Disclaimer: I do not own Twilight or its characters. They are a property of Stephenie Meyer. The plot settings in this story, however, are mine, and are not to be reproduced in any form without prior permission.
Written for, and winner - first position in Judges' choice, and second place People's Choice - in 100 Pictures Competition, organized by Fanficaholics Anon.
The Edge of the Earth
I sat on the edge of the earth...covered with thick fog, sometimes even clouds. I loved coming here. I loved that I could escape it all by coming here, that I could lose myself in the moist grass and the beautiful sky and surrender to the arms of sunset. But I would have to go back as soon as the dark descended, for my mother and my governess would wake up from their evening nap. I sighed. When everyone was asleep, my soul would awaken here. Something about this place was just magical. It calmed me. It soothed me. It made me see that there was a reason for living still. All wasn't lost. There was nature, there was beauty, and there were trees and creeks and blue skies and stars...there was brilliancy. I was yet to see so many places like these. I was yet to explore such miraculous sceneries that the Lord painted. I couldn't end my life yet; I hadn't lived yet.
I sat here every day with some book in my hand. I was well-read. I knew how to read and write. But my education was being cut short, for I was to be trained to fit into the propriety that the society of 1918 demanded. I hated it, but I didn't voice that, for my mother or my governess would not hesitate in disciplining me to teach me how a young lady should behave. I hated having to wear long-sleeved dresses to hide the bruises on my arms after my 'disciplining' sessions. I hated that the pain intensified after the beating was over. I hated that my arms still throbbed for over a week. I hated when they scolded me for crying so much. I hated that I always disappointed my mother. I hated that she'd become this twisted version of what she used to be. I hated that my father went to War and died and left my mother an empty, vain shell of her previous life. I hated that my mother got aggravated easily and expected me to give us a better life, using my charms to attract a rich gentleman. I hated that mother was angry at the world for taking my father away, angry at herself for letting him go, and I was the one who had to bear the brunt of that anger, for I looked like him, spoke like him, and reminded her of him. I loved him. I missed him. But I couldn't grieve over him now. I couldn't help but think that in death he had found a peace that I never would know in life. Soon I would join him.
It was September 13, 1918, my seventeenth birthday. I hated my life. I hated living. I ran and ran and reached this Heaven on Earth. I saw the water and knew I would jump. I knew I only had to take a deep breath and just do it. I was mentally preparing myself; I had even taken a step forward when I heard a voice beside me.
"Don't do it," he whispered in the wind. I was startled. I snapped my head up and met a pair of green eyes. Eyes so intense, so emotional! It was as if green flames were staring back at me. I hadn't even sensed him there. I didn't know who he was, but I wasn't scared as I should have been of a stranger who looked about my age. I was alone here; nobody even knew I was here. No one would find me, should something happen. Yet I stood there, completely mesmerized. I didn't have it in me to be afraid of him. His presence was such that I felt secure.
His clothes were crumpled up. He wore a white shirt under his thick, grey sweater with noticeable holes in it. His bronze hair was in utter disarray, and he looked exhausted. He had bags under his eyes. In fact, he looked rather malnourished, too. I wasn't a vain person, but he definitely belonged to a poor family. But even in such bad shape, he was beautiful. He was the most beautiful person I had ever seen.
"Who are you?" I whispered, even as my logical being begged me to flee.
"Why are you crying?" he whispered back, rather than answering.
"I asked you first," I pointed out.
"You should answer first, too," he retorted.
A small smile graced his perfectly sculptured lips. I started at his audacity. How dare he speak to me that way! Did he not know who I was?
"Do you not know who I am? What business have you to ask me of my emotions?"
"You're Isabella Swan, and you live in the big house a mile from here. I know you," he said quietly.
All color drained my face. He knew me. He could be dangerous.
"How...how do you know who I am?"
"My father owns a farm. The vegetables that arrive in your house are delivered by him."
"Who are you?"
"You still haven't answered why you are crying. I won't tell you my name until you tell me."
"I should go back," I said hurriedly and walked past him. I felt his hand encircle my wrist and panicked. Maybe he wanted to take advantage of me! Oh, how horrible! I should have jumped quicker!
I tried pulling my hand free, but he was stronger, and he spun me around. When I looked at his expression, all my fear faded. He seemed to be struggling with an unnamed emotion. His eyes were pained.
"Don't go," he whispered, his eyes beseeching. "I have no intentions of harming you, I swear."
"Who are you?" I demanded again.
That incident had happened six months ago. I sat there today with a stolen copy of Charlotte Bronte's Jane Eyre, leafing through the pages with utmost interest. Yes, I actually stole it from the library that was now locked all the time. My father loved the library and reading to me, and my mother made sure nobody entered it after his death. Regardless, no one would have let me read this book. The only books I read now were on how I should model myself to become a perfect lady. But I took the keys from mother's room when she had gone to the tailor to get her new dress made, and I snuck into the library and stole this treasure. I was proud of myself.
However, I couldn't get my mind to shut off. I was getting worried by the minute. Edward was over thirty-seven minutes late. He came here every day to see me. He was the only friend I had. We sat on the edge of the river and spoke of everything. I found out that he indeed was very poor, but was fairly well-read and could write. I would sometimes bring a book for him, too, and we'd read together. He had a spirit that couldn't be matched. He wore the same white shirt, black breeches and holey, grey sweater every day. When I asked him about it, he told me they were the only clothes he had. I felt bad instantly and apologized profusely. But he waved my apology off with a chuckle and assured me that the clothes were clean as he washed them every alternate night and let them dry out while he slept. Then he leaned in and mischievously whispered that he slept naked. I blushed, of course, and admonished him for saying something so inappropriate in the presence of a lady. He laughed at my reaction and told me I was adorable. I just shook my head at his antics.
He wasn't ashamed of his poverty. I presumed his determination would take him away from the clutches of the societal status he was born to. When I mentioned to him that I thought he was a very hard-working person and that he could get his family out of poverty if he set his mind to it, he just gave me a sad smile and did not reply. I figured he didn't like to talk of his family's poverty, so I never mentioned it again. We rarely spoke of his family after that.
I told him everything. I told him what my life used to be and what it had become after father's death. I told him of the regular beatings I endured and how I hated them. Once I ran to get there early after one of my 'disciplining' sessions. I couldn't bear to look my mother in the eye after seeing the angry red marks on my arms. I couldn't bear to look myself in the eye either, knowing that I was a complete disappointment. When Edward arrived half an hour later, he took one look at my teary eyes and understood. We didn't talk that day. He just held me close to his chest and kept wiping my tears with his fingertips. He tenderly kissed the top of my head while we were going back to the worlds we belonged to and said the only words he'd said that day.
"You're not a disappointment. Your mother is blind that she does not see the beauty inside of you, Bella."
He'd taken a liking to calling me 'Bella'. Nobody else, except my father, called me that. It was amazing that in a matter of months he'd come closer to my heart than all the people of my social circle I'd known for years.
The next day, he brought some medicine in a bottle, and applied it over the now blue bruises on my arms, as I sat there sobbing, so touched by his gesture. I told him I would pay him for it, as he wasn't financially well-off, and I knew the medicine must have cost a lot. I told him that he could take either one of my diamond bracelets and sell it. I would tell my mother that I lost it. It wouldn't matter to her much. I would endure another beating, but at least he would have enough money to last a couple of months. He just looked at me with sad, hurt eyes and told me that if I ever suggested something even remotely as absurd again, he would never come back to me. I cried and hugged him, throwing propriety away, and pleaded to him to never leave me. He shushed me, and rubbing my back, he promised he wouldn't leave me.
And yet, he was late today, and I was getting anxious.
Just as I was about to close my book and start walking to the direction he came from to look for him, I saw him walking towards me with a sad look on his face. He sat down beside me with his head down and didn't say a word. I waited for him to speak to me, but he didn't. My patience crumbled after a few minutes, and I broke the tense silence.
"You're late," I stated.
"I was reading Jane Eyre."
"Did you know the one Jane falls in love with in this novel is Edward Rochester?"
"Is it so?"
"Are you angry with me?"
"You aren't talking to me."
I huffed indignantly.
"Would you tell me what's wrong?"
"I don't like when you're sad."
"It makes me sad too."
"Because you're my best friend."
He looked up at me in surprise.
"Yes. And I'd rather you took your anger out on me than wallow in your depression."
"I'm not wallowing."
"Yes, you are."
He shrugged his shoulders.
"Is it something I did? If so, I'm sorry! Please don't shut down on me this way. I can't stand it; it hurts me."
"It's nothing you did. Don't apologize," he said quietly.
"Then what's wrong?" I insisted.
"I visited my parents. That's why I was late."
"What do you mean you 'visited'? Don't you live with them?" I asked, confused.
"No, my parents live in a small cottage by the farm. I live somewhere else."
"Where do you live, then?" I was curious.
"It's not a place worth mentioning."
I huffed again.
"Why are you being evasive?" I demanded.
"Bella, what does it matter where I live? You already know how poor I am; it can't be a place suitable for the likes of you. It's not a mansion like yours," he said bitterly. It stung, and my eyes filled with tears.
"I didn't choose to live in that mansion," I whispered, brushing a hand across my eyes.
He caught the movement and stared at me in horror when he saw that I was crying.
"Forgive me. I wasn't thinking before I spoke. I didn't mean to make you cry!" he said frantically.
"Well, you did make me cry. You're hurting me."
"I'm always hurting everyone, Bella," he whispered in a voice laced with so much agony that it hurt my heart. I took his hand.
"I did something foolish, and ended up hurting my parents. I went to them to apologize."
"Didn't they forgive you?" I asked softly.
"My apology fell on deaf ears," he shrugged.
"I'm sorry, Edward."
He took a deep breath. "So am I."
It was the summer of 1919, and I was deliriously happy. I loved coming out here in such beautiful weather. Not that it was really summer. The weather here was always cold, and I could never rid of the shawl over my shoulders, but it was better than winters, regardless.
Today, however, I was happier than usual. Because for the first time since father died, I saw my mother happy. I didn't know what it was that brought about this change in her, but I was glad. She even combed my hair today and told me I was beautiful. It meant a lot to me.
I skipped my way to the river, holding a bag in my hands. Anyone would say it was unladylike behavior and I should've taken a servant along to carry it for me, but being with Edward for so long without a chaperone, one could say I was past the notions of propriety. I reached the river a little out of breath and was surprised he was there already.
"Good afternoon," I said with a smile.
"To you too," he said, bowing his head and doing a mock-salute. I giggled.
"You're happy today," he commented.
I nodded. "I brought you something," I said excitedly.
"What is it?" he looked at the bag I was carrying, seeming to notice it for the first time, and reached out to take it from me.
"They're clothes. Lots of them. And money."
I had expected to see him happy, but he wasn't. When he looked up, he looked very offended and slightly angry.
"I don't want your charity," he spat.
"This isn't charity, Edward! These aren't old clothes! I bought them for you!"
"Why?" he asked through clenched teeth and threw the bag back at my feet. I bent down to pick it up, ignoring my tears. I had only wanted to thank him for being so kind to me!
"Because I wanted to do something nice for you," I whispered.
"By reminding me how poor I am?"
"Well, you managed to do exactly that."
"No! Those weren't my intentions!"
"What are you trying to prove then?" he asked angrily.
"You care for me. You put balm on my bruises. You remind me that I'm a beautiful person; you saved me from ending my own life; and not once did you ever ask for something in return! I just -"
I broke off when my sobs took over. His expression softened, and he hugged me to him.
"Don't do this to me, Bella," he whispered sadly. "You know I cannot take them."
"It is only your pride stopping you! You didn't let me buy you something for Christmas; you didn't even tell me when your birthday is. Yet, you are here every day for me. This is the only thing I get to do for you. Please don't deprive me of this!" I pleaded, looking up at him through my tears.
"Bella, you already give me everything. You're here. You're my only friend. You care for me. That's enough."
"No, I absolutely insist." I thrust the bag at him.
"Should you refuse, I would think you do not care for my feelings!"
"You don't fight fair."
"I never said I did."
"Bella, I can't..."
"Please. Please, please, please!"
He looked like he was about to cry, though he was trying hard not to. I just hugged him tighter, my tears soaking his old grey sweater, and he dropped the bag to hug me back. I closed my eyes when I felt his lips on my forehead.
"Thank you," he whispered.
I beamed at him. "You're welcome."
"If I asked you something, would you tell me the truth?"
"Of course," I replied instantly.
"You didn't steal money, did you?"
"No, I didn't."
"Then how did you buy all these clothes, and whose money is it, on top?"
"If I tell you, you have to promise me you won't return it."
He set his lips in a thin line.
I stared at him and refused to speak till he promised.
"Fine," he said at last, resigned.
"Do you promise?"
"Say it. Say that you promise."
He rolled his eyes. "I solemnly promise you, my Lady, that I shall not return this gift you have bestowed upon me, irrespective of what you shall now reveal," he said in a mock-formal tone. I giggled.
"Okay," I said and sat down. We'd been standing all this while. My legs were tired. He sat down in front of me.
"So..." he started.
"Wait. First, I have something else for you."
"Now what?" he groaned.
I reached into the bag and took out an apple. He laughed.
"Just like that," I shrugged. "I was in a good mood. Before I left the house, I grabbed it off the table. It's for you."
"I'm not hungry."
"You're never hungry. Honestly, Edward, I've been seeing you for almost a year, and not once have I seen you eating anything."
"I eat before I come here."
"Why don't I believe you?"
"How would I know?"
"Oh, come on, Edward. It's just an apple. Take it," I forcibly took his hand and placed it in his palm. "Now eat," I commanded.
"Bella, I'm really not hungry. I'll eat it later."
"Okay. But will you tell me something?"
"You do have enough money for food, don't you? I know I never enquire about what you do, because I'm scared of hurting your feelings, as I inadvertently managed to do just now. But please be honest."
"I have enough." He looked uncomfortable.
"Well, that's good, I suppose, because I read somewhere that a human can die if he doesn't get enough food. And you know, you do look malnourished," I teased him.
He chuckled, but didn't say anything. I thought I'd hurt his feelings again. I stared at my knotted fingers in my lap.
"I'm sorry if I hurt your pride, Edward. I just need to know that you have everything you need."
"I have you. I don't need anything else," he said seriously.
I blushed, and he reached out to tilt my head up with the fingers of his free hand under my chin. Then he proceeded to place the same hand on my cheek.
"You're beautiful," he breathed, "not just the way you look, but you have the most beautiful heart ever. Thank you for everything, Bella." He paused and slowly retrieved his hand. "Now tell me."
I sighed. "Before my father died, he left me a diamond encrusted hairclip. It belonged to my grandmother. He was saying a goodbye to me in his own way. He knew he wasn't coming back from the war." My throat tightened towards the end, and I had to take a deep breath before I continued, "Anyway, he told me that he wanted me to have it and sell it someday. I couldn't wear it, of course. He didn't want my mother to see it. He knew she would take it from me. But he wanted me to have whatever came of it, and he asked me to spend the money on whatever was most precious to me. He told me he would still be there with me, as long as I had whatever my heart desired. This is what grandma wanted; this is what he wanted."
"So...you're saying you bought my services through this," he said somberly.
"Edward Cullen, what an abominable thing to say! That is not what I meant! He wanted me to spend it on what was most precious to me. You are most precious to me!"
"It's too much, Bella..."
"I know. My father was a generous man," I chuckled teasingly, trying to make things lighter. He didn't even smile.
"Edward, please listen to me. It's not too much. If you don't like the clothes, you can give them to your parents. I won't complain. My chambermaid and I shopped together. Some of the clothes are of her choice, too. I couldn't go alone to shop, you know. I even bought her a dress so she won't ever mention to my mother that I shopped for men's clothes."
"That's not what I meant, Bella. I mean, you just handed me the last thing you had of your father!"
"You're wrong, Edward. I still have his memories."
When I turned eighteen that year, it was a double celebration. It was also exactly one year since I had met Edward. I didn't know if he remembered it, but I could never forget it. A year ago, I wasn't even hesitating in ending my life, and here I was...he'd taught me to live. He gave me hope. He made me promise him I would never resort to taking my own life because it was a gift too precious to be thrown away. He assured me that regardless of what happens in my life, I would survive it because I was a strong person. I knew I wasn't, but he believed so. I wished I were as strong as he was. At least, I had a comfortable home, a comfortable bed to sleep on. At least, I got three meals a day. Regardless of what he said, I was sure he wasn't getting enough to eat, and no matter what I said, he wouldn't let me help him. I had even asked him if he wanted a job at our house as a gardener. The pay wasn't much, but it was enough to sustain him, and his family. Plus, it would mean that I could see him all day without having to sneak out.
His outright refusal stung a bit, but he assured me that he was okay and so was his family and that they were very grateful for the clothes and money I'd sent them. Yes, he didn't take any of it. He still wore the same clothes. But I didn't complain. I'd promised him I wouldn't. But I still wished he had something of me.
This was an important day for both of us, and I was highly disappointed when neither my mother nor my governess took her afternoon nap. They were busy planning the evening get - together. It was my official coming out party. I was to be introduced to Society as another unmarried lady, seeking the courtship of a rich gentleman. I had begun to think these proprieties as absurd. What did it matter if my dress wasn't the most beautiful? What did it matter if my hair was in disarray? What did it matter if my shoes were made for comfort and not for style? What did it matter if my waist wasn't slim enough?
It was all futile. I had the most beautiful of people as my best friend, and he cared for me irrespective of my wealth and status or the kind of dresses or shoes I wore. It didn't matter to him. It didn't matter to me.
I wanted to see him today so badly, and it was killing me that I couldn't. My mother picked up on my morose spirits and gave me a nice lecture on how I shouldn't let my emotions show. Irrespective of how I actually felt, I was supposed to put on a smile for the sake of the crowd gathered. But it didn't matter what this crowd thought of me. Sure, they were here for my birthday, but I didn't know them beyond their surnames and that they were wealthy. I would take a bet that they had all the treasures in the world, but they did not have a heart as lovely as my Edward's. He was richer than all of them.
Edward. Oh, how I wanted to see him! What must he think of me? Would he be waiting for me, right now, worrying about what was taking me so long?
As soon as I was about to ascend the stairs and get away from the gathering after my dances with all eligible bachelors, a young gentleman took my hand and kissed it. His eyes were brown and had sincerity to them that I had only seen before in my father's eyes and Edward's. He wasn't like the other men I'd danced with. His stance wasn't stiff. He seemed easygoing. He made me feel like I could talk to him. He introduced himself as Jacob Black and asked me for a dance. I agreed.
When his arms came around me, they felt familiar, as though I'd felt them before. A little while later he revealed that his father and mine were best friends, and so were we when we were little. I understood why he felt familiar. I remembered the two of us sneaking into a ball, looking for his father, and then dancing in another room, trying to imitate the grown - ups. I smiled at the memory, and for the moment, Edward wasn't clouding over my mind. Mr. Black seemed like a nice man. He was twenty one, and his father, too, had died in the war, leaving Jacob his plantations. He told me he understood the enormity of what I had lost, and irrespective of my calm facade, he knew I was hurting for my father. Apart from Edward, he was the only one to have read me so easily. I instantly liked him. He seemed sweet. He kissed my hand again when we parted, and for once, it didn't seem uncomfortable.
After he was gone, my mother cornered me and asked me what I thought of him. I told her honestly that he seemed a nice enough man and that I remembered him from my childhood. My mother smiled with a twinkle in her eyes that I rarely ever saw after father's death.
"He would take care of you, don't you think?" she asked.
"I don't understand, mother, why should he have to take care of me?"
"Well, of course, he would have to take care of you! That's what husbands do!"
"Husband?" my voice was almost a scream.
"Mind your voice, dear, a lady ought not to speak so loudly."
"Mother, I just turned eighteen!"
"I know, darling. You're an adult now; you can marry. Mr. Black there just asked me for your hand in marriage, and I gave him my consent and blessings!" she said happily.
"But you did not even ask me!" My eyes filled with tears of frustration. How dare she!
"What's there to ask, darling? He is wealthy and fairly capable of taking care of you. You yourself just admitted to have found him a charming young man, and I daresay you did look quite taken with him."
"Mother, when I said that I thought he was a nice enough man, I did not mean that he would make a nice husband. I was thinking of him more of a friend, really," I explained patiently.
"Oh, nonsense, dear," she dismissed with a wave of her hand. "Young ladies do not make friends with men. They present themselves well, and after the courtship is over, they marry."
"But I don't want to get married!"
"Isabella, you will not speak to me in such a manner!" she said sternly. Then she softened her tone a little. "Imagine what your father would say if he heard you right now. He would be disappointed, Isabella. He had such high hopes for you. And Jacob Black is his best friend's son. This is what your father wanted. Do you not wish to honor his memory?"
"What do you mean?"
"Before he went to war," she choked a little, and her eyes filled with tears, "your father made me promise that I would get you married to Jacob. It was the only way he and Jacob's father thought that we would be well taken care of. You know our wealth is not a constant, Isabella. It is decreasing by the minute. We do not have a man in the family to earn. Our only hope is you. Don't let me down, Isabella. Don't let your father down. When he proposes tomorrow, you are to accept it, are we clear?"
I stared at her dumbfounded. Everything was happening too fast. Everything was spinning out of control. Married? At eighteen! I couldn't do it. But this is what father wanted, I reminded myself.
But what about what I wanted? What about Edward?
Edward. I had to see him. I needed to know what he felt for me.
Once it was nine in the night, I snuck out of the house again. Everyone had gone to bed, but I couldn't sleep without seeing Edward. I didn't know what I expected. And I didn't know how or where to find him. Obviously, he wouldn't be waiting for me still, as it was quite late in the night, and we usually met around four in the afternoon and stayed together till sunset. But when I got there - there he was! He was pacing and muttering something to himself, while running his hand through his hair. It was dark, and I couldn't see his face clearly, but when he snapped his head up to look at me in the moonlight I could see his features twisted in pain. He looked utterly heartbroken. As soon as he saw me though, he held out his arms, and I ran into them. I clung to him, and the desperation in his hold frightened me.
"I'm so sorry," I whispered. "I tried to get away but -"
"Shh," he mumbled in my hair. "I know."
"How would you know?" I mumbled into his chest.
"Because it's your birthday. Happy birthday," he said, but his voice was sad, and I was aching to comfort him.
"What's wrong, Edward?"
"I wish I had something to give you," he whispered, and his voice broke.
"Oh, Edward." I stepped out of his arms around me and sank to the ground, pulling him to me. We sat there in the moist, cold grass, his head on my shoulder.
"Edward, there is something you can give me."
"Ask me. Anything you want is yours."
"Kiss me, Edward."
His eyes flashed to mine in surprise. I nodded to show him I meant it. I knew the enormity of what I was asking. I knew I needed it. I knew I was in love with him. I wanted him to give me my first kiss. I wanted him to give me all my kisses. He looked at my lips before looking into my eyes again. I drowned in the depth and emotion with which he looked at me. Slowly, he bent forward and ran his hands up my arms. I shivered.
"Are you cold?" he whispered. I shook my head. He bent forward a little more and gently brushed his lips over mine before pulling away. But I wasn't willing to let it end so soon. I'd never felt more beautiful; I'd never felt more loved; and I'd never felt the tingles that were coursing in my veins. My blood was singing.
So I bent forward and snaked both my arms around his neck, holding him in place. He understood and bent and kissed me again; this time, the pressure on my lips increased. I moved my hands so that one was tangled in his hair and one was on his hard jaw. Then, I kissed him again, taking his lower lip in between mine. He tasted so sweet. He pulled away a little, but his hold on my waist tightened before he kissed me with abandon, letting his control go. His tongue darted out to taste my lower lip, and I let my tongue meet his. Then, it was as if the world ceased to exist. We were here...at the edge of the earth, grasping each other like we needed it to survive. We'd left the other people in the world behind, sleeping, surrendering themselves to their nightly dreams, but we were there, in that moment, living a reality far better than the most beautiful dreams.
I'd never felt more content.
We broke away, panting, gasping for air. Our foreheads rested against each other's, and I was still caressing his beautiful face.
"Well, happy birthday, then," he whispered with a smile. I didn't have it in me to smile back. I knew he'd kissed me with feeling, but how much did he feel for me?
"What's wrong, Bella?"
"Edward, I..." I trailed off, unsure of how to begin.
"Bella?" he asked when I didn't continue.
"I danced with a lot of gentlemen today."
"I'm sure that must have been fun," he grinned mockingly. He knew I hated dances. I smiled at his attempt to make me smile.
"Ah, there it is, the smile I was waiting to see!" he exclaimed and nuzzled my nose with his.
"And I met a man called Jacob Black. I used to know him when we were little."
"Go on," he urged, when I had stopped speaking again.
"He wants me to marry him," I said in a rush, my words a little mashed together.
He didn't reply. I saw as his emotions mirrored across his face. Disbelief. Anger. Shock. Hurt. Pain. Determination.
"You can't marry him," he said frantically.
"Why not, Edward?" I probed, wanting him to admit his feelings for me.
"Because I...because I..."
But he didn't continue. He kissed me again instead, this time even more forcefully than before. One of his hands tangled in my hair, as the other pushed me down gently by my shoulder, so I was now lying on the grass, with him hovering over me. He didn't break away till I started gasping for air.
"Edward..." I said his name like a chant, a prayer, hoping he could hear the love in my voice, because it was as true as truth could ever be. I loved him. I loved him with all my heart; I loved him with all my life.
"I love you, Edward."
The sentence hung in the wind. It was like time had frozen. Everything had frozen. I wasn't even sure if he was breathing anymore. For a second, I saw it. I saw the same love reflected in his eyes. In that moment, I knew he loved me back. I only needed him to say it. His eyes had happiness in them. Then, I saw the same sadness, the same despair, the same longing in those green flames. But just as quickly, it was all gone.
Then, I saw the one emotion in his eyes I hadn't seen before.
He shook his head. "You can't love me, Bella," he said in a strangely cold tone.
"But I do!"
"Because I'm asking you not to."
My eyes filled with tears. He didn't want me. He didn't care for me as I thought he did. He didn't want me as a part of his life.
"Don't cry, Bella."
"You just shattered my world. How can you expect me to not cry?" I whispered and sniffled. He tried taking me in his arms, but I shook them off.
"Bella, listen to me. I don't have anything to give you. For Heaven's sake, I can't even buy you something for your birthday!"
"Is that was this is about? ! Edward...I don't care about money! If we get married, all that is mine will be yours! You can start your own business and -"
"This isn't a fairy tale, Bella!" he snapped at me harshly. "Things do not work that way!"
"How else do they work then?" I asked in frustration.
"You belong to a different world, and I do not have a place in that world, you hear me? Your place requires you to settle down with some nice man like Jacob, who can provide for you. I can't give you anything."
"I don't want anything! I only want you!" I sobbed. "Please, Edward, please don't do this."
He moved again to put his arms around me, and I let him. I didn't have it in me to fight anymore.
"Please, Edward," I sobbed over and over. "I'll die without you." I felt his whole body shudder against mine, as we were still lying on the grass. He was crying, too. "Never say that, Bella. Never."
"Edward," I whispered and locked my fingers in his hair.
"No, Bella. Go home," he whispered.
"You really don't want me?"
He just shook his head, and I crumbled. I'd never known that it was possible for a human to feel such ecstasy and heartache in a matter of minutes. I came crashing down. Sobbing hysterically, my vision blinded by my tears, I stood up, and he stood up, too. Before I could turn around, he grabbed me and pulled me to him. I had no idea how long we stood there, crying in each other's arms. It felt like hours, but was probably only minutes. This was a goodbye; I could feel it in my bones. I was saying a silent goodbye to my one and only love. I was saying a goodbye to my heart.
Slowly, he pushed me away, as I was unwilling to let him go. I resisted and clung on to him tighter.
"Stop, Bella. Go," he insisted.
"I...I -" What? What could I say to make it right?
"Just leave, Bella...before I lose the strength to see you walk away."
But he didn't let me say anything further. He crashed his lips to mine, one last time, and freed his collar from my grasp. Then he took my arms from around his neck, took both my hands in his, and kissed them reverently. With one final glance at me, he dropped my hands.
"Go. Live your destiny," he whispered.
I turned around and started walking before I could not. He never said he loved me back.
I came back in the morning. I don't know what for. I spent the whole night crying, letting the darkness of my tomorrow to consume me. I told everyone that I needed to be alone. Thankfully, nobody questioned me or offered to go along. They thought I was missing my father since I'd turned eighteen and was about to be married.
I walked and walked, tripping more than usual because my vision was blinded by my tears. Once I got to our usual spot, I did not stop. I kept walking along the edge. I didn't know where I was going. My feet had a mind of their own today. The only thing I knew was that I was going to Edward, even though I didn't know where he was, where he lived, or what he did. I was walking to the direction he came from. I'd been walking for hours, and I didn't care. I was so far gone that I didn't even know how to make my way back.
A cold wind passed, making me shiver and hold my wrap-around tighter. My feet were aching, and my knees were throbbing. I'd never felt more desolate. I'd never felt more alone. Desperate to see him I called out.
"Edward!" I cried, hoping he'd hear and find me. But such things were only a part of fairy tales. And my story was far from it, as Edward pointed out. Of course nobody replied; of course I didn't find him.
I finally saw a small cottage, right at the river bank, and rushed to it. It was the only cottage there was as far as my vision could see. I knocked. "Edward!" I cried.
A middle-aged woman opened the door and looked at me in shock. I presumed she wasn't expecting to see someone like me at her doorstep. She had the same colored eyes as Edward. Startling green. Her hair was the same shade of brown. And though her clothes were torn and her eyes sunken, she was just as beautiful as her son. I had no doubt in my mind that she was his mother.
"Mrs. Cullen, where is he?" I asked frantically. "Where's Edward?"
What little color there was, drained from her face. Instead of answering, she walked inside, and I heard her feeble voice.
"Carlisle," she called out faintly, and her voice shook.
I followed her inside, though she didn't invite me in. I didn't care. I gasped when I saw the clothes scattered around. They were the same clothes I'd bought.
"Edward," I called again and heard a gasp behind me.
"Edward?" I said again, as I turned around, but was disappointed when I saw his father standing there, just as shocked as his wife had been.
"Miss Swan?" he asked in surprise.
"How do you know me?"
"I deliver vegetables at your house, ma'am," he said, bowing a little.
"Oh, Edward mentioned that. Where's Edward? I need to see him. Please."
I heard his mother gasping over and over, as if she were hyperventilating. She sank to the floor. There was no furniture in the house. Carlisle rushed to her side and held her tightly. "It's alright, Esme; it's okay, dear," he chanted and tried to soothe her. Once she was calm enough to breathe normally again, he sat her down and put a blanket over her and came to me.
"Shall we take this outside, please?"
I nodded and followed him mutely.
"Child, what is it that you want?"
"I want Edward!"
"Did he owe you any money? I don't have much money right now, but I assure you I'll pay you somehow, and -"
"No! He didn't owe me anything. I just need to see him! Please tell me where he is!" I begged.
"He's not here, Miss Swan. He's gone."
"Gone? How can he go away? He mustn't have gone far, I could still stop him. Where did he go?"
He looked at me as if he thought I was out of my mind.
"He's dead, Miss Swan."
I opened my eyes, completely unaware of where I was. I was inside a house, but it didn't look like my own. Instantly, reality came flooding back, and I let out a startled gasp, getting up off the floor into a sitting position. Immediately, a cold hand was on my forehead.
"No, child. I'm Carlisle, remember?"
"Wait...but...it can't be...how..." I struggled to frame a sentence and started hyperventilating. My eyes were filled with tears that were spilling over. I didn't know if I should breathe or sob. I felt like I was being tortured. I wanted to see him. I didn't come here to hear the news of his death.
"No, no, no, no," I chanted over and over. He can't be dead!
"I'm sorry, but he is."
I hadn't even realized I was speaking aloud. This wasn't happening. This couldn't be. It was bad enough that life wasn't ready for us to be together. Why did the Lord take him from me this way?
"This is where he used to live three years ago. Did you know him well?"
"I loved him. I love him," I sobbed into my hands.
He sucked in a startled breath and got up to get something. He came back with a small wooden box.
"This is all we have of him," he said and handed the box to me. "We don't know what's in it, but he spent all the money he had collected over the years on this box. It's yours."
I looked at him in shock. "I can't..."
"You say you loved him; and I can tell you he loved you back. He used to think you were the most beautiful one he had ever seen."
"He told you about me?" I whispered.
"Yes, you were all he used to talk about. He always used to say he would marry you someday, and we used to laugh at him because obviously...it was impossible. He bought this box for you."
I started sobbing again, as I struggled to get a 'Thank you' out. He seemed to understand as he nodded and hugged me. I noticed Edward's mother, Esme, sitting there with a hollow expression. She didn't even look at me as I wrapped my arms around her. I asked Carlisle one last thing I needed to know.
"What happened to Edward?"
"He jumped in the river and drowned," he whispered and blinked his eyes to clear the moisture. I held the box tightly, and walked away from the house, sitting down at the river bank. He ended his own life. Because of me.
Guilt flooded me, and I hugged the box tighter to my chest. Why would Edward end his life this way if he didn't even want me back? I didn't understand how that could happen, but it was what it was. Still crying profusely, I looked at the box, and I knew this would be the only thing I could hold on to. I hesitantly opened the box to reveal the contents.
There wasn't much in it. There was a white rose, fresh and beautiful. Then there was a silver chain, with a crystal heart on it, which reflected the light of the sun and threw many rainbow shards on my palm. And then there was a letter with the name 'Bella' written on it in an elegant script. I was shocked. I opened the letter hesitantly, and it was a long one. I took a deep breath, and started reading.
I'm sorry I have to do this. I'm sorry you would find out the truth about everything through a letter. I wish I could tell you. I wish I could hold you while I tell you over and over again how much I loved you...how much I still love you. I must ask you a favor before I tell my part. Do not tell anyone about what I shall now reveal. They will not believe you. You would find it hard to believe this as well.
When I first saw you, I was four. You wore a frilly violet dress and had wild, curly hair. I could never forget that sight. You looked like a fairy stepped down from heaven. You giggled adorably when your father picked you up and spun you around in a circle. I was there, Bella. My father had brought me to your house while he was there for his weekly duty. I saw you, and you were majestic. I told my father I wanted to talk to you, but my father refused. When I protested and started crying, he silenced me and hurriedly took me away. I went home and told my mother that I saw an Angel today, and she promptly reminded me that Angels were out of reach for us. I could look, but I could never touch. I was confused and didn't understand why I couldn't be your friend. I hated that my parents wouldn't let me be your friend. My father refused to take me to your house again.
Over the years, I begged my father to take me, and he agreed on the sole condition that I wouldn't attempt speaking to you else he'd lose his job and a major source of our livelihood. I agreed, and we went. I was happy I could see you again and was giddy by the time we returned from the visit. You were beautiful. I came there every week, hoping you would say something to me. But you didn't. I don't blame you; your mother probably taught you to never speak to strangers. In fact, you probably looked at me thrice in all those years. And each time, I rejoiced silently.
I was thirteen when the war broke out. My father stopped taking me to your house after that because he knew your father had gone to war and the atmosphere at your house was melancholy. I didn't like that you weren't happy anymore. Whenever father returned, I would beg him to tell me how you were. "How was she? Did she smile today? Was she crying?" I would ask. My father wasn't happy answering my questions, but he did it anyway.
Once he told me you'd been crying while sitting on the balcony swing. I was so determined to make you happy that I declared enthusiastically that I'd marry you and everything would be alright. My mother gave me a sad smile and said that it wasn't possible. I didn't speak to her for two days after that.
But I wasn't naive, Bella, and I wasn't foolish. I understood the implications of what mother said. I knew you couldn't be mine. I knew that you and I belonged to two very different worlds, and those worlds could not be reconciled. Nevertheless, I longed for you. Years passed this way. I saw my parents struggling to sustain themselves and me, so I moved out. I didn't have anywhere to go, but I started doing odd jobs to keep myself from starving. I carried bags; I fixed appliances; I slept under bridges with only a sweater to keep me warm...I did many things. But in the end, I still didn't have enough for sustenance, and I was too proud to return to my parents and be a burden on them. I knew I had hurt them by moving out, especially my mother. But I did what I had to.
On September 13, 1918, something happened. Something big enough to crush my family. Something that was entirely my fault. I couldn't fix it. What it was, you shall find out. But that evening when I met you at the bank, I wasn't myself anymore. I was lost; I was gone. And I saw you, and I knew I'd been sent to heaven. But you were so upset, and your tears tore my heart piece by piece. I ran towards you. When I saw you stand at the edge, and I saw the determination etched in your features, I was desperate to stop you. I couldn't let you do it. I couldn't let you end your life this way. You had so much to live for! I could see you were pained, but what could be so horrible to lead you to this? When I held you by the wrist that night, it was as if I'd shocked myself. In more ways than one. My mother was wrong...I did touch you, Angel. I could do it. And I swore to myself that I'd take your pain away, even if it meant giving my life, though I didn't have it anymore.
Meeting you everyday has been the most enchanting experience. You are brilliant, Bella. You shine with an unmatched light. I wish I could take back those bruises on your arms and on your heart that life inflicted. I wish I could undo every wrong done against you. When you sat there with me everyday, reading a book or telling me experiences of your visits to the theatre or your ride in a motor car...it was everything to me, Bella. I lived life through you.
Since you're reading this letter, I'm sure you must be at my parents'...my house. The rest of the story will make sense if you do as I say. Behind the house is something you should see. Please, Bella. Don't let it break you...
I wiped my tears hurriedly and gathered the box and the letter close to my chest. I didn't even think of what it could be. And nothing, nothing could have prepared me for what I saw.
It was a tombstone.
It was Edward's tombstone.
Before I could make sense of what was happening, I sank to the ground, over his grave, and cried. I cried for the love that I'd lost; I cried for the hardships he'd faced, I cried that he died before he could live.
But then, something inside me snapped. How could his parents bury him already? I met him last night, and he can't have been buried by morning!
My answers were in the inscription.
June 10, 1901-September 13, 1918
He died a year ago.
He died the day I was about to end my life.
He died the day I met him.
I was too far gone to even frame any coherent thought. With shaking fingers, gasps, and unending tears, I reopened the letter.
I gather you're confused. Even frightened. But it's the truth, Bella. The day I met you, I was already dead. That's why I wondered if I had indeed found heaven. That was the mistake I'd made that crushed my parents. I'd ended my life, Bella. I'd succumbed to the cruelty of my existence. I couldn't take it anymore. I was weak. I was broken. I was a coward. This was the only escape.
The time we spent together wasn't a dream, Bella. It was real. I don't know why I was still here and why you were the only one who could see me or touch me. No one else could. Remember the day I'd been upset...the day I told you that I went to apologize to my parents? I did. I came here and said I was sorry, but I didn't exist. They couldn't hear me or see me, Bella! I was frightened, but more than that, I was devastated. I'd thought that God gave me a second chance to make amends or at least absolve my guilt. But, no. I realize now that God gave me a second chance so I could make you see that life was worth living if you had someone to live for - regardless of the circumstances. And I can understand that now because no matter how hard my life was, what I did wasn't worth losing my parents and putting them through so much anguish when they heard the news of my death.
The medicine I applied to your bruises...I stole it from a nearby shop. What did it matter? The shopkeeper wouldn't have seen me even if I had the money to buy it. The clothes you gave me...how could I wear them? I left them, along with that apple and all that money, at my parents' doorstep that night. They thought some angel had blessed them. But that angel wasn't me, Bella; it was you.
You were kind to me. You are just as beautiful in spirit as you are in body. I wasn't wrong in loving you all these years. You turned out to be even better than I thought you were. I adore you, Bella. I worship you. I love you. I'm sorry I couldn't say it last night. I wanted you to go on and live the life you were supposed to live before I came and stirred everything.
I want you to marry Jacob Black, Bella. I want you to live life to the fullest and make your dreams come true. Write the book you wanted to write, love, and I shall live through that...I will be in those pages, in those words, in every essence of your being.
I don't know why I have to go. I don't know why I can ascend to Heaven now. Perhaps, I was sent to meet you, to know you. This was my last wish. Before I jumped into the water, my last thought was you. I'd wished I could've known you; I'd wished I could've loved you; I'd wished you could've loved me back. And you did...you did. When you told me you loved me, I'd never been happier. They were the most beautiful words, and I shall carry them in my heart for the rest of eternity. I was young when I died, but I can say now that I died a happy man.
My heart is yours, Bella. The crystal one in the box...and the one that now lives in you...and the white rose asks for your forgiveness. Forgive me for hurting you.
I hate to say goodbye. I hate that I couldn't give you the normal, happy, human life you so truly deserve. Promise me you'll live that life, Bella. Promise me you won't succumb to death as I did. Live this beautiful gift you have, love. Live it for your mother, for your father, for my parents... and for me. Know the world, and remember every single detail. After all, I shall be waiting right here to hear it all.
I will wait for you, Bella. Come back to me after fifty, sixty, or even seventy years...
I'll be watching over you, my love. Never think I'm not there. Because I am. I'm right there in your heart.
I love you. Now and Forever
I closed the letter, still gasping for air and unable to stop my tears. I walked to the same edge he'd jumped from. This was where earth ended. This was where everything ended. I held out my arms and let his essence caress me. One step forward, and I could join him. I closed my eyes and saw his beautiful face...I looked back on the world I knew...just walking on the edge of the earth...wondering how long I could wait before I joined him. For it didn't matter what was here, my life began with him. He was my forever. Just one step...and I would be home...