Chapter 1: Almost Here

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My world was darkness.

It didn't matter how bright the sun was, or how many stars were in the night sky, my life remained dark. The world might hold beauty to some, but I saw none of it. I saw only her. Visions of her face filled my entire life.

My family is were living in Ithaca, New York. For the six years they followed various pursuits at school and college. I didn't know what they were, because I didn't live with them. Instead, I existed in my room. In the time we'd been in Ithaca I had only left this room once. Despite my promise when I left, that it would be like I had never existed, I couldn't cope anymore. After I left her, after I forced my family to leave her, I went back. I had gone from trying to get through weeks without her, to days, to minutes. Finally, it became a struggle to get through each second without her and that's when I did it. It took me eight months to get to that point, but once I reached it I couldn't resist. I snuck out of the window and ran. I ran across the country under the cover of night - like a man possessed.

I arrived in Forks early in the morning. I went straight to her house, ready to plead and beg for her to forgive me. That's when I saw them - kissing. I recognised the boy immediately. Jacob Black. He'd been the one who confronted her at the school prom, trying to get her to break up with me on the pretence of legends and superstitions he didn't believe. And now they were kissing in ways we had never been able to kiss. A part of me wanted to go straight over and rip him to pieces for even thinking about handling my girl like that. But she wasn't my girl anymore. Because I let her go. I had to remind myself that this was what I wanted. This was why I left her. I had a rare moment of clarity and realised I couldn't drag her back into my life. Not now. She was happy.

That was when I decided that I would set up a scholarship for her. Cover all of her fees, whatever college she decided to attend, as well as a more than reasonable allowance for food and rent. I had to make sure she had the opportunity for all of her dreams to come true. Maybe someday she would be able to forgive me for what I had done. Maybe she already had. Maybe she was happier now than she ever was with me. She certainly looked... content... wrapped around the boy the way she was.

I knew as soon as she received the scholarship money she would realise it was from me. She was always too observant. She would turn down the money, I was sure of it. In truth, the only reason I did it was to try to assuage my own guilt. I knew she was capable of handling everything herself. She was always so strong, so proud, so beautiful. I would just have to make sure there was no way she could refuse it. I would hunt down the information, find out which school she went to, and pay them direct if I needed to.

The return to Ithaca took three times longer than the trip to Forks. I returned to my family more despondent than ever. At least before my visit to Forks part of me had been able to hope that maybe someday, despite my intentions, I would go back to her and she would forgive me and we could be together once more. Now I knew that was not possible. She had moved on, exactly as I had wanted her to. Or thought I had.

I didn't expect sympathy from my family, which was good because I didn't get it. They all blamed me for taking her out of their lives. For the most part they ignored me as resolutely as I ignored them. Their thoughts would turn to me occasionally, especially Esme's, but for the most part I was a spectre, the shell of a brother they once had. No one outside the family even knew of my existence. Even my room was a reminder of how empty I had become, I hadn't unpacked a single box. Everything in them was too heavy laced with memories of her. Of Bella.

Even saying her name in my mind ripped my heart open wider, but at the same time it felt like a welcome caress, wrapping around my thoughts of her. The only personal object I held on me, at all times, was the picture I stole from her when I left. Everything else was under a floorboard in her bedroom in Forks, but I had kept this picture. It showed the two of us together during the days that followed her fateful birthday party. Her eyes stared at me, so soft and trusting even though she knew something was wrong. I couldn't bear to part with it. Over the years I had pulled it in and out of my pocket so many times it was creased and worn, but I kept it anyway. I couldn't look at it though, it broke my heart too much to try. That's why it was in and out of my pocket so often, I would pull it out desperate for a hit of Bella – like an addict – but then I realise that a photo would never be a big enough hit. It would only leave me wanting more. So I would fold it back up and put it away. It was useless though – my memory knew the photo back to front anyway and my mind taunted me with the image.

A strange knocking outside my door drew my attention. I recognised the sound immediately... hooves dragging along a wall. I knew what it meant - Alice had decided it was time to feed the freak again; before my control slipped and I went on a wild rampage, killing all the neighbours. No matter how many times I told Alice it wasn't going to happen she insisted on bringing me a meal at regular intervals. The door sprung open and she herded the deer into the room. I rolled my eyes at her and ignored the thumping heart of the beast, resuming my position - staring at the blank wall trying to forget how the swirls and inconsistencies created by the plaster and paint reminded me of different parts of Bella. The way that particular swirl there looked like the way she raised her eyebrow, or that one traced the exact shape of her upper lip.

"Edward, you have to feed," Alice said harshly. I never heard her cheerful, lilting voice anymore. That was reserved for the rest of my family. I only ever got angry Alice - ever since I forced her to leave Bella without saying good-bye.

I grunted at her.

She rolled her eyes back at me. The last time I had said a single word to any of my family was five years ago, when I told Carlisle what I wanted to do for Bella. He'd arranged the scholarship from there. And that was it. Since then I'd remained locked in my room, and saw no one except for these visit when Alice couldn't keep her nose out of my business. She didn't understand that I wanted the hunger. I needed the burn. I welcomed it. It allowed me a distraction from the empty feeling in my chest. The feeling that I would never be complete again even if I lived a million years. Which I wouldn't. Because I had already decided that the day I learned Bella has left this earth will be my last.

Alice waited for me to grab the deer. I didn't. I just turned my back even further away from her.

Alice let out a growl and captured the deer again, ripping a hole in its throat and throwing it, bleeding, onto me. Damn her. There was no way I could resist now that the hot blood was so close, and was spilling, wasting, on the floor. I pressed my lips into the bleeding wound on the dying animal and drained it. Then I threw the carcass into the corner. Alice could clear it up or it could lay there and rot. I didn't care either way.

"We're moving," Alice said, rounding on me before crouching in front of me. "It's time for us."

I moved my face so she wasn't in my line of sight. I realised I was being a petulant child but I didn't care. There was very little I cared about after almost six years of darkness. I saw in my peripheral vision that Alice was waiting, wanting me to say something, to ask questions - when, where, why. But I couldn't.

She sighed and continued, "We're moving to Fairfield, Connecticut." She paused, "You're being enrolled in high school, as a sophomore."

That got my attention. "Why?" My voice was croaky from disuse.

"Because Edward, you need to move on from this," she swept her hand around my room.

I grunted at her.

She raised her voice, angry Alice was back in force. "Do you really think Bella would want you doing this to yourself? To us?"

"Don't you dare use her name."

"Why not? It wasn't my choices that led to her being out of our life."

I hissed at her. "She never wanted that birthday party. If it hadn't been for that..."

"If it hadn't been for that... you would have found some other excuse." She was really mad now. "Don't you dare try to pin the blame on me, or Jasper for that matter. You knew what we were, she knew what we were. Nothing happened that night because we all love her, none of us wanted to see her hurt."

"Alice, it's because of what we are that I had to leave."

"No. It's just your pig-headedness that made you leave her."

"You expect me just to go back into a normal life. How can I?"

"I don't know," she said sadly. "But you have to try. Can't you hear how much this is affecting everyone?"

I shook my head. I had been tuning their thoughts out, focusing on the general buzz, allowing the words and voices to meld together into a cacophony in my mind.

"You are such a stubborn jackass!" Alice screamed at me. "You think you are the only one who has ever been in pain. You don't care how your actions affect everyone around you."

My voice dropped to a whisper, "I thought it was for the best Alice. I really did."

"Do you still?" She challenged.

"I... don't know."

"What the hell is that supposed to mean?"

"Well, I want to feel happy that she was able to move on. But I just miss her so much. I don't think you'll ever understand that. I mean - could you even imagine losing Jasper."

"You didn't lose Bella!" she snapped. "You sent her away."

"Just get the hell out of my room!" I screamed.

"No." She crossed her arms in front of her. "Not until you stop being such a jerk and agree to give life another try."

I shook my head. I was starting to lose patience with her. I felt my temper rise. "Alice, just get out. Please?" It wasn't a request.

"No! I listened to you last time you asked me to do something. I'm not doing it again. From now on you will listen to me. You will get your ass out of this room and go join your family."

"Alice..." I started to shout, taking a step closer. Then I stopped short. So did she. We both saw her vision as it ran through her mind.

I reached out and grabbed her, my reaction a split second faster than hers. I tossed her across the room and she smashed into the wall. Jasper came to investigate and seeing Alice on the ground launched into me and I reacted to his thoughts. We threw ourselves at each other violently, tearing and ripping chunks off each other. Primal rage pouring from me into him, all my sorrow over losing Bella finally being released, in the form of an attempt to tear my brother to pieces.

I dropped to the floor in shame. I couldn't believe how close I had come to attacking my family. The way Alice backed out of the room, she obviously couldn't either.

"I'm sorry," I whispered, disgusted in myself.

I broke. The realisation of how badly I had ruined everything hit me. I fell to the floor and started to sob, finally letting out six years of pent up emotions. I pounded my fists into the floor, the house shaking under the battering I was giving it. I felt hands gently rubbing my back, I looked up, expecting to see Alice again. But it was Rosalie. She sat on the floor next to me, inviting me into her arms. I crawled into her, laying my head in her lap and allowing her to offer what comfort she could, knowing the whole while it was another set of arms that I wanted. Wanted and could never have again. I sobbed tearlessly into Rosalie's lap and she stroked my hair gently.

"I know this is hard, Edward, but it's not going to get any easier by wallowing. Alice is right; Bella wouldn't have wanted you to do this to yourself."

I continued to sob, clawing at my face to bring me some pain, something to detract from the hole in my chest, that gaping precipice where my heart used to be.

"I think your choice was very brave," she whispered so quietly I almost thought I was hearing things, except her mind echoed the same thoughts.

"You never liked her," I accused, keeping my voice low and trying to keep my anger in check.

"That's not true, and you know it," she said gently. "I was jealous of her, at first." She chuckled softly, "Actually, I still am. But only because she could have the life I never did. Marriage, family, happiness. That's why I think you made a brave choice, giving up your own happiness to give her that opportunity."

I just mumbled wordlessly into her clothes.

"I know, Edward. And going back to school won't be easy, but I know everyone would appreciate any effort you can give."

She sat with me for hours, gently rubbing my back and hair until my chest finally stopped heaving as the sobs ebbed and finally stopped.

I was surprised that she had sat with me for so long. Who knew Rosalie could be quite so caring.

I didn't speak to Alice again, or more to the point – she didn't talk to me, during the month it took for us to pack our belongings and move to Fairfield. I still had no idea why we were moving to Fairfield. I didn't bother questioning anyone's motives. I just tried to be present for my family. They seemed to understand that was the most they could ask of me. No one expected me to smile, or make small talk.

After the move, Rosalie had helped me unpack all my things into my new room. It was still painful to have the constant reminders of Bella but in a way it was soothing as well. I hunted regularly again, no more take out for me. I think Esme appreciated that more than anyone, I was sure she was sick of the mess that the deer naturally brought into the house. Not to mention the holes in the walls when they struggled too much against Alice.

Against my better judgement, it was finally time for me to start back at high school. I pulled up in the parking lot driving my new Volvo. The drive to the school actually scared me when I realised halfway to school that it was a new car. I wondered who had traded my old one in and why. I didn't see what the point was – one car was much the same as another. They were all just material possessions that meant nothing to me. Then again, nothing meant anything to me.

I drove by myself. Partly because I didn't want to listen to the thoughts of my siblings, but mostly so I could leave if it all became too much for me to handle. I contemplated leaving straight away. They could say I ran away, or transferred schools, whatever - it didn't really matter. All I knew was I wanted nothing more than to just crawl back into my bedroom. I clutched the steering wheel so tightly indents started to form in the leather. I pressed my head into the gap between my hands and let loose a guttural snarl. I put my fingers on the keys which were still in the ignition. Yes, going home sounded like the best idea.

A rap on the window made me jump. Before Bella it would have been almost impossible to sneak up on me but now I was so unfocused, so lost, it wasn't difficult at all. Alice stood at the window with a warning glare on her face.

If you move this car one inch from this spot, so help me. Now get out of the car and into that school.

I glanced in my rear-view mirror. Jasper and Emmett were each stationed along my back bumper, ready to stop the car if I tried to run. I scowled at Alice and pulled the keys from the ignition. I reached over and grabbed my bag from the passenger seat, slinging it onto my back as soon as I was out of the car. I didn't spare a backwards glance as I locked the car and walked into the school.

Good choice.

Even though I had my back to her I rolled my eyes at Alice. For someone so small, she was definitely annoying. Or maybe infuriating was a better word. Why couldn't she understand that I just wanted to be left alone for the next however many years Bella was alive and then die. That's all I could ask from life now. I honestly couldn't comprehend how we could have ever been close when she just didn't understand that fundamentals of who I was or what I needed.

However, instead of my peaceful room, where I could wallow and walk the fine line between not thinking about Bella and trying not to care about anything, I had to come to a godforsaken institution and start high school again. As a sophomore, no less. Which meant three years here. Three years with Alice. I walked into the office and a lady sitting behind the desk smiled politely at me. I couldn't even say what she looked like. All I saw was Bella, but I knew she wasn't Bella and that fact pissed me off.

I didn't mean to scowl at her, but my face refused to form any other expressions.

"Can I help you?" she asked politely, but there was a weary undercurrent to her tone. I could tell she thought I was a trouble maker.

"Cullen," I said to her.

"Oh, right, the new students." She looked behind me confused. "But where are your brothers and sisters, weren't they starting today as well?"

"They'll be here in a minute." I held out my hand expectantly for my timetable and maps. She furrowed her eyes a little before handing them over. I swept out of the office just as everyone else arrived, although Alice may have had a bit to do with the timing.

Way to make a good first impression, she mentally castigated me.

I ignored her and walked to my first class. Physics. Once I had found out I was coming here I had point blank refused to do biology, but god this room, with its generic long black lab benches, looked like the biology room from Forks. I nearly broke down sobbing at the thought, of what had occurred in that biology room so many years ago. But somehow I managed to stay upright and claimed the one table that was free. Today was going to be a major pain. The worst part was the thoughts of the insignificant high school girls around me. Each one's brain filled with ridiculous fantasies about me. It was all I could do to not shout at them and tell them exactly where those fantasies would lead. But a small part of my brain, the sick masochistic part, took those fantasies and replaced every girl with Bella. The sight was enough to send me over the edge and it broke my heart all over again. I knew she was the only one I ever wanted to do those things with and now she was gone. Because of me.

I shared one class with Alice, I was already in the room when she entered. She selected a seat on the far side of the room. If that was the way she wanted it to be that was fine by me.

The worst part about school, about the whole living in the real world thing, was that every class I went to reminded me of Bella. The last time I was in a high school classroom she was sitting by my side.

How was I supposed to do it? How was I supposed to endure three years of this?

All I knew was they would be three years of hell and then I'd have to do it all over again somewhere new.

As soon as I arrived home I ran with no destination in mind. I hadn't gone far before I realised even running had lost its exhilaration. Bella had been involved so completely in my life there was nothing I could do that wouldn't remind me of her. I turned and ran for home, sprinting straight up to my room. I knew my siblings would remove me by force if necessary in the morning but for now, for the next 8 or so hours, I could stare at the wall and not think about Bella.