiting for me at my house and I sort of accused him of being a wolf earlier on the phone, so I think he wants to have a conversation I really don't want to have right now. So I'm sort of, well, driving. And he's following me on his motorcycle."
"Where the hell are you, Bella?"
"Rte 101, maybe a mile south of 110."
"Pull over. I'll be right there."
"I don't think so," I said. "He's pretty pissed off and I don't think it'd be a good idea for the two of you to meet under these circumstances. He doesn't like you."
"Bella, are you in the middle of a god damned car chase?"
"Sort of. I guess you can call it that. I should go—I don't have a headset."
"Pull over before you get yourself killed."
"I'll call you back in a few minutes. I'm going to try to lose him."
"Bella… " He sounded stressed out as I dropped the phone on the passenger seat. I'd deal with him later.
The accelerator felt a little soft as I tried to nudge up towards triple digits on the speedometer. There wasn't much headroom left and I was hardly match for Jake in terms of handling, so he caught me going into a curve, zipped in front of me and forced me to slow down. I tried to go around him, but an oncoming car caused me to swerve back and put a wheel into the ditch. I miraculously managed to hang onto the steering and pop it back out without flipping the car, but I had to pull over because I'd blown two tires.
I sat there, not nearly as shaken as I should have been, and tried to decide whether it would be very stupid of me to run. I had no good reason to run from him, but I could feel every individual hair on the back of my neck rising and that told me a confrontation with Jacob was going to be a serious problem. In any case, I was in the ballet flats Alice had picked out for me and not any shoes suitable for a foot chase, so I stayed where I was. Jake ran over to the car and wrenched the door open.
"Jesus Christ Bella, are you okay?" he asked. "Why the hell are you running from me?"
"Hey," I said. "I had some errands to run."
"Bullshit," he said giving me his hand to help me out of the car. I paused, debating last minute what I should do.
"Nothing," I said, grabbing my phone off the front seat. I took his hand and got out and tried to act casual. "What's up?"
His eyes seared me in one hot glance. "So your ankle is all better now, huh?" His voice was strange, untrustworthy. I took a few steps back from him and looked off into the woods, wondering what direction I might run in if it came down to that.
"Yeah," I said. "Turned out to not to be as bad as I thought."
"How about that," he said, taking a step towards me. His suspicious glare made me uncomfortable, like he was looking for evidence of some serious transgression, and I felt oddly guilty. As his eyes landed on my neck, I quickly adjusted the scarf, hoping it was still covering my bite mark. Then without warning he pushed me up against the side of the car, stuck his nose in my neck and took a deep, dramatic breath. "You smell different."
"What the hell are you doing?" I tried to move out from under him, but he pinned me to the side of the and pulled my scarf off so he could see my neck. Then he ran his hot fingers over the scar, burning me. I flinched in pain and his eyes grew menacing.
"Who did this to you, Bella?” he said in a freaky calm voice, gripping me by the shoulders.
“Let go of me," I hissed at him.
“Tell me who did this to you,” he said, angrier. “I know it was a Cullen. Tell me right now which one.”
“Let go, asshole. You’re hurting me.”
“Tell me!” He bellowed.
“Fuck you,” I yelled back.
“Fine. I’ll kill them all, then,” he said. “And really, I don’t care. The world will be better off without them.”
“You’re not going to kill anyone, you dick. You have a treaty."
“What do you know about that?” he demanded, his eyes narrowing in anger.
“I know you’re a wolf, Jacob. I know everything.”
“You don’t know a fucking thing.”
"Let go of me, god damn it," I said. "Edward is on his way."
“I knew it. I saw how he looked at you yesterday morning.” Jacob let go of me and paced like he was trying to keep himself from blowing up. He came back and got in my face. “Are you fucking that parasite?”
“Fuck you,” I said. “How dare you talk to me like that?”
“Are you?” he yelled, his anger causing the veins to bulge on his neck, his face to turn dark.
“Yes, I’m fucking a fucking vampire, okay?” I yelled back. “But I really don’t see how it’s any worse than fucking a werewolf. I guess I’ll have to fuck a mummy next to complete the set. Or maybe a unicorn.”
The screeching of tires interrupted our argument and my stomach twisted and churned as Edward leaped from the Vanquish and stormed over to us. Jake grabbed me by the arm and maneuvered himself in front of me.
"Let her go," Edward said.
"You violated the treaty," Jacob said. "I have every right to kill you now."
"No!" I cried.
"He's not going to kill me," Edward said. "You're upsetting Bella."
"You bit her, you fucking freak," Jacob said. "Why isn't she one of you?"
"Let her go," Edward said.
"You can't have her," Jacob said, tightening his grip on me. "She's protected. She has family."
"You don't own me, Jacob."
"Shut the fuck up, Bella, you have no idea what you're talking about," Jacob said.
"Fuck you," I said, wrenching my arm from his grasp and pushing my way past him, surprising us both. He turned and grabbed me again by the arm and pulled me back, too hard and I cried out in pain. Edward lunged at Jake and wrapped his hand around his neck and squeezed.
"Edward, stop!" I screamed. "Don't hurt him!"
Edward looked over at me and I could see his eyes had turned an even deeper red, the intensity of his anger making them flash dangerously. He drew in a sharp breath, exhaled loudly and then turned back to Jacob and let him go. "Stand back," Edward said.
The moment he was released, Jacob burst out of his clothes, and then his own skin, and then bristled with reddish brown fur everywhere, transforming before my eyes into a demonic looking wolf, larger than a human, more ferocious looking than any creature I'd ever seen. He bared his enormous glistening teeth and growled menacingly.
"Holy shit," I said. "So it really is true."
"Get in the car, Bella," Edward said.
Jacob growled as I backed towards the Vanquish. Edward crouched in an aggressive stance and I felt terror rip through me.
"Look, it's her decision," Edward said. "I'm not forcing her into anything. I didn't trick her." Edward glanced back at me, and looked over to Jacob who gave a low growl. "Bella, you need to get in the car. He's calling the pack."
"Please get in the car," he said, his tone more stressed.
I ran to the Vanquish and jumped in, Edward right behind me, and Jake right behind him. Edward knocked Jake back towards the woods with a blow to the shoulder and then climbed into the driver's seat and we took off.
In the rearview mirror, I saw four other wolves galloping out of the woods to flank Jake. Edward slammed into gear and we tore down the road, the wolves following.
"Holy shit! What are they doing?"
"They're trying to save you," he said.
"I don't need to be saved," I said, confused. "Why is Jake trying to save me?"
"Because he believes I've seduced you into being with me, and that I'm going to turn you into a vampire. He's worried you'll lose your soul."
"What a crock of bullshit," I said.
"You don't know that," he said.
We accelerated into a curve, the car like a magnet to the road's surface, my body glued to the seat. "Do you believe that?" I asked him.
"I don't know," he said. "But I can't guarantee he's wrong."
"I don't need a guarantee—I officially no longer believe in guarantees."
"Fine," Edward said. "But you should be aware that there's a chance I have no soul."
"If any of us have souls, you definitely have one. Maybe your soul is stronger because of what you've had to overcome to be who you are today. Ever think of that?"
His eyes turned soft, though still pointed straight ahead at the road. I clasped my hand around his and leaned in to kiss him on the ear as he checked the rearview mirror again. I turned around and looked at the road behind us, but I could no longer see the wolves.
"They're in the woods," he said. "They won't run on the road for long because they don't want to be seen, but they're close by. We'll be fine once we hit Port Angeles. They won't come out in the city."
Edward got on the phone with Carlisle and told him about the confrontation with Jacob and the fact that we were now being trailed by five werewolves. Carlisle said the Cullens would meet us at Reckoner where it would be safe until he could speak to Billy Black to see if some sort of truce could be arranged. Edward didn't look hopeful about that.
"I should call Jake," I said. "If I explain this all to him, he'll back off."
"I doubt he'll pick up," Edward said.
"I'll leave him a message," I said, trying to interpret the consternation that crossed Edward's face. Was he angry or just stressed out? I got into Jake's voicemail and started rambling. "Listen, the only reason Edward bit me was because he found me…" I stopped talking because the horror of the previous night's events suddenly broke through my strange adrenaline-fueled focus. I continued, my voice wavering with emotion. "I was dying, Jake. He bit me to keep me from dying and then he sucked all the venom out, so I'm not a vampire, okay? It's just a big misunderstanding. Call me when you're not freaking out. I don't want to fight. Oh, and could you please not tell Charlie? I'll tell him myself. Eventually." Then I sent him a text message, "We need to talk. Listen to vm and call me."
"You should call your father," Edward said when I hung up. "He's going to worry when your car is found."
He was right, of course, though I dreaded talking to Charlie more than I dreaded anything about this situation. More than I dreaded the wolf pack or the bears, I dreaded hurting Charlie in some way. Oh please, Charlie, please don't ask me a lot of questions. I really hate lying to you, I silently begged.
"Are you okay?"
"Yes, I'm fine. But I put my car in a ditch and popped two tires. Can you have it towed to the garage? I'm on my way to see Illeana for a few days."
There was a long silence. I was certain he was about to ask me what had happened and who I was with and what could I say? I'm thirty years old, I can say whatever I want, I reminded myself. I took a breath.
"I'll take care of it," he finally said. "When are you coming home?"
"I'll be home for graduation." Edward scowled at me and shook his head in disagreement. "I promised the kids."
"Do you need anything?"
"No, Dad," I said, straining to keep my voice neutral, biting my lip. Manic energy began to surge through me again, but not in any good way, carrying all of my guilt and anxiety to new highs. "I'm sorry."
"Bella, what's wrong?" he asked. "Do you want me to come get you?"
"No," I said. "I'm okay, I swear."
"Well, I'm glad you're going to see Illeana," he said.
"Yeah it's been too long. I have to go now—I love you."
"I love you too, Bells. Call me if you need anything."
I hung up and began to cry. Edward reached for my hand and held it gently. I felt disoriented, anxious, like I had no idea where the line between my imagination and reality existed. I was in love with a vampire. My oldest friend was a werewolf. My ex-fiance had been mauled by a shape shifted bear. What part of my world would crumble next?
"I don't know what's real," I said, my voice shaking. "I can't trust anything I think I know. It's all fucked up."
"This is a very disorienting period for you," he said. "I wish I'd found a way to make this transition easier. I never wanted to upend your life."
I looked over at him and his eyes were still deep red, but now full of sadness. "You saved my life," I said. "I'd have no life to upend if it wasn't for you."
"You give me far too much credit."
"No, I don't."
"I want you to consider something for me," he said, pulling into Port Angeles city limits. "I know there won't be enough time for you to think it over, so please think it through carefully before answering."
"I want you to leave Forks with me."
"Okay," I said.
"What? Are you saying yes?"
"Yes," I said. "When do we leave?"
"No, I want you to think about it for longer than that."
"I don't need to."
"Yes, you do," he said. "Just last night you told me you couldn't marry me because you thought this was a dream, and you were right to put me off."
"Marriage is a different matter," I said.
"Well I don't want you making a rash decision about this, either. You don't know the first thing about the life of a vampire. If you're going to come with me we have to talk about that and you need to think through all the repercussions. You've got family, a life, a reputation to consider. Everyone in Forks thinks I'm seventeen—how are you going to handle that?"
"I'm coming with you and I don't care how it looks."
"That's the mania talking."
"You're starting to piss me off, Edward. And that's another thing—of all the stories to come up as cover, why the hell did you have to pretend to be a high school student? Couldn't you have pretended to be a spy?"
"Oh shit," he said. "I know and I'm sorry, Bella. It was an experiment. It was probably the dumbest thing we ever did."
"Why did you do it?"
"It was for Alice. She never got to go to high school, and she was very sentimental for her lost humanity. She wanted to go back and have the experience of being a normal teenager. We thought if we all went with her to school we could help her get through the year and we could re-establish ourselves in Forks at a young age, which would allow us to integrate with the human population and stay for awhile. When we spend too much time out of human population we lose our empathy for humans, which makes it more likely we'll hunt them."
"I know. The whole year was a disaster except for one thing."
"I found you." His mood lightened then, a crooked smile spread across his lips. I raised my eyebrows at him.
"I'm coming with you," I said.
Downtown was a little crowded but Edward pulled into a parking spot on the street in front of Illeana's office building.
"Hey—I wasn't serious about seeing Illeana," I said.
"Well, actually, you have an appointment," he said, looking a little sheepish.
"What are you talking about?" I started to feel my face get hot.
"I called her this morning after you left for work. She cleared her schedule to see you this afternoon."
"Oh my God—did you tell her about us?"
"She sort of already knew about that."
"How could she know anything about that? I never told her anything."
"Bella—Illeana is my psychiatrist."
He could have told me he was Carl Jung and I would have been less shocked. "So wait—you're not a vampire?" My heart began to pound as reality shifted hazily around me again. "You're schizophrenic? BiPolar?"
"No, no," he said. "It started out as reconnaissance, actually. I was stalking you, so I was using Illeana to get close to you." He paused, a guilty look crossing his face. "So I booked a session with her under the guise of needing a psychiatric evaluation."
"Last winter, after I met her at Mercy's show. Anyway, I found her very easy to talk to, so I told her the truth about my obsessive tendencies toward you, which I did find unhealthy and troubling. I didn't want to stalk you, Bella. But when it comes down to it, I'm a vampire, and vampires are stalkers. And I was fixated on you."
"Holy shit—Derek was right?"
"I told you as much."
"How did he know?"
"He's open to the more fantastic things of this world, so he picks up on them. So does Mike Newton."
"But Derek was wrong about your intentions—you'd never hurt me."
"Of course not," he said. "And I'm not possessed by a demon, either. But I've had to do a lot of work to give you space. You have no idea how difficult it was just to let you go to work today and not follow you. And given how it turned out I shouldn't have."
"I wouldn't go that far."
"Bella, you got into a car chase with Jacob Black. You could have been killed."
"You're over reacting a little, I think."
He shook his head at me, looked at me with some exasperation.
"Wait… does Illeana know that you're a vampire?" I asked.
"No. No, she doesn't."
"She's a very good psychiatrist. Very open minded."
"No way. This can't be happening." Now my best friend was in on vampires, and she never told me? "What did you specifically tell her about me?"
"I told her you OD'd last night and that I'd bitten you and extracted the venom and nearly killed you. And that you're manic."
"Oh shit, Edward. Are you trying to get me hospitalized?"
"No," he said, looking concerned. "Not unless that's what Illeana thinks you need."
"Oh, fuck. No," I said. "Please, please don't do this. I can't go to a hospital. You have no idea how depressing psychiatric hospitals are."
"Listen, the most important thing on this earth to me is that you are safe. You've had a terrible time lately, and most of it has been my fault. I don't want to hospitalize you—I just want to her to check you out and make sure you're okay."
"I don't believe this," I said, tears stinging my eyes. But when it came down to it, I knew he was absolutely right. My behavior over the past week had been completely self destructive, and my mental state since last night had been unreliable, glittering stars under a halo of hazy realities. I wanted to see Illeana and have her clear out the fog, I just didn't want to be put away.
He gave my hand a gentle squeeze and kissed me on the cheek.
"Are you ready?" he asked. "She's waiting."
"Okay," I said.
We sat in Illeana's waiting room, which was thankfully empty of patients, until Illeana waddled out, her beautiful round baby belly reminding me the time to meet Perla Rogers was drawing near. She looked tired and concerned as she gave us each a welcoming hug. She took me by the arm and led me into her office while Edward waited outside.
"It's been way too long," she said. "I really wish you would have told me what you've been going through. You know I would have been there for you."
"What do you know?" I asked.
"What do you know?" she asked.
"Are you trying to entrap me?"
"So you're paranoid now, too?"
"I'm not suicidal and I'm not going in-patient. I don't care if I'm floridly psychotic right now—I'm not going. You can medicate me until I can't move but I'm not going in-patient."
"Why are you so angry?"
"Because you didn't tell me about vampires," I said, raising my voice. Then I lowered it again, trying to keep control over my emotions. "And I spent nine months despising myself for being in love with a teenager."
"Is that why you tried to kill yourself?"
"I didn't try to kill myself," I said.
She said nothing, but leveled that look that told me I was full of shit.
"I thought I was going to go to jail," I said, my eyes stinging from the acid of my tears. I didn't want to appear erratic or in any way out of control. "I thought I was going to disgrace my father and I was in a lot of pain and I just wasn't thinking. I don't want to kill myself, Illeana. I really don't."
"Okay, hija," she said. "I believe you. I swear."
"How could you not tell me you were seeing him?" I accused her, my voice bitter. "I'm your best friend."
“I’m a psychiatrist, Bella. You know I can’t break confidentiality. I could be sued.”
“You're not worried about being sued by a vampire,” I said. “Please give me some credit.”
“You have no idea,” she said. “I’m much more afraid of lawyers.”
"So do you believe he's a vampire?"
"Yes, he's definitely a vampire," she said.
"How can you be so sure?"
"Bella, I'm a doctor. I can tell a living person from an undead one."
"Illeana, what the hell am I going to do?"
"You're going to deal with your shit, that's what, so you can stop tormenting yourself. Either that or I really will put you up to keep you from doing something stupid again."
"Fuck, no," I said. "Please don't."
"Are you ready to talk then? I've got all night."
I sighed and leaned back into the couch. Afternoon sun was streaming through the tall windows behind Illeana's desk, a diffuse glow surrounded her, like some kind of aura. Maybe it was. Maybe with my mania I could see auras now.
"Do you believe in auras?" I asked.
"Of course," she said. "Why, can you see mine?"
"Yes," I said. "It's all pink."
"That's Perla," she smiled. "Maybe Edward's venom has opened you up, given you the sight, crees?"
"Who knows?" I said, and let out a big sigh. "I have no idea what's real anymore, Ill. I'm lost."
"You're far from lost, girl," she said. "You're found, if you ask me."
We sat quietly together, her looking at me in that caring, compassionate way of hers. She really would sit there all night, I believed, would order empandas and virgin sangria for delivery and talk auras and vampires until I was ready to talk about the big scary stuff I kept buried deep in my aching heart.
"I've got so much shit to process," I said. "I don't even know where to start."
"Zachary," she said. "You have to start with him."
At the sound of his name, said out loud, I felt the first tears spilling. I turned my head to the side, wiped my eyes with the backs of my hands and tried to just breathe. He could have been sitting on the couch with me, I felt Zack's presence so acutely, like he'd never left.
"I've been the shittiest widow ever," I began but had to stop because I was choking on my guilt. "It's like whenever I remember him it hurts so bad I'm afraid it's going to kill me."
"What's the last thing you remember of him?"
"He promised when he got home from this tour we could start a family," I said, glancing over at Illeana's big belly and feeling pain like an axe through my core.
"You talk like he's still over there."
I closed my eyes and covered my face as more pain hit me. She was right. I hadn't even realized it. "That was our last conversation on the phone—'Baby, I'm gonna knock you up when I get home, so get ready.'" I used my best Zack impression and laughed a little as I remembered him teasing me. "A few days later the officers were at my door with the notice… " My voice trailed off as I felt myself shutting down, the room going grey around me.
"Bella?" Illeana said. "Can you stay here with me?"
"It hurts," I said. "I can't believe how much it still hurts."
"I'm sure," she said. "I can't imagine what kind of pain that must be for you."
"What am I going to do?"
"Can you just let yourself feel it for a minute?"
"I know," she said. "Try this—close your eyes and move them slowly to the left."
I did, and felt my heart begin to beat a little less frantically in my chest, felt my breathing begin to seat itself lower in my lungs.
"Good. Now move your eyes back to the right. Do it slowly."
I did as she asked and felt the tide of pain recede some more.
"Are you still with me?"
"Yes," I said.
"Good. Now do it again—even more slowly."
My eyes still closed, I moved them to the left and held them there for a couple of beats and felt my breath deepening, slowing, my lungs filling comfortably. I exhaled and then moved my eyes to the right slowly and felt as though my brain had centered itself. "What is this doing?"
"It's supporting your corpus callosum to get the left and right hemispheres of your brain talking. The left brain is now taking some of the heat from the emotional right brain and mitigating your overactive amygdala. Do you feel calmer?"
"Totally," I said. "That's freaky."
"Cool, right? It's a combination of hypnosis and modified EMDR."
"Wow," I said.
"You can use that anytime you get overwhelmed. It only takes a few minutes. Can you go back to that memory of Zack now?"
"Okay," I said, tentatively. I closed my eyes again and thought of him in his uniform, thought of the fear I had even then that he wouldn't come back and felt sick. I opened my eyes. "It's like I've just tried to blot him out, Ill. Like I never even had that life."
"Bella, you did what you had to do to survive. Zachary was a soldier—he of all people understood survival."
"What should I do?"
"You're going to have to forgive yourself," she said. "If Zack was here right now, do you think he'd want you to be so angry with yourself?"
"Of course not," I said. "We talked about these things. We were young but we understood the risks. He wanted me to promise him…"
Suddenly I found myself right in the middle of my last night with Zachary. He'd taken me out for crab legs and then home again, where we'd closed all the curtains, cranked up the stereo and had sex in every room of the house. In the small hours of the morning when we were worn and clutching onto those final moments together he'd asked me, "Isabella, if I don't make it home this time, what will you do?"
"Don't talk like that," I'd said. "You have to come home to me."
"Please, honey. I need to know that if something happens to me over there you're going to be okay. I want you to finish your degree, meet someone, have a life. For me."
"Zack, please," I'd said. "You're going to jinx yourself."
"Since when are you so superstitious?"
"I hate talking like this. Especially right now."
"Promise me then."
"Promise what?" Illeana asked, breaking into my thoughts.
"I promised him if he didn't come home I'd finish school and move on with my life."
"Did he say anything about you marrying again?"
"Yes," I said, choking up. "He wanted me to get married again if he died. I told him forget it."
"I didn't want him to die," I said, crying. "I thought if he thought I'd be alone the rest of my life, maybe he would find a way not to get killed and leave me."
"Okay," she said. "I get it."
"Yep. By not moving on in your life, you're punishing Zack for getting killed and leaving you."
My stomach churned and I dug my nails into the palms of my hands as I considered how right she was. It was agony to have that in the forefront of my consciousness. "I am so angry at him for dying, Illeana. I know that makes me a terrible wife."
"Of course you're angry," she said. "I would be too."
"I don't want to be angry anymore," I said. "It's killing me."
"So maybe you have to forgive Zack first," she said. And the guilt I felt at this realization made me cry so hard I gave myself a migraine. Illeana handed me the box of tissues.
"Okay," I said, blowing my nose. "I'll work on that."
"But Bella, you have to realize, once you forgive him for dying, he'll really be dead. He won't be out there in your unconscious, trying to come home to you. Are you ready for that?"
I lowered my head to my knees and buried myself in my arms, gripping my hair to keep my head from slipping off my neck. Illeana rubbed my back and then wrapped her arms around me as I shook with full body sobs. I don't know how long we sat there, but there came a time when my body stopped shaking, the sobs stopped and I finally felt emptied of that agonizing pain. It wasn't gone, but for the time being, it wasn't strangling me from the inside. Like the pain itself had been let out onto the carpet of Illeana's office, and I could be separate from it for once, could see it for what it was, rather than trying to wrestle it out from my guts. And looking at it there like that, I realized I was bigger than it. I was stronger.
"I want to move forward," I said. "I'm ready now."
"Forward is right out there in my waiting room," she said. "He's waiting for you."
I nodded. She was right. But I was still afraid. "This whole vampire thing—I'm still afraid that I'm going to wake from some kind of dream and find out I'm in love with a high school student."
"It's an episode of de-realization, Bella, you know this. Your world assumptions have been shattered. It takes time to adjust."
"So then how do I trust reality?"
"Trust yourself," she said. "You're not really crazy, okay? The world is crazy. Just do the best you can. You will come to believe in yourself and your vision of the world. But give yourself time."
"Okay then, if I trust that he's not really 17, I am still disgusted with myself for how I behaved with him when I thought he was. I'm having tremendous guilt over this."
"I know you are," she said. "So let's try a thought experiment. I want you to pretend that Edward was the one in your shoes. Let's say he had survived some traumatic loss, perhaps even the loss of everyone he ever loved when he was still quite young."
"I know where you're going with this."
"Stay with me. Let's say he coped with it in ways that were self destructive, not pills, necessarily, but let's say the way he handled those losses led him to feel very conflicted internally."
"Right," I said. "I get it."
"Now let's say it's years later and he meets someone who is clearly off-limits to him, but he falls deeply in love with her anyway. He tries to keep himself from crossing the line, from doing things he knows aren't right or socially acceptable, maybe from doing things that he believes might even be harmful to her. But he fails. No matter what he tries, he is still helplessly driven to her. What would you say to him about that?"
"I'd say I totally understand," I said. "We are driven by our feelings, and when we try to act out of line with our feelings, it makes us feel crazy and sick. That's the conflict of humanity—the id versus the superego. Sometimes the id wins."
"Sometimes the id is right, Bella. Your central nervous system, that part of your mind that lives in your tissue, in your cells, but not necessarily in your cognitions, knows some things that you can't register with your consciousness. That's what we call intuition and it's a very real part of you."
"I know," I said. "I suck at listening to my intuition."
"You have to practice, girl. Your body knows what what you need. Your mind, the superego, can be flooded with data from the outside world that can confuse more than clarify things. So the superego isn't always right. And in the case of both you and Edward, it has been very clearly wrong."
"What do you mean?"
"I mean your heart knows he's right for you and your brain has fucked you up. So tell your brain to shut up and listen to your heart."
I started to cry again, but this time it wasn't pain that those tears carried out of my body. It was relief.
"Bring him in," I said. "Please."
"Sure," she said. She pulled away from me and gave me a long, caring look. Then she gave me a gentle kiss on my forehead. "You deserve to be happy, hija."
Edward came into the office, a little tentative. I felt like my soul wanted to levitate off the couch and hover all around him, I was struck with such a profound sense of relief that he was there, with me, in this new reality. My face must have been swollen from all of the heavy, hard crying I'd been doing and he looked worried as he studied me. He crossed the room to take the chair next to the couch where I sat and I shook my head and motioned for him to sit next to me on the couch. I put my arms around him, buried my nose in his shoulder and breathed deeply, happily lost in the scent of him.
"Thanks," I said. He cradled me in his arms and smoothed my hair.
"Are you okay?" he asked.
"She's got work to do, but she's on the right trail," Illeana said.
"What about the depression?" he asked.
"She's not depressed. She's grieving, finally, which is good. It's what she needs to do. But she's also manic, so it's a bit of a mess in her head." Illeana took out a prescription pad and began scribbling. "Keep an eye on her and if she gets any higher call me."
"Are you prescribing me medication?"
"Bella, you've got traces of his venom in you—do not take any pills, do you understand me? And absolutely no alcohol. I have no idea what they'll do to you right now."
"I feel really sketchy."
"I'll bet," she said, handing me the prescription pad. On it were a bunch of instructions that she went over with us. "No caffeine or sugar, get an hour at least of aerobic exercise every day and make sure you're getting a minimum of eight hours of sleep."
"I can't sleep if I'm manic."
"You can if you get enough aerobic exercise," she said. "Try swimming. Low impact, good burn. I'm sure you can think of some other activities. Have you had any craving for blood?"
"Have you figured out what you're going to tell Charlie?"
"No," I said. "I'm really worried about that too."
"Never underestimate Charlie," Illeana said. "He'll find a way to accept this as long as he knows you're safe and happy. That's all he wants."
"I know," I said.
"And how about you, Mr. Cullen?" Illeana asked. "Is all right with the world now?"
"She's coming with me," he said. "I can't ask for more of the world than that."