I've been reading Twilight by Stephenie Meyer, and I can honestly say that the hating/loving ratio, which used to be something like 80/20, is now like 50/50, or maybe even 40/60. I don't know what's going on. But we are coming up on the end of Book 1, which is hard to believe. We made it, everybody! Previous entries can be found in the directory.
Chapter 19: Goodbyes
This is one of those chapters that sort of defies summary. I wouldn’t go so far as to say it is well-written, but it is genuinely affecting. The fleeting glimpses we do get of Charlie in this book have endeared him to me, and it is actually upsetting to see him hurt. But Bella has to hurt him, enough to keep him from following her escape party. Okay, technically I guess she doesn't - there's an argument to be made that she could just tell him the truth - but I suppose time is a factor and you never really know how your dad will react when he finds out you've been dating a vampire as a result of which another vampire is now hunting you in order to kill and eat you. I mean, he could be fine with it, or he could freak out and run into the woods and get himself eaten, you don't really know.
On her way out of the car, Bella is still trying to think of what to say to her father. Emmett takes a moment to reassure her:
“Don’t worry, Bella,” he said in a low but cheerful voice, “we’ll take care of things up here quickly.”
I felt moisture filling up my eyes as I looked at Emmett. I barely knew him, and yet, somehow, not knowing when I would see him again after tonight was anguishing.
The tears inspire Bella, and as Edward walks her to the door she slams it in his face and starts screaming. Charlie jumps up and follows her as she storms into her room and closes the door. Edward is already there, packing her clothes. I feel like that would be weird, Edward selecting bras and all that. Weird for Bella, I mean. Great for Edward, I’m sure. Not that he hasn’t gone through her drawers before, while she sleeps. Dude probably knew exactly what to grab. Shudder.
Charlie’s on the other side of the door, shouting. Bella is shrieking hysterically. Edward makes for the truck and Bella storms back into the hallway. She tells Charlie that she broke up with Edward, because she didn’t want anything tying her down to Forks. Charlie physically stops her in the kitchen. “I don’t want to end up trapped in this stupid, boring town like Mom! I’m not going to make the same mistake she did,” she says. Charlie looks wounded, and all he can manage to say is “Bella, you can’t leave now. It’s nighttime.” Fucking heartbreaking, I’m not kidding. I’m weak. Then she twists the knife, saying the same words she remembers her mother saying as she left him: “Just let me go, Charlie.” Her father stands in the doorway, stunned, as she runs away in tears.
I know I have a lot of fun at S. Meyer’s expense here, but seriously: Brava, Stephenie. That’s a hell of a scene. Or is it bravo?
Edward takes the wheel, as Bella is in hysterics. Alice is behind them in the Jeep. Edward tells her the tracker heard the end of her fight with Charlie—so presumably has taken the intended bait—and is following them right now. Edward is filled with remorse and anguish, and for once it seems justified. Before he was only paranoid about his own perceived inability to control himself around her (during sex—I mean, marriage—especially), but now his enthusiasm for bringing Bella into his world has genuinely put her at risk. The next time your new boyfriend/girlfriend brings you to meet his/her parents, remember that no matter how awkward it is, the night will almost certainly not end with you being hunted by an undead sociopath.
I suppose there was an outside chance that even if Edward had never met Bella she could have met an end at some other vampire’s hands—he jokes that it is partially her fault, after all, because she smells “so appallingly luscious”—but what really made the situation desperate was the fact that Edward made a show of defending her on the baseball field. “[W]e’ve just made it his most exciting game ever,” Edward says.
So I suppose this is as good a time as any to mention that my previously mentioned possibly dogmatic writing professor who opposed the use of any colorful word meaning “said” other than “said” was not alone on that. On a recent episode of the Slate Culture Gabfest, they were discussing an article from the Guardian in which several prominent fiction writers were asked for their 10 Rules For Writing Fiction, and Elmore Leonard proscribed the very same behavior: don’t use “replied,” “asked,” “shouted,” et al. when writing dialogue. Leonard took it a step further—don’t color the “said” with an adverb. So “Edward said darkly” is against the rules too.
Part of that is if you’re a good writer you can convey the emotions you need to convey in other ways, but I don’t know think that’s Stephenie Meyer’s problem. I wouldn’t have any problem figuring out the emotions in the car without all the “shouted” and “said with a smile” stuff. Most of the stuff that Edward says darkly is pretty dark anyway. In this case it has more to do with the unmentioned other half of that rule—having faith in your readers to figure it out for themselves. I always come down on the side of having faith in your audience, but this being YA Fiction, maybe Stephenie Meyer is right. A few months ago during the heat of the health care debate I wrote three sketches sarcastically calling for the privatization of other government services. My friend Jory Caron wanted to put a disclaimer at the end of the video making it clear that we were being satirical. I was against it, because I thought it was totally obvious. People who have to finish something with “in case you couldn’t tell, I was being sarcastic” don’t have enough confidence in their work. And it was totally obvious, actually, but he was still right. When we released our video calling for the privatization of the fire department, we got flooded with angry messages from people claiming to be firefighters attacking us for you know, calling them fascists (in very obvious jest). And that was with the disclaimer at the end.
I’m not going to stop having faith in people, but maybe S. Meyer knows something I don’t know.
Edward says he thinks they are going to have to kill James to keep him from hunting Bella—recall that a long time ago Edward mentioned that there are very few ways to kill a vampire but did not elaborate—so we finally find out how to do that. “The only way to be sure is to tear him to shreds, and then burn the pieces,” Edward says. Well, that’s simple enough! I thought for sure it was going to be an elaborate, multi-step process. You can kill a normal person that way, too!
They get to the Cullen house, and Emmett literally picks up Bella from the car and runs her into the house tucked in his arms like a football. The rest of the Cullens are there, and so is Laurent. We learn that Alice “danced to Jasper’s side” (of course) and whispered in his ear, and they go running up the stairs to pack. A while ago I was speculating as to the nature of Laurent’s evil—he seemed friendly enough, so what was going to be wrong with this guy? Turns out his thing is he’s a coward. He was hanging out with James and Vicki because it was easy, and now that shit is getting heavy he’s decided to flee. Laurent is a real douchebag. He starts talking about how relentless James is, then looks over at Bella and says to Edward “Are you sure it’s worth it?” OH SNAP. Edward roars, Laurent cowers. He’s also the kind of asshole who lingers in a room for too long (echoes of Mike) before he finally decides that no one is going to offer to help him. Carlisle diplomatically tells him to “go in peace,” and then he’s gone.
The Cullens decide to leave in groups. There are some funny moments here, because the vampires are so impatient that when one of them has to take Bella somewhere they just pick her up and carry her rather than wait for her slow human legs. Edward tries to get Rosalie to switch clothes with Bella, but she won’t do it, so Edward basically pretends she’s dead (which I guess maybe she is) and asks Esme the same question. She runs Bella up the stairs and starts taking our heroine’s clothes off. It’s kind of awkward. Edward, Emmett, and Carlisle leave first—Edward and Bella have a goodbye kiss, but she notes his eyes are “curiously dead” as he turns away.
There’s a beat where the rest of them wait for Carlisle’s signal and Bella has to stand in a room with a bunch of vampires awkwardly looking away while she cries. It’s a great little moment, thankfully not over-explicated. Like that “real crying jag” line from a long time ago, there are plenty of individual bits of pretty good writing scattered around here. Usually they seem to involve crying.
Esme and Rosalie leave, and when Alice goes to get the car Bella is left alone with Jasper.
“You’re wrong, you know,” he said quietly.
“What?” I gasped.
“I can feel what you’re feeling now—and you are worth it.”
Perceptive kid, huh? That’s a pretty specific emotion—inadequacy? I always thought Jasper could “feel” sadness, happiness, tense or calm feelings, that sort of thing. If it extends much further than that it’s basically mind-reading and no different from Edward, right? I feel like we should keep the vampire-powers distinct. Maybe Jasper is just being a nice guy and he’s lying.
Alice actually asks permission before picking up Bella and carrying her out the door, for which Bella is grateful. When you’re being hunted by an undead psychopath and you have to stage elaborate histrionic freakouts to protect your father and your boyfriend has just left you alone and on the lam for an undetermined period of time with his awkward vampire siblings, you learn to appreciate the little things.