On the Side of the Road
If Bella had been his heroin, speed was Edward's marijuana; less addictive, less worthwhile, but still glorious in its own right. The only light piercing the midnight darkness was the headlights of his car as it sped down the old highways of New Hampshire at speeds that would get him arrested immediately – if they could catch him. Although emergency vehicles had none of the restrictions the public did, most officers had minimal training at high speeds.
He would feel bad if they tried to chase him; they would probably careen out of control. Fortunately, he was able to avoid any law enforcement, and his family knew the location of all of the electronic speed traps, none of which were wasted on the old abandoned highways Edward was driving.
It was almost easy to lose himself in the drive. It had been a while since he had been in an unrestricted car, and while the efforts of driving were reflexive to him, they took slightly more concentration than running; that was why he had chosen to take this drive. After the rehearsal, his second encounter with the still frustratingly-silent woman he now knew as Willa, he wanted distraction.
With his eyes narrowed and his grip on the steering wheel leaving a slight imprint, it wasn't working.
Flying around a corner, Edward let out a soft growl. He'd had every intention, as school came back into session, of blowing off the woman's request. As he attended his Friday morning lab and sat through his afternoon lectures, he refused to even think about it, paying more attention than necessary and earning a few quizzical glances from classmates used to him ignoring…well, pretty much everything around him. And yet his treacherous feet had planted him in the rehearsal hall, playing her song.
Something about the song struck a chord deep within him. He could have written it himself, if he had cared to write anything these past two decades. Perhaps, he considered not for the first time, his sister was right and he should start.
Never bet against Alice.
A flash of white brought his attention back to the road scant feet away from the body that lay in his path. He hit the breaks instantly, swerving the car to the side; even with his vampiric reflexes, he had noticed the body too late, and his back tire hit a bump that jostled the car. Tires squealed as he continued to careen off the road. Spinning the wheel the opposite direction, he corrected his course before he wrapped his brand new car around a tree. It wouldn't hurt him, but he would be thoroughly annoyed if his nearly-tailored car needed to be replaced.
Finally, the car came to a stop; Edward already unlatching his seatbelt, and he threw the door open to leap out of the car.
He had seen it as he approached it, and a part of his mind had processed the sight, but still the dead body that lay on the road came somewhat as a shock. Once, the body had been a middle aged man, probably just past 40 with a sprinkling of grey hair and a receding hairline that left him with barely anything atop his head. He wore a beige pocket polo and a pair of pressed jeans, but no coat, and his boots had been crushed when Edward's car had failed to avoid him. What set the man apart – aside from being dead – was the distinct lack of blood in him.
It took only a second for Edward to process this all, and in that time, a second voice sounded in his mind.
A second figure flew at him, slamming into his body and attempting to grab him. With a bothered sigh, Edward twisted away from the attack, using the other vampire's momentum to fling her into the trees. She hit a tree with a thunderous crash, the trunk cracking along the bottom as the woman landed on the ground, springing back to her feet.
What the hell? she thought, startled.
Her hair was long and wild, a dark black mane around her oval face. She wore a skin-tight black shirt and taunt black jeans, effectively hiding her from humans is she lurked in the shadows. Her bright red eyes studied Edward for a moment, narrowing as she realized what he was. She gave him a low growl, which he echoed back at her.
"You were supposed to be dessert," she snapped at him without rising from her predatory crouch. Edward shrugged in response and she growled again. "I'm hungry, damn it."
"Not my problem," Edward told her, turning away from her and walking at a human pace toward the body she had left in the road. She leapt out of the trees, landing in front of the body and crouching protectively in front of it.
"That's my bait!" she admonished.
"That," Edward said, "is a man who deserves a proper burial. Out of my way."
She laughed at that, a high pitched giggle. "It was dinner. You don't bury your leftovers, do you?" she asked him, starting to straighten up. "It's just a human anyway. Who cares?"
A snarl ripped out of Edward before he could think about it, and he sped forward, grabbing her by the neck. He carried her backward a few feet, pressing her back into a tree. With his face an inch from hers, he glared into her eyes.
"I do," he ground out, his voice teeming with anger. "Leave – now. This is my territory, and you will not hunt here."
Her red eyes wide, she stared at him a moment before attempting to nod her agreement. In response, he tightened his grip, causing her to flinch. With an exasperated sigh, he let her go; the moment her feet touched the ground, she was off, disappearing into the trees with her thoughts on her wounded pride and the embarrassment of being bested.
Edward turned back to the corpse that lay in the road. After taking a moment to pull his car off to the side of the road, he knelt by the man, reaching up with an unsteady hand to close the man's eyes. Taking the man's body into his arms, he flitted into the forest, laying him down again between a pair of trees. There was room, here, for a grave; Edward hated to bury him here, alone and where none would find him, but he worse dreaded the idea of tearing him apart so that his remains could be found in pieces. Intact, how the man had died would raise too many questions. After a moment's thought, he took the wallet off the man, and one of his crushed boots. These he set aside, then he went about digging the grave.
As he lowered the man in, he whispered an apology to the man and promised to give his family closure. Then, with a deliberately slow pace, he began to fill the grave back up, returning this man's body to the earth. He even took a moment to bow his head in prayer for the man; though he doubted God would give much weight to the prayers of the damned, this man deserved the effort, his life torn violently away from him far sooner than it should have been.
Picking up the boot and the wallet, he returned to the road about a mile down from where Edward's car sat. He chose a spot just a few feet in from the road, then shredded the boot methodically. He gave the wallet a few good tears and scattered the contents around. Let them believe it had been an animal attack, with the body dragged away to never be found again. He made sure the driver's license was easy enough to find, and in good enough condition, so that there would be no doubt who this man – Brody Macintyre – had been.
By the time Edward returned to his car, an hour had passed, and the distraction he had so avidly sought had been found. He drove back to his apartment at a somewhat less frantic speed, though still much higher than legal, and only slowed when he reached the city limits.
When he arrived back at his apartment, he took the stairs slowly, even for a human, as though his thoughts weighed him down. He struggled with the idea of the man buried alone, his mind going back continuously to Bella laying alone in the Forks cemetery. He knew the last thing she would want would be for him to be laid out beside her, and yet, there was nothing he yearned for more. Maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow – there were too many duties to be completed – but he wished dearly that he could look forward to one day returning to her side.
He let himself into his apartment, locking the door behind him. Shrugging off his coat, he hung it in the closet and hesitated. Instead of going to his chair as he'd planned, he turned, stepping into the apartment's bedroom. Willa's music sat on the music tray of the piano, and his bag lay in the corner; from the latter, he pulled an old, wooden pencil, sharpened to a fine point. He sat on the piano bench, setting the pencil down in front of the sheet music, and began to play.
A few bars in he stopped, picking up the pencil and making a few marks on the music. Here, he added a staccato mark; there, he crossed out a quarter note and added a pair of eighths instead. He tried the phrase again, giving a slight nod of satisfaction and continuing on.
It felt surprisingly comfortable working on music like this. The composition may not have been his own, but he had always found a certain solace in composing, tinkering with chords and bits of music, working them for hours until they were perfect. His increased speed and dexterity allowed him more flexibility with a piano than most, and he loved working rich music out of the instrument. He had spent many long and lonely nights sitting at a piano before he had met Bella, and then many joyous afternoons with her by his side listening to him play. Once, he had tried to convince her to learn for herself, but it had been a doomed effort from the start. Her hands were no more coordinated than her feet, and after a few failed renditions of Chopsticks, they had leaned against each other, laughing.
"I'm hopeless," Bella had chuckled, laying her hands in her lap. Edward had reached over, taking her hand in his and lifting it to his lips.
"You always make beautiful music to me, love," he had assured her, kissing her hand gently. "Just maybe not on the piano." His lips quirked, and she shook her head.
"Maybe not," she'd agreed. "But promise me you'll teach me once I'm...like you?"
He'd agreed, hesitantly, still unsure at that point about her change despite how desperately a part of him had wanted it. Now, thinking back, he was torn. A part of him wished he had given in to her requests sooner to change her, to preserve her fragile life while he still had the chance, and yet if he had done it, he would not have Renesmee.
Either way, he felt damned. Was it really too much to want them both?
The pencil in his hand snapped, then disintegrated in his grasp, tiny dust falling onto his lap and the floor beneath the piano. Obviously, it was too much, or he would not be enduring this existence today. Obviously, he was not meant to be loved, not as a man to a woman. He was a menace, a threat to humanity.
And here he was working with one of them on this vexing composition.
"Ugh!" Frustrated and overwhelmed, Edward rose quickly to his feet, abandoning the music behind him. The song soothed him, spoke words and expressed emotions he had been bottling for decades. He decided, then, that he would continue on with Willa Monroe, but strictly in a professional manner. He would be her pianist, but nothing more than that, and he would be as off putting as he needed to be to ensure she saw and expected nothing more.
His phone rang in his ear, a quiet but persistent beeping. Dusting the remnants of the pencil off his hands, he reached up and gently touched the button it.
"Sun today," Alice told him cheerily.
"Thanks Alice," he said, realizing his plans for the day were now moot. He could use this to his advantage, though – what better way to start their working relationship than blowing her off? "How long?"
"Just today. Rose and I are heading up to the Mall of New Hampshire and the boys are doing some kind of video game tournament," she answered. No wonder she sounded so chipper; Alice had been looking for an excuse to return to the huge outlet mall she'd discovered at the start of the school year. "You should come over and join them. Of course, you're welcome to come with us too, but I don't think you'd want to. Em says that blowing up zombies is always a great way to blow off some steam on a sunny day, not that I understand that, but whatever. When are you coming over?"
If only the woman needed to stop for breath!
"Alice, thanks, but I think I will just stay at home for the day," he declined, walking into the living room and settling down into his chair.
Alice sighed on the other end of the line. "Oh, Edward. Do we need to have this discussion again? I will come over there and bodily remove you if I need to, dear brother."
"She will," he heard Jasper say in the background.
"Fine, fine. No need to make a scene," Edward caved, knowing too well that she would honestly do it. It wasn't worth the effort to turn her down when she got into these moods. Besides, he could just as easily reminisce on their couch as he could in his apartment. Briefly, his mind wandered back to his attempt to teach Bella the piano, more particularly the hour of solitude in the Cullen's large Forks home before the others had returned. His throat caught at the memory of Bella's arms around him, hands in his hair…
"I'll know if you just spend the whole time sulking," Alice warned him. "So don't you dare!"
Stupid meddling psychic sisters.
Taking a deep breath that helped to calm him, Edward vowed, "I swear to you, I will do my very best to destroy zombies and blow up my brothers."
"Bring it on!" Emmett called in the background, and he heard his two brothers giving each other a high five.
"Great!" Alice exclaimed. "I'll see you at 8. Love you, Edward!" She hung up without waiting for a response, leaving Edward grumbling. Pulling the headset from his ear, he set it down on the table beside him and leaned his head back. Alice's deadline gave him a few more hours to himself before he should get changed and go down to the car, and he intended to use them well. Humming Bella's lullaby, he thought to himself, Now where was I?
The beginnings of a smile touched his lips as he sunk back into the memory of Bella in his arms.