Twilight Recap: Edward has been ignoring Bella for weeks as she sinks further into depression. Now the dance is coming up and Bella has encouraged Jessica to ask Mike out as her partner. Mike has stopped Bella in Biology class and demanded to know if she intends to ask him to the school dance; Bella has declined.
Twilight, Chapter 4: Invitations
And Edward was staring at me curiously, that same, familiar edge of frustration even more distinct now in his black eyes.
I stared back, surprised, expecting him to look quickly away. But instead he continued to gaze with probing intensity into my eyes. There was no question of me looking away. My hands started to shake.
We talked last week about Bella having depression, and speculated on whether her depression is meant to be situational or chemical, so it's probably not surprising that the first thing I would notice this week is the shaking hands.
I have some experience with anxiety, which is not the same as depression. I think my anxiety is due to a chemical imbalance, but I've managed to find solutions with self-distraction. My particular version of anxiety is kind of a circular escalation: something is bad, I can't fix it, my mind goes around and around in circles, the problem seems worse the more I go over it, rinse, repeat. I've gotten very good at distracting myself with the mental equivalent of OH LOOK! A PUPPY!, but even with practice it's really something of a crapshoot if distraction will really work on a given subject. When the distraction doesn't work and it's time for full on anxiety time, it's actually very standard for my hands to shake.
So I actually don't blame Bella at all for having shaking hands here, although at first glance I'll admit it read as rather melodramatic to me. But, no, on further reflection, it makes sense that she'd have an ingrained anxious reaction to the guy who initially reacted to her with obvious hostility, then went to a lot of trouble to avoid her, then warmed to her appreciably, then did something impossible in order to save her life, and then shunned her for some weeks in the wake of the accident. That's Fear, Puzzlement, Attraction, Confusion + Existential Angst, and Depression all rolled up into one person and that's a lot to handle.
The problem with this as an explanation is that it's not a good start for a relationship. Remember what I said about distraction techniques to lessen anxiety? In my experience, the distraction is pretty much all or nothing: I can forget Edward Cullen exists (no anxiety) or I can remember Edward Cullen exists (high anxiety). I can't remember the lusty, perfect bits of Edward Cullen and just conveniently forget the frightening, confusing bits. Now that's how it works for me; maybe Bella's anxiety works differently. But I would say that, in general, if the mere sight of someone is enough to set you off with anxiety shakes, then a relationship with that person possibly won't pan out that well, even if they turn out to love you completely. Anxiety isn't logical like that, I'm afraid.
I looked down at my book as soon as his eyes released me, trying to find my place. Cowardly as ever, I shifted my hair over my right shoulder to hide my face. I couldn't believe the rush of emotion pulsing through me -- just because he'd happened to look at me for the first time in a half-dozen weeks. I couldn't allow him to have this level of influence over me. It was pathetic. More than pathetic, it was unhealthy.
And then there's this. It probably is unhealthy for Bella to shake when she looks at Edward: anxiety problems are pretty much by definition an unhealthy level of anxiety. But there's a lot of assumptions packed into this statement that need to be unpacked.
Bella's anxious reaction isn't something she can "allow" or disallow to Edward based on her wants and decisions. It may be natural for her to think so, and to narrate her feelings thusly, but the fact of the matter is that if Bella has anxiety problems, she can't just flip that switch by choice: it's going to take counseling, training, practice, and possibly medication to get to that point. In the meantime, her physical reaction to the uncontrollable anxiety that his presence causes for her doesn't make her a bad or pathetic person: it means she's been through a pretty intense few weeks with a person who was a major focal point (and not in a good way) through several bizarre and frightening situations, and her body is responding to that.
Now, Bella doesn't have control over her anxiety but she does have control over her actions. Since she realizes that her anxiety is harmful to her and that Edward is a major trigger for her, it would be wise for her to not get into a relationship with him. Beyond the residual anxiety that he is going to trigger in her (because a promotion to boyfriend doesn't rewire your brain into magicking the anxiety away), there's also a major danger that he might leave her, which could send the anxiety back with a vengeance and send her spiraling into a deeper depression. I don't expect Bella to instinctively realize that, but this would be a good place for her counselor to step in and provide some valuable advice.
But now I'm feeling a little too serious, and I'm going to switch gears. What if Bella doesn't have anxiety issues at all? We know that one of the Cullens, Jasper Hale -- and if the Cullens are "cold ones" are the Hales "hearty"? Puns! -- has the magical power of mood control and we also know that Bella is susceptible to it. We've speculated in the past that the Cullens really cannot have kept their cover for so long without having multiple contingency plans in place for this very situation: a person exists who can blow their cover. They should be scrambling to intimidate, bribe, silence, or discredit Bella -- or possible all of the above at once -- and yet we've not seen any evidence of that. We've also speculated that the best thing they can do is involve Bella in a romantic relationship with whichever one of them she will have, but Edward seems to be doing his best to shut that down as quickly as possible.
So what's Plan C here? It would seem to me that thoroughly infusing Bella with fear and anxiety every time she looks at Edward might be a distant third option. It would have to be handled very carefully so that she wouldn't tip over the other end and go around spouting off her suspicions, but if Jasper can fine-tune her emotions so that she's not outright scared and paranoid, but instead merely uneasy, unsettled, and driven to distraction, it might buy them some time to get out of Forks in a quiet, non-suspicious manner.
This would at least reconcile how Bella's anxiety is magicked away once Edward starts declaring his undying love for her.
When the bell rang at last, I turned my back to him to gather my things, expecting him to leave immediately as usual.
"Bella?" His voice shouldn't have been so familiar to me, as if I'd known the sound of it all my life rather than for just a few short weeks.
I'm not going to comment on this. I want to; I can't. Anything I wrote would just look like what does that mean I don't even what.
I mean, what does that mean? I don't even. What. Is there some sort of "familiar voice" level that peoples' voices get when they know each other for a long time? How does that work? There are people whose voices are so distinct, I could pick them out of a blindfolded line-up after a single conversation, so who's to say Edward's voice isn't like that? I mean, what if he sounds like Gilbert Gottfried, we don't know.
And on the other hand, it's remarkably easy for people to confuse my husband and his son on the phone, and my dad occasionally confuses my aunt -- his sister -- for me on the phone. Is three decades of knowing me and six decades of knowing his sister not enough time to put us into the "familiar voice" bucket? Or are our voices "familiar" but just not "distinct" from each other? I mean, seriously, what does this statement mean? I'm asking.
This is the train ride inside my head.
I turned slowly, unwillingly. I didn't want to feel what I knew I would feel when I looked at his too-perfect face. My expression was wary when I finally turned to him; his expression was unreadable. He didn't say anything.
"What? Are you speaking to me again?" I finally asked, an unintentional note of petulance in my voice.
His lips twitched, fighting a smile. "No, not really," he admitted.
We have officially graduated from a perfect face to a too-perfect face. Isn't that nice? My hope is that this will continue to escalate and by the end of the book Edward's face will be so perfect that it actually burns the people who look at him. Kind of like how fairy food ruins your taste buds for anything else, but with eyeballs instead.
Just to recap, Edward has been shunning Bella all week and Bella has finally reached a sort of "depression plateau" where it still bothers her, but she's given up hope of the situation getting any better, and as such she's potentially on the road to recovery which will involve a destination of Acceptance. So, just to utterly muck that up, Edward has decided to call Bella's name, and then when she looks at him, return to his previous state of shunning. Who says Edward can't gas-light like a pro? I guess he just needed to hit his stride.
And then we're back to Bella describing herself like a child. Children are petulant; adults are irritated, annoyed, and utterly tired of being toyed with. Look, here is a man who has been nothing but a jerk as far as Bella knows. He was hostile and aggressive on their first meeting, avoided her for days afterward, acted like none of that had happened at their second meeting (which can be very unsettling for the other party) and was intrusive about her personal life, and then when queried about an impossible feat he performed, he was insulting and hostile in addition to also breaking a promise. Since then, despite Bella's submissive attempts to converse with him, he's been dismissive and rude. And now he's being more dismissive and rude. Bella isn't being petulant, she's annoyed at having her chain yanked and the narrative should say so.
Bella shouldn't be describing herself as petulant. I would hazard that it is impossible to be petulant and describe oneself as such at the same time. And even if Bella hates herself with a passion, it's still not a word that fits to me. It just seems... out of place. There are times when I feel like Bella hates herself because she has low self-esteem, and there are time when I just feel like the author hates Bella.
I closed my eyes and inhaled slowly through my nose, aware that I was gritting my teeth. He waited.
"Then what do you want, Edward?" I asked, keeping my eyes closed; it was easier to talk to him coherently that way.
"I'm sorry." He sounded sincere. "I'm being very rude, I know. But it's better this way, really."
And it's hard for me to reconcile Edward's smirking at his own bad behavior with him "sounding sincere" in his next statement. Sincerity isn't something that's conveyed solely through the voice, such that if you could just find the perfect pitch and tone, you could perfectly mimic sincerity. Sincerity is conveyed through actions, through body language, and -- yes -- through context. If I say "I'm really very sorry I'm annoying you" while smirking like a Cheshire Cat before and after the statement, it doesn't matter what my voice sounds like: I will not "sound sincere" under those circumstances.
"I don't know what you mean," I said, my voice guarded.
"It's better if we're not friends," he explained. "Trust me."
My eyes narrowed. I'd heard that before.
Complete de-rail, but where has Bella heard this before? How? Under what circumstances? Edward is supposed to be her first love. It's fairly clear in text that Bella doesn't actively pursue boys and hasn't in the past. How has she ever been told by a boy that it's better if they aren't friends? Is this just a reader insert hook? I demand fanfic explaining this.
"It's too bad you didn't figure that out earlier," I hissed through my teeth. "You could have saved yourself all this regret."
"Regret?" The word, and my tone, obviously caught him off guard. "Regret for what?"
"For not just letting that stupid van squish me."
He was astonished. He stared at me in disbelief.
When he finally spoke, he almost sounded mad. "You think I regret saving your life?"
"I know you do," I snapped.
"You don't know anything." He was definitely mad.
Edward is mad.
Edward is mad at Bella.
Edward is mad at Bella because Bella is accusing him of regret for saving her life. Edward is so mad he could explode. Who does she think she is? Why, he risked a lot to save her life. He nearly had to leave his family, and his family may yet have to leave Forks. It will hurt to leave Forks, but if they don't, they might be discovered and that will mean they'll become fugitives not just from the humans but also from the other vampires. They'll be hunted. They'll be killed. The people Edward loves, that he considers his closest family. All for this girl he barely knows, a girl who isn't even grateful enough to not question him, why he could just spit. No wonder he's mad. This girl wasn't even worth saving, why...
...oh wait. Yeah. Edward pretty much does regret saving Bella. Nevermind.
I'm trying to be open-minded about Edward, I really am. This isn't the I Hate Edward And You Should Too blog, I swear. I want to be fair to all the characters, and that includes Edward. But... Edward is mad. Edward is clearly mad. Edward is, for the second? third? fourth? time in 50 pages openly hostile and aggressive to a girl who is significantly smaller and weaker than he. And he is mad because she's accusing him of something completely reasonable from her point of view: his entire behavior since the accident has been one big neon I Hate You Please Die sign, and I think it's reasonable to assume that if someone feels that way about you, then they might well regret saving you from death a few weeks ago.
Edward hasn't just been anti-social to Bella, he's been openly shunning her. He refuses to talk to her. He leans as far away from her as possible in class. Assuming they have been given any class assignments in Biology, he's been either snatching the paper from her and filling it all out on his side of the table, or he's been letting her do all the work. He bolts from the room as soon as class is over. His every movement makes it clear that he hates Bella.
Sure, it's a romantic setup. Sure, it's meant to be Hilarious in Hindsight when they hook up later on. Bells and Eddie can chortle over the old days while they romp in the forest meadow: "You thought I hated you? No! I was burning with unresolved sexual tension for you!" "Oh Eddie!" But right now, right this very minute, Edward's body language says I Hate You Please Die. And Edward must know that. He cannot not know that, it is literally impossible. Not after 100 years of life. Not after 100 years of reading minds and learning how people interpret body language. Not. Possible.
So if Edward knows that Bella is perfectly reasonable to assume he regrets saving her life, why is he mad? Why mad and not sad or disappointed or amused or contrite or despondent or anything except mad? My feeling is that Edward is mad because Bella isn't being properly submissive. She's calling him out for his bad behavior; she's openly saying I see your I Hate You Please Die sign and I acknowledge it, Jerkface and that makes Edward mad. He risked everything for her, and she should know that, even though she absolutely can't know that because he won't share with her the impossible truth that he's a vampire and if anyone finds out then the Italian vampires will come burn their house down and can he please explain it with the chess pieces again?
Edward can't even be mad because Bella is wrong, because she's not. She's not only "not wrong" from her perspective of being hostilely shunned; she's "not wrong" from his perspective. Edward does regret saving Bella. Not from a "I have no regrets" Frank Sinatra-esque global perspective, maybe; he loves her and values her life immensely. But from a "crap, I've really put my family in a bind and I know it" perspective, you bet he does. There's a part of him that wishes he could go back to that day and do it all over again... maybe not to let Bella die, but to save her in a safer, less conspicuous way, sure. He has regrets! They're written all over his face! Bella calls him out on them! And he's mad. Hostile. Aggressive. Angry. And he shows it.
Edward Cullen is Buck Williams. There's no other way to say it.
I meant to sweep dramatically out of the room, but of course I caught the toe of my boot on the doorjamb and dropped my books. I stood there for a moment, thinking about leaving them. Then I sighed and bent to pick them up. He was there; he'd already stacked them into a pile. He handed them to me, his face hard.
"Thank you," I said icily.
His eyes narrowed.
"You're welcome," he retorted.
Edward is a 100-year-old person who has no willingness to engage courteously or kindly with the person he's supposedly madly in love with. I know that the excuse is that this is the first time he's had Special Feelings for anyone and that this is affecting his judgment, but there's a point where I have to wonder what the intended reader response is supposed to be?
Are we supposed to see Edward as chivalrous for calling Bella's name, refusing to talk to her beyond that, clearly messing with her head and her heart, being openly hostile when called on it, and then snotty and passive-aggressive when he helps her with her books? You don't get a cookie for basic human behavior and I just don't feel like Edward gets any cookies for today, regardless of the book-picking-up. You hear that, Edward? No cookies for you.
Try again tomorrow.