A/N: A O/S for the blog Dirty Cheeky Monkeys! Special thanks to chartwilightmom and chelletwi83 for asking me to do this. This idea was literally bouncing around in my head and I'm glad I got the opportunity to let it out.
It's different, like all my wacko ideas are, but I hope you enjoy :)
What do you do when your mother is a Wiccan with an over active imagination, a warped perception of love and a knack for interfering? You avoid her at all costs, that's what.
You turn a blind eye and a deaf ear to her rantings and not so subtle hints for the path she wants your life to take. You pretend there isn't a Book of Shadows in the house and that she doesn't jingle with the sound of twenty chimed bracelets around her ankles whenever she moves. You never invite friends over to the house when she's in a bad mood and despite how much you love her, you try with everything in your being to not turn into her.
But some things are unavoidable. Some things attach themselves to you indelibly and no matter how hard you try to ignore it or pretend that it isn't churning at the centre of your core; sooner or later, it surfaces. And what you've been trying to avoid your entire life is suddenly the very thing staring right back at you in the mirror.
My name is Isabella Swan and I am a writer. At five minutes past my birth I was blessed with the curse of 'Personification'; an ability my meddling mother placed on my head to assuage the ailing scars on her own heart. I call it a curse though she will argue right to her grave that in every way possible it was intended to be a gift. Gift or curse, I repelled it once I discovered what I was able to do. It terrified me. Having the power to create and destroy life and to weave a person's destiny at the touch of pen to paper was not something I was comfortable with. It was not my idea of making what was wrong in my mother's life, right.
Throughout my childhood years she watched me closely, observing in quiet anticipation the signs of my ability as they started to blossom. In my innocence I nurtured that ability, not yet understanding what I was actually doing.
First, was the white rabbit.
I was nine years old and had just finished reading Alice in Wonderland. As a child who adored books and became emotionally connected to the stories I read, it happened that I got aggressively attached to the characters I met. So of course, on finishing the story, I imagined myself as Alice; which meant I needed a white rabbit.
Slamming the book shut I reached for my diary, coincidentally named Alice at the time for other reasons, and wrote to her about it. I told Alice exactly what I wanted the rabbit to look like; the sex, the shade of his eyes, the thickness and shade of his coat. I also wrote about how great it would be to open my front door and have him huddled right there on the front stoop waiting for my arms to come around him. Not one hour later I opened the door to head out to my swing set and right there, sitting on the welcome mat was a thick, white, brown eyed rabbit looking up at me expectantly.
On seeing my shock, Renee stepped forward with her jingling sounds and scooped him up into her arms.
"Oh, he's just adorable," she cooed, stroking his fur with her painted, ringed fingers. Then she poked her head out of the door and looked around the yard. "I believe he is alone, Bella! And looking for a home. What a lucky girl you are!"
I stared at him disbelievingly for a while, but being the wide eyed, innocent child that I was, my excitement quickly superseded my awe. I took him joyously, suspecting nothing behind the mysterious smile on my mother's face, and named him Chester.
Shortly after ward my mother started feeding me tragic love stories. Romeo and Juliet, Mark Anthony and Cleopatra, Cupid and Psyche, and Tristan and Isolde were just a few of them. The more I read, the sadder and more tragic the stories became, forcing me to appreciate the fragility of love at a much too tender age. On hearing my sobbing one afternoon she came into my bedroom with a hot cup of cocoa and whispered to me soothingly.
"Tell me," she said, pulling my head into her lap.
"They are so sad, Mama!" I wailed. "Why are none of them happy? I thought love stories were happy and wonderful! I thought it always ended in happily ever after."
"This is a very hard lesson for you to learn at such a young age, my dear," she said, as she stroked my hair. "But it is important that you understand that such things as happily ever after only exist in fairy tales. Love in actuality is very different. There is a lot about love that hurts and destroys people...but you are not to worry. You are protected."
There was an unsettling tone in her voice when she said the last part. The almost whisper bore a warning quality, though it was clear that the warning wasn't for me.
With a sniffle I wiped my eyes and sat up, confused. "I don't understand."
"I have a gift for you," she said, reaching into the drawer on my night stand. She pulled out a thick notebook covered with pink glitter and golden stars, and a new pack of pens.
"Thank you, Mama," I said with a small smile, admiring the way the light refracted off the glitter. I adored new stationery.
"Write, my child," she urged. I blinked upward into her twinkling eyes. "Erase the sorrow in your heart with stories that end in joy."
"You like to write."
"Then what if, for every sad story there was in the world, and for every broken heart that wept, you wrote a story with a happy ending to balance them out."
I looked down at the pen she was pressing into my hand, my eyelashes still dripping with the salty tears of Romeo and Juliette's demise.
"I wouldn't know how to," I said. Then she placed her hand over my heart.
"It will come in time. Just write it from in here."
Before leaving my room she turned back at the door and focused on me with a narrowed stare; a veil of warning covering her face.
"But remember, Bella," she said, pointedly. "Only love. You must write only good and never evil. Write from your heart and make magic with your words, and always...always keep your stories locked away in a safe place when you are done."
I stared back at her blankly.
"Do you promise me?" She asked.
"I promise, Mama."
And so I wrote. As soon as she left my room I grabbed for Alice and started telling her about what had just happened. I wrote to her about the tragedy in the latest book I had read and I told her about the kind of love I wanted for myself when I grew up, the kind that lived in fairy tales. I also wrote about the darkness I saw in Renee's eyes whenever I asked about my father; a man I had never known. Even at that tender age I knew there was sadness there. Then I took a few lines to pen the future man of my dreams.
"He will be tall and fair, like Romeo. I want him to have sparkling green eyes and a dazzling smile. He must be very handsome so that I fall in love easily and I would like it very much if my heart rattles in my chest whenever he is near. His hair should not be brown, or blond or red, but a combination of them all, just so he is different. And so that I know it really is him and no one else, he should have a birthmark to match mine behind his left ear, shaped like the crescent of the moon, and hidden by his lovely, shaggy hair. I would also like it if he was very smart and knew how to save lives, like a doctor, perhaps. So there would be no more dying of broken hearts."
The years passed and I got very good at translating my thoughts into words, residing most of my days within the limitless scope of my imagination. I excelled in High School and whenever I wrote a story I made sure to lock it away with the rest, inside a chest in the attic. I did the same with my journals too. One after the other I filled my journals to completion, naming them all Alice since she had become more of friend to me than just a diary. She knew my deepest secrets.
For the most part I was unaware that every new situation or character I created in writing came to life. Even though I sometimes felt an uncanny presence that accompanied a new piece, or that almost whisper of a breeze that sounded in my ear when I invented a new character, I knew not what to attribute it to. So I ignored it.
Until one day it made itself glaringly obvious to me in my adulthood and I couldn't hide from it any more.
It was a summer afternoon in New York City. I had just gotten off the phone with my editor, head hunter and friend Rosalie Hale. Rose and I had struck up a friendship after she offered me a publishing deal at The Seaburn Publishing Company. Many afternoons of tea and advice about the disappointing men in our lives while discussing my latest manuscripts brewed a bond between us. She was also the only real friend I had in New York since leaving my mother in Forks four years before, right after High School.
I had just tossed my cell phone into my purse and stepped down onto the pedestrian crossing when a striking woman with fiery red hair bumped into me.
"Damn it, James!" She laughed as she dropped to the floor to pick up the scattered contents of her purse.
An eerie feeling of familiarity hit me as I frowned down at the mass of red curls on her head then up at her giggling companion.
"Sorry about that," he said to me with a mischievous glint in his eyes. "I poked her. She's incredibly ticklish."
He had sharp attractive features, harsh dark eyes and a blond ponytail that needed grooming.
"It's okay," I mumbled, as the red head stood upright with her purse safely on her shoulder again. James threw a heavy arm around her shoulders and smiled.
"Victoria?" He said.
"What," she snickered.
"Your phone, babe. It's ringing."
"Ugh!" she grumbled, digging through her purse again in exasperation.
"What are you staring at?" James asked me. "I already said we were sorry."
I blinked out of my semi daze and shook my head. "No, uh..sorry...just...deja vu," was all I could think to say.
He pulled the girl away from me then, leaving me staring after them as they disappeared down the crowded New York avenue together. Victoria was busy chatting away on her phone.
With a dubious frown, I turned back to the street and tried to shake it off. That had happened before; the strange sense of deja vu on meeting or seeing someone that reminded me exactly of a character from one of my stories. Usually whenever it happened I would go home and write to Alice about it, laughing at how overactive my imagination was and how consumed I was by the stories I wrote. That should have been a good thing right? Showed how involved I was in my work? But my interaction with the red head and her boyfriend bothered me. It was too close for comfort - freaky, if I could have put it in one word. I needed to talk to Rose.
"It was really weird, Rose," I gasped as I pushed my way through the prong of oncoming pedestrians. Why did it always feel like I was the only one going in the opposite direction? "They even had the same names."
"I'm lost," Rose answered in her usual drone. "What story was this again?"
"The first one you published for me, 'Blood as Red.'"
"Ohhh, riiiight," she replied. "James and Victoria. What a coincidence! And you said she had red hair too?"
I bit down on my lower lip and pulled my sun glasses down over my eyes from the top of my head. "Yes, and he had a blond ponytail."
"No fucking shit," Rose laughed. "Bella, sometimes I swear you hallucinate. You've written five novels in four years without a break, maybe your brain is trying to tell you something. You're way too absorbed in your work for it to be healthy anymore. As your editor I'm thrilled but as your friend, I think you should pause for a few months after this one. Don't worry, the pay checks aren't going anywhere."
"It wasn't a hallucination."
"Fine, it wasn't. James and Victoria jumped out of your book and bumped into you while crossing the street. Wait! Hahaha! Bella, just like in that chapter! When he was tickling her while crossing the street and she walked right into some plain, random girl! Not that I'm saying you're plain...well..."
Goosebumps attacked my skin then and sent a sick, nauseating feeling right to my stomach.
"I have to go," I said, in a hurry.
"Awww, Bells, I'm just kidding!" Rose continued to laugh. "I'm listening to you, I promise. And I don't think you're plain! Maybe if you did something new with your hair we could...OK, you know what? Come by later for a drink. You sound like you need one and I always need one."
"I'll call you later. Bye," I said, and tossed my phone back into my purse.
I had to test it. I'd known intuitively my whole life that something happened when I wrote, but it was never so plainly obvious before that day. Sure there were times when I saw someone that made me smile because they looked just like what I'd envisioned a character to look like, but that could happen to any author anywhere. We put together characteristics and features based on the ones that already existed, so it wasn't uncommon to come across someone that reminded me of a character.
However, there was a definite point where something was just too peculiar to be considered a coincidence anymore; and with a Wiccan for a mother, I'd come to know that the peculiar wasn't so peculiar after all. Anything was possible.
I rushed home to my apartment on 42nd Street and locked myself in. In irritation, I threw my purse on the couch, kicked off my shoes and grabbed at the pen and pad of paper on the kitchen counter. Partially out of breath and with shaking hands, I began a hasty scribble.
"A young girl, no older than fifteen or so with long dark hair and pale skin, donned in a black and white striped summer dress ambled aimlessly down 42nd Street, Manhattan New York. She passed in front of Joe's Pizzeria at exactly..."
I glanced at my wrist watch. It was 4 o'clock.
"...at exactly 4:15 in the afternoon on July 26th, 2012. She skipped intermittently as she walked, swinging her arms gaily at her sides in some sort of internal abandon, smiling secretly to herself."
A familiar, ethereal feeling descended on me just as I put the last full stop in place and a light breeze whispered in my ear, much like it had happened in times before. For the second or third time that day my skin erupted in goosebumps.
Just so that I wouldn't miss a thing, I dragged a stool over to the window overlooking the street and stared out at the Pizzeria opposite my apartment building. Clutching the page tightly in my hand I bounced my heels anxiously off the floor, sweating bullets all over my forehead and upper lip.
At ten minutes past four I could hardly stand it anymore. And of course, because I needed to stay put for the next few minutes, I suddenly needed to use the toilet in the worst way. My impatient, unsettled eyes darted everywhere up and down the street. It was the longest fifteen minutes of my life. I got off the stool and hung out the window, jumping lightly from one foot to the next, anything to distract my audacious bladder.
Then the phone rang.
"Whaaaatt?," I complained, and stuck the top half of my body further out the window, trying to get as far away from the intrusive ringing as possible. Every distraction possible came into play just then, including the wafting scent of tobacco from the neighbour's terrace to my right. I glanced toward the scent fleetingly, never expecting to come in contact with the most disturbing pair of green eyes on a man I could imagine. He took the cigarette from his lips between his index and middle fingers, blew a straight line of smoke from his mouth, pulled one half of his mouth up into a half smile and sent me a salute with his cigarette holding hand.
My bladder. almost. exploded.
A blaring horn from down below snatched my attention away from the stranger. I whipped my head toward the sound. A truck pulled up and parked in front of Joe's Pizzeria and I'd only just caught the last moment of a black and white striped dress disappearing behind it. My breath caught in my throat as I held bulging eyes to the front of the truck, waiting to see if she'd emerge at the other end. Sure enough, three or four seconds later the slender frame of a young girl skipped into view, clad in slippers and striped summer dress just as I'd written it fifteen minutes earlier. She had her head down so I couldn't see her face but everything about her body language suggested that she was on a cloud somewhere, sauntering down the street in her own private world.
"If you're not careful you're going to fall from that window," came a smooth voice from my right. With a nervous heart I snapped my head toward him, back to the girl on the street, then back toward him again.
"I did it," I whispered tremulously, feeling my legs begin to give away underneath me.
He pulled his eyebrows together, blew another line of smoke out of his mouth and flicked the cigarette butt into an empty plant pot. He was about to say something more but I pulled myself back into the apartment, surrendering to the panic that was rocking my body from head to toe.
The girl was there in plain sight, made of flesh instead of paper and ink; walking down the street I wrote, at the time I wrote, wearing just what I wrote.
"What the hell?"
My mother's face came into focus without warning, like a hazy memory, taunting me with a knowing smile. In a moment of defiance I tore the piece of paper in my hand to shreds. This had her touch all over it. I just knew it. That kind of Hocus Pocus was the reason I separated myself from her in the first place, and though I had never let her explain the meaning behind her loaded hints about my "gifts"; intuitively a part of me always knew I was special.
The instant I destroyed the page in my hand, the loud screeching of tires on asphalt sounded, followed by the ear pinching scream of a girl. I gasped for air, clutched at my throat and darted back to the window in time to see black and white stripes falling from the air onto the hood of a car. With a sickening thud, her body bounced off the hood and onto the road with a final splat, turning everything on the street to complete chaos.
There was screaming everywhere. People started running about frantically, some toward the girl lying in the road and some toward the man in the car. In terror, I looked down at my trembling hands as the last of the paper shreds sailed down to my feet.
"Oh my God," I whispered, two swollen tear drops rolling down my cheeks. "Did I just...? What did I do?!
"...always, always...keep your stories locked away in a safe place..." Came my mother's distant warning from many years before. I didn't know why that particular memory came into focus just then, but the pieces of a distant puzzle finally started falling into place.
My body shot into automatic overdrive. I dived for the door, fled through the corridor, down the three flights of stairs and burst out into the street. I ran desperately toward the mob of people that had gathered around the body, tears of panic clouding my vision, and forced my way through to the front. Sure enough she was there, flat on the floor with her eyes closed and a faint smile still painted on her face. Hovering over her was the smoking stranger from the terrace next door. He had made it down there before me. When I fell to my knees on the other side of the girl's body he raised his downtrodden green stare to mine and removed his fingers from the missing pulse on her neck.
He didn't have to say anything. The shake of his head and regret on his face gave me the answer.
"What?" I mumbled, shaking my head desperately, feeling like I had killed this girl in error. I did kill her. What else could explain her existence right there, how I wrote her and when I wrote her? What else could explain her sudden demise just when I tore up the page in my hands?
"No!" I refused to accept it. I touched her neck for safe measure, hoping the magic in my fingers could bring her back to life the way it could on paper. It didn't work that way, and even if it did I wouldn't have the first clue about how to do it.
People were wailing and howling all around me. Some were screaming furiously at the driver of the car. He screamed back at them in fright saying that she came out of nowhere...that he swore he didn't see her until after he had hit her. He was probably telling the truth. I got off my knees and stood on unsteady feet, clenching my fists at my sides, tears streaming down my face, struggling internally for some answer or way to make it right. The stranger from the terrace next door was staring up at me.
"Write it over," I muttered to myself.
"Write what over?" He asked. I blinked in his direction and shook my head, not even realizing that I had said it out loud.
"Call an ambulance!" Someone shrieked.
I took off toward the apartment building, running as fast as I could.
I could hear the ambulance sirens in the distance as I ran. They were already on their way but it was too late for her. It wasn't even that driver's fault. It was mine. I had created her and then destroyed her unknowingly. That car was just in the wrong place at the wrong time; the unfortunate bastard.
As soon as I barged into my apartment I snatched the receiver off the kitchen wall and violently punched in Renee's number on speed dial; simultaneously grabbing for pen and paper.
"Bella!" Renee chimed. "Darling! What a lovely surprise."
"Mother," I muttered angrily, my trembling hand squeezing the pen over a blank page.
"Oh dear," she responded. "Why do I see red all around you..."
"Stop it with your stupid colours, Mother," I bit out, shaking with everything from rage to despair. "Tell me how to make it right. I just killed a girl...you have to tell me how it works right now."
"You should probably explain yourself better. I don't know what you're talking about."
"You know exactly what I'm talking about!" I screamed, fresh tears springing from my eyes. "I tore the page up where I wrote her in and she died!"
The silence on the other end made me even angrier.
"Leave it alone, Bella."
"What?! What do you mean leave it alone? I could write it over, couldn't I? I'm about to do it right now. What if I stick the torn pieces back together? I could do that too. Will she come back? Tell me how this works!"
She paused again.
"I told you to keep your work safe. That also meant... from you."
"How could you not tell me that I was capable of something like this!" I yelled at her, dropping the pen to grab a fistful of my hair with a trembling hand.
"That's simple. You didn't want to know."
"That's not good enough!"
"I tried telling you many times but you've always avoided it. You pushed me away. What you failed to face, Bella, is now forcing its way through to you."
"Do you have any idea how irresponsible this is of you?! Can I go to...oh my God. Can I go to jail for this?"
I had to hold on to the edge of the counter to steady myself. A sudden wave of dizziness rocked me at the thought of how much worse this could get.
"Don't be ridiculous," Renee scoffed.
"Ridiculous?!" I yelled into the receiver. "Great! I'm the the ridiculous one."
"You can't go to jail because whoever she was, she wasn't real. The police won't be able to find any documents about her, trace her family or find anything about her because she doesn't actually exist."
"She seemed real to me, mother," I answered in a shaky, cracking voice. "I saw her. I was over her body. I touched her. She looked and felt real. She was a real girl. She was alive, and then she was dead."
"Please stop panicking."
"I will write it over..." I said, grabbing the pen again and pressing the point to the page. "If I can write her to life and kill her by accident, I can write it over."
"Tell me the nature of the character," Renee said. "Was she fully developed? A work in progress? Or was she just a sketch."
"I don't follow..."
"Yes you do. Answer the question."
"She was a sketch, I suppose. Just a scribble..."
"I figured as much, that's why I said she didn't actually exist. Rest easy, she felt no real pain. If she was a sketch she was always just passing through. Unless you develop a character to completion, he or she will fade eventually anyway. Writing her over will bring her back to life, yes, but don't do it unless you plan to put her into a story and develop her to completion. Or else...it will happen again. She will fade over and over again if you leave her hanging in suspension. And unfortunately, as humans go, fading usually means death in some form."
I closed my eyes and dropped the pen so that I could press my fingers to my temples, trying to quell the violent rage shaking inside of me.
"How did this happen to me," I grunted. "You did this, didn't you?"
"Visit me and we will talk. I haven't seen you in over a year."
"No," I bit out. "Tell me now."
"You will come," she said in a wispy tone. "You will come. See you soon."
Then the line went dead. I slammed the receiver back onto the hook three times over, swallowing another scream at the back of my throat. I hated when she did that; dropped an "enlightened" statement on me and left me hanging.
An unexpected knock on the door made me jump back into focus. I wiped my tears away, took a deep breath and tucked my hair behind my ears. When I opened the door I found myself face to face with an unexpected sight. My heart jerked to the bottom of my stomach when I found myself looking into the same green stare from earlier. Something in my chest backfired with the way he searched my face, even more so when he ran his fingers through his hair and took a step back.
"Hello," he said, when I didn't say anything.
"Hi," I answered, swallowing the lump in my throat.
"I'm sorry, I'm Edward," he said, sticking his hand out to me. I took it, noting his strong warm grip. "Cullen."
"Bella," I returned, hating the circumstances that made our meeting happen. Nothing could possibly be more depressing. "I'd say it's nice to meet you but..." Then I gestured in the direction of the road.
His eyes had a liquid, twinkling quality about them as they roamed the planes of my face. He shook his head as if to say 'don't worry about it', and released my hand.
"Are you ok?" He asked, looking embarrassed that he had to ask.
I folded my arms across my middle and hugged myself. I couldn't answer truthfully. The only response I could muster was the scrunching of my mouth.
"You ran away so fast down there and well, I would have knocked on your door sooner but there was all that yelling coming from inside your apartment and..."
"You were out here listening?"
I wasn't so upset that he could have been listening. I was more nervous that he had heard the conversation. I would think I belonged in the looney-bin if I didn't know me and heard me having a conversation with my mother.
"I didn't intend to. I came to see if you were ok and when I heard the yelling I hesitated. I couldn't hear what you were saying if that makes a difference, just your voice."
It made all the difference.
"Did they take her away?" I asked, looking down at the floor, wondering if she had disappeared into thin air.
"Yeah." His voice dropped to a tender inflection, like he was sorry. "The ambulance showed up. Did you know her, Bella?"
Perturbed by his curiosity, I hugged myself tighter and stiffened my back.
"No. Why would you think I know her."
"You acted like you did. How upset you got, the way you pushed to the front of the crowd and leaned over her then ran away."
"Excuse me?" I scoffed, shocked now by his directness. He was certainly presumptuous. "I don't even know you. As if this isn't terrible enough, you come up here and start interrogating me..."
His hands came out of his pockets in a defensive gesture. "Hey, I don't mean to interrogate you. It's just that the cops were down there asking if anyone knew who she was and well, it made me think about how upset you were and your odd reaction."
"Well of course I was upset! Everyone down there was upset! I'm still upset! I saw a girl die! Besides, you were the one all over her, touching her and...touching her."
"I'm a doctor. I was trying to help, but it was already too late."
"Oh...," I said shifting from one foot to the other. "Of course you are."
Because what else could possibly make him the most unfair human ever? Just toss a doctor rate on top of that face and grand demeanor and he's every woman's nightmare in the most wonderful way.
"I don't know what you want me to say," I rambled on. "I saw something horrible and I reacted. I was shaken. I'm still pretty shaken and frankly you're making it worse."
He took a deep breath, raised his chin and shoved his hands into his pockets. "You're right, but I had to ask just in case you did know her. I wanted to say how sorry I am and see if there was anyone that could help identify the body. Apparently she didn't have any ID on her."
"It's fine, and no...I don't know who she is."
"Ok," he said with a small nod. "I'm your new neighbour by the way. So, you know...ok. Just throwing that out there."
It didn't seem fitting that a doctor would move into this building. It wasn't bottom level but it wasn't exactly The Plaza either. He did look young, younger than any doctor I had ever met, and why was I trying to figure out his story when I had other more demanding problems to deal with?
"Welcome to the building," I said hastily, and closed the door.
I stopped writing after that. Even if I wanted to I couldn't. I had the worst writer's block of my career and it was all caused by fear. I even tried to embed the girl into my current story somehow, but the words wouldn't come. I was literally blocked. The blank Word Document on my laptop stared back at me mockingly, and after days of frustration I gave up.
I suffered a mild nervous breakdown as well. I locked myself in my apartment for days, scouring my apartment like a mad woman in search of any paper with hand written notes for my current story - any story. The magic happened whether my stories were hand written or typed, but at least everything that was typed was contained in my laptop and in no real danger of being destroyed or lost. I backed up everything anyway, so at least, that was a comforting thought.
Every physical piece of paper I found I hid in a shoe box. The box was tightly sealed with duct tape and shoved to the back of my cupboard.
"Safe," I said, dusting my hands off on my PJ pants. All the while as I ran amok in my apartment I felt Renee in my head, calling for me to come home. At times I could actually hear her voice whispering my name, reaching for me, refusing to leave me alone. I had turned off my cell and unplugged the land line but she had other, more unorthodox ways of connecting with me.
Hating to resort to magic, I did the only thing I could think of to block her out completely - the spell of protection. She had taught it me as a child but I hadn't had a reason to use it until now. And so, after days of battling with her in my conscience I closed my eyes and chanted to myself over and over, visualizing a circle of purple light around my body.
"I am protected by your might, O Gracious Goddess, day and night. I am protected by your might, O Gracious Goddess, day and night..."
I didn't know it was working until I felt her force pushing harder into my head. She obviously felt my resistance and was fighting back. We went like that for two days, back and forth, her reaching out for me and me fighting her off. When my chanting started weakening against her more powerful advances, I had no choice but to turn it up a notch and try another spell I knew.
Imagining a triple circle of purple light around me this time instead of one, I closed my eyes and spoke the words in repetition.
"Thrice around the circle's bound, evil sink into the ground. Thrice around the circle's bound, evil sink into the ground. Thrice around the circle's bound, evil sink into the ground."
That pissed her off royally, because she had always emphasized to me that her practices were not evil. She only used her abilities for good.
Nevertheless, the pain in my ass that she insisted on being was unbearable. I didn't want her in my head. I didn't want her meddlesome effects on my life. I wanted to be free and even though I knew it would take more than elementary spells to push her away properly, it was all I was capable of.
On the fifth day after the accident with the girl in the striped dress, someone knocked on my door. Exhausted now from my constant mental battle with Renee, I dragged my feet to the door and pulled it open heavily.
"What the hell happened to you?" Rosalie demanded, widening her eyes at my appearance. I turned and walked toward the kitchen, leaving her to let herself in.
"I'm fine," I said. "You look like you want some tea."
"No, I do not want any tea," she chided, slamming the door shut behind her.
"You're right," I mumbled, reaching for the kettle on the stove. "I need something much stronger than tea. Maybe I'll spike it with vodka."
"Are you delirious? I've been trying to call you, Bella. Why the hell aren't you answering any of my calls? And why do you look like an addict in some kind of withdrawal?" The vision of her with her hands on her hips was actually intimidating.
"Oh...sorry about that. I turned my cell off and unplugged the land line. I'm avoiding my mother at the moment."
"Have you been cooped up in here all this time?"
"What the hell for?"
I sighed and looked up at her tiredly. "I think you were right. I need a break."
"From a bath?"
"...from writing," I shot back at her, impatiently. "I need to clear my head for a bit."
"Is this about that James and Victoria nonsense?" She asked, stepping over a stack of books on the floor.
I laughed cynically. "Heh. I'd actually forgotten about them."
If only she'd known how much worse it had gotten since my run in with James and Victoria, but Rose didn't know about my past, my mother or the lifestyle I was so desperately trying to escape. I couldn't tell anyone. If I did I'd end up either in a psychiatric ward or burnt on a stake on Times' Square.
"I just need a break. I feel so drained. So tired."
She appraised me with her eyes and pursed her lips. "Bella, I'm all for a break, but I meant after your current book, not in the middle of it."
"I get that," I replied, pointing at her with the kettle. "But I can't help it, ok? I'm blocked. There's nothing I can do but wait it out. You know how this shit works."
"You writers and your complications," she said, rolling her eyes and pulling her cell phone out of her purse. "Fine. I'll make a call, but I'm warning you Bella, Whitlock isn't going to like this. Can you at least give me a time frame to work with?"
"A few weeks maybe."
"Like two or three?"
"Like four...I don't know."
"Jesus, Bella. We have a deadline."
She raised her finger to silence me as she spoke into her cell. I heard her rambling on to her assistant at Seaburn, but I could hardly catch what she said over Renee's prodding in my head. It started again as if she sensed my distraction with Rosalie.
"Get. out. of. my. headdddd," I growled, bending over to grab my head with both hands. When I stood upright again Rose was staring at me with raised eyebrows.
"Okkkkkkk. A break might be good!" She said, twisting her mouth to the side with wide eyes. "Yes. You do that."
All I could do was stand there like a dummy and look at her. She had no idea the devil I was dealing with.
"Do whatever you have to do to sort your shit out, Swan. You have three weeks. You might want to start with a bath and a hairbrush."
"Bye, Rose," I replied, stumbling toward the door to let her out. "Thanks for stopping by to make sure I wasn't dead."
On her way out the door none other than Edward himself was passing by in the corridor. Perfect timing. My heart sank to the bottom of my chest at the glorious sight of him - nothing even remotely comparable to what I looked like right then. When he saw me he stopped to send me an awkward wave and a "Heya Bella," passing his eyes between Rose and me. He would have continued on his way too if Rose hadn't stopped him and made a complete spectacle of herself.
"Oh my," she said, an appreciative giggle playing out of her mouth. "Helluuu there. You must be..."She danced her fingers in the air, "...a neighbour of some sort."
My brain did something synonymous with an eye roll. Rose had an unconscious way of talking to people as if they were her minions.
"Sure," Edward said, settling on the spot to smile back at her. "The name's Edward." Then he looked at me. "Nice to see you, Bella. There's a tree branch that hangs over my terrace if you're interested."
"You know," he said, teasingly, pointing to my head. "That bird's nest looks heavy."
Well that just sent Rose into a tizzy of never ending delight.
She grabbed his arm and leaned into him with a high pitched giggle. "I'm so happy she could hear it from someone other than me! Call it an intervention, darling."
I don't know if it was the jab at my appearance, the way Rose was physically all over him, or the way he wasn't particularly pushing her off, but I'd already had enough. I hadn't been in a mood for teasing all week.
"See you in 3 weeks, Rose." I grumbled and tried to slam the door in both their faces, but Edward jumped forward and prevented it from closing with his boot.
Pushing it fully open he leaned forward to say, in a much softer voice, "Hey, I'm kidding. It really is nice to see you."
Clearing her throat loudly, Rose darted her eyes back and forth between us.
"Take four weeks instead," she said, with a wink. "We'll call it a vacation."
Then with a flirty wave at Edward she walked away.
"Dr. Cullen," I acknowledged him, tugging at my soiled pajama pants proudly.
"Silly, call me Edward," he said, leaning against my door frame.
"Well Edward, nice to see you too but I really should tend to this bird's nest now so I'll be seeing you around, mmkay?"
"Come on. Don't be like that! It was a joke."
"No it wasn't," I said, trying not to be sad about it. "Because it really does look like a bird's nest."
I actually pouted.
"Awww," he chuckled, touching my chin gingerly. "Now that was cute."
I liked it when he touched my chin. It made me feel...adorable. I had never felt adorable before.
"Don't be sad, Bella! It was a mean joke, but I couldn't resist. What's one more reason for you to dislike me, right?"
"I don't dislike you."
"You don't like me either."
"I don't know enough about you to like you. We had one conversation ever."
"I can help with that."
"There's something I was meaning to fix inside your apartment, unless...you live with someone, who could...fix it for you."
He took a step backward for safe measure and I twisted my mouth to suppress the smile that threatened to show. Edward was trying to find out if I was single.
"I live alone," I said.
"All the time?"
That did it. The corners of my mouth tugged upward. "All the time."
"So I should get to it then."
"Fixing that thing in your apartment."
"Are you trying to invite yourself in?"
"Not exactly. Humour me?"
Gesturing to my attire, I answered. "I'm not exactly dressed for company."
"I won't be a minute," he said, pushing the door open wider.
Wondering what he as on about, I stepped aside and let him in. He went straight over to the window overlooking the street below, pushed the curtains open at the middle, pressed his palms to the glass and pushed the panes open.
"Ah...that's strange. It works. I was sure it needed fixing."
"What?" I chuckled, walking over to him. "What on earth are you talking about?"
"Well you haven't poked your head out there since the day we met, so I figured it just had to be jammed or something."
Ah great, a sense of humour and cuteness; much to my everlasting dismay. I did not have the space in my life to start liking this man. He needed to go back to whatever corner of the world he was done tormenting with his existence.
"Have you been expecting me to poke my head out there?" I found myself asking.
"More like wanting you to. You know, it gets lonely out there on that terrace."
"You sure do smoke a lot if that's why you're out there so often."
"My number one weakness."
Then he stuck his tongue out at me. He stuck his tongue out at me?
"What kind of doctor sticks his tongue out at people?"
"The kind that works with kids all day," he answered, scratching his head.
A pediatrician. If ovaries could self combust he would be a health hazard.
"If I promise to stick my head out there more often will you leave my apartment?"
"I deserve that I suppose," he said with a laugh. "Deal. But..."
"You might want to," and he swirled his index finger upward toward my head, "sort that out before you stick your head out there. Birds looking for a ..."
Edward was everywhere all of a sudden. When I went to do laundry in the basement he was there. When I went to the supermarket he was there. When I was leaving or entering the building so was he; going either in or out. And don't get me started on the sticking my head out of the window part. I braved the act a few times after he suggested it and sure enough, five out of six times he was there with a huge textbook or a cigarette, or both.
The signs didn't make themselves obvious to me at first even though there was something vaguely familiar about him. Growing up I had worked so hard at separating myself from my mother and her practices that I ended up unintentionally blocking some things out. After writing to Alice that one time as a child about the form my true love would take, I hadn't thought about it again. The memory faded with time, locked in the diary in the attic with the hoards of other writings over the years. It ended up filed away at the back of my mind amidst the other "mother induced" incidents in my life; and for the most part, forgotten.
Even still, he was familiar to me and I found myself wrecking my brain, trying to figure out why I felt like I was supposed to know him. I knew I hadn't written any character in a novel that looked anything like him...and god forbid if I had. The thought alone repulsed me. That had to be some sort of writer's incest or something.
"Don't you work?" I asked him one evening, leaning halfway out the window.
"Don't you?" He quirked.
"I'm a writer. I can work anywhere."
"Touche," he said with a smile, blowing smoke out of his mouth.
I watched the way he leaned on the railing on his forearms, his shirt sleeves folded up to his elbows, his denims faded and cut open at the knees. Quite the unorthodox doctor, this one.
"You didn't answer my question," I noted.
"I'm on the student program on the Pediatric Ward at the public hospital. I work early mornings for practicals and I have four hours of classes most afternoons. The rest of my time I use to study and I do that at home. That's why it seems like I'm always here at this time."
"Gotcha," I answered with a smile. The falling sun broke through the clouds with its last ray of the day and cast a line of light directly on top of his head. His rare highlights caught me off guard for a moment. I was taken aback by the strange bronze-like aura that circled his head, until he moved a moment too soon and stepped away from the light so that he could lean against the wall.
"Your hair," I said. "I don't think I've ever seen a colour like it before. Is it your natural hair colour?"
"Yes ma'am," he said, turning his face toward me. Then he shrugged, took the last hit of his cigarette and threw it to the ground where he crushed it under his shoe. "I never know what to call it really. My mother says it's copper. I dunno. It's a mix of blond, brown and red I suppose? I was blond as a child."
The words immediately struck a chord in me; blond, brown and red. Again, it felt familiar though I didn't place it right then.
"You make me nervous the way you hang out of that window, Bella." The affectionate inflection on my name released a heavy swarm of trapped butterflies in my stomach.
I cleared my throat. "I thought you wanted me to poke my head out here."
"Your head. Not your entire body."
"Well, you know, I don't have a nifty little terrace like you do. We unfortunate ones in the middle of the building only have windows."
"Then come over to my terrace then," he interrupted. He didn't even look at me to say it. His eyes were on his feet, crossed by his ankles, his hands shoved in his pockets. "There's plenty of room over here for the two of us."
He raised his head and looked at me from the side with a slight squint in his eyes. Then he gestured with a flick of his head in his direction for me to come over.
Damn him straight to hell.
After splashing myself with a mild scent, running my fingers madly through my hair and pinching my cheeks in the mirror for a fake tinge of colour, I braved the corridor that wrapped around my apartment to his door.
He didn't even give me the time to knock. As soon as I raised my fist in the air he swung the door open and flashed me a smile.
"Peeping Tom," I teased.
"They don't call it a peep hole for nothin'."
The smouldering look he gave me put every hair on my body at attention. His eyes fell to my lips and parted them, rooting me to the spot like a heavy, inanimate object.
This was a bad idea. The next moment disappeared in a black hole of time somewhere. I didn't know the start from the end, only that suddenly his lips were pressed against mine. His hand was welded to the back of my head, holding me to him, the other clutching my hip. My feet started shuffling toward him, against him, moving us through the door and into the abyss of his apartment where time warped in orbs of black and white. I didn't know what had come over me. My arms were wrapped around his neck and I could hear nothing over the pounding pulse in my head.
He tasted like cigarettes and gum, sweet and taut, and he smelled like something from the crisp autumn outdoors. Before I knew it the kiss was over and I found myself as wanting as I was disoriented.
His hands were on my shoulders, putting me at arms length, and only when I noticed his gaze on my mouth did I realize it was still open. Trapping it shut, I swallowed and blinked up at him, not knowing what to make of any of it.
"I'm sorry," he grunted.
I took a deep breath.
"Did I cross a line?" He asked. He searched my face for an answer but my voice was buried somewhere under the mixture of his saliva, mine and a cherry of shock. He dropped his hands away from my shoulders then, making the absence of his touch immediately felt.
Worried that he'd get the wrong impression, I grabbed for his hand and shook my head.
"No," I uttered. "That was, that was..."
I started nodding in approval.
"Good?" He asked, stepping into me again with his head dipped low and a smile that cracked one side of his face open.
"Yeah?" He reaffirmed softly, taking my face between both his hands. He smiled all the way down to my lips, slowly this time, softly, holding my face with gentle steadiness as if he knew I was falling apart.
Hard to believe that just moments before I was thinking this was a bad idea. It was ridiculous how fast my will did a 180.
Too easy, I complained inwardly.
The deeper the kiss went, the harder he pressed himself to me and the more his hands roamed. I hazily recognized the hard surface behind me as the wall. I didn't even know when he shut the door and moved me over. Not much made it past the barrier of his kiss or the binding capsule within his arms. His mouth started roaming too, peppering my face and neck with urgent kisses, losing the sweetness he started with. He was tugging at my jeans pockets at the back; did so until his big hands were inside of them palming my cheeks. His arousal was prominent now and making itself very clear against me in the most inappropriate of spots.
I groaned. Then he did the unforgivable and pulled away, mid kiss.
Out of breath and confused I raised my head, moving off the wall slightly, but with his forehead he pinned me back in place and I felt the back of my head connect with the wall again. Nose to nose now, I felt him close his eyes and breathe into my face.
"You're too old to be this shy," he said.
Last thing I expected him to say.
"You said you're a writer."
"Pretend I'm one of your characters, like we're in one of your scenes."
"Unless you write kid stories? Then...ugh."
"Ummm, it doesn't work that way and no..I don't. I write adult novels. Well not adult adult, but...for grown ups."
Great. Now I felt like a babbling moron.
"Do you want me to kiss you."
"You're ruining this..."
He moved his forehead away from mine so that we could be eye to eye.
"Do you want me to kiss you."
"Well not when you ask it to me like that," I mumbled, trying to push him backward so that I could move.
Holding me to the spot with firm hands, he bent his head low and hovered his lips fractionally over mine so that I could feel the warmth of his mouth without the actual touch. Tease.
"Do you...want me...to kiss you."
Then he pressed his hips against me so that I could feel him demand an answer in more places than one.
"I hate you," I managed to say through a sigh. "Yes. Yes."
"Then kiss me like you want it."
I could hear the smile in his voice before he closed the gap between his lips and mine, as if this was some small victory of his. His hands found my ass again inside of my back pockets, and this time I responded by writhing against him instead of just standing there. Our heads moved together as the kiss escalated to something more akin to consumption, shortening my breath to wanton pants. Energy spawned like spots of fire between us and took a life of its own. Before I knew it I was unbuttoning his shirt and freeing it from his pants all the way around his hips.
The skin on his back was warm and soft over firm, moving muscle. Somewhere in the distance the faint sound of a ringing phone came to mind. In annoyance I mentally pushed the intrusive sound away, a part of me expecting my mother to be on the end of the sound even though my phone was off.
"Mother," I grunted against Edward's lips.
"What?" He asked, through his hungry nipping.
I fished my phone out of my front pocket and felt as his hand came over mine and took it away.
"It's not yours, it's mine," he said, refusing to stop kissing me.
I didn't know or care where he tossed my phone, not when the very next thing he did was lift me against him and wrap my legs around his waist. I'd never been more content to be stuck between a rock and a hard place before. We tried to ignore the ringing but sure enough, it got louder and louder. It didn't stop.
"Just get it," I belted out, swallowing a gulp of air when he moved his head back and away from my face.
Letting me down gently, he jogged across the room to get the phone off his coffee table. I observed him in silence as he moved, one hand in his hair as he held the phone to is ear with the other. His shirt opened and lifted in the middle with his elbow up in the air and I took the time to observe his torso, his posture, the way his head bent low as he talked.
He turned to me and mouthed the words "I'm sorry", and rolled his eyes. I bit into my bottom lip and smiled back at him, glad for the security of the wall at my back as I watched him.
"I can take it to her tonight," I heard him say. "Don't worry about it, Mom."
Why wasn't I surprised? The persistence of that ring could only be championed by a mother. I'd know.
And as the thought came to me, so did her presence; my own mother. It started creeping over me like a shadow, clawing at my resistance for some way into my head; whatever it took to get me to acknowledge her.
With her aura came an unstoppable moment of revelation that made me stop breathing altogether. Edward was pacing the floor as he talked into the phone, his fingers doing unconscious runs through his hair, drawing my attention to the mass. He moved into the line of sunlight coming through the window and suddenly it hit me. I didn't know if it was the angle, or the way he played with his hair as he talked with his eyes on the floor, but his hair shone radiantly in that strange coppery colour I had noticed before. Only this time, I was able to connect it to my nostalgia.
The mix of blond, brown and red...
Something from the past filtered through.
'His hair should not be brown, or blond or red, but a combination of them all, just so he is different.'
My heart started racing.
'I want him to have sparkling green eyes and a dazzling smile...'
He looked across at me again and smiled, his green eyes sparkling with apology.
Completely at a loss for words, I clutched my belly and tried to control the terrifying pound of my heart with deep breaths. The worst, sickening gut feeling rose to my throat in a wash of bile and I felt like I was about to pass out.
Come to me, my mother's voice came to me like a haunting warning in my head. I am waiting. Come home...
"Bella?" He called over to me.
Frantically, I started looking for my phone.
"Mom, I really have to go this time," I heard him say. "I'll call you later."
Dropping to my knees I clawed at the floor trying to find where he had dropped my phone.
"MOM, I love you. I will call you later. Bye."
The alarm in his voice startled me. I looked up at him when I didn't find the phone anywhere on the floor.
"Looking for this?" He asked, pulling my phone out of his pocket.
I sprang to my feet and lunged for the thing in his hand.
"Whoa, whoaaa! What's gotten into you?"
"I have to go," I uttered, relieved when he let me have the phone without resistance.
I turned to escape but he grabbed my wrist.
"Bella? What's the matter?"
Still suffering a mild heart attack, I blinked upward, wishing his eyes would be any colour but green at that point. I gulped hard and shook my head. It was too late to pretend otherwise. He had already seen my panic and was, understandably, as confused as a hungry baby in a topless bar.
"I don't understand. What's wrong?"
I didn't know how to answer that. Essentially there was nothing wrong. He had done nothing wrong, but there was no way I could reveal the crazy labyrinth of my mind.
"As cliché as this is going to sound right now, Edward, it's not you...it's me. And I promise you that's the truth."
A cloud of darkness fell over his stare. He exhaled sharply and shoved his hands into his front pockets. He was unhappy and I cringed to be the reason.
"I'd apologize for taking the call but it was my mother and we have a family situation. I wouldn't have taken it if it wasn't important."
"I'm not upset because you took a phone call, Edward." Shooting him an apologetic look, I turned for the door.
"I'm not even upset." It was the truth. I paused at the door and looked back at him. "I promise. It's nothing, but I do have to go. My mother won't leave me alone."
"Your mother? What?"
"I'm really sorry, Edward."
"I have to say," he started. "You're the biggest confusion to me in a long time. I just can't figure you out. Usually I can place people within minutes of knowing them, but you...I dunno. I thought you liked it just as much as I did." He pointed to the wall where he had me pinned just a minute ago.
Guilt came piercing into my chest like a bolt of bruised ego straight from his eyes. I didn't like it, but it made me feel like I had to explain.
"There is something very important that I must do right now before I can continue with this," I said truthfully, stepping backward into the corridor. "That is...if you will allow this to continue after today. I can't explain right now but I have to go. Please don't be upset."
He didn't answer me. He just stood there staring at me seriously; tall, lean, confident and every bit as masculine as a man could be despite the blow his ego had just taken. I walked away then, dreading two things - my mother, and the possibility that Edward may never invite me across again.
Two days later I was standing on the front lawn of my birth home in Forks, WA, staring at the door. Renee opened it as soon as the cab drove away and stood with her arms outstretched in magnanimous greeting. I walked up the drive way but stopped short of her reach.
"Hello, Mother," I said, flatly. She dropped her arms dramatically, making her wrists chime with the sound of her many bangles when they clanked against her sides.
"I'm glad you're here," she said, waving me inside. "I made you some tea."
"Yeah, because you were so sure I was coming, weren't you?" I said, brushing past her to make a bee line for the stairs.
"Why are you so angry with me?" She asked, following closely behind.
"Save that conversation for later," I replied, taking the stairs two at a time. On reaching the second floor, I pulled at the hanging lever from the corridor ceiling to release the ladder to the attic.
"Bella," came her voice of caution behind me.
"What," I answered as I pulled myself up the steps, glancing back at her. "You wanted me to come home. Now that I'm here you're trying to stop me? You knew exactly what you were summoning me about."
"I'm not trying to stop you but would you just stop and talk to me for a minute?"
I continued my climb. The attic was exactly the same. Nothing changed. It was musty and cluttered with everything from books, boxes and Wiccan paraphernalia to baby clothes, old toys and lamps. Renee never threw anything away. I headed straight for the locked chest and sealed boxes with my name on them, stifling a sneeze. Thinking quickly, I dragged the tool box behind me and retrieved the hammer and scissors. I attacked the boxes first, cutting my way through the layers of tape that sealed them shut. One at a time I emptied the contents on the floor, rummaging through in stern concentration, looking for one thing in particular. After three boxes of old journals and short novels I still didn't find the one I was looking for.
Then I saw the chest. Making sure to pack every book back into their boxes safely, I taped the boxes shut again and reached for the hammer. The lock on the chest was small so it wasn't hard to break. When the little metal thing fell lifelessly away, I pulled at the rusty latch and threw open the chest.
There she was, atop of a pile of childhood memories.
"Alice," I said, taking her in my hands affectionately. She was my very first Alice, and the one that held the answer to my nagging suspicion. I flipped through the pages briskly, trying to restrain my trembling, hurried fingers from tearing any page. Somewhere close to the end a pink star on the top right hand corner of a page caught my attention.
With nostalgia and rapt trepidation in my heart, I scanned the words, clutching my throat with a shaking hand.
"He will be tall and fair, like Romeo. I want him to have sparkling green eyes and a dazzling smile. He must be very handsome so that I fall in love easily and I would like it very much if my heart rattles in my chest whenever he is near. His hair should not be brown, or blond or red, but a combination of them all, just so he is different. And so that I know it really is him and no one else, he should have a birthmark to match mine behind his left ear, shaped like the crescent of the moon, and hidden by his lovely, shaggy hair. I would also like it if he was very smart and knew how to save lives, like a doctor, perhaps. So there would be no more dying of broken hearts."
I read it over and over, about seven times or so, trying to find some word that would indicate a difference between my childhood fantasy and Edward. The only thing that offered any point of parity was the birthmark. I hadn't seen behind his ear, so I didn't know, but that was a characteristic so specific there would be no misinterpretation. He either had the birthmark or he didn't. Which meant it was either him, or it wasn't. There was no grey area for doubt where that one feature was concerned. I had to get back to New York as fast as possible. It was the last piece of the puzzle. Slamming the chest shut again, I took Alice with me, stifled another sneeze and made my way down the ladder.
Renee was waiting at the bottom with a cup of tea.
"I don't want tea, Ma," I said, as I brushed past her.
"Where are you going?" She asked.
"Away from here."
"Already?! But you only just got here!"
I turned toward her abruptly then, holding Alice in the air between us. The tea almost spilled over the rim of the cup in her hand with the way I turned on her, but she saved it.
"Did you cast a spell on me?" I asked her plainly.
Her eyes faltered then. She raised her chin and turned toward the kitchen so that she could rest the cup on the counter. I followed her and waited impatiently for the answer.
"Yes," she answered.
"Why? Why would you curse me like this?"
"It is not a curse," she chided, spinning toward me with defiance in her eyes. "It is a gift."
I let out a short, cynical laugh and stared at her with disbelieving eyes.
"How exactly is this a gift, Ma?" I asked, pulling my brows together. "I killed a girl just days ago. God only knows how many before that. I'm like this literary murderer! I can't believe you would keep something like this from me. Do you have any idea how crazy this all is? How could you not tell me?!"
"You wouldn't let me."
"That's your reason?!" I bit out emphatically, frustrated right through to my core. "I wouldn't let you?! You ought to have made damned sure I understood! That's just plain irresponsible of you!"
"The time has to be right with things like this. If you're not ready any number of mistakes can happen. Also, forcing the knowledge on you when you weren't ready would have been cruel. People are afraid of what they don't understand."
"No. Doing this to me was cruel. Leaving me to find out like this was cruel. Mistakes? Mistakes happened anyway! What part of I killed a girl don't you understand?! Not to mention the poor man who hit her with his car. His life is probably ruined now!"
"Technically, you didn't kill the girl."
"I want to know how it works and how to shut it off."
"You can't shut it off."
Why didn't that surprise me?
"Then you do it."
I raised my eyes to the ceiling then and took a deep breath, trying to summon peace from some imaginary place. Arguing with her was getting me nowhere. She was difficult on a regular day, far less for when she was being accused. Trying to center my breath, I asked, "Why did you do it? Tell me why you wanted me to be able to write things to life."
She fell heavily into a chair then and clasped her hands in her lap, looking sad all of a sudden.
"Because of your father," she answered. "It wasn't about bringing things to life. It was about bringing things to love."
A cold chill ran through me when she mentioned my father. I looked down at her, feeling my rage turn to intrigue. She never spoke about him, though I'd always ask while growing up. It wasn't far fetched now that I saw the pain and disillusionment in her eyes again, to think that he was somehow connected to this.
"What about my father?"
"Bella, what I did was my way of trying to protect you from what happened to me."
"What happened to you, Ma?"
"Heartbreak. I wanted you to have power over the form your love would take, to fashion and mold it in your own favour, for good. Your father and I were not married. He used to pass through Forks every summer on business and every time he came he would bed me for six weeks then leave to return to New York."
I pulled a stool from the counter and sat, sensing that I'd need to sit for the weight of this conversation.
"He did that for four years, and so, for four years I only saw him for six weeks out of the year. Every time he came, he stayed with me, took my lodging, my food, my body and left with promises to return soon, or at the very least to keep in contact. He said he was trying to relocate to Forks and I believed him like a fool.
"He would always reestablish contact with me two weeks before his return to Forks, swearing his love for me and apologizing for being so terrible at long distance relationships. I was broken and hurt for years but I let him do it to me over and over again, each time thinking 'this time would be different', hoping that our stars would align finally and that one day he would realize that he wanted to be with me and would stay...like he promised.
"Then I got pregnant. I thought...finally...a reason for him to stay. We'd be a family and he would have a better reason to relocate to Forks like he kept saying he would."
Her eyes welled up and she turned her face away to swallow heavily. "But when I told him...he spat at me."
She raised a hand to silence me.
"First he asked who was the father."
"But there was nobody else for the entire time I had been with him. He knew how foolishly in love I was with him. He knew there was no one else. Next, he accused me of getting pregnant on purpose, to trap him. Then he told me the truth, that he was married and had a family in New York. He even said he loved me but we weren't good for each other."
She got to her feet then and turned away from me.
"...Then he asked me to have an abortion."
I had to wrap my arms around my body to contain the spell of anguish that dispelled itself inside. She walked over to the kitchen sink and started washing her hands furiously. Numb and shaken, I stared blankly at her back as she continued talking.
"When I told him I wouldn't have an abortion, he tried to make me choose. Said that if I chose him we could continue our affair every summer and go on as we always did but he would have nothing to do with a child. He didn't want that messing up his life in New York."
A fresh bout of rage swelled in my chest then. I had always known not to idealize him, sensing that there was an awful story behind his absence in my life but I never guessed it was this terrible. It was one thing to not want a relationship with my mother any more, to distance himself from a child he wanted nothing to do with for selfish reasons, but to want me dead? Worse yet, to give her an ultimatum and make her choose between him and me? I didn't know how to quell my anger, how to stop my limbs from shuddering in aversion.
"You chose me," I said softly, pressing a palm to my stomach.
"Of course I chose you! I also deserved better than a half-hearted affair with a deceitful man even though I was too smitten to see that for years. What kind of man makes you choose between him and his unborn child? And when I told him so...he left and never returned. I have not seen him since that day. Well, not with my eyes anyway."
Tears of rage burned down my cheeks then. I had learned so much about myself in such a short space of time that I started losing my sense of self. I didn't know what to do or what to think, or if I'd ever feel the same way again.
"Never came back?" I asked, blinking through the cloud of tears.
"Not once. He cut off all contact with me and disappeared. It was as if he never existed."
"And you never...like... did anything to him? Even out of hurt?"
"What are you asking, Bella?"
"Magic, Ma," I answered, stating the obvious. "I know what you are capable of."
"How many times do I have to plug it through your thick skull that I never use my abilities for wrong or to hurt people? I have never taken advantage of my craft, not even in my deepest despair. I sought advice and healing through the deities but that was all."
"Ok." I answered with a shrug. "But you always know how to find me. I just find it strange that he disappeared and you didn't know how to find him."
"I always knew how to find him. I use the word disappear as a figure of speech. I knew that he was married and had a family even before he told me about it, but I also knew that he was dreadfully unhappy with that life and was searching for something. I sensed these things about him very easily.
"I never said anything about it to him either because how would I explain what I knew? I didn't want him to know about my craft, not until I knew that he loved me and wanted to be with me. I didn't want to scare him off. I had hoped I could give him what he was searching for."
"But didn't you know his heart, Ma? You're always so in tune with people. How could you not know what he was like?"
"Love knows no logic or wisdom, darling. I fell for him so hard that it blinded me. It got to the point where whenever he was around me I was unable to tap into my abilities as easily as I wanted. I was so happy in those times I felt like I didn't need magic, so consumed by him that I felt almost...normal."
"Does he know I'm alive?" I asked.
"I assume he does, though he never checked."
Nodding morosely, I put Alice to sit on the counter and raked my finger nails through my hair.
"Ok, now that you've told me all this, what does any of it have to do with the spell you put on me?"
"I knew I would have to explain this to you one day, but I never expected it to be this difficult."
"Please, mother. I don't know what your definition of me being ready is, but after everything that has happened you have to tell me everything. There is a man..."
She smiled with a sad twinkle in her eyes and nodded.
"I know," she said. "You found him, or at least, you suspect that you have."
I don't know why that response shocked me but some part of me had hoped that at least some things about my childhood and my life were private and for me only. As it turned out, she knew about this too.
"I never told you about what I wrote in my diary. How do you know about...him?"
"That's simple. I read your diaries. And before you take me to court over it you should know that I stopped reading them when you turned fourteen. Before then I needed to know what was in your head and your patterns of thought. I needed to know the nature of your heart so that your gift wouldn't be dangerous to others. I needed to observe the stages of your development. I was always happy and at peace with what I found. Every good mother sorts through her child's thoughts on a daily basis. It was the best way to get to know you. You were always so private and secretive."
"So it's true? I wrote him to life? Edward is the guy in my diary?" I looked down at Alice then, despondent and terrified of all the possibilities.
"Only you can say for certain."
"My goodness," I expelled, dropping my face into my palms. "Do you have any idea how dangerous this is? What if I don't want this? What if I am not comfortable with this, Ma?"
Beads of sweat started punching through the pores on my forehead.
I had to put my head between my knees, feeling faint and dizzy all of a sudden.
"Tea?" Renee asked.
"No. How does it work?" I groaned. "I am so confused. I need to know. I think Edward might be the man I wrote about in Alice, but...wait. This was the only time I ever wrote about him. Never after."
I raised my head and put my hand over my mouth. "That makes him a sketch by your definition, doesn't it? I thought you said that all sketches fade if they are left in limbo? This has to mean then that the man in my diary isn't Edward, because he would have faded by now and Edward is still alive."
I was terrified at the idea of Edward being a sketch. That meant that he wasn't real, like he didn't have his own destiny or thoughts. It meant I had the ability to control his fate and I detested that notion vehemently. I was falling for him fast and more than anything I wanted it to be something natural and free of all magic. I wanted it to be real.
"Not exactly," she said.
"The person in your diary isn't a sketch because you didn't create him all on your own." She said this with a twist of her mouth as if she knew she was burying herself deeper and deeper in trouble. "You had help."
"Oye," I grunted, dropping my forehead to the counter. How could this get any more complicated!
"Whether your true love is or isn't Edward, the person in your diary was summoned for you by the deities at my request so that he may have life as it is intended by the natural mechanism of the universe. As a child you only had control over things like what he should look like, his personality, his age etc...to suit your preferences. He was born into a family like a normal baby, had a childhood and grew to adulthood as normal men do. It all happened naturally. He was just sort of, chosen for you and blessed accordingly once you stated what you wanted in a person.
"You do not control his story. He is not a sketch nor is he a character of yours but he was still specially summoned. He lives and breathes as it was intended for any regular being, except, when he finds you he will love you Bella, because you have chosen him in tandem with the deities as your true love. The only thing you have the power to control is the nature of your love should that ever come to pass. And once you embrace that, you will love him too."
"I feel sick," I gasped, getting to my feet to press my forehead against the wall. "I can't deal with all this supernatural mumbo jumbo. I've never been good at it. I specifically tried to stay away from it...and now this. What is this anyway?! Deities do things at your request?!"
"Once you can pay their price, the deities will assist."
"Price...you know what? I don't even want to know."
"Embrace what it yours, Bella" she said. "The only thing more tragic than lost love is potential love that never got the chance to blossom. Do not be put off by this. Embrace it because if you don't...it will turn into something quite the opposite. It will turn into hatred."
Then she came to me, turned me to face her and held my face in her hands.
"And if that happens my dear, if it crosses that line, it will turn black and never turn back. There will be nothing you can write to save it. Be careful not to resist it when it comes to you, whether out of spite for me or your stubborn nature. Let your heart guide you."
"But it's not real," I whispered through trembling lips. "If I write it...and make things happen...it's not real."
She stuck her index into my chest firmly and frowned into my face.
"Your heart makes it real," she said. "If you feel it...then it is real. Never forget that."
"What if I don't want this," I argued. "I don't want to be in control of real life love, let alone my own. That's now how it's supposed to work. What if I fall for the next hot guy I see when I go out into the street! What then?"
"You'll know in your heart what you want without even thinking about it. Besides, everyone is in control of their love life in the choices they make. Everyone. Only the variables are different in your case."
"Can I affect him with my pen," I asked the fated question, the one I was afraid of. "If I write about him, can it touch his life?"
"Yes, but only where his relationship with you is concerned, not his life in general. You can write the path for your love."
"Damn it, Ma."
"Bella, for argument sake if this Edward is that person, can't you see already that you have naturally been drawn to him? That was no pen to paper. That was your heart. You like him and he likes you. You wrote none of that. It is as natural as it is magical."
"So what you're saying is, this...so called love...or hate...that is fated to happen, if I never write a word about it, we are free? If I leave the magic alone, it will leave me alone?"
"Essentially, yes. Except for the part where you have to be careful to listen to your heart and not ignore it. Do not reject what is natural or you will pay a dear price. Accept it."
The sound of a horn popping in front of the house drew our attention to the kitchen window. A cab pulled up and stopped on the curb.
"You really are leaving already?!"
"I asked the driver to come back for me in two hours."
"You won't even stay the night?"
Looking over at Alice on the counter I took a deep breath and replied.
"Maybe next time, Mother, but right now there's something I have to find out."
The day after I was sitting on my couch holding Alice securely to my chest, staring at my window and thinking about the quandary I was in. On the one hand I had an amazing attraction to Edward and I really, really wanted to explore that further, but what if the birthmark wasn't there? What if it wasn't him? Do I walk away from him and wait for this elusive guy in my diary who may or may not ever appear? This was so unpleasantly complicated. One part of me wanted to rush over to Edward just to find out, while another part of me wanted to hide.
So Edward had that rare hair color, those drowning pools of green for eyes, and he was a doctor. So what? It still didn't mean anything. That added to the fact that he probably wasn't even talking to me after the way I left last time.
I carefully placed Alice on the couch, got up and braved the window with an unsteady heart.
Bottom lip pinned in a death grip between my teeth, I poked my head out the window and looked across to Edward's terrace. My heart fell when he wasn't out there, but just as I pulled my head back in I heard his voice.
My heart skipped a beat at the sound of him and I found myself clutching the curtains in anxiety. When I stuck my head outside again and looked over he was there, barefooted and bare chested on the terrace with his hands pushed into the pockets of a loose fitting pair of draw string pants.
Disturbingly handsome as ever.
"You're home," I said.
"For another few minutes, yeah. I have class in fifteen."
I didn't know how to gauge his behaviour. I couldn't tell if he was upset with me or not though he certainly seemed more reserved than usual. He walked across the terrace to the railing and leaned over so that he could look down to the street below. The sun did that dance on his head again and his brilliant streaks refracted in dazzling contortions. I had to mentally push the air out of my lungs to make sure I was still breathing.
"Hey," I managed to say. "Are we okay?"
He looked over. "You tell me. The last time I saw you you were pale as a ghost and running away from me."
"God, Edward I know. I'm so sorry about that. I'm kinda...I'm a lot to deal with, quite frankly. There's a lot that goes on up here," I said, gesturing to my head with swirling hands, "...besides the occasional bird's nest."
He smiled when I said that, and seeing that smile made all the difference. A part of me melted inside. My eyes kept darting to his neck to see if I could get a glimpse of the spot behind his ear, the area of truth, but it was impossible from so far away.
"Where were you?" He asked.
"I went to visit my Mom back in Washington."
"Wow. Is everything ok?"
"I got a lot of answers," I said. "So I guess you could say I'm better off now than I was before I left."
"And if I asked you to tell me truth about what happened before you ran away, what it was about me that scared you, would you tell me?"
"Edward, please believe me when I tell you that it wasn't you. You didn't do anything wrong. My head was just in a really bad place that day. I was uncomfortable and nervous and my mom had been trying to call me for days. I guess when I saw you talking to your mom it hit me that I really had to make the effort to go see mine. To be fair, I hadn't visited her in a year and we had a lot of things to talk about."
"You didn't tell on me, did you," he joked.
"No." I smiled at him.
"I can buy that," he answered. "For now. But you made me feel like Georgie Porgie that day."
"Puddin' and pie?" He said, bouncing his head playfully from side to side. "Kissed the girls and made them cry?"
He really did work with kids every day. It was all over him in the most adorable way.
"I'm sorry," I apologized again through a giggle. "You aren't mad at me, are you?"
"I was more worried than anything else. I went over everything that happened over and over in my head and I couldn't think of anything I did that would tick you off like that. Confused, I guess, is the best way to put it."
"Hmmmm. You know, I never did get to see your terrace. That was the reason I came over there in the first place."
"You ran away too quickly."
"Well I don't have anywhere to go today," I responded, cheekily.
"But I do," he quipped. "Class in fifteen." He looked at his watch. "Eight."
Disappointed, I nodded and tried to smile it off.
"That's ok. Maybe another time."
"What," he said. "You need a whole eight minutes to see a terrace?"
"Get over here."
No hesitation. I didn't even stop to fix my hair or pinch my cheeks this time. I ran out the door and tried to act normal when I approached his.
He didn't assault me with kisses this time when he opened the door. Instead, he stepped aside and gave me all the space in the world to walk in.
I preferred the kisses.
His place smelled like him and I noticed that he had put on a shirt. I could tell that he was careful about the physical distance between us, afraid almost, not wanting to set off some silent alarm that would send me running away again.
Being in there did strange things to my stomach. I was excited, anxious, curious. If I could drug him and toss him on the couch to check behind his ear I would. No such luck. He wanted to kiss me though. If I could sense anything just by the way his eyes kept averting to my lips, it was that. He just needed some encouragement.
"Soooo, let's go see my terrace."
"Hug hello?" I asked, not caring two hoots about his stupid terrace.
"Aha," he mused. "Somebody came back with cheek."
At that moment I said to myself, it didn't matter if Edward was the guy in my diary or not. He as here now, and whoever that elusive guy was, he wasn't there. Edward was nice and handsome and intelligent and he liked me. My mother wanted me to follow my heart? Well this was it, I was following it right then and there.
His eyes twinkled over a slanted smile and because there was no end to his charm and charisma, he made me work for that hug. He called me over to him by curling his index finger, not coming to me, still smiling as if he knew some naughty secret I didn't.
You want it? Come and get it; he was saying.
So I went over to him on light feet and wrapped my arms around his neck, strategically placing my chin on his left shoulder. He wrapped his arms around my waist and held me in a warm embrace.
"...and I would like it very much if my heart rattles in my chest whenever he is near."
Trying to shut out my childhood rantings, I took a deep breath and sighed into his shoulder.
"Hi," I said.
"Hello," he returned.
As his embrace tightened and he bent his head to press his face into my shoulder, I did what I had to do. I ran my fingers through his hair and stroked it away from behind his left ear, turning my face inward to see, but I was too close. I had to pull back slightly. When I moved in his arms, he raised his head making it so that my right thumb grazed over a mark on the skin behind his ear. And there it was. I saw it; the crescent shaped mark of the moon.
Just like mine.
I stopped breathing. For some reason, even after that whole revelation with my mother I was still shocked and pushed off center when I saw the mark on him. I didn't know if I was happy or scared. I only knew that this was happening.
He unlocked the hug and held me away from him so that he could see me. He had felt the change in me right there in his arms. I tried hard to appear unaffected but I was as transparent as a ruby smitten by the sun.
"There's that look again," he said, a guarded expression on his face. "You're as pale as death. It's like every time I get close to you, you freak out. What are you not telling me."
"I'm just happy to see you." It wasn't a lie. "I'm emotional."
"Are you ok?"
"I just need you to hold me right now, Edward. Just hold me and don't..."
He pulled me firmly against him as I was mid sentence, this time cradling my head between his elbow and his hand. It was a much tighter hug than before and not for nothing but, I had never felt safer before then. He held me with such protectiveness that my anxiety started dissipating.
"You're shaking," he said, lifting me up. He took me over to the couch and put me to lie down. "Are you sick?"
"Maybe a little," I said with a smile, wondering exactly how mentally damaged I was because of my mother.
"Why didn't you just say so?"
Then I remembered he was a doctor. There was no way I could fake being sick.
"Just a little dizzy is all. Tired mostly. I haven't slept a wink since seeing my mother."
Truth! I rejoiced in the little truths I could tell so that I didn't have to feel like a complete moron.
"Wait here," he said, getting off his knees next to the couch. "I'll get you some juice. Have you eaten?"
I grabbed his wrist. "Don't you have class? It's ok. I'm fine, really. I can go. We can catch up later."
"Pssht," he grumbled, sitting on the couch next to my laying form. "You think I'd go to class when you're here and not feeling well?"
My heart was clamoring so hard that my muscles had to constrict around it just to hold it in place. In that moment I knew...he was the one. Not many people had a sign so plain as day to set them on the right course, so on some level I was appreciative of that. In some small part of my reserve I had to admit that it was more of a gift than a curse. And Mother was right. I didn't have to try to like him. There was nothing else I could get my heart to do.
Despite the fear of the responsibility I then held in my hands or that I still didn't know how deep this rabbit hole went, I was more prepared to face it that day than ever before. Besides, with Edward looking down at me the way he was I didn't have the heart, nay, the will, to choose otherwise.
He touched my lips with a gentle swipe of his thumb, and without another word, bent his head and sealed our fate with a magical kiss.
Thank you for reading :) This story may one day be turned into a multi-chapter short story. If you'd like that, holla at me and let me know.