Disclaimer: Don't own it!!
This is the last chapter guys. Thank you all for reading and reviewing. I appreciate it so much. I am starting a new story tonight that has been on my mind for a while – so keep my pen name in your thoughts, ok? Tell me what you think about the ending here. I was happy with what happened – I thought it fit.
Thanks again – everyone. (Bless us all – everyone. Couldn't help myself after that – Tiny Tim).
This is in Bella's point of view.
Chapter Eighteen: Breathless
I ran straight through the kitchen without being noticed by anyone. I spotted a doorway that looked like it led to a loading dock. As soon as I punched through it, I was out on the street running at full speed.
Central Park, here I come.
Victoria, here I come.
It IS ending tonight.
I felt hollow, empty. My arms and legs were moving; I was running, but my brain was on auto-pilot. A half-hour before I'd felt confident and sure of myself. After the confrontation in the bathroom with Alice and Jasper, I no longer felt in control. I'd hurt my own siblings – physically and emotionally.
Did I hurt them to save them? Or did I hurt them to push them out of my way? Is there a difference – or am I becoming like Victoria just to feel a piece of empowerment? I feel weak now – without my family.
I was half sobbing as I ran blindingly through the streets of Manhattan, unnoticed. I kicked off my heels mid-run and threw them into a dumpster. Vampire or not, I can't do heels.
On last turn down an alley and I could see Central Park's lamps dotting the shadows of night. Almost there. As I broke across the street, an impulsive flood of wind came raging down the path, through trees, sending dark leaves rustling in my direction. I remembered Alice's vision.
According to the vision, Edward would be looking for me soon. I need to hurry.
I can hear the fountain water – dripping, dropping. Victoria's near.
After another bend in the path, I saw a beacon: two colors, tan and violet. I knew who they were: Laurent and Victoria.
I came to a dead stop and walked the rest of the way to the fountain.
The air grew still, it felt deliberate.
My feet crushed the fallen leaves as I came closer to the fountain.
Edward's face flashed before my eyes, smiling, trusting me. I need to do this for him, for our happiness. Will this turn out ok? Alice should have told me. This is all on me – do not bring anyone else into this mess. I will face this.
I stopped five yards from the fountain. Laurent was standing directly in front of it; Victoria was standing on the ledge, right behind him.
She hadn't changed. I do not only mean that in a physical way either – her eyes; they were still red and cold and void of any humanity. She was so angry – her color throbbed with it – anger and revulsion, revulsion for herself. I felt sorry for her.
"You came", Laurent said flatly.
"Yes", I whispered.
"I'm surprised your adopted family didn't accompany you", Victoria said, speaking to me for the first time.
I shook my head, "No, this is my duty".
She narrowed her eyes and stepped off of the fountain's ledge, I wondered if I should take a step back, "I was indescribably disappointed to learn from Laurent that you were changed".
"Newborn or not, I am still here", I said quietly.
She smirked and started walking briskly away, into the dense trees of the park, "follow me", she said not turning back.
Laurent looked confused. He leapt forward to grab my arm and began pulling me towards Victoria's voice.
I took my chance to find some answers, "Why are you doing her bidding?" I mouthed silently.
He paled at my question, "You were not the only one in Victoria's way".
My brow furrowed, "what does that mean?"
Victoria called out to us, "Hurry up!"
She was still further ahead of us, but we were closing in.
Laurent stopped breathing, "I've wanted you dead as well".
I looked to his color, he was lying to me, "I don't believe that".
"I valued James' life as well – your Cullen's took that away".
I whispered fiercely, "I do not believe that either – otherwise, why would you leave Victoria in the first place?"
No answer, just crunching leaves and Laurent's now heavy breathing.
I'm becoming impatient, "How could you abandon Irina?"
He closed his eyes, a sob escaped his lips, he let go of my arm. I saw my chance.
I broke away from him, pushing him roughly to the parks green and chilly floor, I began running. Unexpectedly, I was lifted and thrown roughly into a tree. I landed on the ground and heard a low howl then felt a bitter hand enclose around my throat.
"Do not run from me", Victoria's unforgiving rasp could cut glass.
I looked up hastily to see Victoria in my face, inches away. Around her head, lying feet away was Laurent, trying to recover – Victoria had ripped both of his arms off.
My jaw dropped, terrified, "What are you thinking?"
She laughed without looking behind her, "He wouldn't have helped me even if I paid him. I was stalking his Irina – I told him I would kill her and her entire pathetic family if he didn't help me find your disgusting corpse."
"You are revolting. James is DEAD! DEAL WITH IT!!" I screamed in her face, then spat.
She slapped me, hard, "You insult me and you pay the price".
She stood up, punted me in the stomach and marched over to Laurent's quivering figure.
Laurent looked to me, "she hasn't let me feed in days! She told me to find you – I did!" He looked up to Victoria, now on his knees, pleading, "What else do you want? I've done it! Let me go!"
She shook her head, "No. I can't have you talking to anyone".
Before I could understand her actions, her arms began flailing – I heard a moaning, keening scream. Laurent was in pieces in front of me.
My hand flew to my mouth; Victoria dropped a match dispassionately on the pale, trembling pile of flesh.
I am in over my head.
She turned to me now, all signs of taunting erased from her eyes.
I slid up the tree trunk, my hands at my sides. I couldn't hear anything nearby – when was Edward going to be here, looking for me – like Alice saw in her vision? Are they really at Battery Park? Did they believe me? My good acting skills decided to surface on the wrong night.
I am beginning to lose control of my emotions. FOCUS! Prove to them that you can defend your family!
Straightening my back, I faced her again.
She smiled at me, "I hate you".
I believed her.
She slowly sank into the unmistakable crouching position, I mimicked her actions. She, no doubt, was the first to make the move. She threw her rock-hard body at me and into a nearby tree, knocking it to the ground. I yelped a bit, standing back up as soon as I could. Keep moving, that's the game.
The beautiful park surrounding us that had served as a stunning backdrop for a family walk just a few days before now twisted into a blurry battle field. Ducking, kicking, punching – no thought just instinct and reaction. I didn't know who was making what noise.
Victoria is a better fighter than me. With a partner like James, she would have had to have been. She threw me to the ground more than once; I was smaller, so I always managed to get up to my feet before she could keep me down.
I began to feel fatigued; I had never fought this hard for this long. I am taking more punches than throwing them at this point.
This did not escape Victoria's notice, "Getting tired?"
I did not reply, I am going to try and turn her human for a spell and get rid of her then, when she's vulnerable and has no strength or speed.
Ducking her fists and rolling under her arms, I began to concentrate. Warm, human, fragile, blood, blush, human. By now, our foot dance from our fight had led us back out into the open and right near the fountain where we started. I quickly prayed no human would decide to appear. I put my arms to my sides, now just going on the defense, no longer attacking.
"What are you doing?! FIGHT ME YOU COWARD!" She screamed, launching herself at me.
She knocked the wind from my lungs and my feet from the pavement.
We both splashed into the giant fountain, the tremor from our momentum somehow knocked the giant angel off from the top of the fountain, and down onto me. Just as I felt the angel's wings pin me to the bottom of the fountain, two things happened simultaneously. I heard my own angels' cries for me and I felt a searing hot sensation at the back of my eyes.
The splashing going on near me, from Victoria, rapidly ceased. I knew then she had felt her own warmth. I heard her shriek from under water where I was and knew she was human in her eyes; it was a matter of seconds before my family would kill her.
I placed my hands on the angel's wings and pushed: nothing. I pushed harder, nothing. My lungs began to feel pressure. I need air.
I turned myself human at the same time with Victoria.
I need to calm down to help myself. I could hear Edward's agonized voice, distorted by the water, yelling my name. I saw shadows ripping apart, cries, yells. My vision was getting hazy. Did my family not know I was human and drowning under the water?
I involuntarily took a deep breath, inhaling water, as my eyes drifted shut. From behind my eye lids I saw a spark of light, then nothing. I heard water rush around me, Edward's muffled voice and stone being shattered on concrete. In the air, was the thick perfume of incense.
"Bella?" Edward was beside me, but far away.
"I'm going to send her high-energy emotions. It will spark her power and she'll change back". That was Jasper, on my other side.
I felt it at once: fear, love, hate, survival, then heat behind my eyes. I sat up immediately and looked around at my surroundings.
I was sitting a few feet away from the fountain, its waters now still; the angel lay on the path, a crack ran its entire length; smoke was drifting away towards the trees, and my family sits beside me.
I threw my arms around Edward, sobbing tearlessly, "I'm so sorry".
Edward placed his arms around my waist and pulled me up, "I'm here now. Victoria is gone, and you are safe."
"We should leave soon, the police patrol are on their way", Alice whispered.
"Let's get out of here", Carlisle said behind me.
The entire walk back to our hotel was tense. I could feel waves of calm tumbling off of Jasper towards me but nothing could work. I deserved this.
As soon as we got into the elevator, and stopped at the floor where my siblings and parents stayed, Edward and everyone followed Carlisle into his room he shared with Esme.
I looked at Edward, "We need to talk", he said in a low voice. My stomach tightened.
Alice handed me a towel and robe and I walked into the bathroom. I slowly removed my sticky wet navy dress and dried myself off. The robe was warm and inviting – the only comfort so far tonight.
I opened the door, completely expecting the cold stare of my family that I had lied to for the past hours.
Instead, I was instantly enveloped in a tight hug from my husband. He was shaking. Confused, I put my arms around his torso. Slowly, the rest of my family joined our hug. Then Carlisle broke the reunion.
"Why?" He asked simply.
"I needed to take care of it". I whispered into Edward's shirt.
My family burst into words at once.
"How could you leave your brothers and sisters like that?" Esme said disapprovingly.
"We would have been there with you Bells, we had to save your butt anyway", Emmett said in a low tone.
"You could have killed yourself, and Edward would have killed himself – and I just got to like you!" Rose stated bluntly.
"I can understand your emotions, but do you have any capacity for logic in your head, Bella?" Jasper yelled at me.
"You used your powers on us!? We were helpless! We could have come sooner and you wouldn't have been in danger!" Alice was beside herself.
"I love you." Edward said into my hair.
All of the angry comment from my family vanished from my thoughts when I heard that.
"You should be angry." I said softly.
"I could be. I guess I should be. But, we have underestimated you. I should have seen Victoria wouldn't rest. I refused to look at the prospect that it would happen here and you wouldn't come to us for help. I'm sorry for standing in front of you as your husband, and not standing beside you". His piercing eyes never left mine as he said this to me.
I couldn't breathe, "I'm sorry", I managed to choke out.
He took my face in his hands, "So am I. You're all right and Victoria's gone. It's behind us now – no living in the past."
I looked to my family who looked calmed and relieved. I sat down with Edward and explained to them how Victoria used Laurent to get to me. I vowed I would go see Irina myself and tell her that Laurent's love for her never faltered. She deserved to know what happened. Carlisle said it was admirable.
Dawn came too soon, and it was time to get on a plane to Alaska. Stars still specked the early morning orange sky as we were driving in the taxi to the airport. I had an irrefutable epiphany. Love is an umbrella. A giant umbrella, shielding us from harm and danger. Although it can shield us, it cannot erase the fact that bad things happen, nor can it hide evil deeds. Love understands all. If we believe in love, we can stand together and face evil and be prepared for its tricks, for it never rests.
I love my family, they love me; no one can steal that away.
I smiled at the yellow sun from my window, and held my arms out; ready to accept whatever eternity threw my way.
Thank you to everyone who is reading this! I appreciate your words of encouragement and help throughout the story.
Like I said, I am starting a new story, so check my profile soon for the first chapters.
Thank you all so, so much.
Love, 'spiritusancti' aka Stephanie