The story takes place 5 years after Eclipse. Bella chose Jacob instead of Edward and now regrets her decision. Jacob imprints on a girl called Karen.
So Jacob had imprinted after all.
The girl was the clumsy, lighthearted type with a smile that could melt any monster's heart. She danced around La Push, admiring all the flowers of spring and the beach in all its glory. Laughing throughout the whole day, she made sure to meet every one of Jacob's friends and handed out genuine compliments to even those who did not want them. I had nothing against her. She could love Jake the way I had never been able to. She could love him completely.
She would never be thinking of him.
And I wasn't bitter. Nature is something you cannot hinder, only influence. For me, influencing hadn't been enough. Destiny took its course, and I would have to step out of its way. My years with him had been great; more than I could ever have asked for.
It was better this way. It was right.
Still I cried as I packed my things.
Jacob had told me to stay. He said he would take care of me until I found somebody else, too. It was a generous offer, yet I couldn't take up on it. It was hardly fair that Jake, who had so little money already, would have to punish himself when it wasn't his fault. Only my idiocy was to blame. He had to take care of Karen. Besides, watching the two love birds every day was agonizing. I had to leave.
After the news had spread, I received pitying looks wherever I went. Billy couldn't bear to look me in the eye anymore, Sam avoided me, and Leah seemed to suddenly think I was her new best friend. She followed me around everywhere, spilling her heart out. Her words were harsh when she talked about Sam and Emily, making me wonder if I would ever be like that. Heartless. Maybe in a few years, I would talk the same way about Jacob and Karen.
Leaving was inevitable. The pity was simply too much.
My plan wasn't very original. I would live in a motel in some deserted town and get myself a job. With no college degree, it was bound to be easier said than done. But surely I could be useful as a waitress somewhere? I'd gladly work long hours if they wanted me to. Anything to keep my mind of him.
Though my and Jacob's relationship had been wonderful, the shadow of the one other man always hung over us. I had never ceased to love him, and it was most unlikely that I ever would. Some nights had been terrible. My dreams always featured him with his perfect face, angelic features, honey voice, butterscotch eyes… The way I recited his name over and over while sleeping had always disturbed Jacob. With Karen, he would never have to worry about that anymore. He would never have to comfort his girlfriend who was crying over another man.
And even now, as I packed my things with tears in my eyes, I wasn't crying just for Jacob. I was thinking about how it could have been had I chosen him instead. If I had chosen true love over a family.
Now I would never have true love or a family.
I scribbled an apology and goodbye on a scrap piece of paper and left.
My truck was loyally waiting for me outside. It was the only thing that had always stayed the same since my arrival in Forks, and had lived through the rocky phases by my side. My truck would never leave me, and I would never abandon it. Now I could even sleep in it for the first few nights until I earned enough money for a motel room.
Thankfully, Jacob hadn't seen me leave. He wasn't here to stop me.
I was still crying as I crossed the boundary line. The same border that had once caused so much havoc among my friends and family. Now there were no vampires left to cross over. The Cullens had left years ago.
The Cullens. It was a forbidden topic, but as I was already in the deepest pit of misery, I figured I could allow myself to think about them. My former family had moved out of town after my decision to stay with Jacob. Probably dragging him along. I remembered the day I had told him goodbye like yesterday. The memory of his face once he heard my decision was a frequent guest in my nightmares.
It was after the battle with the newborns, and thereby after my kiss with Jacob. I saw my future in that kiss- the little, brown-haired children running around, the cozy house in La Push, an older Jacob as my husband… I wanted it badly. Though I would have never admitted it to him, I wanted all that. I wanted to have children and grow old with my husband beside me. I wanted to have grandchildren and great-grandchildren and finally be buried together with the man I loved. Eternal youth was appealing, but I didn't want it nearly as much as I wanted a real life. So, after Victoria was defeated, I left him. And he let me walk away. His voice had been monotonous as he wished me all the best. His expression revealed nothing. All indubitable signs that I had crushed him. I could only hope his family could keep him together. It was utterly unfair that he should lead an unhappy life because of someone so insignificant like me. If life was just at all, the wounds I had caused him would heal quickly.
But now, I wished I had chosen differently. He would never have left me again. He would have loved me and only me. He would have given me the moon from the sky if I had asked for it.
I had turned him down. And now I would suffer.
After leaving him, I had immediately known it was the wrong choice. Jacob kept me whole, but I had almost sunken back to my zombie shell after saying goodbye. The first few years had been agonizing for the both of us. I woke up screaming every night, cried over the smallest of things, and hardly laughed or smiled. Jake had somewhat healed me, and we thought everything was getting better. But then Karen came along. The ever joyful Karen with her bright smile. Who would choose a zombie over a fairy?
The sobs were beginning to overcome me. I let my truck roll to a halt on the empty road and broke down. I cried over Jacob, over him, over my lost future, over my lost family, over my lost self. And most of all, I cried over my own foolishness. I always made the wrong decision, no matter how easy it appeared to be! I ruined my life and that of the others around me by not listening to my instincts. I always left my friends and family broken-hearted by being sensible. The right thing was obviously not always so right, after all.
A monster like me shouldn't exist.
I didn't know how long I wallowed in my misery, but my grieving was interrupted by a tap on my car window. Crap! Had Jacob come after me? I prepared myself for the sorrowful argument that was bound to follow.
But it was him.
In all his shine and glory, he stood there like the perfect Adonis he was. A marble statue with life breathed into it. Even in the rain he looked striking, like he could just as well be standing in an old, Greek temple. Only one thing bothered me- his expression. It was twisted in grief. His eyes were considerably darker than I liked them to be, and the usual light in them had vanished. Without the sparkle, he really looked dead, like a sculpture. Had I done this to him? Had I destroyed him this deeply?
Why was he here? Shouldn't he be with his family, hating me until the end of eternity?
"Bella?" His voice was still velvet and clear, and most of all alive, I observed with relief.
I rolled my window down. Maybe he wanted to see me this miserable, to see that his sorrow was avenged. I would not deprive him of that solace.
"May I come in?"
The rain had soaked his dark auburn hair and his clothes were dripping with water, which added to his dead appearance significantly. I simply nodded and opened the passenger door for him.
In a flash he was beside me.
At first we just gaped at each other. I knew I was doing so with longing, imagining how it would feel like to fall into his arms again and continue from where we dropped off five years ago. How it would heal my wounds to hear him declare his love for me again. And how I would love him back this time, never letting go. Strangely, he seemed to be doing the same. His eyes were staring at me with such intensity, with such craving that I almost believed he still loved me. But it was just a product of my imagination, I was sure. My eyes saw what they wanted to see.
I didn't know what to say to him. Expressing regret was hardly appropriate anymore. The apology would be years too late.
He was the one to break the silence.
"Are you all right?" He was truly concerned, I could tell. He didn't seriously still have any positive feelings towards me, did he? I deserved to undergo his rage. I deserved every bit of wrath he could fling at me. But his tone wasn't angry at all. He spoke quietly and carefully, almost like he was afraid to scare me away.
"I've been better." Wonderful. Here I was, burdening him with my grief while he was in equal pain. In pain I had unjustly caused.
"I heard what happened to you and… Jacob. I'm sorry."
He was sorry? He who had bled for me in his heart while I was grounding a family?
"It just wasn't meant to be. Don't be sorry." I said with a shrug. Why was I continuing this conversation? I should be the one apologizing. A part of me wanted to go down on my knees and beg for his forgiveness. I wanted him to take me back, if not as a lover, then at least as a friend! I wanted to be with him, to see him, to hear him everyday, even if he didn't care for me anymore. His presence now was the greatest gift. The most remarkable part was that he didn't seem to hate me, at least openly. I should have known this kind man would have sympathy left for me in his heart! He was much too considerate, more caring than I deserved.
And then the most surprising thing happened. He took my hand.
His cold touch spread from my finger tips to my entire body. The familiar sensation of electricity that I had missed in all these years was still there. I gasped at the unexpected gesture, causing him to draw his hand back. "Sorry." he muttered, and turned his face away. His hands were clenched in fists.
The missing contact struck me with the same force. My hands instinctively reached out for his elbow before I could stop them. His head whipped around, and he stared at me in shock. I was too dazed myself to move, so before I could apologize for my stupidity, he had turned his body around to face me again. He took my two hands in his and smiled a tiny, yet sincerely happy smile. "Thank you."
Another moment of silence followed. He stared down at our linked hands while I memorized his face. This short meeting might end any time, and I wanted to make the most out of it. He could leave any minute.
After that, it was probably going to be worse. The hole would gain complete control over me, and I would crumble to dust. But I didn't mind. Every second with him made it worthwhile.
He started playing with my fingers before he spoke. "Bella." The name was followed by a deep, unnecessary breath. "I know you're probably cursing me for coming, but I couldn't rest when there was still a tiny chance that you… that we…"
A part of me knew what he was about to say. The other part, the much more dominant one, told me it was absurd. Hope was a weapon of mass destruction; that had been proved so many times before.
"…that I might still have a chance to win your heart. So I ask you- Can you still love me after all these years? And if I've played my chances at love, is there any way I could be with you as a friend? I promise I wouldn't complain if you let me accompany you as your comrade, servant, anything. I would happily follow you wherever you chose to go, do whatever you needed me to. And the minute you told me to leave, I would. Will you bless me with your company? Please tell me if your feelings have cooled down completely. Please tell me if there's nothing left, not even enough for a friendship."
I wasn't quite sure what expression had frozen on my face. Shock? Disbelief? Anger? Elation?
He wanted to be my friend? Better yet- He wanted to be with me?
"But…but… Edward!" The name slid effortlessly off my lips, tasting like cotton candy on its way out. "I… You're not doing this because you pity me, right? Are you guilty, for some unfathomable reason?"
"Guilty? No. And I do not pity you, either. I just… I can't live without…" He closed his eyes and sucked in a deep breath. "Sorry. Ignore that last part. I wasn't going to bribe you. Please don't think about me when you answer. I would only greatly appreciate being allowed to be with you."
My two sides were in a vicious battle now. The sensible one told me to stop hoping. But that voice was becoming dimmer and dimmer with each of Edward's words. My other part was telling me to hug him, to kiss him, to tell him not to be so noble. He was hurting, and each word wounded him deeper. The truth was hidden behind his careful façade.
Or then the truth was already out there, obvious to my blind eyes. He, too, knew how destructive hope really was. By making me hope, he was tormenting me in the worst possible way. And by leaving once planting the seeds firmly into my heart, the lost hope would burn my insides to ash in a minute. Burn, but not kill. I would live, but not be alive.
"But Edward! Why are you doing this? Why are you here, talking so graciously to me? You should hate me! You should be screaming at me and sneering at my misery!"
His eyes opened wide at my words. "I should hate you? For what? You are the most lovable creature on earth, Bella! You had every right to… to leave me." The last words were spoken with a cringe. If my hands had not been locked in his, I would have reached out to stroke his agonized face. And though I was fighting fiercly against the epiphany, the hope spread through my mind like a temporary medicine. Like a drug.
He still loved me.
He really was the same, unselfish man as back then.
He was my Edward.
And once again, he was pardoning me too easily.
"I broke your heart, Edward! You were always so kind and thoughtful to me, and I just threw it all away over someone else. I hate myself for letting you go. It was the biggest mistake of my life!"
His head snapped up at my words. The dead look was gone, the soul and spark visible in his hope again. Hope. What a beautiful word.
"You… still want me?"
"Of course I want you! I wanted you every day for the last five years! But you shouldn't want me. How would you feel like, living with me while knowing you were only the second choice?"
His hands released mine, resting on either side of my head instead. "I don't mind being the second choice. Being on your list at all is a great honor, something I do not deserve. Are you saying you'd take me? That I still have a chance to prove my love to you?"
What a silly question.
"You don't need to prove me anything! Alone the fact that you're here after all these years, begging me for forgiveness you don't need, proves that your love is indestructible."
And then he smiled.
The smile was real, it was bright, and it was dazzling. It didn't just stay on his lips, but spread through his entire being. He was beaming.
My sensible side was screaming in rage inside of me. I was doing it again- I was allowing myself to hope. And not just to hope- I was believing.
But what had my conclusion been a couple of minutes ago? Didn't my rational side ruin everybody's lives every time it was in control?
"Will you come with me, then? My family has been worried ever since I stayed behind. I haven't contacted them. I haven't really done anything but waited and hoped while you were gone."
My tears that were still spilling over were now increased by his words. "I'm sorry for doing that to you."
"No, no. Don't be sorry. But I'll need to apologize to the others for my absence. Not that I regret waiting."
The other Cullens. Of course I wanted to see them again. Alice, Esme, Carlisle, Emmett, Jasper… even Rosalie. But when I tried imagining myself returning to them in Edward's arms after devastating him to the core, fear bubbled up inside of me. It was my fault their son and brother had been so miserable. I had basically taken Edward away from them by leaving. Even if he didn't hate me, they surely did. And they had every right to.
My true love noticed my insecurity and lowered his head to my level. "They'll be happy to see you."
I shook my head as well as I could with his hands holding it in place.
"They don't hate you, Bella. They understand why you chose him over me. You chose life over death."
But why was life death and death life?
I thought about Rosalie's conversation with me five years ago and realized how right he was. They had partially wanted me to choose Jacob. Maybe they did understand that I had wanted more than eternity. But would they understand why I thought it was a mistake, now?
Nevertheless, even if the Cullens hated me, Edward didn't. And that was all that mattered. Alice would eventually forgive me; she probably saw me begging already. Carlisle and Esme would both be happy to have their son back, with or without me. And Emmett wasn't one for holding grudges.
Our relationship had faltered, but it was still there. The Cullens would be my family soon, if Edward didn't change his mind about forgiving me. Maybe my life wasn't over, after all. Maybe, with a little repair, I could finally please everyone- Jacob could be with Karen and have many, brown-haired children; Charlie and Renée wouldn't have to worry about their shrinking daughter; The Cullens could resume the life I had interrupted. And most of all, I could make Edward happy. I would never hurt him again.
I truly smiled for the first time in over five years. My relief after all the stress, my suddenly whole body, were enough to crack me. I started laughing.
My laugh was shaky at first, but when I noticed the incredible healing power it stored inside, I let it run freely. I realized I must have sounded like a psychopath, but was too elated to care. Indeed, Edward did stare at me in confusion for a few, long seconds, but eventually followed my example and released his own tension.
He brought his lips to mine. The kisses were short, the laughing making it impossible for them to last any longer, but I relished them all the same. We had shared longer, steamier kisses in our best days, but these were the more passionate than any of the others had ever been. These kisses were more than just a gesture of love- They were our communication, our remedy, our promises.
We were still laughing as I revved the engine, our fingers entwined in a hold that would last forever.
I came to my second important conclusion that day.
Hope may be dangerous.
But so was despair.