Rating/Disclaimer/Warnings: NC17. All publicly recognizable characters, settings, etc. are the property of their respective owners. Any 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. This story deals with supernatural subjects (vampires), self-harm, adult situations and angst. Proceed with caution if any of the above could be disturbing to you.

A/N: This is a re-worked one-shot that was originally entitled I Walked Away (pick a pic challenge). It now contains an Edward POV. This was my contribution to the Fandom4TwiFanG compilation. I'm so proud to be a part of the Twilight fandom. I never knew Gisela, but my heart broke when I heard what happened. A huge 'Thank You' to FrozenSoldier for the exquisite banner (you are exceptionally talented) and to Madmum for being my beta extraordinaire! Oh, and Episode update is coming soon (sorry for the delay!) Luv BB xx

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efficacy (ˈɛfɪkəsɪ)

n

the quality of being successful in producing an intended result; effectiveness
1520s, from L. efficacia, from efficax (gen. efficacis) 'effective' from efficere 'work out,' 'accomplish'

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BELLA

I tentatively touched the bandage on my arm. Carlisle's words sunk in.

Edward thought changing me would take away my soul?

By asking him to change me, I was basically saying that I would give up my soul to be his. I would leave this human life. I would leave my parents. I would give myself completely to Edward for eternity.

No matter how hard I tried to comprehend it all, it was impossible. I loved him; I wanted to be with him.

I know he has a soul. Regardless, my soul is a small price to pay for eternal love.

I cried silent tears every time I woke and realized his cool, hard body wasn't in bed with me. He hadn't come through my window.

Edward wasn't at school the next day, none of the Cullens were. I knew this meant it would be bad. Very bad.

I knew the risk I took with my life every time I was in their presence, but Edward made me feel so safe, so protected and cherished. I felt for Jasper. He'd always struggled the most with his bloodlust. Yet, I still couldn't get the image out of my consciousness; his face, contorted in anger and hunger, had shocked me to the core. I'd never seriously contemplated that what had happened at my birthday party could ever occur.

But it did, and I knew Edward would use the event as the catalyst. He would pull away from me.

How could I fix it? No matter what scenario I concocted, it had the same result.

I can't be with Edward forever if he won't change me.

Could I expect him to change me, considering what he believed?

No, I couldn't expect him to. I knew I would always be the fragile human that disrupted his life. I recognized our relationship was completely destructive. I would move forward. I would change, he wouldn't. He'd never agree to change me. I'd get older; he'd stay the same. I loved him, but he could never truly be mine. His world, I could never fully participate in, while I was human.

I stared at the photograph that Charlie took of me, standing next to Edward.

Edward looked just as beautiful as he did in real life. My heart pounded in reaction to him. No words could describe how completely mesmerizing he was. His beauty, his honey-gold eyes, dark, curling lashes, pouty full lips and distinct masculine jaw, he was desirable to me, in every way. Not just his looks, but also the way he would hold me, the gentle way he kissed me, and the sparkle I could see in his eyes when I said something amusing. His restraint, his overwhelming control that he exercised daily to stop his natural instinct to bite...

Yet, in the photograph he looked devastatingly cold and statue-like. He was still inhumanly beautiful, but there was something missing from his expression.

In the photograph, I stood awkwardly next to him, almost shamefully plain and nondescript.

Would he still love me if he were able to read my thoughts?

Thinking about it made my head hurt. I stared at the return trip ticket to Florida that Carlisle and Esme had given me, and I made a decision that I hoped I wouldn't regret.

I called my mom, I told her my plan. She was ecstatic.

I would leave for Florida in two weeks.

I would leave Edward.

I would leave Charlie.

I'd leave the life I had in Forks behind.

The pain in my chest, the ache, the hole, I knew it would never heal. But the alternative could be worse.

I suspected Edward was going to leave me. I felt it. I knew it. I remembered the words he said to me when I was in the hospital in Phoenix, after James...

'Bella, you have to go to Jacksonville, so I can't hurt you anymore.'

My heart was breaking already and the only solution I could come up with, that would leave me some slither of self-respect and the tiniest possibility of a favorable outcome, was if I beat him to it.

I knew him better than he knew himself. I knew he loved me. I knew how long he'd waited to find me. I was his mate. Yet, none of it meant anything if he wasn't prepared to end my human life so we could actually be together, in every way.

The one thing I was counting on was the one thing that I knew he would always worry about.

He would worry about me.

Edward was my protector, yet, he was scared he'd lose control and hurt me. That was his biggest fear, and now I knew what was also behind that fear.

He doesn't want me to lose my soul.

Edward hated what he was, he could never bring himself to inflict that type of pain on me, and I'm sure it wasn't just the pain of the transformation; I'd only suffered a minute of that excruciating, burning hell. I knew if it meant I'd be with Edward forever, I'd suffer it. But he knew what it meant to condemn me to his life, to know that I'd need to feed, that my desire to kill would dominate me.

I understood why, but it didn't change how much I loved him, or how every living cell in my body knew that we belonged together. The pointers were there. Here I was, a fallible human with the most delicious smelling blood and a silent mind and yet, his restraint and his love for me had surpassed all odds.

This couldn't be the end for us. I refused to believe it would be.

If I broke up with him, he would respect my wish and not suffer eternal guilt. He would rationalize my decision. He'd agree with it. It wouldn't stop him from loving me. That was the part I was counting on; his desire to protect and watch over me would never die.

He'd follow me. He'd watch out for me. He wouldn't be able to let me go completely, and that would give me the time I needed to come up with a plan to convince him we were meant to be together. Together, forever.

But if the situation was reversed? If I allowed him to break up with me first?

I feared he'd remove himself from my life in self-punishment or a warped sense of chivalry.

I belong to him and he belongs to me, regardless of souls, hearts beating or blood flowing.

I needed to prove to him that we couldn't be apart. The only way to do that was to temporarily let him go.

The alternative, I can't control. This I can control. Please Alice, don't say anything!

Alice could see what the outcome would be. Maybe not the final outcome, but hopefully my actions would negate his decision. I couldn't rely on destiny to ensure our love survived. I definitely couldn't leave it up to Edward, and his outdated moral ethics.

I needed to be prepared, because my heart could be ripped from my chest at any moment, and yet, I needed to be convincing enough for him to accept my decision, for the scene to play out how I wanted it to.

Alice called me.

"Bella—"

"Don't say anything." I warned her. I was so scared that she'd tell me my plan wasn't go to work.

"I'm doing it. You don't have to tell me how it works out. I think I already know. I'll miss you terribly. Maybe one day...I'm counting on the fact that one day I'll see you again. I don't want Jasper to think about it. It was only a matter of time until it became too much for Edward. I love you, Alice. Goodbye."

"I love you too, Bella. Just promise me one thing, when you do it, say these words and everything will work out, eventually. Tell Edward..."

I cried at the words Alice wanted me to say to him. I trusted her and I had nothing to lose, so I worded my goodbye to Edward over and over in my mind, ending with the passage she made me write word for word. She made me swear that the piece of paper with those words, and the airline tickets, would be in my possession at all times.

The words summed up my feelings exactly, and if it worked, which I hoped it would, Edward would still be close to me.

I didn't sleep well. The day had weighed heavily on me but I tried to stay upbeat. In my mind I imagined Edward just needed some time, and that when he did come and find me, he would decide to stay.

Surely he loves me enough to need to be with me, no matter what?
Time seemed to slow down the next day after school.

The relief I felt when I saw Edward standing in the yard was short-lived. His eyes briefly flashed with love and desperation. The time we'd spent apart since my disaster of a birthday party was the longest he'd ever stayed away from me. As the love and desperation seemed to drain from his expression almost instantly, the cold, blank stare returned, and I knew what I had to do.

My heart pounded erratically in my chest. I knew he could hear it.

"Come take a walk with me," he said casually.

It felt like the air was sucked out of my lungs.

I followed Edward unwillingly as he walked forward into the forest behind my house. I chanted the words I needed to say in my head, over and over, trying not to break down. The panic was almost choking me.

This is the only way. It's going to work. It's going to work!

Before I knew it, Edward stopped and turned to me, his blank stare evident and yet his face showed determination.

"Bella, we're leaving," he said with no emotion.

All my fears in that instant were actualized. He was going to walk away from our love. He was going to walk away from me—his mate—to 'protect' me.

I won't let him do this to us!

"Edward, before you say anything, what happened with Jasper... it made me realize something," I took in a shallow breath. I couldn't believe I was going to do this, but I knew I had no other choice.

"I love you. I can't even believe that I met you and this is all real. I know it is, but now I understand why it's so hard for you to be with me. Everyday you're fighting your natural instincts so you can love me."

"Bella, please."

I could sense his unease. I wasn't going to let him say the words he wanted to say to me.

"No! I need to say this. If I don't say it now, then I know I'll regret it. Please Edward," I stepped forward and held his hand. I could feel the tension rolling off him and the severe restraint he was enforcing on himself not to speak.

"I thought it could work. I thought our love would be enough, but it won't be. You think I'll get hurt, maybe you think I'm too fragile to be a part of your life. You're always so focused on doing the right thing and protecting me. You're not ready to truly be with me. You don't want me to be like you." I couldn't look into his ocher eyes then. I dipped my head down and looked at his beautiful hand in mine.

"I want everything with you, Edward. I want a life. I want to be yours. I want you, intimately," I whispered. "I know you don't want that with me...even though, I know I'm your mate. I know I am!"

I pulled his hand up to my lips. I breathed in the unique smell of his cool marble skin, and I made myself believe that this would not be the last time we touched.

"I'm moving to Florida in two weeks." I said in a rush before I mentally talked myself out of it.

I looked up to his face then. He looked confused as he absorbed what I'd said.

"Edward, you will always be here, in my heart," I pulled his hand to rest on my chest. "We belong together, but I can't be with you right now. I know I'll hear your voice in my head every day and I'll see your face every time I close my eyes and you'll know, you'll know I love you. I will never love anyone but you. I'll be waiting for you, forever. My heart, my life, my soul belongs to you. I love you. If you love me, then, please don't try and contact me until you're ready," tears fell from my eyes, yet I tried to stay focused enough not to look away from him. "I know you love me...maybe we just need time…" I couldn't finish the sentence, because I knew time apart would tell whether or not our love could overcome his stubbornness and my human fragility.

I lifted his hand and I kissed his cool palm.

"Your existence gives me hope. We will be together again, when you're ready."

I pushed my face against his chest and I kissed over his silent heart, inhaling deeply and chanting in my mind that I was doing the right thing. I could have sworn I felt his lips touch so gently to the top of my head.

Then I turned, with tears streaming down my face, I walked away from Edward Cullen, and I didn't look back.

I couldn't say 'Goodbye'; there was nothing good about this whole situation. Saying 'Goodbye' would be too final.

I tried to stop crying but I couldn't.

My head pounded, my heart felt heavy. There was a tightening ache at the back of my throat. I kept reminding myself that this was the only chance we had.

I was so glad that I told Charlie that I was leaving before I told Edward. I was counting on Edward hearing Charlie's thoughts about it if he was looking over me. Somehow I needed Edward to know that my decision was made before he asked me to walk with him into the woods.

Charlie had been angry at first, until I explained that everything was too much with Edward. I needed to focus on my studies and not my relationship with him. I made up some completely lame story about wanting to get into the right college and not be tied to one person so young.

He agreed with me and said he'd support me. I knew a part of him was glad I'd cut ties with Edward but I also knew that Charlie would worry about me. Edward's instinct to protect me would increase, knowing Charlie couldn't look out for me when I was so far from Forks.

The sadness completely engulfed me the next day at school when none of them were there. Of course, his decision to make his family leave Forks was made and probably even put into place the night of my birthday; my breaking up with him first hadn't changed that part of his plan.

For the next two weeks I was sure I could sense Edward was close. I had no idea if it was wishful thinking or if he really was watching over me. I couldn't dwell. I needed to get through this. It could be months, or years before we would be together again, so I refused to even let the thought that it wouldn't work, enter my head.

It was with the heaviest of hearts that I left Forks.

Silent tears seemed to fall all the time, but I just wiped them away and I remembered my words to Edward.

'Your existence gives me hope. We will be together again, when you're ready.'

When I closed my eyes, I did see Edward's face, but the longer the passage of time the harder it became to conjure.

He'd taken all evidence of himself and his family from my room that fateful day; except the airline tickets that I'd been carrying with me. He had made it almost impossible for me to hold on to my memories, especially when I'd established myself in Florida.

I didn't have a photo, a memento, nothing.

I wanted my dreams to be of Edward and me in the meadow, his cool kisses and his light touches. My dreams didn't give me that pleasure of recollection. No, they tortured me, with my surreal memories of the burning of James' venom, as it seemed to seep into my very soul.

The soul that Edward didn't want me to lose.

I'd wake up in a sweat, convinced that the draft that would breeze over me in the split second I awoke was Edward's cool body leaving my room.

I held so much hope. I spoke to the darkness. I prayed he would hear.

"I miss you. I wish I'd met you when you were human. I'll never love anyone but you. I love you, Edward. I'm so, so sorry."

I'd fall asleep. I'd wake. The day would repeat.

Before I knew it, I graduated High School.

Months dragged on. College was routine, a mild respite from the pain. New friends that I never let get too close. Male attention that was unwelcome and not reciprocated.

I had my own room in the dorm. It was on the third floor and I'd always leave the window unlocked.

Some nights I'd lie in bed and think of his hands, his eyes, his mouth. I'd picture him smiling at me, his nostrils flaring as his light touch traced my cheek. I'd slowly bring my body to orgasm, whispering his name.

I'd leave my damp panties on the floor, memorizing their location, the way they were folded. All through my classes I'd pray I get back to my room to find them moved, even a fraction.

They were never touched.

How long could I sustain this life? The hole was wide, the feeling of loss was excruciating. I promised him I'd wait forever, but the thought of him never coming to me, sunk my mood into a deep depression.

A week before college graduation I'd finally agreed to go out with a group of classmates. I knew it was destructive to think he was near, watching me. Yet it was the only thing that got me through the monotony every day.

I wore blue that night. I knew he liked the color against my skin. My hair was down in soft waves. I even put on a little makeup.

In my mind I believed that this was the night that he would come to me. Just the power of that fantasy made me jubilant. I imagined him seeing me, coveting me. I imagined that he would be waiting for me in my dorm...I imagined him telling me that he couldn't stand being apart from me any longer and that he wanted to make love to me.

Then my fantasy faded.

He would never want that.

I was somber, but I tried to look happy. Every moment I could I'd close my eyes, as if absorbing the bass of the music radiating through my body. I'd press my hand to my chest and try to remember him. I would hold the imaginary image of Edward's hand to my heart and wish he could see me and know I was thinking of him.

The bar was crowded and it seemed every one was happy and drunk. I sat unmoving, sipping a soda, when a tall, attractive man approached my table. He seemed nice. He was about to graduate as well. He was friendly and he was funny. When he made me laugh, I felt it to my toes. He bought me a drink.

His name was Alexander.

I should have let go. I should have been open and I should have said 'yes' to his invitation to meet for coffee the next day. But I couldn't. It wasn't fair to lead him on because I only wanted Edward. I would only ever want Edward.

Alexander smiled and bought me another soda.

Then the room became a little too hot. My vision started to blur. I got a cramp in my side. My classmates were dancing. Alexander helped me to stand. He asked me where I lived. I slurred out the words and he told me he'd get me home.

I wanted Edward. I knew I said his name over and over as Alexander held my arms too tightly as he led me out of the bar, laughing and telling people as I staggered that I couldn't hold my liquor.

Edward!

Something was very wrong and I could sense as I fell into the dragging unconsciousness, that I wouldn't want to wake from it.

Edward help me!

The fear was there, but I also felt so stupid. Charlie had told me never to accept a drink from a stranger.

How could I have been so trusting? Why did I tell him where I lived?

My anger swelled. I never wanted to wake.

Edward! Edward I love you!

The blackness engulfed me.

In the serenity of darkness, I felt Edward's arms around me. I felt his cool breath on my neck. His fingers glided through my hair. He whispered words of love.

'Bella, I love you. I'm sorry.'

I tried to hold onto the dream. I willed my eyes to open. I willed my useless arms to hold him tight and never let him go.

When I did wake, I was on my bed in my dorm room. The sun was bright and the window was open.

I touched my chest. I was still clothed, my jeans still on. My shoes weren't.

"Edward!" was the first thing I said.

I didn't feel different, physically. I hadn't been...violated.

I didn't know who'd gotten me home safely.

Was it you? Was it Alice?

I cried out for Edward, again and again, until I lost all hope. The numbness came back.

I graduated College.

I didn't have a clue what I wanted to do with my life. All I knew was that I had to work to pay off my student debt and I wanted to be somewhere Edward could be near me. I wanted to make it easy for him to decide to come to me.

I rented a small house, out of the city.

I'd become an unhappy recluse. I was dead inside. The only pleasure in my life was writing endless accounts of my memories of Edward. His touch and how it electrified me, the feel of his hard, marble-like skin. His breath, how it tasted, how it made me lightheaded and wanting.

I knew Edward was out in the world somewhere, yet knowing he was living an existence without me, made the hope I'd been holding onto crumble to dust.

Over time, my thoughts and memories that had kept me positive and hopeful twisted and became dark and foreboding.

I convinced myself that he'd found someone else, a vampire. I imagined her as beautiful and strong. Her mind was silent to him, and she wanted to live like the Cullen's. Rosalie adored her, so did Esme. Alice was conflicted until her gift showed her how happy Edward would be. I imagined that he didn't even think about me; he was relieved he found his true vampire mate and he simply basked in the love and the intimacy she could give him.

He's not coming to find me.

He doesn't love me.

I'll never see him again. I'll never hear his voice, or touch my lips to his.

If I can't be with him, what's the point? Why I am here living a hollow life, a life that means nothing without his love?

I spoke to Charlie on the phone that day. I also spoke to Renee. They'd both said that they were worried about me and that they would visit soon. They both needed to know I was looking after myself.

That was the night of my twenty-fifth birthday.

It had been seven years. Seven long years since the night that had changed my life, the incident that had shattered my blissful life of loving Edward. A simple paper cut had ruined any chance of me being with my one true love.

I spent my birthday at home in the little cottage I rented near the forest.

I knew I couldn't go on like this. I needed him. I didn't want to be alone anymore.

My mind had shut down to self-protect.

I showered, washed my hair, and dried it as straight as I could. I wrote a letter to Charlie, and one to Renee. It didn't matter now. Nothing at all in my pathetic excuse of a life mattered.

I wrote to Edward. It was a goodbye, a final goodbye. It was a declaration, an outpouring of my love for him. It was also an apology for thinking my flawed plan would work.

I folded the letter and slipped it into a plain white envelope.

Would he be near? Would he know, and would he choose?

No, he's somewhere else. He's happy, without me.

I was broken and alone. If he had been near me, if he did still love me, then this was the night he had to decide. If it didn't work, then I could at least be at peace. The soul that Edward wanted to keep intact had shriveled and died in the years since I last kissed his lips. My paper-thin human memories were so fragile and faded; I struggled to even remember the butterscotch color of his eyes. I couldn't recall what he used to wear. I couldn't conjure the sound of his voice, or imagine his delectable and distinct smell.

The knife blade was sharp and yet, it didn't scare me. I looked at it with a casual detachment.

It was ironic; the knife would be the tool I used to stop the pain of my life, the only thing that would stop the anguish and torture of being without Edward.

I remembered the day Edward skipped blood typing at school, the day he possessively lifted me off the sidewalk and away from Mike Newton. Then I remembered the sting of the wrapping paper slicing my finger, and the consequence of that mishap seven years ago.

I wanted to see the blood drain from my body. I detested the life flowing through me.

A small voice in my mind kept telling me that Edward wouldn't want this for me. Another voice told me he was near; he'd always been near.

If my life was going to end without him, I wanted some dignity.

Walking through the forest seemed almost symbolic. It wasn't quite the same as Forks; the ground was sodden through, but the foliage smelled different. Nothing reminded me of him anymore.

I wandered and cried, slowly building up to it. I was determined, yet also afraid.

What if I do it wrong? What if I can't go through with it?

Is he watching me, does he know? Has Alice seen and sent him to me?

I sat on the cold, wet ground and I wept for him. I hated myself, I hated that I let him go. I should have fought for him, fought for us. I could have begged him to stay with me.

I should never have walked away from our love. Maybe everything would have turned out better if I'd let him break my heart in the forest that day.

The cool splats of water that began to hit my face were calming. The canopy of the trees filtered the rain for a while but then the deluge saturated me.

Lightning cracked, like a blinding streak, and I saw a face. His face?

"Edward?"

I stood and walked forward. The boom of thunder overhead halted me.

He wasn't there. It was my imagination.

Adrenaline, fear, longing, numbness… I wanted it all to stop.

I was tired, so hopelessly exhausted with my mind, with my anguish at leaving him. I wanted a way out; I wanted to fall into a never-ending dream where we could be together, where we belonged.

The rain would wash away everything, a baptism of sorts. Cleanse me. If any shadow were left of my soul, it would seep with my blood into the Earth. My breath would slow; my heart would beat its last beat. The sting of the cut wouldn't register.

"I can't live without you. My spirit died when I left you. I can't bear it anymore. I need the pain to go away. I don't want to be without you."

I didn't think twice. I sliced the blade over my wrist. I cried out from the pain of the deep cut. The knife dropped from my shaking fingers. Instinctively, my hand tried to put pressure over the wound, but I winced and let my heart beat the blood from my body in throbbing bursts. I was thankful that the cool rain seemed to soothe the sting and shooting pain as it diluted the flow. As I watched the blood exit my body, a surreal feeling of contentment washed over me. I lay down on the cold, muddy earth. Heavy rain flowed into my mouth as I folded in on myself.

"I love you. I love you, Edward. I can't live without you. I'm sorry."

My head pounded in time with the falling rain and the boom of thunder. I knew my heart was black, wasted away without the love I'd tasted when I was with him. The blackness was a comfort. I wanted to dream of him. I wanted to sleep with the remembrance of eternal love washing over my body.

It never came, just the freezing iciness of the rain, the pain of the cut and the slow stomach wrenching nausea from the loss of blood.

I visualized my love, Edward Cullen, kissing me in the meadow...

Lightheaded and without hope, I wished for death to claim me.

Edward, I love you.

I felt the cool pull. I felt the tingle and the sharp sting and drag of something cold and wet over my wrist.

Then an all encompassing warmth, and his voice soothed me.

"I'll never let you go, Bella! I've always been here! You can't leave me!"

Heaven.

He was right, I have a soul and his voice is here.

I'm in Heaven.

~0~

Edward

Bella broke up with me in the forest.

Before I could speak, before I could comprehend how my words would hurt her, and before I could fully accept that I was never going to see her again.

I didn't even get the chance to try and make her believe that I wanted a life away from her.

A blasphemous lie.

She told me she loved me. She said she would wait, that we just needed time...

'I will never love anyone but you. I'll be waiting for you, forever. My heart, my life, my soul belongs to you. I love you. If you love me, then, please don't try and contact me until you're ready.'

If I love her?

Bella was everything to me. She was the only reason that I wanted to exist. The depth of my love for her was endless. She didn't understand that to love her, I had to set her free. I would only put her in more danger. She deserved a happy, human life.

I confronted Alice afterwards, but her thoughts relayed to me what I knew in my heart and I accepted.

Bella loves me, and she's giving me time to reflect, so I don't make a rash decision that affects us permanently.

'Your existence gives me hope. We will be together again, when you're ready.'

Every day her words swirled around in my mind. Every day that I followed her through the thoughts of others made me feel inadequate for her.

Bella was shrouded in sadness without me. I could see it. Other people saw it.

I hid myself away in Florida just to be near her. She was away from Charlie and needed my protection.

I wanted desperately to be close to her, but not close enough to put her in danger.

Seeing her graduate High School and attend College should have made me happy. It didn't, because she never participated in anything. She stayed away from people; she made excuses when they tried to involve her in fun activities. Her stubbornness was infuriating. It was like she was punishing herself.

At night, I'd clamber to the roof of her dorm. I couldn't risk being in her room when she was sleeping, the temptation to hold her was too immense.

Instead, I'd listen to her heart beating and her soft breathing. I blocked out the thoughts and voices of her fellow students. Their inane chatter about kegs and boys and fashion just proved to me how different Bella really was.

Most nights, Bella would whisper my name; her heart rate would steadily pick up and then thunder an exquisite beat as she found physical and mental release.

The first time I heard her, it almost destroyed me. For her to imagine me as she found sublime pleasure devastated me. I was unworthy.

Then she would cry. She would sob and it was like I could smell her guilt, mixed with the unique smell of her blood, her tears and the most exquisite scent of her lingering arousal. She would cry for me and beg me to come back to her.

Bella's sexual desires seemed to be solely focused on me.

I was aware girls Bella's age enjoyed sex, boys even more so. I allowed myself a glimpse, by listening to the thoughts of a girl Bella's age. I wanted to know what it would be like for Bella to feel a human male give her pleasure. I tried to imagine what Bella was feeling as she made herself climax.

The knowledge didn't give me solace. Instead it made wish I could give her the wave of ecstasy and intimacy. Now I understood. That euphoric bliss, even only a few short seconds of orgasm, could make her feel something otherworldly. Bella should have the chance to experience all of it!

My mind may have been one hundred and eleven, but my body was still seventeen. I felt complete shame and mortification when I allowed myself to imagine being intimate with Bella; touching, tasting, feeling her surround all of me. I denied myself release. My inadequacies made me rage with self-hatred.

I'd kill her. Loving her that way would kill her!

I read the minds of her many admirers on campus. The young men intrigued by what they perceived to be a wary shyness. Her subsequent rejection to their advances they attributed to her being frigid, or a lesbian. They eventually stopped asking. She was labeled a 'bitch', simply because she didn't like the same things or act in the same way.

I forced myself to stay away. So many times I found myself moments away from fleeing. I thought I should distance myself from her completely. Every time I'd get far enough away, so as not to smell the sweetness of her blood, I would panic, hunt and gorge myself then race back, just to hear her heart beating.

Every time I'd decide to go to her, I would resolve to wait just a while longer.

She's graduating College soon. I can wait a few more weeks.

Then, like a breath of fresh air, I saw her genuinely smile for the first time in years and accept an invitation to go dancing with her classmates.

It was completely out of character. She was excited about it. I started to believe that maybe she would be okay when she left College. She'd get over me, she move on and have a career, meet people that she could talk to.

I wasn't prepared to see her that night through the eyes of many men, as she walked through the bar, she was a vision. She wore a royal blue blouse, wrapped delectably around her body like a present. It accentuated everything; her shiny long hair, her pale yet luminous skin, the blush on her cheeks, her wide brown eyes, and the lusciousness of her mouth. Her slim fitting jeans, her heeled shoes, all of it combined to make her visually striking.

Bella had matured into a sensual and mesmerizing beauty.

Then horror ripped through my body in waves of anger as several men that laid eyes on her, imagined her face on the body of a porn star; fake, bulbous breasts, no pubic hair, just an inferior female body that could be taken in countless positions as they shouted profanities and called her 'Baby'. They mentally violated her in lustful and degrading ways.

I calmed myself when I realized none of these boys had the guts to even speak to Bella. She held her body confidently; she was above all of them. They were not good enough for her. I wasn't even good enough for her. I didn't want to accept it. And just as I was debating with myself, he walked up to my Bella and spoke to her.

He was casual, yet confident. He made her laugh. I read his mind instantly. He was attracted to her; he thought about how it would feel to kiss her lips, slowly. He imagined Bella giving herself to him willingly. He was prepared to take her on dates and get to know her. He sensed she was flirting with him.

I felt my hands crush into the brick wall behind me with a no more sound than someone snapping a stick of chalk.

I was torn. I wanted to protect her, I also wanted to let her experience what I could never give her.

I was invading her privacy. I had no right to prowl the periphery of her life like a parasitic monster. I was a monster and she deserved a man that could give her love intimately, without fear of crushing her bones with one false move, or snapping her neck by accident in the throes of what would be the most sublimely euphoric act of coupling.

I was set to leave, to run and drown myself in the hot pulsing artery of an elk, when suddenly everything was wrong.

She turned him down for a coffee date.

He couldn't believe it either.

He was disappointed and then he was offended and angry and incredulous.

'Stuck-up bitch, I only asked her to meet for coffee.'

Then his thoughts infected mine. He had made a horrifying decision.

'She's a fucking cock-tease, just like Lisa. I'll show her.'

As he walked to the bar to buy Bella a drink his plan played out in sickening detail.

He'd spike Bella's drink. He was going to take what he thought she should have freely given.

The rage through my body threatened to erupt.

My cell started vibrating. I answered.

"Don't Edward; you need to calm down. If you alert him, he'll get away and he'll do it to another girl. Please, you have to let him take Bella back to her dorm. Nobody sees him take her there. You can be waiting. Nobody sees him, Edward. You can do whatever you wish to him. Bella won't wake up until just after Midday tomorrow."

I couldn't believe Alice was implying that I 'do to him' what I had decided to do in that split second before her call.

All those years of preying on rapists and murderers came back to me. I would kill a human tonight, and I would take great pleasure in ridding the world of this vile excuse of a man.

I had to wait and stay hidden, even as I heard her calling my name in panic. It was one of the hardest things I'd ever had to do. She'd worked it out, and she was pleading for me to help her.

I was a millisecond away from revealing myself. Bella's voice barely held any volume, and her body was shutting down on her.

I won't let anyone hurt you!

So I watched and I followed, and checked in the minds around that no one was suspicious.

They weren't.

It infuriated me so much more to know that Bella could be carted off from this club, inebriated beyond all bodily control. Not one person noticed Bella or the rapist that was laying her in the backseat of his car.

Time seemed to slow down and make me feral for revenge as he slowly carried Bella to her dorm without anyone approaching him.

He was nervous as he forced Bella's key into the lock. He had a rehearsed and believable excuse ready to give should someone stop him.

He was congratulating himself that he'd made it this far without being seen.

He was amped on power, and hatred for a girl called Lisa. He thought Bella's hair was the same color as Lisa's. He thought about how it would feel to take Lisa's body without consent.

And that was his last conscious thought, because when he lay Bella on her twin bed and started taking off her shoes, I flew at preternatural speed through the open window and snapped his neck with one flick of my wrist.

As I stood at the end of her bed, holding the limp body of what used to be a living breathing human, I had no regret.

Bella looked at peace, her hair curling over the purple pillow, the soft sound of her breath through her nose and steady thumping of her pulse was cathartic.

I hoisted the corpse across my shoulder and jumped from the window, running to dump it into its car and drive to the edge of the city.

Bella's face was in my mind and her voice in my consciousness as I strapped the corpse into the driver's seat, sat in the passenger seat, and forced its limp foot on the gas. With sudden acceleration and the sound of the tires screeching, I spun the steering wheel sharply to force the car towards a tree.

It exploded on impact.

I walked away, with my clothes singed, and an overwhelming desire to return to my beloved, to make sure she was still sleeping peacefully.

I don't remember how I got back to her dorm, clean, dressed and calmly sitting on Bella's bed, watching her sleep.

Desire pulsed in my fingertips to hold her; instead I stroked her hair softly, inhaling her scent. Once again I castigated myself for even thinking I could be with her again.

"I have to protect you my love. You need never know, but I'm here and I love you so much. Bella, I love you. I'm sorry."

A human was dead because of me.

I didn't regret it, however it made me even more aware of the reason why Bella and I couldn't be together.

I was a monster and no better than him. I wasn't good enough for Bella; I would never be worthy of her.

Hearing her cry out for me when she woke crushed me. I was broken.

It was over, any hope that I'd harbored about finding the right time to let her see me and tell her I loved her, I knew would never come.

I was going to be a silent sentinel, her guardian angel, unseen and unheard. It was the purest form of torture being so close to her but never allowing her to know.

She spoke to me, but I could hear the helplessness in her voice. She knew I wasn't coming to her. Maybe she thought I'd decided that she didn't exist to me. I hoped once she admitted this to herself she would move on, but even as I wished for it, I knew it was unlikely.

After college graduation, Bella moved to a small cottage in a forest. I knew why. She wanted me to be near her. There was an abundance of wildlife. She was still thinking about me. She existed in a relationship of memories, clinging to the hope that I would go to her. I felt even more melancholy because I could at least see her and hear her heart beating. I gave her nothing in return.

It was ironic that I'd planned to leave her so she'd have a chance at a normal, human life, and yet, she was living an isolated existence that mirrored my own.

Bella's strength and her faith in me slowly wasted away. The vibrant girl that broke up with me wasn't there anymore. She said she'd wait for me, forever. She said my existence gave her hope that I could be with her, that we could be together, but I saw the light fade from her eyes and her shoulders sag in defeat.

On the days she wasn't working, she wouldn't even shower. She would sit in long stretches of silence, eyes closed with her hand over her heart. Tears would fall, eventually she'd snap out of her daze and eat a small amount of food. It was so excruciating to watch because I knew I could stop her pain. I could go to her; we could try and make it work.

I wanted it more and more each day. I needed her.

The days I spent in the forest, the nights I spent lying on the cottage roof. She rarely touched herself now. When she did call out my name and cry, she sounded defeated and sad.

No one ever came to visit her.

She didn't interact with anyone outside of her working hours.

I fantasized about living in her home, waiting for her each day, touching her, making love to her, and kissing her perfect, soft mouth. I wanted to give her everything she wanted...

Then I'd rage and destroy. The forest animals sated my thirst, and the trees bore the brunt of my anger and self-hatred.

On the night of Bella's twenty-fifth birthday, I sat high in the trees, listening to the sound of her in the shower. She'd spoken to Charlie and Renee. She spent a lot of time writing.

Alice called me.

"Edward. Please don't let her die! She's your mate! She's given you enough time; you need to go to her tonight! Go to her now!"

I threw my phone as far as it would go.

Alice didn't know anything.

I would never let anything happen to Bella. I couldn't. I'm here solely to protect her.

I dropped to the forest floor when I caught the scent of an animal nearby. I smelled the rain in the distance.

The hunt was quick. The burn in my throat temporarily quenched.

When I returned back to the tree. Bella was not in the cottage. Her car was where she left it.

When the rain started, it was harder to follow her scent, but when I did detect her, the intensity of flowing blood cracked my dead heart.

NO!

I saw the knife; I saw Bella's blood.

My instinct to protect kicked in. I sealed the slash on her wrist with the smallest amount of venom.

"I'll never let you go. You can't leave me."

Now I understood Alice's words.

I carried and unconscious Bella back to the cottage.

I pulled her into a warm shower, fully clothed as I held her in my arms.

She tried to kill herself? Why?

Even as I tried to decode it, I knew.

She can't live; she doesn't want to live without me in her life.

I've been such a fool.

"Come back to me, please, Bella."

I gently peeled the wet clothing from her body when she was warm. Color had reappeared on her cheeks; her plump lips were now a perfect shade of pink. I dried her with a towel, wrapped her wet hair up and swaddled her in warm blankets. I lay her on the bed as I stripped off my wet clothes and dried myself.

My knowledge of medicine was instantly recalled as if it had been days, rather than decades since my study. I knew Bella hadn't lost too much blood. Her heart beat a normal rhythm. I covered her and pulled her into my embrace, under the blanket on her bed, just a damp towel covered by body.

I rocked her, I begged her to forgive me.

Nothing was going to keep me from her side. I would give her all of me, every day. I'd make up for the last seven years. I would be the man she deserved. I would be worthy. I would give her anything, be anything she needed me to be.

"Edward," she moaned and I felt her warm hand touch my jaw.

"Heaven," she whispered, and fell back asleep.

I held her close; my mind waged a battle within.

Could I change her, if she still wanted it?

Then I caught sight of three envelopes lying on the small writing desk in Bella's bedroom.

One had my name on it.

A suicide note?

I carefully extracted myself from Bella's embrace, raced to retrieve it and was back, holding her gently in record speed.

Dear Edward,

I'm sorry. I regret breaking up with you.

I suspected you were going to break up with me and leave me, forever.

I thought if I broke up with you first, you wouldn't cut me from your life completely. I thought maybe you'd stay close to me. I even fooled myself into believing you were close. It was like I could feel your eyes on me, looking out for me.

I believed that it was you that got me out of what could have been a devastating situation when I was in College. I held on to that belief for a long time, but when you didn't answer my pleading for you to come to me...I thought that maybe I was wrong. Maybe you'd simply taken the break-up as the chance to separate from me; a chance to live in your world without the annoying, fragile human disrupting your life and causing you pain.

I'm sorry for believing that our love would surpass my scent, blood flowing through my veins, your stubbornness and my fragility.

I tried to regain some hope when I moved to this cottage. I wanted to be somewhere you could hunt and not have to worry about the daylight. I hoped and prayed you would come to me but I've been waiting here almost two years. Maybe you don't even know where I am?

I thought maybe it would have been easier for you not to know. So then, I convinced myself you'd found a mate, even though I was sure I was your mate. It was foolish of me really, to think that you and I had the strength of love that would survive anything. Even though you told me we could never be intimate, like real lovers, I wished for it.

Edward, I thought about you that way every day. The pleasure of thinking about how you and I could physically make love, was all I had. In the cold light of day, it made me feel even worse.

I tried to visualize you happy, in love, living with your family, and not experiencing regret when you recalled your brief relationship with a human teenager. I thought that maybe, in a way, our love served a purpose. Maybe it opened your eyes to the fact that you had immense capacity to love, and I hoped that maybe, just maybe, knowing me had enriched your existence.

You enriched my existence. The time we were together was life altering for me. There were things I'd never before dreamed about as reality, but also, the fact that I'd never before felt the things I felt when I was with you. You made me feel so alive. You made me feel loved and cherished.

How could I even think of loving someone else when you were the only one I knew I would ever want?

I barely function now. There doesn't seem to be any shining light—no evidence that you are waiting for the right time to be with me.

I've lost all faith. I question everything I remember. Was I was just a foolish schoolgirl? Had I projected the ideal of love onto you?

Every time I asked myself those questions, I could vaguely remember you holding me, your attentive soft kisses and the words of love you declared. I remembered the meadow, Edward. I remember our first kiss.

You loved me. I know it. I felt it.

I can never regret having experienced that love with you. However, knowing you're not going to come to me, knowing that after all this time, you're still not ready, it kills me. I feel like I've been living with a huge hole punched through my chest, and it won't heal.

I understand why you didn't want to change me. I should never have asked it of you. But if I had understood back then, that asking, or expecting it, or forgetting the idea completely instead of us being apart, I would have chosen you. I would have chosen to have you, for as long as you would have allowed it.

I thought I could have it all. I thought changing meant I could be with you forever! And I wanted that, so much. But now I know it wasn't just the choice of 'all or nothing'. I wish I could have been with you longer. Any amount of time would have been preferable than this half-existence without you.

Should I have let you break up with me? Maybe the consequence of you breaking up with me, and me staying in Forks would have been less dire.

I meant what I said in the forest, I love you! You are the only man I'll ever love. I don't believe I have a soul. Loss of faith and loss of love leaves me feeling empty and so alone. I don't want to exist like this, without you.

Even without a soul, I hold onto the love that I had with you and I'm not scared about taking that with me. What scares me is the fading memories making me grow more anxious each day we're apart.

If you're somewhere far away, loving someone else, then please know I am very happy for you.

Even as I write, I selfishly hope you have been close to me all this time and that maybe this is a way to force you to come to me.

Am I so wrong to want that? To want you to stop me from doing this, to tell me you were just as unhappy living without me?

If you know I'll never expect you to change me, if I promise we can take each day as it comes, to find our love again? Would that change your mind? Would you come to me? Even if your heart now belongs to someone else, would you come? Would you at least let me be a part of your life? I'd do anything for that, Edward.

Half of me wants to cross everything I've written out and start writing again. Maybe I'm too selfish or stuck living in the past to sound mentally coherent, but these are my thoughts.

I know if you could have read my mind, this is what you would have seen. My insane love for you, that twists my stomach into knots when I recall your touch, or that makes my whole body warm with emotion when I remember your crooked smile. When I try so hard to remember what it was like to wake up with you holding me in my bed, or how it felt to dance with you at Prom, I feel your love.

I'm like a walking shell without the fullness of all of those memories. I just don't want to live like this any more. I'm sorry.

I love you, and I need you to know that I did wait for as long as I could, and I loved you every day.

I love you, Edward. Always.

Goodbye.

Bella xx

It was everything I feared. Everything I experienced without her. I could feel a keening growl about to erupt from me in pure agony.

I should have come back to you sooner, my love.

I'd never been clearer about my purpose now.

Bella is my mate. I've been so blind.

"You came back to me," she whispered as if dreaming.

"I'm here. You can sleep. I'll be here when you wake up."

But Bella didn't go back to sleep. I heard her heart rate spike as she realized I wasn't an apparition.

"Edward!" she cried, and tried to push her body against me in desperation.

She struggled her arms out of the blankets to glide around my neck; her warm lips sought my jaw then my lips.

I kissed her. I held her and I kissed her until she was breathless.

"I'm so sorry, Bella. I'm here. I'm not going to leave you. I'm not going to allow you to leave me. I love you. I need you."

Bella held me tight the rest of the night. She drifted in and out of sleep. I spent the night enraptured by the feel of her in my arms.

Bella is everything to me.

I resolved to love her. I would please her, any way that I could.

When she woke in the morning, her sigh of relief that I was still holding her reverberated throughout my body.

"I don't care how long you stay," she said sadly. "You don't have to change me. I just want you for as long as you'll have me. Stay with me, for as long as you can bear it, please Edward."

It crushed me. She doubted the love I felt for her. She thinks that I've stayed away for seven years!

"I want you forever, Bella. I've never been far from you. I've been near. I couldn't be away from you. Please, Bella, let me make it up to you."

I kissed my beloved. I could smell the salt from her tears and feel her heart pounding.

"You want me, forever?"

"Yes, Bella. I'll never deny you, anything."

I knew what I was promising. I knew.

When Bella's cell started ringing, I knew it was Alice.

She had seen what would happen, based on the decision I just made.

I took Bella's phone from the nightstand.

"Alice," I answered.

"Just a few bruises; the bed breaks. You can do this, Edward. You won't hurt her."

"I'm not worried about that part."

"You need to decide when and where, and how you want to change her. You're too undecided. I can't see what happens."

"Edward?" Bella touched my face. She was shaking her head 'No'.

"I'll call you back." I said to Alice.

Bella snuggled against my chest. She inhaled deeply, her heart was racing.

"Please. I don't want anything, except for you to hold me. Please Edward, just hold me. Forgive me, for leaving you. Please."

"I'm the one who needs to be forgiven, I said as my hands pulled the towel from her hair, allowing it to fall in a strawberry scented curtain over her delicate throat.

"I love you, Edward. I need you."

Bella's kisses became wanton, as she slowly maneuvered herself on top of me.

I could smell her. She was becoming aroused.

I knew everything was moving too quickly.

She tried to kill herself!

No! She wanted to force me to come to her! She knew I was here.

A few bruises; a broken bed.

This was the healing we both needed.

I stayed in control; gentle and attentive. She didn't stop kissing me. I suspected she was waiting for me to stop her. Instead, I slowly unwound the blankets I'd wrapped around her naked body.

She's so warm, so fragrant and soft.

I recalled her whimpers and the way she would cry out for me when she would touch herself. I wanted to feel her come; I wanted to see the excitement in her eyes when I touched her.

Her heart was pounding, her blood rushing through her body. It was maddening. It made me ache, but I could easily ignore the burn in my throat.

I won't hurt you.

"Please, Edward," she panted when I exposed her glorious body.

My hands splayed across her back. Bella tugged on my hair. She was desperate; she was frantic for me.

It took immense concentration to touch her softly; she was like a flower petal that could easily tear or bruise.

Her hot hands roamed my body. Her hot breath and wet tongue glided over my chest.

I wanted to be conscious of every millisecond of pleasure, but my focus was being tested.

I closed my eyes and absorbed the feeling of Bella touching me. She pulled the towel away from my body.

We moved instinctively. I hovered over her; the sound of her breathing was the most precious sound in the world. In a heated daze I felt Bella's warm hand guide me into her body.

Nothing could have prepared me for the intense surge of pleasure. Tightness and warmth, and a dizzying feeling of euphoria encompassed me. I could feel her heartbeat, as if it was my own.

She's mine her love, her silent mind, her body all mine.

I rocked my body into Bella's, in awe of how I could feel—by the rapid pace of her heart, her elevated temperature and the sounds she made—when she would orgasm.

The instant it overtook her body and mind, I let myself feel, I let myself experience her love.

My climax built and then surged into her soft, pliant body. In that moment, the seven years that I had spent at a distance had served a purpose.

Everything was clear to me now. Every decision made had led us to this exact moment.

I was finally ready. I wanted Bella to be with me forever. She'd given me the gift of time; she'd given me permission to keep my distance. She'd forced me into facing the devastation of what my existence would be without her.

She gave me hope. She proved her unyielding love for me.

"...maybe we just need time. Your existence gives me hope. We will be together again, when you're ready."

When Bella's heart-rate slowed, I whispered.

"Are you ready, right now?"

"Yes, Edward." she said with utter conviction. "I love you. Make me yours."

~0~