ENTRY #68 - AU

Truly Anonymous Twilight O/S PP Contest

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Title: Recognition

Picture Prompt Number: 26

Pairing: Bella, Edward

Rating: R

Genre: AU

Word Count (minus A/N and Header): 9975

Summary (250 characters or less, including spaces and punctuation):
One absolute law governs all vampires: Keep the secret. When a gorgeous stranger looks at vampire Bella with recognition, he becomes a liability she must handle. In protecting herself, she finds more than just a human who knows of her world.

Warnings and Disclaimer:
Stephenie Meyer owns Twilight and its characters. No copyright infringement is intended.

Finally, a cloudy day. It's not like they're rare in the city of Port Angeles, but five straight days of sun is absolutely ridiculous. Well, maybe not so much ridiculous—as annoying. I love the sun; I truly do. However, my skin disorder has now made the sun's presence a happy inconvenience. That's right, I suffer from Sparkle Syndrome.

Symptoms of Sparkle Syndrome include—but are not limited to—physical strength that can only be challenged by The Hulk, a displaced need for oxygen, a running speed rivaled by Nascar, blood-red, albino eyes, and pale white, albino skin equipped with built-in light refractors that are only activated by the sun—and tanning booths. I checked.

The first time I diagnosed myself with this disease was five years ago. I woke up, half naked, in the middle of a forest. I had no idea where I was and remembered very little. The only information I retained at the time was my name. I knew my name was Bella.

It was at that point that I looked down and noticed my skin. It was hard to miss—not only because of the lacy bra and tiny shorts I was wearing, but also because of the thousands of bright sparkles bouncing off my body. I looked like I was in a damn Lady Gaga video. If I never heard the song Bad Romance ever again, it would be too soon. People sang that thing to themselves all day long like they think it's our nation's anthem. Perhaps it is; our country does have a very high divorce rate.

I chuckle to myself whenever I think of how I rubbed at my skin furiously, trying to shake off what had to be glitter stuck to it. After I was unsuccessful, I screamed and ran off.

I remember running and running until the most attractive aroma in the world led me to a random house. Instinctively, I burst right through the door, stopping only when my jaw was wrapped around a neck that was pouring hot, delicious blood into my mouth. Once the memory reached the point of dropping the old woman to the floor, my chuckling stopped. There is absolutely no joy to be had in knowing you killed somebody's grandmother.

I never thought the word delicious could be used to describe blood, but it was just that. Nothing compared. Food was repulsive—I could not even bear to swallow it. I should add that as another symptom of Sparkle Syndrome: food allergies.

I've been wandering the surrounding area ever since, learning to harbor control so I can at least interact with society. I don't want to live in the woods for eternity.

It didn't take me too long to develop enough control to resist the temptation to kill every human whose scent crossed my path—only eight months. I'm very stubborn, and when I want something, I do whatever I have to do to get it. I guess I'm pigheaded.

I'm even too pigheaded to use the term vampire most of the time. How ridiculous is it that I'm a vampire? They're not even supposed to exist. Until I come across a unicorn, I refuse to believe that I'm a mythical creature. Yes, I am aware that I'm using denial as a defense mechanism, but some things are hard to accept. I didn't choose this, and it's not fair that I have to be it.

Over time, some of my memories started to come back to me. I spent countless hours just thinking about any detail I could conjure up from my past, and the more effort I put into remembering, the more pictures I would see. I never recalled any emotions that should have accompanied the images. I didn't know how I felt about anything. For example, I remembered that my father was a cop and had a kick-ass mustache, but I didn't know if I liked him or hated him. Had he been a good father? I had no idea. I hoped he was good. He had kind eyes.

I remember a school with nondescript hallways and classrooms. The only two faces I see are of a blond-haired boy and a mousy brown-haired girl, but I don't remember their names or if we were friends.

Then I remember random details like purple bedding, countless trees, dreadlocks, an ugly truck, cactuses, long black hair, and countless other meaningless things. I have no clue where any of it belongs.

I'm trying to make sense of it all as I walk the streets to my favorite part of the city, which I happily call the buffet. It's a great place to choose a meal.

As I make my way on foot and round the corner of First Street, I spot my favorite restaurant. Yes, I have a favorite restaurant, and I can even honestly say that I have eaten there.

The first time I saw the little Italian place, two years ago, I knew I had to go in. I was drawn to the entrance as if I had no choice. I just loved the look of it. It has the cutest red door, and the interior is all beautiful oranges, reds, and golds. The lighting has an intimate feel without being too dark. The only thing that's ugly is the carpet. It just doesn't go with the décor.

I remember being asked if I was meeting someone there, and the hostess's sympathetic expression when I said no. My waitress was a cranky blonde who had way better things to do than wait on my pale ass. I hated her immediately.

I ordered the mushroom ravioli, only because it was the first entree that caught my eye, but regretted that decision when the meal was served. What was I thinking ordering mushrooms? They are a disgusting fungus. I may as well have just gone into somebody's bathroom and licked their shower wall.

As gross as the food was to taste, I reveled in the moment. I closed my eyes and pretended I was just a normal girl having lunch in a normal restaurant. I may have imagined a handsome boy sitting across from me telling me how much he adored me and wanted me to have his babies.

It's not an indulgence I often allow myself, but sometimes I need to feel that I'm me. I'm just Bella. A girl who likes to do normal things, like eat at quaint Italian restaurants and pretend to be on dates with the perfect man.

It angered me when the waitress brought me out of my daydream to rudely ask if I was finished, when she could clearly see that I still had almost all my food on my plate. I decided then what I really wanted for lunch. I paid my bill and left, only to return later that night for my real meal. For someone so bitter, her blood certainly tasted good. I left her body in the dumpster behind the building, because she wasn't even worth hiding. No one would miss her. She was a bitch.

I still don't know what draws me to Bella Italia. My name is Bella, so I'm probably Italian and would therefore have an affinity for the food. Or my ego is gigantic, and I think the restaurant has the perfect name.

I pass other establishments on my walk: the movie theater that I sneak into every week, the antique store that no one can afford to shop at, and the creepy Indian folklore bookshop with the owner who always glares at me for no reason when I walk by. I futilely check to see if he is glaring again this morning. Yes, he is. I smile and wave. I'm so the bigger person.

When I finally reach my destination, I take a seat on my favorite step in the city. This is how I hunt. I sit on this step to watch and listen to all of the people who pass me, then wait for one of them to strike my fancy. I don't really pick them. They more or less pick me.

I sit and wait for the people to start making their way around the city and look back over my shoulder to the other side of the brick walkway. There is a nice couple making their way across with their two small children. They're safe from me. It's obvious they are enjoying the morning and the walkway's distinct old world ambiance. It really is a quaint little spot with the short brick walls that line either side. It looks more like something you would see Oliver Twist running across rather than the pedestrians of the Pacific Northwest. Maybe that is why people use it so much—for its sense of fantasy and culture. Either that, or because of the convenience it provides in getting to the downtown area. Yeah, it's probably that.

I wait and wait for the people to start making their way here. I guess they are a little sluggish on this cloudy morning seeing as they have unnecessarily gotten used to the sun. I take a book from out of my bag to pass the time.

After about an hour, the crowd starts to move, so I put my book away and start my people watching. To be honest, I don't do it just for the hunt—I also find it very interesting. People are weird as hell. The sight that brings me the most entertainment is women with strollers. I don't get why they make them so big when babies are so tiny. Mothers always push them around like they own the damn sidewalk. They always walk too slowly with them, so you get stuck behind them when there are people coming in the opposite direction. And somehow they seem to know when you want to pass them because they start making their way to the side a bit, to cut you off. Then they give you the stink eye when you finally make it around. They're like the Mack trucks of the walking community.

I turn my head again just in time to see a stroller woman roll her eyes at a guy that had to basically do the Two-Step to avoid getting run over by her. Get over yourself, lady. Your baby is probably ugly anyway.

I'm laughing to myself when I then hear the music, and I look around at the people coming my way to spot who has the ear buds. I must find this person. Then I see her. She's bobbing her head, making the wires of her ear buds bounce around her chest, while humming along with the song that I detest more than anything. It's too early in the morning for Bad Romance, and someone needs to tell her that just because Lady Gaga draws her eyeliner all the way to her temples, doesn't mean she should. Damn.

"I like your makeup," I compliment as she makes her way past me. She acknowledges me with only a smile and look of superiority. Yep, that's her. She's my meal today. Apparently being a haughty Little Monster is a crime punishable by death.

I'm about to get up to follow her when I spot a very attractive guy. I admit, part of my people-watching is also to check out hot guys. And boy, is this one hot. I think his cheekbones could cut steak. Women would build monuments in celebration of his perfect messy brown hair alone. Not to mention the altars required for his lips, jaw, shoulders, and deep green eyes. This guy is the total package. There is nothing on him that needs improvement. Nothing. I may have whimpered.

Seeing him is bittersweet. He's so much fun to look at, but that's all I can do. I could never have him. He is destined for someone with a heartbeat—someone who is in the same category in the food chain as him. Someone who couldn't rip off his dick during sex with one vaginal contraction. I haven't tested that theory, but I'm sure it can happen.

I'm going to have to go take out my anger on my Little Monster, but before I stand up, he spots me. His steps falter and his breathing picks up. The sound of his rapidly increasing heart rate is so loud, I'm surprised I'm the only one who can hear it. He slowly continues walking in my direction while blatantly staring at me with wide eyes. Could he seriously be that attracted to me? I like the thought of that.

As he gets closer, I realize that it's not attraction that his looks are conveying.

At first, confusion passes across his perfect features, and then fear. Lastly, his face identifies the one thing a vampire never wants a human to be able express. Recognition. He knows about me. He knows what I am. Well, I guess that explains the fear.

How could he know? He must have encountered our kind before, which confuses me as to why he would have been allowed to live. It must have been a sloppy vampire, or they just didn't know the rules yet. I didn't know them until last year, when I finally came across two nomads who clued me in to our governing royals.

James and Victoria were a skeezy pair. James had asked me to join them in their travels, which made Vickie fly off the handle. I guess she was privy to the time he hit on me. They left town that day, thankfully. James was just gross.

Holding his breath, Hot Guy passes me, trying to hide his conspicuous staring. He is unsuccessful. After he passes, his breath comes back in pants, and his pace increases. He frantically mumbles to himself about how this is impossible and he's gone crazy. I turn my head over my shoulder and watch him speed-walk his way down the path.

I can't let him get away from me. I have to know what he knows, and I probably have to kill him. The thought makes me feel sick. He's just too pretty. My mind quickly tries to convince me that, if I'm going to kill him anyway, I may as well try and have some fun with him. A guy like that just can't go to waste.

No, Bella. That's bad and a little creepy, but he's so pretty. I want to whine and cry about this. However, if I want to follow him and interrogate him, I have to keep my head in the game.

I stand and start to make my way in his direction, thinking about how my original meal choice is going to live to put her paws up another day.

Hot Guy looks back over his shoulder to the spot where I was sitting and sees that it's now vacant. Confusion clouds his features again. He's second-guessing himself, wondering if he really saw what he thinks he saw, and has a look of lament as he realizes he may have imagined it. He wanted to encounter a vampire? How strange. Perhaps he craves Sparkle Syndrome. If he does, he's a moron.

I follow him a safe enough distance away to go unnoticed. He keeps his hands in his pockets and his head down for five blocks until he reaches a building that I assume is where he lives. It's a very nice building. I killed someone here before. The apartments are huge and very nice. Hot Guy has got some money.

I run around to the other side of the building and let myself in a window in one of the hallways on the first floor, and then I run towards the lobby, and see him press the button for the elevator. Deciding to find his apartment by his scent, I head for the stairs and make my way up to the next floor, running through the hallway inhaling the scents coming through the apartment doors. It's not until I reach the third floor that I find his place at the end of the hall. I take a moment to savor the smell, anticipating what it will taste like when I drink Hot Guy's blood. It's going to be very good.

I hear the ding of the elevator arriving and hop out the window that's at the end of the hall. Thankfully, the next window over goes right into Hot Guy's apartment.

I crawl inside and make my way to a place where I won't be seen. When I'm successfully hidden, I take a moment to look around. This place is nice...real nice. Beautiful hardwood floors look like they extend to every room. There are large windows, with billowy sheer curtains, adorning off-white walls. But the furniture is placed randomly, and half-unpacked boxes litter the floors. It's obvious he just moved in.

I hear his key in the lock and shift my attention to the source of the sound. He quickly bursts inside, closing the door behind him and locking it. Ha. Like that will keep me out; I'm already inside. It's a shame that someone so pretty, who knows about vampires, is not very smart about them.

Hot Guy presses his back against the door with a large exhale. He closes his eyes and lets his head fall back against the door, and I allow him his moment of peace to recuperate before starting his interrogation.

I give myself a moment to ogle him as he does this. His open wool coat is falling away from his body, revealing a fitted shirt that does great things for his chest. Long sculpted legs are clad in slim cut, worn denim that leads down to a worn out pair of black Chucks. I smile slightly as I look down at my own worn out black Chucks. I don't know what I'm so giddy about. Almost everyone wears them.

The sound of a deep inhale brings my attention back to the man before me. His intake of breath brings my eyes back to his chest, which is pushing against the fabric of his shirt and showing the defining lines of his body. Maybe I could play with him just a little bit.

Head in the game, Bella!

His throat bobbing with a swallow alerts me that he is going to open his eyes very soon. I leave my hiding spot and stand about six feet in front of him before his eyes open to me.

"How do you know?" I demand as his eyes meet mine.

Hot Guy just about jumps out of his skin. He loses his footing and falls flat on his face.

"Oh my god! Are you okay?" I panic as I try to help him up, because, you know, that's really vampire-like. Hot Guy already has me wrapped around his finger, and I don't have my answers yet. This is not good.

As I'm bent down next to him, he starts to pull himself off the ground when my favorite aroma in the world assaults me. Hot Guy turns his head toward me and again meets my gaze. I see the small red stream seeping from his nose.

"Shit!" I race toward the living room, out of his line of vision, and place both my hands over my mouth and nose. I'm holding my breath and my control as if my life depends on it. I lean against the side of his fireplace, not allowing myself to move—I don't trust myself at the moment.

Eventually, I hear Hot Guy get up and start the kitchen faucet. He must be cleaning himself up. Good. The quicker, the better.

I stand, staring at the entryway to the living room, waiting for him to make his way into the room, but he never comes. He isn't doing anything.

I creep up to the entryway to see him still standing in front of the sink. His hands are holding himself up as he leans into the counter with his head down. I can see the small tremors in his arms, giving away his less than stable mental state at the moment. I would be shaking too if I'd just had the crap scared out of me by a vampire, even if they did offer to help me up.

After a minute, he reaches into his pocket and pulls out his phone. He turns around as he hits a couple buttons, again leaning on the counter, and puts the phone to his ear. I retreat back to my spot next to the fireplace keeping my eyes on the entryway in case he decides to mosey on in here.

I listen along with him as the phone he's trying to reach rings and rings until the call goes to voicemail.

"You've reached the phone of the veritable mack daddy of everything, Emmett Cullen," the message starts.

Cullen. Cullen. Something seems significant about that name. I don't recall an Emmett Cullen and have no mental picture to place with the name, but Cullen sounds like I may have heard it before. It has to be from my human life seeing as I have no tangible memory of it. I wonder if I knew this Emmett Cullen at one time.

"I'm sorry I can't take your call. Leave your name, number, and reason for requiring my awesomeness after the beep." The message ends, and Hot Guy is able to release an annoyed sigh before hearing the beep.

"Hey Emmett, it's me," Hot Guy starts. "Uh...listen...I need you. I don't know what happened. I thought I was doing better, but I'm seeing things. They look real and sound real. I think I'm losing it again."

Okay, this has me intrigued. He thinks I'm a figment of his imagination. His obviously damaged imagination, since it's happening again.

"Alright, I'm not being completely honest," he continues. "I'm not seeing things, I'm seeing…people." He pauses to take a breath. "I'm seeing her. First it was on the street, then in my apartment. She talked to me. It seemed so real. Then in an instant she was gone, and I…I don't...look, can you just come over? Don't tell Mom and Dad, or Alice. They'll worry too much. I just want to talk it out first. And bring liquor. Oh, and since when do you know the meaning of the word veritable?"

The sound of the phone hitting the counter is followed by the refrigerator door opening and the sounds of Hot Guy rummaging through its contents.

I'm stunned into silence. I have no idea what's going on, and as I try to make sense of the words I've just heard, I come up with nothing.

I hear the refrigerator door close and a bottle being opened. Hot Guy takes a long swig of whatever he's drinking. I slowly start to breathe again and find that the smell of blood is gone. The scent of beer is now starting to permeate the air.

A chair scuffing on the kitchen floor tells me Hot Guy is now sitting at his table. I can hear him spinning his bottle cap across the surface.

I remember when, not long ago, Hot Guy was the one who looked confused. Now it's me that is covered in confusion. I saw the look on his face—I saw the fear there. He has to know what I am. What else could he be afraid of when seeing me?

But if he knows, he wouldn't have called somebody to tell them that he's imagining girls all over town. He would have said, "Hey, there's a vampire in my apartment. Tell my family I love them." But that's not what he did. He invited someone else over. Maybe he's going to offer me what sounds like his brother in exchange for his own life. Somehow, I doubt that.

Then I remember how fear and confusion weren't the only things he displayed before. Recognition. He recognized me. I thought he just recognized what I was, but he told Emmett that he saw her. Do I look like her? I must do, because he apparently thinks that's who I am.

Maybe I should just leave and not cause him any more trouble. He really seems like he may have had enough emotional turmoil in his life.

And it would be really mean to kill him when he left a message like that for his brother. His brother would be here soon and find his body, thinking he'd committed suicide. Considering the fact that Hot Guy is losing it again, as he said, it's probably not a far stretch.

As I contemplate what I'm going to do, I distract myself by looking at Hot Guy's belongings. There is a couch and a love seat still wrapped in plastic, so I figure they must be brand new. A rolled up rug leans against the wall in the corner waiting to be laid out. There is a book shelf that is half filled and two boxes marked 'books' sitting in front of it. I squint to see what he's reading. Most of what is shelved seems to be medical journals and text books. He's a smarty pants, I see.

My eyes drift to the mantle of the fireplace I'm standing next to. He has a few pictures already put up, and I see one of him with four other people. The picture screams family photo with the poses everyone is in. I'm going to guess the large dark-haired guy next to him is Emmett. His family is beautiful—all of them perfect, just like him.

The next picture is of a soccer team wearing navy and gold uniforms, and the middle two boys holding a sign that says Forks High. I wrinkle my noise at that piece of information. I passed through the small town of Forks once. I'll never go back there. It smells atrocious, like a dirty wet animal. I spot Hot Guy right away. He has the same exact hair. He must have been quite the ladies man in high school.

The last picture almost makes me fall over. If I were human, I would faint. Hot Guy has the happiest look on his face, his smile so beautiful. He is sitting on a large rock in a forest, and he has his arms wrapped around a young girl with long, dark hair and big, brown eyes. The expression on her face is just as happy. At the bottom of the picture, someone has added in elegant script "Bella and Edward 2006".

Am I being Punked?

I stare at the picture for an immeasurable amount of time, but no matter how I turn the picture or how much I shake it, it's still my face that is staring back at me. It mocks me with a happiness that I have no recollection of ever feeling. I can see the differences that my change has made to my face, but there is no denying that this is me, while I was human.

Hot Guy has a picture of me. Hot Guy has a picture of us together. We were together. The recognition he showed on his face earlier wasn't because he knows what I am, but because he knows who I am. He knows me. He misses me. He keeps my picture on his mantle. I'm her.

The revelation has me breathing quickly and feeling emotions I didn't know I had. I need answers. I need to know what he knows so that I can finally know who I am.

Taking the picture with me, I go back to the kitchen. Hot Guy's back is to me as he sits at the table. I guess I should start calling him Edward, so I do just that.

"Edward?" I call softly.

Startled, he jumps again and falls out of his chair. I hope he doesn't bleed again—I really want to stay in the room this time.

I kneel beside him again on the floor to help him up. When his eyes land on me, he rears away from me quickly until he backs up against the table and hits his head.

"Ow! What the fuck?" He rubs the spot on the back of his head with his eyes closed. When he reopens them and sees that I'm still in front of him, he starts to panic.

"You're not real. There's no way," he breathes out.

"I'm as real as you are," I answer back softly. I don't want to startle him again. He's apparently skittish.

"No, you're not. Impossible." He sounds a bit surer of his words this time.

"Yes, I am."

"No! You're not fucking real!" he yells at me.

"Then why the hell are you talking to me?" I yell back. For that he has no answer. He only stares at me.

"I need you to tell me about this picture." I hold up the frame in my hand.

Edward looks between the picture and my face a few times before saying anything. "Uh, that was taken a week before graduation, a week before…," he trails off with a far away look on his face.

"Before what?" I ask.

The expression on his face when I ask that question is hurt, and maybe a little angry. "Before you…How are you even here? Are you a ghost, or have I finally gone crazy?"

"A ghost? Why would I be a ghost?" I wonder if it's because my skin is so pale.

Edward looks at me like I'm missing something very crucial. Then I have a moment of recognition.

"Oooh. You think I died." I point out as if it were a trivial fact. That makes Edward a tad angry.

"Think you died?" he asks angrily. "You think that I only think you died? Is this a sick joke you're playing?" His voice starts to break, and I can see tears start to well up in his eyes. He is obviously hurting, and I don't want to hurt him.

"I'm sorry. I didn't mean to upset you. I honestly don't remember. I have no memory of anything that happened in my life before the summer of two thousand six," I tell him.

"You don't remember anything?" he asks, sadness inflecting his tone.

"Some things. Only glimpses here and there. I remembered my name. That's about it."

"So, you really are here in my kitchen? I'm not imagining this? You're not a ghost?"

"Yes, I'm really here. If I was a ghost, would I be able to do this?" I pull the picture I'm still holding in front of me and move it around in circles, which makes me feel kind of stupid.

"Um, I really don't know. They can in some movies, but I don't think that's really an accurate guide to use," he answers back.

"No, it's not. You can't believe everything in the movies." I know that first hand. "Do you want to get up off the floor? You don't look very comfortable."

"Um, yeah. We can go in the living room and talk if you want," he offers coolly. I think he's in shock. We both stand from our places on the floor, and I follow him to the couch as he finally takes off his coat, revealing his grey t-shirt. He pauses when he sees the thick plastic still covering the furniture. Wrapping his hands around the plastic, he tries to rip it apart to clear a place for us to sit comfortably, but it's not easily ripped by a human's bare hands. I hide my smile at his struggling, not wanting to emasculate him at all. He may not have it ripped off, but he is doing some damage.

"Here, allow me," I interrupt as I hand him the picture. My fingers easily slide through the plastic, and I quickly tear it open, ripping the whole piece from the couch. I make quick work of rolling it up and tossing it aside.

Edward stares at me wide-eyed again, so I just shrug and say, "You just have to find the weak spot in the plastic." He doesn't need to know that the whole piece was the weak spot for me.

We both sit on the couch facing one another, each of us folding a leg beneath us. I extend my hand out to him—silently asking for the picture back. He willingly hands it to me and watches as I inspect it further. My eyes were so pretty. I wish they were still that color. I catch my reflection in the glass to see what they look like today. Since it's been a little over a week since I've fed, the red has dulled, giving way to the darkness that encompasses them when I get thirsty. They look a bit brownish. I hope that's enough for him not to notice.

"Are you wearing contacts?" he blurts out. Well, shit.

"No," I answer simply.

"Your eyes look different."

"I was just noticing that," I say, holding up the picture slightly.

"You didn't notice before?"

"I had no memory of the color they were before, so there was nothing for me to notice."

"Oh." He looks a little disappointed at that. "Bella, do you remember me?" he asks with an almost unreadable expression. I can tell, though, that he is desperate for me to say yes.

I look him in the eyes and subtly shake my head. I see his face fall as he tries to hold himself together, not wanting the tears that are brimming to spill over onto his cheeks. It's obvious that he's still in mourning, so I let him have his moment to compose himself.

I take that moment to examine the picture more. We both look so happy. I was happy. I had a wonderful boyfriend who might even still love me. I look to Edward again, seeing him try not to break down, and I feel like I want to cry, too. We both lost something. I was just luckier, being the one who never knew it. I guess ignorance really is bliss.

"We were happy, weren't we?" I ask, not able to stall the questions any longer.

He looks at me with a sad smile on his face and nods. "We shared the kind of love most people only dream of finding," he answers.

Wow. That's a heavy statement. I don't know what to say to that. I don't doubt what he says is true—the picture says the same thing.

"You really grew up," I offer, trying to lighten the mood a bit.

"Yeah, I filled out," he says with a chuckle. I smile at him.

"You look good," I compliment.

"You look amazing," he answers back, and I smile again. "You look the same, but different. I can't place exactly what it is. But you look like you haven't aged at all. I can tell that you need more sun, though."

That causes me to laugh. "Do you have any more pictures I can see?" I ask, hoping he has something that can maybe spark some memories for me.

"Yeah, I do." He goes over to the boxes marked 'books' and starts digging through them. He pulls out a photo album and another book and brings them over. He hands me the book.

"What's this?" I ask.

"That's our yearbook." Oh. Duh.

I open it and start paging through the pictures. I see a few that I'm in, and in almost all of them, I'm with Edward.

"I was prom queen?" I ask disbelievingly.

Edward barks out a laugh. "Yes, you were prom queen, and you were just as baffled then as you are now. You thought Jessica was going to win by a landslide, but it was the other way around."

I have no idea who Jessica is, but I don't say anything. I keep paging through until I land on a photo with the blond-haired boy and mousy brown-haired girl I remember.

"Who are they?" I ask excitedly.

"That's Mike Newton and Jessica Stanley. They lost to us at the prom. Do you remember them?" he asks.

"I remember their faces, but that's all. I didn't know where I remembered them from. Was I friends with them?"

"More or less. Sometimes more. Sometimes less."

"Was it me that was fickle, or them?"

"Oh, definitely them. You always gave them chance after chance to redeem themselves every time they screwed things up with you. You were always too forgiving of them, in my opinion," he explains.

"What would they do to screw it up?" I wonder aloud.

"Well, Jessica would try to steal your boyfriend, and Mike would try to steal you."

"And we never ended up on Jerry Springer? I guess that constitutes a successful friendship."

Edward laughs. Our walk down memory lane seems to have distracted him from breaking down.

"You were voted most likely to succeed," I state with an air of pride in my voice. Yes, I'm proud of the boyfriend I didn't know I had. He nods to confirm my statement.

"And it also says," I start again, looking back to the page, "that you were most likely to break women's hearts with your panty-dropping smile."

"What?" he asks, grabbing the book from my hand to see for himself. "It doesn't say that."

"I know," I state, laughing, and he joins in.

"For someone who doesn't remember who they are, you sure are exactly the same person," Edward points out.

"Really?"

"Yep. You haven't changed at all."

His statement gives me comfort. I'm glad to know that being changed into a vampire hasn't made me lose myself. Maybe I am a normal girl, after all. A normal girl who drinks blood. That's not very normal.

I turn a few more pages, examining all the people I don't recognize. I come across a picture of me with the same small, dark-haired girl in the photo of Edward's family on the mantle.

"Is this your sister?"

"Yes. Alice. She was your best friend." I hear the sadness return in his tone, so I offer him a small smile. Then I come across a picture of a platinum blonde girl that makes my eyes widen and my breath stutter.

"Who is that?" I choke out.

Edward leans in to see who I'm pointing at. "Ugh. That would be Lauren Mallory. You recognize her?"

"Were we friends?" I ask, scared to know the answer.

Edward snorts in response. "Not at all. You hated her, and that was a lot coming from you. You didn't normally hate anyone." I relax at his answer, feeling relieved. "She was a total bitch. No one liked her, but it was sad what happened to her."

Oh my God, he knows.

"What exactly was that?" I was dying to know what he knew.

"Um, about three years ago, she was in a car accident while away at college. She had a lot of head trauma, and she lost a lot of memories. It was a shame because she was trying to break out in the movie business and had even landed a small role in a major film, but the accident was before filming, so she couldn't do it."

Hmm, maybe he didn't know. "That's a shame." I add sympathetically.

"That's not all."

Damn.

"She was working here, in Port Angeles, at Bella Italia two years ago. She was murdered, though. They found her body in the dumpster behind the restaurant. Apparently, she was brutally killed. Her body was maimed pretty badly. They never found the killer."

I'm floored that I killed one of my classmates. Thankfully, she was not a friend. I don't know how well I would handle knowing something like that. I decide I don't want to look at the yearbook anymore, just in case I come across any more familiar faces.

I set the book aside, but can't help but grab for the photo album. My curiosity is too strong. Edward props his elbow on the back of the couch, holding his head in his hand as he watches me peruse the pictures. The album is mostly filled with the two of us in almost every possible setting you can think of—it looks like we went everywhere together. I'm surprised by the number of photos there are of the two of us kissing—in almost all the photos we're touching in some way. I guess we couldn't keep our hands to ourselves. There are also sporadic pictures of us with his family or other friends from school; I don't remember any of them. One picture of me with a dark-haired man catches my eye.

"That's my dad!" I exclaim. I recognize the mustache and kind eyes. My eyes—I can now tell after seeing the pictures.

"You remember him?" Edward asks, also excited that I know who my father is.

"Some things I do. I know he's a cop."

"Yes, he is. He's the chief of Forks, actually."

"Was he nice?" I need to know.

"Very. He loved you so much." I smile at the knowledge. My father loved me. I like the way that makes me feel. "My family adored you, as well," Edward continues. "They were all heartbroken when…." He doesn't finish, so I guess it's time to address the elephant in the room.

"Edward, how did I die?" I ask carefully, not knowing how he'll react.

Edward's eyes fall to his lap, and his heart rate increases. He takes a few breaths before he answers, "Uh…you were attacked by an animal." He's not looking at me, and his body twitches with noticeable tics that make me angry.

"You're lying," I accuse. Why would he lie about such a thing? What does he have to hide? I close the album that is still in my lap and set it on the floor. Edward continues to look down, but I can see a deep look of concentration on his face.

"What are you thinking about?" I demand.

He finally looks back at me, a little startled at the heated look on my face. "I just don't understand how you're here...how you could have survived," he answers and looks down to ponder again.

"Survived what?"

Edward gets that faraway look on his face again. His throat bobs with a swallow as he contemplates what to tell me.

"I saw him; I was there." He pauses to brace himself from whatever horrible memory he's reliving. "He practically tore your throat right out."

Holy. Crap. Edward was there. He saw me get attacked by the vampire who probably changed me. How did he make it out alive? Now I understand his reluctance to tell me. He probably thought I would think he was nuts, telling me about vampires. Ha. You'd be preaching to the choir, Edward.

"Can you please tell me everything that happened that day?" I plead.

Edward takes a deep breath before he starts. "It was the day of graduation. We had been so busy during the weeks prior, studying for exams and writing college admission essays. We had barely been able to spend any time together."

"We had one final exam that morning, and then we would have the rest of the day to ourselves before we had to go to graduation. It was a nice sunny day, and I wanted to do something special for you, so I packed lunch and a blanket and took you to our meadow."

"What's our meadow?" I ask, confused. He looks almost hurt as he answers. I have to stop doing that.

"It's one of our favorite places. There's a clearing that is about a mile into the woods behind my house, and it gets covered with wild flowers in the spring and summer. When we wanted to go on dates, we would usually go there, or to Bella Italia, where we had our first date. Both places were special to us."

Well that would explain why I was so drawn to that restaurant. I had already spent a lot of time there. I chuckle as I think about how I would pretend to be there with the perfect guy, now knowing that he had already accompanied me there.

"What?" he asks, wanting to be let in on what had made me smile.

"I love that place. I never knew why I liked going there so much during the past couple of years. I guess I know now." Edward smiles at my answer, probably happy that I have actually managed to keep a part of him somewhere deep inside of me, despite my lack of memories. "Continue, please," I coax, wanting the rest of the story.

"Right. Uh, so we had gone to the meadow and had our lunch and talked about everything we didn't get the chance to in the weeks prior. We mostly talked about the future. High school was over, and we were both scared as to what that would mean for us. We didn't know how we were going to survive if we went to different colleges."

"Shouldn't we have already known where we were going to go by that late in the year?"

"Yeah, technically. I had already gotten accepted to NYU—that's where I really wanted to go. We still hadn't heard from them concerning you, so we furiously tried to find any schools accepting late applications, that we could both apply to that could also accommodate our majors. You wanted to study literature, and I wanted to go pre-med."

"Damn, we had our work cut out for us."

"No kidding. It was so stressful. Anyway, we talked about our fears and made promises to each other that, no matter what happened to us, we would always be with each other. We would never let anything—not even distance—come between us. I actually asked you to marry me."

"You did what?" I ask incredulously. I'm sure my eyes are as big as bowling balls.

Edward chuckles before continuing. "It wasn't a grand proposal or anything. I was an eighteen-year-old kid. I had no ring. I asked it spontaneously, but I still meant it. You said yes." His voice drops to a low murmur.

"Wow," I state, almost in shock. I was engaged. It wasn't a formal engagement, but I did promise myself to him. "What happened next?" I ask, wanting him to continue.

Edward looks to his lap again with a shy look on his face. I notice his ears start to grow pink around the edges.

I quietly gasp when I realize what he's communicating without words. I had sex with Hot Guy? Holy hell! Go me! The only thing that could make that better would be remembering it.

"Did we have sex, Edward?" I lightly nudge his foot with my own as I tease him.

"We made love that day, yes," he clarifies as we both hold back laughter. Banter with him is easy and fun.

"Was that our first time?"

"God, no," he states, as if it's the most obvious thing in the world. "I was eighteen and had the most beautiful girl in the world. I don't know how much control you think I had."

He thinks I'm the most beautiful girl in the world. I want to melt.

"I'm guessing that what happened next was where things started to go wrong?" I hedge.

"Pretty much. When we noticed the time, we knew we had to get back to the school, so we started getting dressed. You had just pulled on those little shorts you always wore to drive me crazy, when..," he pauses to collect himself again. I guess this is the part that has haunted him for the past five years.

"He came out of nowhere," he explains, still looking mystified at how it was possible.

"He? Who's he?"

"I don't know who he was. He had long, thick dreadlocks and red eyes; bright red eyes." That explains the images of the dreadlocks that my memory still holds onto. Edward continues. "But that wasn't the strangest thing about him. You're going to think I'm crazy, but his skin sparkled like there were thousands of little diamonds all over him. It was the weirdest thing I've ever seen.

"Neither of us had noticed him before; I had no clue how he got to you so fast. I was packing up our things when I heard you scream, and he already had you on the ground. I panicked and tried to pull him off of you, but he grabbed my neck and shoved me face first into the ground and held me there. He was so strong. I couldn't move, but I could still watch what was happening. You were screaming and trying to push him away. I remember hearing you begging me to help you, but I was completely powerless."

This is obviously difficult for him to talk about—the stress of it is starting to wear on him. He takes a few deep breaths and wipes at his eyes before he continues.

"What happened next is a bit of a blur because it happened so fast, but I know what I saw. He bit you in the neck. Actually, he didn't just bite—he tore into you. I can't imagine the pain you felt; the screams you made were horrifying. Then he just stopped. He looked past me to the edge of the clearing with this look of panic on his face. Then he picked you up and ran the other way. Right before he disappeared into the trees, I caught a glimpse of two other people: a man and a woman. They all ran off together. That was the last time I saw you."

At that, I was confused. "Why did they run?"

"Something was after them," he replied a little nervously.

"What?"

"I'm not really supposed to say."

I plead at him with my eyes, and he sighs. "Wolves. Huge wolves."

Now that's news to me. "Why the hell would vampires run away from wolves, Edward?" I ask, almost as if he's mentally slow.

His face is stupefied. "How…why would you think they were vampires?" he stutters.

"Look at me, Edward. What do you think happened? You said you have no idea how I could have survived. Look at my neck." I pull my collar aside. "Do you see any scarring? If my neck was torn out, don't you think it would be disfigured? You noticed my eyes. They're red. They just appear darker now because I need to feed, and my skin sparkles in the sunlight just like the vampire you saw. He didn't kill me, he turned me."

Edward's face falls with the realization, and I can tell he's heartbroken by this knowledge. "I don't understand. They told me you were you dead."

"Who told you?"

"The wolves."

"Oh, so now they're talking wolves," I patronize. It just seems ridiculous to me.

Edward narrows his eyes. "They're not talking wolves. They're shape-shifters. The Quileute Indian tribe lives near Forks, and some of their young men shift into wolves to protect the tribe from vampires."

"You mean like werewolves?"

Edward nods. Now it makes more sense. I wonder if he's ever seen a unicorn, because he apparently knows more about the supernatural than I do.

"They found us, but unfortunately a moment too late. They killed the one who attacked you, but weren't able to catch the other two. They told me that they were the ones that ended up taking you, and that you were already dead."

It's strange hearing this story. I'm glad to know, but I also feel angry and cheated. It sounds like I had a lot to live for as a human.

"You were good friends with one of the shape-shifters." Edward brings me out of my self pity. "Do you remember Jake?"

Now that sounds familiar. I play around with the name in my head, finding that an image wants to go with the name.

"Did he have long black hair?" I ask, hoping that I have something else right.

Edward scoffs. "Him, you remember. Of course."

"What's that supposed to mean?" I'm actually a bit offended.

"Nothing. Forget it."

"How did you find out about all of this? Did the talking wolves let you in on all their secrets?"

I'm met with an eye roll. That, somehow, seems familiar.

"Yeah. They had to tell me everything and make sure I kept my mouth shut about all of it. We deemed your death an animal attack. I said it was a bear. I've never told anyone, not even my family. Carrying that secret while trying to grieve, and make sense of it all, made everything harder. Do you know how difficult it is to accept that the person you love most in the world was killed by something that isn't even supposed to exist? I was messed up for a long time."

Unconsciously, I reached for his hand to try to provide some form of comfort. He flinches slightly at the cold, alien feel of my skin on his, but doesn't pull away.

"I want you to tell me something," he says, changing the subject, obviously not comfortable talking about his messed-up phase. He absentmindedly links our fingers like it's the most natural thing in the world. "I want to know how you ended up in my apartment when you didn't know who I was."

I guess it's only fair to give him answers now.

"When you looked at me in the street, I thought you knew what I was. That kind of makes you a liability."

He pales when he realizes what I mean. "You were going to kill me," he states, and I only nod with an apologetic look on my face. "I still know what you are," he hedges, fishing for my motives.

"Don't worry; I'm not going to kill you. But I am very thirsty, and you do smell incredible. Just so you know," I tease him.

"I do?" he asks, surprised.

"Mm hmm," I confirm. "Like honey and lilac—sweet and fragrant."

Edward's brow furrows. "It's really strange having someone tell you what flavor you are. Everyone's different?"

"If you take the care to notice, then yes. You can taste the differences between people." What a weird conversation to have with a human.

"So you kill people?" he asks, already knowing the answer.

"It's the only way I can survive. Does it bother you?" I wonder how forgiving he is.

"Yes," he admits. However, the fact that he's still holding my hand doesn't go unnoticed. "But I'm more bothered by the fact that you have to. It pains me to know that you had to deal with everything alone—figuring out what you were. You must have been so scared." How sweet is he?

"It was scary at first, but I learned quickly. I didn't know of any other type of life to compare it to, so I didn't know what I was missing." I'm not particularly thrilled with my existence, but I don't want to him to feel bad.

"And do you know now?"

"I have a good idea."

Edward's grip on my hand loosens enough to move down to my fingers. He watches as he plays with them, and I delight in his warm touch, but I don't tell him.

"You feel so different," he observes.

"I am different."

"I guess so. It's strange, though, because even with how different you are, I can still feel that it's your hand I'm touching."

I scoff at that. My hand feels nothing like that of a human's. "I doubt that." And I burst his bubble. Again. Why do I keep doing that?

"You don't believe me?" he asks, and I shake my head. "Bella, I know you don't remember, but believe me when I say that I have spent countless hours memorizing everything about your body."

I have no words to respond to that, but, internally, I want to fist pump. He moves slightly closer to me.

"I could never mistake the feeling of your hands on my skin...the feather-light touches across my body. Not to say that you never got aggressive," he says with a smirk.

He's getting a bit too intense, but who am I to stop him? He obviously needs to get this all out as some form of healing. I'm not letting it go on because it's very exciting to hear him speak to me this way. Nope. Not at all. He moves closer still.

"I could never forget the shape of your cheek from the countless times I cradled your face in my hands. So soft, smooth, and perfect. You still look like porcelain. You have the softest hair I think anyone could ever have. The way it so easily fell through my fingers when I ran my hands through it was mesmerizing."

He reaches his hand out, as if to demonstrate. When his fingertips reach my hair, my eyes intently follow the view of his wrist coming closer to my face. Edward realizes his blunder when he notices my expression, which could only be described as animalistic longing. I hear the increase in the rate of his heartbeat as he pulls his hand away.

He ignores the situation and continues on as if nothing has happened. "And I'd be a damn fool if I ever forgot the shape of your lips and how they felt against mine. There is nothing in this world that feels more right— more complete—than your kiss. Nothing."

I suddenly want to know what he knows and feel what he feels. I want to have the memories of what we shared burned in my mind the way they're burned in his. I want it so badly. I wonder if he can refresh my memory.

As if reading my mind, he reaches for me again—this time cupping my neck and keeping the veins of his wrist under my chin. I try not to think about the pulse that is so close to my face. It's actually fairly easy, since there is something I want more.

His hand reaches further back until his fingers are buried in my hair and he's pulling me closer. He doesn't close his eyes. He's watching me carefully, probably scared that I could disappear from him at any moment.

His breathing is labored, and he's so close. I see his throat coming at me, but I try to ignore it. Can I kiss him without killing him? Can I put my mouth on him without giving in to the desire to bite? I doubt that I can, but I am going to try. And, if I fail…well, I don't even want to think about that.

The distance between us is about to be closed—I can almost taste him now.

Suddenly, a loud, raucous pounding at the door makes Edward jump back three feet with a startled curse falling from his lips. I sigh. It's probably better this way.

"Edward, why the fuck is the door locked? I have your liquor, asshole. Let me in!" Emmett yells from outside.

Edward catches his breath and apologizes. "Sorry, that's my brother, Emmett."

"He sounds nice," I offer, causing Edward to laugh.

"Yeah, he's a real gentleman, that one. I should probably let him in."

"Edward, seriously! You called me, remember?" Emmett continues.

Edward pleads with his eyes. "I don't want you to go."

I don't want to go either...now that I've found myself...found him. I don't want to be alone anymore, and there are still so many unanswered questions. Edward knows the answers to all of them, but more importantly, he is the answer to most of them. My instincts tell me to stay with him, to trust him. So that is what I do.

"Edward, how good is Emmett at keeping secrets?"