Chapter 20 – Acceptance
Bella spent time each day with the Cullens, asking all of the questions that she needed answered before her decision was made.
Carlisle was first.
"I never met the vampire who changed me. It was an accident, I believe. Given more time, he would have finished me. I started this life alone, a very long time ago, and I've seen a lot in my lifetime," he said. "I spent much of it by myself, hating what I'd become, wishing I could die. I think I probably understand Edward's feelings more than the others do."
"What changed those feelings for you?"
A smile crossed his face. "Esme. I'd met her ten years before I changed her, and I think I fell in love the minute I saw her. But she was just a girl, so I left. Somehow, she ended up in the morgue of the hospital where I worked a decade later, in another city, her heartbeat weak and slowing, and her death imminent.
"I decided that I'd been alone long enough," he said with a sigh. "I couldn't stand by and watch her die. Changing her was selfish, I know, but I've never been sorry. She says she isn't either."
Esme's voice swept into the room. "This life is where I'm meant to be. With you. I'm happier with you than I ever was before, Carlisle."
When Esme came into the room, she sat by Bella.
"I was certainly interested in the strange doctor who treated my broken leg when I was sixteen," she explained. "But he disappeared." She winked at Carlisle.
"My parents found a man they felt was a fitting husband, and they threw us together. They worried because I was more interested in going to school than getting married. Charles allowed me to finish my degree, and I thought we could have a decent marriage. He waited until I was twenty-two. Unfortunately, the longer we were together, the more I learned about him." Esme turned to look out of the window. "He became abusive, demanding that I stay at home and have children. Be a proper wife. It took a couple of years for me to become pregnant, and when I finally did, he seemed to resent it. One night he was so violent that he really hurt me. I was terrified for the baby I was carrying."
Bella squeezed Esme's hand.
"I left him and went into hiding," Esme continued. "But it was too late. My son was born too early, and he was weak. He only lived a couple of days."
"I'm so sorry," Bella said, her heart aching for Esme. "That must have been horrible."
"I didn't think I could go on," Esme said, turning to look Bella in the eye. "I tried to take my own life by jumping off a cliff. Someone saw me jump, and they retrieved my body, thinking I had succeeded. They took me to the morgue. When I opened my eyes to this life, and to Carlisle, I was confused, but I also felt that it was possible to be happy again. It took a little time to trust him, and to allow myself to feel happiness again, but I did."
Bella watched as the two vampires exchanged a glance that was so loving, it nearly hurt to watch.
Esme turned back to her. "I understand how you were feeling, Bella. Losing Edward was more than you wanted to deal with, and I believe you wouldn't have recovered fully. I think you should be with him. He loves you, as Carlisle loves me. Everything will work out…somehow."
Esme embraced her before leaving with Carlisle, and Rose stepped into the room.
"I think they're wrong. You'll regret staying," she said bluntly. "Immortality may seem wonderful to you now, but you'll lose more than you'll gain."
"What do you know about what I want, Rose?"
"More than you know." Rose sat on Carlisle's office sofa, and leaned forward to talk to Bella. "I was a socialite. My parents had a lot of money, and they planned a wonderful life for me and my siblings."
Rose huffed, looking at Bella with cruel eyes. "My father arranged for me to meet a very eligible young man. He was handsome and rich. We were the perfect couple, or so everyone thought."
Bella felt the shift in the air, and watched as Rose's face transformed into a look or horror and pain.
"I had dreams about the beautiful children we'd have together, once we were married. But he didn't want to wait. One night, when I was walking home from my friend's house, he was there, on the street with several men I'd never seen before."
Chills traveled down Bella's spine.
"He called me over, acting as though he was going to introduce me to his friends. But once I reached him, I could smell the alcohol. I tried to leave, but he grabbed me. His friends helped him pull me into an alley, and they took what they wanted. All of them. He laughed about sharing me, about how I'd been ruined as the perfect wife. I could feel their fists, their boots, as they beat me. I was bleeding from a wound on my head, and I could feel myself drifting in and out of consciousness. I knew I was going to die, and I didn't care. It would be over then."
"Carlisle found you like that?"
Rose nodded. "I could hear Esme crying. She remembered the pain of being abused, and she begged Carlisle to help me. He wanted to refuse, but he couldn't."
The tenor of her voice changed. "The next three days were the worst of my life. The fire in my veins was a torture I deserved for being desirable to Royce and his friends. And then, when I realized what I'd become –"
Rose stood, pacing back and forth in front of Bella.
"I was a monster. Yes, I used it to my advantage. I got my revenge on Royce and his friends," she snarled the words. "But I lost the ability to bear children. I lost my dreams."
Bella could imagine the beautiful woman as the deliverer of death and vengeance. But Rose's voice changed as she finished her tale. "I'd have given anything to meet Emmett as a human. We would have had beautiful children and grandchildren, and now that will never happen for us. You'd be giving that up, too. At least think about that when you decide what you want."
After her conversation with Rose, Bella went to the room she shared with Edward. Rose had given her a lot to think about, but she still couldn't imagine leaving his side.
Emmett was playful, challenging Bella to a game of Modern Warfare3 as they chatted. It was clear that he was someone who would be happy no matter where he was. His dimples appeared frequently, as did his friendly smile.
"So you don't mind being a vampire?" she asked, her arms moving as she tried to move her character in the game.
"I love it. The raw power, the strength. If Rosie hadn't saved me from that bear, I'd have been a goner. I woke up to the most beautiful woman I'd ever seen, standing over me. Never looked back."
He whooped as he took out a couple of other players.
Bella bit her bottom lip, pondering how to ask the next question. Finally, she sucked in a deep breath. "So, I know Rose doesn't want me to change, but what do you think?"
"I'm all for it, Little Bells," he said as he blew up her character on the screen. "Maybe as a vampire, you'll be able to challenge me."
"Ha ha," she said. "I'll not only beat you at video games, I'll arm wrestle you and show you who's boss."
He roared with laughter, and Bella took the opportunity his distraction provided to blow up his character, beating him.
"And that," she said with a laugh, "is how it's done."
"I demand a rematch," Emmett boomed.
She stood, handing him the remote. "After."
Emmett nodded. "It's on."
He turned off the gaming system and turned on the television.
"Really, Em?" Bella asked as she took in the program he was watching. "Days of Our Lives?"
"Don't hate on it, Little Bells. A guy's gotta keep himself occupied."
Alice appeared, taking Bella's hand.
"Let's leave Emmett to his soaps," she said. "We've got more important things to do."
They ended up in the kitchen, Bella sipped on a glass of wine while Alice answered some of her questions. Jasper sat quietly reading at the counter.
Breaking news interrupted the soap opera that Emmett was watching in the living room. He called to the family, and Alice jumped to her feet, escorting Bella into the room.
"This is it," Alice said, looking over at Bella with concern.
The reporter was already interviewing a state police officer.
"The tip hotline received a call from an anonymous individual, stating that they had seen Ms. Swan's car. He gave us directions, and we found the car and verified that it was hers."
The camera showed Edward's car, still sitting in the parking lot at the lake.
"Have you been able to locate Bella Swan?" the reporter asked.
The officer shook his head. "Chief Swan's deputy hiked the trail with a search party earlier today. They found a backpack that we believe belonged to Ms. Swan," he said. "We have some evidence that she may have slipped and fallen from the edge of the cliff."
"If that were the case, what would her chances of survival be?"
"We're not sure. If someone found her, and was helping her, she might be okay."
The reporter looked at the camera, speaking seriously. "Bella's father, Chief of Police in Forks, believes that she is out there, somewhere. He is asking for the public's help."
Recorded footage started, and Bella gasped, covering her mouth with her hand and fighting for composure. Charlie was standing on the cliff.
"She texted me from here, I think," Charlie said to the reporter, his eyes filling with tears. "It was stormy that day. We aren't sure why she was here, and why she decided to come by herself. We aren't giving up the search. I'll find my daughter."
He looked over the edge, at the water below.
"I'm not giving up hope that Bella survived the fall. We won't stop looking."
The camera panned to the rocks at the edge of the cliff, and the reporter's voice stated, "The loose rocks on the edge, and a shoe that the search and rescue dogs found, tell us that she was here." His final words were chilling. "But at this point, it seems that the search will focus on the water below, and the rescue mission will soon become a recovery mission."
Emmett muted the television, and all eyes turned to Bella. She took a deep breath.
"Well, that's it then. Charlie will think I fell in and drown. You're stuck with me."
Alice smirked at her attempt at humor, but Edward stormed out of the room, and a crash sounded at the back of the house.
"He'll be fine," Esme said, patting Bella's shoulder as she passed. "Poor boy has been so torn over what is right."
Alice pulled Bella back to the kitchen, determined to continue the conversation that Emmett's pronouncement had interrupted.
"Will he be okay?" Bella asked.
"He'll be fine," Alice assured. "Now, let me finish telling you about our cousins who live in Denali, and then Jasper can tell you a little of the history of vampires in the southern states."
By day seven, Charlie was distraught as he spoke to the reporter. Renee and Phil were in Seattle now, standing in the background as Charlie explained that the search was being called off, but he and his friends from the reservation would continue to look for Bella. The tip hotlines would remain open for a while longer, and he begged for clues to his daughter's whereabouts.
"If anyone has seen Bella, or has any idea of where she has gone, please contact us," Charlie said. His face was drawn and pale.
Sue reached for his hand, squeezing it gently, and Ed stepped into the shot as it was returning to the reporter. Bella watched as he embraced Charlie, and both men cried.
"We're hurting them so much," Edward said. "You can still go back, you know."
"I can't," Bella responded. "I know where I belong. They're already starting to deal with losing me, and they have each other. But I can't lose you again."
Edward turned off the television, and Bella stood, stretching.
"I'm going to get ready for bed. Will you join me?"
He nodded. "I'll be there in just a minute."
She knew what he was doing. He'd stop in Carlisle's office on the way up the stairs, and they would discuss the situation. It happened each night, and Edward would turn up in the bedroom within an hour, seeming a little more relaxed.
Tonight, Bella had a plan.
She waited under the covers, her nakedness concealed by the comforter. When Edward stepped into the room, she invited him to join her. As he approached the bed, she threw back the blanket.
"Join me in here," she said.
Edward stopped moving.
"You know I can't," he whispered. "It's impossible for me to be that close to you."
Bella smiled. "Well, this is what I want, Edward. And if you aren't willing to be intimate with me while I'm still human, there's something we need to take care of."
"Stop," she demanded. "It's time, Edward. I've talked to every one of the Cullen's – even Rose. She's the only one who doesn't think I should change to be with you, and I get why, but I don't agree."
"But you don't know-"
"I do," she countered. "Alice has told me everything she remembers about her change, including how painful it was. She told me about watching you as you changed. Carlisle told me how difficult the desire for human blood would be. Esme has told me what it's like to live without the possibility of children. And Emmett explained the strength. I'll want you to hold onto the locket and ring until I get control of it."
Edward hung his head. "I wanted more for you."
"It was you who wanted a lifetime commitment, Edward. Has that changed?"
He shook his head.
"I'm finally willing to make the commitment. It may not be a wedding – yet – but I can't imagine any deeper vow than saying I'll be with you forever. Can you?"
Edward looked like he wanted to argue, but she unhooked the necklace and removed the ring, watching him as she placed it on her left hand. His eyes shot to hers.
"Forever?" he asked.
"You'll have to drink blood, Bella. You hate the sight and smell of blood."
"It's a small price to pay to be with you, Edward. I'll do whatever it takes to be with you in every way."
"And you don't mind that we'll never have children?" he asked.
Bella reached for his hand, and pulled him closer to her.
"I've already chosen to be with you, Edward. For the rest of our lives. If I stay human, our time together will be limited, and I'll carry the guilt that you'll end your immortality for my sake. But we can have forever, no limitations. We can be together in every way. Our old dreams aren't possible anymore, but we can create new dreams. I get to choose, and I choose to be like you. Do you trust me to make this decision?"
After a moment, Edward nodded. Then he asked, "What about the pain of transformation?"
"Honestly, I'm not excited about that part, but I'll endure it. Three days, and then forever."
"Forever," he whispered, drawing the sheet over her before he pulled her body back to his.
The Cullen family was gathered at the table. Each of them had heard Bella's announcement the night before, and they were waiting for Carlisle to confirm his willingness to help.
"Are you both sure about this?" Carlisle asked, looking back and forth between them.
Edward laced his fingers with Bella's, squeezing lightly as he nodded.
"Bella has decided to become a Cullen. She wants to be with me for the rest of our existence." He smiled at her, but she could see the concern in his eyes.
"You're going to sit by and let her change, Edward," Rose said with a snarl.
Edward took a deep breath before answering.
"It's her choice, Rose. You've had your say. She knows what she wants, and she knows the consequences. I'm trusting her to make the best choice for herself."
"I want to be like you," Bella told him. "I want to be with you forever."
Carlisle looked solemn. "I've never done this for someone who wasn't dying, Bella. It's not something I'd ever considered before."
"Carlisle, you told me to think about what I wanted. You said I had options. I've talked to each of you. I've watched you this week. I know what I want, and I know what will happen. I've even heard about the pain involved." Her head dropped, and she looked at the table. "It can't compare to the pain of thinking I'd never see Edward again."
Edward pulled her into his lap, kissing the top of her head and muttering, "I'm so sorry."
"I'm ready," Bella announced. "When can we do this?"
"Give me two days," Carlisle said, and when Bella huffed, he explained. "We all need to hunt before this happens and I'll need to request a short leave of absence. Esme will need to prepare the cottage. You'll stay there for the first three months. No humans go there."
Bella nodded. "Thank you."
"We'll do a spa day here. You don't want hairy legs for eternity," Alice said with a smile. "And you'll have to decide if you want your hair this long. It's a bitch to cut it after the change."
Even Rosalie smirked at that.
Carlisle cleared his throat. "It's up to you, but I would also suggest you eat lightly before it's time. Your body will reject everything you've ingested, and it's not a pleasant experience for the person undergoing the change."
Edward cringed, and Bella patted his hand. "It's okay," she said.
Esme spoke up. "We could always go to Alaska. Bella would be isolated, and we wouldn't have to worry about any humans."
"I'd like to stay here, if it's possible," Bella said. "I know it won't be easy, but I feel at home here. I trust you all to keep me out of trouble. And honestly, I'd like to be near my dad, even though I won't be able to see him."
Emmett chuckled. "I'll keep you out of trouble, Little Bells. But I think that Edward will be keeping you company most of the time." He winked, and Edward growled.
Bella smiled widely. "I hope he plans on keeping me occupied. We've been apart too long."
Emmett roared with laughter, and Bella watched as Jasper shook his head, a smirk on his face.
"Welcome to the family," Esme said. "Looks like you can hold your own."
Each family member embraced Bella before they left the room.
"Think about the things you want to do before you change, Bella," Alice advised. "I'll be here when you're ready."
Bella nodded, taking a deep breath as the heavy decision she had made began to weigh on her. She was finally starting to realize the full impact of her choice, but she was still determined.
"You can still change your mind," Carlisle said. "Nothing is set in stone. But once my venom enters your body, you can't go back."
"I know," Bella replied. "Thank you."
Edward led her to the couch and turned on the television. She snuggled into his side and mindlessly watched the show he had turned on.
"Are you really sure?" he whispered.
"Positive. In two days, I'll begin the journey of becoming like you. By this time next week, you'll be stuck with me forever."
He surprised her by leaning down and kissing her lips lightly.
"I trust you, and I can't wait."
Bella hadn't known what to expect on the day she was to be changed, but it certainly wasn't this.
Esme had prepared the cottage, and it was lovely. The bed she had prepared for Bella had a white goose-down comforter that they said they would wrap her body in when she shivered through the alterations her body would undergo. The pillows were arranged so that she would be surrounded after Carlisle bit her. They didn't want her rolling onto the floor. Apparently they all felt the fire in her veins was ample pain.
Emmett had volunteered to take Edward a couple of miles from the house until her blood had changed enough to alter the smell. Once Carlisle bit, Edward's newborn urges would overwhelm him, so he couldn't be with her at first, even if it was the thing she wished for most.
Alice had trimmed her hair to the length she desired, and they had waxed her legs and armpits to prepare her body. Her bikini line was in the best shape of her life – and the embarrassment was worth it.
She had dressed in sweat pants and a simple white tee, but Alice had informed her that when she awoke, she'd be wearing the dress that she had bought for her birthday.
"You'll be stunning," Alice said, a knowing glint in her eyes.
"Will everything work out?" Bella asked her, and Alice's smile was answer enough.
"This is the right choice, Bella. Everything will be exactly as it should."
Bella watched as Edward focused on Alice, peeking at the vision in her mind. He smiled, and relief shone in his eyes.
"Thank you," he said, patting Alice's arm. "I needed that."
"I know," she said with a smirk.
Bella got comfortable on the bed, and Edward held her hand as Carlisle explained what he was planning.
"I'm going to bite a couple of arteries, Bella, on your neck and the inside of your arms. Once the venom starts to move, and I know the change is progressing, there's something that Edward asked me to do."
He stopped and looked to Edward.
With a deep breath, Edward explained. "I wanted to be part of your change, so Carlisle and I found a way. I've filled a metal vial with my venom, and Carlisle is going to inject it directly into your heart. He didn't think it would be a good way to start the change, but once it's happening, you won't notice the sharp pain in your chest as much. I hope that's okay with you."
"Thank you," Bella said, tears filling her eyes. "It means the world to me."
Edward leaned down and kissed her forehead.
"I'll be back in a couple of hours."
He looked so worried that Bella reached up and touched his face. "Three days isn't much in the scheme of things, right? I'll get past this, and then we have forever."
He nodded, but looked away.
"I wish there was a way that wouldn't cause you so much pain."
"It's worth it."
Emmett grabbed Edward's arm. "The sooner we head out, the sooner you'll be back to your woman," he quipped, trying to lighten the mood.
"I love you. I'll see you soon," he said.
"I love you, too," Bella said, her heart racing.
Within seconds, the family members had scattered. It was only Carlisle left with Bella.
"Are you sure you're ready?" he asked.
She nodded. "As I'll ever be."
The door opened, and Rosalie walked in, settling herself on the bed next to Bella and taking her hand. Carlisle's eyebrows lifted in question, and Bella muttered, "What are you doing?"
"I may not agree totally with your choice, but I understand it." Her voice was soft, and her eyes were kinder than Bella had ever seen them. "Since I don't react violently to blood, I thought I could be here to help, if that's okay."
Carlisle smiled and Bella nodded. "Thank you, Rose."
Rose shrugged and looked to Carlisle. "Let's get this done."
Hesitantly, he lifted her arm. "This is going to hurt, I'm sorry."
"I'm ready," Bella whispered, closing her eyes and gritting her teeth.
She didn't see Carlisle's teeth approaching her arm, but she felt his nearness, his cool breath on her skin. "I'm sorry," he whispered, before she felt his cold teeth touch her upper arm. With no pressure applied, they slipped into the top layers of flesh, and she gasped, grabbing the blanket to fight the urge to scream.
His jaw tensed, and she felt the teeth slice through the tendons and arteries. The scream that welled up was cut off abruptly as his teeth moved to the side or her neck, slicing through the skin fluidly. The bite marks were burning, and she could feel the fire licking at her veins and into her head.
Carlisle moved to her other side, and repeated the process. She could feel tears rolling down her cheeks, sobs escaping her mouth.
Bella sucked in a breath and tried not to thrash as she screamed and cried.
Gasping, Bella begged for him to stop the pain.
"Please, make it stop," she whimpered.
A cold hand caressed her forehead, attempting to comfort her. Rose's voice penetrated the painful haze.
"It's okay, Bella. You can do this. Edward will be here soon. You're doing this for him, remember?"
Her mind grabbed on the thought of him, clinging to it to retain her sanity as she burned.
And then she felt a pressure in her chest - and a new and heavier burning sensation around her heart.
Edward's venom was entering her heart, being pushed to the far reaches of her body.
That thought provided a strange calming sensation to her, even as the burning increased.
"Edward," she cried. "I need Edward."
Somewhere outside of the pain induced madness, she heard a scuffle, felt the weight next to her shift and leave, the cool hand left her forehead. Confusion fought with the will to survive the pain. She writhed and twisted, screaming loudly.
And then he was there. She couldn't open her eyes to look at him, but she smelled his scent, felt his presence as he sat with her and took her hand.
"I'm here, Bella. I'll never leave you again."
Her body relaxed despite the pain, and she repeated to herself over and over, "Whatever it takes. Whatever it takes. Whatever it takes."
And there you have it. There will be a short epilogue, just to wrap it all up.
I can't say thank you enough to the ladies who have supported me as I've written this story (and taken a long hiatus). Giselle-lx, GinnyW and Shug – you are awesome.
To those who have read this story at any time – Thank you. Your reviews, follows, and favorites have carried me through. When it would have been easy to walk away, you kept me here, and I'm so glad I've finished this tale for you.
My years of writing fanfiction have been a pleasure, for the most part. The people I have met have been wonderful, some of them becoming lifetime friends. For that, I am grateful.
My stories will remain here, for you, my readers. They were written for you, about characters you loved that came from the mind of Stephenie Meyer. Her characters belong to her, not me. My plots, my words, and my ideas were applied to HER characters, and they belong here, in her fandom.
Maybe someday I will create characters of my own for you to love. They will be my own – created, dreamed about, and written about by me.
The epilogue should be up in the next week or so. Until then, I bid you a fond farewell.