I handed Bella her present with a smirk. I had seen this moment so many times and almost laughed with delight that it was finally here. Me, at an actual birthday party! And not just any old birthday party, either. In many ways, my sister was giving me much more than I could ever give her.
For weeks, I had watched with amusement as Bella got irritated and annoyed with every present I thought of. And then I had heard Edward playing the piano and had seen how his music on her birthday would move her to tears. Perfect! So we made a CD, he and I. For days, I had watched her listening to the CD in her own room, cuddled with Edward, smiling. All her protests were so ridiculous. Didn't she understand? Today wasn't about giving her things — it was about giving her joy. I wanted to make her happy. She should have trusted that, between Edward and me, we'd get it right.
Her finger slid under the wrapping paper, and she exclaimed, "Shoot!"
Bella with blood on her finger. Jasper, launching himself at her, teeth in her throat. Her body breaking with the force of his blow. Edward and Emmett snarling and wrestling Jasper away. Carlisle kneeling beside her.
"NO!" Edward dashed forward, pulling Bella away from Jasper's attack.
I blinked, trying to separate reality from vision. Bella crashed into the table, slicing her arm open. The scent of blood washed over me, and I firmly resisted my gift. If my conscious mind was elsewhere in a moment like this, my instincts would take over.
"Emmett, Rose," Carlisle gently ordered, "get Jasper outside."
Emmett was holding Jasper so tightly I almost told Emmett not to hurt him, but Esme followed them out the door, and I knew she would keep their tempers in check. "I'm so sorry, Bella!" she cried out as she left.
I rushed from the room, hearing Carlisle behind me say, "Let me by, Edward." He would need to stop the bleeding. If only there was a way to undo this harm, to start the night over. If only this were just an awful vision — a nightmare.
I grabbed a large kitchen towel and rushed back to the living room.
What happened to this night that was supposed to be perfect? Dancing on the lawn to the sound of Bella's new stereo. The cake fight. I'd so enjoyed the sight of Emmett plastered in pink frosting. And now Bella was practically bleeding to death on the crystal plates that had been my idea.
Edward's eyes met mine, warily reading my mind to gauge the strength of my thirst. A grim smile ghosted across his lips, then he inched away, giving me leave to approach. Bella was staring in shock at the vampire who was treating her. "Here, Carlisle," I said, offering him the towel.
"Too much glass in the wound," he answered, and only one who had known him for decades would hear the strain in his voice. It wasn't blood-lust; he was worried. Tearing a strip off the tablecloth, he made a tourniquet on her arm.
"Bella," he said, too softly for the others to overhear, "Do you want me to drive you to the hospital, or would you like me to take care of it here?"
"Jasper, listen to me," Esme said urgently in the back yard, beyond Bella's range of hearing. "I know you feel horrible right now, but it could have been any one of us. You just happened to be the first to move."
Did she trust us to not kill her?
"Here, please," Bella answered just as softly.
"I'll get your bag," I answered, rushing upstairs. I felt so torn. Part of me was overwhelmed by the depth of her trust, but another part wished she was safe somewhere miles from here. I loved my sister too much to see her hurting.
I paused a moment in Carlisle's library, allowing myself a brief glimpse into the next few minutes. Carlisle and Bella at the kitchen table, Carlisle squinting at her arm in the poor light. I grabbed his reading lamp and dashed down to the kitchen as one last encouraging image flickered through my mind — Carlisle laughing.
Edward carried Bella into the room and set her in a kitchen chair. Bella looked up at him with an unreadable expression. "Just go, Edward," she said with a sigh.
"I can handle it," he answered, still not trusting himself enough to inhale.
"You don't need to be a hero," Bella argued. "Carlisle can fix me up without your help. Get some fresh air."
"I'll stay," he answered with the last of his breath.
Bella was clearly not happy. "Why are you so masochistic?"
"Come back!" Emmett bellowed as he raced through the forest after Jasper.
I clenched my teeth, resisting the urge to see if Jasper would actually leave or not.
"Edward, you may as well go find Jasper before he gets too far." Carlisle suggested, trying to either comfort me or help Edward save face. Possibly both. "I'm sure he's upset with himself, and I doubt he'll listen to anyone but you right now."
Bella jumped on that. "Yes, go find Jasper."
"You might as well do something useful," I said with a bitter smile. Since you can't chat any more. You've officially argued until you're blue in the face.
He narrowed his eyes, so I added, I promise I'll leave if it gets bad — the second I have to hold my breath. That seemed to convince him and he trotted out the door.
Bella stared at Carlisle, seemingly fascinated by his features, as he matter-of-factly pulled glass from her arm. Would she have a scar? Without thinking, I accidentally looked forward to see and pulled back just in time. The tang of venom filled my mouth, and I held by breath. One moment of lost focus, and I was on the brink of killing my sister. I retreated toward the kitchen door. Bella caught me, giving me a concerned look, but I didn't dare answer. Apologetically, I smiled and slipped out into the night.