Chapter 12: Fracture
"Eddie, I've got to hand it to you. You do travel light." Peter tossed my black knapsack to me as he plucked it from the back seat of the taxicab. "Maybe there's hope for you as a nomad after all." Except for the whole flashy car thing.
I snapped the bag out of the air with one hand and rolled my eyes. "Ed—"
"—ward. I know." He slipped an arm over Charlotte's shoulders, much to the dismay of the half dozen or so skycaps who were already salivating at the prospect of getting to help her with her luggage. The three of us stood there a moment, under the glow of fluorescent lights as the thick air around us shook with the rush of jet engines.
I wonder if we should offer to go with him. Or at least—Peter's thoughts became wordless, but I saw Jasper answering a phone.
"Don't call Jasper, please." That was the last thing I needed. I could only imagine what Charlotte and Peter would have to say about how I was doing, seeing as they thought me too domesticated to survive properly on my own. I cringed to think what they would tell my family about our time together.
Because you're going to call them, I'm sure. Peter rolled his eyes.
"I will." I remembered briefly Carlisle's thoughts as we stood together in the corner of the platform at the train station. If you find the need to use this, please call and tell us where you're going. "I promised Carlisle I would call if I left the country."
Peter's eyebrows raised. "Only if you left the country? Well, that's lenient of him, I guess." I'm still sort of surprised he doesn't have a curfew.
I could always tell when Peter had once again forgotten about my gift.
We stood uncomfortably for a moment, avoiding one another's eyes. Finally, Charlotte threw her arms around me, pinning my arms to my sides.
"Good luck, Edward," she said. "We'll be rooting for you."
"Um, thanks?" She didn't let go. I wiggled my hands a little bit and shot Peter a helpless look.
He chuckled. "Char, Eddie has a flight to catch. He can't do that if you've got him in a body lock."
Almost reluctantly, Charlotte released her grip on me and backed away into Peter's arms, smiling shyly.
"By the way," I said as she moved away. Fishing my car keys from my pocket, I held them out to her. Her eyes widened.
"It's at the hotel. You should take it." She'd been lusting after it for some time—it was the least I could do. If I ever saw them again, I would have to take her for a spin in the Vanquish.
She still didn't reach for the keys. What if he needs it when he comes back?
"I'll buy another." I could use a car that was a little faster anyway. That was, if I came back at all. Assuming I found Victoria, perhaps being on a different continent from Bella would allow me some measure of peace. It was certainly worth a try.
Charlotte's expression changed to one of pure delight, and she took the keys, squeezing them appreciatively
"Besides," I said haltingly, and found I was suddenly unable to meet either of their eyes. "It's…well, it's a thank you gift." It was true that on some level, Peter and Charlotte had absolutely driven me up the wall, but on the other hand, if it hadn't been for their insistence on coming to New Orleans in the first place, I would not be headed in the right direction now. It would be an hour and a half to Miami, where I had a two-hour layover, and then thirteen more hours would take me to Brazil. Easter, Lent, and thus Mardi Gras all fell late this year, so Carnival would still be going on for another week. Chances were Victoria was still in the thick of things. And if she was killing, there would be a trail.
My face must have registered my renewed resolve, because Peter nodded. "Let's get you outta here." He cuffed my shoulder. "We'll see you around, okay?" Not to mention that Charlotte is going to want to drive that car as soon as possible.
I nodded. "I'll see you guys." I turned from them and strode toward the automatic door that led into the airport that was still bustling even at this late hour.
Somehow, I doubt it, came the thought. Pitching my own mind behind me, I watched myself leave through Peter's eyes. He stared after me as I entered the brightly-lit terminal, his thoughts racing forward to Brazil. A fight between two vampires. A faceless female lunging for my neck.
I winced, but continued forward into the rush of the airport. Just before my mind was crushed by the scores of mental voices of passengers inside the terminal, however, I caught one last anxious thought:
Eddie, I hope you don't do anything stupid.
And then his voice was gone, lost in the rush of hundreds of bleary thoughts as I entered the terminal.
19 July 1921
Although there are many adjectives with which I could describe my mate—loving, playful, sensitive, beautiful beyond belief—this is the one which comes to me now. As we lay in the woods near our new home this evening, I asked her what she liked and disliked most about her new existence. Her likes were just what I expected but it warmed me anyway to have her affirm her love for me and for Edward, her unending devotion to this unorthodox little family that we have unwittingly created. But her dislike took me by surprise. I had expected her to lament her new darker nature, the loss of her son, perhaps even a nice, civilized meal. But no, what she misses is sleep—the chance to dream.
As a human, it was her dreaming that took her to places from which she was banned. It was in her dreaming in which she imagined a life for her son that took him away from the torment she knew at the hands of his father. It was in her dreaming that she had envisioned a relationship with me. (She made sure Edward was out of range before telling me this—I'm unsure whether to be amused or appalled at the implications.)
Now, as a vampire, it is her dreaming that she misses. And I cannot help but feel that in admitting this, she has acknowledged a level of vulnerability that for seven months has been hovering, coloring her relationship with me and with Edward. This woman that I love is now all but made of steel, and on the surface, she portrays the same resilience afforded her by her new physical body. Yet when I see her, I see the pain of giving in to practicality over love, the horror of living with a human monster, the anguish of losing the one bit of light in an otherwise darkened life. And it was in her dreaming that she could let go of these things.
I worry that I've stripped this from her. As much as she assures me that with me as her mate and Edward as her son she now has what she'd dreamed for, surely there are facets of her new life she wishes were not as they are, just as there are parts of her old life of which she is still unable to rid herself. And in the face of this, I am helpless.
Nevertheless, something in this universe has brought the two of us together not once but twice, forcing us to accompany one another on this bizarre and interminable journey. If she is fragile and I am powerless, then perhaps it is our weaknesses that are meant to mesh, like the wood in the desk that Esme is hard at work fashioning for my office. Alone, the dovetailed ends are nothing but bits of wood, easily snapped from the board even by human hands. Yet brought together, they are stronger than any nail could ever hope to be. That we might be those boards—vulnerable apart, and yet as one, stronger than either could hope to be on our own.
Perhaps as fragile beings joined together, we can both still dream.
With a soft thump, I closed the journal and lay my head next to it on the desk, staring around the room. The smooth wood felt cool against my cheek. Upon arriving in Rio, I had rented a little apartment to serve as my base of operations. It was furnished with a small bureau, a desk and a straight wooden chair, and a twin-sized metal cot with a flat, stained mattress. Every now and again the steaming breeze would whip through the small, single pane window, bringing with it the scents of seawater and raw fish.
It was nice to be still.
When Maria had mentioned Rio, it had made only perfect sense that Victoria would be here, at a party that was several times the size of the one in New Orleans. And so I had jumped on a plane without stopping to think about what that meant.
Rio at Carnival was absolutely surreal. Everywhere I looked there were women dressed in next to nothing, often adorned primarily by ostentatious feathered headdresses as they danced on the massive parade floats or on the edges of the streets. Like New Orleans, the atmosphere was oppressive—throbbing samba music, screaming crowds, drunken revelry in streets made filthy by weeks of partying. Still, I threw myself into the midst of the revelry night after night. I had to. Victoria was here somewhere, and if she moved again, I might not find her.
When I'd first arrived in Rio, my focus had been absolute. Find Victoria. Destroy Victoria. Protect Bella. But as the weeks wore on, it became more and more difficult to force myself out of the apartment night after night, and I spent increasing amounts of time right where I was now, sprawled over the tiny desk next to Carlisle's journal. Nightly patrols had turned into every other night, then twice-weekly. I didn't venture out of the city in search of any other game than the redhead who was my sole object. Carnival went out with one last huge celebration of hedonism and a full night of pressing crowds, and the next day I watched from my balcony as people trudged through the detritus in the streets to their Ash Wednesday services. A Catholic city had begun its observance of six weeks of waiting and mourning. The fishing increased, the butchers sold less red meat, and I spent more time in my tiny apartment, listening to the honking and shouting of the busy city below as I huddled alone.
Only a few things in the room indicated that anyone lived here at all. My black knapsack sat crumpled on the top of the small bureau, Carlisle's clothes spilling out of it as though the bag had been disemboweled. Atop the desk lay my wallet, which was empty except for my credit card, my drivers' license, and two ten-Real bills. Next to it lay my cell phone, the thin silver reminder that there was still a world going on outside.
It had been Alice to whom I had spoken when I'd called the house my second day in Rio to tell them about my journey south. I had tried Carlisle's phone first, but it had been turned off. He was in surgery, Alice had informed me when I'd reached her. Esme had been at her workshop, and Emmett and Rosalie had been away on a trip to the Canadian Rockies. Alice had pitched all this information at me within two seconds of having answered the phone, having seen that I would want the answers. Then she had flipped the tables to ask how I was doing.
"I'm fine," I had said, and she had seemed skeptical.
"Edward," she began, but I cut her off.
"No, I really am." I explained to her about Peter and Charlotte and Maria, and how I'd ended up in Brazil.
"No luck yet. But it will happen. I saw her say it in Maria's mind. This is where she was headed."
Alice sucked in her breath. She constantly warned me to be careful about people's thoughts. "Thoughts are not sure things," was her mantra. But Maria had been hiding something, and she had been shocked when I had plucked the notion of Rio from her head. I knew when I was seeing a thought that someone was trying to hide from me.
"And the fact that Victoria is potentially on another continent from Bella doesn't make you think that maybe she's not a threat?" my sister had continued.
I'd sighed. It was something that I had been wondering myself, if I were honest. The fact was nothing pointed toward Victoria actually going after Bella. San Francisco, Texas, and now South America—this was not a trajectory that seemed as though it would take her toward the Olympic peninsula. And then there was the blond vampire—perhaps her new mate? It made sense.
But that wasn't the only reason I was tracking her. Regardless of what she might have planned, the fact was she had been the one responsible for helping James get down to Phoenix in the first place. Whether she was after Bella or not didn't matter.
"It doesn't matter," I answered.
"It does. You aren't a vengeful person, Edward."
I wasn't a vengeful person? "Have you forgotten about the years I wasn't with Carlisle and Esme?"
"No," she answered thoughtfully. "But I also haven't forgotten that you came back."
Round one, Alice Cullen.
I changed the subject.
"How is everyone?"
There was a very long pause.
"You should come home," she blurted.
Her tone took me by surprise. "Is something wrong?"
"Nothing is wrong," she said in that same tone. "But you should come home, Edward. Everyone misses you. Or at least—"
"At least what?" I prompted.
"We're going to Denali in two weeks, on the eleventh. Over Cornell's spring break. Carlisle decided he needed a vacation."
I frowned. Every now and again my father and Esme would go away for their anniversary, but he still always tried to change his mind at the last minute. Esme would first patiently explain to him that humans took vacations and so he had to take one every now and again to keep up appearances. But it never failed that when the time came for them to leave, she would practically end up dragging him out of the hospital by his collar. Before his family, his work had been the one thing that had given him purpose and direction. In the years I had assisted him, I had felt the peace that radiated from him whenever he was treating his patients. I knew humans who professed that they loved their work, but their feelings didn't hold a candle to Carlisle's. He became distinctly unhappy when he was away from his work for too long.
Something was not right.
"Carlisle decided he needed a vacation? What happened?"
There was a long pause. This was why I hated phone calls—the absence of my sister's thoughts was maddening. True, my family members were more than slightly adept at keeping information from me if they didn't want me to know, but most of the time I could still pluck something. Especially in a situation like this.
"Alice?" I repeated. "Tell me what happened."
"You should just come, Edward," she said finally. "It will only be a week. Then you could go back to…Brazil?"
"Just join us for a week. That's all I'm suggesting."
Immediately I saw myself in Tanya's lushly appointed living room, a fire roaring in the huge fireplace. Carlisle and Esme would be overjoyed to see me. Esme would fuss. Carlisle would be quietly happy to have my presence. Emmett, Jasper and I would go hunt some grizzly bears that were just coming out of hibernation. Rosalie and I would argue about nothing. And Alice would…probably try to convince me to stay, from the sound of it.
"I don't think it's a good idea." I knew where my family stood on the matter. "You should be with us," Esme had said at Christmas. "And we should be with her."
Alice sighed. "Edward—"
"Alice, I can't." And that was the truth. With crystal clarity I remembered Esme's pained face, Jasper's tortured expression, Carlisle's silent sobbing. I couldn't do that to them again.
"I can't," I repeated, less for her benefit than my own.
She drew a deep breath and exhaled it. "Okay. I won't push. May I tell Carlisle that you called?"
Was that not the whole purpose of my call? "Yes. Please advise him I'm no longer on your continent."
"May he call you?"
I winced. If Alice were the one to tell Carlisle how she thought I was doing, any conversation between me and him would end with a one-way plane ticket to Anchorage being couriered to my door. Unnecessary.
"I would prefer that he didn't."
This made Alice sigh again.
"Fine. But, Edward?"
"Take care of yourself." Her voice had an edge to it, and I was again frustrated by my inability to hear her thoughts.
"Bye, Edward. I miss you."
"I miss you, too." I'd meant it.
Alice had been good to her word; no one else from the family had tried to call me. My phone had been silent for weeks; I had stopped carrying it when I went out for patrols. I put a hand around it now, pulling it to within an inch of my nose, so close I could see each imperfection across the "M" debossed into the phone's back. I ran my thumb across it.
They would all be in Denali now. I wondered what they were doing. If I didn't exactly love Tanya and her sisters, even I had to admit they could be very entertaining companions. The years we had lived together as one coven had been—eventful, to say the least. But for the most part they had been fun. The last time I had seen Tanya had been the week I'd first met Bella. I had told her nothing of why I was in Denali then. By now my family would have filled her in on the entire sordid story.
Would Tanya hate me for giving my heart to a human girl instead of to her?
Closing my eyes, I was unable to stop my mind from making its trip back to the room in Chief Swan's house—the upstairs room with the rickety desk and ancient computer, the rocking chair where Renee and maybe even Charlie had once spent nights soothing their infant daughter and where seventeen years later, I had passed my nights keeping guard over her, too. And the scene came to me with precise clarity from that night when after over a century, my existence had been turned upside-down.
"Edward," Bella's voice sighed from a peaceful sleep, a half-second forever trapped in my mind.
"Bella," I called back quietly, my breath disturbing the thin layer of dust and airborne sand that covered the small desk. I watched the tiny dust motes and grains of sand swirl upward in a vortex for a moment, then settle their way back into the layer on the desk.
I spent too much time alone here.
During the days, I huddled alone in the artificial light thrown by the single bare bulb in the middle of the room. Most days I never remembered to turn it on. Every now and then I'd wander out to the deteriorating cement balcony of my apartment, where I could keep watch over the wide avenida below. I'd first looked down on the raucous celebrations of Carnival, and now I saw into the mundane day-to-day routines of the citizens of Rio. During the days I could look up into the mountains and to O Cristo Redentor, the statue of Jesus Christ that looked out over the entire city and down to the white beaches below. On one of the occasions when I'd traveled here with Carlisle, we had raced each other up the mountain to the base of the statue at night after the gates were closed to tourists. Esme, Rosalie and Emmett had been with us that time, as it would be a few years before Jasper and Alice surprised us by their sudden appearance. But it had ended up that only Carlisle and I were curious enough to want to see the statue which had been erected about a decade before.
He and I had remained on the mountainside for hours; he curiously walking around the statue and gazing up at it, I merely standing and watching his fascination. Carlisle had been brought up to despise Catholicism and all its trappings, yet as he had lived on and on, the iconography that the denomination had inspired had slowly captured his imagination. Not to mention that it was very difficult for Carlisle to hate anything or anyone for long.
So we had circled the statue for some time as he examined its face, its outstretched arms, and its view down over the streets that even then formed a city of millions. And then we had sat at its feet in the darkness, his arm over my shoulders as he told me everything that he remembered about his human life. Perhaps it was the gentle face, or perhaps he saw some similarity in the way the statue stood sentinel over the city as he stood over this bizarre family he'd created, but something in that moment had struck a chord in my father and he had talked like he had never talked before.
Carlisle almost never spoke aloud when it was only the two of us; he usually preferred to think and rely on my ability to hear and follow his complicated thoughts. But that night he had spoken each one of these thoughts, and I had heard the tiny echoes of his voice in the craggy mountainside and felt the vibrations of his vocal cords as I sat at his side. He spoke of how frustrated he'd been with his father's zealous persecution of those he deemed sinners. He told me how his father, who had wanted him to become clergy, had stood firmly in the way of the progress of his secular education. They had locked horns for years as Carlisle grew into manhood and his father grew old and weak, until Carlisle had finally resigned himself to at least doing his father's work even if he did not agree. A few months later, his mortal life had come to an end.
The two had never made proper amends.
I had asked him then if he regretted that, and he had laughed.
"Regret? I suppose I do," he had told me. "But, Edward—the paths we take aren't always of our choosing. If I hadn't been so at odds with my father and so thirsty to outsmart him and prove him wrong for all the people he had persecuted, I would have killed the same innocent people he did. Instead, my life took a bit of a different turn."
Carlisle had always had an incredible gift for understatement.
I had asked him if he regretted the "different turn," and again he had only laughed and ruffled my hair.
"It's been an interesting journey," he had mused. "But seeing as it was going to be almost two centuries before my wife and my son were even born, I can't say I'm upset about it. Like everyone, I just did the best I could with what I was given. I am definitely happy with the result."
And to my extreme embarrassment, he had kissed me on the forehead.
Although Carlisle and I had had many heart-to-heart talks over the decades, none had ever been quite the same as that one, as he pondered his own father at the feet of the Cristo. It felt as though he were seeking some sort of redemption of his own, telling this story to his own son as together we looked out over the city and the ocean below. We'd sat there the remainder of the night, retreating back to our rented villa just before daybreak. He and I had scarcely talked of that moment since, but the following year he had given Esme an island off the shores of Rio as an anniversary present.
I alone knew it wasn't merely the beautiful beaches that had drawn him to the locale.
I had not been up the mountain since arriving in Rio. In fact, I had not left the city. The rainy season was beginning to wane and clouded days were few, which meant that the bulk of my days were spent in the tiny apartment waiting for darkness to fall so that I could go out and hunt. My nights had been spent weaving through the throngs of drunken partygoers, desperate for a hint of the sickly sweet perfume of another of my kind.
There was nothing.
And so increasingly I stayed indoors. I knew every inch of the top of the desk as I'd spent a great deal of my time in this prone position over it, my throat burning as I failed to gather the energy or the will to hunt anything apart from my redheaded quarry. The wood of the desk was wearing smooth where my head naturally came to rest atop it.
From the street, church bells tolled, calling the city's many devout Catholics to Saturday evening services. My ears could pick out the individual overtones of the ringing bells, and I focused in on the lowest, longest-lasting ones which seemed to pour into my apartment through my window and throbbed their way into silence against the unadorned cinderblock walls. I listened, letting the sounds wrap me as I sat perfectly still at the desk.
Saturday. I had last left the apartment four days before, on a Tuesday, after dusk. The days were beginning to shorten again as Brazil hurtled toward the autumnal equinox. The streets had been deserted quite early on in the evening and I had trawled through the claustrophobic alleyways in search of anything that might tip me off to the presence of one of my own kind. In the minds of the people around me I saw children, tourists, the beach—but Victoria was nowhere. And of course even at night I was nothing if not conspicuous. Even the palest humans didn't spend much time in Rio without getting some sort of tan.
Now alone in my apartment as the summer sun began its descent, I closed my eyes and once again saw the visions I was no longer capable of stopping. Bella's face—happy first, smiling in the meadow I had long since thought of as ours and no longer simply mine, laughing at me, her eyelids fluttering peacefully as she slept. And then her shocked expression as I threw her away from Jasper, her confusion as we went through the motions the following day at school, her lip trembling that afternoon as the dark lies fell from my mouth:
You're not good for me, Bella.
I don't want you to come with me.
It will be as if I never existed.
A strangled noise escaped my lips and echoed in the empty room, dissonant as it met the tolling of the bells. As if I never existed. A self-fulfilling prophecy, if ever there were one. Even if I did go back to Bella, what would I have to offer her? This pitiful, broken being that was hunched over a desk in a tiny apartment in Rio? Every minute more and more of me ceased to exist, slowly burned to ash by the pain that I was growing too weak to fight.
But even as I thought the words, a strange warmth flushed through me. Weakness. Fragility. Vulnerable apart, and yet as one, stronger than either could hope to be on our own, my father had written almost ninety years ago.
As a human, Bella was fragile. Without her, I was even more so. At her side, I was a different person. I had seen Alice's memory of her answer to Bella's question as to why my entire family had sprung to her aide exactly one year ago: "You can't see the changes that we see, we who have been with him for so long."
I had seen that change come over two of my family—first Carlisle, as he was inexplicably pulled toward Esme, and then fourteen years later as Rosalie had the same sudden turn towards Emmett. Both of them, and their mates, forever changed, forever wrapped in the rush of first love.
Had I looked like that? Was that what Alice had meant?
And if I had, how could Bella have possibly believed that I didn't love her? Because that was the problem. When we'd walked into the woods that day six months ago, I had been prepared. I had an arsenal of the best lies, the most unreadable expressions. I'd steeled myself to argue for hours, because I knew that she understood she was the very center of my universe now. But it had taken only one sentence to break her faith in me. I closed my eyes again and I went back to that day in the dark woods, seeing Bella's beautiful brown eyes registering an unbelievable shock and hurt as she stared up at me in disbelief.
The edge of the desk snapped into shards before I even realized I'd grabbed it. Taking a deep, steadying breath, I dropped the pieces of wood to the floor with a soft clatter.
Vulnerable apart. That much was true. But would Bella and I together be stronger than either of us could hope to be on our own?
Maybe I could just check on flights.
Before I could close my fingers around my phone, however, it buzzed to life.
I groaned. My meddling, precognizant sister. Had I even made a decision to return to Forks? The only thing she could possibly have seen was my decision to check flights—she would see me talking to a travel agent. How was that even remotely interesting?
I began to steel myself for the conversation. Alice's elation would not be easily contained. I flipped the phone over.
I flipped the phone open so fast the top almost snapped off its hinge. "I thought you'd be Alice."
There was a relieved sigh on the other end. "Thank God. So she called you. She said she wasn't going to. It figures. I knew she wouldn't be able to hold out, what with you being her favorite."
Hold out for what? "I'm sorry?"
"Look, Edward, I realize you're probably beside yourself. You sound good, though. I'm glad. You're okay?"
"I'm…fine?" If you counted lying doubled over a desk in a dank apartment for four straight days as "fine," at any rate. "Rose, what—"
"Great. Look. Alice said you were in Rio? How soon can you get back? Should we wait for you here, or do you want to meet us in Ithaca instead?"
"I—" How did she know I was even thinking about going back? And Denali? Ithaca? That hadn't been where I was thinking of heading, exactly. "What's going on?"
There was a sudden silence on the other end of the line.
"I thought you said Alice had called you." Her voice sounded small.
"I said I was expecting the phone call to be Alice. I haven't heard from her since I called right after I got here. What is going on?" I replayed the beginning of our conversation. Alice had told Rosalie that she wasn't going to call me. About what, exactly?
"Where is Alice?" I demanded, when Rosalie still hadn't provided any new information after a few seconds.
My sister's reply was so quiet, I almost didn't hear it.
"Forks?!" My mind reeled. I had just barely begun to think about going back myself—I began replaying the last several days, searching for anything I might have done that would have tipped Alice…not to mention, hadn't we agreed she wasn't supposed to be watching me anyway?
"She left the day before yesterday. She went to be there for Charlie," Rosalie added unhelpfully.
"To be there for Charlie?" Alice didn't have a particularly close relationship with Charlie—yes, she had played the part of Bella's best girlfriend, but wouldn't she be going back to see Bella?
"You should come home. It's time. It's over. Come back."
I frowned once more, as Rosalie's words sunk in. She went to be there for Charlie…you're probably beside yourself…it's time. It's over…
"No." I heard the voice as though it weren't coming from my own chest. It wasn't possible. Not what I thought she was saying. It couldn't be. "No…"
"I'm so sorry, Edward. But someone had to tell you. Alice saw her jump off a cliff—"
"NO!" The balcony door rattled with the force of my shout.
"Edward, please—" my sister's voice became more frantic "—just come home, please come home. It's enough. It's over…please come back. Carlisle, Esme, Emmett, everyone—just please come back. There's no reason anymore—"
The snap of the phone closing in my palm alerted me that I had hung up on my sister before I was conscious of having chosen to do so. The phone jumped erratically in my hand and it took me a few seconds to recognize that it was not the phone but my hand that was trembling.
She was lying. She had to be. Why Rosalie wanted me home so badly, I couldn't fathom, but she couldn't be telling the truth. Alice would have called. My phone would have rung the second Alice had seen whatever it was she saw. And Bella had promised. "Don't do anything reckless or stupid," I'd said, and she'd agreed.
Rosalie was lying. There was no other viable option.
The phone rang again immediately. Rosalie once more.
I hit "ignore."
Unthinkingly, my finger jammed the number "1," and my hands continued to shake as the phone on the other end rang once…twice…three times.
"Hello," my father's voice said, "you've reached Dr. Carlisle Cullen…"
A howl that sounded as though it were from some wild animal reverberated against the bare walls.
My mind raced through other options. I could call the Forks Police Department, but how would I explain who I was and how I knew that something may have happened? Or…I could call the chief of police himself.
The phone was ringing before I realize I'd even dialed the number, so familiar it was to my fingers. For my own good, I had not programmed her number into my new phone when we'd moved, but that did nothing to remove it from my own memory. Yes. This would do. I would confirm that Rosalie was lying, and then I could go back to deciding what to do.
"Swan residence." The voice was masculine and unfamiliar. A friend of the family? He was too old to be someone from school, and I knew all those voices anyway.
I dropped the pitch of my own voice to match the gentle baritone of my father's. "This is Dr. Carlisle Cullen," I told the stranger. "Is Charlie Swan available?"
"He's not here," the stranger answered, his voice suddenly icy.
"May I inquire as to his whereabouts?" That was how Carlisle would put it.
"He's at the funeral," the man answered, and the line went dead.
A smash erupted from the window and I turned just in time to see that a rectangular hole had formed in the glass. Cracks sprang out from the hole like a firework, and a split-second later the glass spilled out of the window frame. In the street below, something clanged.
It took me a full second to realize that the phone was no longer in my hand.
This wasn't possible.
The world was still turning. The sun was still beginning its descent over Rio. The church clock tower was still striking. Cars were still honking in the street.
Bella could not be dead.
I slammed a hand down on the desk, opening a deep fissure down the middle of it. Without thinking, I dropped my hand a second time, cracking the desk once more. Then wood was flying, metal was being pulverized beneath my fingers, entire drawers were being reduced to sawdust as I hurled them against the cinderblock walls. Soon the whole room was littered with the splintered remains of the desk where I had spent what would end up being the final days of my own pitiful existence—the existence which had known light for a mere six months out of nearly a hundred and six years.
Instinctively, my eyes began to dart around the room, searching for the next thing that would fall prey to my anguished rage. And then I saw it, amid the wreckage of the desk--the thick black book that had been my companion and guide, the representation of my father that I had carried across one continent and onto another. Words from ninety years ago, calling me to a different kind of love and life, words which just hours ago I had thought were written for me. But not now. Not ever again.
With violently shaking hands, I again opened the journal to its beginning.
9 January 1921
Thus I begin a new volume, though the old will remain unfinished. My life seems to have started over for a third time, and again I find myself questioning what to expect from this next chapter…
My eyes were riveted to the second sentence. My life seems to have started over…my life…my life. Bella was my life. All my life...
A feral yowl erupted from my lungs and before I knew it, the page was in my hands, wrenched from the rest of the journal. I stared a moment more at the words that had shocked me so deeply four months ago,and then suddenly, they were gone. The page lay before me in tattered shreds, my father's tidy handwriting rendered illegible as it lay in pieces.
I stared at it a moment, a sick feeling crawling into my stomach. Then my hands were a blur as the rest of the journal fell under my fingers, and first one page at a time, then two, four and soon twenty at once were reduced to confetti in a pile on the dingy floor. The leather cover, stripped of its support, sagged empty. I scooped up the shreds of paper and carried them out onto the balcony.
Below me in the avenida, tourists strolled, some holdovers from carnival, others recently arrived in order to enjoy the waning days of summer. My body began to tremble as I watched them laughing, walking, breathing.
Why did the Earth not know that without Bella Swan, there was no reason for it to keep spinning? In my selfish choices to stay near Bella, to love her despite the danger I posed, I had first endangered her life. And then by leaving her, I had ended it.
A choked noise—part sob, part growl, part something I couldn't even identify—jerked itself from my throat.
Flexing my hand first around the shreds, I slowly opened my fist and watched as my father's hopes, dreams, fears and all of his love for his own mate dripped from my palm to the ground. I watched as the papers spread in the wind, some skittering down onto the street quickly, others blowing down several blocks before they settled to the ground. They rained down on honking cars. They rained down on hollering vendors. They rained down on the heads of the people who were unaware that somewhere, two lives—one mortal, one not—had just smashed to an end. And so from my perch above the oblivious city I watched them fall, until the last scrap blew its way into the distance, finally coming to a rest at the side of a filthy storm drain.
No one even looked up.