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A section of time during Edward's absence in New Moon as he reflects on life before and after Bella. One-shot. Written for the March-April Novel Novice Twilight contest, but decided to post it here.


1. Comparisons

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Tick. Tock. Tick.

Water dripped. The loud, garbled voices somewhere in the more decent parts of the house continued, deafening me with the volume at which they spoke their foreign language. I could understand every bit of what they were saying, but I couldn't find the incentive to translate. Mundane human dramas held no appeal for me like they had when I'd met her.

My dead heart throbbed. I turned my attention to other things, like the squeaking of rats as they conversed. Randomly, I wondered whether I would be able to understand rat-speak.

Birds squawked somewhere overhead. The concrete cellar floor seemed to crack under my weight as I released a very tiny bit of my pent-up anger - anger at myself, the world in general.

Not at my family. They didn't deserve it.

And definitely not-

Damn it!

I concentrate on the anomaly that was the rat language, focusing on the variations in squeaks, the pauses between them, and the little indignant noises they made every once in a while, fighting my thoughts from drifting to-

This was one of the only times in my abnormally long lifetime that I'd regretted the ability of my mind to multi-task quickly. It was just too hard to concentrate on one thing only and not have to resort to desperate, pathetic methods in an effort to keep me sane and ward off the thoughts of the only thing - or rather, person - on my mind.

I tried out a new method. I set one part of my brain to sing a song straight out of High School Musical - which originally, I would've hated, but I couldn't care less at the moment - while another was put on the obscenely large task of dismantling a plane to the smallest piece and putting it together again in a way the engineers should have planned.

Then last, I simply set on attempting a sentence in my new native language.

The three tasks combined, instead of rendering me so busy that I couldn't think straight, forced me to muddle them up, so that I was now imagining a rat-shaped plane with bright pink innards and the cast of High School Musical, looking odd with their new rat-shaped faces, on board, singing with all their might.

I pulled at my hair - that tousled, bronze hair that she had always loved to muss about - and resisted the urge to scream.

The sudden ring of my cell phone made me jump - metaphorically, of course - as the speakers blared. The voices I were tuning out somewhat faltered for a moment. I stiffened up.

But only for a brief second. So gullible. They'd dismissed it like the news that someone had gone to the bathroom earlier and proceeded in their debates that were becoming increasingly dirty. I shuddered at the mental images they were providing me with and vowed that however incapacitated I was, I would at least pay attention when one of them decided to venture down into the cellar to retrieve a package of food.

I were momentarily distracted, my black mood gone as I remembered her adorable pout, her smile, the way her eyes lit up when discussing something she had an interest in.

A smile appeared on my lips for a millisecond as I recalled her sweet, melodic voice argue passionately, "Edward, just because I don't eat doesn't mean that I can't appreciate the goodness that is food!"

And then she'd lifted a spoonful of what looked like a carrot - I hadn't had food for so many years that my knowledge of it had begun to fade away - and brought it up to my nose to sniff.

I'd forced a grin on my face as I obediently - yet tentatively - breathed in. My face's natural reaction would've been to cringe at the odor wafting towards me from it, but to please her, I'd sucked it up - not literally - and smiled at her as she merely looked on, amused, her enchanting blush firing up the air between us...

My smile disappeared as a rat's tail whipped me in the mouth, giving me the unpleasant taste of something I would rather not think about.

The piercing trill of my phone interrupted my intentions of strangling the rat in question, but I ignored it, continuing with my act of animal cruelty. The boredom was so excruciating, it hurt.

But worse than that was the need to see her, caress her silky skin once more, kiss those soft, inviting lips...

I tore myself out of my thoughts, panting heavily with the mental effort.

What was wrong with me? It was like I was inviting the monster here with me, when I was helpless, spineless, weak! Already I could feel the venom pool up in my mouth, but instead of encouraging the bloodlust, it only repelled it, and despite what my masochistic side said, I was simply disgusted.

This was why I had left.

My cell phone beeped, and annoyed, I grabbed it from next to the ground where I lay and mashed a button with my fingers. I could hear the slight crack as the material gave away slightly, but unfortunately, it still worked.

I could've always threw it against the wall, but I had a few very good reasons for that: one, I didn't want the terrifying women to hear something and come down to inspect - which wouldn't be good for the vampire race, because I would have to kill her if she tried to seduce me - and two, I couldn't bear causing my family any more pain.

So I flipped it open, and it greeted me with the words, 7 new messages.

And with a deep sigh, I jabbed the OK button and pressed the flimsy object to my ear.

Of course, Rosalie's voice came on first. I expected it - even without my extensive knowledge of my family members' personalities, it was pretty obvious.

What threw me for a loop was her words, and the surprising reaction that came from them.

"Edward, You're tearing this family apart. Get your ass back home already. Esme's going mad with grief - do you know what you're doing to her?"

Of course I did. Rosalie never was one to be subtle.

"Well, of course you do, you're Mr. Know-It-All."

My family knew me too well.

"Stop being selfish, Edward, and just get on with it."

Well, that's not hypocritical or anything.

There was a slight pause, and an impatient sigh echoed into the phone. When Rosalie spoke again, her voice wasn't so rough, so over-bearing. It was almost... sympathetic? Compassionate?

"Edward... I meant what I said about Esme. She and Carlisle are grieving, Edward. They understand that this was your choice, but... they're not the same. Alice isn't, and Emmett... he's too serious all the time now, Edward. It's not natural for him. And do I even need to talk about Jasper?" A little laugh.

Rosalie's heartfelt words made me just curl up on the floor more. Did I really want to know the effect that my departure had wrecked upon them?

"All I'm saying, Edward, is that this family isn't complete. Not without you. Esme doesn't work in the garden anymore, Alice just sits on the couch, Jasper's constantly out of the house hunting in an effort to escape our pain... and Emmett... well, he's not Emmett anymore. He doesn't work on the Jeep anymore, he doesn't do anything... he just sits there.

"And I... well, I miss you too. There. I said, it, okay? I miss you. I actually miss the little stand-offs we had, the way we pulled pranks on each other when one of us offended the other. I even miss your relentless teasing on my jealousy..." A note of revulsion entered her tone, then disappeared just as quickly.

"Edward, you're my brother... and that means I can't abandon you. As much as I'd like to."

I had to chuckle at that.

"So you need to come home. Now. And if that means bringing that hu- Bella with you, then so be it. I won't try to scare her off, I'll just welcome her as a sister with open arms and envy her from afar..."

I flinched at the bitterness in her tone. Not because I was some saint who utterly loved this half-life I was living in - which I didn't - but because it mirrored mine perfectly.

"Edward, I've said my part. I understand if you don't take my words seriously, but please, just consider them... Emmett wants his say now, so I'm going to go..." A pause. "And... Edward? I do get why you left her and all, and I support your decision, despite all I've said so far. But honestly..."

I could sense her hesitation, her wanting to force everything out there as quick as possible, and I waited.

"Whatever you want to do, I'm fine. Whatever Bella wants to do, I'm fine. Because... I think I finally understand the... depth of both of your love."

This was a long message. I listened eagerly.

"And Edward, don't kid yourself. Her love is just as strong as yours, if not stronger, despite what you might think. I'll see you later."

Click. The phone started to move on to the next message, Emmett's unusually somber tone entering the speakers.

I didn't bother listening. I snapped the phone shut and threw it across the room so it shattered into little pieces.

I wasn't looking. My head was buried in my hands as I considered Rosalie's speech.

It was so much more than what I'd expected Rosalie to say. I'd actually thought that she would just tell me to go home and hang up.

I was extremely far off the mark.

It was so... uncharacteristic of Rosalie to think of someone other than herself. She wasn't fully and truly selfish, but every one of her actions were for self-gain. And seeing this new side of Rosalie shocked me.

I took her words seriously, despite what she might've thought when she recorded the message. I compared my life before her, those few blissful months, and then the present. And I saw that my life in those months were far better than the century I'd been with Carlisle. By a wide margin, too.

The decision was made by the words of Rosalie's that had stuck out particularly in all of Rosalie's thought-provoking words.

"'Her love is just as strong as yours, if not stronger...'"

A weak smile lit up my face, and I pulled out a handy, second cell phone to dial a number.

"Hello, Rosalie."