Chapter Five: Midnight Wanderings of the Mind

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 Chapter Five: Midnight Wanderings of the Mind

Finally the last day of the school year arrived. I sensed the relief permeating the campus as final exams came and went and we attended Emmett's, Rosalie's, and Jasper's high school graduation ... yet again. The difference this time of having Bella seated between myself and Carlisle was the only aspect of yet another dull graduation that made the long, boring ceremony bearable.

Bella's delicate hand grasped mine, and from time to time during the trite valedictorian speeches, our eyes met and once again I felt almost human...almost fragile myself. So much in my life has changed since I met Bella, since I started loving Bella. Her glance, her touch, her hidden thoughts, her pure soul, her quiet beauty-all of her qualities mesmerize me, capturing my heart and making it hers ... and only hers.

On this summer night I lay on Bella's bed, her sleeping head on my chest, my right arm wrapped around her, my left hand holding hers. This was the way she slept most nights, and I still found it fascinating to watch her sleep, especially when she talked. And especially when she whispered my name, whispered how much she loved me. My cold, still heart flooded with warm feeling each time I heard those beautiful, impossible words from her parted lips.

But Bella still had frequent nightmares about her experiences in Phoenix, and I flagellated myself each time the dark memories in her dreams gripped her, causing her to call out with fear and desperation into the warm night until I could wake her and hold her close, murmuring to her until she calmed, until the tears stopped flowing, each droplet seared into my conscience as nothing else ever could be.

How could I be good for Bella if my presence-our presence-had led her to such suffering?

I pushed the maudlin thoughts away, thankful that Bella slept quietly and deeply this night, that she nestled closer to me in her sleep. I tightened my hold upon her, allowing my mind to wander to less worrisome thoughts, but ones which still produced deep concern in the pit of my stomach.

Now that we were free of the charade of school for the summer, Carlisle and the rest of the family were planning a trip to Denali to visit Tanya and her family who were our closest (and only) extended family. But I was extremely reluctant to travel to Alaska-for several reasons. Of course, I didn't want to leave Bella for an extended time, yet I didn't want to bring her to Denali, either ... especially after Alice's vision.

Alice hadn't seen anything that would indicate a problem with taking Bella with us, but Bella was applying for summer jobs in town and, if she obtained a position, she wouldn't be able to leave for a trip anyway. Plus, I didn't want to expose Bella to any more vampires than she already spent time around. With the way danger seemed to seek her out, I didn't want her around Tanya and her family at all-who knows what kind of danger she could find herself in?

And yet another reason-although not nearly as pressing as Bella's safety-was that I didn't want to deal with Tanya if I brought someone I cared for into her home. Tanya had expressed an attraction, even a liking for me in the past, and when I had retreated to Denali in the wake of my first exposure to Bella, Tanya had made me even more uncomfortable in revealing the depth of her interest, thinking at first that I had come to Alaska for her sake. I didn't know how Tanya would react to Bella, but knowing Tanya's infamous temper, bringing Bella up north didn't strike me as a good idea.

Above all these reasons, Alice hadn't been able to "see" how the trip would go since I had never truly considered joining them. With my mind so made up, my need to protect Bella so strong, she had received no inkling of Bella's safety or Tanya's reaction if I brought Bella with us. Neither Alice not Rosalie wanted Bella to come-Alice because of the lack of foresight regarding the trip, and Rosalie because she simply didn't like Bella, remaining oddly jealous.

Even after our return from Phoenix, Rosalie had remained strangely unmoved by all that Bella had suffered because of her proximity to our family. She kept her distance from Bella whenever I brought her to the house, pulling Emmett away with her most of the time. Emmett, who found Bella amusing at least and hilarious at most (which annoyed me almost more than Rosalie's cold shoulder) tried reasoning with her, but Rosalie was adamant in her dislike. And she remained envious of the life Bella had...a future spread out before her with so much possibility and promise...the life Rosalie had loved and still yearned for, despite her passionate relationship with Emmett.

I knew, and Emmett himself knew, that she would give up her soul mate without a thought if she was offered the chance of a normal, human life. Every time she laid eyes on Bella, she was reminded of everything she lacked in this half-life of ours, frozen in time as we are. So she pointedly ignored Bella on the few occasions when she couldn't escape from her. Bella took Rosalie's reaction to heart, and I hated seeing the hurt in her eyes when Rosalie glared at her and left the room swiftly upon Bella's frequent visits to our home.

Alice's reaction had been the opposite of Rosalie's, yet I found it almost more troubling than the latter's dislike and envy. Alice had stayed with me in Phoenix until Bella was discharged from the hospital, and I was thankful for her company during the non-visiting hours when I was not allowed to be with Bella. I would have sunk into a deep depression over what I had done to Bella, how I had nearly killed her, if not for Alice's presence, soothing me and encouraging me. She now loved Bella as a sister-in some ways, even more than she loved Rosalie.

And after we had all returned to Forks, Alice had stepped in to help care for Bella in her home, doing things that Charlie would have died rather than be forced to do: helping Bella shower and dress on a daily basis. Charlie was so intensely grateful for Alice's assistance in what have been extremely awkward and embarrassing for both him and for Bella that Alice became almost like another daughter to him. Alice had thoroughly and without apology wrapped Charlie around her little finger, a fact that both pleased and annoyed me slightly, especially when he looked on me with barely-concealed anger-which, I admit, I richly deserve after all I have put Bella through since spring break.

But Alice was still seeing glimpses of Bella's future as an immortal, seeing her face pale and cold, her eyes burning with the shocking crimson color of a newborn vampire. How I had hoped that the events in Phoenix, when I had sucked the venom from Bella's blood, would preclude that event. But it hadn't. And in some ways Bella's future as a vampire seemed to be solidifying in Alice's visions, a future that thrilled me in one small way: knowing that Bella would always be mine, that she would be joining me in this immortal life, that I would never be without her, never lose her.

But these benefits, none slight in the least, didn't seem to me to be worth stealing away Bella's future as a human-her natural, human life that she deserved to live. Although she seemed adamant about joining me in this immortal half-life, she knew little of what she was asking of me: she was asking me to kill her, then to sentence her to a soulless eternity. If I relented, it would be the most selfish act of my entire ... existence.

Bella stirred in her sleep, nestling herself more tightly into my arms, murmuring my name under her breath. I brushed a strand of her dark hair off her face, the scent of strawberries from her shampoo tickling my nose. She turned her face into my chest, breathing in deeply, and she sighed my name once again. And so I allowed my mind to turn to far more pleasant thoughts, but thoughts that also brought their own concerns.... 

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