"You… don't… want me?" She spoke each word slowly, confusion plaguing her innocent and beautiful features.

"No."

That one word would be my downfall. That single lie, the cause of my one life motivation - shattered. That solitary syllable, the end of my world.

And it was all my own fault.

Nothing could have been farther from the truth, and nothing could have been more painful. I knew that unless I made it convincing, she would never believe me… I knew that when my voice cracked, and I turned to look away and hide my pain… she would see through my façade and know the truth immediately.

I was wrong.

I had never seen Bella more hurt than in that moment. I turned to look away, trying to ignore her cries resonating behind me. As soon as I was out of her eye-sight, I bolted. I ran full out, not going anywhere in particular. I ran until I collapsed, tearless sobs wracking my body as I curled into a ball on the forest floor.

She had believed me. After all that we had been through, and the countless times I had told her that I loved her and that she was the only thing that was important to me… she believed that I could let it all go just like that.

Minutes passed as I lay on the ground in my own personal hell, fighting with the urge to go back to her… to end her pain and confusion.

I couldn't. I had sealed my own fate and now I was destined to live a life vacant of the love and adoration that had been my lifeless pulse for the past year and a half.

She would move on, I was almost certain of it. Even if she didn't realize it now, soon she would come to see that my absence was best for her. She was better off without me. She would grow up, marry some lucky man. All I could wish for now was that she was happy and that the man she chose was fully aware of how lucky he was to have her.

"I'm so sorry, Bella. I'm so… so sorry.." I mumbled into the dirt, clenching and unclenching my fists in an effort to contain my misery.

Strong hands offered themselves up out of nowhere, pulling me easily to my feet. I collapsed against Carlisle's shoulder in a rare display of adolescent affection. I rarely admitted to needing help, and I certainly never allowed Carlisle to behave like the father figure he was. I had never found it right to depend on him in that way when he had clearly done so much for me already… but I needed him now. I needed someone now, and although I may not have admitted it aloud, Carlisle knew me enough to the point where verbalization was unnecessary. He locked his arms around my upper back and supported my weight as fought to stay standing through the quaking of my body.

"I know, son. I know." He whispered, clapping me lightly on the back in encouragement.

He didn't know, though. Nobody knew… and no one ever would.

Years had passed since I had left Bella. I had forbid Alice from checking on her future, and I forbid the rest of the family from any form of contact at all.

"It will be like I never existed." I had said.

I had moved to Anchorage, Alaska with the family after we left Forks, but they were all shouldering different calibers of hatred and disappointment towards me for making them move when they were all perfectly happy there. It grew tiring having to listen to their thoughts every day.

"He should have just changed her."

"Poor Bella, she never deserved that."

"Edward's such a moron."

Eventually, I left. I couldn't listen to the accusations anymore, especially knowing that they were all accurate and rightly deserved on my part. I said goodbye to Carlisle and I caught a plane out of the United States. I flew from Northeast Asia, to Germany, to Switzerland… never finding what I was seeking. I stayed for about a month in the Swiss Alps… but soon tired of the overbearing and endless population of mountain goats. I hiked through some mountain ranges in Canada, meeting several new nomadic vampires along the way, but I never stayed long enough to make a relationship with any of them.

Almost a year later, I returned to Forks.

I couldn't let go of Bella until I knew that she had moved on. I sat outside of her home as I always had, waiting for her light to go off and her breathing to steady before I climbed the tree next to her window.

She was immaculate… so much more beautiful than I ever remembered her. In the year I had been away, she had matured incredibly. I wanted so badly to be able to touch her… to just brush my fingertips along the gorgeous blush of her cheeks one last time. To lay my head on her chest and listen to her heart beat accelerate at my touch.

I resisted.

I waited, watching her for hours. All I needed was for her to speak my name once, and I would know that she hadn't moved on. I would leap through the closed window and take her in my arms and…

The window was closed.

She had moved on.

If she still thought there was any chance that she would be with me, the window would have been open… waiting for me to enter through it.

It wasn't open, though. It was closed.

Why did it hurt so bad? This was what I had wanted. I wanted her to move on… to forget about me. Why, now that she had done what I asked her to, was it such a blow?

I left Forks, then, vowing to never return. Not knowing was better than knowing… my recent experience had taught me that.

The only place left for me was with my family, then.

I was welcomed warmly, no questions asked, but it was clear that I was a changed man. A year of endless wandering… alone with my thoughts, all peaked with the painful visit to Bella's window. I was bordering on derangement at the time, and they all suspected it. All I had thought about in my absence was Bella, and all I thought about now was Bella. I doubted that any event, or any amount of time in the world could change that.

All I did then was mope. I stayed confined to my room for the most part of every day, and I left the house at night when the rest of the family were paired off for their evening activities. Before, I didn't mind being subjected to their sexual thoughts. I tuned them out and ignored them… knowing that one day I would be with Bella and the jealousy would no longer have a place in my life.

I didn't have Bella, now. And I knew I never would.

I left at night, hunting until the early hours of morning when my brothers and sisters would depart to play their part at the local High School. My absence had excused me from being enrolled this year, a fact that I was genuinely appreciative of.

One thing High Schools were infamous for was the budding young relationships. You could barely look anywhere without seeing naïve human teenagers holding hands and thinking their horny and immature thoughts at one another. Now, especially, that was not the place for me.

Carlisle was working, of course, as a doctor at the local hospital. He was barely ever home because of it, and when he did return home it was to play along with the human charade and pretend to need some rest. It baffled humans to see a doctor as attractive as Carlisle get less than 5 hours of sleep a day and still look perfect. The only dark circles that ever appeared under his eyes were due to lack of hunting, not lack of sleep, and as a doctor, he couldn't afford to go without hunting.

Esme was also taking classes during the day at the local college. She was confident in her control around human blood enough now, and she was talking about becoming a nurse.

My insight had shown that her sudden interest in becoming a nurse was just to spend more time with Carlisle, but I never told anyone. She was confident that she could do this, and nobody was going to stop her.

Even though I was alone for the majority of each day, I stayed confined to my room. I read books and wrote in a journal and listened to music at first, but every song and book had a memory linked to Bella… and the only words I could ever write about centered entirely around my longing for Isabella's companionship. Eventually, I gave up on all activity and began sitting still, staring out the window, or playing the piano for hours at a time.

Suicidal thoughts were always present, but I never allowed myself to dwell on them. I had hurt enough people in my lifetime, and I wasn't about to cause this family any more harm than what I was already.

I had also considered joining the Volturi - the ruling family of vampires in which took a special interest in vampires with interesting abilities, but I never acted on that impulse either.

I was a pitiful shell of a soulless being who had nothing left for him but solitude and misery, and I had accepted that. The family never spoke of Bella for my sake, and I hadn't heard any thought of her around me for months, therefore giving no one any incentive to hide their thoughts from me… until today.

It was always obvious to me when someone was trying to shield their thoughts from me. I would always get tiny glimpses of what they were actually thinking in jumbled and confusing fragments that made no sense when put together.

Today, Carlisle was clearly hiding something from me.

I heard him enter the house after working all night long. I heard him ascend the staircase and then his thoughts invaded my mind suddenly, without me even being able to control it.

Can't tell Edward… as soon as I smelled… what happened to… this is terrible…

"Carlisle!" I leaped to my feet and wrenched open the door, freezing Carlisle in his tracks, his eyes wide as he looked at me. "What is it you're not telling me?"