Chapter 1: Escape
I woke up to an unusually sunny day. It seemed a good omen. I was surprised I fell asleep at all last night with all of the anticipation. After being married to Edward for two months today was to be the day I would finally be changed. We spent two weeks following the wedding on a private island somewhere off the coast of South America being newlyweds before returning to the Cullen house in Forks to prepare for our more permanent move to an isolated house in northern Alaska. No one was certain how the transformation would effect me, seeing as I was going into it willingly, but it was better to be safe than sorry. I didn't want the guilt of a newborn slip up on my mind. That slip up would be a human life and that did not sit well with me.
I had spent as much time as I could with Charlie before the week before the big move. I made sure I had dinner on the table every night for him and sometimes even dropped in for his lunch hour. He would grumble under his breath that I was married and had a husband to cook for but seemed to appreciate the meal nonetheless. He started getting suspicious when I showed up with two tickets for the Seattle Seahawks game against the New England Patriots. I adamantly told him that the Seahawks were having a rebuilding year and it would be interesting to see how they faired against the Patriots. He looked at me like I had two heads. I just wanted to make sure he had good memories of the time he spent with me.
When I finally told Charlie that we were moving, he didn't seem surprised. The day we left Forks he came out to the Cullen house. Tears welled up in my eyes standing in the driveway staring at my father, knowing this would be the last time I'd ever see him again. Charlie broke the silence not taking his glistening eyes off me "Edward you take care of my little girl, you hear."
I grinned, my cheeks flushed, embarrassed, "Dad I'm married; I'm not a little girl anymore."
"Of course you are Bella. You always will be, don't forget that." He moved towards me and wrapped his arms around me. I couldn't remember ever being held by my father like that. Charlie wasn't one for many words and he definitely was not the affectionate fatherly type. His sudden display of affection caught me off guard and the tears that had been welling up behind my lids flowed freely. After a few moments we broke apart and he extended his hand to Edward.
Edward stepped forward to Charlie and said "Don't worry Charlie. I promise I will protect Bella with my life. I will give her all the happiness in the world." The two quickly shook hands and locked eyes. Charlie knew that Edward would keep his promise. Edward wrapped his arm around my shoulder and we walked to his silver Volvo. He held the car door open for me and I climbed in. As we pulled away I watched my father disappear behind us, one hand in his front jean pocket and the other held high waving goodbye. I cried the entire way to the airport.
That parting moment was weighing heavily on my mind as I woke up. I was excited and nervous about being changed. From what had been told to me by my family, I knew that it would be excruciatingly painful. Even with a week to get used to the idea, I couldn't shake the pain of the thought of leaving Charlie for good. It was weighing heavily on my mind and I wasn't convinced that the pain of leaving my family and friends behind was easier than the pain I would experience while I was changing.
I came down the stairs from the room I shared with Edward to find my family engaging in various activities throughout the house. Edward was sitting at his piano playing a song I didn't recognize. I nuzzled up to him and laid my head on his shoulder. I love listening to Edward play, like everything, he was perfect at it. He continued to play and I was so lost in his music I didn't hear Alice dance up behind us.
"Good morning Bella! Oh geeze, I hope you aren't planning to start eternity in that. I hope your fashion sense improves. Come on, let me get you ready." Alice said as she eyed my old grey sweat pants and tattered t-shirt.
She managed to fill my new closet full of "acceptable" clothes but I had been less than cooperative about wearing them. It was embarrassing to even look at the drawer full of lacy sleep wear, I couldn't bring myself to wear it, especially if there was a chance Emmett would be around. The teasing would be unbearable. I'd never hear the end of it. I looked up at Edward, "It'll be easier if I just let her do it, won't it?"
He chuckled, his beautiful crooked grin lighting up his golden eyes. He still dazzles me with the simplest things. "Well, I could always take her out of the picture. She is unbelievably annoying. But I'm afraid your brother-in-law Jasper might have something to say about it. There might be a family feud."
"Ugh. Fine. Twenty minutes Alice, that's it." I gave Edward a kiss and grudgingly followed her back up the stairs to the torture room, salon Alice.
"You know Bella, you might as well get used to this. I'm not planning on letting you run around for eternity wearing old sweats. You're a Cullen now, there's a look policy that goes along with that."
"Hm, seems like I missed the part of my vows that said 'I vow to seek Alice's approval on all fashion and fashion matters.' It must have been in the fine print."
"It was snuck in quietly. Apparently only the vampires heard." She continued to primp and press, humming quietly to herself. She appeared to be focused at the task at hand but I could feel her eyes watching me carefully. She broke the silence "Bella is everything alright? You don't seem yourself. I mean you typically tune me out when I play Bella Barbie, but this is different. I'm your best friend, you can tell me anything."
I met her eyes in the mirror. She seemed genuinely concerned. And she was right, she is my best friend, I should be able to talk to her. I almost felt like I was an inmate on death row seeking counsel from a priest in my final hours. This was my one chance for confession. I didn't want to walk willingly to my mortal death with something weighing so heavily on my mind. I let out a sigh, "Yeah, I suppose I just have a lot on my mind. I'm really missing Charlie, you know? I can't shake the idea that I will never see him again. Eventually I may be able to talk to him on the phone but... I just got my father back."
Her face fell ever so slightly. "I was afraid of this. I didn't say anything to Edward but I saw this coming. You've already made your mind up about this subject, I just don't think you know it yet. You need to be making this decision for the right reasons Bella. Being with Edward forever might not be enough. You have a choice, none of us did."
Hearing that from Alice, I knew she was right. It was so much harder to hear it from Alice. Rosalie I would expect this from. She had been opposed to this idea from the very beginning. I never thought I'd see things from her point of view. And it wasn't just Charlie, it was Jacob, Angela, Ben, Jessica, heck even Mike Newton. They would grow, change, get to have experiences that I hadn't even considered wanting to have. I couldn't be there to share it with them. I couldn't even live vicariously through them. I would become something that had to be hidden from society, dangerous even. That thought made me feel like a caged animal. It had been sitting heavy on my heart since we drove away from Forks. I was not having second thoughts about Edward or his family. I loved them all dearly. I also loved my family. I was foolish to think that I could walk away from all of that.
I had started crying freely at this point, ruining all of Alice's hard work. She didn't even seem upset. Her face was tense, clenching her jaw together tightly, if she were capable of tears I think she would have been silently crying. She put her arms around me and whispered in my ear "You need to tell him. I'll be waiting for you in the garage. Don't worry, no one is going to be upset at you for this. You are doing what is best for you."
I pulled away from her suddenly. Had that been my decision? Was I going to walk away from a marriage and a family I had only been a part of for a few short months? The idea of it made me sick to my stomach and caused me to cry harder. How could I walk out on Edward? How could I put him through what he had done to me?
A voice in my head answered, because he left you, because you value your humanity, because this is wrong for you.
I shook my head. That's just silly. I married him, I committed to forever. I meant my vows when I said them.
The voice countered back, forever means different things to you than it does to Edward.
Why am I doing this now? Now of all days? Because it's not too late.
Just then I heard the vibrating of cell phone on Alice's bathroom counter. I stared at it. The screen said there was an incoming call from Charlie. That did it. Not that I loved my father more than my husband. I will always love Edward most. I just wasn't ready for this yet.
I answered "Hi dad."
Charlie's voice answered "Bella? I thought I was calling Alice. She left me a message telling me to call her back. Well this is a pleasant surprise."
That was the sign I needed. Or maybe Alice had purposely planned. Clearly she knew something I didn't and I wasn't about to start betting against her now.
"Yeah dad it's great to hear from you. I'll tell Alice you called, she's busy at the moment. Hey dad, do you think it'd be ok if I came home for a visit for a few days? Just me?" My voice still sounded heavy, I hoped that he wouldn't notice I had been crying.
"Of course kiddo. That's not a problem. I'll just tell Billy that we'll have to postpone the fishing trip. The weather isn't suppose to be all that great anyway." Thankfully Charlie is blissfully unaware of most things concerning women and emotions.
"Ok, I'll call you and let you know when to pick me up." I said goodbye and hung up the phone. I felt numb. Had those words actually come out of my mouth? I thought about it for a minute. I didn't say I was leaving Edward. All I had said is that I wanted to visit home by myself. That's perfectly acceptable for a married woman to do, right? Of course the voice in my head answered back smugly. Ugh, clearly I'm not sane enough to be making these decisions right now. I'm talking to myself. I guess that was the easy part though, I still had to talk to Edward....
I managed to pull myself together. Thank goodness for waterproof makeup, I wasn't nearly as much of a train wreck as I thought I was. I got up and walked to the door, taking a deep breath and opening it slowly.
I jumped. Edward was leaning up against the door frame, his eyes closed and pinching the bridge of his nose. Clearly Alice was not as good at keeping Edward out of her head as she thought she was. He didn't look angry, but rather defeated and hollow.
I had to say something but the words just wouldn't find their way out of my mouth. I stood there for a few moments my mouth moving wordlessly when he held his hand up to stop me. His golden eyes bore straight into mine. I could see the pain in them and my heart shattered.
Edward reached out and touched my cheek, "I heard Alice. In fact, I think it was intentional, she seemed to want to give you a break. Bella I love you with all of my existence but if this life is not something you are ready for all you had to do is say something. I would never change you if I wasn't certain it was what you wanted. I would never damn you to this existence only to have you resent me for it. I vowed to love, honor, and protect you. I never vowed to change you. I love you just the way you are. If you can only give me a human lifetime, I will gladly take it. If you need space I want you to have it. Just remember you walk out that door with my heart. I hope you bring it back..." His voice broke and he lapsed into silence. His face was that of a tortured man.
I threw myself into his arms and began a fresh bout of sobbing all over again. I reached up to his face and began kissing every inch I could reach. Uncharacteristically he let me. I was trying to convey that I loved him with all of my heart, that would never change. I could only hope that he would receive the message. "Edward I love you. Don't think this is about me not loving you. I said my vows and I meant them. I just need some time to myself."
He took my hands in his and kissed them both. "Love, she's waiting for you in the car. Whenever you are ready to come back I'll be here. I'll always be here. I'll wait forever."
I gave him one last kiss and tore myself away before I was unable to. I kept my head down, tears flowing freely, as I dashed through the house hoping to avoid curious eyes. I flung myself into the passenger seat of the Jeep next to Alice and she pulled away.