I had sunk back into the corner, attempting to hide in the shadows as Carlisle began to explain again to the stunning young creature who we were and what she had become. There was fear and confusion, but also what appeared to be a bit of defiance in her blood red eyes as she listened.
Her eyes kept flickering to me and Edward, but always returned to Carlisle. I finally looked away. I couldn't watch the scene unfolding before me any longer.
"She's thirsty, Carlisle," Edward finally interrupted. All eyes turned to him as he mumbled, "I don't know why you always forget about that."
"So thirsty," Miss Hale spoke, her voice ringing out followed by a hard swallow trying to moisten the dry burn.
"Of course you are," Carlisle said, his voice gentle and filled with understanding. "Esme, can you please assist Miss Hale with getting changed?"
There was a petulant child brewing inside of me that wanted to storm out of the room, but I made the foolish mistake of looking at the woman. She was looking at me with curiosity and trepidation, but also there was pleading behind her scarlet eyes. She was so expressive, but it could have been the raging emotions of her newborn state.
I nodded my consent as Edward made his move to exit followed by Carlisle. I heard the door click closed, and I was left alone with her.
I walked over to where I laid out clothing for her as I spoke in a businesslike manner. "My husband hasn't quite articulated to you yet the consequences that come with your new speed and strength. Until you learn to manage it you will find that the simplest tasks can result in destruction. Trying to open a door, pick up a shirt, button a dress or tie a bow can end disastrously before you realize that the move has been made. With time and practice you'll be able to do all of these things effortlessly, but for now I should help you dress, Miss Hale, or you'll quickly make the clothes before you into a pile of rags."
Her eyes were wide when I looked over at her, and I felt my heart melt. She had been through so much and was overwhelmed by the newness of this life. She deserved my compassion. I moved toward her and stretched out my hand for hers. "Come, Miss Hale. Let me help you."
She looked at my hand as if it would bite her. She studied it, but didn't move to take it. "I'm fine," came rushing off her lips. In an instant she was across the room to the clothing and as I heard the sound of fabric ripping I heard a gasp and a cry of shock.
The buttons had crushed and the material had shredded beneath her fingers as she tried to remove the nightgown I had dressed her in. Her eyes flew from the tattered clothes, to the clothing waiting for her, to me and back several times.
"Let me help you," I repeated.
"I don't need help," she rushed out and I could see in her expression her mind reeling at the sound of her own voice.
I tried again. "Miss Hale, I have been in your place. I know it is frightening and confusing. You feel and see and hear so much. Everything is different. Carlisle and Edward helped me and I want to help you. They will help you too. You will feel some relief after you hunt. You can go in your nightgown, but I think you will feel more comfortable venturing out in something else."
"Teach me," she insisted, slowly and deliberately dropping the ruined buttons on the dresser.
"It will be easier after you feed. It will help clear your mind. Right now you are driven by your thirst."
"You said you want to help me, Mrs. Cullen. The way you can help me is by teaching me how to undress myself and dress myself so I can stop feeling like I have been reduced to a child," she said as she crossed her arms across her chest.
I paused. If there was any type of true threat from her then Edward would be through the door immediately. I didn't hear any movement outside the room.
I picked up a pillow and removed its case then folded it before turning back to her. "Pretend I'm handing you a folded piece of tissue. It is light, delicate and to unfold it you have to gently and carefully pull it apart." I set it down in front of her and gestured to it. "Give it a try."
After five attempts that resulted in her fingers going through the material five times, she dropped it back on the dresser. She swallowed again, her eyes squeezing shut.
"Please, help me," she said, attempting to slow down her speech.
I approached her slowly, not wanting to startle her. I reached out to the buttons that remained. I tried to be considerate of her modesty as I helped her out of one wardrobe and into another. When finished she was dressed much more appropriately for her first hunt than I was on my first go around. I had little doubt that the smart pants, blouse and jacket soon would be ruined beyond repair.
I saw her glance across the room toward the mirror. It wasn't facing her direction. I took her hand.
"You look different," I advised her. "Any blemish or injury is gone. Your features are more defined. And your eyes…"
"Are like yours," she stated, trying to get ahead of me.
"They're crimson," she said cutting me off before I could remind her what Carlisle had told her about newborns just a few moments before.
She was in front of the mirror in an instant. She was aghast at first, but as she studied her features her lips closed and turned up into a wicked grin as a haughty laugh burst from her.
"What's so funny, Miss Hale?" I asked cautiously.
"Nothing. Nothing," she said dismissively as she waved me off and ran her hands lightly through her hair. "Thank you for the clothes and your help," she said sweetly as she turned to me.
Had my mood swings been so erratic as a newborn? It took me just a moment to remember, that yes, they had been.
"We should go," I said striding to the door. She flew past me and down the stairs to where Edward and Carlisle were waiting.
Carlisle blocked the door and reminded her, "There are humans about and their scent will intoxicate you. Every urge will be to fall upon one and take their life for your own. You will want it like you have never wanted anything in your life. I urge you to resist. While most of our kind lives off the lives of humans, in this home we do not. We can survive without taking human life. We live off the blood of animals. We will head west out of town on foot. You may or may not have realized by now that you do not need to breathe. You can hold your breath the whole journey."
"But how will I kill an animal?" she asked with reservation.
"In this life you will find that you have incredible instincts that will make hunting and slaughtering your prey an almost mindless task," Edward interjected.
"Edward, that's almost oversimplifying things," I added.
"Can we go, then?" Rosalie asked impatiently.
"Yes, of course, but stay close and let us lead the way," Carlisle said.
I grabbed a coat from closet and joined the hunting party. I watched Carlisle touch Rosalie's arm to guide her, but she pulled away.
"Miss Hale," I said moving past Carlisle to her side. "While we don't need to breathe, it will be a bit uncomfortable to hold your breath. Take a big gasp of air in and if you have any feelings of panic or alarm along the way just grab my arm and I'll help you."
"Thank you, Mrs. Cullen," she said stoically, but her eyes showed her gratitude.
She took a big gulp of air and squeezed her mouth shut then dove out into the night. As we went to tear after her, Carlisle grabbed my arm. I turned to him and saw gratitude in his eyes. "I love you," he said then took off.
But was it enough anymore?
Three days later
"I'll keep an eye on the infant," Edward growled. "The two of you take a walk and talk things over."
"I'm not an infant!" Rosalie screamed.
"Then don't yell like you are having a tantrum!" Edward retorted.
"Infants are usually too young for tantrums. Toddlers have tantrums," Carlisle responded with a matter of fact tone.
"Carlisle, that's not helping," I said looking over at the sullen woman.
"Go! Talk! Behind my back! I can't help it that I can hear so well. You made me this way," she said with an accusing look at Carlisle. "And you made the mind reader too."
Carlisle looked at Edward in surprise, but Edward quickly defended himself. "She's not making sense. She's just throwing words."
"You didn't choose this either," she spat out.
I had had enough. "And neither did he," I said gesturing toward my husband. "And neither did I. We have chosen not to wallow in misery and instead take control of our lives. We have taken actions to make the most of our situations. Now, young lady, calm down and think about how you can make this work for yourself because this life is what you have. Don't waste it," I found myself yelling. "Edward, watch her. Rosalie, we'll hunt when we get back. Carlisle, let's go!"
I stormed for the front door, picking up a purse, hat and jacket along the way. My husband was close behind me as we made our way out into the night air. Once we were several blocks away and out of Edward's range, I opened my mouth and hissed, "So this is what you wanted, Dr. Cullen? A young, beautiful, miserable child of a woman?"
"Esme, I remember another young female vampire who a few days after her transformation tried to bury herself in mud. She turned out very well," he said teasingly, but I was not in the mood for his amusement as I turned into a deserted park. I stopped when we were deep inside and no one had appeared.
"Since this is the first moment we have had completely alone together since you wrought this upon our home, I'll ask it now for I cannot take the torture anymore – do you want me to go?"
"Go? Go where?" he asked, sounding confused.
"To leave. I fear I'm only in the way." I tried to keep the trembling out of my voice, but a quiver in my tone was audible.
"The way of what? Esme, you're wonderful with her. She needs you."
"I would stay for you if you want me to help her through her newborn time, but if she begins to give you soft looks and feels for you what you feel for her then I will have to depart. I couldn't bear to watch your love blossom…" I turned away. Why had I even made the offer? I should go now, before I get in too deep.
Carlisle spun me around with a look of astonishment on his beautiful face. "Esme, darling, what do you think is happening here?"
"Why else would you change her?" My voice rang high and clear. "She's beautiful. More beautiful than I ever was or am ever going to be. Her beauty matches your own. She's younger than me – younger than you. She's sophisticated and educated and a born socialite – perfect for a doctor's wife. Perfect for you," I said weakly, choking back a sob.
"Perfect for Edward," he said quietly. He took my face in his gentle hands. "Esme, there's only one perfect woman for me and she's right here in front of me with her cheeks in my hands. I'm hurt that you would think I could throw us away so easily, but also deeply dismayed that you could think it even possible that I would. You are the other half of my soul. I have pledged my eternal devotion to you before God. You fill my days and nights with life. You are my wife and I love you with every part of my being…and I want Edward to know this feeling. I want him to know what it's like to be so completed be by another person."
"So you changed her with the intention of giving her to our son?" I asked, quite baffled by this new bit of information.
He frowned. "That's not quite how I would ever put it. At the moment I found her, it seemed wrong to let such a vibrant young woman go so wrongly. Yes, I'll admit for a moment a flash of Edward did cross my mind. It seemed that she could be a good match for him."
"Based on looks alone, Carlisle?" I asked in disbelief.
"Based on looks you thought I would throw over my wife! You who knows me best!" he exclaimed harshly.
"She's not Edward's type," I stated dismissively.
"We can't know that," he argued. "She's close to his age. She's all those things that you said before but apply them to Edward. She would be perfect for him."
"This is what you have been hiding," I said with sudden realization.
"What?" he asked with disbelief.
"Edward knows that you are hiding something…burying it in your mind. Suppressing it. How long do you intend to keep your intentions a secret?"
He shrugged. "I figured I would let it blossom on its own. I think we proved when left to our own devices we come together if meant to be."
"I think our memories may vary on that time, but you want me to withhold this from him?" This made me uncomfortable and I knew it would be hard to keep out of my head.
"I think it best."
I didn't, but considering the penance I owed for my original incorrect assumption, I would defer to Carlisle on this for the moment.
"What are we going to do?"
"We have to leave. We should have left immediately and that was my mistake. She's too recognizable. There are search parties out looking for her. Her family has issued a reward on information that leads to them finding her."
"Her poor family," I said as I thought about what her parents and siblings must be thinking and feeling. It may have been similar to how my family reacted when I disappeared 12 years before.
"My poor family," he said as he pulled me into his embrace. "I'm sorry that I put you in a position of doubting me. It grieves me that you have believed for nearly a week that I so wronged you."
"It's my own inadequacies that caused me to conjure up such foolish thoughts. I'm sorry for ever considering for a moment that your heart would stray."
"It belongs to you completely, Esme Cullen. You control it," he said as he took up my hand and pressed his lips to it.
"Thank you," I whispered. "And mine is yours."
"Thank you that with so much burdening you that you still have been helping Rosalie," he added sincerely.
"I am not without compassion."
"That is true. She's been through so much at the hands of men. She needs a woman's touch."
"She is angry," I noted.
"She told you that?" Carlisle sounded surprised as he questioned me.
"No, but I see it in her eyes," I said as I remembered the many emotions that I saw in her face. "She has lost so much and probably more than we can begin to comprehend. Maybe she can begin the healing process once we leave Rochester."
"Another reason to go soon," he said.
"I'll set upon packing straight away," I stated.
"And I'll have to give my notice immediately and find a new position. If worse comes to worse we can go to the cabin."
I nodded my agreement. "Farewell to Rochester."
"Indeed. For now, darling, can we keep my matchmaking a secret?" he teased, but I knew he was serious.
"You are really asking me to hide this from Edward."
"For now," he said pulling me close as we began to stroll back toward home.
"I'll try," I said with a sigh.
He kissed the top of my head. "I love you always, Esme."
The Next Day
"What are you doing?" Rosalie asked in alarm as I stood in the kitchen packing up the never-used china.
"We are leaving Rochester. It will be easier for you to not live in such close proximity to humans and we can't risk you being seen," I said gently so as not to upset her further.
"No! We can't leave yet," she asserted.
"Rosalie, it will be easier on you once we're gone." I attempted to explain. "There's nothing to remain here for. As Carlisle explained to you, you can't see your friends or family ever again."
"I know. I heard. My parents and my siblings are cursed to never know what happened to me." She was bitter.
"I wish you wouldn't phrase it that way."
"I am cursed. I am damned. But I heard what you said about taking action to make the best of our situation and to take action I need to stay in Rochester a bit longer," she said in a charming tone.
"What action do you want to take that has to occur in Rochester?" I asked cautiously. Her gentleness felt forced.
A poisonous grin marred her mouth as she stated, "Revenge."
Thank you for your notes and your patience with me. Since I last published a chapter I changed jobs for the better, moved residences, worked on my thesis, was very busy covering the last film in "The Twilight Saga" for Page to Premiere, and so much more. 2012 had its challenges, but I'm hoping as we kickoff 2013 I can get back to more regular updates.
Thank you to my betas, Ali and Heather, for sticking with me and their incredible support.