Chapter One: Guilt

In the end, Carlisle decided that the least conspicuous thing to do was for Alice, Jasper and I to head to Alaska and for the rest of the family to stay until after graduation. After a few minutes of discussion, Esme reminded him that it would look suspicious if the entire family left town at the same time Bella Swan seemed to have disappeared. She told us that she would inform the school that the three of us missed home and decided to go back to Alaska and stay with some friends for the remainder of the school year.

“I’m not sure what I should tell my colleagues the family emergency was,” Carlisle mused thoughtfully, stroking his chin.

“Well, what if we say a friend of ours in Alaska was in an accident and died, that could provide a good reason for why we are heading back there for the rest of the year,” Alice suggested. “We are going back to comfort and help our friends out.”

“That would give us a plausible cover story,” Carlisle agreed.

“It’s pathetic that we need one,” Rosalie said disdainfully, “If Edward hadn’t screwed up we wouldn’t need to do this.”

“That’s not fair, Rosalie, other people in this family have made mistakes that have caused us to do this same thing before. You can’t blame him for losing control this once,” Esme reprimanded her gently.

“Hell, I was beginning to feel weak compared to you,” Emmett said and punched me in the shoulder, “Thanks for showing the family I’m not the only weak link.”

While everyone was talking and trying to figure out a way to repair my mistakes I ignored them and stayed quiet, my eyes fixed on the small girl on our sofa. She hadn’t opened her eyes since we brought her home. Even though Carlisle assured me that she was indeed going through the change, I worried that she wasn’t going to make it through. She seemed so incredibly small and fragile to me, even for a human. Every whimper or scream of pain she made was ingrained in my memory forever.

I couldn’t stop myself from reaching out to touch her hand, trying to give her some comfort, but every time I tried she would shudder and pull away.

I felt a hand on my shoulder and I looked up into Alice’s face. “I’m sorry I didn’t try harder to stop you.”

I flinched away from the guilt in her voice. She shouldn’t be shouldering the burden for what I had done, but that was the way Alice had always been. She had always taken some of the blame for things that had gone wrong; she had felt obligated to do everything in her power to make sure her visions didn’t come true. She couldn’t have made me feel worse if she had yelled at me.

“I’m sorry I didn’t listen to you, the pull was just too strong,” I muttered and she squeezed my shoulder.

“I would have gone after you and left the others to drive home, but I had another vision of the girl joining our family…” her words trailed off but I saw her vision replayed in her mind. Alice had been weak as well, she had seen Bella becoming one of us and seen that they would become close friends. In her moment of weakness she had let me carry out the vision so she could gain happiness with a new friend. “It was selfish of me.”

“No more selfish than me letting my bloodlust take her life away,” I disagreed.

“I saw something else too,” she paused nervously, as though she knew I wasn’t going to like where this led.

“I don’t think I want to know,” I said firmly and Alice nodded, letting her mind drift away to another topic.

“We will take care of her, she won’t want for anything we can give her,” Alice said quietly as she looked down at Bella. I knew she was trying to make me feel better, but it was woefully inadequate.

“She is going to be okay,” Alice reminded me, “I’ve seen her.”

I tried to let myself be reassured, but I had never done something like this before. I wondered if this was how Carlisle felt every time he had changed one of us. Was she screaming more or less than normal? Was her body in so much pain that she couldn’t think of the strange people surrounding her, just the agony she was in? I felt lost, confused and worried. I hadn’t run for Carlisle’s help just to let her die now.

“What vehicle should we take?” Jasper asked Carlisle. At the mention of travel I tuned myself back into the conversation; this was something I was curious about as well.

“We can take the Volvo if we lay the back seats down and set up a makeshift bed for Bella,” Alice suggested. “That way one of us can sit with her at all times.”

“We should get her out of town as soon as possible, you will want to have her somewhere stable during the last few hours of her change,” Carlisle mused and then he turned to me, “Edward, I’ll need some help getting the equipment set up in the Volvo.”

I looked at Bella again, her dark hair fanning around a pale white face contorted in pain. If only I could hear her thoughts, then I would know if everything was working right! I turned a pained look on Alice and she knew instinctively what I wanted. “I’ll wait with her while you help Carlisle,” she said, touching my hand reassuringly. I took one last look at Bella and then followed Carlisle to the garage.

“I know that it doesn’t make much sense to make her comfortable when all she can feel is the pain, but as a doctor I can’t just let her suffer and do nothing to help her,” Carlisle muttered as we folded the seats down in the back of the Volvo to make room for Bella’s bedding and medical supplies.

While we compiled a list of things we would need from Carlisle’s medical kit, Esme brought us a large quilt and some feather pillows from the linen closet. She insisted on making up a bed for her while we gathered the equipment we needed.

“Things will work out, Edward,” Esme told me silently, “I’m not sure how, but they will.”

“While you are in the car with her, make sure you talk to her and explain what is happening. It’s a terrifying enough experience without someone to comfort you,” Carlisle thought almost reminiscently.

I thought about that while I watched Esme fluff the pillows and rearrange the quilt. I knew that Bella was going to be confused when she first felt the burn in her throat and the strength of her limbs, but I didn’t know what to say to make it easier or believable.

“What should I say?”

For all I knew she would awaken to this life and attack me for what I did to her. What could I possibly say that would ease her into our way of life and our family?

Carlisle thought about that for a moment, his mind flitting from one idea to the next, rejecting them all for one reason or another. Finally he sighed as he closed the door of the Volvo. “Just let Alice handle it, she will know what to do.”

I sighed and raked a hand through my hair. I didn’t want Alice shouldering all the responsibility of taking care of Bella. I had done this; it was my burden to bear! How could I stand by and watch as my family fixed all of my mistakes? I needed to do something to help; I didn’t want to be a dead weight, watching helplessly from the sidelines.

Carlisle must have sensed my frustration because he put his hand on my shoulder and looked into my eyes. “Edward, everyone makes mistakes. The wonderful thing about families is the people involved care about each other enough to help fix mistakes. You don’t have to do everything alone.”

I thought about Carlisle’s words as Jasper, Alice and I climbed into the Volvo and set off for Denali. Esme had called the Denali coven and explained the situation, so I knew that Carmen would set up rooms for us in their home. I was looking forward to seeing our friends, even under these unfortunate circumstances, but I still wished that it didn’t have to happen.

Alice had situated herself next to Bella, holding her hand and smoothing her hair out of her face with a gentle hand. As I watched them I saw Bella’s back bow, screaming in agony, her arms flailing wildly as she lashed out at something only she could see. A moan of guilt strangled me as I made a move toward her, reaching out to comfort her. Alice gave me a pitying look and turned her attention back to Bella, attempting to soothe and calm her as much as possible. I slunk back to where I had been sitting, my eyes locked on the screaming girl.

“I wish I had your self-control.”

I snorted and turned towards Jasper, who had spoken to me through his thoughts so as not to let Alice hear our discussion.

“Right,” I muttered sarcastically under my breath, “I’m the king of self-control. We are just making a normal trip up to Alaska because we feel like it.”

“I’m serious, Edward. I smelled her blood from across the parking lot and it was indeed appetizing. If I started to feed from anyone I wouldn’t be able to stop. You stopped… what I want to know is how you did it and why.”

“You should know why I stopped; I didn’t want to harm her in the first place. The problem was that her blood called to me in a way I’ve never experienced before. I don’t think I could have stopped myself from luring her into those woods even if you and Emmett had tackled me. I was too far gone to think about anything else.”

The scene from the parking lot played in my head again, as clear now as it had been an hour ago when it had happened. I knew that it was wrong to kill her; I knew that it would cause my family problems, but I couldn’t stop myself. There was something so alluring about her that I had to have her, no matter what the cost.

“If she was so tempting, how did you stop once you bit her and tasted her blood?”

I knew that Jasper wasn’t spiteful and angry, like Rosalie. He was genuinely curious; he wanted to know how I had stopped. The problem was that I really didn’t know how I had stopped. It was like something in me had broken when I saw the blood on her skin. In that instant I knew that I had broken more than the treaty we had with the Quileute’s in La Push, I had stolen the life of a human being. It was something I had promised myself I would never do again. I didn’t know if Jasper would understand that, but I would try to explain it.

“Alice had seen a vision of me covered in her blood and I knew it was going to come true, the problem is that when it did… I couldn’t handle it. In the moment that I saw the blood on her skin my mind snapped. I had promised myself years ago that I would never take another human life; I had put my rebellious years behind me. I couldn’t live with myself knowing that I had taken another person’s life. It’s not my place to decide who should live and die. I was so horrified with what I was doing that it snapped me out of the pull the bloodlust had on me. When I was able to pull myself away from her, I ran as fast as I could to find Carlisle. I knew that I had to do everything in my power to save her, even if it meant spending the rest of my existence easing her into our world.”

Jasper was quiet after that, his mind carefully examining each point I had mentioned and comparing it to his own moral code. I was thankful for the reprieve; it left me free to watch over Bella again.

During my few minutes with Jasper, Alice had begun talking to Bella, explaining the new life she was going to be living. It was difficult for me to listen to Alice talk about life as one of us, to know that every word she said was true. I myself was over a hundred years old and still as young as I had looked on the day Carlisle had changed me. It was a lot to take in for anyone. Even I was still facing each new day and wondering if I was caught in a never ending nightmare. I just hoped I could make it different for her.

“…I know it’s painful now, but the pain won’t last forever. When it’s all over you will be surprised at how many things you can do that you couldn’t before. You’ll be able to run fast and never get tired, you will have time to learn anything you ever wanted to know and you will have people around who want to help you succeed. You have a family waiting to welcome you with open arms if you want us…”

More than ever I wished I knew what she was thinking. I wanted to know if she could hear Alice or if the pain was overpowering her ability to think at all. Would she be willing to join our family? Or would she hate me so much for what I did to her that she would become another nomad?

These questions and more ran through my mind as we drove to Denali. The trip which would take a human driver over fifty hours only took us twenty, though it was a long twenty hours with Bella’s shrieks of agony as our constant companion. Somewhere between Terrace and Stewart in British Columbia, Bella’s temperature rose as her heart began pumping double speed. Alice dug through the medical supplies we brought with us and found an Insta-Cold ice pack. Bella’s screams increased when the iciness of the pack touched her head but after a few minutes Alice told me that the fever was reducing to more normal rates.

Jasper couldn’t drive fast enough for me, I wanted to arrive in Denali and get Bella into a real bed for the end of her transformation. Carlisle had stressed the importance of the last few hours; so many things could go wrong. He promised me that I could call him the minute her heart rate changed, (becoming a hum instead of beats) and he would talk me through any problems that might occur. I knew that intellectually I could handle any surprise that might come my way; but emotionally, I wasn’t so sure. I had done everything possible to save this girl; if she died, it would be entirely my fault.

I didn’t know if I could live with myself if that happened.

We arrived in Denali just before midnight the day after we left Forks. Jasper parked the car on the sweeping lawn of our friend’s home and rushed to the door to let them know we were bringing Bella inside.

Eleazar arrived outside in time to watch Alice scoop a whimpering girl into her arms. He helped her maneuver her way into the house, so as not to jostle Bella too much and he turned to me with a knowing sadness in his eyes. “I’m glad you came to us for help.” His thoughts were gentle but there were memories layering it and I cringed from them. Eleazar had seen more in his life than I ever wished to see.

“Thank you for hosting us during this difficult time, we needed to be away from searching eyes to help her,” I said as we clasped hands. He put a hand on my shoulder and squeezed it in a familiar way.

“You know we would do anything for such good friends,” he said in a tone that made me feel guilty for thanking them. It was true they were like family to us, but it was hard enough for me to lay my problems at Carlisle and Esme’s feet, bringing them to our Denali “cousins” felt even worse.

Carmen poked her head outside and motioned to me and Eleazar. “Come on upstairs, we have a room set up for your new friend to use while she recovers.”

It felt odd to have Bella’s circumstances described that way, but I knew that Carmen was just trying to make me feel more comfortable with the situation and I appreciated that. “Thank you for letting us stay with you,” I told her as she pulled me into a motherly hug.

“The Cullen’s are always welcome to stay with us, no matter what the situation is,” Carmen chided me and hustled me up the stairs. “Alice says that the girl is going to be a great beauty and I agree; from what little I saw of her she is going to rival my Tanya in looks.”

“Well, I don’t know if I would say that,” came a familiar, sultry voice from an open door to our right. I turned and saw a head of strawberry blonde hair as Tanya walked out into the hallway to greet us.

“Ah, Tanya,” I said politely, “It’s nice to see you again.”

A glint of anger flashed in her eyes as she looked across the hall and watched Alice settling Bella into bed. “I’ve been wondering when you would come back to see us. I’ve missed you,” she said and her lower lip pouted in a way I’m sure any other male would have found highly attractive. It always annoyed me. Before I could give her a brotherly hug she leaned forward and pressed a welcoming kiss to my lips. I smiled ruefully, knowing that this would be a problem I would have to face while staying here.

“Have you changed your mind about my offer?” Tanya thought the question as opposed to speaking it. I knew it was because she didn’t want anyone else to overhear.

I hesitated, looking into the room where Alice was attempting to comfort Bella. Then I shook my head, unable to look at the hurt on her face from my rejection. “Now isn’t a good time for this,” I muttered.

“I see. I suppose I’m just going to have to watch you deal with your new friend,” she thought bitterly.

I turned back toward her, anger and hurt clawing their way out of me and into my next words. “That isn’t it and you know it. I did this to her and now I need to help her,” I spat forcefully at her.

A wounded look passed through her eyes and I knew my words had hit their mark. I reached out a hand towards her to ease the pain I had caused, but I saw it was no use. She quickly turned back into her room and shut the door with such force that it rattled the door frame. I closed my eyes and sighed, I would have to make it up to her in some way, but I didn’t know how. She wanted something I couldn’t give her, and it was hurting both of us more and more each time we saw each other.

“She will calm down, it is in her nature to be very passionate,” Carmen reminded me. “Now go and sit with your friend, she will be in need of a friend and mentor soon enough.”

With that she took Eleazar by the hand, and they made their way back downstairs, leaving me to go inside Bella’s room and face the next two days agonizing at her side.

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