pour the night into a glass
twilight: edward/bella, jacob/bella. post-eclipse, 3076 words, pg.
he would’ve avoided the reception had it not been fifty feet from the actual wedding, but the fact is he can’t leave without goodbye, so he slowly pushes his father toward laughter and champagne and congratulations.
notes: much thanks to aiseiri_47, who deserves a lifetime of chocolates. ♥
“May I speak with Isabella Cullen?”
“This is she.”
“I’m calling to let you know that my father, Jacob Black—”
Bella drops the phone, a hard ring against the polished wood. Her hands shake as Edward looks up at her. Her lips are repeating “Jacob, Jacob, Jacob,” and he hears the slightest clicks against the roof of her mouth, too soft for human ears. In an instant he’s up, an arm around her waist, picking up the phone, setting it back down with a soft cl-clink.
Her arms, hard as diamond, don’t know where to go for a moment, an awkward pausing against his shirt until he shifts and she slides into him. A memory, the first days when they didn’t know each other, when she didn’t know where to put her hands when he kissed her, where on earth she might find her place. And even now, after all these years, the memory of a wolf-boy makes her stumble and stutter. He can hear her words, though the air remains silent: “Dear God, what just—he’s?—but he can’t be—Oh God, oh Edward, oh Jacob—”
He tilts her face up, and her thoughts slide away. They’re only his imagination, after all. He wonders if her mental voice is as hysterical and sobbing and quiet as he imagines. He flicks the thought away as her eyes open and he imagines the tears waiting to fall there. Another figment of his imagination. Vampires can’t cry.
She buries her face into his chest again, and he wants to give that human gift back to her, if only for five minutes of release, but he made this, he made her, and her hard brown eyes—brown for one last time—surface in his mind. I want this. I want you. Edward. Don’t you dare hesitate.
So this is here. This is now. And even as he feels her hair blowing whisper-soft in the slight breeze, he knows she is somewhere else.
Something borrowed, something blue—but she’s only got a diamond tucked inside her dress, close to her heart. The stone hasn’t been cold for days.
She lifts a corner of the veil, watching as it falls in perfect formation over her curls. Will her hair remain curly after the venom’s taken its course? What exactly does the venom do, exactly? Almost like a frozen state of being—every cell’s preserved just as it is. It may seem to remove all imperfections, but look here, I’ve still got this birthmark. Bella smiles as she remembers Rosalie lifting her locks to show her a penny-sized patch on the back of her neck, almost like half of a heart. So she wasn’t entirely perfect after all.
Rosalie. She wonders what a wedding dress would look like, all the shining endless yards of the pure white flecked with blood. The blood of innocents, too. Was it any worse? How many had it been? Five? Six? What was atonement like for a vampire, anyway?
The never-ending stream of questions fly out of her mind when Esme appears at the door. “How did today go? Did you like it?”
A smile assumes itself on her face, and she answers, “Yes, I really liked it. Except we haven’t got a flower girl yet, of course. How’s Audrey?”
“She’s fine, but I think she might be terrified of flowers now.” Both laugh a little at the memory of a large wreath of lilies seemingly crowning itself on the shy seven-year-old.
“Can we still have her? She’s perfect for flower girl.”
“Are you sure you don’t want to use—”
“All right, then. I’ll go see what I can do.”
“You’re welcome, dear.”
And she’s gone, and the “Claire’s sister, Michelle” remains unspoken. Bella sighs.
He shifts uncomfortably in the small white chair, its every creak threatening to break the fragile structure. It’s just a little off, the chair: too small, too uncomfortable, too flimsy. Or maybe it’s the air—not the scent of the vampires nearby; he shook that off a long time ago. The whole situation, environment, atmosphere, whispering: “why aren’t you the one waiting at the end of the aisle for her?” But he knows what this means for both of them, and he’s never hated a wedding so much before in his life.
The wedding march plays—a fourth interval, he remembers startlingly, the da dum dum dum—and he stands so quickly, he’s sure his chair has toppled over in fright. His eyes keep to the ground until a flash of white pulls them up, and he sees her flowers first. White camellias, pure as snow, no color but that soft hint of yellow in the centers. Does she even like camellias? His mind races, but he can’t remember what kind of flower she likes. Roses, no, too fancy; carnations, no, too simple. Another unremembered memory.
She’s almost passing where he is when he finally gathers the courage to look at her face, but it’s hidden by a veil. He thinks he can see a smile under there, hidden under the tulle, but he knows the smile isn’t for him. His eyes linger on a brown curl before dropping back down to his tightly clasped hands. His glance flickers over to the wheelchair right beside him, and he acknowledges the tight smile on his father’s face before sitting back down on his surprisingly upright chair. He keeps a sigh down and tries to block out the loud “We gather here today. . . .”
The sky is grey and overcast, of course. They wouldn’t have it any other way, and they probably had that future-seeing girl tell them which day to pick, he reflects. Only he was in this future, so she wouldn’t have been able to, he remembers with a triumphant grimace. Ha. Trump that one, vampire fortune-teller girl, you.
The rest passes in a blur as Jacob sits through the wedding of his own Bella, given to another man to have and to hold.
He would’ve avoided the reception had it not been fifty feet from the actual wedding, but the fact is he can’t leave without goodbye, so he slowly pushes his father toward laughter and champagne and congratulations. He pretends that the grass is making it difficult to push his father through the emptying aisle, but every step is closer to his doom. He tries not to think of what he’ll say to her but unconsciously the “You look beautiful,” the “Best wishes,” the “I’m glad you’re happy,” they all spring up in his mind, and he almost runs his father into the small fleet of white chairs to his left. He shakes his hair from his eyes and nods at his father’s soft “I’ll take it from here.”
He steps inside the glass-walled building and notices a small white petal on the ground, not yet trampled and perfectly shaped. He sees another and slowly follows the every-so-often trail of flower petals on the ground until he has walked down two short hallways and sees his curiosity has led him nowhere. But weren’t those petals from Bella’s . . .? His thoughts trail off, and the question dies in his mind as she suddenly appears before him, confusion on her face. He notices the bouquet of flowers in her hand, some of the flowers sadly devoid of their full beauty.
Simultaneously they speak and pause and stare at each other, but only for a moment. He gestures to a fallen petal on the ground.
“Dunno why, but my feet kept following these.”
“Yeah, these flowers don’t seem to hold together well.”
“Why camellias?” he asks. She looks startled, as if she had expected him to say something else.
“I don’t know, really. I like them, of course—well, I never especially liked them, but I thought they’d go along well with my dress, even Edward didn’t really know why, you know, he—”
“Yeah.” Jacob wants to turn sideways and resign himself to banging his head on the wall with his stupid interruption, but she catches his eyes again and smiles, unexpectedly.
“I’m glad you came, Jacob.”
“You look beautiful, you know.” Sort of beautiful rings in his head for a moment, and he instantly banishes the thought of thinking of the thought. Coils within coils for her.
She blushes, of course, pink rising on her cheeks under the make-up. “Blame it on Alice. She couldn’t have me look anything else than perfect.”
“She did a good job, then.” They both smile, just a little.
Jacob breaks the silence first, a sharp inhale and slow exhale. “Bella, you know this is goodbye.”
“B-but—I know.” She looks down, a quick tear glimmering in her eye, then gone.
“I know he loves you, better than I ever could. No, don’t—I know this. And you deserve him, and he deserves someone like you. Look, you know that I love you, right? And I always will. But you are his, and I won’t—I’ll be Switzerland for you. I refuse to dispute.” He tilts her face up, a quick touch and a hand snatched away, partially in fear. “I love you, yeah? But I am your past now, and I won’t ruin your future. So go; go and see him and toast your new life. I don’t want you to think of me. He is your life now.”
Her breath catches with his last words, but he doesn’t know why. The next move is her hand in his, pressing something small and wooden and carved. He closes his hand against it instinctively, and she gives a quick shake of her head, a “no, no, just take it, please just take it” but he won’t. He could only throw it away, or hide it somewhere secret, and he doesn’t want any physical reminders.
“Jacob, I’m giving this back to you. Not because I don’t want it anymore, but because it belongs to you. The piece of your heart that belonged to me, the part that I held dear and will truly miss—my best friend. But it belongs to you again. So please just take it back.” He shakes his head, a firm no set into his shoulders. She smiles sadly and then looks at him with clear eyes.
“I love you. You are my best friend, and I will never forget it. But this is goodbye, and from here I will walk out of your life, and you will walk out of mine. So goodbye, dear friend.” She leans in, a quick brush against his cheek. He takes her hand for a moment, the one that isn’t holding the white bouquet. He tries to smile at her, and she smiles a little back, and when he lets go she turns and walks back down the hallway, following her unintentional trail of white petals.
He turns and walks the other way, and it is only out by the car that he discovers it in his pocket: he clutches the silent wolf in his fist, cursing the heavens.
Edward holds Bella’s hand tight as her finger pauses on the redial, then pushes. The beeping noises seem to be hours long and the rings days apart. Then when the ambient noise comes on and she hears a “Hello, who is this?” she almost drops the phone again, but somehow Edward is holding her together. She opens her mouth.
“Hi, this is Isabella Cullen. I’m sorry, but I accidentally dropped your call.” She winces at the “literally” she can hear forming in Edward’s mind, but stays steady and calm.
“Oh, yes, don’t worry about that. Well, as I said, I’m calling about my father—”
“Yes I know.” The words rush out and Bella looks at Edward again, and he reassures her with a slight nod.
“He passed away last Tuesday, and as you were a family friend I thought it would only be right if you knew.”
“Yes.” She pauses. “Thank you.”
“I’m sorry if this news is a shock to you. I’m still processing it myself, actually. Sorry, I never gave you my name. I’m Heather Black Newman, his daughter.”
But Bella already knew this, could hear it in her voice. Nothing is a shock now. She doesn’t know what to say and grips the phone harder, almost shaking.
“My apologies, but I was wondering, how did you know my father?”
“It’s like you said, a family friend. It was a long time ago.”
“Yes, I’m surprised you’re still alive, in fact. Ninety-four is quite the age to go out at, and you yourself are older than him, aren’t you?”
Bella blinks rapidly, banishing the sudden lies. “Yes, I’m older.” But she stops speaking and closes her mouth. What is she supposed to say, “Hi, I’m Bella, I’m ninety-seven years old, and I look like I’m in my twenties”? Would this girl accept the legend of the vampire if she already knew of the werewolves? Oh. Did she even know of the werewolves? Surely they had phased out, with the Cullens gone and no other “protectors” needed in the tribe, and it would be generations out by now. Edward touches her cheek, bringing her out of thought. She smiles at him and finally hears what Heather is saying.
“. . . almost didn’t expect to find you. I mean, I thought surely one of your children or even grandchildren would answer the phone. My brother tried to have my daughter do all the calling, since I’m pushing seventy-six, don’t you know.” She laughs. “I’m not too old, I tell myself.”
“Yeah, it’s easy to . . . lie, and pretend we’re young . . . again. . . .” Bella stumbles. Heather’s answer is quick.
“I’m so sorry if this is uncomfortable for you, surely you must still be processing that my father has passed. I won’t—”
“No, no, it’s fine—”
“I won’t keep you, though. We do have a funeral for him on Saturday, if you’d like to come. I couldn’t get your address so the invitation will have to be by phone only. The La Push cemetery, at four o’clock, Saturday. You won’t have to tell us you’re coming in advance, so show up if you would like to.”
“Oh, yes, thank you. For telling me. Heather. I’ll think about it.”
“All right, then. Best wishes to you.”
“And to you, too. Goodbye.”
“Bye.” The final click and Bella turns, broken again, into Edward’s shoulder. He holds her tight and sets the phone back on the stand, the soft cl-clink again.
“I want to go,” she whispers, and he nods, and starts to calculate the generation they could be for this one.
The service is solemn and quiet, a mass of black around a dark-paneled closed coffin. Had it been open, Bella is sure she would’ve already bolted. Edward holds her hand tight as someone sends up a wailing chant, high above their heads. She leans her head on his shoulder and stares at the box holding the remains of . . . Jacob. Jake. She’ll have this image burned into her clear, perfect memory and every time, she knows, it will override the punched a werewolf in the face and the you’re sort of beautiful and the final I love you. Hazy human moments, like trying to catch water with bare hands.
When the service ends and they make to leave, Bella suddenly stops and turns back around. A woman stands there, grasping a cane to support her stooping body, but with that same look of fierce determination on her face.
“You must be—”
“Isabella Cullen’s granddaughter, Marie.”
“Ah.” Heather pauses and takes her in, the shining beauty of twenty-years-old next to another perfect being. “I see. I’m Heather Black Newman.”
“Yes, my grandmother told me about you. Oh, this is Charles, my husband.”
“Nice to meet you,” he says, nodding with warm eyes. Bella smiles at him with the same adoration as if they were twenty and seventeen, young again.
“Why did you come, instead of your grandmother?” Heather asks directly, eyes only for Bella.
“She couldn’t make it, you know, old age doesn’t restrict her mind but her body’s catching up with her age. She’s really sorry she can’t come, but she did want me to pass along a message to you.”
“Oh, what’s that?”
“She wanted to say that she’s sorry that your father has passed away, and that he was a good man, and she was happy to know him when she did.” Bella’s hands twist within each other, but she can’t stop the obvious fidgeting.
“Really, now,” Heather murmurs to herself. “Well then, thank you. Tell her that I am grieving with her, Marie.”
“I will,” Bella answers. She smiles and they nod at each other, and Bella finally turns away from the coffin, his daughter, and the funeral, taking Edward’s hand in hers as they walk back to the car.
She can feel Heather’s eyes behind her, but she won’t look back, not now, not ever again. She can still feel that hole in her heart, that wolf-shaped hole that she has tried to heal by slipping that charm back into his pocket, by trying to forget his memory over the years, by finally coming to where he had ended. Her mouth finally closes on the thought of the word: closure.
They stop by the car, a slight pause where he will open her door for her, ever the gentleman. Twenty and seventeen again. She pulls at his other hand and slips her arm around his waist, staring over at the dispersing black mass by the seemingly empty patch of ground. One last mourner is still by the grave, an elderly woman with her head bowed. She turns to see another elderly woman approach, who leads her away very slowly. Whether they are slow because of reluctance or age is unknown. The latter is younger but they are both stooped with age, time taking its toll on them both. Bella blinks and thinks wife and daughter of the deceased but she glances back up at Edward. He kisses her hair, holds her close, and speaks to the still air around them.
“It’ll be all right.”
She lifts his hand to her lips, a soft brush of stone lips against stone, and when she lets go he opens the door for her, and she slides into the darkness.