I'd never been one to have nightmares. Sure, as a kid, I'd had a few, but really, they were almost laughable. Giant spiders trying to trip me as I ran from them. Monsters in tutus pirouetting as they chased me.
I'd had those latter ones during my year of dance lessons.
But the nightmare I'd just had made all others seem like fluffy children's stories.
I was standing in a field with Edward beside me. I was happy… at first. The sun was peering through the trees, illuminating his skin, dancing off of him like he was made of diamonds.
He looked at me so adoringly, with such love and affection. I smiled back at him, my breath catching a little as he took my hand and raised it to his lips to kiss the knuckles.
But then I looked – really looked – at my own hand. It was wrinkled. Covered in age spots. Old.
I startled, staring back at Edward in shock. His expression never changed.
Then I noticed a mirror to my right. I recognized Edward, but the grandmotherly woman beside him…
She almost looked a little like my Gran. Same eyes, but there was just something not quite the same about her.
And then it hit me. My eyes shot up to Edward's. His smile changed a little. Sad. Wistful.
"Happy birthday, Bella."
My eyes flew open then. Stunned, confused, I reached out for Edward in the dark, but the bed beside me was empty.
I needed to see him. I needed to find him. I fell out of bed and headed for the hall.
I don't know why I was tiptoeing. It wasn't like I could have been disturbing someone's sleep.
I was halfway down the stairs when I heard his voice. I almost ran to him. But then I heard Alice.
"It's going to happen, Edward. I've seen it."
"It doesn't have to be that way. Your visions are subjective. The future can always be changed."
"I know that. But I've seen it transpire in a dozen different ways. Eventually, one way or another—"
"Is it possible that these visions…? I don't think she understands…"
"I don't think she does, either. That's why the visions are hazy. But they are her decisions, Edward. They're just locked inside her subconscious."
I heard Edward sigh, and then it was silent.
Suddenly, so much so that I startled in surprise, he rounded the corner and stared up at me.
"Bella, love, what are you doing out of bed?"
It took me a moment to find my voice. "I woke up, and you weren't there."
Whoosh, and he was with me, gathering me into his arms. "I'm sorry, my love. I would not have left, had I not felt you were sound asleep." He started guiding me up the stairs. "Do you need anything? A glass of water, perhaps?"
I shook my head, a little bewildered. The conversation I had overheard was heavy on my mind. I had no idea what they were talking about, but it seemed very serious. Important. I couldn't ask him about it, though. I didn't want him to know I had been eavesdropping.
I also didn't mention the nightmare I'd had. I just curled up with him on the bed and feigned sleep.
I had been so stupid. I wanted my love story so much, I excused all the reasons why I couldn't have it.
We had looked so ridiculous. In the nightmare. Edward looking perfectly seventeen, me looking well into my eighties.
We were already completely unbalanced. The rose and the weed. In time, the weed that I was would wither and die, while the rose would remain as perfect as the day it bloomed.
He would stay with me, hiding his disappointment as the years added haggardness to my appearance. How was that fair to him?
"Would you like me to hum to you?"
He knew I was awake. I should have realized I couldn't feign sleep.
"Yes, please," I whispered. I forced the sadness from my tone. I forced myself not to cry.
I just clung to him as his sweet melodic voice wrapped around my lullaby.
Falling asleep had never been so difficult. But I must have done so at some point, because after what seemed like seconds of closing my eyes, they were opening again to the sound of Edward's gentle urging. And the sunlight.
"Good morning, my love. It's time to wake up."
I stretched a little, then looked up into his face. He seemed sad. He seemed to realize that I was sad.
"Good morning." I attempted to sound as upbeat as I possibly could, but I knew it fell short.
He pulled a slight, tense smile into his expression. "Breakfast will be ready soon."
I nodded. "'Kay. I'll be right down." I went to leave the bed, but he stopped me. We just stared at each other for an eternity of seconds.
I needed him to speak first. I didn't want to say anything until I knew for sure that I would have to. If he wasn't aware of my depression, I wouldn't burden him with it.
But he didn't say anything. He just studied me for the longest time. I couldn't bear it any longer.
"Do you think it'll be safe to go to the forest today at lunch?"
He scowled a little, but then it faded. "I will know better today. We should meet in the cafeteria. Perhaps tomorrow, if it is safe to, we can return to the forest."
I gave a nod, then forced my eyes away from his. He released my hand then, allowing me to escape.
Of course he would see the difference. I was almost giddy with happiness the day before. Now it seemed like I was marching in my own funeral procession. In a way, I guess I was. A part of me sure felt dead.
I got ready in slow motion. There was no rush to my routine. I didn't know how to face him. I couldn't tell him. I couldn't not tell him.
I procrastinated for as long as possible, prolonging the inevitable. I took in a deep, shaky breath, then unlocked and opened the bathroom door.
And then I jumped a foot.
"Alice! Crap! You scared the pants off of me!"
She just laughed. Then she put her arm around me and guided me towards Edward's bedroom.
"Jasper and I want to have a word with you," she said.
Jasper? Jasper wanted to have a word with me? Except for on the phone a week ago yesterday, we had barely said six words to each other.
As soon as we entered the room, Jasper turned and faced us. He gave Alice a subtle nod. She sighed in response.
Then suddenly, I felt calm. At peace. Not exactly happy, but not at all sad.
"If you won't tell Edward what's wrong, will you at least tell us? Maybe we can help."
I dropped my gaze to the ground. "I had a nightmare, is all. I'm fine."
I caught Jasper shaking his head out of my peripheral vision. He didn't appear to be breathing. I was probably too close to him.
"What was it about? You know, dreams are rarely what they seem to be."
This one seemed pretty obvious. Not only that, but I knew Edward was somewhere nearby, listening. I didn't want him to know about the nightmare.
"I don't remember," I lied. "I just remember being scared when I woke up."
Jasper shook his head again, almost imperceptibly. He was ratting me out to Alice. How much could he determine by emotions alone?
"Okay. You don't have to tell me."
Yeah, she knew I had lied.
"But if you want to talk about it – or anything – you can come to me, okay?"
I nodded. Then I allowed her to lead me towards and down the stairs.
Edward looked troubled as I entered the kitchen. He smiled a little as he held my chair out for me. It looked forced.
I pulled up the brightest smile I could muster, then sat down and dug into my food like I was starving to death. I used it as a distraction from having to look at or talk to him.
I was almost done eating when he finally spoke.
"Would you like me to leave?"
It was phrased like he was asking me if I wanted him to leave the room, but I knew what he meant.
"No," I answered.
That was the problem. I didn't want him to leave. Not the room. Not me. Not ever.
"Will you please share your thoughts with me?"
He sounded like he was in agony again. I hated myself to the infinite degree for being the reason why.
"No." I sighed before adding, "But I'm okay, I promise. Please, don't let my mood upset you. I just have a lot on my mind."
"I could help you sort through it, if you would just share with me."
I shook my head. "This is something I have to work out on my own."
He released an anguished sigh and looked away. I immediately jumped from my seat and threw myself into his arms.
"We love each other, that's the important thing."
He clung to me. Desperately. "You were so happy yesterday. What can I do?"
"You can't fix this, Edward. It's my issue. I'll work it out."
I wasn't so sure that was true. At some point, I was going to have to let him go.
School sucks. The end.
Jessica said hi to me when I first got there, but then she ran off like her tail was between her legs. Angela looked at me with such pity, I almost wanted to console her. Each teacher asked me at least once if I was okay.
I knew Edward could see me through the thoughts of every one of those people. It made me self-conscious of what I could say. It made me force a smile on my face as I tried to convince not only them, but Edward, that I was fine. Even when it was clear that I wasn't.
I was actually glad that I would be meeting with Edward in the cafeteria, instead of the forest. We would be limited in what we could talk about while around others. He wouldn't be able to question me.
But I was concerned that his tortured expression would call attention to him.
My concerns were unnecessary, apparently.
Edward smiled as I approached. I smiled reflexively in return.
"My love, I've missed you," he whispered. Then he gathered me into his arms.
I believed him. He held me like I had been gone for months. Maybe it seemed like longer to him because of my obvious depression.
"I missed you, too."
And I did. I just hadn't realized how much until I was back in his embrace.
Angela and Eric seemed reluctant to disturb us. Well, Angela did. Eric just plopped in a seat at the table and started unbagging his lunch.
I smiled at Angela, letting her know it was okay that they join us. Her return smile was guarded.
We mostly discussed the movie we had seen Friday night, and the editorial Angela wrote based off its plot. Since I hadn't watched the movie at all, I followed along with nods at first, but I caught on quickly enough.
Simple concept, really. Boy meets girl, but girl is engaged to someone else. Boy is miserable until he finally wins over the girl in the end. Angela's article was about unrequited love.
Angela and Eric left the table a few minutes before the bell rang, allowing me and Edward some semi-privacy.
Edward sighed deeply as he stared at me, as I stared at the remnants of my lunch.
"I'm okay," I whispered.
"You're not okay, Bella. I wish you would tell me why."
I wished he would stop asking me to. I couldn't tell him this. It would hurt him. It would sound accusatory.
'You're not going to want me when I look like a grandmother.'
Yeah, no, I couldn't tell him that.
"I'm afraid to," I admitted.
He tensed. "Why are you afraid to? You can tell me anything."
"Something rattled me, is all. Please, I really don't want to talk about it."
He sighed again. "You don't have to do anything you don't want to."
"Thanks." I pushed off of my seat. He immediately joined me.
When he offered me his hand, he seemed nervous to. Like he was worried I wouldn't take it. I grabbed for it instantly. That seemed to ease his tension a little.
Awkward silence surrounded us as he walked me to Biology. Once again, Mr. Molina greeted him enthusiastically.
"Mr. Cullen! You're becoming a regular face around here! Will you be joining us today?"
And once again, Edward surprised me.
"If you'll have me, sir, yes."
"Great! Let's see…" Mr. Molina started scanning the classroom. "Mike, Ben is in need of a lab partner again today."
Mike grumbled as he started collecting his things.
"Sorry," I muttered to him as he passed me. He just shrugged.
Ben didn't need a lab partner after all. It was a lecture day… about human anatomy of all things.
I was sure I was blushing as each organ's function was explained by the teacher. There was absolutely nothing sexual about it, so why I was blushing, I couldn't really say. It just seemed weird to be learning about something like that in front of my vampire boyfriend.
Reproductive organs were mentioned, and the class tittered in response, but since it wasn't a Sex Ed. lecture, it was glossed over rather quickly. Thank God. My blush threatened to set the room on fire.
When we were asked to read from the textbook, Edward leaned in and stared at the pages over my shoulder. I was sure he wasn't actually reading it. I was sure he already knew it.
I heard him inhale slowly several times. It was distracting, but I welcomed it.
I could literally feel my depression starting to lift. Nothing was settled, nothing at all, but it didn't seem to matter as much anymore. He would leave me eventually, that was a given, but when the time came for him to, I would let him.
I only wanted for his happiness, too. Mine was just a perk in the bargain.
We parted ways outside of the women's locker room. I think he could tell I was in a better mood. His smile seemed genuine. Not forced. He kissed me briefly before hugging me tightly, then he whispered, 'I will see you at three o'clock' before walking away.
Yeah, he would see me before then. I kept my body turned away from Jessica again as I dressed out. She seemed uncomfortable just being near me. Humiliation had probably shifted over into guilt.
Gym was typical, English was boring… until the last few minutes of class. I allowed myself to feel excited when I saw that he was standing right outside of the room, waiting for me. As I had decided before, days that seemed like years ago, I would just soak up all I could of Edward Cullen until I was forced to relinquish him.
He marched right to my desk when the bell rang, then gathered up my backpack before offering me his hand.
We were almost to his car when he spoke.
"You seem happier now."
"I'm working on it."
"I'm very pleased to hear that. How would you like to spend the evening, my love?" he asked as he opened my door.
"I'm open to suggestions." I moved to get in, but he wrapped his arms around me, stopping me.
Then he hummed. "I want to make you happy again."
"You make me happy, Edward. I was just allowing negative thoughts to dwell."
"Will you share them with me now? Or do you need more time?"
I sighed. Telling him was just not a good idea. "I don't want to upset you."
"Not knowing your mind upsets me, Bella. If you value my sanity, will you please just tell me?"
I relented. Of course I did. I loved him way too much. "Can we take a trip when we get home? Out of earshot, where we can have some privacy?"
I barely remembered getting into the car. Or the ride home. As soon as he parked, he helped me out, slung me up onto his back, and then we were flying through the forest. I barely remembered that, too. I think I finally woke up from my daze when I saw that we were back in that little meadow he had taken me to before, on the Saturday I pieced together his secret.
"This is perfect," I whispered, then I walked with him, hand in hand, to the very spot we had occupied nine days ago.
We both sat, then he stared at me while I stared at the grass.
I took in a breath as I gathered my thoughts. "I had a nightmare last night. This morning, I guess. That's why I woke up. I don't want to tell you what it was about, so, please, don't ask me to, but, it triggered some… negativity."
He said nothing. He just watched me. So I continued.
"I'm scared, Edward." I saw him tense, so I quickly explained. "I think you'll leave me… sooner than I would like you to."
"I will never leave you, Bella."
I sighed. "You say that now. But, realistically…"
"Realistically," he continued when I trailed off, "I will never leave you."
"You're not going to want me when I look like a grandmother."
There. I'd said it. No going back.
But he didn't respond. He just continued to stare back at me, like he was expecting me to say something else. It confused me.
"What?" I asked.
"Was that all?"
Was that all? Wasn't that enough? "Well, yeah."
He sighed. Heavily. "Bella, I will always love you. Always. I will love you until the day you die. And then I will merely exist on the memory of you for the rest of my eternity."
Oh, great. That didn't make me feel guilty at all. It also made me cry.
I crawled over to him and climbed into his lap.
"Shhh, love, don't cry. The memory of you will sustain me."
Romeo and Juliet was a happy story with fluffy bunnies in comparison to mine and Edward's love story.
We said nothing else as we held each other. We did nothing but hold each other until the sun started to set.
The entire family could tell something was wrong. They shared odd looks when they didn't think I was paying attention. Edward's eyes shifted about the room constantly, ignoring the television that was on for no one's benefit. I only watched it blankly.
Edward stared at me while I did my homework. He had a book in his hands, but I could see his eyes peering above the edge of it.
I took my time showering. It was hard to be in his presence. I wanted to get back to happy, I just wasn't sure how to. When around Jasper, it was bearable. His vampire gift was a welcomed one. But when he left with Alice, the despair crept back in.
I threw my crap by the bed, then crawled in beside Edward. He had been waiting for me. When he gathered me into his arms, a little sob escaped me. He held me tighter in response.
"Bella, please, is there anything I can do?"
More than anything, I wanted him to be able to fix it. But there wasn't a magical solution. I knew there wasn't. "I don't want to give you up, but is it right for me to hold onto you? It doesn't seem fair to you."
He took exactly twelve seconds to respond.
"It is better to have loved and lost, than never to have loved at all."
He really was a sick, masochistic lion. And I was the stupidest lamb on the planet.
But he was my lion, and I was his lamb.
We were the epitome of a tragic love story. The embodiment of Mother Nature's cruel sense of humor.
But we were also in love. Not just in love, but soul mates, if one chose to believe in such a thing.
There was no way I could give him up. How could I?
I had two choices.
First, dwell on all the negative aspects of our relationship and live in a state of depression for decades.
Or, second, find the happiness wherever I could. Wherever we could.
I shifted my position and looked up into Edward's worried, sad face. I smiled. It wasn't beaming, but it wasn't forced, either.
"I love you," I whispered.
His eyes lightened a little. He smiled in return. "I love you," he whispered back.
That was enough for now.
We would work it out.
To be continued…
I am completely amazed by all the wonderful reviews and compliments. Thank you, sincerely, for all your kind words.
GoldenBeliever: Thank you. What a humbling thing to have read.
Inu-Oni Shi: Thank you from coming out of lurkdom! I appreciate your review!
AJ04-Jtrs98: Pretty hot, huh? LOL! Thanks! It's hard to get a balance of 'hot' and not too graphic in a PG-13 fic! Glad I succeeded with that.
I Smile When It Rains: 1) Yes, there will be 'any conflict other than'. 2) Yes, Jake 're-enters'. 3) I word things carefully so that if someone is not aware of such things, one wouldn't know what is going on. 4) I have 'creative license to experiment with' the characters, but chose not to alter them too drastically. I also have 'creative license' to not (alter them). 5) I have been writing and enjoying fanfiction for over a decade. I'm just new to the 'Twilight' fandom.
Okay, who wants to take a guess at the lines that brought me to tears as I wrote them? I think they're obvious, but maybe they're not. I will post the answer in the next chapter's ANs.
Fave line in this chapter: I would just soak up all I could of Edward Cullen until I was forced to relinquish him. – I liked this line so much, I used it in the banner my beta made for me. You can see this banner on my personal webpage, and on the 'Twilight' fanfiction site Twilighted.
I have two ideas for future fics, and my beta thinks they're both good and workable. If I can come up with concise concept summaries, I'll tack them onto the end of one of the chapters here and see what y'all think.
Still not smoking. Today, I step down to the seven mg patches. At the end of two weeks from now, I'm hoping to be able to function without patches. I'm thinking of getting myself one of those squeezy stress balls.
Please continue to review! They make me happy!