Eve of Eternity
Edward and Bella are getting married. But danger is never far from the star-crossed couple. With the return of the Volturi, the conflict with Jacob and the werewolves, the sudden appearance of members of the Denali clan, and the date of her turning looming ever nearer, can Bella survive the remaining months until the big day and finally become a true part of the Cullen family? Or has her luck finally run out…
2. Visions and Visits
Rating 5/5 Word Count 3903 Review this Chapter
“Red or white?”
I rubbed my eyes and glanced at the pictures Alice had shoved at me from across the table. We were sitting in the Cullens dining room, a place that was rarely used by the family but was proving to be very useful for Alice recently. She had made it her official workstation for the wedding planning, which would have been distinctly clear to anyone walking into the room. Piles of folders were stacked on the glass, each labeled in a small, neat script, all of them organized into things like “Seating Arrangements,” “Guest List,” “Music,” “Flowers,” “Cake,” etc. etc. Magazine clippings and Polaroid’s peeked out of some of them while samples of ribbon and lace lay strewn amidst everything else. And then there was Alice, completely surrounded by all of it, sitting primly on the white seat and looking like Christmas had come early. As a matter of fact, the last time I’d seen her look this happy was when Edward bought her the Porsche.
I was fairly certain that I, however, looked absolutely nowhere near as happy as she did. We probably couldn’t look more contrasting. I imagined that the expression of pure misery on my face would convince any stranger walking into that room that we were planning for a funeral rather than a wedding.
Well, technically they wouldn’t be too far off would they?
The thought came easily and without warning, and I wasn’t quite sure how to feel about the realization. The change would be occurring sometime after the wedding. And then it was goodbye to Bella Swan the human…
I jumped, having let my thoughts once again overwhelm me, and looked at Alice’s stern face with the slightest pang of guilt. It had been the third time I’d been caught not listening to her.
“Er…sorry Alice,” I said. I had trouble meeting her eyes, and I felt the strangest urge to confide in her about what I’d been thinking of. It was bothering me. I hadn’t really had a chance to talk it out with anyone. I mean, it wasn’t as if I could go to Edward about it, even though I’m sure he’d want me to. I was scared he’d find another way of convincing me not to go through with it or push the date back even farther. And obviously Charlie and Renee were out of the question…
“Bella?” Alice asked, softer now. She seemed to realize something wasn’t quite right. I met her warm ocher eyes with my own uncertain ones.
“It’s just…” I trailed off, unsure how to form the words. “I’ve been thinking…you know…about…well, after.”
Realization lit her eyes and she watched me carefully as I began twisting one of the ribbons from the table around my fingers nervously.
“You’re having second thoughts,” she said quietly as she leaned towards me.
My eyes widened in alarm. “No!” I said, too loudly. I winced and made an effort to keep my voice down. Edward was upstairs and the last thing I wanted was for him to hear this.
“I’m not,” I told her, my voice quiet but firm. “I want to do this. I want to be a part of this family, Alice. You know that.”
She smiled softly and nodded once, reaching out across the table and placing her cold hand over mine, stopping my nervous fidgeting.
“I know,” she said. “And you know that nothing would make me happier. I’ve been counting down the days too, you know.” She smiled, showing her perfect white teeth and I felt a wave of affection and gratitude for her.
“I know. I can’t tell you how much it means to me. Your support. This would all be so much harder without that,” I told her, meaning every single word. I sighed and lowered my gaze. “But I am scared. I’m terrified. And I don’t even know why I’m terrified. All I want in this whole world is to be with Edward forever. I don’t care about all the human things I’ll miss out on. Those things don’t mean anything to me…” I trailed off, wanting to say more.
“But?” Alice prompted. She was too perceptive. Just like Edward.
I grimaced. “But…but Charlie and Renee and…and Jake.” My voice filled with pain and I felt my eyes begin to water despite my efforts to push my emotions down. I angrily wiped away the unshed tears before they could fall.
Alice’s flawless face crumpled immediately into one of sympathy and before I could blink she was sitting in the chair beside me and pulling me in for a crushing hug.
“Oh, Bella,” she said softly, smoothing the back of my hair in a comforting gesture. I buried my face into her hard shoulder and tried not to cry again.
“I’ll never get to see them again,” I whispered. “I know that. I know what I’m giving up. Maybe that’s what’s making this all so hard. I’m just so confused. Am I a horrible person for doing this?” I asked pulling back and looking at her with confusion and pleading in my eyes. “For being willing to give everything I’ve ever known up for him?”
Alice’s look grew stern and she placed both hands on my shoulders, her mouth forming a determined line. “Now you listen to me, Bella” she said. “You couldn’t be a horrible person if you tried. I know you well enough now to know that. You’re doing what’s in your heart. What you know is the right thing to do. I’m sure Charlie and Renee would just want you to do what makes you happy.” She lifted her hand and wiped away the trail a tear had left on my cheek with a small smile. “Edward makes you happy, doesn’t he?”
I scoffed at the ridiculousness of the question. “Of course he does,” I said. My thoughts drifted to an image of Edward’s smiling face and my lips lifted in response to the memory.
“Well there you have it,” Alice said, eyes glittering with warmth. It seemed to fade slightly as she took my hand again. “I’m not saying it won’t be hard, Bella. This life…it’s not an easy one. There are sacrifices to be made…things we all have to live with every day that we sometimes wish weren’t there…”
I nodded silently. I knew.
“But I’m here,” she went on, and I smiled when I saw the genuine look of optimism in her eyes. “And so is Edward. We’re all here for you. We’re a family now.”
I almost started to cry again, so I quickly pulled Alice into a hug, not wanting her to see how much her words had affected me. But this time they weren’t tears of sorrow or anguish. They were tears of happiness. Pure and true.
“Thank you,” I whispered before pulling away.
“Of course.” Suddenly she was bright and chipper once again. The Alice I knew so very well.
“You won’t tell Edward I said any of this will you?” I suddenly asked, alarm filling me as I realized that this might be a problem.
Alice responded with a dramatic roll of her eyes before getting up from her seat and gracefully returning to her side of the table. “Bella, if you have to ask that, you don’t know me at all. Of course I won’t tell him. This is between you and me,” she winked.
“But what if he…you know…sees it?”
She sighed and started to busy herself with shuffling through the various papers in front of her. “I’ve had years of experience keeping things from Edward when the occasion called for it. Trust me, he won’t find out. I’m not that transparent.” She wrinkled her dainty nose in distaste and pulled a sheet from the pile with an elegant flourish.
I let out a deep breath, somewhat relieved by her words. I hated keeping things from him…really I did. But if he knew how frightened I really was about all this, I just knew he’d find a way to keep me from going through with it. And that couldn’t happen. I didn’t care how terrified I was. I was going to be a vampire. Period.
I glanced up and saw that Alice seemed to be entirely engrossed in the page in front of her, even though I was certain I’d heard her murmur the word. But my confusion lasted only a moment, for not a second later Edward himself came walking in. It had been a warning.
“How’s it going?” he asked, peering down at the crowded table before shifting his glance to Alice. Probably to determine whether or not she’d been pestering me too much. My eyes widened and I quickly turned to him to get his attention away from her, still scared he might somehow see the conversation we’d had earlier.
“It’s going great!” I almost winced at how uncharacteristically ecstatic my voice sounded. Alice looked up, trying to tell me with her eyes to shut up, probably realizing I was being way too obvious. But it was too late. Edward’s brows had risen at my outburst and he was already looking to Alice once again.
Basically I panicked.
Before I even knew what I was doing I’d jumped up and flung my arms around his neck. I only caught a momentary glimpse of his utter surprise at my actions before I captured his lips with mine and kissed him hard and deeply.
After a moment his body relaxed and he responded to my kiss, bringing a hand to my neck, cradling it. I’d managed to shift his attention successfully to myself. I would have kept the kiss going, too, if he hadn’t finally placed his hands on my hips and gently pushed me back. I broke away, breathing deeper now that I’d been oxygen deprived, and smiled up at him unapologetically.
The look on his face was almost comical. His brow was creased in confusion and lingering surprise over my actions but it seemed like he didn’t know whether to show concern or to grin like a fool.
It was, needless to say, almost unbearably cute.
“If I’d known this was the way you acted after planning a wedding I would have brought you over here every day,” he said finally, his expression settling into one of bemusement. “I suppose I have Alice to thank for that?” he asked, shifting his gaze to the tiniest Cullen.
“You’re welcome,” she chirped, almost indifferently, never taking her eyes off the notepad she was scribbling furiously on.
Edward’s stare turned suspicious and a frown began to form on his lips.
“Do I even want to know what it is the both of you aren’t telling me?”
Alice, bless her, scowled at him and set her pen down in clear annoyance. “Not everything is about you, Edward. Bella and I have been discussing very serious wedding details and if you want this to be an event worth remembering, you’ll butt out and let us girls handle this in peace.”
Alice didn’t wait to hear his response and immediately picked the pen back up to resume whatever it was she’d been doing. I marveled at her. She’d almost convinced me with that speech.
Edward said nothing, but the suspicion never once left his expression. He turned his calculating amber eyes on me next, and I swallowed hard. I was nowhere near as good an actress as Alice was. Edward would see through it in a millisecond.
But to my complete and utter relief, Carlisle chose that moment to enter the room and therefore halted Edward’s question to me before it had even formed.
“Hello Carlisle!” I said, smiling. Again, way too happily. I realized I just needed to shut up.
“Hello Bella,” he said with a soft chuckle. “I trust things are going well then?” He, too, moved his gaze to Alice. She glowered back at him. I almost felt sorry for her, poor thing.
“Honestly, you’d think I’ve been torturing her this whole time or something,” she muttered.
Edward snorted and Carlisle simply smiled again.
“Actually it’s been great,” I said. “Alice is pretty good at all this, I have to admit.” I grinned at her and she beamed back at me, all traces of her former agitation gone.
“Thank you Bella,” she said. “At least there’s one nice person around here.” She shot a not-so-subtle glare at Carlisle and Edward.
And then something strange happened.
Alice suddenly went very still. Rigid. She’d stopped breathing and her eyes had taken on a glassy look, as though she was gazing far off into the distance or lost in a daydream. The air in the room changed from playful to tense in the blink of an eye.
“What is it?” Carlisle asked quickly, almost too fast for me to understand. My eyes flew to Alice and I knew without question that one of her visions had taken hold of her and that that was what she was seeing at that moment. But was it good or bad?
Edward stood beside me, his shoulders tense and his gaze fixed on Alice intently. A line worried his brow and I knew that he was looking into Alice’s mind and seeing exactly what it was that she was seeing. My heart pounded faster than normal as I realized that the look on his face wasn’t lightening. If anything it was growing darker. There was a storm upon it.
He hissed, and the sound was angry. That’s when I began to get scared.
Alice’s reaction to whatever it was she’d just seen, however, wasn’t quite so dramatic. As a matter of fact she looked more amused than anything else.
“Well that was unexpected.”
“Alice?” Carlisle’s inquisitive glance was still upon her. He was waiting patiently for a reply while Edward still fumed at my side.
“It seems we’re going to be having some visitors soon,” she explained, her voice casually detached.
Carlisle raised a brow. “Oh?”
Alice nodded once. “The Denali, to be more specific.”
I frowned at this, feeling more than a little confused. “Wait…I thought they were all friends of yours?” My gaze turned to Edward who still looked like his day had been ruined. “Edward?”
But it was Carlisle who spoke. “They are friends, yes. And they will be welcomed cordially.” He gave Edward a meaningful stare that looked more like a warning than anything else. I cursed my lack of mind-reading abilities.
“Only three are coming,” Alice was saying. She stopped and sighed tiredly. “Edward, honestly, there’s no need to be a big baby about it.”
He snarled, and the sound made me nearly jump out of my skin. “Do you really think that’s what’s upsetting me? One of them is young Alice! Too young!”
Alice looked undaunted by his reaction. “She’ll be fine. You’re overreacting.”
“She’s right, Edward,” Carlisle spoke up softly.
Edward wasn’t fazed. He still looked furious. But his gaze flickered to meet mine for the briefest of instants.
And that was when I suddenly realized they were talking about me.
“Whoa! Hold on,” I blurted, getting angry now myself. “What are you talking about? What has this got to do with me? Who’s too young?” I went from face to face but they all remained silent. Alice was the first to speak.
“It’s fine, Bella. One of the vampires they’ll be traveling with is only two or three years old. Edward’s needlessly concerned for your safety.” She shot him a pointed look but he was staring at the plaster on the wall with silent vehemence. “He is well aware that we would never place you in so dangerous a situation. What he’s really upset about is the fact that Tan—“
“Alice!” Edward growled her name and bared his teeth at her, effectively cutting her off.
But the damage was done.
I felt like I’d been kicked in the stomach. Or like I’d just swallowed an ice cube whole. The fact that I hadn’t even thought about it before shocked me, and I stood there speechless.
Tanya. Alice had been about to say Tanya.
“Oh.” The word came like a breathy sigh from my lips. I was almost certain I looked as stunned as I felt.
“Bella?” Edward’s worried voice came to me like from some far off dream. I was vaguely aware that he’d gripped my arms and moved me to one of the seats in the room, sitting me down. I heard two voices bickering.
“Stop that,” I said. But my mumbled voice went unheard in the argument.
“Did you really have to say it?”
“She would have found out eventually. You shouldn’t keep things like that from her anyways.”
“I wasn’t planning on keeping anything from her. Bella is well aware of my past experience with Tanya. You might have considered how it would affect her, though!”
“Well obviously you haven’t done a great job at explaining what happened between you both in the first place, otherwise Bella wouldn’t look like she’s just seen a ghost right now!”
“Enough!” Carlisle’s sharp voice was enough to bring even me back from my daze. I looked up to see him looking from Edward to Alice, his face stern and composed. Edward and Alice continued to glare daggers at one another.
“I’m fine,” I said, clearing my throat and attempting to stand up. I wobbled and Edward was at my side in an instant, supporting me. He looked worried again.
I was acting incredibly stupid. I knew that. I recognized it. But…I couldn’t help it. The moment I realized Tanya would be coming here did something funny to me. It was one thing when Edward had told me about her before. I’d come to terms with knowing that she’d shown an interest in him, and I was also well aware that Edward had politely deflected her advances towards him. But now she was coming here. An inhumanly beautiful vampire who held a romantic interest in Edward was coming here. To Forks.
No, I couldn’t help my reaction at all.
“Bella, please say something.”
I glanced up at the sound of Edward’s anxious voice. His expression was a mixture of things. Worry, fear, concern. I really needed to get a grip on myself.
“It’s fine,” I repeated, trying to mask the maelstrom of emotions whirling inside me. “I’m just…surprised, is all.”
“They won’t stay long,” Alice said. “They’ll be here in a few days.”
“And the reason?” Carlisle asked.
When Alice didn’t respond immediately, I looked up at her. She seemed reluctant to answer.
“She sent them invitations to the wedding,” Edward said, flatly responding to the question for her.
Alice glared at him. “They have a right to know about it. It would have been in bad taste not to invite them.”
Edward merely scowled, clearly disagreeing but saying nothing in response. I could tell he was making an extreme effort not to start yelling at her again.
“But the wedding’s not for a few months,” I said, confused.
“I believe they want to visit and give their congratulations in person. They have many questions.”
“Well they’ll have to ask me then,” Edward said. His jaw was tight and I noticed his hands had clenched into fists. “Bella won’t be anywhere near here that day.”
My brow rose. “I won’t?”
“Bella,” Edward growled in obvious frustration. “Please. No arguing about this. It’s final. You’re not going to see them.”
I felt an odd stirring of defiance. “And why not?” I asked. “I’m going to have to see them eventually, aren’t I?” A pang of something shot through me as another thought occurred to me. The words came flying from my mouth before I could stop them.
“Is all of this really because of the young vampire with them? Or is it because you don’t want me here when she’s here?”
It was ridiculous. I knew it was ridiculous. But no one ever said jealousy was an emotion that made sense.
Edward’s face seemed composed on the outside but his eyes gave him away. There was something stirring in them. It looked like anger.
“And what is that supposed to mean?” he asked evenly.
Alice jumped up from her seat before I could say anything and quickly grabbed Carlisle by the arm. “I think I heard Esme calling, didn’t you?” And then they were heading towards the door, with Carlisle giving Edward one last communicative glance before he and Alice disappeared.
I frowned. An awkward silence fell over Edward and I. Well…awkward on my part, at least. He was still looking at me expectantly and I realized I had no idea what to say.
I heard Edward sigh. “Bella—”
“I’m sorry,” I said quickly, cutting him off. My shoulders slumped in self-defeat. “I shouldn’t have said that. It was uncalled for.”
Edward’s face softened immediately. “Bella…”
“I just…you have to understand how hard it is for me,” I said, a note of pleading in my voice. The words were pouring out of me now, faster and faster. “Edward, I’ve never felt like I was good enough for you. Seeing us side by side is almost funny it’s so ridiculously uneven. And knowing that there’s someone out there who would be able to stand next to you and actually look right doing so just…it just—”
“Isabella Swan!” Edward cut me off sharply and suddenly my face was in his hands, forcing me to look at him. There was anger in his eyes again. “Listen to me. You are what’s right for me. There will never be anyone else. And there never has been.” His thumb traced my jaw line and something like regret and sadness filled his eyes. “Tanya means nothing to me. How can you not know how deeply I love you? How can you think for one moment that I’d choose her over you?”
I blushed, feeling slightly ashamed of myself. I closed my eyes and shook my head. “I do know. Edward, I know. And I didn’t think you’d choose Tanya. I’m just being a jealous, silly idiot.” I scowled and turned my gaze away. He placed a hand under my chin and gently turned me back to face him.
“You’re not an idiot,” he whispered. It was a relief to see a ghost of a smile upon his lips.
“Forgive me?” I asked.
“Nothing to forgive, love.” He kissed my forehead and I breathed a sigh of content. “Besides,” he went on, “I suppose I’ve had my moments of jealousy in the past.” He looked thoughtful for a moment before shooting me a wry sort of grin. “Love is an absurd thing, isn’t it?”
I snorted. “You’re telling me.”
He smiled again but it faded into something less playful. “Will you please stay at Charlie’s while I deal with them?” he asked quietly. “For me?”
I knew he was referring to the Denali. I also knew he was right and that it probably was for the best after all. I didn’t want to go causing even more problems. Not with the wedding so close.
I sighed and nodded in resignation. He pulled me close and wrapped me in his tight embrace.
I rested my head against his shoulder and smiled slightly. “I would have listened to you eventually. Besides, can you imagine how Alice would feel if I got myself mauled by a new vampire before she could put on this wedding? She’d kill me.”
Edward’s mouth turned down at the corners but when I flashed him a wide grin he seemed reluctantly amused.
“Hilarious,” he muttered.
It only made me grin wider. “I certainly thought so.”
He probably realized just as well as I did that I was only half-joking. If anyone would be able to find a way to kill a person twice for ruining their excitement, it would be Alice.
I made a mental note not to die in the coming months before the wedding.
As for after…
I was determined to welcome death with open arms.
What I neglected to acknowledge in that moment was the very real, unavoidable fact that death didn’t run on anyone’s schedule but his own.
And sometimes he rather likes visiting earlier than expected.