Bella wished that they’d get it over and done with during the entire graduation ceremony. It was long, boring and embarrassing as she tripped on her way over the stage to fetch her diploma. Awkward photos were being taken with Charlie insisting on taking some to send to her mother because he was so proud of her.
There were still a few hours to kill until the party – where Bella didn’t want to go to but she did it anyway – and when they got home she went back to bed. It was weird to think that she was going to leave her father on his own soon, but then again, he had survived just fine before she arrived, and he had Sue. And Billy and the entire pack had his back even though he didn’t know just what they truly were.
She was ready for a new adventure and the rest of her life. She had meant it when she told Jake that she was tired of living a lie and that there were eyes on her all the time. Sure, she wasn’t going to have it easy in New Orleans either, she was going to be without her parents for the first time in her life but they would only be a phone call away. She could shape her life the way she wanted to and explore this completely new side of herself.
Jake could wait for her as long as he wanted but even if things went wrong between her and Kol, she wouldn’t return to Forks on a permanent basis. To visit Charlie, yes, but not living there anymore. The world was big and right there for her to explore.
She was ready.
As she stared at the ceiling, she realized that she was truly ready for it all and laughed. She didn’t even have to fake the feeling of finally shedding everything. But first, she had to suffer through the graduation party, and she was not ready for that. At all.
Rebekah woke her up from her nap by dumping a bucket of water over her, soaking the bed as she did. “Hey!” Bella whined as she jumped out of bed and looked at her. “Why did you do that?”
“Good, you’re awake and partially wet. Get yourself in the bathroom and take a shower. It’s time to prepare ourselves for the party.” She replied with a big smile on her face. “Don’t worry about the bed, it will dry.”
Bella huffed and rubbed her eyes. “I’m going to need coffee first,” she replied as she tucked wet strands of hair behind her ears.
Rebekah started to push Bella towards the exit of the bedroom. “I’ll make you a cup while you’re taking that shower. Since you’re going to wear that dress, please don’t forget to shave.”
Bella grumbled as she walked towards the bathroom. “I thought I left the getting pushed around bit behind with Alice…”
“I’m just very excited; that’s all.”
“Uh huh. I swear, if you’re going to take an hour to help me with my hair, I will kill you.” Bella closed the door with a sigh.
“I can’t be killed, darling,” Rebekah smiled widely. “But not to worry, I’ll only need fifteen minutes.”
“I can’t believe that Charlie had tears in his eyes, I didn’t see anything,” Bella noted as they walked up the path towards the party.
“Trust me, darling, they were there,” Kol snorted. Ever since he saw her for the first time in a dress at her home he had this big, goofy smile plastered on his face. “While you and Rebekah got ready he told me that he thought you were allergic to dresses.”
“It’s just a dress…” Bella replied. Well, it wasn’t. She had to admit that she looked different. Cute, even. The champagne colored dress with the black lace top looked perfect on her, she had thought it would look good on her, but not like this. The little bit of tulle wasn’t annoying either. While Rebekah was wearing high heels, Bella was satisfied with her ballerinas with a small heel. If she could avoid falling over then yes, please!
“If that’s just a dress, I can only imagine what it would look like if you’d step into the fancy stuff,” Kol had deliberately not said too much about Bella wearing the dress. He knew she found it hard to get compliments for some stupid reason, but he had said just enough to make her cheeks turn this wonderful shade of pink. But she looked hot. Tremendously so and he had to reign himself in, establish some control over himself because this was different. It was almost as if Rebekah had chosen the dress just to mess with him.
“Hey, Bella!” Angela greeted her with a big smile on her face. She and her boyfriend Ben Cheney wore matching outfits, and Kol thought that was a little bit tacky. “Hi Kaleb! I’m surprised you managed to get Bella out here tonight,” she smiled widely.
“What? And miss out on all the fun?” He returned the smile and pulled Bella a little closer to him upon noticing that Angela’s boyfriend was looking Bella over as if she was something to be devoured. Bella was something to be devoured but only by him.
“Wow, Bella, you clean up nicely!” Ben said appreciatively before getting smacked in the chest by Angela. “Uh, Ange is taking pictures for the last school newspaper that we’ll be sending everyone as a memento of this evening.”
“Yeah, and I’ll be emailing everyone with their pictures so they can print it out and do whatever with it,” Angela confirmed and pointed to the blue sheet that was hanging between two trees. “You two fancy having your picture taken?”
“Absolutely. Maybe you can take one of me and Bella and then us two with my sister?”
“Where is she, anyway?” Angela said as she ushered them towards the sheet. “Usually you three are joined at the hip.”
“She’s wooing Eric, or at least making a poor attempt, so I see,” Kol snickered as he saw his sister – without Eric – walk towards them. It looked as if there were thunderclouds over Rebekah’s head and that was amusing. “Ah, getting turned down, again, sister?”
Bella punched Kol in the arm. “Be nice.”
“Or…” Bella thought for a moment. “I’ll be Rebekah’s date and you can go solo.” She didn’t want to get her picture taken but did it, for Kol. She knew she would regret it later anyway. Maybe her mother and Charlie would love to have a copy of it as well.
Everytime Kol wanted to drag Bella onto the dance floor – something he knew she didn’t like doing because she was clumsy, one of their male classmates would come over to flirt with Bella. After a while, Kol had enough. Bella was somewhat oblivious to the flirting, yet she was questioning why she wasn’t invisible anymore. When Mike Newton – damn Mike Newton – approached them, Kol pulled Bella out of the chair she had been comfortably sitting on and pulled her onto the dancefloor when a slow song was playing.
He pulled her close to him and slowly started to move. “I’m glad I’m your date,” he said softly in her ear. “I don’t have to compete with anyone for your attention, although it’s fun to see them trying and fail.”
She looked up at him and smiled. “I suppose I’m sort of used to it, being the new girl for a while, and they thinking I’m interesting.”
“Oh, but you are,” he brushed a strand of hair out of her face. “You’re extraordinary and you’re the hottest bird at this party. I’m so lucky.”
“Stop,” she giggled and put her forehead against his chest to hide her beet red face.
He lifted her chin to make her look at him and he could feel his insides melt, she looked like such an innocent, but she wasn’t. He was certain there was a lion buried underneath all that innocence and lamb-like behavior, and he couldn’t wait to explore that with her. Forks was her prison; it was time for a prison break. “Do you have any idea what you’re doing to me, Isabella Swan?”
“I could ask you the same thing,” she said softly as she put her arms around him. “Every time you touch me it’s almost as if there’s a lightning bolt shooting through my body… a good, pleasant one and I get scared…”
“For a very stupid reason.”
“Nothing is stupid, Cuddles. Talking about how you feel isn’t stupid either.”
She sighed as she kept looking at him. It was hard to look at him, not because Kol was ugly or anything, it was completely the opposite. She had been feeling like this for a while now, and she usually tried to ignore her feelings because they were too much, weren’t they? When he walked off the other day to relieve himself, she knew what was going on but she forced her head to play dumb. Because if at least one of them were in control over their feelings, things would be alright.
She was more than willing to release her rage, but this was best kept in control. Because there was always a possibility that she’d get hurt, despite Kol not have given her a reason to think that he’d hurt her. “I get scared because if I’d even think of acting upon it… I mean… I don’t want to…” she took a deep breath and bit her lip. Was she going to say it? Yes. He’d want her to. “Do something stupid and end up pushing you away.”
Smiling, he softly brushed her lips with his own. “Go on, do something stupid, I dare you,” he said as he looked into her beautiful brown eyes. “Unleash that inner crazy person you’ve been holding back and I will show you that I’m not going anywhere.” Kol had seen glimpses of that Care-free girl inside of Bella, more of it in New Orleans but in Forks too, when she was sure nobody was watching. He loved it. He knew for a fact that she was going to do well in New Orleans, thrive, even, and he was scared that she might leave him in search for better. Then again, he didn’t know anyone who was better than him.
“I can’t,” she bit her lip again and Kol let out an almost quiet groan. She had to stop doing that; it was too much of a turn on.
“Then I will,” he shrugged and started to kiss her. Innocently at first, but once she relaxed into it, he made the kiss grow and kept kissing her until a chaperone tapped the both of them on the shoulder, ruining the moment. The man kindly suggested that he and Bella left the floor and took some time to cool off.
The man was going to pay for the interruption. “Watch this,” Kol whispered to Bella and flicked his hand. Nothing seemed to be happening at first, but when Kol made a fist, the man was in a state of panic as he sloppily grabbed his tie and tried to get it off while gasping for air.
Bella had to admit, it was slightly entertaining. However, she didn’t want the teacher actually to die so after counting to thirty and noticing that Kol hadn’t let him go; she punched him in the arm again. “Let him go,” she laughed. “Explain to me how you do that.”
“Do what, Cuddles?” He asked as he let the teacher go and put his arm around her as they continued to walk off the dance floor. He then pointed at Jessica and gestured with his hand, almost simply flicking his wrist, causing Jessica to nearly have a Marilyn Monroe moment with her dress. “Same as you’d use a digital camera these days. You’d simply point and click. Or in this case, think of what you want to do and simply use your hand as an exit point for the magic inside of you.”
“You make it sound easy.”
“Oh, but it is. You’ll see when we get to New Orleans…” he then looked at her. “You are still coming, aren’t you?”
“Yeah,” she smiled at him. “Of course I am.”
“And not just because you want to take your revenge?”
She stopped walking and caressed his face for a moment before pulling him down towards her and kissed him. “Because of you. The revenge is a bonus,” she replied with a smile. “One problem though…”
Kol sighed as he knew the answer. “You haven’t told Charlie yet.”
“I haven’t told Charlie yet,” she echoed. “I was planning to, but I don’t know how. He’d like seeing me going to college in Seattle or whatever, not move halfway across the country.”
“You’re old enough to do whatever you wish to do. I think he’d be proud of you to undertake such an adventure all by yourself.”
“Maybe,” she said with a shrug. “I just don’t want to leave him, you know…”
“All children must leave the nest at some point, Isabella,” Elijah’s voice sounded from behind them. “It’s part of growing up.”
“Where did you come from?” Kol whined. It was bad enough that his sister was around somewhere, but to have to deal with Elijah at the party too? Wasn’t he a little bit too old?
“I thought that seeing as I’m here now anyway; we’d discuss the plan to see if anything needs changing,” Elijah said as he lead the two away from the crowd of people. “I’m sure that Rebekah will follow us soon,” he continued in a polite manner. “As for your father, I believe I have taken care of that.” When Bella opened her mouth to say something, he spoke again. “I used my words, Isabella, do not worry.”
“What did you tell him?” Kol asked, not surprised that his brother seemed to have thought of everything and even managed to work Charlie into the equation.
“I merely said that Isabella is a smart young woman who, during her time with our family in New Orleans, had shown an interest in visiting the city again due to its rich history and amazing atmosphere. That, if she’d want, she’d be more than welcome to stay with us for as long as she wanted to figure out what she was going to do next in her life.”
Bella had to admit, she was impressed. “What did he say?”
“Surprisingly, something about your mother having roots in New Orleans.”
“What?” she said surprised.
Elijah nodded as they stopped walking now that they were far enough from the party to be worried about eavesdroppers. “Your mother once hired someone to trace her family line, simply because she was curious after a story her paternal grandfather had told her – that she was the first Higginbotham female born in a very long time.”
That sounded like such a Renée thing to do, finding out her genealogy like that before moving on to the next hobby. Bella wouldn’t be surprised if she’d unearthed more information than just names. “I should talk to her about that,” she said with a snicker.
“I am sorry that you and I haven’t had the chance to talk that much over the last two days, Isabella. While I’m glad that you’re alright and that you’ve managed to sleep off the effects of whatever they had given you, I wanted you to know that Niklaus and I have been talking about your plan of revenge that you initially set up in New Orleans before coming here,” he said as he looked at her. “In all fairness, despite my brother not knowing you that well, he has made it clear that he wants to help you to get your revenge by any means necessary. He’s a master strategist and he has some ideas that could help you.”
“What? Nik the advisor?” Kol scoffed as he shrugged off his jacket and wrapped it around Bella’s shoulders. Now that they were away from the crowd, the temperature had dropped somewhat, and he didn’t want her to catch a cold.
“I made it clear to him that it’s going to be Isabella’s crusade, not his. We all love a good revenge, but she deserves this one. I understand that the Cullen’s numbers have already dwindled?”
“There’s four of them left now,” Bella softly replied and hugged the jacket close, she loved how it smelled like Kol. “I doubt, however, that it’ll stay that way. They have a lot of allies that I merely got a glimpse of, once, some with their own unique abilities. They might gather some of them to join them in their crusade to get me.”
“Are you certain they will follow you to New Orleans?”
“I am,” Rebekah’s voice sounded as she finally joined them. “You should have seen the looks on their faces when it came to Bella, it’s insane. It’s pure obsession and the hunger for more power. It’s as if they’re a pack of dogs and Bella is the bone they will not let go of under any circumstance.”
Elijah seemed to think for a moment and then slightly shrugged. “In any case, the word got out that there’s a new Claire witch coming and the witches can’t wait to help and teach her everything they know,” he smiled at Bella. “According to Davina, they’re also quite scared seeing as they have no idea how powerful you are or can become. But if you really want to go through with the plan, you will have to work hard on mastering your craft to fight this battle.”
“Don’t worry, Elijah,” Rebekah said, there was a hint of boredom in her voice. “I’m certain that Kol will make it fun for her.”
“The question that remains is,” Elijah said as he looked at the human girl. “When do you wish to leave?”
“I vote for tomorrow,” Rebekah said quickly.
“No way,” Bella snorted. “I have to pack.”
“We can buy you new things in New Orleans. Please,” she almost begged. “I’m missing the sun, the warmth and most of all, the excitement that comes with the city.”
“I’d probably need a few new clothes seeing as I don’t own shorts but my clothes are coming with me. I don’t have the money to buy new clothes. Speaking of which, I’m going to find a job there.”
The three Mikaelsons looked at each other with surprised looks on their faces before one of them composed himself and kissed the top of her head. “If you want to, you should,” Kol replied. “But if you need anything, we’re more than willing to-”
“That’s it,” Bella pointed out. “I want to be able to buy myself things if I need them or a gift to someone or whatever. With my own money.”
“And what did you have in mind?”
“I don’t know,” Bella said with a shrug. “Maybe work in Cami’s bar.”
“I do not wish to belittle you or your decision to look for a job as I have heard you value your independence now that you have it back, but I think that your main focus should be getting your magic under control first. No other… distractions.” Elijah said carefully. “Give yourself some time to get used to a new situation.”
“What my brother is trying to say is that you will not lose your independence if you give yourself some time to relax, learn and get used to a new situation. You can do whatever you want.” Rebekah tried to translate her brother’s words.
“And I want a job.”
“Ugh, humans,” Rebekah rolled her eyes. “Don’t worry, little sister, you will change your mind sooner or later when you’ll be having too much fun to be responsible. I’m going back to the party.”
Elijah sighed as his sister walked off. “Isabella, I urge you to talk to your father about your plans and then start to pack.”
Bella didn’t know what it was, but Elijah liked to talk with his hands, almost as if he used them to make certain words sound more important, trying to exert authority of some sort. “I will,” she simply said and took Kol’s hand. “But not before Kol and I had another dance.”
They didn’t stay for much longer at the party because Bella did want to get out of Forks as soon as possible, and she had a lot to do in not much time. Charlie was waiting for them when they came back to the house, and Bella unceremoniously plopped herself down next to him on the couch. “So…”
“You want to go to New Orleans?”
Bella looked at him and nodded. “I wouldn’t have gone if I thought you were going to be alone again.”
“Sweetheart,” he smiled at her. “If you want to go, go. It’s your life, your future, and you should do what you feel is best for you. It’s not as if you’re moving to the other end of the world.”
“Are you sure? I mean… I don’t want to-”
“Bella, this is a great opportunity for you. Elijah told me that you’ll be taken care of just as we’ve taken care of his siblings,” he put his arms around her and kissed the top of her head. “I’ll come visit you. You can come visit me. But you’ve graduated now, you’re a young woman who’s ready to take on the world, and I know that Forks isn’t the world.”
“Am I being too much like mom?”
“No, Bells,” he kissed the top of her head again and let go of her. “You should pack what you want to bring with you and if you need anything else I can send it to you.”
“Are you sure?”
“Isabella Marie Swan, stop thinking of your old man and do what you want. Just for once. Just do it.”
She woke up early the next day to quietly sort through her clothes and made neat piles of what she wanted to bring with, automatically discarding every piece of clothing she had received from the Cullens. Maybe it could be donated, but she’d rather burn them all. She tried not to wake Kol with her movement through her room, but he was probably awake anyway, keeping an eye on her.
To be honest, now that the plans for her moving to New Orleans were finally happening, she felt a little bit overwhelmed? Scared? Happy? Relieved? Worried? She wasn’t quite sure, maybe all of the above. But, on the other hand, it felt good. New start. No prying eyes. Not having to behave because she’s the daughter of the police chief or not having to be the mother to her own mother.
Bella sighed as she got to her feet and went downstairs to the kitchen to grab a bin liner to throw in her old clothes and found Rebekah in the kitchen, drinking from her blood bag. “Are we going tomorrow? This was my last one, you see.”
“I think so, yeah,” Bella smiled at her as she grabbed what she needed.
“I don’t know if you had any plans of going to the reservation today to say your goodbyes to Jacob…”
“Yes, I am, why?”
“Because last night, when we were talking to Elijah, some of the wolves were there. It’s quite possible that they won’t allow you onto the reservation.”
Bella thought for a moment and nodded. “Thanks, I’ll ask Jake to meet me at the treaty line.”
Rebekah then pointed at the bin liner. “What are you going to do with that?”
“I’m going to put the clothes Alice got me in the trash, where they belong,” Bella said determined and went back upstairs where she found Kol rummaging through her clothes and messing up her neat piles. “Kol!”
“What?” He cheekily smiled at her. “It was all too neat, I couldn’t resist…”
Bella scowled as she pushed him away from her clothes and sat down on the floor again to rearrange it all. “I swear if there’s stuff missing…”
Kol shrugged as he sat down on the other side of the pile of clothes and grinned. “I might have made a few items disappear, I might not have…”
“Rebekah wants to leave tomorrow, if you’re going to make a habit of sabotaging my efforts to pack my bag, you’ll have to deal with her because then we won’t be leaving tomorrow,” she picked up one of her checkered shirts, rolled it up and threw it in his face.
“Do you want to leave tomorrow, Cuddles?”
“The sooner, the better, to be honest,” she said with a nod before she started folding everything into neat stacks again. “I was planning on asking Jake to meet me at the treaty line today to say goodbye to him.”
“Alright, I’m going to get dressed, and then you can tell me what to do,” he got back to his feet and went to his bag. “But I probably should start with packing my own bag.”
“Yep,” she snorted.
Bella wasn’t surprised that Jake was waiting for them at the treaty line that afternoon. He always waited for her, and that was a problem. Even his whole speech the other day was a problem. He wasn’t going to like it that she was going to New Orleans, and she suspected that he once again, would say that he’d be waiting for her in Forks if things wouldn’t work out.
Kol held her back for a moment after they got out of the car. “What if he loses control?”
“He won’t,” Bella assured him. “No matter his issues, he’s in control over himself. Besides, I’ve got you to stop him from attacking me, don’t I?”
He huffed in return and decided to sit down on the hood of the car as Bella walked towards her friend.
“Heya Bells, what’s up?” He greeted her with his usual goofy smile and opened his arms as to invite her in for a hug.
She hugged him and smiled at him. “The sky, obviously.”
“What’s so important that you couldn’t say over the phone?” He then jerked his head towards Kol. “Did he knock you up?”
“Jake!” She said with a whine and hit him on the arm. “No, and whether or not we have done it, is none of your business.”
“Seeing as you’re still referring to it as it, I doubt you’ve done it,” he said teasingly.
“And just so you know, your father is okay with me and Kol… Kaleb. He sort of gave his blessing during the barbecue,” she said smugly, which resulted in a whine coming from Jacob.
“Yeah,” he said with a sigh. “He told me. He also told me to let you go, but I can’t, Bella. I have never been able to.”
“You’re going to have to. I’m going to New Orleans.”
“Yeah, I know,” he sighed again. “Paul, Sam and I were at the party last night; we overheard your plans. Paul and Sam are satisfied to see that you’ve truly separated yourself from the Cullens and that you’re not being coerced by the new people in your life either. I feared for your life when you dared to stand up against the male Original vampire though.”
“Oh, you have no idea. Yesterday was mild. I blew up at him when we were still in New Orleans for… bullying his brother in the past,” she said with a snort. “But Jake, just because I’m moving away, doesn’t mean you and I can’t talk to each other anymore. There’s this thing called the internet, and I’m sure you’ll love New Orleans if you come and visit.”
“Unlike you, I have no desire to leave my friends and family behind, even if it’s for only a couple of days,” he said grumpily and looked at the ground.
“Yeah, and unlike you, I’ve never liked this place to begin with, remember? I was much happier in warmer climates,” she made him look at her. “If I stay, I won’t be happy. Do you want me to be unhappy?”
“No… but what if they turn out the same as them?”
“No, I’m serious, Bella. There was nothing wrong in the beginning when you started to hang out with Edward. The only problem was that he’s a vampire. Look where it got you, huh? At least you know I’ll never change.”
Bella sighed, trying not to get angry with Jacob, but she couldn’t help herself. He didn’t want to be happy for her; he didn’t want her to leave – despite everything that he had learned in the last few weeks. “And that’s your problem, Jacob,” she shot at him, already feeling guilty about having to leave him like this but she didn’t see any other option. “You don’t change. You need to grow up because newsflash, you can’t always get what you want. I’m not saying things are going to be easy for me, but it’ll be fine. I’m not staying because you want me to. Goodbye, Jake,” she said before turning around and walking towards Kol. “Let’s go.”
“You sure, Cuddles?”
“I’m done with him,” she said bitterly and got into the car. “I don’t wish him any harm, but he’s being an asshole, and I’m done with playing nice.”
Kol laughed as he started the car, amused by seeing Bella like this, a little bundle of rage and impatience, more than willing to leave Forks behind and everyone in it but her father. She was ready for her freedom and he couldn’t wait to find out what else she had in store for him once she had gotten used to the life in New Orleans. He could tell that she had certain expectations – seriously, why would she want to get a job? And Kol couldn’t wait to show her that life’s supposed to be all about fun and games and no cares in the world.