"Edward, honey, a package came for you today," Esme remarked when we came home from school.
"What did you get me this time, Alice?" I asked indifferently. Packages were a common occurrence in this house, thanks to Alice's shopping obsession. Of course, due to her psychic visions, which included stock market trends, we had more money than we could spend in hundreds of years. This was comforting considering we were immortal vampires.
"It wasn't me this time," Alice protested. Her eyes glazed over momentarily as she used her gift to see what was in the package. I watched it with her and saw myself open a box and take out a set of four books. Then I saw myself curled up on my couch, reading all night and all the next day.
"Oh, just books. Enjoy your weekend, brother," she smirked, dismissing me and my package. She grabbed Jasper's hand and ran up the stairs with him. Rosalie and Emmett had long since disappeared into their bedroom.
"Thanks, Mom," I mumbled, kissing Esme's cheek. She beamed at me. I knew I just made her week. I usually kept to myself, eschewing physical touch, but I knew how much it meant to Esme to treat her like my mother. She had been acting like a mother to me for about eighty years now. I loved her and would do anything for her.
I grabbed the package and headed to my room. I sat on my cream couch and tore open the box, eager for something new to stimulate my intellect. I took all four books out, resting them on the cushions beside me. I picked up the first book and dove right into the prologue.
I was finishing packing my bags when I heard the doorbell. I opened the front door just in time to see the brown van drive away. I looked down and saw a square package on the front step. I bent down to lift it up and saw it was addressed to me. It got here just in time. I'd be on a plane to Forks tomorrow. I sighed and pushed that thought to the back of my mind. I'd made my choice and, by golly, I'd live by it. Even if it killed me. The box was heavier than I expected, and I lugged it back to my room. I didn't see any return address on it, and I wondered if Renee and Phil had gotten me a going away present. I tore into the box and was delighted to find four books. I loved reading, and now I had something new to read on the plane. At least these would help the first weekend pass by quickly. I'd much rather read than feel anxious about starting a new school on Monday. Mom was so sweet to think of me like that. I left my room to hunt her down. I found her in the garage, searching through boxes, and a pile of discarded items surrounding her. I sighed. Oh, well. This time she can clean up her own mess.
"Thanks for the new books, Mom," I stated enthusiastically. She looked up at me wearing a puzzled expression.
"What books, honey?" How odd. Renee couldn't lie any better than I could, so I knew it wasn't her.
"Never mind," I answered, brushing off her query. "The flight takes off rather early tomorrow, so I'm going to bed right after dinner."
"Good idea, honey," she responded absently, her mind already back on her search. I shrugged and went to the kitchen to start dinner. I whipped up some spaghetti and ate at the table by myself. I knew my Mom would get to hers whenever her hunger was strong enough to break into her thoughts. I was used to eating alone.
I went back to my room, putting the final items into my bags. I sat on my bed, looking around my room, thinking about all the people and things I was leaving behind. I refused to give in to despair. I prepared for bed and got under the covers. This was the last night in this house, in this room, in this bed. Tomorrow, I would go to cold, dreary, rainy Forks to live with my father, whom I had only seen for two weeks each year. I did my best to will myself to sleep. I tossed and turned, my mind refusing to settle down and allow me a few hours of peace. Finally, I gave up on sleep.
I decided to start reading my new book, hoping it would help pass the time and calm my nerves. I grabbed it out of my carry-on where I had placed it. I settled up against the headboard with my legs under the covers. There were two pale hands holding a red apple under the title Twilight. I wondered what it was about. Time to find out. I opened it up to the prologue and began reading.
I was shocked and appalled as I read. Several chapters into it, I turned to the author information. I didn't recognize the name or the picture. How did this Stephanie Meyer know all about my family's secrets? How dare she publish this information, exposing us to the world? Did she know what the Volturi would do to her for this? This was serious business. There was no way the Volturi would believe we had no part in this. Our whole family was in grave danger. I decided I had better read all the books and find out just how much this woman knew. The books were long, but reading at vampire speed, I would be finished some time tomorrow.
I stopped reading, staring at the page in shock. The first chapter was all about me. Who knew me well enough to write this? It had only just been decided. I flipped to the author information. I stared blankly at the picture. Who was Stephanie Meyer? How did she know me and my family? I was certain I had never seen her before in my life. This was really weird. I decided to reading and was soon drawn into the story, certain it must be fictional. Yet it was so true to my character and personality. I could really see myself behaving just like the Bella in the book. A little part of my heart kept asking, "What if it's real? What if Edward is just as real as I am and Charlie is?" I stayed up really late, unable to put the book down. I finally finished the book, but felt dissatisfied with the ending. Then I made the mistake of reading the teaser chapters at the end of the book. What a cliff hanger! I got to the point the chapters were mere single word place holders depicting the passage of time. I set the book aside.
He left me. How could he leave me? I felt devastated, though clearly not nearly as devastated as I did in the book. I had hope, knowing there were still two and two-thirds books left in the series. I had to be up and at 'em in two short hours. I felt a few hot tears squeeze out as I closed my eyes, falling rapidly to sleep.
I pinched the bridge of my nose as I read Bella's response to me leaving her. I was certain, knowing myself, that I had left loving her still, but wanting to protect her from becoming a monster like me. After all, vampires mate for life, for eternity. Having declared myself, there was no way I would've 'gotten tired' of her. It was impossible for my kind to fall out of love. The only way I could have intentionally left my mate would have been if I truly believed she'd be better off without me, but it would kill me inside to walk away.
By the end of New Moon, I was feeling pretty stupid and angry at myself. I had royally screwed things up and hurt so many people, according to the story. The worst part was admitting to myself I really would have behaved that way in those situations, I really was a sick masochistic lion, to push away and destroy the woman who made my heart sing in some twisted hope she would be better off without me. I quickly moved on to Eclipse, not wanting to dwell any longer on the revelations I was having about myself, my insecurities and my weaknesses.
By the end of Eclipse, I was ready to hunt down Jacob Black and tear him limb from limb. I'd never even met him, never even met Bella, but I was ready to rip him to shreds for what he did to my imaginary mate in a story book. How pathetic could I get? I figured I'd better read Breaking Dawn and find out the answer to that question.
I read Breaking Dawn in a constant state of shock. I made love to Bella while she was human? And other that the first time, when I didn't know what to expect, it was not only possible but glorious? A baby? I could have a baby with Bella? Jacob imprinted on my daughter? Bella was the perfect newborn and had an awesome gift that allowed her to protect our family from the Volturi and also allowed me to read her mind? Our child would grow to adulthood and then live forever? By the time I reached our happy ever after ending, I was completely blown away.
I picked up Twilight, wanting to read it again. To my surprise, the book was completely blank, including the cover. All the pages were blank; there was no cover picture, no title, no author. I was suddenly extremely thankful I had a perfect memory. Never had I been so grateful. I realized I now had nothing to show anyone else. All four books were completely erased. I couldn't tell my family – they'd never believe it. Well, they know I don't lie, so they would believe me eventually, but I realized I didn't want to share any of this yet.
After coming to know Bella through the books, I had come to several realizations:
• I was already in love with Isabella Swan, who may not even exist.
• If she was real, I would never leave her.
• I wanted to marry her and have a child with her.
• I would not hesitate to change her when the time was right.
• Jacob Black – the whole love triangle thing was never going to happen.
• I would not do anything to cause the Volturi to pay attention to my family. I would do whatever we needed to stay under their radar.
I knew something strange and magical was happening, because the books had erased themselves. Hopefully, that meant the books had never actually been published and the Volturi would have no idea of their existence. I immediately went to the computer and searched for Stephanie Meyer on the internet. I was very relieved to find that no one matched the description on the cover. I felt a huge weight lift from my shoulders. My family was not currently in danger.
Now I just needed to determine whether or not she was real and when she was coming. I had heard through the grapevine that Chief Swan's daughter was coming to live with him, but I hadn't cared enough to pay attention to the gossip before. I drove into Forks and parked in front of the police station. I relaxed, letting my mind drift into the building to pick up the stray thoughts of the police inside.
I think I'll have ravioli for dinner tonight…
I am so tired. I can't wait until my shift is over…
There's no way they can pin this one on me. Nobody saw what I did…
I wonder how Bella is settling in, probably unpacking today…
She was here! Now to see if there was any truth to the story. One whiff of her scent was all I needed to confirm or disprove it. I drove to Charlie's house, spotting his cruiser parked out front. I parked nearby and walked up to the car. I opened the passenger side door and was immediately hit with a scent that set me throat on fire. Venom pooled in mouth, and I knew me eyes were black. I quickly but quietly shut the door and ran back to my car. It was true! First things first, I needed to hunt. Now.
I was back home in minutes. Everyone looked up at me as I raced through the door. Esme gasped as she noticed my eyes.
"What happened, honey?" She fretted, coming over to take a closer look.
"I caught a whiff of a delicious human scent and realized I'd let myself get too thirsty. I need to hunt now, and I was hoping you'd all come with me," I confessed. I really wanted them to be fully satiated before they encountered my Bella on Monday, but I couldn't tell them that. They were all shocked that I'd actually asked them to come with me.
Boy, he's really panicky. That's not like him. It must've been a close one. Glad it wasn't me for once… Jasper sent me a wave of calm and smiled reassuringly.
"I'm a little thirsty myself. I'd be glad to keep you company," Jasper proclaimed. Alice started searching the future she clasped Jasper's hand and smiled at me too.
"Of course we'll join you," she remarked. "I can see we're going to have a lot of fun on this trip."
"Awesome!" Emmett shouted. "I challenge you all to a contest to see who can catch three different species of animals first."
Rosalie rolled her eyes at Emmett, but she had been watching me with concern. Since when does Mr. Perfect lose control of his thirst?
"Why don't you kids go on ahead and go? Carlisle will be home soon, and I'd rather wait for him." Unless you particularly want me to come along, Edward? Esme eyed me with concern. I smiled and shook my head, trying to relieve her mind.
"You two deserve a little alone time. Why don't you just enjoy our absence tonight?" I suggested. She grinned happily, a mischievous twinkle in her eye.
"Well, now I'm definitely going," Rosalie complained in feigned annoyance. Nice job, Edward. That was really thoughtful. They really don't get much time to themselves. She sounded both surprised and pleased with me.
"I'm surprised at you, Edward Cullen!" Emmett teased. "Of course, you probably think they're going to sit around playing chess all night."
We all started laughing, including Esme.
"That's exactly what I was picturing, Emmett," I joked. "And I plan to hunt far away enough so that is the only image I receive regarding their interactions tonight."
"Amen to that, little brother," Jasper agreed. Everyone started laughing again. I could tell they were confused by my convivial demeanor. Was I really such a dull fellow then? I thought back over the past eighty odd years. Yep, I guess I was a regular stick in the mud. Well, all that was about to change. I had found a reason to embrace life in this existence. Bella was going to make me a new man.
"What are you waiting for, lazybones?" I called out, dashing out the back door and into the woods. I heard their laughter as they pounded behind me. I was the fastest and could outrun them if I wanted, but I slowed down to allow them to catch up to me.
"Rules for your contest, Emmett?" I asked light-heartedly.
"Okay, three animals, three different species. Animals must weigh over a hundred pounds. The first one to drain three different animals, bury them, and return to the house receives a forfeit from the last one back," he announced eagerly. "Ready, set, go!"
We all shot to go our own ways. I decided I really wanted to win. I ran toward my secret meadow. I caught the scent of a herd of elk rather quickly. I jumped on one and drained it, disposing of the carcass neatly. I was extremely pleased to note a nearby lynx. This was my lucky day. I rapidly dispatched it before heading deeper into the wilderness. I found a lone timber wolf, its paw caught in a trap. It was chewing its leg off trying to escape. I put the poor thing out of its misery and mangled the trap beyond repair. Poachers didn't belong in a national forest. I cleaned up after myself and headed back to the house. I had only been gone a few hours, able to find the necessary animals nearby.
I entered the house quietly, not wanting to disturb my parents if they were busy. A few minutes after I entered though, Carlisle came downstairs.
Ahh, Edward. I was hoping it was you. "Is everything okay, son? Esme told me you seemed rather bothered earlier," he mentioned casually, his love and compassion radiating out toward me. I smiled at him.
"All better now, Carlisle," I replied easily. "I just let myself get too thirsty."
He nodded understandingly. I'm glad you resisted, son.
"So am I," I muttered under my breath. I knew he heard me anyway. He chuckled, slapped me on the back and headed back upstairs to the master suite.
"Hey, Carlisle, note the time, I called after him. "I think I'm the first one back, so I guess I'll win the contest."
I decided to go back out and check on Charlie's house while waiting for my siblings to return. I ran over to the Swan residence. I heard their heartbeats and their breathing and knew the chief and his daughter were both asleep. I snuck in the back door. Her scent permeated the kitchen. My throat burned despite the blood I had gorged on earlier. I knew from the books I would get used to the burn, even learn to ignore it, and that Bella was worth the effort and the pain. I found the laundry room and saw two of her outfits in the dirty clothes hamper. Trying not to think of how this would look to a third party, I grabbed one of her dirty socks, thrusting it into my pocket. I then fled back outside. I dashed into the woods, relieved to inhale the fresh air. I gave myself one clean break, before resigning myself to self-torture.
As I walked toward my house, I held the sock to my nose, inhaling deeply, forcing myself to become desensitized to her mouth-watering aroma. I decided not to go back inside the house. I perched in a tree instead, with a good view of the house, so I could watch for the return of my brothers and sisters. I continued to punish myself with her scent, forcing myself to learn to ignore it as I contemplated all the things I had learned about my Bella. Frankly, I was awestruck. A beautiful, innocent, intelligent, selfless human woman loved me, or would anyway. She saw me as an angel, instead of a monster. She was willing to give up everything to spend forever with me. No wasting precious time with regrets. The big question was: how to approach her? I sat in the tree for hours, considering and rejecting different scenarios. Finally, I decided I just had to see her face. The burn in my throat was painful, but manageable. I had gotten used to its constant presence for the past few hours.
I jumped down from the tree, maintaining the sock's proximity to my nose. I briefly pondered the fact that all my siblings had yet to return. I mentally shrugged. My goal had been to make sure none of them were thirsty tomorrow for Bella's first day of school. I was quickly outside the Swan residence staring up at her bedroom window. It was wide open! Why would her window be open in the middle of winter? I tucked the sock back into my pocket and leapt up to her windowsill. She was sitting up in her bed reading. I gasped as I recognized the title and noticed three other books stacked on her bedside table. She looked up at the sound. Our eyes met, and I was lost.