The Black Balloon Contest
Title: The Only Right Way Left
Pen Name: SleepMyBella
Characters: Edward and Bella
Disclaimer: Twilight belongs to Stephenie Meyer. Rated M for sexual content.
This story has made the final voting round for the Black Balloon Contest, so if you like it I would be honored if you would vote for me! Voting ends on 4-16-10. You can find the voting link by doing an author search for "Black Balloon Contest". Thank you for reading!
The rhythmic creaking of the old wooden rocking chair was quiet and soothing in the still, warm air of the white room. The chair was the same one that had stood in Bella's bedroom since she was a baby, the same one that I'd sat in, watching with rapt fascination as she slept, that first night I climbed through her window and stepped into heaven. The one I'd rocked her in that first morning, after that first night I'd stayed. She had said she loved me for the first time– the first time while she was awake–while we had rocked, her head against my chest, and I'd told her she was my life. This chair had moved with us to every house we'd lived in over the past thirty years, and had moved with us this final time, back to Isle Esme.
Back to the white room with the wide feather bed and the clouds of gossamer netting. Back to the place where our life as husband and wife had begun. It seemed right that we should be here when that beautiful dream came to an end.
My Bella was dying.
My Bella...was dying.
Oh, God. Oh, God. Oh, God.
Please, please, please, please, please.
I don't know why I begged for pity from above, knowing that I was a soulless demon who would never see gates of pearl. God's heaven was not for such as I. It mattered not to me; the only heaven I could ever want was nestled sleeping in my arms, soft and fragrant and oh, alive. I clutched her closer to me where she sat, crosswise in my lap, her thin legs dangling over the arm of the chair. I tucked the thick blanket more snugly around her, conscious of my cold arms, one wrapped under her knees, one wrapped around her shoulders and back, pressing her tightly to my chest. She was always cold now.
I pressed my lips to the top of her head and closed my eyes, breathing in deeply, absorbing her scent into every fiber of my being. Her scent was, impossibly, even more beautiful and intoxicating that it had been that first day I met her in biology class. I smiled a little as I remembered the day that had changed my existence forever, in the most profound way possible. How could I have ever known that what had seemed, at the time, like the worst thing that could ever happen would turn out to be the only thing I would ever want?
Her scent, which had tortured me so, was now the sweetest perfume imaginable. I gulped greedy lungfuls, knowing that our time was finite. And though the scent was still unbelievably delicious, it had long since ceased to tempt me. Her scent was affirmation of her life, just as it had been that day she'd come to save me in Volterra, so long ago now. She had saved me so many times, in so many ways.
It was killing me that I wasn't saving her.
That first night back in her room after Italy, we'd argued over the future, only one of many such arguments over the years. She'd begged for me to change her, and oh, how I wanted it, wanted to keep her forever, share every part of my life with her. But I knew in my once-beating heart that changing her would be unforgivably selfish. A soul as beautiful as hers should live forever. When she had appealed to my family, I had convinced them that it would be wrong to take away her potential for a happy human life, should she choose it at some point in the future. Should she choose something other than a life with me. It would be selfish enough for me to tie her to me for the duration of her human life, never mind eternity. But that's what I had done. It had been the only right way left. I wanted, above all, for her to have choices. I wanted her to be free to choose her life, to choose to order me away if she saw fit. To choose to change her mind.
It was to my everlasting thankfulness that she never did. And also to my everlasting guilt.
When we had married, pledging our love to one another on the happiest day of my existence, I had planned for sixty years together, seventy years. Seventy years of love and bliss.
I'd gotten thirty.
It was not enough time. It was not enough. We needed more time.
Please, please, please, please, please.
Our family had come with us to the island last week, helping us settle in and coming to terms with the looming loss of a beloved daughter and sister. They'd bid their final goodbyes to Bella this morning, then retreated to the mainland to give us privacy for our last hours together. I'd made Jasper and Emmett promise to be ready to book me a flight to Volterra at a moment's notice. I would not live if she did not. The world would cease to be for me if she was not in it.
Alice had glared at me accusingly with her heartbroken eyes. Though she tried to respect my decision, she had never fully understood my insistence on leaving Bella human. She would soon be losing not only her best friend and sister, but her favorite brother as well. I knew Alice would not be the only one who would suffer greatly over her passing. Bella had become so beloved of every member of our family, and I had read pain and devastation in the thoughts of everyone, and doubt as to whether this was really the right way. No one was more uncertain of that than I.
My Bella stirred in my arms, bringing my mind back to the present. She slept lightly and frequently now, her body exhausted by her valiant battle with the insidious sickness. Her sunken eyes slowly fluttered in her frighteningly pale face, finally opening to reveal brown orbs slightly hazed with pain and medication. I had begged Carlisle to prescribe her the strongest pain medication possible, hating the thought of her hurting in any way. But she had refused anything that would make her less than coherent, saying she wanted to be fully lucid up until the very end. I had not been able to persuade her otherwise, and though I had been tempted many times, when she would cringe in pain that she couldn't hide from me, to beg Carlisle to give it to her anyway, I had respected her wishes, knowing that these last moments were as precious to her as they were to me.
God. How could I let her go?
"Edward." Her voice was weak and raspy. Every time she spoke, I was afraid it would be the last.
"What is it, love? Are you cold? Are you hurting? Do you need more pain medication? Water? Are you uncomfortable? Can I– "
"I'm okay, Edward," she rasped. She smiled at me, an indulgent, genuine smile. "You've taken such good care of me." She slowly lifted her hand from where it was curled on my chest and brought it to my face, smoothing her fingers softly over the anxious lines I knew must be etched on my marble forehead. I let out a shuddering sigh at her touch.
"It's alright," she murmured as her fingers stroked my skin. "Please don't worry. It's alright now."
I shook my head slightly, squeezing my eyes shut for a moment as guilt washed over me. She was the one in pain, and I was the one receiving the gentle balm of her comfort. She was as selfless as always, and my selfishness knew no bounds.
I turned my head to press a kiss to her palm, then gently pressed my nose to the blue veins in her fragile wrist–so close to the surface of her skin now that she was so thin–inhaling deeply and smiling in the gesture I knew she loved. She smiled back, her eyes lighting a bit, and I resolved to try to make her smile like that as much as possible in the time left to us. I would try not to let her see that I was dying along with her, though my immortal body was as strong as ever.
"Will you eat something, love?" I asked quietly as we continued to rock.
She hesitated a moment, then nodded with a small smile. She had been sick to her stomach for the past several days, and her appetite was non-existent. But she knew how it pained me when she didn't eat, seeing her body wasting away a little more each day. It was unbearable to watch.
On the little table next to our chair sat a tray I'd prepared earlier with crackers and cheese and fruit. I reached to it now and picked up a cracker, holding it to her lips. She nibbled on it cautiously. When she finished it, I offered her a small curl of cheese with a hopeful expression, relieved when she nodded.
My eyes never left her face as I continued to feed her. I had always loved watching her eat, and feeding her with my own hands was something that gave me a deep sense of satisfaction and pride, knowing that I was caring for my love in the most basic of ways. There was something so intimate and loving about it. It gave me such pleasure to look after all her needs, everything from making her breakfast in bed to helping her with her coat. She used to roll her eyes and huff sometimes at my insistence on such things, but now she just smiled indulgently, knowing how much I loved doing them.
I watched intently as Bella delicately ate a small sliver of pear. She smiled at me when she finished. "Thank you." I smiled back, relieved that she'd been able to keep some food down today. But my relief was short-lived as her already white face paled further. Knowing what was coming, I reached quickly to the floor for the plastic basin that was always at the ready. I held it below her chin as her stomach violently emptied itself of the nourishment she had just taken in, her body spasming so hard I feared her ribs would crack. I rubbed her back in gentle circles as a terrible anguish washed over me, watching her pain.
Finally she slumped back in my arms, her body slack with exhaustion. I kissed her temple over and over as I murmured to her. "I'm so sorry, Bella. I'm so sorry. I'm so sorry." I couldn't stop staying it until she reached a limp hand to brush her fingers over my lips.
"I'm okay. It's okay." Her voice was faint and hoarse.
I fought to compose myself. Finally I blew out a shaky breath and reached to the table for the pitcher of water, pouring a glass for her to rinse out her mouth. When she was finished she laid her head on my chest and closed her eyes, the dark circles under them even darker now. I began to rock again. "Sleep now, love," I murmured as I caressed her hair and her still-quivering back. I hummed her lullaby softly as she drifted into sleep.
She woke as the sun passed the halfway point in the sky. Her heavy lids opened slowly to reveal chocolate eyes which focused immediately on my face. I leaned down to kiss her lips gently, savoring the feel of her soft mouth pressing against mine, then pulled back to search her face.
"Did you sleep well?" I asked as I rubbed her soft cheek with my thumb.
She nodded but did not smile. Her lips formed a firm line, and her eyes held a strange look, hesitant and wistful and longing all at once.
"What's wrong?" My voice came out sounding slightly panicked.
"Nothing is wrong. But I need..." she took a deep breath. "There's something I want you to do for me, Edward. Please don't say no." Her voice was soft, her eyes determined.
"What do you need, love?" I asked immediately, wary of her fierce expression. I smoothed a hand over her hair as we continued to rock gently.
Her huge brown eyes stayed locked on mine. "I need you to make love to me, one more time."
I flinched, ceasing the chair's movement as I automatically shied away from the words she had spoken.
A thousand images flooded my mind, a thousand remembered touches and sounds and unbearable pleasures. Making love with my Bella was somehow more earth-shattering each time. Thirty years had not dimmed the hunger I felt for her beautiful body. Though she was physically so much older than me, at forty-eight she was still as beautiful to me as she had been at seventeen. This was a fact it was difficult to convince Bella of. I still remembered the first time someone had asked her if I was her son. She had been inconsolable for days.
But the gentle lines around her eyes and the softened curves of her body did nothing to deter from her beauty. I had told her once that she would always be the most beautiful thing in my world. I had meant it.
But how could I make love to her now? Her worn and weakened body was always covered now in dark bruises. Her always-delicate skin was more fragile than ever, showing marks from even the slightest of pressure. My mind flashed on less pleasant memories now–the horror I felt that first morning of our honeymoon here on Isle Esme, seeing the bruises I had made on her soft ivory skin. That would be nothing compared to the damage I would do if I touched her now.
"Please don't say no."
"Bella, please...I can't do that. You know I can't. It would kill you. Please don't ask me. Please, love."
"Edward, please. Please do it, for me."
"Oh, Bella." My resolve crumbled. I would not deny her this. I would do it for her, though I knew it was selfish, as it would be just as much for me. One last chance to love her.
"Come here, sweetheart." I carefully lifted her almost weightless body in my arms as I stood, staring into her chocolate eyes as she smiled. Her arms came weakly around my neck as I carried her to the big white bed and laid her gently down.
We had made love here for the first time. We would make love here for the last.
We stared at each other in silence for a moment. I was almost afraid to begin, knowing it would be the last time. The last time I would see her beautiful body revealed to me, one slow, tantalizing inch of silky ivory skin at a time. The last time I would hear her moan and sigh in pleasure. The last time I would see her slim back arch with her ecstacy.
The last time.
I finally began to move, kneeling on the bed beside her to remove first my own shirt, and then, ever so gently, hers. She wore no undergarment, and the soft, small globes of her perfect breasts were revealed to my hungry gaze. I cupped them carefully in my palms as I brought my eyes back to hers, watching as they closed at the sensation of my cold touch.
"My beautiful Bella," I murmured as my thumbs dragged gently over the tightened buds of her nipples. She moaned and arched her back toward me, her body as eager as mine despite her pain. I was suddenly ashamed that I had thought to deny her this last moment of intimacy when it was obvious how much she craved it. We both needed this so badly.
Determined to lavish her with all the love and passion I had in me, I moved my body carefully over hers, straddling her hips with my knees, careful to keep my weight off of her. I leaned down to press my lips to hers as delicately as if she were a butterfly, fragile and fleeting. Mouth whispered against mouth so softly, the lightest brush, our eyes open and locked. It was she who moved to deepen the kiss, parting her lips, breathing her sweet, luscious breath into my mouth, where her flavor swirled across my tongue, freesia and lavender and Bella. I ran my tongue slowly along her full bottom lip, savoring the softness before carefully sliding it into the dark velvet warmth of her mouth, my lips wrapped around my teeth, ever mindful of their sharpness. The contact was brief but very, very sweet as I touched my tongue to hers. I had never once had the pleasure of feeling her tongue within my own mouth, the danger always too great.
I pulled back reluctantly and brushed my fingers over her pale cheek. A ghost of her old blush crept over her cheeks, the wan echo of her vibrance making my still heart clench within my chest in remembrance. Though I didn't need to breathe, I felt suddenly as if I couldn't get enough air.
The last time.
With a sudden surge of desperation, I slid my arms under her shoulders and clutched her to my chest, rocking us both as I struggled to regain some small semblance of composure. My face pressed into her neck as I breathed deeply of her honeyed scent. I felt her arms wrap around my back, and then she was kissing me, my hair, my cheek, my ear, my jaw. She seemed as ravenous as I was for the comfort our loving would bring. I lifted my head and kissed her mouth with as much vigor as my caution would allow, rubbing and licking and sucking at her lush pink lips.
I smoothed my hands along the skin of her back and around to her ribcage, bringing them back to the softness of her breasts. I adored each nipple with soft strokes and gentle pulls before wrenching my lips from hers and bringing my mouth down to touch each puckered tip with my cold tongue. She gasped and clutched my hair in her thin fingers as I laved her nipple and rolled it gently between my lips, careful to shield her from my teeth.
Needing now with great urgency to have all of her bare to me, I pulled away to carefully remove the rest of her clothing, then ripped off the rest of mine and flung them aside. I had no more patience for any barrier between us. I gazed at her body, fully revealed. The elegant arching sweep of her collarbones. The pale lines of her legs and hips. The dark secret of her softest and most precious place between her thighs.
"Bella," I whispered. I cupped my hand reverently over that heated place. She made a tiny sound, part whimper, part sob. "Exquisite," I breathed. "You are so exquisite, Bella. So beautiful." She smiled, the intensity of her eyes stunning me. I moved one finger slowly through her dark curls, finding the wet center of her, coating my finger in the silky moisture that gave off her intoxicating scent before gently sliding inside her heat.
Her wet sheath clamped around my finger, and her body writhed below mine. I moved gently within her, pressing, stroking her walls, watching her face as it contorted with pleasure. I pulled my finger slowly out, sliding it up to the swollen pearl that begged for my caress. I moved my damp fingers carefully over the slick nub, my eyes intent on hers, wanting desperately to bring her the greatest ecstacy possible.
The last time.
She was sobbing now as I stroked her, deep wrenching sobs that shook her frail body so hard it was frightening.
"Bella!" I moved quickly to cup her face in my hands, terrified that I had harmed her. "Did I hurt you, love?"
She shook her head frantically, pulling at my shoulders. "No. No. Please don't stop. Please don't stop. Please, Edward, don't stop!"
Her voice was nearly hysterical with her tears. I felt my own face contort with a matching grief, though mine could not find release in tears. I kissed her face--cheeks, eyelids, nose, forehead, jaw, lips, every precious inch, tasting her tears, salt and freesia.
"Don't cry," I murmured desperately between kisses. "Please don't cry. I'm not going to stop. I love you so much, Bella."
I took her tear-damp lips in a deep, drugging kiss as our lovemaking took on a new mood of urgency. I dragged my lips frantically down her throat as I pressed my straining arousal into her hips with as much gentleness as I could muster. My mind hazed with pleasure and want and the need to show my beautiful, broken wife just how deeply I loved her.
I moved down her pale body, kissing the curves of her shoulders, then dragging my tongue down to the valley between her breasts. I could both hear and see the quivering beat of her frantically pounding heart as I moved my tongue to lick the underside of her breast, then each tightly beaded nipple, reveling in her gasps and panting breaths.
I kissed my way across her ribcage, my still heart aching as I felt her ribs under my lips. So frail. The reminder of her fragility tempered my hands with caution as I smoothed my palms over her stomach and hips, then moved to lift her leg from the bed. I kissed her tiny foot, lingering on the elegant arch as she whimpered, and made my way up her leg, lips and tongue paying homage. I buried my nose in the hollow behind her knee, wallowing in the scent of flowers that beat strongly there, then moving to rub my face along the skin of her inner thigh, placing a damp kiss in the crease where it met her center. She gasped as my tongue flicked out to dip into her wetness, and I slid my tongue slowly around her entrance, sliding the tip carefully inside her as far as I dared. I loved tasting her like this, her scent of flowers intensified by her arousal until my throat burned with want. The craving for her blood had long since morphed into craving for her. Just her.
Wanting to hear her beautiful moan again, I slid my tongue up to her glistening bud. The moan I was waiting for broke from her lips immediately, causing a shiver to wash over my spine. Her fingers slid into my hair and clutched frantically, her grip weak. I continued to lave her now-quivering clitoris as I let out a moan of my own, pleasure consuming me as I continued to taste her.
She cried out as her body tightened, finally releasing in a rush of glorious spasms that went on and on. When her shivers died away at last, I pressed a kiss to her sated bud, wrenching another gasp from her lips. I rubbed my body along hers as I moved until I was lying with my hips between her legs.
"I love you," I said as I gazed into her pleasure-hazed eyes.
"I love you, too, Edward. Please, come inside me now. I need you so much."
Our eyes stayed locked as I pressed forward at last, slowly and ever so gently easing myself into her slick sheath. We groaned in unison as our bodies were finally joined. I waited, watching her eyes carefully for any sign of pain. She stared back, face solemn as we savored the feeling of us, together.
I began to thrust, so carefully, setting a gentle rocking rhythm as I kissed her deeply, then dragged my tongue across her lips. She darted her tongue out to meet mine, and they danced together in the space between our open mouths, sliding against each other sinuously. Sensations and emotions crashed over me as I continued to thrust into her. Bella's legs wrapped around my calves, her arms tight around my back. I moved my hands underneath her back, cupping her shoulder blades in my palms and pulling her to me as closely as possible, tolerating no space between us now as our pleasure began to crescendo along with our rhythm.
I was nearly insensate with the most incredibly intense sensations I had ever felt, and I knew from Bella's face that she felt it too. I hadn't thought my body was capable of anything greater than the phenomenal pleasure we had already felt together countless times. But this was an unfathomably deep melding of bodies and minds and hearts, binding us even tighter to one another as we came closer to our ultimate ecstacy.
I watched in wonder as her pupils dilated until the black nearly overcame the liquid brown of her irises. She was stunning in her passion, her hair spread over the pillows like silk, her mouth open as her back arched. Our bodies began to shudder together as I moved faster. Her name tumbled from my lips over and over, a breathless incantation. I murmured nearly unintelligible words of love and devotion as she began to contract around me, tears spilling from the corners of her eyes once again. Then, with a rush of wetness and heat and the most beautiful moan I had ever heard, my wife came around me.
The last time.
Her climax triggered my own, and I shuddered in a white-hot burst of mind-blowing pleasure as she continued to tighten around me, flooding her with my release.
"Bella," I moaned. "I love you, I love you, I love you."
That moment when our passion reached its climax seemed to last forever, and yet not nearly long enough. When we were finally spent, I collapsed quivering on top of her, barely managing to catch my weight on my elbows, unable to move or speak as my mind was nearly insensible with what we'd just experienced. At last, conscious of her fragility, I found the wherewithal to roll us gently over until we were facing each other on the bed, my body still sheathed within hers.
We didn't speak for a long time, simply staring at each other and running our hands gently over each other's bodies, and indulging in long, passionate kisses, as if we would never be sated.
Finally, as the sun began to go down, we began to talk. I was suddenly ravenous for the sound of her voice, the most precious sound in the world, along with the steady beat of her heart. It didn't matter what she said, as long as the sound of her lovely, sweet voice filled my ears.
I asked her to relive the memories of our life together, listening with rapt attention as she told me how she felt the first time she saw me, the first time we kissed, the day we married, the first time we made love in this very bed. I asked her to sing to me, placing my head on her chest as she stroked my hair. I could feel the soothing vibrations of her voice, along with the weakening thrum of her heart. I sang to her, love songs from my youth, the song we'd danced to at the prom all those years ago, finally falling into humming her lullaby as I stroked her hair.
All through that night, I never left her side except to light a few candles as darkness fell and to add another blanket to the pile on the bed when she began to shiver. She refused to sleep, though I knew she was exhausted beyond measure. We spent the night in soft touches and whispered words of love.
Her heartbeat began to falter as I felt dawn approaching. I began to panic, clutching her to me in an agony of terror and loss.
"Bella, please don't. Not yet. Please don't go. We haven't had enough time. Please wait, Bella. I can't let you go." My voice was frantic with pain, breaking over and over again.
"Edward, I love you so much. I don't regret one single moment of our life together. I want you to know that. I never wanted anything but you. Nothing else..." Her voice was fading as her heart began to beat erratically. She raised one trembling hand slowly to my face and rested it on my cheek. She tried to smile, but her face crumpled, contorting with pain and loss and defeat.
"Wait! Don't, Bella! Please, please hold on just a little longer..." I felt as though a giant hand was squeezing my dead heart until it shattered into a million jagged splinters of cold marble.
"I love you," she whispered once more, her eyelids beginning to flutter as her eyes rolled back into her head. I pressed my hand to her face and forced her to look at me.
"Nooooo! Stay with me, sweetheart! Please!" I was hysterical now.
She didn't respond, but her eyes spoke to me, unfathomable love and sadness in their depths.
"I love you!" My voice was hoarse and frantic as I screamed the words.
Her heart stopped.
My heart shattered.
Unimaginable agony pinned me in place for a second that seemed to last an eternity.
She was gone.
And I knew in that moment as unbearable darkness descended upon me what I should have known all along.
I could not let her go.
I would not let her go.
"Noooooooo!" I flew into a blur of motion, sinking my teeth into the skin of her throat, forcing my venom into her body. I bit her again on the inside of each wrist, then began a frenzy of compressions on her chest, desperate to re-start her heart. I breathed into her mouth, then continued my frantic pumping.
She had to come back to me.
"Please, Bella! Don't leave me! Come back to me, love. I'm so sorry."
For I saw now how foolish and arrogant I had been in thinking I had chosen the right way. How could I have ever thought I could let her go?
I don't know how long I continued with the desperate cycle of breaths and compressions. I would pause every few cycles to bite her again, not even tasting the blood as I forced as much venom as possible into her system.
The light had shifted by the time my arms stopped their impossible task. They fell nerveless to my sides as a dark veil fell over my vision.
I collapsed on the bed next to her body and began sobbing, tearless, agonized sobs that shook my entire body.
I would ask Emmett and Jasper to kill me. I couldn't wait long enough to get to Italy. This pain was unbearable. I felt as though I had been ripped apart and burned already.
Through the sound of my own sobs, I heard the faintest swish.
And then another.
A stuttering thump.
I looked to her, stunned.
Thump-thump, thump-thump, thump-thump.
A racing beat.
A changing heart.