The Distance Between Us
Summary: NM AU. It has been exactly a year since Edward left. Bella's been driving aimlessly for almost as long. Now, temporarily in NY, she runs across Alice and Jasper, half-mad. Alice figures out something is wrong when she could see the 'Edward hallucination' Bella keeps having, and none of the humans can. EXB.
A/N: This is a very short story, just 3-4 chapters long, in fact. I'm not going to go into details of 'what-happens-after-they-reunite', just what's going on with Edward and Bella and how they reunite. The 'after' part has been done so many times. I think we all know what would happen - they talk, she discovers he loves her, he realizes that he's been an idiot, she's changed, they live happily ever after. I just don't want to get into that for this story.
No matter how short this story is going to be, I sincerely hope you guys enjoy it, though. This popped at me out of nowhere, and I enjoyed writing it. Please leave me a line or two, just to tell me what you think. It doesn't even have to be about this story - something like 'there's a bird chirping outside my window' would do just fine. Really. I'm that weirdly desperate.
P.S. I swear I'm not insane, but the men in white coats won't believe me…
Disclaimer: SM owns it all.
Bella: The Blurry Lines of Reality
It has been exactly a year since he had left me. I'd celebrated my nineteenth birthday just two weeks ago. Of course, it hadn't been much of a celebration. If I'd despised my birthday before when I was a kid who cringed at the thought of birthday parties my mother threw, or when Edward was around and I'd been horrified at the thought of getting older when he stayed the same…Well, I hated birthdays even more now.
I was given the sweet reprieve of forgetting my birthday even existed when I was awake. After all, who was there to remind me?
Just four months after Edward had left me, four months that I'd awoken from my comatose state and begun actually remembering the day that went by instead of walking around like the living dead, I'd taken the money from my college fund out of the bank, purchased a second hand '67 Chevy Impala and had taken off from Forks.
I hadn't said anything to Charlie. In fact, this was all done in the short period of six hours on a gloomy Friday morning.
Charlie had already left for work when I'd left, though he'd checked up on me three times since he woke up. All three times had been awkward and I really couldn't have pretended to be asleep because he'd always come right up to my bed, shake me awake and ask if I needed anything.
It had all started about four months after he had left me. There I was, in the middle of World History class, and right as Mr. Jenkins was bringing up Hiroshima, he showed up.
At first, I was just startled into shock. I just sat there, staring at him with my mouth open, my eyes filled with tears. He was right there, right in front of the class, with dirt covered dark washed jeans and a black button down shirt that look crinkled and messy. His hair was as unruly as I remembered it to be, but the bronze was darker, almost a dark brown. I realized that his hair, too, was covered in dirt and soot. Just what had he been doing before he'd appeared? And where had he appeared from?
He looked so confused, looking around the classroom like he had no idea how he got there or where 'there' was. Then his eyes landed on me, and I gasped.
Firstly, because his eyes weren't the beautiful topaz I loved, but a dark obsidian color that I adored as well. But it was as if he hadn't hunted for months. I could see the primal animal just struggling to be let free. Why had he let himself go so long without hunting?
Secondly, because no matter what color his eyes were, they were still Edward's eyes. They held the same importance to me. So beautiful, so haunted, so mesmerizing.
The tears in my eyes started to fill up even more, blurring my vision. I blinked them away quickly, not wanting to mar my sight of him.
I watched as his dark eyes widened almost comically - hell, I would have laughed if I weren't so in pain - and his perfect, soft-looking lavender lips form an 'O' shape. "Bella?" he whispered, and somehow, through some sort of miracle, I heard him though he was standing at the very front of the classroom.
I didn't know why no one was reacting.
He was Edward Cullen, one of the infamous Cullens that had the whole town gossiping over even after being in Forks for three years, the guy who had packed up and moved with his entire family for months now, and he'd just suddenly showed up. You would think everyone would be shocked. Not as stunned as me - frozen in my seat while hyperventilating on the inside - but at least there would be hushed whispers and wide-eyed glances between the inhumanly beautiful man and the plain, pathetic ex he'd left behind.
Why was no one reacting to him? I knew he had to be real. He couldn't have been my imagination. For one, my imagination was very rarely this vivid, this…Solid. Besides, he looked just as shocked as I was to be here, like he hadn't even realized he'd come all the way back to Forks from wherever he'd been at.
My hallucinations usually involved a better-fed Edward, anyway, and this one looked like he hadn't hunted for weeks.
"Bella?" he said again, taking a step towards me.
I inhaled sharply, my hand flitting to my chest. The sound of his voice had never been more distinct than it was right now. The reverent tenor of his voice, the same way he had sounded when he had once loved me. The smooth, angelic sound that no human - or supernatural creature, for that matter - could compare to. The beautiful, musical quality of it…It was as if he was really here.
"Bella," I heard again, only this time, it wasn't Edward's beautiful voice, nor was it male. I turned my head to see Angela, her brows creased with worry as she looked at me. "Are you alright?" her eyes strayed to the hand on my chest, and my arm wrapped around my middle.
I stared at her incredulously. "How can you ask me that?" I asked, and my voice sounded a little harsh even to my ears. "Is this some kind of a joke?"
She looked puzzled, which strangely angered me. Why was she acting like this was no big deal? Why was she acting like the love of my life, the very reason for my existence, wasn't standing just five feet away from us?
"Bella, what are you talking about?" she asked, speaking slowly as if she were talking to a mentally slow person. "Are you feeling sick? Do you need to go home?"
I opened my mouth to answer her - I didn't know what I was going to say, but I thought of just going with the flow. Maybe I could question her sanity. Or maybe it was my sanity that needed to be checked.
Before I had the chance to reply, though, Edward had stolen my attention yet again. "Is it really you?" he asked, and his voice cracked at the end. "Am I really here? How can that be, though? I never left…Maybe I'd died and gone to heaven. It's only fit that you're here. After all, what is heaven without you?"
His dark eyes trailed over my face, tracing over every outline as if he were memorizing me. He had stepped closer, taking slow, human-paced steps. "You look so beautiful," he breathed, and I gasped yet again when I realized that I could smell the icy, sweet breath of his fanning over my face. "Tired, but beautiful. I wasn't aware you could get tired in heaven."
I was staring at him, dumbfounded. My mind was so jumbled up, incapable of forming rational thoughts. Here he was, after months away from me, and he was so amazingly breathtaking, so wonderful…
Heaven! Some small, still coherent part of my mind wandered.
I finally gained enough courage, enough air in my lungs, to breathe properly and ask, "Heaven? Edward, what are you talking about?"
He seemed confused, though his dark eyes lit up a little when I spoke. I realized that it was the first time I'd spoken to him since he'd arrived out of nowhere.
"Bella, who are you talking to?" Angela asked, and instead of just concern on her face, there was panic there, too. Very strong, very potent panic. Fear radiated from her eyes.
I barely glanced her way as I answered. "Edward, Angela. Who else?" I knew I sounded irritated.
She gave me a weird look. "Bella, there's no one there," she spoke softly, soothingly, as if trying to calm an unstable woman.
No. Not again. You can't take him away from me again. He's right there. I know he is.
"Why are you lying to me?" I asked her, turning wide, tear-filled eyes to her. "He's right there, Angela. I can see him."
"Bella…" her voice was so filled with sympathy. It was painful.
She reached out to touch my arm but I jerked away from her before she could. "No!" I practically yelled. If the people surrounding us hadn't already started staring at us because of my sudden proclamation that Edward was in the room, they were certainly staring now.
"Bella," Edward whispered, and his eyes were filled with confusion. "Why are we here? Why are they here? If this is heaven, shouldn't it just be the two of us?"
The teacher, Mr. Jenkins, stopped teaching, his attention drawn to me, as well. "Ms. Swan," he said, and though I knew he was trying to be stern, there was a sort of tired wariness to his tone. Everyone in this town had known all about my breakdown and my catatonic state, of course. "Is there something you and Ms. Weber would like to share with the rest of the class?"
Edward was ignoring the teacher and Angela, and the students who were just now starting to whisper. In fact, he acted as if he hadn't even heard them. "I imagined pearly gates…"
"Sir, I think Bella's not feeling very well," Angela answered for me. "Maybe I should take her to the nurse's office?"
Edward was suddenly right in front of me. I gasped, standing up slowly, my entire body trembling. What if he didn't want me still? Why would he have changed his mind. I had been nothing but a distraction to him - something remotely interesting to fill up his time. After all, with a whole eternity stretched out in front of him…He must've been bored.
A sharp pain stabbed my in the chest, that was almost instantly soothed for the temporary being when Edward raised his hand. Gently, very gently, he placed the back of his hand on my cheek, and caressed my skin softly. "But as long as you're with me, I'll take heaven or hell in any form at all," he told me in a low voice, his normally smooth voice rougher than usual - but not as rough as a human. He was far too extraordinary to be anything like a human.
"I don't understand," I spoke up in a quiet voice, unable to tear my eyes away from his oh-so-gorgeous face. "How are you here?"
He frowned, then. "I don't know," he admitted. "I was…Resting," I noticed him hesitating, and the wince that followed and felt my heart clenched painfully. 'Resting'. What did that mean? Vampires never rested. Unless he was 'resting' with his new distraction? Was that it? Had he moved on from me? Was his new distraction keeping him so occupied, he couldn't hunt?
No. Don't think about this, Bella. Don't think about the insanely beautiful vampire he could be in love with now. Don't go there. Try and ignore the thoughts. You don't need to break down in front of him.
A part of me wanted to listen to that inner voice, to be strong and not show just how devastated I was in front of Edward. But mostly, I just wanted him to come home to me.
"Ms. Swan," the teacher spoke again, and I noticed that this time, the entire classroom had gone silent. Every single pair of eyes were watching me, wary and tensed as if I were some sort of a ticking time bomb just ready to explode. "Who are you talking to?"
I frowned at him. For Angela to do this was cruel enough, and confusing enough. Why was the teacher involved in this? What was the purpose, anyway? This doesn't make any sense.
"Edward," I said, rather impatiently. "I'm talking to Edward. He's standing right here. Why are all of you acting like he's not?"
"Bella," Angela called out urgently, tugging at my hand. "He's not here, Bella. You're…Seeing things. Bella, please…I think we should get her to the doctor's."
I ripped my hand away from Angela. "What is wrong with you!" I demanded angrily, my eyes flashing. "Why do you keep saying that! He's right here! He's right here!"
I turned to point to where he was just standing less than a foot away from me. My eyes landed on the suddenly empty space, my heart thudding erratically. "Where is he?" I asked aloud, more to myself. "He was right here. Where did he go?"
I started to search the entire classroom, my eyes moving frantically in tandem to my speeding heartbeat. "Did he leave?" I asked, and absolutely hated how my voice broke at the end.
"Bella, come on," Angela said, standing up as well.
I shook my head, moving away from her to look around the room. "No!" I protested loudly. "He was right there, Angela! I have to look for him. He has to be around here somewhere."
My gaze found the green foliage outside the window of the classroom. He could be outside, I thought to myself. Not saying another word to Angela or Mr. Jenkins or anyone else, I made for the door, walking purposefully.
"Bella! Bella!" Angela was calling for me, and I heard her making hurried excuses to the teacher, and the pounding of feet rushing towards me.
Two hands grabbed my by the upper arms, but they were too warm. They weren't ice cold at all, and it didn't feel right.
"Let go of me!" I screamed, struggling against this person's hold. They didn't let go, so I thrashed harder, finally managing to escape after my foot struck his or her leg.
"Mike, let her go already!" Angela was screaming, panic so clear in her voice. I felt bad for making her worry but I had more important things to worry about. Edward always took the precedence over everything else.
The moment Mike let go of me, I sprinted for the school's front entrance. I could hear voices calling my name, calling me back, following me. But they weren't the right voice, wasn't the one I was looking to hear again. So I ignored all of that, my entire body focused on just getting to the woods surrounding the school.
He had to be in there. I knew it. He had to be.
Even when I was so determined, even on the most important day of my life, I managed to trip. I fell over my own feet, tripped over branches and leaves and pebbles as I ran as fast as I could towards the woods.
"Edward!" I screamed for him. "Edward, where are you! Edward!"
I'd ran for almost an hour, screaming until I was hoarse, running until I was so tired that I'd fallen to my knees, my trembling legs giving out underneath me, searching until I was heartbroken all over again.
I'd gone so far and so deep into the woods that the others had lagged behind. Charlie was called in and they'd had another search party to look for me. It was Jared Mahan who found me this time - a friend of Sam Uley, the man who had found me the time before. He had been as disapproving and as pitying as Sam had been, and it had killed me.
I'd stayed home three days after that, with Charlie keeping constant vigilance.
And every day, Edward would appear to me, seemingly materializing out of thin air. He would stay with me sometimes for a few minutes, sometimes for a few hours. On the third day, he even stayed a full whole day. He would talk to me about how confused he was, how his own mind was playing tricks on him - first he was back in whatever place he was in, then he was with me.
I'd decided that he was, in fact, a hallucination. It goes to show just how crazy I was that my own hallucination was having a hallucination.
If the real Edward were here, I'd tell him how grateful he should be that he couldn't be inside my dark, twisted mind.
On that third day, I'd practically pushed Charlie out the door, telling him that I was just going to rest and take care of my 'headache' before going back to school the next day. He believed me, even told me it was okay to go to Port Angeles if I wanted.
As soon as he was gone, I'd grabbed my duffel, packed a few clothes, my Wuthering Heights book that was falling apart at the seams, and the emergency cash I'd had stashed from summers working part-time jobs in Phoenix, and at Newton's the summer Edward and the Cullens were still around in Forks. I had nothing of his that I could take with me, as a memory, and perhaps that was a good thing - I was slowly going crazy, and I just needed to get away.
I'd taken the bus to Port Angeles, leaving my red truck behind after an affectionate pat on its bulbous cap. I'd headed straight for the bank and had extracted the money my mother had placed in my account, every last bit of it. I didn't have much, but I did have enough to buy a second hand '67 Impala from a dealer I was familiar with - Charlie had taken me there once or twice before when I was younger and had come to stay a few weeks with him over the summer, whenever he'd even contemplated getting another car that wasn't his police cruiser. He never went through with it but I knew that the cars there were quite affordable and in my price range.
I still had a few hundred bucks left after that and kept my wallet tightly closed for the road.
That was the day that I'd gone on my impromptu road trip.
Now, nearly a year later, I was convinced that I'd gone completely insane. I'd been traveling for a whole year, living like some sort of cracked human nomad. I'd stay a night or two in motels, then continue driving. I'd had to get odd jobs here and there, as a waitress in diners or small cafes or a clerk…Anything that didn't require much of a resume - I didn't think 'I'm a high school dropout who ran away from home' was very impressive. I needed the money since the few hundred I had left after purchasing the Impala didn't last me very long. I was thrifty, of course, but still…It wasn't going to last forever.
I hadn't contacted my parents since I'd left home. There had been the hastily written note I'd left for Charlie on the kitchen counter, and the short two-sentenced e-mail I'd left my mother just the night before, stating that I was doing fine and was just staying home for a few days recovering from a headache - she didn't know about my breakdown in class or my escapade into the woods. I'd begged Charlie not to tell her.
I knew they had to have been worried, but I couldn't bring myself to call or write. I was ashamed of how I'd acted, ashamed how I was living, and ashamed by the fact that I knew for certain I'd never recover from Edward's abandonment.
Maybe, if I left for long enough, if I'd been gone for a long enough time, they'd start to move on with their lives. They deserved that, to live a better, worry-free life without their heartbroken, crazy daughter around. Charlie especially deserved that, considering how he had suffered through my months of depression helplessly.
I was now in beautiful Ithaca, New York. It was autumn here, with beautiful golden leaves and still relatively summer-like weather. Children were back in school, and from the park I sat at all day, I could see how happy they were as they played with their friends after school.
Yeah, we'll see how happy you'll be once you get your heart broken, I thought bitterly and was startled yet again by how cynical I'd become.
"They look so happy," 'Edward' sighed, appearing right next to me on the bench I'd been sitting at for the past five hours. "I wanted you to have this, you know?"
I ignored him, as I sometimes did. Very rarely I didn't indulge in my hallucinations and fantasies of him. If I was insane, I might as well enjoy whatever I could from it. But I knew from past experience that people didn't like it when there was a young woman looking all tattered and torn, talking to herself out in public. I tended to keep the discussions and replies for when I was alone.
Edward didn't mind anymore. He had been hurt the first time I'd ignored him, but I'd explained when I'd reached the comfort of the inside of my Impala, and he'd understood. I had been worried that he would disappear for good once I'd ignored him, and had stressed myself out until I felt nearly dizzy, but he'd come back after a few hours and I'd been given the chance to explain to the figment of my imagination why I hadn't replied to him in public.
I knew it sounded crazy, but I wouldn't give my Edward hallucination up for anything.
With him, it was as if…It was as if he still cared. I could hear the angry, stressed tone of his voice whenever I was doing something dangerous - like applying for a job as a bartender at a partially shady bar in LA once. Or when I'd gone bungee jumping a few months back.
And when I was alone, he would tell me the things he loved about me. At night, he would hum my lullaby for me - and God, was his voice still as glorious as I remembered. More, in fact.
It was easy to pretend, even for little, short bursts of time, that he was the real Edward, and that he loved me.
Pretending that he loved me gave me just a tiny bit of sanity left. It gave me just a little strength to go about my aimless life, to carry on ahead to the next day.
"I keep thinking," Edward was saying. "How strange it is that you're upset…If I were dreaming of you, imagining you - or even if we're in heaven, though I don't think that anymore because what God would allow a monster like me inside the pearly gates of eternity? - I would've thought that you'd be happier. I just don't understand any of it."
He sighed heavily again.
One of the things I'd noticed about my Edward hallucinations was that the things he said about heaven, or the afterlife in general or even the reason why he was here (that he was the one hallucinating, not me) never made any sense. I'd asked before, and we'd just go about a roundabout discussion, so I'd stopped asking.
Now I merely pretended as if his confusing remarks made sense to me.
We stayed on the bench, just people watching, for the next few hours. Edward flickered in and out of focus, as though he was on bad cable or something. This happened sometimes. I didn't particularly wanted to question why my hallucinations sometimes looked as though it was an old show on a crappy TV getting bad reception. I'd panicked the first few times this had happened but now I was calm about it - Edward, at least this one, would always return to me.
"I think you're fading," Edward said, frowning at me. He usually said that whenever he was the one who started to fade. I wondered what he saw through his eyes when this occurs. Yes, Bella, because hallucinations often have 20/20 eyesight and sane minds.
Edward faded completely from my sight, but that was okay. I knew he'd be back soon and, really, I had all day to wait for him. All of my life, even.
I'd already quit my job yesterday as a receptionist at a small two-person advertising company. I'd saved up enough money to sustain me for the next few weeks on the road, three if I was especially thrifty - constantly moving for the past year had given me enough experience to estimate these things quite accurately. I was just taking a day off, just to relax.
Well, 'relax' as much as I could, anyway. Sometimes it felt like I hadn't slept at all in the past year, as if my mind went somewhere else when I was asleep…It was the strangest thing. There were permanent purple bruises underneath my eyes now, never fading, like I was one of them. It left me feeling unsatisfied when I woke up, so tired all the time. This had been happening since my Edward hallucinations first started.
Wasn't that just the oddest thing?
"Bella?" I heard, and my head snapped up. I would know that tinkling, feminine voice anywhere. I stared at the apparition before me in disbelief.
Not only Alice, but Emmett too, was standing a few feet in front of me, both looking at me with wide, incredulous eyes.
I took a moment to observe them. They look far better than my Edward apparition. Alice was dressed impeccably and her short spiky hair was styled into two cute pigtails. Emmett looked as huge and menacing as he had the first time I'd ever saw him, but he wore a huge smile. The 'teddy bear grin' as I'd called it in my head a few times.
Their eyes were both a healthy golden honey, and the bruises underneath their eyes were practically non-existent. Compared to my Edward hallucination, compared to me even, they were in much better condition. They looked like they always did back at Forks, always careful to be fully fed around me and the other humans.
I simply gazed speechlessly at Alice and Emmett, short bursts of pain shooting through my chest making me realize just how much I missed them. I'd managed to shove it all to the back of my mind and heart, too focused on my grief at the loss of Edward, but I'd lost them too and it was just too much to handle all at once.
"Bella, you're in Ithaca?" Alice said, a slow smile spreading across her lips. I soaked in the sound of her perfect voice, wondering yet again how she sounded like she was singing when she spoke and had the tinkling of bells as background music at the same time. "Are you here for college?"
That broke me out of me spell. "College," I snorted, scoffing at the mere idea. As if that were even possible for me now.
"What, one hallucination isn't enough? I need more?" I shook my head, standing up and walking past them. I didn't have to stay here - Edward would show up wherever I was, as if he had a built in radar for me.
If Alice and Emmett were anything like my hallucination of their brother, then they'd follow me everywhere I went, return to me every day. A part of me was joyous, celebrating. Another part of me cried in heartache. When would it all stop? When would my heart be healed again? When would I be healed?
I wanted to get away from them as much as I wanted to immerse myself in them. It was an odd sort of conflict, but one I was familiar with. After all, you couldn't spend a year of your life being completely insane, imagining the one man you were in love with everywhere you go, without having some sort of internal conflict.
Unfortunately for me - or, was it 'fortunately'? It was hard to tell anymore - my Alice and Emmett apparitions weren't giving up on me easily. I had to snort at that. Of course they wouldn't. There was just something about Cullen hallucinations. They were irritatingly persistent.
"Wait, Bella," Alice called out, jogging at a human pace and 'catching up' to me. I had no idea why she couldn't just use her vampire speed the way my Edward hallucination did. It wasn't like anyone could see her.
I was determined to ignore her - she would just have to learn, if she was going to stick around, that I wouldn't entertain her when we were in public. There was just so much public humiliation that a girl could take. Besides, getting thrown in jail for being crazy would mess up my plan to leave town.
I gasped, shocked, when I felt her ice cold hand grasp my much warmer, much human one. I halted my movements and spun around to face her, shock covering my features.
'Edward' had touched me before, of course. Light touches that were barely there, butterfly caresses. I could feel his cool touch if I closed my eyes, or if I was tired enough. But this…Alice's fingers wrapped around my wrist were firm, as though she was really there with me. She felt like she did back in Forks, when we'd hold hands or when she'd restrain me from escaping her crazed plans to go shopping.
Tears started to cloud my vision.
"Oh, God, I've really gone insane this time," I blurted out, tears spilling hotly onto my cheeks.
Emmett frowned at me. "What the hell are you talking about!" he demanded in a bewildered tone. "And what did you mean by 'hallucinations'?"
I yanked my hand away from Alice's grip, my wrist only slightly hurting. "Let go of me!" I hissed angrily, causing her to recoil in shock. People passing by me stared for just a second longer, or they did a double take when they saw me, but I no longer cared.
Did any of them know how damn exhausting it was to be this broken?
"You are not real. You are not real!"
"Bella!" Alice whispered her shout, her hands wrapped gently around my upper arms, her fingers almost overlapping due to how thin I'd become over the past year, and she started to shake me. "Stop that. I'm real, and Emmett's real. We're all real here. You're being…"
She trailed off, then, her words slowing down and her eyes growing wide as they focused on the spot just two inches from my right.
I turned my head and my suspicions of having lost my mind was just reiterated. There, glaring menacingly at Alice, was my beautiful hallucination of Edward.
"…Crazy," Alice finished her sentence, her tone faint and an incredulous expression marring her perfect face.
"What are you doing?" Edward demanded, reaching out as though to push her away from me. Her hands fell from my body before he could touch her, and she stepped back, bumping into Emmett, in her shock. "Don't hurt her."
"What the hell," Emmett whispered. He, too, was staring at his brother.
I didn't know why they were all looking so shocked to see each other. If they were all hallucinations, shouldn't they have had…I don't know, meetings or something before they came to me? They were figments of my imagination. They should be calm and relaxed and just…Happy. Clearly, I needed a better imagination.
Edward turned to me, then, a frown on his beautiful face. "Bella…Where did they come from?"
I snorted. "Hell if I know," I muttered.
A woman passing by me, a blonde woman in her early forties, the hand of a little girl bearing striking resemblance to her clutched in her hand, eyed me warily as she noticed me speaking to the spot where Edward was. To her, I knew, that spot was empty.
I glared at her. "Nothin' to see here, lady!" I snarled at her, causing her to jump and scurry away, her frightened daughter being dragged away by her as she did so. "Yeah, just get lost! That's it, hurry along now!"
Emmett, despite being confused as hell, shot me a little grin. "Never pegged you for the crazy street lady, Bells," he told me, chuckling slightly. "It kinda suits you."
I rolled my eyes and Edward snarled at his brother, but Alice ignored all three of us. She had a contemplative frown on her face as she stared at me, her eyes flickering between me and her brother and back again.
"The humans can't see him," she said suddenly, turning to Emmett.
Emmett raised his eyebrows. "But Bella…"
Alice shook her head, impatient. "The other humans," she clarified. "We can see him and Bella can see him, but he…I don't think he's really here."
"If he's not here, then why can we see him?"
"I don't know," Alice admitted, her tone frustrated. "We'll have to contact Carlisle. This is obviously not normal."
Emmett snorted derisively. "Ya think?" he retorted sarcastically.
Alice glared at him but didn't comment. "Where's Edward now?" she asked, closing her eyes briefly. I suspected she was trying to find the real Edward through her visions. "I think he's left Mexico a few months ago…"
Well, sure. Why wouldn't Edward be in Mexico with some beautiful, exotic Spanish vampire?
The tear in my heart, so unbelievably deep and so unbelievably long, tore another inch. My heart started beating in erratic beats, and my breath came in short spurts. I knew better than to try and calm myself - nothing ever worked.
'Edward', however, noticed my labored breathing. "Love?" he called out, another stab to my heart. "What's wrong? You're so pale…"
I felt the throbbing in my head, a sure sign that a large migraine was headed my way. Three different hallucinations, three different thorns in my side. I wondered what would happen when a hallucination of Rosalie inevitably popped up. Strangely enough, I was looking forward to her sneers and her harsh comments. It would bring me a sense of normalcy.
Pressing my fingertips to my forehead, I turned away from the three vampires who weren't even there, making my way to where I'd parked my Impala. I'd had enough fresh air for the day. I wanted to just head back to the ratty motel I was staying at, get a couple of hours of sleep, and get myself ready to hit the road again tomorrow.
"Bella! Where are you going?" Alice called after me, her voice sounding panicked. She shouldn't be worried. Just like Edward, she would always come back to me. If she just tried, we would always be together. "Bella!"
I could feel them, all three of them, following after me, hear them as they spoke. "She's probably headed to her room," Edward said sagely. "She needs to rest for tomorrow."
"Tomorrow?" Emmett questioned. "What's tomorrow?"
I didn't turn around, didn't watch their faces as they conversed, didn't even follow their conversation. Once I had reached the parking lot, and found my Impala, I slid my key into the car lock, slipping inside.
'Edward' had been right about one thing - I did need to get some rest. A lot of rest. I wanted to have a semi-clear head while I drove. I couldn't afford another trip to the mechanic's.
I drove to a highway motel, with a faded sign that read 'The Falls Motel'. It was a single story building with just a handful of rooms, and I was pretty sure nothing about it was sanitary. But beggars couldn't be choosers. The man at the check-in, with his typically clichéd stained undershirt and greasy sandwich, didn't even look up as I entered the motel and walked past him, just flipped through whatever magazine he was reading.
I had counted on getting some peace and quiet when I entered the room I paid for. Edward wasn't with me, so I assumed he had left to…Well, to do whatever hallucinations did whenever they weren't haunting those they haunted. I wanted to just…Not sleep. Sleep brought with it nightmares and heart-wrenching dreams of when I still had things to dream about. I wanted to lay in bed, keep my eyes open and my mind blissfully blank.
That, I quickly realize, was not going to happen.
My Alice illusion and my Emmett illusion were in my room. Alice was sitting at the edge of the small bed, legs crossed and hands folded delicately on her lap. Emmett was staring at the old cartons of food I had on the small round table I'd used to eat my meals at these past couple of weeks.
"It smells like something died in here, you know that, right?" was the first thing Emmett said to me as I closed the door.
"Something probably did," I replied automatically before shaking my head, closing my eyes. "I'm not talking to you," I said, directing this at both of the Cullen illusions in my room. "You're not real and I'm not talking to you."
Alice sighed exasperatedly and rolled her eyes. "Isabella, we're real, okay?" she didn't sound like she had much patience for this.
I scoffed at that. "You're not a very good hallucination," I informed her. "Alice is much more cheerful than you."
Emmett guffawed at that, and Alice merely gave me a stern look, hopping off the bed, making it creak. "Listen, Bella…Something's wrong," she said, rushing to my side. Her beautiful butterscotch eyes were wide and filled with concern. "With you and Edward. We called Carlisle…There's a phenomenon…I mean, it's not even supposed to happen unless you're both vampires, but you're clearly so much different than most humans…"
I had no idea what she was saying, but it wasn't uncommon for hallucinations to confuse people, I was sure. After all, Edward confused me all the time with talk of heaven and death and how it was all so strange. Maybe this was Alice's shtick.
So, instead of indulging her, I moved past her and into the small, filthy bathroom I had in my room, closing the door behind me. It wasn't even nighttime yet, but I wanted to just…Rest. I was so weary, so exhausted, that I felt like my entire body was lagging behind, working on autopilot and large consumptions of coffee.
"Isabella, I know you did not just shut the door in my face," she sounded indignant.
Ah, well. She'd disappear sooner or later.
But she didn't disappear, not even when I'd finished my shower and changed out of my jeans for bed. She was still in the room, Emmett right next to her, only this time, Edward was there, too.
He looked like he always did these days - dirt-covered clothes, hair caked with mud, eyes the color of the blackest ocean on the blackest nights. He was pacing near my bed, and though Emmett was talking to him, he was paying his brother no mind.
Maybe hallucinations didn't get along with each other. Dispute over territory, whose right it was to drive Bella Swan crazy, and all that.
"Come on, man," Emmett was saying, his voice frustrated and urgent. "Just snap out of this. You're driving yourself insane, and you're driving Bella insane. Snap out of it."
Edward didn't even seem to hear Emmett. The moment I entered the room, however, his head snapped up and he looked straight at me.
"Bella," he breathed, relief dawning on his face. "I've missed you so much…Come here, love."
But I didn't.
I never did.
We had discovered, very early on actually, that he couldn't touch me. Not really. He wasn't corporeal, after all. How could a figment of my imagination suddenly become hard diamond skin encasing immortal flesh? There was just no way.
So, even as he spread his arms for me to step into, I turned away from him. His face fell, like they did every time I refused, and sad eyes watched as I climbed into bed.
"You're not real," I whispered, my head turned away from him, from Emmett and from Alice. "You're not here."
I closed my eyes against the sudden tears that threatened to fall, my throat constricting so tightly that I had to open my mouth and sucked in a few deep breaths to try and clear it. I burrowed my face, wet with tears now, into my pillow.
He's not here.
My broken mind drifted, along with my broken heart and my broken soul, until I myself was no longer in that motel room. I drifted until I found myself staring at Edward once more.
Only this time, we weren't in my motel room, with his sister and brother looking on.
This time, we weren't even in the meadow in a lovely dream - I stopped having those quite a while ago.
This time, we were in a darkened room, the sounds of nature ringing loudly in my ears. There was a tiny window in the small room, mostly boarded up, but even if it wasn't it wouldn't matter - it was darker outside than it was inside.
I looked around for my treasure, finding him curled up where he was always curled up - on the floor against one of the room's wooden walls, knees brought up to his chest, eyes wide open but never seeing anything.
I walked over to him and crouched down next to him, my fingers reaching out to brush back some of that messy, damp bronze hair. It didn't work because whenever I was here, I was the one who wasn't real. I was the one who couldn't touch.
So I sighed, and dropped on my bottom, crossing my legs Indian style as I sat next to him. I placed my elbows on my thighs and cupped my cheeks with my palms, staring at him.
After all, it was my turn now.
Okay, that was longer than I had intended it to be. It's still a step in the right direction for this story, however, so I hope you're enjoying it.
Please leave me a line or two to tell me if you are - or aren't - if you could. Thank you for reading.