2. Because Moving Hurts

We’d never lived in Ithaca. New York State, yes, on two other occasions. There had been Rochester, when Carlisle had stupidly rescued the town darling, hoping that Rosalie Hale would become my Esme. That had not turned out all well; although even I had to admit that our family would be less than complete without Rose and Emmett. Then after the last time we’d left the Olympic Peninsula, we had moved to Oneida Lake, just outside of Syracuse. That had been our most beautiful house by far—it was three stories tall and Esme had spent weeks tearing out the walls of the house and replacing huge sections with glass, until we had a fully unobstructed view across the lake. I could leap from my bedroom into the water—a glorious, forty-foot dive that was absolutely exhilarating.

The house here was gorgeous and old—Esme’s favorite kind to work with. It was on the national register of historic buildings, having been built around the time Carlisle was born. Yet it had been unoccupied when we’d arrived, and no one was taking care of it. Esme had fallen in love, and Carlisle had gone to the negotiating table with his checkbook open. He felt bad for making her move. That, and he would do anything for her.

Well, almost anything.

The afternoon after Bella’s party, while she had been at work, I had met my father in his study and told him firmly that our family had to leave. He’d looked up at me with an expression of defeat. I thought that this might be your reaction.

“Do you have any idea what that will do to Bella?” he whispered, standing up from his desk and approaching me cautiously.

Did he really think I was so stupid as to have not considered that? “She’s human. Her memory is like a sieve. She’ll get over me, just like every other heartbroken teenage girl.” The words tore at me. Bella was nothing like other teenage girls. That I’d even made the comparison was insulting to us both. I knew I would hurt her. And she would stay hurt for a long time; I had no doubts about that. But she was undeniably human—wasn’t that the point of keeping her away from us to begin with?—and she would eventually get over me. Especially if I never, ever, set foot in her life again, which was exactly what I had in mind.

Carlisle’s gaze was hard. Just to be on the safe side we’d all hunted before Bella’s party, but his eyes, while golden, were absolutely on fire. I’m not that worried about Bella, he conceded. He agreed with me that she would probably recover, eventually. Edward, you are my son. I can’t bear to see what you’ll be like without her.

I swallowed, but met his eyes. “I’ll be fine.”

My father’s brow furrowed. “I don’t believe that.” He straightened and put his hands on my shoulders, but I flinched away, glancing up at him quickly to see the shock and immediate worry I heard in his thoughts flash across his face.

“If your presence was putting Esme in danger…”

I can’t realistically consider that.

“But you would leave her.”

His face twisted, his eyes filling with pain. From his mind I plucked his image of himself, sitting alone in his study, his head in his hands, with a medical book open before him that couldn’t hold his attention. I could see that he was tortured by despair so deep that it had rendered everything else in his life meaningless. He’d quit his job. He’d been locked in the study for days. Everything about him, or rather, about his projection of himself, absolutely exuded misery. I understood immediately and felt my fury begin to burn.

My voice came out unexpectedly low, almost a growl. “You wouldn’t leave her,” I said in disbelief. “Even if she was in danger.” I could feel the rage starting to boil. I had expected Carlisle, my selfless, giving father, to understand. He would give his immortal life for Esme in an instant. How could he not choose as I was choosing? “Even if you were the reason she was in danger!”

Your presence—our presence—is not putting Bella in danger. His mind darted quickly to James, and then to the burning dance studio. In fact, you might be putting her in more danger without us…

“Did you miss the part where Jasper almost killed her?” I hissed.

His memory flashed before me: Jasper lunging at Bella; me, leaping between them to knock my brother off his trajectory and simultaneously throwing Bella backwards into the pile of plates. If I hadn’t seen Jasper’s intention a second before he attacked, I’d never have stopped him in time. In Carlisle’s mind, I heard the snap of Jasper’s teeth at my shoulder, saw the bloom of Bella’s blood as it began to soak the floor, and watched myself crouch low in front of Bella, growling at my family, until Emmett had Jasper properly restrained.

“I don’t miss things, Edward,” Carlisle said evenly.

I crossed my arms over my chest. “Then you know we have to go.”

Carlisle drew a deep breath and exhaled slowly. It was a habit of his, picked up during almost four centuries of perfecting his human charade. The mask was effortless for him now; I envied him that. “Why don’t you think this over,” he’d said gently. “I’m not saying no. But please don’t do this to her based on half a day’s consideration. Go over to Bella’s. Spend the night. If you still feel this way tomorrow morning, we’ll leave with you.”

I hated to disobey Carlisle, but I did so that night when I told Bella I wouldn’t stay. I spent the night running at full speed through the forest, finally choosing at nearly two AM to run up Mount Olympus. I took out a black bear that I accidentally startled out of her sleep on my way to the top, my feet finding purchase on the glaciers where her paws did not. But feeding gave me no solace. Finally standing on the summit beneath the brilliance of the Milky Way, I could see all the way to Seattle. Bella and I had never made our trip there, and we never would. For as the wind whipped past me on the frozen mountain, I made up my mind. I would be stronger than my father. I would endure whatever pain I had to in order to keep Bella safe.

If being trapped as a monster for all eternity wasn’t hell, then being trapped as a monster with parents certainly had to qualify. It didn’t help that the Ithaca house was much smaller than the one in Forks; there were only three bedrooms plus Carlisle’s study. When Emmett and Rosalie returned from their latest honeymoon, Carlisle and Esme planned to buy a second house for them. Maybe I could move there.

Somewhere, deep down, I knew my parents were trying to help. I could hear the worry in their thoughts, although they tried valiantly to keep it from me. But I really just wanted to be left alone and they weren’t having it. Esme’s favorite game was to have me serve as her personal scaffolding and hold her up while she refurbished the crown moldings and the ceiling embellishments throughout the house. Her line of thinking seemed to be that if she could somehow keep me busy enough, I wouldn’t think of Forks and Bella and the life that I had summarily tossed in a dumpster. As though distraction was going to work for a vampire!

Carlisle’s tactics were very different. While he was at home he didn’t try to engage me in conversation, or ask me to help him, or do anything overt. But it had only taken me a few hours to notice that he kept eerily showing up wherever I was. If I was sitting on the couch in the living room, he would appear in one of the chairs. If I went to his study, he would suddenly and inexplicably need to read a book from his collection. The only respite I had was my bedroom, and even when I was in there either he or Esme seemed to find reason to walk past my door periodically. So I had taken to seeking out spaces where we couldn’t both fit.

The house, by virtue of its age, had many dark corners. My favorite was the turn of the main stair—the staircase made an almost 90-degree shift halfway up, leaving a corner shrouded in shadows no matter how desperately Esme tried to light it (and she tried relentlessly, especially after I claimed the spot). I sat there a lot, wedged between the radiator and the wall, contemplating the deep pain gnawing at my chest. It was as though someone had taken a knife and sawed out a chunk of me, throwing it where I would never find it. I spent hours crouched against the staircase, willing the pain to either consume me or to go away. It did neither, instead licking at me like a flame that refused to reduce me to cinder, preferring to keep me smoldering slowly to maximize its effect.

Bella. Bella. Bella, chanted my mind as I laid my cheek against the radiator. My heroic effort at normalcy was fading fast; I could no longer stop myself from thinking her name. At first I’d been able to stand being with my family, and I’d even gone hunting in the White Mountains with my brothers two weeks after we’d arrived. It had at first been almost normal, almost joyous watching them hunt. Emmett with his usual lack of decorum, playing with the bear he found. Jasper was quicker, more precise, but still gleeful as he bounded after his prey. I had killed two bobcats and a moose in quick succession, and then sat on a rock to watch my brothers hunt.

I had never felt more separate from them. They were good about it; they said nothing to me about the move, or about the circumstances that had led to it. Jasper even avoided trying to alter my mental state, though I knew my pain was hurting him immensely. When we’d first arrived in Ithaca, I had felt calm in his presence for exactly thirty seconds before I asked him to please leave me be. He had done so, even though I could hear in his thoughts that he hated to leave me in such a state.

My sisters were a different story. Rosalie looked on me with pity, yes, but also with an air of self-satisfaction. She had never given up thinking that my relationship with Bella was bad for us both, and she was delighted to see me do something so rational in leaving her. She thought that our departure would bring her family back together the way she had liked it. Her quiet, inward gloating had been uncomfortable to take for the two weeks before she and Emmett left for Europe.

Alice wasn’t angry with me per se, and she would never show anything other than sororal affection for me in my current state. Nevertheless, I knew she was hurt by having to leave Bella without so much as a goodbye and worried about the swath of despair in which I had left her best friend. This had come to a head when I asked her to go shopping for me—my clothes were absolutely saturated with Bella’s scent, and there was no laundry detergent that would rid them of the smell thoroughly enough for the nose of a vampire. She shocked me with her polite refusal, telling me aloud that she thought it might be good for me to keep them. But I had plucked the angrier thought behind her words from her mind: You made this bed, Edward, and you might just have to lie in it.

I burned my entire wardrobe in a bonfire behind the house.

Thus I sat, crouched in the darkness under the stairs like the demon I was, dressed in a pair of jeans and a sweatshirt that I had taken from my father’s closet. My resistance was wearing away with every passing second. A month ago, it had been much more bearable. My thoughts of Bella had been abstract, unfocused. I’d been able to think of her smile, convince myself that she was happier without me, or at least that she would be. I had been able to imagine her with the friends from Forks High: Jessica and Angela taking her shopping for dance dresses; Mike and Tyler overjoyed that freaky Edward Cullen had finally let go of his hold. But as the days wore on, I had spiraled into more and more specifics—the perfect beauty of her face in sleep, the first time we had kissed, her unfailing and undeserved trust in me. And worse thoughts still: her face, looking up at me that night in the woods, the last word I’d heard in my love’s voice: Wait!

It was agony. The gap within me yawed wide and I felt dizzy with pain, accidentally allowing a moan to slip from my lips. Mistake. Esme appeared in the split second it took me to stifle the sound, her face twisted with concern. She knelt beside me, her hands cupping my face.

“Edward,” she murmured. “Edward, please talk to me.” I don’t know what to do anymore. I can’t stand this any longer. Edward, please, please say something. Maybe I should get Carlisle…

Oh, no. The last thing I needed was an in-person reminder of how much I was letting down my father. I pulled away, at the same time registering the shock and hurt that welled from my mother’s mind. I knew she wanted me to be happy. I knew that I was hurting her. I felt sick. Was there anyone I cared about that I wasn’t making absolutely miserable right now?

As if to answer my question, Jasper and Alice appeared on the stairwell. Jasper’s expression, too, was straining with my despair. This was absurd.

I did the only thing I could do: I banished myself to my room. Brushing past first Esme, who let out a little sigh of sadness, and then Jasper and Alice, I achieved my new couch in an instant. It was black leather, like the one I’d had in Forks. I lay down on my side and curled up as small as I could manage. The gap inside me slashed itself further open, a monster delighted that I was finally giving in.

Bella swam in my mind; not happy Bella, not the Bella that I could force myself to conjure a month ago. Bella on that awful afternoon, in the woods behind her house. For once I had been glad that she was the exception to my gift. Her anguish was written on her face, and that alone was torture enough.

Her hesitating, stammering voice: You don’t want me?

And my own response: No.

As though there had ever been anything that anyone, ever in the history of all time had wanted more. I wanted her so badly that I could hardly manage to keep upright knowing that she was out there and not with me. What a liar I was. What a monster I was. Her face then was burned into my memory; I saw it every time I closed my eyes. Her shock, her dismay—and my own hurt at realizing that she believed me. How could she have believed me? Thousands of times I had told her she was the very center of my universe and still she believed me?

I clutched at the couch with one hand, my fingernails slicing deep lines in the leather. “Bella, I was lying,” I whispered to the darkness, becoming still as I allowed the pain to take me victim.

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