Tuesday, March 20, 2001 | By: Drotuno

An Angel's Promise Chapter 12

"I don't have a choice, Carlisle," I sighed, pacing back and forth in his office at home. "I can't explain it."
"Try, Edward," he said calmly, sitting back in his chair. His eyes followed my every move. He wasn't upset that I was quitting. That wasn't like my father. He just wanted to understand what caused the abrupt change.
I ran my fingers down the spines of his overflowing bookshelves. "You know I can see your relationships in your minds. All of you. We…aren't like that," I sighed, finally turning to meet his gaze. "Bella and I are…different, more. I felt it. I could almost feel the loss of her when we were trying to cope separately."
"What happened?"
"As soon as we made the decision for me to quit, for her to stop classes…when we…" I chuckled, raising an eyebrow at him with a small shrug, which only caused him to laugh. "When we were finally…together…it felt like we were being fused together. I know it sounds crazy."
"And Marcus will be here when?"
"Next week."
He was quiet for a few minutes, and I could see his mind trying to remember Didyme when she was alive, but he had not been close to her. Marcus had tried to protect her by keeping her away from the castle in Volterra, but his brothers got to her anyway by using a small group of newborns.
"How did he survive that?" I muttered, thinking aloud.
"It wasn't without difficulty. He goes through bouts of depression," Carlisle smiled sadly. "I'm surprised he made it, actually."
"I couldn't take another step without Bella." I frowned, shaking my head. "I don't know what I would do if I lost her."
"Beg for death. Marcus did. The loss of a mate is the most excruciating thing one of our kind can experience."
"He said he would be bringing some of the histories and records that are in his library when he comes here. And Demitri and Carina will be here as well. You'll have a house full," I smiled.
"I look forward to it," he chuckled. "And if it's okay with you and Bella, I would like to listen in with your talk with Marcus."
"Absolutely." I nodded. "I would have insisted anyway. And Bella always wants your advice."
We both turned when Alice popped her head in the door. Her face was worried, but I saw her mind.
"Charlie sent that today?"
"Yeah," she said. "He's using resources from the local sheriff in Mississippi. I can't see everything, but Charlie was always a little harder to see. And maybe because he hasn't decided exactly what he's sending."
I hated Alice's past, if only for the sadness it brought to the normally vibrant member of my family. If it were me, I'm not sure I'd really want to remember.
"When we get back to the house, we'll have Bella open it, or do you want everyone there?"
"Then I'll have her meet us back here, okay, Ali?
Charlie found more information on her background? Carlisle's thoughts hit me. I turned to him and nodded. I hope she remembers something about her family this time.
I nodded again and turned back to Alice. "You ready?"
We were going out together to pick up my choice for Bella's costume. Bella had dropped me off at the Cullen house before taking off with Kevin for the very same thing. The little bet we had set was going to be fun, despite all the stress we'd both been under.
"She's going to kill you, you know," she smirked.
"Nope…she's going to sing with me."
"Tell me you're joking," Kevin gasped. "You actually got him to dress as Wesley from The Princess Bride?"
"Yeah," I laughed, licking my lips at the thought of it. "He looked…oh God, he looked amazing."
"Holy hell, I bet he did!"
The first year we were at Dartmouth, the boys had overheard us swooning over Top Gun, and had dressed as the hottest flyboys ever. Our junior year, Edward gave me Wesley. My lust was so big, we had to leave the Halloween party, because poor Jasper, who was dressed as Peter Pan, couldn't even contain me. And my shield just wouldn't stay in place.
I had completely paid him back our senior year by fulfilling his fantasy of me as a cheerleader. He could barely keep his hands to himself. But nothing beat my Edward in complete Princess Bride character.
Edward had donned the whole black outfit that Wesley had worn when he saved Buttercup from being kidnapped. Yes, he'd worn the black boots, tight pants, flowing shirt, leather gloves, mask, and bandana. He'd even strapped the sword to his hip. I could have eaten him alive.
"We're meeting him there, Bells." Alice smiled as we drove through campus. But it was that smile that told me she was aware of everything that we were about to experience.
I groaned at the knowing look on her face. I knew we were going as famous couples. I knew that Alice and Jasper were going as Peter Pan and Wendy. I knew that Rose and Emmett were going as Tarzan and Jane, which was hilarious, because it just gave Emmett the excuse to toss Rose over his shoulder like a barbarian and tote her off somewhere. But when Alice had given me the beautiful dress to wear, I couldn't figure out what couple Edward and I were going as. It wasn't about my dress, which I had guessed as Juliet among many other characters. It was all about Edward's costume, and Alice knew it.
So I was in the dark, until I was standing just outside the dorm rooms where they threw the Halloween party every year. I was watching people running in and out of the haunted house that Jasper was feeding with an ungodly amount of fear just for his own amusement.
I smelled his magnificent scent before I actually felt the kiss to the back of my head and his hands on my waist. Sunshine, honey, and clean linen wafted around me, causing the smile to break out over my face.
"I thought I was being stood up," I teased, leaning back into his chest.
"Never, beautiful girl," Edward chuckled. "You look heartbreaking."
I giggled, because he would say that no matter what I was wearing. But it was the reactions of the group of girls to my right that alerted me. They were speechless, their mouths hanging open. I could actually smell the sweat breaking out on their brows. Every last one of them.
Slowly, I turned in his embrace, taking a step back and almost falling right there. "Oh, my…"
I ignored his chuckle, because I couldn't see past his glorious skin in all of that black. His sharp jaw line was just accentuated with the mask that covered his eyes. Somewhere behind me, I could hear my sisters holding back their laughter, and Jasper groan in frustration.
You're Wesley," I breathed, still drinking him in from head to toe. My fists clenched, my eyes blackened instantly, and I could barely think a straight thought.
"Yes," he smirked, fighting another laugh. "Baby, are you verbal?"
"I don't know," I whined, my brow furrowing. I heard my family burst into laughter, the girls beside us sigh with the want of him, and a scream from the haunted house somewhere in the background, but I could not hear my own voice.
Suddenly, my dislike for being watched hit me like a ton of bricks. I felt like I was barely holding on to my control by a mere thread, and my reaction to him looking like that made me feel unstable. My shield wavered, making the girls beside us smell way too good. My lust exploded from me, and there was another painful moan from Jasper somewhere behind me. My eyes locked with Edward's, my mind a cacophony of pleas for help.
"Come here," Edward whispered, taking my hand and guiding me away from everyone's watchful eyes. A few swift steps and a couple of turns, I found myself leaning against the thick trunk of a tree, just out of sight of the party goers. "Look at me, Bella. Is it too much? Do we need to leave?"
He wasn't making fun of me. We were well aware that our love, our attraction to each other, could be distracting at home and magnified in public. But at one glimpse of him, I fell in to a want for him like no other. We called them "moments," but I really didn't think there was a word for it this time.
Edward waited patiently for my answer, reading every thought going through my mind.
"Alice said you wanted this, Bella…"
I huffed a laugh, looking up at him with a pain-filled expression. He smiled slightly, leaning forward to kiss my forehead.
"You look like a dream," I groaned, looking away from him. "Staying may end…badly."
He chuckled, nodding in understanding. "Do you want to go, my love?"
"No? Yes? Edward, I can't think right this second. And please don't laugh at me…"
"I would never, baby. I'm not laughing at you. I just really understand." He tilted his head at me, and somehow I knew he was raising an eyebrow at me, but the mask covered it up. "What do you want to do?"
"Kiss you senseless," I answered without thinking, and I was pressed into the tree behind me instantly.
Edward was an enormous presence on a normal basis. He was tall, handsome, smart, and could command attention from people that didn't even know him, but when he wanted my attention, he could completely block out everything else within my vision.
He loomed before me – all black, all broad shoulders and strong arms. My lips met his with a whimper escaping me, but it was my hands that I couldn't control. As his tongue slipped along mine, tasting me, my hands wanted to just feel him.
Alice had done an amazing job with his costume. The shirt was silky and smooth over his strong chest and muscles. The pants were thick velvet, tight and soft over his perfect ass, which I gripped and pulled to me. I moaned when his arousal pressed into my stomach.
I couldn't thread my fingers into his hair, but I could slip my hands into the open collar of his shirt. I grasped the back of his neck, pulling him closer, and my thumbs caressed the skin just below his ears.
With a last, nipping suckle to my bottom lip, he broke away from my mouth to ravish kisses down my neck.
"I can take the edge off, baby," he vowed in a deep, husky voice as his tongue swirled over the soft spot behind my ear. When he dragged his teeth over my flesh and sucked hard, causing my whole body to contract and pull him closer, he growled low. "You've done that for me, so let me help. I want to help…"
I knew his help was unselfish and selfish at the same time. We both were working ourselves into a frenzy at that tree. I nodded, pushing at him slightly and picking up his hands.
"Gloves off," I commanded, and he tugged them off swiftly. They hit the grass at our feet with a soft swish, and I found myself pressed into the tree again, but this time, his thigh was wedged between my own, the flowing material of my skirt slowly being lifted up.
I cupped both sides of Edward's face, kissing him hard and deep. I sighed into his mouth as his knowing fingers finally met the skin of my thigh. When he palmed my mound possessively, I couldn't stop the begging.
"Edward, please…anything."
He pulled away from my neck with a grunt, breathing heavily as he pressed his forehead to mine. His fingers slipped under my underwear and between my folds with a purpose. He circled my entrance, only to glide forward to apply pressure to my sensitive bundle of nerves. "I want you to come hard, baby. You're so wet for me. I'll keep you quiet, but let it all go, okay?"
I nodded, my eyes rolling back as he applied pressure in just the right places. "Don't stop, don't stop, don't stop," I chanted, holding him by the back of his neck.
"I won't," he said, shaking his head. He slipped my underwear to the side, his fingers gliding through the wetness that I couldn't control. "Come for me, Bella. You'll feel so much better. Let go. Now."
He pressed my clit with the perfect amount of pressure, and I exploded, his name a breathy prayer on my lips. I buried my face into his shoulder as my whole body shook with the aftermath. "God, I fucking love you," I panted, smiling when he kissed the top of my head with a sexy ass chuckle.
I could still feel his arousal, and I reached down to palm him over his pants. He huffed the sweetest sound – a combination of a growl and a plea for more. I wanted to taste him, and as I knelt before him, I wondered if Buttercup debated doing this to Wesley in that deadly forest they escaped into. I giggled, licking my lips as I freed him from his pants.
"Bella," he growled, his head falling back, revealing that beautiful neck with tendons jutting out as he tried to restrain from mauling me on the forest floor.
"Bells!" Kevin yelled, snapping his fingers in front of my face. "Damn, woman, where the hell did you just time travel to?"
I laughed, covering my face. I was grateful neither Edward nor Jasper was with us to see my trip to Lustyville, as we called it in class.
"Yeah," I sighed, looking over at Kevin. "He made a damn fine Wesley."
Kevin cheered, his smile taking over his whole face. "God bless you, girl," he chuckled. "So let's see…the Hot Doc looks good in black, can pull off some old school fashions, and carries the hero aura with style and grace. I think I have just the costume. How do you feel about him getting dirty and sweaty?"
"Oh hell…"
"Do you see this vision, brother dear?" Alice laughed, shaking her head. "She's going to be livid, Edward. And then…look…"
I laughed, my head falling back to the head rest of Alice's car. "If she does that, she'll win…hands down."
Alice smirked, but nodded in agreement. I hadn't just hung out with my sister since we moved away from the States. I had been so busy at the hospital, and she had started work at the little clothes boutique almost immediately. I forgot just how easy it was to communicate with her.
"How many judges?"
"Five. And that's including Emmett and Rose."
"Hmm…and how many are men?" I asked, unable to stop my smile.
"Rose is one of two women. The rest are men. You're counting on that, aren't you?"
"Of course. She can't even acknowledge how much she drives men crazy," I growled. "She's sweetly…ignorant of just how beautiful she is. Never mind that every little habit she had when she was human followed her over into this life, and it makes her all the more seductive."
Alice giggled, pulling into the parking lot of the mall. "She only knows how to work you," she snorted. "And that's all she cares about."
"Good," I huffed, rolling my eyes at my sister's peal of laughter.
"Come on," she snorted. "Let's finish putting your manly bits on the chopping block."
I chuckled again, pulling out my phone. I needed to make sure that my Bella met us back at the Cullen house.
E: Hey my love. Would you meet me back at the family house when you're done, please?
B: Yeah, no prob. Is there something wrong? I'll text you when I'm dropping Kevin back off. I love you, handsome.
E: I love you, too, baby. And Alice sees Charlie sending you another email.
B: Oh, damn. I'll be there. Should I call him to get a heads up before letting her see it? I want to protect her so badly from the awful things.
E: Calling Charlie would be good for you, no matter what. Tell him hello from me. And be kind when picking my costume…
B: I'll call him. And that request goes both ways, you know.
I chuckled, pocketing my phone and holding the mall door for Alice. "Yeah, I'm a dead man."
"No shit," she laughed, taking my hand and tugging me into the mall.
After a huge debate over colors and the length of Bella's skirt, I surrendered and let Alice just do what Alice does. She took control with an evil little smile, and with every item that was added to the pile, my mind reeled with what my stunning wife would look like at the Halloween festival. Just as we were paying for the last thing, my phone went off in my pocket.
B: She'll need the whole family, Edward. Make sure they are all there for her. Charlie says that he spoke to a former employee over the phone and recorded it. He almost didn't send it. And I'm dropping Kevin off now.
E: Thank you, love. I'll see you in a few.
I sent a text to Rose, Esme, and Jasper to make sure everyone would be home by the time we got there. They were already there. Rose said Jasper was a pacing mess, and I could completely understand. He would never want Alice to hurt.
I pocketed my phone, catching Alice's stare. I should have known that she would see mine and Bella's concern.
"I'm nervous, Edward."
"We don't have to look, Ali." I set the bags in the back seat and walked to stand in front of her. "We can delete it and never think about it. I…don't like it," I sighed, running my hand through my hair.
"I need to know," she said, frowning and looking down at her feet – a gesture that didn't suit her normal confident attitude. "I hate not knowing…me. You know that you were Elizabeth and Edward Sr.'s son. You know that you were sick at the end. You even remember some of your school days. Hell, you remember your damn neighborhood, Edward. I only remember the dark…and chains." She whispered the last two words, and I flinched.
Before I could say anything, she continued, "I know Rose wishes she could forget hers, but…" She shrugged one tiny shoulder. "I know all of you want to protect me. But I just need to know. How did I become…this?"
I frowned, taking a deep breath. Every last one of us knew our sire. Alice didn't. While Rose and I didn't appreciate it at the time, Emmett, Esme, and Bella would argue that it was all for the best. Jasper was changed against his will, but with Alice at his side and now Bella as his confidante, he could step back and find the good things our lives offered. Even Carlisle, who had no name for his sire, could remember his life before, his change, and his long struggle alone with sharp clarity. Alice could not.
"We love you, Ali," I sighed, tilting my head at her. "And Bella's going mad with worry."
"I know." She nodded, her brow furrowed. "But can you guys just…help me? Trust me?"
"Always, pixie." I smiled, kissing the top of her spiky head. "Let's get this over with – like ripping off a band aid."
"Okay," she sighed, getting in the driver's seat. I got in the passenger side, picking up her hand.
"I hope this time…you remember better things."
"Me, too."
By the time we pulled into the garage at the house, I was a knee-bouncing, hair-pulling wreck. I needed to see my Bella. And I was worried for my sister.
"Go," Alice giggled, shoving my shoulder. "I'll take care of this stuff." She jerked her thumb towards the back seat filled with bags.
I grinned, ruffling her hair, and shot into the house. I didn't have to search for Bella for long; she was in our room upstairs. I opened the door to see her setting her laptop on the bed. She was really working that bottom lip of hers, her brow furrowed. But it was the blinding smile that warmed me from head to toe that changed her demeanor completely.
"Edward," she sighed, running into my arms.
The relief that came with her touch, just holding her, was indescribable. I held her close, lifting her up. She immediately wrapped herself around me and buried her face in my neck.
"What the hell is that?" Jasper gasped from the doorway. I turned us to face him. He was rubbing his chest with a look of pure joy on his face. He huffed a laugh, but his brow was wrinkled. "It's like a healing feeling or something. Or a complete feeling…it's weird. Was something wrong this whole time?"
Bella and I chuckled. "We're not sure, Jazz," she admitted, smiling and placing a kiss on my cheek. "That's why Marcus is coming."
"Okay," he sighed, rolling his eyes. "Shit must've been gradual," he mumbled, leaving the doorway. His thoughts hit me softly. God, Ed, and this whole time we just thought you two were spoiled…that pain… No wonder they were miserable…
I snorted, turning my attention back to my girl and placing a long, slow, chaste kiss to her lips. "He didn't feel it until just now, either," I said softly against her lips.
"Later," she smiled beautifully, but she sobered quickly. This isn't going to be easy, according to Charlie, she thought to me. He said that even Anna, who's pretty cool headed, got upset that this was Alice they were researching. But he said he would keep trying.
"Have you looked at it?"
"Not yet." She shook her head, brushing my hair from my brow. "I just talked to him on my way here."
I nodded, setting her down on her feet. I took a deep breath, my eyes still locked with hers. "She's pacing downstairs…"
Bella nodded, picked up her laptop, and took my hand to lead me out the door. The whole family was there waiting for us. Bella sat on the floor in front of the coffee table, and I took my place just behind her, keeping her close. Alice sat down on her other side, with Jasper behind her. All four of us faced the computer as Bella logged on to her email. Rose and Emmett sat on the sofa, while Carlisle and Esme took the loveseat to the side of the table.
My girl's hand hovered over the first of two emails from Charlie, but she turned to Alice. "Are you sure, Ali?"
Alice nodded silently, laying her head on Bella's shoulder. Bella opened the email.
Bells and Alice…
There are two files. This email contains photos and articles. I found a historian for that small town that collects information going as far back as when the town was formed. Anna talked him into scanning a few pieces of information to send to us.
Girls, this is messed up stuff. I love you both like crazy, but the things I've uncovered in just the few weeks I've been looking makes me want to stop. I won't quit unless you tell me to, but I hate the thought of little Alice seeing these things, much less living them.
I may not understand your lives completely, but I can't imagine living through what I've seen of this place. So maybe what and where she is now is for the best.
Tell everyone hello from me, and let me know if I should continue.
P.S. Anna said she labeled everything for you, so you'll be able to tell exactly what is what.
Bella opened the files one by one.
The first photo she opened was of a house – an old country-style, wood framed home. It looked worn, with peeling paint and a few loose shutters. The photograph was in black and white, and Bella read Anna's notes for the family that wasn't looking at the screen.
"According to the historian, this was the 'Brandon' home. He said there was an old ghost story about this house – well, the yard, really. He said the neighbors felt bad for the 'little black-haired girl,' because it always seemed like she was in trouble with her family. They said a ghost hung around the large oak in the side yard.
"Ninety-eight year old Esther Fowler lived in the house next door her whole life. She was not of sound mind when I talked to her on the phone, but at the mention of the last name 'Brandon,' all she said was 'Mary's at the tree again.' I don't know if you can believe her, because her grandson said she had dementia.
"I looked up the property records for this house, and it was owned by the Brandon family, but never by anyone else. It stayed empty until it was torn down in 1968, because it was posing as a danger for the neighborhood children."
"Esther…" Alice frowned, and we all turned to her. I grimaced at her thought processes. It was like trying to force an elephant through the eye of a needle. She looked to me, silently telling me to say her thoughts aloud.
"She was younger than you," I said, tilting my head at her. "Blonde, blue eyes…carried a handmade doll everywhere she went." Alice nodded, closing her eyes. "Don't force it, Ali. If it comes, it comes. Okay?" She nodded again.
"Holy shit," Jasper gasped, looking at the computer screen. "That has to be you, Alice." He pointed to the screen, where Bella had opened another picture.
As most of the pictures were from that time, the faces on the people in the photo were grim, unsmiling. It was grainy in quality, but contained the images of five children, ranging in ages from what looked to be four years old to prepubescent.
But Jasper was right, because the oldest child could have been a carbon copy of my sister. She was tiny, with long, dark hair in braids. Her head was tilted in the same way that Alice would look when she was trying to decide if she liked someone. Or when she was having a vision.
Bella read the notes again.
"Esther's grandson was kind enough to send this pic. He was told it was a few children from the neighborhood. Doesn't that one little girl look just like Alice? But it's not. This would have been after she was considered deceased. So he showed the picture to his grandmother, and she said the 'Brandon girl.' Charlie and I guessed that due to the ages of Esther, the timeline, and the year…that this must be Cynthia. It's just a theory."
"She really does look like me," Alice whispered, leaning towards the computer.
Poor Emmett couldn't take it. Grabbing Rose's hand, they got up from the couch to kneel down behind us. And soon, the whole lot of us were looking over Bella's and Alice's shoulders from new places on the floor.
"Do you remember her?" Rose whispered, her eyes not leaving the picture.
"No," Alice and I spoke together.
"What's next, Bells?" Alice frowned, but she made a mental note to herself to print a copy of that picture for later. Without thinking, I reached over Bella and sent it to the printer in Carlisle's office.
"Thanks," she whispered.
The next file that was opened was a newspaper article on the asylum. It was from 1951. It wasn't a big article, and it was announcing that due to complaints about unethical and abusive treatments of patients, the facility had been under investigation. After two unexplained deaths, authorities had finally shut it down.
"Damn, that shit is straight out of a movie," Emmett growled, looking at the picture of the facility that was attached to the article.
He was dead on. It was a brick building with tiny barred windows. It was dark and foreboding, not unlike the backdrop for a typical horror movie.
"All that's missing is the lightning," Bella mumbled with a grimace on her face, and Emmett reached over and ruffled her hair.
"And the psychopath wielding the giant butcher knife," Rose muttered in agreement. And even Alice cracked a small smile.
The last few things that were attached to the email was a small announcement of Cynthia's birth and an obituary of a man by the name of Chester Brandon.
"My dad," Alice breathed, but it was the sneer that crossed her features that made us all stop and stare at her. Her eyes were closed, but her mind was wide open with a memory that was resurfacing.
I could see a tiny Alice sitting at a kitchen table, with a little toddler in the arms of a woman in the background. Alice was playing with two dolls, when a large man walked in the room. She was quiet, ignoring his side glances towards her. He was a beefy man, sweaty, with hair the same color as hers. He was wearing dirty brown pants and a white undershirt. His suspenders were off of his shoulders and hung low down his legs. He grabbed a glass out of the cabinet and filled it with water from the tap.
Whatever he was thinking about caused Alice to stop and turn to face him. "It won't work, Daddy," she said, her voice still the tinkling bells it was today. "If you hit that man for staring at Momma, you'll get fired."
He stopped, the glass in his hand not quite to his lips. "The hell did you just say, you little freak?"
"I said that you'd get fired, Daddy." She smiled, turning back away from him and going back to her doll.
His temper flared, but what made him even angrier was that she dodged the thrown glass just as he threw it at her head.
"Alma! Keep this little witch away from me!" he boomed, rushing out of the room as the small woman with a weary face ran to her daughter's side, still holding the baby. "We'll all burn in hell for just knowing her," he growled, slamming the front door behind him.
"Mary, what have I told you about telling your Daddy those things? He's gonna send you away, I swear it," the woman breathed. "You have to keep them to yourself. Okay?"
"It won't work, Momma," the young Alice sighed, looking at her mother with an ancient sadness in someone that was barely ten years old, but it looked just like her now. "He doesn't want me here anymore. He'll figure out a way to get rid of me. Momma, what's an exorcism?"
"Alice," I breathed, looking over at her. The whole family was watching us. "He was wrong…and small minded. Tell me you know that."
She nodded, leaning into Jasper, who was truly struggling with the emotions that were flying around the room. "Tell them, Edward." Her voice was barely above a whisper.
"Apparently, Chester Brandon was a close minded man with a tendency to react…violently to things he didn't understand," I ground out through gritted teeth. "And Alice's talent precedes her change. Unfortunately, it wasn't well received."
Carlisle smirked at the venom in my voice, but it was Emmett's snort that caused the break in the tension in the room.
"Bro, you have to be putting it mildly," he smirked, gripping my shoulder.
"I am," I said at the same time Alice said, "He is."
Rose and Bella chuckled, both turning to look at me. Bella leaned up to kiss my cheek, thinking, It's okay, my lion.
"It was the times, Edward," Carlisle explained. "Alice was born in the South – the Bible Belt, at that. Christianity was not only practiced by most humans, it was the law. Humans fear that which cannot be explained. That mentality has been around a long time. Instead of seeing her extra sense as a gift, her father probably saw it as something evil, something from the devil."
"So they did the only thing they knew to do. They sent her away." I frowned. "To 'save their own souls,' they tucked her away like a dirty little secret. And it basically got her killed. I hoped he suffered…"
"Edward," Bella gasped, turning to look at me. "Enough. I know it's not easy seeing these things. Please calm down."
I took a deep breath and nodded.
Jasper turned Alice around to face him. "Do you need to stop, darlin'?"
"There's one more email," she said simply.
"Are you sure, Alice?" Carlisle asked. "We can leave it for another time. You've remembered quite a bit today."
"No, no…I'm sure."
Bella winced, turning to her computer and opening the last email.
Bells and Alice,
The historian put me in touch with a woman that worked at the asylum. Her mother worked in the laundry room at the time Alice was admitted. Her name is Adelaide O'Brien, and she's pushing 101 years old. Believe it or not, she still drives and makes her apple pies from scratch. She's sharp as a tack, really, and was willing to answer any question we had.
However, this won't be an easy interview to hear. Bells, you've heard me interrogate a suspect. This is nothing like that. Please try to keep in mind that she was 8 when she first started working alongside her mother at that place, okay?
Rolling Hills Mental Institution was not as pleasant as the name made it sound. It was a jail and a hiding place for the mentally handicapped and criminally insane. And they didn't care if the two were mixed together in the same room. In fact, from what I've heard from Miss Addy, the head doctor preferred it that way.
Please give each other hugs from me.
Bella linked her fingers with mine before hitting play on the audio file that Anna had attached to Charlie's email. And it seemed the whole family took a collective breath.
There was a fumbling of equipment, and then Charlie's low voice came through. "Is it working?" he asked.
"Yeah, Charlie, call her," Anna chuckled. "Bells, your dad has learned so much technology in the last few weeks that he's about to strangle me."
Charlie harrumphed in the background.
We all laughed, knowing Charlie wasn't exactly inclined to learn something new.
"Oh, yeah, and we miss you, so come visit soon, okay?" she giggled, but muffled the sound when the ringing on the phone started.
"Hello, this is Chief Charlie Swan from the police department in Forks, Washington. I was wondering if I could speak to a Mrs. Adelaide O'Brien."
"Oh, it's just Miss. And everyone calls me Miss Addy. What would the police all the way in Washington want with me?"
She was extremely sharp. Charlie was right. Her voice, while wavering with her age, still held a slight touch of sweetness and sarcasm. If Bella had met her in person, I would almost guarantee that she would have fallen in love with her.
"Miss Addy, I'm doing some research into the background of my son-in-law's family. He has an adopted sister that knows nothing of her blood relatives. I've traced her…family tree back to Calhoun County, as far back as the early nineteen hundreds. I was referred to you by Wallace Fletcher. He said you might be able to answer some questions about Rolling Hills…"
"Oh my…yes. Wally has talked to me about that place before. He even took some of my pictures and things from back then. To be honest, I think he likes the scary side of Calhoun more than the true history," she chuckled. "But he does like his stories. What did you want to know?"
"When did you start there?"
"Well, my family was originally from Ireland. We landed in New York, but at the time, the Irish weren't exactly welcome with open arms. We were treated lower than the slaves. We needed to survive, so the Irish were willing to work for next to nothing. My father followed a large group down here to Mississippi. He worked for a cotton farmer, and my mother found work at Rolling Hills. She worked in the laundry room. I guess I was about eight years old the first time I went with her."
"That young?"
"Oh yeah, there weren't any child labor laws back then. And we needed the money. I made two cents a day for just folding sheets and dropping them off to the storage room. By the time I turned twelve, I was full time and made five cents a day."
"What do you remember about the place? How did it run? Who was in charge? How were the patients treated?"
"Oh, Mr. Swan…"
"Charlie, please…"
"Charlie, that place was like…well, it was like how I would imagine hell to be. I tried so hard not to look, not to stare, and never to make eye contact. I needed the job from the very beginning. My parents had ten children to feed and house and clothe." She took a deep breathy sigh. "I can remember my first day there. I was to run the folded sheets to the storage room and come right back. I got lost. Every hall looked the same. And the noise, Charlie…it was awful.
"Anyway, I took a wrong turn and ended up in what Dr. Sinclair called the 'Treatment Wing.' I couldn't tell what they were treating for…"
"What did you see, Miss Addy?"
"It seemed like torture to me, but one room held a chair. They would sit the patient in the chair and strap them down. They would crank this lever, and the chair would spin like a tornado. How the hell that helped anyone was beyond me…most of the time, they just got sick. Another room…the one at the end of the hall…held the furnace. I couldn't help but look when a man screamed. They were holding a red, hot iron to his head. And one of the nurses told me later that it was supposed to 'clear his mind.' Then the last room was the concrete bed with the chains at all four corners. I saw them chain people down and then attached cables to them. I suppose that was the first shock therapy…"
I heard Charlie curse softly, but I would have been willing to bet that Miss Addy didn't hear it.
"I ran into Dr. Sinclair's assistant, who honestly scared me until the day that they left. James was just plain mean. It was like he enjoyed the pain. He was in charge of the 'Treatment Wing'."
Alice reached out and paused the audio. "No fucking way…"
"James really did know you," Bella growled, looking over at her. "I really just thought he was messing with all of us…"
Alice huffed, reaching over and hitting play.
"Who was Dr. Sinclair?"
"Dr. Lloyd Sinclair. He was the head doctor. He was originally from overseas…Poland or something. Handsome thing, he was, but he gave off this…repellant. I really avoided him as much as I possibly could the entire time he was there."
Edward, pause that again, Carlisle's thoughts hit me.
"What? You know him?" I asked, turning to my father.
"It's not Lloyd…it's Lord Sinclair. And he was from Scotland. He spent time in Volterra around the same time I did. If that is the same Sinclair, then yes, he truly was running a torture chamber for humans. He tried to convince Aro time and time again that we were the superior race, and we should be in control. He said that we should treat humans like the lowly cattle that they really were."
"What happened to him?" Alice asked, turning to face Carlisle.
"No idea," he said with a shrug. "We could ask Marcus about him when he arrives next week. But I left Volterra shortly after he did. To be honest, I didn't care. He was the polar opposite in his beliefs than I was. I couldn't stand to be near him."
"I don't blame you," Emmett and Bella mumbled together, both of them wearing looks of utter disgust.
I chuckled, kissing the back of her head.
Carlisle smirked, but turned his attention to Alice. "It is quite possible he was the one that changed you. He loved changing humans, almost as much as he loved hurting them and killing them. He loved to watch the venom take over."
"You mean he liked the screaming," Rose growled. Her mind filled with how awful it had been to watch Emmett change, and she hadn't even been the one to change him.
"Yes, Rose, I suppose he did."
"More," Esme snapped, and we all looked over at her. She had been quiet up to that point. "What? I want to know about her. I want to hear what this woman knows about my Alice."
Momma Bear was in full force, and Alice smiled and allowed Esme to wrap her up in a hug.
Bella hit play, and the interview resumed.
"I never wanted to run into James or Dr. Sinclair. The rumor was that if a treatment went badly, they would grab any employee to clean up after it. Anyway, they disappeared one day."
Charlie cleared his throat, and asked, "Do you remember anyone by the name of Mary Alice Brandon?"
The phone line went silent for a ten second count. "Yes, Charlie. She was killed in one of the treatment rooms the day before James and Dr. Sinclair disappeared. I walked past her in the hallway the day she was brought in. They wanted me to set up her room…you know, make her bed and make sure she had a clean chamber pot.
"She was shorter than me. She had long, black hair. The only reason I remember her is because when we passed in the hallway, she was being lead by James. I flinched, trying to avoid going anywhere near him. She grabbed my arm and said, 'He'll be gone in three days.' And he was, but so was she. She died three days later. The only reason I remember her name was because James was carrying her file."
"What happened?"
"They said a treatment went badly. The rumor was that she was too small to spin in the chair, but that the electric shocks were set to high for her frame. Her screams were heard all over the third floor. At the same time, the second floor had a riot. So by the time the authorities arrived, Dr. Sinclair and James were gone. The girl was reported dead, along with most of the patients and staff on the second floor.
"Things changed after that. The police got involved and tried to clean it up. It actually made for a little better working environment. I worked there even after I got married. I stayed there until I had my son."
"Miss Addy, I want to thank you for your time. You've given me a lot of information."
"Anytime, but Charlie…if you're asking about Mary Alice…how can she be connected to your family?"
"She had a sister…"
"Oh. Well, good luck in your research."
The recording stopped, and we all looked to Alice, who was shaking her head. "I don't…not a clue…it sounds like something I would do…but…"
"Oh, shorty, you did awesome! So don't sweat it, okay?" Emmett chuckled, giving her a fist bump.
"How are you?" Esme whispered in her ear, still holding her gently.
"I'm okay. I just wish I could remember more."
"I think that Sinclair changed you," Jasper stated. "I think he had to leave you in that room to avoid getting caught for the riot, but I think he and James changed you." Jasper's face looked exhausted.
"Were you controlling the whole room?" I asked him, and he nodded. "Go hunt. You're barely holding on, Jazz."
"Come on, sweetie," Alice smiled, standing up and holding out her hand to him.
He nodded and took her hand, his eyes flickering to Bella and then meeting mine. Something's up with her. She's shielding me. I nodded, and they took off out the back door.
I wrapped my arms around my girl. "Are we staying here or going home, love?"
"Here," she said, her voice soft. "If Ali remembers something, she'll want you here."
"Good, my babies are staying." Esme beamed, kissing both of our cheeks once we were on our feet. Bella and I both laughed. "I so rarely get you all under the same roof anymore. Everyone's so busy. When you come back downstairs, you can play for me."
Bella giggled, looking up at me. "You should play guitar."
"I don't care what you play," Esme sang as she left the room.
I rolled my eyes at the two of them, but I loved them both madly.
Bella picked up her laptop, and we ran upstairs. She set it down on the desk and walked over to the chaise in the corner of our room. She collapsed onto her back with a sigh.
"What are you thinking, sweet girl?" I asked, sitting beside her but bracing my hands on each side of her head.
"That we're just really lucky." She smiled sadly. "You had Carlisle to care for you, to teach you. And I have you…and Carlisle…and Esme…and Rose…and Alice…and Jasper…and Emmett…" Her laughter was adorable. "I can't imagine changing like Alice did and not knowing anything."
"She only had her visions to guide her." I shrugged. "She could have truly turned out to be a little monster. More so than she is now," I chuckled, giving her a wink.
"True," she laughed. "Do you ever wonder why we got this lucky?"
"No way," I growled, leaning into her neck to nip at her skin. "I don't want to question what good thing I did in a past life or this one or whatever it was that gave me you. I'm just damn grateful."
She smiled, cupping my face.
I pressed my forehead to hers, caressing her nose with my own. "I love you, Mrs. Masen."
"I love you more," she smirked, kissing my lips softly.
"So, where's my costume," I chuckled, grunting when my wife's fingers dug into my sides.
"Kevin has it. And what have you got me dressing as, hmm?"
"Not a nurse," I laughed, dodging her hands. "And not a cheerleader…"
She sat up, and I backed away. "You know…I could make you tell me," she growled, crouching to tackle me.
"You can try," I laughed, bolting down the stairs with Bella hot on my trail. "Mom!" I yelled as I was tackled to the floor of the foyer.
"Don't break my tile floor," Esme huffed, pulling Bella off of me.
"You, mister, are lucky Mom loves you." My wife pointed a finger at me with a deadly smirk on her face. "Fine, keep your secret. I'll be the one laughing it up in New York."
I stood up with a laugh. "Come on, my love. We have to pick a song to sing," I teased back.
With a dramatic eye roll, Bella turned to head into the music room. As I picked up Jasper's acoustic guitar and sat next to her, I realize she was right.
We were lucky.
We were very lucky, because we had something more than what the definition of a coven was – we were family. We respected each other, loved each other, and supported each other.
Thinking back on my life when it was just Carlisle and me, I was suddenly grateful. He was there for everything, whether I wanted it or not. He showed endless amounts of patience. When Bella was changed, the whole family rallied around her, and I realized that I had taken the same patience shown to me and passed it on to her. But with Bella, it was more…it was unconditional and perfect, it was her gift to me and mine to her. It was our forever to each other. And even though the timing was imperfect, the act, the meaning, wasn't.
I looked over at her as she opened a book. Leaning over, I kissed her head.
Yeah, we were damn lucky.


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