AU/ New Moon/Canon/BPOV.
Edward leaves and Bella does not recover. "So the night Victoria leapt through my open window, crouching like a cat at the foot of my bed, I regarded her with the same enthusiasm as I did the leaves that fell from her tattered clothes and littered my floor. I blinked."
Warnings and Disclaimer:
Warning: Dark themes, talk of death and suicide. No language, No lemons.
Disclaimer: I use several lines directly from Twilight and New Moon. They are obvious quotes from the books, no plagiarism is intended.
Huge thanks to my Beta's: StoryPainter and Jennrosee for all their help!
I remembered that cold September day. I remembered standing in the dark woods behind Charlie's house. I remembered gasping for air. I remembered feeling like I had been punched in the stomach.
I remembered everything he said.
I remembered chasing after him. I remembered when my pursuit turned to aimless wandering. I remembered falling, again and again, my knees and palms burning with deep cuts and scrapes.
I remembered calling his name.
His name was the last sound to ever pass my lips.
I didn't remember lying on the forest floor for two days. I didn't remember Sam Uley finding me there. I didn't remember the search party as they clapped and cheered when he emerged carrying me, a lifeless ragdoll, from the woods. I was told of all those things later.
My first lucid memory was the wrinkled, old face of Dr. Gerandy as he peeled back my eyelid and blinded me with his tiny penlight. I didn't flinch away from the sharp light or his cold hands.
He asked if I knew my name. He asked if I knew where I was. He asked if I could hear him.
"You're in the hospital, Bella," he said.
Why did he bother to ask if he was just going to tell me?
He spoke to Charlie, weaving terms like "trauma," "post-traumatic stress," and "catatonic" into their hushed conversation. In turn, Charlie raged with accusations. He spoke of charges and warrants, an air of vengeance laced his tone.
Renee was there too. She held my hand and stroked my hair as the nurse scraped under my fingernails, collecting particles of dirt and debris onto tiny glass slides. She cried silent tears when the nurse softly brushed my lips, cheeks, thighs, and vagina with sterile swabs, sealing each tightly in small plastic tubes. Bright orange bags, the word "evidence" glaring in stark, black letters, leaned against the walls. My muddy clothes and shoes were packaged inside.
You're wasting your time. There is nothing to be found.
There is – nothing.
Some amount of time passed, I was discharged, and Charlie took me home. Those first few days – or it could have been weeks, possibly, as I didn't bother to mark the passage of time - I did not eat or drink.
Breathe. That was all I could ask of myself. Just breathe. Breathe in, breathe out.
And so, I was forced to return to the dreary green room and the bed with rails. I was fed from a needle in my arm, bathed by a blonde woman in blue scrubs, and repeatedly asked if I could hear.
Breathe in, breathe out.
Doctors, social workers, therapists and counselors continued to darken my doorway. They sat on the edge of the bed and asked about "the incident." Some called me a "victim," others called me a "target." None of them spoke of him by name. All of them asked if I could hear.
Breathe in, breathe out.
One by one, they grew weary of me, mumbling agitatedly to the nurse in blue scrubs that I was "impervious" and "unresponsive" as they'd leave the room, never to return.
Charlie came every day. He held my hand and talked about his work. He told me stories about Billy's son, Jacob. He brought a picnic lunch which he, Dr. Gerandy, and the blonde nurse in blue scrubs ate on the foot of my bed. The air smelled of turkey, stuffing, and sweet potatoes for days.
Then Charlie began to visit less, staying away for days – or weeks, maybe - at a time. He seemed to materialize at my bedside one night - or had he been there all day – his eyes swollen and red, his hand clenched tightly around mine. He confessed that this was killing him, that watching his child waste away in this godforsaken place was slowly destroying him. He spoke of being scared.
And although I was incapable of feeling it, as my heart had been ripped from my chest that day in the woods, my mind was able to recall the love I had for my father. My agony was not his burden to bear. And as my father sobbed, his face buried in the mattress, I lifted my other hand and gently touched the crown of his head.
My muscles were stiff and sore from lying idle and unused. I struggled as I ran my fingers through his graying hair. Awareness crept over Charlie's posture, and he slowly, suspiciously, raised his bloodshot eyes. And when they met mine, the chocolate brown carbon-copy of his, he threw his body over me, lifting me up and pulling me against him.
"Oh, my God, Bella! Bella!" he yelled. My muscles screamed at him to release me. "Sue! Sue! Someone get Nurse Clearwater! Quick!"
My room was a flurry of activity from that day forward. Another measure of time passed, and I was made to sit, then stand, then walk. The needle was pulled from my vein, and I was forced to sip broth from a spoon. The counselors returned with their talk of "progress" and "recovery," only to be dissatisfied when I did not answer their questions. At least they stopped asking if I could hear.
Renee appeared again. I was unaware she had left. She brushed my hair and gave me new clothes, the paper hospital gown discarded in the trash. She hovered over me as I signed the discharge orders, cautiously studying my reaction when instructed to include the date. January 26.
Four months had passed in the blink of an eye, yet that knowledge did not stir me.
I returned to my bedroom in Charlie's house in Forks. My parents hovered, warily, in the doorway as I explored the space. I ran my fingers along the bed as I walked around it. The pictures of him were gone. I suspected that was my mother's doing until I opened the CD player and the unmarked disc had also been removed.
It will be as if I never existed.
I crossed the room to the window and stared, unseeing, at the wall of trees in the distance. Their shadows reached and stretched across the lawn, masking the brilliant white snow under a cover of black. The darkness slithered up the side up the house, coated my window, and plunged my room into night. I took a breath and the shadows retreated, cowering back into the woods as the sun conquered the sky.
The battle raged on, light verses dark, in an endless cycle. Push and pull, win and lose, no side ever rang victorious. I watched the ebb and flow play out from my window. A chair was placed behind me. Food was brought and taken away, untouched. My mother remained, bathing and dressing me, holding spoons of broth to my lips and persuading me to sip water through a straw.
Dr. Gerandy appeared, threatening me with stories of institutions and hospitals, of drugs and aggressive therapies. So, I forced the pattern of my life to evolve. I slept in my bed. I bathed and dressed myself. I ate when I could stomach it. But that was all I could do.
My mother left with a promise to return. My father observed my routine, day after day, week after week. His hair continued to gray, the lines around his eye deepened, his body aged quickly under the weight of his stress.
Don't do anything reckless, for Charlie's sake.
I did it for Charlie.
I could have gone on - existing - but it was destroying my father. Persisting like this was selfish. It was cruel. It was reckless.
So, I did it for Charlie.
And when he found me, sprawled across the bathroom floor, the contents of the medicine cabinet scattered about the room, he screamed. He screamed for me, he screamed for help, he screamed into the wireless radio strapped to his uniform. Sirens wailed, and more uniformed men filled the tiny space. They ripped the contents of my stomach from me until my throat was burned raw and my abdomen ached.
And once I was drained and placed in my bed, I listened to the hushed conversation outside my door.
"If this is the path she's chosen, she will find a way to succeed."
From that day forth, the medicine cabinet was sealed under lock and key, the razors removed from the bathroom, the guns secured in a shiny metal locker. My tiny world became safe and harmless.
And with nothing left, even the deliverance of death stripped from me, I returned to my routine.
Sleep, eat, breathe, breathe, breathe.
I was empty. I was vacant. I was blank.
So the night Victoria leapt through my open window, crouching like a cat at the foot of my bed, I regarded her with the same enthusiasm as I did the leaves that fell from her tattered clothes and littered my floor.
"I was hoping for a more enthusiastic welcome, Bella," she complained. "Though, I'm not surprised."
She moved about the room, examining photographs, smelling discarded clothes, likely listening to the rhythm of my pulse for some reaction. She heard none.
"I've been watching you for months," she confessed. "And I must say… pills? Really, Bella? It's so cliché. Had you thrown yourself from a cliff, I may have been impressed."
She glanced at me sideways, daring me to argue.
She sighed and perched herself on the edge of my desk. "I had such great plans for you, Bella. Such high hopes. I had pinned all of my aspirations on you. You, a weak, brittle, human girl were the essential component in my quest." Disappointment laced her tone.
"That is why I returned to this place, to find you. Imagine my surprise when I discovered you were alone, unprotected… abandoned."
She shook her head. "I was going to take you from this place. It would have been so easy to steal you from that hospital bed. But I didn't. When I found you, discarded, the cracks began to form in the foundation of my plan. You see, I knew the little dark-haired one could predict my actions if she was looking. And, moreover, I knew if Edward cared, he wouldn't have let me anywhere near you."
My ears rang, assaulted by the unfamiliar sound of his name, yet I did not flinch.
Victoria shrugged. "So I waited. I tested. I came and went from your hospital room as I pleased. I decided a thousand times to kill you in a thousand different ways. But no one came to your rescue. No one came to protect you. And so the night I climbed into your bed and lay beside you while you slept, my flawless plan completely unraveled."
"You were to be my bait," she confessed, her voice growing angry. "My lure. I was going to take you from this place. I was going to hold you captive. I was certain Edward would come for you, and when he was close enough to hear you scream, I was going to kill you… painfully. Oh, Edward would make me pay dearly for it, I was counting on that, but not before I left him to pass the rest of eternity feeling as I did when he destroyed my James. When he ripped my love from this earth. When he reduced my heart to ash."
She allowed her anger to possess her for a moment, and then she pushed it away.
"So you see, Bella, herein lies the problem. My bait holds no attraction. My trap will not draw its intended target. And, therefore, my plan would not fulfill its intended purpose."
She was trying to stab me with her cruel words, but there was nothing for her to pierce. There was no substance to which she could inflict her wound. There was no heart left for her to break.
"So," she continued, "I was forced to abandon my plan, and I set out to draft a new one. And I have. And even though you are no longer a component in my new design, I continued to linger here, watching you."
"At first, I wasn't sure why I was so drawn to you. It was like watching a stone," she said, exasperated. "You never spoke, you never took action, you never even cried. But as I watched you, do you know what I realized? I realized I felt sorry for you."
She shook her head as a humorless chuckle escaped her lips. "Believe me, I was most surprised when I became conscious of it. But it's true. I discovered I can sympathize with you. Because you see, dear Bella, are just as much a casualty of Edward's cruelty as I am."
Her voice became cold again. "He slaughtered my love with his vengeance, and he demolished yours with his callous selfishness."
And then, just as quickly, the tenor of her voice changed again, her mood becoming compassionate and gentle. "You see, we are sisters, you and I, bonded by the anguish this man has left in his wake. And that is why I have come to you tonight. I have come to make you an offer, and a promise, from one sister to another."
Victoria moved to kneel at my bedside, her cold hand brushing my hair from my forehead, her pale face inches from mine. "As I said, I have devised a new plan for my retribution, and he will pay for his offenses against me. But I promise you, dear sister, I will make certain that he knows what he's done here. And I will leave him to walk this earth, for the rest of eternity, tormented by the knowledge that he destroyed you."
As she spoke the words, I could see the error in her objective. This would not plague him for all time. This would not damage him as she anticipated.
My kind, we're very easily distracted.
Something inside me, cold and numb, stirred as I was comforted with the realization that he would be unharmed, in every way.
"And then, once I have gained my vengeance and fulfilled my promise to you, I will force him to free me from this life and the grief I can no longer bear. But you see, sister, I fear that, even in death, I will not be able to rest. Not when I know I left you behind to shoulder this burden; a burden so great that one as strong as I could not endure. No, I could not leave you, not when I have the ability to ease your suffering. And so, I have come to make my offer to you."
She ran her icy fingers along my scalp again. "Bella?" she asked. "Would you like me to end your life?"
His name had been the last sound to pass my lips all those months earlier. And I resolved that his name would be carried on my final breath. But between that cold September day, when I truly died in the woods behind Charlie's house, and this moment, my impending death, I would allow only one more word to escape me.
Victoria nodded and rose to her feet. She offered her hand and pulled me up. "We cannot do this here," she said. With one swift motion, she hoisted me onto her back and leapt out the window.
We were flying through the dark woods in a way that was hauntingly familiar, but I did not close my eyes as the trees whipped past and the night air blasted my face. We vaulted over a river without pause. We covered miles in mere seconds. And as abruptly as our journey began, it ended.
Victoria deposited me on the porch of an abandoned hunting cabin. The front door creaked as I followed her inside. The small lodge smelled of rotting food and stale air.
"I was very lucky to happen upon this place," she explained. "The previous tenants, well, let's just say they were most accommodating."
I hovered in the doorway as Victoria fluttered about the place. She lit a fire and an eerie, orange glow engulfed the room.
"Are you ready?" she asked as she motioned for me to lie on the disintegrating bed.
I took my position and Victoria knelt beside me. Her eyes seemed to dance as the firelight reflected from her red irises.
"I will bite, and you will feel the pain of it, but it will diminish as you grow weak. You will feel cold and drowsy, but do not fight it. Allow the sleep to take you under. And when you are gone, I will burn your body and spread your ashes in the woods. No one will find you."
Victoria took my hand, drawing back my sleeve to reveal the crescent shaped scar where James had marked me. Her icy fingers reverently traced the contour, and then she seized my wrist tightly in her hand.
"Close your eyes," she commanded. I obeyed.
And as she raised my arm to her lips, I broke my imposed silence for the last time. "Edward, I love you."
"Rest in peace, Isabella," she whispered, and her razor sharp teeth sliced through my skin.
The pain was excruciating, yet I did not scream. I screwed my eyes shut tighter and forced my attention away from the searing agony. I compelled myself to think of Charlie and Renee and how they would grieve for their only child. But I knew, with time, they would recover. I prayed they would find peace. I prayed that they would understand this was the only way I ever could.
My feet grew cold, and the sensation of pins and needles spread up my legs. I knew my time on this earth was drawing to a close.
And so, for the first time, I allowed my mind to wander to my other family - the family that no longer wanted me. I thought of Carlisle and Esme, of Emmett and Rose, of Jasper. I wondered if they would hear of my death, and if it would give them reason to pause. And in their infinite years, would they ever think back on the time when I was one of them.
As my body began to grow weary, I thought of Alice, my friend, my sister. I knew she was not looking, but I wondered if, someday, she allowed her mind to search for me, what she would see. Would her vision be empty? And would that reveal to her that I was gone? Or would she see these final moments? Would these last minutes of my life be replayed, and then cease, never moving forward?
My consciousness began to slip away, and as I had no strength to hold them back, the memories I had locked away in the deepest recesses of my mind tumbled forward. I saw the face I had barred from my memory. I heard the voice I had silenced. In my mind's eye, I was transported back to that sunny day in the meadow.
And so the lion fell in love with the lamb.
My lungs began to burn as I fought to draw breath, each gasp coming slower and smaller than the last. And when I thought the inhalation would be my last, I spoke my final word, as I promised myself I would.
There was a great snarling sound, a low growl echoing in the distance. I found it strange that the angel of death would come for me with such an angry tone. I tried to focus on the noise, but my awareness was slipping away. Victoria released her hold on my wrist and gravity overtook my arm. It slumped, lifeless, to the mattress.
"No. It can't be."
An enormous crashing sound rang though my ears, and then another. A roar, a howl, a great eruption of sound, objects breaking and clattering to the ground.
My lungs contracted instinctively, pulling in more air.
A gust of wind blew over my cold skin as something large flew past the bed. More primal sounds filled my ears. The noise was deafening.
My lungs drew in another breath, and a strange sensation began to filter into my awareness. It started as an impression, a hint of warmth. Slowly, it began to build in my wrist, my hand, snaking its tentacles up my arm. It crawled past my elbow and over my shoulder. It inched behind my lung. And when it reached my heart, it paused; it waited for the muscle to contract mechanically. And when the next beat of my heart finally pumped the poisoned blood through my veins, a searing fire exploded from my chest into my extremities. My eyes flew open, and my hands balled into fists as my entire body was submerged in acid.
I wrenched my head to the side, seeking out someone – anyone – to extinguish the flames. I blinked and tried to focus my vision, but the pain distorted my sight. Victoria was a blur, a haze of red and white, tangling with a mass of black. They spun and wrestled and horrendous growls filled the small room. There was a gnashing of teeth and the tearing of metal, and with one swift movement, Victoria separated herself from her attacker.
An enormous, black wolf stood panting and snarling before Victoria, exposing his fangs as a deep growl rumbled through his chest. He crouched, ready to spring again at his adversary.
My breath was coming sharp and fast now as I fought against the blistering tongue of flame that licked through my veins. I locked my jaw to keep from screaming, but the rasp of air between my clenched teeth drew my company's attention.
Victoria's head whipped around, her red eyes growing wide as she took in my trembling form. The wolf took note of me too, but kept his attention focused on his opponent. Victoria made to move toward me, and the wolf matched her advance, planting itself between us. And as I looked upon Victoria, I realized the threat this intruder posed. Her left arm was gone, ripped from her unbreakable body.
Suddenly, she was a blur, a vague shape escaping through the cabin door. The wolf gave chase, pursuing his target, both creatures disappearing into the dark woods.
And I was alone.
And I was in agony.
I burned. I deformed. I altered.
The room grew light, then dark again, and the pain did not cease. I was sawed in half. I was paralyzed. I was a pile of charred bones.
The brightness returned yet again, and the inferno continued to seize my body. Every cell razed to ash.
Night fell over the woods once more, and the torture reached a new summit. But then, as dawn broke through the windows of the cabin a third time, a new sensation began to trickle through my veins.
It flowed through the channels of my body, suffocating and smothering the flames as it progressed. It slithered, silently robbing the fire of its fuel like a thief in the night. When the blaze was completely extinguished, I lay on the bed, motionless, fixed – frozen.
I knew what I was. I knew what I had become. Victoria's endeavor to release me from my suffering, however noble her intentions, had damned me to bear it for all eternity. Time was immeasurable, and in this new body, so were the depths of my pain.
So, I waited. I remained in the cabin, anticipating Victoria's return, trusting that she would come back and finish what she started. But she did not come back. Day after day, night after sleepless night, I lingered in the small house alone.
Victoria never returned.
But the wolf did.
I could smell him; a revolting stench burned my nose just before he sauntered through the door. He lowered his head, and a menacing growl rumbled through his chest as he crouched, preparing to strike. As I watched him coil to spring, I reacted instinctively. I braced myself for the impact. I tensed and shielded myself, raising my arms over my face, my eyes clenched shut.
I peeled my eyes open and peered over my raised hands. The wolf remained in his place, staring, seemingly unseeing, in my direction. His posture eased and he stood tall again. He sniffed the air and looked around the room. He lowered his nose to the floor and tracked around the space, hunting.
I lowered my arms to my side and observed his odd behavior. One moment he was poised to strike, and in the next, he seemed to forget his initial intention. He continued to sniff the floor, searching, probing. He followed an invisible path, stopping right at my feet; his overwhelming odor nearly caused me to gag. I clamped my hand over my mouth and stifled the sound.
The wolf lifted his head, and it appeared as if he could look straight through me. He sniffed the air, turning his head from left to right. Slowly, he began to step back, his eyes darting around the room. He growled again, but it did not seem to be directed at anything. And when he reached the door, he slowly turned his back to the room, glanced over his shoulder once, and then shot like a bullet out of the cabin.
I didn't move. For a long moment I contemplated why this creature, clearly bent on destroying me, would suddenly change his mind. Something about my appearance gave him reason to stop. And so I walked slowly to the cracked mirror hanging against the far wall. When I stood before the glass, a gasp escaped my lips. There was no reflection. There was nothing. In the mirror, I saw a clear, unobstructed view of the wall behind me.
I lifted my hand in front of my face, spreading my fingers wide, studying it, flipping my palm from front to back as I inspected my ivory skin. And then I looked back to the mirror - still vacant.
Bewildered, I recalled the encounter with the wolf. Unmistakably, he had seen me when he marched into the cabin. It wasn't until I reacted, when I braced myself for his attack, that his ability to see me seemed to change.
I looked back to the mirror, and I forced my mind and my body to relax, to return to the subdued disposition I possessed before the meeting. In the glass, the air seemed to bend. The mirror image of the wall behind me began to warp and twist. And then the picture adjusted and smoothed, and I was suddenly staring at my reflection.
I stumbled slowly toward my likeness, taking in my new skin, my new body, and my crimson irises for the first time. The changes were remarkable, but it was still me.
I stepped back, pondering if I could replicate the sensation that yielded my ability to become invisible.
I knew vampires had special powers. I saw them every day when I was with him. But I never imagined I would be gifted with an extraordinary ability, should I be granted this life.
So I tested my skill. I tried to recreate it. I tried to make myself feel fear. It wasn't hard to manufacture. I conjured up images of Charlie as the target of the wolf's attack. But my reflection remained steady. Fear was not the right emotion. I tried to elicit other feelings: panic, alarm, anxiety, but nothing stirred the image in the mirror.
Again, I thought back to the confrontation with the wolf. My reaction to his impending attack was instinctual. My response was to protect myself, to guard, to shield.
I stared at my reflection and flooded my mind with impressions of fortification, security, and armor. The image began to distort and transform, and then I was gone. Invisible.
I continued to practice raising and lowering my armor, my shield, like an imaginary cloak around me. After several days, I could summon and release my gift with very little effort, and I began to lose interest in the exercise.
As time passed, I became aware of the increasing burn in my throat. I knew what I needed to do to quench it, but I refrained. The pain of it was my only reminder that this was – that I was - real. As the weeks went by, the burn amplified, becoming almost unbearable. And when a herd of deer wandered through the front lawn, I was dominated by instinct, draining two large bucks before I was conscious that I had moved from the front porch.
I realized, as I stood over my kill, had it been a hunter or a lost hiker that crossed my path, I would have slain them without pause. And so I resolved to control my thirst. When the burn became intense, I hunted. My only occupation, from now until forever, was to keep my hunger restrained.
My prey was easy to acquire. I concealed myself with my shield, and my game never knew they were an intended target. And so I passed my days, drifting through the woods, obscured from the inhabitants that would have scurried and hid had I shown myself. I took in nature in its true form, wandering aimlessly through the forest, transparent as the air rustling in the trees. Each day, I took a different path, exploring and discovering new corners of the woods.
Until the day my mindless wandering led me to a familiar place.
The trees began to thin as the forest gave way to the meadow – our meadow. I approached, cautiously, wary of returning to this place. I had been so careful to avoid any reminders of him, and yet I couldn't force myself to turn away. And when I broke through the tree line, and my eyes scanned the open field, I saw him.
Edward stood, frozen like a statue, in the center of the meadow. His head down, his eyes closed, his hands balled into fists at his side. The black hue of his suit was a stark contrast to the bright white of his skin.
I didn't move. I didn't breathe. I didn't think. I held firm to my shield, my only protection from the surge of emotion that rushed forward at seeing him again. I had felt nothing for so long, and in the blink of an eye, I felt everything. Had I been human, I would have collapsed where I stood.
I knew he could not see me. I knew he could not hear me, with his ears or with his mind. But when he raised his head and trained his eyes toward where I stood, I doubted the strength of my gift. Then his black eyes scanned the tree line, and I knew I was concealed from him. And although he could not see me, he narrowed his gaze on the spot where I stood.
And then his attention was diverted, and his fixed stare reluctantly moved to the left. I followed his line of site to where Alice emerged from the forest. I had been so preoccupied with Edward I had not heard her approach.
They stared at each other for a long moment and then Alice, in a blur of moment, flew at her brother. Her fists connected with his chest as she assaulted him with undamaging strikes. Edward took the blows, unflinching, looking down at his sister as she unleashed her anger on him.
"Why! Why did you do it?" she wailed, her voice strangled with tearless sobs. "I told you this would not work! I told you something would happen! Why didn't you listen?"
Her punches ceased and she crumpled against his chest, wailing as she cried. Edward wrapped his arms around his sister, his face twisted in anguish.
"I should have never listened to you," Alice confessed. "I should have looked for her. I could have prevented this from ever happening."
"No," he said. His voice was still the sweet melody that haunted my memory. "Don't try to take any of this on yourself."
"She was my friend, my sister. I loved her too. I could have… "
"Don't," he commanded. "Don't say it, please."
Alice cried herself out in her brother's arms. And when she finally composed herself, she slowly pulled away. Edward resumed his posture from before, head down, hands at his side.
"The service was beautiful," she said.
I took in Alice's appearance, her dark hair the exact color of her black dress and of his black suit. There had been a funeral.
"Yes," he allowed.
"It is good that Charlie did not see you."
"I'm sorry he said those things to you. They were meant for me."
"It's all right, Edward," she conceded. "He's grieving for the child he lost."
"In his mind, the daughter he knew died last September," Edward choked.
Charlie. Edward had seen Charlie's mind. And from the guilt carved into his features, he had seen it all.
Alice hugged her brother again.
"Please, Alice," he begged. "I cannot endure this."
"No," she said firmly. "You know I could not harm you anymore than I could hurt myself."
Something flashed in Edward's eyes.
"Do not consider Italy," she warned. "They will refuse you. And if you force their hand, they will come down on us all."
Edward blinked again.
"And do not provoke the wolves. They will expose us. And everyone we have ever met will be subject to the Volturi's wrath."
Alice let out a frustrated sigh. "Edward, you know what I've seen. You have a future. I know my visions of you are blurred and vague, but even right now – today – decisions are being made that are solidifying your path." She brushed her hand across his cheek. "You will be happy again. I've seen it."
For a moment, I allowed her words to soothe me. He would go on. His remorse would ease and he would recover.
I considered that fate had brought me to this place, to this moment, so that I could find my peace. Peace from the knowledge that he would live, and peace from this endless existence, as Edward, unknowingly, had given me the keys to depart this life.
She stepped away from him. "Come home. The family needs you. We all need to be together again. They are grieving for you too."
He nodded but did not follow as Alice began to walk away.
"Alice," he called. She stopped and turned around. "Are you certain of your vision of that night? Have you seen anything else? Anything that would suggest that she might -"
Alice returned to her brother's side. "Oh, Edward, you know what I saw. You've seen it yourself. You know what Victoria offered her and that she accepted. You saw Victoria fulfill that agreement."
"But the vision halts, abruptly. You didn't see… "
Alice cradled her brother's face in her hands. "Edward, you have to accept this. She's gone."
He closed his eyes and she stepped back from him again. "Come home," she repeated as she walked away, disappearing in the overgrown trees.
And we were alone again, just as we were before. I continued to watch him, afraid to move, afraid to end this, our last moment together. Abruptly, Edward fell to his knees, his hands covering his face. He rocked himself, imperceptibly, as he wept. Great sobs shuddered through his chest, and he wrapped his arms around his torso as if to keep himself from tearing apart.
I took an instinctive step toward him, yearning to touch him, to find a way to ease his guilt. But when I moved, his head snapped up, his eyes locking on the place where I stood. I froze and so did he.
A gentle breeze picked up, blowing from behind me, bending the grass in a visible path from me to him.
I blinked, and he was gone.
I returned to the meadow the next day, and the day after that. But Edward did not come back. A week passed, and then another, and I continued to go to the meadow every day, swearing each time was my last. And so, at the close of the third week, I went to the meadow to say goodbye, firm in my resolve to never return.
I walked to the center of the field, to the exact spot where Edward last stood, and sat down. I studied the trees and the grass, the color of the wildflowers, and the darkness of the shadows that stretched across the ground. I committed it all to my perfect memory, for after this day, I would not be coming back.
And as I examined the space, I became aware of a presence. Someone, or something, was approaching. From this distance, I could not discern if they were friend or foe, so I raised my shield and hid myself from their sight.
Edward walked through the boundary of trees behind me. His head down, his hands buried deep in the pocket of his jeans. He wandered past me without pause, passing within inches from where I sat. And when he was two feet in front of me, he stopped.
He cast his eyes softly over his left shoulder, scanning the space I occupied with a weary expression. After a moment, he resigned his inspection and focused back to the ground at his feet.
Crossing his ankles, he sank down to sit on the soft grass, his back to me. He began to tug at the grass, pulling up the blades by the roots and tossing them to the ground.
He was angry.
He continued to abuse the lawn until the task itself seemed to irritate him even more. He threw his final casualty to the ground with a groan.
"I can't do this," he muttered to no one.
He rubbed his forehead roughly, his hands tugging at his hair.
He chuckled darkly and looked up at the sky. "Is this hell?" he yelled. "Is this how you see fit to punish me? You cannot condemn my soul to burn, and so you devise a way to bring the torture into this life?"
He shook his head, looking down at the ground again. The tenor of his voice changed. "You could not destroy my own happiness any more thoroughly," he said solemnly.
Resting his elbows on his knees, he held his head in his hands, his posture frail and beaten.
Silence blanketed the meadow and neither of us moved. Edward wallowed in his guilt for hours, and I fought against the temptation to reveal myself. I repeated Alice's words in my head that he would go on and that he would be happy again - without me.
The sun began to set, tinting the clouds in a bright orange and pink. Edward had not spoken for hours, and when he did, his voice was grave and somber.
"How can I live in a world where you don't exist?" he whispered.
"I'm sorry," he breathed, and his voice caught in his throat. "I lied. I'm a good liar. I have to be."
I narrowed my eyes at his strange confession.
"You weren't going to let go," he continued. "I could see that. I didn't want to do it — it felt like it would kill me to do it — but I knew that if I couldn't convince you that I didn't love you anymore, it would just take you that much longer to get on with your life. I hoped that, if you thought I'd moved on, so would you."
He shook his head. "After all the thousands of times I'd told you I loved you, how could you let one word break your faith in me?"
My hand flew up to cover my mouth.
"I could see it in your eyes that you honestly believed that I didn't want you anymore. The most absurd, ridiculous concept — as if there were any way that I could exist without needing you!"
My eyes clenched shut and I held my breath, struggling to comprehend his declaration.
"I love you," he said firmly. "I have always loved you, and I will always love you. I was thinking of you, seeing your face in my mind, every second that I was away. When I told you that I didn't want you, it was the very blackest kind of blasphemy."
And at his words, my resolve crumbled. I woke up from the nightmare I had been living in for the last ten months. All the pain and anguish, the torture and agony, dissolved in that moment, as if it never existed.
Edward loved me.
He rose to his feet and I did the same. "You will always be the most beautiful thing in my world," he whispered.
And when he turned around, his golden eyes met mine. He sucked in a sharp breath and stared, a look of shock wrapping his features. He stepped forward, cautiously, as if any sudden movement would scare me away. And when he stood before me, he raised his hand, warily, and touched my face.
"Bella?" he questioned, his voice disbelieving.
And for the first time since that cold September day, I smiled. And I spoke. "I'm here, and I love you."
Thanks for reading! This is only a one-shot. I have no plans to continue or create a multi-chapter fic from this. I'm still working on my other fic Turning Pointe at the moment & I have other story ideas I'd like to explore.