A/N - this chapter was re-written twice since mac beta'd. Pre-read by obsmama. So sorry it's taken me this long to post. This is the penultimate chapter. One more to go!
When no one's looking I touch a sculpture
Marble, cold and soft as satin
But the most special are the most lonely
God, I pity the violins
First there's lights out, then there's lock up
Masterpieces serving maximum sentences
It's their own fault for being timeless
There's a price to pay and a consequence
All the galleries, the museums
Here's your ticket, welcome to the tombs
They're just public mausoleums
The living dead fill every room
-Rowboats, Regina Spektor
Long after Rosalie left the room, I stood stoic, afraid to speak or even breathe too loudly. Edward was a statue at the foot of his bed, and the room a morgue in its silence. It hurt, looking at him, but it hurt more not to.
"Are you ignoring me?" I tried not to whine as I asked.
"No," he replied but offered nothing more.
"Look, I know I've changed my mind a few times...and if I didn't see Emmett turn into whatever the hell it was he just turned into...I don't know." I inched toward him, every muscle in my body tense as I scooted down the bed, the stiff sheets rumpling like waves in my wake. "I mean, we can still be together, right?"
Edward made a strange sound in reply: a soft growl like a purring cat. In my state of hysteria I almost laughed.
"Say something," I begged, receiving an an empty stare and stony silence in response. "You're so resolved to just, I don't know, wallow in despair...you won't even look at me. Why won't you look at me?"
"I cannot at the moment," he replied, his voice too deep as that weird sound continued to rumble from him even as he spoke. I lifted my hand, my fingers itching to touch his shoulder, but he moved beyond my grasp. And, oh, my eyes played tricks on me. Blood seemed to pool under his eyes as he turned away from me, but it was only shadow spreading into the hollows of his cheeks.
"I will not covet."
"That doesn't make much sense. I mean, you can't really covet something that's yours." I stood, taking a hesitant step towards him. The growl intensified.
"You're not mine. Please, Isabella, if you care for me at all you'll keep your distance right now. "
"You said you'd stay with me even if I chose to remain human."
"We both said a lot of things. We even meant what some of them, I'm sure."
"I meant everything," I said, chewing on my finger. "Please understand that I really do want to be with you forever...it's just my forever is different than yours."
He shook his head and buried his face in his hands, his shoulders trembling.
"Edward...please look at me. Please? I can't leave things this way with us."
"I don't want this either, you realize." He turned, finally facing me with glassy, unfocused eyes. I reached for his hand, and he let me hold it but offered no fond squeeze in return. And it hurt - to be so close to him without him reaching for me. It hurt so fucking much it was all I could do to stop myself from screaming.
"Where's Emmett?" I asked, my voice sounding strangled through my tight and painful throat.
"Away. The family has taken him to a cave near Mount Rainier. It's secluded; no one will hear his screams."
"How much longer, Edward?"
"He'll be fully changed by tomorrow evening," he replied in a flat tone.
"That's not what I meant..."
Edward's jaw clenched as he contemplated my face. "How much longer until what?"
"Until you let me leave," I qualified.
"You're free to leave whenever you wish." His eyes flashed, his lip curling as if to reveal his fangs.
"But...I don't have any way of getting home. And I'm..." I didn't' quite know how to complete that sentence. I was what? Desperate with fear? No, I wasn't afraid of Edward. Not anymore. I was afraid of being without him. "I'm scared," I said finally.
"No...of the loneliness. Being away from you, Edward, it terrifies me."
"I'm sorry..." he said. An apology, but his expression didn't reflect the sentiment of his words. The corners of his wide mouth upturned into a sneer, a perversion of a smile. I cowered, clutching my arms as if to keep myself from falling apart.
"You're acting weird," I accused.
"Bella, I apologize. I love you, but you have the power to hurt me, and my body is responding to you as a threat. I have no control over these somatic reactions, but I'd never hurt you intentionally. It's imperative that I exercise caution right now."
"Is that why you won't let me get near you? You think you'll strike out at me?"
He nodded. "I'm so very ashamed; I'm growling at you."
"You won't hurt me," I insisted, fighting the tremble in my voice as I teetered between anger and hysterics. It was an exhausting line to toe. "Please, Edward? Please hold me?"
"We need to get used to it...the distance. And love? I'm certain being separated will be worse for me than it is for you. Human memories fade so quickly. Vampire minds are different. Our temperaments will not alter after having been changed by something as profound as love. Truly, without you, I am the living dead."
"Don't say those things!" I screamed, tears blurring my vision. "It kills me. You think it doesn't, but it does. You think it doesn't affect me to hear you say such things? Or maybe you're punishing me for changing my mind. Is that it?"
"It's not my intention to punish you. I'm merely speaking my mind, and I do believe I'll suffer more, not only in intensity but certainly in duration. Until my body is dust, I shall pine."
"Fuck!" I screamed, balling my fists and swinging at nothing. "You're making light of my feelings for you. And you're killing me. Maybe not the same way as you planned, but it feels like there's this hole in my chest...I can't breathe." I inhaled fire, my chest constricting against the burn.
Something flickered in his eyes, so briefly - a tenderness I craved. He bowed his head, and the moment was lost. "What do you want, Bella? We're arguing in circles, and I fear for your health."
"Earlier you said you'd stay with me no matter what."
"Is that what you want?"
Oh, but I was a selfish creature! I nodded, wiping stupid tears from my cheeks.
He laughed. "I'm not certain Father will allow it, but Lord knows I'll try, Bella."
I attempted to smile, but his expression was furious, eyes blazing and nostrils flaring. Yet still he chuckled like someone had told a joke I couldn't possibly understand. "I never thought I'd ever be in this situation. No one has ever had the power to destroy me. But you...you kill me over and over again on a whim."
"I don't! I love you, Edward. I do. More than anything-"
"Allow me this indulgence, love. I'll give you everything you want, but I need to say a few things."
I cringed, steeling myself against his onslaught.
"If you must. Just...just remember I love you more than anything." My voice was feeble.
"You speak of love as if you had any idea...my love is unconditional, and even though I might dislike you right now, I'll never stop loving you. I'll live and die to be yours, and I'm not certain you understand the perverse irony of it all."
Tears coursed down my face as I tried to collect my words. "I'm sorry," I managed, reaching for him, trying to wrap my body around his. "I'm so fucking sorry."
"Is that all you have to say? You're sorry? You love me?"
I shook my head. "I'm sorry!" I repeated lamely. "I don't know what to say to make this better. Tell me what to say?"
"No," he replied, wrapping his arms around me and kissing my forehead. His lips were ice. "There's nothing you can say. You won't give me what I want, and I won't force your hand."
I hiccupped against his chest, my eyes so puffy from crying they were nearly swollen shut. "I d-don't want to die. I love you, but not enough to become like Emmett."
"Thank you." Edward sighed, his arms tightening around my torso.
"For your honesty."
I shook my head, inadvertently wiping my sore nose on his shirt. "But you hate me!"
"No, I could never. I'm angry, but it shall pass. Don't cry...I'm so sorry, love. I didn't mean what I said. Any of it. These emotions are most confounding, and I don't know how to express them properly...I'll take you home now."
"Not like this! Please, Edward, don't leave me like this." I dug my fingers into his back in effort to hold him to me, my breasts flattening against his chest as I pushed against him. He didn't pull away. "I love you so much it hurts. I know you think I don't care, but I do. I'll suffer, too…being away from you."
He groaned and dropped his head against my shoulder. "I don't want you to suffer."
"I know. I just don't want you to think I don't care about the way you feel; I do."
"Sometimes I hate the way you make me feel, but I could never hate you." He sobbed into the juncture between my neck and my shoulder, his tears becoming kisses. "So soft."
"Maybe it would've been better if we never met."
"You'd be dead if we never met."
"And you wouldn't be in this position," I reminded him. But I wished I hadn't spoken at all because he stopped kissing me.
"I'd sooner die than live in a world you don't exist, love. Don't listen to the blathering of a desperate man." He kissed my collar bone then, unbuttoning my shirt and revealing more skin for him to taste. "I love you, I love you," he repeated. "I'll do whatever you want me to do. Just let me love you."
Oh, god, I was dizzy. Between the fighting and his mouth, I didn't know how to hold my ground. I was falling.
"What will happen to you...when I'm gone?"
"Nothing," he said, falling to his knees to kiss my stomach. "I'll be here. The same as always. Nothing will ever change."
My hand found its way into his hair, tangling and tugging, holding him close to my skin. His mouth made a trail from my navel to my hip, the ice of his touch making me burn. So much so that I almost didn't feel my skin tear until the pain intensified.
"Edward?" I yelped, a sharp stinging my hip.
"Sleep, my love. Close your eyes."
"What happened?" I slurred, digging my fingers into Edward's back, my head bobbing on his shoulder as he ran. The world bled into a Monet painting. Green whirred by me in a fit of brush strokes as my eyes sought to focus, failing.
"You're fine, love," Edward replied, his arms so cold and hard against my back - too cold. Something felt wrong. "It's for the best."
Footsteps sloshed beneath us - Edward's wet gait flying over the forest floor despite the muck - and I felt so heavy, weighted down by delirium. My arms wrapped around his neck, tight and oh, so heavy.
"I don't understand..." Spinning, my neck arched and my head dropped back. The sky churned like a whirlpool as I fought against wave after wave of anesthesia.
"Stop fighting it, love. Close your eyes."
"Noooo," I sobbed, biting the inside of my mouth to stay awake. "Do you feel this weight around you? I'm made of stone."
But I wasn't. They were all perfect: statues so cold and beautiful. So trapped.
"You're like a painting," I whispered. "Perfect and untouchable. I tried to live in your world, but I'm not like that."
Cradled so softly in his arms, he rocked me against him as if I was a child. And maybe I was. His hands were still so cold, yet somehow soft against my face. "You're beautiful."
My nose wrinkled, catching the scent of something putrid...the sweet cloying smell of decomposing flesh.
I turned my head again, but couldn't see the ground beneath us. In fact, I could barely move my neck at all. "Do you smell that?"
"I'm not sure I understand what you mean, love." His voice sounded like it was trapped in a tin can.
"I can't move." Blood red sky flashed like lightning behind my eyelids. I blinked. "Oh... Oh, I think I understand."
"You're not making sense. It's the drugs, and I'm sorry about that; it couldn't be helped."
"God, I pity the violins," I sang.
"You'll be home soon," he deflected.
"You're so lovely, Edward. But you're covered in dust, and I'm sorry I couldn't be the Venus to your Apollo."
"You're mixing Roman and Greek mythologies."
"No... art. Statues. Edward... you're not real."
He laughed, but it sounded like a broken sob. "I'm not real?"
"No. I think I've figured it all out."
"Yes." I swallowed, my throat so tight. "I'm dying. I'm still on the floor of that Seven-Eleven. I never left."
"Of course you did. I saved you."
I shook my head. "I'm pretty sure none of this happened." My mouth was so dry. It almost hurt to kiss his chest. "Such a beautiful lie."
It was so cold when I regained consciousness, so dark. A strangled groan rasped its way out of my throat.
"She's waking up! Do you think it's her?"
I froze like a deer in the path of a barreling car. My eyes felt glued together, and I opened my mouth to speak, but no sound came out.
"She looks like the girl in the poster," a male voice replied.
Oh, god, why can't I open my eyes?
"It's kind of morbid, don't you think? Finding her in the same place."
Where was I?
"It's just like Chief Swan thought...a second gunman?"
"Maybe...but why here, man? Why bring her back to the scene of the crime?"
My eyes finally flew open, and I was greeted with the flickering of overhead fluorescent lights and a water-stained ceiling. "Because I never left," I explained.
So slowly, I was dying.
A/N - one more chapter to go! Reviews are appreciated! Let me know what you thought (even if you'd like to leave crit, it's cool). Chat with me on Twitter. I'm BellaFlan.