There were several mature responses to watching an older brother seemingly try to break up a budding relationship, but Edythe wasn’t interested in any of them. She didn’t like arguing with her family, even when they were in the wrong. Especially not now, when she thought that maybe Emmett was right to try and stop things.
Still. She was allowed to be bitter, so she let her irritation show as she stormed across the parking lot toward her car. Several students practically jumped out of her way and gaped at her, but she ignored them. Her display wouldn’t really do much to actually intimidate Emmett, who was stronger than her, if a little slower. If it came to a fistfight, they’d be pretty evenly matched, and her brother knew it. Still, it felt good to drop her harmless human facade, even if only slightly. Anger was a hell of a drug.
She’d wished a hundred times that she could stop hearing everyone’s thoughts. This afternoon made a hundred and one—she could hear Mike’s grumbling complaints about Bella’s rejection, Alice rapidly cycling through visions—maddeningly, they hadn’t changed at all since Emmett’s declaration—and Emmett somehow generating the equivalent of mental white noise, louder than everything else probably because Edythe was so focused on him.
“You fucking ass,” she muttered.
Emmett was standing on the opposite side of the Volvo, like having a car between them might stop her from ripping him apart. He pressed his lips tightly together and stared at her with guarded eyes. The white noise in his mind let up for one second, long enough for Edythe to see the concern—the same concern Rose and Jasper had expressed after the car accident, but more subtle, more calculated than simple murder.
She scowled, and the white noise started up again. She couldn’t stand to be around it—or the person producing it.
“I have to stay after class to speak to Señora Goff,” she lied, pointedly. It would make it that much more frustrating for Emmett that she was obviously lying about their shared class. She tossed Alice the keys. “Will you take everyone home? I’ll be busy for a while.”
“Sure,” Alice said, and immediately handed Jasper the keys. “But I’m too...I can’t drive right now.”
“Fine. I’ll see you at home.” She spun on her heel before she could get any angrier at Emmett’s stony silence and walked back toward the Spanish building.
Señora Goff was already gone for the day, but it worked out in her favor. She didn’t actually want to speak to anyone. There were fewer students around inside the cluster of the school buildings, and it was easy to slip their notice. She paused briefly next to the door to the Spanish classroom and knocked. No answer, of course, but she pretended to wait and then peer into the classroom.
It began to rain, and that cleared the remaining students from the area, albeit slowly.
Only Angela Weber was still there, but she was tucked under the alcove of a classroom, hunched over her phone, certainly not paying attention.
Edythe was curious about Angela, so she tuned into her thoughts briefly.
‘—maybe it’s nothing, but it just seems like I’m not alone any more...no, crap, I can’t send her that. It will seem like she’s not enough which is—ugh. Ok, maybe...maybe you’re right, maybe she is trustworthy. Talk to her tonight but don’t tell her about...’
Usually she could ignore the greater implications of her gift. She only heard surface thoughts, but that meant she’d caught onto more than a few private things that she knew people would be embarrassed about. This struck her as one of them. Angela was anxious about texting Jess, but Edythe didn’t need to know the details. With care, she turned her thoughts away.
Anyway, she could leave without much suspicion now.
She walked past the cluster of buildings, toward the woods. There were always rumors about seniors sneaking out here to smoke and fuck, but as far as she could smell, it happened rarely, if ever. Still, mindful that today could be the day that changed, she walked deeper into the woods before taking off at full speed.
Her shoes—dark brown Oxfords—weren’t built for running, she realized about two miles in. She flitted to a stop, kicked them off, and fell back into a sprint. Alice might get angry about it, but she liked a very specific shoe and had several pairs of them. Anyway, they’d come back into style, so she didn’t need to worry about holding onto them as much. No biggie.
She pressed herself to go faster. She was only about three miles away from her meadow, but she was always curious. How fast could she go? She’d never really tested it, but she knew what her approximate limit felt like. She wasn’t quite there yet, that was easier to reach over flat, bare landscapes. No trees to dodge, just open air. The last time that had happened...must have been Alaska, or Nunavut, maybe.
She reached the meadow faster than she normally would have, given her pushed speed.
She always thought of this place as her own. She didn’t know if anyone else ever went there, aside from animals that occasionally passed through.
It’s not as beautiful in the rain as it is in the sun, but it’s still a comfort to sit alone in the quiet, no one else’s thoughts intruding on her own.
She lies down in the center of the meadow, breathes in the smell of wet earth, and goes still.
She can’t stop picturing Bella’s frozen face. She can’t stop hearing the way her heart had raced or her soft, shocked gasp.
“This is...weird,” she says to the empty clearing, her voice an almost perfect replication of Bella’s, though not quite as sweet. “I need some time to process it.”
Saying the words aloud didn’t make her feel any better.
The truth was, what Emmett did only brought her back into the complicated swirl of emotions. She knew that she had deep feelings for Bella and that she wanted more than anything to be with her, but those same feelings also made her feel like she needed to run away, to secure herself somewhere else, where she wouldn’t have to deal with any of it. And of course, she was constantly worried that she would hurt Bella. A large part of her still struggled not to to take whenever she smelled Bella, and that was every day! What if, one day soon, she couldn’t stop herself and did drink her blood? Alice’s visions couldn’t be trusted at the moment.
“This is...weird,” she murmured again. Weird didn’t begin to cover it, Bella.
Edythe might not know Bella’s mind, but there were a few things she could read—Bella was close to figuring things out, for example. She’d understandably read Edythe’s initial dismissiveness as homophobia, but once that had been eliminated, she’d started picking closer to the truth. That was dangerous, too.
Edythe sighed. She kept going over the same arguments in her head. She wanted Bella’s affection, and she wanted to figure her out, but she also wanted her blood, and to keep her from finding out about vampires. To keep her from endangering her family.
Bella could be part of the family, someday, though…
It’s an errant thought—the first time she’d even had it. She’d allowed herself to focus on Alice’s pretty dream of “I love yous,” but never past that. Any more seemed selfish somehow.
But…if she were to become part of the family…wouldn’t it be important to bring her in closer?
She sighed. Same arguments, over and over.
She lied still for a long time, watching the sky get darker. The rain was cold on her skin, though slowly she stopped noticing it. She could hear some kind of small animal—a rabbit, maybe—moving around in the brush nearby. When the crickets started chirping, she knew it was time to go face the music. To face Emmett.
When she thought about what had happened, she still felt so angry. She thought that everyone had decided to defer to her when it came to Bella Swan. And maybe that wasn’t fair to them—after all, she wasn’t the leader or anything like that, but…she knew Bella better than anyone else did.
The run home was easy enough that she even doubled back to the school to pick up her shoes. They were ruined, predictably, and Alice would probably scold her, but Edythe figured not leaving them behind was probably a better move.
‘Oh, thank god,’ was the first thought she heard when she got close to the house. Esme. She must have been in her greenhouse to have been the first to hear Edythe running back. She changed course so that she would stop there.
It was dark inside the greenhouse, but Esme didn’t need any light to see, so Edythe wasn’t surprised. “Hi,” she said softly from the doorway.
The warmth was, as ever, inviting, though to a human it might be too humid. It was a nice change after being caught in the rain, though, so Edythe relished in it.
“Hello, sweetheart,” Esme answered, darting over to wrap Edythe up in her arms. “Are you alright? I heard there was a bit of a scuffle with Emmett earlier.”
“We haven’t scuffled yet,” she said, smiling a little. She settled into her embrace with ease. Esme was the closest thing Edythe still had to a mother, and in moments like this, she was extremely grateful.
The greenhouse smelled beautiful. It’s mostly full of flowers, but there were sections of herbs and vegetables along the wall, too. Old bumblebee hives were lined on one shelf—in a few months, Esme would try to catch a new queen and set her up in the greenhouse.
This place felt more like Esme than any where else ever did. Sure, she had designed the house, and it was beautiful and felt like home, but the lushness of the greenhouse, the way she almost seemed to melt into the scenery—she belonged here.
“Come,” she said, and pulled Edythe toward the orchids she’d been tending to. She didn’t ask any more details, like she was the mind reader instead of Edythe, and knew that she wasn’t ready to discuss it.
Though, truthfully, she thought she should be. She was older than everyone in her family aside from Carlisle and Jasper, yet also the youngest. Sometimes, even knowing she shouldn’t be upset, she couldn’t stop herself. Being eternally seventeen was just horrible.
She could hear Emmett in the house, but she ignored him for now, as she quietly worked with Esme on the orchids.
Alice and Jasper were reading in the living room. A new crate of books must have arrived. Both of them were flashing through the books, so fast that, without focusing, Edythe caught only snippets of their reactions to the books. Alice was reading a YA novel, she thought, based on her amusement. Jasper was probably reading one of the true crime novels he enjoyed.
Rose was in the garage, working on the ‘89 Mustang she’d recently acquired. Not quite a classic car, but technically an antique. She might sell it when she was done, but maybe not. Emmett was with her...
Carlisle was upstairs, in his study, writing an email to...she wasn’t sure, but she thought it might be for Tanya. That was nice. Aside from her brief trip to Alaska, none of them had seen their coven in quite some time. It would be nice to have a longer visit with them soon, maybe even staying nearby for a year or so...
Emmett left the garage to go to his room.
Edythe poured some water into a watering can and started pouring the precise amount required by an orchid. She passed the can to Esme after a moment, so she could take care of the ones in her reach.
If Edythe confessed her feelings, the way she’s confessed them to Alice and Rose, she thought Esme would understand, would be supportive. With fewer reservations than Rose, even. Edythe wasn’t sure that she wanted to encourage false hope in her, though.
Esme set the watering can down. She smiled at her softly and tilted her head back toward the house. ‘I’m all done in here. I’m going to see Carlisle. Walk with me?’ As always, her thoughts were kind. She offered an arm to her.
Arm in arm, they walked across the yard. The house was like a lantern in the darkness; an entire wall of lights shone through. Alice waved at them from her bedroom, holding a book that she was almost finished with.
Inside, they separated. Esme wasn’t very wet, having spent only a few moments outside, and wearing a raincoat to boot. Edythe was soaked, though, so she hurried to her room, where she stripped out of her clothes, tossed them in the laundry basket, and then took a quick shower.
Emmett was still in his room when she got out of the shower. A quick peek at his thoughts showed that he was browsing the political section of a news site. He always did that when he was nervous.
Sighing, she dried off and dressed quickly in soft pajamas. She wouldn’t be sleeping, of course, but it would be nice to be physically comfortable while having a very uncomfortable conversation.
Vampire speed was incredibly convenient usually, and always exhilarating, but in this moment, she hated it. Why was she already standing outside Emmett’s door?
Never mind, she told herself, and knocked.
He opened the door, his thoughts, funnily enough, also irritated with his speed. It made her laugh a little, and he looked at her askance.
“Nothing,” she muttered. “I just had the same thought.”
He smiled at that, and gestured for her to join him in the room. There were two chairs, a table between them that Rose used for car repair plans and that Emmett sketched at.
They say across from each other, both quietly contemplating.
‘I’m sorry that I hurt you,’ Emmett thought gently. ‘I knew you wouldn’t be happy with me talking to Bella. I was just worried.’
To be honest, she had known this. Emmett could be an ass, but he wasn’t needlessly cruel. “I know,” she allowed.
‘You were hurt, though. I...I hope...she’s not what I expected.’
That made her laugh softly. “Me either.”
‘She’s funny. I can see why you like her.’
“Rose told you?” She was a little...disappointed. Not that she expected Emmett to react negatively, it was just...she would have liked to tell him.
‘Oh, no. I figured it out, I’m, the day of the accident... I actually didn’t mean to let on that I knew. Sorry.’
“It’s okay.” She considered her brother thoughtfully. The conversation he’d had with Bella still confused her. If he’d known her at all, he would have known that it wouldn’t scare her away, but instead make her more curious...although somewhat more distant. Based on Alice’s visions, that wouldn’t last long, though.
And maybe that was the problem. He didn’t know Bella. “You were trying to protect the family, right?”
He nodded. ‘I’m not sure how well that worked, though.’
She chuckled and nodded.
‘For what it’s worth, I like her. If any one is going to endanger the family by finding out what we are, she seems like a good candidate. And...I do want you to have...someone. Love.’ Emmett offered her a hand across the table, and she took it. He squeezed gently.
“I’m still mad at you,” she told him.
If she was absolutely fair, she knew her anger was selfish. Emmett had tried to protect her family and the human she was obsessed with in a non-lethal way. Sure, it had been uninformed, but in a sense it had worked to make Bella more aware of the situation, and the danger she was in. What had really made her angry was that he’d acted on his own, without her permission. And, she reminded herself, he didn’t need her permission to do...well, anything.
Plus, there was the whole way his actions had caused her to go into a self-flagellating spiral of indecision and regret.
Maybe that was healthy from time to time.
Well, probably not.
In any case, she realized, sitting here, that her desires hadn’t changed. She was still going to pursue a relationship with Bella.
That is, if Bella would have her. The ball was certainly in her court in that regard, and all that was left to do now was...wait.
Oh, and one other thing.
“I’ve been reliably informed that you were hangry, today,” she said to Emmett.
He grimaced. ‘Shut up.’
“Or,” she said, reaching across the table to poke his shoulder. “Let’s go hunt.”