A/N: This reflective is written from Esme's POV and takes place during the time while Alice and Bella are in Italy trying to save Edward, and the Cullens are waiting to hear how the situation unfolded: waiting to hear if they will ever see any of the three of them again. If you have not noticed, I really like writing from the minor characters POVs, getting into their heads is both challenging and enjoyable! I found writing this particular chapter to be particularly rewarding, and I hope you enjoy it!
A huge thank you goes out to my beautiful and talented betas: UnicornGoddess95, LindaRoo, ECABS, and Wendi. Wendi, in particular helped me smooth out some hang-ups I was having with the thematic elements of this piece. Thank you, thank you, thank you!
The painful ticking of the clock laments each second as it slips away. I lift my eyes to study it again. Only two minutes have passed since the last time I checked. I sigh. This feels so wrong to me, so silly. When you are immortal, time becomes insignificant. We only even have clocks in the house so that Carlisle will arrive promptly to work, Jasper to his classes, and the rest of us to various appointments. We are usually blissfully unaware of the seconds as they slip by, but I am painfully aware of time today. Each boom of the second hand reverberates through my cold body: the terrible rhythm almost making me feel as if my heart is pounding—something it has been unable to do for nearly a century. I cannot decide if I want the clock to hurry up, or to slow down. Somewhere, halfway across the world, two people that I love are racing against time to save my son, to save Edward. After over a century on the earth, Alice had predicted that his life—or his death—would come down to a matter of mere seconds. The irony of that is not lost on me.
My eyes habitually return to the clock face, but it divulges none of the secrets I long to know. As the minutes continue to pass, my hope begins to wane. The more time that goes by without the phone ringing—without Alice calling to give us the latest news— the less likely it becomes that the phone will ever ring; that anyone even survived to make the call. I give up staring at the clock and curl up into a ball onto the floor. My memories begin to flow. Time was not on our side, but it had not always been this way.
When had time become so vital to me again? How had something we possessed in infinite amounts suddenly become so precious? Humans, of course, have always been fascinated with the concept of time. More clichés exist about the passage and value of time than any other subject: time is money; time waits for no man; time heals all wounds. I understand that these quotes resonate well with mortal beings—with those who time will not wait for—but I recognize the fallacy in such statements. The last, at least, is an outright lie. I know firsthand that time does not heal all wounds. Love can help you to recover, but time alone does nothing to quell the immense pain of true loss.
Time had been my foe once before. After the tragic death of my first son, I was forced to choose between a seeming eternity of ceaseless anguish or nothingness. I had chosen the void. The thought of time brought me to my proverbial knees, too weak to stand my ground, so I forfeited my time. I forfeited my life. At least, I attempted to. If the clichés were true, it would have all ended for me in that fall. It seemed a fitting way for me to surrender: in a descent. I was almost certain that my act would earn me eternal damnation; that I would fall all the way into the depths of Hell. That belief did not deter me, as the physical torments of Hell would be a welcome respite from the bitter pain that had taken up residence in my heart.
I flung myself from the cliff with the hope that everything would simply end—my life, my pain, and my fear. Ironically, my attempt at ceasing to exist resulted in my own immortality, and a truly infinite amount of time to deal with. Had I known this in advance, I most certainly would not have taken that plunge. To live forever—never being able to escape the pain of my loss—would be the ultimate punishment: one to be avoided at all costs.
At first, I thought that I had fallen all the way into the depths of Hell. I felt the impact as my body broke—finally matching the state of my spirit—and then I slipped into blissful nothingness. It was what I longed for—the nothingness—but it did not last. The cruel Hell fires quickly replaced it. Not long after the searing pain tore through my body, I began to reconsider my grand gesture. Perhaps a few decades of intense emotional distress would have been preferable to an eternity of this torment. Not that it mattered. Not that my actions could be undone. The pain was too intense, too strong to allow for anything else. It left no room for regret.
It felt like ages that my body had been burning when I first caught sight of him. At first, I assumed he was an illusion—this man from my past—for surely he did not belong in Hell. He attempted to calm me with constant whispered reassurances that it would all be over soon. I realized then that he must be another integral part of my punishment, a bearer of false hopes. To watch that beautiful, angelic figment spewing such venomous lies was heartbreaking. I identified them as lies, because Hell was not a temporary exile. I knew I would burn forever.
I was blessedly wrong. The figment—Carlisle—had spoken no untruths to me. The fires did stop burning, and my heart stopped beating. The life that I had tried so desperately to escape was over. Who could have guessed that in death I would find the happiness that had evaded me in life? In time, Carlisle and I grew to have the kind of love that I thought existed only in literature, the kind of love that certainly had not been present in my mortal life. Another, equally important gift had been given to me – I was now a Mother. Carlisle had saved another before me, a teenaged boy, my Edward. Just as Carlisle and I could not control the love that blossomed between us, Edward and I could not control the familial bond that flourished. He had lost his mother, and I had lost my son, but fate stepped in to give us each other. The unique harmony between the three of us felt more right than anything in my human life ever had. It hurt me immensely when Edward went off on his own—abandoning the peaceful lifestyle that was our common choice—but when he finally returned home, my heart was whole once more. Over the decades, our household expanded. First Rosalie, then Emmett, and finally Alice and Jasper came to live with us. We were a family, but still we were incomplete. Edward alone never discovered love—he was not even searching for it. I ached for the loneliness in his existence, though he seemed oblivious. I still held out hope for his future. There was plenty of time for him to find a mate; of course, there is always time for our kind. I thought time was no longer a problem.
Again—I was so very wrong.
Edward did not find love—love ironically ambushed him. In spite of the unfathomable complications—and perhaps even because of them—Edward fell in love with a mortal. And not just any mortal girl, but the single human whose mere scent stirred within him a nearly unmanageable bloodlust. She was also the only person, mortal or otherwise, whose thoughts Edward could not hear. Bella's presence infused his existence with new meaning – made it a life. I hoped that someday she would become a permanent member of our family. I would have loved her— no matter who she was—if only for the changes she inspired in my dear Edward. After meeting her, it was impossible not to care for her even more. She was brave, kind, caring, and selfless. I would have been thrilled to love her as my daughter. But Edward threw his own happiness away. He claimed he loved her too much to endanger her, to "damn her" to our way of life, even though being with Edward was clearly all that she desired. I missed Bella, but even more, I missed who Edward became in the wake of Bella's love. Now that she was gone, he was not even comparable to the Edward of earlier years. He was hollow. Empty. I may not have his ability to read thoughts, or Jasper's ability to sense emotions, but I knew my son. Even though he was miles away, I still felt his pain, his loss.
It broke my already dead heart.
Alice missed Bella, too, but assured me that it was only a matter of time until Edward returned to her, until she became one of us. A matter of time. There was that word again: Time. It had regained meaning when Bella stumbled into our lives. There was only so much time for her, one way or another. Edward would have to change her eventually, or let her die. Time was, once again, the enemy, and the enemy had just launched an attack.
In a convoluted series of events that I still do not fully understand, Edward believes Bella to be dead. He thinks the love of his life is gone forever, his only reason for being lost. I knew what he was going to do; knew before Alice confirmed it. After all, my own pain had once led me down the same path. He is searching to find an eternal escape from his sorrow. But if he finds that escape, he will bring unbearable heartache to the rest of us. Bella is not dead. I do not know exactly how—or why—this tragedy has befallen my family. I did not listen to the full explanation offered by Emmett as to why Rosalie has exiled herself to their room; the details matter little. All that matters now is what the outcome will be. Alice and Bella are racing to save Edward from himself. I pray they reach him in time.
I know that I stand to lose all three of them, and the thought is more than I can bear. This pain is far too familiar. I feel that I am suddenly back on the precipice of that cliff, poised to go over again. But this time, Carlisle will not be able to save me, he will be as lost and broken as I am. I know, instinctively, that this is a wound that no amount of time—not even centuries—could ever heal.
The ringing of the phone startles me from my somber reverie. I spring from the floor and run as swiftly as I can down the stairs to stand next to Carlisle. This phone call will tell me the time more clearly than that wretched clock ever could. In a matter of moments I will know whether it is time to rejoice, or time to mourn.