Disclaimer: Written under the derivative fan works act. All rights reserved to the original creator, Stephanie Meyer.

Title: You Can't Always Get What You Want

Rating: M for sexual situations, lemons, and hot, steamy, angsty vampire lovin', underage drinking, smoking, drug use and overall bad behavior.

Premise: Alternate Universe. Edward leaves Bella after their intimate relationship blossoms during the summer after Twilight. Bella is left to face the consequences of loving a vampire as her life changes drastically. OCC ExB Lemons

Alternate Universe: Canon pairings eventually, pretty much OOC, ExB of course.

POV: BPOV (Bella), Bella starts the story. Edward and Alice may have a say later on.

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Author Notes:

Please note that this story is rated M for a reason, if you'd prefer not to deal with mature themes, please do not read this story.

Ok, I realize it's been awhile since I posted a new chapter for this story. See long note at the end of the chapter.

I'm not going to write a story recap of what's happened so far. I had to go back and read the last three chapters to get up to speed on what's happened to finish this chapter. I read a lot of stories that have been posted for years, a lot of them complete before I ever find them. I hate having to slog through long recaps of what's happened so far when I'm reading one chapter after another and simply want to find out what happens next.

Anyhow, I doubt it'll be another year before I update again. I have plans for this story now.

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Chapter 18 High School Fun

Monday had been truly eventful, between starting school and the shock of finding out that the Cullens, or the Masens as they were calling themselves now, were in school with us now and living close by to us in a neighboring community. Talking to Edward hadn't been quite as painful as I had expected it would be but I had truly enjoyed my reunion with the rest of the family.

Alice had gone to a lot of trouble to finally find us and was making her presence known in my life again. I suppose I couldn't blame her. She'd been my best friend ten years ago, and I had never really filled that void in my life. The only relationship I had that was closer than what I had shared with her was with my daughter. Before I moved to Forks all those years ago, I would have said Renee was my best friend. We were still close, maybe closer than we had been back then, but she wasn't really like a friend now. She was my mother, and had moved into more of that sort of 'mom' role because of her relationship with Phil. We talked about everything and were comfortable together, but she was my mom. Somehow, I was expecting more from Alice and I assumed we would be close again once things settled down and we had a chance to spend time together again.

I had successfully reconnected with Jasper and Carlisle. Esme was just as welcoming and loving as she had been ten years ago. More surprising was the acceptance and camaraderie I had gained with Rosalie. She had never accepted me when I was human, but my experiences and decisions in my second life seemed to meet with her general approval and she was able to commiserate with the ordeal inflicted upon me by her brother's actions. I'd never had much of an opportunity to connect with Emmett before because of my icy relationship with Rosalie, but I had hopes now that we could become closer due to the improvement in my relationship with his mate.

It hadn't been as hard being with Edward last night as I would have thought it was going to be, but I knew I couldn't make it easy for him to worm his way back into my life again. I knew that even if we pulled up stakes and moved, he knew enough about what I'd been doing for the last ten years that he'd easily be able to follow me wherever I ran too. I would have to completely and totally alter my life if I wanted to avoid him, but I wouldn't do that, regardless. I wasn't the one who needed to run or hide.

No, Edward was the one that was going to have to change if he wanted to be a part of my life now. I was perfectly happy with my life the way it was, and I didn't need Edward. I had Nessie, and she filled the void in my life that I would have otherwise felt if I was separated from my mate for as long as Edward had been gone. The bond that we shared as mother and child substituted for any loss I would have experienced from Edward not being in my life. That was a major reason why I hadn't felt the need to search for him.

No, Nessie and I had each other, and we didn't need Edward. I knew he wanted to reconcile with me and try to go back to what we'd had before he walked out on us, but I wouldn't even consider going back to that dynamic in our relationship.

Edward had been in control then, and made all the decisions and called all the shots. He decided when we were together and for how long. Where we went who we talked to and who I could be friends with or who I should avoid. He had controlled me then almost like I was his pet, but then I'd been a naïve seventeen year old high school girl when we were dating ten years ago in Forks, and I had equated his control with loving caring and protection.

I didn't need that in my life now. I wouldn't accept that kind of loss of control in my life regardless. No, he needed us, and if he wanted to be a part of our lives, then it was going to be up to him to change.

I still had about four and a half hours before we had to go back to school for Tuesday and our white day classes when I arrived at home after dropping Edward off. I decided to soak in a nice hot bubble bath to clean away the accumulated dirt and grime from kicking biker butt. I soaked until I let the water start to cool. I had to keep adding hot water to keep the bath hot, but it was still relaxing regardless. I got out and dried off and changed into some sweat pants and a tank top to lie down and read until it was time to dress for school.

It was about five o'clock in the morning when my phone rang. I couldn't think of anyone that would possibly call me at this hour. Phil and Renee were likely asleep, and Nessie would have simply knocked on the door if she wanted to talk. If it was business, all of my contacts knew to call me later in the afternoon. They all assumed I slept most of the day to be up all night.

I grabbed my cell phone where it was plugged into the charger on the nightstand and looked at the caller ID. Well, I suppose Nessie had said she gave them our cell numbers and contact info. It could be worse. It might have been Edward.

I pressed the green button to answer the call.

"Hello, Alice. What can I do for you?" I asked.

"Hey, Bella, I just thought I should give you a call so we could work out our back story. We need to be consistent in what we tell people. Word's gonna get around school fast that you and Edward have a history. After what happened at lunch and Forensic Science yesterday, there are gonna be a ton of rumors flying around school, and the gossip hounds are gonna be after you for the dirt. I thought we should talk and get our story straight before we go to school today."

"Ok, that makes sense. What is your story right now? Where do your records say you came from?"

"New Hampshire. We really did live there, and we wanted to keep it simple."

"Same here, we transferred in from Sioux City, Iowa."

"Well, it's a little late to change transcripts, and I assume you've already been using that story. Anything else you've been telling people that I should know about?"

"Umm… Well, Nessie put out the story that I was in an accident and missed a year of school. That's why I'm a year older than her, but we're both in the same grade."

"Ok, we can work with that. All we really need is a story about how you and Edward know each other, and why you don't exactly get along right now."

"It's a little more complicated that that, Alice…"

"I know, but we don't need to give the humans details. They're perfectly capable of making those up on their own."


"I'm thinking summer fling. You and Edward met while our families were vacationing together and started seeing each other."

"Yeah, sure… While we're creating this fantasy life, how about making it someplace nice and sunny, like Cancun?"

"I was thinking the French Riviera, but Mexico will do."

"Or we could make it a little more believable and just say Florida. Kids here already know Phil used to play ball in Florida, and I hinted that we used to live there a long time ago. Besides, I've never been to Mexico, but I visited Renee in Florida once."

"Fine… I guess Florida works too, but it doesn't sound quite as glamorous. So why did you guys break up? Summer ended and you had to go back home?"

"That's a little too convenient. It's too likely we'd try to get back together…"

"Umm…? Don't you want to get back together? You know it's going to happen eventually..."

"I suppose that's probably inevitable, but that's not going to happen tomorrow or even the next day, maybe not this decade, Alice. It's going to be up to Edward whether that happens or not, and I'm not going to make it easy for him. He's going to have to prove that he's changed and is ready to be part of a partnership, not a dictator that tells us what to do."

"We are both still talking about the same Edward Masen here, right? Is that even possible?"

"I don't know, but that's what's going to have to happen before he has a shot at being back in my life."

"Alright, am I allowed to tell him this?"

"Well, it would be a little hard for him to know what I expect if nobody tells him. He can't make changes if he doesn't know what I want."

"I suppose that's true… So back to the back stories… Umm… Why did guys break up then?"

"Let's keep it simple and use what we've already told people. How about we say Edward caused the accident that made me lose a year of school. I haven't said what the accident was, or where it happened. That's the sort of thing that could drive people apart and make them break up, Right?"

"Bella! That's not nice. You want to blame your fake made up accident on Edward?"

"I didn't say it was nice, and it's better than he deserves. Hell, I could say he spent a year in jail standing trial for sexual assault, and it'd still be better than he deserves! I think the accident story is getting off easy!"

"There aren't any records of him being in jail…"

"That can be arranged. I have connections in law enforcement now, you know…"

"Ok, ok! We'll go with the accident story. Jeez, Bella, are we a little vindictive much?"

I ticked points off on my fingers, despite the fact that she couldn't see me. "Walked out on me ten years ago, abandoned me in the forest, left me knocked up with his half-vampire kid, caused me to have to become a vampire or I would have died, caused my mom and her husband to become vampires too… Shall I go on? There's the whole Lilly episode that I didn't even know about until last night. I think I'm entitled to a bit of vindictiveness. He's getting off easy being the cause of my fake accident, Alice. Besides, it gives me an excuse to be pissed off at him in public without telling people the real reason."

"Ok… I guess so, Bella."

"Nessie says if I take him back, I need to make him seriously grovel. I promised her he won't try to run our lives if he wants to be a part of them. I don't know if I can ever forgive him, but if you expect me to let him back into my life, then start helping me do that. That has to be our reality before he gets a second chance."

"That's not going to be easy, Bella. I can't see your future…"

"Well, we'll just have to see how devious you really are without being able to use seeing the future as a crutch."

"Hey, that's not fair…"

"I didn't say it was, but then life isn't fair. We both know that's true. I know you're going to try and manipulate this situation, Alice. You want us back together. You're his sister and you love him. I believe you have my best interests at heart too and want what you think is best for both of us. Besides, you did everything you could to throw us together ten years ago. I won't tell you to butt out and mind your own business. It wouldn't do me any good anyways. I don't mind you trying to help out, but just remember what my needs are when you're working on your schemes."

"Well, that's a step in the right direction. At least you're willing to let me help. What exactly am I supposed to be scheming, Bella?"

"I don't know. That's what you're good at. Don't waste your time and energy trying to think up ways to throw us together, Edward's doing alright with that on his own, and it's not like being together in awkward situations is going to help anyhow. If you want to help, try and figure out how to help Edward realize I'm not going to let him run my life for me or dictate how I live. I don't need somebody to protect me anymore. I need somebody who accepts me for what I am and wants to be a part of that."

"That's not going to be easy, Bella. Isn't having somebody to love worth meeting him halfway?"

"I want love in my life, Alice, but I'm not willing to sacrifice my independence for it. I'm not going to give up my lifestyle or career to be with Edward. If he can't accept me for whom I am, then I don't need him. He needs me, Alice."

"It sounds like you want to be in charge now…"

"I want a partner, Alice. I don't expect him to be my bitch, but he needs to know he isn't going to dictate every single detail of my life like he did when I was seventeen. He never talked to me about anything, Alice. We didn't decide together. He decided and then told me what we were going to do. He decided when we were going to the meadow. He decided when we were going out and what we were going to do, who I was allowed to see, how I was going to spend my time, how physical our relationship was allowed to be. He decided it wasn't safe for me to be around him and he left."

"He did all that because he loved you, Bella. He still loves you."

"I know, but I won't go back to living like that, Alice. Does Jasper control every aspect of your life?"

"Hell no! I'd kick his ass if he tried to pull that crap!"

"So you understand."

"I can see making him grovel and seriously apologize for being an ass, but some of the things you want are just basic to being in a relationship, Bella. They aren't gonna happen until you're together. Some of that you'll just have to make him do when you're with him, like putting your foot down and making him work together with you to decide things. Some of the things you want aren't possible for him to demonstrate until you're at least willing to date him…"

"I'm not ready for that step yet… I'm barely comfortable knowing he knows where I live and the fact that we're going to the same school, even if it is a charade..."

"So what were you planning on doing about school then? You said you want Nessie to have social interaction and get to know humans. You want her to make friends and maybe more... You mentioned her dating and going to social events and dances… Those types of thing usually require a date…"

"Nessie is a big girl, and she likes boys. I have every confidence she'll be able to find dates, maybe even a boyfriend."

"Yeah, but what about you? You said you'd probably be going with her to these events… Are you going to have a date too?"

"That's kind of how it works, Alice…"

"But not Edward. You know what that'll do to him…"

"That's not my problem. He can either control himself, or he can run away again. If he wants to be with me then he's going to have to do some growing up."

"Flaunting other guys in his face to deliberately make him jealous and provoke a response doesn't strike me as a grown up way of dealing with this, Bella."

"Having Edward suddenly show up here out of the blue wasn't my idea. Just because he's here now doesn't mean I'm going to suddenly throw all my plans out the window and scramble for plan B."

"You know what'll happen if he sees you with guys at school or a dance and they think it's alright to touch you. He could kill somebody..."

"Then he's going to have to learn to control himself. I didn't attack Lilly yesterday, and he had his arm around her..."

"They were just pretending, Bella. You know what it's like with guys in school. She'd have them following her around all day long asking her out if they didn't pretend to be a couple..."

"Fine... I get it. You know, I'm going to have to deal with that too. The easiest way to deal with it is to just pick one and date him. Then the rest will back off."

"It would be easier to just scare them off. It always worked for me and Rose…"

"You both already had boyfriends, and scaring boys away doesn't really work to help Nessie connect with people and make friends. I'm not sure if you noticed, but she doesn't give off the predator vibe like the rest of us. It's easier for her to fit in if she wants too."

"Fine, I can see her dating. I can even help with that, but you're putting any guy you date in needless peril, Bella."

"How is that? I have excellent control. I can kiss a human boy without putting him in danger. Hell I could probably do a whole hell of lot more than kiss him, but I not Tanya."

"He'd kill them Bella..."

"I'm not unreasonable. I told Edward we could compromise..."

"So you'd be willing to go out with him?"

"So not ready to deal with that... I was thinking more along the lines of telling him when I'm going to have a date so he could avoid seeing us..."

"You honestly think that has a chance of working? That's worse than flaunting it in his face. You'd be telling him when and where to find you. You know he wouldn't be able to stay away..."

"That is so not my problem. I'll give him fair warning, but he doesn't run my life or tell me who I can see or who I can spend time with. He's the one who broke up with me and left. If he can't handle it, he can keep staying away from me."

"Fine, let me give this some thought and see what I can come up with. I'll see you in school. I still love you, Bella. I've always thought of you as a sister."

"Thanks, Alice. I love you too. You were always my best friend, and I want us to be friends again. I'll see you in school... Bye." I hit the red button to end the call.

What else could I say? It was time to get dressed for school. Today was round two and I was actually looking forward to going to school, despite the fact that I knew Edward would be there again. At least today I wasn't expecting any more shocks or anything unexpected at school. Barring little green men deciding today was the day to start the invasion from Mars, I felt fairly safe in that assumption. Of course I hadn't been expecting anything out of the ordinary on our first day either. Once I'd had a chance to regroup and think things through, I didn't really mind re-connecting with the Cullen family in general.

Edward was another story. I wasn't letting him off the hook. He'd made my life hell, and he deserved some of it back before he was going to waltz back into my life and act like nothing had happened. I knew we'd most likely end up back together eventually unless I ran, but I wasn't going to do that. He was going to have to learn to accept me as I was if he wanted to be with me. Any relationship we had was going to be on my terms this time around. Otherwise it was his turn for living hell.

There was a soft knock on the door, and then Nessie walked into the room. She didn't say anything and went to my closet and started to layout my clothes for school.

"What, not even a good morning, how did the job go last night, nothing?"

"Not sure if I'm speaking to you yet…"

"What did I do…?"

"I heard you talking to Aunt Alice on the phone. Please tell me you two aren't going to try and play match maker while we go to school here."

"What ever gave you that idea?"

"So I'm supposed to have social interaction and get to know humans? I'm supposed to date and find a boyfriend? Whose big idea was that? Please tell me you aren't going to try and set me up with anyone."

"I'm not trying to set you up with anybody, but you did seem happier when you were hanging out with those kids at the mall in New York. We're just two teenaged girls with our whole lives in front of us having a good time. Although mom had the idea that she thought if you connected with humans again, you'd start to see them as people instead of snacks. That's why she encouraged me to go along with this whole high school thing."

"Fine… Did it ever occur to you that they can be cute and delicious at the same time?"

"Well, you don't seem to want to take a bite out of the ones you have relationships with…"

"That's because I don't make friends with axe murders and drug dealers, mom. I thought we were pretty settled on the idea that it isn't nice to eat innocents? Predators on the other hand are fair game in my book. I just don't do it because you and grandma are squeamish and I like living with you."

"They're all people, Nessie…"

"So what? What you don't seem to get is that I don't mind eating people. It doesn't matter to me if the animal I'm eating is capable of carrying on a conversation with me before I eat them. It doesn't make me feel sick or evil or guilty. They're the species I was evolved to prey on. You're just squeamish because you used to be one of them. I never was, and I'm ok with that.

"You'd be happier if you'd simply embrace your true nature instead of trying to pretend to be human. You knew it was part of the package when you signed up for this, but you want to try to cheat the system and get all the perks without having to pay the piper. Eating people is what we're designed to do, mom. It's why we exist."

"I knew I didn't have to kill people to survive when I asked for this. Carlisle doesn't eat people. He's almost four hundred years old, and he's never tasted human blood except for the times when he turned the rest of his family..."

"You know, I don't have to kill them just to have a little taste. I don't have bloodlust like the rest of you. I can stop if I want to, and I'm pretty sure I can drink enough to keep the venom out of their system. I can have a little taste without turning them or hurting them. Well, I suppose biting them would still hurt…"

"Nessie! You wouldn't…!"

"Not yet, but I've thought about it more than once. It's just more convenient to kill them. The hardest part is that they know what happened and remember what you did. It's kind of hard to cover up the fact that you just took a bite out of somebody. Once I figure out that part, then I won't have to kill anyone if I don't want to."

"And how exactly are you going to do that? Do you have some kind of mind control ray I don't know about?"

"I don't know yet, but sometimes I wonder. Should I experiment with it and see if it works?"

"Nessie… We want to stay here for a while. I thought I taught you it was rude to bite people when you were six months old…"

"Maybe I don't even have to bite them to have a little taste. You should surf the internet more often. You know, there are people out there that want vampires to bite them. There's a whole sub-culture of humans who pretend to be vampires and other humans who willingly act as donors to let them have a taste now and then. Should we look them up and maybe visit some clubs?"

"That sounds dangerous. I can't believe the Volturi don't monitor something like that…"

"Hell, they probably started it as part of their campaign of disinformation. If people are pretending to be vampires, it gives the real ones another layer of protection from discovery."

"That's true… I don't like it though. You're not going to fool around with that are you?"

"I'm just kidding, mom. Get dressed so we can go to school."

She said she was just kidding, but it made me worry. She sounded sincere, but I had the feeling she was just telling me what I wanted to hear. I had a feeling this was a topic we'd be revisiting again.

I looked at what she'd picked out for me and it wasn't so bad. Designer jeans, a fitted top and spike heeled pumps. I didn't care about the designer labels anymore, and I could pull off the shoes, so I didn't complain. I was just glad she was happy.

She walked out of the room as I started to change.

"No guns, mom…" She said over her shoulder as she left the room.

"I know... no guns." She nodded and walked away, closing the door behind her. "Besides, vampires are mostly bullet proof anyhow…" I muttered under my breath. I thought it was too quiet for her to hear, but I still heard her snigger as she walked into her room.


I'd explained the details and changes Alice and I had agreed upon to our back story while we drove to school. It seemed to appease Nessie a little that I wasn't making this easy for her father. We got to school early to get a good parking place, but Alice's Porsche was already parked in the lot at the curb closest to the school. I didn't try to fight it and parked next to her.

I liked Alice and wanted to try and re-establish the close relationship we'd had ten years ago, although the dynamic had changed now. I wasn't the pushover human anymore for her to play dress up with or drag to the mall to try on twenty outfits. Of course she'd always wanted that to happen and she'd gotten her wish in a round about fashion. I was a vampire too now, and at the very least, I could keep up with her. I wasn't sure how our relationship would have grown and developed if Edward hadn't left, but we were left with what we had now, and I knew we'd make it work.

The upside of this situation was I had Nessie now, and she liked to shop like Alice did. Maybe she could be my buffer and absorb Alice's attention as far as shopping trips and clothes were concerned. I'd pretty much resigned myself to letting Nessie dress me and she knew my tastes and what I liked. I didn't mind wearing the clothes as long as they didn't try to make me shop for them too.

None of the Masens were in sight when we walked through the metal detectors into the school building although I could smell them as soon as we walked through the doors. We went to the stairs to go up to our locker to prepare for the day. We had four different classes today, and I was kind of looking forward to AP English. English had always been one of my favorite classes, and in another life, I could have seen myself as an English major instead of taking a more practical selection of classes and course of study that matched my chosen career path. I'd started off as an English major before switching majors to Criminal Justice. Maybe after we graduated I'd go ahead and get an English degree if Nessie and I decided to go to College together.

I knew they were waiting for us upstairs before we could see down the hall. I could scent Alice, Jasper, and the new girl, Lilly, but thankfully Edward wasn't with them. Nessie and I went to our locker simply to have something to do to kill time, but there was no real reason. We had all the supplies we'd need and we hadn't gotten any of the books we'd need for the classes we had today yet.

Alice, Jasper and Lilly came down the hall to greet us. Alice and Jasper seemed happy to see us, but Lilly hung back behind them a little. I could understand her apprehension. I hadn't been very welcoming yesterday. I'd growled at her and had been ready to pounce on her and tear her apart, so I could understand her being cautious around me.

"Good morning," I greeted them in general. "So we all have English together?" I asked. It was a rhetorical question. We all knew our schedule and we'd discussed it last night.

"That's the plan," Alice said. "Lilly and I have art with you and Nessie after English, too.

I stepped back to walk beside Lilly as we walked to English. "I wanted to apologize for how I acted yesterday, Lilly. I was taken by surprise when I saw you with Edward. My reaction was instinctual, and I had no right to jump to conclusions."

"Ok… I'm sorry I put you in that situation. Alice and Jasper explained what happened and why you reacted to me like that. I want you to know there's nothing going on between me and Edward. We're just friends. I owe him my life for getting me out of Phoenix after… I guess I understand why Victoria did what she did now…"

"I'm sorry you got dragged into all of this."

Lilly shrugged. "Rose hates this life, but it really isn't so bad once you get used to being around people again. I can see where going to high school over and over could get boring, but college was fun and I wouldn't mind doing that again."

"So, have you ever considered doing anything else besides being a permanent full time student?" Nessie asked as she glanced around to see if anybody was close enough to be listening to us. "You could have a career if you wanted to do something different. You're what, about twenty-six for real? Doesn't this get boring after a while?"

Lilly shrugged. "It's only my second time around, and this is a completely different school. I'm not bored yet, but I can see your point. I just got my Bachelors degree in Business Administration, and I can't do anything with it. Nobody's going to hire me, and how long could I hold down a job? A year or two maybe, and then I'd just have to quit before I could even advance or do anything."

"So start your own business. Nobody knows what you look like on the internet and there are thousands of businesses buying and selling and offering services. If you're looking for a job to get your feet wet and try working, I'm sure grandma could use some help after school and on the weekends."

"Really? Could I do something like that?" Lilly asked. It wasn't just a rhetorical question. She seemed to direct it to Jasper, almost like she was asking his permission.

"I don't see anything wrong with that if you'd like to get out try something different. The business Mrs. Dwyer operates would be perfect for you. You could interact with people, but you'd have the window separating you from the general public."

"Ok," Lilly said. "Talk to your mom, and if she can use me, I'll do it."

"So, have Jasper and Emmett taught you how to fight?" I asked. "I know they used to love to wrestle all the time."

"They've shown me a thing or two, but Edward never thought it was a good idea..."

"Of course, it figures. Nessie's been taking tae kwon do for years now and relaying the lessons to me and Phil. We can show you another thing or two if you're interested. I can offer you more interesting work than a check cashing store if you want to try something a little more exciting, although it might require that you take some time off from school."

Lilly didn't answer me, but nodded her head thoughtfully and seemed to consider the idea. She knew what I did and how it could be both exciting and dangerous. At least she was thinking about it now.

"Tae kwon do, really?" Jasper asked, surprised. "What rank?"

"Third Dan black belt officially, according to my certification with the international organization." Nessie said. "I could take more advancement tests for higher ranks, but I hold back to fit in when I go to the dojang to train. Bella and Phil are at least that advanced, maybe more, but neither of them has ever taken an official advancement test nor received any official training. All of their training is through me."

"Impressive," Jasper said. "We should spar sometime. It would be nice to have an opponent where I didn't have to hold back and move like... the other students."

Our conversation turned to more mundane and less provocative subjects as we walked into the classroom and found seats. We were the first students to enter the classroom this morning and were able to select a group of seats close together. I knew from experience that Alice and Jasper would have preferred to sit quietly in the back of the classroom where they could pretend to be alone, but I followed my previous day's routine, and selected seats in the middle of the classroom.

Slowly the other kids started to filter into the room. Shelia and Cathy walked into the classroom just ahead of Dean. They all saw the single open seat beside me, but Shelia dashed to claim it before Dean could move past her to sit down. Dean glared at her as he took the seat beside Sheila and Cathy sat behind her.

Justin walked into the room next and went to sit beside Nessie, like he had the previous day in our computer class. He struck up a conversation with her, and they seemed to be getting along together.

"Hey, Bella," Sheila said as she sat beside me. "Lunch and Forensic Science were just too weird yesterday."

"Yeah, they were sure something, alright," I said, somewhat noncommittally.

"So what was up between you and Edward Masen yesterday?"

"What do you mean?" I asked.

"Well, when we were going to lunch, you saw him, and you looked like you were ready to literally claw the eyes out of his head one minute, and then everybody hit the deck like we were all drugged or something. That was totally weird, and then you took off like a bat out of hell, running flat out for the library.

"The whole Forensic Science classroom heard what you told Mrs. Harpel. So what exactly is your history with Edward?" Sheila asked. "You both transferred in from different parts of the country. How could you possibly know each other?"

I glanced over at Alice, and she nodded almost imperceptibly, giving me permission to use the story we'd fabricated. Dean was hanging on every word Sheila spoke, and was leaning forward to hear my answer.

"I know Edward and his family. We met in Florida a couple of years ago while we were visiting relatives. We were spending the summer there, and the Masens were renting a beach house down the block from us. They were there for the summer too."

"Ok, so that explains how you know them. What happened between you two?" Sheila pressed, digging for details now that she had me talking.

I shrugged. "Edward and I just seemed to click as soon as we met. We dated that summer and were a couple."

"So did you break up when summer ended and you went back home? Do you think you two will get back together now that you both go to the same school?" Sheila asked excitedly. Dean seemed a little dejected at the thought of that possibility.

"Hell no!" I exclaimed. "Maybe when hell freezes over, I don't want anything to do with the arrogant bastard."

"Oh...?" Sheila seemed surprised, and Dean brightened up noticeably at my declaration. "What happened between you two?"

"The asshole caused the accident that put me in the hospital. I missed a year of my life because of him. I'm lucky to be alive. I was in a coma for a month, and the doctors didn't know if I'd ever be able to walk again at first. I spent six months in physical therapy because that asshole decided he had to drag race some other asshole on the strip by the beach."

"Oh wow! That's horrible," Shelia said, trying to sound sympathetic, but she was eating it up. "What about Edward?" Sheila asked.

I glanced over at the others before I answered her. Nessie was wearing a smirk on her face and was enjoying the tale I was spinning. Alice just rolled her eyes at me as I indulged myself in fabricating unnecessary details to embellish the tale. Jasper didn't seem upset and was trying to hide a grin as he fought breaking out laughing. I could just imagine him relaying the details to Edward later. Of course, it was possible he was listening in on what I was saying right now, silently fuming in whatever class he had at the moment. Lilly looked a little horrified that I was vilifying Edward and making up stories about him, but she knew our history and was aware of the fact that I didn't want to have to spend time with him at school.

I turned back to Sheila. "Edward? He walked away without a scratch. He didn't even get a ticket, lose his license or go to jail. They figured out a way to blame the accident on the other driver, and he even collected damages on the insurance settlement. By the time I woke up in the hospital, he was back home in New Hampshire going to school and had a new girlfriend."

"Yeah, I can see why you'd be a little pissed off at him," Sheila said.

Mrs. Jensen called the class to order then and we had to stop talking amongst ourselves as she took roll and got the class started. She passed out text books and the first novel we'd be reading for the class. It was a book I'd read many times for pleasure both before and after I was turned. The fact that I'd read it before didn't diminish my enjoyment of the material and I still enjoyed reading the book, despite the fact that I had it memorized now.

We received an explanation of the syllabus for the class and then Mrs. Jensen rolled right into her lecture and a class discussion of general literature topics, not wanting to waste any of the class time available to us.

The eighty-four minutes flew by, and then the bell was ringing to announce the end of the period. I was collecting my things to leave and go to my next class when Sheila asked me what my next class was.

"Nessie and I have Art with Ms. Bergeron next period," I told her.

"Oh wow, I guess great minds do think alike," Sheila said. "I have that class too," She said as she gathered her things and left with us to walk to Art class.

Alice and Lilly had the same class with us too, so the five of us girls left and walked together to class while the rest of the kids went their own ways to their classes. Dean told me goodbye and said he'd see me at lunch as he walked away.

Sheila watched him walk away, and then looked back at me appraisingly. "I think Dean likes you," Sheila said. "He's certainly paying a lot of attention to you, and normally the only thing on his mind this early in the school year is football."

"Umm... That's flattering, I guess..." I said, "But I'm not really looking for a boyfriend."

"So you don't like him?" Sheila pressed.

"I didn't say that..." I didn't want to shut him down. I might need a date if I needed one to double with Nessie, and I didn't want to burn any bridges or seem too aloof or uninterested.

Nessie smirked at me. "So you'd be willing to go out on a date with him if he asked you out?" She asked.

I glared back at her. I knew my answer would get back to him. Sheila would make sure of that. "Oh, I don't know. He seems nice, but I don't want to move too fast with anything. Maybe if we went out with a group or on a double date with Nessie and someone I might be interested."

"Really?" Sheila asked, sounding slightly incredulous. "That just sounds so old fashioned."

I shrugged. "I've been hurt before, and I'm not ready to jump into anything with both feet right now. Besides, Nessie and I do everything together."

"Everything?" Sheila asked suggestively as she smirked at me. "I know some guys that would definitely be up for that. You might not be twins, but sisters works too…"

"Umm... Not everything, everything," I said, trying to back pedal and defuse the situation.

Sheila laughed. "Ok, I get it, but you girls have got to come to some of the parties we throw this year. I think you'd have fun and it would let you meet a lot of people. Dean and his buddies on the football team are always a lot of fun. You're totally pretty enough that you would have made the cheerleading squad if you were here early enough for tryouts."

"Um, Bella, are you going to introduce us to your friend?" Alice asked as her and Lilly walked along with us.

"Oh, of course," I said. "Sheila, this is Alice Masen and Lilly Bailey. Alice is Edward's sister. I've known her for years, although we lived in different states until now."

"Hi," Sheila said. "So, you're Edward's sister? You guys are still friends after everything that happened? Did you guys meet in Florida that summer too?"

"Oh no, Bella and I have been friends for years. We were friends before she dated my brother. Our parents sent us all to the same summer camp when we were kids, and we'd spend the summers together, and then stay in touch over the internet during the rest of the year. That's how our families decided to vacation together in Florida that summer. Bella and Nessie were visiting relatives, and my family was renting a beach house for the summer."

The classroom was located in the auditorium building, but it wasn't raining as we crossed between buildings. The five of us continued to chat as we walked to the Art classroom and found seats. The classroom didn't have the typical individual desks and was arranged with larger work tables with enough chairs around them for a group of people to sit together.

When we arrived, I ended up at a table with Alice and Lilly, while Sheila and Nessie went to sit at another table with one of Sheila's friends. Apparently she had gotten enough information from me to sate her for awhile and wanted details I wouldn't talk about from Nessie while she had an audience to start spreading the story. I didn't really mind. I wouldn't have told her the story if I didn't expect her to spread it around the school.

I chatted with Alice and Lilly while we waited for class to start. I had a feeling this was going to be a more laid back easy going sort of class anyhow. It was art, and an elective, and we were all here because we wanted to be here. At least that was the theory. I hadn't picked any of my classes, although I didn't object to any of them on basic principle. Nessie knew me and knew what I liked. She'd pretty much picked classes I would have picked if I'd done the choosing.

Nessie went to sit with Sheila at another table, and another girl joined them. She had long pale blond hair and from her green and white pullover hoodie, I assumed she was on the cheerleading squad with Sheila. I didn't think I was so much actively eavesdropping on their conversation, but I could multitask now, and chat with Alice and Lilly while listening to what Nessie was talking about with Sheila and the new girl.

Sheila introduced the new girl as Ashley Seymour. She was a junior this year like the rest of us and was on the football cheerleading squad with Sheila. Ashley struck me as kind of self absorbed and shallow as the girls sat and talked to Nessie.

"So, you two are cheerleaders, right? Do you date a lot? I guess it's every guys dream to date a cheer leader while he's in high school." Nessie was saying.

"You know, that's what I thought too," Sheila was saying. "I guess I go out a lot, but mostly with friends... I think a lot of guys are intimidated by the whole cheerleader thing, and it scares them off. It's like we always end up hanging out with the same crowd all the time. Ashley's lucky though, she has a boyfriend."

"Huh, I guess that's true. You might want to try distancing yourself from the group when there's a guy you want to ask you out, or find ways to make yourself available to be asked out. Guys don't usually want to approach a group of girls. They're probably nervous already, and it scares them off when you're with all your friends. They'll wait until they can talk to you alone, but if you're never alone, then they aren't going to take a chance on getting shot down by your friends."

"You know, that makes a lot of sense," Sheila said. "I'm always with the other cheer leaders at school or after practice or at games. I'm usually in a group even when we go to the mall. I know guys are checking me out, but they never seem to take that chance to talk to me unless we're at a party or something. I'll have to give that a try. Thanks, Nessie."

"No problem. I was dating a really sweet guy before we moved, but we had to break up because I was moving away."

"That had to suck," Ashley said. "We're you guys close?"

"I really liked him a lot..."

"So, how far did you...? You know..." Sheila asked, hoping Nessie would give up some sweet gossip.

"Not far. I kissed him and we made out, but clothes stayed on," She lied. "So who are you dating, Ashley?" She asked to move the spotlight off of her.

"I've been going out with Mason Carlton since last year," Ashley said.

"Really?" Nessie asked. "Are you guys serious? Shelia said he had a girlfriend, but he doesn't seem to act like he's dating anyone."

"We're still a couple…" Ashley said, but it didn't sound too confident to me. "I was gone for a lot of the summer, but we're still together."

"Ok…" Nessie said. "So, have you guys gone out or had a serious talk since you got back or school started?"

"No…" Ashley said. "He's been really busy with football, and I've been busy with cheer leading, but we need to talk…"

"Umm… You've got his cell number, right? He's on facebook if he's seventeen and alive. Does his status say he's your boyfriend or that he's in a relationship?"

"I don't want to discuss it… We just need to talk. I want to talk to him face to face and we can work everything out. We always work everything out..."

"So, what? Did he dump you or say he's dating other girls now or something?"

"No! We're still a couple… I don't care about stupid facebook statuses. We just need to talk and work out our issues…"

"Ok, if you say so…" Nessie soothed, but she glanced at me and caught my eye. I couldn't read minds, but I knew my daughter well enough to know what was going on in her head, and I could practically hear her saying, 'denial ain't just a river in Egypt, Sweetheart. It's so over.'

I grinned back at her and couldn't help the smile that played across my lips. Somehow I couldn't feel sorry for Ashley, despite the fact that her relationship with Mason was obviously over. It sounded to me like she just wasn't willing to admit it yet.

I focused more of my attention back to Alice and Lilly and the other kids that had sat at our table. This was going to be an easy class to breeze through. The teacher, Ms. Bergeron, had taken roll and outlined what we were going to do this year, and then had given us a simple assignment to draw a picture. We could choose from several still life subjects in the classroom, sketch a portrait if we were daring enough, or even a self-portrait if we liked. I got the sketch book that Nessie had packed for me out of my bag to begin the assignment.

Ms. Bergeron simply wanted an example of what we were capable of doing to gauge our ability and determine where each of the students in the class was in terms of raw talent and skill. I knew Alice was an accomplished artist. She had been sketching fashion design ideas for years and years, and drawing came easily to her. I'd always thought she was very talented until I had become a vampire myself and found how easy drawing was for me now. We saw so much more and remembered so much more. We had meticulous attention to detail and the ability to reproduce what we saw in our minds eye in exacting detail.

I had refined that raw ability that was second nature to me now by taking some classes to learn the skills of a sketch artist to draw out descriptions from suspects and victims and produce drawings of the people they described to me. It was a useful skill in my line of work. I couldn't read minds like Edward, but I knew what questions to ask to get enough details to draw who a victim had seen.

I drew a portrait of Nessie, but toned it down a little so it didn't quite look like I'd taken a photograph and you could tell it was only a drawing. It gave me an excuse to glance in her direction and keep tabs on her conversation with Sheila and Ashley, but they hadn't said anything else that interested me as they talked about school and cheerleading and what kids did for excitement around here.

Alice drew a picture of me, but I realized it wasn't quite me. I looked at myself in the mirror everyday and I had come to accept the changes in my appearance. I'd looked like this for ten years now. I was going to look exactly like this for the next ten years and the ten years after that. I knew I would continue to look like this until something killed me and I ceased to exist. I didn't have any enemies that I considered to be a serious threat to my existence. I was sure there were crime syndicates and criminals that wanted me dead, but they had no idea what I was or where to find me. I felt fairly secure in the knowledge that I probably had many centuries ahead of me in this existence.

It took me a couple of minutes to realize Alice wasn't drawing me as I was now. She was working from memory and she drew a picture of the human girl that I had been when I fell in love with Edward. I hardly recognized the girl in the picture, but I knew it was me. Her face was rounder and softer, without the high sharp cheekbones and planes and angles that made my face harder and more aquiline and feral, but with an ethereal beauty now. There was a look of innocence in her eyes that had long since left mine. She had a look of wonder on her face when the world was new and exciting and she was only just discovering the mysteries that surrounded her.

It felt like a very long time since I had been that young, naïve, and innocent. When I was simply an ordinary human girl just taking her first steps into womanhood as I learned about the world around me. I had gotten everything I'd ever wanted and more. So much more as I glanced back at Nessie again. I had lost a lot too. It had all come at a price. I had gotten everything I'd asked for and had ever wanted except for the one thing that had been the most important thing to be back then.

I had lost Edward along with my innocence. I had embraced the darkness to build a life for myself and provide for my family. I couldn't honestly say I'd do anything different if I had the chance. I knew what I was doing and what I was getting myself into and I had willingly paid the price for what I had now.

It was Edward's choices that had taken him out of my life. He thought he was saving me, but the wheels of fate were already in motion and the simple act of removing himself from life was not enough to halt what had been set into motion.

He wanted me back now. Perhaps he had never stopped loving me, but did that really matter? He had made the choice to leave and we'd both had to deal with the consequences of the decision he had made for the both of us. The simple fact of the matter was that I wasn't that young, naïve, innocent girl that had fallen in love with the illusion of Edward Cullen ten years ago.

I knew all the gritty truths of the reality of the life I'd asked for now, and I knew that the life Edward had portrayed for me then was only an illusion. He had told me everything. He hadn't lied about anything, except for the nature of what was actually happening between us, but he accentuated the good parts and downplayed the less savory aspects of his life. I knew now that I had been viewing him and his life through the rose colored glasses of first love and infatuation. It didn't lessen the fact of what we shared or the fact that I knew that I still loved him, but back then, I had been in that stage of loving someone where they could do no wrong and you could forgive any transgression.

Perhaps if he had come back to me when I was still that young, naïve, innocent girl, I would have welcomed him back with open arms, but I had moved beyond that stage in our relationship. We still had a relationship, we always would, but it wasn't the one Edward wanted. I wasn't ready to welcome him back into my life yet. He was going to have to learn and understand that I had changed. I was perfectly capable of taking care of myself and providing for my family and I didn't need a protector or provider. I didn't need somebody to dictate to me how I would live my life. I needed a partner who would treat me as an equal. I needed Edward to accept that before we could start over and start rebuilding what we had lost.

"That's very good work, Bella," Ms. Bergeron said, startling me out of my reverie. "Have you taken art classes before?" She asked.

I glanced down at the sketch book realizing only now that I had drawn a second portrait. Edward's head and shoulders were beside Nessie's on the page, and the family resemblance was obvious to my eyes as I glanced at it. I hastily closed the sketch book before anyone else studied it in too much detail.

"Umm… Yes, I've taken some drawing classes before and a summer program for a sketch artist class," I lied.

Ms. Bergeron nodded as she made her way around the table. "Wow, you're all pretty talented," she enthused as she glanced at Lilly's work and stopped to look at Alice's sketch pad, then she glanced back at me. "This looks almost like Bella, but younger somehow…"

"That's Bella as she was a few years back when we first met," Alice said.

Ms. Bergeron nodded excitedly. "Very good, we should be able to move onto some pretty advanced work in this class, but I may have to divide the class up into groups…" She mused.

Her ruminations were interrupted by the bell, signaling the end of class. I quickly gathered my things to leave before she asked to look at my drawing again. I'd keep it, but I'd leave it at home after today.

Nessie joined me as we walked out of class. The other kids said goodbye as we left to go to our lockers and drop off the books we'd received this morning before heading to Spanish. Lilly and Alice had another class, and said goodbye as they headed off in another direction.

Next was the class I'd been dreading all day. Nessie and I had Spanish class next with her father and Jasper. I didn't mind seeing Jasper again, but I knew he'd sit with Edward. It was bad enough that Edward was my lab partner in Forensic Science. I was not planning to sit by him in Spanish Class too.

The Spanish Class was in the same building as our English Class. If we hadn't had to leave to go to Art Class, we would have spent all day in this building. Of course Lunch was in a separate building too, so I guess we had to come back here for every other class. As it was, I was in no hurry to get to Spanish. I wanted Edward to get there first, but still be early enough with empty chairs left so we wouldn't have to sit by him and could pick seats on the other side of the room or something.

It was a moot point regardless when we got there. Edward and Jasper were sitting in the back of the classroom as was typical for them, and so far, Nessie and I had made a point of sitting in the middle of the room. Edward looked at me with longing and indicated the empty seat beside him, but I looked away and ignored him. Natalie and Gilbert were already there, so we sat beside them.

The bell was about to ring when Mason Carlton dashed into the room, looking around to find a seat in a hurry. Nessie waved to him, and he hurried over and sat in the empty seat beside her, smiling broadly as he dropped into the seat just as the bell was ringing.

I looked over my shoulder at the back of the classroom as the teacher took roll, and glanced at Edward. He was staring at me intently and seemed a little miffed that I had declined to sit beside him. Jasper just smiled apologetically and nodded to me.

It was the standard first day of class routine after that. Señor Flores handed out text books and a reader. Then he went over the syllabus and the classroom expectation. He told us that since this was Spanish three, this would be the last day we would be speaking English in this classroom, and that from here on out, he would expect us to speak Spanish in class. That didn't bother me. Nessie and I could both speak Spanish fluently. I knew Jasper and Edward were both fluent with the language as well. I had doubts about the rest of the class though.

We practiced dialog for most of the rest of the class period. Señor Flores asked different people in the class questions in Spanish and expected them to respond to him in Spanish as well. I was correct about most of the class's proficiency with the language. Most of the kids struggled to string a sentence together that was anywhere close to grammatically correct when they weren't simply parroting back the canned phrases out of the book or dialogs.

Soon enough, it was my turn and Señor Flores turned to me. "Muy bien, señorita Brandon, ¿qué puedes decirme sobre el lugar donde vivía antes de mudarse a Mount Vernon?" (Alright, Miss Brandon, what can you tell me about where you used to live before you moved to Mount Vernon?)

I shrugged. "No hay mucho que decir. Vivíamos en un pequeño pueblo de Sioux City, Iowa, cerca de un año, pero se movía mucho antes de eso. Pasamos un tiempo en Minnesota, Chicago, estado de Nueva York y otros lugares, mientras que estábamos creciendo." (There's not much to tell. We lived in a small town by Sioux City, Iowa for about a year, but we moved around a lot before that. We spent time in Minnesota, Chicago, upstate New York and some other places while we were growing up.)

"Excelente, tu español es muy bueno, la señorita Brandon." (Excellent, your Spanish is very good, Miss Brandon.)

Then Señor Flores turned to Nessie. "¿Y usted, señorita Brandon, ¿por qué te mueves tanto mientras usted estaba creciendo?" (And how about you, Miss Brandon, why did you move around so much while you were growing up?)

"Mi padre jugó al béisbol paso para un montón de equipos diferentes cuando éramos pequeños, y luego cuando eran más grandes, encontró trabajo como fotógrafo deportivo y cazatalentos. Hemos seguido los equipos que más le gustaban a evitar." (My step father played baseball for a lot of different teams when we were little, and then when we were bigger, he found work as a sports photographer and talent scout. We followed the teams he liked to work around.)

"Excelente, parece que las dos hermanas Brandon habla español con fluidez." (Excellent, it looks like both of the Brandon sisters are fluent in Spanish.)

Jasper and Edward both demonstrated their command of the language when it was their turn to speak. Señor Flores took pity on the rest of the class after he was done gauging our ability, and assigned homework out of the text book and reader. He gave us the rest of the period to work on our homework. Most of the class took that to mean we were free to chat with our neighbors until the bell rang to go to lunch.

I chatted with Natalie and Gilbert while Nessie turned to talk to Mason, and once again, I found her conversation more interesting than mine.

"You're really good at speaking Spanish, Nessie," Mason complimented her.

Nessie shrugged. "It's something you pick up when you're around people that speak it everyday. So, I met your girlfriend in my Art Class last period," Nessie said to Mason, conversationally, changing the subject to something she was interested in. I could tell she'd said it to gauge what kind of response she'd get.

"My girlfriend? Is that what Ashley is saying? I heard she was telling people we were still together."

"So she's not your girlfriend then? She got pretty upset when I told her that you didn't act like you had a girlfriend. What happened?"

"Well, I guess we never officially broke up, but we haven't gone out together since last year when we were still in school. We had a fight and stopped talking. I guess it wasn't the first time, but we always made up and got back together after. We just sort of drifted apart after that last big fight, though."

"How come?"

"The school year was over and she went away to Europe for most of the summer with her parents before we could talk. I tried to call her, but we never seemed to connect because of the time difference. It was like she was avoiding me. She posted pictures of the guys she was hanging out with on vacation on facebook, and she didn't make any secret of the fact that she was going out with other guys."

"That must have hurt."

"It did, but I assumed that if she wouldn't talk to me and she was going out with other guys, then we were over. I changed my facebook status to single and started dating again. I wasn't going to waste my whole summer pining away over Ashley and waiting for her to come back just to break up with me and tell me we were through."

"That makes sense."

"Even when she got back, we still didn't talk. She had cheerleading camp and practice, and was too busy hanging out with the cheerleaders to find the time to talk to me, and now I hear she's telling people we're still together and I'm cheating on her if I go out with other girls."

"I think you need to sit her down and tell her how it is. Do you still want to be together with her?"

"I thought I loved her, but she only wants to love me when it's convenient for her. We always had one of those on again off again kinds of relationships where we'd be ok for a while, then fight and make up, but it just kept repeating that cycle, like she liked it that way. I want somebody that's going to be there for me if I decide to have another girlfriend. I don't want to fight all the time just so we can keep making up. For now, I think I just want to date different girls and figure out what's right for me. That's not Ashley. She's a little too self-absorbed for me right now."

"That's cool. I can totally see that. It sounds like fun."

"So would you be willing to go out with me some time? Maybe we could catch a movie or go hang out at the mall or something…"

"Umm… Break up with your girlfriend first, and then ask me again. I'm not going to be accused of being the other woman or breaking you guys up. I'll probably hear that anyhow, but I'm not going to say yes until you tell her it's over."

"Ok, that's fair. I will be asking you out again soon though, so decide where you want to go."

"I'll let you know if you ask me."

The bell rang then, and we gathered our things to leave.

"Will you walk with me to lunch?" Mason asked Nessie.

"Umm… I'll meet you there, ok? I need to go to my locker first. It'll give you time to talk to Ashley."

Mason swallowed hard, and then nodded his head and strode out of the classroom purposefully as though he was setting out to accomplish something momentous.

"Pushy much?" I asked Nessie as we walked out of the classroom to go to our locker.

"He needs somebody to push him, or he'll drag this out forever. He could have broken up with her before this if he'd really wanted to."

"I suppose so." I could feel Edward approaching us from behind, and he fell into step between Nessie and me.

"Will you sit with us at lunch today?" Edward asked, conversationally, but I could hear the note of desperation in his voice.

"I don't think so…" I said. "It's too soon, and people might get the wrong idea if I sit with you."

"Alright, I understand." Edward said and nodded curtly. "And you, Nessie, Will you sit with us?"

"Sorry, not today. I'm working on something. So, was he telling the truth?" Nessie asked.

"Excuse me? What do you mean?" Edward asked, playing dumb.

"C'mon, I know the two of you were practically hanging on every word I said. Was Mason telling the truth about Ashley?"

"Basically, yes. He realizes he could have broken up with her before this, but he was allowing her to string the relationship along in it's current state as a safe fall back position in case he decided to go out with her again. He knew she'd make up with him again if he approached her about it. In the mean time he felt free to date other girls because he was convinced she was dating other boys."

"Is he going to end it now?"

"He was intent on talking to her. He feels it is a necessary step to dating you. You know, I really don't think that is appropriate..."

"You're entitled to an opinion. I understand your desire to voice it. That's ok as long as you understand that I feel absolutely no obligation to accept it or follow any advice you may care to offer."

"He only wants one thing from you, Nessie. He's a teenage boy..."

"I know all about teenage boys and what they want. Was he intimate with Ashley?"

"Yes. His memories are too vivid and accurate to be fantasies. He believes dating you will lead to a similar situation."

Nessie shrugged. "It might. I can't really say right now. I suppose that's up to him and how nice he is. He does smell very nice."

Edward bristled at the comment, and I could tell he was upset. "Nessie, I simply cannot condone that sort of behavior..."

She pulled up short and turned to face him. "Ok, let's get this straight right now. You lost the right to have any kind of say over my actions, who I'm with or what I do with them ten years ago when you walked out on us and left. I'm willing to have a cordial and amicable relationship with you, regardless, but just because you show up out of the blue now after all these years does not give you the right to dictate my actions or tell me what I can or cannot do. If you can't accept that, then I don't want to have anything to do with you and you can walk away again. Maybe we can try this again in another ten years."

Edward looked shaken, but turned to look at me. "Are you going to let her get away with this?" He asked.

"Yes. I agree with everything she said except for the part about having a cordial and amicable relationship with you. You're going to have to earn that, and trying to tell either of us what to do or how to run our lives isn't winning you any brownie points. We already talked about this, Edward. Did you even talk to Alice this morning?"

"Yes, I did..."

"And did she happen to relay any of what we discussed this morning to you?"

"She replayed the pertinent parts of the conversation for me..."

"And obviously you chose to ignore it. I meant everything I said, Edward..."

"Perhaps this isn't the best venue for this conversation," Jasper interrupted. "So far I've been able to keep people from becoming interested in what you've been saying, but they're starting to take notice. Let's take this outside or save it for another time, Ok?"

"Fine, I'm through here," I said.

Nessie was still facing Edward. "You can have an opinion. You can even offer advice, but don't tell me what to do or expect me to follow it or this is over. I'll let it slide this time as fair warning, don't screw up again. And if you try to run him off or scare him away, or I will be very displeased."

Nessie and I turned and walked away towards our locker while Jasper took Edward by the arm and pulled him in the opposite direction.

"C'mon, Edward," Jasper said. "Let's get you outside and get some air..." Edward shrugged off his arm, but continued to walk beside him as they went to the stairs to leave.

"Well, that could have gone better," Nessie said as we put our books away before going to lunch.

I shook my head. "No, that's actually better than what I was expecting. Edward is almost as stubborn as me, and it's going to take him some time to come around. He's going to have to alter his world view and learn to trust us before he can accept us as equals. His whole world is based on being the protector for his family by looking out for potential threats, but I'm not going to let him run my life if he wants a shot at being a part of it again."

"Fine, just as long as we're on the same page about this. I can accept that," Nessie said.

The hallway was practically deserted as we turned to leave and walked to the cafeteria for lunch. I nearly gagged from the stench of human food permeating the atmosphere as we walked into the lunch room. At least the line was getting short as Nessie led me over to the queue leading into the kitchen where the lunch ladies were serving the hot lunch. Nobody got in line behind me as we brought up the rear of the line.

I followed Nessie's example and took a tray when we got up to the counter. The serving lady was wearing a white uniform, a hair net and plastic serving gloves. She was holding a smaller tray with compartments to serve food for the hot meal onto it.

"Hot lunch today?" She asked with a slightly haggard smile. We were at the end of the line for the third lunch session today. She'd been at this for a while before we walked in.

Nessie shook her head. "No thank you, we're going to look at the ala carte offerings and hit the salad bar."

The lunch lady nodded like she was expecting that response and put down the tray. She acted like she'd heard it more than once today. I wondered why. I knew a lot of kids complained about the food in school and made jokes about mystery meat, but the school lunch had always been pretty good when I was human. I'd never had any complaints about the food that was served when I was capable of eating it.

Of course now was a completely different situation, and I was no longer capable of eating any of it. I had to stop breathing to make it through the lunch line without gagging and bolting out of the cafeteria, but I held it together and didn't make a scene. I'd done enough of that yesterday, and the stench of the human food actually made it easier to deal with the scent of so many humans packed into the lunch room. I needed to play it cool and act normal if we were going to even be able to pull off going to high school.

Soon enough we were past the hot lunch line and Nessie made some selections off the ala carte racks. She took an apple so I took and apple. She took a grilled chicken breast patty and a bottle of water so I followed suit. She fixed a small green salad at the salad bar with no dressing so I got one too. Then we were at the end of the line and paid for our food.

We walked back into the main cafeteria room to find a table to sit down to eat. We were surveying the tables, looking for an empty spot to sit. I saw Edward and Lilly, Alice and Jasper all sitting together at one table off to the side of the room. Edward was looking at me longingly, and nodded to the seat beside him, but I turned away and stopped looking in their direction.

There was a minor commotion going on at another table. Voices were raised and it sounded like an argument. Nessie was watching intently, and I followed her gaze to the source of the commotion. I could recognize the voices and sighed. This was bound to happen, but I suppose it was best to get it over with now.

Ashley and Mason were having a heated discussion at a lunch table in the cafeteria. Most of the kids we'd met so far were sitting there. Sheila and Ashley were sitting between Dean and Mason. Cathy was intent on eating her lunch and trying to ignore the tiff. Natalie and Gilbert were there on the opposite side of the table. There were other kids that we hadn't met yet. Some of them were in classes with us, and some I'd never seen before. Most of them looked like cheerleaders or jocks and I had a feeling it was the table for the popular 'In Crowd'.

Suddenly Ashley pushed away from the table and stormed out of the cafeteria. Sheila was staring daggers at Mason, and then she jumped up to follow Ashley out the doors, calling for her to wait up.

"C'mon, Bella," Nessie said. "I see a couple of open seats."

I sighed as she headed for the table that Sheila and Ashley had just walked away from. "Fine, but that table is awfully crowded. Are you going to be able to pull off this lunch thing?"

"Just push your food around on your tray and nobody will notice. Half the girls at that table aren't even eating, and the ones that are will be lining up in the bathroom to puke it all back up after lunch anyhow. You'll fit right in. They'll assume you're on a diet to keep looking as hot as you do, just like the rest of them."

"That's not healthy. They should be eating their lunches."

"I can't disagree with you there. There are some pretty tasty morsels at that table."

"Nessie! Be good..."

"Whatever for?"

"You promised..."

"I won't bite anyone. Not here at least. I'm just surprised he had the balls to really tell her it was over. Maybe he's worth dating after all."

Then we had to shut up because we were too close to the table. Nessie led us over to the two seats vacated by Sheila and Ashley, and we sat down. Of course Nessie sat beside Mason and I was left sitting beside Dean. We set our trays on the table and I pretended to eat and pushed my food around while Nessie actually took a couple of bites.

Natalie introduced us to the rest of the kids at the table. I was right, it was mostly cheerleaders and jocks, but Natalie wasn't a cheerleader, and Gilbert didn't play sports. Apparently Sheila had talked Cathy into trying out for the squad this year. Natalie ran cross country, and Cathy had been on the team last year too, but had opted to tryout for cheerleader this year instead. She'd been surprised when she was picked, but she was a pretty girl.

"So what was the commotion about over here before we sat down?" Nessie asked, as if she didn't already know. "It looked like Sheila and Ashley sure left in a hurry. Did she eat something that didn't agree with her?"

"Umm... Mason and Ashley were discussing something," Cathy volunteered.

"What were you discussing?" Nessie asked as she turned to look Mason in the eye.

"You know what we were discussing." He said quietly, sounding a little upset.

"I guess I have a pretty good idea, but I want to hear you say it," Nessie pressed.

"Fine, I broke up with Ashley. Is that what you wanted to hear?"

"Yes, thank you," Nessie said loud enough so everyone at the table could hear her. "So you don't have a girlfriend and you're free to date other girls now?"

"Yes, I can date other girls now. Although I think I'm going to take it easy for a while and let the dust settle. I don't want Ashley to think I just wanted to break up with her so I could date somebody else. This has been building since before the summer, and it was time to clear the air."

"That's cool. So you've got a football game on Friday night?"

"Yeah," Mason said, breathing easier now that she'd changed the subject. "We have our first away game at Sequim."

"Over on the peninsula?" I asked, startled. "That's by Port Angeles. I didn't think we were even in that conference…"

"Yeah," Dean chimed in, sounding kind of put out by the subject. "That's new this year, but the school board and the superintendent changed conferences on us. We're playing eight man football this year instead of regular football with eleven man teams. It's an experiment because eight man football is more popular with the smaller schools around Puget Sound and out on the peninsula. They claim it's a faster, higher scoring game, and there are supposedly fewer injuries so they're making us try it. We'll all be graduated before they make a decision whether or not to stick with it or switch back to regular football."

"Did they even ask you?" I asked.

"When did the school board or the administration ever ask the kids what they want? They did a study and talked about it in meetings. We signed a petition to protest the change, and then they voted and went ahead and did it anyhow as a pilot program, but they had to sign up for a four year commitment to switch conferences. They said they had to try it to determine the long term consequences of making a change and we should look at the big picture for the future. The big picture doesn't do me any good when I'm graduating next year, and this is the first year of a four year project."

"So who do we play now? I figured we'd be playing teams from around here, north and east of Seattle."

"Not anymore. That was last year. Now we're in the Olympic Conference. I'd have to look at the schedule, but I know we play Tenino and Onalaska. Hell, I think we even play Forks. That's a three and a half hour bus trip each way."

"Huh, well I guess we can hit the home games and maybe some of the closer away games." I said, trying to play it off.

I really wanted to avoid the Olympic peninsula as much as possible while we lived out here. I seriously doubted anyone I knew or had known out here would even recognize me. I didn't really look the same, I hadn't aged and it had been ten years. One of the common themes in Forks among the kids I'd known was a desire to get away from the small town life and escape to the big city. Most of the kids had been planning to go away to school, and I doubted many who had made it out had returned. Any of the kids I went to school with were too young to have kids in high school yet, so there was no reason to expect to run into any of them. Still it was best not to take chances.

"That's cool," Dean said. "Maybe we can hang out after some of the games or something."

"Yeah... That might be fun...," I said, sounding a little tentative. "Don't you get in kind of late from away games if you have to travel?"

"Yeah, but the coaches usually let us have some time to celebrate and eat dinner before we get on the road after an away game. If you went to the game, you could join us before we had to get on the bus to drive home."

"There's usually a party after the home games, or Saturday night after away games," Mason chimed in.

"That sounds like fun," Nessie said.

The first warning bell signaling the end of lunch rang then before I had to make any commitments to go to parties or hang out with these kids. I got up from the table almost too fast to go dump my tray as I said my goodbyes. Nessie was hanging back, walking with Mason. Dean was heading my way, so I quickly ducked out of the building to avoid him. I was almost across the courtyard before he was out the door.

"You know, he's just going to keep chasing you for as long as you keep leading him on, Bella. Don't you think it's a little beneath you to play these childish games with a bunch of children who are half your age? I know you can't possibly feel anything for the boy."

I hadn't even seen Edward leave the cafeteria, but he was waiting for me when I ducked into the school building to avoid Dean and go to my class.

"They're not even close to being half my age and people get married with wider age gaps than the difference between my real age and any of the kids in our class. Besides, who's being the hypocrite now? You dated me when I was in high school, and you were five times my age. Don't you think that's a bit of the pot calling the kettle black, Mr. Pot?"

"Touché, Ms. Kettle. How long are we going to keep playing this game, Bella? You can't honestly mean to date the boy, do you?"

"We'll keep playing this game, as you call it, until you're ready to accept me, my career and my lifestyle at face value without trying to dictate how I'm going to live. I'm not going to change who I am to accommodate you, Edward, just because you finally managed to find me. You lost me. I always knew where I was and what I was doing. I'm not the same person I was ten years ago. When you're willing to accept that and move on, them maybe we can start over and try to build something together."

"You don't have to keep doing what you're doing anymore, Bella. I know I was wrong to leave, now. I've known that almost from the beginning, but you were gone by the time I could try to fix it. I want to try to make up for that. Let me take care of you. I owe you that. We can go away, travel the world, see all of its wonders. You don't have to play at being the vigilante to provide for your family anymore..."

"You just don't get it do you? I like my life, Edward. I'm not playing at anything beyond the fact that I truly enjoy what I do, and sometimes it does seem like play. You'd have about as much chance telling Carlisle he doesn't have to go to the hospital anymore to be a doctor because you don't need his paycheck."

"We don't..."

"But that's not why he goes to the hospital, is it? He doesn't go for the paycheck. He'd work for free if it wouldn't attract too much attention. I don't do what I do because I have to. I like it. The money is just a nice benefit now because it's a language criminals understand. Hitting them in the wallet is often more effective than killing them."

"You're right, I don't understand. I'll have to work on that. Back to the matter at hand though, you can't be seriously considering dating this Dean Isaacson, are you? You know what that will do to me if I see the two of you together. I could kill him..."

"Then don't watch. The easiest way to get him to stop chasing me is to let him catch me. If Nessie dates Mason, and I need a date to support her and double date with them, then I will allow him to escort me..."

"That is so completely irresponsible. You realize you're putting his life in danger just being with him..."

"I have perfect control. I'm not a danger to him. He wouldn't be the first human I've dated. I'm perfectly capable of doing everything your Tanya can do, and it didn't take me a thousand years to figure it out, either..."

Edward roared like a wounded jungle cat.

He struck out at the wall, his hand and arm moving in a blur, and smashed the door of the locker in front of him.

There was the perfect impression of his fist embedded in the steel sheet metal where the door was pressed into the wall back behind the locker. The door was buckled off its hinges and folded around his fist where it was pushed through the locker, destroying much of the contents.

The wall cracked, with a resounding crash that echoed through the building and a vertical split ran up the brick wall above the row of lockers. An alarm went off somewhere, and I could hear shouting in some of the surrounding offices and classrooms.

"Now you've done it!" I exclaimed. "Clean this up! I've got to get to class!" and with that, I dashed away, putting distance between me and Edward as I flew down the empty hallway at full speed.

I could see him trying to flatten out the metal door and interior back wall of the locker to disguise the impression of his fist when I glanced back before flying up the stairs. It had only been seconds and nobody had come to investigate yet. I ducked into the girl's bathroom at the top of the stairs to kill some time before class started. Most of the kids at lunch were still crossing the courtyard, and the classrooms in the building hadn't been dismissed yet.

I waited, hiding in a bathroom stall until I could hear people in the hallway. I stepped out of the stall and washed my hands before touching up my makeup, and then nonchalantly walked out of the bathroom and made my way to class. I was early, but Jasper was already in the room, seated in a desk along the edge of the pattern of desks, but in the middle instead of the back of the room. Lilly sat behind him, but he'd obviously arranged it so the seat next to him was available for me. I took the hint and sat beside him.

I looked around, but nobody was sitting close to us yet. "Is Edward ok?" I asked. I was pretty sure he knew what I meant.

"He's fine. He left before anybody saw him, but the school called the police. They haven't arrived yet, and the administration hasn't decided whether to evacuate the building yet or not. They doubt the structure is compromised, but they aren't sure if it was a terrorist attack yet or not."

"What? Why would they think that?"

"The damage is severe enough to have been caused by a bomb, but it didn't blow up the locker. They still can't decide what could have been powerful enough to cause that much damage besides an explosive device, but the damage is wrong. It's blown in not out, and the force appears to be all from one direction, from the outside. Bombs apply force in all directions, but if it was a shaped charge, then there would have been heat and fire damage."

"What do we do now?"

"Nothing, It will remain an unexplained mystery. These sorts of things happen, but there isn't enough evidence to come to any sort of rational conclusion. It would be different if there were surveillance cameras or witnesses, but you did the right thing. You left immediately before anyone saw you, and Edward disguised the evidence and then got away before anyone saw him leave."

"Seriously? Nobody saw him? I heard people yell. How do you know nobody ducked their head into hall or saw him run away?"

"We do have some experience with this sort of thing, Bella. He was monitoring the people in the building. Nobody saw what really happened."


"I guess he must have been pretty upset to elicit a reaction like that. What did you say to him?"

"I told him I was going to date Dean if he asks me out so I have a date if I decide to double date with Nessie. I may have implied that I've dated other boys since we broke up. He implied that it was dangerous for Dean to be with me, and I told him I could do everything Tanya can do."

"Have you done everything Tanya does with her dates?"

"Umm... yes... once or twice..., but it's not like I go out of my way looking for guys to date. I'm entitled to having a couple of dates over a ten year period. He broke up with me so I'm free to do as I please. I've never bitten one. Those were all accidents and none of them were people I'd date."

Jasper gave a low whistle and looked at me like he was kind of impressed. "I can see where that would upset him a little bit. No wonder he tried to tear the building down with his bare hands."

"I guess I was mad too. He told me I don't have to work anymore, Jasper, and that he wants to take care of me. I don't need somebody to take care of me. He makes it sound like the only reason I do what I do is because I have to and I've been forced into my career because I couldn't do anything else."

"And do you?"

"Of course not! I'll admit, in the very beginning, it was about the money, but after the first couple of jobs that didn't matter anymore. I could have stopped a very long time ago if that was the only reason why I did this."

"Why do you do it?"

"I like to think I'm making a difference. I can't simply sit by and do nothing when I know I have the ability to do something."

"Edward used to think like that, but he couldn't stomach being judge, jury and executioner."

"I know, but I rarely take it to that extreme when I can avoid it. I let the legal system work the way it's designed to work when I can. There are exceptions and accidents, but most of the time I turn them over to the cops with the evidence to convict them of the perpetrators guilt. I don't do it simply as a means of justifying hunting that way."

"That's an admirable sentiment. I can see the merit of what you do. I never tried to live as Edward did, although I can see why he did what he did. By the time Alice found me and we went to the Cullens, I was hard pressed as it was simply to abstain at all. Attempting to do what you do back then would have simply put too much of a strain on my resolve to follow Carlisle's way of life."

"And now?"

"And now? If you ever need some backup, don't hesitate to give me a call. I might find it an interesting diversion. I have contacts in the local community that might be of interest to you."

"Ok, I'll keep that in mind."

"So what are you going to do about Edward?"

I shrugged. "What happens with Edward is up to Edward. I want a partner who'll treat me as an equal, not somebody who's going to tell me how I'm going to live my life. He's not going to make all my decisions and then tell me what's going to happen or what I'm going to do. When he's ready to be what I need, then maybe I'll give him a second chance."

"That kind of change is going to be very difficult for him, Bella."

I sighed. "I know, but I'm not the same girl I was when we left. I've changed and I can't go back to living like that. I don't need him, Jasper. He needs me. I've got Nessie, and she fills the void that he left in my heart when he left."

"Yes, I can see that… We would have found you a long time ago if you'd been looking for Edward as hard as he was looking for you."

"I was never actively looking for any of you after the first day when I left Forks. The trail was cold and I was too sick to waste my time searching. When I was better, it just didn't matter to me anymore. I was convinced Alice would have seen me and what I was going through, and she would have turned up on my doorstep if any of you cared about me. I didn't hide from him, Jasper, and I knew this would probably happen someday, but I wasn't looking. I could have found you all years ago if I'd wanted to. It's what I do. I was content to let sleeping dogs lie and just get on with my life."

"Well, he has found you now, and he's not going to let you slip away again. He's quite intent and adamant upon being a part of your life again."

I sighed. "Then he better be prepared to deal with my needs, or he in for a rude awakening. I'm not the pushover I used to be that would simply capitulate and defer to his decisions."

"Good. That's exactly what he needs," Jasper said with a huge smile on his face.

Nessie and Mason came in together and took seats near me. Natalie and Gilbert turned up and waved as they sat down. The room rapidly filled up, and then the teacher, Mr. Abrams, called the class to order. We went through the first day of school routine again. Mr. Abrams took roll and passed out text books. He told up what we'd be studying this year and gave us a synopsis of the periods we'd study. He ran through his initial lecture and assigned homework. The eighty-four minutes flew past, and then we were done for the day.

I told Jasper and Lilly goodbye, and they left to go find Alice and Edward. Nessie didn't seem to be in any hurry to leave and hung back to talk to Mason as I walked to our locker to collect the books I'd need to do my homework. I didn't try to eavesdrop on their conversation, but they appeared to be getting friendlier. Mason told her goodbye to leave for football practice, and Nessie came over to get her books.

"So, you and Mason seem to be hitting it off."

"He's sweet. He doesn't come off as some insensitive jock like I was expecting."

"He just broke up with his girlfriend."

"He should have broken up with her three months ago. He just made it official today so he can date other girl's without getting called a cheat. He has dated other girls since they stopped seeing each other."

"So the human connections aren't so bad after all?"

"I like people, Bella. Besides, he smells nice. I wonder if he tastes as good as he smells?"

"Nessie! You wouldn't!"

She shrugged. "I won't do anything to get either of us in trouble. Who knows, maybe he likes it a little rough and wouldn't mind if I have a little taste."

"We want to stay here for a while, Nes. Don't do anything stupid..."

"Don't worry, Bella. I've got this under control."

It worried me to hear her talk like that, but I knew she was a responsible young lady, and she wouldn't do anything stupid to get us into trouble. Of course, worst case scenario, she knew how to dispose of a body so nobody would ever find it, and how to hide the evidence so nobody could track her. She knew how not to leave evidence or clues to be discovered.

I didn't have a degree in criminal justice or a working knowledge of crime scene investigation for nothing, and Nessie knew everything I did. She might as well have taken the classes with me.

Knowing how to investigate a crime scene allowed you to know what to look for to find the evidence and get clues about the perpetrator. It also allowed you to hide that evidence and cover your tracks because you knew what an investigator was looking for when you were the perpetrator.

I didn't think she'd hurt anyone, but I just had to hope I'd raised her right at this point.

We collected our things and left to go home. It was a much less hectic evening than Monday night. There was a message from Carlisle's nurse when we got home from school that afternoon with the time for Nessie's doctor's appointment the next day on Wednesday afternoon. It was after we got out of school so we could drive right over to the hospital before we went home.

Wednesday was much less eventful than Monday had been. Dean sat beside me again and wanted to chat and get friendly. I didn't discourage him and decided we could at least be friends for now. Sheila and Ashley were back at our table for lunch again and Ashley glared at Nessie sitting next to Mason. Sheila seemed to be eating up the gossip worthy bits of their budding relationship while Ashley seemed pissed off that he was moving on so soon.

There were no Cullens or Masens or vampires in any of our classes until the end of the day, but then I was forced to sit beside Edward in Forensic Science in our last class of the day. He didn't pester me or try to engage me in conversation and we stayed focused on the class and our class work. It was better than our first class together, and I was actually able to focus on what we were doing and join in the classroom discussion of our homework assignment. Mrs. Harpel seemed grudgingly impressed with my performance. I suppose my preparation paid off. I'd only been studying this course material for most of my adult life and had a couple of degrees and a doctorate in the field.

Mason kissed Nessie goodbye on the cheek before he went off to football practice and we left to go to her doctor appointment.

"So things are progressing with Mason?" I asked when we were in the car so nobody would overhear our conversation.

"He's nice. I like him. We talked on the phone for like two hours last night. I can't believe you're really making me go to the doctor, mom. I've never been sick a day in my life."

"What about your cramps? Maybe Carlisle can help. It's worth a try."

"I suppose you're right, but I'm still not going to let him examine me. I don't mind a regular standard checkup. He can listen to my heart and take my blood pressure. I don't mind him taking samples for a blood test or giving him a urine sample, but he's not touching me down you-know-where."

"That's fine. He said we'd just do the easy tests first and leave the pelvic exam for later if he thought it was indicated."

"Most doctors don't recommend one until a couple of years after you're sexually active, and I'm not. I have no intention of giving up my virginity to a piece of plastic, whether it's for fun on my own or an instrument a doctor shoves into me to take a look around. He's certainly not shoving his fingers or hand up there either. You know that's part of the exam too."

"Fine, I get it. I guess I have to agree with you. I've never had an exam like that done either, but it doesn't sound like much fun. Maybe he can get us some answers with just the blood work and other tests. I'm sure Carlisle will do those himself to keep the results confidential."

"I'm cool with that. He can listen to my heart and take my blood pressure. I don't mind letting him draw blood or peeing in a cup, but if he wants anything more physical, I want a lady doctor."

"Ok, I'll back you up on that."

Nessie nodded and we were quiet for the rest of the ride to the hospital. The parking lot wasn't very crowded and I was able to park close to the door. We walked in the lobby and found the listing for Carlisle's office, and then we walked back through the hospital to find him. The directory had listed his specialty as internal medicine and general surgery.

I realized this was the first time I had been inside a hospital for something as mundane as a regular checkup or an office visit in ten years. Visiting the hospital had been a relatively regular occurrence for me when I was human, to the point where I was on a first name basis with the emergency room staff. I could count the times I'd been inside a hospital in the last ten years on one hand, and they'd all been work related incidents, most often to drop off victims, but a couple of times to interview witnesses.

Hospitals had once seemed safe and almost like a second home to me, but they were uncomfortable to visit now. It wasn't an altogether pleasant experience. Most people complained about the antiseptic smell of hospitals, the medicine and cleaning agents that were employed to prevent infection left a definite hospital odor in the air like peroxide and iodine, but I was more concerned with the ever present undertone of blood and raw human smells that hung in the air. I could certainly handle it, and I didn't have any issues with controlling myself, but it intensified the burn and brought it to the forefront of my mind. I would definitely need to hunt when this was over with.

We found the correct office and walked into a nicely appointed waiting room with a receptionist sitting behind a counter with a sliding glass partition window. Several people were seated in chairs waiting to be seen. We walked up to the counter and the girl seated behind the window slid the glass panel open.

"Can I help you?" She asked.

We hadn't rehearsed this, but I realized I couldn't very well say I was her mother. We both looked practically the same age. I turned to Nessie and looked at her expectantly.

Nessie sighed and turned to the receptionist. "I guess I have an appointment to see Dr. Masen today?"

"Ok, can I get your name, please?"

"Vanessa Brandon," She replied.

It was the name she was currently using, and it was on all of her ID's that she carried with her, although all of us had other ID's and papers with different names and ages. We even had medical insurance under that name, although we'd never had call to use it before. We needed the insurance card to carry in our wallets, and the school required that we were covered by medical insurance to register. There was a low income health insurance policy that we could have signed up for through the school, but it didn't fit our persona or the lifestyle we projected. It would look odd and attract attention if we showed up to the doctor and didn't have medical insurance. We had never used it before, but if we were going to live among humans and try to fit in, it was a necessary part of the charade.

"Ok, here you are…" the receptionist replied after consulting her computer. "Are you a new patient? I don't seem to have a file for you…"

"Yes, this is the first time I've seen Dr. Masen professionally, although he's an old family friend."

"Ok. Can I see your medical insurance card and a picture ID? Then I have some forms you'll need to fill out…"

"That won't be necessary, Ellen…" Carlisle said as he walked up behind the receptionist.

"Hello, Dr. Masen," I said as Carlisle appeared, apparently to rescue us from an embarrassing lack of documentation.

Nessie was opening her purse and removed her wallet. She opened it and slipped the required cards out and handed them to the receptionist. "Here you go," She said as the girl took the cards and handed Nessie a clip board with several sheets of paper.

"I'll just copy these and get them right back to you…"

"Ok…" Carlisle said, sounding a little surprised. "Well I guess you can come back to my office now, and we can get started…"

Carlisle stepped away from the window and opened the door for us to walk back into the medical office proper. We stepped inside and walked down the hallway, and then stopped in front of an electronic digital scale.

"How are you girls doing this afternoon?" Carlisle asked as we walked in.

"School was ok. There were no further incidents… It was more peaceful than Monday or Tuesday…"

"Well, that's good to hear," He said with a smile. "I guess we should do this right. Would you step on the scale, please, Nessie? You can take off your shoes if you like."

Nessie chuckled, and handed me her purse, and then stepped out of her shoes and onto the scale. She looked like she should weigh about a hundred and five pound dripping wet. She weighed considerably more due to her denser bone and muscle tissue. The digital readout settled at one-thirty-seven and a fraction of an ounce.

Carlisle looked to make sure nobody else in the office saw the weight, and then had her stand against the wall to measure her height. I'd been checking this for years myself, and she hadn't grown a fraction of an inch in almost three years now. She was just a hair over five foot five inches tall. You could throw in the extra quarter inch if you wanted to get technical, but we usually just said five-five. I wasn't really jealous, although it made me the shortest in our family. Renee was five foot six, while I was forever frozen at five foot four. I probably would have grown another couple of inches to at least match Renee, but it would have likely taken another four or five years. Renee had been the same height since she'd graduated from college at twenty-four, while I had been frozen like this at eighteen.

We followed Carlisle down the hall again after he cleared and reset the scale. He led us into an office with his name on the door instead of a regular exam room. He hadn't made any notes, but I knew he'd remember the height and weight. I could have told him if I needed to, but I knew he'd remember perfectly. He indicated we should sit in the leather upholstered chairs in front of his desk and Carlisle sat down in the office chair behind his desk.

"Well, to begin with, I guess you can go ahead and fill out the medical history and insurance information on the forms Ellen gave you. Go ahead and answer everything truthfully to the best of your ability. You can go ahead and put in the information for your current identity. I'll make any necessary corrections so the file looks human before I fabricate a record for your file."

"Ok," Nessie said, and her pen started to fly over the forms as she rapidly filled in the requested information.

"I'm still a little leery of allowing anyone who doesn't know about us examine you, Nessie. Even more so now that I've confirmed that your weight doesn't match your physical appearance. The first thing that any doctor I send you to is going to do is check your height and weigh, and then they'll check your blood pressure and temperature as a matter of course before they proceed to any tests that I've requested."

"Why don't we just start off with a basic physical exam and the samples you wanted, and then play it by ear from there?" I suggested.

"Alright, that sounds like a good starting point. There are some other non-invasive tests I can perform by myself as well if we need more information on the internal structures. I can take some x-rays and possibly an ultrasound if you're willing."

"Alright… That doesn't sound so bad…" Nessie replied a little hesitantly.

I opened my purse and retrieved a flash drive memory stick, and handed it to Carlisle. "I made copies of the records of Nessie's growth pattern that I've been recording almost since she was born," I said.

"Excellent," Carlisle said with a big smile. "I've been looking forward to examining this data."

Nessie finished the forms and laid the clipboard on Carlisle's desk and slid it towards him. "If you needed another doctor to examine me, couldn't you have them come to your office to do the tests? Then they wouldn't need to check those things because you could tell them that it's already done."

"I suppose that's a possibility, but the medical community doesn't really work like that these days. Most doctors prefer a patient to make an appointment and come to their office even for a simple consultation or a second opinion. It would be highly irregular for them to come to my office to examine you. Really, the only exception is a patient who's been admitted to the hospital, and then the doctor would go to your room, but a regular part of a hospital stay is having the nurses record your vital signs on a regular basis."

"Ok… Well I'm not going to the hospital anytime soon. Let's do what we can and go from there."

Carlisle nodded as he went over the forms Nessie had filled out. He made a couple of notes as he examined them. Then he laid the forms aside and opened his desk drawer to remove a couple of small electronic devices, a stethoscope and a blood pressure cuff.

"Let's go ahead and get the rest of the basics out of the way." He stood up and walked to the corner of the room and wheeled a small round stool around the desk to where Nessie was seated.

He used the first instrument and rolled the ball on the end across Nessie's forehead to read her temperature. "One hundred point six, that's a couple of degrees over human normal, but not so far out of the ordinary that it would give most professionals pause. They'd probably just assume you were running a low grade fever. Is that normal for you?"

"Yes…" Nessie said.

"She ran around one-oh-three when she was born, but it's been steadily dropping over time as she grew up. One-hundred-point-six has been normal for the last three or four years now," I said.

Carlisle got the blood pressure cuff next and wrapped it around her upper arm and started pumping it up once it was secure. It looked uncomfortably tight before he cracked the valve open and started taking readings while he listened to her pulse with the stethoscope.

"Ok…" He said thoughtfully. "One-sixteen over sixty… That's in the normal human range, but maybe a little high for somebody of your sex and age bracket. That's more normal for a man in their early fifties but your heart rate is around eighty beats per minute… That's still within the human range of normal. Is that normal for you, or are you nervous about being here?"

"No, I'm not particularly nervous. I was a little apprehensive before we got here that you'd still want to perform a pelvic exam, but otherwise, no. I'm not nervous."

"I've never tested Nessie's blood pressure, but I know her heart rate has slowed considerably from what it was when she was an infant. When she was little, it sounded like a humming birds wings beating it was so fast."

"Alright…" Carlisle picked up another instrument, and I recognized it as a small light with a fixture to clip on a plastic cone to examine the ears, eyes and throat. "Ok, I'm going to take a look in your ears now…"

Nessie swept her hair over her shoulder, exposing first one ear, and then the other as Carlisle used the flashlight to examine her ears. He replaced the cone and told her to say 'Awww" and looked in her mouth and shined the light down her throat.

"Ok, I'm going to shine a bright light in your eyes. Just focus on a point on the wall, and don't move your eyes to try to look at the light."

Nessie stared at the wall and Carlisle shined the light in her eyes.

"Normal dilation response, perhaps a bit faster than a human reaction, how's your night vision?"

"About the same as yours from what Bella describes. I can show you what I see."


Nessie held out her hand and Carlisle took it. His eyes took on a slightly glazed look as he saw the images Nessie shared with him.

"Amazing, your vision is equally as good as any vampires. You eyes are brown. Are they always brown?"

"No. They don't turn yellow from animal blood, but they turn red when I hunt my intended prey and consume my natural diet."

"Alright…" Carlisle said with a slight frown. "Are you able to provide me with a urine sample today, or should a send a specimen cup home with you?"

"That depends on the kind of sample you want. I can eat and digest human food and drink, and I have to dispose of the waste from my body the same way a human does. I drank liquids today at school so I can provide you with a sample, but I know the pee from drinking human beverages is different from what I void out of my system after hunting. You can test them for yourself, but the scent, the color and the quantity differ."

"Alright, then give me a sample today, and I'll send a specimen cup home with you for a sample of the other from after you hunt as well."

Carlisle reached into a drawer in his desk and withdrew a small cup with a lid and handed it to Nessie. "There's a restroom down the hall. Go ahead and collect the specimen, and then we'll see if we can draw some blood when you get back."

"Ok… Sure thing, grandpa…" Nessie slipped out of the room and closed the door behind her.

Carlisle was absolutely beaming with an ear to ear grin. "I never realized just how much I would enjoy hearing that particular endearment. I am truly sorry for everything you've had to endure, Bella, but I can't say I'm sorry to have an opportunity to finally meet my granddaughter." He said as he resumed his seat behind the desk.

"I have no regrets that she's a part of my life. Much as I hate what's happened between me and Edward, I wouldn't change anything that would have prevented me from having Nessie."

"Yes, Edward was very upset when he returned home from school yesterday. I understand there was an incident, but both Edward and Jasper assured me that there was no exposure. I didn't receive all the details."

"I suppose it was my fault. We… talked... I guess he was pushing my buttons, and I pushed the button that made him punch someone's locker in and crack one of the walls in the school building."

"What did he say to you to make you mad?"

"He assumes my career is only about money and that I only continue to do what I do is because I have no other options. He wants me to quit my career and give up what I do so he can take care of me. I don't want someone to dictate my life to me and take care of me. I do what I do because I want to make a difference in the world."

"I can understand your desire for independence and wanting to do something worthwhile to make the world a better place, but is that all he said that upset you?"

"No… I'm not ready to let him back in if he wants to try and run my life again like he did when I was seventeen. He was upset because one of the human boys at school is attracted to me and seems interested in pursuing a relationship with me. I told Edward I'd date him if I needed a date to double date with Nessie or accompany her when she goes to dances or parties."

"I can see where that might upset him, but Edward is usually capable of restraining himself better than that…"

"There's more… He questioned my control and I told him the boy would be perfectly safe with me. I may have let slip that I've dated human boys before. I told him I was capable of doing everything Tanya enjoys with her humans…"

"Oh my… Yes, I can see where he may have reacted somewhat violently… There's something you should know, Bella…"

"Yes? What's that?"

"I spoke with Edward last night, and while he didn't go into all of the details, he explained that he wasn't questioning your control. He was questioning his own. When he said the boy would be in danger, he meant he would be in danger from what he would do to him if he saw you together, not that you might slip and harm him."

"Oh… That didn't even occur to me…"

"It seems to me that a lot of the issues between the two of you stem from a fundamental lack of communication. While Edward is intrigued by your silent mind, he has no experience at talking to people to find out what they want. He always simply knows and acts on that knowledge. When it comes to you and your needs, he doesn't have the first clue about what you want and what you need, Bella. He's operating completely in the dark and he makes assumptions based on his experience with human reactions. Unfortunately, you rarely react like the rest of the people around you, and it confounds him."

"Are you trying to justify what he's done and how he's treated me, Carlisle? I never would have expected that from you."

"Oh, no, Bella, don't read that into what I'm saying to you. I do not condone Edward's actions and I do truly believe he has acted both wrongly and stupidly, but his ultimate sin is making assumptions about what is happening and not talking to you about your needs or the decisions he makes. It was wrong of him to assume he knew what was best for you. My error was assuming he was correct simply because he usually is, but I didn't take into consideration the fact that he couldn't read your mind. I wronged you through my inaction and allowing him to set our course of action. I was responsible for letting him get away with it. I am truly sorry for doing that to you."

"I don't blame you, Carlisle…"

"You should. I should have considered the ramifications of him not being able to read your mind. I should have spoken to you directly to determine your take on the decision to leave, but it was such a new and rare situation that all of the implications didn't sink in for a long time. I made the same mistakes Edward did. I didn't talk to you and assumed he was correct."

"I still don't blame you, Carlisle. It was Edward's decision to leave. He's responsible for everything that's happened."

"Alright, that's true, but I still shouldn't have let things end the way they did. You were already part of the family and we abandoned you. I am truly sorry for that Bella."

"I forgive you then, but I'm not letting Edward off the hook so easily."

"Alright, thank you… but what I'm really trying to say, the point I'm trying to illustrate is that the two of you need to sit down and talk this out."


"He's not going to change appreciably until he understands what you want and what he needs to do to make that happen. I think we're both inclined to say that he's made a mess of this whole situation by acting alone without consulting you about your opinion or what is important to you."


"So tell him. You're doing better, but he has over a hundred years of assuming he's always right to get through. He can't read your mind girl, so you've got to tell him what's on it."


"Please excuse me if I'm being blunt and to the point, but sometimes, at least in the past, you've had a tendency to shut down and let other people take the lead. You have ten years experience at being in charge. Use that. Explain to him what you want in exhausting detail so he knows clearly exactly what you're telling him. Then listen to him. He'll still likely make assumptions, the wrong assumptions. Keep talking to him until he really understands. You don't have to give up who you are, but all couples compromise, Bella."

"I think he has a lot further to go in that regard than I do."

"Believe me when I say that I don't doubt that for a minute. Your part of the compromise might simply be giving him the opportunity to talk to you and find out what you need out of this relationship."

"I don't know if I can do that yet... I need time to accept even knowing he's back in the picture..."

Carlisle was about to speak again when there was a knock on the door and then Nessie stepped back into the room.

"I can go back to the waiting room if you want to continue this discussion, but I felt funny standing out in the hallway holding a cup of pee." She handed the sample cup to Carlisle. "Would you two like some privacy to continue? I can leave if you'd like…"

"No, please come in and have a seat, Nessie," I said. You didn't have to wait in the hall. Today is supposed to be about you. I can work out my issues with your father on my own time."

"Yes, Nessie," Carlisle said. "Please come in dear. This shouldn't take much longer."

Nessie nodded and resumed her seat. "So, blood test next?"

"Yes, that's the plan. Does that upset you? I assure you; I'll be as gentle as possible and endeavor to cause as little discomfort as possible."

"No... I'm just curious about how you're planning to do this. My skin is fairly tough and resilient. I'm not sure if you'll even be able to penetrate it with an ordinary needle..."

"Then I suppose I'll have to use something besides an ordinary needle," Carlisle said as he reached down and unlocked a lower drawer on his desk and removed a leather doctors bag.

He opened the bag and began setting out supplies on the desktop. My eyes got big when I saw the needle he pulled out of his bag. I knew he was trying to shield it from Nessie as he covered it with his hand so she wouldn't see it, but it looked huge to me. I guess it was still with in the realm of 'normal', as far as needles went, but I had never liked needles, and even now I felt woozy just seeing it although I knew it should have no effect on me.

"As you know, I've experimented with venom for many years now to determine its properties, chemical make up and medicinal uses. When someone speaks of venom, it generally gives you the impression that it's secreted from glands in the mouth like the poison glands in a venomous snake, and that the easiest way to collect venom would be to milk these glands much as how researchers collect venom from rattlesnakes and cobras. In practice, I have determined that this isn't the case at all for our species.

"While venom is certainly present in our mouths and our bite, the venom in our mouths is contaminated with salivary secretions from the typical salivary glands in the mouth under the tongue. Venom is actually our circulatory fluid, analogous to blood in other species. It is released into the mouth by ducts behind the teeth in the roof of the mouth. It circulates throughout our bodies, but it isn't pumped like blood because it doesn't carry oxygen or nutrition the way blood does. As far as I can tell, the venom promotes regeneration at the molecular level and uses an entirely different mechanism to transfer energy. As far as I can tell, it facilitates the change by rewriting the candidates DNA at the molecular level sort of like the way a retro-virus works in gene therapy, but on a vastly more complex level."

"That's amazing," Nessie said, "But what does that have to do with drawing my blood?"

"Well, for one thing, I'm curious if you actually have blood or if it's something that's more of a combination of venom and resistant blood cells. Venom is actually very similar chemically to blood plasma, but without the red and white blood cells that support the oxygen transfer, carry glucose to the cells for energy and provide for the immune response."


"During the early stages of my research, I used orally collected venom samples, but the salivary contamination caused issues. I developed techniques for extracting free flowing venous venom samples. Your skin may be tough and puncture resistant, but I'm confident I can collect a sample, and with probably less difficulty than I've had with the rest of the family."

"Oh... Ok..."

"Now, which one of you wants to go first?" Carlisle said as he came back around the desk and resumed his seat on the round stool.

"What? First? You want to stick me with that thing too?" I exclaimed, shocked.

"Well, I have collected venom samples from everyone else in the family, Bella. It would help further my research, and you could say you owe me one since you did happen to abscond with all of my research venom supply several years ago..."

"Umm... Ok... I guess fair is fair... I suppose I owe it to you..."

"Thank you. Why don't we start with you, Nessie, dear? I think it'll be easier than collecting a sample from your mother. There are extra steps necessary to collect a venom sample."


"Just roll up your sleeve and lay your arm on the desk, and I'll try to make this quick..."

Carlisle pulled on a pair of rubber gloves, gently took her arm and fastened a thin rubber strap tourniquet around her upper arm, pulling it snugly tight, tucking the end in so it would stay in place. He examined the thin skin inside of her elbow, gently probing with his fingertips as he searched for a vein.

"Yes... This should work nicely..." He tore open an alcohol swab and carefully scrubbed the inside of her elbow.

Carlisle reached for the needle and I had to look away.

"That's pretty big..." Nessie said, conversationally, as though the thought of him stabbing her with it didn't phase her in the least.

"It just looks bigger than a typical blood collection needle. I have them custom manufactured by a company in Germany. Technically it's a fifteen gauge needle, 1.829MM, but the inside diameter is equivalent to a standard twenty-one gauge needle at 0.514MM so it collects a sample just like a regular blood collection needle, but the wall thickness of the stainless steel tube is thicker to make it stronger and more durable. It has a true short bevel point so it's not quite as sharp as a standard bevel needle, but it's stronger and less prone to breakage."

"Huh, and you think it'll work?"

"I've used them on all of the rest of the family. Ok, you're going to feel a stick..."



"It's ok. It was more startling than anything else. I've never been cut or punctured before. Actually I've never had the cut that bled before... It's red."

I could definitely smell blood, although the scent didn't call to me. I knew I was being overly squeamish. I'd stood in rooms with the blood of my victims literally splashed on the walls and felt no queasiness or remorse. Now the thought of a simple pinprick and blood test was making my head spin. Talk about the power of suggestion, I knew I was psyching myself out over this...

"It is at that, isn't it?" Carlisle said in wonder. "It looks and smells like blood, but I can smell venom as well. Amazing... It doesn't call to me the way human blood does. It doesn't make my throat burn."

"Well, that's good. How many vials do you need to collect?"

"Just two more, and I should have enough for all the tests I want to run."

"Ok. This isn't nearly as bad as I thought it would be."

"Most patients don't want to watch. They say it makes them queasy."

"Huh, well it doesn't bother me. Blood is blood... Although it does seem kind of odd to watch the tube fill like that, and not have any desire to have a taste..."

"The instinctive response is mostly driven by the olfactory sense. We're scent hunters, not sight hunters. The venom content seems to be strong enough to offset the blood scent enough to prevent the typical reaction."

"Well, good. It would just be wrong if I wanted to eat myself." Nessie chuckled.

"Ok, that should do it... Hold this in place for a second and then I'll check it."

I finally turned back to look and Carlisle was holding several glass tubes of blood in his hand, gently tipping them end for end to mix the blood with some chemical inside the tubes. Nessie was holding a piece of cotton firmly against the inside of her elbow to cover the place where he must have stuck her with the needle. Carlisle capped the needle with a clear plastic cover and laid it on his desk while he marked on the labels of the vials with a pen. The needle looked absolutely huge.

Then he turned to me.

"Are you ready, Bella?" He asked.

"Yes..." I said in a small voice, but I didn't sound at all confident about this.

"This should be relatively painless and quick," Carlisle said as he reached into the bag and withdrew a fresh needle and another tool. It looked almost like a miniature electric drill, like the kind of tool used by hobbyists to build models or work on electric circuit boards.

"What is that?" I asked, becoming alarmed.

"It's a Dremel tool with a diamond drill bit attached. I'll need to use it to penetrate the skin and the outer surface of the vein. I'd break the needle if I simply tried to stick you like Nessie. This will weaken the surface sufficiently to allow the needle to puncture the vein without breaking or bending."

"What if you drill too deep?"

"It won't be cause for concern, but I'd probably have to start over if I punctured the vein. The venom would seal the wound before I could get the needle in. The trick is to just drill deep enough to weaken the surface sufficiently to let the needle punch through. Then the wound won't seal until the needle is withdrawn..."

"Fine, stop talking about it and just do it!" I held my arm out rigidly on the desk and looked away.

"Ok... Are you sure this alright, Bella? I don't want to act against your will or make it seem that I've coerced you into doing something you don't want to do..."

I sighed and tried to calm down as hung my head but refused to look in his direction. "I'm fine... Please just get it over with... I know it's irrational, but I don't like needles. I never did as a human, and it appears the basic fear has remained with me even after all these years. I'll be ok once it's over with..."

"Ok..." Carlisle said a little tentatively. "I'm going to need you to relax your arm and let it lie easy..."

I could feel him touching me, trying to position my arm on the desk, and I could feel the panic rising again. Then Nessie walked around the back of my chair and came up beside me to take my other hand.

"Just take deep breaths and try to calm down..." Nessie said, trying to soothe me.

I felt her projecting memories of happy times we'd shared together. Running together in the forest. Hiding in the trees on the edge of town, watching the humans. Riding our motorcycles as fast as we cold drive them as we flew down the highway together. Hunting together. Sharing our lives together.

I could feel Carlisle working on my arm, but it was muted in the background as Nessie shared the happy times of our lives with me. I felt the drill tickling at the inside of my elbow. There was heat and a scraping sensation, but it wasn't painful. Then it stopped. Seconds later there was a sharp pressure and the sensation of something sticking me, but I ignored it and focused on flying through the roof tops as I stalked human predators with Nessie at my side.

"Ok, we're done," Carlisle said.

I blinked as the memories halted and the office swam back into the forefront of my reality. He had most of the equipment cleared away before I looked down at my arm, but the wound was already sealed. I would have had to seriously study the crease in my elbow to notice anything out of the ordinary.

"There's no mark. Not even a scar... I was expecting at least a pinprick sized scar. Why is that? Jasper has scars all over his body from venom, and I still have a scar on my hand where James bit me all those years ago..."

"Your own venom doesn't leave scars. It heals you completely. You have a scar from James because he bit you when you were human. Even burning through the change won't erase that mark because it happened while you were human. Jasper has scars from the venom of the vampires he's fought. Foreign venom causes scars, but your own doesn't leave a mark."

"Ok, that's good to know. So, what's next?" I asked.

"Well, I suppose we're done with the physical exam, so it's time to get to the heart of the matter and discuss what you came here for." Carlisle said as he put away his bag with the samples and blood collection equipment, and then walked around his desk to sit back down in his chair.

He picked up the clipboard with the forms Nessie had filled out and studied her answers to the medical history questions.

"Is your period regular?"

"Like clockwork. Twenty-eight days exactly. You can set your calendar by it."

"So according to this history you filled out then, you're expecting it to start next week?"


"Have you experienced any symptoms of premenstrual syndrome or any of the cravings you showed me during this cycle yet?"

"Yes, but it's just beginning. I'll probably go to the gym after we leave here for my workout."

"Ok, continue your exercise regimen, but I want to start you on some human donor blood to see what affect it has on your symptoms."

"Ok, I can't argue with that..." Nessie said with a smile.

"Is that alright with you, Bella?" Carlisle asked, turning to me.

"If you think it will help relieve her cramps, it's alright with me. I'm not opposed to drinking human blood. It's killing humans to get it that I don't like. I have no qualms against her using donor blood, and I suppose it is being used for medicinal purposes even if it isn't the exact usage that was envisioned when it was donated."

"Alright, wait here and I'll be right back in a couple of minutes." Carlisle got up and walked out of the office.

I sighed as we waited in the office. "Thanks for helping me with the venom sample, Nessie. That was tough for me."

"It's fine mom. I know you'd do the same for me if you could. We look out for each other. I've got your back, and I know you're looking out for me."

"I love you, Nessie," and I reached for her hand and squeezed it. She didn't need to vocalize the sentiment. I could feel her love through the connection she shared with me.

Carlisle walked back into the room with a medium sized bright red cooler with a white lid and a bio-hazard label on the side. "Human Donor Tissue" was emblazoned on the side of the container.

"We're supposed to walk out of here carrying that?" I asked, shocked. "Won't somebody say something?"

"You'd be surprised. Some of the staff have them at home. I hear they take them to the beach and parties as a joke. You'll have a prescription for it, and the container will be sealed. If anyone wants to look inside, tell them it'll ruin the samples and they'll have to pay for them. They'll leave you alone."

"Ok... So how does she use this..."

"Well, the usual expedient is to drink it..." Carlisle said with a grin on his face that made him look almost boyish.

"I know that! How much, how often?"

Carlisle shrugged. "As much as it takes to prevent the cramps. Start off slowly and keep notes for me. if you think you're going to run out, call me and I'll get you more. You should keep this refrigerated at home. Obviously you'll want to keep it someplace where humans won't see it, should you have company. I'm hoping this should be enough to get you through at least the first week before your period, but whole blood only has a shelf life of around seven days. We'll see about getting you more for next week once we have an idea of the effective dosage."

"Ok," Nessie said. "Can I open this and take a look?"

"Sure, we should probably have you try this out here to see if this is going to work."

We stood up and Nessie removed the lid of the cooler. It was packed with small plastic pouches of dark red blood. They were all sealed so there was no scent of blood, just a sort of medicinal plastic smell. Nessie reached into the container and picked up one of the pouches to look at it. It filled her hand as she held it and looked at the label.

"It's cold." She said.

"It's been refrigerated to keep it fresh. You can warm it when you use it at home. I wouldn't attempt to put it in the microwave. The radiation from the microwaves will probably have an adverse affect on the cellular structures. You don't want to cook it. I would suggest running the bag under warm water or placing it in a towel with a hot water bottle until it achieves the appropriate temperature. A heating pad or a chemical hand warmer with adequate insulation would probably work too."

"Ok... So how do you suggest I do this?"

"Well, you can cut the bag open and pour it into a cup, or you can simply bite the end off the plastic tube, and drink it like a juice box. The plastic bag should collapse as you suck the blood out. You could squeeze the bag too to cause it to flow faster. Go ahead and give it a try so we can see if this is going to work."

Nessie looked at me, and I smiled at her encouragingly. She shrugged and placed the end of the tube attached to the pouch between her lips and bit off the end. She spit out the sealed end of the tube into her hand. I saw her give the bag a squeeze and the blood flowed up the tube under pressure and squirted between her lips into her mouth.

She took a couple of big swallows drinking half the bag, and then pulled the tube out of her mouth as she pinched off the tube to cut off the flow and keep the blood from leaking out.

Her eyes were pinched tightly shut and she had a look of profound distaste on her face. "Gahhh! Oh that's gross...!"

I could smell the blood now, and it certainly appealed to me. There were only tiny drops of blood moistening the end of the tube, but the scent made my mouth water and my throat burn.

"Umm... What's wrong? I asked.

"It's cold and it's stale! It tastes like medicine... You can taste the chemicals they treat it with to keep it from clotting, and it ruins the taste. I guess it would be barely palatable if it was warmed up to body temperature, but it's nothing like fresh blood from biting someone."

"Those are amazing insights," Carlisle said. "I had no idea..."

"You've tasted human blood," Nessie said. "You turned more than half the family."

"Well yes... I was referring to the donor blood. Of course I've never tried it..."

"Would you like to?" Nessie asked.

"Oh no... This is for you because you have a condition that we're attempting to treat. I could never actually partake of this. It would be morally wrong..."

"You don't have to drink it to experience it," and Nessie held out her hand to him.

"Oh... Yes, I suppose I could experience it that way..." Nessie took his hand, and Carlisle got a pinched look on his face like he'd tasted something foul and wanted to spit it out. "Oh my... That is rather disgusting, isn't it..."

Nessie sighed. "But it's effective. I can feel it working already, slaking my cravings and the twinges that would have turned into cramps are already going away."

She appeared to steel her resolve, took a deep breath, and sucked the tube back between her lips to finish off the bag.

"So you feel the treatment will be effective despite the obvious disadvantages?"

"Yes, it should work, but next time I'm warming this up first. Would you like to see for yourself?" Nessie asked.

Carlisle smiled. "Certainly, dear."

Nessie held out her hand and took Carlisle's again. His eyes glazed over momentarily as she shared her symptoms and condition with him.

"Yes, I see... It's truly amazing that you can share your symptoms and reactions to the treatment with me. I understand perfectly exactly what you're experiencing without having to understand what you're trying to explain. Simply amazing!"

Then Carlisle turned to me. "It appears that the treatment will be effective at relieving Nessie's symptoms."

"Alright. What about the rest, then?" I asked.

"I'll process the tests and see what I can determine about her fertility and periods. I doubt any oral contraceptive will be effective for her for the same reason she can't use any over the counter medications. I'll try to get some answers for you, Bella, but should the need arise, I believe condoms should be an effective form of birth control in the mean time."

I nodded, and then I turned to look at Nessie. "What about her eyes?" I asked. They were already starting to turn red from the human blood. They'd be bright ruby crimson before we got home.

"I'll write you a prescription for colored contact lenses." Carlisle got out a pad and wrote out our prescriptions and handed then to me.

Nessie opened her purse and took out a set of contacts and put them in her eyes. All of us carried them for emergencies in case there was an accident.

"Have you tried this brand of contact yet?" Carlisle asked, indicating the brand he'd specified on the prescription.

"No," I said. "We usually buy the cheaper brands and stock up on them in bulk in case there's an accident so we have some on hand."

"This brand is partially owned and heavily invested in by several associates of mine. They're vampires like us. I provided some research to them, and others of our kind helped source the materials. They market these contacts to humans, claiming they can wear them for a month at a time and even sleep in them. The claims for humans are true, but they also aren't as reactive to our venom and are more chemically resistant. One pair should last you all day, and you won't have to keep changing them while you're at school."

Nessie smiled at him. "That is a nice breakthrough. I always hated having to change contacts every couple of hours."

"You've never had to wear them in public. I just made you stay home until your eyes were brown again."

"Ok, we'll go with that story..." Nessie said, looking away and setting the lid on the cooler full of human blood.

That made me wonder... Had there ever been a time when Nessie was wearing contacts to hide her red eyes from me? I was certain I would have noticed... At least I thought I would have noticed...

It was a moot point now. Nessie had access to a supply of human blood for at least half the month. Her eyes wouldn't even have a chance to turn brown again before it was time to use more blood to treat her condition.

She had an excuse to wear contacts all the time now because her eyes were going to be red all the time now.

I realized I no longer had any way to know if she was cheating or sticking to our agreement. All I could do was hope I'd raised her right and that she'd stick to the terms of the agreement. She wouldn't lie to me, but sometimes you didn't need to lie to hide the truth.

The problem was I knew my daughter, and that scared me.

Author's Note:

As you're probably aware, if you've been reading this story, I haven't updated or posted a new chapter for almost a year. In fact it's been exactly eleven months today while I type this. I got to a point where I liked the current story, but I really didn't like the end I had planned out for the story. I've reworked my outline and I have a new direction planned that I'm happier with, so I've been working on this story again to continue and hopefully finish it.

I'm currently working on finishing the next chapter for "The Darkest Part of the Night", while I'm working on updates for "You Can't Always Get What You Want". I do realize it has been almost a year since I updated "YCAGWYW". Actually, the main reason I even initially started posting "TDPotN" was because I had so much of it pre-written. I still have major chunks of that story that are done, and I'll begin posting the next major done section once I get the next chapter out of the way.

The only reason I even started posting "TDPotN" was because it was going to give me something to post while I worked on "YCAGWYW". I had close to twenty-five chapters of "TDPotN" completed before I started posting it. Unfortunately it didn't work out that way, and I have three or four other new stories about ten chapters or so long that I've never even started posting yet and several others in the three to four chapter range.

I am planning to wrap up some of the existing stories before I start posting any new ones, but it's going to take some time. In future, I plan to have stories pretty much complete before I start posting them.