They were not immune to change as Edward had once professed, they were creatures of the universe, they simply wore their forms longer than their human mayfly cousins. That was the truth that Bella Swan then Cullen found at the end of things.
There were several misconceptions people had about her over the years, some she wished she could have changed, others she left for better or worse. One was that she was soft, not delicate which she would admit with all honesty, but soft. When they looked at her, human or vampire, they saw a cherry blossom drifting on the breeze and perhaps there was some truth to that image but that didn't make her soft. Bella had never been soft.
Soft would have caused her to hesitate with Edward's confession of his truer nature, would have broken her to the point where she could not return from those woods where he abandoned her, would have struck her down and killed her when James set a camera on her face. She's survived too many times to be soft.
Another, and perhaps the worst, was that her love was inexhaustible. She loved many things, her father, her daughter, her new found family but it waxed and waned with the rhythm of their actions towards her. She stretched her love until it was thin, on the point of breaking, and then they asked her with cold eyes to stretch it further when there was no room to move.
That was the beginning of the end with Edward, the fact that he barely knew her at all. Of course, what had there been to know at the time. She was only seventeen when he found her, seventeen and human and barely alive, always in the face of one disaster or another always bouncing back up from the fall. In those days she was Sisyphus rolling the boulder up the hill just to stay alive only for it to roll back down again; how well can one know a person if all they see is the storm?
Edward saw her, saw something in her, some spark of humanity he felt he had lost forever and clung to it with all the strength and desperation of a man drowning. You will be the reason I exist, he said to a girl who was always in one way or another dying.
After that things had spiraled until suddenly she was frozen in time, caught just before twenty, with an inhuman child smiling up at her and a husband with eyes like honey smiling down. How did I get here, she would wonder sometimes, where did this dream spur from?
They were fine for quite some time, she learned to play the Cullen game, to attend high school long enough to become bored with it, to teach her daughter the art of lying to someone's face and pretending that you weren't thinking of draining them with your teeth as razor blades against their skin, to pick up wild and erratic hobbies just to pass the time and make it seem as if the sun would set and the day would end. Ennui, she learned that it was an art form rather than a feeling.
In those first years, the years where she desperately tried, her smile waning and her love stretching itself out that she began to know Jasper better than she had. Jasper, irrationally, liked her quite a bit. Edward had claimed it was her happiness but it was more than that, there was something in his eyes, something in him that sparked when she walked in a room that was more than her love for Edward or Reneesme in any given moment. She felt they understood each other because Jasper hadn't found a Bella like Edward had to chase off the crippling boredom instead he had endured. Even with Alice he suffered and chafed and never truly belonged only knowing that it was not in the blood pits that had been Mexico City.
They didn't have to say anything, they'd just sit together in Calculus II and wonder if it was worth it, all this academia without purpose. Edward never listened to her when she talked like that, even though she knew he had thought it more than once himself.
The first cracks appeared when Reneesme grew up, when in seven years she was a young woman, looking at all of them with Bella's human eyes and wondering what the hell they thought they were accomplishing.
"I won't eat people, how can I… I'm not…Well I'm half of them after all." She'd said to Bella before she left, her bag packed and fidgeting in that way only Nessie and Bella could ever manage, "But mom, this isn't right either, I can't be this forever. Not like you, not like them. I can't grow up and marry Jacob and stay here forever, it doesn't work like that. I have to go."
From the way Edward had described Reneesme's goodbye to him had been much blunter. Edward and Reneesme had ended up with a rockier relationship than expected, once the novelty a daughter had worn off and they'd been given a liability in the form of a little girl Edward's patience had strained, he was never a bad father but at the same time it wasn't hard for anyone to tell that Edward would choose Bella over Reneesme.
It was probably better that Reneesme left first without looking back because it might have broken her to see Bella go instead.
Those first few months after Reneesme had left it had been a little like being back in the woods with Edward's disappearance, she knew that it wasn't her, knew from Reneesme's words and smile to her but it brought back the pain all the same. It was supposed to be a gift, a privlage, letting Edward into her head. She'd thought he wouldn't want to see that.
She was wrong.
She'd kept him in so long he'd started thinking it was his right to be there just as it was with everyone else. When the shields came down it wasn't because Bella wanted privacy, to be herself for a few moments, but because she was keeping something from Edward.
He'd always been controlling, always needed to know everything, but it wasn't until then that she realized the extent of it.
So there was Bella, the nineteen year old forever, wondering how the hell she wound up in this mess and if love was as lovely as she'd always thought it.
She did love him, she truly did, not just in teenage lovesick infatuation. There was something real there, something brilliant and divine in him, in his music and his words of devotion. He felt so much for the world and never even realized it, that's what made him beautiful. Her love though was stretched and stretched until it was terribly thin and almost see through.
"It's not a right, Edward!" She'd screamed at him one night, they hadn't made love in weeks and making love had been everything then, one of the strongest connections they had. It was one of the stronger bits of glue holding them together, cheap sex, and she hated thinking that, "It's not a right to live in my head, I deserve…"
"You've never kept me out before! For years you've never kept me out! And now… You don't just say it calling it a right!"
"I am allowed to live in my own head!"
It almost seemed natural then, that she and Jasper would draw closer together. Their situations were similar in a way Bella had never realized, the only difference was Jasper couldn't turn his privacy on and off like she could. Alice would always see him, and worried whenever he blanked out with Reneesme or the wolves, and that always limited him.
"You have to watch yourself, constantly, not because you're afraid of yourself but because they make you afraid of what you're capable of, the decisions you might make." He'd said as they sat together on a lake looking out at the still water. She'd pulled the shield over them both, a courtesy to him, one that he hadn't asked for but appreciated none the less. No one liked the idea of Edward lurking in their heads.
"It never used to belong to him, he's forgotten that." She added thinking of her thoughts, they had been a gift, and he had taken them for granted.
Perhaps it happened because Edward accused it of happening, perhaps that was the cue she had needed, they had both needed to find a way out in each other.
She didn't know if his actions were a reflection of hers, of desperation, friendship, and perhaps even a spark of love. She never asked what he felt, what he saw in her, that wasn't what they were there for. She would only look in his eyes and see so many emotions dancing there that she didn't know how to name them all.
She had gone to high school many times by that point, had graduated more than she liked to remember, and had been nineteen forever and a day. She had owned many cars each more sleek than the last as the Cullens danced on the edge of the future never quite reaching meaning only superficiality. It was in the midst of this, of the hurried flurry of desperate movement, of love that wasn't love and the desire to feel something of worth that she took Jasper as her lover.
Or perhaps Jasper took her, details like that remained unclear in retrospect.
The war-maker, the demon general of the south, had never quite left him. It was in his eyes, lurking in that gold shade the color of a dragon's gold, as he leaned over her in darkened rooms. He was harder than Edward, more masculine in some ways, he did not talk in the midst of passion and on his face there was always an expression more wild and fey than Edward's had ever managed to be.
When Jasper walked alone into a town it was similar to Clint Eastwood strolling into a saloon, there was death in the very sound of his footsteps, never mind the color of his eyes or the scars on his alabaster skin.
After the first time, lying unclothed next to him in the dark, she had felt the closest thing to contentment that she had felt in a long time.
This is real, she thought, this is what reality is.
As for her, he whispered into her ear, to him she had always been light harsh, soft, blinding, and brilliant all in the same moment. More than the virgin in the tower Edward had always wrote his poetics about, she was also the slayer of demons, and he had always known that.
They're precautions were more pretenses than anything else, a veil over thoughts and him pumping disinterest and distraction into the family, but it was nothing truly serious. There was no hiding things from the Cullens and as it happened they both wanted to be found out.
She loved Jasper but she didn't love him, they were both like the wind, they just happened to meet in the same place for a certain amount of time. In the end even as his hands trailed over her bare body, as she traced his scars, they belonged more to their own unfinished stories than to each other. Written over his worn and bruised heart was Alice on hers was Edward, there was no room for another name, but that hardly mattered.
No, this wasn't a story about Bella and a love triangle and an affair and everything romantic going wrong, it wasn't a romance at all. This was a story about Bella leaving, about misconceptions, and about being Sisyphus.
Jasper simply happened to be the door.
So the day came when they did find out, when they were cornered, and there was much raging and snarling and forced politeness that was pushed aside in the face of rage and overwhelming desperation.
"How could you?" Edward asked her, once the screaming had ended and the fighting had been subdued before it could even begin.
There were many things she could have told him, that it was time, that his forever was not the true forever, that he had once left her broken in the woods to die like a cast off plaything, that she had been too young, that he had been too young, but she just looked at him and let the veil drift from her thoughts and let him get from that what he would.
"I am not a rose, Edward, I never was one."
And so there she was, later, not soft yet delicate like china that is continually broken and glued together, a golden eyed girl who went only by Bella and let her last name fly south for winter while she trudged north.
Rumor had it that Jasper left shortly after she did and that Alice screamed his name after him but did not attempt to follow.
We'll have forever, Edward had once said, but Edward you have only had a century so tell me how you could possibly know what eternity tastes like?
Author's Note: Wow, even the fanfiction where I try to actively make the plot center around romance somehow doesn't ever center around the romance, it appears it's just beyond me. Thanks for reading, reviews would be much appreciated.
Disclaimer: I don't own Twilight.