I sighed as my hands finished the last sounding notes of my latest composition. I closed the key cover and stood up, not really wanting to retreat to the bedroom where my wife would be waiting for me. Bella. She had meant everything to me once, about forty years ago, when she was human. I didn't really want to revisit the past, but my mind continued to wander on its own.
I had met her in high school, and I almost killed her. Gradually I came to love her, need her like air, like blood. Her blood sang to me – a scent so delectable it's a wonder I didn't bleed her dry the moment she passed me. We overcame so many obstacles. A tracker vampire intent on torturing her, a seven-month separation that nearly killed us both, a war of newborn vampires – she had been labeled a danger magnet by the family. However, despite the odds, we survived it.
I asked her to marry me and although she had been reluctant, she and I were married on August 13th that same year, the day before her birthday. A month later, I changed her into a vampire. I had warred with myself – how could I steal her soul from her? She adjusted amazingly well for a newborn, we found she had a talent, like myself and two of my siblings – she could relieve or ease someone's emotional pain by touch. She didn't use it often, because she didn't understand why it was helpful and where it had come from.
The first person she helped was me, accidentally. I was so distraught by her change – she was so different, yet still the same. And I had killed her because I was so selfish; I had to have her with me. We chose a car crash as our deaths to keep her change away from her human friends and family.
Once we started merging her back into society, she realized the potential of her power but we didn't know the consequences then. She was so self-sacrificing as a human, her power helped people through emotional pain. Not quite like my brother's power – he could only manipulate and distract with emotions, she lessened the pain by taking it into herself, we didn't realize that in the beginning, however.
We decided to start over in high school, this time in a rainy little town in Maine. Once we graduated there, we picked a university and decided what to do with our "lives." This time, I went into music. She was undecided for a while but then decided on psychology. The family decided to try living apart for a while, to do something different. We ended up in New York. We each went into our new careers then, Bella went into social work – more specifically, counseling for victims of violent crimes. I played as a part of an orchestra for an Off-Broadway playhouse. She didn't use her power for every case, of course, but she could take bits of pain from the worst cases, so they wouldn't commit suicide or could work on moving on.
We lived that life for about ten years until we couldn't push the age card any longer. When her co-workers and few friends from college would ask about when she was going to have children, we'd use the excuse that one of us was infertile. A few people hinted that we could adopt at one point, we politely came up with other excuses. It was hard for her to come up with a plan to kill us off again.
That was the longest we stayed in one life. It was too difficult for her to get so attached to all the humans she met. We met back up with the family and went through the process again.
Sometimes the family dynamics would change, I would be Esme's brother, Carlisle would be brothers with Jasper and Rosalie, or Bella would be Esme's sister. Whenever we did have jobs or careers, Bella would insist on helping others. She'd work at a soup kitchen, an orphanage, a hospital's grief counselor. It was a time of experimentation within the family. Times were fun and lighthearted for the most part. So many different stories could be told about Alice or Emmett's antics. We were never bothered by the Volturi, or werewolves, or any other rogue vampires.
After about twenty years though, when Bella's father passed away, she started using her power more frequently in her work. Jasper and Alice had been off on their own during this "life." It was when they had killed themselves off and returned to the family two years later that we realized how much Bella had been using her power. Jasper barely made it into the house before he couldn't stand to be around her. Alice was frantic, but Bella just continued with our daily routines like nothing was wrong.
I caught up with Jasper and talked with him. He said the pain she was living with was overwhelming and devastating, almost worse than my suffering when I had left her when she was human. I didn't understand. She hadn't been acting strangely. She smiled, laughed, joked, and enjoyed her work, or so I had thought.
Bella and I bought a house nearby, so Alice and Jasper could live with the family. Alice noticed the differences in Bella that I had been unable to see and shared them with me. Bella had started to get snappy with the family. She would isolate her self by going to work. When she was home, she'd stare off into space. She didn't enjoy the things she had before. I thought it was just her hobbies changing, but once I stepped out of the situation – I realized she was depressed. Esme and Alice tried to get her to use her power less often, and she got angry with them. Claiming it was the only thing that was good about this life.
This was about twenty-five years after her change. As much as I had loved her being with me, as a vampire, this was what I had been scared about. She regretted becoming one of us. She tried to convince me otherwise; she argued that wasn't what she had told Alice. She was lying to me. We had stopped talking. Soon, we even stopped making love.
Carlisle and Esme, as ever the parental figures to the rest of us, insisted we all move to a new location and enjoy the isolation from society for a while. We decided on someplace exotic – we found a very small tribe of people on the edge of a tropical jungle in South America. We created a home in the trees – no electricity; the only running water was from the trees when it rained. Amazingly, Alice didn't miss the shopping, Emmett didn't miss the video games, and Carlisle enjoyed the reprieve from the hospital as well. Only Bella hated it. She said we were doing this because we hated her, that we were jealous of her power. She became paranoid and jumpy and did her best to ignore all of us all the time. I felt I had lost her completely. That was, until she ran away from me, from us. We lost her for years. No matter the amount of searching I did, I could not find my wife, my Bella.
The family relocated again and picked up the pattern of life we had before: high school, college, career, death. I was unhappy, unresponsive to the family. It was as if she had taken my happiness when she left because I had nothing left. All I did was mope and despair that something or someone had hurt her, had taken her away from me. Alice assured me she was all right physically, but she wasn't ready to come home mentally.
I was listening to the radio one day when I heard her sweet voice in a song. I freaked out. I started searching for her again, this time I found her. She was just starting a career as a singer, so she wasn't very popular yet. She had changed her name, wore a wig, contacts. She was someone else entirely when I found her. She was upset with me – she wondered why I didn't come to her when she left the jungle. I swore to her that I did look for her, but she didn't believe me.
When I brought her home for the family reunion, Jasper didn't react like normal. He told me in his thoughts that she was no longer overwhelmed with sorrow and pain, but now, she was consumed with guilt. Oddly enough, she killed her new persona off quickly and returned to the family. We have yet to find out what she feels guilty about.
We have returned to high school, once again. This time through college, Bella decided she wanted to try something different. She went into criminal justice. Another of her new oddities – her new job is a guard at a maximum-security prison. Not a counselor or psychologist, but a guard. One that works with the most gruesome and cruelest of the murderers. She doesn't speak of her job but has assured us that she hasn't harmed anyone.
Jasper says she's lying. I don't want to think about it anymore. So I just continue on, this life I'm a doctor working with Carlisle. I just hide my emotions now; I hide under the routine. But when it comes to being alone with Bella in our bedroom, we're not the same couple we had been. We don't make love anymore. We fuck. That's the only way to describe it. The primal aggressive animals we are show up when we go into that room. We express our anger, our hatred, our mania. We've given up on real furniture – all we do is destroy it anyway. All that's in the room we call a bedroom is a mattress on the center of the floor, a dark burgundy oriental carpet underneath it, the walls around painted a deep red. The curtains are dark. We don't spend time there. Once we're done hurting one another, we retreat to our separate rooms: my music lounge, her library. We don't talk; we barely see each other, except for the routine of retreating to that room to our sadomasochistic games.
When she had returned to me, I tried to love her, worship her like I had done in the past. She screamed at me, and threw things, attacked me ruthlessly. I didn't understand. I still don't but I've learned to stop asking questions. She stops responding completely when I do. So I suffer through it. I'd rather have her near me, than not near me at all.
So with slow, grudging steps, I make my way to our room. Wondering if this is how we'll continue forever.