Here it goes again, the same old story, a damsel and a prince. She is kind and mostly good, cooks and cleans, keeps house for her father and leaves a trail of suitors in her wake, mourning for a maiden who is fair and cold (watch out boys, she’ll get colder).
He is handsome and perfect, declares his love like any true prince, all pomp and circumstance, his tiny sister as his page. He glitters and sparkles and throws rainbows in the light, things any little girl would love. And she, who thinks nothing of herself and everything of others, ignores the tiny voice (in her heart and not her head) that tells her she isn’t a little girl anymore.
i. Every Story Needs A Hero
Thumpthump. Thumpthump. Thumpthump.
Padded feet striking the ground, long fingers pounding piano keys, a heart beating; moments anchored in time, different and yet the same.
The wind shrieks and howls, swift and cold, a voice like a whip with fangs to match, and later on Jacob Black will swear that it is this that makes his eyes sting and smart.
Thirty miles away a girl is dying and this boy is trying not to care.
(Can you keep a secret?)
Edward keeps his secrets close to his still heart, lets them pump through his veins with borrowed blood, keeps his eyes wide and tells a girl he shouldn’t love that she already hold his heart. It isn’t a lie, not really, but there are other things besides his heart that he neglects to mention.
But the skeletons in his closet have blonde hair and gold eyes, smiles that stretch wide with the promise of sin and sex and a woman who will neither keep up with him nor fall behind but always race ahead. Their voices snicker when he says he prefers brunettes, hiss when he says forever, the word marked in his mind with all the complicated connotations Bella brings. They whisper secrets in his ear, poking, prodding, remembering.
“If you could dream, it would be of me,” Tanya tells him once, her eyes flashing to his face, daring him to contradict her.
He feels the gods will strike him down when he whispers the same to Bella, fragile and oh so human. They don’t.
(One secret he will never tell: Tanya was right.)
He has a problem.
It doesn’t matter which he it is, because in this they are the same.
They always love the women they shouldn’t, an addiction they will never break, fantasies of winning and challenge and faint whispers of tomorrow dancing through their heads.
And when they realize this (and they do, always) they spend the rest of their lives running away.
ii. The Heroine and Her Wicked
Renee never approves of fairy tales.
When Bella was younger she was in the midst of her feminist phase, fresh out of her marriage and riding independence like a high. Bella’s Christmas memories featured fire trucks instead of Barbies, the Book of Luke interspersed with diatribes on the sexism of the Bible, and Renee calling Charlie a chauvinist on Christmas morning for sending Bella a dress.
Renee cuts her hair that year, close to her ears like a boy, and Bella cries you looked like a princess.
Two weeks later, Renee wears a wig, buys lipstick and dresses and cheap rings that glitter in the light.
“There’s nothing wrong with being feminine,” she says, and Bella nods like she understand.
(She keeps Cinderella hidden under the bed just in case.)
Snow White cooks and Cinderella cleans and though she has neither talking mice nor grumpy dwarves, Bella learns to do both. She’s good at it, too, maybe.
(Modesty is another lesson learned at the knee of the Disney parent.)
Bella grows up, moves away, boards a plane with Renee’s encouragement ringing in her ears. Be anything you want, she says, and Bella wonders what Renee would say if she told her that all she wants is to be a princess and sleep for years and years and years.
Instead she smiles and waves, clutches her parka in one hand and tries not to fall. Snow White enters the forest of her own free will and finds no dwarves to welcome her, no witch or poisoned apple, but finds Prince Charming all the same. He brings beauty and death and the promise of tomorrow that turns into forever.
And so it is that Beauty enters the enchanted castle, with its walls of glass and hidden coverings of steel. She doesn’t remember how these things work, that the heroine must be captured by the dragon before she can reach happily ever after.
Jacob is a whirlwind, smiles like sunshine and suddenly she is warm, too warm, melting in his grip and everything is happening too fast.
It doesn’t happen like this in fairy tales. The prince never rides off and the heroine never takes up with the stable boy and she so desperately wants to be a princess and not a subplot.
So she stands still and doesn’t answer, lets the pauses build up between them and almost fights hard enough to make them work.
Jacob doesn’t care. He isn’t stupid but he is stubborn, and he knows true love when he sees it, even if they both wish he didn’t (that comes later, the wishing part, once they are a little older and a lot more broken and smart enough to know that love is not enough).
He fights when she won’t, and Edward fights back, a war of words and sudden glances, little victories over the touch of her hand or where her eyes flicker when she’s nervous. Bella hates it, hates them, a little, wishes it would all stop already and is this really how a fairy tale should go?
(Bella’s secret, the one she won’t admit, even to herself? She doesn’t know, she never learned them right.)
Bella wants a prince and a family and a whole group of people who look after her. Really, all she wants is someone else to take care of her, to take away the responsibility and the heartache and all the hard decisions she isn’t sure how to make.
Edward does that for her, even when he knows he shouldn’t. He takes everything in hand and even when she complains about it, it’s only an act, false protests and the bedroom window flung open at night (why would she forgive him when she wanted the excuse anyway?). He knows this already, hears the truth spill from her lips in the middle of the night.
(No, you didn’t say anything interesting.)
One talent he doesn’t have is knowing how to deny her.
Jacob watches her while he patrols, eyes trained on the dark, ready for the tiniest hint that someone else is there. The tiny part of him that isn’t in love with her, the part that speaks with Paul’s voice, wants to shake her. Grow up Bells, this isn’t worth it.
He wonders when she stopped being Bella and started being half of a pair.
It’s almost enough to make him leave, to go and not come back until she has found herself and not just them. Almost.
There is no them yet, just her and Cullen.
(Soon it’ll be Bella Cullen, and then there’ll be no hope at all.)
iv. and Broken Hearts
Jacob can’t hear, can’t breathe, can’t speak. His thoughts are a mess, a jumble of past and present but never the future, because if he thought of that he would just stop altogether, and then where would he be?
(Somewhere near the Canadian border, Leah snaps in his head, and he wishes he could tune her out.)
It’s cold, so very cold, and he still has the urge to shave his head (don’t you’ll look even more stupid). He can almost find it in him to be angry, to resent the invasion of his mind, but there is nothing left for him to be angry with. All of his emotions are bent towards one source, and Leah is not it.
Look, he thinks, now they have matching scars.
Pain rips through him with that thought, so he runs and runs and runs.
(Don’t look back, you might turn into so much salt water.)
Edward watches and knows.
He can’t read her, can’t hear her, but all the same, he knows her. The look on her face is one he has never seen before, and he doesn’t know how to place it. Yet when he sees her he stops short.
All it takes is one glance at her eyes to know the truth.
She had put all the pieces together, every lie and half-truth, the Cullen family secrets that everyone tried to pretend didn’t exist.
(Dimly, he remembers: she was an AP student once, the smart girl, the quiet one, who watched and conjectured and knew.)
v. And They Almost Lived Happily Ever After
Alice gets to plan the wedding of her dreams, down to the fifty white doves that are released as the bride walks down the aisle. She invites all of Forks and has the pleasure of seeing their jaws drop in awe at the lavish decorations, the beauty of the family, the splendor of the grounds, and the fact that there is a wedding but no bride.
In the end, it is Bella who makes sure that no one in Forks will ever forget this wedding.
It’s too bad no one can find her.
Edward says nothing, his white face expressionless, and Rosalie thinks her heart will break to see it, when before she had been sure it would be the opposite, that the look of rapture on his angel’s face would be more than she could bear. (She always did go by contraries.)
It doesn’t matter, she supposes. Everything about him surprises her, usually badly. Perhaps that is why she needs him so much. (She can’t say no to a challenge.)
Jacob hears the news through Embry who hears it from Billy who heard it from Charlie because he didn’t think it was right to go to the wedding, and Jacob wonders when it was that the pack turned into a sewing circle.
(Right after you left, of course, see why you should come back?)
He doesn’t know what he feels when he hears it, only that the knot in his chest is just as big as ever and so he keeps on running, Bella’s name rushing through him with his pulse, every beat of his heart thrilling to the sound.
He doesn’t know what he feels, and yet he finds himself running faster, running farther, leaving everything he ever knew behind him and heading for someplace new.
(And now for something completely different.)
Maybe he, too, should find himself as someone besides one half of a whole.
vi. The End
There is a house on a hill, alone for miles, no fence to keep others out, only cold ground and thick trees and the sense that something isn’t quite right there.
There is a house on a hill in Alaska, and this is where Edward goes. He doesn’t bother knocking, just lets himself in, stamping snow off his shoes and running a hand through his hair until it glows like firelight. He feels as he has not felt before, nervous, anxious, but with something long-buried in the back of his mind that tells him this is what is supposed to happen; the click of the last piece falling into place, the eureka moment, the book of revelations that happens in lives as well as scripture.
Tanya stands at the foot of the stairs, hip cocked, eyes challenging, clearly not about to let him off easy.
He can wait. They’re hardly running out of time.
They meet again a few years later, a little older, hopefully wiser. Years have passed and changed them, small lines appearing, clothing shifting to something less bold. She cut her hair. So did he.
They have learned to live, the two of them, learned to be someone beyond the other half of someone else. She has learned to be neither hero nor princess, to appreciate mystery novels and horror movies. She has learned to be Bella, without any other name tacked onto it.
They run into each other at Charlie’s, Billy up to see the game, Jacob driving, and it could almost be high school again, but it isn’t.
This time, there is no eclipse.