Content Note: Oppressive Parenting, Dangerous Relationships, Continued References to Bella's Near-Rape
Twilight Recap: Edward and Bella have concluded their dinner conversation and are heading back to Bella's house.
Twilight, Chapter 9: Theory
Alright, folks, today we're just polishing off Chapter 9. And since I've been feeling like I've been coming off as really negative lately, what with Narnia and Game of Thrones and The Avengers and everything else, and since I really do feel like a fluffy bunny person on the inside (most days) and since there's nothing too egregious left in this chapter but we need to finish it up anyway, this is going to be one of those Nice Twilight days.
*deep breath* Nice thoughts.
"Will I see you tomorrow?" I demanded.
"Yes -- I have a paper due, too." He smiled. "I'll save you a seat at lunch."
It was silly, after everything we'd been through tonight, how that little promise sent flutters through my stomach, and made me unable to speak.
I really don't like how cavalierly this chapter has treated Bella's near-rape as though it wasn't a genuinely traumatic experience as opposed to a narrative ploy. (See also my feelings on the in-text treatment of Bella's near-death experience with the Van Incident.) And I really don't like how Bella has been so la-de-da-whatever about Edward's essential nature as if facts were something to be assiduously avoided because they might get in the way of True Love.
But I do like that there's a ring of realism here: the night has been full of shocks and terrors, but the moment that really gets Bella's heart pounding is the moment where she hears she'll see Edward again tomorrow and that they'll continue to be friends-or-more. That rings true to me, if only because it has a feel of grappling with the future near-term rather than trying to unpack the horrible past or the (potentially) problematic far-future. For now, Bella is concentrating on tomorrow and tomorrow she will eat lunch with Edward. It's the little things in life here being savored.
And, heck, I'll also cop to liking this because it's dealing with Edward and Bella's relationship in a moment of normalcy: Will we eat lunch tomorrow? is less dramatic and more healthy than Will you be turning me into an immortal vampire soon? which is, I think, what most of their conversations will be soon enough. So it's nice to see an injection of normal teen high school-ish-ness in the romance here.
I considered that for a moment, then nodded. I pulled his jacket off, taking one last whiff.
"You can keep it -- you don't have a jacket for tomorrow," he reminded me.
I handed it back to him. "I don't want to have to explain to Charlie."
I don't like that once again Edward's generosity is framed in terms of Bella's needs, when it would have been just as simple -- and far more honest and straight-forward -- to say something nice like Keep it; you look good in it or something else complimentary as opposed to trying to hinge this all on some kind of logical reason for why Bella needs Edward to give her dinner, jackets, rides to Seattle, etc.
But I do like that Bella is showing some thinking ahead and proactivity: she knows that Charlie will snoop, and she doesn't try to lie to Edward about it. She isn't ready to tell Charlie about him, and so she won't take the jacket. And -- surprisingly for the Twilight-universe -- that's that. Edward doesn't force her to accept the jacket anyway or argue her into it or dazzle her with his vampire glamor. He doesn't insist on going in right then and there to meet Charlie and to narc out Bella for being nearly-raped and without her can of pepper spray handy. In short, Bella makes a decision -- a decision based on controlling her sexuality outside the supervision of her overbearing father -- and that decision is respected without drama.
"Bella?" he asked in a different tone -- serious, but hesitant. [...] "Will you promise me something?"
"Yes," I said, and instantly regretted my unconditional agreement. What if he asked me to stay away from him? I couldn't keep that promise.
"Don't go into the woods alone." [...]
"I'm not always the most dangerous thing out there. Let's leave it at that."
I actually don't know what this is all about. Either Edward is warning Bella about non-Cullen vampires which Alice usually senses in plenty of time and which the Cullens (if I remember correctly) usually manage to persuade not to hunt on their territory in order to keep suspicion off themselves, or Edward is warning Bella about the Quileute werewolves which wouldn't even exist if the Cullens hadn't come back to here of all places (pet peeve: the white Cullens placing their desire to live in Forks above the comfort and safety of the dark local natives, and no one ever pointing this out in-text) and who don't (if I understand correctly) hunt humans in the first place. Maybe there's something else dangerous in the Forks forest we don't know about? Please let it be a Lich King.
But we were talking about things I liked today. I like that Edward's question had a hint of an implied 'please' in it, which is the closest to good manners as we've seen from him in awhile. I like that Bella instinctively said "yes" (I do this all the time) and then reflected that such a verbal reflex doesn't bind her to something exorbitant just because she wasn't super special wary with her agreement. I like that Edward doesn't take advantage of the situation and try to manipulate her agreement into something exorbitant.
I don't like that he doesn't explain what the actual danger is so that Bella can be fore-warned and fore-prepared (Knowing is half the battle!), but maybe Edward is bound to secrecy by an ancient oath and actually takes that promise seriously.
I reached for the key mechanically, unlocked the door, and stepped inside.
Charlie called from the living room. "Bella?"
"Yeah, Dad, it's me." I walked in to see him. He was watching a baseball game.
"You're home early."
"Am I?" I was surprised.
"It's not even eight yet," he told me. "Did you girls have fun?"
"Yeah -- it was lots of fun." My head was spinning as I tried to remember all the way back to the girls' night out I had planned. "They both found dresses."
"Are you all right?"
"I'm just tired. I did a lot of walking."
"Well, maybe you should go lie down." He sounded concerned. I wondered what my face looked like.
I don't like that Charlie is presented in the series as ping-ponging between a truly uninterested parent who is almost hostile to the idea of spending time with his teenage daughter as opposed to "traditionally manly" pursuits such as sports and fishing, but then oscillates over into being incredibly overprotective of his daughter's sex-and-dating life because That's What Dads Do. There's something like five harmful stereotypes in all that mess and I hate them all.
But I do like this scene because it shows Charlie as actually paying attention to Bella (he notes that she looks dazed and tired) and he demonstrates concern for her that has nothing to do with Boys, Virginity, and Hymens. She's surprised him by coming home earlier than he expected, and then answers his questions in a dazed manner, and he asks her if maybe she shouldn't go lie down. I like this, and I wish more of the Bella/Charlie interactions were this fluid and squick-free.
"I'm just going to call Jessica first."
"Weren't you just with her?" he asked, surprised.
"Yes -- but I left my jacket in her car. I want to make sure she brings it tomorrow."
"Well, give her a chance to get home first."
I like this scene because it actually made me smile. Bella is trying not to be caught in her web of silent lies about how she got home and with whom and Charlie is assuming that his impulsive daughter hasn't thought about how long it takes to get from the Swan house to the... does Jessica have a last name, people? Here, Stanley.
The phone rang suddenly, startling me. I yanked it off the hook.
"Hello?" I asked breathlessly.
"Hey, Jess, I was just going to call you."
"You made it home?" Her voice was relieved . . . and surprised.
"Yes. I left my jacket in your car -- could you bring it to me tomorrow?"
"Sure. But tell me what happened!" she demanded.
"Um, tomorrow -- in Trig, okay?"
She caught on quickly. "Oh, is your dad there?"
"Yes, that's right."
"Okay, I'll talk to you tomorrow, then. Bye!" I could hear the impatience in her voice.
I like this scene for probably-unintended reasons. Jessica is "surprised" that Bella is home (Why? Did she think Edward would seduce her away for reasons of passion or for reasons of vampiric hunger, or does this just reflect that the Cullen-fast-driving made up for the time Bella took eating dinner?) and yet she called the house anyway. What was Jessica, who is clearly happy to be Bella's comrade-in-arms in the field of Keeping Secrets From Dads, going to say if Charlie picked up the phone and Bella wasn't home yet?
I have a few theories, all of which flesh out an actual character for Jessica. One, she was going to tell Charlie the truth, that Bella would be coming home with Edward. This would be the responsible thing to do if Jessica and Angela talked about it on the way home and decided that leaving Bella with Edward was a dangerous thing to do, and that someone in a position of authority needed to be aware of Bella's whereabouts and primed for action if she didn't come home in time. Two, she was going to cover for Bella with some kind of story about being delayed and maybe Bella might even need to stay overnight at the Stanley's so if Bella didn't come home, Charlie wasn't to be worried. This would be the True Blue Buddies thing to do if Jessica really didn't see Edward as dangerous and she had cottoned on to Bella's deep crush.
Note that neither of these things are things I automatically recommend: in the first case, if Charlie is abusive, the revelation of Edward could bring harm to Bella; in the second case, if Edward is dangerous, the hiding of Bella's whereabouts could bring harm to Bella. But they are proactive things and I like to imagine Jessica planning one or more of them and being an actor in the story instead of just a reactor. Plus, I like her catching on quickly to why Bella is being so coy over the phone. Jessica seems like the kind of high school friend that I would have appreciated; far more so than Bella clearly does.
I walked up the stairs slowly, a heavy stupor clouding my mind. I went through the motions of getting ready for bed without paying any attention to what I was doing. It wasn't until I was in the shower -- the water too hot, burning my skin -- that I realized I was freezing. I shuddered violently for several minutes before the steaming spray could finally relax my rigid muscles. Then I stood in the shower, too tired to move, until the hot water began to run out.
I stumbled out, wrapping myself securely in a towel, trying to hold the heat from the water in so the aching shivers wouldn't return. I dressed for bed swiftly and climbed under my quilt, curling into a ball, hugging myself to keep warm. A few small shudders trembled through me.
I don't really like that 99.9% of this physical emotion is probably supposed to be Edward-directed, when I would still like some acknowledgement that the whole "nearly gang raped" thing would be traumatic. (I also don't really like that it still hasn't occurred to anyone to tell the Chief of Police downstairs about the rapists in Port Angeles, but knowing how Charlie responds to Bella's sexual assault later in the series, I guess I can hardly blame her for not wanting to open that can of worms.)
But! I do like that we're at least being treated to a semi-realistic portrayal of shock and acknowledgement of same. And even if this is entirely Edward-related, it makes some sense that finding out the guy you've imprinted on (or whatever we want to call it) is not the guy you grew up dreaming about, but is instead a member of the ranks of the undead, who may or may not be plotting to murder you and/or your family, and a relationship with him may mean re-evaluating a lot of life goals and things previously taken for granted. These all seem like things worthy of a moment of serious shock.
About three things I was absolutely positive. First, Edward was a vampire. Second, there was part of him -- and I didn't know how potent that part might be -- that thirsted for my blood. And third, I was unconditionally and irrevocably in love with him.
And I like this because it fits so nicely on the back of the book dust jacket. I mean, seriously, if you don't mind spoiling the readers for the vampire reveal, then this is such an eloquent-if-melodramatic summation of the entire book. I wish all book pitches that I read (and write) are as accurate and punchy as this.