A/N: Sorry for the update delay. There will be two more chapters after this.
Bella at 15
"Please welcome your valedictorian, Miss Isabella Swan." Bella graced the stage set outside, among the green grass and ever growing sycamores. There was a small chorus of applause, as the audience was a small one. Bella settled her index cards upon the podium, clearing her throat before beginning her speech.
"If there is one thing I know, there is a life that we do not know of yet. Our greatest discoveries and trials have yet to come about. Nothing will challenge us more than the lives we have yet to lead. While we have the fundamental tools to start our lives, it is but our forthcoming lessons that will pave who we are."
At the close of her sweeping end note, Bella smiled out to the gathering. She made eye contact with her mother and father, both clapping and smiling for their gifted daughter.
Bella had wished that the Creature would show face. She held onto hope that he would attend such an occasion. An important occurrence in her life that would touch her for always. But he did not appear at her graduation.
She did search begrudgingly for Annabelle. Her embodiment had slowly started appearing again in her life, but in a far less frightening manner. She stood on the outskirts of her mind, longing to be back in Bella's good graces. Alas, Annabelle was nowhere in sight on this day.
Once the commencement concluded, Bella met up with her mother and father.
"Congratulations, Bells." Charlie encircled his arms around his daughter. Midway through, his hacking cough had started up again. It had been plaguing him for weeks. There was no identifying source, for Charlie had not smoked a cigarette in his life nor had he been cursed with any discernible breathing ailment.
"Thank you, Father. I couldn't be more delighted than to be through with high school." Bella glanced at her parents.
Renee congratulated her daughter next, kissing her on the cheek. "Dear, it was a lovely speech."
Many universities wanted the gifted, advanced Bella to study at their schools. To have a prodigy was an honor and read well by society and the media. But she had not planned to attend university in the fall, opting to choose a place of her liking later on.
Annabelle however, had an entirely different view.
"Why must you stay? There is nothing keeping you here."
"Have you no feelings, Annabelle? My family is here. Have you no concept of that?"
"Yes, I am well aware of such a thing. But, nothing will happen if you go away. If you sit and stew here, you will have to deal with so much more." Annabelle ran her fingers along the edge of Bella's desk. "Out of sight out of mind, no pun intended there."
Bella sat on the edge of her bed, twisting the cotton around her fingers. "What of the Creature? There is nothing in the world that can unbind me from him."
"He is but condemned to that forest. Do you desire to be condemned too?"
"But I have doubts about that." She had her suspicions concerning the Creature and how he lived. She had known that he was the one to have rescued her from the alley two years ago. On another note, how was he able to bring her treats in the morning or pick fresh flowers that she knew were not flourishing in any part of the forest.
He had to have journeyed beyond the vast nature for any of these items.
After learning that she would be receiving the honor of valedictorian, she had worked on her speech. She went as far as printing it in Braille in the event he did show up, her sight surely would've blurred if he had come.
"The Creature is nothing if not honest with you. Why would he lie to you about something so big?"
"How do I know I can trust you? You have been nothing but this imaginary figment to me my whole life." Annabelle stood up, walking to her beloved warbler in its cage. Bella had never known what Annabelle was to her. What was she and was she the right person to adhere any kind of advice from?
"You think of me as only a fake image in your mind? Isabella, I am offended. I thought of you as a friend all these years."
Bella removed the bird from its cage, allowing it to sit on her index finger. The bird chirped, Bella responded in a similar fashion.
The air between them needed time to dissipate. Bella wanted nothing more than to tame Annabelle. Her loyalty to the strangest of suggestions was what scared her. She feared that if Annabelle told her to leap from the nearest bridge, Bella would have no choice but to do so.
"My mind is set. I do not plan on leaving here. You will not make me go." Bella petted the warbler, eying Annabelle and her fading figure.
"I am disappointed, Isabella. So very disappointed."
The summer was one of the best Bella could ever dream of. The weather was more than cooperative with the sun shining more than half of the days of the three months that made up the summertime.
Bella found it freeing to do as she pleased, with no agenda in sight. She was being selfish and liked every bit of it. She spent her days researching new technologies related to bird watching; sonar devices and binoculars with powerful optimization. She memorized thousands of species and sub-species of birds, even memorizing more bird calls.
The one thing she truly enjoyed were the flying trips with the Creature. He would take her to unseen territories of the forest, showing her the various species she had researched that very day.
He would drop her off a certain distance, before she took a closer look. "Why do you always stand so far away from the animals?"
"On the contrary, they stand far away from me." The Creature leaned against a sycamore, watching Bella interact with the bird.
"Are you not friendly to them? You are aware of the saying 'treat someone as you want to be treated.'" Bella smoothed the feathers of the bird standing on her fingers.
The Creature smiled. "That is the very problem. It is against my nature to treat them nicely."
"But what about me?" She contemplated her next words. "Are you treating me nicely for any particular reason?"
The Creature remained unwavering in his declaration. He was always precise and careful with every word he said. "I am unable to treat you horribly. It's ingrained in me to be alluring and take care of you."
Bella lifted her hand to the air, letting the bird flutter away. She blindly walked toward the Creature, unfamiliar with her new setting. The Creature kept his spot, watching with piqued interest as Bella circled the tree he was leaning against.
She ran her hand along the rough bark, the jagged bumps scratching under her nails. The texture under her hand changed, when she came upon the Creatures clothed back. Bella trailed her fingers on his bare forearms, the sinewy muscles flexed under her touch. He was cold, colder than any form of ice.
She tilted her head to, gazing up at the golden beacons, his eyes. Only they were not of the friendly color she longed to look into without any blurry hindrance. They were coal, black as night and dark as a tunnel.
"Are you sick, Creature?" Bella slowly lifted her palm to the Creatures face. "Your eyes are of a dark I have not seen before."
The Creature stepped back, giving him a healthy distance. "I think its time for you to go home."
Bella knew him all too well. "I am allowed to stay out late. It is the summer. In addition, I don't have schooling anymore."
"I am not meant to talk to you about my illness just yet. If I do so now, I will not be able to control it."
Enough with the timing, Bella wanted to shout at him. She wanted to find all the clocks in the world and beat them into submission. "I care not to hear about the concept of time ever again. What good is time if all we do is sit around and wait for it? Surely your illness is not a life-threatening or infectious one."
The Creature did not answer right away, careful with his words yet again. "You can not simply catch what I have, but it can be given."
"What is the difference between the two?"
The Creature could not take much more from her. "Please, Isabella. Do not tempt me today."
Bella would get her answers. One way or another, she wouldn't give up. And if time was something the Creature wanted to play with, then she will do some playing of it herself.
"Creature, I can not be patient any longer. I will be around here for the next year and then I will be gone. I'm afraid I have to give you a deadline."
He chuckled, but it was not of a humorous nature. "Deadline? You are giving me a deadline?"
Bella straightened herself up, portraying the solidification of her statement. "Yes. I am."
The Creature stalked toward her, his nostrils flaring. "Isabella, you do not understand what you are making me do when you give me a deadline." He was close to spitting the words at her, wrapping her in a reality she wanted but was unable to achieve.
"Why do your own personal preferences come before my own? I give so much to you. I have shown you I am yours. There is no way for me to escape; it's instilled in my bones. I have a feeling that even if I was to trade marrow with someone, the very being of you would still be there."
"Of course it would, so why are you pushing the time issue? Can't we enjoy what we have before…?" He began, but did not finish.
"Before what?" Bella had caught on that the Creature made a slip.
"Before…all of this is…" The Creature could not finish. He was drawing a line for himself. No more shall be revealed.
"And you ramble on about tempting. You're the very one dangling it in front of me, and I can't even see it." Bella stomped away from the Creature.
The Creature stood in front of Bella. Her back pressed against a foreign tree, his hands pressed on the wood on either side of her head. He closed his eyes, willing her to stay and not wander. His wants were answered, as he removed the cage he created for her.
"My eyes shift color depending on the intensity of my illness. When I am healthy, they are golden. However, there are times when I am very sick and they are the color you see now. I haven't reached this level of illness in so long, but when I am close to destruction, my eyes become red. And Isabella, you do not want to see me red."
The Creature tucked wayward strands of hair behind her shoulder. "I would never be around you when I'm red. It is infectious at that stage."
Bella breathed a sigh of relief. She dared not to stare him in the eyes; the realization at the possibility that she bit off more than she could chew swallowing her. "There. Was that so hard?"
The Creature found it quite the opposite. "Easier than I thought." His finger caressed Bella's jaw, the warmth, the inviting scent of her permeating his nostrils. "Relieving in many ways."
Our fair Bella Swan ventured with her mother on several excursions to town, bonding in ways mothers and daughters do.
"What do you think of these?" Renee dangled a pair of blue homemade earrings she spotted at a craft fair.
"I think the pink ones are lovelier."
Renee and Bella both made purchases, before walking along the endless stretch of booths.
"Bella, I would like to talk to you about your future." Renee had never found a comfortable way to discuss this topic with her daughter. She discovered that when her daughter was distracted, she was the most honest.
"What about it?" Bella tried on a pair of summery sunglasses, tilting her head and testing the sun on them.
"Well, specifically your reason for staying around. I do love it, believe me, but you are capable of things beyond this town." Renee fiddled with a wide-brimmed sun hat. "I don't want to see your future go to waste."
Bella placed the glasses back in their designated spot. "I understand, mother." She did not know what to say to her. She could not share her secret meetings with the Creature; in fact she found that her mind blocked her from even thinking of any aspect of him, when her secret forest life entered her real one. Annabelle was the exception to this rule; she was always the exception.
"It's so hard to watch you sit around and throw your life away. I don't--"
Bella had reached the point where she had grown tired of others constantly directing her life. "I am not wasting my life, mother. Fifteen is but a young age. How could I throw my life away at such a young age, when I still have many years to go?"
"I have been very worried about you for a while. The constant time in your room, the trips to the forest. I hear you talking at night sometimes, but I know there is no one in your room."
Bella had a full plate of questions that needed answering. Where to begin? "I am studying and reading in my room. There are times I repeat things out loud when I have a hard time understanding a topic. As for my trips to the forest, I like having alone time, where no one can bother me about their worries over being cooped up in my room all day."
"Don't get fresh with me. I'm your mother, I need to worry."
"Be nice to her." Bella found Annabelle hovering just behind Renee. "You never know when she will not be around anymore, whether across the country or in another place."
Bella decided to ignore Annabelle's advice, and appease her mother instead. "Fine, I will look into a few schools for the fall."
As she searched for a place to attend for university, she continued to enjoy her daily activities.
While she still made her daily trips to the forest, Bella still had her trepidations with the Creature. The tension between the two of them would've easily been sliced by a knife. It was an intense sensation which she could not explain nor want to. Ignorance was rather blissful.
She could only describe it as internal fibers weaving themselves together inside of her brain. They were emotions of highs and lows. Many of them she had not known to have possessed.
They were a chemical mixture of complex feelings for the Creature. How he made her angry and frustrated. How she could not help but be joyous and feel love for him despite it all. She knew all this to have been around for quite some time, but it was making itself more aware.
Part of this awakening was Annabelle's fault.
Annabelle told her of grand love stories that she had experienced in her time.
"There once was a girl." She began. "She kept to herself, only made a select amount of friends. She had two sisters, both of which were older and already married off. This left her both saddened and eager to find a love of her own."
"One day, she went out shopping with her mother and father. She was never a firm believer of love at first sight. How silly that a person could automatically know they would love another. It was preposterous to her. The idea near disgusted her."
"Then, she saw him. She couldn't put her finger on it, but there was a charm about him. She stared at him, willed him to look at her. And across the way, standing near a fruit stand, he met her eyes. They stayed like that, staring into each others. The world went on and they never wanted to leave. Never wanted to look at anything else again."
"Finally, the boy walked toward the girl. She took in the rest of him and loving everything about him before he even spoke a word. He carried himself with confidence. She knew that he would be the kind to make her laugh, encourage her in endeavors, and take care of her for always."
"Just as he reached her, both the boy and girl were pulled away by their parents. The girl and the boy did not if they would see each other again. It would have been the utmost horrible thing in their lives if they didn't."
"School would soon begin and a mere three weeks later, the girl and boy did end up seeing each other again. She recognized the pageboy hat, the slightly tattered jacket he wore. She almost ran into him full force, throwing her entire weight on him."
"They finally exchanged contacts and never left each others side. They were peas in a pod and each others best friend. They walked the streets together, talking for hours on end, arm in arm. They exchanged letters and small tokens of love. They could not foresee themselves with another; there was no other ending in sight to their love story but one of joy."
Annabelle inhaled deeply, gathering her strength to continue with the tale.
"After almost a year together, the boy proposed marriage to the girl. She was so happy, joyous to be alive and in love. She could not believe that she had a boy in her life that loved her so dearly. She skipped the whole way home to tell the news to her family."
"While the families did not wholeheartedly approve of this courtship, due to their young age, the couple felt no need to wait."
"On April twenty eighth they were due to be married. They had no desire to plan anything big; their love said it all for them. Even their rings were not of extravagance."
"Two nights before the wedding, the young couple spent their last night together before being separated until the big day. It was rather dark outside as the boy escorted the girl home. The boy and girl heard strange noises as they continued their journey home."
"Suddenly, a pale figure appeared a few feet in front of them. This thing was extremely pale, whiter than any human being. The boy placed the girl behind him, ready to defend her. It came closer and attempted to pull the girl away from the boy."
"The boy managed to free her. He told her to run. Run home." Annabelle choked up at her own words. "She ran, not looking back at the scene going on behind her."
"The girl waited to hear from the boy, hoping for his safe return. She waited days, but nothing. She went to hospitals in search of him, went to his parents home. She looked everywhere. On the fourth day, she came home and broke down. She cried herself to sleep for hours. She would not eat anything. She had no will to take care of her body or health."
"The boy's family held a memorial, as there was no body recovered. The girl was inconsolable as mourners offered their condolences. She wept for many moons after, refusing any help from her family. She had only wished there was a comfort in knowing the truth."
"Some years later, the girl had not found another. She went on with schooling and had many suitors vie for her attention. But her heart belonged to the boy for always. She made a promise to herself that she would never lay her sight on another boy ever again, for as long as she lived."
Tears filled Bella's eyes at the most heart-wrenching of stories. Oh how she had hoped for a happy ending! There must be a happily ever after for the girl.
"What happened to the girl?" Bella could not keep her voice steady.
"Her heart remained broken until she passed on. She lived not passed the age of thirty, dying of illness that could've easily been cured but it did not come in time."
Bella's lip trembled with sorrow and sadness for the girl who never received her happy ending. Bella could only hope that this would not become her.
"The Creature and you are most certainly a unique love story." Annabelle sat on the edge of Bella's bed, who lay on her stomach, completely enraptured with Annabelle's words. "It is one that spans time and all imaginations. People will enjoy the incredible journey you two will continue to go on."
"How far do you see us lasting?" Bella was wide-eyed and hopeful. Oh let it last, it must!
"Your story…" Annabelle gathered her words. "…will go on forever."
And so, Annabelle and Bella became inseparable even more so. Bella relied on Annabelle and her optimism. Happiness was very addicting, as Bella's nights were filled with stories and lessons spoken to her by Annabelle.
Even though Bella saw Annabelle all the time, she wondered why her imaginary confidante was so attached to her. She had thought it obvious early on in the summer that Annabelle was furious with her for staying behind. That she was desperate and close to cutting ties.
She could not help but feel emotionally whiplashed. The staggering highs she had with Annabelle were on the same level as the scary lows she had experienced. There was one thing for sure about Annabelle: she had an addicting personality. The kind that could devour you and take over your body.
Something had changed Annabelle's tune and it was not a realization on her part. She was as stubborn as they came and never a supporter of grey areas. Bella kept a suspicious eye out for Annabelle, waiting on the next straw that would break the camel's back.