Extra Content Note: Parental / Patriarchal Abuse.]
Twilight Summary: In Chapter 15, Bella gets to meet the Cullens.
Twilight, Chapter 15: The Cullens
If I recall correctly -- and I may well not be, so I leave it to ya'll to correct me on this -- this Weekend At Bella's was initially supposed to be a road-trip weekend with Edward taking Bella to a Big City (Seattle, I think? Port Angeles again?) so that she could find some nice books and do some shopping and just generally get out of Forks.
As I vaguely recall, this came about because the School Dance was this weekend, and Bella didn't want to go, so she made fake plans to leave town, but then decided they might as well be real plans to leave town because why not, and then Edward asked to drive her because
None of this really makes sense, because I don't see how her suitors will be less put-out by a trip-to-Seattle / home-all-weekend excuse when it's going to be rumored (Because Jessica) that it's with Edward. (Except that haha, I guess I do see how they'll be less put-out, if we're playing by Patriarchy Rules which says that a single Bella who doesn't want a date is a Problem but an owned-by-Edward Bella who doesn't want a date is safely owned by someone and also he had dibs. Patriarchy Rules are the worst.) Nor does it really make sense how Bella's NO, I'M NOT SEEING EDWARD IF I DISAPPEAR HE'S NOT AT FAULT insistence is going to work when Edward thinks the neighbors are watching him come and go, which is what prompted him to change his clothes, although maybe this is wishful thinking on his part since he requires surveillance as part of his abstinence.
At any rate, I don't really care whether it makes sense or not because I'm here for the feminism and not the plot holes. But I did want to do a quick recap so as to set the scene. The short version, as I understand it, is that Bella Had Plans but then Edward asked her to Not Have Plans and she said okay and now her weekend schedule is free. Which is why it makes sense that she now asks:
“What’s on the agenda for today?” I asked.
That's a good question. Ten points to Ravenclaw, which is where I'm assigning Bella because she enjoys some good honest Hot! Google! Action! whenever she gets a chance and also libraries.
It's a good question for a couple of reasons, (a) because it can be interpreted to mean that Bella is ready to actually do something with Edward today other than admire his sparkling pecs, which is probably a good step for the relationship and (b) because it can be interpreted to mean that, whether they spend the day admiring sparkling pecs or not, Bella would like to know what her immediate future holds. That seems more active than passive, hence the protagonist gold star.
It's less of a good question because, (c) given the relationship dynamic between these two so far, it's unclear whether Bella expects to have any say over the agenda's contents.
“Hmmm . . .” I watched him frame his answer carefully. “What would you say to meeting my family?”
“Are you afraid now?” He sounded hopeful.
“Yes,” I admitted; how could I deny it — he could see my eyes.
“Don’t worry.” He smirked. “I’ll protect you.”
I really hate Edward.
That's not a thing I sustain. I have to admit, after three years of doing Twilight posts, I don't wake up every morning hating Edward. (I definitely wake up hating Aslan but that's another post entirely, ha.) But then you hit pieces like this and it all comes rushing back because holy crap I hate Edward.
Edward is "hopeful" here because he wants Bella to have a 'healthier' fear of vampires, entirely careless of the fact that if she is going to have a genuinely healthy relationship with him, who is a vampire, and subsequently with his family who are vampires whose company he requires, then she kinda can't be more afraid of vampires because that would make the relationship exceedingly difficult if not impossible.
Like, I fear guys who remind me of my abusive ex-husband. I don't mean I fear they will hurt me, or I fear them such that I can't attend book club with them or whatever, but I would have a difficult if not impossible time being in an intimate relationship with them, because of the emotional triggers I have which can't be easily turned off. I wouldn't be able to feel safe and relaxed enough with them to enjoy any real intimacy; I wouldn't be able to bring up matters of potential conflict because I would be afraid of being harmed.
And I'm sure, as certain as I am that the snow is still outside, that Edward would say that is what he wants. That Bella shouldn't feel safe and relaxed around him, that she should be constantly on her toes for the one moment in which he loses control and kills her. But he would say that without understanding that that is not a healthy relationship. It's certainly not healthy for Bella. And if Edward wants Bella to be healthy, and to have a healthy relationship, it's not up to her to feel more fear -- it's up to him to mitigate the dangers she faces and make sure she doesn't have anything to fear (as much as possible).
So Edward being all ooga-booga-boo-fear-my-scary-family is abusive, even if he doesn't know it. And then him smirking at the fear that he wants her to have is definitely abusive and probably something he's fully aware of because he's a jackass who has fancy cars instead of empathy.
“I’m not afraid of them,” I explained. “I’m afraid they won’t . . . like me. Won’t they be, well, surprised that you would bring someone . . . like me . . . home to meet them? Do they know that I know about them?”
“Oh, they already know everything. They’d taken bets yesterday, you know” — he smiled, but his voice was harsh — “on whether I’d bring you back, though why anyone would bet against Alice, I can’t imagine. At any rate, we don’t have secrets in the family. It’s not really feasible, what with my mind reading and Alice seeing the future and all that.”
I'd like to know why anyone would bet against Alice on the matter of EDWARD KILLING SOMEONE. And, oh sure, they've all killed someone. (Except Carlisle. And sort of except Rosalie if you don't count her revenge kills. And maybe except Alice because she sees the future and that helps her self-control. And I guess Esme has killed people because they don't make a big deal out of her clean record like they do Carlisle, but it's really hard for me to envision her perfect-motherly-example losing control like that. But wev.) But I get why this is supposed to be the Cullens being all chillax about murder.
Except this isn't some random schoolmate they're betting on Edward offing. This is supposed to be the Love of his Life. And they know that, because that's why he doesn't want to leave her alone or kill her and be done with it. Plus, I kind of think Alice and Jasper would have picked up on that detail even if Edward hadn't told them, even though the text has made it pretty clear that he has told them. So they're not saying "Ten bucks Edward falls off the wagon and eats Mike", they're saying "Ten bucks Edward falls off the wagon and eats the one girl in a hundred years that he's had pants-feelings for". That seems unusually harsh, even for vampires.
At least since the Cullens are better characterized than the folks in Narnia, we can easily guess who bet against Edward: Emmett because he's violent and bloodthirsty and usually wrong, and Rosalie because she's jealous and blond and therefore bitchy. I also like to think that Jasper bet against him just because he knew Edward's personality well enough that he figured that would challenge him to keep Bella alive, in order to prove everyone wrong. Jasper seems like he'd understand psychology like that.
Anyway: It seems especially cruel of Edward to reveal all this to Bella right before she's about to go meet them and is worried about them liking her. Like, this comes off as:
Bella: "Will they accept me?"
Edward: "Sure. I mean several of them were hoping I'd kill you, but wev."
That seems useful, Edward. And definitely not one more piece of evidence that you prioritize your mopey-rights over Bella's right to feel safe and secure around people.
“And Jasper making you feel all warm and fuzzy about spilling your guts, don’t forget that.”
“You paid attention,” he smiled approvingly.
Yes. Because hearing that your boyfriend's adopted brother has a magical vampire ability that lets him alter your emotions at will is exactly the same as hearing that he collects train sets as a hobby. I seriously think Edward is trolling Bella now, like this is him condescendingly patting her on the head. Because really?
“I’ve been known to do that every now and then.” I grimaced. “So did Alice see me coming?”
His reaction was strange. “Something like that,” he said uncomfortably, turning away so I couldn’t see his eyes. I stared at him curiously.
“Is that any good?” he asked, turning back to me abruptly and eyeing my breakfast with a teasing look on his face. “Honestly, it doesn’t look very appetizing.”
“Well, it’s no irritable grizzly . . . ,” I murmured, ignoring him when he glowered. I was still wondering why he responded that way when I mentioned Alice. I hurried through my cereal, speculating.
I thought about cutting this because I'm (personally) so done with trying to figure out why Alice has the feels about Bella that she has and whether she can see the future properly or not and how she can see the future at all if people (like Bella) who are Magic Shields can throw off her calculations, since it seems like the Butterfly Effect would screw everything up, etc. I'm kinda done with that, personally, since future-seeing never really makes sense anyway.
But I left it in because it's really a good example of how:
(a) Edward isn't open and honest with Bella. Like, if Alice told him something about her future (like, "She's totes going to be a vampire if you guys stay together") then he should probably share that with Bella. (Especially if it was that Bella is going to be a vampire, because if Alice said that and Edward is trying to keep it from happening, then he's essentially betting against Alice, which he already said was a stupid thing to do.) And if Alice somehow managed to not tell him (and if anyone can outwit the telepath, I would guess it's the future-seer), then Edward should probably share that, too.
This is Bella's future we're talking about here; assuming that she has any choice in changing the outcome of it (and it's very much in-canon that future-seeing works that way in this universe, where knowing in advance lets you change the outcome) then Edward should share that information with Bella. That he refuses to trust her with the information is controlling and very problematic.
(b) Edward isn't even open and honest about not being open and honest. "I can't or don't want to tell you" is a much better answer to Bella's question than changing the subject. But avoidance is Edward's go-to in situations like this and it's very unhealthy and utterly anathema to honest communication with Bella. Because "I can't/don't want to tell you" would then open up the field to questions like "why not?" and "don't you think I deserve to know?" and Edward doesn't want to open that can of worms. It's much easier for him to leverage his privilege and the social pressure which says that a woman doggedly pursuing answers is a "nag".
(c) Edward's facial expressions can go to hell. Once again, I really question how deep the True Love is here. I think Edward is upset because Bella is being light-hearted and jokey about him being a vampire. If this is a problem for him because he hates his own nature, he needs to have that conversation with her--the sooner the better. If this is a problem for him because he doesn't like her casual attitude about vampires, then he needs to get over that and recognize that joking is a self-help mechanism for Bella and that her not being in fear all the time is a good thing.
I really cannot get on board with the idea that love, in addition to being patient and kind, wants the object of affection to be in a state of constant sustained terror. There are words for that desire, but those words aren't True Love. And speaking of, it's time for Edward to hector Bella about her family:
“And you should introduce me to your father, too, I think.” “He already knows you,” I reminded him.
“As your boyfriend, I mean.”
I stared at him with suspicion. “Why?”
“Isn’t that customary?” he asked innocently.
“I don’t know,” I admitted. My dating history gave me few reference points to work with. Not that any normal rules of dating applied here. “That’s not necessary, you know. I don’t expect you to . . . I mean, you don’t have to pretend for me.”
His smile was patient. “I’m not pretending.”
I pushed the remains of my cereal around the edges of the bowl, biting my lip.
“Are you going to tell Charlie I’m your boyfriend or not?” he demanded.
ALL THE ABUSE BELLS ARE GOING OFF.
I didn't cut anything there. We went from Edward acting innocent to Edward being "patient" (see Narnia for why that characterization is almost always a contradiction in terms, i.e., acting or looking notably patient is usually an indication that the character is impatient) to Edward flat-out demanding. That's a classic abuse escalation slope right there and it's dovetailing with classic abuse ownership demands, i.e., Edward wants to make it public and known that he owns Bella, including-and-especially to the men in her life who also think they own her--that is, her father.
There is no reason for this outside of ownership. If Edward just wants the surveillance to help himself not eat Bella, he could present himself to Charlie as a friend, a schoolmate, a study-buddy. (And while there are no platonic boy/girl relationships in Twilight, Charlie seems to think there are unless he is already aware of and okay with Jacob going after Bella. And that seems not to be something Charlie is aware of or okay with, so.) There's certainly no reason for Edward to demand that Bella present him to Charlie as a boyfriend now-now-now.
I'm sure that the canon explanation for this is that Edward is just so in love with Bella and so new at all this that he just wants to rush into all the boyfriendy stuff and experience it all at once. (And I do get that feeling. I get it.) But. Bella has incredibly compelling reasons for not running off to tell Charlie all this right away. For one thing, we already know that Charlie has gone into full-blown hymen-protection-mode, and that's not nothing. Yes, Edward can protect Bella if Charlie gets (more) abusive about their relationship. Yes, Bella and Edward can openly defy Charlie's rules if he starts demanding she not see Edward. (If nothing else, they can jet off to Isle Esme forever.)
But that doesn't mean that Bella necessarily wants an open break with her purity culture father just yet. And while there's no guarantee that would happen, it seems deeply problematic to me that Edward is essentially saying, right after Charlie tried to prevent Bella from visiting him (even if Charlie thought the visit would be to Mike, rather than Edward), that Bella has to chose. That Edward won't be a secret to Charlie, even if secret is what Bella needs right now. (Even if secret is what Edward has been his entire life.) That she has to pick between her father and her lover.
Even if Edward can be confident (because telepathy) that Charlie will be okay with a full-blown relationship right after Bella has moved to Forks (spoiler: Charlie isn't), there are other problems associated with insisting that Bella disclose her romantic relationship to Charlie right away. For one, Edward is pressuring her to make their new relationship "official", which will apply social pressure on Bella to remain in the relationship. (The strength of this social pressure cannot be underestimated. I got married despite very strong misgivings because I didn't feel like it was fair to everyone else for me to call off a relationship that made my friends and family so happy.)
For two, we're back to Edward's "old-fashioned" ideas of ownership over Bella's body; here it seems like he wants Charlie's permission to date his daughter because otherwise Edward is intruding on another man's property. I don't think I need to go into full detail about how terrible and grody that is, but the short version is that treating Bella like property and Charlie like the landowner who has to be consulted for the right to intrude is terrible and grody the end.
Oh, and also: Edward is an immortal vampire who has a tendency to kill people. Bella is allowed to not want him involved with her father just yet. I mean for christ's sakes, she doesn't have any idea how often Edward falls off the wagon or whether Edward might eat Charlie if he feels like Charlie is standing in the way of their relationship. It's one thing for Bella to be okay with risking her own life; it's entirely possible that she doesn't feel comfortable imposing that risk on other people she cares about.
“Is that what you are?” I suppressed my internal cringing at the thought of Edward and Charlie and the word boyfriend all in the same room at the same time. [...] “I was under the impression that you were something more, actually,” I confessed, looking at the table.
“Well, I don’t know if we need to give him all the gory details.” He reached across the table to lift my chin with a cold, gentle finger. “But he will need some explanation for why I’m around here so much. I don’t want Chief Swan getting a restraining order put on me.”
Oh for fuck's sake. Which is why it would be totally okay for your relationship to develop slowly and organically over time. Bella has--what? Half a year? A year and a half?--before graduation? There's absolutely no reason why you couldn't play a good game to the public, A MASQUERADE IF YOU WILL *AHEM*, and do a 'normal' teen romance, with the deeper True Love Forever stuff coming later when she's not living under Charlie's roof anymore, but WHATEVER WE'LL DO IT YOUR WAY TWILIGHT.
“Will you be?” I asked, suddenly anxious. “Will you really be here?”
“As long as you want me,” he assured me.
“I’ll always want you,” I warned him. “Forever.”
He walked slowly around the table, and, pausing a few feet away, he reached out to touch his fingertips to my cheek. His expression was unfathomable.
“Does that make you sad?” I asked.
He didn’t answer. He stared into my eyes for an immeasurable period of time.
“Are you finished?” he finally asked.
I jumped up. “Yes.”
“Get dressed — I’ll wait here.”
God, I hate Edward so much. Yes, let's just browbeat Bella into the ground on the whole boyfriend thing and then instill a lot of sads and guilts and doubts into her by making her feel like she shouldn't want you around forever and you might not be around forever and also just generally ordering her around and treating her like shit. Also, I don't remember Bella agreeing at any point to meet the family who jokingly bets on her life but I don't guess consent matters to Edward. Yikes.