Writing on the Wall
Chapter 1: Chance Encounter
I was officially old. The big two-zero.
Not the old that I once dreaded so much to reach back in my senior year. Memories from not so long ago, and at the same time, feel like a dream from past life. I remember the fear of being even a year older than the boy I loved, a fear so strong that I didn't completely comprehend it at the time.
It was only when I lost him––and at the time, I thought, everything––that I finally understood.
Loving Edward was like walking on a thread. A single mistake would lead to a cataclysmic event that neither of us would recover from. He was constantly afraid of causing my death, while I was constantly afraid of our time running out. Our shared pain was our love; one couldn't exist without the other.
It was a love like no other, but it was a love neither of us deserved.
Of course, I didn't come to this understanding immediately. Hell, everyone––Charlie, Jacob, Angela, and the others––had to suffer seeing my pathetic take on healing after the Cullens left. The initial phases were the most tedious: nightmares that only ended in my screaming, my pitiful wandering in the woods, and reckless motorcycle driving that I dragged poor Jacob into. But it was the unending understanding from the people who genuinely cared about me that helped me back to my senses, albeit almost a year later.
I had taken a gap year after graduation to build up on my savings and really think about where I wanted to go with my life. You know, get my shit together. I read books, went overtime as much as I could at Newton's, and wrote. A lot.
So when I got the acceptance letter for English Literature in Kingston, I knew I was finally getting somewhere.
"How are you liking the place so far?"
I sat across from Penelope Pierce, my roommate. A second year music major. I'd only known her for a couple of days, but I already knew we would get along. She was a dainty thing––small, even compared to me––with a brown-orange bob, a spattering of freckles on her nose, and a set of piercing blue eyes. Her general kindness and demeanor reminded me a lot of Angela, but she was also Jessica-esque when it came to her talkativeness.
She'd invited to treat me at one of the campus' coffee shops after I helped her move in her electric piano.
I took a long sip from my cup before answering. I'd only been in Kingston for a week, after all, and classes were only going to start the next day. I didn't have much time to interact with anyone else besides her.
"Fine," I finally settled with responding. "I'm set. Maybe got a little bit of first day anxiety."
Penelope smiled kindly, the way she always did. "You'll do just fine! I settled in pretty easily here, because everyone's so nice. And they all mind their own business too, since it's a pretty big campus."
"Thank God," I muttered. "Forks High School could never."
She laughed. "Right, I never even heard of Forks before I met you. What's it like?"
I shrugged. "Wet. Cold. That part's not much different from here. But everyone knows everyone that it gets a bit…suffocating."
Penelope nodded sympathetically. After a few beats, she asks, "So what classes are you having tomorrow? I'm familiar with most of the professors here, so maybe I can give you a heads up."
I had to pull up my schedule from my phone. "Hmm, just one, actually. Victorian Literature. They haven't put up who the professor is yet, though."
"Oh!" she suddenly exclaimed, and her blue eyes brightened even more than usual. "I hear there's a new professor teaching that class and he's dreamy. My friend Meredith got him last semester and she always came in ten minutes early for him. God, if you get him…"
I chuckled, shaking my head. "I'm not into professors, unfortunately."
"You say that now," Penelope winked. "Well, if not hot professors, what are you into?"
That took me a moment. No one's really asked me about boys in years, nor did I ever really think about it. Not after Edward. "Er…"
Blue eyes squinted at me. "Boyfriend?"
Blue eyes widened. "Girlfriend…?"
"Mm-mm," I shook my head. "There's…nobody."
"Huh," Penelope said simply, tilting her head. "Well, back to my question: what are you into?"
Long sip, again. "I honestly don't know."
And it was the truth.
I found myself getting ready for class hours before it was set to begin. For no reason, absolutely none at all. Or perhaps a tiny bit due to my conversation of Penelope sticking to me.
I haven't thought about boys in two years. Sure, I had hung out with Jacob a lot back in Forks, but there was no attraction or even half-hearted flirting involved when it came to him. Mike had tried for a while but it had been too easy to turn down. I realized I'd gone through high school with only the catastrophe of a relationship I had with Edward, skipping the other embarrassing high school experiences I probably should've had.
I was in college. Getting my shit together. Finally independent, sort of. Maybe it was time to finally make an effort to talk to new people, make new friends. Including boys.
I did my hair, put on a bit of makeup (with a bit of Penelope's help), and decided to dress in a cute navy blue vest and skirt for the first day. Looking in the mirror, I didn't only look different, but I also felt different. Older, but in a good way.
I made it to the lecture hall only tripping once––character development!––and found it to be already almost full. I gulped. This really wasn't like the tiny classrooms back in Forks; there had to be at least fifty other people in the class. I was tempted to sit at the very back, but decided to suck it up and take a seat in one of the empty seats on the third row.
Due to my utter good luck, I accidentally dropped my water bottle on my seatmate's foot as I sat down.
"Fuck." I immediately mumbled an apology.
My seatmate had cropped black hair, and wore a blue varsity jacket. When he turned to me, I realized he was kind of cute, with kind brown eyes. He gave me a lopsided smile, even though I'm pretty sure I just injured his foot.
"No worries," he said, his voice deeper than I expected.
I was pretty sure I was still a bit red from embarrassment, so I turned away from him immediately and faced forward. However, I could tell from my peripheral vision that he was still looking at me. That didn't really help the redness go away.
"I'm Bruce," he continued, which forced me to look at him again.
"Bella," I replied, giving him a smile back. I was about to turn away again when I remembered my commitment. Make an effort with people, Bella.
"Have you heard who our professor's going to be?" I asked conversationally.
"Nope," Bruce responded, leaning back in his chair. "You?"
"No. Though I hear one of the Vic Lit professors is cute."
That response seemed to pique his interest, because he shifted his position to fully face me. "That your type? Professors?"
I groaned. "Why does everyone keep asking me that?"
He laughed, and it was an attractive laugh that reverberated across the room. "I haven't seen you around here before. Are you a freshman?"
"Yeah," I said slowly. "Isn't this a freshman course for Eng Lit?"
"I'm a third year Biology major," Bruce explained, leaning back in his seat again. "This is an elective for me."
"Ah, a science major." I chuckled. "You know, I wanted to be a doctor once."
"Oh? What made you change your mind?"
"I don't like blood very much." I smiled wider than I should've at the inside joke no one would understand.
At least, not anymore.
But as if on cue, as if the universe listened to my thoughts…
The professor stepped into the room gracefully at 10 a.m. on the dot, gliding to the middle of the room to set his satchel down. He wore an expensive-looking brown overcoat over a grey sweatshirt. His rich, blonde, familiar hair was slightly tussled and wet due to the drizzle outside, and he removed his gloves to let a hand run through it.
He had kept his eyes down the whole time, his perfect face hesitant and unsure. Like he knew.
It was when he finally looked up, golden eyes fixating my own immediately, that I realized I had been holding my breath as soon as he walked in.
This can't be happening. This can't be real.
"Good morning," his angelic voice greeted, his eyes breaking away from mine for a brief moment to acknowledge the other students in the room. I felt my hands trembling on my desk in front of me.
"I'm Professor Carlisle Cullen, and I will be teaching Victorian Literature this semester. I sincerely hope we have a wonderful time together."
The past two years have been eventful––a feat, to say the least, coming from a three-century-old vampire.
The pitfalls had begun when Edward, who I've always considered to be my son for all intents and purposes, decided to leave Isabella Swan. While I greatly admired and respected the lengths he would go through to keep her safe, I disagreed with the means he chose. Edward left Bella with no choice to make, even if the matter in question involved her own life.
In truth, I was very fond of her. I assumed it was because I had already considered her family, ever since Edward had formally introduced her to us.
I could recall every word from the last conversation I had with her, the night Jasper had lost control at the smell of her blood. Her birthday.
She had inquired about Edward's soul, and mine. Carlisle, you couldn't be damned.
I was already previously aware of her strangely positive perception of us vampires, but her words still surprised me. Like a breath of fresh air, being seen as something other than a lifeless monster by a human…It was different. She was different.
I had devoted centuries of my cursed life serving others, using my apparently unusual compassion for others to form some sort of moral compass, despite my condition. During my early years, I had thought it was enough, that the good I had done outweighed the curse. As time went by, however, I found myself lost more often than not, losing vision of my purpose.
I felt less lost with someone like Bella around.
I had kept my thoughts about this secret around Edward, of course. Despite being more than a hundred years old, Edward remained a sensitive soul. He may think my feelings towards the issue irrelevant, even self-serving.
However, things kept turning for the worse when Edward chose to separate indefinitely from the group, and later Rosalie with Emmett.
And even later, Esme.
While we both knew that while there was love between Esme and I especially in our early years, it had never birthed any feelings more than familial. It was an unspoken truth that the coven knew and accepted; we had roles to play. Esme was born to be a mother and gained her happiness from this, and she was able fit and practice the role perfectly for decades. However, the loss of her children, especially Edward, her favorite son, had shaken her to realize that, perhaps, there was a greater purpose to her that she had not found.
Not with me.
It had broken my heart, but it was a choice I respected and she deserved. I chose to be happy for her, and became content with checking in on the others a few times a year.
I had chosen to take up the teaching profession, which I hadn't done for several decades. It was something I sorely missed, as literature had always been my first love.
Kingston was a natural choice. The climate in the area was suitable and the family had no significant history at the place. Alice and Jasper followed to attend schooling at another university a few miles away, but I had insisted to have my own place near the campus; despite Alice's initial resistance, I knew she and Jasper appreciated the privacy.
It was two months before the new semester began when Alice told me the news.
"She chose Kingston, Carlisle," she had said, her face stoic. "Of all universities in the planet, she chose to go here. It's ridiculous."
"Did you see anything else?"
"No," she'd responded, perhaps a little too quickly. "But obviously, we have to leave."
Both she and Jasper––the latter of which had been quietly listening at the other end of my office––widened their eyes incredulously at me. It was almost comical.
"Did we not already fulfill all of Edward's requests?" I continued calmly, standing up from my desk. "Clearly, Bella has grown and moved on, despite us making the choice for her. Are we really going to decide for her life without her consent again?"
"Isn't it better to leave her in peace, then?" Jasper interjected. There was a hint of guilt in his countenance, most likely from the memory of almost killing her on her eighteenth birthday. The night that started everything…
"We can give her the chance to decide, for once," I replied.
Alice was looking at me strangely then, her eyes thoughtful yet incredulous.
"Is she in danger?"
"Is that what you see, Alice?" I repeated. "Is she in greater danger in our presence?"
Alice open and closed her mouth a few times, a rare moment for someone as graceful as she was. "No, she's not," she finally decided.
I sighed and turned to the window, thinking the conversation was over.
"Can you promise me something, Carlisle?" Alice said so quietly, it was almost a whisper.
I turned around and found her a mere foot away from me, her small frame looking up at me with serious, dark eyes.
"Please don't do anything reckless."
I couldn't help but be in awe with how different, yet the same she looked.
I had smelled her before coming in and had mentally prepared myself on her possible reactions to seeing me. Would she make a scene? Would she walk out? Would she be mad, sad, frustrated, confused?
I could tell the exact moment of her recognition. Her heartbeat had immediately quickened by several beats and I saw her fingers tremble from the corner of my eye. I heard her stop breathing the moment I walked through the door. However, nothing beat the dumbfounded, pale expression on her beautiful, familiar, human face.
It was in that moment that I looked up to see this expression that I realized I'd missed her terribly.
As I began the introduction of the course and reading through the syllabus, I could feel her doe eyes fixated on me the entire time. For a reason unknown to me at the time, I felt giddy. I could almost see Alice looking at me with the same incredulous look on her face, silently asking the question.
What is the real reason you want to see Bella Swan?
I'd told Alice the truth. Bella deserved the opportunity to choose what was best for her. It should be up to her if she never wanted to see them again. It should be up to her if she chooses to forgive and move on. It should've been up to her from the very start.
But there was another reason, a curious, selfish reason that I had never said out loud, nor did I plan on doing so anytime soon. A possibility that I never wanted to consider, not until I saw her face again.
I ended the class ten minutes before the bell. A few students took their time to leave, most of which were girls gossiping and pointing to me almost too obviously, and the other was Bella Swan. She remained seated on the third row, showing no intention to leave anytime soon.
A boy in a blue jacket next to her was speaking to her, and I opened my notebook as if to read, pretending not to hear. As I shouldn't be able to do anyway, with normal human hearing.
"What's your next class?" the boy asked.
"None," Bella responded, her eyes fixed on the hands on her desk. I realized then that I'd missed her voice too.
"Well, I do…" the boy trailed off. "I can tour you around campus soon, if you like."
A pause. "I'd like that," she replied, and it sounded genuine.
Soon, all the other students shuffled out of the room, until it was just the two of us who remained. I finally closed the notebook I had been pretending to read and fully looked up at her, still at her seat. She took a deep breath and gathered her things to her sling bag, and walked slowly, yet confidently down the lecture room towards me.
Bella stopped until her waist was pressed against the edge of my desk. Her eyes were strangely unreadable, and I couldn't tell whether or not she was angry or confused.
I decided it was too impolite to remain seated, so I stood up and slowly walked my way around the desk to stand next to her. As soon as there was no desk between us, Bella surprised me by swiftly wrapping her arms around me, her head buried in the folds of my sweater.
All I could think of in that moment was how she smelled absolutely divine. Fortunately, due to centuries of practiced control, the bouquet gave her no power over me. Not the way she had on Edward, at least.
Bella eventually removed her hands around me and stood to face me. Her unreadable expression was finally replaced with one of mirth and relief.
"I missed you" were her first words in years to me.
"Ms. Swan," I began. "You have no idea how genuinely happy I am to see you."
"Are you?" she questioned, her eyebrows furrowing. "I mean, y-you…he left me."
I sighed. And so it begins. I could feel the happiness draining from her face, most likely from repressed memories of Edward's––our abandonment. In that moment, I thoughtlessly touched her chin, the way I did years ago to cheer her up from thoughts of my damnation.
This apparently surprised her, because her eyes widened and a wonderful flush of blood flowed in her cheeks.
"I know I speak not only for myself when I say I'm absolutely sorry for what we've done to you," I said. "I respected Edward's wishes, but…I never wanted us to leave you behind. Not when I already considered you family."
She didn't respond, but continued to look at me directly in the eyes. It was only then that I noticed her hands were still in fists around the folds of my sweater. As if she was afraid I would pull away or disappear.
I'm not going anywhere, I wanted to say.
"But why are you here?" she asked. "You would've known…Are the others…?"
There seemed to be a form of hope in her voice, and I began to panic and wonder if I was wrong about this decision. Was it too soon? Was she not over her and Edward's relationship? "It's just me here. Alice and Jasper are in a city close by."
She surprises me again by looking relieved. "But…Esme?"
I took a breath––a human habit––and tried to look as casual and calm as possible. "Off on her own adventures and search of purpose." I smiled at her. "It's been an eventful couple of years, Bella Swan."
She surprised me once again by smiling so widely, a full set of teeth grinning up at me. "Then I'd like to catch up," she said simply.
I felt forgiven.
A/N: Will be updating every week or two weeks!