Where Angels Roam the Sea
by Mackenzie L.
Welcome to my first Alternate Universe Twilight fanfic. In this story, Esme is a vampire and Carlisle is a human. Esme has been living under Volturi power in Italy during the 19th century. When she reencounters Carlisle, the mysterious young boy she saved from drowning seven years ago, she begins to question her way of life. Esme ultimately finds herself falling in love with a man she is told she can never have.
*The Twilight Saga and its characters belong to Stephenie Meyer. The rest of this story and any original concepts belong to me.
Sorrento, Italy – 1840.
I cannot count how many paintings were made of the view from the sea cliffs at Sorrento. Myself, I had been the artist responsible for at least a dozen of them.
Just off the coast of Campania, Italy, one might often see flocks of eager young painters dragging their easels up the mountainous rocks, hoping to capture the Tyrrhenian Sea on their canvases before sunset.
If I had expected there would be so many people around, I would normally have discouraged myself from coming to this spot. But today I knew there would be no one.
A fierce storm had ripped through the coast early this morning, leaving behind a briny mess of debris. The dark clouds had rolled in long before the sun had risen, fooling many of the villagers into thinking the morning had not yet come. And so they remained, sleeping soundly in their beds, waiting out the storm as they snored, dreaming for a sunny day when they woke.
As I made my ascent up the cliffs, I was surrounded by silence. Only the restless waves crashing against the rocks and the last rough, swirling winds from the passing storm kept me company while I climbed. It was an effortless trip for me, one I'd made many times as a young girl and one I would forever make as a twenty-six-year-old woman.
I was frozen in time, just as the rocks on the edge of the cliff were. But even the rocks had hopes to one day erode into dust and be carried off into the sea. I, on the other hand, would never be dust. I would never vanish from this earth so long as I bore the curse of my kind.
And so I walked like the dead woman I was, a lonely figure on the steep cliffs at the edge of the land where no one would dare travel on such a stormy morning. It was dangerous to be on the cliffs with these kinds of winds, but even if I fell, my body would not be lost to the sea.
I was indestructible.
To many, this would be a desirable trait to possess. To me, it was a curse.
As I drew nearer and nearer to the top of the cliff, I could see the wide span of the sea peeking over at me. It was stirring wildly this morning, a threatening grayish-blue in color, and it followed no fixed rhythm. Still, I hummed along.
I stood like a statue on the very ledge of the cliff, watching over the sea from my favorite spot. From every direction below me, waves threw themselves at the mighty rocks like watery damsels would throw themselves at their lovers. Above it all, I was their silent witness. I remembered all that I saw, and I would soon see it again. Every day of my life was nearly the same as the last. I was doomed to forever follow the same, repeating pattern until the end of eternity.
I was no better than the wave who threw herself at the rock.
How I longed for a single tear to sting my eye! Just one droplet of water to cling to my lashes. It would feel so real, so raw; it would give me such peace. Sometimes I would dip my finger into a pool of water and fashion myself a false tear, just to feel that sensation of warm moisture slipping down my cheek. It was all a part of my pitiful masquerade as a human. I knew it was a lie. But inside I would always yearn for what was real.
I felt utterly naked standing on the cliffs without my easel. The townspeople would wonder what sort of fool had come up here without the intent to paint what she saw. I never cared what they thought of me, for I was a fool. This was one title I did not pretend for.
The wind whispered what a fool I was as I stepped ever closer to the edge of the cliff, my bare feet grazing against thick pebbles and jagged rocks. Nothing pierced my skin but the feel of loneliness.
My black skirt billowed around me like the veil of a woman in mourning. I tilted my head back and waited for the kiss of sea salt to sting my nostrils. The scent of salt had a kind of royalty about it. It was rich, fertile, inebriating – the essence of the sea. Like a faithful friend, I felt its touch, its taste, its fragrance. My lips parted as the sea's spirit-like kiss deepened, consuming my simple soul to its core.
A distant purr of thunder shook my heart. A seductive flash of lightning burned my bones.
In that moment, I wanted to dive. I wanted to surrender myself, body and soul, to the wind and ride down into the depths of that sickly blue water, to plunge myself into the icy waves. I had done it before. It had felt dangerous and beautiful, and I wanted it again.
The stormy skies overhead rumbled in approval. But I knew they would not have encouraged me if I were a human. They knew I would emerge from the waters without a scratch on me, sliding onto the sand with my lithe limbs outstretched and my long hair dark and soaking. I'm certain the sky only wanted a show.
If that were the case, then I would gladly give it.
Without a thought in my mind, I pointed my hands toward heaven and dipped my head forward, letting my body form a graceful arrow as I dove for the disturbed sea below.
The fall was exactly as I had remembered it – rushed and cold and thrilling. I felt the spray from the waves hit my face, then the sea foam enveloping my body like frigid cream, dragging me along the violent current.
I swallowed the cold, salty water and spat it back out again. It was unpleasant, but it was what I deserved, and so I did it many times. It may not have quenched my thirst, but it fed my satisfaction.
My arms reluctantly began to propel my body back towards the rocky base of the cliffs. I knew precisely which places were best for easy climbing. I knew where to head when the water flowed a certain way. I knew how to trick the current and beat out the wind. More than any other woman, I knew this part of the sea.
My torso felt stiff and my face felt numb as I swam swiftly through the turbulent waters. There was something ... strange about the air this morning. Something did not quite fit with the mood. I sensed something bright in the midst of this darkness. Something sweet in the midst of the salt. Something soft and delicate lost in the hard and merciless waters.
For as much as I knew this sea, I was not familiar with the figure I then saw floating away from me, being carried by a pair of distant waves.
The tension in my body coiled tightly in my legs, making them heavier as I struggled to catch up with the mysterious shape I had seen in the mist. Thick, salty brine caked my shoulders, and the current danced violently around my dress, dragging me away from what I sought. But I fought onward, determined to see what it was that the sea so badly wanted to hide from me.
What I found was not what I had suspected.
I had collected many things floating amongst these waves in the past. Empty glass bottles, strips of driftwood, unfortunate sea creatures... but never in my life had I come across another person.
Today, the storm offered me quite an unexpected treasure.
I could not believe my eyes at first. The closer I came to the floating figure, the more details I could pick out. My eyes widened in disbelief as the pale golden gleam became hair, the round white knobs became hands, and the ghostly gray wings became the tattered remains of a sailor's shirt, clinging weakly to the arms of a lanky young boy.
At the shocking sight, I charged bravely against the current, beating down the waves that tried to overcome me. My arms flung forward to seize the helpless corpse, holding him firmly against me as I made my way back to land.
With one sure hand I gripped the familiar ledge of a rock on the base of the cliff I had jumped from. It took all my strength to lift us both out of the water, but the motion was effortless in my desperation.
I flung the poor sailor boy onto the pebbly sand on the shallow rock, ignoring the waves that continued to grapple my ankles from behind. I had dragged him to shore thinking I carried a dead weight upon my shoulder. But a single choking breath alerted me to the startling truth. The boy who now lay beneath my shadow was very much alive.
Filled with a foreign kind of energy I thought I would never again possess, I panicked and began to press firmly on the boy's chest with my hands, urging the water to recede from his lungs. I quickly remembered that my strength was a danger to this fragile human, and with effort I managed to lessen the force of my pumping rhythm.
My eyes widened as the boy's delicate blue lips opened to release a small fountain of regurgitated sea water. I jumped backwards in surprise to watch as he coughed violently for a few moments, gasping for the air that would restore his life... then he collapsed like a torn-up rag doll in the sand. The only motion in his body came from his weak but determined chest as it rose up and down in a steady rhythm, each breath sounding stronger and more wonderful to my ears.
I inched warily closer to his sleeping form, watching in wonder as jade tufts of sea grass danced around him where he lay in his bed of damp sand and pebbles. He looked so still and peaceful, even with the wind howling at him to wake. He stirred not, yet I was captivated by him. He was like a piece of artwork to my hungry eyes. I wanted nothing more than to study him, detail by exquisite detail for hours. He was an utter mystery to me, this boy I had rescued from the Tyrrhenian's rough touch.
His face was pale, as was the rest of his body. He had looked whiter than snow while on the waves, but now that he breathed air into his lungs, his face had regained a flush of faintest pink. His face still held with it a delicateness; the plumpness in his cheeks was a sure sign of his youth… yet it was contrasted by a curiously valiant jaw which promised stronger features in the future.
Above that angelic young face was a mess of unruly blond hair. The water had made it look like tarnished gold, but now as it dried it slowly took on the color of clean, cloudy sunshine. Each strand seemed to defy the wind, falling into his eyes, then being brushed away again. Everything about him looked so... young.
He could not have been more than sixteen years of age.
I smiled faintly at my fascinating discovery, marveling that I had not once yet been tempted by his blood. He had been so close to death that my instincts had overpowered me to save him rather than to drink the blood that would have been wasted.
This was not natural. I was in no way resistant to the lure of human blood. Nearly every day I drank from them to keep myself thriving. I was made to drink from innocent veins like this boy's. The temptation grew stronger and stronger the more I acknowledged these thoughts.
As I stared at his doll-like face, my control slowly slipped away, bit by bit. I watched the flush in his cheeks brighten with each breath he took, becoming more and more alive... More and more ideal for me to consume.
His blood was ... enrapturing. How could I have not noticed it before? This boy's blood was the sweetest, richest, strongest I had ever known. How I wanted it on my tongue, down my throat, in my soul...
Yet, still, I resisted.
I heard the pumping of his heart, beat by torturous beat ringing in my ears like the hooves of wild horses coming up behind me. I was in danger of being trampled, but I did not move. I only listened.
I stared hard at his sweet, sleeping face, and bravely allowed my hand to venture forth, over his chest and up to his chin. I felt the bones through his thin frame, the lovely squared curve of his jaw that didn't quite fit with the rest of that youthful face. I let my unsure fingers tremble over his dark blond lashes, brushing away the bits of salt and seaweed that had gathered on his pale skin.
"Who are you?" I whispered aloud to my sleeping victim, knowing he would not hear or answer.
I needed to know where he had come from, where he had been going, how he had ended up being tossed about the Tyrrhenian during the worst storm of the season.
It was this need that kept me from wanting to drink him dry.
Like a sign from heaven, the boy finally stirred from his stupor. My skin prickled with anticipation as his eyes slowly opened, and he looked upon my face for the first time.
In contrast to his deathly appearance, his eyes were a most lively blue, but they stirred like a sickened sea in fear.
I was eager to chase that fear away with a gentle touch from my hand. I knew it would feel like ice against his already chilled skin, but it was the only way I could think to offer him comfort.
I carefully placed my palm against his clammy cheek, felt the blood rush beneath his skin, saw the color rise in his face. That feral part of me wanted to slice his cheek with my teeth and suck the fragrant blood from his veins... But again, I resisted.
And it was a miracle that I did. This was the perfect place to take a victim. There were no witnesses to see me for what I really was, and this boy was as good as dead. I could have taken him so easily.
But I did not.
It was indeed a miracle.
"You're safe now," I whispered fiercely against the moaning wind. The boy's eyes sparkled, his heart beating like a tribal drum, and in that moment I truly believed that he understood me. His eyes moved the slightest bit from one place to another, as if searching my face for signs that I was worthy of his trust. When his eyes at last returned to lock onto mine, something in his gaze settled; the chill in his blue fire had finally warmed. His cheek leaned into my touch despite the coldness of my skin, and he stared at me with unending gratefulness in his exhausted eyes. Whether he had given his trust at my words or by my caring touch alone, I did not know.
He may not have understood Italian. He may have even been a mute.
It did not matter. I could see it in in those wild blue eyes of his – a blue so achingly naked and pure. I had spared his life when I could have so easily taken it, and it was almost as if he knew this. A subtle but overwhelming connection had been forged between our souls, and we could not seem to look away.
He was the most beautiful human I had ever encountered in my eighty-four years.
And he was the first one I had ever held in my arms.
I heard the voices of fishermen on the cliffs shortly after that. They spoke of how terrible the storm had been, and how they would surely find some loot that had been churned up by the waves on the bottom rocks.
What they found when they reached the bottom was a different kind of treasure, but a treasure nonetheless.
It was with a pained heart that I forced myself to hide away and listen as they picked up my poor sailor boy and took him back to their village, speculating how and when he had fallen overboard from a passing ship.
When I determined that they were safely out of sight, I slipped out of my hiding space and stood again on the edge of the sea, a lonely figure in a dark dress, watching the waves with the never-ending desire to jump.