AN: Now that I am getting the hang of this business, I have some housekeeping to do...

This series is part of a larger novel project, "Evening Star". I have chosen to post in piece parts to facilitate readability and hopefully make reading my story a bit more pleasurable. You can read the whole thing in order on my C2 or just check out my author listings for more.

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I look forward to hearing from you...what kinds of experiences do you think Edward would put on a list...hmmmmm? Take the poll.

And now, on with the show...

Human Experiences

""You know… that before you…are changed, I want you to have every human experience. I don't want you to miss out on a thing, right?"

Bella's heavy sigh indicated she was beyond fighting about this point that Edward made on an increasingly frequent basis. She had surrendered to it, with absolute acceptance, but that didn't mean she could whine about having the same conversation for the 10,000th time. "Yes, yes, Edward…I know how you feel about me missing out…and this is your justification for delaying my changing after the wedding."

Sometimes Edward could be perfectly tedious.

"Really, I thought we had been through all this, Edward?" she said, throwing her self backwards on the bed, her arms splayed out like a cross, to signal she had given up on this particular point. "Can we please talk about something else?"

"Well, good, I am glad you see my reasoning." Edward said matter-of-factly, obviously pleased with himself for being so persuasive and with his beloved for being gracious in defeat. "I think we should make a list…"

His point, a stumbling block on her journey to immortality, was not just another opportunity to assure Edward of her commitment to marrying him and being changed. but more than that, if she agreed to it, even in part, Edward would have to keep his end of the bargain. Her changing would be almost assured. All she had to do was consent to human life experiences. It was a thrilling possibility and easily accomplished if for one complication: the composition of what he meant by 'human experiences' was never quite settled and always seemed to be changing.

"Make a list?" she was confused and irritated. "What I would put on it, Edward? I don't know even understand what you are talking about…!" she raised her voice in frustration. "This is your condition. You tell me—what kind of things should I be worried about missing out on?"

Just what kind of experiences was he so concerned about anyway? I wonder what would be on his list?

"I don't know, Bella," he hissed, "what kinds of things have you always wanted to do and haven't gotten to and you would wish you would have done…as a human?"

Bella raised her eyebrows, batting her eyes with meaning. "Then that's easy…it's a very short list, Edward…there is only one thing that I want to experience as a human…and you are well aware of that, I believe…"

I was not playing along so easily anymore, frustrated by what I perceived to be a game at my expense. He wanted me to have experiences, yet I was supposed to tell him what I would miss out on after I was not human anymore? He would just have to work harder to make me understand this point which was clearly so important to him but made little sense to me.

He grumbled in frustration, his hands in fists pressed firmly against his legs, and I wished that somehow we could get through this very sticky issue that seemed to haunt us.

Bella sighed and sunk into her rocking chair, tired of playing this game, going around and around in circles, trying to figure out what it was that he was so afraid she would regret. "Edward, why can't we just explore the world together? Do our differences really matter that much? I don't think they do."

Edward sat at her feet, his lap resting gently on her knee. She caressed him, running her fingers through his thick hair, admiring the bronze highlights that seemed to be strands of gold and she wondered with awe about the life that she would share along side her beautiful husband. She bent down to kiss him gently when he abruptly interrupted the moment by bouncing up from the floor. He sat on the edge of the bed, still as a stone, guilty of some unknown offense.

"I am sorry darling, did I startle you?" She asked, looking deeply into his eyes for a trace of thirst but his eyes were clear, golden and shining. But his face was not.

"I have a confession to make to you." He looked positively grim, so serious he was about the conversation.

It was more than a little absurd and I had to focus intently not to break into a fit of giggles because he was so completely adorable. All I tried to do was give him a peck on the cheek? What's the big deal? I wanted to tell him so, but I didn't dare intrude on his confession. What could he possibly have to confess?

He continued, "When we first discussed this…condition of mine… my intention was not honorable. It was entirely a delay tactic, of a sort, to delay your decision to me. I grant you that my motivation was purely to assure you did not suffer any regret after your making.

"Yes, I kinda figured that out, darling. That part I understand…the longer the list the greater the chance I would change my mind…or at least I could have experienced more of the human world before I gave it up." The sing song nature of the sentiment was partially a product of the tedious nature of the discussion. This was not new. It was getting old.

I wanted to say…in exchange for human experiences I would be able to explore a brand NEW world with YOU, but I censored myself.

His grief seemed to grow more dark as the confession continued, "Although my original motivation was purely for you, well, in your best interest, I realize now it simultaneously was a self serving argument, one based on my own interests and in making it a condition of your changing, I have not been entirely ethical." He hung his head and would not match my gaze.

"I still don't get it…I'm sorry, I don't, darling. What is wrong?" Kneeling now, trying to peek in his eyes, holding his head in her tiny hand she wondered if she would ever dissuade him from the depth of his masochism that he seemed so intent on punishing himself.

"How can it be selfish of him to desire I have more human experiences?...unethical?" I thought.

Edward's old fashioned and round-about language perplexed her. But since he slides into it less frequently now, it usually is a sign of something emotionally or socially taxing for him for it is only when he struggles with some point of social interaction. She understood it and it was quite endearing, if confounding. A throw-back to a long ago age, to a time when he was a young man and certain topics were not discussed with ladies. But acknowledging it and understanding it are two different things.

"I am sorry, darling, but I just don't understand what you mean, Edward." My face was pursed like a squeezed lemon with trying to concentrate, believing that if I could only focus on the exact words he used, I might be able to discern what he meant from what he said. "Can you tell me a little more to help me understand how can it be that you be selfish for wanting to share the excitement of my experiences?"

His frustration bordered now on indignation, not with my lack of comprehension but stemming from his inability to communicate this idea tormented him. He simply could not find the words to say it with the delicacy he desired. He brushed me side gently as he rose and looked painfully out the window.

"Just spit it out, darling. You'll feel better and so will I. I want to understand, really I do and I won't be insulted or anything, ok? I promise, I won't, no matter what. Just say it. " Her brown eyes begging for help from him could not be denied. A heavy sigh escaped his lips as if the secret burdened by some great weighty sentiment. Whatever it was that made him feel selfish it was doing a very good job of it.

Finally giving in to his frustration, he growled to himself, and plunged into the darkness of this realization that exasperated him. "Maybe it is I who wants more human experiences—for me, of course they would be with you, but I want them more for me...than for your benefit" Bella silently smoothed his hair, wishing she could so easily lift his spirit. "…so I can try to remember.." She was stunned by this admission.

"My demand was selfish," he was very upset with himself, pursing his lips tightly together, grinding his teeth as his tense fists pressed deeply into his thighs. "It is the very definition of selfish, and I am ashamed. I wanted human more experiences for myself and the only way I can have them is to live vicariously through your experiences—my demand was more to fill in for my own regrets rather than to prevent future regret for you. And making it a condition of your changing, well, I manipulated you, I orchestrated the situation entirely for my own benefit. I am more than embarrassed. I am mortified at my deceit; even if it was unconscious…and I am afraid; how can you ever forgive me?"

If he could have blushed, his face would have been flushed beet red. If he had tears, we would have drown. I could see his body react with shame and he averted his gaze from me, which he rarely ever did anymore. I was not surprised that I felt no malice for his manipulation, I only felt sympathy for his conflict, his upsetting self discovery, and the difficulty he had expressing himself. I wanted more than anything to understand and now that I did, I felt genuinely sorry for his predicament.

"Okay, I guess it is simply this…" he began with a tremble threatening the silken nature of his voice, finally understanding himself the intricate elements of his predicament. "…every human experience you have is vicariously an experience for me. I get to be just that little bit more, well, human. I get to imagine or maybe even remember what it would be like to experience things… and to be a little closer to the man I would be if I could be with you when I see you experience something new, when your heart races, and you tremble with excitement or when you cry from joy and wonder…"

I understood perfectly now. He had missed out on so much being made so early. It was his human life he grieved, not the potential experiences that I would relinquish when I was changed, and he didn't want me to feel as he did, only worse, having chosen to release my claim on all things human just to be with him. I held him close, my head resting on his back, my arms wrapped around his waist. I could not take his shame or pain from him, but I could try to sympathize.

"When it dawned on me that perhaps my insistence on this absurd condition to your making was perhaps more about me than you, and that was the definition of selfishness, and I regret that I didn't realize my that until now…and I hope you will forgive me." He turned to face me, holding my shoulders in his hands so gently, afraid of touching me, afraid of my reaction. So totally engrossing was his shame that his beautiful topaz eyes lost their shine.

"My darling, Edward," I said, wrapping my arms around his neck, kissing him gingerly as if I could sooth his soul's burden with kisses. "You forget one vital fact," I was very confident I would relieve his pain with my honest feelings about this revelation, if I could only get his attention. I pulled him over to the foot of my bed, sliding into his clenched arms to sit in his lap. When he settled down, feeling my calm breath, perhaps he relaxed in the hope that I would not be angry with him.

"I am sorry that you have upset yourself, Edward. I can only imagine how this must hurt you. But I want you to know that what you did…what you think you did…doesn't hurt me. Not at all." He lifted his head incredulously, "You can't mean that, Bella. What I did was unconscionable."

"Oh Edward," I sighed, brushing his hair back, wishing it could soothe his soul. "We humans are very selfish creatures, Edward…" her voice was low and soothing, cooing like Esme, she hoped to allay his fears, like a nurturing mother would reassure her child.

"…and I think by choosing to mold your desire to look like it was something you wanted for me…which some might be seen as manipulation…in this instance, I believe you have shown yourself to be very, very human, indeed." I think I stuck a chord of truth in him with my simple assessment of our complicated conversation.

He stared, unmoving.

"You found a way to get what you need and masked it as something you wanted for me. So what? Do you expect me to hold it against you that you had a human moment?"

I smiled at him widely and embraced him first with my wide eyes and then with my entire being. "I love you, you know…no matter what…good, bad, and most especially…when you dare to be human."

His eyes darted back and forth trying to process what I had said. After a few moments, he spoke, his voice quiet and low as he gingerly navigated this his deepest pain only newly revealed to himself. "I was very young when I was made, so very young, you see…and although I have seen much of the world since then, I would very much like to share your very human reactions. It is a way for me to be… inside of you, be with you…and maybe to be the man that I could have been…."

Tears welled in my eyes, swelling to the brim of my lid, but not daring to fall. This was not my sadness, but an expression of my love for the beautiful man that I adored. "I really do understand now, Edward, and I thank you for working so hard for me to understand." I said with a clarity that was immediate and genuine. "but" there was a second of hesitance, not knowing how he would react, "…don't you see, …this is exactly why I can't wait to join you, to be in your world as soon as possible and in every way imaginable, so that I can be with you, inside of your world in the most intimate way, every day…"

His grief quickly dissipated, not entirely, of course, I know Edward well enough to know that he would carry the remnants of his misplaced shame for eternity, however, he was released enough, reassured enough by my reaction to proceed with his quest. "So, that's why I think we should make a list of all the human dreams we want to share now…do you understand me clearly? I know what I did was wrong, and I know you know that I am sorry and I am not making a delay. I have surrendered to your claim to have me change you so that we can be together in eternity. I still have my issues with that but I am resigned to it, if not entirely convinced it is the best thing for you." his promise was genuine, honorable, and entirely adorable.

I nuzzled into his chest, purring,"So, ….ummmm, Big Boy," I said as seductively as any klutzy virgin human can muster, "what kind of human experiences are you interested in…?" He laughed at my pathetic attempt at Mae West bawdiness, "Oh yes, we will no doubt get to that, my love, but I was thinking more along the lines of

"Lobster with butter and champagne…"

"roller coasters, deep sea diving, white water rafting,

His list continued unabated, not even giving me the chance to comment. "Machu Pichu? Cape Hope? The Orient Express? Tour Eifel? Big Ben? Red Rocks? The Valley of the Kings?

Finally, he paused long enough for me to interject. "Are you insane? You and me…in Egypt? In July?" I pounced on him and we fell backwards onto my little bed, and I kissed him deeper than I expect he would allow. "I can't wait, Edward, to make your list come true!" I said, meaning every work.

I was aghast with the idea of the riot that would erupt when Edward began sparkling at the top of the Sphinx, but it actually was on my short list…