It was over. I watched from the shadows as the police officers inside the building gathered by the glass door and burst through when they saw the prone figure on their stoop. I knew he was conscious, but the guy lay motionless as they gathered him up and carried him in as best they could with his hands and feet tied and his mouth gagged. I saw him cast one more look in my direction and I hoped he would remember how very close he came to dying at my hands, just as I came very close to dying at his. I spared him. I did not spill his blood, but I knew I could have killed him in so many ways. I was grateful that my red eyes had not cooled yet. Perhaps the sight of me, his victim if he even had seen my face when he attacked me, red-eyed and bone pale, the hiss I let out at his words, would leave enough of an impression on him that he would never harm another person ever again. I told him I would be there if he did.
Though my confidence in this body was great, my doubt about my power over anyone always lingered around the fringes of my conscious mind. I smiled, grateful to be alive, even if it had to be as this. I knew I had not reconciled my changes completely, but that internal struggle was not to be had today. I had done what I had promised myself I would do and now I had to try to move on.
I visited them one more time. Their scent was so strong and so familiar to me that I could tell they all three were home and likely asleep over a mile before I arrived at the small house. I knew how to break into the house, the secret ways to open a door or a window that had come with years of living in house that predated anyone who inhabited it. They were warm, their bodies still and content with sleep. My son lay splayed out in his crib as usual, his arm flung across his favorite stuffed animal. My daughter was curled up on her side, her baby blanket snug in her arms. I wanted to kiss their sweet faces and tell them whatever goodbye I could muster, but I worried that my cool lips and sweeping movements might disrupt their peace. I blew them both kisses and whispered "I love you" to the air.
My husband was sleeping diagonally in our bed as he was wont to do when he was sleeping alone. One arm hung off the bed and he faced toward the doorway, which was open to the children's room. I hated leaving him alone with two children. I had never intended to leave him like this. I knew my sobs would be dry, but I let a few escape as I looked at him. He had loved me and I him for so long. He didn't know how small and petty I had been before I met him and now he wouldn't be able to know how strong and fast I was now. I whispered my apology to him and blew him a kiss as well. I dared take a step closer and whispered "I love you" as close to his ear as I could get. I smelled the blood in his body shift as he started to stir and blew out of there just as quietly as I came in. Outside the house, I stood thinking about what was next.
"You're so predictable. They always do this." Paul said, leaning on a tree nearby. I caught his scent right as I exited and I had to smile at my companion.
"Who always does this?"
"New vampires. They always have to say goodbye somehow."
"Didn't you?" I asked, eyeing him suspiciously. Surely he was not exempt from these emotions.
"I was lured into the shadows and attacked by the woman I wanted to marry. All I remember is being surprised and then being very thirsty."
"What of your family? Your friends? Your town?"
He laughed. "I lived and worked in the Klondike; I'm sure my family assumed I had run into trouble or an accident. That happened sometimes. Get lost hunting, freeze to death. Get ambushed by a guy on your crew because you found something he wanted. In my case, I ran into a beautiful blonde."
"What did you do with the girl?" Paul seemed to hesitate rather than answer my question. "Paul—" My voice was a warning.
"She's fine. I got her to a hospital without taking advantage of her precarious state, I promise. Not a drop." He stared at me with an intensity I hadn't expected. "I promised you that. I would never renege on a promise to you."
Uncomfortable with his gaze, I hesitated for a second. I wasn't ready for this. "Well, then, what's next? What happens now that I've said my goodbyes?"
"We could go our separate ways. So many of us are nomads; rarely do we travel more than a couple at a time."
"I don't want to roam. I want to find some others of our kind and think. I want to ask questions."
Paul hesitated. He was still skeptical that I, or any vampire for that matter, could not hunt humans. Wasn't that what we were made for? What we had evolved to become? "If you're so determined to go that route, I have heard rumors of a coven in Washington that practices that life. I'm not sure where they are, but we can try to find them. "
"Where in Washington?" My curiosity was piqued. This seemed familiar, like I had thought about this before. I grew up in Washington State. I knew about the rumors of unexplainable things, like Sasquatch and vampires and the like. I never thought twice about it until now. If vampires are real, and I'm living proof of it, then what else was real? What else was possible?
"Somewhere in the northern part of the state. I'm sure we could track their scent. There has to be that." He shrugged. I sighed. The northern part of Washington State? Of course. The constant cloud cover, the sparse population. Why not there?
"Vampires that don't hunt humans sound improbable, eh?" I smiled at him as he walked closer to me.
"I've learned that very little is improbable in this life," he said, taking my hand. I looked at him, trying to read his expression. Was this a sign that he would try this life with me? Was he betting on the chance that my feelings would change? My temptation was to ask him, to tell him what was on my mind. But I didn't even know if this coven existed, if what I was looking for was possible.
"I've never tracked anyone before." I said, still looking at his hand.
"You tracked your attacker."
"That was a human. That was easy. We're talking vampires. Wouldn't they, if they were smart, keep themselves somewhat hard to find so that other vampires don't seek them out?"
Paul considered that for a moment. "But why would they want to remain hidden?"
"So they won't attract attention? If I were a vampire who chose not to hunt humans, I would need an area to hunt animals. Rural areas are best for that. Attracting attention just invites battles over territory. If you're not hunting humans, then you might attract others who do and they would upset the local human populace. Out come the torches and pitchforks."
"I think we're past that time."
I huffed. "You never know."
"So let's go. Let's head north and see what happens."
And we ran north, seeking a life I never knew could exist.
The journey north was a lesson in scents. Away from the city, I was reminded of how trees and animals smelled. I could taste the difference between herbivores and carnivores to some extent, the way that one quite nearly repelled versus the other was almost mouthwatering. The rare moments we crossed human paths I was reminded of the tang of human blood, salty and metallic. Freshly turned earth, clear air, the exhaust of cars, the acrid burn of electricity over the power lines. Then, about hundred miles out, I started to cross the scent of vampire, though its flavor differed ever so slightly from Paul's. With it, two other scents, one so animal it was ferocious and made my nose wrinkle. The other, sweeter than vampire, but similar. As we ran through the deep forests of Washington State, I knew we were getting close. The scents, which were starting to become distinct from each other the closer we approached, became stronger and my legs followed their paths automatically.
We passed through a large clearing and I nearly froze when I realized that three – no, four – sets of legs were approaching. The wind blew toward Paul and I and I counted two, possibly three, vampires and that same ferocious animal scent with them. Paul stopped before I did and reached for my hand. I stood with him, waiting, poised to run if necessary. Their scents told me nothing about intent.
Three figures and a large wolf flashed into the clearing, growing close enough that I could hear snippets of conversation.
"We were just hunting…I heard them before I smelled them. They aren't familiar to me. "
"…I heard she had a vision of someone coming today…"
"Did she recognize them?"
They stopped half a mile away, two women, a man, and a red-brown wolf. Paul pushed me behind him, as if he intended to confront them and wanted to shield me. I pushed him away and took a good look at the vampires.
My breath stopped and I stood like a statue, surprise so strong it would have rendered me defenseless for a few seconds.
"Edward? Bella?" I recognized his bronze hair and her long, dark waves. His topaz eyes were familiar to me as human memories ticked one-by-one, fuzzy and ill-defined, but I remembered those eyes.
I saw the same ones in her face and I knew she had been changed too. Beside her, a tall young woman, her face no longer round like a teenager's, but still young, the same bronze hair, the same long waves. The same chocolate brown eyes.
Was it possible? WAS IT?
Bella inched closer, Edward and the tall girl at her flanks, the wolf at the tall girl's side. She looked at me, caution giving way to curiosity. I knew she recognized me, she had to, but she looked as incredulous as I did.
For the first time since I had been changed, I let someone say my name. And I knew then that I was still me.
And I knew I would never be alone in this life again.