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Homework Chapter 2: Bella
Bella awoke slowly, gradually becoming aware of her surroundings. Edward's cold arms held her close, his lips skimming her neck and his cold breath drifting across the sensitive skin just under her jaw. The sound of gentle, steady rain made her smile – Edward would be with her at school today.
"Good morning love," he whispered as Bella rolled onto her back to look at him. They kissed softly, lingering in bed for the few private moments left before school. The sound of Charlie exiting the bathroom was Bella's cue to have her human moment and Edward's to run home and change.
As she started to blow dry her hair, Bella's thoughts drifted to her English assignment. This essay felt both urgent and irrelevant to her – what would she like to do before she died? What death was exactly would soon be a state of mind for her rather than an issue of scientific exactitude. She was sure that a mundane list like the one her teacher expected was slightly beyond her at the moment, since the issue of her 'death' was imminent rather than a matter of hypothetical consideration. As eager as she was to be 'given immortality' as Aro had romantically phrased it, her list of things she would like to do before she was changed – she still couldn't think of it as dying – continued to grow and the things that filled the list seemed alternately trivial and momentous.
The timing of this assignment was nothing short of ominous. She supposed that it was the sort of thing that was a typical senior year of high school English assignment. "New beginnings, future wide open, everything before us..." graduation speech sort of thinking. She had once looked up definitions of death while Edward had been away on a hunting trip, simply to see how others had defined what she was both facing and escaping. She was curious to see how well what she was about to become fit or defied the definitions. If death was, in short, "the opposite of being alive; the action or fact of dying or being killed," she could not accept that that definition would apply to her, though she knew Edward would disagree. But when she found the next definition, "the permanent ending of vital processes in a cell or tissue," she knew that this was indeed what lay ahead.
She was working through the obvious things that would make the list of what she'd be giving up: not having children; being permanently separated from Renee and Charlie; distance from Jacob and possibly becoming enemies with the Quileutes... These were things that were not easily reconciled to, but her parents would eventually die, Jacob could imprint, not all couples had children, and if she had to she knew she would always chose loyalty to the Cullens first... there was something natural, even if extremely difficult to work through, in these issues. Perhaps it was a quirk of her mind, being on AM while the rest of the world was on FM, but all of the difficult things were easy to accept knowing that the payoff was Edward. It wasn't a lack of free will, not that once she had met Edward she had never had a choice, but simply a deep knowing that what she truly needed, more than air, more than food, more than life, was Edward. She had never needed to make a choice. She had simply known.
Bella walked into the kitchen for her breakfast as her stomach rumbled and she realized that this is what she would miss – the normal, everyday things that made up her routines. She loved food, and enjoyed cooking. There was something comforting in chopping, sauteeing, mixing... and although eating could be a purely utililitarian thing, it could also be an extreme pleasure. So the first thing on her list of things to do would be to eat as many different sorts of things as she could before... before. She smiled slightly as she determined not to mention this particular part of her list to any of the Cullens. She could only imagine what a vampire coven's ideas of good human food combined with the Cullens' extreme wealth would result in: exotic foods flown in from every part of the country, or quite possibly the globe, and the whole family gathered to watch her eat it all like some bizzare circus side show. Food... it was trivial to think of as part of her five most deep human desires, but it reminded of the sharp contrast in the ways that her horizons would be both immeasurably broadened and sharply limited after her change.
She knew what Alice and Rosalie had planned for one of her last human experiences: time permitted, she would be heading off for a day at a salon. After her change, she would be frozen in time as she was, and Alice especially insisted that Bella have one last haircut and manicure (the manicure would be her first, actually, but she wouldn't quibble) before she became as is, forever. As little as she looked forward to it, she sensed that this was a small window into whatever slight insecurity remained in Alice. Alice managed to make her unusual short hair work, but sometimes Bella thought that now that Alice knew why her hair had been left so short as a human and therefore a permanent feature in her vampire eternity, that it disturbed her. If it made Alice happy to arrange it for Bella, then she would comply.
Yawning as she put on her shoes, Bella thought about sleep. She had truly loved to sleep before her last birthday. The dreams that had become her near constant nightly companion since that time, though, made sleep one thing she was honestly glad to be finished with. Edward assured her that she would miss it in time, and acknowledged that as much as he would be glad to have endless hours with her, he would miss watching her sleep. Bella, though, was relieved when she thought about no more sleep talking. Yes, it had been a blessing – Edward might never have stayed a full night in the beginning, if her restless murmurs had not been the one way that he had finally been able to get inside of her head just a little bit. But the idea of not being able to stop herself from saying potentially embarrassing, or even hurtful, things was deeply mortifying. The only benefit of sleep was drifting away and waking up in Edward's arms. Nothing felt as perfect as that.
Well, almost nothing. Bella felt her cheeks redden as she thought yet again about the one thing that made the top of any list she could ever write about what she wanted to do before she died. It was also, of course, at the top of her list of things she wanted to after, as well. The need, the ache she felt to be with Edward overpowered every rational thought she had. Sometimes she felt like some crazed, hormonal freak when she compared her raging desire to be with Edward to his cool composure. He might want to be with her, but he didn't seem to need to be. If she were honest with herself, it left her slightly off balance. If he weren't so irrationally overjoyed at the idea of marriage, she might again be plagued with uncertainty about whether he really did want her forever. She wondered sometimes: did he really not feel this desire, or was he simply too afraid to desire it? She knew that if he said he was afraid of hurting her, that he meant it. She also knew that if he had more specific information on how or why he could hurt her (good heavens, if he had discussed it with Emmett, he surely had far more information on the subject than anyone could possibly need), he was too much of a gentleman to discuss the details with her.
As she locked the door behind her and slipped into Edward's car, she thought back on some of their less restrained, more passionate kisses and touches. To the fateful night they had met James and Victoria. She remembered the way he had pressed her against Emmett's Jeep and breathed her in, kissing her neck and face the very first time that she had begun to see how much it cost him in anguish to be with her ("I infuriate myself," he said gently. "The way I can't seem to keep from putting you in danger. My very existence puts you at risk. Sometimes I truly hate myself. I should be stronger, I should be able to —"). No, Edward did want her and he wanted her as much as she did him, but his self control would remain to keep her safe. He had good reason for it, she thought as she looked at him again, dazzled by his beauty. After all, he had to have enough self control for both of them.
Edward lifted their clasped hands to kiss her wrist before he locked eyes with her and ran the back of his hand across her cheek. No, truly there was no need for a list of things that she needed to do first. She was ready at any time. It was Edward that she wanted, that she needed. He was enough; no food or relative or experience would ever take precedence to just being with him. She was ready as soon as Edward was. She suddenly felt that she had been ready since before she knew that there had been anything to prepare for.