October 19, 1919
I capped my pen and looked over the flawless writing on the pages in front of me. Not a single smudge or error anywhere. I smiled. Being a vampire certainly came with its advantages.
It had been an entire year since I awoke as a newborn in Chicago. Despite being frozen in time and unable to physically change, so much had changed around me in that short period of time. For one, we were no longer living in Chicago. Ashland, Wisconsin was home now and I would be graduating with honors, much earlier than expected, from a correspondence class offered by the local high school. They were astounded with how quickly I returned my assignments, but with so little to do and so much time to waste, I breezed through each task. Carlisle cautioned me not to go too quickly, or at least not to appear to go too quickly. He encouraged me to stay several assignments ahead and only send in one or two assignments at a time.
I did so, but I easily finished everything I was given and then ended up with nothing to do. It was frustrating. Carlisle had begun giving me more complicated tasks from the medical textbooks that lined our bookshelves in order to keep me occupied. I found that these pursuits kept me more satisfied for longer periods of time.
With an end in sight to my high school career, Carlisle had begun bringing home applications for correspondence colleges so that I might begin my advanced schooling as soon as I was ready. We'd had a heated argument the first evening he'd brought these pamphlets home.
"Correspondence school again?" I asked when he handed me the pamphlets. "I thought I would be ready for university next fall."
"I thought you might do your first year in this fashion and then go on to attend classes in your sophomore year."
"I'm ready now," I said stubbornly. "At least while taking classes, I'd have something to fill up the empty days."
He looked down, regretting having to leave me alone for so long every day.
"It's not that, Carlisle," I said, my voice harsh. "I'm not angry with you for going to work. If anything, I'm jealous of the connections you get to make. I want other interactions besides with you!"
We'd gone hunting that night, each of us taking our fill of the deer in the area and completely ignoring the hanging question in the air. He carefully avoided thinking about the hurt my words had caused him and I tactfully avoided bringing it up again. Because of that, we never resolved it. And so the correspondence pamphlets sat untouched alongside my school work until this morning when Carlisle brought the mail in.
You're still serious about this, he said reproachfully in his mind.
I had seen the first of the admissions envelopes in his mind as he approached the house so I wasn't surprised with his greeting.
"I thought I made it fairly clear to you that I felt ready for this, Carlisle," I said, trying to remain calm and rational without losing my temper. It was getting easier.
"You've barely been around humans, Edward," he said, rubbing his brow. "You think you're just going to show up at Northland on your first day and be fine. You need to prepare for this."
"I tried that!" I burst out. "The last time I tried to prepare myself, you pulled me back to the house even though I was in control and then wouldn't speak of trying again."
He thought back on our time in Chicago when we had run across Mr. Freedman in the forest. He thought of my eyes and the fear he had felt. He never truly accepted the fact that I was in control and I don't blame him. I looked horrific that night. But I never felt in danger of running toward the scent and attacking. There had always been excuses after that and we had never gone back close to the city.
You're right, he thought after a time. I've been unfair.
I nodded stiffly and turned away from him.
"I need you to trust that I'm ready for this. Of course I understand that I'm still a newborn, but I feel in control of myself and I'm ready to test that control."
"Technically…you're not a newborn anymore," he said and I could hear the smile in his tone. "It's been a year, Edward. Technically, you are no longer a newborn."
"There are time limits to these definitions?" I asked wryly, turning around.
Of course you've noticed your eyes, he thought.
"They are only slightly darker than yours now."
"And they might always be. My eyes were blue as a human," he said. "Perhaps your eyes will always be a shade darker than mine. It's not because of your human blood any longer."
"So I'll always be faster than you then," I said, making him chuckle harder.
"Yes, it appears so."
"So…you're willing to give it a go then?" I asked quietly.
Yes, he thought. I need to work tonight again so you'll need to go hunting by yourself in order to prepare.
His eyes watched mine carefully, looking for signs that I wasn't comfortable with his suggestion. I smiled in response.
"I think that will be fine," I said. "It's likely too cold now at night for hunters to be out. And I would like to go in search of the mountain lions we saw last week."
He did not smile, only nodded and turned around.
You'll be careful all the same, he thought.
"Of course," I replied.
You…know what to do if you have an accident?
"Carlisle, I wouldn't…"
"But you could," he said, turning around to face me again. "You need to be prepared for that to happen."
I could see in his mind what he was worried about. Locals out for a night hunt encountering me as I took down an elk or mountain lion. I'd likely have no control over my bloodlust at that point nor would I have much choice. They would have seen me for what I was.
"If you were to slip and kill a human, it would be even more important for you to hide your kill than it is when we hunt animals. And we would likely need to leave."
"That isn't going to happen, Carlisle."
All the same, you need to consider, Edward, he insisted. "I do…everyday."
"Still?" I asked.
"Of course," he said. "We are what we are, son. If one of them were to come upon me as I hunted, I doubt that I could stop myself. We are, after all, designed for the hunt. Once in that mode, it is nearly impossible to shift gears."
I simply nodded, unsure what I could say to dispel his fears and truly unsure that I should. He made very valid points. And if he was prepared, naturally, I should be doubly so.
As I entered the woods, I noticed the night noises die down. All around, the animals recognized the scent of a predator and became hushed and fearful. I could smell the fear rolling off of the smaller animals, but this was not the scent I was hunting. Tonight, I was in search of bigger game.
We had seen one of the large cats the last time we were out in these woods and this was the predator I was in search of. I stayed my thirst until I could pick up on the rich smell of the meat-eater's blood. It didn't take long.
I found her lapping water by the edge of the river. Her pink tongue dipped and disappeared beneath the water as she paused for a drink. When I leapt out of the tree and onto the ground behind her, her body froze and her eyes scanned the bank for the source of the strange smell. Her strange golden eyes, so much like my own, rested on me and she turned to face me, lifting her head in a question. She likely didn't understand what I was and why she could not smell my fear.
I approached her slowly, the smell of her blood intoxicating me as I got closer to her. She crouched defensively, growling and baring her teeth. The growl forming in my chest was just as instinctive and I crouched offensively, knowing I held the upper hand.
She lunged first, but I caught her significant weight in my arms. Her claws screeched against the skin of my neck, making her growl again in frustration. I threw her off of me and leapt toward her where she lay. She had barely flipped herself off of her back before I was on top of her. Now I smelled the fear … it was so foreign coming from such a perfectly designed predator. She swiped at my face and lunged for my neck with her dagger-like teeth. I growled at her as I snapped her neck back, paralyzing her, and then sunk my teeth in for the kill.
She was beautiful, even in death. I found that since I had developed some measure of control in my hunting, I was able to appreciate some of the larger prey that we went after. It was always different hunting the predators and I found that I had more respect for them than I did the gentler animals, perhaps because I sensed a kinship with them.
When I'd finished and had buried her beneath a stand of rocks by the edge of the river, I stood up to take stock. I'd managed to walk away from the scuffle without so much as a rip or tear. None of her blood had escaped to dirty my clothes. I looked…normal. It pleased me that I could walk away from the hunt this way, satisfied and undamaged. I had certainly progressed a long way from that first coyote kill.
I ran through the forest, enjoying the way the moonlight played through the trees and dappled the ground in front of me. I slowed, intent on savoring my first night out without supervision. Smirking, I thought of my human life and how many differences there were between that life and my existence now. Mother hadn't been overly protective, but there hadn't been much reason for me to journey out at night without either of my parents. I hadn't thought to fight against the restrictions, knowing that most of my friends had the same rules as I did. Now, I felt almost entitled to be able to be out on my own.
It was nearing dawn and I was caught up in hazy memories of my family, trying to grasp as many as I still could, when I first caught a whiff of human scent in the air. Almost immediately following, I caught thoughts drifting in and out of my range. The scent seemed fresh, immediately putting me on alert. I stopped breathing and was aware of the intense handicap that placed upon me. Without scent, I wasn't instantly attracted to the blood, but I also lost my most powerful ability to tell where the human was located. Weighing the options, I decided that not breathing was going to be far more beneficial to the human who was wandering through these woods. It was uncomfortable, walking through the woods and holding my breath for so long; it felt unnatural and though my lungs weren't in need, I felt the strain of holding my breath.
From the scent I had inhaled, I gathered that there was a lone human out in the woods, most likely a hunter. I immediately began concentrating my gift toward the direction I had smelled the blood, hoping I would catch the person's thoughts and be better prepared if they were getting closer to me. I was surprised to hear the thoughts of a young woman, and wondered what could bring her so far out into the woods so early in the morning.
Daddy'll tan my hide if he finds out I've snuck away, she thought.
I furrowed my brow as the girl thought of a burly man, muscled from years of farm work, approaching her with a raised arm and a leather belt. The girl was frightened, but more than that, she was angry. She'd decided that she had spent her last night at the farm filling in for her dead mother and she was ready to leave. Only … now she was lost in the woods. With a vampire, no less, my subconscious added.
I couldn't help but dwell on thoughts of her father; the redness in his cheeks and his bloodshot eyes told me that he was likely drunk when he beat her. I was there with her as she remembered him chasing her around their small farmhouse. I saw with her the image of her father looming over her and repeatedly bringing the strap across her body. And I felt anger that was all my own.
How could a father treat his daughter like that? How could any human being treat another that way? Wasn't I the monster … and yet this man's actions were more monstrous than any I had committed since my change. The anger toward this man was different than my hunting instinct. I wanted to protect this girl and I knew I could. However, it would entail something that Carlisle had been trying to keep me from since I was reborn into this life: murder. I shook my head to clear it of the memories and focused on the problem at hand: the lost girl.
I tested the air only to find that she was getting closer. Judging by her scent and the clarity of her thoughts, she could only be about two miles away now. I had to make a decision. I could run back into the forest and hope she found her way out or I could strike out in her direction, knowing I would come in contact with her.
I began breathing again, taking in the fiery scent and feeling the burn in my throat and lungs. It was uncomfortable, but it didn't drive me insane with bloodlust. My body was sated from the mountain lion and though it wanted a taste, it didn't need it. I was in control.
I took a hesitant step toward the girl's scent and thoughts, continuing to listen carefully to what she was thinking about, trying to discern her location.
If he ever finds me … if anyone ever finds me. This was a stupid, stupid idea, Sarah. Should've just bucked up and married that boy. Fat lot of good dying in the woods is going to do you.
She was becoming more and more frightened by the second and I began to move faster through the forest toward her. I checked the sky and noticed that the black of night was becoming purple with dawn. I didn't have long. If a dark forest frightened her, a man sparkling in the sunlight would do her senses no good at all.
I ran until I could tell I was mere feet away from her. She was in a clearing, sitting down after giving up on walking for the night. I could smell the salt of her tears and hear her heart pounding in her chest. She knew she had made a terrible mistake but had no way of fixing it. I thought about what I could say or do, besides frighten the poor girl, and came up with very little. I knew that Carlisle mentioned they were looking for staff at the hospital, but what skills could this girl possibly have? I decided my best option was to direct her toward town and hope that someone would take pity on her.
I stepped out from the stand of trees and acted surprised to see her. It was not an act for long … the immediate reaction that the girl had to me was nearly overwhelming.
Good Lord, he must be an angel or a demon … the girl's thoughts got lost on the details of my face and body. Were I human, I would have been blushing furiously. She was a comely young girl, perhaps my age or slightly younger. She continued on. Why does he stare at me so? What does he want?
"Hello," I called softly, knowing my voice would carry to her ears.
Like angel's music … he can't be real.
"You're far out in the woods in the dark," I said, sucking in another fiery breath and clutching my hands tightly at my side.
Uncomfortable. Not unmanageable.
"So're you," she mumbled.
"I live nearby. Are you lost?"
Are you real? she thought, but simply nodded to my question.
"Where do you want to go?"
"I don't – I'm not sure. Just – away."
Her voice shook with tears and a leftover human instinct wanted to comfort her, but I stood my ground.
"Away from where?" I asked quietly, smiling at her to calm her nerves.
I was careful not to show my teeth, only lifting my lips slightly, but it made her heart race and her blood pump faster. Looking at myself through her eyes, I saw my eyes darken with the increased scent in the air. Still, I felt safe.
"From my f-father. His farm is in Bayfield."
"Are you headed for Ashland?"
She didn't note the change in my voice, but I did. I heard the slight hesitation that came from flexing my control too far. Her increased heart rate was inciting my bloodlust. I wanted … No!
She nodded again and I shook my head quickly, clearing it from the thoughts of her blood. She furrowed her brow and wondered why I was telling her no.
"Sorry," I murmured, smiling again. "A bug."
She smiled back, happily accepting my excuse.
"You were walking in the wrong direction," I said. "When the sun comes up, walk towards it and it will lead you towards the town."
Her thoughts became confused and she looked worried.
"Will you – come with me?" she squeaked, looking up at me.
My dead heart fell. I couldn't imagine how a creature such as myself might inspire attraction to a warm-blooded, sweet girl such as the one before me, and yet … the evidence was before me. She was looking for protection, but it was more than that. She wanted my company.
"I'm sorry," I said. "My father will be looking for me."
Her face crumpled and I felt a moment of panic that she might try to get closer. When she looked down at her hands, I sprinted away without a sound. I was nearly a mile away by the time she looked up, surprised to see me gone. I climbed a tree and listened as she thought through our encounter.
Real or not, he was the most beautiful creature I've ever seen, she thought. I huffed and leaned my forehead against a tree. Follow the sun … I can do that. I was silly to walk at night. I wonder if it's a mistake to walk into town … what if daddy's there?
Insanely, I had the urge to follow her, as if I could offer her some protection … as if she needed protection from anything more than me. She was getting up and getting ready to move on when I heard the last of her thoughts: I wonder if I'll see him again …
She thought of me, standing mostly shrouded in the darkness of the trees.
No, I thought. I hope you never do.
Carlisle found me at the piano sometime around noon, playing a stormy classical tune on the keys. His head was full of worry but his outward appearance remained calm, unruffled.
"We don't need to move," I said quietly.
Well, that's a relief, he thought. Anything you'd like to share with me?
"I came across a human."
While you were hunting?
"Of course not," I barked. "We'd have to leave if that had happened. After."
I stopped playing and turned to him.
"She was running away from home and had gotten herself lost. I smelled her and of course heard her long before I saw her. It was a close thing … but I remained in control."
I frowned, thinking back on the young girl. I had stayed in the tree until she roused herself to begin walking again. She was headed in the right direction and with any luck she was in the center of town now. I only hoped that someone took pity on her and that her father was not waiting for her.
I couldn't get the thought of him out of my mind. The memory of him chasing her, hurting her, played through my mind over and over and I felt powerless to do anything about it. On the walk home, I realized I didn't need to remain powerless. It was within my power to stop the man from ever hurting her again. I simply couldn't get past the thought that doing so would be murder and therefore something Carlisle could never condone.
"There's more," Carlisle said after several moments of silence.
"She was being … mistreated by her father. It made me very angry."
"It's a sad fact," Carlisle said, his voice detached. "I see the results of it all too often."
"It made me think …"
I stopped myself and tried not to think about it.
Tell me, son.
"It made me think about what it would be like to hear those types of thoughts. It made me angry enough to hear her memories. I can't imagine having to listen to those types of thoughts firsthand."
"You've found much to be thankful for with your gift," Carlisle said quietly. "This is, perhaps, one of the downfalls?"
I turned back to the piano and began plucking out a sad tune on the keys. I couldn't help thinking that there was a greater reason for my gift, even from the first time I realized what it was I could do. It couldn't simply be a neat trick or an added defense … I surely didn't need any more of those.
"What if my gift isn't just a strange accident? What if there is a purpose for it?"
"Such as …"
"Such as … what if my gift is meant to protect people?"
Protect … Carlisle began thinking about the ramifications of that word, what exactly protection might mean.
"How exactly do you mean to protect people? I fail to see how you can either warn or protect people without … exposing yourself in some way."
I stopped playing and looked up at him for a moment.
"I'm a monster and I'm already damned … what difference would it make to God if I just did away with those who hurt others?"
"Did away with them? You mean kill them?"
Carlisle's face went from confused to angry in an instant.
How can you even consider that? You aren't damned yet, but you would be to consider yourself godlike enough to pass such judgment on others!
"But don't you see? I can hear what they're thinking. I'll know who the bad people are and …"
Edward, you might hear their thoughts in the moment, but you can't look into their souls and see everything about them. You can't know if they might someday make amends for their deeds. You just … can't know everything.
"But if I save one person? Isn't that redemption enough?"
Not if in doing so you take a life. That makes you just as bad as those you wish to "do away" with.
I sighed, seeing his logic of course. Still, the thought nagged at me and I ran my fingers through my hair in distraction trying to justify my bloodlust and my gift. Surely they could be connected in some way.
"What is it about this girl that so affected you?" Carlisle asked calmly.
"I felt for her. I could see that her life had been full of hardship and sorrow. She knew that she was likely to end up either abused worse or dead by leaving her father's farm … and still she ran away. That took courage. I wished to help in some way, but what could I do?"
"Can you describe her?"
"Do so, and I'll make sure she finds a job and a place to live."
I have my ways, son, he thought, and someday so will you when you gain connections. There are many ways you can use your gift to help others without killing, if only you choose to.
After describing the girl to him and giving him her name, Carlisle went off to town looking for her. He arrived back at the house in under two hours with a sad smile on his face.
It is done, he thought as he walked into the study.
I saw the girl from the clearing and I saw the surprise on her face when she saw Carlisle who looked so much like the young man she remembered from the forest. Carlisle had arranged for the girl to take up residence in a halfway house for orphans under an assumed name and got her a menial job at the hospital. It wasn't much, but it would keep her housed and clothed for the time being. The trick was keeping her father away from her, but Carlisle assured me that was out of our hands.
I couldn't help but think that he was wrong. I trusted Carlisle implicitly and I believed that he was sure of his purpose in the world. He was a surgeon and had likely saved hundreds, if not thousands of lives, because of his strengths. But what about me? I could probably never be a surgeon like Carlisle, but I could protect those in need. So what if it took the lives of those who wished to put others in danger? Why did they deserve mercy?
As I pondered these things, I saw that Carlisle was coming to find me. In his hand was my acceptance to Northland.
"I think you've proven yourself ready for this next step," he said as he walked up behind me.
I leaned my head against the pane of glass and closed my eyes. For the time being, that would have to be enough. I was still confused about my purpose in this new life, but I understood enough about where I had come from to know that I belonged with Carlisle for the foreseeable future. I could see that a future which involved hunting humans in any way would not be conducive to staying with Carlisle. And so I chose his gentler lifestyle and was confident I could live up to his expectations … for now.
A/N: I know this took forever. And I could take up your time with excuses, but I won't. I'll leave it at the characters wouldn't talk to me for quite some time and I wasn't comfortable publishing something that was only so-so. I hope that this chapter helped to tie up the loose ends in this story as well as set the stage for the next chapter of Edward's life. I will be honest with all of you, that next chapter will likely be a while in coming. I want to finish up with everything I have on my plate now as well as get my original novel well underway before I start anything new. I hope you'll have patience with me; I know you've all showed a great deal of patience already with this story. Thank you all for giving me a chance and reading this story. It was a pleasure to write and I'm sad to see it come to an end. Thanks again for all of your support and love. ~Jen