A/N: Hi Everyone. This is my first story! I hope some of you like it. I've got a few chapters written out so far, but I have most of the story figured out in my head already. If you guys like it, I'll continue it. Please leave me reviews and let me know. I'll post the first four chapters and then I'll wait and see if you guys want more. Enjoy!
Of course, Stephenie Meyer owns all the characters, lucky her.
And finally, I'd like to thank my sister Sammy for reviewing this for me and telling me it's good enough to post here!
Chapter 1 – It Will Be As If I'd Never Existed
"It will be as if I'd never existed."
Four years. Sometimes it was hard to believe it had been 4 years since I'd heard that, since the last time I'd seen his beautiful, perfect face; as distorted by cold, unfeeling eyes as it had been that day. Four years since I'd been thrown into this incomplete existence. Four years since my insides had been ripped and torn to shreds; a hole as wide as the Amazon River replacing what had once been my heart, my lungs and my soul.
"It will be as if I'd never existed."
What a stupid promise it had sounded like to me those first few months after he left. As if I could ever forget he'd existed. As if taking himself away, as well as those few precious momentos I'd collected of him, would erase him from my heart and my mind. Just because that was all it would take for him to forget me didn't mean it would be the same the other way around. Everywhere I looked those first few months I saw him. In school, the absence of him in almost every class I had was a constant reminder of him. At work, the Camping section of Newton's store was a constant reminder of his family's hunting charades. My car, my old battered red Chevy he'd hated, reminded me of him every time I tried to push it past 55 mph. He'd hated its crawl of a pace. The woods would remind me of him. We'd spent so much of our time, running and playing, laughing freely as he'd run us to our meadow, our own little private Eden (or so I thought of it then) in the middle of the rainy gloom that was Forks, the little town we lived in. Everywhere I turned, I'd see him.
But worst of all had been my room, which for all intents and purposes should have been my sanctuary. The one place where I should have been able to run and hide and feel safe. All those months of torture and misery, where I constantly felt as if I'd been kicked in the gut repeatedly were made worse once I entered my room. For there lay the greatest reminder of him. My small bed.
Not that our relationship had ever reached that physical point. No, it was never like that. For all my attempts, we'd never made it past chaste kisses and the occasional tight embrace where I could feel my body pressing up so close to his that I couldn't tell where my own ended and his began.
Those were some kisses though… His lips on mine so tenderly, so lovingly, that as cold as they were, the heat they brought to me was akin to the most intense heat wave I'd ever experienced. He'd pull me so close to him and whisper words of undying love, singing me my lullaby as I drifted off into peaceful oblivion in his arms; promising me he'd love me forever and making vows he'd never meant to keep.
He'd told me that his physical boundaries to our relationship were meant to keep me safe. Safe from his unbelievable strength, which could've crushed my bones in an instant had he not been constantly on guard when he held me. Safe from the venom coursing through every vein in his body, which, although not a tragedy in my eyes, had the power to turn me into one of them, something to which he was vehemently opposed. He'd argued it was for the sake of my humanity.
Lying alone in my room those months after his departure, I'd come to the conclusion that the physical boundaries had just been proof of how little interest I'd held for him. I'd been a curiosity, a distraction to his endless days and nights, but not enough of one for him to want to keep around forever. So the physical boundaries had just been to ensure that he never made a mistake making it necessary for him to keep me.
These memories had been my worst torture in those months. I'd cry myself to sleep quietly, not wanting to wake or worry Charlie, who slept down the hall. He was, of course, not oblivious to the hell I was going through in my room. The nightmares and screaming would come in the middle of the night and inevitably wake him up.
While awake at least, I tried to suffer in silence, because I didn't want to worry Charlie any more than he already was. I didn't call any friends at first, I didn't want them to try to pull me out of my misery. I wasn't ready to let go.
"It will be as if I'd never existed."
At some point a couple of years later, I'd caught myself wondering, had he really existed? Was it possible that I'd experienced that kind of love and joy once? Did that kind of all encompassing bliss really exist, or had my mind just conjured it all up one day as I read one of my Jane Austen novels, replacing myself as the heroin and creating a fictional hero of my own? He couldn't have been real; he'd been too perfect. True, my hero was a vampire, which naturally made the whole fairy tale ending a bit harder to imagine. But the unbelievable joy I'd felt for those months we were together had to have been too good to be true, to be real. And so I must've imagined it, he couldn't have existed, because in real life, outside of Victorian Era England, that kind of love could not exist.
Then there was the matter of his beauty. His amazing, angelic beauty could not have been of this world. His locks were a rare mix never before and never since seen, neither brown nor red, but something in between. Bronze. His eyes alternated between beautiful deep amber, which somehow perfectly matched his hair, to the deepest black imaginable, depending on his thirst.
His lips were so perfectly shaped that I could only stare at them like a deer in headlights whenever he spoke to me, wondering what good deed I'd ever done in life to deserve having those perfect lips touch mine so tenderly every day. And his marble body…
True, I'd never really gotten to see much more of it than what any other Joe Schmoe walking down the street would have (except of course, for that glorious day in the meadow when he'd shown me what he looked like in the sun), but I'd felt it. I'd felt him as his body pressed up against mine during one of our embraces, and I could feel every line of him then, as my hands would roam carefully down his broad shoulders, to his muscular arms, and come to a shy but breathtaking stop at his impeccable abs, strong and hard.
No, he could not have been real, I'd thought that day. Such a perfect specimen of a man was not meant to roam amongst mere mortals, and was definitely not meant to waste his time with one of its least interesting units, so the answer had been no, I must've made him up.
But then I thought…had he really been that perfect?
Sure, heck yes! my memory of his physique had screamed! Well, then how about on the inside? Had his outside beauty been matched by equal beauty on the inside? Were his heart and soul (for I still believed without a doubt that he'd had a soul) as pure and lovely as were his outside features? My heart wanted to scream Yes, yes they were! I could remember every time he'd saved me, from Tyler's truck, to the day in Port Angeles, the incident with James, and of course, from his own brother. Surely someone capable of that had to be pure and lovely on the inside also. If my imagination was able to invent a fictional hero so perfect on the outside, wouldn't it have also transcended to his inside?
That was when my mind had thrown those dreaded words back at me.
"I don't want you to come with me"
"I'm not human, and I'm tired of pretending I am"
"Bella, you're not good for me"
"It will be as if I'd never existed"
Oh. He wasn't perfect; close, but no cigar.
Then why did my mind make up such an irresolute fictional hero?
Moreover, I'd then remembered that there was other physical proof to his existence. There had once been a Dr. Cullen working in Forks Hospital. There were records of that. There had once been 5 unbelievably beautiful students by the surnames Cullen and Hale who attended Forks High School. There had to be records of that too. Other people besides me had seen and known them, and they had interacted, although very little, in the worlds of other people in this dreary town. It hadn't been for long, but they had been here; I hadn't been the only one who saw them.
And so there was my answer. As hard as it was becoming by then, a couple of years later, to believe it had all been real, and although it may have been easier to convince myself that he hadn't existed, that I'd never known that kind of love, that that kind of passion had never existed, I knew. First, I'd never been imaginative enough to be able to make someone like him up. Second, and most importantly, he hadn't been perfect, not really. He'd turned out to be just a typical, confused (although slightly stronger and more resilient) 17 year old kid, capable of loving and leaving, just like any other self-absorbed and self-obsessed teenage boy, except trapped in a 100+ year old perfect body. It was little consolation that this knowledge did nothing to change my feelings for him.
So yes, while he had existed, and we had once had a fairy tale love, that fairy tale had ended. My prince had turned into a frog, instead of the other way around. He'd dumped me unceremoniously and with no better reason than I had failed at being a distraction. Truth be told, he'd probably also gotten tired of my unintended but constant damsel in distress routine. No happily ever after for my romance novel.
So here I was, over four years later. Living the human experiences he'd once claimed he hadn't wanted to take away from me. The truth was, after that first year or so, things had gotten easier, if not better. I'd more or less pulled myself together, with some help of course (thank God for Jacob), accepted my fate, and gotten on with it, so to speak. But even four years later, having had enough time to think everything through, knowing I'd never been enough for him, I couldn't bring myself to deny one true fact to myself: I would always love Edward Cullen.
Mr. Everett, my Literature professor, pulled me out of my dangerous walk through the past.
"Ms. Swan, what are your thoughts on Dante's perception of the 7 layers of Hades?"
Instantly, I responded with an answer I knew would show that although lost in a fog of my own memories, I knew the material well. I was a good student. 3.9 GPA, the result of barely a social life outside of Jacob and a couple of friends, which suited me just fine. I'd never been much of a social butterfly. In a little over a month I'd be graduating at the top 5% of my class.
"Very well thought out answer," Mr. Everett complimented me, but I knew it was time to break myself out of my reverie.
This was dangerous territory I'd been treading, and one in which I seldom let myself wander, at least while awake. I could already feel the rips and tears starting in my middle, and my arms instinctively came around my torso, as if to prevent any more damage, protecting myself from the physical pain my useless memories could cause. Four years later, this was still my reaction when I'd allow myself to remember. I'd pulled myself out of my own layers of Hades in the past few years, and it was by avoiding the very trips down memory hell in which I was now indulging. I was not bitter. Bitter was too harsh a word. I did not begrudge Edward Cullen his happiness, as far away from me as that had taken him. I truly wished he was happy wherever and whatever he was doing now. How could you not wish happiness to someone who would always occupy your heart? But I couldn't deny the fact that his need for distractions from an immortal and timeless existence had come at the expense of my very human heart.
It was time to come back to the present. The present now consisted of plans and preparations for my commencement next month. I was finally graduating from the City University of Seattle, at their Port Angeles Campus, after 4 long years. I'd started trekking my truck up to Port Angeles 4 times a week for classes 4 years ago, but when the Chevy had finally given up and died a year later, I'd bought a little Beetle, new enough to be able to make the trip into Port Angeles almost every day, but old enough so that it didn't break my bank account (although it did put a significant dent in it for a time).
I'd been working at Newton's for a few years now. When Mike had gone away to college, his parents had given me more responsibility, and many more hours. Which worked out fine; I needed the money and the distraction. I worked and went to classes, and spent most of my time in between with Jake.
My Beetle probably wasn't as safe for me as my truck had been, but I'd figured, what the heck. With all the close calls I'd had in the past few years, I was due for some good luck. The car had served me well so far, it hadn't broken down once in 3 years.
Going to college also turned out to be a very helpful distraction. And after graduation, I'd be taking a big leap with my life, as well as my little bank account. I was opening up my own book store. The literary pickings in Forks had always been slim, to my chagrin, and I'd decided a few months ago that I would be the one to change that. I was going to bring an expansion of the mind, so to speak, to Forks. I'd already found a store in the same strip mall which housed Newton's, and between myself, Charlie and a little help from Renee, I'd managed to scrape up enough for the required rent and initial purchase of merchandise for the store. I'd be spending the summer putting it together, painting, organizing, planning and beautifying. It was exciting and more than a little scary. I wouldn't have much competition here in town, that was for sure, but it remained to be seen whether the townsfolk would find a little bookstore interesting enough to forsake the trip to Port Angeles for their literary needs.
Charlie, Renee and Jacob for that matter, were practically busting buttons off of their heavy raincoats with the pride that was swimming inside them. Charlie especially was overjoyed at the thought that I'd come so far in the past few years, from the shy, self-conscious and pained teenager that had entered as a freshmen, to the seemingly self-possessed and strong young woman graduating with a B.S. in General Studies, at the top of her class, ready to take on the world (or at the very least, a little bookstore in the State of Washington). Yes, to say Charlie was busting a gut was an understatement.
"Bella, call your mom right away, she's called 4 times already," Charlie called out to me from the kitchen as I got home from class.
"Sure, sure", I responded, as I dragged my feet up the stairs to my room, feeling an incredible amount of brain drain from last minute study sessions for upcoming finals. Mathematics, Literature, The Rise and Fall of Western Civilization…blah, blah, blah.
The phone startled me out of my slow crawl, ringing just as I entered my room. Renee was never known for her patience, and if she had something she wanted to share with me, she'd keep calling until Kingdom come.
"Yes mom, I got your message, but I just walked in." I spoke into the phone without bothering to check the caller ID to see who it was.
"Bells, hon, it's me," said the voice on the other line. Immediately, I relaxed as I kicked my Converse off and threw myself on my bed, spreading out on it like a big paint splatter.
"Hey Jake, sorry I thought it was Renee, she's been hounding me all day," I said, while picturing Jacob on the other line, sitting in his garage, his big body under the hood of a car fixing someone's transmission, or under a car, replacing a muffler. Jake's garage was a sanctuary to both of us. It was the one place where we could both let loose and just be ourselves.
"Well, just calling to see how your day went. I know you've been stressed out lately with upcoming finals and graduation and everything. You want me to let you go so you can call your mom, and I'll call you back later?"
It was funny how Jake knew that until I spoke to Renee, I wouldn't be able to relax. Knowing she was going to keep hounding me until she tracked me down was going to keep gnawing on me, so yes, it would be better to just get that over with.
"Thanks Jake, I'll call you right back, okay?"
"No problem Bells, I'll speak to you in a few. Love you".
"Love you too Jake", I said, as I hung up the phone and started dialing Renee. I did love Jake. He'd been my rock, my salvation, in more ways than one, for years now. I knew him like I knew the back of my hand, and he knew me the same. It had been easy, easier than I'd thought, to let myself be with Jake. At first, it had been more of a base need to have him hold me up, to keep me from drowning, that had pulled me to Jake. He was warm, he was strong, and he knew that I wasn't whole. He knew all my imperfections, yet he still wanted me. He was willing to pick up the pieces that were left of me and take whatever I had left to give, take what another hadn't wanted. But eventually, Jake and I had morphed into something else, something real. My love for him wasn't the all encompassing love I'd once felt for another, it wasn't the goosebump-raising, take-my breath-away kind of passion I'd once felt; it was different. It was quiet, it was peaceful and it was there.
Okay, so not exactly the words to inspire a great love novel, but who ever said great love novels were real? Mr. Darcy never really picked Elizabeth, Edward (I winced at just the thought of the name) Ferrars never picked Elinor Dashwood, and Romeo never really killed himself for Juliet. They were all fictional characters. Jake and I, on the other hand, were real. I wasn't an impressionable teenager anymore who believed in fairy tales. I was a woman now, and Jake, for all his sweet immaturity - which both endeared me and irked me at times - was a man, who loved me and who was there for me when I needed him. I was thankful for Jake, he was easy to love. It was enough.
"Bella, honey, I've been calling and calling. Why haven't you called me back?" my mom answered the phone.
The greeting made me smile, despite myself. Renee, for all her perceptiveness, could also be clueless at times. She knew very well that I'd worked today, had classes, and she knew what time of year it was. Going to class, to work and then studying was all I'd been doing for the past few weeks. I'd barely had time to see Jake lately, or make my nightly phone calls to my mom, before passing out in a dead slumber on my bed, only to wake up and repeat the same routine again.
"I just walked in mom, classes remember? And I am calling you back now," I said, without any hint of frustration in my voice. For all my mom's querks, she was my best girl friend. I tried not to remember that I'd once had another girlfriend who, although just as querky, had been one of the truest friends I'd ever had. These days I had few friends, but none that came anywhere near being that close. Jacob, my Jacob, had become my love and my one true friend.
"Oh, that's right. Well, I'm sorry honey, I didn't mean to keep pestering you, but I've got the best news and I've been dying to tell you!"
"What is it?" I asked, wondering what had gotten my mom in such a state now. She wasn't difficult to excite, so I imagined it could be anything from Phil's team finally winning a game this season to her hitting the Mega Millions jackpot.
"Well, I was going to wait to surprise you until after graduation next month, but Phil's game was moved up to next weekend and so I had to move our plans up a bit..
I wasn't following the conversation very well. I was waiting for her to get to the punchline, while at the same time trying to decide something quick to make for dinner for Charlie and I. I wanted to make some time to go see Jake down at La Push before I hit the books again tonight.
"What plans mom?" I asked, trying to sound as interested as possible, so as not to let her know that Phil's minor league schedule was a little low on my list of priorities at the moment.
"Oh honey, this is so exciting! Phil's playing on an all-star minor league game next weekend in New York City, and I've decided to give you a long weekend trip down to the Big Apple with us as a graduation gift, complete with a stay at the Marriott Marquis, tickets to see Phantom of the Opera, a day of shopping, and any other trouble we can think of getting into down there! Doesn't that sound great?"
Oh God, I groaned to myself. What was she thinking? I couldn't get away right now if I wanted to. There was just so much going on, between school and graduation plans. And New York City? Whatever made her think I'd want to go to New York City? Sure, it looked like a beautiful city in all the books and movies I'd ever seen, but honestly, I'd gotten so used to the quiet life in Forks that I couldn't even think of stepping into the biggest city in the world right now.
"Mom, that's really sweet of you, but I can't get away right now. I've got studying coming out of the cazoo, and work, and who'd take care of Charlie, and I haven't spent any time with Jake lately…"
"Bella, Bella, Bella, did you really think I was expecting you to jump for joy at the suggestion and be on the next plane out? I know you by now sweety, but that doesn't mean I'm taking no for an answer. I've already cleared it with Charlie, I think he'll live without you pampering him for 3 or 4 days. Charlie's cleared it with the Newton's, who'll give you the time off WITH pay as a graduation gift to you for all your years of hard work. I even called Jake last night and he agreed that if I could convince you to go, it would probably be a good idea for you to get away for a few days and relax before graduation."
She'd cleared it with Charlie, the Newtons, AND Jake? She was serious about this.
"Mom, I can't possibly take that much time off from my studying. These finals are going to be brutal, I-"
"Bella honey, you can bring your studying with you if you must, and I'll make sure I give you time to study for a few hours every day, I promise. Just please say you'll come. I've missed you so much, and the thought of us having some girl bonding time in New York City makes me want to break out into a dance, so please, please say yes. Please, please, please, please…"
The sound of my mom begging me to join her on an excursion through Manhattan was almost too much to bear. Of course I wanted to see her. I hadn't seen her more than a handful of times since I'd moved to Forks. The first time was after the incident with James, when she came to the hospital. The second was after I'd fallen into a catatonic state after the tearing out of my heart. The third was a month or so after my high school graduation, when I'd gone down to visit her and Phil in Jacksonville, since Phil had cracked some ribs and wasn't able to travel, and then the last was about a year ago, when again I'd gone to Jacksonville for a weekend.
I guess if she'd cleared work with the Newton's that was one thing less I had to worry about. The Charlie excuse had been just that, an excuse. I knew my dad could get along without me for a few days; he'd done it for years before I came to live with him in Forks. Then there was Jacob, my Jacob. If he felt that a weekend with my mom in New York City was good for me, he knew me well enough that I trusted his judgment.
"Okay, mom. You win, I'll meet you in the Big Apple," I said a bit begrudgingly.
"Geez Bella, you can sound a little happier about meeting your mom for a few days, you don't have to make it sound like I'm kidnapping you or something."
"Sorry mom." I paused and took a breath. I tried to make my next sentence lighter and more excited. I knew she was probably glowing and floating on air about this. "It'll be great, I know we'll have a blast," I said with as much cheer as I could muster.
"There, that's more like it", she responded. "Well, all the travel plans have been made. I'm emailing you your flight information. Phil and I will get there first so we'll pick you up from JFK, and then we'll just take it from there. Oh Sweetheart, isn't this exciting! I can't believe we're going to New York City together! You're flight is next Thursday morning, so you'll be here by the afternoon, and we'll have all of Friday and Saturday and then I've booked you on a Sunday afternoon flight home. It'll get you into Seattle kind of late, but Jacob's agreed to pick you up."
"Thanks mom, you've thought of everything," I said, knowing she'd just been covering all the bases so I wouldn't have any reason to back out.
"Yes, I have," she agreed smugly. She knew she had me.
"Well, if I'm going to be a New York City girl for a weekend in a few days, I'd better start hitting the books so I don't fall behind too much. I'll call you tomorrow mom," I said, starting to feel a little of the excitement I'd been trying to feign for her benefit.
"Okay honey, speak to you tomorrow," she said, sounding more subdued now that her plans were secure.
"And mom, thanks a lot, this is really a great graduation gift," I said, putting as much of my love into the words as was possible over the phone, so she could know that I really did appreciate it.
"Oh, you're welcome honey. We're all just so proud of you, my little college grad!" she said, with as much pride as a mom could ever have for her kid.
"Bye baby, love you."
"Bye mom, love you too."
I hung up and stared at the ceiling. In a little over a week, I'd be flying to the East Coast with my mom, certainly not what I'd been expecting as I started the day out. But I was also kind of excited despite myself. I'd never been further east than Albuquerque, and it would be fun to have a girl's weekend with my mom, even though I'd never been much of the girl's weekend type. I was now a young woman, I kept telling myself. And it was time to break out into the world, try different things, have new experiences…
Human experiences. The kind I'd always been meant to have, according to one person, at least. I guess he'd been right a few years ago. There were plenty of things I still had to experience, and seeing the world would probably count as one of them. Okay, so I was off to New York City. It was starting to sound nice actually. For some reason I couldn't explain, I was feeling rather excited and hopeful. This wasn't like me. Excitement and hope had disappeared out the window, literally, a few years ago, taking romance and passion, with him…it. But here I was, grinning on my bed like a fool, looking forward to something in my life, instead of backwards, for the first time in a long time. I didn't know why, but I had a feeling next weekend was going to be the beginning of a new chapter in the book of Bella Swan's Experiences.