Here we are. "The End, Part II." I started writing EveningStar on November 27, 2010, so I'm five days shy of the one year anniversary of beginning this journey. Writing EveningStar has altered my life in many ways, mostly in just showing me that I CAN WRITE FICTION—something I've told myself for years that I was incapable of doing—and that fiction writing is FUN! Entering Edward's mind through this story has been a blessed method of stress-release during a very difficult year, and you readers have kept me going!
This final chapter is dedicated to ALL MY READERS, to those who started the journey with me nearly a year ago, to those who are just now catching on, to those who have faithfully commented on almost every chapter, and to those who have been quietly reading all along. I would not have completed this story (this book really, as it's well over 135,000 words) without your encouragement and support! You are the reason I kept writing when I was too tired, in too much pain, was too sick. You inspire me!
Again, I've had to remove all italics to keep the words from running together, an issue I am seeing on other fics as well as mine. If you want to see the chapter with italics, check it out on Wattpad.
And, above all, I dedicate this final chapter to NataliaMazur: my steadiest fan, my head cheerleader, and my sounding board. You rock, chica! (Read her stories—they're amazing!) Love you, my friend! :) :) :)
Chapter Fifty-Six: The End, Part II
Bella arrived home after work, calling my name and Charlie's, her voice tight with anxiety. But I remained remote all evening, trying to ignore Bella's panic attack in the kitchen after she noted my emotional distance. Grateful that Jasper wasn't present to tell me what Bella was feeling, I forced myself to remain stoic, steeling myself to disregard Bella's rapid heart rate and near-hyperventilation, then her strange photo safari, snapping pictures of the house, Charlie, and myself.
What was she thinking? That I would take her with me?
Hell, Bella was still hoping.
And I despised myself for what I was going to do to her.
But it was for the best—her best. My absence would mean that she would live a long and happy life, and as much as my dead heart felt pummeled by the mere thought of leaving her, I wanted that long, happy life for her beyond all else.
But I couldn't handle Bella's panic on top of my own searing agony. Charlie, however, remained completely and blissfully clueless.
But that won't last long...not long after I leave, anyway.
Rising to my feet, I spoke quietly, "I'd better get home." Bella scrambled awkwardly from the floor, her limbs stiff from sitting so long beside the armchair after Charlie had snapped a decidedly awkward photo of us.
As I walked to my Volvo, Bella on my heels, I realized that I would have to remove the film from her camera. I didn't want to leave behind any physical reminders to torture herself over. I needed to fade to merely a bad dream in her weak human memories...and physical remembrances would only slow the process.
As I opened the Volvo's door, Bella caught up with me. "Will you stay?" she asked hopelessly. She seemed to expect my response; at least, she didn't ask for a reason when I replied shortly, "Not tonight."
Without a kiss goodnight or even a touch, I drove away, cringing as I watched her forlorn figure, drenched in the falling rain, grow smaller and smaller in my rear view mirror as she pensively watched my car disappear around the corner.
Part of me worried that she would get a chill from standing in the rain like that—her white face blank with panic against her dark, soaked hair. And part of me resolved not to feel anything.
If I let myself feel any of the emotions bubbling just below the surface, I wouldn't be able to leave.
And I had to leave. For Bella's sake.
And thus I drove home, my mind strangely empty as I prepared to help my family pack all night.
The next day was filled with the same awkward silences, except that Bella asked her friends to take photos with her new camera during lunch. I was grateful that they used up her roll of film; perhaps she would develop it before I left so that I could remove the two or three photos of me without having to destroy every image by yanking the film out the back of the camera as I had planned.
Bella was severely distracted all day. When Mr. Berty asked her a question comparing Shakespeare's Juliet to Sonya in CrimeandPunishment, I had to whisper the answer to her when she didn't respond after he called her name twice.
Bella was working again after school, so I went home to finish the packing and shutting down the house. The family was ready to leave in the morning, and I remained all night with them, completing the last of the arrangements. I would leave after I informed Bella...which I planned to do after school as she wasn't working in the afternoon. Charlie wouldn't be home from work yet, so we could have some privacy.
But I didn't want to sully her home with memories of my desertion. Perhaps I could talk to her outside—but not right outside in a place she would pass often. Maybe just a little way down the path by her house.
That would work.
At dawn, the packing done and with the moving vans disappearing down the long driveway on their way to a storage facility until everyone decided where they were moving permanently, I wished our family goodbye. The plan was that I would be leaving after school and catching up with them in Seattle before we all drove north to Denali for a short visit.
But I knew that I would not be joining them.
And Alice had not told them yet of my decision, perhaps hoping that I would change my mind and head to Tonya's after all. No, not happening. Tonya was the last person I wanted to see.
Again, the sympathy of Esme as she kissed me goodbye, of Carlisle as he laid a comforting hand on my shoulder, and the shoulder-punches from Emmett were far more difficult to handle than Rosalie's disdain and Alice's disappointed anger.
Alice's glare was the worst. We have always been closer to each other than the rest of the siblings, but she heartily disapproved of my leaving Bella and forcing her to desert her best friend.
As I watched their vehicles disappear down the long drive, Alice's thoughts drifted back to me. "You are going to regret doing this, Edward Cullen, more than you will ever regret anything else in your entire existence. Ever."
Alice's departing words immobilized me, and I felt my resolve begin to soften. Perhaps there was another way?
No! I had to remain strong. For Bella's sake. All of this was for her benefit...so that she would survive and thrive and live a long, happy human life.
That was my mantra: A long, happy, human life.
That's what I had to remember. That's what I had to cling to.
All this suffering—my family's, hers, mine—would be worth it if it brought Bella a long, happy, human life in the end.
Resolved, I squared my shoulders before climbing into my car and driving to school.
The day passed as the previous two days had, with little to no interaction between Bella and myself. Ignoring the catty girls who noticed the distance between myself and Bella, I strode almost blindly through my final day at Forks High School, dreading the end of the day...when I would at last confront Bella and show her what a truly cold-hearted bastard I am.
I walked Bella to her truck, noting a change in her: she wore a determined expression as if she were ready to confront me.
"Do you mind if I come over today?" I asked quietly.
"Of course not." Bella sounded annoyed.
"Now?" I pressed.
"Sure," she said, biting her lip. "I was just going to drop a letter to Renee in the mailbox on the way. I'll meet you there."
I glanced at the envelope and noticed its thickness. Ah, Bella must be mailing Renee some of the photos from her new camera. Reaching past her, I grabbed the letter from the seat of her truck, noting its heft. Yes, it definitely contained photos. And I had to get rid of all evidence of myself in Bella's life. "I'll do it," I said, quietly insistent. Then I looked up, trying to work some enthusiasm into my voice as I continued, "And I'll still beat you there."
In order to convince her, I forced her favorite smile across my lips...for the last time.
"Okay," she said uncertainly, not returning my smile.
She must have an inkling of what was going on...
I beat her to her home...despite opening Renee's letter, sliding out the three photos of myself and slipping them into my jacket pocket, then resealing the envelope and mailing it on my way to the Swan residence. Arriving several minutes before Bella's wailing truck, I was through her window in a split-second, quickly collecting all evidence of my existence from her room: the three photos featuring my image from her new photo album, the CD from her player, and the plane tickets from my parents.
For the first time, I was thankful that Bella refused to allow me to shower her with gifts. I had nothing else to collect here that I had given her. I would leave her the clothing Alice had forced upon her at various times over the last few months. And at least the new stereo system in her truck was a gift from my siblings, not from myself...and I couldn't remove it without raising Bella's suspicions anyway.
Knowing her temper, I wondered if she'd remove it herself. I wouldn't put it past her.
As I wondered what to do with these items, the floor squeaked below my feet. Bending down, I pried the loose floorboard up gently, then slipped the few items that proved my existence into the small hiding space.
At least if I couldn't be here, these small tokens of my love remained in her room with her. Perhaps they would give her a little solace somehow. Knowing they were here was a comforting thought to me, anyway...selfish thing that I am.
My phone vibrated in my back pocket. Lifting it out, I read Alice's terse text: LeaveanoteinthekitchenfromBellaforCharliesayingthatshe'sgoingforawalkwithyoudownthepath.
As I heard Bella's behemoth turn onto her street, I ghosted downstairs and scrawled a note in a credible imitation of Bella's messy penmanship, leaving it for Charlie on the kitchen table, weighed down by a saltshaker. I didn't understand why I needed to leave a note, but I wasn't going to question Alice now.
I let myself out the front door and slipped into my car as if I had been waiting for Bella, only stepping out of the Volvo when she scrambled out of the truck. Taking a deep breath to center my calm as I met her, I took her backpack out of her hands, shoving it back onto the seat of her truck.
"Come for a walk with me," I said quietly, reaching for her hand.
Panic filling her eyes, Bella followed me silently, her hand feeling unusually cold in mine. I led her along the side of the yard and onto the path leading into the forest. Knowing Bella's poor sense of direction, I didn't dare walk far; I turned, leaning against a tree, still within easy sight of her house.
"Okay, let's talk," Bella started bravely.
I sucked in a deep breath, then stated boldly, "Bella, we're leaving."
But her expression was calculating rather than panic-stricken. For the thousandth time, I wondered what she was thinking.
"Why now"" she asked, her voice trembling slightly. "Another year-"
I cut her off, my voice detached, cold. "Bella, it's time. How much longer could we stay in Forks, after all? Carlisle can barely pass for thirty, and he's claiming thirty-three now. We'd have to start over soon regardless."
Bella seemed confused as I watched her dispassionately.
Then I saw the truth hit her; she suddenly paled, and her arm snaked around her stomach, as if she felt ill.
"When you say we—" she whispered, unable to finish the sentence.
"I mean my family and myself," I stated slowly and clearly, hating myself with every word.
Bella looked bemused as she shook her head in disbelief. I waited, not wishing to hurry her. I cherished each moment in her presence, each moment I could hear her heart beat, breathe in her amazing fragrance, see her beautiful face.
Then resolve filled her eyes. Resolve and hope. "Okay," she said softly. "I'll come with you."
Her hope was the final knife stab to my heart. The pain was so tangible, so real, that I glanced down at my chest to make sure it was still intact. Unfortunately, it was.
I hated to destroy the desperate hope I saw in Bella's beautiful face—but I had to.
It was the only way.
"You can't, Bella. Where we're going..." I paused, watching that last bit of hope begin to fade from her huge brown eyes, then I steeled my resolve. This was all for her. She would probably thank me when she walked down the aisle on her wedding day...or when she gave birth to her firstborn child. At least I would have the satisfaction of knowing that I had helped her to reach those joyous highlights of every human life. "It's not the right place for you," I concluded calmly while my emotions roiled violently beneath my serene exterior.
"Where you are is the right place for me," she insisted weakly.
"I'm not good for you, Bella," I insisted coldly in return.
"Don't be ridiculous," she scoffed. Then her eyes softened beautifully as she continued quietly but firmly, "You're the very best part of my life."
Aaah, Bella! How I wish that were so! I felt my resolve begin to weaken, but I shored it up quickly, before she could notice as I repeated my mantra again and again: A long, happy human life. Bella deserves a long, happy, human life.
"My world is not for you," I replied sadly, wishing with all my being that I was not speaking the truth.
Bella's brows rushed together, her face flushed, and desperate anger colored her words. "What happened with Jasper—that was nothing, Edward! Nothing!" she begged.
"You're right," I agreed grimly. "It was exactly what was to be expected."
Her voice rose in desperation, "You promised!" she accused me. "In Phoenix, you promised that you would stay—"
I interrupted her, unable to listen to her all-too-accurate accusations. "As long as that was best for you," I insisted softly.
"No!" Bella's voice rose in her utter frustration and desperation; she was nearly shouting. "This is about my soul, isn't it?"
I remained noncommittal, forcing my expression to stay unemotional while my icy heart cracked apart with each word she spoke.
She continued, arguing as if for her very existence. "Carlisle told me about that, and I don't care, Edward, I don't care! You can have my soul. I don't want it without you—it's yours already!"
As I took a deep breath, my heart continued to splinter and break apart, one frozen atom at a time, the pain utterly excruciating. Focusing my eyes on the ground, I wracked my brain for a way to get through to her.
And there was only one way to do so.
One despicable, horrible way to convince her.
I was going to have to lie to her as I have never done before.
"Bella," I said coldly, deliberately, without a trace of emotion, "I don't want you to come with me."
Bella looked as if I had slapped her. I watched the truth trickle through her mind as she absorbed my words.
"You...don't...want...me?" she said very slowly, letting this new reality sink in.
God, I hated myself for doing this to her. But she believed me! She actually fucking believed me! How—with only ONE sentence—how in the hell had I convinced this beautiful, loving, compassionate, perfect girl that I didn't want her...that I didn't love her?
The anguish this realization brought me was utterly excruciating.
The agony paralleled the burning of my transformation from human to vampire. In fact, in a strange way, it surpassed it. I was rapidly learning that emotional pain could be far more intense than mere physical pain.
It took ALL of my immortal strength to remain upright and unemotional in front of Bella...to not allow myself to crumple to the ground at her feet, sobbing in abject apology.
But the charade must go on...for Bella's sake. For her safety and security. My mantra played through my mind again, strengthening my resolve again: Bella deserves a long, happy, human life.
I had a part to play: the part of an ice-cold bastard.
"No," I affirmed shortly, the only word I could manage to utter through my anguish.
She looked deeply into my eyes, and I hardened my mind against her. This is all for her, I scolded myself. It's even better if she hates me. She'll get over our relationship far more quickly if she hates me than if she continues to love me.
But I despised myself for hurting her like this. Truly hated myself. I was a monster, and my words today to this sweet, loving girl only proved it all the more clearly.
I looked up at her at last, steeling myself to view her pain. Yes, the agony was clear in her eyes, but also present was a strange composure.
Almost as if my not loving her was a logical conclusion, one she was expecting to hear.
Agony rippled through my dead heart once again, but I swiftly hid my reaction, my unemotional mask firmly remaining in place.
"Well, that changes things," Bella stated with eerie calm. Her reasonable tone unnerved me. I asked myself for the thousandth time: What the hell is she thinking?
Shifting my gaze past her into the forest, I pushed the question from my mind so I could continue my nefarious lies. "Of course, I'll always love you...in a way." My voice trailed off as I swallowed hard; this lie in particular was difficult to state. I would love this frail human girl in every way, for the remainder of my miserable existence.
In fact, if it wasn't for the fact that my sacrifice would enable Bella's life to continue in safety and security, I would be tempted to end it all. I knew that the pain of separation from Bella would be too intense for me to bear—Alice's vision of me in a practically comatose state was evidence. I wasn't sure how—or even IF—I was going to survive without her.
She was the reason behind every thought in my mind, every action of my body, every word I spoke.
Bella was...is...will always be...everything to me.
But I forced myself to continue the ream of lies I had started, my serene voice belying the agony just below the surface. "But what happened the other night made me realize that it's time for a change. Because I'm..." I paused to search for the word that would convince her the most of my supposed indifference. "...tired of pretending to be something I'm not, Bella. I am not human." My eyes returned to her, noting with alarm that her entire body was trembling, as if she were not strong enough to hear what I was telling her.
What happened if she fainted? Her pallor was alarming. Bella's pain-filled eyes were too dark in her white face, and she swayed slightly. I took one step closer to her, afraid that she might collapse.
Bella stared at me, the forlorn look on her face showing me all too clearly how convinced she was by my weak lies. But I had to continue...I had to sever any and every tie between us. Or she would never heal properly. And my entire existence hung on her moving forward into the life she was meant to have: the life she deserved to have if I didn't exist.
And I shouldn't exist; I knew that fact all too well.
Relentlessly I continued, "I've let this go on much too long, and I'm sorry for that."
Bella closed her eyes, whispering faintly, "Don't." She took a deep breath, her eyes still closed, then she looked at me again, begging quietly, "Don't do this."
Oh, how I wish that I didn't have to do this, Bella—do this to you, to me, to my family.
But it was too late. This was the only way now. I allowed the firmness of my decision show in my expression as I watched her carefully. As Bella absorbed the supposed truth of my lies, the excruciating pain wracked my heart once more. But I did not allowed a single chink to show in my armor.
This is for her.
This is for her.
This is for her.
I steeled myself for the final words that I knew would strike at her own heart—the last blow. I hated to do it, but it had to be done. I had to force Bella to remember me as a cold, unfeeling, monstrous bastard.
"You're not good for me, Bella," I stated calmly.
Bella opened her mouth to argue, then closed it again.
I waited for this lie to be absorbed with the rest of the untruths I had fed her this afternoon. Resignation dulled the beautiful shine of her eyes as she stared at me.
Then she choked out the words in barely a whisper, "If...that's what you want."
The pain filling Bella's eyes as she swayed in front of me—so fragile yet so indomitable—robbed me of speech.
I could only nod once. There was no way I could form words now.
From the bottom of my shattered heart, I despised myself for doing this to her, but it was the only way.
She had to think that I didn't love her any more. That I didn't want her.
Only then would she move on to the life she was meant to live—a safe, secure life. A life devoid of monsters thirsting for her blood.
But I had to be sure of one thing or I couldn't survive.
I took another step toward her as I quietly asked, "I would like to ask one favor, though, if that's not too much."
Bella swayed again, pain dulling her eyes, her beautiful features absolutely colorless. She looked as if she would collapse at any moment. Before I could control it, concern filled me.
Could Bella survive this separation any better than I could?
But I couldn't ask that question. I didn't deserve to ask it. She had to assure me of this one point, though. I had to know that she would be all right—that she wouldn't do anything to harm herself. I forced my face into its impassive mask as I prepared to ask her these most important questions.
"Anything," she promised, hope beginning to shine in her eyes.
I couldn't let her hope, though. It was cruel.
I was cruel.
But I had to be sure she would be safe. I felt the force of my love for this beautiful girl behind my words as I made my demands.
"Don't do anything reckless or stupid," I insisted. Bella looked at me, bemused. She had to understand me now. If she hurt herself, I would never be able to survive.
This was the flaw in my plan: if I was separated from her, I could no longer protect her from outside forces.
Or from herself.
Woodenly, she nodded.
Relief helped me to slip back behind my mask. I couldn't let her think that I cared. And I hated myself for doing it. "I'm thinking of Charlie of course," I lied. "He needs you. Take care of yourself—for him." And for me. Please, Bella, for me.
She nodded. "I will," she croaked.
Her assurances made me feel slightly more assured of her well-being.
"And I'll make you a promise in return," I stated earnestly. "I promise that this will be the last time you'll see me. I won't come back. I won't put you through anything like this again. You can go on with your life without any more interference from me. It will be as if I'd never existed," I promised her...as my heart continued to shatter.
But I meant every word. I only prayed that I could remain strong enough to stay away. I had to. For Bella.
As her entire body began to tremble, Bella seemed very near collapse. Her eyes began to glaze over.
Her physical weakness reminded me of the beauty of her humanity, and I smiled wryly at her. "Don't worry. You're human—your memory is no more than a sieve. Time heals all wounds for your kind," I assured her.
"And your memories?" she choked out.
"Well," I thought quickly of the best way to answer her query without giving away the truth. "I won't forget." That was for certain. The beauty of my Bella would be ingrained in my memory forever, a fact for which I was intensely grateful. "But mykind...we're very easily distracted." I smiled at her convincingly, but I felt the strain visible on my face.
I took one step away from her—and I nearly gasped; the pain of separation was so intense. I haven't even left her yet, and already the agony was nearly unbearable.
I had to end this...now.
Or I would scoop her into my arms and never let her go again.
I forced myself to speak, keeping my expression deceptively serene. "That's everything, I suppose. We won't bother you again."
Bella's chin lifted at the plural. I had wondered if she would ask about the rest of my family. Now the situation dawned upon her, despite her confusion.
"Alice isn't coming back," she whispered so faintly that human ears would not have detected her words.
I shook my head slowly, keeping my eyes on her warily. Bella remained far too pale and unsteady. I was concerned about leaving her here, even within sight of her house.
"No," I answered quietly. "They're all gone. I stayed behind to tell you goodbye."
"Alice is gone?" Bella's voice echoed strangely with her disbelief. Anguish struck me again: Not only was I removing myself from Bella's life, but I was robbing her of her best friend as well.
She would be alone.
I closed my eyes for a moment, feeling the guilt and pain build to a new height. I kept thinking that the agony of leaving Bella couldn't get worse.
Then it did.
Again and again.
Swallowing hard, I continued, "She wanted to say goodbye, but I convinced her that a clean break would be better for you." I couldn't allow Alice to be blamed for my own decisions, despite the fact that Alice may never speak to me again.
Bella's eyes glazed over as she swayed on her feet once again. Her pallor became even more pronounced, and the pupils of her eyes grew unaccountable large as she attempted to breathe normally.
I had to end this soon...before she completely collapsed.
"Goodbye, Bella," I stated, forcing my voice to remain calm, almost peaceful.
Panic crossed her face. "Wait!" she called, her voice hoarse and cracking.
Bella began to fall, her knees folding under her. Before she sank more than an inch, I had stepped forward, grasping her wrists to support her; she leaned heavily against my arms.
Her scent...so sweet.
This would be the last time I would inhale her fragrance.
And that thought nearly caused me to collapse along with Bella. But my strong body refused to betray me, despite the agony searing through every atom of my being.
Bending down, I kissed her forehead lightly, not allowing this new agony to break through my mask and ruin all that I had managed to convince her of this afternoon.
As Bella's eyes closed, she sighed softly, apparently finding comfort in my touch.
I hated to deprive her of this small solace, but lingering here would be wrong...for both of us: it would give her hope, and my fragile mask would shatter.
I had to leave...now.
"Take care of yourself," I whispered against her clammy forehead.
Then I ran, the agony excruciating as I ghosted into the forest, despising myself more with every step.
Quickly I looped around through the forest to the front of her house and slid into the Volvo.
But Bella's scent still permeated my car. I gratefully breathed in her sweet fragrance, again and again. Gripping the steering wheel in my hands, I didn't realize I was crushing the high-quality construction until I heard the first cracks reverberating through the enclosed car.
Only the familiar sound of Charlie's patrol car a few blocks away finally forced me to turn the key, accelerate, and leave the Swan home behind. My vampire senses allowed me to drive as if on autopilot—I was strangely numb, not a thought registering in my conscious mind.
At last I blinked, surprised to find myself parked in our garage at home, the Volvo now the only car in the garage beside my Aston Martin as the family had driven the remainder of the cars to Denali this morning.
After taking one more deep inhalation of Bella's faint fragrance from the Volvo, I slammed the car door shut, holding my breath in order to allow Bella's scent to fully permeate my mind. Locking the garage behind me, I walked slowly up the driveway to the house, slumping weakly onto the porch steps.
I held the last breath of Bella's fragrance for over an hour, savoring her precious scent until the sun sank beyond the horizon and the forest darkened around me.
Then slowly I exhaled the breath I had held so long, letting Bella's beloved scent dissipate into the evening twilight.
Bereft, I looked up into the unusually clear sky above the house and between the sharp-topped pines. One star twinkled at me: the Evening Star. Immediately my memory took me back to that twilight more than three months ago when I had nestled Bella in my embrace under the madrone trees at the Prom.
The memory of her ecstatic beauty on that night warmed me for a moment: her hair curled beautifully, her face glowing softly in the starlight, the sexy dress (despite her awkward cast) brushing softly against her lovely form, her eyes alight with joy, life, love.
My memory of Bella on that twilit evening was so different from the broken-hearted girl I had left behind me on the forest path this afternoon.
But she would heal. That's what humans do. They move on.
But I would not. I could not.
I would have to live without her...for an eternity.
A miserable eternity without her.
As an overwhelming sense of panic set in, I was on my feet in an instant, streaking blindly through the forest. Tight with an emptiness that was painful beyond all agony, my chest heaved with tearless sobs as I vainly hoped that running, usually a comfort, would at least take the edge off this excruciating torture.
Unaware of all conscious thought, I raced south, automatically dodging trees, rocks, obstacles. But even running away couldn't help me now. The agony was still there, throbbing in my chest which seemed so void, so empty, without Bella's love.
Yet running was the only thing I could do.
So I ran.
Away from Denali and my family.
Away from Forks and my memories.
Away from Bella and the truest of true loves.
Never to return.
So that's it. 360 days of writing EveningStar and it's complete at last.
Please do review, especially if you have been quietly reading the whole book without reviewing yet. I'd love to hear from you.
I can't thank all of you enough for coming on this journey with me. It's been an amazing year of learning so much about writing fiction, making many friends (you know who you are!), and writing nearly 140,000 words. Thank you, dear readers!
Some have asked for a sequel, written between NewMoon and Eclipse.I'm still considering it, but for right now, I want to focus on writing PinnedbutFluttering.
Thank you again—for everything. You all are the reason I write.