Disclaimer: I do not own Twilight or the characters associated within it. Only the plot, OC's, and reimagined history/species of Bella are my own creation.
A single snowflake falls from the sky, twirling gracefully before landing invisibly on the damp ground. More immediately follow in it's wake, slowly but surely covering the dark earth with a sparkling brilliance. It is a sight I have seen countless times before, yet this one seems to hold a special significance. The view through the window is crystalline, leaving myself ample room to observe and marvel.
The sound of a piano slowly filters into the room, gently melding into the silence of the house. It is a song of serenity and yet profound sorrow - a fitting creation for it's master. Heartbreaking, some would call it. If there's anything to be said of the brooding statue that is Edward, he certainly has a prodigious talent with music. From my seclusion within the attic, I slowly let myself melt away into the nothingness that the snowflakes so willingly give themselves up to.
To be at peace nowadays is a wonder that never ceases to amaze me. For years it had been an elusive quality; unattainable. My tortured mind had never let my soul rest, or reach the point of no return that would have allowed me to pass on from this world. Ironic, it would seem, that the stubborness borne and bred into me would become my saving grace from those who raised me.
It's a damned miracle I'm still alive right now.
It's also a damned shame.
Several days have passed since I arrived here at the Cullen's. It's given me time to think and reflect - things that previously allowed for none of the objectivity that I have acquired now. Granted it's only because of the date, this terrible, horrific date. It's beyond impossible that I've found peace today, for the import it holds. Maybe it's some sort of divine joke, to amuse whatever forces hold sway in this world. But it seems they've finally taken pity (continued vengeance?) and sent someone to disturb the serenity of the room...
"Bella? Can we...talk?"
Alice is hesitantly standing at the entrance to the attic, her eyes looking anywhere but at me. It's been a while since I've last seen her so subdued, but I can't exactly say it's a surprise. Ever since those first two days, Alice has become somewhat of a...visual projection of my moods. If I am content, she's her normal, bubbly self; if I am somber, she is quiet and respectful; if I am angry, she is fidgety and anxious; and so on and so forth. It has no real usefulness, since most of the other Cullens avoid me. Alice and Esme are the only ones who will willingly approach me (Carlisle is too busy), but as it is, I do my best to politely avoid Esme. I just...can't handle her right now.
"Of course, Alice," I reply smoothly, turning to look back out the window. Some say winter is a symbol of the destruction of life, and that the coming spring signifies it's rebirth; to watch as the snowflakes continue devouring the remaining green, it makes one want to agree. Death and rebirth, purity and defilement, yin and yang...
"...are you listening to me?"
There she goes again...interrupting my musings. Silly vampire.
"No," I admit, lazily turning my head to meet her apprehensive gaze. It flickers with something like pain before she quickly looks away.
"Bella..." She reaches for my hand, gripping tightly to the point of discomfort. "What's going on? You're not acting like yourself."
I raise an eyebrow, partially amused. Not acting like myself, she says? And just what is myself like? How can she, or I, even say? How much of what I know of myself is a lie constructed over the years that has slowly become truth? Too much.
The pain returns to her eyes when I don't respond. "I don't understand, Bella. Why...why are you being like this?" Desperation colours her tone.
I turn back to the snow, cloaking myself in my newfound indifference. "Can't really say that it's any of your business. I mean, I know I live under your roof and all, but what goes on with me is for me, and me only..."
The sting of her slap only exacerbates my previous amusement. Her expression is anything but.
"How dare you say that to me, after everything..." Those beautiful golden eyes cut me to pieces a thousand times over with the glare she sends my way, the righteous anger boiling over. "You have no right. No right! You were even making progress...!"
Every stab I receive is entirely worth it, to be deserved.
She continues to rant, eyes digging into my very soul like molten metal. Burning, searing, tearing. Nothing less would be tolerated, on a day like today...
When she goes to slap me again, I catch her hand, serious this time. "To be honest, Alice," I interrupt softly, looking back at the snow, "it's partly because I've spent too long as human. My kind never trifles much with powerful emotions - beasts are mainly ruled by their instincts, after all." Her hand is almost soft in my own. She is silent next to me, the absence of sound allowing Edward's haunting melody to filter through the walls once again.
And just like before, I close my eyes to take it all in - soaking up all the negative feelings floating around.
"Today was my mother's birthday, you know," I murmur softly, releasing her hand. There is no reply, and several more moments pass with my eyes still shut to the world.
When I next open them, Alice is gone.
Soft footsteps alight on the stairs to the attic for the second time this day.
Midday is quickly approaching, and yet I can't make myself move from my post by the window. Watching the snow cover the landscape reminds me of my home in Russia, with the tribe...of all the good times I had there. Of course, without any actual memories, the act of reminiscing doesn't really hold any purpose. Just another thing to torment myself with, I suppose.
A hand gently knocks upon the door panel, unnecessary as the scent of my visitor reached my nose moments ago. The heartbreak ever present on today happens all over again - on a smaller scale, of course - as it is Esme who has approached me now. I would have bolted at the first sign of her presence, but alas, there is no escape.
"Bella?" Esme inquires. She steps into the attic without waiting for a reply, quietly advancing. I hold myself tighter, trying to hold off the waves of pain. Isn't it enough that I'm still alive and suffering, with the blood of my own mother on my hands? Must I bear the kindness of a mother so loving and sweet that she cares even for my wretched self?
"You don't need to stay holed up here all day, sweetheart," Esme murmurs, standing slightly behind me.
Justice can be a cruel, cruel mistress.
Edward's melody continues as Esme waits for a reply. I give her none.
She tries again, this time resting her hand in a motherly, loving way upon my shoulder. "You also don't need to keep tormenting yourself with this. It's not very healthy."
I don't care what's healthy and what's not. I don't want anything right now. Just go away.
Her hand moves to run through my hair. It's almost more than I can take. "Bella, sweetie." I can hear the concern in her voice. It's too much, too much...just go away! "You need to stop this." She tosses my hair behind my ear and leans down to embrace me tightly.
Inner ramblings and wants never adhere to anything unless you voice them aloud. Of course she hadn't even heard my wish for her to leave me alone, which somehow makes her tenderness hurt all the more. This hug is the last straw, and I can't hold it in anymore.
Her hold never breaks as I sob and scream into her arms. The words of comfort she whispers never falter as I clench my fists into her back. The love that is constantly radiating off of her never ceases, even under the onslaught of my fists. It is a never ending flow of tears and despair, but only serving as a minor release from the ocean inside. Blessed, damned Esme withstands it all.
But it's too much...
After much conjoling when my tears had finally slowed, Esme finally convinced me to come back downstairs for a cup of warm tea. It is delicious, but the reflection staring back at me embitters the soothing taste. My guts have stopped twisting around so much, though, so I guess I shouldn't complain. Hating myself has never fixed anything, and it won't start now.
Esme slides into the stool next to me, rubbing my back. "Are you alright now, Bella?"
Alright? Of course I'm not alright... You won't leave me alone.
"Fine," I reply, watching ripples appear in the tea from my breathing. Breathe in, breathe out. Breathe in, breathe out. Action, and reaction. Ripples and ripples and ripples...
"How long have you been holding that in?"
Too long. "Did Alice tell you?"
"She did, yes. I noticed she had been rather anxious all day, so I suggested she go talk to you. However, I realize now that that was a mistake. She was so distraught..."
Pressurized guilt smashes into my already battered heart. Oh, Alice - you silly, silly vampire. Shame on me, the wicked beast.
"What did she say?"
"Only that you needed a mother's touch today, the birthday of your own. I've noticed you've been avoiding me." Esme smiles to soften the statement, but I feel admonishment nonetheless. "It's quite alright. You had your reasons, as was evidenced upstairs." She runs her fingers through my hair again. The sheer amount of kindness within this woman boggles my mind.
I close my eyes, discarding the image of myself in the cup, and take another sip. "I take it she went off somewhere to think, while everyone else is out enjoying the snow?"
"Sharp as ever, I see. That's right, Alice wanted some alone time to process her emotions. Don't feel guilty, sweetheart; something like this was bound to happen, with how closed off you keep yourself, and how close you two you are. Alice is the sort to wear her heart on her sleeve, never afraid to take life head on; dealing with someone like you has, I suspect, confused her a great deal." She chuckles lightly, an amused smile on her lips. "Edward comes close, but you and him are as different as night and day when it comes down to it."
Mmm...can't say I'm surprised that she's noticed as much as she has. But the extent of what she's noticed is almost alarming. I guess I can't say I was as successful as I thought I was at avoiding her. There's only one way I can see to fix this...
"Where did Alice go?"
"I don't know, dear. She has many quiet places she keeps to herself. Why don't you go look for her?"
Must have read my mind.
I start with the backyard first. Alice sometimes likes to lie around Esme's flowers just to 'admire their beauty', as she puts it. However, she is not there with all the snow covering the ground (not that I'd thought she'd be there, anyway). Next, I check every room in the house minus hers. It wouldn't feel right to breach her private space in the middle of this...argument? I don't know what exactly to call it. By the absence of all sounds from behind the door, though, I deduct she is not there. Or at least that's just what I tell myself, to make it seem real.
Searching the forest is not an appealing prospect. I could search for hours and not find her - her scent is everywhere, continuously overlapping with the other vampires'. Plus, I wouldn't be surprised if she knows a few tracking tricks to conceal her passing, especially with the snowfall to cover anything she misses. I haven't the energy to go on a full blown hunt, and I doubt she'd appreciate being hunted down like a wayward child.
So what does this leave me with? Regret, and return to square two. Tea is a wonderful relaxant.
Esme is delighted to warm me up another cup, insisting I not go anywhere and just wait for Alice. Refusal is not acceptable, so I settle down by the window to watch the snow once more. It's so hypnotising. I can barely think straight, weighed down by my pitiful insecurities. The white flakes swirl and dance upon the light breeze, lulling me into a daze. Starting tomorrow, I really need to start spending more quality time as my real self - all these emotions are really getting to me. But for now, I'm just so tired. I'll close my eyes for just a second...
I can hear a low melody slowly building. It starts very faint, barely piercing through the darkness in which my mind is adrift. But it grows and swells, burgeoning to the heights of clarity and brilliance. A slow burn begins within me, changing and evolving with the song that is slowly taking over my consciousness. Resistance is futile; I have not the strength to defy it. Soon, it is a raging blaze that tears through my very soul. It is ingenious, sweeping through the emotions with no mercy; it demands ironclad obedience to it's whims, offering no respite.
And the one feeling it invokes without fail?
The fire burns bright and strong.
Upon awaking, two things are immediately apparent: the table at which I had been resting upon is now soft, though I seem to have developed a crick in my neck, and the air is much warmer. I open my eyes to a sight of the living room, turned sideways. It doesn't take a lot of thought power to deduce that I have been moved onto the couch, though the question of how long I've been out still remains. Slowly, so as to not aggravate my kinked neck, I sit up and turn to look at the small vampire sitting in the chair next to the couch. She is watching me with nervous golden eyes, teeth steadily chewing a groove into her lip. I do not speak for fear that I will send her running away again.
The quiet begins to weigh the room heavily upon us when neither of us speaks for a long time. I keep my expression passive, hoping she will take up the initiative. Nothing happens for so long, that when she does speak, I nearly jump out of my skin.
Alice halts her lip biting to stretch her face into a strained smile. "You know, I don't think I've ever seen you sleep aside from when you first arrived here. Is that a beast thing, or...?" She cuts her sentence off, looking suddenly fearful of what she'd been about to say. Though curious, I don't press her.
Clearing my throat, I glance away from her. "You're partially right. It is a beast thing, but only for warriors. As part of our training, we teach ourselves to seldomly sleep so as to better our protective measures. When we do sleep, it is very superficial and does not last for very long. Which, by the way, leads me to my question: how long did I sleep?"
"Just an hour. It's not even evening yet, but it will become dark quicker with the thick clouds still hanging around." She looks away as well, running a finger over a stray thread on her chair arm. "I...I had a vision that you would fall asleep in the kitchen. Since having visions of you are so difficult, I immediately rushed back in my curiosity." I watch closely as her movements become more agitated. "You look at peace when you sleep - more so than you are awake. It was a sight I didn't want to miss."
My eyebrows rise in surprise. I open my mouth to say something, but quickly close it for fear that I'll say something insensitive again. What do you say to something like that? Panicked, I grab for the first inoffensive thing I can think to say. "I'm sorry," I blurt, blinking when she whips her head up so fast it makes my neck throb in sympathy.. "For, um...earlier. For saying all those things to you, when you didn't deserve it." It's my turn now to be agitated, shifting uncomfortably on the plush cushions. Ancestors, emotions are so messy. "S-So, is there anything else you want to ask me? About my habits I mean."
Alice quickly shakes her head, still looking at me with a baffled expression. My unease steadily rises. "Would you like to learn how to defend yourself, then?" I rush out, surprising my own self. Defend herself? Where did that come from? And since when do I speak without thinking?
She shares my confusion, now gaping at me in an almost hurtful show of candid befuddlement. "I beg your pardon?"
Taking a deep breath to steady myself, I latch onto this insane idea that had sprang up from the depths of my mind. "Learn how to defend yourself, from my...tribe. You know, teach you and everyone else how to face them. They're bound to show up here sooner or later, and I still have that debt to your family to fulfill..."
"But those two from that first night really, well, kicked our asses." Alice looks like she'd be blushing if she still could. "How could we learn to defend ourselves?"
"You had such trouble because first of all, you've never encountered anything like us before, and second, they sort of cheated using our natural ability. If I were to show you how to not only work around that, but how to counter our natural fighting style, you'd be able to stand on even ground with them. 'Surprise is your greatest ally,' my father used to always say to me during training sessions. By taking an enemy off guard, you potentially negate their defenses and leave them open for attack. That's what happened that night - you were caught by surprise, and were thus handed a solid defeat. If I can successfuly teach you and your family how to fight someone of our kind, you won't have to worry about being surprised."
Alice blinks slowly, taking everything in that I had to tell her. Her expression looks a little worried when she says, "But Bella, won't you feel...conflicted, teaching us how to fend off your tribe?"
I shake my head, suppressing the immediate agreement that had risen. "That doesn't matter anymore. They'll kill you to get to me, and I can't allow that to happen. It also goes against everything they taught me to not give you guys a fighting chance. To not give your enemy a fair fight is considered dishonourable and dirty." What I don't tell her is that my tribe has fallen so far into their hatred of me, that they've discarded much of our traditional values that they always told me to adhere to.
And that's a fact that hurts almost as much as everything else.
But I mustn't allow thoughts like that to weigh me down.
"So what do you say, Alice? Will you let me teach you and your family?"
The smile in response gives me hope. "It's not really my decision," she says, but holds up a hand to stall my retort. "Let me call Carlisle and see what he thinks of it. He is the head of our family. But," she pauses, cause my breathing to stop, "before I do that, there is one thing I want to ask that I didn't mention earlier."
"And what's that?"
"In the attic this morning, you said you've spent too long as human and that your kind never trifles with powerful emotions. What did you mean by that?"
Relief hits me like a hammer, causing my breath to rush out. That's easy enough to answer. "You should know this, Alice. Do animals feel confusion, love, hatred? Do they dwell on the troubles of their existence, caused only by humans? Do they do anything except live their lives, directed by their instinct?"
"When you put it that way," Alice's brow furrows, her eyes thoughtful, "I don't think they do. But what do I know of such things? I'm just a vampire."
A small smile is upon my face before I can think otherwise. "That's right, you are just a vampire - and a silly one at that, too." Her answering grin makes my own smile grow. "To answer your question, the same principle applies to my species. Since we are beast first and human second, any emotions we feel are of the base level only: fear, anger, contentment, etc. Those who stay indefinitely as their normal forms cannot feel anything else in heightened levels - their instinct and natural higher thinking takes over. But those who keep a happy medium between beast and human can feel the whole range of human emotion - just not to the near destructive level normal humans do.
"Since I've spent too long as human, my capacity to feel strong emotions has increased tenfold. In my present state, I am emotionally equal with a normal human." I grimace, displeased with this fact. "How they handle it everyday, I'll never know. It's damn near driving me crazy."
Alice starts laughing, bending over at the waist to clutch her stomach. Her amusement only increases as I fail to see what's so funny. Really, this is no laughing matter! I don't know how to handle this ridiculous explosion of...feeling. And to think it's gotten this bad, too!
"I'm sorry, Bella," Alice giggles when she finally calms down enough, "but this is too rich. It's not that bad to feel like a human does. In fact," she grins wickedly, "it just makes everything more enjoyable."
Grumbling and thoroughly irritated, I cross my arms and look pointedly at the grandfather clock on the other side of the room. "Are you done? I'd like to get the matter of your training settled as soon as possible. There's no time to waste."
But Alice only continues to giggle in response before whipping her cell phone out and dialing Carlisle. I choose not to stay for the following conversation, instead leaving out the backdoor. Esme greets me cheerfully as I pass her in the snow-piled garden, so I tell her I'll return in a few hours.
I have got to get handle on myself.
By the time I return from a very refreshing run, Carlisle has returned and is waiting with the rest of the family in the living room. In light of my previous irritation, I decide to conduct this meeting as my normal self, aside from the fact that it would help drive my point across. They look at me like I've grown a third head when I enter and make no move to morph, instead making myself comfortable on the rug. "Is everyone ready to begin?" I project, growling in laughter when they all flinch.
When silence is answer, I continue. "Good, then let's get started. I assume Alice has informed you all of the reason for this?"
They collectively nod, still gaping. "Excellent. So, Carlisle, what is your answer? It would benefit your family tremendously to expand their combat abilities, especially with my tribe certain to show soon. Since you obviously don't want me to leave," I turn to Alice, who has the grace to look sheepish, "I feel I must prepare for what is to come. Not only because I am in your debt, but because it is the right thing to do."
Carlisle runs a hand through his golden hair. "Now hold on a minute, Bella. There's no way to know for sure that the tribe will use lethal force against us - from what you've told us of them, they're honur-bound to not kill us unless we are truly a threat-"
"You are a threat, whether you realize it or not," I interrupt, huffing. "They have become so consumed in their hunt for me that they have lost sight of what they once taught. My time here has given me the opportunity to reflect on their actions and what I've told you. Though it pains me to say it, they are no longer the family I knew." My tails begins to twitch back and forth in annoyance. "They will stop at nothing, even killing a peaceful vampire family that has no real way of defending itself against them."
"What makes you think that they are so far gone that they'll do that, Bella?" Esme asks, the other family members nodding in agreement. "You've always spoken of your tribe's values so well, surely they would not disregard them so easily."
I growl low in my throat, beginning to get angry. "You're not listening. Did you not truly believe me that first day when I said they've been hunting me nonstop? Let me paint a different picture for you: Imagine a small home in the middle of a mountain, far away from civilization, with a small family it's only inhabitants. This family subsists off plants grown from the land, spare hunting, and a supply trip once every six months for perishables such as milk, eggs, and meat. The family has two children: a boy and girl, both within a few years of each other. They are learning from their mother how to read and write, while their father teaches them how to hunt. It is a happy existence, undisturbed by the world's troubles.
"Now imagine a young woman of about twenty years of age, battered and beaten from a recent bout with her tribe. She is badly injured and knows her time at last has come, that she can finally rest. At peace with herself, she lies down in the middle of a forest, not far from this happy home of four. She drifts in and out of consciousness, her pain severe as her wounds slowly heal themselves. It is by a stroke of luck that the husband and father of the home finds her there, slowly bleeding her life out. He takes pity on her, and brings her back to his home to be saved. They are not aware of the misfortune she will bring down upon them, or the pain they will suffer at her tribe's doing.
"Fast forward a few days. The young woman's wounds are nearly healed, a fact she does her best to conceal from the kind family. All she wants to do is get away as fast as she can, to spare these strangers who blindly took in a murderer. But the wife and mother only clucks disapprovingly at her each time she catches the young woman trying to pack up what little possessions she has. The husband and father only drags her back when he catches her trying to sneak out in the middle of the night. The two children pester her with questions and treat her with the utmost respect, in awe of the young woman's survivability. And so it is that the young woman has no choice but to stay, since she does not want to shatter their sanity by morphing.
"A week more passes in this manner. The young woman is almost in a panic by now, desperate to get far away before the tribe catches up. But the family only holds on to her tighter the more she struggles. They fear for her mental stability, debating late in the night when they think the young woman is asleep whether or not they should take her into the nearest city to be committed to the state hospital. Howver, the wife and mother always puts her foot down, saying the young woman is only troubled a horrific past - that they need only show her they wish for her to be well. This is the only reason the young woman keeps from drastic action.
"Another week flies by. The wife and mother finally manages to check the young woman's wounds herself, and is astounded to see only scars. This leads to confusion and questions of who the young woman really is. Said young woman cannot answer in truth, and so only pleads to be on her way. But at this time it is too late, evidenced by the sounds of approach the young woman can hear so keenly. Panicked fully now, she is on her feet and bounding out the door quicker than anyone can stop her, but it is still too late. The tribe blocks her path just a few steps out the door.
"The husband and father yanks her back inside, where he barricades it with shaking hands. He is terrified to be confronted with a large number of Siberian Tigers - so far from Russia! The young woman tries to tear her way out the door, but the husband and father locks her in the basement with the rest of the family. She is unable to cease her crazed tearing at the heavy door, and only becomes more frenzied when she hears the tribe burst into the house. The husband and father screams in agony as he is torn to shreds, and only seconds later the basement is broken in to next.
"First the young woman is pulled out, followed by the rest of the family. When the wife and mother tries to intervene, she and the children are torn apart to lie in a bloodied and brutal mess next to the husband and father. The young woman is helpless to stop any of this, held as she is by the tribe. They take her with them, leaving the kind family to rot or be eaten by while animals. It is a sight that is forever seared into the young woman. Does that help clarify my meaning?"
No one so much as twitches. Completely unsettled now, I continue with my point. This was something I had hoped to never tell them, but I should have known better. If they are so damned intent on keeping me here as that family in the mountain was, they need to know what they're up against. Maybe this will be my final act of atonement, to show the tribe that their hatred has clouded their judgement. Or maybe they will kill me in combat, should it come down to that. But I could never harm them.
"They will annihilate you if you just sit here and think they'll do the honourable thing. You need to learn right here and now that they will come out in full force against you, eager for bloodshed. Allow me to give you the tools to even the battlefield. Do we have an accordance?"
Carlisle slowly nods his head, expression strained. "When do we start?"
I push myself up to stand, stretching out my long body, yawning. "Now, of course. There's no time to waste. And Alice, I'm sorry, but my reading and writing lessons will have to wait until later. Everyone else, meet me out front."
A/N: What a productive day! Needless to say it's been awhile... Anyway, this chapter starts out rather all over the place with tormented Bella and ends with a confident Bella. We're on our way to self-forgiveness! Also, I didn't mean to make it sound like the tribe can destroy the Cullens whenever it wants because they're so uber powerful - what I meant by that is, when you come across something you've never seen before, you don't know how to defeat it and so you are taken off guard by it. My bad - guess that's my gamer thinking leaking through xD; After Bella gets done with the Cullens, the tribe will lose most advantages and will no longer be able to surprise them. Is there a foreseeable epic battle in the future? Maybe. We'll leave that for later. Next time, though, we'll get some minor action and ass kicking. To touch upon another facet of the Spectral Tigers, the whole emotion thing, it spawned from my frequent wonderings of what emotions animals feel. I mean, do they feel what we feel, or are they instinct-ruled only? If the question has already been answered by science, I did not know of it. But you know, Bella and her species are unique from other animals so the whole emotion thing makes sense. Some food for thought? Til next time, hope you enjoyed!