Chapter 1: Family
I was having a horrible birthday. First was the nightmares where I grew old and Edward was still seventeen and perfect. Then I had a frustrating day at school with Alice bugging me all day roping me into the party tonight. Then I get here and everyone is making such a big deal over it. I mean I get that they are vampires and they don't usually get to celebrate birthdays but really, I'm not worth all the fuss and money that they no doubt spent on me. Then stupid clumsy me has to go get a paper cut which brings me to my current predicament; being stitched up by Carlisle at my own party while every other vampire in the house is trying to get away from the smell of the blood seeping from the long gash in my arm. I watched as Carlisle pulled bits of glass from their coffee table out of my arm in awe at how well he handled himself with the smell of blood. "How do you do it?" I asked him.
"You deal with blood every day and you stay perfectly calm. Every other vampire I ever met, even your family can't stand to be in the house with it."
"I've had a lot of practice Bella. It wasn't easy at first, but I always wanted to save people and I refused to let what I am interfere with that. The others haven't had as much time as I have in the world nor the constant exposure such as I get in my profession. The fact that I have never, in fact, tasted human blood makes it easier."
"Never? What about when you changed the others?"
"I was careful to let the venom in without letting any of the blood out. I have always been terrified that if I get even a little taste then I'll like it too much. As of now I don't really know what I'm missing so I can't miss it too much."
"So all the others have..." I trailed off here not sure how to word my question without offending anyone.
"That is for them to tell you. It's not really my place."
I nodded. This was the perfect time to make my wishes known. "I hope that when I'm one of you I'll have your restraint."
Carlisle gave me a sad smile. "IF you become one of us you will have all of us to help you to resist and keep you from slipping."
"Edward doesn't want me to be changed." I said sadly.
"He believes that we have no souls and he doesn't want to take away your soul."
"You don't believe that." I guessed.
"I can't believe that we have no souls. We are capable of love, hate, anger, joy, sadness, and all other emotions that humans have. To me that is what a soul is. I believe that while we may not be alive we still live."
"So you're not against me changing then?"
"I don't think it is something you should decide lightly. Nor is it something that I would do against Edward's wishes if that is what you are asking. You're all done" he said as he finished wrapping my arm. I looked up at him to thank him and met his eyes. I was lost. It must have been the deep talk we were having, but I suddenly felt drawn to him. I looked away and blushed. He put a hand on my shoulder. "Don't worry so much Bella. What's meant to be will be." I nodded and we left so that Edward could take me home.
Edward returned home after dropping Bella off and asked me to call a family meeting. Once we were all gathered around the table Edward dropped a bombshell. "We have to leave Forks." I looked around at my family. Edward looked pained. Esme looked stricken. Emmett looked horrified. Alice was in a trance, apparently seeing what would come of this decision. Jasper looked guilty and pained. Rosalie looked smug. I wasn't sure what I was feeling myself, but I knew that we couldn't all just abandon Bella. She would be devastated.
"We can't leave now." I asserted.
"We have to Carlisle. It's the only way to keep her safe. I can't let her be put in that kind of danger again." Edward said looking at Jasper apologetically. Jasper looked even worse when he said that. He looked like he would happily throw himself on the nearest bonfire if we let him. I began to get frustrated with Edward. "No we don't have to. We can keep her perfectly safe. If anything she would be in more danger without us here to protect her. What happened with Jasper today wasn't his fault. It was a slip. We have all had them and you shouldn't be making him feel worse about it. It's not fair to him or to Bella to even be having this discussion."
Edward seemed to be losing his temper. I knew whatever happened wasn't going to be good. Then he blew up. "Fine! Well I'm leaving with or without you. I won't be responsible for what happens to her." He stormed out. I turned to my family to see if any of them would be following Edward and they all looked sad, but weren't moving.
Alice spoke up. "Don't worry. Everything will be just fine. The rest of us will stay and take care of Bella."
"That's right. Bella is a part of this family now Edward or no Edward." Esme said forcefully. I just hoped Edward at least told her goodbye.
I had just settled into bed for the night when Edward returned through my bedroom window. He looked so distant and I had a bad feeling. I reached for him and he backed up. "I'm leaving" He said so easily. Like it didn't matter what I felt. Didn't matter that my heart was breaking. "Why" I croaked already knowing the answer. "What happened tonight can't happen again. I can't be responsible for that so I'm taking myself out of the picture. You'll never be safe with me. Even from me. I could always slip just like Jasper did." I couldn't breathe. He was just leaving me. After everything we've been through. "Please.." I tried to plead with him. "You can't change my mind. You'll never see me again after tonight. Just try to get on with your life. Try to be happy. For me." Now I was angry. Like I was just some toy to throw away when he was finished. He dares tell me to be happy when he's leaving. He dares tell me to go on like he never mattered. "Fine. Just go then." I lashed out at him. He did. I broke down in sobs and cried myself to sleep. I took some comfort in the fact that he only said he was leaving. Maybe that means the others were staying? Did they love Forks so much that they would let him leave without him or did he just think that he was the only one that mattered to me so he didn't mention the others? Oh well I would find out at school tomorrow anyway.
My dreams that night were horrible. He was walking away and I tried and tried to run after him but he was too fast. I woke in a cold sweat and looked over at my clock. I still had an hour before my alarm went off, but there was no way I would get back to sleep. I sat staring out the window as the tears flowed freely. I was in a daze until my alarm broke me out of it. I didn't know how I was going to function today, but I'd do my best.
When I pulled up at the school I saw the Cullens' SUV outside. So the others did stay. At least for now. I let out a sigh of relief. Losing him was horrible, but losing the whole family would have killed me. I didn't know how they would feel about me without Edward, but I hoped that we could at least still have a friendship. I was sure at least Alice would still talk to me. I walked in timidly. I'm sure I looked a mess. I saw Alice walking towards me looking more subdued than usual. She saw the evidence of my tears and a sleepless night. "I guess Edward talked to you then?" She said looking at the ground. I nodded. "I'm so sorry Bella. I can imagine how you must be feeling. I was hoping you could come over after school today so we can talk." She looked up at me with those pleading golden eyes and I couldn't say no.
I went through the day in a haze. I could barely remember anything that happened. I didn't see Alice at lunch so she must have went home after talking to me. I got in my truck and headed toward the Cullen house a little apprehensively. I wasn't sure what my reception was going to be. I was afraid that without Edward the only friend I had in the house was going to be Alice. They probably all blamed me for what happened last night. I'm sure it made Jasper feel guilty and Edward left all because I had to get a paper cut. This sucks.
I didn't even get to knock on the door before Alice opened it. She seemed more cheerful than she did this morning, but still wasn't back to her bubbly self. I wasn't sure if that was out of respect for what I must be feeling or because she was sad about Edward leaving. As we walked in I saw Jasper sitting on the couch. It seemed like he was waiting for me. He looked nervous and guilty at the same time. "I'm sorry Bella." he said before I could say anything. "I'm so ashamed about what happened. I truly didn't mean to.."
"It's ok Jasper. It wasn't your fault. No one is perfect and there was no harm done." I smiled at him warmly so that he would know I didn't hold him at fault at all. He squinted at me for a moment, apparently trying to read my emotions to see if I was sincere. When he realized I was he smiled back at me and walked towards me to give me a tentative hug. He seemed afraid of what he would do. "I'm not gonna break Jasper. I trust you." I said as I hugged him a little tighter. He seemed to relax a bit. "Thank you Bella. For your forgiveness and your trust. It means a lot to me especially after what happened." He released me and stepped back. I smiled at him again and squeezed his hand. "Thank you for caring. With Edward gone it means a lot to me that the rest of you are still here. Even without him I still feel like you are all my family."
"You are family Bella. No matter what." I heard Carlisle say as he came up behind me. He placed a hand on my shoulder. "Never doubt that." I began to cry again and Alice came up and led me to the couch rubbing circles on my back. I heard Carlisle and Jasper leave the room to give me some privacy. I was able to croak out my thanks before they left though.
Once I had calmed down Rosalie came in. "Can I talk to you for a minute Bella?" I nodded to Alice and she left. "I need to apologize for being so cold to you and to explain. It wasn't that I didn't like you. It was that I knew you and Edward wouldn't work out and I couldn't stand getting close to you and then losing you like that."
"How did you know we wouldn't work out?"
"Well a little known fact about me is that I have a special ability as well. I can see the bonds that are formed between people. The bond between you and Edward was one of obsession not love and obsessive relationships never work. I tried to tell Edward that before either of you got too emotionally involved, but he wouldn't believe me. He accused me of being jealous. Now though you have bonds of love with the whole family so I don't have to worry about losing you if I get close. Can you give me a chance to make up for my horrible behavior towards you?"
I was still dwelling on the obsessive relationship part so everything else she said took a moment to sink in. "Of course Rosalie. I completely understand how you felt. I never knew you had an ability though."
"Oh yeah. I don't usually like to broadcast it though. Sometimes I think everyone forgets that I have it actually" she laughed. "That's how I found Emmett so quickly. Alice's visions led her to Jasper and my gift led me to Emmett. It's actually not common to find your true soulmate so quickly. Look at Carlisle and Esme. Carlisle is over 350 years old and Esme is almost 100 and neither of them have found theirs."
"But I thought they were together?"
"No that's just part of the act. They really do love each other but it's more familial love than romantic love. It's just that she can't pass for a high school student and we need a mother for the whole foster family image. She really is like our mother and more of a sister to Carlisle than a child so it works well." I could understand that, but it was still a shock. When I really thought about it though I couldn't see the same kind of love with Carlisle and Esme as I always did with the other two couples in the house. "So what about when one of them does find their soulmate? What happens with the act then?"
"We haven't really thought about it, but I can't see either of them leaving us so don't worry."
Alice came back into the room a few moments later and said "Well now that we're all friends it's time for a buck up Bella day!" I groaned. Alice and Rosalie each grabbed a hand and pulled me upstairs for makeovers and god knows what else.
I'm glad things went so well with Bella. I know Edward was blaming me. I could feel it no matter what he said to the contrary. I was afraid Bella would too. I know the rest of the family wants her around, especially Alice and I can't leave Alice. I was surprised at how forgiving and sincere she is. Granted, I haven't really spent much time with her because I was afraid of hurting her, but the sincerity she was projecting as she assured me that I wasn't at fault washed those fears away. When she told me she trusted me it meant so much. Alice was the only one who had ever trusted me so completely. I knew then that no matter what happened I would never be able to slip like that with her again. I felt so strongly about the sanctity of that kind of total trust that even my bloodlust couldn't take it over. She was finally truly family to me and that meant a lot.
I felt a little guilty about making Bella cry, but Jasper assured me that it wasn't all sad. She finally felt like she belonged and I understood that. She felt like she was only a part of the family for Edward not for herself, and maybe it did start out that way, but not anymore. She is an undeniably special person and we were all blessed to have her in our lives. I wish Edward understood that, but I'm glad that we at least can be here to help her through. I couldn't imagine what would have happened to her if we had all abandoned her. I realized when I heard the conversation between Bella and Jasper that she needed assurance that she still belonged here and the person it mattered most from was me as the head of this family. I'm glad I could give her that little bit of joy through her sadness. I need to plan something special for us to do this weekend as a family. To show her she belongs. Now I just needed to figure out what.
After a few hours playing Bella Barbie I finally went home. I started dinner for Charlie and sat down to think. It was amazing how well I was holding up. Sure I miss Edward, but I'm not alone. I have a whole new family that cares about me. Charlie coming home interrupted my musings. "Wow Bells. You're all dressed up!" I sighed. It was now or never. "Yeah Alice and Rosalie wanted to cheer me up because Edward and I broke up and he left town."
Charlie gaped at me. I couldn't tell what he was thinking. I don't even think he knew what he was thinking. Finally he asked, "He left alone? Without his parents or the rest of his family?"
"Yeah, he went to live with family in Alaska. He thought that staying here would be too difficult for me, but Carlisle didn't want to uproot the whole family so the rest of them stayed." Charlie nodded and looked at me like he was waiting for me to fall apart. "You ok?" He asked. "I will be."