Tanya sat in the small hotel chair, legs crossed, chin propped up on her hand, and stared at Bella. The young human lay strewn across the bed, asleep – her arm heavily wrapped in medical gauze. She had not woken up since she had fainted at the house, not even when Tanya had stitched her wound closed.
Tanya's mouth turned down ever so slightly as she looked at the bandage. The scent of the girl's blood still lingered in the air, fresh. It had been almost twelve hours since she had cut the girl's arm – yet the bleeding had only stopped an hour or so ago. It had been almost a century since she'd seen Carlisle stitch one of his patient's wounds closed. And, though she remembered it clearly, as if she had watched it only yesterday, last night was the first time she had ever sewn human skin. It had been…trying.
'At least the scar will follow the line of the muscle. It will be difficult for most humans to see,' Tanya thought, assuaging herself of any guilt.
Still…something bothered her about the girl being hurt.
Sighing, she leaned over and turned the television on, flipping through channels until she landed on a news program. She'd made it to the outskirts of Seattle before Bella's blood loss had started to become an issue. Tanya had wanted to get into a populated area where people would be too busy with their own lives to worry about what was going on with anybody else. The Marriot receptionist had barely glanced at her when she'd paid for her room. No one had been around to see her sneak into the sliding doors of her balcony with the injured human in her arms. No one to remotely connect the injured teen with the small Amber alert that flashed across the bottom of the CNN channel.
Still, the news was unsettling. More attention had been given to the story than Tanya had planned on. Apparently another person from the nearby reservation had gone missing. Her gaze lingered, unseeing, on the television as her mind raced. Had Laurent killed a human? Would the Volturi somehow get involved? For the first time in over a hundred years Tanya felt the stirring of apprehension, confusion. She had no idea what to do, where to go. It was too dangerous to return to Denali. If the Volturi did get involved somehow…were able to discover that she had taken a human and was harboring her, alive…no, she wouldn't put her sisters at risk.
Leaning forward until her elbows rested on her knees, Tanya clasped her hands together and regarded the human critically. The girl lay motionless on top of the bed covers, her brown hair spilling out over the pillows beneath her. Her heartbeat was steady, her breathing deep. The light from the window made the girl look unnaturally pale – vampire pale.
'Deathly pale,' Tanya's mind whispered to her. Her nostrils flared, breathing in the scent of the room and human. It would be easy, she supposed, to just kill the girl and be done with the whole affair. There would be no worry about the Volturi, no obligation to look after the girl, to care about her fate. Her gaze wandered the girl, Bella's, face. 'She would never know. Just a slight pressure, a quick twist…' her hand twitched sympathetically, 'from temporary blackness to absolute.' She eyed the rise and fall of Bella's chest, mind playing out the scenario.
From her pocket the sound of the Kookaburra chirped.
Not taking her eyes from the still form on the bed, Tanya reached into her jeans and pulled out her phone. She ran her fingers over the screen, but did not answer. Alice was responsible for getting her into this mess. Why should she talk to the petite vampire now? Why hadn't she called when she saw her in Bella's bedroom? When she took the girl?
Her eyes narrowed.
'No.' she thought, mind becoming resolute. 'I will do as I see fit.' She was a thousand year old vampire. No juvenile would not boss her around, no matter how much affection she held for her. 'I have decided, Alice. I am in charge.'
The phone crumbled like paper beneath her fingers.
Bella blinked against the unexpected brightness that greeted her. Her mind was foggy – thoughts and memories displaced. She struggled to open her eyes. There was something important, something she needed to wake up for. 'A test? Am I going to be late?' Groaning, she reached up to rub her eyes, only to hiss at the sharp pain that pulled down the length of her arm.
Tendrils of sense slowly began to bloom within her mind. First the storm. Then the rain, the open window. The vampire.
Her eyes flew open at the same time the rest of her body froze. She didn't breath, didn't blink – just stared up at the ceiling that clearly wasn't hers. Was the vampire here? Where was here? Was her father all right? Was there a search party looking for her? Was Victoria out there looking for her? Her mind raced.
The voice brought reality with it. The sound of the television in the background reached her ears. The rough comforter, the kind that could only be found in a hotel, scratched at her skin. Slowly, Bella inhaled and turned her head towards the sound of the vampire's voice.
She was sitting in a chair next to the balcony window. Her legs were crossed, chin resting in her right hand, arm propped against the armrest. The blonde vampire regarded her silently, watching as Bella watched her.
The Cullens had always taken precautions to appear human. They had moved and breathed like the living, had perfected the art of blending in with teenagers and society. This vampire, Tanya, did no such thing. She did not move, nor blink, nor breathe. It was unsettling, eerie. Bella swallowed thickly and closed her eyes, drawing upon all of her inner strength to ask the questions that burned against her lips.
Opening her eyes, she was confronted with the vampire standing over her, staring down at her with the same expressionless look. Silently, Tanya held a glass of water out for her in one hand.
"Your arm stopped bleeding a few hours ago." The water was pushed closer to her. "I've read that wounds like that take quite a while to heal and are quite painful." Tanya's head tilted to the side as she regarded Bella.
Hesitantly, Bella reached over with her uninjured arm and took the glass. The vampire's other hand extended, palm up, two large pills resting in her palm.
Bella's eyes flickered from the pills to Tanya's face.
"Painkillers," Tanya told her.
Bella reached for the pills with her injured arm, wincing as the pain coursed through her limb.
"What does it feel like?"
Quickly swallowing the pills, Bella raised an eyebrow questioningly. "What?" She looked down. "My arm?"
The blonde nodded.
Tanya rolled her eyes at the teen, huffing in exaggeration. "Yes, but what does it feel like?" she asked slowly, enunciating each word as if it would help the human understand her better.
Bella's brows furrowed in confusion. "What does what feel like?" she asked. "Pain?"
Again, Tanya nodded.
Struggling to push herself up into a sitting position, Bella turned to fully face Tanya. "You don't know what pain is?"
Tanya let her eyes travel over the teen's face, seeing, but not. "I haven't felt physical pain in almost a thousand years," she told the teenager softly, turning her head to look out the window.
Bella's head cocked to the side, curiously. "But you've felt emotional pain before?" she asked.
It was strange, talking to this vampire. The Cullen's had always presented themselves as polished and perfected; the only missing piece to their puzzle was Edward's solitude. Tanya, however, was different. There wasn't the air of superiority or timelessness about her that exuded from the Cullens. Clearly, Tanya had been flustered last night. And now, the vampire stared out the window, a million miles away, pensive and asking strange questions. Enigmatic.
Bella was fascinated.
"Yes," Tanya said, glancing back over at Bella – effectively breaking her from her internal thoughts. "I've felt emotional pain before."
Gold eyes searched brown in silence. The television played softly in the background as a moment of understanding passed between human and vampire, youth and maturity. Unspoken kinship and unanswered questions hung between them, as did the mutual agreement not to inquire.
Bella blinked, breaking eye contact. "It feels the same," she told Tanya, hands unconsciously wringing together. "The only difference is you can tell where the pain is coming from. You can feel its location."
Tanya let her gaze fall to Bella's bandaged arm, but said nothing. This human was interesting. She didn't talk nonstop like most mortals her age, but her emotions were palpable. She wore them on her face, in her eyes, carried them in her voice. It made Tanya feel like she was sharing them with the girl – emotions swelled in her breast like a euphoric drug. Centuries had passed since she'd last found herself invested in any part of life like she was now. It was addicting.
A loud thrumming noise interrupted her self-reflection.
Frowning, the vampire strained her ears to better hear the sound.
'That sounds like war drums,' she thought, looking up and around frantically, searching for the source of the sound.
Her eyes fell on Bella. The human's heart was racing wildly; the girl was staring at something over Tanya's shoulder.
Tanya let her gaze follow the girls, turning to see what she was looking at, what had caused such a strong physical reaction.
Sitting on the cherry-stained, wooden stand was a flat panel television. Tanya had left it on. Currently, there was a live broadcast from Forks about the town's missing teens. The small town's chief of police, who just happened to be the father of one of the missing teens, was being hounded by reports asking for updates and statements about the ongoing investigation. The man looked physically and emotionally exhausted, not that the reporters seemed to care.
The faint smell of salt reached the vampires nose. Looking back to the girl, she saw that Bella's eyes were wet – the first signs of tears appearing. Ducking her head to stare at the floor, Tanya was torn between guilt, disgust, and exhilaration. Emotions coursed through her, making her heady with the thrill of feeling again.
But, oh, how she felt so alive! For the first time in half a millennia she was invested in something, was excited for the future!
'At the cost of ruining a young girl's life,' her mind whispered, stomach twisting in shame.
Swallowing, Tanya glanced up at Bella, who still sat, staring, at the television that was broadcasting speculations about the teen's whereabouts and fate. She cleared her throat to get the teenager's attention.
Bella blinked her eyes rapidly before turning her attention to the blonde.
"We should discuss what happens next," Tanya told her, pulling the chair she had sat in earlier over to the bed and sitting down.
Bella nodded, taking a deep breath. She sat up straight and leveled her gaze at Tanya.
"Are you going to kill me?"
Tanya quirked an eyebrow. "I thought we'd already covered that," she said, splaying her hands out to indicate Bella and their current situation.
Bella flushed, her heartbeat erratic.
Tanya decided to take the lead.
"What do you want to do?" she asked Bella.
The teen's eyes flickered over to the television.
"There's no going back," Tanya told her, voice hard.
A shudder ran through the girl before her shoulders sagged. Bella brought her hands up to her face and furiously rubbed at her skin, dragging her hands up into her hair and tugging on the brown strands.
"I don't know," she sighed, voice cracking. "I have nothing." She shook her head. "No one."
"The Cullen's?" Tanya questioned.
A sarcastic laugh erupted from the girl. "Oh yes, the family who up and left without so much as a goodbye! That'll go over well, I'm sure."
Bella stood from the bed and walked over to the balcony window. She looked out over Seattle and chewed her bottom lip.
Tanya watched her silently, waiting to see what the girl would decide.
"He left me. They left me." Bella turned to face Tanya, face resolute. "I won't go chasing after something or someone who doesn't want me."
"What do you want to do then?" Tanya asked, not missing a beat.
Sighing, Bella shrugged. "Whatever you decide. We can go our separate ways if you'd like. You can be done with all this." She looked down at the carpet, digging her toes into the course material and studiously not focusing on the vampire. Her fate was completely in the hands of the immortal predator that sat before her and she knew it. If the vampire left her she'd have no place to go.
The silence in the room seemed to wrap around her, suffocating her in isolation. Never before had she felt so abandoned – not even when Edward had left her alone in the forest. Even she could hear her heart pounding in her chest.
Tanya stood and walked over to Bella, eyeing the human critically. She was well aware that the decision was hers, had known for hours. But she had wanted the teenager to acknowledge the fact as well.
She stood in front of the girl and looked at her, remaining silent until the teen finally looked up and met her gaze.
Brown met gold.
Tanya cocked her head to the side and gave Bella a quizzical look.
"Have you ever seen New Zealand this time of year?"
For you. As always.