Columbus was particularly chilly in the winter, but the surrounding landscape was beautiful. Snow covered every surface available, the cold seeping into any crevice it could. Animals were curled up somewhere warm, and the humans were busy trying to go about their days and ignore the snow piled up on street corners around them

Outside of Columbus, it was the same story. The snow was less disturbed the farther you got from the city, at least until you reached the town outside of it – it had used to be small, but now had blossomed to the point it had become Columbus' suburbs. Pretty houses sat in rows on long, narrow streets. It was a weekday, but the snow had caused a snow-day, so children were out playing in the snow, grateful to be off.

They paid no attention to the pale figure standing in front of the old abandoned house.

I wore a dark purple winter coat even if I couldn't feel the cold. I had a white sweater dress on underneath it, as well as black leggings and boots. I always made sure to dress the part of a human when I went into public. This was no different, even if I was alone.

The house was old, abandoned, yet still retained the same beauty I had found it held in my childhood. The white picket fence was missing parts and the gate creaked loudly when I pushed it open, stepping onto the cracked concrete path that led up to the front porch. It had been renovated, clearly, before it had been abandoned.

I glanced over at the tree in the front yard and gave a faint smile – the dog I had once loved with all of my heart was buried under it. I had picked out the spot myself through my tears – that had been the first tragic death within my life. More would follow it

The stairs creaked as I ascended them carefully, hands curled around old porch railings. The wood was terribly aged and chunks were missing in some places, but it was still strong and held as I gripped it. The porch floorboards creaked as well when I walked across them. It was devoid of the porch swing, chairs, and tables my mother had arranged and arranged over and over again. They had probably been sold and were in some antique store by now.

Ignoring the 'for sale' sign plastered in the front window, I pushed open the front door. It wasn't locked, oddly enough, so I simply stepped inside.

Memories flooded my mind when I stepped into the familiar entryway. Stairs wrapped up and around to my right – I remembered running up and down those stairs so many times, my father yelling at me to stop. I'd slid down the banister once too – but that had ended in a busted head so I stopped acting like an idiot on them after that.

The rooms were devoid of any furniture like the porch was, so I wandered through them aimlessly. The living room with its large fireplace, the kitchen my mother had kept so spotless – I could almost smell her cooking wafting toward me as I passed through it. I headed upstairs, peeking into the familiar rooms.

The room that had once been my parents' had been changed into a nursery or something, judging by the bright blues and yellows that had been painted over the neutral colors I remembered it being. The guest room next to it held faded oceanic wallpaper.

I saved my old room for last. I opened the door and smiled faintly when I realized the soft colors I remembered it being were still there. Obviously the owners after us had not changed much about the house. The floorboards creaked dangerously under my feet as I ventured further into the room, picturing it in my mind. Where my bed had been, my desk and vanity, my mirror, all of it.

I pulled open the closet door – it was filled with cobwebs, not clothes, but that didn't matter to me. I knelt, reaching for the loose panel of wood in the back. I tugged and it pulled away with ease and I couldn't help but smile again. Reaching back, my hand found the old shoebox I had placed there over 90 years ago. I pulled it out and shifted my position to sit on the old floor.

I brushed dust off the top – my name was scrawled across it in the handwriting I recognized as my own at the age of seven. I lifted the top off the box. Everything was still there, just as I had left it. The ribbons I had worn in my hair to my cousin's wedding, the small rag doll that my mother had made me, and other tiny items littered the bottom of it. I grabbed the tiny book inside – the letters were faded on it, but it had been a small copy of the Bible. I turned through its yellowed pages, finding my flowers still delicately pressed between the pages where I had left them.

And there, at the bottom of the shoebox, were the three things I had prized most in my young life.

The other tiny book that I had used as a diary – I would read that later – as well as a folded letter and a photograph.

There, in the photograph, was my sixteen-year-old self grinning madly next to the tall blonde doctor who had fixed my leg when I had foolishly fallen from a tree. He had an arm wrapped around my shoulders and was pressing a kiss to my cheek – I was laughing. You couldn't see it, but my face had been red as a cherry.

I unfolded the letter. It was a silly thing, but I had treasured it – it had proclaimed my love for the blonde doctor who had fixed my broken leg. I had intended to find him again, to give him the letter, but he had left town before I could get the chance. He had never read it. That was part of the reason why I treasured it so much.

I carefully tucked everything but the diary, picture, and letter back away in the tiny shoebox, replaced the board that covered the small hole in the wall of the closet, and swept to my feet, the shoebox tucked under one arm. I had one more stop to make before I finally severed all my ties to the town I had grown up in.

The cemetery wasn't far from my old home. The wind had picked up a bit, flurries flying up into my face as I walked along the sidewalk. I remembered playing in the snow as a child too. Mother would always let me go out with the neighborhood kids to the hill on the other side of town to go sledding, even if my father hadn't always approved.

As I walked toward my destination, I stopped and grabbed a handful of flowers growing from an empty field.

I turned into the cemetery, passing the large wrought iron gates of the entrance. Rows upon rows of tombstones sat around me, and I made my way along the hardly traveled path toward a corner of the cemetery.

These were some of the older graves, the ones that hadn't been taken care of in a while. Fresh snow covered them all, half covering up most of the tombstones as well. But I knew my way to the ones I was looking for.

There.

Kneeling in front of the large one, I reached out and dusted the snow off of it, revealing the names forever carved into the stone.

Katherine Elizabeth Platt 1875 – 1949

James Edward Platt 1860 – 1930

My parents' names stood out to me. I took part of the flowers and laid them across the top of the grave with a sad smile. My mother had always promised to outlive my father. Apparently she had.

I shifted to the tombstone next to them. I stared at it for a long moment – it seemed unreal that I was staring at it. After all, there was no body beneath the ground where I stood. It was just a marker, nothing more.

Esme Anne Platt – Evenson 1895 – 1921

Another handful of the flowers went across my empty grave. Thankfully, I was not buried to the man I had called my husband for those few terrible years.

I took an unneeded breath as my gaze went to the small marker at the foot of my supposed grave. The rest of my flowers went to rest on top of it.

Thomas James Platt - Evenson 1921 – 1921

My beautiful little son. They had thought to bring his body back when mine couldn't be found, bury him by his mother. The more I thought of his little body buried under the cold ground, the more I found myself shaking. I shut my eyes, the hot venom rolling down my cheeks. It technically wasn't crying – I had nothing in my body to form tears – but the venom had formed its own version of tears, which were now rolling down my cheeks. My hands curled in the snow above my baby's grave.

I hadn't cried about it in a long time. It was time I had. After all, after today I had promised never to come back here. I had to get over it. I had a new life now, and had for almost 100 years. It was time to forget, forgive, and live the life I had been given.

That still didn't stop me from crying.

I don't know how long I sat there in the cold snow, staring at his name carved into the stone.

I didn't sense or smell him coming, not until his arms wrapped tightly around me and held me. I shook uncontrollably, my body fighting against me crying. It wasn't natural for us, but my body had found a way to do it.

My fingers curled in Carlisle's coat.

"Esme, my love, please, look at me."

I didn't want to raise my head, but I did and my un-beating heart nearly shattered again at the worrisome and painful look reflected in his eyes. He was in pain, seeing me like this.

"I'm sorry. I shouldn't have come." I whispered, trying to gather myself together. I moved to get up, but Carlisle held me in place.

"You were right to come here. You were right to cry." He murmured, reaching up to cup my cheek with his hand, gently rubbing away my impossible tears. "I hate seeing you in such pain."

We sat in silence and my gaze went to my son's headstone. I nearly lost it again. My fingers reached down to trace his name, and when I spoke, my voice shook and wavered more than I would have liked.

"I should have known the first minute he coughed. His light skin turned so pale, his cheeks red from his coughing and crying. I remember running my fingers through his thick brown curls as the doctors looked at him - it was the only thing that would calm him down for a few moments. They said it was a cold, told me not to worry about it." My tone changed, going to a monotone. I continued to stare at his grave. "His cough got worse when he was 3 days old. I felt helpless because I couldn't help them. Somewhere in my heart I knew he was going to die, even if I prayed to God every hour to let my son live. He was the only thing in the world I had left.

"I was up all night. I didn't sleep. On the morning of his fourth day in this world, he stopped coughing. It was the most terrible thing - he started gasping for breath. I don't remember much after that. I started screaming, pleading with the doctors to help him - I was still in the hospital because it had been such an intense labor. I was screaming terribly - they had to give me sedatives, I think, which is why I don't remember. I woke up to the doctor signing my release and he told me my baby had died of a lung infection that had been too far spread for them to save him. I felt to blame, I wanted to die. I jumped off the cliffs that evening."

Silence overwhelmed us as the sun began to set. When he didn't say anything for a long moment, I looked up at Carlisle, who watched me intently. I had never really told him the entire story of how my son had died. It felt a bit better to get it off my chest, though, but the pain still lingered.

"I don't know how much I can show you how sorry I am, Esme, that you had to go through that pain." He whispered, almost too softly. He tangled his fingers with mine, our hands resting on my son's headstone. "I knew you wished for death - I still feel incredibly selfish for taking that from you."

"Don't be. Don't you ever say that." I tightened my fingers around his. "In the beginning, I hated that you had taken it from me - but you also showed me that there are at least a few things in my life worth living for. You showed me the best thing I ever did was jump off that cliff."

In my own mind, this was my second chance. God had taken pity on me and given me Carlisle, had given me eternal life. Being a vampire was a second chance for all of us. A chance to fix our broken and screwed up lives.

"It doesn't stop me from being selfish. I should have been there in the first place." He said. "I should have stayed with you from the start. Edward warned me after I left that you would be trouble. He mentioned a letter you had been thinking about writing, how you loved me. He was right about the trouble - many occasions your face would pop into my head and distract me."

I gave a small smile. "Sorry."

"Don't be. I thank God every day that your heart was still beating when they brought you into the morgue; that I was working that nightshift. While you were suffering through the change, I thought about it - there was a reason we had met earlier, and there was a reason fate made sure you lived long enough to get to me." He took both my hands in his. "In our human lives, we have horrors we never want to think about and never want to remember. It doesn't matter what happened in those chapters of our lives because it was just another phase. Nothing there can hurt you anymore."

I knew there was a reason I had loved him so much.

"I know." I said softly, looking back down. "My son is in a better place now, though. Eventually we'll join him - but hopefully not for a while."

He gave a faint smile.

"You are the strongest woman I know, Esme. I don't know what I'd do without you."

"Well, you know where I'd be without you." I said and reached for the shoebox. I'd be at the bottom of a cliff. "Let's go. There's another place a few hours from here I want to go."

Ashland was just as snowy and pretty as Columbus. It was night by the time we reached it, so the entire town was lit up. Thankfully, we weren't going through the town - otherwise I would have ended up at the house I had lived my last few months in, and the school where I had taught. I wanted to avoid those places.

Carlisle had never been to this part outside of the town, but I knew the way easily - since it had been the last things I had ever seen as a human. We walked at a human pace together up to the top of the cliffs.

I went right to the edge without a single hesitation and looked down. It was a wonder I had somehow still managed to live after that jump.

I shut my eyes - I could feel the wind rushing by when I had jumped, I could hear myself screaming, then, nothing.

The hand tightening on mine brought me back to reality. I looked over - Carlisle had stepped up beside me.

"I'm fine." I assured, reaching into my pocket. I pulled out the photograph and letter. "I want you to keep these. They're the only thing of my old life that connect me to you." The rest were pretty much meaningless now. That chapter of my life was over.

I pitched the shoebox over the side of the cliff.

I turned back toward Carlisle, who was gently folding the letter and photograph into his pocket, his hand still curled tightly around mine. He looked at me, regarding me as if I were about to jump over the cliffs again.

Even if I wanted to, it wouldn't have killed me.

But I didn't want to. I had Carlisle now, and I had my 'children'. They filled the gap well enough. I loved all of them, more than anyone could ever realize. My life wouldn't be complete without them - losing one of them would probably drive me over a mental cliff and I'd go into a breakdown. I'd probably have to go ask the Volturi to kill me.

Thankfully, I didn't have to worry about any of that.

Carlisle pulled me toward him, into his arms. I rested my head against his chest, merely breathing in his scent for a long moment. A mix of the sterile environment of the hospital, sandalwood, and the fabric softener I used in the laundry - it was my favorite smell in the world.

"Love you." I murmured, voice muffled by his chest. His fingers tangled in my hair as he kissed the top of my head.

"Love you more." I could hear the smile in his words. "Ready to go home?"

"Absolutely."