The Road Not Taken
Epilogue: “She didn’t really seem like that sort of girl,” Tanya commented, her tone just a tad sour, and Demetri quirked a smile.
“I get the feeling there’s a lot more to her than we’ve suspected.” Sequel to The Road Less Traveled by Daintress of tm_switzerland.
19. Chapter 19
Rating 5/5 Word Count 3115 Review this Chapter
She used her phone from the plane, ignoring the annoyed glances from the flight attendants, to book the garden at the Villa Gamberaia, and arrange for flowers. She had decided on every possible kind of flower, and then waited for her sight to tell her the reaction of the bride. She had learned her lesson. The entire focus of the ceremony had changed for her. This wasn’t about ensuring that Bella had the perfect human wedding to remember, and it wasn’t about her own pleasure in planning it. It was about making sure that Bella and Edward were both happy. She settled on freesia. Lots of it.
She was helped along by the fact that Bella was putting a good deal more thought into the wedding this time. Alice was able to see a complete guest list, as well as who would be asked to be in the wedding party. She ordered dresses for herself and Rosalie, and asked for them to be delivered to the address of a hotel that Jasper had already made reservations with.
When their plane landed, she sent Jasper to the hotel with all their things, having already arranged for a seamstress to visit immediately and take the dress in. She had seen that it would be a size too large. She and Tanya set out for Volterra, in the fastest car she could rent, this time. Tanya said little as they drove, simply listening to Alice’s plans for the perfect wedding. She was careful to make no plans of her own. She had only decided so far that she would come to the wedding, and that she would talk to Edward. Simple decisions with no particulars. She had not, for example, made up her mind whether she would try to talk him out of this the way she’d tried to talk him out of returning to Forks when he’d first run from the human who lured him like heroin. Having the disciplined mind of a vampire came in very handy, and the experience with Victoria had taught her that Alice’s vision could be circumvented, if you kept your mind from wandering. She listened to Alice’s happy chatter and knew it was working, so far.
Bella and Edward had talked about her life through the night, and well into the next day. She had been prepared for many things: for outright rejection, for despondency, for anger. But he had handled it far better than she’d hoped. He’d seemed honestly curious for the first time, especially about Charlie and Will. For years she had refrained from mentioning them because she didn’t want to cause him any more pain. But she’d seen no unhappiness in his expression as he questioned her. They talking about what they wanted for their wedding, knowing that anything they could decide now would help with Alice’s planning. And when they’d talked through every particular Bella could think of regarding a wedding, they simply sat holding one another, and reveling in their togetherness. It wasn’t something either of them would ever take for granted again.
“I’m worried about having Alice here,” Bella said abruptly, when they’d been sitting silently together for quite some time. “Aro wanted the both of you, I remember you saying you’d seen it in his head.”
Edward nodded and worry darted over his features before he could contain it. He smiled, though. “Maybe I should speak with him before she arrives.”
Bella smiled as well. “It’s a shame she’s not already here to tell us if that would make it better or worse,” she quipped. “But do. I need to talk with Marcus anyway.”
“Carlisle shouldn’t have to play father of the groom and father of the bride. I thought I’d ask Marcus to give me away.”
Edward raised an eyebrow. It had been a long time since he’d sat in on one of Bella and Marcus’ marathon soul discussions, but the last he’d seen they hadn’t been particularly friendly. In fact she almost seemed to get along better with Aro, and that was really saying something, considering how annoyed he always was at having to ask her questions. But he didn’t comment. He felt so blessed that this was even happening that he had no desire to question her choices.
For Bella’s part, she had only just decided about Marcus. His soul was ... disturbing. But something about the slight smile he’d given her upon her return from Forks made her think that perhaps there was hope for him. And of all the vampires in Volterra, he’d been the most interested in her, with the least intent to harm her. That had to be worth something.
Edward kissed her goodbye gently, drawing it out until she laughed at him and pushed at his chest. “That was NOT a goodbye kiss,” she accused playfully, and Edward laughed as well.
“No.” Then he grabbed her again and hugged her tightly. “There aren’t going to be anymore goodbye kisses,” he promised solemnly. When she pulled away to look up at him, he was grinning crookedly. She smiled back, and a moment later he was gone. Bella shut the door and quickly changed out of the dress she’d worn home from the store, laying it out on her unused bed to examine the damage. It was grass stained badly, and she imagined it would never look right again. She shook her head, and dug out a pair of jeans instead.
Bella had never sought Marcus out before. He always just showed up at her door at random hours, or had Aro summon her to his office to talk. But she knew where he lived. There was only one more floor in the turret above her rooms. She got in the elevator and hit the up button.
One bodyguard each for Marcus and Caius met her at the door to the elevator, which surprised her. Marcus’ guard looked at her with a blank expression. The girls were used to her, and had learned to trust her alone with their charge. The man who watched over Caius, however, eyed her distrustfully. Bella turned away from him. “Hello Amelia. I’d like to see Marcus, please,” she said politely, avoiding the red eyes that looked back at her.
“Of course. This way.”
Bella was aware of the other vampire, walking close behind her. She was aware, too, when he stopped at a door they were passing by, and waited there to ensure no one entered. She understood perfectly why no one ever visited this floor. It would be less tense to walk into Fort Knox and try to walk back out with a gold bar in your pocket.
Amelia opened a door and stepped inside, gesturing to Bella to wait. A moment later she stepped out again with her twin, Aleena beside her. Aleena looked puzzled until she saw Bella, and then she smiled, nodded tightly, and accompanied her sister into the hall. “Thank you,” Bella said quietly as Amelia held the door for her.
Marcus’ room was predictably opulent, though she doubted he particularly cared. A huge mirror hung in his sitting room, which she avoided as her eyes cast about for Marcus. He was nowhere in sight. “Marcus?” she asked quietly, though it was ludicrous to assume that he didn’t know she was there. He appeared a moment later, seeming to float toward her, as he had always done. She watched his face as he met her eyes, wondering what change to their relationship he might perceive. If he saw anything out of the ordinary, his expression gave nothing away. It never did.
In his hand was a book. The leather cover looked as thin and papery as the skin of the fingers that held it, and he set it aside gently before gesturing silently toward a pair of chairs which sat facing one another on a thick Persian rug. Bella sat.
“Amelia and Aleena are waiting outside with bated breath to hear what has brought you to me,” Marcus said without inflection as he seated himself gracefully. Bella smiled. She was, by now, used to his profound lack of expression. But he would not have spoken at all were he not at least a little curious, himself.
“I wanted to tell you that Edward and I have decided to be married,” Bella replied, wondering what Marcus would think of such a thing. She doubted that, after so many years, he recalled his humanity enough to put any great value on marriage. Predictably, she received no response. He did not have the capacity to be happy for her, she knew, and really what else was there to say? Marcus was, at least, honest. He preferred to say nothing rather than to speak meaningless words. So she continued after only the slightest pause. “I would like for you to walk me down the aisle.”
She watched him consider this for a moment before the tiny smile she’d first seen on his face in Aro’s office appeared on his lips again. It was gone in an instant. “I shall do so,” he replied. Bella let her smile widen.
“Thank you.” She stood, but he did not. “If there’s nothing else?” she asked. Only then did Marcus stand.
“Congratulations,” he said simply. He held out his hand in a manner that reminded her of Aro’s wordless requests for information. She took it anyway. Now that she was no longer human, the cold of such an aged vampire didn’t feel like frostbite anymore. If anything, his touch felt a lot like Edward’s had to her, when she’d been alive. He patted her hand in a strange, almost grandfatherly show of affection, and she let herself meet his eyes. Through the deep burgundy color that no longer horrified her quite so much, she could see his soul. She didn’t often look, unless he asked it of her, but she recognized that the fracturing she’d noticed from the beginning seemed slightly less severe. She wondered if, after so many years, he was finally beginning to heal. Her smile never faded as she saw herself out, nodding to the twins. Neither followed her back to the elevator, though when she passed Caius’ bodyguard, he DID.
He looked shocked when she stepped into the elevator and thanked him, as though he’d accompanied her out of gentlemanly courtesy rather than duty and suspicion. She stifled a chuckle. She’d spent so much time with Edward lately that she was starting to treat everyone as though they were as chivalrous as he. Not the best habit to get into, she supposed at first. But before the elevator doors closed, she saw the man, whose name she had never bothered to learn, bow slightly in her direction before making his way back to Caius’ door.
Bella could hear Edward moving about in his own rooms as she exited the elevator, so she went there first, to tell him that Marcus had agreed. She’d only taken three steps into the sitting room, however, when she realized that Edward was NOT in his rooms. She was surprised to see a strikingly beautiful strawberry blonde woman, slightly taller than herself, shuffling through Edward’s CD collection. Clearly not human, the woman could only be Tanya. Which meant Alice had arrived, but where was she?
Bella processed all of this in the time it took Tanya to turn towards her. Bella smiled. Tanya didn’t. “Who are you?” she asked preemptively, wiping the smile from Bella’s face. And she continued before Bella could respond. “Do you make a habit of walking into other people’s living space?”
Bella blinked. “When Edward begins knocking on my door, I suppose I’ll feel obligated to knock on his,” she answered archly. Then she rethought her response. “My name is Bella. You must be Tanya of the Denali coven. It’s nice to meet you.” She held out her hand as though to shake Tanya’s, and was rewarded when a hastily fabricated expression of embarrassment crossed Tanya’s face before she smiled. They shook hands. Bella allowed herself to look into Tanya’s golden eyes and saw the insincerity behind them. She released her quickly.
“Isn’t Alice with you?” she asked.
“She stopped to buy invitations. I came on ahead. She’s seen Edward much more recently than I have.” Tanya stopped talking, wondering if she’d given too much away too early in the game. But Bella only shook her head, commenting that she hoped Alice wasn’t going to get carried away.
“Regardless, I suppose Edward is still with Aro. I’ll speak to him later. If you get bored you’re welcome to visit me. My rooms are just across the hall.” She knew Tanya would not visit with her, but thought it only polite to offer before making her escape.
She forced herself to smile at Tanya and went back to her own room. Briefly, she debated changing into another of the dresses Edward had chosen for her. In the end, however, she decided against it. For the first time since her change, she wished she could shut off her mind. She couldn’t seem to make herself stop considering Tanya’s obvious familiarity with Edward – she’d felt comfortable enough to just wait in his room, and to challenge anyone who entered. And she was ridiculously beautiful. Her hair was slightly darker than Rosalie’s, and curlier. But it looked soft. Her lips had been pursed tightly but Bella could see that they were full and pink. She must keep something on them. Bella was fairly certain her own lips were nearly as pale as her skin. But she wouldn’t know, as she never dared to look in a mirror. For only the second time since her change, she found that she wanted to. Badly.
She looked around her mirrorless sitting room and forcibly suppressed a sigh, knowing that Tanya would hear it. She let herself wonder if the woman meant to cause this kind of insecurity in her, or if she really was only here to see Edward get married. She recalled several attractive women during the semester she and Edward had spent together at Dartmouth who’d gone out of their way to cause in her the same feelings that plagued her now. They’d thought that her insecurities might provide them with openings to approach Edward. Several had succeeded in approaching him before Bella had caught on. Edward had turned them all away politely, regardless. Bella had assumed that all her insecurities would just go away when she became a vampire herself. She shook her head at her own naivete.
But surely Alice wouldn’t have brought Tanya along if she intended to cause trouble? On the other hand, it had been a long time since she and Alice had been close. Maybe Alice didn’t think she was any good for Edward anymore? She grimaced and put the idea out of her head. Then she squared her shoulders and did the only thing that might be less agonizing than standing silently in her room and contemplating her own inadequacies. She went downstairs to see Heidi.
Heidi was getting ready to go out. Bella paused outside the door, as was the custom, and heard Heidi invite her in. She entered, glanced around, and made her way to the bathroom, where she could hear running water. She stood at an angle to the mirror that kept her from seeing herself and looked at Heidi, who turned toward her. Bella realized at once that visiting the only person in the building who was MORE beautiful than Tanya probably wasn’t going to cheer her up as much as she’d hoped.
“Makeup is such a pain,” Heidi commented to Bella. Her quick, violet eyes took in the sad expression on the shorter girl’s face before she turned back to reapply the lipstick she’d just washed off. But Bella didn’t comment on Heidi’s occupation, and Heidi didn’t comment on Bella’s weird diet. As a result, they could continue to get along.
“I wouldn’t know. I don’t have any.” Bella had never been particularly interested in makeup. In Phoenix – a time of her life she only vaguely remembered now, girls had begun wearing it to school before they’d even reached their teens, but she never had, not even when she’d started high school.
“Is that what brings you down here?” Heidi asked lightly. She knew better, of course. Any girl, human or vampire, who could live with no makeup for three years wasn’t likely to need to borrow some now. And Bella had always seemed very unaffected by appearance, to her. Which is why she was shocked at the awkward silence that followed her question. She finished creating red lips on her own pale face and turned back to Bella. “Are you alright?”
“One of Edward’s old friends is up in his rooms. I thought it was him I heard in there, so I just went in, but it was Tanya. I’d never met her before. She’s.... Well, you show her up, but not by much.” Bella smirked dryly.
“Oh!” Heidi was surprised, to say the least. She had never noticed the slightest insecurity in the short brunette, and she was a master at spotting insecurity. She’d been surrounded by it for as long as she could remember. Even Jane occasionally looked at her with envy, though Heidi had no particular gift besides her beauty.
Bella could have kicked herself for coming here. Heidi’s flawless face made her even more self-conscious than she’d been upstairs, and Heidi’s silver mirror was a temptation she already knew she wasn’t strong enough to resist, in her current state of mind. She was also aware that she might not have any idea how to focus on her face and actually SEE how she looked. She suspected she’d be able to see nothing but her soul shining out at her through her own eyes. She wondered briefly if that would help her self-confidence or break her entirely. She supposed there was only one way to find out. “Do you mind if I use your mirror? There isn’t one in my room.”
Heidi laughed, and moved sideways. There was room enough before the wide mirror for both of them. She started digging through her stash for colors that would look good with Bella’s odd, golden eyes. She hardly noticed as Bella slowly raised her eyes to look at herself for the first time in years.
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