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Immortal Beloved

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I didn't bother to stay for gym class; I was wound way too tight, and I had far too much on my mind. I needed answers as what exactly I was going through. I just hoped Ana hadn't taken off again. The thought of having to suffer through another day of this was unbearable.

For the third day in a row, I raced home at a breakneck pace. I knew that if I kept this up, sooner or later I'd get a ticket for speeding. But, for the third day in a row, I had a damn good reason to drive at this high speed. For a brief moment, I almost envied my human classmates; surely they didn’t have to carry on like this in their normal, mortal lives.

I ran inside when I got home, calling out, “Ana, you better be home!”

A chuckle from upstairs alerted me to her presence, and I raced up and into her room. She was sitting on her king-sized four-poster bed, dressed in a bright pink tank-top and loose gym shorts, watching some drivel on her flat-screen television that took up a good portion of the wall across from her bed. Unlike me, Ana very much loved material possessions, especially if they happen to be impractical and absurd. She had not only insisted on buying that very expensive bed, which she didn't even need, but also had to cart it with us every time we moved.

She looked over at me with a silly grin. “Skipping school today, are we?”

“We need to talk,” I said, deadly serious. I'd hoped my tone would help to persuade Ana to actually show some concern, but I should have known better than that.

“How's Edward?” she asked in a sing-song voice as she turned off her television.

I rolled my eyes at the tone of her inquiry. “I think we may have gotten him off our track, but there's something about him I want to talk to you about.” Ana patted her bed beside her for me to sit down, and I followed her direction. “There's something strange about Edward.”

“Strange how?” she asked, pulling her knees up to her chest. She looked like a high school girl who was about to learn her best friend's secret.

I paused, trying to find the words to describe just how Edward made me feel. It was hard to even sort out my thoughts about him to focus properly, so I just said, “He smells so good that I want to jump on him.”

I knew Ana would find that absolutely hilarious and expected the burst of giggles I got from her. “I've been waiting fifty years for you to say that!” she said. I looked at her, dumbstruck. “So tell me about him! Is he cute? Will you go out?”

“What?” I was absolutely astounded by her questions. “No! Why would you even ask that?”

Ana shook her head at my utter shock. “Oh, Belle! You should hang out with him.”

“No!” I sighed. “Ana, he's the one who's suspicious of us being vampires, remember? This is not the person for you to match me with!”

“So you say now,” she muttered, but grinned. “You should invite him over!”

I could not believe the words coming out of her mouth. “I think living so long has made you crazy,” I said. “I can't invite him over any more than I can spend time with him alone. He'll find out we're vampires for sure!”

“Or you can prove to him we aren't,” she said pointedly. “We'll make it look like we're normal humans. I'll get some food and stuff for the kitchen—oh! I'll have to buy some appliances, huh? Humans keep those in there. And we'll have him over for dinner!” She jumped up, excited now, and I just stared at her, slack-jawed.

“Ana,” I spoke up, but quickly realized that I had lost her. She was absolutely set on having Edward over for dinner, and was already getting dressed to go shopping.

I sighed and shook my head, knowing I was no less confused about this whole situation. Ana hadn't explained a thing, but I knew I wouldn't be able to get any information from her in this state. I'd have to wait until her excitement had run its course, and there was no way to tell how long that would take.

I felt her hand on my arm, and then I was pulled to my feet and down the hall. “Come on, Bella!” Ana said as she pulled me downstairs. “We're going shopping!”

-

Several hours and hundreds of dollars later, I stared at the kitchen, transformed from its previous unused and drab state to that of new, shiny stainless steel accented with sky-blue handles or feet and a matching set of towels, wall hangings and a table setting for the new dining room table that would arrive the next day.

Ana delightfully took every dish and appliance out of its box and found the perfect place for it all in the cabinets or on the counters or on the wall. I stayed out of her way and collected the user manuals for every appliance, since I knew I'd be the one cooking this supposed meal that I was hoping I could persuade Ana to not have.

I wondered if I'd even need all of these things to cook a meal – after all, neither of us hardly knew what these things did, and I wasn't even sure if the average mortal kept every single appliance on sale in their homes. I was only certain of the use of the knives, bowls and spoons, and I was sure that was all I'd need to cook anything. Then again, times had changed since I last cooked anything, and perhaps the foods now available to the average human needed special equipment to cook properly.

I worried over this to avoid worrying over bigger issues, like if Edward managed to find all the proof he'd need to rally up a vampire-hunting mob. Instead, I focused my mind on what I would even cook for a human. The last thing I had cooked for anyone was a pheasant roasted on a spit over a fire, smothered in a herbed paste and served with a sauce made of blackberries and raspberries. It used to be the special dinner I would make for my family on Christmas, and it was my last attempt at cooking and enjoying food before I gave up.

A sense of sadness passed over me as I thought about the last time I cooked. I remembered the almost gleeful look on my creator's face, and how that had seemed to be the final nail on the coffin that was my mortal life. My mind then reeled from the memory, and I let out a sharp breath. I didn't need to think about that time. It wasn't necessary.

“What's up, Belle?” Ana asked, and I guess she heard me. I looked over at her, and she was peering at me with concern.

“Just thinking,” I said, idly ruffling through the user manuals in my hand. “I haven't cooked in quite a while.”

“Were you thinking about Lenora?” she asked, and I nearly flinched at the name of my creator. I nodded silently, keeping my eyes downcast. I heard Ana walk up beside me and I felt her arms around my shoulders. The corners of my mouth lifted slightly at the gesture. She didn't say anything, didn't ask me for details or anything like that. She just hugged me.

Of all the people in the world, Ana knew the most about how I was turned besides the actual monster that turned me. She had been the only person I had told, and that was because I trusted her so much. She really was like a sister to me, in this new life of mine. She had been the one to help me get away from my creator a very long time ago.

The night I ran away from Lenora, the horrid vampire who had kept me like a pet for decades, was one of my most vivid memories. It was January in 1841, and while humans were bunked down for the cold winter in Pennsylvania, I had been readying myself for my escape for several weeks.

I had met Ana several years previous, at a little vampire party that Lenora had held. I guess they were acquaintances or something, because they acted like they hadn't seen each other in a very long time. It was at that party that I spoke to Ana, and she asked me something no one had ever asked me, “Don't you want to be free?”

I stared at her with confusion. “I am free,” I told her, and I was certain that I was. After all, Lenora had told me many times that I could leave whenever I wanted to. I simply didn't because, though I was fifty years old, I didn't know how to hunt. I didn't know how to feed myself, but Lenora provided, so I stayed with her by my own choice.

I didn't know how to hunt, because the first time I asked Lenora, she looked on me with pity and said, “I didn't want to tell you, dear Isabella, but you can't learn to hunt. You're defective.” I quickly learned what she meant by this. Lenora had a special ability in that she could slip her mind into that of another being, human or vampire, and take control of them. She could make a human walk with her into a quiet, empty alleyway where she could dig right into him, and he wouldn't scream or try to run.

I didn't learn until later that not all vampires had this ability. I thought at the time that it was normal for vampires to be able to do that, and the fact that I couldn't meant something was wrong with me. It was Ana, at that party, who told me that not all vampires could control other people. I didn't believe her, though. That fundamental truth would shake my whole world, and I wasn't ready for that yet.

Ana then asked me if Lenora ever controlled me, to which I said I didn't know, but she probably did. I figured that if Lenora had controlled me, I wouldn't remember it. I had hoped she hadn't controlled me, but there may have been an occasion or two where it may have been necessary. Ana seemed intrigued by my answer, asked if I ever had any “blank spots” in my memory and all sorts of other questions that made me uncomfortable to answer. Lenora caught wind of our conversation, and I watched as Ana's expression suddenly went blank and her excited words stopped suddenly. She stiffly walked away from me and out the front door.

It was the first time I had seen Lenora control another vampire, and in all honesty, it terrified me. I was pretty sure at that point that Lenora had controlled me, and in that case, what could I do? It was the first time that I felt trapped. Or rather, the idea that I was free that I had convinced myself of was gone.

But after that party, Ana wrote to me regularly. She was very careful about it. I'd only get one letter every four months or so, and the letters wouldn't come in the mail, but rather be placed in my window. At first, I was worried about the letters being from a stalker, but Ana soon identified herself in the letters, saying she wanted to help me.

I had no way to answer her, but she never asked any questions for me to answer, or said much that I could respond to. She simply told me things, like about Lenora's “strange ability to control people”. She described how Lenora's “unique” ability could help her in the hunt, but it seemed that she abused it. I noticed how Ana constantly pointed out how odd, strange, unique and rare Lenora's ability was, possibly so that I would get it through my head that her ability was abnormal. And at some point, I finally believed her.

There wasn't something wrong with me. I could learn to hunt, and therefore be independent, but Lenora let me believe that I couldn't. It was the first red flag.

Ana's next letters described how it seemed like Lenora's gift didn't affect me. Now this I thought very strange. Where would Ana get such an idea? But Ana pointed out that I had told her I didn't have any “blank spots” in my memory, which was a sure sign of being controlled. She also mentioned how it was odd that Lenora had controlled her at the party and made her leave, rather than control me and make me stop talking to Ana.

In this letter, Ana asked one question: “Does Lenora ever control other people to keep them away from you?” It was a question I hadn't asked myself, but the more I thought about it over the months, and the more I observed from Lenora, it did seem that she did everything in her power to keep me isolated from others except attempt to control me.

Ana's last letter to me was very long, and one of the most important letters I had ever received in my life. In it, she proposed the idea that I, too, had a special gift – that I had a special wall or shield over my mind that stopped Lenora from controlling me. It was this gift that gave me the power to run away, she said, that I could run away, escape, be free of Lenora for good.

I just had to find a way out, and I could meet Ana once again in Canada.

It was on that night in January 1841 that I had decided to put my trust in Ana and make my escape. I didn't know if it would work, or what the consequences would be should my attempt fail. I just knew that I could not live under the control Lenora had placed upon me any longer. It wasn't a mental control, but rather an emotional one, and I had come to the realization that I had to break free.

Lenora and I were hunting. It was hard to find humans out at this time of night in the cold, but if one stayed close to taverns, one would be sure to find a straggling drunk who'd wandered into the cold. It was snowing, and many humans had been talking during the day of a coming blizzard. My thoughts were focused on running away, but I had to wait until Lenora was distracted.

Lenora found her target. It wasn't a straggling drunk, but rather a young man taking care of horses in a stable just behind a tavern. He couldn't have been a day over twenty, with fair hair and a stocky, thick build that was built for taking on harsh winters. He spoke to a horse who had suddenly become agitated, and he had a German-sounding accent.

I watched as he went from softly talking to the horse and patting it on the nose to still and blank. He stiffly stood up and walked over to Lenora and I, who were hidden behind some bales of hay. I watched the boy with regret, knowing that there was nothing I could do to save him, though I imagined projecting this “mental shield” Ana had spoken on onto the boy, knowing it wouldn't work but wishing so hard it would.

Lenora and I both were surprised when the boy suddenly yelped. “Where did you come from?” he asked in surprise, then looked around. “I don't remember walking over here.”

Lenora turned on me, her eyes narrowed. “What did you do?” she hissed and grabbed the boy by the arm hard. The boy once again yelped, but this time it sounded pained.

“I didn't,” I insisted, but stared as Lenora's fangs slid out. She looked like she was about to attack me, but turned and dug them into the boy's throat faster than he could react and let out a scream.

I didn't waste any time. I darted away from Lenora as fast as I could, faster than any human could imagine. The horses behind me kicked up in a panic, unnerved and spooked by the presence of vampires, and that caught the attention of many people in the saloon. I was long gone by the time they came out to see what the commotion was, and I didn't know if Lenora got away or not.

I just focused on running. I didn't know where I was going, but I headed for the edge of town and, finally, into the forests that lined the town. I delved into the woods, pounding out my fear and my exhilaration into the ground, leaving behind huge gashes in the earth where my feet touched. At last, I was free, and I headed northwards, or approximately north, to get to Canada.

I didn't see Ana again for a very long time. Not knowing where I was going, I quickly got lost in those woods. I learned how to hunt down and feed on animals so I wouldn't starve, and I kept heading north. Or I thought it was north, but I was actually heading mostly southwest.

I was found by a small group of vampires who were passing through the area I was in, and they took me in and helped me to acclimate being an independent vampire. I learned things I should have learned fifty years ago, like how to properly kill a human so they don't have a chance to scream, or to never bite a human and leave them alive, for they would soon turn into another vampire.

I had wondered at that strange thing that happened with the human. I had managed to break Lenora's control over him, and it had really affected her. Through the years, I worked on this ability of mine, which I called a “mental shield”, just as Ana had described it. I found I could shield the minds of those around me. It came in handy a couple of times, and I got very good at this new ability of mind. There was an interesting side effect, though – it seemed that for me to shield one's mind, my mind “linked” with his. From that point on, if that person was in a rather close proximity to me, I could “sense” his presence.

I made it my goal to find Ana again, and though it took me almost a hundred years (the woman loved to move around a lot), I at last found her, and we'd been together ever since.

I shook my head at the memories and looked over at Ana, who had finished placing everything. She looked around the kitchen with a satisfied smile, then looked back at me. “How does it look?” she asked.

I glanced over the kitchen, noting how different it looked. Though everything was obviously new, the kitchen seemed more lively, like a family lived there, and I couldn't help but smile. “It looks great, Ana,” I told her, and moved to her to wrap my arm around her waist. She smiled at me and moved some of my hair out of my face.

“We're going to need food,” she said after a few moments of silence. I expected her to go bounding out of the room, car keys in hand, but she shook her head and waved her hand dismissively. “That can wait for tomorrow,” she said. “Or until you have a menu picked out!”

“I still don't think inviting Edward over is a good idea,” I told her with concern. “I still don't understand why I get so—so flustered around him.” I met her gaze with a frown. “Can you please tell me why he's affecting me like this?”

“Fine, fine,” she said, moving to the refrigerator. “Let's have some dinner first, and then I'll tell you everything you want to know.” There was a mischievous note to her tone that worried me, and I wondered if I'd regret asking about this in the end.