"The End of a Bloodline"
~For you, whom I will never forget, and always love~
http:/www (dot) youtube (dot) com/watch?v=qaFXrOZDMBA
Chapter: 1. Where the lost ones go
Note: AU, graphic mature content.
Disclaimer: Stephenie Meyer created Twilight, not me.
I, on the other hand, created TEOAB – respect that
Beta: mephis1 - thank you, you're a great friend and an excellent beta!
And if there are any mistakes left in here, they are all mine.
A/N: This is a completely new story for me, of course, but also a new genre. I've never written vampires, not like this, so bear with me...
You won't find the Twilight pussy version of Edward, or the predatorily Jasper, or shy and 120lbs Bella. What I've written, I've written with purpose;
whether it be personal confiding or in the grand scheme of things.
Another thing: Listen to Bon Iver. And Justin Vernon on his own. My inspiration.
Summary: Death. Blood. His hands on my throat. Sweet exhale. Then nothing. AU, non-canon vampires
One touch of cumin goes in, the salt next, with pepper always as a dear companion – before egg yolk and cream complete the mixture. The mixer does its part, turning the cauliflower into a beautiful soup; the chicken broth added ever so gently to make the texture perfect.
The bread turns golden in the oven, and the beeper goes off just as I put the soup to a light simmer. The scent of freshly baked bread assaults my nose when I open the oven door. It's perfect, as always, and I lean back against the counter once it's covered in towels to cool off.
This is what I do.
This is what I can do.
In the midst of sorrow and despair, I do the only thing I know how; feed their stomachs and keep their physical needs sated, because I cannot wipe away their tears, nor can I whisper soothing words and recite amusing anecdotes to make them forget for a little while, just one moment, why they're sad in the first place.
I never have. All I have done is cook.
While others grieved, I cooked.
And when soups and casseroles had boiled up, my feelings had too, but easily brought down from the edge with just a flick of the wrist; the knob turned down three notches and taken off the heat.
Removed from the situation, the same way I remove myself from pain.
As for the cooking, it's quite literal; just lifting the pan off the plate and placing it on a trivet – but as for me it's done a little different. My being remains rooted to the floor, hands and feet and face doing the motions of greeting and nodding and smiling, but my mind fleets away; traveling across oceans and continents, to happy places and fond memories.
Today, I cook for someone else who's grieving, and still I turn grey. I turn away, only offering a small apologetic smile and timid condolences. Mrs. Cope on the other hand, does not see my hesitation, and pulls me in for a tight hug; almost making me drop the Tupperware containers in my hands.
Two soups, cauliflower and pumpkin.
Two loafs of homemade bread.
One tray of cupcakes; topped with chocolate frosting and white sprinkles.
They're his favorites.
"I'm so happy you could join us. I hope we didn't pry you away from anything important, dear, I know how stressful you can get," she says in a way that only an old grandmother can; full of love and understanding – opposed to critical and accusing; which my boss had done when I told him I needed a day off.
But I had told him the truth, a friend had died and the funeral was being held quite quickly; so he had relented and let me go. I hadn't been surprised by his suspicions though, many tried to get out of rough shifts by blaming on funerals, and I could understand his apprehension. But I had been truthful, and I need this day to cope.
The reception is held in their two room apartment, just down the hall from me, and though I never once saw them with visitors, the room is packed by old and young. Grey haired men and women are paying their respect to a man who did great things, and children who I'm sure would rather go outside on this sunny September day.
There is barely a breeze outside, the sun warming just right, and the leaves are a beautiful disarray of orange, red, green, and brown.
But as leafs fall, so has a man.
The evening goes by in a haze, but I stay put, loyal, remaining until the last of the soup is consumed, and the last cupcake devoured by greedy little mouths, because I know he would have liked me to stay. I never had before; never passing the threshold when I gave them fresh bread, always in a hurry to leave.
He had understood, of course, how could he not have when he had been a working man himself all his life? But I still feel guilty now, looking back, knowing I could have spent more time with him; talked with him.
The day ends, darkness falls over a cement jungle, and the faraway sunset of orange, pink, and distant yellow turned grey, fall behind skyscrapers. The moon rises, offering light to the city that never sleeps, and I return tired and worn to my apartment down the hall, promising Mrs. Cope to bring her the usual.
Bread; free of all things gluten, because through the years she had gotten used to her husband's diet.
It's how I met them; overhearing them heatedly discussing his distaste of the horrid store-bought bread. "It tastes stale and old. For God's sake Edna, I am a grown man and I won't let no baby faced fresh-out-of-college doctor decide what I can and cannot eat. You eat it, and you'll agree with me, sweetheart. Trust me on this, I'd rather die of digestive problems than get by on something that tastes like gravel and dirt."
I'd butted in, offered my services, and every morning at four o'clock in the morning, I had begun setting a dough of bread before heading into shower before work. It had become a routine, and now I don't know what I'll do with the time. Sleeping in seems like such a waste of the golden morning, but what else? Mrs. Cope has already declared she'll move to her sister in Florida, so there will be no one left for me to tend to.
Jasper is hardly here, and when he is, there isn't much time left for cooking. Mornings are drawn out, having to drag myself away from his warm body; but when he's away, and Mrs. Cope now as well, I don't see the silver lining.
Days go by, melting into one another, and on Sunday, my one and only real day off, I help Mrs. Cope drag boxes upon boxes down the many stairs. It's drizzling outside, grey clouds huddling together in conspiracy to make my day even worse.
Another day to grieve.
Another friend lost.
"He loved you like you were his own flesh and blood, Isabella," she smiles through tears and hugs, giving me further guilt of not devoting my time to him. "Never forget that. I will always remember how kind you were."
"The feeling's mutual, Mrs. Cope."
It's heartfelt, truly, but sounds so generic and cold.
I watch her grandson slam the truck door closed behind the grey and fragile woman, and I wave them off as the sky opens and the rains starts to pour. But I don't move, I just stand there and look after them, even when I'm drenched to the bone and I've lost the feeling in my toes.
I stand, feeling, grieving, letting the droplets of my tears fall on my cheeks, feeling myself hollow.
In the span of a week, I have lost one friend forever, and then his wife; who went willingly.
Three days later, when I get home from a long shift and check the messages on my machine, I find an unfamiliar and harsh voice filling the vast space of my apartment. "Hello, this is Phyllis Cooper. If I've reached the right Isabella Swan, I called to tell you Edna passed away last night in her sleep. The doctor says she went peacefully. Well, that was all, good day."
I haven't even closed the door or hung up my coat, and my knees give away beneath me.
They all die.
And I'm to blame.
"It's your fault. You killed him. You killed my son!"
"Get out, get out of my house!"
"You're dead to me."
The whooshing of wind and the cackling of branches on my window pane wakes me up right before my alarm sings. It's scratching the glass, sounding like chalk on a blackboard, and despite my attempts to ignore it, it irks me. Keeps me up. Frightens me.
So I swing my legs over the bed and turn off the alarm before it has a chance to make me grimace. The lights stays off as I trip to the bathroom, but turn it on once inside. I undress to the bone, flipping my hair out, and stare at the wall. The mirror reflects someone I don't recognize, although she looks vaguely familiar.
Distraught eyes on a full and worn face.
Tangled brown hair covering broad shoulders and a faded scar.
Lips, nose, ears; traits inherited from a working-class generation that fought in Vietnam and cried over Kennedy.
Hello little Swan.
But I am not her, no, I'm a little girl with braces and greasy hair. Who is this woman who looks ten years her senior, with the weight of the world on her shoulders? No, I am not her, I'm a little girl who loves her parents and her brother, who takes the bus to school and plays tag in recess.
I'm a Freshman getting her first kiss behind the bleachers.
I'm a Sophomore having "the talk" with her overly open mother.
I'm a Junior getting plastered on her first house party.
But there it stops, because the Senior is this stranger in the mirror.
She's the woman I see.
I cry, because, fuck, I am her.
Water washes away the streaks on my cheeks, and my hands make quick work of my hair and body. Ten minutes, in and out, dry up and hair down, letting it tangle yet again before fighting the brush while rushing out the door.
It's drizzling in the cold September morning, and the sky is still dark. Streaks of gold tint the horizon, and rise further into the heavens as I walk, my small heels clicking clacking against the pavement. Black umbrellas and suits pass me, brief cases in hand and high voices shouting. Stock brokers, CEO's, and those who do the walk of shame with wild hair and smeared lip stick.
Do they wake up to empty beds?
Do they wake up cold and alone, feeling as if the world itself has abandoned them?
Do they feel…like me?
It's my "good morning" from someone who has seen too much and cares too little. Ms. Webber, despite her brusque attitude and cold stare, is efficient and gets the job done. She hands out lists and important messages, reminding us all that if her ass is handed to her, we lose our own.
Kicked to the street.
Forget about a paycheck.
Forget about living.
"If you continue this Isabella, you might as well go down to the shelter; I'm sure they'll like the sight of you much more there than we do here. Jimmy might've cut you a slack last week, but believe me he won't be as forgiving if I tell him about your tardiness. Now get changed, Suite 204 is checking out early."
I nod, get to work, and the day passes by like they always do; slowly, creeping, taunting me with the sight of the other side. Luxury and Egyptian cotton, chocolate and champagne, fancy dresses and designer shoes; they are put on this earth with the sole purpose of taunting me. Cruel men and women, with money to keep a small country fed for years, and they toss it away on material things they get bored with so quickly!
With that kind of money, I would have done good things.
At least that's what I tell myself while scrubbing toilets.
That's how grand I think I am while I make beds.
It's the perfect version of myself I daydream about while I keep my head down when passing guests in the hallways.
God-fucking-ugly red carpet, you'd think a billion dollar hotel would have nicer carpets. Alas, I shrug it off and continue making the life of the rich worth living.
After all, without the likes of me, there would be no luxury.
They don't understand that, and why should they? I am just dust in the wind, annoying, to be avoided. To them, I am nothing.
"You're dead to me."
And to me, too many have died.
Oh dear Mr. Cope, in heaven, there is no such thing as celiac disease, and the south won the war. By your side, Mrs. Cope, she is the ballerina you met.
Together, in death.
While I will die…alone.
I will die without having lived.
And in my funeral, there will only be a minister and a coffin.
I sound pathetic, truly, but then life has made me this way.
"Can you take my shift tomorrow?" Stanley asks, yet again. I nod and put on my coat. I do it out of kindness, doing her work and giving her the money, but she needs it more than I do. She is brining life into this world, her stomach growing every day, and her doctor appointments keep interfering with our work. But because I saw her eyes, saw life leave them as she broke down in the hallway and cry and sulk, I do her work. Because I might be alone, but she is more so, as she has been given the responsibility of motherhood to shoulder.
God, may I never bear children, because I'm certain I'll surely ruin their lives as well.
"You're a lifesaver, Isabella. Thank you."
I nod again, hugging her goodbye, before I go out in the drizzling wind that has picked up from this morning. But instead of going home, instead of getting warm and relax on the couch or making a good soup and dessert, I head in the opposite direction.
I may not be the most materialistic girl, but I do live in a man's world, and everything has it's price.
Like my apartment.
The food I eat.
The clothes I wear.
The hotel gives away nothing but minimum wage, and Jasper has use of me oh-so rarely, not even the times he is in town, so I survive on drunken idiots and their wandering eyes. Jeans on, white t-shirt, apron, and I am good to go, tending the bar and pouring drinks.
I started this job with nothing, and now, three years later, I still have nothing.
I began this job sobbing to the manager that it was my only salvation, with no experience of bar-keeping at all, and now I work every night from Tuesday 'til Saturday, making the lives of others just a tad easier while they drown their sorrows in cheap booze.
I tend to the rich, making their lives fabulous; and I care for the poor, getting them through the day. Because I nurture on instinct, no matter what, when what I do need the most is for someone to care for me. To love me.
Billy's bar is packed when I get there, on time, and I go straight into working.
"That'll be five dollars, Sir."
"There's a bathroom in the back, Miss."
"No, now get your hands off me."
"Hey, Billy, Sue coming in later?"
It's just another day at work, starting from six 'til four, and five 'til eleven. I'm exhausted, even after all these years, but maybe labor is something your body will never really adjust to, 'cause when you push yourself to the limit and then some, it just shuts down. I learned that quickly, at the fresh age of twenty-one, when I collapsed after a month of work.
Doctor said I had to cut back on the stress
I said, "Fuck you, you're giving me medical bills that essentially will only give me more stress!" and got the hell out before he charged me even more. Not having insurance does that to a person; it makes them hopeless and distrusting.
Thank God I met Jasper, or I'd kicked the bucket a long time ago.
And he's home, surprisingly, when I drag my ass up the many flights of stairs and kick open my door. He's there, lying buck naked on my kitchen counter, looking like something a God would envy.
"Why are you naked in my kitchen?"
"Well, sweetheart, I was hoping you'd already be home, but seems like the old ball-and-chains are working your fine ass more than it should. So, I thought I'd give you a treat for all that work."
I laugh. The man single handedly lifts my spirit with a single line.
"Well," I drawl, dropping my bag to the floor and pushing my coat off. My t-shirt clings from hours of sweaty work, and my hair clings to my forehead, and his eyes transfix on me. God, he makes me feel so beautiful. "You certainly do taste quite…delicious."
"You bet. But not nearly as tasty as you. Come here, sweetheart."
He jumps off the counter, his hard cock standing erect from his body.
Oh yes, he does make me feel beautiful.
"What did you do?"
"No, no, please God no!"
"You did this! You killed him!"
I wake up with a start, alone, cold, crying.
The shower's running and the lights are on.
I hate it when he does that.
"Use your own water, don't steal mine," I tell him once he emerges, dripping wet, one towel around his waist and another drying his hair. It's wilder when it's wet, darker, but he still looks good. Always.
Brad Pitt can eat dust.
"Good morning to you, too, sweetheart," he mocks, pulling on his pants. "You'd think a fuck like that would cheer you up some, but, I guess that's just me. Call me when you get off the rag, will ya?"
He's out, leaving me in the harsh light of the lamps, feeling filthy.
God, I always piss him off. Then why does he keep coming back?
The man is an idiot, he knows my curse.
Everyone I love dies.
So I can't love him, I can't let him in, let him close to my heart. I bite, I shout, I snarl, I do everything to keep him at distance.
He calls out, from the living room, and I guess he didn't leave after all.
"Put on the white button up and get your ass out here, Swan, the sun's rising."
I do as I'm told, making a quick stop in the bathroom to check my hair and face, pulling a brush through it and messing it back up with my hands. It's controlled chaos. It's me. And then I'm out in the cold biting morning, leaning on the rusty black banister of the fire steps, letting my head fall back and my mouth split ever so slightly.
He's very professional when we do this, always in control and giving directions, trying to catch the light as it falls perfectly on my cheeks, highlighting my good features. My cheekbones, well structured from my father's side. My nose; lean and strong from my mother's genes. Then he tells me to let my head tip to the side and forward, so my hair covers my face, and when I see the shots later, I look like a raven caught in the sunlight.
"Thank you, sweetheart," he whispers and kisses my cheek. "I'll call you if anything comes up."
Ah, the exhibition. He tries so hard, traveling cross-country for the perfect sceneries, then across the pond, to foreign lands and starving villages, to catch the beauty and the ugly of the world.
I am an exception, because he says America is a beast to Africa's natural finesse, but that I am what falls between the cracks; forgotten but forceful.
He takes my picture, and he makes me feel beautiful. Just for a little while.
"Want some breakfast?" I ask him, running back into the warmth and locate my socks on the floor. He follows, shrugs, and gets fully dressed. "Or something for the road. Where are you going this time?"
"Wisconsin. My cousin called and said there's some broken down mills in a small town that would good in the "Remnants" collection." I nod, agreeing. "So I'm going tomorrow. Have dinner with me first?"
"And by have dinner, you mean, will I cook you food?"
"Then come by around four thirty. Monday's are slow so Billy won't need me 'til seven."
"Then I'll see you at four thirty. Oh, and before I go, did you want the pictures I enhanced?"
I smile, warm, happy for a change. "Yes, please!"
He chuckles, kissing me on the lips before he walks out the door. "Bye, Beautiful."
Shit, I think I love him after all.
Tell me what you think?
Next update in two-weeks time - I'm gonna try to make it as regular as possible, so I need the time to finish! (Just too impatient to wait anymore)