"I knew it," I sobbed. "I knew I was dreaming."
"You're impossible," he said, and he laughed once, a hard laugh, frustrated. "How can I put this so that you'll believe me? You're not asleep, and you're not dead. I'm here, and I love you. I have always loved you, and I will always love you. I was thinking of you, seeing your face in my mind, every second that I was away. When I told you that I didn't want you, it was the very blackest kind of blasphemy."
I shook my head while the tears continued to ooze from the corners of my eyes.
"You don't believe me, do you?" he whispered, his face paler than his usual pale. I could see that even in the dim light. "Why can you believe the lie, but not the truth?"
"It never made sense for you to love me," I explained, my voice breaking twice. "I always knew that.”
"I'll prove you're awake," he promised.
He caught my face securely between his iron hands, ignoring my struggles when I tried to turn my head away.
“Please don’t.” I whispered
He stopped, his lips just half an inch from mine.
"Why not?" he demanded. His breath blew into my face, making my head whirl.
"When I wake up" He opened his mouth to protest, so I revised "Okay, forget that one. When you leave again, it's going to be hard enough without this, too."
He pulled back an inch, to stare at my face.
"Yesterday, when I would touch you, you were so hesitant, so careful, and yet still the same. I need to know why. Is it because I'm too late? Because I've hurt you too much? Because you have moved on, as I meant for you to? That would be quite fair. I won't contest your decision. So don't try to spare my feelings, please just tell me now whether or not you can still love me, after everything I've done to you. Can you?" he whispered.
I looked down and considered the last six months in my mind, the raw hole in my chest that had healed to a dull ache. How that ache had slowly started to heal. Jacob. I peeked up from under my lashes to Edward. He seemed to be trying to pretend that waiting for an answer wasn’t killing him.
I sighed. I knew this was going to hurt him.
“The Voultri, Victoria… They were nothing compared to you leaving me.” I admitted. He had hurt me. So much it had felt like I might shatter into pieces.
He bowed his head, face tight, so I rushed on. “I’ll always love you, Edward.” I grabbed his hand, pleading for him to not take my words too harshly. "Lots of pieces of me went missing, when you left. I haven't been able to really breathe in so long." I filled my lungs, luxuriating in the sensation. Now that this chapter of my life had some closure, I could breathe. "And my heart. That was definitely lost."
Edward looked as though he wished he could cry. Or maybe break something.
“I’m healing.” I reassured him.”Pieces of me are coming back. I can… laugh again, I’m spending time with my friends again.” I hadn’t even woken up screaming recently.
“I haven’t moved on.” I whispered. “But I think I could have. If… If you had stayed away.” My voice cracked. “I’ll always love you, but I need some time to heal.”
Edward’s face fell, and he pulled his hand out of mine, but he nodded. “I understand. The way I left was inexcusable, I’m sorry I hurt you so terribly.” He started to slide away.
“Please don’t leave!” I cried out. I felt the dull ache in my chest return. It wasn’t nearly as bad as it had once been, though. “Can I just say a few more things?” I whispered.
He paused, an expression I couldn’t read flitting across his face. Then he was composed, and sitting again.
“I do love you.” I told him fiercely. “I want you to be safe, and happy. Maybe our future wasn't us together, maybe we'll get back together after some time, but we can still be part of a family.”
I already felt like I was a part of his family. “I think you can heal too. Move on, too.”
Pain crossed his face. “Bella,” He stroked one hand across my cheek. I flushed. “I will never stop loving you. But if you don’t want to be together, I think… I need to go away for a while.”
Panic seized in my throat and bubbled in my stomach. I could imagine him racing right back to Italy.
The horror must have been evident on my face, because Edward laughed quietly. “You don’t have to worry about me, Bella. If you say that you love me, then that’s,” He seemed to be grasping for the right word. “Enough. I won’t do anything stupid, but I need some space.”
I guessed that was pretty normal for any breakup.
“I think I’ll go back up to Denali for a while. The others….”
My head spun, and my heart raced. I didn’t want them to go.
“...Don’t have to leave. I’ll check in, and you know Alice will be keeping an eye on me.”
I still didn’t like the idea of him going away, and I wrinkled my nose over it. But it seemed like he had every intention of coming back someday. And I could live with that, if I knew he was okay.
“I know that I’ve caused a lot of trouble in the last couple days,” Edward paused before continuing. “But can I have one more selfish moment this evening?”
“That depends on what you want to do.”
Edward cupped my cheek with his cold hand and leaned in, intent clear. I knew he’d understand if I turned down his request.
I knew what this was.
A goodbye kiss. My heart thumped hard, hard enough to hurt and certainly hard enough for Edward to hear.
I closed my eyes, and leaned in. His lips were cold and unyielding, but I could tell he was taking care to be gentle with me. A tear rolled down my cheek.
He pulled away too soon. He wiped my cheeks, and tucked my hair behind my ears. I blinked up at him, dazed, as he stood.
Edward kissed my forehead, and smiled my crooked smile. “Goodbye, Isabella Swan.” He said softly, and disappeared out of my window and into the darkness before I could say anything back.
My chest ached as more tears rolled down my cheeks. Sobs wracked my body. I mourned the loss of my first love. It turned to hysterics, as I reflected on what had happened in Volterra.
What seemed ages later, exhausted, I crawled into bed. I thought long and hard about the last year. My mind raced despite how tired I felt.
I fell asleep just as the sun began to rise.
I knew almost immediately that I was dreaming. This was a classic one. The same dream I had the first time Edward left.
I was running - too slow - after him in the woods. He couldn’t hear when I called out, and panic began to rise in me as he disappeared ahead. I ran around the forest, getting lost as it got darker and darker. I was exhausted, and stumbling over roots and my own feet. Then I did stumble and fall. When I righted myself, I was staring at a reddish brown wolf, who was sitting patiently in front of me as if he had been here the whole time. My panic seemed to dissipate as I held eyes with the wolf. I reached out to touch the soft looking fur, and then woke up.
The next morning, I found a note in beautiful script on the dashboard of my truck.
I wanted to leave on better ground this time. I know you’ll worry. Please try not to. You can call me any time you’d like.
I’d like to give you a going away present. All of your pictures, the CD’s, everything I took when I left… Of course you can have them back.
Your things never left. They’re under the floorboards in your room.
I’m sorry it has to be this way.
I’ll always love you.