I was sure the pain was going to kill me; no-one could live through this amount of pain. It consumed every part of my body, from my head to my toe. I thought I'd already gone through the worst pain imaginable, wished my life away, but that was nothing compared to this. I could still smell Bella's intoxicating scent and it was enough to make me turn around and run back to her, run back and beg her forgiveness for the horrible lies I had just fed to her. But I knew I had to keep going, however much every footstep away from her tore me apart inside, I knew I had to keep walking. If I was a human the pain would have killed me by now, it was all too consuming. But somehow I managed to put one foot in front of the other and make my way out of the forest. I averted my eyes away from Bella's house, the scent was all too strong there, and too many memories that made me want to stay. I was doing the right thing by leaving her, it didn't seem like it but I knew deep down inside, with whatever goodness I still possessed that I was finally doing the right thing by her. Without us here Bella would free to lead a normal life, she'd be able to experience every human experience that her birthright allowed her to, I would not be condemning her to a life of fear and danger that she was in every second she spent with me. It had to be this way; it was the only way I told myself as I began to pick up speed and make my way out of Bella's street. I could only hope that the pain was not tearing her apart as much, me hurting I could just about cope with. But Bella? It was enough to make me want to go back.
I ran as fast as my body would allow me to, taking some relief in the freedom my speed allowed me until eventually I reached the house. Alice was sat on the front porch, waiting for me.
She believed you then.
I nodded at Alice's thought and she looked at me, pure misery etched onto her beautiful face.
You're back sooner than I expected. I thought it would take much longer to convince her.
"Me too" I said. I had expected to be at Bella's for hours convincing her that eventually the memories and the pain would subside and I would be nothing more than a flimsy teenage memory. But no, it had taken just a few minutes for Bella to believe that the past few months had been worth nothing, if I'd had a heart it would have been smashed into a million pieces by now.
I'm sorry Edward. That it had to come to this, none of us wanted it to come to this. We know how much you loved her.
She said love in the past tense but I knew that however Bella ended up thinking of me, I would never forget her, and more to the point I would never stop loving her. Already I felt lost and empty, like I'd lost the other part of me when I'd walked away from Bella. The part that made me feel good and whole for the first time in 90 years. All the hope and reassurance I felt around her was gone and I was once again left with the monster that I was, with no soul to redeem myself with.
Everyone's packing inside. They want to leave before nightfall.
I nodded and made my way inside. The house felt colder than normal, even to my icy body. Downstairs was deserted, everyone was up in their rooms packing, yet again. I could hear their thoughts even from here, all of them with one thing on their mind: me and Bella. Esme was mourning the loss of the girl she had come to think of as her daughter, who she had hoped one day would become her daughter. And then, as any mother would, her thoughts turned to me, how I would be hurting, there was no point trying to hide the pain from Esme, a mother's instinct was too powerful a tool. Carlisle put his arm around her, to comfort and reassure her. His thoughts on me too, going through the decades we had shared together, my face at various moments, even I could see the blatant difference between the smiles of the decades before and in the past 6 months with Bella, it was a different person. I could never question Carlisle's decision to change me as he often did himself, as he was at that moment, had he not changed me I would not have met her, and to have experienced love was better than not to have at all, I would tell him that later myself in order to answer his question. Esme and Carlisle were the best parents anyone could have asked for, we were all lucky to have them and we knew it. It wasn't often that Carlisle felt guilty for what he had done to each of us, but occassionally it creeped back into his consciousness and the guilt would attack him, even a man as selfless as Carlisle had his demons, what hope was there for the rest of us?
Across the hall Emmett and Rose were packing in their bedroom. Emmett spread across the bed watching Rose, he congratulated me, for what I had done, the strength I had to walk away from the woman I loved, even for the greater good. Watching Rose, Emmett could not imagine a reason good enough or willpower strong enough to walk away from his wife. He applauded my strength and unselfishness; he didn't think he could ever do it. Rose's thoughts were in tunes with Emmett's, she may not have been Bella's biggest fan but it was clear in her head that if my being with Bella was what made me happy than Rose would accept it. She thought of Emmett and how she had found him, that day in the forest, being mauled by the bear. How she had taken him to Carlisle and begged him to change Emmett for her, she had been selfish then with her choice. And here I was doing a selfless deed to protect who I loved, I was a better person than her in her own head for doing that. Rose and Emmett were the kind of couple I would have loved me and Bella to be, their bond going deeper than most people gave them credit for. But as I saw into their thoughts on a regular basis, I knew the attraction ran far deeper than purely physical attraction. Emmett, despite Rose's guilt, held no remorse for the action Rose taken that day with the bear, she hadn't condemned him to the hell the rest of us saw ourselves in, but to a better life with an angel, and he would spent the rest of his eternity with Rose trying to prove that to her. If only I thought, if only I could guarantee that Bella would be like Emmett, have no regrets, none of the bitterness that Rose carried around her neck like a weight, then there would be no need for this, I'd have Bella in the same way Emmett now had Rose, pulled tight against my chest, my nose buried in her head, together.
Jasper's thoughts were the most painful to penetrate, the guilt inside him was ripping him apart. His mind a constant flashback to Bella's birthday and the events that occured, all playing in slow motion with the occassional rewind to see if anything could have been done differently. It would have been so easy to blame Jasper for what was happening, and perhaps if I didn't posess this particular gift then maybe it would have been easier to blame him. But I could see the pain was hurting him nearly as much it was me, Jasper had already made his apologies to me, over and over again until I'd had to tell him to stop. It wasn't his fault I'd reminded him, he'd given in to the most basic instinct that we creatures posessed because I put in his path the most beautiful and irresistable kind of temptation, and in doing so I was not only putting her in constant mortal danger, but also ourselves. Although all of us over the years had slowly began to desensitise ourselves to the smell of human blood, being in constant proximity to it when we did not need to be was not good for our self control, and as Jasper had proven, temptation often weighs out self control. Alice, like Esme was mourning the loss of Bella, she'd bonded with Bella, she'd seen in her mind what she thought Bella would become and thus allowed herself to become attached to her. Alice's premonitions weren't always right I reminded myself when I remembered what Alice had seen, the path Bella would have taken, there was no guarantee she would have changed despite what Alice had seen inside her mind, I couldn't allow myself to believe that there was a possiblity of that. An eternity with Bella ? It was enough to make me want to run back to the Swans and get down on my knees and beg for Bella's forgiveness. No, I reprimanded myself, this was what I was saving Bella from, from making the choice that would irreparibly damage her soul, by doing this I was saving her, I was doing the right thing, I was giving her the chance that with me around she did not have: a human life.
I had to leave, the rest of the family weren't ready to leave yet, and I knew the longer I waited here the more likely there to make me go with them. I couldn't face that, I was wallowing so deep in self pity that I was not fit for any company. I would head to the coven in Denali, spend some time there, a couple of years, maybe a few decades, time was meaningless when you had forever on your hands. I wrestled with whatever was left of my conscience as whether or not to say goodbye to the rest of the family, but I could not face them. I knew just one glance into Esme's face would be enough to make me go with them and they did not deserve my wretched company. I looked around the room one more time, up until a few months ago this house was just that, a house. But since Bella had entered my life it had become more of a home, she had literally brought back the heart this house. I didn't just see the devastation of her birthday but other times, the first time I'd brought her here, her bemusment as she realsied we did not live as myths described us, the pure terror of the night after the baseball game. Unexpectedly Bella had creeped into every part of my life and stood here, she was all around me. I had to leave, while I still had the strength to walk out the door and away from Forks. My body would walk away from Forks, but my heart and soul, whatever form they now took would be tucked up in bed with my Bella, where I knew they would remain forever.
"Sweet dreams my Bella" I whispered into the night air as I started the run to Denali. "One day you'll understand why I did this, and never forget I love you".
And with that I ran as fast as the wind would carry me, far away from Forks, and most devastatingly, far away from Bella.