Disclaimer: All publicly recognizable characters, settings, etc. are the property of their respective owners. The original characters and plot are the property of the author. The author is in no way associated with the owners, creators, or producers of any media franchise. No copyright infringement is intended. It all belongs to Stephenie Meyer.

A Cullen Carol

Christmas in New Moon …

"Bells, honey, you need to get out of bed. You haven't been out of your room for three days. At least come down and get something to eat. I ordered a pizza," Charlie's voice called through the fog surrounding me.

I felt the bed shift slightly as he sat, and then his hand as he placed it on my shoulder, gently shaking me.

"It's Christmas Eve; at least take a shower. Really, you're beginning to stink, and that's a lot coming from me, considering I'm around the smell of fish all the time. Come on down and you can open my present."

Attempted bribery. He was obviously desperate. I could feel the texture of the sheet beneath my cheek. At some time in the night, my pillow fell to the floor, but it hadn't seemed important enough to reach down and retrieve it.

"Bells …"

"Okay dad," I mumbled. I realized that he wasn't going to give up. Ignoring him could only work for so long.

At some cognitive level, I recognized that the feel of the water washing over me should register against the texture of my skin. It was as if there was a barrier between the world and me that nothing could penetrate. The exhaustion hit me and, as I leaned backward to support myself against the tile of the tub, the coldness shocked me. I was instantly transformed by the sensation, reminded of other times that coldness pressed against my body. I jerked away instinctively. Unfortunately, I overreacted and ended up losing balance, falling into the tub. I knew I would have a few bruises to testify to my clumsiness.

I curled into a ball, the water hitting my body and face. The last couple of days had been excruciating. The Christmas break from school left me no reasons to attempt the charade of living. The blackness had taken advantage of the opportunity and quickly engulfed me. As the water began to run cold, I reached up to shut it off. I forced myself to stand, and ran the towel over my body before wrapping my hair in it. Dressing quickly, I brushed my teeth, and ran a brush through my wet hair. I pulled clumps out in my haste.

Charlie waited for me in the living room. He had pulled the coffee table closer to the couch, and I could see that he put a slice of cheese pizza on a plate, with bottled water sitting to the side. He was sitting on the couch with his dinner in front of him as well. He turned to smile at me as he heard me enter, but his smile skewed to the side when he saw my appearance. Quickly rallying, he realigned his lips in a blatant attempt to be jovial, despite himself. As I sat, he pointed to the stack of DVDs sitting on the table.

"I rented a few Christmas stories for us to watch. Which one first?" he asked.

I shrugged my shoulders. It didn't matter. I probably wouldn't be paying much attention anyway but, if Charlie could go to the trouble of actually renting something other than a sports event, the least I could do is sit here with him. He reached over and grabbed one. Seeing the title, a wisp of amusement briefly ran through me. He had picked A Christmas Carol. I would imagine he thought this would interest me, being that it was based on one of the novels I had upstairs in my room. Charlie and I barely spoke through the movie. Mostly, he continued to urge me to eat, and I did take a couple of bites to satisfy him. Finally I felt his resignation, and I knew my pardon was quickly coming.

"Okay, I can tell you're exhausted. Go on back to sleep. I'll clean up here," he mumbled.

I stumbled up the stairs as quickly as possible, throwing myself back on to my pyre. At that moment, I realized Charlie hadn't been kidding. The sheets did need to be changed. Managing that feat sapped my energy, and I gratefully crawled back into bed to seek the temporary relief I could from sleep. Before the nightmares began.

Not long after I dozed off, I was startled awake. I sensed that I was no longer alone in my room. I had caught Charlie several times, sitting in the rocking chair that …… No, I wouldn't say his name. Obviously, my earlier acting hadn't convinced my dad.

"I'm okay, dad, really – go on to your room," I said into the silence.

Normally Charlie would huff and rise to go into his room. This time, however, I didn't hear his response. I was instantaneously paralyzed as a pale face stepped from the shadows. I grew dizzy from the pressure on my chest, and then my heart started an irregular gallop, thumping wildly in my chest.

"Bella …," Carlisle's smooth voice came across the small room.

I rubbed my eyes in disbelief, and then I leapt with uncharacteristic grace out of the bed towards his body. As I slammed into the wall, I was momentarily confused and scared. I had just traveled through him. I spun around. He had turned to face me, and I was again stunned by the perfection of his face. I could smell his scent, and the combination was too much. I fell to my knees, staring at the floor. I more sensed, than felt, the touch at my shoulder. I looked up and saw concern in his eyes.

"Why do you torture yourself in this manner, Bella? Will you continue with the path you have chosen? It will lead to a life in captivity, bound and chained. Or even possibly, the destruction of everything you hold dear. In the end you will realize that your mortal life was too short and too precious to waste. Remember our discussion on your birthday…remember what I told you… what I said was one of the most important aspects of my life- some people's lives are better because I exist."

I was struck speechless and senseless at the same time.

As he continued to speak, his body drifted backward towards the slowing opening window, the one that his son had utilized all those months. I began to crawl rapidly toward him in hopes of finding something solid to grasp. He continued retreating, always just beyond my grasp. As he came to a stop he held his hand up, warning me to not come any closer.

"You will be visited by three friends. Watch carefully and consider what you may learn from each one. Without their lessons, you may never diverge from the path you have chosen. Bella, I implore you to listen. You mean too much to us," his voiced faded to a whisper as he vanished through the window.

I pounded my fists into my floor in frustration, and I detected the metallic smell of blood. I speculated that I must have been sleepwalking when the pain filtered through my conscious. I needed to get off the floor and get something to wrap my hands in. After a few moments of apathy, I pushed up in an effort to gain my footing. A voice, tinged with a southern accent, spoke softly from just behind me.

"You'll want to bandage those before we leave. Although knowing the consequences of my actions the last time I saw you in this condition, I may be the last person you want with you right now."

I flipped over and landed on my butt in the middle of the floor. I looked up to see Jasper's solemn face above me. He smiled gently, but his demeanor was laden with sadness. He raised his hand toward the door, as if to indicate that I should go to the bathroom. I rushed through the door, hastily wrapped my hands, and returned back to my room assuming that my delusion would be gone. Instead, I saw him standing by the window, looking out into the yard.

"I am here to show you Christmas past."

He turned and held his hand out to me. Knowing that I had flown through Carlisle, I was sure that I would find no substance to his hand, and therefore I didn't move.

"Bella, please…," he begged softly.

As if controlled by a force outside me, I watched as my hand softly fitted to his. The hole in my heart ripped a few more inches as the familiar coldness of his smooth skin brought back too many memories. My other arm reached around my chest in an effort to hold myself together. I took a couple of short breaths to counter the pain. Finally, when I felt I could survive, I looked back up. Agony was seared across his face, not in bloodlust, but in the mirroring of my own emotions. A wave of peacefulness settled over me, and I was incredibly thankful for his gift. For the first time in several months, I could breathe fully.

It was if the walls of my room shimmered, and then stabilized. I caught a quick glance of a white baby crib and pink coverings as Jasper and I floated through the walls and down the stairs. What met my eyes was heart wrenching. A young and very handsome Charlie knelt before Renee. They were both gazing adoringly at a baby wrapped in a blanket. A large and haphazardly decorated Christmas tree stood in the corner, with multicolored lights blinking rapidly. Several unwrapped presents lay scattered across the floor. The baby cooed and made smacking noises. Charlie looked up to Renee and smiled, obviously enamored.

"I have never been happier than at this moment," he pledged to her.

Renee grabbed him into a hug, with her face turned to us. A sense of grief passed across her face. I was reminded that she would leave him not long after this … taking me with her.

The walls shimmered again, and the scene changed slightly. Charlie still looked as young and handsome, but this time he was alone. Christmas music played on the stereo in the background, but he stared forward into space. I was chilled to recognize the look of abject misery; as I had seen it on my face too often in the past few months. I reached out to touch Charlie in an effort to comfort him, but before my hand reached the figure before me the scene began to fade.

I heard Jasper's soft whisper, "They aren't aware we're here."

I found myself seemingly flying through the air, as if in a tunnel. The images to each side of Jasper and I flickered so rapidly that I could not focus on a single one of them. The motion began to slow and I realized that we were in my childhood home in Arizona. A lopsided Christmas tree was apparent in the corner, with several small gifts under it. Renee was in the kitchen, attempting lunch.

I could see down the hall into my bedroom. I was probably about six years old. We had moved to Phoenix from California less than a year earlier. I was leaning up against the headboard of my bed, reading a book. I was dressed in the ill-fated fairy costume. I knew that later that night I would make a spectacle of myself at the Christmas Evening recital. Renee would convince me that it didn't matter what I did; she would be proud of me. It was the first night I told her I wanted to be an author. She had given up not long after that and let me pursue my love of books.

The reminder that I had never fit in with the kids my age saddened me. So much of my time, even with Renee, had been spent in solitary pursuits. Renee called me her "old soul" but, in reality, I was always different in some way - uncoordinated, uninteresting, unlovable, unwanted…

"Jasper, no more! Please take me home," I begged, as the last thought reverberated through my head.

Within a moment, we stood back inside my room. Jasper helped me to lower slowly to my bed before he removed his hand from mine. I was instantly struck with a sense of loss, and attempted to gain his hand again. He took several steps backward, effectively eliminating any hope of further contact.

"Bella, have all your hopes merged into this?" He looked around my room.

I looked down to my lap in mortification. I knew how my room looked. Not because I was ashamed of my humble lifestyle, but because the room reeked of neglect. It was too sterile now as so much had been taken or destroyed.

"Have you laid aside your aspirations? Will you allow sorrow to engross you – to define your meaning? Our history is only a part of who we are Bella; we are not bound by the patterns in our life. Will you be able to say that you are happy in the life you have chosen? Youare different, but it's because you are special."

I realized instantaneously that his voice had begun to fade. I looked up and started screaming when I saw his body rapidly disappearing.

"Jasper, please don't leave me," I begged, and then began sobbing as I realize he was already gone. It had been enough just to hold his hand for a few minutes. Now that the contact was lost, the pain seemed even more intense. I threw my face into the pillow to drown my sobs because I didn't want to disturb Charlie.

Then, a gentle hand began to tenderly stroke my hair. I looked up to find Esme smiling gently down at me. She was covered in a bright green robe, like the ones you often find on turn-of-the-century Christmas cards. It had a hood that draped casually down her back, and the entire thing was bordered by white fur.

"Christmas Present?" I asked, and then was ashamed at how stupid that sounded. When all I wanted to do was throw myself at her feet and beg her to take me with her. If any of the Cullens could possibly still care for me, it would be her.

"Bella, come with me," her musical voice carried a quiet authority. I stumbled to my feet and grabbed the robe at her arm. I wanted to make sure she didn't get away from me. She turned gently, seeing my frantic grasp, and smiled as she began to walk forward toward Charlie's room.

"There are many on this Earth who claim that their actions are justified by their history, or by the events or people surrounding them. Their envy, their hate, their selfishness, their anger … they lay them all at the feet of others. They don't take responsibility. They pollute the world with their insincerity."

I grew nervous, and attempted to stop her from going into Charlie's room, but it was if I hadn't tried. We walked right through the door. The minute we were in Charlie's room I heard screaming coming from the other side of the door, and was startled. I wondered what was happening, but then I heard a voice call out, "EDWARD … PLEASE DON'T LEAVE." The shouting was quickly followed by agonizing screams and sobs. I knew now what the other side of the dreams sounded like.

A voice behind me startled me again, as it broke.

"I know I haven't been a consistent man…" I spun to find Charlie on his knees beside his bed. I had never seen my father pray. Another scream tore out from the room across the hallway. Charlie's hands flew to the side of the bed and gripped the covers in a death grip. "… but God, I am asking you to forgive me for being such a failure. I ask that you help me to know what to do. I can't lose her … I just can't." Charlie began to cry as he stayed on his knees, listening to me in the next room. Each scream was almost like a physical blow to him. "I am begging you Lord … help me."

I turned to look at Esme, to plead with her to help him, but her gentle eyes bored into my soul. What did she think of me, now? Did she pity me, knowing that I had been just a mere distraction for her son? Did she despise me for my inability to grieve normally? Did she hate me for putting Charlie through this?

Esme turned toward the window in Charlie's room and we began to walk forward, but just before we hit the wall, I turned to see my father again. A particularly harsh scream from the other room brought him to his feet and he rushed out the door, obviously going to check on me.

We were immediately whirling through the air, moving quickly through a tunnel similar to the one I had traveled with Jasper. When we stopped, I could see that Esme had brought me to Florida, to Renee and Phil's home. It was decorated in true Renee fashion, everything - everywhere - but nothing in logical order. It was chaotic but, at the same time, a beacon to my tattered senses. I knew this house; it was just like every other house Renee and I had shared. I saw Renee and Phil sitting at the table. Renee had a cup of herbal tea in front of her, and Phil was leaning over to hold her hand.

"Charlie says it isn't getting any better," she sniffled.

"I just don't understand. Something has to give, Phil. She just can't keep going on like this. Maybe we should talk to Charlie again about her coming back here," she said as tears started rolling down her face.

Phil stood and went over to her, wrapping her body against his while she sobbed. "Renee, we'll do whatever it takes, you know that."

Esme grabbed my hand and spun me to her, but when I turned back around to see what my mother was doing, I realized that we had traveled to another place. The small room seemed familiar, and I heard men's voices coming from the outside. The door opened, and Jacob Black pushed his father Billy through the door in a wheelchair. I realized that this was Jacob's home. I hadn't been here since I was a kid.

"Are Charlie and Bella coming?" Jacob asked.

As about ten other people filed into the room behind them, I barely heard Billy's reply. "He called early this morning before we left to say that he couldn't get her to wake up. She had a bad night. He's going to try."

Billy looked very angry, but Jacob looked disappointed. I understood the first reaction, but couldn't decipher the second. Within just a few moments, other Quileutes filled the tiny space. It seemed that each new person that crowded into the house brought food. As I watched the group, insults were thrown just as quickly as hugs were given out. It was noisy, chaotic, undignified, and … it was perfect. These friends were more family than most biologically related people could ever hope to be.

As Billy said a simple prayer over the food, the group all ended with "God bless us every one!" That set the group off, and howling laughter dominated the air.

Esme quoted beside me, "It is a fair, even-handed, noble adjustment of things, that while there is infection in disease and sorrow, there is nothing in the world so irresistibly contagious as laughter."

I was ashamed that I had kept Charlie from this get-together. In that moment, I imagined that he had probably spent his past Christmases here as a participant. I was beginning to see the messages that Carlisle, Jasper, and Esme were attempting to relay. Remorse began to eat at me.

"Bella, do you know what I think are the two worst motives for human behavior?" Esme asked from beside me.

When I turned to look at her, her smile was bittersweet. I could do nothing more than shake my head at her.

"Ignorance and Want. Humans can justify almost any action with them."

Someone dropped a glass to the table, and the sound was eerily similar to a bell. I immediately found myself back in my room, alone … or at least I thought.

The shadows from the corner of the room seemed to undulate and swirl and I realized that the next visitor was coming forward – the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come. The figure was covered in a deep black cloak that covered the figure in its entirety. Although I could see nothing through the folds, I knew immediately to whom the tiny form belonged. "ALICE," I screamed in equal parts of joy and desperation. I lunged at her in an attempt to grab her tiny body.

The figure did not speak, but one arm raised and pointed directly at me, effectively stopping my progression.

"Won't you speak to me?" I sobbed, having put my fist in my mouth to stifle the pain of her rejection.

Alice's figure turned and pointed toward the window. I noticed for the first time that night, the moonlight streaming through it. Alice began to move forward, and I stepped into her shadow. Just before going through the wall, she spread her robe to her sides, almost like wings. I was mesmerized by the symbolism. She resembled a small bat. When she lowered her arms, I staggered to her side, entranced by the sight before me.

We stood in a small meadow covered in snow. Before me was a beautiful large log cabin. It was surrounded on all sides by evergreens, which seem to nestle the house in comfort. Snow gently drifted down, covering the black cloak in front of me, gently landing on my lashes and lips. I knew I should feel cold, but the temperature didn't bother me. I was reminded of how the water had felt in the shower, and wondered if I had returned to my sensory deprived state. Alice began to walk slowly toward the house, but I was momentarily distracted by a figure in the window.

I was stunned to see Rose, standing before the windows looking out. Even more stunning was the look on her face. She smiled joyously as she gazed up at the sky and the onslaught of the flurries. I saw a large figure join her, wrapping his arms around her waist. Emmett's broad frame and dark hark provided a stark contrast to his beautiful wife. I felt energy like nothing before as flames leapt through my body, and I sprinted toward the house, bypassing Alice's tiny, shrouded body. I ran straight for the window where Rose and Emmett stood. I barely skidded to a stop in the wet snow before slamming into the plate glass. I threw my hands up, framing the two people before me as I began pounding on the glass.

"Em … Rose … can I come in?" I shouted at them through the glass.

Rose turned to look at something behind her and smiled. Then I saw them all. Alice was sitting on Jasper's lap in a chair. He was playfully nuzzling the side of her neck. Esme was standing on a stool beside an extremely large Christmas tree, and Carlisle was handing ornaments up to her for placement. Rose and Emmett turned and went over to join the group in front of a roaring fire. I saw then that there were ten stockings hanging from the mantle, and the number momentarily puzzled me. I was distracted as Emmett picked up several huge pieces of wood and threw them into the fireplace. Embers danced into the air and Rose swatted his arm as she glided away from the onslaught. Their conversation could be heard faintly through the window; untroubled and happy.

Then Jasper stood up and tossed Alice onto the couch. Laughing at Alice's reaction, he walked over to take the box of ornaments from Carlisle. Carlisle went over to a very large stereo system in the corner and began to load CD's into the player. Having followed his steps, it took me a minute to grasp what stood just to the side of the player. Nausea came in waves as I gazed upon the glossy black piano. OH GOD, I hadn't thought about this. My eyes began to frantically scan the room, looking for a familiar bronze head. I don't know if I was more comforted or agonized when I did not see him.

As Fate would have it though, I was not kept waiting long. Through the doorway to the other part of the house stepped the love of my life. His bronze hair still had the tousled appearance, as if he had just run his hands through it in vexation. His pale face was still the epitome of perfection, as if sculpted by the masters. His body a perfect complement to the face I had so long adored. But there the similarities to my Edward stopped. The person in front of me was inexplicably different. I ran my eyes up and down the body I had desired for so long, trying to pinpoint the origin for my observation.

As I looked again to his face, it finally hit me. Edward looked truly happy. His face reflected not one ounce of regret or strife, the anguish that had so often creased his brow was gone, and when he looked at his family it was with peacefulness. Alice ran toward him; springing into his arms. Edward shook his head, smiling the familiar smirk, and then put his sister back down to the floor. He pointed in the direction from where he had just come, answering her silent question. Alice did a little dance and started to run that way.

Something must have caught their attention, because all the Cullens turned to the doorway that Alice was rapidly approaching. Edward turned his body to the door frame and a glorious smile broke across his face. It was almost as if he was anticipating something… or someone …

Numbness began to spread from the top of my head. A flush feeling came over my face, and I knew that I was about to collapse. Edward was in love … there was no doubt in my mind. Whoever she was … she had erased Edward's doubts and fears. His family was eagerly anticipating the creature that had captured my Edward, the person that was about to step through the doorway at any second.

I spun around and put my back against the panes of glass, unable to watch. Beside me, Alice's shrouded form turned, and her arm rose again, pointing back into the room. I shook my head furiously. The hand began to shake, almost as if the emotions that it contained were too much to handle.

"I CAN'T WATCH! WHAT HAVE I DONE TO DESERVE SUCH TORTURE? I'VE LOST HIM FOREVER!" I screamed at her in rage.

The hand began to tremble, seemingly emphatic in its direction to me. I turned, wondering what had caused the change in the previously stoic figure.

I saw the outline of a figure in the doorway, and heard Edward's voice in greeting. "Welcome home, Love."

I panicked.

He loved her, and I was left alone, unloved and unwanted in his wake. I began backing up from the window, obviously not watching where I was going, and caring even less how I got away from the scene in front of me. I just had to get away. "Why show me this, I'm past all hope," I choked out.

As I backed away, I knocked into Alice, tangling my feet in the black cloak, tearing it from her shoulders as I fell.

I opened my mouth to scream as the fault line in my chest ripped open to expose my shattered heart, but the pain stole my very breath away. I fell back into the snow, praying as never before for death. As the edges of my sight began to creep slowly inward, I realized I had just seconds before I passed out. At the last, I looked up at Alice's face, finally revealed from beneath the cloak.

But it wasn't Alice.

A beautiful stranger stood before me, her face a mask of compassion and sorrow. The petite figure I had mistaken for Alice was that of a young girl on the cusp of adolescence. Curly bronze hair framed youthful, innocent features, strikingly reminiscent of Edward's, but with flushed cheeks and deep brown eyes. She opened her mouth, about to speak. And then I woke up.

__________________

The End of It

Charlie's hands roughly shook me awake. Before I could get control of my body, hysterical screaming tore out of my gaping chest. Charlie looked frantic.

"Water," I gasped, to distract him.

As soon as Charlie ran to the bathroom I jumped out of my bed and rushed to the small bookshelf across the room. I had already destroyed the music, but it seemed that reading, my last solace, must go as well. I reached up and grabbed book after book, shredding them, until a set of arms gripped me like a vice from behind. My father dragged my thrashing body back to the bed. As he pushed me to the pillow, I felt my eyes roll back into my head and my eyelids close.

Edward had moved on … he had found the true love of his life. Fragile, human Bella had no place in their world. They were lost to me forever. I was morbidly reminded of one of the other books I had just destroyed. A compilation of poetry that had included Edgar Allan Poe's, The Raven. The Raven's call resounded in my head, "Nevermore…"

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Thanks to crmcneill and CullenFest for putting up with me and helping me through this. Sammi, for your patience with me and my fears. Charles for all your help with my thoughts and direction. Thanks!