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Immortal Beloved

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I spent the whole day inside, not willing to risk the sun exposure, even for only a few minutes. There was no telling who may be looking out their window or if someone would drive by. I felt caged in this house, however, and it was a strange feeling for me to have. After all, I had spent days, even weeks, at a stretch inside without ever being bothered. I knew why I felt this way, of course: I wanted to see Edward again.

But what soured my already tart mood was learning the fact that there would be no school the next morning. I learned this when Ana walked into my room gleefully, singing some inane song about the significance of Friday.

“What are we going to do this weekend?” she asked me cheerfully, leaning her long body against the threshold of my doorway. In retrospect, I realize that she was trying to see if I had any weekend plans.

“I'm going to school,” I said as if it should be obvious. “That is, assuming the weather allows it.” I glanced out my window darkly, my eyes narrowed into a glare.

Ana chuckled, however. “Oh, Bella,” she said with a wave of her hand. “There is no school tomorrow or Sunday. It's the weekend! That means no school. I can't believe you didn't know that!”

I stared at her, my mouth agape. “You didn't tell me,” I said, realizing that I would have to wait not just one, but three days with anticipation building inside of me.

Ana sighed. “Belle, I wasn't aware you were that out of touch with the world. I was sure you'd met at least one person who mentioned they got weekends off of school.” I shook my head and looked away, trying not to let my rising annoyance get the better of me. “We should get out,” Ana said after a few minutes of silence.

“Out where?” I asked with a sigh. I would have been content to mope around my room for the next seventy-two hours.

“Let's go out in the forest tonight,” she offered. “We could both use a good run around, don't you think?” She smiled and walked away, already knowing my answer without my having to say it.

Though the plans had improved my spirits, I still had several hours until the sun would go down. I felt restless alone in my room, so I headed out to clean up the house. The problem was, there wasn't much to clean. I had taken to cleaning at night rather than in the daytime, since I went to school, and nothing was dirty enough to clean again.

Not to mention, vampire houses didn't get as dirty as human houses. Vampire bodies are frozen, almost statue-like, whereas a human is constantly changing, shedding old cells (this was Edward's lessons talking). Humans drop hair, leave grease marks on surfaces, cause dust to build up from shed skin cells. Their clothes get dirty after every use. Vampires, conversely, aren't like that. A vampire's house gets dusty much slower, and the dust is different, thinner, easier to clean up with a quick swipe of a cloth. Vampire clothes only get dirty from external forces, such as actual dirt or stains from a meal. We wash clothes less often.

There were no hairs to vacuum up, no smudges to clean off of the windows. I briefly wondered if we could do with a pet. It would certainly give me something to do in these long hours I had.

I walked into the kitchen, thinking I might as well feed now. It could possibly fill in a good two minutes! But upon opening the refrigerator, I was struck in awe by what I saw: instead of about two dozen bags of blood laid on the bottom shelf, there were other things, like fruit in plastic baskets, vegetables and roots in plastic bags, and raw meat packed in cellophane and Styrofoam.

I stared at the colorful offering of mortal food. I don't know when Ana went to the store, or why she didn't tell me she had, but I didn't dwell on the thought. My gaze flickered from the ingredients in the refrigerator to the now-stocked kitchen and had the strange urge to make something. I didn't even know what I would make – I just wanted to.

I resisted this urge, however, because who would eat what I would make? It's not like Ana or I had much of an appetite for human food. There was also the snag that I hadn't cooked since ovens ran on coal and fire, and I hadn't the faintest idea how to work any of the gadgets Ana had bought. Maybe one day, though, if I made some mortal friends.

That seemed to strike a chord in me, and I realized how very alone I had been in the past months, even with Ana there. I'd go days without even speaking a single word, stretches of time without stepping a foot outside. I suddenly understood why Ana threw me into school all of a sudden.

I took a deep breath, wondering if it would be weird for me to call Jessica or Angela and make some weekend plans. I had their numbers – they'd given them to me at during the week. And it would be nice to having something to do, to be out with people.

I decided it wouldn't kill me to try, and I walked over to the little cell phone Ana had bought me and forgotten to tell me about. It would certainly be great to make friends who weren't as eccentric as Ana.

-

That night, as Ana drove us to the edge of town, I told her about the plans I had made with Jessica and Angela to go into Port Angeles. They were going to go dress shopping for the dance, and Jessica invited me to come along when I called. I agreed, even though I hadn't yet decided if I was going to go to the dance. I hadn't been to an occasion like that in a long time.

Ana seemed almost surprised that I had, on my own, called up some people and arranged to go out with them. “That's great, Belle,” she said sincerely. “Port Angeles has such cute shops! I'm sure you'll love it.”

“I just hope the sun doesn't come out,” I muttered, glancing up at the sky. Towards the evening, clouds had moved in to block out the blue of the sky, and I wanted them to stay there as long as possible.

“According to the news, we're due for a week-long snow-athon,” she said cheerfully. “So you'll be covered, Belle, don't you worry.” I nodded, hoping that was true, but if there was anything to be learned after centuries of observing humans, it was that the weatherman was often very wrong, though he was getting better.

We ran through the forest, at first together, then separately. Even in the dark, I could see every branch, every frond, every damp and frozen rock perfectly, and the scent of the forest was more potent in the night. I raced through the trees, feeling the wind whip my hair back, and I kept going until I reached a series of cliffs that dropped right off into the ocean. Looking down into the black underneath, I got the urge to go for a swim. The cold of the water wouldn't affect me, of course, and it had been a while since I went swimming.

I dove in, clothes and all, letting the dark ocean swallow my body and surround me. I stayed underwater for a long time, cutting through the current with the long, powerful strokes of my arms. The salt didn't sting my eyes, and the frigid temperatures didn't pierce my skin. I finally surfaced after a while, only to breathe in the salty ocean air and look up into the dark sky.

I met up with Ana in the water, to my surprise. I guessed that she, too, had spontaneously decided to go for a swim. We swam together, racing each other between the cliffs that surrounded the little bay we had found. I enjoyed our time together; we didn't very often do something like this.

We got out of the water when we both realized the sky was lightening. We didn't hurry in our swim back to the rocky shore, the both of us content in paddling in the water. I felt relaxed from the night, more relaxed than I had felt in a long time, and I was smiling to myself as we climbed ashore.

I opened my mouth to speak to Ana, to suggest that we do this again tomorrow night, but I heard the crunching of gravel not far down the beach. I saw Ana grow defensive just as I was, and I looked down towards where the sound came from. I breathed in the ocean air, scanning the shoreline, on the lookout for any possible threat. I caught a whiff of a mortal scent, though there was something just a little bit off about it – like it wasn't completely human.

I squinted my eyes, straining to see down the beach. Sure enough, I saw three bodies wandering slowly towards the two of us. Ana stepped in front of me, almost protectively, as the bodies made their way to us. I heard their voices begin to rise as they approached, all three of them male. In moments, I realized that I recognized one of them.

I saw Jacob, Edward's friend who I observed in the forest a few days ago, before he saw us. My breath stilled in my lungs as the boy approached with his friends. They were distracted by whatever they were talking about, and didn't see us at first, but gradually their voices died down. They'd seen us, and they were walking over to us.

I was getting nervous, and I jumped when I felt Ana's hand clasp firmly around my upper arm. “We should go now,” she breathed in my ear, steering me towards the path that would take us through the woods and back to Ana's car.

“What is it?” I asked as I let her lead me, glancing back over my shoulder towards the beach. The figures in the distance had stopped. I guessed they were watching us retreat.

“I'll tell you later,” she said quietly, urgently. “Let's just get home first.” Her tone concerned me, but I concentrated on the path before me, gradually moving faster and faster until we had reached our car. Ana drove faster than she ever had before, which was saying something for a vampire.

-

I went to meet my friends later that day, my head heavy with the knowledge that not only did werewolves exist, but they were our mortal enemies and Edward was apparently best buds with one.

When Ana and I got home that morning, she was rather agitated, and it took her a moment to settle down in the living room. She seemed full of nervous energy, and seeing her like that had me almost panicking. “Sorry,” she said to me distractedly, “but I just can't stand werewolves.”

“Werewolves?” I repeated.

Ana smiled at me. “You can't possibly find it hard to believe werewolves exist when we do?” she asked with a small laugh, sounding more like herself. “They do, and they're pretty much the best things in nature that can kill us.” She paused, then added, “Besides other vampires.”

I chill ran down my spine. “What do you mean?” I asked, though part of me didn't want to know. My mind went back to that forest, where I witnessed Edward telling Jacob about me.

“Oh, werewolves basically evolved just to combat vampires,” Ana said. “Their teeth can bite right through our flesh as if it were as soft as a human's, and they can run just as fast as we can. They're built basically for combat with vampires.”

I nodded, knowing this changed everything. My concerns were no longer about the town rallying up against us with stakes and torches – or, more modernly, guns and more guns. No, now I had to worry that Edward had ousted us to a member of the very species made to kill us. Edward, the boy who seemed to be awakening life within me, was unambiguously a threat to my very being.

I took a deep breath, and I told Ana this. She listened, looking serious, then finally said, “I don't think we have a problem.” Before I could protest her words, she raised a hand and said, “That boy – Jacob? - and the others probably don't know about us.”

“What do you mean?” I asked, trying desperately to get a grip on this whole problem.

“They haven't transformed yet.” I just let my confused stare speak for me, and Ana sighed. “Those boys, they haven't yet become werewolves. I can tell. A werewolf in human form looks a lot different. Those boys are still developing. Since vampires don't come through this area very often, chances are that their parents haven't even made the transformation. It only really happens when vampires are around. Those boys might know stories or legends of vampires, but I doubt they really know that we exist.”

“But we are here,” I said. “Won’t we trigger their transformation?”

Ana shrugged. “I really doubt it,” she said. “We don’t threaten them, and I don’t know about you, but I have no plans to antagonize them. Besides, the wolf pack doesn’t live in town. They’re all part of some gang that lives down in Christo Rey.” She smiled again. “As long as we keep our distance, we should have no issue at all.”

This did very little to abate my worries, but I kept my plans to go out with Jessica and Angela. I hoped they would distract me for a little while.

The drive to Port Angeles wasn't too bad. I listened to Jessica go on about Mike, and how Angela should ask Eric out, and how she hoped Lauren and Tyler would go out, and expressed similar sentiments about other male and female pairs I wasn't familiar with. Then, at some point not far from our destination, Jessica asked me, “So what's the deal with you and Edward?”

I looked at her with a tight smile. I didn't want to think about Edward that day, because that would have me thinking about everything else. “Nothing,” I said with a shrug.

“Oh, there's something,” Jessica pressed as she eased her car off the highway and towards the city. “I saw you two Thursday night. I had to stay late to work on a project for student council, and when I came out to get something from my car, I saw you two in the parking lot.” She glanced to Angela in the passenger seat beside her. “They were standing super close!”

Angela twisted in her seat so she could look at me. “Are you two going out?” she asked me curiously.

I tried to keep the smile on my face as memories of Thursday night flooded back to me. I remembered everything I felt, and how he felt, and I recalled why I was frustrated in having to wait so long to see him again. I found I wasn't sure how to answer Angela, because, while I knew it was in my best interest to stay far, far away from Edward, I realized that I certainly wanted him in my life.

“I don't know,” I said at last. “It's a bit complicated.” It was the understatement of the century, and these girls would never understand why.

“Well, if you want my opinion,” Jessica piped up, without leaving a pause for me to confirm or deny the desire of said opinion, “I think you shouldn't bother with Edward.” I was about to roll my eyes and stop listening, expecting Jessica to go on about Edward like she had with Lauren a few days ago, but her next words held my attention. “He's such a—a misogynist!”

I glanced to Angela with a questioning look, but she seemed as surprised by Jessica's words as I was. “What do you mean?” I asked, recalling how polite Edward had been to me Thursday.

Jessica didn't say anything at first, but concentrated on driving down the narrow road of a small outdoor shopping mall she had driven to. She parallel parked in front of a dress shop and took the time to shut off her car before turning around in her seat to look at me. “I had a crush on Edward for a while last year, and I flirted with him during a class we had together. From what I could tell, I was sure he liked me back, so I asked him out.” She looked from me to Angela. “Nothing wrong with that, right?”

“Not at all,” Angela said with a shake of her head.

“Well,” Jessica continued, looking back to me, “he didn't say no, but he didn't say yes, either. All he said was that girls shouldn't be the ones to ask guys out! Can you believe that?”

“What century is he from?” Angela rhetorically asked with a laugh.

“You think he's nice, opening doors for girls and all that,” Jessica went on, “but really, he just sees us girls as inferior.” I tried not to let my amusement show. Certainly, what Edward said was outright rude and offensive, but I had lived most of my life in a time where that sort of behavior was expected. In fact, women pursuing and courting men was a very new idea, especially to someone who had lived for two hundred years.

“You don't think he meant it that way, do you?” Angela asked, glancing to me again.

Jessica just shrugged, so I spoke up. “I don't think he meant it to be insulting. I think maybe he was just raised in an old-fashioned home, and he has those old-fashioned ideas.”

“He's still a pig,” Jessica spat, opening her door. I took that as a cue that she didn't want to talk about it anymore, and climbed out of the car.

I then spent the next several hours hearing about only one thing: the upcoming dance. I thought at first, by the way the two were carefully looking for and trying on dresses, that this was the prom, but it was far too early in the year for that. Upon further inquiry, I learned that this was a Valentine’s Day dance.

Jessica enthusiastically suggested dresses for me to try on, saying how each would look wonderful on me. I was reluctant to let her carry on like this, as I was still unsure about going to the dance. I mean, I didn't have anything better to do that night, and I didn't necessarily need a date to go. But at the same time, my life was getting too complicated to worry about mortal dances.

Still, I allowed her to have me try on dress after dress, feeling unsatisfied with each one. One dress was far too short for my liking, barely making it past my behind. Another had a neckline that dipped far too low. It was meant to expose cleavage, but I didn't have all that much in the breast area anyway, and it hung off me awkwardly. Another dress was just too brightly colored, and it cast my skin in a very dead gray tone.

Angela, however, found a garment that I quite liked. It was a simple dress, with a skirt that reached just below my knees and dipped tastefully down in the chest area without exposing any cleavage. It was sage green, with little leaf patterns stitched into the skirt, and it looked very nice against my pale skin and made the brown of my contacts pop out more. It wasn’t exactly a winter-ready dress, and it would certainly leave a mortal chilly in the early months of the year. But upon seeing myself in that dress, an odd sensation of excitement overcame me. I couldn’t resist the purchase, even if I didn't know where or when I would wear it.

We went to several dress shops, as well as some other stores that sold jewelry, knickknacks, books. At the bookstore, I found myself pausing to read the synopses of several titles, and before I had even realized it, I had purchased four volumes of widely different genres. I very much enjoyed the day out with the two girls, finding myself laughing with them. I was able to relax and take my mind off my supernatural troubles. Unfortunately, it seemed that the universe had decided that I could not relax for more than ten minutes.

We (or rather, they) decided to go to a little Italian restaurant for dinner. The sun was already starting to set, and I could tell that Jessica and Angela had worked up an appetite shopping all day. We first stopped by Jessica's car, where we loaded our shopping bags into the trunk.

When we got into the restaurant, I quickly excused myself to the restroom. My eyes had started to feel irritated, and I was glad I had brought an extra pair of contacts. As I passed through the dining room, I let in a breath, smiling at the savory scents of garlic, basil and rosemary that seemed to permeate every inch of the room.

I got in the restroom, glad to find no one in there at the moment. I quickly switched my contacts and ducked out, wondering what I would pretend to eat here. I'd never really tasted Italian food before.

I was walking back to the table where my friends sat, still contemplating what to eat, when I heard my name called. At first, I ignored the call – the restaurant was named La Bella Italia, and I thought someone may have just simply said the name. But then I heard my name again, louder, and I recognized the voice, stopping me in my tracks.

I turned to the origin of the call, meeting gazes with none other than Edward Masen himself. He was sitting at a small table, across from Jacob.

I tensed up at the sight of the duo, feeling the instinctual urge to run from the restaurant as fast as possible. I resisted, however, and instead I squared my shoulders, slapped a smile on my face, and walked over to the table, wishing I just could have a moment to enjoy my life now that I had discovered how to do that.