An Italian Winter
Disclaimer: Twilight belongs to Stephenie Meyer. No copyright infringement intended at any point.
Chapter 27 – Flight
Monday, June 11, 2007
With a clatter of dishes and cups, I finished preparing Bella's breakfast. She arrived in the kitchen earlier than I was expecting.
"Hey there." My words mingled with a teasing kiss. She went on her tiptoes to reach my lips as I playfully distanced myself from her. "It's your first day free from school. Didn't you want to sleep in?"
"I'll take a nap later, maybe, or I can sleep on the plane."
I quirked an eyebrow at her. "Will you?"
"No," she scoffed. "I guess I'll have enough reasons to stay awake–my first intercontinental flight, meeting your family..."
"Are you still sure you want to?"
"I am," she rushed to confirm.
"Do you want any help to finish packing?"
Bella chuckled. "Believe it or not, I've finished."
I'd teased her in the past days about the stuff she'd collected in her apartment in a few months. Our home. The time we'd spent there together was going to end in the evening, when we would leave for the United States. Bits from what we'd shared in the last weeks began to play in my memory.
Bella rested on my bare chest, her body still flushed from our lovemaking. She leaned her hand on my silent heart, drawing lazy circles over it.
"How do you become a vampire?"
Her question wasn't unexpected. Regardless, I felt the need to collect my thoughts. I'd already told her what had happened when Carlisle had found me in a hospital in Chicago, where I was dying of the Spanish influenza. I knew what she was really asking.
"Our teeth are coated with venom. If it spreads in a human body, through the bloodstream, the change is irreversible. The process is excruciating and long." I tensed at the memory. "Three days of indescribable pain."
She hugged me. "I'm sorry, Edward. Am I making you uncomfortable?"
She resumed caressing my chest. For a while, our breathing was the only sound in the room. "Have you ever created a vampire?"
Her words hit me like I'd been whiplashed.
My breath caught in my throat. "No." Unwanted – unbidden – the image of Bella with a marble body and red eyes took shape into my mind.
Bella's voice snapped me out of my memories. "Can you come and help me?"
I reached her in Jake's former room and lifted the box where she'd gathered a few things he'd left behind. "How is Jake doing?" I asked, trying to be polite.
"Wonderfully." A bright smile appeared on her face every time she talked about her friend; I suppressed the pang of unnecessary jealousy her reaction elicited in me. "I'm betting he'll get married within the year," she went on.
I'd seen enough about humans to surmise that she was right.
The news had arrived out of the blue, during a quiet evening. Bella had screamed her surprise when Jake called her to announce that he'd fallen in love.
"Let me guess," she had joked. "You've found a she-wolf!"
She hadn't been far from the truth. It had turned out that Jake, intrigued by the name of the hotel, had befriended the owner of the local inn, The Twin Wolves. It'd been named after one of the most representative animals of the National Park, and it'd opened twenty-three years ago, the same year the owners had become the proud parents of twins. One of them, Lia, was Jake's girlfriend.
Bella's enthusiasm amused me. "You bet?"
I let my question linger between us, as if it was a casual thought. "Would you bet that you'll get married too, sooner or later?"
The smile faded from her face, replaced by a crimson blush. Then she let out a small laugh. "You think I'll ever find someone who'd keep me around so long?"
I moved closer to her and circled her waist with my arms. "You don't have to look far away."
I lifted my eyes from the book I was reading and met Bella's gaze. She was staring at me in disbelief. "What?" I asked.
"I've never watched you read. Your speed is kind of shocking."
I laughed. "I didn't know I had an audience. Otherwise, I would have read faster. Do you want me to quote the chapters I've already checked and committed to memory?"
"Show-off," she snorted.
I stretched out my arms. "Come here."
She sat in my lap and eyed the book I'd been reading. "Petrarch's poems. Are you enjoying them?"
She took the volume from my hands and began to read. "Che debb'io far? Che mi consigli, Amore?"
I closed my eyes, listening to Bella as she read in her native language. Her voice was like sweet music, but the contents of the poem provoked a deep pain in me. I mentally translated them while she continued to recite. "What must I do?" the poet asked. "What do you counsel, Love? The time has truly come to die, and I have lingered longer than I wish. My lady is dead, and my heart with her."
I put a finger against her mouth. "Please, stop," I pleaded.
Bella frowned, but it didn't take her long to understand what was happening. Her arms circled my neck, her cheek pressed against mine. "Would you tell me what you're thinking?" she whispered close to my ear.
"I'm scared," I confessed. "I thought I would be able to stay with you and leave you human. But every day we get to stay together is another step toward the last one we'll have." I tightened my embrace around her. If I'd been human, my heart would have been slamming against my ribcage at the thought that one day death would swallow her.
"There's another option," she reminded me.
I distanced myself from her. "No." The words erupted from my mouth, without filter. "It would be beyond selfish," I seethed, angry at myself. "You deserve better than a monster who would take your life to keep you with him forever."
Bella searched for my eyes and held my gaze. "And if I gave you my life? If it were my choice? Would you want it, then?"
"I want it more than I should." I took her hands in mine, and I could feel the accelerated pulse in her wrists. "Have you ever considered how much you would give up?"
The sadness that veiled her eyes spoke more than any answer she could give me."Yes," she murmured. "But you would be worth it."
I shook my head at her words, fighting against the desire to give in and accept her gift. "I don't want to take anything away from you."
"Then don't take away my options – our options."
Her words made me cringe. I recalled what I'd felt when my choices had been taken from me. I didn't want to make the same mistake with Bella, even if I knew how wrong damning her to my same condition would be. I looked at her, taking her features in once again, steadying myself for what I wanted to promise.
"It is, and it will always be, your choice," I vowed.
Already in our plane seats, I lightly squeezed Bella's hand as the speaker announced to get ready for the take-off.
"It will be okay," I told her for the umpteenth time.
"I trust you."
I brought her hand to my lips, brushing it with a light kiss. "Good girl."
She glanced over at me. "And you? Are you upset?"
"About the flight?" I tried to joke, but I knew what was she hinting at. After almost thirty-five years, only a few hours separated me from the Cullens. "I keep thinking about the moment I'll see them again," I admitted. "I wish I could take back the pain I made them experience because of what I've done."
I recalled my phone call to Carlisle, only a few weeks ago. With a single word, he'd given me more than I might ever deserve.
"Son." He had called me that.
Like the merciful father of the prodigal, he hadn't wanted to witness my humiliation. The words I'd prepared to beg him to forgive me remained unspoken. Bella and I had made up our minds that same day: we would go to the United States together, and I would introduce her to the Cullens. Then...then we would see.
I kept caressing Bella's hand, feeling her relax at my touch. Her concern for the flight rapidly faded. I had other concerns that I hoped would fade, too, as the miles fell away. Carlisle had told me how much dangerous it was for us being so close to the Volturi. The Cullens couldn't come and visit us in Italy, since the arrival of an entire coven – especially with gifted vampires such as Alice and Jasper – wouldn't pass unnoticed.
Bella leaned her head against my shoulder. "You went through a long time of darkness," she told me softly. "But I'm sure that they will see also your goodness, your repentance – the hope that shines out of you."
"You gave me that faith." I recalled what Carlisle had hoped for me–that I would find my mate and be healed by her love. He had been right. "You know, for nearly four hundred years Carlisle has never doubted whether God existed in some form or the other. I've listened to him praying for his patients, sometimes. Deep in my heart, I knew that he prayed for me, too. I guess you're the answer to his prayers."
"And for you? What am I for you?"
I lowered my head toward hers. She shivered as I nuzzled her neck, and my kiss glided over her skin, just below her ear. "I'll spend eternity showing you."
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"Only those who dare may fly." Luis Sepúlveda. Like in The Story of a Seagull and the Cat Who Taught Her to Fly, by Sepúlveda, our Edward and Bella – lion and lamb – have journeyed a long way to bridge the gap between them. They thank you for having accompanied them.
Many thanks to the wings who made this flight possible: Camilla10, Marlena516, Jmolly, and Katmom. You rock!
A Good Liar" is due to be updated during the next weekend (w.w.w...fanfiction...n.e.t/s/7817651/1/A_Good_Liar).
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