Chapter summary: Bella. Come back to me. I will wrap you in a white blanket and hold you. Forever. You are of this world, Bella. Rosalie is not. Leave her. She does not love you. I do. Stay. And I will love you forever. Forever and ever.


I woke suddenly from a dreamless sleep to the sound of my name being called.

"Ro...?" I had started to ask her what she wanted, but I saw that she was asleep beside me, her arm draped over my blanket, cradling me, so I decided not to disturb her. She looked so peaceful, sleeping like that, all the anger and worries gone. This was the first time that I had seen her patrician face relaxed, and it had a softer look than what I had ever seen. I smiled at her, but then I heard the sound again.

"_-_-_"

It came from outside. It was a gentle susurration, but somehow compelling. Compelling and ... ? I carefully snuck out from under the covers and eased her arm onto my pillow. She sighed contentedly, hugging the pillow, and fell into a deeper slumber. I fought the urge to pat her shoulder or to kiss her on the cheek: she was like a little girl that needed my care when she looked like this, but I didn't wish to disturb her sleep; she needed the rest.

I went to the door and opened it, but I didn't see anything. Huh. I must have imagined it, and was closing the door when I heard it again, this time a definite call:

"_-_-_"

"Yes? Is somebody there?" I opened the door and peered out.

Nothing. Nothing but the snow on the ground, a very light breeze, the trees, the sky and the stars. The crescent moon cast stark shadows everywhere, and the forest outside was surprisingly bright in its light.

I looked around. Still nothing, but I couldn't see around the sides of the house. I could manage a quick peek. I hopped out in my bare feet into the snow to look around the corner of the house.

"Bella."

Huh? Where did that whisper come from?

"Um, hello?" My voice quavered. The whisper didn't sound like anything I had heard before. It wasn't a voice, but I could hear it. What was it?

"Bella," it called again, sighing, "I've missed you. Come back."

It seemed to be coming from the forest ahead of me? I stepped a few feet farther into the snow.

"Come back where? Who are you?" I called. I didn't know where to direct my voice.

"Bella."

The call came from all around me now. The wind caressed my cheeks. The snow went past my ankles. Neither felt cold.

"What do you want?" I called out, looking for something or someone to talk to.

"Why did you let Rosalie take you from me, Bella? Why did you leave me? You were about to lie in my embrace, I would have wrapped you in my white blanket ... I would have held you forever, Bella. Forever and ever. Come back to me."

Oh, my God. Oh, my God! Ohmygodohmygodohmygod! Why do I have to have all these crazy, stupid dreams? This had better be a dream! This had better be a God-damned stupid dream, and I had better wake up, right now.

I stood, fuming, waiting for the dream to go away.

It didn't.

I couldn't stand it anymore. "Rosalie took me away because I was going to die! Rosalie saved me from you!"

"Bella." It sighed, eternally patient, "You're born; you live; you die. It is what life is. It is what I am. I would hold you forever; Rosalie will not. Come away from her, Bella. Come home. With me, you would be part of life; Rosalie is Death's Harbinger."

"NO! She is NOT!" I screamed, "she's saved my life over and over again."

"What does she do every time she steps out that door, Bella?" The sound seemed to be smiling.

That was obvious. "She has to take care of me, she gets things for me." I had that voice on that one.

"Like trees?" My 'seat' materialized in front of me, the embedded cross bleeding sap.

"Like soup?" An antelope walked out from the forest, looking at me dolefully.

"Like blood?" It was Dolly, still wearing her saddle. Her voice was higher pitched than I thought she would have had.

"Like blood? Like blood? likeblood? likeblood? likeblood? likebloodlikebloodlikeblood?" Hundreds of animals, too many to count, materialized from the forest, forming a circle around me, accusing me with their chorused question.

"Like death?" A wolf stepped out into the sudden silence.

"Like death?" A man in a tailored business suit stood by the wolf, his dark hair perfectly coiffed.

"Like death?" Several other young men and two police officers joined him, looking at me dispassionately. One of the police officers volunteered: "I had a wife and four children when I died at her hands."

I wanted to explain; I wanted to justify; I wanted to scream. But before I could do anything, the voice asked me, "What do you taste like, Bella?"

"What?" Why was everything in a whirl?

"She told me I tasted like dung," Dolly looked hurt.

The antelope added, "I smelt and tasted like vomit to her."

"What about you, Bella?" the voice whispered. "Ask her what you would taste like."

"She already told me," I replied, not seeing where this was going.

"No, she told you you would taste better that your dream, but she didn't tell you what you would taste like. Is that because your strawberry scented hair and your creamy white skin would be too tantalizing for her to describe? What of your deep, luscious chocolate brown eyes? Hm, vomit and dung or strawberries and cream with chocolate sauce. Which one would you choose, Bella? Which one will she? Day after day, with your blush heating your blood to perfection? Ask her, Bella." The sighing seemed supremely confident.

But it was wrong. "She said she doesn't drink human blood."

It ignored me: "Or better yet, let her tell you. Block the door one day, and as she breathes in to ask you what you are doing, cut yourself. Cut yourself deeply. See how long she lasts before she takes you. Will she even last as long as a half a second?" It laughed an easy laugh.

"No!" Both Dolly and the antelope shouted. "Bella," Dolly begged, "don't do that. Your pain by the stove was nothing to what I felt as she sucked me dry. Don't do that!"

"You know," the sighing pushed past Dolly's objection, "vampires like to keep their victims heart beating as long as possible. Living, racing, pulsating blood tastes so much sweeter. Rosalie is a vampire, Bella. All she does is take, and gives nothing in return. Soon she will take you." The sighing sang softer than the wind.

All the accusers faded, their eyes testifying to me the truth of the words spoken to me. Only the forest and the bed of snow remained, watching me stand alone. The stars above twinkled, not a care in the world troubling them.

"That's not true." I whispered. It wasn't true. She isn't like that. She is kind. She is kind. The voice was wrong.

"Does she love you, Bella?" It sighed.

"What?" I asked.

"I love you, Bella." It whispered.

"I don't even know what you are! You can't love me, and I DON'T LOVE YOU! I HATE YOU!" I screamed with all my might.

"I loved you, Bella"" Dolly rematerialized and looked at me sadly. "To you I was just a dumb brute, but you cared for me, covered me with blankets against the winter cold, shoed my feet. You fed and watered me. You were a good mistress to me, and I loved you. Is Rosalie a good mistress to you, Bella? Does she cover you against the winter cold?"

"Yes," I replied. She always wrapped me in blankets and kept the fire going. Dolly eyed the tee shirt and panties I was wearing without comment.

"Does she shoe you, too, Bella?" I looked down at my bare feet and wished the snow was higher to hide them from Dolly's reproachful look.

"Does she feed and water you?" Dolly asked.

"She didn't know! She didn't know!" I cut in angrily, "Now she does!"

"And now that she does, will it make one bit of difference?" Dolly asked.

"YES!" I shouted. She would take care of me. I just knew it. She would.

"Hm, yes, of course. Of course she will, Bella. Of course she will." Everything in Dolly's tone said she didn't believe it, but that she was humoring her poor blinded human mistress who was kind to her.

"But, Bella, were you planning to kill me? Did you pull me away to toy with me and then destroy me? No. I was a dumb brute to you, but you were kind to me, and you cared for me, and would have continued to care for me. You didn't think ill of me; I wasn't one troublesome problem to be dealt with ... what does Rosalie think of you?"

"I ..." but before I could respond, Dolly looked off into the forest. My eyes followed hers, and in the distance night became day. I saw the column of white snow flame descend on a girl on her hands and knees, feebly pawing at a sweater. My Rosalie, my angel, was looking at the girl.

"Look at what she's thinking, Bella." Dolly murmured with a kind tone in her voice.

I didn't need the prompting, I saw it written across the Sun that was Rosalie's face: Stupid human!

The image faded, leaving the darkness of the night, illuminated only by the moon.

"You didn't think of me that way, Bella. You didn't treat me like the way you are now being treated. You were a kind mistress. I loved you, Bella, but Rosalie killed me, and now I am dead and cannot love you anymore. Bella. I am so sorry." And then the life left her eyes. She fell to the earth and began to fade away, the last I saw of her were her eyes, glazing over, sadly staring into mine.

"Dolly..." I choked. Two tears spilled out of my eyes.

"Rosalie doesn't love you, Bella; she will never love you. She doesn't even call you by name. I call you by name, and I love you, Bella. Her way is only death and pain, pain and death. Come to me, Bella: I will comfort you and give you rest." The sighing sound gently resumed its ever-patient mantra.

"No." I said, shaking, "No. Rosalie saved me from you. I was screaming from your pain. She brought me back to life. She saved me. You were killing me. Not her."

"No, Bella," the softest of whispers responded without an edge, "In whose arms were you screaming? Mine? I took away your pain. I took away your cares. I gave you rest. But in whose arms were you screaming? In whose arms was Dolly screaming? In whose arms was Dolly dying? In the very same arms you found yourself in agony, Bella. Come free yourself from her, Bella. Come back to me."

"No." I said. I had had enough of this voice and its lies. I turned around to go back into the cabin.

It wasn't there.

"Let me go back to Rosalie." I stated as calmly as my fury allowed.

"No, Bella. Her way leads only to death, if you're lucky. I will not allow her to take you from the world in which you belong."

"What do you mean!"

"Ask her, Bella. Ask Rosalie. Ask her what fate is worse than death. You will be happy in my arms, Bella. You were happy. And you can be happy again. Come back. Can you be happy with her? Ask her if she's happy. Ask her if you would be happy if you stayed with her. But you won't ask, Bella, will you? You already know the answers. Stay. Stay with me. Stay here forever and ever, and be happy again."

"No!" I shouted.

"Stay." It sighed, contentedly, as if it had already won, as if I was already imprisoned in its non-embrace.

I began screaming: "NO! ROSAL..." but the wind swirled, carrying the snow, and it went down my opened mouth, searing it and my throat in agony.

"Stay." It sighed peacefully.

I screamed and screamed, and the burning pain increased, and my screams gurgled with some liquid filling my throat and lungs. I tasted salt and iron on my tongue. I began coughing, and I couldn't stop coughing and screaming and gurgling. My lungs began ripping themselves apart, and my ribs couldn't contain my insides anymore. I fell to the ground, convulsing, and roots from the surrounding trees whipped around my body, ensnaring me and then they began to crush me.

"I will never let you go, Bella. I love you, forever and ever," I heard as I was pulled into the ground. I screamed Rosalie's name, coughing, and I felt a rattle shake my insides apart; the binding roots tightening about me, the only things holding me together, the only things preventing me from taking that last life-giving breath of air.

...

I woke choking and coughing and sweating, the roots from the trees turned out to be the sheet twisted around my body, wrapped between and around my legs, encircling my throat.

My throat.

I coughed again, but this time, besides the raw pain I felt in my throat, my right temple exploded in a lightning bolt of pain so intense I almost lost consciousness. I wished I had, the coughing brought on aftershocks of tiny closed-mouth coughs that hurt my throat less, but my head ... oh! my head! I whimpered, and that didn't hurt ... more. The pain centered just inside my right temple, just above my eye. It taunted me. I coughed again, and it exploded out from just mere pain to white agony. I couldn't think through the pain. I whipped my hand to my temple and pressed there, not to reduce the pain, but just to keep my head together. I very gingerly tried to raise my head, but another cough dropped me back onto the pillow writhing and moaning, my right hand sandwiched between the pillow and my temple.

Stop the — ow, it hurts so much! — coughing. I have to stop the coughing. I reached with my left hand to the floor by the bed seeking the water. Couldn't find it. I leaned over a bit, my hand seeking a bit farther from the bed.

I coughed.

Agony!

I landed on the floor in a heap coughing and crying and mewing in pain. The coughing didn't stop. It didn't stop. It didn't stop. Oh! the pain!

I curled up into a fetal position. Mistake. The sheet tightened as I did, and I realized that I was strangling myself, but I couldn't stop it: the coughing had me spasming, my right hand was trying to press my right temple into my skull, and my left arm was tucked into my chest. My left hand was squeezing the flesh there: it had a mind of its own. I don't know if it wanted to rip off pieces of me, to provide some other pain so as to take away my thoughts of the agony emanating from my skull, or if were trying to reconnect, to remerge, to reassure my body that it would make it.

I didn't know if I would. I coughed and hacked and spasmed. I was reduced to a quivering, whimpering, coughing mess.

Where was Rosalie? She didn't save me in that horrid dream; she's not saving me now. Was that no-thing right? Was Dolly's sorrow justified? No. She would save me. She always saved me. My vision started to tunnel, the periphery browning, then blacking, out. Help me, Rosalie, please!

I choked ... one last breath: "Ro ..." and, as everything went black, I heard the call coming from outside:

"_-_-_"

... calling to me. Compelling me. I didn't want to go outside. I didn't want to be held forever by whatever it was. Rosalie, please! was my last thought, and then: nothing.


Chapter End Notes:

This story proceeds along three alternative paths from here. The story, continues, of course, in the next chapter.

Or.

Or it doesn't, and it ends at the alternate history told by Rosalie in my story "Reminiscence."

Or it is echoed, very slightly, in a ripple of thought and concern in Jocelyn Torrent's story "Rose Read," ch 10 ("Fragile").

In all three alternatives (here (and told from Rosalie's perspective in "Rose by a Lemon Tree"), Reminiscence and Rose Read, ch 10), Rosalie sees our girl's end. What she does with what she sees is very different in each of the tellings. Very different, but, as she is Rosalie, very Rosalie.

So explore the possibilities ... or not ... Or ask Rosalie the question ... the captive was this close. This close. And she's doing what because of this knowledge?

Good thing this is just fiction, eh? For we could never lose someone we love just like that ... for we could never be taken away from the ones we love just like that ...

Yeah. Good thing this is just fiction.

Not that, ahem, I'm stating a position here about any feelings any characters may or may not have for any other character in this story ...