(Whitneyville, North Haven Connecticut 2047)

EPOV

I wasn't entirely sure what brought the line of thinking on after all these years. It happened like that to me sometimes. Out of nowhere, I found myself confronted with long suppressed memories – images and sounds I'd just as soon forget. Stupid flawless vampire brain. I can't forget a goddamn thing even when I try - and oh, have I tried. I had spent the last 44 years trying. Yet here she was, in my mind's eye, radiant and beautiful, if not slightly awkward. This, of course, made me love her even more… loved, dammit Edward, past tense, my brain all but shrieked at me. Very past tense. Like I needed the reminder. Obviously I do. This was going to be a long night I could already tell.

Not that nights weren't always long. Not that days weren't always long. Not that there was any distinction at all really. Dark and light. Moon and sun. Alone and sometimes not so alone. I was always alone at night. Night was when the other members of my family sought refuge in their paired companionship. And I seek it in my bedroom with the volume at maximum capacity, screaming out of the state of the art sound system in there. Least they can do for me really.

They have everything I have ever wanted and will never have. No need to rub it in night after night. As if I could truly drown out their sounds, both verbalized and otherwise. I hear everything. At least with something loud and obnoxious playing, I could almost always convince myself I couldn't. Almost always, my ever-helpful mind reminded me. Perhaps that was what brought the thoughts to the surface tonight. The forced acknowledgment of love in the house, the moans and gasps and chanted "I love you's" that looped through their heads and reverberated off the walls of my mind. Taunting me at times, mocking me. Reminding me of what I once had and lost, no, walked away from; discarded.

My mind was no help whatsoever. Annoying, actually. Yet, there was Bella's face, impeccable in its humanity. Flushed and slightly freckled. Deep brown eyes that I got lost in, with no desire to be found. Unlike tonight. I was lost in a runaway train of thought that I couldn't find my way out of. Image after image flooding flawlessly to the surface as if I had just witnessed them for the first time yesterday. Perfection. Bella was perfection. Bella deserved better. Bella got better, my mind reminded me. Yes, Bella did do much better for herself, as much as it pained me to admit. Better than either of the two alternatives I could have offered her. A long and happy life with a never-changing boy, who could offer neither physical companionship, nor procreation. Or an everlasting day, complete with soulless and damned immortality.

No. Neither of those options suited Bella. Bella was warm, and giving. She should age, become a mother…. be happy. And she was… or… is, I'm not sure. I never looked back, hard as it was. It was for Bella's sake. "It will be as if I never existed." Those were the words I had spoken to her that day in the forest, outside of her house. The darkest, most blasphemous day of my existence. And so it was as if I had never existed. In so far as Isabella Marie Swan was concerned any way. Or so I was to believe. I specifically demanded that none of my family was to ever make contact with Bella under any circumstances; we would disappear completely and she would move on. She was human after all. She would move on eventually, just as I led her to believe that I had.

Alice is the most stubborn little vampire I had ever encountered! And while I instructed her to avoid any visions regarding Bella, she disobeyed wholeheartedly. Of course, I wasn't around back then to know the difference. But after years of wallowing and loathing in the lowest filth this world has to offer, I returned, for my family's sake. For my sake. Oh for the love of all that is holy why can't I escape my own mind sometimes!

And while Alice had deliberately dismissed my request to avoid any visions of Bella's future, she was forced second hand into submission by the time I had returned. As Alice kept a watchful eye over Bella after our initial departure, she became aware of her increasing reliance and friendship with Jacob Black. Of course Bella would choose Jacob Black. Whether I personally knew the boy or not, I suppose old discordances died hard.

It soon became evident to Alice that although the Cullen's had left town, the mythical ball was already rolling and was unable to stop. Thus, the Quileute youth were still phasing into wolves, even in our absence. Including Jacob Black. Not long after this revelation Alice stopped seeing Bella's future altogether. Upon hearing this, I was immensely worried for what this meant about Bella's safety, save nothing for how outraged I was at Alice's disregard for my request. However, Alice quickly explained to me that she could not "see" the wolves. Something to do with their physiological make-up and their 24 pairs of chromosomes, or something to that affect. Consequently, the more closely intertwined Bella's life became with Jacob's, the less Alice was able to "see." Until one day, she disappeared completely, leaving Alice no choice but to assume that Bella and Jacob's lives had fully merged. Married. Held together by vows. Vows that would include the word "forever," but would not truly mean it. Not the way I would mean it, or, could have meant it if only I had had the courage to.... No! Don't go down that route, nothing good is down there. We've been there enough times to know that. Finally, the only sensible suggestion my mind had to offer me. Jacob was a good match for Bella. Perhaps the best match this world could offer her. He was human, or human enough to give her all that I could not. Warmth, affection, children. Yet, given that he was a wolf, he could offer her the level of protection that someone like Bella would need. "Someone like Bella," there has never been anyone like Bella and there never will be. Clearly, my mind was back to playing the role of antagonist. I sighed heavily. They are well matched, and Bella would be well taken care of, that was the point.

I, on the other hand, have never been able to move on fully, which we all knew would be one of the consequences of our departure. Vampires mate for life; it's what we do, and we're good at it. God help anyone that gets in the way of that mating. I got in my own way. I've yet to forgive myself.