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.
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
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 Jasperthat 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
mesomehow 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 youit’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, harderlike 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.
I stared, uncomprehending, into his eyes. He stared back without apology. His eyes were like
topazhard 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
“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
“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 yourselffor 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 humanyour 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
“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
“Alice isn’t coming back,” I realized. I don’t know how he heard methe words made no
soundbut 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
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.
I walked and walked. Time made no sense as I pushed slowly through the thick
undergrowth. It was hours passing, but also only seconds. Maybe it felt like time had frozen
because the forest looked the same no matter how far I went. I started to worry that I was
traveling in a circle, a very small circle at that, but I kept going. I stumbled often, and, as it
grew darker and darker, I fell often, too.
Finally, I tripped over somethingit was black now, I had no idea what caught my foot and I stayed down. I rolled onto my side, so that I could breathe, and curled up on the wet bracken.
As I lay there, I had a feeling that more time was passing than I realized. I couldn’t remember
how long it had been since nightfall. Was it always so dark here at night? Surely, as a rule,
some little bit of moonlight would filter down through the clouds, through the chinks in the
canopy of trees, and find the ground.
Not tonight. Tonight the sky was utterly black. Perhaps there was no moon tonighta lunar
eclipse, a new moon.
A new moon. I shivered, though I wasn’t cold.
It was black for a long time before I heard them calling.
Someone was shouting my name. It was muted, muffled by the wet growth that surrounded
me, but it was definitely my name. I didn’t recognize the voice. I thought about answering,
but I was dazed, and it took a long time to come to the conclusion that I should answer. By then, the calling had stopped.
Sometime later, the rain woke me up. I don’t think I’d really fallen asleep; I was just lost in an
unthinking stupor, holding with all my strength to the numbness that kept me from realizing
what I didn’t want to know.
The rain bothered me a little. It was cold. I unwrapped my arms from around my legs to
cover my face.
It was then that I heard the calling again. It was farther away this time, and sometimes it
sounded like several voices were calling at once. I tried to breathe deeply. I remembered that
I should answer, but I didn’t think they would be able to hear me. Would I be able to shout
Suddenly, there was another sound, startlingly close. A kind of snuffling, an animal sound. It
sounded big. I wondered if I should feel afraid. I didn’t just numb. It didn’t matter. The
snuffling went away.
It will be as if I’d never existed, he’d promised me.
I felt the smooth wooden floor beneath my knees, and then the palms of my hands, and then
it was pressed against the skin of my cheek. I hoped that I was fainting, but, to my
disappointment, I didn’t lose consciousness. The waves of pain that had only lapped at me before now reared high up and washed over my head, pulling me under.
I did not resurface.
TIME PASSES. EVEN WHEN IT SEEMS IMPOSSIBLE. EVEN when each tick of the second hand aches like the pulse of blood behind a bruise. It passes unevenly, in strange
lurches and dragging lulls, but pass it does. Even for me.