Chapter 2: Perdóname, ¿saben Uds. que van a la muerte?
The day is dangerously sunny, ridiculously warm for January, even in this sun-drenched state. Though I'm not entirely sure what I am doing, I find myself flying southbound down Interstate 35 toward San Antonio, guarded by windows tinted to the greatest legal extent and grateful for both the distraction from my grief and the freedom to drive at an acceptable speed without fear of attracting attention. If one of Texas' finest were to decide to pull me over for my excessive speed, I would have no choice but to kill him, to risk myself. Now, after having loved Bella, I cannot bring myself to tolerate the killing of one of her kind, especially not an innocent. I feel as if such an action would be, in a sense, killing Bella. And I have a horrible sensation that I have managed to do this already.
I have failed in saving Brock. As made obvious by my pursuit, I have also failed in capturing Victoria. Sensing, with her ever-troublesome gift, my presence in Austin, she had arrived a full hour early to the park that served as the rendezvous point. Brock, sensing his own desire for this mysterious, irresistibly desirable woman, was already waiting, practicing conversation he thought witty. Though I had arrived at about this same time, Victoria is nothing if not quick, and Brock's mind tended to fixate on her physical beauty, rendering his survival instincts all but useless. The scene had been ideal—public enough to prevent me from attacking her outright, yet private enough to conduct a murder inconspicuously. Her prey had been blinded by her exotic beauty, and I had been incapable of killing her in retribution in an equally inconspicuous manner. The kill had almost been too easy for her, as, regrettably, had been the escape. I hated her for this. With each failure, I feel as if I were failing Bella once more, hurting her all over again. I was failing to protect her, failing to stop the gratuitous murder of her kind by mine, and failing to even begin to stop the sadistic female bent on my Bella's slow, torturous death. The sensation is almost too much to bear.
Again, my breath catches in my cold throat. Though the breath itself is unnecessary, its sudden catch is nonetheless painful. My eyes sting in a way that informs me that if I were capable of tears, I would be silently shedding them now. The loss of my love has rendered me all but useless. I continue to exist, it seems, for the sole purpose of protecting her and preventing my family from feeling yet another loss. Though I have no illusions about my place in the family—I don't imagine myself to be a key member by any stretch of the imagination—I do know that with our constancy, my kind forms bonds that are embedded into our very souls, if Carlisle is right and we actually have such things. This is even stronger with our mates.
Selfishly, I wonder if this is true for Bella. I want her to move on, because it is what is best for her. I must believe this, or my leaving her will be unpardonable, if it isn't already. I hurt her. More realistically, I had destroyed her. I knew that the moment my words hit her ears like a slap in the face—sharp, insulting, and completely unexpected. Her eyes had changed then; the spark had left them. I could only hope that she had found the strength, or, barring that, someone to put it back in for her. I check my rearview mirror as a habit borne of repeated tenures in driver education classes. In reality, if anyone were coming, particularly a police officer, I would hear them before they could make note of my excessive speed. As I do so, I catch a glimpse of my own reflection, instinctively hating the face I see there. I am a liar, a blasphemer of the worst possible sort, and now truly the stuff of Bella's nightmares. I press down the gas and propel myself toward what I hope will be my absolution.
I can't shake the idea that Alice is right. I laugh ruefully to myself as I admit to myself that my sister is rarely ever wrong. To my own detriment, I rarely listen. During our last conversation, Alice had told me that she had no idea why I sought forgiveness by tracking Victoria when it could be found by simply running, quite literally, back to Bella. It's ironic, really, how everyone, humans and vampires alike, seem to go searching for what they hold in their own hands. Or in my case, I should say held.
I am a fool. I should turn the car around, drive like hell to Dallas, catch the next flight to Seattle, and run as fast as my immortal body will propel me to Bella's side, vowing to never leave it again. If I were able to do so without drawing attention, I would run. Humans are much more observant than many of my kind give them credit for, and I doubt very much that I could make the entire run across the western United States without attracting attention. However, before I do, I must destroy Victoria before she succeeds in removing my Bella from this life as a punishment to me—I may have fooled Bella, but Victoria knows that the bond between the two of us will always be an integral part of me. I must remove this danger from Bella's life. I refuse to bring danger to her doorstep once again. This task, I know, is part of my penance.
Interrupting my penitential reverie, I reach the city limits sign of San Antonio. I point my car in the direction of my hotel—the Hyatt Place—which is situated just close enough to downtown that I will be able to detect if anyone has seen Victoria (her appearance isn't exactly what anyone, human or vampire, would call inconspicuous) but far enough away that I will hopefully not draw the attention of Victoria's gift for evasion. Or at least I hoped. I promised myself, and Bella, that I would do everything possible to prevent another murder. My speed slows, and I begin to observe the city.
San Antonio is a beautiful city that I'd traveled to before with Carlisle, shortly after Esme joined our family. Though brief, the stay had allowed me to witness a beautiful interplay of Mexican, American, and Native American culture. Bored with the strict, predictable tedium of my upbringing, I had been amused to actually find myself surprised by the thoughts of these people. Albeit entrenched in what Americans affectionately, or at times condescendingly, depending on the tradition of the speaker, referred to as "the South," San Antonio had provided a relatively safe environment against the armies that were a way of life in this part of the country. The atmosphere here was warm, inviting, and titillating to my heightened senses. The openness of the people and their habit of gathering into decidedly large groups made any real kind of hunting more difficult than other cities, given that one did not desire to attract attention and thus provoke the Volturi. It was a place that I had intended to take my Bella someday.
Bella. My mind focuses as I take my one bag into my room. Though I have no need of sleep, I do have a need to remain inconspicuous, and, when the increasing need dictates, a safe place to mourn. I settle my things, gather my wits, and, not wanting to fight for a parking spot, call a cab for the fifteen-minute ride into downtown, Again, I entrench myself in a well-populated nightspot, this time a Mexican restaurant with live entertainment, ordering a glass of water that I slip slowly to maintain my guise. The music is slightly more tolerable than that displayed in Austin.
Before long, yet another young man comes into the restaurant to meet his friend. This female enjoys playing with her food before she finally devours it. It's a disgusting practice, made all the more sickening by the fact that her prey is human—a fact that I'm all the more sensitive to because of my Bella. Of course, there aren't exactly bound tomes explicating proper etiquette for these situations, and I very much doubt any older vampire has ever admonished a neophyte not to play with his food. If the situation weren't so horrible, this would be comical. Dark humor seems to be a specialty of mine as of late.
The young man, Guillermo, makes conversation with his friend Baudelio. His thoughts all too similar to those of Brock, differing, really, only in language, Guillermo relates the story of the señorita caliente he has managed to secure a date with. Because of her translucent skin and utter lack of any Spanish vocabulary whatsoever (most residents of this city have at least a smattering as a result of living here), Guillermo assumes that "Vicki" is a tourist. He is to meet her at midnight under a secluded bridge on the River Walk. Foolishly, he invites Baudelio to meet this woman, which Baudelio is all too happy to do. Perhaps, Guillermo says suggestively, this woman will be una señorita atrevida. The men clap each other on the back and order a celebratory shot of tequila, toasting their own impending deaths.
Leaving my water glass only slightly less empty than when I sat down, despite the intervening hour, I get up, tip the bartender generously, and make a quiet exit. I have much work to do tonight.