[Last time these two met was a two-parter. The initial meeting is here, the discussion they had is here.]
"And, of course, Jackie was anxious to see Ben again," Billie's voice had something that didn't seem right to me, sort of suggestive, sort of encouraging, sort of implying that there was more to our relationship than there was.
Jacqueline confirmed that when she mouthed, "Not like that," in my direction.
It seemed like the best solution was to separate the two so that Jackie and I could talk away from our mothers. "Are you hungry?" I asked, turning toward the kitchen.
Jackie's voice had an apologetic quality when she said, "We ate before we came over." She knew she was shooting down my excuse.
"Charlize?" I asked.
She looked up from where she was, making sure that the way to the living room was wide enough for a wheelchair, and saw that I wanted a yes. She said, "Sure," and I headed into the kitchen.
I quickly got to work on grilled cheese sandwiches so I'd have something to show for going to the kitchen. Then I sat on the table facing in the general direction of Jackie who had followed me. She took up position on a counter, and I said, "So, what's up?"
"You mean aside from my mom already planning our wedding just because I said I had a good time when we met on the beach and I'd like to see you again?"
"That sounds kind of overboard."
"Part of that's because I'm exaggerating, but she can't seem to conceive of the possibility that, 'I had a good time with Ben,' doesn't mean, 'I'm head over heels in love with Ben.'"
"That sucks, how's the car?" I am clearly a master at changing subjects.
"The car's going well, not done yet so we had to borrow the one we came in, but I have high hopes. Do you know what a master cylinder is?"
"I have no idea."
"Then never mind. Car's coming along nicely. How about you, is the truck ok?"
That seemed like a strange question, "Yeah, since it got fixed after the whole van thing it's been running fine. Why do you ask?"
"I noticed you got a ride."
"Yeah, I'm sort of dating my mechanic."
"Your mechanic is pretty, what's, 'Sort of dating'?"
"Well it's... complicated. We're friends, and we both kind of want more, but there are reasons it might not work, and the two most memorable experiences we've had together were pretty traumatic, so that sort of hangs a cloud over things, and we're just sort of hanging out and seeing what happens. Charlize says that it's important to know whether doing something together is a date or not, but it's... complicated."
"Um... Ok. I have questions."
"I haven't figured out the order yet."
"Take your time."
"Ok, first off you said, 'Traumatic,' and that worries me."
"Traumatic thing one, almost being killed by a rampaging van."
"You mentioned that last time we met."
"Traumatic thing two happened in Port Angeles more recently, and I don't want to talk about it." I paused. At first I thought I was done, but then I realized that I didn't want to give the wrong impression. "It's not just that I don't want to talk about it with you, I don't want to talk about it ever."
"Scared me to hell."
"Then we won't talk about it."
There was a moment of dead air between us.
"Ok, other question. Who is your sort of girlfriend?"
"The one who saved your life?"
My first reaction was how could she possibly know that. My second was, of course she knew that, I told her about the van. "Yeah."
More dead air.
"Uh, there's no way to say this without sounding like an ass, so I'm counting on you knowing that I'm not an ass and, based on that assessment of me, not taking it as assholic because-"
I cut her off, "I solemnly swear that I will not hate you forever on account of you saying what you are about to say."
"Ok." Pause. "Thanks." Pause. "Are you sure that what you're feeling isn't just because she saved you?" Jackie looked afraid. Afraid that she'd hurt me. Afraid that I'd be pissed off at her. Afraid that asking the question, which is an important question and one I'd asked myself, was the wrong thing to do.
"I... don't know." I sort of pulled inward. Arms and legs toward my center, presenting a smaller profile. Left hand grasping my right forearm. "That's the thing. It's all screwed up and complicated." I started stroking my right arm with my left hand, not sure why, it just seemed the thing to do. "There's like this tangled mess of emotions and it's impossible to sort out what's real and what's not." I paused. "But what I do know is that I feel better around her, and I think that she feels better around me."
"Then you should try to keep on being around her," Jackie said, getting off the counter. She walked to the table. "Because," she climbed on the table next to me, "I want my friend to feel better." She put her arm around my shoulders.
After a while she said, "And don't worry about everything. I'll worry for you. You just do what makes you happy."
She hopped off the table and offered me her hands, "Now come on, let's feed Charlize."
As we were getting ready to leave she the kitchen she said, "By the way, remember what I said about some people at La Push having some weird ideas about the Cullens?"
"Ancient legends that appeared out of nowhere less than five years ago, right?"
"Yeah, that was it. Anyway, my mom's one of them so you might not want to mention Edith around her."
"I wouldn't think Billie would be one to stand by while your heritage was rewritten."
"I wouldn't either, but a lot of people have gone weird with this thing, and she's one of them. In everything else she's normal... or, you know, what passes as normal for her, but in this one area she went with the weird."
"Ok, no Cullen talk. Got it."