I sat in the deep cushions of the couch that had been delivered the day before. I debated making some dinner but I wasn't sure what I wanted. The urge to search for James was suddenly overwhelming.
It had only been a week. Why was I so desperate to see him? This had been what I'd wanted, right? I had packed and hopped a plane and now here I was, sitting in my living room and wishing I was home.
Home. I was home. Why did it not feel like it? I missed the roaring of the waves. Even though I could see the ocean from my window I couldn't hear it, I couldn't walk outside and be on the warm sand with the taste of the salty air on my tongue. I turned to look out the window and the brilliant blue of the water shadowed by the deepness of the night sky made everything feel even less real. I groaned to myself and buried my face in my hands.
"I just need to go somewhere, James. I need to make sure that I can survive without you." My voice cracked. I watched his eyes shift from mine to the sand. The frown on his face seemed to threaten to never leave and I wanted to kiss it away.
This is why I need to leave, I'd thought to myself. We're too much a part of each other. I felt the bitter pang of loss echo in my chest like a gong that had been hit somewhere off in the distance. The memory of losing Edward still had weight in my decisions, even though I knew it shouldn't. Edward didn't deserve to impact me that way. I was terrified of becoming so desperately needful of James that if something were to go wrong I wouldn't be able to survive alone.
That was simply unacceptable.
I was restless and afraid and it was ruining my life.
James took a long, steady breath and looked up at me. His green eyes showed to me everything that was inside of him, all of his concern and fear and devotion. I could feel myself losing determination, a fraction of it at a time. My throat began to constrict. Why was I such a child?
He reached a hand out and ran a finger along my cheek. "I'll miss you."
Silence filled my house. There was no gentle strumming of guitars, no random shuffling from the kitchen. James was nowhere to be found here and I felt empty. The hole in my chest that Edward had left was nothing compared to this. A complete loss of existence trumped a gaping wound any day. My limbs felt heavy and light at the same time, as if all of my bones had been sucked out of my body and all that remained was flesh and muscle and veins swinging around limply.
I had to remind myself that I was the one to walk away. I'd been the one to leave. I took calm, steadying breaths and stood up. I slid on a pair of flip flops and opened the front door.
Greece was a lovely city and I was determined to enjoy it. If I caved and went home to James tomorrow, at least I could say I gave the city a chance. I began wandering aimlessly through the streets and alleyways, smiling meekly at the locals when they would glance at me. Everyone smiled back, though some of them seemed strained and uncomfortable. At least they tried.
I turned a corner and a sudden flash of bronze locks in the moonlight startled me. I caught my breath and froze.
It couldn't be.
I waited for what seemed like an endless second. Before I could think, I spoke in a strong, even voice. "Edward Cullen?" I couldn't see the bronze hair anymore but I knew it didn't matter, if he was within two miles of me he would be able to hear me. He would know he was being addressed. I heard a rustling of paper sacks.
Edward peered around the corner of a house no more than ten feet away, looking curious and holding some brown paper bags in his arms. His butterscotch eyes scanned the area for whomever had been addressing him and when his eyes met mine the bags fell to the ground. I stood still, standing upright with my eyes deliberately meeting his. I felt a rush surge through my veins like white-hot electricity, threatening to burn me from the inside out. I could taste my power on my tongue.
Practice truly had made perfect, I realized. It had taken ten years, but I knew for a fact that I wasn't seeping an ounce of power from my body. I drew no adoring fans, I tossed no surprise fireballs, I shut down no power unintentionally. I could feel each gift tingling inside of me, calling to me, begging me to release them and show this boy what pain was. I stuffed my hands into my pockets in the hopes of reigning in the urge to throw a lightning-quick streak of flame at his throat.
"Bella." His voice was soft, a delicate whisper plucked from the wind. He stepped forward. I made no movement. "You're - you're changed."
"Clever observation." My voice felt like stone in my mouth, dirty and hard and uncomfortable on my tongue.
"I can't believe you're here." His eyes were scanning me quickly, taking in everything, his expression a delightful mixture of panic and curiosity.
I didn't even have to try to make him want me.
"I was not expecting to see you, either."
"You should... come with me. The others would be glad to see you."
A swell of bitterness rose up within me, building and growing and moving like a tidal wave before it finally crashed into my ribcage; I felt it rise like water in my lungs until I could taste it in the back of my throat, acid and blood and burning right through my lips. "I wouldn't be inconveniencing you, would I?"
Edward opened his mouth to argue but a realization seemed to dawn on him and he snapped his mouth closed. He studied me for a moment and shook his head, "Not at all, Bella. The invitation was genuine."
And so I went. Perhaps it was the draw of seeing Alice again, or perhaps I felt like the reassuring touch of Esme's soft hand on my shoulder would ease the longing in my chest for home. I battled with the knowledge that they had all left, that it hadn't been just Edward to abandon me, as we walked in silence down the quiet, dark streets.
I could feel Edward's tension beside me, his muscles tightening up the longer the silence went on. What was I supposed to say to him? It's okay that you broke my heart, I'm over it now or you're the biggest, lousiest creep I've ever had the misfortune to meet?
If you can't say anything nice, don't say anything at all. Wasn't that a common motto for mothers to preach to their children? I supposed silence was the best I could offer him.
It was only a few short blocks to the house Edward said they were staying in. I was wondering how they were living in Greece when the weather was not grey and rainy all the time, but I wasn't quite ready to speak to him. We climbed the steps and he unlocked the front door and set the paper bags on a small table to his left.
"Alice, I brought -" He'd started.
"A guest, and my scrapbooking things. Yes, I know." Alice made her way into the entry room and froze. The little pixie hadn't changed a bit, but the excitement I had half-hoped would be all over her face was missing. She looked stricken, as if I'd cut off Jasper's head in front of her.
"Alice," I said, the curt greeting feeling cold even to me. "Edward and I ran into each other on the street."
"Bella, it's so good to see you!" Esme floated into the entry room and wrapped her arms around me in a welcoming hug. I allowed myself to hug her back, to feel someone else's body pressed against mine. Someone who wanted it there.
I missed James terribly.
"It is nice to see you also, Esme," I practically purred into her hair. I felt her smile and she stepped away, holding me at arms length to inspect me.
"Being a vampire suits you, Bella, you look stunning. Every bit the lovely creature I always expected you would be." She was beaming at me and I truly believed she was thrilled to see me. Always the mother.
I offered her a genuine smile and turned my attention back to Alice as Jasper stepped in and set a hand upon her shoulder. "Hello, Jasper." I watched his expression steel as I spoke to him, regret and sorrow heavy in his eyes.
"Evening, Bella. It is nice to see you again."
"How about we all stop saying that, yes? It is clear that is not the case for the most part." I was tired, tired of the chirade, tired of being lonely. I was tired of all of this bullshit. I had put Edward behind me a long time ago and I wasn't about to let old issues arise. "I should probably be going, anyway. I have some things to do." Like book a flight home.
"Please, don't go yet." Edward's voice sounded small and I'd nearly forgotten he was only two feet away from me. He looked forlorn, desperation clear in his eyes. I considered his request. "It has been too long, Bella, I would like to talk to you."
I frowned at him but let out a heavy sigh and nodded. It was going to be a long night. "Where are the others?"
"Carlisle is at the hospital, he works night shift." Esme said, her voice bright and cheerful. "Rose and Emmett have gone off together for a while, they thought time alone would be nice."
Esme reached out to me and lead me into the living room where we sat down on the couch and waited for the others to follow. She asked me questions about my life, mostly what I was doing these days and how I liked being a vampire. No one asked the hard questions, Alice never said a word.
Eventually, Edward had glared at Esme long enough that she stood and stretched and said she thought she would go take a walk for some fresh air. Alice and Jasper leaped up and followed her, Jasper offering me a polite nod as he escorted Alice out of the room.
Then there were two.
"You look fantastic, Bella. I never thought you could be more beautiful, but..." Edward had gained some of his voice back, the shock was wearing off.
"No, Edward. I really do not want to hear flattery." I turned and addressed him, meeting his warm gaze with mine. He studied me for a long moment.
"Your eyes are still brown."
"How?" His curiosity was clearly piqued.
"It is a long story."
"I have all night." He scooted forward on the couch across from me, leaning in as if to hear me better.
"I don't." I was firm in my decision not to stay here too long. I didn't need this.
"Please don't be cold, Bella. It has been so long and I," he paused as if he were debating the threat his next words might bring unto him, "I've missed you."
"I see. Did you even know I was alive, Edward? Did you come to my funeral? Have you tried to seek me out to be sure of my safety?"
Here it was, the fight that had been bubbling just beneath our encounter.
"Bella, I assumed you were around that dog. What was his name? Jake?"
"I saw Jake only once."
There was the silence again.
"I hated you for almost ten years." I was speaking without thinking. This could end badly. His expression was neutral, unyielding to any emotion or giveaway.
"I still hate myself," he was using his quiet voice again. Was he attempting to portray shame?
It wasn't working.
"I don't know what you expect of this talk, Edward, but I am unsure it has any benefits."
"You've become quite eloquent since I've seen you last, did you know that?"
I shrugged. It seemed unimportant. He spoke again.
"I want to apologize for the way things ended. I was afraid for you, I was afraid of what I would do to you. I didn't want to make you this way." His hand gestured at me vaguely and I was beginning to feel the anger coil in my shoulder blades.
"Making me this way could have saved my life, Edward."
"It would have taken it!"
I rose from my seat and glowered down at him. "I am going outside for a cigarette." I turned and walked towards the door, yanking it open and pulling out my little metal tin of cigarettes from my back pocket. I heard Edward shut the door behind him as I set the filtered end of a menthol between my lips.
"Do you need a lighter?"
My eyes darted up at him in surprise. I hadn't thought this out. I hadn't expected him to follow me. I didn't carry lighters.
Why would I?
I had three options. I could just light my cigarette myself and expose my power, I could accept his offer of a lighter or I could simply change my mind about the cigarette.
I wanted the cigarette.
I didn't want his fu*king help.
I snapped my fingers, the little lick of flame sprouting and dancing between them. I lit my cigarette and blew the smoke out from my lungs forcefully.
"Oh, well then."
"I don't want to talk about it."
And for the first time since I'd known him, Edward dropped a topic of conversation he clearly wanted to know about.