Sunday, April 6, 2014 | By: Drotuno

Masen Manor Chapter 10 & Pics

Chapter 10
November 2001
“What’cha havin’, honey?” the waitress at the diner in Hunter’s Lake asked me. Her smile was genuine toward me as I pointed to what I wanted to eat. “BLT, got it. Fries?”
I nodded vehemently, and she smiled again before walking away from the table. By now, I knew her name to be Meg. I supposed that she’d gotten used to me since I’d been coming into the diner. She’d been a little standoffish at first, but she barely reacted to me anymore.
Looking across the table at Alice, who was happily flipping through a magazine and humming to herself, my brow furrowed. With all the people I’d met since being accepted into Masen, I still couldn’t help but think about my mother and stepfather. Aside from Mike and Jessica, my inability to speak didn’t bother anyone here. I’d been an oddity at first, but no one even looked my way now. They were most likely still curious, but with a heavy workload and much more appealing topics floating around, my scar was forgotten.
However, at home, I’d felt like an outcast. I’d felt discarded. At Masen, I was completely welcomed and accepted. At home, my own mother could barely stay in the same room with me. Suddenly, I was rather happy that I hadn’t gone home for Thanksgiving this week.
Alice’s head popped up from the article she was reading. “You okay?”
I nodded, gazing slowly around the diner. We’d been given a few hours in town today, since tomorrow, everything would be closed due to the holiday. I knew Jacob was wandering around outside somewhere. There were only seven of us total staying behind this week. Three were in the diner at the same time we were, but the other two had stayed behind at the castle. I glanced over at Lauren Mallory and Tyler Crowley. They’d become friends – or more than that, it seemed – yet they were hiding it from the girl who was sitting with them. Rachel was a sophomore, with a body that looked like it belonged on the cover of the magazine that Alice was reading. She was nice, but had a reputation of being really flirty.
The bell chimed over the door, and Rachel’s eyes widened at whoever had walked in. I didn’t have to look – I felt him – but as I followed her gaze, my heart sputtered in my chest. Edward held the door for an old woman, and behind her stood Jacob and Jasper.
“Ow,” I hissed when Alice’s foot collided with my shin. Glaring at her, I rubbed the outside of my jeans.
Alice waved me away, her eyes on Jasper as my own eyes took in the entire group. The way that Jacob reacted to the old woman, as well as their matching skin tone and eyes, told me that she was either his mother or grandmother. I wasn’t sure which. She was so much older, that I’d have said the latter. Edward and Jasper were laughing at something they’d said, but suddenly, Edward’s head swung around to meet my gaze. His beautiful smile stayed on his face, and he shot me a wave, which I returned.
However, I didn’t miss Jasper’s reaction to Alice. His eyes seemed to fill with an ancient sadness, then hardened into something cold, though Edward smacked his shoulder with the back of his hand, almost like he knew that it was obviously some sort of a cover up of his feelings.
Jacob guided the old woman to the table next to ours, grinning our way. “Ah, you haven’t met my mother, have you?” he asked us.
Alice and I shook our heads no.
“Alice Brandon and Bella Swan, this is my mother…Leah Black.”
Something seemed to light up in her eyes as she looked me over, like she knew me. But the cutest smile curled up on her wrinkled face. Though, she did what everyone did: she glanced down at my neck first.
I waved as Alice said, “Hi!”
“It’s nice to meet you,” she answered, and with the way she was dressed, the slightly strange accent, not to mention the dark hair and eyes, I saw that she might’ve been a gypsy.
Alice’s eyes glazed over, and a funny little smile spread over her face. “You read futures,” she stated knowingly.
Leah’s laugh was loud and sweet. “And you’re the psychic I’ve heard about. Come, let’s see you.” She patted the tabletop as the men with her chuckled, and Alice shot out of the booth to join her.
Her abandoned seat was immediately occupied by Edward, who was smirking at the whole thing. But his gaze turned to me.
“Hello, Bella,” he said, and I smiled his way, pulling out the notebook I’d brought with me. His brow furrowed. “Writing today?”
I looked around and then back to him. There were too many people, and I was feeling a little off.
Meg dropped off my sandwich and fries, eyeing Edward like a juicy steak when she asked him if he wanted anything. He politely declined her offer, not bothering to take his eyes from me. I shoved my plate of fries toward him.
“No, thank you, Bella,” he said with a chuckle, though it sounded nervous. “I’m um…on a special diet.”
Grinning, I shrugged like it was his loss, popped a fry in my mouth, and glanced over at Leah and Alice. Both Jasper and Jacob were watching a tarot card reading with amused grins on their faces as Alice barely looked at the burger Meg had dropped off. Shaking my head, I shoved the notebook Edward’s way.
He read the question and answered with my favorite crooked smile. “My uncle is Leah’s doctor. He asked me to drive her into town today to pick up some medicine, and even though she shouldn’t, she wanted something to eat here,” he stated loud enough that Leah had heard him, and she rolled her eyes and scoffed like a child.
Smiling, I nodded. I so rarely saw him outside of the castle, so I couldn’t help but ask him. He was temptation incarnate today. With the chilly, almost-ready-to-snow weather outside, he was dressed in black jeans and leather jacket, with a form-fitting gray thermal shirt.
And I wasn’t the only one who’d noticed. Rachel was practically drooling in her plate of spaghetti.
“I figured I’d see you this week, but no…” he hedged, looking over my face. When I shrugged and smiled, his brow furrowed. “Bella, are you having trouble sleeping?” he asked gently, leaning forward.
I pulled the notebook closer, writing one simple word.
He looked pained at the answer. “You should see my uncle… He could give you something,” he told me, but I wrote again.
No! No, thank you. I’ve tried meds to help with nightmares. They help me sleep, but really, they just trap me in the dreams. I can’t wake up to make them stop.
“But…” he started to argue, clawing at his hair. “Sweetheart, you look so tired.”
Smiling at his concern and the term of endearment I loved so much, I quickly wrote, I’m okay. I’m used to it. Promise, Edward.
He looked so sad after he read it, and he sighed. “You shouldn’t have to be used to it,” he muttered sourly.
I wrote quickly, and just like Alice, he watched my every word scrawl out on the paper.
They’re better here than at home, Edward. At home, they were almost every night. Here…they’ve become fewer. I know Alice gets up with me, and that helps. At home, I’m usually alone.
“I don’t understand,” he sighed deeply, shaking his head.
“Understand what?” I whispered, and I was grateful it was hidden in the loud noise of the diner.
Edward smiled when I spoke, but it fell quickly. “You seem so…I don’t know…calm about having to push through these things by yourself, Bella. Why isn’t your mother… Never mind, it’s none of my business,” he mumbled nervously.
Snickering, I pulled the notebook to me.
I was closer to my dad than my mom, Edward. Not because she didn’t care, but because of her personality. She’s very…hyper and easily distracted. She’s always taking some new class or into some new cosmetic sales thing, or she’ll go through a baking phase or whatever. She’s been that way since I was born.
When I couldn’t talk, she was worried and she took me everywhere to try to “fix” me, but when she didn’t get the expected results, she simply assumed that I needed time. Time turned into years, and like always, she just learned to live with the way I’d changed. My stepfather goes along with what she says. He’s just happy I’m not a loud, obnoxious, argumentative teenager.
“That sounds so cold,” he sighed, shaking his head. His hands twitched a little on the tabletop, but he balled them up into fists.
I know it sounds that way, but I have Chelsea. Sometimes, I wish it was different, but I know my mother loves me. And like I said before…it’s better here.
I pushed the notebook to him and smiled when he looked at me. A bunch of emotions flickered across his handsome face – sadness, worry, and what looked like a little anger. I didn’t want to see that he cared so much, but it was obvious he did. I just didn’t want to hope that he cared the same way about me that I did about him. The tension at the table was thick, and I realized Edward and I had leaned closer and closer to each other, but he sat back quickly. However, we both glanced over at the other table when Alice’s voice rose.
“Wait, wait! But how do you know?” she asked Leah, her eyes locked on a strange stack of cards laid out a certain way on the table. “I mean, I don’t need…these…”
Giggling, I went back to my sandwich and fries with a shake of my head.
“You don’t believe in it?” Edward asked, wearing the funniest of expressions.
Shrugging, I wrote back to him.
I believe in Alice. I’m not sure about tarot cards or tea leaves. My mother had her palms read once, and none of it was true.
Edward snickered at my answer. “Perhaps she just went to the wrong person. Leah here is the real thing. She’s rarely wrong. And it runs in her family…mother, grandmother…”
My eyebrows shot up, and I grinned at him, asking, She’s given you a reading?
“Oh yeah,” he said with a laugh. “Plenty of them. She finds me…fascinating.”
Snorting, I understood that, but probably for completely different reasons.
And just what did she say about you?
He grinned, looking away from the table for a moment. He shook his head like he wasn’t going to answer, so I added to my question.
Let me guess… All the good stuff: marriage, kids, success, long life…
“No,” he stated firmly, his brow furrowing as he stared at the page. “Nothing like that, Bella.”
Bad stuff? I wrote, looking over at him, though his attention seemed to be on Lauren, Tyler, and Rachel, who were getting up to leave the diner.
His brow wrinkled again, especially when Rachel’s eyes barely left him when she walked out the door. He shook his head, giving her a brief annoyed glance, but he turned back to me.
“More like,” he sighed, grimacing a little, “confusing stuff. Stuff that didn’t make sense until it came true.” He leaned forward. “A long time ago, I had a reading…” he started in a whisper that was almost drowned out by the loud laughter from Jacob and Alice at the table next to us. Jasper, however, got up and left the diner. “I was told some things I didn’t want to believe. Some of it was good, some of it was strange, and some of it was…”
“Bad?” I whispered, my heart breaking at his handsome face filling with something dark.
“Yeah,” he replied softly. “The bad seemed to overshadow the possibility of the good. My parents’ deaths had been seen, but so had my relationship with my aunt and uncle – better parents, really – so bad, then good.”
“And the strange?” I whispered, but Edward glanced over at Jacob as he kissed his mother’s cheek and then stood up.
“Time to go, ladies,” he said to Alice and me.
I nodded, leaving my money on the table for my food. I stood up, dragging my bag with me, and tucked the notebook back inside. Edward stood up with me, but before I could walk by him, he grabbed my wrist gently, his fingers slipping down to mine.
“The strange part was…she saw a swan, Bella,” he whispered in my ear. “A beautiful, silent swan, and Leah saw music – hands on a piano.” He squeezed my fingers gently, dragging his thumb across my knuckles. “It didn’t make sense then, but it does…now.”
I wasn’t sure whether I wanted to laugh, or kiss him. Either one would’ve been inappropriate at the moment. I wasn’t sure what to make of his serious, yet tentative face, either. If it was as vague as he was saying it had been when presented to him, then I could understand why it hadn’t made sense at the time. My mother’s reading had been just as ambiguous; the woman had seen my mother alone, but she’d married Phil almost the next month.
As Alice and Leah still chatted, I couldn’t help but look up at him and ask, “So…good or bad?”
He laughed, shaking his head and shooting me a wink. “Definitely good.”
Nodding, I smiled. “Except when I have the attention span of a fly.”
He chuckled. “There is that, Bella.”
I rolled my eyes, but gave him a wave before being spun around by Alice.
“That was awesome,” she gushed, wearing a big smile. “You should have her read you sometime.”
Leah laughed, saying, “Anytime. Come see me. I’d be interested in giving you a reading, Bella.”
Edward, however, looked mad. “They aren’t allowed that far away from the school, Leah.”
“Oh, pooh, Edward. Then you or Jacob could bring them,” she argued, her eyes narrowing on him.
“We’ll see, Ma,” Jacob hedged, though his hand shot out and smacked Edward’s shoulder.
Alice’s arm linked through mine, dragging me out of the diner, and I looked over at her expectantly.
She laughed. “The cards fell in the coolest way. She saw the love card, some sort of secret thing…and death.” When my eyebrows shot up at the latter one, she said, “Well, it makes sense. My grandmother has been sick, Bella, and I’d already seen her death coming.” She leaned into my ear. “I’d love to see her again. She has a crystal ball and everything.”
Chuckling, I shook my head, but we made our way back to the van. I wasn’t sure I cared about a reading. However, my mind and heart couldn’t help but reel at the thought that Leah saw me coming into Edward’s life…and that he thought it was a good thing.
December 2001
Thanksgiving had been a nice break. The actual holiday itself turned out to be fun. Mrs. C had cooked the turkey – which wasn’t dry – and Jasper had pulled a couple of tables together in the dining hall in order for the small group of us to sit together. Dr. Cullen had even given a nice blessing.
However, Edward had barely eaten that day, seemingly nervous, and while everyone else had decided to watch a movie in the library, he and I had gone to the auditorium to work on my song. Having all three Cullens and Jasper in the same room had made me see their similarities. They were all gorgeous, all had various shades of honey eyes, and they all seemed to move so very gracefully. I thought Alice was probably right, that Jasper and Edward could possibly be related, though I never asked.
As Christmas break approached, I was beginning to feel the workload weighing heavily on me. I was ready for a break from homework, tests, and projects. I was ready to go home, sleep late in my own bed, and not have to worry about midterms.
It was the last Friday before Christmas break, and history class seemed to be dragging on and on. I wasn’t leaving Hunter’s Lake until Tuesday morning. This time, the castle would clear out until a few days after the new year, when we were all due back. Edward had said he was staying on with his aunt and uncle.
The thought of Edward made me sad. Despite how ready I was to go home, I wasn’t ready to be away from him for almost three weeks. And today would be our last session until after the holidays. He’d become the one person I actually spoke to on a regular basis. He made me comfortable and happy. And lately, he’d started looking at me in a way that made me blush, made the butterflies in my stomach battle around in their armor.
“Please turn in your reports on the Roman Empire, and you guys can take off for the day,” I heard from the front of the classroom.
I picked up my backpack, rummaging around for the folder I needed, and my fingers raked across the purple journal. I’d taken to carrying it around with me for safe-keeping. I’d reread MG’s last response over and over, until I almost had it memorized. The fear behind his words always drew me in, but his vague answers always made me stop and think, though my response to him sat undelivered. I just hadn’t been brave enough to take it to the east wing. If my guess was correct, then MG was something old and dark and sad.
If I listened to Alice’s original theory, then I’d have to think he was some sort of immortal being, a vampire hidden in the shadows, which sort of scared me a little, especially considering the state of the east wing. I’d seen some of the movies, read Dracula, and their power and thirst for blood were a little unnerving – that’s if I allowed my imagination to run away. But there was a part of me that wondered if colorful words weren’t just a cover for something else. And it was that last notion that caused my curiosity about the east wing to skyrocket. I wanted to explore up there. Badly.
Pulling out my history assignment, I handed it forward, but my eyes fell to the journal before I took it out. Since class was dismissed early, I had more than enough time to drop it off before heading down to the auditorium to meet Edward.
Before I could change my mind, I shouldered my backpack and left the classroom. I dodged my classmates and wound through the corridors and up to the third floor. I waited until two freshmen turned the long corridor’s corner before yanking back the tapestry and pushing through the hidden door.
The east wing was darker than usual, though it lit up when lightning flickered across the gray sky outside. I snorted at myself when I jumped at the rumbling thunder, but I set the journal in its place. Instead of retreating through the hidden doorway, I gave the room a long, slow gaze.
It reminded me of Beauty and the Beast, where the beast’s side of his castle was torn up and shredded. He’d been miserable and angry, and he’d taken it out on his surroundings, only to continue to live in the destruction. I hitched my backpack up higher onto my shoulder, but wandered farther into the room past the broken piano.
The place was chilly and still smelled musty and old and closed-up, but I had to smile at the scent that I loved so much, which seemed to be much more intense than it usually was. Cold rain spattered against the windows, and the wind blew fierce outside. The shadows at the top of the stairs and in the adjoining empty room shifted and swayed.
I stepped closer to the fireplace, with the mantle in ruins and the bricks crumbling, but looked deeper than the garbage on top. Beneath the splintered wood and broken concrete, there were what looked to be shattered picture frames – old ones. No photographs were left in them when I knelt down to shift stuff around, but just under the frame was what looked to be sheet music. It was brittle and burned about halfway across the page, but I pulled out what I could. Some of the notes were faded as I studied them, and I heard the tones in my head as I read it.
“No,” I whispered, shaking my head and bringing the page up to the limited light coming in through the window. At the bottom far corner of the page, a date was written in familiar, yet beautiful penmanship.
April 12, 1901
I could tell the date most likely matched the age of the paper, but the notes…they were so familiar. If what I heard in my mind was really how it played on the piano, then something wasn’t right.
Setting my backpack down and pulling out my music folder, I carefully set the fragile sheet music inside and slid it back into my bag. I needed to get the hell out of there before I freaked myself out any further, and I wanted to beat Edward to the auditorium, because if my theory was correct, then he had some explaining to do.
I gave the east wing one more glance before quietly cracking open the hidden door to the main hallway. I hurried down the stairs, around the main entryway, and burst into the auditorium. I rushed up the stage stairs, setting my backpack on the piano bench and pulling out my folder.
I didn’t even bother setting the sheet up, but sat down next to it, my fingers finding the notes instantly. My hands shook as I played what notes could be seen from the paper lying flat, and I froze when the auditorium doors slammed shut. I shifted papers around, hiding the old pages beneath my folder, but when I looked up at Edward, his eyes were bright honey, sweet and warm, his smile nervous and wavering.
“Hello, Bella,” he said, pointing to the piano as he walked to the blackboard and tugged it closer to the piano. “I didn’t think you were paying much attention to my song that day, but you’re close.”
Waving his way, I couldn’t stop my heart from pounding at the sight of him. Despite the strange coincidence with the music, he was still Edward. My Edward. Nothing about the clench of his jaw scared me, nothing about his stiff posture caused me to be concerned, because everything about him made me feel safe, secure, and cared for.
“Bella, you okay?” he asked, kneeling next to me. It was then that I caught a whiff of him. It was sandalwood and laundry soap, and had it not been so concentrated in the east wing I’d just left, I would’ve never put the two together, or maybe I just never wanted to. “Sweetheart, you’re white as a sheet…”
Shaking my head, I got up from the piano and took a deep breath.
“No, no, no,” I chanted mainly to myself, but was caught up in Edward’s grasp. “You can’t be. You’re not him…”
“Bella, you’re scaring me. What’s wrong?” he asked, looking hurt when I tried to pull away from him. When I finally locked gazes with him, his face looked…resigned. He groaned, his eyes closing as he simply said, “Ask, sweetheart. I won’t lie to you. I’ve never lied to you.”
Tears welled up in my eyes as I shook my head. “Wh-When…When did you write your song?”
Edward’s knees hit the floor with a dull thud, and he spoke softly. “A very long time ago.”
I snorted, causing his eyes to snap open. It was just the type of response MG would’ve given. I glared at him, swiping at my tears while everything that Edward and MG had ever said started to swirl together. They started to mesh and match up, along with the little strange things I’d noticed about Edward that I’d simply waved off because of the way I felt about him. It was that last thought that caused a sob to escape me.
He reached for me, but I backed away, shaking my head. My back met the chalkboard, and I picked up a piece of chalk and held it out.
“Write my name,” I whispered, my hand shaking.
Edward stood up from the stage, taking the chalk from me. “Bella, please…”
My hands balled up into fists, and for the first time in years, I yelled. “Write it!”
My panic started to surface, but I fought it, shaking my head. I hadn’t raised my voice above a whisper in so long that my throat protested what I’d just done.
Another thud made me glance up, and Edward’s forehead was pressed to the chalkboard, his eyes squeezed shut.
“Before I do this, Bella, you need to understand something,” he whispered, looking to me, and his voice wavered like he, too, was crying. “Nothing I said, did, or…wrote was done maliciously, nor were they lies. Everything I told you was the truth – as much as I could tell you. I didn’t set out to hurt you, but I can see that I did so anyway. I…I’m so sorry.” His voice was a velvet plea, and he didn’t take his eyes from me when his hand scrawled my name across the chalkboard.
I wasn’t prepared for the sight of it. It was beautiful and flowing and exactly the same as MG’s. More tears fell as I started to back away from him, but he moved quickly, catching me before I stepped off the front of the stage backwards.
“Let me go,” I sobbed, looking away from him. “Leave me alone, Edward.”
“I can’t,” he hiccupped back. “Bella, I don’t know how!” he begged through gritted teeth. “I tried. I swear I did, but…everything about you pulls me in.”
His echo of my own feelings for him wasn’t a comfort. Instead, they wounded me because I felt exposed and deceived and confused.
“Sweetheart, look at me,” he begged, and when I did, I wanted to collapse at the hurt and panic and fear that matched my own.
“Don’t call me that. I trusted you,” I said weakly, shaking my head in denial.
“I know, and I’m sorry. I read your journal, wrote back to you…told you that you were safe before I met you, Bella. I promise you that. Think back. You know it’s true.”
“Did you get a good laugh?” I hissed, pushing him away and grabbing up my things.
“Nothing about this is funny,” he growled, gripping his hair, “but by the time I’d gotten to know you, it was too late; you had figured out about the east wing.”
Glaring his way, I shook my head. “Would you have told me?”
“Yes, everything, I just didn’t know how to approach it,” he groaned, sitting on the edge of the piano bench and fisting his hair in both hands. “I’ll tell you whatever you want to know…just not here.”
He looked up at me, and I shook my head. I could feel everything that I’d let down around him start to build back up. Silently, I turned to leave the stage.
“No, no, no,” he begged, jumping down from the stage to cut off my path to the door. “Bella…everything I told you was the truth. Everything. I’ve waited so long for you. You have no idea. I just wasn’t sure how to handle it when you really showed up.”
I snorted, shaking my head.
“Really, Bella? You scoff at the idea of fortune telling, yet you’ll toy with the idea that your ‘ghost’ in the east wing might possibly be a blood-drinking demon?” he asked, and venom infused his words, his tone, causing me to step back again. “Go ahead and leave. If you want answers to all the questions you asked your ghost, you know where to find him.”
I stepped around him, and just before I reached the auditorium doors, he was right behind me.
“No matter what happens, I can’t change the way I feel about you. It’s unwavering and permanent, and I was losing the battle between what was right, which was leaving you alone, and what I wanted, which was to tell you how I felt, what I was, the consequences be damned. I would do anything for you, Bella. That includes letting you go. But I wish you’d let me explain before you get on the train home.”
I wavered, my hands shaking as I reached for the door. Everything about him felt so right as he stood behind me. We just fit together, and he sounded so broken, but I needed to think, and I couldn’t do that with him so close, with the knowledge of what he was so fresh. I pushed through the doors, letting them slam closed behind me. I could barely see my way to my dorm room through the tears. Thankfully, Alice wasn’t there, so I was able to crawl into bed without explaining the sobs I couldn’t stop.
My forehead fell to the auditorium door when it slammed closed. I breathed deep, once again wishing I could cry. To watch the cold glare in her eyes at me, see the wall build right back up – the wall she’d let down only for me – just about killed me.
She knew. She knew everything. And she hated me for it.
My hand balled up into a fist, and as much as I would’ve liked to have destroyed the room I was in, I couldn’t. Not only would Esme kill me, but I simply didn’t have it in me.
Slowly, I made my way back to the stage, and I glared at my handwriting. Her name, and she’d recognized it instantly. I erased it from the blackboard, pushing it backstage and turning toward the piano. Gone were Bella’s things, but left behind was something I hadn’t seen in decades.
“Shit,” I hissed, shaking my head at how my language had simply evolved into something I barely recognized anymore, but I was feeling everything and nothing all at once, so it was bubbling out of my mouth without thought.
Bella had recognized the notes, but then saw the date in MG’s handwriting. That was how she’d put it all together. I sat on the edge of the bench, glaring at the partially burned piece of paper. I remembered when I’d done it. I remembered with a clarity that I took for granted. It was the day I’d woken up from my change and destroyed the east wing. The piano had taken the brunt of my temper, but I’d ripped every piece of music I’d owned or written and tossed them into the fire. My eyes had landed on the photographs on the mantle, and with all the strength I had, I’d brought my hand down through it, essentially knocking everything into the flames. Carlisle had managed to salvage my pictures. My music hadn’t been so lucky.
Keeping the brittle paper in my hand, I stood up and made my way to the back passageway, toward the east wing. I knew the purple journal was waiting for me on top of the piano. Bella had almost run flat into me coming in through the hidden door behind the tapestry. I’d had to hide quickly. Once she’d left, I’d been in such a hurry to follow her that I hadn’t touched the notebook.
My heart hurt when I caught sight of it, but I left it where it was. Taking the steps at a human pace, I felt weary and broken. I didn’t know what I’d do if she simply left on Tuesday without coming to see me. I needed to see her, to tell her everything and explain why I’d messed up.
Jasper was in my living quarters when I got there, his face panicked and eyes wide. “Edward, what the hell happened? It was all I could do not to burst into the auditorium with what I felt coming from there.”
“Bella knows,” I barely said aloud, falling to the edge of my sofa. “She put two and two together, and she hates me for it.”
“She doesn’t hate you,” he stated firmly. He smiled when my eyes shot up to his. “Not at all. She’s pissed…hurt…a little embarrassed, but she doesn’t hate you. In fact, anytime you two are together, it’s far, far from hate.”
“You didn’t see her.”
“You didn’t feel what I felt when I passed by,” he argued, sitting down across from me. “Brother, she may be mad, but that’s not hate I’m feeling.”
Nodding, I sighed, sinking my fingers into my hair. I trusted Jasper, but he hadn’t seen the look in Bella’s eyes, and he hadn’t seen her shut down.
“Please don’t doubt me,” he said with a snort.
“I don’t, but right now…I just…” My voice trailed off. I couldn’t even put into words what I was feeling, but he could sense it all.
Deep down, I hoped she’d stay away. She deserved so much more than what I could give her, even more what I couldn’t give her. But my heart wanted her to track me down, yell, scream, throw things, just to get the answers she wanted. At this point, she could write to me for the rest of her life, as long as she didn’t shut me out. And it was that side of me that was winning. I was already missing her, and she hadn’t even left the castle yet.
“You could go see Leah,” he suggested.
I shook my head no. “I’m not leaving right here until she’s out of the castle.”
“And then what?”
“I’ll follow her. I don’t trust anyone with her safety,” I stated with a growl. “I don’t know what happened in that house four years ago, but if I have to watch over her like a gargoyle, I will.”
“You’re too pretty to be a gargoyle, Edward,” he said with a laugh, getting up and starting to pace. “The entire female population in this school practically swoons when you walk down the hallway.”
Scowling, I glared at him. “I don’t care. Wanna know what they think?”
His laughter was loud, but he shook his head. “No thank you.” His smile fell quickly. “What if she doesn’t come back, brother?”
Shrugging, I let out a deep breath. “I don’t know. I’ll figure it out, I guess,” I whispered.
Jasper stopped pacing and folded his arms across his chest. “Was it worth it?”
I studied his face, but even more, I listened to the real question in his mind. Was she worth it? Even if, at the end of the day, she no longer spoke to me?
I thought of every moment I’d spent with her, getting to know her, watching as she’d tried so hard to just keep going. I remembered that every time she’d speak aloud, I couldn’t help but smile, and it seemed to be an endless pattern. She loved my smile, so she spoke just to see it. I remembered laughing and teasing, pushing her to do more, and finally, the happy face when she’d get her music just right. For a few brief months, she’d given me everything. She’d made me feel normal and human and fragile. She’d changed me into something I hardly recognized anymore. She’d given me back my true calling that went as far back as my human days.
I looked at Jasper. “Yes. She was worth every second. I’d do it again. Maybe differently, but I don’t know.” I looked down at my hands. “I just want the chance to tell her that.”
Jasper nodded, his thoughts turning to Alice, but he didn’t say anything. He was a man in pain, but I couldn’t give him anything at the moment, other than my own ache. He left me alone, walking through the east wing slowly.
I wasn’t sure how long I sat there. The rain turned to sleet and then eventually stopped, making the weather cold, but the sun didn’t really ever come out the next day. Sunday, however, dawned bright and sunny, lighting up my living quarters. The morning caused shadows to dance across my floor as I paced off some nervous energy.
I was just about to give into going to see Leah – I wanted some sort of advantage, a heads-up – but I practically tripped over my own two feet when I heard the hidden door to the piano room slowly open.
There wasn’t anything that could’ve kept me from her. I smelled her instantly – flowers, fruit, and salty tears. It was the latter that brought me to the crumbled stairway. I sat down silently about halfway down, just watching her warily. Bella was in street clothes, and as much as she was dangerous in her uniform, jeans and a form-fitting sweater were sin incarnate.
Her eyes raked over the room, landing on the journal I hadn’t touched. She picked it up, thumbing through it, only to frown at no answer. Her eyes shot up from the book in her hands, immediately meeting my gaze, like she could feel my presence.
“I didn’t read it, love,” I told her, shaking my head at the term of endearment, but might as well call a spade a spade.
She walked to me just as silent as ever – both mind and voice. The anger had dissipated from her eyes, but the hurt was just as prevalent. She hugged the notebook to her chest almost in a protective manner as she came to a stop a few steps down from me.
“Why?” she whispered, frowning.
“I didn’t feel I deserved to read it,” I replied, shrugging a shoulder.
She sniffed, glancing around, only to land back at me. “How old are you?”
“Twenty-two,” I answered instantly, smirking when she snorted and rolled her eyes. Before she could leave, I added, “I was born June 20, 1879. I was bound to this world for eternity in the summer of 1901.”
I looked her straight in the eye when I answered. I wanted no more secrets between us. If she was here, right in front of me, I’d give her anything she asked for. Her eyes widened at that.
“And your real name?” she asked.
Smiling, I placed a hand on my chest. “Edward Anthony Masen Cullen.”
She pressed her lips together and nodded. “So this is your house.”
She swallowed nervously with a nod, but the fact that she was actually talking to me, speaking out loud, gave me a small glimmer of hope.
“Did you mean what you said?”
“Which part?” I countered. “I’ll tell you anything you want to know, Bella, but nothing I’ve said thus far is a lie.”
She shook her head, but her heart rate skyrocketed. “About…” she sighed, meeting my gaze. “Did you mean what you said about how you feel about me?”
My laugh came out breathy and incredulous. “God, Bella…you have no idea. If I tell you the heart of it all, you may run from this wing and never come back. But…yes.”
“But you will tell me?” she verified.
Nodding, I whispered, “Yes, sweetheart. All of it.”
Her heartbeat changed when I called her that. I knew she liked it, but she never said a word about it. I held out my hand for hers, and she eyed it warily for a second.
“Let me show you,” I begged her. “There’s nothing about me that I want secret or hidden from you anymore.”
Tears welled up in her eyes, but she nodded, slipping her hand into mine.


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