Author's Note: This is toying with the concept of Alice actually having flaws. Let me know what you think.
I own nothing.
It's hard to say if her attitude would be the same had she known I would see the proceeding. Perhaps she would have tiptoed, practiced caution and whispering, made it a real affair. But there were no promises between she and I. There were no bonds, vows, commitments to break, so it wasn't even a real affair to be forged. We both knew that it technically really wasn't.
But that was just an excuse to misbehave.
Or maybe it wasn't. Maybe I was just being too possessive.
She'd smiled up the stairs at me, her lips curling ever so slightly and her eyes flashing up at me. That enigmatic look I knew and loved so well, and that low murmur when she spoke. She'd said she was going out. It was sixty seconds later that I saw to where.
It's a hand, moving torturously slowly. Fingers splayed, palm down, a fraction of an inch from the smooth surface that seems to whisper whitely like sheets but sings of soft skin in the muted shadows of this room. The long-fingered hand ghosts along the surface delicately like a metal detector, hesitant, testing proximity and seeming to breathe on its own. And the flat sheet of skin, it bends slightly with the curve of a navel and subtle pelvic bones trembling at the almost-touch of the painstaking hand as it glides up to sloping mounds and there's the sharp sound of a soft sigh. Another breath sounds, from the second body, as the hand finds the heart-shaped face above the body and cups the chin gently, making contact, and lips are pulled together with the same agonizing slowness as every move made. These lips are familiar, and so are the noses pressing together, and so are the eyes that have slid shut. So is the longer white body above the narrower pale one, the one whose curves and valleys are foreign but the top tangled limbs are familiar, stretching and unfolding luxuriously.
I'd pulled out of that vision slowly, with a deep inhalation, unlike that sudden gasp that usually signaled my waking. It was done deliberately, I think, in an attempt to remain calm. Controlled breathing, flexing and clenching of my fingers, a momentary close of my eyes. Were I human, tears may have squeezed unwanted between my lids. Instead, a dull and sour ache like poison had wormed into my chest.
It had been passionate, but it had never been named. The thing between she and I. I had felt something like love towards her, and she towards me, I think, but we had only ever made it. Never said it. I had no legitimate claim over her. She had the right to do what she pleased.
Still, in that first pulsing moment that I found out, it hurt. It hurt in a throbbing, fleeting, indefinable way that maddened me. Was I hurt because she had betrayed me? What was there to betray when we had never agreed to be exclusive? I couldn't name the hurt that pricked me, and it added insult to injury to know that it was really just plain old jealousy. Jealousy that I had little credible right to, since she and I had never sworn exclusivity. But still, some hopelessly optimistic part of me had, all along, hoped that nothing like this would ever happen.
I believe the part that stung the most was the fact that this was all okay.
She had to have known I would know, she wasn't a fool. There was no point in trying to hide it from me, so she didn't. It was all very flip, the way she acted. I asked her where she had been, though I knew, and she told me, and she knew I knew. There was modesty and there was honesty in her words.
I loathed that that was the way it had to be. It would have pained me far less, I think, if she had felt this was something terribly wrong to be kept a secret from me. But apparently, it wasn't terribly wrong. That was what hurt the most.
But that night I had lain in my bed on top of the sheets, stiff as a board, staring out the window to try and clear my thoughts. When she had slipped in the room and sat beside me, silent as a thief, and gently put her hand on my waist, I sighed the same as I always did. We had pretended nothing had changed, nothing was wrong. When she shifted into the moonlight, chin tucked and eyes roving my body, I dove recklessly for her mouth to kiss her. It was the guise of passion we used to have. Now, maybe, it was desperation.
Desperation pushed me but bitterness guided me. I may have been misguided.
It all fell into place with perfect synchrony, helped along by a choice premonition. The positions would be precise, the planets aligning, everything like that. I would make a phone call, put on my act, and act, and the rest would fall into place. I would assume the role of predator I had always loathed to be with humans, and this would happen. Just what would happen, that I didn't know. But it would happen just the same. These people were far too predictable, even without my knack for prediction. I hated to use my intimate knowledge of them like this, but right now I wanted a hit. I wanted to do something that would make me feel better for about ten minutes.
Revenge? What an ugly word.
It was 3:12. Rosalie was in the shed, making it the day's project to tidy up. Ten minutes earlier I had picked up the phone and sparked the flame.
Bella rang the bell shyly and said hello shyly and edged inside shyly. She was delicate, like a hummingbird in slow motion. And as a possessive thought about a certain flower, a rose, flitted through my head like the image of a tiny emerald bird flitting around red petals, I hated myself. Just for a moment. But I smiled warmly at Bella like I always did, and asked if she was thirsty. She wasn't. So I decided to be my airy, impulsive self and asked her on a walk outside.
Because, of course, it was such a beautiful, gray, rich-smelling day.
Bella and I traipsed the dewy and tangled lawn, sky sprawling overhead and tall trees yawning towards the wide flat grass. The modest, paint-peeling shed gleamed to me like a beacon in my eye. There was the slightest white flash, a toss of hair, through the windowpane. Bella wouldn't have caught it.
That windowpane. It was crucial.
In a flash of shadows and clouds (past and present fusing in neurons for just a moment), I remembered the singular other time I'd used the aphrodisial lure of my appearance to manipulate a human. Over forty years ago, browsing on foot along a wet and gloomy stretch of highway in northern Wisconsin. I looked the part of hitchhiker. A rusted olive-colored truck, the curious youngish man who slowed down, the dull growling hunger licking its way up my spine to my coal-black eyes. It was either kill him or flirt my way into stealing away with the twelve-point buck lying limp in the truck bed. I didn't feel terrible about my actions at the time, given the alternative, but now I looked back and disliked the wiles involved. That seduction wasn't me.
We paused our slow stride just against the side of the shed, shadows painting the nondescript wooden planks. Instinct, mutual, had its way of putting us against the perfect walls. The window was perfectly aligned.
I looked at Bella, and when my pupils dilated it was nearly half-a-century-old déjà vu.
I found that I didn't even have to say anything. All it took was to color and distort the air with shallow breathing, sidle up to Bella with full and voluminous eyes, rake my front teeth across my lower lip. The serrated edges went slow, like my hands to her waist, and she sighed. It was consent. Her body, flat to the shed, upper portion flat to the glass. Her body, to mine, was a creeping trellis vine easing up a brick wall. I'd barely had to do anything.
I didn't feel like flickering my eyes through the dim glass to what I knew was inside. Who I knew was inside. If I caught her eyes, I would lose my nerve. It was enough, just the opposite effect, actually, to know they were on us.
It was lucky Bella was so weak, so easily manipulated (God how I have never hated myself so much), and that I knew this well. It was lucky that everything fell into place so well. Most important, Rosalie could easily see what I did. What Bella did. I could readily picture the still and dusky space in the shed, the narrowed eyes and still lungs of Rosalie as tense as a coiled spring watching through the window. Getting to experience a vision like mine, getting to grow dizzy with destructive disbelief. And yes, I hoped, I dearly hoped that it hurt her. I hoped it would hurt her, the way it had hurt me to watch her with someone else. It felt good, rippling and brimming with savage pleasure as I brought my lips so softly to Bella's and thought of Rosalie watching every move. It felt so good, but still I had never hated myself more. Was it worth it? It was too late, no matter what.
This was how addicts felt. And I thought, as she and I played this game and shot up on pleasure and heartache… who would overdose first? Wasn't it likely to be me?
As I caught Bella's lower lip between my teeth, sliding my flat hand down the waist of her jeans, she lifted her arms to grip the top edge of the window's square frame, eyes flying shut with thoughtless ecstasy. My stomach churned, and I felt I might be sick, but that wasn't right. It wasn't physically possible. Might've been the guilt and unease of this ill action I was taking, chewing and heaving my gut from the inside. It was an awful vertigo, but I didn't want to stop. Not for the life of me, no.
This was a sick thrill I had to follow through with. The payback of it all was good, like warmth, like blood surging thickly in my veins.
Bella threw one arm around my shoulder, tipping her head back, her neck a long white column vibrating with low sound.
It had been entirely too calm and quiet that afternoon, out by the shed, but it was nothing compared to that evening. At least, earlier, there had been the slow and steady sounds of sifting breezes, weak birdsong, and shallow breathing. Well after sunset, however, in the house, was like a museum. It was one of those nights, a night we had often, where the atmosphere in every room was silent and pensive. Like hushed death. For everyone else, it was a night to perhaps get as close as possible to sleep, to sigh in and out and catch their decades-old breath. For me, it was pins and needles.
There was some poem I knew, or at least knew of, by someone great, that spoke of two ships passing in the night. That singular line ran circles in my head as I fought to control the cagey feeling rolling through me, as I passed her once or twice. She glided down a hall, a graceful galleon, and I wondered why it was like this. Why it was me who was so wound up and restless, why it wasn't her. Why she wasn't the way I had been after my vision.
It was like my plan was backfiring. If she felt hurt, she didn't show it.
But then again, I'd done what I set out to do. It was over and done with. If it did something, good. If it only served to further damage me, well, that was that. I would probably just have to live with the unrest that had been stifling me so much lately.
And probably nothing would change. The only difference would be the subtle weight of remorse tied to my back.
I laid in my bed later, in the mime-like imitation of bedtime. Curled up under thin sheets, watching hungrily the black sky outside the window like Gepetto wishing on his star. That was when I heard the door creak open and lithe, delicate movement sounding in the dark. I was sharp as a needle, and knew these sounds well from so much familiarity with them over and over again in the past, but still I did not register that it was her until she slipped in the covers behind me. Her long, sinuous body came to rest fluidly, just as it always had. While I did nothing, made no response but to breathe, she just watched me.
"Are you awake?" she murmured, voice low and soft as ripped and torn silks. The words of her question made no sense, but I knew.
"Yes." The sound ebbed from my throat, so quiet that only a few cords vibrated in my neck. My fingers curled around the sheets I held close.
There was silence, and I felt that she was toying with a fold of the wide white blanket while her eyes swept up and down the length of my body.
"May I ask you something?" Her voice was smooth like marble. I feared the question; I was sure I feared anything she had to say to me now. A strange transition – skittish in her presence now when just earlier I had been thirsty for her pain.
She paused, using her palm as that metal detector again as she hovered it over the curve of my side. Using it to find words.
"Do you feel unwell?"
Did I feel unwell? There were so many ways to answer that. No, I wasn't unwell, I was perfectly fine since the thing I'd done was nothing of any consequence. Yes, I was unwell, I was lying to myself left and right and hated it. Yes, I was unwell, I was eaten up with guilt for having cheated on someone I didn't have the license to cheat on in the first place. Yes, I was unwell, I ached like a scar that things had to result this way when all I ever did was love her. Want to love her.
"Yes," I answered finally.
What I felt thirty seconds later surprised me; it compounded the knot in my lower abdomen. I felt her cool fingers at my ear, delicately smoothing my hair from it. Her lips were much closer when she next spoke.
"So do I."
This was an admission the like of which I had never heard. Was she finally admitting regret for the runaround we were caught in? Were the effects of this game plying at her as well? Could this cycle finally end? It was three words, but it meant much to me that I knew I wasn't just inventing for the desperate comfort of my head. I knew what it meant. I hoped to god I knew. I had to know for sure.
"Will you be mine?" I blurted, turning my neck stiffly towards the chin resting gently on my shoulder. A strange and out-of-place valentine.
Dark eyes that I could not see scanned the surface and the depth of my face, an inch away. Breath meant nothing. I began to wonder why I had said what I just said, began to contemplate an urge to turn back over and work out an excuse and an escape, when the eyes blinked.
"I think that would be a good idea."
I blinked in return, feeling the phantom effects of a pounding heart. Though it couldn't physically pound, the quickness of my shaking hands was there all the same. "Do you promise to love me right?" I whispered, cautious of what the knowledge and the consequences of something real could be. All of a sudden my crippling insecurities, my wretched sense of loss at wanting her to be mine, flew out fleetingly and pierced back inside me for one last moment of wondering. Her palm slid up the curve of my hip and down the slope of my thigh, as she bowed her head and inhaled into the crook of my neck.
"I don't think you realize how long I had been longing to."
And she kissed me, and just like that, all the wrongs were righted. The shape of love that we had been playing at, it was now realized and it was now unavoidable. These words had to be said. This commitment had to be made. And it took the slap of jealousy, of falsifying and moving in circles, to make us see that.
I think it was the loss of one eye – the one I had taken after the loss of my own – that allowed her to finally see that the way we were going was killing us. We may have been half blind each, but at least now we could see; because after all, two eyes put together make perfect vision.