Disclaimer: All things Twilight belong to Stephenie Meyer. No copyright infringement is intended.
This story has been nudging me for a while. It's not long, four chapters or so. I hope you enjoy.
Carlisle's voice was very soft; he stared out the big window over the sink, into the darkness. "You see he thinks we've lost our souls."
The lightbulb flicked on over my head.
"That's the real problem, isn't it?" I guessed. "That's why he's being so difficult about me."
Carlisle spoke slowly. "I look at my…son. His strength, his goodness, the brightness that shines out of him - and it only fuels that hope, that faith, more than ever. How could there not be more for one such as Edward?"
I nodded in fervent agreement.
"But if I believed as he does…" He looked down at me with unfathomable eyes. "If you believed as he did. Could you take away his soul?"
The conversation with Carlisle played over and over in my head while Edward drove me home. The words sinking in, taking root, and making me think. Really think.
Normally Edward and I would be holding hands over the console, but not tonight. Instead my arm was bandaged, laying still and heavy in my lap. My new stereo sat in the dashboard, its dial turned to off. Silence covered us like a blanket, it was almost suffocating. Edward's mood was as dark as the night.
I wanted to tell him that what happened tonight was my fault, that I should have been more careful; I wanted to say that everything would be okay and I've had worse, this little scratch was nothing. But something stopped me. Carlisle's words kept repeating, and now they brought new thoughts with them. Unwelcome thoughts. I pushed them away as I slowly realised tonight was more than a stumble and a cut hand, and the truth was, I didn't know what to say or do next.
Maybe I was in shock.
I stared straight ahead. The headlights showcased every bump in the road, and the blacktop glistened from an earlier shower of rain. Insects flew past the beams of silvery light. Lots of little, normal things that somehow stood out more than usual.
I turned to Edward, studying him as he stared out the windscreen, and for probably the first time ever, I looked past the breathtaking, heart-stopping beauty, past my desires and wants, to the man beyond. And suddenly, it was like another light bulb had switched on and I could see the depth of his anguish. It was in the set of his jaw, the tightness around his eyes. It was in the way he clutched the steering wheel until his pale knuckles strained and turned whiter.
I could see what tonight had done to him. I could feel it. His pain was overwhelming. So was his fear.
"I'm so sorry," he said, turning to me. His face was smooth now, a mask in place for my benefit. Or perhaps his. "This should never have happened."
"It's…" I almost said fine, just on reflex, because it was what I always said. But to tell him that would be to dismiss his pain. And things were so obviously not fine, it would be an insult to his intelligence. And mine. "It doesn't hurt," I mumbled instead.
"Anaesthetic," Edward murmured. "You'll feel it in a couple of hours." He winced slightly and turned the car off the freeway, towards Charlie's house. I closed my eyes and took deep breaths, trying to clear my mind. Trying to keep the thoughts at bay, but Carlisle's words kept nudging me.
"You're very quiet," Edward said after a while, his own voice barely above a whisper. "Are you sure you're not hurting?"
I was hurting, but not the way he meant.
"I expected…" He stopped and shook his head, turning back to face the road. "I thought you'd be trying to tell me it's all fine, and how this was all your fault because you're human. I was expecting demands to change you, so nothing like this would ever happen again."
I would have expected that from me too. I thought I might have been as surprised as Edward.
"How's Jasper?" I asked instead.
"Upset. Angry with himself, of course. He's hunting right now, but tomorrow he and Alice will go away to Denali for a while."
My mind replayed that moment when I looked up from my bleeding arm and into the fevered eyes of six suddenly ravenous vampires. Then Jasper's teeth snapping just inches from my face as he struggled to get to me while his brothers held him back. For a second I relived that sharp spike of fear, the pulse of adrenalin throbbing through me…
My sobs started coming and a second later Edward had pulled the truck over to the side of the road and pulled me into his lap. His arms were around me, holding me close, tucked under his chin, as he spoke in a choked voice.
"Bella…Bella, I'm so sorry."
"I…was so…scared." The words spilled out so quickly, I barely knew what I was saying. "It was…so…fast. I didn't…I never thought…"
Edward held me tight until I'd cried myself out. It seemed like only a few minutes, but when I finally sniffed and dried my eyes, the clock in the dashboard said we'd been sitting like that for almost an hour.
"Are you okay?" Edward asked. He pushed back my hair and wiped his thumbs over my cheeks. His shirt was soaked. "I've never seen you cry like that."
"Yeah." I sniffed. "I think I needed that."
"A normal, healthy reaction for once." Edward smiled, a soft, sad sort of smile. I touched his cheek, wishing I could take the pain from his eyes.
"What happens now?" I asked. The words had come without thinking.
"Do you want to go home?" Edward asked.
"I…I don't think I meant that." My head was spinning. It seemed my mouth had taken control and was acting on its own.
"What did you mean?"
"I…with us. What happens now, with us?"
"Us?" He seemed genuinely surprised. Like me. A new sort of fear rose up inside me, choking my heart. Edward blinked, and pulled his hand through his hair. "I don't know."
"There has to be a way," I said quickly. "Some way we can…" My voice trailed off, because I wasn't sure what I was asking. And now I was truly scared of where this conversation was going.
"A way we can be together without you being at risk?" Edward said.
I nodded. "Yeah."
Edward gave a brittle laugh. "Well, I suppose we could ban all birthday celebrations. Christmas too. Anything involving gift wrap."
"Okay. That's a start."
He gave me an incredulous look. "Are you saying you'd be guided by me in future? Let me make the decisions about what's safe for you and what's not, without arguing?"
I thought for a moment. "Yeah. I think I am. Guided by you on all things vampire, anyway. The non-vampire stuff? Those decisions are mine." It seemed like a good solution, a real way of moving forward.
There was a flicker of something in Edward's eyes, but it was too fast for me to catch. His face quickly became unreadable again. "Lets get you home," he said.
The porch light was on at Charlie's, a welcome beacon in the dark.
"Will you be waiting in my room when I get up there?" I asked as Edward turned off the engine.
"Do you want me to be?"
"Then I'll be there." There was a flicker of a smile on his lips. "Wait, I'll come and open your door for you."
Of course Charlie wanted to know what happened but he doesn't question my story of stumbling and falling into the table.
"It was a good thing Carlisle was there," he said. "Tell Esme we'll replace whatever's broken. Now you go get some sleep."
Yeah, sleep. Like that was going to happen.
As I turned the handle of my door I wondered for a moment if Edward would actually be there. I was almost surprised when I saw him, sitting in my rocking chair. He gave me a small smile. "Hi."
"Hi." I smiled back and this almost felt like that first day we sat together in the cafeteria.
I kicked off my shoes, grabbed my standard sleep wear of sweats and t-shirt and headed for the bathroom. When I came back, Edward tucked me into bed and kissed my forehead.
"Do you have Tylenol?"
He was gone for two seconds, maybe three, but then he was back with two tablets and a glass of water that he set on the bedside table.
"You'll need them," he said, sitting on the edge of the bed, staring at my bandaged arm.
"I'll be okay," I whisper and reach up to touch his cold cheek. "Will you pick me up for school tomorrow?"
"I don't think I can. There are things at home…"
"I get it." And I wasn't surprised. He probably needed time to be with his family. "Wanna come by afterwards?"
He took my hand, running his thumb over my knuckles. "Yes," he said. "I want to come by afterwards." His gaze shifted from our fingers to my face. "I'm not sure why you'd want me to, though. You should be running away from me, screaming. I don't know whether you're brave or crazy."
"A bit of both, I think."
He smiled a little but his eyes were weary. So weary. Like he bore not just the weight of this world, but the universe, on his shoulders. It hurt to see.
I opened my arms to him and was relieved when he laid down beside me, and we wrapped ourselves around each other. I wanted to tell him it would be alright, I tried twice to do so, but the words wouldn't come. I
After a while Edward got up, told me I should sleep, and smiled as he kissed me softly.
"So, after school tomorrow? You'll come over?"
"If that's what you want."
He took my hand, and squeezed it softly. Then he was gone.
I watch the window for a long time. "It'll be alright," I said into the darkness. "I promise. We'll find a way together." Then I wondered why I hadn't been able to say those words while Edward was here. Now all those thoughts I'd been holding back were yelling for attention in my head. I couldn't ignore them anymore, so I braced myself, and let them come.
I thought about Edward's soul.
I'd been so selfish.
So very selfish.
All the times I'd begged him to change me. But could I let him live a thousand years believing he'd lost any chance of redeeming that soul, because he'd taken mine? Carlisle was right, it didn't matter if I believed in Edward's soul, if Edward didn't. And for as long as Edward felt that way, I couldn't ask him to change me, I knew that now.
I groaned and rolled over and stared at the dresser. So where did that leave me? Did I accept 80 human years of getting older, being mistaken for his mother, his grandmother. Living my life with only chaste kisses and careful hugs and all the time Edward burned and worried and never relaxed in case he held me too hard, and maybe had to separate himself from his family for my safety?
When I looked at it that way…
But we could work through this. I knew we could. He was my destiny, and we'd find a way. We had to.
Maybe I could ask Carlisle to change me and then my soul wouldn't be on Edward's conscience. But would that strain their relationship? Would Edward hate Carlisle for taking my soul? But he shouldn't. Carlisle had changed others. But they were dying - Edward, Esme, Rosalie, Emmett…all of them pulled back from deaths door.
But I was dying too, in a way – every day I was getting older. And when I died, Edward would be alone.
The realization that Edward would have been better off if he'd never met me, hit me like a wrecking ball.
It knocked the air from me, like a kick in the guts, and I laid gasping in my bed as the only possible way forward became clearer and clearer. Like a stark vision gradually appearing out of a thick mist.
"Oh, God, no…no…please…"
But it wouldn't stop. The soft mist cleared, leaving me with a hard-edged reality. I started to sob, and didn't stop until dawn.
Edward knocked on the door at 3.30 the next afternoon. It felt like I was having an out of body experience as I turned the handle and stepped out onto the porch. Edward leant in and kissed my cheek, his hand resting gently on my back.
"How are you feeling today?"
"A bit sore. But better."
"You didn't go to school? The truck hasn't moved from where I parked it last night."
"Um, no. I thought I should stay home and rest." I looked past him to the street. "Where's your car?"
He pulled a hand through his hair. "I've been running," he said. "Thinking."
"I've been thinking since I left you last night. About what you said. About finding a way." He smiled and glanced towards the house, waiting for me to invite him in. Instead I held out my hand.
"Walk with me, Edward?"
His smile faded. Confusion flashed across his face but was quickly gone. He nodded and linked his fingers with mine.
We walked beyond the house, to where a finger of forest encroached on Charlie's back yard. A little further on was a fallen log and a clearing and it was there that I stopped. I forced myself to let go of Edward's hand, and shoved my own in my pockets.
I wondered if I'd be able to get the words out. Would I actually be able to do this? It seemed impossible. Almost blasphemous. My head span and I sucked in a sharp breath.
"Bella?" he said, so quietly. "What's happening?"
I couldn't do it. There was no way. But then I forced myself to remember that look in Edward's eyes last night.
"Your heart sounds like it's about to crash out of your chest."
The voice sounded like mine, but I didn't realise I'd said the words. I hadn't felt them leave my lips. I was outside myself, watching and listening, and none of this was real. But it was.
The world telescoped down to the few square feet between Edward and me. There was nothing outside the small clearing. My eyes burned, my fists clenched in my pockets and I didn't know how I was going to get through this. Not with my heart in one piece. Not with my soul.
"I don't understand." The sound of his voice brought me back to myself, and nearly broke me.
A cold, airless panic gripped me and I shut my eyes. I could stop this now. I could wrap my arms around him and say lets go inside and watch a movie and snuggle on the sofa. But that wouldn't solve anything.
I reminded myself again why I was doing this.
I thought of Edward's soul.
"I've been thinking too. A lot." My throat felt like it was closing over and I swallowed hard. "And I think…I'm going to Jacksonville. To my Mom."
Edward shifted. He sank his hands into the pockets of his jeans. "You need a break?"
"No. Not a break. I'm leaving and…I'm not coming back."
Understanding dawned across his face, there was a flash of something in his eyes, but then it was gone. "I see," he said. His eyes were suddenly empty, his face a smooth mask – the shutters had come down. "Are you doing this because you think it's what I want?"
My nails dug into my palms and somehow the pain kept me focused. I dug harder.
"No. It's what I want. You've been right all along. There's no place for me in your world, last night proved that to me."
He gave a quick, sharp nod of his head. "I should be glad you've come to your senses, but this is quite a turnaround from last night when you were talking about finding a way to make things work."
"I know, I know, but…" It was like he could see right through me, see the lie, and I could feel my resolve fading fast. I had to end this now, and I knew how to do it. I bit the inside of my cheek hard as I steeled myself. "We don't belong together, Edward. You…you're not good for me."
He didn't react. Didn't move. Except for the faintest flicker of his eye. I didn't know how I was still standing. Inside I was curled in a heap on the ground, sobbing his name.
"I know that sounds harsh, but…"
"No, not at all," he said quickly. "You're right. And this is what I've always wanted for you."
I dropped my eyes. I couldn't look at him anymore.
"When do you leave?" he asked.
"Tonight. Charlie's driving me to the airport at Port Angeles in an hour."
"An hour." There was the faintest break in his voice, and it was like a thousand hot knives in my heart. "How did he take the news?"
I shrugged, still staring down. I'd told Charlie this morning that I was breaking up with Edward and that meant I wouldn't be able to stay in Forks. I thought he'd try to convince me otherwise, but I got the feeling he thought better of it. I could only imagine what my face must have looked like when I told him.
"He was surprised," I said. "But I've let him know this is all me, not you." I forced myself to look up. Edward was statue still. Face like stone. "I'm so sorry, Edward." He waved his hand, dismissing my words.
"I've told you before," he said. "This is what I wanted for you."
"But I want you to know, I regret nothing," I said quickly, almost frantic for him to know that. "Not one second. And I'll always remember. The time we've had will always be so, so special to me." I wondered if he believed me.
He nodded and looked away, into the trees. "Me too," he whispered.
I was on the verge of breaking down and telling him the truth.
"I have to go now, but first I want you to promise me something."
His gaze, flat and empty, came back to me. My voice shook as I spoke, and now my words were like a plea. It was so important that he understood this next part.
"You have to move on and live your life. You have a beautiful heart, Edward, and a lot of love to give. Please don't close yourself off. If you have the chance to share that love again, with someone who's right for you, do it. You deserve to be loved. Please, let yourself be." I stepped forward and touched his cheek. His skin seemed colder than usual, but I savoured this last touch, burning the feel of him into my memory. "Promise me."
His reserve cracked. His lips parted and the sudden, fleeting flare of emotion in his eyes knocked the breath from me. "Bella…" he whispered.
I clenched my teeth. "Promise me. Do this last thing for me."
He closed his eyes and nodded. "I promise." He turned his face, his lips almost grazing my palm, but not quite.
"And I'll make you a promise too," I said quickly, dropping my hand and stepping back before I buckled. "I'll take care of myself, and I'll make sure I live that long life you've always wanted for me. I'll do that for you."
His mask was back in place, and he nodded again.
Now I had to get away quickly before the tears started because I knew that once they did, I'd be a mess on the forest floor, Edward would know the truth, and this would all be for nothing. I turned and walked away, back towards Charlie's house. As I stepped over the fallen log, over the pieces of my shattered, lifeless heart, Edward's voice came to me, like a whisper on the breeze…
And that was all it took. I turned round, ready to run back into his arms, but Edward had already gone.
A/N: Opening paragraph is from "New Moon" copyright Stephenie Meyer.
Next chapter should be up next week J