What makes us who we are? Our history? Our actions? Our hopes for the future? Our desires for the past? The Cullens try to discover who they really are.
3. Chapter 3
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Listen. Listen. Listen.
“This is a pretty place,” the girl nodded. Emmett could see her clearly now—no more than fifteen.
“I’m glad you like it,” Jim smiled, taking her hand.
Her heart was beating quickly, but he could not tell if it was from fear or excitement—or possibly both. They do have a tendency to occur simultaneously. That was why people bungee jumped.
He’d almost ripped Jim’s neck off, but instead wrapped his own arms tightly around a tree trunk to stop himself. He was still too far away for them to see him, and the sun was setting.
“I’ve been wantin’ to take you out here for a long time, kid,” he nodded to her.
He hated that word—kid. He’d been called kid by people much younger than him—of course, they looked older—but still. The girl didn’t seem to like it any better. “I’m not a kid,” she said, pouting like a kid.
Jim laughed, “No, no. Of course not. I don’t mean it like that. It’s just a word.”
Just a word. Just a word like rape. Like jailbait. Like evil.
Jim was at least thirty, and his goatee made him look older. Emmett clutched the tree tightly, and his fingers began to dig into the bark.
“Well,” the girl smiled. “Now that we’re here, what should we do?”
Emmett closed his eyes. He could not see this.
He had become an expert at existing on the sidelines of life. He knew he should not exist. It wasn’t natural. And so Carlisle said it was best…it was best.
“Well,” Jim brought his hand to the girl’s face, “I have some ideas.”
It was best…
They were to be flies on the wall—simply there, never touching anything—never changing the course of any creature.
“Ideas?” she whispered.
But surely there were exceptions.
They spoke the entire plane ride. It was terrible.
“The paper says it’s going to rain,” he said.
“That’s good,” she said.
“It’s a shame we can’t verify with Alice,” he said.
“We’ll survive,” she said.
“I didn’t mean to imply that we wouldn’t,” he said.
“Of course you didn’t,” she said.
“Are you still upset with me?”
“Renesmee says she may attend mass tomorrow with Carlisle.”
“She says he asked her.”
“How long until we land?”
“Another hour or so, I’d say.”
“Oh,” she looked out the window at the clouds.
“I think I read the Mariners won their game last night.”
The ritual was particularly overwhelming. Somehow, everyone knew when to stand—sit—sing—pray. It was strange to Nessie that there were designated times to pray.
Carlisle fell back into the customs as if he’d never left. Of course, they weren’t exactly the same—the change to English was nice, though he now felt like a fool for knowing every word of the mass in Latin.
About half way through the hour, everyone sat and the pastor came forward, down from the altar. Nessie unconsciously sat up straight and held her hands together in her lap.
He spoke with an accent Nessie could not quite distinguish. Carlisle could—Irish, Connacht dialect.
“Good evening, everyone,” he said.
Neither answered, but they listened as those around them did. Carlisle cast his eyes downward—evening—because he could not attend mass in the morning as one was supposed to.
“I had planned a speech to give you all this week. It was a good one—full of metaphors and symbolic meanings and such. Instead, I’m just going to tell you a story and let you discover the rest on your own,” he smiled. Nessie smiled back. She liked him already. “After all, I know we’d all like to be home in time for first pitch tonight, so I’ll keep it short.”
The church laughed. Carlisle did not.
“A friend of mine died Friday night,” the priest said. “He was very old and in a good deal of pain. He had been ready to go for a few years. He loved to laugh and sing in Italian,” he raised an eyebrow, “Though he wasn’t very good.”
The church laughed.
“Well, I went over to his house last weekend, and he asked me if I would do him a favor and try to contact someone for him. I told him I would certainly try. He told me the name of a woman he had known from college, and I found her name in the phonebook—she did not live too far away. And so my friend asked me if I would call her and ask her to come see him, for he needed to speak with her before he died. I told him, of course.
“I called the woman, and she did not seem to know my friend’s name, but I explained that he was very sick and for whatever reason needed to see her. She was a kind woman, and decided to drive over to my friend’s house. I was there the afternoon she visited. My friend seemed very nervous to see her. He asked her to sit down next to him and look at him in the eye. She did. And my friend spoke, ‘You do not remember me, but I have thought about you each and every day for almost sixty years. I have done something terrible to you, and I could not allow myself to leave this life without receiving your forgiveness.’
“At this, the woman began to understand, and stood up. She was angry, and began yelling at my friend. She called him a monster—she called him evil. She called him a rapist. “
The church murmured. Nessie’s eyes narrowed.
“My friend did not deny a thing, but simply asked again and again for forgiveness. The woman cried and looked to me, as if she thought I would force her to forgive him somehow. I simply sat and watched, for what else could I do? My friend tried to calm her, ‘I am so very sorry. I know I can never take back what I did, but I am sorry. Please forgive me.’
“Well, I said I would make this story short, and I’ve rambled long enough. The woman did not forgive my friend. She said she simply could not.”
The church was quiet.
“And yet I saw her yesterday at my friend’s funeral. I watched. She did not speak a word to anyone, but wept through the entire service. Of course, it is impossible to know the fate of my dear friend’s soul, as only God is privy to such information, but I do know that I was incredibly proud of my friend as I watched that woman scream at him and call him a monster—for it is one of the most difficult things in the world to ask for forgiveness. Isn’t it much easier to simply forget or deny or hide? And yet, the Lord teaches us to forgive one another and, of course, to forgive ourselves,” he looked out at the congregation for a long moment, before smiling, “Let us pray.”
And the church prayed.
“Do you think she’s lonely?” Rose sighed, glaring at the crib.
It was an absurd question. Nessie had never had more than an hour to herself as consequence of having so many doting family members. Esme smiled until she noticed Rosalie’s expression. “Were you lonely, Rose?” she barely whispered.
“Who knows?” she shrugged. “I hope she’s not lonely.”
“She lives in a house with nine other people—“
“But she’s the only one…like her.”
“She’s special,” Esme smiled.
“She really is.” They were quiet for a moment, folding and thinking and breathing in. “She’s going to marry the dog.”
Esme laughed, “Probably.”
“Do you think she’ll have-?”
“Perhaps, if she’d like to; she’s still very young. There’s no rush.”
Rosalie stared, “A boy. She should have a baby boy. She’d like that.”
“Edward Jacob?” her eyes shined smugly.
Laughter peeled through the warehouse, “God, I hope not.” She shook her head, “I should have been more kind to her.”
“To Bella,” she shrugged. “I gave her such a hard time, and she gave the family what no one else could.”
Esme shook her head, “You had your reasons. Bella understands that. And it was so long ago.”
She nodded, “She’s good at that—better than I ever could be.”
She closed her eyes, wistful, “Forgetting.”
Maria took his by the hand. She walked in front of him quickly, holding firmly.
There was something comforting in the gesture—something like a mother and a son. There was unspoken, stolen trust—a total lack of freedom. There was an excitement and, with it, fear. There was no telling where he would be when his hand belonged to him again.
Alice led him only to safety. She would never bring him anywhere where the outcome was unknown. Every now and then, he hoped she would let go, but she never did.
He didn’t breathe out habit as the scent hit his throat. He felt the fear—the anxiety. He made no move to pull away. He followed and watched.
“Meet SaraBeth, Major Whitlock,” Maria smiled and stared at him, staring at the girl. There was blood—fresh, exposed, human blood. It was in her hair and stained the ropes that held her. It mixed with her tears. It was beautiful. “She’s quite the screamer.”
And Jasper breathed.