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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.

4. Chapter 4 - Distance

Rating 4.5/5   Word Count 4714   Review this Chapter

Chapter 4 – Distance

I ran, ground slipping beneath my feet, wind whispering as I sailed though the white pines. I wanted the speed to help clear my mind, but it only put physical distance between myself and Forks General Hospital. My head ached with conflicting thoughts and questions that I couldn’t seem to answer. I was appalled. How could I have put everyone in danger, again? How could I trust Bella to keep her word? Why did I so desperately want to trust her?

Everything depended on what Bella may, or may not, say about what happened. So far, no one else seemed to think anything remarkable had occurred. But all that would change if Bella started claiming a miraculous rescue.

Without thinking, I arrived at my favorite meadow. A gray blanket covered the sky, leaving only muted sunlight to fill the opening in the forest, but even so the sight of it calmed me. I perched on a rock near the edge of the clearing, body still as a statue, trying to clear my thoughts.

My brothers and sisters stayed school, no doubt furious. I didn’t want to face them, or Esme, until Carlisle had arrived home from his shift. That gave me some time to think.

Why didn’t I let the van take care of my problem with Bella, as surely would have made sense for me to do? If the van had crushed her…there was something inside me that recoiled at the thought…then her bloody, broken body would certainly have been completely overwhelming. I would have exposed us all. But I knew that was an excuse—something I had not even considered until now. At that moment, I reacted—I only knew that I couldn’t stand by and let her die. Perhaps the best in Carlisle was starting to finally rub off on me. Couldn’t happen at a worse time, I thought ruefully.

So Bella lived, but she also knew...something. Maybe not the complete truth, but something close to it, and she might figure out the rest. She was impossibly observant, clearly saw things that others just vaguely noticed, if at all. Who was this strange person? I knew she was willing to bear the burden of others, exiling herself to Forks just to give her mother the freedom to be with her new love. She was kind to her friends as well Would she consider me a friend? Enough to keep this monstrous secret? It seemed possible, but just as my cold dead heart warmed a little at the thought, I knew I could never be Bella’s friend, much less deserve any such thing. Any contact with her would just give her more information, more small clues to help her figure out the truth about me, about us. I doubted she would consider me a friend in any event, especially after my cruel treatment of her at the hospital. I cringed at the thought of my belittling words to her, even as I knew they were a necessary part of the deception. The lies had worked so well before, and we always had time to move on before the suspicions started to set in. Bella was just stubbornly, inconveniently, insistent on knowing the truth.

I would have to keep my distance from her, hoping that she would honor her promise even though I didn’t deserve it. Keeping away would stop her from discerning any more about me, and would keep my family and I safe—and her safe as well. I knew this was the best solution, but my stomach felt hollow. Fear? I dreaded the conversation that was looming with my family, but there was no more putting that off. I knew their idea of the best solution would not be the same as mine…and I couldn’t even contemplate that thought. I leaped softly off the boulder and sped back to our house.

When they arrived home from school that afternoon, Rosalie, Emmett and Jasper all wanted to know what had happened at the hospital. Alice was strangely silent. Carlisle arrived soon after, his shift at the hospital complete. I told them Bella had insisted she would not tell anyone what she saw, that I believed she would keep her word, but it didn’t make a difference.

“Maybe now is the time,” suggested Rosalie.

“Time for what?” I asked, outraged, knowing exactly what she meant.

“She’ll talk eventually, Edward,” reasoned Jasper.

“If she does, I’ll leave. I leave Forks. No one will be able to prove anything, anyway, and if I’m not here there won’t be anyone to question,” I retorted.

“If she talks, you won’t be the only one they come for,” said Jasper, calmly.

I knew he was right, but I persisted. “If I leave now, maybe she’ll be less likely to talk.” There was a pit in my stomach at the thought of leaving now. I ignored it.

“It’s the only way to be sure,” Rosalie said again.

I could hear Esme’s thoughts getting more and more desperate as I talked about leaving. She wasn’t my mother, or even my adoptive mother, but she thought of me as her son, as much as the one she lost.

“Edward, we don’t want you to leave,” she pleaded, “Do what you have to do to stay.” My shoulders slumped at the tone in her voice…even she didn’t understand.

“I can’t kill her, Esme,” I said softly, despairingly.

“I will do it for you, brother,” Emmett said quietly from across the room.

“No!” I growled, turning toward him, crouched ready to spring if he moved. He held his hands up, defensively.

“Okay, Okay!” he said, wondering why I was so determined.

I slowly straightened up. I turned to Carlisle, pleading. “Carlisle, would you have me become a monster, too? Not just a fiend, but a common murderer?”

“Of course not,” Carlisle said, calmly. “No one is going to kill Bella.” He looked pointedly at Emmett. “But we must know if she betrays us.” I winced at that word. “And prepare for the worst.”

“I’ll watch her.” I agreed, relieved. Alice was watching me.

“She’s special,” said Alice, speaking softly for the first time. To you, she added.

I didn’t answer her. To me.Why did I care?

If I had allowed the van to crush her, everything would have returned to normal—no temptation, no risk of exposure. Of course, I knew that was never a real possibility—I could no more let her die than I could let Emmett kill her to protect kind of person would I be if I did?

I would watch her, listen, to see if she kept her word. But I couldn’t talk to her, give her any more to go on. It was just too dangerous—for her and for me.

The next day, we went to school, like normal—although nothing seemed like it would ever be normal again. Everyone was talking and thinking about the accident. As far as I could tell, everyone thought Bella was lucky to be alive, but not extraordinarily so. She was telling everyone I was a hero—that I had pulled her out of the way—and nothing more. Tyler seemed to be permanently attached to her now, still trying to make amends…and trying to win her favor. Well, he would have to get in line behind Newton and Eric—they all seemed to want to be at her side constantly.

I avoided looking at her at lunch, and spoke quietly to my brothers and sisters, reassuring them that Bella had kept her word. They were still skeptical, but none seemed inclined to go against Carlisle in contemplating her demise. Alice was watching me again and I continued to ignored her. Her thoughts still rang in my head…she’s important, to you. I didn’t know why or what future Alice was seeing, but I was determined to make it one in which Bella lived.

In Biology, I sat as far from her as I could, and tried to ignore her when she came in and sat down. It was impossible.

“Hello, Edward,” she said sweetly.

I nodded briefly at her, without looking at her, trying not to be completely rude without actually talking to her. I looked away out the window.

Ignoring her was far more difficult than talking to her had been. The more I tried to not talk to her, the more intense her scent became, her every movement enhancing the effect, causing me to ball up my fists to stem the urges that brought in me.

She seemed to get the idea, because she didn’t try talking to me anymore. Which was what I wanted, but only made me miserable. She was true to her word and never said anything to anyone about my extraordinary skill in stopping the van. I continued to listen in to make sure, but after the first week, talk of the accident died away. Apparently, there was a beach trip in the works, but the rain interfered, as it usually does. I tried to not look her way, but found myself stealing glimpses in the parking lot and the cafeteria. Every so often, I thought I saw her looking at me, but mostly she ignored me completely.

This seemed to please Newton, who was concerned that she might be interested in me, having saved her life. He constantly thought about her in Biology, often coming to our table to talk to her. His thoughts were starting to drive me as mad as her scent. The dull ache of my previous loneliness was bliss compared to this.

Today, he quivered with anticipation, annoying me highly. He was working up his nerve to ask Bella about the girls’ choice spring dance, coming up in two weeks. He perched on our table, brimming with excitement. Listening to him rehearse his words in his head gave me a headache and my anger at him started to flare.

“So,” Mike said, looking at the floor, “Jessica asked me to the spring dance.”

“That’s great,” said Bella, brightly. “You’ll have a lot of fun with Jessica.”

“Well…” Newton floundered. This is why it’s girl’s choice, Newton. You’re supposed to let them ask you. “I told her I had to think about it.”

“Why would you do that?” Bella asked disapprovingly. I could feel the flush rising to his face.

“I was wondering if…well, if you might be planning to ask me.”

I was suddenly extremely interested in what Bella’s answer would be. I knew Newton had a serious crush on her, but I couldn’t tell from his colored view of her responses what her real view of him was. It still was incredibly frustrating to me not to be able to hear her thoughts. I turned my head slightly so I could see her in my peripheral vision, but still appear to be ignoring her.

“Mike, I think you should tell her yes,” Bella said.

“Did you already ask someone?” Mike’s eyes flickered in my direction. He thought she had asked me. I smiled inwardly at this.

“No,” she said. “I’m not going to the dance at all.” I was strangely relieved at this. It shouldn’t matter to me—I wasn’t a part of Bella’s life. She could go to the dance if she wanted to. It was very stupid of me to care.

“Why not?” Mike demanded.

“I’m going to Seattle that Saturday,” she explained. This was news. I hadn’t heard anyone else discuss going to Seattle then. Who she was going with? Was there someone I didn’t know, someone she cared about?

“Can’t you go some other weekend?”

“Sorry, no,” she said. “So you shouldn’t make Jess wait any longer—it’s rude.”

“Yeah, you’re right.” Newton walked back to his seat, dejected. Bella closed her eyes and pressed her fingers to her temples. Why did she turn Newton down? What was waiting in Seattle? Who was she going with, that was more important than the dance? I didn’t realize I was staring at her, until she sighed, opened her eyes and looked at me, surprised. I didn’t look away, like I should have. I just kept staring, realizing that I hadn’t really hunted enough recently.

“Mr. Cullen?” the teacher called, seeking the answer to a question I had barely heard.

“The Krebs Cycle,” I answered, pulling the answer from his head, reluctantly tearing my eyes away from her. She shifted her hair, sending a wave of scent to me again and hiding her face. I clenched my fist and forced myself not to stare at her again. That electric feeling was starting again and I had a hard time focusing on the rest of the class. The need to speak to her rose in me, feeling like a compulsion. She didn’t look at me again, and when the bell rang finally, she turned away from me to get her things. Usually, I left immediately, not wanting to torture myself more than necessary. This time I stayed. I didn’t seem to be able to move.

“Bella?” I said. She turned slowly, as if she didn’t want to look at me.

“What? Are you speaking to me again?” she asked, a little petulant. There was a thrill that went through me at hearing her voice, directed at me. That electric feeling shocked up through me and make me smile involuntarily.

“No, not really,” I admitted, feeling horribly rude and a little crazed. She closed her eyes, inhaled slowly and gritted her teeth. I waited.

“Then what do you want, Edward?” she asked, keeping her eyes closed. I annoyed her, and that bit into me. I wanted her to open her eyes and look at me.

“I’m sorry.” I was miserable. “I’m being very rude, I know. But it’s better this way, really.” I suddenly, desperately, wanted her to know—I wasn’t ignoring her because I didn’t want to talk to her…to be with her. I did it to keep us both safe—and it was killing me.

She opened her eyes. “I don’t know what you mean,” she said cautiously.

“It’s better if we’re not friends,” I explained. “Trust me.”

She looked suspiciously at me. “It’s too bad you didn’t figure that out earlier,” she hissed through her teeth. “You could have saved yourself all this regret.”

“Regret?” I asked. What was she talking about? “Regret for what?”

“For not just letting that stupid van squish me.”

My mouth opened in shock and protest, but nothing came out. How could she think that? After all I had been through to keep her alive…the agony of sitting next to her, ignoring her, keeping her safe…

“You think I regret saving your life?” I asked, incredulously.

“I know you do,” she snapped at me.

“You don’t know anything.” A cold fury ran through me. After all this, she thought the absolute worst of me.

She turned away from me, gathered up her books, stood up and walked to the door. Catching her foot on the doorjamb, in that graceless way of hers, she dropped her books. I ran, too quickly, to pick them up for her, almost automatically.

“Thank you,” she said coldly.

Unbelievable. “You’re welcome,” I retorted. She turned and walked away, and an icy knife seemed to twist in my stomach.

The thoughts and voices of the other students blurred in my mind during the next period, as I tried to sort through the non-conversation I had with Bella. I knew she didn’t understand, couldn’t possibly understand, what I was going through, but to have her assume the very worst—it angered me, and I had a hard time believing it. As I walked out to the parking lot, I saw her meeting Eric by her truck had had been barely scratched in the accident. Eric had been waiting for her, and was about to ask her to the spring dance. A smile crawled up my lips as I listened.

“Uh, I was just wondering…if you would go to the spring dance with me?” Eric was asking her.

“I thought it was girl’s choice,” said Bella, not exactly diplomatic.

“Well, yeah,” Eric admitted.

“Thank you for asking me, but I’m going to be in Seattle that day.” I guess she really was going to Seattle. What was in Seattle and who she was going with? I had no right to know, but I couldn’t help wondering.

“Oh,” he said. “Well, maybe next time.”

“Sure,” Bella agreed quickly. Eric left, just as I reached the front of Bella’s truck, thinking Bella had just agreed to go to the next dance with him. I barely suppressed a laugh and kept my eyes forward, not looking at her. Bella must have heard me. She pulled open her truck door, jumped inside and slammed it closed.

Then I heard Tyler’s thoughts, and I got to my car a few spaces down from her as quickly as I could without suspicion. Bella’s truck was uproariously loud as she gunned it and reversed out of the parking space. I slid the Volvo out, cutting her off. I stopped, waiting for my family to arrive—they were coming down the walk from the cafeteria. A line formed behind us, just as I hoped. Tyler, in his newly acquired used Sentra, which replaced the shattered van, waved at Bella. He walked to Bella’s window and knocked—he left his car running behind her. Bella rolled the window down halfway.

“I’m sorry, Tyler, I’m stuck behind Cullen,” she said.

“Oh, I know—I just wanted to ask you something while we’re trapped,” Tyler said. I grinned widely. “Will you ask me to the spring dance?” he continued.

“I’m not going to be in town, Tyler,” Bella said, definitely annoyed now.

“Yeah, Mike said that,” he admitted.

“Then why—“

Tyler shrugged. “I was hoping you were just letting him down easy.”

“Sorry, Tyler,” she said. ”I really am going out of town.”

“That’s cool. We still have prom.” Tyler walked back to his car. I laughed out loud as Alice, Rosalie, Emmett and Jasper all slid gracefully into the Volvo. They were shocked to see me laughing—I had been rather difficult to live with the past few weeks. I watched her in the rear view mirror, still laughing. She must have seen me, because she gunned that monstrous truck. Still laughing, I sped away.

That evening passed more pleasantly than any in the previous month. I made sure to hunt, reminded that in spite of my increased tolerance for her presence, I could not continue that without keeping my thirst to a minimum. I was still angry that Bella thought I regretted saving her, but somehow speaking to her was better than not. And I was intrigued about this trip to Seattle. After rebuffing all her male fans, I was extremely curious—was there someone else? And was she planning to take that beastly truck there? That seemed unwise.

I messed around with the piano for a while, pulling out some new melodies that were running around my head. I smiled at a particular trill of notes that I liked. Alice was watching me again, from the couch, as Jasper and Emmett tried to kill each other on the Xbox. She sheltered her thoughts from me again, reciting Genesis in her head. She needn’t bother…I was accomplished in ignoring her looks by now.

“How are things with Bella?” she asked, suddenly by my side at the piano.

“Fine,” I answered. She hovered over me, all five feet of pixie annoyance. “She hasn’t talked and I haven’t killed her,” I said flippantly.

“You seemed to think she was quite funny today,” Alice pressed.

“I can’t help it if she’s amusing.” I wished Alice would leave me alone with my good mood—it had been a long time since I had one, and I didn’t want her killing it.

“I thought you were keeping your distance from her,” Alice continued. “Jasper is a little concerned.”

“Concerned about what?” I flashed in anger. I flicked my thoughts to Jasper, but he was studiously ignoring us and intent on his game with Emmett. “It’s been weeks since the accident, and she hasn’t betrayed our secret. I promised to watch her, and I have. No one questions what happened.” Except Bella questioning why I saved her.

“He’s not concerned about us,” Alice said, gently. “He’s concerned about you—and your attachment to Bella.”

“I’m not attached to Bella,” I said defensively, hollowly. I looked at her, finally, wondering what she was thinking and why she was harassing me. Her thoughts were still guarded, reciting verses in Latin now. I didn’t understand why…

“It’s okay, Edward. I’m happy you’ve found her,” Alice said softly, topaz eyes boring into mine.

Alice saw this moment and was telling me that it was…okay. A sudden relief flooded me. My self imposed agony of the last month had been lifted, simply because I was talking to Bella again. I thought constantly about her, unnaturally interested in what she said, and thought, and did, and with whom. The electric feeling I felt around her…was something I had never experienced before, and it bewildered me. There was really only one thing that could mean. I was hopelessly in love with Bella Swan—and Alice understood. The shock of that thought left me dazed.

“Thank you, Alice,” I said, very softly, almost trembling with my realization.

She smiled sweetly at me, and hugged me. “Well, it’s about time you figured it out, Edward,” she said laughing, and skipped out of the room like some impish fairy.

When did Bella become something more to me?

That night, I stole into Bella’s house, easily slipping inside through the window. Silently, surreptitiously, I watched her sleep from the far side of the room. Her pale skin shone in the moonlight that fell through the window, lulling me as much as her slow breathing and steady, hypnotic heartbeat. I knew it was wrong for me to want her in any way. It was impossible: she was soft, warm, alive; I was a cold, hard predator. And yet…I ached to understand what she was thinking. Her words and actions fascinated me. She drew me in a way I found impossible to resist.

I should leave her alone—turn, leap out the window, and never look back. And when I did, someone would become the love of her life—and it wouldn’t be me. An agony filled me like a physical pain in the center of my body. I wondered if I had lost my mind completely.

“Edward,” she said. I froze, still as a statue. Was she awake?

She turned over, making a quiet muffled sound like my name, again, and sighed. She was talking in her sleep….she was dreaming about me…my heart soared, and I was lost.

I could no longer bear the torture of pretending not to notice her, and in that moment, I gave up trying to endure it. I needed her in a way that had nothing to do with that heart beating steadily inside her. I watched her for a long time, leaving only when the sun threatened to lighten the sky.

The next morning, we arrived early to school. I waited, a jumble of anticipation and distracted thoughts, until Bella arrived. She parked at the far end of the parking lot, as far from my silver Volvo as possible. As she got out of her truck, she fumbled her keys and dropped them into a puddle at her feet. Checking quickly for witnesses, and seeing none, I flew to her side in an instant, scooping her keys out of the muddy water. When she jerked upright, I was leaning casually against the side of the truck next to her.

“How do you do that?” she asked, clearly still irritated at me from the day before.

“Do what?” I asked innocently. I held her key out, dropping it into her hand as she reached for it. Just having her talking to me was giving me a light-headed feeling that wasn’t driven by that delicious scent that rolled off her when I was so close.

“Appear out of thin air.”

“Bella, it’s not my fault if you are exceptionally unobservant,” I said softly, gently teasing her. She looked unusually beautiful this morning, with the early morning light softly playing on her face. She marred it by scowling at me, and then looking down.

“Why the traffic jam last night?” she demanded, still looking away. “I thought you were supposed to be pretending I don’t exist, not irritating me to death.”

“That was for Tyler’s sake, not mine. I had to give him his chance.” I smiled, laughing softly at the memory.

“You…” she gasped, infuriated, anger bringing a lovely shade of red to her pale face. I tried not to grin too widely.

“And I’m not pretending you don’t exist,” I continued. Anymore, my Bella.

“So you are trying to irritate me to death? Since Tyler’s van didn’t do the job?” she retorted.

My anger flashed again. To have her think I wanted her dead, after all this…”Bella, you are utterly absurd,” I said, my voice cold.

She turned her back and walked away.

“Wait,” I called, regretting my impatience instantly. She couldn’t understand—it wasn’t fair for me to be angry with her, no matter how absurd she was.

“I’m sorry, that was rude,” I said, as I caught up to her and walked beside her. She ignored me. “I’m not saying it isn’t true, but it was rude to say it anyway.” Having given up staying away from her, it was an easy thrill walking next to her, talking to her.

“Why won’t you leave me alone?” she grumbled. Oh, Bella, I have so tried.

“I wanted to ask you something, but you sidetracked me,” I said, determined to ask her what I had been planning all morning.

“Do you have a multiple personality disorder?” she asked severely.

“You’re doing it again,” I pointed out, determined not to be delayed any further.

She sighed. “Fine then. What do you want to ask?”

“I was wondering if, a week from Saturday—you know, the day of the spring dance—“ I started.

“Are you trying to be funny?” she interrupted me, wheeling around to face me. I expected this and was terribly amused, knowing what she was thinking for once!

“Will you please allow me to finish?” I said, smiling down at her.

She bit her lip, and clasped her hands together. I was wickedly delighted at her irritation.

“I heard you say you were going to Seattle that day, and I was wondering if you wanted a ride,” I said, and wondering who you were going with? I didn’t want to seem too keenly interested in that, but here was her chance to turn me down, just like all her other fans. My stomach knotted in anticipation.

“What?” she said.

“Do you want a ride to Seattle?” I repeated, the knot getting tighter.

“With who?” she asked, seeming mystified.

“Myself, obviously,” I said slowly, starting to lose patience. It was bad enough not being able to read her, but to have to drag an answer out of her was going to drive me around the bend. If she had someone else to go with, she should just say so and put me out of my misery.

Why?” she seemed stunned.

I had that answer ready. “Well, I was planning to go to Seattle in the next few weeks, and, to be honest, I’m not sure if your truck can make it.” I hoped that would be a sufficient excuse.

“My truck works just fine, thank you very much for your concern.” She started to walk again. She was side-stepping answering me. Knot, tighter.

“But can your truck make it there on one tank of gas?” I asked, pressing.

“I don’t see how that is any of your business,” she said.

“The wasting of finite resources is everyone’s business.” It sounded ridiculous, even as I said it. Why wouldn’t she just give me an answer?

“Honestly, Edward,” she said, and I loved the sound of my name on her lips. “I can’t keep up with you. I thought you didn’t want to be my friend.”

“I said it would be better if we weren’t friends, not that I didn’t want to be.”

“Oh, thanks, now that’s all cleared up,” she said with heavy sarcasm, completely missing the longing in my voice. We had reached the cafeteria roof, and she looked up into my eyes.

“It would be more…prudent for you not to be my friend,” I explained painfully. I was intensely lost in those warm brown eyes, having a hard time keeping my voice steady. “But I’m tired of trying to stay away from you, Bella.” She must have heard the pitiful need in my voice. “Will you go with me to Seattle?” I had to know.

She didn’t speak. She just nodded. I could hear her heart flutter slightly and it was the most delightful sound. I smiled, elated.

“You really should stay away from me,” I said, seriously, hoping she never would. “I’ll see you in class.”

I turned and walked away before she could change her mind.