Chapter Five: Laws
“There is no reason you can’t visit the Louvre,” Alice said seriously. “Why do you think you can’t?”
When Bella and I had shown back up at the house after our afternoon hunt and our long talk together, I made the mistake of telling Alice about Bella’s desire to see Europe. In true Alice style, she had taken over and begun planning a huge lavish trip, ignoring Bella’s pleas to keep it simple. When Bella had expressed sadness over missing the visiting hours in the Louvre in Paris, however, Alice had bristled with indignation.
“Well, the Louvre closes at night and we can’t exactly waltz in with shimmering skin. I think that might alert security that something is up,” Bella said with a laugh, “I don’t really want to be hunted down with torches and pitchforks.”
Alice shook her head, bouncing up and down on the balls of her feet. “Haven’t you ever heard of private tours? We can set one up for an evening, or we can choose a cloudy day to visit Paris. I’ve never been wrong about the weather yet,” she said seriously.
“I can’t let you set up a private tour, that would cost a fortune!” Bella said in exasperation, “The whole point of backpacking is to spend as little money as possible. I don’t want to stay in hotels, especially when we won’t be sleeping. I don’t want to visit famous restaurants when we won’t be eating. Alice, I just want the opportunity to see and experience these places.”
Alice pouted, but I stepped in before she could argue with Bella again. “Alice, this is her celebration, so she can plan it the way she wants. If you want to go on a trip through Europe and do all the things you want, have Jasper take you on your dozenth honeymoon.”
She stuck out her tongue at me. “I’m just trying to help make her first trip to Europe memorable. I want to make sure she enjoys herself.”
“But Alice, I don’t want to waste money on things we don’t even need. Why book rooms in hotels that we won’t use? Why the restaurants and the cafes and the car rentals? We can get around perfectly well without all of that,” Bella argued. “What I want most about this trip is having my friends around me and sharing these memories with all of you. Going to the Louvre, the Eiffel Tower, seeing the remains of the Berlin Wall; those are the things that really matter to me.”
I tried to hide a smile as I watched Bella go head to head with Alice. I could tell that this was something she really wanted, something that she felt she needed exactly the way she wanted it. I was immensely proud of her. “I think you have made some very valid points, Bella,” I said, practically beaming with pleasure, “but if money is your only concern, you don’t have to worry. We have more than enough for anything you might ever need.”
Her eyebrows rose in a condescending way, as though she didn’t really believe me. “It doesn’t matter how much money you have. There is no reason to be throwing it away on things we won’t even use. We're in a recession, you know,” she said seriously.
“Bella, you do know that I can see the future, right?” Alice asked delicately, settling herself into a sofa beside the ever quiet Jasper. I knew where this was heading and I pursed my lips, trying to stop myself from laughing.
Bella shrugged, “I know what you’ve all told me, but I don’t see what that has to do with money.”
“I can predict trends in the stock market,” Alice said with a prim sort of smile. “Our family has more money than we could ever spend in our long lives.”
Bella’s mouth dropped open, but she quickly closed it again and forced a polite smile on her face. “Well, that may be the case, but I still refuse to stay in a hotel. It’s just ridiculous.”
Alice threw her hands up in the air, exasperated. “You win, we won’t spend frivolous money.”
“Does that mean I won’t have to visit any boutiques with you?” Bella asked hopefully.
Alice eyed Bella critically. “I said we won’t spend money on frivolities. Clothing is a necessity.”
I couldn’t keep it in any longer, I burst out laughing. Both girls turned to me, though only Bella had a smile on her face. “Bella, you might as well give in on this one. Alice isn’t going to budge,” I insisted, putting a hand on Bella’s shoulder.
“Oh, all right,” Bella said with a sigh, “I’ll let you take me shopping.”
Alice squealed excitedly, jumping off the sofa and pulling Bella into a tight hug. “I can’t wait to tell the others, they are going to be so excited!”
As for me, I was glad that Tanya and her sisters had gone out hunting after Bella had cut her training session short. If Tanya had been home to see how happy Bella and I had been when we arrived back at the house... well, I didn’t think it would have been a pretty picture. Tanya was already jealous of Bella. Our arrival with hands clasped would have been a little too much for her.
“We should probably stop by and visit Aro and the others while we are in Italy,” Jasper said casually from the sofa.
I froze at his words, the thought of the Volturi sending chills up my spine. I didn’t want Bella anywhere near the vampires that governed our secret world. The stories of them commandeering vampires with exceptional talents was legendary. I couldn’t bear it if they were able to steal her away from me. “Is that necessary?” I asked lightly, “They probably wouldn’t even care that we missed them this trip.”
“It’s only polite, Edward. You know how Carlisle feels about keeping relations friendly with them,” Jasper said, and his thoughts were confused. He couldn’t figure out why I was so afraid of them when I never had been before.
“Who is Aro?” Bella asked curiously, breaking into our conversation.
Every eye in the room turned to Bella, and I could tell that none of us knew exactly how to answer that question. Did we call them royalty? Gestapo? They were a little of both. I didn’t want to scare Bella, but once again I felt that the truth was more important in the long run. “Aro is one of the three leaders of the Volturi. The Volturi is pretty much the closest thing to royalty that our world has,” I began, trying to sound nonchalant so that she wouldn’t detect the worry I was feeling.
Bella’s eyes widened in surprise. “Royalty? So what, they govern us?”
I nodded, relieved by the way she had phrased it. It made it sound much nicer, like we had a choice in the matter. “Yes. Their duty is to enforce the laws that we live by. If a coven gets out of hand, the Volturi go and take care of it. That way we can keep to ourselves and not worry about what other covens might be doing,” I explained, crossing the room to where Bella was sitting. It was a small alcove under a big window, where Carmen and Esme had years ago fashioned a comfortable and padded seat. I sat beside her and put an arm gently around her shoulder.
She leaned into me, seemingly without thinking about the action. “What kind of laws are we talking about here? You haven’t mentioned anything about them before.” She sounded a little perturbed, as if we were keeping secrets from her.
Alice piped up from the sofa near the window seat where Bella and I were sitting. “There is really only one law: everything else falls under it,” she said and then smiled patiently. “We can’t let humans know of our existence.”
“Oh,” Bella said and laughed softly, shaking her head, “I should have figured that out. It makes sense.”
“Most vampires aren’t like us, Bella,” I said tenderly, brushing her hair back behind her shoulder. “We only drink from animals because we don’t want to hurt anyone. We have found that it makes us more able to live in bigger groups and form stronger relationships. Generally, the Volturi would never bother us because we don’t make spectacles of ourselves. Occasionally a newborn will run rampant and kill so many people that the Volturi would take notice, or they could accidentally show themselves to a human. Those kinds of things put all of us in danger. That would be a cause for the Volturi to take action.”
“So, you shouldn’t worry yourself about them,” Alice said with a deliberate nod, “They don’t normally leave Italy unless there is something really big for them to take care of.”
Bella relaxed against me, her head resting on my shoulder. “So, you said Aro is one of three. Who are the other two?”
Jasper piped up, a look of awe and respect on his face. “We don’t know a lot about them. It isn’t really our business to know them. The only reason we know them well is because both Eleazar and Carlisle spent time with them before settling down with a family. Aro is the self proclaimed spokesman of the three. He has a way with words and the others, including their guard, fall behind him almost unanimously. He has the gift of being able to read every thought your mind has ever had, but he has to be able to touch you. It’s a limitation that Carlisle has says he doesn’t care for very much. Then there is Marcus, the quietest of the three men. He is also the most gifted of the three leaders.”
“Really?” Bella asked interestedly, leaning forward as if to better hear Jasper’s words. “What is his gift?”
“He can detect relationships between people and can sense the strength between them. It’s an interesting and unique talent,” I said thoughtfully. I could see the advantages of such a talent in the hands of the Volturi, but I didn’t say any of that aloud. Speaking against our leaders wasn’t exactly something you lived to tell about.
“What about the third? What role does he play?” Bella asked Jasper.
Jasper hesitated, and I couldn’t blame him. Not much was really known about the snowy-haired third member of the Volturi. Carlisle had said that Caius was a sullen and power hungry vampire, but the two had never been close. Carlisle had never felt like he could trust him. “He has no special talents, so he ends up handling the messy business,” I said honestly, “He sends out the guard to take care of problems.”
Bella thought that over and then looked at me. “So, this guard... are they there just to take care of potential problems? Or do they have other responsibilities?”
“It depends on the vampire,” I said. “Some of them attend specifically to the leaders, and others handle the dirty work. Most of the time they aren’t needed though, so their numbers tend to fluctuate. I’m not sure how many members of the guard there are right now.”
Bella sighed and placed her chin in a hand that rested on her knee. “This world of yours certainly has it’s complexities, doesn’t it?”
I chuckled and squeezed her into my side. “You have no idea.”
I had finally settled down into the music room again, my head filled with thoughts of Bella and my composition. I was surprised, but more than that, thrilled, by the way our relationship was progressing. She had settled so well into this life that even our talk about the Volturi hadn’t jarred her from the progress she was making as a newborn. Pride filled me, putting a contented smile on my face as I opened up the piano. Bella was so much more than I had ever thought. She was strong, brave, funny and completely wonderful.
I pulled my composition from its hiding place and set it in the music stand, putting my fingers to the keys so that I could play what I already had. The music began to flow out of the piano, filling the room with the luxurious notes that only a grand piano can produce. The tune was much more romantic than any I had ever written and I knew it was because of my muse. The tune reminded me of the mountains and the snow, of Bella’s eyes lighting up and of glimmering skin in the sunlight. It was everything that was Bella all rolled into one beautiful song.
I was adding a second harmony to my newest section when the music door was flung open.
“Edward, I saw...” Alice breathed, but she didn’t have to continue because I could see the vision unfolding in her mind. I saw Bella pacing around the room that Carmen and Eleazar had gracefully given her to decorate and have as her own. She looked confused and absolutely miserable as she walked around and around her room. Then suddenly, she seemed to have come to a decision. She flew to her door, flung it open and raced down the stairs, heading for the front door. A chill ran down my spine as I realized that Bella was attempting to leave us.
“When... when is this supposed to happen?” I asked, grabbing Alice’s shoulders and shaking her as though the answers would spill from her. I felt as frozen as the tundra around the house we were in, so frozen that I couldn’t even keep up the pretense of breathing. Could Bella really leave us? And a bigger question was why. “Was it me? Will I do something to cause this?”
Alice shook her head, her eyes wide with confusion. “Whatever caused this slipped past me. I don’t know what happened, but I do know when... Edward, she is planning on leaving within the next few minutes.”
I sprang to action, unable to stand still for a moment longer. If there was any chance that I could change the future and keep Bella from leaving us, I would gladly take that chance. If we let her leave... I didn’t even want to think about the trouble she could get into. If she ended up hurting anyone, the blame would rest solely on me.
I dashed up the stairs to Bella’s room, a place where I had actually never been. Usually I preferred to let my family have their privacy, but in this case, in this moment, I couldn’t abide by that decision. I didn’t even knock on the door, but threw it open and barged my way in, Alice close on my heels.
Bella looked surprised to see me, but not happy. Her eyes were both accusing and guilty, a combination that didn’t make any sense to me. I had only left her side half an hour before and she had been happy and smiling. I couldn’t understand what had changed in that time. “Bella, I can’t let you leave,” I said, crossing the room and putting my hands on her shoulders, “not without knowing why.”
“How did you know that I was going to leave?” she asked, her eyes still filled with accusations that I didn’t understand.
“Ahem,” Alice said, raising a hand behind me, “I can see the future remember? Maybe you should think about that the next time you are about to do something stupid.”
Bella sighed and turned around to collapse on the small cream sofa in the corner. She put her face in her hands, the perfect picture of frustration and hopelessness. I knelt before her and pulled her hands from her face, clasping them tenderly in my own. Unlike earlier in the window seat, she shied away from my attentions, pulling her hands from mine and dropping them in her lap. “Bella, what’s wrong? You're scaring me,” I said sternly, wondering if a vampire could suffer from a worry induced heart attack.
“Why didn’t you tell me?” she cried out, raising her hands in the air, clenching them into fists and glaring at me with burning fury. She dropped her hands then, and they landed on her thighs with a loud cracking sound that stunned me.
“Tell you what?” I asked, utterly bewildered by her frustration.
Bella’s eye brows knitted together in frustration. “When you were telling me about the Volturi, why didn’t you tell me that you needed permission to change me? Why didn’t you tell me that my being here is putting all of you at risk?”
Her outburst surprised me so much that I couldn’t form a response. What in the hell was she talking about? We hadn’t said anything like that, and honestly, I had never even heard of a rule like that. We could change whomever we wanted into a vampire, at least in the Volturi’s eyes. The treaty with the Quileutes was another matter entirely. Thankfully Alice stepped in for me while my brain tried to phrase a response from such a jumbled mess.
“We didn’t tell you, because it isn’t true,” Alice said simply, her small body now leaning against the doorway that she was still standing in. She crossed her arms delicately across her chest and looked at Bella with calm eyes.
Bella looked as though she wasn’t quite sure whether or not to believe Alice. Her lips puckered and her brows stayed knitted in a frown. “If it isn’t true, then why would Tanya...” she trailed off, pressing her lips together tightly.
“Tanya?” My head snapped around to Alice, our eyes meeting in a wordless communication. Apparently the vampire hadn’t accepted my rejection and had sought Bella out. Though how she had known that we had discussed the Volturi with Bella was something I couldn’t figure out.
“Bella, what did Tanya tell you? This is important,” Alice said, no longer lounging with feigned calmness. She rushed to my side, looking down at the distressed girl in front of me, her eyes serious.
Bella hesitated, looking from Alice to me, but finally her shoulders drooped and she reached for my hand, almost as if it was instinctual and she wasn’t realizing that she was doing it. “She said that the Volturi controls the population and that you were all going to get into trouble when they found me with you. She said they might kill me for being illegal,” she admitted. “She told me that if I cared for all of you at all, I should leave before they found me.”
I closed my eyes and took a deep breath. This was going over the line, even for Tanya. She had almost sent a newborn, one with very heightened and fragile emotions, out into the world by herself. She had a lot to answer for. “Bella, this isn’t true at all. While the Volturi does like to keep tabs on vampires with special abilities, they in no way monitor the population. I think Tanya was confused,” I said with forced calm. My insides were squirming and screaming at me to find the vampire that had hurt Bella and to make her pay. It wasn’t a very nice feeling.
“So, I don’t have to leave?” she asked, hope lighting her eyes.
“Of course not,” Alice said soothingly, taking one of Bella’s hands and stroking it gently, “We love you and want you to stay with us.”
“You aren’t lying to protect my feelings?” Bella asked, “Tanya said that you might.”
I took another deep breath, this one was harder to take than the first. The fact that Bella’s faith in us was shaken... well, it wasn’t something I was going to let Tanya get away with. “You can ask Carmen and Eleazar if you don’t believe us, but they will tell you the same thing. You are not going to be taken from us, and we are not going to be in trouble for changing you.”
Bella’s eyes met mine, and I felt an electric spark run through me, a charge in the air that hung between us. “I wouldn’t want to cause you any inconveniences. I’ve come to care about you all too much.”
The words unspoken there struck me to the quick. When she said she cared about us, she meant that she cared about me. It made what I was about to do both easier and more difficult. I squeezed her hand, released it and stood up, heading for the door. “I hope you can trust me when I tell you that I would never let anyone hurt you,” I said, pausing at the door frame.
Bella nodded, though I knew she didn’t know the depths to which I would go to keep her happy. “I do trust you and I believe you,” she said, “but where are you going?”
“Alice can stay with you, I need to go take care of something,” I said and gave her a forced smile. “If you have any questions, I’m sure she can answer them.” Without waiting for Alice’s agreement, I left the room and headed across the hall to Tanya’s room.
I knocked roughly on the door, hard enough to shake the frame. It quickly opened and I found myself staring down into the traitor's bouncy red-blonde curls. Her eyes were narrowed with anger, she had obviously been listening in on our conversation with Bella. “I should have known Alice would have seen her leaving,” Tanya thought grumpily. “You are both obsessed with that stupid girl.”
I grabbed Tanya’s arm and began walking down the stairs. When she struggled, I pulled harder on her arm and brought her face close to mine. “Do you really want to make a scene in the house?” I whispered angrily. “I’m doing you a favor by taking this conversation outside.”
She made a face, but stopped struggling. Her thoughts were mutinous as we made our way through the house and out into the forest. The thoughts ranged from anger at Bella for talking to anger at me for rejecting her to anger at Alice for seeing Bella leave and stopping it. There wasn’t a single remorseful thought in her and it made me sick to my stomach to see how much hate she had stored up inside. It was like I had never really known her, only thought that I had.
The moment we were far enough out of earshot of the house I stopped and let go of her arm. I didn’t particularly care to touch her any longer. “Stay away from Bella, do you hear me?” I said as slowly and coldly as I could manage. “If I find out that you whispered one word in her ear, I will tear you limb from limb.”
She blanched, stepping away from me as though she couldn’t believe what I was saying. “You wouldn’t hurt me, not over a pathetic little thing like her!” Tanya pointed to the house, her face contorted with anger and jealousy.
“I can and will,” I promised. “This has to stop, Tanya. We were friends once and I beg you to remember that. I’ve rejected you as gently as I could manage, but this is the last time it will come up. I don’t have feelings for you, as hard as I’ve tried over the years. I’ve let you try to win me over, but it has to stop. I’ve realized that I am never going to return your interest, and you have to let this go. I know you hate to lose, but this is over.”
Her pretty face twisted into a mask of frustration and anger. “Why did it have to be her? Why couldn’t it have been me?” she cried, anguish filling her amber gold eyes.
My heart wrenched a bit at the loss in her eyes, but I stood firm. Tanya had hurt Bella and that wasn’t something I was willing to forgive quite yet. “I don’t know why it was her,” I admitted, giving Tanya the honest answer that she didn’t deserve. “I would never in a million years have believed it myself. I guess the old saying is true: You don’t choose who you fall in love with.”
Her face crumpled even further. “Love? Do you love her?”
I was taken aback, but then I realized that the truth had finally slipped out, surprising even me with it. I had never expected it to happen in front of Tanya, but it had and I couldn’t and wouldn’t take it back. “I never had a choice,” I said.
“I will never forgive you for this. You could have had me and you chose this... this little nobody!” Tanya spat at me, the words filled with both longing and misery. She turned away from me and ran into the forest, letting the long branches of the trees engulf her.
As I watched her sprint away from me, her legs pushing her ever deeper into the forest, I couldn’t help but be grateful to her for her part in the events of the afternoon. Yes, she had tried to take my reason for being away from me, but in that choice she had made me face the fact that Bella had become the center of my world. Alice’s vision had come true. I was in love with Bella Swan. The best part was that I could actually see her returning my feelings. I wouldn’t rush her though. I was prepared to take things nice and slow.
With both a heavy heart and one full of love, I headed back toward the house, eager to return to the side of the girl I loved.