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Dusk

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Maine.

White-topped ocean waves washed against the rocky coast with lessening fervour as the ocean was calming down again. After the tempestuous night morning seemed to signal a return to the calmness. The morning air was crisp and clear, a last, lingering trace of winter clinging onto spring.

But in Alice’s mind there was a silent storm raging still, with no sign of calming down. She let her mind drift between half-formed thoughts ideas without settling on any one in particular. Surrounded by mannequins wearing her mostly unfinished designs, she sat on the floor in her bedroom with her opened sketchbook before her. As well as her ideas for outfits there were several quickly drawn scenes from her visions. At the moment she was focused on her favourite vision, a scene she kept coming back to. She had drawn it again and again as she explored it further, finding more details and impressions to fill in the blanks, till at last, she had enough to try and translate it to paper.

But no matter how clear the vision became in her mind, most of the effect was lost in translation to paper; no matter how hard she tried there was no way she’d be able to convey or hint at the feelings associated with the scene to anyone else. The warmth of the sun as it filtered down through the overhead tree, the sensation of the naked skin of the person next to her, the sound of her voice, her heart beating… The chirping of the birds, the gentle sound of a summer breeze rustling the aspen-foliage before the other trees, the sound of the nearby river. It was her most cherished vision or memory. A safe place she could retreat into and seek refuge from the outside world. A memory of something that hadn’t yet happened, of someone she hadn’t yet met. It was bittersweet.

She had visited a floatation tank center to see if it could heighten her focus and meditative state by shutting out outside all influences on her senses, allowing her to focus only on her own mind. That had made the visions clearer and more intense, stronger, but also made her long for them to become real that much more. It was the most beautiful agony to get fleeting glimpses of them and be left with the memories afterwards once they ended.

At long last the meadow scene was more or less complete, with every sense helping to fill out the scene. They were in a meadow, surrounded by wildflowers – forget-me-nots. As they lay there, enjoying each other’s company a butterfly landed on a nearby flower. She still felt a shudder when she heard the girl whisper her name, caressing her arm, and she was certain she felt a similar reaction when she had whispered her lover’s name in return – Bella. She had memorised that voice, and everything else she could from that scene in particular.

She finished adding a detail and put her pencil down, closing her eyes and reliving the vision to make sure she had included every possible detail. Night after night she had tried to bring Bella to life on paper, tried to capture her likeness with pencil and watercolours. When she first began the vision was too brief, too hazy for her to get a good take on the scene. But the sense of love had been overwhelming, and it increased as the scene slowly became clearer. Bella’s face became more distinct, her voice more defined, and when she’d heard herself whisper her love’s beautiful name and felt the shudder in response, her heart swelled with a love never felt before.

After so long she felt the time was right to let the others know. Edward, of course, had caught bits and pieces here and there through the years, but he always respected their privacy and always kept it to himself. Jasper had sensed her raised spirits whenever thoughts of Bella crossed her mind, bringing a smile to her face. The main reason she had waited to tell anyone was that her love was human.

Again and again she had thought about how she should tell them, when the ideal time was. As surprised as she had been when she first noticed, the love she felt was so intense and genuine it was impossible for her to ignore it. In her visions they were so very much in love and her heart ached to make sure her visions of Bella came true. She had seen and felt how happy they were together, and her heart ached so much for a human girl she had never met or spoken to. Love had blinded her.

She could not mess up, and the support of her family was invaluable to her. Without their support and approval her happiness could never be complete. At the back of her mind there was the awful thought that her decision to try and make these visions could cause a rift in her family. That was just as unbearable as never meeting her true love, her soulmate. Either one of those would annihilate what joy the other brought.

With a look of determination Alice decided to let her family in on her visions. From down the hallway the constant sound of Carlisle typing away at his old school typewriter blended with the piano-playing coming from the downstairs living-room where Edward honed his skills, composing his concerto. She gently tapped her fingers against the door frame to Carlisle’s study out of courtesy and respect. The typing stopped and he looked up from his unfinished paper and smiled at her.

There was a welter of papers, letters and books on his desk, and to his right there was window with a view of the garden, parkland and ocean in the distance. “What can I do for you?” he asked, seemingly noticed that there was something on her mind that was out of the ordinary. “I have an announcement I would like to share with everyone in a family meeting,” she stated sincerely. “Very well,” he said with a nod.

As she descended the stairs Edward’s symphony grew more pronounced, yet it felt light and airy, like walking in the air. “Five minutes?” she asked without verbally having to announce her intentions of holding a family meeting. He nodded and offered her a smile as she passed him on her way out, never stopping playing.
Stepping out onto the terrace through the French windows the ocean breeze embraced her with its cool caress. She saw Esme tending to her ‘night-garden’. Like all her gardening projects it was truly a sight to behold, a small slice of paradise. The ‘night-garden’ only featured flowers that only bloom at night or thrived in the shade: Evening Primose, Beach moon flower, Night Gladiolus, along with Rhododendron and White Doves Camellia, and several others Alice couldn’t put a name to.

Esme had been an early adopter of Hügelkultur in the U.S., and her efforts had been given time to mature over the years since they had last visited. The raised garden beds framed the back garden and ran down the gently sloping lawn down towards the beach, unconsciously drawing one’s attention down towards the center, aided by the edges of the orchard to frame the scene and prevent prying eyes from getting a good view of their safe New England haven.

With impeccable timing Emmett and Jasper came walking up the forest road from the beach. They had been swimming and surfing in the sea – always competing, and challenging each other, and taking advantage of the large waves. They were dressed only in speedos and each had a towel around the shoulders; water-droplets still ran down their pale, muscled bodies – like unpainted white marble statues from Ancient Greece depicting an idealised human, their still-wet hair slicked back.

“I would like to hold a family meeting in five,” she announced as the two boys noticed her standing there. She had to step carefully to make sure her cherished vision came true, though she didn’t like the idea of trying to manipulate them into going along with her plan. Usually she was cheerful and energetic, so her pensive mood must have told them her decision to hold a formal family meeting was genuine and important to her. The seriousness of the situation, and the importance of having her family’s support weighed heavy on her and she seemed lost in thought as the others took their seats around the table on their usual seats. Esme had abandoned her gardening and looked at her with a motherly look of concern and uncertainty. “I’ll go tell Rosie,” Emmett offered with a wink, going to fetch his wife.

As she waited for the others Alice did a last minute contemplation of how to best present her case. No matter how many times she had considered different approaches and phrasings she got a bad feeling from it, like she was a shyster about to manipulate a jury. Through the windows the sun began to colour the horizon in shades of pink before it became visible. Rosalie had been in the middle of working on her latest restoration project in the garage, though she looked like she’d just stepped off the catwalk rather than getting out of an oil-stained overall. She already had her arms crossed as she awaited the family meeting so she could return to her beloved car. Out of everyone Rosalie, and Jasper, were the ones she needed to convince the most. They were the most likely to be negative to Alice being in love with a regular human.

“For some time now I’ve had visions of my soulmate, and in order to meet her we’ll have to move,” Alice began. No matter how long she had prepared and practised what to say she was nonetheless nervous. The silence was deafening, and not helping her worries. “Is your soulmate already a vegetarian?” Rosalie asked warily, her eyes narrowing as she scrutinised Alice for any tell-tale signs. “She is human,” Alice admitted calmly. “Where will you meet her?” Carlisle wondered, processing the information she had shared. “I’m not sure, I haven’t recognised any of the areas in the scenes yet,” she admitted. If she had been human still, Alice had no doubt she’d be embarrassed and uncomfortable under the scrutiny of her family questioning her. “That’s just fantastic. You want us to up and move someplace unknown for this human girl who has no idea you exist?” Rosalie let out a groan and tilted her head back to gaze up at the ceiling. “We’ll be happy together, we’ll all be happy together there,” Alice insisted, trying to convey the honest happiness she’d felt and seen them all enjoy even though her soulmate was human.

It was the honest truth; she had seen them all get along in the future where she met her soulmate. Edward would be able to read those visions, and Jasper would sense her honesty and the intense longing she felt for this girl she had yet to meet. Edward’s take on it might be the one who turned everything in her favour; because he could read her mind and see the truth of her visions it would show them all she was genuine. Even though it had yet to happen, and could change, it was a future they could enjoy. It seemed that the others, perhaps unconsciously, had the same idea, and their attention seemed to shift to Edward and Jasper.

“While I do have some concerns, she is correct. They’ll be happy together – we’ll all be, at least in the visions she’s had so far,” Edward finally relented. “‘So far’” Rosalie sighed. One did not have to be a mind reader, or even an expert on body language, to see that she was not enthusiastic about the idea of moving and getting intimately involved with a human.

In the past Rosalie had made no secret of what she thought of human teenagers. In her opinion they ranked low on the scale of groups she would find tolerable company. “And we cannot ignore the Volturi. If they find out we are finished,” Rosalie was getting worked up. “If she found out on her own we wouldn’t break their rule,” Jasper clarified. Rosalie huffed and shook her head, realising from the others’ reaction that they seemed to consider the proposal. If she really refused the suggestion to move and put down a veto, she would be viewed as the bad guy, and it would ruin the good relationship to her sister, and put a serious strain on the bonds of their family. Rosalie didn’t seem upset, just conflicted, no doubt torn between her concern for her family and Alice’s happiness. She and Alice were both incredibly stubborn. That was perhaps their biggest flaw, if one would consider it a flaw rather than a strength – confidence was a useful trait in many situations.

“We could look into this first, find out where this takes place, and find out more about her, what sort of person she is,” Carlisle suggested diplomatically, holding the idea of moving open while taking Rosalie’s concerns into consideration.

“We could narrow down the location by considering the flora and fauna in the visions,” Esme suggested, catching Alice’s attention. “We can safely rule out areas we wouldn’t normally consider moving to,” she continued. “It must be somewhere we could stay safely, perhaps an area we have been to in the past,” she reasoned.

Esme, who was a skilled botanist wasted no time fetching some of her books on flora and fauna in North America, along with a map and a marker pen, so they could try and pinpoint the location. Her mother seemed excited by the prospect of meeting Alice’s soulmate and was pleased she might be able to help find the location for the future meeting. Alice noticed that Rosalie resignedly threw her hands in the air. “C’est la démission totale!” she muttered as she stalked off.

Alice felt an ache in her undead heart putting a damper on the prospect of possibly finding out where she’d get to met her soulmate, Bella. The others shrugged and wandered off elsewhere, Edward back to his beloved piano, as evident by the continued playing. Perhaps it was just her imagination, but Alice thought the melody was more melancholic and contemplative than it had been earlier. Instead of walking in the air it made her think of walking around in a misty autumnal landscape.

With Esme’s books and assistance Alice was able to identify several of the flowers she had seen, especially in the vivid meadow scene: Erythranthe lewisii (Great purple monkeyflower), Populus trichocarpa (Black Cottonwood), and the flower the butterfly had landed… Linnaea borealis – Twinflower. That all certainly narrowed it down, but it was when she recognised the butterfly that all doubt was removed. Euphydryas editha taylori – Taylor’s Checkerspot. A very rare butterfly native to a small area of the Northwestern USA. It is at extreme risk of going extinct.

It must be their Pacific Northwest home in the Misty Valley just outside of Forks! As if to finalise it Esme drew a circle around Forks on the map. Though they hadn’t been there in ages they had kept an eye on the place and modernised it to fit the times. Carlisle had hired an architect to undertake a complete rebuilding of the house, and Esme had transformed the wilderness into a beautifully landscaped park that would have made Capability Brown proud. It would be a welcome change to live there permanently, rather than spending a short time there between moving and travelling.

With the place known they could look into who this Bella was. Maybe if she had something solid to hold onto and show it would help alleviate Rosalie’s worries. Once she got to know her she’d realise why Alice was so smitten with her. For the time being she only had a handful of fleeting but intense visions of Bella to cling to. The two of them having a picnic in the meadow, cuddling on a sunny day in the shade of an old tree; Alice dancing with Bella at the school ball; Bella inviting her inside her bedroom; Alice asking her out on a date…

Alice understood Rose’s apprehension and protectiveness; she was simply looking out for them, for her, and she had Alice’s best intentions in mind, and she couldn’t blame her sister for that. “I’ll talk to Rose,” Alice said, thanking Esme for the help with pinpointing the location before hurrying outside to find Rosalie. “She headed down to the beach,” Edward called after her through the opened French windows.

With the others at least open to the idea, if not wholly onboard, she had to make sure Rosalie trusted her decision and gave her her approval. Even though they had their disagreements, often over Alice’s authoritative take on fashion, and overly energetic persona, they were incredibly close, the closest of friends.

Without wasting time on putting on shoes she walked down by the beach, down the forest road where Esme’s careful attention to detail had transformed the wilderness into a seemingly natural fairytale land, with colourful flowers and overhead branches forming a natural ceiling down the entire road. The trees ended abruptly, opening up to sheltered cove with a white sandy beach. Straight ahead was the open Atlantic ocean, the waves now washing against the beach with quickly lessening force.

She wandered along the beach barefoot, leaving footprints that quickly were washed away by the waves lapping at her ankles. With sea-cold hands she picked up seashells and pebbles and threw them back into the sea. At the far end of the beach, by the white-painted boathouse where they stored their kayaks, Rosalie sat on a large piece of driftwood, smooth and bleached from its long exposure to the elements. With the sole exception of her long blond hair fluttered in the ocean breeze she sat perfectly still, like a statue forever gazing out at the ocean.

“I am happy for you,” Rosalie clarified without turning to look at her. “I’m sensing there is a ‘but’ to go with that sentence,” Alice said with a self-conscious chuckle as she sat down next to her sister. Rosalie turned her head and smiled at her, but it didn’t reach her eyes and Alice knew it was more for show and sympathy than anything else. “I was going for a ‘however’ instead, ‘buts’ are so overused,” Rosalie jokingly clarified.

“I’m worried,” Rosalie admitted finally. “I’m worried that if – when – we do move there, this girl you have fallen for will draw attention to us,” she went on, struggling to put words to her uncertainties regarding her sister’s future relationship. “Promise me you won’t do anything stupid,” Rosalie demanded in a soft, vulnerable voice she hardly ever allowed to shine through her façade. “Promise,” Alice said, holding out her right pinkie finger. “Really?” Rosalie raised a perfectly manicured eyebrow at the gesture. “Really!” Alice confirmed. Rosalie rolled her eyes good-naturedly, but did accept offered pinkie promise. “She better be worth it,” she said, smiling, an honest smile that matched the look in her eyes. “She is. You’ll get on like a house on fire,” Alice assured her. “I very much doubt it, but I hope to be proven wrong,” Rosalie said, ending the pinkie promise.

Alice watched Rosaline; her pale skin faintly twinkling in the rising sun, diffracting and scattering light like the iridescent wing-scales of a butterfly spreading its wings in the warmth of the morning sun. “Tell me about her, your soulmate,” Rosalie suggested as a subtle olive branch offered.

Happily obliging her sister, Alice began describing Bella to her, hoping to warm Rosalie up to the idea of the charming brunette who had captured her heart before they had met. Alice found herself smiling as she recalled the glimpses she’d had, detailing ever minute detail of Bella’s personality, quirks and appearance. Shy, reserved even, but when she opened up it is like a beautiful flower blooming, and Alice felt like the pale brunette was like feeling the warmth of the sun on a cool winter day. “I’ve never seen you like this,” Rosalie admitted. Alice was easily distracted and full of energy and positivity, but no person had ever caused such a reaction from her, vampire or human.