Chapter summary: I didn't know that being perfectly beautiful could be so ... sad.


Rosalie was bathing me, again, for the third time today.

I've skipped the boring parts, in case you haven't noticed. You know: the parts where I was lying there, wallowing, and Rosalie was throwing out my puke and poop into the river, I guess, and probably disinfecting the tub ... I say 'tub' so casually, but I bet Rosalie never bathed in a steel basin so unaccommodating in her life! She probably had bubble baths in luxurious bath-houses cut out of marble with faucet work (with running water ... hot and cold!) made of pure gold and filigree tile-work, and all that! ... oh, with minstrels ... and towel-girls...

... I suppose I could be a towel-girl for Rosalie. Being a towel-girl didn't sound like too hard of a job, and the pay probably wasn't great, but I bet they had great benefits...

I meant room and board, you pervs!

Jeez!

But I skipped all that part in my journal here, as you see, because I know anybody looking into a girl's diary — I mean, if it were me, I'd be bored to tears reading: 'Friday, went swimming, was fun. Did dishes after supper. Bed.' for, like, three thousand entries, and I kind of noticed a theme in what I've recollected here up to now: Rosalie gets angry, shouts at me, I cry, she calms me down, then we do that all over again.

Well, I tell you what, you're probably bored reading all that, but you have no idea the hell I go through, well ... going through it!

So I'm skipping the domestic thing entirely to jump right into the ...

... well, the domestic scene of Rosalie bathing me, again.

I know. I know. BORING!

But getting bathed by Rosalie Hale?

Okay. Firstly, who can say that? Huh?

(Oh, and you'd better not say that within earshot of me. Get your own damn vampire: Rosalie's mine!)

And, secondly, the whole vampire thing?

How to describe it?

Well, okay, it's like this...

God, this is so embarrassing, writing this down, knowing that you're reading this, even though, obviously, I'm dead and gone, but still!

It's like this.

I'm standing there, and, okay, I'm naked, okay? So stop staring and drooling, okay?

Although there's nothing really to stare at...

But Rosalie's behind me now, holding me up, holding me into her, so she can bathe my front, and she needs to do it like this, for whatever reason, and it kinda makes sense, I guess, because while one arm holds me up and pins me into her, the other arm has free range to my whole front side. And I've never really noticed it before — I mean, who takes in the measure of somebody else's arms? — but Rosalie's arms are like ... long! She can wipe the washcloth from the top of my forehead to about just to the top of my knees without her stooping, so she has complete access to my front-side to ...

Oh, my God! I'm blushing again, thinking about her having 'complete access to my front-side,' but ...

Okay, in case this is news to you, but Rosalie's, like, this vampire, and she's not like a vampire you can read in a book and put it aside. No, she's like. There. Right there. Right behind me, her chin resting on my shoulder, and I'm, like, acutely aware that all she needs to do is pull her head back just an inch, and my neck is right there. And I think she knows that, too. And I think she knows that I know. So every single touch of her on my skin is like, super-electric, making me hyperaware of her, right behind me, poised, and in a perfect position, to strike, and suck me dry in like two seconds or whatever.

And you think my heart's not beating a mile a minute?

But she's just bathing me, is all, because I got myself all dirty, is all.

But the way I fit into her?

Well, I'm not the most gifted of girls, by any stretch, nor by any means, and I mean in everything, not just in my body, but in popularity, intelligence, wit — ha! what's that! — or ... anything.

But Rosalie?

She's truly gifted. In more ways than one. Or thirty-six for that matter.

You'll get that, eventually, I'm sure.

And ... well ... her pulling me into her, to keep me upright, obviously, well ...

That.

I was aware ... almost painfully aware ... of what was pressing against my shoulder blades, and it was ...

Okay, it was downright embarrassing for me, knowing that I was pressed up against Rosalie Hale's breasts, but what was she gonna do? Throw me on the ground and hose me down like a hog going onto the auction block?

So that was one thing.

The other thing was ... well. I'm not actually flat. I have a bit of a curve, here and there, and my backside wasn't generous, but it wasn't boney, either, and ... but ...

With her hourglass figure (no comparisons to me, please), and my butt, well ...

So, okay, there were two points of pressure, one pair topside on my shoulder blades and one down below on my butt, and I could feel her in both places. I could feel every curve, every fold, and I felt it oh-so-more acutely as she moved to wash me and as she maneuvered me in the basin so she could reach whatever part of me she felt she needed cleaning.

And feeling her, as she moved and moved me about before as she washed me, and now, in her stillness as she held me, contemplating something, I don't know what it was ...

The feeling of her on me, holding me into her, it was almost painful in my gut. It was an ache I didn't understand, and I wanted to run from it and hide under the bed until it went away, and I wanted to press myself more into her, or to have her hold me into her more tightly, so that dull, unspecific pain would go away.

Either one or the other. But this standing here in a tub of water, her holding me into her gently?

I couldn't stand it. It was driving me crazy! And what was so bewildering was I didn't know what it was that was driving me crazy nor how to fix it! I wanted it gone or I wanted it over or ...

I wanted it.

I wanted it more.

I just wish I knew what 'it' was, so I could ask for it.

If I had the guts to. But if I did, I would've asked already, and 'knowing what it is first' be damned.

But I guess I'm not a be-damned kind of girl, and I hate myself for that, my seeing that all I have to do is take that step, but always so afraid of doing just that, because it might be the step that ruins everything.

So I just stand here and wonder what it'd be like to be brave and popular and liked, like everybody else. And wonder, too, what the hell Rosalie is wondering about. I mean she's lifted up both my hands to clean them, but she just stood there, staring at each of them for the longest time. She had cleaned my right hand and arm first, but now she was just holding onto my left hand at about shoulder height, and she was just looking at it.

I mean: really! Just looking at my left hand of all things? I ask you!

So I asked her.

"Rosalie, ..." I said hesitantly, "what're you doing?"

She didn't answer for a long time, she just kept look at my hand.

"Rosalie ...?" I ventured.

"Hm?" she said.

Now it was my turn to wonder where she had gone.

"Uh," I cleared my throat. "Rosalie, your hand. My hand. What. You're doing?"

I figured if I kept it super-simple, she'd get it. Or get annoyed with me — shocker! — and come back from 'la-la land' to scold me, but then maybe even answer my question.

You know the feeling of a chin when the owner smirks? That chin being on your shoulder?

I got that feeling.

"Oh," she said easily, "I was just admiring you," she said.

I mulled over that one. "Uh, ..." was my witty reply.

Like Errol Flynn would come out to Montana to admire Pa? Yeah, right!

"See?" she continued, unabated. "Look at your hand."

She pushed my hand away from us a little bit, so it wouldn't be so close as I'd have to crane my neck to look at it.

I saw my hand.

I don't think it would've made the Sunday edition.

"Now, look at mine," she said, and she splayed her fingers slightly as she placed her hand next to mine.

I was actually pleased our hands were about the same size, ... on the smaller side. Of course, her hand was perfectly smooth, and my was perfectly ... not. Her fingers were longer and thinner, but not bony: they were delicate, those of a concert pianist, but beside that, beside her unearthly paleness and hardness, our hands were somewhat alike.

I looked between the two hands, hers and mine, trying to see what she saw.

"See?" she said.

I didn't see. I shook my head.

I felt her lips twitch, slightly, through her chin. I don't know if her lips pursed in disapproval, or if they shot up in a wry grin.

"Okay, then," she said, "do this."

She made her hand a fist, then flexed it straight. I followed suit, and we did that a few times slowly. The whole time my eyes were fixed intently on our hands, following her motions, but also feeling the intensity of her examination of our hands, too.

Her hand came to rest, palm away, straight up. Mine stopped that way, too.

"See?" she said.

I looked.

Then she moved her hand to cover mine, then her hand slid down it, and her index finger traced the fork in my vein down to my wrist.

"Oh!" I exclaimed.

I saw it now.

She put her hand up beside mine again.

Her hand was perfectly smooth.

"Oh!" I gasped.

She had no vein. At all.

"How do you ...?" I asked.

At the same time she said: "I miss that."

There was quiet, as we both stopped.

Then she continued, quietly, into the quiet. "The blood flowing through my veins? I miss that. I wondered what it felt like, being human, being alive. Having a heart pumping blood through your veins, feeling it bringing life to every part of your body. Just being alive. Breathing. I see that in you all the time. It hurts a lot, seeing that, as it calls to me, and the pain is worse than if you starved yourself for a week and there was food and drink right in reach and you felt your stomach trying to rip itself out of your body so it could reach the food. It hurts that much. But every time your little heart beats, I see it in your chest, I see it in your arms and legs, ... Lizzie, I see it in your irises. I see the blood circulating in your irises! And ..."

She paused and swallowed. "And I see you being alive, and ... I miss that. I miss being alive..."

Quiet again. I drew in a breath to speak.

But she wasn't finished. "I miss the blood flowing through me. Feeling alive. And ... God! when I feed, it feels so, so good, Lizzie — so good! — to have living blood flowing in me again, and ..."

Quiet. I could hear my breathing.

And hers. Steady, strong, calm. Perfectly controlled.

I didn't know what I was going to say anymore. I guess she had answered all my questions.

I mean: 'how does that work?'

How stupid is that? And how rude, too!

What she did sounded like a craving, and addiction, and asking a drunk how they feel while drinking as you wave a bottle in front of them?

I guess I was going to say something, but now I had nothing to say. It all sounded trite and inane now.

"Well," she finished lamely.

She brought up my right hand beside my left, and she held up hers beside mine. I saw four hands in front of me in this stillness of time.

Rosalie brought her left hand over the top of both of mine and touched the outside of her right wrist, ... she actually worried at it a bit.

I didn't see why. Her hands, wrists, and arms were slim and smooth: featureless.

"I used to have a beauty mark right there," she informed me. "It was about the size of a penny, and about the same color, too. It really annoyed me. 'Beauty mark.' Why do they call it that, when it's a big, unsightly brown splotch on my wrist. I was always trying to cover it, wearing white gloves at formal occasions. I tried to hide it from Royce, afraid that he would find me unsuitable, but when he saw it, and saw me worry over it, he laughed as if it was the funniest thing in the world. 'Rosalie Hale has an imperfection!' he crowed. 'You're human after all!'"

She was quiet for a moment. "I was human, after all."

She put our arms down, now hiding them from my eyesight, as if she were ashamed of her perfection now, as before when she tried to hide her imperfection.

"Now it's gone," she said. "The venom ... it ... takes over everything. Drains the color ... drains the life out of you, bit by excruciating bit, until there's nothing left anymore, except it, either in solid form as stone, or ..."

She paused. "Well, anyway."

I was quiet now, too, with her.

The dull ache in the pit of my stomach from before had gone away, leaving behind an emptiness, and the quietness filled it. Quietness, with sadness.

"Let's get the rest of you cleaned up," she said, breaking our reverie, and gently turned me to face her.

But then, suddenly, she stopped.

"Wait," she said, surprised.

I was now facing her. I waited, looking at her with confusion as she examined my arm closely.

I felt her eyes boring into my upper arm.

"Lizzie!" she chided, looking up into my eyes and smirking.

"What?" I asked, suddenly embarrassed, and not knowing why.

"What's this?" she asked, resting her fingertip just above my elbow.

"What's what?" I demanded back, not seeing anything, and not liking her teasing tone at all.

"You freckled thing!" she exclaimed.

"I do not have freckles!" I shouted hotly, surprising myself at how shocked I was.

"Oh," she teased. "What's this?"

Her fingertips walked up from my elbow as her other hand twisted my arm easily to access the outer part of my upper arm.

She counted each little spot she found, zigzagging across parts of my arm that I had, okay, never put under the microscope before: "One, two, three, ..." she found three freckles right away, then: "Oh! Four, five, ... and six!" she almost squealed with delight finding these tiny-tiny spots on my upper arm that I had never seen before up to now, but with each touch of her fingertips, seemed to burn with a fire, inside and out, almost glowing with the heat from my reddened arm.

Obviously reflecting my reddened face.

"Gah!" I cried and whipped my head away from my horribly freckled arm.

"Ooh!" she exclaimed, looking where I looked, ... that is, at my other arm.

To my horror, freckles seemed magically to appear on that arm, too, as if out of thin air!

"Lessee!" she commanded, and twisted my left arm toward her examination.

My face burned like a brand, and I didn't know where to look, so my eyes kind of looked out at nothing as I saw Rosalie looking at my arm with delight.

"Ah," she smiled, "There're one, two, three ..."

She frowned with concentration, looking up and down my left arm.

Her frown deepened when she couldn't find any more. She looked disappointingly at my left arm, as if reproving it for not having as many delightful little brown flecks — that is, 'delightful' for her! — as my right arm has.

"Hm," she harrumphfed in displeasure, then lightened up immediately. "Well, three freckles on this arm!"

She looked back up at me, smiling with happiness.

Then her smile turned wicked.

"Got 'em anywhere else?" she queried me with a teasing innocence.

"NOOOO!" I about screamed my head off.

I think I saw red, because I definitely felt the heat of it in my cheeks.

Rosalie snickered at my discomfort.

But then she — thank God! — mellowed, relenting with a: "Well, let's ... we'll finish up now."

She sounded embarrassed somehow. Shy? I don't know. I looked into her face, but there was nothing there.

No, that's not right. There was a hint of sadness.

She pulled me into her, putting her chin over my right shoulder and pinning me to her with her left hand hooked over my left shoulder. Her right hand resumed its cleaning duties, working the washcloth into a lather again and soaping my back.

She sighed a quiet little sigh, like a moment had passed ... or perhaps a moment hadn't passed, it just hadn't come, and it never would.

I felt cradled into her, my chin tucked in just below her collar bone, and my whole body fit into hers as she washed my back.

It fit into hers perfectly.

The burning heat of my cheeks was gone now, thankfully cooled by the absolute, delicious cold of her shoulder.

But that dull ache in the pit of my stomach?

It was back.

It was back in spades.