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Darkest Before the Dawn

The door opened behind me, with a cold gust of wind suddenly sweeping through the room, rustling the papers on the desk and carrying that scent! I froze. Not again!...I sensed nothing...The fragrance was maddening. I slowly turned my head, following the scent, and there she was. Standing, back pressed against the back wall, waiting. She was haunting me. A reimagining of Twilight from Edward's perspective, starting from the very beginning...The First Time - and continuing on beyond where Midnight Sun ends. NOMINATED: 2009 Bellie's category Canon that's Better than Canon NOMINATED: 2009 Indie's Top 10 Best Canon Disclaimer: All characters, settings, and a great majority of the dialogue are the property of Stephanie Meyer.

I wrote the first five or so chapters of Darkest Before the Dawn before I knew about/read SM’s Midnight Sun. I have since read it, but have tried to stay true to “my” version of Edward, as well as staying true to SM’s original dialogue and plot line.

1. Chapter 1 - The First Time

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Chapter 1 – The First Time

Rain poured off the eaves, rhythmically beating on the porch outside the window. I decided to tackle Water Music. It rained constantly in Forks—the cloud cover had brought us back to live here, again. Washington was famous for its damp, depressing weather—but I wasn’t depressed today, not really. Just in need of diversion. Translating the orchestral music to piano, especially the strings, should be a sufficient challenge to occupy me for the afternoon.

Thirst ached in my throat. Not the kind of thirst that could be satisfied in the kitchen that my family never used. A thirst only sated by the death of a living creature. But not the kind that talked back to you—that kind had families and lives and…souls. That kind wrote beautiful music…my fingers drifted over the keys, pulling out the first few stanzas. The world was filled with predators, our kind being only one.

The music eased the aching. I hadn’t hunted in a while, and I was used to denying my thirst. Years of practice, and the guidance of Carlisle, my ‘adoptive’ father, had lengthened the time I could go without hunting. But that wasn’t why I was in need of diversion today. My distractible mind drifted back to the last time I hunted…

We were visiting our ‘relatives’ in Alaska—a small group that shared our desire to live as honorably as possible, given what we were. When we visited, it was a chance to be ourselves, not always pretending to be human. That day, we paired off to hunt.

Alaska was freeing—sunny, wild, more open than the forests of Washington—it was a respite from the gloom of home. The company was enjoyable, too—Tanya and I were hunting in the open tundra plain, far from the sparse settlements that constituted Alaska’s human population. The immense caribou herds offered plenty of game, and we spent a good part of the morning thinning the herd. Caribou was not as enjoyable to hunt as bear, but there were too few bear in this area to allow us the pleasure. Tanya and I made a game of stealth hunting—slipping into the herd undetected—quickly and silently taking our prey without alarming the rest. The trick was getting out unseen.

“You spooked that one,” Tanya taunted me, pointing to a wide-eyed elk that looked decidedly not spooked.

“He doesn’t even know his brother is missing,“ I retorted.

“Brother?” Tanya eyed me skeptically.

“I can read more than just your mind,” I added cryptically.

“The elk?” she was even more skeptical.

“Well, they don’t exactly think the way you do. Well, sometimes they do.” That got me a disgusted look.

“You’re really not as funny as you think you are, Edward,” but she was laughing and racing off away from the herd. I grinned, following her with my eyes, and then sped after her. Speed was ambiguous here in the open plains—there was a sense of immensity here that made a flat out run feel like you were standing still. To feel speed here, you needed to fly, and I was itching to run. Tanya was fast, running with a graceful stride, but not fast enough. I could have easily outrun her, but decided against baiting her any further.

The sun broke out from behind the lone cloud in the sky and the sudden flash of daylight stopped me short. I reveled in it, the sunlight glinting off my exposed skin. There was so little sun in Forks. I could see why Tanya and her family preferred Alaska.

The artic wind whipped around me, but my stone cold body never felt chilled. The wind and sun captivated me for a moment. I closed my eyes, stretching out, face up to soak in the rays. I leaned back against a giant boulder left in the middle of the tundra by some retreating glacier. Contentment spread through me.

Eyes still closed, I sensed that Tanya had suddenly moved next to me. When I opened them, I saw she was only a few inches away, her strawberry blonde hair whipping in the wind. Her hair was really a hundred different colors of gold, red, and white—each strand its own note in a symphony of color. There was a twig of tundra grass lodged in her hair, the wind tugging at it. Impulsively, I reached up, running my fingers through the strands to liberate it from her hair. She mistook my motion for something else, and all of a sudden she was kissing me. It was awkward and strangely comforting at the same time, the feeling of her cold lips pressed urgently against mine. It had been decades since the last time…I started to kiss her back.

Oh, Edward... my Edward…” The intensity of her thoughts forced their way into my mind. I pulled back as I was hit by the words. This was a mistake.

“Tanya…” I started, not sure what to say next. Her golden eyes, rich from the hunting this morning, looked back at me with unspoken pain.

“I’m terribly sorry, I just…” I couldn’t finish. I didn’t want to hurt her, and yet I already had.

“I thought, maybe…” she said, halting…you changed your mind, she finished in her thoughts.

I was an idiot, I decided. Here was an absolutely beautiful, kindred spirit, who was a true friend…and I didn’t have many of those. She wanted to be with me—like Carlisle and his love, Esme. Like the other members of my family, all who had found happiness with their mates. Why not me? What was I waiting for?

“No,” I said, answering her thoughts without the softness I meant to put into that word. I shook my head, wearily. She and I had been through this before.

She cringed at that harshness, and I mentally kicked myself. “Tanya, please forgive me. You’re my dearest friend.” I said it as gently as I could, willing her to know that I meant it. She moved away from me and turned so I didn’t see the look on her face. I didn’t have to.

“I’ll meet you back at the house,” she said and disappeared, running at top speed across the tundra.

I left Alaska soon after, cutting our visit short. I intended to leave on my own, but the ever persistent Alice, my ‘sister’ in our strange little family, insisted that we all needed to get back to Forks. Her mate, Jasper, understood my discomfort and willingly went wherever Alice was. Emmett and Rosalie, the other happy couple in our family, protested, Rosalie more colorfully, but Emmett more strongly. He had hoped to catch a polar bear before we left, but so far had no luck. They eventually caved to Esme’s tortured argument about the need to return home to get ready for the week, but in fact she was more worried about me being left alone. This frustrated me at the time—being alone was preferable and hard to come by in a house as full as ours.

That was a week ago. My thoughts still strayed back to Tanya, and my inability to find a partner in this strange existence we clung to. The rest of my family had managed it. Esme worried incessantly about it—part of me wished to find someone, just to settle her mind. There were not many choices out there, Tanya being one of the few. If I had not chosen this chaste life of denial, I could easily have found a ghoulish mate with whom to spend an eternity of hunting. But I already knew that path was closed to me. I had tried it, and I couldn’t endure the killing. Yes, I think that was it—to have both a good life, and a happy one, apparently was too much to ask—for me, at least. I would have to settle for my family and friends. And music.

I was wrong. It took all afternoon and most of the night to translate and perfect Water Music. The wind and rain railed against the roof, drowning my attempts at music. After midnight, the rain quieted and by morning the fog had moved in, a familiar blanket seeping through the forest outside the living room window. The strains of Water Music heralded the shrouded sunrise, and seemed a rousing start to the day, even against the grey backdrop.

Time to go back to school.

To the outside world, I was seventeen year old Edward Cullen, adopted son of Dr. and Mrs. Carlisle Cullen. I attended high school with my adopted siblings, Alice, Jasper, Rosalie and Emmett. We tried to blend in. In a few years, we would ‘graduate’. We had done it many times in many places. Forks was quiet, and worked as well as any other place.

We all drove together in the silver Volvo to Forks High School. As I pulled into the parking lot, I noticed an old and beaten truck parked in front of the office. Forks is a small town, and I didn’t recognize it. I glanced at Alice quizzically. “New girl in town,” she said, and I remembered the rumor that the sheriff’s daughter was coming back to live in Forks. This was sure to cause a stir in our sleepy town, but didn’t hold much interest for us. Students swirled around us, giving us wide berth as we got out of our car and walked through the drizzle to class. I think they unconsciously understood the danger we presented, predators in disguise. Of course, I understood that we were strangely attractive to them as well. Our looks, our voices, even our scent drew them in like flies to a waiting Venus fly trap. I always wondered why the fly never saw the sharp teeth-like edges of the plant as they approached. Too distracted, drawn in by the sweet smell of nectar, I suppose.

Walking into a school with hundreds of humans without a feeding frenzy ensuing would have been unthinkable for most of our kind, and was still difficult for Jasper. Hundreds of heartbeats created a steady thrumming background sound, soothing in a way, once I had learned how to control that instinctual thirst. Even with decades of practice, it still could be difficult to restrain ourselves, so it was just as well that most people kept their distance from us. Especially today—my thirst was starting to build. We had planned to go hunting next weekend, but that was days away.

I looked at Jaspers’ strained face and black eyes with concern, but his thoughts betrayed nothing but absent minded worry for Trigonometry homework that had not been completed.

“Are you okay, my brother?” I asked.

He flicked a smile at me, “Better than you, I think.” I guessed he picked up on my mood. Between the two of us, and Alice, there weren’t too many secrets in our band of merry predators. Funny, I thought I was done brooding.

Attending school worked well for our cover story, but required an excruciating amount of time spent on classes I had mastered eons ago. The thoughts of my classmates—where they had gone, who they had seen over the weekend, budding romances and friendships—were more interesting. I had to be careful what I officially knew, but it wasn’t too difficult—most of the humans kept their distance from the strange pale-faced adopted kids of Dr. and Mrs. Cullen.

The first two periods passed uneventfully. By third period, thoughts and whispers about the new girl abounded, especially in the admiring minds of the male students. She was something new and strange, something to talk about—a category we perpetually fit into. A brief flash of sympathy went through me for anyone new in a small town like Forks. The thoughts of a passing boy showed she was from someplace sunny. I sighed, thinking of the sunny hunting grounds in Alaska. Perhaps, when we went hunting this weekend, we could range far enough to get out from under the continual cloud cover that hung over the Olympian mountains.

The morning dragged, but no slower than normal. At lunch, I met up with my brothers and sisters at our usual table. Our uneaten cafeteria food sat on the trays in front of us. I broached the idea of sunny hunting grounds to everyone, speaking softly so the humans couldn’t hear us. Alice looked meaningfully at Jasper, who nodded. She clearly thought I was still mired in thoughts about Tanya and Alaska as well.

“I just wanted a little sunny weather, that’s all,” I insisted, lips barely moving. The other students would think we weren’t talking at all.

“We only want you to be happy,” Alice responded softly as well. Maybe you should give Alaska another try? she thought. This was not the direction I wanted this conversation to go. I already felt like a fifth wheel most of the time, I didn’t need to discuss my love life, or lack thereof, in the middle of the cafeteria. I grimaced at her and distracted myself by tearing apart the bagel on my plate. Alice sighed, rose up with her tray—unopened soda, unbitten apple—and walked away from the table. She dumped her tray and slid out the back door, a little too quickly. We always had to be careful to go slowly, humanly, or we would attract even more attention than we did. I would talk to Alice later; I knew she wanted the best for me, but she was highly annoying at times.

Edward Cullen?” My head whipped up reflexively at hearing someone think my name, which hadn’t happened in a while. It was Jessica—she was explaining who we were to the new girl. I looked at the girl next to her—no, that wasn’t her. Then I saw her—she was looking straight at me, with brown eyes, dark hair and pale skin. I could see why the boys were taken in by her…she was lovely. I looked away quickly, not expecting her to be looking at me. Jessica continued to talk about us.

“That’s Edward and Emmett Cullen, and Rosalie and Jasper Hale. The one who left was Alice Cullen, they all live together with Dr. Cullen and his wife.” She was speaking furtively to the new girl.

“They’re talking about us again, to the new girl,” I said to Emmett, Jasper and Rosalie, quick and low. I lifted her name from Jessica’s thoughts—Isabella Swan. I stared at my uneaten food, to avoid looking back at them. My siblings were completely uninterested, disregarding my comments as soon as they heard them. Emmett still mourned the loss of his chance to hunt polar bear, and thought he might talk me into going back to Alaska for that, and other, purposes. Jasper contemplated leaving to follow Alice. Rosalie wasn’t thinking anything at all. Sometimes we did that—eternity is a lot of time to spend thinking about things. They could overhear the conversation about us, if they wished. I continued to eavesdrop, curious what the outsider thought of us, the other outsiders.

“They are…very nice-looking,” the new girl said.

“Yes!” Jessica agreed with a giggle. “They’re all together though—Emmett and Rosalie, and Jasper and Alice, I mean. And they live together.”

No doubt that was cause for talk in this small town. I wondered what the girl from the sunny place….Phoenix, I found in Jessica’s mind….thought about our living arrangements.

“Which ones are the Cullens?” asked the new girl. “They don’t look related…”

“Oh, they’re not. Dr. Cullen is really young, in his twenties or early thirties. They’re all adopted. The Hales are brother and sister, twins—the blondes and they’re foster children.” Nice to see the cover story is holding well.

“They look a little old for foster children.” Hmmm. Maybe not.

“They are now, Jasper and Rosalie are both eighteen, but they’ve been with Mrs. Cullen since they were eight. She’s their aunt or something like that,” said Jessica. I smiled—something like that.

“That’s really kind of nice—for them to take care of all those kids like that, when they’re so young and everything,” said the new girl.

“I guess so,” Jessica said reluctantly. “I think that Mrs. Cullen can’t have any kids, though,” she added.

“Have they always lived in Forks?”

“No,” said Jessica, in a voice that implied it should be obvious. “They just moved down two years ago from somewhere in Alaska.”

Alaska. Would this day never stray from that topic? Looking for distraction, I wondered what the new girl thought. Jessica’s thoughts, now that I was paying attention, screamed at me from across the cafeteria. Her narrow mind and simple thoughts didn’t hold much fascination for me. I focused on the new girl—nothing. Wondering if she had left, I looked up. She was looking straight at me and our eyes met again. I was looking straight at her—nothing. Odd. She looked away quickly, seeming embarrassed to be caught staring.

“Which one is the boy with the reddish brown hair?” she asked Jessica. She peeked at me again from the corner of her eye. I concentrated on her, staring as if I could lift the thoughts from her head with sheer will power—still nothing. Frustration gnawed at me. How was this possible?Was something wrong with me? She looked away again.

“That’s Edward. He’s gorgeous, of course, but don’t waste your time. He doesn’t date. Apparently none of the girls here are good-looking enough for him,” Jessica said. Her thoughts still screamed at me, but I couldn’t get anything from the new girl—strange. Jessica thought about when she worked up her courage to talk to me, with not much in the way of response from me. I looked away from them and smiled very slightly at the memory. Nothing will start nasty rumors like a young female rebuffed. She had no idea how lucky she was that day…to run into a Venus fly trap who didn’t eat flies…anymore. But she had stumbled upon the truth—I didn’t date. I sighed.

Perhaps I should head up to Alaska again. At least to apologize to Tanya, see if I could repair the damage done there. I couldn’t afford to lose one of the few friends I had, especially one that was so…appealing. Maybe there was more there than I thought—maybe I hadn’t given it a proper chance, as Alice seemed to think. Emmett would be game for going with me, and there would be less chance of misunderstanding with Tanya that way.

Students wandered away as lunch came to an end. Next period was Biology, nothing very exciting. We all rose from the table and went our separate ways. I made sure my pace was measured, not too swift, on my way out of the cafeteria. I slid into my usual spot in Biology, alone. The other students had the good sense to avoid me for a lab partner, in spite of my ability to excel in all the labs. I waited in vain for Mr. Banner to come up with a lab I hadn’t done five times.

I perused the thoughts of the other students, killing time until class began. Angela brought the new girl to class with her, but wasn’t going to sit with her. This would make Newton happy—he was angling for a chance to talk to her, as was half the male population in the school.

I didn’t see her. I didn’t hear her coming. I smelled her. What was that??

My head instinctively turned to the source of the scent and I froze to keep myself from lunging at her. The thirst burst into flame in my throat and it took everything I had to keep frozen. How could this be?Who was this creature? She looked at me at she passed, and I know she saw me. Eyes black as night with thirst. Predator. She looked away, and kept walking. I could feel the blood rise to her cheeks as pulsing waves of heat. The urge to lurch out of my seat and spring after her was almost irresistible. NO! This couldn’t be happening…years of practice, years of denial, all undone in an instant? NO!

She was coming back. To my horror, she sat next to me. This was impossible—I had to get out—NOW. But there was nowhere to go. I held my breath, to keep the scent out. The fragrance, delicious, burning in my throat…NO! I leaned as far away from her as possible, on the extreme edge of my chair, turning my face away. Don’t think about the scent. Don’t think about it. Have to get out. Now. She let her hair fall down across her face, sending a fresh waft of madness my way. It seemed to seep into my skin, I could feel it. What terrible creature was this, who had come to tempt me away from the only goodness left in my life? I clenched my hand into a fist on my leg. I had to think. Who was she? I still couldn’t read anything from her. I stared at her with wide, wild eyes. It was as if she didn’t really exist—a body with no thoughts, come to tempt me. A demon.

Take her now. Fast. Out the door, no one will see.

NO! My eyes grew wider in horror at the thoughts coming from somewhere inside me.

Say the words. Make her come. To the forest.

NO! This was insane. I had to get out, but I couldn’t leave. I was transfixed, trapped. The class droned on and on. I had to get out without exposing myself, my family and the carefully constructed lies that allowed us to live in peace. Everything I had worked for, we had worked for, would be ruined if I gave in this one time. Fear gripped me. If I unlocked my body, I feared I would lunge for her before I could stop myself. I couldn’t speed out of the room without exposing myself and my family—we would have to leave Forks, start over somewhere, again.

The class lasted an eternity. I could feel panic welling up inside me. I couldn’t leave, I couldn’t stay. I didn’t know if I could endure this madness for the entire period.

She looked at me, heart pounding under that mane of scent-filled hair. I locked eyes with her. Just looking at her was drawing the words out of me…the ones that would make her follow me out of that room. I clenched my jaw shut. She flinched away from me. The bell rang. I was afraid if she moved, I would chase her, catch her, and take her. I had to go, NOW. I sprang out of the chair, forcing myself to go tortuously slowly past her, holding my breath, thinking of my family…my family. I had to control myself, for them, if for nothing else.

Finally, I was outside. I moved, an agony of slow motion, down the hall and out the door. The outside air washed across my face and exposed arms. I moved faster, across the courtyard, into the forest. Once concealed in the forest, I broke into a run, letting the damp air wipe the scent off my body. I breathed again, unnecessary gulping gasps to purge my lungs of that smell. My head started to clear a little, now that I was away from her. Part of me still wanted to go back, find her, lure her out of the school, but it was fading with the fresh air and distance.

How could one human cause such a reaction? There were 29 other heartbeats in that class, and none did this to me. I needed to think. Clearly, I could not go back to class—ever. Maybe I could change classes, avoid being in the same room with her. Then, maybe, I could manage. I wouldn’t have to leave…my family could stay in Forks. My family. Shame pulled me up short—how could I lose control like that? How could I possibly explain this to them?

I ran again, my mind growing clearer in the fresh mountain air. With time and distance, it seemed unreal, like some kind of nightmare I had just awoken from. But I knew that wasn’t true. I needed to change classes. I could never be in the same room with her again.

When I felt calmer, I went down to the main office. Surely, this would be no problem. I could be persuasive when I needed to be. I used up most of the last period with my escape to the forest, so Ms. Cope wouldn’t suspect I was ditching. I walked more slowly than usual to the front office, waiting for the final bell before I stepped inside.

“Ms. Cope? I hope I’m not disturbing you,” I said in my most velvet voice, stepping up to the desk.

“What?” the red-haired receptionist looked up, startled. “Oh, Edward. No, not at all, dear. I didn’t see you there.” I smiled my sweetest smile, the one that made human females ignore those sharp teeth at the edge of the fly trap.

“What, what can I help you with?” she stuttered, dazed.

“I need to change to a different section of Biology. Just a simple thing. I’m sure there’s another section I could take?” I said, honey in my voice.

“Um, yes, I can take a look.” She wrinkled her brow. “I think all the other sections are earlier, though. You would have to switch another class.” She started looking through the papers on her desk.

“Any other time is fine. It doesn’t matter.” I was trying to keep the urgency and frustration out of my voice. I didn’t want to alarm her. “I’m sure you can find something that will work,” I continued, soothingly.

The door opened behind me, a cold gust of wind suddenly sweeping through the room and rustling the papers on the desk…and carrying that scent! I froze. Not again! The girl who came in the door walked up to the desk, placed a note in the wire basket, turned and walked out. It wasn’t her. Again, I sensed nothing. The fragrance was maddening. I slowly turned my head, following the scent, and there she was. Standing, back pressed against the back wall, waiting. She was haunting me.

Take her. Fast. Only one witness. Can take her too. NO!

I had to leave. Forks. Now.

I turned back to the receptionist, jaw clenched against the scent. “Never mind, then, I can see that it’s impossible. Thank you so much for your help.” I turned and walked tortuously slowly out the door.

Slow, and as fast as any human could possibly walk, I made my way to the Volvo. My family was waiting for me, lounging against the car. Jasper sensed my panic, eyebrows flying up in alarm. I muttered, “Let’s go,” under my breath, and lurched into the car, barely able to contain my speed in my urgency to leave.

“Edward, what is it?” Jasper asked, his shocked expression spreading to the rest of them. I tore out of the parking lot, tires squealing. Alice looked far away, trying to see what would happen next. Her talent would not be much help. I had no idea what I would do, other than leave Forks immediately. I couldn’t wait…couldn’t explain. I had to put as much distance between myself and her as possible. Otherwise, I was afraid…afraid I would go back and hunt her down.