This story is dedicated to Totteacher...if it wasn't for you I'd have given up the ghost long ago! Please read her stories – Isle Esme is just terrific and I know that if you give this a read you will be itching for the next chapter and the next story! Her link is in my profile if you have trouble finding it.

Disclaimer: Stephenie Meyer owns these characters, so no copyright infringement intended. But a girl can dream...

EPOV

It was a day unlike any other. The day I feared the most, but ached for more than anything. The day I would finally show my true self to Bella, changing the course of my past, present and future. Of course, my feelings had already altered to such an extreme state that my former self was a mere whisper in the wind, and I was now unrecognisable to my family, and even to myself. I closed my eyes and pondered for a moment, realising the gravity of what this day would bring. Oh how I wished I could sleep so I could dream of her, as she dreamt of me! Images of her wondrous beauty danced through my mind, causing me to smile.

As I pondered, it seemed strange to me to even think of the word 'love'. That word had been bandied around so loosely within the minds of every hormonal teenager at Forks High School that their thoughts seemed to diminish and trivialise its meaning. I felt love to the depths that I had never dreamed, nor read about in any novel, and I had read my share on those endless, lonely nights. And even if she did not return my love, which I knew was more than probable, I would forever be altered in any case. Though I had the suspicion that she did have significant feelings for me, they could not compare with how I felt about her. My love for her was an all consuming, overpowering love that could, if I allowed it, crush her fragile body at the worst, or at the best release me from the bonds of a mere existence. I was more than ready for the next chapter of my life to unfold, just like the flowers of this special place.

I opened my eyes and my smile widened as I took stock of my familiar surrounds, pleased with the place I had chosen for this most important step.

As the sun rose and dappled through the breaks in the canopy above the fringe of the forest, I stood in the shadows next to the elk that lay still and unbreathing, and looked across the meadow, its warmth and light only superseded by the abundance of blooms that covered the expanse of it like a living, breathing carpet. As I listened to the soft trickle of the waterfall in the distance, I knew that it was the perfect place. My place. The place I wanted to share with Bella and to show her what she meant to me. And, of course, to reveal myself to her entirely, leaving nothing left unsaid between us.

That is, if I could prevent myself from killing her.

I cringed, remembering that first day in Biology, and how my world tilted on its axis within a split second of time. A mere blip on the radar. A heartbeat. And yet, everything about my world and my very existence was altered irrevocably within that one fragment of time. Memories of her intoxicating scent lingered on my tongue as I recalled that day. The day when she walked towards me and passed the heated air that blew relentlessly from the vent, her scent hitting me like a wrecking ball; coming at me from all angles. We were no longer two students hastily thrown together as lab partners in Biology. I was a predator and she was my prey. There was nothing other than that simple truth, and I remembered how much I hated her in that one slip of a moment. How foolish I was to have that reaction, for what I really felt was hatred for myself. Hatred for allowing a mere human to have such a profound effect on my very existence.

Still, to this day, I do not know how I managed to control myself enough not to kill every child in that room in order to have her. I remembered planning how I would silently and smoothly snap each innocent victim's neck while at the same time subduing Bella while she watched each one of her classmates die in a blur. She would not even have the time to blink, let alone scream for help. Then, I would taste of her, drinking every last drop of her blood that I would have searched to the ends of the earth to find, like a siren calling a sailor to his doom. My body shuddered at the memory and the possible dark consequences it conjured.

The monster, which had reared its ugly head more often than I would care to admit ever since I sat next to her on that fateful day, still lay there dormant, buried deep within me but still very much a looming threat. A threat to everything that was part of my existence. An existence which now revolved around one frail little human who by just being within close proximity to me, risked everything from her body to her soul. How selfish I was. How ridiculous she was to ever contemplate this. No matter what, however, I still welcomed it with fervour. After all, the selfish part of me still existed, and now more than ever seemed amplified, forever at the forefront of my every thought and action.

It was time. I reasoned that if I was to pursue this, I had to be alone with her without the monster winning. It was a challenge but a challenge I relished meeting head on, just like a controlled scientific experiment. Well, as controlled as I could endure. The alternative was just...well there was just no alternative. Now that I knew Bella existed, being alone and part of a world where she was not by my side was just not an option. The very concept of spending another day, let alone an eternity, without being wrapped up in her conversation, her warmth and her incredible scent was unthinkable.

Freshly sated with the blood of my kill, I ran all the way to her house as fast as my legs would go, hoping that the faster I ran, the deeper I would push down the monster within me. As I approached her house and slowed to a more human pace, I lightly knocked at the door, my face creased with the weight of the world bearing down on my shoulders.

Within less than a second, as if she were a vampire, she answered the door nearly wrenching it off its hinges, and sighed. I immediately felt better for being in her company as well, but the undercurrent of the monster still lay beneath the surface, ready to pounce at the first hint of weakness, as the sweet breath of her sigh hit me like a tidal wave.

I had to distract myself, to compose myself as I always had to, so I started with a simple greeting. "Good morning," I said forcing a chuckle as I carefully looked her up and down, the worry never entirely leaving my face. As she stood there in the doorway, her very presence heightening my senses, I noted everything about her. She was thoroughly mouth-watering in every imaginable way possible.

I must have given off an inappropriate impression, my stare probably looking somewhere between agony and amusement, either expression of course would cause her equal amounts of discomfort. I waited for the inevitable blush, its onslaught only heightening every sense further.

"What's wrong?" she questioned, her enticing pink cheeks making me take a step closer as she looked at her feet and her trousers, her actions wordlessly expressing that she had somehow forgotten to put her clothes on. Oh, dare I wish!

"We match," I informed her, changing my expression to a crooked smile. She wore blue faded jeans and a tan sweater, under which she wore a white shirt, identically matching my attire in colour. Of course it was not only our clothes that matched. We were kindred spirits, drawn together by unique circumstance, but connected just the same. Our bond had grown over these weeks and I knew that, as was predicted with Alice's vision, today could go either way. I was determined more than ever that this day would be the beginning of something deeper and everlasting between us, and not a fatal ending.

Bella laughed, though I detected a hint of nervousness in her laughter. I had never been required to read someone's body language so closely, as their thoughts always gave me clarity of emotion. I realised I was going to need much more practice save me going insane from being unable to read Bella's thoughts. She was a walking conundrum.

I walked to the truck, watching her lock the front door and before I nearly made the error of approaching the drivers' side, I remembered where I was meant to be on this trip. As I diverted and stood on the passengers' side, she said smugly, "Remember, we had a deal?" She got in, leant over and unlocked the door, the snapping and crumbling noise of the mechanism alerting me that it was close to rusting off. I climbed in and slid over the bench seat, closing the distance between us as her scent permeated the small confined space as we shut our doors in unison. I held my breath, taking in a little of her at a time, trying but failing to desensitise myself to her glorious smell.

Of course, I had allowed her to drive even though the trip would take five times as long. This was a ploy to allay suspicion on the part of her father. If he returned to see Bella missing, but with her truck still in the driveway, nothing would stop him from outsourcing every available officer and FBI agent at his disposal in search of her. This thought gave me an uneasy sense of comfort.

Bella started the truck, the engine not so much purring but spluttering to life. I noted that the truck needed new spark plugs and a possible oil change as I caught the scent of the exhaust fumes in my shallow breaths. I would have to get Rosalie to make a special trip into town one night, to test her mechanical prowess on this dinosaur.

"Where to?" she asked meekly, a little embarrassed as to the truck's precarious condition.

The image of that truck wheezing up the one-o-one made me smile and say, "Put your seatbelt on – I'm nervous already!"

She glanced at me with a look of indignation, forever protective of the piece of junk that was her pride and joy. I likened it to a lioness defending her territory to the bitter end, a thing I had witnessed firsthand on more than one hunting trip.

"Where to?" she repeated, trying to ignore my humour as she clicked her seatbelt into place. I was pleased, though a little surprised that she complied with my request. If she did in fact have an accident in this truck, it would be highly unlikely that the Jaws of Life would be necessary to rescue her. I laughed silently, my shoulders shuddering slightly at the very image of a truck splintering to pieces with rust on the slightest of impacts.

As we drove from her house, I stared into the microscopic pits and divots in the windshield, willing for there to be a way that she would come out of this alive. We were finally embarking on a journey that had two very differing outcomes as a possibility, and my smile quickly faded as I made this realisation. I had everything invested in this one day. Failure, in my mind, was not an option. The monster mocked me as I turned to take in her features and continued to speak.

"Take the one-o-one north," I instructed as I gazed at her, unable to escape her delicious scent, even though my panting breaths were at their most shallow. She seemed incredibly distracted, as if she was somehow aware of my struggles. This, frustratingly so, only caused her to drive the truck well below its very limited speed capacity. Was this woman trying to torture me further? My gaze turned intense as I tried to wordlessly communicate my exasperation to her. Of course, I failed miserably. After all, she was not the one who was the mind reader. I was tempted to push her aside and drive, or at the very least plant my foot on the accelerator as she steered.

Trying to distract myself from the temptations that surrounded me no matter where I turned, I reached into my trouser pocket and fondled the bottle cap that I had taken as a souvenir on the very first day that we ate lunch together in the school cafeteria. It was my little secret token of our very first meal together, though no food was consumed. I hoped that one day I could give her a more meaningful token in return and that we would have many more important events that could be commemorated with many more wonderful gestures. I smiled inwardly at the very thought of that fantasy coming true.

I stared beyond the imperfections of the windshield, and took note of the sun's position, the clouds thankfully obscuring it. I knew what lay ahead of us to accomplish before the sun disappeared on this day and it occurred to me that at this pace, we may not make it to our destination in time. The mere thought of not getting her to the sun-drenched meadow in time made me somewhat anxious and I said, trying to seem carefree and a little humorous, "Were you planning on getting out of Forks before nightfall?"

Her face swept around, causing her flowing hair to do the same and, catching me off guard, her protective instincts kicked into gear once again as she replied, "This truck is old enough to be your car's grandfather – have some respect!" Her scent increased to an overpowering level with that motion. I stilled myself for the onslaught as I removed my clenched hand from my pocket, trying to stop myself from crushing my souvenir.

The time seemed to drag, the sputtering of the engine only proving me to be correct. I knew that it was due to my impatience and my need to escape the temptation that was uniquely Bella. Oh how I wished I could get her to pull over, pick her up in my arms and whisk her to our destination, but I needed to get a grip on myself and just allow things to unfold at her own pace. I did not, after all, want to push her beyond her limits, even though I was rapidly becoming closer to being beyond mine.

She opened her mouth to speak, but before she could utter another word, I interjected. I needed to keep on task, so I instructed her further, keeping things on a practical level. "Turn right on the one-ten." Her mouth was gaping but silent, as she complied and took the turn as I had requested.

"Now we drive until the pavement ends," I continued, smiling at her, realising that her brow had also creased in confusion. She had never ventured this far out of town and needed time to adjust to her surroundings, no doubt. I was relieved that we were nearing our destination, and in kind, her scent seemed to be dulling slightly, offering me some respite.

"And what's there, at the pavements end?" she questioned, looking as though she regretted those words being expelled from her thick, beautiful lips. She stared out the window intently, as my mind wandered to the thought of any part of my body touching those glorious pieces of flesh.

Realising that she was waiting for a reply, I reminded myself to focus on the task at hand and answered simply, "A trail."

Her regretful expression was quickly turning into a look of terror as she squeaked, "We're hiking?" She took her eyes off the road briefly and quickly looked at her feet, no doubt to check that her footwear would be accepting of the rocks and undulating terrain that her precarious sense of balance was about to be challenged to.

"Is that a problem?" I continued, staring at her questioningly, waiting for her to think of an excuse to back out of our plans. Of course, I had another, faster way of conveying us to the meadow, but I did not want to throw a first-hand demonstration of my speed and strength at her immediately, on top of the fact that I was a vampire. I needed to show myself to her at her pace, where she could absorb and cope with what I was conveying, little by little.

"No," she replied doubtfully. I knew I had to erase those doubts immediately, save her stopping the truck and trying to walk home.

"Don't worry, it's only five miles or so, and we're in no hurry," I explained, reasoning that five miles could be covered by me in a matter of a few minutes, not hours. That is, if you're a vampire. Of course, in human terms, and especially in Bella's case, five miles may as well have been fifty, and I immediately regretted telling her the distance we had to cover.

She sat there silently, the only noise breaking this silence being the elevated drumming of her heart and the popping noise of the truck. She looked as though she were deep in thought and was contemplating what to do next. I held my breath in anticipation, but I could stand it no longer.

"What are you thinking?" I asked, the air left I held being entirely expelled in my exasperation, my patience worn to the bone.

She replied, almost too casually, lacking the curiosity that I knew she was capable of, "Just wondering where we're going."

I knew she was wondering much more than she let on, but I needed to get her to that meadow more than I needed anything else in the entire universe, so I pressed on relentlessly.

I replied, just as casually, "It's a place I like to go when the weather is nice." I immediately glanced out the window and took note of the sun breaking through the thinning clouds, relieved that the surrounding trees kept the path we travelled in shadow, and hoped that we would be in the privacy and seclusion of the forest before the sun had the chance to hit the window of the truck.

"Charlie said it would be warm today," she said, a smile briefly touching her lips as the realisation of our excursion piqued her interest. This was a good sign. Then it occurred to me that Charlie's knowledge of our excursion would further solidify my determination to bring Bella home safely.

"And did you tell Charlie what you were up to?" I questioned, hoping that her answer would give me no alternative but to return her safely.

"Nope," she replied awkwardly and too quickly to be a lie. This was not good. But, then I thought of Jessica. Jessica, whose impure thoughts of me over the time I had been at Forks High School were at the very least blush-worthy, but at the very most downright intolerable in their vulgarity. Who would have thought that I would need to rely on her to be my insurance policy?

"But Jessica thinks we're going to Seattle together?" I said, unable to suppress my relief and joy.

That relief was to be short-lived.

"No," she said truthfully. "I told her you cancelled on me, which is true," she confirmed, giving me a look that forced me to expect no less of her. Ah my Bella. Honest as the day is long. I so wished that in this instance she would have lied a little – at least to Jessica. Anger at the precarious position that this situation now put her in began to well up from the pit of my stomach. It was as if she had a death wish – cutting herself off from all reasonable excuse as to her disappearance. Was she TRYING to fate herself to be on the side of every milk carton in the Washington State area?

"So no-one knows you're here with me?" I stuttered as my eyes narrowed, trying to repress the real anger that welled up and threatened to overtake me completely.

She did not take me or this situation seriously. Obviously. Otherwise she would not have orchestrated this scenario. "That depends...I assume you told Alice," she reasoned with futility, her statement being entirely irrelevant. Alice knowing was not going to save her life. Alice knowing about what I was up to only served to inform one other vampire of this situation, which would in no way improve Bella's chances of being brought home in one piece.

My teeth clenched together as I tried to keep my wits and snapped, "That's very helpful Bella."

The anger and sarcasm dripped from my lips with every word I spoke, to no avail. Instead, she stared at me blankly, as if refusing to listen to and absorb what I was trying to tell her. As if somehow, if she ignored it, it would go away. I obviously needed to make my point without being subtle.

"Are you so depressed by Forks that it's made you suicidal?" I shrieked, the tone in my voice heightened to press my extremely real and very serious point.

Then, as Bella always did, she put the safety and well-being of others before herself. "You said it might cause trouble for you...us being together publicly." There it was. Bella, bringing up something I had said as a way of justifying this ridiculous situation, the quote now being put into a context that suited her selfless argument.

The anger and frustration continued to rise as I realised, in no uncertain terms, her determination to protect me, the most undeserving of all beings. "So, you're worried about the trouble it might cause ME – if you don't come home?" The sarcasm that I had used previously reared up once again, rejoining the anger.

She nodded silently as she kept her eyes on the road. I was ready to shake her to try to make her realise her dire situation and here she was, casually behaving as if on a pleasant Sunday outing.

"Are you insane, woman? Are you bereft of your faculties? Do I have to arrange for Carlisle to commit you?" I muttered to myself, saying the words so quietly that her human hearing would not be able to decipher them. Bella somehow knew not to ask me to reveal what I had just said.

We drove the rest of the trip in silence, my infuriation unhindered and raw. I exhaled, trying to expel the demons within. Bella drove on, never making eye contact with me as she sensed my unbridled rage.

Finally, when I feared I could stand it no more, the road ended. Before I could utter a word, Bella had pulled over and parked, stepping out of the car silently. I sat still in the cab for a brief moment as I watched her scan the immediate area around her and glance skyward. Then, she did something unexpected. She removed her sweater and as she pulled the lucky item of clothing over her beautiful face, I felt a tingling sensation hum through my body that I had not yet experienced. I watched voyeuristically as she pulled her hair from the confines of the sweater and looped it around her curvaceous waist, revealing her white sleeveless shirt underneath which showed off her supple, soft arms. This was more than I could withstand. She always had a way of turning my emotions on their head, and she had once again, succeeded without even realising.

Without asking my body of it, I the removed my sweater, mirroring Bella's own actions and placed it on the seat next to me. I opened the door, stepped out in a blur and had slammed it shut with such force that pieces of rust fell into the door cavity. I was immediately by her side, following her gaze, though was relieved that she had not seen the speed with which I had completed all of these tasks. I feared that if I looked at her now, that we would not proceed on our journey.

I rolled up my already short sleeves, ready for the job at hand and said, "This way," I glanced over my shoulder at her, fearful to face her entirely save I grab her and take her into my arms. I walked away slowly towards the thick brush, the pull of Bella trying to wrench me back towards her.

"The trail?" she asked innocently, her velvety voice bringing me undone, even though panic lay barely underneath it. I felt her hurriedly approach me and I walked onwards, fearing that same pull once again. I reminded myself of the task at hand, and how important it was to get her to the meadow in time.

"I said there was a trail at the end of the road, not that we were taking it," I replied stiffly as I continued to walk on a few paces in front of her.

"No trail?" she asked with a desperate undertone in her voice, her heartbeat increasing in pace as she struggled to keep up with mine. This was obviously worrying her greatly, and her worry was a welcome distraction from how I was feeling at this moment. Of course we had to take a short cut if we were to make it there on time at her, shall we say, dubious human pace. My feelings were so at war with themselves that I laughed internally.

"I won't let you get lost," I answered mockingly as I turned to her and smiled, as if I would ever be able to lose her with my vampiric senses to aid my quest. She seemed to take a backward step, ever so slightly, as she appeared to somehow be shocked by the sight of me. I small gasp escaped her pert lips at the same time, confusing me. Was she finally beginning to grasp the gravity of this situation? Why was she staring at me that way? Was she fearful? Her eyes turned to a look of despair, but also deepened somehow. I was really in need of being able to read her mind now, more than ever. I decided to give Bella one final opportunity to back out of this journey, perhaps by doing so would convey her feelings to me.

"Do you want to go home?" I asked quietly, the pain of this possible missed opportunity etched on my face.

Her eyes softened, but still conveyed pain. "No," she whispered as she took two steps forward, closing in the gap between us. I had to find out what she was thinking.

"What's wrong?" I queried, nearly frightened of her possible answer.

"I'm not a good hiker," she answered unexpectedly. I was relieved to find that we were back on the subject of the task at hand, and that somehow we had progressed beyond the anger and frustration from our journey in the truck. "You'll have to be patient," she added. I knew she would request patience of me, however it was not something I possessed in great abundance. I suspected it was a residual trait from my human days, which seemed to intensify once I had been changed by Carlisle.

Sensing her doubt and her concern of the fact she may slow me down, I tried to reassure her. "I can be patient – if I make a great effort," I said honestly. It was not good practice to give her the impression of me being anything than what I was, every flaw laid bare. I wanted nothing less than an honest relationship, as we had many other hurdles to overcome that were not of normal circumstance. I smiled at her, trying to reinforce what I had said, but her expression was far from happy.

I stared at her dejected face closely, my reassuring statement falling flat. This did not bode well for what I had in store for Bella. "I will take you home," I stated unwillingly, not wanting to leave things as they were, unfinished and incomplete. If there was no way of us progressing things on this day, who is to say that they will ever progress beyond it?

Then her lips tightened, a look of determination etched in her features. "If you want me to hike five miles by sundown, you'd better start leading the way," she said pointedly.

I felt my brows crease as I tried to discern her emotions, and once again I was lost. Oh, how I wanted more than anything to read that mind of hers! After a moment of contemplation and frustration brought on by her unreadable body language, I decided that this was getting me nowhere.

I turned and walked silently onwards, hoping that she would naturally follow without my provocation. She did, to my relief. I continued to take in the scents around me, the predator in me constantly monitoring the territory ahead. This hike was on fairly even ground for most of the way, and on the occasions that a fallen tree or boulder stood in Bella's path, I would instinctively hold her in support, either by taking her hand or propping her up by the elbow. Every time we touched, her heart rate would become uneven and erratic. I was unsure as to what this meant, as she was also a little breathless, I assumed, from the exertion of the hike.

Because of her uncertain reaction, my touch would linger on her skin for the minimal amount of time, while I fought the desire to never let her go. I knew that the feel of my skin must have been akin to touching a cold piece of stone, but the exact opposite of that reaction was occurring with me. Even the bony end of her elbow felt soft and silken smooth to the touch, the heat radiating from every tiny pore of her skin. I kept my distance unless she required my help. I needed her heart to remain unflustered, though at the same time I desired more than anything to be responsible for her heart to react in this way.

We walked on silently, with her gaze averted from me except for every now and again, where I would catch her staring at me in my peripheral line of vision, a look of confusion on her face as much as I am sure it was on mine. With each step I tried to decipher her emotional tenor. I decided, finally, to give up on trying to read the unreadable and as I began to relax in her company, I thought about a few questions that I had yet to ask her on my last few days of interrogation. Distracting myself in this way would hopefully help with my lack of patience, and would also serve to bring her out of her unusual mood.

"So, what did you do to celebrate your last birthday?" I asked as I touched her elbow, guiding her over a fallen tree log. Her heart picked up its pace as if she were nervous. Her already flushed cheeks seemed to increase in colour at my question. I licked my lips, but luckily her averted eyes did not catch my indiscretion. I immediately released my hold on her, but this did nothing to slow her thudding heart.

"Um, I don't exactly like celebrating my birthday," she replied, suddenly embarrassed by her confession as the words floated from her lips. "My mom gave me some new clothes, but I left them back in Phoenix. They would have been pretty useless to wear here. Well, except for today."

I did not understand her answer. I thought that every human loved the attention, the adoration and the gifts that were associated with birthdays. Of course, birthdays were no longer celebrated within the Cullen household, and one seemed to blur into the other inconsequentially. And of course, there was the decision as to which birthday would be celebrated, the human one or the anniversary of one's change. We did not celebrate either, mainly because of Alice. Alice had no memory of her human life, nor her transformation. Darkness was the only vivid memory that she held in her mind. It would have been cruel and unfair for the family to celebrate an anniversary which Alice could never mark for herself. If Bella lived to see her eighteenth birthday, I made a note to myself that I would ensure that she would celebrate it with gusto. I wanted her to experience more in her life and for things to be enhanced in areas that I could help her with, to compensate for experiences that I knew she have to sacrifice if she chose to be with me. Of course, those celebrations would have to be between the two of us, as I did not want the possibility of upsetting Alice.

I pressed on with my next question, this time it would be harmless, yet informative. "Who was your favourite grade school teacher?"

"Miss Carter. I was lucky to have her for a few years. She was so kind and pretty much left me to my own devices," she answered without hesitation. I already knew how shy Bella was and how she shunned attention. A quiet, kindly teacher would have suited her requirements perfectly. I, on the other hand, vowed to shower her with more attention than she could stand. I hoped in my ever-still heart that she would allow me that honour beyond today.

We walked silently on to our goal and I decided to ask her one last question. "Bella, did you ever have any pets?" I asked of her innocently, not expecting her response of laughter.

"Pets?" she questioned as she looked at me, her sly smirk unable to be contained. I thought it was an innocent enough question. "Well, yes I guess you could say that," she replied further, tittering as she walked. "I mean if you count three identical fish in a row that I somehow managed to kill within days of each other qualifying as pets! Renee must have thought I was blind to think that the fish were one in the same, especially when I spied her flushing down the first one after sneaking in my room to replace it!"

I could not help but lose control at her humour, my bellowing laugh which echoed through the forest and reverberated back to us tenfold suddenly making her jump in surprise. Ah, yes, I had forgotten what it was like to let go with my voice, the volume of which she was not accustomed to.

After experiencing the gamut of Bella's emotions with our small conversations, and to prevent revealing further unique traits of my own, I decided that any further questions would not be a good idea at this juncture. Instead, I focused on getting us to our destination. Over what seemed to be a shorter time than I anticipated we were drawing near. The deep green of the canopy above was beginning to lighten ever so slightly, something that I had failed to notice when I ran to this place. The sun began to trickle through the small but ever widening cracks between the branches of the ancient trees, signalling we were close.

"Are we there yet?" she asked impatiently, just as a child sitting in the backseat of a car halfway through a long journey would.

"Nearly," I answered quickly, smiling at her playful change in mood. "Do you see the brightness ahead?" I asked, unsure as to the limitations of her human vision.

Bella squinted, concentrating directly in front of us, her frustration palpable. "Um, should I?" she questioned doubtfully, as if her vision were far worse than any other human in existence.

I smirked at her response, trying to keep the mood light, and said "Maybe it's a bit soon for YOUR eyes."

"Time for a visit to the optometrist," she muttered, a hint of a smile still across her features. This only served to make me smirk once again.

She continued to stare directly in front of her as we walked, and after a hundred yards or so she picked up her pace. I realised that she had finally noticed that the light had changed, and that she was aware that we had arrived. I allowed her to set the pace, checking that there was nothing on the ground that would trip her up or cause her to lose balance, but it was nothing but smooth ground underfoot.

I stood below the thickest part of the canopy and gazed at her, awestruck, as she stepped into the meadow, looking as if an angel had arrived in heaven, making it her own. I watched every nuance and movement of her body as Bella's curious eyes took in every part of the meadow from the budding array of colourful flowers swaying in the warm humid breeze, to the warm sunshine which now enveloped her body, making her red-brown hair light up like a slow burning flame. I was mesmerised as I watched her fill her lungs deeply with the aromas surrounding her.

Then, I started to think of my immediate situation. I had not yet planned how I would reveal myself to her and did not know quite where to begin. I knew that I had promised Bella I would reveal what I looked like in the sun, but now fear and doubt tore away at me. Would she accept what she saw, or would she run away screaming? How could she possibly care for a monster such as me? In the safety of the shade, apart from the rather unique colour of my eyes, I appeared somewhat human. I froze in my place, cautious as to what I should do next, the sudden urge to run nearly taking over.

Seemingly able to sense my fear and doubt, Bella turned suddenly, searching for me, her eyes filled with urgency. She finally fixed her deep brown eyes on me and they softened once she was assured that I was still there, standing like a coward within the safety of the shadows. I knew in that moment that I could never leave, and that I would have to go through with what I had promised, no matter the fear. She had overcome every fear that I knew must lay buried in her, and the least I could do was to overcome my fears in return.

Bella took a tenuous step back towards me, beckoning me with her hand, a smile that would win the heart of the devil breaking across her glorious face. As she took a step closer, I put up my hand in warning, trying to gain the courage within myself to follow through on what I was about to do. This made Bella hesitate and rock back onto her heels.

It was time. I took a deep breath, inhaling every scent that surrounded me, Bella's being the strongest, combined with the flowers of the meadow, the moss, the trees, earth, streaming water, the birds and everything else somehow giving me the courage to proceed. I stepped fluidly into the midday sunlight, and Bella gasped...