Carlisle took a deep breath and settled into the bench, next to her. He watched her for a minute and seemed to buying time to collect his thoughts. His expression was peaceful, but far away in his own thoughts.
Bella wondered what kind of story Carlisle would tell, and assumed it would be a tale of a poor boy, with abusive parents, who grew up to be a successful businessman with unlimited assets. She sighed, pulled her knees to her chest, and rested her chin on her knees. She hoped that wasn't some new form of cruel and unusual punishment. She wasn't sure how long she could sit here and prayed that his tale would be brief.
Carlisle took a chest full of air and began.
"I was born in the year seventeen fifty four. I was raised with my two sisters working land owned by a local lord. It was hard work. The lord of the land was a cruel and insecure man, and felt that if he kept all of his subjects from gaining any wealth, he would avoid any uprising. When I was twenty two, both of my parents passed, which left me the task of finding suitable husbands for my younger sisters. It was difficult times for all and I wasn't sure how I was going to make ends meet, no less come up with a suitable dowry. Tanya, who was the older of the two managed to make a good match with the son of a local butcher. She went on to have six children. I believe her descendents are still living somewhere in England. I have long since kept track."
Bella interrupted immediately, "You were born when?" Her voice was high with disbelief.
"Seventeen fifty four," Carlisle responded calmly, "and, please, let me tell you this. I promise it will make sense when I am finished."
Bella blushed. "I am sorry. I was just shocked when you said the date. I didn't think that you could have been over thirty," she apologized. She was beginning to have doubts about his sanity and didn't want to upset him by being rude.
"You're forgiven. I supposed, I could have warned you." Carlisle smiled at her.
Bella nodded and looked at him. She realized that she did want to hear whatever he had to say, it would, at least, be entertaining.
"Rosalie, the youngest of us, was only sixteen at this time. Although in that day, she was old enough to marry, she had no desire to become a wife. She was wild, rebellious, and was also very beautiful. She had long, golden blonde hair and blue eyes that could melt the heart of the most evil of beasts. She could have married ten times over the number of suitors who called on her, yet she showed no favor towards any of them. Even though I respected her spirit and loved her dearly, I could not support her on my own. When I tried to explain this to her, she cried and told me how cruel I was to want to throw her out to some man she had no feelings for her and grow fat pushing out children she didn't want. Eventually, I gave in and told her that she didn't have to marry anyone if she didn't want to."
Carlisle took a deep breath and then continued.
"Rosalie and I lived together for another year. I tended the land the best I could by myself and Rosalie had a kept a garden. She could grow anything and managed to always have enough to sell to market and help support us. We were comfortable in our life and seemed to be getting by just fine, but we worked hard."
"In September, I believe it would have been seventeen seventy seven, we did not track time as well then, Rosalie had taken a load of late season tomatoes and squash to the market for sale. The days were starting to get shorter and I begged her to wait for me to accompany her, so she wouldn't have to return alone in the dark. Rosalie, being who she was, just laughed and said that she would be back soon and not to worry. I always worried when she went to market alone. As, I said, she was a beautiful girl and I knew more than one man lusted after her. She had also scorned many of the local woman. Not personally, but they were jealous of her beauty and put off by her not taking a husband. Rumors flew about her being a loose woman who took random men to bed and that she couldn't be satisfied with only one. They were all lies, of course. Rosalie really saw no use for a man."
Bella looked up at Carlisle. His voice had become softer then, like he was fantasizing about a lover, and she wondered if there was more to the story than he was telling her.
"Patience Bella, I will get to it." Carlisle told her, obviously picking up on her questions.
Bella was starting to get annoyed with his mind reading trick.
"You see Bella, you were right to wonder about my feelings for Rosalie. Although she was my sister, as time went by, I began to see her as more than that. I began to understand why all the men courted her. I wanted her too. I wanted her as a man wanted a woman."
Bella gasped in revulsion at this revelation. "That's incest!" She couldn't look at him after this and quickly turned her head to focus on a blade of grass on the ground in front of her.
"I'm just admitting what you picked up on. I'm not sure if she had chosen to take a husband at this time, I would have let her. I would have fought to keep her with me at my side. Now I realize that it was just the lust of young men, but I did think that I was in love with her and would have done anything for her. You see, times were different then."
"But she was your sister. How could you think that way about her?" Bella continued. She couldn't seem to get past a brother and sister being together sexually and actually felt her stomach churn in disgust.
"Bella, I cannot tell you that it wasn't wrong to want her that way. My only excuse is that I was a young man, and young men are often ruled by their baser emotions, not their minds. I also assumed that she would soon marry, even though she said she didn't want to, and that then the temptation would go away."
"So, did she get married?" Bella asked. She wanted to move away from this subject.
"She never got the chance to." Carlisle went on with his story. "Rosalie never came home that night. The next morning, I went to town to find out what happened and nobody would admit to seeing her the day before and none of the vendors had purchased any produce for her. She apparently never made it to town."
"I spent the next couple of days asking again and again, until I could no longer ignore the needs of the land. The people in town were slamming their doors on me, so I wasn't getting any further anyway. There were rumors, of course, but I knew none of them were true. People spoke of her meeting a man and running away with him. I knew Rosalie wouldn't have done this, it wasn't like her. And she wouldn't have left without telling me first. That's how we were. We told each other everything."
Bella could see the sadness and pain that Rosalie's disappearance had caused and felt a tinge of pity for him. Even though she was completely sickened by Carlisle's admittance to incestuous feelings, she did understand what it felt like to lose a sister. In a sense, she had lost hers too.
"So, what did you do then?" she asked. She thought if he went back to his story, he could move past this, and so could she.
"Nothing. I did nothing. I continued working the land as I always had. Only there was no joy in it anymore. Without Rosalie there, I was empty. I cursed myself for thinking that I could forget her if she moved on. I was miserable. Days and weeks went by and then the winter came. Winter was always a slower season, so I spent a lot of time just staring at the fire debating what I was going to do with my life. I thought about leaving and trying to start over somewhere else. I even thought of taking a wife, but none of the local girls compared to Rosalie, and everyone I saw reminded me of her. Part of me was also hopeful that she would return to me. I wanted her to come home and if I left, she may not be able to find me."
Carlisle's eyes held a hint of shame as he said this, but Bella didn't notice. She was beginning to become entranced by the story.
"One night, it was mid winter, I was out getting more wood for the fire. It was a cold evening, and I had already gone through the supply I had in the house. As I was turning to take the wood back in, she was there. She was more beautiful than I remembered. Her golden hair seemed to glow in the moonlight. I dropped the wood I was carrying right where I was standing, and ran to her. I grabbed her in my arms, held her tight, and cried my relief. I cannot explain the joy that surged through me as I held her and knew that she had returned to me."
"It took me awhile to notice she was changed. I was so overjoyed to have her there in my arms that, at first, I didn't notice that her skin was ice cold and hard to the touch. When I finally did, I slowly backed off, though I never let go of her hand, and looked down at her. She just smiled and the sight took my breath away. She inhaled deeply, like she was smelling a delicious aroma and that's when I saw her eyes. They were blood red, with pink tinged tears rolling down her perfect cheeks."
Carlisle shivered and took a breath but he continued.
"I asked her where she had been and if she was okay. She told me that she had changed and now she was better than she had ever been. She wanted me to go with her and experience the freedom that she now knew. I didn't understand what she meant by that or where she wanted me to go. Then she hit me with something even I couldn't refuse. She told me that the reason that she had never taken a man to bed, or as a husband, is because she wanted me, and now she had found a way that we could be together. Knowing how I felt about her, I couldn't refuse. I didn't even try."
Bella was enthralled and a little disgusted. Carlisle had not said whether he had slept with her or not. She wasn't sure if she should ask him, or if she even wanted to know the answer.
Carlisle nodded knowingly, as if to answer her question. He hung his head a little and Bella had the distinct impression that he was confessing a dark secret.
" I was weak. After telling me that she loved me as a man, I would have gone anywhere with her, just to be together."
Carlisle was silent for a moment. He didn't look toward Bella, Instead he just stared out at nothing, absorbed in thoughts he didn't share.
Bella remained quiet. She patiently waited for him to continue.
"Afterward, she picked me up and carried me like I weighed no more than a pound and ran. She was so fast. She was faster than anything I had even imagined at the time and the speed made me dizzy and sick to my stomach. It seemed normal to her, though. She ran for what seemed like hours until we reached some caves and wasn't even winded. She set me down in front of the entrance and took my hand to lead the way. I offered no resistance and willingly followed. These caves were large, deep and full of cavernous rooms. Some of the rooms were larger than the rooms in our manor now. We walked for awhile until we came to an underground bubbling stream. That is where we stopped. She let go of my hand, blew me a kiss and the skipped to a corner. I looked around and was surprised that I could see that there was someone else in the cave with us. It was another man."
"Rosalie brought him forward and said 'Carlisle, this is Laurant and he can change you. I would try myself but I am not sure if I won't kill you'. Needless to say, this got me extremely frightened. Laurant smiled and I saw fangs. I begged Rosalie to tell me what was going on but she just told me to stay still and that it would be over quickly. Laurant whispered something to Rosalie, that I could not hear, and she giggled. She had a laugh like a little girl, and that sound caused me to relax for a moment. I had always loved to listen to her laugh, but I also instantly felt jealousy towards the other man being the source of her pleasure and he was good looking. He was dark skinned and had long silky hair tied at the nape of his neck. Their contact was intimate, like lovers, and Rosalie was mine."
"That feeling didn't last long, though. Rosalie motioned for Laurant to go ahead and do what he needed to do. I stared at him and watched his fangs grow longer and his red eyes glaze over. I forgot about the misplaced jealousy and I realized what he was. Vampire. And I knew that's what Rosalie was too. She was undead! My heart raced and I was confused. I looked at her and began to cry. 'Why Rosalie? Why did this happen?' I cried to her. She just smiled and told me that she was free and not to cry for her. Laurant was going to set me free too and then she and I could be together forever."
"As much as I wanted Rosalie, as much as I wanted to be with her, I did not want to be a vampire. I had heard enough stories about them to know that they were evil creations. Creatures banned from heaven or hell and condemned to roam the earth separate from the living. They preyed on lives. They drank blood. I yelled 'NO!' and ran. I had forgotten just how fast and strong Rosalie had been when she had brought me here. I just wanted out. I remember Rosalie yelling to Laurant to stop me but I kept running. I had to get away form them. My sister was dead and I wanted my life."
"For whatever reason, I was not pursued. I am not sure if the last of her human emotions kept her from forcing me or what, but I ran out of the caves and kept running. I didn't know where I was going. I just knew that I had to run. I ran until the early rays of dawn peeking over the hills came and then I collapsed. I was on a trail and in plain sight but I didn't care. I just sank to the ground, curled up and cried myself to an exhausted sleep."
Carlisle looked at Bella. Her mouth was gaped open in shock.
"V...v…vampire?" she stammered after gulping for air. "But…but that's not possible,"
"But it is Bella," Carlisle solemnly said. "Vampires are as real as you or I. They're another being. Just as the birds are separate form the trees. Yet they all live. Requiring different types of sustenance."
Bella just shook her head. She could not believe this. She could not believe that vampires existed.
"But if this is true," Bella was trying to find fault in his story thus far.
"How is it that people do not know about them?"
"There are many things in this world that are not common knowledge," Carlisle explained calmly. "Long ago, more people knew and believed, but now, humans are so driven by science that they have forgotten how to see what is right in front of them." .
"Are you a vampire?" Bella asked cautiously. She wasn't sure if it was appropriate to ask this, but if he was, she wanted to know right away. She would find a way to escape. She would rather die running than become a walking vampire snack bar.
"God no," Carlisle said and then laughed heartily. He seemed genuinely amused by her question. Then he really looked at her. "Oh, you were seriously asking. I'm sorry. It's just that no one has ever thought that I was a vampire."
He was trying, unsuccessfully, to make Bella feel better for asking. She just felt worse. She felt stupid. Stupid for believing him enough to even think that there might have been a possibility the ha was a vampire, or that they even existed.
"Would you like me to go on, or have you heard enough for tonight?" Carlisle asked in all seriousness.
"Go on," Bella said carefully, and then added "please". She did not want to offend him and his story, though she thought it was a fantasy, but it was interesting.
"All right. Well, I was passed out on the side of the road. I'm not sure how long I laid there. Part of me wanted to die but the other knew I needed to get up and keep moving. I laid there trying to decide the next move. I knew that I couldn't go home. I was afraid that Rosalie would come back for me and that, the next time, she wouldn't let me go. I had no other family except Tanya, and I didn't want to bring any of this to her, or her family. Besides, how would I explain to her that I had failed to protect Rosalie and what I let happen."
"So, I just laid there and faded in and out of consciousness. The next time I opened my eyes, there was a man bending over me. I shifted my body to look up at him and he immediately jumped back. He looked more frightened of me than I was of him. As if I was a threat. I was weak, tired and lying on the ground. He moved back toward me again, and looked me over. His eyes had questions but he did not speak any of them. I decided to ask him for help. I asked him if he could help me to the nearest town so I could find lodging for the night. He asked me the strangest question then. He asked if I could see him. I thought that was strange, and told him that if he didn't want to help me, then the least he could do was to stop staring and move on."
"This seemed to amuse him, but he held out his hand to help me to his feet. I stood up shakily, and went to thank him, but he shook his head no. I was puzzled. I had just escaped two vampires and now the only help I had was a man, that I assumed, was mentally unstable. He told me to follow him and I didn't have many options, so I did. We walked together for awhile until we came to a huge willow tree. He stopped there and then looked at me. He asked me if I trusted him. By this time, I didn't really know if I did or not. I was even wondering if I should've tempted fate, and just stayed laying on the trail. I was exhausted and confused. I didn't know how to answer him."
"He asked if I trusted him again. The more I thought about it, the more I realized that I did. Once I pushed aside the emotions caused by Rosalie's new life, and what had happened, I realized that I was drawn to him. Not in a sexual way, but, I don't know, I felt a kinship with him. It was like I had found a long lost twin brother. So I nodded and he smiled at me. That was the answer he had wanted."
"He grabbed my hand again and brought my body close to his. I tensed because it was unnatural for me to be so close to another man. He moved my body against his in an embrace-like hold, and told me to close my eyes. I did. I felt him take a step forward and I moved with him. His grip did not lax. We moved a few more steps together like this and then I felt myself falling."
"Falling? Like to the ground?" Bella asked curiously.
"No. More like a free fall. We fell together for only a second and then there was ground under my feet. He told me that I could open my eyes, and as I did, the first thing I noticed was that I was sick. I fell to the ground and heaved over and over again. There was no food in my stomach, but that didn't stop the response. My head hurt like I had been hit over the head with a bat and my eyes couldn't focus on anything around me. I asked him what he had done to me and he told me that it was always like this for mortals. I ignored his response, which made no sense to me at the time, and focused on trying to pull myself together. The man picked me up, like I weighed no more than a small child, and carried me into a small cabin and he put me to bed."
"When I awoke, I felt better, but was a little uneasy. I wasn't sure what was a nightmare and what was real, but as I looked around, I realized that I didn't know where I was. I sat up and the man brought me some fresh bread and bean soup. He told me that his name was Jasper, and that I was the first person that had been able to see him in over 100 years."
"What?" Bella said, looking up at Carlisle.
She had finally had enough with the fairy tales. This was too strange for her and was more than ready to go home. Her patience had run thin.
"I'm telling you my story so that you may begin to understand," Carlisle said blankly. He looked at her like he expected her to understand.
"But I don't understand anything that's going on." Bella wasn't yelling but her voice was high with impatientance and frustration. "How can I believe you? None is this is even possible. You tell a good story but this is the twenty first century. Don't try to tell me any of this is real." .
"Bella, you need to trust us. Nobody here, including myself, wants to hurt you." Carlisle was stood up and was right in front of her now. He reached out to place his hand on her shoulder.
"Bullshit!" Bella cried, swatting his arm away. "If you really didn't mean me any harm, why was I brought here? Why did Edward call me out of my house and then kidnap me? How is that not causing me harm? I want to go home!"
"You can't go home," Carlisle said gravely. He eyed her cautiously.
"You mean you won't take me home." Bella stood up to stare at him. He was almost a foot taller than her, but she tried not to let that bother her.
"No. I meant what I said," Carlisle said quietly while reaching for her hand. "When Edward brought you here, all the ties you had to your home were severed. It is as if you never were."
"What the…." Bella couldn't even finish the words. She just collapsed into the bench. All the strength had left her body and she felt like a wet dishrag. This was too much and she didn't know what to think about anything. She couldn't think about anything.
Bella just sat there and didn't even notice that tears were sliding down cheeks again. They were silent and heavy with the gravity of all that was just revealed to her. As if you never were. This was too much.
She didn't notice him sit back down next to her and place his hand on her shoulder. Bella felt nothing. Carlisle pulled a silver phone out of his pants pocket and called someone. Bella didn't care who he called or what he was saying. She didn't care about anything except his words, 'As if you never existed.'
The phrase ran her head over and over again. She just couldn't process the meaning. She stared out into the night without really seeing anything.
Some time past by when, through the fog of her mind, Bella realized that Carlisle was talking again. At first she thought he was on the phone, but then she heard someone reply to him. Someone else had come out to them. She tried to focus on the words being said as the fog cleared from her head.
"What did you say to her?" the not-Carlisle voice asked, sounding annoyed.
" I told her why she couldn't go home," Carlisle said flatly.
"Damn it, Carlisle," the other voice said. "Didn't you think that maybe that is too much for her right now? Don't you remember what it was like?" Bella realized, then, that Edward was the person speaking.
"Edward." Bella managed to turn her head and squeak out his voice. Both men turned and looked at her, full of concern.
"Bella," Edward quickly asked, forgetting that he had asked Carlisle something only a moment before. "Are you okay?"
"Why?" Bella seemed to be only able to get one word out at a time. Her head hadn't cleared and that was all that she could process.
Edward wasn't really sure what she was referring to with her single questions. He pursed his lips and remained silent.
Carlisle stepped forward. "Bella, you needed to know. I know it's difficult to understand right now, but the shock and pain will pass and you'll come to know that this way is really the best."
"But my mom and Jessica…" Bella's voice trailed off. She just couldn't get any more words out.
"They're just fine and will continue to be. They do not even realize that anything has changed. They will be as they always were." Carlisle jumped in before Bella could even worry about not finishing the thought.
"Come on," Edward said softly, moving to her side and reaching for her hand. "Let's go inside. I think you have had enough for tonight."
He sent a quick glare at Carlisle and then helped Bella up.
He went to put his arm around her and lead the way back to the house when Carlisle stopped him.
"Edward. Are you up to this?"
He looked at him and Bella knew that he was trying to pick up on Edwards emotions. Bella realized that in the midst of Carlisle's story, she had forgotten to ask what was really going on with Edward.
"I am fine enough to get her inside," Edward said through clenched teeth. "Come on Bella."
Bella let herself be led into the house. She didn't have any fight in her. Edward steered her right up the multiple series of steps and back into the room that she had woken up in earlier. Bella wanted to tell him that she didn't want to be locked up in that room again, but didn't have the strength to argue. Edward had her in her room before she could even blink. She let herself be led and laid down in the bed like a small child.
"Edward, you better go. You've done enough." Bella didn't realize that Carlisle had followed them up. He was standing in the room's doorway watching Edward with concerned eyes.
Edward looked at Bella for a minute and then sighed. "I know you are right…but…"
"Go. Now. There will be time later." Carlisle moved out of the way so that Edward could exit the room. In the hallway, Edward turned and looked at Bella one last time before hanging his head and quickly moving away.
She thought she had caught a glimpse of anger in his eyes and she wondered who exactly he was mad at.
Bella turned her gaze to look up at Carlisle, and was surprised at the concern on his face.
"I am sorry," he said. "Edward is right about it being too soon to tell you what I did, but I do believe that it is better to get this out of the way," .
Bella nodded at him. She didn't know if there was anything that she could say. He had already told her that she was never going home, she couldn't, and nothing would change that. She, at least, understood that much.
"Are you going to tell me what is going on with Edward?" Bella asked thinking back to the look she saw on his face when he had left.
"Not tonight. That's not my story to tell," Carlisle said with a sigh. "You should rest now. You've had a very trying day."
"All I've done is sleep," Bella protested but she did feel tired. Exhausted actually.
"Call me when you wake up again. You know how to use the phone. All the clothes were brought here for you. Please, use them. You can call for food if you get hungry, too. You don't have to wait for any of us," Carlisle explained. "Just try to rest. We have all the time you need."
With that, Carlisle left the room. Bella heard the door click shut, but no sounds of a lock being engaged. She wasn't being locked up. She could leave when no one was paying attention. But Bella was too tired to get up. She mumbled to herself as she drifted off to sleep.
"I'll leave when I wake up."