The Honeymoon is Over
In my arms, Bella laid her head against my chest and her breathing slowed. She whispered "I love you," then she was out. I couldn't help but smile at how quickly she had fallen asleep as she had been so unasleep just a few moments ago. Wasn't it usually the man who fell asleep so fast afterward? Of course, I couldn't sleep, but still. As she had pointed out before, there never had been anything traditional about Bella and I.
I let out a deep breath of relief that I didn't realize I had been holding—releasing a tension I didn't know had been there. Everything was fine. I didn't hurt her after all. I half-smiled remembering how worried I had been and here it seemed for nothing. Well, not nothing. It took all my self control to stay in the moment mentally and physically—to be constantly aware of my body and hers, to reign in my impulses and keep her safe.
I closed my eyes, humming softly to myself, too quietly for Bella to hear. I had never felt so at peace, like everything was right with the world. For a moment, I saw us as Bella does—with an unquestioning faith that everything would always work out for us. We belong together. Forever.
Forever. I was ready now. I had thought I was ready before—I had reconciled myself to taking her life for the selfish reason of wanting her with me. But I had still believed it was the wrong choice. I just believed I was too weak, too selfish, too in love to make the right choice. But now...
Now, I knew what she had meant. We could never truly be together until we were the same. This night was the most wonderful of my existence, but truly it was dangerous for her and scary for me. And, it was so difficult to keep myself in check . My mind began to wander...how would it be different when she was not so breakable? When I could give in to all my passions? When she would be even stronger than I ? I had to chuckle at that thought. Actually...that might be kind of fun.
I opened my eyes from my musings and looked down at my lovely wife, soft and warm against my side. Ah, my beautiful Bella...but wait. My brow furrowed and I craned my neck to see her arm better. What...were those bruises forming on her skin? Beneath my unblinking gaze I watched as slowly, slowly, one by one, small finger-tip size bruises of purple, blue and red materialized on her pale skin. I was horrified. Utterly horrified.
I was an abusive husband.
My mind raced through the events of the night, frantically searching for answers. When exactly did this happen? How did this happen? Why didn't she tell me I was hurting her? Maybe I had misread her cues; maybe she was trying to hide the pain from me. That would be just like her. How could I have done this to my Bella?
Flitting through the memories, this time with chagrin rather than pleasure, trying to pinpoint exactly my mistakes, I realized it was impossible. I had to face the inevitable conclusion. We could never do this again while she was human. The risk was too great. My heart sank knowing this would be the last time I would hold her weak, warm, naked body in my arms. The temptation of her, now that I knew the depth of what she could make me feel, would be too great. We had waited before; we could wait again. Last night's heaven was not worth this morning's hell.
Another thought occurred to me then. I panicked. What if she was hurt in ways not apparent to me yet? What if it was worse? I debated waking her up to find out. I reminded myself that she was sleeping soundly, breathing evenly, her heart beating steadily. Surely she was not in any acute trauma. If she was hurt, rest would probably be best for her. I could wait until she awoke to ascertain the extent of her injuries.
There was something I could do to find out if she was hurt without waking her. I could call Alice.
Thinking of Alice reminded me of how strange she was acting at the wedding reception. I had cornered her before Bella and I left and asked her two questions. The first was whether she saw anything dangerous happening on our honeymoon. She knew what I was asking. After the confrontation with that dog, I was at my wits end with worry that Bella's compromise was too dangerous a proposition after all. I needed some reassurance. When I surreptitiously spoke to her, she looked at me with those wide, doe eyes and told me Bella would be fine. She was lying! I suddenly knew that now. Her thoughts at the time were full of how beautiful the wedding was; she was like the proverbial cat that caught the mouse. Now I could see her thoughts for what they were. She had been blocking me. She knew this would happen. I could feel my fury start to rise, I was practically seething. She knew this would happen and she did nothing to prevent it.
The second question I asked her worried me know. Calmed by her too-innocent assurances, I then asked her to keep her nose out of our honeymoon; to not go looking for our futures as best she could. She knew how often I tried to give her and Jasper their privacy; she understood I was just asking for her best efforts in kind. Now I was contemplating calling her and rescinding that request. I desperately needed to know Bella's true condition right now. How successfully had she acquiesced to my request for privacy? Had she seen anything that would help me? Maybe she would try to look if I called.
But if I was being honest with myself, I also wanted to call to demand why she kept this from me. I couldn't think of an instance where I had depended so heavily on her abilities and her honesty. I never would have put Bella in danger had I known the result of this choice.
Of course. Alice knew that, didn't she?
At this point, I could feel my hold on sanity slipping a bit. My feelings were vacillating swiftly between anger at Alice's betrayal, acute concern for Bella's welfare, and confusion at Alice's motives. I looked down at Bella again. The bright welts strewn across her body was all the motivation I needed. Alice had some explaining to do.
Deftly, from many nights of practice in Bella's bedroom, I uncurled her body from it's pitifully weak stranglehold on my own. I slid noiselessly from the bed. I found my cell phone in my baggage by the sliding door and slipped quietly out to the beach.
"Hello Edward. And, yes. I knew." Alice chimed in a cheerful voice. Too cheerful for my current mood. It only aggravated me further.
If not for Bella sleeping peacefully a few yards away I would surely be yelling."You knew. You knew I would hurt her. How could you put her at risk like this? You say you love her, too. She is too fragile for this, Alice. How could you gamble with her life?" I was practically hissing by the end of my little rant.
Calmly, as though speaking to a small child having a tantrum, Alice defended herself. "I do love her Edward. That is why I couldn't tell you. She's fine. I could see that she would have some surface injuries, but I could also see her smiling and happy and well, Edward. Wait until morning. I saw her—she doesn't care about the temporary marks on her skin, Edward. Yes, she is delicate, but that is the point. She just bruises easily. She really is fine. I saw that if I told you anything, it would have been far worse. You would have spent your honeymoon fighting; She would be depressed and upset. She would demand you change her immediately then. And, she would come up with some pretty extreme ways to get you to go along with her little plan, I can assure you. And, it would have always been there, forever festering at your relationship that you had broken that promise to her, that you had deprived her of the one thing she had wanted while she was human. You would have regretted it, Edward. When she was safe, and strong, and unbreakable, you would have regretted that you did not give her that one desire of her human heart before it stopped beating."
My teeth were still clenched together in angry tension as I let Alice's words sink in. I took a deep breath and relaxed my hold on the phone a bit. I was in danger of crushing it into plastic powder. I needed a bit more reassurance. "Anything else I should know, Alice?" I growled.
"Yes, but I already know you won't listen to me. Edward. She is fine. You are both OK. Don't take away her honeymoon. I know your reaction to this will be to withhold any further physical affection from her. That is a mistake, Edward. These are her last weeks as a human. Why not make them what she wants them to be? Trust me, Edward. Try not to overreact."
Trust her. Yes, because that worked so well last night.
"Goodbye, Alice." I snapped the phone shut with a little too much force. It would be a pain to replace it here, in the middle of nowhere. I needed to keep my temper in check. I took a deep breath, catching a waft of Bella's scent on the breeze. Just then I heard her mumble in her sleep. She was probably getting overheated. I had thoughtlessly left her with a blanket on. She had needed it earlier, being to exposed to my cold skin. But, left to herself she was likely sweltering. I sighed and moved silently back into our room.
Our room. That thought put a smile on my lips momentarily. But, one glance at the evidence of my misdeed and it faded quickly. This night should not be remembered as a happy one. It would be ungentlemanly of me to think only of myself that way. Bella was hurt. This was a mistake. I failed to protect my only love. I hung my head down in shame and frustration, my brow furrowing as I stifled a growl directed only at myself.
I sidled back into Bella's warm embrace. I was right, she was overheated. I heard her mumble a sigh as the coolness of my body sucked away the excess heat from her own. Not unlike how I would soon suck the life out of her, quite literally, I thought wryly. How can I be the right thing for her? Even now, as she lays beside me, my wife, I cannot help but wonder if she has made the right choice. I have to face that Jacob would not have hurt her this way. He is more human than I. More man than I.
My face twisted into a grimace involuntarily.
That dog had been right. I should never have agreed to this. Bella never takes enough concern for herself. I should have protected her from this—from herself—from me. When will I stop doing the selfish thing? It seems like everything I do in regards to Bella is selfish. Worming my way into her peaceful human life, shattering the safety of her ignorance to the monsters around her, and soon, stealing away her very soul...
No. I will not do the selfish thing this time. I am strong enough for this, at least. No matter what she says when she wakes up, even if, by some small miracle, she is not hurt any worse than the dappled skin I see now, I will not let her put herself in this danger again. That is my duty as her husband-- to love, honor, and protect. Protect. I imagine,as Alice hinted, that she'll put up a good fight about it. But I have waited a hundred years for her. I can wait a little longer.