Oops, I may have forgotten to post this. It was commissioned, for want of a better word, by the lovely Amy, who won one of the FGB auctions all the way back in summer 2010.
Thanks to solareclipses and horizon77 for their beta skills.
Red Shift: Chapter 5 – Edward POV
"You are an idiot. A complete imbecile. A total moron. Idiot, idiot, idiot."
Even though she was already quarter of a mile away, I could clearly hear Alice chanting a litany of insults at me in her head. It didn't matter; I had something more important to worry about.
"Bella? Will you marry me?" I asked again.
She stepped away from me, her expression guarded as it usually was around me now. She wouldn't look at me, her body language closed, the perfect stillness of our kind giving me no hint of what was going on inside her head.
It didn't matter what Alice said. It didn't matter that I knew Alice was right, and that Bella's answer would inevitably be the one I didn't want to hear. I'd had to ask.
"No," she eventually said.
If I had a heart that could beat, it would have stopped when she gave me that answer, but all I could do was bear the pain it caused in silence. I didn't have the right to make her feel guilty for turning me down, not after everything I had put her through. She knew that if I'd had my way, we would not be where we were now; she would still be human and I would still be out of her life, making sure she stayed that way.
My phone vibrated in my back pocket, but I ignored it. I didn't need Alice's "I told you so," right now. "I'll keep asking, you know," I said to Bella, "until you say yes." She had to know that however much this was an unplanned proposal, I meant the question with every fiber of my being and fully intended to be with her in every way I could be.
"It wouldn't fix things," she replied. "It would be like...like painting a wall that's crumbling on the inside. Eventually the rot is going to show through. It's going to be worse if we don't take care of it now."
There it was. The unspoken barrier between us - she didn't trust my feelings towards her after the way I'd left her behind. No matter how much I tried to explain the reasons behind my actions; how I'd intended them to be for her benefit; or how I'd suffered as badly as she had at being parted, the words I'd told her on that cold September evening still carried more weight than the combined dialogue of our entire time together, both before and since.
"I know," I whispered to her, trying to keep the despair I felt out of my voice, "but I don't know how to fix this."
What if I never could fix this? What if the rest of eternity would be played out by lovers who continued to feel that love for each other, but couldn't overcome the barriers between them? An eternity of this would drive me to insanity as much as being without her entirely.
"Neither do I," she confessed.
I tried to swallow the crushing weight of that despair, which seemed to be swelling with panic. I imagined myself folding it into the tiny ring box, which I shut and tucked into my pocket.
Bella snapped her gaze away from the forest around and us, back to me for the first time since I'd fallen to my knees. I couldn't read her expression, not like I could when she was human. I'd vainly hoped when I learned she'd been turned that I would be able to hear her thoughts like I could everyone else. Instead, becoming like me had kept her as silent as ever and schooled her face to become nearly as quiet. Abruptly, she knelt before me, the skin of our legs separated only by cloth.
It was the closest we'd been in weeks. Not since I'd pulled her out of the water on the day I arrived had we had any contact, and now I could feel the atoms of my being alighting at her proximity.
"I'm sorry, okay?" she said, and I felt the sincerity in her words. "I wish there was some wand I could wave to get past the way I feel, but there isn't. We have to deal with it."
I couldn't help myself; I had to touch her.
I tried to keep my caress light, so as not to startle her, the feel of her skin all I needed to anchor myself to some kind of hope for the future. Her cheek was as cool as my own, which meant that she felt warm, just not burning hot like she once had. Never again would I feel the heat of her blood under my fingertips as she blushed at my touch, but I wouldn't give this up for the world. Neither would I have to worry about bruising her tender, fragile skin – though she still felt soft to me.
Panic bloomed in her eyes but I wasn't ready for the moment to end yet. Before she could protest or pull away, I had her in my arms, letting my nose drift to the hollow of her neck, once the most tempting part of her body.
Her scent was still strong here, but I didn't feel the burn anymore or have to focus on not killing her. I could just be around her.
We didn't speak or move, and I didn't let go. For as long as she would let us stay like this, I would gladly do so. When this ended, I didn't know when or if I would ever be able to hold her again.
All thought was banished from my head. For once in my life I was going to exist in the now, not in past should-haves or future could-bes.
Afternoon slipped into twilight, and in a moment of madness I pushed it too far, allowing myself a few kisses below her throat.
"No," she whispered, though she didn't pull away. In a Herculean effort I stopped myself, though now I could taste her and I never wanted any other flavor to sully my tongue again.
I sighed. "I know."
She loosened her hold on me and I had no choice but to do the same, pushing away so we were once more sat knee-to-knee, though my fingertips found their way back to her cheek. A wave of tension coiled off of her, shifting into something close to relief. "I'm sorry," I told her. "I've been an idiot. I'll probably keep being an idiot, but then I never claimed to be perfect. You decided that I was, and that was just because I was like this. You must be able to see now that it's far from the truth, why I thought I never deserved you."
"I do see you more clearly," she said. "But I still see you more clearly than you do. Remember when you said that to me – that I don't see myself very clearly? Well, neither do you."
Frustration boiled inside me. She still didn't understand, did she? She'd sacrificed her humanity for me, for the people she cared about. Meanwhile, I'd run from her like a coward, without stopping to think through the consequences or listen to the advice of my family. I'd been an idiot, and she was still blinded to my flaws because her vision of me was the one she'd built when she was human.
I opened my mouth to speak but her fingers were over my mouth, and my frustration was replaced by an entirely different kind, an endless joy that finally she was the one touching me.
"You have flaws," she murmured. "You've made mistakes. That doesn't mean I still don't think you're perfect. For me, at least. You're perfect for me."
If I thought I was happy at her touch, it was nothing compared to this confession. I smiled, the first truly happy smile I could remember in months, and it felt like the elation should have been spilling out of me like sunlight.
"That doesn't mean everything's cool between us," she warned me, but it didn't dampen my spirits one bit.
"I know," I replied. I could finally see what she'd been trying to tell me all along: she wanted to be with me as much as I wanted her, and we just needed to work towards belonging together once more.
"We have to work on communicating. I have to learn to trust you. You have to learn to trust me and my choices." I started to speak, to tell her that I did trust her, more than I trusted myself, but she cut me off with a glance sharp enough to cut stone. "We have to take things slowly."
"I know," I repeated. I pulled away from her before I lost control and tried to translate my happiness into a physical form – one we definitely weren't ready for. "I think this will be good for us. We have to trust each other when you hunt. We'll learn that way."
I thought I saw a flash of disappointment the further away I moved, but I was still learning her moods and could have easily been mistaken. She nodded at me, the hint of a smile pulling at the corner of her mouth. "I guess that was what Alice saw happening. Although she's off my Christmas card list for the next decade..."
I startled myself by laughing. I couldn't remember the last time I had laughed. "She'll get over it," I told her. "She just wants the best for everyone."
"Still. It's the principle." She crouched, ready to stand up. "We should probably go inside. Do you think they took the chessboard with them?"
"I don't really care," I confessed. Though chess with Bella might provide me with the first real challenge in years, I had other activities on my mind. The last few minutes of conversation had confirmed these activities were back on the list of possibilities for the future, and now my mind wouldn't let go of them. Bella shot me a confused look. I reached and grabbed her hand, twining our fingers together. "In the interests of trust and honesty, there's one last thing I think we need to cover."
"Uh?" She suddenly seemed dazed and distracted.
"I kept you at arm's length when you were human, literally." No matter how many times she'd found ways of working into my embrace. No matter how much I'd wanted the warmth of her body against mine. "We never really discussed the physical side of our relationship. I tried to make it clear to you that I was afraid of hurting you if I lost control, but I think – at least the impression I got – was that you thought I didn't really want you in that way. I need you to know that I wanted you. As much as I wanted your blood, I wanted your body. Sometimes more. And that hasn't changed."
She stared up at me unblinking, and for a moment I could imagine that her eyes were still warm brown and full of unwavering trust. She'd been fragile in a lot of ways before I left her, but she'd also been stronger, too - I'd clearly left scars on her, and I could see them in the wariness in her eyes now. She was physically stronger, but emotionally the cuts were still healing. Maybe by the time her eyes were pure amber like my own, I could help her repair those wounds.
But underneath it, I knew she wanted me too, as much as I wanted her. I would carry that knowledge alongside the ring in my pocket until we were ready to be with each other, unfettered and raw, with nothing standing between us ever again.
I really had been an idiot to ignore my family. I'd been so determined to leave Forks and save Bella's life after the incident on her birthday that I listened to no reasoned argument. I dismissed Alice's persistent visions, the ones where Bella still ended up pale-skinned and red-eyed even after we'd left, deluding myself into believing them to be Alice's wishful thinking. I ignored Carlisle when he told me the stories he knew of vampires who had been left without their mates. I ignored Esme when she told me that I deserved happiness too.
I didn't ignore Jasper when he told me that he couldn't bear to be around me – I took it as my cue to leave the family behind.
Those first few months are a void in my memory. It was like living under the constant darkness of an eclipse with no light to see by or purpose to keep moving towards a future. When Victoria slipped away, I lay down and gave myself over to eternity, tormented by memories and the burn in my throat. The first thing to break that monotony was Esme's arrival, and that had me moving, from one town to the next, always trying to keep myself one step ahead. I didn't want to return to my family. I didn't want their pity or their comfort, which I thought Esme was seeking me out to provide. I wanted to be left alone in my misery.
It was only by chance that I heard her thoughts, the only thoughts that would stop me from running, before I was out of range. I have no idea what city I was in - Central America, probably Mexico. Utterly irrelevant.
Edward, Bella is like us. Just like in Alice's vision. She's immortal now.
If it had been anyone, I'd have kept running, in case they were lying to me – but this was Esme. Whatever she might try to get me to return to the family, a trick as low as that wouldn't be it.
I stopped running, letting Esme catch me, feeling an emotion other than pain for the first time in months: anger. After everything, it had still turned out this way.
The anger was easier to admit to than my fear. I didn't want to return to Bella; I was too afraid of what might await me. It was entirely possible that the change had wiped her love for me away, along with her other human memories. Worse, if time apart had healed her broken heart, she could remember me but carry nothing except indifference for that memory.
The best I could expect was anger over my obvious lie and cowardly flight.
Still, I had to know…How. Why. When.
Esme explained it in simple terms, letting me rant and rail at Carlisle between explanations. How dare he! After all I had sacrificed to keep Bella safe and human, and he'd gone against it. I thought he'd understood my reasons, my motivations. I thought he was the person in my family I could trust the most…until this.
And underneath that, there was guilt – horrific, sickening guilt that I had left Bella in that situation. I'd left her to Victoria's mercy, and even taken away the safety Alice's visions could have provided by commanding her not to look anymore. I'd doomed Bella to an early death as much as if I'd stayed with her. Leaving had been futile. Everything I'd felt over the last months, the soul-crushing misery had been avoidable and pointless.
Worse was to come, though. Even as I was still coming to terms with the realization that I'd spent half a year playing fate's punching bag, Esme told me the worst part.
"We're luring Victoria to the house on Vancouver Island so Bella can kill her."
I think Esme was truly frightened of me in the minutes that followed, though I would never have laid a finger on her. It was her phone that bore the brunt, which made arranging the journey to Vancouver – a sudden inevitability – that much more difficult.
If anyone was going to kill Victoria, it would be me.
We were too late. The fight was already in full flow when we arrived, and for one horrifying moment, I thought Bella was going to die in front of me. I knew then that Victoria would not survive the hour, because if she harmed Bella I was going to make the agony of the change look like a visit to the masseuse.
And then I was going to end myself.
I needn't have worried though, because cunning as Victoria was, she was no match for a newborn who'd been trained by Jasper. Bella didn't just kill her; she gave us all a small taste of what I'd had planned for Victoria myself. In that moment, I saw which way her feelings towards me and the entire situation lay – anger. Her vicious dismemberment of Victoria wasn't something the girl I'd left behind would have been capable of, even fuelled by a newborn temperament. This was emotional damage in action.
No wonder she ran from me.
The afternoon and weeks that followed had been some of the most frustrating of my life. Bella made it clear that she didn't want to be around me, and after the months apart the only thing I wanted was to wrap myself around her and never let go. I hated her being out of my sight as much as she seemed to hate being in it. She brushed off my apologies, and that only made them fall from my lips that much quicker.
From the first moment I saw her in this new state, I knew I loved and desired her as fiercely as I always had. The crimson eyes had been a shock, and all the subtle changes to her face and body took time to absorb, but it was time I enjoyed. Whenever she wasn't looking at me I stole the chance to savor the changes, learning who the new Bella was. Her features were more defined, turning her into a sculpted beauty, but then I'd always thought she was the most absorbing creature on the planet. Her scent was no longer a burden, but something I could luxuriate in. That delicate, floral lure was still there, stronger without blood to cloud it.
To watch Bella hunt was an exercise in sexual torment. Even as I'd feared for her while she tore Victoria apart, I'd become aware of how my body reacted to her fierce movements. When she ran from me that interest had been rekindled, and then been fanned into full flames as we took down deer together. I knew finally that I didn't have to tamper down my desire for her out of worry what I could do to her. She was showing me exactly what she was capable of, and my libido was responding.
Not that I could act on it. First I had some humbling conversations to live through, where my arrogance and surety were stripped away piece by piece. As Alice and Jasper were too happy to point out, I'd done this to Bella, just as surely as if I'd stayed in Forks and changed her after the prom. I'd been the one to pick my words to wound, and I'd done it so well the wound was refusing to heal. Even Esme was quick to disenchant me of my lingering view that what I'd done had been noble and necessary.
I was the reason we weren't together right now, living as husband and wife. I was the one that needed to put the work in to get us there.
It turned out that the work was more like falling. If I stepped back and remembered the first stages of our courtship, the way we'd enjoyed each other's company and made each other smile, it should have been obvious. As it turned out, it was only when it happened naturally that I realized we were reconnecting on that level. I couldn't force it; I had to give it space to grow.
I also had to rein in my old tendencies of assuming I knew what was best and making decisions that I weren't mine to make, at least not alone. Time had certainly proven that often I didn't know best and I had an aptitude for making terrible choices.
"No. It's still no."
Asking Bella to marry me again wasn't the best choice, but I still found myself beginning to do it, lured into the act by post-hunt satiation and the wiggle of her hips when she sprang after her prey. She cut me off before I could even retrieve the ring, (which I carried around with me at all times), from my pocket.
The strain we'd carried between us for weeks didn't return, though. We just brushed the moment off and went back to our day. When we were back on the sofa, ready to watch a French historical romance, she didn't object to me covering her hand with mine to retrieve the remote control, or pull away when I couldn't resist the urge to let my fingers twine in her hair. Even though Bella wasn't initiating contact with me, she wasn't resisting it either, and every moment we were connected could have been one where the world stopped for all I cared.
I tried to reveal as much of her to myself as I could. The need to keep parts of me closed off was long gone. If she wanted to know about my childhood, what being a newborn had been like, or what had happened when I left her, then I would tell her. If she wanted to know about the people I had killed, she had the right to know.
Piece by piece, moment by moment, the invisible shields separating us came down.
"He's not a romantic hero," I said, in the middle of a debate about Wuthering Heights. "What Heathcliff felt wasn't love; it was possession, and jealousy, and the need for revenge."
"He felt those things, too," Bella protested, "but right until his death – beyond his death – he loved Catherine."
"I can quote passages that utterly disprove it."
"Can you?" She seemed impressed for a moment, then frowned. "I should be able to. I used to be able to; I read it enough when I was a human. Now I just remember the plot."
"The memory hasn't stayed with you. The next time you read the book, it'll all be saved, and it'll be word perfect."
Bella considered this for a second. "I've not read it again since I was changed. Wait here."
She was up the stairs in a flash, and I heard her footsteps on the floorboards overhead, entering her bedroom. She must have gone to fetch a copy of the book.
The footsteps stopped, but there was no creak of the closet door opening. Seconds ticked away, and the house was silent.
"Bella?" I asked. "Are you up there?"
When she didn't respond I followed her up the stairs, and she was on the landing before I reached it, leaping at me, her face alive with excitement.
"My eyes!" Bella squealed. "They're amber!"
They were and had been for several days. Right now, I was more concerned with how she was coiled around me, her face so close to mine we would have been sharing breath if we breathed, my hands still on her behind from when I'd caught her. Every inch of me was alert and aroused.
I forced myself to reply. "Yes, they are."
Bella's smile dimmed a fraction and she began to lift herself away, but I kept her pinned to me, taking the step forward to trap her between myself and the wall. The motion meant she rubbed against me, and I confess that sanity had fled me entirely by this point. I needed to feel her.
"Edward…I – we – uh – we shouldn't –"
I let my lips ghost against hers, cutting off her stumbling words, capturing her stare with mine. Her irises had quickly faded from rich amber to deepest black, so I knew this was affecting her as much as it was me. I leaned into kiss her again, to deepen it, but was confronted with her cheek.
She didn't want this.
For a moment I wanted to run, just like she had, as far as I could from this feeling. I'd never expected her to reject me, not like this, and the emotion was bitter and cloying. I swallowed it down, not giving in to the temptation of pity, and rolled my head down to her shoulder.
"You're right. We shouldn't," I agreed, inhaling her scent in a bid to calm myself. And she was right, though I hated the fact. I had to let her lead.
I dropped Bella to her feet and backed away to the other side of the landing, forcing my disappointment out of sight. "I didn't realize you hadn't seen them yourself," I said, turning the conversation back to her eyes. "I'd have told you otherwise."
"It's okay. It was nice, discovering it like that."
And it had been wonderful witnessing her discovery. Still, her altered eye color was indicative of the time that had passed since her change, and a testament to her phenomenal control. There was something we had to do, something I'd been putting off, before we could risk moving onto a life off of the island.
"Well, there's no reason now not to try and get you used to being around humans," I told her, watching her face for any betrayal of emotions at this idea.
It wasn't her face that gave her away, but the way she froze, a complete lack of life in her body. She was still learning to fake signs of humanity like blinking and breathing, and this stillness had to mean a strong emotion was dominating her thoughts.
"Do you think that's a good idea? I mean –"
"Bella, you've got to try it sometime. If we don't do this on our terms, one day it'll happen by chance, and then we won't be prepared for it."
"Still, I don't think just heading to a town is the best way of going about this."
"It's not. We'll aim for a smaller settlement first – one of the lodges in the forest. Alice will tell us ahead of time if it's a bad idea."
I'd been planning this in my head ever since the first day her eyes had been truly golden. I'd been in continual contact with Alice, waiting for the perfect day.
She nodded and went to retrieve the copy of Wuthering Heights, and we returned to our debate about Heathcliff's lack of redemptive characteristics.
Alice's predictions over the days that followed were cautious nos, telling me the same thing every time: Don't leave the forest. I didn't share this with Bella because it wasn't a good sign: the only reason I could see for Alice using this wording was that if we did, Bella would end up hurting someone. Despite my desire to get out of the cabin and see somewhere different, I diligently followed her instructions, and we stayed close by.
The day was wet, but we'd run out of in-cabin entertainment and were both eager to expend some energy. We spent the morning making up games with an old tennis ball I'd found in the attic. Bella delighted in testing my speed – hers was slowing down as her newborn strength ebbed – but she could still give me a run for my money.
As I leapt to the top of a spruce to retrieve the ball, Alice's words took on a new meaning.
Don't leave the forest…because the test will come to you instead. I could hear the tentative strands of thought from three humans that had just come into my range of hearing.
I knew we should have taken that other path.
Can't even tell where the sun is with all this cloud. If we can just find our way back to the road…
Never coming walking with these guys again.
I landed on a carpet of needles and faced Bella.
"Stay calm," I said. "There are some hikers not too far away, and I think they're heading this way."
"Are you sure?" she asked, her body tensing. I nodded in reply, but I don't think she really saw. She held my arms, the last of her newborn strength letting her grip tighter than was comfortable, and I let her do it. I knew what she was fighting, could see the thirst in her.
"I'll do the talking," I said, and she took a few steps closer, holding her breath.
She was still after that, even when the hikers arrived. I left her at the other side of the clearing to go help them, most of my focus on her. If only I could hear what she was thinking, what she planning, I would be better equipped to protect these men if her control slipped.
I didn't need to protect them. I didn't hear her move once during my conversation with the hikers, and when I turned around she was in the same position as before, her eyes vivid black, the look of concentration on her face profound. When we could barely hear them, and most of their scent had faded, I walked back to her, letting my pride show on my face.
"Are you okay?" I asked.
Bella let the mask slip and fell to her knees. "I did it. I didn't kill them."
"You didn't." She'd been brilliant. No one in our family would have stood up to a test like this so soon after their changes. "But I'm going to kill Alice for not warning us."
Alice must have had a vision of this happening and decided she didn't need to tell us because it would all be okay. No matter how confident she was in her ability, she could have made a mistake that would have proved fatal for those men. One foot in the wrong direction, and her vision would have been invalidated.
"No, she did right, even if she saw this happening. I didn't have a chance to get myself flustered before it happened. I didn't have time to panic. I think that helped."
"Are you sure?" No matter what Bella said, I was still having words with Alice.
"Yeah." Her mood changed abruptly, her face splitting into a beaming smile. She was on her feet a second later, pushing herself into an exuberant cartwheel across the grass.
The next second she was wrapped around me, just like she had been on the landing.
"This again?" I managed to say, and she giggled, a sound I'd rarely ever heard from her.
"Yes, again. Only this time I might let you kiss me." My whole body responded to that idea. "No, actually, I think I'll kiss you."
She wasn't hesitant, and her enthusiasm carried over into the kiss. Out of habit I let her lead, keeping my lips as soft as I could, though I didn't need to be so gentle anymore. She pushed it further, opening her mouth to me and kissing until I did the same. Tentatively, her tongue swept across my lower lip, like it had so many times when she was human, only this time I didn't pull away. I didn't ever have to stop again.
Everything was Bella. Everything was the way she felt, the way she tasted, the way her scent curled around us. I drank in her quiet gasps and moans, letting my hands trace their way across the new curves of her face, tangle in her hair, skim down the swells of her body.
The first layer of clothes came off out there on the lawn, but I was too aware of the wet ground beneath our feet. Not out here, in mud and grass. Instead, I pulled Bella back to me and carried her into the cabin, up the stairs to her room, to the bed that had never been slept in.
I peeled the last of her clothes away as she lay across the bed, exploring her skin as it was revealed to me with lips and tongue, whispering my awe to a wide-eyed amber gaze. When we were skin-to-skin, I asked her one last time if she really, truly wanted to continue. She told me she loved me, sure of every syllable she spoke.
Being with her was not what I had expected. Even ninety years of hearing thoughts, seeing the act contemplated from every angle, couldn't prepare me for the sensations I experienced. All I could do was hold onto Bella as my anchor to the world.
It ended, as it began, with a kiss. When reality was something I could grasp again, I found her mouth, drinking her down like a thirsty man, holding her as close as I could. Her grip on me was just as tight. We lay entwined, her body draped across mine, and kissed lazily until the sun went down.
"Bella Swan," I began as the last rays of the afternoon blazed across the bed, washing us both in shimmering light. I lifted her hand from my chest and placed a kiss on her palm, then traced the tip of my tongue across the base of her ring finger. "Will you marry me?"
And that was how I ended up swinging her round the room, carrying her like she was already my bride and we were crossing the threshold, utterly naked and yelling with joy.
Wedding preparations were under way, with Alice at the helm. Bella seemed indifferent to the concept of the actual wedding and much more interested in practicing being a newlywed. Truth be told, so was I. The only reasons we left the cabin in the weeks after my successful proposal were to hunt and venture into the human world, testing Bella's ability to resist the call of human blood. I convinced her it would be easier if she was relaxed, and she agreed. Our trips to Victoria increased in frequency, and we bookended the journeys with bouts of lovemaking, exorcising stress as thoroughly as we could. It was all we could do to keep our hands off each other in public.
Hunting was a different matter entirely. We spent as much time naked and tangled together on the forest floor as we did in the cabin. I no longer had to resist pouncing on Bella when I watched her hunt; I was free to watch, to chase, to tackle. And she was free to respond in kind.
On a cloudy day in September, Bella climbed out of our bed and pulled a white dress from the closet. "You need to wear a suit today," she instructed. "We're going into Victoria."
She gave directions on the way and it was only when we were parked next to a sign that read City Hall that my bemusement gave way to astonishment. She wriggled her fingers so the light glinted from her engagement ring.
"I've been practicing signing my name, you know," she said, retrieving the marriage license from her purse and placing it in my hand. "Mrs. Isabella Cullen."
"You –" I didn't know how to finish the sentence, the delight flooding through me tying my tongue.
"It's nearly a year since you left me," she continued. "And since neither of us is going anywhere again, I think it's time we did this."
I couldn't agree more.
So it was that the happiest day of my life was witnessed by officials from the city, rather than any of our family, but I knew we would do this again in their presence. Alice would insist on it. I'd only be too happy to comply; I would relive this day as often as I could.
As we lay curled together later in the day, for the last time in this bed, I reflected on where we had been and where we were going. The last year had been the most volatile of my life, seeing my darkest days before finally ending up here, with Bella as my wife. We were leaving Vancouver Island tonight, to head up to Alaska for an extended honeymoon. Bella had called Charlie to say one last goodbye. It had hurt me to hear the pain in her voice as she spoke, and to witness her carry that pain after the call was over, because she would not be saying that goodbye if it weren't for me.
I let the guilt go. I was finally at peace with Bella becoming a vampire. It hadn't been an accident. It wasn't a tragedy. It was a choice that she'd made, knowing the consequences, knowing what she was giving up in doing so. For too long I'd seen it as what she had to lose in being changed but she'd opened my eyes to everything she'd gained – most importantly, a happiness we would not have found apart.
I would be forever grateful that she'd chosen me.