It wasn’t at all what she imagined. She thought becoming a vampire would mean endless happiness; an eternity with her love. But it was more; it was the Forbidden Fruit and it plunged her into chaos. But can she be saved from the darkness – or will it swallow her whole?
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1. The Fall
Rating 5/5 Word Count 4390 Review this Chapter
* * *
So dear I love him, that with him all deaths
I could endure, without him live no life.
* * *
“I won’t live without him.”
Her words rang clear in the cool morning breeze. The wind seemed to catch her words and carry them up into the bruise-colored clouds overhead. The words danced on the breeze, tickling his skin. He scratched at it, irritated as if the words were not words at all, but rather a bug buzzing in his ear. He did not like what she had to say and he made no attempts to disguise his distaste. These were qualms she would know.
“I’m sorry,” she said, and the words sounded hollow. They were swallowed by the air before he could ever hear them. He could only read them on her lips. The apology meant nothing; she was only saying it to appease him – and they both knew it, even if she refused to admit it. She wanted it to be true and for her, that was enough.
“You’re talking about suicide,” he said, his voice loud; pressing. He wanted to make sure that his words cut through the wind – made it to her ears, to her brain. So that they sank in, like hers had failed to do in him. The wind was picking up – whistling at a level humans could barely hear; like an overtone that only becomes noticeable as the minutes tick by. “He’s the serpent, Bella.”
“No,” she said, and this time the words did carry – piercing the wind like a bullet. “He’s the apple.” The words hit him and he staggered backwards with their force.
The rain had begun to fall and it mingled with the sand and the salty mist from the ocean waves – all churning up together in the air; whipped together by the growing wind. They were getting wet – their hair slowly clumping and their clothes beginning to soak through. The earth and sea and sky fused into a maelstrom – and they were at its center. But neither noticed; neither cared. They stood their ground as the boulders around them became dark from the raindrops; as the sand blew into their eyes. It was an impasse. She was familiar with such terms; but this was a new impasse. One that she would not fight; she’d let this one stand. It would always stand, too, she knew. They both knew. Neither refused to offer any ground; they were both too stubborn on this particular issue. So it would stay that way forever; for all eternity. Such a long time, eternity … but that was part of accepting the apple. Accepting one’s fate; one’s destiny. It was beyond her control.
“Does that mean you’re willing to fall … for him?” He was incredulous, even still after all this time. Their argument was not a new one; it was simply coming to a head. Their time was out. This was the last discussion, though it was doubtful they would go any further than their previous encounters.
“I won’t live without him,” she repeated. And that was why the course could not be changed, no matter how much he might hope or try or pray. “I want my eyes opened; I want to see,” she said. “I want to taste the forbidden fruit. I want the knowledge of the gods. I want it all.”
“Isn’t that a bit selfish?” he pressed. “What about your family? Your parents? Your friends? What about … me?”
She shook her head, her chestnut waves tangling behind her in the whipping wind. “I’m sorry,” she said again. “You’re right. It is selfish. But I told you, I won’t –“
“I know,” he said. She won’t live without him. “Then you’ll die with him.”
“Better death together than a life apart.”
And around them, the storm raged on – tempered by their resolve. They were both too stubborn. This was not so much tenacity, as it was doggedness. Each was determined not to sway, and so they remained steadfast as the tempest swallowed them whole.
* * *
From those flames
No light, but rather darkness visible
* * *
When the time came, he watched her carefully – ready to end it at a moment’s notice. In case she changed her mind. She did not. She’d made her resolve long ago, and even in the last moments there was no swaying her. She was just as stubborn as he was, it seemed. Two stubborn souls – together for eternity. It was going to be a long eternity. He prayed, still, that his actions would not damn her. That he would not force her out of Eden.
He hovered over her, his length stretched out across her body. She lay comfortably on an expansive mattress, nearly swallowed by pillows and blankets. He was adamant that she should be comfortable – at least, as comfortable as possible for someone about to spend days writhing in pain. Her human body would die on this bed. And he would watch every minute of it. He would not leave her side, even in pain – even as her pain caused him grief.
He touched her cheek, brushing a lock of hair out of her eyes. He felt her heart fluttering in her chest. She was nervous. Good, he thought. She should be. God knows he was … He kissed her over each eye, feather light kisses. He touched his lips to her cheeks, caressing her face. Then he kissed her mouth, pressing on as she opened to him.
“I love you,” he said between kisses. “This will burn. It will be dark and it will burn.”
She nodded below him. “I love you, Edward.”
He kissed her again, more deeply. He ran his fingers along her body – down her arms, over her abdomen, down her side and back up her shoulders and into her hair; savoring everything human about her – everything he was about to destroy. He kissed her jaw; the spot behind her ear. Then moved his lips lower, to the flesh of her throat. He kissed it sweetly. Then pressed his teeth to the skin – and pressed down until he tasted her blood in his mouth, felt the warm sweetness on his tongue.
At first, it was not painful. She gasped – but not in pain; rather, in pleasure. It was euphoric; erotic, really. In that moment, she understood the romance of it all – the stories she’d heard, tales of Dracula and Nosferatu. Really, it was quite sexual – and in the moment his teeth broke the flesh of her neck, she understood. As she felt him sucking her blood into his mouth, drinking it, savoring it – she understood and smiled. But her pleasure was soon swallowed by the fire that touched her veins. She felt his mouth pull away, his eyes watching her as her body convulsed in his arms.
The flames consumed her as she descended into the abyss. Abandon all hope, ye you enter here … she’d passed the point of no return. She crossed the bridge and didn’t turn back as it crumbled into the river below; the Styx of her mind. She delved deeper, walking over fire even as it burned. Even as she screamed into the night, into the darkness that had swallowed her. Even as her eyes opened wide and she gasped for air – as the darkness enveloped her. It was shocking, really. Not at all what she’d expected, even from the stories she’d been told. She felt plunged into Chaos. Her body consumed by an immortal fever. Yet she fell ever willingly into the deep chasm of damnation.
She was not aware that she was still held tight in Edward’s cold embrace.
* * *
Dark with excessive bright.
* * *
It was dark still when the fire stopped. She saw it smoldering around her – yet still she felt cold. There was an ache in her chest that she did not remember. Her body felt hard; dead. She was dead. A corpse. She opened her eyes and the world still felt dark – but she was blinded by an unfamiliar brightness. She held her cold, hard hand up to shield her eyes. They felt unnaturally exposed, as if dilated. Slowly, the whiteness faded. She blinked, her vision adjusting. These were new eyes she saw the world from. Dark, red eyes – surrounded by deep purple bruises. Everything was brighter and sharper, as if the focus were too hard. It hurt to look at the world. As she took in the room around her, she noticed him sitting in a chair across from her. He watched her warily, his own eyes open wide and concerned.
Slowly, recognition set in. He was Edward. Edward watched her from across the room. With his name, the memories rushed back in a flood. She was forced to press her new eyes shut, as she remembered his kiss; his bite. He was the apple. A poisoned apple. The evil queen’s apple. She was Snow White. She was Eve. She’d tasted the forbidden fruit and now her eyes were truly open. The knowledge was not so sweet as she’d imagined. She was new – but she did not feel so; she was not bathed in sunlight or surrounded by cool waters. She felt tarnished. She did not feel enlightened, as she had imagined before the fall. She felt swallowed whole. Overwhelmed by Chaos. It smothered her and she gasped for air she did not need. Her throat burned with a thirst she did not recognize. She reached out blindly for the only person in the room and his hand reached back for hers, and even as their fingers touched, it felt like the distance was too far.
She would surely drown.
* * *
Her rash hand in evil hour
Forth reaching to the fruit, she pluck’d, she eat:
Earth felt the wound, and Nature from her seat,
Sighing through all her works, gave signs of woe
That all was lost.
* * *
Drowning didn’t really mean much to an immortal. She was consumed, still, but never devoured. She was dead, yet she walked on the earth. Everything felt hollow, aching deep inside her chest where her heart once beat; in her veins, dried up and cold – where blood no longer flowed. Blood so sweet it tempted her truest love. Yet she was the one who’d given in, who’d plucked the apple from the tree of knowledge. The serpent was hard to resist when the fruit he offered was so sweet. But after tasting it – the flavor changed; it grew bland and insipid.
Life in the chasm became hollow; a routine. She rose, she dressed, she drank. She made love for the first time with her vampire lover. In the moment of passion, it was bliss – it let her forgot for a time what had happened; made her forget the fall. But when the climax was over, when they were two people instead of one, she remembered. She was fallen. Her eyes saw the nakedness of the world, saw its cruelty. She wept silent, dry tears into her pillow. She grieved for her tears, for her blood, for her heart. She grieved for the family she’d lost by accepting the apple.
“Make love to me again,” she whispered into the blinding darkness. He obliged, caressing her flesh – always loving every inch of her body and soul … even though she felt empty inside, as if that part of her were gone. She was only a shell – he loved both body and soul, but she felt only the body was left. When they were joined together, he filled her up – made her feel whole again. Sane. Complete. But when the inevitable time came, when they had coupled and he could only hold her in his arms – that’s when the abyss came rushing back in like a flood. It was like drowning again, the water rushing past her ears – the noise filling her skull. It beat a rhythm in her head, a thrumming like the beating of a heart … like the beating that would never fill her chest again. Her empty rib cage, her empty body. She had abandoned grace for the fruit … but the apple could not replace what she had lost. She was fallen. No tender flesh could change that.
* * *
Betwixt the world destroy’d and world restor’d.
* * *
In the moments when she was not with Edward, when she could no longer convince him to remain in bed with her – to remain inside her – or to couple with her again – she wandered in shadows.
In the darkness, she stared at her pale body in the mirror. The room dark, only moonlight illuminating her reflection. She looked smaller – slight and hard and cold. Only small curves bumped out at her hips and bust. She plucked at the little bit of fat just above her hipbone. She’d always meant to lose those few pounds … now they were stuck there forever. Vampires don’t gain weight; but they also don’t lose weight. She turned her head and let her hair fall over her shoulders. That, at least, seemed improved – the curls had tamed themselves, falling in pretty cascades; no longer tangling and frizzing in the humid northwest climate. She looked at her feet, flat and bare on the floor, then let her eyes travel up her calves … her legs would look sexier in heels, she thought, but she preferred flats – even if her human clumsiness no longer plagued her. She turned to the side and when she could no longer find anything else to criticize, she bent at the knees and threw her face into her hands and wished she could still cry.
When the presence of the others in the house overwhelmed her, she left – fled into the woods. The rest of the family was busy making preparations to leave Forks. That had been the plan all along – change her in a familiar place, and once she’d adapted enough, move to a new home. But they were always so concerned, always asking how she was, always trying to engage her in conversation or activity. It was all just too much. So she’d leave, disappear into the night. In her own silence, she would spy on the things she had lost. All she had given up … so willingly. She now looked back with regret.
From the shadows, she watched. She watched her father alone now in his house. Poking through the refrigerator, putting together his own meals. They were not the meals she had cooked for him when she was alive. Instead, he foraged and put together cold tomato soup and peanut butter sandwiches and toast and string cheese and spaghetti-O’s out of the can. She watched from the shadows when he’d stop in the darkened doorway of her old room; as he knelt by her bedside and wept until he fell asleep. And she watched when he’d awake some time later and stand up, stretching – his bones creaking from being left at an awkward angle. And then he’d straighten up and wash his face and climb into his bed, weary and broken and fading away.
Other days, she watched her friends – watched them gather together and laugh. She watched Mike open up his parents’ store, serving customers and ringing up purchases. He leaned on the counter, glancing over – almost as if he expected her there to talk to still. But she wasn’t; he was alone. The “help wanted” sign sat lonely in the front window. And, alone still, Mike would take off his apron and close up the shop and drive home or to the burger joint to meet his friends for French fries and milkshakes. She watched from the shadows when Jessica and Angela and Lauren ran to meet each other in the street, giggling about some secret between them. She watched as they laughed and tossed their hair in the sunshine and climbed into the car together and drove out of town – their windows down, the wind blowing through their hair and the radio blasting as they sang along.
And there were days when she wanted to watch from the shadows of La Push – but that was one place she was not allowed to go; one place she was forbidden. She’d sought solace there before, and part of her ached for the laughter and warmth she’d always found in his presence before. But it was not like that anymore. They were no longer friends; she’d seen to that. They were enemies. She’d made them enemies; made it so by choice. Yet still she longed for him. She prayed inside that he could fill the emptiness inside her; seal the hole. Maybe, just maybe, he could make her whole again. Complete. He’d probably just kill her. And part of her didn’t care; it would probably be better than this ceaseless ache.
So one day, she crossed the invisible battle lines and watched him from the shadows, knowing that he’d sense her there and seek her out – to whatever end that might be.
* * *
Awake, arise, or be forever fallen!
* * *
He knew she was there before he approached her. She’d watched him from the shadows all morning long, hiding behind the tree branches – her unneeded breath caught in her throat. He guessed that she’d been there all night, maybe since yesterday. She looked matted and wild and fierce – but also scared and weak. She trembled in the shadows. Part of him was angry – seething that she would come onto his territory and spy on him. She’d made this choice; now she should have to live with it. And he shouldn’t care if she was hurting or confused; she’d refused his intervention. She had cast him aside, like a dirty piece of tissue. He’d told her this would happen – but she chose to ignore his words. Her words from before echoed in his mind: I won’t live without him. It didn’t seem to him now that she was living at all (immortal or otherwise), or that she was with her companion of choice. It seemed she’d run away and most of him really couldn’t care less. But another part was curious. She did not look well; not at all well, especially for an immortal.
Finally, after several hours, he sighed, grunted, dropped his tools and stalked out of the garage, across the gravel driveway, up the path and into the trees where she was crouching in the shadows behind a cluster of large rocks. She twitched and started when he approached her so noisily and heedlessly. It seemed she thought she’d been well hidden. “What do you want?” he said, sounding angrier than he’d intended. He frowned and tried again. “I mean … why are you here?” His tone had not improved much, though his voice had softened – just a little.
“Jake?” she said, her voice small.
The sight of her combined with the tremble of her whisper broke Jake’s resolve. His anger dissolved, fell away into the black subconscious of his mind. Yes, she was a vampire and, as such, his mortal enemy. But for now, she was just Bella. His friend. “Oh Bella,” he said, sighing. He crouched down to her level and, tentatively, reached a hand toward her face. She flinched and drew back, pulling herself up to her feet. Jake dropped his hand and looked down at the damp ground. He sighed again, steeling himself – searching for the strength to carry on this conversation. To do whatever he could to help his friend. When he felt composed again, he stood back up and took a step back, crossing his arms over his chest.
“I can feel the heat rolling off of you,” she said, scrunching up her nose and turning her face to the side, as if opening a hot oven filled with sickly sweet rotting food.
“No one made you come here,” he said. “And technically, if you’re a Cullen now, you’re breaking the treaty.”
“Not yet,” she said. “Not technically …”
“I know you’re a vampire, Bella. It’s pretty obvious.”
“Yes,” she replied, not yet meeting his eyes. “Yes, I am a vampire. But I’m not a Cullen … I’m still Bella Swan. We’re supposed to get married once we’ve moved … really, I don’t see the point. It won’t change anything.”
“What do you mean, it won’t change anything?”
Bella shrugged. “I’ll still be dead. Nothing. Just … empty. That’s all there is, really. Just emptiness.”
“You can’t mean that,” Jake said. The Bella he’d known had always been filled with so much hope and life and vivacity. This was a cynicism he did not recognize. It was a stranger in his friend’s mind. It was like a sickness, he could see now. It was devouring her – a virus contaminating her brain and her body and her vigor.
“There are moments,” she said, her arms wrapping around her middle. The movement shocked Jacob, reminding him of those dark miserable days when Edward had left her. “Very brief moments … but they never last long enough. The passion never does; the climax always has to end … and then, there’s just … nothing.”
“Bella, you have so much …”
“I did,” she said. “And I gave it all up.”
“You did what you had to do,” he said. His voice was filled with sadness, but his words gave her hope. Much as he regretted saying them – especially aloud and to her – they were true. “This was the sacrifice you had to make to be with Edward; to be with your soul mate. You knew what you were giving up.”
“No. I didn’t think I’d lose my soul.”
“I’m fallen,” she said. Finally, she met his eyes. They were dark and hollow and aching. She wanted to cry, but still no tears came. They never would. “I can’t … I can’t ever go back. Can’t ever go back to Eden.”
“Bella, you don’t need it.”
“Bella, you don’t need Eden,” Jake said, screwing his courage. “You have Edward … and I think he’s worth more than just a silly garden.”
His words had barely sunk in, when a loud cacophony of noises drew her attention away. She shut her eyes against the noise, as if that would help; she shuddered at the sound of screeching metal, of rubber squealing on pavement and on gravel, of the sound of someone shouting, someone roaring, someone screaming a sound that sounded like her name. And then there were footsteps – someone running – and she was swept up and spun until she was dizzy and she was so confused, as tight hard arms wrapped around her body and hands clamored for every inch of her – her face, her hair, her arms, her skin. Lips pressing on her flesh.
“Bella, Bella, oh Bella,” a voice said. And at the sound of his voice and in his arms and under his kisses, she collapsed into sobs again. Confused, tired and tearless sobs.
He pulled back, grasping her head firmly between her hands. “Oh Bella, I was so worried about you.”
“Worried,” she said, “about me?”
“You’ve been gone for two days,” he said, “without a word – without a single word, Bella! And then Alice had a vision of you and the werewolf and I …” He paused, suddenly lost for words, and just caressed her face and her hair. His eyes lit upon her with wonderment – as if he still wasn’t quite sure that she was really there in front of him. As if she might suddenly disappear. “I’ve been worried about you for weeks, you’re always so depressed and moping about … but when you didn’t come home the other day, oh god, Bella. I was afraid something would happen to you. And I couldn’t live with myself if anything happened to you … I love you, Bella. I … you’re my everything.” He wrapped his arms tightly around her again and pressed his mouth to hers, devouring her.
And in his arms – in his cold, dead arms – she finally felt warm. “I’m sorry,” she said, when he finally parted their lips. “I was very confused … and a friend helped me see things more clearly.”
Her eyes did not leave his face, but Edward broke their gaze just long enough to turn to Jacob and nod. “Thank you.”
Jake nodded back and then walked back to his garage, not glancing back again at the vampires. He went back to his cars and forced himself to forget that the Treaty had ever been broken. This never happened.
In the shadows of the woods, Bella and Edward embraced and kissed and held each other. Minutes passed like seconds, and still they remained in each other’s arms – almost dancing amidst the rocks and the trees. Words passed between them like whispers on the wind. Promises and vows. They didn’t notice when it began to rain – soft mist at first, gradually building into larger drops that splashed on their faces and ran down their cheeks – like the tears Bella had mourned but no longer missed. She remembered all the reasons she’d made this choice. Why she’d been willing to give up all those other things. And those reasons filled her up. The abyss had gone. The chasm closed up. The darkness vanquished. She no longer drowned; she swam on clouds and waves. Yes, she had fallen. But everyone falls, she saw that now. And with the help of an old friend and her truest love, she picked herself back up and once again, faced the dawn with a smile. She had no need to cry; she was in Paradise.
* * *
The World was all before them, where to choose
Their place of rest, and Providence their guide:
They hand in hand with wandering steps and slow,
Through Eden took their solitary way.
* * *