Cold, cold water surrounds me now.
I was miles away.
But still, I could feel them.
My family was the hardest to endure. I'd been with them for so long, that it was almost impossible to block them out even on a normal day. And this … this was not a normal day.
We'd been in Denali almost a month now, and most of them were in the exact same emotional state that they'd been in when they first arrived. Except for Edward, of course. He'd lingered for less than two days before running off on his own to God knows where.
"I can't bear it," he'd told me, as I'd tried in vain to calm him. Alice had seen his leaving and begged me to try to talk some sense into him. After all, that was my role in the family, wasn't it? The sensible one.
"Then bear it for Esme." It was a low blow, reminding him of the pain he was causing our mother. But it was true, and Alice had asked me to make him see reason, and by God, it was reason he would see.
He looked at me with pained desperation, willing me to understand. "You know I can't stand it," he said darkly, and he forced the full brunt of his misery on me. The sheer force of it made me physically withdraw from him. He let out a breath that he didn't need to hold, and his whole body slumped from the effort. It was like all of the hope and love he'd ever felt just deflated right out of him.
"What if it were Alice?" he asked quietly. As if I hadn't already drawn the parallel. As if I didn't completely empathize. "What if you had to leave her?"
"What if you had to?"
There is nothing in this world or in any other that would take me from her. I stepped closer to him, until he looked up at me. This was your choice, Edward. No one forced this on you.
His face crumpled and I almost regretted what I'd said. I reached out to him, but he recoiled immediately. He knew that physical contact would make my gift more effective, and I could feel his resistance. He turned his back on me and closed in on himself, content to bear his heartache alone.
"If you could feel it," I told his back gently. "If you could feel their love for you, their devotion to your happiness -"
"There is no happiness without Bella."
There was nothing left to be said. He was refusing to see us, his family, as any kind of comfort or salvation.
He'd left ten minutes later, before the others had come back from their afternoon of shopping. Left me to tell them the news -- that we weren't enough for him. Esme had sobbed tearlessly and her grief was overwhelming. I felt my own body shudder under the weight of it, shoulders shaking as if I was the one crying.
Maybe I was. It was hard to tell the difference anymore.
Lord, can you hear me now?
Carlisle's emotions were quieter, but no less distraught. His was a deep sadness, remembering all too clearly the last time Edward had abandoned him and what had occurred. There was fear for his son, disappointment laced with guilt, and a hopelessness that made my whole body ache. He had been so sure that Edward had finally found the happiness he'd always wanted for him.
But, there was also a hint of anger and resentment there, that he would put his wife through such turmoil (followed by more guilt, of course). But underlying all that was understanding and compassion – an unconditional love for his first son that warred painfully with his other emotions.
Lord, can you hear me now?
Emmett, on the other hand, was good at covering. Well, he was good at it with everyone else, obviously. He smiled and laughed and made jokes almost like he always did. But there was no sincerity behind it. He always laughed a little too loud, tried just a little too hard, and his smile never quite reached his eyes.
He missed Edward so much. It was like every time he walked in the house, his entire being deflated upon remembering that his brother wasn't there to joke with. He would sit in front of the television, staring through it and letting himself fall into a silent depression. I tried to get him out of it. Even let him beat me at wrestling. But it wasn't the same. Especially when the rest of the family was so down, too.
Lord, can you hear me now?
Rosalie couldn't handle it – everyone "moping around and acting like he freaking died." She missed him too, of course. After all, for years, it had just been her and Edward and despite their constant bickering, their love for each other was always just below the surface. It got pushed down pretty deep sometimes, but it was always there all the same.
For Rosalie, the pain would come in quick and sudden spurts. She'd be trying on clothes in front of her mirror and something in the reflection would remind her of him. She'd go from quiet contentment to sharp spasms of grief, that rocked her still chest, in a matter of seconds.
Esme wasn't the only one who cried.
Or am I lost?
And then there was Alice. My cheerful, little pixie who wasn't very cheerful anymore. When she wasn't cooped up in our room trying to see Edward's return, she followed Esme around like a shadow, trying desperately to make up for the hole that Edward (and Bella) left in her mother's heart.
Because if there was something Alice hated more than being heartbroken herself, it was seeing those she loved feeling the same way.
The thing about Alice was that I was far more sensitive to her emotions than the others. Her longing for Edward and Bella was a constant ache in my chest, a throbbing in my heart that felt like I was missing a necessary organ or something. Edward was her best friend in the family (besides me, she'd always say, but I know better) and Bella was her best friend outside of it. She'd lost them both in a matter of a week.
But she insisted that she still saw Bella as one of us. This added a thick layer of constant frustration and confusion that made my head spin. And with Edward insisting that he was never going back to her, a cold wave of fear kept nipping at her (at us). If Edward didn't change her, who would?
And it was the same thing, every day. The guest house in Denali had taken on such a dreary climate, that it often felt like we were in the death row wing of a prison – no hope of escape and only one wretched end to look forward to.
Tanya and her sisters didn't make my situation any easier, either. Their constant lusting after all of us, which had seemed to shift its focus onto me now that Edward was gone, was uncomfortable to say the least.
And all I've got is your hand.
So, that's how I ended up out here. Through thick woods and three miles away from the house. I'd first found this lake the very first time Alice and I had traveled here, her visions of the Cullens leading us to Denali, where we had just happened to miss them. The lustful atmosphere was strong back then, too, so I'd go on long runs around the area, trying (mostly in vain) to find a reprieve.
I wanted to be numb. To have a complete lack of feeling, both physically and emotionally. It was something I hadn't experienced since being turned and to be honest, I wasn't even sure it was possible. But, God, did I try.
I had jumped into the lake the second I saw it, my body easily buckling the ice that had formed on top. I had sunk immediately, my body completely submerging in the icy water. I could have sworn the water almost felt cold.
And I would rest there, breathing the water in and letting it wash through my still body. I would let my eyes fall, let my limbs just hang and I would just be still. I could still hear the world above me, but the water deafened it a little bit. And I could still feel the slightest movement in the water, but it was softened a little bit.
And I could still feel all of their emotions, but with the water pressing into my skull and the cold almost reaching me, it was easier to ignore it.
It was the closest I would ever get to being numb.
And I can't let go of your hand.
I felt and heard her footsteps on the ice, at the far edge of the lake, closest to the house. She knew I came out here, of course. I'd never told her why, but I'm sure her visions explained it. At least, she always acted like she knew.
She tried so hard sometimes to not feel. To be a blank slate for me, something I didn't have to worry about. She hated feeling like she was adding to my burdens. What she could never understand was that any kind of emotion from her was a relief. It reminded me of our bond and how empty my life was before.
I opened my eyes just in time to see her tiny figure fall through the ice. The bits and shards sparkled in the morning sunlight as they danced away from her and drifted into the water. The beams that touched her through the broken surface made her look even more ethereal than she usually did.
She was wearing just a thin white slip that would've looked suicidal to any human passerby. Her bare feet were pointed gracefully as she slowly made her way toward me, the slip floating up around her waist, revealing simple cotton underwear. She reached her hand out to me then, but I remained frozen. Esme must've just found something of Edward's during her fit of frenzied cleaning. My chest constricted painfully and I closed my eyes, trying to shut out her anguish.
Tiny fingers skimmed over my forehead, trying to will the pain away. Her thumb grazed the scar above my left eyebrow as her other hand flitted over my eyelids, brushing the lashes with her fingertips. And then she was kissing me once, twice, three times on my eyes, my nose, my forehead. Every inch of my face was her canvas as she brushed her lips along a pattern only she could see (or maybe it was just the scars and connect-the-dots).
I opened my eyes, needing to see the angel before me. And with the sun shining down behind her and her dress floating up in white waves behind her, her eyes shining with adoration and love, that's exactly what she looked like. My angel.
I finally made myself move, reaching out to her, needing to feel her in my arms. She wrapped her tiny hands around my neck, threading one into my hair and pulling me to her. As if I could ever stay away.
Her legs wrapped tightly around my waist and I hooked my arms firmly around her, holding us together. She was sending strong waves of love toward me, enfolding me in her comfort. She was still sad, but that wasn't the foremost thing in her mind. Right now, I was blessed enough to be her sole focus and desire.
As she clung to me tighter, I realized that I could have stayed like that for days, even years, just holding her. But she apparently had other plans. Or maybe it was me. (I could never tell anymore.)
I felt a warmth spreading through me, turning the miserable aching in my chest into something else entirely. She was clutching at my shoulders now, trying to get closer (it was never close enough). My hand found her neck and I pulled her only far enough way to gain access to her mouth. Even immersed in water, kissing her was still a heightened experience. I could still feel every little touch and caress.
I wasn't numb anymore.
I love you.
Don't you know I love you?
And I always have.
Will you come with me?
Am I lost with you?