I don't own Twilight. all Stephenie Meyer.
They Grow up So Fast
After that day, Rosalie and I found that we had come to an understanding. Her feelings toward Bella had not changed, but she was finally able to put it aside enough to be around us. She was jealous of Bella's humanity, the freedoms that it afforded her, and that was something that she would have to deal with.
My desire was to do what was best for Bella and after Rosalie's breakdown, I knew that getting her away from us was just that. But, I was essentially selfish and couldn't find the strength to pursue such thoughts.
The hole that it left in me was too much to bear.
So, with time, I slowly blocked it out and spent my time focusing on each new life we started and school we enrolled in when enough time had passed, keeping my eyes focused on the good things that we had.
Watching Bella grow was fascinating to us all. It had been years since any of us had been able to witness such a process, and our heightened senses made it even more incredible to watch.
I was sure that she grew impatient with me, constantly marveling at the growth of her hair, the change in her features as they broadened and matured. She was breathtaking and witnessing the buildup to how she would eventually look as a young woman was enough to occupy my interests for another hundred years, and with the way time passed for us it very well could have been that long and I wouldn't have noticed.
Each new move required some forethought from Carlisle on what to tell Bella since we still hadn't told her about what we were. I feared her reaction as she reached an age where she could fully understand our explanation, that she would leave the moment the words left our lips and we'd never hear from her again.
The reasonable part of me knew that it would be for the best and that if it did happen that way, I would be able to let her go. It was what was best for her in the end. But, until that time came, I couldn't bring myself to do so.
Jasper and Emmett couldn't understand my fascination with Bella, and took every opportunity that they could to joke about it, but thankfully never pushed me on the issue. She seemed to be the missing link that our family needed, shaking up the monotony that our lives had become.
Our most recent move had been to London, the home of Carlisle's youth. We were all pleased to return, enjoying the peaceful atmosphere the countryside provided. Bella loved being in country that most of her favorite books had taken place in, but was having a difficult time adjusting to her new stage in life.
Adolescence was a time that we had all been through, but forgotten since the change. I could vaguely remember certain feelings, but there were very few of my human memories that had stayed with me.
I tried my best to comfort her when I could, but there were some things that only a mother could handle and she turned to Esme more and more. Though I could feel our relationship shifting and changing, I could never begrudge her the security she felt with her adopted mother or even Alice.
Her happiness and safety were the most important things to me.
When we had a three-day weekend from school, I decided to do something special with Bella and asked her if she had any plans. It amused me greatly that she worried our parents wouldn't let us go. So, making sure to keep it a surprise, I made a show of asking Carlisle and Esme if we could take a trip that Friday. She couldn't hide her shock when they agreed, only requesting that we be home in time for dinner.
I had already purchased our train tickets to Paris and the tickets we would need to tour The Louvre, excited at the chance to show her more of the city and art she had only read about.
So, the morning of our little outing, Bella came sleepily down the stairs. Her cheeks were warm and flushed, the scent of her blood just a little bit stronger because of that, and she nervously chewed on her lip. The clothes that she had on were not what she usually wore and I knew that it must have been Alice's doing.
Esme softly assured Bella that she looked perfect and kissed the top of her head, the smile on her face increasing. They went into the kitchen to find her something for breakfast, Bella's anxiety slowly disappearing.
You know that she has a little crush on you. Emmett thought, smugly. He was in the living room, flipping through the stations on the television.
I glanced down the hall, watching her interaction with Esme and Carlisle as she daintily ate her breakfast. "You're wrong, Em. She couldn't possibly."
He arched an eyebrow at me, barely looking up from the screen to acknowledge that I had spoken. Oh really? Haven't you noticed how shy she behaves around you? The blushing, the increase in her heartbeat, the fidgeting. She's got it bad. He chuckled.
A low growl rumbled in my chest. "Don't speak about her that way. She is a child, but she has more sense than that," I warned.
Emmett held up his hands in surrender, shaking his head at me. I'm only stating the obvious. Maybe you're not as observant or attuned to her as you think you are.
I opened my mouth to retaliate, ready to rip him limb from limb, when I was interrupted by Jasper.
He sent a wave of emotion through me that nearly knocked me to my knees. It was subtle and sweet, a selfless love that was unlike anything I had experienced in all of my years. That's what I've felt from her from the beginning. The connection that the two of you have is remarkable. I've never seen anything like it.
Even though I was capable of thinking of many things at once, my mind seemed incapable of taking in what they had just shared with me. The only thing that I could surmise before she finished eating and came into the room was that, somehow, they were mistaken.
She was my little human, the small child that had helped me feel human again. The idea of her truly loving a monster like me was ludicrous and impossible. Not her.
Ignoring their continued questions in my head and the pointed stares they gave me, I asked Bella if she was ready to go and then led her out to the car.
~~β~~ ~~β~~ ~~β~~
Our trip to Paris was spent in silence, Bella staring out of the window and watching the scenery pass by. She relaxed when we got to the station and I told her where we were headed.
The entire morning, it felt as though everyone was preparing us for a date. Even though they knew I could not view Bella that way, and refused to consider making her one of us, I couldn't shake the feeling that they were all in on something. It was as though they were trying to open my eyes, to open her eyes, to what was right in front of us.
I shook my head, ridding my mind of those thoughts, and chuckled at the notion.
"What?" Bella's gentle voice broke through my thoughts. Her brown eyes were wide and expressive, watching me with curiosity. She had never been good at keeping her emotions hidden, but that was what I loved about her. She was so open and honest, so innocent.
"There is one place that I want to take you when we arrive, but," I couldn't help smirking at the way her eyes lit up, "since we will have a little time before we need to be there, why don't you choose are first destination?"
Her mouth opened and closed a couple of times, obviously shocked by the suggestion. "Me? I've never been… I wouldn't know where to go."
"Bella," I kept my voice low and soothing in an attempt to relax her. "Do you trust me?"
She nodded her head slowly.
"You don't have to pick a tourist location or a trendy restaurant. We can find a map at the station and just pick one location that sounds interesting to you." I watched her expression as I spoke, worry and fear passing over her features.
Neither of us spoke for a while, I wanted to let my words sink in and give her time to adjust to the idea. Her little hands sat in tight fists on her lap, her entire body rigid and tense as she thought over my suggestion. When she was finally ready to speak, I watched as her body slowly loosened from the rigidity it had been in previously.
Even though her voice was barely above a whisper, I could hear her as clearly as though she was speaking at a normal decibel. "Are you sure?"
"Yes, little one." I used my favorite term of endearment for her and grinned at pleasure dancing across her warm eyes. "It will be fun."
There was another moments silence before she finally whispered, "Okay."
I gave a nod of acknowledgement that I heard her and went back to staring out the window as she had. My little human, she was a mystery to me and yet I could read her like an open book. What she was feeling at that moment was always clearly written across her face, but what she was thinking was not as visible to figure out.
Something told me that I could spend an entire lifetime trying to figure out the way her mind works and never come close. But, I was willing to take that chance.
When the train finally pulled to a stop, I glanced over at Bella and saw her eyes alight with mischievousness. I let her lead us out of the car and to the front of the station, following behind with my hand resting on her back. Her body trembled with excitement and her legs bounced every few steps.
I held back my laughter as she took in the sights around her, experiencing France for the first time. She looked all around the station, taking in the architecture and people that filled the building, and nearly tripped over an errant suitcase. Before she could injure herself, I reached my arms out and pulled her body close.
"Please watch where you are going, Bella. I may find your clumsiness amusing, but I highly doubt the Parisians will agree with me," I teased. The delicate shade of pink that colored her cheeks at my words caused the scent of her blood to flood my nostrils. I closed my eyes, ignoring the flames that had erupted in my throat and fighting back the natural instinct to feed. It was in those moments that I found resisting the siren call her blood was to me more difficult than normal.
Releasing my hold on her, Bella stepped back from me. She kept her eyes on mine for a few more minutes before finally making her way outside. I listened for her heartbeat as she left my side, slightly muffled by the glass doors.
She practiced her French, shyly asking vendor how much one of his maps cost.
I quietly stood where I was, giving Bella the time she needed to look over the map she had paid for and decide where she wanted us to go. Helping her to find confidence in herself was oddly satisfying.
After a few minutes had passed, I made my way outside and smiled when I saw her sitting on a bench, twirling a lock of hair around her finger and chewing on the corner of her lip. She jumped when I sat down next to her, reaching her hand to her mouth and gasping in shock.
"How do you always do that?" she groaned.
"What?" I asked nonchalantly.
"Appear out of nowhere. You do it all the time," she said with a huff of annoyance. "Everyone does for that matter, even Mom and Dad sometimes, as well."
"It's not my fault that you are unobservant, little one." I grinned, feeling my mouth form into a crooked smile.
Her returning glare could be seen as anything but angry and I did my best to fight back the shuddering laughter that wanted to come out. She reminded me of a furry little woodland creature that humans seemed to fawn over; adorable and innocent and unable to truly frighten someone when ready to attack or defend.
When I was sure that her anger had abated, I pointed to the map that was resting on her lap. "Have you decided where you would like us to go before it's time for my surprise?"
She quickly nodded her head and pointed to a spot that was a few blocks from the Louvre. "It's a music store and across the street there's a small café that we can stop at, too. You don't really have any French music, so I thought it might be fun to pick some out. Maybe get something for Mom and Dad."
"That sounds perfect," I assured her. "I knew that you would do just fine." I kissed the top of her head.
"Come on then." She rose to her feet and held her small hand out to me. "We wouldn't want to waste the day away, now would we?"
I couldn't help laughing at that, my head falling back and my body quaking in amusement. "No wouldn't want that." Standing to my feet, I put my arm around her shoulders. "Let's get going then."
~~β~~ ~~β~~ ~~β~~
Our day was going smoothly, just as I had hoped. We stopped at the café and Bella got a hot chocolate to-go, drinking it as we wandered through the music store. Her eyes would grow wide when she recognized some of our favorite classical musicians and a catch in her heartbeat let me know that she found an album that she particularly liked.
I made notes of the ones that specifically caught her attention and planned to purchase them when we finished at the museum.
If I thought that she had been ecstatic when we first arrived in Paris, it was nothing compared to her realization that we were going to spend the day in that establishment. She squealed and giggled, wrapping her arms tightly around my neck as she jumped up and down.
We explored a few exhibits, Bella reading about each piece we looked at, her inquisitive and observant nature a marvel to see.
Eventually, I asked Bella to pick out her favorite piece that we had seen so far.
She stood, thoughtful, before turning and making her way through the halls and people that we had passed earlier. After walking for about five minutes, we came to a stop in front of a painting by Ary Scheffer. It was one that I knew well, depicting a scene from The Divine Comedy; a peculiar choice for Bella to make.
"This is your choice?" I asked her softly.
"Yes," she answered succinctly, nodding her head. "Shades of Francesca da Rimini and Paolo Malatesta appear to Dante and Virgil," she spoke softly, translating the title from the plaque. Her eyes remained focused on the painting in front of her, moving back and forth over the images and colors.
I stood next to Bella, looking over the painting as well, giving her a few moments to study it before asking her questions. "Tell me about it?"
She bit her lip in concentration, raising her hand up to motion at the picture. "The background and the two men near the back are dark, almost blending into the rest. Francesca and Paolo are brighter, more the focal point."
"What is it about this that appeals to you?" I asked her, genuinely curious.
"They are obviously in love, she's holding onto him and he has an arm draped over her, but yet they are hurting and torn apart. He has his other arm wrapped in the sheet they're lying in and is pressing it to his forehead," she explained. "They want each other, need each other, but can't be together."
"Do you know the story behind this?" I asked her, watching as she shook her head and lifted her eyes to mine. "It's from Dante's work. Francesca was married to his brother, Giovanni. When Giovanni witnessed the lovers together, he killed them with his sword. See the cuts the artist put on each of them?"
Her attention was quickly brought back to the painting. She narrowed her eyes as she scanned it and then began nodding her head when she found it. "Yeah, his is across the top of his chest and hers on the back of her shoulder, as though she was in front of him or something when it happened."
Even though I found her attention to detail and her observance quite impressive, it worried me that perhaps she was far too observant for her own good. For a child so young, she saw things that most her age couldn't understand. Her analysis of the painting frightened me at how accurately she proclaimed it.
"They are star-crossed. He loves her, but is fighting it," she murmured. "He doesn't want to cause her pain or lose her. She is wholeheartedly his."
My entire body froze at those words and I knew instantly that Emmett and Jasper had been correct this morning. From the slight quickening of her pulse and the darting glances she made to me, I had no doubt that she was trying to gauge my reaction.
How could I possibly respond to that? Up until just a few minutes before I had been absolutely certain that the prospect of her having feelings for me in any way was completely ridiculous.
A thousand different scenarios played through my mind, each one reminding me that no matter what I did, Bella would end up hurt.
"Why are they there, though?" Bella pointed to the two men in the back corner of the painting, observing the scene between Francesca and Paolo, her voice breaking me from my thoughts.
I tried my best to pull myself together, not wanting to alarm her as to my mood. "They are all dead. Both Francesca and Paolo have been reunited and in the background, Dante and Virgil are watching the results."
Bella turned her gaze to me then, her brown eyes wide and innocent, unspoken questions ready to be asked. She didn't say another word, looking over the piece of art in front of her after discussing our observations.
This was wrong.
She was my little human.
The small child I found alone in the snow.
She was fragile and innocent and deserved more than this life.
My selfishness at not wanting to give up the fascinating creature was now coming to light. I couldn't let this continue.
What I needed to do would not be easy, but I had to at least try. For her sake.
~~β~~ ~~β~~ ~~β~~
Our journey back to London was quiet, Bella sleeping in the car as I drove us home from the train station. I kept waiting for Alice's thoughts to invade mine, for her to insist that I was being selfish and cruel, but nothing came. She was eerily silent.
There was no doubt that she had seen a vision of what I had planned to do and the resulting consequences, but she never said a word.
Before we left Paris, I stopped at the music store and purchased the albums I knew that she wanted. If our time together wasn't going to end on a good note, I at least wanted to leave her with some good memories.
No one spoke when we arrived home and I was grateful.
I needed time to come to terms with what I was going to do.
Esme carried Bella's sleeping form up to bed, taking the shopping bags as well.
The rest of the family seemed to be gathered in the family room, aimlessly perched on different pieces of furniture and not really watching the television. I sat on the couch beside Carlisle and allowed my mind to wander, playing over the different scenarios of how exactly to tell Bella what we were.
It was time.
We fought our natural instincts, fought the call that blood had for us so that we wouldn't be monsters. Every day was a struggle, but became easier with time. This wasn't what any of us would have chosen, but we tried to make the best of it.
How could I possibly explain that to Bella, though? She was just a child, young and innocent, and this was a difficult thing to believe, let alone understand. Her natural instincts would tell her to get as far from us as possible, to leave and never look back. Though it would hurt, I would do anything to help her, to make sure that she was safe.
The very thought that she would look at me with unfathomable disgust once she realized exactly what I was and the things that I had done was almost too much to bear. My chest ached and my throat burst into flames.
Would you like us to talk to her with you? It might make things a bit easier for the both of you. Carlisle offered. An image flashed across his mind of he and Esme comforting Bella if the conversation became too much for her.
I shook my head minutely, but I knew that he saw the motion. Having them there would only make having to tell her more difficult.
No, this had to be just us. I owed her that much.
So I sat with my family through the evening while Bella slept soundlessly upstairs, the soft thump of her heartbeat the only thing keeping me calm. I would miss that sound and her wonderful scent, though it had been agonizing at first, I couldn't imagine living without it.
Jasper sent a wave calming emotions through me as the sun began to lighten the sky, the morning hour creeping forward at slow pace. I gave him a nod of thanks, thankful for the few moments of peace.
It wasn't until mid-morning that I was finally able to pull Bella aside to speak with her. She had come down the stairs yawning and rubbing her eyes, while still groggy, ate a bowl of cereal. She then sleepily curled up on one of the couches with Esme and Alice to watch the TV as she woke up.
Once she had changed her clothes and seemed to be more fully awake, I asked her if she would like to take a walk with me. Bella agreed and we left through the back door of the house, walking toward a small wooded area. The path we walked down was cobblestone and lead to a beautiful bridge that crossed over a river.
I moved at a slower, human pace for Bella, keeping an eye on her in case she found the one unsecure part of the bridge to trip over. She stopped when we made it about halfway down, leaning over the top and looking out at the scenery.
The smile that lit up her face was warm and gentle, the glow from the sun lighting up her features as she gazed out at water.
"Do you remember the day that we found each other?" I asked, keeping my eyes focused in front of me, but maintaining my focus on her physical reaction to my question.
She shrugged her shoulders. "Not very much. I remember being very cold and crying, my birth parents wouldn't wake up and I couldn't understand why." A breeze picked up, blowing Bella's hair slightly around her face. "Then I remember you bringing me someplace warm, keeping me safe."
I nodded my head in response, listening to the movement of the animals around us in the woods, birds, squirrels, even deer further off into the distance. The thrumming of the pulses was continuous as they went about their day, searching for water and sustenance.
"What do you remember about our family, when you were first with us?"
Bella's body tensed at that question, her pulse quickening and her muscles tightening. "Just that I felt at home when I was with all of you. Rosalie frightened me, but then again, she still does." She turned her attention to me. "Why are you asking me about that time?" Her question was simple, but laced with fear. Her voice trembled as she spoke.
I wasn't certain how to respond to her question, so I remained quiet.
"You-you're not thinking of getting rid of me, are you? Mom and Dad don't want me anymore?"
"Absolutely not, Bella. That couldn't be the farthest thing from the truth." How could she possibly think such a thing? Carlisle and Esme loved her as though she were their very own.
"Then why are you being so cryptic, Edward. Asking me strange questions and being so distant. I don't understand what's going on?" Again, her voice trembled and her heart skipped a beat, fear trembling its way through her petite frame.
Groaning inwardly, I tried to figure out a different way to go about this. Upsetting her wasn't going to make getting through this any easier. When I chanced a glance in her direction and saw tears spilling down her cheeks, I pulled her into my arms and held her against my chest.
My poor little human. She was still so young and didn't understand.
When her breathing began to slow down and her heart steadied, I spoke again.
"No one is going to send you away, little one," I assured her. "I was asking those questions… because there are some things about us that you don't know and I believe that is time that you do." Releasing her from my grasp, I stepped back from her and leaned against the railing of the bridge again.
Bella chewed on her bottom lip, considering what I had said before she spoke. "What don't I know? You are my family. You've sheltered and clothed me when my parents no longer could. What more do I need to know?"
"That is exactly why I need to tell you this, Isabella. There is too much that you just don't understand." I found my temper rising as I spoke, frustrated at the naivety of her statement. Perhaps humans were smart to maintain that ignorance was bliss, it had obviously kept my little human happy. But, I couldn't allow that to continue with a good conscience when it put her at risk.
"What is it? You aren't responsible for the death of my birth parents, are you?"
I shook my head, narrowing my eyes at her to show my annoyance.
"Then nothing else matters, Edward. I don't care."
"How can say that," I growled. "How can you possibly think that? When you have absolutely no idea what we are. What we are capable of, Bella." I fought to hold myself back, to keep the anger I felt rising out of the equation. "I have been so selfish, wanting to keep you for myself. I've stolen what normalcy you could have had by wanting you with me, with this family."
"You saved me. If you hadn't found me I would probably be dead," she whispered, flinching back from my outburst.
Pinching the bridge of my nose, I let out a long, slow breath. This was not going well, I needed to just say it; otherwise, I never would. "Haven't you noticed that we are not like other people? Our bodies are harder, almost stone like, and when have you ever seen us eat or sleep? Think about it, Bella. I am not human."
She shook her head, trying to understand what I had just said. "What do you mean?"
"The day that I found you, it wasn't by luck. I had been out hunting when I smelled your blood. It was unlike anything I had ever encountered in my existence."
Her silence about drove me mad. I wanted to be able to read her thoughts and understand what was going through her head.
"We are all vampires, except for you, of course," I finally continued. "At our very core we are monsters, vile creatures. Blood satiates us and we have all killed for it. I'm sorry to have brought you into this, little one."
"And my blood?" She finally managed to ask. "What did you mean when you mentioned the scent of my blood?"
"Your blood is the most enticing scent I have ever come across. Nothing else has compared to it." Closing my eyes again, I did my best to push back the images and longing of finally tasting it. Hurting her, killing her, was not an option. "It's taken all of my self-control not drink it."
Gentle fingers reached out and touched my forearm and I flinched.
How could she possibly want to touch me after everything I had just told her?
This was all too much.
"It's alright, Edward. Everything is going to be just fine," she cautiously tried to reassure me.
Opening my eyes and lifting my gaze to hers, I glared. "You can't know that, little one. Your life is in danger just being in close proximity to me."
She tucked her small frame up against mine, hugging me probably as tightly as her fragile human body would allow. "If you, or any of the others were going to hurt me, you would have done so a long time ago, Edward. I trust you, completely."
Her reaction… I couldn't understand it. This was not how she was supposed to respond. If she wasn't going to walk away from me, then I would have to do it myself. Even though it would probably kill me to live her behind, I would do it just keep her safe.
Neither of us spoke after that. I allowed Bella to stay in my embrace, reveling in her pure scent and memorizing her so that when I was gone, she would still be with me.
When I eventually heard Alice's thoughts in my head, I knew that it was time. "It's time to head home. I'm sure that Carlisle and Esme would like to speak with you about what you learned today," I told her, moving away from Bella so that we were no longer touching.
Momentary hurt flashed across her eyes when I let go of her, but she seemed to resolve herself to understanding, and began walking toward the house. She turned back to me when I made no move to follow her.
"I'll be right behind you, little one," I promised.
She nodded, a small smile spreading across her lips before she turned to leave.
I listened as she walked, holding myself back each time that she tripped. When I was certain that she had returned safely and was speaking with Esme, I pulled a cell phone from the pocket of my slacks and pressed one of the speed dial buttons. It ran twice before the person on the other line eventually answered.
"Good afternoon, Maggie. I was wondering if I could ask a favor of you?"
A huge thank and hugs to CLHahny for bidding on me in the New Moon addition of FGB. She has been incredibly patient waiting for these chapters. Thank you so much for your generosity and for giving me the push that I needed to continue working on this particular story!
Here is the link to the painting mentioned on their trip to the Louvre: http:/www . louvre . fr/llv/oeuvres/detail_notice . jsp?CONTENT%3C%3Ecnt_id=10134198673403626&CURRENT_LLV_NOTICE%3C%3Ecnt_id=10134198673403626&FOLDER%3C%3Efolder_id=9852723696500815&fromDept=false&baseIndex=29
Thanks also to my partner in crime kyla713 for jumping in as beta again for this chapter. You are absolutely fabulous bb and I don't know what I'd do without you *mwah*
For anyone who reads The Family That stays Together. I recently finished the next chapter and will be posting it in the next few days. *shhh*
Also TallulahBelle, Lady_QE, and I have been co-hosting Enchantments, an amazing contest all about fantasy/supernatural stories. If you haven't had a chance to check them out then please do: http:/www . fanfiction . net/u/2504895/Enchantments_Contest Voting is running from now until October 29th.
Oh, and you can follow me on Twitter if you'd like: maganbagan (the link is in my profile)