It was only a few weeks later when we encountered Vladimir and Stefan for the first time. We had settled in a two story house in the south of France near a small town called Montolieu.
The two ancient vampires spotted us thirty miles from home on the outskirts of Carcassonne, just below the walls of the castle that overlooks the city. They chased us and we ran them around for nearly an hour until finally landing on the peak of a high roof. They halted below us, looking up and attempting to appear smug even though they had no advantage.
"Come down, Aro. Come fight, it's time for you to face your mistakes and pay for them," Vladimir called.
Aro smiled at him condescendingly. "I think not."
"You would hide behind a woman's shield, Aro?" Stefan said tauntingly.
"She, is the most dangerous creature in a hundred miles, I think it's wisdom rather than cowardice that keeps me at her side. Indeed, it would be more dangerous to run from her. She'd track me down," he said this last part to me before kissing me possessively.
I heard them snarl below us, pacing. My shield surrounded us like a soap bubble but infinitely stronger. He ended our kiss and looked down, smiling again at their fury.
"What exactly do you want?"
They both shouted at once. I didn't know who said what but it didn't matter. They wouldn't get either.
"Well, you can't have my head, I'm afraid. It already belongs to her and she's a little selfish with it. As for revenge, I'm not sure what would be sufficient for you. You could burn down Volturi castle but as it isn't mine anymore, that would be a bit silly. I suppose you could go and ask Sulpicia for something. She's always been more resourceful than me. And I know she needs some new guard members . . ."
They hissed and spat at us. "We would never work for the Volturi filth!" Stefan shrieked, enraged.
"Then I'm afraid I have nothing to offer you," Aro said, his face stone now. He was getting bored with their antics.
"Ah, but you have things you care about," Vladimir said eyeing me.
Aro's arm tightened around me minutely.
"Try it," he said. His voice was quiet, controlled, I had never seen him look as terrifying. His eyes reminded me think of the Greek legend of Medusa who could turn you to stone with her gaze. They recoiled slightly.
"We can wait," Vladimir said. "We've been waiting a long time, we can out wait this latest . . . fascination of yours. We all know you get bored with anything but power so quickly. And when you do, we'll be waiting for a good fight. No shields." He flicked his eyes at me. They disappeared. I wasn't sure what had just happened but they appeared to have decided to leave us alone.
I was about to turn, ready to go home but Aro held me fast. He was looking at me oddly, his eyes as soft now as they had been ugly a moment before.
"Isabella," he said, tracing my jaw with his fingertips. "I love you."
It was the first time he had said it in a week because he'd gotten so annoying I had forbidden him to say it until I gave him permission again.
I didn't punish him for it. "See, that was a perfect time for it. Pick you moments."
He smiled at me and we kissed with a full moon looking down on us, it was brighter here, larger, away from the lights of a big, modern city.
A shadow had hung over me since the day I met Edward Cullen. Trouble around every corner but at last, things were right, good.
I was happy.
Aro loved me.
I'd thought I only had one great love.
I would always love Edward but Aro was my future.
A part of me wondered if he always had been.
Maybe it was supposed to end this way.
I couldn't quite believe the Cullens all dying was necessary but I felt at home with Aro in a way I never had with anyone else. I never had to pretend to be anything with him. I was just as I was and he accepted it and I didn't ever feel like I often did with Edward that he was somehow too good for me. That I wasn't graceful enough or pretty enough. There was none of that. Aro was my equal.
He turned and had me jump on his back. He liked to carry me and I enjoyed the feeling of clinging to him as he dashed lithely through the city and then out into the country and home. The sound of wind in the grass and my face pressed to his neck made me feel dreamy and safe.
"I love you, too," I said. The sound should have been lost in the wind but he squeezed my leg to acknowledge that he'd heard me.
I smiled and buried my face in his hair, inhaling deeply. He smelled the same as always. Only not to me like sin now, but like heaven.
We lived in Montotlieu for three years and then moved to the States so that Renesmee could experience her homeland while she was still sort of a child. Her growth had slowed as she approached puberty, opposite of a human child. Now I knew why the other half-vampire had said seven years when it seemed like she was growing so much faster. She looked about thirteen when she first started to draw interested looks on the street. Ones that were quickly stifled if either Jacob or Aro were with us. They were equally terrifying when it came to watching over her.
As I had guessed, she accepted Aro more readily than anyone expected. It was a year before Jacob would even consent to have a conversation with him although I often saw him watching us before that with a small, amused smile on his face as we laughed and argued. We did both often and usually simultaneously. We rarely had a straight-faced fight.
We moved to Oregon first, it was rainy like Washington so we could go out in the daytime and it was less likely we would seen by anyone we knew there. However, the weather moved fast from rain to sunshine and we had been trapped, more than once in stores and in the forest near our home, waiting for dark or the rain to come back so we could leave.
Renesmee and Aro had a relationship I didn't understand. Aside from having conversations in multiple languages, some I had never even heard before, she would sometimes put her hand on his cheek for a moment and then they would laugh at some private joke. Too often, they looked at me when this happened and I had the distinct feeling they were making fun of me. On one occasion, after witnessing this exchange, Jacob smugly observed my glaring and said, "Sucks to be the outsider, doesn't it, Bella?" I pushed him off the short rock wall we were sitting on and smiled as I listened to him crash through an embankment of trees all the way to the beach below.
I thought I would be with Edward forever. And that didn't happen. So I didn't think about forever with Aro. I just loved him every day we were together and believed that if he ever didn't love me anymore or needed to leave, I wouldn't force him to stay with me. I now knew why Sulpicia had been willing to let him go. It would have been criminal to cage him. I loved him too much to do that to him. I loved him enough that I would say goodbye if it was best for him. That was real love. I loved him more than I did myself. I couldn't say if I had loved Edward that way. I only remember wanting to keep him against all odds. It had killed him ultimately and I wouldn't make that mistake again.
We returned, alone, to our place in Baltimore a few times a year. It always hurt to leave but we knew we could come back any time. Aro had bought the whole building. The old lady who ran the bakery, who had looked at us warily when we stayed there the first time, upon seeing our rings, on our first visit back, suddenly became extremely friendly and started bringing us "extra" cookies she baked "by accident." It was adorable and completely tragic that we could not eat them. We gave them away to homeless shelters. She pestered us about babies and said that she wouldn't mind the noise at all. We knew that she was mostly deaf based on the fact that she never complained about the noise we made while having sex. We had to be fairly tame at home so when we went on our getaways, it was a little taste of what our lives had been like before. We knew she didn't hear us because she definitely wouldn't have been as nice as she was if she'd heard me screaming "fuck" all the time with varying degrees of clarity. Even he was loud. I missed his silence sometimes but knowing how much he loved being with me was satisfying in its own right. When I asked about why he was so quiet before he said it was because he was afraid that if he allowed himself to make a noise he would accidentally tell me he loved me while we were having sex.
At home we had a cat. It was a wedding present from Sulpicia. Aro hated cats violently and apparently she knew it. I could practically hear her laughter echoing around the throne room as she gave the order to have it sent to us. I liked her a lot and we visited every few years for months at a time when Renesmee was a little older. Aro insisted on wearing red contacts the first time but she saw through them immediately. They were just too orange with the gold underneath. She didn't mock him though and I was proud of her for that. Aro wanted to get rid of the cat but Renesmee, of course, fell in love with him immediately and named him "Notch" for reasons known only to her before picking him up and carrying him away like a furry baby.
"What does she need a cat for? She already has a dog," he said, sourly.
"That beast never comes upstairs, Renesmee!" he yelled after her. "Hair . . . everywhere," he said wiping at his clothes like there already was. Afterwards, he complained that the sound of three heartbeats in the house was "deafening" and made it impossible to think, like Notch's tiny heart, which sounded like someone tapping lightly on the lid of a coffee can, made any difference at all. He just felt outnumbered by living things and he wasn't used to it. But he didn't force Renesmee to give him up because he was completely under her spell and although she knew this, she wisely did not abuse it. Still, it was only my severe intervention that stopped him from turning her into the most spoiled little princess in the world.
He wasn't her father but they were friends and I was sure that whatever connection they had would continue even when she no longer lived with us. I still heard him remark on her strange gift occasionally with awe and a little jealousy, I thought. It was obvious how much he loved her and it was this that made Jacob finally stop being so cold.
We were a family, not the kind I ever expected to have but few of the best things in my life were things I could have possibly expected. My human life hadn't ended entirely when I became a vampire like it did for other vampires. I still saw my father and lived in my hometown. And it hadn't ended when I left Forks after the battle either. For me, it really felt as though my human life didn't end until we settled together in that little French town and my life as a vampire truly began. That was when I started to forget things and people and the pain of my old life dulled and became less real. Edward had once told me that the clearest memory most vampires have of their human life was the pain of their transformation. But it wasn't like that for me. For me, my clearest memory was stepping forward to give Aro my hand on the day we met. The clearest sensation wasn't pain, but the cool softness of his hands closing over mine carefully. The clearest feeling was that lovely, enchanted sleep I fell under that day and will probably, happily, never wake from.
END END NOTES: Aw, now it's over. But never fear because unlike Sunlight, this story has a sequel and as soon as I finish my current project I will get back to working on the draft for it. Thank you for reading, thank you for reviewing. It's a pleasure to write for you.
Edit: I forgot to mention that in my story, Bella's shield offers a small amount of physical protection as well as psychic so that's why Stefan and Vladimir, who are familiar with her ability, didn't attempt to attack them.
Gorron: I'm so sorry to hear you've been having a difficult time. Although, it's really wonderful to hear that my writing has been something that's helped you feel a little bit better sometimes. There is no comment more meaningful than that for me. I hope you feel better and I have more stories on the way for you so don't go away! And you should absolutely write something. I need things to read too, you know . . .