Edward leaned back as a laugh echoed from him, turning to Melanie as he did so. She joined him in laughter, and mimicked his posture by leaning back on the sofa. The two were having another one of their "Lonely Hearts Club meetings", though Rosalie and Emmett had stopped their liaison hours ago. The "club" was really just becoming more of an excuse for them to spend quality time together, and already they were dancing less and less and talking more. Neither one seemed to mind terribly though.
The two quieted, and Melanie could not help but become aware of how close their hands were positioned on the sofa. Edward quickly pulled his hand away.
"Right, well maybe I should get started on my homework then," Edward said sitting up straight once more. Melanie looked down at the ground.
"If you work on yours then I'll have to work on mine", she said unhappily. Edward chuckled.
"It isn't like it is all new to you. Aren't you still on the Civil War?"
Edward raised his eyebrows at her thought, and put a hand on her shoulder. It was Melanie's first year at school, and in order to stay in one place longer they had started in the middle school as an eighth grader. Though physically seventeen, she was small in stature and could pass for a well-developed fourteen year old, as long as she wore the right clothes and didn't wear any makeup. This meant of course that she was in a different school than her older siblings, and while they always checked up on her the best that they could, they couldn't know for sure how she was really doing. Edward moved his hand to her back, and tried to get a read on her thoughts. She spoke before he got the chance to.
" I don't like being reminded", she half whispered. Edward pursed his lips. The family knew relatively little about Melanie's background, human or vampire. When they had found her nearly four years ago she had told them only the questions they had asked. And they had only asked who had changed her (a vampire named Almira), what had happened to her (she had turned a young boy shortly after turning Melanie, and the Volturi disposed of her), and why she stayed in her human home for so long (she didn't know where else to go). But no one had asked about her true past, they had all opened up on their own accord to each other after all. Jasper would talk to her sometimes about their lives together, but he didn't remember much of it so the conversations wouldn't last long. Edward would frequently catch brief memories from her, but she rarely let them stay in the front of her mind for long.
He continued to rub small circles on her back.
"Lanie", he said, using the nickname he had for her that only he used. She titled her head back to him, her long hair moving across her shoulder. He gave her a small smile.
"What happened to you?" he asked softly. He heard Carlisle put his book down upstairs in his study. Esme stopped rearranging the kitchen and turned her head towards the basement door to listen. Alice snuggled into Jasper as they lay together on the couch. She had already heard it all in a vision earlier, but Jasper was alert as he stared straight ahead, afraid of what he would hear. Rosalie and Emmett had gone to the movies together, but the remaining family members were curious and not the slightest bit guilty for eavesdropping.
Melanie let out a small laugh, "I was wondering when you would ask me that", she said turning to him. She leaned her arm against the sofa back, and rested her head on it. Edward didn't move from his position as she curled her legs up onto the sofa as well.
She sighed in resignation. "Well you know I am younger than Jasper. Technically I am only three years younger, I was born in 1847. My mother died giving birth to me. My father was a soldier. He left to serve in the Mexican War when I was really young. Jasper and I went to live with my mother's sister in South Carolina. That is how my mother would have wanted it anyway. Texas was wild back then, hardly a place for a lady to be raised." Melanie rolled her eyes and smiled a bit. Edward smiled back, but it was forced. He felt strange listening to her old life, almost felt jealous that he wasn't there for all of these experiences. He reprimanded himself. What a ridiculous thought!
" My aunt, Clarissa, she was wealthy. We lived on a beautiful plantation with her husband, two daughters and my cousin, Anderson." And a few others…. Melanie thought to herself. Edward stiffened. He understood it was a different time, but it was hard to imagine the girl he was sitting next to owning slaves. Melanie dropped her head down and didn't meet his eyes. Edward went back to rubbing circles onto her back. She continued.
" Jasper and Anderson were sent to West Point together. That's where they met Brent." Melanie's eyes got a dreamy look to them, and she stared straight ahead as if she didn't see Edward at all.
" When they came home for their holiday he came with them. He was so handsome, so witty, so….wonderful. We fell in love. I was fourteen." Edward's fist clenched at this point. The small ball of jealousy that was knotted in his stomach was constricting. He turned his head away, angry at himself. She was supposed to be his sister!
" The war came the next year. Jasper and Anderson never finished school. They came back home, and both would lie to join the fight. Brent would join the fight as well," Melanie closed her eyes and leaned back for a second before she continued, "but he fought for the North." Edward stared at her.
"I didn't mind! Not really," Melanie said quickly. " I didn't care a damn about the war, I just wanted those that I loved to come home safe." She began to fiddle with her hair, and Edward couldn't help but smile at how easily she acted like a human.
" We wanted to get married," she said wistfully. Edward's stomach plummeted.
"Married?" He stammered. But she was so young! Married at fifteen! But…he reminded himself, his own mother had only been seventeen when she had become a bride.
"Yes, but Jasper wouldn't give his consent. My father had passed in '61 of an old war wound that had never healed right. His consent meant so much to me. I couldn't get married without him saying I could." She looked so sad when she said this, Edward reached out and touched her other hand.
"Why didn't he approve?" He asked softly. Melanie looked up and smiled.
" He said we would never have a good life together. We were too different, came from different places. Brent was a northern boy from Pennsylvania whose family owned an ironworks. And I was a southern girl from a poor ranch raised on a plantation. Brent was fighting on the opposite side of my own brother. He asked us what kind of life we would really have. I….I… was so angry at Jasper." Melanie closed her eyes again, and shuddered.
"I told him…that he could go to hell. He left for war the next day. I didn't hear anything from him. When I found out he had gone missing after Galveston I was sorry. So sorry. He was my brother, we had been so close. He was my protector. I never forgave myself."
Edward heard Jasper let out a small whimper upstairs.
"and what happened to Brent?"Edward asked quietly. Melanie put her hand to her chest, and rubbed her thumb slowly against her neck.
"Well he died of course," she said softly, "We wrote letters while he was away. And one day…they just stopped coming. I knew something terrible had happened. I knew deep down he was gone." She leaned her head down on Edward's arm for a moment before she continued.
" I went to his home, where his brother and sister-in-law lived. They told me what I already knew. Brent died at Gettysburg. Was buried there. His brother was too cheap to pay to bring him home." Melanie growled.
" Brent left me his half of the iron works. I sold it about ten years ago following the war in Europe." She said offhandedly. Edward nodded. This made sense of why she had come to them with money still in the bank.
" I made my way back home. I joined up as a nurse for a bit. That's how I was changed. A shell came through our field hospital. I was hit. Almira had been following the army, feeding off the dead. She felt pity for me." Edward nodded for her to continue.
" She was the one who taught me to feed off those who had already died. I slipped once, but in a big way. We came too close too soon. You ever hear of the Battle of Petersburg, the one with the Crater?" she asked turning back to Edward, and looking into his face for the first time since she started. He nodded silently.
" I jumped into the Crater and started drainin' people left and right as the battle went on. We had to kill even more of them afterwards because they had seen." Melanie stated this matter-of-factly. She had come to terms with her guilt a long time ago.
" The Volturi got Almira a few months after she had turned a young boy. I went back home. I wasn't sure what else I could do. And I stayed there until you came and found me" she said smiling up at him. Edward couldn't help but be pleased that she didn't mention that Alice and Jasper had come to find her as well. Just him.
" And that's it. Now you know everything," Melanie said sounding pleased with herself. Edward smiled and ran his fingers through her hair.
" I'll never know everything," he said softly, watching his fingers go through her hair and not noticing how she tensed up slightly. She laughed and ruffled his hair leaning in towards him. Excitement ran through Edward. But she leaned towards his ear.
"But you have a very long time to try." And with that she let out a giggle, and ran upstairs to speak with the others, knowing full well that they had been listening. She had a feeling she would have to have a long talk with Jasper soon.
Edward stared at the basement stairs long after she had left, confused about his feelings and what they meant. He only hoped Jasper was too distracted to pay him much attention, otherwise he would most likely be in big trouble. And there was no point in bothering the poor empath with a little crush now was there? Afterall, that is all that it was.
But somehow I doubt it, he thought as he reached over to begin to work on his long forgotten homework.