1973 Astoria, Oregon
In my defense, she started it. Carlisle and Esme had moved our little family to yet another dreary town in the Pacific Northwest. We'd just enrolled in yet another forgettable high school. Now we would have to endure yet another couple years of pretending to be human teenagers.
Rose and I were in the school library during a free period, arguing about whether or not I should carry her books to class.
"Asses are made to bear, and so are you." Rose's voice was sharp as she challenged me. Now, most of the family would think that I wouldn't get the reference, but my Rose knows me better than that. I actually liked Shakespeare and 'Taming of the Shrew' was one of my favorite plays.
"Come, come, you wasp; i' faith, you are too angry." I pressed her back against the bookshelf in the back corner, my arms on either side of her head. Her feathered blonde hair brushed against the muscles of my forearm.
"If I be waspish, best beware my sting." She wound one hand up in to my short, curly hair and slid her hand down my chest and around to my hip. I growled softly at the exquisite feel of her touch. Then she dug her nails into my marble hard skin and yanked back on my hair, nearly pulling me off balance. I staggered back a step before pushing her against the bookshelf. It shook with the impact and a book fell off and hit the ground. We ignored it.
"My remedy is then, to pluck it out." I bent my head and kissed her hard. I dropped my hands to her ass and pulled her hips to mine. She kissed me back, winding her arms around my neck. I had to remind myself – several times – that we were in public before I could pull back from her. She smiled wickedly at me, then sobered.
"Do you mind it, Em?" she asked. "I know I'm a bitch sometimes."
"You lie, in faith," I whispered Shakespeare's words to her, moving my mouth from her lips to her ear, "for you are call'd plain Rose, and bonny Rose and sometimes Rose the curst; but Rose, the prettiest Rose in Christendom, Rose of Rose Hall, my super-dainty Rose, for dainties are all Roses."
She laughed and I swear I could feel my heart squeeze in my chest at the sound, though that organ had been dead for thirty-eight years. I bent my head and captured her lips in a kiss, thrusting my tongue into her mouth. She moaned and rocked her hips into mine.
"Mr. Cullen, Ms. Hale!" Our English teacher's voice was shocked. I groaned and leaned my forehead against Rosalie's for a moment. I pulled back, dropping my arms to my side. Only my never-ending obsession with my beautiful wife could distract me so much that I didn't hear him come up on us. Now, though, I could hear his heartbeat and the soft woosh of his lungs as they pumped air in and out.
"Yes, Mr. Toomey?" Rose's voice was innocent. Well, as innocent as my vixen could sound. Toomey's eyes narrowed and he paused, obviously changing his mind about what he was going to say.
"Were you just quoting Shakespeare?" His dark eyebrows were furrowed over dark eyes. Rose and I shared a look. If I could have I'd have blushed. I'd rather he yelled at us for necking.
"Yes." My voice went up at the end, turning it into a question.
"Your… er, family is new to this school, isn't it?" Toomey fiddled with the wide plaid tie he wore, running the fabric between his fingers before tucking it back under his blazer. Rose and I looked at each other again. She sighed, inaudible to human ears.
"Yes, sir." I smiled, trying to be charming. "We just moved here from Los Angeles."
"Have you ever thought about auditioning for the school play?" I blinked. Had I heard him right? Of course I had, but…
"The school play?" I parroted.
"Yes, Mr. Cullen, the school play. We're doing 'Taming of the Shrew' and we desperately need some strong actors in the lead roles." Rose stepped forward, pushing me behind her.
"The leads?" Rosalie was fascinated.
"Rose, I really don't think that's a good idea." Her bell-bottom jeans swung against my calf as she stomped my foot. I hissed in pain and she smirked back at me. "I dunno if Esme and Carlisle would approve."
"What, participating in the extracurricular activities of our new school?" Her voice was honey sweet and I knew right then I'd lost the argument, completely and totally. I'd been with her for nearly forty years and I had come to recognize that tone of voice.
"Well, if your, um, p- parents," he stuttered over the word, his eyes darting back and forth between us, "have any questions they're welcome to call me."
Rosalie waved her hand, dismissing the concern. "When do we start?"
We'd asked for a family meeting to discuss our decision to audition for the school play. We sat at the dining room table and laid out our case for taking part in the play. Carlisle and Esme had been confused but supportive. Jasper was baffled as to why we'd want to interact with the humans so much. Alice had been thrilled with the idea until her visions had told her she couldn't audition without drawing too much attention to our family. Edward, of course, didn't think it was a good idea.
"You'll be in close proximity to them for long periods of time. Someone is bound to notice." Edward frowned.
I rolled my eyes. "So? What's the harm? I mean, some gossipy kids, a few photographs in some nothing town. We can stay away for a century or so. Big deal."
"I don't see anything bad happening," Alice chimed in. "Well, at least nothing if it's just them." She pouted prettily and I reached out and chucked her under the chin.
"Aw, maybe next time midget." She slapped my hand away, nearly knocking me out of my chair. I laughed and she winked back at me.
Edward still looked dubious. He crossed his arms over his chest, pulling the black turtleneck he was wearing tight across his shoulders.
"This is ridiculous." Rosalie's voice was sharp. She locked eyes with Edward and scowled back at him. "It's not like we're taking an ad out in Variety. We're doing a school play. It won't hurt the family."
Rosalie cocked her head to one side and gazed steadily at Edward. She had a small line between her eyebrows that meant she was thinking hard. I looked away and met Carlisle's eyes. He and I shared an uneasy look as she obviously added something she didn't want the rest of us to hear. I wasn't sure what she was saying, but Edward finally looked away, pinching the bridge of his nose between two fingers.
"Fine. I drop my objection. Have fun. Go… participate." His voice was sour as he spat out the final word. He stalked away and it wasn't long before we could all hear him attacking his piano down in the rumpus room. He really must have been pissed; he was pounding out a Prokofiev sonata. If he wasn't careful he'd break the thing.
"Well, for what it's worth you have our blessing." Carlisle nodded and he and Esme drifted away from the table. Jasper and Alice followed, their eyes locked on each other.
I tipped my chair back and watched Rosalie. For a while I just admired her beauty. Long blonde hair feathered over her ears, large topaz eyes, sweet pink lips pursed in thought. She sat staring out the window that looked on the Clatsop Forest.
"Come on, Rosie. What's eating you?" I kept my voice low, though I knew everyone in the house could hear me anyway.
"I just want to… see what it's like. See if I can remember what it felt like to be – human." She looked away, her lips tight. I could tell she wasn't telling me the truth, but I let it go. She'd tell me in her own time. Besides, if we were going to be up close and personal with the theatre dorks tomorrow we'd better do some hunting.
"Come on, Rose. Let's go find us some bears." I leaned in and kissed her on the corner of her mouth. "Or maybe I'll just have to find something else to eat."
She laughed and was out the door before I was out of my chair. I chased after her, a grin on my lips.
"If that be jest, then all the rest was so." Rosalie's voice was wickedly sharp and I listened for the slap that she was to give her "sister" in the play. The sound was just a stagehand clapping, but Rose made it look good.
"Brr…" The girl playing Bianca shivered theatrically. "Your hands are cold Rosalie. I know the boys all call you a cold fish, but that's taking it a bit far, isn't it?"
Rosalie tensed and I thought for a minute she was going to hit the girl for real, but she just turned away from the little bitch and walked off the stage. I wanted to jump on the stage and strangle the wretch, but I was in the back of the auditorium talking to Mr. Toomey about my costume. I wasn't supposed to have heard.
Tonight was opening night and everyone was worked up one way or another. My biggest problem had been pretending not to have the play memorized entirely. Forgetting a line here or there, missing my blocking occasionally. That is until Susan Delaney had been cast in the role of Bianca.
The girl had immediately decided that I was her heart's desire and would stop at nothing to get what she wanted. She'd flirted and asked me out. She completely ignored the fact that I'd turned her down cold. I'd thought it was funny until I'd seen Rosalie's face.
After that I'd done my best to keep out of Susan's way. Unfortunately, ignoring her had only inspired Susan to change her tactics. Now she was harassing Rosalie, trying to make Rose's life miserable.
"Mister Toomey?" Susan called out, her voice syrupy sweet. "Rosalie left in the middle of the scene. Should we have her understudy run the lines with me? Or if she doesn't come back I could do Katharina – I know all the lines."
I growled under my breath. I may have been a little loud. Mr. Toomey took a step away from me.
"Eh, she left? Why?" He looked down at his clipboard as if it would answer.
"I don't know, sir. Maybe Emmett could say because he's more used to her unpredictable mood swings than I am." Susan flipped her short, dark hair over her shoulder and smiled at me. I kept my face neutral, though I wanted to break her in half.
"Strange," I replied, loud enough for everyone else on stage to hear. "She only reacts that way when someone's been a total dipstick. Did someone say something rude?"
I could see her flush from here. I grinned at her discomfort.
"Now, now. We're all family here. A big theatre family." Mr. Toomey bustled up to the edge of the stage. "Why don't we go ahead and break for the afternoon? We all know our lines and we need to be fresh for tonight!"
Rosalie walked out on the stage, already changed out of her costume and back into her burgundy pantsuit. I watched those long legs move in the flowing material and had to swallow hard. My girl had some gams on her. I hurried up to the edge of the stage, ignoring Susan as she smiled at me, and swung Rosalie down off the edge.
"Be back in a minute, babe. Don't let the turkey get to you, 'kay?" She smiled up at me and I kissed the tip of her nose before heading off to change. I was glad of it – tights and a tunic weren't my idea of cool clothes.
We bowed a second time as the curtain closed in front of us. I saw the rest of the family in the audience. I waved to them as the curtains swished shut. I saw Edward grimace and grinned to myself. That boy needed to lighten up.
We headed backstage with the rest of the teenagers. Mike Brayley high-fived me. I tried to keep my touch light but he winced and rubbed his hand afterward. Rose slid her arm around my waist, laughing gaily. I smiled down at my girl. It was so nice to see her like this. She practically glowed. Her pale skin was warmed by the overdone stage makeup and her eyes sparkled with pleasure. In this moment, at least, she was happy.
I kissed Rosalie on top of her head and left for the boy's changing room. The kids were rowdy, clowning around. I joined in a bit, joking that someone like Rosalie was worth wearing tights for any day. I changed back in to slacks and a button down and went looking for the family.
"Emmett, come quick! It's Rosalie." Susan Delaney grabbed my arm and pulled me away from the auditorium. I was already moving even as I tried to puzzle out what could have happened. I followed Susan in to an empty classroom, looking around for Rose. But the room was empty.
"Thought I'd never get you alone." She pressed up against me, kissing me. She moved her tongue over my lips, leaving a slimy trail of saliva on my skin.
I froze, shocked. My mind was whirling even as she pressed her lips against mine. I could smell her blood flowing under the thin skin of her neck so close to my teeth. Her lungs pumped air in and out at a rapid pace, overshadowed by the sound of that beating heart. Venom flowed in to my mouth, sweet and fiery. I hadn't had an "accident" in nearly three decades, but I was beyond tempted to bury my teeth in the neck of this girl.
My hands clenched in to fists, I squeezed my eyes shut and I pulled my face from hers violently. The girl foolishly started to kiss my neck and I felt my control slipping when she disappeared from in front of me. I heard a crash and opened my eyes to see Rosalie standing over Susan, growling.
"Mine," she hissed. Rosalie's eyes were dark as night. "How dare you, you little hussy."
"It's not what you think." Susan's eyes were crafty. "He came on to me!"
Rosalie bent down and picked Susan up by her throat, lifting her up. Susan kicked her feet and clutched at Rose's hand.
"I think we both know that's not true, don't we?" Rosalie purred. "You've been a little brat since you laid eyes on my mate."
"Rosalie, don't…" I extended one hand to her. She whipped her head to me and I took a step back. Her expression held nothing of the woman I knew and loved. It was pure monster – the vampire side of her entirely in control. I'd never even seen this side of her while we hunted.
"Rose, no. Don't do this. She's just a dumb kid, you know that." I kept my voice soothing. She looked at me, fire in her eyes. "Come on, darlin', let go of her."
"This was my chance, you know." Rosalie's voice was bitter. "My chance to know what it was like to be popular again. But you had to ruin it. You had to decide you wanted what's mine – my mate and my role."
Susan's blue eyes darted back and forth between me and Rosalie. Her breath came in small strangled gasps that fascinated the hunter in me. I sternly told that side of me to shove it. I kept eye contact with Rosalie instead, willing her to relax her hold. Sanity slowly returned to Rose's eyes. She dropped Susan, not gently, but she'd let go.
"Come on, babe." I reached my hand out to Rosalie and she took it. Everything would have been fine if the girl had just kept her mouth shut.
"What are you two? You freaks aren't normal!" She climbed to her feet and started backing towards the door. "I'm telling!"
Before she got another two steps toward the door I had moved in front of her, blocking her escape.
"You aren't telling anyone." I looked her in the eye and she shivered.
"I am. I'm telling Mr. Toomey and the principal and – and," she sputtered to a stop. Crap. Did the girl have no sense of self-preservation?
"Rose, I think you need to go find Carlisle." I kept my voice even and low. I spoke below the girl's ability to hear me.
"Why? So he can convince us to leave her alive? So she can run and tell the whole damn town what we are?" Rose didn't bother to lower her voice. I looked away from her.
"Rosalie, you need to go find Carlisle and the rest of the family. I'll be along shortly." I could see her mouth form an "o".
"Emmett, I- I don't know…"
I growled. "Just go. I'll clean up this mess." She left, the breeze from her passing ruffling Susan's hair.
"Susan, you can't say anything. Your life depends on it." Her eyes widened so far I thought her eyeballs would pop out. I straightened to my full height and let my expression chill until it could have frozen water. "Promise me right now that you will forget what happened here."
"F-forget? How could I forget that you guys are some kind of monsters?" She trembled in front of me. I hated the part of me that salivated as she cowered.
"Please, just promise," I begged.
"No! You're not natural. I won't – " Before she could finish her sentence I'd wrapped my hands around her neck and twisted, breaking her neck in one motion. Her body slumped to the floor. It took every ounce of self-control not to drink from her. Her heart continued to beat for a few moments and I could feel venom flooding my mouth. I just stood there, looking at her body, until I heard voices in the hall. I grabbed Susan's carcass and slipped through the window.
It wasn't hard to hide the body. The school was right on Young's Bay. I towed her out to the middle of the bay and piled a few large rocks on her body to make sure she wouldn't float up to the surface any time soon. I headed back to land, but didn't go back to the school. I couldn't face them and pretend to be happy. For the first time in a long time I felt like I really was a monster.
I didn't want to go back to school the next day, but I knew I'd caused enough of a stir by not attending the after party for the play. If I disappeared at the same time Susan went missing it would raise eyebrows, something our family couldn't afford in a town this small.
The family knew something was wrong. I hadn't spoken a word. I couldn't. I felt like a monster for what I'd done. If only I'd stopped Rosalie sooner, if I'd just told Susan "no" instead of freezing when she'd kissed me, this wouldn't have happened.
I knew Edward knew. You can't keep something like this secret with a mind reader in the family. He didn't say anything, though. He was a cool cat about it. I was grateful, in the moments I had between bouts of guilt. I couldn't even look at Rosalie.
She'd tried to tell me she was sorry. I knew she was. She didn't apologize easily. But I couldn't. I just couldn't deal with her right now. So instead I spent as much time as I could out of the house. It had been nearly a week. I hadn't eaten since then and I was out hunting, moping really, when Edward found me.
"Rotten luck, man," he said. He'd plopped down next to me on the tree branch I'd been sitting on. I looked over at my brother and was surprised to find no condemnation in his expression.
"It wasn't luck, Edward. I did that. I chose to kill her."
"Yeah, you did. But you did it for Rosalie. And us. You did it to protect the family." He shrugged his shoulders.
"And that makes it right? I'm no better than the Volturi or a nomad. What would Carlisle say?" I buried my face in my hands.
"I think Carlisle would be disappointed. But he'd forgive you. He'd understand." Edward patted me awkwardly on the shoulder.
"I don't know, man." I shook my head and looked over at him. I could feel the bleakness of my expression, but couldn't summon anything like my normal smile.
"She was going to expose us, even after you warned her several times, right?" he asked.
"Yeah," I answered glumly.
"You were thinking of keeping your mate and your family safe. Sometimes," he hesitated. "Sometimes you have to make compromises to keep those you love safe."
"Yeah, I suppose." I wasn't convinced. Hell, he hardly seemed convinced, but I appreciated his support. I sighed.
"Come on, Em. You can't change what happened. Just let it go." He smiled. "Bet I can find a bigger grizzly than you can!"
I smiled at him wanly, but rose to his challenge. "In your dreams, little brother."
"Rosalie?" I stood in the doorway of our bedroom. She'd been sitting on the bed, her feet on the floor and her hands clasped in her lap. Her hair hung loose down her back and the purple circles under her eyes were darker than normal. She turned her head to me.
"Emmett?" Her voice was a whisper.
"I can't change what happened." She looked at me, agony on her face. She nodded and worried her bottom lip with her teeth. I smiled sadly. She was so beautiful, my Rose. "Can – can you forgive me?"
"Me, forgive you?" She sounded startled. "What do I need to forgive you for? I'm the one…" she lowered her eyes, "that needs to be forgiven."
I was on my knees in front of her in an instant. I cupped her face between my hands and kissed her over and over.
"No, no, Rosie, no." I trailed kisses over her face, her nose, her eyes. "It's not your fault, babe."
"Well, it's not yours either," she replied tartly. I laughed, relieved at the familiar tone. "Don't you know it's all about me?"
"Why, there's a wench!" I quoted. "Come on, and kiss me, Rose."