Epilogue


She spent most of her time in the river letting the gentle current of the water take her downstream as she languidly lay on her back staring up at the trees that hung over it. The branches of the trees, minus their leaves resembled claws and occasionally they would gravitate towards her and try to snatch her up with their spindly fingers, but she wasn't afraid. She knew her mind played tricks on her and understood that most of the images she saw were not as they seemed. To determine what was real and what was not, she had to utilize all her senses, not just her eyes and though she still could be fooled, she could recall no time in her past where the trees came alive influenced and controlled by the demon buried deep underground snatching at whatever damned souls were within its reach.

When she was spit from the river into the ocean, she would start all over again, swimming upstream to the house, sometimes clinging to the river bank watching and waiting for the occupants of the home to return, but eventually getting bored and distracted letting the waters take her back downstream again.

The only time she pulled herself from the watery bed that cradled her was to feed and she only did that when she was well away from the house and the demonic trees with their threatening claw like branches. She ventured to the city where humans were plentiful and she plucked them from under the artificial lights that lined the city streets carrying them into deserted buildings or dark alleys to enjoy their sweet sacrifice in peace. The beady eyes that peered through the inky blackness as she fed were her constant companions. Seldom did they manifest into shapes beyond the red glow of their piercing stares, but they aggravated her none the less and she found complete darkness thwarted their marauding ways. She could still see and hear them scampering about just beyond the perimeter of her reach, but at least she was spared the reflection of those glowing eyes.

Besides the shadowy escorts that followed her everywhere, she was confronted with new and much more disturbing images of what could only be described as giant wolves with snapping teeth and a detestable odor that often sent her fleeing into the nearest body of water, the only place that seemed to keep them at bay. Their immense size and complete lack of fear suggested they were just another creature conjured up by her imagination, haunting her thoughts and invading the sanctity of her world. Yet she felt true fear when they chased her and her usual tricks to rid her mind of the beasts didn't quite work. Only the physical effort of running as fast as she could would eventually rid herself of them as their cackles and yelps and growls of disappointment faded away to become part of her memories.

Sometimes, in more lucid moments when she wasn't being chased by snarling wolves or inundated with whispers of displeasure from all the bugs and worms and beetles that squirmed under her body where she laid on the river bank, she wondered why she was here, what bonded her to this house that she was certain she'd never seen before, but then she would sigh and remember that the memories she still held onto were to be trusted and those that were just beyond her reach would remain that way; so she didn't struggle too hard to find the answer to a question she would never know.

Only once had she snuck into the house through a broken back window, a window that wasn't broken one day, but then the next day it was and she couldn't help but blame the stinky wolves for that even if something told her that she was the guilty party and the dogs had nothing to do with it.

With the window broke and no one to blame, she decided that exploring the house would make the damage justifiable, but to whom she wasn't certain. It was a clean house and other than the broken glass from the window, there was no other visible damage to see; no holes in the walls, no broken furniture, no stale scent of old blood, no signs of recent feedings or rusty red patches on the plush white carpet that tickled her dirty feet.

She felt sad when she saw the mess she was leaving and tried to wipe it away with a bit of clothing she found in a closet, but the dirt just smeared into the rug and after awhile of wiping and wiping some more, she saw the faces in the dirt staring back at her and gave up her effort to clean, not liking the way their eyes darted around and their mouths opened and closed like they were trying to talk to her.

She opened cupboards and drawers finding most of them empty, except for what she understood to be pots and dishes and knives and forks, the tools that humans used to feed. In the closet of one of the rooms she found more clothing and the old scent of someone she did not know, not unpleasant but understanding the boundaries of civility, she refrained from taking anything from it, even though her own clothes were little more than rags on her back.

Up the stairs, there were more rooms, some with furniture in them and some completely empty, but she didn't brother investigating each one. There were more lingering old unfamiliar scents and the dancing shadows that crawled up the wall though generally non threatening, made hissing sounds of warning whenever she approached the threshold of the doorway leading into them.

It wasn't until she reached the third landing and traversed down a narrow hallway devoid of all light and mercifully free of any shadows that she picked up a scent she did know, the scent that brought her here in the first place. The room was all windows, but there was one wall full of empty shelves and in the corner a black leather couch. Against a wall of windows was a giant bed stripped down to only a bare mattress. She didn't sit on the bed, not wanting to stain it with the grime that covered her body, but the couch looked inviting and so crossing her legs Indian style she sat there for some time, a long time and simply absorbed the scent, faded and distant but the image of the owner of that scent was vivid and clear and it was the only vampire face that she could put a name too.

Edward.

It might have been days or weeks or months or even years, though probably not years, that she played in the water or sat on the river bank and only a changing of the seasons let her know that time was passing at all. She had no way to gauge it any other way and didn't really care. What was time to a vampire after all? She did not understand why she choose to remain by this house that no longer had occupants other than the little ferret-like beasts that ran along the siding of the home, their sharp little teeth grinding and chomping as they hunted for whatever their kind fed on. She attempted to cover the broken window with the hated tree branches that she broke off with some glee, ignoring the shriek of outrage from the menacing trees, but the rabid little rodents were not that big and could find their way between the branches and into the house that she'd begun to think of as her own.

If she chose to be honest with herself she knew she stayed because she had nowhere else to go. She didn't understand why she was here or who sent her here in the first place, but she knew that it was the faded scent of him that held the key to explaining who she was and why she sought him out and she had to wait until he returned so he could tell her what she should do.

Because her days melded together and she seldom paid attention to the passage of time, she was shocked to discover upon returning from one of her many swims back upstream that the house, the empty big white house with giant windows that resembled vacant eyes staring at her on some days and just plain windows on others, was no longer empty and she was no longer alone. In fact, after being deserted for an indeterminable amount of time it was bubbling with activity and none of the vampires she smelled were familiar too her.

She remained in the water frozen against the muddy bank of the river peering over the edge of it through two clumps of clotted dead grass. Instinctually she knew better than to raise her head or move at all. The senses of those in the house were as sharp as hers and any sign of movement would alert them to her presence, any whiff of her scent would have them upon her in seconds. They did not appear to be alarmed or suspicious and at least two of them carried the same scent that she smelled on the clothing in the house. It wasn't until they discovered the damaged window that they expressed any outward signs of concern and even then it was not over fear of the intruder that they would know was no longer there.

"Esme is going to have a fit when she finds out that her carpets are ruined," said a deep male voice, sounding not the least bit upset.

"Well then we just won't tell her. It's not like we're going to be coming back here any time soon. Not after all the crap that's happened here," a female responded to him tersely.

"Probably some local kids, having a little fun," another female quipped.

"Maybe. It wouldn't surprise me, but on the other hand, it's not like there is any other damage; doesn't look like anything's been stolen either," the deep voice again.

"Vampire," another male stated quietly.

She could hear them all sniff at the air and she froze. Even the slightest movement could distribute her scent.

"I don't smell anything."

"Me either, so if it was a vampire, they are long gone by now."

"Probably dog food. Glad we didn't know them."

"Emmett," a reproachful giggle.

"What? I'm just saying, with those mutts around looking for revenge, I pity the clueless vampire that runs into them. Maybe we should put up a sign, Beware of Dogs."

So the big monstrous wolves were real? She wasn't exactly frightened. Somewhere on the edge of her memories, she thought she had known real fear and though the beasts appeared able to kill her, they were nothing more than giant wolves, neither supernatural nor demonic. If they were real, they could also be destroyed.

"We'll have someone come in and fix the window and clean the carpets. Esme will never know."

"Yeah, I'll take that bet, babe. The minute one of us slips, guess who will see it and you can be sure he will tell her," the deep voice again. Emmett was it?

"No he won't, not if he thinks it will upset her."

This one had a pleasant voice. She wanted to jump up and join them but something or someone from her past was telling her not to move, that it would be dangerous to expose herself. There were just too many of them and she was almost certain they really existed.

"Come on, let's get going. I want to be home by tomorrow morning," Babe said.

She watched, fascinated as the front of the house opened up, like a giant mouth ready to eat whatever might be lurking outside. She hoped it would chomp on those ferret looking things. She didn't like them; they were sloppy noisy eaters and they smelled like dead fish.

But instead of rolling out a big gray tongue licking up the vermin that were scurrying along the perimeter of its black mouth, a loud rumbling purr came from the bowels of the house and from it, rolling one after another, three shiny vehicles. She was shocked to see the vampires behind the wheel of the cars. She didn't think she'd ever seen a vampire drive a car before, but then her memories couldn't be trusted so it was possible she was wrong.

"I am not driving the Volvo all the way back to Duluth. Alice, you need to switch with me."

She could now put a face to the bossy voice. She was beautiful, her hair was like golden sunlight and her face was flawlessly clean and pale and painted. She wiped a hand across her own muddy hair and felt the grime and grit and little squirming insects as she stroked it, wishing her hair was as pristine and glistening and golden as the beautiful women's before her.

"I don't think so. This car is simply fabulous and you know how Edward is about his cars. He won't let me drive it."

"I remember how Edward was about his cars, but to be honest, I don't think he cares one way or the other anymore."

Edward? They knew who she was waiting for. She clamped a hand over her mouth as a delighted little giggle threatened to escape from her lips.

The other girl had darker hair and she was nodding sadly, but then she got a strange expression on her face, almost like she wasn't there any more, drifting off to another place; her own private world.

"Alice, what is it?" A tall blond man with hair even lighter than the beautiful girl walked from the mouth of the house and reached a hand out to grip the arm of the dark haired girl with the pretty voice.

"I see something," the Alice girl said in a far away voice. "Someone is coming."

All eyes snapped up and looked around the property and she pressed herself against the ground as flat as she could, not daring to look around to see who it might be, but then considering that maybe the girl spoke of her. She waited, completely still for copious amounts of time or at least a few seconds, but when she heard no one approaching she lifted her head and peeked through the dead clumps of grass again.

They were all standing outside of the cars now, but they weren't looking at her. They weren't looking around at all; they were just huddled around the little dark haired girl Alice. All except the tall blond one who was walking away from her and searching the wooded tree line intently. She could clearly see the bite marks on his neck and face and along both of his arms and she sucked in a little gasp. They were old wounds, just white crescent shaped scars, familiar to her in a way that unnerved her. He was a killer, deadly, to be feared more so than the angry wolves or the scary ferrets or the shadows that followed her everywhere. He truly was dangerous, an executioner of her kind and she needed to run away and hide.

But she didn't. She watched as they broke away from Alice who was back from wherever she had been looking contrite, but shrugging and smiling. They argued some more about the cars and finally they closed the big giant mouth of the house. Babe and Emmett got into a massive black truck that looked like a monster in its own right and Alice slid behind the wheel of the prized gray one with big bulbous bug eye headlights. Only the tall blond one kept searching and sniffing the woods and then he was moving closer and his face was scrunched up as he tried to concentrate on the strange smell and she knew the strange smell was her and she scrunched up her own face and thought hard about hiding it and only when he was called by Alice did he finally turn around giving one backwards glance in her direction before getting into the other gray car.

The roar of the engines startled her, but she didn't move from her spot, not until the noisy mechanical beasts had screeched down the driveway and out of sight.

When she could no longer smell their scent or the sound of the departing cars she jumped up from the river's edge and danced in circles linking arms with a friendly blue figure that had no face, but the rest of its appendages looked much like hers. They knew where Edward was, maybe they were even going to go to him and then they would bring him back and she would finally be with him again.

But she stopped dancing when she thought of the scary blond vampire with all those bite marks. A whimper escaped her lips and she gnawed painfully on her fingers. She wasn't a decision maker. She only came here to this house because she was told it was where Edward lived. She didn't know or remember who told her or why, but it was important that she find him. She hoped Edward knew. She remembered his face fondly. He had a sad face, but it wasn't evil or bad and though she only saw him briefly, she knew he would know what to do with her.

But now she had to make a decision. Did she sit here and wait for him to come or did she follow the other vampires who might bring her to him? She only had a short time to make up her mind. She heard a howling from somewhere in the distance. It was those dogs again and according to the big vampire, Emmett, they were real. Better to leave now and take her chances. Besides, those disgusting ferrets like creatures were back with their grinding teeth and beady little eyes and she didn't want to stay in the river any more.

So looking around cautiously at the dancing shadows cast by the fading light of a hidden sun, she decided to leave this place that she'd grown quite fond of and follow the vampires in their cars as far as they would take her. Duluth, wasn't that what Babe said? She didn't know where or what Duluth was but if she didn't find Edward she could always come back.

She ran into the water that reached above her knees and seeing the reflection of her face covered in mud, she wiped at it furiously removing most of the dirt and stains, but looking nothing like the beautiful women with the bossy voice. Staring a bit longer, she looped her thick mane of raven black hair in a knot and bending closely over her reflection she touched the tip of her nose in the pool of water creating ripples that distorted her features.

"Gina," she said aloud and let out a chortle of delight. She was sure that it was her name, but she would wait until Edward said it aloud. He was the only one that might know for sure because he was the only distinct face that still existed in her memories.

And then she jumped and skipped and danced her way after the racing cars. She hardly had to run. She was so much faster.

THE END


Author Notes:

Do you think this scenario sounds a bit contrived? Au contraire my dear readers. In Chapter Five, Nicholas promised Edward he would go back and warn his family. He obviously told his unstable mate where they were going before he lost his head. In Chapter Seventeen it was mentioned that some of the family cars were still back in Forks.

As far as Gina's missing memories, well that's another story and if I decide to write it, the title of it will be Forgotten Memories (of course). I don't think Gina and her hallucinations will be good for Edward, so maybe I shouldn't go there. ;o)

Thank you all so much for reading and reviewing. As I've said to some of you privately, if I do decide to write the sequel, I will probably write it from beginning to end before I post anything, but I'll keep my profile updated so you will know it's in the works.