Chapter Summary: Least-ways she could've acknowledged that I used the word 'spontaneity' so ... well: spontaneously, but no, she's all like ... well, Rosalie ... then, she's, you know? ... silly, and then I'm, like, silly, and I thought we were having fun. Honestly, I thought we were having fun. God, I'm so stupid. Like: there's a news flash.

I was just standing up from the throne and was going to bang open the door to the potty to get Rosalie explain what she meant by 'not involuntary discharge,' when the door did jerk open, but not under my power.

Under the power of someone much more, ... well, powerful.

"Gah!" I exclaimed, as I faced, not the door, but Rosalie, holding a steaming pail of water.

She didn't give me time to recover. "It sounded like you would need to wash," depositing the pail at my feet, along with two washcloths.

Then she looked down, and glared at me accusingly.

"What?" I asked defensively.

"You redressed without washing yourself?" she glowered.

"Well, ..." I began, ... like it's as if this is the top-of-the-line 3-star commodes, right here in the middle of nowhere, with its own bidet and everything ... not!

Rosalie slammed the door in my face, not allowing me to explain.

"I'll be right back," her voice floated through the door, as I imagined it struggled, panting, to reach my ears from a Rosalie running back to the cabin at more than one-hundred miles per hour, I'd be willing to bet!

I sighed. My ruminations had probably taken more time than Rosalie's round trip, and I felt I had lost the upper hand of the conversation with her almost jumping right in here with me, checking on my business.

I sat back down, in the privacy of the privy, and washed my privates.

Just as I was patting myself dry, the door creaked ajar and a hand whiter that snow shoved a pair of panties onto my lap.

"GAH!" I exclaimed. "Warn a girl!"

"Change into those," was the imperious and impersonal reply.

"Gee, thanks!" I shot back sarcastically.


Jeez! Leastways she could be baited into being angry with me for catching me off guard like that all the time and embarrassing me, but no, she refused even to reply, ticking me off further.

I sat, fuming, the offered clean panties on my lap. I looked down at them, ... they were cool where her hand held them, and I smelled the faintest, sweetest scent of honeysuckle and rose on them from her touch.

I sighed. I could stew in here in the dark, or I could be her obedient little ... okay, I don't know what, because my mind recoiled from the word 'slave,' with her bossing me around like this, but that's exactly how I felt like. That's exactly how I felt like she treated me.

But if I dared think that, you know darn well who'd be screaming in my face about my wrong-headed notions, right?

I sighed; yes, again, and kicked off my boots, and got un-re-dressed. And yes, that's a word, too, okay?


I opened the door, and exited the potty, handing Rosalie the cloths and clothing of pre-clean-Bella, if you know what I mean.

"Hey," I said shyly, handing her the things.

"Hey," she said, taking the things, wrapping them around a stone, and hurling it over the treetops and out of sight.

Wait! I thought, surprised, she sounds shy too!

I looked at her critically, but she came right into my space, reaching behind me into the outhouse and pulling out the pail.

Her face was cool, impassive, unreadable.

But, to me, having been with her for a while now, her being unreadable meant that she was making herself unreadable, as opposed to trying really, really hard not to show me that she was concerned, or embarrassed, or, ... okay: scared.

I felt I had the advantage again.

"So," I asked breezily, "about that 'not involuntary discharge' comment ... what did you mean by that?"

Rosalie pursed her lips and gestured back toward the cabin, walking at a self-controlled normal pace.

Bingo! I crowed in my thoughts.

I followed along, my spirits lifting.

After a moment of silence, I became perplexed.

"Rosalie," I said, and I tried not to let either concern nor irritation touch my voice, "are you gonna answer or ...?"

I trailed off my question expectantly.

Rosalie glanced at me quickly. Measuring me. Always measuring me.

I felt, often, when she looked at me, she looked in disgust or disdain, finding me lacking.

I didn't feel that this time. She was critical, as is her way, but I saw a measure of ... respect? in her regard.

She grimaced. "You're not going to let this go," she said quietly, almost as a question, almost hoping.

I answered back, equally quietly, but also equally gravely. "I remember somebody telling me I should finish what I've started."

"Good memory," she spoke to the air in front of us.

I did now look at her in concern. "Do you regret telling me that?"

Because that's what I heard in her voice: regret.

She turned her head and looked at me as we walked along this cold, bright, sunny, quiet morning. "No," she said firmly. "No, I don't regret saying this."

"But, so, ..." I hesitated, "why are you ... sad I'm asking now?"

"I'm not ..." she began quietly.

"Don't lie to me, Rosalie," I cut in sharply. "I'm not stupid, and I don't like it when you're ..."

"... so Rosalie?" The person, ... goddess, ... finished for me, her lips quivering upward, albeit sadly.

"No," I said, "this isn't you being Rosalie; this is you being sad." I clarified angrily.

"So, you now have categories for my moods, do you?" she asked quietly.

"Yes," I shot back, "and I don't like it, Rosalie, and I don't get it. You told me to finish what I start, and now you're sad that I'm doing just that."

She was thoughtful for a moment, a quiet thoughtful.

"A few things," she finally broke the silence.

"Okay ..." I offered carefully. I wondered if I should ask if I should tighten the straps on my saddle. Her 'a few things' always stung.

"Okay," she smiled encouragingly at me, a smile from which I got zero encouragement in my gut as it tightened for her reasoned and then angry belittling words that always hit me in the stomach like a prizefighter raining down one-two punches.

"Firstly," she said, "'finishing what you start,' does not mean, 'start any and every little thing that pops into your head.' It means quite the opposite, in fact, doesn't it?"

She asked me, confirming that I should know this, looking into my eyes for this knowledge that I should have.

She didn't seem to find it, so she explained. "So, 'finish what you start,' means choose your battles carefully. Fight the ones you must, and the ones that aren't important, that is to say, that you are not willing to put your life on the line for ..."

She paused, then shrugged, smiling, waiting.

Then she frowned, continuing, obviously displeased in the very definite non-Eurika! look in my eyes indicating that I really didn't get was she was hinting at.

"The ones you aren't willing to but your life on the line for, let them go, or if you do commit to them, commit to them like your life depends on it. Otherwise, you're just like everybody else ... a nobody, meaning nothing, because they just open their mouths to say whatever just popped into their heads without even thinking through the consequences and ramifications, and why don't they think these things through? Because 'oh, I'm just saying, ... it doesn't mean anything, really, I'm just asking, is all' and they live their meaningless, pointless lives opening their mouths so the sounds can come forth that mimic a babbling brook, signifying nothing from the nobodies that they are and always will be."

"So," she turned to me, smiling, hardness in her eyes, "when you asked your question just now, was it important to you, or where you just speaking out loud the burst of curiosity that intrigued you, and nothing more?"

Ouch! I thought, feeling the blow of her words, an open-palmed slap across my face. Ouch, ouch, ouch, and outie-ouch!

Rosalie smirked at me, superior her, looking at inferior me.

I stopped in my tracks just then, and thought, really, really hard. I thought about what she said, and why I asked my question.

I mean, sure, ... I thought to myself, ... and paused, and collected my thoughts.

... I mean, sure, I continued more strongly: I asked the question because, zing! it was right there in my head, and I had to know!

But ...

... I felt a warmth, a cold, intellectual warmth of understanding hit me, and what hit me was:

But that doesn't mean that it can't also be important, too, right?

I looked at her, the light of understanding dawning on my face.

Her own face stayed hard, but her eyes narrowed, remeasuring me, her opponent.

I hoped to God I was her worthy opponent for once, for just this once in my life.

I answered carefully: "I asked you because it's important, Rosalie."

She looked at me scornfully. Was she seeing me as that girl who only answered the question the 'right' way because she wanted to answer the question the way the other person asking wanted to hear? just to stay out of trouble?

Was Rosalie actually pre-judging me? mis-judging me?

I felt a tightness in my chest, as I felt myself ready to fight with her, to prove to her I'm not the idiot she thinks I am.

"Oh, really?" she asked, contemptuously. "And just how is this thing important to you?"

I looked back at her. "Because it's important to you."

She drew back, just a touch, and I felt the tightness in my chest ease, just a little tiny bit, at her miniscule, yes, retreat. But a retreat, none-the-less.

Her next question wasn't conciliatory at all, but resumed her attack with renewed vigor: "Howso?"

"I don't know," I admitted, feeling myself weak for admitting my weakness, but then I firmed up my resolve. "I don't know," I repeated more strongly, "so that's why I asked."

Rosalie paused a moment.

"Okay," she conceded in a tone that didn't give an inch. "I'll grant you you've thought the importance of this question through."

It was so hard to breathe, the tightness in my chest was almost strangling me from the inside, it felt like we were sparring, but for real, for life or death, but I didn't see how I could back down or back out, ... I could only see her: her fierce, determined gaze, and nothing else.

"But," she continued, unabated, "did you think through the consequences of your question? Did you think how I would respond? And how you would respond to that? And then my answer? And then your resolution? Did you see it all the way to a satisfactory resolution? Or did you think I would just answer this, just like that, and that would be that?"

My throat constricted. "Can I answer by saying I hoped you'd just answer?"

The grin on her face became cold and cruel.

"You may answer that way," she sneered, "if you wish to answer thoughtlessly."

Ouch, I grimaced, feeling as if I hadn't lost ground, but had lost everything I fought so hard for.

I tried, desperately, to regain just a little bit of ground on my sinking ship. Wait, that thought doesn't make sense, right? A ship wouldn't be on the ground, and it wouldn't be sinking there.

Shoot! Rosalie's even making me critique the thoughts I think just to myself as an aside!

"Rosalie," I entreated, "you can't say that!"

"Yes, I can," she retorted, unyieldingly. "I can, and I did."

"How can you say that!" I demanded. That's just not fair! I added the petulant thought.

She hissed an angry "You knew!" at me, and seeing the shock on my face, added: "You knew when you asked your question, once, twice, even before asking it at all, that this is something important to me, to Rosalie Lillian Hale, and, knowing that, you knew it wouldn't be easy."

"Is anything with you ever?" I whispered out of the side of my mouth.

She drew herself upright and crossed her arms, regarding me, again, as the nothing that I was. "Yes, it is," she said coldly. "When you think, then speak. When you think, then act ... rightly ... things are simple, straightforward, and easy."

I lost.

I lost. God, I've lost.

"So," I said, my voice breaking, "you're telling me right now, that whenever anything's hard, it's my fault?"

I almost lost the ability to speak the last few words of my question, I was so overcome by the incredulity of it, her utter and complete condemnation of me.

Then Rosalie, being Rosalie, looked me right in the eye, and answered, her cold, cruel, voice spearing my heart. "Yes. That's what I'm saying: it's your fault that things are hard."

"GAWD!" I finally shrieked, unable to contain my emotion.

She just regarded me, distant, remote, stone, as the sound of my voice echoed around the silent forest.

She was so totally different from this morning. This morning, that is, earlier this morning, as it was still before noon, when I was so furious I couldn't answer her question, she held me until I could breathe again, but now, ... now, she was just ... so ... hard on me.

And I didn't know why.

She regarded me then ...

How do I say it? Didn't soften? Didn't back down? But did she relent?

I don't know.

She tugged at my elbow, and we walked, me trudging through the snow, very slowly, alongside her, matching my pace, with, it seemed, infinite patience.

Heck, why not? She's won.

I asked in a very small voice: "So I have to think out everything I say and everything I do from now on? What kind of life is that, Rosalie?"

"An examined life," she answered coolly and uncompromisingly.

"But, c'mon, Rosalie," I whined, "that's just too hard! Nobody can do that. Not all the time!"

Rosalie was quiet for a moment.

I realized, that ... Rosalie, being quiet, was doing exactly what she was telling me I had to do. She was living her words: she was thinking through what she was going to say, before she said it. There was no way I could fault her for hypocrisy, because I saw her doing everything she said, everything she believed in.

And it wasn't hard for her to do that, ... she just did do that ... that just how she is.

But her next words surprised me: "Perhaps not," she said quietly.

I had expected her to say something resolute like: 'yes, you can, and you shall, weak and frail girl!' but she didn't say that at all.

I swallowed my surprise.

"Perhaps not," she said again, "there are times for things, times for laughing and times for being serious, and when you are laughing, you don't need to plan out your moment-by-moment enjoyment, as that rather spoils you living in that moment, don't you think? But when, like here, you are learning, you are seeking out the truth, then you have to apply your mind — all your faculties, in fact — to achieve your end. For, after all, if you do not apply yourself fully, you will not obtain all of what you needed to learn, or all of the truth ... and a half-truth is oftentimes more harmful than the ignorance that proceeded it: if you don't know something, there's very little chance of you being harmed by it, as you don't encounter it; you don't see it. But a 'learned' half-truth gives rise to prejudices and superstitions, and they are at the root of many evils in the world that man visits upon man."

"Like vampires existing," I put in quietly.

Rosalie turned to me then, and smiled, and even encouragingly at that: "Exactly!"

I shook my head in utter confusion. "But, Rosalie, okay: this isn't news to you, but vampires do exist."

I was pretty sure of this fact by now.

Her smile turned into a grin. "They do," she admitted, "but how many people have been burned at the stake or have been decapitated because they've been falsely accused of being a witch or a vampire, when, in fact, they may have been mentally unstable, or be too smart for the superstitious town-folks' liking, or lived on their own, away from society, but no: the mob comes out, and burns them out of house and home, and the stake awaits because they have such lovely pale skin ..."

Here Rosalie stroked my cheek, and I felt my face burn at her touch.

"... or they ask too many questions that are uncomfortable to the figures in authority, and because 'they' are a girl, they label her a witch and throw her in the lake, and if she floats, then that proved their suspicion, and they fish her out and murder her, and if she doesn't float, then she drowns. 'Ah,' they say: 'too bad, so sad,' and now she's out of the way, and people can go back to living their lives with their beliefs without the uncomfortable truth-seeker in the way of them reaping a good harvest."

"You see," she said quietly, "the half-truth is not that vampires exist. The ignorance is not believing that they do exist at all. The half-truth is all the myths people tell themselves about us, believing they can protect themselves from what we really are with their garlic and crosses, and so believe they can kill people who they think are vampires. This half-truth has probably caused more deaths because people to kill people who they thought were vampires. Perhaps even moreso than the deaths caused by a real vampire preying on their hovel of a village, and that chance being slim to none for most of the world."

"So you see how not thinking things through, not applying yourself fully, can lead to consequences much more harmful than if you left a course of action be?"

Rosalie looked at me for understanding.

I pursed my lips.

"A couple of things?" I asked humbly.

Rosalie smiled. "Of course," she said easily.

"So it's better not to do anything, to ask anything, because if you do it wrong, then ..."

"Wrongly," Rosalie corrected.

I sighed and continued, "So if you do it wrongly," I glared at her, but her smile was undiminished, "then you're worse off than just not asking at all?"

Rosalie smirked. "What do you think the answer is to your question?"

I took in a breath. "Well, I guess ..."

She added quickly, "Think about it carefully."

"I am," I shot back fiercely.

Rosalie nodded, acknowledging me ... for once.

"Well," I continued, thinking hard ...

Thinking hard is hard work, I've come to find, much to my disappointment and displeasure. I felt like a headache was just waiting to take advantage of me doing all this hard thinking.

"Well," I said, "I don't think so. I think ... okay, I know, that when I find something out, or when I learn how to do something, I'm better off. When I learned how to ride, I could get around the county better than just walking, and that helped Pa, and ... like: the lightbulb. That was somebody who did something by learning about it and making it work, and everybody's better off because of that, right?"

I looked to Rosalie for confirmation. She grinned, pleased.

"Good," she said, "yes: knowing something is better than living in ignorance."

"Okay," I said. "Then, but the other thing is this, if I have to be thinking through everything, then ... what about spontaneity?"

I was more than a little bit pleased that I could have a conversation with somebody and use the word 'spontaneity' and have it be totally natural, just like that. Not like back at school, where the word for the day was 'spontaneity' and you had to use that word three times that day when you were speaking.

Talk about totally contrived sentences: 'I went to the cafeteria and bought my lunch with spontaneity!'

"What about it?" Rosalie asked.

I wondered if she were asking about my lunch at the cafeteria.

But I think she was rather above such trifling concerns of what a cowgirl at for her school lunch ... that is: before she dropped out of school to help Pa.

"Well," I addressed her question, "I mean, like, ..."

"Work through your thoughts, and then choose your words with care."

Rosalie said that with, like, infinite patience, like a mommy correcting her daughter, and that annoyed me.

I tsked. "It's not easy for me, Rosalie," I said, controlling my temper.

"Who said anything about it being easy?" Rosalie demanded.

"But that's just it!" I countered. "I mean, like, artists and poets and musicians, they are ... they make these incredibly beautiful things, right? Amazing things, that nobody's ever seen before or thought of, and they do it all so easily, but you're saying I have to think through everything, and that just kills that creative spark that, well, gave me the idea in the first place to ask, or to wonder, or ... whatever: to see something beautiful, right? Do you want me to kill that in me, because now I have to think everything through?"

Rosalie stopped and tilted her head to one side, contemplating me.

For a walk to the outhouse and back, this sure was a long walk ... it was like her 'oh, we'll just do three seconds of mirror time' time ... that is: twenty-seven hours, and don't you screw it up, because we'll start right over from the beginning if you do!

"There is a place for spontaneity ..." Rosalie began.

"Not for me anymore, according to you," I bit back, a little bit miffed.

Okay, I said that maybe more than a 'little bit' miffed.

Rosalie spread her hands apart: "May I continue?" she asked patiently.

Hmmphf! "Yes," I almost pouted my reply.

Rosalie gave me a sad smile, "Those artists and composers you've mentioned ... are any of them in your acquaintance?"

"No, but ..." I began, sullen.

"Shhh," she shushed me, gently. "I have had several in mine."

Of course she has, and now's the part where she tells me I'm an idiot, ...


I just wanted to sit down in the snow and cry. Nothing I could say to her ever made a dent. She always had an answer to everything I said.

"And," she said, softly, "I've watched them create. Yes, their works are amazing, beautiful, revealing, transcendent ... that is artists of the highest calibre are able to create works like these, and then able to repeat the impossible of creating original art ... again, ... but how long does it take them to produce a painting? Or a minuet? At our house we retained an artist of some talent, and I watched him for two weeks just taking up space, eating, sleeping, looking out the window, doing nothing, or so I thought. I had in mind to ask mother to have him thrown out like the baggage he was! But then, one day, he gets up from the couch in the sitting room and tears off to his studio. Not more than an hour later he comes back with a completed work: a masterpiece of lush, dark tones with just a hint of light at the center, the heart of the piece. ..."

She paused recalling that moment from her previous life.

"And then I saw, in retrospect, that all that time that I had thought he was doing nothing but occupying our space and eating our food, he was actually working, perfecting his conception so that the finished work was simple, and beautiful."

She looked at me. "Creativity? Spontaneity? Yes, they are the spark of invention, but then comes the long, grueling process of honing that spark, tempering and molding it into exactly what the artist needs to produce: a perfect work, from that spark, yes, but only fully realized after a long period of trials tested and refined in fire."

"Do you see what I'm saying to you?" Rosalie asked me gently.

I turned away, looking at the ground, and wiped away an angry tear.

"Are you sorry you've asked your question?" she asked quietly.

"Very," I answered just as quietly, but with oh, so much more fervor.

Note to self ... file this under "Bella verses vampires" ... and that note is 'ask questions whenever you want to be reminded just how really stupid you are.'

"Well," she asked calmly, "are you willing to move beyond your sorrow?"

Okay, I pondered that question from her for awhile, but I couldn't make head nor tail of it.

If you were in my shoes, would you?

I capitulated. "I don't know what you mean, Rosalie," I said humbly.

Or I tried to say it humbly, ... that is: not petulantly.

"What I mean," Rosalie said, "is that you were so sure of yourself a moment ago, and now, you're not, correct?"

Rub my face in it, why don't you Rosalie? My black thoughts muttered into the darkest recesses of my mind.

"Yes," I finally admitted.

"Well, then," she continued, "are you willing to move beyond your personal feelings that cloud the matter, so we can discuss the issue at hand, or are you going to be having this conversation with yourself so loudly about you and your own hurt feelings that anything I say will be drowned out by your own thoughts shouting silently, but louder than I can possibly scream in your ear, in which case I might as well enjoy the rest of the walk in silence with my sullen companion?"

I grinned bitterly. Again, Rosalie was giving me a choice that wasn't a choice at all. I could be selfish and sulk and ruin her day, and it'd be all my fault, or I could put aside me being a crybaby and try to act my age for once in my life.

I blew out a long sigh, collecting myself, trying to restore calm to myself and quell the darkness of my thoughts inside me.

"Okay," I said finally.

I felt Rosalie's eyes on me.

I didn't know if I was up to the task of returning her gaze, but, I felt I had to try.

I looked at her, and smiled weakly.

She looked surprised, and the smile she returned was genuine.

"Good," she said, pleased.

Now it was my turn to be surprised. I felt an attack of the giggles try to sneak up on me. She crushes me, then she crushes me for sulking about it, and then I try to put on a happy face on about it for her sake, and she's pleased as punch? And that's 'good'? Because what's going on in my insides is anything but 'good.'

How, again, was that 'good'?

Other than, ... then I had to crush this next thought from overwhelming me, ... other than that weak little slave, that is: me, submitted to Mistress Rosalie and was told to be happy about it, so that's what her slave did, because that's what she's supposed to do, and that's why it's 'good'?

I tried to drop that thought into a little box in my mind, wrap and seal that box, and bury it three thousand miles away from me.

But somehow I knew that I couldn't throw that thought far enough without it boomeranging on me. Rosalie, I realized, had actually mellowed since I first met her, and she kidnapped me, but I felt myself getting more easily irritated and less forgiving in my heart with her.

I wondered. Was I giving up hope? The way she harangued me, it was like ... she never gave me any quarter, and when I tried to be accommodating or friendly or helpful, she would instantly pounce on even that and turn it against me somehow.

I was tired: tired playing these mind games with no clear rules and no end in sight.

And Rosalie looked determined to go on just doing that, and convinced that it was for my own good.

I wasn't so convinced.

Maybe even this was one of her mind games: as she lectured and berated me, maybe she was seeing how much I would take until I broke? Or maybe it wasn't, and she was just doing what she always did, what had been done to her, so that's all she knew: cruel, hard, harsh, demanding life in a super-rich family and in finishing school or wherever where your every move and thought was judged and found unsatisfactory or in need of constant improvement.

What if that was her life? her childhood? And that's all she knew? That the only way you could talk to people is to prove to them you're (way) smarter than what they are so you could lecture them left and right.

I looked at her, thinking these thoughts, and wondered if she wanted me to be like that.

Well, I'm sorry, Rosalie, I thought, but you're in for a big disappointment, or a surprise, because I'm not you, and that's not how I am. I'm not going to push people around and make them feel stupid all the time because I'm smart or anything.

That's just not who I am, Rosalie, and you can't make me be that way.

Thinking that, looking at her, a goddess in these snowy woods, I felt a measure of my confidence return, a measure of myself. A small measure, yes, but I felt it: a little bit of me, returning to me.

She could win an argument against me, any argument, probably eventually, but that doesn't mean I'm not me anymore. I could be me, even if she were right and I were wrong, and it may be okay or not, or I may feel crushed by her, or feel terrible...

... but I'd still be me.

Rosalie looked at me, still pleased at I could do the simple thing, like lose an argument with her, but look her in the eye, afterward. I wonder if she realized what happened in me, that in losing the fight over me asking my question, because I wanted to know, I found, not the answer to the question, but I found myself again, ... that is, a little bit of myself again.

And that did feel ... 'good.'

Just like she said.

It's funny. I lose. I despair. I think I'm no better than her, okay: slave, and ... going through all that, I ... win myself back.

I mean, I still lose, and she looks like she's going to keep going on this, and, by golly, forever about it, I'm thinking.

But, ... okay. She's her, ... but I'm still me, and I can accept her as her, ... sometimes.

So she darn well tootin' better start learning to accept me.

If not, ... I might just have to put my foot down.

See if she likes that!

"Okay," she continued, turning back toward the path back to the cabin, oblivious of the new-me, walking alongside her. "So that's one thing: your question is important, fine, but if it is important to you, you have to commit to it; you have to see it through to the end."

She glanced at me as we walked: "You have to be willing to fight for something that's important to you."

"That's hard," I pointed out quietly.

"Yes," she answered as quietly, "that's hard."

"Was everything in your life hard, Rosalie?"

Rosalie was quiet for a while as we walked through the woods.

I suppose she didn't have to answer every question I asked her. It's not like there's some rule about it. I mean there is: somebody asks you a question, you just answer it, one way or another. Was Rosalie not answering me now showing me that that was another rule I just blindly followed for no reason?

And I knew the answer to my question to her already.

Everything in her life was hard. If it wasn't, she just walked right over that to the next hard thing she could find, the next fight she could pick.

Until she died.

What a terrible ... waste!

Just fighting until life rolled right over her. And she's so pretty, and smart, she could've had anything she wanted in life, and she could've lived her life any way she wanted to.

And she picked the hardest way, every time.

I felt a bit sorry for her, but I hoped she didn't notice, or feel that in me toward her.

Rosalie hates pity.

She shrugged.

"So," she said, dismissing my question. "Back to the relevant question."

She emphasized the word 'relevant' just so slightly, getting me back on track.

I wonder if she sees me as scatterbrained.

"...I find it difficult to discuss this with you," she continued, "because I really don't know who I'm addressing..."

I looked at her and whispered, resolutely: 'Me.'

"Yes," she replied, looking at me, smiling, "quite."

Then she said, "But what do you know?" she asked.

And I felt that to be a rhetorical question.

It was, for she continued in the same breath: "And I'm afraid that you know nothing in this matter, so how to proceed?"

She regarded me, thinking, and I wondered what she was thinking.

"You were young when your mother left you," she said.

"Yes," I said, feeling the emptiness, the void, Rosalie's words recalled me of that, and the years of just me and Pa, Pa and me.

"Did she ..." Rosalie paused. "Did she speak to you about the ways of nature before she left?"

Rosalie looked down below my abdomen.

"No," I said.

She hummed thoughtfully. "It must have come as quite a shock to you when your cycles started."

"Yes, it was," I answered simply, but remembering the terror I felt the first time, me bleeding, thinking I was broken, or that I was dying and suffering terrible internal bleeding.

'Yes, it was,' was about all that could be said of the panic I felt.

"So," her voice bringing me back, "Your mother wasn't there when you had your first period, correct? But your father was. What did he do? How did he handle it?"

I chuckled at this, and Rosalie looked at me quizzically.

"Well," I explained, "if I wasn't scared to death that I was somehow torn inside and was bleeding out from inside, and it wasn't stopping, and I was so afraid that I was bleeding to death, ..."

Here she turned a pure-while pale.

"Sorry," I whispered, looking away. I could never get used to her being so ... attached to me and the blood in me, even as she told me this, over and over again.

"Well," I continued, more subdued, "If I wasn't scared to death myself, I would've been more concerned for Pa..."

I felt Rosalie smile. "He was concerned?" she asked with a hint of laughter in her voice.

I smiled privately at that. "Well, I suppose that's one way of saying it, but I think it was more like 'out of his mind with panic' than 'concerned.' He — can you believe this? — he carried me to Dr. Paardenkooper's at a dead run, all the way across town."

I smiled, reflecting on that panicked and panicky moment, the look of terror on Pa's face, that only made my own worse and worse as we rushed to Dr. Paarenkooper's practice, only to find out that it was just my first period.

No big deal, just something that happens to every girl. No big deal, except for clueless me and Pa, running across town in a complete panic.

"When we arrived at Dr. Paardenkooper's office, I didn't know if Pa was gonna have a heart attack from all that runnin' or if his arms were gonna fall off. He was all red-faced and panting like a factory smoke stack chimney, I tell you what!"

I smirked, but then recalled the unpleasant afterward.

"I don't know what was worse," I said, "Pa's initial panic, or Dr. Paardenkooper ... you know ... examining me ... down there! I mean ..."

I recalled him having me sit up on the table, and having me open my legs, and him bending down in front of me and looking at me, right there, and then touching me there, gently, but he was touching me, and opening me up, and looking, and ...

... I was so embarrassed I thought I would die.

Didn't help any that Pa absolutely refused to be with me, that he just stayed in the waiting room and paced around uselessly like ... well, like Pa.

"... Or," I continued, "when Dr. Paardenkooper called Pa back after he assured him I was decent again, and that, no, I wasn't dying, that this was normal, and that we now had to count days, and what we had to do to prepare this thing that would be happening to me every month..."

Rosalie was looking at me. "Did he help you?"

I laughed in surprise. "Huh? Pa?" Just the thought of Pa trying to help me there was hilarious. "Nah, he brought me by Mrs. Kuntz's, and, of course her daughter, Kristen, was there, with her friends, and Kristen was like, nice, you know? And she said, 'Hello, Bella,' all polite-like, like it was a privilege for me that she even knew what the name of just the sheriff's daughter was, or even cared, and you could tell she was really relieved when Mrs. Kuntz took me out. And she and her friends were like whispering to each other as we left to the Main Street Market, you know? on Main Street?"

I looked to her to see if my directions were helpful ... she seemed interested, but not where Main Street Market was. And, on reflection, it was kind of obvious where Main Street Market would be. But, in my defense, Main Street was a much shorter street than Speelmon, so you could possibly miss it, if you weren't looking hard ... in our tiny little nothing town.

I sighed. Here I was, a small town girl trying to give directions to this cosmopolitan lady of high society Back East who could care less about where our grocery store was.

So I continued.

"... and she's the one who took me 'nd Pa there and showed me where to put the coins in the slot of the box up front, right up by the entrance, for the ... well, pads, and where to get them from, so I wouldn't have to speak to the clerk and be embarrassed out of my mind with having that kind of conversation in the public marketplace, you know? And what did Pa do? He, like, ran to the back of the store to look at manly stuff like bacon or something like that or anything that didn't have anything to do with girlie problems, you know? Let us girls handle that."

I shrugged, somehow becoming dispirited by my own recollection.

"Hm," was all that Rosalie said for a while.

We were walking by the tree that she felled. I noticed it this time, even so deep into my own thoughts. Rosalie tugged on my elbow, pulling me over toward the tree. She dusted the snow that had been blown up onto my seat, and then, in a lady-like gesture, she took out a hanky, and laid in on my seat, patting on it, indicating for me to sit there.

I did. She sat on the trunk.

I looked at her quizzically. "You're not gonna sit on a hanky, too?"

"I just brought one." She explained, shrugging.

I tilted my head to my side. "Why don't you sit here?"

I started to stand up. Or I tried to.

Strong, irresistible hands pushed me back down onto my seat, ... onto her hanky.

She was standing right above, towering above me.

"A lady sits in a dignified manner." She glared at me, and then returned to her own, rough, uncovered seat.

"That's what I'm saying, Rosalie, ... Look: I ride in the saddle, all day, every day; I get my hands dirty, and my butt can handle sitting on a tree stump, because I've sat on worse, tons of times." I blushed slightly at saying the word 'butt' so casually, just like that, just like a girl who said 'butt' all the time and thought nothing of it. Growing up with most of my time spent in the Carter County courthouse with Sheriff Pa and all his manly deputies kind of rubbed off on me, I guess. Me? A lady? Yeah, right. So I pushed my point: "You're the lady, so you should sit here."

Rosalie didn't move. She looked at me crossly. "And that's what you're not getting, Li-... my little one," — nice, smooth, recovery there, I thought sarcastically, catching her slip — "is that you are a lady, too. So you don't fight but accept the condescension of your betters with quiet grace and dignity and sit on covering offered to you."

I thought about that for a second.

"It's an insult to turn down the proffered token," she added curtly.

I sighed. It was just so obvious who the lady was here, but if I pushed it, I'd be insulting her.

And I just couldn't bring myself to do that. I may not be a lady, but I also wasn't one to insult one, either.

Especially if that lady were Rosalie.

Which it is.

Her. I mean.

I sighed again. Why can't I get over her? When it's so obvious she's so not interested in me, at all.

Not that way, anyway.

"But you're a lady, too, Rosalie," I complained faintly, not letting it go.

"Yes," she said, and her face said: 'obviously.'

"But," I continued into that severe face, "I don't have a hanky to offer for you to sit on. I don't carry one, you know?"

Rosalie tilted her own head, and waited for me to just get it.

I didn't, so she told me what I should have thought of: "Maybe, then, you should start carrying one, so you are always prepared for such occasions, or for any occasion that requires one."

I reflected on that, and, in thinking of me, taking a dainty little hanky out of what? my jeans, or was she going to start making me wear dresses? — Ha! I snorted to myself, thinking: that'd be the day! — and unfurling it, with the flair that she did, and pat it, like she did, and then saying, 'Here ya go, Rosalie, sit yer tush right there!' all gentle-woman-ly like, all highfalutin like that.

Just the image of me doing that had this big smile plaster itself across my face that just wouldn't go away, no matter how hard I tried to make it.

So I just sat there, on her ... 'proffered' ... hanky with the big-ole smile on my face.

Rosalie smiled back at me, quizzically.

"So," she became businesslike, "to summarize your experience of passing into womanhood: it was marked by you being embarrassed in your community and your peers ostracizing you, right? Just something that you wanted to go away and disappear so not to draw attention to yourself nor discomfit your father, correct?"

"Huh?" I said, taken aback, "I didn't say that."

Rosalie raised an eyebrow. "Oh, and how does my summary differ from your memory?"

I blushed. "Well, ..." I began defensively...

But then I didn't know how to complete my defense. I didn't know how to say that wasn't it at all, when, actually, when I thought about it, that's exactly what it was to me.

I hate it when Rosalie is right, ... particularly when her being right shows me being an idiot. Which is all the time.

She waited, but when she saw nothing (intelligent ... ever) was going to come out of my mouth, she continued as if I hadn't raised an objection at all: "So that's what you've carried with you, how you regard yourself, your body, as something embarrassing and ostracized. You were a child, and everything was fine, but when you became a woman, it was the cause for panic, and you felt ... dare I suggest ... dirty."

I looked away and shrugged.

Now I know why I was dispirited from my recollection.

Thanks, Rosalie, for summarizing that so succinctly. I thought bitterly.

"It's not that an uncommon experience," she continued gently, "for women in your situation. They feel these things about themselves. It's pervasive that women view themselves, their body, their sexuality as something taboo, something dirty, and feel isolated and rejected for simply being a woman."

I blushed at the word 'sexuality,' because we out here didn't just come out and say things like that word, like how people like her just felt like blurting out like a waitress asking what you wanted to order, or something.

But then, she said 'in your situation.'

"'In my situation'?" I asked, daring to look at her.

"Yes," she answered simply. "In your situation: women with no friends and a poor self-image."

I winced. How could she be any more blunt?

"Jeez, Rosalie, don't hold back on my account!" I whispered, trying to sound sarcastic, trying not to sound hurt.

A cold hand lifted my chin, forcing me to look at her. She pierced me with her gaze.

"I don't hold back." She said calmly. "The reason why I don't hold back is for your sake."

"Thanks," I said, tearing my face away from her hand, watching my feet kick the snow.

"You're still not getting it," she said softly, but so relentlessly. "How is what I am saying inaccurate?"

A tear welled up in my eye and spilled over. "It's not," I could barely hear myself whisper.

"And that's the irony of this, ... of you. This is all you see for yourself, yet you refuse to confront yourself and your life squarely. You just ... beat yourself down continuously, thinking of yourself in this way, dirty, ugly, friendless, and you'd rather live comfortably in your misery instead of confronting the choice you make to keep your head hung just as it is ... a girl perpetually ready for her justly deserved hangman's noose, rather than lift her head out of her own self-created misery and look about her, and see what's right in front of her: snow, trees, sky, beauty all around her that she could participate in, instead of avoid by digging that well of self-pity more and more deeply every day she wakes up and looks, or refuses to look, into that mirror because all she sees is just 'plain, old, ugly' her."

A sob forced its way from my throat and more tears joined the first. It was so hard to breathe with nowhere to turn away from her accusations.

She waited for me to catch my breath. Patiently. Relentlessly.

"Rosalie," I pleaded eventually, "all I did was ask a question. What does this have to do anything?"

"Look at me," she commanded.

I sighed and lifted my eyes to her, looking through the blurring of the tears at calm, patient Rosalie, always right, always hard, so cold, so cruel.

Why did I so ... okay: need ... her so to care about me, when all she did was belittle me?

"This," she waved about her, "has everything to do with how you regard yourself, and that has everything to do with how you treat yourself."

"And that has what to do with my question about 'not involuntary discharge'?" I asked, just so lost.

Rosalie smiled sadly, "Sweetie," she said kindly, "we're not even half way there yet. Remember I said that I don't know who I'm talking to or what you know? We have to clear that air so I can answer your question so you can understand, okay?"

"Not even halfway there?" I gulped. But my thoughts were in turmoil over one word: 'sweetie.'

What did she mean by that?

"Well," she said easily, "the hard part is ... mostly over... I hope."

Isn't she just so wonderfully reassuring? It must be her sublime bedside manner, the way she so callously bosses me around all the time that helps here.

I rolled my eyes at my own sarcastic thoughts.

Rosalie's eyes were merry, acknowledging my internal barb.

Well, at least she had a sense of humor about being a meanie. So there was that.

I stuck my tongue out at her.

She smirked, and mirrored my gesture.

"Huh?" I exclaimed. "Rosalie! That's so ... unladylike!"

I was a little bit pleased that she allowed our mood to lighten. That she could be hard, but that she could relent, even for just a moment.

I just wished I remembered, in my playfulness, that I was playing a game with Rosalie Lillian Hale, and I had deluded myself into thinking that she was kind to me, and she took care of me, ...

... and she did ...

... but she was, ... is ... still a vampire, and still, every day, I had to balance that sometimes, something in her just ... snaps ... and she goes from kind and caring to ... the most dangerous monster in the world, and then I find myself on the knife's edge, knowing that as I gasp in each desperate breath, it just might be my last one if I made a mistake, or if she just gave into her basest nature.

I wish, playfully teasing her now, that I remembered that.

But I didn't.

I thought, as we had begun walking back, that I could somehow create an advantage and then press it, pushing her, somehow, ... you know? ... making her realize that I could give as good as she could, that I could one-up her, somehow.

I just wish I could've remembered that she is a goddess, and stupid, silly, playful, ... mortal me ...? If I did succeed in showing her up?

I would be the one to pay for it.

With my life.

With my soul.

And, I couldn't even imagine the possibility now: but with even worse than that.

And the funny thing is, I didn't have to imagine it. It was just about to happen.

Just like that.

And the funny thing is, she wasn't even going to be just getting started, when she did lash out, from play to ... to ...

Funny how funny isn't funny, but it is sad, and, oh, God, it is terrible.

So, so terrible.

I thought, earlier, losing my argument with her, that I had regained a measure of myself, even if it were a small measure of myself.

And I had to fight so, so desperately hard to regain that confidence in myself.

And I didn't know, ... I didn't think, ... that just with her slightest touch, just with one look from her she couldn't just take that bit of self-confidence away from me, but ...

... that she could shatter it.

I wonder if she even noticed as she would do that to me.

Nothing me. A nothing compared to her: everything that I could never be.

I wonder if she would even care, if she did notice.

A/N: I am changing this story's rating from 'T' to 'M' ... the following chapters are short, but disturbing. Rosalie doesn't lose control ... but how is a mere mortal to know the difference between a vampire showing just a hint, a controlled hint, of the darkness that is her, and a vampire giving herself over to that darkness?

Would you know the difference, alone in the woods with her, ... facing her, as she draws you into herself?

Warning. Unpleasantness ahead ... and it doesn't get better until after they make it back in from the woods.

If both of them make it back, that is.

I am sorry

An analysis of this chapter is published on my blog at twilight-dad-dot-blogspot-dot-com /2013 /01 /msr-ch-57-confidence-in-spontaneity .html but please read my critique of analyses first at twilight-dad-dot-blogspot-dot-com /2012 /12 /on-criticism-and-analyses .html