A blink turned into a long rest for my heavy eyelids. I nodded off into sleep with my head bowed towards my desk, as if praying to the desk lamp that illuminated my worn work space.
The long day of school that promised rigorous college prep courses including Honors biology, calculus, History, AP English and PE was not a great challenge nor my traditional idea of fun—the thought of the coursework alone was usually enough to put me to sleep, on a typical day that is.
After school today, I'd hopped on my motorcycle and went straight to work part time at the Forks' only music shop which (surprisingly) proved the only down time in the day. Any (spare time I had that was not dedicated to my homework was offered to lend a hand to my exhausted parents with my screaming (albeit cute) toddler sister; it should've left me too weary for the luxury of dreaming.
This particular evening, I finished my homework grudgingly, slapping down my pen against the desk with a sigh. I sat back in my office chair to stretch my arms overhead and listened to the familiar cracking of my knuckles as I flexed my hands. "Done, and done." I mumbled to no one in particular as I slid my completed assignments into a folder.
I took the fastest shower I could manage and slithered into bed, trying to calculate how much rest I could manage before waking up tomorrow to do it again.
5 hours and 23 minutes.
Nice. Exactly what a 17 year old needs for optimal brain function," I thought sarcastically. I scrolled through social media only a couple times before I shut off my phone, and closed my eyes, dedicating myself to rest.
As I expected, it was only moments later that the weight of sleep would settle over me like a thick blanket and I was transported into another world.
I didn't often dream, and when I did, they were usually of familiar setting and faces.
This was odd. I didn't recognize this place at all.
I was met by a cold room, dimly lit by flickering fluorescent lighting. The floors appeared to be made of concrete, only adding to the hostility of the space. Perhaps "room" wasn't the right word, it looked more like a prison. The only door out seemed to have a complicated lock contraption that I'd never seen before. There were no windows on these metal walls and the air smelled oddly sterile. Is this whole room made of steel?
There was a single mirror that reflected the space I was standing in, and in it, I saw the only illuminated thing in the room; a deathly pale girl, lying motionless on a metal table.
I would've wondered if she was a corpse being prepared for an autopsy or an embalming— if not for the several monitors hooked up to her, signaling the various internal signs of life.
The steel walls that encapsulated the room looked strangely thick and seemed out of place for the fragile looking girl laying on a table and I wondered who were they trying to keep out of this room with the excess security of a steel wall. A chilling thought came to me, in opposition.
What if they're not trying to keep someone out; what if someone is trying to keep her in?
I approached the girl with urgency, wanting to somehow wake her, and help her out of here.
Her eyes opened to alarmingly crimson irises that quickly focused on me; as if she were expecting my presence. She uttered the words, in a soft but clear voice:
"Don't come any closer."
Despite her solemn warning, I inched closer in my dream. She sat up as if she were a puppet, arching off of the table. Her long black hair fell to either side of her face; and full lips stretched in a cold but seductive curve.
"I warned you. You stay, you sink,"
I felt a drop of warm liquid drip down my arm.
I looked down in alarm Blood? Where did it come from? I looked up.
The walls instantly began to create red streaks on the wall, and I realized too late that the room instantly began filling with blood, as if on command. There was so much of it that I was forced to wade closer to her. In hopes of securing myself to something, anything. But she almost seemed to grow farther as the blood rushed in. The noxious liquid was nearly chin deep and I was still trying to paddle my way through the hot liquid—I gagged from the metallic smell that only seemed to worsen.
I barely managed to see her now; from the sea of red that I barely kept my head over.
Where did she go? She disappeared.
I suddenly felt two oddly long hands wrap around my shoulders and push me down with inhuman force. I barely managed a breath before I was plunged beneath the warmth. I fought back, swimming upwards and away to break the surface. I only managed to take a single breath Before I felt ice cold arms wrap around me as if to push me down again. Instead, the strangely youthful female was breathing against my ear. Her frosty hands was touching my face endearingly.
"I told you to stay away. Now I get to watch you sink." I heard a peal of laughter before I was pushed down again into the blood, only to lose consciousness this time.
I sat up in bed, panting. My shirt stuck to me as if it had been doused with water—except it was sweat. My heart pounded like I'd run a marathon. I clutched my chest, alarmed at its rhythm. Am I having a panic attack?
Not for a lack of trying, I couldn't sleep that night. I felt like a madman replaying this weird interaction with the cold ethereal girl over and over. This same dream replayed itself over and over; I was beginning to feel afraid to sleep. I was ready to put it off as a one time thing; until the dream repeated itself like a record on a track; 4 nights in a row. I had slept a collective total of about 10 hours over four days.
Even my mother had noticed the change in sleeping pattern at breakfast one morning.
"Edward?" She lifted my chin, forcing my eyes up to hers as she did when I was a child getting a scolding. My eyes widened in surprise and I looked at her in suspicion.
"May I... help you?" I asked quizzically through a mouthful of cereal.
"I can tell you haven't been sleeping well, son. You look exhausted." Genuine concern filled her emerald eyes, I knew she meant well and I softened after swallowing my cereal and hastily smoothing my wild bronze colored hair. I will never be ungrateful for your love; even if I'm not your biological son.
"I'm fine, mom." I lifted the corners of my mouth reassuringly for her expense. "The guys and I were just playing video games till late." I tried to sound sheepish as I threw in an innocent shrug. She dropped her hand with a nod, although her eyes were not convinced, the sea of her green irises were stormy. "Do you work tonight, Edward?" After a moment of thought, I shook my head. "Uh, no." "I suggest you get some rest. Early tonight."
"Yes ma'am." I said automatically. She scowled. "I haven't a clue where you picked that up, but I told you not to call me that." She seemingly shook her head of the thought. Her eyes instinctively went to her clock although I was certain there was a clock internalized and ticking somewhere within her body. "You'll be late for school, you should head out soon." I nodded and slung my bag over my shoulder. I contemplated again how lucky I was; for Carlisle and Esme's unconditional love for me that began when I was 9.
I had woken up on alone on a cold park bench in the middle of the city. I couldn't remember why I was there, or even a single memory from my life. I patted the pockets of the brandless jeans I wore--the small pocket on my plain black tshirt--I didn't seem to have anything on me that could offer any information about who I was.
I wandered all over the town seeking anything that could tell me where I was, or who I was. Hours had passed. It was afternoon now, and I hadn't eaten all day. In fact, I couldn't remember the last meal I'd eaten. I walked into a local grocery store, amazed by the unlimited foods. I didn't have memory of even social constructs. I wound up scurrying to the snack aisle and was stuffing my face with a Twinkie that I wasn't aware I had to pay for, when they found me. I remember the day so clearly. I was afraid of them, when I realized these people were looking at me. It was as if this had happened yesterday, I could recall my young thoughts and sensations. My hands tingled with nerves and my eyes darted between them, the door, them, to the door and back.
Fight? Or flight? Fight or flight?
The memory was engrained perfectly in my mind. A mid twenties Carlisle's eyes twinkled as he smiled at me. He was wearing dark blue scrubs--I'd learned later he was going through the early stages of his residency at the time and grocery shopping was one of the few times they'd spent together. A young Esme wore her chestnut hair in a ponytail, and a bright red lipstick that made her pale skin look so radiant. I remember her distinctive laugh in that moment. It was a tinkling sound of bells, so gentle and sweet. My fear lessened instantly at the sound although I was still reluctant to be in their gaze.
Esme was the first to kneel down to speak to me, she was careful to move slowly for my sake.
"You must've been pretty hungry." She said with a nod towards my Twinkie. Her eyes were green, a emerald shade that almost matched mine. She smelled nice--like flowers.
"Where are mommy and daddy?" Her spring colored eyes averted away from me as she looked for someone, anyone who may have been my guardian. I frowned and shook my head at her indiscernible question.
"I... I don't think I have any." I remember responding. I was so confused by that question. I couldn't make sense of it. I couldn't remember, not a single thing. I was beginning to get anxious, my hands balled into fists in case I would need to defend myself. They had exchanged a glance with each other--it lasted only a moment before they smoothed their faces, but it was a look of alarm. Esme readjusted her smile and turned back to me. "Did you come here with anyone?"
"No ma'am." I shook my head.
"Where do you live?" I shook my head again and remembered not to relax my body just yet, in case I would need the advantage of momentum to fight. I was still racking my brain, but had no memory of where I came from. All I knew was where I woke up and I'd wandered off, trying to find something, anything that looked familiar. Even a single thing to job memory. But I was met with disappointment--I didn't recognize anything. Carlisle spoke now.
"Is there anyone we can call for you?" A third shake of the head.
"What is your name?"
I raised my shoulders up and down. "Beats me, ma'am. I don't remember a thing about myself-"I stopped myself.
"Actually, I do know one thing. I'm 9." Both of them looked equally confused, but Carlisle had nodded.
"9! You're so brave!" The man with the kind but tired eyes exclaimed at me with a wide smile. "It's nice to meet you. I'm Carlisle, this is my wife, Esme."
Carlisle and Esme had paid for the Twinkie that day; I looked into Esme's eyes, making sure they could hear the sincerity in my voice, as I said
"Thank you, ma'am."
"You're most welcome. How about you call me Esme, instead?" We waited for an hour at the benches outside the store; for someone, anyone to come by to claim me. Another Twinkie was consumed. Carlisle even spoke to the manager inside. I couldn't hear what they said but she shrugged at him. After an hour of constant watch checking, they brought me to a small sedan, and Esme buckled me into the back.
I saw a worried line on Carlisle's forehead as he looked at me in the rearview mirror. Why does he look tense? I saw the car lurch towards a police station and my heart began to pound, like a small locomotive in my chest. My hands had a life of their own, and began to shake. Why did the air feel like it was lacking oxygen?
"P-please, no," I managed to choke out between shallow breaths. Esme, sensing something was wrong immediately whipped her head in her seat to turn to me. My hands were now trembling violently, and Esme tried to soothe me with her hands flitting behind her in the awkward seat position. "Carlisle, pull over." Esme's voice had a strength I hadn't heard in it before, and he immediately complied to his wife's instruction.
"Please, please don't take me there Carlisle," I was begging now. I could not explain why but the panic in me (which I later learned was an anxiety attack,) seized me instantaneously when I saw the square building with the glass doors.
The car slowed to a stop and Esme leapt out of the car, circled around to wrap her arms around my shaking body. She slid me into her lap, as she tried to comfort me. She sounded nervous. Carlisle put a hand on her shoulder, sensing the contagion in our panic.
"He's having a panic attack Esme, he'll be fine soon." She held me in her arms even as my body shook on its own, and settled for simply patting me on the back. We could've been there for ten or ten hours, but eventually the tremors subsided. The tears had stopped with them, too.
I was given an unopened water bottle and was told kindly yet sternly by Carlisle to drink. I did, carefully drinking in the water while taking deep breaths. Carlisle told me to stay in the car. They both stepped outside the car to speak to one another and closed the door, as if it prevented me from hearing what they were saying.
"We can't take him there, Carlisle."
"Esme, I know you care about that little boy, believe me, I know, but we can't just kidnap him."
"We're not kidnapping him, for Christ sake!" She exclaimed. "We can let him stay with us until relatives claim him. I refuse to let him be lost in the system Carlisle, like I was." Her jaw was set like stone and her eyes were trained on his. With a sigh, Carlisle nodded.
"I'll call the missing person hotline once we get home. But please," his voice lowered, and I thought I heard him say, "don't let yourself get attached." She didn't say anything in response.
The car was quiet as they drove me to their home. I couldn't help but think I was simply burdening this nice family. Perhaps the best thing to do was run away. I didn't want the police thinking they kidnapped me. Especially not after their kindness; they'd be blamed because of me... I must've fallen asleep in the backseat.
I awoke with my head against the window, startled to the words,
I gazed out the window at a tall building with many flights of stairs. I counted the floors as we climbed up. I counted 5. Carlisle readjusted the bags of groceries in his hand to pull a key ring from his pocket.
Along with a jingling of keys, a red door opened.
"This is our home, I hope you can be comfortable here for as long as you'd like to stay," Esme sounded nervous. I nodded absently, taking in the scenery.
It was a small apartment, modest but neat. The couch, a tv and a few bookshelves were positioned in a pleasant way. A barstool set and countertop separated the small kitchen from the living room. I was amazed by the many paintings on the walls. I squinted at one of them. An intricate flower, in a vase full of water. E.C. was painted in the corner. Did Esme do these?
Carlisle had excused himself to make phone calls. I learned later he was trying to get information on me; had reported me as a found missing child. Esme came up behind me. "Do you like this?"
"I teach art at the local elementary school." She said proudly. "Maybe you could come sometime." Her soft chuckle was warm and light, again, reminded me of a specific sound. Sleigh bells this time.
Esme cooked a spaghetti and meatballs for me. It was as if it were the first thing I'd ever tasted, and I remembered licking my plate clean despite the smile esme was trying to fight off of her face at my bad manners.
It was already late evening by the time Carlisle had finished his phone calls for the day; every institution had now closed. Esme served him a plate and whispered something in his ear. She turned to me.
"How about a bath?"
She brought me to a small, pink bathroom and filled the bathtub with water for me. I remember looking around--my 9 year old brain was amazed by the little things; the soaps shaped like shells, the pictures on the walls of their wedding picture, the momentos of family displayed modestly yet proudly around the floating shelves.
When the warm water was half way up the tub and filled with bubbles, Esme began to help me undress to my underwear. I remember she looked for tags in my clothing; in my pockets; anything that would help unravel the mystery of who I was and where I came from.
I will never forget the look of shock that ensued when Esme saw the tattoo in my left bicep. She thought it was a temporary tattoo.
"We'll get that off in no time." She lathered a washcloth, in the sink, and knelt down to scrub incessantly at my tattoo with a frown. After five minutes of washing, she was convinced it wasn't a fake. She called Carlisle into the bathroom, even. I heard her whisper something regarding trafficking. I was confused since I didn't have a tattoo of cars, let alone traffic. I even stared at it myself, to confirm. The jumble of numbers and letters was inked in with a font reminiscent to a typewriter in the inside of my bicep, along with a barcode above it.
To this day I have no idea what it is, what it represents. To this day the barcode comes up as "error" any time I try to scan it or see if there's a link attached. Carlisle immediately inspected me in his office afterwards, placing a stethoscope to my chest, checking my breathing, searching for any injuries or signs of abuse.
Oddly enough, it appeared I abused others as much as I seemed to have been battered. My knuckles had swelling around them, as well as bruises. Carlisle noted I looked oddly strong for my size, too, with "an unusual amount of musculature for a child." I had quite a few scars healed all over my body, and what looked like bruises all over my arms from needles--it didn't seem to surprise Carlisle or I, but Esme's wet eyes said otherwise.
I was ushered to my bath afterwards, I couldn't quite make out what they were saying in the living room, on the other side of the thin wall, so I simply closed my eyes and enjoyed my bath. Who knew where I'd go after this.
A report was filed to the police, the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children about me, contacted the Missing Persons Bureau mentioning multiple times that I had a number of scars, a tattoo of numbers and a barcode. A social worker had come for me the next day but Carlisle and Esme immediately volunteered to foster me until someone would claim me. They knew orphanages at the time were run down with too many children; children who's parents died in the war or because of it. Children who were sent as homeless refugees. They refused to let me be part of the system that promised little hope, and I'd lived with them ever since. The first few nights I'd slept on their bed, they had taken the pull out sofa. That weekend we went shopping for my own bed.
Their generosity knew no ends. My room had replaced what was Carlisle's study. I came into the room, which was lined with awards, framed certifications and degrees only a day before, to find the entirety of his momentos in boxes. When I asked about them, he smiled charmingly and waved me off. "We can always make more space." He grinned, not a sign of remorse for the burden that I was causing him. His behavior confused me but also impressed me. Are you truly as happy I'm here? Aren't you suspicious of me? Could I strive for the happiness you seem to have, too?
There was no pressure placed on me to remember my past. They told me, If some flashbacks were to reappear, to tell them when I was ready. But after a few days, it was clear my memories would not come back to me, and I needed a name. Esme named me Edward, after her father. I had no qualms, it was a nice name. I was just excited to have a name.
I was given a few weeks to be adjusted to a new life--we painted my room together, filled it with books, toys, and furniture of my choice, and created documents for me. I had some photos taken, and lo and behold; I was an official citizen now.
Edward Mason Cullen. I stared at the name on the passport with wide eyes in the waiting lobby. Esme sat beside me and pointed to the middle name. "Mason was my maiden name," she said softly. "And Cullen is Carlie and I's last name. I hope you don't mind that you take our names." I swallowed a lump in my throat that I couldn't explain how it appeared.
"No, Esme, I don't mind at all. I'm... glad." I looked up with her through grateful eyes; relieved to see her eyes were watery as well. I cautiously wrapped my thin arms around her, and she jumped at the feeling, but returned the gesture as well. We stayed like that for a moment.
They brought me to a few different schools and let me decide where I'd go. Carlisle was the first to teach me of the importance of education. "It's important to keep an open mind;" he was telling me, as he spread the pamphlets of the schools we'd been to across my desk. "There's so much more you can learn if you do. And learning is growth, son." He'd said it casually, but the depth of the meaning did not escape me. Both Carlisle and Esme did not want me to go anywhere.
After speaking with Carlisle in depth about the different schools in the district, we made a choice. Esme walked me to my class on my first day. She asked if I'd be alright. "I'll be fine Esme." I didn't take another look back. Meeting kids was hard for me at that age--I seemed to rely on fight or flight for every interaction, regardless of gender, age, or height. After a few months I finally seemed to adjust with social behaviors; even unlearned my constant paranoia of needing to fight. I even seemed to be ahead of my class, which made Carlisle and Esme wonder again; where did I come from.
Esme was in tears the day we showed up to the courtroom in our "nice clothes" two years later, and I was officially adopted. I still remember the pride I felt; to finally belong. Even after having their own biological children, it was clear that I would always be their first born son, and an irreplaceable member of the family.
To this day, I never wonder where I'm from. Who my parents are. But what I do wonder...
Who was I before my amnesia had struck me?
Who was I destined to be, before this good fortune came along for me? And if there was someone who cared about me, who exactly did I leave behind?
I shook my head of the thought. Really? Letting a dream make you wonder about a past that doesn't matter? Who cares. Esme and Carlisle are your parents; what more could you ask for?
But yet, I still couldn't help but wonder.