ENTRY #88 - AU

Truly Anonymous Twilight O/S PP Contest
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Title: Redemption
Picture Prompt Number: 42
Pairing: Edward
Rating: M
Genre: AU/Canon, General
Word Count (minus A/N and Header): 1861

Summary (250 characters or less, including spaces and punctuation): Wracked by guilt over his failure to protect Bella, Edward wanders the streets of Rio, lonely and without purpose. Will a chance encounter with another brown-eyed girl offer him the redemption he so desperately seeks?

Warnings and Disclaimer: Rated M for language, sexual situations, inference of assault.


She looks like Bella.

Not exactly, of course, but she bears enough of a resemblance that I decide to follow her.

She's older—early twenties I figure. Her clothes are shabby, but clean. She's slender and has long, brown hair and big, brown eyes, all of which she uses to entice the man off the street and into a dark, filthy alley in the slums of Rio.

He thinks vile thoughts as he pulls down his pants and reaches up her dress. She thinks of the money she'll bring home tonight and how she'll be able to stop at the market tomorrow and buy fresh fruit for her son.

I want to make sure he doesn't hurt her, so I settle myself across the street. I quickly tune out their thoughts—as well as the sounds they're making—and rest my head against the wall of a dilapidated shack, my mind drifting to Bella.

Always to Bella.

Hoping she's alright, willing myself to believe I did the right thing. Convincing myself she'll forget me and move on.

The man emerges from the shadows, looking smug and satisfied. As he ambles away, I tune into his mind and he's congratulating himself on having sex with two different women tonight. A few minutes later, the girl emerges, smoothing down her dress and running her fingers through her hair. While her face is blank, her thoughts are anything but.

Disgust. Self-hatred. Misery. They're all there and I know them well.

I follow her home and make sure she's safe inside before I turn away.

I failed to keep Bella safe and it's eating me up inside. So in a twisted effort to offset that mistake, I'm going to try to make amends by doing a better job with this girl.

I spend tonight kicking a half-eaten apple around the side streets, wondering how long it will take until the rats snatch it away from me.

Fifty-seven minutes, a lot longer than I thought.

Game over, I go back to my room. I open the window and count the stars in the sky. When I've counted all I can see, I mark the number in a notebook.

It's the exact same number as last night.

It's a cloudy day, so I venture out. The humidity is high and the smells coming from the street are rancid. I head toward the market, curious if I will spy the girl.

I do. She's standing on a corner, a basket hooked on her arm. She reaches in and grabs a handful of açai berries, stuffing them into her mouth. When she bites down, they explode between her teeth and deep purple juice drips from the side of the mouth; it looks almost like blood.

I walk away.

High atop Corcovado Mountain, the Christ the Redeemer statue welcomes all. I watch the crowds staring up at the giant figure, crossing themselves, clinging to their crucifixes, snapping pictures. I wonder what they would do if I scaled the statue and stood on top of its head, arms outstretched, mimicking its pose. Really give them a show. If I ever see Emmett again, I'll have to tell him my idea; I'm sure he'll get a kick out of it.

When I finally run into the girl again, she's sitting on the ground in front of a wooden fence, head resting on her knees. She looks much younger in her jeans and hoodie. She looks like how I imagined Bella did when I left her in the woods.

I don't want to intrude on her solitude, but I can't help myself. From a nearby bench, I listen to her thoughts.

Her son is dead, victim of a stray bullet, the result of street gang violence. She's thinking of how she promised him that one day they would move to a nice house with green grass and a back yard to play in. She's sure if she had been home watching him instead of selling her body for money, he would still be alive.

Her pain washes through me and I stand up and cross the street, wanting to see her, wanting to offer some sort of comfort. Tell her I know how it feels to be parted from someone you love. But when I get to the other side of the fence, she's gone.

I'm on my way back from hunting in the outskirts of the city. I take the long way back to my room, picking my way through the streets I know she frequents. Prostitutes are on every street corner. They call to me, touch me when I pass by and I shrug them off.

I search alley after alley with no luck. It's not until I double back that I hear muffled cries and smell freshly spilled blood.

Rounding the corner, a man literally runs into me. Money falls to the ground as he puts up his hands to stop himself. I grab his arms and push him back into the alley.

"Where do you think you're going?" I ask.

"None of your business," he answers, sneering. " Who the fuck are you anyway? Her keeper?"

"A friend." I slam him into the wall and he groans.

I look around and see the girl, crouched on the ground. She has a black eye and a bloody, swollen lip. I turn back to him, so consumed with rage I almost forget how delicious her blood smells.

"You bastard." My hand goes around his throat and I squeeze. My thumb presses against the pulse in his neck; I'm caught off guard by the feelings that rush through me.

Memories of darker days come flooding back.

This man is a worthless piece of scum, no better than the fetid trash surrounding us. Apparently I'm worthless, too, since I can't seem to protect anybody. Why should I deny myself any longer?

I wonder if Alice knows what I'm thinking. Would she tell Carlisle? He would be disappointed in me. That thought alone is almost enough to stop me, but when I think about what this asshole has done to this poor, defenseless creature…

She's still here, cowering against the wall, frightened.

"Go," I tell her." She doesn't move. "If you know what's good for you, go!" I shout.

The girl jumps to her feet and slips out the alley. I turn my attention back to the man under my hand.

Since my hand is covering his mouth, he can't speak, but of course it doesn't matter. I hear all his fears, his pleas for mercy, his attempts to formulate an escape.

"Why do you do this?" I ask. "Cheap thrill?" His heart rate spikes and I have my answer.

I shake my head in disgust. "There are so many better things to do in life than steal from and beat up innocent girls. What I would've given to discover those things when I was still human…" My voice trails away and he opens his eyes, confused.

"It's been a while, but I used to be all about cheap thrills, too." I squeeze a little harder and his eyes bulge out in panic. Venom drips down my throat.

"But I didn't prey on the innocent; I preyed on the guilty. The dregs of society. Like you."

He struggles harder, but I keep him subdued.

Need swells up from the pit of my stomach.

"Maybe I'm not so different from you after all."

I lunge forward and bite his neck, tear his flesh open. Drink…

God, this tastes good. Euphoric. So much better than I remember.

I apologize to Carlisle before surrendering fully to instinct.

The man's body twitches and shakes, adrenaline giving him strength. But I'm stronger.

I'm also sloppy. His carotid artery rips in half and blood spurts all over my shirt. He makes this gurgling noise that goes straight to the pit of my stomach; I swallow my guilt along with the rest of his blood.

A few minutes later, I toss his limp body aside. I slump down the wall, high on human blood, but low on self-respect.

A startled gasp brings me out of my stupor. "Jesus Christ, what have you done?"

I open my eyes to find the girl staring down at the body, horrified.

"What happened? God, why is he so pale?" She can't seem to take her eyes off him. Those brown eyes, just like Bella's.

"He hurt you. I couldn't let him walk away from that, give him the opportunity to hurt you—or somebody else—again."

"Shit, he looks like a fucking ghost, like his blood has been drained…" She stops and looks at me. Really looks at me. Red eyes. Blood-stained mouth and shirt.

She starts to back away, hand over her mouth, eyes wide. She's disgusted, terror-stricken and it kills me.

"I couldn't keep Bella safe, but I promise I won't let you down." I reach up to her, too dazed to stand.

"Don't touch me," she whispers. "Stay the fuck away from me."

"I won't hurt you. I just want to be your friend. Protect you."

"No. I don't want to be your friend. Just leave me alone, please." She turns and runs, never looking back. I watch her until she disappears behind the edge of the building.

I won't follow her anymore. Once again, I've failed another innocent human girl.

After what seems like hours, I finally get up. By the time I shuffle out of the alley, the rats are already moving in to take my place.

When I get back to my room, I lie on my bed, gazing out the window at the stars like I do every single night.

I'm immobilized by my despair. I can't do this anymore.

My cell phone rings, startling me. It's probably Carlisle; he's the only one who calls me anymore. I usually ignore him, but this time loneliness compels me to answer. I reach for the phone without checking the number.

"Hello, Carlisle."

"Edward…it's me."

"Rosalie?" I sit up, suddenly feeling tense. "What the hell do you want?"

"Edward, it's about Bella. There was an accident. She's… dead."

The rest of what she says becomes jumbled and distant. Through the fog in my mind, I hear the words "cliff-diving" and "drowned", but it doesn't matter how. Bella is gone.

Rosalie is still babbling on when I crush the phone in my hand. I want to be crushed and turned into dust, too. I know where I need to go. What I need to do.

Hours later, I'm ascending high above the city. As the plane banks left, I catch a glimpse of Christ the Redeemer. I think about the girl I failed down below and hope she finds peace. I think about how I failed Bella and hope she finds the happiness I ripped away from her. I think about how much I loved her, how much I'll always love her and how I can't exist in a world where she doesn't.

I think about myself and what I'm going to say to the Volturi when I ask them to destroy me.

Redemption, here I come.