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The Twilight Saga 2: New Moon

The Twilight Saga 2: New Moon: Page 58

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I jumped up and hurried to open the door.

Charlie trudged slowly up the walk, his eyes on the ground and his shoulders slumped. I walked forward

to meet him; he didn't even see me until I hugged him around the waist. He embraced me back fiercely.

"I'm so sorry about Harry, Dad."

"I'm really going to miss him," Charlie mumbled.

"How's Sue doing?"

"She seems dazed, like she hasn't grasped it yet. Sam's staying with her��" The volume of his voice faded in and out. "Those poor kids. Leah's just a year older than you, and Seth is only fourteen��" He shook his head.

He kept his arms tight around me as he started toward the door again.

"Um, Dad?" I figured I'd better warn him. "You'll never guess who's here."

He looked at me blankly. His head swiveled around, and he spied the Mercedes across the street, the porch light reflecting off the glossy black paint. Before he could react, Alice was in the doorway.

"Hi, Charlie," she said in a subdued voice. "I'm sorry I came at such a bad time."

"Alice Cullen?" he peered at the slight figure in front of him as if he doubted what his eyes were telling him. "Alice, is that you?"

"It's me," she confirmed. "I was in the neighborhood."

"Is Carlisle��?"

"No, I'm alone."

Both Alice and I knew he wasn't really asking about Carlisle. His arm tightened over my shoulder.

"She can stay here, can't she?" I pleaded. "I already asked her."

"Of course," Charlie said mechanically. "We'd love to have you, Alice."

"Thank you, Charlie. I know it's horrid timing."

"No, it's fine, really. I'm going to be really busy doing what I can for Harry's family; it will be nice for Bella to have some company."

"There's dinner for you on the table, Dad," I told him.

"Thanks, Bell." He gave me one more squeeze before he shuffled toward the kitchen.

Alice went back to the couch, and I followed her. This time, she was the one to pull me against her shoulder.

"You look tired."

"Yeah," I agreed, and shrugged. "Near-death experiences do that to me�� So, what does Carlisle think of you being here?"

"He doesn't know. He and Esme were on a hunting trip. I'll hear from him in a few days, when he gets back."

"You won't tell him, though�� when he checks in again?" I asked. She knew I didn't mean Carlisle now.

"No. He'd bite my head off," Alice said grimly.

I laughed once, and then sighed.

I didn't want to sleep. I wanted to stay up all night talking to Alice. And it didn't make sense for me to be tired, what with crashing on Jacob's couch all day. But drowning really had taken a lot out of me, and my eyes wouldn't stay open. I rested my head on her stone shoulder, and drifted into a more peaceful oblivion than I had any hope of.

I woke early, from a deep and dreamless sleep, feeling well-rested, but stiff. I was on the couch tucked under the blankets I'd laid out for Alice, and I could hear her and Charlie talking in the kitchen. It sounded like Charlie was fixing her breakfast.

"How bad was it, Charlie?" Alice asked softly, and at first I thought they were talking about the Clearwaters.

Charlie sighed. "Real bad."

"Tell me about it. I want to know exactly what happened when we left."

There was a pause while a cupboard door was closed and a dial on the stove was clicked off. I waited, cringing.

"I've never felt so helpless," Charlie began slowly. "I didn't know what to do. That first week��I thought I was going to have to hospitalize her. She wouldn't eat or drink, she wouldn't move. Dr. Gerandy was throwing around words like 'catatonic,' but I didn't let him up to see her. I was afraid it would scare her."

"She snapped out of it though?"

"I had Renee come to take her to Florida. I just didn't want to be the one�� if she had to go to a hospital or something. I hoped being with her mother would help. But when we started packing her clothes, she woke up with a vengeance. I've never seen Bella throw a fit like that. She was never one for the tantrums, but, boy, did she fly into a fury. She threw her clothes everywhere and screamed that we couldn't make her leave��and then she finally started crying. I thought that would be the turning point. I didn't argue when she insisted on staying here�� and she did seem to get better at first��"

Charlie trailed off. It was hard listening to this, knowing how much pain I'd caused him.

"But?" Alice prompted.

"She went back to school and work, she ate and slept and did her homework. She answered when someone asked her a direct question. But she was�� empty. Her eyes were blank. There were lots of little things��she wouldn't listen to music anymore; I found a bunch of CDs broken in the trash. She didn't read; she wouldn't be in the same room when the TV was on, not that she watched it so much before. I finally figured it out��she was avoiding everything that might remind her of�� him.

"We could hardly talk; I was so worried about saying something that would upset her��the littlest things would make her flinch��and she never volunteered anything. She would just answer if I asked her something.

"She was alone all the time. She didn't call her friends back, and after a while, they stopped calling.

"It was night of the living dead around here. I still hear her screaming in her sleep��"

I could almost see him shuddering. I shuddered, too, remembering. And then I sighed. I hadn't fooled him at all, not for one second.

"I'm so sorry, Charlie," Alice said, voice glum.

"It's not your fault." The way he said it made it perfectly clear that he was holding someone responsible. "You were always a good friend to her."

"She seems better now, though."

"Yeah. Ever since she started hanging out with Jacob Black, I've noticed a real improvement. She has some color in her cheeks when she comes home, some light in her eyes. She's happier." He paused, and his voice was different when he spoke again. "He's a year or so younger than her, and I know she used to think of him as a friend, but I think maybe it's something more now, or headed that direction, anyway." Charlie said this in a tone that was almost belligerent. It was a warning, not for Alice, but for her to pass along. "Jake's old for his years," he continued, still sounding defensive. "He's taken care of his father physically the way Bella took care of her mother emotionally.
It matured him. He's a good-looking kid, too��takes after his mom's side. He's good for Bella, you know," Charlie insisted.

"Then it's good she has him," Alice agreed.

Charlie sighed out a big gust of air, folding quickly to the lack of opposition. "Okay, so I guess that's overstating things. I don't know�� even with Jacob, now and then I see something in her eyes, and I wonder if I've ever grasped how much pain she's really in It's not normal, Alice, and it�� it frightens me. Not normal at all. Not like someone�� left her, but like someone died." His voice cracked.

It was like someone had died��like I had died. Because it had been more than just losing the truest of true loves, as if that were not enough to kill anyone. It was also losing a whole future, a whole family��the whole life that I'd chosen��

Charlie went on in a hopeless tone. "I don't know if she's going to get over it��I'm not sure if it's in her nature to heal from something like this. She's always been such a constant little thing. She doesn't get past things, change her mind."

"She's one of a kind," Alice agreed in a dry voice.

"And Alice��" Charlie hesitated. "Now, you know how fond I am of you, and I can tell that she's happy to see you, but�� I'm a little worried about what your visit will do to her."

"So am I, Charlie, so am I. I wouldn't have come if I'd had any idea. I'm sorry."

"Don't apologize, honey. Who knows? Maybe it will be good for her."

"I hope you're right."

There was a long break while forks scraped plates and Charlie chewed. I wondered where Alice was hiding the food.

"Alice, I have to ask you something," Charlie said awkwardly.

Alice was calm. "Go ahead."

"He's not coming back to visit, too, is he?" I could hear the suppressed anger in Charlie's voice.

Alice answered in a soft, reassuring tone. "He doesn't even know I'm here. The last time I spoke with him, he was in South America."

I stiffened as I heard this new information, and listened harder.

"That's something, at least." Charlie snorted. "Well, I hope he's enjoying himself."

For the first time, Alice's voice had a bit of steel in it. "I wouldn't make assumptions, Charlie." I knew how her eyes would flash when she used that tone.

A chair scooted from the table, scraping loudly across the floor. I pictured Charlie getting up; there was no way Alice would make that kind of noise. The faucet ran, splashing against a dish.

It didn't sound like they were going to say anything more about Edward, so I decided it was time to wake up.

I turned over, bouncing against the springs to make them squeak.

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