Section Summary: Nothing like a group of vampires getting together to play family. Except when one of them doesn't march to that happy tune. And then along comes a little cowgirl: Oh, this is the one we really wanted! What to do? What to do?

WARNING! Contains a very twisted depiction of Esmé. Contains a description of Rosalie's transformation that may be too much for some, particularly a visceral description of the loss of her reproductive system.


After Edward and I had patched up our differences following the girl's first invasion ...

Which is to say, after I apologized and after Edward shrugged off my apology ... which is to say, we didn't patch up: Edward simply refused to see reason, and I had to paint on a happy face to keep the peace in the Cullen household. Edward realized, of course, that I wasn't backing down from my totally reasonable position, but I also realized that shouting at him wasn't going to make him see reason.

He never did see reason. Unless 'reason' meant some obstinate fool idea he came up with.

... So, after we "patched up our differences," and after the game of escort — that Team Edward lost! — Edward and I went hunting. I figured that being out in the open would be a less confrontational setting, and the air and the distance from the 'mortal' — he refused to allow her to be called 'human' — might clear his head.

We both went our separate ways for our meals. Neither of us were particularly thirsty, after all, we had both recently hunted, but Edward was out every day now just to be sure he could handle a surprise visit ... that he was always encouraging, and for me? Well, I needed to shred something after that girl invaded my space. I was still steamed even though a few days had passed.

We rendezvoused at a large stone embedded in the earth overlooking miles and miles of forest and sat for a moment between kills, just absorbing the peaceful quiet of a forest that had two vampires in it. The very peaceful quiet of all the animals in the area high-tailing it away from us. As if that would do them any good.

Out of courtesy, I tried not to think too much around Edward. It was really a hard life for him, hearing every whispered thought. Internal debates were shouting matches for him, and sometimes he winced around me. Not that I had anything to debate about internally. My new lif ... existence was just super-great and getting better all the ... well, not time, all the eternity.

I tried, but I just had to discuss this with him away from his whatever-Edward-wants parents.

"So, about your visit tonight ..." I started.

"Rosalie." Edward sighed.

"Edward, go to her to break it off now. Now, Edward, before one of you gets hurt."

"Rosalie, it's not like that." Edward explained. "She's mortal; there's nothing to break off."

Edward was such a blind fool. The only love he had ever had was with Glory: he wanted to be the young, conquering hero bravely dying in battle. He didn't even know what real love was ...

"And you do?" Edward interrupted my critique, that I was not sharing with him, by the way.

"Okay, Edward, maybe I don't know what real love is," because, as you know, my dear brother, I've never received it, I reminded him as gently as I could, trying not to blame him for the comedy of my existence — I was created to be the mate of this amazing ...ly conceited vampire who had absolutely no feelings for me. My very existence was a cruel joke with no punch line — "but I know what falling in love is like, and you've got that feeling, Edward. You've got it bad." And for a human? Edward, why? You don't want me; fine. Pick another vampire ... any other vampire! But not a human, Edward; please.

"First of all, she's not human..." Edward began.

Here we go again with that, I sighed. Edward was convinced that just because she was his singer, she was something Other. I didn't buy it.

Edward ignored that thought, "... and second of all, you may not know what real love is, but you have it, Rosalie. We love you."

"What?" I was stunned.

"Rosalie," Edward got that pontificating tone of his, "I know you're not ready to hear this, but I also know what you're planning on doing, so I'm going to say it now. We love you, Rosalie. In a very real way, you are my sister; you are a part of our family. We love you."

"Oh, really?" I barked out a laugh. I ignored his I know what you're planning comment. He always knew everything, even when he was wrong, and I wasn't planning anything in particular. Edward was being Edward, as usual, but his last comment really set me off. "You love me? You and your little 'family' love me? That's just great. You love me. Wow! Edward, I'm so flattered. And that makes everything tolerable, now, does it? That makes everything okay?"

"Rosalie," Edward tried to interrupt.

"No, Edward, I've got it: you love me. So, here I am: Rosalie Lillian Hale, the vampire, cursed for eternity to be drinking blood that would make excrement taste like salmon mousse and cucumber sandwiches ... forever. But that's okay, because you love me, right?" I snorted.

Edward just stared at me. He knew — the bastard — that if he interrupted now that I would be in hysterics, so he let me continue. This only made me angrier.

"So, here I am, being raped by Royce and his buddies throughout every second of eternity, and that's okay, because the little Cullen family loves me and incidentally has their token 'daughter' that sings well next to their Edward-who-does-everything-and-can-do-no-wrong, is that right, Edward?"

I had hoped murdering those ... those things would somehow wipe away that awful experience, but it didn't: the memories were superimposed, so now I have the leering and lecherous ghouls raping me, their bones shattered and broken, their eyes vacant and staring, their jaws slack, but their pricks and kicks fully functional, fully efficacious. Edward warned me about this on the onset of my odyssey of revenge, and Esmé warned me during it, but I didn't listen. I was on my mission, and my mission's end was Royce. They had warned me, and I didn't listen, but I still blamed them. They created me. They left me with this legacy of pain that I could never wash away. It was their fault. But they loved me, see, so it was A-O-K.

Edward sighed and murmured, "I knew you weren't ready. I shouldn't have said anything, but ..."

"No, Edward, you did right. You all did right, keeping me inside this whole last year, a prisoner in your house — can't have the new vampire embarrassing the prim and proper Cullens, now, can we? — locking me away from society, from fashion, from the night lights and life of the city, bringing me here to Nowhere, U.S.A. where the major form of transportation is steak and the major distraction is ... is, well, nothing. But you all did right, because, as you say, dear Edward, you and your darling parents love me. Is that right? Did I understand you correctly there, Edward? You and your little family love me, so everything is just fine. Is that what you're telling me?"

I waited now, daring him to answer me. Go ahead, Edward, dear: I dare you. Say it.

He dared. "Yes, Rosalie, that's exactly it. We love you, so it's okay. It's not okay for you now, because you're facing everything alone, and you're only reliving your painful memories because that's all you have, that's all you hold onto. But it's okay when you have someone there for you. You don't believe me, but take it from my experience: I know what I'm saying. We love you, it's okay, and, it's not only okay, because they're not only my family. They are your family. Carlisle and Esmé, they love you. We all do. We love you as family. All you have to do, Rosalie, is open your heart. Let our love in, and make new memories with us."

He had dared, and I stared, and I felt the cold air turn colder in my proximity as everything in me hardened and froze. "You know, Edward, I would open my heart, but it stopped beating ten months, one week and four days ago, and that's a memory that will never go away, and it's all thanks to your loving family." I stood up from the stone and left for my next kill, leaving the parting thought. Break it off, Edward, let the girl's heart continue to beat, as mine does not.

He shouted his "answer" to my receding back: "Rosalie, telegram me from wherever you are in the world when you finally do see beyond yourself, when you finally care more for someone else than you do for yourself and your own selfish concerns! I'll drop whatever I'm doing and visit! I can't wait to see her, the real you! I bet she'll be as beautiful within as she is without!"

BASTARD! I screamed back, and I flitted images of black pots and black kettles and his smug, superior face as he pushed that girl-child-human around. HUMAN! Did you hear me, EDWARD? She is HUMAN!

I don't recall seeing any angel's wings on that girl. The only stereotype that cowgirl was missing was a ten-gallon hat. Howdy-howdy-howdy! I pantomimed a buffoon-like caricature of the girl astride her horse, as I galumphed off to my next kill, as if I were in a ho-down.

I was pleased, however, that Edward had called me beautiful. As least he wasn't totally blind. Hm, he had called the girl beautiful, too. So, maybe not totally blind, but utterly lacking in discernment? And I was also pleased that with all his ridiculous talk about familial love, he did not trespass on my name. He may have been a meddling bastard of a brother, but at least he was a gentleman in that regard: he knew where I drew the line, and he respected that.

The consoling thoughts did not calm me down much, however, and the next three animals I killed paid for it. Being hamstrung and drawn and quartered while you are still alive? The buck and two doe didn't like that all that much.

Tough luck for them. Ekalaka. It was their own damn fault for grazing near a nowhere town in a nowhere state that was the residence of one very angry 'vegetarian' vampire.

I snorted. The Cullens and their terminology: 'vegetarian' ... please! That's like saying one is a tea-totaller because instead of drinking the vodka straight up, one drinks a Red Snapper mixed drink.

Red Snapper ... it was originally called the Bloody Mary. Maybe I could get that sheriff's daughter to eat some celery before her next visit. Add a little bit of black pepper, some worcestershire and hot sauce, and she's make a very nice cocktail. Cocktail not as in 'cocktail waitress', not as in 'cocktail dress' (although that would improve her looks considerably, I would mention that to Edward as a hint, but then that would give him more reason to waste time with her, not less: oh, Bella, Rosalie says you should try cocktail dresses ... which ten do you prefer out of these one hundred and fifty I just bought you?), but as in 'cocktail drink': Bloody Bella.

Hm. Best not to think about that, even in jest. Edward took his infatuation too far — Edward took everything too far — and the issue of control around her was making him edgy. Well, more edgy. It would be good to see Edward just plain old irritable again, like the 'good old days' back in Rochester.

We finished up our hunt, and those topics we discussed — breaking up with the girl and the Cullens 'love' for me — did not come up again. We didn't need to avoid the topics, we just knew, each of us, that we had said our piece and enough was enough for now.

In a way, Edward truly was a brother to me. Not at all like my human family, but then the twins were really just children, little boys, and we couldn't connect in a substantial way because the age difference was too great. Here, the ages between Edward and me were much, much greater, but then, they weren't. Edward may have had more than thirty years of existence, but he was still a 17-year-old boy, and I was still an 18-year-old woman, and, in that way, as brother and sister, as mind to mind, as vampire to vampire, we did connect.

Not that I was a big jerk like he was. I said we connected, not that we were the same in any way.

But I suppose he couldn't help being a big jerk sometimes. It was the condition of the male sex. Ooga-ooga! Me see-ums girlie-girlie. Me make-ums lotsa whoopie! All he missed to complete the image was for him to drag his knuckles across the ground as he walked, scratching and drooling occasionally.

Why he had to choose the cowgirl was beyond me, but with Edward it always had to be the hard way, didn't it? Human ... and his singer, too. That Edward could surely pick them, couldn't he?

Next thing you'd know, he be taking her out for long walks through the woods (horseback riding would spark interesting conversations), even on a hunt! They'd chat about her life, his existence, she'd share her story, he'd share his ...

... No. Wait. He wouldn't dare. Rule number one. Rule number one. But then, as I pictured it, them walking through the forest, hand in hand ("Edward, why is your hand so cold?" I could just see that human blinking her big brown eyes at Edward while he turned to jelly), and a big bear comes out to maul them, and Edward saves the day, and then shares our little secret.

Or even without the bear, I'd bet the story would come. You know, Bella, I'm a vampire, see, and ...

It was a good thing that Carlisle and Esmé were so preoccupied in the house with their laboratory experiments that had caused Edward and me to explore further afield. The reason why it was good was because Edward and I had parted ways again, so the thoughts I had thought didn't pass through his mind as well. I managed to stop this particular train of thought — Edward telling the girl about us — and the resulting fury it precipitated by the time Edward and I reconnected and headed back to the house.

I had hoped this hunt would calm me. But then, of course, it would have been a wasted effort anyway: the girl decided to pay another visit right after that, dropping hints about her and Edward and happily ever after with chicken cordon bleu waiting on the table, no less.

Actually, I would have loved for there to be a way to force Edward to accept that invitation. And I would to have loved to have gone, just to watch him eat that human food. That dead, cooked stuff that needed a digestive system to process.

I would have loved that: watching Edward eat. I would savor every bite he took to please his little tom-boy-girlie-girlfriend.

Then again, if I couldn't go, I would still love it: seeing Edward race back here and run to the loo, and then listening to the sounds of regurgitation as the food forced its way back out the way it had come in.

Maybe it could be arranged that he go there every night for supper? That would cure him of his little infatuation post haste.

But news reached us, rather quickly, thanks to Edward, that supper at their house was not to be. She had suddenly caught ill, it seemed.

The way Edward reported this illness, it was clear to see what he blamed for this frailty of this frail little human.

Edward, I did nothing. Nothing. All I did was invite her to supper: that's totally innocuous. I thought toward Edward as he reported the reason for his immediate return from the Swan residence.

Sure, my supper invitation for that sweet little thing had a double meaning: one meaning for me, one meaning for her, but it was said only in jest, and there was no way she could have possibly comprehended my jesting intent.

Carlisle and Esmé made compassionate noises, but Esmé gave me a sideways glance that told me the whole story. She had probably run to Edward to give him every gory slanted detail of my "cruelty" to that girl.

"Why is she ill, Edward?" I asked to move him along from his oh, poor Bella rhapsody.

I had never cooed over Royce that much. I had some measure of self-control, even when the stars were in my eyes. But then again, perhaps if Royce had been somebody to coo over ...

"I don't know why." Edward responded, then looked away.

What?

"You don't know why, Edward?" I couldn't believe what I had just heard. Of course, he had to know why. All he had to do was to read her mind. Was it some condition too embarrassing to share? He was rather of the private nature, but I was a woman — that is, I was a woman not so long ago — I could handle "private" matters such as womanly travails.

But it wasn't that. "I can't hear her mind. I don't know what her thoughts are." And now I knew why he looked away. He was ashamed, or he was embarrassed of himself. If I were one of the common folk, my mouth would be hanging open. There was such bald honesty in his voice, that I didn't think he was covering for the human girl, but this declaration was beyond understanding. Edward couldn't not hear other people's thoughts.

"That's why I'm calling on her, that's why I'm spending time with her," he explained to us, "I can't hear her thoughts, so I must know her well enough to make sure she doesn't become a threat to us."

My mouth did drop open at that statement, but my mind was in utter chaos. I looked over to Carlisle and Esmé to see how they were taking this obvious duplicity.

Carlisle was nodding his head in his sage manner, and Esmé looked on at Edward with her loving smile.

I just shook my head and went to my room. I had to do something other than continue this pointless, deluded conversation. Anything else. I had to finish the Summa Theological so I could finish the pointless, deluded conversation with Edward about vampires having souls (or not having souls as Edward believed: "Oh, vampires are animate and think and want and will, but they don't have souls" was his sophist argument ... like I said, Edward could delude himself on any point).

Edward was reading Wittgenstein for his defense, so I knew I would win the next round handily. Well, as least there was that pleasure to anticipate.

...

I didn't think the next day could be any worse until I saw Edward preparing to go on an outing. It didn't take a vampire to figure out where he was going.

And Mom and Pop Cullen were sitting there, not lifting a finger to stop this insanity.

"Edward, don't go." Edward just gave me one of his looks.

"Edward."

"Rosalie," was his exasperated retort, "she's ill. I have to make sure she's okay."

"Did I just miss something?" I looked around the room desperately, looking for a sympathetic eye from any vampire.

I looked in vain.

"When did it go from assessing a threat — that will never materialize! — to Dr. Edward's house call?"

Edward walked to the front door and didn't look back once as he left.

I turned to Carlisle and Esmé and waited the three minutes for Edward to fall outside 'hearing' range, just staring at them the whole time, my mind in complete turmoil.

"Help," I pleaded. I couldn't believe this: I was pleading. I was pleading ... with the Cullens. "Please."

Carlisle sighed, but it was Esmé who replied. "It will work out," she said firmly.

This was too much. "How, in any way, can this WORK OUT!" They could hear me just fine, but that didn't stop me from shouting.

"It will work out." Esmé looked at me with determination in her voice and in her eye.

I looked to Carlisle. He looked back.

I opened my mouth to say something, but there was just no point any more.

"Fine. Look, I'm going hunting," I said as I walked out the front door myself, and was running as soon as I closed it behind me.

But I didn't run fast enough: "Don't be gone too long, Rosalie." Esmé's voice floated out to me, always playing the mother.

I just had to get away from them. I had to think. What did Esmé mean by 'it will work out'? How could it possibly work out? Edward's a vampire. She is hu...

No.

No. No. No!

Suddenly it came to me why Esmé was so confident 'everything would work out.' She was going to make it all work out.

Carlisle wouldn't turn a healthy human, and that girl was healthy, sudden trifling illness or no. But someone on the point of death? Oh, yes! And, ... oh, no!

I could see it now. The human girl on her horse, and then, suddenly, within its senses, a vampire. Not just any vampire, but dear old Mom Esmé. And how would the horse react? It would react like any sane creature when it encounters one of us. It would react in exactly the opposite way that girl reacts. It would buck, start, and run, throwing the rider. And who would be there to catch the girl?

Esmé.

Of course, if the girl got a portion of her head caved in because she had hit a 'rock' as she fell — a 'rock' in the shape of a vampire hand flashing to the back of the girl's head ... if the girl had her stomach punctured from a fractured rib for good measure ... then what?

And just to make sure, Esmé would wait, letting the girl's life bleed away from the internal damage. She would wait until the girl was at the point past heroic measures. And then what? Here comes Esmé, carrying the battered and broken and dying girl to our house and home, screaming with anguish: "Oh, Carlisle, I came across this poor thing as I was out hunting!" ... or out delivering blankets to the poor ... or out scaring horses ... or out adding a new family member to the Cullen clan.

Esmé was all about family. Yes, she was. And I had so thoroughly failed her by not winning Edward's affections. My thoughts weren't simple-minded enough, or I was far too beautiful, or I was — or wasn't — something. Whatever I was, the end result was Edward and I were not mates, which meant Edward was the sulking moody brute that he always was, which means that Esmé was on her mission to find Edward the perfect mate ...

... as she had done in my case.

I was running through the forest, but that thought stopped me cold in my tracks.

I was wrong.

I was wrong about the Cullens. I was wrong about everything. Carlisle wasn't the leader of the family; Esmé was. It was always Esmé calling the shots. I always knew she had those boys under her thumb, but I didn't know that beneath that simpering mommy exterior was a cold, calculating vicious acquisitive spider.

The family. The family. Esmé's family. Esmé's one big happy vampire family.

... where all the girls can't have babies. Just like Esmé. She was punishing me for her loss. She would rope in that girl and punish her, forever, as well.

And, at that thought, the agony of my transformation came right back to me.

Was the pain the worse part? Was the pain the thing that made me scream?

Yes, ... at first. But then I discovered there was something much, much worse than pain. I was dying ... fine. Each cell of me was being turned into this inert matter animated by the vitality of blood, by the vitality in the blood ... fine.

But then the venom seeped into my reproductive system, and then I felt it, and then I heard it.

A woman has thousands, maybe even hundreds of thousands, of eggs in her ovaries.

What happens when the venom reaches those single cells, each one of them a possible baby, each one of them waiting to receive life, to be alive?

They scream.

I heard them screaming. I heard thousands of my eggs screaming as the venom attacked them and killed them and turned them into this inert matter that I am, thousands at a time. I heard them screaming.

And I screamed then. I never screamed so long or so loud as I heard each of my babies, every last one of them scream and die. And I begged for them to kill me then as I never begged before.

And Esmé was there, not killing me as I had begged, but holding my hand, telling me it was going to be okay.

Just as Esmé would be there, holding the girl's hand, telling her that her Edward was waiting for her eternally happily ever after.

And it was with that thought that the girl transformed in my mind from a local yokel to a human being, to a person, to somebody who deserved to live, who deserved her babies, who deserved to grow old and die, who didn't deserve this living death. Nobody deserved this unlife.

But, Esmé was going to have the girl turned because she obviously fit so nicely into the Cullen family plan. And there was nothing I could do about it. Because ...

Because I so obviously didn't fit with the family plan. I was the fifth wheel. I could see it in her growing affection toward that girl and in her coolness toward me.

And what do you do with a fifth wheel? With a vampire that's in the way? With somebody who wasn't dancing to the happy vampire family tune?

You don't just turn them loose, now do you? Oh, no! I could hear the plans forming in her thoughts now: Edward, Rosalie is planning on killing that Swan child!

And Edward, that unstoppable force, would have me shredded before I knew what was happening. And then he would destroy me as he destroyed the others during his nomadic sojourn. Then I would know how you killed a vampire, because I would be experiencing it first-hand.

Fine. I had wanted to die in that alley. I didn't want this existence. I didn't want the Cullen family. I guess I was getting my wish.

And I wouldn't miss it one bit.

I wouldn't miss always being thirsty: always sizing up every single human that came within the limits of my senses and struggling with myself not to consume that glorious, delicious, vibrant blood, because it could be a husband returning to a Vera and her baby Henry, or it could be a father riding with his daughter to visit a vampire family, or it could be an old woman on the point of death, but still cherishing the thought of visiting her great grandchild one more time.

I wouldn't miss always being active: never getting a respite from awareness, from my thoughts, from the Cullens, from the animals running in terror from me, from those delicious, stupid, prying humans.

No rest. Never. Now I would be getting it. And I wouldn't miss one single thing of this wretched — this damned — existence.

Well, I'd miss a few things, I guess.

As much as I railed against the need to hunt, there was nothing like the thrill of it: the chase, the strike, the blood flowing into me, filling me with warmth and power and strength.

And I had just won this round against Edward's "vampires don't have souls" thesis ... of course. He was off studying Peirce now. That Edward. I had to give this to him: he didn't give up. He would (grudgingly) admit when his argument had holes, but then he would go away and come right back with new arguments or old ones with new defenses. He fought hard, but he fought fair.

Little did he know that I had already read Peirce. I couldn't wait to answer his "we are images of the overmind" argument and his skewed ontological reasoning argument. Being destroyed, I wouldn't be able to win those arguments.

Who next? Nietzsche's Jenseits von Gut und Böse? Kant's Kritik der reinen Vernunft? All this had been travelled before, and all this would fall under very simple, straightforward reasoning. Or would have, if I had still existed. I would miss crushing Edward's mistaken assumptions and arguments. I would miss Edward admitting defeat on his fundamentally existential philosophy.

And I would miss the music. Edward and I could really do justice to lieder.

And I would miss the beauty of the world that my enhanced senses now allowed me to see: looking up at the stars of the constellations and seeing them in their true colors, not as just white dots, looking up and counting more than just the four moons of Jupiter, looking down into a pond, seeing the light refracted into thousands of fragmented rainbows, seeing beyond the Roy G. Biv into the infrared and ultravoilet wavelengths, seeing the pond scum teaming with algae, seeing the wind move the leaves ever so gently on a warm summer day, carrying the clean smell of fresh air and the scent of the next kill.

And I would miss learning and studying and doing things that had been forbidden me as a human girl out in society, advancing her family.

And I would miss playing vampire tag and winning against that snot-nosed Edward every once in three hundred games. And I would miss Carlisle idiotic herky-jerky dance, and I would miss Esmé waiting by the door for her Carlisle at exactly 9 PM.

And I would miss just existing. Knowing that day would follow night, but getting that surprise to interrupt the monotony of eternity, anyway: a meteor streaking across the sky, or a visit from a stupid human girl, or a snowfall that made snow just perfect for slush balls smacking into the back of Edward's head. Or anything. Or everything.

The thing about being destroyed? About oblivion? I would miss all that, but I wouldn't because 'I' wouldn't exist to miss those things ... and I would miss that, too: my self-awareness, even if that self-awareness was self-loathing.

So, I was the fifth wheel, but maybe I could just leave. No blood, no foul. If I could talk to Edward first, maybe I could convince him that I could part ways with the Cullens amicably.

And maybe I could save the girl from damnation, too. I was living this existence, and I wouldn't wish it on my worst enemy. I wouldn't wish it on that girl whose only crimes were an inverted sense of danger and a simple country charm and a superlative scent that caught Edward's and Esmé's attentions.

With my new resolve, I returned to the Cullen house. Edward's Aston Marin was parked in the garage around back. I went in. Vampires don't need to knock. We can hear each other just fine from quite a distance, and besides, our scents are fingerprints. They knew I was here. And I knew Edward wasn't.

Hm.

Carlisle and Esmé were seated as before, and this time Carlisle spoke: "Ah, Rosalie! Edward went out looking for you; I guess you didn't come across him?"

His voice was pleasant, untroubled, unaware, but it was Esmé I was watching. She had a welcoming but disinterested look on her face that masked one of disappointment. A look that said: why do you still exist? And I knew now my request for an amicable parting was too late; she had already 'spoke' to Edward, I was sure.

Oh, well. Oblivion it was, then. Farewell, cruel, brief eternal existence.

"No," I responded evenly. If I were to go, I would go with my dignity intact. "But it'll be easy enough for me to find him; I'll go collect him and come right back ..." ... or not, as the case may be.

Esmé smiled that motherly smile of hers. "Come back soon, Rosalie; we missed you."

I smiled at her wanly — keeping up the friendly appearances — and left, tracking Edward's scent.

It was all over the hunting grounds, and, with his speed, it would take forever to catch up to him. I did have forever, but why push off the inevitable?

I ran to "our rock"; the rock by which we had our last conversation about the girl, and called out in a clear voice that carried for miles, above the range that humans could hear. Rule number one, after all.

"Edward, I'm out by the rock. You know the one. I'll wait here." It was the perfect place for him to take me out: visibility was near zero with the clumping of the trees. All he had to do it come to me with me upwind, and that would be that. Even Edward could manage that.

I broadcast as clearly as I could my understanding that I was unwelcome in their family and that I was ready: I was ready to end this existence.

Edward came to me. He was upwind. Maybe he was being gentlemanly? Letting me know my end was coming? He could have surprised me with his first blow, but I would know what was going on in the minutes he would take following that to destroy me.

I just hoped he would spare me the altruistic lecture.

He appeared right in front of me, almost too fast for even a vampire to track. "Rosalie," he began.

So much for getting spared the lecture.

"You're right," he continued.

And I waited. 'You're right' could mean many things in Edward's book, but it never actually meant 'you're right'.

"You're just not fitting in with the rest of the family — not because we're not trying, but because you're not ready yet — and I think you need some time on your own to figure out some things ... like I needed some time on my own."

I lashed out at that: "I am NOT going to go on some homicidal rampage in order to 'figure things out'!" I spat these words out fiercely. I wasn't some all-powerful judge, sampling the wine as I executed judgment on it.

Edward held out his open palm facing me in a peace offering. I considered taking a bite out of it. "I didn't suggest that, and I didn't mean that. All I'm saying is that you wish to go. And I know it will break Esmé's heart ..." Right! I couldn't help but scream in my mind. Edward grimaced, but continued: "... and she'll make a big scene. So, I'll convince Carlisle and Esmé that" — as if you ever had any trouble convincing them of anything! — "since you've just hunted, you can watch the house while we're away on our outing. You can leave during the weekend with no fuss."

Edward maintained his cool during my spiteful interjections, and I was so distracted by my backbiting that I almost missed what he was saying. But then I did get it.

"You're going to let me walk away?" I couldn't believe it. Was this a trick? Why would Edward need to trick me? He had me right here!

"Yes," he responded calmly. But was it yes to me walking away or yes to this being a trick? "You can walk away," he clarified, "peaceably, but let me just say this."

Oh, boy! I sighed to myself, here it comes.

"You've got us wrong. You've got us all wrong. Carlisle not a tyrant, and Esmé loves you. We all do. You can walk away, and we won't follow you, but you'll always be welcome back. You'll be welcomed back with open arms."

Fine. Whatever. Edward always held onto his delusions. I wouldn't be able to sway him from any now.

Well, maybe I could sway him on just one point.

"What about the girl?" I asked.

"What about her?" he asked back. Edward was just so thick-headed sometimes.

"Don't turn her, Edward, please."

"What!" Edward looked genuinely shocked. "Why in Heaven or on Earth would I ever do that to anyone?"

About the soul, Edward and I disagreed, but when it came to our curse ... he and I were actually in accord on this point. But I wasn't worried so much about him, in particular.

"Oh, I don't know. Appealing human girl ... Edward in need of a mate ... Edward showering attention on her ... Sound familiar?" Edward had shown up at functions my human family and I had attended. He and I had had passing conversations, with displeasure evident from both sides, but apparently not so evident for Esmé.

"Rosalie, I will never, ever, allow that to happen. You have my word on that."

"Even if she's on the point of death, like I was?" I pressed.

"I'll make sure that she comes to no harm," he responded.

That was the wrong answer.

"Like you made sure for me?" I seethed, burning inside at the memory that plagued me again.

"I didn't do that for you," he responded sorrowfully, "and I regret that."

"No, Edward, you've got it wrong. You shouldn't regret not saving me: I should have died in that alley. But also, you shouldn't protect that girl. This is Ekalaka-waka, U.S.A." I said the town's name adding a sarcastic twist at the end. "The only danger that girl faces — the only danger — is us! Stay away from her, Edward. Please. And have Carlisle and Esmé stay away, too."

Edward shook his head. "Rosalie, this is a funny time for you to start looking beyond yourself. Nothing is going to happen to her."

I sighed. I had done what I could. "Edward, this is a funny time for you to start looking beyond yourself ..." I repeated his words right back to him. "... especially for a mortal." I avoided the whole 'she's not just a human' refrain from Mr. Stars-in-his-eyes. "Pick a nice vampire girl. Just make sure this girl is still human when you find your soul mate, okay?"

Edward smiled. "See, you are family: you never give up."

I smiled back. He was right about part of it. "See: I never give up. I am a Hale."

Edward's smile didn't leave his face, but it became wistful. "I'll miss you, Rosalie. I never did have a sister. Leave, take all the time you need, but come home. I'll be the first one to welcome you back."

"Thank you, Edward." I wasn't saying thank you in gratitude; no, I was saying that to close our conversation. We were done. It would be nice to be welcomed back to a family, if that family was sincere. It would be nice for Edward to welcome me back, because even though he was a blockhead, he still stood beside me through thick and thin, bickering with me every inch of the way.

It was just too bad he was blind in his conceits of family: his creator-father and his vampire mommy. Maybe he'd come to see the light one day, and we would cross paths again as brother and sister out on our own.

It was a pleasant fanciful thought, but also a pointless one. We ran back to the Cullen house, and I prepared to say goodbye to this part of my existence. I would never be seeing any of the Cullens again.


A/N 1: The Town of Ekalaka is "named after a Sioux Indian girl, wife of scout David Harrison Russell" (montanahistory-dot-net-slash-placenames). Rosalie's disparagement isn't directed toward the Sioux nation or that girl, it's directed at the whole world.

A/N 2: The books of philosophy are all, or if not all, for the most part, now in the public domain and are freely available to read on the web. Of course, I'd recommend the Summa Theologica, first, but it does require patience for the style of reasoning employed at that time by St. Thomas Aquinas (once you get the hang of it, reading it becomes very natural). The other books? Nietzsche's book is "Beyond Good and Evil", Kant's book is the "Critique of Pure Reason". Peirce's books are harder to find, as they are mostly stored in Harvard's archive, but there are critiques of his work and also web documents available. As for Wittgenstein ... ah, Wittgenstein! His Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus was my most pleasurable read of his corpus. Too bad (for whom?) he later disavowed it.