[Twilight Content Note: Murder, Abusive Relationships, Winning At Patriarchy.]
Twilight Summary: In Chapter 18, the text tries to remind us that vampires are scary.
Twilight, Chapter 18: The Hunt
Things are happening now! It's all very exciting! Maybe? When we last left our star-crossed couple, it was kinda confusing because non-vegetarian vampires were about to visit the Cullens in their baseball clearing and they were arriving at a rate that made it impossible for Edward to just carry Bella off to a safe distance, but not at a rate that made it impossible for the Cullens to go back to playing their game after talking for a bit.
It was especially weird and frustrating because we all recognize that vampires might not be okay with taking the Cullens' word on the human being okay with all this and not informing the other humans and/or the very vengeful Volturi who might not have existed at this point in the series, but the actual Cullens themselves seem incapable of figuring out that might be a possible response to introducing a human to the non-vegetarian vampires.
And, I mean, this pisses me off. Because even if they legitimately couldn't hide Bella, they could have strolled out to the visitors and said, "Hey, wait, here's the thing. We wanna meet you, but we have a human with us. She's safe, we have her enthralled, and there will be turning later, but we have to wait for the right timing because of our established-in-society cover story. So if you don't want to meet her because you don't want her to see your faces, or don't want to get in trouble with the V-men, that's cool. We'll just take you to our house from here."
You know, this might not have worked. But it would probably have worked better than what is actually about to happen. (And I really cannot parse out how Carlisle thought his actual plan could have worked at all since it hinged on the vampires not noticing that Bella is human, i.e., not noticing the one thing Edward said they couldn't fail to notice. So.) But whatever, I think we've all agreed this is just a plot device to make vampires scary again. Fine.
THEY EMERGED ONE BY ONE FROM THE FOREST EDGE, ranging a dozen meters apart. The first male into the clearing fell back immediately, allowing the other male to take the front, orienting himself around the tall, dark-haired man in a manner that clearly displayed who led the pack. The third was a woman; from this distance, all I could see of her was that her hair was a startling shade of red.
[...] As they approached, I could see how different they were from the Cullens. Their walk was catlike, a gait that seemed constantly on the edge of shifting into a crouch. They dressed in the ordinary gear of backpackers: jeans and casual button-down shirts in heavy, weatherproof fabrics. The clothes were frayed, though, with wear, and they were barefoot. Both men had cropped hair, but the woman’s brilliant orange hair was filled with leaves and debris from the woods.
I'm not really sure why vampires would crouch or run like cats since the reasons why humans don't run like cats don't seem like reasons that would be affected by vampirism, but the point is that these are scary feral vampires in contrast to the "more polished, urbane" Cullens and yes that is an actual description of Carlisle that appears right here in this chapter.
Then there's a lot of description about how beautiful the vampires are (because of course they are wait evolution does not work that way) but in a wild chaotic animalistic way because they're uncivilized and yada yada. And of course all this is hugely problematic except I don't even know how many more times I can talk about Twilight's love affair with owning sports cars and Armani tube socks or whatever, before it just becomes, like, a repetitive rage-blur. Can we all pretend I used this space to explain yet again why Rich Is Moral/Polished and Poor Is Immoral/Feral is hugely awful and leave it at that?
Anyway, the new vampires (Laurent, Victoria, James) say they heard a game and ask if they can play (which, what? so the fact that their game sounded like lightning... that only applies to human ears? vampires can detect the difference in sound between lightning and vampire-baseball? including feral vampires who travel in groups of three and have probably never had enough players for a game of... you know what? forget it.) and Carlisle says that whoops they were just leaving.
“Do you have room for a few more players?” Laurent asked sociably.
Carlisle matched Laurent’s friendly tone. “Actually, we were just finishing up. But we’d certainly be interested another time. Are you planning to stay in the area for long?”
So, I mean, Carlisle could have said "yes! absolutely! more players! GO LONG!" and thrown the ball as far as he could have in order to shuffle Bella off the field while the three cat-like vampires dart after their new toy, but instead he keeps the vampires right there and talks to them for, lemme count. Carlisle says 135 words before he tries to get Bella to leave. That's interspersed with 5 responses from Laurent, during which (a) Laurent clearly isn't informed that a human is listening, and therefore (b) Laurent shares a lot of confidential vampire stuff like where the trio has been and where they are going. In front of a human. Who he was not warned about.
It needs to be said: Carlisle is a colossal jackass.
And of course when Carlisle does tell Bella to skedaddle, he does so in a way that draws attention to the group of people trying to slip away.
“We’ll show you the way if you’d like to run with us — Emmett and Alice, you can go with Edward and Bella to get the Jeep,” he casually added.
The text will then blame the discovery of Bella on an ill-fated burst of breeze, but really this is Carlisle's fault for keeping the vampires here instead of strolling them down to the field while talking to them about something vaguely interesting. And if Jasper can throw Calm down on the emotions (and the text clearly states that he is doing precisely that), then he can throw down a decent dose of Trusting and Amused while Edward sneaks off to ostensibly make out with his girlfriend or whatever. I am judging all the Cullens so hard right now.
My hair ruffled with the light breeze, Edward stiffened, and the second male, James, suddenly whipped his head around, scrutinizing me, his nostrils flaring.
A swift rigidity fell on all of them as James lurched one step forward into a crouch. Edward bared his teeth, crouching in defense, a feral snarl ripping from his throat. It was nothing like the playful sounds I’d heard from him this morning; it was the single most menacing thing I had ever heard, and chills ran from the crown of my head to the back of my heels.
Fair warning in advance: 90% of this chapter is about how the Cullens are totes scary now that they're acting like wild feral animals instead of civilized Armani-wearers. Because they weren't scary when they were threatening to eat Bella, or murder her would-be rapists, or hauling her back across parking lots, or being abusive shits in general, or being totally chill about visiting human-eating vampires, but now they've crossed a line on account of growling. So's we're all on the same page, etc.
And, I mean. I dunno. Like, I get that there's a sense here that the book is worried that it woobied-up the vampires just a touch too much, made them too tame and approachable, and now it wants to whammy into us that NOPE these guys are scary and Bella is playing with fire and also her boyfriend is even more badass than previously thought so now it's super awesome that he's protecting her instead of consuming her. I mean, I get that. I do. But. But.
Once again we have the Bella Overreaction Shot. It's not enough for the sound to be more scary-making than the play-growls this morning; it has to be the single most menacing thing ever and she has to have a visceral bodily reaction. And I just... I don't... It's hard for me to mesh together "boyfriend making back-off-jerkface sound, and is clearly intent on protecting me" with the highest level of holy crap ever. A sound can be inherently startling, sure, and possibly even inherently frightening, but for it to sound menacing, doesn't Bella have to feel menaced? As in, "threatened in a malignant or hostile manner"? By Edward?
Maybe this is just one of those Mark Twain moments, I don't know. But the fact that Edward has been threatening her in a hostile manner throughout the rest of the book makes this a particularly confusing moment for me--Bella feels menaced when Edward is protecting her, but does not feel menaced when he does threaten her. What.
“What’s this?” Laurent exclaimed in open surprise.
Laurent is surprised because, you know, human. But me personally, I'd be surprised because, you know, human you didn't warn us about before you pumped us for information.
“You brought a snack?” he asked, his expression incredulous as he took an involuntary step forward. Edward snarled even more ferociously, harshly, his lip curling high above his glistening, bared teeth. Laurent stepped back again.
Sadly, the text does not update us on whether this new Edward growl becomes the NEW single-most-menacing-etc.
“I said she’s with us,” Carlisle corrected in a hard voice.
“But she’s human,” Laurent protested. The words were not at all aggressive, merely astounded.
“Yes.” Emmett was very much in evidence at Carlisle’s side, his eyes on James. James slowly straightened out of his crouch, but his eyes never left me, his nostrils still wide. Edward stayed tensed like a lion in front of me.
When Laurent spoke, his tone was soothing — trying to defuse the sudden hostility. “It appears we have a lot to learn about each other.”
“Indeed.” Carlisle’s voice was still cool.
“But we’d like to accept your invitation.” His eyes flicked toward me and back to Carlisle. “And, of course, we will not harm the human girl. We won’t hunt in your range, as I said.”
And, like, can I point something out here? Carlisle is a colossal asshole. I mean, I realize that Peter Facinelli did the best he could with the role, and frankly I am impress, but Carlisle Cullen, as written on the page, completely fails to live up to his Most Compassionate Person Ever reputation.
Because this whole exchange makes it entirely clear that the peace-maker in this exchange is Laurent. Carlisle, who is the one Cullen who very definitely has a history with Established Vampire Society, opens this exchange by hiding Bella from Laurent in such a way that Laurent reveals things to her that he would not otherwise have revealed. Then, when Carlisle's lie of omission is discovered, he turns ambiguous ("She's with us" is the most uninformative statement ever in this situation) in a way that escalates the situation even more and further underscores that Carlisle is an asshole and deceitful. And then Carlisle starts stubbornly and sullenly repeating himself in clipped tones.
Like, there is nothing inherently wrong with acting like that, but it is not going to read as compassionate or even honest to most people. It reads as hostile and deceitful, with a thick overlay of passive-aggression. And the whole time, it is Laurent who is being polite and using tact and words to draw out the information he deserves to know, i.e., what the hell is going on and how do the Cullens want them to react to the situation. He is actually charming and gracious (which of course will be later used to imply that he's the more moral of the feral-trio, because Twilight's value system is fucked in so many ways), in ways that "polished, urbane" Carlisle can only dream about. But we're not supposed to notice that, apparently, because Carlisle rolled a natural-20 on Privilege and that makes him always right at all the things.
James glanced in disbelief and aggravation at Laurent and exchanged another brief look with Victoria, whose eyes still flickered edgily from face to face.
James and Victoria are evil, for the record, but even if they were not, this is pretty much how I would expect them to react in the face of Carlisle's completely inappropriate behavior. Like, I am disbelief at how exactly Carlisle expected this to go down and how he thought it would go better than this; I am aggravation at him defending Bella in the most ineffectual, lukewarm, assholish way; and I'd be taking in everyone's face in a valiant attempt to gather some sense of what the fuck. But, you know, I suppose the polished people would handle this situation better.
Carlisle measured Laurent’s open expression for a moment before he spoke. “We’ll show you the way. Jasper, Rosalie, Esme?” he called. They gathered together, blocking me from view as they converged. Alice was instantly at my side, and Emmett fell back slowly, his eyes locked on James as he backed toward us.
WHAT. They are blocking her from view. WHY. They've already seen her, already committed her to memory, and supposedly there's no chance they could fling themselves on her without the Cullens intervening, so what does this accomplish besides telegraphing total distrust in Laurent's promise to not harm their human girl? I mean, by all means, do not trust the human-eating vampire, but don't pull out a megaphone and announce PARDON ME, SIR, WE THINK YOU ARE A LYING JACKASS. Because that's just going to remind Laurent that Carlisle is a lying jackass (or close enough to count) and that's not going to help the situation.
And, frankly? Honestly? The worst thing the Cullens can do at this point is take Bella away. Because at this point, the main things the vampires can find out further from her is things that would humanize her to them and make her an unacceptable prey target. Assuming Bella doesn't do anything stupid like announce her home address or all her favorite relatives, she can have a relatively pleasant conversation with the new vampires and explain how super psyched she is about spending the rest of eternity with Edward who watches her while she sleeps and isn't that dreamy and also being a vampire seems like the bestest prettiest thing ever.
I mean, I don't recommend that Bella meet these vampires at all. But that horse has left the barn. And obviously she really shouldn't know anything damaging about these vampires, like where they've been and where they're going, but that horse followed the first one. The thing to do now is damage-control, and that can be best done by keeping Bella right there with the better Cullen-to-Newbie odds and at least some chance of convincing them that she isn't about to reveal the masquerade the first thing before breakfast tomorrow.
“Let’s go, Bella.” Edward’s voice was low and bleak.
And they just told the vampires her name. Stellar. I mean, they've been using the name already, but in groups. This here is like them making it super clear that we're all on the same page that this is BELLA SWAN at 439 PINE ROAD where they LEAVE THE UPSTAIRS WINDOWS UNLOCKED. Very subtle, very sneaky.
The head-canon that the Cullens are failing to protect Bella on purpose in order to turn her for Edward is looking more and more likely at this point.