"Ah, distinctly I remember, it was in the bleak December, and each separate dying ember wrought it's ghost upon the floor." I murmured the eternal words to Edgar Allen Poe's "The Raven" as I stood inches away from my own demise. I could feel the warmth of the impending sun as it crept ever closer toward me. I never had imagined, in all my years, that death would feel so inviting, so warm, and so right. But as I stood teetering on the edge of my own ending I could easily say that I was truly at peace. On one hand, if death meant for us what I was certain it did, I would feel no more pain. If death was simply the end then my pitiful excuse for a meager existence would cease to be and I would no longer be stuck in a world without her. On the other hand, if my "father" was indeed correct then an afterlife waited for our kind on the other side of death. And, if I somehow miraculously made it to the gates of heaven and was permitted to pass through, then I would be with her again.
Stepping into the sun seemed like the most peaceful way to die, the simplest and, in a way, the most poignant. I had lived my entire "existence" in the darkness ever wary of the sun's revealing rays. It was in the shadows that I was able to keep my true identity a secret and to attempt to live as normal of a life as was possible. I had lived in the darkness, it was where I felt the most comfortable.
...And then she had happened along and everything that I had found to be comfortable and safe had crumbled into nothingness.
I had never intended to fall in love with her. On the contrary I had loathed her the moment I had smelled her. She had endangered the delicate fabric of my family's life, tripping into my existence oblivious to the extent of the harm she was causing me. She had given me reason to rethink the calm, unthreatening, life I had led and had almost driven me to the point of murder....
Then, it had all changed. It would have been so much easier if I could have stayed away, so much easier if I could have kept on hating her. But it was inevitable, I wasn't strong enough to stop myself. And so I had given up, I had allowed myself to fall hopelessly in love with a fragile human and I had never felt more bliss. She had been the warmth to my frigid reality leading me to view the sunlight differently. Never had she judged me, or been repulsed by me. I had allowed her brightness to fill the dark void that had been my comfort zone, my solace. With her I had felt a new sense of worth, I had felt love of a different kind than I felt for my siblings. The love that I had felt for her had completed me, had made me feel less like a monstrosity and more like a man. She never feared me, never feared what I could do, or what my kind could do. Now that I thought about it she never seemed to fear death in the least. I only hoped that that attitude had followed her until her final breath. It made me ill to think that she had been afraid in her last minutes, I could only pray that she had felt the same sense of calm that I now felt.
"Prayer." I chuckled naturally as the useless word tumbled from my cold lips. Had prayer really ever gotten a man anywhere? It seemed like such a waste of breath that a dying man would obviously need. Prayer always brought to mind the image of someone falling down the side of a cliff, grasping at every branch that hung between them and the finale gasps of life. It was amazing what humans would say, or do, when they knew they only had seconds left on Earth and it seemed inconsequential to spend those moments shouting empty promises to a deity that may or may not exist. If the former was true, if God really did exist, then I was fairly certain he would give little regard to one man who had probably done more harm in his life than good.
Acting fearful of death would not postpone it's inevitability.
But what did I know? I was no more man than a dog. I was not human, nor would I ever be. My heart did not beat, my eyes did not cry, though I felt the emotions that elicited the quickened strumming of the heart and the unavoidable occurrence of tears. I felt love, and I felt loss. It was possible that because I had loved that I had also lost. And it was probable that because I had loved her she had, in turn, lost her own life.
The clock tolled once again. The sound rang out clear across the crowded square. A child's laughter filtered into my ears, a woman offered her husband a tissue as he sneezed loudly, brothers and sisters bickered back and forth over a balloon, and the clock continued to toll out it's monotonic symphony. One note, one sound, signaling the hour that would be my last.
It tolled loudly and I could suddenly feel my age. My eyelids were heavy as they slid over pitch-dark eyes. I could feel the dark purple circles that somehow represented the fact that I had given up. The burning in my raw throat signaled an unquenchable thirst that I was doomed to never find relief from. I not only thirsted for the obvious nourishment that blood brought me, but I also thirsted for one last contact with her. If I could only apologize for the way I had left her, if I could only tell her how big of a fool I had really been. Perhaps I would get the opportunity, perhaps Carlisle had been right.
The clock tolled again, the sound echoing all around me. My eyes were shut and all that I saw was her face. I was relieved that my mind had conjured a happy girl for me to see in my final moments. It had given me her bright eyes, ever curious, and her shy smile. It had given me her pink cheeks and her soft hair and had left out the dejected, angry, confused girl that I had left in the forest. The girl that I saw in my mind was alive and happy, this girl loved me.
And, even though I knew it was ridiculous to think so, I hoped she forgave me. I hoped that she knew how much she meant to me. The clock kept on it's tonal march as I took a step toward the sunlight, finally I would be at peace with myself. I felt selfish for wishing for my own death, I was quite certain that my family would miss me, especially Esme and I felt horrible that I would hurt her.
I stepped closer and the image of my love smiling at me helped me forward. I felt the corners of my mouth turn up the slightest as she laughed her soft laugh,
"Bella." I breathed. I felt the warmth of the sun creep up my front and the smallest amount of pressure on my chest as something hit me.
…and then her voice was all that I heard.
It was more melodic than the greatest of symphonies, and as frantic as the dying man's prayers. But even as she shouted words I couldn't quite comprehend, in a tone that was overtly desperate and tear-filled, I felt an overwhelming sense of gratitude.
"Amazing," I said, slightly amused. "Carlisle was right." I could feel her in my arms as I clutched at what felt like one of her soft shirts that she liked to wear on summer days. I could even smell her unmistakable scent and I wandered just what had allowed me to pass unscathed through the gates of heaven.
"Edward, Edward, look at me. You have to get back into the shadows, you have to move! Please, Edward look at me!" Her voice was frantic, I had never heard her sound so scared and it was this tone that caused me to open my weary eyes. I blinked a few times, clearing a cloud that seemed to have flooded my judgment. Suddenly, I was very aware of the fact that Bella was alive and that I was as well.
"Bella?" My voice was foreign to me and it cracked as I spoke her name,
"Yes. Yes, it's me Edward. I promise, just please get back into the shadows." She urged me back and I obliged. She stared into my eyes, still unafraid though I knew she was very aware that they were the flat black color that should have been terrified of. We stood there together, the human and her vampire, staring into each other's eyes without saying a word. There was this moment between us, the moment that brought me back from the brink of destruction and, for some reason I knew, that it had done the same for her. We had brought each other back, given each other another chance at life. It was in this gift exchange that I finally knew the true feeling of love. She was the first one to break the moment, the first one to smile, and then…I couldn't get enough of her. In that moment I would have gladly given into her incessant pleads for me to turn her because I simply couldn't imagine a moment without her.
I crushed her to my chest as tearless sobs poured out of me. I inhaled deeply, relishing in her scent that I had so greatly missed. And she clung back, hanging on for dear life obviously afraid that I would somehow disappear again.
"I'm sorry." Was all that I could whisper. Her silent tears soaked my chest and her small hands grasped at my arms.
"I love you." She whispered through her tears. Love, something I never thought I'd feel, something that I felt was so far out of my reach it was absurd. Love, a human loved me and she knew my secret. I would risk it all for her, I would die for her, and I would believe there was a heaven…for her.
It didn't matter what would happen now. I knew they would come, I knew the Volturi would send their minions after me, I knew that they already had and that they were on their way. For some reason though, it didn't bother me. I was not Alice, I did not see the future but I was certain that all would be fine.
It would be fine because a mortal loved a vampire, and in the simplest sense, a man loved a woman. Because the clock had finally ceased it's slow, droning, march to my end and was now silent. Because, though it would get dark again and very soon, my sun had risen on a new day, on a new chapter of my existence that I hadn't been sure was going to be written.
Because Bella Swan loved Edward Cullen and that was all that mattered.