When you loved the one who was killing you, it left you no options. How could you run, how could you fight, when doing so would hurt that beloved one? If your life was all you had to give, how ...(more)
"OKAY, WHERE'S YOUR CLUTCH?"
I pointed to the lever on my left handlebar. Letting go of the grip was a mistake. The heavy bike wobbled underneath me, threatening to knock me sidewise. I grabbed the handle again, trying to hold it straight.
"Jacob, it won't stay up," I complained.
"It will when you're moving," he promised. "Now where's your brake?"
"Behind my right foot."
He grabbed my right hand and curled my fingers around the lever over the throttle.
"But you said--"
"This is the brake you want. Don't use the back brake now, that's for later, when you know what you're doing."
"That doesn't sound right," I said suspiciously. "Aren't both brakes kind of important?"
"Forget the back brake, okay? Here--" He wrapped his hand around mine and made me squeeze the lever down. "That is how you brake. Don't forget." He squeezed my hand another time.
"Fine," I agreed.
I twisted the right grip.
I nudged it with my left calf.
"Very good. I think you've got all the parts down. Now you just have to get it moving."
"Uh-huh," I muttered, afraid to say more. My stomach was contorting strangely and I thought my voice might crack. I was terrified. I tried to tell myself that the fear was pointless. I'd already lived through the worst thing possible. In comparison with that, why should anything frighten me now? I should be able to look death in the face and laugh.
My stomach wasn't buying it.
I stared down the long stretch of dirt road, bordered by thick misty green on every side. The road was sandy and damp. Better than mud.
"I want you to hold down the clutch," Jacob instructed.
I wrapped my fingers around the clutch.
"Now this is crucial, Bella," Jacob stressed. "Don't let go of that, okay? I want you to pretend that I've handed you a live grenade. The pin is out and you are holding down the spoon."
I squeezed tighter.
"Good. Do you think you can kick-start it?"
"If I move my foot, I will fall over," I told him through gritted teeth, my fingers tight around my live grenade.
"Okay, I'll do it. Don't let go of the clutch."
He took a step back, and then suddenly slammed his foot down on the pedal. There was a short ripping noise, and the force of his thrust rocked the bike. I started to fall sideways, but Jake caught the bike before it knocked me to the ground.
"Steady there," he encouraged. "Do you still have the clutch?"
"Yes," I gasped.
"Plant your feet--I'm going to try again." But he put his hand on the back of the seat, too, just to be safe.
It took four more kicks before the ignition caught. I could feel the bike rumbling beneath me like
an angry animal. I gripped the clutch until my fingers ached.
"Try out the throttle," he suggested. "Very lightly. And don't let go of the clutch."
Hesitantly, I twisted the right handle. Though the movement was tiny, the bike snarled beneath me. It sounded angry and hungry now. Jacob smiled in deep satisfaction.
"Do you remember how to put it into first gear?" he asked.
"Well, go ahead and do it."
He waited for a few seconds.
"Left foot," he prompted.
"I know," I said, taking a deep breath.
"Are you sure you want to do this?" Jacob asked. "You look scared."
"I'm fine," I snapped. I kicked the gearshift down one notch.
"Very good," he praised me. "Now, very gently, ease up on the clutch."
He took a step away from the bike.
"You want me to let go of the grenade?" I asked in disbelief. No wonder he was moving back.
"That's how you move, Bella. Just do it little by little."
As I began to loosen my grip, I was shocked to be interrupted by a voice that did not belong to the boy standing next to me.
"This is reckless and childish and idiotic, Bella," the velvet voice fumed.
"Oh!" I gasped, and my hand fell off the clutch.
The bike bucked under me, yanking me forward and then collapsing to the ground half on top of me. The growling engine choked to a stop.
"Bella?" Jacob jerked the heavy bike off me with ease. "Are you hurt?"
But I wasn't listening.
"I told you so," the perfect voice murmured, crystal clear.
"Bella?" Jacob shook my shoulder.
"I'm fine," I mumbled, dazed.
More than fine. The voice in my head was back. It still rang in my ears--soft, velvety echoes.
My mind ran swiftly through the possibilities. There was no familiarity here--on a road I'd never seen, doing something I'd never done before--no d?j? vu. So the hallucinations must be triggered by something else....I felt the adrenaline coursing through my veins again, and I thought I had the answer. Some combination of adrenaline and danger, or maybe just stupidity.
Jacob was pulling me to my feet.
"Did you hit your head?" he asked.
"I don't think so." I shook it back and forth, checking. "I didn't hurt the bike, did I?" This thought worried me. I was anxious to try again, right away. Being reckless was paying off better than I'd
thought. Forget cheating. Maybe I'd found a way to generate the hallucinations--that was much more important.
"No. You just stalled the engine," Jacob said, interrupting my quick speculations. "You let go of the clutch too fast."
I nodded. "Let's try again."
"Are you sure?" Jacob asked.
This time I tried to get the kick-start myself. It was complicated; I had to jump a little to slam down on the pedal with enough force, and every time I did that, the bike tried to knock me over. Jacob's hand hovered over the handlebars, ready to catch me if I needed him.
It took several good tries, and even more poor tries,before the engine caught and roared to life under me. Remembering to hold on to the grenade, I revved the throttle experimentally. It snarled at the slightest touch. My smile mirrored Jacob's now.
"Easy on the clutch," he reminded me.
"Do you want to kill yourself, then? Is that what this is about?" the other voice spoke again, his tone severe.
I smiled tightly--it was still working--and ignored the questions. Jacob wasn't going to let anything serious happen to me.
"Go home to Charlie," the voice ordered. The sheer beauty of it amazed me. I couldn't allow my memory to lose it, no matter the price.
"Ease off slowly," Jacob encouraged me.
"I will," I said. It bothered me a bit when I realized I was answering both of them.
The voice in my head growled against the roar of the motorcycle.
Trying to focus this time, to not let the voice startle me again, I relaxed my hand by tiny degrees. Suddenly, the gear caught and wrenched me forward.
And I was flying.