Everything had gone so well for years now, Esme was happy with the family I had created for her, our "children" seemed settled and content to enjoy life as teenagers in High School moving easily from state to state as time forced us to do and when I suggested to Esme that we could return to Forks she was delighted. The house there was one of her favourites and the location, close to the Olympic range and plenty of wilderness areas meant the family could relax, There was always the slight problem of the Quileute reservation but both they and we had kept to the treaty I had forged with the elders many years back so it was safe enough to make our home there for a few precious years.
I had been startled and a little apprehensive when Edward became interested in the Police Chief's daughter but as he was in control of his thirst and she seemed to be fond of him both Esme and I decided to leave matters for the moment. Edward had shown little interest in girls before Bella and we thought it would be good for him to have a girlfriend although he knew that nothing could come of the relationship in the long term, she was human and he was a vampire and the two just didn't mix. Even Rosalie who was usually very reserved around humans seemed relaxed about Bella, especially when she saw that Edward kept a distance between his human girlfriend and the family. Alice, of course, couldn't help herself, she just had to get to know Bella and the two became friends although this didn't sit well with Jasper who still found it difficult to relate to humans in a social setting although he was improving with the experience he gathered by attending school as a senior.
Bella had visited the house a few times but we were very careful that she never saw anything that might give her pause for thought. It was one thing I was very strict about, the Volturi law against giving away our existence to humans had been enacted for a very good reason and while our way of life was tolerated by them I knew we were under observation from time to time to ensure we upheld all the laws since we lived in such close quarters with humans. Aro knew I would never deliberately do anything to endanger our kind however he was not quite so convinced by some of my family. He felt Alice was a little too cavalier in her attitude and Edward so arrogant at times that he thought himself above any laws although I had vouched for both of them. I suppose we all become complacent over time, even me, which is why it came as something of a shock to learn that despite all my care I had failed to protect my family sufficiently well.
It had taken only one small problem for everything to unravel and now I sat here contemplating the wreckage that had been my life, my family, the only things that meant anything to me and I had no idea what to do for the best. My conscience pulled me in one direction but my love for my family was stronger, much stronger, and I knew when it came down to it I was no better than any other being, human or vampire. I would fight for what mattered most to me whatever the cost to others.
There was only one solution to my problem that would save my family and loathe as I was to make use of an old friend whose gift I had found both worrying and distasteful I would do so and learn to live with the consequences whatever they might be. With a heavy heart, I picked up the phone and dialed William's number wondering if he would even agree to speak to me, let alone help, under the circumstances.
As the phone rang my mind went back to that revealing conversation with Alice earlier in the day. I had been in my office at the clinic getting ready for my afternoon appointments when Jenny my secretary rang through to tell me that my daughter was here and needed to speak to me urgently. This was most unusual and when the door opened and I saw Alice looked stricken, so different from her usual cheerful and sunny self I stood up holding out my hands to comfort her. It was a sign of how upset she was that she flew into my embrace hugging me like a drowning man clutching a lifebelt.
I persuaded her to sit down and try to calm herself knowing in my heart that it must be something terrible to put her in this state and wondering if perhaps my old friend Aro had finally been persuaded to act against me. I was no threat to him or the Volturi but I had half expected that one day he or Caius would see me as the last remaining threat to their absolute mastery of our world. As a critic of the Volturi's attitude to dissenters I'd once had to work hard to prevent others seeing me as a rallying point for rebellion but finally word got around that all I wanted was a quiet life away from intrigue and war and that, along with vocal backing for the Volturi laws had saved me from suspicion, thus far at least.
So, when Alice pulled herself together, sat down and began to speak I was shocked to realize I had it all wrong, this had nothing to do with the Volturi. This was something else entirely, something much more difficult and worrying.
"Carlisle, the family is doomed and I can't see a way out. I tried so hard, I don't want to harm anyone but I don't see how else to keep my family together and I can't survive alone, not again."
Her voice broke but she pulled herself together with a mighty effort and continued before I could interrupt.
"You know I like Bella, I even thought she was good for Edward and I guess I still think so but it's just not going to happen. I can't see her, or her future, she prevents me somehow, the same way she prevents Edward from reading her mind and it's only since she went to visit her mom in Florida that I've been able to see glimpses of the future. Not hers, still not hers, but ours and it terrified me. I need your help, your clear sightedness, you have to find a way to save us, Carlisle, because I can't."
I had leaned against the edge of my desk so I could put a comforting arm on her shoulder and as she began to tremble with emotion I squeezed gently and spoke as quietly and calmly as I could.
"Alice, you aren't making any sense, what have you seen? How is Bella a threat to us? Surely if that were the case you would have seen something before we met her? Edward seems smitten and has so far found it possible to control his thirst. I had great hopes she might be the one for him, the one to fill the void in his life although both Esme and I understand that is highly unlikely."
She shook her head a bitter laugh escaping from her lips,
"If only….no. I don't know why she is so dangerous only that if the family continues on its present course….well…"
She trailed off, her eyes staring sightlessly as she thought about something but then she shook her head.
"All I can tell you is that if Bella Swan remains in our lives, in Edward's life, then it will destroy the family. She will rip us apart without even understanding how or why."
This didn't sound like the Bella I knew, she was genuinely very fond of Edward and friendly towards the family.
"How Alice? Bella would never harm us, how could she?"
"Not intentionally perhaps, no, but that doesn't make the future any less bleak. I know you can find a way to stop her Carlisle, you have to. We need to leave and forget she exists as quickly as we can."
"Leave Forks? Well, I guess that could be accomplished but what do I tell Edward and the others? Besides, leaving is one thing but forgetting? Well, that's something else entirely."
I listened without interrupting as she laid out what she could tell from her visions and persuaded me that she was right, there was no other way if I were to keep my family together and nothing mattered to me more.
"All I know for sure is that if Bella and Edward continue on their present path she will find out what we are and the Volturi will hear of it. The rest is so muddled and horrific so you see Carlisle, as head of the family you are the only one who can do this. Edward will listen to you and so will the others."
I leaned back sighing as I glanced out the window at the rain lashed lawn that fronted the clinic.
"Are you sure Alice? You couldn't be mistaken?"
She shook her head ruefully,
"I wish I were but it's what I saw and then only for an instant but I know it's the truth unless you change things. It's your decision Carlisle but what I saw will come to pass unless we can stop it. The family will be in terrible danger, and even if we scatter none of us can survive alone, without you."
She smiled then and I saw the young girl who lit up all our lives with her vitality.
"We will always need you Carlisle, you and Esme. You are the glue that holds us together."
After a long pause, I nodded.
"Thank you, Alice, I need time to think, I can't just act so precipitously. I must find a way to do this without hurting anyone."
"I know how you feel but please don't take too long. I have no idea how much time we have and once Bella returns I shall be blind again and things could change in a heartbeat."
She saw the spark of hope in my eyes and grimaced shaking her head
"I only meant things could get worse more quickly than I anticipate."
After she left I thought of nothing else, even canceling my last clinic and calling in a favor from a colleague to check on my few urgent patients. I had told Jenny to hold any calls including any family ones, I didn't want to be interrupted as I made what was possibly the most important decision I would ever make for myself and my family.
I was brought back to the present by my old friend's familiar voice as he eventually answered his phone.
"Carlisle Cullen as I live and breathe….well metaphorically speaking at least. I didn't expect to hear from you again. What's the matter?"
His tone was cold but not overtly hostile which gave me hope.
"I have a serious problem William and I am about to ask you a huge favor, one I have no right to ask after the things I said to you."
There was a momentary hesitation and then I heard him laugh,
"Wow! That must have taken some guts but then you were never a coward Carlisle and I know if you are speaking to me and asking what I think you are then you must have a very good reason for doing so."
"I do, the survival of my family depends on it and you know I would do anything to keep them safe."
"Yes, you would, even swallow your pride and call me. What do you need?"
And there it was, a friendship as old as time that had withstood my own criticism and condemnation and in doing so made me feel very humble.
William listened in silence as I explained what I needed from him, the only hint of emotion a small hiss when I mentioned the number of people involved.
"I see. You do know that I have never used my gift on so many at one time? And that what you are asking of me is, in essence, a betrayal of those you love? Is there no other way forward, Carlisle? Deceit, manipulation, and lies never did lay easily on your conscience."
"I know, but I can see no other way to keep everyone that I love safe William. Can you do it?"
He hesitated and I thought even then that he might refuse.
"I must ask you one question first, is this girl Edward's mate? I mean is there any chance that he might be?"
"No, I would have sensed it by now and Alice would have seen. I think he is just intrigued by her and drawn by the scent of her blood, no more,"
"Very well then, I can, although with so many there is always a chance someone will remember something, someone who has feelings for the girl, enough to make them deeply unhappy perhaps. That's why I asked about Edward. Are you willing to risk that?"
"Yes, I am and I need you to act as quickly as possible, preferably while the girl and Edward are apart, it will be easier that way. How long do you need?"
"As you say the quicker I act the easier it will be for you. As I do not know the girl and she is human, she will be the most challenging. If you remove the family from the area before she returns then I can ensure it will be done quickly. You didn't mention yourself Carlisle, am I to work on you too?"
I hesitated but if this were to work then best it worked for all of us.
"It is permanent?"
"Yes, as I say unless there is someone with deep feelings for the girl."
"Then yes, me too William and please promise me that even if I remember something you will never tell me what I asked you to do….ever."
"A promise once made will never be broken, remember that Carlisle."
"Then I promise but I must tell you that I never expected you to become a client, you were always so critical of my gift. At least now you understand how sometimes it is the best or only option."
His final words were almost inaudible and I knew he was uncomfortable but I also knew he wouldn't let me down.
I finally left the clinic after ringing Edward and asking him to come home straight away. I knew while Bella was away he spent a lot of time alone waiting for her return but I needed him where I could see him along with the rest of the family. I had to act fast, Bella was due home in a couple of days and as soon as William's gift began to take effect I would act.
He was puzzled but as expected he agreed and as I put the phone down I asked his forgiveness silently along with that of the other precious members of my family. I knew William would handle this in his own way, he could be trusted to work things out in a way that would explain everything satisfactorily, his gift was not only powerful but extremely versatile and he was a master at what he did. It was the main reason he was still alive and free centuries after making it to the top of the Volturi's most wanted list.