Happy 23rd December everyone. My excitement about getting all these done this year might have been a little premature, but hopefully you'll receive this one plus another tomorrow at least.

I hope you all enjoy this story, and I think you probably all know by now that I don't own Twilight.

Talking Her Around

I stared at Rosalie, tears streaming down my face. I knew that if she could be crying as well, she would be. Her eyes had that bright gleam to them that indicated their hurt.

The story that she had just told, the story of her death and changing, had taken my breath away. How one person could experience that much pain and suffering and still be standing was beyond me. My heart broke a little for her in that moment and I knew that no matter what happened in future, Rosalie was a stronger person than I was.

She swallowed heavily, her eyes flitting down to trace over the patterned sofa we were sitting on, and then she continued talking.

"Things got better after I found Emmett. He makes me so happy and I'm very grateful that he loves me and understands me like he does."

I could sense the hesitation in her voice. "But...?" I prompted.

She shook her head, the long earrings she was wearing sparkling in the dim light.

"There are things we both miss, things that we'll never get to experience and all because we're no longer human. We'll never get to grow old together, never get to start a family. We'll never get to sit on a porch somewhere, sharing a blanket to keep out the cold, surrounded by our grandchildren. We've experienced married life for over sixty years together, but there is always something missing for both of us because we're incapable of moving forwards. Our world is incredibly limited in terms of what we can achieve, and being human there are so many possibilities."

I looked down at my hands. I knew what Rosalie was trying to say to me. If I continued on the path I was on, I would end up being changed and I would miss out on the whole human experience.

"I don't know what I'll want in the future, Rosalie."

"I know." She reached out and clasped one of my hands. "But don't you think that that's reason enough to delay changing if nothing else? If you don't know what you'll want in the future, why limit the possibilities right now by becoming this?" She made a gesture that encompassed her whole body. "I didn't have a choice when it came to this, Bella, and it's not something I would have ever chosen for myself. Not now I've lived like it and not before. Even then all I dreamt about was a happy human future."

I listened to her quietly. I had never felt that way about my life, never known with such clarity what I wanted. The only thing I had ever wanted with any degree of strength was Edward, and even that need was being gradually whittled away by Jacob's persistence, leaving me utterly confused.

"I know that I want to live my life with Edward," I tried to explain to the female vampire, "and I've always accepted that part of that means giving up things like having babies. It's not something that bothers me."

Rosalie sighed in impatience and for a moment it looked like she wanted to throttle me.

"I know that you've told Edward that you don't want children and that's fine, but you're only eighteen, Bella. That's far too young to make a decision like that. Most women swear they'll never have children and then their perspective on life and babies change as they get older. But you'll never find that out if you don't grow up at all. Everyone thinks immortality is great, that it makes up for everything terrible that humans suffer, but it doesn't at all. All it does is highlight what you'll never have in your life."

She tucked a lock of hair back behind her ear, her frown increasing.

I couldn't think what to say to her. "I'll have Edward," I ventured hesitantly.

She laughed at that, a bitter edge to her voice. "As much as I love my brother, do you ever think that he will be enough for you? You'll get Edward, all right, but you'll lose far more. Your mother and father, your friends, your pack of mutts – all of them will be gone. It won't just be them turning their backs on you; you'll have to turn your back on all of them too. You'll have to walk away from everyone who's ever loved you and you won't be able to look back when you do, because it'll be too hard and because you'll want to destroy them when you do." She shook her head. "There's no coming back from that."

Her words had shocked me deep down. I knew that Rosalie didn't want me to be changed, she had made that perfectly clear when the rest of the family had voted on my future, but I had never recognised the depth of her feelings on the matter.

No-one had ever sat down with me and specifically laid out exactly what becoming a vampire would mean. I guess I had thought about it in an abstract sense, but Rosalie's warning was putting it all in a different perspective.

Sensing that I was finally listening properly to her, Rosalie continued.

"Do you really want to give up your family, Charlie permanently? We'll have to fake your death to get him to let you go. He's a policeman and he loves you, Bella. You're his only child. He'll never give up on finding you or getting you back if we just tell him that you've gone missing. So he'll have to be told you're dead, and they'll be a fake funeral, but he'll grieve for you as if it's the real thing." She squeezed my hand tightly, making me gasp.

I could just see it now – Charlie in his best suit, the same one he had worn to Harry's funeral, being forced to stand before a closed casket, empty of course, and mourn his only child. I shuddered at the vision that popped up into my head.

Rosalie's voice floated around the scene I could see so clearly. "The wolves and the other people on the reservation will know the truth. They're his best friends and they'll all be forced to attend, to lie to him about what's really happened. Your wolf friends will all be drawn into that mockery and will have to pretend to grieve for you, even as they know that you made that decision to leave and be changed in the first place."

I shook my head, attempting to banish my thoughts from my head.

"You're beginning to sound like Jacob, you know," I told her, trying to sound light-hearted about it.

She laughed at that.

"I wouldn't normally like the comparison to the dog, but in this case, I think he's got a point."

Her lips twitched thoughtfully.

"Bella, may I ask you something?"

I nodded wordless for her to continue and she gave me a faint smile in return.

"Why do keep referring to your decision as choosing Edward for your future?"

I frowned in confusion. "I don't understand what you mean."

She sat back against the other end of the sofa and drew her legs up underneath her. "Whenever you speak about the future, you never refer to it as making a decision between becoming a vampire or not. You always talk about it as choosing Edward or not, like you don't believe that if you chose to remain human then he would stay with you."

I was speechless. I didn't think that I spoke like that at all, but trawling back through my memory, I realised that Rosalie was right. In my mind, becoming a vampire and keeping Edward were inextricably linked.

"I didn't...I hadn't realised that I did that."

Rosalie nodded. "You do, and that's what makes me worried for you, Bella. It's almost as if you're not seeing this as a choice between life and death, which you should be. This is your life we're talking about here, Bella. Your life." She breathed the word out with a fervour that Bella had never heard before. "And what seems to be happening is that you've got so tangled up in your relationships with other people that you can't see that anymore. I know it probably seems like it from your perspective, but this decision should be solely about whether you want to live as a human or die as a vampire. It's not supposed to be a choice between Edward and Jacob, although obviously that has to be sorted out at some point as well."

I froze.

Was this really what I was doing? Was I really deciding the course of the rest of my life based on who I loved?

"I loved a man once." Sensing the wavering in my mind, Rosalie pushed her point. "And I made all my decisions based on what he wanted from me, and I lost myself in him, and he took my life. Your life has barely begun yet, Bella. Do not let the presence of a man decide what you want for yourself, what's best for you and you alone."

Leaning forward, she cupped my cheek, the coldness of her palm making me shiver despite being covered with blankets.

"Don't let Edward or Jacob be the guiding force in your life, Bella. They might say that they each only want what's best for you, and they might truly believe that, but the heart is a selfish thing. Deep down, they'll both be trying to persuade you that the best option for you is the one where you'll end up with them."

I stared wordlessly at her. I didn't know what to say or think. There was just too much I hadn't considered. An honest voice in the back of my mind told me that that I hadn't wanted to consider it.

Rosalie patted me on the knee and then stood up. "I should let you get some sleep; I've already kept you up far too late. I don't think either Edward or Alice will be particularly pleased if you're too tired tomorrow." She paused. "Just please promise me that you'll think about what I've said. I know it's a lot to take in, but you really need to be sure that you're making the right decisions for you."

For the first time since I had met her, Rosalie seemed older, the shadows under her eyes darker and I realised that this wasn't just her trying to make me see things in her way. She actually cared about me in her own way, and making sure that I knew what I was doing was her way of showing that.

"I'll think about it," I vowed.

After she left, I tried to just lie back down on the sofa and get some sleep, but my brain wouldn't stop whirring with everything that had been said that evening,

It had shocked me just how much everything Rosalie had said had resonated with me. Deep down, I did worry that I was making the decision to be changed just so that I could remain by Edward's side permanently, only as his equal, strong and beautiful, rather than the ineffectual, pathetic teenager that I was at the moment.

But then, how often had Jacob tried to sway me into remaining human with promises of his love and devotion?

I had never been weak in the past. Hell, I had practically raised my own mother and myself.

And yet somehow, knowing both Edward and Jake had left me afraid of my own shadow. I had clung to both of them to the point where I didn't feel like I could function without either of them in my life. That wasn't love, not in the way I had always imagined it. That was dependence. I had seen it in my mother more than once as she went through boyfriend after boyfriend before settling down with Phil. When I was younger, I had even promised myself that I would never be that way with a man, and yet here I was.

I was trying to change myself for the sake of my relationships.

It was a shattering realisation, more so because I had never noticed it until Rosalie had pointed it out to me.

With that realisation came the recognition that I should never have made the decision to become a vampire. Everything about that choice revolved around Edward and I knew now that perhaps I had been more influenced by our romance that I had thought.

This was my future. My future.

For the first time the true meaning of that struck me.

I had a future and it was one that I needed to seriously consider.

But I couldn't do that here, not here in the Cullens' house surrounded by Edward's possessions.

"Rosalie," I called, hoping that she was still in the house.

She stood before me in a flash and I jumped at how fast she had appeared. She tilted her head at me, her expression displaying a faint mixture of curiosity and hope.

"Yes?" She leaned forward on her toes in anticipation of my next words.

"Do you mind taking me home? I've got a lot to think about and I'm not sure staying here is a good idea."

"Of course."

Her eyes lit up and a smile danced around the edges of her mouth. In that moment, she looked faintly mad and I was reminded of just how beautiful and just how dangerous vampires could be. However, unlike the others, I knew she really was trying to help me, so I let her help me quickly pack up my belongings into my rucksack and lead me downstairs.

"Bella!"

Unfortunately, Alice was waiting for us by the front door.

"What are you doing leaving? Edward asked me to keep you here until he got back from hunting. Do you realise how worried he'll be when he comes back to find that you're gone?"

She blocked my exit and crossed her arms, scowling.

Rosalie stepped in front of me and snarled viciously. "Get out the way, Alice. Don't make me move you myself."

Alice laughed mockingly and a cruel look I had never seen before crossed her face. "As if you could."

Rosalie bounced on her toes lightly. "I could if my only decision was to make you move no matter what."

I watched wide-eyed as the two vampires began to sink into defensive crouches.

"Enough!"

The command was enough to make them rise back up again.

Carlisle suddenly appeared between Rosalie and Alice, Emmett not far behind him.

The older vampire smiled kindly at me before turning to his daughter. "If Bella wishes to go home, Alice, then of course we won't stop her. Just as I don't agree with stopping her from having the opportunity to think about her future in peace and quiet."

I blushed as I realised that they all must have heard mine and Rosalie's conversation from earlier and all knew just why I was going home earlier than expected and in the middle of the night, no less.

"Fine." Alice stormed past us all back up the stairs. "Just wait until I tell Edward what's happened here."

Carlisle frowned at her but let her leave without comment. He then turned back to me with an apologetic smile.

"My apologies, Bella. Alice feels very strongly about certain issues."

I could only nod silently.

He squeezed my shoulder and then stepped back. "If you'll allow Rosalie and Emmett to take you home, then I'll ensure that you're left in peace by the rest of our family until you decide that you wish to speak with us again."

"Your family?" I repeated numbly.

"Well, especially Edward," Carlisle explained. "If you need time to think, then of course you should take all the time you need. We'll still be here when you've made your decision."

"Thank you," I whispered. Even now, his compassion still struck me.

"Come on, let's get you home."

I was led away from the house by Rosalie and Emmett and I stared out of the window of the Mercedes blankly as they drove me home. My mind was racing and I needed time to just sit down quietly and think over everything carefully.

The two vampires led me to the front door when we reached my house and waited until I had unlocked the door and was safely inside before heading back to the car.

"Bella!" Rosalie called just before I shut the door behind me.

I looked up at her.

She was glowing faintly in the light of the streetlamps, holding hands with her husband who was gazing at her fondly.

"Please just remember what I said. You need to think about yourself in all of this. Don't worry about my brother, or the dog, they can both take care of themselves. Just...take the time to be selfish for once."

I nodded and summoned up a smile.

"Thank you, Rosalie."

I could only hope that she understood the depth of meaning behind that simple statement.

She lifted her chin in acknowledgement, and for once, I saw a genuine smile cross her face.

"You're welcome."

Emmett smiled and waved at me and then in a blur and a roar of the Mercedes, they were gone.

Locking the door behind me, I shuffled over to the sofa and sat down, staring blankly at the empty fireplace. There was so much to think about, so much to consider, but first things first, I needed to get some sleep.

Any decisions could be made tomorrow when I was more awake.

For once though, the prospect of a human future didn't fill me with the dread it usually did.

For once, I saw myself with a future.

It was a strange and heady prospect.