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Eternal Horizon

Summary:
It has been 17 years since Isabella Swan's death, and young Adora has moved to Forks igniting gossip everywhere she turns. As Adora slowly unravels the clues that lead her down a path riddled with even more questions, she begins to realize that it seems to be more than coincidence, drawing her farther away from the life she knows, and into a world, she does not understand. The closer she gets to the truth, the more her own destiny becomes irrevocably entwined with the girl that haunts the small town. She wonders why everything that's happening revolves around the mysterious Edward Cullen, and why he seems to hold the key to the answers she's spent a lifetime searching for.


Notes:
I consider this story to be pretty much the unofficial 5th installment of the Twilight Series, it takes place after Breaking Dawn, it is 100% canon, which means that it does NOT deviate from the storyline of the books, although in the first few chapters it doesn't seem like it is anything close to being like the original Twilight series, but trust me, it is.


10. Edward

Rating 0/5   Word Count 9872   Review this Chapter

The sound of my mental scream of Edward's name echoed in my head—feeling him pause startled me. It was not like how I had seen him outside of my house earlier. That had been a vision of an unalterable future which is why it had been so clear—why I had only seen him—not felt him. This was different. It was a strange feeling, like being transported into another body.

He had been running towards the house to the east of us and then I had called out his name. I was inside his head when his name rang out clearly almost as if I had been standing beside him. His muscles had clenched in reflex—freezing him instantly as fear lurched through him. He knew I was dead, logic told him that the voice he'd heard—Her voice he thought—couldn't be mine, but the instant that he'd heard it, the fear that I might be in danger had gripped him and terror had swept through him. I felt it in my chest, my heart stuttered and gave a harsh lurch, as his would have done if it could beat—But no, She's gone. Pain washed through me—burning, stinging pain. She's gone. It's not real. Edward reminded himself perplexing me as he though it and even after seventeen years it still almost brought him to his knees. I could feel the overwhelming, nearly crushing agony sap almost all of my strength from me. My shield fluttered making me grit my teeth and fight it.

He stared straight ahead, trying to find the will to move on—trying to fight the instantaneous desire to follow the sound of that voice. It went against everything to ignore it—to not go to her. His body had involuntarily shifted towards the sound, his eyes scanning the void of the forest as his fists clenched at his sides. His body cried out, aching for some invisible feeling. He imagined the brush of fingers on his hand pulling him in the opposite direction of his destination—but he was fighting it. In all the years that he had spent suffering the loss of all that had mattered to him, the empty gaping hole in his existence hadn't felt as real it had today—like a tangible vast emptiness that was starting to swallow him.

The workings of his mind were unfathomable—unlike anything I had ever known during my two short human lives—even compared to the way I had thought things when I'd been a vampire myself. He carried everything inside of him—memories were like tangible pages of a book that he could turn to and recall with perfect clarity. In that lay the root of his character. He couldn't forget anything—even if he wanted to. Every single fault he had—in his opinion at least—every single mistake he'd ever made, every failure, every disappointment—they haunted him everywhere he went—and in seeing my death as his ultimate failure, his self-hatred and his grief were like voluntary chains, locking him in a cycle of perpetual darkness that he forced himself to endure. It was how he punished himself, but it was a sick twisted addiction—an addiction that he fed because it was the only way he knew how to function. He didn't know how to live without the pain anymore because it was all that made him feel alive.

In that single moment when he had heard my voice call out his name in the darkness, years of memories had flooded him, but I was unable to isolate them or understand their importance other than the image of my face, ever present in everything he thought, sometimes clear and bright and other times translucent like the image of him had been for me during the months of my absence. Only his more recent memories were thought of long enough for me to know them too.

He had left this tiny town to escape the unbearable reminders of all that he loved, but that had hardly mattered. It didn't change the truth. Even alone in the dark—hundreds of miles from the epicenter of his life's greatest tragedy—staring unseeing for years at the same decaying bricks of an abandoned basement, the memory of watching me dive into those flames played over again and again behind his eyes—suspended only during brief interludes when he would indulge himself with a happy memory to counterbalance the harrowing anguish.

It was all about control, and before today he had maintained some semblance of control over his punishment—before today he had been prepared—allowed a choice, to choose what memory he wanted to torture himself with—old memories. The endless cycle of his punishment had been uninterrupted—until today. Even when they had found him, and Jasper and Emmet had carried his cobweb covered body from its tomb, he had continued to replay the images in his head. The entire ride to Denali, he didn't speak or move. When they had arrived, they hadn't forced him from the car, he had sat there for hours until a memory of her face came to him, her hair blanketed by a halo of falling snow and only then did he move, exiting the car to shuffle aimlessly out into the arms of an awaiting snow bank where he then collapsed. He didn't move for days, didn't speak when they came to check on him. Even when Renesmee was beside him—no longer the child he knew—the searing pain of losing Her still numbed him the way it always had. He hadn't dwelled upon any other loss—the loss of years as a parent or the loss of his siblings—moments with friends and family that he would never get back. He never answered her when she attempted to convince him to come inside—she had finally given up. Even when Jacob Black had arrived—jerking him up by his collar, the weathered fabric tearing at the seams—to scream at him for not speaking to his daughter, even then, all that it had accomplished had been to allow him to stare into the furious brown gaze and remind him of another pair of brown eyes that haunted him. His gift for seeing into the minds of others is what had broken him out of his paralysis. Jacob Black's thoughts had always managed to prove enlightening at the most appropriate moments—and that moment had been no different.

You can't stay locked inside that head of yours forever, Bloodsucker. Eventually you're going to have to say something to your daughter. She needs you to tell her about Bella—about her mother—things that only you can tell her. We can only tell her so much about her—only what we remember. You had more time with her than any of us.

In that thought, laid a new opportunity—the opportunity to torture himself further with their memories of Her—and so he had. He had straightened then—rising to his full height—nodding once, before slowly disengaging himself from the boys grasp, turning to trudge slowly towards the house.

The words didn't come immediately—he had waited for the best moment to speak—never directly to her, murmuring recollections of his time in the small town. The words had been erratic at first—small phrases like 'brown eyes' and 'warm'—slowly building into full sentences. She used to talk in her sleep. She liked to read novels, while laying in the sun on a blanket in her yard. The smell of blood once made Her nearly pass out during Biology. I wanted to kill Her the first time I smelled Her. That revelation had silenced the whole house, even their thoughts. Each comment caused memories of their own to bubble to the surface, and he had basked in the painful flood of their memories of Her.

Slowly he had allowed himself permission to speak of other things. Weeks of stiff conversations as the others described their activities during his absence. He didn't pretend to be even remotely interested but as was his curse, he still remembered what they had said. They had abandoned the house in Forks months after he had left, although retaining their ownership of it. He liked that because the idea of someone else living there, where he had spent his time with Her was upsetting. For the first five years they had all taken up residency in Seattle, to avoid suspicion, while still allowing Jacob to be close to Renesmee. When her growth had finally slowed to the rate of a normal human they had let her choose where to stay, and of course she had chosen to be wherever Jacob was. On her seventh birthday they had gifted them both with a home of their own, close to the reservation, allowing them to stay close to their respective families, but far enough away to avoid the suspicion of anyone outside of Charlie or The Packs.

After some time had passed, long enough for them to be assured that the two of them would be safe—long enough for Rosalie to relinquish her protection over the child she had nearly raised as her own—they chose to go their separate ways. Carlisle and Esme had spent time in London. Emmet and Rosalie had taken an extended honeymoon in various places. Jasper and Alice had split their time between Paris—where Jasper had allowed Alice to indulge her hobby of fashion—and visiting their friends around the globe. All of them always gathered a few times a year to spend time with Renesmee and Jacob—who by all accounts had become as much part of their family as any of them.

For nine and a half years they had lived their lives separately, until two years ago when Alice had her vision of Edward revealing himself to a small group of humans, alerting her to his whereabouts. She had called the others and they had once again gathered together—staging an intervention of sorts—deciding that their family had been separated long enough before finding him and bringing him to Denali.

It had taken nearly a year for him to be able to interact somewhat sociably with the others but the day he had caught himself starting to smile at the sound of Renesmee playing the piano his progress had taken a downward spiral, propelling himself back into his grief and he had left. They found him easily this time, a few months later—Carlisle had reasoned with him to return, using his knowledge of his penchant for guilt, he played the card that would convince him—pointing out to him that his absence caused more pain to his family and try as he might, he couldn't pretend that some part of him didn't still love them deeply and he couldn't bear to hurt anyone else that he cared for.

In the months that had followed his second return to Denali, several of the wolves came to visit—one of them being Seth Clearwater who he had always been fond of—accompanying Jacob and Renesmee several times. Even Sam Uley arrived, looking older since attempting to cease his phasing so that he could grow old with Emily, whom had given him three children. The children and Emily never accompanied him during his visits—they were afraid that being near so many of the Cullen's would trigger the Wolf gene—although it primarily skipped a generation—they wanted to avoid that for as long as possible, if not all together. The months passed, settling into a routine of days and nights, sometimes with the others offering their thoughts on ways for him to reintegrate himself back into the world. He had scorned the thought at first—their attempts at seemingly trying to force him to move on enraging him—until once again, Jacob Black's uncanny ability to unintentionally find a solution to a dilemma had brought a new possibility to light.

"Oh, come on," He had scoffed, laughing when Carlisle had once again brought up the discussion of Edward's future. "What is he going to do—go back to high school…in Forks?"

The room became silent then. Slowly Carlisle's expression turned to one of intrigue.

"That's an interesting idea." He murmured softly. "And if we returned with you Edward—"

"But Carlisle," Tanya who had been silently listening to the conversation interjected. "It's only been sixteen years—if the humans who knew you then are still there, then they will surely recognize you all and notice that you have not aged."

Her interruption had irritated Edward. After seeing her thoughts over the past year—her unrequited hope that he would somehow finally develop feelings for her and move on from his pain—he knew that her reasons for objecting were purely selfish.

Carlisle calmly responded to her objections. "The thought of returning had occurred to me—even before Jacob brought it up—although it was only with Esme and myself in mind, and I believe that it would be possible to return to our life there without anyone from Forks ever truly discovering the truth behind our agelessness. There is little danger for our kind at the risk of discovery as it once was hundreds of years ago. Human beings have evolved—they no longer fear the strangeness of our kind, they instead tend to reach their own conclusions when presented with the unexplainable and it is usually far from the truth. With the Vol—" He stopped himself then, Edward watched him sneak a hesitant glance in his direction but he did not react visibly—although he flinched internally knowing what he had been about to say. "Those in power of our kind now are much more reasonable in their laws of maintaining our secrecy—they see no harm in humans being aware of our existence as long as it does not pose a threat our kind, and seeing as how our families have managed to co-exist with humans discreetly for a better part of a century, I'm sure that there would be no objections to the notion."

He then turned to look at Edward.

"I honestly think it would be good for you Edward." He sighed. "To be where you were your happiest." The weight of that statement pressed upon him as images flew through his mind—the house in Forks, Forks High School, the biology classroom, the parking lot, Port Angeles, Her house, their meadow, their cottage. The thought of returning there both frightened and excited him, and he realized why—because it was home.

Carlisle's voice brought him back. "I know it will be difficult at first, but I assure you, you will adjust better there, because it is familiar to you."

"Perhaps." Edward's response was vacant. He mulled over the idea as the others began to converse excitedly over the prospect of returning to the home they had so loved.

In the end, he had agreed—although somewhat hesitantly—and the others began making preparations for their return. He had conceded to attending the small school once again, his only request being that the others allow him to ease into things at his own pace. A few weeks prior he had declined their invitation to join them when they returned to register for their classes, choosing instead to complete the task on his own.

Driving down the familiar roads of the small town caused a pang of longing to fill him as memories washed over him. He glanced at the passenger seat as a ghost of a memory of Her smiling and giggling beside him played out in his head. He looked back at the road more intensely, clenching his jaw as the pain bloomed fresh in his chest.

Even when he'd arrived at the school, fear had rooted him to the spot. He found slight humor in that. Here he was—Edward Cullen—One Hundred and Twenty-Nine years old and he was frightened of a building. He exited the car as his gaze surveyed the mostly vacant parking lot and an echo of screeching tires suddenly rang in his mind making him whip his head to look across the expanse of concrete towards the exact spot where her decrepit truck had been parked. He remembered that day so clearly—one of the days that had changed everything for me. He recalled his own words—the words he'd screamed out silently in his head—as Alice's vision played out foreshadowing the possibility of the untimely death of, the girl who he couldn't bear to stay away from.

Not her!

He steeled himself, preparing for the memories to drown him, but they never did—they never came flooding through his mind, they merely rippled like a stone skipping across the surface of a lake.

Her horrified gaze, his arms around her, her head hitting the pavement, the van crunching to a grinding halt, her wide brown eyes staring up at him as he remembered. His thoughts suddenly merged into mine and then—

"Ow."

Her amused grimace as she gripped her head at the fact that I had been correct in my assessment of her condition from where she had hit her head on the icy pavement.

I realized that my lips had pulled at one corner slightly as the image evaporated—I pressed them tightly together staving off the involuntary smile. I shouldn't smile at that memory. That day—that awful day—and that very same life-altering night had been the beginning of everything—the beginning of the end of everything—the beginning and the end of me. That had been the day that I realized that I had somehow fallen irrecoverably in love with the small, frail, human girl whose silent mind drove my curiosity wild and whose blood I desired more than any.

I blinked and my train of thought somehow altered of its own accord. Catching a glimpse of the Forks High School sign reminded me of my purpose for being there. I finally let the car door shut and made my way across the parking lot, and up the concrete staircase, glancing back for one last long moment to that now empty space before continuing inside. I found the main office easily, the school hadn't changed much and I had memorized its halls.

There were only a few members of the staff present as I stepped inside, one of them—a middle aged woman with slick black hair twisted into a loose bun at the nape of her neck—looked up at me with wide brown eyes as I approached her desk.

Oh, my…

Her mental voice slid through my mind. I sighed in resignation.

"Can I help you?" Her high voice asked politely.

"I'm here to register for school." My voice was flat as I stared down at her.

Of course he is, silly me. What else would he be here for? My lips twitched in amusement.

"Ah, of course…uh," Her fingers scrambled across the keys of her computer. "What's your name?" She asked staring up at me with a soft smile.

"Edward Cullen," I responded coolly and I suddenly heard her heart thud twice before its speed picked up.

Oh, he's the other one.

"Oh, yes! Your brothers and your sisters were in here earlier this morning with your parents." She commented. "They said that you would be coming." I continued to stare at her blankly as her heart thumped unevenly in her chest. I had already read all of this from her mind. She awkwardly turned aside, reaching into one of her drawers for a folder. "You're a junior?" She tried to peer up at me surreptitiously from beneath her lashes as she flipped through the pages it contained. I nodded once. "They've already registered you for your classes." She told me handing me a copy of the schedule that had already been prepared and printed out for me. "They said that you may want to make some changes."

I scanned the page quickly and my eyes narrowed when I noticed that I had Biology during 4th period. Alice. I cursed in my head.

"I do." I muttered darkly before handing the sheet back to her. "Ms…?"

"Ms. Page."

"Ms. Page, I would like to omit Biology from my schedule."

"O-okay," She stuttered taking the sheet back. "If you haven't already taken it, I can replace it with Chemistry." She offered. I nodded curtly before I watched her turn back to her computer, typing quickly, clicking with her mouse every few seconds. "Oh, that's perfect!" She exclaimed before smiling brightly up at me, obviously pleased with herself. "There are only two slots for Chemistry left open but they're during 4th period as well." She said still smiling.

I stiffened even further. Of course they were.

"I suppose that will have to do." I responded stiffly.

Without a word she clicked a few more times before the printer behind her clicked on, beeping and clicking as it began to print. She rolled in her chair over to retrieve the pages it spit out before rolling back to her desk, reaching for a pen to write quickly across one of the sheets. She shuffled everything into order before reaching over to staple them together.

"Here's your schedule and a map of the school grounds, I've marked the location of your classes for you." She smiled kindly up at me as she handed me the stack of papers. "Beneath that you'll find a list of required supplies for the school year and a few of the syllabuses that some of your teachers have already sent out." She smiled wildly, lacing her fingers together atop her desk. "Did you want me to give you a tour of the school before—" I heard her mental offer before she spoke it and in my mind there was a flash of the Biology classroom and Cafeteria. I felt fear freeze me and I knew I had to avoid being near them as long as I possibly could—where it all had started.

"That won't be necessary." I stopped her and her face fell unable to sense the turmoil rising in me. "I'm sure I can find my way around." I forced a smile attempting to keep the strain out of my voice, hearing her heart repeat its earlier erratic pounding. "You've been very helpful, thank you."

She smiled brilliantly back at me. "Well, you're very welcome. I hope you have a great year."

"Doubtful." I muttered too low for her to hear. "You too, Ms. Page." I said almost too loudly and nodded before tuning on my heel, making my escape as quickly as I could.

I wasn't paying attention as I strained to walk at a humans sluggish pace, my eyes on the ground to avoid the onslaught of memories and the temptation to wallow in them. I had to get out of Forks as fast as I could. I couldn't stay here.

Something soft and warm hit me—making me freeze as I turned the corner at the bottom to the stairs—my arms flying out to catch whatever it had been before it could hit the ground.

When I looked up wide brown eyes were staring into mine in surprise. It was a girl with long brown hair pulled into ponytail.

Well, hello there handsome. She smirked but then her eyes widened in recognition as I continued to glare at her wordlessly. Oh my God…Edward Cullen? Here in Forks? So it's true.

My eyes widened, not enough for her to notice before narrowing them again, wishing that I could delve into her thoughts and find out how she knew who I was but she wasn't thinking of that. She immediately flushed under my stare.

"Um…sorry." She muttered sheepishly blinking up at me as she regained her footing.

I made a noise in my throat and let her go, brushing past her without a word. I could hear the silence of her shock resounding in my head, seeing the image of me stalking away from her as she stared after me. As soon as she looked back towards the entrance of the school I sped away at vampire speed. I was back in the car that Carlisle had bought for me in an instant, gripping the steering wheel as panic bloomed in my chest. I suddenly wasn't sure if I could do this. I didn't need the air but my lungs expanded and fell rapidly, as if purging the air in them repeatedly would somehow cease the sharp current of pain slicing through me. I leaned forward to press my forehead to the leather of the steering wheel, squeezing my eye shut tightly. I needed Her. I needed her to help me do this.

"You'll be fine, Edward." A soft voice beside me whispered making me jerk back, my gaze flying to the passenger seat. Translucent warm brown eyes slammed into mine. "You can do this." She encouraged with a soft smile. I blinked at her where she sat with her hands folded calmly in her lap, a small smile on her pink lips, wearing the same blue blouse she'd worn in Port Angeles. She hadn't appeared to me since the day that Emmet and Jasper had found me in that basement and carried me away.

"I can't." I whimpered shaking my head weakly. "Not without you."

Her eyes filled with sympathy. "Yes, you can." She assured me gently.

I took a shaky breath. "How?"

She shrugged her slim shoulders lightly. "I know you. You're much stronger than you give yourself credit for."

"Not without you." I choked shuddering as my eyes shifting to the dashboard.

"I'm with you." Her voice whispered hauntingly all around me making me eyes fly up but she was gone.

I collapsed back against the seat sagging in relief as I stared out the windshield. She still haunted me and that thought somehow comforted me. She was still with me. She had first appeared to me years ago, moments before I had been about to attack a small group of campers. I closed my eyes and let it replay in my head.

I could smell them, their scent was a violent assault upon me, and venom flowed across my tongue. I was weak though, having held myself shut inside the confines of an abandoned house on the outskirts of Fort St. Johns, a town in British Columbia, Canada, for the past two years without hunting. The desire to feed on the wildlife had all but abandoned by me then, seeming just as pointless as my miserable existence had become. The numbness of my broken, pathetic half-life had played itself out. I had become so desensitized by my own torture that I no longer had the will to keep going even to prolong my well-deserved suffering. I had crawled my way out, inch by agonizing inch, I had drug my body through the snow, hoping to stumble across another dwelling containing an incendiary device of any fashion, so ready for it all to end that I was willing to set myself to flames and let them devour me and reduce my desiccated corpse to ash. I had resigned myself to this fate.

When their scent found me, the thirst had seized me, wrenching my gut into itself, my throat convulsing desperately. It was ravaging me, drive me wild with blood lust, and I began to claw as quickly as I could in my weakened state towards the smell. Only twice before had my inner self been distorted so hideously, stripping me of my humanity and reducing me to the savagely grotesque form of something so evil that there weren't words that could encapsulate the vileness of it. Once, when I had been within mere seconds of killing the only woman in the world who had ever mattered to me—and again, when I had forced the monster who had designed her death to watch, as I slowly shredded his body piece by piece, and torched them before his very eyes until there was nothing left but mangled chunks of stone body parts left to burn. Only this time however, it wasn't uncontrollable fury and excruciating sorrow driving me and there wasn't any overpowering guilt to stop me.

As I trudged through the chunks of ice and snow, pinpointing their location, growing closer and closer to reaching them, another scent hit me—the smell of smoke and burning wood. In the midst of my madness my conscious somehow gripped me and an epiphany somehow emerged, forcing me to consider altering my previous resolution of suicide and instead devise a way to somehow force them to end my existence for me—hopefully before I was able to tear their throats out—in case my control was too weak to force myself to crawl into the flames myself.

I was so close then when I reached a clearing blanked in snow—in the distance I could hear their laughter, I was close enough now to pick out their mental voices in my head and it propelled me faster, I was on my hands and knees then, struggling to double my efforts, suddenly crawling at a human's brisk walking pace. Venom dripped from the corner of my lip as it continued to fill my mouth and my fingers dug mercilessly down into the ground across the vast expanse of snow. I could see the pillar of smoke in the air then and my body began to lurch forward when I heard it—

"Edward, stop."

I froze in place, all of my muscles locking down instantly. In my delirium the thirst continued to rage, as her voice echoed in the air. I was still for a few moments, until the wind blew knocking me in the face with the scent again. I started forward once more.

There was a warning in her voice. "No, Edward, don't."

I hadn't been convinced that I had truly heard it the first time, but this time I was sure. It was Her voice—pleading in the silence around me.

I swallowed hard, my gaze erratically searching the clearing as my chest heaved rapidly. Part of me—the human part of me or what was left of it—the part that loved her so severely, wanted to obey her every word, and the other part of me—the savage monster starving to be sated—was struggling to overcome me, howling in lust for the taste of blood. My nostrils flared, gritting my teeth against the strain that almost tore me in two as my body rocked forward.

"Edward, don't do this." Her voice rang out desperately. "Please, don't." She begged—almost whimpered it, and the thought of causing her pain crippled me for an instant making me lock my fingers like hooks into the ground, anchoring me there as I stared unseeing into the shards of twinkling snow beneath me, bowing my head. "This isn't you, this isn't who you are."

I grunted in pain as my throat seared with heat—I couldn't speak through it—my guts wrenched awfully, twisting and knotting in hunger so painful that if it were possible I thought I might vomit.

"You're not a killer, Edward. You're better than this. Please Edward, please, you have to stop."

I choked on the air that filled my lungs, trying to swallow past the venom.

"I…can't." I growled low and dark through my teeth as if my jaw had been wired shut, thrashing my head violently.

"Yes, you can. You must, Edward." She urged desperately before crying out. "You cannot lose your soul now!"

Those words made the thin wire of my self-control snap. "I don't…have…a soul…to lose. I…am…damned."My voice hissed to the ground as I rose up, I coiled to spring, about to leave every shred of my humanity behind me and then I heard it—

"But I fell in love with you."

Her voice was different then, so soft and tender and yet so broken—and impossibly solid—more real than ever before.

The entire world was silenced as my eyes flew up desperately and my dead heart lurched wrenching me into excruciating pain.

She was there—standing in front of me in the middle of the clearing, blocking my path—looking ethereal and pale, and unbearably beautiful in her wedding gown, surrounded by the blanket of whiteness. It seemed to make her look like her dress was made of snow, billowing out around her to blend with the vast untouched facets of ice. I was filled with shocked horror as I stared up at her gaping wordlessly into her warm brown eyes filled with unshed tears.

It staggered me, knocking me backwards so that I sank to my knees, my hands falling limply to the snow. I stared at her like a blind man seeing the sun for the first time, too terrified to move or blink. She didn't move either, her fingers entwined together before her, gracefully anxious, her wedding band glinted in the moonlight.

My sorrow crushed me then.

"Bella…" I choked out a whisper of her name—I hadn't uttered it in over fifteen years—but now it fell from my lips like a last dying breath.

"Edward." Her lips trembled as she spoke my name and the tears in her eyes broke free, dripping to her flushed cheeks to trail like liquid diamonds, pooling at her chin.

Shame filled me as I saw the heartbreak in her gaze. What had I become?

"Bella!" I sobbed it as I pitched forward and threw myself at her feet fisting my hands around the lightness of the fabric. "I'm so…sorry." I shook violently as I sobbed tearlessly into the snow before her. "Forgive me, Bella, please forgive me!" I moaned.

"Shh…" Her voice soothed and I it felt then, like the softness of a warm breeze as her fingers gently touched the top of my head. I rose up and her beautiful face was inches from mine, kneeling down close to me, staring at me with nothing but love shining in her warm gaze the tears had vanished. "I'm here, Edward." She murmured and the sound of my name on her lips made me convulse as pleasure rippled through me.

"I couldn't save you." I sobbed as her hands rose to cradle my face, my entire body shaking uncontrollably. "I miss you…so much." I cried. "I'm nothing—nothing without you."

"I'm still with you, Edward." She whispered leaning closer as one hand slid up, her fingers trailing through the hair at my temple making me suddenly go still. "I'm still here." Her voice softly whispered as she pulled me towards her, the softness of her lips brushing mine. "Don't give up on us." She murmured and my lids slowly closed as she pressed her mouth to me, the gentle pressure made me ache, as her lips fluttered over mine. "I love you." She whispered into her kiss. "Forever."

"Forever." I breathed.

"Don't give up, Edward."Her voice was so soft it was almost silence against my skin. My brows knotted painfully as I concentrated on the softness of her.

"I won't. I promise."I nodded painfully—I would do anything for her.

"As long as you exist…so do I." Her voice whispered hauntingly, echoing from all around me then, and suddenly—without warning, the feeling of her fingers and lips evaporated before I fell forward, landing face first into the snow. I lifted my head and blinked, shaking the snow out of my eyes, jerking upright to scan the clearing. She was gone.

"Bella!" I shouted, scouring the tree line for her shape. "Bella!" I screamed it so loud I felt the shrill effort in my throat making me realize that the thirst had evaporated. I whirled in circles, suddenly finding my limbs full of the strength that they had previously lacked. I blinked staring out at the emptiness and immediately cut off my air as my sanity fully returned to me, racing quickly away from the sound of the voices in the distance until I found another scent to sate my thirst.

It wasn't real, and still…it had been. I had felt her—her hands on my face, in my hair, her lips on mine, her breath billowing across my skin. I blinked at the thought and it knocked the breath from my body in a great whoosh of air. I stared down slowly at my hands before me—they were smudged with dirt and blood now from my kills and shards of ice clung to my cold skin—these hands had brought me close to erasing everything that I was—everything that I'd ever been. Once, a long time ago, I had thought myself someone finally worthy of love—worthy of Her. How could I destroy her faith in me now? Even if she was gone…how could I let her down? A killer was not deserving of the happiness that I had once found in her arms. Was that why she had been taken from me? Did the cruel fates know that I would fail to remain strong enough to keep from tainting myself further by murdering innocents? Had they seen this and ripped her away? Were the sins of my future the reason for her losing her life? I had strived so long to prove myself worthy, in hopes of redeeming my soul so that one day I could be with her again…wherever she was. I had not yet ended my existence myself in fear that it would seal my fate to be damned for all eternity, but wasn't a life without her damnation in itself? Still I had strived to maintain some semblance of worth.

I grimaced. No doubt Alice had seen my plan by now, and she would have told Carlisle. I winced as I thought my father's name. For over eighty years, I had followed his example of goodness of repentance, and what had it gotten me?

Bella.

That thought brought me back to where I was. I shuddered and covered my face with my hands as I thought her name. It had been my weakness that had taken her life from her and nothing else. I should have had the strength to stay away from her. I should have left her alone and let her have a long, happy, human life without me. I had never been that strong. I had been strong enough to not kill her, to not murder her monstrously in cold blood that first day. I had endured and resisted the call of her blood over a thousand times—the most desirable scent in the whole wide world—but stay away from her? Impossible! Even during the months after I had finally found the courage to leave her it had been a failure from the start. I swallowed back the lump in my throat as I remembered my attempt at good-bye, my eyes flying once again to that empty spot in the parking lot as it replayed in my head.

I steeled myself for the moment when she would appear—her eyes found me instantly and a flash of relief washed over her face for the briefest instance, but it disappeared the moment that she met my eyes. She was always so perceptive.

I walked with her towards her truck wordlessly, feeling the heat of her skin beside me, all the while fighting the overwhelming urge to look at her. I could sense a storm building in her as we walked in silence, every step more painful than the next. I did not need to hear her thoughts to know that she was preparing to confront me finally—to plead for an end to my emotional detachment. She would never get that chance, because that was exactly what was coming—an end. She would try, but there was nothing she would be able to do—there were no words that would move me, it was already done—she just didn't know it yet. I could not allow her to voice those demands, to force me to give her hope where none existed. I couldn't bear to lie to her any more than I had to, but this—this I had to do.

I turned to face her as we neared her truck, speaking before she had even stopped walking. "Do you mind if I come over today?" I held my voice in check as I spoke—disguising the pain it caused me to say those simple words.

Say no! My heart screamed and I immediately silenced it.

She blinked at me for a moment. Had she heard my dead heart's silent plea? I held my breath.

"Of course not."

Of course not . My thoughts were bitter. The sooner the better I reminded myself painfully.

I slid her driver's side door open for her. "Now?" I tried to keep the urgency from my voice, and failed.

"Sure," She didn't sound sure when she said it, as she climbed inside. "I was just going to drop a letter for Renee in the mailbox on the way. I'll meet you there."

I saw the thick envelope beside her, which barely contained its contents. No doubt, filled with what was sure to be duplicate prints of the photos she had taken—photos that contained me.

Those will have to go too. I thought painfully as I reached across her to take it quickly before she could notice my pause—being so close made pain sear through me.

"I'll do it, and I'll still beat you there." My teasing smile was a ghost of what it once was. She saw it. She saw everything.

"Okay," She agreed, but didn't smile back in return. I closed her truck door, and turned away—going straight to my car, never looking back. I could not bear to watch her drive away—to watch the temporary distance between us grow farther and farther apart. It only served to remind me that all too soon, the heart-wrenching feeling of her absence would be real, and this time…it would last forever.

I beat her home, just as I had said I would, but there was nothing in me left to feel any ounce of triumph in that thought, there was only blinding pain. I forced myself to leave my car—forced myself to climb through her bedroom window one last time. I was numb as I made my way through her room, confiscating all of our memories. The plane tickets from her desk and her lullaby—placed in the CD player by her bed where I had known it would be. I caught sight of the photo album at the foot of her bed and hesitated.

All of it , I reminded myself.

I rifled through the pages, unable to smile when I saw her face in some of the photos. I peeled the photo she had taken of me the night of her birthday from the sleeve—not pausing long enough to allow myself to feel anything—before turning the page. My breath stopped. Again. I had seen my face in these particular photographs moments earlier when I'd taken them from her envelope to Renee before resealing it and dropping it into the post office mailbox, but it still shot excruciating agony into my dead heart.

I was already a corpse, I though bitterly, but framed in that single image my expression held no life at all it—true death. It was a vision of the rest of my existence without her.

Forever.

I swallowed hard and reminded myself that it would be better this way—safer for her.

I held everything in one hand and turned to leave when my gaze caught the floor beside her bed—remembering the lose floorboard I'd heard her step on a thousand time. I hesitated.

No! Everything has to be destroyed!

I was so torn, ripped in two. Part of me willing myself to take it all away, the rest of me pleading to leave part of myself there, close to where she slept and dreamed—where she had first whispered my name.

As before, the selfishness that had first put her in this danger, won out. I lifted the board quickly and placed everything neatly inside—burying it all and the shattered remains of my heart along with them before closing it gingerly.

She'll never find it . I tried to justify my action, seeing how there was no way to justify all the pain I had put her through already.

I heard the sound of her truck in the distance and rushed downstairs to the kitchen, scribbling a note to Charlie in a perfect replica of her handwriting, before dashing back upstairs to her window. I paused as I slipped through it, turning to wash my eyes over her room one last time. The pain roared through me. I shut the window and went to sit in my car. Waiting, with my head in my hands.

It was only a few seconds later when her truck appeared around the corner, causing me to straighten and wait numbly as she parked. As she opened her door so did I—preparing myself for what I was about to do.

Her eyes met mine as she stepped out with her book bag over one shoulder. I took it from her and immediately shoved it back into her seat—her eyes clouded with confusion and I went cold.

"Come for a walk with me," I said flatly, taking her warm hand in mine, ignoring the way she hesitated as I lead her along the east side of the yard, where it disappeared into the forest. The heat of her palm against mine was a burning reminder of the pain that was soon to follow.

I let my hand drop from hers, nearly tore it away, to escape the pain as I turned to face her. She didn't notice.

Cold , I reminded myself.

My eyes flickered to the house, where it was still in view from the few steps we had taken beyond the line of the forest, and felt the weight of my sorrow engulf me. I leaned against a tree behind me for support—masking my despair from her—and stared straight into the eyes I loved.

"Okay, let's talk," She commanded.

This is it. This is the end.

I was reminded of my earlier promise to myself.

Be cold. Detached. Make her believe you .

I took a deep breath.

I said the words quickly. "Bella, we're leaving."

I waited.

She took a breath and I watched her reasoning something behind her eyes. "Why now? Another year–"

I had to stop her.

"Bella, it's time. How much longer could we stay in Forks, after all? Carlisle can barely pass for thirty, and he's claiming thirty-three now. We'd have to start over soon regardless."

The lie was bitter on my tongue as I stared back coldly.

I saw it on her face when she finally understood my meaning.

"When you say ' we' —"

"I mean," I explained unemotionally, "my family…and myself." Each word separate and distinct.

I watched her shake her head, each movement like shards of glass etching their way into my chest. I remained hard and unflinching.

"Okay," She finally said. "I'll come with you."

The shards cut deeper.

"You can't, Bella. Where we're going…" I tried to find the words to halt her protests. "It's not the right place for you."

"Where you are is the right place for me." The words sliced through me.

You don't even know what you're saying.

"I'm no good for you, Bella."

I'm the worst thing for you.

"Don't be ridiculous." She said with a hysterical edge to her voice and my chest felt as if it were about to burst from the pain."You're the very best part of my life."

How can you say that!?

"My world is not for you," I tried again gravely.

"What happened with Jasper—" The reminder made me flinch internally—where she couldn't see my anguish. "That was nothing, Edward! Nothing!" She argued knowing full well what this was all about, but I had to convince her that there was more to this than that solitary instance.

"You're right," I agreed but there was nothing in my voice except the coldness. "It was exactly what was to be expected."

"You promised! In Phoenix, you promised that you would stay–" She tried a different avenue and my chest constricted, cracking my heart.

"As long as that was best for you," I reminded her and I wondered how I had ever told her such a lie. I had never been and would never be what was best for her.

" No ! This is about my soul, isn't it?" The words exploded from her lips and I almost let my perfect mask slip into shock. How could she know everything in my heart so completely? "Carlisle told me about that, and I don't care, Edward. I don't care!" She declared and I had to look away, staring down unable to look at her. "You can have my soul. I don't want it without you–it's yours already!" I felt like I was on the edge of death. I was crumbling inside, feeling everything start to slip away—my resolve, the cold detachment that was necessary to do this—her words nearly tore away everything. My body ached to cry, I twisted my mouth against the onslaught of nonexistent tears.

The sickening image of Alice's vision burst into view—it stared back at me as bitter reminder of what the future would hold for Bella if I remained in her life—Bella lying pale and broken, her brown eyes lifeless frozen in horror, blood marring the pale perfection of her skin where a chunk of her throat had been torn out and another image—Bella cold and still, but her eyes were no longer brown, they were a vivid crimson, and blood dripped from her lips as she smiled flashing her teeth.

No!

I gathered my resolve back to me, held tight to the pain, and braced myself. I couldn't let her chip away at my façade anymore lest she uncover my shattered heart that would have beat only for her if it could. I couldn't continue to condemn her to either of those futures. I loved her too much. I was determined to save her life and her soul. It was time. I had to make her let go. I had to make her believe…

I slowly slid my eyes up, piercing her with a hard stare, preparing myself for my next words.

"Bella…I don't want you to come with me."

The lie tore through me but I watched my words slowly register on her face, blooming into stunned horror. She was silent for a long moment but I forced myself to stare into the eyes of my first and only love as they filtered with pain and then confusion.

"You… don't… want me?" Her tiny voice was hollow.

I had never hated anything more than I hated myself in that moment.

"No." My self-hatred blackened my voice.

She stared hard at me then—long and hard—searching for something, her eyes intent upon my face. After what seemed like an eternity, her posture slowly changed.

"Well, that changes things." Her whole body sagged dejectedly, as she said the words in an eerily calm fashion.

It rocked me to my core making me look away as I realized that she actually believed me. Pain unlike any I had ever known ripped through me as a fissure cracked open inside of me, swallowing me.

I fought to make my voice sound casual as I barreled through the rest of my lie. "Of course, I'll always love you… in a way. But what happened the other night made me realize that it's time for a change." It didn't matter what I sounded like anymore. Bella believed that I didn't want her. Grief washed through me. "Because I'm… tired of pretending to be something I'm not, Bella. I am not human." In that moment, I didn't feel human, I didn't feel anything—I felt hollow. My lie had succeeded…It was over. I looked back at her then letting the emptiness fill my eyes. "I've let this go on much too long, and I'm sorry for that."

"Don't." Her quiet pleas only ruptured me further. "Don't do this." But I already had and her words did nothing to quell the numbness seeping through my body. I would say whatever I had to now. It was over.

"You're not good for me, Bella." My face pulled into blank lines as I said it, I couldn't muster any emotion to the surface.

She opened her mouth to speak, but immediately closed it again, and I stared back at her with incomprehension. How could she believe me?

"If…that's what you want." Her soft acceptance strangled me, choking off any words I would have spoken.

I could only nod once numbly.

What I wanted…was her , but more importantly her happiness and her safety—and that meant a life without me in it. Still, I wanted to delay it. I wanted more time with her. After this there would be nothing. I would never look into her eyes again, but she would be safe—she would be safe, wouldn't she? She wouldn't do anything…to hurt herself…would she?

"I would like to ask one favor, though, if that's not too much," I began slowly as I was reminded of the thousands of other possibilities that could occur in my absence, even without me Bella's life was so fragile…even if it was not at my hands, Bella's death would destroy me. I couldn't leave without being assured that she would keep herself safe.

"Anything," Her soft voice rang out, faintly stronger.

The thought of her dying—of her not existing—broke the dam of my emotions. The only thing that would enable me to go on would be the knowledge that somewhere in this wretched world, she lived. She had to live…or I wouldn't. I couldn't bear it. I had to know that she would take care with her life.

"Don't do anything reckless or stupid," I demanded staring intently into her gaze, willing her to obey. "Do you understand what I'm saying?" I could hear the intense tone of my words.

She barely nodded.

I lied smoothly now, forcing myself to harden once again. "I'm thinking of Charlie, of course. He needs you." I need you to be safe. "Take care of yourself—for him." For me.

Her voice was so fragile when she spoke. "I will."

I searched her face for any sign that she wouldn't comply. There wasn't any.

The tension that I hadn't realized had been tightening my body released me as I pulled myself back into my numbness once again. "And I'll make you a promise in return," I vowed to her and for the first time, the words I spoke were not a lie. "I promise that this will be the last time you'll see me. I won't come back. I won't put you through anything like this again. You can go on with your life without any more interference from me. It will be as if I'd never existed."

My world ended as I said it. I didn't want to have ever existed.

"Don't worry." I attempted to assure her, because she deserved to be comforted in some small way. "You're human—your memory is no more than a sieve. Time heals all wounds for your kind."

"And your memories?" Her voice was strangled and her words very nearly strangled me.

My memories? "Well" The memory of her would haunt me—always—but she could never be allowed to know that. "I won't forget. But my kind…we're very easily distracted." I smiled bitterly through my lie knowing full well that she would be all I would ever think of for the rest of my wretched existence. Until the very end, and here it was—the beginning of the end—without her.

I took one careful step away from her and the separation was physically painful. "That's everything, I suppose." My voice sounded hysterical to me, but I was sure she couldn't hear it. "We won't bother you again."

"Alice isn't coming back," Her statement caught me off guard. I hadn't realized that I had this revelation to break to her as well.

"No. They're all gone. I stayed behind to tell you goodbye." Just saying the word itself made staggering pain lance through me.

"Alice is gone?" The pain filled shock in her voice shamed me.

The realization that I was taking much more from her than I had imagined hit me, and it was entirely my fault—no one else was to blame for this, I couldn't let it rest upon Alice as well. "She wanted to say goodbye, but I convinced her that a clean break would be better for you." I explained, watching confusion flit across her brow as if she was having trouble understanding as it flickered between pain and panic.

I couldn't watch her go through this anymore. I had hurt her enough. Here it was…the end—it was coming like a blackness to swallow me whole.

The words were a death sentence in my own voice."Goodbye, Bella,"

"Wait!" Her desperate voice rang out as she stumbled towards me, wrenching me to pieces as she reached out to me. I had to stop her—I thought I had prepared myself better for this, but in that instant I knew that if she began crying out for me now I would die, if she held me with those warm fragile arms I would shatter in them, and if she begged me to stay…I would.

And I couldn't let that happen.

I clasped her wrists before she could reach me and forced them away from me, pressing them to her sides.

I let her scent swirl around me one last time, committing it to memory, cursing the sweet burn in my throat that reminded me why I had to leave. As long as I burned like this…she was safe, as long as I burned…she was alive. I allowed myself once last moment to savor, feeling the warmth of her skin as I pressed my lips to it one last time.

I love you, Bella.

"Take care of yourself," I whispered.

The last moment.

Then it was gone and I ran—ran away from all that would ever matter, all that would ever give me mean for anything and towards the rest of forever without her, letting the heart-wrenching pain engulf me then as every step severed me from the only thing that I needed…her.

When I opened my eyes the searing pain of the memory was still burning through me.

I had been such a fool…to ever think that I could live without her. This…was not living, and that…that hadn't been living either. To think of all the months I had wasted—months that could have been spent by her side—time that I had lost.

In a sudden fury, I revved the ignition of the car and jerked it into gear, speeding away from the school and soon—away from Forks. I needed to escape the nightmares of my past, convinced that was all that the tiny town held for me. I didn't want to go back to Denali and I didn't want to go back to join the others at the house in Fork. I raced past the trees blindly as chaos filled me, panic and crushing anguish. I needed her but I had nowhere to go—nowhere safe that held her in it. Was there any memory of her not tainted by pain, not corrupted by the tragedy of my weakness—my selfishness? Was there anywhere that was sacred—anywhere at all that held only Her?

Then it came to me…in blinding clarity.

Our meadow.