Disclaimer: All publicly recognizable characters, settings, etc. are the property of their respective owners. The original characters and plot are the property of the authors. No money is being made from this work. No copyright infringement is intended.

Thanks to Be My Escape and Lomesir, both of whom are lovely betas.

This is set during New Moon immediately after Edward left.


by silly bella

"It's done," Edward whispered into the phone.

"You won't last long without her, Edward," I warned him. "You'll go back."

"I won't, Alice. I can't." His voice quivered with emotion. Loss. Pain. Anger. I glanced at Jasper, glad he couldn't feel this over the phone. He had enough issues of his own right now. Edward continued, "It's what's best for her, and you know it."

He was my brother; I should have wanted to comfort him. But Bella had already become my sister, and I was angry. "I don't know that it's best for her at all. You know very well what I think is best for her."

His response hissed in my ear. "No."

"So what exactly did you do? What did you say to her?" The questions I couldn't ask rang through my head. How could you do it? How did you do it? The hurt he must have caused her. The pain he must be feeling. The will it had taken for him to say goodbye.

For a moment, I heard only silence. Then he asked, "You didn't see it?"

"You told me not to watch, Edward. Of course I didn't see it." Even if he hadn't told me not to watch, I wouldn't have. It would have hurt me, too. It troubled me enough as it was.

"We walked in the woods. She wouldn't accept it. Even after her birthday, she doesn't believe how dangerous we are for her." He'd gained control. His voice was emotionless. Dead. "I tried to tell her that we weren't good for her. That I wasn't good for her."

"And she agreed with you? That doesn't sound like Bella." Not the Bella I knew.

I heard him take a deep breath. "No. She didn't. So I told her that she wasn't good for me, either. That I didn't want her to come." He snapped his mouth shut. I could hear his teeth clench. And then, very quietly, he whispered, "She believed me, Alice. It was so easy to convince her. I thought I would have to lie and lie for hours to persuade her."

"It's what you wanted, Edward. You can't have it both ways." And your way is wrong this time. "What aren't you telling me? You're leaving something out."

He spoke reluctantly. "There were some things I needed to take. Photographs. The CD. The plane tickets." He hesitated briefly. "But I couldn't. I hid them. In her room. Under the floorboards. It was like leaving some part of me there with her, even if she didn't know it. Couldn't know it." He was quiet for a moment, but I could tell he had more to say, so I waited. "I know it was selfish. You don't have to tell me that. I'm always so selfish when it comes to her."

So he wasn't as strong as he wanted to pretend. When would he accept his weakness? How long would he be able to stay away? I'd know when he realized how wrong he was. When he decided to go back to Forks. I only hoped it wasn't too long before he made that choice. I missed Bella already.

"So when will we see you?" Esme was miserable with worry about both of them. At least he could ease her mind a bit when he arrived.

"I'm not coming to Alaska. I don't know where I'm going yet." He cleared his throat quietly. "Trust me, it's better for everyone, especially Jasper, if I stay away. At least for a while."

Jasper caught my eye and nodded, his expression relieved. He'd heard and agreed. He wanted no part of Edward's chaotic emotions. I couldn't blame him.

"You should talk to Esme." I wasn't sure how she'd react to the news that Edward didn't plan to join us.

He spoke sternly, "Not now. It would only upset her more." It sounded like he was done but then he added, "Stay away from her, Alice. Stay away from Forks."

"I'll stay away as long as you do. It's only a matter of time." He'd face the truth sooner or later. He hung up without saying anything else.

Jasper had waited patiently for the phone call to end, even though he could hear every word. He came to me now, his strong arms wrapping around me tightly. "I'm so sorry, Alice. I know you're hurting. I keep trying to make it go away. It's just so much pain."

"It's nothing compared to what Edward must feel. Imagine if we had to be apart?" I needed Jasper the way humans need air to breathe.

He lifted my chin and gazed down into my eyes. "It's his decision, Alice. We can't interfere."

"I know," I whispered, burying my face in his chest. He held me quietly for a while and some of the pain seemed to ebb.

And then, unsought, a vision crept into my awareness. My mind snatched at it instinctively. Bella, franticly searching. Looking through a book, a blank page with writing that I couldn't read. Opening a CD player to find it empty. Struggling to breathe as the tears welled. Falling to her knees, her cheek pressed against the cool wood of the floor. The board loose, shifting unnoticed as she sobbed against it. So close, Bella. So close, and yet so far.