Home > Eclipse (Twilight #3)(2)

Eclipse (Twilight #3)(2)
Author: Stephenie Meyer

Though the afternoon was the only time I spent away from Edward, it was enough to make me restless, and the hours always dragged. Still, I endured my punishment without complaining because?for one thing?I knew I'd earned it, and?for another?because I couldn't bear to hurt my dad by moving out now, when a much more permanent separation hovered, invisible to Charlie, so close on my horizon.

My dad sat down at the table with a grunt and unfolded the damp newspaper there; within seconds he was clucking his tongue in disapproval.

"I don't know why you read the paper, Dad. It only ticks you off."

He ignored me, grumbling at the paper in his hands. "This is why everyone wants to live in a small town! Ridiculous."

"What have big cities done wrong now?"

"Seattle's making a run for murder capitol of the country. Five unsolved homicides in the last two weeks. Can you imagine living like that?"

"I think Phoenix is actually higher up in the homicide list, Dad. I have lived like that." And I'd never come close to being a murder victim until after I moved to his safe little town. In fact, was still on several hit lists?. The spoon shook in my hands, making the water tremble.

"Well, you couldn't pay me enough," Charlie said.

I gave up on saving dinner and settled for serving it; I had to use a steak knife to cut a portion of spaghetti for Charlie and then myself, while he watched with a sheepish expression. Charlie coated his helping with sauce and dug in. I disguised my own clump as well as I could and followed his example without much enthusiasm. We ate in silence for a moment. Charlie was still scanning the news, so I picked up my much-abused copy of Wuthering Heights from where I'd left it this morning at breakfast, and tried to lose myself in the turn-of-the-century England while I waited for him to start talking.

I was just to the part where Heathcliff returns when Charlie cleared his throat and threw the paper to the floor.

"You're right," Charlie said. "I did have a reason for doing this." He waved his fork at the gluey spread. "I wanted to talk to you."

I laid the book aside; the binding was so destroyed that it slumped flat to the table. "You could have just asked."

He nodded, his eyebrows pulling together. "Yeah. I'll remember that next time. I thought taking dinner off your hands would soften you up."

I laughed. "It worked?your cooking skills have me soft as a marshmallow. What do you need, Dad?"

"Well, it's about Jacob."

I felt my face harden. "What about him?" I asked through stiff lips.

"Easy, Bells. I know you're still upset that he told on you, but it was the right thing. He was being responsible."

"Responsible," I repeated scathingly, rolling my eyes. "Right. So what about Jacob?"

The careless question repeated inside my head, anything but trivial. What about Jacob? What was I going to do about him? My former best friend who was now?what? My enemy? I cringed.

Charlie's face was suddenly wary. "Don't get mad at me, okay?"

"Mad?"

"Well, it's about Edward, too."

My eyes narrowed.

Charlie's voice got gruffer. "I let him in the house, don't I?"

"You do," I admitted. "For brief periods of time. Of course, you might let me out of the house for brief periods of time now and then, too," I continued?only jokingly; I knew I was on lockdown for the duration of the school year. "I've been pretty good lately."

"Well, that's kind of where I was heading with this?." And then Charlie's face stretched into an unexpected eye-crinkling grin; for a second he looked twenty years younger.

I saw a dim glimmer of possibility in that smile, but I proceeded slowly. "I'm confused, Dad. Are we talking about Jacob, or Edward, or me being grounded?"

The grin flashed again. "Sort of all three."

"And how do they relate?" I asked, cautious.

"Okay." He sighed, raising his hands as if in surrender. "So I'm thinking maybe you deserve a parole for good behavior. For a teenager, you're surprisingly non-whiney."

My voice and eyebrows shot up. "Seriously? I'm free?"

Where was this coming from? I'd been positive I would be under house arrest until I actually moved out, and Edward hadn't picked up any wavering in Charlie's thoughts?.

Charlie held up one finger. "Conditionally."

The enthusiasm vanished. "Fantastic," I groaned.

"Bella, this is more of a request than a demand, okay? You're free. But I'm hoping you'll use that freedom?judiciously."

"What does that mean?"

He sighed again. "I know you're satisfied to spend all your time with Edward?" "I spend time with Alice, too," I interjected. Edward's sister had no hours of visitation; she came and went as she pleased. Charlie was putty in her capable hands. "That's true," he said. "But you have other friends besides the Cullens, Bella. Or you used to."

We stared at each other for a long moment. " When was the last time you spoke to Angela Weber?" he threw at me.

"Friday at lunch," I answered immediately. Before Edward's return, my school friends had polarized into two groups. I liked to think of those groups as good vs. evil. Us and them worked, too. The good guys were Angela, her steady boyfriend Ben Cheney, and Mike Newton; these three had all very generously forgiven me for going crazy when Edward left. Lauren Mallory was the evil core of the them side, and almost everyone else, including my first friend in Forks, Jessica Stanley, seemed content to go along with her anti-Bella agenda.

With Edward back at school, the dividing line had become even more distinct. Edward's return had taken its toll on Mike's friendship, but Angela was unswervingly loyal, and Ben followed her lead. Despite the natural aversion most humans felt toward the Cullens, Angela sat dutifully beside Alice every day at lunch. After a few weeks, Angela even looked comfortable there. It was difficult not to be charmed by the Cullens?once one gave them the chance to be charming.

"Outside of school?" Charlie asked, calling my attention back. "I haven't seen anyone outside of school, Dad. Grounded, remember? And Angela has a boyfriend, too. She's always with Ben. If I'm really free," I added, heavy on the skepticism, "maybe we could double." "Okay. But then?" He hesitated. "You and Jake used to be joined at the hip, and now?" I cut him off. "Can you get to the point, Dad? What's your condition?exactly?" "I don't think you should dump all your other friends for your boyfriend, Bella," he said in a stern voice. "It's not nice, and I think your life would be better balanced if you kept some other people in it. What happened last September?" I flinched. "Well," he said defensively. "If you'd had more of a life outside of Edward Cullen, it might not have been like that." "It would have been exactly like that," I muttered. "Maybe, maybe not." "The point?" I reminded him. "Use your new freedom to see your other friends, too. Keep it balanced." I nodded slowly. "Balance is good. Do I have specific time quotas to fill, though?" He made a face, but shook his head. "I don't want to make this complicated. Just don't forget about your friends?particularly Jacob." It took me a moment to find the right words. "Jacob might be?difficult." "The Blacks are practically family, Bella" he said, stern and fatherly again. "And Jacob has been a very, very good friend to you." "I know that." "Don't you miss him at all?" Charlie asked, frustrated. My throat suddenly felt swollen; I had to clear it twice before I answered. "Yes, I do miss him," I admitted, still looking down. "I miss him a lot." "Then why is it difficult?"

   
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