Sunday, February 14, 2010

Guest Fic Rec: Stretching Toward the Sun


I’ve been a fan of Anythingbutgrey’s work since I first came across one of her stories in a Twilight Livejournal community, shortly before the release of Eclipse. Her simple, yet poignant writing style was perfectly suited for the one-shots she wrote, and sucked me in from line one. Couple that with the fact that she was the first person I met who also shipped Jacob/Bella, and I was hooked.

Which is why I was so excited when, after a long hiatus, she wrote this gem. The story starts off simple enough, the premise being an exploration of what would’ve happened had Jake accepted Bella’s offer to run away together in New Moon. But the story that unfolds as a result is anything but simple. After all, two kids, one worn-out truck, and an entire continent to explore: what could possibly go wrong?

Though told form a third person perspective, Anythingbutgrey plants readers firmly in the heads, and the hearts, of both main characters. Part one focuses on Jake as he tries to remain the friend he promised to be, and come to terms with the monster he never wanted to become:

He wants nothing more than to rescue her. He doesn’t think of her as damsel in a distress by any means; he knows enough about Bella to know she’s stronger than she looks. That’s probably the only thing that kept her from flinging herself off a building last October. All the same, while he knows he’s helping her, it never feels like enough. Sometimes he thinks back to her face the day she came to him with the bikes, the overwhelming emptiness there. It was like if he reached inside he’d find nothing. The only small comfort he has in all of this is thinking about that transition from then to now. The color was back in her face in a month; smiles were almost regular events in a month and a half. He thinks he can claim some responsibility for that. Yes, time and the natural humanity of healing, but he’d like to think he played some part. A large part, even. But such thoughts are dangerous. He keeps them to himself.

While Jake struggles to keep the wolf at bay, and to keep Sam from ordering him to turn around, Bella’s struggling with problems of her own: namely, how to help the only person in the world that she still trusts. This is especially difficult give the fact that Jake can’t tell her what’s wrong with him. The reimagining of the scene where Bella finally uncovers what’s really been going on in the woods of La Push has a much more realistic feel than the original passage does in New Moon, and gives readers a much needed look at the scenario through Jake’s eyes.

I won’t give away any of the plot twists, but Jake and Bella’s journey eventually takes them far away from the life they both knew in Washington, as in Part 2 Bella takes up both the reigns of the story, and a job as a waitress. As things progress it becomes ever more obvious that as much as she needs Jake to hold her together, he also needs her to keep the wolf at bay, especially when an encounter with a few of her customers turns ugly:

“Jacob,” she says with a shaking voice. “Please.”

With a deep inhale, Jacob lets go of Bernie’s collar. He stumbles back and out of the diner, and Jacob is still shaking. Louise and Carol have both gathered and are staring at Bella and Jacob with open mouths. Bella ignores them. She steps up to Jacob. He’s still staring out the doorway, where Bernie has just run away. She takes one of his hands in hers; she rests the other hand on his cheek and directs his gaze toward her. His eyes are the last things to turn toward her and when they do the pain and confusion she finds inside them makes her body sting.

“It’s okay,” she whispers. “It’s me. Come back.”

The hand she holds shakes so forcefully she has to grip his fingers tightly to keep hold. But she does keep hold, and Jacob closes his eyes and leans into the palm of her hand, breathing. She stands that way, barely moving, barely breathing, for a good five minutes, until the shaking begins to slow. The next several minutes are a decrescendo where Bella teaches herself how to breathe again. Finally, Jacob’s shakes slow to a tremor. He opens his eyes, and whispers, “Bella,” in a way she is quite certain she has never heard before.

As the story progresses it shapes Jake and Bella into believable, and more importantly, redeemable human beings. Bella mulls over the constant pain and loss that haunts her, but without the all-consuming melodrama that taints the original book. Meanwhile Jake finally gets to put into words how difficult being a werewolf actually is, and the constant inner battle that it has him fighting. If anything, it will certainly make Jake’s motivations more understandable, which may be appealing to readers who have had issues with his characterization in the past. Anythingbutgrey doesn’t rush their development or their progression from a platonic relationship into something more. Consequently the evolution feels very natural, very genuine, and very real. A short, heartfelt piece, this story pushes both Jake and Bella to figure out who they are, and who it is they want to become, taking readers for an emotional rollercoaster ride in the process. If you’ve ever thought about exploring the Jacob/Bells ship, I encourage you to start here.

Heck, you might even find you actually like it .
Stretch is a mild-mannered law student by day, costumed vigilante by night. Somewhere in between she manages to find time to write Dreaming of Butterflies, promote Leah/Embry, and argue about why the White Sox are better than the Cubs.

1 comment:

  1. Wow! Quite an endorsement, coming from the author of 'Escape'! This goes on my (ever expanding) Must Read list...<><3


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