PROLOGUE: THE END OF SUMMER.
I wasn't quite sure what'd set it off but I was certain this was what a sheer panic attack would feel like. It had to be so, because I always believed this place to be so peaceful, magical even and it looked terrifying to me now. It made no sense. Wasn't I past all this worry?
Apparently not, because unless my eye-sight - more perfect than 20-20 vision - was deceiving me right now and I was just imagining things, it appeared I was being hit by a freight train labeled 'worry' in capital bolded letters on the side.
I shivered, unnoticably, trying to find a word to best describe how I felt.
I was surrounded by what looked like a world coloured in sepia tones. Like a scene straight from a horror film. Combined with a deafening silence, the view made me feel very ill at ease.
I was kind of expecting monstrous creatures to emerge from the hazy filter of fog covering everything around me because it would fit perfectly within the scene I was imagining.
But nothing happened and I wasn't quite sure where this sudden feeling of despair came from.
Stop being so ridiculous, I silently chided myself. There was nothing to worry about. After all, I was the only thing coming straight out of a horror film.
The only monster around here was me.
I sighed. So much for the final days of summer in Forks.
The Olympic Peninsula was almost permanently hidden under a cover of grey clouds so it was not at all a surprise that even during the summer it rained for the most part.
This year was the worst because it had been the rainiest summer in the history of our small town. Forks had never been wetter.
For my family and I this was ideal. We welcomed it, because the rain didn't phase us. Also, it meant we didn't have to hide. A day where the sky was filled with a thick overhead of clouds was a day where the Cullens could go about their way freely, escaping the risk of glistening vampire skin exposure.
The downside of this consistent downpour was how it affected the amount of time one could spend outdoors and while it used to make no difference to me, I was no longer in the position to ignore these cloudbursts in spite of the fact the cold and the wet didn't affect me personally.
It still amazed me how I still got so overwhelmed by feeling human. Perhaps that was the reason for my newfound vunerability. For an indestructible creature, I was feeling extremely breakable.
Here in the meadow - how lovely this place normally was compared to the glooming picture I saw now - the wetness had wreaked its havoc, leaving behind this eery palet of little color and savaged plants. The wildflowers were withered, rotting away because of the moist grounds. The grass reaked of mud mixed with a hint of dirty rain water and the mildew growing on the rotting wildlife.
It was the first time since that fateful day, where I had bared myself completely, unveiling what I really was, I had returned to the meadow. All summer it had been impossible to come here, with the constant rain soaking the grounds, turning the earth into a gigantic mudpool.
But for whatever reason, it was not raining today. A hint of sunlight even peeked through the clouds. It dried the grounds, leaving behind a cloud of humidity which perfectly illustrated the feel of my depression.
I breathed in, scenting the aftertaste of heavy moisture in the air on my tongue. That, and a more heady, overpowering aroma.
After six months the effects hadn't faded one bit. The power with which this fragrance hit my nostrils, the way it shot up venom in my throat or how somewhere deep inside something long forgotten erupted; desire.
It was still so very compelling.
The object of this longing was lounging on a thick blanket, protecting herself from the soiled grounds. She smiled at me widely, trustingly.
Bella. The girl who made up my entire existence now. My only love.
My midnight sun.
Momentarily, it made this otherwise morose looking meadow seem like it was bright and on fire.
She was enjoying herself, reading in a book she had brought along. Watching her being so concentrated, completely taken in by whatever Shakespearean story she had already memorized, was very engrossing. Occasionally, I'd pick up the book and read the stories to her aloud, which she seemed to enjoy as much as reading it to herself in silence.
And so, I had absolutely no reason to be unhappy, or to feel bad. Bella was here with me and everything was perfectly fine. Like it had been all summer, there was nothing for me to worry about.
Maybe my sudden unhappiness stemmed from the fact it was the last day before school began. And at Forks High I'd have to share her again.
I was trying hard not to show too much of this humiliating streak of possessiveness that had developed itself ever since I had met Bella. I was pretending to be perfectly at ease when Mike Newton smiled at her in spite of the fact I couldn't escape the repelling thoughts Newton harboured. He was back on the market - he and Jessica Stanley had broken up - silently hoping for another chance with Bella. He gave 'wishful thinking' new meaning. Surely he knew he'd never be with Bella.
Still, his secret longing had gotten worse, especially after Bella had decided it was absolutely necessary to get a job, unbeknownst to how her eventual choice of labour would play into Mike Newton's hopes.
I did understand her reasoning behind Bella feeling the need to have a job. Work included a paycheck and this money was supposed to go into a college fund. This pleased me, at least she was thinking about her human future, rather than hoping for the alternative. Bella had started this fund on her own because she wasn't certain if Charlie was already saving up for this - like most parents did - and she wasn't about to ask him either.
Money was the issue here. Chief Swan was clearly not a very wealthy man and Bella was far too stubborn and self-relient to assume her parents would be saving up money for the purpose of a higher education. Naturally, I had offered to pay her tuition and every time her answer, or rather warning had been the same. I was not allowed to support her financially in any way.
I'd contemplated to start a college fund for her secretly, but I wasn't quite sure if she'd ever be reasonable enough to accept my money. Knowing Bella, she probably wouldn't.
So, to have a decent shot at financing college Bella had insisted on finding a job and since Forks didn't have a broad enough job-market, she'd ended up working at the sporting goods store the Newton family owned. Of course Mike worked there too and he was thrilled by the fact he could talk to Bella freely, knowing I could do nothing but tolerate it when I was on his territory.
Bella flipped a page and sighed contently. She glanced up at me and smiled. As I returned her smile I realized how much I actually dreaded the idea of having to share these smiles with her friends. With other boys.
But was that the underlying reason for my unease? Was I worried about sharing Bella? Was I jealous? I had been before and while I remembered the vicious pain that had accompanied the feling I couldn't imagine it'd be worth an imaginary panic attack.
I thought about the upcoming school year. We were seniors now.
This was another rite of passage. One I was determined for Bella to experience. Thankfully she wasn't as difficult about this, the way she had been about me taking her to prom, which was good. At least she still saw some value in a proper education.
As for everything else, Bella seemed to have only one wish.
I had tried to prevent us from talking about the impending vision of doom Alice frequently had about Bella's future but occasionally she'd tried to touch upon the subject during summer break. It had ended the same every time.
In an impasse. I wasn't going to change her and she wasn't going to let it go. It was an incomprehensible concept - Bella should never be comdemned to an immortal life - and I had decided to fight against it. Much to Bella's dismay since she believed it to be the only way to secure our future. Sometimes she murmured about it in her sleep when she spoke of wanting to be with me forever. This was wonderful, of course but the longing for us to never be separated didn't outweigh the outrageous idea of taking Bella's life away.
My sister was Bella's biggest supporter, especially now that they'd managed to become close friends, the way Alice had foreseen long before she and Bella had been properly introduced.
This strongly formed friendship was the main reason Alice had spend a good part of the summer with Bella and me. Bella felt oddly comfortable around my house, which still baffled me at times. It was like she had always belonged there, when she was hanging on the sofa, chatting with Esme or Carlisle. When Alice was abusing her with beauty products or dragging her to her room to watch romantic DVD's. It came naturally and according to my tiny future-seeing sister, it was further proof Bella was meant to become one of us.
The only ones who seemed to still have difficulty with Bella's presence were Jasper and Rosalie. Emmett was on good terms with her. He actually thought Bella to be hilarious and he genuinly liked her, but Rosalie clearly still disapproved of our relationship. Of course her behavour was unjustified because it was more about my sister's vanity than anything else. Things had been easier lately since Rosalie and Emmett were traveling Africa to celebrate yet another honeymoon. I could tell Bella felt more at ease in the absence of Rosalie.
Jasper remained to have a hard time around Bella too, though occasionally he would make an effort and accompany Alice to one of her pre-meditated movie dates with Bella and me. Pre-meditated because Alice was determined to help Jasper get stronger. I applauded her attempts though I wasn't very comfortable with the idea she used Bella to test him, knowing what these evenings meant for his self control. It continued to be very hard for him to be around Bella so freely. So, mostly Jasper kept his distance, something I could understand. I even welcomed it, because somehow it felt safer.
It wasn't like I didn't understand Jasper's pain. I too, was still frequently overwhelmed by Bella's scent and it took me as much - if not more - strength than it did Jasper to keep my mind from wandering down dangerous places.
And it was so difficult sometimes to keep focused when Bella was close to me, her warm lips against mine, her overheated body pressed against me. I needed to constantly remind myself she was human and breakable and any lapse in control on my part could harm her. Or worse, kill her.
I still spend every night in her room and most of the time, in her bed. Bella insisted on this, not caring about my cold skin against her body or the fact I didn't sleep. She had reached a point where she couldn't sleep without me humming her into peaceful dreams.
Our eyes met again and Bella patted the spot next to her. With her finger she motioned me to close the small distance between us, her wide smile and warm chocolate eyes pulling me in.
For a moment the meadow was on fire again, blinding me from the worries about some kind of disaster striking. The most beautiful girl in the world was mine and she wanted to be with me. Everything was simply perfect.
As I sat down, Bella shifted her weight, forcing herself to sit in between my pulled up knees. She snuggled against my chest, taking my arms to wrap them around her like a comfortable blanket to keep her warm.
Except I wasn't warm. Not warm like a human.
I brushed my lips against the hollow underneath Bella's ear, down the side of her neck to her collarbone, her skin -hot from the strong pulse of fresh blood - burning my lips. Her heart thudded loudly at my touch and when she turned to face me, I noticed how her cheeks were a bright red. She flashed me a quick smile before she pressed her lips against mine.
As our lips met and our kiss intensified, Bella pulled me closer to her, forcing me to feel this craving I felt whenever we were this close. After a few seconds I gently pushed Bella away as I felt my self control beginning to slip.
Bella grinned apologetically as we both gasped for air. I wrapped my arms around her, softly stroking her hair as she leaned against my chest.
Slowly consciousness came back to me and with it came a realization. Venom filled my mouth as a warning. Painful memories tugged at the edge of my mind as a reminder.
Oh. Was that it.
The origin of my agony.
All summer I'd been free from it; the angst. The aching knowledge that my nature would eventually force me to leave Bella. That it was the only sensible thing to do. It was back with a vengeance, pounding against my dead heart, pushing itself back into my mind. No wonder the meadow was looking so terrifying. The truth was never pretty when it came back to haunt you.
This wasn't about jealousy, or the anxiety of facing a new school year. I didn't let someone as insignificant as Mike Newton rule my feelings, well not for the most part anyway. These trivial things didn't rattle me as much as the truth did.
This was about the future. That's where all the uneasiness, the acute panic, came from.
And the endless rain during the summer had been an unforeseen omen. More proof of how bad Bella and I matched. She should've gone to California with her father, like she had done past summers. Or visit Renée and Phil at their new home in Jacksonville.
It always came back to the same thing. I had no right to claim her like this, no right to forgot about what *was* right whenever Bella wrapped her arms around my neck to pull herself closer to me. No right to let myself get lost in these lingering yearnings.
I had no right to do the wrong thing. Not anymore. Not since James had almost killed her, proving I was a lousy protector. I knew all this, but it hadn't moved me to act on my self disgust, to 'take myself out of the equation' as Carlisle had put it a long time ago. Instead I had allowed myself to be happy again - forgetting how I had almost let James kill Bella. I had drowned in the perfect bliss of summer Bella and I had spend together, despite all the rain.
But I was resurfacing now as I looked at the sky and watched new - darker - clouds rolling in. They were accompanied by something else, something sinister.
I could feel it - a tragic heaviness inside me - though I couldn't quite find an explanation for it.
One thing was certain, it wouldn't be long before this luck would run out and when it did, Bella would suffer.
And when that happened, it would no longer matter how perfect the past few months had been.
I now understood why the meadow had lost its colour, why the sun had refused to shine all summer long and why it was so bleak now. I knew why I felt so wary, believing something terrible was going to happen.
I couldn't escape it anymore. Not even here, in the happiest place I had ever known.
I breathed in deep, letting the air - still a mixture of the moist from the rain and Bella's heavenly though very dangerous scent - fill my lungs.
My throat scorched from the aching thirst.
How befitting it was to mark the moment.
The end of summer.
This 'darker' meadow scene is clearly made up, though some of the events passing through Edward's mind were mentioned in NM. The rest is the liberty I took to put this to paper to set the tone. Not a happy tone, of course.
Special thanks to HorseCrazy jr. who took the time to send me some title suggestions for New Moon from Edward's POV. I choose "Fallen Horizon", because it was already sort of stuck in my head, but I want you to know I do appreciate you took the time to come up with something and I will keep them in mind :)
Alright, hopefully, if time and creativity allows me, the first 'real' chapter will be up next weekend.I wish it could be sooner, but I have so little time this week.