Suddenly I know I'm not sleeping.
Hello, I'm still here.
All That's left of yesterday.
"Hello" - Evanescence
I slammed my locker shut and adjusted the hem of my favorite cornflower blue blouse. It hung loosely over the same faded jeans I'd been wearing for two years now. During lunch, Jessica had made a sneering comment about how "anorexic" I looked. Normally I'd know better than to take anything Jessica Stanley said to heart but after peeking at my reflection in the girls' restroom, I started to wonder if I really did look unhealthy. I'd always been thin but not wiry or athletic, just soft. Weak.
Tears began to sting in the backs of my eyes the way they did when I was angry and I quickly shoved my books in my backpack. Someone called my name at that exact moment and I didn't want to be seen with tears streaming down my face. That would be humiliating.
I turned to see Angela walking towards me from her history class. She hesitated a few feet away. "Are you okay?" she inquired, her eyebrows set in a worried crease. "You look a bit down."
I should have been grateful that she wasn't Jessica but Angela, for all her sweetness and honesty, was a lot more perceptive. And sometimes I got tired of lying. The fact that she was kind and quite possibly the only person I'd allowed myself to get close to since coming here made me feel even worse about having to do it.
"Yeah, I'm just tired. I had two exams today and a project due yesterday."
Angela nodded slowly, probably assessing the circles under my eyes from sleepless nights. Of course, those were due to the nightmares I had, not homework overload.
"It's been a busy week for me too," she said gently. "Do you want to go get something to eat at the diner?"
I shrugged my backpack over one shoulder and tried to sound less pathetic. "Umm... I'd love to but I need to stop by the store." I really did need to stock up on groceries at the Thriftway so at least that wasn't a lie.
"Okay. Another time then?" Angela smiled when I nodded and headed for the double doors at the end of the hallway.
I sighed, watching her leave, mentally kicking myself but also knowing it was necessary. Once you let someone in, you can't get out without hurting them or being hurt yourself. It wouldn't make a difference to me but Angela didn't deserve that.
After stocking up on ingredients for next week's dinner menu, I drove back to Charlie's house. It wasn't raining but my truck was engulfed in a thin layer of fog. As I pulled into Charlie's driveway, the cell phone Mom gave me for my birthday started ringing. Because she was usually the only one who called that phone, I assumed it was her. But Jacob's husky voice greeted me instead.
"Hey, Bells. What's up?"
I sat back in the seat, shivering as I twisted the key out of the ignition, thus cutting off the soothing heat inside. "Hi, Jake. Umm... not much. How are you?"
"Fine. A little bored. Do you want to hang out this weekend?"
I chewed on my bottom lip. Going to La Push didn't sound so bad... it might even be comforting, seeing Jacob and Billy again; it had been awhile. But I felt anxious at the thought of his Jacob's other friends being there... especially Leah Clearwater. On the few occasions that I'd seen her, I'd gotten the feeling that she saw me as a nuisance. It made me nervous.
"Umm..." I deliberated, staring out the windshield at the front of the house.
Jacob cut in before I could decide how to respond. "We could just hang out in the garage or take a walk on the beach. You could even stay for dinner if you want, though my dad isn't as great a cook as you and Emily are." Hearing Jacob's throaty chuckle at the end made me smile. There were rare moments when I could do that.
"Okay, Jake. How's Saturday?" I finally agreed, opening the door and hopping out of the truck.
"Sounds great! I'll see at around 10:00?"
"Awesome! See you later, then."
I snapped the phone shut and went around to get the grocery bags from the passenger side.
During dinner Charlie seemed impressed by my plans to hang out with Jake and it made me feel kind of embarrassed.
"Let me clean up," Charlie volunteered when we were done and I stood to gather the dirty dishes. "You look tired, honey."
"Okay," I replied, not really knowing what he meant; I always looked this way. "Good night, Dad."
"Good night, Baby."
I tried to smile as I paused at the entrance to the living room. He stood with a dishrag in one hand and a plate in the other, looking at me as though he wanted to say more but didn't know if it was the best idea. I really hated that look. It made me incredibly sad and disappointed in myself whenever I saw it in his face... and my mom's. It was that look that said, "I wish you trusted me enough to tell me what's wrong." I quickly turned towards the stairs.
I'm underwater. There are bubbles and then my head pushes up to the surface of the pool. There are hands wrapped around my waist, keeping me from sinking back down. But I want to. I want to go back under the pristine electric blue water because the hands are too big and hot and dry. They slide over my stomach to the little V of my bathing suit.
It was 4:02 A.M. when I jerked awake, my breathing shallow and heart drumming fast. The glow from the alarm clock on my bedside table revealed that it was still too dark out and that I should have been sleeping because even Chief Swan was still snoring in the other room. But was very difficult to go back to sleep after this. I rolled over on my back and stared up at the ceiling. There was this kind of vibration in my legs, almost like losing my balance, except I was completely still. I tried to take slow breaths in and out to see if my body would calm down.
Jimmy was our neighbor when we lived in Yuba County, California. Renee dated him for a few months but decided they couldn't be more than friends. She let him pick me up from school and dropped me off at his house on the weekends even after they'd broken up. At the time, Renee was taking college courses to get her teaching degree, as well as working for a cleaning company.
Jimmy touched me from the time I was eight years old until I turned eleven. I never told Renee.
Renee was hired as a kindergarten teacher when I was eleven and we moved to West Sacramento. She met Phil three years later and got remarried last summer. Because Phil's job as a minor league baseball player required that he travel often, I decided to let her go with him without worrying about me. Charlie had always been alone after the divorce and I figured it was time I helped him out, seeing as Phil was a great guy and capable of taking care of Mom.
It turned out I'd been right about Charlie needing someone around because he couldn't cook anything besides fried eggs. I didn't think Renee was completely supportive. I'd only spent a limited amount of time with my dad as a kid; a few summers in his hometown of Forks, Washington until I was twelve. Then Charlie flew to California and spent the winter holidays with us instead. But it seemed to be going okay, despite the inevitable awkwardness of sharing one bathroom with my dad and being the police chief's daughter in a tiny, overcast town where the simplest thing was big news. It was only moments when I'd woken up from another nightmare that I'd wonder; who was I fooling?
Alice's screams are what I remember. The sensation of her hands grabbing at me desperately as she was lifted away from me. Her face was shiny with tears as she sobbed my name over and over. I couldn't help her or fight off the monster carrying her away. I was burning.
I stood by the big windows in the living room, silently fighting against the memories threatening to overwhelm me. Sensing my distress, Esme stood by my side with a gentle hand on my shoulder, her touch as comforting as any mother's. I knew without looking that the others were nearby, drawing together to offer their support. My adopted parents and siblings understood how difficult this day was for me. As much as I loved them, I found little solace in their efforts. This day marked five years since Alice was taken.
"We'll find her, Edward," Carlisle said, his voice gently paternal. "There are new searching resources being made available all the time; one of them is bound to pick up something soon."
I kept my eyes on the sky, stained orange and scarlet by the setting sun. The resignation in my voice shamed me. "It's been five years. I can't help thinking that if there were anything to find, it would have turned up by now."
"You can't give up, Edward. Not until we know for sure." Rosalie's voice was soft but steely with conviction. She joined Esme and me at the window, taking my hand in hers with a light squeeze. Her lovely face was determined when I glanced at her, and I did my best to return her smile.
"But we could be searching forever," I whispered. It was difficult for me to confess my deepest fears about finding Alice; I had still never voiced my biggest fear. That the monster who had taken Alice hadn't changed her as he had me. That he had killed her.
"Then that's what we'll do," Emmett declared quietly, his deep voice steadying me. "You know we're all behind you on this, Edward. For as long as it takes."
I turned, looking around the room at the family that had taken me in when I was at my lowest point. They stood, united with me: Carlisle, Esme, Rosalie, Emmett, Jasper, so strong and compassionate. Gratitude flashed through me for their quiet acceptance and support. They had calmed me during the frenzied first year following my change when I struggled against the insatiable newborn thirst. They taught me the ways of our world and how to make the most of this strange life I'd been dragged into. They helped me close out the human chapter of my life with dignity and stood by my side as I searched for my sister.
"Thank you," I murmured with a nod, before turning back to the window and my memories.
Being a vampire isn't all it's cracked up to be. Sure, there are advantages most humans would give their eyeteeth for. We don't age, sicken, or die. We're not hard to look at and there's something about the way we smell that is luscious. We're incredibly strong and fast, and our brains process limitless threads of information at speeds that beat most computers.
Some of us even have extra "gifts" that enable us to do things beyond the realm of "normal" vampire powers. I happen to be able to hear the thoughts of anyone around me. Sometimes that ability feels less like a gift and more like a practical joke that the universe is playing on me.
But there are drawbacks to this life, too, some that might surprise you. We don't sleep. We can't eat human food. Our emotional barometers are painfully heightened and sensitive. A blue day for a vampire is something like one hundred human years of crippling depression.
And there is, of course, the matter of what we can eat. While the concept of subsisting on a diet of human blood is simple, its practice is not easy. One must be ever vigilant and meticulously careful with kills to avoid tipping off both humans and vampires. And if you are among the population of vampires repulsed by killing humans, you wrestle with the moral ramifications of hunting men. We Cullens are members of that small minority, abstaining from human blood in favor of hunting game.
It is the combination of all these factors that presents one issue that can never be permanently addressed in the life of a vampire: avoiding discovery. The most we can hope for is seven to ten years in any one place before the humans begin to notice that something is not quite right. Showing no signs of age, being just too smart at school or jobs... higher than average missing persons reports. Even the most devout animal-eating vampires are known to slip around that human who smells just so.
That need to move on is what brought us to Washington and to Port Angeles in particular. We set up house just outside the city limits in a big house far enough into the woods to discourage casual visitors. In the eyes of those around us, we filled our family roles flawlessly. The Cullen family presented a dazzling front to the world, appearing beautiful, brilliant, and aloof. Carlisle was a surgeon and Esme an architect, their careers alone making them desirable additions to any community. Four foster "children" only served to sweeten the deal, showing a benevolent side behind the glamour. Rarely did anyone suspect that there was more to the family than met the eye. Even those who found us faintly unsettling never guessed the truth; that the doctor, architect, and high school students were, in fact, undead.
I spent most of my hours outside of school at the computer terminals in the library, combing databases and the internet for information about Alice or the vampire that had attacked us. I was often joined by my siblings and Esme, and Carlisle contributed when he found time in between hospital rotations.
After five years of searching without a trace, I had begun to grow discouraged, though I struggled to hide it. I knew that, even with my inexhaustible brain, my emotional state had begun to fray. The best thing for me would have been a hiatus from the search, taking time to recharge. But I couldn't stop. I owed it to Alice to keep searching. I knew without a doubt that in my place Alice would have never stopped until she found me.
Alice and I were young when our parents were killed. We were home from university over Christmas break and my parents had gone out for dinner and dancing. Alice and I watched the Lord of the Rings trilogy over pizza and beer, imitating Frodo and Samwise for laughs. Sometime during our movie marathon, Ed and Liz Masen died on a lonely country road at the hands of a drunk driver.
Many of my hazy human memories have faded over time. But I remember with perfect clarity opening the door to see two police officers bearing terrible news. The sound of Alice's shocked cry as she sagged against me while we listened to the troopers. The feeling that the whole world was sinking inside me, that it was cracked and crashing all over, and that there simply had to be a mistake.
The days that followed were a storm of grief and numbness. Our godparents and neighbors helping us with funeral arrangements and wills we'd never known existed. Rubbing Alice's back while she huddled in her bed crying quietly. The wake, with hundreds of hands to press and sympathetic murmuring voices. The burial, grinding my teeth at the minister's well-meaning but hollow words; God's plan should never have included taking our parents. Watching the sunlight filter through the dirt falling into their graves as Alice and I held on to each other's hands for dear life.
Looking back, I wonder how long he had been watching us. Did he start before our parents died? While we stumbled out of the hospital after identifying their bodies? Was he at the wake, during the evening hours? Lurking somewhere in the church during the service? I wonder if he visited my parents grave after night fell or if he went directly to our house. Perhaps he knew us well enough by then to know that Alice and I would not be sleeping.
Alice and I were sitting on the back sun porch, talking into the night about Mom and Dad. One moment I was cry-laughing at Alice's impression of our father singing and the next, the lights had gone out, a crunch like splintering wood loud in my ears before Alice's pained gasp. And then nothing. Silent stillness painted black.
A searing pain split my head when I opened my eyes again. It was still dark and I felt cold, wet concrete under my face and hands. Somewhere above my head Alice was crying, her voice strained and weary.
"Alice," I croaked out, groggily trying to sit up.
My sister gasped. "Edward! Oh, thank God," she said and began crying harder. "I thought you were dead. Oh, Edward."
I shushed her softly as I sat up, the pain in my head nearly making me vomit. "It's okay, Alice," I muttered when I finally could, pressing my hands against my head in an effort to steady it. "I'm okay."
Whatever Alice planned to say in answer was interrupted by the sound of laughter, soft and menacing. "Thank you for joining us, my dear boy. We can finally begin."