Chapter 38

I waited until nightfall before I entered the big city. Having spent most of the journey hidden under clouds and trees, I hadn’t really thought of the whole sparkling issue until that morning. Then, when I’d gone on a much needed hunting trip, I had finally understood what Edward had meant with ‘sparkling’. Truthfully, it didn’t do much for my whole new badass vampire ego, but then again I guess I was also glad that I wouldn’t just combust at the first rays of sunlight. However, even if I wouldn’t burst into flames spontaneously – or something else equally horrible – I was still forced to wait until darkness fell. I figured humans wouldn’t react well to sparkling.

If my estimations were correct, it was a Saturday, meaning that I had spent four and a half day crossing the US landscape. The journey had been rather therapeutic, giving me enough time to get used to my undead state of living and my recent break with Edward. About the latter issue, though, I still had not made up my mind. A part of me regretted my actions, physically hurting just to be apart from him. Then, there was the other, more rational, stronger part that knew that I’d done the right thing. I had wasted too much time over that boy.

During my trip, my phone had been in an almost constant state of buzzing. I had expected it to be Edward – probably with well-meant advices and other intrusions on my life – but to my surprise, he hadn’t tried to contact me once. Instead, it was Jeren who was spamming my phone with messages. I wouldn’t even start about the amount of missed calls. At first, she’d asked me how orphanage life was while adding a lot of Annie references. The next ten or so messages were worried messages about my health and even if I was still alive. The last twenty messages described her escalation from worry into a state of alarm. Not wanting my friend to worry about me, I quickly replied. I will explain later.

‘Are you okay?’

Looking up bewilderedly, I noticed a boy standing beside me. His sandy blonde hair fell into his blue eyes and a cute smile played at his lips. I tried to focus on that and not the blood that I could smell flowing underneath his skin.

‘Yes, I am. I am just lost, I guess..’ It was the truth. As soon as I’d made it into the city center, I had been forced to stop. After all, I didn’t know where Antoine would be. The only real point of reference I had was the club I’d seen in my out-of-body experience and even with that, I wouldn’t know how to find it. Suddenly, an idea sparked and I forced myself to smile at the boy. ’I am sorry, but do you know where I can find ‘Late Night Chicago’? It’s a nightclub..’

He chuckled. ‘I know that it’s a nightclub, silly. I am surprised you know it, though. Aren’t you a bit young to go out?’

I turned my head to the ground, not wanting him to see the reddening of my cheeks. As I waited for the familiar sensation, though, I came to the conclusion that it wouldn’t come. I was dead, after all. Instead of making up an excuse – knowing that my lying skills would not have improved – I opted for a semi-true answer. ‘I have to wait for someone.’

‘I’m heading that way, myself, actually. So I can walk you, if you like?’

‘Thank you.’

We walked in relative silence. I had nothing to say to the friendly, helpful stranger, since despite his eagerness to help me out, he was still that – a stranger. Besides, he didn’t seem to mind my silence, which I was glad for. I was too busy focusing on anything but his appealing blood to strike up meaningful conversation anyway.

After almost three blocks with nothing but comments on the club and the city from his side, he smiled suddenly. ‘Is that someone a guy?’

I frowned. ‘What?’

‘You said you’ll have to wait for someone. Is he a guy?’

I chuckled, suddenly realizing what he was insinuating.’ He is, but I can assure you that we’re not involved. In any way.’ I could hardly tell this friendly stranger that I was waiting for a guy to murder him, could I? ‘We’ve got some things to sort out.’

‘You make that sound pretty scary… Ex-boyfriend?’

‘Something like that. He pretty much ruined my life.’

‘Join the club. I know all about that,’ he said jokingly. ‘I’m Charlie by the way.’

‘I’m.. Bella.’ I could slap myself. Not giving my own name to a random stranger, good idea. Choosing the name of the girl I despised most on this planet, not so much. Nevertheless, I forced a smile on my lips. ‘It’s nice to meet you.’

‘Likewise.’ His gaze lingered, rapidly growing to the length of uncomfortable. ‘I hope I’m not crossing any boundaries here, but you’re really beautiful. Perhaps when you’re done dealing with that guy, I could take you inside. I know the bouncer, so your age wouldn’t be a problem at all.’

I tried to look friendly – and not at all alarmed – at this new twist of our short acquaintance. Edward had told me becoming a vampire came with some physical changes as well. Then again, this boy could also just be very desperate for a date. ‘You’re really nice and I’m sure it would be great. But, I can’t.. I am sorry.’

Charlie shook his head, that smile still on his lips. ‘You don’t have to apologize, Bella. I should have known. A girl like you.’

I was about to respond when I noticed we’d entered a smaller street and a big, neon sign caught my attention: ‘Late Night Chicago’. ‘Well, this is my stop. Thank you so much for walking me. I hope you’ll still have a nice evening.’

‘You too. Kick that guy’s ass for hurting you.’

‘Oh, I will.’

He had waited for her in her bedroom until she finished having dinner with Charlie. He listened to the chief’s thoughts about dinner and the match that would soon come on as Edward inspected the familiar bedroom.

He’d spent countless of nights here, looking in wonder at the girl he loved most. There had always been that nagging feeling of emptiness, of something not being quite right, but he had pushed it of as guilt for taking Bella’s life away. Part of it had been guilt, he now realized, but a big part was also his mind telling him that he was in the wrong house, holding the wrong girl. The sound of plates clattering and a tap being opened reached his ears and he knew it was almost time. Soon, Bella would come up and he would have to face the unavoidable. She would protest without a doubt, but he hoped that she would understand.

All too soon, she said goodbye to Charlie and trudged up the stairs, ignorant of what awaited her in her room. Edward sat upright in her chair, promising himself to make it as painless and clean as he could. She deserved that much.

‘Edward,’ she looked at him in surprise, her mind like always a mystery. ‘I didn’t know you would come over..’ She knew something was wrong. It was clear in the tone of her voice, the calculating look on her face. Edward had always valued her rationality and hoped that in this matter it, too, would define her response.

‘A lot happened in the last few days,’ he gave as explanation, then continued in a softer voice. ‘And they made me realize that we are not meant for each other.’

‘What do you mean?’

Edward sighed, latching his fingers. ‘We can’t be together anymore, Bella.’

She still stood in the middle of the room, her brows knitted together in confusion, her expression empty. It was one of those moments that he wished he could read her mind, if only to know how to continue. She herself gave nothing away.

‘I don’t love you as much as I thought I did.’

‘We can work on this.’

He shook his head, sadly. ‘I can’t keep pretending to feel something that isn’t there, Bella. I’ve tried it for far too long.’

‘You promised! In Phoenix, you promised that you would stay.’ She was close to tears and he felt his heart clench for her. He wanted to comfort her, but knew that it would only give her hope. And so he stayed where he was.

‘I am sorry.’

The first tears made their way down her cheeks and she shook her head. ‘You can’t leave me.’ Slowly, she made her way to him, but he stood before she reached the desk, remembering what Carlisle had said.

‘We will still be your friends, but for now it’s best that I leave.’ Opening the window, he was about to disappear when her wavering but calm voice called him back.

‘It’s her isn’t it?’

Seated against the same wall as in my out-of-body experience, I stared at the passersby. So far, two hours had passed and I had yet to find any sign of Antoine. Naturally, I felt stupid beyond measure. Hoping to find him based on only the name of a club he’d once been to was idiotic. It was then, when I was just contemplating going back to Forks, that I saw them.

The man wasn’t really all that special, with his dull brown hair and a face that was neither beautiful nor special. It was the woman, though, who caught my attention. With her tall height, freckled skin and fiery hair, I couldn’t help but have a strange feeling in my gut. It was only when she stood on the tips of her toes and her head came into view, that I realized who she was. The features of her face were unrecognizable, just like last time. It were her eyes, which were an icy blue infused with specks of silver, which gave his true identity away.

I wanted to march up to him, but at that moment her – his – eyes got sight of me. A creepy smile made its way onto the lips and, after another whisper, she made her way to me.

Standing from my spot, I did my best to keep myself from growling at the vampire.

‘Well hello, Dalia,’ she smiled. ‘I wish I could say I was surprised to see you here, but I am afraid I’m not.’

‘I haven’t come to join you. I’m here to kill you.’

Suddenly, a hand clamped my shoulder and a body fell against mine. ‘Hi again,’ he slurred and smiled a drunken smile. Charlie. Talking about bad timing.

‘You have to go back inside,’ I told him urgently. God knew that Antoine would do to the innocent boy.

Pulling up an eyebrow, he now turned to the other girl. ‘Is this who you were going to meet?’ He stared the girl up and down. ‘You’re gay?’

Antoine took a step forward flirtingly, batting his eyelashes at the human. Then, without a warning, he knocked him out. Turning to me, he smiled. ‘I suggest you come with me, before I suck your poor friend dry.’

I clenched my teeth, realizing Charlie had just turned the tables. Antoine was in charge now. Following him, I tried to remember as much of the route as possible.

‘As a newborn vampire, you’d win a fair fight over me any time. With your gift, you’d beat me even with foul play. But as long as you don’t have conscious control over it, it won’t do you any good.’

‘What do you want?’ I asked him, not trusting him for a bit. Why was he telling me these things?

‘Have you learned nothing of our previous encounter? I killed you because you didn’t use your gift and I escaped because I did use mine. Now, you’ve come here to kill me with the same chances as you had last time.’

In a moment of anger, I pinned him to the wall, staring him down. ‘I don’t care for your opinion about how I live my life. In case you forgot; I came here to kill you.’

Tightening my hold on his neck, I enjoyed the sound of his bones softly cracking.

‘Imagine how disappointed he will be in you.’ Suddenly, I found myself strangling a sad looking Edward and his words resonated in my mind. Don’t lose yourself to the monster. I shook my head, trying to push it away. You’re more than that.

‘You’re not Edward,’ I yelled at him and threw him away.

Scrambling back to his legs, he changed into my mother who was silently weeping. Then my father. ‘It hurts doesn’t it?’

I pushed him against the ground, refusing to feel the pain he made me feel. Refusing to give into the guilt and the shame. I did not want it, any of it. ‘Show me who you really are.’

Despite the force that I was exercising on his limbs, he stared up at me in defiance. A moment passed and I was about to give up when his icy blue eyes twisted and turned. The rest of his face followed suit and soon I found myself staring up into the face of a young boy with acne skin, one of his eyes brown, the other green. He flashed a sad smile at me, baring crooked teeth.

In that moment, my heart went out to him, because I understood. I understood what it felt like to not be good enough to just be who you are.

‘It hurts because you care. That’s your humanity.’

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