"Goodbye, Bella," he said in the same quiet, peaceful voice.
"Wait!" I choked out the word, reaching for him, willing my deadened legs to carry me forward.
I thought he was reaching for me, too. But his cold hands locked around my wrists and pinned them to my sides. He leaned down and pressed his lips very lightly to my forehead for the briefest instant. My eyes closed.
"Take care of yourself," he breathed, cool against my skin.
There was a light, unnatural breeze. My eyes flashed open. The leaves on a small vine maple shuddered with the gentle wind of his passage.
He was gone.
He had left me here all alone with absolutely nothing. All of it was over.
Love, life, and meaning, all of it … over.
I'd told him my soul was his already and now he'd taken it with him as he left me here … alone. With only a promise he broke as soon as he made it. As if he could ever erase himself from my memory. For me, he would always exist.
I felt the urge to walk after him into the forest but I stopped myself. It was a completely useless action; as if I would be able to find him anyway. My heart wouldn't be able to feel him anymore since it was left at my feet, shattered and beyond repair. Instead, I turned around and walked back to the house. My legs felt heavy—as if my feet were made out of lead, but I kept on walking.
How could he do this to me? To us?
The feeling of a carpet being pulled out from under my feet overwhelmed me. For the short amount of seven months, I'd had it all: love, friends, and a family in which I was loved and accepted. The world I belonged in; a world where I didn't stumble around trying to keep myself upright because I felt comfortable enough to be myself. And he took that from me.
Once inside the house, I sat down at the kitchen table and stared unseeingly at the wall. Deep in thought, I didn't realize how the time passed, so when I heard tires in the driveway, I frowned at the clock in confusion. Was that Charlie? What was he doing home at this hour? I wasn't expecting him home for at least two hours.
The front door opened and Charlie called out for me. "Bella?"
I didn't move—I couldn't find the energy to do so—and Charlie walked into the kitchen looking very sad. He'd clearly heard about the Cullens' departure and felt sympathy for me. His expression did it for me and I broke.
With a gasp, I clutched at my heart and started to sob. My tears fell unhindered down my cheeks and stained my jeans. I tried to stop them, but it was impossible. My heart was shattered and no matter what happened—no matter how much time passed—it would always have deep scars that couldn't heal. My other half, my soul, had left me and I was empty without him, like a vase without its flowers.
Charlie, who had always been uncomfortable with feelings, didn't hesitate as he walked into the kitchen and put his arms around me. "I'm sorry, baby girl," he said in my ear, and I leaned heavily against his chest. He allowed me to cry and didn't try to pull away. He must have realized how much I needed his support right then.
I felt him reach for something on the table and crumple it up in his hand. I didn't exactly care what it was. I was aching too much.
I must have fallen asleep against Charlie at some point because I was startled awake when he carried me upstairs to my room and put me on my bed.
"I didn't mean to wake you. Just go back to sleep."
I didn't protest. My lids were heavy and my eyes were very sore. I was sure I looked terrible.
I turned over on my side but that made me face my window, and when I saw it was slightly open, I started to cry once again. Never again would he come through my window and have me sleep in his arms. Never again would I feel his cold breath on my neck as I fell asleep.
I clutched my pillow in my fist and buried my face in it. I wanted nothing more than for a dreamless sleep to make me forget my pain, if only for a few hours. That would be bliss. And for once, I got my wish for sleep, but it was everything except dreamless.
Different memories of my time with my love jumped through my mind.
" I think I hear your mother," he said, grinning again.
" Don't leave me," I cried, an irrational surge of panic flooding through me. I couldn't let him go—he might disappear from me again.
He read the terror in my eyes for a short second. "I won't," he promised solemnly, and then he smiled. "I'll take a nap."
" Is it this boy?" she whispered.
I opened my mouth to lie, but her eyes were scrutinizing my face, and I knew she would see through that.
" He's part of it," I admitted. No need to confess how big a part. "So, have you had a chance to talk with Edward?" I asked.
" Yes." She hesitated, looking at his perfectly still form. "And I want to talk to you about that."
Uh-oh. "What about?" I asked.
" I think that boy is in love with you," she accused, keeping her voice low.
" I think so, too," I confided.
" Shhh, Bella, calm down."
" Don't leave me," I begged in a broken voice.
" I won't," he promised. "Now relax before I call the nurse back to sedate you."
But my heart couldn't slow.
" Bella." He stroked my face anxiously. "I'm not going anywhere. I'll be right here as long as you need me."
" Do you swear you won't leave me?" I whispered. I tried to control the gasping, at least. My ribs were throbbing.
He put his hands on either side of my face and brought his face close to mine. His eyes were wide and serious. "I swear."
Then he smiled his crooked smiled and took my face between his hands. "I told you I'm not going anywhere. Don't be afraid. As long as it makes you happy, I'll be here."
I smiled back, ignoring the ache in my cheeks. "You're talking about forever, you know."
" Stay." The word was slurred.
" I will," he promised. His voice was beautiful, like a lullaby. "Like I said, as long as it makes you happy … as long as it's what's best for you."
" Well, I wasn't going to live without you." He rolled his eyes as if that fact were childishly obvious. "But I wasn't sure how to do it—I knew Emmett and Jasper would never help me … so I was thinking maybe I would go to Italy and do something to provoke the Volturi."
I flinched when I woke and saw the sun streaming in through my window. How ironic that the first day after he left me alone in this wet and forgotten town the sun was shining. I hated how the beaming light was mocking me, and I pulled the cover over my head and stayed there the entire day. I only ate when Charlie came up with something he'd heated in the microwave.
The darkness of the night fell again outside my window and I was still in bed. Oddly enough, I felt completely exhausted and I quickly fell asleep.
" Well, I wasn't going to live without you," He rolled his eyes as if that fact were childishly obvious. "But I wasn't sure how to do it—I knew Emmett and Jasper would never help me … so I was thinking maybe I would go to Italy and do something to provoke the Volturi."
I didn't want to believe he was serious, but his golden eyes were brooding, focused on something far away in the distance as he contemplated ways to end his own life. Abruptly, I was furious.
" What is a Volturi ? " I demanded.
" The Volturi are a family," he explained, his eyes still remote. "A very old, very powerful family of our kind. They are the closest thing our world has to a royal family, I suppose. Carlisle lived with them briefly in his early years, in Italy, before he settled in America—do you remember the story?"
" Of course I remember."
The next day, Charlie made me get up and out of bed–to shower at least–but I couldn't see the meaning of it. Why should I do anything? Since he left I was back at the beginning, back before all of this started but with memories that would haunt me forever. Out of synch with everyone, stumbling around and never finding my place in the world, just feeling utterly abnormal.
They had chased all of those feelings away. They made me feel at home, and I could be myself around all the other abnormalities. I had accepted I wasn't normal then, but without them here, it was hard to see how I could have accepted it. How could I accept I wasn't normal?
Because I wasn't.
No matter what life threw at me when I was around them I had always been able to go through it because I had never felt as strong as I felt when I was in that world. My world; I knew it was my world and I missed it. I missed living in it. I had chosen to live in that world a long time ago, but now it was out of my reach. But I desperately wanted to live in it again, no matter the costs.
The only problem was I had to find a vampire to bring me into that world, and I didn't exactly know a lot of them. I knew of them. I knew there was another family in Alaska—The Denali coven—that was an extended family of them but that was about it. And also that family in Italy, the royal one called the Volturi. I'd dreamt of the time I heard about them for the last two nights. I didn't know what it was but I couldn't shake the memory away from me. It was on repeat in my head.
Several days passed in the same slow and empty pace it had since I was left behind, and every night I dreamt about the Volturi. It was either the memory from my birthday, or it was about the time when I saw the painting of them and their names just rang in my head day and night.
Aro, Caius, and Marcus.
What was it that made me think about them exactly? I didn't know anything about them except that they had a permanent residence in Italy.
I decided I would probably not find answers to my questions, so tried to ignore them the best I could.
It was hard, though. I made an effort to get back to the routine I had before the Cullens'. My friends from school tried to distract me and invited me to come along on everything they could think of. And I did all I could to keep my thoughts from wandering.
Still, every night I was haunted by the same dream.
One night, about a month later, I sat upright in my bed because for once I couldn't sleep. I had just realized why I couldn't get the Volturi out of my head.
They were the key—the key to getting me into the world where I belonged. If they couldn't help me, nobody could. They were the royalties of that world after all, at least according to him .
But how exactly would I find them? Italy was a big country—a country I'd never been to—and it would be like literally trying to find a needle in a haystack.
Maybe if I…
No, that was stupid. It could not be that easy.
I got up and out of bed and did something I hadn't done in a month. I stood by my window and opened it wide. The fresh and cool air blew around me as I stared out into the night.
Tears I hadn't allowed myself to cry made my vision blurry. "Why did you do this?" I asked the dark. "Am I that unlovable? I thought you loved me. You said you loved me every day . Was all of it a lie? Every kiss and caress?"
I shivered then so I closed the window.
I cast a glance at my alarm clock—Charlie was probably already asleep—and then my computer. It wouldn't exactly hurt to try.
I didn't want to disturb Charlie, so I tried to be as quiet as possible when I powered on my ancient computer. It coughed awake, and I was pretty sure the noise would wake him up, but I couldn't stop now.
Fifteen minutes later I had the internet up and typed in the words Volturi, Italy in the search engine. A few hits came up but at the top, it read; did you mean Volterra, Italy ?
Hmm … that could work. I clicked the link and found a page with the city's history. There wasn't a lot but I found something interesting. Every year on March 19th, there was a big festival in the city that celebrated a Christian missionary by the name of Father Marcus. Fifteen hundred years ago he had successfully driven all the vampires out of the city, and Volterra had been announced as the safest city in the world from vampire attacks. Father Marcus had then traveled to Romania where he eventually died.
Was it simply a coincidence that Marcus was the name of one of the family members and that this missionary had driven out vampires from the city? I didn't believe in coincidences, not since I was introduced to the supernatural world, so I was pretty sure this Father Marcus was connected to the Volturi somehow.
I continued clicking and found a home page for the city. It was in Italian so I had a hard time understanding all of it, but I used a translator and got the basics of it.
Most of it was about what I'd just read. History of the city, population, tourist attractions, etc…
I thought hard about what I'd just read. After all of my dreams, I was almost certain I was supposed to find the Volturi. It was my destiny somehow.
Before I changed my mind, I pulled up a site for flights from Seattle to Florence, Italy. I had money, and it was enough for a ticket down to Italy and a ticket home if that would be necessary. Luck was actually on my side and there was a flight in six hours. It would take me about three and a half hours to drive to Seattle so I had enough time. I even found a ticket not too expensive so I quickly booked it.
It wasn't until I started to pack a few things that it hit me I was doing this. I was leaving in the middle of the night to seek out a royal coven of vampires in Italy and ask them to change me. It was quite fucked up, but I couldn't find it in me to stop myself. I wanted to do this, but I didn't know what to tell Charlie. He would be devastated if he found out in the morning I had practically run away from home, and if I got my wish granted, then what would become of him? Would he believe I had been involved in an accident on my trip that cost me my life?
I didn't dwell on it, though. It would only waste time. All of that would hopefully be solved eventually.
With a small bag in my hand and all of my money and passport in my pocket, I sneaked down the stairs and into the kitchen to write a note for Charlie. It was the least I could do. He would find it very soon since he would probably wake up when I started my truck. The thing was a monster and it definitely roared like one.
I thought about what I would write for a few minutes and then quickly jotted it down.
I'm so sorry to leave you like this without any sort of goodbye. I hope you'll forgive me someday but I just can't stay here anymore. I can't stay in a town where I'm constantly reminded of how he left me. I need to get away and start over. I hope you understand that.
Please don't call mom. I'm not going to her place. I just need to be alone so I'll hit the road and see where it leads me.
So that you know, I really appreciate you let me come and live with you and I know I've never really told you this but I love you.
Respect my wishes and don't try to find me.
I read through the note several times, and for a second, I wondered if it was fair of me to do this. In those few words, I could feel the pain I was causing Charlie by doing this.
In the first few weeks, he would believe I was fine and that I was only trying to find myself, which was truer than he realized. After that, he would call Mom and ask her if she'd heard anything from me, and they would both panic when they realized neither had gotten a single call. They would try to reach me and when they couldn't, a search would be ordered. Later on, I would be placed in the files of missing persons, and years from now when the case had gone cold, Charlie and Renée would forever wonder what exactly happened with their girl and why she ran away.
A single tear fell from my eye and stained the note. They would never understand why I did this, but it wasn't exactly like I could explain it to them. It was an impossible situation I found myself in.
I could stay at home with Charlie and live my life, but I would forever feel like I was missing out on my real life—the life I was supposed to live.
Or I could go tonight and never come back. I would cause my friends and family great pain, but I would find my place in the world and I would be happy … in a way.
I took a deep breath, folded the note in half, and leaned it against the coffee machine before walking out of the door.
Before I started my truck, I took one last look at the house that had been my home for the last nine months.
Forks had grown on me, and I would be lying if I said I wouldn't miss it. I had experienced more happiness in this town than I had in my entire life, and it was all thanks to a certain family of vampires who'd made me feel as if I'd finally arrived home after a long journey overseas.
I knew that even if I didn't find what I was looking for, I would never set foot in Forks again. I wouldn't come back. Once I passed the city limit that was it.
I silently said goodbye to the town and took a deep breath before I started my rumbling engine.
When I backed out from the driveway, I saw a light turn on in Charlie’s bedroom, and I stole one last glance at him when I saw him looking out his window. He looked confused and slightly worried.
I would never forget the last glimpse I got of my father’s face.
Out on the road, I pushed the truck to its limit and headed in the direction of Seattle. Something deep inside of me took root in my stomach and spread through my limbs; the feeling of a destiny about to be fulfilled — the feeling of freedom and adrenaline coursing through my veins. I was feeling something and it elated me. I felt new energy I had not had for a month, and I pressed down on the gas a bit, but when the engine started to protest, I eased off it again. The truck had to work the entire way to Seattle or I'd be doomed.
I had three and a half hours to kill, and I was just about to turn on the radio when I remembered who had given it to me. After what they did to me, I wouldn't use the things they gave me. I would have preferred they took them back but I knew that was impossible.
Just so I wouldn’t be tempted , I took off one of my shoes and smashed the radio with it until it was useless. It made me feel better somehow — as if I’d gotten part of a bittersweet revenge.
It was still dark outside and I was almost alone on the road. The dark was both liberating and stifling. It felt as if someone was watching me, and several times my mind played tricks on me, making me believe I saw something flash outside my window.
My heart thumped loudly in my chest and I tried to keep my breathing calm. Okay, Bella. Shake it off. There’s no one out there so just calm down. It helped to an extent but the feeling didn’t go away until I drove out of Forks.
The sound of a wolf howling made me jump in my seat and immediately scolded myself for being so tense. You’re a wimp, Swan. Do you know that? Yes, thank you, I do know and I don’t need you to remind me.
The rest of the journey was very uneventful. Had I not been so wound up by what I was doing, I might have fallen asleep behind the wheel. I hadn't slept in almost twenty-four hours, and I usually had to sleep for at least seven hours every night to even function. It was difficult when I drove on the long dark roads, but whenever I drove through a county or city with their streetlights on; I sobered up and told myself it wasn't much farther.
When I finally reached Seattle, the sun was coming up and the roads were getting busier. A few cars honked at me because of the speed I maintained. It annoyed me, but there wasn't much I could do about it. My truck simply couldn't handle the busy life of the city.
Sea-Tac was packed with people when I arrived and I groaned. I hoped my flight wouldn’t be delayed. I just wanted to be on my way for real and get out of the country, but my luck couldn’t work forever. The line at the check-in counter was insane and going through security was mind-numbing. Eventually, I got on the plane and I relaxed a bit. The flight would take over eleven hours and I hoped I would be able to sleep at least a bit. As long as I didn't have a seat close to a baby.
I must have fallen asleep quickly because when I woke up it was less than two hours to landing. I stretched my arms and back the best I could in the seat and looked around. Most people wore headphones, watching the in-flight movie, but I pulled out a book from my bag and read for the remaining time instead.
It would be early in the morning in Italy when we arrived, so I was relieved I’d slept. I wouldn’t need to sleep before I continued my trip.
Suddenly I realized I'd made a terrible mistake. I had no idea how to get to Volterra. I didn't have a car, and in my rush to get going, I hadn't thought of looking for rental places in Florence. I was doomed. If I was lucky, I could get access to a car in a week or two. I leaned back in my seat and groaned. I should have known I couldn't take a trip like this without planning.
The woman next to me turned toward me and asked something in Italian. I searched my brain for what she could possibly ask me, and the worried expression she was sporting helped me connect the dots enough to realize she was asking me if I was okay.
I'd only taken one term of Italian in school, so I wasn't the least bit certain I used correct grammar when I answered. “Sto bene.” I internally cringed at what I was sure was my horrible pronunciation.
The woman followed up with another question, and I knew there was no way I could continue to even attempt to decipher what she was saying. I was probably making a fool of myself but there was nothing to do about it, so I shrugged, "Sorry, I don't speak a lot of Italian," I embarrassingly admitted.
The woman smiled. “Ah, you’re American,” she said with a heavy accent.
“So tell me what is the matter? I can see something is wrong,” she asked in a motherly way.
“Nothing really, I just realized I’d forgotten to rent a car for the rest of my trip.”
“Where are you going?”
“That’s no problem.” The woman laughed. “There are bus rides since it’s only about an hour from Florence.”
“Of course, why wouldn’t there be?”
“I don’t know.” I shrugged. “I guess I didn’t think about that.”
“You Americans are funny,” the woman said before she put her headphones back on.
I didn’t know if I should feel offended by her comment, so I decided to just look out the window instead. I hoped I wouldn't have to wait too long for a bus so. I couldn’t say I had a lot of patience at the moment.
As soon as we were allowed off the plane, I took off toward the international desk and asked them about a bus station. They were kind enough to find bus rides for me. Sadly, a bus had recently left and the next one wouldn’t arrive in two and a half hours, still, I bought a ticket and walked in the direction they pointed at.
I easily found the station and sat down heavily on a bench. If I'd had more time, I could have looked around the city while I waited, but I didn't, so I had no choice but to stay put and wait there.
“Mi scusi?” A man in desperate need of a shave came up to me and handed me a sheet of paper. It had a lot of text in Italian on it and a picture of a beautiful woman. It looked like one of those, ‘Have you seen this person?’ leaflets.
For a fleeting moment, I saw Charlie in the man’s expression. I could see how Charlie would put up the same kind of leaflets with my photo on them and ask people all over if they’d seen me anywhere. Eventually, they'd find my truck at Sea-Tac — overflowing with parking tickets — and they'd understand I’d flown somewhere in the world.
I tried to shake those thoughts from my mind as I turned back to the man and shook my head with an apologetic expression. "Sorry," I said in a small voice. My heart ached for the man who'd lost this woman who obviously meant a lot to him.
I tried to give the leaflet back but he just looked at me with a defeated expression.
“Tienila, Signorina,” he said and walked away.
I sighed as I saw him giving out the leaflets to several others. Some were nice and actually talked to him but others just walked past him, ignoring him completely, and looked in the opposite direction as if he had a contagious disease they would catch if they met his eyes.
I wished I could do something for him. I knew how it felt to lose a loved one, but I was in a foreign country with nothing except the things I had in my bag and the clothes on my back. I wouldn't have been able to help him no matter how much I wanted it.
The man’s broken expression didn't leave my thoughts. Not even when I got on the bus could I stop thinking about him, and he kept me company all the way to Volterra. Sometimes his face was replaced by Charlie’s and every time it happened I cringed. However, once I got off the bus, I cleared my mind and focused on what I was there for. I was hunting for vampires.
The entire setting felt wrong. The sun was high in the sky without a single cloud as far as could be seen. The shadows created by the buildings all around me didn't provide any protection from the sun. How vampires could live here without getting detected seemed absurd to me. Only if they lived like ‘classical' vampires and only came out at night. I just didn't understand it. So how would I find them? I decided to just go with the flow and act like a normal tourist. Maybe I would come across something that would help.
Nothing happened, though.
I walked around the entire day without any luck whatsoever. The sun was going down and I hadn't been smart enough to look for hotels. When I thought about it, it wasn’t much I had actually planned. All of this was probably just a big mistake. I sighed.
"What's the matter? Are you lost?" a smooth female voice asked behind me.
I turned around and saw a stunningly beautiful woman leaning against the wall. She had long mahogany hair, pale white skin, clothes accentuating her long and lean figure and her eyes were the strangest shade of violet. She was definitely a vampire and her eye color was probably the product of blue contacts covering her red eyes. After being in the proximity of vampires every day for seven months, I had no problem recognizing a vampire when I saw one.
She tilted her head to the side when I didn’t answer. I wondered if the vampire was a part of the Volturi, and if so, what I could do to work it to my advantage. If she was out hunting she wouldn’t listen if I told her why I was there.
She frowned when the silence stretched on. She either thought I was dumb or didn’t understand.
She opted for the latter. “Parla inglese?”
“Yes, sorry!” I told her and shook my head. “You just startled me.”
She smiled, probably thinking it was her beauty that rendered me speechless. Had I not been used to vampires, it would have been a big factor, but I was used to vampires and I had practically lived under the same roof as a certain blonde vampire so beauty wasn’t anything new to me.
“So are you?” she asked.
“Am I what?" Now she really must have thought I was dumb.
“Lost. You looked slightly lost before.”
It felt weird to stand barely ten feet away from a vampire I knew drank from humans and still feel completely at ease.
“No, I’m not lost. I just don’t have a place to stay for the night,” I told her truthfully.
"Really? I could help you with that on one condition."
"And what would that be?"
"That you walk my guided tour through the castle. Interested?"
“Very.” I wondered if she realized I played her just as much as she played me. If she didn’t, I guessed I was a better actress than I thought.
“Good. C’mon, I’ll show you the way.”
This vampire was very good at acting human. Had I not known what she was, I would have been fooled. It didn't look like any effort to walk at a human pace, and she had control over her bloodlust if she could walk so close to me without attacking.
She didn't try to keep up any sort of conversation, so I walked quietly next to her.
We entered a relatively modern building and the first room looked like some kind of reception area. The mahogany desk was unoccupied but there were other people here, humans by the look of it, all of them tourists, sitting in what looked like a waiting area.
"All right everyone, follow me and please, stick together," the vampire said and walked toward a big elevator that fit at least thirty or forty people. I tried to keep as close to the vampire as possible so I could see what she was doing, and I saw her click on the button for the bottom floor, probably hundreds of feet below ground.
The elevator dinged and we walked out into another reception area. The walls were paneled wood, the floors carpeted in thick, deep green. There were no windows, but large, brightly lit paintings of the Tuscan countryside hung everywhere as replacements. Pale leather couches were arranged in cozy groupings, and the glossy tables held crystal vases full of vibrantly colored bouquets.
In the middle of the room was a high, polished mahogany counter. The woman behind it was human. She was tall, with dark skin and green eyes. When she saw the vampire she stood up straighter. "Good evening, Heidi."
"Gianna," the vampire, apparently named Heidi, greeted the woman with a simple nod. Her expression told me she saw herself as way above Gianna. I wondered if I could be wrong. Why would a human woman, who definitely knew Heidi was a vampire, work here if this was where the Volturi had their home?
“Everyone’s waiting in the throne room,” Gianna said, but Heidi didn't acknowledge her comment. She just kept on walking, leading me and the group of people through a long corridor that ended with giant double doors that were beautifully carved out in dark wood.
I turned around when I heard murmurs behind me. The other humans were looking slightly uneasy as if they regretted coming here, and a few looked very confused as if they didn’t know what they were doing here.
The double doors opened and my eyes widened at the sight before me. A massive group of vampires, all with dark crimson eyes that looked almost black, stood in the big marble room. I had never seen such a big collection of vampires before, and I felt all of my confidence drain from my body.
Three of the vampires I recognized as the men from the painting that used to hang in the study, Aro, Caius, and Marcus, but the others were strangers. One of the three, the one who was dark-haired and slightly older than the other, looked like he had some kind of conversation with the childlike vampire in front of him. He looked into her eyes as he held her hand tightly, but when we entered the room, he dropped their still entwined hands and turned to us with a big smile, showing off all of his white teeth. Once again, had I not been used to vampires, I would have shuddered at the sight.
“Ah! Welcome, guests! Welcome to Volterra!” he exclaimed. He had a sing-song voice and to the other humans, he probably looked very open and friendly. To me, however, he looked lethal. I didn’t know why. I just got the vibe from him that this was a vampire you respected.
That was when I realized exactly what was going on here and threw a glance at the other humans. When Heidi picked me up from the street, she had indeed been hunting, but not for herself. No, she had collected enough food for her entire coven and I was on the menu.
Everything happened very quickly then. The vampires didn’t try to hide what they were anymore as they surrounded us. When a few of the humans saw their red eyes, they gasped and some even started to scream. The two in the back tried to turn around toward the door and flee, and they were the first to die. Screams erupted from the remaining and they scattered around the entire room as they tried to escape.
I didn’t run. I knew it would have been in vain, so I remained in my spot and closed my eyes, so I wouldn’t have to watch all the killing. Screams turned into gurgles, cracking of necks being broken went through the room, and I just waited for my fate.
It didn’t come. I felt nothing but the wind coming from the vampires’ bodies as they ran all over the room. Soon it was all very quiet but I was still very much alive.
I chanced a peek from my left eye and saw the dark-haired male and childlike girl standing right in front of me. I gasped because I hadn't expected that. My heart was beating wildly and the little girl looked more annoyed with every passing second while the male looked almost amused and a bit intrigued.
Now when he was closer to me, I saw how he looked different from other vampires. He was in his twenties, his skin was translucently white, like onionskin, and it looked just as delicate. His long black hair reached below his shoulder blades and it stood in shocking contrast to his skin. His eyes were bright red, revealing he had recently fed, but the color was clouded, milky somehow. I had never heard of a vampire with poor eyesight, so I didn't know what the appearance of his eyes meant.
The girl had pale brown hair up in a neat, tight bun. She was unbelievably small. Her body had no definite curves and had her face not been so womanly angelic, I would have thought she was a boy. She could not have been old when she was changed, twelve maybe thirteen but not older.
“What’s your name, young one?” the male asked quietly in his sing-song voice.
“I-Isabella Swan,” I stammered out. I could not deny I was terrified and regretted my choice in coming here. I didn't know what they would do to me or why they hadn't killed me with the others.
The man dropped the girl’s hand and reached out for mine. “Pleasure to meet you, Isabella. My name is Aro and this is Jane.” He took my hand in his and got a look of concentration in his eyes. His hand was just as cold as I expected so I didn’t recoil from the touch. He almost did though for he released my hand and entwined his own in front of him. “Fascinating. Truly fascinating,” he breathed out.
“Sorry, but what is fascinating?” I asked but he didn’t answer me. Instead, he turned around to face the other vampires.
“Alec? Chelsea? Would you mind?" Even though he asked them, his request was not a question. Still, I had no idea what he was talking about.
He turned back around and looked at me expectantly, and I was locked into his gaze. After a few seconds, his expectant expression turned into one of wonder and his smile widened. I glanced down at Jane and she looked like a storm cloud. She was furious for some reason but I didn’t know why.
“Remarkable!” Aro exclaimed and motioned for the other two men of the trio to come forward. “Brothers! This young woman has thwarted our most powerful gifts, including my own and Jane’s, and she’s still human. Have you ever heard of anything as extraordinary?”
"Impossible," the blond hissed while the other dark-haired looked only bored. They would be Caius and Marcus then. The blond looked older than the other two. He must have been in his forties when he was changed and still, it felt as if he had less authority than Aro. The other dark-haired vampire was younger than Aro. He looked like he was my age; maybe a year or two older but something in his eyes told me he had the weight of the world on his shoulders.
The entire conversation felt rather harmless, and my heart calmed down.
“Nothing’s impossible, Caius. Just look at her. She’s just witnessed a massacre of her fellow humans. She probably knows what we are and yet she stands there as if it was nothing. She’s not even afraid anymore. Her blood smells clean.”
They were clearly talking loud enough for me to hear to see if they could get a reaction out of me. And I did react, but not in the way they thought I would. I was elated. I went to Italy so I could ask these powerful vampires for immortality. They hadn't killed me yet so that was a good thing.
The trio turned their backs on me. "Leave us!" Caius shouted out and the vampires left through different sets of doors. Only a black-haired female, who followed Aro around like a shadow, stayed behind.
“Renata, don’t be anxious,” Aro said to the woman. “She’s only human and can’t harm me.”
“Master, please, let me stay,” she pleaded.
“I’m sorry, my love, but this is something to be discussed with my brothers in private.” He put his hands on her face and kissed her right on the lips before she walked slowly out of the room, never taking her eyes off me.
The brothers sat down in what looked like thrones, and I took a look around the room for the first time since I entered. I was surprised to see there wasn’t a single drained body anywhere. Not even a single speck of blood on the white marble floor was in sight.
“So, Isabella, there is something I’ve wanted to ask you.” Aro’s voice returned my attention to him and his brothers. “You know what we are, don’t you?”
I swallowed before I nodded. “Yes, I do.”
“And may I ask how you found out?" Once again, disguised as a question but it was a demand.
I did not know if it would be bad if I outed my ex-family, but it felt as if I didn't have a choice. "I was acquainted with a coven of your kind who used to live where I'm from."
“This coven told you our secret?” Caius glared at me. I didn't understand why he was so angry.
"Yes," I said but then corrected myself. "Or rather I found out by myself."
All three narrowed their eyes before they continued asking questions. "And who is the leader of this coven?"
I knew from his story that Carlisle had lived with these three during a time in his youth, so they would know who I meant, but I was at the same time afraid of getting Carlisle into trouble. He had always been so kind to me. Until he left me — without as much as a goodbye. Maybe he wasn’t as kind as I’d always thought he’d been. Maybe he deserved what was coming for him.
I looked down at the floor and whispered out the answer. “Carlisle Cullen.” It still hurt to say his name but I tried not to think about it when I heard a faint gasp and I looked back up.
The three brothers looked shocked but tried not to show it.
“What kind of relationship do you have with Carlisle?” Marcus spoke up for the first time. He had a deep, bass voice which was surprisingly smooth.
"He was a father figure of sorts." I took a deep breath and continued through clenched teeth. "I was romantically involved with his son ... E-Edward." His name tore at my heart.
Aro exchanged a look with Caius that caused shivers to go down my spine. How would my relationship with the Cullens influence their view of me?
"I notice you're using past tense. Why?" Aro asked without breaking his eye contact with Caius, who now smiled as wide as his mouth could go.
“They left me because I’m human. And that’s why I’m here.”
Aro and Caius whipped their heads in my direction and looked at me questioningly.
“Elaborate,” Caius ordered.
“I want to be one of you,” I said without hesitating. “I came here to ask you to change me.”
The three brothers exchanged looks and talked too fast and low for me to hear anything. Aro looked interested, Caius looked hesitant, and Marcus looked bored. I wrung my hands nervously, terrified of what they would decide.
“And why would you want to become a soulless monster like us?” Aro asked. It was clearly a trick question but I already knew what to answer.
“I don’t believe vampires are soulless—because if they were, I wouldn't understand why it was my destiny to become one. In my entire human life, I've always felt misplaced. I've never been comfortable in the human world. I've always been abnormal and I've never felt as at home as I feel in the vampire world—because it's the world where I'm supposed to live," I finished my little speech and they immediately turned to each other and started to talk amongst themselves again.
After what felt like hours but was probably not even two minutes in real life, they turned back to me. Their faces showed absolutely no emotion.
“As you probably understand, what the Cullens’ did when they told you our secret is a crime we don’t take lightly. Since we have not been notified of any exposure, I’m fairly certain you haven’t told anyone?” Aro asked.
I shook my head. “I haven’t told a soul,” I promised.
“Well, we can’t have a human know about us so that leaves us with only one choice.” My breathing increased when Aro suddenly appeared in front of me and whispered in my ear. “Your gifts will make for an intriguing immortal, Isabella.”
I screamed out in pain when his teeth pierced my skin.