The Secrets of the Mind Reader
I understood why Carlisle did it. She was young and beautiful and barely clinging to life, even though she should have had decades of humanity ahead of her. I've often wondered what I would have said if he had asked me what I thought. Would I have agreed? Or would I have let her die? Fortunately he wasn't in the habit of asking anyone for advice – not even his own lovely wife Esme. Of course he was often a chauvinist where she was concerned – we both would have been had I had a mate. It was how a real man should treat his wife at that time in history.
But he didn't ask me, and his decision was to affect me most profoundly.
Of course I knew how we came into being, but Carlisle didn't understand how much it cost me to be there during the metamorphosis. I just couldn't share that with him, or he would know one of my most closely guarded secrets. He had stayed with me through my own conversion, and we both remembered the pain. It was a memory that didn't dull with time for any of us, because it straddled the divide between human frailty and the perfect recall of the supernatural. It was our last connection with the pain of humanity.
I'd been there to take my turns holding and comforting Esme as she screamed during the change. There's just something about a woman's particular scream that tears at me, and that's before you add in the fact of my sometimes cursed ability. It's not enough that I heard her screams with my ears, but I also experienced her agony as her tortured mind fought to cope with the unimaginable torment of the burning. For days, Esme had fought her way through the fires of Hell itself; believing that she had been damned for taking her own life. It made my own conversion seem like a pale shadow in comparison.
It made me love her almost immediately.
It was easy to see her as a mate for myself, since I'd been inside her mind at the most vulnerable point in her existence. I'd read her thoughts when there were no barriers or censors to to alert me to what she would never tell, and what she would have agreed to share. I knew her intimately without ever touching her body. She was beautiful where eyes could never see. She was such a tragically fragile soul. She was deep and compassionate, with unfulfilled longings for love and family. They were the very same longings I'd had myself since I realized they would likely be out of my reach for eternity.
I'd learned almost from the moment I discovered my talent for reading minds that it was something I should be careful of sharing. Carlisle learned of the ability even before I did. I'd thought he was speaking to me when it was really his thoughts I was hearing. I answered him as if he spoke the questions; mere hours after I realized what I'd become. The things I'd plucked from his mind and blurted out, shocked the both of us. I quickly learned to listen to the unspoken 'don't go there, please' inside his head. I couldn't stop myself from hearing the thoughts, but I learned to keep them to myself. I learned to school my reaction so he didn't know I'd heard. I told him sometimes the mind whispered, and I didn't always hear.
I knew from the moment she emerged from the fires of her personal hell, that he wanted her. I heard his thoughts of loving adoration even before he wanted to admit that he was smitten with her. Worse, I knew the thoughts that had gone through his mind even before he bit her. Forbidden thoughts I would never allow him to know I'd read. I knew he savored the taste of her blood, and I knew that his fine doctor's hands had touched her broken human body in a moment of weakness, as a man would touch a woman. It was perhaps the shame he felt at that forbidden touch – a touch she neither felt nor remembered – which made him long to restore the honor he felt he'd stolen.
No matter how I rationalized it, I knew without a doubt that he had created the beautiful Esme for himself. Even if he were not so much older than I was, and even if he had not been the one responsible for my conversion; I respected him as a man. I loved him like a father, brother, and friend. And I knew that even though I loved her too, I could never stand in his way.
Still it was painful to watch him court her in his way, which was old-fashioned and proper. To see him falling deeper in love with her was only what I expected, from the first peek I'd had of his yearnings. I stepped back from her; allowing him to teach her about our lifestyle and how to fulfill the terrible hungers that pulled at us constantly.
If I thought his thoughts were painful, hers broke my heart. I could keep my distance, but I couldn't shut out her mind. She was sharp, and much more intelligent than he understood. To him she was quiet and demure, but I heard the riot of questions, deductions, ideas, and every fanciful whim that passed through her beautiful mind. She thought like a poet – an artist really – and I saw so many things anew through her wondering eyes. The taste of the blood which sustains us, experienced through her mind was a whole new pleasure. I felt like she was teaching me, and showing me another part of life, even though she had no idea I was along for the tour.
Her amazement at her physical strength was wrapped up in the wonder of her perfected body. Through her mind I saw and felt her body, even though I did try to distract myself from the knowledge. Surprisingly she was not impressed with her beauty, even though she was stunning. She had rich auburn hair, and soft womanly curves that needed no constrictions or embellishments. She had a quiet grace in her manner, and a ready smile to her full lips.
Instead she lamented that her perfect strength had come too late to save her child. And yes, any time her mind ventured to the child she'd lost, I knew true agony. It ripped through her – through me – with a fierce viciousness that made it impossible for me to witness it passively. The last time, I'd rushed to hold and comfort her, just as I had during her transformation. She'd clung to me in her grief, and left Carlisle questioning when he'd found us in our embrace.
She abandoned me to cling to him, and pour out her heartbreak and wail over her lost tears, and strangely, her lost stretch marks. He understood I'd read her mind, and he was glad I'd comforted her, when he could have felt jealousy. I walked away to give them privacy. The only way I could tune out their thoughts was with distance, or with more minds. The cacophony of a crowd of minds was enough to give me some peace. I sought out both distance and a crowd, losing myself in the stands of a baseball game, where I didn't fit the mood of their celebration. I'd lost any chance that she could ever be mine.
She loved him.
I never said anything, but I left them often so I wouldn't be subjected to their loving, and sometimes lustful thoughts concerning one another. Carlisle was determined to proceed as he would if he were human. He wanted to marry her in a church, even though any legal documents we had were fake. The time it took to plan their wedding gave me time to get used to the idea of them as a couple. But I didn't think I would ever get used to the idea that I would forever be alone. How could I love another when I already loved her?
They married. I tried to be happy for them both. I said all the right things, but more importantly, I kept all the right things to myself. Still, I think he may have known on some deep level. How could a man not know when another man covets his wife? He took her away for their honeymoon. They were gone well over a month – touring Europe so he could show her where he'd been on his travels.
It was the first time I slipped.
I was totally alone, and found I did not like being alone. I missed them both terribly. The only thing worse than their unwelcome thoughts was the total absence of their thoughts. I started to go out where people meet and gather. Parks, museums, stores, churches, and schools. I needed the sounds. Unfortunately, we don't sleep, and as the places closed, the people went home.
I found the places where people went at night; bars, theaters, and dance halls. I haunted them, night after night losing myself in the chaos of their minds. I was amidst their revelry, their drunken good times, their escape from their day to day grind, but I was not one of them. Even in a crowd I was particularly alone.
I practiced with my gift; selecting minds to read, and choosing to block all others. It was like standing in a beehive and trying to listen to the buzz of one single bee. I learned of all the adult passions and pleasures that had been denied to my seventeen year-old self in life. Even if I wasn't prohibited by my age, my parents would never have allowed me to go to such places where there was drinking, smoking, gambling, lewd dancing, and temporary couplings for the purpose of having sex. It was an education. Whether seen right before my eyes, or read from different minds, I learned things I wished I didn't know. So much of which would be forever unattainable to me.
Compared with the purity of my love for Esme, what I experienced through the minds of those I read, was audaciously lascivious. I knew there were those who bought and sold the right to have carnal knowledge of one another, and I encountered those who were on both sides of that arrangement. There were prostitutes who lifted their skirts and spread their legs with casual detachment. There were men who paid for the right to do as they pleased with those women. Then there were those who benefited from even more licentious trades.
I'd encountered those selling opiates, and those offering up other black-market treasures. But then I ran across someone skulking in the less reputable establishments, and what I read from his mind made my blood run colder than normal. He was looking for someone – the right someone – who was interested in taking his ease with an underage, and unwilling girl who was barely in her teens. I followed him.
The things I learned sickened me. I learned where she was being kept, and I learned that this was not the first time the man had kidnapped and used a child in such a way. I followed him from place to place, making contact with those who were in charge of the prostitutes. I was waiting for him to give me the right opportunity, but what he gave me was so much better.
He gave me his buyer.
Money changed hands, and the parasite informed his customer where to find the girl. I followed the man, reading his thoughts; repulsed by his anticipation of her screams and her bleeding. As he moved through the dark alleys, I determined that there would indeed be screaming and bleeding that night – just not hers.
I let him know he was being followed. He was afraid of being robbed, but in the darkness there wasn't much he could do but hurry. I laughed, and the sound echoed to his ears.
"Who's there!" I could hear his panic as he whirled to look behind him. He produced a knife, and I heard his thoughts on how he wanted to use it in unclothing the girl. It was the final nail in his coffin. I casually walked up to him, almost unseen until we were close enough I could smell the garlic he'd eating at dinner. He swung the knife and I easily dodged. I confess, I toyed with him, letting his fear overwhelm him until his heart was racing.
I knew I was going to kill him. I just didn't know how profoundly it would affect me. From such a vile man came the sweetest thing I'd ever tasted. From the moment my teeth sank into his flesh I was lost in him – glorying in his life passing over my eager tongue. I drank greedily, and I realized too late I'd accidentally snapped his neck in my excitement. I held him tight; a wicked lover's embrace that he would never escape. I felt his heart slow, then stop beating, and I drained him of every last drop. I took his wallet and hid his body.
I felt almost drunk. His blood felt alive in me, and for a while I forgot about the girl, who was the reason I'd killed, or so I'd told myself. I knew from the first man's thoughts that she was locked up in the cellar of a nearby saloon. I went there as soon as I felt in control of myself. I easily opened the locked door, and I could hear her thoughts, her terror, and her heartbeat – and the last was stronger than I ever recalled hearing it! She smelled divine; fresh and vibrant, like a main course after the soup appetizer.
She was hidden away in a tiny, cold, room, huddled on a dirty old mattress. Her hands and feet were bound, and something was wadded up and tied in her mouth, and she was blindfolded. She wore a cotton nightgown that was wet and dirty, and her hair was in her face, clinging to tears and mucus. She was young – very young – with not even the hint of approaching puberty. If I had to guess, I'd say she was ten or eleven.
Even in her piteous state, I wanted her. I tasted the venom pooling like drool in my mouth, and I fought not to tear into her. I could tell she knew someone was with her in the way she drew her knees up to her chest, as if trying to become small enough to disappear. I held very still, trying to block the scent of her pulsing blood. Little by little I became used to her allure, and I was able to snap the ropes that held her bound. When she removed the blindfold and looked at me, she was at first happy I wasn't the kidnapper returned. Then she saw the blood on my clothes, and glimpsed my red eyes. Just before she fled in panic, I heard her thoughts so clearly they sliced through me.
I wanted to chase her, catch her, and drink her – desperately. The impulse was strong, like a cat must feel when faced with an injured mouse – it was instinctual. But I forced myself to stay where I was, even as I listened to her retreat into the night. Just like the story of the three billy goats, I let her pass, knowing one bigger and stronger would come along. It didn't escape me that I had cast myself as the troll under the bridge.
I waited several hours. It was dawn when I sensed him, and I waited just inside the door for my next victim. I showed him the same mercy he'd shown the girl. None. Again the flood of rich, abundant, sweet, human blood filled me. I felt gluttonous, and yet I hungered for every drop.
I had been more careful, and he remained alive long enough to know fear, then panic, then hopelessness as he died. The thoughts that washed through my mind made me know I was doing what was right, until his movements were feeble and fading. It was then I saw his own childhood victimization and abuse which had made him what he was. I left his body there and fled.
Back in our home, I washed up and threw away the clothes. In the mirror I saw the red of my eyes, and knew I wouldn't be able to hide among them. I needed to stay away from the people and the minds that made it so much easier to cope with being alone. When the hunger drove me, I returned to my animal diet, feeling very unsatisfied now that I'd tasted perfection. But it kept me alive. It kept me from becoming a monster again.
The weeks passed and I remained alone. I longed for my companions, imagining them on luxury liners crossing the ocean, in carriages and automobiles crossing the continent, and always together. I envied them almost as much as I missed them. They would always have each other, and never again know this aching, all-consuming loneliness which plagued me night and day.
Time was my enemy, leaving me too much leisure to imagine their intimate moments. I tried not to dwell on such thoughts to the point that they were all I could think about. From my immersion in the human psyche, I knew what manner of physical intimacies they were likely enjoying. Truly jealousy is a monster, whether it's eyes are green or golden – and I have had both. I burned with it, as my prurient thoughts considered all he could be doing with the woman I loved.
I knew her so well. I knew her dreams, her fears, her secrets, and her passions. How could I have allowed him to take her away from me? I was an idiot! Instead of feeling so bereft, I could be enjoying her physical delights. It could have been me she turned to with loving eyes. I could have been finding pleasure in her bed, in her arms, and – dare I even think it – inside her womanhood.
I found my salvation as I rattled around in the large house where we lived. It was pushed aside and all but hidden in a room that accommodated so many of his collections. The clanging of the piano keys was barely enough to keep me from dwelling on my unwelcome imaginings.
I discovered the instrument and spent hour after hour striking the keys discordantly, teaching myself how to coax something pleasant from the dusty upright that lay hidden away beneath stacks of books and medical journals. For each time I longed to be touching her pale skin, I instead touched the ivory of the keys. For each time the loneliness closed in, I chased it away with the sound of my playing. For every time my soul cried out in bitter longing for love, I played the notes that offered me surcease.
I fought to let it go. I couldn't have her. I couldn't love her. No... I couldn't love her as a man to a woman, but maybe... maybe... as a friend... or a relative? Perhaps I could I think of her as a cherished sister? I already thought of Carlisle as a father, could I even go far enough and think of her – love her – as a mother? In her human years, she was nine years older, but among our kind we were truly ageless.
I allowed myself to think of her. I recalled her broken body wracked with pain, and imagined her giving birth instead of seeking death. I reconciled the image of her supernaturally perfect body, with the human woman who had borne a child. Esme as a mother... yes... maybe I could think of her like that... with time.
With my supernatural memory and hearing I mastered the piano in short order, and I began to compose a piece of music in her honor. Every nuance of her beauty, from her chestnut hair to her playful smile, was written into the first movement of the piece. Her life, her selflessness, her artistic personality went into the second suite The hope and love she had for her child, as well as the pain of her loss took up the third movement. And in the fourth, I poured out all the longing and love I felt for her, and hid it in the ending chords. When it was finished, it was uniquely hers.
When they returned I was overjoyed to see them both. He looked happier than I'd ever seen him, and she was radiant. They came bearing stories and gifts, and I eagerly listened as they told of Europe going through it's post war reconstruction. For the first two days we lived in an idyllic bubble. I retreated to the piano when they became amorous, and drowned out the sounds of their lovemaking with the loud instrument.
It was on the third day when Carlisle was studying in his den, I played the piece I'd written for her. She listened raptly as I played, and I could just see her face from the corner of my eye as my fingers caressed the keys. I didn't tell her what each movement was about, only that I'd written it in her honor. It was during the last movement that Carlisle came to stand beside his wife. I almost stopped playing, but continued to the end. Esme was delighted.
Carlisle's thoughts were a confusing riot, and as our eyes met, I knew he suspected my feelings for his wife. He took her from the room and they disappeared to the privacy of their own. I continued to play, even though the piano couldn't cover the sounds of their vigorous coupling. I was intended to hear. His message was transparent in it's clarity.
We became distant with each other; two men living together with one woman between us. As I struggled to restrain my feelings for her, he worked to establish boundaries. He seemed to elevate her to a status equal to his since she was his partner and mate. He began to consult with her on small decisions, while leaving me out. Of course he could hide nothing from me. His intention was to diminish my standing and make me their subordinate.
It was a painful time for me. I missed the easy way we'd been together before she arrived. Not only could I not have her, but I felt I'd lost him as well. They were a couple and I was the odd man out. It was then I made the decision to go to college. I needed distraction and something to do with my time. I went to classes during the day and in the evenings I played piano in a dance hall to pay for the schooling. Money wasn't an object, but I felt I should contribute.
There were women who were interested in me, of course. But there were none who interested me. The college girls were most interested in snagging a husband, and the dance hall women were jaded and worldly creatures, intent in good times and fun.
Our family dynamic began to take shape during these months. Carlisle was clearly the head of our coven/family. In a very short time Esme came to look at me as a child – an errant child who was a bit on the wild side. It was her idea of me that went a long way toward redirecting my feelings toward her. She had a nurturing spirit that longed to care for those around her, and it brought her joy to do motherly things for me. She even cleaned my room! Two bachelors had little use for clean and order, but Esme wanted spotless clean, and orderly organization.
It was how she found the wallet. It was evident I'd been relegated to the role of a child when she took her find to Carlisle and not me. The ensuing confrontation was... horrible. I didn't lie, but told the whole story of what I'd uncovered, and what I'd done about it. I'd never seen the man angry. And seeing his fury over what I'd done was shocking. He never raised his voice, but his eyes shone with gold spikes and his mouth set in a hard line. He was tension personified.
Anyone would know he was angry even in his silence. But I could read his mind, and I knew the extent of his rage. At it's root were his feelings of responsibility as my creator. He felt betrayed. He felt there was blood on his hands. The look in his eyes tore at my soul, and I struggled to find the right words to form an apology. I knew there was no way to justify what I'd done to him – and I couldn't even try. It was in the moment of his deepest anger and heartbreak that I heard the idea form. He couldn't allow a murderer to exist in his proximity. I saw the flame of his wrath in the destructive path his mind followed.
He would put an end to me.
I staggered with the very weight of his conviction. "No! Father please..." I was no longer his equal, I was his child – his creation. With my eyes I begged for his mercy, and I saw... resignation and loss. He was prepared to sacrifice me on the altar of decency, and put an end to what he saw as evil. I saw the ancient vampire hunter emerge. He was quick and deadly, and he came for me. I thought to flee, knowing I could never hope to fight him.
It was then she intervened. She placed her body between us and halted his murderous charge. She stood up to him, and she was fierce, breathtaking, and beautiful! I was her child, and she protected me.
"No! You can't do this, Carlisle!" Her voice was commanding, and her eyes flashed fire. "It was a mistake... a lapse in judgment. You can't possibly destroy him over that! Look at him, he's practically a child himself – he needs to learn. Maybe we can't all be as perfect as you all the time. Would you kill me too? You lay your hands on him, you may as well finish me next." It was like she took the fight right out of him. He fell back, hurt, bewildered and completely lost. It was hard to see him like that.
She went to him and wrapped herself around him, trying to comfort him. I heard the words she whispered to him. "I love you so much. But your religious judgments are so removed from who you are inside. You're so compassionate, kind, loving, forgiving, and good. I hate to see you fall into this trap of self-righteousness. It's time to let go of it, and stop trying to be your father! He would have killed you my love. Your heart may not beat, but it's bigger and stronger than that. If you follow through with this, you are not the man I know and love."
I was still ready to go, but she was getting through to him. "Did you even hear what he prevented? They kidnapped that child, and they would have raped her, and probably murdered her as well. Do you have any idea how brutal human men can be? I do, and let me tell you, this world is better off without those two. Those kind of men poison all they touch. Their children despise them, and their wives live in fear. I'm glad he did it." Her impassioned declaration startled him. She clearly didn't share his 'eye for an eye' beliefs.
I was thinking that perhaps he would be angry with her, and we could leave together. Aside from the momentary thrill of knowing I wouldn't be alone, the thought didn't bring me comfort. She was his wife. Somehow that meant more to me than knowing she loved him and belonged to him. It was a sacred connection.
"Don't look at me like you can't see the difference between the evil those men were doing, and what Edward did. Would you really trade his life for theirs? He's your friend. He's like a son or a brother to you. He's so much like you, I love him like a son, and you would kill him? I couldn't have been so wrong about you. I won't stand in your way if you decide you must end his life. But I won't stay with you – I could never look at you the same way." She kissed him and stepped away.
Both of us followed her with our eyes. I was in awe of her. She'd given him the most gentle ultimatum – her or his religion. He knew what she was asking, and it wasn't simply to let me live. She wanted his body and soul – the soul he'd kept pure and innocent, and bound for heaven. She wanted him to be what he was – a vampire. It was so deeply personal and touching, I felt like a voyeur. She won him that day, and he never looked back.
He let me live. But more than that, he stopped being a man possessed by evil, and instead became a vampire possessed by good. He was a vampire. We were a family. And he could never take my life, because we were the same. Not that it changed his feelings on taking life; he was still adamant about only hunting animals. But he would no longer judge, and he would no longer hold up his Christian faith as the defining standard for how he should behave. It was a major turning point for the three of us.
And that brings me back to the reason he did what he did without asking me. He'd come to terms with the idea that we were more than just a coven of vampires, we were a family. Esme had protected me like a mother protects her child, and Carlisle had recognized even before I did that he wasn't the only one changed by our confrontation.
She took the role of mother seriously, and began taking care of me as if I were seven instead of well past my changed age of seventeen. She cleaned up after me, she recommended I practice the piano, or read certain books, and she even wanted to comb my hair for me. From her thoughts I recognized that she was transferring some of her mothering of her lost child onto me. I tried to be patient with her, and let her organize my room, choose my clothes, and even occasionally comb my hair. But Carlisle recognized there was a problem. She was getting worse.
Carlisle discussed with me that he thought it would be a good idea for me to assert my independence. The more I indulged her need to mother me, the deeper she went into her role-playing. It was difficult to hear her thoughts that I didn't need her because I cleaned my own room. She felt rejected when I picked out my own clothes, and when I insisted that I liked my hair messy, she would have cried if she had the tears.
It was painful for me to see her suffer. She thought of me as her child, but I still hadn't quite shifted to thinking of her as my mother. I would catch myself daydreaming about the sun shining through her hair, or the graceful way she moved. Carlisle of course worried about both of us. Our attachments weren't healthy or normal. And so he made a change.
A/N: This little idea grabbed hold of me and wouldn't let go. I thought it would be a little bitty one shot, but then I had six pages before I'd even scratched the surface. This story almost wrote itself, and it's probably my favorite of my writings.
Since Edward can read minds, I imagined he would have to keep secrets, and learn to lie to protect them. I imagine there could be many things he'd never tell.