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.
5. Chapter 5
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Amber—they were a light amber. Six years ago, Bella had spent an entire night in awe of the hue in her irises—proud that she was halfway to vegetarian gold. He could hardly remember that day in his own history. He had almost always been red or gold or black. He’d let them fade to black when he’d joined the family. Red to black to gold. No grey area. He could not handle grey area.
“Thank you!” SaraBeth still cowered in the corner. “Thank you. Thank you!”
“It’s all right,” he stared at himself, amber-eyed. “You’re all right.” He let out a calming wave and heard her take a deep breath.
“Thank you,” she said again. “I thought I was gonna die.”
He turned from his reflection and looked to her, smiling up at him, “What was your name? Sara something?”
She shrugged, “She calls me SaraBeth. She says I look like a SaraBeth. I’m not exactly sure what that means.”
“Well,” he held the distance between them, “What’s your real name?”
Her face flushed, and he balled his hands into fists. “I don’t know my real name. I can’t seem to remember it.”
He could have cried. Maria had picked her specifically for him. There were other bleeding humans in other rooms; he could smell them. This girl was for him. This girl was Alice before the fall.
“I male a left here, right?” Renesmee pointed in front of her at the red light. She had a pretty decent sense of direction, but the roads from the church back to the house were relatively new.
“Not yet,” Carlisle gently shook his head. It would have made more sense for him to drive, but she’d asked, and he’d never been good at saying no. “Just keep going straight; I’ll tell you when to turn.”
“Okay,” she nodded and stared at the dark, open road in front of her. He’d been oddly silent since they’d gotten in the car—no commentary on the mass, no reminiscing, no petty conversation, no nothing. “Um,” she bit her lip and kept her eyes fixed, “Are you all right?”
He blinked slowly, “I’m fine, Renesmee. Why do you ask?”
“I don’t know,” she was instantly embarrassed. It was a rare occasion when her instincts led her to a dead end. “You’re just quiet, I guess.”
He laughed calmly, “I’m sorry. I’ve just been thinking.”
She nodded, keeping her eyes firmly on the road in front of her, “About...uh, the mass? Did…did you like it?”
Her question gave him pause. Did anyone like mass? “It was very interesting, yes,” he nodded.
“Anything like what you remember?”
“No,” he laughed. “Nothing at all. But the changes are rather nice. It’s...easier.”
“Yeah,” she nodded, smiling, “I thought it would be a lot more formal. Like, that part when the priest guy was talking…?”
“The homily,” he nodded.
“Yeah,” she said. “That was…actually, I don’t know…I just thought it would be more stuffy. You know…” She lowered her voice, “’Do this, and you’ll go to Hell. Do that, and you’ll go to Hell. Do any combination of the two, and you’ll go to Hell’.”
He smiled with her; it sounded familiar.
“But it really wasn’t like that at all,” she shrugged. “There was…there was a lot of grey area, I guess. I sort of like that. The grey.”
He stared at her.
She laughed nervously, “You’re doing that quiet thing again.”
“I’m sorry,” he seemed distracted.
“No,” she shrugged. “That’s okay. I’m sure it was pretty difficult for you, sitting there after all those years. I…I should be more sensitive—“
“Renesmee,” he whispered it, as if he hadn’t actually wanted to speak.
“Yes?” she wrinkled her brow.
“I’m very, very sorry…” he opened his mouth to continue, but, at first nothing came.
She laughed, “No, no. Don’t worry about it, really. I’m just used to the constant talking. Probably too much time with Jake—“ She glanced over to him, and her smile fell instantly. There was so much pain in his face, in every feature. She shook her head, “That’s not what you mean, is it?”
“No,” he sighed. “Renesmee,” he shook his head, “You loved your grandfather very much, didn’t you?”
It took her a few moments to respond. He waited.
She watched the road as he watched her face. Shock came first, then confusion, then hurt, then her practiced façade of acceptance. Then, she spoke, “I did, yes. Very, very much.”
“You miss him,” he knew he was pushing her. He knew he was hurting her.
“I do, yeah,” she nodded, then shrugged, “But, I mean…I’m okay. I’m not…you don’t need to be worried about me or anything.”
“Renesmee, I’m terribly sorry,” he shook his head.
“You keep saying that,” her voice quavered the slightest bit.
“I’ve done something horrible,” he whispered. “Something monstrous. Unforgiveable.”
She left a lump in her throat, “Nothing’s unforgivable.”
“I’m afraid that’s not exactly true, Renesmee.. And I’m sorry you have to live in such a world where it’s so.”
“I,” her voice caught. “I don’t understand. What does this have to do with Grandpa?”
He sighed, “You’ve learned your family history. Do you remember it?”
“Everything,” she nodded confidently. Her father had told her the family’s biographies as bedtime stories—in her earliest years, shortened, more pleasant versions—then later, the uneasy truths.
He smiled sadly, “Not everything.”
“I don’t understand,” she ran the stories through her head. There were no blank spots. Every year was accounted for—every accident, every addition. “Dad told me—“
“It’s not Edward’s fault,” he closed his eyes. “Even he doesn’t know everything.”
“Carlisle,” she stopped at the red light. “I’m confused. What are you saying?”
“It’s not true, Renesmee,” he said simply. “I’m not who you think I am.”
“Then who are you?” she almost laughed at the melodrama of it.
“I’m a murderer, Renesmee,” he said, almost inaudible. “A murderer.”
How did it happen? How do things like this ever happen?
“Oh, my God!” Rachel shrieked loudly, but no one came. Emmett cringed at his benefitting from the seclusion Jim had created. “Oh, my God! Jim! What have you done!? Jim! Oh, God! Jim!”
Jim had somehow lost his right arm.
“Fucking asshole!!” he screamed at Emmett, trying to push himself up off the ground and failing.
There was so much blood. So much. How did it happen? How did he loose so much of his control?
“Jim!” Rachel wept in a terrified ball on the ground. “Oh, my God! Jim!”
He’d advanced toward the girl, and Emmett had latched onto his arm. He remembered that much. The rest had happened too quickly. Too much force—too much anger in his fingers—too much power.
“I’m gonna kill you,” Jim roared. “You son of a bitch! I’m gonna kill you!”
That was option one—murder them both, destroy the monster and the damsel in one fell swoop—for the good of his family.
Option two—flee the scene. They didn’t have his real name. They didn’t really know anything about him. Was it possible he could leave them both alive?
“How could you?!” Rachel bawled, staring up in horror at Emmett. “How could you?!”
“God,” Jim sneered. “Shut the fuck up, kid!”
No. They couldn’t both live through this.
“You’re gonna die, asshole,” Jim promised.
So kill the monster and leave the little girl to his misery—let her have nightmares for the rest of her life—let her die thinking Jim really loved her. Let her live…
Or kill the girl…?
Be absolutely sure that no harm would come to his family. Was her life worth the risk? Was it worth the loss of even one member?
“Swear to God!” Jim launched himself at Emmett with the miniscule strength he had left, and—without thinking, Emmet raised his hand and broke the monster’s neck, and he’d slain the dragon.
“All this stuff is so great,” a perky blonde with a tight yellow t-shirt nodded to them. Her nametag read ‘Carol.’ “The Lord will surely bless you for donating it.”
“Yeah, I’m sure,” Rosalie lifted the box filled with books and carried it from the car to the church, where others had formed piles of different material things. She walked slowly, so as not to draw any more attention than she naturally did.
“Have you kept these all this time?” Carol smiled to Esme. “Since she…?”
“No,” she smiled. “These are my granddaughter’s.”
“Oh!” Carol clasped her hand together, “How wonderful! But you seem so young to be a grandmother!”
Esme laughed and felt the lie fall out as naturally as the truth would have, “Actually, my husband and I adopted orphan teenagers a few years ago; these belong to my son Edward’s daughter, Renesmee.”
“You adopted. That’s so kind of you,” Carol nodded. “And teenage orphans. I’m sure they were quite a handful.”
She smiled, “They all brought their own special challenges, I suppose.” She watched Carol examine the labels on the boxes. She was barely twenty. “Do you volunteer a lot for things like this?”
“Sometimes,” she shrugged. “Its just nice to know that there are good people out there somewhere. It can get hard to remember that.”
“I know what you mean,” she nodded.
“Next,” Rosalie returned and held her arms out for another box. Esme handed her the first box of clothing.
“Do you live around here?” Carol shrugged, watching Rosalie leave.
“Oh,” Esme turned away slightly. “No, we live down in Aberdeen? We just noticed the collection happening here, so we drove up.” They had avoided the Aberdeen churches for fear that the family would catch them—just in case.
“Oh, that’s nice. I think I’ve been to Aberdeen,” she nodded. “It’s a nice place.”
“Yes, we like it very much,” Esme agreed.
“How old is…what did you say her name was?”
“Yeah, that’s it. That’s a pretty name,” she smiled. “How old is she now?”
“She’s…” Esme smiled, “Six.”
“Oh! I have a cousin who’s six,” Carol placed a hand on her heart. “He’s so funny! And so creative, too. We think he’s going to be some kind of artist—he draws wonderful pictures. Here. I have a picture of him somewhere.” She pulled out a photo of a young boy in green overalls with brown, slicked back hair and a deviously cute smile, and handed it to her. “There’s my Toby.”
“Next,” Rosalie appeared and held her hands out, but Esme was lost.
“He’s beautiful,” she whispered.
“Esme?” Rose shook her head and took the picture. “Oh,” she shrugged and looked up at Carol. “He’s yours?”
“My aunt’s,” she nodded.
“Hmm,” she placed a hand on Esme’s shoulder. “You know, mom. I could ask some of the guys inside to carry these, if you’d like to get going?”
Esme looked at her as if she was waking up, “Oh, all right. That would be…yes,” she nodded. “And tell them thank you.”
Rosalie gave Carol back her picture and was gone and back much faster than she should have been. Esme waited in the car, until Rosalie told her all the boxes were gone. And they drove away.
The Cooper family lived happily in their home at 148 Bartlett. Jason Cooper had scribbling drawings hanging up in the windows. Michael Cooper blasted music from his bedroom upstairs. Anna Cooper was doing taxes at the table, while her boyfriend, Steve, was cooking dinner.
Jason was in first grade. He was the leader of his class on Monday, which meant he stood in the front of the line when the class went to lunch, and he presented a poster he made with Anna about who he is to the rest of his class. He had tried to kiss a girl named Talia on her birthday last week, but she’d wiped it off her cheek. He had waited until he got home to cry. Before school had started, he was scared to ride the bus, because he still didn’t know how to buckle his own seatbelt, but then Anna taught him, and he was fine.
Michael was in ninth grade. He got a D in Pre-Algebra the year before, so he was in a basic skills class this year, but it was stupid, because he only got the D, because the teacher hated him, because she only liked girls. He was really good at science—he wanted to be a coroner. Someday, he was going to marry Aubrey Gendrey, but it wouldn’t be one of those lame weddings. It was gonna be cool. She was gonna wear a really low cut tank top, and he was gonna wear his ACDC shirt.
Anna divorced her husband after they grew apart and never looked back. She worked hard at her sales firm and was planning on asking for a promotion next month. She sometimes worried that Jason was mildly racist or that Michael secretly hated her, but she refused to spend her time worrying about things outside of her control. She went to see a therapist once every two weeks just to make sure she was mentally stable. She probably was.
Steve was too young for Anna, but neither of them were looking for anything serious. He was planning on asking her later that night if she’d be interested in accompanying him to a bondage party.
Bella and Edward Cullen had nothing to do with them.
Four more hours, standing outside—watching…
She wondered why she cared so much. She didn’t need a family, did she? She had a family, didn’t she?
Alice had helped Dorothy Daniels clean up the spilled ice tea, apologizing fervently, offering to replace the broken glass. Dorothy had explained to her that that was not at all necessary, but she insisted, probably too harshly, because Dorothy then asked if Kyle and Alice would give her some time to rest. Alice figured she assumed she was crazy. So then, that made everyone to whom she was biologically related. Brilliant. What a successful endeavor this had been!
And so, again, she waited outside her niece’s house, wondering about the horse that bared her name.
At least it was something.
At least it was some kind of proof that she had, indeed, existed in her family’s life, at one point.
But there was still so much…
Why a mental hospital? Was there a specific doctor entrusted with her care? Was he very pale and rather picky about his diet? Did Cynthia ever visit? Why didn’t she mention the name’s inspiration? What had happened?
…What on earth had happened?
She had thought for a long time that her life now was an entirely separate entity than her life then. After all, she wasn’t even the same biologically that she had been. She no longer had a heartbeat—no longer slept—no longer aged. She was no whoever she had been before.
And then there was Bella. Bella, who’d barely changed at all. Bella, who still found the exact same things important. Bella, who visited with her father and daughter and husband and then sucked out the blood of a grazing deer. Bella, who attended her five year high school reunion.
So it mattered, she’d decided. Whoever she had been before, it mattered.
But now there was all this pain—which had never been there before. All these feelings that had no gratification. All these questions, which seemed frivolous before…and now they mattered…
Damn it, Bella.