This is the last chapter.
All Saturday I was on high alert. High. In case Edward rang, or texted. I figured if I called him it would be two days in a row and he'd think I was chasing him. I wasn't quite ready to put myself out there like that, although fuck, I wanted to chase him. Even more, I wanted to catch him. Some of my friends called about a party but I blew them off, preferring to sit with my earbuds in, fiddling from track to track on my i-pod, cell tucked into my jeans pocket, set to vibrate.
No call came, though. Not during the day, not in the evening, not the next morning. Throw me a fucking bone here, Edward! I couldn't blame him. Me and my fucking mixed messages - I don't want to date, I like you, I'll never have sex with you, touch me. Sure Bella, no way he could find any of that confusing.
Dad had asked what was going on with me and Edward Cullen and I'd said nothing. Big fat nada. Then Dad had zipped the lip, without further comment. I wasn't grounded, I wasn't even given a warning. Did that mean he wasn't going to disapprove if anything did happen? Hell if I knew.
Sunday my fingers had inched their way to speed dial so many times I was ready to throw my fucking phone into the trash when suddenly it buzzed. Oh my God. The name I was waiting for lit up on the screen.
"Bella?" Edward asked, his voice strange and tight. "I need to see you."
Oh, fuck - I need to see you, too.
He came and picked me up and he said nothing in the car. He was biting his lip. He was frowning and pale and deadly serious and the intensity that always emanated from him was like a fucking forcefield, making the hairs on my arms stand on end because of the electricity in the air between us.
We stopped at the Lookout Point on the way out of town and he opened my door, then shoved his hands so deeply into his pockets you'd have thought he was trying to mine for uranium down there. Everything about him said Warning, and Alarm, and Danger. He was so beautiful my heart was going to explode. So tall and skinny, and almost haloed with the way his hair blazed in the late sun.
Something was going to happen. Something big, and I was off my fucking head on excitement and anticipation. I'd never liked a guy - because guys are pointless, right? Well, not completely, because they can move heavy things, and they're taller, which is useful when you want to reach something that's on a high shelf. But other than that, they're clever in a useless way about things that don't matter. Things that involve numbers and measurements and dry, featureless data. They want to be so fucking rational, to work out a formula and then apply it. Ask a boy about the sound of rain and he'll fucking turn it to maths or physics or something. They are reductionists. And why the fuck do they attribute any importance to sport? Because of their lack of art. Because they want to compete instead of co-operate or create. They can't even hold a decent conversation because they view everyone else as opponents and they're so fixated on winning.
But Edward - oh my God - when had he cracked my certitude that boys were a waste of space and shouldn't be let loose? They certainly shouldn't be running the fucking world - they shouldn't even be allowed to run the length of a chicken coop.
I knew - at least I suspected - that my Dad had deep feelings, but he didn't articulate them. Edward's feelings were fucking subterranean, and he had the emotional vocabulary to verbalize his conflict and insecurity. And fuck, he had the strength to do it.
I'd spent hour after hour thinking about this shit, and hour after hour coming to the realization that I wanted Edward Cullen. I fucking wanted him. His cleverness and insight, his perception and articulacy. Friday night he'd touched me, and not just physically. He'd touched me in a way that had me ready to let all my barriers down - to let him in. Close, near, in, the way I'd sworn to myself I wouldn't let a boy get close to me. And I felt so liberated by my decision that it was intoxicating.
I wanted to share his thoughts and words and know him. I wanted to give him everything that he needed and make it enough that he could cope with his unknown parentage and early loss. I would be his family. And I wanted the touching. More of it, lots more. I would be his girlfriend, and then some.
Jesus the fuck, fuck. My mother had gone for the intense boy, the one who spoke to her but not to others. It didn't escape me that I had just resolved to do what my mother did, but it was different. I knew the pitfalls, and I wouldn't fall into them, I was sure of it.
So we kicked pebbles along the path while I composed sentences in my head to declare myself.
Then Edward cleared his throat.
"Uh, Bella, after I saw you the other night, after you went home, I - well, I confronted Carlisle."
Whoa, this was not something I could have anticipated.
"Yeah?" I prompted.
"Yeah. And he told me everything. Pretty much everything, anyway."
Whoa. "Do you want to talk about it?"
His voice was unsteady. "Yes and no. Well, no because there was really fucking bad news and it's just so hard to take - " and Edward started to cry. His face screwed up and his shoulders shook. I took him in my arms and we stumbled to a bench overlooking the endless forest.
"You don't have to tell me right now. Wait till you're ready. It's okay, you should take some time to get used to it first. There's no rush," I murmured, dying to know.
"There is," Edward mumbled, raising his head. "I have to tell you."
"Okay then, shoot."
He wiped his eyes with the heels of his palms, and took a few jagged breaths.
"My parents are dead," he began.
"Their names were Edward and Elizabeth Masen. Yeah, my father was Edward. And they were both doctors. Just before I was born they were in Brazil, living in a small community and treating people there who'd come down with a mysterious tropical disease. A vaccine had been developed, which they'd both been given. When they found they were expecting me they made arrangements to come back to America for the birth, only they discovered the vaccine hadn't been effective. My father became ill, and the disease progressed so rapidly - "
He was crying again.
" - he barely survived a month after first showing symptoms. Special arrangements were made for my mother to be flown back under quarantine conditions, even though the disease was caused by a parasite and wasn't thought to be infectious. She was admitted straight into a hospital in Chicago, which happened to be where Carlisle was working. She was kept in isolation while she was undergoing health checks and he started visiting her."
"Wow. He knew your Mom."
"Take a minute, it's okay."
Edward straightened up and stared over the trees.
"She had red hair, Bella. And green eyes. Carlisle says I'm the image of her."
"She must have been very beautiful, then."
Despite himself, he couldn't help the little smile that tugged at his mouth.
"Did you just pay me a compliment?"
"No. As if."
"It sounded like one. Anyway, see for yourself."
He reached into his jacket pocket, pulling out a photo of a man and a woman hugging, but with their faces turned to the camera. They were casually dressed, caught in a moment of laughter. And fuck, the woman looked like Edward. She was beautiful. Curly hair, though. He'd gotten his unruly straight hair from his father, whose locks were short but wayward.
"They look happy," I said, as Edward stared lingeringly at the picture before putting it away again.
"Yeah. She told Carlisle that they were. But anyway, when her test results came back in the hospital it turned out she was infected too. Carlisle said she was absolutely distraught, because she wanted so much to have her baby and be a mother. I was given blood tests in utero, and I was clear. Even though the disease had such a fast rate of progress, Carlisle said she fought every day, she was so determined that I would be born, and that she'd hold me. She just wouldn't succumb to any depression or fatalism. She arranged for a piano to be brought in, and she played classical pieces to me. Fuck. And she read aloud - stories, but also medicine books for kids."
"Oh. Edward. You thought that all came from Carlisle..."
"I was wrong. He was only continuing what my own mother had started."
He paused again. "Carlisle and Esme had suffered a miscarriage a year earlier and they'd been told Esme couldn't have another baby. When Carlisle mentioned this to Elizabeth, she said he should adopt me. Of course, Carlisle didn't think she actually meant it, considering that hers and Edward's parents were alive and well, living in Chicago, visiting her daily. But Elizabeth wanted Carlisle to have me. She asked one of the other doctors to find an adoption attorney, and she got the paperwork ready. She presented Carlisle with it a week before I was born."
I didn't even know what to say. This sudden new knowledge must have been really fucking with Edward, but he managed to keep going.
"I was seventeen days old when Elizabeth died. She got to hold me after all. Carlisle said she didn't let me go."
He stood up.
"Can we walk a while? I need to - I don't know. Just move around. I'm not finished with everything I have to tell you yet."
I slipped my hand into his and he didn't seem to mind as we walked along the ridge, looking at the vast blanket of dark brown and dark green covering the landscape below us. Taking our breath and remaking it, sending it to the sky, for it to fall to our lungs again. Yeah, that's not how it's explained in class, but that's how I like to think of it. Trees are our friends. Fuck.
Edward's hand was cold and he still seemed really remote. I wanted to get closer but I didn't know if it would be welcome. So I asked a question instead.
"How come Carlisle had never told you any of this before?"
"He said he was waiting for me to come to him. That was the only way he'd know for sure that I was ready. He was worried that if he volunteered it without my asking, I'd have been less mentally and emotionally prepared. Not that I was prepared - far from it. All this time I'd thought - I'd imagined - well, that I'd meet my mother one day, and she'd explain it to me. Well, she did explain it. She wrote a letter for Carlisle to give me when I was older. It says how much she loved me and how happy I made her and Edward. It's pages long, all sorts of stuff about how they met and their lives together."
"That's a wonderful thing to have."
He nodded. "Yeah. And that's not all. Carlisle never lost contact with my grandparents. All my life he's been sending them pictures and letting them know how I'm getting on. All my fucking life."
He stopped walking and faced me. "I rang them, Bella, two grandmothers, two grandfathers. I spoke to them. They were overjoyed. They'd waited seventeen years for the call."
"Well, that's - just amazing. Really amazing. Are you going to go and meet them?"
There was something wrong. I knew it.
"When are you going?"
"Pretty soon, actually. Like, in a couple of days."
Something was really, really wrong, from the expression on his face and the sound of his voice.
"Well, that's good, Edward. That's great. It's exactly what you need. I'm really happy for you. You must be buzzed. It's exciting. How long are you going for?"
He reached and took both my hands, scowling hard.
"Well, that's the thing, Bella. That's the thing."
"What's the thing?"
"You know how we're friends now? But you're not my girlfriend? Because you don't want to be? Well, that's good. It's good that we're friends. Because if you were my girlfriend this next part would suck."
"Well, shit, Edward, spit it out. What are you talking about?"
He'd apparently been holding his breath, because now he exhaled in a long sigh.
"I'm going indefinitely," he said.
And that knocked the fucking wind right out of my sails. It was like a punch in the guts.
"What?" I almost croaked.
"Yeah. I have to find out who I am. That's going to take more than a weekend visit. I've never fitted in here, never felt right. I have to thank you for providing the impetus that's made all this happen for me. I've spent all these years forging an identity with this huge disparity between the Edward Cullen everybody sees, and this inner, unformed self that had no foundation. I have to find out if they're like me, if I'm like them. It's a longing - now that I know they're there, I can't not be with them."
This was fucking terrible. Terrible. "But - school?" I said.
"There are schools in Chicago. Apparently."
"But - Carlisle and Esme?"
"They're supportive. They understand."
"Jesus, Bella, you know perfectly well I don't have any. No, I have one. You."
I was so stunned at his announcement about leaving that it took me a while to react. But then I started to feel mad.
"Yeah, me. Do I get a say? Or am I so low in the fucking rankings that I don't count?"
"Please, Bella, please. Don't take it this way. My mind is made up. The other night you let me touch you, and if your father hadn't caught us, I would have been kissing you, despite all the refusals you'd already given me. I would have been trying to coerce you into bed, so that we'd be lovers, and you'd be bound to me. That's not what your head wants, Bella. I would have ruined everything you want, been everything you're afraid of, trying to make us be together because I'm so fucking empty. But you can't fill that gap inside me, the only person who can fill it is me. It's not that I don't care what you say, but if I stayed here I'd eventually tear you apart."
He couldn't seriously be trying to sell his sudden departure as being for my benefit - could he?
"No, you wouldn't. I wouldn't let you. What do you even mean? I'm strong."
"Yes, you are. You're strong and good and kind. You're not the tough character you present to everybody. That's the persona you've adopted to keep people from distracting you while you do what you want to do. Bella, I admire that in you. I admire that you're determined and you've set a path for yourself and you're prepared to work hard to follow it. It comes from your secure identity, I think. It's something that I'm looking for - a path, a direction... I need to define myself. Jesus, I didn't mean for this shit to happen. I liked you and I let you know it, without knowing that I was going to crack up like this. I believe the relationship between mother and child is the primary one, the building block for all society. I didn't have it, and I've grown up damaged. I'm sorry, I'm so sorry, but I'm not whole - you know that, don't you? There isn't enough of me to offer you anything. What I have to do is be around my family and learn all I can about my parents, and draw all the strands together until I can make sense of them."
Weeks ago he was some presence I was aware of, but held in no regard whatsoever. Then his attention to me became mildly embarrassing. A quantum leap away from that, a few hours ago he became necessary, and before I even got to tell him, he decided to fucking skip town. Even as I felt really miserable about his plan, I knew the pain he carried, and I was convinced of the compulsion he felt. Going to his family was the right thing for him to do.
"You know, I'm honestly glad for you that you're going to take this momentous step, and discover your background and your relatives, but at the same time, you're an ass," I whispered.
"Because you fucking are."
"Why? You can't just call me that."
"Watch me. Ass."
He was still holding my hands.
"You're really pissed, aren't you? Please tell me why."
I glared. "Maybe I changed my mind about a few things. Maybe I like you, okay? But forget about it, because I don't."
"Oh, God," he groaned. "Don't like me, because I'm not going to be here. And don't wait for me, because I don't know when I'll be back."
I couldn't answer as he let go of my hands and pulled me to him lightly.
"You know, Bella Swan," he said, "there's a parallel universe somewhere where you don't just like me, you love me the way I want you to, and I love you the way you deserve, because we're soulmates and we kiss each other and talk and make love all day and night."
"Fuck you and your parallel universe. Actually I hate you."
"Only in this dimension."
The night deepened as we stood wordlessly, holding each other while the breeze came up and then he steered me back towards his car, towards our parting of the ways, towards the end. We were driving, we were in my street, we were outside my house.
"It's all wrong. It's so wrong and difficult, and not what I want," he said, once the motor was off, "but I have to say goodbye."
"Yeah, well, you'd better get going - remember the two and a half minute rule."
"We've never even kissed."
"We probably shouldn't. Might as well end it on a high note."
I just wanted to get out of the car and run. He'd fucking dumped me, without me ever being his girlfriend. He'd dumped the idea of me. I knew everybody in Forks, and there wasn't a single interesting or attractive person until Edward had spoken to me that night at his stupid party. There would never be an interesting person in Forks again. Edward was the only one for me. I took the door handle.
"I'll say it first, okay? Goodbye. I hope things work out for you. I really mean it. I hope you find what you're looking for. Good luck."
"Don't, Edward, just don't."
And he didn't. I opened the door without any protest from him, and I walked up our front path to the steps, and I was walking blind because I'd started crying. Weeping, sobbing. The fucking bastard, making me think there was someone here with a fucking brain, someone with a heart, someone I could talk to, someone I could care about.
He was out of the car somehow and in front of me without my having heard. His long, elegant, beautiful fingers wrapped around my cheeks, their tips reaching underneath my hairline. His eyes were dark and glowing in the violet night, his lips full.
"I've got no right to do this," he muttered, before his mouth was on mine. In mine. Already open, already moving, soft and questing. Kissing me as if he loved me. Oh, I kissed him back with everything, my arms, my chest, my hips, pressing and holding, my tongue dancing to his. It was definitely more than two and a half minutes. It was at least ten. But it hadn't been nearly long enough when he pulled back. I wouldn't have pulled back in a million years, but already he was disentangling himself, putting distance between us, letting go. Letting me go.
"Goodbye," he said, hoarsely, and he turned from me, walking away. His car purred into life as I stood numbly on the porch, watching it arc in a U-turn and race into the night. Watching it disappear.
And he was gone to a new life, leaving me already lonely in his wake.