Chapter Fifty-Four: Pushing Forward and Pulling Back

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Here we are...the penultimate chapter to the year-long project of Evening Star. I hope you like it. It's another looong one, by far the looooongest yet!!!

Chapter Fifty-Four: Pushing Forward and Falling Back

The unendurable pain of knowing that I would be leaving Bella seared through my body, my mind, my heart as I held her sleeping form ever closer as we lay on her bed. The piano music that Alice and I had recorded continued playing in the background, but this gift to Bella brought me no peace...because I knew what I had to do.

There was no other choice as I wanted Bella to survive and live a long, happy, safe human life. And the pain shot through me again, the agonizing knowledge of what I would do to her, to me.

How will I survive without her?

Yet this decision was not about me.

It was all about her.

Only her.

Her human life. Her safety. All that she deserved that I couldn't give her.

Unbidden, the memories of mere hours ago returned. I didn't want to keep reliving the events of this night, but I couldn't stop the images from flooding my mind, over and over in a sickening litany that wouldn't stop.

That would never stop....

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Surrounded by trees and boulders, the night sky seemed to bear down on me, the agony of my decision utterly halting me. Only when I had felt a tentative touch on my shoulder did I realize that not only had I stopped pursuing Jasper, Emmett, and Rosalie, but I had also sunk to my knees on the forest floor.

I had not detected Alice's thoughts, her scent, her movement, as she followed me, but she was beside me then, her tiny hand resting on my shoulder.

It was a comforting gesture that brought no relief.

Not that I deserved relief.

In a way, I hoped that Bella would realize the same truth that I had comprehended tonight—the horrible monster that I am under the thin facade of humanity—and that she would leave me, desiring to put as much distance between us as possible.

Riiiight.

As if Bella would ever put her own interests before my own. Before anyone else's, at any time. She was the most unselfish person I had ever met.

But the unlikely scenario of her leaving me would be so much easier than the alternative: removing Bella from my existence for her own good.

As if that would be a simple task....

I knew that it would be the hardest thing I have ever done in my century-long existence.

But I would do it to protect Bella from myself...from all of my family.

Especially from myself.

All these thoughts ran through my head as Alice stood before me, her hand on my shoulder as I knelt in the damp bracken of the forest.

Edward, calm down. Breathe, Edward. It will be all right, Edward—I promise.

The sound of sobbing filled the air, and I glanced around. Alice's expression was sad, but she wasn't the one crying and trembling; she was perfectly still, immobilized by yet another vision, her eyes blank with that familiar far-away look.

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