So, this is my first attempt at writing FFn.

Constructive criticism is encouraged and appreciated.

Please read and review. Thanks.

Disclaimer: I don't own own Twilight or any of it's characters. Stephenie Meyer does.

Summit owns the Twilight Saga Movies...I do, however, have my very own Pocket Edward.

Many thanks to my beta Bronzehairedgirl620, without her handholding and guidance, this would still just be a figment of my imagination.

I can't thank you enough, Bronze. (I know...don't say it.)

For encouraging me to spread my wings and attempt writing, I must thank my darling girl, Patti.

Without her creative imagination some of these plot twists and screwed up situations might still be stuck in my head.

Thanks Chickie! You rock my world!

This story contains some mature language.

Rated T, for now.


*Note* This story starts approximately 10 weeks after the Cullens leave Forks after the fateful birthday party. You'll note that Bella came to Forks as a high school sophpmore, not a junior, to allow a little more time for the plot to take place. Not only does the story parallel Edward's departure and Bella's subsequent collapse, you'll find it also follows the timeline of the release of the Twilight motion picture. Enjoy.

Mirage

Chapter One

As a 108-year-old vampire, I have embarked on numerous "firsts" over the years. The most memorable of these were the first experiences I shared with Bella.

My first love and my first loss. My first kiss and my first heartbreak.

My life has been filled with firsts, but the ones I experienced in the past two years are the ones that made me the man I am today.

I've realized, after forfeiting my life with Bella, that there are so many memories most normal young people have that I'll never experience.

I've lost my first experience as a groom, watching my bride walk down the aisle. We'll never experience greeting the congregation as Mr. & Mrs. Edward Cullen for the first time.

I'll never experience a first dance with Bella as my bride, nor will I experience carrying the love of my life over the threshold.

I'll never have that first experience of loving her in the way neither of us has shared before.

I'll never have the first experience of holding our newborn son or daughter.

These are the first experiences that should be the most memorable in a person's life, and I've thrown them all away.

I left the love of my life to fend for herself, all because I was so disgusted with what I thought I was.

The sacrifice of my happiness seemed so trivial at the time compared to the chance for her to have a normal life.

These are the thoughts that haunt me when the rest of the world is asleep and I am not. I curl into a ball and hide as the emotions flood my mind and destroy my soul.

Finding Bella that first day was memorable. Losing her was more so.

Needing to hold onto the shredded remains of my humanity, I've agreed to embark on the journey of a new first at the insistence of my family.

This is my first experience in the workforce.

I've held numerous degrees, but as a Cullen, there's never been a financial need for any of us to work. Working is simply a means to push away the boredom. The story that's about to unfold will explain my most unexpected and exciting first experience.

This is a tale that, in the end, may bring me back to the most meaningful first experience of my existence.

My first love.


Carlisle POV

This story starts shortly after Edward left Bella in the forest. In the days and weeks that followed the departure of our family from Forks, we traveled to Denali in order to put together a plan for our relocation to another cloudy, dismal part of the world. Edward had yet to join the family; he was trying to focus on Victoria and her whereabouts, knowing that her elimination would ensure further safety for Bella and Charlie. The tracking wasn't going well, and Edward was spending most of his time in seclusion, miserable. Having an eternity with nothing to live for is worse than any fate he'd ever imagined.

We finally put down roots near Corning, New York. Life was more or less returning back to normal. Our family was scattered, though, and I know it weighed heavily on Esme. Our children were such a huge part of her essence, and to not have them all under one roof caused her much sadness, although she'd never complain. I was teaching medicine at Cornell University, and Jasper and Alice have an apartment in Ithaca and took classes at Cornell. Jasper was working on his doctorate in history, and Rosalie and Emmett lived in Manhattan so Rose could pursue her modeling career. Esme was busy converting a Victorian mansion into a Bed and Breakfast Inn for one of my colleagues. And Edward was…well, Edward.

We hadn't seen Edward since the day after Bella's birthday party when we all left Forks, leaving him behind to tie up loose ends. He'd forbidden us to have any contact with Bella, or anyone else in Forks, for that matter, and demanded Alice try not to keep track of her through her visions. Personally, I thought he was afraid he'd be subjected to Alice's visions of Bella. I didn't think he could bear to see her. As difficult as it was, we'd been trying to respect his wishes. He tried to be strong, but he was such a stubborn young man at times.

After moping around in his self-imposed hell for a number of weeks, Edward came out of his shell, to some extent, and agreed to join the rest of the family for the upcoming holidays.

I thought I'd convinced Edward that it would be good therapy for him to be around humans; to interact with others, to find some way to help ease the depression that has been torturing him. The only way I was able to convince him to come and live with Esme and I was to explain to him my biggest fear. Being shut off from humanity for any length of time would cause Edward's resolve to crumble. The entire family knew that even though Edward was miserable without Bella, it would be a worse thing for him to be overcome by the monster that lies within who is just waiting for him to slip up. We all knew that this was Edward's biggest fear, the cause for his constant self-loathing and the reason he sacrificed all happiness with Bella. He would suffer immeasurable guilt losing the battle and killing any innocent. He still wrestled with his guilt over killing the criminals he fed on in his youth as a vampire. As depressed as he already was, I didn't think he could live with himself if he slipped up and killed.

Since it was too late for Edward to enroll at Cornell, he agreed to fill his time taking temporary holiday work at a mall in Rochester. He needed to find a way to condition himself once again to the sounds and smells of human beings, and I thought this sounded like a good idea. Anything that would force him to interact with people would be healthy at this point. This would be his first experience as a working man, and I thought it would be good for him.

Edward POV

I'd taken to using the surname Masen again. I figured if Charlie tried to find me using his police contacts, he'd never know to use that name. When I left Bella, I knew that it sunk in that I didn't love her. It was too easy to leave. She just gave in like a switch had been flipped. I watched something die in her eyes that afternoon; I knew she'd never pursue me. Charlie, though; if something were to happen to Bella as a result of my leaving, he'd hunt me down and kick my ass, or worse.

Though if anything were to happen to her, he wouldn't be the one taking me out, I'd do that myself.

I'd know if something happened to her. One would know if the other half of your soul ceased to exist, wouldn't they?

Alice spent my first week home taking me out shopping for work clothes and preparing me for interviews. Her job was to get me out around people for short periods of time to condition myself to humans once again; acclimating while supervising me. I knew what her intentions were and while she didn't voice them, I knew she was doing it to protect me from myself. She was thinking about what it would do to me if I were to slip up.

I chuckled bitterly. Slip up? Taking a life wasn't like horsing around and breaking a window. Taking a life was the greatest sin a man could commit.

We'd been hunting a lot. There was a lot of countryside near my parent's new home and wildlife was plentiful. No mountain lions like I'd enjoyed out west, but there were a lot of deer. Any hunger I had has been satiated; I'd gorged more than I needed, and today I didn't think I'd put anyone at risk.

I supposed Alice and Carlisle felt it was safe for me to begin to pursue my career; they'd sent me out on my own today to try and find employment at the mall. I guess I'd fit in well, as much of the work force is under the age of 25. I wasn't accustomed to "mall shopping" as Alice was, but I assumed it will be entertaining, to say the least, to find holiday employment here. Since experiencing Bella, I'd found humans and their quirks entertaining to watch.

As I spent my day perusing the mall, I came across a store that piqued my curiosity and I just couldn't help myself; this store was like no other in the mall. It was obviously geared towards teenagers, the sign above the door reading "HOT TOPIC." The window display was full of very dark, gothic clothing: leather articles, spikes and chains, and music. Lots of music. Not the classical music that I used to appreciate, but the stuff that now spews forth out of my iPod when I want to clear everything from my mind and sink into oblivion so that I could, for short periods of time, forget the only thing that has ever really mattered to me. The one thing that was now missing from my existence. The happiness I threw away.

If I was going to make this work, this staying with my family for the next four weeks, I definitely needed a distraction. Perhaps this store could be that distraction. The atmosphere was even a bit dark, fitting my mood.

While waiting for the manager to see me, I noticed that the staff was all quite unique. They sported hair every color of the rainbow and had multiple piercings and tattoos. For just one second I allowed myself to think of her. To think back to a conversation before we were even really a couple. It happened on one of those relentless days of question and answer when we discussed what her mother would consider scary. Ha, these kids were freaks, but no, not scary. Rolling my eyes, I thought, "They have no idea what scary is."

"Wait! Do I have to look like some sort of freak to work here?"

I didn't realize I had said it out loud. The little guy behind the counter and wearing a t-shirt that said "BITE ME!" - in dripping blood- grinned widely and said, "You are perfect just the way you are. The manager will hire you even if you have no skills or experience; you are exactly what he's looking for, hot stuff."

Did he honestly just call me hot stuff? I had been fairly good at blocking out people's thoughts, but I decided to listen for this guy's inner voice and I was appalled. I was a bit nervous about the interview and hadn't really taken in everything there was to see about the guy behind the counter. Looking a bit more closely, I noticed a few things. He was small, and actually rather delicate looking, very effeminate, with a very feminine voice. There was a bright pink streak through his hair and he had a tattoo on his bicep saying "I heart my men, cold, dead and sparkly!"

Oh, God. What was I getting myself into?

I really considered just leaving, but I truly was intrigued by the job prospect. I would just have to steer clear of the co-workers. For God's sake, I was a vampire; I could snap him like a twig if I wanted to.

Finally, Garrett, the manager, ended his phone conversation and called me in. When he saw me walk through the door of his office, he began smiling like the cat that ate the canary. What was it with these people? Why were they all so damn happy? Not one of them had wiped the smile off their face the entire time I was in the store. I guess Carlisle would be happy if I got a job here. He was afraid I was becoming too depressed, and there was no sign of depression anywhere in this store.

Garrett offered me a seat. Looking down at my application, he shook my hand.

"Nice to meet you…er…Edward." As he thought to himself, 'Unbelievable; his name is even Edward. The girls will love this. If I have this guy handle the new display, we won't have any merchandise left.'

Garrett couldn't seem to believe his great fortune, a fact I didn't understand. "Tell you what, Mr. Masen. If you can start tonight, I'll hire you on the spot. You've got exactly the look I need for a particular project we'll be doing through the Christmas holiday. I'm looking for an assistant manager who has to be capable of setting up a very large display; we have a huge promotion to get ready for today. The lead actors from the movie Twilight are doing a signing this evening, and we're closing the store early to set up. My assistant manager is off until New Years, perhaps longer. Due to a complication with her pregnancy, she is on bed rest for the duration, leaving us behind in our work. I need someone immediately."

I shrugged my shoulders, "Sure, I'd love to start." When I asked Garrett if it was a prerequisite to have a piercing, tattoos, or wild colored hair, he told me he had something special in mind for me and it would be a crime to change any part of my appearance. I didn't relish the thought of coloring my hair, and I knew there was no tattoo artist who could pierce my skin in any way, shape or form.

Garrett handed me a black t-shirt with the Hot Topic logo on it and told me to come back in a pair of black jeans and the shirt at five o'clock.

I decided, since I was already at the mall and had only a few hours until I had to be back to set up, I'd just do some Christmas shopping. Firstly, I bought a pair of black jeans for work.

Secondly, I went into a jewelry store and looked around for a bit. I found a beautiful pair of earrings for Rosalie. 24 carat gold drops with a teardrop shaped diamonds, surrounded by many tiny diamonds. Cold as ice, just like she was. I hadn't forgotten how she treated Bella. I hope she'd see the hidden meaning behind the gift, but as superficial as she was, I doubted she'd see them as anything more than another bauble.

For Esme, I ordered a mother's ring. I thought it would be a lasting reminder for her; no matter how near or far apart we each are, I knew she would look at it and think of our family. I knew it upset her that our family was scattered right now, and I knew she'd never say it out loud, but we were separated because of me. Since there was room for six stones, I had them include Bella's birthstone as well. A sapphire. I knew Esme's heart was still breaking because we left her behind; she considered Bella a daughter as much as she did Rose or Alice. Even though they never said it out loud, I knew each and every one of them berated me for making them leave our home so suddenly and for taking Bella away from them. They missed her almost as much as I did.

Finally, I found the perfect gift for Alice; a sterling silver locket in the shape of a heart. It had a lovely gold rosebud, the stem wrapping around the front of the locket. I had just the picture, one of her and Bella together, that I would put inside of it. My decision hurt Alice as much as I hurt myself, and I didn't know if she'd ever truly forgive me. At least I knew that she's the one out of all of us that could truly feel my pain.

I didn't know what was happening to me today. All these months I had been blocking her out so well. But today, for some reason, I couldn't get Bella out of my mind. I knew that little trigger, seeing all the tattoos and piercings, had brought back that snippet of conversation when she told me she thought I could be scary. Perhaps it was because I haven't been around this many teenaged humans since high school at Forks. But it was as if a floodgate of memories had been opened.

"Oh Bella, what have I done?"

At the time, I thought that this was the right decision. The only way to protect her. But as more time has passed, I questioned the decision to leave her more and more. I had really decided before a relationship with her had even formed that one day, when I was strong enough, I would leave. I wanted her to be able to live out her human life with a human husband and a human family. But thinking back on it, our life was perfect. It was excruciatingly hard for me on some days, but I did prove time and time again that I could resist.

Somehow, now I sensed it would only be a matter of time before I would have to see her. The memories came crashing back and one day soon, I suspect I'd have to go back and see if she was okay. See if she had moved on and watch her from afar. I could do that. Perhaps I could be just that, her protector from afar. In the beginning I had considered that scenario. It was becoming more and more evident that I would not be able to stay away forever. If I was human, these thoughts would make me physically ill. My stomach was churning at the realization that I'd eventually be drawn back to her. She would move on, she would get over me, but I've been permanently changed, and I could never go back to how I was before Bella.

"God, I need a distraction." I took my purchases to the Volvo, threw them in the trunk, and settled myself in the front seat for a while. I plugged my iPod into the stereo and turned the music up as loud as it would go. I could feel the car moving from the bass and percussion. I laid my seat back and let the music wash over me. I didn't let my mind wander from the lyrics and screeching guitar riffs. I had to get out of this funk I'd gotten myself into.

I couldn't let Carlisle and Esme down. They both felt I needed to find a job for my mental well-being. They felt the experience would be beneficial. I guess it wasn't a good thing to have a mentally unbalanced vampire wandering about.

At 4:30, I called Esme and told her I'd be working late and that I had found a job. I asked her not to wait supper on me, knowing she'd see humor in my comment. I slipped out of my dress pants and threw on the black jeans and my new work shirt. In all my years, I'd been a student over and over, but this was truly my first job and I didn't want to mess it up. It wasn't like I'd ever need the money, but I'd finally have the chance to put my business management degree to use. I was surprised they gave me an assistant manager position. Even though I had a degree, I had no formal experience. I was actually a bit excited to have something to fill my time.

I went in to work and Garrett took me back to the stockroom. "Lover boy," whose name I later learned was Troy, was out getting pizza and Coke for the staff to eat. Great. I hope they didn't expect me to eat the stuff. I'd just have to purge myself later - I'd have to think of an excuse.

"Edward, start opening these boxes and hang the items on this pegboard." Garrett told me.

Garrett had explained that this movie we were promoting was a story about a family of vampires. How cliché. Don't people ever get tired of vampire fiction? It seemed like every ten years or so, someone released another vampire movie; if they only knew how real our world is and how many of us walk among them every day.

I opened box after box of wax lips with fangs, tubes of "vampire blood." There were buttons that said, "Bite Me" and shirts with that stupid saying Troy had tattooed on his arm. For over three hours I emptied boxes of generic vampire merchandise, if it could be called as such.

I spied a box that simply said 'Volvo' on it. I'd seen other licensed tees throughout the store for various consumer products, but this was the first automobile item I'd come across. It must have gotten mixed up with my vampire items. Interested, I opened the Volvo box and found a bunch of black t-shirts. I held one up and nearly fell over laughing. It had a silver Volvo C-30, reading 'Stupid Shiny Volvo Owner.'

I remembered Bella muttering a comment under her breath to that effect once upon a time. It didn't take long for the crushing agony to overwhelm me again.

"Ah, Bella, I miss you so much."

This was by far the worst day I'd experienced in weeks. I hadn't immersed myself around humankind so completely in a very long time and my emotions were wreaking havoc on my carefully constructed façade. I was definitely experiencing sensory overload. Everything I touched seemed to bring memories of Bella crashing back over me. I felt an anxiety attack coming on.

I stood up and spun around - I had to get out of here, even if just for a minute without drawing attention to myself. Just as I noticed the sign for the emergency exit, a girl popped in through the stock room door behind me and asked where she could find Garrett. She sounded like she was close to tears.

Without looking, I pointed and told her where his office was. "Right through there," I mumbled. As she came through the doorway, she tripped on the little threshold and catapulted towards the floor. I heard her foot catch, I heard her gasp, I felt the rustle of air. Instinctively, after all those months of near accidents with Bella, I lunged to grab her before she could land face first on the concrete floor. As she turned in my arms and I looked down, we both gasped. I'm certain my dead heart skipped a beat or two.

"Bella?"


So...thanks for reading. Reviews are greatly appreciated.

It's my goal to update this story Monday, Wednesday and Friday each week.

Much of the work on this story is already done, so as long as RL doesn't throw me any huge curves, it shouldn't be hard to stay on schedule.