"Everyone," Edward said, his hand stiffly motioning toward the door. "Please."
The composure he was trying to keep up for Bella was shaky. I could see how close he was to that burning man he'd been outside. The others saw it, too. Silently, they moved out the door while I shifted out of the way. They moved fast; my heart beat twice, and the room was cleared except for Rosalie, hesitating in the middle of the floor, and Edward, still waiting by the door.
"Rose," Bella said quietly. "I want you to go."
The blonde glared at Edward and then gestured for him to go first. He disappeared out the door. She gave me a long warning glower, and then she disappeared, too.
Once we were alone, I crossed the room and sat on the floor next to Bella. I took both her cold hands in mine, rubbing them carefully.
"Thanks, Jake. That feels good."
"I'm not going to lie, Bells. You're hideous."
"I know," she sighed. Tm scary-looking."
"Thing-from-the-swamp scary," I agreed.
She laughed. "It's so good having you here. It feels nice to smile. I don't know how much more drama I can stand."
I rolled my eyes.
"Okay, okay," she agreed. "I bring it on myself."
"Yeah, you do. What're you thinking, Bells? Seriously!"
"Did he ask you to yell at me?"
"Sort of. Though I can't figure why he thinks you'd listen to me. You never have before."
"I told you - ," I started to say.
"Did you know that 7 told you so' has a brother, Jacob?" she asked, cutting me off. "His name is 'Shut the hell up."
She grinned at me. Her skin stretched tight over the bones. "I can't take credit - i got it off a rerun of The Simpsons"
"Missed that one."
"It was funny."
We didn't talk for a minute. Her hands were starting to warm up a little.
"Did he really ask you to talk to me?"
I nodded. "To talk some sense into you. There's a battle that's lost before it starts."
"So why did you agree?"
I didn't answer. I wasn't sure I knew.
I did know this - every second I spent with her was only going to add to the pain I would have to suffer later. Like a junkie with a limited supply, the day of reckoning was coming for me. The more hits I took now, the harder it would be when my supply ran out.
"It'll work out, you know," she said after a quiet minute. "I believe that."
That made me see red again. "Is dementia one of your symptoms?" I snapped.
She laughed, though my anger was so real that my hands were shaking around hers.
"Maybe," she said. Tm not saying things will work out easily, Jake. But how could I have lived through all that I've lived through and not believe in magic by this point?"
"Especially for you," she said. She was smiling. She pulled one of her hands away from mine and pressed it against my cheek. Warmer than before, but it felt cool against my skin, like most things did. "More than anyone else, you've got some magic waiting to make things right for you."
"What are you babbling about?"
Still smiling. "Edward told me once what it was like - your imprinting thing. He said it was like A Midsummer Night's Dream, like magic. You'll find who you're really looking for, Jacob, and maybe then all of this will make sense."
If she hadn't looked so fragile I would've been screaming.
As it was, I did growl at her.
"If you think that imprinting could ever make sense of this insanity ..." I struggled for words. "Do you really think that just because I might someday imprint on some stranger it would make this right?" I jabbed a finger toward her swollen body. "Tell me what the point was then, Bella! What was the point of me loving you? What was the point of you loving him? When you die" - the words were a snarl - "how is that ever right again? What's the point to all the pain? Mine, yours, his! You'll kill him, too, not that I care about that." She flinched, but I kept going. "So what was the
point of your twisted love story, in the end? If there is any sense, please show me, Bella, because I don't see it."
She sighed. "I don't know yet, Jake. But I just... feel... that this is all going somewhere good, hard to see as it is now. I guess you could call it faith."
"You're dying for nothing, Bella! Nothing!"
Her hand dropped from my face to her bloated stomach, caressed it. She didn't have to say the words for me to know what she was thinking. She was dying for it.
I'm not going to die," she said through her teeth, and I could tell she was repeating things she'd said before. "I will keep my heart beating. I'm strong enough for that."
"That's a load of crap, Bella. You've been trying to keep up with the supernatural for too long. No normal person can do it. You're not strong enough." I took her face in my hand. I didn't have to remind myself to be gentle. Everything about her screamed breakable.
"I can do this. I can do this," she muttered, sounding a lot like that kids' book about the little engine that could.
"Doesn't look like it to me. So what's your plan? I hope you have one."
She nodded, not meeting my eyes. "Did you know Esme jumped off a cliff? When she was human, I mean."
"So she was close enough to dead that they didn't even bother taking her to the emergency room - they took her right around to the morgue. Her heart was still beating, though, when Carlisle found her___"
That's what she'd meant before, about keeping her heart beating.
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