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.
6. Chapter 6
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“Sometimes I forget it happened,” Carlisle spoke quietly, after Renesmee had pulled the car over to the side of the road. “Or I start to believe my own lie. It was so very long ago. My very first few days of…this…” he looked to her for a moment, then turned away. “His face fades; the taste fades. There was never any proof. I don’t think he had any family. I don’t think anyone ever looked for him. He was just an old man. Just…just an old man…”
She looked at him for a long time, “Maybe you did him a—“
“But what if he did have a family? What if he had children and a wife and a granddaughter who cried for days…” he looked at her, too much pain in his eyes.
“I…I don’t know,” she shrugged, wary and unprepared.
“And then to lie about it,” he snarled. “To have you all look to me as some kind of moral compass, when I’m no better than a malicious killer.”
“That’s not true,” she shook her head. “Look, I don’t know exactly what happened, but…I mean, I know you’re not the only one who’s…made mistakes.”
“Made mistakes,” he closed his eyes. “Mistakes. Is that what we call them now? Our murders? Mistakes? Renesmee, it isn’t right. It can’t be right.”
“Its not,” she agreed. “But, Carlisle…you…you help people. You save people’s lives. And every one of them has a family, too. Everyone of them has people who care about them…I’m sure some of them have granddaughter’s that cry for days…”
“Yes,” he nodded. “I try to make amends. I try to find some kind of forgiveness. …I’m not sure it works.”
“Of course it does,” she shrugged. “One life for thousands of others?”
“But…” he hung his head. “If it had been Charlie Swan in that alley. Just some old man who I did not care to know…Just food.”
“I…I don’t know what you want me to say,” she had never been so conflicted—was she to reprimand one grandfather for the death of the other? “I’m sorry.”
“Renesmee,” he reached across and took her hand. “I should be the one apologizing—apologizing a million times for a million different things, not the least of which placing this new burden on your shoulders.”
“Oh,” she gave a tiny smile, “Don’t worry about that. My shoulder’s have been pretty burden-free as of late, so…”
“I don’t know what I wanted to accomplish,” he admitted. “I just…wanted to say it. I needed to say it.”
“Maybe…” she spoke in a quiet voice. “Maybe you wanted to be forgiven?”
He echoed her volume, “I don’t think anyone can truly forgive me.”
She squeezed his hand and bit her lip, “Can I try?”
“What are you doing?” Rosalie drifted into the kitchen, languidly. She and Esme were the first two family members to come back home. The house was lonely without its normal occupants—quiet—unsettling.
“Jacob will be home soon,” Esme smiled, staring down at the counter. “I thought I’d make dinner.”
Her nose wrinkled with disgust, “Why?”
She laughed, “Just wanted to do something nice, I suppose.”
Rosalie snorted and leaned against the counter as Esme chopped tomatoes. “What are you making?”
“Pasta,” she said, uneasy. “I looked it up. It seems simple enough.”
“Yeah,” Rose nodded, “I think I remember that. Simple.” There were foggy glimpses of maids and boiling water. “Do you have everything you need?”
“I think so,” she nodded. “I’m going to try and make my own marinara. Which, is a little ambitious.”
She laughed, “You’ve managed to keep a household of vampires under control for nearly a century. I think you can handle tomatoes and onions.”
“Oh,” she continued chopping. “Its much more than that. I’ve…I’ve got garlic and cloves and…white wine…basil…oregano…olive oil—not virgin.”
“What’s the difference?” she shrugged.
“You know,” she stopped and looked up. “I have absolutely no idea.”
For a moment, they looked at each other, admiring—questioning—appreciating, then each pair of lips curved up and their voices laughed together.
Their laughter faded after a few moments, and Rosalie watched her mother make dinner for a young man once considered an enemy, now considered family. Her biological mother had declared the Cullens as enemies—they were the only family to ever rival the Hale family’s affluence. She had told Rose to dig up any kind of dirt on them, and she had tried. She’d plotted with a girlfriend to spread the rumor that Edward was a heathen. Her smile grew at that particular memory.
“Esme?” she asked quietly. “Could you use some help with that?”
“It’s a nice city,” Bella smiled, watching it become smaller and smaller from the plane window.
“I’m sure it is,” Edward held her waist close to him, his head resting on her shoulder.
“My friend, Maggie, from Phoenix? She went to Chicago, once, for some kind of family reunion. She said it was nice,” she ran her fingers through his hair, again and again, combing it.
Comfortable moments of silence passed, and he smiled up at her, “Are you alright?”
“Fine,” she smiled down at him. “Thanks for the window seat.”
“Any time,” he laughed.
“I don’t know what it was,” she whispered, her voice pained. He sat up instantly. “I’m sorry I dragged you out here. It was stupid.” She shook her head. “Stupid house. Stupid family. I’m sorry.”
“It wasn’t stupid,” he said.
“You don’t have to say that,” she smiled. “I don’t need to be protected from my own stupid ideas. It was stupid. It was a house that you used to live in with people who I don’t know and never will know and you barely remember and…I’m just trying to figure out…why?”
“Why do you think?” he took her hand.
She took a deep breath, “Well...I don’t know. I just…I wanted to know that part of you. I guess it would make me feel, uh, something.”
“That’s understandable,” he nodded.
“Really?” she smiled and pulled his arm across her shoulders. “Cause its pretty incoherent and mumbly in my head. Makes sense to you?”
“Perfect sense,” he kissed the top of her head.
“Well, then, swami, care to let me in?” she traced random patterns on his shirt.
“You lost family,” he said gently. “So you went looking for more, but you’re different than the rest of us. Your lives aren’t separate, so you won’t ever disconnect from your human life. They’re too intertwined. You have nothing to worry about.”
She took a moment to consider that, watching Chicago all but disappear under a layer of clouds, feeling nothing. “Oh,” she smiled up at him. “That simple, huh?”
He leaned down to kiss her, “You are never thatsimple, Mrs. Isabella Swan-Cullen-Masen-whatever you want your name to be. Never, ever thatsimple, but I think I’m beginning to get a handle on you.”
She laughed and kissed him, “You make me sound much more impressive than I am.”
“Impossible,” he smiled, before kissing her once more.
She hummed lightly, laying her head on his chest. “Impossible,” she mused.
“Bella,” he held her close. “Do you ever miss it?”
“Miss what?” she shrugged against him.
“Do you ever regret…the decision?” he shoulder’s tightened—preparing for her answer.
“No,” she said, without a moment’s pause. “Edward,” she sat up and took his face in her hands. “No. Not for one second.” She pulled his face into hers and kissed him again. “Not one second.”
Alice never went to graveyards. They were pointless places—places for bodies to decay—places for things to disappear into the soil. People cried there, mourning death. They pretended to talk to the dead for solace. It was ridiculous—totally ridiculous.
One last stop before traveling back home—there was just one more thing she needed to see.
The two tombstones were almost exactly alike—they were the exact same height and color, with the same perfect arch across the top. And yet, they were painfully different. Under Cynthia’s name, there were dates signifying an age of seventy-four, there were kind words about being a treasured daughter, beloved wife, and devoted mother. Not a sister. She was not a sister.
Under Mary Alice Brandon’s name, there were dates spanning less that a decade. The words below were not kind, just informative—daughter and sister. And that was all.
Jasper was going to call in five minutes. That was really, really good. She hadn’t needed him so much in a very long time.
She sat between the gravestones and closed her eyes—trying to imagine what the two girls would have looked like standing next to each other. Did they look alike? Did Cynthia have dark, black hair like her older sister? Did Mary Alice smile? Did she laugh? Did she dance? Did Cynthia like her? Did she admire her? For what?
What were Cynthia’s secrets? Did she like boys? Did she tell her sister about them? Were they close? Did she harbor visions as well, learning to ignore them when she saw what had happened? Did she hate Mary Alice? Did she resent her?
Did it matter?
“Hi,” she sighed into the phone, eyes closing with relief.
“I miss you,” he breathed into the phone, knuckles tight around the steering wheel.
She laughed, “You have no idea.”
Jasper smiled, “Why? What’s wrong?”
He could only half listen to her explain about her new questions that could never be answered. There were too many images left over in his mind.
Maria had come back into the room just as Jasper was deciding to help SaraBeth escape. He’d tried to downplay his plans, so that she wouldn’t do anything rash.
“No!!” she had screamed. It was one of those screams you hear about, but rarely have the opportunity to attend. Blood-curdling, that was what the humans called it—so atrocious it could curdle blood.
She did not make the poor girl’s death quick. Maria has bit into her, instead of simply draining her, which put a tiny amount of venom in her system. She’d screamed at that, as it traveled through her veins. Then, Maria bit again and again and again. Eventually, Jasper thought she might be making the girl like them—a new protégé, perhaps—but then she bit again and drained the girl dry, slowly—painfully slowly.
“I just don’t know,” Alice was speaking quickly and quietly. “I don’t know if it means anything.”
“We’re not who we were, Alice,” he said, determined, hoping she had not looked to see his glowing, amber eyes. Let her have faith in him for a few more hours until she saw them in person.
“I suppose,” she sighed. “How’s Maria?”
“Fine,” he grumbled. “She’s just fine.”
Nessie would probably cry. He’d feel bad about that.
They’d all look at him with their disapproving, condescending eyes. Another town, another accident. Edward would be the worst. He would instantly see a million other possibilities—other avenues he could have taken—all totally useless now. Jim was dead. Rachel was traumatized. The Cullens would have to move.
“You’re a monster!” she screamed over the pedophile’s dead body. “A monster!”
“He-he was going to hurt you,” he tried.
“He loved me!!” she screeched
“Shh!” Emmett knelt down to her. “Don’t scream,” he pleaded. “Please, don’t scream.”
She looked at him with unbelievable fear, “I don’t understand.” Tears fell as she stared at him, “You’re not Tommy Blake. You—you weren’t lost. I don’t understand. Why did you come here? Who are you?”
“Its not important. I’m no one, really,” he said, repelling the idea that he sounded like Batman. “I just wanted to make sure you didn’t get hurt.”
She shook her head, “No. You don’t understand.” The tears were free flowing. “He said he loved me. He said he was going to take me to Hawaii, and he said I could bring some friends and he said—“
“He lied, Rachel,” he tried to be gentle. “Here, why don’t you step away from—from there?”
“I think I should tell somebody,” she whispered.
“All—all right,” he sighed. Hopefully Rose wouldn’t be so upset. They hadn’t gone to high school this time around. Maybe in the next town, they could all go together, now the Nessie had graduated. “I’m going to go now. So…you can do whatever you’d like. Just close your eyes for a second.”
“Why?” she asked, tired and afraid.
“Just for a second,” he repeated. He could tell she wanted to ask again, but she didn’t. For whatever reason—the face, the voice, the smell, the tone, who knew?—she closed her eyes, gently, then tighter.
It took him milliseconds to pick her up and run a good hundred yards deeper into the woods. By the time her eyes were open, she was far away from Jim and anything familiar to her. “Wh—what?” she barely had time to look around, before he, as gently as he could muster, pushed her head into the trunk of a tree—it wasn’t nearly enough force to kill her, or even do permanent damage—but perhaps it was enough to disorient her, maybe even cause her to forget what had happened…if he was lucky, but when was he ever lucky?
He didn’t relish dismembering the decaying pedophile. He barely even thought about it—they weren’t arms and legs and a torso—they were just things to be carried. He buried them each more than ten feet down, scattered around the wooded area, carrying the head the farthest from the action. It wouldn’t prevent them from finding it, just slow them down—enough to get the Cullens out of town without anyone raising an eyebrow.
Alice would be frustrated she’d missed it, but not otherwise upset. And at least he had Jasper—always a peg or two up on the disappointment list than him. Bella’s reaction would be interesting; he’d never seen her move before, because of an accident. They’d moved before, so that Nessie could go to school without people recognizing her last name. This would be different.
Jacob’s reaction would be interesting, too. Would he regress to the hate he knew so well before? Would he be afraid?
His parents would be understanding. He had that. He always had that.
With the job done, he began walking home—walking, not running. There was no reason to run. He quickly devoured a passing deer, just so his family wouldn’t be worried that his eyes were still black.
He enjoyed the trees and listened to the birds, wondering if he should regret the moments that it took for the whole thing to occur. What could he have done differently?
Let him hurt her.
Let him live.
Let him hurt her, then go home to his aging wife, who wonders where he’s been all day.
It was what was supposed to happen.
But as much as he considered, he could not see rightness in that path. It wasn’t right. Sometimes, the world wasn’t right. It had not been right the afternoon he’d found Daisy Bellfleurs reading in the woods, and it had not been right today.
He changed things—effected them. He wasn’t a fly on the wall, watching the world’s people. He was a part of the world—a moving, thinking part of the world—whether it wanted him or not.