The Family Meeting

I saw Edward's Volvo beside the house and knew the kids had beaten me there, so Esme would know about me by now. I wondered, How long will it take for Carlisle to get home? I didn't really want to get started without him and doubted the others would want that either.

I stood there, contemplating the front door. I can't knock, because my arm will go right through it, but it would be rude to enter their home uninvited. Should I just call out 'Knock, knock'?

As I debated, I heard the crunch of gravel from a car zipping down the driveway at high speed. I had the irrational urge to dodge, even though I wasn't in the way, and the car would likely pass right through me if I were. The black vehicle sped by and stopped abruptly beside the silver one, perfectly aligned with it.

Carlisle got out of the car and looked at me expectantly, before smiling warmly and walking over to introduce himself. "Hello, I'm Dr. Carlisle Cullen, pleased to meet you."

He held his hand out for me to shake and out of habit I reached for it. His eyes widened as my hand passed through his instead of gripping it. I drew my hand back self-consciously.

"I'm … um … Specter," I replied, deciding not to share my real name.

Carlisle raised an eyebrow, but graciously chose to accept the obvious fabrication without challenge. "Well, Ms Specter, will you please join my family and me inside? We appreciate your assistance earlier and would like to get to know you better."

"Certainly, Carlisle," I answered nonchalantly. "I can't wait to get to know all of you better as well."

Smiling, I followed him inside, where Esme was patiently waiting in the foyer. Carlisle greeted her with a quick hug and kiss. Putting an arm around her shoulders, he turned to introduce her to me.

"Ms Specter, this is my wife Esme. Esme, this is Ms Specter. I'm sure the children have already informed you of the assistance she provided earlier."

Esme stepped forward and attempted to hug me, gasping in shock when her arms went through my body as if there was nothing there. I noticed Carlisle was watching the scene intently through wide eyes. Esme quickly returned to the security of his embrace, unsure of what to think.

"I'm a ghost," I explained apologetically.

"Oh!" she gasped again, her hand coming up to cover her mouth, looking up to Carlisle in consternation, her eyes questioning.

"In all my years, I've never encountered a ghost before," Carlisle admitted, narrowing his eyes, his gaze piercing. "Neither have the Volturi."

"To your knowledge anyway," I pointed out to him.

He frowned, "True, but it is one of the things about which I specifically inquired."

I raised an eyebrow and challenged, "Perhaps, but there's other things out there that the Volturi have never encountered before either."

I started to bring up hybrid vampire children, but decided now really wasn't the time to tackle that subject. It would distract the family too far from the matter at hand, Edward's mate.

"Such as?" Carlisle questioned, crossing his arms over his chest, returning the challenge.

"Such as giant wolves running around La Push," I mentioned.

Both his eyebrows raised. "Indeed, I do believe the Volturi are unaware of the existence of the Quileute shape shifters. However, the shifters are all dead now."

"Correction. The previous generation of shifters is dead now. The current generation has just begun shifting," I warned.

"There are wolves in La Push currently?" Carlisle asked worriedly.

"At least one, soon to be more," I informed him.

"Who?" he wondered.

"Sam Uley."

Carlisle frowned and nodded. "Please, let's take this into the dining room with the rest of the family," Carlisle decided. "I know we all have questions for you, and that's the traditional place for a family meeting."

I smiled and followed him and Esme into the dining room, where the others were already waiting. "Would you mind?" I asked, pointing to the empty chair.

"Of course not," Carlisle responded, pulling out the chair for me. Then he paused and looked at me in confusion. "Are you able to sit on it?"

I looked at him in surprise. "I don't know, but I'm tired of standing, so I figure it's worth a try." I attempted to sit carefully and found myself sinking right through. I quickly caught myself before I fell.

Emmett laughed, and I pouted, "Well, this sucks."

"No, we suck," Emmett joked. "That's just frustrating, Speck."

I grinned and attempted to give him a fist bump, laughing with him as my fist passed through his.

The others smiled at our antics, but soon got serious again.

"So what are you?" Carlisle asked. "Are you really a ghost? How did you die?"

"I already asked her," Rosalie admitted. "She doesn't remember dying."

I pursed my lips in thought. "I don't think I'm actually dead. You've heard of out-of-body experiences, right? Well, I think this is one of those. You know, the Quileutes are supposedly shape shifters because one of their ancestors, Taha Aki, was a spirit walker and an evil tribe member took over his physical body while his spirit was away from it. Then he bonded his spirit with a wolf, sharing the wolf's body. So, I'm guessing I'm essentially a spirit walker. I'm sure my body is safe and sound on my couch in my living room, just where I left it."

They all exchanged glances then Alice shrugged and smiled at me. "Stranger things have happened, I'm sure. We certainly can't deny that you're here in spirit form and have way more knowledge than any human could or should."

"Yes, the knowledge you possess is more worrisome than your current lack of physical body," Jasper informed me. The others nodded, several of them still clearly suspicious of me and my motives.

"Look, I want to help you guys. I've had lots of dreams about your family and have grown to know and love you through the visions I've seen of your past, present, and future. Alice, you of all people have got to understand. Isn't that the way it was for you?"

She nodded slowly. "How'd you know?"

I raised an eyebrow. "Didn't I just say? I've had dreams about you talking about how it was for you."

All the vamps stared at me, then exchanged uneasy glances.

Emmett shrugged and posed, "Well, we already went through this once with the psychic half pint, so why shouldn't we add a know-it-all ghostie to the family tree?"

"I would love to be part of your family," I admitted.

"At least I know she won't put all my stuff in the garage while I'm out hunting because my room has the best view," Edward teased.

The others grinned, and Jasper ruffled Alice's hair when she huffed.

"Well, I want proof of your dream visions," Rose declared, not looking the least bit amused. "Why should we believe a word you say?"

I met her challenging glare calmly. "I know a lot of things Rosalie Lillian Hale. I know about Rochester and about the bear attack in Tennessee. I know about Vera's little boy with the brown curly hair and that Emmett believed you were an angel carrying him off to God." I smiled and winked at Carlisle. "I even know things about you guys you don't know about yourselves. I know about Mary Alice Brandon and why she woke up alone with no memories of her human life in Biloxi, Mississippi. I know she had a little sister and has a niece who's still alive."

Alice gasped and begged, "You know my past? Please tell me!"

I warned her sadly, "It's not a pretty story, sweet girl. Are you sure you wish to know?"

She nodded emphatically. "I'm sure it's not a fairy tale, or else I wouldn't be a vampire, right? I need to know. Not knowing is so much worse!"

"You had visions even as a human and were sent to a mental institution by those who were afraid. You weren't crazy, but your father had your mother murdered so he could marry another woman, and you were the only one who knew the truth, due to your visions. You attempted to report him, and he had you committed. Since you were a minor, it was easy for him to do so without giving you the chance to expose him to anyone who would listen to your accusations and recognize the truth of them. You were kept in a cell with no windows and suffered through shock treatments and other horrible 'cures' for the mental illness you didn't actually possess. I'm so sorry, sweetheart. Do you want me to stop?" Silent tears were running down my cheeks, and my voice was breaking, seeing the distress my words were causing her and thinking about how she must have felt as a teenager, betrayed so badly by the one man who should've loved and protected her.

She shook her head, her eyes shiny with venom. She held in a sob and begged me to continue. I glanced around, seeing the love and compassion pouring from the other vampires toward their beloved psychic. I knew it was probably the only thing holding Jasper together as he soothed his mate, aching with her pain and longing to right the injustices done to her as a human child. I could see the extra horror in Carlisle's eyes and knew he was aware of just how terrible some of the treatments his daughter had endured really were.

"You were born the same year as Edward and changed roughly two years after him," I told her, giving her something not as painful to process.

"I'm 19," she whispered.

I nodded. "There was a vampire working there at the institution. He recognized your gift, knew you weren't really crazy, and befriended you. He tried to help protect you and care for you as best he could without exposing himself. You knew what he was though, thanks to your visions. One day you got a vision of another vampire hunting you. The other vampire was named James. You were his singer, your blood smelled better to him than any other humans' did. You told your protector and he changed you to save you from being killed by James. James was enraged that his prey got away, and he killed your sire in revenge. He knew you were changing, and he deliberately left you to wake up alone, caring nothing for you now that you were inedible."

"That's both irresponsible and illegal," Carlisle angrily growled. "Not to mention immoral."

I sighed and nodded, "It's a good thing he did though. Alice had her visions to guide her. If James had known of her gift in advance, he would've kept her and used her for his own purposes. He would've abused her and tortured her, forcing her not only to drink from humans, but to play games with them. He likes to torture his food physically, emotionally, and sexually, before eating it. He would've incorporated Alice and her gift into his games, forcing her to cooperate and torturing her for her defiance."

I knew Jasper understood better than any of them what means could be used to force vampires to do things against their will, and his eyes were haunted as he hugged his mate closer to himself. Some of his thoughts must have slipped, because Edward appeared more horrified than he did by the visions of killing a room full of children the day before.

The family gathered around Alice, showering her with their love and support, murmuring words of comfort. I waited silently for them to regroup and return to their seats.

Feeling emotionally exhausted, I sank into the chair behind me and rubbed my face with my hands, closing my eyes. Pulling my hands away and opening my eyes again, I saw my vampires staring at me curiously.

"How'd you do that?" Edward asked, tilting his head to the side.

"Do what?" I asked in confusion.

"Speck, you're sitting in the chair!" Emmett crowed enthusiastically, seeing my bewilderment.

With a jolt, I realized he was right. I looked down at myself now comfortably ensconced in my seat. "I don't know!"

"Are you solid now?" Rose snarled, looking like she hoped I was so she could kill me.

Emmett reached over to touch my arm, but his fingers went right through it instead, landing on the armrest on which my arm was somehow now resting. "Nope," he offered.

I held my hands up in a gesture of surrender. "I didn't mean to hurt her, Rosalie. You're the one who wanted proof of what I knew, and it just went from there."

"We don't know if you're telling the truth about her," Rose sneered. "You could be making all of that up, for all we know."

I shrugged. "I don't expect you to take my word for it. I know Alice will do her own research. Honestly, if I was going to make up a past for her, it would be one filled with kittens and unicorns and princess dresses. I know what it's like to be betrayed and damaged by someone who is supposed to love and protect you, someone who is supposed to have your best interests at heart and take care of you. I hate for anyone, especially a child, to have to suffer the way Alice did." I looked pointedly at Rose, communicating with her that I knew her past just as well as I knew Alice's and hated the pain she'd suffered just as much.

I sighed, "Frankly, I'm glad Alice doesn't remember the horrors of the years leading up to her human death. Becoming a vampire is the best thing that ever happened to her. Now she has two wonderful loving parents, three caring, understanding siblings, joy filled days of freedom, doing whatever her heart desires, and an adoring soul mate who consistently puts her wellbeing ahead of his own and always will."

"What about all the things she lost?" Rose instantly protested.

"What did she lose, Rosalie? There was no happy ever after in the cards for human Alice, if she hadn't managed to somehow catch the attention of not one, but two vampires. She was committed for life to a mental institution in the first quarter of the 20th century! She would never have even seen the sun again, much less been able to fall in love or have a family. She would never have seen her sister again, since her sister had been told she died the day she was committed. Her days and nights would've been filled with torture, rape, and abuse, solitary confinement, neglect, malnourishment, illegitimate, unscientific attempts at curing an illness nobody understood and she didn't even possess anyway, and forced sterilization, all at the hands of the human doctors and attendants there, until her body finally stopped fighting and granted her the sweet release of death. That was common practice in these places at the time! How could that possibly have been better than the life she has now?"

"Thank you," Alice declared, smiling at me, drawing the attention of her horror stricken family members. "Thank you for putting it all into perspective for me and reminding me just how wonderful my life is. It's true my past is something of a horror story, but most of ours is. I'm glad I don't remember it, because that means I'm not traumatized by it, and I refuse to allow these revelations to drag me down now. I'm still glad I know the truth, because not knowing was worse. Now I can at least understand what led me here, and I'm glad it did, because I wouldn't trade the life I have now for anything."

Rose huffed, crossing her arms over her chest and looking away, but didn't reply. Emmett's eyes were sad as he looked down at his mate, but he chose not to say anything.

I'm going to teach that girl to appreciate her life if it kills me, I thought to myself.