It's not personal. That's why she doesn't say goodbye: if she told him, if he knew why she's leaving, the way she's leaving, that she's leaving, he'd blame himself. He'd think he fell short somewhere, like he could have avoided it, like he could fix his shortcomings, whatever they were, if she gave him a second chance.
He'd be wrong. It's not personal: it's her choice, one she made long before she had a ring on her finger, years before even the first time she mispronounced his name. She had a baby to give up and a pathetically clingy, hypocritically self-righteous douchebag to shake off, and a hundred theories to study and test and prove, and she decided that, more than anything else, what she wanted was to know. If something was the love of her life, it was finding out the truth about the creatures described in the old Gilbert journals, about those real-life vampires she knew existed, were out there, just a blink out of her reach.
There was, however, a number of activities and emotions her research was, of course, no good for. When it came down to them, Rick was, though not the love of her life, the next best thing.
Young is the best word for them, for the life they had together. They were young when they met, when they became friends, when they got married. They were young when they grew apart, and Isobel has only to look in the mirror to remember just how young they were when she left him.
They met in a Civil War class, of all things, that she was taking for fun and he was taking as a part of his major. He was interested, of course, or she would never have partnered up with him. They were just coming at it from different angles, that was all, looking for different things. The details she wanted wouldn't even be covered by the lectures, but she needed the base.
He wasn't a believer, and she knew that from the beginning, but he always believed in her. It's predictable, almost, then, that he only gives wholehearted credit to her theories once she becomes the object of them.
They were young, but they were never stupid. Every step they took, even the ones that seemed crazy, especially the ones that seemed crazy to everybody else, was premeditated and thought out and perfectly reasonable as long as you didn't measure it on a couple-based scale. The step she'd been told not to go through with the most was maybe the easiest decision of her life: she could afford a roomier, less stuffy and remote place if she moved in with Rick, so they picked a one-bedroom apartment just off campus as soon as Isobel's roommate moved out. That they'd only been dating for three months didn't make it any less pragmatic. A danger to their relationship, sure, but not an unwelcome one.
In a way, the only reason it was hard to believe she and Rick had considered things like money when they did things like get engaged was the way Rick looked at her, the way he'd sometimes catch her eye across a room and hold her gaze and she'd excuse herself and follow him out a minute later. Everyone thought they were a little too in love with each other not to let that cloud their judgment.
It didn't. It truly, honestly didn't. Isobel had always been a private person for show, someone who kept to herself in the middle of everything, only pretending to be thinking of something else, someone else, somewhere else. Two weeks after meeting Rick, she was talking to a Psychology major slash part-time lingerie model at a party, this beautiful girl with a delicious French accent and breasts so perfect they'd already caused two separate frat boys to walk into closed doors, and she found herself wondering if it would be bizarre to call Rick and tell him where to find a spare key to her apartment so he could let himself in and be there when she got back. Alaina'd gone home for the weekend, and Isobel had just finished a paper that'd consumed her time and energy for the better part of a month. She'd been holed up in her apartment for most of it, and yet all she wanted now was to do it again, with Rick this time, stay in and not resurface until Monday at the earliest.
She hadn't honestly been a private person until she'd crashed on Rick's couch one night and moved to his bed halfway through. They hadn't done anything but sleep, not before morning, but it had been the most peaceful Isobel had felt in nearly a decade. It was a stability that, to her surprised, she genuinely liked. If that made her boring or prematurely domestic, well, she'd given up a baby and shaken off a douchebag and promised to herself she'd one day become something nobody she knew now would ever suspect, and that tipped the balance to her favor, even if nobody else was aware of it.
(She always planned to vanish one day, suddenly. They'd remember her.)
She never quite figures out what drew Rick to her. She wouldn't go as far as to say she wasn't his type; she firmly believed she was everybody's type, whether they admitted it or not. She was a fantasy: sullen and mean and selfish, carrying that aura of unachievableness even once she left high school behind.
But there was something else, for Rick. He saw the curiosity, the hunger for answers, the purpose. He was more reactive when she was grounded and present than when she acted aloof and mysterious. She wasn't just his high school fantasy; she might have been that, too, but not exclusively. She thinks she would've told him, when she turns, if it'd been just that. Of course, she wouldn't have married him if that had been all he saw in her, and there'd be no husband to miss her, no husband desperate to solve the mystery of her disappearance.
It would be a lie to say she doesn't like it, how determined he is to figure out what happened to her. Truth be told, he wasn't the best lover she'd had, not even counting only those in her human lifetime, but he was in love, and that was different. Better, she supposes, in a way, regardless of the reasons he might have had to fall for her. There was an energy there, under the more common lust, and it's the same energy he puts into constantly bothering the police, into going through her documents, her research, into taking the case in his own hands. Protectiveness, loyalty, all tinted with a carefully possessive touch. She remembers it, buried under her new layers of non-humanity, remembers the way that energy felt when it poured out of his hands and into her skin. Remembers feeling it, too, remembers—and decides to stop remembering.
She comes back again, after she gets the hunger under control and learns how to shed every other kind of pain, how to bury it. She can't be conspicuous, run the risk of being recognized by anyone who knows—thinks—she's dead, but she's curious about how he's doing without her. She doesn't chalk her curiosity up to anything; she knows she'd never end if she tried.
The first time, she doesn't even see him. She just sits in his car, looking at the lit window in her old bedroom until it goes dark, wondering if she's strong enough to compel him into letting her in, good enough to leave no memory of it, no loopholes, no hints.
The second time, she interferes. By sheer luck, she watches him throw the ring she gave him out his car window after a presumably useless visit to the police station. She fishes it out of a dirty, private lawn and leaves it in his mailbox. She adds the mystery of how it got there to his list, not knowing there is a list until much, much later than she would ever admit.
After that, there is a string of moments where she comes dangerously close to destroying her cover, where she hangs around and watches him and thinks about trying it now, trying compulsion on him, getting a last taste of what she's given up to be who she is now.
She never does, and the urge only fades when she feeds, when there are worse things she needs to push down and forget. It's what she wanted, being this person, this creature, and it's in her hands now, this life that always seemed impossible to learn the existence of, let alone prove. It doesn't matter, then, that it's Rick who's out of reach now: he was never what mattered most, never as important as what she's finally achieved.
It doesn't matter, not at all, because he was never the love of her human life, and her life since she turned doesn't deserve one.