This is probably the penultimate chapter, and the next one will take us more back into the SVM world - and maybe some other characters...
Hope you enjoy -although it is a little angsty in places!
Four-forty-five. I'd slept for over twelve hours.
I rolled over to take in my surroundings. The room was huge and styled in pale gold colours that suited Edward down to a tee. It was definitely his room even though it was just a room in a hotel, and it didn't feel at all strange being there in what should be his bed. I tried not to think about that fact, but it was already ingrained on my mind.
I sat up and took a large swig from the bottle of water that had been placed by my bed – assumedly by Alice – and laid back onto the soft mattress. I wasn't feeling so good again, which was no doubt a result of the leukaemia eating away at my system, Eric's blood having begun to wear off again. I couldn't help but wonder whether I'd be dead if it wasn't for Eric's intervention.
I owed him so much.
But I couldn't accept his offer. It wasn't how it was supposed to be. Eric's kind were sexual and sensual, and ruled by politics. I wasn't that kind of person in life and I didn't think I could be like that in death either. I'd prefer the more sedate lifestyle that the Cullens had. I'd like to be educated and explore the world in that way. They were also almost as breakable as humans considering their aversion to silver, sunlight and pointy wooden objects.
And I just didn't think I could ever bite and feed from a person – even without the risk of killing them or turning them accidentally – and going from what Eric and Pam had told me, bottled blood was not a good substitute. But then would animal blood be any better? Pam was certainly dead against the idea, but then she got to live off humans.
I was sure that I could do it, but the major issue was still Edward. How were we going to have any kind of relationship? And would I even remember what he did to me? I was aware that the vampires lost many of their human memories after the change – did I want that? Would it be a clean slate for us, a new start? But then just because I wouldn't remember it, didn't mean that Edward would forget, and given his penchant for self-loathing and torturing himself, I was sure it never would be a new start.
But still, out of the two options, I knew which one I was going to choose.
And so did Alice considering the look on her face as she burst into my room.
"Bella! You've made the right decision!"
She half pulled me into a hug and I groaned at her exuberance. Could I deal with her enthusiasm for all eternity?
"I need to shower and change," I told her as soon as she let me go, "and I really am hungry. Maybe we could grab some drive-through on the way to Fangtasia?"
"Don't be silly, I'll send Emmett out to get you whatever you want to eat. This is your last night as a human; you may as well have something you really want."
She had a point. "I'd really love mushroom ravioli and a slice of tiramisu." I smiled at the memory of Edward and I on the day of what I always assumed to be our first date.
"I'll get too it," she said with a knowing smile.
She danced out the room and closed the door tightly behind her. I laid down on the bed with my eyes shut for a few moments to collect my thoughts and try and gather the energy I needed before I forced myself out of bed and onto my feet.
It was much more of an effort than I had expected it to be.
Holding onto the wall, I made my way towards the bathroom and towards the large shower unit. I was pleased to see that there was a small seat within the huge stall that would allow me to sit, as I wasn't quite sure I had the energy to stand.
Once the shower was at the perfect temperature, I got in to find that Alice had also placed my old shampoo and conditioner in the stall. It was the one that had smelled of strawberries, and I hadn't used it since Edward left. I didn't know whether to hug Alice or throw something at her.
Once out of the shower and dried, I pulled on the lacy blue underwear on before the black skinny jeans and midnight blue wrap around top she'd provided. I used to hate the clothes that Alice provided, but this outfit suited me and fitted perfectly, even though I had lost a lot of weight in the seven and a half years since she'd last seen me. I applied a little light make-up, dried my hair and went to see the rest of the Cullens.
Only Edward was the only one sat there.
"Where's everyone else?"
"Getting you dinner," he told me solemnly. "Apparently we need to talk."
"Who else?" he said with a slight smile.
"What are we talking about?" I didn't like to think that he knew more than me.
"No idea. She blocked it from me. She knows how much I dislike country music and she was playing the Dixie Chicks on a continuous loop in her head."
I smiled. It seemed like just the type of thing she would do.
"I guess that's not fun."
"No," he sighed. "It's not." I could see that he wasn't happy, however.
"What is it?"
"Nothing … I just … Alice seemed sympathetic to me. It was as if something you were going to say wouldn't be so good."
I assumed, then, that our conversation was going to be about us. How we were going to get along together, whether we would ever be able to be friends. And more than that? I just didn't know.
I didn't doubt that I still loved him, but I had been so hurt by his actions. I just didn't know what the future held for us.
"Do you want me to be a vampire like you?" I blurted out without really thinking it though.
"Of course, Bella. The alternative-"
"No," I interrupted. "I mean, if we had just ran into each other without any of this other shit going on. If I was just a normal, healthy twenty-five year old, would you want me to be a vampire?"
He shut his eyes and clenched his teeth, his strong jaw locking as he thought about my question. I could see the pain and conflict on his face even without seeing his eyes.
I knew what his answer was going to be.
"I would want what I have always wanted for you," he eventually said in a very careful manner. His amber eyes met mine and could see them full of grief. There was no hiding his emotions this time. "I have only meant to protect you from my world. I would want you to have a normal life, find a human male to marry, have children with, grow old…"
"Even though that would hurt you?" I asked him with the knowledge of what he had told me the day before.
"Yes. You are more important."
"You just can't consider my happiness can you? You never could see that I would be unhappy because you made that choice for me. You never could understand how much I loved you and how you were all that I wanted." I clenched my teeth and looked away from him.
Edward didn't move a muscle.
"But it's irrelevant," I eventually said after at least ten minutes had passed with neither one of us saying a word. "I'm not healthy, I'm dying. And I don't seem to have any other option but to join you as a vampire." I swallowed loudly to try to compose myself. "So my question is, what are you going to do after I've been turned?"
He looked confused, like he wasn't expecting my question. "I don't know … it depends on what you want. If you don't want me around, I'll leave…"
"I think that may be best."
I had spoken without really thinking, and the look of shock and pain on his face was pure torture. But it was what I needed. I needed to do this on my own.
He clenched his jaw tightly and stood up. I didn't have Jasper's power, but I was sure I could feel the pain rolling off him. And it broke my heart that it was my words that had caused it.
"I don't mean now," I yelled at him, my voice breaking as I gave into my own emotions. "I just … I need some time … I have to speak to Carlisle, and I can't just have your family abandon you like that…"
"Bella, you are more important. I am the one that has caused all this. And you'll be a new-born vampire, you need them all with you to help you learn how to live as a vampire. You need them. I have lived many years on my own, I can do it again."
His posture relaxed slightly, but I could see what my words had done to him. I wondered whether he would ever forgive me for treating him like this, but I needed to do it.
"When would you like me to go?" he asked after a few more minutes of silence.
I couldn't hold back the sob as looked up at him. He looked heartbroken, forlorn, despondent. I felt exactly the same.
"Please stay until I'm turned. I'd like to know you were there during the change…"
"But you want me to leave before you wake up?" He knew my answer as well as I did.
"I can do that," he said with a nod.
"You have nothing to apologise for."
"I don't mean to hurt you, I just…"
"I understand, Bella. I would never blame you for anything." It hurt to hear him speak my name in such a heartbroken tone, and I was almost glad when he picked his head up. "The others are here with your dinner."
I gave him as warm a smile as I could manage before Alice burst into the room, the rest of the Cullens hot on her heals. I could see from the look that Jasper and Esme gave Edward that Alice had filled them in on my request. I tried not to think about how my decision had affected all of the Cullens, but it was painfully obvious that they sympathised with Edward. Even Rosalie.
"Here's your dinner, Bella, though I have to say it smells disgusting." Alice said cheerfully, although I was quite sure that her tone was forced.*
The Cullens said nothing as I ate a few bites of my dinner – which really was lovely – but I couldn't handle the tension in the room.
"I'm sorry I'm doing this, I just –"
"It's okay, Bella, they all understand." Edward told me, thankfully interrupting me before I had to say any more. "No one blames you for making this decision."
Each one of them confirmed what Edward had told me and I was able to finish my dinner and dessert. I still couldn't help but feeling like I was destroying this family with my request, and I felt like I had to do something to make it better.
"Just give me a year," I told him, my eyes catching his. "I need some time to think, to get used to this."
He gave me a warmer smile that seemed to show some relief. A year still seemed such a long time to me, but for him I assumed it did not seem as long. I felt the tension in the room lift, and Jasper – who had previously looked in pain – let out a sigh of relief.
"I can do that."
"Where will you go?" I asked almost desperately.
"I'm not too sure. I've never been to New Zealand…"
"That's so far away," I blurted out without thinking.
"I think that's the point!" Emmett guffawed, earning a slap from his wife. "What! She wants him away for a year – where does it matter where he goes!"
There was no malice in Emmett's words but he spoke the truth. And that truth was that I was being hypocritical to ask Edward that.
"I'm sorry, it's none of my business." I hung my head slightly and avoided Edward's gaze.
"Bella," he said, waiting to continue until I looked at him. "If you wanted me to stay nearby I would. I just … I didn't think you'd want me to."
"I want you to be safe, and I know that Alice will keep an eye out on you, but if something happened and you were so far away…"
He gave me a smile. "I'll be fine, I promise. Vampire, remember? But I know that Esme wouldn't like me to be so far away. She has been convincing me not to go to New Zealand for years." He gave her a smile and seemed to respond to something she had told him privately. "I'll stay on the continent, I promise." He looked almost … pleased at my concern for him.
"But out of Mississippi?"
"Out of Mississippi." He affirmed.
I looked towards the large windows of the suite to see that the sun was setting and I welcomed the distraction even though I wasn't looking forward to telling Eric my decision.
"We should go soon if we want to be at Fangtasia for first dark."
"We should," Carlisle said, offering me a hand to help me up. One I was very grateful for, as my conversation with Edward had been very tiring.
All the other vampires left me alone with Carlisle as they packed up the suite and started to take the bags down to the car. We obviously weren't coming back here after we left Fangtasia.
"You really don't hate me for wanting it this way?" I asked Carlisle once we were alone.
"Of course not, Bella. We all understand your decision, no more so than Edward. You will be a new-born vampire and you will need all of our guidance, but I understand why you do not want him around. Just … don't be too harsh on him. He loves you a great deal and I would hate for him to slip back to his former state. Or worse."
I shuddered to think what would be worse than how Edward was before and I wiped a tear from my eye as Carlisle led me slowly out of the suite and towards the private elevator.
"Where are we going … I mean, where will you change me?"
"We're going back to our house in Ithaca. It is remote enough for you to not have to worry about any humans, and there are good hunting grounds. But obviously Edward has lived there…" he trailed off as he searched my eyes for an answer.
"You don't need to cut him out completely. I want to be able to remember as I need to think things through."
"Do you have things that will help you remember?" he asked carefully.
"I have journals." I thought of the black leather bound diaries that I had wrote in every day after Edward had left. "I wrote in them for years after he left. It was both my own personal torture and therapy. It seemed to help at the time to write everything down, but I can't look at them now. Just thinking about them brings it all back." I tried to block out those memories, but I failed miserably.
"We'll go to your apartment and collect your belongings before we leave. Those journals will certainly help you remember, and I hope that you will allow Jasper or myself to council you if you require any emotional help."
"Thank you. Remind me of that once I'm turned."
He chuckled as he led me down to the underground garage, me in the car with Esme, Carlisle and Alice, while the others rode with Edward. I hoped that we wouldn't always have this awkwardness hanging over us, but I just couldn't see another way.
We arrived at Fangtasia just after first dark, and Eric was stood leaning on the doorframe at the front of the club as we arrived. He was already dressed in his Fangtasia-wear of dark jeans, black boots and black tank top, and he had his arms crossed intimidatingly across his broad chest.
I simply rolled my eyes at him as I made my way across the parking lot to him.
"You smell worse than ever," he informed me.
"Gee, Eric, nice to see you too!" I slapped him on the bicep and he raised an eyebrow at me.
"What Sheriff Northman is trying to say," Carlisle said from behind me, "is that you seem to be going downhill fast."
Eric gave Carlisle a look before ushering myself and the Cullens into the club. "You've made a decision?" Eric asked with a knowing look. I nodded and followed him to one end of the club where his private booth was located. Pam had seemed to usher the others into an area at the far side of the bar, but I was more than aware that they would overhear our conversation.
"I'm sorry, Eric." I knew he could no doubt feel from my emotions that I wasn't going to be accepting his offer. "I'm going to let Carlisle turn me."
"You're making the wrong decision," he informed me as he leant back into his seat.
"I know that you'd think that, but it's what I want."
"Why the conflicting emotions then. You don't seem happy about your decision."
"This is to do with the ginger one?"
"He's not ginger!" I admonished, but couldn't help bit laughing. Eric always did know how to cheer me up. "His hair is bronze."
"Looks ginger to me. And he also looks like he's gone eighteen rounds with a were-tiger. What did you do to him?"
"We've talked, but … I don't know what the future holds for us. I don't even know if we can be friends."
Somehow telling this to Eric was so much easier than talking to Edward about it. I was highly aware that all the Cullens were listening in to our conversation, and I wondered whether Edward could read Eric's mind. It was something I'd always kept hidden from Eric in the past, as I knew how dangerous it could be for Edward if he could read the minds of these vampires.
"You don't want to be friends with him?"
"It's not that … it's … I always thought if I saw him again it would all be so simple. I imagined the Hollywood-style reunion where we'd fall into each other's arms and all would be okay and forgiven. But I can't. I can't forget like that. He broke me so badly."
"So why are you choosing to let Carlisle change you?"
"Because even if there is a small chance of us ever being able to rekindle what we had, I have to give it a go."
"You still love him." It was a statement of fact.
"Yeah, I do. It's what makes it so painful."
"Well," he said beckoning Pam over to join us, "I will always think you've made the wrong decision, I would have enjoyed corrupting you as my child."
"Wow, thanks. You really have made me realise I have chosen the right way!"
"Bella, Bella, Bella! You'd have given in to me eventually. Trust me on that!" He gave me a wink and I noticed Pam rolling her eyes at his antics.
"It would have been nice to have someone else to have to put up with Eric as well, but I'll admit to liking being an only child."
"A spoiled one at that!" Eric playfully swatted Pam as she bared her fangs at her maker.
"I want to thank you for all that you have done for me. Both of you. I probably wouldn't be alive now if it wasn't for you and I thank you for allowing me to have the choice."
"I hope that you have made the right decision." Eric cast a glance over my shoulder to where Edward was sat.
I really hoped that he couldn't read Eric's mind.
"Come," he said, scooping me up to his arms despite my protests and walking over to the Cullens. "I think it is about time you all left. Don't want you to overstay your welcome."
He kissed me softly on the forehead then deposited me into Carlisle's arms, who placed me down but allowed me to continue leaning on him for support. I didn't doubt that the kiss had solely been for Edward's benefit.
"I hope to see you again someday," I told Eric and Pam after forcing them both into an unwanted hug.
"Only when you have that new-born thirst of yours under control! I wouldn't want to have to kill you." That comment was met by a growl from Edward's direction. "Calm yourself, Cullen. And stay the fuck out of my mind, you might not like what you see in there."
I gasped and Eric gave me a knowing look.
"There is little that gets past me, Miss Swan, you should know that by now. Although I don't blame you for not telling me. The ability to read vampire minds could be a very useful one, and one that I will certainly not forget."
He gave me a wink as Carlisle led me to the car and helped me in.
"Thank you again, Eric, Pam. And goodbye, I guess."
Carlisle softly shut the door and climbed into the driver's seat, Esme beside him and Alice next to me in the back. I waved as we drove off and carried on staring until we could no longer see the bar.
I took a deep breath as I thought about what happened next.
"How are you feeling Bella?" Carlisle asked as he met my eyes in the mirror.
"Tired, exhausted, emotional, confused, apprehensive … I could go on." I gave him a small smile. "What happens now?"
"Emmett is taking the other car to pack up your belongings to take with us." I gasped at the thought of Edward going into my room and reading my journals.
"Don't worry," Alice said, placing a hand on my shoulder. "Your housemate is at her boyfriend's and Edward knows not to look at your belongings. He knows better than to invade your privacy." I let out the breath I was holding and calmed a little. "It will be okay, Bella."
I didn't know quite what she was referring to, but I allowed myself to relax into her as she wrapped a cold, hard arm around me.
It didn't take long at all for me to drift into a deep sleep.
When I woke up I was still in the car, but it seemed to be a different one to before. The leather seats were darker in colour and the scenery outside the car seemed much different to the Louisiana I'd been used to.
"Welcome back, sleepy head." Esme turned and smiled at me from her seat in the front of the car. "We were beginning to think you'd miss the whole journey. We should be at the house in half an hour."
"We're in New York? I slept through the flight?"
"You did," Carlisle told me calmly. "Your body is beginning to shut down so you are sleeping for longer periods. We will not have too much time when we get to the house."
I took a deep breath. This was really happening.
"What's going to happen?"
"I will sedate you first with a strong painkiller and anaesthetic before I inject your heart with my venom. It means that I won't have to bite you, but also that the pain should hopefully be less. Only I have never done it this way before, so until you wake I cannot tell whether it will make a difference."
"It sounds great," I told him. I much preferred the idea of being sedated when the venom was injected into my system as I remembered only too well how much vampire venom burned.
I must have fallen asleep again as I woke to the car stopping and the door beside me opening.
"Come, Bella, I'll take you to your room."
I was too tired to walk myself so I let Alice carry me up the stairs to a room on the third floor of the house. I didn't get to see much of the house, but I could see that it was set in a clearing with thick woods around the outside. The room Alice had brought me to was large, light and airy with a large blue covered bed dominating the room and books lining the walls.
It almost seemed like it had always been my room.
"Carlisle just needs to prepare himself but I know that he wants to start very soon."
I took a deep breath to calm myself. "Alice … is it all going to be okay?"
She smiled at me. "You're going to make an excellent vampire, Bella."
"That wasn't what I meant." She knew it as well.
"I can't tell. There are still so many variables, so many decisions to be made. He would do whatever you wanted, you know that don't you?"
"I do know that. And I wish there was some other way…"
"I know." She got up from her position on my bed. "Would you like me to tell Carlisle that you're ready?"
"Yes …," she turned to leave the room. "No, Alice, can you ask Edward to come and see me first."
She turned and gave me a warm and supportive smile. "Sure."
It was probably a minute later that Edward knocked on my door. I knew that vampires could move much quicker than that, but I was sure that Alice was probably telling Edward something or other.
"Come in," I told him and he slowly walked into the room but remained standing by the door once he'd closed it behind him.
"Are you okay?" I asked him.
"You shouldn't be asking me that," he said, his voice soft yet pained.
I sighed and stared up into his amber eyes. "I feel awful about kicking you out of your own home; pushing you away from your family."
"This is your home now and they've been your family as long as you've known them. Bella, I would do anything that you asked of me, know that. I understand why you have to do this, and if you wished, I would stay away forever. Just to know that you are safe and happy is all I desire."
"I know …and I understand that that is why you left. But you were wrong to do that. You were wrong to assume that your leaving would ever make me better off, and I understand how stupid this seems that I'm asking you to leave now," I was beginning to get emotional, the lump in my throat beginning to suffocate me and I could feel my eyes prickling with tears. "But I need some time to think, and I just can't think straight when your around."
"I understand, Bella. You don't need to explain to me."
I held out a hand to him and he tentatively came and sat on the bed next to me. He placed his hand on the bed close to mine, but did not touch me.
"I do," I placed my fingers over his and gently interlocked our fingertips. I tried to ignore the sensations that ran through me at his touch, but it all became a little too much. "I need to tell you that I love you, that I've always loved you." I took a deep breath and looked away, our fingers still locked together. "But I have to do it this way, I have to know if I really can survive on my own without you."
"Of course. And if you need longer…"
"I don't want any longer. I don't even know if I can cope with a year, but I need to find out if knowing everything would have made any difference."
He nodded once, standing up when I withdrew my hand from his. He seemed to miss the contact even more than I did.
"I love you, Isabella Swan. I have loved you as long as I have known you, and I would wait a thousand lifetimes for you if I had to. I will never forgive myself for what I did to you, the way I hurt you and if you ever do allow me back into your life, no matter how small a role, know that I will never stop trying to make up to you for the wrongdoings I have caused you."
His topaz eyes blazed at me as we held eye contact for a few seconds longer than necessary.
"But you'll be here, during my change." I felt bad asking him to watch me go through something he was powerless to prevent, but the knowledge of him being close by made it seem less daunting, somehow.
"If you wish it, I will not leave your side."
"I will go and get Carlisle for you, he is anxious that he sedate you soon."
Edward turned and left the room, Carlisle replacing him at the door mere seconds after. I was aware that the doctor was talking me through what would happen, but I couldn't concentrate on what he was saying. Was I making the right decision? Was I wrong to put Edward through this?
I turned to look up at Carlisle.
"If you're ready, I'll sedate you now."
"I'm here, Bella." He was instantly at Carlisle's side and looked anxious and pained.
"Okay, I'm ready."
I kept my eyes trained on Edward's as Carlisle expertly injected the sedative into a cannula he'd inserted on my left wrist.
"You'll begin to feel sleepy very soon…"
Edward's eyes were the last thing I saw with my human ones.
"That's three hundred and forty-nine dollars and ninety-five cent, ma'am."
I tried to breathe normally as I handed her the credit card. Just the fact that Alice was making me spend a stupid amount of money on a hair-clip should have been enough to make me massacre the whole department store, not to mention he human blood that filled my senses.
Once I'd paid for my purchase, the far girl behind the counter handed me the small and expensive paper bag and I took it from her, careful to not let her feel my cold skin.
"Have a nice day!"
I smiled what was probably more like a grimace and left the shop to where Jasper was waiting for us outside. The poor man had become our pack-horse for the shopping trip and had many, many bags at his feet. I shot Jasper a look and he sent me a much needed bolt of calmness.
"Did she have to be so goddamned cheerful?"
"Stop being a grouch. You're doing brilliantly!" Alice was grinning and happily jumping on the spot.
"With the bloodlust, maybe, but if you make me go into one more shop I will kill you."
"Bella, it's the best way for your to desensitise yourself to human blood. Jasper and I are not going to let anything happen to you."
"It's more everyone else that I'm concerned about." I snapped at her.
"You know what I meant. Come on, one more shop and then we can go home."
"We've been shopping almost every day for the past three weeks. The humans aren't what's bothering me!"
Jasper chuckled as I growled at his wife, obviously satisfied that I wouldn't carry out my threats to her being. She happily led us all to another expensive boutique where she insisted on me spending another couple of thousand dollars on various outfits.
I really had no idea why I needed so many new clothes, but Alice was insistent. It was a good job that she was able to play the stock market so well as with the rate I was spending the Cullen fortune they were going to start to need to sell assets.
When we got back to the house Alice vanished and left Jasper and I to take the bags up to my room. I noticed that no one else was in the house, so I took the opportunity to ask him the question that had been on the tip of my tongue for a while. No doubt, Alice had seen that I wanted to talk to Jasper alone so had given me that opportunity. It was a time I was very grateful for her ability.
"Jazz," I said as he placed the last of my bags in my room. "There was something I wanted to ask you."
"Sure, but I can feel your anxiety. Are you okay?"
"I'm fine, I just … I wanted to know how Edward is."
He looked a little shocked at my question, and I wasn't surprised at his reaction. Not one of the Cullens had mentioned Edward in front of me in the forty-eight weeks and three days that I'd been a vampire, and I hadn't mentioned him to anyone other than Carlisle either. He knew that I had my journals, after all.
I was sure that they were all still in contact with him, calling him when I was out hunting, or emailing him, but I never caught anyone seemingly in the act. They were obviously much more adept at being sneaky than I had given them credit for. I was also aware that Jasper had gone to see an 'old friend' the week before, and I had my suspicions that it was Edward he had seen.
"Are you sure Bella? I mean, I wasn't too sure how much you remembered."
"I remember it all. My memory of my human days is as good as it was the day before I was turned."
He looked really shocked now. "But you haven't said … does Carlisle know?"
"Yes, and it's something we've talked about, but ultimately I had to think it through on my own. But I need to know how he is. Please be honest with me."
"He's better than he was during the previous seven years." That wasn't much of a help. "But he's at least talking this time." Jasper paused for a moment trying to gage my emotions. "I saw him last week."
"I had a feeling that you had."
"He'll be relieved to know that you remember him, it was hard for him to think that you didn't know who he was." I suddenly felt hugely guilty at not thinking about that. How me not mentioning Edward's name would make him think that. "Hey, enough with the guilt."
"Sorry," I apologised to him. "But I've thought a lot about him recently. Normally when I've been alone so not to bother you."
"You don't need to worry about me. And I will always help you, you know that."
"Where has he been?"
"He's been intermittently staying with the Denalis in Alaska, but has been traveling around the north of the country and through Canada. I guess to some extent he's been on a site seeing tour, but he's looking forward to coming back."
I could see that Jasper was trying to gage my reaction to that news, and I could feel my own emotions spike at his words.
"Where is he now?"
"In Alaska. He'll stay there until he comes back here."
I nodded. "Does he … does he ask about me?"
Jasper smiled at me. "He talks about nothing else, and please don't be angry at any one of us, but he's always asked that we keep him updated on how you've been getting on, and we've told him about how you've done so well with your resistance to human blood and ability to act like a human. He's as proud of you as we all are."
I knew that maybe I should be annoyed at my brothers and sisters telling Edward every little thing that had happened in the time we'd been apart, but I was grateful he'd shown an interest. And it wasn't as if he knew anything really of me or my emotions.
"I'm not mad."
"You're pleased." Jasper stated.
"Maybe I am. I still don't know what's going to happen when I see him again, but I've missed him."
"All this time?"
"Yes. I felt it straight away, although I didn't realise at first that it was him that was missing. I just knew that something wasn't quite right. After my thirst died down I began to feel it even more, and I started to feel jealous that you and Alice, Rose and Emmett and Carlisle and Esme all had each other."
"You were missing your mate."
"Yes, and … I think Edward is my mate." I felt suddenly quite depressed again.
"Bella? What is it?"
"I'm not sure he feels the same way."
"He loves you more than anything. And why would you say you don't think he feels the same? Do you mean about him being your mate?"
"The night he came back … I mentioned that I thought Victoria had come after me because she thought I was Edward's mate. He didn't acknowledge what I had said. He didn't contradict me."
After a little thought, Jasper spoke. "I can only imagine he didn't want to upset you or piss you off, but Edward knows as well as any of us that you and he are mates. I can only assume that he didn't know when he left as even he would have known that a vampire should not be split from his or her mate, but he certainly realised it after he left."
I took a moment to think about what Jasper had told me. I was well aware that vampires felt the loss of their mates very keenly, Victoria certainly did after James had been killed. And considering the way I felt after Edward had left, he felt it worse than I did.
"Edward's pain after he left…"
"Was unbearable." He finished for me. "I couldn't stand to be near him. I think my reaction to him was part of the reason that he took off. I have never felt such anguish coming from a vampire before. Alice told me at the time that he had considered going to the Volturi and begging for death on many occasions."
I gasped at his confession. "What stopped him?"
"His promise to you that we would never do such a thing. At least not if you were alive. He knew that he had broken his promise to not leave you, so he didn't want to break that one as well."
"I'm glad he didn't do anything stupid. I'll admit that I came fairly close myself at times." I unconsciously played with my fingers in my lap, a human trait that I had carried over in my change. "So is Edward with the Denalis now?"
I tried not to think of Edward being with Tanya, but it was very hard not to. I'd met the Denalis about eight months after my change, and Tanya had made no secret of the fact that she wanted Edward. In fact, she insinuated more than once that she was pleased that I had 'pushed Edward away and into her hands'.
I could feel a low growl growing within me.
"Geez, Bella! You're jealous?" Realising how my emotions were, I got myself under control and gave Jasper a sheepish look. "Really, you have nothing to be concerned about when it comes to Tanya. Edward's been declining her advances for decades before he even met you. He certainly wasn't going to give in now that he had found you." Jasper chuckled at me and gave me a friendly slap on the back. "How's it been for you? This last year, what do you think will happen when he comes back?"
"I don't know, I've thought about him a lot and I've missed him. There are so many variables still, I doubt that Alice would be able to help me at all. "
"You're quite right on that one. Alice told me that she's seen you changing your mind about whether to ask him to come back early, or going to find him on your own."
"I have," I admitted. "Gah!" I yelled in frustration, "I really wish I knew what to do, what the future held."
"What do you want to happen? In an ideal world where you get to write the script, what would happen when he came back?"
I smiled at the thought that I had allowed myself to indulge in on occasion. "He'd come back, walking confidently into the room then drop to his knees and declare his love for me, proposing with the perfect ring. And then he'd scoop me up into his arms and make love to me for days."
Jasper laughed loudly at my dream and I scowled at him.
"Bell, you do know Edward, don't you? You know perfectly well that he'd never do any of that. Not straight away, anyway."
"Not straight away?" I questioned. Was there something he would do?
"The marriage bit. Edward is an old-fashioned boy. He was born in the Edwardian period where a man would treat a lady with respect. I know that in many senses, my brother has already betrayed his upbringing, but he is not experienced in the ways of love."
"I know. I realised that I have more experience in that area than he does."
"It just means that the chances of him jumping you like that are slim to none." Jasper gave me a warm-hearted smile. "You know, I know that Alice would be more than willing to help you choose an outfit for when Edward does return…" He gave me a wink and I rolled my eyes.
"I can only imagine what kind of torture she would submit me to. But I have to admit that I'd like to look my best when I see him again."
"Yay!" I heard Alice squeal from downstairs. I rolled my eyes at Jasper and slapped my hand against my forehead. "I have the perfect dress in mind for your reunion so we need to go shopping in New York!"
"Alice, we have spent the last three weeks shopping every day. There must be something in the half a million dollars-worth of clothes I've bought recently that would be suitable."
"No there isn't. And I know exactly where to take you!"
"You're on your own with this one," Jasper told me, to which I gave him a light-hearted growl.
"Oh Bella, I'm so happy that you're looking forward to seeing Edward. I've seen you flick between decisions so quickly that you've been giving me a headache. But now, your future is so much clearer!"
"Care to share with me?" I could see how Edward would get annoyed with his sister.
"Not a chance. Now come on, there's something I need to show you."
Three hundred and sixty-five days.
I was glad it hadn't been a leap year as I wasn't sure that I could wait another day to see her. I'd timed my year from just before I left her side, rather than the last time she saw me, which had been three days earlier.
But watching her change had been one of the hardest times in my existence. She'd been sedated at first, but from when Carlisle removed the cannula and injected his venom directly into her heart, I was powerless to help her. It did seem that the huge amount of morphine he'd given her reduced the burn at first, but after a few hours, she began to whimper and writhe around on the bed. But she never screamed like so many did and I was so proud of her.
And I never left her side.
I was intermittently joined by my family, and I helped in placing cool clothes on her overheated forehead. It was all the contact I allowed myself, knowing that if I touched too much of her I would never be able to leave. An act in itself was one of the hardest I had ever done.
But I did it nonetheless; my family making me promise that I would be in regular contact with them by phone and email. In all honesty, I wasn't too sure that I would be able to, but when I first spoke to Esme and she told me how beautiful Bella was as a vampire I became addicted to hearing news of her.
I can't say that it didn't pain me to know that she never asked of me, but I held out the hope that she was internalising her thoughts. If I hadn't thought that, I knew I would have gone insane or straight to Mississippi.
My phone buzzing in my pocket drew me out of my thoughts and I read the message that Alice had sent me. It simply said, Go to her. We'll be back in two days. My sneaky sister had deliberately stayed away from me so that I wouldn't see her thoughts, and had asked me to stay ten miles south of the Cullen residence in Ithaca until the others had left.
All three other couples were staying in romantic log cabins somewhere along the Canadian border. This pleased me to some extent in that Alice was obviously confident enough to allow my family to be over a hundred miles away while Bella and I had our talk, but then I also knew she was remarkably restrained for such a young vampire, so could easily be among humans without being too much of a concern to them.
The journey to the house took me much less time than it should have had I been abiding the laws of the road, but I was determined to see her as soon as I could. I couldn't deny the fear and trepidation I felt as I drove down the long driveway to the house where she was waiting, but I had to face my fears.
This was my fault, after all.
She opened the door a second after I had knocked and I was stunned into silence by her beauty. She had been beautiful before, but seeing her as a vampire … she was the most perfect creature I had ever seen.
Her eyes were golden, but somehow also seemed to retain some of her original chocolate brown in their warmth; her skin was alabaster, smooth and flawless; her rich mahogany locks of hair cascaded down her neck and over her shoulders to her mid back; her slender neck was bare until it met a beautiful silk royal blue long sleeved dress.
She looked stunning, striking, in fact. And I was speechless.
"How are you, Edward?" she eventually asked and I marvelled at the beauty of her voice.
"Good," I eventually stuttered, sounding every bit like the seventeen-year-old I really was. "You look beautiful. You are beautiful," I corrected.
She hung her head slightly in a bashful manner. No doubt she'd have been blushing had she been human and I was relieved to know I still held that power over her. It gave me just a glimmer of hope that she might not completely reject me.
"Come in. This is your home. And you really didn't need to knock."
"I didn't want to interrupt you." I followed her into the house, noticing the subtle changes that had come from her living there: her sweet-smelling scent lingering in the air and penetrating the furniture. It was like my own personal heaven. Or hell, depending on how our meeting went.
"How long are you staying?" she asked once we were both sat on opposite ends of the large cream leather sofa.
"However long you want me to," I admitted honestly. "I meant what I said when I told you I'd stay away forever if you wished it." I didn't want to, but if it was what she wanted, I would do it for her.
"No!" She said quickly, "I mean … I wouldn't want you to stay away. I just wondered whether you had made plans to go elsewhere, or go back to Denali."
I gave her a smile. "There is nothing for me anywhere but where you are. And especially nothing in Denali."
I thought back to Tanya's behaviour in the last year that I'd spent time with her coven in Alaska. She'd renewed her attentions to me with increased vigour, trying to convince me that Bella was not good enough for me, that she had pushed me away and didn't deserve to have me. I told her on more than one occasion that I wasn't interested, but I ended up having to be quite forceful with her, and in my last visit, we'd gotten into a physical fight, which had to both be restrained from killing the other.
At least after that she left me alone.
"No? I suppose they told you that they came here?"
"I did know that, yes. I hope that Tanya wasn't too insufferable." I hated the idea of her being rude to Bella, and it made me wish that I could have killed her.
"It was nothing I couldn't handle," she said with a smile.
I was struggling to keep my eyes off her. She looked exquisite, gorgeous and many other superlatives that I could list in many languages.
"That dress on you … you look so beautiful. You are without doubt the most resplendent being I have ever known."
She dropped her head again and wrapped a piece of her long hair behind her ear. "Hardly. Rosalie, remember?"
It upset me that she didn't see how perfect she was, but then she never had done. "I won't deny that Rose is attractive, but she doesn't come close to you. I've always loved how bashful you are, but you really should see yourself with better clarity. You are a beautiful creature and one that I have loved since I first set eyes on you." I placed my hand into my bag and pulled out a large, wooden Cartier box. "I know you hate gifts, although I am hoping that Alice may have cured you of that in the year you've been living with her, but when I saw this I knew I had to get it for you. I knew how well it would suit you, and in that dress it will match perfectly."
She looked expectantly as I handed her the wooden box. She ran a finger over the wooden veneer finish of the box before looking up at me. I gave her an encouraging smile and she opened the box, the opening facing her so that I was unable to see what was inside. But then I was studying her face.
"Oh," she gasped. "Edward, it's beautiful. But it's too much, I can't…"
"Bella, I bought it for you. It made me think of you when I saw it, and you are the only woman in the world who should be seen wearing it. Please accept it."
Her gaze met mine for a few brief seconds before she gave me a smile. "Thank you." She gently handed the box back to me and I gave her a confused look. "Will you put it on for me, my strength is okay, but I really wouldn't want to risk damaging it."
I smiled a relieved smile and took the seventy-five carat sapphire and diamond pendant out of the box, holding it delicately in my fingers. Bella moved closer to me, her scent washing over me as she lifted her hair up so I could place the necklace around her neck. I avoided touching her skin, but I was sure that I felt a crackle of electricity jump between us as I put it on her.
Once it had settled into place, she turned to face me again, and remained seated closer to me than she had been initially.
"What do you think?"
"I think I was right when I thought it would look superb on you. You look … wow, I just … I don't think I know the words in any language to vocalise quite how beautiful you look."
"You know, there's exaggeration and then there's being ridiculous!" she chuckled. It made me remember something Alice had told me.
"Go and look in a mirror. See for yourself how perfect you look."
She gave me a querying look before standing up and walking into the hallway where a full length mirror was hung on the wall. I watched her as she studied herself, maybe seeing for the first time what I saw in her.
"Do I want to know how much this cost?"
"Probably not," I told her with a smile as I went to stand behind her. "I always loved you in that colour."
"I'll find out, you know," she told me with a smile as she turned to face me.
"I'm sure you will. But know that you are worth so much more to me. And that I hurt you the way I did…" I found myself choking on my words as I remembered her words to me a year earlier, how I heard how much I had hurt her. How close I was to losing her forever.
"You did, Edward. And even now I'm not sure what this means for us. But I've had a lot of time to think, and I've realised that I've missed you. That somehow I didn't feel complete without you around."
"And now?" I whispered.
"Now … I don't know what I feel." I felt my face drop as she spoke. I shut my eyes, silently begging her to not say what I feared she might. "No, I'm not saying I feel worse, it's just … I feel confused, like there's something missing. Do you feel it?"
Her amber eyes searched mine for answers I didn't think I had. "All I feel right now is an unrivalled desire to hold you in my arms, to pull you close to me, to tell you that I am sorry and that I will make it up to you for the rest of eternity if I have to."
She gave me a smile. "Maybe that is it. I have to admit, I've wanted you to touch me as well. It's partially why I asked you to put the necklace on me. I wanted to feel your touch."
We both unconsciously took a small step towards each other and she held out her hand to me, her fingers spaced apart so that I could slip mine in between hers.
The second our skin made contact it felt right and I prayed to any gods that could hear me that she felt the same. Within seconds, we'd clasper our other hand together and stood so that we were only millimetres away from each other.
I swallowed the venom that was pooling in my mouth as her scent overwhelmed me. It seemed crazy that even as a vampire I was still so addicted to her scent, but I certainly was. She closed the gap between us and rested her head on my chest, her right ear located where my dead heart seemed to be coming back to life once more.
In a brave move, I leaned down to bury my head in her hair and breathed her in, noticing that she seemed to be doing the same to me.
"Don't leave me again," she whispered into my chest.
"I won't, sweet Bella. I promise you that even if you beg me to I will never be far from you." I pulled me head up from her hair and waited until her eyes met mine. "I love you. And I hope that one day you will trust me enough to know that I will never do anything to hurt you again. You are my all, my everything, my life."
"I love you too."
Next one should be up in a week or so.
Thanks for reading.