Throughout dinner, Bella continued to observe the group casually. The feeling of familiarity with them, even Bonnie to a certain extent, with the exception of Elena’s brother, wouldn’t go away and made her increasingly nervous that she felt the need to escape to the bathroom for a short reprieve. It gave her a chance to evaluate things, to think. The visions, for lack of a better term, were confusing but felt so much more real with each one she had. Stronger each time.
She wanted to question them, demand answers to questions that she wasn’t sure if they knew the answers to. While they appeared to be copies of the faces from the images, the memories, she felt like she was experiencing, she also felt a sense of peace with this group that was missing back in Forks with Jacob and even the Cullens.
Once she composed herself enough, Bella flushed the toilet, despite not having used it, only making the excuse to make the escape for her privacy. Splashing some water on her face, she took a deep breath to prepare herself to go back out to rejoin the dinner party, but something stopped her as she reached out for the doorknob.
Danger, stay… A female voice whispered in her ear, deeply accented but familiar in a way to her that confused her. Regardless, it was enough to fill her with caution and she drew her hand back as she eyed the door before straining her human ears to try to listen out to hear if anything was going on. There were only faint sounds that she might assume to be things crashing but she couldn’t be sure.
Once the feeling that came with the mysterious voice passed, Bella took the chance and headed back. She found nothing out of the ordinary other than her new friends appearing to be more on edge and positioned rather defensively. Stefan seemed to have his attention focused on soothing Elena while Bonnie and Jeremy were trying to act normally. It was their behavior that made her eye twitch as it quite reminiscent of posturing she had done in the face of sadistic tracker vampires, fearful and trying to act like everything was fine in the world.
“Is everything okay?” she asked, taking note of the tense atmosphere, particularly Damon’s who was downing and refilling his tumbler of liquor.
“Everything is fine now Bella. Just – someone that we don’t particularly like to dropped past while you stepped out but she left,” Elena answered with a reluctant smile. That only raised her suspicions more but she didn’t comment because she knew she had her own secrets she wasn’t willing to share either.
She looked back over towards Damon and frowned. While everyone else seemed to be brushing off this visitor, or trying to at least, it clearly had him rattled. “Are you okay?” she asked him, causing him to look up at her in surprise.
He seemed shocked that she was expressing concern over him as she slowly made her way closer, but still kept a comfortable distance, ignoring the tingling warning her wrist was giving her. “Yeah, sure. Why wouldn’t I be?” Damon shrugged it off with a smirk as he tossed back another drink, making Bella raise an eyebrow skeptically.
“Maybe the liver transplant you’re destined to have the way you’re going at it there,” she pointed out only to receive a secretive smirk back from him.
He looked at her as he debated how to respond but still clearly troubled by whatever transpired. Damon glanced over her shoulder as he looked at Stefan before smiling back down at her. “Would you do me the honor of showing you around town tomorrow Miss Bella?” Damon asked softly, his eyes holding a certain sparkle to them that sent a shiver through her body.
Bella blinked as the feeling of familiarity flowed through her again as she looked back at him confused as she pictured him with slightly longer hair with a bit of curl to it, asking to escort her around town in a similar fashion. She had been so lost in the image, the memory, that she hadn’t heard anyone calling her name, looking at her with concern.
“Bella? Are you okay?” Stefan questioned, coming up behind her as they eyed her curiously.
“I – I, um, y-yeah,” she stuttered, her eyes finding their way back to Damon’s no matter how much she forced herself to drag them away. Coming up with a quick excuse, she smiled back at the younger brother. “I think I just overdid it today with the move. My mind just keeps slipping from me.”
Both brothers seemed to have the same searching look as they studied her, as if looking for some deep rooted answer in her eyes that she failed to understand as she smiled back at them indulgently. “Really, I’m fine. Just maybe a little overtired now.”
Bella and Damon were caught in another one of their stare downs as they seemed to want to challenge the validity of her statement but he was the one to back down first with an accepting nod. “I’ll give you a ride home,” he offered suddenly, surprising everyone.
“I can take her home. I’m heading that way anyway Damon,” Elena interrupted, causing Bella to remember that they weren’t alone. She looked back at her and found the girl frowning at him with disapproval on her face and something in her didn’t care for the whatever was causing it. Unfortunately, she really didn’t have a good excuse to come up with to share in his company longer to dispute Elena’s offer.
“Thanks anyway. I’ll see you anyway at some point for that tour if you want,” she shrugged indifferently, in case he chose to change his mind. She didn’t want him to think that she was desperate for his attention despite the comfort and safety she seemed to draw from his presence.
Before he had the chance to respond, Elena had dragged Bella out the door with a frown on her face. As they pulled out of the drive, she let out a huff as she looked back at her, but Elena spoke up before she could get out a word about how she felt. “Bella, I know Damon may seem charming but he really isn’t always the nice guy he appears to be. He can be really dangerous and – evil,” she said after a moments hesitation.
Frowning, Bella glared at her as she shook her head. “Thanks for the warning but I kind of like to make judgments on people for myself. So far, all I saw was someone who was nothing but nice to me, although maybe a little broken at moments. If I went by everything that people told me, or by crazy voices in my head, I shouldn’t be talking to you or be your friend either. Here’s something you need to know about me Elena, and you can tell your friends after you drop me off, I don’t care. Do not tell me what to do because nine times out of ten, I’ll more than likely do the opposite. I make my own choice, my own decisions. I will not be told what to do or have my choices taken from me again so if you want to be my friend, don’t do that to me. Got it?” Bella snapped at her with fire blazing in her eyes that echoed her anger from that afternoon.
Elena glanced at her as she drove, as if to measure her sincerity of her words, but could do nothing except shrink back in her seat at the imposing threat that her gaze reflected. “I understand. I just wanted you to understand where we are coming from and that you don’t get hurt. He has hurt us all in some way over the past year, badly. In ways that I can’t tell you.”
“If you can’t tell me,” Bella started slowly as she sat back in her seat to look forward out the windshield. “Then we have nothing to discuss. Without knowing the details then they aren’t important and therefore insignificant to me. Look. I understand the need for secrets. I have a world of my own that I can’t share. If I told anyone, I’d end up in the looney bin. But when you say something like that to keep people from making friends, it’s more than one person you’re hurting there Elena. When you came and invited me to dinner with you guys, you implied that he was your friend too and now you’re telling me that I can’t be friends with him. It sounds kinda selfish and hypocritical and makes me wonder about the future of your relationship with Stefan if you have some secret feelings for Damon that you aren’t aware of.”
The girl literally choked on her own saliva as she looked over at Bella and glared. “I do not have those kind of feelings for him! He hurt my brother! Nearly killed him if you really must know! He’s a monster! How could anyone even like someone like him who would do something like that?!” she demanded, not realizing just how much she revealed, causing Bella’s eyebrow to rise in question.
A monster… she thought, Edward’s words replaying in her head as she sat frozen in the seat as she got lost in her head, in the pain of that time before allowing her resentment to take over. “You need to know the pain that caused the man he is then. Until then, you would only see a monster Elena,” she whispered, looking at her with a world of experience behind her words behind her eyes. She noticed that they had pulled up to her house and was relieved. Opening the door, she paused before getting out. “If you can’t give him your friendship, then at least be civil like you were tonight at dinner, but don’t give him more than that and don’t interfere again if we choose to be friends. I’ve already given you the benefit of the doubt after some things that I’ve – experienced in town today. I don’t want to doubt you, so please don’t make me doubt Damon and Stefan as well. You’ve been nice and welcoming to me and it’s more than I can ask compared to other places I’ve lived, which gave me some hope for this place. I really don’t want to lost that. Have a good night Elena.”
The words continued to replay in her head while she walked back to her house, eying her yard as she saw groups of people in period dress again, this time milling about like it was a picnic or a party of sort. She blinked as if to try to clear her vision but Elena’s face appeared before her again, the same cold and calculating expression on it that filled her with fear as her eyes seemed to dilate and expand before it ended and she was alone again in the dark, breathing heavily as she watched the brake lights of the girl’s car turn the corner and disappear.
The following day, Bella had spent most of the morning exploring the grounds and generally milling around her room as she thought about the day before with the people she met. She was still undecided about Stefan and Bonnie, as they had kept a respectful distance from her. They were friendly, but not overly so, which was okay by her. Elena’s brother Jeremy she had taken a liking to, as he reminded her of Seth back in La Push in that he was so easy going.
As she wrote about her thoughts in the journal she had picked up during the move as something to use get her feelings out since Charlie wasn’t exactly someone she could confide in, she soon found the subject coming to Damon. A small smile came to her lips as she looked out the window of her room, thinking about the strange conversation she had about him with Elena regarding him being a monster. She couldn’t seem to find any words to say, sighing as she took to doodling in the book instead, a delicate flower that soon resembled the bloom of a vanilla orchid. As her thoughts turned to the end of the evening and Elena, she was still firmly in the negative still with her after her comments regarding Damon and slammed the book shut, not wishing to continue with the negativity.
As she was putting the journal away, Charlie called up to her. “Bella! You have a package!”
Confused as she hadn’t ordered anything, she made her way downstairs where her father handed it off to her as he wandered off with the rest of the mail, leaving her to her business. Returning to her room, she tried looking for a return sender, but she noticed that it wasn’t actually mailed.
Opening the paper, she was surprised to find a brand new cell phone in its box and a small note card. Bella peered out of her bedroom door to make sure her father wasn’t around and closed it, making her way over to her favorite spot in the window seat as she pulled the card from the envelope.
My brother had mentioned last night after you had left that you didn’t have a cell phone anymore during your conversation at your house in the afternoon. Personally I find it ridiculous that a beautiful teenage girl such as yourself doesn’t have such an important piece of modern technology and felt the need to remedy that situation.
I hope you do not mind, but I added you to my plan – and before you try to argue, it won’t cost any extra, not that I would take no for an answer on this. Besides, in this town, you never know when you might need to call someone for an emergency. I am pretty sure that I can anticipate you not wanting to accept such a gift from someone you just met, but I ask that you let me give you this as I am simply concerned for you. If you are truly unhappy with the arrangement after perhaps – 6 months? – then we can revisit the subject to get your own account.
The phone already has some numbers that I thought you should have, and maybe a few extra. I included everyone’s that was at dinner last night as well as a few of the others in our group that you will likely meet soon. I just hope they don’t chase you off, but I think you would be fine.
Unfortunately, I also cannot be there to take you on that tour this afternoon as I had hoped as something came up, but I promise to make it up to you when you soon.
Please be mindful when you are out by yourself, and never invite anyone inside your home that you do not know or trust. It is a long standing policy in Mystic Falls and I am sure you will hear it often in the coming days.
Bella smiled softly before smirking at moments in the note. She was unable to do anything but think of what a cheeky bastard he was to go out of his way to get her a phone simply because he worried about her having communication in an emergency. While she was well aware that she was harboring a crush on the man, she didn’t want to allow herself to think that he might like her back, especially after the hurt she suffered with Edward and then Jacob’s rejection of her, despite him only being a friend in her eyes.
Taking the phone out of the box, she powered it on. As she waited for it to load, she flipped through the instruction manual for the device quickly before letting out a chuckle at seeing Damon’s face on the screen. Shaking her head, she figured that as he added his friends to the phone book, he also took a silly selfie photo and set it as her wallpaper.
After all the painful thoughts she had that morning, it was just the thing she needed to pull her out entering that pit of despair she was close to rolling into. Opening his contact page, she quickly sent off a text message to him with a smirk on her lips.
Cheeky bastard ~ Bella
It wasn’t long before she got a response. In fact she practically jumped as the phone vibrated in her lap as she tried to think of an excuse to explain the phone’s appearance to Charlie.
One night and you know me so well! ~ D
You didn’t have to do this. I was planning on getting something eventually ~ Bella
I’m sure you were…eventually. But I wanted to. Just say thank you Bella. It’s not hard. It’s 2 words. Try it. ~ D
Chuckling, Bella shook her head. He was somehow well aware that she had a hard time accepting things and knew just how to press her on it. As much as she wanted to continue to deny him, to insist on taking the phone back, the pure fact that it was from him stopped her.
FINE. Thank you Damon. ~ Bella
You’re welcome Bella. And I’m sorry for today. I had something come up that I needed to take care of. ~ D
It’s fine. Things happen. Don’t worry about it. Besides I need to mentally prepare myself to start another new school ~ Bella
Good luck with that! You’ll have the Scooby Gang with you at least. I finished awhile ago so no more school for good ol’ me! ~ D
Asshole 😉 ~ Bella
So true, but you like it 😉 ~ D
Bella laughed as she put the phone down, her face red as she couldn’t even face him via text message with a little smiley flirting. “I am so pathetic,” she muttered to herself before laughing again, feeling like a silly teenager for the first time.