Author's Note: Thank you to my lovely betas, Unicorn Goddess and Midnight Walking…this was extremely difficult for me to write and I couldn't have done it without either of you. I really hope I have done the characters justice…
Disclaimer: The Twilight series and all of its characters belong entirely to Stephenie Meyer! Everything that is in italics is straight from New Moon by Stephanie Meyer
Dazed and disoriented, I looked up from the bright red blood pulsing out of my arm – into the fevered eyes of the six suddenly ravenous vampires.
I was furious. Jasper was beyond reason but so was I. If hurting my family, hurting Jasper was what I had to do to protect Bella, I would. Luckily Emmett had a good hold on Jasper otherwise this would have come down to a fight between my brother and I.
I wasn't taking any chances with Bella's blood spilt everywhere. The smell of it was beckoning the monster in me. But this wasn't my first experience with so much of her blood spilled at my feet. The first time though, I was protecting her from an enemy, a dangerous evil vampire. And this time, I was protecting her from my own brother, my own family. Regardless of my strength to resist Bella's blood, I held my breath. It was easier to think this way, and I needed to be prepared in case someone else in my family wasn't able to hold themselves back.
"Let me by, Edward," Carlisle murmured.
I relaxed slightly. Jasper, Emmett, Rose, and Esme were outside now. I could hear Alice's thoughts. She was resisting the temptation because her mind was so preoccupied with what Jasper was feeling and would be feeling once he could think clearly. "I should have taken him hunting sooner," she thought to herself. And then, "Edward, I'm really sorry…"
I looked at Bella. She appeared shocked by the events, but not afraid. If she only knew our thoughts. If she had heard what had passed through our minds for a split second, she would have thought that we were thinking of our worst enemy, not the person that we had all come to love. We were despicable creatures. Love one moment, kill another.
Let's take her to the kitchen table," Carlisle said to me.
I continued to hold my breath, as I lifted her easily in my arms, and carried her to our kitchen. I gently sat her down in one of the chairs.
"How are you doing, Bella?" Carlisle asked Bella.
"I'm fine." She replied.
How could she be fine? Jasper had almost killed her, for crying out loud. This is what made Bella different from every other human I had ever encountered in my century of existence – she accepted us wholly and unconditionally. This is why what had happened here tonight was so much worse than under any other circumstances. She loved and trusted us completely. Even if Jasper hadn't got near her, we had betrayed her. I had pushed her down to the ground and she was sitting here in our kitchen getting stitched up by Carlisle. In that moment of panic I could have pushed her down much harder and hurt her further than I already had.
I stood over her while Carlisle worked. How could I let this angel be hurt? Seeing her crumpled on the floor of that dance studio, unconscious in a pool of her own blood was enough pain to endure for one lifetime. And now here she was again, because of us, because of what we were, injured and in pain. My anger towards Jasper was now subsiding and turning inwards instead. This was my fault, no one else's.
Bella's words cut into my self-loathing. "Just go, Edward,"
"I can handle it," Was I unable to at least do this for her. Stay here by her side and offer her any support that I could? Was I so weak that I couldn't be here to hold the hand of the one I claimed to love above all else?
"You don't need to be a hero; Carlisle can fix me up without your help. Get some fresh air." Bella chided again
Hero, hah. Even if I gave everything I had, I couldn't be her hero. Instead, I was the plague that would one day take her life. All the times I had saved her life only to one day do what? If she didn't die by the symptoms of being in love with a vampire, one day she would willingly give me her life in order to spend eternity with me. This was not love! Love wasn't supposed to hurt you, envelope you in shadows and darkness, take away your life! It was supposed to be the opposite!
Bella wincing in pain shook me out of my reverie.
"I'll stay," I said. I could run away to control my thirst, but could I run away from what I was? I would have in a heartbeat if it meant that I could give Bella what she really deserved. For now, I would withstand the pain my body was in resisting her blood and stand by her side while she endured her pain.
"Why are you so masochistic?" Bella mumbled.
"Edward, you may as well go find Jasper before he gets too far. I'm sure he's upset with himself, and I doubt he'll listen to anyone buy you right now." Carlisle said.
"Yes," Bella pleaded with her eyes. "Go find Jasper."
"You might as well do something useful," Alice added.
They were ganging up on me. I should go find Jasper though, Carlisle was right, he wouldn't listen to anyone but me. Bella seemed so sincere. She was worried about Jasper. How disgusting. Bella was concerned about the vampire's feelings, while Carlisle pulled out chunks of glass from her arm. Alice's concerned thoughts, made my decision for me, and I sprinted out the back door.
As I ran out into the night, the forest smells meeting me, I could breathe again. I spotted my family at the edge of our lawn standing under the shadows of a cedar. As I approached, I could see Jasper wasn't with them.
I walked towards them slowly, still lost in my own thoughts.
"I told you Edward – she's a menace! Don't you even care what would have happened if Jasper had killer her? We'd have to run -"
"She's the menace," I screamed. "Jasper almost kills her, and she's the problem?"
"Well if you had listened to us in the beginning and just left that stupid human alone, Jasper wouldn't be running away from his home."
Emmett tried to put his arms around Rose, but she wasn't having it. She just pulled away from him; arms crossed staring defiantly at me.
"Rose, what you're saying is very inappropriate! Bella is part of our family whether she's human or not." Esme scolded.
I couldn't believe what Rose was saying. Had she no remorse? And how was this Bella's fault?
It wasn't Jasper's fault though; the blame should fall on my shoulders, and mine alone. I chose to ignore the dangers and instead do what I wanted. Hadn't I told her that first day we sat across form each other at lunch that I was just going to do what I wanted? I had given up trying to do the right thing long ago, and for the first time, I was truly starting to regret the decision I had made.
"Rose why don't you just try and be helpful for once, and tell me where Jasper is?" Alice had joined us in the back yard now.
"Once we got him out here, he just took off that way," Emmett explained. "We figured we'd give him his space and let him go."
Alice and I took off in the direction that Emmett had pointed. We silently ran, following his scent, until we found him sitting on a crop of rocks near the edge of the river that ran behind our home.
Alice went to his side and wrapped her arms around his shoulders. He looked dejectedly out at the water raging by us.
"Jasper it's -"
"Please don't say it Edward. It'll only make me feel worse if you tell me it's not my fault."
"But Jasper nothing happened, Bella is okay." Alice tried to comfort him.
"Yeah and what if Edward hadn't read my mind, and what if Emmett hadn't been there, then what? Would Bella have been alright then?"
I didn't want to think about would have happened if I hadn't heard the vicious animal in his mind snapping before his body had reacted. But I could see the pain on Jasper's face. The beast in his eyes was now replaced with remorse and disgust at himself.
"If I had hurt her Edward, I would have taken whatever pain you could inflict on me willingly."
The pain in Jasper voice was evident, even without the pain that we were already feeling emanating from all around him. This was my fault. Maybe Rosalie was right. I was hurting my family by doing what pleased me and I was hurting Bella above all. She could have died today, on her eighteenth birthday.
But I wouldn't have let her go. I knew from the moment that I discovered she had eluded Jasper and Alice in the Phoenix airport that if it came down to it I would do whatever I had to, to save her. I was much too selfish. And in the final moments of her life, there would be no way that I could have let her go forever. If there was something in my power to do for her, I wouldn't be able to stop myself. And in that, I realized, Bella never had a chance with me.
No matter how many times I saved her life before, if a car didn't kill her, if another one of our kind didn't kill her, if my family didn't kill her, I would do the job. If I truly loved her, how could I take her life away? She deserved to go to heaven; a place that my family and I had debated existed, where we all secretly wanted to go to finally have some peace once we left this world. We may never be allowed to enter through those gates, but Bella could. And if I took that away from her, I would never be able to forgive myself.
Alice and Jasper sat in silence, starring into each other eyes. Alice was comforting Jasper without words. They had always had a special connection that didn't depend on them communicating with words.
I realized looking at them, that I didn't deserve what they had. I was a monster that hurt Bella by simply existing and now after all the pain and suffering I had already brought to her, I was going to put an end to it. Even though it took me all these months to come to this realization, it was better late than never.
Alice's eyes broke their connection with Jasper's and her face was momentarily blank. "Edward, no!" She screamed. "That's not the only answer! You can think this through! There's always been another way, you just have -"
I cut her off, "Alice there is no other way for me. Start packing tonight, we're leaving."
With that, I turned on my heel and left. She had seen the vision of me telling Bella that we were leaving, confirming the fact that I was just starting to wrap my brain around. It was the only option. I couldn't see Bella hurt any more by my existence, and I couldn't hurt my family. The pain I would feel might very well kill me, but that would be so much better than this and Bella deserved to live in a world where I never existed.
As I was running back towards are house, I passed Rosalie, Emmett, and Esme and let them know that we were leaving. I could hear Rosalie's protests, but I didn't care what she had to say anymore. Nothing mattered in this moment, except that I had one last final chance to save Bella's life, for real this time.
I went in through the front door, my heart carefully closed off from the pain of my decision, and waited in the dinning room while Carlisle finished what he was saying.
"I wasn't sorry, though. I've never been sorry that I saved Edward." Carlisle shook his head and smiled.
I wouldn't be sorry either for I was finally doing the one thing that would prove how much I truly loved Bella. From this day forward, I wouldn't let Bella suffer any further. Instead I would endure the suffering that would have been meant for her, if I stayed in her life.
"I suppose I should take you home now." Carlisle said.
"I'll do that." I said as I approached Bella. I felt cold and dead, which is what I normally was, but this was different. In front of Bella I had no energy for my convictions. In Bella's presence I was momentarily unsure of myself and what I had just decided moments ago.
"Carlisle can take me," Bella responded. She was looking down at her blood splattered shirt. Thinking of others again. She was concerned that I wouldn't be able to handle this. This was going to be a walk in the park compared to what I was considering doing in the next couple of days.
"I'm fine." I wanted to at least be able to take her home. I couldn't be there while she got stitches, but I'll be damned if I can't even drive her home! "You'll need to change anyway. You'd give Charlie a heart attack the way you look. I'll have Alice get you something."
As I left to go find Alice, I could here Bella say, "He's very upset."
"Yes, tonight is exactly the kind of thing that he fears the most. You being put in danger, because of what we are."
I closed my mind and focused on not listening with my ears. I knew what she would say. I could already see it on her face – she felt guilty. And right now I couldn't handle that. I was afraid that I was going to lose my temper and break something in front of her. I was almost always in control around her, and I sure as hell wasn't going to lose it now.
I headed to the backyard where I knew I would find Alice. Jasper stood with Rosalie and Emmett near the cluster of trees. Alice was already heading my way as I stepped out the back door.
"I need you to find something for Bella to change into."
"Edward, this is not the right decision." I could hear in her voice she was going to try and change my mind by telling me about one of her visions.
"Alice, please don't. I've made up my mind." Even though a part of me, after seeing Bella's beautiful face, was beginning to have doubts, I didn't want Alice to know she had a chance in changing my mind.
"But, you don't know what I've seen!" She cried.
"It doesn't matter, once we're out of her life she'll be better off. And I don't want you looking anymore. And don't you dare try and warn her, it won't help! This is between Bella and me, and I'm going to handle it how I see best for Bella"
"Best for Bella is not -"
I gave her a menacing look and she stopped short. I could hear her thoughts, and she was planning on working on me later. Maybe she saw me changing my mind – but that couldn't be possible. I had already made up my mind, hadn't I? I knew deep down that leaving Bella was my only chance. I was trailing behind Alice as we walked into the house, still lost in thought.
I knew what my face must have looked like on the outside but it didn't give away the turmoil that raged inside me. Bella kept taking swift glances in my direction. I could see the panic on her face. She only knew too well what my dark moods were like.
"C'mon, I'll get you something less macabre to wear." With that Bella and Alice headed up the stairs. I only hoped I had scared Alice enough to keep her from telling Bella what was really going on in my head. I wasn't ready for her to know yet. I still had to figure how I was going to do this, if I could actually do it.
Esme and Carlisle slowly approached my side. I turned to them, "You need to start making arrangements for us to leave. We can't be around Bella anymore and it's not open for discussion. This is my choice."
"Bella loves you Edward…and you, you've never been happier, don't do this." I could tell from her face that she was heartbroken by my words.
"Esme, Bella shouldn't love me, she should love someone that can give her all the things she deserves in life. And as for my happiness – that's all I've been thinking about these last seven months, and I've all I've accomplished in all that time is to hurt her. If I truly loved her, I would stop putting her in danger."
"Edward, you have a choice here. Bella wants this." Carlisle said.
"Bella doesn't know what she's asking for. How could she really know this is what she wants, she's only eighteen for crying out loud!" I yelled back. I felt guilty for taking my anger out at the two of them. They had been the most supportive and understanding since the beginning and I knew all they wanted was my happiness, but I couldn't think straight and while Bella was not around my anger kept bubbling up.
"You don't give her enough credit, she understands more about life than most." Carlisle's voice rang in my head.
I could hear Alice and Bella leaving Esme's room, so instead of responding to Carlisle I headed for the front door.
I watched as Bella cautiously descended the stairs. She was still casting worried glances in my direction as were the rest of my family, but I just couldn't bring myself to smile and relieve her worry. I was too angry at myself to force the muscles in my face to turn upwards.
"Take your things!" Alice said as she quickly retrieved Bella's gifts and her camera and handed them to her. She could barely hold everything in her one good arm. "You can thank me later, when you've opened them." 'If we aren't gone by then,' I thought darkly.
We headed out the door to Bella's truck. Once Bella was settled I made my way around to the driver's seat. I saw her pull off the bow that Emmett had put on her new stereo; did she really think that by doing that I'd be able to forget what had just happened? I was angry and I wanted to hit something, but that would only make Bella feel worse, since it seemed she was already trying to take the blame for this. How could that possibility even cross her mind? Anyone else would be running for their lives, but here was Bella, trying to take responsibility for her near death experience on her own shoulders. Bella truly didn't understand what was best for her.
We drove home in silence, Bella, I could only guess, was worrying about me, and I was lost in my own self-loathing. I wish there was something I could say to her. But what could I possibly say, 'I'm sorry my brother almost killed you, I hope it doesn't happen again.'? The situation was hopeless. Even if I could allow her to be around Jasper, or any of us for that matter, there would always be something else. It was the nature of the beast. How could a vampire and human love each other? Even though it defied all common sense, it was true.
I could sense Bella getting more and more impatient as we drove through the now dark town. Finally she spoke, "Say something."
"What do you want me to say?" I asked. There were no words for what I felt right now.
"Tell me you forgive me."
Forgiveness! She wanted MY forgiveness how completely absurd. I couldn't even dare ask for HER forgiveness in this situation. I didn't deserve to even attempt to ask her that. I wanted to scream, but I fought the urge, "Forgive you? For what?"
"If I'd been more careful, nothing would have happened."
There was remorse written all over her face. I wanted to shake her and tell her how insane she was being. How could anyone as sweet and innocent as her ever be at fault, it was an impossibility. It just made me love her even more, which made this situation even worse.
Why did she have to come to Forks and let me ruin her life? The trait that had brought her to me in the first place was her selflessness. How nice, I couldn't have picked a kinder, more loving, innocent human to love. Monster didn't accurately describe what I was, no I was far worse. There was no word created that accurately described the type of evil I was.
She should be with someone that is simple and easy and safe. Maybe even Mike Newton or any one of the others that were lined up for her. I growled internally at that thought. I couldn't stand to picture anything more than that image. Even though I was the one that thought it, the idea of another man touching her the way that I wanted to touch her made me want to kill anyone who even considered it.
"Bella, you gave yourself a paper cut – that hardly deserves the death penalty." The irony of my words hadn't escaped me. If it had come down to it, if Jasper had gotten to her, we would have stopped him before he drained her, but her life would have been over. The monster in me was already envisioning what our life would be like if she was one of us. How could I do that to her? How could one ask so much of another? Even if I gave her everything that I could possibly give her and then more, that still wouldn't be enough.
"It's still my fault."
Her words snapped me back to reality. I couldn't hold back this time and the words flowed out with all the anger that I had been feeling for the last hour, "Your fault? If you'd cut yourself at Mike Newton's house, with Jessica there and Angela and your other normal friends, the worst that could possibly have happened would be what?"
I didn't give her a chance to respond to what I said, instead I continued the venom dripping off my words, "Maybe they couldn't find you a bandage? If you'd tripped and knocked over a pile of glass plates on your own – without someone throwing you into them – even then, what's the worse? You'd get blood on the seats when they drove you to the emergency room?" Didn't she see that her life was precious and she deserved to do all the normal boring things that humans did – that all of life's simple pleasures would be taken away from her? She didn't have to give up those things if she would just get it through her head that I wasn't right for her. Why couldn't she just run from me screaming, like a bloody normal human being? At the same time though, thinking of her turning away from me in fear and disgust made my stomach drop. What was wrong with me? This should be simple. I'm a vampire and she's a human, the two don't mix!
"Mike Newton could have held your hand while they stitched you up – and he wouldn't be fighting the urge to kill you the whole time he was there." Even Newton didn't deserve her, but no matter what kind of idiot he was, he could never hurt her the way that I could and for that reason, he was better than I was.
"Don't try to take any of this on yourself, Bella. It will only make me more disgusted with myself."
"How the hell did Mike Newton end up in this conversation?" She seemed angered by the thought. A small part of me was rejoicing that she would consider the idea so revolting. But that was the monster again and I wished at that moment I could suffocate that part of me into silence.
"Mike Newton ended up in this conversation because Mike Newton would be a hell of a lot healthier for you to be with." I barely got my lips to form his name so my words came out in a strangled growl.
"I'd rather die than be with Mike Newton! I'd rather die than be with anyone but you." Why did she have to choose this moment to be a theatrical teenager?
"Don't be melodramatic, please."
"Well than, don't you be ridiculous."
I stared straight ahead. I couldn't look at her. I was ashamed of how I was acting, but I couldn't accept what had happened as something normal. Plus seeing her upset would shake my resolve. I wasn't being ridiculous. What was ridiculous was her reaction to almost being killed. In all the time I knew her, she never reacted normally. I knew she accepted us, but this was way beyond being open minded.
I pulled up in front of her house, preparing myself to tell her that I couldn't spend the night with her.
"Will you stay tonight?" She asked, pleading with her eyes. They were wide and innocent. If I tried to look into their depths I was sure I would drown.
I turned away from her convincing eyes, "I should go home."
"For my birthday." She knew that I struggled to keep myself under control, and was quite successful, but she didn't understand that truthfully I was under her spell. She didn't really have to try so hard to get her away, I couldn't deny her much.
I was still far from being even tempered and being able to think clearly seemed like a distant memory. I tired to argue, "You can't have it both ways – either you want people to ignore your birthday or you don't. One or the other." I already knew I would give in. Looking at her face and her perfect lips that seemed to always beg me to kiss them shattered my concentration.
"Okay. I've decided that I don't want you to ignore my birthday. I'll see you upstairs." She seemed to be relieved and was excitedly grabbing the packages that Alice had stuffed into her arms before we left.
"You don't have to take those." Despite my intentions, my mood lightened a fraction, and I teased her.
"I want them." Her luscious lips pouted slightly. She never had seen herself clearly. It wouldn't be long before someone would be persistent enough to win her over. In that moment I didn't want to ever leave her side to be replaced by some immature teenaged boy.
"No you don't. Carlisle and Esme spent money on you." That would only make her frown and pout some more, and she was so damn cute when she was frustrated.
"I'll live." I chuckled as she defiantly tried to scoop up all her gifts and shut the door behind her with her butt.
I quickly ran around the truck to her side, "Let me carry them, at least. I'll be in your room."
"Happy birthday," I sighed as I gave up trying to be angry. Right now all I could think of was pressing my lips against her soft ones. And when our lips met, I was whisked away from all the evil that lurked inside me, and it was a momentary heaven. I smiled as Bella reached up to keep our lips connected for just a moment longer. God I loved this girl.
I dashed up the side of the house, entering through Bella's window in less time it takes for a human to blink.
The feel and taste of her lips still on mine, I was torn. This was going to be impossible. I collapsed on her bed. The mental exhaustion of planning my impending doom made my normally strong legs collapse under my weight.
I had already made my decision, so why did it feel like I hadn't? The right thing to do would be to leave. The right thing had been to never get close to her in the first place. No, I couldn't accept that. The love we had shared couldn't be wrong. It was better to have loved and lost than not loved at all, right? Loving Bella couldn't ever be wrong. I don't think there was anywhere in this universe where loving one such as Bella could be wrong.
Bella loving me, a vampire, now that's what was wrong. Weren't humans supposed to be naturally repelled by us? Why had it been the complete opposite for her? But this shouldn't have surprised me, because everything was backwards and upside down with her. Hell, she had turned my whole words upside down. The world didn't hold the same sway and nothing mattered anymore, not when all I could see in my minds eye was my beautiful Bella.
I shook my head, hoping that the images of Bella that swirled around would be replaced by what needed to be done. The right thing was to help Bella understand that I wasn't right for her. And if Bella didn't see, which I doubted she would, then I would find another way.
Lost in my own debate of right and wrong, I only heard Bella when she opened the door to her room. I smiled to myself, picturing the numerous times Bella had tried to sneak up on me, pouting when I would catch her. I would make her forget her disappointment by pulling her close and pressing my lips to hers. Seeing how she reacted to me always sent a thrill through my body. In my current state of mind, it wouldn't have been very hard to catch me by surprise.
But soon there would be no more flirtatious hide and go seek, wrestling, tickling, or any other excuses I could come up with to hold her. This would be my last night with her. The joy I had felt would soon be replaced with misery. I wouldn't even be granted the mundane existence I had found before Bella, for going back to the way things had been before would be unattainable. As Bella had once explained to me, it would be like taking away someone's lottery winnings and tell them to just go back to the way things were. She was exactly right, but only this would be a million times worse.
I looked up at Bella. Her thin pale arms glowing under her bedroom lights. Her vulnerability and fragility was painfully obvious as I looked at her smooth, soft creamy skin. Humans were so breakable. The bandage on her arm as obvious as a neon sign on a darkened road screamed that fact to me. There were so many ways that they could be hurt. It was almost unfair how easily life could be taken from them. That was why life was so precious, because at any moment it could be snuffed out as quickly as a candle is put to rest.
"Hi." I said with all the feeling and energy I could muster.
Her face softened at my tone, and she quickly pushed the present that I had been fiddling with out of my hands and climbed into my lap.
"Hi." She replied, sighing softly as she adjusted herself on my lap.
I was instantly taken away to my only paradise. The feel of her soft body pressing against my own cold one, combined with her sweet scent, almost made me forget my suicide mission. But as she struggled to press every line of her body to mine, it was painfully apparent how different we really were. The borders of our bodies touching made it obvious that we weren't any more similar than countries that were as close but still choose to wage war on each other. They destroyed each other, just as one day I would destroy Bella.
"Can I open my presents now?" I could hear the eagerness in her voice, and I looked down at her.
"Where did the enthusiasm come from?" Her face was relaxed and happy despite the obvious pain radiating from her arm. I was sure the anesthetic that Carlisle had used was beginning to wear off.
"You made me curious." Her eyes twinkled, and I was momentarily lost in the beauty of their innocence.
As she picked up one of the presents to open, I decided that one life threatening accident was enough for the night.
"Allow me." And I ripped the wrapping off in one stroke. I should have known that gift bags would have been the wiser choice with Bella.
"Are you sure I can handle lifting the lid?" No, even a gift bag would have proved to be a death trap. What was I going to do with her?
Esme and Carlisle had bought us two tickets to Jacksonville to visit her mother. It had been Esme's idea. I had warned her that Bella hated having anyone spend money on her, but Esme had insisted that Bella needed to go home and see her mother. She had informed me how important it was for mother and daughter to spend time together, considering how long they had been apart. My heart had warmed at how much Esme cared for Bella, and not just because Bella was the missing piece in my genetic makeup.
I watched her face carefully as she examined the long slips of paper. Realization struck and she almost shouted, "We're going to Jacksonville?"
"That's the idea." I almost chuckled at her reaction. She was slowing pulling me out of dreary mood. It was nearly hopeless to be unhappy when I was around her.
"I can't believe it. Renee is going to flip! You don't mind, though, do you? It's sunny, you'll have to stay inside all day." She was so happy, I didn't have the heart to tell her it wouldn't matter if it was sunny.
Instead I said, "I think I can handle it."
I should have known by now that even though I new her well, she would surprise me. Esme would have been overjoyed to see her reaction. Bella genuinely seemed excited and pleased by the prospect. It's too bad things hadn't gone differently. If only Jasper hadn't been so thirsty, if Alice had seen what was to happen, if…I could play this what if game for an eternity, it wasn't going to change the path our lives were about to take.
"If I'd had any idea that you could respond to a gift this appropriately, I would have made you open it in front of Carlisle and Esme. I thought you would complain."
"Well, of course it's too much. But I get to take you with me!"
I was never wrong before Bella came into my life, "Now I wish I'd spent money on your present. I didn't realize that you were capable of being reasonable."
I unwrapped my present for her like the first, and handed it to her. I'm sure she would love it, but there were a million other things that I had wanted to get her, but they had all involved expending some of our endless cash.
I handed her the CD and she looked confused.
"What is it?"
I took the CD and reached around her, subtly breathing in her scent, and put it into her well used stereo. I regretted not thinking of buying her a new stereo to go along with the CD, but my mind was preoccupied on bigger gifts, like a new car.
I watched as she intently listened and her eyes began to fill with tears. Seeing how my music affected her was sweeter than anything I could have ever imagined. They way her eyes shone with love and delight, knowing that I had done that made me feel like there was some good in me after all; I had made an angel smile. She always brought the good out in me, but it still wasn't enough to deserve her.
"I didn't think you would let me get a piano so I could play for you here."
Her arm must have been blazing now. To see if she would tell me the truth or if she was still trying to minimize the events of the evening I said, "How does your arm feel?"
"I'll get you some Tylenol."
"I don't need anything." She tried to argue, but I didn't want her to suffer anymore than she had to, so I lifted her off my lap and onto the bed and headed for her bathroom.
"Charlie!" She hissed.
Silly Bella, did she really think I couldn't get by her old man? Even if he wasn't engrossed in the game he was watching on TV, it wouldn't be very hard at all.
"He won't catch me." As I said those words, I silently dashed to the medicine cabinet above the sink in the bathroom, grabbed the pain killers and a glass of water and was back before the door had shut, moving only slightly faster than my usual pace.
She grudgingly took the pills.
"It's late." I lifted Bella and pulled the covers back to lay her down in her bed. I pulled the quilt up around her and settled myself next to her, relaxing instantly next to her warm body. This felt so right, how could it also be so completely wrong.
The irony of her gratitude was that I should really be thanking her for allowing me to give her this small bit of happiness despite all the terror of the night. There was so much I needed to thank her for, I would never be able to repay the debt. Death from this damned existence had nothing on the joy and light she had brought to my life.
My mind drifted back to my earlier arguments, this had never been right, and it was better late than never to set things straight.
"What are you think about?"
I didn't really want to tell her, but a part of me hoped that if I did, she would convince me that I was wrong.
"I was thinking about right and wrong, actually."
Instead of questioning me further she quickly tried to change the subject, "Remember how I decided that I wanted you to not ignore my birthday?"
"Yes." Where was she going with this, I wondered.
"Well I was thinking, since it's still my birthday, that I'd like you to kiss me again."
I laughed internally, "You're greedy tonight." But I wanted her even more than she wanted me, I instinctively knew, this would be our last kiss.
"Yes, I am – but please, don't do anything you don't want to do."
I laughed, if she only knew. But that's the way I had always been. Bella had changed so much of who I used to be, but the one thing that had remained constant was my selfishness. That is what had hurt her from the beginning, and would hurt her in the future, until I committed this final act of selflessness.
"Heaven forbid that I should do anything I don't want to do." I said it with desperation. I prayed that I would be able to fight my inner demon and do this one thing right in the face of all the wrong. I would fight my own demons later, for right now, the love and passion I felt for Bella took over my mind and my body.
I silently put my hand under her chin and met her lips with mine. The moment our skin touched I felt a thousands bombs go off in my mind and electrical currents shoot up and down the arms that held Bella's body to mine. I quickly lost the ability to think rationally and I gave myself in to the love that was bubbling inside me like hot molten lava. In these last few rare seconds of happiness I had, I wanted to pour everything inside me into Bella. I pulled her closer to my body as she struggled to do the same. My normally ice cold lips burned with fire as they desperately devoured hers. I opened my eyes to see hers closed as she was lost in the kiss, and my face contorted in pain as I pulled away knowing that I couldn't go farther, but wanting to with every ounce of my being.
Bella fell back on to her pillow, to dazed and breathless, to notice the pain in my eyes.
"Sorry, that was out of line."
"I don't mind."
I frowned, why wasn't she ever concerned about her life. Teenagers always felt invincible, how misguided they were. How misguided Bella was.
"Try to sleep, Bella."
"No, I want you to kiss me again." She was stubborn, I would give her that, but she obviously had no clue how hard this was, even though the need to kiss her was just as strong as the need of my hunger.
"You're overestimating my self-control."
"Which is tempting you more, my blood or my body?" She was especially bold and flirtatious tonight.
And I smiled despite myself, "It's a tie. Now, why don't you stop pushing your luck and go to sleep?"
Reluctantly she agreed, "Fine."
She sighed and wiggled closer. She tried to be discrete but I saw through her pretenses, as she pressed her burning arm against my shoulder.
I felt her body start to relax, but not before she shuddered, I guessed in pain. Once she was unconscious the pain and remorse overtook me. My last night with her would be bliss and pure and unabated torture at the same time.
Bella was peacefully asleep in my arms, unaware of the war raging inside of me, and the excruciating pain that I was in. Being able to kiss her and lay next to her was something I had never expected or dreamed of in my 89 years as a vampire.
In the years after my change I had learned to accept what I had turned into and I had found a way in this life. It wasn't easy at first, but what choice did I have? Even if I had grown depressed, ending my existence wasn't a possibility. So out of necessity I found a reason to live as the new creature I had become and with that decision I found a way to go on, and was able to find some small acceptance and satisfaction with my everyday existence. Going through that process, I had become satisfied with who I was as an entity of my own. As I navigated the world, seeing it through fresh eyes, confident in myself, I couldn't imagine how my life could be any better with a companion. Not to mention there wasn't anyone that had ever appealed to me even in the slightest.
Losing my parents, losing my life, and becoming something straight out of horror movie was overwhelming, but I eventually found my way. And all along, I watched as my new family grew, everyone sharing their life with another, but I had never felt like I needed that. I had my music – my own creations and others, my family who I loved and an eternity to do the things I never had a chance to do as a human.
I think if I was truly honest with myself, knowing what I know now, I would have to admit I was lonely, but I was too pigheaded to admit it to anyone else, least of all myself, that being me just wasn't enough. All along, I was searching for Bella, looking for that one person who I could be completely honest with, who I could share my fears and worries with, and who I could give my heart to, but she wasn't alive and even if I was unconsciously looking, I wasn't looking for a human mate.
I never thought in my wildest dreams that here, in this small rainy town of Forks, that the part of me that was missing, the one thing I had desired for so many decades, would come tripping into my life in the form of this beautiful, compassionate, brave, human woman laying in my arms.
I looked down at her slumbering form, and I watched as her gentle breath escaped through her slightly parted lips; involuntarily I hugged her to me.
Bella turned slightly in my arms, finding a more comfortable position, and then sighed softly, whispering, "Edward...mmm…I love you so much."
"Oh Bella, my sweet Bella, I love you with everything that I am. I love you more than you could ever know." The words were strangled, as a huge lump formed in my throat. I tried to swallow, but it only increased the ache and pressure. I brushed my lips against her forehead savoring the silky feel of her skin and the warmth that radiated all the way to my core from touching her.
I thought back to the beginning, the times when I was more afraid than I've ever been, not knowing how things would turn out. Whether I would be able to resist the temptation of her tantalizing blood, not knowing how to act around her, fighting to stay away and then ultimately giving in. Then as if the first few months hadn't been torturous enough, wondering what she would really think of me, imagining her running from me in disgust and fear once she knew what I was, and then finally that day in the meadow, when I told her I loved her.
All the indecision, doubt and fear had vanished when I heard her say she loved me too. I had never felt the thrill that rushed through me at that moment. I had wanted to jump up and down with joy, as young child might on Christmas morning.
Nothing could compare to the way my heart felt as if it was so full it would burst from my chest, and at the same time my stomach quivered and fluttered at the sight of her. I believe that day I understood what the human expression to have butterflies in your stomach meant. These strange sensations were so potent and new; I felt like I was being reborn, my body responding in ways I had never experienced; I felt unsure of myself but complete at the same time.
I knew that I would never find a love like this again. To have been all over the world, to have lived for as long as I had, and to never have felt even an iota of what I felt since meeting Bella made me certain that the love we shared was only meant as a once in a lifetime opportunity. No matter how long my lifetime was going to be, this opportunity would not be offered again. Besides, with what heart could I ever love again, when I had already given my heart away with a no return policy?
Bella stiffened in my arms and turned away, clenching the pillow to her face. Her body rocked back and forth, and I was instantly prepared to soothe her from what I had realized last spring was a coming nightmare. There were times when she would relive being hunted by James. I wished with all my heart that I could take away all the things in this world that would bring her pain and even more so the ones that already had. James was dead now, but obviously not in her thoughts.
She turned to me suddenly and started to grab for me, grasping a fistful of my shirt, her voice trembled, "Jasper….please." She turned over again and moaned into her pillow.
My heart broke at her words. Of course she was having nightmares of the evening, did I really believe that she was as unaffected as she pretended to be? I was expecting to ease her fears of James though, not Jasper.
Being a supremely powerful creature, protecting Bella should have been easy, but I failed time and time again. I had unimaginable strength and speed, unparalleled senses and was virtually indestructible yet here was the one person that needed my protection, the one I needed to protect for my own selfish reasons, and none of the powers I possessed could guarantee her safety or her happiness.
The anger I felt at my own shortcomings made me want to destroy everything in my path and take Bella away to a place where nothing could hurt her. A place where only I could look upon her beauty. A place where none of the darkness that followed me around could go. A place where only the two of us existed.
If someone could offer me a life where I would die of disease or from a bullet wound or any other painful way for that matter, I would gladly give up my immortality. If there was anyway I could be human, even if it meant I had to die for it, I would. Any moment that I could truly be with Bella without harming her would be worth it. And if I did die that way, at least I would have a chance to find Bella in the afterlife.
If there was any way I could have that with Bella on this earth, I would have found it. I would go to the ends of the earth for Bella. Unfortunately for me, there was only one place I could have this.
When nature took its course, and she lost her life naturally the way it was supposed to be, when she went on to the next world, I would follow behind. I would search until I found her, so that we could be together again. Without the worries and concerns of the lives we left behind – and then finally I would be whole again.
Before I realized it, morning had arrived, and with the morning light, I had my decision.
I whispered to her, "Bella, I will love you until the end of time. There is nothing in this entire universe that will ever compare to your grace and beauty. You will be in my every thought during every moment of my pathetic existence. You may not hear my voice, but wherever I am, I will be right by your side. Please know somewhere deep down inside that I can never leave you, you are a part of me no matter what I say. I love you Bella, I love you…"
A sob racked my chest as I uttered those final words to her. I struggled to compose myself. I hoped and prayed that somehow, however this turned out, she would know deep down inside what I felt for her. When she had moved on with her life, maybe she would remember that day in the cafeteria when I had told her that if I could convince myself to go that it would prove that I cared more for her than she did for me.
I gently pulled myself away from her and knelt beside her bed, sobs escaping my lips uncontrollably. The thought of her one day forgetting I ever existed, looking at another man the way she looked at me, her heart skipping a beat at the sight of someone else, almost killed me right there in that moment, but I knew this is the way it had to be. Because I so completely and truly loved her, I would do this. I would give her the chance to have really happiness, a life full of love and light, children, and a man who could love her without endangering her life every moment that he was with her.
I wished with everything that I could be the that man, that she could be the mother of my children, that I could give her that happiness, but I wasn't it. And if for some strange error of fate we were brought together it didn't mean that it was right, and I needed to rectify this cruel joke that had been played on us, because I loved her more than the selfish monster that screamed at me to stay.
I finally composed myself, and brushed the soft tendrils of hair that framed her face. I quickly grabbed the scissors on her desk, and gently clipped a lock of her hair and carefully tucked it into my jacket pocket. Of course my memory was better than any photograph or video for that matter, but I wanted something that I could hold in my fingers that would remind me of how soft, delicate and incredibly sweet she was. It was a small treasure, but for one such as me, that's all I could ask for.
I would hold on to the memories of this night, as everything in these moments of loss where all the more true and real. Nothing could ever be as sweet as this moment.
Knowing that I would be with her again one day would be enough to carry me through my days separated from her. I would hold on to that vision of paradise and slowly pass the rest of my days until my time was up.
Author's Note: If you are wondering what Bella is dreaming of email me, I will tell you!