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Chapter 1: Everything
"You don't want me?" She whispered her voice breaking as she struggled to maintain composure, "That changes things." Inside, my thoughts warred with one another.
Believe me Bella.
Please don't believe me! I love you!
Leave me Bella.
I maintained my cold composure and bending down, gently kissed the top of her head. I must run from here now, not look back, and put as much distance between her and I before I realized what I had done and lost control. I turned and left, willing myself not to hear her footsteps stumbling after me. She would be alright; with time her pain, as would her memories, fade, while I had nothing but time to live in hell.
How long had it been since I ran, no fled, those woods by her home? I've lost count. In the beginning, I survived one week at a time, attempting to distract myself from the memories we shared, her touch, her scent, how she felt sleeping in my arms night after night. When these memories did not satisfy me, I would create new memories, of us together.
Now I survived one moment, one thought at a time. Each moment, each second I willed myself to not turn back, to return to her.
My phone buzzed relentlessly, my family – Alice, calling again. Over the months they had pleaded, begged, and even attempted to threaten me to return home. How could I rejoin them? They could never hold the feeling of peace, of being home for me. It would always be wherever she was that would hold me, that would be my refuge from the world, would be my home.
I knew they would keep their promise to me, and remain away from … Bella. At times, it hurt to think her name. I could not see a future reunited with my family if they had seen her.
Happy, laughing, in love, and in the arms of another. As planned, all thoughts of me removed.
Damn! I wanted her to move on with her life, to find love again. I left just so she could do that. However, each passing moment that brought her closer to someone new, also brought my will closer to shattering, to run home to her.
I threw the phone in the garbage. It was relentless. I'm sure Alice would eventually see another manner to contact me. Until then, I remained, as I had for an immeasurable amount of time, still, lifeless, and void of anything but … the pain. Closing my eyes, I leaned my head backwards until it met the long wooden beam, and sighed. The darkness, the void, the emptiness closed in around me and to it, I gave myself over.
Nine Months Later ….
Measurement of time had ceased for me, however as I wandered through the tiny southern town, I noticed the date of a local newspaper. My God, was it already June? Had nine months really passed since I fled the cloudy town of Forks? Today would be graduation day for Forks High School. Bella would be graduating from school and in the coming months, she would – if she had not already, be making life changing decisions that would remove her from the alcove of memories we had created in the overcast town of Forks. Would she return to sunlight?
I could still remember our first real conversation in Biology where she had shared her dislike for the weather. Would she return to Phoenix? Perhaps move to Jacksonville to be with her mother? The possibilities of her future were endless. If she left Forks, would I be able to find her? The idea of never being able to find her, to see her, to check on her again, almost brought me to my knees. Could I really endure a future in which I could never at the very least, check in on my beloved? I could feel my will crumbling beneath me and a growl escaped my chest. Before I realized my plan, I found myself running. Running from the ache, the nothingness, the void inside me and running home. My will had broken, I would be returning home. By tonight, I would be watching my … not mine … Bella from the trees. Beyond that, nothing.
It was nightfall when I returned to Forks, which gave me cover while I ran through the outlaying forests. The graduation ceremony had completed hours ago, while students now gathered together for celebration. I found a graduation party at Jessica Stanley's house. Music floated from inside the house into the backyard where several students were moving with the music, chattering, and extremely excited about their passages into a new chapter of their lives. I searched their thoughts for Bella, seeking her face in their minds.
I stopped breathing as I searched, wondering to myself, would she be her with Mike? Tyler? Would she be laughing, having forgotten me already? I eagerly searched for the Newton boy's mind and found it. His thoughts were of recreating a relationship with the Stanley girl, not really a relationship, but rather a summer fling before heading off to college in August. At least he wasn't fantasizing of Bella, as he had so inappropriately done while we were in high school. Moving along, I found Tyler's mind, still no Bella. Then to Jessica, still nothing. Finally, to Angela Webber, but still no thoughts of Bella. Frustrated, I moved myself into a crouch and began to move towards the trees behind the Webber girl, she sipped her drink and moved side to side next to Ben.
I inched forward, moving as close as I dared to her left ear and whispered, "Bella …."
Angela immediately heard the ghostly whisper, goose bumps covering her exposed arms and long, slender neck. Ah yes, this is what I wanted. Her thoughts began to recall Bella's image today, how the gown hung limply on her too thin body, her sunken face, the wide – yet obviously, forced smile that never reached her lifeless eyes. Oh God. I felt sick. I could hear the echo of longing in her thoughts, how she wished Bella would have joined them tonight, yet how she had politely declined. She always declined Angela's offers, had ever since the Cullens left. As I gripped the tree next to me, I pleaded with Angela to relent her onslaught of images of what had become of Bella.
She is a walking zombie. Lifeless.
I took my leave from the party and began running towards the Swan residence, surely she would be home. As I neared the house, I held my breath, fearful that with so many months of separation, my bloodlust would overtake me. I climbed swiftly up the tree next to her room, and peered in. It was dark inside, and quiet. Either Charlie wasn't home or he was asleep. What time was it anyways? It felt too early for everyone to already be in bed. The window was open, so I slid inside the room. The bed was …. empty.
Carefully, I opened the door and went to Charlie's room. There was only silence, no heartbeat, thoughts, nothing. Confused and now slightly worried, I went downstairs. The stove was cool, and showed signs of disuse. I looked around for any clues indicating where either Bella or Charlie had gone. I found a calendar hanging by the kitchen phone and read the scribbling. Today's date was circled with Graduation written down; it was at 10 AM this morning. Then Fishing Trip with a line drawn today through the end of the week. Had Bella and Charlie gone on a fishing trip after graduation? That hardly seemed like Bella at all.
Confused, I climbed the stairs back up to Bella's room, my mind trying to consider possible answers to where they had gone. I knew Charlie typically fished with Harry Clearwater or Billy Black, but due to the treaty, I couldn't go to La Push to search them out. I caught Bella's scent from the hamper in the bathroom and went to envelope myself in her scent as I thought. The bloodlust was intense; I could feel the venom gathering in my mouth, almost choking me as I swallowed it down. The burn in my throat was acutely painful; my thoughts become scattered, incoherent. As I inhaled her scent, gulping in the air surrounding her clothes, I fought to clear my mind and regain control. I could feel it in my fingers first, as I was able to loosen my grip around the dark top I grasped in my fists. Then the control slowly seeped into my arms, as the bunched and aching muscles relaxed, my thoughts as I found myself refocusing, then finally, my throat as I pushed the burn to the back of my mind. I dropped her clothes back in the hamper and jumped from her window to outside. I faced the back of the house and began to smell and taste the air for her scent, perhaps I would catch a break and she would be somewhere I could follow. Perhaps I could find her. I closed my eyes and gave myself over to finding her fragrances in the air, ah there it was. I followed it, down the street and it began heading towards the edge of town. As I left Forks behind me, I began to worry – where had Bella gone? Why had she left town today? My heart plummeted as I considered, perhaps she had already left home, left town for her new life, college maybe. But I shook my head at that idea, nonsense, her room still contained her things, surely she would have packed and not left anything behind.
When I followed her scent to a familiar hidden road, I knew where she had gone - back to my home, to the glass house where our lives turned upside down.
Crash. I relived those moments, as Jasper lunged at Bella, blind with bloodlust, control gone, his singular thought: thirst for human. Bella screamed as shoved her out of his way. The blood that followed … my growls … my thirst for her blood. As I ran up the steps to the dark house, I closed my eyes and forced the memories from my thoughts.
There were no vehicles in the driveway, no signs of life. I walked around the house, nothing. I entered my former home, and still nothing. This was beyond frustrating. There. I caught her scent again and slowly followed it up towards my room. As I entered the room, I could still remember her laughter. It echoed like a ghost in the now dark empty space. No Bella. I followed her scent to the middle of the room, it was concentrated there. I leaned in and could smell … salt? Had she been here, laid here … crying? I felt the ache begin again and I shoved it down. I had to find her. Clearing my head, I began following her scent again; she had left this room, left the house and gone … where?
I followed her trail again, back to the highway and continued outside of Forks. As I ran following her scent, I could only hope that it didn't cross the border. Would I break the treaty? Would I cross the border to find her? Thankfully, her scent turned and then followed another almost hidden road. It was a dirt road and I knew where it ended. Our meadow. Not wanting to waste time, I began to run at full speed, still sampling the air to ensure I was on the right path. Our meadow. Would she be there? I dared not think why she would go first to my home, then to our meadow. Fear was beginning to take hold of me as I worried what she may be doing. Damn, I shouldn't have thrown away that phone, what I wouldn't do to call Alice and beg her to look into Bella's future, tell me where she was and what decisions she had made at this time.
I caught her scent before I reached the meadow. It was concentrated and fresh, and I knew this is where I would find her. Slowly, I crept to the tree line, searching for her. And there she lay. The moonlight highlighted her still form between the cloud covers. I wanted to race to her, to make sure she was okay. But I forced myself to be still, to calm down and listen.
Heartbeat. It's there.
Slow and steady breathing.
Her mind was silent, but I never could hear her thoughts anyways. As I crept closer, careful to remain hidden, I realized she was asleep. I relaxed and began my approach at a quicker pace, anxious to peer into her sleeping face again.
Ah, this is what I have longed for. Waited for.
I allowed myself to be enveloped in her scent again, then paused – only yards away now, to gain control of myself. As I began to push aside the bloodlust, first from my bunched muscles, then my clenched hands, and was concentrating on the burn in my throat when she began to scream. I opened my eyes and saw her there. Curled up, arms wrapped around her slim frame, writhing in an invisible pain as she continued to scream. Her eyes were still closed; it did not appear that she had awoken. Was she screaming like this in her sleep? Her breathing was labored, she gasped for air, and it almost seemed as if her lungs refused to fill with the air she was desperately seeking. As I watched, her skeleton like knees curled up towards her chest, her fingers digging deep into her sides, her body straining as if something were ripping her apart from the inside. This nightmarish image, ghoulish as it was, held no degree of horror to her screams. The screams were guttural, echoing a deep ache in her heart that mirrored my own. I forced control over my bloodlust and ran to her side. I wrapped my arms around her, trying to soothe her as I hummed her lullaby. Her body began to soften, let go of its tension while the screams slowly subsided into low whimpers. I could hear her voice now, and it broke my heart, "He's gone, he doesn't want me …. Edward please stay…" She choked on my name, repeating her pleas. I continued my efforts to calm her and sighed with relief when her whimpers faded away into calm, even breathing.
I knew I should leave, before she caught me, but as I looked at her sleeping form, I could not will myself away. Just one kiss. Her lips looked so inviting, parted in a peaceful sigh, beckoning me to draw closer. My lips ached to touch hers, just one time. Then I would leave this meadow, content to watch her from the shadows, and allow her to live her human life. I inched closer, not breathing, inhaling her fragrance. God she smelled glorious. Just one kiss, I reminded myself. And with that, I brushed her lips softly against mine. A hunger began then, not for her blood, but for more. To touch her lips against mine, again. I pressed my lips to hers, flicking my tongue to her bottom lip, hungrily tasting her mouth. I slowly outlined her bottom lip with my tongue, savoring each flavor. My lips pressed against hers more forcefully, and I could tell my will was weakening. I had to end this kiss, I had to leave before she awakened. And then it happened, a moan – deep with pent up desire that had churned within me for the past several months, the hunger for her that had pulled me back here, and the sweet abyss she held for me, escaped my lips. As I moaned my pleasure, my heartache, and my longing – her eyes fluttered open.