Not So Empty Pages
the SayItOutLoud Journal
November 1, 2005
It was this or getting shipped to my mom, so here I am. I have to "write it out," they told me. Sure. Because writing it out will make it all better. Not even. Still, I'm writing it so I can say I did and everyone will get the hell off my back.
He left me. I wasn't good enough for him and he left me. There.
It looks so naked on the screen, you know?
"I love you...in a way," was what he said. I wasn't good enough. Not good for him. His family. Any of it. So he left me.
I couldn't breathe in September, right after. He gave me The Talk in the forest and then he ran away because he knew I'd never catch him. But I tried and I got lost and I fell over and hurt myself. I guess I wasn't worth coming back for, but I wish - I wish I could have breathed better.
My therapist - cannot believe I have one of those. Sounds so emo. So nineties. But yeah, I have one. She says the breathing thing is emotional. Something she could medicate me for. If I can't learn how to breathe again by writing in this thing? Meds. Man, I don't want to do that.
There's this hole in my chest, you know? Yeah, like anyone's reading. But if anyone does and if anyone's ever still loved the person that left them, then you know what it feels like to have your chest carved out like a bowl.
How come I still love him, when he did that to me? I'll never stop loving him. He said I was his life - he told me that. He told me I was his life and then he changed his mind.
I might not be his life anymore, but he's mine. Still. I think he always will be.
That sucks. And not in a good way.
I have to write in this three days a week, at least two-hundred fifty words an entry. I don't know how this will help, but if it gets them off my case...right?
Bella's nightmare awakened her. Screams filled her ears and she felt herself being lifted from her bed and turned without a thought into the chest against her face. But it felt wrong - it was warm and giving and there was a heartbeat.
He hadn't come back. He hadn't heard.
Of if he had, he didn't care. None of them did.
Still, she stifled her sobs and tried to dry her face. "Sorry, Dad."
"Bells, honey, I'm here for you. Always. I love you."
Her eyes welled again. "I - I love y- you, too-oo-oo." She tried to focus just on what she felt good about, as Charlie held her in his arms on the edge of her bed. He rocked her as if she were very small. Guilt consumed her. "Go back to bed, Dad. I'll just read or something," she managed to say after a minute. "You need your rest."
"Hmph. So do you." In the vague light from the quarter moon, he studied her face. "Do you need to go back to that doctor?"
"No!" Rolling out of his arms, Bella landed with a total lack of grace on the floor. He steadied her. "No, I'm fine."
"All right." With a tired sigh, he pushed himself up and off the bed, to stagger a little toward the door. Bella winced to see how exhausted he was. Hers weren't the only eyes that had bags under them. "Get some sleep, Bells."
Not So Empty Pages
the SayItOutLoud Journal
November 3, 2005
Wow. So, um, I guess someone's reading, huh? Um, if this were, like, group therapy (my therapist would probably love that) I'd probably have to say hi and introduce myself and then you would, too.
So, hi. I'm just a distraction. I live in the northwest corner of the United States. I'm in love with this - amazing guy and he broke up with me in the forest. Kind of messed me up. My parents freaked out, and now I'm in therapy.
So, hi again. And thanks. It does suck to get dumped and I guess it's good to be reminded that I'm not the only girl who got abandoned like that. So thanks to PKinWA and AZtears for your encouragement and to booboo-kitten for the link.
I feel like a leper, really. Because since he left? And his whole family, too? No one's talking to me. Like everyone at school is thinking that since they all left? There must be a damned good reason, you know?
Maybe there is.
He had a fight with his family right in front of me. Kind of about me, I think. You ever feel like everyone's in on something except for you?
That's how it was with me and his family. All the time.
No wonder they left. I'm so not in their league.
It's easier to just sort of let myself wallow. It doesn't hurt so much. I hurt, though. All the time. That hole in my chest isn't getting any smaller.
And that was two-hundred fifty words. I'm done.
"No, really. I'll roast a turkey," Bella said. Charlie eyed her askance. "I've done it before, Dad. You do the mashed potatoes and maybe roast some corn and we'll be good." She planned on making green beans and a salad, too. Charlie needed to eat right.
The Chief of Police hid his grin behind his hand and turned to dig the potatoes from the bin. "I can do the potatoes. Bet you want 'em peeled..." he guessed with a heavy sigh as he set them on the tile counter. "Don't s'pose I can peel 'em and watch the game at the same time?"
"I'll clean up the mess."
"Fine!" She rolled her eyes and pulled her hair back into a ponytail to keep it out of the way while she cleaned and dressed out the turkey. That she immediately thereafter ran up to her room, eyes intent and focused, Chief Swan saw, though he did not comment upon it. He did, though, avoid the squeaky spot on the stairs and follow her, to listen at the door.
He was a cop, and when his daughter went from being all but invisible to finding an interest in something that gave a focus to her days, he had to investigate.
All he could hear was her fingers engaging in seriously rapid-fire typing. His daughter had skills, as the younger people said at the station.
Not So Empty Pages
the SayItOutLoud Journal
December 6, 2005
You are all so right! I love him and I should fight for him. But how can I do that when he and his whole flippin' family are hiding?
(I know it's not my usual length, but I'll make up for it this week, I'm guessing.)
Pulling her Government text out of her locker, Bella paused to greet Angela. It was really incredible, the confidence being able to speak anonymously online had given her. "Hey, Angela."
"You doing okay?" Angela studied her down her nose, but not in a condescending way. It was just that the Reverend Weber's daughter was so tall that made her look like that. "I thought maybe you were doing better and wondered if you wanted to come to a Christmas party. Ben and I -"
A grin broke out all over Bella's face. "So, you two...?"
Angela's blushed deeply. "Um, yeah." That Bella hadn't noticed before didn't bother Angela - it was enough that apparently the quiet girl was coming back to them from the depression she'd been dropped into after the Cullens moved away.
"I'm happy for you." Bella was sincere, but it hurt, too. She glanced away to see Mike and Jessica teasing one another down the hall, and another couple of couples, faces red from the winter wind and laughter in their eyes. She and Edward -
"So? You want to come? Ben's mom will be there and it should be 'appropriate,'" Angela assured her with finger-quotes around that last word. "I bet the Chief is as paranoid about that kind of thing as my dad, huh?"
"Yeah. Um, sure. Okay. Email me with the details?"
"Great! I will!"
Ben met Angela in front of whatever class they were sharing and Bella couldn't help the lancing of pain through her chest when she saw his happiness.
Did Edward ever look that happy with me? Or did my blood always cause him so much pain? He said he'd always love me...in a way. But it must not have been that way...
Not So Empty Pages
the SayItOutLoud Journal
December 17, 2005
I thought I was getting better. I really did. And then I go to a party and have to pretend, right? And everywhere I go, there's all these couples and they only remind me of how I was so wrong about - Him.
I have to rethink everything he ever told me. How many lies did he pile up for me? His whole family! I know they didn't all like me, but I tried so hard to like them, you know? And his parents - they were just wonderful. Treated me almost like I belonged.
Were they lying, too? They lied to everyone else, why not lie to me? They disappeared - now they're lying to other people, too.
Is he lying to another girl, somewhere? Did he find a distraction? Another one, like me? Will he say he loves her, too?
Sometimes, I wonder if I just dreamed them all up, you know? I went to his house and it was all dark and quiet. Like no one had lived there for years. No one really talks about them at school - at least, not that I've heard.
No, I guess they were real. I can't be crazy. Not that crazy. Anyone else out there ever feel like their own reality was turned around by someone they loved? Is it just me?
I don't want to feel like this anymore. I wish I could just see him. Just one more time to ask him if I ever mattered to him at all.
And that was two-hundred fifty words. I'm done.
"Oh, hell, no."
Jasper's muttered denial caught Alice's attention immediately. "What is it?" In Ithaca, New York, the empath projected a huge wave of guilt, laced through with dread and fear. Alice, picking up on this silent mode of communication, gasped. "Jas?"
He extended one long arm and drew his mate next to himself. "I know you know what I've been up to."
Alice's scent soothed him as she nuzzled the slope of his shoulder. "I know. And I'm glad. You didn't have to make any stupid promises." That Edward had demanded she keep her vision off of her best friend was the meanest thing ever, but Edward had been so devastated, so horribly bereft, that she had been willing to promise anything to make him feel even the slightest bit more at ease. "So... What?"
"Bella." He grimaced and nodded at the computer screen. "She's been blogging, hon. She's not doin' so hot, I'm thinking. But she's interacting with people, and that's something."
Alice saw the SayItOutLoud logo on the top of the window of the website. "Well, that's something, right?" Pain hit her heart for a moment. "Do you think Edward was right? That she's going to get over us and move on with her human life?"
Aware of the odd edge of hope along the sheet of fear that Alice felt, Jasper just held her more closely. "He was wrong about her. Her love for him is - was - powerful. Humans just don't usually give themselves over to love the way she did, Alice. I wish he would have listened to me."
"He wasn't listening to anyone," Alice said bitterly. "He's - He's an -"
"He's an ass. I know. Don't worry," he added with a smile. "I can say that kind of thing."
Jasper refreshed the page out of habit. And swore. Loudly.
So did Alice. Terror filled her eyes. "Oh, no. What has she done?"
Not So Empty Pages
the SayItOutLoud Journal
December 19, 2005
Thank you. Thank you, everyone. It's been great getting to know you all and hearing about your stories and everything. I guess I was being really self-involved, not remembering how many people hurt out there.
And you were right, SharpShooter. Lying to someone you love isn't loving them. Love should mean respect. And he didn't respect me.
And BizzyAnt44709? I haven't wanted to share names or anything, because I was all about keeping this anonymous. So no one I knew would know it was me, here. I hate that kind of - of attention. Like being a new kid at a new school. But maybe if I told, he'd be outed. And then he might just have to come back or email me or something. Just to tell me off.
If he cares anymore. I guess I'll find out.
Because I'm going to tell you all right now.
"He" is Edward Cullen. He was born in 1901. He looks like he's a teenager and he has for a really long time. He's got bright bronze hair that is almost always a mess and he's unbelievably, well, beautiful. Like Adonis. Like Apollo. Like - breathtaking. He might be walking around out there as Edward Masen or maybe Anthony Masen or maybe Anthony Cullen. Hell, he might have adopted another "family name." His family does that all the time.
They lie. All the time. I posted that before, I know.
If you see someone whose skin is really pale, who avoids the sun and is absent from school when it is sunny, whose eyes change from golden to black every ten to fourteen days, whose skin is cold and hard and who never eats in public -
This person is not an alien. He's a vampire. Not like Hollywood - Edward told me that Hollywood gets the details wrong.
My Edward - he's a vampire. So is his family. And I love them, even after everything.
That's more than two-hundred fifty. I'm done. Really.
Part of her job was to monitor all the news networks. She ran keyword searches on different websites. Usually, when a "complication" arose, it was in the form of a bloodbath in some minor region. Gianna knew what to look for and rarely missed a rebellious vampire or ravenous newborn.
She preferred the Google search engine to any other and often did quick searches there. More than ninety-nine percent of the time, there was nothing alerted that she needed to show The Brothers.
Today, it was not so peaceful. "Porca miseria!" She knew the drill. Print the pages from the website, and hack - she was a skilled hacker, something that her beauty tended to overshadow - into the site to find the ISP address and any other salient information she could find on the blogger who adopted the name "just_a_distraction."
"Okay, Bells. Spill it."
It was Christmas Eve and they were sitting in front of the fireplace. Charlie relished this opportunity to have the night off - he'd managed to get both Christmas Eve and Christmas Day off, playing the "it's been forever since I've celebrated with my only child" card - and he had enjoyed the light dinner and the hot cider Bella had made for them. She'd been doing better, until just recently.
As in maybe the last few days. Tension had radiated from her. Guilt. Also defiance. Charlie Swan didn't say a whole lot, but he knew people. "You're acting like someone's out to get you, hon. You haven't been out of the house hardly at all for days and when you did go, you had a baseball cap pulled over your head and sunglasses on."
"It was bright outside, Dad," she countered, breaking up a piece of shortbread on the red paper plate in front of her. "And I was cold."
He lifted a hesitant hand - unsure as always how to parent a young woman - and enveloped her nervous fingers. "You haven't been typing, lately, either."
Her eyes widened. "What? Are you spying on me?" Tugging her hand from his, she harrumphed. "Dad, come on. I'm eighteen, now."
"And you were depressed and almost hospitalized, so yeah, I was keeping an eye on you, Bella. You're my daughter and - and I love you.
"I love you, too, Dad." Regret filled her - she hadn't shown him and this might have been the only time she said so. That had to change.
He wasn't done, though. "I'm worried about you. Plus, your doctor called. You missed an appointment. And you keep looking over your shoulder." Reviewing the evidence quickly in his mind, he seasoned it with a supposition. "Hey. Did that Cullen guy try to contact you? Is that why you've been in hiding?" Anger and resentment weighed him down all of a sudden, as well as a certain amount of concern - concern that had him getting up and checking his door.
"Stay put, Bells." Locks were tight. Everything looked to be in order. Even so, he felt uneasy and did a quick perimeter check, pulling on his coat and grabbing his service weapon as he made sure the exterior was secure.
Satisfied, at length, he returned to the house. Bella had picked up their snack and was standing in front of the tree, looking at the ornaments. Not a lot of ornaments, but he had kept all the ones she'd sent him for Christmas presents as a little girl. There were some there, too, from those distant Christmases he had had with Renée...
"Merry Christmas to you, too, Mom."
Speak of the devil...
"Seriously? Um, does Ch- Dad know?" Charlie rolled his eyes. As if he didn't know she called him by his name? Renée had been ridiculous about stuff like that.
"Do I know what?" he interrupted, beckoning for her to give him the plates she held in one hand.
Instead, she gave him the phone. Perhaps she had misunderstood. Still, he took it and Bella headed to the kitchen.
While Charlie spoke to Renée - who had decided to make herself a surprise Christmas present and was catching the first flight out of Jacksonville in the morning! - Bella threw the plates away and then ran up to her room. Something was bugging her. Maybe it was because of Charlie's bout of nerves a few minutes ago.
She had posted about Edward and his family, but after she had, she was scared. Really scared. She remembered that there were laws in the vampire world and she had broken about a dozen of them, probably. And what about the Cullens? Even though they abandoned her, she didn't want them to be in trouble! So, after about twenty-four hours, Bella had deleted that entry. Maybe her followers on the blog wouldn't say anything.
She hadn't answered any of the comments that day and had stayed away from the journal anyway. Feeling guilty and childish, she had just avoided the whole thing. Hadn't even checked her email.
She still didn't. Instead, she went to her blog and logged in.
Well, she tried to log in.
"This SayItOutLoud account has been deleted. You must wait seventy-two hours to open a new account. Fill in the information in the field below and an email will be sent..."
She tried to swallow, but her mouth was dry. As if all the moisture in her body had evaporated in a heartbeat. Crap. Oh, no. Crap. What have I done? Oh, no. Oh, no. Oh, no.
"Bells? You okay, hon?" Charlie stood in her doorway, holding out her cell phone. "What's wrong?"
Cover. Lie. Cover. Don't tell. But - what if - No. "My stupid blog got deleted," she said.
"The one you've been writing in for your doctor?"
"That's the one."
"Can you make a new one?"
"Sure. Yeah. I just have to wait three days. Site rules."
"I'll tell your doctor, if you want. So she doesn't give you a hard time."
"Thanks, Dad." She took a deep breath and put a smile on her face. "Merry Christmas, yeah?"
He chuckled and she stepped forward to take her phone. "Merry Christmas, Bells."
Carlisle was all but welded to Esme. "Did you find him?" he asked Alice.
They had taken a break to hunt, the family had. Abandoning their home in Ithaca, they had run with the clothes on their backs and one extra set each. That Carlisle had deemed it necessary to evacuate so had underscored the family tension. "No. He's not answering his phone. That tracker you mentioned, Carlisle..."
"Did he ever meet Edward?"
Closing his eyes, Carlisle shook his head. "No. So if we're very fortunate, Edward will remain safe."
"But what about us? I told you we should have killed her. If you had only listened to me and Jasper, we wouldn't be in this position!" Rosalie's fury was crested by fear and Jasper did his best to soothe her, even though his efforts earned him a wicked glare. "Well, we wouldn't be."
After a moment so filled with portent that it should have flattened them all, Carlisle dropped a kiss on Esme's windblown hair. "I love you. Each of you. So what I'm going to say is for each of you. I am the only one Demetri has met. The only one he can track. I propose that I endeavor to be proactive, if that's possible, and go to Italy to speak with Aro. We have kept in touch and are on good terms. I can perhaps ameliorate the situation."
"No!" they all shouted in protest, even Alice.
The seer centered herself and tried to see what would happen. When she opened her eyes, the family was all staring at her. She could only grip Jasper's hand in both of hers and share what she her vision had shown her. They knew from her sorrow-darkened expression that it had not been a positive outcome.
Sleep had been impossible, but Bella had to pretend she was rested. She had a plan. Get through today and then run. Tell Charlie she was going back with Renée and tell Renée that she would be spending every day with her friends from Ben and Angela's Christmas party. Buy herself some time to hide. She didn't know much of anything concerning the Volturi that Edward had told her about, but they were bad news. This much she could guess.
How did the Volturi police the vampire world? Well, her father talked to known acquaintances when he was investigating a suspect. Bella had pointed a big, fat finger at the Cullen family. At Edward. And identified herself as his girlfriend. They would know where Carlisle was - Carlisle had been friends with the men in Italy. They could just ask him and -
Would Carlisle not divulge her real identity? Or would he seek the best interests of his own family, first?
Where was Edward? If they found him, what would he say? Did it matter?
She just had to keep it together for another day. Less. Renée would be here in a few hours. She could do this.
"Gonna go see the Blacks this morning, Bells. Wanna come?"
"Uh, sure." Billy Black had hated that she was dating a Cullen. A vampire. He'd been kinder to her since Edward had left. "I can bring them some of the cookies I baked. We just have to get back before Mom gets here."
"I know. Let's go now, huh?"
"I need a shower, first!"
Charlie laughed. "Fine. I'll call him up and, uh, do something with those cookies. The ones in the box in the fridge?"
"Yeah. Do we have any extra bows or something for the box?"
"I might rustle up something. Go on, get cleaned up. Hurry, though."
The shower was quick, but Bella took the time she needed to blow her hair dry. Winter morning and wet hair were a bad combination. Then, she decided that for Christmas morning, she should try to look at least a little festive, so she found the green sweater and black jeans she had worn to the Christmas party. Her black Converse would cover her feet up well enough, and all she did for makeup was some mascara and lip balm.
"Yeah. Let's go."
She eyed the plastic box in his hands. "A plaid bow, Dad? Really?" She had to smile. "When is that from, the eighties?"
He chuckled. "How'd you guess? From your first Christmas."
Tears surprised her. "Really?"
Uncomfortable with the emotion, Charlie scratched the back of his neck. "Yeah. You ate the rest."
Thankful that he'd managed to say something ridiculous enough to push back the melancholy she felt swamping her - strange for Christmas - she offered him a closed-mouth smile. "Well watch that, in case I get hungry for bows again."
Charlie drove her red truck while she rode as a passenger. That melancholy feeling returned and she jerked her face around so that she didn't give it away to Charlie. She thought she saw a pale figure among the cold, shadowy evergreens of the forest. Was it Edward?
Her heart clenched and she clung convulsively to the plaid-bowed box. Where was he?
"Felix! We're too late! I saw the humans leaving the house." Jane, her eyes practically glowing in frustrated ire, stamped her foot.
The tall, muscular vampire nodded knowingly from the home identified as the Olympic Coven's last known address in the area. He had met Carlisle long ago and he never forgot a scent. Once they had discovered the family wasn't here - clear from the articles posted that Gianna (ah, Gianna!) had printed - Felix had decided it would suit the two of them as a base. And if the human girl who called herself just_a_distraction came again to this house as she had once written that she had...? Well, they would have her easily and could do with her what they must.
"This gives us the opportunity to investigate, then. To see if there is any other evidence in the house, doesn't it?"
"We should just set it on fire," Jane muttered, growling as she stood in the pale-hued gathering room of the Cullen Coven's headquarters.
"First, we investigate. If we set it on fire now, the human might be harder to find. She could go to ground," he said, using hunting terminology. "She knows what we are."
Fuming, Jane kicked at one sheet-covered sofa. "Fine. We'll wait. Midday."
"Bella," Billy said, gesturing with a lift of his chin that she should meet him in the kitchen. "Got a minute?"
She checked the clock on the Black's DVD player. "Just about, Billy. I'm gonna have to get Charlie and get home. Renée's coming."
Billy nodded and rolled his chair into the kitchen that had been slightly modified to accommodate the floor space needed for a wheelchair to maneuver a bit. "Look. I don't know what's wrong with you today, but you're making me edgy. Reminds me of when they were still here," he remarked in a voice low but firm with warning. "Are they back?"
The pain was still there and it rose up in her chest so that she had to grit her teeth to keep it from escaping. "No. Haven't heard from any of them. They're gone, Billy."
He inhaled deeply, crossing his powerful arms over his chest. "Fine, fine. So. Do you think your dad could stay here for Christmas dinner? It's not that you aren't welcome," he hastened to say, "but with your mother coming..."
Renée was, Bella had come to learn, persona non grata among Charlie's friends. "I get it. Um, sure. He'd probably have a much better Christmas here than he would with us."
With a minimum of fuss, she had wished everyone a final Merry Christmas and was driving home. The sun still held strong in the sky, but she kept her eyes open. What if that had been a vampire? What if Edward had come back after all? Or one of the other Cullens? All morning, she had found her mind drifting to wonder what Christmas with the Cullens would be like. Were they celebrating? Did they have a big hunt instead of Christmas dinner? Did they exchange gifts? Probably...
A car was in the driveway behind her dad's cruiser. There was a bar code sticker on the window, so she guessed it was a rental. Her mom had arrived. Early. Of course.
Pulling in a deep breath, Bella grabbed her purse and jumped from the truck. Where was Renée?
"Mom?" she called out, aiming her voice at the front door. Something caught her eye from the right. "Edward?" she whispered.
When a huge mountain of a man stood more clearly in the forest's shade, Bella grinned. "Emmett! You're here! Oh my gosh, Merry Christmas!" She didn't think, she just ran toward him, thankful to have at least one of her other family here. "Emmett!"
"Bella?" Almost to the tree line, Bella stopped and almost dropped her purse at Renée's greeting. "Bella? Merry Christmas, sweetie! Hey! Where'd you go? Oh!"
"Crap! Mom, no!"
"Bella..." The voice coming from the vampire as he strode into view was not Emmett's. "So you are just a distraction?"
Terror immobilized Bella, standing there in the open. "Mom? Go back inside, and I'll, uh, come make lunch," she called weakly.
"Don't be silly. I want to meet your friend!"
"Mom, no! Run! Run away!" Heart racing, pounding, trying to escape, Bella still couldn't move. The oncoming vampire was larger than Emmett, though he had the same kind of build and dark, wavy hair. "Who are you?" she hissed at the stranger.
"I am Felix of the Volturi. Hello, Bella. So nice to meet you." In a blur of motion, the surprisingly agile male had picked her and her mother up - Renée had been unable to shriek, so great was his speed - and charged into the house.
"Bella?" Renée had never been good in a crisis and Bella despaired of her ever seeing the light of day again. For herself, Bella guessed she deserved it. She had screwed up. Renée struggled to free herself, getting only pain for her efforts. She screamed after kicking the huge vampire in the groin.
"Mom - I love you," Bella whispered. "Put me down, Mr. Um - What's your name again?"
"Felix," he replied, his tone oddly warm. "So this is your mother. Does she know what a naughty girl you've been, Bella?" He set them gently on the sofa, kneeling in front of them, one granite arm assuring that they would remain immobile.
"Leave her out of this! Let her go!"
The man's smile was apologetic. "You know I cannot."
Breath coming in gasps, Bella grabbed his forearm with both of her hands. "She has no idea. Please, I'll do anything, see anyone, whatever, but let her go!" It had been less than a year since a vampire had tricked her, telling her Renée was in danger. But now, she really was and Bella was all too desperately aware that she could do nothing about it.
"Sorry I'm late!" a voice said in the kitchen. "Is it my turn yet, Felix?"
The voice was high, musical and sounded English. Bella knew it was a vampire. "Oh, they both smell good. I'll take the blue-eyed one. I like them seasoned."
Her mother rasped, "Bella?"
Voice caught in a fist of fear, Bella choked out, "I'm so sorry, Mom. This is all my fault." Sorry didn't help - she knew that. But it was all she had to offer, here at the end of her life. Tears dripped from her cheeks and she hadn't known until that moment, when her mother's panicked gaze tracked them. "I'm so sorry."
"Be gentle, Jane," Felix advised the small female vampire.
With a toss of her head, Jane allowed a predatory smile to show just before she lunged at Renée.
"I am going to take his head off, put it in a box, and ship it around the world." Jasper grumbled, having done a recon around another hotel. Alice had finally caught a vision of Edward in Brazil but not which hotel he had chosen for his self-imposed exile. Idiot. His girl - whom he apparently lied to, the ass - is baring her soul to the internet world and he's sitting in a rat hole.
Alice made an uncomfortable sound and they moved to the next building that Alice indicated. A narrow, rickety structure, it looked vacant. Perfect.
The two of them settled behind what looked like an abandoned table left atop the flat roof. Darkness had settled, but there were sounds within the building. "I think he's here," Alice whispered.
Angry and feeling highly protective of the girl whom he had attacked in a weak moment, Jasper reminded himself that he wasn't doing this for Edward, the coward. He was doing it for his wife and for Isabella Swan, whom he had wronged. She needed to see Edward. He needed to see her and quit wallowing like the swine he was.
Just before he let himself down the side of the building, his body already preparing for the stretch-and-leap combination that would land him within the attic of this place, he heard a phone ring. And ring. And ring.
And then, he heard the distinctive voice of Edward Anthony Masen Cullen, the lying dog of a boyfriend who had broken up with a human teenager in the woods. "Just leave me alone," the voice rumbled. But the phone rang again.
"Alice, come on."
Without questioning him, his mate followed him right into the attic, where they landed with a sideways kind of grace.
"Edward, you have to -"
"Alice," Edward said, his voice sounding gravelly from disuse. "Go away."
Jasper pummeled him with a barrage of all the disgust he was feeling. Edward didn't even blink. From the look on her face, Alice appeared to take the "give him the Silent Hell Treatment" approach. Jasper decided his own job, right then, was to make damned sure that Edward didn't get away.
"Carlisle and Esme went to Italy to see Aro," Alice said aloud.
Edward swore. "It should be me. Let me go -"
Jasper grabbed Edward's upper arm. "How long has it been since you hunted?" Hunger was so much a part of the feelings pushing at Edward's iron control that Jasper bet it had been a long while. "You can't get anywhere near Italy - or a plane, for that matter - until you've hunted."
Alice gasped, her face a mask of pain. Jasper let go of Edward and the two men surrounded the diminutive seer. "Sweetheart," Jasper murmured, resting his cheek on her hair - he knew his scent soothed her at such a time. "What is it?"
"Bella - I see her. I didn't mean to, but she's here and -"
"No!" Edward stepped away, tugging irrationally at his hair. "Not here!"
"In my head, Edward... In my vision. She's in a circular room, being held by a really large man. Emmett? No, he's got red eyes. Not Emmett."
Jasper lightly stroked her back. "What else, hon? Is she - is she all right?"
"She isn't bleeding or anything and she's moving a little. So, I guess - and oh! It's Carlisle!" The tension in the grimy attic shifted from terror to a strange comfort-terror blend that Jasper filed away for future study. "And now there's nothing."
"We have to get there," Edward said, his voice weak but even. "What did I do?"
Jasper snorted a little, still supporting Alice. "Believe it or not? This isn't entirely your fault."
"No time to argue," Alice insisted. "We have to go. But - no. Jasper. You and I need to stay away from Italy. They might come looking for us later, but I don't see us in that circular room."
"Not yet, Edward..."
"Well, I'm going anyway!"
"If I have to bite you and start your change to get you to quit fighting me, Bella, I will," Felix hissed into her ear before they emerged from the car at the large airport. Seattle's international airport lived up to its name, but there were few travelers on a Christmas afternoon. This was all to the good.
Jane offered to do it. "But I've never changed anyone, so..."
Felix almost cuffed her. "She is resistant to your gift, Jane. She will be brought to Aro unharmed. Or she will be changed," he added with a scowl at the troublesome young woman he held next to him. Jane, to punish the human for daring to write about the true nature of vampires, had wished to bring her to the pinnacles of pain. Her anger when the pale human hadn't even flinched was beyond description.
She had mostly calmed down. Mostly.
"We could make her go to sleep. You could knock her unconscious, Felix. You know how."
"True. I could do that. Aro would not want her to cause a disturbance."
Bella trembled, remembering the incredible agony a vampire could inflict upon her fragile human bones. "I'll be quiet. I will."
Bella kept her word, all during the interminable trip to Italy. The sky darkened outside the First Class windows. The night before had not brought rest either, and she felt her eyes sag against her will. "Can I have a Coke?" she asked, her throat dry with her own temerity.
"Humans," Jane muttered behind them.
Felix, displaying the more humane attitude he had in general maintained toward her (for one of the terrifying Volturi - but then, could they be all bad if Carlisle had spent time with them?), frowned. "Of course." In a moment, he had caught the attention of the Air France flight attendant and directed the mature-appearing woman to speak to Bella. "You should eat, my dear," he suggested, his expression soothing.
Bella figured this part of his performance was for the flight attendant. "Just a Coke. That'd be great." She needed the caffeine.
The flight took forever. Plenty of time to replay the last moments of her mother's life. Plenty of time to see Jane's expression when whatever she was trying to do failed. Plenty of time to relive the inferno the two vampires had started in her house. The house she had been born in, the house she had made a home. Plenty of time to be both thankful that Charlie had been safe in La Push and profoundly guilty for Renée's death. Over and over again, she saw Jane's sharp white teeth biting into her mother's throat.
She didn't dare close her eyes. Sleep would have to remain far, far away. Guilt was her closest companion.
"Another Coke, please?"
"Dear friend! How grand to see you! And your lovely mate. Oh, Carlisle, she is delightful." Aro glided across the stained stone floor, his hands outstretched in ostensible welcome.
Carlisle grimaced and stepped forward to intercept the mind-reader. Alice's vision had shown his initial presence there without the company of his wife, as that was what he had opted to do, to protect Esme and the children. Sacrificing himself for their well-being, of course, did not take a second thought. Esme had insisted, after Alice and Jasper left them to seek Edward, on accompanying her husband. Carlisle had no idea how that would affect what Alice had seen, before. So he exchanged his grimace for a smile and said, "Thank you, old friend. It has been too long. This is Esme, my wife." Esme nodded with visible reverence.
"Indeed it has. Mrs. Cullen, I have been deprived of your company. Welcome to my home and to what once was your husband's home as well."
"Thank you," Esme said with considerable composure, all things being equal.
Carlisle was quite surprised when Aro did not insist upon skin-to-skin contact. Instead, the leader of the Volturi clasped his shoulders through his jacket. "And what brings you here, my friend?"
"I came to apologize. Apologize for encouraging my first-created to be happy in his love for a human girl."
Aro's white skin crinkled with what was supposed to be surprise but did not do better than cunning. "Indeed? And this has caused a stir, Carlisle?"
Resigned to playing out his part of the charade, Carlisle did his best, bringing Esme up to stand next to him and keeping one arm around her while leaving the other at his side. "I am afraid it has. Due to an unfortunate circumstance, there was a rupture in their relationship and we immediately left her." He paused. Aro seemed inclined to wait him out, so Carlisle continued, keeping his voice physician-neutral. "She was, apparently, as heartbroken as my son, Edward, and sought support after their break-up. In an entirely unexpected turn of events, she, er, revealed who and what we were. Online."
"Tsk, tsk, Carlisle. You know the law." Aro sounded as if he were chiding a child. "After all these years? So you did what, precisely?"
"We did not actually have to tell her what we are. She deduced that for herself. She's very observant, highly intelligent, but also extremely loyal. She never would have said anything, I am certain, without being under severe emotional strain. Humans are - unpredictable," he concluded.
Aro nodded. "I will not seek confirmation from you, dear Carlisle. I know your words to be true. And," he added as a disturbance began echoing beyond the audience/feeding chamber, "I believe she will be able to answer any further questions herself. Felix, Jane. Thank you for informing me that we would be having a guest."
Esme gasped and Carlisle felt himself gaping before he schooled his expression. Striding in through the ancient wooden doors came Felix, the most intimidating-looking Guard in the Volturi. Beside him, half-running to reach Aro and bow before him, was Jane, the tiny merchant of unimaginable pain. But in Felix's arms was the biggest surprise.
"Bella!" Esme whispered, half-reaching toward the almost motionless girl in the giant's heavily-muscled arms.
"My Lord Aro," Felix said with all the heavy formality that even Aro could wish. "Here is the human girl."
Aro flickered a rapid glance at Carlisle. "I see. And you didn't kill her as directed. Why?"
"My lord, you know why," Felix said, sounding wounded. "She was immune to Jane's gift, as I told you on the phone. So we brought her to you."
"Edward couldn't read her mind, either," Carlisle commented, hoping for some response from the girl he regarded as a daughter - a daughter he had, regretfully, wrongly abandoned. "Bella?" When the girl gave no overt response, other than the sudden increase in her heartbeat that told Carlisle - and every other vampire in the room - that she was indeed paying attention but was choosing not to respond, the healer in him came to the fore. "Aro? As her physician, may I see her?"
"I'm fine, Carlisle," Bella said, her voice nearly flat but not hopelessly so. "As fine as can be expected, anyway."
"My dear girl, what happened?" Esme blurted. "I've been so worried about you."
At this, Bella broke down in tears, still in Felix's arms, and she seemed as if she were content to stay right where she was for the duration. Felix exchanged a puzzled look with Carlisle as if to say he didn't understand human girls, either.
At length, Bella supposed she had to face up to her guilt. She could picture Charlie's horror and devastation. Phil's shock and grief and maybe even hatred of a girl he had only known a little while. This just added to the still-open wounds of Edward's leaving. Of the Cullens' abandonment of her.
And of her own stupid idea of outing Edward and his whole family to the world. Even if it was just for a day. There was no way - no way on Earth - she could ever fix it.
With a final sniffle, she looked through tear-blurred eyes into Felix's patient face. He hadn't moved during her breakdown, hadn't said a thing while she wept, but had just stood, patient and sturdy as a granite boulder. "I'm sorry. Thank you."
"Are you ready to stand?" he asked softly. She wondered how long he had been a vampire, for he certainly appeared adept at adapting to her humanity. "Your friends the Cullens would like to see you."
Slowly, she nodded her acceptance of this. "All right." After regaining her feet, still clutching her purse - the one she had taken with her Christmas morning to Billy Black's house the day before - she nodded and tried for a social smile and faced the black-haired man with the far-too-perky expression. "Hello. I - I'm Bella Swan and I've broken your law and -" Her chest ached, her throat ached, her eyes were exhausted almost past bearing. Swaying on her feet until Felix steadied her, she tried to continue while all around her were gathering a collection of some of the most austere but beautiful creatures she had ever seen.
Aro, recognizable from the painting Edward had shown her long ago, it seemed, claimed her hand without any preamble. "Ah, my dear," he said slowly after a moment, "you seem to be immune to my gift, too. I read minds," he added confidingly. "Oh, not like Edward, as I understand his gift from Carlisle's reports, but I do. But I can't read yours!" he tagged on with something like delight dancing in his oddly filmed-over eyes. His skin had felt odd as well - as if it had been left to rot somewhere, rather than maintain the strength and vitality she had detected in the skin of every other vampire she had ever met.
Aro looked like Dracula, without the fangs.
"Well, what shall we do with you?"
The others around them seemed to take that as their cue to start speculating on how she would taste, some even saying that she really should be claimed by Felix, since he had brought her in.
Carlisle and Esme closed in, but Bella didn't mind. She still didn't know how to greet them, not really. Three months without a word - they couldn't possibly expect her to forgive and forget, could they?
"Bella, I'm so sorry," Esme said, her hand passing lightly over Bella's hair.
Carlisle held her forearm - she knew he was monitoring her pulse rate. "So am I," he said.
A question burned in her mind. "Have you seen Edward?"
"No - but Alice and Jasper have been trying to track him down. What you wrote that he said to you, though? It wasn't true, Bella."
"He...lied to me?" It seemed both far too obvious and easy while also being impossible and unbelievable.
"I'm so sorry," Esme repeated.
Aro had watched their awkward, forward-facing reunion with some attention, but he clapped his hands after a moment. "Well, well, it's so nice to see you catching up. Wonderful!" His smile was nearly giddy. "Now, as to your apology, Bella." He spoke with a light sort of censure. "The law says that we can't have humans knowing about us. So much history where this is just a very bad thing. I am sure you understand."
Around her, the murmurings increased. "Burning. Beheading. Whole families slaughtered. Torture."
"Yes, yes. Enough. She will suffer the due penalty. Bella, have you ever wished you could live forever?"
She swallowed, felt sick, and tried to push past it. "I used to," she confessed, her voice cracked and broken. "But I don't think I want to, anymore." Carlisle and Esme wrapped their arms around her and she took unconscious comfort from their joint embrace.
"Why not, my dear?" Aro asked, appearing truly concerned for her. Bella didn't believe him, not for a moment, but she admitted to herself that he sounded good.
"Bella, we can work it out," Carlisle said with gentle confidence. "Edward loves you. Truly, he does. Alice and Jasper have gone looking for him and I'm sure they'll find him."
"With a distraction," she retorted, the word rancid on her tongue.
"Bella, Bella, lovely Bella," Aro said, interrupting with a vengeance. "You will be changed this very day and spend the next century in our service, as payment for your crime. If this boy, this Edward, is foolish enough to ignore a member of my Guard, I can guarantee that you will be able to choose a partner - or several! - while you serve with us. You will not lack for companionship."
Jane nudged Felix with a sharp little elbow, but he carefully did not look in the human's direction.
Bella herself stood very still, but her mind was racing, thoughts tumbling over themselves in clumsy exhaustion. She might not be killed - but wouldn't living as a lonely immortal be worse? And having to stay in this place? All the vampires had red eyes! "I don't want to kill anyone," she blurted.
Aro cocked one lofty brow. "Carlisle, she seems to wish to follow in your footsteps."
Stiffening, worry communicating itself in how he gripped Bella's arm, Carlisle asked, "Will you allow her to follow my diet?"
Bella held her breath, as did Esme. All the other vampires in the room commented at a level Bella herself could not detect apart from a muted buzz. Aro spread his fingers and held his hands in an "I surrender" signal. "Yes, yes, if she wishes. But I refuse to take her. One of your family will have to stay during her newborn time if you wish to be of use to her. Otherwise, I'm afraid she'll eventually succumb to our diet," he predicted, his eyes twinkling with the idea.
Esme and Carlisle exchanged a look. With a quick embrace of her human daughter, Esme proclaimed she and Carlisle would do so. "We took her from her parents, so we will serve in their stead."
"Excellent! Then, let's be about it!"
I'm going to be a vampire. Where's Edward? I can't do this without him! A panicked look to Carlisle revealed that he was concerned about something as well.
"I'll change her, if I might beg the honor, Aro," the blond physician said.
"Yes, certainly. You're practiced and should, as her doctor," the vampire lord said in a slightly mocking tone, "have the duty of birthing her into a new life!"
The crowd of vampires dispersed and someone called out the name Gianna, and the next thing Bella knew, she was being escorted up into a tower and a room with a large bed and an actual bathroom.
"Non temere Bella. Questo è un onore."
Having no Italian in her lexicon, Bella just smiled because she was being smiled at, and nodded. Her smile felt sick and forced and plastic, but the woman - Gianna? - seemed compassionate as she opened a wardrobe to show her some loose dresses.
"I guess this kind of thing happens a lot, here?"
"Oh! I forgot. English. Of course. So sorry, little bella. Do not be afraid. This is an honor. And no, this does not happen often, but we try to be prepared. The bathing room is through that arch. You are fortunate to have the opportunity to prepare! I wish to do so as well."
Trying to be polite, Bella nodded. "Thank you."
Guilt was now mixed with fear of the upcoming change as well as the terror of having to stay here. Through all of this was regret about trapping Esme and Carlisle here, too. It wasn't fair to them.
She showered and pulled on a blue dress with a low neck and short sleeves. Edward had liked her in blue.
"May I come in?"
"Yeah, of course. Sure. Okay." This is it. Her heart started beating furiously within her, making the fabric of her dress flutter.
Carlisle crossed the floor of the round room and took her hand. "I am so sorry, my dear. Truly. When we've finished this, I will spend as long as I need to to make it up to you."
Tears, prompted by the depth of compassion in his musical voice, spilled over. "Okay. Let's just - just -"
Squaring her shoulders, determined to take it as an adult, Bella climbed up to the middle of the bed with its red velvet bedspread. Panting almost, in her fear and trepidation, she nodded.
Carlisle pressed a reassuring, paternal sort of kiss to her forehead, apologized again, and bit her.
As the fire began to take over her body, Bella could only call one word. "Edward!"
A knock on the door came on the second day of Bella's change. Esme shook her head - she didn't feel up to talking to the Guard while Bella was burning. With a nod, Carlisle rose from the bed - he and Esme had been seated there since he had finished pushing his venom into her body - and greeted the Guardsman.
The tall man looked straight over Carlisle's head and into the room. He could smell that distinctive, changing scent that was unique to this time of a vampire's existence. The girl was beautiful and he smiled a little, wondering how she would react to being an immortal. When Carlisle repeated his name, Felix shrugged and grinned down into his eyes. "I'm sorry. I was distracted," he said, enjoying the irony of it. "I came to tell you that the boy from your coven, the mind-reader, has arrived. He wishes to see you; he already knew you'd be here."
Hope leapt within Carlisle. "Indeed, of course. They found him. Outstanding. Esme?"
"I heard! Go to him, sweetheart. Let him know. I'll tell her."
"Carlisle!" Edward's cry echoed throughout the audience chamber as Carlisle hurried to it. "Carlisle!"
"Hush, boy," Aro snapped. "He'll be here in a moment, I'm sure. Your eyes are so dark, lad. You should feed. I could have Heidi go fishing for you..."
"No. Thank you."
Bracing himself, Carlisle entered the room, making a brief bow to Aro as a matter of form, since he was now an established member of the household, such as it was. "Edward." Seeing the depleted condition Edward had sunk to, Carlisle met his first-created in the middle of the circular room. "Oh, Edward. My son. Where have you been?"
"Later. What happened? I have to -" Pausing, Edward's face crumpled, his body actually collapsing with the totality of his feelings. "Bella. You smell like Bella..."
"She's here, son. She's changing."
Devastation contorted his features. "No!"
Once he had fed - Carlisle insisted - Edward did his utmost to compose himself as he heard the account of all that he had missed by virtue of his heinous misjudgment. He almost didn't dare to touch Bella, but when his voice seemed to soothe her, when the brushing of his fingers on hers was met with a soft whisper of his name, he gasped in gratitude and would not be moved from her side.
"Bella, Bella, my love. I am so sorry..." Ceaseless apologies flowed from his lips, his chest clenched tight against any selfish thought. He had to make this all about her, from this day forward.
"For the rest of my existence," he whispered into her hair as her heart sped in its final race. "I am yours if you will have me. In any way, for any service." She was so beautiful. Remorse flooded his awareness. She would be not only damned to the bloodthirsty existence of his kind, but she was also condemned to serve here in Volterra for a century.
Carlisle and Esme told him they would stay with her, to see that she could feed in their chosen diet. Edward nodded, but then said, "No, no. I'll stay. If she'll let me. I'll stay."
When the internal fires ceased to burn, Bella was afraid to open her eyes, so overwhelmed was she from the sheer scents and sounds that surrounded her. "Edward," she whispered, the name leaving her lips with foreign rapidity. Like a snapping of her fingers, maybe.
"Bella." Her name, in the same voice that had never truly left her, not for months. "Oh, my Bella, I am so sorry."
She recalled hearing that during her change, so she nodded and slowly opened her eyes. His face was all she saw. "Edward," she said again, sure it was him as she inhaled and caught so many scents. His overlay them all. Sunshine and honey.
"I love you," he gushed. "I always have and always will and want, want so much, Bella, for you to let me show you, let me stay with you -"
Holding up one hand, she silenced him and then marveled at the smooth perfection of her own limb. "I love you, too," she told him, her voice surprising her with its musical, bell-like qualities. "But we have to talk. A lot."
The smile that took over his entire expression made her catch her breath. They did have much to discuss, but she figured they'd have a century or so to figure it out.
A Work in Progress
the SayItOutLoud Journal
December 25, 2006
Beginnings are a time for introductions, so I'll start there. I'm a teenager living in Europe on an exchange program. I sometimes think I decided to study here to escape a lot of baggage I left behind in school. A lot of guilt, you know?
Sometimes, sorry isn't enough. Sometimes, we can't take things back when we do them. But we have to learn to forgive. To forgive others and forgive ourselves.
I met a great guy here in Europe. Our relationship hasn't always been perfect, but it's being rebuilt on honesty and trust. We've both had some forgiving to do. But we love each other and that counts. That counts for a lot.
I had a blog once and it helped me a lot in working out my problems. I hope this one will, too.
Bella posted her entry, turned to Edward, smiled and sighed. "The answer's yes, by the way."
Face alight, he pulled her up into a long embrace. "Thank you." Then, he looked her in the eye. "Please, let me do this my way?"
With a loving smile, she nodded.
Though he had prepared for months, Edward still paced for a few moments, going absurdly fast in the small tower room while she watched, still standing by her computer. After his third circuit, he blew out a breath and came to kneel in front of her. "Isabella Swan, I promise to love you forever. Every single day of forever. Will you marry me?"
Though she knew it was coming, knew he had only been waiting for her to allow it, Bella felt herself actually tremble as he held her hand in his. "I will."
He withdrew a ring from his pocket. She laughed, suddenly nervous at the physical evidence of his perpetual readiness for this moment. He glowered playfully up at her before growing serious. "This was my mother's. Carlisle kept it for me and I've been keeping it for you." He slid it without fanfare onto her finger and she dropped to her knees beside him, her kiss assuring him that his mother's ring - now hers - would remain there. For eternity.
When he broke the kiss - a kiss long and passionately breathless - she sighed and leaned against his shoulder. "We have to stay here, you know."
He sighed. Grimaced. Looked away over her head, out the moonlit window into the night. "I know. And we'll make it, Bella. We will. I love you."
"I love you, too."