Authors Note: Okay as someone who hates when storys are started and never finished, I can tell you all now. This story is DONE. The entire thing has been written and is being beta read currently. As I get my chapters back from my beta reader you get them here. If anything happens to me she will post the rest herself. Now that that's out of the way.
Summary: This story is AU and begins right after the beginning of new moon, but the day Edward leaves is a little different. I wrote this after reading spoilers for NM but before I had read NM, E or BD. Then after I finished the books it was revised slightly.
Chapter 1, One Leaves, Another Returns
They walked into the woods together, and Bella could see in the set of his shoulders that something was very wrong. He wouldn't look at her, he wouldn't even glance in her direction. She knew in some part of her mind that this would be really bad.
He stopped, but didn't turn before he began to speak. "Bella, we're leaving."
As soon as she heard the words she understood, but desperately wished she was wrong.
"Why now? Is it because of what happened at the party? Isn't that a little drastic? It was an accident." He finally turned; his face looked like stone, cold and uncaring.
"One that could have been prevented. We shouldn't stay here any longer anyway. People will start to wonder why we don't age." He still wouldn't look her in the eye. He would look in her direction, but never met her eye.
"Then let me come with you!"
"That's not a good idea Bella. It wouldn't be the right place for you. You don't belong in my world." Bella started to tremble at his words.
"What are you talking about? I belong wherever you are." She felt the first tear fall. "I love you, Edward. I don't care where we are."
"It doesn't matter. We will be gone by tonight. It will be as though we never existed." She saw a brief emotion flow across his face, but it was back to stone before she could try to categorize it. She felt like she had been kicked in the chest.
"You mean I won't even get to talk to you again? Or Alice, or Esme? Please…just take me with you. You promised you wouldn't leave me alone."
He finally looked into her eyes, and what she saw there scared her. There was no love, no affection, no warmth. It was like the first day they met; his eyes were filled with the cold fire of someone dealing with something unpleasant.
"My staying isn't good for either of us, and I don't want you to come."
She felt her heart tear, and it felt like she was bleeding into her chest.
"To be honest, I'm tired of trying to be something I'm not. I'm tired of pretending with you. It's time I moved on."
"But…" She was crying in earnest now, tears blurring her vision. "But you said you loved me. Are you telling me now you were pretending?" Her voice kept cracking, so it took her some time to get it out.
"I wouldn't call it pretending, really. I told you, your scent is like a drug. However I'm sure you understand that chemistry doesn't equal love." He sounded like he was explaining rain to a child.
"You…loved the drug…never me?" It felt weird in her mouth saying the words, forming them.
"Exactly. I'm sure in time you will move on, human emotions are so fickle. I shouldn't have let this go on so long, I'm sorry for that."
"Please don't apologize for that. Never for that." She felt the tears flow.
"You're not right for me Bella."
So it came down to that, then. Somehow she had always known it would. She'd known from the start she wasn't good enough for him, but she had foolishly put her heart in his hands. She felt her whole body go numb, and her brain followed. The pain was gone, but the pressure remained.
"Okay. I understand." Bella saw something else flicker across his face, but again it was gone too quickly to see.
"I would like to ask one favor, though. If that's not too much."
"Anything." She looked up at him brokenly, wondering what he could want from her when he was taking everything away. His eyes turned molten in an instant; no longer cold, but burning with intensity.
"Don't do anything reckless or stupid, do you understand?"
She simply nodded, unable to say anything around the pressure in her chest. His eyes returned to their previous state, and Bella felt dizzy with the whiplash of it.
"I'm thinking of Charlie, of course. He needs you. Take care of yourself - for him."
Again she just nodded.
"I promise, you will never see me or any member of my family again. We will not interfere with your life anymore." She didn't know how, but her tears had stopped. She couldn't seem to wrap her head around the last few minutes.
"Don't worry," he continued. "You will forget me soon enough. Human memory is like a sieve." Again that same emotion passed in his eyes.
"What about you? Your memory?" She asked closing her eyes.
He stared at her a moment.
"I won't forget… but my kind are easily distracted." He smiled. "Good bye, Bella."
He moved forward and wrapped his arms around her, burying his face in the hair by her neck. He took a deep breath through his nose. "Take care of yourself."
Then there was silence, and when she opened her eyes he was gone.
With that realization came and a sharp tearing sensation in her chest, and she collapsed to the ground. The numbness was gone, and it felt like chunks of her chest were missing. She couldn't breath right, it came in fits and spurts, and some part of her mind still capable of thought around the pain said…
'One last hit. I really was nothing but a drug. I wish I was strong enough to give up mine. Now he's gone.'
She didn't know how long she laid there crying on the ground, but sometime after dusk she pulled herself up and began walking back to her home.
'Charlie,' she thought. 'He's probably home and worried. I broke my promise already.'
Sure enough, when she could see the house again, every light was on. She pulled herself together; she needed to take care of her dad. Crying could wait until later.
As she reached the house the sky opened up, and it was like the sky was crying for her.
Bella moved through her life with all the verve of a turnip. She went to class, she did her homework, and she cleaned. She made dinner and she went to work. But she rarely slept.
Every time she did, she saw him. He was a permanent fixture in her dreams and she couldn't make him go away.
She kept her promise; the most dangerous thing she did was cut chicken or fish for dinner. If only he could keep his, but his smell permeated her room for weeks after he left. Every time she looked at her cars stereo he was in her mind until, in a moment of misery, she had torn it from her dashboard. Every time she went to school his empty desk was another reminder. He was everywhere.
She started hanging out with Jacob to please her father; she didn't want him to worry. What she never knew was that he worried even more, because he knew how much she had loved him. She was so much like her father, and he knew what it was to love someone long after they were gone. He watched, hoping to see her grieve, but she kept everything inside her.
He hated Edward for leaving like he did. He had truly believed that Edward had loved his daughter. Then the rest of the Cullens too, along with him. Carlisle was gone and hadn't told anyone where he was going. Then Alice. He had been so fond of her, and she had been the best friend Bella had had since she moved here.
He wished there was something he could do for his daughter. It hurt him to see her like this. It had been 4 months, and he couldn't see any improvement. She just kept going about her daily routine like a robot. The weather was turning colder as well,and it looked like she was catching a cold. She was coughing.
"Morning dad," she said as she put a plate of eggs and toast if front of him.
"Bella, are you feeling okay?" he asked, worried.
"I'm just getting a cold. I'll wear an extra layer today." Her voice sounded hoarse in her own ears.
"Why don't you stay home, get some more sleep? Last thing I need is you to get pneumonia." He tried to make a joke of it, but he saw a sudden flash of pain in her eyes. He knew that look - she only got like that when she heard his name, or when something reminded her of him.
"You know, I think that's a good idea. Maybe I'll go get some Theraflu first, try to help clear my chest." But she knew nothing would clear the pressure in her chest….it had been her constant companion for months, that and the headaches she attributed to her time spent crying in the shower so Charlie wouldn't see. But his words had been an unintentional reminder of her promise. She needed to take care of herself for Charlie; it was her only purpose now.
"No, don't worry about it Bells. I'll bring you some later. You stay inside where it's warm, and just worry about getting better. I'll bring home something for dinner tonight."
"Okay, dad." They ate in peace until he left, then Bella grabbed a blanket off of her bed and went to lie on the couch. She knew she wouldn't sleep, that was something she didn't think was going to get easier anytime soon. She turned on the TV and began flipping through stations.
Her head was really bothering her today. It was hard to concentrate on what was on the screen. After an hour or two of trying to concentrate on the ridiculous cartoons, she felt her stomach turn over and raced to the bathroom.
She threw up everything she had eaten at breakfast, and that threw her into a fit of coughing that lasted several minutes. Finally she pulled herself to her feet and looked into the mirror. She turned away quickly.
She REALLY looked bad. She brushed her teeth and returned to the couch and curled up - she was freezing. Maybe it wasn't a cold, maybe she had caught the flu. Oh well…same drill: bundle up, rest, and lots of fluids. She wanted to take something for the headache, but she hated taking pills unless she couldn't avoid it.
She didn't know when she fell asleep but soon Charlie was shaking her awake. He had a steaming mug in his hand and handed it to her.
"I didn't know what flavor to get. I didn't even know they had different flavors." He chuckled lightly. "Citrus seemed safe."
"It's fine, dad." She sat up to sip at it. "Thank you. I would have made it myself."
"I know, but you should rest. You need your sleep if you're sick." She continued to drink her medicine; she remembered her mother used to call Theraflu 'potions'. She was slightly surprised she hadn't dreamed at all, and by the look of it she had been out for hours.
"I think I have the flu, actually. It's in my stomach too."
"Well in that case, why don't you stay home a few days? You can get better, and there's less of a chance others at your school will get sick."
"Yeah, that sounds good. I'll call Angela and have her get my schoolwork so I won't get behind."
"Okay. Are you up for some soup? I brought home Chinese. But I don't think you're up for it. I can heat up some of the canned soup in the pantry."
"That would be great dad, thanks. I need to call Jacob, too. I was supposed to go down there tomorrow."
By the time she was done talking to Angela and Jacob, her dad had the soup waiting. She ate slowly, trying to decide if dinner would make the same return trip breakfast had.
"Jacob's going to come over tomorrow to baby-sit me. I tried to talk him out of it but he wouldn't listen."
"I'm glad someone will be here to help you. You take too much on yourself. Letting someone else take care of you for one day will help."
"I don't know about that. He's even more helpless in the kitchen than you are. But he is stubborn as a mule. I just hope he doesn't get sick."
"I'm sure he'll be fine."
Another month passed. While she hadn't thrown up again and the chills were gone, the cough still wouldn't go away. So she made an appointment and went to the local doctor. It stung a little when she saw the gray hair and brown eyes of Dr. Wilson instead of Carlisle. But she recovered quickly.
"It says here you have had a constant cough for the past few weeks, and you had the flu about the time it started." He set her chart down. "Okay, I'm going to listen to your lungs and we will go from there. It is perfectly normal for the cough to continue after the flu for several weeks while your body expels what's left from the virus."
He placed the stethoscope on her back
"Now take a deep breath…again…" he moved it lower. "Again…okay it sounds like you still have a lot of congestion in there. So I'm going to give you some antibiotics and some pain killers to help clear that out."
"Why do I need pain killers?"
"When the antibiotics start to clear the infection your cough will get worse and it will cause your chest to hurt. Trust me, you will want them then."
"Okay." She didn't think she would notice this new pain he spoke of. She had lived with a hole in her chest for so long.
Two weeks passed and she had finished her antibiotics. Her cough still wasn't better, and her head was getting worse. She decided to wait awhile…it would probably get better on its own.
She tried calling Jacob, but Billy kept telling her he was sick - he had caught the flu. She felt bad, thinking maybe he had caught it from her. She went to a movie with her friends from school in Port Angeles one day; they left early for a matinee. It was still light out as she drove back.
She didn't know what compelled her to do it, but when she saw the turn off that would lead to the Cullen house, she took it.
Bella knew it would be empty. His words echoed in her head. 'Like we never existed.' She shuddered at how clear the memory of his voice was. When she reached the clearing it was exactly as she remembered it. Except maybe the plants were a little taller. She stepped out of her trunk and walked over to the front steps. She sat down without looking in the windows…she didn't want to know if the house was empty or not. She felt the first tear fall, and soon she was sobbing.
She still didn't know what drove her to stop here; there was only pain here for her now. She heard a sudden movement over by the river and turned in that direction. She didn't see anything, but she knew somehow that she was being watched.
"Hello? Who's out there?" She watched the line of trees until she saw movement again. When she zeroed in on the source, her heart started pounding. He walked out of the trees like something feral, which may not have been far from the truth.
"Laurent." It wasn't a question - she knew immediately who he was. He had been part of James' pack, the vampire who had tried to kill her last year for Edwards's interest in her.