I don't see Rose again, not that I really expect to. If she's not getting her payout, there's no reason for her to stick around Forks. I don't see Edward, either, for that matter, but that's exactly the plan we agreed to. I know I have a shadow sent by Black, or maybe even Charlie, which means I have to be especially careful with every move I make. My ‘journaling’ happens at home, and I don't use my phone at work or in the diner, either. When I eat, I don't linger too long with Sue, though I can tell she and I are building a strong relationship that will last long after this mess is over. She's sent in my information by email every few days, too afraid to mail it and not having the time to drive to Seattle to see the FBI agents personally.
Alice texts me out of the blue, telling me that she had a conversation with Edward about me and wants to rebuild our relationship. We've spoken in some form every day since then, where she fills me in on her life living in the dorms at the University of Washington. She and Rose’s brother Jasper have been dating for a couple of years, and she told me that he’s getting more and more worried about his sister's drug use. Unfortunately, I don't have any comforting words for him, especially since I think his brother-in-law isn't long for this world.
The senior Cullens send pictures of Mallie to Edward constantly, and she is really loving her time in Alaska. It's beautiful this time of year, and they're always doing something fun like hiking or boating. Everybody dotes on her, and she's absolutely adorable, enjoying her time with the extended family in the pictures Edward forwards to me. I delete each of them after looking at them, the same as our text conversations. I don't think it's paranoid to be extra careful with everything I do. When I consider the fact that I haven’t had any contact with Black in months, it sometimes feels a bit excessive.
I’m so used to keeping my head down that I don't even see it coming, of course. I've attuned myself so much to being followed that I stopped worrying about who it was a long time ago. As focused as I am on not letting anyone see what I'm up to, I've become blind to my surroundings. Getting yanked right off the street in broad daylight, hands bound in tape while I scream, is another testament to the mob running the town. No one would dare to stop Jake, and it suddenly dawns on me that more people know about him than I assumed. If not one person would attempt to help me or even pick up their cell phone to call for help, then they've known. All along, these people have known. I assumed I was mostly alone in my misery.
It's stupid to assume.
I assumed Jake was in Seattle.
I was wrong about it all.
As he throws me forcefully into the back of a black panel van, the sudden onslaught of hysteria makes me crazy.
I laugh. I sound like a lunatic, and I can't breathe, but still I laugh.
Jake slaps me, and I laugh harder. I can taste the salt and iron of my own blood in my mouth, and it makes me howl in laughter. I think I've finally lost my sanity.
“Shut the fuck up, Swan!” he growls at me. The look on his face is terror-inducing, and I am terrified. So much so that I can't gain control of myself.
The tears are streaming down my face, and I can't decide if they're from laughing so hard, or from the true fear of what he has planned for me. It won't be pleasant, of that I'm positive.
“You think you're so fucking slick, meeting up with Cullen in the kitchen of the diner. Don't you know I have eyes everywhere?” he bellows in my face. The van careens around a corner, and I fall into Jake. The back of the van is completely bare, and as he shoves me off him I land on the metal flooring, hitting my head.
“I don't know what you mean. It was just the once, because your guy's skank, Rosalie, came in making a scene.” I'm positive he doesn't care, as I look up at him from where I lay bleeding.
“He's not my guy anymore. He's the coroner's problem now,” he says offhandedly.
I shiver at the casual way he speaks about death. Murder. “And me? Am I to be the coroner's problem now, too?”
He flashes a wolfish grin, flipping his hair out of his face. “You're to be my wife. If you're smart, you'll do everything you're told and I won't become a widower on my wedding day.”
I press my lips hard together to contain the scream that threatens to overwhelm me. It would send me straight to hell if I let it escape. Jacob would see to that, I have no doubt.
We come to a stop, and as I struggle to sit up I see that we're on the reservation lands. It used to be a safe place, and I used to play here with the Quileute children on First Beach. Now it looks like a slum, with paint peeling and wood rotting. Porches are falling down. Yards are overgrown, rusted vehicles scattered like lawn ornaments. The men are glassy eyed and disheveled, obviously using their own products, and I don't see any women or children. That's definitely for the best.
I'm pushed and shoved, so I hurry to get out. Jacob grabs my upper arm and drags me into the nearest building, which I quickly realize is a church. Panicking, my lungs labor to fulfill their duty, and the room spins as I hyperventilate. Without mercy, Black yanks me upright and walks me to the preacher standing at the alter. I clamp down on the pain and terror to remain standing tall.
“Why, Jacob, you didn't even give me a ring. What's a girl to think?” My words slur a little as I struggle to breathe normally. I can do this. I can beat this fucker at his own game.
“Just say the words, and cut the crap!” he grits out. The wizened preacher starts to speak, stuttering through a pronouncement of a wedding under the eyes of God. The groom is wearing torn jeans and scuffed boots, and the bride is in shorts and a t-shirt, her hands still taped behind her back, no God to be found. The only reason I'm not gagged is so I'm able to repeat the words required for Jacob to get his hands on my money.
Knowing I have no choice, I stand in a run-down chapel somewhere on the Quileute reservation next to my mother's murderer and repeat wedding vows after the poor old minister whose life is probably forfeit. I think only of Edward as I say the words; focusing on how one day he and I will say them and we'll mean them with every fiber of our beings. One day, I'll be Edward's wife and Mallie’s mother, and we'll live in the kingdom where nobody dies. I have to stay alive, and if that means playing the game as the Queen instead of the pawn…
So be it.
So be it.