Chapter Four: Conversations

“A little birdie told me that Isabella is spending the day with Katrina and Eleazar.” Tanya’s thoughts reached me a second or two before she appeared in the music room doorway. I tried to block her out, continuing to work on a new piece I was composing. Of course, trying to ignore Tanya was like trying to ignore a tornado as it tore through town.

“You know she doesn’t like to be called by her Christian name. She prefers Bella,” I reminded her absently as I recorded a few notes on my composition page.

I was incredibly proud of my new work. I didn’t often compose my own pieces, but when I was truly inspired I couldn’t stop the notes flowing from my fingertips. When Esme had welcomed me back from my sojourn into nomadic vampire life, I had been inspired to compose a piece based on her incredible motherly love and forgiveness. This time, Bella was my muse, and honestly, it was quickly becoming the best piece I had ever composed.

“I forgot,” she thought, and I could tell she was lying. “So, what are you playing? I haven’t heard this one before.”

She glided across the room, her graceful feet making barely a squeak as she crossed the polished wood floor. She sat next to me on the piano bench, much like Alice had done a few days before. I could only smile as I thought of how drastically life had changed since that day. It was as if my afternoon with Bella had torn down the walls of fear and distrust between us. We were tentatively becoming closer, but it was definitely a start.

“I’m just working on a new composition. I figured I had plenty of time to compose while we were here. It isn’t like I have school to take up my time now,” I said with a half smile.

“I don’t even know why you all go to school anyway,” Tanya said aloud, “it seems like a waste of time to me.”

I nodded, “It’s our attempt at normalcy, but it does eat up time that could be better spent doing more productive things.”

At those words, Tanya leaned into my side, practically purring in my ear. “I can think of more productive things we could be doing. Like I said, your little friend is busy with Kate and Eleazar this afternoon. No one would miss us if we went off on our own for a little while.”

I shuddered and slid off the bench as Tanya attempted to press her lips to my neck. She moved right along with me, and I could feel her light breath tickle my ear as she tried to get closer to me. I knew she was trying to arouse me, but it was doing just the opposite. My body felt numb, as though her affections were paralyzing me. “Tanya,” I said, my voice firm as I turned to look at her, “I don’t want...”

I couldn’t finish what I was saying, because Tanya took the opportunity to press her lips against mine, cutting off my words. The desperation and need for quickness had flashed through her thoughts so quickly that by the time I had registered them, my head had only turned to the side a fraction of an inch and she still easily found my lips.

“I can give you everything you’ve ever wanted,” she thought desperately as she held me close, “that girl doesn’t even look at you that way. Be with me, I want you. I can show you delights you have never even dreamed of before.”

I broke away from her in revulsion at the explicit thoughts in her mind. I didn’t know how many men Tanya had been with, but it was more than than I could fathom, even having access to those memories. It was depressing the way she looked at sex as her way to get everything she wanted. It reminded me that she didn’t really want me, she just wanted to say that she had had me. She wasn’t used to being told ‘no’.

“Tanya,” I said firmly, grabbing her wrists (which had snaked around my neck) and putting them in her lap, “I don’t think we would be good for each other. You know this as well as I do. You just hate being rejected.”

Her face crumpled into a petulant frown. “But, we make sense, Edward,” she argued, too upset to keep the conversation quietly in her mind, “We have been friends for so long and we enjoy each other’s company. You have told me before that you think I’m beautiful!”

This was true, and I couldn’t deny it. “Tanya, you are more radiant than the Alaskan sunrise, but I don’t love you.”

“What does love have to do with it?” she demanded, rubbing her hand against my inner thigh, “I want to bring us both pleasure. What's wrong with that?”

I sighed and pushed her hand away yet again. For years she had been hounding me, but when Bella had shown up, she had gotten much worse. It was as though she could tell I was slipping through her fingers and she couldn’t handle competition.

“I’ve told you before and I’ll tell you again, I am not interested in a meaningless sexual relationship. I want my first partner to be my only partner. I may be old fashioned, but I want my first time to be on my wedding night,” I said simply, trying to keep images of Bella’s dark hair spread across white satin sheets from my mind. Thoughts like that were way too serious for these early stages of our relationship, but I couldn’t seem to keep them at bay. Every time we touched, I couldn’t stop myself from thinking about what it would be like to kiss her, caress her... she was like a drug that I just couldn’t get enough of.

“I would marry you,” Tanya said, though her thoughts betrayed her forceful words, “I would be a faithful wife.”

I laughed and placed a hand on her shoulder. “We both know that isn’t true. You have never been faithful to a man and I don’t really think you want to be.”

She frowned, her thoughts dark but honest in her own mind. She knew as well as I did that she would tire of me soon after we had lain together. She hadn’t yet found a man who could satisfy all of her desires. “I wish you weren’t so moral,” she sighed, “we could have something special.”

“I don’t doubt your skills,” I promised, a sad sort of smile on my face, “but I’m in it for the long haul and you just aren’t built for that.”

Tanya sighed and scooted off the bench, giving me a disappointed look. Her thoughts raced in her head, making it difficult for me to focus on any one possibility, but finally she settled on one, just as she reached the doorway of the music room. “Do you honestly think that your little play thing will be any different than my sisters and I? She is quite beautiful and she might want to experience more than just what you have to offer.”

I felt as though she had kicked me in the gut. It was something I hadn’t wanted to think about, but now that she brought it up, it stuck in my mind like a poisonous barb that I couldn’t work free. “Bella can make her own decisions, I’m not in charge of her,” I said, as politely as I could make it.

“You're a fool,” Tanya tossed at me and then hurried from the room, not realizing that her poisonous words had hit their mark.

I pushed myself away from the piano, Tanya’s ugly thoughts making me unable to continue working on Bella’s song.

I couldn’t make myself wait for Bella to come and find me after her training session with Kate was over, so I headed outside to see if I could interrupt. I had done that a few times in the past couple of days and no one really seemed to mind. Today, of course, I had a different reason for wanting to see Bella and it had little to do with missing her. I needed to know if what Tanya said could possibly be true and I needed to hear it from Bella’s lips.

As I rounded the corner to the area where Bella and Kate spent a good portion of their afternoons, I saw Bella positively glowing with triumph. She caught sight of me and sprinted to my side, full of giddy satisfaction. “Edward, I think I had a breakthrough today!” she told me, placing a hand on my arm and squeezing it in her excitement.

“Oh?” I asked curiously. Even though Tanya’s thoughts weighed heavy on my mind, I was able to push them aside for a moment to hear Bella’s news. If something pleased her, it would most likely please me as well.

“Well, Carmen came out a few minutes ago to see how things were going,” Bella said, gesturing to the petite Latino vampire, “and Kate got this weird gleam in her eye and made a move to touch her. I knew I had to protect Carmen from Kate’s gift, before I was even conscious of doing it, I was shielding her. It was like my shield became elastic and I shot it toward her, encasing her as well as myself. I was able to protect someone else!”

Her smile was so brilliant and contagious that I couldn’t stop myself from smiling back. It was an impressive feat, something that Kate hadn’t even been sure Bella would be able to. It also told me how much Bella loved Carmen. The woman had quickly become like a mother to her. “Bella, that is wonderful news,” I said and placed my hand over hers on my arm, “it sounds like you are making good progress.”

Carmen beamed at Bella, “She has strong protective instincts. I would hate to be someone on the wrong side of her.”

Bella turned to her older friend. “You would never be on the wrong side of me,” she said firmly, “I absolutely adore you.”

“And I you, hija,” Carmen said fondly.

The moment was so poignant that I was tempted to leave and discuss my worries with her another time, but when I tried to pull away Bella tightened her grip on my arm. “I need to talk to you about something,” she said to me and then turned to Kate, “do you mind if I cut out early today?”

Kate grinned slyly at her, “Oh, I think we had a good day. You take off, you crazy kids.”

Bella turned to me, a determined sort of smile on her face. “Do you mind if we go hunting while we talk? I’m starving.”

Her hand went to her throat and she winced a bit. I knew she got thirsty much more often than the rest of us and we tried to accommodate her with frequent hunts, but unfortunately she didn’t always tell us when she needed to hunt. I wasn’t sure if she wanted to seem strong, or if she just hated bothering us. Whatever the reason, I was quick to agree. “Of course we can. You shouldn’t wait so long next time, just let one of us know,” I said seriously, “you need to keep yourself on a steady diet for a while.”

Bella winced again and nodded. “That might be best,” she agreed, “so, are you ready to go?”

I gestured to the forest with a flourish, trying to keep my own worries at bay. “After you, milady.”

An hour later we found ourselves lying back on the forest floor, our stomachs full to bursting with the blood of our prey. I still couldn’t believe that Bella had taken down two bears and an elk, never failing to capture her target. She had hunted with such grace, such beauty, that it had been difficult for me to concentrate on finding my own prey. I had actually had to chase down one elk because I had missed him the first time. Bella had enjoyed watching that though. It had made her laugh. Even though it had come at the cost of my embarrassment, I liked making her laugh. It made it all worth it.

“So, Edward, can I ask you for a favor?” Bella asked hesitantly.

I turned to look at her and saw that her eyes were focused on the ground where she was making doodles in the snow with her fingers. “You can ask me anything, you already know that,” I told her, reaching out to take her hand in mine. She squeezed it, as though trying to take reassurance from my closeness.

“I’ve been thinking about my parents a lot lately, and I was wondering if there was any way that I can tell them I’m okay,” she said in a rush, obviously expecting me to give her an answer she didn’t want to hear.

I paused, unsure of how to respond. While I thought, I sat up, pulling her upright as well. “I’m not sure what would be best,” I said honestly. I knew her father was the Chief of Police in Forks and I also knew what that meant. He would never rest until he knew his daughter was all right. The problem was that nothing I could think of would be answer enough for a grieving family.

“Could I call Renee or Charlie? I wouldn’t have to tell them where I am or what happened, I could just let them know I’m alive,” Bella prompted, hope in her eyes.

“Bella, have you heard your voice?” I asked her, as gentle as I could manage, “you sound nothing at all like your old self. They wouldn’t recognize you, would probably feel hurt that they were being prank called.”

Her face fell, crumpling into a look of hopelessness. “Could I go and see them? I know Florida and Arizona would be out because of the sun, but what about Charlie? Could I visit him and show him that I’m okay?”

Once again I felt awful as I had to dash her hopes. “You’ve been a vampire for only a few months. You can barely be around a kodiak bear without tearing into him. Would you trust yourself around your father, around people you care about?” I hated hurting her, but I knew if she hurt her father, she would never forgive herself. I was trying to protect her and I hoped she would understand that.

She put a hand to her mouth, gasping at the thought of killing her father. “Alright, visiting is out, at least for now,” she agreed, “but maybe in a year or so when I’m more in control?”

I nodded, “I think that would be fine, but we will have to take it month by month. As soon as I think you are ready, I will let you visit your father.”

Bella dropped her hand, sighing. “That still doesn’t help with what I should do now. I can’t just let them worry about me until I can control myself. I’m sure they are worried sick.”

I thought about that for another long moment. I wanted more than anything to make her happy, to let all of her worries disappear so she could feel free to make the most of her new life. “You could always write them a letter,” I said hesitantly. “You would have to be careful about what you say. I know it isn’t the best option, but you can tell them that you are alright and... happy.”

Her eyes shot to mine, the expression inscrutable. I wished that I could take the words back as soon as they were out. I had obviously said the wrong thing, assumed that she felt more for me than she did. I immediately dropped her hand and scooted myself away from Bella.

“Charlie probably won’t stop looking for me, but at least he would know that I’m still alive,” she said, looking away from me in obvious embarrassment. “I want my parents to know that I’m happy in my new life.”

I tried to hide a smile, but I couldn’t. I had been wrong: she had just been embarrassed by her own emotions. It was a heady, wonderful thing. I reached for her hand again and she willingly gave it to me, her eyes still focused on the ground. “Are you really happy?” I couldn’t help but ask.

Bella nodded, finally forcing herself to look at me. Her eyes were clear and full of contentment. “I didn’t think I could be, but I am. I have friends and family who really understand me, who support me. I’ve never really experienced this before,” she admitted.

Her words sent an odd chill through me. Part of me was elated to think that she really was happy here with us, that I hadn’t ruined her life forever. The other part of me wondered what her life had been like before she had arrived in Forks and I had brought her into my world. I decided to ask: after all, friends could ask, couldn’t they? “Why did you move to Forks? I never thought to ask,” I said curiously, hoping that Bella would confide in me.

She got quiet, and her brows furrowed. I knew from experience that trying to remember life before the transformation was difficult. It was like trying to look through mud. It was possible, but not easy. “My mom and dad are divorced, they had been since I was a baby,” she began, speaking slowly as she sifted through the cloudy memories. “My mom got remarried a few months ago to a guy named Phil. He was nice, but he was a minor league baseball player trying to make it in the big leagues. It meant that he traveled a lot and my mom missed him. I hated that she felt miserable staying home with me, so I decided to move in with Charlie.”

“So, your mother didn’t think about your needs, like having a stable home life?” I asked, outraged that Bella had sacrificed her own happiness so that her mother could travel with her new husband. It sounded to me like Bella was the one making all the sacrifices.

Bella shook her head. “You don’t know my mother. She’s very... childlike I guess. I’ve always been the one to take care of her. She has poor impulse control.”

“That isn’t really an excuse,” I told her.

“It’s hard to understand when you don’t know someone like that. I guess I’ve just always been the adult, I’m used to taking care of people. When my mother got remarried she didn’t need me to take care of her anymore. It’s another reason that I left, I wasn’t needed anymore,” Bella said with a shrug of her shoulders. I could tell she was trying to be flippant, but she failed miserably. I could see the pain in her eyes as she thought about her mother and their life together.

I squeezed her hand tightly. “You miss her, don’t you?”

She nodded, swallowing hard against the tears that she couldn’t shed. “She was my best friend, we did everything together. She didn’t understand me though, we were nothing alike,” she whispered.

I moved closer to her and wrapped my arm around her shoulder, drawing her into an embrace. “I’m so sorry, Bella. I shouldn’t have asked,” I said, my heart breaking a little as I felt her shudder with tearless sobs.

“It’s just, I’ve never looked at it objectively before. I always just thought that my mom needed me to take care of her and so I did. I never thought of her as selfish,” Bella wept into my shirt, clinging tightly the cotton fabric. All I could do was hold her, because nothing I could say could fix this. “She loved me though, I always knew that she loved me.”

“Of course she did,” I murmured, running my hands up and down her back in a soothing motion. “I’m sorry that I upset you, I didn’t mean anything by it, Bella.”

“I know,” she whispered, finally pulling herself out of my arms, “I know you didn’t mean to upset me. I just... I guess this was a long time coming. I’ve never thought about my own wants and needs until now.”

“Sometimes it takes a big event to make you see the world differently,” I said philosophically, “and what you have been through in the past month is bigger than what most people go through. The thing is, you now have the time and the opportunity to discover what you want out of life. So what do you want?”

“I don’t know, I really haven’t taken the time to think about it yet,” she admitted with a smile that, while small, effectively banished the melancholy mood that had fallen over the afternoon. “Kate suggested that I do some traveling after I can control myself. I have always wanted to backpack through Europe.”

I smiled at that admission. It sounded very much like the Bella that I was getting to know. She was so practical and tried so hard to hide her soft romantic side. Backpacking was the practical side of her. She didn’t want to stay in high priced hotels; she wanted to live on the land. Her romantic side saw the beauty and mystery of Europe. I desperately wanted to see that dream come true, I wanted to be there when she saw Paris and Berlin for the first time. I wanted to share this dream with her.

“Alone?” I asked simply, hoping that she couldn’t hear the desire to accompany her in my voice.

Bella smiled dreamily, squeezing my hand lightly. “Perhaps, but I think I would enjoy company. Maybe we can all go. It would be a nice way to celebrate putting my newborn status behind me. I can just see Alice dragging me around Paris. She is very determined to dress everyone, isn’t she?”

I laughed and nodded, threading my fingers through hers. “Alice likes seeing everyone look their best. If you let her, she will buy you an outfit for every hour of the day,” I said, grinning at the thought. “I don’t think I’ve ever worn the same pair of jeans more than once. Alice just has this need to treat us all like her own personal mannequins.”

Bella groaned, but there was laughter in the sound. “I haven’t wanted her to be upset with me, but I absolutely hate being dressed up. I’m just not comfortable in designer clothing,” she admitted.

I chuckled, “I’ll talk to her for you, but I can’t promise it will help. Alice is a force of nature, she can’t be stopped.”

“Yeah, that’s what I was worried about,” she said with a long suffering sigh. She leaned her head against my shoulder and I felt a thrill run through me. It was such a perfect moment, sitting with Bella in a snow quiet forest, our hands linked and her head resting against my shoulder. If I could stop time, this would be the moment I would choose. It was a culmination of everything I had been hoping for.

My thoughts began to drift as I enjoyed the peaceful time with the girl I adored. Every single day that I spent with her, the more confidences we shared, the more I grew to care about her. I still couldn’t say if it was love, but if it wasn’t, it was damn close.

“So, what did you want to talk to me about?” Bella asked, breaking the comfortable silence between us.

I hesitated, not wanting to ruin the peace we had found, but knowing that I wouldn’t really be able to relax without Bella’s assurances that Tanya was wrong. Not that Bella had romantic feelings for me, not yet anyway, but I was hopeful that eventually she would. Would I be enough for her? Would she want the things that I wanted out of life? I wouldn’t know unless I asked her.

“You said you wanted to travel in the future,” I began and Bella nodded against my shoulder, “I was wondering if there was anything else you wanted out of life.”

Bella was quiet for a moment, and then I felt her relax against me. “The thing is, I never had plans for the future. I guess college was always an option, but I didn’t really have anything specific that I wanted to study or be. Honestly, this was probably the best thing that could have happened to me. I don’t feel lost anymore, but I don’t have to make any tough choices either. I had no idea what I wanted to be; now it’s been decided for me.”

I thought about her answer. It made sense once I had discovered how much of her time had been devoted to others. She had never really thought about herself and her wants, so she had never really considered her future. That made the question of a monogamous relationship an odd thing. Had she ever really thought about it? “What about a family, did you ever want a husband and children?” I asked. I hoped that it would just sound like a natural progression of my other question and not like the someday proposal that it might be.

Bella laughed and pulled away from me. I saw that her face was wrinkled in a pretty frown. “My only experiences with marriage are my mother’s, and I don’t want any part of that,” she said.

Just like Tanya’s words had earlier, Bella’s words hit me like a kick in the gut. “You don’t want to ever fall in love?” I asked, hoping my words sounded lighter than they felt.

She looked at me strangely and shook her head. “Most marriages aren’t about love, they are about infatuation. I have nothing against love exactly. I just feel that if you love someone, that should be enough. So many marriages end in divorce. Besides, isn’t marriage kind of a human convention anyway?”

I felt a sigh of relief run through me. She was one of those women: the ones who felt that marriage was a contract and not a promise. That I could work with. “What do you mean, a human convention?” I asked curiously, wondering about the way she had worded her comment.

“Well, it just seems that something like a ‘wedding’ would be kind of pointless in the grand scheme of things, wouldn’t it? Carmen and Eleazar seem to be very devoted to each other, but I can’t imagine them standing in front of a priest... a vampire? It seems ridiculous,” Bella said with a light laugh.

“Carmen and Eleazar are married,” I said simply, “so are Alice and Jasper. Why would you think having an official promise or vow to each other would be any less important to immortals? We still love the same way humans do, more so actually. You really have to be devoted to someone to promise to love them for eternity, don’t you think?”

Bella closed her mouth, obviously stunned by the way I had answered her question. “You want to get married someday, don’t you?” she asked softly, reaching out her free hand to stroke my face, “You are very old fashioned.”

I smiled at that, it was definitely true. “I was born in 1901, so yes, I have very old fashioned ideas and morals. That doesn’t mean they aren’t still worth having, even in this day and age where people don’t respect their partners. I was raised to do my best by a lady and to treat her like a princess. That means doing right by her and giving her my name.”

“You are one of a kind,” Bella said with a smile.

“As are you, Bella, as are you,” I told her simply.

It didn’t look like I would sway her easily, but there was a ray of hope there. I just had to be patient enough to persuade her. And, as I had told her many times before, we had eternity to figure things out. An eternity in which to ask the difficult questions like whether commitment was important to her. I was not a patient male, but I could wait for her. I was suddenly quite eager to get back to the house and work on my composition. I had an entire afternoon’s worth of new inspiration to drive me.

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