~Edward and Bella~
They lie in bed, completely still, as the last vestiges of sunlight creep below the horizon. A pink-blue glow bounces on the tiny pond outside. The linen on the wooden bed is crisp and white, ironed and starched to perfection. Not a single speck of dust rests on any surface of the room. Although, if they look around they will see errant molecules of lint flit about in the atmosphere.
The bed is an unnecessary comfort, but a comfort nonetheless. Edward's back is ramrod straight as he reads his book. No pillows or headboard to aid support. Bella lies flat on a fluffy pillow and she holds her book above her face without any tiredness in her arms. Pages are flicked at a speed to fast to catch. That ssshh sound is made without any visual evidence.
Bella is not really reading anyway. The book cannot capture her attention. She is watching her husband out of the corner of her eye - subtly so not to distract him or make him self-conscious. A small, glorious smile has lit up his face as a result of something he has read. She badly wants to see that look again. The selfish part of her is a little jealous. They had flipped a coin for first choice when the new books came in their boxes from Amazon. It seems Edward is more enjoyable that hers.
Edward is enjoying his book and his smile comes unbidden when he reads a paragraph he knows Bella will love. He wants to share with her and read aloud the lovely new way these words are phrased but decides to wait. There will be more joy in witnessing her smile when she discovers it for herself.
She lets out a sigh heavy with longing and frustration. She's thinking serious , Edward however, misinterprets it.
"Renesmee is fine," he says. "Emmett said she's already asleep."
"I know that."
"Then why are you pouting?"
"I'm not," she protests. "I'm just thinking."
"Care to share what's troubling you?"
That invite could be taken to ways - to speak or to let down her shield and let her husband in. She fears that misplaced words causing Edward guilt or worry. She worries more that her thoughts will be too jumbled to be read. She chooses the old-fashioned method.
Bella sets her book down and turns on her side, thinking about what she is about to say. Edward shifts lower in the bed and pulls her onto his chest. The sensation of hair on bare skin makes him sigh and he is momentarily entranced by the way her breasts move as she gets comfortable.
The reflection in the glass doors looks more natural now.
"Why do we do it?" she asks.
"Do what?" Edward replies, settling in for some deep discussion. They have these little talks all the time. Bella is still becoming accustomed to life as a vampire and Edward is still getting used to having a life like this. He asks, with his eyes, for her to elaborate.
"Act human," Bella says. "This routine of sending Renesmee on a sleepover. Settling down for the night. Changing into pyjamas…"
"I'm not sure underwear and a see through tank constitute pyjamas." He receives an eye-roll and a suppressed smile from his wife "This is the way of life you've always known."
"But my life has changed, Edward. Plus we all, act like this."
"I didn't always," he admits. "I've told you this before. All the nights, before I met you, spent whittling away the hours. I didn't even have a bed."
"Oh." This makes Bella think. "I'm not complaining. I just sometimes feel like we're playing house out here. I like it, in fact, I find domestic bliss quite fulfilling. But isn't it unnecessary?"
With a sigh, she works to peel back her shield. It is easier for her now but it still requires energy. In an instant, Edward sees the conflict in that wonderful mind of hers and he understands.
"You're finding it hard to reconcile the different parts of yourself." His declaration is astute and Bella nods. "We all feel that way from time to time, love. Especially in the beginning. With all these conflicting emotions and desires, it's completely natural."
"How did you overcome it?" As Bella speaks, she's thinking of Jasper and his troubles.
Edward ponders her question, unsure that overcome is the correct word but unable to think of a better one. Bella, apparently, is struggling and he needs to help.
"I'm fairly sure these feelings are not unique to our kind. Striking a balance in life is like walking a tightrope. We have heightened senses, bloodlust and intense emotions to contend with also and it makes things that much more difficult."
"And wonderful," Bella interjects. She is hanging on his every word. Her eyes are shining up at him and he is staggered by the way she regards him.
"That too," he agrees. "I used to think that there were different parts of me. Sides that came out in different situations and times, and none were particularly perfect. Distinct aspects of personality, I suppose, though I thought of it in more defined terms."
Bella lets out a quiet laugh in reaction to an old memory. His raised eyebrows ask her why.
"When we first met, I used to compare you to Jekyll and Hyde," she explains, peppering conciliatory kisses on his chest.
Edward bristles for a brief moment before smiling down at her, caressing her cheek with his knuckles.
"I suppose I can see the resemblance. I was undergoing life altering changes at the time."
"I was a naïve girl. I certainly didn't know that I was in the process of turning an unchangeable creature's world upside down."
"And if you did?"
"I probably would have acted exactly the same."
They chuckle again, in harmony, and Edward begins to twine his fingers in Bella's ribbon-soft curls.
"Back then, and even more recently, I focused only on the different parts rather than the whole -"
"Tell me about them," Bella interrupts, eager to learn and know and see. She hope his perceptions will mirror hers.
"It's quite a list." Edward has considered being vague and letting Bella figure it out for herself. The sense of peace and clarity he had achieved when he did, was quite a treat. But Bella needs this, and he will always give in.
"We've got all night." There is no part of her husband that Bella doesn't want to know.
Slowly, Edward moves so they are both on their sides. They face each other, eyes locked and hand intertwined. This is a big deal for him - to admit ideas that previously only lived in his head. He knows his mind works in strange ways.
"First of all, there was the human me." Bella loves that he says this first. "The one who dies in 1918. Edward Masen, son of Elizabeth and Edward Sr. Seventeen year old would-be war hero."
In that moment, his ocher eyes are almost blank. Bella knows he is seeing a green eyed boy in Chicago all those years ago.
"Then there was the newborn vampire, driven mad by the voices in his head, bloodthirsty and wild. The one who destroyed furniture and homes and didn't know his own mind."
Bella has trouble trying to picture this crazed creature Edward is describing; he is always so carefully controlled, even while feeding. She can't imagine the fury he speaks of but she can picture the look in his eyes - the one that flashes when he hunts or when he's about to climax. She's never been a wild one and feels both guilty and glad that she missed that newborn stage.
"See," Edward continues. "I was just a boy when I was changed, though I didn't know it at the time. Doing your growing up as a newborn vampire is hard to do. My birth parents never suffered with a sullen teenager but Carlisle and Esme certainly did and became the victims of my anger and resentment. My misery made me a shell of the person I once was. I blamed that on my vampirism but in fact it was my own doing."
Bella wants to argue that there is no way it was all his own doing, he had so much to cope with. But she is afraid to interrupt his train of thought
So all she can do, is thread her fingers through his as he recalls the part of himself he hates most. The smile he throws her is glinting with self-deprecation and the hint of something almost sinister. Bella won't admit it, but she finds an uneasy attraction in the images of Edward at his darkest.
"Then came rebellion and all that entailed. The Edward who abandoned his new parents and left to satisfy his most base desires. The Edward who was weak and self-indulgent and self-righteous. The one who lurked in dark alleyways and feasted on the blood of the most evil men to be found…"
Bella pictures him in a dark wool coat with the collar turned up, saving girls from death and abuse. She imagines him killing, no murdering, villains and she shivers.
"Did you ever kill anyone…not evil?" Her question is impulsive and curious. She wants to know, just in case she ever slips. Equality is important to her.
This throws Edward slightly. This wasn't part of the plan and he doesn't know how to answer. Though she hasn't run licking and screaming yet and now she is pretty much stuck with him. He is still always anxious to remain in her good opinion.
"I came to realise that it was not my place to judge. What I consider to be depraved may be relatively mild to another person. What one Supreme Court Judge may impart a life sentence for, another one may order the death penalty. Perhaps a doctor may assault another person and save ten lives the next day. I used to see things in black and white and expect too much of people. I learned to see things differently."
Bella nods and lets the fact he avoided her question slide. It seems, at least by Edward's estimation, that the answer is yes. She can't bring herself to care. Perhaps they deserved it…
"But as you know, I could not escape the truth. Killing people is wrong and the guilt that it causes is crippling. I still heard their screams in my head, long after they were dead. And so came the stagnant, guilt-ridden Edward that existed before we met."
"It makes me sad," Bella admits. "To think of you like that."
"Don't be sad." Edward places his fingers on either side of her mouth, forcing her to smile. He wants to lick the white teeth glistening with venom, that hide behind full pink lips.
"I can't help it." Her smile remains. "But go on. I want to know this."
Edward shakes his head slightly. In typical fashion, Bella is missing the point of the story but he will do his best to show her.
"Do you know how tortoises can live to well over a hundred years?" Edward asks and she nods. "Well that's what I was. A tortoise."
Bella suppresses a chuckle as the image of a green turtle with a mop of unruly copper hair pops into her head. "I don't understand."
"At first glance the tortoise appears exactly the same, regardless of it's age."
She thinks of how Edward seems frozen in time. Lately down, she sees him as less boyish every day.
"They do the same thing - the same tired, stagnant routine despite the time place or situation."
She thinks of boredom and monotony.
"They have occasional distractions. Food. A new toy perhaps. A new companion to whittle away the hours beside."
She thinks of mountain lions and cars and Alice and Emmett.
" Though things don't always work as anticipated."
She thinks of Rosalie and Tanya.
"They are loyal creatures. Dependent and attached to their owners."
She thinks of Carlisle and Esme.
"But no-one can ever really tell if they are happy or not. If they really like their hutch or their food or even themselves."
She holds her breath and squeezes his hand a little tighter.
"They move the same way as always but if you look closely, there is a little less enthusiasm behind it. Their eyes look the same but if you look closely you can see they are lifeless. They hibernate, as is their nature. They want to be alone at times. To escape from madness noise and intrusion and escape into themselves. Each period of withdrawal gets longer and longer. They don't want to come out or wake up. They outlive people until one day they just stop living."
Bella's chest is wracked with emotion. She feels his pain as if it were her own. Edward acknowledges this. With a gentle touch of his finger, he whispers to softly to her. "That's the Edward I thought I was before I met you." His smile at the memory of their first meeting is the stuff of dreams and nightmares.
"Everything came rushing back. The monster that wanted your blood. The guilty murderer who knew you were too good. The vampire who wanted to claim you as his mate. The boy in love who wanted to kiss you. The teenager from long ago who wanted to woo you. The man who wanted to take you home."
Bella matches each persona with an action in her veiled memory and smiles at the aptness.
"So with all those conflicting desires you can see why I messed up so much," Edward continues. "I didn't know what to do. Some, I tried to quash. Others, I tried to use to my advantage. It's no wonder you thought I had Multiple Personality Disorder."
They share a laugh that bounces of the walls.
"Even when we were first together, I had these wars within myself. God knows I had enough of my own issues and all the outside threats compounded them and left them ignored."
She thinks of wolves and flames on water and baby voices and Volterra.
"And then there are the parts I identified in our everyday life. Surely you've seen some of them," he muses.
"The newlywed who wants to be in you all the seventeen year old boy who can't believe his Edwardian who is scandalised by the latest trends and fashions.
The modern man who wants to dress you up in them. The father who wants to protect his child and worship you for giving me that. The vampire who gets shockingly aroused watching you hunt and wants to fuck you against a tree."
Bella gasps and squirms at the thought, unconsciously pressing herself closer. He's never spoken like that before; directed those words at her. She loves it.
"But," he says. " And this is the main point of this discussion. It took me a long time to realise that I was wrong about all these different personas - the monster and the boy and the man. I am simply Edward. Just one being made up off all those parts and experiences. I don't need to fight it or reconcile it. I only need to accept is. And so do you."
Realisation dawns on Bella's face. Understanding lights her eyes.
"Don't worry about acting human or vampire or human. Don't think about holding on to the past or about changing for the future. Just be Bella because that is the most special and wonderful thing in the world."
There is no doubting the sincerity of Edward's words and in times like these, Bella almost wishes she had tears to illustrate the emotions she feels.
But she is trying to embrace the new her, and makes do with opening her mind to her husband and letting him look in. Edward hears, sees and feels all of it - the joy and pain and love and understanding. He is fascinated.
The words thank you are said at the same time and Bella puts her shield back up.
They shift closer, bodies pressed together as if physical proximity can convey the intensity of it all. They hold each other impossibly tight, legs and arms tangled together. A feather couldn't pass between them and it's a good thing neither needs to breath.
"Just for the record," Bella mumbles into his chest. "I was only wondering aloud. I'm not opposed to us maintaining the conventions of bed-time."
"I'm sure you're not."
"It's good to keep things normal, for Renesmee's sake," she continues.
"Absolutely." Edward slips the strap of her nightgown off her shoulder, so he can kiss the silky skin there. "We've had some of our most important conversations in bed."
He is thinking of the night he realised he loved her and the first night she invited him into her bed. He is remembering the tender nights in the blue room.
She is thinking of twisting in the iron bed. She is remembering laying in a bed of grass and wildflower.
"We have," Bella agrees. "And we have many more to come."
"We have forever."
Then mouths can't talk because they are locked together. The books fall forgotten to the floor when Edward rolls on top of Bella, pressing her head into the pillow. The only sounds made are sighs and moans and whispers of adoration, as they communicate in the most loving way possible
Thank you for reading! Please let me know what you think!
There will be three more chapters to this, focusing on the other Cullen couples.