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dusk

1. PARTY

SHE WAS QUIET THAT NIGHT. DREAMING PEACFULLY. BREATHING IN and out slowly with her soft gentle face. It was a day before her birthday. Knowing her she wouldn't be so happy about what Alice was planning. It had been months since that day in Phoenix and weeks since she'd taken her cast off. She was happier now. I'd let her live her life with no worries or at least trying to keep her worries at ease. Charlie was less in authority around me. He trusted me more. But for me I wouldn't consider trust at all. Being with Bella was the happiest thing that had ever happened to me but the more time I spend with her the more danger I thrust upon her, the more I reveal her to our kind. I knew that if I were with her it would make her happy but I had to keep myself behaved around her. She was fragile, the littlest thing I could do could break her apart. I had to decide for myself if this is really what I should do.

After a few minutes of thinking she started moving recklessly. Of course if she'd hit me I wouldn't feel anything. I let her move around for a while until the sun came up. She stopped for a while then turned around to face me. She was still asleep. Dreaming aimlessly in slumber. Her pale face was so beautiful and soft that it just dispatched me to keep looking at her. Knowing that I put danger in her life just makes the pain burn stronger within me.

Her eyes opened as the sun rose higher into the horizon. I couldn't read her mind but her expressions were easy to read. She wasn't happy at all that it was her birthday. I'd promised her that I wouldn't greet her so I kept things light. I smiled slightly and kissed the top of her forehead.

"Ugh." She looked away. I giggled.

The morning with her didn't take so long after a while I heard Charlie waking up so I had to leave. I ran home as fast as I could to let myself prepare. Even though I didn't quite need the hygiene process because it wouldn't do anything to me I had to blend in. I wonder what color would be better. I heard Alice thinking as I reached the small clearing in front of the house. I saw Emmett peek through the window and smirked at him. Eddie's home I hated being called Eddie. It was Emmett's little nickname for me. I entered the house and everyone was at ease. Except for Alice. No surprise there.

"Edward!" I tried to walk away but then the little monster took me by surprise. I raised my eyebrows up to let her know she had my attention.

"Okay. I was thinking of a few activities we could do with Bella. Games are so over rated so I decided to move on to the presents instead." I just let her babble on until I told her I had to get ready for school. I hastened myself then sprinted to the car. I drove at my normal speed to school. Alice and I waited for Bella. Alice was more than her usual self. She was bouncier. As soon as Bella arrived in school Alice started jumping more but I couldn't let her stop after all she didn't remember anything in her human life, I though I should just let her have her moments. Bella had told Alice—not only Alice but everyone in my family not to give her anything. Alice clearly wasn't listening I wasn't sure what he'd gotten her but she was holding a small silver box in her hang jumping up and down. As soon as Bella slammed her '53 Chevy, Alice skipped her way to Bella. Her enthusiasm wasn't something you could get used too.

"Happy Birthday, Bella!"

"Shh!" She hissed then looked around if anyone had heard Alice.

What's with her? It's her birthday! I heard Alice thinking.

"Do you want to open your present now or later?" She asked eagerly as they made their way to where I was waiting.

"No presents," She protested.

"Okay… later, then. Did you like the scrapbook your mom sent you? And the camera from Charlie?" As usual Alice saw this coming. Having a psychic, a mind reader and a person who could make you feel any emotion he wants surely makes the family have no secrets.

"Yeah. They're great." She didn't sound so happy.

"I think it's a nice idea. You're only a senior once. Might as well document the experience." Alice's soprano voice was quite irritating.

"How many times have you been a senior?" I had to snicker at that.

"That's different."

They reached me by then. I reached my hand out for hers. She took it eagerly, forgetting for a moment her glum mood. Her skin was warm and soft. I gave her fingers a gentle squeeze. She looked into my eyes and her heart stuttered. I smiled. I lifted my free hand and traced the outside of her lips with my fingertip.

"So as discussed, I am not allowed to wish a happy birthday, is that correct?"

"Yes. That is correct."

"Just checking." I ran my hand through my tousled bronze hair.

"You might have changed your mind. Most people enjoy things like birthdays and gifts."

You got that right. I heard Alice. She laughed.

"Of course you'll enjoy it. Everyone is supposed to be nice to you today and give you your way, Bella. What's the worst that could happen?" She meant it as a rhetorical question.

"Getting older," Her voice was not steady was she wanted it to sound. This was of course the truth. She was a year older that my physical age. Of course that would upset Bella. I let my smile go away and let my expression fall into a hard line.

"Eighteen isn't very old," Alice said. "Don't women usually wait till they're twenty-nine to get upset over birthdays?"

"It's older than Edward," She mumbled.

I sighed.

"Technically," she said, keeping her tone light. "Just by one little year, though."

Alice was right. Esme is older than Carlisle by three years. What would one little year matter? I could her everyone's thoughts by now. It's the Cullens and that girl again. I heard one girl say but I couldn't quite recognize who it was.

"What time will you bet at the house?" Alice continued, changing the subject. Bella looked worried yet confused at the same time.

"I didn't know I had plans to be there." She answered.

"Oh, be fair Bella!" she complained. "You aren't going to ruin all our fun like that are you?"

"I thought my birthday was about what I want." They started to argue. So cut in the conversation.

"I get her from Charlie's right after school," I told Alice, ignoring Bella's distaste. I wouldn't want Alice's hard work to be wasted.

"I have to work," she protested.

"You don't, actually," Alice told her smugly. "I already spoke to Mrs. Newton about it. She's trading your shifts. She said to tell you 'Happy Birthday.'"

"I—I still can't come over," She scrambled for an excuse to get out of the party. "I well, I haven't watched Romeo and Juliet yet for English."

Alice just snorted. "You have Romeo and Juliet memorized."

"But Mr. Berty said we needed to see it performed to fully appreciate it--that's how Shakespeare intended it to be presented."

I rolled my eyes at her theory.

"You've already seen the movie," Alice accused.

"But not the nineteen-sixties version. Mr. Berty said it was the best."

Finally Alice lost the glum smile and glared at Bella.

"This can be easy, or this can be hard, Bella, but one way or the other—"

I interrupted her threat before she even said anything. I already knew what she was going to say. Destroy my fun then Edward. I heard her.

"Relax, Alice. If Bella wants to watch a movie, then she can. Its her birthday." I suggested.

"So there," Bella added.

"I'll bring her over around seven," I continued. "That will give you more time to set up." Alice's laughter chimed again. "Sounds good. See you tonight Bella! It'll be fun, you'll see." She smiled a wide smile—flashing all her white shimmering teeth then pecked Bella on the cheek and danced off toward her first class.

"Edward, please— " She started to beg, so I pressed one cool finger on her lips.

"Let's discuss this later. We're going to be late for class."

No one bothered to stare at us but that didn't stop me from hearing their thoughts which was utterly annoying. I wonder what he sees in her. One girl said as we passed by. Today is such a dull day. One person thought. Almost all through out the day the only thing I'd hear were complaints. As we passed by Mike Newton, my competition as to I would say. He just smiled. Apparently tying to impress Bella was too much of a challenge for him. Mike had changed over the summer. He styled his hair almost the way my hair was styled. For Bella attention was the last thing she would ever want. She wasn't who actually likes being in the spotlight. That's she ordered everyone not to give her a gift knowing that if they did she'd be the center of attention for the day.

I'd had my own plans with her. But that all had to be canceled out to give way to my sister. Bella said I'd given everything she'd ever wanted—me. That didn't stop from making my own amends. Plan A for Bella was about me turning her. I shuddered at the thought. I tried not to think of the very fact of her being one of us.

A monster.

There were many reasons I didn't want her to become one of us. For one thing, she was delicate. She had more of her life to live through and I didn't want to be the one to take it away from her. Although she'd cleared it up that I was the very reason of her living I couldn't possibly accept that. A monster as a reason for someone's living. She was my life now. If I'd take her life away, who knows what would happen? I had to bear myself whenever I was in reach of her. If I really loved her what would I do?

The afternoon passed quickly. School ended, and I walked Bella to her truck as I usually did. I opened the passenger door for her, but she didn't move. She folded her arms and made a sinister look.

"It's my birthday, don't I get to drive?"

"I'm pretending it's not your birthday, just as you wished."

"If it's not my birthday then I don't have to go to your house tonight…" That started to irritate me. So I decided to play fair.

"All right." I shut the passenger door and walked across her to open the passenger door. "Happy Birthday."

"Shh," she shushed me halfheartedly. She climbed in the opened door.

I played with the radio while she drove, at the same time shaking my head in disapproval.

"Your radio has horrible reception." She frowned. The radio did have terrible reception. There were hardly any amounts of radio stations I could get to.

"You want a nice stereo? Drive your own car." Her tone of voice made my lips press into a hard line. She was really irritated with the fact that I—we were forcing her to go to a birthday party. I had to give my family a chance. The last birthday party we had was centuries ago, then after we knew that it was useless to celebrate an un-aging life we decided to stop. When she parked in front of the house, I reached over to take her face in my hands. I pressed just the tips of my fingertips handling her very carefully.

"You should be in a good mood, today of all days," I whispered.

"And if I don't want to be in a good mood?" She asked, her breath uneven.

"Too bad."

I leaned closer and pressed my lips against hers. I tried to let her forget her worries. After all there was nothing to worry about. My mouth lingered on hers. Her lips were warm and full of life. She wrapped her arms around my neck and threw herself into the kiss with a little too mush enthusiasm. I didn't like it when she did this. It tempted me too much. I curved my lips upward and let go of her face and reached back to unlock her grip on me. I had to remember who I was—what I was, whenever I would kiss her. I had to remember that I was not human.

"Be good, please," I breathed against her cheek. I pressed my lips gently onto hers one more time and then pulled away. She folded her arms across her stomach, seeming a little confused.

"Do you think I'll ever get better at this?" She wondered. "That my heart might someday stop trying to jump out of my chest whenever you touch me?"

"I really hope not," I said, feeling a bit smug.

She rolled her eyes. "Let's go watch the Capulets and Montagues hack each other up, all right?"

"Your wish, my command." I smiled.

I sprawled across the couch while she started the movie. I've seen this movie nearly more than 10 times. She fast-forwarded through the opening credits, skipping every minor detail. When she perched on the edge of the sofa in front of me, I wrapped my arms around her waist and pulled her against my chest. She was warm. She felt very light whenever she was against me. I pulled the old afghan off the back of the couch and draped it over her body so she wouldn't freeze beside me.

"You know, I've never had much patience with Romeo," I commented as the movie started.

"What's wrong with Romeo?" She asked, a little offended by my comment. Romeo wasn't the best of the characters; he was just the favored one because his name was in the title. If you focus more on the detail of each character rather than the process of the dialogue, it changes the point of view.

"Well, first of all, he's in love with Rosaline—don't you think that makes him a little fickle? And then, a few minutes after their wedding, he kills Juliet's cousin. That's not very brilliant. Mistake after mistake. Could he have destroyed his own happiness any more thoroughly?"

She sighed. "Do you want me to watch this movie alone?"

"No, I'll mostly be watching you anyway." Which was true. I traced patterns across the skin of her arm with my fingers, giving her goose bumps.

"Will you cry?" I asked.

"Probably," she admitted, "if I'm paying attention."

"I won't distract you then." Usually I don't, but she considers my very presence as intoxication to her concentration. I put my lips against her hair, making her jolt.

The movie captured her interest quickly. As Rome said his lines I whispered them softly into her ears. Love goes toward love, as schoolboys from their books,but love from love, toward school with heavy looks. I've seen Romeo and Juliet is twelve different plays and 7 different movie adaptations.

In the ending she did cry. It was amusing watching her cry as Juliet found her Romeo dead.

"I'll admit, I sort of envy him here," I said, while drying the tears with one lock of her hair.

"She's very pretty."

I made a disgusted sound. "I don't envy him the girl—just the ease of the suicide," I clarified in a teasing tone. "You humans have it so easy! All you have to do is throw down one tiny vial of plant extracts…."

"What?" She gasped.

"It's something I had to think about once, and I knew from Carlisle's experience that it wouldn't be simple. I'm not even sure how many ways Carlisle tried to kill himself in the beginning…after he realized what he'd become…" My voice had grown serious, I was lost in my own train of thought. "And he's clearly still in excellent health."

She twisted around so she could read my face. "What are you thinking about?" She demanded. "What do you mean, this something you had to think about once?" I had to answer.

"Last spring, when you were… nearly killed…." I paused to take a deep breath, struggling to return to my teasing tone. "Of course I was trying to focus on finding you alive, but part of my mind was making contingency plans. Like I said, it's not as easy for me as it is for a human." We were silent for a while. Probably trying to bring back our memories to what had happened last spring. The memory of her…the memory of James. When James tried to kill her, every good memory had burst out of me. I had only one mission to do. To protect her. To kill him. At that time in the dance studio, seeing her in pain and her blood all over the floor. I thought it was over, but at the same time a part of me knew it wasn't. She suddenly traced the crescent shaped scar on her hand. She shook her head trying to wipe away the memory--which was quite impossible. "Contingency plans?" She repeated.

"Well, I wasn't going to live without you." I rolled my eyes showing that this fact was at the obvious. "But I wasn't sure how to do it—I knew Emmett and Jasper would never help… so I was thinking maybe I would go to Italy and do something to provoke the Volturi." From the look of her face she tried not believe me, but she knew I was serious.

"What is a Volturi?" She demanded.

"The Volturi are a family," I explained directly. "A very old ery powerful of our kind. They are the closest our world has to a royal family, I suppose. Carlisle lived with them briefly in his early years, In Italy, before he settled in America—do you remember the story?" I asked her.

"Of course I remember." She said directly.

The first she'd gone to my home, I'd explained to her Carlisle's history. Explaining each vivid painting on the wall. The largest and the most vivid, was with the Volturi.

"Anyway, you don't irritate the Volturi," Edward went on, interrupting my reverie. "Not unless you want to die—or whatever it is we do." Her face suddenly went into horror. She took my face in between her hands and held it as tightly as she could.

"You must never, never, never think of anything like that again!" She said, raising her voice. "No matter what might ever happen to me, you are not allowed to hurt yourself!"

"I'll never put in danger again, so it's a moot point."

"Put me in danger! I thought we'd established that all bad luck is my fault?" She was getting angrier. "How dare you even think like that?" She was angry with me, making her think that after she'd die I wouldn't live as long as I would wish. "How dare do you even think like that?" I had to revise her question, she couldn't understand me. As a person of living one life it would seem easier. But for an immortal human—or monster living forever that's a whole different story. Living forever without the person you love.

"What would you do, if the situation were reversed?" I asked.

"That's not the same thing." She stated. I chuckled at her statement.

"What if something happened to you?" She blanched at the thought. "Would you want me to go off myself?" I tried to think of every possibility that could ever make that happen. Pain started to boil within me, but I started to see her point.

"I guess I see your point…a little," I admitted.

"But what would I do without you?"

"Whatever you were doing before I came along and complicated your existence."

I sighed. "You make that sound so easy."

"It should be. I'm not really that interesting."

I can't believe she thought it was that easy! Continuing your life as if nothing had happened! I was about to argue with her, but I let it go. "Moot point," I reminded her. Abruptly, I pulled myself into a more formal posture, shifting her to the side so that we were no longer touching. Charlie was home. If he'd seen us in that position he would have given me a restraining order.

"Charlie?" She guessed.

I smiled. After a moment, we heard the sound of the police cruiser pulling into the driveway. She reached out and took my hand firmly. Mmmm…Edward's home. Surely he wouldn't eat. He never does. Good thing I only got the regular size. I heard Charlie's thoughts. I don't intentionally like hearing the thoughts of people I don't intent on hearing; it just seems to happen on its own.

"Hey kids." He grinned at Bella. "I thought you'd like a break from cooking and washing dishes for your birthday. Hungry?"

"Sure. Thanks, dad."

Charlie didn't comment on my apparent lack of appetite. He was used to me skipping dinner.

"Do you mind if I borrow Bella for the evening?" I asked as they were finished eating. Bella looked at Charlie, hoping that he'd allow her to go. "That's fine—the Mariners are playing the Sox tonight," Charlie explained. Gives me more time for the game. Just remember keep Bella happy, keep Bella happy. You're her dad. You have to give in sometime. She can't always be yours. Charlie repeated in his head. I almost felt sorry for Charlie. But he was right. He had to give in sometime.

"So I won't be any kind of company…Here." He scooped up the camera Renée had gotten Bella and threw it to her. It was funny how Charlie hadn't known his own daughter's coordination. The camera glanced off the tip of her finger, and tumbled toward the floor. I snagged it before it crash on to the linoleum.

"Nice save," If they're doing something fun at the Cullens' tonight, Bella, you should take some pictures. You know how your mother gets—she'll be wanting to see the pictures faster than you take them."

"Good idea, Charlie," I said, handing her the camera. She turned the camera toward me, and snapped the first picture. "It works."

"That's good. Hey, say hi to Alice for me. She hasn't been over in a while." Charlie's mouth pulled down at one corner.

"It's been three days Dad," she reminded him. Bella was very amusing. Charlie had become attached to Alice last spring when she'd help Bella through her awkward convalescence; Charlie would be forever grateful to her for saving him from the horror of an almost-adult daughter who needed help showering. "I'll tell her."

"Okay. You kids have fun tonight." Charlie was already edging toward the living room and the TV. I smiled, triumphant, and took her hand to her from the kitchen.

When we got to the truck, I opened the passenger door, and this she didn't argue. I drove north through Forks, visibly chafing at the speed limit enforced by my prehistoric Chevy. The engine groaned even louder than usual as I pushed over fifty.

"Take it easy," she warned me.

"You know what you would lover? A nice little Audi coupe. Very quiet, lots of power…" I suggested.

"There's nothing wrong with my truck. And speaking of expensive nonessentials, if you know what's good for you, you didn't spend any money on birthday presents."

"Not a dime," I said virtuously.

"Good."

"Can you do me a favor?"

"That depends on what it is."

I sighed. "Bella, the last real birthday any of us had was Emmett in 1935. Cut is a little slack, and don't be too difficult tonight. They're all very excited." I wouldn't want to waste all their excitement. "Fine. I'll behave."

"I probably should warn you…"

"Please do."

"When I say they're all excited…I do mean all of them."

"Everyone?" She looked terrified. "I thought Emmett and Rosalie were in Africa?" I was surprised she actually remembered that.

"Emmett wanted to be here."

"But…Rosalie?" Rosalie wasn't always in favor of Bella. But she had to cope up with Emmett.

"I know, Bella. Don't worry; she'll be on her best behavior." She didn't answer. She was always percipient around Rosalie. Apparently, to her Rosalie's beauty was very intimidating. She knows that Rosalie's beauty in my eyes will never compare to hers. As for Emmett, Bella was very fond of him. Bella had always said that Emmett was the big brother she never had.

I decided to change the topic, making myself get away from my own train of thought. "So, if you won't let me get you the Audi, isn't there anything that you'd like for your birthday?" Her words came out in a whisper. "You know what I want." Of course I knew what she wanted. At this point I wished I'd stuck to the subject of Rosalie.

"Not tonight, Bella."

"Well, maybe Alice will give me what I want." I growled at the idea.

"This isn't going to be your last birthday, Bella," I vowed.

"That's not fair!" I clenched my teeth together.

We were pulling up to the house now. Bright light shined from every window on the first two floors. A long line of glowing Japanese lanterns hung from the porch eaves. I could here everyone's voices now. "THEY'RE HERE!" I heard Alice scream. Oh great Rosalie was thinking. Why couldn't just Rosalie appreciate my decisions? Bella moaned at my side. I took a few deep breaths before I started talking to calm myself. "This is a party," I reminded her. "Try to be a good sport."

"Sure," she muttered under her breath.

I went around to get her door, and offered my hand. "I have a question."

I waited warily.

"If I develop this film," she said, toying with the camera in her hands, "will you show up in the picture?"

I started laughing. She was absurd. Vampires don't apply to the same rules as they do in the movies. I helped her out of the car, pulled her up the stairs and still laughing at the same time. I opened the door and they were all waiting in the living room. 18 years Esme thought. Alright! Get this party started. Emmett was excited indeed. They all had different moods. All ecstatic in different ways. Well, except for Rosalie. They greeted Bella with a loud chorus of "Happy Birthday, Bella!" while she blushed and looked down. Alice had covered every flat surface with pink candles and dozens of crystal bowls filled with hundreds of roses. The piano was covered with white cloth, holding a pink birthday cake, more roses, a stack of glass plates, and a small pile of silver wrapped presents. I'm sure Bella thought this was all horrible. But to me, it was one way of accepting her in the family. I sensed her distress and wrapped an encouraging arm around her waist and kissed the top of her head. Esme and Carlisle were the closest to the door. Esme came over and hugged her carefully and kissed her forehead. I'm very happy for you Edward, Esme thought happily. Carlisle came over amd put his arm around Bella's shoulders.

"Sorry about this, Bella" he whispered. "We couldn't rein Alice in."

We're really sorry too Edward. Carlisle apologized. Rosalie and Emmett stood behind them. Rosalie was at good behavior at least. She didn't glare this time. Emmett's face was stretched into a huge grin.

"You haven't changed at all," Emmett said with mock disappointment. "I expected a perceptible difference, but here you are, red–faced just like always." You got that right. Rosalie mused. I gave her a disapproving look, but she didn't see.

"Thanks a lot, Emmett," she said blushing deeper.

Emmett laughed, "I have to step out for a second" — he paused to wink conspicuously at Alice—"Don't do anything funny while I'm gone." See ya later Eddie! Emmett was careful around Bella about the whole Eddie thing. I'd threatened him if he'd mentioned 'Eddie' around Bella, he will seriously get a taste of his own medicine.

"I'll try."

Alice let go of Jasper's hand and skipped forward, all her teeth sparkling in the bright light. Jasper smiled, too, but kept his distance. Jasper still didn't trust himself to be around Bella. He knew that himself that being too close around would make the temptation even stronger. Sorry Edward, I still have to keep my distance. Jasper apologized.

"Time to open presents," Alice declared. She put her cool hand on Bella's elbow and towed her to the table with the cake and presents. Bella tried to make herself enjoy and I was proud of that.

"Alice, I know I told I didn't want anything—''

"But I didn't listen," she interrupted her, smug. "Open it." Alice took the camera from her hands and replaced with a big, square silver box. Bella looked at the box confusingly. The gift was from Emmett, Jasper , and Rosalie, they'd gotten her a new stereo for her truck— thinking ahead they decided to put the stereo on her truck before she'd even think of giving it back. She tore the paper off and stared at the box it concealed; she opened the box and it empty—of course it would be. Emmett's outside fixing it Alice reminded me.

"Um…thanks."

Rosalie gave a sinister smile while Jasper laughed. "It's a stereo for your truck," he explained. "Emmett's installing it right now so that you can't return it."

"Thanks, Jasper, Rosalie," she told them. "Thanks, Emmett!" She called out so Emmett could hear. Then suddenly we heard a booming laugh from outside.

"Open mine and Edward's next," Alice said. Of course I'd gotten Bella a gift, she never said I couldn't get her anything, she just not said not to get her anything expensive. She turned to give me a basilisk glare. "You promised." Before I could answer, Emmett bounded through the door. "Just in time!" he crowed. What's she going to do next!? Emmett thought to himself. He pushed in behind Jasper, who had also drifted closer than usual to get a good look.

"I didn't spend a dime," I assured her. I brushed a strand of hair from her face, leaving her skin tingling from my touch. She had the tendency to do that. She inhaled deeply and turned to Alice. "Give it to me," she sighed. Emmett chuckled with delight. Emmett source of entertainment was through Bella. She's going to love your gift Alice concluded. She took the little package, rolling her eyes at me while she stuck her finger under the edge of the paper and jerked it under the tape.

"Shoot," she muttered to herself while the paper sliced her finger. No! It was blood—her blood. The only threat we have in this town.
"No!" I roared. I threw myself at her unthinkingly, flinging her back across the table. Jasper couldn't handle this, I had to protect her. It fell, as she did, scattering the cake and the presents, the flowers, the plates. She landed in the mess of the shattered crystal. Jasper slammed onto me with as much force as her could. Jasper was less experienced with the handling of human blood among us. Jasper tried to shove me away, but I had to protect Bella. Emmett grabbed Jasper from behind, locking him into his massive grip, but Jasper struggled on, his wild empty eyes focused only on her. She tumbled down to the floor by the piano, with her arms thrown out instinctively to catch her fall, into the jagged shards of glass. Dazed and disoriented, she looked up from the bright red, blood pulsing out of her arm. I had to step away. To protect her. Even though I'd tasted her blood once—the sweetest thing I'd ever tasted in my whole life, I had to step away from the temptation.