Somehow, I knew where we were going, but not because I recognized the journey's path. All trees look the same to me, anyway. Add to that, them racing towards you at the speed of light… It's hard to get your bearings.
I knew where we were going because I could just somehow sense it. It was logical. It was our place.
I gravitated towards the blues and purples as soon as Edward had set me on my feet. There was no sun streaming through the forest's edge. It seemed fitting that there wasn't. Like nature was mimicking my mood.
I dropped down in the very spot we had occupied twice before. I stared at the grass as Edward joined me.
"I didn't think I'd be this upset," I finally said.
"It's understandable that you are."
I shrugged. "I suppose. It's sure the way they depict it in movies and in books. I don't know why I thought it would be any different for me."
"You are more perceptive, braver, than most. Your unique understanding and courage shrouded your emotions."
Maybe, but none of that mattered. My parents were getting a divorce, my dad was on the verge of devastated, and I was…
I didn't know what I was. At that moment, I was mad at my mom and sad for my dad. Otherwise, I had no clue how to feel.
I sighed, then crawled over and climbed into Edward's lap. He wrapped his arms around me consolingly.
"I'm still mad at you," I whispered.
"I know. I'm angry with myself as well. I was only trying to save you pain."
"You can't save me from everything, Edward. At some point, pain will happen. Physical. Emotional. It's inevitable."
"If there is a way I can find to spare you from it, I will. Your pain, any amount of it, in any aspect, is unacceptable."
I sighed again. A blanket understanding just wasn't going to happen. I would have to tackle each situation as they presented themselves.
I started with the current one. "I know Jake has a thing for me, okay? I wasn't sure before, but I am now. It doesn't change anything. I'm not happy that I have to reject him – hurt him – but we'll both get through it. He'll get over it in time. Maybe we can even be friends again. It's not a pleasant situation, but it's not exactly causing me pain, either. Just… let me handle it. My way. Okay?"
He took in a deep breath. His arms tightened around me. "Yes."
I could tell by his tone that it was hard for him to agree to that. But he did agree. Progress.
"Thank you. So, no more messing with my phone?"
"No," he said. "No more… messing… with your phone."
I smirked at that. He had been trying so hard to sound casual lately, even when we were alone. Or maybe I was just rubbing off on him.
"Good. Thank you for that, too."
Snuggling in a little deeper, I rested my forehead against his neck and inhaled deeply. I wasn't necessarily looking to get affectionate, but I wanted to feel that familiar connection to him. That deep, profound bond that always seemed to lift my spirits.
I needed my spirits lifted. I needed to feel happy. I wanted a break from the intensity of the crap going on with my parents. There would be plenty of time later to deal with that.
He seemed to understand that.
He kissed the top of my head, allowing his lips to linger there, and then he inched his hand into my jacket and danced his fingers across my hip. It was a slow ascent from there.
Our joint descent to the grass beneath us was faster. But the intimacy that followed wasn't frenzied. It was gentle. Almost comforting. He knew what I needed, and he was fulfilling each one of those needs.
Well, every need but one. He was avoiding my neck again. I gave him the cue more than once, but he refused to take it each and every time.
I thought we had gotten passed that. What happened to compromise? Though I still didn't know what he had meant by that. What was it a compromise to?
I tried to reason through it, as Edward continued to hold me, and caress me.
He wanted to do it. That was clear from the beginning. And I wanted him to do it. There didn't seem to be any kind of need for a compromise there.
But even with us both wanting it, every time I offered myself to him, he would tell me no.
Except for that last time. What was different then?
I hadn't offered myself to him then. Or at least not at first. He just did it. Did he see it as a form of pressure when I did offer myself? Was the compromise that I needed to just let him lead?
That didn't seem likely for some reason. That seemed more like me compromising, not him.
What else was different about that last time?
I fought to remember.
He had given me a hickey. He was upset about the fact that he had, too.
But how could that be a compromise? A compromise to what?
I had been so stupid. So blind.
Amazingly. Perceptive. My. Ass.
Not only could I not add two plus two plus two, but apparently, I also couldn't add three plus three. Which, ironically, equated to the same answer.
It took all of the eleven and a half days since knowing Edward was a vampire for it to finally click. When it did, everything made sense. Everything.
Rosalie's cryptic words.
"We all have choices to make, Bella. I don't hate you. I hate the choices you're about to make."
"He thinks he's encouraging you to be something you're not. Something he thinks you'll regret being later."
Alice's visions. The ones I heard her telling Edward about when I had been eavesdropping.
"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."
The draw for me when Edward would kiss my neck. The instinct to offer myself to him.
I realized that Alice had been right. It had been a subconscious thought this whole time.
I wanted Edward to bite me. I wanted him to change me.
And then I remembered the other couple of sentences I had heard between Alice and Edward, earlier that morning on the way to breakfast.
"It might save you a lot of heartache, and her a lot of confusion."
"I would rather wait for her to figure it out on her own."
That was what the problem had been all along. He wanted to change me, but he wasn't sure if I wanted him to. He wasn't sure if I had even considered the possibility. He wanted it to be my choice.
It was all so simple, the fact that it had eluded me for so long was baffling.
It solved every problem! I would never grow old. Never die and leave him behind. He wouldn't be in pain around me. We could be intimate without fear of him hurting me. We could be together forever.
I remembered him saying that the venom was excruciating, but the pain involved was just the smaller picture. My focus became the bigger picture.
My mind was made up. Determinedly, I brushed my hair to the side and offered myself to him again. And in case that was too subtle for him, I said the actual words.
"I'm ready, Edward."
I closed my eyes, then waited. But nothing happened.
His hands were still, I realized. I could feel his stare on me.
Slowly, I allowed my lids to flutter open.
He looked stern. Confused. Frightened.
No? What, no? "Why not? It solves everything. Every problem."
He sat up, then I did, too. Our eyes remained locked.
"That would not be a solution. It would be a tragedy."
"Why? If I were like you—"
"No." He sounded so absolute. "I won't end your life for you."
Wait. So, he didn't want to change me? My heart lurched. I could feel the tears pricking at the back of my eyes. It felt like a rejection.
"But it's not an ending," I whispered. "It's a beginning." I was sure I sounded pathetic. Pleading. Desperate.
As if confirming that, he took my hand in both of his and stroked the knuckles with his thumb.
"That's what you call a beginning?" His tone was softer. Gentler. "Becoming a monster?"
Of course it would come back to that.
"You're not a monster, Edward," I said firmly, then added more carefully, "And I'd like to think I wouldn't be one, either."
He sighed. "You don't know what you're saying. You don't want this."
That wasn't true. I knew what I was saying. I knew what I wanted.
"I want to be with you. Forever."
His eyes shone with compassion as he continued to stare back at me for several intense seconds. Or maybe it was weeks.
"Is it not enough, just to have a long and happy life with me?"
Honestly? No. It wasn't. And what if it wasn't a long life? What if I got hit by a bus? Or became terminally ill? With my accident proneness, the possibilities for my early death were endless.
But that aside…
My staying human didn't solve anything. I would still eventually die. Then Edward would only have the memory of me to sustain him. To use his words.
Even after acclimating, he would always be in some pain around me. We would always be limited in what we could do intimately, due to his fear of losing control.
He would always be worried about me because of my frailty. His life would consist of nothing more than trying to protect me from everything. His full time occupation and labor of love.
And then there was the whole rose and the weed problem. He in perfect bloom for always, me withering and dying slowly through the years. If I did live for a long time, how much pain would that cause him to witness?
More than he deserved. More than I could bear to witness.
My thoughts made me more emotional than I had already been.
"No, it's not," I answered him. "I want longer than that with you."
There was a hint of pain in the smile he gave me, and then he gathered me back into his arms.
It seemed he had changed his mind.
"You're ready right now?"
I let out a shuddery breath, in both fear and anticipation, when he raked my hair away from my neck and slowly kissed a path to it. Fear of the pain. Fear of the unknown. But anticipation for what it would mean. An eternity with Edward.
I tilted my head and closed my eyes. I started to tremble. "Yes." My voice caught on the simple word.
I wondered for how long the pain would last. I considered what I might say to my parents.
But the anticipation was for nothing. The pain never came.
"You're safe," he whispered.
He hadn't changed his mind at all. He was making a point. He knew I was scared.
That didn't change my mind, though. A lot of things in life are scary, but people still did them. I still wanted this.
"Alice said she saw it happening," I said shakily.
The idea of it was still affecting me, as was Drug Edward. I was also nervous about admitting to him that I had eavesdropped before.
He pulled back and stared at me with a sort of… kind sternness. No, a questioning, kind sternness.
"I wasn't trying to overhear," I defended myself weakly. "I just did."
"Her visions change…"
"Based on what people decide," I added. "I've decided, Edward."
"No, Bella. My soul may be lost but I will protect yours. You don't know how the idea of this has tortured me."
He looked tortured right then. Down to the depths of the soul he apparently believed he had lost.
"That's why you won't change me? Because you think it will damn my soul to hell?"
His tormented expression remained. "I love you too much to take the risk."
It was an indirect answer to my question, but that was a yes. There was no way he didn't have a soul.
"I love you too much not to."
He scoffed a little. It almost sounded like a chuckle. "You're so stubborn."
I scowled back at him. "So are you."
He smirked, and then he brought me back into his arms. His lips were right next to my ear. It sent a jolt of adrenalin through me.
"May I suggest a compromise?" he whispered. I nodded, speechless. "Give me five years. If your decision stands, I will reconsider."
Five years? I would be forever twenty-two to his forever seventeen?
"That's too long," I said.
He sighed. "Then three years."
That was still too long. "Why?"
"I know the consequences of this. I've lived through it. I want you to be sure."
That was only part of it.
"I am sure. You're hoping I'll change my mind."
At least he was honest.
I sighed as I pushed out of his arms, then I took his hand as I lied down in the grass. He joined me.
With everything else murky and confused, one thing was perfectly clear. Nothing was going to happen tonight.
"Fine," I said finally, after watching the sky blankly for an indeterminate amount of decades. "I won't agree to five years, or even three, but I will agree to wait. I'll agree to think it over some more, if you'll agree to honor my decision when the time comes. Deal?"
I turned my head only to look over at him. He was already staring at me, his expression holding a multitude of emotions again. Love. Fear. Sympathy. Frustration. There were more, but I couldn't name them all.
"I will agree to consider it," he said.
Ugh! Frustrating man! That was obviously just lip service! And he calls me stubborn!
But I knew that was the best I was going to get out of him. I rolled my eyes and turned them towards the sky again.
We were both silent for years as I fumed. I could feel him staring at me. I knew what was coming.
"Will you share your thoughts with me?"
"You won't like them." But if he pressed for me to tell him, I would.
"I still wish to know them."
Sighing, I closed my eyes, then blurted out, "You're not the only vampire I know."
The implication was clear. I studied the inside of my eyelids as I waited for his response.
"Bella, please, if you value my sanity…"
"I'm not trying to drive you insane," I whispered.
Bravely – or better put, stupidly – I opened my eyes and looked over at him.
Yeah, I should have kept them closed. He was in the fires of hell again, because of me. I quickly turned away from him.
"Why are you so against me becoming like you?" I asked. I sounded like I was ready to burst into tears. I felt like I was, too. Did he not want to be with me for forever like I did him?
He inched up behind me, spooning me, and gathered me into his arms. His lips were right at my ear again.
"I told you why," he whispered.
I shook my head. "There's more to it than that. Be honest with me."
"Your pain, any amount of it, in any aspect, for any reason, is unacceptable. To cause your suffering, just for the sake of never having to lose you, would be the most selfish thing I could ever do."
"But the pain wouldn't last forever."
"I'm not just referring to the physical pain. Have you not considered the reason for why Rosalie appears to dislike you?"
That startled me. I turned in his arms to face him. He offered me a sympathetic smile as he raked his hand into my hair. His thumb brushed against my cheek in a comforting manner.
"She's envious of you, Bella. She would give anything to be human again. We all would. We didn't have a choice, but you do."
"Being human isn't that great," I muttered. Not when it meant losing the only person I would ever love.
"You say that now. Your life has barely begun. After decades of never changing, of having all your possibilities taken from you, you might feel differently. This cannot be undone. I will not risk your potential happiness like that. I couldn't live with myself if you came to regret your decision."
But there could be no happiness without him.
It was at those times that I wished he could read my mind. If he could just grasp how absolutely sure I was.
"I'll give you one year," I said. I wasn't so sure bargaining with him would work, but I had to try. "I'll be smart about it. I'll weigh the pros and cons. I'll talk to every member of your family. If after one year, if I'm still certain, will you change me?"
He stared at me for centuries. Studying me. Considering his words. And then he gathered me against him and nuzzled into my hair.
"On one condition."
We were so close. I could feel the 'yes' in the air. My heart started racing.
"What's the condition?"
He took forever to answer.
"Marry me, Bella."
To be continued…
Okay, I want to quick and explain something here. Since this fic takes place over a two week period of time, his asking her to marry him probably seems to some like it's rushing, and therefore unrealistic. But, to me, it's not.
First, he's not expecting to marry her in three days time or anything. Engagements usually last a little while, and even in Eclipse (movie version, at least), he tells her there's no rush when she sets the date in August.
Second, they've already essentially committed themselves to being with each other. He's been waiting his entire existence for her. He's certain she's 'the one', and has been (certain) since pretty much the beginning. Bella is more resistant to the idea of marriage in the books/movies, but canon Bella came from a broken home. And, yeah, in my fic, her parents do finally split, but not until she's old enough to understand. That alone can change things a bit. Throughout the fic, she does teeter back and forth on the issue, but ultimately, I think, deep down, she would want to be married to Edward. Regardless to how her parents' marriage was and ended. Regardless to their young ages. She says in Eclipse (again, the movie version) that marriage is just a piece of paper. That cuts both ways. It can be used as an argument for or against marriage. If you view it as just a piece of paper, why bother? Or, alternatively, why not just do it, especially if you're already planning on being with the person for all of eternity?
And third, my parents got engaged after knowing each other for exactly two weeks. They got married three months after that. They were a few months away from celebrating their thirty-sixth wedding anniversary when she passed away suddenly.
So, yeah. Thus ends my really long babble session, justifying my having him propose to her now as opposed to later. And I kinda gave away what her answer will be, didn't I? Oh well, LOL! It's not like y'all didn't see it coming, right? (grin)
Initially, no one showed any interest in knowing which lines in chapter twenty-nine made me cry. But someone asked in a review of the last chapter, so I will go ahead and answer it…
"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."
Yeah. So, anyway…
Only two chapters left now. I have to admit, I'm a bit sad. It feels like something special is coming to an end. Hopefully, the new fic I'm working on will be as well received. It's been difficult for me to get Edward's inner voice right, but has been interesting at the same time. I enjoy a challenge. He might be a bit 'off', but I like what I have so far.
I have decided to leave the epilogue chapter as one, instead of breaking it up into two. I think it will read better that way. Still deciding if I like the final two or so lines, though. I might change them at the last second.
Okay, I'm done rambling on now.
Thanks for putting up with me! And MTLBYAKY