A/N: Thanks to Sandyquill, M81170 and HoochieMomma for their help and support- their generosity is outshined only by their talent.

Stephenie Meyer owns Twilight.

This story takes place sometimes in the late '80s- early '90s.

o o o

When I was sixteen, my parents sent me on a year-abroad exchange program to Europe. They were hoping that, away from our rainy small town, I would lose my social awkwardness and my shyness, and that I would escape the bullying and alienation of my all-American high school.

Their plan didn't quite work out. I ended up in a rainy small central European town where the skies were as grey and oppressive as our own, but without the ocean nearby to escape to. And high school… well, let's just say I exchanged an all-American hell for an all-European one. I remained shy, awkward and isolated, although mercifully the popularity of my host "sister", Alice, protected me from bullying.

That year abroad would have been a completely unremarkable blip in the sad and forgettable tale of my adolescence, had it not been for my abysmal sense of direction and my apparently non-existent sense of self-preservation.

I knew nothing of life outside the elite international school I attended, and barely paid attention when Esme and Carlisle, my host parents, discussed politics and current affairs at the dinner table.

I dutifully took the bus to school and back; I reluctantly followed Alice on her Saturday afternoon shopping trips to town; I wished the days to go quicker so I could go home and hide in my room, cocooned in familiar and comforting loneliness.

Until one day everything changed.

It was a bitterly cold February day. My math teacher was sick, and we were dismissed early. Rather than waiting two hours for the school bus, I decided to take public transport, in the hope that I'd get home earlier.

Things didn't go quite as planned.

I took the bus into town, intending to take a second bus home from there, but I must have gotten off at the wrong stop, and I soon found myself wandering in the back streets behind the railway station as darkness fell, accompanied by icy, heavy rain. I tried to ask for directions, but the unfriendly, hurried locals pretended not to understand my heavily accented French and just ignored me. Finally, defeated, I slumped onto a bench, and started to cry. I was going to have to call Esme, and I hated feeling like a fool.

I must have stayed there for a while… twenty minutes perhaps, long enough for any lingering daylight to dissipate. My tears subsided and I finally mustered the courage to get up and call her.

The flicker of a cigarette to my right distracted me.

Sitting on a low wall a feet away from me was a hunched figure. I couldn't make him out for sure, but I thought it was a man: he was sitting just outside the cone of light cast by the nearest lamppost. I jerked away, scared. I could feel his eyes staring at me intently, could guess the slow, deliberate way in which he was sucking on his cigarette; God knows how long he'd been there, observing me. He was unnaturally still. I wanted to run, I knew I should run—the dark streets were deserted— but I stayed rooted to the spot.

I swallowed loudly, and attempted a small smile.

"Uh… hi. I'm… I'm lost…" Shit, I sounded so stupid. So vulnerable. Just assault me and be done with it, will you?

He made no movement in response to my words, and it occurred to me that, perhaps, he didn't understand English.

"Moi… je suis perdue." I said again, in an even more idiotic tone, ashamed, once again, of my awful accent.

"I understood you perfectly well the first time." He answered back in English- his diction clear and pure despite obvious hints of a foreign language, his tone clipped and icy. Still, he didn't move. I begun to feel uneasy, and my survival instincts finally kicked in. I started gathering up my things and stepped away, toward the dark, empty street.

"Wait." He jumped off the wall and stepped into the light. I turned around and lifted my head toward him, ready to brace myself for a menacing presence and trying to remember the basics of self-defense I'd learned from my father.

But one look at him and my resolve was lost. He was not a man, but a boy…perhaps only one or two years older than I. His clothes were old and not warm enough, his thin denim jacket wet and inadequate in the face of the wintry weather. But what really hit me was that he was devastatingly handsome, with perfect, Grecian features, intense, deep-set eyes, and wavy, disheveled brown hair. He was tall without being imposing, with a proud, erect posture that reminded me of the guys on the swim team back home.

My heart- which had been beating fast, pumped by adrenaline and nerves- missed a beat.

Up until that point I'd always thought I was not the kind of girl to be swayed by external beauty, not the shallow, superficial type whose head could spin just at the sight of a pretty boy. I didn't care about actors, or singers, or any of the heartthrobs who plastered Alice's walls. And yet when I saw him… I'm pretty sure that it was his looks alone that made me stay, when I should have run.

"You said you were lost. Where do you need to go?" His tone was still clipped, an unnatural intonation betraying his foreignness, the consonants hard and unexpectedly musical. But there was kindness there, too, and somehow, against my better judgment, I decided to trust him.

"I need bus number 27. I thought it was here but… I don't know. These streets all look the same…" Tears welled up in my eyes again, more in frustration at my own stupidity than anything else at that stage.

He let out a small, neutral laugh. "Yes. They all look very alike. I know where the 27 stops, I can take you there if you want."

I hesitated. Not that I actually had any better options, but still… it felt wrong to follow him too willingly… who knew who, or what he was.

"I will not bite, you know." There was a sadness in his tone that warmed me toward him and erased any lingering distrust.

"Okay."

I pulled my backpack on and we started walking down the road, in silence, maintaining a distance between us. He was pale and tired looking, I noticed now, and from the slight tremor in his hands and the way he hunched his shoulders, I guessed he must be really cold.

After a while the silence unnerved me, and I attempted to make conversation.

"So... do you live around here?"

"Yes, something like that," was his short, final answer. It didn't invite a follow up question, so I didn't ask one.

In truth, I was curious. I wanted to know what his name was, where he lived, where he went to school. I wanted to know where he was from, and how long he had lived here. I wanted to know what he was doing sitting on a wall, smoking a cigarette on such a horrible evening.

But I didn't ask any of those questions. I just walked with him, trying to keep up with his fast, long-strided steps.

Finally, we converged into a busier street, and I started recognizing familiar landmarks. There was the department store where Esme had taken me to buy new gloves; there, the bookshop that sometimes carried the New York Times. It was busier here, and any lingering sense of dread receded. Soon, I spotted the bus stop, and relief flooded me.

The boy motioned to it with his head, and waited a few feet behind me while I checked the timetable. Shit. I'd just missed it, and the next one wouldn't be for another 40 minutes. Esme and Carlisle would be worried first, and then pissed off. I guess I should have tried to call them but, somehow, the thought didn't even enter my head. Instead, I slumped back down on the bench – luckily it was a sheltered bus stop, because the rain had picked up and turned to sleet—and resigned myself to waiting. The boy hesitated, unsure of what to do, then, with a sigh, sat down on the bench next to me, maintaining a safe distance as he had all along.

"Oh, you don't have to wait for me, you know… it's fine, thanks. You've been very kind already but I'll be okay now." I hurried to reassure him, and perhaps tried to make him leave, a new nervousness at his presence taking hold of me.

He just shrugged.

"It's not like I have anywhere else to be. I'll just wait here with you, if that's okay." He lit another cigarette, pulled up the collar of his jacket, and stared fixedly into the space ahead.

"I thought you said you lived nearby."

"Yes, well, I don't particularly want to go back there, so…" He didn't turn to look at me while he spoke.

I heard it again, the sadness and shame in his voice. I guess, with hindsight, that it was that, coupled with the fact that he looked so vulnerable in his odd clothes and scruffy, out of fashion trainers, that made me feel so uncharacteristically bold with him, when normally I was shy and quiet and incapable of intelligent speech in the presence of a member of the opposite sex.

"Uh, okay." I paused a little, gathering courage."What's your name?"

He turned to me then, stunned.

"You want to know my name?"

"Yeah… is that unusual?"

He shook his head, and looked straight ahead once more.

"Edward. You can call me Edward." The name sounded exotic and tentative on his lips.

"I'm Bella." I extended my hand, then withdrew it, realizing the gesture made me look like a toddler. I tried to cover up my dorky gesture by speaking too much, too fast.

"I'm American, you know, from Washington. Washington State, not D.C., which is what everyone immediately assumes. I'm here on an exchange program. You're not from here, either, right?"

He laughed. A hollow, bitter laugh.

"No, I'm not from here. I guess you could say I'm on an exchange program, too."

"Where do you go to school?"

"I don't."

"You don't go to school? How old are you?"

He turned around, fully this time, facing me, and in the process he moved that much closer to me. Close enough that I could make out the color in his tired eyes—green. Close enough that I could see his long, thick eyelashes and the faint stubble that covered his cheeks.

Not close enough.

"You ask a lot of questions you know? Is that an American thing? I heard you are all so greedy and curious… you think you own the world, and deserve to know everything about everybody."

He shut his eyes, his expression almost pained, while I flinched at the harshness of his words.

He relaxed a bit, and took a deep breath. "Sorry. That was very rude, please accept my apologies. I don't know you but I'm sure you're very nice." His words were formal and solemn. He turned to look at me, a small smile softening his features. "I am seventeen years old."

We stayed silent after that. He continued to smoke—I had never seen anyone so young smoke so much in my whole life. Finally, as the bus pulled in at the top of the street, he turned to me again.

"Well, it was nice to meet you, Bella. Please be safe and don't get lost again. And don't trust people so easily." He stood up and started walking away. I found my voice just in time.

"Edward! Stop! I… how can I see you again?"

He didn't even pause, but continued to walk ahead—shoulders hunched, hands in his pockets.

"You know where to find me." His voice lingered on, long after he'd turned the corner.

o o o

I didn't tell anyone of my strange encounter. Somehow, I knew something was different about Edward, and that perhaps I wasn't really supposed to have met him—that our paths should never have crossed. I also knew, instinctively, that I should not seek him out, that I should forget about that day and be thankful things hadn't taken a different, darker turn.

I knew all that and I was resolved to do the right thing. After all, that's who I was: the girl who did the right thing. The girl too scared to do otherwise.

I lasted three days. On the fourth, I acted. I told Esme and Alice that I had a study group after school and took the bus into town. I tried really hard to retrace my steps, to find that bench and that wall.

I failed.

I should have given up then. I didn't. If anything, I became even more obsessed with finding him.

The next day I skipped class and tried again. This time, I found the spot. It was deserted, forlorn. But I noticed the cigarette butts on the ground, by the wall, and took it as my sign to return.

I had to let a few days go, wait for the right opportunity. It came soon enough— that Saturday, I went into town with Alice. It wasn't hard to lose her: a vague mention of a bookshop, and she was only too eager to spend some time alone with her boyfriend.

I got to the bench and sat down. Edward was nowhere to be seen, but I had time. I took a book out of my backpack, pulled up my knees to my chest, and started reading. It was cold, but not raining. Not that rain would have made a difference.

I waited.

And he came.

He sat down next to me and smiled. I smiled back and probably blushed. I felt suddenly shy, all the boldness and certainty abandoning me now that I had reached my goal. He reached out for my book and, carefully, without losing my mark, he bent forward to see the title. He smiled again, handing it back.

"It's a good book."

"Yeah… I love it."

We sat like that, next to each other, almost touching but not quite, for several minutes. He was just as handsome as I remembered him, although in my memory I had erased all the flaws, the inevitable signs of humanity: the tired eyes, the too-long hair, the slightly crooked teeth.

Even now, I have to force myself to remember that he wasn't, in fact, perfect: that he was just human. In my memory, he's still supernaturally perfect.

So close, I was able to smell him, and his scent—cigarettes and soap, with something else, something I'd never encountered before. It was a surprisingly adult scent, and that gave away more of his history than any words he'd uttered to date.

Occasionally, we turned toward each other and smiled awkwardly until finally, he spoke.

"You found me, see? You're a smart girl. Also crazy—you're not supposed to go after boys like that, especially strange boys you meet in the street after dark." His face became suddenly serious. "Promise you'll never do this again."

"What? Find you?"

"No… trust strangers… especially boys." His tone was solemn: it was something that my dad could have said to me. In fact, it was probably something that my dad had said to me in the past.

"Does it mean I shouldn't trust you?"

"You probably shouldn't, no."

"I want to, though." Who was this bold, brave girl speaking? Was it really me? Where did she find the courage and the determination?

He looked at me, nervously, and in his eyes I saw thoughts and emotions that I couldn't read, couldn't understand. I was in uncharted territory, and it was disorienting and intoxicating, like a new drink or a new food, and I wanted to taste it, savor it. Devour it.

Then, without notice or further words, he leaned in and kissed me.

I'd be lying if I said that's what I expected my first kiss to be like. For one thing, I didn't anticipate it, and surprise overrode any other emotion I felt then. It was very brief, so brief… almost a dare.

Almost as if he was daring me not to trust him.

I took the dare, and kissed him back. Not knowing what I was doing but determined to do it right. He stood perfectly still at first, his lips as unmoving and cold as those of a statue. This only made me more determined, and finally he relented. His lips parted and a soft, whooshy sound came from deep inside him. One hand went into my hair and down toward my neck, while the other pulled me toward him so I was almost sitting in his lap. His tongue sought mine, and I tasted him then—cigarettes, mint, and rain—and my body awakened to countless unknown sensations. I didn't have a name for what I felt then, but now I know what it was… lust and desire, and the giddy, intoxicating intensity of experiencing those feelings for the first time.

We kissed for a long time that day, alternating hungry, almost angry motions with softer, tender ones. His long, slender, cold fingers found my hands and held them tight, as if he needed my grip to control himself.

We barely said a word to each other.

In the end it was the impending nightfall that pulled us apart. I had to go get to Alice. Go home.

"I have to go."

"I know." The mask of indifference was back on his face. "Will you be back?"

"Yes… yes I will. On Monday."

He nodded and lit up a cigarette. I held out my hand one more time; he took it, brought it to his face, then kissed it lightly, like an old-fashioned gentleman.

I walked away and left him behind. Immobile, unreadable.

o o o

I went back on Monday. And on Thursday. And on Saturday.

Soon I was skipping classes, making excuses, finding every possible way to meet Edward. He wasn't always there, at what I thought of as "our" place, but I had no way to contact him and he'd never asked for my number. I accepted this as just the way things were. Crazy as it sounds, the uncertainty, the sense of randomness and possibility of our encounters made them even more special in my eyes.

When we were apart, I couldn't stop thinking about him. It was an obsession. I relived every single minute we spent together, remembered sensations— his touch, his smell, his taste— in such vivid detail I shivered and tingled all over.

When we were together, I lost myself in him and willed him to lose himself in me. I realized early on that he didn't like to talk, that he hated when I asked questions. Sorrow and shame and desperation appeared so often in his eyes; I did everything in my power to keep those feelings at bay, and acquiesced to all his conditions, spoken and unspoken.

Sometimes, when the weather was just too bad, we'd go to a depressing little café in one of the backstreets. I'd drink a hot chocolate or a tea. Never, in all of the months we knew each other, did he take anything more than a glass of water. He never ordered anything, and never let me order anything for him.

I occasionally tried to buy him a drink or food. I tried to give him one of my books once. He refused, proud and scarily determined. Looking back, I'm angry that I never questioned this, than I never insisted.

"I will never take anything from you unless I can give you something back."

I understood, in an instinctive and unfocused way, that I had to respect this, allow him this dignity, and so I let it go. Another condition he laid down, another condition I did not question.

o o o

Most of the time, however, we stayed outdoors.

Our encounters grew bolder, hungrier, and more frantic. There was a small park nearby and we walked there, hiding between the trees, gradually pushing through boundaries in our mutual desire to get closer. Hands grew bolder, mouths grew hungrier, and my body showed me all the things of which I had no prior knowledge.

The weather was getting warmer, and the park started to fill up. It was just a matter of time before someone spotted us, and I was growing uncomfortable with being so intimate with Edward in public; at the same time, I sensed his growing frustration at our stunted physical relationship. He wanted more. I wanted more too, and above all I wanted to give him something of mine, something that he would accept.

On one particularly grey day, as we lay panting behind a tree- his hands having fought and lost a battle with my tight jeans, his breath labored and erratic- he turned toward me and grabbed my hand. He avoided my eyes as he told me, in a strangled voice, half commanding, half pleading:

"Come with me."

I followed him without question, as I did everything with him. We walked perhaps ten or fifteen minutes, farther into the backstreets behind the station that I'd been told, repeatedly, to avoid. He held my hand tightly and kept me close to him, stealing glances to make sure I was okay, without daring to say anything.

We arrived, finally, in front of an old, derelict hotel. It was the sort of building that might have once been respectable and proper, but was anything but these days. The door was open, and I caught glimpses of a gloomy, badly illuminated lobby with worn carpets and uneven flooring. We stood outside, and Edward tightened his hold on my hand once more. He turned to face me, leaning down so I could look at him: his face was contorted by a myriad emotions that I had seen before, but never so intense, never so clear. Shame, sadness, anger and fear passed in waves over his eyes, making my heart flutter and beat so strongly it almost knocked the breath out of me.

"You don't have to come in." He finally said, steeling himself, apparently resigned to my imminent flight.

But there was something else in his face, something desperate and pleading and immensely vulnerable; a hunger for tenderness, for human touch, a loneliness that begged to be eased, a glint of hope that refused to be vanquished.

I lifted my hand to brush his hair away from his forehead, and caressed his cheek as softly as I could.

"I trust you."

He leaned down, his eyes closed, and touched my forehead with his. He brushed his lips against my hair, and pulled me close, his arm protectively around my shoulder.

We stepped in, my heart beating furiously. The lobby was deserted, and so were the dimly illuminated stairs. I could hear sounds—of music, of voices, of an animated conversation in a foreign language—somewhere in the distance. I buried my face deeper into Edward's chest, desperate to seek some familiarity in this place that was so alien and threatening.

We went up two flights of stairs and walked all the way down a long corridor. Edward paused in front of the last door, disentangling his arm from my shoulders, and fished out a key from his pocket. He opened the door, and I held my breath before going in.

I don't know what I'd been expecting. Inside, it was just a modest hotel room—old and tired, with evidence of many years of neglect and decay. But it was also clean and tidy, despite being obviously lived in. There were two twin beds, a sink with a mirror—I noticed two toothbrushes and a razor, and a small, rickety table with a stack of books on it.

Edward closed the door softly and stood, waiting for my reaction, probably waiting for me to flee.

Suddenly I was full of questions— was this where he lived? Why? With whom? What was his story?

I stepped toward him, ready to exact explanations, interpretations, reassurances.

He stood in a corner, his shoulders tense, his eyes downcast, nervously biting his lip.

Instead of asking questions, I wrapped my arms around his waist, and stood up on tiptoes to kiss him. I kissed him harder than I ever had; I kissed him with fervor, passion, unbridled devotion. Whatever was in this room… I didn't care. I wanted to erase his doubts, to banish the demons that were fighting to take control of him. I wanted him to feel alive.

We kissed and touched and shed our clothes before falling into bed. I held my breath, seeing him naked for the first time—he was perfect, gorgeous, and to this day I still remember how glorious his pale skin looked in the grey light that filtered through the curtains. I shivered in fear and delight.

The sheets felt rough against my semi-naked skin, but they smelled clean, they smelled of him. I closed my eyes and inhaled deeply.

"Does someone else live here?" I managed to ask as he unhooked my bra, before I lost all capacity for speech and sunk into a storm of intense and contrasting emotions—nerves battling with lust, self-consciousness with desire.

"My brother. He won't be back before tonight."

He kissed me then, starting at my neck, and plunging down towards my breasts. He brought one hand to caress me there, gently at first, then more insistently. His hand and mouth met as he kissed and licked and bit and touched, eliciting sounds that I didn't believe I could produce. He had done this before, that much was clear, and strangely, instead of feeling jealous, I was glad of it; glad of his experience, glad to let him take the lead.

He trembled slightly as he removed my panties, pausing to look at me.

"Is this okay?" he asked absurdly, as if I hadn't just followed him to a strange hotel, as if we weren't nearly naked and writhing with want. As if I could stop now.

I think I laughed, just a bit, and nodded.

He had touched me there before, quickly and hurriedly, but this time he took his time to explore and invade. The shock of his fingers deep inside me almost made me scream, and he retreated slightly, before starting again more tenderly, more slowly. He alternated light kisses – on my lips, neck, ears—with hushed endearments in a language I didn't understand. It sounded exotic and impossibly sweet. Gradually I relaxed into his touch, and he picked up a rhythm again, his hands growing bolder, his movements more erratic.

I held him tight, so tight, not daring to move too much, not really knowing what I wanted to do, what I could do.

He pulled the blankets over us and shook his head when I motioned to move my hands; so I kept them on his shoulders, my fingernails digging into his flesh.

I lost my virginity that day. It was painful, and there was blood involved. But I didn't care because I finally felt a real connection with Edward; I finally knew I'd given him some tangible comfort. Finally, I'd given him a gift he could accept.

Afterwards, he held me for a long time, his fingers tapping an unknown melody on my back.

"What are you doing?"

"Shhhh…." His voice was a faraway, dreamy whisper. "I'm playing you."

"Like a piano?" I smiled.

"Yes, like a piano." He leaned forward and kissed my shoulder with a tenderness I'd never experienced before. His fingers continued their work, at times feathery light, others hard and fast.

o o o

It became a routine. I would meet him at our usual place, we would walk back to the hotel and have sex. We became better at it, more in tune with each other's needs and predilections, and I started enjoying it more and more. He taught me how to relax, how to go deep inside my body, how to surrender to pleasure. He taught me to delight in our physical connection, to celebrate the ecstasy we could bring to each other.

I could see how much he needed it, how much he needed the release, the oblivion. When he climaxed, he looked absent, otherworldly. He also looked young, the frowns in his forehead smoothing over as he closed his eyes and rolled his head backwards, lost in the intensity of his orgasm. I wanted to see this face over and over, and he teased me that I was insatiable.

But really… I was insatiable for the boy he was afterwards: the tension left his face, the sadness evaporated for a few short hours, even the heavy cloud of shame that hung on to him receded. He held me, sang me sweet songs and verses of poetry, and bit by bit he told me about himself.

I pieced together the story over a number of weeks. He was a refugee. His home country had been under a brutal regime for many decades, and his parents had been political dissidents since he was a baby. They had been imprisoned over five years ago, and he knew nothing of their fate. He and his brother had lived with his grandmother until she died, days before his brother's eighteenth birthday. With no tangible family ties left, and the threat of impending military service, they fled. He didn't really want to talk about the details or the logistics of how they'd gotten here, and all he was willing to share about his current situation was that he was waiting for his asylum application to be reviewed and, in the meantime, he wasn't supposed to work or go to school- he wasn't supposed to exist. I never once saw his brother, but I understood he was working, illegally, on a construction site somewhere, and that Edward was desperate to join him, but his brother wouldn't let him.

"He thinks… he still thinks I might, one day, play the piano again... he doesn't want me to spoil my hands."

His voice constricted, and when I looked at him, I could see his eyes were full of tears that he was desperately trying to fight back. I kissed each of his long, perfect fingers in turn, then made love to him again.

"I won't stay here, I promise you; I won't have this non-life forever. I will make something of myself, somewhere else. Maybe I'll come to America…" his voice was solemn and serious. I kissed him, and he smiled. "I will play the piano again."

It killed me to think he didn't have access to any of the things he needed, any of the things he should have had a right to: school, an instrument, the possibility of working. It pained me to go home at night, have a hot, nutritious meal with a happy family, go to sleep in my soft bed, go to school and neglect my homework and achieve my usual mediocre results when he was wasting away his intelligence, his hope, his dignity.

During those short, intense, frenzied afternoons, as we lay in his narrow bed, grey light filtering through the curtains, spring rain pelting the windows… we were equals. Naked, united by our need, joined by our hunger for each other. All our differences disappeared, and we could almost believe the charade that we were just two normal teenagers exploring their bodies and their hearts, without a care in the world. I didn't want to break that spell, reveal the charade for what it was- a cruel lie, with a too-short expiration date.

Because something else killed me, even though I tried to push it away to the recesses of my conscience: time was running out. I only had a few more weeks before I was due to fly back to Washington. Edward and I had never discussed our future; well, shit, we'd never even discussed our pasts, or our presents for that matter. We existed in a bubble of stolen hours and minutes, hiding from reality, hiding from ourselves.

The end, when it came, was not at all how I expected it. There were no goodbyes, no gifts exchanged, no declarations. No teary kisses, no desperate caresses to savor the last of each other.

I went to our meeting place and found it empty, day after day. After a week or two, I gathered up the courage to go to his hotel— he had always forbidden me to go look for him there. There were unfamiliar faces hovering around, and I grew increasingly distressed looking for someone who spoke English. A small group of people assembled, curious, and closed in on me: the panic of not seeing Edward mixed with the claustrophobic feeling of being surrounded by strangers is one of the most intense, dreadful feelings I've ever experienced. My breath still hitches in my chest just thinking about it.

They'd gone, apparently moved to another centre; no one knew where. Had their applications been decided? Had they been accepted as political refugees, given papers, installed somewhere else, somewhere more permanent? Or had they been deported back to their country, to an uncertain and dangerous future? No one knew, or no one would tell me.

He was gone.

0 0 0

Much as I wanted my life to end, it didn't. It went on, in fact, as predictably and regularly as if nothing had changed, nothing had happened.

I went back to Forks. I spent a lonely, anguished summer crying myself to sleep every night and withdrawing deeper into myself, gradually slipping further out of reach of even those few who cared enough to reach out at all.

I graduated high school and posed in awkward pictures with my parents that are still gracing their mantelpiece.

I went to college, got my useless degree in International Relations, got more embarrassing pictures to prove it. I drifted into grad school for lack of a better plan, and ended up doing a PhD because that seemed the easiest option. I am an expert, now, in the geopolitics of central Europe.

I've dated. I've had short, depressing relationships that brought out the worst in me.

Sometimes I wonder whether this list of facts, of achievements, of landmark moments constitutes a life.

My life.

It is a good life, on the surface of things; my parents are proud of me, I have my own apartment, a respectable shoe collection. I've seen Nirvana live, twice, and have a Kurt Cobain autograph stuck to my fridge.

I could be just another vaguely dissatisfied, unremarkably unhappy young woman, one of many, drifting along into this grey existence.

I could, but I can't.

If I'd never known fire, I could live with the cold; if I'd never known ecstasy, I could live with my solitude.

If I'd never known love, I would not know its absence.

Love.

I know, now, that this is what it was. It wasn't just the desperation, the hunger, or a misguided sense of breaking a taboo. It wasn't just the fact that Edward was a handsome, mysterious boy with elegant hands and a hypnotic voice. It wasn't just that he made me feel wanted and beautiful and needed. It wasn't just his fingers, or his hair, or those deep, sad eyes with the long luscious eyelashes. It wasn't just his deep gravelly voice, or the way he sang to me, or the smell of cigarettes and rain that was so uniquely his.

It was all of these things, and more.

I want to scream at my sixteen-year old self that she'll never feel that way again. That she'll never have another orgasm. That she'll never feel so alive, so wanted, so worshipped.

That she should be brave and defiant and demanding, and she should go looking for him after he's gone, stalk public offices, ask the police for his whereabouts. Get the Embassy involved… Something. Do something.

Don't let life, with its inexorable, steady advance, take over and sweep it all away.

Don't let it all be a dream, a memory fading into nothing as the months and years go by.

A memory of bodies, of whispered words, of ephemeral scents and fumbling touches. A memory filling every void in my consciousness until I no longer know what is real and what is merely an unfulfilled, unfulfillable desire.

A promise… a promise offered in the soft, ecstatic afterglow of lovemaking, and heard so many times in my mind and heart I no longer trust myself to believe I didn't dream it.

"I'll come to America, one day. I'll find you. Like you found me."

o o o

It's been ten years, and he still hasn't found me.

I'm still waiting.

o o o

A/N: What do you think? Will she wait forever, or will he one day find her?