"Still haven't learned to hunt without making a mess of yourself, I see." Emmett chuckled.
I looked down at my shirt quickly, ashamed to find a plethora of blood spatters and dirt smears from the hunting trip that Alice, Edward and myself had just returned from.
"Oh! I should go change." I frowned, not mentioning that a wardrobe alteration would give me the perfect excuse to be alone and reflect over the events of the morning and the emotions running ramped in my mind.
"Yeah." Alice agreed quickly as she leaned against the doorframe. "You can't imagine how it pains me to see you in dirty clothes."
I rolled my eyes before heading off up the stairs, throwing a vicarious glance at Edward as I turned.
I had purposefully held his hand today. I didn't know what to think about that, yet. It was all much more new to me than it was to him, but it felt like it meant something. I had held his hand before, but then it was more for his sake than mine. This time, I had made the move because I wanted to.
It was really no mystery how I had fallen in love with Edward before. He was the perfect boyfriend in every applicable sense of the word 'perfect'. He was the gentleman that held open doors and pulled out chairs for girls. Or… as far as I had been informed, me. Apparently, aside from an almost-mistake with a seductive vampire named Tanya, there had been no one else in Edwards life but me. It thrilled me to think of Edward and I together, and I felt the familiar longing for my memories again as I reached the landing and headed towards Edward's and my own bedroom.
Titling it as a shared bedroom for Edward and I thrilled me even more. Even though I hadn't been using it since my change, my clothes were still in there…
I shook my head, scowling at my own girlish fantasies.
I knew that all I had to do was tell Edward that even though I didn't remember, I felt something for him again and I wanted to resume the label "Boyfriend/Girlfriend" and it would be done, but I was too much of a wimp to make that step right now.
I reached the closet and blindly pulled out a light blue knit top. I shed my other bloodstained one and placed it in the hamper, though I doubted anything could get those stains out, and shoved my arms through the new shirt.
Closing the closet door behind me, I turned to leave the room. Halfway to the door, an unfamiliar flash of white caught my eye. I turned my head slowly, tilting it to the side and frowning as I tried to figure out what the white book was doing on the bed,
Without moving, I zoomed my eyes in on the book and felt the air whoosh out of me in a fully audible gasp.
"No." I whispered, moving closer to the book.
I felt my world begin to spin and a dead weight settle in the pit of my stomach as I turned a page in hopes of finding some sign of forgery.
Smiling up at me from all of the pages were the formal and blissfully happy images of myself and Edward. I might not remember much, but I did know what a wedding looked like. I was dressed in an immaculate white dress, no doubt compliments of Alice, and Edward was stunning in his suit. Denial washed over me in thick waves as I turned the page to a group photo.
Every single one of them had been there.
They all knew.
& they all lied.
For some reason, it didn't bother me at all that they had lied. They were just trying to protect me and not scare me, and I appreciated that. What scared me was… I had been married.
All this time I had been trying to get myself back to the girlfriend status that I had left off at, expecting that that was the first step to regaining some normality, if only for Edward's sake. Now, come to find out, I had been Edward's wife.
Guilt ripped through me like a knife. All this time I had been feeling terrible for Edward because his girlfriend didn't know him when really it was worse. Much worse. Imagine having a wife who didn't remember who you were. How awful must it be for him every day to even be around me!
"Bella…" his voice broke through my frenzy of thoughts, struggling to calm my fears. I didn't look at him, not yet. I would never be able to look at him the way I had in the jeep today. I could never look at him again without the guilt tearing deeper and deeper into my chest. I had hurt him beyond repair, and to know that he had been my husband and I didn't even know about it was terrifying.
Slowly, I turned my head and drew my eyes up to meet his. His eyes were apologetic and sympathetic as he stared at me. After all this pain I had caused him… and he felt sorry for me… it was absolutely absurd, but just another reminder of how selfless and wonderful he really was. I didn't deserve him. I never could have deserved him then, and I certainly didn't deserve him now.
I couldn't stay here. I needed to get away. Without contemplating the decision at all, I bolted. The only way to leave without breaking a window was past Edward, and I hoped desperately that I would be able to get past him quickly enough to deny him the opportunity to stop me. I don't think I could witness the pain and remorse in his eyes without giving in and staying.
I jerked to a halt as I felt his strong hand lock around my elbow as he wheeled me to face him.
"Bella, please. Let me explain!" He pleaded.
"No.. I can't. Please just-" I trailed off, trying hard to ignore the desperation his voice had held and how nice it felt for his hand to be touching me. In a final attempt at escape, I wrenched my arm out of his grip and fled down the stairs and out the door.
I was shocked that he wasn't pursuing me yet. Surely, now that he had given me a head start, he would never be able to catch me.
And I would never have to go back, if I didn't want to.
But what did I want?
I wanted Edward… and I had finally come to terms with that when the realization that I already had him hit me like a ton of bricks. How could I have what I clearly didn't deserve without even knowing about it? And the family that had generously taken me in… they had really been my family all along.
I shouldn't have been running, I knew that much. But now that I had started, I couldn't turn back. I had fled like a self-pitying, weak, undeserving idiot, and in doing so confirmed and justified all of the reasons in which they were surely keeping this from me in the first place.
& now… I could never go back.
I ran through the never ending forest for hours before I realized that, even though he was far behind me, Edward was still following me. He wouldn't catch me now, but he still didn't give up.
It would be better for him if I was just gone, I decided finally. If he never had to look at me again and remember what I didn't, it would be easier.
His life would be better without me there to ruin it.
I ran faster, each footstep resonating within me like the heartbeat I no longer possessed.
Things made so much more sense now… How accepting they all were of me. How Edward had almost called me Isabella Cullen on more than one occasion. How I kept hearing Alice yell at Edward about looking at a book while never really knowing what book it was. It was hard for me to think of Edward as he had been portrayed in the wedding pictures. There he had been smiling and unmistakably overjoyed, but the Edward from the only memories I had was a tortured, sad, beautiful man. I couldn't bear that his agony could only be blamed on me.
Further, deeper I plunged into the forest. I had no idea where I was going, I just knew that each step took me farther away from Edward. I needed space. I needed to be alone with my thoughts before I could truly work through this new information that I had just been submersed in. I crossed several highways, not caring about the traffic. It was not as if I had any reason to fear the traffic… but the traffic did have every reason to fear me.
Edward was far behind me now, but it wouldn't take him very long to catch up to me if I stopped… not that I planned on stopping anytime soon. As I leaped agilely through the tangle and weave of branches, I began to notice something that I had never felt before. With each step that propelled me further and further from the only place I had ever known as home and the man who had been my husband, an ache began to settle in my chest. It was an ache unlike anything I had ever known… yet, it somehow seemed so familiar.
Pushing the ache into the back of my mind, I pressed on, faster, farther into the tree's hoping that the pain would vanish as it had come. It only seemed to worsen, however. I ignored it, thinking instead about what I had learned and what my options were now that I had run.
I couldn't go back, that was for certain. I had fled like a coward and my fear of embarrassment denied me the option of returning. I was too afraid to live on my own. I was unsure of my ability to ignore my thirst in the face of a human. I had yet to experience the overwhelming power of human blood, but I knew that I didn't want to lose my control and kill a human. To fall victim to the allure of human blood would cause me more embarrassment and shame than anything at this point. As I considered the possibility of running into a human out here while I was alone and vulnerable, a new kind of fear claimed a place among the variety of other emotions running rampant inside of me. I began trying to focus on holding my breath as I ran, although focusing on that wasn't so easy when there were plenty of other things that captured my attention at that moment.
A sob ripped from my lips before I could stop it and the verbalization of my emotions tore the pain in my chest wide open. I gasped and wrapped my arms around me as if I was trying to keep myself from splitting apart completely.
It was in that instant that everything changed.
I slowed to a halt, panting, hugging myself tightly and squeezing my eyes shut as the memories burst through the veil of obliviousness.
"You… don't… want me?" I tried out the words, confused by the way they sounded, placed in that order.
"No." He answered unapologetically, meeting my tear-filled eyes with his empty, vacant stare.
Love, life, meaning… over.
Suddenly, an aching built up within me. As I watched him walk away, not turning back to pay my pleading cries any attention. I was rooted to the spot, but I felt half of me being torn away with him. It was as if my body and soul were splitting clean apart. I wrapped my arms around my body, trying to keep myself together as I began stumbling through the forest in the direction he had disappeared.
This ache, now… was my own fault. Each step I took farther away from Edward widened the aching vacancy in my chest and sent new rushed of agony through my body. I left him, now… just as he had left me.
The clock tolled again. Louder this time, as if it was taunting me.
"Edward, No!" I screamed, but my voice was lost in the roar of the chime.
I could see him now. And I could see that he could not see me.
It was really him, no hallucinations this time. Edward stood, motionless as a statue, just a few feet from the mouth of the alley. His eyes were closed , the rings underneath them a deep purple, his arms relaxed at his sides, his palms turned forward. His expression was very peaceful, like he was dreaming pleasant things. The marble skin of his chest was bare-- there was a small pile of white fabric at his feet. The light reflecting from the pavement of the square gleamed dimly from his skin.
I had never seen anything more beautiful -- even as I ran, gasping and screaming, I could appreciate that. And the last seven months meant nothing. And his words in the forest meant nothing. And it did not matter if he did not want me. I would never want anything but him, no matter how long I lived.
The clock tolled again, and he took a large stride toward the light.
"No!" I screamed, "Edward, look at me!"
He wasn't listening. He smiled very slightly. He raised his foot to take the step that would put him directly in the path of the sun.
I slammed into him so hard that the force would have hurled me to the ground if his arms hadn't caught me and held me up. It knocked my breath out of me and snapped my head back.
His dark eyes opened slowly as the clock tolled again. As he looked down at me, dangling limply from his strong hands, I could swear I saw the same light and love in them that I had longed for the last seven months…
He had been exposing himself to the sunlight in order to secure his own death because he thought that I had killed myself because of him.
My eyes were still closed tightly as I felt the warm sunlight creep over my skin. My first exposure to the sunlight since I had been changed.
I lifted his hand, turning it this way and that as I watched the sun glitter on his palm. I held it closer to my face, trying to see the hidden facets in his skin.
He watched me intently out of the corner of his eye, but instead of acknowledging his stare, I sighed and looked up. Pretending to appreciate the beauty of the meadow when really, all I wanted was to look at him again.
I opened my eyes slowly, taking in the same features of the same meadow from the new found memories. Somehow, unintentionally and possibly even instinctually I had run to the meadow. Our meadow.
Without thinking, I looked down at my hand, watching it sparkle in the thin filter of sunlight. I felt a smile tug at the corner of my lips as I closed my eyes again, welcoming in the tide of memories that flooded my head all at once. Visions of Edward danced before my eyes like a fast paced black and white film.
Edward kneeling before me holding out a ring.
Edward gracefully swinging me around with a bulky cast on at prom.
Edward's knuckles… whiter than usual with effort as he squeezed the steering wheel as he asked me to distract him from his violent thoughts as we sped through Port Angelas.
Edward's beautiful, brilliant smile as he whispered "I do."
Edward's tortured face as he examined the bruises plaguing my body after the first night of our honeymoon.
I opened my eyes again, searching for the scar on my wrist. Crescent shaped and more vividly sparkling than any other part of my body.
"I'm ready, Edward. This is all I want for myself now. I have you, and now I just want forever." I whispered, lightly brushing my trembling hand against his face. His own cold hand fluttered up and caught mine, holding it against his cheek and stroking it with his thumb, reveling in the warmth.
"If I hurt you…"
"You wont." I promised, pulling his face closer to place my lips gently on his. "Carlisle will be right there."
"She's right, Edward. It will be fine." Carlisle's voice interrupted my thought process and brought a prominent blush to color my cheeks. I had forgotten he was in the room.
Edwards other hand flew up to my other cheek as he caressed the warm red stain on my cheek with his thumb.
"I'll miss that the most." He whispered, holding my gaze for a final moment before his black eyes closed slowly and he brought his hands down and found my hands.
"I love you, Isabella." He spoke softly as he opened his eyes, mostly gold colored now that he had taken a moment to focus on his control.
"I love you too." I whispered back as he lowered his lips to the vein in my wrist.
I gasped, my hand flying to my mouth in surprise.
And now, when moments ago, escape and fleeing had been my only motive, there was now a burning desire for one thing and one thing only.
Edward's POV (because reuniting is so much better from angsty boy's POV)
I had never run so fast in all of my existence. My last chance for a happily ever after relied on two things. My own legs, and the slim chance that some how, for some reason, Bella would get held up somehow, giving me the chance to catch her.
But even if I did catch her, what could I possibly say to convince her to even speak to me.
I had lied to her. Nothing could change that fact. I should have known better. The only other time I had actually lied to her was when I told her I didn't love her. Had I learned nothing from the terrible way that had turned out… or, almost turned out..
I ran after her for hours, her scent weakening with each step as I fell further and further behind her. Every now and again I would call out to her, knowing that she was likely too far away to hear me by now. I was so focused on following her, and smelling her, that it wasn't until I crossed the one oh one that I noticed where her path would eventually lead if she kept going in this same straight line.
Was it fate that would bring her to the meadow, or just dumb luck? I didn't have long to consider it. As soon as I realized how close I was to the meadow, her scent began to grow stronger and stronger.
She was stopped.
I slowed as I approached the meadow, almost stopping completely as I caught sight of her standing in the center of our meadow, hand outstretched, studying her sparkling, perfect skin with a small smile on her face.
Was it the shock of her skin in the sunlight that had stopped her?
Suddenly, her hand flew to her mouth, a breathy gasp resonating in the surrounding atmosphere as she spun to face me.
Though I was still concealed in the shade of the tree's, I knew she could see me, and I waited for her to react.
I gulped, silently waiting for her to determine our futures. Her next move would decide it all.
I was prepared for a lot of different scenarios, most likely of those being that she would either turn and run, or scream words of hate at me for what I had done.
Nothing could have prepared me for what she did do.
Before I could even consider her motivations, she started running towards me, full speed. In less than a second she was in my arms again, her lips moving hungrily against mine. I froze at first, unsure of how I should react to this sudden change in direction she had taken, but my human instinct and my love for the beautiful creature in my arms got the better of me and I kissed her back.
Her hands pressed into my lower back as she contoured herself against me. When her lips finally left mine, she immediately rested her head on my chest, bringing her arms up around my shoulders embracing me as if there was nothing even slightly out of the normal with the position.
I hugged her back, praying that I wasn't hallucinating.
"I'm sorry that I failed to feed your heroin addiction." She whispered into my chest, tightening her grip around my shoulders as she spoke.
I opened my mouth to wave off her apology before realization hit me like a brick wall, stunning me completely for a moment.
I hadn't told her about our first afternoon at the meadow yet. That was a story I was reserving for when I took her to the meadow… there was no way she would have known about the heroin metaphor unless…
"You… remember?" I tried not to let the hopefulness become too prominent in my speech.
She lifted her head off my chest and met my gaze. Her eyes told me everything I needed to know. The love that had been erased from her eyes the past several weeks was there again as she nodded her head, grinning ear to ear.
My jaw dropped. For the briefest moment I could have sworn I felt my heart jump back to life.
"I'm so sorry, Edward." She started, "I'm so ashamed that I could ever forge-" I cut her off by placing my fingers against her lips.
"None of that matters now." And it truly didn't. All that mattered was that she was in my arms, feeling what I was feeling.
"I love you, Edward." She said with finality, as if she felt that I needed the convincing.
"I love you too, Bella." I whispered into her hair. "Lets go home."
sorry for the delay
that was the last official chapter of the story.. an epilogue is to follow. :D