Twilight: The Cullens are Terrible at Everything

[Twilight Content Note: Murder, Abusive Relationships, Winning At Patriarchy.]

Twilight Summary: In Chapter 20, Bella hangs out in a hotel room with Alice and Jasper.

Twilight, Chapter 20: Impatience

So Chapter 20 is titled "impatience" and it's like the author is trolling us at this point, because we spent seventeen or eighteen chapters with absolutely nothing happening and then plot finally started to occur--it wasn't good plot, but it was plot and there was danger and excitement and car chases and things--and then BOOM everything has to slow down so that we can chill in a motel room for a day. It's so boring and tiresome, and I'll be skipping over 80% of it, but there are a couple of juicy pieces to bite into. But here's a chapter summary in advance so that I don't have to quote the whole chapter:

In Chapter 20, Bella wakes up in one of the Cullens' cars to find that Alice and Jasper have made it to Arizona in one night...somehow. (Ostensibly by the power of not observing traffic laws.) They pass the airport, but decide to head to a motel instead and hang out. They then proceed to hang out in a motel room for an interminably boring period of time while nothing happens and no one calls and Bella worries about Edward's safety. Bella and Alice talk about the vampire-making process. Then Alice has a new vision that Bella utterly fails to interpret correctly despite being amazingly obvious, then Edward calls to say they lost track of the tracker, then Bella leaves a message for her mother telling her how to contact her. 

Okay, now we're all on the same page. Let's do this thing.

   I did remember the sleek black car, the glass in the windows darker than that on a limousine. The engine was almost silent, though we’d raced across the black freeways at more than twice the legal speed.
   [...] “Which way to the airport, Bella?” Jasper had asked, and I flinched, though his voice was quite soft and unalarming. It was the first sound, besides the purr of the car, to break the long night’s silence.
   “Stay on the I-ten,” I’d answered automatically. “We’ll pass right by it.”
   My brain had worked slowly through the fog of sleep deprivation.
   “Are we flying somewhere?” I’d asked Alice.
   “No, but it’s better to be close, just in case.”

The Cullens, it must be noted, are shit at fleeing town.

The only really sensible thing to do at this point, knowing that James doesn't have future-sensing powers like Alice and that he instead chooses to track his prey via more conventional methods, would be to hop onto a plane and pick a destination at random. Of course the Cullens don't do this because that would be sensible and then we wouldn't have a plot anymore, and while I realize that sometimes characters do stupid shit in service to the plot, and while I realize that of all the things wrong with this novel this is a drop in the bucket, nevertheless it still bugs me.

The whole point of this "take Bella to Phoenix" plan was that obviously it would be stupid for her to go (a) where she said she was going, and (b) where her only other home-slash-safety net is located, so they picked this location on the assumption that James would just write it off as far too obvious for Bella to go there. But Phoenix is one place out of a billion places on earth that Bella could flee to, and if James is playing the long game here (and he is), and if he literally has to start selecting possible locations at random (and he would), then he might as well check Phoenix before he starts doing that thing where you spin a globe and go to wherever your finger lands.

And this is why you don't try to reverse-psychology your safe house: because it is easier for your pursuer to check that specific spot you tried to reverse-psychology off his radar, than it is for him to find you after you've boarded a plane and selected a random destination with the flip of a coin. And while I don't necessarily expect Bella to know this (as she doesn't have the resources to jet around the world and she's never had to think about playing global cat-and-mouse before), I do expect the Cullens to know this stuff.

Anyway, Bella wakes up in a motel room and notes that Esme's clothes don't fit her very well (read: Bella is thin enough to wear Esme's clothes, but she's shorter than Esme), then she eats the food Alice has ordered for her without noticing the food or enjoying it in any way (Incident #24567 of human food being an obligation instead of enjoyable), then Alice and Jasper act really still and anxious and Bella wheedles out of them that Carlisle really ought to have called by now but hasn't. More on that in a bit.

   “Bella, Bella, stop,” he interrupted me, his words pouring out so quickly they were hard to understand. “You’re worrying about all the wrong things, Bella. Trust me on this — none of us are in jeopardy. You are under too much strain as it is; don’t add to it with wholly unnecessary worries. Listen to me!” he ordered, for I had looked away. “Our family is strong. Our only fear is losing you.” 
   “But why should you —”
   Alice interrupted this time, touching my cheek with her cold fingers. “It’s been almost a century that Edward’s been alone. Now he’s found you. You can’t see the changes that we see, we who have been with him for so long. Do you think any of us want to look into his eyes for the next hundred years if he loses you?”

Noting this because it's one of those sorta-sweet-but-still...! moments in these novels for me. I do like the Cullens liking Bella because Edward likes her; it's supportive and much preferable over the alternative tropes where the family is catty to the underprivileged girl because she's not good enough for their princeling or whatever. And I also like and appreciate the fact that the Cullens can see nuances in Edward's "in love" behavior that Bella doesn't because she didn't see Lonely Edward as a baseline. That's kinda cute to me.

But then I have to grind my teeth again on that whole "Edward has been alone for a century" while living with six people who love him just because he didn't have someone to stick his dick in and I get pissy all over again at how Twilight likes to act like if you're not hetero-life-paired to someone then what good are you, and then I just want to shake it a bit. Because it's okay to want to be hetero-life-paired to someone, sure, but let's please not act like that's the only way on earth to not be "alone" because that is not a healthy framing in my opinion.

And it's one of the reasons why we encourage people to remain in abusive relationships rather than "be alone" as though being alone and safe and healthy and happy is just so much worthlessness. That is a bad social framing and it needs to go away now.

Anyway, Alice and Bella go slouch about on the bed while Jasper stays with the television.

   “Alice?” I asked.
   I kept my voice very calm. “What do you think they’re doing?”
   “Carlisle wanted to lead the tracker as far north as possible, wait for him to get close, and then turn and ambush him. Esme and Rosalie were supposed to head west as long as they could keep the female behind them. If she turned around, they were to head back to Forks and keep an eye on your dad. So I imagine things are going well if they can’t call. It means the tracker is close enough that they don’t want him to overhear.”

What. This makes no sense. Later, when Edward calls the hotel, he'll confirm that they were waiting for the tracker to get close to them:

   “We’re outside of Vancouver. Bella, I’m sorry — we lost him. He seems suspicious of us — he’s careful to stay just far enough away that I can’t hear what he’s thinking. But he’s gone now — it looks like he got on a plane. We think he’s heading back to Forks to start over.” I could hear Alice filling in Jasper behind me, her quick words blurring together into a humming noise.





I just-- I don't-- I can't-- I'm sorry, I need a minute.

*much later*

Ahem. So the Cullens are both shit at hiding and hunting, because this literally makes no goddamn sense. The whole advantage they have here is that they can be proactive, while James has to be reactive. They can literally put Bella on a plane and take her anywhere on earth and James would have to react to that. (Does he even have the money to fly to the farthest corners of the earth on a whim?) And while Bella is proactively running to places James couldn't possibly predict, the Cullens can hunt James down with their superior numbers and familiarity with the territory while James is forced to go on the defensive.

Instead they bizarrely waited for James to get close to them... even knowing that they outnumbered him three-to-one... and also knowing that his target wasn't with them in the first place... what?? Like, why did James even follow them at all?? And how did Edward and Carlisle and Emmett expect this to go down, precisely?? The fact that James didn't waltz into their waiting arms is supposed to be evidence of him being an uber-hunter, but I'm frankly side-eying every vampire in Forks right now for being astonishingly stupid.

   “Tell me then . . . how do you become a vampire?”
   My question caught her off guard. She was quiet. I rolled over to look at her, and her expression seemed ambivalent.
   “Edward doesn’t want me to tell you that,” she said firmly, but I sensed she didn’t agree.
   “That’s not fair. I think I have a right to know.”
   “I know.”
   I looked at her, waiting.
   She sighed. “He’ll be extremely angry.”
   “It’s none of his business. This is between you and me. Alice, as a friend, I’m begging you.” And we were friends now, somehow — as she must have known we would be all along.

So, couple of things here, and the main reason I didn't just skip over this chapter.

One, this isn't just between Bella and Alice, because Edward reads minds and he won't maintain any kind of mental separation between "Stuff I Have Consent To Know About" and "Stuff I Collected By Accident And Will Pretend I Don't Know About". Which makes him incredibly terrifying as an abusive boyfriend, because it means that he can effectively deny information to Bella by threatening the people who could tell it to her. In this case, Alice.

Two, oh my god, Edward is trying to control information-flow to Bella in an attempt to control what she does with her life and body. Like, there are a billion reasons why she might need to know how vampires are made, but he's trying to keep it from her because he doesn't want her to become a vampire like him. This is the same theory that kids won't have sex if we just don't tell them anything about it, and it has all the same problems around consent and bodily autonomy. But add to those problems that Edward is planning to deny this information to Bella for the rest of her life.

If they can't kill James, the plan is literally for Edward to spend the rest of Bella's life running all over the planet, always staying one step ahead of the tracker, ostensibly until Bella drops dead of illness or old age. (Great quality of life for Bella!) And Edward plans to spend those eighty-plus years refusing to tell Bella how vampires are made. Because obviously she can ask him to make her a vampire without knowing how it's done, but once she does know how it's done... she can ask extra hard, I guess?

I'm not precisely sure what the logic here is; it's not like she can cut herself on his teeth while he sleeps, because he doesn't sleep. It seems like he's denying her this information just to be abusive: she's not being denied the information for a logical reason but rather just to drive home the fact that this subject is taboo because Edward has decreed it.

Three, oh my god, this page didn't contain the words "he'll be extremely angry, but it's none of his fucking business because you have a right to know and it's your body and your life and if he gives either of us guff over this then he can fuck a flying donut because girl you deserve a boyfriend who isn't an abusive asshole."

   “As predators, we have a glut of weapons in our physical arsenal — much, much more than really necessary. The strength, the speed, the acute senses, not to mention those of us like Edward, Jasper, and I, who have extra senses as well. And then, like a carnivorous flower, we are physically attractive to our prey.”
   [...] She smiled a wide, ominous smile. “We have another fairly superfluous weapon. We’re also venomous,” she said, her teeth glistening. “The venom doesn’t kill — it’s merely incapacitating. It works slowly, spreading through the bloodstream, so that, once bitten, our prey is in too much physical pain to escape us. Mostly superfluous, as I said. If we’re that close, the prey doesn’t escape. Of course, there are always exceptions. Carlisle, for example.”
   “So . . . if the venom is left to spread . . . ,” I murmured.
   “It takes a few days for the transformation to be complete, depending on how much venom is in the bloodstream, how close the venom enters to the heart. As long as the heart keeps beating, the poison spreads, healing, changing the body as it moves through it. Eventually the heart stops, and the conversion is finished. But all that time, every minute of it, a victim would be wishing for death.”


Again, this is a small fish in the big barrel that is Twilight, but a species' one and only method of reproduction is not a weapon. Also, I point out again for the record that Twilight 'verse vampire evolution would slowly favor the shitty hunters over the good ones, since only the ones who don't 'finish' their meal reproduce. (Not including deliberate reproduction efforts, of course.) Selection over time would favor the ones with self-control (i.e., who can stop feeding while the victim is alive), the weak ones (i.e., ones who can't prevent their prey from overpowering them or escaping), or, like, easily distracted vampires who dart off after a new target before their current victim has died.

   The seconds ticked by, and I had almost forgotten her presence, I was so enveloped in my thoughts.Then, without any warning, Alice leaped from the bed, landing lightly on her feet. My head jerked up as I stared at her, startled.
   “Something’s changed.” Her voice was urgent, and she wasn’t talking to me anymore.
   [...] “What do you see?” he asked intently, staring into her eyes. Her eyes were focused on something very far away. I sat close to her, leaning in to catch her low, quick voice.



Alice has a vision about a ballet studio, which she then draws for everyone on a piece of paper, and Bella recognizes it as a ballet studio she used to attend, and which is located a few blocks from her mother's house, and is right there in Phoenix with them. And despite the fact that there is literally an airport right outside, they do not all book it for somewhere far away from this room. Bella just off-handedly says that, hey, probably all ballet studios look the same. No reason to assume that the ballet studio that James waits in is her ballet studio in this town. That's just silly.

The sound you hear right now is me throwing my kindle across a room and it lodging in the drywall like a ninja throwing star. 

   She held the phone out toward me. I ran to it.
   “Hello?” I breathed.
   “Bella,” Edward said.
   “Oh, Edward! I was so worried.”
   “Bella,” he sighed in frustration, “I told you not to worry about anything but yourself.” It was so unbelievably good to hear his voice. I felt the hovering cloud of despair lighten and drift back as he spoke.


You guys. I have been doing this for four years. There are days when I think I am fresh out of hatred for the ball-of-awful that is Edward Cullen. And then he pulls this shit and I hate him all over again. Because he's not relieved or happy or elated or exuberant or any number of pleasant or positive emotions to hear the voice of the woman he loves. He doesn't pity her or sympathize with her or feel sorry for her knowing that she's been worried for him as much as he's been worried for her. I would even take a snotty "of course I'm fine, you silly human" smirk at this point. THAT IS HOW LOW MY STANDARDS HAVE BECOME. But no. He is frustrated.

   “Where are you?”
   “We’re outside of Vancouver. Bella, I’m sorry — we lost him. He seems suspicious of us — he’s careful to stay just far enough away that I can’t hear what he’s thinking. But he’s gone now — it looks like he got on a plane. We think he’s heading back to Forks to start over.” I could hear Alice filling in Jasper behind me, her quick words blurring together into a humming noise.
   “I know. Alice saw that he got away.”
   “You don’t have to worry, though. He won’t find anything to lead him to you. You just have to stay there and wait till we find him again.”
   “I’ll be fine. Is Esme with Charlie?”
   “Yes — the female has been in town. She went to the house, but while Charlie was at work. She hasn’t gone near him, so don’t be afraid. He’s safe with Esme and Rosalie watching.”
   “What is she doing?”
   “Probably trying to pick up the trail. She’s been all through the town during the night. Rosalie traced her through the airport, all the roads around town, the school . . . she’s digging, Bella, but there’s nothing to find.”


Edward-fucking-Cullen genuinely believes that nothing in Forks will papertrail to the fact that Bella has a home in Phoenix, Arizona. That Charlie Swan, Chief of Police, has an ex-wife there. That she's maintained a residence there for however long it's been since she left him. That no one in Forks could share that information. That 100% of Bella's fellow students don't know she transferred from there.

I... I don't even know how to... respond at that. It might make some kind of sense if the point was how out of touch the Cullens are with the modern world. But they have the newest cars, the nicest gadgets, the shiniest computers. The whole reason they're ludicrously rich is because Alice plays the stock market like a champ, presumably using online broker sites rather than going through a human intermediary who would almost certainly ask uncomfortable questions about her ridiculously good calls.

And, I mean, the Cullens are clearly supposed to be the best at everything. I'm pretty sure if we asked S. Meyer, she'd insist they are the Lisbeth Salanders of hackers because of course they are. They're also explicitly supposed to be good at running, hiding, obscuring papertrails, making fake IDs, dodging their old identifications, etc. And yet Edward-fucking-Cullen thinks that nothing in Forks could possibly point to the fact that Bella retains a residence in Phoenix, Arizona.

There are no words. 

Back to the dance studio: 

   We all sat in silence, staring at the drawing.   “Alice, is that phone safe?”
   “Yes,” she reassured me. “The number would just trace back to Washington.”
   “Then I can use it to call my mom.”
   “I thought she was in Florida.”
   “She is — but she’s coming home soon, and she can’t come back to that house while . . .” My voice trembled. I was thinking about something Edward had said, about the red-haired female at Charlie’s house, at the school, where my records would be.
   [...] “Mom,” I said after the beep, “it’s me. Listen, I need you to do something. It’s important. As soon as you get this message, call me at this number.” Alice was already at my side, writing the number for me on the bottom of her picture. I read it carefully, twice. “Please don’t go anywhere until you talk to me.

And, of course, the only way that James can effectively use Bella's family against her is if he has a surefire method of making certain that she knows he has her family. A hostage is useless if the people you're trying to get to don't have any way of knowing that the hostage has been taking. Fortunately for James, Bella is on top of that for him.


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