I stare down into the cup, my mind buzzing with memories. I should have made tea. Should have, but I don't. I don't want to remember. I want the tink-tink of the spoon to drown those voices out; I start to stir the cocoa a little more viciously.
The funny thing is I don't really like cocoa – especially sugar-free cocoa. But at two-thirty in the morning with the alarm waiting for six a.m. to scream me into another day, I don't have much choice. It's far too late for sleeping pills, nothing on TV and there's no one up to talk to…
I pick up the mug and move over to my little nook to try wedging my aging bones into the corner. I sift through the junk mail and advertisements: Caribbean cruises, sale at the hardware store, discount coupons to restaurants I used to love. It's times like these I really miss David. The empty space where he used to sit, deconstructing my woes and challenges, coaxing me into relaxation and eventually sleep, holds no answers. "So what now, David?" My voice sounds so small.
The cocoa's a weak substitute for the love and care he gave me before he left me forever, but it's all I have at two-thirty in the morning in this lonely house. I take a sip of my steaming cup of comfort and burn my tongue. Tears spring to my eyes. Damn bloody cocoa.
In the small hours of the night, I've come to believe I am the only woman left in the world with a clock on the stove that actually ticks this loudly. It's outdated, but still somewhat useful – kind of the way I see myself – beat down, but vintage. Sitting in the kitchen alone, the seconds tick by, defining my solitude and sleeplessness, and I realize I'm not going to drink this stupid cocoa anyway. I scuffle out of the nook and throw the cup in the sink. I'll clean it tomorrow.
I toss my robe over the chair and drop my slippers as I fold myself beneath the covers. I can't stand the dark – David never let me go to sleep alone in the dark. I lean over and click on David's reading lamp. I know I'm a big sissy, but I can't help it. I just miss him so much. Leaning across his pillow, I imagine I can smell his hair, even after all these months. A wave of remembrance washes over me, and I close my eyes, reliving the nights when I was so keyed up from work and caring for my dying parents. He would read one of my favorite books to me, watching for me to close my eyes. "Sleep, little bunny. Dream your favorite dream." Worked like a charm every time.
'Twilight'is still sitting on his nightstand. It was the last thing he read to me, and I can see his fingerprints on the black cover. Suddenly, I feel him close to me through the indelible, unique touches he made on my life. He's there, on the nightstand, in the pillow, so strongly in my mind… I know I'll pay for it later, but I pull the book down and clutch it to my chest as snap off my lamp and snuggle into my bed. I try to convince myself I'm tired as the tears puddle into my ears. David, I miss you. I wish I could hold you one more time.
I'm having the most vivid dream, brought on my most recent crying jag, I'm sure. Edward Cullen is there, and he's talking to me. I can't understand what he's saying. He repeats himself, adding hand gestures this time. He wants something, but I can't tell what it is. I try to reach out, to grab him by the shoulders, but he's just out of reach. He's frustrated. I'm frustrated. I start to cry.
The dream is so real that my tears wake me up. Sure enough, my face is wet for the second time in the restless night, and my breath is coming in sobs. I sit up, realizing I'm still clutching the book so hard my hands are cramping. "Betty, you stupid woman," I chastise myself as I unfurl my knotted fingers from the book cover. Sometimes, I really have to wonder about myself.
"Betty? Your name is Elizabeth?" The voice is soft and mellifluous, but so unexpected that I suck in a deep breath and can barely move. Terror takes my voice, as I try to break my paralysis to see who made the noise. I can't move, I can't breath; all I can do is move my eyes to David's side of the bed. And there he is.
"I'm sorry. I must have frightened you. I won't hurt you." A long-fingered, white hand runs through tousled bronze hair, and all I can do is stare. Little squeaks and chokes of sound are coming from my throat. I'm shaking so hard, I'm afraid I'm going to be sick. It can't be. I must be dreaming. I must be.
"You're not dreaming," he says, and it's the same dreamy voice I've imagined for so long. I don't understand what's going on. "If it gives you any comfort, I find myself as confused as you seem to feel."
I blink once, twice – it seems to be all I'm capable of. My mouth is hanging open.
"Please don't scream," Edward says, obviously trying to calm us both. "I don't understand how I came here, and I don't know where here is. Can you tell me where I am?"
"But," I manage to squeak out. My mouth opens and closes, but… Nothing. I can't seem to get the air to work.
"I won't hurt you, I swear it. Do you believe me?" His eyes are liquid amber and earnest. I release a shuddering breath and nod feebly. "Betty, right?" he asks, raising his knee and turning toward me. "Please try to find your voice. I swear no harm will come to you."
I try again. "But. You're. You're…" Words stick and gag, finding no expelling force from my lungs. "Edward…" It comes out in a long, breathy hiss.
He moves so quickly across the room to the door, I don't actually see him move though my eyes are wide in fright. "How did you know my name?" His posture is bent and tight, ready to spring. I realize he's taken a defensive position. He's as scared as I am.
The notion that he's afraid, too, forces me to relax. I push my shoulders down, forcing a posture of ease I don't feel. My head tilts to the side, and I tip my brow toward the side of the bed. He straightens and returns to David's side of the bed. He sits so lightly, the mattress doesn't jostle.
"Let's try this again, shall we? Yes, I'm Edward, Edward Cullen. It's my pleasure to meet you," he dips his brow in greeting, but makes no move to touch me. "And you are?"
"Elizabeth Fitzpatrick," I squeak in a voice much higher than my own. "How did you -, where did you come from?"
"That's difficult to answer, Elizabeth. It's hard to say where one came from when one doesn't know where one is."
"Er, uh, you're in my bedroom, in my home. In Baskin Ridge. In New Jersey." As I begin to relax, all I can think is that I'm so grateful I'm wearing my good pajamas.
"New Jersey!" His eyebrows lift in exclamation, and his face is a mask of shock. He looks to the bedroom door, his hand covering his mouth.
I can see the back of his head, shaking gently in disbelief, and it looks like he's going into a state of shock. I don't know what to do. Here's my favorite fictional character, sitting on my bed, going into shock taking me with him. The idea that he's really and truly here is so stupefying, I can't sort out what next to do.
I want to comfort him, but I'm not ready to confirm that he's actually, physically here. So, I do what I always do when I'm trying to offer comfort. "Would you like some cocoa?"
He doesn't turn back to me, and I don't seem to have calmed him at all. "No, thank you." He sounds like he's a million miles away in the land of disbelief.
No, of course he wouldn't want cocoa. He's a vampire, stupid. No bloody cocoa. I realize my stupid ironic blunder and I chuckle a little to myself.
He turns back to me, a quizzical look on his handsome face. "What?" His voice is so soft and pensive, I have a hard time remembering to respond.
"I guess I'm just trying to figure out why you're here."
"That would make two of us."
"Maybe that's the wrong question. I -," I'm not making sense. " I feel as if I know you so well." I realize I'm still clutching 'Twilight' to my chest. "I've read all about you." I loosen my grip, looking down at the book.
"You have?" Clearly, he's never read 'Twilight'. I guess that makes sense – as much as anything does tonight.
"Um, yeah. But it never prepared me to have you in my bedroom." Although I've dreamt about this often enough.
"You… dream about me?"
Oh sweet baby Jesus. I forgot. Mind-reader. "Well, yes, sometimes."
"Hmm. I find this all very… strange," he pauses, and just the way he says it, I feel embarrassed and exposed. "Please don't be embarrassed. It's strange, to be sure, but it apparently has nothing to do with you."
"Uh… okay. You got any ideas about why you're here? What do you remember doing last?"
"I had just finished hunting," he says, watching me carefully, "with my wife."
Once again, he looks surprised. "You know her, too? Or are you reading my mind?"
For some reason, this strikes me as hilarious, and I bark out a loud guffaw. "No, I don't read minds. I read books. Look, since I'm dreaming, I might as well go for broke here. In my world, you're a fictional character in some of my favorite books." I pat the book, still holding it against my chest. "It must be wish fulfillment or my sub-conscious working overtime, but whatever it is, it's nice to meet you, Edward. Welcome to my little corner of the night."
"I'm a character in a book?"
"Yes, you and your whole family: Carlisle, Esme, Alice…"
His brow darkens as he listens to me, just the way I've always imagined it would when he was thinking. This is my dream, so I let all this sink in for a minute. I watch his beautiful face as he searches for answers, listen to his breathing as it competes with mine. This is just so weird.
"So I'm here, in your home."
"In the middle of the night."
"Well, kind of, yeah."
He glances at the clock. "Is that four a.m.? You must be tired."
"No, no," I say, stifling a yawn. "I was just trying to get to sleep." My eyes begin to droop, and suddenly, I am exhausted. "You can stay," I yawn, "if you want to."
He moves from the bed towards my old Stickley rocker, where I've left my robe. "Is it all right if I just sit here?"
"Sure…" I mumble, scrunching down into the bedding, book still at my chest. I want to say goodnight, but I… just… can't…
The rhythmic screech of the alarm clock bleats out at six a.m. on the dot, and I throw my arm across my body, hitting the snooze. I never actually snooze; I just don't want it to feel like it won. I throw the covers back, and turn off the alarm clock. The edges of the book jab into me as I sit up, and I remember my all too vivid dream from last night. My eyes shoot over to the empty rocker.
Okay. Just checking.
I jam my feet into my slippers and walk over to the rocker to pick up my robe when I notice it isn't there. Funny. I'm not the best housekeeper, but I am a creature of habit. I always take it off and lay it on the… but it's not there. I look around; maybe it fell on the floor. I stretch to the distant side of the chair, and there it sits by David's dust-covered slippers, neatly folded on the floor next to the rocker. The rocker where I dreamt he sat - the rocker I've clearly fallen off of.
I have exactly no time at all to consider my mental health. If I don't get ready now, I'll be late for work again and that would be bad. I don't have time for this; I scoop up my robe and plunge head first into my morning bathroom routine. An hour later, I emerge, combed and polished, coiffed and scrubbed, and ready for another thrilling day of mindless drudgery.
I can't seem to shake the dream. As I search through the endless screens of code for syntax and grammatical errors, my mind drifts to thoughts of Edward Cullen. Edward Anthony Masen Cullen. Edward. Anthony. Masen. Cullen. I mentally repeat each syllable of his name over and over like a mantra, until I realize that's all I'm doing. I shake my head, trying to bring myself back to real life, or whatever semblance of it I have.
It's just that it was so real, he was so real. And so confused. Just like I was. Just like I am – I never remember my dreams. This had all the color and flavor of real life, and yet it's just not possible. I know it's not possible. Of course it's not.
I pretend to myself that I've dismissed this whole dream thing and moved on, but in the back of my mind, I'm humming a little tune with simple lyrics: Ed ward, Anth knee, Maze in, Cull in. I turn my attention back to my work, my fingers tapping the keyboard with the same little rhythmic theme.
What seems like just a few minutes go by, when I hear someone call my name. "Betty, could you quit? You're singing with your iPod again."
I apologize to my co-worker by rote before I realize I don't have my earbuds in. I've been singing my Edward song, happily humming to myself. They're going to have the white coats after me any minute. I look across the cubicle. "Sorry," I mutter and yank my earphones out of my desk. I plug them into my iPhone, setting it on shuffle. David's favorite band comes on. Jethro Tull – perfect. The song is happy and light; All kinds of sadness, I've left behind me. The song pulls my attention away from the fascinating Mr. Cullen and back to the real world. Even so, even knowing I'm here in this god-forsaken cube farm, I'm happy and smiling. Soon, the html begins to hum along with Ian Anderson's vocals and work starts singing along with the song.
A tap on my shoulder bounces me into a mild heart attack. My hands fly to my throat as I turn in fright. My boss stands there, visibly annoyed. I turn off my music, and look up to her from my desk.
"Geez, Betty. You act like I'm trying to murder you or something."
"No, you just startled me is all," I take in a deep gulp of air. "What's up?"
"Uh, Friday, five o'clock? How long you planning on staying tonight? OT isn't authorized."
Five? Really? "Right. Sorry."
She turns on her heel and picks up her purse and keys. I begin saving my work and closing down my computer. I can't believe how fast the day has flown by. I pull on my sweater, grab my purse and lunch sack, and head for home.
Bills, bills, junk mail, and bills. I swear I have no clue why I get so many of these travel brochures – this one's showing the sun setting behind the Eiffel Tower. I toss them on the kitchen table, not ready to face sorting through all this, or beginning the battle of my checkbook, knowing I've already lost before I've begun. David handled all this; it was something to scheme about when I had insomnia. Every night we'd plan, until… Oh David, how could you leave? I take in a deep breath, and let it out in a sigh.
When David was first gone, I'd thought long and hard about joining him. My early religious training warned me against this unforgivable sin, but even that didn't dispel the notion. In the end, my gutlessness and inertia won out. I didn't want the pain. I didn't want to suffer pain just to end the pain, and I couldn't find any solid reason moving enough to force me to take action. So I just kept breathing.
I pick up the clothes lying around the bedroom and throw them into the wash. There go my good pajamas I think idly as I turn the washer to the color cycle. He'll just have to see me in my t-shirt. A little chuckle escapes me. Yeah. Like I would get so lucky.
Task after task, chore after chore, I let the night slip away from me like sand through my fingers. I know it's late; I don't even remember the time passing until I look down and see a cup of cocoa swirling in front of me as I stand at the kitchen counter. I'm supposed to like this stuff, but tonight.. I don't know. Damn bloody cocoa. I snort a little at the stupid joke, and then dump the cup down the drain.
I hate walking into a pitch dark room; indistinct shapes turning into peril until the darkness swallows you up. I stumble to David's lamp, click light into the room, yawn and stretch. Maybe I'll sleep tonight.
I walk slowly to my side of the bed as I roll my head from side to side trying to get my neck to pop. I'm really tense, even though I've had a pretty good day. Still, my shoulders ache as if I'd been underneath heavy cargo, carrying some outrageous burden. I throw the covers back and loosen the knot in my robe. I begin to toss it to the rocker, and think better of that idea. I lay it across the foot of my bed, kick off my slippers and slide between the sheets.
'Twilight' sits on the nightstand, beckoning. I pick it up and let the pages fall open randomly. "But you see, just because we've been… dealt a certain hand… it doesn't mean that we can't choose to rise above – to conquer the boundaries of a destiny that none of us wanted." I close the book, closing my eyes, and I think about Edward.
The atavistic terror that tells you someone is watching creeps up over me, and my eyes pop open. I turn my head towards David's side of the bed to see burning amber eyes considering me. "Edward, you were really here. I thought I dreamt it all."
"Yes, I was here before, Elizabeth." His voice low and angry.
"Are you all right?" I know Edward is mercurial, but surely it's nothing I've done.
"You've done nothing but summon me here again. What do you want?"
I want to hide. I close my eyes, trying to sort out his anger behind my lids. "Please don't be angry." All the lightness I'd felt today crashes down in shards around me. The idea that I've 'summoned' him here is confounding and ridiculous. I don't know why he's angry, and I don't know why he's here. See it from his point of view: he's lost, he's alone, and you're the only common denominator. Sifting through the circumstances, I begin to understand how he must feel. It would be unnerving, to say the least.
"You're not doing this?"
"No. I'm sorry," I stammer, my eyes still closed, hiding. Tears slip beneath my lashes, rolling down my cheeks. I don't want him to be angry.
"Elizabeth," he says, much more gently now. "I'm sorry. You're right, I thought it had to be you calling me here. Forgive me my anger; I have a problem with my temper." He waits for me to open my eyes before he speaks again. When I do, he catches my gaze. "Forgive me?"
I nod, and take in a deep breath.
"The last time I was here, how long ago was that?"
"This is so strange," he replies, and he looks down at his lap, his brow furrowed and confused, just the way I've always imagined he'd look.
"It is for me, too." I set the book down on the nightstand and scoot up in bed. I try to make a joke. "I'm not used to having men show up in my bedroom."
He shoots upright as if the bed was on fire. "I beg your pardon," he says, looking around for somewhere else to stand. He finally moves to the rocker. "May I?"
"Sure, consider it yours." Now that I'm sitting upright, I pull David's pillow across my stomach. Gently, he settles into the chair and rubs his hand along the wood. "Stickley?"
"Yes. It's my favorite, but the only piece I have." I'm impressed that he knows the maker of the furniture.
"It was very popular in my day." The right side of his face creeps upward in a slow, crooked smile, his hands still gliding back and forth across the wood. He closes his eyes, tilting his head back and rocks.
"What is it, Edward?"
'I'm just laughing at the irony of it all," he chuckles, rocking once more. He opens his eyes and looks at me. "The last time I sat in a chair like this, it was in a woman named Elizabeth's bedroom as well. My mother's name was Elizabeth, and she had a chair very similar to this in her room. I think she used to rock me in it when I was little. Her room always smelled like talcum powder and beeswax." He hears my silent question and answers, "She liked to sew."
Such a normal memory for such exceptional man. I knew his human memories were darker and more obscure, but this memory was detailed – and unfamiliar to me. I knew what Edward remembered, having read the saga in its entirety more than once. Or, listened to it, I should say. My thoughts return to David, and I sigh.
"Have I made you unhappy?"
"No, you just reminded me of…" I can't finish.
"Oh," he whispers, his voice wrapped in sadness, and I remember his psychic ability. "How long has it been?"
"Five years." As I say the words, I'm bewildered to realize how long it's actually been. How did I let all this time pass? The pain runs from my heart, down my arms, under my fingernails. I clutch at the pillow, holding onto its warmth with all my might. What was I doing with my life?
"Breathing and dreaming." His voice sounds softly, responding to my unasked questions. "Sometimes, it's all we can do." He blows out a heavy sigh, his brow furrows and his expression darkens. "But I understand how you feel. Being without Bella and Renesmee is a black torture, something I never wanted to face."
"But you don't have to," I counter. His expression is still clouded and anguished. I feel the sorrow radiating from him in waves. "In the end, you are together forever – you never have to be alone again! Or is that how you stayed alive before you went to Italy, by breathing and dreaming?"
He stares at me for a moment, then lowers his chin to his chest, cradling his head in his hand as he rocks. "It's what I'm doing now." The soft swish of the rocker is comforting and relaxing, and my head suddenly feels so heavy, I can't hold myself upright anymore.
"Edward, will you stay while I rest for a minute?" I sink down further into the bed.
"Where else am I going to go?" he says softly, his voice fading into the shushing sound of the rocker.
The morning is bright – too bright. I glance at the clock. Holy crow! Ten o'clock! I throw back the covers and glance at the empty rocker.
I have a whole day before me and all I can think of is going back to bed tonight. If I lay in bed all day, maybe… I throw myself back against the pillow, pull the covers back over me and squeeze my eyes tight. I'll just stay in bed. I lay as still as I can, concentrating on falling back asleep.
I turn on my side, and rumple the pillow beneath my head.
I flop over to my back, tucking the sheet around me.
I roll to the other side, clutching the blanket to my chest.
It's no use. I'm not tired and now, laying in bed is just annoying and uncomfortable. I throw my legs over the side and slip my feet into my slippers as I shuffle off to the kitchen and morning coffee.
I can't focus. I've tried shopping for groceries, but everything I put in the cart was for David: his tea, his cereal, his favorite ice cream. When I realized what I was doing, I turned on my heel and left the cart where it stood. I jump in my car, heading for the city. I don't really know how to get there by surface streets, but I'm not in a hurry. This will waste more of the day, and that's fine with me.
Walking through the antique stores downtown is better; there's so much to see but nothing requires my immediate attention or scrutiny. A familiar shop boasts of its "authentic 1917 hardware", and I smile to myself remembering the year Edward entered immortality. It's such a different notion to imagine it all happening to a living, breathing person as opposed to a fictional character. If he were here now, he could tell me if it was really authentic.
The store is fairly empty today, and I have time to wander slowly, thinking and dreaming. Toys, ceramics, furniture, all representing discarded memories, remembrances adrift in a sea of loneliness and obscurity. But they had lives, these things, they were cherished at one time and survived when they weren't. I can't decide whether that's happy or sad.
It's not surprising that my thoughts drift back to David. This is where David and I bought our first piece of furniture together – that Stickley rocker. The first time he'd sat in it, the breath had escaped him in a protracted sigh; he belonged in that chair. He had begged me to try it, and when I did, he said, "Right, consider it yours." He had marched upstairs and paid for the chair with no further consideration or debate. We placed it in the bedroom so we could see it first and last thing every day of our lives, just as we'd planned to see each other.
I shake myself out of the memory, and shockingly, my eyes are wet. I'm such a fool. He's gone, and he's not coming back. Does this mean everything is over? I move down the aisle, wandering vaguely in search of an exit. At the cross aisle, I see a grand piano to the left, and I feel pulled toward it. It's standing alone on a small dais, and I get the feeling that the piano is somehow… alone. I step up the platform and walk to the keyboard. I touch a key gently, causing no sound, and my thoughts gather to images of Edward, playing Bella's lullaby for her.
"Do you play?" A man's voice sounds behind me, and I spin around, half expecting to see Edward.
The voice belongs to a tall and gangly man, wearing a shop apron. "No, I'm afraid I don't, but my…' Hallucination? Dream? ' Friend does."
"I'm sure he'd love this, then," he replies stepping up onto the platform. "It's a Steinway. The seller claims it belonged to David Helfgott before he was institutionalized."
Although he's beaming with excitement, the name doesn't mean anything to me, other than to bring my thoughts of David and Edward crashing together. I stare at the piano for a moment, on the edge of understanding, when the man clears his throat.
"Thank you." I step down from the platform and hurry out of the store.
Finally, I'm back at home after finding success at the grocery store. I got only a few things, which I shove unceremoniously into the nooks and crannies of the kitchen without looking. There are things in the kitchen I don't want to be reminded of.
I'm exhausted. I didn't get anything important done today, but so what? Today wasn't much different than any other day since… since David died. I force myself to say the words in my head, and accept their finality.
I brush my teeth and pull on my robe before I shuffle into the bedroom. A shadow moves in the room, and my heart beats in my throat as I flip on the switch.
"Edward! Oh, you scared me!" I breathe, letting the fear run out with my sigh. I walk to the bed as he moves to the rocker. "How was your day?" He stares at me blankly before his brows knit together, and he looks down at his feet. "Edward? Did I say something?"
"Elizabeth, do you know what happens to me when I'm not here?"
It's my turn to feel confused. "I guess I hadn't really thought about it. I guess," I look into his eyes, "I guess I thought you went home."
"I wish I did," he says wistfully. "I miss Bella and Renesmee."
"Don't you… see them, when you leave here?"
"No," he says, raising his chin and looking into my eyes. "No, when you're not here, I'm, well, I'm nowhere, just existing, just breathing, dreaming, wishing to be with them again."
"Oh, Edward, I'm so sorry. I didn't know. I just assumed you went back to them when I –" I break off not knowing how to finish the sentence. "I'm just so sorry."
"Thank you, Elizabeth." We're both still for a moment, the air cheerless and gray between us. "May I ask you something?"
"Anything," I say, aching to ease his pain.
"You said you feel as if you know me. That you'd read about me."
"And my family?" I search his face. He's putting things together, but I can't see what it is, and I don't know where he's going.
"Then, may I ask you? Will you read to me about them? So I can be with them?" The intensity in his eyes and the longing in his voice convince me before his words make sense. My hand moves to the nightstand of its own volition, and pull the tome into my lap. "But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shall not eat of it…"
It's not quite dawn, but the darkness is definitely beginning to fade. "And he leaned down to press his cold lips once more to my throat." His eyes are closed, his face peaceful and serene. I know he not asleep. "Edward?"
"Thank you, Elizabeth." He speaks with his eyes still closed, his head still leaning back against the chair.
"Are you all right?" I'm not sure reading the book actually helped him. "I mean, did it help?"
"Yes, it helped. Thank you." He straightens and opens his eyes. "That's exactly how it happened, although now I understand Bella a bit more fully." His crooked smile plays across his face. "My curiosity about her thoughts during our early days is finally solved. How do you feel? That was quite a bit of reading."
"I'm okay, I guess. A little hoarse, maybe," I say, clearing my throat.
"Hmm. Why don't we get you something to drink? Maybe some cocoa?"
"Blech," I spit the sound out in distaste.
"Tea. Let's make you some tea." He stands and stretches his hand towards me, and reflexively I take it. His skin is ice cold and hard. "Come on, I'll make it for you." He pulls me across the bed and I jump out of it like a school girl, leaving my robe and slippers where they lay.
The day is beginning to bleed into the room through the blinds as we walk into the kitchen, hand in hand. He points to the nook. "Sit. Where do you keep your tea?"
"The cupboard above the stove, to the right." It's really David's tea. I haven't had the heart to throw it away.
"It's your tea now, my friend." He smiles as he fills the teakettle from the tap. "Do you take sugar or milk?"
"Neither, thank you." I watch him find his way around my kitchen. I know I've got to get my head checked. No one's ever going to believe it. What did you do this weekend, Betty? Oh, nothing much. Read 'Twilight' to Edward Cullen and then let him make me some tea.
Edward laughs and looks over to me. "You don't have to tell anyone, you know."
"I don't think I can," I reply, chuckling along with him. Now that I've accepted he's really here, now that we're both feeling better, it's hard to resist his boyish charm. The whistle starts to sound and Edward reaches for the kettle. "Watch out, that's ho–, " I break off as he picks up the kettle with no trouble.
"You were saying?" He laughs.
"Um, never mind." I look down at the table and shake my head.
He slides across the nook from me as a steaming cup of tea appears before me. "Drink that. Your throat will feel better." I pick up the cup and blow across the top of the liquid. He's right; the sip I take is rejuvenating. The sun is rising, the light seeping in through the kitchen window. Edward's skin begins to gently shimmer.
"Elizabeth, I realized something when you were reading to me."
"Yes. I realized that my life could never be more than exactly what it was."
I can feel my face pull into a mask of confusion as I set the cup down between us. "I'm not sure I understand."
"My life, my whole world," his eyes are scorching, seeking mine. He pulls his arms back, beneath the table and leans forward. His tousled hair falls across his brow. "You know me, even though I never knew you existed. You know my life, Bella's life, the things that happened. The book - someone created me. It's all predetermined, scripted, and you read the script."
My mouth drops open, and I just stare at him. He doesn't look upset, but how could he feel otherwise? No one likes feeling that their choices aren't really their own, that the future holds no challenge, no possibility for change, that they have no impact on the world. If that was true, then I would always be alone, I'd always feel empty without David, and there was no point in going on. My life wasn't a book; I had less chance of a happy ever after than Edward did.
"But see?" He's watching me, his expression hopeful, full of anticipation. "That's the thing. Remember when I told you about my mother's rocking chair?"
"Remember when I fixed you a cup of tea?"
My hand flexes around the handle of the cup. "Yes?" I don't see where he's going.
"Was that in the book?"
"Was it in any of the books?"
"No," I say, becoming a little more impatient. "What has that got to do with anything?"
"You gave that to me. I have a life, I have choice. I sat rocking in your chair remembering my mother, missing my Bella and my daughter, breathing and dreaming. I would never have had that, if it weren't for you. Your thoughts kept me alive." He smiles broadly and like Bella, I'm dazzled. "Thank you." He is truly beautiful, more alive and substantial than I'd ever imagined.
"Edward, that's wonderful." My vision clouds with sudden tears. This is why he was here, I can feel it, which means… I can't find the air. "I'm so happy for you." I meant to say it with joy, but it comes out in a sobbed whisper. I know he's leaving; he's found his redemption, his way home.
The last two days, I've felt more alive than I have in the last five years. Just having someone to talk to, someone who cares, someone beautiful and exceptional and kind, someone interested in me. I can't bring myself to look at him; I can't face his happiness.
"You're right, Elizabeth, I do care about you. More than you'll ever fully understand," he says, grasping me with his icy hands. "Don't be sad. Don't you see what this means?"
"It means you're going to be leaving soon."
"It means that, as scripted as my life was, you gave me something new, something I never hoped to have. And you," his hand came up under my chin, forcing me to look at him, "Your life is not scripted. It won't always be the way it was, or the way it is today. You're alive. You're free. You can change. Your life can be full again, filled with joy, and hope, and love. There's nothing stopping you."
"But there's no David."
"It's true, David's gone." The compassion in his gaze is overwhelming. "But I believe you'll see David again. In the meanwhile, you have life. You'll always have David, and the rest – it's all still before you."
This sounds so final. He's sitting right across from me, and I couldn't miss him more. "I wish I felt the same way, Edward, I really do. All I know is that you're leaving, and now I'll be more alone than ever before." The tears are coming again.
"Elizabeth," he says gently. "Do you believe David loved you?"
His words stop my heart for just a moment. Why would he ask me that? "Yes, absolutely."
"But sometimes, you're angry with him for leaving, leaving you here on your own and lonely?"
"Yes," I hang my head, shamed by my selfish thoughts.
"Don't you see?" I look up at him through my lashes, beneath my confused brow. I shake my head. "David's been reaching out to you."
"What? How?" I can't imagine what he's talking about; the only presence I've felt in the house is him.
"Carlisle has often talked about signs, about how his Creator left signs to guide him through his days on earth. I had a difficult time accepting the existence of these signs, until I met Alice. Her visions of the future have been my signs, guideposts that led me to Bella, to my wife, to happiness with my daughter.
"Your signs are all around the house. 'Twilight' on the nightstand, tea in the cupboard, junk mail advertisements to –," he picked up the mail I'd thrown on the table, "To Paris, to the Caribbean. The rocker. Me.
"It's David. David's been searching for ways to reach you. When the words on the page wouldn't do it, he sent me."
I look at the brochures on the table and stare at the tea in my cup. "But," I'm stammering, "But, why? Why?"
"Because his time was over. His choices were gone. But he loved you. He wanted you to go on. To find your own life. To cherish the passion you felt with him. Cherish – not grieve.
"We both know what it's like to live without the one we love. We understand it more than most. But Elizabeth," he reaches across the table and removes my hand from the cup. "It's time now. It's time to wake up and move on."
I can't take my eyes off his as he speaks. Something's wrong, though. I gasp as I realize I can see the back of the nook through his eyes. "Edward!"
"I can hear Bella calling me," he says, smiling. "Elizabeth, I must go. Thank you, and goodbye. I won't forget you," he raises my hand to his lips.
"Goodbye, Edward," I cry to the shimmering air where he used to sit, my hand still raised in mid-air. I slowly drop it to the table, staring straight ahead as the daylight blossoms into the room. I know he's gone, gone forever, but the thought doesn't frighten me anymore.
I close my eyes for a moment and take a deep, cleansing breath. It's time to wake up. I open my eyes and pick up the brochure for Paris from the table.