In all the decades since the bite that transformed me from dying human to undead horror, I haven't really come to terms with my reality. And now, with a new chapter opening up to me, I've decided to stop sidestepping the issue and finally name my affliction.
It's not like I don't know what I am. The truth of my new existence is apparent the moment I open my crimson eyes and Carlisle explains what he's done to me. You are now immortal, he says, Impervious to physical harm, he says.
It was what he doesn't say that is so devastating. Bluntly spoken, I am a blood-sucking fiend who survives on death. An animated corpse who looks like a man. A clear and present danger to every warm-blooded creature with a pulse. And there isn't anything I can do about it.
By necessity, I survive on the periphery of existence, like an invisible convict in a public cell, able to see the world, but unable to truly interact in society. The only way to approximate humanity is by hiding my true face.
Humans instinctively know that you cannot trust someone who wears a mask, because it could be shielding a killer. A liar. A mystery that they could never understand. But to fear the mask, you have to be able to see the mask. And nobody has seen mine in my almost a century of existence, until I meet Bella Swan.
Bella Swan. My new chapter. She notices on her first day of school in Forks that my family and I are different. While I distance myself from her, due to the lure of her blood, I try to forget her. Instead, I become obsessed. I lurk around corners and behind shrubbery in order to simply hear her speak; I sit in the tree in her backyard and listen to her cook supper and wash dishes; I climb in her bedroom window at night and count her breaths as she sleeps.
With perfect clarity, I recall the day my family finally reveals the truth to me—that I have fallen in love with the human woman. But love cannot change my reality. I am not a human man. My supernatural status sets me apart from her world, and I'm relegated to the unenviable status of observer instead of participant.
And so I engage in an elaborate masquerade, not to fool Bella, but to perpetuate a useful fiction. That I am not Pinocchio, but a real boy. I pretend that I am a human teenager, and indulge in the fantasy that she can be my girlfriend. Which would be nice, except for the fact that I'm nearly overcome with bloodlust every time I'm within fifty feet of her.
The real danger comes when she guesses what I am, and instead of distancing myself from her further, I confess.
I tell her my secret.
As I fall ever deeper in love with Bella, I nudge my mask aside, terrified that, instead of witnessing the monster, she will see…nothing at all. A faceless horror, with no form except the one a cruel fate has bestowed upon me. But to my surprise, she sees me. The man behind the mask. Something strange happens as I trudge the school hallways with her hand in mine. Her acceptance of me opens my eyes in ways that I could never have imagined, and I see something in humans that I covet.
I see hope.
And it's been a long time since I felt anything close to that.
Hope can mean many things. It can mean money, or power, even security. To me, hope is named Bella Marie Swan, a slightly built young woman with long chestnut hair and chocolate brown eyes. Hope is her warm smile and tender caress. I try and epically fail to turn my craving away from her blood—blood that sings to me like none ever has in over eight decades. Who is this enigmatic female? Simply stated, she's the Bacall to my Bogart; the Elizabeth to my Darcy; the spice that makes my existence palatable.
She becomes something more than my human girlfriend, and I begin to see in her traits that I wish to emulate. I'm simply Edward Cullen, Immortal. But she's the angel Gabriel, announcing the birth of Christ. She's Rosa Parks, refusing to give her seat on the bus to a white man. She is Malala, speaking out against the Taliban and surviving a gunshot to the head.
Brave to the point of recklessness, loyal as a German shepherd, and fierce as a lioness protecting her cub, Bella is also one other thing. She is foolish. Foolish for believing what she sees, rather than what is. She falls in love with the idea of me, with my vampire physique, which is solely present to lure prey. She refuses to see the monster that lurks behind the mask, who waits for the opportune moment to strike.
Chained in a small box in the middle of my mind, he prowls his enclosure constantly. On the night that I come across a random accident victim, dying on the edge of the endless woods, I impulsively feed, and as the man's warm, human blood incorporates into my tissues and flows to my brain, the monster escapes.
Or did I allow him free passage? Did he chew off his foot to escape his bonds or did I blithely unlock the door and swing it wide for him to walk unfettered?
We arrive in Bella's darkened bedroom late. I am disheveled and confused; he is alight with curiosity about what he's been missing. Bella rushes to my side to comfort me, her only thought of how she can help. She doesn't see the monster, lurking in the background. When I confess to murder, she does not censure me, lecture me or abandon me. She helps me. And there in her room, with only the moonlight to bear witness to my savagery, the monster overcomes the safeguards I put in place to protect her and I lose control.
Bella's proud and fearless nature fades in the face of the monster. No longer my brave Mulan, she becomes Juliet to my twisted Romeo, a tragic character who misinterprets reality. By some quirk of fate, her voice reaches me and I don't kill her, but in the devastation left in the wake of my lapse, I'm left floundering in the darkness.
I don't hurt her, but terrorize her in her own room. After the madness passes, I apologize and she forgives me, but in a blinding flash of understanding, I finally know what I am. There is no kinder, more human version of myself, waiting patiently, a la Carlisle, to be unleashed. The fiend shows me, at long last, my true face, and it's not as the poster child for the vegetarian vampire movement.
I'm not the white knight, riding to rescue the princess. I'm not Luke Skywalker, battling to save a snarky Leia. And I'm not Harry Potter, arriving just in time to save the Wizarding World from Lord Voldemort.
I'm a predator. A nightmare dressed like a human.
I'm every man your daddy warned you about.
I will never be the Beast, rescued by Beauty.
I'm simply the Beast.
So when you look at me, you'd better look hard and look twice. Is it me, baby, or just a brilliant disguise?
On a dusty shelf in an old Indian's tiny house sits a faded notebook full of hastily drawn sketches. Bits of scrawled interpretations are clipped to them. They were left behind when Ephraim Black, legendary Chief of the Quileute, drowned when his boat suddenly capsized.
Before his death, he made a series of predictions, and an aged man from the tribe, old Quil, has spent years trying to decipher them. Usually, it isn't until an event occurs that Quil can finally link it to the original prophecy. Except for the ones concerning the Cullens. They're all explicit. They're all troubling.
There are dozens of sketches about the vampire coven, starting with their reappearance here on the peninsula. Quil is old and frail, but spends hours each day trying to decipher the next event, trying to piece together the scattered and confusing drawings and prose-like meanings that Ephraim assigned to them.
He does this, not for the Cullens, but for his tribe. Because all signs point toward an event that will shape the actions of all the supernatural players. Death is coming.
And Quil doesn't know how to stop it.
Chapter 1 Chapter Notes
Edward is feeling desperate over his upcoming nuptials and Bella's desire to experience sex as a human. He goes to Jasper for some advice, and gets more than he asked for. Besides good, practical pointers, Jasper challenges the entire premise that Edward has stuck to: Sex before marriage is immoral.
In order to keep Bella safe, Jasper recommends that the happy couple engage in some experimentation. Edward doesn't want to accept this guidance, but as he and Jasper part, he begins to think about it.
The story title belongs to Bruce Springsteen. Any lyrics pertaining to the song 'Brilliant Disguise' belong to Bruce Springsteen.
The chapter title belongs to Emerson, Lake and Palmer
Chapter 1 From the Beginning
Friday August 4th
I lay on my bed with a pillow over my face, absorbing the final notes of The Beatles Abbey Road. I choose to ignore that the final song is titled The End. It's just the tune's title. It's not prophetic. I hope.
I'd immersed myself in the music, desperate for even a temporary cessation of the stress and worry that has plagued me for months, but now, as I'm met with the quiet, I feel just as anxious and on edge as before.
The only thing that will really make me feel better is when Bella stands beside me as an equal. When she can't be hurt any more. With luck, we'll be married soon. She'll endure three miserable days after she's exposed to the venom, and then we can begin our life together.
As I pull off my headphones, I realize that my family has gone out. I sigh and sink deeper into my pillows. I don't know how much time I'm allotted in this calm sea of silence, but I need every minute. It's therapeutic to just lie still, with no extraneous thoughts hovering over me, permitting me to regain some perspective and examine the experiences of the past few months.
My vampire abilities allow me to catalog specific events with startling clarity, but I'm unable to prioritize their importance. Each seems devastating to me in its own way—Victoria's thoughts of snapping Bella's neck, Jacob and Bella's love for one another, her decision to choose me, and the emotional aftermath that she suffered.
I've done my fair share of agonizing over these issues. They seem to be resolved, but I keep going over and over them in my head. I repeatedly rethink my decisions, wondering if a situation could have been handled better.
What action would I have taken, for instance, if Bella had chosen Jacob? If Victoria had been successful in her attempt to reach Bella? I shudder to think of what I might have done, but I know what I'm capable of.
Before I'd become involved with Bella, the stress of various situations had been easier to modulate, because I didn't need to spend so much energy just keeping the monster in his cage. Before Bella, I'd had to work about as hard as the rest of the family, except Jasper, who still struggles on a daily basis.
Inside each of us resides the fiend, the inner-monster that wouldn't hesitate to wrench back a struggling human's head and drink every last drop of their precious blood, if only he were allowed to see the light of day.
We keep the beast locked away. It's necessary if we're going to maintain a permanent settlement near humans. Tension and worry weaken our hold on the monster, though. After periods of extreme stress, I can feel the fiend rattling around deep inside me. It's not enough that he's chained in a steel box. I know I have to patrol the perimeters of his enclosure constantly, or he'll find a way to escape. I fear that what I believe to be solid armor is, in fact, just a façade. That at an inopportune moment the wall will collapse, he'll be set free, and all the control that I've worked so diligently to perfect will fall away.
My biggest worry is that when this eventually happens, I won't realize it. I fear that the constant attention I devote to maintaining control will be stripped away and discarded by a single, significant event, and my dual nature, my split personality, will fuse into the being that nature intended me to be.
While I ponder these deep thoughts, the kitchen door slams. Feet thunder into the house, and laughter floats up the stairs as Emmett begins playing a new snowboarding game on the Xbox. They all had a good time hunting apparently, except for Rose, who had broken the heel off of an Italian pump. Aw.
Jasper is due home soon from an impromptu trip to Seattle to meet with our attorney, and before I can straighten up my bedroom, he's pulling into the garage.
For the last couple of weeks, a conversation has been brewing in my mind. I've promised Bella a real honeymoon, but find myself completely unprepared to follow through. Even though it makes me feel a bit sick to my stomach (go figure) to contemplate it, I need some advice, and I've put a lot of thought into which family member I can reasonably and comfortably turn to.
Carlisle feels too much like a parent to ask difficult questions of, such as which positions can I use with Bella so I don't break her in half, and I'm afraid that Emmett might embarrass me with his spot-on but crass comments, such as sex is like riding a bicycle, Edward, but don't forget to smell the seat.
It's unthinkable to speak to my mom (can you imagine?) or my sisters. That just leaves Jasper, but he's the best candidate, hands down.
I walk quietly down the stairs and stop at the bottom. It calms me to watch my family members engaging in various normal activities. Sometimes, for sanity's sake, I pretend that we're not a coven of blood drinkers, but typical humans who eat chicken and have regular jobs.
Rose is braiding her hair in intricate detail, following an instruction sheet on the coffee table in front of her. Emmett is swearing at the video game, but still enjoying it. Alice and Jasper are curled up on the loveseat by the fireplace. They're all thinking about sex. They're always thinking about sex. It drives me crazy.
We could be in the car, driving to a remote wilderness area to hunt, and they'll all be thinking about sex, or at the lumberyard, buying stuff for Esme's refurbishing business, and they'll all be thinking about sex. Day, night, rain, shine: it is sex, sex, sex. Twenty-four freaking hours a day, seven freaking days a week.
Carlisle and Esme aren't quite so consumed, but their passion is still prevalent and disturbing to me. Over the decades, I've become quite practiced in blocking out unwanted thoughts, but the events of the summer have left me anxious and fretful, somewhat unable to keep them out of my head as easily as before. It only serves to further unsettle me.
I vaguely wonder if vampires can be affected by post-traumatic stress disorder. I certainly have all the symptoms. I hang my head while I think about this, and the movement must alert Jasper. He looks back over the loveseat in my direction and jerks his head.
"What are you doing over there, lurking on the stairs?"
"I'm on my way to hunt. Care to join me?"
Hell, yes. I hate going to Seattle and meeting with that damn attorney. He's scared to death of me and sweats like a pig the whole time I'm there.
He then looks back at Alice and returns to thinking about sex. I wonder if one day they might both spontaneously combust. With a shake of my head, I head out, deciding to go without him, but in a few seconds, he's right beside me. He has a devilish grin plastered to his face.
"C'mon. But stop that!" I glare at him and he wipes the vision of Alice's naked body out of his head, then wonders about what we might find in the woods for supper. We have to travel if we want a really good meal, but we can always find a tasty snack close by. The local population of deer that graze in the forest above the house aren't very exciting to hunt, but we have fun chasing them about anyway.
I've always enjoyed a close relationship with Jasper. The next oldest to Carlisle, he had served in the Confederate Army, but it isn't just in years that he surpasses me.
He was an adult when he was changed, and before he met Alice, he had enjoyed many women as both human and vampire. He's the most volatile, the least humanized and the most sexually experienced member of the family. He knows that Bella and I have not been intimate, and that when we share our initial experience, it will be a first for both of us.
We chat for a while and then walk in an easy silence until he finally says, "So, just a couple more weeks until the big day."
Big day. Yeah. Really freaking big. I sigh. "Bella initially rebelled against the idea of marriage, but we made a compromise," I tell him as we hop over some tree limbs in the path and run slowly up a steep incline to a denser patch of woods. We finally stop in a small clearing.
"Compromise?" He looks sideways at me.
"Carlisle initially agreed to change her, but she wants me to do it." At least I have the decency to shrug apologetically.
"Hmm. Alice and I wondered what the agreement was. So, in exchange for marriage vows, your venom will transform her." I acknowledge with a nod.
"Are you going to bite her? Inject her? What?" He looks genuinely interested.
I shake my head slowly. "I have no idea."
"Maybe during sex?" I turn my head slowly and stare at him, my mouth slightly open. Always with the sex! Before I can draw breath to protest, he holds his hand up, chuckling softly. "Sorry, but we need to talk about this. Haven't you considered how beneficial it would be to have a bit of experience, before you whisk Bella away from home?"
It's an old argument, and I'm the only one on my side. God and everybody wants me to sleep with Bella before the wedding, or at least indulge in some type of activity with her. "You know I'm right," he says, noticing the pained look on my face. "What are you waiting for, anyway? She's clearly interested." I know her keen desire is apparent to my entire family. She doesn't know this, however, and I'm not going to enlighten her.
"Sex as a human is one experience that she isn't willing to miss," I say without looking at him. I pick up a handful of small rocks and throw them down the path ahead of us. We both stop walking at the same time, having picked up the scent of three deer grazing just around the bend. After feeding, I loped back to the path to find Jasper leaning against a fallen tree trunk, waiting for me.
Like the music, I thought that feeding might make me feel better, but I'm no calmer than before. Sensing this, Jasper frowns and says, "I feel the commitment and love that you have for Bella, and even though it'll be difficult for you, I think you can manage it and not hurt her or bite her."
"How?" I fling my arms wide.
"The thousands upon thousands of images and conversations that you've heard as you've thoughtlessly trespassed into the heads of everyone around you throughout the years can't prepare you for a sexual relationship with Bella. Information isn't enough. You need practical experience."
He goes on to show me exactly what he's talking about. How to prepare Bella for sex. How to go slow. I draw a sudden breath at some of his thoughts, of clothes strewn on the floor, of Bella's naked body, of laying her back and rubbing her until she comes. Of her hand on my cock.
I squeeze my eyes shut with a grimace. "Jesus! I'm serious, Jas! I need guidance, not a re-creation of a porn film. I need help. I don't know what to expect. I don't want to go crazy and hurt her, or lose control and scare her half to death. That might put a damper on the whole sex thing between us."
I toss a stick into the woods and plop down beside the path, my knees drawn up and my head down on them. Jasper sits down and waits patiently. After a moment, he looks over and I stop blocking him.
Do you want some advice on how to successfully integrate sex into your relationship with Bella? While she's still human?
"Um, well, let's hear what you've got to say."
He gives me a level gaze. "Okay. I know you were born at the turn of the century, and that the morals and expectations of that era are firmly entrenched. But you gotta relax, Edward. You and Bella should have already been experimenting. It's not wrong when two people enter into a sexual relationship willingly, married or not."
I meet his eye and give him a terse nod. "Sex is part of life," he continues. "You need to loosen up so you can enjoy it, because if you enjoy it, then Bella will too. I have some advice for you, but it's worthless if you can't approach sex with an open mind."
A quiet growl escapes my lips and Jasper chuckles. "Are you ready? Have you purged yourself of harmful thoughts? Have you found your happy?" I lick my lips and roll my eyes.
He gazes off into the deep, tangly woods as he speaks. "I don't have to tell you about the thrill of the hunt." He glances at me and thinks about my past, about the men I'd killed after I'd left Carlisle. "You've tasted human blood. You've felt the struggle, experienced that rush when arms are flailing, legs are churning, when desperation kicks in and they know they're about to die."
Various images flit through his mind, and he remembers each kill lovingly, reverently. He inadvertently shows me something he tries to keep hidden. He only abstains from drinking human blood for Alice. For him, it's not morally wrong to indulge. Human blood is the perfect food for us, after all.
I let my thoughts go back to the humans I had dispatched. They had either committed a foul act or had been planning one. Back then, I assuaged my conscience by convincing myself that the world was a better place without those types of people in it, but it had really been an excuse to drink human blood. To feel that rush. To experience the raw sexuality that goes along with the act.
"Well, you're still a virgin, so you can't grasp just how powerful sex is. Blood will always come first, but sex comes in a close second. And considering the appeal of feeding, that's a pretty strong endorsement. You know that sexual intimacy triggers the same animalistic urges that we feel when we hunt." I nod and he says seriously, "When you come, you'll have just an overwhelming desire to bite. You've felt this to a small degree." I give a heavy sigh as he makes the jerk-off gesture with his hand. He flashes me a knowing smile.
Boys will be boys…
"Yeah, well, even though Emmett and I have willing and mostly available partners, we still go out to the woods on occasion to jerk off. And it's nowhere close to what you'll feel when you come during sex. Especially the first time." Jasper talks about this with no awkwardness whatsoever, and that helps me get through a very embarrassing conversation. And it's true; I had felt it, just not with the force he's talking about.
"You'll have to concentrate, Edward. Don't make actual sex the first way that you come with her. And while missionary is best for her climax, don't come like that, with your mouth so close to her throat. Finish from the back, or with her on your lap, or maybe sit her up on a counter or something."
I nudge the ground with my shoe, thinking of Bella lying on her back in our meadow while I pull an instruction sheet from a pocket to consult.
"When you come, you might lose consciousness for a few seconds," he continues. "It's a bit like falling in a hole, actually. Just make sure you're holding onto something. You can channel the excess better that way."
"I guess I'm worried that my lack of experience will translate into an…underperformance, where she can't manage a climax," I confess.
Jasper cocks his head and gives me a severe look. "Do you worry about every fucking thing? I bet right now you're worried that the sun isn't going to rise in the morning. I glare right back at him and open my mouth to defend myself but he cuts me off. "Really, dude, cut it out. Go slow with Bella. Pay attention to the noises she makes. With the way she's been lusting after you for the better part of two years, I don't think she's going to have a problem."
Jasper picks up a stone and tosses it into the woods. His tone softens. "Because I can feel the emotion you have toward Bella, I'm confident you'll manage this, but damn, it would have been so much easier if you had experienced sex with someone before."
He thinks about Tanya and me tangled together on the cabin floor in Denali. Tanya is beautiful, but she isn't my type, and I had never felt anything for her. She'd made numerous advances, but I wasn't even tempted. Now, in retrospect, I wonder if I should have explored that possibility, if only to assist me with the upcoming task of bedding my human woman.
I grimace. "She wanted me. I guess everyone knew that, but it seemed wrong to indulge when I had no feeling for her."
"It's called casual sex, Edward," he chuckles. "It's not wrong when both parties enter into the arrangement with the same expectation. You know Tanya. The girl likes sex. It's the only reason her coven doesn't feed on humans. She and the rest of them up there just want to fuck their way through the male population."
I don't comment on Tanya's lack of restraint when it comes to sex. I change the subject. "Carlisle tested my semen when Bella agreed to marry me, and luckily it showed no venom. There's no record of a male vampire impregnating a human, so that's not a worry, either. I just have to make certain that I don't lose control and hurt her or kill her."
Jasper nods. "Well, now for the serious part of this enlightening discussion. Your love for Bella helps you to see her as something other than prey, but that can be undermined by a number of factors. If your resolve weakens even slightly, your fundamental nature could overcome your established safeguards, and then Bella will be in danger."
"What kind of factors? And if my resolve weakens? You think that's a possibility? That I'll get involved in a sexual scenario and I'll be overcome by her scent and her proximity? And I'll feed?"
Jasper shakes his head thoughtfully. "Honestly, I can't imagine this would happen to you. You're just wound so tight, and want to succeed so bad. But it would be unfortunate if something unexpected happened, say, if Bella were to incur a minor injury where blood was spilled, or if you just jumped her, without fully exploring how sexuality makes you feel. I think you can hope for success if everything is planned and you're not caught by surprise."
I give him an exasperated look. "So that's your advice? Hope for the best?"
He tries not to smile. "Yeah. Plan for the worst, hope for the best, and make sure that the girl does not give herself a paper cut when you're ready to mount her."
At this, I pick up a rock and hurl it at him. It pings off his head and he rubs the spot. "Ow!" I give him an apologetic glance and he drops his hand from his head. "Dude. You've got some time before the wedding. Have some fun with Bella now, so that on your honeymoon, you and she won't be completely inexperienced."
I see my pained expression in his mind and he laughs. "C'mon, Edward. It's not that hard. Difficult," he says, trying to keep his expression serious.
"Look," he says with a sigh. "Get her alone and pull down your pants. Jerk off for her. Have her rub her pussy while you watch. Get a look at that thing, for god's sake."
I blink and feel my mouth working, but no sound emerges. I cover my face with a trembling hand. Jasper sighs yet again. "Keep an open window to your back and consider using a safe word. And let Bella know that if you hurt her, I mean really hurt her, you both agree that you'll change her right away."
We stand and Jasper claps me on the shoulder. I'd wanted some advice on how to navigate a honeymoon, not how to seduce my human girlfriend before we were even married. I grit my teeth. Why did I come out here? What had I hoped to accomplish with this talk? Because now, I'm way more agitated than I'd been before. Jasper must see that I'm not at ease and he smiles.
"Think about it, Edward. Make some plans to enjoy Bella's warm, human body."
Where? In her bedroom, with Charlie sleeping just across the hall? At my house, with my whole family in on every step of the action? The thought of that is appalling to me, actually.
I imagine a play-by-play, narrated by Emmett. And Bella is turning the corner toward an orgasm as Edward skillfully...
Nope. Not at my house. Not with anyone home, anyway. I realize that the where would sort itself out. Charlie worked. My family hunted. The meadow, my car, a rented room in a nearby city. I began to make a list in my head.
"And don't forget that you've actually tasted her blood. You stopped voluntarily. So I think you can give yourself credit for outstanding self-control." He shakes his head. He thinks, I could never have managed that in a million years.
We begin to walk down the path toward the river. It's getting dark, and the lights of the house are just visible as we break through the dense woods into the clearing.
"Where is Bella undergoing her conversion?" Jasper asks.
"We haven't decided. Where would you do it, if you were us?"
He thinks for a moment and says, "I like the idea of going to Alaska. But not just you two. All of us. That way we'll be there if you need us, you'll still be in a remote area without the distraction or worry of anyone else intruding, and then there's the benefit of the snow." I hadn't thought of that before, but when I see him thinking of Bella lying in the snow, dressed in just shorts and a tank top, I realize that the snow could definitely be a blessing as the venom burns through her. He also sees the family offering me support, all taking their turn with Bella. I see that there is no reason to go through this alone. It seems like the perfect idea.
Just as loved ones who prepare an ornate funeral for those who have passed, so we will make arrangements for Bella. And no matter what anyone says, those arrangements are always for the living, to help them cope with a devastating loss. Bella won't care where the conversion takes place. We'll make the arrangements that benefit us, the ones conscious. When Bella wakes, she'll only care about one thing—that I am by her side.
"Hey, thanks," I say, as we prepare to jump the river. "I really appreciate it."
He claps me on the shoulder. Our eyes meet and he cocks a brow. Fuck her before the wedding, dude. If that doesn't wipe that cranky expression off of your face, nothing will.
Can you tell me one thing you liked about the chapter? Thanks!