Disclaimer: "Twilight" belongs to SMeyer. "Les Yeux de la Lune" belongs to Elysabeth. I just do the translation.
Chapter 19: Departure
"I still can't believe you managed to convince Charlie to let us go."
Shaking her head gently, Bella followed me into the crowded Sea-Tac airport.
"Thank Renee and Esme," I told her. "They're the ones who convinced him. They were very useful allies."
Still incredulous, my companion continued to shake her head. She hadn't believed me until Charlie confirmed the news out loud. And even though three days had passed since then, she hadn't gotten over it. When we said goodbye to her father and my family, she seemed to feel that she was in a dream.
"I didn't even pack."
"Alice took care of everything. Our bags are in good hands and waiting for us to decide which plane they should be put on."
"I would have liked to have brought –"
"Your laptop is somewhere in the luggage."
"We don't even have guidebooks, or any information on -"
"If we need information, I have my internal radar."
"I don't have a lot of money -"
"I already told you that I would take care of expenses."
"We haven't even figured out where to go."
"It's a journey, Arago-style. We'll go where the wind blows us."
"But having no reservations could be a huge problem. Hotels, plane tickets—"
"Cullen magic will take care of those details too."
Bella was overwhelmed. "It's incredible …we're going on a trip," she murmured, shocked, as if the word "trip" had never been part of her vocabulary before. "I must be dreaming."
"You're not dreaming. It's all real. You deserve it, to distract you from recent events."
"I'm very glad that you agree."
"It's a good thing that I'm getting away from Charlie's house. That way, my father won't be in danger because of me."
I should have suspected that, once again, she wasn't thinking of herself. "You're impossible! We're leaving not to protect Charlie, but to discover the world as you have always wanted to."
I stopped in the terminal in front of the airline ticket counters. The noise of the crowd, the announcements of the departing flights, the sound of luggage being wheeled across the floor, the babble of goodbyes suddenly seemed to reach Bella's ears. The aural agitation infected her. She smiled. An excited smile. Incredulity gave way to exultation.
Then she became pensive.
"What are you thinking about?" I asked.
She sighed, a small smile on her lips. "The last time I was here in this airport, it was I when was moving back to Forks. I said to myself, 'What am I going to do in that dull little town?'"
She punctuated her last words with a giggle, and caressed my cheek. "Yet now, for some reason, I love Forks. That town is full of surprises," she said mischievously.
I captured her hands and kissed the knuckles. She shivered.
"If you like Forks so much, we can cancel our trip," I said, teasing.
"Are you out of your mind?" my companion said in pretend outrage.
She smiled again dreamily. "Lion and lamb wandering the world. Who would have thought?"
"Certainly not I. At least, not until Fate put you in my path. But I've had to start believing in the impossible with you in my life."
I touched my forehead to hers.
"And I had to start believing in miracles," she whispered, her breath going to my head.
The lips of Impossibility and Miracle met for a moment. A too short moment… and I pulled away with a discontented sigh. I was becoming addicted to her touch.
"So, where should we start? Australia? New Zealand? The North Pole?"
"The lands of the cannibals?" she suggested slyly.
I rolled my eyes. "That's not an option, I already told you."
"Too bad." She snorted. "Where do you want to go?"
"There is really no place in particular you want to go?"
A secretive look crossed her face, a flash of tenderness in her lifeless gaze. I didn't understand where it came from, and for the nth time damned her mental barrier.
"I think there's a place you would like," she murmured, still thoughtful. She seemed to have a plan.
"Where?" I said impatiently after 20 seconds of silence.
She smiled the smile of a plotter. "It's a surprise. I need to make some calls and reserve our tickets. I hope there are still seats on the flight I want..." She pulled her cane from her overnight bag and unfolded it. "You are going to remain here and wait for me."
I examined the dense crowd around us. "It's too chaotic here. I can't leave you."
She poked the end of her cane into my chest. "You stay here. And don't be sneaky and read thoughts to figure out what I'm doing. I'm going to look for tickets, make some phone calls, and I'll be back."
"Why so mysterious?"
"I don't want you to know immediately where we're going. It's a surprise."
"I don't like your going off on your own," I grumbled.
She inhaled sharply, then calmly said, "Edward, I've been in this airport for every summer vacation, since I was a little girl. I can manage, I assure you."
I agreed, but grudgingly.
"Don't follow me, okay?" she said.
"Okay, okay. Go before I change my mind."
So she wanted to surprise me, but it was a torment to not watch her through others' thoughts. I detested being deprived of her face. Especially since I was sufficiently paranoid to worry that Victoria could show up out of nowhere and snatch her out from under my nose.
That thought compelled me to take out my cellphone. As we were leaving, I didn't ask Alice about our stalker, because I didn't want to remind Bella of what had happened the night of the school dance. But I could take advantage of Bella's absence to reassure myself one more time.
"Yes, Edward, everything's fine. Victoria isn't lurking. She's still looking for Laurent," Alice said, picking up immediately.
Relieved, I decided to allow myself another question, but Alice cut me off. "You'd be wasting your breath; I'm not going to tell you what Bella has planned. You are a dirty cheat, little brother."
"You've already seen it?"
"Just a few minutes ago," she snickered. "And don't expect me to tell you anything."
"The last time Bella wanted to surprise me, she gave me a pint of her blood! So tell me what she's plotting!"
"Nothing to worry about. No blood this time. Have good trip! See you soon!"
"What do you mean, 'soon'?" I asked in alarm.
"I've seen some interesting things," she said cheerfully. "Nothing is definitive since you're improvising, but I have reason to think that we'll see each other again soon."
"Alice! If you come join us, I will strangle you. I told you I want to be alone with Bella."
"We shall see. Have a great trip, dear brother!"
She hung up, laughing.
Dammit, that was all I needed. I should expect that little demon to show up at any moment. No matter where we were in the world, she would be able to find us, and even beat us to our destination.
I champed on the bit for exactly 17 minutes until I saw the end of Bella's cane appear at the other end of a hallway. A second more and I would have used my talent to find her.
"Finally!" Why did I need to embrace her as if it had been months since we'd seen each other? I was definitely addicted. "So, where are we going."
"Not a chance."
"I'm going to know when we're at the gate and I see the destination listed."
"That's why I want you to wear these." Bella took her iPod from her overnight bag.
"What do you want me to do with them?"
"You are going to listen to music, volume up high, until we get there. And try not to listen to the minds around you. That way, you won't hear the flight attendant announce our destination nor the passengers discussing where they're going."
"Bella, I can hear a fly beating its wings a mile away. A song won't be enough to block out ambient noise."
"Focus on the music and I am sure you can manage to not listen to the sounds around you."
"But I'll still be able to see the departure board and other signs."
"You will close your eyes."
"What? You must be joking!"
"Not at all."
"How will we get anywhere if I can't see or hear anything? We'll be two blind people in an airport."
"Hey, I've already told you that I manage just fine by myself here."
"And once we're at our destination?"
"I've made the necessary calls. The airline will take care of us when we arrive. I told them that we're both blind, and they have services for the handicapped. For once, you'll have to depend on me. You will take my arm and I will lead you."
"Deprived of my hearing, my sight and my talent … it'll be pure torture."
"Just for three hours, at most."
"A three-hour flight. So, we're staying on this continent. That's a hint."
"And it's the only one you'll have."
She held out the iPod to me. I took it reluctantly, honestly wondering why in the world I was bowing to her absurd demands. All this work just so I'll be surprised. Pfft.
"Hold on." She was digging into her bag again, and drew out her sunglasses. "Put these on, you'll look more in character as a blind person."
"Ridiculous," I grumbled, but obeyed.
"You've put them on?"
"Good. Now close your eyes."
I did it, grimacing. Even with the sunglasses and my eyes closed, I could see shadows moving through my eyelids.
"A blind/deaf and blind couple. That's rare," I said, annoyed.
"And a human-vampire couple, that's not rare, I suppose?"
"Fine, you have a point."
She had a hard time repressing her laughter.
"You're amusing yourself at my expense, I suppose?" I mumbled.
Christ, I had to really love her like a fool to submit to such treatment.
I felt air moving on my face; she was waving her hand in front of me.
"You see anything?" she asked.
"Close your eyes, cheater!"
"I'm not cheating. My eyesight is too good. But calm down, I see only shadows, nothing more. I can't see my surroundings nor accidentally read any signs."
"Cross my heart."
"Good. Use the iPod now. And not try to get around my rules. I want to be able to hear the sound of the music leaking from the earbuds. Give me your hand and let me guide you."
I obeyed again, despite my horror over all this. I wasn't used to seeing nothing. For a vampire, it was even more anxiety-inducing to be cut off from two senses (or three, in my case) than it would be for a human. I wasn't habituated to being …weak.
"I don't like this," I whined.
She laughed again. "Don't be afraid. I'll protect you." I groaned. "You don't trust me?" she asked.
"Then, come on. Our flight leaves soon. Volume up!" she ordered.
I turned on the iPod, which started playing a Beethoven symphony.
"Can you - me?" I faintly heard between the chords of the violins and drums.
"WHAT?" I shouted.
She pulled out an earbud. "Good. I was conducting a test. I was asking if you heard me."
"Oh. Can we get on the plane now? I'd like to get this over with."
Three and a half hours of torture later, plus a taxi ride, I was at last allowed to see and hear again.
"About time! I couldn't have taken any more."
"You survived, didn't you?
"It was an unimaginable ordeal."
We were outside, on a street in a city that I didn't recognize at first glance. Unsure if it was sunny, Bella had prudently led me to the shadow of a building. I looked around me and saw that the building was a church, a church surrounded by skyscrapers.
I had no memory of having visited here before, yet this place felt familiar.
"This is your surprise? I endured all that misery to go to church?"
She smiled at me, her expression again marked by an enigmatic tenderness. "The church isn't the surprise, but what's behind it."
"It's only a cemetery."
She nodded. "Among the calls I made was to the church office. I asked them to tell me how to get to where I want to go. Apparently, it's straight behind the tall gravestone with the cherub on top."
I had already found said cherub, made of granite and covered with moss. This cemetery had been around for a long time.
"I see it."
"After that, we have to turn left, and what I'm looking for is supposed be after six rows of tombstones."
"Well, let's go, Miss Mysterious. We're in luck; it's cloudy."
I followed the directions, Bella holding on to my elbow. Even if it had been sunny, it wouldn't have mattered; nobody was around. Who would want to linger in such a place, after all?
After the six rows of tombstones, I found a monument of white marble, eroded by time.
"Read the names," she murmured, as if she feared waking the dead.
I did, and I froze. My eyes wide, I stared at the words etched into the stone.
I stayed motionless for a long time, paralyzed, shocked. Something inside me pierced my sleeping heart. Something I couldn't identify. I didn't know if it was good or bad.
"You brought me to Chicago," I finally was able to say. "To my parents."
A feather squeezed my fingers. "I thought that we could come by and say hello to them before taking off for the unknown."
I lowered my eyes. Under my feet were my parents. Under my eyes was my old life.
My silence started to worry Bella.
"Are you upset?" she asked, apologetic.
"No. I … I just didn't expect this."
She squeezed my arm and encouraged me to kneel with her by the stone. "You've never been here, have you?"
I answered, my eyes fixed on the engraved words before me, but what I was seeing was something else entirely. I was reliving the time just after my rebirth.
"No. After my change, Carlisle took me far away from here so I could adjust. I hadn't even known that my parents had a marked grave, what with the chaos of the epidemic. Carlisle said nothing to me about it."
"He probably didn't know either. He was too busy taking care of you, watching you nonstop until you could control your thirst. What happened in the human world must have escaped his notices during your first weeks."
"I'm sure you're right."
I kept my eyes on the stone, immersed in the past while completely aware of the present with the white feather in my fingers. "People dropped like flies during the flu epidemic. In all the confusion, there wasn't always time for funerals – there were too many deaths at once. Often people were buried in mass graves, or cremated, without ceremony. That's what Carlisle was thinking of when I asked him about the death of my parents. We never returned here in case someone recognized me when I was supposed to be dead."
Bella caressed my fingers while her free hand stretched out to touch the crumbling stone. With great respect, she traced the engraving so she could read the words inscribed there. "Here lies Edward Masen Senior and Elizabeth Masen and their son, Edward Anthony Masen. A family reunited in the hereafter."
She frowned. "I was expecting to find your parents' gravesite. I didn't know it was yours as well."
"Carlisle did what he needed to make my death official. Before leaving with me, he told the hospital authorities that I had been cremated. Even if there was no body, someone must have thought it proper to put my name on the epitaph. And in a fashion, the stone tells the truth: Edward Masen is indeed dead and buried."
I was able to identify then what I was feeling: nostalgia.
Bella reached up to discover the hard line of my lips and she looked distressed. "I think that you brought a little of Edward Masen into your new life," she said, stroking my lower lip until I moved it into a sad smile.
"So, what are you waiting for? Talk to your parents!" she said suddenly. "It's been a long time since you've seen them, after all."
I tore my gaze from the stone to look at her in bafflement. Observing that I remained silent, she continued, "Okay, I'm going to start since you're too shy." She cleared her throat and turned her attention to the grave. "Hello, Mr. and Mrs. Masen. I'm pleased to meet you. My name is Bella Swan and I love your son."
How about handshakes and a curtsey while we're at it? I wondered.
"Hey, you, say something."
I didn't like this playacting. But to please her I said some words.
"Hello, Father. Hello, Mother."
I raised an eyebrow at myself. I had instinctively reverted to the same tone and cadence that I would have used at the turn of the last century to address my parents.
"I … I apologize for not having come earlier."
I felt completely ridiculous speaking to a rock planted in the ground.
"Many things have happened in the last century. I am no longer the son you knew…"
I was suddenly ashamed to be here, as a vampire. I didn't feel worthy. The Edward of today was not the son of the Masens. My parents were dead and yet I feared their condemnation of me as a creature of the night, feared that they would reproach me for tarnishing the family honor.
"I try to be … human, as much as I can. I have done things that you would not be proud of, but I'm trying to make up for them."
A disapproving cluck answered my words. "Don't listen to him, Mr. and Mrs. Masen. Your son is an extraordinary person, and I believe that a lot of that is due to you. It's thanks to you that he can fight the harmful aspects and maintain the values that you taught him. Thank you for that."
I couldn't help but smile, amused and touched. I slowly shook my head, affectionately exasperated as I was by her penchant for idealizing me. But perhaps she was right, in a way. The education and the love that my parents had given me had doubtlessly helped keep preserve my humanity and made Carlisle's task easier.
Little by little I relaxed and forgot my uneasiness at facing this stone. "Carlisle Cullen, our doctor, you remember him? He took care of the three of us until the end. He's a good man. Don't blame him for doing … what he did. He gave me a second chance. I owe him everything, because if I hadn't survived I would never have met Bella."
Bella dropped her head in embarrassment, her cheeks pink.
"Today I have another family," I continued. "I think you would like them."
I began to describe each member of my family. I had an odd desire to win the approval of the two beings under the ground for this new family that had replaced them. I wanted my birth parents to know that Esme and Carlisle were worthy of becoming my parents for all intents and purposes.
Bella listened patiently, still with that tenderness in her eyes.
"What were you like back then?" she asked after a while.
"A model child, well dressed, polite, at least on the surface."
"And in reality you were a real rascal, right?"
"Like all boys, I suppose. My parents were well-regarded members of society. They would hold dinner parties and I would show up late, disheveled, with straw in my hair because I preferred to run in the fields than go to social events. My mother pretended to reprimand me, but as soon as she turned her back to the guests, she would tousle my hair and laugh, "Little scamp, what am I to do with you?"
Bella laughed and didn't notice immediately that I had stiffened. I was completely taken aback by what I had just said, by how easily that memory had come to me, as if it had happened yesterday. Never had I had such a clear image of my old life.
"Edward?" she asked. "Are you all right?"
"I …yes. I'm just surprised, that's all. All is that so far way, buried so deep in my memory."
"Go on," she encouraged me, her hands on mine.
In my mind, a dark, heavy curtain started to move. There was something to see there. Memories. Memories whose existence I had never even suspected were there because they were so well hidden. Being in front of this grave was like having a strong wind blow open the veil so I could see part of what was behind it.
We soon were sitting in the cool grass, leaning against the grave marker and I was telling her stories and details: the smell of my father's pipe, the texture of my mother's curls, which I liked to stroke when I was a child. We were joyful and sad all at once.
We stayed there for hours at that cold yet welcoming tombstone, as if my parents were silent but palpable witnesses to our conversation.
Once, another memory resurfaced and I became serious. Instead of to Bella, I spoke to my mother.
"Do you remember that feeling of isolation you sensed in me, Mother? Do you remember the constant melancholy? You were too intuitive. And I denied your intuition. I was too proud to admit that you were right. I didn't understand the emptiness in myself since I had ignored it, rejected it, denied it. That emptiness remained even after Carlisle made me what I am today. I didn't understand the source until I met Bella…"
I sensed my companion holding her breath.
"But you did. You always knew that something was missing, even if you didn't know exactly was it was. Today you can know. I was simply incomplete. I was waiting for her."
I turned to Bella. A tear was rolling down her cheek. I drank it. It was the only part of her that I could allow myself to drink. Tears had a strange taste, novel but pleasant. Technically, for a creature like myself, any substance other than blood was tasteless. But not Bella's tears. To me, they tasted like dew, like life, like purity.
"Thanks for bringing me here," I whispered to her, my lips on her skin.
We embraced under the eyes of my parents. Then, after this detour into the past, we headed to the unknown future, never suspected that the journey we were embarking on would be the most dangerous and extraordinary of our existence.
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