Blood.

Endless crimson splatters coated the tiny dim room. Varying patterns of copious blood had etched their way into the walls and bed. It ingrained everything it touched.

The rivers meeting and pooling into innumerable deltas, ebbing and slowly congealing as they left her primitive wounds. Her once bright eyes which would never be known to me again, sealed away her secrets.

The faintest glow amplified her recently sullen and lifeless cheeks. I paid no attention to the other corpse who lay just across the room.For his death was his blessing. Glancing at her again, the rage had resurfaced taking all of my sanity with it.

My head was blazing. The heat of the anger mixed with the alcohol and swam in my boiled blood. Unrelenting tears, seared my injured face as they fell. My breaths were coming rapidly and then they wouldn't come. The depraved scene unraveled quickly and was subsequently swallowed by darkness.

"Mr. Cullen?"

This was the fourth time the same stewardess had interrupted my train of thought.

"Yes?" I asked trying to sound polite as possible. I was in anything but an accommodating mood.

Her mind quickly flashed the seatbelt sign.

"We will be landing shortly, Sir. The captain has..."

"Of course," I said, glancing briefly at the orange instructional light. In an attempt to keep up appearances. I fastened my belt. "My apologies."

"No problem. Thank you."

It wasn't that I didn't enjoy reading minds. It was a gift after all, but it would sure cut out a lot of mindless banter and causal pleasantries I was forced to perform on a daily basis. Think of all the shallow, lip service compliments and meaningless conversations that could be done away with. I believe my side of the conversation would go something like:

"I already know that you despise me, my work, and are thinking about the 'amazing' woman that you nailed last weekend instead of editing my book, so let's part ways now. Shall we?"

Instead, I have to suffer through, smiling and spewing out niceties to people I would sooner feed to ravenous wolves than speak to. Although, my talent has led to much of the success. I'd give it up, without a fraction of a thought, in a breath, for a single minute with...

"Sir?"

"What?" I replied exasperated.

"It's time to disembark the plane," spoke the small and somewhat frightened voice of the incessantly interrupting flight attendant.

She was right. I was so immersed in my own thoughts, that I didn't notice the steadily diminishing ones around me. There were just a few now circling the cabin. I ignored them as most were threaded with the annoyance of having to wait for me. I smiled inwardly and took as long as I possibly could extracting my laptop from the overhead bin.

I meandered my way through the large airport, while the thoughts pummeled me as I arrived at baggage claim. Except for people's thoughts that I actually managed to tune into rather than away from, it was nothing, but white noise anymore. Just as I bent over to grab my exceptionally large suitcase from making yet another round on the overcrowded carousel, the most familiar thoughts I have ever known registered.

"How did you fit everything you need into one small suitcase?! Please tell me there is more being flown in?"

I smiled slightly, as I continued to face the opposite direction. "Hi, Alice."

"You know, it's rude to address a person you're not looking at, big brother. You'd think all the years you've spent hobnobbing would have taught you some manners!" she chided me silently.

I turned quickly dropping the luggage and stooped over to embrace her. She was still as fiery as I remember her. Her cropped hair and petite features were a settling sight.

"Welcome home," she whispered.

I was confused by her words. I'd arrived from New York to relax and unwind my overworked brain from my last promotional tour. The constant stops were grueling and air travel was my least favorite mode of transport. I wasn't taking up permanent residence there. In fact, I was quite content at the thought of residing at the Four Seasons Maui for my extended vacation. However, Alice had begged me to stay with her family in Seattle instead, citing that my nephew Nate would be 'crushed' if I didn't. Alice was indecently good at laying on a guilt trip. Therefore, I literally and figuratively packed my bags for it.

My reoccurring torture wasn't suddenly going to cease because I was more tan than a bronze god, lazily sipping on Mai Thais gazing out at the Pacific. The visions would play on no matter where I was. They were an all consuming punishment from which I was not permitted to escape.

Even in death.

-ER-

Alice attempted to keep the conversation light as we drove from the airport in her minivan. I never pictured her in such a domestic vehicle. It seemed unnatural and eerie, as her personality was better suited to that of a foreign sports car. I supposed the fact that she had a family to transport, it would be a necessity. I sighed at the thought.

"Are they getting any better?" she asked timidly.

"No," I answered flatly. "You already knew that though."

"Being clairvoyant isn't as carefree as one might think," she replied shrugging.

A small smile contorted her lips and then melted away. We were a special pair to

say the least. The only ones in our extended and immediate families to have these abilities, and save for her husband, we were the only ones who knew.

"I'm sorry, Edward," she began again. "Repeatedly recalling all your past lives, in no particular order, especially the ones where she is..."

My tense eyes and tightened jaw must have given away my anguish. She immediately desisted saying anything else. It was cruel enough I had to relive it, I didn't want to have to discuss it. It was more difficult than she, or anyone could possibly comprehend. The visions happened out of the blue and very much like Alice, I would completely fade out. Whatever I was seeing would immediately take center stage, and I would be forced to watch, no matter how horrifying the images were. For hours, and many times days, they would consume me entirely, to the point of not functioning. Sleeping, eating and breathing became exceedingly difficult after seeing anything that involved her. I'd taken my own life at least once in order to escape them. I believed in vain that if I killed the body, the memories would evaporate with it. It only added to the grotesque scenes for the next time.

Your soul doesn't forget. My soul didn't deserve such a luxury.

"You're thirty-two now," she said innocently as we started weaving down a small residential road.

"Yes and you're twenty eight," I replied, knowing what she was getting at. "Your point?"

Like I didn't know. I was hoping she would drop it, but I knew my sister better than that. She was as insistent as she was determined.

"You are going to... look for her?" she said, it was almost more of a statement rather than a question.

I didn't answer.

I exhaled. I swore to myself that under no circumstances that I would even think about her during this life. I wanted to try to start fresh. If I was going to have to remember all the heartache that came with losing her, I didn't want to create more memories for me to have to wallow through next life, if I could avoid it. Though, I doubted I possessed the strength to fight the sensational, uncontrollable pull that lead me to her. The trek which ends in pain, as her soul no longer recognizes mine and I am left to end yet another life at the bottom of a bottle. All encompassing boundaries of my eternal damnation.

She is always slightly different, as we all are from life to life. A slightly different nose, more freckles, the hair on her head, darker, lighter, shorter or longer. The same soul housed by differing genetically created bodies. I never spoke to her, only watched, as I cursed myself for even allowing my unworthy eyes to rest upon her. In every other life, we had always met when I was thirty-two and she is nearing her twenty-seventh birthday. Always at the end of August and never on the same day. The calendar and my plane had landed on August 28th. I only had a few more days to contend with, and I would completely avoid the temptation for this lifetime. I relaxed into the seat and shook my head soberly.

"No. I'm not remotely interested and haven't felt the pull. Maybe it isn't there anymore. It's been a long time. I suppose it's no longer present."

I knew logically the possibly of having lost the connection to her was a godsend. If I didn't feel it, I wouldn't have to acknowledge it or follow it, putting myself through the motions of agony for yet another lifetime. My soul on the other hand, acted as though I had just spoken blasphemy. My heart lurched in my chest and threatened to stop beating entirely.

-ER-

Alice drove into the garage of her multi-hued, three floored, town house. I pulled my bag from the back of the van, not making eye contact. I hoped to get into the house before she broached the subject again.

"If you don't want to look, I won't push you, but don't try to ignore the pull if you feel it. You and I both know, it just doesn't degrade over time."

I nodded hesitantly and kept moving. Her and Jasper's souls have been reunited every lifetime. Both of them repeatedly feeling the force that drew them together. Yet another aspect of their lives I can have the discomfort of being envious of.

The garage door led us into the large kitchen Alice recently remodeled to include a double oven and large granite toped kitchen island. The cherrywood cabinets and dark granite was nice. Although, I didn't understand the need for it, as neither her or Jasper were remotely culinary competent the last time I checked. I had no room to judge though. I couldn't recall the last time I had been in my kitchen for any other reason than to get ice from the freezer.

I was about to tell Alice I was heading up to where I vaguely remembered the guest room was, when quiet but distinguishable thoughts started to speed in from the

other room.

"Is he here? Is he here? I'm gonna go look!"

I smiled as my four year old, nephew, Nate, rounded the corner from the living room, with his babysitter. He stopped short when he saw me.

"Uncle E!" he cried in a tone two octaves higher than his already soprano voice.

"Hi Buddy!" I said as he barreled straight into my leg and held on fiercely.

"I knew he missed you." Alice's thought had the I told you so edge to it.

I bent down to look at him. He looked like a mini Jasper except Alice's dark hair. His ebony curls were shorter than the last time I saw him. Clipped fairly close to his head. His blue eyes were wide and brimming with excitement. His youth emanated from him.

He was the epitome of ease, wonder, and perfection.

"You're both are so lucky," I said absentmindedly under my breath.

I hugged him tightly.

"We know," Alice responded reverently.

Nate pulled away quickly from my overbearing hug and asked if I would go play Wii with him in the living room.

"He is only four? Right?" I asked Alice, shocked that he was already playing video games.

"They're getting them younger and younger now" Alice said shaking her head. "He can even wipe the floor with his Daddy."

"Yep!" Nate replied smugly.

I laughed. I told him I would be happy to have him kick my tail, but I needed to go

put my things away and shower first. He frowned and started to pout.

"Please!?" He whined.

"Nathan Anthony Hale! You heard what your Uncle said!" Alice warned sternly.

Nate's eyes hit the floor. She grinned and winked at me.

"While you're waiting, you can help me make dessert for tonight. Okay?" Nate picked his eyes up off the floor and beamed brilliant smile at her.

My heart flinched.

"Okay, Mommy!" He sang, springing from his seat, and running to her.

My heart flinched harder.

I made my exit from the kitchen quickly. Hoping to stave off any more damage to my already dilapidated organ. I walked towards the stairs with my suitcase in tow, when

I realized I didn't know exactly which door I was heading to.

"Third floor. Second door on the right."

"Thanks," I called behind me.

My jet lag was starting to catch up with me by the time dinner was ready. Nate spent at least two hours kicking my ass at every Wii game he had. You'd think something as simplistic as virtual bowling would be an easy win against a four year old. I believed learning Cantonese with a teacher who only spoke Russian would be easier.

Alice spent most of her afternoon in the kitchen. I asked her several times if there was anything I could do to help, but she shooed me away. She explained she never had time to cook since she started her design business up last year. She was making an exception for me. I'd seen her cooking exploits before, and wasn't sure if I was being punished or rewarded. Jasper came home right after Nate and I offered to set the table. Nate really didn't want to, but I convinced him it might get us some more video game time after dinner.

"Daddy!" Nate called as he bounded to the door. Flinch

"Hey little man! How was your day?" Jasper asked lifting him up into his arms grasping him tightly.

"Great! Uncle E couldn't beat me at anything!" he said pointing at me.

"Welcome to my world," Jasper said shaking my hand. "Glad you're here man. It's nice that I won't be the only grown man in the house getting schooled by a four year old."

I laughed. "It must be nice to just be 'schooled.' I've just been in a state of perpetual 'beat down' for the last few hours."

"Isn't that the truth!" Alice shouted from the kitchen.

We all laughed.

—ER—-

It was late. Nearly, one am in New York. The dishes had all been cleared from

the surprisingly delicious dinner Alice had spent the day concocting. She later admitted, under the weight of two glasses of wine, she had stolen the recipe from the Food Network. Which, I already knew, but being the competitive siblings we were, I wanted to her to admit it. Even the apple crisp that Nate helped with was wonderful, and I normally hated apples.

I watched her and Jasper place a passed out Nate into his bed. In his whimsical room, with hints of childhood adorning every corner. Toys and books, peppered the the wood floor. A large hanging cobalt airplane hung from wires in the corner. The walls splashed with a starry sky. I took a quick look at Nate's peaceful features, and his doting parents before extricating myself from the room. Unrealistic images began flashing behind my eyes, threatening to devour any sense of emotional stability I thought I had acquired.

"Don't give up hope, Edward." Alice's quiet sentiment floated after me.

Hope was another luxury my soul didn't deserve.