Hi there, sweet Twitards!
We've got Chapter 32 here, "Dream On."
I'm definitely going to be wrapping Osa Bella before FOORRKKSS and you all know how soon that is, and this makes me both want to jump up and down and curl into a little ball. This story, and all of you, have become such a huge part of my life now I know I will feel lost when it's all said and done. For awhile, anyway.
Did you all see the Peas and Carrots interview I did with Lola Shoes? If not, take a gander over here. It's a great fic blog, and in the coming weeks I'll be posting an interview with MasonVixen of Stranger than Fiction fame and OH HOT DAMN is that story goooood. I've been reading it in preparation for my interview with them and mmmmmm wow. That's all I got.
So sorry for flaking on the last chapter's PDF. I've got pdfs of both Chapter 31 and 32 for you now:
Chapter 31 here.
Chapter 32 here.
This note to you is pretty, "meh" I realize, and that is no reflection of my deep affection for you all, but more the fact that it's Saturday, I've got a cold, and no less than three human males and one canine on my back who are understandably running out of patience with my lack of attention today.
And where did we leave off?
Seems that Bella has been mistaken for Hala, the kermode bear come spirit guardian Edward killed in the forest back in Chapter 15. This is more of a problem than it seems, given that the bears refuse to let her go now, and now Jake has to marry her to keep them from dragging her back to the middle of nowhere. She's not at all happy about this. And what about that Edward? I suppose we may see him soon, because as Jake figures, there's no way he's not coming for her. (pervy giggle).
In a couple of hours I'll be on a train to meet some of you crazy h00kers. Cannot wait!
See the rest of you in the comments! Right?
Even in my dreams there was rain.
In this dream the sky was dark and Edward was on Reckoner, straining to keep her in one piece as she pitched and rolled on dangerously high swells in the straight. Fog surrounded him in the shipping lanes. Lightning threatened him out on the open water. He set no course but followed a sign, the head of the white bear, Hala, as she swam out to sea.
"Hurry," I called out in my sleep. "We're running out of time!"
Jacob burst into the room. "What's wrong?" he asked, waking me. "Why were you yelling? Are you okay?"
"It was nothing," I said. "Bad dream. What time is it?"
"Really?" I said, squinting at him through the semi-darkness.
"You need to get out of bed."
"No, I don't," I said.
"Bella, you've been laying in bed for most of the last three days."
"It's shitty out," I said, listening to the rain falling on the roof, pelting the windows.
"Get up," he said. "We've got some business to take care of."
"There's a prenuptial kind of thing," he said.
"What the hell? Like a contract?"
"No," he said. "More like an event."
"A rehearsal dinner?"
"Not exactly," he said. "The elders of the two tribes are gathering tonight. It's the formal creation of a new treaty between the Quileutes and the Ani Tsa' gu hi. Since you and I will be guardians of the new unified tribe we need to be there."
"I'm busy," I said, rolling over and sticking my head under the pillow.
"Get dressed, Bella," he said, dismissing me as he walked out into the kitchen.
I grabbed my phone off the nightstand and dialed Edward again, and again got his voicemail. "I love you—be careful. But hurry," I said. Then I hung up and dialed Charlie.
"What's up, Bells?" he asked.
"Did you ever reach Edward?" I asked.
"No," he said. "Carlisle said he was at sea, so he won't have any cell reception."
"Dad, when he comes for me I'm going to run."
"I know," he said.
"Will you forgive me?"
"Bella, you never have to ask me for forgiveness. But I'll tell you this. If Edward lets anything happen to you, a rabid bear attack will be the least of his worries."
The rain stopped sometime during my first cup of coffee and the sun came out as I sipped my second. Across the street, I watched three black bears lounge in the wet grass, staring at me like they knew me.
"Those were Hala's sister and two brothers," Jake said, coming out onto the porch. "Anna Marie says they feel very protective of you."
"They feel protective of me because they think I'm their dead bear sister. But I feel like I want to make them into bear rugs."
"You know, you could try for one minute to see this from their point of view," Jake said. "How do you think we'd all react if Edward had killed you instead of Hala? Do you have any idea what Charlie would do?"
"Edward would never kill me."
"That's not the point," he said. "He killed Hala and her family loved her as much as your family loves you. If Edward had killed you, I promise you he'd be dead by now."
"I know what happened to Hala was tragic," I said. "I wish I could take it all back, but I can't."
"You've been given a chance to make up for it," Jake said. "And all you do is lie around feeling sorry for yourself."
"Fuck you," I said. I hated the truth in his words, hated how he challenged my self-pity. "Don't tell me you're not pissed off about this—I know you don't want to marry me."
"Well, you're wrong," he said. He put his arm around my shoulders and kissed me on top of my head. "I just don't want to marry you while you're in love with my mortal enemy."
"It's like we're all paying for Hala's death in the most twisted way possible," I said.
"Karma is funny like that," Jake said.
"And you don't even deserve the payback," I said. "You had nothing to do with Hala's death."
"We all have our role to play," he said. "I suppose we'll see what mine is soon enough."
That evening Jake and I walked down to the beach, with Hala's bear siblings following closely behind. I tried to imagine them as they really were—a bereaved, somewhat confused family. Their eyes were kind but full of sorrow, like somehow they knew I could never be what they needed me to be, but still they hovered, protective and hopeful.
On the beach, the great orange light of the fire spread into the dusk, flickering across the faces of the tribal elders as they spoke in low voices. Hamani gestured to us as we approached, motioning to two empty places for us to sit.
"Vampires don't like fires," Jake said, taking my hand as we approached. "So we're big on those around here."
"Oh yeah? Edward made a fire on the beach the night he proposed to me," I said, twisting my engagement ring on my finger. "He didn't seem to mind it then."
"That's because there weren't any wolves around," he said, a hardness creeping into his words. "To rip him to pieces."
"Don't be a dick," I whispered. "I don't need to be worried about any wolves ripping him to pieces right now. I'm stressed out enough."
"Bella, if I really wanted Edward dead, he'd be dead already. You know that."
"You keep saying that like you've done me some big favor."
"I have," he said. "You have no idea the pressure on me right now to get rid of him."
Hamani and several more Ani Tsa' gu hi elders, still dressed in the thrift store robes from the council office, all sat in the inner circle, closest to the fire. Quil Atera Senior, Sue, Charlie and Billy Black were seated around the bonfire across from them, and the wolf pack members were there too, forming an outer ring with several bears. Seth came over to where Jake and I sat and said in a low voice, "No sign of him at all today, Jake."
I looked at Jake suspiciously. "You've been looking for him?" I whispered in his ear.
"You'd better hope we find him before they do," he whispered back.
Anna Marie came and sat on the other side of Jacob, and I noticed the wistful look she gave him as she sat down. He glanced at her and then took my hand in his. Her eyes rested briefly on Jacob's hand, clasped around mine.
"Are we ready to get started?" Jake asked her. She smiled at him and then I realized what was going on. She was into Jake. I felt strangely, suddenly jealous. I squeezed Jake's hand, causing him to spin his head to look at me. "What?"
"Nothing," I said, catching Charlie's gaze from across the fire.
Jake put his arm around me and I watched as Charlie kept his eyes on us, a look of concern mixing into his curious expression. I felt slightly sick as a myriad of opposing feelings erupted within me. I was angry at Jake and I was angry at myself that I felt at all possessive of him in the face of Anna Marie's obvious interest. I was anxious near to the point of panic about Edward's whereabouts and hopeless about how impossible it would be for him to get anywhere near me with all these shape shifters around. If the wolves found him first, Jake would never let him near me. If the bears found him? I didn't want to think about that possibility.
Hamani began to speak, making great gestures in the firelight, waving his arms, his voice strong but older than the stars. Anna Marie translated:
"It is revealed to us by the spirit that the Cold One sought entry to the hidden lands for his kind. Dark and undying, they are forbidden to enter the world of the eternal light. There is one entry on earth that is protected by our beloved sister Hala. Finding this, the Cold One tried to seduce Hala so that she would let him pass through. When she resisted, he subdued her with his deadly kiss. He drank her heart, stripped her of her spirit body, stole her memories and she sits here before us, in the cursed state of forgetting."
"What?" I said, indignant. "I'm not cursed."
"Shhh," Jake said, squeezing my hand. "It's just a story."
"Bullshit," I said. "These stories are dictating the course of my future."
"Can you please not interrupt?" Anna Marie said to me. "Some of this might be good for you to understand."
"You don't understand," I argued. "That's not at all what happened. I was there."
"Hala became a human and ran, confused," Anna Marie continued, ignoring me. "She fled her home, her people, and was found by the wolves. She then fell in love with the wolf leader, Jacob Black."
The pack members howled and clapped at the mention of Jake's name. He stared straight ahead into the fire and muttered, "See? Just a story."
"Jacob brought Hala to Hamani, who carried her back to her people. But she was cursed with forgetting, and she could not take her true form. Jacob demanded Hamani return Hala to become his bride. The tribe found her, broken beneath the great tree and healed her and carried her back to La Push. But on the way, the Cold One stole her and a great battle was fought.
"The Cold Ones were being defeated, but Hala, seduced by the Cold One's magic begged Jacob Black to spare them. For her, he did this and then banished them from the land.
"In three days, Hala and Jacob will be married, and the Ani Tsa' gu hi will join the Quileute in peaceful union. Jacob Black will become the great Wolf King, and Hala the Bear Queen. It is destined that the Wolf King shall protect the way to the land of the eternal light until the curse on Hala has been lifted."
"I'm not cursed," I protested again. "Well, not in the way that you think."
"Hamani has now foreseen that Jacob Black will kill the Cold One and steal Hala's memory back from him and return her to her true self."
"No!" I cried and stood up. I looked at Jacob desperately. "That's why you're looking for him?" Jacob was silent as he stared into the flames. "Answer me."
"Sit down," Jake said.
"Fuck you," I said, and walked away from the fire back towards the road. From the corner of my eye I saw Charlie get up out of his seat and I saw five bears come running up behind me, including Hala's siblings. I turned and they surrounded me. "Fuck you too!" I yelled and went to break through the circle, but I was blocked by a bear that growled and flashed big, glistening teeth, causing me to pause. I'd never been directly threatened by a bear before, and I wasn't about to be now that I was going to be forced into being a bear queen. "Knock it off," I said. "Let me by."
I turned to look over my shoulder and realized it was Charlie he growled at. Charlie had his weapon drawn, pointed at the bear.
"Don't move, Bella," he said.
"Dad," I said, "I think you're pissing him off. He's not going to hurt me."
"Charlie, don't," Jacob said, walking over to the standoff.
Just then, the biggest of the bears turned and took a swipe at Charlie, knocking him to the ground and I screamed. Jake phased into the great red wolf, the rest of the pack phasing in an instant and thundering over to where we were. Jake backed the bear right off of Charlie and the bear rolled to its back, showing Jake its belly like a submissive dog. Jake came and bent his neck possessively over me, growling until the rest of the bears backed away.
I sat down on the ground and put my face into my hands, feeling trapped and hopeless. I looked up at Jake and said, "You can't kill Edward," with tears streaming down my face.
Jacob took several steps back, phased back into a human and stared at me. Then he knelt in front of me, put his arms around me and whispered, "I'm not going to kill him, Bella, because I don't want to torture you. But if I thought killing him would bring you back to me? I would gladly end him."
I'd sought the relief of sleep, but instead found myself twisting, sweating, twitching in Jake's bed that night, alone with my worry in the dark.
"Is it karma then?" I asked the great white bear who appeared to me at the foot of the bed. "Edward and I are being punished for your death?"
Hala was every bit as beautiful as I remembered her from Hurricane Ridge in the fall and from Lake Crescent in the spring. Her white fur was like bright light, the shell pink of her small ears, the shine of her black eyes made her image glow. I felt as though I could touch her and make her real, like I could ride her to the sun and back.
Hala blinked at me and I began to see. She was walking in the forest with her cubs. She was taking shelter in the hollowed out trunk of an enormous tree. She was catching salmon in the stream. She was a formation in the stars above. She was cloud cover and dew in the meadow. She was standing now in the doorway, scratching her back on the molding.
She was roaring into the dark of night.
Edward would come for me by the water—it was the only way I could imagine him getting in. So when I woke up the next day, the first thing I did was walk down to the beach.
Hala's siblings followed behind. This morning they were so close I could hear them breathing. I could hear their foot falls in the sand. I almost felt like I could hear them thinking.
"Do you want to swim today?" I called behind me, but I knew they couldn't understand my words. I stood up and went over to where they sat curiously following my movement with their eyes. I reached a hand out and one of them gave it a small sniff and then a lick. I scratched him behind the ears. "I'm sorry," I said softly and felt my eyes brimming with tears. I looked out over the water and then back at them. "I'm sorry about Hala."
That they seemed to understand.
I took my shoes off, stood up and walked to the water's edge and put my feet in. The water felt electric, conscious. So different from how I felt in my heart. The temperature enlivened me. The smell cleared my head. I checked up and down the beach. We were alone, so I stripped out of my clothes and then waded out up to my waist. I turned around to see my bears watching me from where they lounged on the beach. I walked out a little more into deeper water and then dove in.
My body took over as my hands sliced into the sea, propelling me away from the shore. I swam forward, quick like a sea creature, enjoying how the gritty saltiness of the water stimulated my skin. Then I turned and swam back towards the beach. The bears hung out, watching me. I turned again and swam back out to sea, letting the smell of the sea clear my head, lighten my spirit, spark my hope back to life. Edward would come for me. He had to. There was still time.
"This brave new you is really making me work," I recalled his voice from my last swim with him and smiled.
I put my head under water and opened my eyes. The salt burned at first but then I adjusted to the sensation. I dove down, down to the bottom and then up again, surprised at how long I was able to hold my breath. I swam out a little further, where it was deeper, and then dove down again.
I swam powerful and fast, deep down to the ocean floor. It was so dark I got nervous and as I turned to swim for the surface, I noticed it was growing darker. A storm must be rolling in, I thought.
I broke the surface of the water and found myself surrounded by thick, gray fog. In an instant it must have rolled over, onto the cove, while I was under the water. I became disoriented. I was well past the breaking waves now and couldn't tell what direction the shore was in. I listened for the sound of the surf and tried to follow it, but it seemed to be coming from all around me. My heart began to race and I felt dizzy. I was panicking.
Breathe, I said to myself. I tread the surface of the water slowly, trying to calm down so I could reorient myself. Maybe I could wait the fog out. As long as I didn’t get hit by a boat I’d be okay.
Then I saw something striking white, almost a glow against the gray fog. Hala's head bobbed several yards away, like a lighthouse on a nearby jetty. Our eyes met and she cocked her head in recognition, just like she did at our very first meeting back at Hurricane Ridge. Then she turned and started to swim. I swam after her, as fast as I could.
I swam faster and faster trying to catch her, but she always stayed out of reach. I should be hitting the breaking waves, I thought. I should be feeling the sand beneath my feet. Where was it? Was she leading me out to sea? I kept swimming until my arms and legs began to feel like lead. I filled my lungs with air and stretched on my back. Chasing Hala had worn my body out.
"This is it, then?" I called to her, my voice a little wild with fear. "Retribution? You're looking for revenge?" Perhaps I would settle this debt now for good.
Before my very eyes, Hala grew in size and and started to fade into the fog, becoming bright light inside the fog herself before dulling and disappearing. Then the fog started to roll off of me until it was behind me, but I could see no land—just the sea.
I had no strength left to swim, so I floated there, looking at the sky, my mind growing numb from the cold as it seeped deeper into my core. My limbs grew heavier, as I felt the sensation loss begin in my toes and fingers. I just kept trying to breathe, hoping a boat might spot me and save me.
Then I caught an unmistakable glint on the horizon.
I’d never be able to swim that far, but I had to try, because if I'd seen him, then he'd probably seen me. I put my head down, thrust my aching arms into the water and began to stroke.
With each length towards Reckoner my body transformed itself from flesh, bones and blood to pure settling concrete. I was far, far from the shore now, but still not close enough to Edward. I was so tired I couldn’t even see him anymore. I grew disgusted with my own weakness. I was going to die there and nobody would even know where to find my body. I'd disappear like Hala, into the fog. My poor father. And Edward—I couldn't endure the thought of leaving him this way.
I couldn't see Edward on the water now, and my hope slowly drifted out through my feet into the harrowing depths of the Pacific, taking all the lightness of my body, my soul with it. My form grew heavier, like it was being pulled from below. I struggled to keep my head above water as minutes passed that felt like days. My mind went blank and then my body just quit.
I slipped down, down beneath the surface. In one last attempt to not die, I held my breath and prayed Edward could hear my last thoughts.
“I’m so sorry,” I said over and over in my head. Just in case. "I love you but I just wasn't strong enough."
"Don't you dare drown, Bella," I heard Edward's voice, clear and strong in my head. "Don't you dare."
As I felt myself sinking deeper, I tried to refuse the influx of freezing water into my lungs. He must be so close, I thought. Hold on. But the air slowly seeped out of me and I had nothing left to fight with.
Then finally, I felt a strong cold blast beneath the water as Edward rushed to me. I felt his powerful embrace as he pulled me to him and shot us right up towards the surface.
I sputtered and coughed as my face broke through waves. Edward gripped me around the waist with one arm and swam us in the direction of the boat, which was unmanned now and receding.
“Can you speak?” he asked. I might have been able to answer, but I was crying so hard as he held me, so relieved that he'd found me, it had overwhelmed my ability to form words. "Okay sweetheart, hold on," he said, his voice strained.
He propelled us forward towards Reckoner with great speed. The water sprayed in my face and I tried to keep my head turned to keep my nose from filling up. I coughed and hacked to keep my lungs clear until we reached the safety of the boat and he climbed us onto the deck. I began to shake violently and he carried me down into the cabin and wrapped me in several blankets and just held me on the berth.
“What the hell were you doing out there?” he asked, cradling me to him, but I couldn’t answer yet. “Bella?” he said tentatively, searching my face for signs of conscious thought. "Say something, please."
“I’m so sorry for everything,” I finally said. “I’m so sorry, I’m so sorry.” I said it over and over. My brain got stuck and kept looping the words until he couldn’t stand to hear them anymore and he kissed me, breathing his cool, crisp breath into me, clearing my mind. I stopped shaking but I was still so cold, even my tears felt cold as they ran down my face. He put his arms around the blankets and held me close as I shook and cried.
“Your core body temperature is too low,” he said, worried, looking into my eyes, listening to my pulse. "Bella, I'm going to turn you. Now."
"Yes," I said. "I want you to."
"I'm sorry it's come to this." He pulled me even closer and pressed his lips to my brow and let out a heavy sigh. "But I can't let you stay so fragile. I will not lose you again.”
"I'm ready," I said.
I was afraid but absolutely determined. I would be a vampire, and I would be his.