I remember the first time I saw her. She was just a small child and she had the most delicious scent I had ever smelled on a human. Her eyes were brown and deep and her hair was long and slightly unkempt. She was no taller than just below my hip and I was sure if I wrapped my hands around her tiny waist that the ends of my long fingers would touch. None of these details, however, are what caught my attention so fiercely. Well, maybe her scent caught my attention, but something else kept it – something strange and hidden to me. Her mind was as silent as others' had been before my transformation. At first I thought maybe she was just not thinking of anything at the moment my eyes found hers. I soon realized this was not the case. Her mind – so young and innocent – was immune to my power.

I followed her around town that day; I watched her father show her around the local park, diner, and movie theater. In the back of my mind I took notice of the lack of a mother figure, but I didn't dwell on that insignificant piece of information. Rosalie couldn't decide between being annoyed that I was so enthralled by a human child or thinking how precious it was that I was so enthralled by a human child. Emmett got a kick out of it. He even joined me for a couple of hours, chuckling in his mind when the small girl stumbled over her own feet. Carlisle thought it was unhealthy for me to become so attached to her (which I was soon becoming), but kept his thoughts to himself – as much as he could anyway. Esme shared his worry for me.

By the end of that first day I learned that her name was Bella and she was seven years old. She was in town for the summer to live with her father, Chief Swan, while her mother resided in Phoenix, Arizona. I continued to follow her around that summer, watching over her as she played by herself outside the police station and ran around the woods behind her father's house. I never meant to make any contact with her; I just intended to continue to watch her from afar, the fascinating creature that she was. It was an accident that she saw me. I considered hiding; nobody would believe that she saw a man run so fast. At least, that's what I told myself. Looking back, I think I wanted to speak to her. Figure out what was going on in that mind of hers. I wasn't disappointed. Most people naturally shy away from my kind; children especially, having better instincts than most adults, tend to stay clear of us. But not Bella. Bella looked right up at me, offered a toothy grin and greeted me.

"Hello," I responded kindly, careful not to frighten her.

"Why do you keep following me?" She asked. I was shocked that she had noticed. I had always kept what I thought was a safe distance, and I didn't remember her making eye contact with me before this, aside from my initial discovery of her.

"You fascinate me," I told her truthfully, slightly unsure how to speak to a child this young. I swallowed the venom leaking from my teeth and gritted my teeth as the burn continued. I briefly considered just drinking from her right there and then. Nobody would know and nobody would suspect a thing from Carlisle Cullen's son. I quickly shook the notion and continued to stare back at the girl who was looking at me with one eyebrow up. It was a strangely adult expression for a child to make and I was humored by her unintentional maturity. "What are you thinking?" I asked her, unable to go without knowing for another moment.

"Are you real?" She asked me. I smiled, and knelt down to her level.

"I am."

"I like your sparkles," she told me, reaching out to put her hand on my forearm. I looked down to notice that part of my skin was exposed to the sun and was throwing rainbows.

"Thank you," I told her, tilting my head to the side. Her small fingers were burning against my concrete flesh and I knew she had to feel how cold I was. How could one so young be so accepting of something as different as I? Although, maybe it was because she was so young that she was so quick to accept my unusual characteristics.

"I'm Bella," she told me. I knew this already, but acted like I didn't.

"I'm very pleased to meet you, Bella," I smiled. "My name is Edward."

She then asked me to play with her. Unsure how to go about such a thing, I reluctantly agreed. I spent that afternoon with Bella – playing and using my imagination in ways I thought not possible anymore – until it got dark and I insisted that she go home for dinner before her father became worried and came looking. I wondered if she would tell the chief about me.

"You must keep our time together a secret," I told her as I walked her to the edge of the woods where I would stay until I saw that she arrived safely inside her house.

"Why?" She asked me. She was definitely a curious child.

"Because if you tell anybody, I may not be allowed to come play anymore," I told her.

"Oh. Okay," she agreed. "Will I see you tomorrow?"

"I certainly hope so. I've had a wonderful time with you."

When I got home that night, my family was waiting for me.

"Alice says you've spent the afternoon playing with Bella," Emmett started. His worried expression startled me.

"Is that a problem?" I asked.

She's human, Edward. She saw you in the sunlight. You conversed with her. Alice thought.

"She's just a child. Not nearly a threat," I told them, unsure what the problem was.

"We're not just worried about her, Edward. We're worried about you," Carlisle spoke out loud.

"Me? Why?"

"She's a human child, Edward," Esme said softly. "If you pick her up or even take her hand you could accidentally crush her. Imagine how you would feel if there were an accident like that."

"I saw her riding on your shoulders. You ran with her," Alice said.

"Not to mention what her scent does to you," Carlisle added.

"I've been with her all day and she's fine. I don't see what the problem is," I told them truthfully. Before I could continue, I did see. Alice showed me what my family was so worried about. It was Bella. Older, more mature. Maybe fourteen or fifteen years old? I was kissing her.

"I don't understand," I told Alice, though I understood perfectly.

Your heart will break, Edward. She's not one of us. I looked at Rosalie, who had kept quiet both out loud and in her mind up until this point.

"That vision was meant to take place years in the future. Spending time with Bella now can't mean that that will happen for sure. By that time we shouldn't even be in Forks anymore."

"Just be careful," Carlisle said out loud before adding his thoughts to the statement. We just don't want to see you get hurt. I understand that you are feeling lonely, but perhaps a human child isn't the way to fill that void.

"Maybe we should take a trip to Alaska. I know Tanya would love to see you, Edward," Esme suggested. They must have spoken about my alleged loneliness as a family before I arrived home.

"No, thank you. I wish you a good time, of course, if you decide to go without me. I think I'll stay here, though." I left the room and the house and ran the short distance to the Swan residence. I heard Chief Swan snoring steadily and easily climbed through the window to Bella's room.

Sleeping was something that I missed most about being human. The ability to completely relax and reenergize (not that I needed to reenergize) was one I longed for continuously. Watching Bella sleep was inappropriate, I'm sure, but I couldn't tear myself away from the innocence on her face – it was something to envy. She began to stir and I thought for a moment she would wake up. She didn't. Instead, she relaxed into her new sleeping position and began to mumble in her unconscious state. My still heart ached when my name left her tiny lips.

I escaped her room as swiftly as I could. I knew I felt an unusual pull to take care of this child and protect her from all things evil, but hearing her say my name in her sleep snapped me back into reality. This wasn't just about me. This was about Bella – so young, only a baby in reality. It would have been one thing to meet her when she was old enough to make her own decisions, but to win affection of any kind from her, at an age this young, was unfair. I vowed to stay away from her.

I spent the rest of the night hunting, and by the break of dawn I had changed my mind. A child this young was sure not to remember a summer spent in the woods. Looking back, she would probably think I was an imaginary friend of hers.

It's creepy you know. For a man your age to be hanging around a child like this. Rosalie's thoughts interrupted my own. I didn't turn around to face her and she stood next to me, looking up at Bella's bedroom window.

"I'm not a man in this world. I'm seventeen years old. And for God's sake, Rosalie, it isn't like that. Like you said, she's just a child."

Then why do you watch her like this? Play games with her in the woods? Carry her around piggyback?

"I don't know. But it isn't anything sexual, you can be sure of that."

Well good. That's a start anyway.

"I just feel a bond to her. You've never felt a bond with a child?" I asked her, immediately regretting my words. "I'm sorry, Rosalie. I wasn't thinking – that was incredibly insensitive of me," I apologized.

"It's okay," she said out loud. "You know I know what it feels like. Henry was the most beautiful baby I had ever seen. But he made me long for a child of my own. What does Bella do for you?"

"Right now? She's a wonderfully head-silent companion."

"What?" She asked, staring at me. You can't read her mind?

"No, I can't. Have I not mentioned that?"

No! Not even Carlisle knows.

"Well, then, perhaps you should go tell him. Bella is just waking up and I want to be there when she arrives in the woods. We're not the most dangerous things out there, you know."

"I know."

I continued to meet with Bella that summer. We would play pretend out in the woods behind her father's house for hours at a time before I walked her to the edge of the trees and watched her enter her father's arms for dinner. When the summer ended and she came to say goodbye, I promised myself that she would never see me again.

The winter following my first summer with Bella, Carlisle moved the family to a small college town in Oregon where we started over once again. I thought about Bella often and even went back to Forks a few times to see if maybe she was there visiting her father on a school break. I was always disappointed. I ended up returning every summer in hopes to see Bella again, promising myself that I would just watch her from afar once again, like I had done when I first discovered her.

It was five years before I saw Bella again. I had been in Forks for four nights before I caught up with the thoughts around town that Chief Swan's daughter was in town. Her first night in she snuck out of bed to wander into the woods while her father was sleeping.

"Edward?" She had said softly, almost as if she were unsure whether or not I was real. This was exactly what I had wanted. I couldn't, however, stay away.

"I'm here," I told her, watching her spin around to face me.

"I thought I made you up," she told me.

"You've grown," I smiled.

"You haven't," she smiled back. So she noticed.

"No," I shook my head wryly. "I haven't."

"What are you?" She asked, stepping closer and lowering her voice.

"If I told you, I don't think you would believe me," I chuckled.

"What, are you like Superman?" She asked, raising her eyebrow like she had done five years ago in almost the exact spot she was standing in now.

"No. I'm not like Superman. I'm more like… Lex Luther."

"So… you're like the bad guy?"

"Unfortunately that is probably where most humans would categorize me."

"So you're not human?" Nothing got past this child.

"No. I'm not human."

"What are you?" She asked again. I hesitated before avoiding the question all together.

"Why are you out of bed, Bella?"

"I'm not a kid anymore, Edward," she told me, squinting her eyes.

"You're twelve years old!"

"I'll be thirteen at the end of the summer."

"Thirteen is still a child," I told her.

"How old are you?" I didn't hesitate this time. I gave her the answer that I have everyone who inquired about my age.

"Seventeen."

"How long have you been seventeen?" And once again the hesitation was back. I answered her truthfully.

"A while." Her heart skipped a beat. "Do you believe in scary stories?"

"I didn't."

"And now?"

"I'm not sure. I remember you being strong. And fast. Did I imagine that?" She took a step towards me.

"No. You didn't imagine that."

"And cold. Your skin was like ice." She was only a foot away.

"You didn't imagine that either." I held out my arm and her small hand reached out and touched my wrist. I wondered if she noticed my lack of pulse.

"Will you ever tell me what you are?"

"Probably not. Though perhaps I should… It might send you running like you should be."

"Why should I be running?"
"Do you remember what I told you?"

"You told me a lot of things – I remember all of it."

"You fell a few times when we played. Scraped up your knees, your hands. Do remember how I reacted in those instances?"

"You stopped breathing," she remembered clearly. I was surprised. "You stood as far away from me as possible and pointed to my house until I got the message that I should go inside. I wouldn't see you again for days."

"I felt awful for leaving you like that. Just a baby. Bleeding. There were no tears; of course, you were always a brave little girl. But knowing that I sent you inside to take care of the wounds yourself? You were seven years old!"

"I don't understand."

"Bella… I'm dangerous."

"You're not the bad guy you think you are."

"Yes. I am."

"No. You're not," she looked down. Silence overtook us.

The first month of that summer passed by quickly. Bella and I spent long days lying in the sun in a meadow a short distance away from her house. She was as dazzled by my sparkling skin as I was by her smile and cleverness. We talked for hours on end. I read to her and she told me about her life in Arizona.

"You're the only friend I've ever had," she admitted to me one hot afternoon. I looked at her, stunned.

"I don't believe you."

"Believe me. I'm… weird."

"What on Earth gave you that idea?"

"I don't know," she blushed. Was she serious? "The other kids at school? I stumble a lot. My hair never looks right and my mom buys me hand-me down clothes sometimes. And I get straight A's all the time."

"You're a beautiful girl," I told her truthfully. "Never let anyone tell you otherwise. And good grades are nothing to be ashamed of, Bella."

"It is when you're in junior high."

"She says the other kids are mean to her. They think she's abnormal." I said into the phone later that night.

"That's awful," I could hear the frown in Esme's voice. "No girl should feel that way."

"That's reality," Rosalie corrected. "Unfortunately."

"Is that how it was for you?" I asked her.

"No," she said, laughing without the humor.

"Is Carlisle there?" I asked.

"No. He's out hunting with Emmett and Jasper."

"And Alice?"

"I'm here. When are you coming home, Edward? I don't see you coming home any time soon and we have to talk about the move."

"I'll be home at the end of the summer."

"I don't understand why you don't take her down here to meet us. Or at least let us travel north to meet her."

"The answer is no, Alice. I have to go. Chief Swan just left for work and she's on her way out here."

"Who was that?" Bella asked me as I hung up my cell phone. I smiled at her returned presence and answered her question.

"My sister, Alice."

"You have a sister?"

"Two, actually. And two brothers."

"I wish I had a sibling," she sighed, sitting down in the dirt and rolling rocks around at her feet.

"I'm sort of like a brother, aren't I?" I smiled at her, joining her on the ground. I was surprised to see her fierce blush. "Bella?"

"I don't think of you like my brother."

"You don't?"

"Of course not! You're like… a boy!" She looked down to try and hide her smile. I laughed at her logic and waited for her to look up at me.

"One day, Bella, you're going to break my heart," I joked with her, easing the atmosphere and making her laugh. I heard her mumble under her breath.

"Yeah right." I chuckled at her words. She continued, "So, are they like you? Your brothers and sisters?"

"Yes. They're like me."

"Can I meet them?" She wondered out loud.

"I don't think that would be a very good idea."

"Why not?" I ignored her question. Unfortunately her next question was even worse. "Will you kiss me before I leave? For my birthday?" She asked me, blushing nervously.

"No," I responded immediately.

"Why not?"

"Bella, I know you think differently, but you are still a child. Kissing you would be… inappropriate right now."

"Right now."

I regretted my choice of words. "Yes. Right now."

"Even when I grow older, you don't. If I come back in a few years…?"

"Bella… you know I can't," I replied softly.

"Why not?"

"Because I'm not human. I'm already breaking rules by being with you now. I can't let this go on any longer than it has to."

"So you're saying after I leave this summer I'll never see you again?"

"I'm not supposed to be here Bella. I'm not even supposed to exist."

"Don't say that."

"It's true. Sometimes I wonder whether it was wise to come back here in the first place. My family is moving again in the fall – they've been discussing the northeast."

"You're leaving Forks?"

"Eugene, Oregon, actually. I only came back to Forks for the summer."

"To see me." It wasn't a question.

"Yes," I couldn't lie to her. "To see you."

"One day, Edward, you're going to kiss me," she seemed sure of herself.

"Perhaps one day I will," I humored the young girl.

On Bella's last night in town, I could feel her anxiety from a mile away.

"What's on your mind?" I asked her as we lay beneath the stars in our meadow.

"I'm afraid when I leave tomorrow that I'll never see you again," she told me.

"Bella…"

"You wanted to know." Silence. "I'm going to tell my dad I want to live with him when I start high school." I looked up at her.

"I'm sure he'll be pleased that you want to spend more time with him."

"It's not him I want to spend more time with."

"Bella, my family is moving to New Hampshire. I'm leaving to travel with them as soon as you leave tomorrow. You know that."

"I know. But, if you know I'm here… maybe you'll come visit? If you know you won't be coming for nothing, I don't think you'll be able to stay away from here."

"You mean I won't be able to stay away from you." I didn't have to read her mind to understand that - or to know that she was right. I wouldn't tell her, of course.

Just as Bella had predicted, I was back in Forks the summer before she was to begin high school. For three months I waited for her in the thoughts of those around me, but I was disheartened when her image did not appear. Just when I was sure she had changed her mind about going to school here, I overheard Chief Swan make plans to register his daughter at Forks High School. I lingered in the woods behind her house for another week before she finally arrived just days before school would start. I could barely keep still as I listened for the rustle of leaves that I knew would precede her presence. She was flushed as she ran to me and her smile was wide when she saw me waiting for her.

I couldn't help but notice how much she had grown again in just one year. Her girlish features now carried the maturity of a young woman. Her hair was longer, her body slimmer and filled out in all the right places.

"Bella," I couldn't help but grin.

"Edward," she sighed in relief. "I knew you'd come back here for me!" Before I knew it, she was in my arms. I was surprised by her sudden contact but hugged her back nonetheless. It had been two years since I had seen her last and I had missed her terribly.

"I wasn't sure you were going to come. I would have only waited a few days more before going back to New Hampshire," I told her truthfully.

"I'm here for good now," she told me. "I start Forks High on Monday."

"I heard." She stared at me wistfully before softly requesting that I take her to the meadow. "It's quite late," I reminded her.

"It's midnight," she scoffed, leading the way.

I quickly followed after her. Realizing how long it was taking her to find her own way in the dark after such a long time, I startled her slightly by pulling her on my back and running us there. She laughed when I let her feet touch the ground at our arrival.

"You haven't done that since I was little," she grinned at me.

"You're still little," I told her, aware that this was no longer the case.

"Do you know what today is, Edward?"

"Of course. Happy fifteenth birthday, Bella."

"Thank you." She looked at me then and I knew what she was waiting for. She wanted me to kiss her, and if I was being honest with myself I wanted to kiss her too. No longer was she the young girl who wanted nothing more than a playmate to fill the long hours during her summer stays in Forks. She was, in fact, a young woman now – only two seemingly insignificant years between us. But the years weren't the only thing between us. She was still human and I was still not.

"Bella," I began to protest.

"It's okay. I can wait."

"You seem awfully sure of yourself."

"I am."

I later understood why she felt this way. I don't understand how, but she seemed to know exactly what she did to me. Only when her classes started and she began spending time with a local boy called Mike Newton did I start to act on these feelings. As much as I could, anyway.

"So you're going to a movie next weekend?" I asked her, already knowing the answer.

"How did you know that?" She looked up at me. It was her third month in Forks and we were enjoying a Saturday picnic in our meadow. There was some light rain that made Bella smile and her scent was enhanced by the humidity in the air.

"Mike was thinking about it when he walked you home yesterday."

"You were there?"

"I'm always there. Where else am I going to go?" I smirked. She knew the only reason I was in Forks was to be with her. I stayed out of sight in my previous family home and lurked in the woods around Bella's house at night. I still refused to kiss her but her patience and my self-control was wearing thin.

"You're starting to get possessive," she joked. "Some may even call you jealous."

"Of course I'm jealous," I sighed, looking down. "You don't know how much I wish it could be me taking you out." She looked up, seemingly startled by my admission. Had she misread all my intentions?

"I thought…"

"I can't, Bella. It's not that I don't want to."

"Why can't you?" She frowned.

"Because, I'm not…"

"If you say it's because you're not human, I'm going to smack you."

"Don't," I cautioned. "You'll hurt yourself."

"Edward… I know what you are," she said softly, looking me in the eye. I raised an eyebrow, curious of her theories.

"Oh?"

"You're strong and fast. You're skin is ice cold. You don't have a pulse, Edward. You sparkle in the sunlight. You're never tired, no matter the hour. You leave me for a week every month to," she put hand quotes around this part, "see your family." My eyes were wide, but I let her finish. "Don't think I don't realize that you go the same time every month," she blushed. "You can't stand to be around me when I get a scratch or a cut."

"So you believe you've come to a conclusion about me?" I smirked.

"I know I have. I don't care that you're a vampire, Edward. I never have," she said sincerely. I stared at her, shocked that her first guess was the correct one. She scooted closer to me and put her hand on my cheek. Her forehead rested against mine and the heat from her skin mixed with the potency of her scent almost sent me over the edge.

"If you know what I am," I asked her carefully, "Why are you not running?"

"Because I know you would never hurt me," she whispered.

"Bella, you have to understand. I don't feed on humans. I swear to you, I don't. My family, we're different from the others. We only hunt animals. But your blood – your scent… it calls to me more than any others. Never would I ever intentionally hurt you, but never could I be sure that an accident could be avoided."

"I'm willing to take that chance," she leaned in closer. Her scent was surrounding me. My throat was burning. I quickly removed her hand from me and stood up.

"I'm not. I care for you, Bella. Too much to take that kind of risk."

"Why is it a risk now?"

"Because you're not a child any more," I explained. "Just being near you is very quickly becoming not enough. But… I don't know if I can be close to you like that. Even just now, your skin on mine drives the monster inside me insane. I can't ever lose control with you."

"Come here," she demanded.

"Bella…"

"Come here," she repeated. I stepped forward. She took my hand and held it to her chest. I felt her heart beat as clearly as I could hear it. "Where is it the worst?" She asked me. I moved my hand up, leading my finger to the spot just below her ear.

"Here," I began, tracing my fingers down to the pulse point in her neck. "Here." My hand continued its path down her arm to her wrist. I held it to my nose and inhaled deeply. "It's torturous here. Delicious."

"How bad is it?" She asked me quietly, never wavering her close proximity. "The temptation, I mean."

"Painful," I told her. "Physically painful – like a hot iron being shoved down my throat. But nothing could ever exceed the pain of knowing I can never be with you in the way I desire. The way you wish I would be." We were inches away and my control was crumbling. She leaned up and rested her cheek next to mine. I inhaled her scent deeply, proud of my ability to remain steady in both my thoughts and body.

"Kiss me, Edward," she whispered, moving herself so her nose was touching mine.

"Bella," I whispered, taking her face between my hands.

I almost kissed her. I'd never been so close to changing my relationship with Bella as I had in that moment. I wanted to, badly, but I couldn't bring myself to. I knew I couldn't just kiss her once and leave it at that. To kiss Bella once would mean a lifetime of wanting to kiss her again. A lifetime of wanting to give her a life that I wasn't capable of providing. I wouldn't tease her like that.

Yes, I almost kissed her, but I didn't. Instead, I spent the afternoon lying close with her and inhaling. Breathing deeply. Desensitizing myself. She giggled as the tip of my nose traced her jaw line and skimmed the skin across her chest. By the end of the afternoon, the pain was not only bearable - it was nearly unnoticeable. Nearly.

As I walked Bella home that night, she took a hold of my hand and squeezed it gently. I held it all the way back to her house.

"Goodnight, Edward," she said softly, freeing her warm hand from mine. I caught it back and pulled her close to me. The hug lasted longer than a platonic hug should, but Bella had no complaints. Taking a deep breath, I kissed her forehead lightly. I could hear Bella's heartbeat go wild and her cheeks blushed a beautiful pink.

"Goodnight, Bella."

I watched Bella sleep that night like I used to when she was very young. Halfway through the night she opened her eyes and looked right at me.

"How long have you been there?" She whispered, rubbing her eyes.

"Only a few hours," I said truthfully. "Would you like me to go?"

"No," she shook her head and reached down to the floor to pick up her sweater. Throwing it over her sleep shirt, she motioned for me to come over to her. I reluctantly obliged.

"I don't know if this is a good idea, Bella," I whispered, allowing her to lean into me. I wrapped my arms around her and breathed deeply.

"Why not? We're not doing anything."

"I'm sure your father wouldn't see it that way if he were to walk in."

"He's asleep. You'd know if he was going to come in here."

"Sometimes, Bella, I think you're more dangerous than me."

I continued to spend the afternoons – and against my better judgment, the nights – with Bella. I knew she was still waiting for me to kiss her, but I just couldn't bring myself to. I had been, however, testing my limits. Holding her closer and for longer periods of time. I rested my head in the crook of her neck and inhaled her sweet scent while she told me about her day. She continued to try to further our relationship, arranging us in compromising positions, stroking her fingers through my hair and down my arm. Which is precisely why I was surprised when she told me she had to cut our time together short on Friday afternoon in order to prepare herself for her date with Mike Newton.

"You're really going?" I asked her as I gracefully jumped through her window into her room.

"I'm really going," she answered, not looking away from her mirror. She was no longer surprised by my sudden appearances.

"He likes you, you know."

"I know."

"Are you interested in him?" I was afraid of the answer. Her silence didn't comfort me.

"He's nice, I guess," she finally replied.

"That's not what I asked," I could feel my eyes darken with frustration. The doorbell rang and Chief Swan called up to Bella.

"I'll be down in a minute!" She called back. She ignored my last statement and twirled in the mirror. She reached over to her dresser and applied some makeup to her lips before turning to face me.

"How do I look?" She asked me.

"Beautiful," I said softly. My heart broke as she smiled at me and turned around. I grabbed her hand before she could run downstairs. "Don't go," I begged her softly. She looked up at me with a pained expression.

"I'll see you when I get home, Edward. I won't be late." She pulled her hand from my grasp and hurried out the door.

I waited for Bella in the woods outside her house. I contemplated following her on the date, but I didn't think she would (approve) of that. Hours passed and I stood as still as a statue. When Mike finally pulled up to her house in his beat up old Ford, my stomach dropped. He held her hand as they walked to her front door. I clenched my teeth as I waited for the inevitable. Mike leaned in slowly towards Bella. I watched as she smiled and turned her head. Mike grinned disappointedly and accepted a kiss on the cheek.

"Thanks, Mike," Bella smiled as Mike walked back to his car.

"Goodnight, Bella," he called back. She watch as he drove away and quickly redirected herself towards me.

"Hi," she said to me as I made my way into the light.

"Hi," I whispered back. "Did you have a good time?"

"It was fun," she stated vaguely.

"You didn't let him kiss you," I voiced my observation.

"That's none of your business, Edward," she furrowed her eyebrows and turned around to go inside. "I'm going to bed. Don't bother coming up. I'm tired and I just want to go to sleep."

Only my transformation could have been more painful than those words coming from my sweet Bella's mouth. I waited a few hours before climbing up and finding her window open. I climbed in and heard an intake of breath.

"I told you not to come up tonight," Bella sniffed.

"Are you crying?" I asked her softly. This seemed to be the wrong thing to say because the floodgates opened and she began to sob. "Bella?" I sat down next to her and pulled her in to me. She continued to cry into my shoulder; I had never felt so helpless. Finally she pulled back.

"I didn't kiss Mike tonight because I knew you'd be watching," she explained.

"Bella, if you want to kiss Mike…"

"I don't!" She cried. I didn't understand… isn't that what she just implied?

"Bella, why are you crying?"

"Because I don't want to kiss Mike, Edward. I want to kiss you. All night all I could think about was how I'd rather be with you. And I… I can't take being close to you like this all the time and nothing ever happening. It hurts too damn much. You act like you want to be with me and you keep doing things and saying things that make me think maybe something will happen, but it never does!"

"I'm sorry, Bella," I told her, moving to look into her eyes. Her tears made me wish to cry with her. "I'm so sorry. I swear, I don't mean to lead you on like this," I began. I felt a lump in my throat and I wished again I could experience the same kind of release she was at this moment.

"Then why do you do it?"

"I try… so hard. God, Bella. I'm so in love with you." This seemed to make her cry harder. "It hurts worse than the burn in my throat to know I can never give you what you deserve. I love you so much, and I'm so afraid that you feel the same way. I can't be the reason that you are held back. You deserve to get married, and have children, and grow old with someone who can grow old with you." I let out a dry sob. "Bella, I wish I could be that person for you." Her cries grew more frantic at my admission.

"Edward," she whimpered. "You are all I ever wanted and all I'll ever want."

"You're so young. You don't know that."

"Yes, I do. I've known since I was seven years old, Edward. Make me like you. Make me like you and there won't be anything standing between us anymore. Make me like you and we can be together forever."

"I can't do that to you. I won't." I shook my head.

"Why not?"

"You don't know what you're asking for."

"I'm asking to be with you."

"You're asking for a life full of monotony and pain and agonizing loneliness."

"Listen to me, Edward. I'm asking to be with you."

"I'll hold you back," I argued. "This isn't a life you want."

"How many times do I have to say it? What I want is a life with you!" Silence over took us and I continued to hold her close to me. Finally I rested my forehead against hers and she looked up at me.

"This is so hard," I whispered.

"For me, too," she admitted. I let my nose skim down her face from the corner of her eye to the dip in her neck. I lifted my self up and nuzzled her nose with my own before leaning in and touching her lips with mine. It was quick and sweet everything I had imagined. I was suddenly overloaded with emotion. I pulled back and took a deep breath.

"Can you tell your father that you're spending the day with Angela tomorrow?"

"Yes," she nodded.

"Can you tell him that you'll be spending the night at her house and you won't be home until late Sunday afternoon?"

"Yes," she whispered again. "Where are we going?"

"To see my family."

I told her I was taking her to see my family. In truth, I just wanted her to meet Rosalie. We drove for only a few hours before arriving at my family's house. I didn't warn them of our arrival, but, as I suspected, Alice did. From their thoughts I learned that they had just gotten back from a hunt, taking all precautions to keep Bella safe.

Bella was nervous as we pulled into the driveway. She would never say so but I could tell by the race of her heart and the blush on her cheeks. We hadn't spoken about our kiss the night before, nor had we kissed again, but I did hold her hand as we walked to the front door where Carlisle was waiting to greet us.

"Bella, this is my father, Carlisle. Carlisle, this is Bella," I introduced them.

"It's wonderful to meet you, Bella. I've heard so much about you," Carlisle held his hand out.

"It's nice to meet you, too," she smiled. Carlisle introduced her to the rest of the family, saving Rosalie for last, just like I had hoped. "Wow," Bella exhaled, shaking Rosalie's hand. Rosalie smiled, knowing why Bella was so impressed. "You're so beautiful," Bella said out loud.

"Thank you, Bella," Rosalie smiled. Esme and Alice walked her into the kitchen where we watched her eat.

"This is the first time we've ever had use for the kitchen," Emmett chuckled while Bella ate her dinner.

After dinner, Rosalie took Bella aside. Bella was unaware of the conversation that was about to take place, but it was the reason I brought her here in the first place. Perhaps if she were to spend time with Rosalie, she would understand why I did not want this life for her. I spent some much needed time with my family while they conversed.

"She's adorable," Esme smiled.

"She's grown up quite nicely," Carlisle agreed, earning me a wink and a nudge from Jasper and Emmett respectively.

"She's fifteen now?" Jasper asked, even though he already knew.

"She turned fifteen on September 13th," Alice answered with a smile. "Oh, Edward! I'm so glad you brought her here!" I smirked at her excitement before my expression grew solemn.

"You know why I brought her," I lowered my voice.

"Yes, we're aware," Carlisle answered for everyone.

"She wants to be like us. I've seen it go both ways Edward," Alice told me. "Do you want to see?" I nodded and she showed me what I both feared and longed for: Bella and I together, happy, and both immortal. The vision quickly changed to a human Bella, alone in her bedroom. She was crying. She looked wrecked; she was tired and entirely too thin. I was nowhere to be seen.

"She's human," I reminded Alice. "And she's very young. At her age girls change their minds as often as they change their clothes."

"The future can change, Edward. But only based on the choices we make."

Bella was silent as I lay with her that night in the bedroom my family kept for me. I was pleasantly surprised with the bed that Alice picked out and set up in my absence.

"You spoke to Rosalie for a while tonight," I observed out loud.

"Yes," she answered softly.

"She gave you a lot to think about?" I asked just as quietly, willing her to look at me. She didn't.

"Yes," she repeated. "Is that the real reason you brought me to meet your family?"

"Yes," I admitted, parroting her.

"It doesn't change anything," she said, finally looking up at me. These words surprised me.

"Excuse me?" I urged her to go on.

"What happened to Rosalie was… awful. But that's not me. You can't compare the situations. Rosalie wanted more from life… I don't."

"You're young, Bella. You don't know what you could want in ten years."

"Make me like you and we won't ever have to find out."

"Let's say I do. Let's say I make you like me and you realize in ten years that you want a child? I can't ever give you that, Bella. And if I make you like me you can't ever have a child anyway. Ever. What if you… regret… me changing you? I could never live with taking your life away."

"Lot's of women don't have kids, Edward. I don't want any. How could I after the way I've grown up?"

"You've grown up wonderfully," I told her, stroking her cheek softly.

"Maybe you think so," she blushed, "but you don't remember what it's like. Kids are mean. I never felt at home, whether I was in Phoenix or in Forks. I spent my childhood taking care of my parents. I don't want to spend my adulthood taking care of kids."

"You could change your mind. This is a permanent transformation we're discussing."

"We don't have to decide today," she submitted. "I'll be seventeen in less than two years."

"I won't change my mind," I told her. "And I won't change you."

"We'll talk about it in two years," she smiled innocently. I rolled my eyes and kissed her forehead softly. Feeling her heated reaction to my lips against her skin, I gently kissed my way down her nose to her lips. She sighed into the kiss and I caressed her cheek in return. Finally, I pulled away and she snuggled into me. I held her while she slept and in the morning she had breakfast and we left. She was still determined to become like me and I was still determined to keep her happy and human; only time would tell how it would end up.

"Edward?" Normally hearing my name from Bella's lips made my still heart skip a beat, but I couldn't help but notice the nervous tone she was using.

"Bella?"

"Are you my boyfriend?" She blushed. It had been two weeks since we kissed for the first time and two weeks since I took her to Oregon to meet my family. We'd kissed several times since then and I think it would be acceptable to describe us as inseparable, apart from her school hours or dinners with her father. I turned to her and my lips unintentionally formed a smirk. I kissed her softly before answering her.

"Well I would hope so. Otherwise I've been acting quite inappropriate towards you! Kissing you on the mouth, sneaking into your bedroom at night! How atrocious that would be if I weren't committed to you in some way!" My overdramatic and well-acted answer seemed to calm her nerves and she giggled softly.

"Shut up," she shook her head with a smile.

"I kiss you, I tell you I love you. What more do you need?" I asked her honestly.

"I guess the label isn't really important," she agreed. "I was just wondering." I smiled at her before resting my nose in her hair and inhaling deeply. "I've never had a boyfriend," she admitted.

"I've never had a girlfriend," I told her, not removing myself from the cocoon of her scent. For some reason, this made her laugh. "What?" I asked her, pulling away.

"You're telling me, that in the hundreds of years that you've been seventeen, you've never had a girlfriend?" She giggled. "I don't believe you." I chuckled at her insistence and terrible attempt at guessing my age.

"First off, I've only been seventeen for ninety-some odd years. Not hundreds. And second off, I'm not lying. I never had a girlfriend when I was human – I went to an all boys' school and spent the summers working for my father. And I've certainly never conversed with a human girl after my transformation – other than you, of course."

"No hot vampire girls caught your interest?"

"You know vampires are quite cold," I joked, catching her face between my hands and nuzzling my nose with hers.

"I don't know, you're pretty hot," she smiled, leaning forward to kiss me. I moved back before her lips could touch mine and raised an eyebrow.

"Bella, my darling, my life, my love. Did you really just say that?" I smirked. Her giggles continued and when she was done with her fit I kissed her lips chastely and stood up.

"Where are you going?" She called out as I descended towards the edge of the meadow.

"Come on. You have to be home for dinner soon." She quickly caught up with me and we walked together through the woods to her house.

"So, maybe you could come meet my dad some time?" She asked. I stopped immediately and she stopped with me. I'd never felt angry with Bella before but this had to be close.

"Bella, you know that's not possible."

"Why not? It's been years since you've 'moved'…"

"Bella!" I interrupted. "Forks is a small town. Your father is the chief of police and my father was the town's best surgeon. You don't think they ever crossed paths? You don't think Chief Swan was ever introduced to the Cullen kids?" I knew my tone was harsh, but it killed me that I couldn't do for her what she asked – something as simple as meeting her father.

"I just thought…"

"Or maybe you didn't think at all," I cut her words short again. I could smell the tears forming in her eyes and I immediately felt guilty for yelling at her. "Bella…" I began to apologize.

"No. You're right. Sorry I asked," she shook her head and began walking ahead of me. I continued quietly behind her, questioning my sanity for allowing this to happen. I knew Bella was young. I knew there would be know way she could grasp the importance of my family's secrecy and I included her in my life anyway. I always knew I was a selfish creature, and this just proved me right.

"No, I'm sorry," I told her. "It's not your fault that I have these ridiculous limitations." I sighed and mumbled to myself, "Maybe this is just a mistake." Unfortunately, she heard me.

"Don't say that," she begged, wiping her tears. "Please don't say that."

"Bella, you're fifteen years old. You should be able to introduce your boyfriend to your father. That's the way normal relationships work."

"Well we're not normal! Please, just don't say things like that," she cried. I didn't respond.

When we finally arrived to the area where the edge of the woods met the edge of her property, Bella kept walking without looking back at me. My still heart ached and I called her name quietly, knowing she wouldn't hear me.

"This was a bad idea," I told Alice on the phone later that night. She was surprised I called at the time I did, I was usually with Bella until she woke.

"Don't beat yourself up, Edward. She was just asking."

"Just asking me to meet her father. If she were to ask Mike Newton to meet her father there wouldn't be a problem."

"She doesn't want Mike Newton, she wants you."

"It's not fair. I ask her to lie to everyone, keep me a secret, and she can't even ask me a simple favor of meeting her father – I'm her boyfriend and I can't even be introduced to her family without fear of exposure.

"You know, it has been years, Edward. And he only met us twice."

"You can't possibly be suggesting that I introduce myself to him again."

"Not as you, of course. Use a different name. He's not that young, Edward. Even if he – or someone else – were to recognize you, nobody would believe what they saw. There are no pictures of us anywhere, and we kept to ourselves at school. We weren't even there that long. I don't think anyone will recognize you, to be honest. And if something goes wrong, I'll see it and you can come home."

"And leave Bella behind with the mess I created?"

"Bring her with you, of course. But it won't come to that. I'm telling you, introduce yourself to her dad as a boy from school. He won't think twice."

"I'm not in the school system, nobody knows me. He's the chief of police, remember?"

"So register for a class at the community college. Tell him you graduated early. But stop making excuses."

The next morning I rang Bella's doorbell. I'd never been so nervous in my entire existence as I waited for Chief Swan to open the door and recognize me immediately as Carlisle Cullen's son. After a minute, he opened the door. His mind immediately registered recognition but couldn't place me.

"Yes?" He asked, looking me over.

"Good morning, Chief Swan. My name is Anthony Mason. I'm a friend of Bella's. I was wondering if I could give her a ride to school today," I asked politely. He raised his eyebrow and I couldn't help but notice his resemblance to Bella.

"Umm, alright?" It was more of a question. "Come on in." I followed him to the kitchen where he offered me a seat and a cup of coffee. I politely declined the drink and he sat down across from me. "Bella should be down in a minute. Does she know you're coming?"

"No, she doesn't. I hope it's all right that I just stopped by. I wanted to introduce myself to you."

"How exactly does Bella know you, again? You go to the high school?"

"No. I go to the community college," I lied easily. I heard his mind begin to race.

"How old are you, boy? Because I don't know what Bella told you but she's only fifteen."

"I know how old she is, Chief Swan. I'm only seventeen. I graduated early," I told him.

"Oh," he grumbled as Bella made her way down the stairs. Her eyes widened at the sight of me.

"Ed…" she began. Before I could stop her from revealing my real name, Chief Swan interrupted her himself.

"Bella, you didn't tell me you had a new friend. Anthony here wants to give you a ride to school." Bella raised an eyebrow and I chuckled at my recent discovery.

"Really?" She asked, smirking. "Anthony wants to give me a ride to school?"

"Is that alright?" I asked her, smiling at our inside information.

"Yes, that's fine," she laughed. "Did you have breakfast, Anthony? I could make you some eggs," She teased me.

"Thank you anyway, but I ate at home." Chief Swan looked between us, his thoughts curious about what was going on right before his eyes. Shaking his head and making the decision to talk to Bella about it later, he excused himself and left for work. As soon as he was out the door, Bella looked at me straight in the eyes.

"So, Anthony?" She giggled, finishing up her cereal.

"Anthony Mason," I told her. "I graduated early. I go to the community college."

"And how exactly do we know each other?"

"We were looking for the same book at the library. But I hadn't gotten that far before you arrived." She shook her head and laughed before moving to come sit on my lap. I put my arms around her waist and she leaned her forehead against mine.

"Thank you," she smiled.

"Your welcome," I whispered back, kissing her lips softly.

"You didn't come up last night," she said quietly.

"No… I thought maybe you wouldn't want me to."

"Where did you go?"

"Back to my house. I called Alice."

"I thought I wouldn't see you again," she admitted into my neck.

"Oh, Bella," I held her tighter.

"When you said you thought this was a mistake, I thought, this is it. He's leaving. Wake up, Bella, because the dream is over."

"No. Never."

"Do you really feel that way? Do you really think our love could be a mistake?"

"Nothing about you could ever be a mistake," I told her, kissing her lips.

"Edward?" She began. "Do you think I'll ever be like you? Honestly?"

"Honestly? I've never wanted this life for you, Bella. Honestly, I want you to grow old and live your life to the fullest and never forget me. But honestly, I am a selfish creature. And honestly, I don't see any other way except to make you like me someday. I love you, Bella. I don't know how to be without you," I told her.

"I love you, too, Edward," she smiled. "Or should I say Anthony?"