Seated at the dining table of the main Cullen house, Renesmee Cullen spared her family a single glance: her father was playing the piano, her mother lounging on the armchair beside him, Emmet, Jasper, and Jacob had begun their bi-weekly card game, Esme was knitting, Carlisle was reading a thick medical textbook, Rosalie was tinkering in the garage and Alice could be heard organizing her closet.
Renesmee turned back to the notebook in front of her, her observations recorded in a neat and small scrawl. To everyone's surprise, Renesmee preferred to write her thoughts. She wrote obsessively almost, filling out one notebook after another. Her bookshelf consisted of her own notes and observations recorded in journals - almost spanning her entire existence. She wasn't sure how it happened; how did she go from sharing her thoughts with just a touch of her hand to zealously protecting them by recording them on paper in a cipher that only she knew how to crack? But, she figured that no one wanted to hear her thoughts anyway.
Renesmee looked about eighteen now. She was also just about to actually turn eighteen soon too. She was still unsure of how she felt about it. Unlike the others, Renesmee always had the misfortune of being younger and appearing older. Now, that she was on the verge of actually being and looking the same age...she felt nothing. She doubted it would change anything for her.
She glanced at her family again and shuddered.
Renesmee had a gift that no one else in her family seemed to be aware of. In her family which comprised a telepath, an empath, a shield, a psychic, and a wolf, this was a very remarkable feat, or so she thought privately. Renesmee could see.
She had the gift to see and observe that which everyone turned a blind eye to. Or perhaps, they really did not see what she could. Perhaps, the turn from a human to a vampire changed more than just appearances and physiology and also affected their psychology.
Psychology was another interest of hers. It had bemused her entire family except Carlisle, to see their prodigal special child's head bent over journals and textbooks that delved into psychology. She often couldn't help but be fascinated by the study of the mind and its effects on the human body. She often found herself wishing she could study vampires and hybrids like herself the same way. Penning her thoughts, guided by her independent studies of the subject matter, was a way that she could do that.
So her family tended to leave her alone, indulging in their activities while she indulged in hers. As the family's other, the completely different being and creature that in a family of vampires and one wolf, Renesmee often found herself pondering her place in a home where she did not feel she truly belong.
A home of human charades, she thought before nodding to herself and making an additional note. Her entire family almost attended high schools (sometimes, accompanied by Jacob who still had yet to finish his senior year) except for her. She was too special to be let out with humans. Renesmee's only point of contact for humans was the occasional pack of wolves who visited Jacob (although she also didn't really count them) or her human grandfather, Charlie, whom she hadn't seen in almost two years.
Despite growing up in a large family, Renesmee almost always felt alone. She figured it was the nature of her being, living so separately from her own species. She was always bound to feel out of place. But there was something deeper than that. Some missing attachment she felt from her family. Thoughts that she tried to hide from her telepathic father by even thinking in her cipher.
Almost all of them were just playing human. Charades and meaningless actions that meant nothing, amounted to nothing, were nothing. A family of immortals trying their best to pretend to be mortals, failing at their very attempt.
She almost felt sorry for them.
Out of all of them, if Renesmee were forced to choose, she would think Carlisle is the most human of them all. But despite his best, he still wasn't.
He readily turned away his eyes at his family's actions. At their lack of understanding of him. Of humanity. Was it easier for him, she wondered, to pretend to be unaware of these gaps? Or was he really just that unaware?
She thought of his kindness, his gentleness, his infectious thirst for knowledge, his love for humanity which began his struggles to not be a monster. She thought of a newborn Carlisle, alone in the sewers, struggling with the worst pain anyone can imagine and still being able to resist returning to humanity. To his father.
"Do you understand now, dear?" Carlisle's voice interrupted her musings. She observed him for a second, his smile made him look young enough to be her older brother.
"Yes but then what exactly happened once introspection was removed from studying human behavior?" she asked, her pen poised to continue her notes. Every once a week, Renesmee entered Carlisle's office and picked his brain regarding her study of psychology. As someone who was actually around when most of the discipline's development was happening, he proved to be a vital resource.
Carlisle brought his hand near his mouth - a strange human tic he must have developed over the years - as he answered earnestly, Renesmee nodding along.
"Do you ever wish you never were a vampire and got this," she surprised them both by suddenly speaking, flailing her hands around, "life?"
Carlisle smiled sadly. "It does no good to wish things that can never happen," he reminded her.
His smile still made him look young enough to be her older brother but his eyes spoke of centuries of wisdom. And pain.
Of everyone, she felt the sorriest for him.
Renesmee was never sure of how and why her grandparents got together. Esme did not share any of Carlisle's values or ideologies but she did always read about opposites attracting so maybe it was a case of that.
Renesmee gingerly swallowed the batch of cookies Esme was baking. With only two members of the household able to eat, Esme sure prepared much more food than was required. Going overboard with her preparations and measurement, fussing over the tiniest detail so that it led to perfection. Just like their family was perfect, in Esme's eyes, who merely floated and hollowly felt and registered each emotion and event that seemed to occur.
Renesmee felt that some integral part of Esme died when she had jumped off the cliff. Of everyone, it was Esme who worked the hardest at her human charade of being the mother hen, forgetting that none of them ever really needed a mother. Still, she kept trying and failing to nurture the empty nest in her.
"Do you like it?" her grandmother's eyes had already moved on from her, resting on her recipe book as she thumbed through the pages.
"Yes, it's nice, thank you."
Esme did not hear her, already fussing over the mud tracks that Jacob had brought in the kitchen door.
Perhaps, Carlisle and Esme's union was just a lonely person finding another extremely lonely person and now, they knew no alternative.
Jasper was an empath. It was only Renesmee who privately felt that due to some ugly twist of fate, he was completely apathetic.
He could detect and feel other's emotions, sure. But Renesmee was unsure if he ever regulated or worked on his own. He fought in a century of war almost, both as a human and as a vampire. She wondered if he had any other scars besides the physical ones. Witnessing such a high magnitude of destruction of life must have damaged something very human in him.
She ducked as Jasper's arms went around her, catching air. She was quite quick on her feet, she was pleased to find.
"In battles," she spoke suddenly, interrupting his attempted feint to tackle her. "Or just generally. Do you ever feel what the other is feeling?"
"I always feel what the other is feeling," he said shortly, his eyes narrowed.
"You detect and can tell what others are feeling," she corrected. But do you feel those feelings within yourself? Can you tell how everyone here is buried in layers of loneliness and resentment? She wanted to beg her uncle to show her that he was not completely ridden with apathy. "But can you feel them? Outside of your power?" she pressed.
Jasper did not respond, instead, he turned as Alice bounded up behind him. With a chill, Renesmee realized that he was nothing more of a prop at times. The super-soldier. Playing a role, feeding his lines but never really belonging or feeling.
Outside of fashion shows, Renesmee rarely spent time with her mother's best friend. If Renesmee thought there was something that had died within Esme, she wasn't sure if Alice had anything human, to begin with.
Her aunt also preferred to be separate from her. So she wouldn't mess with her visions, Alice had explained once. But Renesmee always felt there was something more to it. Perhaps, Alice couldn't fathom a relationship with her because her visions couldn't guide her on how to go about it. Anything that Alice couldn't see, Alice couldn't imagine happening so she disengaged entirely.
Alice lived in two realities - the present and the future visions. Renesmee was unsure of how much she used and manipulated the people around her as pawns to engineer the manifestation of her future visions. She knew of her aunt's past. But she wasn't sure if it served as justification for how she treated people as her props. Maybe that's why she and Jasper got along so well, he was unfeeling and could help manipulate emotions while she worked on the rest.
"Of course, I always said you should grow out your ringlets but you're just so stubborn," Alice sighed as she pinned Renesmee's hair on top of her head. "If only you let me dress you-"
"No," Renesmee said loudly. Her aunt knew no boundaries and could go miles overboard.
"But you're so lovely," Alice pouted, fixing a strand of her hair that came lose.
"Do you ever wonder if you'd get along better with people if you didn't have your power?" Renesmee asked suddenly. Alice paused, meeting her eyes in the mirror. It was a strange contrast: a black-headed small pixie with a pale face in contrast with her bronze unruly hair and flushed cheeks that seemed to be going redder.
"Who said I don't get along better with people?" Alice said sharply.
"I just wonder...if when you look at us...whether what you see is us or the people in your visions."
Alice was silent for a long time. "You'll be happy to know Renesmee that I don't see you at all."
Renesmee flinched, noting that Alice still didn't answer.
Renesmee was brushing her aunt's hair, marveling at the way the strands seemed to curl effortlessly around her finger while the light made them glisten.
She recalled her aunt feeding her, taking her out to hikes, watching movies with her, and chatting with her as she tinkered with the cars in the garage. It was Rosalie who insisted on keeping up the traditions of childhood fascination for her; the tooth fairy, Easter Bunny, and Santa Claus. It was also Rosalie whom Renesmee associated with the word mother.
"I miss you," Renesmee said softly, beginning to braid her aunt's hair.
A sad smile appeared on Rosalie's face. "I miss you too."
Tears pricked Renesmee's eyes and she blinked them rapidly. "Whenever I think the word mother, I think of you."
If Rosalie could cry, Renesmee knew she would have been. "Thank you. But I am not."
"It takes more than biology to be a mother," she insisted.
Rosalie just shook her head sadly. Renesmee knew of the circumstances of her birth, she knew Rosalie was the only one who stood up for her at first. She knew of what it must have seemed like to others. She also knew what her aunt went through, seeing her dreams come true for someone who was ready to throw them away without a second thought.
"We're all just shadows," Rosalie said, staring at her reflection in the mirror. "Shadows of what we were, are, will be. It's never going to end." Rosalie met her eyes in the mirror. "Not even for you."
Renesmee shrugged. "Still half-human," she reminded her.
"Still half-cursed," said Rosalie quietly. "You grew up so fast, you never really truly were a child, were you?"
Renesmee played with the edge of her ponytail, tugging at it once. Of everyone, it was Rosalie who projected the image of an ideal human on her. Of everyone, it was Rosalie who was disappointed when she proved to be other.
They were hunting, just the two of them. Renesmee trailed along absent-mindedly while her uncle raced ahead of her. She brushed her hand against the glass, the bristles against her palm tickling her.
It was then that she realized her uncle had gone eerily silent, his mouth agape, blood trickling down while his game lay twitching in front of him. Renesmee glanced around, her senses heightening when all of a sudden it hit her. Fresh human trails, heading right towards them.
She reacted almost instantly as did he, shooting towards the human they could not see but could clearly smell and almost taste. Renesmee ran behind him, jumping at the last second and landing on his back. The movement barely jostled him, she tugged at his hair.
"Emmett! Emmett, come on, we need to get away."
He let out a vicious snarl, reaching behind with one hand and throwing her off in the very next instant. Renesmee landed with a sickening crunch on a rock, her eyes saw stars. Her arm had broken, she could almost hear the bone dangling inside of her. She took a deep breath, jumped on her feet, and ignoring the growing pain in her body caught up to her uncle again.
She dug her feet into the ground and reached for his hand, tugging him to stop. He kept going, her feet dragging alongside the forest mud.
'Emmett, Emmett, please, think of Rose. Think of Carlisle."
He appeared to not hear her voice as she shouted, growing in desperation. They had caught up to the human, a young boy, scarcely older than her. With a cry, Emmett threw her back again. Renesmee heard the wind whistle in her ears, her already broken arm causing an agony of fire to ripple through her body. She could hear the petrified whimpers of the boy.
Renesmee crawled towards them, letting out soft whimpers of her own. She liked humans. She didn't want to be a monster. She didn't want anyone to be a monster. With a renewed strength that even shocked her, she viciously tore at Emmett's arm which came off easily. He looked up surprised, blood - human blood - glistening on his lips. She tossed the arm behind her, yanking Emmett up at the same instant as her entire body protested. With a final burst of strength, she sent him flying several feet away.
She turned to the human, he was still alive, gasping and letting out little screams. She understood that the venom must be inside of him, she set to work, placing her lips against his neck and sucking. It was almost agony, venom tasted like fire in her mouth. She kept spitting to the ground, her eyes blurring with tears.
I can't be a monster, I can't be a monster, she repeated to herself as the human boy wheezed. She almost tasted his clean blood but before she could let the half-vampire in her lose control and go in a frenzy, she began to pull away.
Only to meet the wide eyes of her entire family, who stared at her with their mouths open. Carlisle was instantly upon the human boy, sucking the remaining of the venom while she sat up on her haunches, terrified.
She said nothing.
Emmett said nothing.
Her family said nothing.
But she could see the story they were writing for themselves; Renesmee overcome by thirst, fighting with Emmett to suck the blood of a human boy. Never mind that she wasn't venomous, never mind that she was not a monster. That's what they thought of her.
Because secretly, all of them knew they were monsters. And she was half one.
In a few days, the incident had been brushed from everyone's minds. Emmett was cracking jokes about it while Renesmee shuddered in her sleep, trying to forget the desperate attempts of the human boy to survive.
They were monsters. Was it better if a monster lied to himself about the truth like Emmett? Emmett - the strongest person she knew - suddenly became a slave to his thirst. What did it matter, pretending to be human and practicing their diet when they slipped up and had accidents? A life had nearly been taken but it barely seemed to affect anyone.
Renesmee always read and saw of the famous father-daughter bond. She wasn't sure if she had any with her own.
He was kind, she could say. He taught her how to play the piano. But Renesmee was sure, that somewhat like Rosalie, Edward also projected a wholesome creature on her which she wasn't.
Regardless of what she did, like the incident with the human boy, Edward would simply purse his lips or give a disapproving look. Her own father made her feel like she was meant to be seen and not heard. Either by voice or by thought.
She could sometimes remember being in her mother's womb, she remembered hearing his voice. Given the context of her birth and the events she had pieced together, she knew her father outright loathed her before. That he considered her an abomination. A monster. Just like him.
She - the demon he had despised.
He - the demon she now despised.
Whenever her family got in the mood, they would sit and discuss her parent's "love story." The more Renesmee heard it, the more she grew terrified. Love story? It was straight from a book of nightmares and the stuff of horror.
She often watched her parents' interactions, sadly. Their complete obsession, their complete fixation with each other. Renesmee had read of codependent attachment styles and unfortunately, lived to witness it in her parents.
"Shouldn't you be in bed?" her father asked her, glancing up from his adoration of her mother's face. Renesmee what it meant. It meant she must make herself scarce. That she had outstayed her welcome.
She drudged up the stairs, trying to ignore the sudden noises that enveloped the cottage with her loud music. Shakes, thursts, thuds, gasps, moans, cries, and exclamations.
He was a demon. Springing from the darkness and plucking her human mother out from the world of the light. Planting his seed inside her and birthing a daughter of both light and dark, fearing which one would overpower her one day but not enough to do anything except living in the fairytale the entire family delusionally believed in.
Her parents had told her it was the stuff of magic. She could only feel its horror.
Of his complete lack of free will. Of choices.
Of disgust for what everyone implied but which, thankfully had not occured. Yet.
Renesmee wrote in her notebook while Jacob lounged against a tree trunk, his expression pensive. She stopped writing, watching him. His expression was both bitter and full of longing, his dark eyes seeming to simmer with an emotion that she always heard of but never felt herself. He breathed steadily, the expression in his eyes suddenly turning wistful.
She followed his gaze to her mother, leaning against Edward's chest.
An imprint must only create a new bond, not erase ones that existed before.
Renesmee watched Jacob as he watched someone else. Finally, it seemed to dawn on him that she had caught on and he turned to her, his expression stricken.
"It's not like that," he whispered, closing his eyes. "Believe me, it's not."
"But do you wish?" she replied, her voice low.
He said nothing.
She picked up her pen again. She became aware of his eyes on her and she steadily met his gaze. Whatever he saw on her face, his expression darkened and he was upon his feet, running for the woods and phasing the very next second.
Renesmee watched as her mother stared unhappily after Jacob. Her shoulders seemed to slump, her entire being becoming low. Edward noticed the change instantly but telepathic as he was, he remained unaware.
Regardless of how Bella insisted Edward was her mate, Renesmee knew there was a part of her that would always be Jacob's. A part that Edward could never change or reach because she even denied it to herself so vehemently.
She knew Bella was her mother. But the woman felt so foreign to her. She knew Bella carried and delivered her with a grave threat of her life, but once Renesmee had been physically placed in her arms...Renesmee felt something eclipse her mother's adoration for her daughter.
Probably, her father.
It was why when the Volturi came upon them, Bella'd rather die with him than run and live with her daughter. Whom she could protect better with her mental shield.
Renesmee was not sure of who were her parents, sometimes. Sure, Bella birthed her and Edward was the sperm donor. But she associated Rosalie with the mother word while father...maybe, Carlisle. Or Charlie.
Both her birth parents had been distant figures. They left her for hours at end, exploring their love for each other. To the one trip they took with her, there were nine that they took alone together.
Renesmee often felt like the third wheel to their time together. An intruder interrupting their stolen moments of forever.
Despite being the great product of their love, she felt none.
"So...this is what you've been working on?" Bella asked, awe in her voice. Unlike her mother who was fond of literature, Renesmee preferred more science and facts. She was using her notes from her study sessions with Carlisle to chart out a comprehensive history and evolution of the field of psychology.
Renesmee nodded. Her mother - when she could remember her - tried to engage with her but Renesmee felt that she had grown up sufficiently without needing anymore parenting.
"I'm going to stay with Charlie this summer," Renesmee said casually.
Bella's face fell. Renesmee observed her. Charlie - for security reasons - now believed his daughter and son-in-law to be dead. Despite the need-to-know business, Carlisle had insisted it was too dangerous for it to continue. Besides, Charlie would have noticed that her mother had completely stopped aging.
So with the rest of the Cullens scattered and her parents supposedly dead, Renesmee was the only one who could visit him without raising any suspicion. This was an event that Bella did not approve of. Coming from a childhood with not the best stability, Bella coveted an image of the perfect family - which she believed she found with the Cullens but had stubbornly wanted to include Charlie in.
She had heard stories and whispers of what Bella had put her father and everyone through. How she found her perfect forever and family. Her perfect control. Her perfect, special, prodigal, and miracle child.
At the cost of her humanity, her father, her mother.
Everything )her family and child) which she might give up in a moment's time if needed. It was not lost on Renesmee that in a year's time, she would be psychologically and physically older than both her parents who were forever stuck in their adolescence.
Her mother had picked her bed of roses.
It was only a matter of time before she found the thorns, Renesmee thought darkly.
Renesmee tracked the lines of aging upon his face and body. Streaks of gray and white were visible in his hair while his face had lines and loose skin.
It fascinated her.
After the hugs were out of the way, she sat close to her grandfather, tracing the prominent veins in his soft wrinkled skin. She poked at his forearm, marveling at how a tiny light bruise appeared instantly.
Charlie laughed which turned into a cough. "I am an old man."
Renesmee smiled at him. "Still my handsome grandfather."
Almost instantly, his eyes became shadowed. "Your parents would have been so proud of you." Tears shimmered in his eyes and Renesmee felt a spark of hatred directed towards her mother.
Renesmee nearly snorted but refrained, settling her head against his soft arm. His chest was wheezing slightly, his voice gravelly.
"It kills me," he said, after a moment. "Once I'm gone, you'll be alone."
"Where are you going?" she asked, childishly.
"I will die sometime, kid," he said easily. She tried not to shudder. Death was not part of her life. She didn't know anyone who could not live forever. Thinking of Charlie dying created a lump in her throat and she wished it would happen sometime very far away in the distant future.
"You're here now."
"I'm here now," he agreed. They did not speak for a long time, a companionable silence where they watched the latest football game. Renesmee knew Charlie still loved Bella - might even love her more than he loved her. He suffered a lot; taking care of his aging parents, his wife taking off with their kid, not ever being able to properly bond with the kid. Then giving her up - when he barely just got her - to a man he did not approve of. If anything, Renesmee could sympathize and silently applaud his staunch stance against her father.
"You're my favorite," she whispered.
Another game of human charades.
Renesmee glanced at her family; her father was playing the piano, her mother lounging on the armchair beside him, Emmet, Jasper, and Jacob had begun their bi-weekly card game, Esme was knitting, Carlisle was reading a thick medical textbook, Rosalie was tinkering in the garage and Alice could be heard organizing her closet.
Statues playing pretend.