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- Bella -

If there was one thing that was almost infinite in its wisdom, was that people were always going to make mistakes. Be it because they’d done something wrong and were now learning the outcome of such a choice. Or it was because they allowed something to guide them towards a decision that soon turned out to be the worst decision they could make. That type of mistake was one that couldn’t be corrected until it slapped you in the face. Even then, there was sometimes no mistake.

For Bella Swan, her awakening came in the form of a dream. One which even now more than ten minutes since she’d awoken from it clung to the edges of her mind. Her brain analysing every aspect that had played out behind her closed eyes. The vivid memory of seeing herself as an old woman - who looked strikingly like her grandmother - and Edward as perfect as he always was.

To any therapist worth their salt, the dream would appear as nothing more than Bella’s worries over growing older. Yet she knew it was far more than that. At first glance, it was Bella’s worries that in terms of human years, she was now older than her forever stuck at seventeen boyfriend - Edward . Yet, a small niggling part of her, a part she had worked so hard to silence in the past few months couldn’t help but whisper it’s deadly intent into her ear.

Even now as Bella stared into the mirror above the bathroom sink, her worries were painted inside her chocolate orbs with such intensity she was positive others could read them. Her worries could be summarised with one simple word - eternity. Ever since finding out that Edward was a vampire it had settled between them like a lead weight. In her mind, she knew that it was also the course of action her own life would take, there was no discussion over the prospect of being a vampire. It was in her future .

And after James’ attack, paired with the knowledge of just how much her blood tempted Edward. It seemed - at least in retrospect - as the only course of action. In her weakened human state, she was a liability to the family, her mere presence was testing their hardened control and punishing Edward. They couldn’t be themselves around her, always having to monitor how they held her, how fast they moved. It shouldn’t have had to be like that.

The vampire family she’d grown attached too shouldn’t have had to limit themselves because of a weakling like her. Factor in the dark thoughts in her mind and it left Bella to question whether she truly wanted to entangle herself within their lives anymore. Did she want to live eternally with the family?. Forever doomed to repeat high school and move from town to town every five years. Sit on the sidelines and watch as everyone she knew in her short life, pass on and die without her .

If Edward asked her, the question would be unmitigated, Yes . But here, where her thoughts and actions were her own for a short period of time. Bella truly wondered if the path to immortality was one she wanted to walk. That thought alone had spawned more than a handful of dreams that left her feeling breathless as she came back to the land of the living, the one she’d just had being but another slither in a complicated puzzle.

She loved Edward. Bella knew that, though she couldn’t help but wonder did she love him enough to give up her life. Or was she lost underneath the shiny sheen of first love? Edward, having been the first boy to truly see her, to see beneath the many layers and walls she had buried herself under due to having to grow up far quicker than a girl her age should have done.

Banishing the thoughts away with a shake of her head, she concentrates on finishing her morning routine. Her hands skillfully pulled up the long tendrils of her hair into a loose ponytail, not wishing to watch as the ends of her hair curled once more due to the moisture in the air. A soft snort fluttering off her lips at how long it had gotten - yet Bella had no recollection of choosing to let it grow - but it was just another thing she couldn’t be bothered to think about right now.

Quickly getting dressed into her usual ensemble of jeans, two shirts and her converse she grabs her school bag from where it leant against her dresser and slowly made her way down the stairs. Chocolate orbs watching each step with care as it was well within Bella’s ability to fall down them headfirst and spend a good portion of her time in the ER on her birthday.

“Morning kiddo.”  

The soft bass of her father’s voice was enough to cause Bella to jump, her hands instantly clamping down on the wooden frame of the railing to prevent her face planting the floor via the last two steps. Wide eyes drifting upwards to see her father stood at the bottom, a mischievous grin hidden beneath his moustache as he watched her try to reign in her intense heart rate. Descending the last of the steps with care, she stops before her dad. A small smile mirroring his own and Bella can’t help but pray he doesn’t realise how false the small truly was.

“Happy birthday Bells,”  Charlie grins holding out the two gifts in his hand.

It took everything within her not to groan . Bella had expressly stated no presents, both to her parents and to the Cullen’s. Yet Bella was learning that in some cases her words were ignored. She couldn’t fault her parents for wanting to celebrate the day she turned into an adult, their firstborn daughter finally crossing the precipice from teenage to adulthood. It’s with that thought she allows her fake smile to grow a small degree as she throws her arms around her dad in thanks.

Pulling away she looks over the two gifts, a scrapbook from Renee and a camera from Charlie. Bella couldn’t help but wonder who co-ordinated with who on a gift she knew was meant to run in tangent with each other. And listening to Charlie explain it was for her document her senior year, Bella found herself even more willing to accept the gifts.

“Thanks, dad.”  

Once more she wraps her arms around her father, the show of emotion almost strange for the two who tended to avoid such overly flamboyant emotional outbursts. It was one of the things that made Bella so different from Renee, she was a free-spirit, flitting from one thing to another. But Bella was more grounded, her emotions tightly concealed inside and much rather preferred to be alone. Like Charlie .

With another small smile, and the decision to skip breakfast, she found her way out to her truck and to school. Bella’s mind pulled forth with ease the remnants of the dream, each minuscule detail playing out and allowing her to dissect and try to understand it. Even now, where the tendrils of sleep had long since passed, she still felt as uncomfortable over it as she’d done the moment she awoke. The realism the dream painted, leaving her once more with more questions than answers or hopes.

If Bella thought her day would get better the moment she got to school, the excitement and silver paper wrapped present in Alice’s hand shot that idea down faster than Bella’s heart could beat. Not even the sight of Edward looking as perfect as he always did could soothe the sting of the knowledge that her wishes regarding her birthday had been ignored. Only Edward’s soft placating words as he remembers not to wish her happy birthday was enough to keep her from turning around and climbing back in her truck to head home.

There was a petulant air around her words as she allowed the aggression at her wishes being ignored to fuel the conversation, her innermost thoughts about being a year older than Edward bleeding out. In foresight, Bella knew she sounded like nothing more than a child, yet it did nothing to stop the fact she’d already spoken the words.

** “What time will you be at the house?” Alice continued, changing the subject. From her expression, she was up to exactly the kind of thing Bella had been hoping to avoid.

“I didn’t know I had plans to be there.”

“Oh, be fair, Bella!” she complained. “You aren’t going to ruin all our fun like that, are you?”

“I thought my birthday was about what I want.” 

“I’ll get her from Charlie’s right after school,” Edward told her, ignoring Bella altogether.

“I have to work,” Bella protested weakly and yet prayed to some deity out there that the two vampires before her would actually listen.

“You don’t, actually,” Alice told her smugly. “I already spoke to Mrs Newton about it. She’s trading your shifts. She said to tell you ‘Happy Birthday.’”

“I—I still can’t come over,” she stammered, scrambling for an excuse. “I, well, I haven’t watched Romeo and Juliet yet for English.”

Alice snorted. “You have Romeo and Juliet memorized.”

“But Mr Berty said we needed to see it performed to fully appreciate it—that’s how Shakespeare intended it to be presented.”

Edward rolled his eyes, irritation shining in his bright topaz eyes.

“You’ve already seen the movie,” Alice accused.

“But not the nineteen-sixties version. Mr Berty said it was the best.”

Finally, Alice lost the smug smile and glared at me. “This can be easy, or this can be hard, Bella, but one way or the other—”

Edward interrupted her threat. “Relax, Alice. If Bella wants to watch a movie, then she can. It’s her birthday.”

“So there,” she added, letting a small trace of smugness bleed into her voice.

“I’ll bring her over around seven,” he continued. “That will give you more time to set up.”

Alice’s laughter chimed again. “Sounds good. See you tonight, Bella! It’ll be fun, you’ll see.” She grinned—the wide smile exposed all her perfect, glistening teeth—then pecked me on the cheek and danced off toward her first class before I could respond.

“Edward, please —” she started to beg, but he pressed one cool finger to her lips, efficiently silencing her.

“Let’s discuss it later. We’re going to be late for class.”  **

For the rest of the school day, a wave of silent anger stewed within her. The strength of it would be enough to have Jasper looking at her and wondering if someone had taken her place. Bella had never felt anger so strongly before, not to the limits to which she was feeling it right now. Yet it was there, boiling her blood and leaving her seething.

Her hands aching to reach out and settle around Edward and Alice’s throat and shake them silly. It seemed almost surreal that she would react in such a way, yet she was. It was her birthday, a day in which she should by rights get to make all the decisions pertaining to the day. And watching a movie, in her mind, was just how she wanted to spend that day. But instead, she had been ignored as though her opinion was nothing, as though she was a silent entity that was to be seen not heard.

Every conversation passed with ease and yet she wasn’t completely aware of the words she was speaking. Normally the mention of Romeo would garner her full attention, and whilst she was easily able to discuss the film. Her heart wasn’t in it. Not even as she heard Edward discuss his suicidal ideas with the Volturi, could she bring herself to let go of the anger that simmered inside. The anger at being ignored and pushed to the side.

For the briefest of moments, she hoped Charlie would see the desperation in her eyes and give her a reason to stay at home with him. Doing anything but attending whatever it was that Alice had planned, but of course, her father was as blind as always. Bella didn’t blame him, they were still settling into their father-daughter routine after all.

As they sit outside the Cullen’s house, Edward asking her to behave. She tries to reign in her anger, knowing Jasper was just behind that glass wall and no doubt feeling every shred of emotion that was pulsing through her. Worry becomes prevalent as she is told that Rosalie was there, yet it does nothing to hide the anger. Anger which only grows in strength as she sees the decorations around the house, the obnoxious taste that shined from every surface that didn’t in any form resemble her prefered style.

She is able to put on a facade of peace as she hugs Esme and listens to Carlisle’s joke about not being able to rein Alice in. Even as Emmett jokes and Rosalie looked pleasant for the first time in a while. Yet Bella’s eyes snap to Jasper, confusion swirling in his topaz eyes as he no doubt tastes the emotional cocktail she was throwing around.

Her mind barely registering as Emmett joked about her blush and left the room, instead, her focus was set primarily on Alice and her infectious joy and Jasper by default. If Bella was to take a moment to observe the situation as well as the cocktail of emotions she was currently feeling, there would be a stab of hurt travelling through her at the distance between herself and Jasper.

Bella had thought that the days spent cooped up inside the hotel in Phoenix would have bridged the gap between the two of them, at least becoming a stepping stone towards getting to know each other. All she knew was that in his past life and the start of his vampire one - he was a soldier. Nothing more than that, he was a mystery, a mystery Bella found herself wishing to unravel.

The first gift was from Rosalie, Emmett and Jasper and whilst the empty box was almost a tease, hearing Emmett’s booming laughter and seeing the smile on Jasper’s face. It was almost enough to thaw out the less than civil reaction from Rosalie. Yeah for the reaction from the other two, she’d smile and accept the damn stereo.

Though she’d love to know what everyone had against her damn truck.

** “Open mine and Edward’s next,” Alice said, so excited her voice was a high-pitched trill. She held a small, flat square in her hand.

With that, Bella turned to give Edward a basilisk glare. “You promised.”

Before he could answer, Emmett bounded through the door. “Just in time!” he crowed. He pushed in behind Jasper, who had also drifted closer than usual to get a good look.

“I didn’t spend a dime,” Edward assured her. He brushed a strand of hair from her face, leaving Bella’s skin tingling from his touch.

Bella inhaled deeply and turned to Alice. “Give it to me,” She sighed.

Emmett chuckled with delight.

With trepidation, Bella took the little package, rolling her eyes at Edward while she stuck her finger under the edge of the paper and jerked it under the tape.

“Shoot,” A soft mutter when the paper sliced her finger; Pulling it out to examine the damage. A single drop of blood oozed from the tiny cut.

It all happened very quickly then.  **  

They say when you are about to die, that your whole life flashes before your eyes. But Bella didn’t see her whole life, instead, she saw the room before her. Yet where normally the vampire speed would make it impossible for her to see anything, it was as if everything had been slowed. Her chocolate gaze lighting on everything in the room but staying locked on Jasper.

His eyes were a deep black that would put onyx to shame, the whites of his eyes non-existent, and to an outsider, it would seem as though the one in his sights - his exceptionally hungry sights - was Bella herself. The demon inside of him wanting to taste the sweet ambrosia flowing in her veins. And yet, something in Bella told her that wasn’t it. He didn’t want to feed from her, he wanted to protect her. 

Bella wasn’t sure what it was, but at that moment she saw the soldier that was Jasper. Whilst she didn’t know all his story, she knew enough to know that right now she was looking at the Major. Not the softened version of himself that he’d become whilst with the Cullen’s. And those dark molasses eyes were trained with a razor-sharp intensity on a spot behind her.

Before Bella’s body could even begin to comprehend her decision to turn around, a sharp pain erupts along her collarbone. A rocket scientist could figure out what was happening as the flames of fire begin to lick their way across her body, pain blooming along every nerve as she felt Edward’s teeth cut through the delicate skin of her body and drink deep of the life source he had been craving since the moment she walked into that dreaded biology class.

It was almost ironic in a way, some deep part of her had known that despite the rock-solid control he paraded in front of her, the siren song of her blood was too hard for him to ignore. He cherished it like a pirate did his treasure and even one drop spilling down the creamy expanse of her skin was too much of a waste for his inner demon to comprehend. Bella was almost positive that Edward had craved another taste since that day in the ballet studio, the taste he’d had of her blood as he erased the traces of venom was a tease and he wanted it all.

Which he was now getting .

Her heartbeat rang like the gongs of a funeral procession in her ears but underneath that she could hear the greedy pulls and swallows of Edward as he gorged himself on his prize. Darkness starts to encroach on the peripherals of her sight and with bleary eyes she looks at the family surrounding them. Even in her frail state, so close to death she could taste it in the back of her throat, she could see surprise permeating every inch of their frames. As though they’d been rendered to stone with shock.

Rosalie was the most shocking to Bella’s weakened state as she sees sorrow burrow itself in the blondes topaz eyes and it enders Bella even more speechless than she currently was. Yet a part of her knew there was nothing she could do about it now, death had finally stopped dancing in her shadow and had come to claim her. 

Slowly as to memorize every one of them she drags her eyes over each of the Cullen’s in tow, cataloguing and sorting the looks on their faces as they stared silently. Frozen in place. Yet shock is what she feels as she looks over at Alice and for the barest minimum of seconds she could see glee shining along the pixie’s face. As though everything had played out just like she predicted, right down to Bella being Edward’s midnight treat.

A small part of Bella didn’t doubt it .

Finally, her eyes land back on the sinful molasses gaze of Jasper, his whole body coiled like a snake ready to strike within the confines of Emmett’s tree-trunk arms. His lips peeled back from his teeth to the point Bella could see his gums, the dim light shining off the venom coating his teeth and for a moment she believed she could see as droplets fell into the curve of Emmett’s elbow.

With a slow blink, Jasper finally wrenches himself free from Emmett. The force of his escape sending the much bigger vampire stumbling back as a deep resonating roar rang through the air, the glass windows of the house shattering in response. Before Bella stood the true reflection of a vampire, he was glorious in his rage, hard lines contorting to show the dying human just which member of the coven had true power. It was none of the pacifists that pretended to be human.

It was the soldier before her .

“Jasper – ”  

The soft utterance of his name is lost to the silence as she allows the darkness to swallow her whole, yet in those scant seconds, before she drowns under the weight of nothing, she swore she heard Jasper’s answering growl. At that moment she found a sense of victory flooding through her, her death wasn’t in vain and the soldier of death was going to make the one that ended her life pay. In the most vicious way .

She felt oddly pleased with that outcome.