A tiny snapshot into the Cullens' lives before Bella's arrival at Forks. For my dearest sister, Marauder by Midnight.
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I pressed down on the plus button of my stereo remote long enough so that Brahms’ eerie crescendo thundered out of the large speakers. Yet again, I had found myself caught in an avalanche of unwelcome thoughts that poured from either side of the house; increasing the volume was my only option. I had no desire to listen to Alice and Jasper strategizing individual sides in a chess game, or Rosalie and Emmett doing less than pleasant things (to me, anyway) in their bedroom, or Esme and Carlisle discussing the latest trend in cloning. I wanted none of it. I wanted my own peace.
Moonlight streamed through the clear glass, flooding my bedroom in an eerie blanket of silvery-white. It danced off the plastic covers of my CDs, casting small twinkles here and there. I stared at them unseeingly, trying to focus my attention to my own head. It was teeming with inconsequentials: a steady countdown to the end of another mundane school year, a shopping trip with Alice that I desperately needed to get out of, and a promise to Esme to finish a song I’d been working on for months. Well, that last one was of some importance—perhaps I could weasel my way out of getting dragged like a hapless puppy around Port Angeles by giving that excuse.
I sighed. My tiny, favourite sister always wanted a shopping partner (lapdog?); Alice had gone through the rest of the family three times already in the past 6 weeks, skipping me once or twice when I had insisted that I needed to feed. She had pointed out the other night that I needed something new, but—I glanced at my wardrobe doors, closed against copious hangers of clothing—I highly doubted that I didn’t own whatever new trend she recently discovered. And plus, I wasn’t interested in going. At all. I would have to tell her that I had other better things to do.
Just as this thought crossed my mind, a loud screech floated from the living room.
“Edward! You promised!”
Ah, shit. Backing out on Alice never gleaned good results. I stood and opened my door just a fraction as I called, “Jasper!”
“Don’t you even dare!” Suddenly, Alice was at my door, Jasper right behind her, a frown perfectly etched on her tiny face. “I won’t even resort to bribes this time, because you owe me, Edward Cullen.”
“I owe you what?” I asked mildly, trying not to smirk at Jasper’s thoughts.
Good god, you shouldn’t have planned to bail so early—I’ll get the brunt of it for sure.
Alice folded her arms across her chest and stared at me defiantly. “I bought you the latest CD of that new band of yours, and I covered for you at Tanya’s last month when you decided to give her new Ferrari a little spin.”
“Oh, for god’s sake, Alice,” I started.
EDWARD. Jasper’s warning rang loudly in my head. I glared stonily at him. I didn’t see him trying to lighten the situation for the both of us.
“Can I make a bribe instead?” I turned back to Alice, my head whirring.
What other stupid excuse will it be this time? Hmm, Edward Houdini? I tried my best to keep my face straight as she glared.
Thinking fast, I answered, “I’ll let you have that lotus flower charm my mother owned. You’ve always wanted it.”
She looked up at me, less hostilely now and more pensively. I listened to her thoughts, my mouth slowly widening into a triumphant smile.
God Edward, you really hate me, don’t you? Alice grumbled in her head.
“Fine, fine,” she said aloud. “I’ll take your charm but”—she held up one finger—“you’re going to have to help me convince Jazz.”
“I think you could do that pretty decently on your own,” I smirked. And then, as the influx of dirty thoughts threatened to crack my skull open, I yelled, “Jasper, stop it, goddamnit!”
“You started it!” he chortled.
I snarled in response and then shut my bedroom door behind me. Quickly, I switched Brahms for a heavy metal band and cranked the volume up as loud as it would go before either of them had the chance to torture me.
“Hey Edward, look at this,” said Emmett a few hours later. The couples had (finally) calmed down, and I was free to wander around the house without having to resort to any sort of escape plan. He was pointing at something on the screen on his laptop. I glanced at it and burst out laughing.
“A free clerical license? Are you kidding me?”
“Nope.” Emmett grinned. “Full clerical certification and absolute freedom to practice—obtained legally, of course.” He winked.
“That’s. . . .” I struggled to find the words amidst trying not to depreciate into a full hysterical fit. “That is horrendously pathetic.”
“What? I could just as easily officiate your future wedding as any of these so-called ministers.”
“Yes, when I do get married, I’ll give you a call.”
That probably won’t occur within the next five hundred years or so, at the rate you’re going.
I rolled my eyes in response and lounged on the long sofa. As I was about to hit the power button on the TV remote, Esme called for me.
Edward darling, I need you.
Less than two seconds later, I was standing in Carlisle’s study where he and Esme were studying our latest credit card bills and bank statements.
Esme looked up at me from a lengthy list and raised an eyebrow. “A brand new Volvo, Edward?”
I shrugged nonchalantly. “The old Porsche was starting to give me problems, and Rosalie has stated plainly that she won’t try to fix it . . . again.” Actually, Rosalie’s exact words to me had been, “You know what, Edward? You’re just as irritating as your beat up piece of junk. Whatever you do, I’m not fixing it again!” after we had gotten into another squabble about something insignificant—it escapes me now what it was—as we always do.
“I’m quite sure she was just being facetious.” Carlisle grinned up at me. “Nonetheless, don’t forget to pay your bills.” He nodded at a sealed envelope sitting on the corner of his desk as Esme folded up the sheet she was reading and gave it to me. Curious, but not anxious, I glanced down at the bottom of the page: $172 245.41.
“Why do my children love their fast motorized toys?” murmured Carlisle as he scanned a new sheet of paper. “Emmett’s made another purchase for a huge jeep.”
“Does Alice see a dip in the stock market any time soon?” I inquired.
“No. In fact, it’s reaching a record high on Tuesday, apparently.” Carlisle glanced up at me. “Remember to put some time into your investments, too.”
“Of course.” I turned to leave, but Esme’s thoughts stopped me before her voice did.
“One last thing, dear.” Esme looked up at me with a somewhat apologetic expression on her face. “Carlisle and I are—”
“Leaving for Hoquiam the same day Alice and Jasper are going shopping, yes.” I nodded. “And Rose and Emmett are going to Rhode Island for the weekend. That’s fine, Esme, don’t worry about it.”
“I just don’t want you left alone.” Esme patted my cheek fondly.
I had to smile. “Esme, being alone for me would be a blessing.”
“Yes, I know, but. . . .” Then, I saw it. The picture in her mind was of me and a random girl walking hand in hand through the forest. I smiled, carefully controlled, though I immediately felt a rush of both gratefulness and irritation at my surrogate mother for her constant worrying about that particular aspect of my life.
“I’m fine, Mom,” I remarked, finally using the matriarchal address. “Really. Don’t worry about me.”
“All right.” Esme smiled, but her thoughts were still stained with worry. I tried not to let them affect me too much. “You could finish that new song of yours, or maybe continue mastering the Debussy nocturnes.”
“I’m sure I’ll find something, with a house this big. Or maybe I’ll give the Volvo a new spin and drive to Alaska.” I winked. With a small wave, I exited the room, still blocking out her thoughts.
I met Rosalie down the hall, and the Great Battle of Smirks and Snickers began. She was leaning against the paneled walls in her usual stance of nonchalance, and I contemplated going the other way to avoid another mindless tiff. Normally I enjoyed pushing all of her buttons, but this time around I wasn’t in the mood.
Sulking again, Edward? Too late.
“Oh, yes,” I answered delicately. “The prospect of getting left alone again is such an agonizing concept to entertain.”
“Aw, poor you.” She grinned haughtily at me, blonde hair glimmering in the overhead lights. “Must we find you a playmate for the weekend?”
“Will she be blonde and beautiful just like you?” I asked innocently.
Very funny, Edward. She rolled her eyes. I could tell that she was secretly pleased at my comment, however deeply sarcastic it was. I wrinkled my nose.
Without waiting for a response, I headed back downstairs, where Jasper, Emmett, and Alice were gathered in front of the massive television. The perverted thoughts hit me like a smack in the face before I even got there.
I paused behind the couch to see what they were watching: a tennis tournament in Australia—one of the grand slams, I realized—where two Russian women were playing a singles match. I knew which of the two athletes my brothers preferred even before Emmett remarked, “What do you say, Edward? The girl at the bottom of the screen is rather feisty.”
“She screams far too much for my liking,” I answered, but I stayed a few minutes to watch.
“Edward, want to take me on a ride in the Volvo?” asked Alice through clenched teeth. She already knew what I was going to say.
“Let’s go.” I retrieved my keys from my bedroom and reappeared back by the couch before the other Russian girl finished serving. The first girl let out a tribal screech as she hit a good return. My brothers watched with dazzled eyes. I very nearly gagged.
“Well, Edward?” pressed Emmett, never taking his eyes off the screen.
Alice sauntered over to my side as I responded, “Sorry. I prefer brunettes.”
As the garage door lifted, I stared ardently at the shiny new silver Volvo S60 R sitting next to my old black Porsche. Alice quickly danced to the passenger side, waiting for me to unlock the doors, but I paused to run my fingers along the hood.
“Leather seats, advanced stereo system, one hundred and eighty mile-per-hour limit. . . .” I murmured, envisioning myself racing through tiny Forks and beyond. “Alice, isn’t it amazing?”
“Well, I won’t really be able to judge until I ride in it, will I?” Her tone was teasing. “Come on, Edward; the real beauty is in the speed. Get in!”
Without wasting a second, I clicked the unlock button on the remote keychain. The car came to life with a soft click. Alice and I slipped into our seats and shut the doors simultaneously. The key was in the ignition before she had fastened her seatbelt.
We drove down the long driveway away from the house until we reached the path that led to main Forks. I glanced at her and she grinned, egging me on. With a satisfied smirk, I pressed down on the gas, and the car surged forward, trees and ferns whipping past us in a green-and-brown blur. The Volvo hummed, showing no signs of fatigue even as I pushed it to one hundred and twenty.
“Alice,” I began, turning to her with a wicked grin, “I am so happy Forks doesn’t have fancy technology to detect over-speeding.”
Alice giggled next to me. Tanya’s going to have a fit when she sees this.
I snickered. “Among other things.” We laughed quietly as we sped through the tiny lumber town, heavy rain splattering the windshield.