I gasped for air, feeling as if I’d been under water for too long. My body ached, my throat burned, but somehow, it all didn’t seem so bad. I was alive. Or was I? Panic flooded through me as I realized that I shouldn’t be. I must have been under for quite some time and judging from the sudden heightening of my senses, something had definitely changed. I gasped again, the realization that I didn’t need oxygen only ironically adding to the feeling of constriction of my airways.
Sitting upright, I took in my surroundings with new eyes. I was assaulted with the sounds of soft feet moving across the forest floor hundreds of feet away, the feel of the separate feathers in the pillow I had been lying on. The smell of the animals in the forest.
I was about to yell at him, telling him that the last thing I wanted to do was take even more of the appealing smell in than was necessary. Instead, I managed to keep my temper. ‘What happened?’
‘After attacking you, I brought you up here. You had lost a lot of blood; too much to suck the venom out. As it was, we thought you were even too weak to survive the transformation. You didn’t show any signs of the excruciating pain of transforming.. we thought you were gone.’ Edward paused, as if not sure whether or not he should continue. ‘The others chased after Antoine, but he used his gift and they lost track of him.’
‘I know. He’s in Chicago.’
He seemed surprised at this piece of information, but then he frowned. ‘Don’t go looking for him. Jasper and Emmett will deal with it.’
I gritted my teeth, once again overcome with strong emotions. Antoine had killed me. Though I couldn’t take back what he’d taken from me, I deserved at least to take the same from him.
‘Don’t lose yourself to the monster. You’re more than that.’
’I suggest you stay out of my mind and my business, Edward Cullen.’ I stood from the bed. ‘After all, you let him kill me even when you could read in my mind that something was wrong.’
‘So you want me stay out of your mind, but at the time you want me to respond to your every thought. Is that it?’
‘Don’t make it sound as if I am the issue here.’
He looked as if he was about to say something, but then he shook his head. ‘Being a vampire heightens your feelings, this is not you talking.’
’This is a vampire thing? Sneaking up on people is a “vamp thing”, scaring them because you forgot to make a sound is a “vamp thing”. Even ripping their throats out is a “vamp thing”. This is all me, Edward. This is me being sick of never being treated as your equal. This is me being sick of only existing when you need me.’
‘I love you,’ he said, his velvet voice barely more than a whisper.
The string of curses that I was about to utter died on my lips. Instead, I found myself frozen in surprise. Shock. A part of me – the naïve part – wanted to give in to those three words, wanted to believe them to be true no matter how much my head told me to be careful. The old me wanted to. The anger that had until that moment been coursing through my veins disappeared, making room for a cold, quiet realization. ‘It’s not enough.’
I remembered a time when we’d had a similar argument. But things were different now. I was different now. This time around things couldn’t be fixed with a simple apology, or even a confession of one’s feelings – true or not. I guess this was one of those moments in life that you come back to a place, to realize that nothing changed, except you. One of those moments that all the pieces of the puzzle are finally falling together, but that you realize that you don’t fit into that puzzle anymore. I had changed, I realized. Not by turning into one of the undead, as Edward seemed to think was the reason behind my emotional outburst. No, I had changed because I’d finally come to realize that I deserved more than this. I deserved more than being second best. More than having to spend my whole life waiting for a guy to finally notice me.
Changing after the end of our argument – since there was blood all over my clothes – I left shortly after. Both Emmett and Jasper had offered to accompany me, but I had declined them. I needed to do this by myself. Knowing that they would not be able to stop me and knowing that I had to do this, they had resigned to only telling me to be careful and to keep away from humans as far as that was possible.
Reminiscing on my little “road trip” so far, I couldn’t shake the mixed feelings I had about a particular memory. Having nothing better to do anyway, I played it in my mind again, subjecting it to another round of pondering.
As I crossed the borders of Washington, I decided it had become too much. The pain in my throat, at first only like a mild cold, had now grown out to an outright burning sensation that took up all my thoughts. Although I was still new to the whole vampire thing, I was quite sure what this meant. Feeding. The idea of having to suck some innocent squirrel dry wasn’t very appealing, but I guessed I didn’t really wanted to jump on the first human I’d meet either. And so, there really was no choice.
I’d stayed in the safe cover of the woods for most of the time and so I wouldn’t have to worry about any nearby humans. No one would be stupid enough to hike here. Or so I hoped.
Somewhat awkwardly, I took in a deep breathe, hyperaware of all the wildlife around me. Deciding on a particularly delicious smell – I still felt odd referring to an animal’s blood as delicious – I gave in to my hunter’s nature. Soon, I had tracked down the poor creature that was to become my first meal: a gray wolf. At least I wouldn’t kill something without it putting up a fight..
When it sensed my presence, it started growling and I surprised myself when a low growl escaped from my own lips in response. Almost instinctively, I readied myself for battle. He stood still for a long time, still snarling and looking at me. Then suddenly, without a warning, it charged at me. Once again, a death instinct I didn’t know I possessed took over and I threw it off. Scrambling back to its feet, it started another attack, but this time I met him halfway, jumping on top of him and throwing us both against a tree – hearing it crack at the impact.
The smell reached me before I saw the gash in his mane. Any reason that I’d still possessed escaped me and in a last act of humanity, I snapped its neck. Then, with a feral hunger, I sunk my teeth deep into its flesh.
Just thinking back on that moment, shivers still ran down my spine. It had felt so wrong to kill it, to engage it in battle even when he had no chance of winning. The guilt was unbearable and on top of that, there was the shame. I could not belief the ease with which I had thrown my humanity out of the window, with which I had lost myself.
Then, as if things weren’t confusing enough, there was a part – a terribly small, but yet very present part – that had found pleasure in the hunt. I didn’t want to dwell on that feeling, though, if only because it made me question myself. And if I even really still was myself. Maybe Edward was right after all; I had become a monster.
I had not stopped for feeding ever since, wanting to postpone the next killing for as long as possible. The only victim that I really looked forward to see suffering was waiting for me in Chicago and I would not even have the after-kill pleasure of drinking his blood. No, his death would bring me enough satisfaction in itself.
Once again I found myself surprised by how easily I was thinking about committing a murder. A year ago – hell, even two days ago – that thought would have been unthinkable. I guess things change. People change. Dying does that to you.
‘It was her choice,’ Carlisle reminded him, sitting down next to his son on the porch.
‘She’s not herself anymore,’ Edward said, sadly. ‘It’s exactly what I was afraid of with Bella. Why I didn’t want to turn her. Out of fear she’d lose her soul.’
‘Dalia is a smart young woman. She will find herself before everything is over.’
Edward could only hope that his father was right. In the meanwhile, he knew that there was still something else waiting to be done. He just wished with all his might that he wouldn’t have.
‘Alice told me Bella has been calling.’ Carlisle spoke, guessing his thoughts.
He nodded, pinching the bridge of his nose. ‘Everything has been so strange lately, I don’t know what to say to her.’
‘The truth. She will understand.’
‘I don’t know how. I ruined her life, Carlisle. She got hurt so many times, she almost died and now a vengeful vampire might be after her. It’s all my fault.’ He frowned. ‘I should have never told her about us.’
‘What’s done is done, Edward, none of us can change the past. But Bella deserves the truth. We will still protect her if that vampire comes back and be her friends if she wants us to be. But you cannot keep her in the dark any longer. If she truly loves you, she will understand.’
Edward nodded, knowing his father was right. He only wished that didn’t imply that he’d have to break the heart of a girl he cared about. Already having had his true love run from him that day, he sighed. ‘I will go to her tonight.’