I had been through high school many times. Many, many, times. To the point that it was almost like meditation for me. For my siblings, it was seen as experimentation every four years or so. Who can I be this time around? Like the time in 1956 where Emmett decided he could tone down his strength and join the football team (disaster) or when Alice joined the drama club in 1993 (the worst and strangest production of Sweeney Todd to hit any stage). As much as Esme encouraged us to savor our eternal adolescence, we had learned that it just was not in the cards for people like us to be "normal" teenagers.
In the late 70's, however, a trend began. Art education became more prominent in schools, and after perhaps our ninth relocation, we found a school that had an art club. I resisted, believe me, I did. But Alice is a force of nature. Edythe, you've never tried the way the rest of us have! You know you'd love it! And then Esme, bless her, her thoughts always made my heart too full, my stomach would twist with guilt at the idea of disappointing her. Both sensations I had thought were impossible for my kind, but leave it to the closest person to a mother that I can remember to reignite those feelings.
So I had joined. And nearly every relocation and do-over of high school since, I had been a part of any art club available. I never wanted to be president, or any part of the ridiculous government that came with it. I just stayed in my own station, put in my headphones for my Walkman, my CD player, my iPods through generations and generations, and painted. It was a small pleasure I allowed myself when surrounded by humans. The thoughts of the other students were usually peaceful, or concentrated, in the art room, and that in itself was a relief. Less of hearing girls harp on paranoia, or crushes, or who likes whom. Even if it was an extra hour a couple days a week after the boring classes I'd repeated again and again, it made Esme happy to see me getting involved, and it made me happy to have that time for myself. Sometimes getting a break from my family's thoughts was good for me. A reset.
Of course, I always knew that one day it would all go to hell.
I had heard errant thoughts of a new student through the halls today. Pale, awkward, from Phoenix, daughter of the chief of police. Just bits and pieces, it was easy for me to not pry too far. I thought nothing of it. Bella Swan, just another name to add to the flood, another new voice, another mind to read. I'd learned that it was easier to not consider any of my fellow students special, never get attached. It only caused problems, it only sent us on the road again.
I didn't know that this human would change my entire existence.
My paint palette was mixed, canvas primed up on my easel that I had chosen in the corner. So often the art teacher, Mrs. Welch, she offered me the spot by the window, the best area for natural light. And every time I would croon to her that I preferred the fluorescents, they were a critical part of my art style. Lying became so easy. My paintbrush swirled into a deep, crimson red, beginning to dab into a corner. I never knew where my art would end up, that was part of the fun. Fun that Alice ruined quite often at home. The door to the art room pushed open, and the scent hit me before the flurry of thoughts from the other students in the room.
Is that the new girl? My throat igniting.
A new member? This close to club elections? My brush going through the canvas, then dropping to the floor.
What is that god-awful sweater she's wearing? My fists clenching onto the wall of cabinets beside my station. I could feel the metal beginning to give way; I had to ease up. Stop breathing, Edythe, I told myself. Don't think about it. But the scent was there, the threat was here in the room.
I considered my options. There were only six people in the room, including Mrs. Welch. It would be so simple. I could lock and barricade the door, then kill the bystanders in less than thirty seconds. Then I would take my sweet time. She had that delightful deer in the headlights look, wide, brown eyes. Pools of chocolate, I wondered over whether her blood was just as sweet as the candy I had long since forgotten. No, I knew just from the tiny whiff I had gotten that nothing could compare. The metal creaked again as I strategized; would I make it quick for her? Or would I want her to really feel it, to feel my punishment for her brutal temptation? She was sent here to test me, a chance at redemption, perhaps, but I had no interest in passing. Damn me to hell, the deepest layer of it, just give me one taste.
Edythe, don't. Carlisle's voice. I thought of how paper thin her skin looked.
Don't you dare ruin this for us. Rosalie. I could see her blue veins through her wrist as she brushed back her hair.
You're stronger than this, love. God damn it. Why was it always Esme? I had a hard time differentiating whether these thoughts were real, if Alice had seen my graphic plans of murder and alerted my family, or if it was whatever conscience I had left pleading with me to do the right thing. Or, the thoughts could have been pure madness. That option made the most sense.
I kept my jaw set, not allowing myself one inhale or exhale. I had to get out of here. But I couldn't make a scene. That meant I couldn't clean up my station at top speed, I couldn't break through the window, I had to do this the human way. The painfully slow way. I picked up my paintbrush from the floor, setting it as carefully as I could onto the counter. The poor canvas, now ripped through, I'd have to disguise that as some sort of artistic statement. Appropriate, a gash in the fabric, surrounded by dabs of blood red acrylic. If only life could reflect art, for once, I thought bitterly to myself. Was I actually angry, upset, that I had some fragment of a soul left that was preventing me from ripping this girl's throat out? It appeared that I was. I was furious that I admired Carlisle's control so much, I was horribly cross that I had chosen the vegetarian lifestyle at all. If I had just embraced the monster I was fully, I wouldn't have any moral dilemma about finding this girl in some back alley and sucking her dry.
Selfish. Yes, that's exactly what I was. I wondered why nothing had humanized this girl more, why I was so eager to see her as nothing more than a blood donor with a pretty face. I needed a reason to refrain, I needed some drop of sympathy for her. But when I looked her way, tried to tune into her frequency, I got…nothing. Not one thought. As if I needed more reason to want to take every last bit of life from her. Sent from hell, truly. I'd read the Bible enough to know about fallen angels, and this girl may as well have been Lucifer himself.
Get back on track, Edythe. Get the hell out of here. She was sitting too close, setting up at the easel directly to my right. I needed to cross her path to wash my palette and my brushes…Fuck it all. Fake an illness. Menstrual pain, nausea, whatever it took. As much as I knew I needed to be urgent, it felt like it would be impossible to pull myself away from this magnetic woman. A clean break, just go. I picked up my backpack and stormed out of the room, putting my phone to my ear. A quick glance at Mrs. Welch, and I heard her thoughts reflecting that she bought the premise entirely. Emergency phone call, no time to explain.
Even though no one was in the parking lot, I couldn't risk running to my car the way I wanted to. A hasty walk, almost a jog, slamming the door to my Volvo perhaps a bit too hard. I could feel more metal bending, and I briefly pondered just wrecking the thing. It would give Rosalie something to do. A new car wouldn't blend in, though, and the Volvo was pushing it. Just go home. Go home, then work from there.
The thoughts of my family invaded my mind as soon as I pulled away from the school. No matter how loud I turned my music up, I could hear them. Alice came first, always the clearest voice to me. Her visions flooded my mind as if they were my own, and I relied purely on muscle memory to take me along the right path.
Edythe was standing in the art room. Her bronze curls were wild, her eyes pitch black, crouched into a hunting position. She had made quick work of the six people in the room, a snap of the neck, letting them slide onto the floor limply with no concern. She didn't even go after their blood, not one bite on any of them. That could come later, all she wanted right now was the brunette. Isabella Swan was crouched in the corner, trembling, knowing that she had to be the next to go. She didn't scream, or even try to run, as Edythe approached the corner…
I imagine I don't need to show you how that ends, Alice's thoughts spoke to me. No, indeed, she didn't. I was home now, sitting with my car parked in the garage with my head in my hands, ready to pull my curls out of my head. A tap on the window, and I forced myself to look up. There she was, the little pixie of a woman. I was thankful the rest hadn't come to find me yet, but I could hear the anxious thoughts. Some pointed towards me, some trying hard to avoid thinking of me.
Don't go. Stay with us, we'll help you. Esme.
Rose will kill her if she makes us be sophomores again so soon. Emmett.
I'll kill her myself if that's how she makes Edythe feel. It's too much. Jasper.
"Ignore them," Alice chimed in, seeing how I was being torn apart and overwhelmed from every angle. "There was more, you know. It doesn't have to be that way." A new possibility, a different ending. I just nodded, though I didn't have any choice in whether I read it or not.
Bella was standing beside Edythe, not a trace of fear in her eyes. Her body language was relaxed, she was holding the taller vampire's hand. Their skin was the same shade of pale white, her curves and bone structure were more defined, and the chocolate eyes were a shade of red so similar to the acrylic on the canvas.
"No!" I shouted out, my fist banging onto my dashboard. Definite damage, but I couldn't be bothered. I was so horribly selfish, I didn't even want to give them a goodbye. Esme and Carlisle's worry made me wonder if I was capable of vomiting, and I knew I owed them at least that much. I stormed up into the house, Alice following me, her thoughts continuously annoying me.
Edythe, we're best friends in that future! I want that, we all want that, she would be so-
"Stop it," I muttered fiercely. I met my mother by the piano. She wanted me to play more often, I know. I looked her in the eyes, and I must have looked like hell. Her worry only amplified at the sight of me. How much torture had I let leak into my exterior?
Will you come back to us? I only gave a small nod. We love you, Edie. It'll be alright. I promise. I had to trust her on that, or at least pretend that I believed it. I allowed her to pat my shoulder, I didn't want to hurt her if I gave her a hug, and I went to Carlisle's office.
The second the door to the study was shut behind me, I was sitting on the floor, curled in on myself, allowing him to see my pain completely. He had seen me at my worst, every time.
"I can't do it," I whispered. I couldn't kill her. I couldn't let either of Alice's visions come true, and there was no other way to prevent them other than to get myself out of Bella Swan's life. We didn't need to be in the same visions any longer. And as long as that girl was in Forks, I knew it would be best for her and my family for me to go.
You can, Edythe. You have the strength, the control. I know you do. You are overwhelmed, that is nothing to be ashamed of. You are not weak. Alice's visions can always change, you know this. Take your time, but do not underestimate yourself. We will miss you. His hands had begun to comb through my hair, the way I know they had before he turned me. I didn't remember it personally, but I saw the comparison through his memories. I had been alive for over a century, and no one had called to me so strongly. I remembered Emmett expressing something similar, but he had never even considered going against the instinct. He had just allowed himself to give over to the impulse. Don't underestimate yourself. Maybe I could. But not right now. I needed time. I couldn't go back to that school, that art room, until I sorted everything out, considered every possibility, thought up every precaution I would need to take to protect the life I had in Forks.
I ran. Alice didn't need a goodbye, she knew everything she needed to relay to my other siblings. I could hear the ranting and raving in Rosalie's mind, I would be lucky to find my Volvo in one piece when I returned. I needed distance, I needed the frequency to tune out. I could find Alice's mind if I tried, but I had to focus on my own thoughts. No interference.