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Bella

Summary:
Twilight had passed. The new moon was out. Alternate approach to the second book.


Notes:
Spoilers: New Moon. Was begun before Bella became friends with Jacob (though that is not when it takes place).


4. Chapter Three

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Chapter Three

A week passed before Bella and I talked again about anything significant. And, considering her empty state of mind, that meant that we didn’t really talk to one another for seven days.

But we were hardly ever apart from each other, even in those long, barren silences.

On the afternoon of our first full day together I asked her how she had gotten to my garage (leaving how she had found me for another day) and she told me that she had bought a beat-up old truck at a nearby city, which she left parked about half a mile from my place. We took a little trip out to it in complete silence.

The car was beat-up and old alright. It had more rust on it than paint, and it was so large and ugly I couldn’t even determine what year and model it was. It surprised me; I had never pictured Bella as a truck kindof girl. Shows what I know, eh? It wasn’t even worth the effort it would take to haul back to my garage. However, the trunk and the backseat were full of various bags and possessions, and it would be easier to take it all up in one trip, so to avoid losing anything I half-pushed half-pulled it all the way back with Bella following behind me. In this way only one trip was necessary, not that we didn’t have the extra time on our hands.

Once the truck—an old Chevy, perhaps, that had once been some shade of red, blue, or green—was in my garage I opened the front door and started unloading the various boxes and suitcases I found within. They weren’t very heavy, and when I checked to see why that was I realized that most of the volume of the luggage wasn’t actually luggage, it was bubble wrap and wads of cotton and useless newspaper dating back six months at the most and two weeks at the most recent. I turned to Bella, who was sitting in the back, the bed of the truck, with an incredulous look in my eyes.

I didn’t speak, and at first I didn’t think she was going to, although it wasn’t necessary for the simplicity of the words she spoke. “Yes, what?”

My mouth twisted in confusion and I stared down at the handful of paper in my hand that had been filling up a leather briefcase, within which I could see a single pair of shoes—ones that looked so bright, so new, that I was sure they had never been worn. Not that they were Bella’s style; too bright, too pink.

I picked them up gingerly and held them up for her to see. But she was already looking away. I bit my lip and decided to let it go...for now. Instead I proceeded to pile up the random padding in an empty corner of my garage and place her belongings in a more practical manner in the large boxes she had in the back. In the end none of her suitcases had been necessary; only three large boxes that hardly weighed anything (although Bella would struggle with the size of them).

The oddest item I came across—although I do not mean that to demean the oddity of her other possessions—filled up one entire box all by itself. It wasn’t until later that I realized the large dress held within it two smaller, more sexy and revealing dresses. The large dress was a very pleasant shade of blue I was sure would look fantastic on Bella, although the shoes that went along with it were a death trap. Definitely something she only wore once.

I wondered why she had kept them, then. Then I realized they must be mementoes. Curiosity started to plague me like a bad itch as I moved her things into her new room, which seemed so homely in comparison to the magnificence the dresses brought into it. I felt grungy.

“Prom,” she said quietly. I started, finally realizing that I had been staring at the dress for a prolonged period of time. I folded it carefully back into the box, the thought of a blush almost making me feel physically warm.

“I can’t believe you’d wear something like this,” I muttered. Somehow she heard me.

“Alice made me. Rosalie and her looked better in theirs, of course. I had my cast on, and only one shoe.”

She stopped talking, and I didn’t prod any further. There would be more time for that later.

Amongst her other possessions I found a very empty album, sortof like a scrapbook. I didn’t look at the pictures, deciding to save that for another time. Also an age-old box of uneaten, unopened Valentine’s Day candy hearts, an outdated camera, two cookbooks full of fish recipes, and a pretty shirt of white eyelet lace. Nothing else stood out to me; just some blankets, a few clothes like the ones she had come in, a pair of rain boots, hiking boots, and tennis shoes, along with the black boots she already had on.

Throughout the rest of the week our routine was simple, and although I know why I didn’t grow bored, I still don’t understand why she didn’t. In the morning she would clean herself up and get dressed, then make herself breakfast with me in the kitchen. After that we’d go down to my garage and I’d work on some car or some part; occasionally I would even have a customer. She would just sit in her stool, near the entryway but still in shadow. For lunch she would make herself a simple sandwich and on occasion I would take her for a ride in one of my trucks—but never one of the nicer, faster cars. Dinner was much the same as breakfast. Then we’d watch the sun set and the night settle in, and she would go to bed. The only deviation came on the two sunny days we had—a new record—when we would take a hike in the woods, although she refused to visit the meadows for some reason, or the lake surrounded by bona fide sand. At night I would sit outside her room, listen to her sleep, and try to figure out when the switch over to unconsciousness came. Never would I hear her make even a single noise to indicate any sort of dream activity.

On our one week anniversary something changed, suddenly. It was my fault, initially. I hadn’t hunted in far too long; I tried to hold it off, but failed. So just as the sun was rising (though it was hard to tell with the thick layer of clouds obscuring one’s view of it) I dashed off and devoured the first animal I came across, a rather large doe that had wandered too close. Even so, when I returned Bella was already awake—in fact, she had already dressed, and eaten. She sat in her usual stool, now outside instead of in, although only slightly, fiddling idly with a spare, blackened car part with a sort of gentle, slow grace that stunned me.

She looked up as I approached. “I had almost forgotten,” she mused in a small voice, her eyes back to the old cylinder.

I sat down before her, my legs crossed. “Almost forgotten what?” I asked breathlessly, forgetting to take in a sufficient breath with which to speak.

She raked her teeth over her lip slowly before answering. “It was so easy to forget what you are...since we never touch.”

Something in Bella’s eyes unnerved me. I tried to lighten the mood. “That’s funny...do many humans where you come from sparkle in the sun?” I teased.

Of course she didn’t laugh. Although, I reminded myself, I shouldn’t have expected anything different, I was, in truth, quite disappointed. Apparently I had been deluding myself when I thought she was getting better already. My pride, my arrogance, my egotism was catching up with me. I’d have to be careful, or else it wouldn’t be my own life I’d ruin.

“What were they like?”

“What were who like?” Bella murmured. Her voice sounded lofty, and if I hadn’t known better I would have said that there was something wrong, inept, lacking in her brain functions. But I knew better. She was asking who I wanted to know about—in other words, would she have to face the almost-pain brought on by thinking of Edward?

I shrugged, nonchalant. “His siblings and parents. You’ve only talked about Jasper—and you mentioned Alice and Rosalie, was it.” My statement wasn’t a question. I was looking away.

I could feel Bella’s breathing shift in direction as she nodded minutely. “Carlisle was the patron, the oldest. He changed Edward first, early this century, Esme next, then Rosalie and finally Emmett. Jasper and Alice came to the family of their own accord.”

Bella exhibited only the slightest hesitation when it came to uttering his name, but it was enough. Enough for me to notice. Maybe she wasn’t as dead inside as I had thought, which was exactly what I was counting on.

I nodded, eager to learn more, quickly processing all that I heard and saw. “Tell me about each of them,” I urged, intrigued. “I want to know everything about them.”

Bella almost-frowned. “Why do they matter? I’m only here...for him.”

I sighed. This was exactly the thought process I wanted to squash before I consented to change her. If she kept her thoughts on Edward, on becoming a vampire for him, then when she became a vampire herself, she would be empty, shallow, and not fit to be a zombie, much less a sentient creature.

“I want to know everything about all of them,” I reiterated, my hard voice almost harsh. I wanted her to wince—for which I felt bad—but she didn’t—for which I felt worse.

“I don’t understand...” She closed her eyes, as if to block out the cruel, cruel world. “I don’t know what to say.” Her voice dropped to a whisper that broke my unbeating heart, though it didn’t express any feeling that I could detect, and that was saying something.

Or was it? I’m am empath, good with emotions—emotions, the feelings themselves, not just how they do—or do not—affect the body. Which means...I would only detect the mental processing of these emotions. So, if someone’s brain was damaged in such a way, or if a vampire had precise control of their own minds...would I sense anything? Or would everything I sense really be me processing what I saw and thinking I sensed what I, perhaps, should sense?

My empathy was a product of my human life intensified. What if this human, Bella Swan, had a mind all her own, cut off from the rest of the world—immune to the superpowers of others?

My eyes widened at the thought. I knew without knowing that I was completely right.

Which didn’t help.

I sighed, trying to control my own emotions, move past this rush of feeling to focus on Bella, the only thing I cared about anymore. My business had been shut down since the second she stepped inside; someone would notice that soon enough. Not that it mattered.

“Bella, I would like you to do something with me. An...experiment, if you will. An exercise. Please. I want you to close your eyes and lean your head back.”

She shifted the stool to one side slightly and did as I requested of her. She didn’t complain about being uncomfortable, as I knew she wouldn’t, as I was hoping she would—the endless, repetitive cycle. This lack make me even more determined, as it always did, to succeed in making her better. The sooner, the better.

“Now, start to breathe...” I paused at the irony. At first I smiled. Bella was always breathing—she had to, she was human, she couldn’t just forget. Then I frowned. She didn’t act human, she wanted to be a vampire; every human thing reminded me of how human she wasn’t, and for the first time I actually began to doubt the virtue in granting her her greatest wish. Suddenly, it felt wrong...

I had time to stall. First I needed to get back on task. My mind worked so quickly, Bella never even noticed.

“Big, deep breaths. Slowly, inhale and exhale, in and out, out and in—we aren’t in any hurry, so just relax, and breathe in, then out...” I watched her closely. She looked so beautiful, so peaceful, yet something was wrong. I had seen so many vampires in my life, and yet I had never come closer to meeting one of the living dead, a zombie. “Calm your heart,” my voice almost cracked as I started up again, “calm your pulse. Don’t think, don’t act—relax and feel.”

My words unnerved me more than they ever had before—more than they had any right to. I knew why that was, and I didn’t like it.

“Now, go back, go back in time, go back through your memories. See the first vampires to ever enter your life...” The only ones to ever enter your life, I mentally amended. She was the one to enter mine, after all...and no other ones would have left her alive, as much as she was, anyway.

I admit, with no small amount of shame, that at the time I was trying to hurt her, to break her, to open wounds and make them bleed, to make her feel pain, to cry in anger—it didn’t matter. I wanted her to react, and react badly, to show that she was still there. I couldn’t feel her, and that made it worse. I had come to rely upon emotions, and not having them there...it hurt me, hurt me so much that I began to hate Bella, in the darkest depths of my heart. It was no longer only her numbness I wanted to heal, but my own. Bella was my newest obsession. For me to ever feel good again, I had to make her feel something. My life would be ruined if I didn’t succeed.

Anything to fight the numbness that was taking over my own life...

It didn’t make any difference. Despite my despicable intentions, the numb remained. Bella never even noticed. I was such a selfish creature. Even as Bella’s numbness protected her, it began to destroy me. All I wanted was my own reprieve—I deserved to fail.

In that moment, I truly began to hate myself. And I began to love Bella, as if to make up for it. I never wanted her to know the truth.

Bella’s breathing, as I fought this split-second war with myself, had gone deeper and even more even than before she put such trust in a monster like me; it made me sick, but I never faulted her. Never again would I think it was Bella’s fault.

“Now...do you remember? Do you remember those vampires?”

“Yes,” Bella breathed.

“Who were they?”

“Edward Cullen. And his family. His sister, Alice. His father, Carlisle. His brother, Emmett. Rosalie and Jasper Hale. And Carlisle’s wife, Esme.”

“Describe them for me.”

Silence. Obedient, yet defiant. A pause. Hesitation?

“Let’s start with the girls.” She would not deter me for long. “Alice and Rosalie.”

“They were opposites. Alice was short, petite, fine-boned, her features small, her frame willowy; she moved with inhuman grace, even more than the others, every step a dance, deceptive in her sweetness, a frightening little monster; her hair was short, spiky, black.

“Rosalie was tall, statuesque, intimidating in her beauty, enviable in all that she was, her beauty overwhelming, her figure to kill for, the most beautiful creature in the world; her hair was long, golden; her face was fierce, detached, and frightening.”

“Now for the brothers, Jasper and Emmett. I assume that none of them were actually related?” If Bella realized what I was doing, she gave no sign.

“Jasper was tall, the tallest of them, muscular but slender, with honey-blond hair; leonine. Emmett was broad, the burliest of them all, with dark curly hair.” It was obvious she wasn’t as close to them as she had been to Alice—or as afraid of them as she had been of Rosalie. Girls tend to remember girls better, unless they fall in love, or lust.

“Tell me: where they related like their names suggested?” Note to self: do not overload her with information, she can only process and respond to one statement at a time. At least it would be easy to talk to myself at will.

“No. They weren’t.”

Dammit. I had to be more specific, it seemed.

“What was their story?”

“Carlisle was a doctor. His wife, Esme, couldn’t have children, so she adopted Alice, Edward, and Emmett. Then her ‘niece and nephew’, the ‘twins’ Rosalie and Jasper.”

“Did they feed off humans?”

“No.”

That surprised me. Pleasantly so. I had only ever met a few others who lived the way I did. A group, up in Denali. What a small world ours was, I mused.

“Tell me their stories, from the beginning.”

“It all started with Carlisle. He was the oldest, born in London over three hundred and sixty-two years ago. His father was an Anglican pastor who encouraged him to follow in his way of life, searching for evil creatures and killing them. Carlisle found a real vampire coven. He was attacked, he changed. He hated himself, removed himself from humans, tried to kill himself so many times, failed repeatedly. He tried to starve himself to death, and discovered that he could survive by feeding off animals. The conquered his thirst, became a successful doctor, stayed with the Volturi, eventually ended up in America.

“He wanted a companion. During the Spanish influenza epidemic of 1918, he found Edward, dying. His mother demanded that Carlisle save him, and he complied. Edward could read minds. Ten years after that, he rebelled for a few years—he always hated that half of himself.

“By then, Carlisle had found Esme. She had jumped off a cliff in her grief; she had lost a baby. She was still alive, and Carlisle saved her. They fell in love. She was the oldest when changed, always a mother.

“Rosalie hated me. She wanted to be human. She had been attacked, hated being a vampire. She was originally meant for Edward.

“Then she found Emmett. Dying from a bear attack. He thought she was an angel, Carlisle was God. He loved this new life.

“Alice and Jasper came to them from their own paths. Alice woke up without memories of being human. She had lived in an asylum for her visions. She was saved from a tracker named James by an older vampire he killed in vengeance. Her visions showed her Jasper, and Carlisle’s family. She found Jasper, then Carlisle. She sees the future.

“Jasper feels and influences emotions. He was the most susceptible to blood. He was always a calming influence, detached from the others somewhat, closest to Alice, only there for her. Much less involved...”

Bella trailed off, leaving so many questions unanswered, created by her story. I forced myself not to ask about Jasper; I had to remind myself that this was about her, not me. But to control emotions...to feel, to influence the physical? Wow...

“Why did they live that way?” My question was soft, much softer than the others. I was staring at the ground, feeling overwhelmed, almost...

“They didn’t want to be monsters. Carlisle never even slipped.”

“Did the others?”

“They all did, naturally. I don’t know much. Edward did on purpose...” Her knowledge was obviously a bit incomplete.

I moved on. “Describe Edward for me, now.”

I watched Bella closely. I didn’t expect to see a reaction, simply because by that time I was losing hope. I was right not to suspect anything. There was no change that I was perceptive enough to see.

“He had the face of an angel, just as beautiful as Rosalie, if not more so. His hair was bronze, a bit messy, and he had the most beautiful crooked smile. Next to his brothers he appeared lanky, but in reality—compared to me, at least—he was really tall and very muscular. His voice was that of an angel, velvet smooth, his skin alabaster granite...”

I froze, staring, unable to move or speak or even think. Bella’s voice had softened, her face peaceful, passively...happy, almost. It was the first time she had referred to herself directly, that I could currently remember.

I knew it couldn’t last. It wouldn’t. Now wasn’t the time to stop and allow something worse than numbness to sink in, as I believed it would.

It was as if, since I couldn’t see her eyes, Bella’s face held more expression, her remaining humanity oozing forth, encouraged by memories I couldn’t see of her beloved Edward...

“How did they enter your life?”

“Edward came first. Not by his choice, but then he couldn’t stay away. Alice and I became best friends. Some unfortunate events brought me closer to her, and to Emmett, to Carlisle and Esme in time.

“Rosalie never liked me. Jasper kept his distance. Emmett was like an older brother, Esme like a mother. Carlisle was one of the first to side with Edward and accept me as a part of the family.

“They loved me...some of them, anyway.”

I nodded, though she couldn’t see—not that it would matter if she could.

“Why did Jasper have to keep his distance?”

“He was newest to their way of life, and had developed very bad habits in as many years before joining the Cullen family.”

“Was that why they left?”

She half-ignored my question, the most active thing she had done yet, aside from come to me in the first place. “On my eighteenth birthday I got a papercut opening a present and he tried to attack me. Edward pushed me back to get me out of the way, and I fell into a stack of glass plates, slicing my arm open.”

Bella held up her arm, underside facing upwards, eyes still closed. A thin, almost invisible white line existed on her already pale skin from the crease of her elbow to her wrist.

It didn’t escape my attention that she didn’t finish the story.

“I still don’t understand the family, not completely. You need to tell me more.” Irritation gave my words a sharp edge.

Bella didn’t react. She remained blank. It was as if she had shut off—I was half-sure that she had fallen asleep. I sighed; usually I was a patient person. I had to control the urge to lash out, to roar and break something.

So many questions, so much knowledge, yet so little progress!

Or so I thought.

“Thank you, Bella,” I whispered. “You may open your eyes now.”

She did, and I almost fell over. They were so light! Milk chocolate, instead of dark. Was I going crazy? How could this be?

They were so peaceful. She seemed to be at peace.

Bella looked up, towards the sky. She didn’t smile, but she might as well have, she was so sweet-looking.

“It’s dark out,” she observed softly, as if nothing had occured. “Let’s go inside. I need to get something to eat.”