|All Hallows Moon
Author: x-Twitch-x PM
Submitted for Things That Go Bump in the Night Challenge. The Cullens break away from a party at some camping grounds, and Bella stumbles across them. Starts in BPOVRated: Fiction K - English - Romance/Supernatural - Bella & Edward - Words: 6,898 - Reviews: 18 - Favs: 20 - Follows: 3 - Published: 10-30-09 - Status: Complete - id: 5477908
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
The Sandbox Presents: Things That Go Bump in the Night
Author: x-Twitch-x and danger_magnet (Twilighted name)
Story Title: All Hallows Moon
Vamp or Human: human
Disclaimer: Owned by Stephenie Meyer. No copyright infringement intended.
All Hallows Moon
the art of living lies in a fine mingling of letting go and holding
The sun had almost finished setting. I took a break from my swift trek through the campground trail to watch the brilliant shades of gold darken and morph into a deep magenta along the mountain's horizon. It was quiet around me, save for the chirp of crickets in the cooling air and the light breeze dancing through the trees. Well, that and my wheezing breaths. Okay, so maybe I had been walking a little faster than absolutely necessary, but could you blame me? I was looking for something.
And, I chastised myself, you won't find it just standing here. But the sky—indigo now, with streaks of crimson—was captivating, mesmerizing, and I remained where I was. Tiny stars were appearing, dotting the sky with their twinkling presence. I found myself leaning against a tree, the rough bark still holding firm under my weight, as my eyes roved the sky.
And through a gap in the branches, there it was. The moon, full and positively luminescent as it travelled up to claim the night. Beautiful. Bella Luna.
It disappeared behind the trees, snuffing out the soothing glow that had enveloped me briefly.
As though that was my cue, I was moving again, hurrying along the trail in the darkening forest. Of course I didn't have a flashlight on me. Of course I'd neglected to consult a map.
I was lost. Lost while I was searching.
But my feet pounded on, my eyes squinted against the oppressive darkness, and my ragged breaths burned in my lungs. I tried to ignore the way the gnarled branches reached out to me, or the way the wind would whistle ominously around me, making the leaves shiver. It didn't help that tonight was Halloween. I knew it was silly, but the mere knowledge made me a little more fearful, as though there were werewolves and vampires lurking in the shadows specifically because of the date. Absurd.
I didn't know how long it had been, but the darkness has settled completely and absolutely like a thick blanket, when I heard it: music.
My movements faltered, and I slowed to a wary walk as I approached the noise. It didn't escape my notice that there was a light nearby; it was permeating the dimness around me, flickering warmly. Fire. I could feel my face blanching.
I moved toward the source of my distraction with careful steps. I didn't want to alert them to my presence before I knew whether or not I'd approach them. My feet didn't betray my position as they padded silently to the edge of the tree line.
There was a party. Disguised and dressed up people flitted around, thoroughly drunk and laughing raucously. I didn't want to deal with that. I changed my path, veering off to a trail I didn't often take. I preferred to slip through the campgrounds unnoticed, like a phantom, or a ghost.
I started swiftly through another clearing.
I stuttered to a stop and whirled around, my hand flying to my chest in surprise. My lips drew in a shaky gasp, my shock evident in the wideness of my eyes.
They'd escaped my notice at first, but now I could see that this clearing, smaller than the one that held the party, was occupied by five people. They must have escaped the party themselves, joined their own little group. They surrounded a campfire, unfazed by the spitting embers as they roasted marshmallows.
"Sorry." The one who'd called out was big —gargantuan, even— with curly brown hair, but I didn't find myself fearing him as he raised his arms in surrender. "I didn't mean to startle you or anything." His forehead creased with concern at my still shaken appearance.
I smiled to show no hard feelings, but my chest was still heaving with exhaustion and shock. "That's alright. I get spooked easily."
At my assurance, his face split into a dimpled grin, and I couldn't help grinning back at his infectious attitude.
Another voice piped up from the circle. "Well, it's Halloween, right? You can claim it's the spirit of the holiday." The one who said this had honey-blond hair, and he sent me a friendly wink to go along with his statement.
I nodded, the urge to start searching again burning in the peripheral of my mind.
"What's your name?" said a tiny girl as she huddled up to the honey-blond, right as I took a step backwards.
I paused again. "Bella."
"What are you doing traipsing through the woods like you're on a mission?" asked the dimpled man. When a girl with golden blond hair elbowed his rib lightly, his cheeks grew pink and he added, "if you don't mind me asking."
"You don't have to answer that," Gold-hair told me, though I could see the curiosity blazing in her expression.
"I'm … searching for something," I said, and my eyes involuntarily swept around the clearing as though to emphasize my point.
Their eyes did too, though I knew they wouldn't be able to help me. They didn't even know what it looked like.
The tiny one tilted her head to the side, black hair following its path, as she silently considered me. "Why don't you join us for a bit?"
I blinked, shocked again. "Me? I couldn't possibly intrude—"
"No intrusion," Dimples insisted, waving my refusal aside. "You look like you need a break anyway."
My gaze swept over each person individually, trying to find a hint of unwelcome in the midst of their encouraging faces.
My resolve faltered. "I don't know…" I bit my lip as I contemplated holding off my search, if only for an hour or so.
I sensed movement from where I'd scarcely looked. The fifth camper had so far been silent, sitting further away from the fire than the others, enough that darkness stole half his face into the shadows. But now he had leaned forward, and his eyes flickered like emeralds in the beam of the fire. "We understand if you have to keep looking, but … we'd like it if you stayed."
His voice was like a silk caress on my ears, a lilting melody rolling off his tongue, but his eyes were piercing. I felt like I couldn't walk away from them; they'd captured my intrigue.
As though he'd read my intention to stay like words across my forehead, his lips curved into a tiny smile.
I huffed. "Okay, I'll stay."
"'Atta' girl!" Dimples beamed, as he plucked another marshmallow from the package and impaled it on the end of the twig he'd been using.
I settled next to Green Eyes, glad to have some distance from the fire; sometimes the heat and smoke were overwhelming. Mostly, though, I was thrilled that I was sitting next to him.
When I settled comfortably on the warm log, I peeked at him from the corner of my eye. His penetrating gaze was settled on me once more, making me feel bare, exposed. Yet, I noted, it wasn't a completely bad feeling. It felt more like freedom, like he was looking past the shackles of physical appearance and seeing straight into my soul. In any case, the mystery of his stare was making my need to get up and keep searching dwindle.
Introductions were made, and I nodded as they each replaced the nicknames in my head with Emmett, Jasper, Alice, Rosalie and…
"Edward," he grinned, nodding politely in my direction.
I gave a tentative smile in return, only vaguely aware of my surroundings as I really took in Edward's appearance. He was beautiful. My gaze wandered up to the unruly crop of bronze hair, glinting copper in the firelight, that hung in organized disarray. I watched, with wide eyes, as he ran a slim hand through it, which only served to mess it further. His flawless skin glowed a honey color, warm and inviting, and his lips, which were curved into a small smile, about at shy as mine, were...perfect. And despite all of that, I still couldn't tear my eyes from his.
I tried to return my attention to the rest of the group, even though all my senses were focused completely on him. My body seemed to be disconnecting itself from my mind, deciding on its own that it needed to be closer to Edward. As though being close to him might bring an end to my searching.
I felt alive, truly alive, for the first time in years. It felt like my very skin was buzzing with electricity, and the places closest to Edward tingled the most. I searched his eyes, hoping to find some sort of indication that he was feeling it too.
I could feel the eyes of the group on me, which was still an unfamiliar feeling, and I stared at my feet resting lightly against the bare earth, my usually pale, almost translucent, skin bathed in a warm red hue from the crackling fire.
A silence had fallen over the group; the only sound filling the small grounds was the crackle and spitting of embers burning.
"Rose! Beer me!" Emmett's deep voice boomed, causing everyone to jump, and wrenching me sharply out of my reverie.
I tore my eyes away from Edward and looked around at the rest of my new acquaintances, where Rosalie, completely unfazed, reached into a cooler beside her and threw a beer to Emmett.
"Great night for Halloween," Jasper sighed, leaning back and letting his head droop. "Full moon and everything."
We all followed his example, staring up at the velvety black sky and the bright round orb that punctuated the darkness, like a supernatural nightlight.
"Wonder if that means something," Emmett mused, sipping his drink lazily.
"Yeah, it means that the moon's face is reflecting sunlight to the earth," Edward replied, his voice warming me more than the fire.
"Nice one, asshole," Emmett scoffed. "You know what I meant."
Edward chuckled under his breath, a soft rumbling sound.
"I think it means something." Alice was still gazing dreamily at the sky, bathing in the moonlight. "Think about it. Lunar phases and All Hallows' Eve are both filled with symbolism. I bet there's supernatural stuff going down all over the place."
Rosalie, who I realised after seeing up close is perfection in the human form, raised a flawless eyebrow. "Oh yeah, like what?"
"Heaps of stuff," Alice insisted with wide eyes. "Don't you feel it? It's like there's some sort of magic in the air tonight."
"Are you sure it's not just the embers landing on you?" Emmett asked, his face rearranged into a polite display of skepticism. "I know I wanted to say some magic words when it happened to me."
"Jasper's kisses don't count as magic, either," Rosalie added, smirking.
"Insane," Jasper chortled softly, pressing a kiss on Alice's tiny cheek.
"Scoff all you like," Alice said, expression growing fierce, "but I know what I feel." She crossed her arms over her chest, pushed her bottom lip out, and stared around the circle, looking for someone to back her up.
But Alice was right, and I didn't know why I hadn't realised it sooner. I inhaled deeply, sampling the air around me as it crackled with mystery, listening as the breeze swept through the trees and whispered in my ear, feeling that tingle as it crawled over my skin.
There was something different about tonight, some sort of magnetism that I couldn't quite fight, and where it had previously been driving me to search, it was now pushing me towards Edward.
"I feel it too," I murmured, my voice as quiet as a tomb. I looked at everyone's dubious faces, deciding not to add that I was something of an expert about these things.
Alice shot me a grateful grin as she said, "see? Bella feels it too, so I'm not crazy."
"There's … something," Edward allowed, nodding slowly. The others didn't notice, but I couldn't miss the way his eyes flickered to me for a second. I allowed myself to hope that this electricity wasn't one-sided.
"Alright, so let's say there is something in the air for a second," Emmett said. "That still doesn't answer what supernatural stuff might be happening." He took a final pull from his drink, then crushed the can in his large fist. "Whoever has the best theory gets to fetch me another beer."
Rosalie snorted delicately, a contradiction that I had until now thought to be altogether impossible. "I think that's more of a punishment than a reward."
"Fair enough," Emmett grinned. "Whoever has the worst theory must fetch me another beer."
"Well, it's obvious, isn't it?" Jasper started. "Halloween makes people come back from the dead, so clearly, zombies are going to erupt from the earth searching for flesh. They could find another group, but we're easily the most delicious. Some of us are more snack-sized though." His eyes strayed to Alice, who poked her tiny tongue at him.
"Psh, we could take a few zombies," Rosalie scoffed. "It's the werewolves you have to look out for. I mean, the full moon effect has gotta be multiplied by all this Halloween mumbo jumbo."
"Well I think that tonight is special," Alice proclaimed. "Tonight is when Fate's plans come together, because of all the divine help that those from the afterlife provide that they couldn't give on any other day."
There was a collective grumble from the rest of the group; apparently Alice spoke of such things often.
"Well, you're so quick to judge, but Edward hasn't even said his theory," Alice said defensively.
"The devil is going to rise up from our fire and condemn us all to hell for having such horrible theories," Edward said smugly.
"Yeah, and you'll be taken first," Rosalie said, rolling her eyes.
"Because werewolves on a full moon is just so original," Edward retorted, grinning.
"Yeah, yeah," Emmett interrupted, turning to me. "Bella, your turn. Theorize for me, baby."
"Ghosts," I said matter-of-factly, shrugging.
"Well … yeah. What do you mean by 'that's it'? Should there be more?"
"Ghosts are just … kinda boring."
There was a murmur of agreement, and I frowned. How could they call ghosts boring?
"You lose. Sorry dollface," Emmett grinned at me, "but I need that beer."
I panicked a bit. Things were starting to extend out of my comfort zone, not least of all the fact that standing up to fetch the beer would take me further away from Edward; I was terrified of breaking this connection. As well as that, I was a little indignant that they found ghosts uninteresting. I'd always found them to be the most believable, the most intriguing.
"I'd like to refute the claim that I apparently lost," I announced, drawing myself up ever so slightly.
"By telling you about this campsite's very own local ghost."
"Ooh!" Alice squealed. "I love ghost stories. Tell us!"
"But my beer!" Emmett whined. Rosalie huffed and retrieved a beer for him, shoving it into his waiting hands. He waved me on, happily nursing his new beverage.
All eyes were on me, silently urging me to start my tale. "It was years ago now that it happened. A girl, around my age, used to live on this site permanently in a small cabin with her parents. They were the managers of this place. When it happened, it was on a night like any other. There was nothing to indicate that the night would end in tragedy; no feeling in the air that something would go wrong.
"It was a full moon, and the girl was taking a late night walk through one of the trails, taking advantage of the increased illumination. She was out for a while, lost in her thoughts … it was close to midnight before she even started back towards the cabin.
"Halfway back, a foreign scent hit her nose. No, that's not true. The scent was certainly familiar to her—how many times had the thick perfume of smoldering logs come wafting into her bedroom window from nearby campfires? It was foreign because, instinctively, she knew that the smell shouldn't exist.
"She took off at a sprint, ignoring the track and taking the quickest path straight through the trees. She was clumsy, stumbling over stones and tripping over roots in her haste. Through the trees there was an ominous glow that set the adrenalin racing through her body. When she finally broke through the thick foliage, her worst nightmare was confirmed.
"The small, homely cabin was now a blazing inferno. Flames licked the walls, stretching for the sky, and devouring the logs like they were nothing more than kindling. The girl stood frozen, her mind numb with shock. That didn't last long. The stifling hot air reached out and defrosted her, and she leapt into action. All she could think about as she charged directly into the fire was her parents. Were they upstairs? Were they conscious? Had anyone called for help?
"Inside, the roar of the fire was deafening. She screamed for her parents, but if she could barely hear herself, what chance did they have? When the kitchen and lounge turned up empty, she knew she'd have to fight through the thick smoke to their bedroom. They were both in bed, unconscious. She didn't see who was who through the haze, she just reached for the first person she felt. With strength she didn't know she possessed, she drug her mother through the house, laying her several yards away from the chaos before going back for her father.
"She stumbled through the cabin, her vision almost non-existent. Tears poured down her face, whether from the smoke or the shock of the fire itself, she didn't know. Finally, she managed to get her father outside and next to her mother, but she knew the house could collapse on them at any moment. Lacking the strength to pull her parents any farther, she realised she'd have to go back inside to call for help. The source, she had surmised, was the fireplace in her parents room; meaning the phone –in the kitchen—would still be accessible.
"The paramedics said they'd already been alerted to a fire in the area, and EMT's had already been dispatched. The girl was growing weak. Her limbs felt heavy as the smoke invaded her lungs. Her very insides were burning and stinging. She abandoned the phone and tried desperately through her mind fog to get out of the cabin. She made it just outside the front door, falling on her back, struggling to hang onto the threads of consciousness. I'm not sure how long passed. Maybe seconds, maybe minutes, maybe an hour. She wanted to find her parents, see if they were still alive, but every smoke-riddled breath she took made her weaker, and she found she couldn't move.
"Out of the corner of one weak, blurry eye, she saw more people. The EMT's had arrived, and I can still see the look of horror, desperation, determination on the young doctor's face as he approached—"
"What?" Emmett's voice cut through my story.
I shook my head to clear it a bit. When I was as immersed in a such a crucial part of the story like that, it was a little disconcerting to be wrenched out of it so abruptly. "What?" I said, a little annoyed that he'd interrupted.
"You said 'I'," Emmett informed me, confused. "'I can still see the look on his face…'"
"Did I?" I said. "Sorry. I tend to get a little carried away when I get right into the story." I smiled ruefully. "I like to imagine myself in the position of the main character to really get the feel of it, and sometimes I slip up."
"No prob, just threw me for a bit," Emmett shrugged.
"Ignore him, Bella," Rosalie said, rolling her eyes in his direction. "This story is great. Keep going."
"Uhh…sorry where was I?"
"You were up to the part about the doctor," Edward kindly reminded me. "The petrified expression that he had as he desperately tried to drag the girl's body away from the collapsing house without killing them both. The utter determination he felt as he did everything in his power to keep the girl's heart beating and her lungs pumping the asphyxiating smoke from her body. That feeble feeling of joy as doctors revived her mother, but that crushing guilt outweighing it that he was unable to save the girl…"
"Edward," Alice scolded, as I stared at him dumbfounded. "Stop finishing other people's stories. Let Bella tell how it goes." She gestured kindly to me.
"Uhh, actually…he's right. That's what happened. How did you know that?" I demanded of him. There's no logical way for him to have known that.
"I guess someone must have told me this story before…" he shrugged awkwardly.
"That's impossible," I informed him. "I haven't told it to anyone else."
"Yeah, but it's a ghost story, right?" he offered. "Other people are bound to have heard it."
"I guess…" I replied, caught up in the emotions that were blazing in his eyes. Confusion, interest, excitement…
"Are you done bickering? I wanna hear how the rest goes," Jasper said impatiently.
"Right," I said, nodding in his direction. I took a deep breath. "So the doctor tried to do everything he could for this girl, but it was too late. She knew that she was dying. Everything was growing dim, she could feel her body failing … and then … she was suddenly seeing everything with crystal clear precision. She still felt a slight burn in her lungs, but it was manageable. She tried to stand, to tell the doctor she was alright now. She rose, but her body didn't go with her.
"In astonishment, she realised that she was watching the doctor work over her own lifeless body. She gasped, and he must have sensed something, because he looked up, and his pale blue eyes locked with hers. Or at least, that's what seemed to happen. After that, he looked down again with defeat, and said only one sentence…
"'Time of death: twelve-oh-one AM.'"
"Bummer," Jasper muttered. "I was kinda hopin' she'd pull through."
I looked around the circle, and everyone was nodding in agreement with that statement. Except Edward. He was looking at me, head tilted to the side and a look of curious confusion on his face. I heard saw him mouth the word 'strange' to himself.
"Anyway, the campgrounds were closed for a few months after that as the girl's mom—the only survivor from the night—dealt with her grief. When it re-opened, campers started reporting strange happenings. The odd thing was, they only ever happened on a full moon…"
"Now we get into the good stuff," Alice grinned, rubbing her little hands together like a movie villain.
"Only on a full moon? Like tonight?" Emmett chuckled, and I was almost sure I detected a hint of nerves in his voice. "W-what kind of strange happenings?"
I snorted. "Not scared, are you?"
"Me? Psh. No. Why would I be scared?" he deepened his voice, and puffed out his chest as he spoke.
"Muscles won't save you from a ghost, Emmett," I said in a quiet voice, widening my eyes in what I hoped was a creepy look. Rosalie snickered quietly as Emmett swallowed loudly.
I laughed, breaking the tension. "Relax, Emmett, the ghost hasn't hurt anyone." As the tension slipped from his body, I couldn't resist adding, "yet."
I laughed at his expression before continuing. "The first time it happened, there was a group sitting around a campfire, just relaxing. Then a girl stepped into their midst. She kept her distance at first, but warned them, in a very harsh voice, to put out their fire. They laughed at her. Enraged, she stepped closer, warning them again. When they ignored her a second time, her eyes gathered a look of wild desperation. She stomped through them, and walked to stand in the very centre of the fire
"They watched helplessly at first as her echoed cries bounced off the trees, as she sank to her knees, her face contorted in agonizing pain. One of them finally came to their senses, dousing the flames with water. When the blinding smoke cleared, they braced themselves, preparing to see the girl's charred body. But what they found was even more shocking…"
I trailed off, delighting in the expressions of everyone's face. Everyone was leaning forward in anticipation. Alice caved first. "Well? What did they find? We're dying over here, Bella!"
"They found nothing," I said simply, in a hushed voice. "Not a trace of evidence to even support that she'd been there in the first place. No footsteps, leading to the fire. Certainly no disfigured body, crumpled in the smoldering ashes. And yet, they couldn't deny that she'd been there. What else could have driven them quench the flames, at exactly twelve-oh-one in the morning? They came to the only conclusion possible."
"A ghost," Jasper said. I nodded.
"She appeared a few more times over the years. On a full moon, several years later, a report was made of a girl wandering through the woods. She was panicked and looked slightly lost. The person reporting it said she beckoned them to follow her, and led them through the trees, to a small clearing where a house rested. Taking his eyes off the girl for one moment, his eyes scanned over the cabin. When he looked back, moments later, the girl was gone, and so was the cabin.
"That report has been made multiple times. Each person being led to the small clearing where her cabin stands, following the girl through the woods, only to enter the clearing alone."
Alice was practically vibrating, her eyes wide with excitement. Everyone shared similar looks of interest, except Emmett whose eyes were darting between the surrounding tress and our own fire.
And suddenly Alice was off again.
"That is exactly what I'm feeling tonight! There's an energy in the air, it's buzzing with the unknown and the supernatural. Something big is happening. If a ghost can only come out on a full moon, wouldn't something super special happen if that power of the silver moon was mixed with All Hallows' Eve? I bet she'll show up tonight. If she doesn't, I'll be severely disappointed with the cosmos."
I just smiled at her. I'd never gotten such a strange yet excited and interested rapture from someone hearing my story. I'll admit my story had a lot more depth than what any other person may have heard.
There was a round of groans from the circle of friends as she rounded off her little rant.
"Alice, can't we have just a few minutes without you and your crazy cosmos shit?" Rosalie begged.
"I'm just saying…" Alice mumbled. Jasper wrapped an arm around her shoulders and pulled her tight to his chest.
"I love your stories, Alice." He kissed her cheek and she giggled.
I smiled at the cute scene, my chest constricting slightly. I let my mind entertain the thought of how nice it would be to have someone hold me like that. Love me like that.
I felt the urge to move closer to Edward.
Alice hummed contentedly from Jasper's chest, then raised her head to speak, expression alight with interest. "So every legend and story about a ghost portrays them as having unfinished business, right? I wonder what's keeping this ghost grounded," she mused.
"More theories," Emmett sang. "I bet she was secretly a secret agent, and her death was an attack against her. She's still here because she wants revenge!"
"Maybe she had buried treasure somewhere in the forest and she's looking for it," Jasper suggested.
"She isn't a pirate. Isn't it obvious? She wanted to make sure no one else died in a fire," Rosalie explained.
"No, no, it's something bigger than all of that," Alice insisted, her eyes gleaming in a conspiratory way. She was brewing some elaborate theory. "I mean people said she looked lost right? She needs to be complete before she moves on. She needs her other half."
"More soul mate talk, Alice? Kinda hard, what with the whole dead thing she has going on, don't you think?"
"Dead people have a soul mate too," Alice said defensively, "it's just harder for them to find, that's all."
"Sure it is," Rosalie grinned, rolling her eye good-naturedly.
"It's a moot point anyway," Edward put in. "Since neither ghosts nor soul mates actually exist."
And then there was a huge discussion between the group, arguing the existence of ghosts, soul mates, and the ghost in my story having a soul mate, until eventually the conversation died down, until there were miniature conversations happening amongst all of us.
Alice was sitting in Jasper's lap and they were whispering in each other's ears. Every now and then, a shy smile would grace her lips, or a light blush would cover his cheeks. It was heartbreakingly adorable. Just watching for more than five seconds had me feeling like I was intruding on an intimate moment.
Rosalie and Emmett were heatedly debating something. Whether to buy or carve your own jack-o-lantern, I think was the general gist. Every now and then one of them would lean in and kiss the other, often mid-rant.
I had a lot on my mind. I turned to Edward, intrigue overpowering me. "How did you really know what happened in my story? I know that bit about the doctor definitely isn't part of the local legend," I whispered, careful not to disturb the others' conversations. In my head, I wondered if he wasn't some sort of ghost or something. Knowing what he shouldn't, vehemently denying the existence of them, that mysterious air and magnetic pull that seemed to surround him…
"I…well…I know what the doctor was thinking because…he's my dad. He actually missed my birth because he was trying to save that young girl's life. June twentieth…twelve oh one AM…that part of your story freaked me out a little," he admitted. "He told me about it when I was older."
I was flabbergasted. What were the odds? I stayed silent, staring at Edward in wonder. He met my gaze, green eyes glowing. The electricity between us positively hummed, the pull growing stronger, so strong that I felt myself leaning towards him…
A tiny corner of my brain reminded me of all the reasons why I had to stop. My face inches from his, I forced myself to stand. "Come for a walk?"
"With pleasure," he smirked, making me melt.
I slipped around behind the log we had shared, and he joined me. I looked back at the now half-circle around the fire. They didn't even notice us leaving, as wrapped up in each other as they were.
I led the way, treading silently as we entered a different trail.
We took our time, ambling slowly. Slivers of moonlight filtered through the canopy and guided us through the darkness. The thudding music faded as we walked, to be replaced with the natural noises of the night. Animals scurrying, trees whispering, feet shuffling on the leaves that littered the forest floor.
Edward was the first to break the silence. He looked like he'd been deep in thought. "I knew the basics of your ghost story, the fire part. But even after everything my dad told me, after my endless questions, I didn't even know half of the details you included in your story. How do you know so much?"
I gave him a wry smile. "Aren't ghost stories made to be embellished upon?"
"Well... yes," he conceded, "but even so, it sounded so accurate. Did you know the people in the story?"
"Yes, actually," I said, my throat tightening. "They were very close to me."
He held apologies in his eyes, but even they weren't enough to suppress the intense curiosity lingering there. "But it was over seventeen years ago. Were you even alive then?"
I sighed. "Yes, I was. But ever since..." I trailed off, fearing he would laugh or scoff at me. He gave me a nod of encouragement. "I don't feel like I've really been living ever since it happened." I dipped my head, vulnerable after my revelation.
"Me neither," he whispered. I looked up, surprised. That was the last thing I expected him to say, let alone to see the pain in his eyes.
"Elaborate on that statement," I said. "What do you mean?"
"My whole life, I've always felt like I was missing a vital part of my genetic makeup. Like I was all alone. Like I was..." he trailed off struggling with his words.
"Like you were searching for something, but you didn't know what it was?" I supplied.
"Yes! Basically, like what you said. My whole life has just been a meaningless existence. I haven't really been living."
I nodded, looking into his eyes and understanding exactly what words couldn't say. He was lost, like me. I wondered, though, what might have caused it. "Death leaves a heartache no one can heal," I murmured, "but love leaves a memory no one can steal."
The silence surrounded us again as we walked, but it wasn't awkward. The wind blew more strongly, I felt it breezing against my hand. I crossed my arms over my chest.
"Cold?" Edward asked, looking at my arms.
"No, I don't feel the cold. My chest hurts a bit, though." I was wheezing again.
"You might want to get that checked out, Edward said, considerately slowing his pace. "It might be asthma or something."
"Son of a doctor, you would know," I teased.
He grinned. "Hardly."
I grinned back, but it turned into a hacking cough.
Edward frowned. "Maybe we should stop in that clearing up ahead and rest for a bit."
"Would you mind?" I asked, smiling sheepishly.
He just smiled and lead the way. We stepped into the clearing, awash with the familiar full moon. I felt like I was always seeing these. They only came once a month but it seemed to me that they were all I ever saw. Edward leaned against a tree, glowing almost ethereally. All I could do was stare as his beauty overwhelmed me.
He was gazing up at the moon, a small smile on his face. I approached him carefully, making no noise. Leaning against a tree next to him, I sighed. "It's beautiful, isn't it?" My voice was full of reverence.
He looked at me, eyes penetrating once more, and his smile grew. "Not compared to you, Bella."
A shy smile crept over my face, mirroring his. The charged silence grew once again.
Edward sighed, and glanced at his wristwatch. "I don't want this night to end, but it's midnight already. No more Halloween, huh? So much for Alice's ghost theory."
My eyes widened. "It's that late already?" I asked, unbelieving, and I knew I was confusing Edward with the panic in my voice. The time had passed so quickly. Too quickly. I felt a horrible pain building in my chest, unfamiliar to what I normally felt.
He nodded, confused at my reaction, before his eyes grew wide, too."Oh shit, you were looking for something weren't you? We completely stole your time! I'm so sorry, Bella."
As he spoke, his concern wrapping around his words, and my name falling from his lips, something fell into place in my mind, and my pain—all of it—fell away.
"Wait, Edward, it's okay," I said, staring up at him in a new light. "I think I found it."
I stepped towards him, until we were almost flush against each other, but holding back just enough that we weren't actually touching. His eyes widened at my sudden close proximity.
I leaned forward, and marveled at how right it felt to be doing this. Edward's eyes slipped closed, and I felt mine doing the same.
When our lips finally met, my wish that they could actually touch fell away, because my world imploded and all I ever knew, all I could ever feel was him. Edward. I felt home, I felt complete.
I felt myself moving on.
My eyes fell closed of their own accord, as I leant closer to her, too.
The tugging toward her I had felt all night seemed to increase the closer I got, like something in my heart was begging to be released, and she held the key.
With my eyes closed, I could feel her near me. Like an invisible aura that surrounded her, a cool touch against my skin, pleasant and tingling.
In the next moment a handful of things happened.
First and foremost, I felt her surprisingly cold lips brush mine. It was like a chill passed straight through my body.
Second, a wind whipped through the trees around me, strong enough to flatten my hair against my head, and cause Bella to pull her lips away from mine.
And third, it was like a switch had been flipped inside. It was like that crazed animal that had been caged inside my heart my whole life, had escaped, leaving me feeling empty.
No, not empty … free.
Like I was the animal, and nothing was holding me back any longer.
Everything felt lighter, like a weight had lifted, like my dreams had come true, or I'd finally discovered a long lost artifact after a life's exploring.
Like I'd found what I was searching for.
I opened my eyes, and saw … nothing.
I was standing alone in the small clearing Bella had led me to, staring at the trees on the other side, only separated from me by what looked like the charred remains of a house.
The one from Bella's ghost story.
But where was Bella?
I gulped, as the stirrings of a realization formed in my mind.
Tiny things I'd noticed held the utmost significance now. The way she'd looked at our campfire fearfully, refused to touch anything, or fetch Emmett his beer. The way she made no noise as she walked through the forest. How, when I'd tried to hold her hand, it felt like I passed right through her, and suddenly she'd crossed her arms. How she'd disappeared… at exactly twelve-oh-one AM.
How she'd said 'I' in a moment of passion during her story, and how she seemed to know so much of it.
Had Bella been telling the ghost story … of herself?
No. It wasn't possible. I realised I'd been standing her for over fifteen minutes, wild theories chasing each other in my mind. The others would be worried.
Shifting away from the tree, I noticed something dig into my back. I turned around, and saw there was a small piece of metal attached to the tree.
There was an inscription on it, and as I read it, a chill that had nothing to do with the weather stole over my body. Goose flesh erupted over my skin.
I'm not a believer. People are born, they grow old and then they die. That's the world we live in. There's no magic, no mysticism, no immortality, no life after death. There is nothing that defies rational thought. People are supposed to be who they say they are and not lie or hide their true selves. It's not possible. I'm not a believer. I can't be. But how can I deny what's right in front of me?
I read the inscription a second, third, tenth time. Every time, it said the same thing:
In loving memory of Bella Swan
September 13, 1974 – June 20, 1992
Death leaves a heartache no one can heal, love leaves a memory no one can steal.