Sunday, April 28, 2013 | By: Jenny

In Pursuit Chapter 5

Chapter 5
Marie POV
Mary stumbling out of bed woke me, and I startled, sitting up as I tried to calm my racing heart. I quickly determined there was no threat and croaked a greeting back when my sister uttered something that vaguely sounded like, “Good morning,” when she stumbled into the master bathroom.
Knowing she would take a while in the shower, I grabbed a change of clothes and my bathroom stuff and made my way to the second bathroom. My own shower was quick. I had twice as much hair as my sister, but she liked to primp and make herself up in the mirror, and unless we were going out, I didn’t. Once I was dressed in a clean pair of jeans and a fresh, minty green T-shirt, I ran a comb through my hair and pulled it up into a low ponytail.
I made my way down the hall to find something to drink and maybe eat. My stomach was gnawing on itself. It had been too long since I’d had anything substantial to eat – the sausage biscuit that I’d picked apart at McDonald’s seemed like forever ago.
Jasper was sitting at the table, book of crossword puzzles in front of him and cup of steaming coffee in hand. “Morning, Sleepy Beauty,” he teased, a grin flashing across his face before he buried it behind a drink of coffee.
“Morning.”
He held up his cup. “There’s a fresh pot if you want some.”
Grimacing, I shook my head. “Not really a coffee drinker most of the time. I’ve kind of had my fill the last couple of days. But thanks.” I chose to open the fridge, and on the bottom shelf were bottles of water, Coke, and orange juice. I grabbed a bottle of water and leaned against the counter as I opened it and took a long drink. “Where’s, uh... Where’s Edward?” I asked. I’d expected him to be around since the other bedroom doors were open, so I knew he wasn’t sleeping.

“He’s out running, checking out the neighborhood,” Jasper answered, picking up his pencil again.
“Ah.” I didn’t want to sound too interested, so I declined to ask if that was something he did often. Instead, I asked, “What time is it?”
Jasper smirked, raising an eyebrow. “Eight a.m.” When I was quiet, trying to figure out how it was that early, he clarified, “Tuesday morning.”
Startled, I couldn’t help but gape at him. “What?”
He nodded. “You slept for just over twenty-four hours.”
“It can’t be Tuesday. I’ve never slept that long...” I didn’t believe him, certain he was teasing me or was just plain wrong.
Jasper opened his mouth, but I waved him off and moved down the hall to our room.
Once inside, I grabbed the bag of our things and started riffling through it, trying to find my cell phone. I knew I’d had it, but I couldn’t think when I’d seen it last. By the time I got to the bottom of the bag, I was beginning to worry. What if I’d accidentally left it at the not-so-friendly motel on Sunday night?
Turning, I banged on the bathroom door. “Mare, do you see my phone in there?” Maybe I’d left it in there when I’d used the toilet before falling asleep after we’d gotten here.
“No, I don’t see it,” she called loudly over the water running in the sink. “Try the bag.”
“I did! You didn’t move it?”
She turned off the water and opened the door, toothbrush in hand. “No... It should be with mine, and mine’s in there.”
Looking back at the mess on the bed that I’d made when I was throwing things out of the bag, I said, “I didn’t see yours, either.”
I raced back to the bed, certain I’d just missed them folded in the clothes. Shirts, jeans, socks, and unmentionables flew across the room as I searched. When I didn’t find them, I got down on the floor and began searching under the bed, feeling tears stinging my eyes before blazing trails down my cheeks.
“Where is it?” I yelled. “Dammit, where the fuck is my phone?”
Standing, I started pulling the sheet and comforter off the bed, tossing them to the floor. When strong arms wrapped around me, holding my arms close to my body, I began struggling.
“Let me go!” I cried, trying to fight my way free.
“Calm down, Marie,” Jasper said in as soothing a voice as possible.
I continued to struggle, and his voice got louder as he spoke again.
“Come on, darlin’. You gotta calm down. Edward’ll have my ass if he comes back to find you like this.”
I finally broke free of his hold and whirled around, swiping at my eyes. “Where’s my phone? I can’t find it. I need it!”
Jasper frowned and took a slow step toward me. His hand was out, palm up, like he was trying to tell me he was no threat. “We – Edward and I – have it. We realized Ben and Angela hadn’t taken out the battery. To be on the safe side, just to make sure no one can track you through those, we grabbed them while you were sleeping and have them in the kitchen. You can’t use them anymore. It’s too risky.”
I took a sobbing breath and looked over at Mary, standing in the doorway of the bathroom, her hand over her mouth and tears in her eyes.
“I... I need it back,” I told him, hurrying to add, “I won’t make any calls, I swear. All my favorite pictures of my mom and dad, my grandmother, are on there. Please...”
Pain flashed in Jasper’s eyes, and he didn’t even need to say anything for me to know.
“I’m...” My voice broke on a sob. “I’m not going to get to keep those, am I?”
He shook his head slowly. “I’m afraid not, darlin’.” He lowered his hand and took another step toward me. “I—”
“Don’t,” I gasped, backing slowly to the door. “Just...don’t.”
With another sob, I turned and ran.
~oOo~
Over the next...however long it was, both Mary and Jasper tried to talk to me. I simply shrugged them off, letting them know with a glance that I didn’t want to talk. Grief and guilt were powerful emotions, and for the moment, they were simply overwhelming me. Pictures and memories were all Mary and I had left of our parents and grandmother. Without the pictures, I was worried the memories would quickly fade.
I got a reminder of our family’s happiest moments every time I looked at my phone. Some of the photos were old enough that they were pictures I’d taken with my phone of actual photos my grandmother had saved. In one, we were twelve years old, and my mom had insisted on having a picnic in the park. So we had all dressed in shorts and T-shirts and traipsed down to the park with a huge cooler in place of a picnic basket, blanket, and bread for the ducks that were always waddling around and swimming in the pond. We had spent almost three hours there, eating all the delicious food my mom had prepared – including fried chicken, potato salad, and the yummiest brownies for dessert – and feeding the ducks. My dad had brought a baseball and three gloves, so while my mom and grandmother had relaxed after eating, he, Mary, and I had spent a few minutes playing catch. It was a rare treat, since he had been working so hard to become the next police chief. An older couple had been walking through the park and saw us as we were trying to figure out how best to take a picture of all us together, and they’d offered to take it for us so everyone could be in the photo. There were smiles on all our faces, our cheeks were pink from the sun, and we looked happier than I could ever remember feeling before.
And now, I wouldn’t have that reminder – or any others, either. And when I’d realized that, it had torn apart my insides and made my guilt come crashing down once again. I was not only losing those photos and mementos for myself, but for my sister, as well. I was depriving her of having a normal life – the life she wanted to live – and tearing her away from everything familiar. It had been my boss, my job, my phone, my forgetfulness that had put us in this position, and how she could ever forgive me – how I could ever forgive myself – I wasn’t sure.
I was so caught up in how I was feeling that it barely registered when Edward came walking through the front door, locking it behind him. I saw him look at me sideways for a moment, and then he took a few steps toward me. I shook my head, not even turning to look at him, before curling further in on myself.
Edward cursed quietly and then walked through the living room. I heard him speaking in low tones to Jasper, and then there was a loud bang, like something had hit the wall. It made me flinch, but I stayed where I was, staring at the smooth surface of the wall opposite me.
A few minutes later, Edward came back into the living room and took a seat across from me on the coffee table, forcing me to either look at him or turn my head away. When my eyes met his, I was surprised at the storm of emotions swirling through them. I could clearly see guilt and sadness, but I also saw a strength and determination.
“I won’t lie to you and tell you this will be easy, Marie. It’s not. It’s the hardest thing you’ll ever have to do. You’ll have to give up your identity, your job...and yes, your pictures. Unfortunately, there’s nothing I can do to change that.”
I looked down to my lap, where my fingers were twisting themselves into what felt like knots. “I don’t know if I can do this,” I admitted aloud for the first time.
“Marie...” Edward’s voice was pained.
“I don’t know if I’m strong enough.”
Edward slapped his hands down on the coffee table and stood with a huff. When he spoke again, his growling tone made me flinch like I’d been slapped. “What’s the alternative, then? Huh? Tell me, Marie. Let Caius Volturi go free? You want that on your conscience? Can you live with letting Eleazar Denali’s killer get away with it? The man behind the death of Angela and Ben’s little boy?”
“Don’t throw that at me!” I hissed, my stomach churning. “I see Eleazar in my head every time I close my eyes. The thud of his body as it hits the floor echoes in my nightmares. And the cold eyes of Caius Volturi as he orders the other man, Felix, to get rid of the gun will haunt me to my dying day. So don’t you dare throw that little boy’s murder on top of all that. Don’t. You. Dare!” Fisting my hands at my sides to prevent myself from striking out at him, I growled, “Leave me alone, Mr. Cullen. Just...leave me alone.”
I sank down to the couch, barely hearing Edward as he stalked away.
~oOo~
The sun was bright overhead when I finally made my way to the others. I’d spent all morning curled up on the couch, questioning myself. Not over whether or not I would testify – that had never been an issue – but over whether or not I was strong enough to do this and survive it. I still didn’t know, but did know I wouldn’t go down without a fight, whether it be with Caius Volturi or myself, whether my name was Isabella Marie Brandon or something completely different.
Conversation paused for a minute as I walked into the bright kitchen. Jasper was at the counter working on lunch, while Edward and Mary were at the kitchen table, peering at a laptop.
“Ree,” Mary murmured, moving away from the table to wrap me in a hug. “You okay?” she whispered, her breath puffing out against my cheek.
I nodded, hugging her tight for a moment before pulling back. “Better, yeah. I’m sorry if I scared you.”
She simply shook her head and took my hand, leading me to the table and pushing me down in the chair she’d been in before.
Looking at Jasper, I apologized for freaking out on him. “I’m sorry for...” I waved my hand back toward the bedroom.
“No worries, darlin’.” He smiled. “If you didn’t freak out now and then, I’d be worried. Same goes for Asshat over there.” He motioned toward Edward with a nod of his head. “Don’t let him browbeat you. You’ll figure it out on your own without him breathing down your neck about anything.”
“Fucker,” Edward muttered, shooting a glare at Jasper before turning back to me. “I am sorry for yelling, though. You didn’t deserve it. Caius Volturi is one of my hot buttons, and—”
I held up my hand to stop him and said, “Please, don’t apologize. We both said some things we probably shouldn’t have. It’s water under the bridge now as far as I’m concerned. Just so you know, there’s no way I wouldn’t testify. I know how important Mary and I are to putting him away – and make no mistake, I do want him to pay for what he did to not only Eleazar, but to Daniel and all the other people he’s had a hand in turning into victims. I just...”
That’s when I noticed what was on the laptop screen.
“My pictures!” I gasped, holding my hand to my mouth.
One corner of Edward’s mouth tipped up and he nodded. “You understand you can’t keep them forever, right? I wish I could give you that. I wish I didn’t have to be the one to tell you that you can’t take them with you. Unfortunately, things like pictures absolutely have to be left behind when you go. That doesn’t mean you can’t have them for now, though, and I’m sorry that wasn’t clear earlier. You can look at them all you want on this laptop – it’s secure as long as you don’t do anything to compromise our whereabouts – until the end of the trial, okay? I know it isn’t perfect, and it won’t fix things long-term, but for now...”
I nodded fervently, reaching out to run a finger over my parents and grandmother. The picture on the screen was the one from the main screen of my phone...the one of all of us on the picnic. Swallowing past the sudden lump in my throat, I croaked out, “Thanks.”
“Of course.”
We were all quiet for a bit, and then Jasper lightened the moment by asking, “Who likes pickles in their chicken salad?”
Three hands raised, making him chuckle. “All right, pickles it is. Two minutes till lunch, then, ladies. Edward, man, make yourself useful and come grab the rest of the fixin’s.”
Mary and I cleared off the table as Edward brought plates, bread, lettuce, tomato slices, and bag of chips and baby carrots, setting it all down on the tables as Jasper brought over silverware and a bowl of what appeared to be chicken salad. We all settled in around the table to eat, and once I had the first bite, I realized how famished I was. Before I knew it, I’d eaten a huge sandwich and a handful of both chips and carrots.
“That was good,” I told Jasper, reaching for another carrot.
He smiled. “Thanks.”
“You do more than chicken salad?” Mary asked, smiling over at him. “’Cause Ree and I can’t cook at all, unfortunately.”
“Hey, that’s not true,” I argued, sticking my tongue out playfully. “I do a mean grilled cheese.”
She giggled. “Okay, I’ll give you that one.”
“Yeah,” Edward answered, grinning. “Tex over there can make pretty much anything, although he doesn’t do dessert.”
Jasper shrugged. “Nothing fancy, but I can throw together some good stuff.”
I raised an eyebrow. “What about you, Edward?”
“Not much,” he admitted. “I make a mean breakfast and I’m a whiz on the grill, but other than that, I’m kind of limited to spaghetti, like my mom taught me.”
Snorting, I said, “Well, more than I can do. Last time I tried to grill, I nearly caught my hair on fire, and anytime I make more than cereal for breakfast, either the eggs come out tough and rubbery, the pancakes are hockey pucks, or the bacon is burned to a crisp. It’s not pretty.” Then I paused, frowning. “Well, Marie Brandon was a bad cook. Maybe whoever I become will have to learn.”
“Oh!” Mary gasped. “Guess what, Ree?” At my questioning look, she grinned. “I think we figured out what names we can use.”
I deadpanned, “Candy? Lola?”
My sister snorted into a laugh, burying her face in her hands for a minute. “Lord, Ree... We aren’t becoming strippers!”
Giggling at her lighthearted happiness, I shrugged. “Better than anything else I’d come up with,” I finally said.
“Unless you object...” She paused for dramatic effect. “What do you think of Isabella and Alice?”
I mulled it over in my head for a moment. Isabella Marie and Mary Alice Brandon were our given names, and I’d been going by Marie for so long that anything else, even Isabella, felt awkward. But...it was better than Candy or Lola...or Ashley or Amanda. “What about... I mean... Can we do that? They’re our real names. Won’t that go against protocol?”
Mary smiled, looking over at Edward and Jasper. “It was their idea. I’m guessing not.”
“We actually encourage using familiar initials or middle names. It helps people remember their new names,” Edward explained. “Since you’ve been going by your middle name since you were young, going by your first name would be the same thing.”
“Isabella and—No, Bella and Alice,” I said, feeling a real, true smile on my face for the first time in days. “I like it. What about, uh, last name? Any ideas?”
Edward shook his head. “The guy from the DOJ will help us figure that out, as well as help fill out your new background and history.”
Nodding my understanding, I pushed away from the table. “Okay, well, sounds good. Thanks for the suggestion. Knowing that we can at least keep part of the names our parents gave us helps.”
Not a lot, but still...
~oooOOOooo~
Edward POV
My feet pounded against the asphalt as I ran, but my eyes raked over every car, every house, every dog-walking human being. All stayed the same. It had been exactly the same since I’d started running every morning two weeks ago. It was the cars I paid the most attention to – sedans, SUVs, expensive coupes, and the occasional work vehicle. Winding my way through the streets, I looked for changes. So far, there were none – no suspicious vans, no men sitting in cars, no additions to the norm at all.
It would seem that we hadn’t been found. Yet.
I expected it. Always. Since Caius Volturi had made bail, I expected anything and everything to come at us. And come at us hard. It made my determination to keep watching that much more tenacious. His power knew no limits. And I wasn’t quite sure if he had eyes on Long Island. However, I wasn’t taking chances.
Slowing to a cool-down walk, I made my way past the last couple of houses. Picking up the bottom of my T-shirt, I wiped away the sweat running down my face. At home, I wouldn’t have worn one, but here, my ink would make me stand out, something that I couldn’t have.
I glanced up at Mrs. Meyers as she stepped onto her porch to grab the morning paper. She raised a hand at me, and I returned the gesture. She’d pretty much forgiven us for waking her up at the ass-crack of dawn for the key. Though, she wasn’t exactly knocking on the door wanting to hang out. I had a feeling she kind of knew to leave us alone. Perhaps Ben and Angela’s friend, Mrs. Cope, was shrewder than any of us gave her credit.
Leaping up onto the porch of the house, I grabbed the newspaper and groaned when I reached for the doorknob, the sounds of the TV hitting me like a ton of bricks. It was fucking Wednesday.
And slope down into the hover position...hold it for ten deep breaths... One, two, three, four, five...
Yoga. Fuck my life, the girls were doing yoga. Again. They’d started doing it the day after Marie’s...er, Bella’s meltdown. Every other day, we were forced to listen to and watch some overly happy, extremely relaxed chick coach the girls through thirty minutes of the most obscene positions I’d ever seen. The first time we’d witnessed it, Jasper had destroyed a can of Coke in his bare hand, spilling that shit everywhere, and I’d practically burned the hell out of my dick dropping a spoonful of hot oatmeal onto my lap.
Bracing myself, I opened the door. It was impossible not to look to the living room floor once inside the house. Two very fit girls, two sets of tight clothes, and two pairs of legs able to bend into positions that seemed inconceivable were crouched on the floor. I’d known exotic dancers that couldn’t even do that shit.
I let out a breath, stalking quickly through the room and into the kitchen. Slamming the paper down onto the counter, I smirked when Jasper jumped. Fucker was failing at his stealthy way of watching them. Not one word on his crossword puzzle was for real, I’d have been willing to bet.
Grabbing a bottle of water, I shut the refrigerator door and downed most of it. My eyes again fell to the living room, my head shaking at the back bends that now arched up off the floor. As much as I tried to fight it, my eyes settled onto Bella’s form: strong arms; taut, muscular legs; dark ponytail dragging the floor; and everything else jutting up into the air. I licked my lips at the sight of the bare skin of her stomach just before the edge of her workout shorts.
The look on her face was pure concentration, and as much as it drove me crazy, I had to say that yoga was helping her. It kept her calm and gave her focus, though I’d seen small moments when darkness crossed those deep brown eyes. She was still beating herself up, but nothing like the day I’d come back from my first run to find her in an uncontrollable state.
I’d never been so pissed. Already amped up from my run, I’d not only walked in to see her wrapped around herself on the sofa, her eyes completely vacant of all life, but her sister was just as upset in the hallway with Jasper. When I’d found out what had happened, my temper had slipped even more, causing me to pick up the closest thing – a book of something or other – and throw it against the wall. And that only exacerbated the problem because I saw Bella’s fears and anger getting the best of her. I’d been an asshole to yell at her, but fuck, people were putting their lives on the line to keep her and her sister safe, making sure that Volturi could go down for all the shit he’d done.
I’d had no choice but to take their phones, and I’d had every intention of telling them. It was truly for their safety. However, it wasn’t about the loss of communication for them; it was the loss of their pictures, their memories. I’d known about the loss of their parents and grandmother. I wasn’t stupid. It killed me to think of all the shit they were giving up for this. I wished nothing more than for them to be able to keep everything, but they couldn’t. It was a hefty price to pay for something that truly wasn’t their fucking fault.
While Bella had stayed wrapped up on the couch, her sister had said to leave her alone. I’d pulled the storage card from one of the phones, slapping it into the laptop that Uncle Al had sent with me. I’d explained to Alice why they couldn’t keep the pictures, why everything had to stay behind, but I’d offered the only thing they could keep: their real names.
The suggestion had put just a little bit of life back into their eyes. They’d joked about stripper names, but the mere idea that they could keep something their parents had given them had relaxed them a little. If anyone understood that, it was me. The only thing I had left of my birth father was his name. So sitting at that table eating lunch, Mary and Marie Brandon became Alice and Bella, with last name to be determined later by the Department of Justice. In order to get used to it, they wanted to start immediately. So we had.
And you’ll push up into the Downward Facing Dog position, holding it for the count of ten...
“One...two...three...” Jasper and I counted along with Happy Chick on TV under our breaths, enough though the count of ten for two tight, sweet asses in the air wasn’t long enough.
...eight, nine, and...ten...
“Mm, thank you,” Jasper muttered, drawling out the last word, which caused me snort into a laugh. His eyes locked with mine. “Gotta love that Downward Facing Dog...”
Grinning, I tossed my bottle into the trash. Personally, I was a huge fan of the lunge, but I wasn’t saying that shit out loud. Never mind that the handstand shit could cause a man’s imagination to runaway with him.
“It’s your turn for breakfast,” he stated, jerking a chin toward the stove.
“Yeah, yeah,” I sighed, running a hand through my hair. “I know. I need a shower first, and then I’ll get started.”
Over the two weeks we’d been holed up in this house, routine had become our saving grace. Jasper was starting to teach the girls how to cook a few things. I’d run in the mornings, Jasper, in the evenings. We allotted cooking times, laundry duty, and time for ourselves. Occasionally, we’d all watch TV in the living room together, but it was rare. There was only so much Kardashian drama a man could take, though we all loved the TV reality show Jail. And of course, the girls needed their own form of exercise and a way to keep themselves from going bat-shit crazy stuck in that house, so the yoga DVDs under the TV had been their salvation from boredom and Jasper’s and my hell on Earth.
My eyes glanced into the living room one more time as legs were pulled up to their chests. I definitely needed a shower. A cold one. And maybe some push-ups, too. Fucking yoga would be the death of me.
Stripping off my shirt as I made my way down the hall, I tossed it into my dirty laundry pile. I could still hear the DVD playing in the other room, and so could my dick, because the word “lunge” met my ears. Deciding that exercise was the only way to get that shit under control, I punished myself with so many inclined push-ups that I lost count – fists pressed into the carpet, feet up on the nightstand, and my mind only on breathing.
Once my libido had been punished down into submission for thinking shit I could do nothing about, I grabbed a quick shower. The girls were done with Happy Yoga Chick, cleaned up, and in the kitchen when I came back in. Bella was at the counter, cutting up fruit, while Alice was at the table next to Jasper, the laptop open in front of her.
I’d told the girls they could look at their pictures all they wanted up until the end of the trial, and they’d not only been grateful but had done so quite often.
Bella met my gaze, but then quickly looked back down at the apple in her hands. “I thought I’d help you.”
“Hungry?” I asked with a grin.
“Yes,” she said, giggling a little as she dropped a handful of chopped-up apple into the bowl that already had grapes and strawberries in it.
“I’m starving,” Jasper whined. “What the hell, Ed?”
“Shut your face before I shut it for you. You’ll live, asshole,” I snapped back, rolling my eyes at his shameless grin.
I started the bacon in the pan, and Bella finished up the fruit, asking what else she could help me with. We worked pretty well together in the kitchen. She buttered toast while I whisked the eggs. I tried not to noticed how good she smelled – like flowers or something fruity.
“Hey, M—Bella,” Alice piped up with a grin. “Remember this?” she asked, spinning the laptop just enough so that we could all see a picture of what looked like a party.
“Oh, so, so drunk,” Bella groaned, her brow furrowing as she stacked the toast on a plate. “That was just before college graduation.”
Jasper and I chuckled at a rather inebriated Bella holding a bright red cup and surrounded by several people just as blitzed. She looked just about the same – dark hair, dark eyes, though her smile was wider, easier.
“Keep going,” Bella sang to Alice, waving a hand.
“You have a picture of Mike?” Alice asked once she’d changed to the next photo.
“No, I don’t.”
“Yes, you do.”
“No!” Bella practically growled. “I’m pretty sure I don’t. They’ve all been deleted...or burned.”
My eyebrows raised up when the last two words came out as a mumble, and I was fairly certain Alice hadn’t heard her because she just spun the computer back around.
“Yes, you do!” she chortled.
The dark look that crossed Bella’s face was scarier than I’d expected. She locked onto the screen, where a guy with brownish hair with way too much gel was smiling cheesily back at her.
“Delete it.” It was an order, in all actuality, but Jasper’s curiosity beat mine to the punch.
“Who is he? If looks could kill, darlin’...” He chuckled, looking between the girls and then to the picture on the computer.
“No one,” Bella snapped, spinning around to grab plates out of the cabinet. She slammed them down onto the counter, only to tug open the drawer to get the silverware.
“He’s Bella’s ex-boyfriend from college,” Alice chirped.
“Alice,” Bella seethed, bracing her arms on the counter and glaring at her sister. “I said to fucking delete it.”
“Damn,” I snorted. “He must’ve been a real winner.”
She glared up at me as I called that everything was ready. Grinning at her, I shrugged, thinking he had to have done something horrific to cause such hate from her. He was an idiot if he cheated and a fool for losing her. If he’d treated her badly, then I hoped that Karma was kicking his ass.
She and I were the first to sit down with our plates, and I nudged her with my elbow as she caught sight of Mike’s picture again.
When she looked up at me, I whispered, “Technically, that’s Marie Brandon’s ex, not Bella’s.” Reaching over, I hit the delete button. When the computer asked if I was sure, I raised an eyebrow at her.
She smiled a little, biting down on her bottom lip as she nodded. It was a sexy-as-hell thing to watch.
“Yes, definitely sure.”
I hit the Enter button. “Mike who?”
“No idea who you’re talking about,” she whispered, smiling before taking a bite of toast. “Now, if I could only erase him from here.” She tapped her forehead, sighing wearily.
Alice huffed, frowning at her sister. “I told you everything he said was bullshit, Bella.”
Bella nodded, but said nothing as she continued to eat.
Jasper grinned. “What’s his last name?” he asked, picking up one of the throw-away phones. “He may just find himself in trouble...”
Bella muttered, “Nothing,” at the same time Alice growled, “Newton.” But I could see we were making her uncomfortable. Reaching out, I snatched the phone from Jasper’s hand.
“Let it go,” I stated firmly, because I hated the look she was currently sporting. She’d been somewhat happy in the kitchen, and now she wasn’t. So not fucking cool.
Breakfast was quiet from that point on. Jasper eventually said he was gonna crash in his room for a bit. Bella wandered into the living room to watch TV as Alice did the clean up in the kitchen. Stepping out onto the back deck, I sat down in a chair, lighting up a cigarette.
Looking up when the deck door opened, I saw Bella leaning against the frame. She knew not to step foot outside. Behind her, the kitchen was empty.
“Thank you,” she muttered, smiling sadly. “That was the first...um, silver lining I’d heard about this whole thing.”
Sitting forward, I rested my elbows on my knees. “He fucked you over,” I surmised, gazing up at her.
She laughed humorlessly and nodded. “Yeah, you could say that.”
Having my own fucked-up college ex experience, I sighed. “You can delete the picture, but not the memory. That works both good and bad.”
“Sounds like experience talking,” she guessed.
Frowning, I didn’t answer her. “Let’s just say...I understand why some pictures have to be deleted...and burned.”
She smirked. “Fair enough, Edward. But thank you again.”
“No sweat.” I shrugged a shoulder. “However, if you change your mind, I’m sure Jasper would really enjoy some revenge on this Mike for you.”
She giggled once. “Mike who?”
“There ya go.” I chuckled, but it stopped abruptly when the phone rang on the kitchen table. I chucked my cigarette into the bucket that I’d procured for the butts, and Bella stepped back to let me inside. “This should be interesting...” I picked up the ringing phone and hit Accept. “Yeah,” I grunted.
“You hanging in there, son?” Al’s voice met my ear.
I smirked, knowing his voice anywhere, but decided to test his ass. “What did you get me for my eighteenth birthday?”
He laughed, low and deep. “A box of condoms and a bottle of whiskey.”
I snorted, rolling my eyes. “Both of which I put to good use, Uncle Al. Thanks for that.”
“Well, you were heading off to college soon. I figured you could use both,” he chortled. “Smart ass. Now, are you hanging in there?”
“Yeah, we’re good. What’s got you callin’ me?”
“The DOJ is ready to meet with your witnesses. Their new identities have been approved. You and Jasper have to secure the meeting. You need to tell me when and where,” he explained.
“Not in public. I can’t risk it, Al,” I grumbled, and my eyes fell to Bella, who was trying not to look nervous but was failing miserably.
“Understandably,” he conceded. “So tell me.”
“Two days. Noon. There’s a motel just outside the city,” I told him, making Bella sit down. Her shifting from one foot to the other was making me anxious just watching her. “The Regal. And believe me, there’s nothing regal about it. Tell your DOJ friend to bring their own can of roach spray.” Al chuckled, and Bella smirked a little, but I went on. “But it has a garage and I can sneak the girls in that way. Jasper’s already scoped out room thirteen.”
“Good. Now hang up. I’ll send you something,” he stated. “Look at it, delete it, and then destroy your phone. Start using the other one I gave you.”
“Sir,” I said, and the call was ended.
The phone bleeped again, and I smiled at the picture he’d sent. He’d apparently had dinner with my family, because all of them were posed at my mother’s dining room table. And then one of Rose alone, looking bigger than ever, but she looked healthy, happy. Uncle Al was showing me that he was watching out for my family.
“Who is she?” I heard softly next to my shoulder.
I snorted. “Rose,” I told her. “My sister. She’ll pop before I see her again.”
“She’s beautiful.” Bella smiled, but it fell quickly. “I’m sorry you’re missing it.”
I laughed, starting to take the phone apart. “Don’t be. You’re saving me from fucking hellacious hormones.”
Giggling, she reached out to stop me. “Can I see the other one?”
“Yeah, sure.” I showed her the other picture. “My parents, Rose, and her husband.”
“You don’t want to keep it?” Her eyes flickered to the laptop. “I mean, this is affecting you, too. You and Jasper.”
Again, I saw a bit of her true spirit come through. She was constantly watching out for her sister, but I could see right then that she kind of watched out for everyone in a selfless sort of way. What she was offering was something I couldn’t take, though, despite how appreciative I was of the gesture.
“I can’t, but thank you.” I grimaced at her, shrugging a shoulder. “He was just showing me they’re all okay.”
With that said, I ripped out the sim card to destroy later and then snapped the old flip-phone apart, tossing the pieces onto the table.
Looking back at her, I let out a deep breath. “The paperwork has come through on your new identities,” I told her. “We’ll meet with a representative of the Department of Justice in a couple of days. They’ll hand you everything for who you’ll...become. It’ll be a quick meeting, private. You can ask this person all the questions you want. Once it’s over, we’ll come back here. Okay?”
She swallowed nervously but nodded as she tucked a lock of her hair behind her ear. “Wonder who I’ll be...”
My brow furrowed at her musing, but I stood up. “You’ll be you. Just...with a different name, Bella. That’s all. Who you are won’t change.”
“Only without the ex-boyfriend,” she snorted.
Picking up the pieces of the phone, I chuckled. “Who?”
She smiled softly, but it didn’t quite meet her eyes. Gazing up at me, she sighed. “I’m... Umm, thank you. Again.”
I had a feeling she had been about to say something different but changed her mind. “Stop thanking me, Bella. We’re not out of the woods yet.”



1 comments:

Evelyne-raconte said...

Ok ! Bella and Edward, it is now. I don't know a thing about yoga, so I went to see on Youtube what the Thing Facing Dog is... Nice view for Edward, when Bella and Alice are doing that. Thank you for the great chapter.

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