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Altered Reality

Summary:
Edward Masen has led a charmed life. As the son of a prominent Chicago attorney he has grown up in the highest circles of society. The Spanish Influenza of 1918 cared nothing for social standing, however, and treated everyone equally. Now Edward must adjust to a world he never imagined after becoming a victim of the epidemic. This is the story of Edward's first six months as a vampire, as told by Edward himself. This story is 100% in canon. Come get reacquainted with Edward and Carlisle. small banner


Notes:
Altered Reality is a companion to my first fan-fic, New Beginnings, which is available on Ramblings and Thoughts. I would have never had the courage to tackle this story if Alphie had not challenged me to write it when she reviewed NB.


7. Chapter 6 ~ Adjusting

Rating 0/5   Word Count 2763   Review this Chapter

The strains of Mozart’s Sonata in D Major filled my consciousness. The slender fingers that caressed the ivory keys still seemed to belong to someone else. They sparkled in the late afternoon light that spilled into the room through the lace curtains of the parlor. They played each note to perfection. I could not remember if I had always played like this, with each note exactly as it should be. The first time I remembered sitting at the glossy black Steinway baby grand, I had played mechanically, cautiously. I was afraid that I would not be able to control my newfound strength, and that I would unintentionally break the glorious instrument. Halfway through that first Nocturne, my emotions had taken over. I had poured myself into the majesty of the music and let it fill me up. I became the music. It had wrapped itself around me like a mantle and offered its comfort. This was the first time I felt any sense of ease since becoming aware of my new reality. I could forget while I played. The ever-present voices were momentarily silenced as the music filled my very being. They seemed to be listening too. The music made me whole again - while it lasted. And so I played, because when I stopped I could not breathe, I could not think.

Carlisle came into the room, pausing to look over the selection of books on the shelves. He had done this every time he entered the room since he had brought me home almost three weeks ago. Although he had every title memorized, Carlisle would wait until I was ready to stop playing. I did not want to stop playing, but my throat was burning without mercy and the only way to ease the discomfort was to hunt and to drink the blood of my prey. Carlisle assured me that I would adjust, that I needed to be patient with myself. I missed cooked food, the sweetness of fresh fruit and the slightly bitter tang vegetables. The idea of bread and jam was tantalizing but I knew my stomach would churn if I ate it. These memories were vague recollections of a life that was now no longer mine to enjoy, among so many other things.

For the last three weeks, one day had melted into the next without much variety. During the day I played the piano as much as I could. Occasionally I would pause when a new question occurred to me and Carlisle would respond accordingly. In the evening, Carlisle would take me out to the farmland and undeveloped areas surrounding Chicago to hunt.

Carlisle had gone out for brief periods during the day since bringing me home to arrange for the settlement of my parents’ estate, always returning with some new music for me as a peace offering. All of the selections were intriguing but I was not going to give Carlisle the satisfaction of appearing interested. I was tempted to open the pristine scores and spread them out when he left but I knew that if I did he would notice. The slightest wrinkle or subtle change in curl of the pages would be discernable to a vampire’s enhanced senses. No, I did not want him to think that I was appreciative of anything he did for me.

In reality, there wasn’t anything keeping me prisoner. I could have walked out of the door at any time and gone wherever I pleased. For all his strength, Carlisle would not have been able to stop me. As a newborn, I was stronger. So what was keeping me in solitary confinement? Carlisle’s memories of vampire feedings, not of his own feedings of course, but his memories of feedings that he had witnessed throughout the years were what stopped me from leaving. I heard every terrified scream that his perfect memories recalled. I felt, in a tangible way, his conviction that feeding from humans was inherently wrong. I wanted him to protect me from what I would instinctively become if I ventured out on my own prematurely.

In frustration I leaned on the keys, causing a discordant groan to echo around the room. I pinched the bridge of my nose. Anger rose in my throat like bile.

Carlisle flinched at the unexpected sound; I always treated the piano with reverence. Aside from blood, it was my only source of relief from the reality that was my life now. Music, the more complex the better, was the only thing that I could cling to. It anchored me to my old life and kept me sane in the present. The memories I had were indistinct with the exception of a mere handful, most of which I would prefer to forget because they were of my illness and change. Carlisle had a few memories of Mama that he shared with me but they only led to more questions rather than answers.

“Edward, will you talk to me?” Carlisle softly queried.

Not that question again! I could think of no reason to talk to Carlisle. He was solely responsible for my present state of affairs. He was responsible for the burn in my throat. He was responsible for the voices that filled my consciousness at every moment. He was responsible for the fact that I still walked the earth and was not buried six feet in the ground next to my parents. (I had not even been able to attend Mama’s funeral that Carlisle had so thoughtfully organized; the story was that I was still too ill to attend.) And, he was responsible for me being imprisoned in what was by all evidence my own home. Because of what Carlisle had done to me, I had become too dangerous to be among the human population that I so longed to return to.

“Give me a good reason why I should talk to you.” I spat the words out like the venom that now filled my mouth.

A sigh of relief escaped from between Carlisle’s lips. In the last five days, I had refused to say anything to him at all. “Because you need to tell me how enraged you are with me. You have every right to be incensed.” He looked at me cautiously. “You also need to talk to me because I am the only one here who can help you.”

“How dare you!” It was all that I could do to keep from lashing out in a rage as I pivoted on the piano bench to face Carlisle. I wanted to rip him apart. “You make it sound as if you are the only vampire in this whole world who will help me adjust to . . .to . . . to this existence. I am notgoing to be your prisoner any longer,” I growled. “I know that there are others,” I fumed. “You invited someone over that you are expecting to arrive this evening. How dare you even consider inviting someone into my home anyway?!”

Carlisle was startled at my accusation that he should have gotten permission from me before inviting someone over. “Oh, that didn’t even occur to me, Edward. I’m sorry.”

He was sorry. Carlisle had not lived with anyone that he had felt compelled to seek permission from when he wanted to invite a guest over since becoming a vampire himself. The courtesy had never been necessary.

I stared at him for a moment. Carlisle’s intentions in inviting this particular vampire over were for all of the right reasons. He was seeking her advice on how to best help me - help us. He did not want to be a jailor any more than I wanted to be a prisoner.

“Are you going to tell me anything about Sarah before she gets here?” I saw no reason to make a spectacle of myself. I had enough memories intact to be concerned about proper decorum in my own home. Besides, there was no telling what kind of authority this woman might have over Carlisle. He obviously respected her and her ties to the Volturi. He had explained to me some days before how the Volturi were instrumental in maintaining the secrets of the vampire community from the world of humans. Besides, if I could get Carlisle to talk about her I would be able to get more than her name from his thoughts.

Looking to the other end of the room from where the piano resided, Carlisle silently wondered if I would consent to join him where two settees and three comfortable chairs were circled around for easy conversation. “You can bring a chair over here if you like,” I said stubbornly. “I’m quite comfortable where I am, thank you.” My tone was sarcastic.

Nodding, Carlisle turned to retrieve a chair. He considered if there was anything he could possibly do to earn my respect, or if he was doomed to face my wrath until I had learned enough from him to go off on my own. For all of the anger and grief I had served him in the last three weeks, he still cared about me. He wanted me to succeed on whatever path I chose and provide what guidance he could.

This was more than my own father would have done. I knew from my journals (I had found three) that my father had demanded complete submission to his will. He was the lord of his castle. When I was born, he had decided then and there that I was going to be a lawyer as he was, period. Going to great lengths the spring before his death, he had secured a clerk’s position for me at his law firm so that I could gain experience before starting law school. I had hated the work.

Science was what had really held my interest, medicine in particular. Mama had been doing what she could for me quietly behind Father’s back so that medical school could remain an option for me. It seemed ironic that the person responsible for my current state of affairs was a physician who was, by all accounts, inclined to help me reach my goals to the best of his abilities. Perhaps my relationship with my father, as vague as my memories of him were, explained some of my disdain toward Carlisle. I did not want a father figure, regardless of his good intentions. My biological father had dictated my life for too long.

Of course, what I had wanted more than being a lawyer or doctor was to be a soldier. I had planned for my vocation to wait until after the war. Father had supported my plans to join the war effort. In his opinion, it was the patriotic thing to do and quite honorable.

Father had even chosen a bride for me: the daughter of his partner, Oswald Rutherford. Emma Rutherford was apparently pleasing to the eye, but she was also selfish and self-centered. She cared only about her social standing and how she could improve her position. She desired me in the way a prized stallion would be regarded for breeding purposes. In her eyes, I was a prime specimen. I came from good social stock, a financially sound family and just happened to be good looking. I had recorded many of her exploits as she tried to gain my favor when our fathers had forced us together. Let me rephrase that - when our fathers had forced me into her presence. She had always been a willing participant.

The only girl that I may have had any remote interest in was one Margaret Brandt. By all accounts, I never actively pursued her. She was, simply put, a friend. Father had had no end to the epithets against her that I had obviously recorded with some disdainful feelings directed toward him. While Margaret’s father provided for the family comfortably with his printing business, their means were not extravagant. She was a bright and insightful girl with a quick wit. She valued people not for what she could gain by them but for what she could contribute to their betterment. Social standing was of little importance to her.

As I read my account of Margaret in my journal, it was obvious that her deep thoughtful eyes of brown and auburn hair had taken me in. She may have been a girl I would have liked to pursue if my father had not been such an imposing presence in my life. I wondered what my real feelings toward Margaret would have been if I had been free to explore the relationship, but it was never to be.

I did find at least one point of common ground with my father: baseball. We had followed the Chicago Cubs religiously. When they made it to the 1918 World Series, we had been overjoyed. In honor of the occasion, Papa had taken an unheard of two days off from work to attend the home games at Comiskey Park on Thursday and Friday, September 5th and 6th. The third home game was held on Saturday, his day off. We went to all three games. The Cubs prevailed over the Boston Red Sox in game two. We had been so excited. Our Cubs had had a chance to win the series! Papa would never know that the Cubs would win only one more game. He died on September 11th, the day of the last game in the series.

When Carlisle cleared his throat, I looked up and met his curious gaze. “You seemed to be deep in thought,” he apologized for interrupting my reminiscence. “If you prefer, I can tell you about Sarah after she gets here - or perhaps it would be better if she told you what you want to know herself.”

Shaking my head and looking down at the Oriental rug, I whispered, “No, I think I’d rather know a little before she arrives.” I paused and met his eyes again, “Carlisle?”

“Hmm?” Carlisle’s curiosity was stirred.

Hesitating out of embarrassment, I continued, “I haven’t been entirely fair to you. I know you’re trying to help me adjust as best you can. I’ve just been so . . . so . . .” I trailed off, unsure of how to continue.

“Edward, look at me,” Carlisle gently commanded.

I complied.

“Three weeks probably seems like a long time to you still. In human terms, maybe it is, but we have as much time as you are willing to give. Your anger and frustration is perfectly understandable. When I bit you, the world as you understood it was radically changed. I acted selfishly.”

“No,” I quietly objected, “you acted out of compassion for Mama. She asked you to save me. You did the only thing you could to honor her request. I respect that.” It was becoming harder to stay mad at Carlisle. Every time he thought about Mama’s final request and her subsequent death, his emotions became unbearably raw. I felt every once of sadness that he did.

Carlisle leaned back into his chair. “You’ve been reading my thoughts?”

I nodded. “I just didn’t want to admit that it was true. It hurts so much to think about Mama.”

Our contemplation was interrupted by the melodious tune of the Westminster chimes of the doorbell.

“That has to be Sarah,” Carlisle thought. “Edward, I’m not going to tell you what to do, but I would advise you not to say anything about your gift. She has close ties to the Volturi and Aro likes to collect people around him who have significant or unusual gifts. If he found out about you before you were ready to deal with him, he would likely compel you to join him.”

It was clear that Carlisle did not want to chance Sarah overhearing this last instruction to me. Now I wondered even more than before who this vampire was. Carlisle obviously liked and respected her, but he had some reservations about her as well.

Carlisle rose to answer the door. His shoes tapped quietly as he crossed the marble tiles of the foyer.

Part of me felt that I should be the one to greet our guest. This was, after all, my house. But I did not know Sarah, nor had I extended the invitation for her to visit. Instead, I waited with trepidation at the door to the parlor.

Looking back over his shoulder, Carlisle checked to see if I had any objections before he opened the door. I shrugged to indicate my indifference.