Edward lives amputated at the neck.

He thinks he understands people because he can read their thoughts. He's a fool.

I love him, of course I do -- but loving somebody means loving them, not an idealized version. I wish I believed young Bella understood that, but I don't. She's never seen ugly -- and not just the ugly of vampires. She's never seen the underbelly of cities, slick with rain and blood from gang wars and dirty hate. She's never gone hungry, never worn another kid's shoes or third-hand shirts. She's never listened to the quiet weeping of a sixteen-year-old streetwalker who was raped but dared not go to the police because, of course, she is what she is. She's never seen a colored man covered in kerosene and burned alive, never heard the screams of pain beyond bearing or smelled cooked flesh. She's never felt the despair of an old man beaten by his son because his bladder was too weak and he peed in his trousers again. She's never seen a soldier writhe in agony from the lead in his belly and debated whether God would forgive murder for mercy when the man would be dead before sunset anyway?

Those are just a few of the things I've seen, things I've felt. Truly, I'm glad she's still so innocent. Nobody should see the things I have. Nobody. Yet another part worries greatly about her innocence -- because Edward is not innocent. He has seen these things, or at least heard the echoes in minds. He's not naive. But Edward hasn't felt them.

That, you see, is the difference between a telepath and an empath. Edward 'hears' what people think -- but only what they're thinking at that moment. He can't delve down into the deep places to find the gold there, the kindness, or -- conversely -- the ugly things the crawl about in the mud of our minds. It's all what's up front with him.

I can't do those things either, but I know I can't. I think he forgets. I think he reckons he knows more than he does . . . even if he says he doesn't. But when all you know is what you feel radiating off others, you realize how little you do know. Is the fear you sense the fear of a victim pursued, or the anxiety of the predator who worries about detection? It's not always clear -- and those who think it is haven't lived long enough to be conned.

Another difference separates me from Edward; he's an intellectual and I'm not -- nor do I want to be. It's not that I mind intellectual types. Alice is one. She and Edward can wrangle over the price of rice in China. I only care about that if I'm buying rice. In China. Otherwise, I'm more concerned about the price of rice in Forks -- and not much then. I've never eaten rice in my life that I can recall, and it's a little late now.

I need a reason in order to pay attention to something, and "just to know" isn't a reason. Alice laughs at me for that, but it's like knowing thoughts without understanding feelings -- pointless. I may know somebody's upset, but unless I ask why, I've no idea of the cause. Edward assumes that if he knows what others think, he knows why -- and how they feel about it too. But he doesn't. He knows only why HE would think that.

The worst fight we ever got into was the day I told him -- some years back now -- that he should take his next degree in psychology. He laughed at me and asked what a mind-reader needed with classes in human behavior? I replied, "So you'd actually understand it instead of just think you do." I was pleased when he threw a punch in response, funny as that sounds.

Alice yelled at me later, but I pointed out that if I didn't care about Edward, I wouldn't call him an arrogant ass. He makes me so angry sometimes because he has a good heart. The problem is he can't seem to get from his head TO that heart -- amputated at the neck. He broods plenty, but that's not the same thing as feeling, and breaking the furniture is just his bad temper got away from him. He directs it towards things and hides it from people, and while it's probably better to break a chair than somebody's head, he really needs to learn how to let out the feelings before they chew him up inside. He talks about control -- "mind over matter" -- but it puts him out of touch with half of himself. And yeah, I slip up a lot more than he does, but repressing isn't the answer. That's like putting beans in a digester -- a pressure cooker. You might get away with it 49 times, but the 50th? They blow all over the ceiling out of that itty-bitty hole in the top.

It's an old saying that the North loved the Negro Race, but hated individual colored folk, while we Southerners loved individual coloreds, but had no respect for the Negro Race. There's some truth to that, you know. I've known and loved coloreds, and not as lip-service. I served with a few who were as good as any white man I've ever met, and held them as dear as my own head. But put me in a crowd of negros and I admit, I'm more nervous than a long-tailed cat in a room full of rocking chairs. Yes, even as a vampire. It's not my safety I fear for; it's that I'm a fish out of water. I'm not too proud to admit that because I can't get over it until I do admit it, you see. I was born and raised as I was.

Old dogs can learn new tricks . . . we just take longer. We have to unlearn the old ones first.

But Edward -- oh, he loves the 'human race' in some philosophical way. But individual people? He can't stand most of them, considers himself above them, intellectually, ethically . . . even as he flogs himself for being a vampire. It's another of those intrinsic contradictions contained in the mind of my brother.

Like me, Edward has tasted human blood, but he restricted his diet to violent criminals as justification for the taking of a life. He says now that he realizes murder is murder, but in his heart-of-hearts? I think he does still believe that killing only criminals absolved him -- at least a little. He sees himself as above the rest of us, Carlisle excepted, because he never killed an innocent.

I have. Many times. And I hate it. I've held the body of a young mother whose blood I drained because I was so very, very thirsty, so blood-mad, I couldn't stop myself. But I walked away from her child. Or rather, I took it to an orphanage and left it with the nuns there. But I'll never forget her face, nor her name. Harriette Ellen. I don't know the names of all the people I've killed, but I've struggled to learn some of them even when I have to go and look them up on microfiche of old newspapers in local historical societies. I'm persistent.

Thus I keep my little list, and Edward calls it morbid. Alice understands. So does Carlisle. This is my penance. This is what I turn to when I feel weak and thirsty. Some of the names on my list don't belong to 'nice' people, they don't belong to mothers with ten-month-old infants, but I killed them. I was their Angel of Death -- and no sanction from the Lord.

Edward can love his "human race," but I've learned to love individual humans, and not even the good ones. Just people. The cross I bear is that I always, always felt their terror when they died at my bite -- their terror, their sorrow, their disappointment, their impotent rage.

I felt it. All of it.

I don't read minds. I don't want to. I don't want to live in my head like that, and I don't want an innocent child as my life mate, either. Poor Bella. Edward would enshrine her, if he could. He doesn't love her; he loves his idea of her -- and that worries me.

Alice tells me to give them time, but I feel what they feel and so I worry. Bella adores Edward past reason; it blinds her to his faults. That's worship, not love. Like I said, loving somebody means loving them, not an idealized version. Edward loves the Mystery of Bella; for the first time, he's met somebody who makes him struggle to figure her out. Maybe it'll make him really understand her, not just think he does. When you've been with somebody as long as I've been with Alice, you don't need to be a mind-reader to finish her sentences. But for now, Edward asks Bella batteries of questions about her life and likes, he watches her sleep, he reads whatever she reads. He studies her. He doesn't feel her.

But I'll stand with him at his wedding, welcome Bella into our family. I'll also urge her to keep her name, not become "Mrs. Edward Cullen" even if in the world I grew up in, no respectable married woman would dream of doing such a thing.

But I don't want Bella to lose herself being whatever she thinks Edwards wants her to be. She needs to stay Bella Swan so Edward can learn to love who she is, not who he thinks she is. Edward needs people around him who'll pull him up short, take him to task, question his certainty about things -- even give him an old-fashioned Southern ass-whuppin' now and then.

That's real love. Love breaks us, then remakes us stronger, because only love sees us real.

Historical notes: Yes, there were cast-iron pressure cookers available during Jasper's human lifetime in the mid-1800s. Beans are (famously) NOT something you try to cook in one. (G) Yes, Jasper still calls blacks "coloreds" at least in his own head. At the time, "colored" meant more than just black; it could also include American Indians as well as persons of mixed African and native ancestry.