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Darkest Before the Dawn

Summary:
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.


Notes:
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.


7. Chapter 7 - Purgatory

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Chapter 7—Purgatory

That night, sated with the blood of more animals than I could keep track of, I ran back to Forks alone. A storm had rolled into Forks, although it had not reached the forest preserve where the rest of my family remained. It was late, well past midnight, but Bella’s light was still on. Cautiously, I listened. No sounds came from the house and I noticed that Chief Swan’s truck was gone. Even through the window I could hear Bella’s steady heartbeat and breathing. Carefully, I peered inside. She had fallen asleep on her bed—lights and earphones on and pillow over her face. She was fully dressed, including her shoes. It was as if she had lain down and fallen asleep listening to the music.

I slipped inside, moving silently to the far side of the room, feeling exposed. Her legs twiched restlessly, but she was not awake. She was dreaming. It seemed a nightmare, with the torment running through her body. It alarmed me to see her this way. What had happened? Did something occur at the beach today? Did Newton do something to disturb her? If he had hurt her in any way, I would gladly tear him in half.

I wanted to do something, but what? I couldn’t wake her—it would terrify her to find me here in her room. Her agitation seemed to grow as I watched, and I feared she might wake. I wished I could just comfort her, but I knew it was not possible. I sighed. I could only watch, helpless. Suddenly, she twitched more fiercely and sat bolt up, pillow flying off her face, screaming “No!”

I flew to the window, yanked it open, and vanished before she could see me. I ran to the forest, stopping just beyond the trees to turn and see if she had seen my hasty retreat. I couldn't see her. She must have lain back down on the bed, trying to go back to sleep no doubt. What frightening thing did she have in her life that would cause such a violent dream? I was the only nightmarish thing in her life—that I knew of. I desperately hoped she was not dreaming about me. I shook my head and was about to leave when suddenly she got up and left the room. Perhaps unable to go back to sleep after the nightmare?

The sun started to lighten the sky. The cloud cover from the storm draped over the forest, providing some cover. I could chance lingering at the forest edge to watch her from afar. She came back to her room dressed only in a towel, fresh from the shower. I lowered my eyes as she dressed, telling myself unconvincingly that I wasn’t some strange peeping tom. When I looked again, she had sat down at her computer. After a few moments, she left again only to return shortly. I never thought much about what Bella did in her spare time. Did she spend a lot of time on the computer? Perhaps emailing her mother, whom she seemed to truly miss? She spent a lot of time reading something on the screen, I couldn’t see what, but not typing. So she must be researching something. Homework or pleasure? Frustrated, I watched, wishing I knew what was in her head. She continued to intently stare at whatever she found on the computer.

After a while, she left her room again. I debated whether she would come back, when suddenly she stomped out the front door, wearing boots and a raincoat. I jumped back into the forest, out of view, and hurried backwards until I was sure she could not see me from the yard, only a few meters from the forest edge. She angled across the yard and headed straight for me, toward the forest. I couldn’t be sure if she had seen me or not. I quickly scaled one of the eighty foot pine trees. I could barely see her through the mass of needles and branches, so I was fairly certain she wouldn’t be able to see me. I frightened a couple blue jays, which shrieked their disapproval and flew off.

She quickly reached the forest, boots stomping through the damp earth and leaving deep prints. She seemed upset about something and determined to walk it off in the forest. She didn’t look up as she passed me and kept marching deeper into the forest. Thankfully, she seemed to be following a small deer trail that wound into the forest. With her propensity for bad luck, I was afraid she might get lost and not be able to find her way back out again. It would be difficult to explain, my sudden appearance in the forest to rescue her, again.

The forest was mostly pine, but also some deciduous trees that had long lost their leaves and didn’t provide much in the way of cover. I would lose her unless I kept moving. The forest was silent except for her steady, muddy foot stomps and the whisper of wind through the tree tops. I leapt from branch to branch with as much stealth as I could, but smatterings of leftover raindrops shook from the branches as I landed. She didn’t look up, so I must have been quiet enough. Eventually she slowed her determined march, moving a few feet off the trail to sit carefully on her jacket next to a fallen tree, almost hidden by the tall ferns. A soft rain started to fall, dripping slowly from my perch in the treetops down to the mossy forest floor below.

She was still below, thinking about something, or perhaps nothing at all? No way for me to know, which was my endless source of frustration. Perhaps mulling over the dream that so violently woke her this morning? Or the computer search—maybe she was researching her dream? I held as still as her, watching, the gentle patter of the rain the only sound in the forest. She slowly shook her head, as if saying “no” to herself, and rubbed her eyes with the heels of her hands. She continued to stare at the green nothingness of the surrounding foliage, seemingly lost in thought. As the rain clouds moved in over the forest, it darkened almost to twilight. The steady thrumming of rain dripping on the forest floor beat on.

Suddenly, her self-imposed exile somehow resolved, she rose up and quickly found the deer path again. Pulling her hood around her face, she hurried along the path back towards her father’s house. I watched her go, shaking the rain off my face as the downpour hit the forest canopy. She was clear of the forest, across the lawn, and into the house before the rain really started coming down. Whatever contemplation she needed to do in the sanctuary of the forest was done and would remain a mystery to me. I could hardly ask her about it, much as I wanted to know. I was struck by how similar we were in this regard—each seeking quiet places for contemplation.

I leapt from the tallest branches, landing softly on the damp earth below. I started running back to our house. If this weather held, the rest of my family would be returning home today. In anticipation of Monday morning with Bella, I hunted along the way, although I felt as if I could hardly stomach any more.

As I arrived at the house, Alice called to tell me that the sunny weather would be returning tomorrow and staying until Tuesday and that they were going to remain at the cabin in Goat Rocks. The thought of two more days without talking to Bella depressed me immediately.

At least I would have the house to myself. I wondered if my family was intentionally leaving me alone, giving me space. In any event, I was grateful for it. Living with three happy couples was increasingly intolerable when, as Emmett so helpfully pointed out, I cannot even touch the love of my life.

I drifted toward the piano, aimlessly thinking of ways to kill the upcoming two days of purgatory. The thought of touching Bella’s face and the warm flush of life pulsing through it, consumed me. It seemed I would only be able to dream of such a thing, not actually to do it—much as I could watch her sleep, but not actually enter her world either physically or mentally. My hands found a melody, something new. I started composing a lilting counter melody to accompany it, adding a deep but soothing background. It was a lullaby—an echo of what I felt in that deep state of trance while watching her. It was my waking dream of softly running my hands across her face and throat, running my fingers through her hair, whispering something loving into her ear, bending to touch my lips softly to her…

I spent a good part of the day composing, eventually stopping when I was entirely spent. Night had come. Darkness was its own form of quiet. With all the lights off in the house, nearly every wall a floor-to-ceiling panel of window, it felt as if I was outside in the forest dark outlines of the trees blocked most of the star filled sky. A half-moon was rising, shedding a silver light on the forest and fading the remaining stars. This was the most magical time, when somehow things unnatural and unrealistic seemed possible. Later, when Bella was asleep, I would go watch her again. Look, but don’t touch—a torment of my own making.

Brilliant sunshine filled the morning sky, just as Alice had predicted. As the world went about its normal business, no doubt buoyed by the brightness of the day, I stayed locked in my prison awaiting release. The sunlight bounced around the white walls and glass, somehow magnifying the effect—it was like living in a crystal cathedral. Normally, the occasional sunlit day was like a holiday, a respite from the grinding sameness of endless days in high school pretending to be human. Here at the house we were free to be what we were, and we often spent the day in the forests surrounding our home—when Alice had assured us there were no day hikers or others that might stumble upon us. Today it only felt like a hindrance to the one thing I wanted—seeing Bella.

Then I realized that the forest also abutted the school, only a few meters from the edge of the grounds. Perhaps, from the cover of the forest, I could watch Bella arrive at school and at least catch a glimpse of her. Enough to hold me for the day. The thought alone was like a cloud lifting from my mind. I sprang up and began running—there wasn’t much time before school started.

The sun dazzled today, with only the smallest of puffy white clouds in a clear blue sky. Because I couldn’t chance being seen, I had to take a somewhat circuitous route to school. Still, I reached it before any of the students arrived. I held back from the edge of the forest, so that even with the sunlight streaming down I could not be seen from the school grounds. The forest floor and tree trunks were still a little damp from yesterday’s downpour. I hid behind a rather large pine that still afforded me a view of the seldom-used picnic benches on the south side of the cafeteria and building three where Bella had her first class. I should be able to see her, at least briefly, before she entered the classroom.

I felt somewhat foolish, hiding in the figurative bushes, waiting for my love. But my heart was light and I truly didn’t care, as long as I could manage this without being seen. Suddenly, Bella rounded the corner and headed for the picnic benches, one of the first students to arrive at school. Sitting on her jacket, she pulled out her homework and went right to work. Coming early to school to do homework? That seemed odd, but no matter, at least I would have more time to watch her before school began. She seemed distracted from her work and then looked up straight at me! How did she do that? I shrunk back behind the tree even further, convincing myself she couldn’t really see me. She must just be looking at the forest, for some reason. She doodled in her book.

“Bella!” someone called, and I recognized Newton at once. He came towards Bella, waving and smiling, and very excited to have caught Bella alone. I groaned very quietly as I realized that he planned on asking her out.

“Hey, Mike,” Bella replied, a little too enthusiastically for my liking. What had happened over the weekend at the beach? Yesterday I thought she was disturbed by something, but she certainly didn’t seem disturbed by Newton. He came and sat by her, dressed in shorts for the unseasonably warm weather and grinning like a fool.

“I never noticed before—you hair has red in it,” he said, catching between his fingers a strand of Bella’s hair that was fluttering in the light breeze. I found myself moving involuntarily towards them. He was touching her. I had to stop myself before I was exposed in the morning sunlight. I moved back behind my tree.

“Only in the sun,” she replied.

“Great day, isn’t it?” Newton said, tucking Bella’s hair behind her ear. Newton was enjoying it, certainly.

“My kind of day,” she agreed. I groaned and had to close my eyes. This was not what I wanted to see, nor hear. His casual touch was causing me considerable pain, although Bella didn’t seem to mind. Or at least she didn’t object.

“What did you do yesterday?” Newton asked her. My eyes snapped open. I couldn’t help but want to hear what she said.

“I mostly worked on my essay,” she replied. Newton hit his forehead with the heel of his hand. “Oh yeah – that’s due Thursday, right?”

“Um, Wednesday, I think.”

“Wednesday?” Newton frowned. “That’s not good…what are you writing yours on?”

“Whether Shakespeare’s treatment of the female characters is misogynistic.”

Newton just stared at Bella, clearly having no idea what she just said. A smile curled up to my lips—she’s way out of your league, Newton.

“I guess I’ll have to get to work on that tonight,” he said, deflated. “I was going to ask if you wanted to go out.” I froze, concentrating on Bella. She didn’t seem too pleased about Newton’s offer, but it was hard to be sure as I couldn’t completely see her face.

“Oh,” she said.

“Well, we could go to dinner or something…and I could work on it later.” He smiled at her hopefully. He seemed to think that it was the most natural thing in the world for her to say yes to him. Honestly, why wouldn’t she? Why would she want to hang around waiting for some mysterious vampire to explain himself and his strange behavior? Someone who clearly wasn’t being honest with her and who had told her numerous times that it would be better if they weren’t friends? What kind of heinous mistakes had I made?

“Mike…” she started. “I don’t think that would be the best idea.”

Newton’s face fell and I exhaled quickly in relief. “Why?” he asked, thinking of me and wondering if she was dating me. That this possibility occurred to him gave me great hope that it might occur to her too. Perhaps I had not bungled my chances with Bella after all.

“I think…and if you ever repeat what I’m saying right now I will cheerfully beat you to death,” she threatened, and I almost laughed out loud, “but I think that would hurt Jessica’s feelings.”

“Jessica?” Mike was bewildered, wondering what Jessica had to do with why Bella wouldn’t want to go out with him. He clearly didn’t understand her and her loyalty to her friends. I had noticed Jessica’s attraction to Mike as well, with her incessant fantasies about him, and nasty thoughts whenever Mike doted on Bella. In that thing alone, Jessica and I had common cause. The thought amused me greatly.

“Really, Mike, are you blind?” she asked. That, and not very intelligent either, I added rather uncharitably.

“Oh,” he sighed, dazed. The idea that Jessica might like him seemed to stun him, it having never occurred to him before. Bella started gathering up her books and stuffing them into her bag. “It’s time for class, and I can’t be late again,” she said, walking off with Newton towards building three.

Newton turned the idea of Jessica, Jessica liking him, over and over in his head. By the time they reached their classroom, Newton was completely distracted. I could no longer see them, but I could follow Bella’s movements through the thoughts in her friend’s minds. She met up with the aforementioned Jessica in class. Jessica excitedly asked Bella to join her and Angela and Lauren in Port Angeles tonight to go dress shopping for the upcoming dance. Bella said maybe, that she would have to check with her father first.

I smiled. Whatever had happened at the beach on Saturday had not endeared Newton to her. I could leave now. I would check back on her later—who knew what trouble she could get into, even in a short trip to Port Angeles with friends. I ran my twisted course back through the forest, my gloom lifted for the day.

Later that afternoon, I decided to visit Bella’s house, to see if Charlie had approved her trip to Port Angeles. If she went this evening, it would be possible for me to keep an eye on her, from a distance, in the dark. As I arrived at the edge of the forest bordering Charlie’s house, I stopped short. Bella was outside on the lawn. She had spread a quilt on the grass and lay on her stomach, ankles crossed in the air, reading a book. She seemed to be flipping through it, trying to decide what to read, or looking for something. The sun shone on her hair and Newton was right—it was slightly reddish, glinting in the afternoon sun. Hanging back deeper in the forest so as not to attract her notice with the glare coming off my own skin, I noticed how her pale skin shone.

She seemed annoyed by her book, snapping it shut and rolling over onto her back. Pushing up her sleeves to expose more of that warm pale skin to the sun, she closed her eyes. A light breeze blew tendrils of her hair around her face and carried her scent up to me, hidden in the forest. That urge to touch her hair, her face was once again overwhelming me. I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything as lovely as Bella lying face up, hair fanned out on the quilt below her, sun kissing every part of her face and arms…she relaxed and soon I recognized the rhythmic breathing of her sleep. Her light shirt moved up and down with her steady breaths, her hands limp at her sides, face calm. She was the picture of peace, at home in the sun, soaking up its rays. And here I was, hiding in the shadows. The contrast was almost enough to drive me away, but watching her was too attractive for me to tear myself from her.

She slept most of the afternoon, until the crunching sound of Charlie’s truck wheels on the brick driveway woke her. She sat up quickly, looking around as if she thought someone was nearby. I wondered if she somehow knew I was there.

“Charlie?” she called, just as Charlie walked inside, not seeing her from the front of the house. She jumped up, gathered her things and ran inside. I listened carefully.

“Sorry, Dad, dinner’s not ready yet—I fell asleep outside,” she explained.

“Don’t worry about it,” he said. “I wanted to catch the score on the game, anyway.”

They didn’t talk during dinner and Charlie’s thoughts were preoccupied with the baseball game. It was growing dark. Surely if she was going to Port Angeles with her friends, she would mention it? Charlie truly enjoyed having his daughter at home—the way she doted on him, making his dinner, allowing him his sports obsession and weekend fishing trips. He had a lingering guilt about not spending enough time with her. He knew she didn’t enjoy sports, and with her lack of coordination it wasn’t much of a surprise. He offered to change the TV to something non-sport related, but he didn’t know if the sitcom was anything she liked either. He thought it was inane.

“Dad,” Bella said, during a break in the show, ”Jessica and Angela are going to look at dresses for the dance tomorrow night in Port Angeles, and they wanted me to help them choose…do you mind if I go with them?” Tomorrow night? How did I miss that? Something must have changed. Perhaps Jessica had canceled her plans? Maybe Newton had wised up and asked her out tonight, instead of Bella.

“Jessica Stanley?” Charlie asked. He knew her parents.

“And Angela Weber,” Bella replied.

Charlie was confused. Why was Bella shopping for dresses when she wasn’t going to the dance? Charlie thought maybe there was a boy in Bella’s life, someone she wasn’t telling him about. I was not exactly a boy—and I doubted Charlie had any idea that I might be a part of Bella’s life, if in a strange and twisted way. “But you’re not going to the dance, right?”

“No, Dad, but I’m helping them find dresses—you know, giving them constructive criticism.” She seemed a little impatient.

“Well, okay,” Charlie said, still not understanding. “It’s a school night, though.”

“We’ll leave right after school, so we can get back early. You’ll be okay for dinner, right?” She always seemed to take care of everyone. Matchmaking for her friends, making sure her father was properly fed…

“Bells, I fed myself for seventeen years before you got here,” he reminded her.

“I don’t know how you survived,” she said quietly, and then, “I’ll leave some things for cold-cut sandwiches in the fridge, okay? Right on top.”

It would be some time before Bella went to bed, and I could hunt before then. Tonight I would lurk like the pathetic fiend that I was and watch her sleep. Another day of sunlight to endure tomorrow, and then I would be able to return to school. It would be tricky to keep an eye on her in Port Angeles since they were leaving right after school, unless the cloud cover had returned. As I ran back to the house, I called Alice to see what the weather held for tomorrow.