AN: This is a shortish preface for my newish story that, by the way, has already been written

AN: This is a shortish preface for my newish story that, by the way, has already been written. The actual chapters will be (substantially) longer then this. Oh and yes, this is another Edward-leaves-and-doesn't-come-back, Bella-gets-turned, New Moon fic. Hopefully it will be at least a little bit unique :). Hope you enjoy.

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Those who have crossed

With direct eyes, to death's other Kingdom

Remember us — if at all — not as lost

Violent souls, but only

As the hollow men

The stuffed men.

T.S Eliot – The Hollow Men

--

It was inevitability that after centuries of peace, something would come along to destroy the idealism that had been the Cullen household. Of the family who belonged to it, only Alice and Edward regularly thought of Bella still, yet Bella Swan, the almost eighth member of the family, and the circumstances of her death were never very far from the thoughts of any of the Cullen's; not Esme or Carlisle, nor Jasper, Emmett or even Rosalie. Bella was the burden the family carried, a burden of love that none of the vampires had ever expected to carry. Not their inhuman strength, nor their supernatural beauty, nor their immortality, nor any of their special and unique gifts had helped lighten that burden. So for the most part of more then half a century, even and especially to Edward who undeniably had loved her most, her name was only heard in the whispers of his families' conscience.

So, like the lives of the Cullen's, the fiftieth anniversary of Bella's death passed swiftly and inconspicuously and almost precisely fifty seven years after that fateful day Carlisle decided to move his family back to the small town Forks, a town where his memory had since faded.

Almost.

--

Let me be no nearer

In death's dream kingdom

Let me also wear

Such deliberate disguises

Rat's coat, crowskin, crossed staves

In a field

Behaving as the wind behaves

No nearer –

--

On the eve of her eightieth birthday, Isabella looked into a mirror much like she had done on her eighteenth, searching the valleys and hills of her face for change.

For the most part, the life of Isabella Swan had been (almost) tolerable in her eyes, if not completely what she might have once expected it to be. It had not been a fairytale, nor a Shakespearian tragedy, she had not ended up with Romeo, or Paris, or Prince Charming or a toad; Isabella was almost alone and that fact did not surprise her in the least.

She rarely reflected on the things she might regret in her long, laboured life, however if she had, her kind of isolation would not have made the list.

She would occasionally wonder that if such a list existed, would she add the meeting of a certain vampire family (or more specifically a certain vampire) that she had banished long ago from the reaches of her heart, or if she would add the events of October the 18th and the meeting of Jonathan Stone. She felt that if she was truly honest with herself, neither event could be regretted; both so pivotal in the way fate had aligned itself. Fate had aligned itself strangely for Isabella Swan.

Despite her most deliberate resistance, Isabella had in the end stuck with Plan B when Plan A had seemed an impossibility. Edward Cullen and his family, her lover, her best friends, her surrogate siblings, had left Forks (and Isabella) almost twelve months previous and since then both Isabella's hope for a reunion and any desire to stay in wretched Forks had waned considerably. So Isabella Swan had left Forks for the esteemed Stanford University, as far away as was possible from the misty valleys of her home. In hindsight taking a class in vampiric legends had been a bit reckless, Edward would have been very displeased, but in her defence even Jonathan had seemed shocked to find a human student in his class who was aware of the fact behind the wild myths and conspiracies of vampiric lore.

Why a three hundred year old vampire had decided to teach a bunch of Ivy League brats about the intimacies of his species was a question only answered by the acquaintance of Stone himself. He had of course singled Bella right out, academically and personally, as a shining star of a student. Aligning them both together in the tangled web of destiny.

"Bella darling." He had crooned one day as they walked alone against the backdrop of ancient buildings. Bella was fairly complacent beside the amber-eyed bloodsucker alum, although she reminded herself constantly not to become to much so.

"I have a quite wonderful gift as a vampire that I am rarely able to use with my…"

Jon cleared his throat meaningfully. "Unusual circumstances."

"Yet Bella, I believe I can use it on you with clear conscience. You are after all a unique specimen of humanity."

This was the point in which Bella could remember beginning to feel nervous.

"What is that?"

"There are some among the vampire population who are unusually gifted, even for… well unusually gifted people."

Bella had nodded absently. Like discussions she had shared with Jacob, these discussions with Professor Stone reminded her too painfully of a past she tried incessantly not to relive.

"I'm aware of that."

Jonathan seemed delighted.

"Excellent! You do amaze me Bella, I would love to know who it was who acquainted you with my… kind." He held up a hand in resignation as Bella had opened her mouth in refusal. "Although, I realise my curiosity may never be completely sated."

"My own special gift realises the deep engrained yearnings of the souls around me, be it for love, lust or vitality…" With his last word Jonathan had focused intently on Bella.

"I would like to give you the wish you have been yearning for so dreadfully all these years."

Bella had started as Jonathan with unnatural speed cut her off and situated himself inches from her face.

"Bella darling. Did he really leave you so broken? I can fix that."

As Bella discovered mere moments later Jonathan's will power was not half as strong as even the weakest of the Cullen's. Or rather, it was not a matter of will power, but apathy should he break his self-imposed 'vegetarian-ism'.

"My god Bella!" Jonathan had exclaimed wide eyed when she had demanded he explain himself. "You think that I abstain because I struggle with my nature? I do not. Humanity has no more concept of good and evil then nature itself. We live by our instincts, our pride, our disposition and character." Jonathan had grimaced and pinched his nose in deliberation.

"No Bella, I simply enjoy the company of their kind too much and any excess of blood would mean abstaining from something far more precious. I do love a human, and not just as a meal. Their point of view is astonishing, their actions and emotions unpredictable. They are something far more exquisite and magical then the hard existences we entomb ourselves in."

Bella had raised an eyebrow at this.

"Bella do not look at me in that way. You are a special case. You are completely unique and not long for their world. Not at all."

Bella had found her sire as fascinating in death as she had in life, but much to his disappointment it did not keep her in his company for longer then half a decade. Unlike Jonathan, Bella refused to ever let the blood of a human pass her lips. Her abstinence had been decided long before she had been changed and despite the fact she had little hope or want of ever seeing Edward again, she wanted to know that he would at least be proud of how she governed her unlife. She doubted that Edward would ever believe her change had been against all but her most internal and repressed will, but for his sake she had struggled with Jonathan, and struggled with her own instinct.

Isabella began a lonely but acceptable existence, floating across county sides and lurking in abandoned homes in forgotten towns. Her acquaintances where numerous but never made with deeper foundations then intellectual curiosity and for at least a few weeks, often months, every year Isabella returned to Jonathan Stone. Yet the majority of her life was passed alone.

And so it flit past for almost fifty years,

She had not then, and did not now; understand the longing that had brought her back to Forks. Charlie was long dead, half broken by her supposed 'death' and a lifetime of loneliness. Jacob Black, Isabella's long time Paris still existed in the heart of La Push. When she had visited he had been sad to the point of both Isabella's and his own heartbreak, but amazingly tolerant.

"I suppose I always knew this was going to happen." He had told her so ruefully that despite the injury of old age Jacob could have been sixteen again. "You were always one of them at heart, always understood them better. If it had been high school then I guess you would have been one of those beautiful people, unattainable but beautiful, and I would have been with the gang smoking behind the portables." He grinned boyishly. "The bad asses."

Isabella smiled crookedly.

"That was high school Jacob, for us"

Jacob's laughter escaped like a hiss of escaping gas, his frame shook dolefully.

Isabella frowned slightly.

"Was I really that cruel?"

"Yes and no. You were completely and utterly oblivious of what you were doing to me, but I guess you were still doing it."

She had kneeled so that their faces were close; her whisper lost to anyone who wasn't Jacob.

"Would it have been better if I had just pretended? I did love you Jacob. A lot."

He dies three weeks later with out her ever knowing the answer.

She is unable to leave Forks after that, as if some unnamed and impenetrable force binds her there. She stays in the dusty rooms of her old home and avoids the Cullen lot, and for a while she is content just being until unrest digs itself again deep into her psych. Most of her days are wiled away in the sunlight far away from human prying eyes. The clearing that Edward once brought her, that she has done her best not to associate with his lies and promises, is far enough away that she can sense the presence of an especially ambitious human long before it is close enough to reveal her secret. She reasons that any vampire that comes across her will be inconsequential.

Seven years pass and she barely realises.

So on the eve of her eightieth birthday, Isabella studies herself in a worn and clouding vanity mirror. Unlike her eighteenth, she remains the same.

--

Not that final meeting

In the twilight kingdom

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