"Thank you, Esme," I murmured as I turned towards Carlisle.

I was suddenly nervous, wishing I had asked for his vote first. I was sure that this was the vote that mattered most, the vote that counted more than any majority.

Chapter 24: Vote, New Moon, Stephenie Meyer

So it had finally come to this – I supposed I was no longer surprised by anything this girl did, but there was something slightly strange about calling a vote to decide upon one girl's mortality.

Ironic, perhaps. Rather like the judgment my father had always spoken of, after death. To decide upon the direction a soul would take – towards eternal rapture, or eternal damnation.

I wasn't sure which one was which in this case.

80 years I had watched my son struggle through life alone. 80 years I had blamed myself. Perhaps he was changed too early – or I hadn't done enough to convince him of his worth. I had tried, to be sure, even going so far as to intend Rosalie for him, but he refused with a stubbornness and determination that amazed even I, who had felt true loathing for the monster inside of all of us. When Edward wanted his way, he would cling to it, and I knew he was determined to keep this girl's mortality intact.

But then again, that same resolve was present in Bella's face, as she calmly stared down a room full of Vampires. She should have been terrified – have run screaming the first time she knew what we were. But she hadn't.

And in return, I had seen a light return to Edward's eyes that had been missing for so long that I'd barely realized it had gone out. In that instant, I truly realized: Edward would not be taking her soul – she would be giving his back to him.

Edward had a point that Demetri would probably not be able to find Bella, I knew that. And I knew that he would enjoy fighting the creature that had come to harm his companion.

But I also knew that wasn't really the issue here.

I had listened carefully as the others cast their votes, not surprised by any of them. Bella was already a daughter and a sister to us; to the others, it seemed only natural to induct her to this way of life, or in Rosalie and Edward's cases, to save her from it.

So it was with resigned eyes that I looked at the boy – or rather, man – that I had called son for so long. "Edward…"

He knew what I would say. That my vote counted more than the others – that I could turn her, even if he would not. There was a faint growl in his voice. "No."

"It's the only way that makes sense," I tried to calm him. And truly, it was. "You've chosen not to live without her, and that doesn't leave me a choice."

I felt remorse as he stalked away from the table, finally realizing that he was fighting a losing battle. But I knew I had decided. For as much as I thought that Bella should have all the opportunities we had been denied, I couldn't stand to give up my first son – not again. Not after I had spent a day thinking he was about to die.

"I guess you know my vote." I sighed, and winced as a crash rang from the other room. Edward was furious – probably would be for some time, but he didn't seem to see the truth.

She was already one of us in all the ways that truly mattered.