Written by Coquette
“Who are you?” I asked him, standing motionless as I gazed at him.
Edward flinched again at the question, as he had the first time I had asked it. He didn’t answer. I was beginning to wonder if he was capable of speech at all. He didn’t seem able to do anything but watch me with those hollow, soulful eyes.
He hovered there on the other side of the room like an apparition ... because nothing that hauntingly beautiful could possibly be real. Then after what seemed like an eternity, he finally spoke.
His voice was quiet. Silken. Like velvet slipping all over my body. So much more gentle and pleasing than I could have ever anticipated. But more surprising than the timbre were the words themselves.
They drove through me like a knife to the stomach.
“I’m your husband, Bella.”
Written by Coquette
I stared at him blankly for one long moment, his quiet words running through my brain, trying to make sense of them. Then I laughed lightly. Incredulously. Little notes of music tinkling in the air.
“No, really,” I said. “Who are you?”
The pained look on his face intensified, and it riddled me with guilt.
Oh. So he was being serious then?
I tilted my head at him, scanning his entire body with a measured expression. Of all the people in the world I could forget, wouldn’t I remember my husband above all others? The boy was completely foreign to me. An enigma.
“My husband?”I asked in a dry tone. “Really?”
He only nodded vacantly, apparently rendered speechless again.
That frustrated me. I had barely gotten him talking. I leveled another question his way, desperate for some answers. “If that’s true, then why are you looking at me like that? Like you can’t stand the sight of me. Like you hate me or something. What did I do to you?”
He recoiled gracefully, his lovely face crumpling, overcome with emotion. But he didn’t cry like I expected him to. Thank goodness. I didn’t want to see that. I didn’t want to see any of this. It made my heart hurt for reasons I didn’t understand. Pity gnawed at me, like the hunger that still rumbled deep in my gut.
“Oh, Bella,” he whispered, broken. “I could never hate you.”
My gaze softened at his words, and the strange, inexplicable draw I felt toward him intensified. “Then tell me why you’re sad when you look at me.”
His ashen face seemed to pale impossibly. Another drawn out moment passed while he worked through something in his mind. It was apparent that he didn’t know how to explain it to me. “Do you remember the pain?” he asked in his velvety voice, his eyes having trouble meeting my own.
My whole body suddenly tensed, instantly sober and stricken. Did I remember it? It was the only thing I remembered. Every burning-yet-freezing, maddening second of it. The expression on my face answered his question.
“I remember it, too,” he said, again in a whisper. His entire face was white. Haunted. “Just as if it were my own. It was like going through it all over again. Only worse this time. I thought I could handle it, Bella. Watching it happen. I thought I had prepared myself for it.” He broke off, shaking his head, covering his eyes with trembling fingers.
I couldn’t stop staring at him, transfixed, though he was now quite unwilling to look at me at all, as if the sight of me shamed him somehow. None of his words made sense. “One of the others mentioned that you’ve been by my side for days,” I said, trying to put the pieces together. “Emmett. The large, opinionated one.”
“I’m your husband, Bella,” breathed Edward, head still in his hands. “Where else would I be?”
“I remember your scent,” I told him. And it was the truth. I just hadn’t realized it before that moment, though it had been niggling at the back of my mind since it had first washed over my senses.
He snapped his head up, scanning my face hopefully.
“I don’t mean that I remember you,” I clarified, seeing that he had misunderstood me. “Or you being my husband or whatever. I meant while I was in pain. I remember your scent ... there in the room with me. I think it was the only thing that kept me sane.”
The look of hope didn’t die in his eyes, but the grief came back, hovering on the edges of his countenance like a dark shadow. I think I really understood him, then. Edward held no hatred toward me. If anything, all of that appeared to be aimed at himself. No ... shining in his eyes, behind all the grief ... he looked at me like I was his soul. The burden of it frightened me. Thrilled me. That the beautiful creature before me held just as much fascination for me as I held for him. He was the flame, and I was the moth. Or was it perhaps the other way around? I couldn’t tell.
I eyed him with caution, dazed by the intensity of him, not certain if I wanted to be possessed by something I had only laid eyes on less than an hour ago. “I don’t know you,” I told him in a flat tone.
His eye lashes fluttered shut, then opened calmly. Still a flinch ... but subdued somehow. He was coming to terms. “I know,” he whispered.
“I don’t trust you.”
His jaw tensed. “You will.”
Was that some kind of misplaced threat? My eyes narrowed. “You still haven’t explained anything to me. And I’m still hungry, Edward.” It was the first time I had said his name aloud. It tasted sweet on my tongue, heady and musky like his scent.
Edward raked his fingers through his untidy hair. “God, help me,” he breathed.
“That bothers you? Is there something wrong with me being hungry?”
Yes, his tone screamed at me.
“I just...” He trailed off with a sigh, giving over to something that seemed to weigh heavily on his shoulders. “Follow me. I’m sure they brought extra from the butcher for you.”
I didn’t ask.
I followed Edward to a kitchen. It was brightly lit and flawless in its cleanliness, as though it had never been used. A new house, perhaps? I was too hungry to give it much thought. The refrigerator was empty except for a large, lidded Styrofoam cup. Edward poured the contents into a glass and looked elsewhere when he handed it to me. I tried to swallow the stuff down, but it was worse than the first time. Colder, thick and ghastly. “I think I’m going to be sick,” I muttered under my breath, after I forced myself to finish it. “What is this anyway? It’s terrible. But it helps. It calms me down.”
Edward finally looked at me, and I noticed he wore a peculiar expression. It reminded me of the faces the others had had when I’d drank the first glass back in the living room. I had surprised him. Puzzled him. “It’s what you need to survive now,” he said in a level tone. Clinical. Scientific. Absolutely removed from the situation. “You’ll get used to it. There are ... other ways of getting it. Better ways. I’ll show you when you’re ready.”
Again, the lights started to burn my eyes as if reacting to whatever I had just swallowed. I set down the glass and put a hand over them, groaning in pain. “What’s wrong with me? My eyes ... I don’t feel right.”
“It will get easier. I promise. You’ve already made it through the worst of it.”
The room was suddenly cast into blissful darkness. I looked up at Edward, and his skin glowed subtly back at me. He had turned off the lights for me. A small kindness. My eyes still ached in their sockets, probably from the sunlight that came in from outside through the small window, but I would take whatever relief I could get.
I could still see him perfectly. “You have dark shadows under your eyes,” I told him, my vision flitting over his features again and again. “Are you ill?”
Edward was looking at the empty glass I had placed on the counter. “Not in the traditional sense, no.”
I sniffed at him, unconvinced. “You sparkle in the sunlight. That’s not normal, you know.”
“What do you know of normal?” he scoffed. “And so do you, by the way. Sparkle.”
I paused. “Really?”
So I was like them. I had suspected as much when I saw the pale, marble skin of my hands – every bit as flawless as their own. “What are we?” I asked, holding my hand out in front of me, level with his face. The appearance was similar, though he was perhaps a little paler. More ashen and grey, whereas I was the color of a pale, pink seashell almost completely whitewashed by the wind and waves. “We’re not ... human. Are we?” The word came back to me slowly. I had to reach to the very back of my mind to retrieve it. “Humans don’t sparkle.”
“You did,” Edward murmured, still refusing to look at me. “In your own way.”
My ears prickled, listening carefully. “I was human?”
“Up until three days ago.” He looked like he was going to be sick again.
“Am I dead?”
“Depends on what book you’re reading.”
“What am I? Please tell me.”
Something about the question got him angry. The force of it caught me by surprise. “You’re Bella,” he bit out, eyes flaring at me. “That’s all that matters.”
We stared at each other in a tense moment of silence. Edward, still fuming over something unnamed. Me, taken aback, guarded
“Stop that,” he said eventually. “Looking at me like that. I’m not going to hurt you. I just ... have a bit of a temper is all. I’m sorry, Bella. You’re going to have to be patient with me while I work through this. You’re not the only one in the midst of a change.”
He wasn’t kidding about the temper. I felt like I was standing next to a wild animal. Some sort of cat. Beautiful and deadly, capable of turning on me at any second.
He reached out a hand, appearing wistful, and I resisted the urge to flinch away. Despite the temper, he really didn’t act as though he would hurt me. His fingers brushed through my curls, though he never touched my skin, and the look on his face was almost reverent. “What on earth did Alice do to your hair?”
“What’s wrong with it?” I asked, suddenly wanting a mirror. I had no idea what he saw when he looked at me.
He shook his head. “Nothing,” he whispered, fingers hovering over my face but never touching. “It’s beautiful. You’re beautiful. Breathtaking, really. No wonder Rosalie was angry when she saw you.”
And yet he still looked sad. For a second, I thought he might lean forward and kiss me ... or at the very least, touch me. He did neither, and I almost found myself aching for it.
“What is it?” I asked, puzzled by the conflicted way he looked at me.
“Forgive me, Bella.” He started laughing then. A dry, heartbreaking sound. His face drawn into a tight smile, his forehead crinkled in anguish. “It’s like I’m grieving the loss of someone who’s standing right in front of me. It’s silly. Just little differences, you know, but they were special to me. Like your warm hands or the sound of your heartbeat quickening. All gone now. But your scent...”
I tensed as he spoke. I hadn’t realized before then that I couldn’t hear my own heartbeat. Or his. Though I could hear the heartbeat of the little fox outside, sniffing at the fence. And he was right about my hands, too, though he had yet to touch them. They weren’t warm at all. What did any of it mean? It’s like I was dead, but I wasn’t. “What about my scent?” I asked, zeroing in on his last statement, which had trailed off into nothing. “I smell bad?”
“You smell exactly the same to me.” He looked as though the thought gave him hope. “Maybe a slight change. Not bad ... just different. Earthier now, mixed in with the floral.”
Again I thought he might take me into his arms. He seemed to almost lean toward me as he inhaled the air around my hair, drawn toward me like a magnet ... but resisting it somehow. I understood what he felt. But I didn’t move either. I pushed the desire back into my brain like I had pushed away the hunger. Though I was in control, I was still curious about him.
“Do you have a last name, or are you just Edward?”
“It’s the same as yours, Bella.”
I found it interesting that he answered questions about himself in terms of me.
“I don’t know my name,” I reminded him. “Not the full one anyway. You haven’t answered any of my questions, you know. Not straightforward. You just spin them around into something else instead of being up front with me.”
Edward’s lips pressed into that thin line I was becoming so well-acquainted with. “Your name is Isabella Marie Cullen,” he said rather gruffly. “It took me an entire month of begging on my hands and knees to convince you to take my name when we were married. It took me longer than that to even get you to seriously consider marrying me in the first place. You’re the most infuriating girl I’ve ever met. You incense me at every turn. Get me to do things I never would dream of. And human or not, I love you more than anything else on this planet. Even myself. I love you too damn much, Bella. One of these days, I think it’s going to kill me.”
I peered up at him, unblinking. “Pleased to meet you, Edward Cullen,” I said in reply. “You’re very melodramatic. Did you know?”
Above our heads, through the ceiling upstairs, laughter erupted. Emmett and Jasper from the sound of it. Someone shushed them.
Edward certainly wasn’t laughing. “Forgive me, Bella,” he said in that cheerless voice. “Until you’ve listened to the one thing you cherish most, screaming and writhing unendingly for days, please believe me when I say ... you just really don’t get it.” He shook his head, cynically musing. “And to think. I actually held your sweet, warm body close to mine, looked you right in the eyes, and told you everything was going to be okay. You were so frightened. And I did it anyway.”
His words confused me again. He knew the entire story yet refused to tell it in a way that I understood. I grasped for the pieces I knew personally. “I remember the screaming. There were two screams sometimes. Two voices. Mine and...” I flinched, backing away from him as another thought occurred to me. His previous words made me pause and consider something I hadn’t before. My eyes grew large and alarmed. “What do you mean, ‘you did it anyway’? Were ... you the one that did that to me? You caused that pain? The burning?”
Edward hung his head, gripping the counter to support himself. “I’m so sorry,” he lamented. “It was so much worse than I remembered. Maybe just because it was you lying there this time. Please, please don’t look at me like that. I can’t stand it, Bella!”
Before I could answer, there were footsteps on the stairs, quick and light. Both Edward and I tensed and fell silent, still staring at each other.
Alice skipped in the room, and she instantly maneuvered herself right in between us. “Edward,” she said in a slightly scolding tongue. “You’re really quite terrible at this, you know. I don’t think this is exactly what Carlisle had in mind for her initiation. I could see how futile it would be the second the words came out of his mouth, but it was worth letting you do it if only to snap you out of the catatonic stupor. If you keep this up, she’s going to run again.”
My eyes widened. How had Alice known I was planning that? I had been eyeing the door behind her back, thinking neither of them could see.
“Bella,” she said, turning toward me. “You’re going to have to believe me when I say you asked for the pain. Edward never wanted to hurt you. It nearly destroyed him to do that to you.”
“Asked for it?” I scoffed. “All of you are utterly insane, do you know that?”
“Do you want answers or not?” she asked, the tone of her voice quite chipper and unaffected though my own manner of speaking was disagreeable.
“Will the answers be tiresomely vague like his?” I said, pointing a finger at Edward’s chest.
“Well, that depends on how well you wrote it all down. Here, Bella. It’s a letter you wrote to yourself before the change.”
She called it a letter, but it was a journal that was thrust into my hands. Curiously, I opened the soft leather cover and flipped through the pages. Every single one was filled with line after line of prose. Written like a novel more than a journal. I didn’t recognize the handwriting – or many of the names I glanced over.
“Alice,” murmured Edward, his arms crossed tightly over his chest. “Are you sure she’s ready for all that? She’s barely been awake for an hour.”
I glared at him. “This is a letter?” I asked Alice. “It looks more like a book.”
“You’re telling me. There’s more where that came from. Two more journals. And a large document on your laptop. Your hands were so cramped from all the writing that Edward had to buy you something to type on. I don’t suppose you remember.”
I shook my head. “I wrote this?”
“Every word,” she confirmed. “Right before you were turned. You finished it less than a week ago. You wanted to be sure you would remember your life beforehand.”
“I expected to lose my memories?”
“We knew it was a possibility. It’s always different, though. It will come back to you, don’t worry. The books will help, Bella. Trust me.” Here Alice broke off and looked at Edward significantly, as if he was supposed to get something from that, too. “But I think you should start reading soon. It’s going to take you a while to get to the part where you’re turned. Seventy-two hours, sixteen minutes, and forty-nine seconds. You can get quite elaborate in your descriptions.”
I stared at her, not quite knowing what to make of her frank, strange nature. Or the puzzling words she said. “People keep saying these things to me. Before I was turned. When I was changed. What does that even mean?”
Alice didn’t answer me at first. She had her hand on Edward’s shoulder in a comforting gesture. She looked up at him as if speaking silently to him. It was obvious they had quite a deep connection.
“Read your journals, Bella,” she said after a moment. “You’ll find the answers to your questions in there. I don’t know if any of us can explain it in a way that won’t frighten you. You can work it out for yourself while the Bella in those journals works it out for herself.”
Edward took me to his bedroom, though he did not follow me in. He closed the door behind me, and I kept my eyes glued to his until the last possible moment when the door shut between us. I was glad for privacy. A chance to gather my thoughts in peace for the first time I could remember. And yet ... I missed him already.
Luckily the room smelled of Edward – overwhelmingly so – and I wasn’t certain if that delighted or frightened me. Perhaps a little of both. There was a bed, one iron post broken for some reason. I looked at it and wondered if I should sleep. I didn’t feel tired. Not one little bit. I glanced down at the journal in my hand and sighed. I supposed I could just read. If they were telling me the truth, the little book I held had all the answers.
They said I had written it myself. There was a way to test that theory. I found a pen on a bookcase that was weighed down with heavy textbooks and novels, old and new. Taking the pen back with me, I sat on the bed and opened up the journal to the first page.
There I wrote ... My name is Isabella Marie Cullen.
I compared the handwriting, and doubt was instantly removed. They were identical. The writing in the journal was perhaps a little sloppier. Less controlled. Rushed. As if written in a hurry because the author needed to get the thoughts out of her head and onto paper. That author, seemingly, was me.
I laid my head down on the pillow and stretched out. Edward’s scent settled all around me like a silent flutter of wings. I breathed deep, filling my lungs with it like it was an expensive cologne. It dazed me for a moment, but eventually I came back to myself. Cracking open the journal, I turned again to the first page and began to read my story.
My mother drove me to the airport with the windows rolled down. It was seventy-five degrees in Phoenix, the sky a perfect, cloudless blue...
To be continued.
Author’s Note: For those who have not read the prequel to this story, Spiral Static, Edward gave Bella a journal in the final chapter. Fearful that she might not remember her life after she becomes a vampire, Bella records her story in it, starting with the first day she met Edward. It is thus implied that Bella is the true author of Twilight, New Moon, and Eclipse. (Don’t ask me if I’ve seen or read The Notebook. The answer is no, I haven’t.) ;) In the chapter you just read, Alice hands Bella Twilight, or a chunk of it anyway, written in a journal. Hope that clarifies matters. Cheers. –Coquette