Without doubt this is all Alphie's fault. Who knew I could write and research an American based fic? I now know more about cliffs in Wisconsin than any Brit has the need to know.
Thanks to Stephenie Meyer for the world and characters. I hope they're not too dented by this experience.
I was born in 1895, the same year as Babe Ruth, but that's where all similarities end. By the time we were twenty-six, he was hitting home runs as a hero for the Yankees, and I was dead.
It wasn't as if I thirsted for adoration or even longed for something way beyond my reach. I had been content for a while, back on that small farm near Columbus; loved and secure and wanted. I had such small dreams for my future, perhaps to teach young children and create a tiny bit of good somewhere in the world, or to find a husband who loved me and grow old in his arms. It should have been like that, but it was the story of my life to yearn for something that it just wasn't possible to have.
The day was warm, the sun glistening overhead in an ironic twist of fate. Spring was upon us now, buds blossoming the trees with new life. The birds incessantly chattered with their mates as they nested; I walked across the fields, yet I was barely aware of them.
My heart thudded relentlessly in my chest, beat after worthless beat, like a metronome with no musician to play to its time. It went on because there was nothing else left for it to do, yet the hollow cavern inside me grew with each moment that passed and threatened to swallow me whole.
No tears fell. They had all withered when love died. There was no hope, no help. I was beyond pain, beyond anguish, beyond everything.
The numbness carried my feet forward. Upwards, ever upwards.
There was no turning back.
"It is such a good match," my mother beamed, clearly relieved by my acceptance of the proposal. I suspect she had doubted that I would ever marry at all.
My father cleared his throat, and nodded his tacit approval in that unemotional way of his. "No more of this nonsense about moving out West to teach. It's better this way. More respectable."
"Yes, Father," I agreed quietly. In so many ways I'd longed to spread my wings from this small town where I'd spent my whole life. As the web of adulthood tightened, I had become increasingly unhappy. My friends had married and settled into their lives of raising children, cooking and cleaning, and there was little time for me. Our worlds had diverged completely and it felt as if I were shouting to them across a great chasm: falling through space, with no one to catch me.
"And Charles Evenson, too," my mother's face was wreathed in smiles. "Such a good family and he's very handsome, with all that curling dark hair. You're so lucky, Esme."
Handsome? How could Charles be handsome? As my stomach recoiled, my mind flitted to an image that was scorched indelibly on my brain.
Smooth, cool hands binding my broken leg, a look so intense in his topaz eyes that I forgot the pain, and remembered only him. His face a perfect, unmoving effigy as, for that too short moment in time, he focused only on me. I yearned to touch him. My fingers longed to caress his blond hair, and I'd have given everything to have his flawless face lift up to mine and smile.
I stood up so quickly that I jolted the table and my mother's vase of flowers wobbled precariously. It was pointless to dream. My future was sealed.
I would marry Charles Evenson. I would do my duty and make my parents proud.
I'd always loved climbing, ever since I was a little girl. Getting higher and higher, right to the very top of the tallest tree, and then staring at the endless open space for as far as the eye could see. It mirrored my hopes for an endless future of riding off into the unknown as if life were some big adventure.
Today, it lured me again, with the hypnotic swish and sway of the grasses a hundred feet or more beneath my feet. The sinister rocks at the foot of the bluff grinned: my bloodthirsty friends.
The hollow ache inside me grew, and grew. It was unbearable in its all-consuming nothingness. Four days of hope was all I'd had with him. Four brief days. My child. My son. My world.
No tears fell, but the lump in my throat swelled.
His fragile beauty: the swift rise and fall of his breathing as he trustingly slept in my arms. I had never belonged so completely to another being as I did to him. I was enchanted by this overwhelming love beyond love. His very scent was part of me. His every breath… Separated by birth now, but always bound.
Bone of my bones; flesh of my flesh.
Stone cold and blue in the hospital morgue.
The trees blew, whispering their tales, yet I listened to none. My hand stroked my empty womb, seeking to comfort my boy, as I had done across those long months when it was the two of us against the world. He had been the spark of hope, glittering so crystal clear in the never-ending dark of my life; my beacon. Yet, he had gone.
Now, there was only darkness, a despairing nothing in which my howl of anguish raged and roared and echoed mockingly back at me.
There was no solace inside me, just this yawning chasm of eternal grief through which I kept falling.
Babe Ruth said once, "It's hard to beat a person who never gives up." But when life has taken everything, you've got nothing left to give.
Mr and Mrs Charles Evenson. Such a charming couple. You can see how devoted he is to her.
Who would have ever suspected the happily-ever-after?
The crash of glass as Aunt Meg's wedding present shattered against the wall. His face was thunderous as he loomed above me, his face contorted with hate. I cringed away from him, as if somehow that would melt the inevitable blow.
His huge hand wrenched me to face him. I'd tried. I really had. What more could I have done? I kept house, and followed his commands, but nothing was ever good enough.
"I-I'm sorry," my voice trembled, my body humbled itself before his wrath. The anticipation was almost worse, and my punishment hung in the balance for just long enough to give me hope.
Then, the blinding blow, sending my head spinning, reeling and my body crumpling against our beautiful table. It was polished. I remember that now. My heart-shaped face reflected in its splendid shine, tears spilling from my horrified eyes as he grasped me violently once more.
The war had been a blessed relief. Whilst soldiers were fighting on the battlefield, my wounds had time to heal. But Charles had come back, just like a bad penny. The war was over then, yet in my life it began again. There was to be no ceasefire.
I doubled over in pain as he hit me again, and again. The agony throbbed inside me, but I didn't dare scream. I'd have bruising there tomorrow, not that he cared. It was a man's right to chastise his wife, he always said, but he was careful where he hit me. Never on my face. No, never there. After all, we were Mr and Mrs Charles Evenson. We had standards to keep.
His hand grasped my hair and wrenched me back to my feet. I was struggling for breath, whimpering back the tears.
"Please, Charles. Don't…"
He forced me backwards. I could smell the stale alcohol on his breath, and my stomach heaved. His weight pinned me down so that there was no escape. I knew there was nowhere to run. My parents believed I should stay with him; after all it had been my choice to marry him and God had joined us. I'd made my bed, now I had to lie on it.
"You. Are. My. Wife."
He growled each word with bitter fury. I closed my eyes and my mind.
It would be over soon.
Then, tomorrow, I would sit beside him in the pew in church as if none of this had ever occurred. I would smile politely at our neighbours and be the dutiful wife.
An old, familiar lullaby hummed from my parched mouth, as fragile as life itself. Incongruous, perhaps, but welcome. It reminded me of my own childhood, in those happy days, before my life had fallen like the frailest house of cards.
Strangely, it was his curled fingers I remembered most, so tiny they could only grasp my finger. His skin crinkled like an old man's; skin he would never have the chance to grow into. His tight, possessive grasp on my finger somehow wound him round my heart as well. Somehow, someone so good had come out of all my pain. It made sense of the world and me.
I couldn't dispel memories of my desperate prayers as his breathing laboured, the whooping, rasping breaths as his tiny lungs clung to life. Then, the gurgling began, rattling, choking, drowning, as I sobbed and bartered everything I had to a God who wasn't listening or simply didn't care.
My son had given me the strength I needed to flee Columbus. His love would give me the strength to do this now.
"What do I think about when I strike out? I think about hitting home runs," Babe Ruth had said in the face of defeat.
This was my home run.
I stared out over the alien landscape. Ashland had never been my home. I had no home now, no will to struggle on. My breath shivered and my heart swelled in my chest. There would be no tears, no more sorrow.
The vast abyss inside me deepened, casting a final tremor of unbearable pain. I choked on my grief, and pictured my beautiful boy. I loved him so much. There was no life without him.
I took a step forward, poised on the edge of the dizzying precipice; then with a sob of relief, I was falling.
Wild, uncontrollable shrieking. It was agony. I arched my back against it and howled again.
This could only be the unbearable pain of hell consuming me. I welcomed the torment, the eternal physical pain blotting out the anguish inside.
I could feel the flames, flickering, burning, feeding inside me.
A pair of liquid amber eyes were soft and watchful over me.
This wasn't hell. The torment had stopped.
His perfect marble face, inches from mine, was still as a statue and unchanged. Surely I was dreaming. Dazed, I stretched my hand up, and brushed through his blonde hair as I had always longed to do. A smile spread across his worried face.
I screwed my eyes tight shut and counted to twenty, shaking my head to dispel the dream. Dr Cullen couldn't be here; it was impossible. I'd hit my head. I was concussed. I should be dead.
I took a deep breath.
When I finally opened my eyes and saw him still there, smiling at me, I knew this was going to be a different type of falling altogether.