Allegro Ma Non Tanto

Barre, VT
1931

The spring rain pounded the earth, churning dirt into mud and releasing the scent of freshly mown grass into the air. Mud, water, leaves, and grass spattered onto Edward’s body as he ran, and he smiled. Dirtied from the bottom up as he was cleansed from the top down. Given the reason he was running in the first place, it made perfect sense.

He had been running now for two days—cutting a wide swath through the cornfields of first Illinois, then Indiana, then Ohio, winding his way around the hulking steel mills of West Virginia and Pennsylvania. He wasn’t entirely sure returning had been a conscious decision—had it been, he might have taken the train. But instead he was running. His body had simply pointed him toward Vermont, and his feet had moved to carry him there.

He didn’t even know if they would still be there. They might have needed to move on already—the three of them had passed six years together in the claustrophobic house before that awful evening. It had been raining then, too. Unconsciously, Edward’s hand lifted to his nose, and he touched it carefully with his fingertips as he ran. It was still there on his face, unbroken as ever. The pain and the injury both had subsided after a mere hour, and that had been three years ago. But the sensation of the heel of Carlisle’s hand smashing upward into his face, the keening sound of both of them crying out in pain—these things swam in his memory and refused to heal.

Childish and stupid. All of it. The arguments, the fight, his departure. The ensuing three years. Time after time he had written letters, only to find that words could not convey his shame. Wad after wad of paper found their way into garbage cans—in Toronto, in New York, in Dallas, in San Francisco. Letters which amounted to little more than trite monologues of self-loathing, and whose disposals were invariably followed by the next kill. But the blood had been less and less satisfying each time.

Edward’s legs carried him ever so less surely than they had a few months ago. His speed was not what it had been. This would be part of his penance—to remember forever the incredible strength and speed given to him by the blood of the humans whose lives he had cut short. He would know always—with each stride he took for the rest of existence—that he was forever weaker for his choice to return.

He wondered absently what he looked like, aside from being wet. He hadn’t fed. He didn’t want them to see him first with eyes that had not yet regained their gold hue. It was better to be hungry; better to keep the onyx color that they all shared then, regardless of diet. How long would it take for them to change back? He wanted his countenance to shift quickly back to what it had been back when he had been happy. When immortality had seemed to be a gift rather than a burden. He had never seen the change happen to someone who was returning to the diet—he had no idea when his irises would reclaim their once-golden hue.

His thighs pumped beneath him as though of their own accord, the pelting rain caressing his face where it would have stung a human’s. The questions of where they would be, how they would respond to him, those would answer themselves later—for now, it was enough simply to run.

Ashland, WI
1921

Edward was three-quarters of the way through a Chopin Nocturne when the door crashed open and his father entered. For a moment he didn’t understand the strange silhouette—it was so incredibly unexpected that even his vampire senses took a good second to register the broken body in Carlisle’s arms.

He loved Carlisle, if he let himself admit it. The man had, at first, seemed so godlike, so assured, so wise and even. Nothing like Edward Masen, Sr. the man from whom Edward had inherited his volatile temper. Edward knew the purity of the blond doctor’s mind; how desperate he had been for something as seemingly inconsequential as friendship. So he had played the roles that Carlisle had needed him to play—friend, brother, and finally, son.

Edward had seen the woman in Carlisle’s memories—the caramel-haired tomboy who had bravely kept herself from crying even when Carlisle had yanked her grossly disfigured leg back into position. He, too, remembered the way she had smiled up at him, and the warm, but confused feelings he’d experienced. She had clearly struck a chord in the still heart of an immortal man, but Edward never bothered to give her memory much thought. That was, until the day she was brought to the small house in Ashland, writhing in the arms of the man Edward had slowly grown to adore.

He supposed he had been naïve to think that he was enough. They shared a wonderful friendship, but it was a friendship. It only made sense that once Carlisle learned that it was possible to bring others to the lifestyle he’d created for himself, he would seek out someone who could comfort him as a mate.

But it still took Edward by surprise.

“You had no right!” he screamed when Carlisle offered a contrite explanation for his actions, realizing only as he saw Carlisle’s desperate expression that he was speaking not only for the woman who lay in squirming in such obvious pain, but for himself, as well.

Carlisle, being the man he was, did not fight the accusation.  For three days they circled each other warily, Carlisle tending to her, Edward nursing his wounded ego. Up to this point, he had been Carlisle’s entire world. They had left Chicago in the height of the flu epidemic when Carlisle relocated them both into the deep woods of northern Illinois. They hunted together and laughed together. Edward adjusted to his new body and its immeasurable endurance and skill.

He pretended that he had adjusted to the loss of his parents.

He pretended that he had adjusted to the loss of his life.

They never returned to Chicago, instead travelling northward, to the town of Ashland. And while outside their home he lived as Carlisle’s brother, inside their home they gradually grew as father and son.  It was comfortable. Carlisle was unbelievably happy, and that was enough for Edward. He thought it was enough for Carlisle, too, until the day the door creaked open and Carlisle entered carrying the jerking body.

“I knew her, Edward,” he pleaded. “I knew her…she was happy once.” He stroked her face as he spoke, his eyes half-closed with a tenderness Edward had never seen. And three days later, when the woman awoke and fixed her own half-closed eyes on Carlisle’s face, Edward lost his father for the second time in three years.

Rochester, NY
1931

Edward threw his entire body into the opening chords of the Prelude in C Sharp Minor. Rachmaninoff was nothing like the Mozart, Bach, and Chopin he’d been brought up on. The music had a dark power that struck him somewhere deep. He would say it was within his soul, but if even Carlisle was right and he’d somehow retained his soul in the Change, he doubted it still existed now.

Three hundred and seventy-seven. That was the number he would bear the rest of his existence, burned into his mind as were so many other memories. He could still taste the blood of each and every one of them. Number twenty-nine, the one whose daughter’s thoughts Edward had heard as he beat her with his belt. His blood had been acidic, hard on the palate, and Edward might have gagged had he not been so thirsty. Number one hundred forty-four, broken by the market crash, who had stolen all the money his wife needed to raise their three young children and blown most of it on craps before stumbling drunkenly down the street to the brothel. His blood had carried with it the sharp sour of the bootlegged whiskey. Number two hundred twelve, the mother who’d smothered the baby she felt she couldn’t afford to raise. Her blood had been sweet—ready to nourish the baby that she instead condemned to death.

All of them were there, their twisted souls screaming at him from the minor seventh chords, the sensation of their blood in his throat trickling down through the glissandos. Each time he began a new piece, he held hope that when he finished, they would stop screaming, their terrified faces would disappear, and his memory of his own crimson-eyed visage would fade. It didn’t happen, instead each concerto and sonata left him emptier than the last.

And so he kept playing.

He rocked forward over the keys, trying to think of anything else as he looked down at his fingers. His mother had always commented on his long fingers. Elizabeth Masen, with her dark red hair and soft green eyes—she had loved to hold his hands and to watch as his fingers flew over the keyboard of the aging instrument that sat in their family’s parlor. It had been why she had taken him to piano lessons beginning when he was eight—his long fingers would make him nimble on the keys. He remembered her gentle smile when he had waggled his fingers inches from her nose, the sound of her laughter as she pushed his hand playfully away. That sharp memory, one of a few he had left, was only a slice. Where the two of them had been, he didn’t know, and what had happened after that moment had long since faded into the abyss that had been Edward’s human brain. The memories slipped away more quickly with each passing year. He was thirty now, trapped for all eternity in the gangly body he’d occupied at seventeen, still the too-tall boy with the girlish face—and the long fingers.

He played for hours at a stretch now, his hands hammering out pounding songs. Always  minor keys, never the gentle Schumann and Chopin that he knew Carlisle and Esme longed to hear. One or the other would sometimes come into the front parlor and listen attentively, as though Edward might break from his playing to acknowledge them or talk about the time he’d been gone, but he never did. Instead he let Esme and Carlisle drift around him, their worries humming in his mind like a disjointed counterpoint to the pulsing chords.

But he did nothing about their thoughts, instead staying seated at the Bösendorfer they had bought him, playing loudly, quietly, quickly, slowly, as though the music would exorcise him of the demon he now knew for sure resided within him. Expansive concertos and short minuets rang in the stale air, and the long fingers his mother had loved so much flew frantically over the keys again and again.

Barre, VT
1927

Barre, Vermont was a small town, and the doctor and his wife and “brother-in-law” slid inconspicuously among the locals. The land was pastoral and bountiful, covered mostly with dairy farms. It was a far cry from Chicago, and perhaps the difference was an appropriate metaphor. The city of his birth and the life he had lived there were slipping from his memory with each passing year.

And yet, the less he remembered, the more he missed.

Most afternoons, Edward found himself at the train station. Carlisle, ever the intellectual, had other ideas about how Edward should spend his time—after nine years, he felt strongly that Edward’s self-control was more than adequate to handle university. Edward had long since devoured every book that the doctor had amassed over his two centuries of life, and although Carlisle would have had more volumes shipped in by the truckload if asked, Edward never did. Nor was he willing to head off to any of the wonderful institutes of higher education that New England had to offer. Instead, he made his way each afternoon to the familiar worn wood of the train platforms, seeking out a shadowed spot on the rare sunny days, and just sitting with his back against the small ticketing building on the others.

Hours disappeared as he watched both freight and passenger trains chugging to a halt and restarting again, belching steam into the sky in billows of white smoke that, when inhaled, made Edward feel like he was underwater. He sat there, breathing in the wet, warm air and wondering what would happen if he simply swung himself up into one of the boxcars as it stopped. Would chug away with him? And if it did, would he somehow find himself taken, not only out of Barre, but out of his life entirely? Every time a train pulled to a stop, for a brief, almost undetectable moment, he would feel his muscles seize as though preparing to launch him toward it. He didn’t know where the trains that left Barre were going, and he found he didn’t care. Further north into New Hampshire and Maine? Across the Midwest and into Chicago? The possibilities seemed endless.

Edward pressed his back to the cold stone wall, wrapping his arms around his legs and pressing his chin to his knees. He and Carlisle had bickered again over nothing. His eyes had been dark in the morning, and Carlisle had suggested that they hunt together when he returned from work. The snide remark had slid through his lips before he had managed to reign it in:

“Why don’t you just hunt with her?”

He wished he could take it back. The hurt that had poured off Carlisle hit Edward at his core. It was infantile, really, and although a part of Edward knew this, he continued to make remarks as though he were a petulant child even six years after Esme had joined them. It wasn’t fair to her, either. Esme loved Edward as much as she loved Carlisle, and she couldn’t bear to see them arguing. And so Edward had begun making it a point simply to leave.

Footsteps behind him drew Edward’s eyes upward, and he watched with disinterest as a man and a woman approached. The man was tall, his face obscured by the shadow of the brim of his hat. The woman was petite and attractive, with dark red hair, like his mother’s. Or at least, as much like his mother’s as Edward could remember.

I wish he didn’t have to leave, thought the woman wistfully. For a moment Edward saw a flash of her memory—they had not been married long. He was headed for New York City for several weeks, and she was not looking forward to her mother coming to stay. She was even less excited about spending the next two nights alone before her mother would arrive. The woman stared up at her husband, her eyes filled with adoration and love.

Edward averted his gaze as the couple shared a kiss—a polite kiss, appropriate for being in public, but still full of passion. He looked away. Perhaps it was the woman’s hair, or perhaps it was simply the sadness that had overtaken him of late, but he found that watching the couple was like watching Carlisle and Esme, both with his eyes and with his mind. He knew these two who called themselves his parents as well as they knew each other; there were no secrets which could be held from him. In Esme’s mind, he had seen the angular slope of Carlisle’s bare hip; in Carlisle’s he had seen the dark pink of Esme’s nipples. Unable to block their thoughts, Edward had been a part of their lovemaking time and time again.

It made him feel ill.

So he escaped, every day, to the place where Barre met the rest of the world, a world where lovers weren’t perfectly matched for all eternity. To a world without the overly gentle man who had been Edward’s guide but whose attention was now too scattered to even wonder where Edward disappeared to every afternoon. And he looked away from these strangers who shared a love he didn’t know, trying to give them privacy that he really wasn’t able to offer.

The man’s hat tipped forward as he pressed his lips to his wife’s once more, and the train’s whistle blasted. The woman wished him goodbye with a smile on her face, and her palm delicately stroked his temple as she pushed the brim of his hat back into place. Edward could hear her heart pounding as their hands slipped from each other’s.

Wheels creaked, the train chugged slowly forward, and the woman’s hand began waving frantically as her husband’s figure moved away. Edward continued to watch her husband after he was out of her sight—he was still waving, even after he knew his wife could no longer see him.

As the train gathered speed, the woman finally dropped her hand and turned, her gaze landing on Edward in his hunched position against the ticketing building. For a moment, the soft eyes that had been fixed on her husband were fixed on Edward instead. They brimmed with tears, but she did her best to stem the flow as her eyes fell on him.

He is alone, she thought to herself. You are not alone. Tom will be back before you know it.

Resolutely, she drew herself upward, wiped her eyes with the back of one pale wrist and smiled at Edward—a tiny smile, one still shaking with the probable onset of a fresh round of tears. Then she turned to walk away from the station, back to the taxicab driver who her husband had instructed firmly to wait for his wife’s departure. She gave Edward one last, long look before she disappeared, and her red hair fanned out from her face as she gave him the same sad smile that had once been given to him by Elizabeth Masen. Then, in a flurry of linen and cotton, the beautiful woman who reminded Edward of his mother turned and was gone.

It took him only a fraction of a second to follow.

Forward

§ 6 Responses to Allegro Ma Non Tanto"

  • Tennyo says:

    What a pretty site!

    And I love this story already. The third person (such a relief, I’m so tired of first person, even in the most excellent fics), the characterization! And I especially like the way you are weaving the story to show what led to Edward’s leaving-that it wasn’t sudden, and in fact was a long time coming.

    Looking forward to more!

    • giselle says:

      Hah! You are SOO not the only person tired of first person. I haven’t written anything in first since I closed IiG, and it’s been refreshing. I’m so glad to hear you enjoy it so far. When Anjie gave me the prompt, it was very wide open and I went, “You know, I think the real story to be told there is how did it happen, and what happened when he came back.” She said it sounded good and I ran with it. Thank you for the feedback as always. And I’m glad you like the site.

  • twitina says:

    You have blown me away. I knew I would love this, but I couldn’t even imagine how beautiful it would be.

    I love the jealousy, Esme’s love for Edward – even when he wouldn’t love her back, and the set up for more.

    I’m going to have to read this again tomorrow…when I can think past my allergies!

    • giselle says:

      Aww, poor allergies. But I’m tickled to hear you enjoyed it. Building this whole thing between Edward and Esme has been a real treat in the writing.

  • belli486 says:

    I just love the beautiful literary stories you weave, Jessi. Having often thought of Edward’s departure and subsequent return to the Cullen Coven as a mirror image of the Prodigal son, I am happy that you have undertaken to bring this time in Edward’s life alive for us.

    The beginning is so breathtakingly beautiful, the imagery, the angst, the loneliness and grappling with all the lives he took while estranged from Carlisle and Esme. It never ceases to amaze me how you best yourself, again and again with the lyrically poetic stories that come from your creative and talented mind.

    Bravo! Another well-told story.

    • giselle says:

      Thank you, Bev! This comment makes me so happy. I was talking to kitt last night about the Edward/Prodigal son analogy, because of course, to extend that analogy makes Carlisle’s forgiveness of divine proportions, which I had never really thought about fully.

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