Sunday, June 1, 2014 | By: Drotuno

Masen Manor Chapter 22 & Pics

Chapter 22
March 2002
“Oh my God…Alice!”
As I stared up at her, a part of me was elated. The other part was wary. At this point, she was stronger than all of us. I could smell the venom that was blended with her own blood, but it was the low, feral growl that caught my attention.
Her mind was something I’d never encountered before in all my long years. It was a confusing mix of thoughts, blurry memories, and fast visions. Some were so rapid that I couldn’t make head or tails of them.
But above all of that, I could smell my brother on her. They were completely and totally whole and mated. I could well imagine he’d been unable to resist her.
“Alice,” I finally spoke cautiously. “You’ve got to focus.”
“Where is she?” she snarled, glaring at me with pure, unadulterated hate.

A flash of several memories of Bella came through her mind, but so did Alice’s talent. The little psychic was now more powerful than she probably knew or could control. Never mind understanding it at this point.
“Bella’s safe, Alice,” I vowed, hearing Carlisle and Esme run up, along with Jasper.
She moved so quickly and with so much strength, it was disorienting, but I let her control the moment. I saw her mind, her worries, her picture of the future. It was clearer than anything Giselle or Leah had ever seen.
“I’ll kill you! You…you’re MG!” she accused. “Does she know? Is she aware of all of this?”
Holding up a hand to stop everyone who was reaching for her, I said, “Yes, Alice. She’s fine, and yes, she knows. I would never hurt her. But you need to control yourself. You’re too close to the school.”
That brought her up short, and she clawed at her throat. “I know. I just…”
“We’ll help you, but you have to calm down. You control it; it doesn’t control you,” I stated firmly, nodding to Carlisle once when he asked me silently if he should pull her up.
Jasper and Carlisle each took an arm, tugging her off me. I stood up quickly, shaking my head at the muddy ditch that was left behind from our struggle. I looked to my brother, who was trying to tone down his pride. He was radiating happiness, but worry, as well. He knew how hard the newborn phase would be for her. Even more, her talent was a mental one – like my own. Her struggle would be a long, hard road.
“What happened?” I asked him, ignoring her growls and lunges my way.
“It took me almost a full two days to find her,” he said aloud, but his mind told me that it took another almost two days to calm her down, at least get one hunt in, and then I shook my head at the memories of their mating. “Sorry…” he murmured, looking contrite. “She was in this tiny cabin. The damn thing was so old, it looked like the forest was taking it over. Edward, she’s—”
“Talented.” I nodded, turning to Alice. “Yes, I see that.”
She stopped fighting them, tilting her head at me. It was a harsh change from the human girl she’d once been. She was all instinct and strength now. Her movements were alien and inhuman, nothing like the happy-go-lucky girl I’d known. It would take time, but she’d be able to control those things, control the movements that made her seem more animal than person.
“What do you see?” she asked.
Smiling at her, I bent so that we were eye to eye. “I can read your mind, Alice. And your sixth sense came through your change stronger and more powerful than before. Right now, it’s overwhelming you. You can’t tell what’s real and what’s a vision. I promise you, you can learn to control it, but it takes time.”
“Too many decisions; too many voices!”
“I know,” I agreed, jerking a thumb back toward the castle. “It’s because you’re too close to humans.”
In Carlisle’s mind, he was already planning to call Alaska. Jasper knew it would happen, that he’d have to leave with her. Esme was…sad. As much as she wanted Jasper happy and mated, she hadn’t wanted it to happen this way. Her family would now have to split up, and she hated the thought of it, despite how much she loved having a new daughter. She spoke softly to Alice, but I wasn’t sure it was making a difference. Alice was too distracted, and her focus was me.
“You’re directing your anger toward me. Why?” I asked her.
“You can’t hurt Bella. I won’t let you!” she snarled, starting to struggle.
Frowning, I saw a vision in her mind. She saw me with Bella. My girl was still human and looked to be very, very happy. As much as that part appeased Alice, she now knew what the blind spots in her visions had been. Vampires. All of us. And the thought of Bella getting hurt was something she would not allow.
“I couldn’t hurt her, Alice,” I vowed again. “It’s impossible for me to do so. However,” I said, leaning closer to her face, “if I ever do, then you have my permission…to end me.” I smiled her way when a wicked grin curled up on her face. “I can’t hurt her any more than you…could hurt Jasper.” I raised an eyebrow at her so that she’d understand.
Her dark red eyes widened, but she turned to Carlisle when he started to talk.
“Alice, I realize everything’s very overwhelming right now. Sight, hearing, touch…they’re all enhanced. Even more so when you add in an extra ability,” he stated, gesturing toward me. “But we’ll help you. We’ll teach you.” He looked to Jasper. “Has she fed?”
He nodded, but frowned. “Yes, but not enough. She’ll need to go again. Soon.”
Carlisle nodded, like he’d assumed as much. “Esme and I will come with you. We’ll go up into the mountains. Maybe as far as Canada. There are some places that will be away from humans.”
Jasper nodded, and he was already calculating everything – distance, hunting techniques, prey – but he knew he’d need me. He knew nothing about mental talents, and he’d need my mind reading in order to keep her in check. I was just about to agree to go when Alice’s head snapped up. I had to lunge at her to keep her back, and that was in addition to Carlisle and Jasper holding her.
My eyes locked onto Bella, who was holding on to Jacob’s flank. Her fingers gripped his fur, most likely because she wasn’t sure what she was seeing.
“Alice?” she barely said aloud.
Jacob’s stance widened, but his thoughts were apologetic. Edward, she heard yelling. She popped up out of the tunnel. He hung his head in shame, but I waved it off.
Alice caught Bella’s and Jacob’s scent, and I gripped her arms. “I can’t hurt her, but you can. Do you understand me? And I won’t allow it. Neither will Jacob…that really big wolf standing in front of her. So focus on me.”
“Alice…what happened? Where’d you go? Why didn’t you stay out of Hunter’s Lake?” Bella fired off at her best friend.
“Bella, do not come any closer,” I grunted, holding back Alice only with Jasper’s and Carlisle’s help. “I mean it, love! She’s not…stable. Jake!”
I’ve got her, I’ve got her! he thought to me, taking Bella’s shirttail in his teeth and gently pulling her back.
Alice’s mind was like watching a film on fast-forward. It was partially memories and then rapid visions of the future. Her new, advanced thinking could sort it out, but I was having a hard time deciphering it. However, I did see how she’d come to be one of us and what would happen should she act on the thirst that was setting fire to her throat. All at once, she stopped fighting, stepping back into Jasper’s arms.
He pushed calm at her, but her heartbroken face spoke volumes. She’d destroy the entire family acting on her thirst. She’d kill Bella, which would cause me to lose all control. She saw Jasper and me fighting, my death, and Esme’s heartbreak.
Alice’s eyes met mine. “You saw that?”
Nodding, I hummed in acknowledgment, glancing toward Jake and Bella, only to look back to her. “You’d ruin me, Alice.” I smiled sadly, shrugging a shoulder. “I…I can’t survive without her. I’ll never hurt her, but I can’t let someone else do it, either.”
She looked to Bella, who had tears rolling down her face. “Bella, I’m sorry…”
I turned to Jasper. “Get her out of here. She needs to hunt. She needs to be away from humans. Apparently, her visions are decision-based, so with more minds making them, the more visions she’s seeing. And now she can see immortals, so we’re only adding to the problem.”
Alice grimaced, but she nodded, grateful that someone could see what was happening in her head.
“I’ll explain more, Alice, but you need to hunt. Nothing right now will make a difference,” I told her, and she nodded, looking longingly at Bella. “And I promise to tell her everything. She won’t hate you, and she’ll be ready when you are.”
“But that won’t be for a while,” Carlisle added apologetically. “You’re not in control, Alice, though your restraint is astounding.”
“She saw the results should she attack,” I explained. “It’s the only thing stopping her.”
“I’m right here!” she snarled at me, and I couldn’t help but smile at her quick mood changes. She’d be that way for some time. “You can talk to me…not about me!”
“Yes, but until you can control yourself around Bella – around humans in general,” I growled back, “your thoughts belong to me. That is, unless you want to become exactly what made you.”
She shook her head vehemently. “No, I’ve seen my future. It’s all I had when I woke up.”
“I know,” I sighed, jerking a chin toward the gate. “Go on. I’ll send Carlisle and Esme behind you. I need to talk to them…and Bella before we join you.”
Jasper moved quickly, guiding Alice out the gate and into the woods.
“Edward…” Bella rushed to me. “Wait…”
Turning, I caught her in my arms. “No, Bella, you can’t. I’m sorry.” Wiping her tears, I kissed her forehead. “She’s not…stable, like I said. She could really hurt you.”
“Alice wouldn’t hurt me,” she stated firmly.
“Newborns are extremely dangerous, sweetheart. She’s showing amazing restraint, but she wouldn’t have been able to hold out for long,” Carlisle told her gently. “Her thirst is too strong.”
“She almost acted on it,” Esme sighed wearily, but looked to me. “What happened? What did you see?”
Everyone looked to me, but I glanced over at Leah’s cottage to see that Jacob had phased back into his human form. He was quickly explaining everything to his mother, whose face looked grim.
“Edward, bring everyone in. You can talk in here,” she commanded.
“Yes, ma’am,” I answered, wrapping an arm around Bella. My girl was shaking, but I kissed her temple, whispering, “You’ll see her again, my sweet girl. You just gotta give her time.”
Bella smiled, and it was the most genuine smile I’d seen on her beautiful face in days. “I know.”
Grinning her way, I kissed her lips. “I’m glad you and Jasper were right. Really. I wanted so badly for you to be. I’m happy to say I was wrong.”
Bella leaned into me. “What happened?”
“C’mon, love. I’ll tell everyone.” I gestured toward the cottage, but before we went in, I stopped her. “And Bella,” I said as gently as I could, closing my eyes to control my anger, “when I asked you to stay put—”
“I know, I know! I’m sorry. I heard you yelling, I heard…growls. I’m sorry, Edward. I just…”
“You were worried. I understand, love. Truly,” I sighed, kissing her wrinkled brow. “As happy as I am that you were right, that Alice is back… She’s not human anymore, and it won’t matter how much you love each other. Her thirst will dominate her, and she could kill you. She saw herself doing it…in her mind.” I tapped my temple to let her know what I’d seen. “She also saw what would happen should she act on it. It was the only thing that stopped her.”
“What did you see?” Leah asked, waiting patiently by the door.
“Had Alice attacked Bella, I’d have attacked her. In turn, Jasper would’ve destroyed me. The family would’ve fallen apart.”
Esme and Bella gasped, and my girl clung to me. Kissing her temple, I rubbed her arm up and down, whispering that I loved her.
I smiled sadly, shaking my head. “Her visions are precise. That entire encounter was interesting. Every act caused a vision, which came true seconds later. What she’d seen…it would’ve happened. She’s damned powerful.”
“Come, sweet one,” Leah soothed Bella as she pulled her inside, her face as sober as I’d ever seen it. Probably as serious as when Carlisle and Esme had brought Jasper to us from Texas. “I’ve made us some tea. Edward here can fill us in…hmm?” she said, eying my filthy clothes. “Jacob, give something to Edward to wear. He’s not stepping into my house covered in mud.”
Jacob barked a laugh and got up from the kitchen table. He returned from his bedroom with a T-shirt and a pair of jeans. “Scary, isn’t she?”
Grinning, I nodded, stepping outside and around to the shed to rinse off the dirt and change clothes. Once I returned, everyone was sitting at the table. I sat down next to Bella, feeling weary already, but our lives were about to change. With that thought, I linked my fingers with hers and started to explain what had happened to Alice.
My hands shook as I lifted the warm mug of tea to my lips. Edward was changing clothes outside, but Carlisle, Esme, and Jacob were talking quickly and quietly in Leah’s living room.
Leah sat down beside me, her dark eyes warm and sweet. “Ask the question, child,” she said softly.
I set my mug down. “You… You saw Alice’s change. She…had a death card. She thought it was her grandmother, but it wasn’t, was it? It was this.”
Leah wrapped an arm around me. “It’s true. Alice was dealt a death card. There was no way for me to know at the time if it was true death or immortality. I’m sorry, Bella.”
Shaking my head, I said, “I’m not. She’s… She’ll be here. I was heartbroken at the thought of never seeing her again. And poor Edward, he blamed himself.”
Carlisle, Esme, and Jacob took seats around the table, leaving one empty next to me for Edward.
“Edward did blame himself,” Carlisle agreed, smiling sadly. “He wanted so badly to fix it – for you and for Jasper.”
Esme nodded. “Edward’s loyal, almost to a fault.”
“That’s very true,” Leah agreed. “His heart is tender and as big as the mountains in the distance, but he’s as stubborn as the day is long, so he hated failing, too.”
I grinned, but took another sip of tea. I felt giddy with relief that Alice wasn’t gone forever, but I also knew I’d almost messed up. Edward had told me to stay in the tunnel, but the sound of his raised voice and growls had scared me. I couldn’t stop from coming up. I’d had to see him. Seeing Alice had been both surreal and scary all at the same time. I’d thought I was seeing things. She’d looked like my friend, but then…didn’t. She’d looked out of control, angry, and so different. And despite all the mud and dirty clothes, she’d come back beautiful, a petite little doll that was flawless.
The front door opened, and Edward stepped in. The clothes Jacob had given him were slightly too big for his lean form. The jeans sat dangerously low on his hips, and the T-shirt was baggy. Edward raked a hand through his wet hair and took a seat at the table.
His hand found mine on my lap, linking our fingers together. “You okay?” he asked. When I nodded, he looked to Carlisle and nodded, most likely answering some silent question. “I saw what happened with Victoria in Alice’s mind. Her human memories are spotty, but I caught enough to tell what happened.”
“Did Victoria mean to change her?” Esme asked.
“I don’t think so, but I can’t be sure,” Edward replied with a shake of his head. “When Alice fell down the embankment, it was partially her own fault. She’d seen who she’d thought was Jasper across the street. She followed him. In turn, Jessica and Mike followed her. It became a whirlwind of events that led up to her change.” He turned to me. “James and Jasper are fairly similar in looks – tall, blond, lean. To Alice’s human eyes, James moved too quickly, so she was only able to see blond hair and his tall form, but no facial features.” He turned back to the rest of the people at the table. “She followed, tried to see if it was really Jasper, but Jessica shoved her, causing the slip down the embankment.”
Edward gripped his damp hair with his free hand, but his other squeezed mine gently. He took a deep breath and kept going.
“Mike was telling the truth. He called for Alice when Jessica ran off, but once Alice hit the bank of the lake, she saw James again. She followed…again. Only, James couldn’t be anywhere near her. Her blood was too strong. She was caught by Victoria, who picked her up so harshly and so quickly that it dazed Alice for a bit. She came to when she felt the jostle of Victoria running through the woods. Her fear, her fight made Victoria lose control. She bit her, but you were already tracking.” He pointed to Carlisle, who nodded.
“Victoria stashed Alice in this rundown cabin. From Alice’s memories, it looks like they’d been using it for a home base,” Edward explained.
“How the hell did we not find that thing?” Jacob asked, his expression angry.
“Victoria was talented; it was subtle, but useful. She could evade, and she ran misleading trails everywhere. James seemed to have something, too, but…” Edward shook his head and then shrugged. “I don’t know. It doesn’t matter.”
Edward turned to Carlisle. “Victoria wasn’t supposed to drain her. In fact, she wasn’t supposed to touch her, but the bloodlust was too strong. When she bit Alice, she must’ve panicked. James was going to be mad, and you were closing in on her, so she hid Alice in that cabin, most likely thinking she was drained. She wasn’t. There was just enough heartbeat to push the venom through her.”
Esme gasped, her hands flying to her mouth. “So Alice suffered all alone through her change?”
Edward nodded, trailing a finger over the wood grain of the table. “Yes,” he whispered, his brow furrowing. “Her memory of that is…terrible, but her mind…” He locked gazes with Carlisle and then looked to Leah. “Her talent is…so powerful. And she trusts it completely. Her first memory from waking up was a vision of Jasper finding her. She knew to stay put in that cabin, and she did. Her second memory? She saw what diet she’d choose,” he stated with awe, lifting my hand to kiss the back of it. “She knew it was animals she needed to hunt, not people. She also saw this entire family. All of us. I…I have no idea how far into the future it is, but we’re all together. Even Bella…and the image was amazing.”
The only sound that could be heard was my own breathing. I glanced up at Edward, feeling a little stunned, but I needed to know one thing.
“Why… Why was she angry with you? She looked so…murderous,” I whispered, frowning a little.
Edward laughed, his head falling back.
“I’d like the answer to that, too, son,” Carlisle added, and Edward’s laughter tapered off into a light chuckle.
He turned to me, mirth giving his face such a sexy look. “She was protecting you. It seems when she awakened as a vampire, her vision’s blind spots cleared up. She figured out that I was MG and what I was…what we all were. She thought I was manipulating you. She wasn’t gonna have it. She felt I’d hurt you.”
“Tsk,” I scoffed, waving it off. “You would never!”
“I know, love,” he chuckled against my temple.
The whole table laughed at us, but I added, “But then she tried to attack me.”
“Well, if you’d have stayed where you were, Bella…” Jacob started, rolling his eyes when Edward growled his way. “I about had a heart attack…”
“She knows that now,” Edward snapped at him, but turned to me with a much warmer tone. “That’s what I was telling you, love. As much as Alice loves you, was willing to protect you from me, she can’t protect you from herself. She’s too thirsty, and she can’t control it.”
“Well, why not Leah? Or Jacob? They have beating hearts and blood,” I argued.
Jacob grinned, leaning back in his chair. “Apparently, we smell…bad to these guys,” he said, wadding up a napkin and tossing it at Edward.
Edward knocked the paper away, but turned to me with a grimace. “They do. It’s strong to us. You wouldn’t detect much of a difference. I’m assuming it has to do with their cursed bloodline.”
My eyebrows shot up, but I glanced over to Leah, who looked amused. They all smelled just fine to me. In fact, Leah’s cottage was warm, smelling sweet and comforting.
“But she did control her thirst,” Carlisle stated with a smirk, getting the conversation back on track. “How was that possible?” he asked Edward.
“Her visions. Like I said, she trusts them completely. She saw herself attacking Bella and what would ensue after. It was utter devastation, so she forced herself to back off. While that shows amazing control, it gave me a glimpse at how her mind and talent work.” He turned to Leah. “The littlest decision causes a vision for her. Because she was so close to the school, there were all these flashes of things going on in her mind. Just an example: Mrs. Odom, in the kitchen, made the decision to throw out some leftovers, but that decision caused a vision that showed she’d drop the bowl and it would shatter. I saw it all – and lots of them. They were constant and overwhelming. In fact, it reminded me of how it felt when I first woke up from my own change. All these voices in my head.” He tapped his temple, finally clawing at his hair. “She’s very similar. She’ll have to learn to use it like I did – focus and plenty of hunting.”
Edward’s head snapped up from the table, and he glared angrily at Carlisle, shaking his head once. “Not now,” he stated firmly, his voice a low, scary warning.
We all glanced between them, but neither spoke until Carlisle stood from the table.
“We’ll go join Jasper. Perhaps Alice will be a little calmer once she’s truly fed. I’ll talk to them both about their plans,” he stated, but his eyes were sharp on Edward, and I had a sick feeling in my stomach as I looked between them.
“You need me?” Jacob offered.
“Yes, most likely, if only to be on the safe side. But we’ll need Edward soon enough,” Carlisle said, and Edward’s hand balled up into a fist on the table.
Once they left the cottage, I turned to Edward, who’d gone as still as a statue. His eyes were dark, focusing on the table, nothing else. Leah patted his hand, which made his head snap up.
“Sorry,” he whispered, swallowing nervously, but he gave me a small smile that didn’t reach his still-dark eyes.
He cupped my face, kissing my lips. “Not right now, okay?”
Frowning, I nodded, pulling back just enough to study his face. Reaching up, I ran my fingers through his damp locks, smiling when he let loose a low, rumbling purr.
Leah laughed lightly, shaking her head, but patted his hand again. “Edward, this explains a few predictions, I think.”
He inhaled deeply, letting it out, but when his eyes opened, they were lighter, warmer. “Yes, I’m aware.” He smiled a small smile her way, but nodded again. “It explains Alice’s death card, for sure. Probably the loss in Bella’s reading, as well.” He sighed again, kissing my fingers. “Would that be the ruby eyes, Leah? And possibly one of my three death cards.”
“There’s only one way to find out,” Leah stated, giving me a wink when Edward groaned like a petulant child.
“Aw, Leah, it’s been a weird-enough day already. I promised Bella no palm reading…and peach cobbler,” he stated, grinning when I giggled at the two of them.
“Cobbler, I have. Still warm, too,” she told me giving me a silly grin before getting up from the table.
I squeezed Edward’s hand. “Let her read you.”
Edward groaned. “Do you have any idea how many readings she’s given me?”
“Yes, hundreds,” I said with a laugh. “You drew every last one of them. But you said,” I urged him, tapping his nose, “that things are changing, which is obvious with Alice, so…please? For me?”
His eyes narrowed playfully at me, but I simply waited, thanking Leah when a plate of warm peach cobbler landed in front of me, topped off with melting vanilla ice cream. I picked up the spoon, still waiting as I blinked innocently up at him.
He started to laugh, waving a hand dismissively. “Fine, fine…I give. Leah, go ahead.”
There was still tension in his shoulders as I started to eat what was probably the best cobbler I’d ever had. Leah shuffled her tarot cards, pulled her crystal ball closer, and hummed to herself as she got to work.
I stayed quiet as Edward hardly paid attention to Leah’s cards. He kept his arm around the back of my chair, tracing my back with light fingertips. He dropped kisses to my temple, but I could feel his tension. I wasn’t sure if it was Leah’s reading he was about to hear, or if it was still what had taken place between him and Carlisle.
Gazing up at him, I pointed with the spoon. “Look…the love card, still on top.”
Leah laughed at his grin, but tapped the cards. “It would seem you are down to two death cards, Edward. So I would say Alice was indeed one of the first three.” She looked into the crystal ball, her brow furrowing, but Edward groaned.
“They’re still there. The ruby eyes,” he sighed wearily, and she nodded.
“So is you’re beautiful swan,” she teased him, which made him smirk, but then she frowned. “And so is my prediction that you’re leaving the castle. I thought that might’ve been when you left over the Christmas break, but it’s still here.”
Edward’s eyes slid closed, and he rubbed his face in frustration, only to grip his hair in his hand. “Dammit,” he hissed softly, only to apologize to us both.
“You’re leaving?!” I asked, panicking.
“No! Absolutely not, Bella,” he said, turning my chair so that we were face to face. “I’ll never leave you.”
My eyes left his, meeting Leah’s. She wasn’t so convinced.
“Why are you mad at Carlisle?” I asked him, watching his face carefully.
Edward’s forehead thumped gently to mine, and his eyes closed again. “You are way too observant, my love,” he chided teasingly, but he was serious, too.
“Tell her the truth, Edward,” Leah urged, pulling all her cards away.
He pulled back, grimacing a little when his fingers trailed down my face. “You heard what Alice’s talent is like, and you know my ability. They’ll need my help to keep her in line, to see her thoughts in case she goes near humans. Bella, she can’t stay in Hunter’s Lake. We have to send her someplace safe, someplace she can run free without too many humans around. She has to learn a whole new way of thinking, moving, feeding. And none of it will be easy for her.”
“Where?” I whispered, setting my spoon down on the plate. Suddenly, my appetite had vanished.
Edward’s nostrils flared, almost as if he were angry. “Alaska.”
“So you have to go with them,” I surmised in a whisper, but he was shaking his head.
“No, sweetheart, I don’t. I told Carlisle no. I can’t go,” he stated firmly.
I could see that he meant it, so I nodded, turning to Leah. “Thank you,” I said, pointing to the plate. “That was amazing.”
She smiled. “You’re welcome anytime.”
I stood up, and Edward followed suit. “They need you now, right?”
He gripped his hair. “Probably. I just…”
Stopping him with a hand on his arm, I smiled. “If they need you, then…go.”
He took a deep breath and let it out, finally nodding. “Let me take you back to the castle.” He turned to Leah and kissed her cheek. “I’ll see you soon, Leah.”
“You’d better,” she teased him, but her dark eyes were sad as she focused on her crystal ball. From the expression on her face, she was trying to find something – anything – helpful.
We stepped outside the cottage, and Edward’s new phone rang shrilly, making me jump. He answered it swiftly, but he spoke so low, so fast, that it was hard to understand what he was saying. His face, on the other hand was pure anger and frustration.
“I said no, Carlisle! I can’t. My responsibility is here,” he snapped, shoving his phone back into his pocket.
Glancing around us, I took his hand, tugging him down so that I could climb up onto his back. “Not the castle… Our little hill. We need to talk.”
I felt his shoulders slump in defeat, but he nodded in acquiescence, taking off through the woods. He passed by the entrance to the tunnel, slowing down once inside the trees. Our little hilltop was blooming into springtime life. The trees were bright green with baby leaves, birds scattered at our approach, and the brand new grasses were starting to peek up through the dead stuff on the ground. It was beautiful.
Edward came to a stop, and I slipped down to the ground. He took a seat, but I wandered around, picking a small purple flower. I twirled it in my fingers as I thought about all that happened over the last few days. Finally, I faced Edward.
“I’m sorry,” I said, frowning a little. “About coming up out of the tunnel.”
He waved the apology away. “You’re okay, and you’ve already apologized, Bella. I don’t hold grudges, especially with you.”
“I’m not sorry I got to see Alice, though,” I whispered, watching the flower spin between my fingers.
“C’mere,” he requested, opening his arms for me. Once I was astride his lap, he took the small flower from me and tucked it into my hair, but he held my gaze. “I’m glad you got to see her, too, love. But you realize that things… Things won’t ever be the same. She can’t come to class, she’ll never be your roommate again, and it’ll be a long time before you two can be in the same room again. To her family, her friends…this school, Alice was killed by a bear, and they can never find out differently. I worry…” He sighed, gazing out over the landscape before meeting my eyes again. “I worry about how you’ll cope. You two are very close, but…”
“How long?” I asked in a whisper.
Wrinkling his nose a little, he kissed me gently. “It takes about a year for the newborn phase to pass, and even then, it’s a struggle to maintain control in certain situations. I didn’t feel comfortable in public until about three years after my change. Part of that was bloodlust, part of that was all the voices I could hear.” He huffed a humorless laugh, shaking his head. “There were things I heard that weren’t any of my business – foul things, violent things, evil things. Alice’s visions are similar to that, so she’ll have to get used to seeing things she’d never even considered. They’ll scare her, anger her, make her sad.”
I took a deep breath to counter the need to cry. A year. At least. I wouldn’t see my best friend for a year, and I had to pretend she no longer existed, if only in the eyes of my classmates.
Edward seemed to consider something for a moment, but went on. “Alice also sees herself adapting to our diet, and while that is commendable and makes Carlisle and Jasper very proud, it’ll be a tough road at first. Animal blood isn’t satisfying; it doesn’t fulfill the need, especially in the beginning. She’ll constantly hunger, her throat will burn regularly, and she’ll most likely fight it for the first few months, only because her instinct is telling her differently. It’ll be easier for her once she’s in Alaska. There are fewer humans, our cousins will help with teaching her, and she’ll be able to run free and hunt without the fear of killing anyone.”
“And Carlisle asked for your help,” I tacked on, watching his face contort with an expression that almost looked like pain.
“He did,” he answered honestly with a nod. “Esme is needed here. Carlisle can travel back and forth, and our cousins will be a big help. They’ve already agreed to it. Jasper, however, will be…biased.” He grinned at me. “He’s very smart, he’s very knowledgeable when it comes to newborns, but he is her mate. He…he will be lenient on her when he probably should use a firmer hand. She’s at her strongest right now, and she could overpower him, outrun him, or…with that talent of hers, she could outsmart him.”
“But you’d see it, see what she was thinking?”
“Yes, and I’m the fastest of the family, so…I could stop her should she take off in the wrong direction,” he hedged, but he looked out around us again.
“Alice needs you,” I stated, smiling when his gaze shot to mine. “I need you, but she needs you more.”
“But I need you,” he stated firmly, his expression hurt-filled. “And Bella, I don’t know… Being away…”
“I know,” I whispered, nodding and looking down at my hands. I toyed with the heart on my bracelet. “I need you, too, but I feel selfish when all this is going on.”
Fingers touched my chin, lifting my face. “Bella, there’s only a month and a half left of school, and then you’re going home for the summer. I refuse to let you go without me. I can’t send you home to…to that…” He shook his head. “I don’t trust Phil. I just don’t.”
I nodded. “I understand that, but… What if the situation were reversed? What if it were me that had changed? One day, that may be the case. Wouldn’t you need Jasper’s help? To at least do what he could?”
“Yes,” he whispered, cupping my face. He pressed his forehead to mine, his eyes squeezing closed. “But… Love, I don’t know how to walk away from you! I just don’t. I don’t know how to be away for days, much less possible months. And I absolutely refuse to send you home alone. I won’t do it.”
Tears welled up in my eyes at his pleading tone. “So…maybe just until I go home?” I sniffled, grasping at his face. He was so beautiful, especially when he was looking at me like he was, like I was some sort of walking, talking miracle. “Do what you can, and then come to me.”
“Why? Why, Bella?” he asked, his voice faltering on my name.
“Because she’s my best friend, and I trust you to take care of her when she needs it. She’s been… She took care of me, Edward. She placed herself in front of Mike and Jessica more times than I could count, she held me through nightmares, she wiped away tears when my love for you became too much to contain, and she didn’t even know why I was crying. I owe her something, and if it’s you she needs, if you can help her, then…how can I deny her that?” I swallowed, shaking my head. “I love you, and I’ll love you forever, but she needs you, if only to at least get her started.”
Glancing down at my bracelet again, I added, “Like I said… One day, we may need them to return the favor.”
Edward’s hands cupped either side of my face, his fingers slipping into my hair, and he brushed a whisper of a kiss across my lips. “You mean that? You’d…consider this life? With me?”
Smirking, I looked at him like he was crazy. “Of course I would. I don’t feel ready now; seeing Alice was a reality check. I’m not quite ready for that. And I’m getting a funny feeling you wouldn’t even consider it until I at least turn eighteen.” I smiled when his mouth quirked up a little. “But yes, it’s something I want…when it’s right, when I’m not so…damaged.”
Edward’s eyes darkened, and his growl was so low, I could only feel the rumble, not hear it. “Bella, you’re not—”
“I am, too. Stop denying it, Edward. I’m not damaged with you. And while I love that, it’s not normal.”
He opened his mouth, only to snap it closed. Finally, he just blurted out, “I love you, and when you’re ready, you tell me, love. I’d hand you the world should you just ask.”
“Then take care of Alice for me. At least until summer break. Please?” I whispered, placing my hands flat on either side of his handsome face. I kissed him briefly, moving slowly, if only to savor his taste, his smell, his love for me that poured out of him at all times.
“You’d be alone here, with Alice gone…and me,” he whispered, kissing me softly, trailing his lips down my cheek to my neck.
“Nope. I’ll be safe with Esme, and I’ll have Rose and Emmett, not to mention Jacob and Leah,” I countered, tilting my head back when his mouth opened to my skin.
“I’ll miss your recital, Bella,” he stated sadly.
“Oh.” I frowned, sadness filling me at the thought of him missing that, especially after all our hard work. He pulled back, but before he could argue, I said, “I’ll see if Esme will record it.”
He smiled, shaking his head. “This will…hurt, love. You know that, right? To be away for so long… I don’t know if I can take it.”
“Me, either,” I admitted honestly. “If it were turned around, she’d do this for me. Jasper would, too. You know this.”
He nodded, letting out a defeated sigh. “I know, I know, Bella. I was feeling selfish. I just… I honestly don’t know how to be away from you. I’m…spoiled.”
Grinning at his admission, I kissed him. “You, too? I thought it was just me.”
His chuckle was deep and sexy, but he nodded. “I’ll want to call you all the time.”
“Okay,” I agreed. “Done. And write…a lot.”
“Done,” he vowed, tilting his head. “But I’ll be back when you go home.”
“I don’t expect anything different.”
He nodded again, glancing down at my hands and toying with my charms, but he stayed quiet.
“When?” I asked, because I knew Carlisle would need him soon.
“Soon,” he whispered, his brow furrowing. “Promise me something, Bella.”
“Since I’m leaving…and since I won’t be back to the school in any sort of…tutor capacity, I’m done hiding us.” He shook his head slowly. “Finished. I don’t know how next year will work, but I don’t want to hide anymore that we’re together. I love you, and I want to be proud of that. Not hide it. Promise me that we can just…be.”
Smiling, I leaned in and kissed him hard. Next year wouldn’t matter. To the eyes around us, I’d be eighteen and he’d be twenty-three. No one could stop us. And I’d already decided that he wouldn’t be my piano teacher anymore, at least not in the eyes of the school. I knew the next several weeks would be hard without him, that saying goodbye would probably shatter us both, but the request he was making of me was easy. And I smiled at him with a nod.
“I promise.”


aelita48 said...

It is a good chapter.
Thank you.

Post a Comment