Coquette (coquette7) wrote,
Coquette
coquette7

Citizen Erased -- Chapter Three

Summary: Disoriented after her transformation into a vampire, Bella struggles with amnesia. As she learns to control her new powers and abilities, she must also come to terms with what she is ... and with the vampire she doesn’t remember marrying. Bella/Edward.

Previous Installments:

Chapter One
Chapter Two


***

Citizen Erased
Written by Coquette



Author’s Note: Someone asked me why I named the prequel to this story Spiral Static. Well, aside from it being the title of one of my favorite Muse songs, “spiral static” is defined on the Muse Wiki site as the calm before a storm. And in case you haven’t noticed, it’s begun to rain. Dum, dum, duuum! Okay, that was cheesy. Even for me.

***

Part Three

Bella Swan’s journals were ... interesting.

It felt strange to read her thoughts. It was like listening to my own thoughts, written by my own hand with my own rhythm, cadences, and vocabulary. But it wasn’t me.

But like me, Bella Swan was absolutely obsessed with Edward Cullen.

Her journals didn’t help me remember him, but only served to fortify my fixation. His soulful eyes. His scent, which still curled around my senses as I sat in his room. His evasive way of speaking that left me – or rather us – simultaneously irritated and enthralled. It was all the same. She even felt the same fear and uncertainty that I had felt under his intense stare the first time she had a close encounter with him. The reaction was so similar, so fresh in my mind from my own experience, that I felt for the first time that these were actually my journals I was in possession of. That I really was Bella Swan ... or at least had been once upon a time.

Edward Cullen was as much of an enigma to her as he was to me now. I read hungrily, wanting to know more about him, but I found myself growing exasperated with insipid details of high school life, not to mention Bella’s decided ignorance of what Edward really was.

“He’s a vampire, you idiot,” I muttered, flipping through the pages with annoyance. And when I finally reached the part where Bella put two and two together, I said, “Oh, finally figured it out, did you? Bravo.”

And of course ... that meant that I was a vampire, too.

I wasn’t as slow as the girl in the journals. That probably wasn’t her fault though. She came from a world of absolutes, of science and fact, where the supernatural kept to comic books or the movies. I, on the other hand, was born into a world of sparkling creatures made of diamond and marble. I started out a step ahead of the game, given clues that she wasn’t at the time. Like strange, dark liquid handed to me in a glass, hushed whispers nipping at my ears as I drank, mentions of a hunt. I was no simpleton; not that Bella Swan was. It wasn’t difficult for a predator to recognize another predator. The prey, on the other hand ... well, if the predator was any good, the prey would never even know they existed.

A vampire, then. Strange. I would have to contemplate that more in length later.

I already knew the end of Bella Swan’s story, even though I was still reading the beginning. So perfect, adoring Edward Cullen had finally turned his pet human into a monster? I was interested in getting to that part in particular. How out of character for him; he seemed so very protective and fearful for her life at all times, always tense and on edge, even when it was just his threadbare grip on his control that threatened her. Never fully relaxed in her presence. Always focused solely on her and on keeping her safe. Always.

I wondered what it was that finally convinced him to do it? To change her. Had he slipped? Had it been an accident? But I had quite a ways to go before I got to that part.

I stopped reading after Edward kissed her for the first time, there at the edge of the woods, handling her like she was something precious, like she was made of glass. It made me angry. It took me a while to understand why, but it dawned on me eventually.

I was jealous.

Jealous of the little human girl who had captivated him so. Turned his world upside down. Captured his heart after decades of indifference and strict self-control. I was jealous because Edward Cullen’s heart belonged to Bella Swan. To his wife. And I wasn’t sure how I fit into that picture.

I was also terrified. To go out there and face him after reading this? How embarrassing to think he knew of all my former self’s stammering and stumbling about. She was so inattentive and reckless. So clumsy and overdramatic. Was I that way, too? Had any of that changed when I had changed? I had no idea because I had a limited concept of myself, barely twenty-four hours old. My mind was like a sieve, full of holes. What did he love so much about her anyway? Surely he wouldn’t love me the same way. I didn’t feel much like Bella Swan. We weren’t even the same species.

I was Bella Cullen now. Edward had claimed me in more ways than one, branding me not only with his name but with immortality and a thirst for blood.

I knew now that it wasn’t a normal hunger that tore up my insides and tormented my mind. I wanted something I couldn’t have, the blood of humans. But even as I thirsted for it, I felt sick inside – in my heart and in my stomach. The very thought repulsed me. Given Bella Swan’s dislike for the smell of blood, even going so far as to faint when faced with it, I could only wonder if my own reaction was driven by the same disgust as hers.

But now I needed it to survive. That was going to be a problem.

I had little doubt in my mind that I had only been given animal blood by the Cullens. Thinking about it – remembering the taste and the thick, syrupy texture – made me feel ill all over again.

And hungry.

The two combined together, warring in my brain, was torment. What a pathetic vampire I was turning out to be. Considering the alternative, that was probably a good thing.

They were all downstairs, whispering and murmuring about me. I could hear them. It was now dark outside, rain tapping at the window like a ghost trying to make its presence known. No one had bothered me for hours. But they were all on high-alert, standing guard in case I tried to slip out. They seemed to expect me to lash out at any minute, like I was some kind of mindless animal capable of only acting on instinct instead of intellect. It made me thankful for my gift. To control that animalistic side of me, to push it down with so little effort ... I think it was going to save me a great deal of misery. I think it was going to save Edward and the rest of them some, too.

Domesticated monsters, indeed. What a thought.

They were worried. Wondering why I hadn’t remembered yet. The disorientation that came with the change wasn’t supposed to last that long – at least, it hadn’t for them. It should have started to come back to me as soon as I began to read about myself. Carlisle, bless him, insisted that I only needed a bit of time and space, saying that my mind was just protecting itself from the trauma of the change and all the pain that had come with it.

I hated the fact that they were talking about me without me being present. Surely they had to know I could hear them, just as loudly as if they were in the same room as me. Perhaps they weren’t used to me being a vampire yet themselves. Perhaps they still saw me as little Bella Swan.

I never heard Edward’s voice speaking, though I knew he was down there. Though he stayed silent, others spoke to him, comforting him, encouraging him. One at a time, in low, dulcet tones. I felt terrible that there wasn’t more I could do for him. But what could I do?

I got up and paced, feeling frustrated, feeling trapped ... not only in the house but in the life I’d woken up in. Where were the other people in the journal? Like Charlie and Renée? They were my parents, weren’t they? So where were they, and how did they fit into this new life of mine now? Were we in Forks right now, or someplace else? I didn’t even know how long ago the journals had taken place. I didn’t even know what I looked like. There were no mirrors in the room, but surely there was one elsewhere. Was I still the plain girl in the journals with the translucent skin?

It wasn’t true that I didn’t remember anything. Some things had come back to me as I read. Simple things. Inane details. Like how the outside world worked. Social exchanges, traffic laws, geography, even the plots of several books I must have loved once. But why those things? Why could I remember Mr. Darcy’s failed proposal to Elizabeth Bennet when I couldn’t even remember my own husband’s proposal to me?

It struck me as odd, like something wasn’t quite right in my brain. A switch or a latch that needed prying open in order to let the flow of personal memories out again. But how was I supposed to locate a theoretical latch in my brain? It made my head hurt just thinking about it.

Weary of pacing, needing to get away from unpleasant thoughts, I left the journals on the bed and exited Edward’s room. I inhaled deeply before I slipped out so that his smell would stay with me. I stopped in the hallway before I got to the stairs and had to grip the wall to support myself.

I was thirsty. Dizzy with it. My mind started to unravel from the pressure. It snarled and twisted and beat against my chest in place of a missing heartbeat, but I gripped at the tattered threads of my control and wove them back together. No! I was not going to lose myself to that. I was stronger than that.

I pushed back the hunger, though it screamed and snapped at me before I locked it away in my mind. Once I gathered myself – and it took several long moments before I did – I made my way downstairs, trying not to show that I was shaking. They were all there, silent, waiting for me to finally make it down the stairs. It looked like I had stumbled upon a family meeting. One about me.

With no small amount of effort, I avoided looking at Edward. But I caught a glimpse of him before I averted my eyes. He was standing in the rear of the room, away from the others, leaning against the wall with his arms folded over his chest. His face was hard, expressionless. Not to mention devastatingly beautiful. I felt his eyes burn into me, but I couldn’t bring myself to return the gaze.

“Uh-oh...” murmured Emmett. “Look at her eyes.”

“She’s all right,” Alice whispered back. “She’s still in control.”

Before I had a chance to figure out how she knew that, Carlisle suddenly appeared before my vision. I had seen him move, my eyes able to move as quickly as his body, but it surprised me nonetheless. I had read that they moved swiftly – that we moved swiftly – but it was one thing to read it and another to see it. “Bella,” he said in greeting. His tone was cautious. “We were starting to wonder about you up there. You must be quite hungry by now.”

“A little, yes.”

It was a lie. I was ravenous.

I tried to smile at them all, but I’m sure it fell short. I would have loved nothing more than to turn back around and retreat again to Edward’s bedroom ... but then I wouldn’t get fed. And I wouldn’t be standing this close to him either. Without even looking at him, I knew I wouldn’t be able to leave. I felt myself leaning his way, as if drawn toward him like a magnet. Whether imagined or not, I felt as though I were in physical pain when I resisted moving his way.

I ignored him ... because if I didn’t I was going to make a fool of myself in front of them all. And I couldn’t stand looking into those eyes again – so wistful and longing. It hurt too much, especially now that I’d fallen a little in love with him myself after reading about him. I focused on the face on the furthest side of the room from Edward. There, Jasper was shaking his head at me, awestruck. He looked like he envied me somehow. Though who could be envious of me, I don’t know. I was a mess.

“I trust you understand certain things now?” Carlisle asked me, his meaning plain.

I lifted up my chin, gladly turning my attention back on him. “We’re vampires,” I said calmly, looking him right in the eyes. “Is that what you’re referring to?”

Carlisle’s mouth twitched. He was amused at my candor. “And you’ve accepted that little detail, I take it? You’re all right with it?”

“Is there a reason I shouldn’t be?”

“Well, several actually,” he reasoned, a bit of apprehension touching his flawless face. “Vampires are often considered monsters.”

“But you’re not,” I pointed out. “You don’t kill humans. Only animals, and humans kill those themselves. So why should it bother me? You’re really not that different from them at all. Well, aside from the basic mechanics, anyway.”

Carlisle seemed to like that answer. So much so that his shoulders released tension I hadn’t even realized was there. He smiled at me affectionately, and I felt something tug at a little hole in my chest. I knew in that moment that I could trust him, and that if I let him, he would be the same father to me that he was to Edward and the others. “Do you think you’re ready to hunt, Bella?” he asked, his tone gentle and unassuming. “I admire your control thus far, but I’d rather not test it too much until you’ve had a chance to mature.”

“I don’t know how to hunt,” I said, feeling self-conscious. And to be honest, I wasn’t that thrilled at the idea. I thought about the blood, and that same starving but disgusted feeling washed over me. Was this what it was going to be like? Repulsed by the very thing I needed to give me life?

“Trust me, it will come naturally to you,” said Carlisle. “You’re a creature of instinct now. Though as you have discovered, we’re capable of being much more than that. You need to understand that the desire to take life is natural and nothing to be ashamed of. It’s what we do with that desire that sets us apart.”

“But I don’t want to kill anything. I don’t have to, do I?”

He raised his eyebrows. “If you can hold yourself back from taking a life, even from an animal, I’m sure you will impress us all even more than you already have.”

“Well, then. Plan on being impressed.”

Emmett reared his head around to address Edward. “You know, I’m starting to understand what you see in her.” And then he yipped as Rosalie elbowed him in the stomach.

Carlisle chuckled musically. “Oh, Bella. How happy I am to have you as a new daughter. If the others aren’t careful, you just might turn into my favorite. You and I think very much alike.”

Besides Emmett and Carlisle, the others weren’t amused. They were staring again. My eyes must be black as pitch because more than once, they had murmured about them under their breath. I grew irritated with all the attention focused on me. Couldn’t they see I wasn’t some mindless lunatic?

“I feel like you’re all waiting for me to just snap,” I said, and the words came out with a little more heat than I intended. “I don’t know ... burst through the walls, massacre the town, and bathe in their blood.”

Jasper raised a helpful hand. “That’s because we are.”

Esme shushed him gently.

“I’m afraid we need time to adjust just as much as you do, Bella,” said Carlisle, winking at me. “None of the vampires you see before you were able to exercise such control.”

“Bella, dear,” said Esme, speaking to me for the first time. Her voice was soft and pleasant, with no hint of teasing. That was immensely comforting to me at that moment. “Do you remember anything yet? Not to put pressure on you. We just want to know how to make this easiest on you – what we can do to help and support you. We hoped the journals might lend a hand. You wrote them with such care and attention, you know.”

They all looked at me expectantly. I wanted to sink into the floorboards. It was then that I really was like Bella Swan, made new – because I made an enormous error in judgment.

I looked at him. And it all went downhill from there.

He had caught my eye because he had moved as soon as Esme began speaking. Pushing himself away from the wall, he came to stand closer to the group.

I stared at him, almost fearfully. Overcome by the enormity of his presence.

It was like looking at a character from a book, or spotting a celebrity on the street. You knew him – knew everything about him as if you’d watched him voyeuristically for a large portion of his life, even had words that he’d spoken memorized – but you didn’t know him.

I knew what it felt like to kiss him, though I’d never kissed him. I knew his hands would feel like electric bolts going through my body, though he’d never touched me. I also knew that he was telling me the honest truth when he said he loved me. Violently so. And I loved him, too, in a way. Because the Bella in the journals loved him. I was the reader, stepping into her shoes, the narrator.

“Well, Bella?” he asked in that velvet tone, his eyes burning like a low, kindling fire upon my face. “Do you remember anything?”

I could scarcely think. His eyes were so full of quiet hope ... but bleak and fearful at the same time. He was scared to death of what I was going to say, ready to flinch away from it. My heart twisted in pity for him. To tell him the truth would have been cruel.

So I lied.

“It’s ... coming back to me.”

And then I looked away from him, instantly sick from guilt. Somehow the lie felt crueler than the truth.

The entire group – all except Alice – murmured and sighed in relief. Esme hugged me unexpectedly and gave me a little kiss on the cheek, telling me I should call her Mother. I shrunk away from her, feeling shy but pleased. The idea of a mother, when my own human mother seemed so far removed from me at that moment ... it wasn’t an unwelcome one.

“All of your memories, Bella?” asked Carlisle. He was staring at me curiously.

My shoulders tensed. This was the reason lying was a bad idea. With one lie came more lies. “Not yet. There are still some holes. I don’t remember a lot toward the end.”

That was the truth, at least. I hadn’t read that far into my story yet.

“Well, I suppose that’s to be expected,” said Carlisle. “They’ll fill in soon, I’m sure. But you remember Edward? Meeting our family?”

I nodded, hating myself. Though I knew small details about them, I didn’t remember meeting the Cullens because Bella Swan hadn’t met them yet. I needed to go back and finish the story quickly if I was going to keep this charade up.

Emmett slapped Edward heartily on the back. “See? What did I tell you? Pay up, Jasper. You lost.”

Jasper shrugged and held out his hand to his brother. There were several hundred dollar bills in it. But his smile was kind when he turned it on me. “It’s worth it,” he told me with a wink. “Not a bet I would have wanted to win.”

Even Rosalie, who seemingly didn’t think much of me if the journals were any indication, was looking at me with relief in her eyes. Of all of them, she was the one who offered me the most empathy with her gaze. I had a feeling she had gone through something similar. Perhaps her own change had been very hard on her. But there was something else there behind that stare. Disappointment, maybe. I don’t think that she liked the fact that I was one of them.

Alice just sat on the couch with her arms crossed over her chest. I wasn’t sure why, but she was scowling at me disapprovingly. That struck me as odd. She’d been so nice before.

I saved Edward’s face for last. Truth be told, I was scared to death to look at him at all, fearing he would see right through me. He was so very smart, and he knew Bella well. Wouldn’t he be able to tell the truth just from looking at my face?

Apparently, I was a good liar. Or perhaps he was just too hungry for the lie not to believe it.

Edward’s face had transformed.

I almost broke down and told him the truth right then and there. For him to look at me like that – eyes shining with so much hope and love – it absolutely shamed me. Where there had only been hardness and anguish before, his face was now soft and open. And slowly but surely, it split into the sweetest, most beautiful smile I’ve ever seen.

In the journals, Edward had often laughed and smiled at his Bella. He was much happier then. Since I only knew him to be a sullen, grim creature, I could scarcely imagine Edward doing those things when I had read of them ... at least, not until now.

“Oh, Bella...” he whispered. And then I was in his arms, picked up by the waist until my feet dangled above the floor. He crushed me against his body in a fierce embrace.

I was in shock. The feel of his skin ... Bella in the journals had described it quite accurately. He was cold to the touch, but it didn’t bother me. He felt just like I did. But my skin wasn’t infused with electricity ... at least, not until he touched me, that is.

I gasped and closed my eyes at the feel of him, his breath on my neck, inhaling my scent and exhaling my name.

What could I do? If I said anything now, he would let me go. Perhaps I was a monster after all.

He let me down slowly, our bodies sliding inch by inch against one another’s. He stopped my downward progress when my forehead was level with his lips. He left a searing kiss there, right below my hairline, and the feel of his mouth left me gasping for breaths I didn’t need. I’m sure it all made for a convincing performance, but it was all quite honest. I was overcome.

In the room, I heard voices, though they seemed very far away. They were happy, celebrating the lie. It wasn’t until Edward set me fully upon the ground that I was able to register what was being said.

“Come on,” said Emmett, grinning at me. “Let’s take the rookie on a hunting trip. Instill a nice bloodlust for the innocent in her. She’s entirely too boring.”

Still hidden in the safe haven of Edward’s arms, I tried to smile back, but guilt was tearing me up inside. How happy I’d made them all with just a few words. Though come to think of it, most of them weren’t really looking at me. They were looking at Edward’s face in relief. It occurred to me then that yes, they might be concerned for me ... but it was mostly just worry for him that had them so worked up.

Alice was still sitting on the sofa, watching us with that same scowl upon her lovely face. “Edward, can I speak with Bella alone?” she said quietly.

“No,” he murmured, his face pressed into my hair. “Go away.”

I watched her, puzzled, as she shook her head and got to her feet. She stomped outside in a hurry, a confused Jasper following close at her heels. The family meeting was breaking up. A sea of voices and movement and smiles all around us. But Edward and I just stood still in the middle of it, swaying gently in that sea, together as one body.

He drew back to rest his forehead against mine, eyes locked with me, smiling that perfect smile. “I have so much to show you, Bella,” he whispered. “So much to share with you. I was just so afraid ... so frozen ... Alice said you'd be normal again, that you would remember everything. But I was just afraid she'd gotten it all wrong, and you wouldn’t ever be you again. I thought I’d lost you.”

What he would think of me when he learned he hadn’t found me yet, I shuddered to imagine.

I blamed part of it on him. He had enthralled me, gotten me drunk off of the scent and feel of him, sated my hunger with words and sentiments I was so desperate to hear aimed at me instead of Bella Swan.

But even with all of that, I still hated myself as I said, “I’m right here, Edward. What do you want to show me?”

***

To be continued.


Eta: Some of you are getting confused. Alice never says Bella won't remember. It's the opposite. Edward is just afraid Alice was wrong. (I've re-written it now. Hopefully it's clearer.)

And if you're curious about Jasper's reaction to Bella's lie or Edward's inability to hear Alice's thoughts ... just pay attention to the little details. Like winks and armfuls of Bella. Really, people. I'm feeling quite misunderstood tonight. Hahaha.... ;D
Tags: citizen erased, edward/bella
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