Authors' Note: Big snuggle thank you's to revrag and irritable grizzzly for their expert betaing services. Especially since it was so last minute. Way to come through in the clutch, guys!
This story is dedicated to Maylin (dihenydd). Once, she used to review both "Expectations..." and "Fault". Those were the best times of our lives. Always incredibly constructive reviews that made our stories sound way more intelligent, deep, and planned out than we realized they were when we were...actually writing. So here we are, hooking up a really morbid collab for her contest as a way to say 'thanks for being awesome and making us love you before leaving us with update after update of stoney silence'. We had some good times. This one's for you.
If anyone is wondering about the ambiguous significance of the title, ask Maylin. Whatever she comes up with...that's totally what we meant.
The Black Balloon Contest
Title: Watching the Sky Turn
Penname: ineedyoursway and chrometurtle
Characters: Carlisle, EdwardxBella
Disclaimer: Stephenie Meyer owns the characters. We did mean things to them.
Isabella Swan died January 8, 2009 in Forks. She was seventeen years old.
She was involved in an accident involving cliff diving for sport on the nearby La Push reservation. With her was Edward Masen (18), who is currently at Forks General and in critical condition.
Ms. Swan lived with her mother, Renee Swan, in Phoenix, Arizona before moving to Forks, Washington in 2006 to live with her father, Charlie Swan. Ms. Swan attended Forks High School, and was set to graduate the following year. A funeral was held January 12, 2009.
I was sitting at my desk when my one o'clock appointment walked in.
I looked up when the door opened, my hands automatically covering the year-old newspaper obituary and the letter sent along with it from the boy's mother.
He didn't appear to be paying attention anyway.
I politely stood up from my chair as he entered and closed the door behind him. He stood in the middle of the office, hands jammed into his pockets, looking around disinterestedly. His hair was a greasy mess of wild bronze snarls, his skin pale, his face drawn and exhausted. Heavy bags framed haunted bright green eyes, rimmed in red. His shoulders were hunched under a black sweater, which was as wrinkled and unkempt at the rest of his clothes.
"Hello, Edward," I said politely, taking a step around my desk and reaching my hand out to shake his. "My name is Dr. Cullen. Feel free to call me 'Carlisle.'"
Edward's hand raised slightly, his grip limp and weak on my palm. I was surprised at how lifeless his fingers felt against my own. I motioned for him to take a seat on the couch, watching as he moved silently. I remained standing, leaning against the front of my desk.
"How are you today?" I asked him after a moment, a casual opening question.
I was met with silence. He didn't even look at me.
I nodded - not really surprised with the hostility or apathy that met me - then folded my arms across my chest and continued to look directly at him. His eyes were downcast, fixed on his lap, refusing to make contact.
"So," I prodded gently, "can you tell me why you're here?"
The silence was longer and more pointed.
"I see," I said at last.
With a nod and not a word of warning, I strode past him to the door he had just entered, opened it quickly, and turned to look back at him.
The boy lifted his head stared at me with confusion.
At least I had his attention.
"Well, it was nice meeting you," I said, motioning to the open door. I continued pleasantly, "I'm afraid you'll still have to pay for this session even though it didn't last the full hour. Should I just bill you?"
He blinked at me, shocked, and then mumbled a quiet, "Excuse me?"
My smile dropped, letting him know that I was serious. "I'm a psychiatrist, Edward," I explained to him patiently and without accusation, "I can't do much with a patient who refuses to speak."
He looked down again, but this time I could see the conflict behind his eyes. I closed the door with a click and walked back into the room. I took a seat in the chair across from him, leaning forward and clasping my hands together.
"You obviously don't want to be here," I remarked neutrally, "Will you tell me why you came?"
Edward shifted uncomfortably, although I wasn't sure if it was a reaction to my careful gaze or my question.
At last, he sighed, "For my mother."
"And why did she want you to talk to me?" I asked him, thinking of her letter sitting on my desk.
The boy shrugged noncommittally. "She thinks I'm traumatized."
Edward's eyes snapped up to mine and for the first time since he'd entered the room, I saw a tiny stirring of emotion.
"Don't pretend like you don't fucking know," he told me. Even though he'd cursed, his voice wasn't harsh. It was just…resigned. He didn't like being patronized. I couldn't blame him.
"Fair enough," I nodded in concession. "All right, let me ask you this: do you think you're traumatized?"
"Probably," Edward shrugged. "Wouldn't you be?"
"What happened to you was horrible," I hedged, not allowing him to answer my question with a question. Then I led, "I'm sure it's been very emotionally trying."
He rolled his eyes and shrugged again.
"Would you like to talk about it?" I offered.
Deciding to try a different route, I changed the subject. "I know you were in a coma for several days after the accident –"
Edward cut me off abruptly, his voice sharp. "How do you know that?"
"The same way I knew what happened to you in the first place," I told him honestly. "This is a very small town."
His jaw tightened as he nodded.
When he didn't say anything more, I continued, "Would you like to talk about what that felt like while you were unconscious? What it was like waking up?"
"Edward," I sighed, leaning back in my chair, "I won't be able to tell your mother anything if you don't talk to me."
Edward's dragged his eyes back up to mine.
I was surprised to see a little bit of remorse, although I didn't think it was for me.
"Is there anything you would like to talk about?" I asked, opening the conversation for him if he wanted it.
He seemed to consider the question for a moment before nodding.
"Yeah," he said firmly. "Yeah, I want to talk about her."
Edward met Bella on a Wednesday, though technically, it wasn't his first time meeting her. Technically, he had already known her for six years (at least, that was as far back as he could remember.) He always thought of her as his dorky neighbor, awkward and klutzy, tripping over herself wherever she went. To the extent she embarrassed him, really.
He didn't want to hang out with the girl who still looked like a boy, who was gangly, who had braces that filled the majority of her mouth. He told me honestly that he avoided her like the plague. He had his own friends and his own house and his own parents, and not even the unfortunate event of having Bella Swan sometimes impede on his life could break that. Of course, that was his sentiment up until that Wednesday.
She spent a summer in Phoenix, only to return to her father's house the Wednesday before the school year was to start. Edward wasn't sure what they put in the water in Phoenix, but it had to be good. She was a completely different person when she returned, and he wasn't the only one to notice. He didn't feel shallow for only noticing her once she gained a nice rack. Seriously, he was a fourteen-year-old boy. What else was there to life? What else was that monumental? His old neighbor, finally blossoming like a butterfly. He actually thought of that analogy. He was embarrassed by it. Of course, given the fact that he was already friends with her before she left for Phoenix, he assumed he had a shoe in.
He was wrong.
Bella did everything she could to ignore Edward. The major reason was that she was seriously peeved Edward never gave a rat's ass about her until now. He didn't care until she was all new and exotic or something like that, at least, that's what her old schoolmates called her.
Naturally, they all looked new and exotic to her in the same way she did to them. Their eyes grew wider at her already fading tan, the overly-highlighted brown hair, the hint of mascara. And then that ended about a week later. She was no longer new. She was just another pale student with fading hair and smeared mascara.
When Edward talked to Bella on that Wednesday, he had to admit it couldn't really be called 'talking.' It was more of an awkward bump in the hallway, followed by an "excuse me", followed by Edward smelling his jacket to see if her perfume rubbed off on him.
He didn't really know what it was like to be head-over-heels, smitten, or falling hard for someone, but all of those phrases seemed to fit with exactly what he was feeling. He watched her walk away, dissolving into the numerous people in the hall.
Edward actually talked to her the Wednesday after that.
"Hello." He sat next to her in Biology, but it was more like sitting next to a brick wall due to her ignorance of his presence. She flinched at his greeting, two weeks into the semester, perhaps two weeks too late. She did not turn. "I'm Edward Masen."
And then she laughed. But it wasn't a nice, girly laugh. It was a mean, cackling, crude, spiteful laugh.
"I know who you are."
"You -" Edward said, but Bella cut him off.
"Edward fucking Masen."
That was the last time Edward talked to Bella for an entire year. Drastic in hindsight, yes, but his pubescent pride was bruised.
He watched her like a leering pedophile, incessantly peering into her house from his very own window. He saw her walking around occasionally, but the occurrences were few and far-between. Eventually he lost himself in the busy summer, working with his father, playing baseball, telling lies about who he slept with and their age. When school started the following year it was only more of the same; the same being Bella completely ignoring Edward and Edward pretending not to drool like a love-sick puppy when any of his friends were watching.
And then, something unexpected happened.
Bella talked to Edward on a Wednesday.
"Edward? My dad wanted to know if your family could come over for dinner tonight. Some neighborhood bonding thing the police station is setting up." She was very blasé about the matter. The lace trim on the edge of her skirt barely brushed her naked thighs. His mouth was dry due to the unexpected confrontation, and he struggled with both sweaty palms and eloquence.
"Yeah, I mean, yeah. Sounds great, yeah." He internally berated himself for saying 'yeah' three times in one answer.
That night, as he stared at himself in the mirror, he tried to plan out how the night would go. In his plans, he would dazzle Bella with his overly-complimented-upon smile, and she would instantly melt into his waiting arms. And then they would go up to her room and she would show him around, but it wouldn't last for too long because she'd be worried he was getting bored.
He would lock the door, and she would pout at him with plump lips and sultry eyes, seducing him in a way that he'd only seen in bad porn on his computer. His parents and her father would stay safely tucked away downstairs and he'd finally press his lips to hers, cop a feel, perhaps got her shirt off (only if his swagger permitted, of course.) And then, finally, she would admit her undying love to him, and he would reciprocate with the utmost affection.
Unfortunately, things didn't exactly happen that way.
There were at least twenty other people at the Swan residence. He couldn't even find her; notwithstanding share a romantic moment where she swooned under his very worthy smile.
He eventually saw her when the night was winding down, and her eyes were tired, glassy, and blank. She sat against the far wall, alone, playing with the same lace trim on the same skirt brushing the same very naked thighs. He took a deep breath, steeling himself and setting his face into a carefully crafted smirk. Chicks dug that shit, he was positive. He pulled up a wooden chair, legs scraping angrily against the linoleum floor, and sat himself beside her.
"Don't talk to me," she said before he could get a word out. He openly gaped at her. "I don't want to hear your shit."
"But I haven't even said anything yet," he snapped, immediately put on the defensive.
"You don't need to. You've always been the same; you're very predictable, you know."
"That's not true," he pouted like a small child. She laughed at him.
"You even have the same pout when you don't get your way." They were silent for a few moments, each contemplating the other's silence and attempting to analyze it. "Why are you talking to me now, when you didn't give a shit about me before? I would have done anything for you, Edward. I idolized you, and you gave me nothing." He didn't feel the guilt he was supposed to, but he certainly felt regret.
"Because I was a stupid kid." He was still a stupid kid.
"Are you only talking to me because I look prettier?"
"No," he immediately responded, "Well, maybe a little."
She sighed, elegant fingers curling through wavy hair, fanning it out across her shoulders. Her brow furrowed in concentration as she seemed to make a decision.
"Well, at least you didn't lie."
Edward and Bella got to know each other better on a Wednesday.
They did the same the following Wednesday, and the Wednesday after that, and the Wednesday after that.
They had their first kiss on a Wednesday.
They were going to lose their virginity on a Wednesday.
They didn't make it to the final Wednesday.
"You smile when you talk about her," I commented.
Watching Edward talk about Bella was a complete departure from the boy who had walked in ten minutes before. As soon as he started, he didn't seem able to stop. He would describe her and his eyes would light up, as if he was watching the memories play out in his mind.
"I loved her," he replied shortly, as if that explained everything.
"What about her did you love?" I pushed, "You said she was a 'pretty girl'...?"
Almost immediately, I saw his face flush and his eyes locked down defensively. "Are you asking me if I loved her because I thought she was attractive?" he snapped.
I shook my head. "I didn't say that."
"You didn't have to."
"Well, did you?"
"I didn't mean to offend you," I said quickly, holding my hands up in surrender. "There's nothing wrong with being attracted to someone physically."
"I'm not that shallow," Edward hissed.
He looked at me for several seconds, his eyes hard, before the anger slowly drained from his face. I watched incredulously as that hollow, quiet boy resurfaced.
He ran a pale hand through his gnarled hair before dropping his gaze back down, to his shoes. "Maybe I am," he whispered quietly. Then I barely heard, "God, she was beautiful."
"You thought she was beautiful?"
Edward nodded, looking up at me with defiance, but his eyes were still hollow. "She fucking was."
"I have no doubt about that," I said soothingly.
I remembered seeing a picture of her in the paper when they finally released her name; not that anyone in Forks didn't already know it was the pretty, young daughter of the Chief of Police who had jumped off a cliff, looking for a thrill. Still, that picture in the paper was the first time I had actually seen her. I remember what I thought when I saw her face, juxtaposed with her body lying still and shattered on the rocks: such a senseless waste.
I continued, "It's just an interesting choice of adjective for someone your age."
"Why?" Edward asked, looking slightly confused.
"When you were telling me about when you first met her, you were describing her as physically attractive," I explained to him, "The way you say 'beautiful' now seems to imply something more."
"Yeah, well…" Edward shrugged, seeming momentarily stumped. Then he smirked sadly. "Hindsight and all that shit."
I nodded thoughtfully.
He ran his hand through his hair again and took a deep breath.
"Listen, I'm an arrogant prick. Or…that's what people say about me," he shrugged again, "but I'm actually just a realist."
"How do you mean?" I wanted to know, and I leaned forward, eager to hear his answer.
"I know what I look like," he said simply, without a trace of pride or pleasure. "I know what people see when they look at me. I knew back then – the same way I know now – that I could have any girl at that school. Hell, any girl in this town. Whether it's conceited or not, doesn't matter. It's just…fact."
I looked at him with renewed interest at his perspective. "But out of all the girls you're confident you could 'have', you loved her."
"Yeah," Edward confirmed softly.
He seemed to mull over his reply for a moment, rubbing at the stubble on his chin impatiently with the palm of his hand.
"It did start out as a physical thing," he began, his voice reflective. "She was attractive and I wanted her. I was just a horny, stupid kid." He paused before continuing, "I'd met girls who'd resisted me before. It didn't take me long to figure out the 'hard to get' game…and how to win." His smile faded. "But Bella was different."
The smile returned, sad this time. "She knew me before all the hormones and the sex and the bullshit. She knew me and she loved me, asshole that I was," he added ruefully. "When she yelled at me or got pissed at me or ignored me, it wasn't a game. She really didn't want me."
"So," I said hesitantly, keeping my voice completely neutral and unassuming so as not to upset him again, "she was a challenge?"
"I guess, at the beginning," Edward considered with a slow nod. "I would do all this little shit for her, to try and get into her pants."
His smile grew wider at the memory, and I watched in fascination as he recounted the evolution of his relationship.
"After that Wednesday I went to her house for dinner. I was so polite and sweet and just really laid it on thick, you know? I would follow her around like a little puppy during school, and then every Wednesday I would just suck up to her. I would do nice things for other people if I knew she was watching me." His eyes suddenly grew incredibly soft. "And she was watching me. Always."
I nodded, not speaking, waiting for him to continue.
"She was such a fucking mystery to me, at first. I couldn't figure it out, why she always agreed to see me. She had to know that everything I was doing was for her, and not because I was a nice guy. But she didn't seem to mind. It drove me nuts. She was too smart to be so dumb. I mean, she was falling for it."
That soft look returned to his eyes.
"I should have realized it sooner," he concluded, shaking his head at himself.
Edward looked up at me. "She wasn't falling for anything. I was."
"I was pretending to change for her," he explained calmly, leaning back on the couch, "and, somewhere along the way, I really did."
Bella agreed to one date with Edward. Just one. She decided that due to Edward never giving her the time of day before, she was being very gracious. He told her exactly what they were going to do the day before so that she would know how to dress, et cetera.
Edward was not as prepared. He wasn't prepared for his nerves and the way they built in the pit of his stomach and rolled tumultuous waves through his chest. He was also not prepared for the drastic changes in Bella's appearance. She wore this black dress that aged her ten years. It aged her in a way that somehow correlated her appearance to her personality. Her sudden mature and exotic beauty did nothing but fan the flames in his stomach, and make his eyes swirl aimlessly in an attempt to focus on something that didn't make him overly-excited.
Charlie handed her off like a father would in an old Western movie. Much to Edward's embarrassment, he would not be able to drive on his own for another six months, so Edward Senior drove them to a popular chain restaurant in Port Angeles. He fidgeted with the tie that was too big for his neck, the dress shirt that was too wide for his shoulders, the pants that were too long for his legs. Bella turned to face the window, politely ignoring his awkward fluttering hands and the way that Edward Senior kept his eyes trained on the rear-view mirror.
When they finally pulled up to the restaurant, Edward took a slow, deep breath that calmed his nerves only a little. Bella was already out the door and halfway to the sidewalk by the time he managed to unbuckle his seatbelt.
"Son," his father said, halting his departure, "remember one thing: always hold the door for a lady."
Edward nodded, rolling his eyes in faux-masculinity. She was waiting for him by the door, and when he opened it for her, she smiled.
Everything lined up in perfect orbit. They talked awkwardly at first. Stilted sentences slowly wove into comprehensive conversation, shared interests and smiles.
A chunk of marinara sauce landed gracefully on his crisp white dress shirt, causing him to blush the color of crimson fire. He thought he blew it for sure. But she just laughed. He loved the way she always surprised him.
He learned little details about her. Like if he did certain things or said certain things, he was able to get close to her. And then after awhile, those certain things were so practiced that he did them out of habit just to see her smile, laugh, smirk, and grin.
A year fell by with chaste kissing and chaste touching, leading to the years of consent, candles, courage. Sixteenth celebrations were either huge or non-existent. Bella didn't want a large party, so Edward brought over a cupcake with one candle, entering her bedroom through the window that she kept partially cracked for him.
"Happy birthday, Bella. I love you." He didn't even notice the casual admittance. So many times he'd added the three-letter phrase to the end of his thoughts, feelings, and actions. So many times that he hadn't even realized when it slipped from his brain to his tongue. It transferred with such incredible ease that the only reason he noticed was because of Bella's reaction. Her eyes widened and her hand tightened on the cupcake, the candlelight casting shadows on her face and hair.
She leaned toward him and kissed him gently, though Edward could hardly ever stay in the realm of gentle. She pulled away before he could clutch her closer, and blew out the candle. Together, they were engulfed in blackness. Gradually their eyes adjusted, the moonlight shifting minutely to cast a gentle glow in her bedroom.
"What did you wish for?" Edward whispered.
"For the strength to tell you what I feel."
He touched her cheek.
"I love you, too."
Edward grinned, the breath exhaling from his body in a rush. Perhaps he had said it consciously, after all. Denial is a beautiful thing.
The cupcake was tossed aside in a rampage of skin-touching-skin. His lips and tongue traced patterns in sweaty, salty flesh, nipping and biting and tasting. The conversation of pants and grunts, and wanton, hungry noises grew louder, bordering on exultant. His hands slipped under her T-shirt, tracing her ribs like the pristine ivory keys of a well-tuned piano, precious and tarnishable and perfect. She responded with an eagerness that was somewhat tempered by her naiveté, her want overriding her fear, his touch nullifying any sense of regret she could attempt to conjure up.
"I need you," he gasped, not completely sure what he was saying, but knowing that the words came from the deepest part of him, the part that was beyond understanding.
"Yes," she replied incoherently as his tongue flicked out, hot on her neck. He pulled her onto his lap, straddling legs crossed and tangled, yet fitting perfectly like puzzle pieces on the hardwood floor of her bedroom.
Their breath became synchronized, inhalations and exhalations exactly in time, disjointed marks increasing in a steady crescendo. She dragged her fingernails through his hair, entangling them in the mass, and pulled. He pushed closer to her body, as close as he could get, constantly craving.
Yet, suddenly, she stopped. He immediately felt dread. Perhaps he moved too fast, perhaps he came on too strong, perhaps she wasn't ready. Doubts filled his mind as he tried to make eye contact.
"Bella, are you okay?"
That night was the first night that Edward witnessed Bella fall faint as death in his arms.
I watched quietly as Edward stopped talking, his words had flowed effortlessly into a loaded silence. His entire body slumped against the back of the couch, his lips tightening with some repressed emotion. The memories rose up in front of him and poured from his mouth like a rolling current, then ebbed once more.
I let him have his silence, unwilling to breach it, knowing that eventually he would.
He wasn't done.
Several minutes later, I heard his voice, quiet and surprisingly harsh. "She fucking laughed about it."
He shook his head.
"There I was," he said earnestly, leaning forward and lifting his hands, more animated than he'd been our entire time together, "sitting beside her in an ambulance with her dad, and she had all these tubes up her nose pumping oxygen, and heart monitors beeping and blipping and everything was rattling because the driver was just flying over pot holes and shit and I sat there and just…" he paused and took a deep, ragged breath, "I thought she was dead," he said simply, and then he shrugged. "Dying…dead. I thought she would never open her eyes again."
"What was that like?"
Edward responded by rolling his eyes dramatically. "What do you think it was like?" he asked me, like I was an idiot.
I waited for him to continue.
"Anyway, she did open her eyes. About five minutes away from the hospital, she came to." His face got a faraway look. "I took this deep breath …" he shrugged again, "and I realized that I had been counting my breaths in time with hers, and in time with the little beeps of the monitors."
He stopped, allowing a beat for the gravity of what he was saying to sink in.
Edward continued to look at me, his eyes never breaking contact. "And so my whole world comes rushing back and I swear to God I almost break down in tears right then and there. And what does she do?" He shook his head with annoyance and indignation. "She fucking giggles at me and says something like 'you must be used to girls fainting on you by now, if you go around kissing them like that'."
He shook his head again, his jaw clenched tightly. I smiled in response to his irritation and Bella's words. "God, I wanted to fucking slap her for saying that," Edward hissed, dropping his eyes down to his lap, where his hands rested on his thighs.
I nodded in understanding. "You didn't want her to make light of your concern."
Edward looked up at me.
"I guess not," he said slowly, as if he was just realizing an answer to something that had been puzzling him for a while. "I never felt concern for anyone but myself… never before her. And I was lucky, so goddamn lucky that she was the first. The only. Because those minutes I was sitting beside her in that ambulance felt like fucking hours and that feeling in my chest... I wouldn't wish that on my worst enemy."
He stopped and ran a hand through his hair, looking away to the window on his left. I opened my mouth to say something, but he continued.
"If it had been anyone else," he said with a little nod, "I would have jumped out of that ambulance and run away as far and as fast as I could. That…" he paused, searching for the word. "…concern is something I never wanted to feel again in my entire fucking life."
Finally he turned back to face me and I could see that haunted look had returned.
"So what happened?" I asked him, trying to lead him away from the memory while prompting him to keep talking, "When you got to the hospital? Did they know why she had fainted?"
He was in a place where he couldn't hear me.
"You know, sometimes I go back to that day in my head and I wonder what it was like for her," he said quietly. "That was the first time I ever saw her faint, but it wasn't the first time it ever happened."
"Why would you think that?" I wanted to know.
"Because her dad didn't murder me on the spot," he replied with a smirk. It faded quickly, though. "He just told me, real calm, to call an ambulance and that was that."
There was another long pause.
Suddenly and unexpectedly, his eyes snapped up to mine. "I tell you," he said, his voice suddenly strong. "That look on his face…scariest thing I've ever fucking seen, to this day."
"What did he look like?"
"I don't know," Edward said, shaking his head slowly, his words lagging. "He looked scared and worried, of course. But there was just this undercurrent of control." He took in my curious expression he elaborated, "Like he was holding back every emotion he'd ever felt or ever wanted to feel and all of it together just mapped across his face like the most awful kind of…resignation."
He could have been describing his own face in that moment.
"What happened at the hospital, Edward?" I asked him again, firmly.
This time he heard the question.
There was something about the way the hospital chairs felt beneath his ass that distracted him. The hard plastic; the stiff, immovable backrest; the metal shriek if anybody moved one of them.
He glared at the linoleum tiles that checkered the floor. His mask was arrogance, uncaring, thoughtless, but his insides were a tumult of emotions that ranged from fear to regret to bewilderment. He could not remember a time when he had been so absolutely horror-struck in his life. He was balancing on a thin string, read to fall.
But there were scissors held precariously close to the string, and they were in Bella's hands. The last twenty-four hours of his life moved those scissors infinitely closer to the string. He could feel the reverberations on the cool blades, each filament snapping and breaking and dissolving beneath him.
Never had he lost all control. Never was it like this.
When Edward finally saw her again, she was laying in a hospital bed. Her eyes were closed; she was sleeping. Charlie sat in the corner of the room, his hand resting on his chin, also sleeping. He silently walked to the edge of the bed, reaching out and tentatively smoothing the hair off of her forehead. She didn't respond, except that her eyes tightened minutely.
He pursed his lips, controlling the emotions that pushed at his insides, and took a small step back. Yet each step he took, each step that moved him farther away from her, added exponentially to the rush of emotion. It just amplified the dread and the sickness, both of which were so bad that he felt it all the way to his bones. But he wasn't the one lying in the hospital bed.
He fell asleep with his head balanced precariously on her blanket, the crest of his head barely brushing the swell of her hip. Charlie woke him sometime later, his hand pushing against Edward's shoulder, shaking him. Edward, discombobulated and confused, squinted up at Charlie, eyes ringed with red.
"How are you doing, son?" he asked, in a kinder tone than Edward had ever heard him speak in before.
"I'm... it's... Jesus Christ," Edward cursed, burying his face in his hands. "I don't think I can handle this."
"This wasn't just a one-time thing, was it?" Edward asked, his eyes alight with anger. He wondered how Bella could keep something like this from him. He wondered why, after he had told her everything, she never told him something so important. And that angered him.
"No, it wasn't," Charlie answered, "but it isn't my place to tell you the rest of the story." Charlie sighed again and walked back to his post at the chair in the corner. Edward, now fully awake, looked across Bella's still-sleeping form. Her breathing was regular, though the beep that signaled her heart beat ran minutely faster than what he was used to, or the speed they most often played in movies. At some point he must have fallen asleep again, because he woke a second time to the feeling of fingers through hair, brushing against scalp. He looked up to see Bella looking down at him with a strange kind of peaceful expression on her face that certainly did not mirror his own.
"Good morning," she said, and although her voice was slightly rougher than usual, her general demeanor hadn't changed.
"Not a very good morning," Edward snapped, causing Charlie to sit up straighter. A look from Bella stopped him from removing Edward from the room.
"Don't be angry, Edward," she sighed, somehow seeming much more mature than he. That bothered him.
"You never tell me what the fuck is going on. You didn't tell me what the fuck was going to happen. You didn't warn me," Edward exhaled almost all of it in desperation. He was trying to be tough, but the unmistakable inkling of dread colored his tone.
Bella lips set firmly in a tight line. "I knew you wouldn't be able to handle it. I knew you would act... just like this." She waved her hand toward him, while he attempted to analyze himself.
"I can't... you can't..." Edward fumed, unable to get a single coherent phrase out.
"I think it's time for you to leave, Edward," Charlie suddenly said, and then he stood up.
"Dad, please," Bella retorted, "I'm going to tell him. Could you come back in five minutes?"
Five minutes, Edward wondered. This fiasco would only take five minutes to explain?
Charlie begrudgingly left the room, his feet dragging on the floor in what was an attempt to procrastinate so he could keep an eye on his only child. Edward watched as Bella gave him a happy smile, before turning her attentions back to Edward. Then things weren't so happy. Instead, they were resigned.
"I'm going to tell you this, and then you're going to leave," she said, speaking in a disturbingly even voice. "Actually," she said bitterly, "I'm surprised you lasted this long. I thought for sure you would be gone when I woke up."
That hurt him. That hurt him in a place he didn't know existed. In a place so far down deep in his self, that it radiated outward until he slumped forward in defeat.
"I can't leave you, Bella," he sighed softly, "I just can't."
"We'll see," she said, twisting the knife. She sighed. "I have this problem with my heart. I've had it since I was born. Technically, it's called valvular stenosis," she paused, letting what she said sink in. Edward's eyes stayed locked on hers, though all he heard was "I have a problem with my heart" played on repeat, again and again. She spoke more about valves and difficulty breathing, a quickened heartbeat and multiple surgeries, but all he heard was a large whoosh, like the sound of a large, oncoming swell.
"Edward?" Bella eventually asked his non-responsive form.
He held up one shaky finger in response.
Please wait, it said.
Please let me catch my breath, it said.
Please let me figure out how the hell I'm going to live my life from this point on, it said.
His hands fisted in the blanket, trying desperately to understand, to comprehend. Before he could gather his bearings, both Charlie and a male nurse were pulling him from the room. He thrashed against them but to no avail, and then his body transformed into complete and utter dead weight. He was deposited, once again, on the plastic chairs in the waiting room. But this time, he couldn't feel his surroundings. He was completely numb to the world.
It was the day he found out Bella was going to die.
"I think about it all the time," he stated after a loaded beat.
I tried to not let my face show that I was reeling at this new information. The tragedy of this boy's story was seizing me, gripping at my chest and making it hard for me to breathe. He could have been crying and wailing and thrashing and I would have understood. I felt the almost irrepressible urge to walk across the room and sit beside him, to place my hand on his shoulder with all the comfort I could offer as a father or a friend.
I wasn't his father or his friend.
I was his doctor.
He was calm, so I was calm.
"I think about what she told me," Edward continued, his voice even and sad. "She sat there and explained her disease to me and I couldn't hear her. Now I think about it all the time. Just…the technical side of it. The side of it I couldn't force myself to imagine before. I think about…what it must have been like for her."
He swallowed audibly and looked down at the couch beneath his hands. I watched silently as his fingers danced along the worn threads slowly, as if he was contemplating each frayed string.
He spoke without looking up.
"When I was in a coma, after the accident, I thought I was dead." He paused. "I mean, I guess I didn't really think anything," he shrugged, "but I remember waking up and being confused. It was like I couldn't understand why she wasn't with me. And then I realized I was alive and they told me that she wasn't, and I just…"
His voice began trembling so hard that he was forced to stop and take a deep breath. I clasped my hands tightly over my lap to keep from saying anything, to keep from going to him. I waited patiently for him to regain composure.
Finally, he did.
"Sometimes I wonder if she thought she was dead when she fainted," he said quietly. There was curiosity in his voice now, intertwined with the ache. "Could she feel them coming? Did she think it would be the last time she'd ever close her eyes? Was she surprised every time she opened them?" He shook his head. "I never asked her what it was like. I never wanted to know."
"Do you think she was scared?" I asked him.
"No," he said with a firm shake of his head. I was surprised by the immediacy of his answer. "She wasn't scared of anything. Least of all, dying," he smiled ruefully. "That was all me."
"You were scared of dying?"
"I was scared for her," he told me, shaking his head again. "I was scared of her death. I was scared to be without her."
I nodded in understanding. "Feeling alone can be very frightening."
"But I wasn't alone," he responded, looking up at me. "I had my parents, my friends, hell, even Charlie. It wasn't fear of her leaving me alone. It was just fear of her leaving."
I waited for him to continue.
Edward bit his lip, running his fingers through his hair thoughtfully before speaking. "When we first started dating, sometimes she would have these moments where she would just…disappear."
"Not physically. I mean… not always physically," Edward said, his voice reflective. "Sometimes, yeah, she would get up and walk out of my house or halfway through a movie she'd ask me to drive her home or she'd ask for the check without ordering dessert.
But then sometimes we'd just be making out or walking down the street talking or eating lunch in the cafeteria and she'd… go…" he paused again, searching for the words before continuing, "She'd just… withdraw, you know? She'd get all in her own head and she'd sort of freeze up and get defensive and I'd see a little bit of that hostile fourteen-year-old."
"How did you feel about that?" I asked, leading him slowly.
"Pretty fucking frustrated," Edward said with a humorless chuckle. It faded almost immediately. "I couldn't really understand it. Self-centered little jackass that I was, I used to think it was about me. She didn't trust me or she didn't want me or she didn't feel good enough for me or she didn't think I was good enough for her. Now I know she was just trying to spare herself."
"She would freeze up and I would push her and she'd look like she was… struggling with something," Edward told me, nodding slowly as if in agreement with himself. "She was trying to figure out how to get away from me, or how to make me leave. She knew she was dying and she didn't want to let herself…" he trailed off.
"You think she didn't see the point to it," I surmised.
It wasn't a question.
"Well, there wasn't a point, was there?" Edward replied, his voice suddenly bitter. "She was right."
"Do you ever think that maybe it was about you?" I asked him, ignoring his rhetorical question. I leaned forward in my chair, my eyes catching his and holding on. "Do you ever think that maybe she wanted to spare you? That maybe she didn't want you to feel the pain she knew you'd feel when you found out?"
Edward looked at me for several seconds.
Then he said, "I don't think she knew."
"How much it would hurt me," he shrugged as if it was nothing. "How much I loved her. I don't think she knew back then."
I leaned back in the chair once more and folded my arms across my chest.
We looked at each other for a little longer as I waited.
Again, I could feel the incredibly strong urge to reach out and comfort him, to remove some of the hopelessness that I felt when I saw those haunted features. They were screaming and tortured in their silent stillness.
I suddenly felt vulnerable and incredibly aware of how invested I had become in this boy and his Bella. I had always considered myself to be honest and frank, traits my patients usually appreciated when they spoke to me. I never really offered my opinions, never opened up any dialogue or debate. I figured that wasn't what they were paying for. Really, it was a way to distance myself, to keep myself from getting emotionally invested.
I wasn't their friend, I was their exorcist.
Looking at this grieving, strong young boy, I could feel something in me start to shift.
"When I said I was scared of her leaving," Edward said at last, "I don't just mean I was scared of her death."
I remained silent.
He was lost in thought and then finally threw his hands in the air.
"It was so fucking inevitable," he cried. He wasn't yelling but his whole body seemed alive and in pain. "It had to happen sooner or later. One way or another. And the anticipation…" he paused, running his hand through his hair again and gripping at the roots in frustration. Then he looked straight at me and said simply, "She wasn't really mine."
"You said that she loved you, that you loved her," I said quietly, trying to keep my voice soothing. At my words, I saw him soften as he stared back at me, his entire being under some kind of incredible duress. I posed the question, "You don't think that would make her yours, even in death?"
Edward blinked at me.
"I don't know," he said sincerely, "What binds one person to another?"
He didn't wait for an answer.
"When I wanted her, she was the one person I couldn't have. Then, when she finally gave herself to me, I find out that it's all borrowed fucking time anyway. And now she's gone and I'm still here and I can't…" he sighed, and glared at me, "Her life didn't even belong to her, so how the hell could it belong to me?"
The meadow was a place for them to be alone and completely open. They went often during the summer, when the days were long and the sun broke through the heavy clouds with ease. Edward found it himself some time before Bella, but after the first time he took her there, the meadow was synonymous with her. He brought a checkered blanket that belonged to his mother and spread it out across the wild grass and flowers. They matted down a specific spot so that no other wildlife would be tarnished, squished underneath their bodies and forced into the mud. Bella always lay on her back "watching the sky turn" as she often said. He lay sideways beside her, head resting on palm resting on elbow.
Except he didn't watch the sky turn, he only watched her.
He didn't feel a sense of inequality in the relationship, even though all of his thoughts and his actions and his words were consumed by Bella. It wasn't something that he took lightly. It wasn't something that was simply a high school crush, like it perhaps looked to other people. Bella was all of him. She was the string that held him together, stitched him up, and if he lost her, when he lost her, he would be riddled with bloody, oozing cuts. Bella pointed out a cloud to him, told him that it was shaped like a gnome. He wasn't thinking about gnomes or clouds or the beauty of the meadow. He was simply trying to figure out how to keep a hold on her. How to keep his stitches from falling apart.
"That's strange," he replied without looking up.
"You didn't even look," she called him on it, glaring with eyes narrowed. He chuckled, running a finger along her skin in a path from the pointed corner of her eye to the tip of her chin.
"Yeah, I didn't look," he conceded. She watched him watch her.
"What?" she asked when he didn't turn away, as was polite when people held eye contact for too long.
"Nothing... just kiss me or something," he requested. He expected her to be angered by the obvious order. She was pretty feminist in that way, always making sure she had the opportunity to say no, even if she didn't really want to. As he expected, her cheeks flamed up in defiance. He prepared for her to start telling him off.
Instead, she leaned forward and kissed him. He gasped, surprised, rolling over so that he lay on top of her. He ached with the need to have her... to have her all over. It was to the point where he couldn't stop wanting, stop touching, stop needing, stop loving.
"Stop!" she cried, seeming to mimic his thoughts. He broke from his stupor, rolling over onto his back. His breath came in pants and gasps as he tried to control it, to slow it down.
"What's wrong?" he asked tentatively. He didn't want to waste any time with her. There was never anything certain with Bella. Today, for all he knew, could be the day that she would leave him forever.
"I was supposed to tell you something when we came out here," she said, not meeting his eye. He felt a deep wrongness in the pit of his stomach that told him something bad - something really bad - was about to happen. He tried to ignore it, tried to swallow it down and push it away, but it kept surfacing and trying to escape.
"What is it?" he asked, even when it was so incredibly hard to find his voice.
She sat up and wrapped her arms around her knees.
"I only have six months."
"To... to do what?" he asked in stupid confusion.
"To be alive, duh," she replied, laughing. Laughing.
"Six months?" he choked, his mind and thoughts now running in double-time.
"I was going to tell you earlier... Edward, I'm sorry," she sighed, "It's time we broke up, anyway. I've allowed this to go on too long."
"Too long?!" he finally bellowed. "Too long... we've hardly even started, Bella. We're running out of time right now." He reached out and grasped her wrist, pulling her to him. She seemed surprised by the action, though she did not attempt to pull back. He ran his nose through her hair, inhaling, memorizing. Entwining his fingers with hers, he had an epiphany of sorts. He knew how to keep hold of her. He knew what to do. It was unorthodox. For society, they were too young. Emotionally, they were too young. But it symbolized everything.
"Marry me?" he asked in a whisper.
She inhaled and looked at him, eyes wide.
I blinked, startled.
"You asked her to marry you?"
Edward glanced at my surprised face and he gave me a small, humorless smile. "Some joke, huh?"
"I don't think it's a joke at all." I shook my head adamantly, once again feeling breathless surprise as I realized that forty-five minutes had passed and I felt as though we had met moments before, that he hadn't been confiding the most important memories of his past and lost love for almost an hour.
"She was dying," he said with a shrug, the smile falling off his face. "I mean, she told me straight up, calm as can be, that she had six months to live. And all I could think about was how I had to fucking have her."
"In what sense?"
I watched his face flush a violent, sudden red. At first, I thought it was embarrassment, but his eyes lifted to mine and he looked irritated and raw. "Jesus, I don't mean I proposed because I wanted to fuck her," he snapped at me, green biting and sparking behind solid, long lashes.
I sighed and leaned back in my chair, folding my arms. "You like to put words in my mouth," I remarked. It hadn't been the first time.
Edward opened his mouth to retort, and then snapped it shut abruptly. I saw his features soften slightly. Soften was the wrong word. His mouth drooped and his eyes sagged and his skin returned to its drawn, haunted sallow.
"Well, isn't that my subconscious or some bullshit?" he barked in a weak chuckle. "Aren't you going to tell me how it's what I was thinking, not you?"
I smiled at him with all the compassion I felt. "I would, but you seem to have already covered it."
Edward paused and blinked before giving me a small smile. "Huh," he said, surprised but not begrudging. "I guess I do like to speak for you."
"And why do you think that is?" I asked him.
"I don't know," he said, lifting his hands before bringing them back down to his lap. "It's just me being a defensive ass, I guess. Either that, or I'm afraid to hear what you're going to say."
I was shocked by his answer, in light of his seeming confidence and comfort in my presence. "Has anything I've said upset you? Made you feel that way, Edward?"
His eyes widened and then dropped down as he shook his head.
I watched him carefully for several moments, allowing him to run his hands over the threadbare couch by his legs a dozen times. He wasn't speaking, and I knew he wouldn't, but there wasn't any hint of discomfort or fear in his body.
"So why did you ask her to marry you?" I asked him at last, softly, returning to the original question. "In what sense did you feel as though marriage would help you 'have' her?"
He shrugged and looked up at me sheepishly. "It's like what we were talking about before... about how losing her was inevitable," he recalled. "Marrying her just seemed like it would tie her to me in some... other way..."
"In what other way?" I prompted.
He shrugged and was silent.
I nodded and moved to a more general question. "What does the sacrament of marriage mean to you, Edward?"
He looked me square in the eye, and I could tell he was completely unprepared for the question I'd posed. He seemed to contemplate an answer. I could almost hear him warring with himself over the answer he wanted to give me and the answer that would be the truth.
"Honestly?" he said at last, "Not a whole fucking lot."
I breathed a short laugh and then admitted, "I'm not sure I understand."
"You and me, both," he agreed.
I raised my eyebrows and he sighed.
"When you say the word 'marriage' to me, I think of churches and shitty DJ's and champagne and poufy white dresses and pieces of paper that say you don't belong to yourself anymore," he elaborated, the words rushing out of him in one long breath. He paused before continuing, "And what's the point of all that? Churches are cold and drafty and I hate dancing and I'm not old enough to drink champagne and fuck me if Bella wasn't so much more goddamn beautiful in blue."
He stopped, his eyes growing distant.
When he finally continued, his voice was so quiet I had to strain forward to hear him. "But when I was looking at her, when I heard the words coming out of my mouth, they just felt right. Because all of that bullshit was just...not there. That wasn't what I was asking her for."
"What were you asking?" I asked, my voice matching his.
Edward shook his head, sadly. "I have no fucking clue."
I nodded. "Do you think that's why she refused you?"
Edward looked at me for a long time. His mouth twitching and dancing, lips moving in all directions, as if he was struggling both to speak and to keep quiet. When he spoke at last, there was a chuckle in his voice. "You know, I think it might be," he stated with incredulity, as if it should have been the most obvious thing in the world. "Jesus, I'd never thought of that."
I smiled back at him kindly as he ran his hands throw his hair, over and over, making it wilder and wilder.
"Why did you pick then to propose to her?" I asked, after a companionable amount of quiet...
He cocked a brow at me. "What do you mean?"
I explained. "Right after she dealt you this incredibly devastating blow... why was that your first reaction?"
Edward's brow crushed together and his jaw tightened. His eyes drifted down as he considered the question seriously, teeth tugging at his bottom lip. He was silent for a long time as he thought.
And I watched him.
"Want to hear something horrible?" Edward said slowly, looking up at me, "I think it was because I figured she'd be vulnerable."
I could see the guilt wash across his features and I fought the desire to say anything in response. Instead, I waited for him to continue.
"I mean, I wanted to marry her before that, I just didn't know it. When I asked, nothing had ever sounded so right to me in my entire life." He hesitated, looking momentarily unsure, and then nodded firmly, "But subconsciously? I asked her in that meadow, at that moment, for the same reason every other would-be groom asks down on one knee, in a romantic restaurant or on a bed of roses or under the stars."
"And what reason is that?"
Edward shrugged. "Because I thought she'd say yes."
"Did you feel as though you had to trick her into it?"
Edward's laugh was the closest I had heard to genuine all day. "Don't all men?"
I couldn't help the grin that crawled across my own face. "Hopefully," I agreed, "But what I meant was do you think she loved you as much as you loved her?"
All traces of laughter fell away.
"I think death shifts your perspective on a lot of things," he replied after a moment. His voice was suddenly very hollow, devoid – once more – of all traceable emotion. "Sometimes I think she only loved me because she was dying."
"What do you mean?"
He shrugged. "Like, she knew she wouldn't have time to find someone she liked more, someone better or more worthy or whatever. Or maybe she just knew that it wouldn't be forever. Loving me for the rest of her life wouldn't be that big of a commitment…"
I shook my head. "It's normal to have doubts," I assured him.
"No," Edward said firmly, his voice snapping back at me. My eyes widened in surprise. "It's stupid of me to think that. I know it's normal to have doubts, and that having them doesn't make them true. I know she loved me. At the end… she loved me."
I smiled at him and nodded.
"And you don't think, in some way – in maybe the only way that counts – that makes her yours?" I asked him softly.
Edward looked at me for a beat, his face unreadable.
"No," he replied. "I don't."
I saw the serious, unflinching steel of his eyes.
"This may sound a little corny to you," I said quietly, honestly as I looked at him, "but I don't think death has any hold over love."
Edward was silent.
Then his expression turned to one of curiosity, he cocked his head questioningly, and said, "But I'm still alive."
It was raining heavily against the windshield of his Volvo. Bella sat to his right, not making eye contact, staring out the window. Edward's hand reached across the armrest, clutching Bella's in her lap. Her upraised knuckles were white as a ghost.
As he pulled up to the edge of the cliff, the rain tapered off into a drizzle. He turned off the car, opened the door and grabbed an umbrella from the trunk. He opened it, walking to Bella's side to find her already out of the car, the light rain leaving mist on her face.
He wondered how it was possible for one person to be so achingly, dreadfully beautiful.
Shielding them both with the umbrella, they walked hand in hand to the edge of the cliff. The Volvo seemed to watch them in the same way that the grass and the clouds seemed to watch them, and everything became silent and still in the wake of the plunge. The rain fell to a stop, and the umbrella was left, closed, on an unconcealed rock.
Bella stood back as he stepped forward, peering over the edge of the cliff to see the tumultuous mixture of white-capped waves and jutting boulders below him. There was a steady thump, thump - similar to that of a beating drum - as the wake crashed endlessly on the sheer walls of the cliff. Edward had seen people jump from here before, though the waves were calm and the ledge clear of any rocks.
Edward stepped back to meet Bella again. She looked at him, her eyes blank and flat like that of slate. He pressed his lips to her forehead, cheeks, eyelids, chin.
She kissed him softly, sweetly.
"I love you," he said quietly.
"I love you, too," she replied in the pure way that signified first and only love. "Wait, I thought about what you said before."
His heart raced. He never knew what she was thinking, and it scared him far more than any jump off of some rock ever could.
"About what?" he asked, swallowing a lump in his throat.
"About marrying me. I never wanted to get married because I never thought that I could. I will marry you, Edward," she said solemnly. His eyes widened and he pulled her to him in a crushing embrace.
"Wait... wait just one second," he said quickly, for no circumstance could pull him out of his positively ebullient state.
Not only would he never have to live without her, he would have her forever. He raced to the back of the Volvo, where he specifically remembered stepping through some long stalks of grass. Pulling two out of the ground, he fashioned the deep green swords into circular bands, tying them in a knot just like string. He jogged back up to her. She smiled when she saw him arrive. He held the small grass rings behind his back.
They stood facing each other. Bella shivered as the temperature suddenly dropped.
"Bella Swan, do you promise to love me forever?" He didn't know marital vows, but that was the only part that mattered to him, anyway.
"I do," she replied. "Edward Cullen, do you promise to love me forever?"
He pulled out the grass rings from behind his back, slipping one on her finger as she did the same to his. "You may now kiss the bride," he whispered, mostly to himself. Their lips touched again, intense adoration hidden by chaste restraint. Snow began to fall as they pulled apart, little white flecks that melted easily upon impact with the ground. Edward took off his coat, wrapping it around her shoulders as they walked to the edge.
"Are you ready?" he grinned, adrenaline coursing through his body. He had never felt more alive.
One last breath, one last look, one last touch, and that was it.
My office was silent, a soundless cave that held only the ticking clock and the breaths of two people, inhaling and exhaling in an alternate rhythm. I could feel the pale and bloodless pallor of my own face. It seemed an appropriate match for the sudden fiery steel of Edward's expression.
"That was the last time I saw her." He was emotionless when he said it and more emotional than I had ever seen him. His voice was flat and monotonous with the strain of untapped agony.
"I'm very sorry, Edward," I whispered, my words inadequate to my own ears.
He shrugged. "It's not your fault."
"It's not yours, either," I stated, my voice suddenly firm as I remembered myself. "You know that right? You wanted to be with her, she wanted to be with you. People do all sorts of crazy things when they know they're dying. Or when they know someone they love is dying. Accidents happen," I insisted, surprised by the desperation, the earnestness in my words. "You can't blame yourself for her death."
Edward stared back at me, blankly.
I saw no guilt, no anger, no fear, no sadness.
I saw nothing.
"Hour's up," he said.
Then he stood, simple and quick, and headed past me over to the door. I stood and watched him, stunned, as he reached for the doorknob. Before he left, he twisted around to face me one last time.
"Well, thanks, Carlisle." He said my name with a mischievous smile.
"Will you come back?" I asked him.
"I don't think so."
"I hope you'll reconsider." I told him.
He walked out.
Carlisle Cullen stood alone in a cemetery, the fingers of his right hand wrapped loosely around a bouquet of flowers.
The wind was cold against his face, whipping through his hair and chilling his scalp. He should have worn a hat. He wasn't wearing mittens, but the hand that held the flowers was warm. All around him were cold stones and cold trees and cold grass. Everything was dead except for him, a shimmering beacon of life within the confines of the rusted, black metal fence.
He looked down at the grey slab before him and wished he could have gone to the funeral.
He hadn't been invited.
There was no reason he should have been. There was no reason anyone should have called him; parents, police. There was no reason anyone should have expected him to mourn or shed tears or spend sleepless nights, tossing and turning in his bed.
The body that lay so peacefully under the ground had not been his to grieve.
If anyone had asked him, he could have told them about the person that body used to belong to. He knew mind, spirit, and love better than any friend or family. He could recall everything of importance from that short, young life. He knew everything that truly mattered. And he was the only one - the only one - who knew why that short, young life was no more. He and he alone knew why he was standing in a cemetery, looking at a gravestone.
He had read the article and he knew what the police had said and what the families had agreed. This was a tragic accident. Youth that had burned and flamed too bright and had been claimed by the raw, wild power of nature. Crashing waves and jagged rocks to smother lungs and shatter bones. Everyone said that nothing could have been done.
There are no such things as accidents when it comes to love.
And there was so much love here.
He could almost imagine that handsome, haunted boy and his lovely girl as they agreed with flushed skin and silken hair to end their lives in each other's arms. He could imagine him saying that he had to make her his. He could imagine her saying that they would be together forever. Standing on a cliff with bands of grass around dainty fingers, snow and rain and ice falling on eyelashes of veiled eyes.
He could imagine her white skin and red blood and her whispering wedding vows in the last rush of air.
He could imagine his gasping breaths and violent strains and his lips on hers as the waves broke around them.
He could imagine parents, stumbling and confused, not knowing who to turn to or where to place blame. On love? On God? On everything that stretches between? They would stand before graves and they had no name for the agony they felt.
Carlisle Cullen had named his agony.
He wondered sometimes why he hadn't seen it coming. He wondered why he had listened to the boy's words and hadn't understood the meaning behind them, hadn't understood the story that was really being told.
She had been dying, and one way or another she would take him with her.
They had agreed. She had died. He had lived.
The boy had insisted so many times that she had never been his.
Never would be.
Carlisle Cullen placed the flowers on the ground next to the grave. There wasn't enough room on the fresh dirt for the petals to even touch on the stone. All the other brightly colored condolences were there first.
When he straightened up, he brushed his fingers over the name engraved in stone, his face solemn.
He smiled a little, knowing that he had found her at last. They had crawled over ocean and cliff and love and hate and beauty and ugly and life and death, clawed their way toward each other, to a place where they could be together in the end.
Edward Masen died January 12, 2010 in Forks. He was eighteen years old.
He drowned several miles off the coast of the nearby La Push reservation and was found two days later, after being reported missing.
Mr. Masen lived with his parents in Forks, Washington since birth. He attended Forks High School and was set to graduate in June. He is survived by his father, Edward Masen Sr., and his mother, Elizabeth Masen. A funeral was held January 15, 2010.