"Hello?" she asked. There was a tinge of worry to this woman's tone, and I wondered what could have caused it. I was no concern of hers. "This is private land, dear, I'm afraid I have to ask you to go now."
"Oh. I'm not causing a disturbance. Please? Can't you let me stay longer?" I pleaded. The ground here had become very comfortable in my stay.
She released a breath of relief. "That may be, but I need this space for my work," she replied.
"I'll have to call the police eventually," she threatened.
"Property is theft," I mumbled under my breath. "What work are you doing?" I inquired.
"I'm running a painting class out here."
"Let me be your life model, then. Just let me stay here. Please."
She sighed. "It's not that kind of painting class, I'm afraid. It's landscape."
"This isn't much of a landscape; it's a meadow," I pointed out dryly.
Finally she snapped: "Look, I need you to go now, the class starts in half an hour and I want to set up. So can you just go please?"
Clenching my eyes shut a moment, before opening them again; I turned to see the aging woman standing a few feet away. She was of a small stature, no more than five feet tall, with mousy brown hair and a pointy nose. I was sure she was a very nice lady, but at this moment in time all I could imagine was her murder. Why couldn't she just let me stay here? What did it cost her to take her class elsewhere?
She pulled a cell phone out of her jeans pocket and gave me a warning look. "I'll do it!" she said, her finger poised over the 9 button, ready to dial.
I brought myself to my feet and walked away from the annoying woman. She was fighting a smug grin as I turned my back, headed for the open fields. The shadows of the trees provided a cold cover as I moved through their leafy embrace. How long ago was it that I was dragged from this place to a miserable eternity in the underground of Volterra? A life of misguided notions and delusions of grandeur. A life just bearable before it was swiftly made unbearable by a certain someone's departure. I could hardly believe that I was being forced from that place, yet again, although it was by a slightly more benevolent character than those vampires with icy grips and vengeful eyes. Her small, brown ones were much more agreeable.
My phone rang as I found myself on the other side of the copse of trees. Briefly I contemplated not answering, but I knew that would only serve to upset my family.
"Hello?" I talked into the plastic handset.
"I'm sorry about her," Alice murmured sympathetically. "She only decided that would be the site of her lesson last night."
"I had no idea the land was owned by anyone," I replied dazedly.
Morning had arrived without my knowledge and the grass was wet under my feet with the dew. The position of the sun behind the dark clouds told me it was about seven in the morning. Who had a painting lesson at this time of day?
"Me neither." Ahead I could see a small village, sitting at the top of a gradual hill, its human inhabitants just waking up. Cows grazed and birds crowed in their nests in the tall trees dotted around. I fought the tears which threatened to fall, remembering that awful day once again. But at least now Ransley was at peace, I felt no obligation towards him any longer. There was no-one left from that time, nothing tying me here—finally.
It was both a freeing experience and a terrifying one. With England, there was always a sense of belonging I felt here; mainly that meadow. That was the only thing that had remained the same. Everywhere else I went back then; the pub in Edinburgh; Ember's home in Dunstable; my own home; the streets I walked as a human. All gone. Ransley's resting place seemed anchored in the landscape, and I wasn't sure whether that should be funny or frustrating. All of those other places I could remember with some fondness, but the colour of this memory is bleak and awful.
I supposed that figured, really.
A small bleep alerted me to the fact that Alice had closed the line. I pulled my phone away from my ear in shock, staring at the screen. Another beep threatened me with a low battery warning. Shutting my phone in resignation, I slipped it into my pocket and set my eyes on the village at the top of the hill. I knew Edward would be waiting there somewhere, and would undoubtedly come out to meet me.
The smell of rain filled my senses and I braced myself for the downpour, pulling myself inward to gather my warmth—or at least take the appearance of someone who had some to worry about.
The heavens opened.
It was eight o'clock by the time I reached the village and cars seemed to be leaving the place all at once in the directions of school and work. A small café was open on the main road, though, and I slipped inside there in seek of cover. Not that there was much point now; my clothes were dripping wet. I walked up to the counter and directed the woman there that I wanted a cup of tea. She in turn, with a kind smile, directed me to a seat by the radiator.
"Caught out?" she inquired with a chuckle. As quickly as someone who had years of practice in lying, I thought up a story to explain my presence here.
"Yes. I was on my way to a friend's house to walk to school, but her mum's car was already gone when I got there, and the house empty." She frowned, then, making the wrinkles in her forehead more pronounced.
"She doesn't sound like a very good friend." With that, she went behind the counter again and started to make my tea. "Where's your bag? Did you lose it?" she observed.
"I left it in my locker yesterday."
"I can get my husband to give you a lift to the school if you'd like?" she offered, her back still turned.
"Oh, no thank you, that's very kind but I think I'll give it a miss today. I don't think I can face school in this state." I forced a laugh.
At that point she returned with my tea and set it down in front of me. "Any milk? The sugar's just there if you want it." She gestured towards a cup on the table filled with sachets.
"No, thank you," I replied, just as a weathered old man came in from the cold and wet.
"Hi, Roy!" she said brightly. "Is it the usual?"
My phone bleeped with a text.
Do you want me to sit with you?
I speedily replied in affirmative and waited for him to arrive. Wrapping my hands around the mug helped somewhat to put something of humanity back in me. There was nothing more pleasant than this, feeling the heat radiate through the mug and escape in hot steam. I moved my face so that it was in the path of the hot air, warming my whole head and helping to dry the rain that was still clinging to my poreless skin.
A rush of wind and the scraping of a wooden chair against the lino-covered floor alerted me to his presence. The woman continued to make conversation with the elderly man and didn't seem to have noticed his entrance.
Edward's hand stretched across the table, palm up and beckoning. Slowly I removed my hand from around the mug and placed it in his. When our skin touched, it was with a certain sense of relief. He was now my only comfort in this place.
"I brought you some clothes from the house," he said, pulling a bag up from under the table and presenting it to me. Silently, I took the rustling plastic bag and investigated its contents. A simple blue top, a dark pair of jeans and a similar pair of sneakers to the ones I was already wearing. At least it was familiar. Edward released my hand as I stood to make my way into the café bathroom.
Locking the door behind me, I threw the bag down and stared into the mirror above the tiny sink. I was a shadow of myself, all horror and worry and remembrance. I wondered how the woman running the café had not called the police the second I stepped inside; I must be a better actor than I thought. I pushed my damp hair back from my face, attempting to untangle it in the process. That would have to wait until later.
I pulled at the skin under my eyes in a vain effort to take away the awful, purple lines ringing my eyes. Absently, I wondered why my eyes were suddenly so dark when I felt no struggle with my blood lust. Perhaps it was my anger against the lady who had moved me on. Perhaps it was the change in my state of mind?
Quickly, I took off the sopping clothing I wore and replaced it with the dry. I forced a smile in the mirror, and then began to tie my hair back with Ember's hair band. It was bad enough that all my friends were dead, I didn't have to look dead myself. I didn't have to feel dead myself. In fact, I had to give the appearance of exactly the opposite, just to stay alive. Or maybe if I revealed my nature to someone human, Aro would just take me back into the fold and make me actually stay forever—or until someone overthrew the Volturi. Whichever came first.
But there was more than that to my life. I had the Cullens to think of, and their vulnerability. Even when all I wanted to do was lie in that meadow and stare up at the sky, even when I felt as though there was nothing more for me—there was always the Cullens and what concerned them. I had left the Volturi to move on in my life and make a fresh start, to right my wrongs! I had found Ember again; I had met Carlisle and proven what I'd always known about him to myself, and I had made peace with Ransley from beyond the grave. I had done all of this and yet still this melancholy clung to me. But what was it that held me back?
A knock came at the door.
"Isabella?" Edward called through. Releasing my iron grip on the porcelain sink, I moved away from the mirror and took a calming breath. "Can I come in?" he asked.
Yes,I told him in my head. The lock unsnapped and he pushed the door open. He gave me a small smile as he stepped inside and locked the door behind him.
"How are you?" he asked gently. At that point, I couldn't stop the flood of tears that fell burning from my eyes. He took me into his arms and pulled me to his chest, pressing comforting kisses to the top of my head as I sobbed.
We both knew what was left.
A/N: So this took a while, but again I must reiterate what I've already said on Through The Trees - I have school work to do. Thank you so much if you're still with me, though. It means a lot. :)