Jasper wrapped his arms around me, pressing his lips into my hair, trying to absorb only my feelings and not anyone else's. The emotional climate was terrible right now in our house – house because I refused to think of it as a home with all of us in this horrible, numbed, pained state – and it was really taking a toll on Jazz. I tried to make it as easy as I could for him, pushing all my hurt and guilt and sadness away, and just let him absorb all my love for him. I wasn't sure how well it worked.
"Thankyou," he whispered.
I nodded, marvelling that he could somehow read my mind.
I could hear Esme in the upstairs lounge room cleaning, and Carlisle quietly pacing his study. Rosalie was curled up watching television on the couch opposite to Jasper and I. Emmett was hunting. Edward … Edward was locked in his room, not moving, not breathing, so quiet that you wouldn't have ever guessed anyone was there even with our amplified hearing. I shivered, remembering how I had grown curious and went upstairs to see what he was doing a few weeks earlier, only to find him lying on his back on his bed. He held a photograph of Bella in his hand, with his eyes squeezed closed, and his face was painted with the harsh lines of anguish.
"Shh," Jasper cooed, feeling my emotions tumble down a dark path. He tried to send serenity and love towards me. It worked, to a degree, and I was able to pull my mind from the downward spiral.
I wondered if I should tell him about what I saw – the vision of what had came to pass as Edward left his Bella. Should I tell him about the way he'd broken both of them: her distress, Edward's pain? More than that though I wondered if I should tell him about what Bella had claimed when Edward said he'd leave her so she had no danger from the supernatural world – that she was part of it already, not through her link with vampires, but because of her birth heritage.
I wondered if Bella was mentally unstable.
A low moan sounded from upstairs, and I knew that Edward had heard the direction of my thoughts. Jasper winced against me as his brother's anguish spread through the house.
Is she, Edward?I pleaded mentally, because Edward knew her best. They were two halves of a whole. He was the only one who could answer me honestly and definitively. Is she really crazy?
Edward stood, and everyone in the house stiffened at the sound. We'd become so used to him not moving, not interacting, not hunting, that this sudden evidence of life was a surprise. He made his was downstairs in what was a vampire's closest thing to stumbling, and stood on the threshold of the lounge room. I met his eyes across the room.
"No. She couldn't be, Alice," he said. His voice was wild, half strangled, and husky from misuse and unshed sobs. I bit my lip to keep it from trembling.
But she could have been, so easily. She seemed sane, but she was never normal. She too easily accepted us, and she thought she was – was a –
"Alice, please," Edward whispered. "You don't know how hard this is. Idid that to her. Finding out about vampires, the supernatural world – it broke her, Alice. Maybe if we leave her alone for long enough, she'll readjust . . ."
Edward, I'm sorry. We both know that that won't happen.I blinked back tears that will never fall, and swallowed against a burn in my throat that had nothing to do with thirst.
Carlisle slowly made his way downstairs and laid a comforting hand on Edward's shoulder. "Would you be able to tell me what you're talking about? Is there something wrong with Isabella?"
I tried to meet Edward's eyes, but his gaze was fixated on the floor. Someone had to tell Carlisle. He was the only one who could help, really, and Bella wasn't in any shape to help herself – after all, she really believed she was a mythical creature. She thought she was sane, when really her mind was bent so it saw more then reality.
I made my decision quickly before Edward could read my thoughts and intervene. "Carlisle, Bella thought she was a witch."
Edward sunk back against the wall with his face in his hands.
"She – I beg your pardon?"
I met Carlisle's disbelieving, distraught eyes. "When Edward told her he was leaving to save her, because it was too dangerous if she was in the supernatural world, she said it was too late because she'd been born into it. She said she was a witch."
Carlisle's expression turned into a frown, and he spun to face Edward, who had crumpled into a ball of never ending pain in the corner. "And you left her alone in a forest in this state, Edward?" he demanded. He sounded appalled, and slightly angry.
Edward peered up at him, face full of self-loathing. "I didn't know what to do, Carlisle."
"Oh, Isabella," Esme murmured, her tone full of sorrow as she drifted downstairs. Carlisle put his arm around her and pulled her close, and she buried her face in his shirt. I could see her shoulders shaking, and knew that if she could, she would be crying.
"May I please check her future, to make sure she is safe?" I asked. I hated not knowing if she was okay, whether she was alive or not. Was she in danger? Was she at home? If not, where was she? I craved to the knowledge that my sister, my best friend, was well.
Everyone turned to look at Edward. He was shaking his head, but I knew that it wasn't meant as an answer. "I – promised not to interfere," he whispered. No one answered. After a few long minutes, he rattled out a sigh and ran his hand through his hair. "Just one look, Alice, just to check if she is alright. That's all. We'll let her be after this."
I nodded and leant back in Jasper's strong, reassuring arms. I settled into a haze, not aware, but not unaware, and searched the future. I focused on Bella, her image, until a vision overtook me.
Bella was packing all of her belongings into a duffel bag. Despite its average size, it fit all of her things in it. A golden owl sat on the open windowsill, cooing at her for attention until she walked over and ran a hand down its back. It ruffled its feathers and nibbled her other hand.
"Go to Renee's with this letter," she said, tying an envelope to its leg. "And then come find me. If you can't, head to the Weasley's. Don't be worried about taking you're time – I know it's a long flight. Don't wear yourself out, okay?"
The owl hotted, nipped Bella's finger affectionately, and flew out the window and into the dawning sky.
Bella sighed and, picking up the bag, walked down stairs. Charlie was waiting at the bottom. He pulled her into an awkward hug before releasing her with a sigh.
"Stay safe, Bella," he said. "Mail me, or call me, I don't mind which, but just keep me in the loop. I'm really going to miss you, kiddo, and I want to know that you're safe."
Bella sniffed and nodded. "I will. I'm sorry I didn't stay as long as planned. I'll probably stop by in a few months."
"I'll look forward to it."
After another awkward hug, Bella glanced at the clock on the wall. It was half past nine in the morning. "You don't mind if I leave from here, do you? If it makes you uncomfortable, though, I could apparate from somewhere else. I really don't mind."
Charlie shifted, clearly not overjoyed by the idea of whatever Bella was going to do, but told her it was fine nonetheless. Bella nodded and smiled gratefully. She whipped out a wooden stick from her back pocket. Charlie's eyes trained on it like spotlights, and his face lost a little bit of its colour.
"Love you, Charlie," Bella said.
Charlie was just going to answer when Bella, with a little half wave, spun on her heel and disappeared into thin air with a crack. He jumped, shocked, before settling back down again.
"I'll never get used to it," he grumbled, staring at the spot Bella had disappeared from. He shivered. "Creepy stuff." He waited a second more, still looking at the air like Bella would magically appear from it again, before he shuffled his way into the lounge room and seated himself in front of the television.
I was trembling by the time the vision had faded, shaking in Jaspers arms no matter how tightly he held me.
"What was that?" Edward demanded, his eyes wide, disbelief written across every fibre of his being.
I shook my head wordlessly. "I don't know, Edward."
"What happened?" Jasper asked, growing worried. He tugged me tighter to him, and I went willingly, eager to anchor myself to something real and true and believable. Absentmindedly, he rubbed up and down my forearm with his thumb, trying to soothe my tumbled feelings without his gift.
"I couldn't tell you, Jasper," I said. "I have no clue whatsoever."
Minutes passed in silence. I was thinking desperately. What I had seen – it simply wasn't possible. And yet, I had witnessed it with my very own sight. It was going to happen, whether it should be impossible or not. So that meant it – somehow – was possible.
Edward?I called in my mind, not willing to voice my speculations aloud just yet. His eyes snapped up to meet mine, and I got the hunch that he already knew what I was about to say. Maybe Bella isn't mentally unstable. Maybe she was telling the truth.
Edward ran a hand through his hair. "I was thinking the same thing, Alice, but it's not possible." His expression was wavering, and I knew he was torn between hoping that Bella was in her right mind after all and was telling the truth, and furiously disbelieving what the future had just told him because it would change everything.
I glanced at the clock on the wall – it was eleven thirty at night. Scanning the future, I saw that Emmett would stumble into a house full of dazed vampires in exactly twenty-eight minutes from his hunting trip.
"Someone has to tell us what you saw," Rosalie snipped. She gazed at me, expecting an answer.
"I saw Bella in her room at Forks. She was packing a bag to leave somewhere, placing all her things in that one duffel bag despite the fact it shouldn't fit." I shook my head. "It was extremely strange. Then she gave an owl a letter, and it flew from her room into the sky. She then went downstairs and said her goodbyes to Charlie. And then – she just . . . disappeared."
Carlisle frowned. "What do you mean 'disappeared'? Is she in trouble?"
"No, I don't think so. But I mean exactly what I said. She just disappeared into thin air. She turned on the spot, waved to Charlie, and vanished."
"Maybe you should take another look," Jasper suggested, casting a wary eye at Edward. "To see where she went, and if she's okay."
I looked at Edward, and he gave me a tense nod. I tumbled head first into the whirling mass of visions of the future, seeking out Bella like I had before, and came up with nothing. Just the same vision. With a sigh, I refocused on my anxious family in front of me, and gave my report. "I can't see where she's going. I don't think she's decided whereyet – she's just decided to go."
"You normally see different possibilities, though," Edward thought aloud. "You didn't get any this time. It's like her future disappeared with her." Every single one of us stiffened then, realising the crucial end of this equation. It meant Bella didn't have a future, that she was no longer alive. It was the only explanation. Edward let out a low moan of pain, his head sinking into his hands again in a very familiar position. "You must be mistaken, Alice," he pleaded.
"I'm sure she just hasn't made the decision yet, Edward."
"How can you tell?"
"I can't. It's just a gut feeling."
"Someone should go to Forks," Esme murmured. "To keep Bella safe."
Before anyone could answer a different image took over my line of sight, future replacing present, and I gasped at the unexpectedness of it.
Bella vanished from Charlie's, only to appear with a loud crack in the meadow she and Edward had visited so many times. The meadow where they had first confessed their love. Dumping her duffel bag, she walked around it, fingers trailing in the long grass that had replaced the flowers. She looked at the remains of the tree Edward had uprooted in his display of inhuman strength, and smiled fondly for a second, before breaking out in tears. Sobbing, she made her way over to it, collapsing against its fallen trunk. Her arms curled protectively around her middle, and she buried her face in its scratchy bark.
"Edward," she whimpered, and that brought on a fresh round of tears. She drew her legs up against her chest, wrapping her arms around them, and buried her face against the fabric of her jeans, oblivious to the rain pelting down on her from the grey clouds above.
Finally she stopped crying. She wiped her eyes with the back of her hands before hauling herself to her feet and walking over to her drenched duffel bag. She had the wooden stick in her hand again, and she pointed it at her bag with an expression of intense concentration written across her face. The bag instantly became dry again. She then dried herself before picking up the bag.
She was just about to vanish again when she had a second thought and, pointing the stick at herself, muttered, "Impervius," before doing the same thing to her bag. Bella then turned on the spot and disappeared from the meadow.
Edward was shaking, deep, guttural sounding sobs trying to tear from his chest. Frantically, I glanced at Jasper, and he understood my meaning and spread calm through the room. Edward growled at him, but let the calm come and ease his pain at seeing Bella so distraught. Slowly the cries subsided, but he couldn't stop shaking.
I peered up at Carlisle sadly from my perch on Jasper's lap. "Bella disappeared from Charlie's like usual, only this time she reappeared in the meadow." Carlisle and Esme shared a significant glance, before turning their attention back to me. "She was fine, until she saw something that reminded her of Edward and broke down."
"What happened then?" Jasper asked, smoothing a hand down my spiky black hair.
"She vanished again, the same way as before."
After a few seconds of contemplative silence, Rose spoke up. "At least we know she's alive."
A strangled sound came from Edward.
"I'll take another look," I said softly. Edward didn't respond in any way, so, with my family's anxious eyes on me, I delved away from the present again.
Bella was in Forks High, seated at a cafeteria table. She looked around her, as if committing it to memory, before standing and strolling through the tables until she came to a standstill in front of the table the Cullen's used to sit. She reached out a finger, and traced patterns on the plastic tabletop with a pained half smile on her face. She walked around the table, her finger never leaving the smooth surface of it, until she came to rest behind Edward's old chair. She gripped the top of it tightly, appearing to struggle for a moment before turning and walking away towards another table. This one she seated herself at, and stared at the empty seat in front of her for a long while, remembering how she and Edward used to sit here for lunch on the days away from his family.
Finally, after nearly half an hour of sitting there in silence, she stood and made her way through the halls to the old Biology room. She tried the door, but it was locked. She then proceeded to pull out the familiar wooden stick, and while saying, "Alohomora," she tapped it to the doornob. The lock clicked, and Bella pushed it open and walked inside. She gazed around from the doorway for a while, before her sight settled on one particular lap table at the back of the room.
She walked towards it slowly and sat down on one of the stools. She rested her elbows on the desk and gazed wistfully at the empty chair beside her. She ran a hand over the surface of the desk, as if reasuring herslef it was real, before reaching under the rim of the outside of it and doing the same. Suddenly she stopped, and looked under the desk in front of where her partner used to sit. There, in the wood, where two fist dents, ingrained into the wood as if it had been gripped way too tightly.
Bella let out a strangled half laugh, half sob. "Oh, Edward," she whispered, and sat on her old Biology partners lab stool, sliding her hands into the dents. Her hands were much too small to have made them, but still she sat with a guilty and sad expression on her face as if she had done the damage herself.
I closed my eyes as the vision faded. She still loved him, I could tell. She was revisiting all the old sights they had went together, where all their memories were made. She was in unbearable pain from doing such a thing. The way she had gripped herself in the meadow . . . holding herself together. The way she'd cried, and winced fractionally each time she said his name.
This time I didn't wait for my family to ask what the vision was, and I was eager to share it with them, wanting to steer my mind clear of the subject of my best friends overwhelming pain. "She went to the school. She revisited the old Biology room and the cafeteria, lingering where she and Edward used to sit at lunch. In this vision, she didn't vanish again at the end."
"Who didn't vanish?" Emmett asked, appearing in the doorway. He was a mess, with a torn shirt and mud splattered all over his jeans. Esme looked at him disapprovingly, but refrained from saying anything. Emmett looked around the room, where we were all seated on various lounges in different states of shock and pain and disbelief, and Edward curled up against the wall. His eyebrows rose in surprise. "What did I miss?"
Rose beckoned him over to where she sat curled up on the white sofa, and quickly caught him up to date. Emmett sat quietly for a while, mulling things over. From the way Edward's head was tilted in his direction, I could tell my brother was listening to his thoughts intently. I turned in Jasper's arms so I was seated in his lap more comfortably, and kissed the hollow of his throat. He returned the favour by giving me a quick squeeze and pressing his lips to the crown of my head.
"When are these things going to happen?" Emmett finally asked.
Edward answered. "She first left Charlie's at nine thirty in the morning. I'm guessing it would have been around midday by the end of the last vision."
"Mmm," Emmett replied, already lost in his thoughts again.
"She has to be going somewhere, though," Jasper spoke up suddenly. I lent my cheek against his chest, enjoying the quiet rumble as he talked. "She left Charlie's with all of her stuff. She wouldn't have done that if she were just sightseeing. She's going to go somewhere, move somewhere, after she finishes visiting the places which hold memories of her and Edward together."
"You're right," Carlisle agreed. "But where, though?"
I thought back, skimming through all of my visions I'd had concerning our sister, hunting for a clue. "When she said goodbye to the owl, she mentioned something, or someone: The Weasley's. She told it to go there if it couldn't find her." I turned my attention to Edward. "Did she ever mention them before?"
He shook his head, eyes desperate. "No. Never."
I launched myself from Jasper's lap and shot upstairs before anyone knew what I was doing. In an instant I was back again, carrying my little white laptop carefully in my hands. I jumped back onto Jasper's lap again, got comfy, and opened up a search engine. I typed in, 'The Weasley's.' A list of sites appeared on the screen, and I quickly browsed through them faster then a human ever could.
Shaking my head, I glanced up to meet my families' hopeful gazes. "I don't think anything is here. The Weasley's didn't come up with much, no site, no Facebook page, nothing. Although," I added thoughtfully, "they are a small carpeting business in New Zealand."
"Somehow I don't think that would be it," Rose commented dryly.
"We have to keep trying," Esme insisted.
"What happened to letting Bella live a normal human life?" Edward asked rhetorically. His voice was muffled and strained. "It's what is best for her. We're no good for her – I'm no good for her."
Looking my brother levelly in the eye, I said, "You know as well as I do that Bella is not a normal human. You saw the things she did in my visions, Edward. She is a witch. She even told you as much."
"I can't believe I didn't believe her. That I left her."
"Edward, honey, it'll get better," Esme said softly.
A vision overcame me, once again. All of this flittering from present to future and back again was making me disorientated and confused. But this insight into the future was wonderful. It was more than I could ever have hoped for. It erased all of my discomfort with the joy it brought. Springing from my husbands lap, I did a little dance, never minding my family, feeling happier then I had in months.
In his corner, Edward was beaming, even though his eyes were filled with worry and shame.
"What is it?" Emmett asked, watching me twirl around the coffee table.
"Bella is coming here, tomorrow! She's just going to appear in the front yard, duffel bag over one shoulder, wand in her other hand!"