My dad sat down at the table with a grunt and unfolded the damp newspaper there; within seconds he was clucking his tongue in disapproval.
"I don't know why you read the paper, Dad. It only ticks you off."
He ignored me, grumbling at the paper in his hands. "This is why everyone wants to live in a small town! Ridiculous."
"What have big cities done wrong now?"
"Seattle's making a run for murder capitol of the country. Five unsolved homicides in the last two weeks. Can you imagine living like that?"
"I think Phoenix is actually higher up in the homicide list, Dad. I have lived like that." And I'd never come close to being a murder victim until after I moved to his safe little town. In fact, was still on several hit lists?. The spoon shook in my hands, making the water tremble.
"Well, you couldn't pay me enough," Charlie said.
I gave up on saving dinner and settled for serving it; I had to use a steak knife to cut a portion of spaghetti for Charlie and then myself, while he watched with a sheepish expression. Charlie coated his helping with sauce and dug in. I disguised my own clump as well as I could and followed his example without much enthusiasm. We ate in silence for a moment. Charlie was still scanning the news, so I picked up my much-abused copy of Wuthering Heights from where I'd left it this morning at breakfast, and tried to lose myself in the turn-of-the-century England while I waited for him to start talking.
I was just to the part where Heathcliff returns when Charlie cleared his throat and threw the paper to the floor.
"You're right," Charlie said. "I did have a reason for doing this." He waved his fork at the gluey spread. "I wanted to talk to you."
I laid the book aside; the binding was so destroyed that it slumped flat to the table. "You could have just asked."
He nodded, his eyebrows pulling together. "Yeah. I'll remember that next time. I thought taking dinner off your hands would soften you up."
I laughed. "It worked?your cooking skills have me soft as a marshmallow. What do you need, Dad?"
"Well, it's about Jacob."
I felt my face harden. "What about him?" I asked through stiff lips.
"Easy, Bells. I know you're still upset that he told on you, but it was the right thing. He was being responsible."
"Responsible," I repeated scathingly, rolling my eyes. "Right. So what about Jacob?"
The careless question repeated inside my head, anything but trivial. What about Jacob? What was I going to do about him? My former best friend who was now?what? My enemy? I cringed.
Charlie's face was suddenly wary. "Don't get mad at me, okay?"
"Well, it's about Edward, too."
My eyes narrowed.
Charlie's voice got gruffer. "I let him in the house, don't I?"
"You do," I admitted. "For brief periods of time. Of course, you might let me out of the house for brief periods of time now and then, too," I continued?only jokingly; I knew I was on lockdown for the duration of the school year. "I've been pretty good lately."
"Well, that's kind of where I was heading with this?." And then Charlie's face stretched into an unexpected eye-crinkling grin; for a second he looked twenty years younger.
I saw a dim glimmer of possibility in that smile, but I proceeded slowly. "I'm confused, Dad. Are we talking about Jacob, or Edward, or me being grounded?"
The grin flashed again. "Sort of all three."
"And how do they relate?" I asked, cautious.