GEORGIA ON MY MIND
I will always remember this moment with perfect clarity. I am sitting in Terminal C at Atlanta Hartsfield Airport, near Gate 22, waiting for my delayed flight to be called. I am passing the time by listening to my Ipod and attempting to block the thousands of thoughts that are bombarding me in the busy terminal.
I quickly think back to how I ended up here, today of all days. I was, after all, simply passing through. I have agreed to join my family in January in a small town just east of Vancouver. Carlisle has recently accepted a position at a hospital there, and the "Cullen children" are to be enrolled in school starting in January.
Once I had finally agreed to return to my family after nearly four years of my self-imposed exile, everyone agreed it made sense to start over in a new location. A fresh start Carlisle had called it. I knew how much I had hurt him and Esme over the last four years. I had forced them to go along with my decision to leave Forks, to leave Bella. Then I had, in turn, left them. I could not bear to be around my family and had, for all intents and purposes, abandoned them for three years, 9 months, and 2 days.
While I had kept in touch with my family through periodic phone calls, I could not bear to see them until three months ago when I literally showed up on their doorstop in Gothica, NY. Of course Alice had seen my coming. All six members of my family waited for me on the porch of their spacious home in upper New York State. Carlisle and Esme approached me first. I slowly and hesitantly looked my parents in the eye for the first time in 1369 days.
There was no judgment, just unconditional love and acceptance in their matching golden eyes.
"Thank god!" Esme muttered as she hugged me.
Carlisle embraced us both. Please, please, son, tell me you will stop punishing yourself. Stay. This family just does not function without you, Carlisle said with his thoughts.
I swallowed, the emotion overwhelming me and nodded briefly. With that, I was surrounded by embraces and welcoming words from my parents, my brothers and my sister Alice. Even Rosalie managed to give me a small smile.
I could not help but be happy to see my family and so grateful to receive their forgiveness and acceptance that I had managed to forget about the hole in my chest where my heart was once located for nearly fifteen minutes. It was the longest I had gone without thinking of Bella in nearly four years. Maybe I was permitted some relief due to the payment of my penance in Africa for nearly four years, or maybe it was the simple healing properties of time, but for the first time since I had left my Bella in those woods in Forks, WA, I felt alive again. There was still a huge part of me missing. I had left that part of me in Forks with Bella. That part of me would always be with her. But at least I felt like I could exist and allow myself the comfort of my family.
Over the following two weeks, I reconnected with my family. I enjoyed an extended hunting trip into the Eastern Canadian wilderness with my brothers. I purchased a new car, a Ferrari sports car, and let Rosalie upgrade it for me.
Perhaps my favorite memories of that time were the memories of the time I spent with Alice. She showed me breathtaking sights in the national parks of New England, and I shared with her stories of my time in Africa. Just before I left them with a promise to return at Christmas, Alice told me what I needed to hear in order to finally make peace with my decision to leave Bella. We had been sitting on a cliff overlooking Lake Placid watching the sun set. Recognizing it was twilight, I was overwhelmed with memories of Bella and the many twilights we had shared together during those incredible 9 months I spent with her. Alice's thoughts were full of Bella as well.
"You know, I miss her, too," Alice said softly. I continued to stare straight ahead but swallowed hard as I knew she was speaking of Bella. "She's happy, you know."
I slowly turned to Alice, my eyes full of confusion and questions. "How do you know that Alice?" I asked, struggling to keep my voice controlled even though I was sure the trepidation I was feeling was visible in my eyes as I suspected I already knew the answer.
"Don't be mad, Edward. I promise I don't intentionally look into her future. But sometimes glimpses just come to me. I can't help it. But they are only brief visions, sometimes very fuzzy. I am not as attuned to her as I once was."
Neither of us spoke for several minutes. I finally whispered, "What did you see Alice?"
"At first I saw her in college. I think she went to school in Florida. My last vision of her was last May, just before you returned. She was graduating, early I think. She was happy."
While Alice talked she thought about these visions and I watched them as they passed through her memory. I saw a very brief glimpse of Bella sitting in a college classroom; the words "Florida State" were written on a bulletin in the background. Her hair was braided, and she was simply breathtaking. In the next vision, she was walking across campus on a sunny day and appeared to be hurrying when she stumbled. Her book bag flew from her shoulder as she fell to her knees. I cringed at the vision of her fall, regretting for the thousandth time that I could not be by her side, catching her every time she fell.
Then the next vision was very fuzzy, but I could clearly see Bella in a black graduation gown. She was being hugged by Charlie, and she was smiling and laughing. When she pulled away from him, she turned into the waiting arms of a man, but I could not see his face. However, I could see Bella's face as she eagerly embraced him, and that was enough to make me gasp and to make my chest tighten with longing. I hung my head as I replayed the look on her face over and over in my mind. I finally spoke after several minutes.
"The look she gave that man at her graduation was quite...affectionate. Do you know who he is?" I asked softly.
"No," Alice said, her voice dripping with sympathy. "I have never seen him before."
I nodded my head to acknowledge I had heard her.
After several more long moments I took a deep breath and stood. "You're right; she does look happy. She has moved on." I turned to look into Alice's eyes which were full of concern and apprehension. I smiled at her with brotherly affection. "Thank you. Believe it or not, knowing she is happy, even if it is with someone else, helps me know that I made the right decision." Then I looked at her sternly. "But no spying Alice! She deserves privacy." The truth was that I was afraid Alice would soon have visions of my Bella marrying another man—perhaps the man from the graduation vision—and having his children and, while those were the human things I had always wanted for her, I did not want to witness them via Alice's visions. Even I was not that masochistic.
I had left my family shortly thereafter after giving them my promise I would meet them in Vancouver by Christmas. I had to return to Africa and tie up some loose ends. I had spent much of my time away from my family there. There were remote villages that were in desperate need of medical care, and I was able to administer medicine, vaccines, and treat common ailments. I found it fulfilling to finally be able to put my two medical degrees to some use. Even though I usually only visited the villages at twilight and night, the villagers were so very grateful they did not ask questions. After I made sure all medicines from my supplies had been properly distributed to villages I serviced often, I decided to take a few months to travel and adjust to being around civilization again before I started the monotony of high school.
And that is what brought me to Atlanta today. I have just returned from Africa, with the last leg of my flight going from Munich, Germany, to Atlanta, Georgia. As my plane had started its decent into Atlanta's Hartsfield Airport this morning, I still had not decided on any specific destinations for my travels.
There was a small part of me that was tempted to go to Florida. While it was not the ideal location for a vampire who needed to avoid the public in sunny weather, I assumed Bella was still there and a part of me longed to simply be in the same state as she was. It was not lost on me that Atlanta, GA, was not far from Florida. I could rent a car and be crossing the state line into Florida in just a few short hours. But no, nothing good could come of that. I had to let her be. I had to keep my promise and let her live the human life she was meant to live. I had to let her be happy...happy with him.
Then it occurred to me. There was a place I could go where I would feel close to Bella that was not Florida. I could return to the place I would always feel was my true home...Forks, WA. It was the place I had met my soul mate and the only place I had ever known true love. I could go there and surround myself with memories of my love. Yes, I was going to Washington. Once I had landed I had promptly booked a flight to Seattle, WA, and had reserved a rental at Sea Tac Airport.
My flight is delayed by an hour and a half, and I try to relax...after all I have nothing but time.
I close my eyes, lean my head back and am now enjoying a new song from Cold Play when the scent hits me. Her scent. While I am literally surrounded by hundreds of humans and their scents, it is fairly easy for me to distinguish her scent. The ache in my throat is instant. I do not immediately open my eyes. Instead I concentrate and determine that she is approaching me from my right. I now recognize her heartbeat. I realize she has stopped and probably is seated just ten yards to my right. I slowly open my eyes and, for the first time in 1450 days, I see the love of my existence with my very own eyes.
I notice immediately the physical changes. While she still looks youthful, her face looks more mature than when I had last seen her. I can't help but notice that her body looks different. She is wearing jeans and a short sleeve white blouse. I can tell she is quite fit, and it is obvious she has been working out. Her legs and arms are quite toned. Her hair is slightly longer, and it is pulled back in a ponytail. She is alone, with a small carryon bag and purse sitting in front of her. She is looking at her phone and appears to be exchanging messages with someone. She smiles as she types something. I have stopped breathing and am not sure what to do.
I realize that as she is preoccupied I can probably escape to my left, and she will never see me, never know that I had been that close to her. Yes, that is the right thing to do. However, I cannot will my legs to move. I simply stare at her, taking in every detail. It is much needed nourishment for me, and I revel in every facial expression, every slight move of her body, and even her scent that is both my heaven and my hell. I feel my throat burn and almost cry out in gratitude because the burn, though painful, means that my love is close by and that is something I had given up any hope of ever experiencing again. I watch as she reads a message on her phone. I am surprised to see her blush. How I have missed the exquisite sight of the blood pooling in her cheeks. I ignore the monster that roars in me at the sight of her blush and instead watch her, frustrated once again that the one person's thoughts that I really want to know are forever silent to me. Oh, how I want to know what has made her blush.
Then...I stop wondering about what has made her blush. Because right at that moment, as I look at her, deep in concentration, she looks up and directly into my eyes. By her gasp and stunned expression, I know she recognizes me.