Warnings and Disclaimer: All publicly recognizable characters, settings, etc. are the property of their respective owners. The original characters and plot are the property of the author. The author is in no way associated with the owners, creators, or producers of any media franchise. No copyright infringement is intended. Warning: this story includes difficult / sensitive subject matter that may include one or more of the subjects listed in Rule #7 on the Season of Our Discontent profile page. Please refer to the profile page before reading if you are concerned about content.
A/N: This was one of my entries into the Season of Our Discontent Anonymous Angst Contest. I was so thrilled that it won Best Tragedy, and two of the judges chose it as their favorite story! Thanks to those of you who read and reviewed it during the contest. Your comments meant a lot to me.
Thanks, as always, to my wonderful beta tiffanyanne3 for all of her help.
A Swirl of Circles and Stars
It's always the same.
Wisps of smoke curling through twisted metal…fanned to bright, hot flames, scorching at his skin.
"Help! Somebody help!"
Dizziness and disorientation.
A long, empty road.
Sirens in the distance. Flashing lights.
"Sir, can you hear me?"
"Bella? Where's Bella?"
"Sir, we're going to get you out of there."
Gasoline, sweet and thick and cloying in his nostrils.
A wave of panic as he searches for her.
And devastation at the sight of her pale, white arm curved awkwardly against the darkness of the asphalt, a stream of red trickling down between her fingers.
Edward sat up with a start, breath tearing through his aching lungs, his right shoulder seized with pain. He could still feel the burn of the smoke, the heat of the flames. He blinked in the dim light of his bedroom, willing his heart to slow. He rubbed at his shoulder, rotating it slowly to ease the ache.
He turned to find Bella's anxious eyes watching him carefully. "Are you all right?"
Edward nodded and forced a reassuring smile. "Yeah…yeah, I'm fine. Just a bad dream."
"Your shoulder bothering you again?"
"Yeah." He rolled it, tilting his head to the side. "Must have slept on it wrong."
She smiled softly. "Come here," she said, patting the pillow next to her. "Let me make it better."
Edward tugged off his sweat-dampened t-shirt, using it to blot the moisture from his skin before tossing it across the room and stretching out next to Bella. He lay his head on her chest, the soft thump-thump of her heart lulling him into a peaceful daze as she carded her fingers through his hair.
"You want to talk about it?" she asked.
He shook his head against her, closing his eyes for a moment, then opening them quickly when the remnants of the horrific dream played back behind his eyelids.
No…not a dream. A vision.
A vision he'd been having for months…or maybe years. He wasn't sure anymore. The days and nights blurred together in a wash of fear and protectiveness, and he found himself focused on only one thing.
Edward swallowed thickly, rolling to his side and gathering her into his arms, gripping her soft flesh over the sheet. She nuzzled into his shoulder, somehow understanding that this was what he needed.
"It'll be okay," she murmured, her fingertips tickling his upper arm as her breath wended its way into his skin…warmth and consolation seeping into every pore. He closed his eyes, inhaling her scent, ruffling her hair to intensify the fragrance enveloping him.
"Yes," he agreed. "It'll be okay."
And as he drifted off again into a dreamless slumber, he could almost believe that it was true.
"Edward?" Bella ducked down to catch his eye. He smiled at her, distracted for a moment by the designs she traced with a fingertip on the palm of his hand…hearts and flowers…swirls of circles and little five-pointed stars.
"That tickles," he complained, not really complaining. At her raised eyebrow, he added, "I'm sorry, what did you say?"
She lifted his hand from the rough wooden table and planted a kiss on the crease of his wrist before wrapping his fingers into a fist. "I think your mother is talking to you."
Edward blinked, finally taking in the world around him…the bright sunshine in the cloudless sky…the rolling hills of green grass topped by a large stone house…the garden fragrant with flowers where he sat with Bella, fingertips touching across a worn picnic table. He turned to see his mother watching him closely, a sad look in her eyes.
"Mom?" he said, wondering how long she'd been sitting there…how long he'd been off in his own little world. "What's wrong?"
Esme Cullen smiled, reaching out to touch his face. "Nothing…nothing's wrong. I was just asking…hoping that…it's been so long since you've been home, I thought you might like to come for a visit."
Edward's face fell, his jaw tight. "I don't think that's a very good idea."
Esme forced a bright smile. "But it would only be for the day. And it's a special occasion…Thanksgiving, you know? Don't you want to spend it with your family?"
Edward turned away, dropping his gaze to the twists and whorls in the wooden table top, tracing each one with a finger…around and around and around…
"I can't…" he began.
Esme reached out for his hand, stilling the movement. "I know you don't want to leave here," she said quietly. "But…what if…Bella stayed behind? She'd be safe here, right? By herself?"
Edward gaped in shock. "I can't leave her!"
"Edward," Bella said quietly. "She's right. I could just stay here. It would be fine."
"No!" he almost shouted, jumping to his feet. "I won't leave you." He turned on his mother in anger, only to stop short at the flash of hurt and worry in her eyes. He gripped his hands into fists, clenching his eyes tightly shut as he gained control of his emotions.
It wasn't her fault. None of this was her fault.
"I'm…I'm sorry, Mom," he said quietly, lowering back down to the bench, his shoulders hunched in defeat. "I just…can't."
She nodded, a sheen of tears glimmering in her eyes as she stood and bent to kiss the top of his head. "It's all right, Edward," she murmured. "I love you."
"I love you, too."
"I should go," she said. Edward didn't look up, because he didn't want to see the disappointment on her face. "I'll see you soon."
He said nothing, just turned to watch her walk away up the hill, back stiff, but head hung forward in defeat.
"I don't think she likes me much."
Edward snorted. "Don't be ridiculous. My mother loves you. It's just…" The words hung in the air unspoken.
Bella sighed. "She's right, you know."
"Bella, don't start."
"Edward." Bella reached for his hand again, lacing their fingers together. "You can't stay here forever."
He shrugged noncommittally. "We don't have to stay here forever. Just until I'm sure you're safe."
Bella sighed, pressing his palm to her cheek as she looked into his eyes. "And how long will that be?"
He smiled softly. "As long as it takes."
Edward had always had visions of the future, although it wasn't until he was a teenager that he came to recognize them for what they truly were. He'd had a flash of the neighbor's cat getting hit by a car and raced into the front yard, unsure of what he was doing, but compelled by a force beyond his understanding to do something.
He spotted the cat on the fence between his house and the Cheneys' and swept it up into his arms on a whim.
Only a few seconds later, a station wagon barreled down the road, swerving to hit the Cheneys' mailbox before continuing on its way. Edward gave the license plate number to police, and the drunk driver was arrested.
He knew then that he had saved that cat's life.
Since then, his visions had ranged from the mundane (his sister Alice doing her laundry and finding a dollar bill in the pocket of her jeans) to the bizarre (a green and yellow snake winding its way down the aisles of the corner Thriftway). But the visions had one thing in common.
They always came true…eventually.
The snake, it turned out, had escaped from a traveling reptile show, and it took three policemen and a snake handler to finally corner it in the frozen food section.
His family treated his ability with skepticism at first, followed by a sort of reluctant awe. The fact that – for the most part – the visions were happy or at least relatively benign helped in that respect. His parents – especially his mother – encouraged him to follow where the visions led but suggested that he not reveal his gift to just anyone.
He learned that lesson the hard way. Edward had shared his secret with his best friend, Jasper. Although Jasper never told anyone else, he grew nervous around Edward – and their friendship eventually dwindled into nods on the street and the occasional Christmas card. After Jasper, Edward grew protective of his gift, keeping his visions to himself and only acting on them when he was certain of the outcome.
Then he saw Bella.
She'd appeared in a dream, walking toward him with the sun at her back, casting a halo around her wind-blown hair so he couldn't see her features. He sat on a towel at the beach, gazing up at her silhouette, and she opened her mouth to speak.
Then he woke up.
He'd spent every afternoon for two weeks at First Beach, his eyes locked on the horizon, waiting for her to appear. When she finally did, he'd known his world had changed forever.
"Hey," she'd said, "are you okay?"
Edward realized he'd been staring at her in shock and amazement. Once he finally got a look at her face, he just couldn't look away.
"You're…so beautiful," he'd replied dumbly, only belatedly smacking himself in the head mentally for being such an idiot.
But Bella took it all in stride. "Thanks," she said with a grin. "You're not so bad yourself."
They'd quickly fallen into friendship, which before they knew it, grew into love.
Edward had seen it all. The visions of Bella were stronger than any others – the colors bright and vivid, the scents and sounds so real he often sat dazed for minutes afterward, still smelling her hair…hearing her laugh.
He'd seen their first date…first kiss…first spoken I love you's. He'd dreamed of the first time they made love, wrapped in each other beneath his sheets, the sweet strains of jazz mingling with their ragged breaths.
And when they lay side by side on a blanket in their favorite meadow under the light of a full moon, he'd known the time was right. Edward asked Bella to marry him, and she'd agreed with a laugh before rolling on top of him and kissing him deeply.
"It's really not fair, you know," she said, her fingers trailing under his shirt and scratching lightly at his stomach. "You already knew I would say yes."
Edward just shrugged, too happy to feign indignation. They'd tugged at each other's clothes in the chilly Spring night, warming each other with fevered touches and promises of forever.
Promises they had repeated two months later in that same meadow before God and their friends and family.
Then, the nightmares had started.
Bella tried to reassure him. "Maybe it's just a dream," she'd said. "You do have those too, right?"
"Sure," he'd agreed, just as eager to ease her fears. "It's probably nothing."
They'd smiled tightly and pretended…
"You have a twig in your hair." Bella laughed, reaching up to remove it. Edward had her pressed up against a tree, out of sight of the main house, and was rather enthusiastically trying to distract her.
He leaned in to run his nose up the side of her neck and behind her ear, inhaling deeply.
"How do you always smell so good?" he asked. His tongue flicked out, wet kisses trailing along soft skin. "And you taste…like sunshine," he murmured.
Bella giggled, if a little breathlessly. "How can sunshine have a taste?"
"It does," he said stubbornly, his lips quirking against her throat. "It tastes like you, obviously."
Bella tugged at his hair until he lifted his head. "We need to talk about this."
"I don't want to."
Bella smirked at his five-year-old-brat tone. "Well, we need to."
Edward sighed indulgently, pulling her down onto the flannel blanket laid out on the ground. He picked through the remains of the picnic basket, popping a couple of olives into his mouth, then stretched out, his head pillowed in Bella's lap.
"We can't go on like this, Edward." She stroked his hair lazily, her eyes focused in the distance. "You can't hide out here with me forever."
"Bella, we've talked about this," he replied, irritation coloring his tone. "This is a safe place. We have everything we need here."
"But you're cut off from the world…from your friends and family."
"Yes, but…" Bella toyed with the curve of his ear, and Edward shivered at the sensation. "It's not right, Edward."
Edward caught her hand, looking up into her soft brown eyes. "It is right," he said. "Being with you is always right." He sat up and reached for her face, trailing his fingers lightly over her cheek. "I have to keep you safe," he said, his voice trembling with emotion. "It's the most important thing. Everything else…"
"But what if…" Bella took a deep breath. "What if…what you saw…what if it's meant to be?"
"No," Edward stood abruptly, striding away from her. "Don't say that."
"What if I'm supposed to—"
"No!" he shouted, turning on her with fire in his eyes. "No! Why would I see it if I wasn't meant to change it?"
"Maybe so you could be prepared—"
"No!" He crossed to her, grabbing her by the shoulders. "Don't say that." He shook her slightly. "Don't even think it."
"Edward." Her eyes turned pleading…almost pitying.
"No," he choked out on a sob, hot tears gathering behind his clenched eyelids. "No, Bella. No."
Her face softened as she lifted her hands to slide over his head and gather him close. "Okay. Shhh…it's okay."
"I can't leave you," he whispered. "I have to keep you safe."
"It's okay." She lifted his face, pressing kisses to his damp cheeks…the corner of his mouth. "It's okay. We're together. Nothing's going to happen."
"I love you," he said, dazed by her touch, his lips meeting hers – softly at first – then with increasing passion…
"I love you, too," she murmured, pulling him down onto the blanket. She slid her hands under his shirt, lifting it over his head to press hot kisses along his chest. He slipped her sundress off her shoulders, watching in wonder as it pooled around her hips. His fingers traced the curve of her breast, and her head fell back with a soft moan.
They came together, skin to skin…heart to heart…and Edward wished he could get closer, climb inside of her so he would always have her near.
"I need you," he groaned. Agony and ecstasy. "Bella, I need you so much."
Her fingers scrabbled at his back as she tried to hold him closer...tighter. "I'm right here. I'm not going anywhere."
"Promise me," he demanded with his voice…with his body.
They twisted together in the afternoon light, two bodies melding into one until it was hard to say where one left off and the other began. With whispered pleas growing more and more frantic, they reached inside each other…deeper and deeper until finally…
They were complete.
She lay silent and white on the asphalt, eyes open but unseeing.
Rough gravel on the roadway, cutting into his knees as he reached for her, trying to stop her from leaving.
Her skin, still warm, but not warm enough…
He blinked, the darkness of the vision fading away quickly as Bella's face appeared. "Sorry," he said. "Just…lost it there for a minute."
"It's happening more often, isn't it?" She reached out for his hand, taking it between both of hers. "Your hands are like ice."
"I'm fine." He shrugged, wincing at the sharp pain the action caused. He reached over to massage his bad shoulder, still a bit dazed by the vision.
"You didn't answer my question," she pointed out, rubbing her palms lightly over his hand to warm it. "It used to be only at night, but it's happening more during the day lately."
He looked away, his silence a confirmation.
"Do you think it means…"
"It doesn't mean anything."
"It doesn't mean anything," he repeated stubbornly. "I'm just tired, that's all."
Bella frowned but said nothing more. She just lifted his hand to her lips and blew warm air on it softly.
He sighed. "I'm sorry. I didn't mean to yell."
She smiled. "It's okay."
He looked away. "You're right," he admitted after a long moment. "It is happening more often. Day and night now. And…I'm really not sure what it means."
"And," she hesitated, unsure if she should take advantage of this rare episode of openness. Edward just smiled encouragingly.
"And…it's always the same vision?" she continued finally.
He nodded abruptly. "I can't understand it," he said in frustration. "It can't happen. We don't leave here. We never set foot in a car or even a bus, for that matter. It can't happen, but it's still..." He looked away again, deep in thought.
"It's still the same," she concluded.
His hand gripped hers, pulling them both close to his chest. Bella scooted closer to him on the wooden bench, laying her head on his shoulder. After a while, he relaxed, letting her pull his palm to lay flat in hers, tracing little stars with the tip of her finger into the dents of his skin. He smiled at the tickle, turning his head to kiss her hair softly.
They sat like that, lost in thought, as afternoon faded into the cool shadows of evening.
Edward blinked as his family burst into the drawing room, all smiles and cheeks pinkened by the drop in temperature that threatened snow. He got to his feet, fingers linked with Bella's as he greeted his parents and sister, surprised to see Jasper with the group.
Even more surprised to see the pointed glances he sent Alice's way, and the flushed smiles she sent in return.
When did that happen?
They sat around the Christmas tree, laughing and talking as they sipped cups of hot chocolate. His father, Carlisle, grinned, producing a stack of packages from a pair of shopping bags he'd kept near his chair.
Edward, of course, had shopped online, but nobody mentioned it.
Instead, they exchanged gifts with plenty of oohhhs and aahhhhs and you shouldn't haves,and it was only after the last package was unwrapped that Edward realized Bella's only Christmas presents were an engraved silver bracelet, and a collection of Bronte novels.
Both from him.
"It's all right," she whispered to him, as Carlisle and Jasper debated the outcome of an upcoming football game.
"No, it's not," he said through gritted teeth.
"Edward, please," she pleaded. "I don't want to be the cause of conflict between you and your family."
"You are my family." He stood abruptly, and Bella did too, wiping a hand across her tear-dampened cheeks.
"I'll just…please, excuse me," she managed, before leaving the room.
Edward watched her go, then turned cold eyes on his father. "How could you?"
"How could I what, Edward?"
"Exclude her like that!"
"Edward." His mother touched his arm gently. "Nobody's trying to exclude Bella. Look." She pulled a couple of small wrapped packages from another bag. "I just forgot them, that's all. Here." She held them out to Edward, her eyes begging him to take them. He regarded her coldly.
"You should give them to her yourself."
Alice and Jasper watched the interaction with wide, uncertain eyes. Carlisle huffed in something akin to disgust.
"Carlisle!" Esme shot a shocked glance his way, then turned back to her son, her voice soothing. "See, Edward. I've got Bella's gifts right here. Everything's fine."
"Stop it, Esme," Carlisle warned.
"Everything's fine," she repeated.
"Nothing's fine!" her husband shouted, turning on Edward in anger. "Do you know what you're doing to this family?"
"You're sorry," Carlisle grunted. "Yes, you're always sorry."
Esme stepped between them. "Please. Don't do this."
Edward's shoulder began to ache, and he rubbed at it absently.
"Yes, that," Carlisle said, a fevered light in his eyes. "Why does your shoulder hurt, Edward?"
"Carlisle, no!" Esme sobbed.
"It's…" Edward reached for an answer, the ache growing and twisting with an uneasy feeling in his stomach. "I must have…pulled it or something."
"Did you, Edward?" Carilsle asked, his voice soft but urgent. "How did you hurt your shoulder?"
Edward shook his head. "I…I don't know."
"You do know. Think, Edward."
"Carlisle," Esme begged. "Don't do this to him. The doctor said—"
"To hell with the doctor," Carlisle barked. "This ends now." He turned back to Edward. "Think, Edward. Why does your shoulder hurt?"
"I don't know." The pain flared up and his vision swam…blurring at the edges. He was vaguely aware of Esme sending Alice and Jasper out of the room.
"You do know," Carlisle prodded.
"Edward, something's wrong." Bella, clutching at her stomach, her face twisted in pain.
A freak storm...a power outage. The phone lines down, his cell phone dead in his pocket. He'd forgotten to plug it in, and now they're in the middle of nowhere, with no way to call for help.
"We need to get you to the hospital."
"It hurts, Edward!"
He rushes to her side, supporting her weight. "It's okay, baby. Don't be afraid."
"You have a scar, Edward. A scar on your shoulder. Why would you have a scar?"
Edward blinked at his father. "Was I…Was I hurt?"
"Yes, Edward," Carlisle said somberly. "Yes, you were hurt. You were hurt very badly."
It's dark, rain pounding down so hard he can barely see the front of the car. Bella moans from the seat next to him, knuckles white where she grips the edge of the seat.
"It's okay, Bella. We're almost there."
A flash of lights…squealing tires…and then…
"Do you remember what happened, Edward?"
"Yes," his father said quietly. "Yes, you do."
Lying in a small room, hands poking and prodding at him. Bright light shining in his eyes.
"Do you know your name?"
"Edward… my name is Edward."
"Do you know where you are, Edward?"
"I…I don't know. A hospital?"
"You have other scars, don't you, Edward?" Carlisle reached out to touch his shoulder. "Have you wondered how you got those?"
Esme crumpled onto the sofa, tears streaming down her face. Edward stared at her, eyes unseeing and lost.
"Edward, do you remember what happened to you?"
"I…uh…there was an accident."
"An accident," Edward mumbled tonelessly. "I was in an accident."
"Yes…" Carlisle encouraged quietly. "Yes."
"My wife. My wife is hurt."
"We know, Edward. Let us take care of you now."
"Bella." The words tumbled from Edward's lips unbidden. "Bella was with me."
"Where is she?"
"Edward, let us help you now."
"Damn it, tell me! Where is my wife?"
Esme wrapped her arms around her stomach, rocking gently as Carlisle gripped Edward's arm. "What happened, Edward?"
Edward flinched at the barrage of images flashing before him, faster and faster…
The visions wrapped around him, twisting and tangling…sucking him in…
"Oh, God," he breathed, crumpling to the floor, his fingers gliding up to grip in his hair as the memories bombarded him with shocks of pain and fear.
"I'm sorry, Edward. We did everything we could."
"We just…she was too far gone. There was nothing we could do."
"Oh, God, no!" This couldn't be happening. It couldn't be.
"Bella?" he sobbed, collapsing into himself. Hugging his stomach as if he could roll up into a ball and keep the truth at bay.
"What about the baby?"
Eyes dropped in defeat. "I'm sorry."
A low keening sound echoed through the room, climbing the walls as it grew in volume. It filled the empty spaces between reality and hope, shaking the windows, swelling and stretching into a wail of Edward's unmitigated grief.
Esme dropped to the floor, crawling toward him, fluttering fingers vainly trying to ease his pain. Edward trembled, limbs convulsing with harsh sobs laced with agony as he groaned out one word, over and over.
Through hot tears Edward saw the door swing open, a man in a white coat rushing in, followed by Alice and Jasper. Behind them, Bella stood, tears falling down her face, her arm outstretched.
"You promised," Edward choked. "You said you'd never leave me."
Edward felt a prick in his arm and jerked in surprise at the syringe in the doctor's hand.
When he looked back toward the door, Bella was gone.
"You promised," he said again, the words thick on his tongue, eyelids heavy and warm.
When the blackness closed in, he welcomed it.
Blinding sunlight glinting off the new fallen snow greeted Edward when he once again opened his eyes. He blinked at the view out the window, shifting slightly on the bed and frowning at the I.V. taped to the back of his hand.
"Edward?" He turned toward the voice to find his mother sitting anxiously on the opposite side of the bed, his father standing near the door.
"How do you feel?" she asked, watching him warily.
He began to speak, but his voice caught. He cleared his throat, rubbing at his eyes with the heels of his hand as he sat up a little in the bed.
"Tired," he croaked. "But all right, I guess."
Esme's relieved smile cheered him a little. She stood and poured some water from a pitcher on the bedside table. "Here," she said. "Try this."
Edward took a sip of the cool water, then another, the liquid soothing his aching throat.
"What happened?" he asked.
"You've been sleeping for a while," she said softly. "We've been worried."
"Worried?" His head tilted, brow creased in confusion. "Why were you worried?" He looked from Esme to Carlisle, an uneasy nervousness growing in his gut. "Where's Bella?"
His mother's eager smile froze on her face. Behind her, Carlisle rubbed a weary hand over his eyes.
"Did something happen to Bella?" A twist of panic curled through Edward's body, his heart stuttering in his chest. "Tell me. What happened?"
A cool hand on his forehead calmed him instantly. He jerked his head around in response, and a sigh of relief escaped his lips at the sight of Bella's beautiful face.
"There you are," he whispered.
"I thought you'd gone. I thought I'd lost you."
Bella smiled and leaned down to kiss his forehead. "I promised," she murmured against his skin. "I'll never leave you."
Edward laced his fingers with hers, drawing her hand down to kiss the palm. "Sorry about this," he said, indicating his I.V. "I'm not sure what happened."
"It's nothing," Bella told him. "Nothing to worry about."
Edward nodded, content and convinced. He didn't even notice when his parents left the room.
The next day, Esme Cullen stood at the hospital window overlooking the snow-covered grounds. Carlisle wouldn't come. He said he just couldn't handle it any more.
But Esme wouldn't abandon Edward. Her gaze focused unerringly on the picnic table where her son sat, bundled up against the cold. She didn't look away as the doctor entered the room.
"It was worse this time," she said quietly, not expecting an answer.
He crossed to stand next to her, sighing heavily. "It was not…wise for your husband to force the issue."
"Yes, well…" Her voice drifted off. After all, there was nothing really to say.
"We seem to be losing him," she said quietly. "Sometimes, it's like he doesn't even see us when we're right in front of him."
"We can continue the medication," the doctor said. "It's still possible that Edward will come around, but it will have to happen in his own time. It's not something we can rush."
She turned away from the window. "It's been two years," she pointed out curtly.
The doctor frowned. "As I said, it's possible, but it's not guaranteed."
Esme nodded. She'd heard it all before. They'd been warned when they brought Edward to the hospital that he might not come out of his semi-catatonic state. The accident, the loss of Bella and their unborn child had left deeper scars than they'd thought at first. When they brought him to the morgue at his insistence…when he stood, bleeding and aching next to the cold metal table where Bella lay…he just left. His very being folded in upon itself, and for a long time after that, Edward said nothing…did nothing…his eyes gazing vacantly forward into an unknown reality.
Still, Esme held out hope. At least in the past few months he'd begun to interact with her when she visited. But after Carlisle's little stunt, he'd regressed yet again, and she worried it might be permanent this time.
She glanced back at the window to see him smiling unseeingly at something in front of him.
Bella, of course. She was all he really saw.
"Just keep him comfortable," Esme told the doctor as she turned toward the door. "I'm going to go say goodbye."
The doctor nodded and Esme left the room, pulling on her coat and hat as she walked down the stairs and out into the bright sunshine. Squinting in reflex, she made her way down the shoveled path where Edward sat, bundled up in a parka and ski cap. Esme frowned at the discarded mitten on the bench, Edward's bare palm turned upward on the table before him, his fingers twitching slightly.
"Edward?" Esme reached out hesitantly, stroking a hand over his covered head. She jumped in surprise when he turned to her, his eyes clear with recognition.
Maybe this was a good day.
Esme smiled softly. "I just wanted to come say goodbye. I need to head home."
He nodded. "Okay. Thanks for coming."
"I'll…see you next week, all right?"
"Sure. We'll be here." He turned away from her, his eyes once again focusing at the spot across from him.
Esme swallowed back tears. "I love you, Edward."
Edward glanced at her, rolling his eyes as he flushed slightly in embarrassment. "I love you too, Mom."
She leaned in to kiss the top of his head, her lips lingering for just a moment before she turned to walk away. She heard Edward laugh joyfully as she crested the hill, and her heart stuttered at the mix of emotions the sound evoked.
He was happy, true. But he was also lost. And Esme feared he would never be found.
Actually, it was more than just fear.
For Esme Cullen had visions of her own, visions she kept to herself, but which were just as strong as her son's…and just as proven.
She'd seen the arrival of Bella into his life…their burgeoning love…their marriage and excitement about becoming parents…all years before the events actually came to pass.
She'd seen the accident as well, Bella's death…Edward's descent into something barely short of madness. She'd fought with her son to try and prevent it from happening.
And just like Edward, she had failed.
Esme swiped a finger under her eyes, wiping away the black, sticky evidence of her tears.
She would not give up. Not this time. Not until the last possible moment.
Not until she couldn't fight any longer.
Esme turned and looked down the hill, gazing one last time at Edward. He leaned forward across the table, raising a hand as if to brush a lock of hair back from a beloved forehead.
She frowned, the sight melting for a moment into her latest recurring vision.
A vision she could not let happen. One that permeated her nightmares and had her determined that this time, fate would not win.
The scenery often changed – sometimes bright with the green of spring or the vivid colors of autumn. Sometimes the sky would nearly sparkle, clear and blue…or it might grow overcast and dark, wind whipping through the trees.
But one thing always remained the same.
Edward, his face weathered and wrinkled, wild hair white with age, sitting at the same worn picnic table, his arm extended in front of him, palm up.
He laughs, unseeing eyes glowing with love, and a beatific smile on his face.
Esme sighed sadly, turning to continue toward the parking lot as the vision prodded at the edge of her consciousness, Edward's haunting words floating to her on the wind.
"I love you," he whispers. "I'll keep you safe."