dark moon

a twilight fanfiction.

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5. Chapter 3:Withdrawal:

The sun finally began to rise behind the thick grey clouds that cast over Forks. I felt as if I had endured one of the longest and most painful nights of my existence. I had spent the entire night fighting the urge to wrap my arms protectively around Bella in a cast iron embrace that would surely crush her to death.
How could I have ever hoped to protect her?
My family and I were so very dangerous, and for Bella the danger had never been as real as it was last night.
No - I didn’t want to think of last night, of Bella’s birthday party at my home.
I refused to think about it, but being a vampire, several things could occupy my mind at the same time. Whilst I tried my hardest to force the memory of last night to the back of my mind, it was like it was screaming at me, not allowing me to forget, and not permitting me to think of anything else.
It was torture.
I felt cold; being the monster I am, I was used to feeling cold to others beside my family, but I had never before felt cold myself and I didn’t like it. I was freezing in my already icy form. I could feel a new expression shaping my features, one I had never experienced before. It had been fixed onto my face ever since Rosalie and Emmett had dragged Jasper away and carried him outside yesterday evening. Although I couldn’t see this new expression, I could feel it.  My face remained unchanged; a fusion of shock, guilt and pure agony. It had been this way throughout the night and as I considered my options. I doubted it would ever change.
 
The only interruptions to the screaming memory in my head occurred when Bella stirred in her sleep, which was often. I couldn’t help but be thankful for her stirrings because the screaming stopped for an instant. The dominant part of my mind which only recognised Bella, wondered if she was alright, having a nightmare, or even worse – if she was in pain. As I thought of her being in pain, I couldn’t help but cringe away from her because I knew that if Bella was in fact in pain, it would be my fault.
Despite her stirring, Bella slept with serenity about her. She mumbled my name several times, but I couldn’t be pleased as I usually was, because I was positive that I was part of the nightmare I was sure she was having.
 
As the morning slowly grew lighter, a different light dawned on me. I knew what I had to do to protect my Bella. Only she wouldn’t be my Bella anymore after this. A potent feeling of determination was suddenly added to the guilt and pain that I felt so strongly. I thought quickly because I knew Bella would soon be awake.
Bella.
Oh, how I desired to stay with her forever.
Holding her gently in my arms.
Drowning in the divine scent of the crimson nectar that flowed in her veins.
Forever.
But Bella wouldn’t have forever; she was only a fragile human, and her human life was being jeopardised by my very existence. Every second she spent in the presence of me and my family her life was under threat.
 
Bella suddenly opened her eyes; she blinked a few times and then stared right at me. I gazed into her sleepy eyes for a split second and then forced myself to look away. Every time I looked into the beautiful chocolate brown hue of her eyes I was sure I could see her soul, and it took my breath away.
Her restless night was apparent in her drowsy features as she stiffed a yawn and jerked her body forward to sit up. I could not remove the rigid expression from my face as I quickly and wordlessly placed a kiss upon Bella’s forehead and sprang out of her bedroom window, landing lightly with a soft thud on the moist grass below.
 
I dashed into the trees and ran silently through to forest towards my home; as I raced away from Bella I let my thoughts ravage my mind.
I was positive that Alice had foreseen my plan and notified the rest of my family, unless she was otherwise occupied looking at other futures, like Jasper’s for example. But I felt sure she would have been watching mine too – looking for me to mount a delayed furious attack of some sort. I couldn’t pretend that I didn’t desperately want to carry out such an attack, as I would on any person who even thought of hurting Bella. I wouldn’t attack Jasper though. He was my brother as far as I was concerned and I knew he would be suffering enough right now. As the newest addition to our vampire family, I knew it was much harder for him to control his thirst for human blood.
 
As I contemplated my plan, I began to hear the flow of the river beside my house, and I knew that I would be home in a few seconds. The surrounding trees began to thin as I ran past at lightning speed. I could hear the thoughts of my family as I approached, but I blocked them out – I had to concentrate on my plan. I had to convince my family that this was the right thing to do and I didn’t have long to do it. I would have to meet Bella outside school in a little less than an hour, and I would have to be composed and try my hardest to act normal so she wouldn’t suspect anything.
 
I heard Alice speak from within the house.
 “Edward is almost here”.
At that same moment I entered the meadow beside my house. I leapt onto the porch steps and hurried through the front door.
 
My family were there waiting for me as I expected. Alice was sitting on the bottom step of the staircase with her head leaning against the wall feeling distressed, this proved to me that she had seen my plan and was not happy about it in the slightest. Esme, Carlisle and Emmett were sitting on the white sofa in the middle of the room, while Rosalie stood at the back window staring out into the forest. Jasper was standing with his back to the wall underneath the staircase, staring at the marble floor. He was still guilt-stricken. It must have been unbelievably gruelling for him, having to endure the power of his own emotions as well as everyone else’s around him; everyone was in deep shock and very anxious about the consequences of his actions.
 
Alice rose immediately and spoke aloud, “We’re not leaving, Edward.”
We’re leaving?
Every other member of my family, except Jasper, asked the question silently in their own heads. Alice obviously hadn’t explained what I planned to do, as I hoped she would have.
“Yes,” I answered their silent questions. “We are leaving.”
“Edward,” my adopted father spoke carefully, “It was an accident, and we do not have to leave. We will distance ourselves from Bella if needs be,” I know how much pain it will cause both you and her if we just disappear. He finished his sentence in his head.
I don’t want to leave. Rosalie thought although she didn’t turn to face the room, she just continued to stare out of the window.
“This isn’t just about what happened,” I glanced at Jasper who was still silent and staring at the floor. “Every second I or any one of us spends around Bella, we are endangering her life. I love her too much to subject her to that. I want to protect her, and the only way I can do that is if I leave Forks and ask all of you to leave with me. We will have to leave in a few years anyway to stop suspicions being aroused. We can just leave now. Is it too much to ask, just so I can keep Bella, the reason for my existence alive?”
Everyone was silent for a moment, pondering the enormity of the request I had made.
 
Carlisle was considering our situation and thinking of places we could go, so I knew that he was willing to leave with me.
Willing to leave the job he loved and a town where he felt truly comfortable - just for me.
I felt nothing but gratitude towards the man who created me. He was completely selfless.
Why couldn’t I be like that?
He was concerned about the rest of the family’s views on leaving and thinking of how he could help me convince them that it was the right thing to do for our family.
 
Esme was also willing to leave for me. Her only concern was keeping her family together. She loved us all and didn’t want us to be apart. Her thoughts also went to Bella whom she already considered a part of our family. Esme loved Bella and adored seeing us together, and me happier than I had ever been but she would readily leave, if it was what I wanted. It wasn’t what I wanted at all; it was what I needed to do because I couldn’t have what I wanted.
 
Edward. Alice called in her head. Please?
“No, Alice” I said.
She was thinking of Bella and how their friendship had developed over the past months. She too, loved Bella and already thought of her as a sister.
“Alice, it is the only way to keep Bella safe.” Every time I spoke Bella’s name, a sharp stab of pain flashed through my motionless heart. This was the only way to ensure her safety. She shouldn’t be around such creatures as us.
There is another way. Emmett thought.
“There is no other way!” I roared.
What was he thinking?
In his head I could see a vision of Bella with pale white skin and inhuman characteristics, an immortal Bella. I had seen a similar vision in Alice’s head many months ago, not long after Bella first arrived in Forks.
“You want to subject Bella to a life of eternal damnation, Emmett? Just so we can stay here for a couple more years?”
“Edward –“Esme started, but Emmett interrupted her.
“Chill, Edward. Bella wants to become one of us; Alice has seen her becoming a vampire eventually. You wouldn’t lose her and we wouldn’t have to leave. Just think about it.” He then proceeded to continue talking to me in his head. I know you don’t want to leave her Edward, none of us want you to be hurting when you do. This way you can stay with her forever.
“No,” I whispered.
 If I was being honest with myself, that was exactly what I wanted. I wanted that more than I knew how to say; I wanted Bella to be changed.
Then I could be with her without being under constant restraint.
I could really be with her, like a proper couple, like Carlisle and Esme, Alice and Jasper, Rosalie and Emmett.
We would finally be equals.
But I couldn’t stay with her forever - that was selfish in the extreme.
No. Bella deserved better than that, she deserved to have a normal human life; to grow up and have human experiences. How could I be so self-centred and deny her that? How could I take away her life?
I couldn’t.
I wouldn’t.
“No” I repeated louder. “That is not an option. I won’t take her life away, and I won’t allow anyone else to either.”
 Jasper had not moved or said a word during our discussion and I knew it was because he agreed with me. He was willing to help me in any way possible in order to make up for some of the anguish his actions had caused. I could see in his mind, that he was taking in all the emotions that flowed around the room; pain, sadness, concern, anxiety – yet he made no motion to relax anyone’s feelings with his talent.  Alice had moved to stand beside him; they were staring into each other’s eyes, communicating in their own way. I didn’t even begin to understand it, but I could see that he was trying to persuade her that we had to leave. I had known Alice would have been the hardest one to convince and Jasper was the only person she would leave for. I let the feeling of gratitude wash over me, as Jasper felt it, he bowed his head slightly, and thought it’s the least I can do.
 Rosalie was sitting on the floor now, leaning against the back glass wall of the house. She was thinking about Forks.                        I like this town. It is hardly ever sunny here. I like being able to go out in the daytime without the sun trapping me away from people. More to the point, I like the way people look at us here, like we are beautiful and important god-like creatures. But ever since Bella arrived, things have changed. I don’t want to leave but if it gets her out of our lives, I will.
I wasn’t really listening to Rose, but as I heard Bella’s name in her head, I turned my attention towards her. She must have felt this because she immediately tried to block me out and directed her thoughts by concentrating on the mechanics of tuning her BMW M3.
 
Still I listened, waiting for a break in her focus – and then I saw it and at once I was furious. Rosalie was thinking that this was all Bella’s fault that she was a menace to our family, a trouble maker and if it wasn’t for her we wouldn’t have to leave.
How could this be Bella’s fault?
Bella is not a trouble maker or a menace; she is a small, innocent, clumsy, beautiful human who got involved with a bunch of vampires, because of me. Rosalie was exceptionally jealous of Bella. She didn’t like other people getting attention instead of her, and Bella captivated the hearts and minds of those around her and Rosalie hated it. How could she be so callous?
 My hands balled into fists at my side and leant swiftly forward into a crouch, a vicious growl left my throat while my eyes stayed fixed on Rosalie.
Just as I was about to lunge at Rosalie.
Alice shouted “NO, Edward!”
The rest of my family understood the meaning of my posture. Emmett ran to stand in front of Rosalie, whilst Alice and Carlisle both put their hands on my shoulders to try and pull me up.
She is not worth it, Edward. Alice thought.
I didn’t want to hurt Rosalie, I just want to give her a shake and make her understand how much Bella meant to me. She was meant to be my sister; aren’t sisters supposed to want their brother’s to be happy?
I straightened up out of my crouch, still glaring at Rose.
“It is not her fault,” I snarled at her.
 Alice pulled me over to the white sofa. I sat between her and Esme, while they both lovingly put their arms around me. Alice rested her head on my shoulder and thought, Okay, Edward. I will go if it means that much to you.
“Thank you,” I whispered.
It was silent for a moment, and then I decided that I needed conformation from all my family members that they would definitely leave with me.
“So, are you all willing to leave Forks? But not just that, I need each of you to promise never to intrude Bella’s life again.” I asked my family.
Yes, my son. Carlisle thought.
Of course, Edward. I would do anything for you. Esme responded in her thoughts.
Still under the staircase, Jasper merely nodded.
Fine. Rosalie thought.
“Okay,” Emmett spoke aloud.
Alice didn’t speak, but I knew her answer.
 That was it. My family would leave with me, to protect Bella. I didn’t want to think of leaving Bella; it pained me so deeply to do so. Instead it thought about how we were going to do it, to just pack up and leave? Suddenly the word ‘leave’ had a dreadful implication. It meant I would never see my reason for existence ever again. I couldn’t allow myself to think of that right now. I forced myself to concentrate, I had little time left and the details had to be finalised before I went to school to meet Bella. I would think about the consequences later.
 Esme echoed my thought aloud, “How are we going to do this? When will we leave?”
Carlisle was the one to answer, “We can leave whenever Edward wants. Rosalie, Emmett and Jasper aren’t attending school now anyway. I will just need to inform Forks High about Edward and Alice. I can tell the hospital that I have been offered another job, and then people will think we have relocated.”
“As soon as possible,” I said.
“It doesn’t have to be straight away, Edward,” Esme said.
The sooner the better, thought Rosalie. I ignored her and spoke to Esme.
“Yes, it does,” I replied. “There is no point wasting time. The sooner we leave, the sooner Bella can get on with her life. I don’t want to tell Bella until the last possible moment, otherwise she will try to stop us, and I don’t want her to suspect anything either, for the same reason.”
Bella is very observant, Edward. She will understand that something is wrong. Do you expect us all to lie to her until the moment you decide to tell her? Do you expect Alice to hurt her best friend’s feelings by not giving her an explanation of our odd behaviour? Carlisle thought.
He was right. I knew Bella was very perceptive; she had managed to see the flaws in my pretence of human life. I needed an approach that would hurt Bella in the least possible way, and where my family didn’t need to be subjected to Bella’s pleas for them to stay. It wasn’t fair to ask them to lie to Bella. I needed to cut Bella off from the vampire world, completely and without delay.
 Alice jumped to a stand, and I knew she had seen my plan of action, and I could see in her head that they would do it.
“No, Edward,” Alice whispered. She looked down at me with so much sadness in her eyes that I had to look away.
Jasper noticed her grief and called from under the staircase “What’s wrong Alice?”
Alice ignored him. She was still staring at me. “You’re not going to let me say goodbye to Bella?” She asked.
Even though she knew the answer to her own question, she still wanted a response from me. I didn’t speak; I just looked down at my hands placed in my lap.
“Please, Alice” I whispered.
NO! Alice’s reply was louder in her head than as if she had screamed it into my ear. She kneeled in front of me pleading with her mind. I refused to look at her.
Jasper sprinted across the room, swung Alice up into his arms and cradled her to his chest.
“Don’t be sad Alice, please” He said.
 I had to explain myself, not just to Alice but to the rest of my family too. They were all wondering why I wouldn’t allow them to say goodbye to Bella. All except Rosalie.
I stood up, and walked across the room so that they could all see me. My audience waited patiently for me to begin. I started to pace as I spoke.
“I’m sorry but I don’t want any of you to see Bella again. I want it to be as if our family never existed to Bella. I have the hardest job – I have to convince her that I don’t love her anymore and I don’t want to be with her. If she thinks that I still love her, I know she will beg me to stay and I can’t watch her do that. Can you, Alice?”
Alice was no longer in Jasper’s arms; she was sitting on the sofa staring at me with narrow eyes. I didn’t give her the chance to answer my question as I carried on talking. “If you want her to be happy and live her life as a normal human would, without the presence of vampires, then you will do this for her.”
 Esme and jasper both wrapped their arms around Alice as she started to sob tearlessly. I held my hand towards her and she took it warily. I pulled my favourite sister into an embrace and hugged her tightly.
I spoke gently into her ear, and I knew the rest of my family could hear.
“It has to be this way, Alice. A clean break with no attachments left behind. I’m sorry.”
Alice started playing memories in her head of her and Bella. I didn’t want to watch so I released her from my embrace and pushed her softly into Jasper’s waiting arms.
 I turned my attention to the thoughts of my family, looking for any disputes to my decision.
Carlisle was formulating a plan and making mental preparations for our swift departure. He was going to share his intentions with the rest of the family in a couple of minutes.
Esme’s thoughts were with Bella. I don’t know how the poor dear will handle this. I hope we are doing the right thing. I will miss her.
Rosalie was planning the essentials to pack for a quick exit from Forks, while Jasper was worrying about Alice, and using his talent to relax her emotions.
Emmett had stepped out of the back door, but I could still hear his thoughts. I hope Edward is going to be okay. I will miss clumsy Bella and making her blush. He laughed to himself.
 After a few minutes, Carlisle cleared his throat out of habit and also to notify Emmett to come back inside. Emmett’s bear-like form came through the back door and he walked over to Rose and sat down beside her against the back glass wall.
Carlisle began to speak as I sat back down on the sofa next to Esme. “I agree with Edward, and think it is best if we leave as soon as possible. I will inform the hospital that I received a job offer this morning which starts immediately and that I wish to take it. I think the earliest we can possibly leave is tomorrow,” I grimaced at Carlisle’s last sentence. He noticed my expression and then spoke directly to me. “Edward, we need time to get things sorted here, and find somewhere to go. We can’t just disappear.”
 “Alice and I can leave today and go and get things set up at the house in Ithaca for now,” Jasper spoke to the group for the first time.
Alice shook her head.
“It will be less painful the sooner we go, Alice, there’s no point in delaying the inevitable.” Jasper said gently. Alice sighed and leant into Jasper’s chest, but didn’t argue.
“Emmett and I can go with them,” said Rosalie.
“Okay,” replied Carlisle. “You and Emmett will have to go in a separate car though. Edward?” He turned to me. “You can tell Bella that Alice has taken Jasper away for awhile, to Alaska maybe. Esme and I will travel with you tomorrow, once you have told Bella that we are leaving.”
 I cringed at the thought of lying to Bella. I was grateful that Carlisle was planning our departure, because I could only think of the reason behind it.
Bella.
I would have to leave my Bella.
At least I would see her a few more times before I would leave her forever; I got some comfort out of that thought, but not much.
 It was all planned. I would see Bella at school today and convince her that everything was okay. And then tomorrow after school I would break the news to her. As I got showered and changed from yesterday’s clothes I wondered what she would say when I told her, how would she react? I was sure that she wouldn’t believe me straight away and I would have to lie through my venom coated teeth for some considerable time before I could even plant a seed of doubt in her mind. I would have to hurt her terribly just to make her believe that I didn’t want her anymore?
How would I ever be able to walk away?
 I swiftly descended the staircase. My family were gathered downstairs making preparations for Alice, Jasper, Rosalie and Emmett’s imminent departure. They would be gone when I returned from school.
I didn’t want to say goodbye.
The goodbye I had to encounter tomorrow would be hard enough and parting with some of my family members just reinforced that sad fact. I didn’t want to be rude though, Esme would be disappointed in me and I owed her and the rest of my family a significant amount for what they were sacrificing for me.
 One by one, my brothers and sisters walked towards where I waited at the foot of the staircase. Emmett held out his hand in a fist and I graciously made a fist with my own hand and touched it to his. He then proceeded to thump me on the back as a sign of affection. I smiled weakly at him. Rosalie smiled at me half-heartedly and briefly touched my arm. Jasper warily put his hand on my shoulder and gave me a one armed hug, which I returned with one of my own. Even though there was a high possibility that none of us would be leaving Forks if it wasn’t for Jasper’s uncontrollable thirst, I was still grateful to him. He showed me exactly how dangerous we were to Bella and that something had to be done to protect her.
 “Alice.” I started. “I know I have asked too much from you already; from all of you.” I glanced around the room to my other family members before turning my attention back to Alice. “But I need you to do one more thing, please?”
What, Edward? Alice replied in her head.
“From now on, I don’t want you to look at Bella’s future. We can’t intrude her life like that, anymore. I need you to do this for me, Alice please?” I asked. She simply nodded her response. I smiled at her as softly as I could manage.
Alice walked towards me gracefully but slowly. I could see she was still truly upset. I would have known that even if I couldn’t read her mind, because she would normally be bounding towards me. She pulled me into her arms and hugged me for a whole minute.
Before she released me she spoke to me in her head, I will miss you, Edward. I love you, you know, even if you are making me leave my best friend. Please let Bella know I love her too. She pressed her lips lightly to my cheek and dashed away from me, up the stairs. I walked to the front door and as I placed my pale hand on the handle I paused and turned to look at my family. They stood there, minus Alice, looking intently at me, I bowed my head nodding a farewell and whispered “Thank you,” as I sprinted through the door.
 I jumped straight in to my Volvo, sped out of the garage and down the driveway. I wasn’t particularly paying attention to the road. My senses guided me to the place I needed to be - school; where I would finally see Bella. It felt like weeks since I had last seen her, even though it was only just over an hour ago. I pulled into the parking lot and waited for her to arrive. I could hear her rusty red Chevy truck chugging down the highway about a mile away, which meant I had a few minutes to compose myself and try to act as I normally would. My face still held the same guilt-ridden, pained expression but now with a hint of sheer determination; I couldn’t seem to remove it. I would just have to hope that Bella wouldn’t notice. 
Who was I kidding?
Bella noticed everything.
 I walked up to Bella’s truck as she pulled into the lot. When she cut the engine I opened the driver’s side door for her.
“How do you feel?” I asked her.
“Perfect,” Bella replied. I could tell she was lying because she answered too quickly.
Bella was a terrible liar.
I slammed the door of her truck shut and she winced at the sound. We walked silently and at a human pace into school. As we walked I could still feel the electric current that sparked between us, it was like a magnetic force field pulling us together. Soon I was going to break that force field.
I know I had inhuman strength, a thousand times stronger than the average human, but was I strong enough to break the force that held me and Bella together?
I had no choice, I had to be.
 As I had the majority of my lessons with Bella, I couldn’t escape her watchful eyes throughout the day. I didn’t need to be able to read her mind to know she was scrutinising my every move.
We didn’t speak often, but occasionally I asked how her injured arm was feeling, and she always replied with the same remark, “fine.” She hadn’t asked me about my family or how they were handling the events of the previous night. I assumed that she didn’t want to remind me about the incident to hurt my feelings and was probably feeling guilty; as if any of this mess was her fault.
A debate started in my own head. 
It was partially her fault, if she didn’t have the most tantalizing blood I had ever encountered, I would never have noticed her, and if she wasn’t so mesmerizingly fascinating, I would never have fallen in love with her. No, I chastised myself, it’s not her fault at all; she cannot help being the most captivating, sweet smelling creature that ever existed.
 The morning passed quickly. I wanted to prolong every second I had left with Bella but the clock didn’t want to cooperate. It was lunchtime now; lunchtime for the humans, not for me. We were in the cafeteria and I was picking at the food on my tray that I would not eat.
Bella’s eyes were scanning the room, most likely waiting for Alice to arrive. She would probably have questions for her, questions that she didn’t want to ask me in case they made me angry. I watched her cautiously as her eyes fell upon some students she recognised from Alice’s fourth hour class. I didn’t know their names, nor did I care. I had never paid close attention to humans, before I met Bella.
 Confusion swept across Bella’s face as she realised that Alice hadn’t attended school today.
“Where’s Alice?” She asked anxiously.
I looked down at my hands on the table, where I was destroying a foul smelling human food bar with my fingers.
“She’s with Jasper.” I replied.
“Is he okay?”
No, he is not okay. I thought. He feels very guilty for almost killing you. I couldn’t say that to Bella though, it would make her feel even more culpable.
So instead I said “He’s gone away for a while,” deliberately avoiding her question so I didn’t have to lie to her.
“What? Where?”
I shrugged my shoulders to give her the impression that I didn’t know and answered, “Nowhere in particular.”
“And, Alice too?” she said, her voice suddenly going quiet.
“Yes. She’ll be gone for awhile. She was trying to convince him to go to Denali.” I took Carlisle’s advice and suggested they were going to the vampire coven in Alaska. It wasn’t exactly the truth, but it wasn’t completely a lie either.
 Bella shifted uneasily in her seat making me wonder if her arm was bothering her. I didn’t want her to be in pain, and as a glitch in her brain prevented me from accessing her thoughts I had to ask.
“Is your arm bothering you?”
“Who cares about my stupid arm?” She muttered.
I do, I thought, but I didn’t say it aloud.
Bella laid her head on the table and sighed deeply. I longed to reach out and pull her chin up with my fingers and stroke her face, but I refrained.
It would just make things harder.
We fell into a silence that lasted for the rest of the school day. I didn’t even bother to ask her about her arm again.
 School ended and the silent apprehension between Bella and I had become unbearable but I was not going to break it. Bella was already aware of my odd behaviour, and the newly developed strain in my voice would surely raise her suspicions further, but the biting pain that was searing through my body made it impossible to speak in my normal smooth voice.
 “You’ll come over later tonight?” Bella spoke eventually.
Surprise flickered across my face as she said the word ‘later’. This was one of the times where I wished I was able to read her mind. Why didn’t she want me to come over now? Where was she going? I would have to ask her, but I didn’t want to sound too curious.
“Later?”
“I have to work. I had to trade with Mrs Newton to get yesterday off.”
“Oh.” I murmured
I felt slightly frustrated with Mike Newton’s mother for depriving me from spending precious time with Bella.
“So you will come over when I’m home thought, right?” Bella asked guardedly.
“If you want me to.” I replied.
“I will always want you.” She said the tone of her voice rising slightly to emphasize the words and I felt my cold, dead heart sting.
“All right then.” I said casually as I opened the truck door for her. I leaned in and placed a soft kiss to her forehead, before I shut the rusty door of the cab. I turned without a second glance to Bella and walked swiftly to my Volvo, feeling my heart sting for a second time. I was in my car and speeding away before Bella had even started her engine.
 I had a few hours before Bella finished work at Newton’s, and I didn’t particularly want to go to the place that would no longer be my home tomorrow. Alice, Jasper, Rosalie and Emmett would be gone by now, and the house would feel empty.
 I couldn’t stand being away from Bella at all. Not while she was at work, or while I left her house only to return later through her bedroom window when her father was asleep. Ever since Bella made her grand appearance in my life, I had been so entirely altered that I knew I wouldn’t be able to live without her. She was a part of me; she was my other half. My chest felt hollow when I wasn’t with her because I left my heart with her always. How was I going to handle being away from her? I needed to try and plan how I could possibly survive without her, but it was just too upsetting. No, I thought to myself, I would only think about that afterwards when I had no choice.
 I made the decision to hunt. I didn’t ever underestimate my self-control while I was around Bella, it was too dangerous. It was obvious that she was frustrated with my recent behaviour. Maybe if I quenched my thirst, Bella would think I had relaxed and follow suit.
 Driving at full speed, I was home in minutes. Bella was scared of my driving. She thought I was reckless so I slowed down as much as I could manage whenever she was in the car, just to sooth her mind a little. Not that I would never crash, or be in an accident whilst driving, my vampire reflexes were so advanced that I was well equipped to avoid such a catastrophe. I should drive slower when Bella was in the car thought, for safety. Even if a collision occurred, I would be able to walk away unscathed, but Bella would never survive. She was so fragile, so breakable. Normally, driving fast gave me a feeling of ecstasy, but not today.
Today everything was different.
My aspirations were in ruins and that had altered me acutely.
 I always tried my upmost to be extremely careful with Bella. I could easily crush her mandible into splinters of bone, just by stroking her cheek.
Bella believed I had a superpower of self control, but she was mistaken. My carefulness with her was extraordinarily difficult to maintain. My throat burned like the fiery pits of hell whenever her scent registered with me. It was very uncomfortable, but bearable due to the fact that my desire for Bella as my soul mate was stronger than my craving for her blood.
Bella’s human hormones often pushed me to the very edge of my threshold, resulting in me shoving her away as gently as I could while I channelled my excesses. I wished that my self control was as easy to master as my actual vampire talent of mind-reading.
 I found the power to read minds very convenient and awfully interesting. It allowed me to access people’s thoughts, which could be considered as an invasion of privacy, but it wasn’t like I could stop it. Often I found myself answering people’s thoughts when they weren’t even communicating with me and that was irritating. Mind-reading wasn’t always good; sometimes it was difficult to hear certain things going through other’s minds and I was left feeling embarrassed or like some sleazy voyeur. I couldn’t access Bella’s thoughts, but she preferred it that way, so I didn’t complain. What I wouldn’t give though, to decipher her mind and see how it worked. It would be an honour to enter such an amazing place.
 I didn’t park my car in the garage. As soon as I had finished hunting I would be going to the Swan Residence, therefore I parked directly in front of the big white house. I could have left my car anywhere in town, or even at Bella’s, but that may look slightly suspicious when I returned from the forest with gold eyes and non-existent purple bags under my eyes. I had to maintain the human pretence that my family and I had been striving to maintain for so long. After all being a Cullen was about being responsible and trying to fit in.
 I exited my car and set off into the trees searching with my nose for the most appealing scent of the ‘vegetarian’ diet that I lived on. Allowing instinct to dominate my body and mind, I scanned the surrounding forest for any signs of danger or prey. About two miles north-east I heard the thump of animal feet against the soggy ground. Without conscious thought I raced in that direction. I saw the herd of deer when I was about half a mile away. They did not hear my approach, and as I drew nearer I pounced on the largest deer tackling it to the ground and forcing my razor-sharp teeth into its neck. It was doomed before it even registered my presence.
 After I finished with the deer, I located and drained two elk roaming near the clearing where my family and I enjoyed playing baseball whenever a thunderstorm was roaring over Forks. Last time we had played was in the spring, and Bella had come along to watch. I put her in grave danger then too. She wasn’t just a potential victim of the vampires in my family. To other vampires that passed through the area she was prey.  One of the passing vampires that we encountered in the ball field last spring was a tracker and he wanted her…badly.  My defensive reaction to James’s intended attack had played a large part in that. Killing the fragile human girl that was protected by a large coven was an exciting challenge for him; he would never give up until his quarry was slain. He would have killed my Bella in the ballet studio in Phoenix if I had arrived a minute later.
Bella spent so much time with my family that her scent was around us, if a vampire who lived on our natural diet of human blood crossed her scent, she would instantly become their prey.
 My thirst was satisfied, so I made my way back to my house to pick up my car and go to Bella’s. Her father, Charlie would be suspicious if I arrived without it. I raced through town, and arrived at Bella’s early. She would only just be finishing work now. To avoid being alone with her and enduring the unnerving silence, I decided to go and wait inside with Charlie even though he was clearly uncomfortable in my presence. He was still annoyed with me after thinking that I was responsible for Bella’s sudden departure to Phoenix in the spring. In reality he was quite correct; however Charlie didn’t know the terrifying truth that prompted her abrupt exit from Forks. He only let me in the house because he was eternally grateful to both Carlisle and Alice for helping his daughter when she was gravely injured after the ‘accident’ and didn’t want to offend them, and also I guess, because it made Bella happy. Bella was the most important person in his life and he loved her dearly. He was an introverted man and didn’t express much emotion around her, but I could see it in his mind.

“Hello Edward.” Charlie greeted me as he opened the front door.
“Good evening, Charlie. I’m a little early; could I come in and wait?” I asked courteously.
“Sure.”
I went into the living room and took a seat in the arm chair – a very human thing to do, while Charlie ambled into the kitchen. The television was on, flickering with commercials.
“Do you want some pizza, Edward?” He asked as he walked into the living room and held a pizza box out towards me. The vile stench of the cold human food made my nose wrinkle is disgust.
“No, Thank you, Charlie. I had a meal with my family earlier.” I lied. Well I had sedated my hunger, or rather my thirst before I arrived at Bella’s and that could be considered as a meal. Charlie just nodded, pulled his arm back and strolled back into the kitchen. The pizza not only smelt bad, it looked disgusting.
The game should be starting in a minute. Charlie was thinking about the baseball game he was planning to watch. He came back into the living room and sprawled across the sofa.
 Outside, in the distance I could hear Bella’s Chevy chugging down the road. Charlie was too absorbed in the baseball game to speak, which didn’t bother me, I was concentrating on Bella’s arrival. I listened as her old truck heaved onto the driveway, the engine died as she pulled her keys out of the ignition.
Was that what it would be like for me?
When I would disconnect myself from Bella, would I become lifeless?
It certainly felt that way, when I thought about it.
 The front door opened and at the same time I caught Bella’s scent. She was finally here.
“Dad? Edward?” She called.
“In here.” Charlie replied.
I fixed my eyes on the television as Bella entered the room, not looking up to greet her.
“Hi.” Bella said weakly.
I didn’t respond.
“Hey, Bella.” Charlie said without looking up. “We had cold pizza. I think it’s still on the table.”
“Okay.”
Bella stood in the doorway, obviously waiting for some kind of response from me. I turned to look at her. She looked breathtakingly beautiful standing there, her hair and face glistening with raindrops. I had never seen Bella wear makeup, except on one special occasion, the prom, when Alice had made Bella suffer the ordeal of one of her makeovers. Bella didn’t need to wear makeup though; she had a natural beauty that radiated from her.
 I gave her a weak smile; it was all that I could manage. “I’ll be right behind you” I said encouraging her to go ahead and get some food from the kitchen. Her eyes widened in shock as I turned my attention back to the television. Usually, I would have gone straight with her, but I wasn’t doing anything normal today. It must have been very confusing for Bella, seeing such a dramatic change in me. Maybe I should have gone with her to ease the bewilderment I was sure she was feeling; it may have also reduced her speculative scrutiny of my recent behaviour. Honestly I couldn’t bear to look at her, knowing what I would do tomorrow, but I conversely I couldn’t bear to be away from her either.
 I decided to initiate a conversation with Charlie about the game and we both started commenting on the players from each team. Bella was too quiet in the kitchen, I knew she would be listening and I heard a small giggle. It finished as soon as it had begun, but it was enough to make me float out of my own mind for a moment. It sounded so sweet and light-hearted. It could only be Bella’s laugh. I longed to know what she was thinking about.
 Bella descended the stairs slowly. She has been using her birthday present from Charlie upstairs in her room, most likely to fill the new scrapbook she had been given by her mother, Renee.  Alice had suggested this on the morning of her birthday. Was that only yesterday?
Yesterday felt like a lifetime ago.
 Bella leaned around the corner of the doorway to the living room with the camera in her hand and snapped a picture. I looked at her, pretending that I hadn’t noticed her presence.
“What are you doing, Bella?” Charlie grunted.
“Oh, come on.” She moved her lips as she tried to smile and continued, “You know Mom will be calling soon to ask if I’m using my presents. I have to get to work before she can get her feelings hurt.”
Yeah right. Charlie thought. And then spoke aloud, “Why are you taking pictures of me, though?”
“Because you are so handsome; and because, you bought the camera, you’re obligated to be one of my subjects.”
“For God’s sake. Do I have to?” Charlie muttered under his breath so quietly that Bella couldn’t hear him with her human ears.
“Hey, Edward.” She said without looking at me. “Take one of me and my dad together.”
She threw the camera in my direction as she went to sit on the floor, beside her father who was sitting on the sofa.
Charlie sighed.
Bella stared at the camera with a blank expression. I wanted to see her smile.
“You need to smile, Bella.” I told her. She turned up the corners of her mouth into a weak smile, as I took the photograph. Bella’s attempt at a smile wasn’t her usual dazzling grin, but it was enough to warm my chilled, aching heart for just a moment.
“Let me take one of you kids.” Charlie said. Then maybe I won’t have to pose for any more of these stupid pictures. He finished in his head.
I gently threw the camera to him as Bella got up and came to stand next me. I placed my arm lightly around her shoulders, barely touching her. She embraced me tightly even for a human. Her arms linked firmly around my waist as if she didn’t’ want to let me go. A warm feeling crept up my spine at her touch. I didn’t want to let her go either.
 “Enough pictures for tonight.” Charlie declared. “You don’t have to use the whole roll now.”
I dropped my arm from Bella’s shoulder turning to break out of her grasp and sat back down in the armchair. She hesitated and then went to sit on the sofa next to Charlie.
When the game finished, I rose out of the chair to indicate my departure.
“I’d better get home.”
“See ya.” Charlie replied aloud whilst thinking, finally he is going.
 Bella followed me outside to my car and I knew she was going to ask if I would stay. I always stayed with Bella at night. But not tonight; I was distancing myself from her purposely. She needed to know that something was very wrong in our relationship. Hopefully it would go some small way to preparing her for what was coming tomorrow; maybe it would make it easier for her to believe.
“Not tonight.” I said gravely. She wouldn’t know that I planned on coming back when she was asleep. It surprised me when Bella’s face remained composed as I told her I wouldn’t be staying with her tonight. Had she been expecting that I wouldn’t?
 I got into my Volvo and sped away leaving Bella standing in the rain without a parting word. I felt insanely guilty for my recent behaviour; it was unfair to treat her this way, but I was convinced it would be easier in the long term. If I could somehow destabilize the devotion that held us together, it would ruin the confidence that Bella held in our relationship. It would make impending departure less painful for her; at least I hoped it would.  I wondered what Bella thought of the way I had been conducting myself, or what conclusion had she come to about it. She probably thought it was just a reaction to Jasper’s thirsty attack, and that I was still angry. I wished that was the case.
 As I drove through Forks, I let my thoughts wander to what I might do when I left town; when I left Bella. Since I’d met her, the purpose of my existence was to keep Bella from harm – it was a full time occupation. I hadn’t realised that the one danger I should have been protecting her from, was in fact me. I had shielded her from the dangers that threatened the humans of this world, when I should have been shielding her from myself. What if it had been me, instead of Jasper? No. I couldn’t bear to think of that.
 What would I do after tomorrow, when I would no longer be around to keep Bella safe from harm? I would be staying away from her – to keep her safe.
Should I matriculate again, or should I immerse myself into a new hobby?
I would definitely need an activity of some sort to distract myself from thinking of Bella constantly. Although I knew without a doubt that I would always see her face, hear her voice and smell her exquisite scent every day, in my memory; for the rest of eternity.
 When I arrived back at my family’s house, I wanted nothing more than to be alone and count the seconds until I could see Bella again. I could hear Carlisle and Esme inside the house, they were packing up belongings to take with us tomorrow; I decided to go and help, rather than be even more selfish. I owed my family; I needed to show them the depth of my gratitude for their understanding and cooperation. My family really liked the town of Forks in Washington State. After dwelling here for over two years; it was a place where they felt truly comfortable. Of all the countless times we had relocated – Forks felt most like home, to all of us.
 
Maybe Forks felt like home to me because Bella was here. She was my home. I felt as if she was the very reason I existed, like she was a part of me. As a vampire I wasn’t convinced that I had a soul, but if I did have one it would be intertwined with Bella’s.
I felt uncomfortable asking my family to leave the place they thought of as home, but I had done it for all of them many times and now it was their turn to do it for me. As a man in love, leaving the love of his life, or rather existence, wasn’t I allowed to be a little selfish in order to protect my love?

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