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Chapter 21 Phone Call

Chapter 21 Phone Call

 I could feel it was too early again when I woke, and I knew I was gettingthe schedule of my days and nights slowly reversed. I lay in my bed andlistened to the quiet voices of Alice and Jasper in the other room. Thatthey were loud enough for me to hear at all was strange. I rolled till myfeet touched the floor and then staggered to the living room.

  The clock on the TV said it was just after two in the morning. Alice andJasper were sitting together on the sofa, Alice sketching again whileJasper looked over her shoulder. They didn't look up when I entered, tooengrossed in Alice's work.

  I crept to Jasper's side to peek.

  "Did she see something more?" I asked him quietly.

  "Yes. Something's brought him back to the room with the VCR, but it'slight now."I watched as Alice drew a square room with dark beams across its lowceiling. The walls were paneled in wood, a little too dark, out of date.

  The floor had a dark carpet with a pattern in it. There was a largewindow against the south wall, and an opening through the west wall ledto the living room. One side of that entrance was stone — a large tanstone fireplace that was open to both rooms. The focus of the room fromthis perspective, the TV and VCR, balanced on a too-small wooden stand,were in the southwest corner of the room. An aged sectional sofa curvedaround in front of the TV, a round coffee table in front of it.

  "The phone goes there," I whispered, pointing.

  Two pairs of eternal eyes stared at me.

  "That's my mother's house."Alice was already off the couch, phone in hand, dialing. I stared at theprecise rendering of my mother's family room. Uncharacteristically,Jasper slid closer to me. He lightly touched his hand to my shoulder, andthe physical contact seemed to make his calming influence stronger. Thepanic stayed dull, unfocused.

  Alice's lips were trembling with the speed of her words, the low buzzingimpossible to decipher. I couldn't concentrate.

  "Bella," Alice said. I looked at her numbly.

   "Bella, Edward is coming to get you. He and Emmett and Carlisle are goingto take you somewhere, to hide you for a while.""Edward is coming?" The words were like a life vest, holding my headabove the flood.

  "Yes, he's catching the first flight out of Seattle. We'll meet him atthe airport, and you'll leave with him.""But, my mother… he came here for my mother, Alice!" Despite Jasper, thehysteria bubbled up in my voice.

  "Jasper and I will stay till she's safe.""I can't win, Alice. You can't guard everyone I know forever. Don't yousee what he's doing? He's not tracking me at all. He'll find someone,he'll hurt someone I love… Alice, I can't —""We'll catch him, Bella," she assured me.

  "And what if you get hurt, Alice? Do you think that's okay with me? Doyou think it's only my human family he can hurt me with?"Alice looked meaningfully at Jasper. A deep, heavy fog of lethargy washedover me, and my eyes closed without my permission. My mind struggledagainst the fog, realizing what was happening. I forced my eyes open andstood up, stepping away from Jasper's hand.

  "I don't want to go back to sleep," I snapped.

  I walked to my room and shut the door, slammed it really, so I could befree to go to pieces privately. This time Alice didn't follow me. Forthree and a half hours I stared at the wall, curled in a ball, rocking.

  My mind went around in circles, trying to come up with some way out ofthis nightmare. There was no escape, no reprieve. I could see only onepossible end looming darkly in my future. The only question was how manyother people would be hurt before I reached it.

  The only solace, the only hope I had left, was knowing that I would seeEdward soon. Maybe, if I could just see his face again, I would also beable to see the solution that eluded me now.

  When the phone rang, I returned to the front room, a little ashamed of mybehavior. I hoped I hadn't offended either of them, that they would knowhow grateful I was for the sacrifices they were making on my account.

  Alice was talking as rapidly as ever, but what caught my attention wasthat, for the first time, Jasper was not in the room. I looked at theclock — it was five-thirty in the morning.

  "They're just boarding their plane," Alice told me. "They'll land atnine-forty-five." Just a few more hours to keep breathing till he washere.

  "Where's Jasper?""He went to check out.""You aren't staying here?""No, we're relocating closer to your mother's house."My stomach twisted uneasily at her words.

  But the phone rang again, distracting me. She looked surprised, but I wasalready walking forward, reaching hopefully for the phone.

  "Hello?" Alice asked. "No, she's right here." She held the phone out tome. Your mother, she mouthed.

  "Hello?" "Bella? Bella?" It was my mother's voice, in a familiar tone I had hearda thousand times in my childhood, anytime I'd gotten too close to theedge of the sidewalk or strayed out of her sight in a crowded place. Itwas the sound of panic.

  I sighed. I'd been expecting this, though I'd tried to make my message asunalarming as possible without lessening the urgency of it.

  "Calm down, Mom," I said in my most soothing voice, walking slowly awayfrom Alice. I wasn't sure if I could lie as convincingly with her eyes onme. "Everything is fine, okay? Just give me a minute and I'll explaineverything, I promise."I paused, surprised that she hadn't interrupted me yet.

  "Mom?""Be very careful not to say anything until I tell you to." The voice Iheard now was as unfamiliar as it was unexpected. It was a man's tenorvoice, a very pleasant, generic voice — the kind of voice that you heardin the background of luxury car commercials. He spoke very quickly.

  "Now, I don't need to hurt your mother, so please do exactly as I say,and she'll be fine." He paused for a minute while I listened in mutehorror. "That's very good," he congratulated. "Now repeat after me, anddo try to sound natural. Please say, 'No, Mom, stay where you are.'""No, Mom, stay where you are." My voice was barely more than a whisper.

  "I can see this is going to be difficult." The voice was amused, stilllight and friendly. "Why don't you walk into another room now so yourface doesn't ruin everything? There's no reason for your mother tosuffer. As you're walking, please say, 'Mom, please listen to me.' Say itnow.""Mom, please listen to me," my voice pleaded. I walked very slowly to thebedroom, feeling Alice's worried stare on my back. I shut the door behindme, trying to think clearly through the terror that gripped my brain.

  "There now, are you alone? Just answer yes or no.""Yes.""But they can still hear you, I'm sure.""Yes.""All right, then," the agreeable voice continued, "say, 'Mom, trust me.'""Mom, trust me.""This worked out rather better than I expected. I was prepared to wait,but your mother arrived ahead of schedule. It's easier this way, isn'tit? Less suspense, less anxiety for you."I waited.

  "Now I want you to listen very carefully. I'm going to need you to getaway from your friends; do you think you can do that? Answer yes or no.""No.""I'm sorry to hear that. I was hoping you would be a little more creativethan that. Do you think you could get away from them if your mother'slife depended on it? Answer yes or no."Somehow, there had to be a way. I remembered that we were going to theairport. Sky Harbor International Airport: crowded, confusingly laid out…"Yes.""That's better. I'm sure it won't be easy, but if I get the slightest hint that you have any company, well, that would be very bad for yourmother," the friendly voice promised. "You must know enough about us bynow to realize how quickly I would know if you tried to bring anyonealong with you. And how little time I would need to deal with your motherif that was the case. Do you understand? Answer yes or no.""Yes." My voice broke.

  "Very good, Bella. Now this is what you have to do. I want you to go toyour mother's house. Next to the phone there will be a number. Call it,and I'll tell you where to go from there." I already knew where I wouldgo, and where this would end. But I would follow his instructionsexactly. "Can you do that? Answer yes or no.""Yes.""Before noon, please, Bella. I haven't got all day," he said politely.

  "Where's Phil?" I asked tersely.

  "Ah, be careful now, Bella. Wait until I ask you to speak, please."I waited.

  "It's important, now, that you don't make your friends suspicious whenyou go back to them. Tell them that your mother called, and that youtalked her out of coming home for the time being. Now repeat after me,'Thank you, Mom.' Say it now.""Thank you, Mom." The tears were coming. I tried to fight them back.

  "Say, 'I love you, Mom, I'll see you soon.' Say it now.""I love you, Mom." My voice was thick. "I'll see you soon," I promised.

  "Goodbye, Bella. I look forward to seeing you again." He hung up.

  I held the phone to my ear. My joints were frozen with terror — Icouldn't unbend my fingers to drop it.

  I knew I had to think, but my head was filled with the sound of mymother's panic. Seconds ticked by while I fought for control.

  Slowly, slowly, my thoughts started to break past that brick wall ofpain. To plan. For I had no choices now but one: to go to the mirroredroom and die. I had no guarantees, nothing to give to keep my motheralive. I could only hope that James would be satisfied with winning thegame, that beating Edward would be enough. Despair gripped me; there wasno way to bargain, nothing I could offer or withhold that could influencehim. But I still had no choice. I had to try.

  I pushed the terror back as well as I could. My decision was made. It didno good to waste time agonizing over the outcome. I had to think clearly,because Alice and Jasper were waiting for me, and evading them wasabsolutely essential, and absolutely impossible.

  I was suddenly grateful that Jasper was gone. If he had been here to feelmy anguish in the last five minutes, how could I have kept them frombeing suspicious? I choked back the dread, the anxiety, tried to stifleit. I couldn't afford it now. I didn't know when he would return.

  I concentrated on my escape. I had to hope that my familiarity with theairport would turn the odds in my favor. Somehow, I had to keep Aliceaway…I knew Alice was in the other room waiting for me, curious. But I had todeal with one more thing in private, before Jasper was back.

  I had to accept that I wouldn't see Edward again, not even one lastglimpse of his face to carry with me to the mirror room. I was going tohurt him, and I couldn't say goodbye. I let the waves of torture washover me, have their way for a time. Then I pushed them back, too, and went to face Alice.

  The only expression I could manage was a dull, dead look. I saw her alarmand I didn't wait for her to ask. I had just one script and I'd nevermanage improvisation now.

  "My mom was worried, she wanted to come home. But it's okay, I convincedher to stay away." My voice was lifeless.

  "We'll make sure she's fine, Bella, don't worry."I turned away; I couldn't let her see my face.

  My eye fell on a blank page of the hotel stationery on the desk. I wentto it slowly, a plan forming. There was an envelope there, too. That wasgood.

  "Alice," I asked slowly, without turning, keeping my voice level. "If Iwrite a letter for my mother, would you give it to her? Leave it at thehouse, I mean.""Sure, Bella." Her voice was careful. She could see me coming apart atthe seams. I had to keep my emotions under better control.

  I went into the bedroom again, and knelt next to the little bedside tableto write.

  "Edward," I wrote. My hand was shaking, the letters were hardly legible.

  I love you. I am so sorry. He has my mom, and I have to try. I know itmay not work. I am so very, very sorry.

  Don't be angry with Alice and Jasper. If I get away from them it will bea miracle. Tell them thank you for me. Alice especially, please.

  And please, please, don't come after him. That's what he wants. I think.

  I can't bear it if anyone has to be hurt because of me, especially you.

  Please, this is the only thing I can ask you now. For me.

  I love you. Forgive me.

  BellaI folded the letter carefully, and sealed it in the envelope. Eventuallyhe would find it. I only hoped he would understand, and listen to me justthis once.

  And then I carefully sealed away my heart.