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The End

2009.10.29

He did beat me home. He was parked in Charlie's spot when I pulled up in front of the house. That was
a bad sign. He didn't plan to stay, then. I shook my head and took a deep breath, trying to locate some
courage.
He got out of his car when I stepped out of the truck, and came to meet me. He reached to take my
book bag from me. That was normal. But he shoved it back onto the seat. That was not normal.
"Come for a walk with me," he suggested in an unemotional voice, taking my hand.
I didn't answer. I couldn't think of a way to protest, but I instantly knew that I wanted to. I didn't like
this. This is bad, this is very bad, the voice in my head repeated again and again.
But he didn't wait for an answer. He pulled me along toward the east side of the yard, where the forest
encroached. I followed unwillingly, trying to think through the panic. It was what I wanted, I reminded
myself. The chance to talk it all through. So why was the panic choking me?
We'd gone only a few steps into the trees when he stopped. We were barely on the trail—I could still
see the house.
Some walk.
Edward leaned against a tree and stared at me, his expression unreadable.
"Okay, let's talk," I said. It sounded braver than it felt.
He took a deep breath.
"Bella, we're leaving."
I took a deep breath, too. This was an acceptable option. I thought I was prepared. But I still had to ask.
"Why now? Another year—"
"Bella, it's time. How much longer could we stay in Forks, after all? Carlisle can barely pass for thirty,
and he's claiming thirty-three now. We'd have to start over soon regardless."
His answer confused me. I thought the point of leaving was to let his family live in peace. Why did we
have to leave if they were going? I stared at him, trying to understand what he meant.
He stared back coldly.
With a roll of nausea, I realized I'd misunderstood.
"When you say we—," I whispered.
"I mean my family and myself." Each word separate and distinct.
I shook my head back and forth mechanically, trying to clear it. He waited without any sign of
impatience. It took a few minutes before I could speak.
"Okay," I said. "I'll come with you."
"You can't, Bella. Where we're going… It's not the right place for you."
"Where you are is the right place for me."
"I'm no good for you, Bella."
"Don't be ridiculous." I wanted to sound angry, but it just sounded like I was begging. "You're the very
best part of my life."
"My world is not for you," he said grimly.
"What happened with Jasper—that was nothing, Edward! Nothing!"
"You're right," he agreed. "It was exactly what was to be expected."
"You promised! In Phoenix, you promised that you would stay—"
"As long as that was best for you," he interrupted to correct me.
"No! This is about my soul, isn't it?" I shouted, furious, the words exploding out of me—somehow it still
sounded like a plea. "Carlisle told me about that, and I don't care, Edward. I don't care! You can have
my soul. I don't want it without you—it's yours already!"
He took a deep breath and stared, unseeingly, at the ground for a long moment. His mouth twisted the
tiniest bit. When he finally looked up, his eyes were different, harder—like the liquid gold had frozen
solid.
"Bella, I don't want you to come with me." He spoke the words slowly and precisely, his cold eyes on
my face, watching as I absorbed what he was really saying.
There was a pause as I repeated the words in my head a few times, sifting through them for their real
intent.
"You… don't… want me?" I tried out the words, confused by the way they sounded, placed in that
order.
"No."
I stared, uncomprehending, into his eyes. He stared back without apology. His eyes were like
topaz—hard and clear and very deep. I felt like I could see into them for miles and miles, yet nowhere in
rheir bottomless depths could I see a contradiction to the word he'd spoken.
"Well, that changes things." I was surprised by how calm and reasonable my voice sounded. It must be
because I was so numb. I couldn't realize what he was telling me. It still didn't make any sense.
He looked away into the trees as he spoke again. "Of course, I'll always love you… in a way. But what
happened the other night made me realize that it's time for a change. Because I'm… tired of pretending
to be something I'm not, Bella. I am not human." He looked back, and the icy planes of his perfect face
were not human. "I've let this go on much too long, and I'm sorry for that."
"Don't." My voice was just a whisper now; awareness was beginning to seep through me, trickling like
acid through my veins. "Don't do this."
He just stared at me, and I could see from his eyes that my words were far too late. He already had.
"You're not good for me, Bella." He turned his earlier words around, and so I had no argument. How
well I knew that I wasn't good enough for him.
I opened my mouth to say something, and then closed it again. He waited patiently, his face wiped clean
of all emotion. I tried again.
"If… that's what you want."
He nodded once.
My whole body went numb. I couldn't feel anything below the neck.
"I would like to ask one favor, though, if that's not too much," he said.
I wonder what he saw on my face, because something flickered across his own face in response. But,
before I could identify it, he'd composed his features into the same serene mask.
"Anything," I vowed, my voice faintly stronger.
As I watched, his frozen eyes melted. The gold became liquid again, molten, burning down into mine with
an intensity that was overwhelming.
"Don't do anything reckless or stupid," he ordered, no longer detached. "Do you understand what I'm
saying?"
I nodded helplessly.
His eyes cooled, the distance returned. "I'm thinking of Charlie, of course. He needs you. Take care of
yourself—for him."
I nodded again. "I will," I whispered.
He seemed to relax just a little.
"And I'll make you a promise in return," he said. "I promise that this will be the last time you'll see me. I
won't come back. I won't put you through anything like this again. You can go on with your life without
any more interference from me. It will be as if I'd never existed."
My knees must have started to shake, because the trees were suddenly wobbling. I could hear the blood
pounding faster than normal behind my ears. His voice sounded farther away.
He smiled gently. "Don't worry. You're human—your memory is no more than a sieve. Time heals all
wounds for your kind."
"And your memories?" I asked. It sounded like there was something stuck in my throat, like I was
choking.
"Well"—he hesitated for a short second—"I won't forget. But my kind… we're very easily distracted."
He smiled; the smile was tranquil and it did not touch his eyes.
He took a step away from me. "That's everything, I suppose. We won't bother you again."
The plural caught my attention. That surprised me; I would have thought I was beyond noticing anything.
"Alice isn't coming back," I realized. I don't know how he heard me—the words made no sound—but he
seemed to understand.
He shook his head slowly, always watching my face.
"No. They're all gone. I staved behind to tell you goodbye."
"Alice is gone?" My voice was blank with disbelief.
"She wanted to say goodbye, but I convinced her that a clean break would be better for you."
I was dizzy; it was hard to concentrate. His words swirled around in my head, and I heard the doctor at
the hospital in Phoenix, last spring, as he showed me the X-rays. You can see it's a clean break, his
finger traced along the picture of my severed bone. That's good. It will heal more easily, more quickly
.
I tried to breathe normally. I needed to concentrate, to find a way out of this nightmare.
"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.
With shaky legs, ignoring the fact that my action was useless, I followed him into the forest. The evidence
of his path had disappeared instantly. There were no footprints, the leaves were still again, but I walked
forward without thinking. I could not do anything else. I had to keep moving. If I stopped looking for
him, it was over.
Love, life, meaning… over.

 

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