Chapter Summary: Why is it that every trip to the bathroom has to be this, like, life-or-death, world-altering ... thingie? And I have to behave like a lady while this is all happening? So much for Rosalie's suggestion of a relaxing walk!
I woke utterly confused. It was bright outside, which meant it was bright inside, and I was fully dressed in day-time clothes. I looked up from the bed, disoriented, to see Rosalie sitting in the chair, the high-back between us, looking at me with concern.
Did I have to wake up this way for the rest of my life?
Well, maybe not. Maybe Rosalie would kill me in my sleep. Great, just great! There was no bad situation that existed that my thoughts couldn't make worse.
But Rosalie wasn't worse. She said she was, but she wasn't. In fact, her face was glowing, reflecting the brightness. There she sat: a concerned vampire angel, sitting over me.
I tried to recollect what happened. I couldn't.
"What happened?" I asked.
Rosalie looked somewhat relieved, but she answered cautiously, "Actually, I was hoping you would tell me," she said. "Do you remember anything?"
I blinked at her.
"You were going to tell me something ...?" she prompted.
"Um," I said, trying to remember, "I was going to tell you ..."
Then I stopped. My throat constricted with fear. Oh, now I remember what I was going to tell her. I was going to tell her I love her, but that wasn't such a good idea now. Not at all.
Besides the fact that that she said somebody (that would be me) would be insane to love her, she had called me something. Well, she had almost called me something.
She had called me "Li-..."-something.
I had a sudden realization. "Li-..."-something was not the "L-word." "Li-..."-something was not "Love," because "Love" was "Lo-..."-something, not "Li-..."-something.
I didn't know what "Li-..."-something was, but I did know this: she wasn't calling me "Love." I had guessed wrong about that. What else had I guessed wrong about? I didn't know, but I did know that now was not the time to be saying things when I didn't know where I stood any more.
"Yes ...?" she looked at me quizzically.
Oh, yes, I realized I had stopped mid-confession, but I didn't know how to start again, and I didn't know, when I started again, what I could possibly say.
Rosalie frowned. "Okay, now, don't panic," she said.
Too late for that. I felt myself beginning to hyperventilate again.
She moved a cold, smooth hand to my forehead, and I instantly felt better, ... calmer, even. She wasn't doing anything, but looking at me intensely and just resting her hand on my head, but it felt as though her touch somehow, ... I don't know. It felt like somehow her just touching me made me feel reassured.
I looked up to her, still very unsettled, but not falling off the edge of reason, like I had just felt myself doing a second ago ... again.
"I have an idea," she said slowly, almost hesitantly. "You need to go, right?"
I nodded, realizing I did need to go, but I didn't know where this conversation was going.
"Why don't we just ..." she began and then paused, looking away, then she looked back at me. "Why don't we just not worry about anything for a little while, hm? We can try walking to the outhouse and see how far you get. How does that sound?"
I looked at her. The way she was asking me, it almost seemed as if she were shy about something. But what could she be shy about?
But she had just said not to worry about anything. Maybe I should try doing that for just a little bit, instead of asking more questions that might get me into more trouble. Maybe I should listen to this glowing guardian angel for now.
I looked up at her. "I think that sounds like a really good idea," I answered.
She smiled. "Good," she said, "let's get you dressed." She rose from the chair and went to the pile of the clothes in the far corner of the cabin.
I sat up, cautiously, on the bed. That seemed to work fine. I watched Rosalie pull the ensemble of outdoor wear from the clothes pile I had asked for: a thick wool jacket, a scarf, a knit cap, mittens and boots. She placed everything but the boots on the table and nodded to me.
I rose from the bed. That worked, too. Pleased, I walked over to the table, sneaking a peek at the mirrors as I passed them. They were still there, and that plain nothing of a girl still looked back at me. I continued quickly to the table, pulling out a chair and sat down and started pulling on the boots.
I was getting excited: a new adventure to the crapper, but this time I'd be chaperoned, so I couldn't get into too much trouble, could I? Now that I had a vampire watching me, the likelihood of me getting killed went way down.
Um, wait ... a vampire watching me increased my chances of survival?
Rosalie handed the scarf for me to put on then helped me into the tweed long coat. She then put the cap on my head, covering my ears, and handed me the mittens.
I started to get very warm, and I felt a trickle of sweat sneak out of my armpit.
"Okay," said Rosalie, putting on her trench coat, "let's get going." She opened the front door, and beckoned me out ahead of her. I exited the cabin, and heard the snow crunch beneath my boot.
It felt good. The cold of the outside matching the heat of bundled-up me, and I felt just right as I walked through the snow alongside Rosalie, walking so gracefully on top of the snow crust. I noticed that she was also now wearing gloves, had her collar turned up, and she was wearing a hat that had to be the very latest fashion: it was wide-brimmed, and the brim draped over her collar. Just the smallest part of her face was visible, and the front of the hat blocked the direct sunlight.
But it didn't block the sunlight reflected from the snow. There was still no mistaking her for just some person. Rosalie wasn't just some person.
"Is that why you wear the trench coat?" I asked. "So you don't look like ..."
She looked at me with eyes as black as coals, but they weren't angry at me.
"That's part of it ... a large part of it," she responded.
"Oh," I said. All that beauty, and she had to hide it. I felt kind of bad for her, and was going to say something about that, but then I felt she might not like that. It did sound pitying, and she said that's the worst thing you could do to her. I decided to change course.
"What's the other part?" I asked. It couldn't be that she was cold. She had said that the snow warmed her.
She smiled at me. "Do you see that?" she asked.
I had no idea what she meant. "See what?" I asked.
Her smile widened. "I'm surprised you are missing it. Say something, and look with your eyes what happens when you speak."
"Oh!" I got it, because I now saw my breath making eddies of steam.
"Say something!" I demanded.
She paused for a second as we walked along, then asked: "Are you getting fatigued?"
Nothing. I heard her voice, but I didn't see anything.
"Wow!" I said, "Are you breathing, then?"
She looked at me. "Not really," she answered, with no visible sign in the air that she spoke, "air goes in and the same air goes out, unaltered, merely colder along with bit of my scent. But you didn't answer my question."
"Nah, I'm fine," I responded, smiling. It actually felt good, walking along out in the open like this after being cooped up in the cabin for so long.
"Did you mean to say, 'No'?" she asked chidingly.
Okay, it mostly felt good. I grimaced.
"Sorry," I sighed, looking down at the snow in front of me.
"You will tell me when you feel the slightest discomfort, all right?" she continued. "I don't wish for you to push yourself this first time."
"Yes, Mother," I whispered petulantly, still looking down, still smarting from her scolding, no matter how lightly it was delivered.
After a couple of seconds, I realized I was walking alone. I stopped, and looking up noticed that Rosalie wasn't beside me anymore. I turned around, looking where I had come from. Rosalie was standing a few yards back, arms crossed, staring at me furiously.
Rosalie stood there, staring at me, and I saw the anger building in her.
"Rosalie, I ..." I tried to defuse the situation before it got worse.
"I," Rosalie spat out the words slowly and distinctly, "am not," each word was a hammer blow, "your mother!"
"Rosalie," I answer quickly, holding up my hands placatingly, "I know. I know! I'm sorry, I was just, you know, I was just teasing, that's all."
This didn't seem to please her at all, however.
"You are lucky I am not your mother!" she bit off, her musical voice ringing throughout the forest, even though she wasn't shouting.
But I was. "Well, at least you're not going to leave me!" I shouted back before I even knew what I was saying.
Silence, except for my panting; my breaths formed angry clouds around me. A tear snuck out of the corner of my eye. Rosalie regarded me with a look I couldn't understand, and then her anger seemed to disappear to be replaced by what looked like sadness.
"How do you know that?" she asked quietly.
I looked into those black, impenetrable eyes, then l dropped my gaze and felt my shoulders slump.
"I actually don't know that," I whispered to the snow. I peeked up to see Rosalie standing right beside me, her floral smell announced her presence, even though not one sound in the forest gave that hint. I straightened my shoulders and looked at her. "Will you?" I asked her.
She looked at me for a second, then looked away. "Outhouse is that way," she indicated with an open palm in a slightly different direction than where my wandering had led me. I looked in that direction, and we both continued that way in silence.
I felt her look at me a few times as we walked. The earlier sense of adventure was now overwhelmed in a sense of solitude. I was walking alongside somebody who kept herself distant from me, no matter how close, physically, she happened to be.
But I couldn't dwell on self-pity for too long. It felt good for a few minutes to wallow, but the walk helped move my mind as my body moved. I started thinking on other things.
Like what "Li-..."-something stood for. I started going over in my mind names that were "Li-..."-something. Maybe it was a nickname? Like "Lyn" for "Marilyn"? Or "Liz" for "Elizabeth"?
Or "Lizzy" ... that would be so cool! That means I could be the heroine of Pride and Prejudice.
No. That couldn't be it. Rosalie didn't seem the kind of person who would use nicknames. Babies recently had been named "Lila," maybe it was that? But what did 'Lila' mean? It meant 'Delilah,' right? From 'Samson and Delilah' ... she was the girl who was so beautiful it caused strong, powerful and invincible Samson of the long hair to fail and then he destroyed basically everything. I snuck a peek at Rosalie. She was strong, powerful and invincible, or so it seemed. She had long hair. But me? Beautiful?
No, it couldn't be 'LiLa.'
Or ... "Li-..."-something. Hm.
"I wish I knew what you were thinking," I heard that beautiful voice say wistfully beside me.
"Why do you just read my mind and find out?" I snapped back petulantly.
I continued my interrupted thought: "Li-..."-something. Rosalie had been going by "Lillian." That was "Li-..."-something. But why would Rosalie call me by her own name? I wasn't anything like her. Not even close. Not in any way at all.
"You know," Rosalie said into my thoughts, "I told you I don't read minds, L-... mmmphf!"
I looked up quickly to see Rosalie grimacing, her jaw locked tightly. She stopped and fell through the snow crust with an audible crunch and clenched her fists. Her eyes narrowed at me as if this were my fault.
"I really, really wish you would earn your new name so I could address you properly!" she growled.
I looked at her, then shook my head. I was curious myself what she thought my new name was, but I didn't see the reason for these games. I took off my right mitten and offered my hand.
"It's Bella Swan; pleased tameecha," I said casually, lightly emphasizing my name, ... my real name.
She looked at my offered hand then looked intensely into my eyes.
I felt myself withering under her critical gaze.
"Well, that is my name!" I protested weakly.
I don't know what happened next, all I know is that I was flying backward through the forest, captured in Rosalie's bear hug as she seemed to move faster than a bullet. We were inside the cabin, and she stripped off my over-clothes and threw them into a pile in the corner by the table. Hers joined right after.
And we were standing in front of the mirrors.
"Gah!" I cried out, looking away quickly; looking at Rosalie's intense stare.
"So your name's Bella Swan, is it?" she demanded fiercely.
"Yes, it is!" I responded just as fiercely. Well, almost as fiercely.
"Okay," she said, not one ounce of agreement in her voice. "You say that's your name? Claim it!"
"Fine!" I shouted back boldly, but I didn't feel all that bold. I knew we were in front of the mirror for some reason, and whatever the reason was, I knew I probably wasn't going to like it.
"Fine," she waved at the mirrors.
I swallowed. "What?" I demanded weakly, not looking at the mirrors.
"You say you're Bella Swan, well, claim it. Look right in the mirrors and say I am beautiful and I am graceful."
No problem. That would be easy.
I looked right in the mirrors and said it: "You are so beautiful, and you are so graceful," as I looked right into her eyes in the center mirror.
"Ha, ha, very funny," she said. It didn't sound like she thought it was funny.
Well, I didn't think it was funny, either.
"I'm not joking," I retorted to those onyx eyes in the mirror.
Those onyx eyes narrowed.
"Okay, fine. All right. I am beautiful, and I am graceful, ... and I can say that to myself. Watch," she commanded.
She squared herself to the mirror, looking into her own eyes. "I am beautiful. I am graceful. I am Rosalie Lillian Hale." She straightened even more, crossed her arms, looking very proud and pleased with what she saw in the mirror as she examined herself for a second.
Then she turned to me. I looked at the real Rosalie, not the reflection, and swallowed again.
"Now your turn," she stated coldly. "Look yourself in the eye and say these words exactly, 'I am beautiful. I am graceful. I am Bella Swan.' You do that, and you've earned that name."
My throat went dry. I looked at her.
"I just do that, and I get my name back? That's all I need to do?" I asked for confirmation.
Rosalie raised her eyebrow and crossed her arms: "Any time now ..."
I sighed. I turned to my reflection, and looked at me.
"I am ..." I started.
I looked back at Rosalie. "What am I supposed to say?" I asked her.
Rosalie's face hardened.
I looked back at my image in the mirror.
I tried to say it, ... but I couldn't even start again.
I turned to Rosalie and looked at that beautiful, graceful Rosalie Lillian Hale.
That cold, angry, beautiful, graceful Rosalie Lillian Hale.
"And that," she hissed, "is why your name is not 'Bella Swan,' because if you can't even say what your name means to yourself, then that name is not yours."
I found my coat being put on me and then myself flying through the forest. The next thing I knew, we were in the outhouse. It looked like Rosalie filled the pail with embers and brought that along, too.
How could she move that fast? It was beyond belief ... except for the fact that she kept doing it. She prepared the outhouse, steam rose from the water bucket and the lit candle illuminated the space.
"Coat," she said coolly, holding out her hand.
I guess she was allowing me to undress myself now, instead of just ripping off the clothes. How nice of her. I took off the coat and handed it to her. I unbuckled my belt and dropped trou. Rosalie looked away as I sat and did my business.
"Miss Nobody's done," I whispered to the beautiful, graceful goddess in front of me.
She turned her critical gaze to me. It was a thoughtful look on her face. I couldn't look into that look anymore. I dropped my eyes.
"Let me wash you," she said quietly.
And she did. She handed me a towelette, and I dried myself. When I stood, and pulled up and fixed my trou, she handed me the tin of lime. I poured it in, and handed her the can, and she gave me my coat. I put it on in silence.
She still had that thoughtful look on her face. "Are you up for walking back?" she asked.
"I guess so ..." I said filled with ineffable sadness.
Rosalie regarded me.
"What?" I asked, despondent.
"You 'guess so'?" she asked pitilessly. "Are you or aren't you?"
Now what I was up for was dying. I wish I could just die. Right now. I was tired of this. I was tired of having to be perfect when she obviously thought of me as a nobody and a nothing. It was just so hard living up to her impossible demands while fencing with her in these cruel mind games.
"Rosalie," I sighed, "yes. Yes, I'm up for walking back. Okay?"
I actually was. After being inactive for so long, I liked being able to walk again, even if the walk was with Miss Cruel Vampire.
She looked at me for a second, but this time I simply returned her look.
"Okay," she agreed, "just remember not to push yourself."
"Okay," I acquiesced dully, then reassured her with: "I'll tell you if I get tired."
"Good," she smiled. "Shall we go, then?"
She pulled out of her trench coat pockets my hat, scarf and mittens. I looked at her. She seemed be so demanding one second and then light and easy the next. I just didn't get it.
After I finished dressing myself, we set off in silence.
After a minute she said quietly. "You know you are, don't you?"
I trudged along through the snow that she seemed almost to float above.
"I'm what?" I guess I was supposed to ask this question.
"You are beautiful. You are graceful." Her quiet answer held not one note of sarcasm.
I just shook my head. "You know, Rosalie, I don't know what warped version of reality you are in, but calling me beautiful? Okay, so I'll let that one pass, because I don't know how to answer that, but graceful? That has no basis in anything at all. Are you blocking from your mind the tub incident, and the floor incident, and the stove incident ... twice?"
I wondered if maybe drinking animal blood was making her see things. Maybe I should offer some of my own so she could get back on an even keel. Might help her mood swings, too.
"No," she responded, interrupting my concerns, "I've watched you. You are not clumsy: you do stumble, but it's not because of clumsiness. You are moving your body gracefully to go from point to point. In fact, you have an unearthly grace. It's just that your mortal body has limitations. If you were a ..." but then she stopped.
Now I was curious. "If I were a what?"
Rosalie looked away and was silent.
"If I were a what?" I pressed.
Rosalie looked at me with irritation. "Never mind. Errant thought. This way." She pointed with her chin pretty much the way we were going, and walked determinedly in that direction.
Well, I had had just about enough of this emotional see-saw ride. I bent down, scooped up some snow, balled it and hurled it with all my might at Rosalie's backside.
Rosalie turned to watch the snowball drop maybe four feet from me, halfway between us. She raised her eyebrow at me, and a smile ghosted her lips.
I closed my eyes for a second and felt my jaw tightening. I opened my eyes and glared at her: "Well, you try throwing a snowball with these mittens!"
She walked right up to me, holding out her hand.
"No bets!" I shouted. "I'm not betting anything on this!"
"Mittens," she demanded coldly.
I blanched, but I handed her the mittens.
She put them on and scooped up a snowball.
"Uh, Rosalie, you're, well, standing closer to me than ..." I began.
"There are three trees behind me," she interrupted.
I looked, there were three trees in the distance, but she couldn't possibly mean those trees, because they were so far away from us. There were plenty of other closer trees that might be possible for her to hit.
"... Two forming a 'V' and the other one upright slightly to the right of the first two ..."
Yep. She meant those trees. They must have been about fifty feet away.
"Which tree do you wish for me to hit?" she looked at me, assuredness flowing out of her.
I sighed. "Okay, Rosalie, I believe you, okay?"
Rosalie's steady gaze didn't waver. She waited.
I shook my head in defeat. "The left one?" I asked, but as I asked, I saw Rosalie blur in place, and I didn't see it, but I heard it: the 'thump' of the snowball hitting the tree. I looked. There was a white dot on the tree about head height.
I looked back to her, she was standing there, facing me as before, so impassively.
"Um, I meant the right-most one?" I figured maybe if I looked really hard I could see her do it.
But she didn't move at first. She stood there and smiled at me ... the smile looked a little naughty. And then, where she was, there was just movement, she seemed to be spinning in place, drifting lazily along in a meandering path. Whiteness erupted from the cyclone, shooting out in an arc from her to the right-most tree. It formed a perfect stream, and it scrawled quickly up the side of the tree. When the haze of the snow cleared from the now still Rosalie I saw that the tree had a word inscribed on it in snow. In a perfect hand, the name "Rosalie" was written in a beautiful cursive script. I looked back to the named being, who was now utterly still, she looked at me, completely at ease, took off the mittens and extended them to me.
"You've been doing well with your speaking," she said, "but you have been slipping recently. You should remember to know what you are to say before you say it."
I looked at her, holding the mittens out to me. If I couldn't believe what I had seen before, then this display utterly amazed me.
I took the mittens with nerveless fingers. She started walking off again, but then turned back to me when she saw me not following.
"Well, come on, then," she said like a mother calling to a dawdling child. Like a mother that she so angrily said she wasn't to me.
She came back to me when I didn't move, looking at me quizzically.
"Iiiihhhhiiizzz there anything ..." I tried to breathe; it was hard. "Is there anything you can't do perfectly?" I asked her, and I heard the awe filling my voice. "Is there anything that's impossible for you, like everything is for me?"
She tilted her head that was the sun itself to one side, regarded me, and answered dispassionately: "There are many things that you do that I cannot."
I sputtered in shocked disbelief. "Yeah, right!" I gasped out. "Name one."
"I'll do better than that. I can name five right off the top of my head." She raised a hand and prepared to count with her fingers these five impossible things for her that I did so well. What? Did she think I was a great dancer? I couldn't wait to hear these nonexistent things. As if Rosalie couldn't do anything!
"Hope." She touched one finger.
"Cry. Sleep." She touched two more fingers, staring at me so hard, as the impact of the words hammered into me.
"Blush." She touched her pinky. And here I blushed, and two tears, unbidden, sprang out of my eyes. She was killing me as she rattled off her lost humanity.
Then she looked at me with an intensity that would melt through fifty feet of lead and touched her thumb.
"Live," she finished her impossible list, and she dropped her hand, looking at me.
Two more tears sped down my cheeks, and I gasped out an involuntary breath that was almost a sob. Except for sleeping, I was doing everything on her list that she couldn't. I was a standing reminder of everything she had lost. Of everything she would never see again. And her name inscribed so beautifully on that tree? That so impressed me? I bet she would trade that and everything else just to be plain, little old, not beautiful, not graceful me.
I bet she would trade that in a heartbeat.
"Oh, my God, Rosalie!" I gasped out. "I am so, so sor-..."
Rosalie held up her hand, stopping me.
"Don't be," she demanded forcefully. "Don't be sorry for what you are, girl. Be that. Do those things that I cannot. And treasure them. I do. I've lost those things."
But then she paused and looked away.
"No," she said pensively. "No, I didn't lose those things. When I was alive, I wasn't. I didn't cry, I didn't blush, I didn't hope, I didn't anything. I was just that cold, beautiful thing in life that I am now. I cannot miss those things because I didn't use those gifts that I was given."
She turned back to me. "Treasure these impossible things while you can, girl, ... while you still live," she demanded, but her voice sounded almost pleading.
Then she reached out.
And her hand cupped my cheek.
And I felt the coldness of it, so much colder than the air around us, touching my tears there.
And she gasped, and pulled her hand back quickly, looking at it with a clenched jaw. I watched, transfixed, as she started to bring her hand to her mouth, her coal black eyes becoming blacker and blacker. But then she stopped, turned quickly from me, and wiped her hand in the snow briskly, almost with disgust, as if she were wiping my snot off her hand.
I couldn't breathe.
She straightened, still turned away from me. "Hmmm," she said, looking off in the distance.
I looked to where she was looking. The word 'Rosalie' scrawled up the side of the distant tree looked back at me.
"Could a human do that?" she asked me as she looked at the perfection of her art.
"Maybe?" My answer was more like a question.
"How?" she demanded, still looking there, but her face was hardening.
"Well, I guess if they were standing close to the tree? And were really, really good? And ..." I tried to imagine the scenario. I had, after all, watched the boys on the baseball team throw a ball across the field. I guess it could be doable for somebody.
"Could you do that?" Rosalie interrupted.
"Ummm ..." I began, and grimaced. Yeah, I wasn't supposed to say that anymore.
Rosalie turned and looked at me but not angrily. She looked at me speculatively, waiting for my answer.
I looked at the tree. There was just no way. I looked back to her and shook my head.
She was gone. I turned toward the tree to see a blur of a white torch arc toward it: it was Rosalie. She stopped at the base of the tree, coiled, and leapt straight up.
If you keep seeing impossibilities, do they become easier to believe?
No, they don't.
Rosalie leapt up, and it must have been more than one hundred feet that she ascended. And she reached upward, touching the sky with her fingertips.
Those fingertips then slammed into the tree, right above the 'e' that finished her name written in snow on the tree.
She hung there for a second, legs dangling. I wondered what she was trying to do.
Then she jerked a couple of times, and rested there for another second. I could almost feel her eyebrow raise in consternation.
But then her legs came up against the tree trunk, and I guess her feet dislodged her from the tree, because she started to fall.
And as she fell, she must have been crossing her perfect, beautiful hands against the tree trunk as she fell, because I saw pieces of the tree flying away from her in both directions. It was like if the tree were a person ... well, if the tree were me ... then she was scratching through the skin and muscle and bone and marrow, tearing away pieces of it as she fell along that body powerless to stop her.
When she touched earth again, her name was gone, scattered throughout the forest. Then she kicked, hard, at the base of the tree, and it toppled, falling to the earth beside her, a skeletal remnant of what it was.
She walked back to me, and, looking at me significantly, said "Rule number one."
I looked at her in confusion. I had no idea what she meant, but I knew she didn't like to hear me say, "Huh?" gaping like an idiot, so I just shut my mouth, staring at pure beauty ... pure heart-wrenching, terrifying beauty.
"Come on," she said, looking back at me, shaking her head. She looked disappointed in me. Or was it rueful?
I commanded my feet to follow her, and we walked along in silence for a while.
"Rule number one?" I asked quietly. I still couldn't figure out what she meant.
"One rule," she intoned, "no exceptions."
Her explanation wasn't helping at all.
We walked along for a bit. Then she asked abruptly, "Would you like to sit and talk?"
I looked up. She was holding her hand out, pointing to the tree she felled. Not the splintered tree. The tree with the cross embedded in it. How the Hell did that appear out of nowhere?
I guess it would help for me to look beyond my feet when I was walking, huh?
Um, is to okay to say 'huh' if it's just in my thoughts?
Rosalie was looking at me, still indicating the tree.
No, I guess it wasn't. I guess I shouldn't say 'um' in my thoughts anymore, either.
I nodded in answer to Rosalie's question, and we walked to the tree and sat. I sat on the depression that Rosalie had made into the tree ... my seat, and Rosalie sat on the other side of the cross.
I remembered the thoughts I had when Edward was calling on me, thoughts about being somebody different — about being a lady to match his gentlemanly behavior — but I never thought that it would be so hard, watching my every thought. Thinking before I said anything. I thought I did. I thought what I said made sense.
But that was before. But now?
I looked at Rosalie looking off into the distance of the forest, so casually sitting right next to something that was supposed to ward her off. She wasn't warded off. She didn't even look bothered by the cross, right next to her. She looked ... contented. She was just sitting there, looking relaxed. It was a look that I liked seeing on her.
"Why is everything wrong about ... well, you?" I asked her. "I mean, they say that a cross is supposed to, like, scare you off. Why do they say that if it doesn't?"
Rosalie shrugged disinterestedly, looking away, thinking.
She said after a second: "I don't know. Maybe it did happen that way to somebody who saw something, who saw it that way."
"How could they see a cross scaring off a vampire when it doesn't? Are there different kinds of vampires, and it works on bad vampires but it doesn't work on good vampires, you know, the ones that don't drink human blood?"
Rosalie did look at me then, then looked away again. She had her eyebrow raised slightly when she looked, like she was curious, but she said something different than what curiosity would say.
She said softly, "There are no such thing as good vampires. All vampires are bad ... through and through."
I didn't agree, but I didn't want to get into the whole argument again about her being kind.
So I changed course. "So why do people say the cross works when it doesn't? I mean, what could have somebody've seen to make them say that?"
Rosalie looked back at me, then looked away again and smirked.
"Dead men don't tell tales," she said.
Do I need to add she said it cryptically?
Well, 'huh?' wasn't going to work, I knew that from hard won experience.
"Could you explain that, please?" I was pleased that I could ask a lady-like question in the face of my confusion. Maybe being a lady wasn't all that hard to do.
"Yes," Rosalie responded.
And I waited for her explanation.
And I waited.
It was nice outside — cold but peaceful and quiet — but eventually I lost patience. "Well ...?" I prompted. Again with a lady-like calm, but Rosalie wasn't making this 'being a lady' any easier by being cryptic and difficult.
"You asked if I could explain myself, and I can. I am completely capable of explaining myself." She lectured her explanation of her explaining herself to me. "Did you mean to ask if I would explain myself?"
Hm. Perhaps being a lady wasn't all that easy after all. I controlled my tone when I answered, "Yes," I said, then added explicitly, "would you please explain yourself?"
I wondered if adding sugar on top would help any.
"Yes," she responded and smiled. I wondered if she was playing more mind-games, because she paused for a second, but then she did launch into her explanation.
"Maybe somebody did hold up a cross and did shout: 'vade retro Satana,' to a vampire, and maybe the vampire did leave, but maybe that vampire left with a squirming victim in her arms, so she was leaving anyway because she had what she wanted already. Maybe that was the scenario, and then that story was repeated from hamlet to hamlet and from town to town."
"So maybe that did happen ..." She paused. "... one time. But all the other times? I'm sure the person did lift up their cross and shout those words, confident in the supposed efficacy. But I'm just as sure that what followed would be that person's final shock of their life. Every other attempt most definitely ended in failure, but who would be there to report that result?" And she added grimly: "Dead men don't tell tales."
"But," she said after a pause and gave me a reproachful look, "your inquisitive mind is going places again that does not concern you."
Well, at least she wasn't shouting at me. I thought this ruefully. In fact, she said that last bit rather gently ... gently for her, that is.
"Is 'rule number one' my concern?" I whispered this question carefully, looking at the ground in front of me.
"You are the demur one, aren't you?" she asked in a lilting voice that betrayed something like surprise.
I risked a look at her. "You aren't scolding me, are you?"
"Hm?" Her voice and her look were distant. "No. Scolding you? I was admiring you."
My eyes widened in shock, and she looked away quickly as she explained herself.
"It's just that people Back East are so much more direct. Is this a Midwest thing, the humility and shyness?"
She looked at me again and smirked.
I blushed, of course, and dropped my eyes again.
I don't know if I can tell you what that sound was like: light and easy, relaxed, yet it was musical and enchanting at the same time. Mesmerizing. That's what it was: her laughter was mesmerizing, and the way it mingled with her scent ... I wanted to keep hearing it. Forever.
But then she continued in a more serious tone. "Yes, 'rule number one' pertains to you. One could even go so far as to say it's your only concern ... and mine. But that might be hyperbole."
And the way she spoke her words, in those measured tones, and the words that she used, and ... well, if this what being a lady entailed — speaking that way and laughing that way and moving that way and ... being that way — then I'd better tell Rosalie to give up her project before it frustrated her. Well, before it frustrated her more.
"So ..." I added, helpfully. Maybe if I spoke less words, it'd raise her ire less often.
"So, what's 'rule number one,' hm?" She asked for me, and I nodded in response.
"Let me ask you a question." She turned to me as she said this. "What would you say if you were told that there were creatures that were impenetrable? That they appeared to fly? That they 'lived' forever? That they drank blood? What would you feel if you were told vampires were real, and you were presented with irrefutable evidence?"
I looked at her. Then I thought about it. "I guess ... I don't know ... I guess it would make sense." I shrugged.
Rosalie frowned. "You wouldn't be jealous?" I shook my head. "You wouldn't be afraid?" I looked down and shrugged at that.
"Why is that?" she asked quietly.
I knew the answer to that one. "Because I've seen you, and the ..." I paused as I remembered their names weren't the Hales before I said their correct name, "... Cullens. Jealous? No, from what you've said it sounds ... hard." I was going to say something like "terrible" but I didn't want to hurt her feelings. "And afraid? Well, the Cullens seem nice, and you ..." I stopped because I didn't know how to continue.
"Hm," was her reply layered with thought. "Perhaps I was asking the wrong person, and perhaps your encounter with the only vampires that wouldn't consume you and the ones you love as soon as they saw you has tainted your perspective. But can you think like every other person in the world for a moment?"
"What do you mean?" I asked her.
"Every other person would be terrified and would be envious. 'Live' forever? Monstrous strength and speed? Invulnerability? And on the opposite side of the coin: vampires? Real? Every person, once they became aware of that, would fear for their mortal lives, and rightly so. And in that fear they would band and they would march out into the world in a panicked mob, killing many innocents: 'She's a vampire!' they would scream, and kill you for the paleness of your skin. But then they might find a way to destroy our kind. And that," she ended with a very ominous tone, "cannot be allowed."
"And that is 'rule number one.' For people do not act on things they do not contemplate or know. And if they do not know vampires exist, they will not act and learn and eventually destroy the indestructible things that we are. So any knowledge pointing to vampires must be destroyed, to keep the people ignorant and docile. And anybody who knows vampires exist, or has seen one as they are? Well, they must be ..." and she shrugged.
"Oh," I said.
We were both being so quiet as we spoke. It was if we were respecting the quiet of the forest with the quiet of our voices.
I felt Rosalie's eyes on me. "How are you?" she asked.
I thought about that. How was I? "Well, a little thirsty, I guess." I recalled I hadn't drunk since this morning, and the sun was past the high point of noon.
I heard a nothing of a whisper from Rosalie: "So am I."
My head snapped up at that, and I looked at her sharply, but it was if she didn't say anything: her lips were sealed and her face was impassive.
She rose. "Shall we continue? We're about halfway there."
Ah! So I was right about the distance. I guess my directions were off. Way off. But I wasn't watching carefully as we walked and as she carried me. My mind was filled with just too much else.
So much for this being a nice and relaxing break from the intensity.
I stood, but now it was Rosalie's turn to look at me sharply.
"What?" I asked. I'm sure I zipped up my trou. Besides, how could she tell either way? The coat I was wearing almost reached to my ankles.
"You're pushing yourself," she accused, her eyes narrowed in what she was trying to make a scary look.
The look worked.
"Well, ..." I began. I thought I was getting up naturally from the tree. Sure, it was an effort, but I wanted to do this. I loved this new-found freedom of walking about in the open like this.
"'Well' nothing," she growled back. "I told you not to push yourself for now. That's for later."
She scooped me up and ran us back to the cabin.
My thoughts were in turmoil as the cabin approached us in seconds, so much faster than our walk out from it took. One word was at the eye of the storm in my mind: Later.
What did she mean by that?
Chapter End Notes:
If one goes to fashion-era-dot-com and looks up 1930's flop hat (1930's hats are a drop-down selection at the top of the 'Sitemap' page), this is the hat I saw Rosalie wearing as she escorted the girl through the forest.
The story of Samson and Delilah is told in the Bible, the book of Judges, chs 13-16.
The cursive writing that Rosalie inscribes up the right-most tree is in the style of the banner for this story on twilighted-dot-net. Thanks to the skilled artist and fan-fiction author Roonie for providing the banner for this story.