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Different

Summary:
Bella and Edward take a completely different path from the start. Bella's first day of school in Forks doesn't end at all well and things go downhill from there.


Notes:
I wrote this quite a while ago and finaly got around to finishing it. I wanted to explore some alternatives but found myself coming around to the same conclusion every time. There are 4 Chapters in the finished story and I will get them posted as soon as they are approved.


4. Chapter 4

Rating 3.5/5   Word Count 2392   Review this Chapter

Bella ran a great distance, but eventually her feet took her in a circle back to her starting point, there was no where to run from this and no place to hide. Change wasn't something a vampire could do easily. Bella had all the time in the world but wasn't sure about her desire to change. Living with all the anger and hatred was turning her into a dark creature she could barely face in the mirror but there was a difference between stopping to let some of that go and turning around to completely face a feeling that terrified her because of what she would have to accept about herself. It was like walking a tightrope in cement shoes. The weight was so great she could barely balance standing still.

Bella spent a few weeks adjusting to living like a normal teenager again. She spent her evenings with Charlie, she cooked his meals and left them for him to keep warm in the oven, pretending she liked to eat an early dinner before he came home. She waited until he was asleep and then went out to hunt or sat in her old room and meditated. She worked for days at releasing her mental death grip on all the anger. She knew it was like a poison to her mind and heart. Forgiving Edward would let her slip out of the cement shoes but then she would still have to decide if she wanted to continue across the taut strand of the future that stretched out in front of her searching feet.

During school she spent all her time with the Cullens. The humans all avoided her as instinctively as they did her vampire family. Boys that had shown interest in her the previous year now dropped their gaze if she met their eyes. One pair of eyes she started to meet on occasion were Edward's. The first few times he seemed almost startled. After a few days he gave her a tight tentative smile that barely moved the edges of his lips. Bella quickly looked away.

The first time that Bella said hello to Edward as he passed her on the stairs the whole house went suddenly silent. Esme's little gasp followed Bella as she raced from the house and across the river. She didn't hear Edward's response but she had seen it in his eyes.

Bella felt lighter and happier as she released her hold on all the bits of anger and resentment. Each bit of the malice floating away from her grasp like sickly colored helium balloons. The cement shoes were gone and over time Bella felt herself inching forward by tiny increments along the tightrope of fate ahead of her.

The small things got easier. More often Bella met Edward's eyes and she would even occasionally meet them with a smile on her face at some joke of Emmett's or something that had pleased Esme and made everyone smile. Bella joined into conversations where Edward was present and even participating. She had avoided situations like that in the past, keeping her distance from the friendly family banter to avoid causing awkwardness and negativity. She found more and more that she honestly liked and respected Edward as much as the rest of the family did. He was empathetic and often showed kindness to everyone in the family in little ways that could almost go unnoticed or seem like coincidence. When Bella spoke he listened intently but allowed her the distance she still needed.

For the first time Bella decided to join in the family "play time". Edward and Emmett had gotten into a wrestling match and the family had gone out to have some fun sparring together. Carlisle and Esme stood to the side holding hands as they indulgently watched their overgrown children at play. After a few mixed bouts Emmett asked Bella if she would like to try. Bella turned to check with Rosalie who laughed and then Alice who just shrugged and grinned.

Bella gave it a split second of consideration and then stepped out into the clearing and stood facing Emmett. They started off relatively slowly moving at speeds no human could follow but for a vampire were gentle sparring. Emmett and Jasper called out the occasional pointer and Bella's vampire brain picked up details and rhythms at an incredible speed. The pace increased and Bella found herself having to really work to keep from being pinned by Emmett's reach and strength. It had to happen eventually though. The warning snarl from Edward gave Bella's imminent loss away and there were groans and laughs from all the spectators as Bella was forced to relax in Emmett's grasp and accept the loud raspberry he blew against her cheek as his mark of victory.

Edward was still giving Emmett a stony look as Bella was released to spring lightly away. She felt much happier than the loss at the wrestling match could affect. She really felt like one of the group, accepted, part of the whole. She felt a lightness and sense of peace she had been searching for inside of herself and found among these friends who were so much closer than family. She felt so good. Almost everything in her life was coming together and her efforts to change herself for the better were paying off in a greater return than she had ever expected on her investment of effort and time. While the others congratulated Bella and gave her pointers for future matches Edward continued to exude waves of hostility in Emmett's direction.

"Come on Edward, it was all in fun!" Emmett's teasing tone barely lightened Edward's expression. "We all know she's wanted to take a piece out of you for a long time, I think with a bit of practice she'll have a fair chance." Emmett's booming laugh and Jasper's wry smile and effort to lighten the mood both finally got Edward to drop the frown and shrug.

Bella's good mood and the sense of family she was feeling encouraged her to make a sudden decision. She turned to Edward and felt a thrill of something like nervous energy run through her.

Jasper's soft inquiring "Alice?" made Bella glance in her sisters direction. Alice had that blank look on her face that said she was seeing something to come. Alice shook herself, and started muttering what sounded like poetry in Arabic softly under her breath.

Edward gave Alice a dark look and then gave Bella a questioning one. "Bella, if it's what you want... Alice isn't going to let me have any advantage so it will be fair in that respect." Edward seemed resigned but stepped up to where Emmett had stood shortly before.

Bella stepped forward to face him. It felt so strange, this challenge that was all she had dreamed of for months, a way to hurt Edward and make him pay, but now the anger was all missing and Bella's whole body was tingling with a strange kind of excitement and anticipation. Bella glanced around at the watchers, Alice, still muttering and only half paying attention, Jasper with a bemused look on his face as he sensed her emotional state, Emmett, grinning hugely at this joke, Rose unreadable and both Esme and Carlisle looking slightly concerned.

Bella felt a tightness in her chest and knew that if her heart still beat it would be racing. She kept her breathing controlled and tilted her head to one side to really look at Edward; to really see him. At that moment a break in the ever present clouds overhead caused sunlight to spill over all of them. The diamond dance and sparkle of the light was breathtaking. Bella realized Edward really was beautiful, on the outside and within, something inside her warmed for just a moment and then the sight of her own hands also sparkling in that inhuman way ignited the briefest surge of resentment, heat flared inside Bella and she lunged.

Alice must have been achieving her goal because Bella caught Edward seemingly off guard. Bella's first two blows landed solidly, one to the chin and one to the torso causing him to fall back a step in the face of her attack. After that Edward blocked everything Bella threw at him, he turned aside her punches and jabs and dodged a few of her more energetic attempts to remove his head or other appendages. In all her fury it took Bella long moments to realize the terrible snarling noises were coming from her own throat, that Edward remained eerily silent and blank faced and that he never once attempted to land a blow himself. At first this renewed Bella's fury and she launched herself into an even greater effort hacking and lunging and spinning faster and more furiously than before. Catching one of Edward's arms Bella slammed him into a small tree causing it to snap and topple, Edward simply returned to his fighting stance as if she had not scored a major blow. Bella's screams of rage and frustration filled with even more emotion as Edward continued to passively allow her aggression.

Bella paused for the smallest instant and dropped into a crouch launching herself with every ounce of her strength at Edward. Somehow he wasn't where she had expected him to be but instead was suddenly moving with her wrapping her in a powerful embrace as they both fell to the ground. Edward held Bella pinned to his chest facing away from him. She struggled briefly to escape, beating at his thighs with her fists and thrashing with her legs.

The sight of Alice tugging Jasper by the hand and Emmett by the arm far across the clearing as they departed, the last of the Cullens to leave the area, told Bella who had betrayed her to Edward at the last moment, and also gave her an explanation as to why. Bella went limp and her snarls of anger turned into the keening sobs of a vampire who couldn't shed a tear for her own suffering or anyone elses. Edward simply held on and let the emotion pour out.

After more than an hour Bella came out of her own grief enough to realize that Edward was also quietly grieving. She let herself grow quiet and still.

Edward's voice was low and hoarse. "I am so sorry. You never let me tell you how sorry I am for what I've taken from you. If there were a way to replace it or to repair what I've done I would do whatever it took." he paused briefly, "I didn't understand at the time... Alice saw so many possibilities. She likes to be an optimist but I could only believe that you would hate me forever for what I did."

"You said once that you loved me; why, when I've been so horrible to you?" Bella asked the question softly.

Edward turned Bella gently in his arms so that their eyes could meet. "At first I hated you, for what you were, a temptation so overpowering. Then, I loathed you for making me into the monster again after so many years of work to overcome it. Then I bit you and I only hated myself." Edward paused to hesitantly brush a few stray strands of Bella's hair away from her face. "Then I pitied you for what I had turned you into. I wanted to protect you and to do whatever I could to make your suffering less and your existence more bearable. I watched you and tried to find ways to do whatever I could... I thought it was just a sense of responsibility and a vampire's fascination with something new and different but the night we played baseball..." Edward paused again, looking away into the distance for a moment, "I was so fiercely proud of you and I realized I was jealous and that you are the most beautiful creature I have ever seen and that somehow I had fallen deeply in love. After that, all I could do was hope that eventually Alice would be right."

"Never bet against Alice." Bella's voice was steadier than she had thought it would be. "When did she stop keeping you out of her head during the fight?"

"Right before you threw me against the tree she showed me the two of us like this." Edward smiled a brief ironic smile. "Showing me exactly what I wanted to see distracted me from watching what you were about to do. Alice felt it satisfied her sense of justice. After that she convinced the others to give us some space. She's very pleased with herself right now."

Bella started to laugh as she pictured the Cheshire Cat grin on Alice's face. Bella made the firm decision to give her sister a hug and a sincere thank you the next time she saw her. Bella laughed for the sheer joy of knowing that this would make so many people happy, including herself. It felt so good to laugh; she hadn't done it for a long time.

In one quick motion Bella rolled smoothly to her feet and stood while Edward followed with a bemused expression on his face.

"Hi." Bella said cheerfully sticking out her hand, "I'm Bella Swan."

Edward's face broke into a beautiful, slightly crooked smile. "It's a pleasure Bella Swan. I'm Edward, Edward Cullen."

They shook hands and then fell into step next to each other walking in the direction of the Cullen home. Just close enough that their hands occasionally brushed each other as they walked but no closer.

"You know Bella, there's a place out in the forest that I'd like to show you, it's really a lovely spot." Edward's tone was light but Bella heard the question behind it.

"Thank you Edward, I'd like that. I'd love to spend some time getting to know you better." Bella felt a thrill go through her body as she said the words. She knew she really meant them.