Twilight Recap: Bella has pleaded with Edward for the truth behind the incident and promised that she won't reveal his secret to anyone. Unwilling to trust her, Edward has stalked silently off, leaving Bella alone in the hospital corridors. Comment of the Week goes to Hapax for her Dr. Seuss rendition of Twilight. I heartily recommend that this proud tradition be carried on by as many posters as possible.
Twilight, Chapter 3: Phenomenon
Today will be an interesting contrast to Bella's behavior over the last few weeks. While she has been largely deferential to Dr. Cullen and his son Edward, preferring to let her (legitimate) issues with them air out through passive-aggression and carefully veiled word games, now that the Cullens have disappeared from the scene, Bella is going to undergo a bit of a personality change -- not so much from her character thus far but very much so from her character when dealing with the Cullens. Hang on to your seats.
The waiting room was more unpleasant than I'd feared. It seemed like every face I knew in Forks was there, staring at me. Charlie rushed to my side; I put up my hands.
"There's nothing wrong with me," I assured him sullenly. I was still aggravated, not in the mood for chitchat.
The first time I read this, I thought the putting-up-of-hands was Bella covering her face with her hands, as if in a gesture of embarrassment or mortification. That reading didn't seem correct -- if Bella covered her face with her hands, her next line should be "Tbere'th nuffinck rawng wiff be," or some phonetic variation thereof.
My next thought was that the movement was putting her hands out in front of her to steady Charlie -- perhaps so that he wouldn't run into her. Charlie is, after all, "rushing" to her, and Bella has a habit of falling over and colliding with things, so it stands to reason that she might have developed some defensive reflexes thus far. (This would also go a long way towards explaining why her pratfalls rarely seem to cause any damage.)
This doesn't really seem to fit the situation, though -- Charlie really shouldn't be running on a slick-from-melted-ice hospital floor towards someone who may or may not be seriously injured. Parental emotions are one thing, but Charlie should have at least a modicum of training regarding the handling of injured people, particularly in an area heavily populated with hunters, vampires, and werewolves.
So it seemed more likely that the gesture is that of a stop sign, stopping Charlie before he can speak so that Bella can reassure him that she's alright. And that's potentially kind of nice, if it's a gesture of reassurance. Something that conveys it's okay, I'm alright, you don't have to worry even a minute more is a wonderful gesture, because it acknowledges that the other person is in emotional distress and the quick response shows that the responder has thought ahead to consider the other person's distress and wants to alleviate it as quickly as possible.
And yet... the language here doesn't seem to fit that interpretation. Bella speaks to Charlie "sullenly" and considers his inevitable request for information to be "chit-chat" for which she is not in the mood. I receive the impression that Bella's stop gesture isn't one of reassurance and affirmation, but rather one of annoyance and irritation. It's a talk to the hand gesture, but with the understanding that she would prefer Charlie not talk at all.
Bella's aggravation is, I suppose, meant to be a logical outflow from her frustrating conversation with Edward. And perhaps I can't fault Bella for not being able to immediately switch gears. But her obvious irritation with Charlie -- and I have to believe that it is obvious, if Bella is such an open-book -- seems patently unfair. Charlie, for all his faults, has (as far as Bella knows) gotten up very early to put tire chains on her car, and then when an accident occurred, he rushed her to the hospital and presumably paid the bill. Some small acknowledgment of these facts would seem to be in order, even if the only acknowledgment is an attempt to dial back the searing waves of annoyance rolling off of Bella.
This acerbic attitude is particularly interesting in light of Bella's kind and deferential conversation with Dr. Cullen and her tender assurances to Edward that his secret was safe with her. I start to get the impression that Bella reserves her patience and understanding only for her social climbing attempts, and not for people whose love and admiration is already assured. This doesn't look good for Edward's future happiness.
"Dr. Cullen saw me, and he said I was fine and I could go home." I sighed. Mike and Jessica and Eric were all there, beginning to converge on us. "Let's go," I urged.
Now this is just frustrating. Not two pages ago, Bella was insisting that she did not want to go home because she didn't want to spend the day at home with Charlie awkwardly waiting on her hand and foot. She also wanted to get back to school so that she could face the circus and get all the questions over with -- returning to school was presented as a major step towards returning to normalcy.
I'm also annoyed that Carlisle's quip about the "entire school" being out front has been reduced to three faces. Either Carlisle was wrong (or exaggerating), or the rest of the school has wandered off in boredom, or Bella has only bothered to learn three names -- two of which are boys she is not interested in romantically but which we must be reminded of early and often to reinforce her desirability -- in the entire school. Or, I suppose, the rest of the school *is* there but just isn't interested in "converging" on Bella. Either way, I'm disappointed that the much-hyped packed waiting room is so sparsely described.
Between this lack of world-building and Bella's sudden change of heart about going home, one almost suspects that the point of this chapter is over and the author is rushing to finish up.
Charlie put one arm behind my back, not quite touching me, and led me to the glass doors of the exit. I waved sheepishly at my friends, hoping to convey that they didn't need to worry anymore. It was a huge relief -- the first time I'd ever felt that way -- to get into the cruiser.
We drove in silence. I was so wrapped up in my thoughts that I barely knew Charlie was there. I was positive that Edward's defensive behavior in the hall was a confirmation of the bizarre things I still could hardly believe I'd witnessed.
Bella seems like a fun person to live with. OK, sorry, I'm in a snarky mood today, clearly.
It seems natural, actually, that Bella wouldn't want to chat much on the car ride home. She probably has a splitting headache, she's going to miss classes today and will have to gather assignments and notes from people tomorrow, and she's been part of a Major Incident in a town where she really just wants to blend into the background. And -- as she notes -- she's witnessed something impossible and the people involved have been extraordinarily evasive and vague and suspicious about what she is sure she's seen. That would give you a lot to talk about.
Still, while I like to think I'd be the last person to slap someone with the Curse of the Good Girl, I do think there's a fine line between enforcing and respecting one's own needs and boundaries and being a pleasant human being to be around. I think there's a place to expect Bella to make some kind small talk with Charlie (Yeah, no, I'm really okay! Yeah, I'm shocked too. Thank god, right? By the way, I really appreciate you putting snow chains on the truck. Hey, do you mind giving me a ride tomorrow since the truck is still at school? Thanks. Man, what a headache I have. *less awkward silence*) just because it's the polite thing to do.
Readers, de-privilege me if I need it: By expecting Bella to be slightly polite to Charlie, am I holding her to "Good Girl" expectations that I shouldn't? I really don't know and it worries me.
When we got to the house, Charlie finally spoke.
"Um . . . you'll need to call Renee." He hung his head, guilty.
I was appalled. "You told Mom!"
I slammed the cruiser's door a little harder than necessary on my way out.
Bella, if you damage the cruiser, the repairs come out of Charlie's paycheck.
I'm amused by the melodrama here. Bella has lived with Charlie for less than two weeks now, so I would expect he would need to call Renee if only because Bella is probably still on her health insurance. (Props to Gelliebean for pointing that out in an earlier thread.) Hospital visits, even if there turns out to be nothing wrong with you, are expensive. Heck, I'll bet the ambulance ride will cost Charlie or Renee at least $300, and possibly much more. So all this hang-dog guilt from Charlie is pretty disappointing for me -- for all the times that Charlie comes off as over-bearing to me (and he does), I wish he was *more* so here. Bella, I had to notify her to get your insurance details, and if you slam that door again you'll be grounded, concussion or not. Now go call your mother while I get the numbers so I can call your school and get your assignments.
This doesn't even touch on the fact that apparently Bella expects Charlie to keep major life incidents a secret from Renee. I have no idea what their custody agreement is, but I can imagine that Renee would be well within her rights to blow a gasket if she found out that Charlie was helping Bella to conceal, say, major car accidents and medical emergencies. The fact that everything narrowly turned out to be alright -- a fact that Charlie could not have reasonably foreseen when he called Renee -- would not have excused Charlie if he had chosen to hide this from his ex-wife.
Layered over this is the melodrama that Charlie can only call Renee in emergencies because -- despite being able to coordinate yearly visits for their daughter -- apparently the two simply cannot speak to one another because CHARLIE'S HEART IS BROKEN. Or something. I'm not trying to be flippant here and say that seventeen or so years would dull the pain, because it's entirely possible that it wouldn't. But I am saying that the world-building around the text proves that Charlie and Renee can talk to one another without difficulty because otherwise Bella's backstory is impossible. There's no way she's been going to California for vacations with Charlie for years without him talking to Renee at least a little bit.
Now, you *could* say that Charlie is telling concussed-and-should-be-resting Bella to call her mother because Renee will demand to talk to her daughter anyway, but I will remind you that this is the second time in text that it's been pointed out that communication to Renee has to go through Bella and that Renee's biggest threat is "I'm calling your father" rather than just, you know, doing it. This just strikes me as very dramatic and not practical at all, and it's frustrating to me that the in-text (No talking!) so blatantly contradicts the sub-text.
My mom was in hysterics, of course. I had to tell her I felt fine at least thirty times before she would calm down. She begged me to come home -- forgetting the fact that home was empty at the moment -- but her pleas were easier to resist than I would have thought. I was consumed by the mystery Edward presented. And more than a little obsessed by Edward himself. Stupid, stupid, stupid. I wasn't as eager to escape Forks as I should be, as any normal, sane person would be.
I would think it would be easy to resist hysterical pleas to come home immediately after a major move, just getting settled in, and the fact that there is no one in your house to "come home" to. I mean, I realize that Phil is a big up-and-comer in the world of minor league (I almost typed "little league" there by accident) and can spend big minor league bucks on plane tickets for Renee to jet around the country at a moment's notice, but if Bella's personal desire to not impinge on her mom and Phil in their new marriage, even to the point of moving to a town she hates to live with a father she despises and go to a school she deplores... well, it just seems to me that a little near-death experience isn't likely to change someone's mind. Forks isn't going to be icy forever, and statistically Bella is probably safer from car accidents in Forks than she would be in Phoenix.
It's disappointing to me, though, that none of this is called out. Bella doesn't want to stay because she just moved here or because she isn't going to structure her entire life around a pointless accident; instead, she doesn't want to leave because she's "obsessed" with Edward. Now, I get that Twilight is a love story -- I'm not going to demand that it be something it's not intended to be. But I can't get into a love story that has the heroine "obsessed" with the love interest after only knowing him for three days (Biology Incident, Biology Apology, and Parking Lot Collision) and exchanging maybe -- maybe -- a few thousand words with him. Most of which were hostile, antagonistic, or uncomfortably probing. Spoken in tones ranging from smug to smirking to aggressive. I'm just saying that no matter how pretty Edward is, I'm not buying this OBSESSION level from a character who is -- supposedly -- fairly mature and somewhat jaded.
But maybe I need a paradigm shift. Maybe Bella is obsessed with Edward because of her forced mature-and-jaded status. Maybe because her entire life has been built around caring for herself and Renee, she craves a smug knight in shining armor. Smugness, after all, could be mistaken for an indicator of competence -- which is surely something that Bella would prefer in a mate. She doesn't, after all, want yet another adult baby to take care of. His attractive features and wealthy family could additionally signal that he gets what he wants in life without too much of a struggle; a welcome change, perhaps, for someone who has been fighting tooth and nail to make ends meet on her mother's probably-small salary.
And yet, it's just so hard for me to envision someone from Bella's background falling so fast and so hard for someone who is acting like, well, an entitled pompous jerk. I would think that one of the few advantages of coming from a low-income, self-parented background would be that one's previous and frequent exposure with jerks makes one less likely to fall for one right out of the gate. I mean, Bella supposedly isn't the most sheltered person in the world if she's been buying the groceries and picking up the dry cleaning for years and years, so if nothing else you'd think she'd be well aware that Edward isn't the only pretty-but-jerky fish in the sea. I don't fault her for being interested, but obsessed? It doesn't mesh in my head.
I decided I might as well go to bed early that night. Charlie continued to watch me anxiously, and it was getting on my nerves. I stopped on my way to grab three Tylenol from the bathroom. They did help, and, as the pain eased, I drifted to sleep.
That was the first night I dreamed of Edward Cullen.
This actually sort of surprises me, because I would have thought the omg, is that creepy boy from Biology who looked like he wanted to hit me in class going to be there again tomorrow days of anticipation and dread would have resulted in a few dreams. But of course this means "That was the first night I noticed Edward Cullen coming into my bedroom," which is not quite the same thing.
And that's the end of Chapter 3, people. I'd brag that we whipped through that one in record time, but it was actually a pretty short chapter. And you thought when I said the author was rushing toward the end that I was joking, didn't you? ;)