*by Stephenie Meyer*
TWILIGHT - chapter 12 - BALANCING
"Billy!" Charlie called as soon as he got out of the car.
I turned toward the house, beckoning to Jacob as I ducked under the porch. I heard Charlie greeting them loudly behind me.
"I'm going to pretend I didn't see you behind the wheel, Jake," he said disapprovingly.
"We get permits early on the rez," Jacob said while I unlocked the door and flicked on the porch light.
"Sure you do," Charlie laughed.
"I have to get around somehow." I recognizzed Billy's resonant voice easily, despite the years. The sound of it made me feel suddenly younger, a child.
I went inside, leaving the door open behind me and turning on the lights before I hung up my jacket. Then I stood in the door, watching anxiously as Charlie and Jacob helped Billy out of the car and into his wheelchair.
I backed out of the way as the three of them huried in, shaking off the rain.
"This is a surprise," Charlie was saying.
"It's been too long," Billy answered. "I hope it's not a bad time." His dark eyes flashed up to me again, their expression unreadable.
"No, it's great. I hope you can stay for the game."
Jacob grinned. "I think that's the plan - our TV broke last week."
Billy made a face at his son. "And, of course, Jacob was anxious to see Bella again," he added. Jacob scowled and ducked his head while I fought back a surge of remorse. Maybe I'd been too convincing on the beach.
"Are you hungry?" I asked, turned toward the kitchen. I was eager to escape Billy's searching gaze.
"Naw, we ate just before we came," Jacob answered.
"How about you, Chalie?" I called over my shoulder as I fled around the corner.
"Sure," he replied, his voice moving in the direction of the front room and the TV. I could hear Billy's chair follow.
The grilled cheese sandwiches were in the frying pan and I was slicing up a tomato when I sensed someone behind me.
"So, how are things?" Jacob asked.
"Pretty good." I smiled. His enthusiasm was hard to resist. "How about you? Did you finish your car?"
"No." He frowned. "I still need parts. We borrowed that one." He pointed with his thumb in the direction of the front yard.
"Sorry. I haven't seen any... what was it you were looking for?"
"Master cylinder." He grinned. "Is something wrong with the truck?" he asked suddenly.
"Oh. I just wondered because you weren't driving it."
I stared down at the pan, pulling up the edge of a sandwich to check the bottom side. "I got a ride with a friend."
"Nice ride." Jacob's voice was admiring. "I didn't recognize the driver, though. I thought I knew most of the kids around here."
I nodded noncommittally, keeping my eyes down as I flipped sandwiches.
"My dad seemed to know him from somewhere."
"Jacob, could you hand me some plates? They're in the cupboard over the sink."
He got the plates in silence. I hoped he would let it drop now.
"So who was it?" he asked, setting two plates on the counter next to me.
I sighed in defeat. "Edward Cullen."
To my surprise, he laughed. I glanced up at him. He looked a little embarrassed.
"Guess that explains it, then," he said. "I wondered why my dad was acting so strange."
"That's right." I faked and innocent expression. "He doesn't like the Cullens."
"Superstitious old man," Jacob murmured under his breath.
"You don't think he'd say anything to Charlie?" I couldn't help asking, the words coming out in a low rush.
Jacob stared at me for a moment, and I couldn't read the expression in his dark eyes. "I doubt it," he finally answered. "I think Charlie chewed him out pretty good last time. They haven't spoken much since - tonight is sort of a reunion, I think. I don't think he'd bring it up again."
"Oh," I said trying to sound indifferent.
I stayed in the front room after I carried the food out to Charlie, pretending to watch the game while Jacob cattered at me. I was really listening to the men's conversation, watching for any sign that Billy was about to rat me out, trying to think of ways to stop him if he began.
It was a long night. I had a lot of homework that was going undone, but I was afraid to leave Billy alone with Charlie. Finally, the game ended.
"Are you and your friends coming back to the beach soon?" Jacob asked as he pushed his father over the lip of the threshold.
"I'm not sure," I hedged.
"That was fun, Charlie," Billy said.
"Come up for the next game," Charlie encouraged.
"Sure, sure," Billy said. "We'll be here. Have a good night." His eyes shifted to mine, and his smile disappeared. "You take car, Bella," he added seriously.
"Thanks," I muttered, looking away.
I headed for the stairs while Charlie waved from the doorway.
"Wait, Bella," he said.
I cringed. Had Billy gotten something in before I'd joined them in the living room?
But Charlie was relaxed, still grinning from the unexpected visit.
"I didn't get a chance to talk to you tonight. How was your take?"
"Good." I hesitated with one foot on the first stair, searching for details I could safely share. "My badminton team won all four games."
"Wow, I didn't know you could play badminton."
"Well, actually I can't, but my partner is really good," I admitted.
"Who is it?" he aked with a token interest.
"Um... Mike Newton," I told him reluctantly.
"Oh yeah - you said you were friends with the Newton kid." He perked up. "Nice family." He mused for a minute. "Why didn't you ask him to the dance this weekend?"
"Dad!" I groaned. "He's kind of dating my friend Jessica. Besides, you know I can't dance."
"Oh yeah," he muttered. Then he smiled at me apologetically. "So I guess it's good you'll be gone Saturday... I've made plans to go fishing with the guys from the station. The weather's supposed to be real warm. But if you wanted to put your trip off till someone could go with you, I'd stay home. I know I leave you here alone too much."
"Dad, you'er doing a great job." I smiled, hoping my relief didn't show. "I've never minded being alone - I'm too much like you." I winked at him, and he smiled his crinkly-eyed smile.