Chapter 15. Mind Over Matter
I helped Bella into the car and we took off down the highway, after I’d made sure she had buckled in, of course. I kept the truck under 50MPH, but I wasn’t prepared to take any chances. I had already had driven her truck once before, and I had to agree with Bella. I don’t think her truck could
handle going much faster than that. I felt the frame quake with the strain at this speed, with the roar of the engine threatening the structural integrity of the old clunker.
I turned the radio on to drown out the noise, and flipped to one of my favorite oldies stations. The last few chords of ‘Twilight Time’ by The Platters, was playing. I smiled at the irony as I glanced towards the setting sun. Not quite Twilight, but close enough. And when the next song came on, I smiled again thinking the universe must be trying to tell me something. The song that was playing was one of very familiar to me. One of the lesser known hits by The Everly Brothers. I started singing along to ‘(‘Til) I Kissed You’. I reached over and pulled Bella’s hand into mine as we continued down the road.
Twilight Time by The Platters
(‘Til) I Kissed You by The Everly Brothers
“You like fifties music?” Bella asked mid-chorus.
“Music in the fifties was good. Much better than the sixties or the seventies, ugh!” I pretended to cringe. “The eighties were bearable.” At least the latter half of the decade
I was watching Bella consider that. She looked down to her lap and took a deep breath before asking, “Are you ever going to tell me how old you are?”
I wondered when I would have to answer this question. I rather wished she had not asked, but I couldn’t deny Bella anything she wanted, as long as it was within reason. I thought I hid my disappointment rather well. “Does it matter much?” I asked, smiling weakly.
She looked up at the sky out the windshield for a moment, considering. I held my breath, waiting for her answer. If I told her how old I really was, how many decades I had seen pass by, would she find it discomforting? I was old enough to be her great-grandfather. No, actually... I was old enough to be her great-great
“No,” she finally answered. “But I still wonder….” She grimaced. “There’s nothing like an unsolved mystery to keep you up at night.”
I had to agree there. But not in the same sense she meant. Bella was my unsolved mystery, and she certainly kept me up at night. Not that I could fall asleep, no… but while I watched her sleep, I tried to open up all my senses, trying to pull whatever information from her that I could… from her body language, the way she tossed in her sleep, to the sporadic mumblings she uttered in her dream state.
Out of the corner of my eye, I saw Bella watching me. Now it was she, waiting for an answer. I let my breath go. “I wonder if it will upset you.”
I bit my lip. Why was this detail, of all others, so difficult for me to admit? I was such a coward! She had accepted the strangest, scariest things about me already today. Why should I think my age would make any difference to her? Long life tends to give a different perspective. Minutes slipped by in silence.
“Try me,” she finally insisted stubbornly.
I sighed, and then searched her eyes for some courage. And while I did find some there, I realized it was hers and not mine. She was the brave one here, in this moment. I looked away, partially in shame, but also because it was easier to concentrate on what I was about to admit, without having to also watch her reaction, just in case she blanched at the confession.
“I was born in Chicago in 1901.” I looked to her quickly, suddenly requiring her acceptance of this truth. I searched her face for any sign of fear or disgust, but what I found there was only warmth and curiosity. The smile of relief that reached my lips was involuntary. I continued, breathing easier now. “Carlisle found me in a hospital in the summer of 1918. I was 17, and dying of Spanish influenza.”
Bella caught her breath momentarily and I looked into her eyes again, wondering which part of what I said caused the hitch.
“I don’t remember it well. It was a very long time ago and human memories fade.” I had only vague recollections of my childhood. And I held on tight to the last image I retained of my mother’s face. I couldn’t remember my father at all, but Carlisle says I looked like him.
Carlisle… my new father.
“I do remember how it felt, when Carlisle saved me. It’s not an easy thing- not something you could forget.”
Bella gulped loudly. “Your parents?”
“They had already died from the disease. I was alone. That was why he chose me. In all the chaos of the academic, no one would ever realize I was gone.”
“How did he… save you?” she asked tentatively.
I hesitated. This was one tidbit of information I swore to myself I’d shelter from Bella. She didn’t need the details of the transformation process to haunt her nightmares. So I decided to give her the sugar-coated version. Or perhaps at least the cherry-flavored cough syrup version. Tastes better than the cheap stuff, but still difficult to swallow… or so I’ve heard.
“It was difficult. Not many of us have the restraint necessary to accomplish it. But Carlisle has always been the most humane. The most compassionate of us. I don’t think you could find his equal throughout all of history. For me, it was merely very, very painful.”
I pursed my lips. That last part slipped out before I realized what I was saying. I had already said more than I’d intended to reveal to her. So I continued in a different direction, lightening the discussion.
“He acted from loneliness. That’s usually the reason behind the choice. I was the first in Carlisle’s family, though he found Esme soon after. She fell from a cliff. They brought her straight to the hospital morgue, though, somehow, her heart was still beating.”
I remembered when Carlisle brought her home for the first time, her eyes bright red from the change. The memories flooded from both of them. Carlisle had perfect recollection, naturally, of the girl whose bones he had once helped mend. And Esme recognized the face of a man whose beauty stunned her over ten years before, unchanged by time. Their love was instantaneous and I couldn’t help but feel the intensity of it through their thoughts. Esme, my mother, was born.
“So you must be dying, then, to become…” she trailed off as her voice cracked. I saved her from the words she couldn’t get out.
“No, that’s just Carlisle. He would never do that to someone who had another choice.”
Carlisle. A very respectable man, indeed. He gave me life, and love, and taught me how to be decent, despite the challenges we face. There is a mythology that those of our race are without pity. I suppose that may be true for the most part. There are many vampires who believe humans are no better than slaves, or a food supply… or both. But not Carlisle. He rejected what he was and his strength empowered him to overcome… Created himself a family and made it possible for that family to co-exist quite harmoniously with our human counterparts. A very respectable man, indeed
, I thought again.
“It is easier he says, though, if the blood is weak.” I watched the road, cursing silently to myself, angry for slipping again. I didn’t want Bella to know of this. The truth is painful… excruciatingly
“And Emmett and Rosalie?” she pressed. And I was glad she had spared me from divulging further detail.
“Carlisle brought Rosalie to our family next. I didn’t realize until much later that he was hoping she would be to me what Esme was to him.” Too bad I’d insulted her with my very first words. “He was careful with his thoughts around me. But she was never more than a sister.” And the rivalry was definitely sibling in nature. “It was only two years later that she found Emmett. She was hunting – we were in Appalachia at the time – and found a bear about to finish him off. She carried him back to Carlisle, more than 100 miles, afraid that she wouldn’t be able to do it herself. I am only beginning to guess how difficult that journey was for her.” I shuddered, as Rosalie’s own memory of the incident entered my vision. I was still hard to see my brother, bloody, near-death, even though now he is one of the strongest vampires I know.
“But she made it,” Bella encourages, saving me again.
“Yes.” I murmured. “She saw something in his face that made her strong enough. And they’ve been together ever since. Sometimes they live separately from us as a married couple. But the younger we pretend to be, the longer we can say in any given place. Forks seemed perfect. So we all enrolled in high school.”
I laughed. Perpetual high school students, oh the monotony. Was it only two months ago that I found it to be my own personal purgatory? Again with the irony. My least favorite place to be had turned out bringing me my most favorite creation in this world. High school had lead me to Bella. I shook my head again.
“I suppose we’ll have to go to their wedding in a few years, again
She smirked. At least she found it as amusing as I did. “Alice and Jasper?” she continued.
“Alice and Jasper are two very rare creatures. They both developed a conscience. As we refer to it with no outside guidance. Jasper belonged to another… family. A very
different kind of family. He became depressed, and he wandered on his own. Alice found him. Like me, she has certain gifts above and beyond the norm for our kind.”
“Really?” Bella cut in, curiously. “But you said you were the only one who could hear people’s thoughts.”
“That’s true. She knows other things. She sees things. Things that might happen, things that are coming. But it’s very subjective. The future isn’t set in stone. Things change.”
And as I said those words, a single pulse of panic pulsed through my body. Things change
. I set my jaw. I wonder if Alice saw this
coming. I would wager she would be none-too-thrilled when she found out how close I came to enacting her vision today. I kissed
Bella, today. My teeth were within millimeters from her flesh! I had been careless, yet so careful. Carefree, in fact. I flashed a quick look to Bella but looked away before she could register the chill.
“What kinds of things does she see?”
Anything…? Everything…? Nothing…
“She found Jasper and knew that he was looking for her before he knew it himself. She saw Carlisle and our family, and they came together to find us. She is most sensitive to non-humans. She always sees, for example, when another group of our kind it’s coming near. And any threat they may pose.”
“Are there a lot of your kind?” she asked hesitantly.
“No, not many. But most won’t settle in any one place. Only those like us, who’ve given up hunting people…” I glanced sideways to Bella for reaction… Nothing. “…can live together with humans for any length of time. We’ve only found one other family like ours in a small village in Alaska. We lived together for a time, but there were so many of us that we became too noticeable. Those of us who live differently tend to band together.”
“And the others?”
“Nomads, for the most part. We’ve all lived that way at times. It gets tedious, like anything else. But we run across the others now and then, because most of us prefer the North.”
“Why is that?”
I had to suppress a laugh as I parked in front of Bella’s house. She seemed surprised we had arrived already. Obviously lost in the conversation. I turned off the engine and looked to her seriously. “Did you have your eyes open this afternoon?” I teased. “Do you think I could walk down the street in the sunlight without causing traffic accidents? There’s a reason why we chose the Olympic Peninsula, one of the most sunless places in the world. It’s nice to be able to go outside in the day. You wouldn’t believe how tired you can get of nighttime in eighty-odd years.”
“So that’s where the legends came from?”
“And Alice came from another family, like Jasper?”
“No, and that is a mystery. Alice doesn’t remember her human life at all.” I recalled when Alice tried to “show” me once. There was nothing. Only black. I was just as frustrated as she was.
“And she doesn’t know who created her. She awoke alone. Whoever made her walked away, and none of us I understand why, or how, he could. If she hadn’t had that other sense, if she hadn’t seen Jasper and Carlisle and known that she would someday become one of us, she probably would have turned into a total savage.”
And as in response to my final word, Bella’s stomach growled loudly. It was only then I’d realized that I had kept Bella all day, hiking, wandering in the woods, without even so much as thinking about her need for water… or food. I must be more perceptive about that in the future. And my carelessness once again caught me off guard.
“I’m sorry,” I apologized. “I’m keeping you from dinner.”
“I’m fine, really,” but her stomach groaned in protest of her lie.
“I’ve never spent much time around anyone who eats food. I forget.”
“I want to stay with you,” she complained sheepishly.
“Can’t I come in?” I suggested. I wasn’t ready to leave her yet either.
“Would you like to?” she asked hopefully.
“Yes, if it’s all right.” Her choice. Always her choice
. That was beginning to become my new mantra.
“Very human,” she teased.
“If definitely resurfacing.”
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