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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.


8. Chapter 7 ~Sarah~

Rating 5/5   Word Count 3560   Review this Chapter

Sarah was standing outside my front door gaping in awe at the house. She couldn’t believe that Carlisle lived there. The only vampires that were residing in luxury at the time were the Volturi. While my house was not a palace, it was a far cry from the shacks and barns most vampires sheltered in. Their nomadic lifestyle did not dispose them to permanent residences. Occasionally, they would inhabit a victim’s home for a brief time, but then they would move on. If I was really being honest, my home was much more than most people lived in. But, I had lived there all my life and to me it was just “home.”

“Carlisle, it is so good to see you again,” Sarah gushed in a soft German accent as she walked in through the door. Her voice reminded me of the gentle chimes of my mother’s music box. She embraced Carlisle warmly and they kissed each other on the cheek.

Sarah wore a woolen, hunter green traveling suit: straight skirt ending at the ankles with five rows of pleats circling around about three inches above the hem. The matching coat was loosely fitted at the bodice and gently flared at the waist. The cuffs and collar were trimmed in fur and an ivory blouse peeked out at the v-neck of the coat. Her ensemble was completed with sensible walking shoes, a wide-brimmed hat graced with a bow that concealed her chestnut brown hair and kid gloves. She was quite proud of how she looked. Sarah did not usually pay so much attention to fashion unless she was with the Volturi, but she had recently acquired this outfit from a victim and was quite pleased with it. I guessed that she had been in her early forties when she was changed.

I shook my head in disbelief as I considered the implications of wearing your meal’s clothes. I hoped that I would never have to stoop so low.

“You have certainly done well for yourself, Carlisle,” Sarah mused as she slowly turned to observe the entry hall. “Aro may be jealous when he hears about this.”

“Aro has nothing to be jealous of,” Carlisle advised. “The house belongs to Edward.” He inclined his head in my direction.

“Ah, Edward, forgive me. I didn’t see you there.” She had seen me, but had chosen to ignore me as she assessed her surroundings. “I’m Sarah,” she said as she extended her hand to me.

Reluctantly, I shook it by way of greeting. It was then that I looked up to meet her eyes. They were a vivid scarlet that sparkled with enthusiasm.

Abruptly dropping her hand, I backed into the parlor. The monster blocked my access to the hall leading to the back of the house and an alternative escape to that of the front entry. I could feel the horror etched onto my face as she gazed at me in concern.

Carlisle immediately understood what had happened. Ever since that first day, I had refused to look in a mirror. The red eyes were more than I could bear. On the few occasions when I had glimpsed my reflection, I had quickly turned away. It was bad enough that my skin sparkled when the light hit it, but the red eyes were absolute confirmation of the monster I had become.

Maneuvering around Sarah, Carlisle was quickly at my side offering reassuring words.

Sarah, for her part, was respectfully keeping her distance. She understood the volatile nature of newborns much too well.

Instinctively, I wanted to attack Carlisle because he was too close and Sarah because of her dangerous eyes. Holding up a warning hand to Carlisle I indicated that he should back off while I regained my composure. It took every once of self-control I possessed not to assault either of them. Intellectually, I knew that would not be in my best interest. Both Carlisle and Sarah wanted to help me cope with the realities of my new life.

Music, I needed music. I could feel myself panting as I took my usual seat at the piano and began playing the first minuet that came to mind.

While I poured myself into the soothing melody, I heard Carlisle explain to Sarah that music had proven to be an effective tool in helping me to calm myself. He left out the part about how music also masked the voices that were ever-present in my consciousness.

Sarah nodded in approval. “That is one of the more constructive means of dealing with a stressful situation that I’ve encountered. I’m quite impressed. For one so young, Edward is showing remarkable control. It was unwise of you to approach him however,” she rebuked Carlisle. “If Edward had had less control, you would have been in serious trouble.”

Sarah was more right than Carlisle wanted to admit. I very nearly had torn into him the way I had on my first afternoon. The only thing that had stopped me were his thoughts. His love and concern, that I knew to be genuine, had enabled me to maintain some semblance of control.

When I finished the minuet, I rested my hands on my lap and gazed into the empty space in front of me. My concentration was focused on Carlisle. This prevented me from lashing out against Sarah. She represented every vile image that had bombarded me during my change, and yet Carlisle clearly considered her to be a friend. I understood this, but emotionally it was devastating to be confronted with the very image of what I had become. She would teach me to be like other vampires if given the opportunity. In looking at Sarah, I could now see for the first time just how extraordinary Carlisle was. For his part, Carlisle did not consider her a threat, but rather a trusted ally.

“Edward?” Carlisle, stepping to my side, was hesitant to push me into further dialogue until I was ready.

Closing my eyes and inhaling deeply, I considered if I could face Sarah again. She had not done anything against me, nor did she appear to be a threat. I reminded myself that she was part of my new reality. She was merely the first traditional vampire I had met. I knew there would be more in the future. I needed to compose myself. Other vampires might not be as tolerant of my inhospitable behavior as Sarah.

“I’m fine,” I murmured, as I turned to look beyond Carlisle to where Sarah stood just inside the parlor door. “Sarah, I’m sorry. I just . . .” I did not know how to finish my apology.

“Think nothing of it, Edward.” Sarah very much wanted to put me at ease. “Carlisle is the only vampire you’ve known and by any definition, he is unique. I can only imagine how startling I must appear to you when he is the only one of us that you have ever had contact with.”

I simply nodded. “Still, that is little excuse for my rude behavior. Won’t you come in and have a seat?” I gestured to the settees and chairs at the other end of the room. My memories were scant but my manners seemed to be intact. I felt that I should be offering Sarah some tea, but I knew that that made no sense whatsoever. Maybe a goblet of blood would be more appropriate.

With a swift movement, Sarah removed her hat and placed it next to her on the settee where she had seated herself. Carlisle took a chair as I reluctantly sat across from her on the other settee.

“Carlisle, I am most interested to hear how you found Edward. Did his creator abandon him?” Sarah was brimming with curiosity. She had never expected to find Carlisle in the position of caring for a newborn vampire.

“Edward was in the hospital,” was Carlisle’s simple reply. He was embarrassed to elaborate.

Sarah pushed for more details. “So you were assigned to Edward when he was brought to the hospital for treatment of an apparent wound?”

“No.” Carlisle paused but was unsure if he should reveal the whole truth. He seemed to be more vexed about his part in my transformation than anything else.

Growling, I muttered, “Carlisle changed me. I was dying from the influenza.”

“Carlisle, is that true?” Sarah gasped. The notion that Carlisle would be the creator of a new vampire was beyond anything she would have ever considered him doing.

Sarah’s thoughts raced back to her initial introduction to Carlisle. She had met him shortly after he encountered the Volturi. His refusal to partake in human blood was of great concern to them. It was believed that without human blood, Carlisle would become erratic and uncontrollable. No vampire had ever abstained from the conventional diet until that time.

Preferring not to destroy Carlisle, Aro had summoned Sarah. While not gifted, she had a talent for helping newborns that needed assistance adjusting to their new lives. She was the one who had presented the tempting humans to Carlisle under Aro’s direction.

In the end, she had conceded that there was no evidence that Carlisle was debilitated by his unusual diet. He was, perhaps, not quite as strong as he might have been, but that was a minor consequence. It was Sarah who had convinced Aro to let Carlisle go his own way, and to observe him as a kind of experiment: how well and how long can a vampire live without human blood?

It was a radical notion. Aro had been intrigued and had allowed Carlisle to leave Italy and live as he chose.

Knowing how much reverence Carlisle had for human life, Sarah was understandably shocked when she learned who was responsible for changing me.

Carlisle met Sarah’s eyes and nodded. “Edward would have died in a few hours if I had done nothing. His mother’s last request of me before she died was to save him. Changing him was the only way I could honor that appeal.” He looked down at his clasped hands, and then back up before continuing. “I did not expect Edward to have such a difficult time adjusting to his new life.”

Gentle, bell-like laughter filled the room. “Carlisle, I’m surprised. You didn’t exactly have an easy transition yourself.” She paused and then mischievously asked, “So, how was your first taste of human blood?”

A growl rumbled in my chest as I heard Carlisle’s thoughts. He gave me a warning glance and again admonished me to be careful not to reveal my gift before he answered truthfully. “The blood was good. I very nearly lost control.”

“And . . . ” she gleefully prompted.

“And I’m not going to start drinking from humans now.” Carlisle completed the statement with pronounced finality.

Sarah leaned back into her seat and sighed. “Ah, Carlisle, your convictions are indeed notable in the annuls of vampiredom.

Turning her sights on me, she gently queried, “Has Carlisle told you what he did before he became a vampire?”

Two “voices” answered the question simultaneously, “vampire hunter.”

If I had still been human, I would have gotten whiplash I turned so fast to look at Carlisle. It had not occurred to me that Carlisle’s human life had influenced the way he lived now. Perhaps I had been so focused on my resentment toward him that his life had seemed of little importance to me. “Vam . . .”

“Don’t say it, Edward.” Carlisle’s thought cut my words off. “You’ll reveal your gift. We have not discussed my human life as yet,” he said in response to Sarah’s comment before turning his gaze to me. “I was a vampire hunter, Edward. That is how I came to be changed. And yes, my conviction not to feed from humans is rooted in that.”

I had no words for this revelation. It occurred to me that Carlisle must have hated himself for what he had become. He probably had loathed himself.

Carlisle could tell that I was struggling with this new revelation. “Do you want to talk about it?”

“Um . . . um.” I didn’t know what to say.

“Perhaps later would be better?

I nodded my assent. I needed to mull this over.

“Interesting,” Sarah murmured. “How old are you, Edward?”

I could feel myself cringe as her crimson eyes studied me once more thoroughly. Keeping my composure as best I could I replied that I was seventeen. I paused. “If you mean how long have I been a vampire, it’s been about three weeks.”

Her thoughts caught me off guard. Sarah was originally from Prussia. She had had four children in her human life. Although her memories of them were but a vague shadow, she still held a warm regard for each of them. Her youngest son had been about seventeen at the time she was changed sometime in the mid 1500’s. It was her mothering skills that enabled her to help newborns adjust successfully.

She sighed, almost wistfully. “My youngest son was about your age when I was changed. I know that he was engaged but I never learned what became of him or my other children. The vampire who changed me took me away from the area. Ah, well, it’s of no consequence now,” she said with a sad shake of her head. “Edward, has Carlisle taken you out hunting for anything?”

“Um, . . . yes. Of course he has, . . . practically every night,” I stammered. She was thinking of accusing Carlisle of not feeding me. “Mostly we hunt coyotes and badgers. There is not much in the way of larger game near Chicago. Rabbits make a decent snack.”

“Rabbits?” She turned on Carlisle with a vengeance. “What are you thinking Carlisle? A rabbit is not going to do him any good. I remember you trying rabbits in your early days! Look at his eyes. They’re dull and flat because you’re starving him. It’s no wonder he’s having trouble adjusting,” Sarah accused. “You wouldn’t think of telling a human mother not to feed her baby now would you, Dr. Cullen?” There was a sneering quality to her voice. “Sell the house and move away to more abundant hunting grounds. Of course, the hunting does not have to be bad in Chicago.”

“I’m not starving and I’m not selling the house.” I contradicted Sarah with a snarl. Suddenly I found myself defending Carlisle. As much as I hated what he had done to me and what I had become, Carlisle had been patient and kind to me. He was doing the best he could under the circumstances.

Carlisle broke into the conversation. “Peace, Edward, peace. Sarah is speaking the truth. Neither of us has been feeding adequately. It would be best for us to leave Chicago anyway.” His voice was thoughtful as he silently evaluated several options. “Yours parents were prominent in society and, by association, so were you. If we were to stay, there will be too many people asking too many questions. The easiest way to handle the situation would be to sell the house and move to a more remote area with a good supply of big game.”

“No!” I roared. “I’m not selling my parents’ house. It’s not yours to make that decision.”

I stood and stormed out of the parlor. Sprinting up the stairs, I sought the refuge of my room. The bed shuddered as I collapsed on it. Great tearless sobs of grief and anger convulsed through my body. The pillow ruptured when I punched it, sending a cloud of feathers floating throughout the room.

Carlisle and Sarah’s voices drifted up to my room. They were as clear as if they had been in the room with me, but I could not understand a word of what they were saying. They were speaking in what I thought sounded like Arabic and being fluent, they were both thinking in Arabic as well. I resolved in that moment to learn every language I could so no one could keep secrets from me as they were doing now.

I rolled over and covered my ears, but it did no good. I needed my piano but they were holding it hostage. The best that I could do was to play the music over repeatedly in my head.

The neighborhood had grown quiet with slumbering humans when Carlisle tentatively knocked on my door a few hours later. “Come in.” I could hear the lifelessness in my voice.

There was no trace of the feather storm that had engulfed my room. I had meticulously gathered each piece of fluffy down and stuffed it back into its burst casing. Now I sat at my desk, an unopened journal in my grasp. My hands had caressed it many times in the course of the last few weeks, but I still felt that it was too personal for me to open. I wondered if Mama would have willingly shared the mysteries of its contents with me, or if I would be invading her privacy by reading it. I wanted so desperately to know her. What kind of woman was she that Carlisle had felt compelled to honor her dying request when others had been left on the wayside?

Carlisle’s voice was quiet and encouraging. “You should read it. She would want you to know her.” He had not entered my room, but leaned against the doorjamb.

“So you’re not going to take this away from me like you have everything else?” I wanted to turn on him with a savage force, but the fight had gone out of me. I was left only with despair.

“You’ve lost more than I can account for, Edward, much of it at my hands. It’s not my intention to take any more,” Carlisle said somberly.

Disdainfully I snarled, “Did Sarah convince you of that?”

“No.” Carlisle shook his head. “I’ve known that since the moment I bit you. But, Sarah does think that I should have better control of you. She’s going to refrain from reporting us to the Volturi, however, because we are keeping the threat of exposure low. Besides, she suspects that we are hiding the fact that you have a gift. She likes to solve a good puzzle. It’s nothing malevolent. She’s just curious.”

“Edward, she’s not out to condemn you,” he continued. “We talked for a long time and she made some wise suggestions that can help us. I’ve enjoyed my time here in Chicago but we should consider moving on. Sarah was right, you know. You haven’t been able to feed the way a newborn should. If you want to feed like every other vampire does, the hunting is good in Chicago. But . . .”

“I don’t want to be a monster.” I interrupted. “I’m not going to feed from humans. If leaving Chicago is the only way to do that, then so be it.” I knew that much of my resolve on the subject was because of Carlisle’s influence, but it still seemed good to me. I looked around my room, my refuge. In a murmured whisper I added, “I’d still like to keep the house.”

Carlisle nodded. “I’m sure we can work something out before we leave. I don’t think it would be in your best interest to leave for a couple of more weeks regardless. Mr. Rutherford is almost done with the paperwork on your parents’ estate. We can leave when it’s settled.”

That sounded so final. It meant that Mama and Father really were gone. I felt very alone in that moment.

“Edward, would you like to hunt something bigger than rabbits and coyotes?” Carlisle interrupted my rumination. “We could head north where there are deer and maybe bears for a few days. I usually hunt bigger game every two to three weeks anyway and I’m past due myself. We will come back. This isn’t the final good-bye.”

I nodded in agreement. As the weeks had passed, I had noted the deepening color of Carlisle’s eyes. He had fed on some small game a couple of times in our nightly ventures but, as a rule, he left the spoil of the hunt to me. By now, he was thirsty too. From his thoughts, I could sense the burn in his throat as well as my own.

“Good. Pack a couple of changes of clothes and I’ll pull my gear out of the shed in the back.” Carlisle went on to explain that the tent and other pieces of camping paraphernalia were only for appearance’s sake. We would not need to use any of it.

“Carlisle?”

“Yes?”

I felt nervous asking the next question. “Can we take Father’s Haynes instead of your Model T? The touring car would be more comfortable and besides, I’d like to ride in it again.”

“Sure. Honestly, I was hoping that you’d be comfortable with us taking it. I’d like to ride in it too.”

“I knew that,” I said impishly as I tapping my temple.

Smiling at Carlisle conspiratorially I continued, “Father would not have approved of this, you know. That car was his pride and joy. No one ever drove it besides him.”

“Well then, we should make the most of this opportunity.” Carlisle grinned back.

Thus, we discovered our mutual appreciation for cars.