Disclaimer: All publicly recognizable characters, settings, etc. are the property of their respective owners. No copyright infringement is intended.
Special thanks to Gredelina1, Snarkymuch, Augustmoon99, Arrr and Verseseven my wonderful pre-reader/cheerleader team. And to Grrlnorth for beta'ing this mess for me.
Chapter One – Forgotten
I shuffled my papers for the tenth time and cleared my throat unnecessarily. I didn't know why this particular class had filled me with a sense of foreboding. It was not my first time lecturing, but I felt uncharacteristically nervous. My phone beeped in my pocket and I pulled it out seeing a message from Alice.
Stop worrying! You will be fine. Alice x
I smiled; I should have known she would be keeping an eye out for me. She was very vigilant of all of the family these days, determined there would not be anything else that tore us apart. After the events of Bella's birthday party she had harbored a lot of guilt for not seeing what would happen. In true Alice fashion she had taken all the responsibility on herself, forgiving Jasper his slip as soon as it happened. Jasper was frustrated at himself for the loss of control, and the resulting chaos it caused among the family.
Edward never came to Ithaca as we had arranged before we left Forks. Instead we got a phone call telling us he was going to search for Victoria. Emmett had offered to join him – much to Rosalie's chagrin – but he had refused, saying he needed time to himself. Esme was bitterly disappointed, as was I, but I understood his desire for solitude. My first son was a product of his era and as such wasn't given to showing his emotions. He needed time to process his grief, and then he would return. Or so I had thought.
When we first left, Alice had been certain that, given time to realize his mistake, he would return to Bella. It was the only thing that had persuaded her to leave in the first place, but as time passed she became disheartened. Loyal to Edward, she had not searched for Bella's future, and none had come to her spontaneously. She missed her friend as did the rest of us, but we could take comfort in the knowledge she was living her life the way nature intended, no supernatural beings placing her in danger.
He stayed away for a year.
As Bella's birthday approached, Esme's sadness became too much for me to bear. She felt that since Edward was staying away from us, we should return to Forks and Bella. Alice and Emmett had been in favor of the idea, but Rosalie and I advised against it, though for very different reasons. Rosalie didn't want to uproot her life for 'the human' again, and I knew Edward would be furious. Alice said he was not going to return to us of his own volition, so we made a deal; if he refused to return to us, we would check on Bella. If she was happy in her life, we would leave her alone. If not, we would reconsider our absence. I felt a guilty about the underhandedness of this. I knew if we could reach Edward he would return to ensure we stayed away from Bella.
Alice saw Edward in South America, still continuing his quest for Victoria, so Jasper and I went to find him. He had initially been unwilling to return, but when he saw my memory of the agreement I had made with the others, he agreed to return. Jasper warned me that he was suffering; his exact words were "a world of hurt." I watched closely for any sign of his undoing, but other than being particularly quiet, he seemed well enough. It wasn't until we were home that I saw the full extent of his pain.
He had remained stoic until he and I were hunting together. I finished my own hunt and tracked his scent to a waterfall. He was sitting at the bank, his expression a blank mask. My thoughts unwillingly turned to Bella, and I wondered how she was faring, which triggered his breakdown. He broke into sobs that racked his frame, and I sat for hours comforting him silently as he gave voice to his grief.
"Are you certain you are doing the right thing?" I questioned when his outpouring of grief quieted. "Would it not be better to be with her? I have never seen you suffer like this."
He gave me a shaky smile. "That is because I have never been in love before. I love her enough to keep her safe."
That was the last time we had discussed the subject of his return, and he seemed grateful for the reprieve. Though he did not attend college with the others, he seemed to find some measure of peace in being with the family again. He assisted Esme with her restoration to the house, hunted with Emmett and Jasper, and assisted Alice with her research into her human life. There were stark differences to the happy man he had been with Bella. He didn't play the piano anymore; the beautiful Steinway Grand Esme brought for him remained silent despite her pleading for him to play. He wrestled with Emmett, but there was no fight in him. More often than not Emmett bested him, which was a rarity before. My once happy son seemed to have been replaced with a man far older than the years he had lived.
The cacophony of voices in the hall grew louder, telling me it was almost time for the lecture to begin. Students began to filter into the room in small groups, all heading to the back of the auditorium, none wishing to be in direct view for fear of being called on. I watched them as they took their seats and prepared their materials. It was always interesting to assess a new group, spotting the ones that were serious about learning, and those that were here on Daddy's dime and killing time until the next party.
I waited for them to settle down and shuffled my notes one last time. A hushed silence fell, the eyes of thirty students upon me.
"Welcome to History of Art. I am Dr. Carlisle Cullen, and I will be a guest lecturer for this semester. I aim to cover the works of Solimena..."
I trailed off as a familiar scent reached me; freesia and lavender. Bella!
I scanned the room, searching for the source. She couldn't be here, it would be too much of a coincidence, and Alice would surely have seen it. I scanned the now confused faces, but there was no familiar face, no waves of mahogany hair. I shook my head to dispel my confusion.
It was just because I was thinking about her, I thought savagely. No need to get your hopes up.
"Forgive me," I apologized to the class at large. "I lost my train of thought for a moment, I will be addressing the-"
The door clicked open and a figure entered. A very familiar figure.
"Sorry I'm late," she whispered, slipping into a seat at the front of the room. She was blushing to the roots of her hair, enhancing the scent. She had kept her head down as she entered, and I waited nervously for her to look up and see me. I hoped she would be able to control her reaction. It would be a shock for her, but if she was to become upset it would draw further attention. She pulled her pad from her bag and finally looked up at me.
There was absolutely no reaction. She looked at me expectantly, but with no more interest than any of the other students. The Bella I remembered was a horrible actress, yet this blank indifference was an Oscar-worthy performance.
I continued my lecture, but watched her out of the corner of my eye the whole time. She listened attentively and took copious notes, but she seemed more enthralled by my words than my reappearance in her life.
I lost my train of thought a couple of times and had to check my notes to pick up the flow again. Bella gave me an oddly sympathetic look whenever this happened. This made no sense, she knew my nature and the enhanced faculties, for me to lose concentration should surprise her. I muddled through the lecture, and when the hour was up, I breathed a sigh of relief.
"I will see you again in a week. Please read the assigned text before the next class," I instructed the students as they gathered their belongings. Bella remained seated a little longer, studying a piece of paper. As she stuffed it back in her bag I noticed it was a timetable.
She slung her bag over her shoulder and made her way to my desk. I fought to keep calm, when in truth I wanted to wrap her in my arms.
"I'm sorry I was late, Mr.…" she looked at my name plate, "oh sorry, Doctor Cullen. I got a little muddled in the halls."
I stared at her incredulously. She was acting as if she didn't know me. I never imagined she could behave like this; she was treating me as if this was our first meeting, as if she had not been as close as a daughter to me. This was unusually cruel of her, and it made me glad I was the one to have seen her first. If Alice or Emmett had received this treatment from her, they would have been heartbroken. If she was going to act like I was any other lecturer, I was going to treat her like any other student.
"It was very disruptive, Ms. Swan. Kindly attend on time next week, or don't come at all." I spoke harshly, and regretted it at once.
Her jaw jutted out and her eyes hardened. "I think you will find that would be a violation of article 6.4 of the university's human resources policy," she said through gritted teeth. "If you check the name on the roll call, I think you will find a note."
She turned on her heel and stomped from the room, leaving me staring after her, mouth agape and mind reeling.
This was not our Bella.
My phone rang and I answered it automatically. "Yes?"
"Hey Carlisle, how did it go?"
Horrendously. I remained silent, trying to think how best to deal with this situation. How was I to tell them Bella was here but seemed to not know me?
"Are you there? Carlisle?" Alice was becoming concerned, and I forced the words to form through my confusion.
"Do you have a class now?"
"No, we have the next two periods free. We are in the quad."
"Could you come here, please? I need to speak to you all."
"You're worrying me."
I heard the sounds of the phone changing hands. "Carlisle, what's going on?" Jasper's cool voice asked.
"There is nothing to worry about, if you could come here I can explain," I said carefully. Never one to waste words, Jasper said a gruff goodbye and hung up.
I sank down into the chair behind my desk, and raked my fingers through my hair. What on earth was I going to tell them?
I didn't have long to consider as the door swung open and Alice, Jasper, Emmett and Rosalie hurried in.
"What the hell is going on?" Emmett demanded. "First Alice freaks out because you make with the cryptic on the phone, then we come here and you look like someone stole the last grizzly from under your nose. I love a good mystery but…" he trailed off, his nostrils flaring as he inhaled deeply.
I knew exactly what he smelled, and I watched sadly as comprehension dawned. The others shot him a confused look then followed suit, each sniffing at the air. Their expression changed from confusion to wonder, then cracking into wide smiles. All except Rosalie, that is. She looked much as she did the day Emmett scratched her M3 when fooling around in the garage: shocked, disappointed, then angry.
"Is she here?" Emmett asked excitedly, ignoring his wife's groan of annoyance.
"She is," I confirmed.
"I can't believe it!" Alice exclaimed, "Why didn't I see this happening?"
"How did she look?" Emmett interjected.
"What did she say when she saw you?"
"I bet she blushed, I missed that blush," Emmett said wistfully.
I knew I had to tell them the truth, but I allowed them a moment of happiness before I answered their questions.
"She was in my last class, she looked well, she did blush." A smile tugged at the corner of my mouth as I remembered her fiery cheeks. "She was not happy to see me though."
Jasper was eyeing me curiously, he could feel my wariness and it confused him.
"What do you mean she wasn't happy to see you?" Alice asked, her confusion evident. "Is she angry at us?"
"I don't know what happened," I said, then explained my encounter. Her unusual indifference to our first meeting, and the harsh words at the end of class.
"So she didn't recognize you?" Emmett said, sounding a little hurt. "That sucks, I know it's been a couple of years and all, but human memories can't be that bad!"
"They aren't, she may have recognized me and chose to hide it. I imagine there is a certain amount of hurt from the way we left."
"There is one way to find out; we need to see her again," Emmett said. "We get Jasper to monitor her emotions, and then we know if she recognizes us."
"Or, we could just avoid her and leave her to enjoy her human life," Rosalie said. "That's why we had to pack up and leave Forks in the first place. She clearly wants nothing to do with us, so why should we force our company on her?"
It was said with the perfect inflection, making it sound as if Rosalie had Bella's best interest at heart, but I knew better. My daughter was essentially a good person, but she had a streak of selfishness that was rearing its head. Emmett clearly recognized the same as he gave her a sad look, but did not speak. Alice was the one that challenged her.
"You may not care, but we do. If Bella doesn't want us in her life, that's her choice, but if there is something else going on, we need to know. If she truly didn't recognize Carlisle, it means there is more to this than petty resentment."
Rosalie huffed but didn't speak again.
"What about the policy she quoted?" Jasper asked. "What was that about."
Alice tapped a few keys on her cell phone, and pulled up the appropriate page. "It's just about discrimination. It doesn't give us any hints as to what she was talking about."
Emmett was becoming impatient, he wanted to put his plan into action. I knew from the glance at her timetable she was in a class, but the following period was a free period. If she used it for lunch, it would be the perfect time to orchestrate an encounter.
We still had thirty minutes until Bella would be out of class, but I was as eager as the others to see her again, so we made our way to the quad. It was a cloudy day, but the temperature was high enough that people had foregone jackets, and were grouped on the grass chatting. I hoped Bella would be lured out into the fresh air too, as it would be easier to make our meeting look coincidental.
The time seemed to drag on. Each tick of the clock seemed to last an eternity, but eventually the quad began to fill with students coming out of their classes. Jasper and I hung back. He was concerned that seeing him again would upset her since their last meeting had ended with his being dragged from the room as he fought to launch himself at her.
The scent reached us first. Among the usual scent of human blood and the various toiletries they slathered themselves with, there was her recognizable bouquet. She was alone, walking with her head down and an armful of books. We hadn't discussed how Alice and Emmett were going to approach her, so I was surprised and a little concerned when Emmett stepped directly in her path.
She walked right into him, her books falling to the floor.
"Oops, sorry about that," Emmett said, trying for apologetic but his broad grin ruined the effect somewhat. He looked at her expectantly, waiting for her reaction.
"It's my fault," she said, scrambling to pick up her books. "I wasn't looking where I was going."
Emmett's face fell as she showed no signs of recognizing him. Alice handed her the bag that had fallen as she bent down and smiled.
"Sorry about that, my brother is known for getting in the way," she said with a bright, hopeful smile.
"It's okay," Bella said, smiling, then walking away.
Emmett and Alice stared after her, their sadness evident.
"She doesn't have a clue," Jasper said. "There was no recognition at all. Whatever happened to her, that was no act."
"None at all?" I asked.
"No, Bella has absolutely no idea who we are."
Voting for the One-Shot, Short Story and Newbie Author categories of the Emerging Swan Awards is open. I have been nominated for Best Newbie Author and my one-shot The Talk: Simaril Style is up for Best Humor. Gredelia1 is also up for Best Newbie Author and her one-shot More is up for BestSlash/Femslash/Threesome/etc. If you are looking for a good read check out the nominations, there are some amazing stories listed.
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