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.
2. Chapter 2
Rating 4.5/5 Word Count 2165 Review this Chapter
Everyone was remarkably quiet as they stood near the security station that would admit Edward and Bella to their gate. Even Emmett looked solemn. The fight that morning had been a surprise to them all. It had seemed only fitting that they all go to Volterra. The family wanted to be with her when she made the change. To support her, and hunt with her. And really, they were long overdue to move on from Forks. But Bella wasn’t having it. She’d argued calmly, and had some very good points. But Carlisle’s diplomacy and Esme’s patience only dragged out the inevitable.
“You don’t understand!” she’d finally yelled. “This was MY negotiation. And they aren’t getting ANYTHING more than what they agreed to. I will NOT put any of you in their power. Either you stay home, or we ALL stay home, and prepare for them to come.” The wild fear in her eyes as she spoke was worse than tears. She knew if she and Edward didn’t go to Volterra, her children’s lives were forfeit. Everyone she loved in La Push would die, and the Cullens would die trying to prevent it.
Edward said nothing as Carlisle and Esme gave in. He didn’t look at Emmett, though he knew he was trying to catch his eye. And he knew why. One thing, at least, had not changed about Bella. Everyone else’s safety still came before hers, in her mind.
When she and Alice emerged from the restroom, Bella with a fixed, and sad looking smile, and Alice talking at full speed about how cool it would be to have a pen pal, he began saying his goodbyes. He hugged Emmett first and Carlisle last. When Esme finally let go of Bella, he warily offered her his hand, and tried not to look surprised when she took it. He felt his family’s satisfaction, but his only emotion was sadness. It wasn’t like it had been. There was no stutter in her heartbeat at his touch, no hitch in her breathing. She let him lead her through the security line, an empty expression on her face, as though whatever force generally animated it was broken. He supposed that was very literally the case.
They got onto the plane, and Edward stashed their luggage in silence. The flight was full, and there were people everywhere. Anything he had hoped to say to her would have to wait. The flight to Seattle was silent. She didn’t speak until their flight to New York had taken off.
“I’ve been trying very hard to think of a way to make this more bearable for you,” Bella whispered.
Edward opened his eyes and lifted his head from the back of his seat, turning to look at her in surprise, though he was careful not to meet her eyes. There was something about the dead expression in them that hurt. Still, she’d been thinking about HIM? “Time will make it bearable.” He could hear the pain in his own voice and regretted speaking.
Bella shook her head. “After you left, I thought long and hard about what I’d done. How I’d acted. You were right when you said I’d been quiet and distant. But I think – “ she paused. “Edward?” she asked, and waited until he met her eyes. “I think you might have assumed I was thinking about him more often than I really was.”
Edward froze, his eyes locked on hers. They didn’t look so dead, anymore. In fact, she looked – vaguely hopeful. He felt his expression slowly change to match hers as she continued.
“I did think about him a lot. I was worried for him, and I missed him. And I imagine I’ll think of him quite a lot for the next few years, too. But looking back, there were times when you seemed sad and I didn’t know why. After you were gone – long after, when I could finally look at things objectively – I realized that it might have been that you thought I was thinking of him when I wasn’t. I wondered, if I’d been more open with you about my thoughts, if maybe you wouldn’t have left.”
Bella swallowed and waited for some response. But Edward was simply staring at her with an unfathomable expression on his face. She looked away, wondering if it was already too late for this conversation. “When?” he whispered finally. When she turned back to him, startled. But he was leaning back in his seat again, his eyes closed, and his mouth twisted into a sad parody of a smile. She understood his question. He wanted specifics. He remembered it all – every conversation. Every silence. He wanted to know if knowing her thoughts would have made a difference.
She took a minute to wall off part of her heart. This was the difficult part, and the fastest way to ensure that they never moved beyond this stilted conversation was to burst into tears over Jacob in the middle of it. In her mind she offered an apology to him, with no way to know if he could hear.
“The first time was the night after the newborns came,” she whispered. “I never told you – I never explained which of those tears were for what I’d given up and which were –“ she stopped abruptly, shaking her head. Edward’s brow furrowed, but he didn’t open his eyes.
“That morning, when I sent you to bring him back, I regretted it as soon as you were gone. I already knew that I was going to tell him I’d chosen you. I didn’t understand why I had to see him again. I thought there was something wrong with me, especially when I realized how much it cost you to go after him. I swore to myself that I would never shed another tear for him. That I’d never make you watch me cry over him again. The pain in your eyes!” She choked on the words, surprised at the depth of her own emotion on this topic, after so many years.
Being with Jacob had lessened the immediacy of her feelings for Edward, but hadn’t lessened the emotions themselves. Talking about it now seemed to bring them closer to the surface. She was thankful, at least, that her eyes were still dry. She had used up all her tears the day before, she supposed.
Edward fidgeted slightly, and she recalled how he hated to be kept waiting while she struggled to put her thoughts into words. She continued quickly, “That night, when I thought I’d finally cried myself out; when the pain in the part of my heart that was missing seemed to have faded to the point where I might be able to sleep, it occurred to me that I’d broken that vow. That morning, I’d sworn I would never hurt you that way again, and then I spent the whole night doing just that.” She looked away, turning her eyes to the window, though the sun had long since set and there was nothing to see. “I’m sure you recall the resulting hysterics,” she finished dryly.
Edward kept his eyes closed. He hadn’t known that any of those tears had been for him. For his pain. And it would have mattered. He wondered, if he had tears to shed, would he be crying them now? He thought he probably would. He kept his eyes shut, but his breathing had picked up. He certainly FELT like crying.
Bella watched him for a long time before beginning again. “And the day I told you the wedding was off. That was horrible. I didn’t know how to make you understand that it wasn’t because I didn’t want you. I just couldn’t make myself have a party when I didn’t know if my best friend was dead or alive. Because, whatever else he was to me then, he WAS my best friend, and that was reason enough.” She leaned back in her seat, too, troubled by the stillness of Edward’s face. She closed her eyes as well, and continued in a whisper.
“I knew you were nearby, that you could hear me crying that night. I was so angry with myself for hurting you. I wanted to put my head out the window and scream that I was sorry. That I’d been an idiot, and I wanted to marry you right then. To beg you to forgive me. But I didn’t. I couldn’t bear to ruin our wedding for you by being so worried over him. I couldn’t exchange vows with you when I knew Jake would be on my mind the whole time. It didn’t feel right, somehow. But I should have told you that was why. I should have found a way to explain that it was YOUR pain I cried for, not my own. I just – didn’t know how,” she finished lamely.
“I was on the roof all night, and the window was open,” Edward whispered immediately. “But I was too proud to comfort you. I gave you no opportunity to tell me. The fault is mine.” He swallowed hard, out of discomfort rather than necessity.
There were more. Dozens of times when Bella had failed to communicate and hundreds when Edward had made the wrong assumptions. It was a long flight to New York, and they covered many of them, one after another. It was an even more intense conversation than the days-long quiz sessions they’d had while first getting to know one another. When the plane finally landed, they fell silent, still not looking at one another.
Bella felt exhausted, and wondered desperately if there was a way to avoid resuming their talk during the next, and longer, leg of the trip. As they walked together into the airport, she realized there certainly was a way. “Edward? I think we’ve talked this topic to death. I hope, now that we both understand what was happening, that we can avoid doing it again.”
He glanced over at her. She walked further from him than he’d like, as he was carrying a suitcase in each hand, but she was looking at him earnestly. “I hope so, too,” he said solemnly. He’d wanted to find out more. Exactly how many times had he been mistaken? Which blank expressions were Jacob’s and which were his? He felt driven to know. But he saw her hide a yawn behind her hand, and restrained himself. She was clearly exhausted, and he shouldn’t be surprised. She’d been through hell the last two days, and here he was expecting her to relive, in grave detail, the LAST time she’d been put through hell. It wasn’t fair to her.
They walked through the airport to the counter that accepted baggage for the last part of their trip, and he checked them both, this time. They wouldn’t need to change airlines again, so it was unlikely that doing so would delay their arrival. Their layover was a few hours long. “Is there anything you want to look at?” he asked her as they walked back into the main section, full of shops.
“Actually, I was thinking I might want to get something to write in,” Bella said hesitantly. “You told me once that memories of your life start to fade soon after the change,” she added. “I’d like to write about my life while I still remember. So I can look back on it – all of it,” she added, when she noticed his miserable expression. His face cleared immediately, but she couldn’t be sure if that was only because he’d caught her looking or if her words had made him feel better.
They found the nearest bookstore, and she saw a journal she liked. There were three on the shelf. She thought about how fast Edward had been able to write notes to her in class, and wondered how many notebooks she could fill if she dedicated her first few days as a vampire to writing her life’s story. She picked one up and approached the register.
“I need a dozen of these, do you have more in the back?” she asked bluntly. The woman looked at her like she was crazy for a second.
“I – I’ll check,” she replied, hurrying through a door at the back of the store. She reappeared a moment later carrying a box. Edward paid for it, expecting opposition, but Bella only said thank you. She had no money, anymore. Technically, she didn’t even exist. She wondered how Charlie and the boys were taking the news of her death, and shuddered. Quil would write. She would find out.
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