The Long Road Home, Chapter 7: London Underground (Alice)

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Disclaimer: All publicly recognizable characters, settings, etc. are the property of their respective owners. The original characters and plot are the property of the author. The author is in no way associated with the owners, creators, or producers of any media franchise. No copyright infringement is intended. This is a work of Twilight fanfiction.

Chapter Note: This chapter is from Alice's POV. It picks up right after the end of chapter 5. Enjoy!

Chapter 7: London Underground

I stayed in Paris as long as I could.

It was so hard to move on, but I knew I had to. I remembered Corin's instructions, about not drawing attention to myself, about not staying in one place too long...I knew the Volturi knew about me, and I couldn't risk exposing myself or the humans I had come to consider a kind of family to their...tender mercies.

I know I overstayed. Ten years in one place is a long time, especially when you don't age visibly, and especially if you interact with humans as often as I did then. But I couldn't bear to uproot myself any sooner. I loved my life.

I never moved out of the Bruyeres' hotel during that time. I know it was a stupid, selfish thing to do, but I felt as if I'd put down roots, and hated the idea of pulling them up. They were good years, full of new experiences, and I was left with many fond memories.

I watched Perrine grow from a precocious ten year old into a strapping young man; he learned the family business with the natural affinity of one born to it, his nimble fingers producing such elegant and well-made creations that he already had a lengthy client list by the time he was eighteen. He and his aunt and uncle had made a name for themselves, especially since they were patronized and recommended by the eminent Madame Chanel herself for finishing and detail-work. And by the time I left Paris, Perrine was married, with a baby on the way. His son was also to be named Perrine, as was his grandson...I never forgot the family. Their skill and craftsmanship was such that my little Perrine's grandson was the only one I would ever choose to craft my Bella's beautiful wedding gown, some seventy years later.

I had been pulling back from daily interactions with the family gradually, knowing deep inside that the time was rapidly approaching when my breakfast tray would arrive and find me gone, never to return. It was painful. I found all kinds of excuses to stay around. But in the end, the last page of that chapter of my life was written for me, at Madame Bruyere's funeral.

It was a rainy late winter day, the day her casket was lowered into the ground. The family thronged around, black-clothed, weeping. I wish I could have cried as well, to show how much I had cared for that simple, sweet, loving old woman, who had never questioned me or shown the least bit of fear in my presence. She had lived to a ripe, old mortal age of eighty-five, and had passed away in her sleep.

I had never been to a funeral before, and felt odd being there among all the grieving people, but I still felt I had to go. I stood back from the rest of them, shielding myself from the rain with a black umbrella, trying not to be seen, but wanting to pay my respects.

The funeral ended with the priest's final prayers, and the mourners began drifting away in their separate directions. Their murmured conversations and muffled sobs and sniffles were so clear to me. I watched Perrine carefully guide his young wife among the tombstones and crypts, almost carrying her in his fear she might slip in the wet grass of the cemetery. I saw his tears mix with the rain falling from the leaden sky, and his heavy, sad expression made my heart ache.

He saw me suddenly, standing in the shadow of a crypt, and startled, although I hadn't moved. "Alice!" he gasped, stopping. Paulette, his wife, stumbled at the sudden halt, her hands going protectively to her swollen stomach; Perrine swiftly righted her, his hand dropping down to cover hers, pressed against her belly, where I could hear their baby's heartbeat pattering inside her. I smiled gently. She smiled back shyly. We had never grown close; there would have been too many questions. But she was a sweet young woman with a quiet sense of humor, I'd noticed, and she loved Perrine very much. That was enough for me.

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