Sunday, July 31, 2016 | By: Drotuno

Six - Chapter 4 & Pics

Six – Chapter 4
New York City
I gazed up at the Natural History Museum, which would be closing soon. The building itself just didn’t seem to fit in with the city surrounding it. It wasn’t as tall, with a castle-like look to it and large pillars. It was nestled in the middle of gray concrete and stone and black asphalt. But across the street was the haven of New York City.
Central Park was big enough to get lost in on a good day, but searching for this Bella on a weekend, which just happened to be a bright sunny day, was like looking for a needle in a haystack. People were everywhere.
Carlisle and Emmett had taken the Met side of the park. Rose was with me, in her human form at the moment. She studied the people exiting the museum but looked to me.
“What are you gonna say if we find her?” she asked, nudging me to get us going into the park.
I shrugged. “I don’t know. I’m not sure, ‘Hey, remember me? I kept an angry Armenian from callin’ the cops on you over a jar of peanut butter by making him forget you stole from him’ is a good way to start off.”
She laughed as she glanced around the path we were taking. “Yeah, don’t go with that.”
Grinning, I shook my head. “I won’t. I honestly don’t know. Maybe tell her that the old man knows Carlisle, but…” I trailed off when we reached a turn. I looked to my sister. “Jesus, what do I say to her? I can’t just blurt out what I know, what I’ve seen.”
“What? Why not?” she asked, and I snorted at her. “Shit, Edward, I’d rather hear it that way. The blatant disgusting truth.” She gripped the sleeve of my shirt, stopping me in the middle of the path we’d turned down. “Listen, if she’s as scared as you say she is and as stubborn as the old man told you, then you have to be honest. But I think you’re right. Just running up on her would be…bad.”
“Well, we have to find her first.” I pointed for her to keep going.
We stayed along the same passage for a few minutes, mainly keeping beneath the shade. Every bridge or bench or even a single person alone was scrutinized. Our footsteps echoed through another bridge tunnel when I caught the familiar thoughts of fear and escape, but at the moment, it was mostly sadness.
I came to a stop just inside the tunnel, and Rose whispered, “You hear her.” When I nodded, she glanced around outside, switching to thoughts. Don’t even think about putting a fucking leash on me, Edward Cullen.
Before I could register what she was doing, she was shifting, blurring into something else. In less time that it could take someone to tie their shoe, she was standing there as a solid white German shepherd. Her cold, black nose nudged my hand, and amber eyes locked with mine, but her mind was still my sister as usual.
C’mon, there’s a few more benches up here around this curve.
She was right. Coming out of the tunnel and around a small bend, I saw a few benches. A few were occupied – an elderly man feeding the pigeons, a young woman with a stroller, and a single figure on the last bench. And I grimaced that she’d picked the one bench in front of a large rock where no one could sneak up behind her. She’d positioned herself with instant access to an exit. A window thrown up on that rock, and she’d be gone. Poof. Just like before in the alleyway outside Bart’s bodega.
I so got this! Rose thought, darting away from her keeping pace at my side to running straight up to the solitary girl at the end of the path.
“Rose, wait!” I called but smirked at my sister playing the silly dog.
“Oh! Goodness,” the pretty brunette said in a whisper of shock.
I ran to catch up with my sister, shaking my head at the wagging tail, the tongue lolling out the side of her mouth, and the silly way she hopped up on the bench next to the sixxer who had taken over every thought I’d had lately.
“Rose, you don’t want a leash, but damn…” I panted when I finally made it to them. She dropped down with her head on the girl’s leg. “I’m sorry. She’s…”
Red-rimmed, deep-brown eyes met mine, and her cheeks tinged pink. It was the same blush I’d seen when I’d spoken to her in the store that day.
“I gotta go,” she whispered.
“No, wait. Please?” I asked softly. “Rose, get down.” Rose did as I asked but plopped herself right in front of us, facing the bench. “May I?” I asked, gesturing to the empty spot beside her.
Her thoughts were everywhere – escape, embarrassment, curiosity. In her mind she referred to me as the “good-looking guy” from the store. Her eyes, though, scanned all around us. She was looking for the VI logo, for faces of men she’d seen looking for her. She was so close to bolting up from that seat that I had to do something.
“I’m Edward,” I suddenly blurted out, holding out my hand. “Edward Cullen.”
She glared at my hand and then at my face.
“Um, I don’t bite. It’s just a handshake – the normal, polite thing when making introductions.”
Rose shifted a little, nudging the girl’s hand, which made her laugh. And holy shit, was that a beautiful sight, but Rose’s thoughts made me smirk.
Wow, Edward, she’s gorgeous…and sad and alone. And too damn skinny!
“I-I’m…Bella,” she said, but she grimaced. “You… I’m…”
She looked down and away from me, and my hand was still hanging there. Rose nudged her again, which made Bella smile a little. She reached her hand out, and it was warm, giving a small jolt to mine. Bella’s mind was everywhere all at once, but mostly it was replaying the day in the store.
Trying to distract her from her embarrassment, I smiled and leaned down to meet her eyes. “It’s nice to meet you, Bella.”
“You, too,” she whispered, but it was a lie. It wasn’t a lie that she was glad to meet me; she just simply couldn’t understand why someone like me wanted to talk to someone like her.
Something about that hurt my chest, especially when she slowly pulled her hand out of mine. Deep down, we were more alike than she could ever know. I just happened to find my family sooner.
“Hmm,” I hummed, giving her a side glance. “Not really all that convincing, pretty girl.”
Bella cracked a half smile, thinking I was the kind of guy who could get any girl, anywhere. Her imagination was painting me as some sort of womanizing flirt, that I could have my pick of girls all over the world, and I opened my mouth to counter that, only to close it quickly, because her next thought was that I was wasting my time on a homeless, thieving freak. And that shit had to stop because I couldn’t judge her on a fucking thing, not with the deeds I’d done in my past. Flashes of my birth parents and the things we’d done came to mind, and I shook my head to clear it, finally meeting her gaze again.
“If you’re worried about Bart at the store, then don’t. I covered it,” I blurted out, because I could see that was overriding everything in her mind – the embarrassment of having to steal. And I was in no position to judge. I hoped I’d have the chance to explain that one day.
Her eyes narrowed dangerously. “What? Why would you do that?”
“Did you need it?” I countered with my own question, gently reaching out to take her hand again so she wouldn’t get up. “Don’t leave. I promise you’re safe with me. I’ve…I’ve been looking for you. Your friend, Mr. Jackson, said I might find you here. My dad, Carlisle, was his doctor, helped his knee when he fell. He said you could ask him if you’d like.”
Her brow furrowed, her breathing was shallow and nervous, but she looked to my face. She was almost angry that I’d brought up the only person in New York she cared about.
Fuck it, Edward, Rose thought to me, shifting a little in front of us. The girl’s about to run for it, and you can’t just…detain her. Give her the truth. Show her she’s not alone. But she’s gonna run, big brother. She’s been doing it too long.
I looked briefly at Rose, who was lying down with her head on her front paws, those warm, amber eyes flicking between Bella and me. I looked to the girl I’d busted my ass to find, hoping to hell and back I was about to do the right thing.
“I saw what you could do in the alley, Bella,” I started to explain, thinking my sister was right, that I needed to be quick and honest. “You’re not the only one with a sixth sense.” I tapped my temple. “There are more of us out here than you think.” I remembered how Carlisle had explained it to me and Alice. “And you’re not the only one just trying to survive, to stay away from…people who want to hurt us, study us.” I raised an eyebrow her way.
“How could you know that?” she whispered, starting to get up, and tears welled up just a little.
“I told you, you’re not the only sixxer sitting here,” I stated softly.
“Six…? Look, I don’t know what you’re talking about,” she lied, getting up and reaching for her backpack.
Oh God, Edward, she’s gonna run. Rose pushed up to a sitting position.
I stood in front of Bella. “Yes, you do. Listen, my family…we all have our talents, and we stick together. We can help you,” I urged that last part in a whisper, but without even checking my surroundings, I used my own talent, mentally pulling that backpack just out of her grasp and into mine. “Please, please, just listen, Bella. I know who hunts you. They’ve come after me before…and my siblings.” I pointed to Rose, who was watching us with intense eyes and upright ears, her head going back and forth like a tennis match.
Bella’s eyes widened with what she’d seen me do, but then they narrowed dangerously. “Please let me go. Please, Edward!” she started to shake. “I’m not safe to be around. And…and…I can’t… Please?!”
She was losing it; with shaky hands, she reached for her bag, but I held on to it, studying her face.
Realizing I had no choice but to let her go, I sighed deeply. “C’mere,” I whispered, guiding her to the bridge tunnel. “Rose!” I called over my shoulder, waiting until the clicking of dog’s nails echoed under the bridge. I turned Bella to face me. “Look at me, Bella. We want to help you. You may think you’re not safe to be around, but I promise you that we are. The people you’re running from…Volterra…”
“Shhh!” she hissed at me, glancing from one end of the tunnel to the other.
My nostrils flared with anger, not at her but at her fear, at the bastards who scared her. These were the same bastards who’d come after Alice and me a few years ago. But what they’d failed to do with us, they’d succeeded with Bella. She’d been there, and the sound of the name wrecked her.
“Bella, trust me when I tell you that with me…they can’t fucking touch you.” I wanted to push that into her mind, but I didn’t. I wanted to show her that I could seal that bridge tunnel so securely that it would take TNT to break it open, but I didn’t. I just sighed, pulling her backpack around and reaching for the pen I’d seen poking up out of a pocket.
A piece of paper, what looked to be a receipt for coffee, appeared in front of me, and I smiled at Rose, who had changed back to her human form.
Bella gasped, stepping back to the tunnel wall.
“Bella, this is my sister, Rosalie. Rose…Bella…” I trailed off, glancing up at Bella for her last name.
“Swan,” Bella whispered in answer.
“Bella,” Rose greeted, nodding toward me. “He’s right, you know. Our family is strong, and we protect those like us.”
Bella nodded, but nothing was really sinking in. Her need to get away was too strong. She’d been protecting herself for way too long.
“Bella,” I said softly, holding up the piece of paper. “Take this, and then promise me you’ll at least hold on to it. It’s my cell number. And I know you probably could jump to…to Paris from here, but remember I’m at NYU during the week, that you can call this number anytime, day or night. Volterra preys on the alone and scared, and pretty girl, you’re both of those things. And you don’t have to be either of them with us. Please?”
I’d whispered that last thing, begging her to take the phone number, and her shaking hand reached out for it and immediately tucked it into the front pocket of her jeans as she nodded fervently.
I held out her backpack, and she took that, too. When she glanced to either end of the tunnel, I knew what she was about to do, and I stepped back a little. I wanted to see if I could recognize the spot she picked to jump, but it looked like any alley in the city.
“Oh! Bella!” I called her before she stepped through the window she’d just opened. When she turned to look my way over her shoulder, I smiled and tapped my temple. “By the way, I don’t have my pick of girls, and I’m not quite the womanizing flirt you think I am. If I was, then I wouldn’t have looked all over this city for you every day since the store.” I raised an eyebrow at her, silently rejoicing at the sweet blush that graced her cheeks instead of the fear I’d seen.
She smiled a little but stepped through her window, and it was gone the second she jumped.
I leaned against the wall, looking to my sister when she leaned next to me.
“Did she really think that?” she asked with a laugh.
I chuckled. “Yeah.” Shrugging, I sighed deeply. “She’s not the first to assume.” Rose nodded, but I voiced my worry. “Think she’ll call?”
Rose shrugged. “I don’t know, big brother. Not my talent.”
Rolling my eyes at the family joke that seemed to never go away, I pushed away from the tunnel wall. “C’mon, we’ll ask Alice. And we’ll let everyone know to stop looking for her.”
My eyes stayed on the spot where Bella had disappeared, even as I walked out of the bridge tunnel, hoping she’d think about what I’d said.
Forks, Washington
I pulled the hood of my jacket up to hide my face and checked my surroundings once more before stepping out of my hiding spot at the edge of the small graveyard. I knew I shouldn’t be on the West Coast, let alone in my hometown of Forks, but I hadn’t been back for months, and I needed to talk to my dad. I’d been watching the area for four hours and hadn’t seen a soul, wearing the VI logo or not. So when I dropped to my knees beside the headstone I knew so well, I was relatively certain I was alone.
Charles Swan
Beloved husband and father
April 20, 1973 – May 14, 2011
I brushed off the leaves and dirt from the top and laid my hand flat on the granite. “Hi, Dad,” I whispered. “I’m sorry it’s been so long. I can’t… Well, you know why I can’t visit more often.”
The air was silent. Not even a breeze was making the leaves in the trees rustle.
“I…I met someone. Two, actually. Edward and Rosalie.” In one rushed breath, I told my father all about where I’d first seen the good-looking guy who’d then introduced himself as Edward, along with his sister, Rose, a few days ago. “Jeez, Dad. I’ve never seen anything like it! One minute she was this…this big white dog, and then next, she was this…this beautiful woman,” I gushed. “I’ve imagined strange powers, but not once did it occur to me that someone could do that. It’s kind of cool. Honestly, if I were her, I’d make myself into a dog or a cat or something and just live that way always. No one would know any different, and they wouldn’t be chasing me. And Edward… He pulled my bag to him – with his mind, Dad! Didn’t use his hands at all. That has to come in handy, doesn’t it?” I could get food without actually physically taking it with my hands. “And… God, it sounds ridiculous, but I think… I think he read my thoughts. I’m crazy, right?” I laughed somewhat hysterically, remembering how he’d said he wasn’t a flirt – after that’s precisely what I’d been thinking.
I kept an eye on my surroundings, ready to throw up a window and go if needed, but all was still.
“He gave me his number, said I could trust him, but I don’t know… I haven’t trusted anyone in over a year. I don’t even know this guy, but I want to trust him. Everything in me says I can, but I’m so used to running, so used to keeping things to myself, I’m not sure I can trust him. Or maybe it’s that I can’t trust myself. I’m so confused…”
I felt a tear wet my cheek and reached up to swipe it away. I hated crying, hated that it made me feel weak.
“He said that Mr. Jackson – you remember him, Dad? I told you about him. The old soldier from the shelter… He said Mr. Jackson wants me to come see him, that he can vouch for Edward’s father. I trust Mr. J as much as I can trust anybody, but how do I know those words really came from him? I mean, if Edward wanted to catch me, he had plenty of opportunities when he and Rose caught me unaware at the park, right? So why am I waffling?” I sighed. “You told me something a long time ago. I guess it fits here. ‘The best way to find out if you can trust somebody is to trust them.’ Ernest Hemingway had a way with words, didn’t he? I guess you’re right again, Dad. In order to trust Edward and Rose…and even Mr. Jackson…I simply have to trust them.”
And then I admitted aloud something I’d barely allowed myself to even feel. “I’m so tired, Dad. I’m tired of running. I’m tired of being hungry, dirty…of stealing to survive. I’m tired of looking over my shoulder every minute of every day, of never feeling safe, no matter where I am.” Silent tears were making tracks down my cheeks, but I couldn’t seem to stop them. “I’m not living, Daddy. I’m merely existing…and it’s exhausting. Maybe… Maybe Edward and his family can help me. At least give me someplace safe to stay for a few weeks, somewhere I can sleep without worrying someone will come busting into the room and take me by surprise.”
My stomach was in knots, and I was shaking with nerves at being so exposed for so long. Forks was only a hop, skip, and jump from Seattle and the Volterra Industries headquarters. I needed to get back to New York, where I could at least attempt to blend in with the crowds.
“I gotta go, Dad,” I said with a deep sigh, reaching out to trace his name. For a moment I remembered the day my mom and I laid him to rest. He’d been killed on the job – responding to a call of domestic abuse. It had broken my mother. She’d never been the same. We’d moved to Seattle, but that had just made it worse. That’s where she’d met Phil.
“I love you,” I whispered, swallowing back a lump in my throat as I wiped my remaining tears away.
With a final glance around, I quickly stepped back into the trees at the edge of the cemetery, threw up a window to a quiet alley back in New York, and then jumped.
It felt…strange being back at the same shelter after only a few days. But Mr. Jackson was a creature of habit, so while I’d made it my mission over the last year to avoid the same, lest I draw too much attention to myself, if I wanted to speak to him, this was where I’d have to do it. The closer I got, the more nervous I became. The butterflies that seemed to live in my stomach were in constant motion, beating against me with every step I took. Something was off, but I didn’t know what.
It’s just your nerves, Bella. It’ll be fine!
Needing a second before I went the final block to the shelter, I decided to step into an alley and take a deep breath to calm my nerves. The moment I stepped around the corner, the hairs on the back of my neck rose. Above the noise of the street traffic, I heard a grunt, like a sudden sound of pain.
“Tell us where she is, old man,” a rough voice growled.
Another, smoother, voice said, “Make it easier on yourself, yeah? Just tell us where the girl is, and Felix here won’t have to hurt you anymore.”
“I told you. I don’t know who you’re talking about,” a shaky voice stated emphatically.
I gasped, recognizing Mr. Jackson’s voice immediately.
“Wrong answer,” the first man said, and then there was another grunt of pain.
Without realizing what I was doing, I stepped around the Dumpster just in time to see a big guy swing his arm and punch Mr. Jackson in the stomach so hard he would have fallen over, had it not been for the slightly smaller man holding him up.
“No, stop!” I cried. “Leave him alone!”
The three men froze. Two turned to me, and it was then I recognized them both, even before seeing the VI logo on their shirts. They were two of the men who’d helped capture me in the first place. The third – Mr. Jackson – looked up at me, wide-eyed.
“Run, Bel—” he screamed before the smaller man slapped a hand over his mouth.
“Grab her,” the man snarled to the brute apparently named Felix.
I knew I needed to leave. I couldn’t let them take me again. But I couldn’t move. They had Mr. Jackson, a man who’d been nothing but kind to me!
As Felix turned, an evil smirk on his face, the other man cried out and ripped his hand away from Mr. Jackson’s mouth.
My friend took advantage of the situation to scream at me again. “Go, Bella! Find Car—!” He was cut off as the man slapped his hand over Mr. Jackson’s mouth again.
I only hesitated another moment, but as soon as Felix whipped a syringe from his inner jacket pocket, I gave Mr. Jackson one last look, promising him silently that I would come back and help him, and then threw a window open on the wall and jumped before Felix could reach me.
Heart pounding, I stumbled out of an alley near a motel I hadn’t stayed at in a while. I rushed through my routine of knocking and calling out to verify an empty room, and when no one came to the door after the second knock, I jumped into the room. I dug into my pocket with one hand, searching frantically for the slip of paper Edward Cullen had given me a few days before. As soon as I pulled it free, I picked up the phone and dialed the number, my breath coming so rapidly, I thought I might pass out.
I recognized Edward’s voice immediately, but panic had me clamping my lips tight. A whimper escaped, and Edward must have heard it, because his voice rose with his next words.
“Bella? Is that you, pretty girl? Are you okay?”
“Edward,” I gasped. My words tumbled out of me faster than I could physically speak. “They… They were there, a-and they had Mr. J-Jackson, a-and h-he said t-to run. P-Please, help m-me!”


Cheri said...

You are an amazing storyteller. XOXO,Cheri

Kristi said...

The energy that this chapter gives off is driving my anticipation for more.

Aka (Moltz)

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