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New Moon (Twilight #2)(15)
Stephenie Meyer

Chapter 7 REPETITION

I WASN'T SURE WHAT THE HELL I WAS DOING HERE Was I trying to push myself back into the zombie stupor? Had I turned masochistic - developed a taste for torture? I should have gone straight down to La Push I felt much, much healthier around Jacob This was not a healthy thing to do.

But I continued to drive slowly down the overgrown lane, twisting through the trees that arched over me like a green, living tunnel My hands were shaking, so I tightened my grip on the steering wheel.

I knew that part of the reason I did this was the nightmare, now that I was really awake, the nothingness of the dream gnawed on my nerves, a dog worrying a bone.

There was something to search for. Unattainable and impossible, uncaring and distracted... but he was out there, somewhere. I had to believe that.

The other part was the strange sense of repetition I'd felt at school today, the coincidence of the date. The feeling that I was starting over - perhaps the way my first day would have gone if I'd really been the most unusual person in the cafeteria that afternoon.

The words ran through my head, tonelessly, like I was reading them rather than hearing them spoken:

It will be as if I'd never existed.

I was lying to myself by splitting my reason for coming here into just two parts. I didn't want to admit the strongest motivation. Because it was mentally unsound.

The truth was that I wanted to hear his voice again, like I had in the strange delusion Friday night. For that brief moment, when his voice came from some other part of me than my conscious memory, when his voice was perfect and honey smooth rather than the pale echo my memories usually produced, I was able to remember without pain. It hadn't lasted; the pain had caught up with me, as I was sure it would for this fool's errand. But those precious moments when I could hear him again were an irresistible lure. I had to find some way to repeat the experience... or maybe the better word was episode.

I was hoping that déjà vu was the key. So I was going to his home, a place I hadn't been since my ill-fated birthday party, so many months ago.

The thick, almost jungle-like growth crawled slowly past my windows. The drive wound on and on. I started to go faster, getting edgy. How long had I been driving? Shouldn't I have reached the house yet? The lane was so overgrown that it did not look familiar.

What if I couldn't find it? I shivered. What if there was no tangible proof at all?

Then there was the break in the trees that I was looking for, only it was not so pronounced as before. The flora here did not wait long to reclaim any land that was left unguarded. The tall ferns had infiltrated the meadow around the house, crowding against the trunks of the cedars, even the wide porch. It was like the lawn had been flooded - waist-high - with green, feathery waves.

And the house was there, but it was not the same. Though nothing had changed on the outside, the emptiness screamed from the blank windows. It was creepy. For the first time since I'd seen the beautiful house, it looked like a fitting haunt for vampires.

I hit the brakes, looking away. I was afraid to go farther.

But nothing happened. No voice in my head.

So I left the engine running and jumped out into the fern sea. Maybe, like Friday night, if I walked forward...

I approached the barren, vacant face slowly, my truck rumbling out a comforting roar behind me. I stopped when I got to the porch stairs, because there was nothing here. No lingering sense of their presence... of his presence. The house was solidly here, but it meant little. Its concrete reality would not counteract the nothingness of the nightmares.

I didn't go any closer. I didn't want to look in the windows. I wasn't sure which would be harder to see. If the rooms were bare, echoing empty from floor to ceiling, that would certainly hurt. Like my grandmother's funeral, when my mother had insisted that I stay outside during the viewing. She had said that I didn't need to see Gran that way, to remember her that way, rather than alive.

But wouldn't it be worse if there were no change? If the couches sat just as I'd last seen them, the paintings on the walls - worse still, the piano on its low platform? It would be second only to the house disappearing all together, to see that there was no physical possession that tied them in anyway. That everything remained, untouched and forgotten, behind them.

Just like me.

I turned my back on the gaping emptiness and hurried to my truck. I nearly ran. I was anxious to be gone, to get back to the human world. I felt hideously empty, and I wanted to see Jacob. Maybe I was

developing a new kind of sickness, another addiction, like the numbness before. I didn't care. I pushed my truck as fast as it would go as I barreled toward my fix.

Jacob was waiting for me. My chest seemed to relax as soon as I saw him, making it easier to breathe.

"Hey, Bella," he called.

I smiled in relief. "Hey, Jacob," I waved at Billy, who was looking out the window.

"Let's get to work," Jacob said in a low but eager voice.

I was somehow able to laugh. "You seriously aren't sick of me yet?" I wondered. He must be starting to ask himself how desperate I was for company.

Jacob led the way around the house to his garage.

"Nope. Not yet."

"Please let me know when I start getting on your nerves. I don't want to be a pain."

"Okay." He laughed, a throaty sound. "I wouldn't hold your breath for that, though."

When I walked into the garage, I was shocked to see the red bike standing up, looking like a motorcycle rather than a pile of jagged metal.

"Jake, you're amazing," I breathed.

He laughed again. "I get obsessive when I have a project." He shrugged. "If I had any brains I'd drag it out a little bit."

"Why?"

He looked down, pausing for so long that I wondered if he hadn't heard my question. Finally, he asked me, "Bella, if I told you that I couldn't fix these bikes, what would you say?"

I didn't answer right away, either, and he glanced up to check my expression.

"I would say... that's too bad, but I'll bet we could figure out something else to do. If we got really desperate, we could even do homework."

Jacob smiled, and his shoulders relaxed. He sat down next to the bike and picked up a wrench. "So you think you'll still come over when I'm done, then?"

"Is that what you meant?" I shook my head. "I guess I am taking advantage of your very underpriced mechanical skills. But as long as you let me come over, I'll be here."

"Hoping to see Quil again?" he teased.

"You caught me."

He chuckled. "You really like spending time with me?" he asked, marveling.

"Very, very much. And I'll prove it. I have to work tomorrow, but Wednesday we'll do something nonmechanical."

"Like what?"

"I have no idea. We can go to my place so you won't be tempted to be obsessive. You could bring your schoolwork - you have to be getting behind, because I know I am."

"Homework might be a good idea." He made a face, and I wondered how much he was leaving undone to be with me.

"Yes," I agreed. "We'll have to start being responsible occasionally, or Billy and Charlie aren't going to be so easygoing about this." I made a gesture indicating the two of us as a single entity. He liked that - he beamed.

"Homework once a week?" he proposed.

"Maybe we'd better go with twice," I suggested, thinking of the pile I'd just been assigned today.

He sighed a heavy sigh. Then he reached over his toolbox to a paper grocery sack. He pulled out two cans of soda, cracking one open and handing it to me. He opened the second, and held it up ceremoniously.

"Here's to responsibility," he toasted. "Twice a week."

"And recklessness every day in between," I emphasized.

He grinned and touched his can to mine.

I got home later than I'd planned and found Charlie had ordered a pizza rather than wait for me. He wouldn't let me apologize.

"I don't mind," he assured me. "You deserve a break from all the cooking, anyway."

I knew he was just relieved that I was still acting like a normal person, and he was not about to rock the boat.

I checked my e-mail before I started on my homework, and there was a long one from Renee. She gushed over every detail I'd provided her with, so I sent back another exhaustive description of my day. Everything but the motorcycles. Even happy-go-lucky Renee was likely to be alarmed by that.

School Tuesday had its ups and downs. Angela and Mike seemed ready to welcome me back with open arms - to kindly overlook my few months of aberrant behavior. Jess was more resistant. I wondered if she needed a formal written apology for the Port Angeles incident.

Mike was animated and chatty at work. It was like he'd stored up the semester's worth of talk, and it was all spilling out now. I found that I was able to smile and laugh with him, though it wasn't as effortless as it was with Jacob. It seemed harmless enough, until quitting time.

Mike put the closed sign in the window while I folded my vest and shoved it under the counter.

"This was fun tonight," Mike said happily.

"Yeah," I agreed, though I'd much rather have spent the afternoon in the garage.

"It's too bad that you had to leave the movie early last week."

I was a little confused by his train of thought. I shrugged. "I'm just a wimp, I guess."

"What I mean is, you should go to a better movie, something you'd enjoy," he explained.

"Oh," I muttered, still confused.

"Like maybe this Friday. With me. We could go see something that isn't scary at all."

I bit my lip.

I didn't want to screw things up with Mike, not when he was one of the only people ready to forgive me for being crazy. But this, again, felt far too familiar. Like the last year had never happened. I wished I had Jess as an excuse this time.

"Like a date?" I asked. Honesty was probably the best policy at this point. Get it over with.

He processed the tone of my voice "If you want. But it doesn't have to be like that."

"I don't date," I said slowly, realizing how true that was. That whole world seemed impossibly distant.

"Just as friends?" he suggested. His clear blue eyes were not as eager now. I hoped he really meant that we could be friends anyway.

"That would be fun. But I actually have plans already this Friday, so maybe next week?"

"What are you doing?" he asked, less casually than I think he wanted to sound.

"Homework. I have a... study session planned with a friend."

"Oh. Okay. Maybe next week."

He walked me to my car, less exuberant than before. It reminded me so clearly of my first months in Forks. I'd come full circle, and now everything felt like an echo - an empty echo, devoid of the interest it used to have.

The next night, Charlie didn't seem the smallest bit surprised to find Jacob and me sprawled across the living room floor with our books scattered around us, so I guessed that he and Billy were talking behind our backs.

"Hey, kids," he said, his eyes straying to the kitchen. The smell of the lasagna I'd spent the afternoon making - while Jacob watched and occasionally sampled - wafted down the hall; I was being good, trying to atone for all the pizza.

Jacob stayed for dinner, and took a plate home for Billy. He grudgingly added another year to my negotiable age for being a good cook.

Friday was the garage, and Saturday, after my shift at Newton's, was homework again. Charlie felt secure enough in my sanity to spend the day fishing with Harry. When he got back, we were all done - feeling very sensible and mature about it, too - and watching Monster Garage on the Discovery Channel.

"I probably ought to go." Jacob sighed. "It's later than I thought."

"Okay, fine," I grumbled. "I'll take you home."

He laughed at my unwilling expression - it seemed to please him.

"Tomorrow, back to work," I said as soon as we were safe in the truck. "What time do you want me to come up?"

There was an unexplained excitement in his answering smile. "I'll call you first, okay?"

"Sure." I frowned to myself, wondering what was up. His smile widened.

I cleaned the house the next morning - waiting for Jacob to call and trying to shake off the Litest nightmare. The scenery had changed. Last night I'd wandered in a wide sea of ferns interspersed with huge hemlock trees. There was nothing else there, and I was lost, wandering aimless and alone, searching for nothing. I wanted to kick myself for the stupid field trip last week. I shoved the dream out of my conscious mind, hoping it would stay locked up somewhere and not escape again.

Charlie was outside washing the cruiser, so when the phone rang, I dropped the toilet brush and ran downstairs to answer it.

"Hello?" I asked breathlessly.

"Bella," Jacob said, a strange, formal tone to his voice.

"Hey, Jake."

"I believe that... we have a date" he said, his tone thick with implications.

It took me a second before I got it. "They're done? I can't believe it!" What perfect timing. I needed something to distract me from nightmares and nothingness.

"Yeah, they run and everything."

"Jacob, you are absolutely, without a doubt, the most talented and wonderful person I know. You get ten years for this one."

"Cool! I'm middle-aged now."

I laughed. "I'm on my way up!"

I threw the cleaning supplies under the bathroom counter and grabbed my jacket.

"Headed to see Jake," Charlie said when I ran past him. It wasn't really a question.

"Yep," I replied as I jumped in my truck.

"I'll be at the station later," Charlie called after me.

"Okay," I yelled back, turning the key.

Charlie said something else, but I couldn't hear him clearly over the roar of the engine. It sounded sort of like, "Where's the fire?"

I parked my truck off to the side of the Blacks' house, close to the trees, to make it easier for us to sneak the bikes out. When I got out, a splash of color caught my eye - two shiny motorcycles, one red, one black, were hidden under a spruce, invisible from the house. Jacob was prepared.

There was a piece of blue ribbon tied in a small bow around each of the handlebars. I was laughing at that when Jacob ran out of the house.

"Ready?" he asked in a low voice, his eyes sparkling.

I glanced over his shoulder, and there was no sign of Billy.

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