"Sure - nobody is going to believe me if I don't get proof."
"Urn. Okay. Fine."
I swiftly put away the nozzle and crept into the front seat to hide while the enthusiast dug a huge professional-looking camera out of his backpack. He and his friend took turns posing by the hood, and then they went to take pictures at the back end.
"I miss my truck," I whimpered to myself.
Very, very convenient - too convenient - that my truck would wheeze its last wheeze just weeks after Edward and I had agreed to our lopsided compromise, one detail of which was that he be allowed to replace my truck when it passed on. Edward swore it was only to be expected; my truck had lived a long, full life and then expired of natural causes. According to him. And, of course, I had no way to verify his story or to try to raise my truck from the dead on my own. My favorite mechanic -
I stopped that thought cold, refusing to let it come to a conclusion. Instead, I listened to the men's voices outside, muted by the car walls.
"... went at it with a flamethrower in the online video. Didn't even pucker the paint."
"Of course not. You could roll a tank over this baby. Not much of a market for one over here. Designed for Middle East diplomats, arms dealers, and drug lords mostly."
"Think she's something?" the short one asked in a softer voice. I ducked my head, cheeks flaming.
"Huh," the tall one said. "Maybe. Can't imagine what you'd need missile-proof glass and four thousand pounds of body armor for around here. Must be headed somewhere more hazardous."
Body armor. Four thousand pounds of body armor. And missile-proof glass? Nice. What had happened to good old-fashioned bulletproof?
Well, at least this made some sense - if you had a twisted sense of humor.
It wasn't like I hadn't expected Edward to take advantage of our deal, to weight it on his side so that he could give so much more than he would receive. I'd agreed that he could replace my truck when it needed replacing, not expecting that moment to come quite so soon, of course. When I'd been forced to admit that the truck had become no more than a still-life tribute to classic Chevys on my curb, I knew his idea of a replacement was probably going to embarrass me. Make me the focus of stares and whispers. I'd been right about that part. But even in my darkest imaginings I had not foreseen that he would get me two cars.
The "before" car and the "after" car, he'd explained when I'd flipped out.
This was just the "before" car. He'd told me it was a loaner and promised that he was returning it after the wedding. It all had made absolutely no sense to me. Until now.
Ha ha. Because I was so fragilely human, so accident-prone, so much a victim to my own dangerous bad luck, apparently I needed a tank-resistant car to keep me safe. Hilarious. I was sure he and his brothers had enjoyed the joke quite a bit behind my back.
Or maybe, just maybe,a small voice whispered in my head, it's not a joke, silly. Maybe he's really that worried about you. This wouldn't be the first time he's gone a little overboard trying to protect you.
I hadn't seen the "after" car yet. It was hidden under a sheet in the deepest corner of the Cullens' garage. I knew most people would have peeked by now, but I really didn't want to know.
Probably no body armor on that car - because I wouldn't need it after the honeymoon. Virtual indestructibility was just one of the many perks I was looking forward to. The best parts about being a Cullen were not expensive cars and impressive credit cards.
"Hey," the tall man called, cupping his hands to the glass in an effort to peer in. "We're done now. Thanks a lot!"
"You're welcome," I called back, and then tensed as I started the engine and eased the pedal - ever so gently - down___
No matter how many times I drove down the familiar road home, I still couldn't make the rain-faded flyers fade into the background. Each one of them, stapled to telephone poles and taped to street signs, was like a fresh slap in the face. A well-deserved slap in the face. My mind was sucked back into the thought I'd interrupted so immediately before. I couldn't avoid it on this road. Not with pictures of my favorite mechanic flashing past me at regular intervals.
My best friend. My Jacob.
Thehave you SEENthis boy? posters were not Jacob's father's idea. It had been my father, Charlie, who'd printed up the flyers and spread them all over town. And not just Forks, but Port Angeles and Sequim and Hoquiam and Aberdeen and every other town in the Olympic Peninsula. He'd made sure that all the police stations in the state of Washington had the same flyer hanging on the wall, too. His own station had a whole corkboard dedicated to finding Jacob. A corkboard that was mostly empty, much to his disappointment and frustration.
My dad was disappointed with more than the lack of response. He was most disappointed with Billy, Jacob's father - and Charlie's closest friend.
For Billy's not being more involved with the search for his sixteen-year-old "runaway." For Billy's refusing to put up the flyers in La Push, the reservation on the coast that was Jacob's home. For his seeming resigned to Jacob's disappearance, as if there was nothing he could do. For his saying, "Jacob's grown up now. He'll come home if he wants to."
And he was frustrated with me, for taking Billy's side.
I wouldn't put up posters, either. Because both Billy and I knew where Jacob was, roughly speaking, and we also knew that no one had seen this boy.
The flyers put the usual big, fat lump in my throat, the usual stinging tears in my eyes, and I was glad Edward was out hunting this Saturday. If Edward saw my reaction, it would only make him feel terrible, too.
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