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Seducing Ms Swan

Summary:
AU Post-New Moon. Bella never jumped, Alice never had her vision and Edward never came back. Six years later, Bella is struggling to make a new life for herself as a teacher in Rochester, New York. How will she fare when a very familiar student crops up in her classroom? Will she be able to remain professional, or will old ties get in the way? Edward is convinced that getting Bella back is just a matter of 'persuasion', but Bella isn't prepared to be that cooperative. What's more, she's in the grip of a dark secret which threatens to prevent her from loving ever again. Bella Swan is slipping under...


Notes:
Thankyou to twike for beta work. Disclaimer: All publicly recognizable characters, settings, etc. are the property of their respective owners. The original characters and plot are the property of the author. The author is in no way associated with the owners, creators, or producers of any media franchise. No copyright infringement is intended.


19. Dear Edward...

Rating 4.1/5   Word Count 6944   Review this Chapter

Don't say goodbye
I know you can save us
Don't wave goodbye
But nothing can break us
Don't say goodbye
I know you can save us
You can bring us back again

EPOV

After my talk with Bella, my first instinct had been to run. As I left her hospital room, my hands shaking and lungs gasping aggressively for the breaths I didn't need, I found my limbs wracked with a near unfightable impulse to run, leaving the hospital and all my shame and heartache far behind. It didn't matter where I went – I could get out of Rochester or the US or, hell, even the whole damn world if it were possible – as long as it was somewhere far, far away from those deep brown eyes and their tears and terrifying, unbearable emotions.

"I can't forgive you... this is it, end of the line."

Everything she said pulsed through my mind like a sick parody of a heartbeat. Everywhere I looked, I saw her face in my mind and its heartrending, soul destroying expression as she told me 'no'. But even as I staggered down the hallway outside her room, I was suddenly involuntarily reminded of that first day in Bella's class, all those weeks ago. I had run then, too, fleeing her classroom and the school, desperate to put distance between us, too afraid to confront the reality of what had happened. And the night of the parent teacher conference, when I had fought with Emmett... what was it he had said?

"Of COURSE you're leaving! That's what you do best, isn't it Edward? The minute the going gets tough you decide to leave."

Was this what he'd meant? I looked longingly at the door at the end of the corridor. It would be so easy to escape through it and leave this hospital and everything and everyone it contained behind, but wouldn't that just confirm Emmett's accusations? That I was, in effect a coward?

I growled in frustration and aimed a kick at the wall, but was physically restraining myself from making contact. I had already done enough damage for one day. Defeated, I let out a long breath and sank into a nearby seat, my back sliding down the wall.

"I don't know if I can forgive you... "

"What if this-us- whatever it is or was is beyond repair?"

"I'm not frozen; I've changed."

I closed my eyes. I could hear the thoughts of a nurse three rooms down. I could feel the footsteps of people on the floor above. I could hear Bella's heartbeat and her unsettled breathing as she tossed and turned behind the door mere feet away from me. I wished I was with her. But, I couldn't be. She'd told me to leave, so I'd left. She'd told me she needed time, so I was going to give it to her. Even if it destroyed me, I'd do it.

What more do you want me to do, Bella? I thought in desperation. I'm trying as hard as I can, but it doesn't seem to be enough.

I sensed Alice arrive, rather than saw. An inhumanly soft spatter of footsteps, the familiar scent – a fusion of spring and cinnamon – and a very slight breeze combined to announce her presence.

Hi, she thought. The air shifted again, and I knew she was sitting down next to me.

I opened one eye to glance at her, and then closed it again without replying.

You okay?

I didn't reply. I didn't need to. I knew Alice well enough to be sure that she would continue to give me her opinion, regardless of whether I responded.

You did the right thing by deciding to stay.

Obviously she knew. I was slightly surprised that she hadn't appeared the very second she saw my future change as I decided not to run from the hospital. Perhaps she'd decided that she should give me some time alone.

I smiled despite myself. Only Alice would deem five minutes a long enough recovery period for the conversation I'd just had with Bella.

The others are downstairs, she continued. They thought you deserved to get some privacy. Well, that, and Jasper and Emmett wanted to be sure that Black didn't try anything stupid.

Even in her thoughts, her disdain for Jacob was clear. Truth be told, I'd almost forgotten that he was still in the hospital. Bella had totally usurped him from my thoughts. Now that I remembered his presence, however, I could only bring myself to half share Alice's dislike. I had overheard much of his conversation with Bella, while waiting outside for 'my turn' to speak to her. After having heard his breakdown where he admitted his fears about Brady and inadequacy as a pack leader, I couldn't help but feel sympathy for him. He had not asked for his fate anymore than I had sought to become a vampire. We had both been assigned these lives and were, in our own ways, striving to come to terms with our instincts as well as we could. He had responded by attempting to immerse himself in his powers and all the responsibilities they involved, whereas I had fought to distance myself as much as possible from my vampirism. When that had failed, I had pushed all that I loved away. Jacob, on the other hand, had somehow managed to let the two areas of his life coexist. It didn't take an expert to see who had adopted the better approach.

That said, I couldn't help but smirk at the mental image of Jacob's reaction and being assigned a pair of 'leeches' as babysitters. After all, I was no saint.

Alice seemed to take my grin as a form of encouragement, because she addressed me again.

I overheard what you and Bella said to each other.

I glanced at her, and she must have seen the incredulity etched into my face. 'Overheard'? Really? I refused to believe it had been that accidental.

Alice inclined her head begrudgingly. "Well, okay, I listened," she said, wordlessly acknowledging my decision to involve myself in a conversation by replying aloud, "I know you probably wanted some privacy, but I couldn't help myself. Bella's my friend too, you know, and I care about how you feel too." Her eyes lowered, and it seemed that she had the decency to look somewhat abashed. "I'm sorry," she said quietly.

I felt a little guilty then.

"I'm not angry with you," I said. They were the first words I had spoken aloud since Bella's room. Alice looked up at me, and her expression was hopeful.

"You're not?"

"Not really."

"Well good, because I want to talk to you about what Bella said." I was half taken aback by the speed with which she had abandoned her embarrassment, half amused by her determination. "I know it wasn't exactly what you wanted to hear, but I definitely do not think it was a disaster. It was just like you agreed with Esme - you and Bella both need time to move on and it would be unreasonable to expect everything to slot right back into place straight away."

There was so much optimism in Alice's countenance and words that I felt slightly intimidated. She seemed so sure that everything was going to be fine, so absolutely confident that, as far as Bella was concerned, 'no' did not mean 'no', that I didn't know how to contradict her. I scrambled to find words to explain my uncertainty.

"She said it was the end," I finally replied. My voice was gruff.

Alice shook her head. "No, Edward, she said it could be the end. That's something different entirely. She said she needed time."

"The way I see it, you have two options," Alice continued , "either you can try to force Bella to come back to you now, and risk losing her completely, or you can take a step back and accept that, at least for the time being, things are out of your hands. You should try to live through these weeks as normally as possible. Bella has a lot of healing to do, Edward. Lots of that has nothing to do with you – it's related to the guilt she feels over what happened to the wolf boy which, although terrible, was as much her fault as it was that of the trees or the air or the sky. Bella isn't to the blame for hurting him, but until she sees that, there's no point in trying to win her back. I'm not saying you can't be there in the background to support her if she needs you, but you do need to be patient. You need to accept that, for once in your life, you haven't got any control." She shrugged. "Like I said, you've got two options. Neither of us need to be psychic to know which one is more likely to work."

Then, Alice kissed me on the cheek. She got to her feet and in a flutter of moments had disappeared, leaving me alone to contemplate all that she had said.

She was right, of course. In retrospect, Bella's 'goodbye' hadn't been as finite as it could have been, but that was less of a reassurance, more of a tiny glint of silver in the lining of a resolutely black cloud.

Or maybe it didn't have to be. Maybe I needed to focus on the positives. Bella was clearly not ready to forgive me or enter into any kind of long term relationship, but she had never denied loving me.

"I do love you. But this isn't just about me and you anymore, Edward. It's bigger. There are more people involved, more hearts and lives... You might be the same person as you were six years ago, but I'm not. I'm not frozen; I've changed."

These words still stung. I couldn't help but feel that to describe me as 'frozen' was an unbelievably low blow. How could she use the fact that I was a vampire against me, when she knew how much I'd give to be human? But as I thought it over, as I calmed down, my anger seeped away to be replaced by a little shame. Was I really the same person I had been six years ago? Bella was using the example to explain how much she'd matured, yet how much had I changed? I was much, much older than Bella, yet in the past few weeks I had acted like a teenager. Undermining Bella in class and fighting with her in front of her colleagues was not how somebody of my age and experience should act. It was as though, in my desperation to win her back, I had forgotten how to behave.

As I thought this, I was suddenly reminded of when Esme first joined our family. One day when returning from hunting I had overhead Carlisle telling her that he regretted changing me so young. He worried that it had stopped me from maturing properly. At the time, I had been angry, thinking his concerns both ludicrous and insulting. With a flash of embarrassment, I realized that they now made more sense. So much for trying to prove him wrong; if anything, my recent behavior had simply confirmed his apprehensions.

I remembered something else Bella had said.

"There are people I care about other than you; I have responsibilities outside of our relationship. I can't dedicate my life to 'us', or working to reclaim something we might never be able to get back. Right now, my friend is dying on the other side of the country because of something that we did- something that our relationship caused- and I have to be there for him. That is more important than this."

From this, it seemed that one of the main reasons Bella had refused me was that she was still caught up in guilt over the Quileute boy's fate. Although it pained me that she could count herself guilty for something that was so clearly not her fault, I found a glimmer of reassurance in the fact that, once she had come to terms with what had happened, she might be able to move on. I was aware of how selfish this response was. It ashamed me that I cared more about my future with Bella than what happened to the boy. I wished there was something I could do for him – after all, he had helped save Bella's life from Victoria – but I already knew that it was impossible. When I was waiting for Bella to finish her conversation with Black, Carlisle informed me that he had phoned an old friend and colleague at Forks Hospital, inquiring about Brady's condition. I think he, like I, had felt a certain level of responsibility for Brady's injuries. The fellow surgeon had informed him that Brady was completely beyond help. His fate was sealed, and terrible as that undoubtedly was, I would not allow Bella to consider her own future as irreparable.

So Bella loved me, but she still had demons to fight. Some of them she had to slay alone, others I hoped I could help her defeat with time. She wasn't alone in having to make changes, however; I, too, had to make conscious efforts to become somebody more worthy of her. I'd known it before, but after having heard it voiced by Bella I was more certain than ever.

In short, we both needed time. And, if there was one thing I had an unlimited supply of, it was time.

Alice was right; there was no doubt as to which of her options I was going to choose.

-------

And so began the waiting game.

I did not run away; I stayed at the hospital. I didn't attempt to initiate another conversation with Bella; I respected her wishes and her need to get better without emotional complications. My family, to my slight annoyance, had barely left me alone since I had spoken to Bella. I found myself accompanied by at least one of them wherever I went. I knew why, of course. They were worried about me. They feared that I would leave the country or try to do something stupid in response to being told 'no' by Bella. I suppose that they were afraid I would re-descend into the same depression I'd experienced after leaving Forks all those years ago. I understood their concerns, but they were misplaced. I did not want to die; I did not want to run. I would never do either of those things – not now, nowthat I knew how much I had hurt Bella the first time. As long as Bella lived, I would stay nearby. It did not matter if she hated me or even if she was with someone else, although it made me sick to think it. I could never willingly leave a world that contained Bella. I would wait in the wings forever, if that was what she needed.

I even continued to attend to school, despite my initial flat out refusal to do so.

This particular topic became an issue on the Wednesday after Bella's accident. Four days had passed since Saturday's crash, but, luckily for me, the weekend's record snowfall had led to school being closed for the past two days, allowing me to stay at the hospital. With no more bad weather forecast however, it was likely to reopen very soon. It barely even occurred to me that I would be going back to school – attending class while Bella lay in a hospital bed seemed unthinkable, despite my agreement to 'give her space'. I should have known, however, that Alice's idea of 'living as normally as possible' would include us all upholding the charade of high school.

She came to me a couple of hours after dawn on Wednesday morning. I was sitting in the living room of our house, watching the sun rise through the floor length French windows. I glanced up to see her staring at me with a look of steely determination fixed on her face.

"I just wanted to let you know that we're all leaving for school at eight thirty," she said, putting emphasis on the 'all'. "You're driving us."

"Don't be ridiculous."

"I'm not."

"Oh, come on. If you think I'm going to go back to school after everything that's happened - "

"Well what else are you going to do? You're not going to visit Bella, and there's no point in you just lurking around the hospital until visiting hours are up."

I glowered at her. "You told me I should be there for her in case she needs me."

"Yeah, but I also said you needed to try and go on as normal. That includes going to school. Jazz, help me," she said, turning around. Jasper had just entered the room, no doubt searching for Alice. She took his hand imploringly. "Tell Edward that he has to go to school."

It was unfair, her asking Jasper. Even without his power, his calm, persuasive explanations and crystal clear logic were practically unassailable. A master of strategic thinking, he pointed out that to drop out now would only raise more suspicion about my relationship with Ms Swan.

"The entire school already knows that something weird is going on between you. If you stop going to class while she's off sick then it'll just draw even more attention to your relationship."

Beaten, I found myself agreeing to go to school.

It had been a similar story when it came to my decision to stay in Rochester. Jasper was the one who dissuaded me from following Bella to Forks. It had been my intention from the moment she told me she was leaving. I couldn't bear the thought of her leaving my sight, let alone travelling across the country. It wasn't so much that she couldn't cope alone; it was more to do with my inability to let her go.

"She needs space, Edward," Jasper argued, "She's so confused emotionally right now. She loves you, but she's scared to act on it. Don't you remember what I told you about the guilt? It rolls off Bella in waves; she still holds herself responsible for everything that happened to that wolf kid. I know it's ridiculous!" he added quickly, holding up a hand to stop me from shouting in indignation, "but she hasn't realized that yet. I think she will eventually, if you give her time. I don't think you following her to Washington will do either of you any good at all. If anything, it might just push her even further away."

"Bella wouldn't have to know if I followed her to Forks. I could keep my distance."

Jasper rolled his eyes. "Right, because you could really follow her all the way to Washington and watch her spend all of her time with werewolves without intervening or contacting her in any way. You could watch her break down and cry and suffer without feeling compelled to go to comfort her and reveal yourself in the process. Admit it, Edward, you're too much of a control freak to stay uninvolved in that kind of situation."

He was right, of course. Jasper had an impressive habit of always being right on topics like this. His power had a lot to do with it, of course, but I had a sneaking suspicion that it was also just because he was an unusually perceptive person – something which I, for all my mind-reading prowess, was embarrassingly bad at. For so long I had thought the all-encompassing nature of my power meant I didn't have to work on my people skills. It had taken a person I couldn't read at all – Bella – to show me how wrong I had been.

Alice was just as unhelpful when it came to telling me what I wanted to hear. When I, after much complaint and wavering of resolve, finally accepted to stay behind whilst Bella travelled to Forks, I immediately turned to Alice. Even if I couldn't physically be with Bella, I still wanted to have the comfort of knowing what was happening to her. Unfortunately, I'd forgotten about one thing. Well, several, big, hairy things to be precise.

"It's the wolves," Alice said it decisively, throwing her hands down on the table top for emphasis. It was night-time and we were at the house, waiting for visiting hours to resume so we could go back to Bella.

There were two days left before she would be discharged. At my request, Alice had been attempting to see into Bella's future for several hours, with no success. No matter how hard she tried, all she could get were glimpses of Bella boarding the plane to Forks and landing in the airport. Anything beyond that was blank, shrouded in shadow.

"It's got to be their fault," Alice continued, pulling at her short hair in frustration. Jasper kissed her forehead gently and Esme came over to rub her hand consolingly. Everybody knew how much it upset Alice to be blind.

"Remember how my visions just disappeared when Jacob turned up in the hospital? And remember how I couldn't see her at all when she was still with them in Forks? All I can see of Bella right now is her going home to be with the wolf pack. She hasn't made any decisions beyond that, so there's nothing for me to see." She tried one more time and once more I saw the solid wall of grey, shutting off Bella's future.

It was very hard to stick to Jasper's advice when I knew that there was no way I'd be able to monitor Bella while she was in Forks. I was going to be cut off completely, with no visions to help me. I was, in effect, powerless. And I was terrified.

But maybe that was the point? Maybe this was the space Jasper was talking about, maybe this was what Bella needed. Perhaps it was only once she was free of me – completely and utterly free, without my influence or protection or presence – that she'd be able to find within herself whatever it was she was looking for. Because although I understood very little about how she was feeling, there was one thing I was certain of, and that was this: whatever it was Bella was going through, it was something which was completely introspective. It was inside of her – it was her soul, her consciousness, her guilt.I'd mocked her in the hospital when she'd tried to explain it to me, but now, looking at it objectively, I really understood. She had been telling the truth. It's not you, it's me. We both knew how Bella felt about me – that wasn't the issue. But her feelings towards herself seemed to be a lot less clear, and in accepting that, I realized that Jasper was right. Bella was on a journey that I could not accompany her on,and I was okay with that... as long as her path somehow led back to me.

Which was why the day before Bella was to be discharged, I found myself at Rochester airport, paying for one open-ended return ticket to Seattle.

Bella wasn't the only person who had matured. In many ways, my decision to stay in Rochester – to wait, rather than to act straight away – marked a new beginning for me. I was changing. I was learning from my mistakes and trying to make up for the rash way I had acted over the last couple of weeks.

Of course, staying behind wasn't easy. Not a day went by when I didn't think of Bella, or wonder what was happening to her at that precise moment. I spent many a Spanish class designing possible scenarios in my mind for what could be happening to Bella in Forks. Alice assured me that she would know if anything changed, but that did little to deter my overactive, overwhelmingly pessimistic, imagination from going into overdrive every five minutes.

It came as somewhat of a surprise to me that Bella's prolonged absence from school, despite generating a minor wave of interest in the first few days, went mainly uncommented upon. Judging by most people's attitudes to the news of her accident, it was clear that Ms Swan's notorious clumsiness made her hospitalization unsurprising, if not expected. Indeed, as far as half the student body was concerned, the main interest in the story seemed to be over the idea of Bella riding a motorbike. I had to sit through an especially aggravating calculus class with Adam Carter fantasizing about Bella in leather, after which it took all my self-control not to lift the boy by his collar and hurl him out of the window, third storey classroom be damned. Jasper, sensing my anger from the adjacent classroom, had luckily come to my rescue, sending waves of calm so soporific that a couple of kids on the back row might actually have fallen asleep.

I was grateful for his intervention, yet secretly disconcerted that I had found some of Carter's images stirring something other than rage inside of me... but no, now was not the time to give such thoughts any consideration. Bella and I had so many other areas to work on before I could properly entertain any ideas of that nature.

And so things went on. The minutes merged into hours, the hours slid into the days and the days combined into weeks. All the while, I waited for a sign, a fragment of news or hope.

And then, almost a month after Bella's departure to Forks, it came.

It was a bright sunny day. We'd all called in sick with 'a nasty bout of the flu'. I was sitting at the piano in the light filled foyer, the shimmer from my skin reflecting against the ivory as my hands ghosted across the keys. As always, I was thinking of Bella. I was half playing her lullaby, half exploring a new, different melody which expressed some of how much I missed her.

Then, Alice burst into the room.

"I saw her," she said, without introduction.

"Show me," I replied immediately. Without realizing, I had already jumped to my feet. I was hit with a flurry of visions in quick succession.

Bella, dressed in black on a grey beach under a pink-washed sky, her gaze fixed seaward; the wind blowing her loose brown hair around her face as she closed her eyes, her arms outstretched as though she was about to fly; at her old house, pulling a piece of writing paper towards her; writing the words 'Dear Edward' in her messy scrawl

And then, most important of all:

A brown haired girl and a bronze haired boy were sitting on a park bench, surrounded by pink blossomed trees and crocuses. The girl is smiling.

The visions stopped, and I shook my head, dazed. The implications of what I had just seen were rushing through my mind.

"That was us, together," I said, emotion rising in my throat.

"Yes," Alice nodded, and she was smiling widely, joy lighting up her whole face.

"She's coming back to me?" I could hardly believe it.

"...In April or May, judging from the look of that park."

I could feel happiness swelling in my heart. A park, late Spring, a smiling Bella. It sounded like a dream. After a few moments of contemplating this, I remembered something else.

"And the letter? That vision saw her writing me a letter." I looked instinctively to the door and the mailbox which lay beyond, then I looked back at Alice. "When do you think it'll arrive?"

She shook her head. "I've no idea, but that doesn't matter. It's on its way, Edward! She's coming back. Bella's coming back." Alice hugged me tight and then turned around and sped off to find the rest of the family to tell them of the news, leaving me alone by the piano, consumed by my thoughts.

The Bella I had seen on the beach had seemed happier – freer, almost – than any I'd seen for a long time. For six years, in fact. Something had changed. She was getting better. She was writing me a letter.

She was coming home.

Dear Edward,

I wonder if this letter will be as hard for you to read as it is for me to write.

I know it's been a long time since I saw you. I'm sorry for leaving you hanging like I did, but at the time it was all I could manage. Now I've had time to think and calm down and I can explain everything better. I hope you're not angry that I decided to write you a letter, as opposed to saying this in person. I've got so much to say to you, but I want to make sure that I express it in the best way, and I don't think I could do that face to face. I also want to give you the chance to hear exactly how I feel, without feeling that you have to come up with some sort of immediate response. I think it's probably better this way.

Maybe you already know this – I wouldn't be surprised if you did, somehow - but Brady died this week. The grief was awful at first. It was so hard to accept that he was gone, especially when I was convinced that Victoria's attack on him had been my fault. The worst part was that I couldn't understand why I seemed to be the only person who couldn't get any sort of closure from his death. I had gone to Forks to try and find peace, but all I got was more sadness.

The funeral was today. I'd been dreading it; even at the reception beforehand I felt sick with fear. I felt like a fraud, being there at the funeral – like I had no right to grieve or be around Brady's friends and family when I was so involved in his death. But then things changed. I had a conversation with Jacob's father. He lost his wife in a car crash when Jacob was six and he told me that he was convinced it was his fault. He spoke to me about the nature of guilt and how it's ultimately pointless – that it never brings the loved one back, it just perpetuates the pain. And then we had the funeral and I had... I don't even know how to describe it to you. It was an epiphany, I suppose- a sudden realization that all of this time I've been blaming myself for something which wasn't my fault, that I need to let go and move on. By finally letting Brady's spirit go, I felt the weight lift from my shoulders and finally understood what everyone else has been telling me for so long - that I need to let go of the past and start living for now.

And the more I think about it, I realize that that rings true for more than just my feelings about Brady. It's the same for us and our relationship.

You betrayed me. You hurt me by leaving; you altered the course of my life by never coming back. It was stupid and wrong and above all arrogant of you to assume that you could make that kind of choice about my future, without asking me first. But despite all your failings, despite all the pain you put me through, I know that you never meant to hurt me. I believed you when you told me so in the hospital, but I couldn't fully accept it then, not when my heart was so torn with grief and guilt about Brady. The pain of everything that had happened was still too raw and it had felt wrong to even think about the future when the ghosts of the past were so ever present.

But things are different now. The time apart from you gave me a chance to think, softening the pain and diluting the anger. I'm more able to think rationally; I can look forward instead of back. And if there's one thing I now know for certain, it's this: Hating you forever won't give me back those six years, just as hating myself wouldn't save Brady's life. And slowly, piece by piece, day by day, I'm allowing myself to believe that I really am the good person other people say I am- that I deserve a shot at happiness.

And, if I'm totally honest, Edward - if it's happiness that I'm searching for, then you're the only person I have to find. Because in my heart I know that there is never going to be another person I love as much as you. Even if I live forever, I'll never find somebody who makes me as happy.

I know what life is like without you. I lived that way for six years, and although I found some semblance of happiness, although there were a few points of reason, they were like occasional gaps in the clouds. For the most part, my life was a vast expanse of gray; meaningless, numb, lonely. I don't need you to exist now - I built a life and found a path independently of you- but I want you. That's the difference. You aren't a drug to me anymore; you aren't an addiction that I can't control. My forgiving you isn't a question of dependency or necessity – as maybe it would have been if you'd come back when I was eighteen – it's a choice. You're my choice,and in a way, that's probably the most important distinction of all.

Because in the course of losing and then finding you again when I least expected it, I learnt a lot about myself. I discovered my own strength, but only after being confronted by the ways in which I was weak. It's only now that I recognize how dependent I was on you, that I can see the benefits of you having left.

When you went, my entire life fell apart. After a year of acting as though I was your satellite, everything I knew suddenly crumbled to dust. The fact is, Edward, that if I'd never been so dependant on you in the first place then maybe I wouldn't have fallen so hard after you left. I loved you too much. I idolized you and put you on a pedestal, believing that you were flawless.

I felt so unworthy of you. That was why, above all, I craved becoming a vampire, so that I could make us more equal. I wanted physical equality, to make myself somehow deserving of you by being stronger, faster and more beautiful. In short, I wanted it for all the wrong reasons. I should have realized- or perhaps I was too young- that the only thing that really matters is spiritual equality, and the only thing holding me back from that was my lack of self-belief.

I needed you to be happy, to live, even. It was stupid, obsessive and unhealthy. I defined myself by you, so when you weren't there it was like I ceased to exist. You probably saw from Jacob's memories that I all but died when you left, and that's true. I convinced myself that I couldn't live without you, which in time became self-fulfilling. I couldn't date other guys because all I would let myself see was you. In our argument before my crash I tried to blame you for that, even though deep down I knew that it wasn't your fault. I chose not to forget you; I chose to hold on to the memory of our time together, no matter the cost. I was certain that you were never coming back, yet I still never truly let you go. I told myself I couldn't, that I didn't know how to, but maybe I just never tried.

It was the same situation with Brady. I believed that I was making the right choices, that I I'd matured and you hadn't. I thought that running off to Forks would save all my problems, and then I realized that the reason I couldn't find any peace was with me all along. It was in my heart, in my soul, in my outlook on life. I was so certain of my own guilt – just like I was certain of the way I needed you – that I was unable to see any alternative.

It's hard for me to write this. Acknowledging these thoughts is like stripping away my defences, pulling down the walls I've kept up for so long. I feel like I'm stretching my soul out for all to see and dissecting each flaw, each weakness and fear in minute detail. But if anyone deserves to hear it, it's you, Edward. I can't carry on blaming you for how my life turned out or how unhappy I was, when I know that I was the one who refused to move on. I keep telling you how much I've matured – well, this is the proof. I'm not going to run from myself anymore.

Neither of us is perfect. We've both made mistakes. You've hurt me and I've hurt you and our relationship is scratched and scarred, but it's not broken beyond repair, despite what I said to you in the hospital. It might sound crazy, but now that I believe in my own judgement, I can accept that it's okay for me to still love you. I'm not betraying myself, or Jacob or Brady. I'm not being weak, by turning to you; I'm allowing myself to be happy. I'm not letting our mistakes affect our happiness or the past define our future.

I know that I can learn to trust you again, despite what happened. I know that I can trust my own judgement again, despite ignoring it for so long.

But there's something you need to know. I've decided that I'm going to hand my notice in at Sycamore High. I've wanted to move back West for a while now, and I think I could do with a new start, especially after everything that has happened in the last two months. I'm going to try and get a job teaching in Seattle or Olympia; that way I can be fairly close to Forks and La Push without losing any of my independence.

I want you to understand that my moving is not an attempt to escape you, Edward. I want you to come with me, but it has to be your choice. I realize that you never actually chose to find me again; it was coincidence that brought you to Rochester. So I want to give you the opportunity to back out or change your mind. You say you still love me, but I need you to understand that it's going to be different this time around. I'm not the same person you fell in love with and I wonder whether you realize that and are okay with it. As a teenager, I used to think that one of the main reasons you loved me was because I was fragile and you could protect me. As an adult, I've become much stronger. I'm not a girl any more, and I need you to accept that; I need you to be sure that you'll love me for who I am.

I think we need some time away from each other. Even though I'm sure that I want my future to be with you, I still need time to be alone for a while, just so I can make sense of everything that's happened in my own head. I don't know when I'll be ready to see you again, but rest assured that I'll come and find you when I am. I realize I'm keeping you waiting, but I don't want to rush back into our relationship and wreck it in the process. You're too important to me for that to happen. Hopefully you'll feel the same way.

Because the thing is, Edward, I really do love you. I always have. I'm more wary of the word 'forever' than I was as a teenager, but I know I won't ever want anybody but you.

I hope this letter helps you understand how I feel. I hope you still love me after reading it. I know things won't necessarily be easy from here on in. I want us to work together to get back everything that we've lost, but I know it might take months, or even years for us to be totally comfortable with each other again. I don't know where we'll start and I have no idea how this is going to end. I'm not ready to embrace eternity, but nor am I prepared to give up on us completely, Edward. Not by a long shot.

I'll let you know when I'm back in Rochester. Until then, don't come looking for me.

My love,

Bella

As you wander through this troubled world
In search of all things beautiful
You can close your eyes when you're miles away
And hear my voice like a serenade

How long do you want to be loved
Is forever enough, is forever enough
How long do you want to be loved
Is forever enough
Cause I'm never, never giving you up