BELLA' S POV
As I stood in the shadow of Mt. McKinley, I couldn't believe the beauty that surrounded me. June in Alaska was breathtaking. The meadows were lush and green, scattered with wildflowers and knee-high grass; the mountains were alive with shifting colors. Despite all me reservations, I was glad that I had come here.
Alaska. Denali. In a roundabout way, this place held meaning for me, even though I had never been here before. It was because I knew that somewhere, within only a few miles were Tanya and Kate, and the rest of the Denali clan. Tanya and Kate were, for all intents and purposes, the extended family of ones that I loved very much, ones that I had one day hoped to call my own family. The Cullens. And Edward.
Edward. Even though it had been five years since he abandoned me sobbing and broken in the forest, my heart still constricted at the thought of him, at the mere mention of his name. So now, as I did every time I felt that constriction, I forced myself to say aloud, "Edward Cullen is not part of your life. He doesn't want you. He left you. You're better off without him."
There was no one around to hear me but the meadowlarks. And they weren't going to tell me how ridiculous I sounded talking to myself. Besides, I already knew. But hey, it worked for me.
It had taken me years – literally years – to get over Edward Cullen and what he had done to me. And by that, I mean how he ripped the still-beating heart out of my chest, threw it on the ground, stomped on it with both feet, and then handed it back to me before he walked away without looking back. I'm still not sure how I survived. There were times that I didn't want to; I was sure that death couldn't possibly be any more painful than enduring life without Edward.
If it hadn't been for Charlie, my dad, I think I'd still be holed up in my room in a severe state of depression. But after a while of being understanding and minding his own business, Charlie had enough. One day, he stomped into my room, threw back the covers of my bed that I was buried under, and ordered me to get up. And Charlie never ordered me to do anything. So I did what he told me. I got up. And I've been grateful to him ever since.
It was difficult finishing up high school in my hometown of Forks, Washington. It seemed like everywhere I turned held a memory of Edward. But I think that what made it worse was the complete absence of the Cullens. Just knowing that they were gone, that I wouldn't see Emmett flying down the road in his lifted Jeep, that Alice wouldn't be dropping by, that Carlisle wasn't at the hospital, left a void in my life that I was never quite able to fill. And only compounded the misery that I felt being without Edward.
I wasn't sure when they left Forks. I only knew that it was shortly after Edward did. Charlie broke the news to me carefully. I think he was afraid I would go comatose again when I found out. He gave me a note, told me it was from Edward's sister Alice, my best friend. It took me a long time to read because I was crying so hard.
When I tell you that writing this is the hardest thing that I've ever had to do, you know how much that statement means. I love you like a sister, and it breaks my heart to tell you this, but I must. We are leaving Forks. All of us. For all our sakes. I am so very sorry about what happened between you and Edward. I can only hope that one day you understand that it was for the best. And that you don't hate him – or us – for leaving you. Please believe me that you've made an indelible impression on each and every one of us, and that we'll never forget you. We love you, Bella. Have a happy life. Goodbye, my beloved sister.
Even now, five years later, I still missed the Cullens. Especially Alice. And Edward. Like the old saying promised, time did heal my wounds. But is didn't make me forget.
I continued on, though. I began spending a lot of time in the forest, haunting the places the Edward had spent time – places where he had hunted, had walked, had run. Initially I did it because it made me feel closer to him; then gradually I came to realize that I loved the forest. The trees, the flowers, the wildlife – they fascinated me. I found books, scoured the Internet, reading all I could on the subject. And when the time came for me to go to college, I knew exactly what I wanted to study. A month ago, I graduated from Washington State with a degree in forestry. And now, here I am, an employee at Alaska's Denali National Park.
It's funny how life moves in circles. My losing Edward was what led me to my love of the forest; my love of the forest led me to Denali; Denali was home to Tanya and Kate and the rest of their family, who were a link – though tenuous – to Edward.
It was going to take all the strength that I had within me to remain focused on my job and not let my proximity to the Denali clan distract me.
After all, Edward was my past. The Cullens were no longer a part of my life. And I wanted to live for the future.