Disclaimer: I DO NOT OWN TWILIGHT OR ANY OF ITS CHARCTERS! THEY ARE THE PROPERTY OF STEPHENIE MEYER!!!!!!
I took a deep breath. Forks. Alice kept glancing at me, and she thought, Are you okay? I nodded sharply, briefly. It was a lie, and she knew it, but for some reason pretenses were important. Alice and Jasper were holding hands in the backseat of my new car, but Alice was looking at me, anxious.
In fact, I could hear Carlisle and Esme worrying in their minds ahead of us. Emmett and Rosalie were the only ones unconcerned. Rosalie was looking at herself in the mirror and Emmett was looking at her as they drove in a car behind us.
As we drove, we passed Newton's Sporting Goods, still standing. But I knew Mike was dead. In fact, everyone who had been with me in high school in Forks was dead. Ninety years had passed since I had left Bella. Ninety years. I wasn't sure of when she had died, but I knew she was gone. How could she not be? The thought still drove me so wild with pain…Bella, gone. Thinking I didn't love her when just the opposite was true. I would have gone to the Volturi in Italy, but Emmett had been commissioned to keep an especially close eye on me, and I knew Alice was looking for me to make that decision, so she could warn the rest of my family.
I could get away, and I thought seriously about it. But first I had to know what happened to Bella, my Juliet. I had to know if she was able to go on with her life or if every moment she longed for me, as I longed for her.
As I do long for her.
Time has only made her beauty stronger, and I believed that to be impossible. The details I shall never forget are clearer than ever: her chocolate eyes, so deep, so full of her very essence of goodness and self-sacrifice. Her hair, long and dark, soft as silk. Her blush, ranging from pale pink to vivid scarlet. Her scent. That intoxicating scent that always tempted me. But I miss it. I wish now I could turn back time. I would stay with Bella, I would make her one of us, and we could be together forever. It would be wrong, but I see now it was more wrong of me to leave her.
We drive by Forks High School, rebuilt, much nicer. I take a detour by Bella's old house; it is no longer there. Charlie died about fifteen years after I left; Carlisle had told me. But I didn't ask about Bella, and, by hearing his thoughts, I knew he didn't know. I had heard about Angela Weber and Jessica Stanley, if only because I knew that they had been Bella's friends. Or Angela had been. She had married Ben, and I knew they had at least two children. Jessica had died two years after I left, in a car crash.
I dropped Alice and Jasper off at our house, and I could see and feel and hear Alice's worry. I gave her a minute to see I wasn't going to do anything really rash, and then I drove off as she waved half-heartedly. I was going to La Push.
I knew I wasn't allowed there, but I had to know. I had to…I had heard about Jacob taking care of her. Could she really have married a werewolf? How long did she wait? Was she a mother? A grandmother? Had she married at all?
And something inside me told me this: she wouldn't have lived on La Push, even if she had married Jacob. Deep inside, I knew she would want me to be able to see her if I ever came back, as I did now. I did a sharp U-turn and drove back to town. I drove along the suburban streets, much different than they had been during the happiest days of my existence. And then it hit me: that scent, that overwhelming scent. But that extreme temptation was second to the pain. I remembered Bella more clearly than ever, and it hurt. So she had had children. Because, as I smelled it more closely, it was infused with a rather foul odor. Not nearly strong enough to overcome the deliciousness, but it was there, beneath the surface, the scent that told me it was not who I desperately hoped it would be. Sprawled out on a picnic blanket, food surrounding them, was a tall, dark man, a petite, dark woman, and a little blonde-haired toddler.
Oh, she's so beautiful. Lizzie you're so very clever, the woman was thinking about her daughter, and the man was thinking similar things.
I kept driving, and I saw a very old, wrinkled woman lying on her lawn, and I couldn't tell if she was breathing. She was just lying there, her white hair like baby duck's down. Sunlight illuminated the planes of her face, covered by wrinkles. It was a rare sunny day in Forks. The scent from the little family, some descendants of my Bella's, was still strong in my nostrils, and growing stronger. My imagination, my longing for the one I had lost, was making me smell her again.
And then I heard the music; a CD player, a very rare antique nowadays, was playing Claire de Lune. And I felt the pain again. I couldn't hear the woman's thoughts; either she was dead, or she was simply soaring through the sky in her mind, blank. Not unusual in older humans. I had to know…maybe she would know about a girl named Bella, a girl with the most lovely face in the world, a girl whose eyes were never dull or empty, always teeming with life. Maybe she would know about her. . . .
I pulled over to the curb, and when I got out I gasped. It was Bella's scent, through and through, no undercurrent of bitter werewolf; it was all freesia. It hadn't been my imagination after all. I leaned over the woman, hoping, hoping, and I whispered, "Hello."
She half-smiled, her eyes still closed. She murmured something so low I was certain she thought she was only mouthing the words, but I heard.
I stood there, not wanting to believe because of the unendurable agony that would occur if my dearest of hopes were dashed. As wholly and completely as if it were a well-established fact that all my hope lay here on the grass, my life depended upon the identity of this woman.
"Can I help you?" I asked softly.
"Yes," she stated clearly, eyes still closed.
"What?" I asked gently.
"You can never, ever leave me again. I'll always want you," she said the last sentence furiously, and my mind flash back ninety years, to a beautiful face, eyes gazing into mine, saying, with great intensity, "I'll always want you."
I believed it now, it had to be her, it had to be, but I could not know until those eyes opened…
"Never again, my love," I whispered.
Her eyes flew open, and they were brown, chocolate brown, surprising because of the depth to them.
Nothing could touch me now but her face, her eyes, her smile, her name. Her name was all my brain was capable of thinking. I could barely fight the urge to take her into my arms and kiss her. Tell her I loved her. But how could I know if that was what she wanted?
She was crying, her eyes overflowing. She stood up slowly, clearly in physical pain, and looked into my eyes. I saw the layers of pain in them, pain that I wanted to burn in Hell for causing, but right now all that mattered to her, to me, was the joy of reunion.
All that mattered was her, now. The rest could come later.
"Edward," she whispered, and her voice hadn't changed too much with age. She must be nearly one hundred eight.
I reached for her, but she flinched back, and I flinched in response. "Edward," she said, "I'm…so old!" And she buried her face in her hands.
I gently tilted her chin to my face, and I bent down and kissed her. The only parts of my body I could feel were my fingers, barely brushing her skin, and my lips on hers. The rest of me was unfeeling demon; but to me it felt as if life coursed through those parts of me once more, strong and undying.
Kissing her didn't feel wrong, or odd, or disgusting; only so very, very happy, so complete. And after all, I was much older than her. She leaned against me then, and she sighed.
"I am alive because I was waiting for you to come back. I couldn't die without seeing your face once again." I held her close, my hand caressing her face.
"I love you, Bella Swan," I said gently.
Here she gave a little sob. "Isabella Swan Black Cullen," she murmured sadly, as if the name pained her. "Edward…I married Jacob. I knew you weren't coming back in time to change me; I decided to make him happy, if not myself. I never, ever forgot. And I longed for you every second of every minute of every hour of every day. I knew I wasn't being fair to Jacob; I couldn't love him like he wished. We divorced before our tenth anniversary. He remarried, eventually, but I never even thought of entertaining the notion. I stayed faithful to you for ninety years, even as I was wed to Jacob, hoping against hope you would come back for me. If you had come I would have left Jacob…I would have felt terrible, but I would have done it." She looked at me with something rather like disappointment. I could tell she was telling me I should have come back to her, telling me she would have followed me to the ends of the earth, telling me that she had had no intention of ever losing me again, if she ever found me once more.
"Jacob and I had a son, Charlie." Here her smile twisted bitterly. "I would have left him too. My own child…I tried not to get too attached, in case you came back…it was almost impossible, not to want to hold him every moment, but I withheld. I was a horrible mother, in part because I was waiting for you," and her voice held an accusation. Gentle, but stinging all the same.
"My poor baby. He died on his eighteenth birthday; he was just driving home…and…he went over the side of the cliff." She bit her lip, but no tears came to her eyes. It had been too many decades.
"After I divorced Jacob, I…I took your last name. It made me happy, to imagine that you loved me, that we were living a life together, that I hadn't let my son live without a mother for a love that didn't exist, at least not on your part."
Her story overwhelmed me. I had only harmed her by leaving. "I can change you now," I whispered. But she shook her head against my chest. "I would look like your great grandmother. I will die soon. I am happy now. But promise me Edward."
"Anything," I vowed, as she had in the forest ninety years ago.
"Do not do anything to harm yourself when I am gone. I love you, Edward."
I shook my head.
"Promise!" she demanded, the stubbornness that amused me and drove me insane by turns showing through clearly. I nodded, and she smiled peacefully, satisfied. It was that terrible day reversed. She was about to leave me.
I plunged in. "Please, Bella, let me change you! Every moment I wanted to come back for you, but I wanted to save you, give you a chance. I realized today the worst thing I ever did to you was leave you. I always knew it was the worst thing I'd ever done to myself, but I could handle that. I can't…I can't live with myself, knowing how I hurt you. Oh, Bella, I'm so sorry, love. I'm so very, very sorry. You were as broken as I was."
She began to cry. I wiped away her tears with my thumb, and I held her tighter. What had I thrown away, what had I done? I hated myself so thoroughly I would readily condemn myself to hell for what I had done to her.
"Were you…" but I had to pause, because my voice broke. I couldn't cry, but I knew if I could I would be. "Were you able to get on with your life? I mean, were you able to live a normal life? I know you took my last name…but did I really consume you in such a way?"
She glanced up at me sadly, a bit of the old frustration in her eyes. "I never got over you, ever. You tore out my most important parts when you left. People always talked about how distant I was. Even with Jacob I was nowhere close to being complete…we stayed good friends our entire lives, you know. When he died, I lost what little I had left. For twenty years now I've been alone, except for my granddaughter down the way. My son and his girlfriend Sarah had a daughter, and she married Sam and Emily Uley's son."
I said, "I smelled her. She smelled nearly as delicious as you, but I could smell something disgusting beneath it, and now I know what it was: werewolf." She laughed, and I reveled in the sound.
"Are the rest of them here?" she asked. "Alice?" And I remembered how close she and Alice had been, how they had loved each other like sisters. They were much closer to each other than Rosalie and Alice had ever been.
I nodded, and said, "Would you like to drive down to our new house?" She smiled in response, and I helped her to the car. She was still so beautiful to me.
I couldn't keep my eyes on the road; they were too busy caressing my angel's hair, her face, that beloved blush creeping into her cheeks as she watched me watching her. I realized, with an intense pain, that she was weary and not in good health. We drove in silence, just sitting blissfully in our love, our hands clasped. Then Alice was opening Bella's door, hugging her. The rest of my family greeted her, and everybody was the happiest they had been in a long time (my depression affected all of them, Esme especially), except Rosalie, who sent Bella baleful glares every chance she got, but they seemed halfhearted, as if she felt bad about how our lives had turned out. Bella leaned against me, and we kissed again. Suddenly Bella was limp in my arms, and Carlisle listened to her heart from his spot next to me.
He shook his head, and the truth hit me like a bomb.
Bella was dead. Dead. Bella. I had just discovered my darling alive, waiting for me, and now she was dead in my arms. I fell to my knees, clutching her close. I remembered the promise I had made not forty-five minutes ago.
"Promise!" she said, the stubbornness that I loved and that amused me showing through clearly. I nodded, and she smiled peacefully, satisfied.
"I'm sorry, Bella," I whispered, "but I can't keep my promise." And then I was running, her cold body light in my arms, even lighter than it had been ninety years ago. I went to the meadow that had been so special for us. It was still untouched, after all these years. I easily dug a deep hole, and I gently laid Bella into it. Then I set off to find the Volturi.
As I was killed, I could only see Bella's smiling, happy face, ageless, waiting for me, reaching for me.
Suddenly she was there, before me. She was curled up on my lap, looking at me with worry. "Edward," she said, her voice anxious, eyes frightened, "what's wrong?"
We were in our meadow. The sun threw diamonds off my skin. And Bella was as I remembered her, human, young, beautiful, happy, healthy.
"I'm in Heaven," I said, amazed. "My soul wasn't lost."
She looked angry at that. "Of course your soul isn't lost. But you're not in Heaven. Remember my party yesterday? The one where Jasper…" she broke off, looking at me tentatively. Then she said softly, "We were coming out here for alone time, my best birthday present." And she smiled at me.
"What happened then?" I was dazed. Vampires didn't sleep, so they didn't dream. Or have nightmares.
"I don't know. You were quiet for a long time. I didn't want to disturb you."
"So I haven't left you?"
My love's eyes widened in terror, and she rasped, "Do you want to?"
I held her close, whispering, "Bella, I love you with all my heart, my soul, everything I have. I will never leave you."
"Edward…you know what would make my birthday really amazing…."
She was looking at my slyly, for she thought she already knew my answer. I smiled at her and kissed her warm lips.
She looked at me, eyes wide, trusting, loving…they would never be that color again, if I changed her…but she would still be my Bella. That was all that mattered.
"Are you ready?"
She seemed surprised and startled, but completely ready.
"Yes," she murmured softly. I kissed her one more time, feeling her warmth. Then I bared my teeth and bit through her skin as gently as I could, not caring about anything except preventing that nightmare from coming true.