There was silence in the room as we all processed what he had said. Laurent squeezed my hand reassuringly, but it wasn't comforting enough. It felt as if I was being flooded with rage.
"Jasper," whispered Alice. "Calm down, you're getting all of us."
Jasper stood up and glared at Edward. "So, let me get this absolutely right. Because you are sad and lonely, and I'm going to be honest here, just a little bit pathetic, you decide to go off and become a mercenary? You never even came to us and asked us for help, Edward. This lone wolf business is ridiculous! You are, quite possibly, one of the most selfish beings I've ever met!"
My mouth fell open. I had never, ever seen Jasper react so harshly. When I looked at Alice, I could understand why. She seemed so sad. She and Edward had always been close. From what I had gathered, joining the Volturi was like joining a family. To join his new family, Edward had to leave his old one. Alice yanked on Jasper's hand and he sat back down, seemingly drained.
Edward's eyes were trained on the ground. "It seems to me that you were in no position to help. None of you know loneliness as I do."
"What did you say?" I sputtered. "Do you have no recollection of that time you just decided to up and leave me? Not only you, Edward, but the entire family. For months I was a zombie. I didn't eat, I didn't sleep. I lost everyone because of you. Don't you dare tell me I don't know loneliness." I felt Laurent tense up beside me.
Edward nodded, but kept silent. The room fell still once again. Even Louis, who under normal circumstances was the king of filling a silence, didn't speak.
"Excuse me, but I don't know this Volturi. Louis doesn't like to tell me about the bad things in the world. What is Volturi?" asked Angelique, her accent heavy.
Edward spoke before any of us could answer. "For centuries the vampires have remained, for the most part, incognito. This is because of the work of the Volturi. They keep the vampire kind alive and well. They do this by shutting down any possible threats to our peaceful existence. Without them, the world would be chaos."
"This does not sound bad. This sounds noble!" exclaimed Angelique.
Rosalie laughed. "Oh Edward, thank you for protecting vampire-kind!"
Edward growled and left the room. Angelique glared at Rosalie and followed him.
"Rosalie," sighed Esme.
Emmett defended her. "What? He's clearly being a grade-A asshole here. Not to mention, he's gotten pretty whiny these days. Honestly, I think he'll be back."
"What an exciting thing that has happened here! Whether you think it is good or bad, this kind of event is what keeps life spicy!" exclaimed Louis. "And your Edward will be fine, I promise you."
"Well, I think I've had just a bit too much spice for right now. If you'll excuse me," said Laurent. He left the room.
Alice grimaced. "Uh, Bella? I think you're probably going to have to go talk to Laurent."
"Uh-oh, what is it?" I asked.
She shook her head, and I took that as my sign to go find him. He was sitting outside, on a bench near the pond we had in front. His back was towards me.
"Laurent, are you okay?" I asked. I knew the answer.
He stood up, but didn't face me. His hand went to his forehead. "Bella, I've done a terrible thing here."
"What, in the pond? I swear, Laurent, if there's a body in there I wi-"
"Not in the pond!" He turned to face me. "I've completely ruined the Cullen family. Do you understand that? Things were alright before I came in and destroyed it!"
I shook my head fiercely. "No! Do not even start with that! I have had enough of people and their self-loathing today, thank you very much!"
"I am not self-loathing!" he exclaimed indignantly. "I just see clearly now the consequences of my actions. I've ruined everything for that family."
I walked towards Laurent. He was shaking. I put my hand in his. "If you recall, when you found me in that meadow I was an absolute mess. Victoria was after me, my heart was broken, and I had lost an entire future. You saved me, Laurent, do you understand?"
He put his forehead against mine. "Je comprends, ma belle," he whispered.
"Good. Now we're going to go inside. I promise you that you did not ruin the Cullen family. They are stronger than you can imagine. This may hurt them, but it will not ruin them."
Once we were inside, the air seemed less tense. Carlisle and Esme sat on the couch, discussing whether or not they wanted to go off on their own for a few days.
"You are truly beautiful, do you know this?" asked Louis. He was talking to Rosalie. "If I could have you for myself, I would not mind!"
"Hey, hey, hey, woah!" exclaimed Emmett. "No, nope, not in a million years, no." He pulled Rosalie out onto the balcony, where he was in the middle of a chess match with Eleazar.
"He was just being nice!" she laughed.
"Did I say something inappropriate?" asked Louis, genuinely perplexed. Angelique entered the room a moment later, but there was no sign of Edward.
Laurent laughed. "Well, Rosalie is married to Emmett, and that means that he doesn't want her to… date other men."
Angelique and Alice gasped at the same time.
"Yay!" exclaimed Alice.
"Mon, cochon, I want a wedding!" exclaimed Angelique.
"You mean you finally want to be my queen?" asked Louis. "That would be magnifique! I will have to tell some people in the government first, so it may be a little while. But that is just a formality! You know how stuffy they get there about my affairs. I'm still in charge of the country, you know! But that stuff is dreadfully boring."
"Well planning a wedding, especially a royal wedding, takes a long time, so you can do all that business! We'll take care of the rest!" exclaimed Alice. She had only met Angelique a few times, but planning a wedding was one of her very favorite things.
"Yes," smiled Angelique. "I am ready to marry you, my love. I do not care about that government stuff, I only care about you."
Later, after Louis and Angelique left, all of us sat in the living room and talked. The subject did, eventually, circle back around to Edward.
"Carlisle, how could you let this happen?" asked Jasper. He sounded upset, but he kept his emotions in check.
"You know that I would never stop any of you from doing what you want to. I tried to dissuade him, but he seemed set on going," Carlisle explained.
"Well, can we see how things are going to shape up for him, at least?" asked Emmett.
"Sure thing!" exclaimed Alice. She paused for a minute, and we all sat in anticipation. After another minute, she frowned. "I can't get anything on him, actually."
"Interesting," murmured Carlisle. But that was the end of it. We all felt a little tense talking about Edward, and their visit was supposed to be a happy one.
We spent the rest of the night talking about every happy and exciting thing we could think of. But there was one question still buzzing around in the back of my mind. Why couldn't Alice see Edward?