A/N: Few things I should mention first:
As you may or may not have noticed, my narratives don't always sound the same. That's intentional. Why? Well, I think different characters would have different ways of telling a story. And I just like to play around with different narrative styles. So if you've read a story of mine before, don't be surprised if this is a little, um, different than what you're used to.
If you're a Rosalie fan (and even if you're not) I highly recommend reading Desperate by Angeliss. It gives a much fuller version of the events surrounding Bella's pregnancy, and it's all from Rosalie's POV. And it's incredibly awesome. That story undoubtedly sparked the idea for this one, so if you like this, you can thank Angeliss. Also thank the nasty little head cold that kept me in bed for the better part of two days, leaving me with no choice but to finally make some real progress on this.
This is a two-shot. So, no, this isn't all of it. The second half is kinda sorta close to done, and I'll do my best to put it up reasonably soon. However, I'm already back in school. *cries* So… we'll see. Reviews are wonderful motivation though, so if you want to read the rest of this, by all means, please yell at me to finish it up already.
Disclaimer: The sky is blue, Elvis is dead, putting metal in the microwave is a bad idea, and I don't own Twilight. Just in case you didn't know.
Headaches: Number 143 on the List of Human Experiences I'm Glad I Don't Remember
As far as I'm concerned, there's a positive side to almost every situation. You could say I'm a glass-half-full , the-grass-is-plenty-green-right-here kind of person. Nineteen years of lost memories? No big deal. Sure, it had always been a little unsettling, never really knowing where I came from (up until we discovered James's sadistic little video, that is) but the lack of memory hadn't bothered me much. I knew where I was headed, and that was what mattered. Besides, amnesia definitely has its advantages. In fact, there's a pretty long list of things about being human that, honestly, I'm glad I have no memory of. Headaches, for example.
So this was what they felt like. Like someone had poured gasoline into my skull and tossed in a match. Unpleasant didn't begin to cover it. The incessant throbbing in my forehead reminded me of that one time I had run headlong into Emmett during a baseball game; it was that kind of jarring impact, repeated endlessly. Even here in the attic, as far as I could get from Bella without actually leaving the house, the throbbing was only one tiny step below unbearable.
From where I sat next to a small window, I could see a pitch black cloud bank was rolling in, slowly eating up the scattered stars and the bloated full-bellied moon. Without the stars and moonlight, an even darker shadow had fallen on the forest where Jacob and Seth lay hidden. At least, I hoped Jacob and Seth were the only two werewolves prowling the woods.
I never thought I'd say this, but I actually wished Jacob was here. When the dog had come by this afternoon on his suicidal-attack-mission-turned-friendly-visit, the throbbing had finally stopped for the first time in nearly a week. For once, I was able to stay downstairs without my head exploding. Not anymore. Now that my walking aspirin had left, the migraine had returned in full force and I'd retreated to my attic sanctuary.
I could still hear Bella's heart beating faintly bellow my feet. My aching head was throbbing in time with it, keeping beat like a hellish metronome.
lub-dub… lub-dub… lub-dub
throb… throb… throb…
I scowled at a nearby box of holiday decorations. Whatever was lurking inside of her was growing, and quickly. In just the last few hours, her heartbeat had grown weaker and weaker while my headache had gotten steadily worse. I leaned my head back against a dusty old file cabinet and squeezed my eyes shut, in a hopeless attempt to silence both the metronome and the guilty thoughts plaguing my mind. For the record, the thoughts were even worse than the throbbing.
What kind of monster hides in a cluttered attic while her best friend is dying?
If only there was something I could do…. I would gladly fly to Italy, commandeer an Italian sports car, face another newborn army, fold a thousand paper cranes, anything, if only it would help. At least in every previous crisis, there had been some course of action to take, something to do. After James nearly killed her, I'd helped Carlisle stop the bleeding, and then spent the next couple months saving Charlie and Bella a whole lot of embarrassment by helping her shower and dress with that awkward cast. And after Jasper nearly killed her, at least I'd been able to retrieve Carlisle's bag and find Bella a clean set of clothes. But this time I was completely, hopelessly useless. How ironic… when she'd been gruesomely injured, not even the scent of blood had kept me away. But now, thanks to a headache of all things, I couldn't even stay in the same room.
Well… if I was honest with myself, I knew the headache wasn't the only thing keeping me away.
throb… throb… throb…
lub-dub… lub-dub… lub-dub…
I abruptly stood up and started pacing across the floor in frustration. Yeah, because pacing back and forth between stacks of cardboard boxes was so helpful, I thought bitterly. But I simply couldn't sit still. I had to move, I had to do something, even something pointless. My footsteps echoed softly in the darkness.
step… step... step…
throb… throb… throb…
Number 25: Darkness
For a so-called creature of the night, I had a fairly strong dislike of the dark. Maybe it just didn't fit my personality. I liked color, the vivid greens of the forest, the deep golds of Jasper's hair, the sparkling dust motes dancing in the air, even the oil spots underneath the cars Rosalie worked on. Yes, the oil spots. Honestly, have you ever looked at one, really looked at it? It's a shimmering rainbow in the shape of puddle. Simply beautiful. But you just don't get to see that without sunlight. Not to mention, decent lighting is essential for clothing appreciation. What's the point of creating a perfectly coordinated outfit if nobody can see it properly?
A piece of satin caught my eye. One of the bows I'd used to decorate the house for the wedding was hanging limply out of its cardboard container. The sight of it brought back memories of the radiant young woman who had married my brother. Despite all her grumbling, Bella really had made a perfect bride. She'd even managed to avoid tripping over her own dress. The briefest of smiles flashed across my face, but vanished quickly. The young woman sleeping fitfully downstairs looked nothing like the bride I remembered.
There's a positive side to almost every situation. 'Almost' being the key word. It was very difficult to think of a reason to be optimistic in this situation. The glass can't be half full if gets knocked off the table and shatters into tiny shards on the floor.
step… step... step…
throb… throb… throb…
A deafening silence.
The beat had stopped. The entire world might as well have stopped too. Everything froze, like someone had hit the pause button for our whole house. I stopped pacing, stopped thinking, stopped breathing. I didn't even register the throbbing anymore. I was vaguely aware that everyone else had stopped whatever they were doing too, to wait, to listen…
No. Please, no.
Suddenly I was racing through the attic door, down both flights stairs and into the living room, without ever consciously deciding to do so. As soon as I saw the flashing monitors and the hospital bed, where a motionless Bella lay, surrounded by Rosalie and Edward, some small part of my brain woke up enough to notice that the throbbing metronome was more like a ticking time bomb now, and my head was in grave danger of exploding at any moment. I ignored it. I had more important things to worry about than the threat of cranial meltdown.
Edward and Rosalie seemed to be engaged in some sort of standoff. A very intense standoff. From what I gathered, Edward was desperate to start CPR, but Rosalie was blocking him. It was hard to say who looked more furious.
"No! You're going to break her ribs, that's the last thing she needs!" Rosalie whispered, speaking incredibly fast, even for a vampire. "Just wait half a second, would you, and if it's still not beating, then I will-"
Then we heard it. A heartbeat. It was faint, but it was there again.
Rosalie and Edward relaxed. Well, 'relaxed' wasn't the right word, but at least they no longer looked like they were a split second away from a full-blown fight. Edward reverted back to his lifeless self, and Rosalie turned to face me.
"Hello, Alice. Long time, no see. What brings you out of hiding?"
I thought you'd finally managed to kill her, I didn't say. "I thought… I heard her heart stop beating, and…"
"It stopped for three and a half seconds, Alice."
Oh. Really? Just three seconds? Somehow it had seemed much longer.
"No, she wasn't," Edward growled at Rosalie. "That was not an overreaction. It's only a matter of time before…" He trailed off, unable to finish the sentence.
"There was no need for Alice to panic. She only missed a couple beats," Rosalie said dismissively, waving her hand like she was swatting at some annoying fly. "She's fine. And for the last time, keep your voice down! You two need to relax. All your tension isn't helping her."
"And you are?" Edward's voice vibrated with barely contained rage.
Rosalie snorted. "Yes. I am. I'm helping her do what she wants, Edward, I'm helping her control her own life. I'm protecting her from having her heart torn to shreds, from having her free will violated, from having her dignity stolen and her hopes ruined." Rosalie's voice dropped so low it was barely audible. "I'm doing for her what no one was there to do for me."
"Rosalie, there is no comparison-"
"Why do you think Esme's on my side, then?" Rosalie cut him off. "She sees the comparison, even if you refuse to. She remembers how it felt to have her choices, not to mention her child, taken from her."
They were literally going to make my head explode. By now, both of them were on their feet, stretched up to their full heights, and glaring at each other as though they'd like nothing better than to rip the other one's head off.
"Edward," I interrupted. The two of them turned to face me, both looking a little surprised, like they'd forgotten I was still there.
Could you give us a minute? I asked silently. Let me try talking to her. No offense, but you're not helping. Biting her head off, literally or metaphorically, will get us nowhere.
The tiniest of smiles tugged at the corners of his mouth. Then his eyes wandered back to Bella.
Just a few minutes. Get some fresh air or something. You look horrible.
Once Edward disappeared, I approached the hospital bed with caution. And some reluctance too.
"I just want to see her," I explained. A complete lie, of course. I was actually fighting an overwhelming urge to race back upstairs, where I didn't have to look at the half-dead girl lying in front of me.
Sickness, number 36, and nausea, number 74. I hadn't put pregnancy on the list, since that was most likely not part of my missing memories, but if I had added it, it would be very near the top. From what I had seen at a distance, regular pregnancies seemed unpleasant enough. But this? This was slow, agonizing torture.
I flinched, and averted my gaze. This was my second reason for avoiding Bella, one I hadn't mentioned. It just hurt to look at her. And after spending so much time with Jasper, I was well aware of the downsides of having a flawless memory. Memory can haunt you. Maybe it was cowardly of me, but I didn't want to spend all eternity carrying images of Bella like… this. Gaunt and pale, looking less alive than everyone else in a house full of vampires. Bella, weaker than ever, slowly starving to death. I could barely stand to witness this now. I certainly didn't want to keep seeing her this way in my mind for centuries.
But, objected a small voice in my head, would you rather spend eternity remembering the way you abandoned her?
I wanted to leave. Instead, I bent over and gently brushed away the strands of wet brown hair stuck to her forehead, doing my best to ignore the bombshells going off behind my own forehead.
"Oh, Bella," I murmured, far too softly to wake her up. "What are we going to do with you?"
Her stick-figure arm was curled tenderly around her bloated stomach, as though she was cradling it. Protecting it. Bella loved more strongly than just about anyone I'd ever met, with no thought for herself. It was one of the many things I'd always liked about her. Now it just broke my heart.
I looked up at my not-quite-so-selfless sister.
"Rosalie, please, you have to talk to her." Begging favors from Rosalie was something I avoided as a general rule, but I'd do it for Bella. It was the only thing I could do, really. "She won't listen to anyone else. Please. Make her see sense."
Rosalie narrowed her brilliant eyes. "What exactly do you want me to tell her?"
"The truth," I replied matter-of-factly. "That this is never going to work. That she can't possibly carry this-" No, don't call it a thing. "- this child to term. That either it dies or they both die."
"You don't know that," Rosalie hissed. "You can't see his future."
Below us, Bella coughed violently several times, moaned, and turned her head to the side, without ever waking. Beads of sweat ran down her cheek onto the already damp pillow.
"I don't need my vision to see where this is going," I answered, keeping my voice low enough that no one outside the room would hear us. Rosalie did the same.
"We're not giving up." She was speaking in plurals again. I hated the way she did that, phrasing the situation in terms of us versus them, as if she were Bella's only true ally. As if the rest of us didn't care about her too.
"Rosalie, can't you see that this is killing her?" My voice was pleading at first, but then it turned angry and desperate. "Haven't you thought about what will happen to Edward? Or what it will do to Carlisle and Esme when you send him running off to Italy, again? Does it bother you at all that Bella is on her deathbed thanks to you?"
Rosalie looked like she'd been slapped. I'd struck a nerve. After all, it wasn't that she didn't care about anyone else. She wasn't that selfish. No, as far as I could tell, she was stubbornly refusing to think about the possible consequences of her actions. Maybe she'd even deluded herself into thinking everything would work out just fine. For a minute, I thought I might've gotten through to her. Then she went back on the offensive.
"This isn't about Bella," Rosalie replied angrily. "If it was, you'd respect her enough to let her make her own decisions. This is about what you want, Alice!"
I laughed humorlessly.
"Look who's talking. This is about what I want? And how about what you want, Rosalie?" I had to make a conscious effort to minimize the volume of my words. Just the volume, not the anger. "What if Bella didn't want to keep this thing? Would you still be defending her right to make her own decisions then?"
"You don't understand," Rosalie hissed viciously, glaring daggers at me. "You couldn't possibly understand. You don't remember a thing about being human, about being a mother! If you did, you'd know that any mother would die for her child!"
Now it was her turn to strike a nerve. The force of her words stopped me dead in my tracks, as if she had barreled into me herself with her rock hard body.
"You're wrong," I said softly. "You're wrong there. Because if that were true, then I would remember, now wouldn't I?"
Trust Rosalie to bring that up. The third and final reason I had been avoiding Bella. Rosalie was right about one thing; Bella would gladly give her life for this… whatever it was. And that kind of self-sacrificing love brought up questions I'd really rather not think about. Memories that needed to stay in the past where they belonged.
Rosalie's eyes widened once she grasped the meaning behind my words. "Alice…"
I turned away, heading for the door. This conversation was going nowhere.
"I've got to get out of here. My head is killing me."
It wasn't a lie. It wasn't the whole truth either. Yes, it was killing my head to look at the blurry images of Bella's future, but seeing her with my real eyes was breaking my heart, for more reasons than one. And the headache was nothing compared to the heartache.
I wandered outside, heading towards the river. The attic wasn't far away enough.
Edward was nowhere to be seen. And even if he was listening, he would be too preoccupied with his own personal hell to come bother me. I slipped off my sandals and sat down on the edge of the bank, dangling my legs in the numbingly cold water. I wished Jasper was here. I missed the feel of his arms around me, his lips on my neck, his deep reassuring voice in my ear.
Number 2: Life without Jasper
Well, okay, technically that was a part of my vampire memories too. But for as long as I could remember, I'd seen him in my mind. I knew he was out there, and it was only a matter of finding him. But to live without even knowing that he even existed? I'd rather live without air. Hmm. Okay, so maybe air wasn't the best example. I'd rather live without... online shopping.
People assumed Jasper liked being around me because of my warm emotional climate. Which was true, of course, but there was more to it than that. The hope and sunlight went both ways between us. I made him more happy and optimistic, yes, but that was because his presence made me feel that way to begin with, and whatever joy I gave him made me even happier in return. A positive feedback loop.
But I didn't want to interrupt him right now. It wasn't that he wouldn't want to be interrupted. Exactly the opposite. He would immediately drop what he was doing if I asked, and that would be a problem, since at the moment what he was doing involved looking for something, any little scrap of information, that might help Bella. He needed to keep doing that. He could worry about me later. Didn't mean I didn't miss him.
I missed my visions too. They made it easier to keep my thoughts in the present and future. Now, without my sight, it was all too easy for my mind to wander backwards into the past. I closed my eyes, hoping I could shut out the images that were surfacing in my mind. No such luck. In the darkness, they just became more clear.
It wasn't a dark place. I didn't go there at night, you see. It had been a cloudy January afternoon, with a lively breeze that probably would've chilled a human, but felt nice and pleasant to me. I liked the way the wind tousled my short dark hair, tossing it playfully across my eyes and back behind my ears, the way I had watched human fathers deliberately mess up a child's hair.
A snowstorm in Missouri was almost as rare as a dry spell in Forks, which was exactly why I'd chosen to come today. The graveyard was completely silent, sleeping under a soft white blanket of snow. It wasn't an eerie sort of silence; it was peaceful. Only the sound of my gentle footsteps and unnecessary breathing broke the quiet. There was no one else, living or undead, anywhere in sight.
Jasper had wanted to come, of course, but I had asked him not to. I was the one who had insisted he spend a semester at Cornell in the first place, instead of helping with my personal research. Maybe I would bring him another time, but for now, this was something I needed to do alone. He wasn't thrilled, but he understood.
I smiled at the image of the coming spring that flitted through my head. This stretch of snowfields would be reborn in a few months, filled with life and color once it woke from its winter slumber. The earth would shake off the dull covering of snow and slip into a green dress adorned with wildflowers, and the trees that were now black and bare would soon burst into bloom. Today, however, the monochromatic landscape was dotted with only a few splashes of color: bouquets, made with a variety of flowers, lay propped up against the occasional headstone, with petals frozen solid and icicles hanging from the leaves.
I had seen this place before, even though I had never set foot here. Another vision flashed through my head, showing myself kneeling in front of a small, nondescript chunk of stone on a snow-covered hillside… that snow-covered hillside in fact, right there.
I slowly approached the tombstone I recognized from the vision. It wasn't much to look at really. Only about a foot and a half tall, the writing mostly obscured by tiny snow drift. I knelt down and gently brushed the snow away. There was my name, of course. The full name I'd never been able to recall. 1901 to 1910. Nothing else.
I used to wonder about it, used to daydream every now and then. I'm not one for living in the past, but I admit, I was curious. What lay hidden in the darkness of my memory? There were nearly two decades worth of events so close and yet so far from my conscious mind. I could feel the memories there in the shadowy corners of my head, lurking just out of reach. I was content with not knowing anything about my past, though, more or less. After all, I had the present, and the future. That was more than enough. But I still wondered…. At some point, I must have had a home and a family. What had they been like? What had I been like? What had happened during those nineteen years? I had hoped that someday, somehow, I might find out more about my old life, my first family.
You really should be careful what you wish for.
Now I had a different set of questions. Had they told me the truth about where I was going? Given me any explanation at all? Had they kissed me goodbye? Or were they afraid to even touch me? Were they sad? Did they ever miss me? Or were they just relieved, glad to be rid of their little freak?
I gently traced my hand across the cold, hard rock, feeling the engraved letters with my fingers. Had this headstone ever been adorned with flowers? Or had it always been as bare and desolate as it was today?
They had tried to forget. That was what this piece of stone really said. They wanted to forget that I existed. Had they succeeded?
I stood up abruptly, taking a step back from the empty grave. I suddenly felt cold in a way that had nothing to do with the January weather.
I didn't know. I would never know the answers to any of those questions. But it was just as well. Because I really, truly did not want to know the answers.
Number One on the list of things I was so very glad I didn't remember.
Thanks for reading! I'd really love to know what you thought.