Age of Edward Contest

Your pen name: TanglingShadows

Title: How I Remember You

Type of Edward: Vietnam Edward (1973)

Disclaimer: I don't own Twilight. This o/s contains a POWward so if you are sensitive to war time activity it might not be for you.

Her hair covered us both as we lay curled together in her small bed.

"I don't want you to leave."

I held her closer, marveling in the softness of her skin. She was so beautiful.

"I don't want to go, either. I have to," I held her tighter. It was as if my body was rebelling against me. It did not want me to go away from Bella, but I knew I couldn't stay.

I had received my letter for induction almost a month ago. April 23, 1970. The day I went from a college drop out to an Army Private, well, I would be when they inducted me on May 20.

I took the letter and put on a brave face for my mother and father. I told Bella not to worry.

In my room that night, I cried.

The life I had imagined for myself had changed, and I had no control over it.

"We can run away, Edward. We're so close to Canada. We could leave tonight." She was crying now and her words were coming out in gasps. "No one will ever find us. We can be together, and we can be happy."

I felt my own eyes tear up, and rebel against my will to be strong for her. I knew she felt the tears hit her naked shoulder, but she didn't look up.

"I'll be fine. I will come home when my tour is over, and we'll be together. I will give you everything you want, I promise." I kissed her hair. "I can't desert though. I'm not that kind of guy."

We were quiet then, and I held her while her tears slowed down.

"Be waiting for me to come home. Just knowing that you're waiting for me will be my saving grace, okay?"

When she spoke again, her voice sounded strained even though she tried to laugh.

"You have to come back to me, or I'll end up all alone cooking for Charlie the rest of my life."

There was a knock at the door then and my heartbeat sped up. I wasn't supposed to be here. Bella looked terrified as I gathered clothes and started opening the closet door.

Charlie's voice came from the other side.

"I'm not coming in, and I don't want to know what's going on in there, but…umm…Edward, your dad called and said that it's time to leave. He'll be here in ten minutes."

My eyes widened and Bella's face flushed a deep crimson.

He knew.

"That's embarrassing," I walked back to the bed. I was still naked as I slid underneath the covers again.

I loved the feel of her body next to mine. I would miss this. Not just our intimacy, but holding her, talking to her and feeling her hands in my hair.

I kissed her softly and leaned my head against her shoulder.

I spent a couple of minutes just breathing her in. I tried to memorize her smell.

I kissed her again and let my tongue slide over her bottom lip and into her mouth. I wanted to memorize her taste.

"I love you," I whispered against her mouth as another knock sounded on the door.

"They're here, Edward," Charlie paused, and then added, "I'm sorry."

Charlie sounded gruff and sad. I couldn't imagine him being anything but happy and smiling. Even before I started dating Bella, he would tease me.

I pulled away from her and started dressing. She had the sheet pulled up around her chest and her hair was spilling over her shoulders. Her cheeks were tinged pink, and if I closed my eyes, I could pretend it was from our lovemaking or her father catching us, but not because she was starting to cry again.

I finished slipping on my shoes and sat down beside her, then ran my hand down her cheek, and kissed her goodbye.

"I love you. I'll write as often as I can. I'll see you in six weeks anyway, right? Graduation," I said while she held me tighter as I tried to back away.

"God, don't go. Please. I'm begging you to stay, to run away with me."

My tears started again, too, and this time I didn't try to hide them. We stared at each other for a long moment before I stood up.

"I've got to go. I'm sorry," I walked slowly to the door.

"I love you, too. Be safe, Edward."

I turned then and walked back to her. I pulled her into a searing kiss and leaned my forehead against hers when we needed to catch our breath.

"I will come home, I promise. I'll marry you, one day," I left her there, sitting on her bed covered in only her sheet.

As I shut her door, Charlie was standing in the hall with his eyes downcast.

"I'm sorry, Charlie. I meant you no disrespect."

He looked up at me with glassy eyes, "We'll see you soon, Edward. Good luck. I'll take care of her while you're gone."

I just nodded my head and made my way down the stairs. I mechanically opened the door, and took the steps to the car.

As we were driving away, I looked back and saw her standing at her window.

It was the click of the lock that woke me up.

I tried to close my eyes again, and burrow deeper into the corner of my cell, but it wouldn't help. I was the only one left anyway.

I wanted to be back with Bella. I desperately tried to recapture the dream, even if it was a sad memory. If I could just remember her, then everything would be fine.

It didn't help, and I couldn't remember anything about her when I felt a hand grip my ankle.

At that moment she faded from me, and I become a shell of a man. I knew only knew three things, and I knew without a doubt, that over the next several hours they would be the only thing on my mind.

I wouldn't ever bring Bella's presence in here.

Questions swirled around me in an unknown tongue, and I could only respond with my three answers, my name, my rank, and my serial number.

I saw her as she took a seat with my parents.

She didn't look any different. Her long hair fell in waves down her back, and her dress was one that I had always complimented her own. It was also the dress she wore the night we first kissed.

I smiled at her from my position.

I no longer looked like I did before I left. My hair was cut close to my head, and I had filled out in the last six weeks. I was muscled and strong where I had just been lanky before. I hoped that she liked the changes.

She looked at me closely before she realized it was me. Bella then clapped her hand over her mouth and shook her head. Finally, she pointed to my head and mouthed, "Your hair!"

I laughed. For the first time since I left her, I laughed.

After graduation, we went out to eat together. It was tense and charged with the question no one wanted to ask. Right as we received our dinner, my father broke the silence.

"Do you have orders?" He tried to sound nonchalant about it but failed.

I nodded my head and swallowed. I looked at Bella and reached for her hand.

"I ship out in two days for Vietnam."

Everyone was silent and Bella's grip on my hand tightened, and she looked away.

"I'll be there a year at least. Then I'll come home."

No one said anything, and the remainder of our meal went untouched.

The next two nights my parents kindly looked the other way, as Bella would accompanied me to my room. Those nights were filled with love, sadness, and a sense of desperation. I tried over and over to commit everything about her to memory.

Her hair was thick and shiny with a slight hint of red if the light touched it a certain way. Her lips were full and pink; after our kisses they were red and swollen. Her eyes were the most beautiful shade of chocolate brown, and would sparkle when she laughed. Her cheeks would flush when I teased her, and the rosy color would spread down her chest when we made love.

I never voluntarily closed my eyes when I was near her.

I didn't hear the lock this time, but was startled awake by the door banging against the wall.

I was picked up and tossed carelessly into a chair.

They didn't move me. Everything happened right there in my cell.

I had promised to never let my mind wander to Bella during these experiences, but they had come to me; to the one place that was my peace.

This time, I didn't answer their questions in my usual manner; I said my name occasionally, my rank sometimes. I only spoke one response with any regularity.

"Not in front of her," my voice was low and rough.

I had lost my mind.

I couldn't remember her face very well anymore.

I tried to think of every detail. I fixated on the smallest things when I was alone. No matter how much I focused and kept the vision in my mind, it started to fade.

I knew her eyes were brown, but now they took on the look of the dirt in my cell. I knew it was wrong, but I couldn't change it.

Her hair was brown, too. I wasn't able to see it the way it really was, though. I knew that red blended into it, but all I saw was brown.

The smile that stretched across her face wasn't correct. I knew it was a little lopsided, but my mind would not fix it.

I rocked back and forth as I tried to recall her scent, but all I could smell was decay.

I held myself in a hug and pretended it was her while I cried.

I was losing her, and I knew if she faded completely from my memory I would die.

"Do you miss me?"

"You promised to write."

"Your mother is worried sick."

"I got into UW."

"I'm marrying someone else."

I shot awake. My chest was hurting and my I laid my hand over my heart.

I could not recall her face anymore or her beautiful body.

Her smell and softness were things of the past.

I had no idea how long I had been here. I knew it was long enough to have her memory slowly erased from my mind.

I clung to her voice, to her words. I practiced every waking second to keep her voice with me.

It was like I had a record playing in my head.

Bella. Bella. Bella.

While my conscious thoughts were of her love for me, my dreams were everything I dreaded. I was being tortured during my waking hours and during my rest.

I pushed the dream away and thought solely of her sweet reassuring voice.

"I love you, Edward."

"I love you, Edward."

"I love you, Edward."

Then I heard the lock click.

I was dying.

There had been no food for several days, and the barest of water. I could feel body shutting down.

I didn't mind.

The only thing that brought forth my anger was that her voice was getting dimmer the worse I got. She sounded so far away when I tried to focus on her voice.

Without a doubt, I knew when she got too hard to hear that I would be too far gone. No one could save me.

I would die in this cell, in this jungle, a world away from her.

My tears were gone, my body was dehydrated, but I sobbed as I truly realized I would never hold her again.

I should have run away with her.

The locked clicked.

I did not have the strength to move, to fight, so I waited for them to come get me.

I felt a hand on my neck, then more hands as I was lifted and moved.

They were being gentle today, I mused.

I opened my eyes and saw trees.

I died, and God still kept me in Vietnam?

I must be in hell.

When I opened my eyes again, I was surrounded by soldiers.

"Cullen, we've got you. You're safe now."

I did not know what he meant.

"You'll wait for me, won't you?"

"I'll be here waiting for you, Edward."

When I woke up again, I was lying on a soft bed.

I glanced around and realized I was in a hospital. There were IV bags plugged up beside me and a needle in my arm.

I guess I made it. I thought sarcastically.

A doctor walked in a few minutes after I woke up.

"Good to see you're awake. How do you feel?"

I shook my head. "I hurt."

"That's to be expected. Do you remember anything?"

I closed my eyes and shuddered. I remembered everything.

"How long was I gone?"

"You were stationed for almost a year when you were captured. You spent two years in the compound." After a few moments of silence he continued, "Edward, we have someone to talk with you."

"No. "

"It's procedure."

I didn't want to talk to anyone. If they came, I would not speak to them.

The doctor left, and I was alone again.

I could not help it as my chest constricted. I had been gone three years.

Would she still be waiting?

A few weeks went by, and I gained my strength back.

My family had been alerted to my whereabouts, and would meet me at the airport in Seattle tomorrow. Since I was a POW, I had been discharged.

I still hadn't spoken to my parents. I didn't know what to say.

I wanted ask how they were, how Bella was, but I was too scared.

Every night I had nightmares. I thought it was ironic how when I was captured all my dreams revolved around Bella, but now all my dreams dealt with them. I would wake up in a cold sweat with my heart racing.

The doctors, my family, Bella; they didn't need to know how bad I was.

The plane was small and suffocating.

As we started our descent into Seattle, my breathing became ragged and loud.

People were staring and the flight attendants were whispering and pointing at me.

I didn't care.

I closed my eyes and thought about Bella.

Soon, I was walking out and into the terminal. I spotted my mother and father easily. They rushed towards me and embraced me.

I flinched back.

If they noticed, they didn't say anything about it.

Bella wasn't with them.

"Let's go home, son."

They led me to the car. No one spoke as I placed my bag in the back.

When we were one our way I asked the only question I cared about.

"Where's Bella?"

My parents shared a quick glance.

My mother answered, "Bella's in Forks. "

I didn't speak again.

She had not come to me.

As soon as I got home, I went upstairs.

After several minutes of conflict, I finally decided to go and find Bella. I needed to know why she hadn't come and seen me. Had she moved on?

When my parents were asleep, I slipped out of the house and walked to the diner. Bella always worked at night. I had done this so many times in the past, just to spend time with her.

While I walked in the dark, I let the cool air of Forks surround me. I breathed in deep and looked up at the stars. It was the first time in years that I felt free.

My steps faltered as I saw her in the window of the diner. I hadn't even gotten to the steps yet.

She looked exactly the same, and my heart thundered in my chest as I closed the remaining distance between us.

I opened the door and stepped inside the empty diner, and Bella turned towards me.

Her face scrunched up for a moment, and then she smiled.

"Edward Cullen!"

She ran and hugged me.

I drew her close and was surrounded by the scent that I'd forgotten. She pulled back and sighed.

"It's so good to see you. I was so worried when your dad told us what happened. I thought we'd never see you again."

The way her words sounded wasn't how I remembered. She didn't treat me like a lost love at all.

Something dinged in the back and she said, "Hang on. I gotta get that."

As she entered the kitchen door, my thoughts exploded.

It wasn't real.

My memories of us weren't real.

Snapshots of a past life, before I got drafted, before I was taken prisoner.

Eating at the diner every night.

Talking to Bella over coffee.

Watching her blush as I called her 'pretty'.

Never finding the courage to ask her out.

Telling her I got drafted.

Eating there one last time before my dad pulled up and took me away.

My heart broke and my chest cracked open. Everything I had ever imagined was a lie. For the first time ever, I wished I had died.

She walked back into the dining area with a plate and a huge muffin.

"This is just really good luck, you know. I was baking your favorite." She smiled up at me with watery eyes. "I'm so glad you're home."

"Me too." I choked out and took a seat.

We were quiet as I picked apart the muffin. I tried so hard to come to terms with my own disillusion. I had never had her.

I was shattered.

"So you'll stay home now, right?" She whispered, her finger tracing circles on the counter.

I cleared my throat, "Uh, yeah." I closed my eyes tightly to fight back the images.

Bella with another man.

Bella getting married to a man that wasn't me.

Bella having children that weren't mine.

"When you get settled, would you like to go out sometime?" Her voice was rushed.

My head snapped up, and we locked eyes.

"You never asked before you left, and I really wanted you to. Now that you're back…" She swallowed loudly. "I never thought I'd see you again. I just want to be with you. Anyway, you can handle."

"Yes." It was out of my mouth before I could take it back.

Her smile was breathtaking and for a moment, I thought maybe my fantasies could come true. Then I remembered what I was now.

"I'm not the same man that as I was before." I started in a low voice. I was afraid to admit this to even myself, let alone Bella. "I have terrible flashbacks and nightmares. I get panic attacks a lot. When I was landing in Seattle, I almost passed out from it." Her eyes were wide and watery. "I'd never mean to hurt you, but it's a possibility if I'm not really here with you; if my mind is somewhere else."

She reached across the table and took my hand.

"I'll take care of you," Bella said, blushing.

I felt the tingle of her touch on mine and for the first time since I'd woken up in the hospital, I felt hope.

"I'd like that."

Thanks for reading!

I need to thank chele the original and eddiebell69 for their words of encouragement while writing this. Jen328 for her awesome comments and thoughts and ladysharkey1 for beta'ing this for me on such short notice. She also gave him the nickname of POWward :)

To see the banner for this entry go to my profile or here: http:/www(dot)ageofedward(dot)com/?page_id=102

There is a banner contest this year too so be sure to vote!

Thanks again for reading and remember voting opens October 17! Go read the other awesome entries for the contest!