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Into the Light

Summary:
Edward has been struggling with the loss of his humanity for almost a century when he discovers his singer, a two-year-old Bella. In a world wrought with violence, greed, and an unquenchable thirst for power, the Cullens' find themselves tangled in an intricate web of half-truths and unfulfilled destinies. There is a reason Edward has walked the earth alone for almost a century, and he is about to find out why when he discovers the consequences of tearing two souls away from each other. Now there is much more at stake than just their love for one another. Will Edward and Bella fulfill their destiny as soul mates and bring balance back to the world or will Edward let his own self-loathing and uncertainty get in the way? I want to give a shout out to eatmySKIRTSx for making this awesome banner for me! She inspired me to make my own above...yay! I was freaked out and you lead me to the right path! Yay! Thanks again!


Notes:
Story is rated Adult for overall content, but later chapters especially. THANK YOU SO MUCH TO MY BETAS AT PROJECT TEAM BETA! YOU GUYS HAVE HELPED THIS STORY MORE THAN YOU WILL KNOW!Story Summary: Edward has been struggling with the loss of his humanity for almost a century when he discovers his singer, a two-year-old Bella. In a world wrought with violence, greed, and an unquenchable thirst for power, the Cullens' find themselves tangled in an intricate web of half-truths and unfulfilled destinies. There is a reason Edward has walked the earth alone for almost a century, and he is about to find out why when he discovers the consequences of tearing two souls away from each other. Now there is much more at stake than just their love for one another. Will Edward and Bella fulfill their destiny as soul mates and bring balance back to the world or will Edward let his own self-loathing and uncertainty get in the way? ON HIATUS FOR MAJOR REWRITES AND TO COMPLETE STORY Before anyone gets too excited – if anyone is even still interested in this story – I’m taking it down to rework it. I’ve been stuck for so long and part of it is because I backed myself into this extremely complicated corner. I’ve been struggling for many months now with whether to just discontinue the story, try to collaborate with someone, or just bite the bullet and try to finish it. Not to worry though. I finally made the decision to finish it in its entirety, so hopefully the new improved and COMPLETED story will be better than it was. My plan is to finish the entire story before reposting so when it is ready, it will be ready, and no one will have to worry about how flakey I am, lol! Before anyone asks, no I don’t have a timeframe for when I plan to repost, so thanks in advance for all of your patience. Thanks to mylittlebakersdozen for listening to my rants about what to do. She is a fantabulous fanfic writer, and you should check out her story, Model Student, www.fanfiction.net/s/5697704/1/Model_Student, and I’m not saying that just because I beta the story, lol! It’s really sweet and a lot of fun, so get to it and read her stuff while you’re waiting for me ; )


4. Chapter 3: Visions of the Future

Rating 5/5   Word Count 6492   Review this Chapter

CHAPTER 3: VISIONS OF THE FUTURE

On Time
Kahlil Gibran

And an astronomer said, "Master, what of Time?"

And he answered:

You would measure time the measureless and the immeasurable.

You would adjust your conduct and even direct the course of your spirit according to hours and seasons.

Of time you would make a stream upon whose bank you would sit and watch its flowing.

Yet the timeless in you is aware of life's timelessness,

And knows that yesterday is but today's memory and tomorrow is today's dream.

And that that which sings and contemplates in you is still dwelling within the bounds of that first moment which scattered the stars into space.

Who among you does not feel that his power to love is boundless?

And yet who does not feel that very love, though boundless, encompassed within the centre of his being, and moving not form love thought to love thought, nor from love deeds to other love deeds?

And is not time even as love is, undivided and spaceless?

But if in you thought you must measure time into seasons, let each season encircle all the other seasons,

And let today embrace the past with remembrance and the future with longing.

******

The loss of Bella's parents left her with no other family to care for her, which Alice confirmed for us as Carlisle and Esme prepared for the adoption process. In a sense, the way Bella came to be a part of our family held striking similarities with to our own experiences, in essence losing her human family only to gain an immortal one; the only difference being that she was still human. She easily found her place with us, filling our routine existence with a new sense of life.

As I sat looking upon this sweet child's face, I contemplated how she stumbled into our world. I was most concerned with how this situation would work-a human living with a family of vampires. I wondered if it would be in her best interest to stay here with us. I could not help my thoughts from wandering in this direction.

Unfortunately, my self-loathing nature has always lent to an inability to accept any amount of joy that has entered my life. Doomed to this eternal wakefulness, never able to escape what I am-what we are.

Even in my hesitation, I could not help but revel in the new feelings I had been experiencing since Bella's arrival. I could not explain the connection I had with her, a connection that strengthened every minute I spent with her. I was sure that on some level my feelings or this "connection" was love. It was not a romantic kind of love; not even parental or sibling kind of love, but rather a love born out of an unexplainable link between us. My instincts told me to watch her grow into adulthood, be her friend, and help guide her through the dark times that life so characteristically seemed to throw my way, which would now inevitably impact her life. I was so confused, but happy at the same time. Sitting there with her in my arms while she slept so peacefully, I felt like a whole being for the first time since my change.

Bella's first night with us was quite eventful as we prepared for her to become a permanent fixture in our lives. While everyone moved in and out of the house all night long, I never moved from my spot on the sofa as I held Bella in my arms. She had drifted in and out of consciousness until she lost the battle to the Sandman, and fell sound asleep.

I mused to myself how fortunate we were to have stumbled upon this gift of life. When the bustle of activity finally subsided, my quiet thoughtfulness was interrupted as I again heard Alice's mind singing anything to keep her thoughts occupied. What was she hiding?

"Alice?" I called, loud enough for her to hear, but soft enough so that I would not wake Bella, who was still snuggling up to my chest, sleeping.

Alice was by our sides in an instant.

"Alice, what are you hiding from me? Did you have a vision? Is it about Bella? Is everything alright?" I asked her as my mind began to consider all the possibilities.

"Stop being so melodramatic, Edward. Relax," she said with as much edge to her voice as she could muster, and with Alice, that is always saying a lot. "You know I have your best interests at heart. I was unsure of what I was seeing, so I wanted to wait until the vision solidified more so when I did show you it would all make sense," she sighed, looking at me with the patience and love that only a sister could have.

I looked at my tiny sister, and even with all my effort behind it, I was not angry with her. "Okay, Alice. Can you show me now?" I asked her in my most soothing voice.

"Sure, Edward. I just need you to remain calm until you have seen everything. Okay?"

That sounds ominous, I thought to myself. No sooner had I nodded my head agreeing to her terms than my mind was flooded with visions of Bella's life. What I saw made my already frozen body run cold with fear and anxiety.

"Alice, no!" I shouted no louder than a whisper.

She put her hands on mine as I still cradled Bella. "Edward, it will happen. I am not sure how, but it will. Do you not see that she came to you for a reason, to all of us?" Alice pleaded with me.

I looked into her wide, expectant eyes. What was I supposed to do? Was I just supposed accept the fact that this young child, a mere baby, would someday be my other half for all eternity? I could not even fathom taking the life from this child, my Bella-our pathway toward humanity. We have gone against the grain of our nature to uphold ‘life,' so how could I knowingly be a part of ending it? I thought angrily.

"Edward, what other choice do we have right now? It is not like we can just take her to the authorities and act like all of this never happened," Alice said a bit louder now. "Have you not seen and felt what Bella has already done for each and every one of us? You will not take her away from me, from all of us for that matter, just because you are too frightened to accept your own fate!"

Bella woke suddenly from her deep slumber to Alice's intentionally loud cries.

My anger began to show as I saw my eyes blackening in my reflection on the windows.

"Alice, if you saw all of this before, why did you not stop me before I went to her? All of this could have been avoided," I yelled back at her. "We have no right to keep her from a normal human life! Something she apparently will not get if she stays with us!" I continued to rant madly.

Bella was now touching my face with her small hands, looking intently into my blackening eyes. I knew they were changing, not out of thirst, but out of anger, resentment, and fear, but she did not know that. I instantly felt like more of a monster than I ever thought possible.

We quickly drew the attention of everyone else in the house. A slew of thoughts began rushing through my head.

This cannot be good, they never fight, Jasper thought.

Why does everything always have to be so difficult Edward? Rosalie and Emmett thought at the same time.

Edward, just try to calm down. You need to be rational whatever the problem is, Emmett yelled silently at me from across the house.

His thought hit me sharply. Difficult? Be rational?How does the reality of this situation not seem to bother anyone else? Am I the only one who thinks that this is wrong? I was quickly beginning to lose it completely.

I had to sit Bella down on the sofa so I would not accidently hurt her. It was the first time I was not in direct contact with her since I found her in the forest earlier that evening, and it physically pained me.

Bella looked up at me with her arms raised above her head just as she had done the day before when I first found her in that hollowed-out tree. "No Ewar! Pick up, Ewar!" her small voice sang with such persistence.

As Bella began to cry, Alice walked over to her, trying to console her. "Bella, I'm so sorry sweetie! Don't pay any attention to Edward, he can be quite grumpy and indecisive," she soothingly, but bitingly told Bella. All the while Alice was staring angrily at me with her arm holding Bella lightly around her waist.

Bella's arms were still outstretched towards me, her eyes wide with fear-not fear of what she was seeing, but more a fear as if she thought I would leave her.

Carlisle and Esme rushed into the room. "What is going on in here?" Esme asked with concern as she ran to Bella's side.

Jasper joined Alice on the sofa while Emmett and Rosalie found spots on the floor surrounding them.

"Edward, her blood sings to you, yet you seem completely unaffected by it now. She is human, yes. You could hurt her, yes. Nevertheless, you have not and will not hurt her!" Alice yelled with a great deal of force for such a small person.

I stared silently at Alice, my anger increasing by the second, but I said nothing.

"Edward, please understand that none of us could ever harm Bella, and I do not need a vision to tell me that. She is too important to us already," she said more calmly.

I maintained my cold and silent stare, which only served to make Alice raise her voice again.

"Does any of this mean anything to you? Do you not see the significance in any of this? Bella is a major crossroad in all of our lives, Edward, not just yours. Is it so difficult for you to take us, your family, into consideration before you start making decisions about Bella's future without us?" Alice yelled, continuing her angry rant at me.

I backed up toward the door shaking my head violently. No! This cannot be the only way. I am perfectly content to raise Bella, love her, and take care of her. I am content to see her grow throughout her human life...that is what it is all about, right? My mind began racing as all these thoughts came crashing down on me all at once. I had to get out of there. I had to clear my mind so I could think. I looked at Bella, and spoke what I hoped was the truth. "Bella, please go to Alice. I promise I will be back. I will not leave you. I just need time." With that, I turned and ran out the door.

As soon as the door was closed, the entire room erupted into emotional chaos...

"Noooo Ewar!" Bella cried.

She started visibly shaking as Alice tried to console her. She was seemingly failing to do so when Jasper tried sending waves of calm to ease Bella's apparent pain. His efforts were just as unsuccessful. Everyone was at a loss for words as they took in what had just happened.

"Bella, he will be back. I can feel it. He just does not want to see you get hurt, that is all. This is just what he does sometimes," Jasper said to her, trying to soothe her desperation.

"Alice, what exactly did you see?" Carlisle asked.

"In my vision I saw us adopting Bella. She will grow up with us as a Cullen, she will go to high school with us, and she will go to college. After that, I saw her and Edward embracing, and she had been changed. It just is not very clear right now how she is changed. It is obvious that Bella is to be Edward's mate. It makes sense given Bella's reaction to him leaving, and she is only a baby. Now think about how their relationship will grow and change over time." Alice spoke with a mixture of sadness and anger as she looked down at Bella's face.

Bella was still crying softly, nuzzling closer to Alice's body, and mumbling, "I want Ewar. Where Ewar go?" She was not saying it to anyone in particular, just saying it aloud repeatedly.

"Shhhh, Bella. Do not worry. Everything will be okay," Alice said to her, while rubbing soothing circles on her back.

"So what are we going to do exactly? Should someone go after Edward?" Emmett asked.

"No, he will come back, he just saw his decision. He is going to try to stop this future from happening. We will need to make sure his efforts are not successful because if he is, it will not lead to anything good for this family."

"Why does Edward always have to be on a mission of self-deprecation?" Rosalie spoke angrily. "I mean really, does he truly believe that he is such a monster? I just do not get it." She moved toward Bella with raised arms, "Can I hold you now, sweetie?" She asked this as if she had been doing so all her life.

Bella lifted her arms to Rosalie, and immediately nuzzled her face into the crook of her neck. She was still peeking out to look at everyone though as she started to calm down in Rosalie's arms.

"We all know that Edward has struggled with what we are since he was changed. We need to support him, but we need to help him find the right path. It is easy to become so blinded by what we believe to be true that it can be hard to see the silver lining in much of anything." Carlisle spoke again with the concern and love that any parent would have.

Bella looked intensely at Carlisle as he spoke. She looked as if she came to an internal understanding of the situation that surrounded her. She seemed to understand that her life would play a role in Edward's life to help him see himself as everyone else did. If he possessed all the qualities that make a human being human, then why should he believe himself to have lost his humanity? Why should he not believe that he still has a soul?

Then everyone heard it-a low rumble coming directly from Bella's stomach. Esme walked over to her. "Are you hungry, Bella? Would you like something to eat?"

Bella gave Esme a slight nod, wiggling her way out of Rosalie's arms. She quickly took Esme's hand and walked into the kitchen with her. Everyone laughed lightly at Bella's response, knowing she would never fail to surprise her new family.

****

I ran hard and fast for a long time before I finally stopped. What am I doing? I could not help but chastise myself, because I all but ran away from her, my Bella. In all her innocence and humanity, Bella had captured my soul and jump-started the nonexistent beat of my dead heart. Of that, I was sure.

Okay. Think. Right now I know she is not aware of what I am or what she is destined to become. I cannot, I will not let this happen to her. I was determined now. Even though I saw Alice's visions, it did not mean that I could not try to change them. The future was not set in stone. Alice has said so on many occasions. Bella's future ‘change' was not supposed to happen for many years. It was unclear who was going to be responsible for her change. That was the fuzzy part about Alice's vision.

Maybe I should leave, let my family find completeness in this human child, I thought with a hopeless sigh. My thoughts held steadfast to this idea and took off like a rocket. "Alice may have seen Bella and I together-both immortals-but if I am not here for her to form an attachment to, then perhaps this future path can be avoided. Her weak human memory will quickly release its claw-like grip from my existence in her life. She will forget. It will be as if I was never in her life at all. I paced back and forth as I seriously contemplated leaving my family and Bella. If I wanted to be honest with myself, though, I would have to admit that I lacked the strength to leave.

The roller coaster ride I had been on since my first encounter with Bella had left me unable to describe what it was about her or how she had managed to take a hold of my entire being so quickly-and with such ferocity. I was reeling in my emotions and indecision.

I changed my mind again. Damn indecisiveness. "If she is destined to be a part of my immortal life, I will just need to make sure she makes the right decisions, decisions I will be able to influence. I can still change this path, I hope, without leaving. There is nothing saying that we have to tell her what her so-called destiny is; she is only two years old, after all."

Just as quickly as I ran from my home, my family, and my Bella, my decision became clear. I made a promise to my sweet little angel, and I would not go back on my word.

****

Although Alice's vision of Bella's future was never spoken of directly, I understood that she was aware of my plan to thwart Bella's and my future life together, insomuch as her being changed was concerned. To be honest, I was so concerned with Bella being changed and losing her soul that I had not really thought about the other part of the vision where Bella and I were seemingly a couple. My thinking was more along the lines that even though events leading up to Bella's change were unclear at this point-my immortality would serve me well as I pieced the puzzle together.

All Alice said to me when I returned from my long trek in the surrounding forest that fateful morning was, "Thank you, Edward, for coming back. You may not like it now, or even be accepting of it, but trust me, you will in time. Never forget that it was you that heard her cries for help. It was your choice to save her. It was your actions that found her. The importance of these facts will not lessen over time, so just remember that her life has fallen to you and no other. We will love and support her as if she was one of our own-you will not be alone, but I have a feeling she has a very important future regardless of what I have already seen."

With Alice's comments, Bella's present circumstances were solidified.

****

In the days following the addition of Bella into our lives, there was an overwhelming sense of completeness flowing through all of us. As I tried to come to terms with how to deal with what Alice foresaw in Bella's future, I could not deny myself the overwhelming joy I felt whenever Bella was around me.

After my hasty departure the night I brought her home, I gave into the will of Alice and the rest of my family. We all accepted Bella with open arms, as she did for us.

We all agreed that Bella's cognitive understanding, albeit quite intuitive, might not fully grasp her somewhat precarious situation living with seven vampires. We decided it would be best to extend our hiatus until we could be sure that Bella would be able to comprehend how we were different from humans, for both her safety and ours. We would not want her child's mind to compromise our anonymity-all that separates the natural world from the supernatural world-placing all of us in unnecessary danger.

Following rather lengthy discussions, we decided to stay where we were for a few years. Our home in Alaska was so isolated from any town or city of significant size, we were all able to focus on Bella, relax, and just be a family. Everyone took care of Bella, loved her, played with her, and led her through toddlerhood's many obstacles. We did so the best way we knew how, and the result was the realization that she truly was the missing link to our family in so many ways, particularly in giving us the opportunity to raise a child.

Given our supernatural speed, agility, and strength, not to mention the fact that we did not need sleep, the stresses and anxieties of raising a toddler were quite different than they would be for a normal human family. Let us be honest, though. My family and I really did not have much experience being around children, let alone babies. Bella had only just turned two when I found her, so we were up against diapers and potty training, teething, and the terrible twos. For Bella, this meant taking on Emmett's personality for a while, much to his amusement.

When she would rip her diaper off and run around the house shrieking with hysterical laughter, it was a bit difficult to be frustrated or upset because it was kind of funny, especially when she would chuck the diaper right at Emmett's face and take off running! She was a pretty good aim, all things considered. I personally treasured these moments. Emmett would chase her down and throw her over his shoulder like a sack of potatoes while she laughed even harder. For some reason she thought this was a game and Emmett always played right into her hands. Emmett, was right about being Bella's ‘buddy,' and their antics were always good for some comic relief.

Perhaps my favorite moment of Bella and Emmett's clowning around was the day she turned her game into a contest of hide and seek...

"Bella! Not again! Oh, you are gonna get it, kid!" Emmett grabbed the diaper Bella had hit him with and ran after her as his infectious laughter spilled from his body in waves.

"I got you! I got you! You it! You can't catch me!" Bella yelled behind her as she ran away from Emmett, laughing hysterically.

Emmett took a detour through the kitchen to cut Bella off in her child's efforts to outrun him. He only somewhat held back his vampire speed. "Oh, Belllaaa...where are you?" he chided her, knowing full well she was about to come around the corner.

Bella shrieked with laughter as she came crashing into Emmett right in the doorway to the kitchen.

Emmett was careful to catch Bella in his arms as lightly as possible so he would not hurt her delicate human body with his granite physique. He spoke jovially to her. "Gotcha! Did you think you could outrun your good friend Emmett here?" He tickled her and she laughed even more.

"Yes! I fast, Emmed!" Bella managed to laugh out between breaths. "I gotchu first! So, you it still!"

"Oh, is that how hide and seek is played these days-diaper toss and dash?" Emmett laughed.

"Uh huh!" Bella continued to giggle until she was out of breath.

"Bella, you are too fun for words! I'm so glad we are buds," Emmett said as he laughed about his baby sister's antics.

"Me too, Emmed! I lub you!" She threw her arms around Emmett's neck in a tight embrace.

Emmett smiled from ear to ear. "Me too, Bella. Me too."

****

Alice tried to seduce Bella over to the dark side of shopping and all things girl, but Bella had other ideas for how to spend her time, which did not include shopping constantly with Alice in spite of their close relationship. Ironically, she liked to play dress up, though, which Alice gleefully obliged with Rosalie and Esme often in tow. Alice was perfectly happy going on the endless shopping trips for Bella.

Most often when Alice returned home, Bella would run out of nowhere yelling, "Alice, Rose, Esme! Dress up time! Dress up time!" Only she pronounced their names like Awice, Ro, and Eme. Bella's speech never failed to bring a smile to my face.

We felt it was important for Bella to call us by our first names and let our individual relationships develop with her over time. We did not want to replace her parents by any means. We were, for all intents and purposes, her family now. This would not change the fact that we were her adoptive family, though, not her biological family. Since she was human, we thought she should grow up being aware of this knowledge.

As the days turned into months, Alice kept Bella busy dressing her in an endless number of outfits, which she joyfully modeled for everyone. Rosalie would play with her mahogany-colored baby hair, and style it for her on these occasions-well as much as she could with the amount of hair that Bella had, anyway. She sometimes ended up looking very similar to Pebbles from the Flintstones. I would never say this to Rosalie because she always looked like she enjoyed this time with Bella. I did not want to risk taking anything away from her happiness. Esme would always take the pictures of these mini-fashion shows when they were done, and over time Bella accumulated quite a portfolio.

I often find myself lost in my own amusement at these memories of my sisters and mother with Bella, particularly the day she announced that she sparkled like us...

"Awice, bring me presents?" Bella sang.

Alice walked in through the front door carrying way more bags than such a small woman should be able to, even if she was a vampire. "Hi, Bella!"She called out to her as she began setting the packages down. "Come over here and give me a great big hug!" Alice kneeled down on the floor as Bella rushed up to her and threw her arms around her neck.

Rosalie and Esme soon found the source of all the commotion at the front door.

"Hey Alice! How was your shopping trip?" Rosalie asked her.

"Oh my gosh! It was so great! I got our little princess here so much stuff. You will love it all, Bella," Alice said winking her eyes at Bella.

"So, are we going to have a fashion show today, girls?" Esme asked with a huge grin plastered across her face.

"Well...we have a lot of work to do then. Rosalie-hair, Esme-photography, and I will take care of the rest. Let's get to it!" Alice was practically bouncing out of the room and up the stairs with the others following.

"Make Bewa pretty," Bella chanted at the three women excitedly as they all rushed upstairs to Alice and Jasper's bedroom.

What little girl would not like clothes, getting their hair done, and getting their picture taken? Not too many it seemed.

"So, Bella what do you want to try on first?" Alice asked her as she began taking the clothing out of the bags.

"Oh! Yay! Pink! I like pink. Pink so pweety. Oh! I like those!" She kept pointing from one thing to the next, almost looking like she might spontaneously combust with excitement, but alas she did not.

Bella finally settled on a blue jean skirt, black cropped leggings with lace trim, a blue short sleeved zip up hoodie, and black ballet flats.

Alice was nearly beside herself. "Wow, Bella, for such a young thing, you sure do know your stuff!" she cooed at her while jumping up and down, clapping her hands joyously.

"Okay, Rose. You're up," Alice said as she motioned for Bella to move into her bathroom.

Keep in mind, Bella did not have a full head of hair. Her hair was baby-fine in texture, and still thin in places. Rosalie gladly took on the challenge, though. "Okay Bella, I'm going to need you to sit really still, okay?"

Bella obediently nodded.

By the time Rosalie was done, she had somehow managed to create several tiny ringlets atop Bella's head.

Alice finished her off with a little bit of glittery dust for her face.

"I wook whike you now, Awice! Yay!" Bella danced around excitedly.

No one said anything aloud about Bella's comment, but everyone's thoughts acknowledged Bella's observation.

When they were through, Rosalie made her way downstairs to call everyone into the living room. "Bella has some new fashions to show off!" She tried unsuccessfully to keep her laughter hidden.

Emmett, Jasper, Edward, and Carlisle joined Rosalie in the living room.

"So how many outfits did Alice get her to try on this time?" Emmett asked unable to hide his own laughter.

"Oh, you know Alice. Honestly, though, Bella is almost a mini-me of Alice, minus the shopping addiction itself. It's kind of funny."

Esme made her way downstairs as Alice cleared her throat from the top of the staircase. "Good evening, ladies and gents! I would like to introduce the next big thing in fashion, Bella Cullen!" Alice happily called out to everyone below. She always did have a flare for dramatics.

Instead of running down the stairs with highly energized excitement, Bella pretended the stairs were some kind of catwalk.

Had she been older, this might have been slightly disturbing, but when children are this little, it is hard to resist the utter innocence of such a scene.

Bella laughed hysterically as she reached the bottom of the stairs while Esme took picture after picture. She walked over to Carlisle, Emmett, Jasper and Edward who were perched happily on the sofa in the living room. She twirled around singing, "I pweety. Awice and Ro made me wook whike you! Wook, I sparkly!"

****

When Bella was not clowning around with Emmett or pretending to be a fashion icon with Alice, Rosalie and Esme, she came off as a rather quiet child. Deep in thought, Bella often sat with Esme in the kitchen as she prepared her meals for her. She seemed fascinated by Esme's graceful, yet decisive movements as she cooked. Alice had visions of Bella cooking with Esme by the time she was nine or ten years old, which thoroughly excited Esme. Her patience often preceded her, and for now, she was content spending time with Bella watching her.

By the time Bella turned three, she had built up an insatiable appetite for books, chess, and learning to play the piano. With my love of books and music, we often sat quietly together while I read to her or practiced playing the piano.

For as young as she was, Bella demonstrated a budding talent and intellect that far exceeded that of other children her age. It was not so much that she picked up a book and instantly knew how to read, or even that she walked up to the piano and played one of Beethoven's symphonies the first time she sat down. Bella just exuded an attentiveness and resolve that you might not normally witness in another child. When I first began to teach her to play the piano, sometimes she would just watch me. Other times she would try to mimic my movements on the keys. In spite of her small hands, she was determined to learn because it was something I loved. I did not need to read her mind to know that was why she wanted to learn. This is why whenever she made a mistake or got frustrated I put my long practiced patience to good use during Bella's piano lessons. I loved these moments because it made me feel necessary-I somehow had a higher purpose in this life.

In many ways, it was as if we were all given a higher purpose, whether it was directly related to Bella or just in general did not matter. We were all affected by her presence, Jasper in particular. It was clear that he had come to some kind of crossroads in his immortality, just as Alice had foretold. Bella certainly had helped him to get there. His control over his thirst was almost built up to my own, which was striking considering Jasper's past.

Similar to Bella and mine's shared interest in music and books, Jasper found a quick study in her as a chess player. Even at three years old, it was pretty clear she would become quite the opponent for him. As time passed, though, it was extremely interesting to watch them play. It was as if they were communicating with their emotions to determine both their next moves-both their own and each other's through body language and facial expressions. It was a remarkable sight.

This was especially true when she won her first game against him when wehad just returned from a hunting trip...

"Hey Bella. You up for a game of chess?" Jasper asked her as he picked her up for a hug.

"Yeah!" Bella answered excitedly returning his request for a hug. "You know I love playing games with you Jazz. I'm going to beat you this time. I can feel it!"

"I bet you will, too! You have learned how to play much faster than I would have ever expected. You are like our own little chess prodigy!"

"A prodigy? What's a prodigy?"

"Well, sugar, a prodigy is often what people will call a child that excels in a particular skill at a really young age. So, for instance, you are three-years-old, right?"

"Yes I am!"

Jasper looked at her with a huge grin. "Well, being three-years-old and being able to play chess really well would make you a prodigy," he continued, trying to explain the concept in the simplest way he knew how for her to understand.

With Bella still in his arms, they made their way over to the dining room table where he had already set up the chessboard.

"Okay! You ready to play?" Jasper asked her while clapping his hands together.

Bella mimicked his actions and nodded her head yes enthusiastically.

"Okay, you know how it goes. White makes the first move."

Just as they began to play, Emmett and I came up to the table to watch the game play out.

"My money's on Bella. I know you can do it, kid!" Emmett cheered, trying to give her a boost of confidence.

She looked up at Emmett with a quiet and focused smile, while I sat back and silently observed the game. The room was calm until the last move was played.

"I did it! I did it! I won! Good game, Jazz!" She gave all three of us high fives in her moment of glory.

"I knew you had it in you the whole time," Emmett gushed.

Jasper could not contain the smile on his face. His body never flinched in Bella's presence anymore. A pure and complete affection streamed from him as he gave Bella another big hug. He was so proud of his little protégé.

After the excitement died down, Bella turned to me and asked quite matter-of-factly, "Would you like to read with me, Edward?"

I could not help but laugh lightly at how formally she spoke sometimes. It was as if she could turn it on and off like a light switch. It was surprising to hear a three-year-old that talked that way, but not that surprising coming from Bella.

"Of course, Bella. What would you like to read today?"

"Hmmm. I liked the story you were reading to me last night at bedtime. Can we read more of that?"

"Romeo and Juliet? I knew you would like that book. Actually, I came down here before to ask you if you wanted me to read some more to you or if you wanted to practice playing your lullaby on the piano. I did not want to interrupt your chess game with Jasper, though."

"That's okay. I'm glad I got to play. That was the first time I won! Jasper told me he thought I would beat him soon, I just didn't know it would be today!"

I could not help but laugh loudly at how proud she was of winning her first chess game against Jasper. We walked over to the sofa in the living room and sat down to continue reading Romeo and Juliet.

"Where were we? Let me see here. Oh, here we are..." Edward said almost to himself as Bella snuggled into his side looking at the words on the page he had turned to.

"I like this story. The words are so pretty," Bella said with a contented sigh.

I paused briefly, looked down at Bella's sweet face, and smiled softly. "Yes they are, Bella. Just like you."

****

We planned to stay in Alaska until the summer before Bella's fifth birthday, which fell on September 13. School did not start until after Labor Day, so we figured this would be enough time for her to adjust to her new surroundings. We decided that it would be a good idea for Bella to be with others beside ourselves.

We had a home in Syracuse that we decided would be a good place to start introducing Bella back into the human world. It was close to shopping, which Alice loved, but it also provided the cloud cover we needed to blend in. The grade school was close to the high school, which of course we all loved. Carlisle secured a position at one of the local hospitals, and Esme worked on one of her many renovation projects-a favorite pastime and sometimes business of hers.

All we needed to do now was have a family meeting to discuss the move with Bella. It would be the first formal discussion we would have with her about what we were, which can be easily confused with who we are to a young child. We wanted her to understand our nature because it was important. At the same time, we did not want to scare her. As I anticipated the meeting and move, I could not help but wonder how Bella would react. She never ceased to amaze me, so this would be interesting.