September 10, 2010
As the engine cut off, I realized that I could hear something I hadn’t been expecting.
Police Chief Swan opened his door, struggled for a moment and then his boots thudded onto the ground – just as the passenger door opened. As Sue climbed out of her side of the cruiser (much more gracefully, too, I might add), Bella’s brow creased. She began to bite down on her lip when she saw the look on Edward’s face; my brother was glaring daggers in Sue’s direction, not that she could see him, of course. But, as usual, his strongest instinct was to blame me for not seeing this little complication on a perfectly uncomplicated visit from Charlie.
“Not little, Alice,” Edward hissed through gritted teeth, “and not uncomplicated, either.” Sue and Charlie were still walking to the door – we could recite War and Peace before they actually got to the house. (Well, maybe not War and Peace. Maybe just Anna Karenina -)
“ALICE!” Edward barked, infuriated by my short attention span. “Could you please make yourself useful! What is -”
To everyone’s surprise, Bella interrupted her husband in mid-sentence. “Don’t yell, Edward – how is that going to help right now? You should be listening to Sue’s thoughts, not harassing Alice – I’m sure she would have told us if she saw anything going wrong.” As she spoke, she crossed the room and placed a hand on my shoulder in solidarity. I don’t think anyone else even noticed that her fingers were shaking just a bit. But I did, and remorse flooded through me. Had I been paying attention to my earlier vision? Was there more I hadn’t seen, distracted as I was – ? No. If there had been more, both Edward and I would have seen it.
At the door, Charlie paused to clear his throat before knocking. Briefly, I wondered why he and Sue hadn’t said anything to each other the whole time they were within hearing range of our house. That led me to wonder what Edward was hearing in Sue’s thoughts, as Bella hesitated for the merest fraction of a moment and then flitted to the door. “Slowly, Bella,” Jazz cautioned, seeing her jerky movements. She straightened her shoulders, and pulled the door open at a reasonable speed.
“Ch – Dad!” Bella laughed, affecting surprise. Behind me, Emmett chuckled softly and Edward ground his teeth together. It was, as usual, a pretty unconvincing performance – Bella attempting to lead them into the living room at a human pace, but forgetting to blink, breathe, and talk in a lower octave. I’m sure her nerves were making it worse tonight – the last time Charlie was here, she had done slightly better.
But I’ve got to give Chief Swan credit – the man is brave. He sees everything, or at least more than most humans would, but he restrains his curiosity and tries to play along as if nothing was out of the ordinary. For example, on this particular occasion, he was ignoring all of us and had gone straight to Nessie, picking her up and swinging her through the air. Ness still wasn’t allowed to speak to, or near, Charlie, but she was squealing and giggling the way any little girl would. Sue, on the other hand, had her arms tightly crossed and was frowning intensely at Charlie as he pretended no one else was there.
Finally, she let out a short, exasperated sigh and turned, scanning our faces one by one with a fierce scowl, stopping when her eyes found Bella and Edward. Still trying to seem normal, Bella had gone to stand at his side, but the grin on her face was ghastly – a nervous, twisted smile that wavered as she met Sue’s stare. She swallowed, flicking her eyes toward Edward’s face, and then said, “Um … is anything wrong, Sue?” I winced – her voice was awful, thin and hesitant – she really needed to work on at least appearing self-confident.
“Well, Bella,” Sue began, stepping toward her, “since you ask, yes, there is something wrong.” Once again, she looked to Charlie, but was steadfastly ignored. I was beginning to get a pretty good picture of what was going on. My hunch was confirmed when Sue rolled her eyes in frustration and plowed forward, clenching her fists as she said, “You can’t keep involving people in your twisted life! You can’t keep dragging Charlie into these situations with horrible consequences! And you certainly can’t allow your mother, of all people, to put herself in danger by getting anywhere near you!” As she finished, she actually shook her fist at Bella, and, though I knew it was inappropriate, I found myself cheering Sue on mentally for just a second. What courage! To yell at a vampire like that …
Well, obviously, that was not going to fly. Edward tucked Bella behind him in one smooth movement, so fast it didn’t exist. Sue blinked in dizzy confusion, but quickly regained her composure, just in time for Edward to oh-so-politely ask, “Please, Sue – won’t you sit? We’ve prepared some snacks for you and Charlie, though Seth may have eaten them already,” he chuckled. He even went so far as to ruffle Seth’s hair affectionately. I watched as Sue, completely thrown off balance by Edward’s demeanor, obediently sat down on the sofa where Emmett had been earlier.
“Uh, yeah … I’ll go get that,” Seth said slowly, glancing from Charlie to Sue to Edward to Bella and then shaking his head. He got up and tripped off to the kitchen, leaving the rest of us in a calm, agreeable atmosphere, specially created by Jazz of course.
“S-so -” Sue began, touching her forehead. Edward interrupted in the most charming way possible.
“Now, Sue, we haven’t seen you in a few weeks. How have you been?” he inquired, quirking a finger at Bella behind his back where the humans wouldn’t see it. She glided forward, masking her confusion behind a bland expression, and stood by Edward’s side once more. I could almost hear Sue’s thoughts myself as she shook her head, fighting Jasper’s mood control.
“Please. None of the phony-baloney vampire tricks,” she insisted, twisting to glare at Emmett, who immediately let loose with a booming laugh.
“Hey, it’s not me! You got the wrong vampire trickster,” he guffawed, with a playful punch to Jasper’s shoulder. Jazz hid a smirk while Sue turned back to Edward, more annoyed than embarrassed.
“I’m serious, Mr. Cullen,” she spat, looking straight into his eyes.
All traces of humor left his face as he responded to her thoughts rather than her words. “I know, Sue. Please, allow me to assure you that your feelings are both natural and correct, as well as being seconded by Bella and myself. None of us wish to endanger Renee, but with Alice’s help, we’ve discovered that a quick visit and some misdirection will ensure everyone’s safety much more than lies and avoidance would.”
Because Edward was using his most persuasive tone, I was sure that Sue could not sense any insincerity in his words. Of course, it wasn’t exactly true … I hadn’t been checking to see if this visit was more safe than lying and avoiding, but Edward could be right about that part. He analyzes everything at the speed of light; I wouldn’t be surprised if his assessment of the situation was correct.
Charlie, with Ness on his lap, had finally joined Sue on the sofa and chose this moment to speak up. “Hey, you know, Bells, I’d do anything you asked me to if it means you staying close by,” he began gruffly. Sue shot him a look that was equal parts frustration and tender concern. “But, well, I hate to think that anything would happen to Renee because of what I’ve said to her today. Is it – I mean, how sure are you that it’s gonna be okay, Alice?” he asked, turning his head to find me.
I stepped forward with a carefree grin perfectly arranged on my face. “Charlie, how could you ever doubt me?” I giggled, grabbing Bella’s hand. “You know I want to keep Bella safe, just like you do!”
Here Sue interrupted our lovefest. “That doesn’t exactly answer the question,” she pointed out, leveling a no-nonsense stare in my direction. Once again I was impressed by her courage of convictions.
Edward, however, was not. Under his breath, he muttered, “Really, Alice, whose side are you on?” before clearing his throat to regain their attention. “We have seen that there is no possibility of danger,” he announced, lying through his teeth. And with a straight face, too! “Renee will not be staying here, and will only spend a few hours at a time in our home. In fact, you’ll both be here for one of those visits.”
I couldn’t help it – I frowned and my eyes slid off to the side as I looked for the future that he was rapidly inventing. Hmmm … so Sue was going to be invited to the dinner party at our house. That should be interesting …
“Well, I don’t have a problem with it, ‘s long as nobody gets hurt,” Charlie said with his usual bluntness. Even Sue could hear the finality in his voice, and she looked resigned. It seemed that she really, really hadn’t wanted Renee to come visit … Edward lazily looked up at the ceiling, then lowered his gaze to the floor in his standard invisible nod, confirming my suspicions. So Sue was not just afraid, then – she was also jealous. Well, that was just plain silly. Any fool could see that Charlie was in awe of Sue; respecting her opinion enough to allow her to come here and argue with a bunch of vampires was proof positive of that. And Sue, for her part, clearly cared very deeply for Charlie, though she masked it with aggression toward us, her natural enemy.
Anyway, Seth figured it was safe for him to come out of the kitchen at that point, so it got a little boring after that – a few humans eating the greasy food, a vampire or two pretending to visit the bathroom … the usual. By the time Charlie and Sue left that night, we’d verified the details of Renee’s visit, including where she would stay.
This is getting awfully long, though, which means I’m neglecting Jasper. Hello! Priorities! The rest can wait.