Chapter 15. Mind Over Matter
“But how can it be so easy now? This afternoon…” Bella trailed off, her eyes still moist from our laughter.
“It’s not easy
,” I sighed. “But this afternoon, I was still…” How did Alice put it?
“…undecided,” I finished. “I am sorry about that.” Sorrier than I would ever care to admit aloud. “It was unforgivable for me to behave so.”
“Not unforgivable,” she disagreed.
“Thank you,” I smiled. “You see,” I continued looking away in shame, “I wasn’t sure If I was strong enough…” I picked up her hand and pressed it lightly to my face. “And while there was still that possibility that I might be… overcome.” I inhaled the scent of her warm body. “I was… susceptible. Until I made up my mind that I was strong enough, that there was no possibility at all that I would, that I could ever…” I couldn’t find the words to continue.
“So there’s no possibility now?”
“Mind over matter,” I repeated. I smiled at the revelation.
“Wow, that was easy,” she teased.
For whatever reason, her insight was humorous. I couldn’t help but laugh. I had just finished telling her just how un
easy this was for me. Insanely difficult, in fact. “Easy for you!” I exclaimed as I pointed gently to her nose.
And she thought I was good at everything? Sure, I was holding my own so far. But ‘mind over matter’ was a very literal expression in this case. Every second I was with Bella requires my whole mind, my complete awareness. I have to consciously calculate every movement, every touch, so that I don’t inadvertently injure her… or worse. I was instantly serious again. “I’m trying,” I whispered. “If it gets to be… too much, I’m fairly sure I’ll be able to leave.”
She scowled at that remark.
“And it will be harder tomorrow,” I continued. “I’ve had the scent of you in my head all day, and I’ve grown amazingly desensitized. If I’m away from you for any length of time, I’ll have to start over again. Not quite from scratch, though, I think.”
“Don’t go away, then,” she replied amorously.
“That suits me.” My face relaxed into a gentle smile. “Bring on the shackles – I’m your prisoner.” I grabbed her wrists, encircling them with my own hands, forming human handcuffs. I laughed again. Prisoner was more than an appropriate description. For I was trapped, snared by her affection, a willing captive of her love.
“You seem more… optimistic than usual. I haven’t seen you like this before.” She squeezed my hand as she spoke.
“Isn’t it supposed to be like this? The glory of first love, and all that. It’s incredible, isn’t it, the difference between reading about something, seeing it in pictures, and experiencing it?”
“Very different,” she agreed. “More forceful than I’d imagined.”
“For example, the emotion of jealousy. I’ve read about it a hundred thousand times, seen actors portray it in a thousand different plays and movies. I believe I understood that one pretty clearly. But it shocked me…. Do you remember the day that Mike asked you to the dance?”
She nodded. “The day you started talking to me again.” And in her voice was a hint of pain. And I recalled that day in perfect clarity and saw how it must have seemed to Bella. She had been resentful, guarded. I flinched at the memory for it was I who had been responsible for her anguish that day. She had accused me of resenting saving her, and I had accosted her for it. I was rude, and had allowed my own jealousy and irritation to seethe through. But I realized now, that in my entire existence to date, and all the days to come… nothing I have ever done or will ever do, will be as important as intervening that fateful day when I had very nearly lost my destiny.
“I was surprised by the flare of resentment, almost fury, that I felt-I didn’t recognize what it was at first. I was even more aggravated than usual that I couldn’t know what you were thinking, why you refused him. Was it simply for your friend’s sake? Was there someone else? I knew I had no right to care either way. I tried
not to care.” But just had Alice had predicted, it proved impossible to ignore Bella. “And then the line started forming,” I laughed again, and Bella scowled, unamused.
“I waited, unreasonably anxious to hear what you would say to them, to watch your expressions. I couldn’t deny the relief I felt, watching the annoyance on your face. But I couldn’t be sure.
“That was the first night I came here.” Bella blinked twice and I paused for a second wondering if she would react. But she kept silent, so I went on. “I wrestled all night, while watching you sleep, with the chasm between what I knew what was right, moral, ethical, and what I wanted.” How selfish I had been. “I knew that if I continued to ignore you as I should, or if I left for a few years, till you were gone, that someday you would say yes to Mike, or someone like him. It made me angry.”
“And then,” I continued, my voice dropping almost to a whisper, “you said my name. You spoke so clearly, at first I thought you’d woken. But you rolled over restlessly and mumbled my name once more, and sighed. The feeling that coursed through me then was unnerving, staggering. And I knew I couldn’t ignore you any longer.” I fell silent, allowing Bella to absorb my words.
“But jealousy… it’s a strange thing. So much more powerful than I would have thought. And irrational! Just now, when Charlie asked you about that vile Mike Newton and…” I shook my head in disgust.
“I should’ve known you’d be listening,” she groaned.
made you feel jealous, though, really?”
“I’m new at this. You’re resurrecting the human in me. And everything feels stronger because it’s fresh.”
“But honestly,” she teased, “for that to bother you, after I have to hear that Rosalie –Rosalie, the incarnation of pure beauty, Rosalie- was meant for you. Emmett or no Emmett, how can I compete with that?”
“There’s no competition, I promise.” I stretched her arms around me into a hug.
there’s no competition. That’s the problem.”
Someday, I wished Bella would see herself in proper light. “Of course Rosalie is beautiful in her way, but even if she wasn’t like a sister to me, even if Emmett didn’t belong with her, she could never have one tenth, no, one hundredth of the attraction you hold for me.”
I had never acknowledged just how lonely I was before meeting Bella. I would hear the sympathetic thoughts of my family over the years, hoping I would find a mate, and I had shut out those thoughts with such fierceness, ignorant to the validity of their insight. I had ignored the emptiness, unaware there was any other option. Believing it was part of the curse that was my existence.
“For almost 90 years I’ve walked among my kind, and yours, all the time thinking I was complete in myself, not realizing what I was seeking. And not finding anything, because you weren’t alive yet.”
“It hardly seems fair,” she whispered. “I haven’t had to wait all. Why should I get off so easily?”
“You’re right. I should make this harder for you, definitely,” I mocked. “You only have to risk your life every second you spend with me, that’s surely not much. You only have to turn your back on nature, on humanity… what’s that worth?”
“Very little. I don’t feel deprived of anything.”
“Not yet.” And I was filled with such remorse because I knew that someday she may come to resent me for it.
She pulled away from me then but I kept my grip on her my hands locked in manacles around her wrists.
“What…” she started to say. But I stopped her, my body tense, for Charlie had chosen that moment to check on Bella. I released her and swiftly hid myself in the shadows of her bedroom.
“Lie down!” I whispered sharply.
Bella did not hesitate. Faster than I even thought it possible for her, she was in bed, under her quilt, and positioned for sleeping. Charlie cracked the door and peeked inside, certain he would find an empty bed. Bella was breathing deeply, unnaturally, and I thought for sure Charlie would notice. But after a long moment, he finally left, closing the door behind him.
Bella was still feinting sleep. I took that opportunity to climb into bed beside her. Something I had imagined doing since the very first time I snuck in her room. I was lying next to her, under the covers, and it was not a moment too soon that my arms were around her in loving embrace.
“You are a terrible actress,” I teased. “I’d say that career path is out for you.”
“Darn it,” she muttered, her heart fluttering.
At that moment I realized that I was right where I wanted to be. And such elation swept through me. I hummed the lullaby I had written for my Bella. “Should I sing you to sleep?”
“Right,” she laughed. “Like I could sleep with you here!”
“You do it all the time,” I reminded her.
“But I didn’t know
you were here,” she replied coldly.
“So if you don’t want to sleep,” I left the question hang.
“If I don’t want to sleep?”
I laughed. “What do you want to do then?”
She was quiet for a long moment. “I’m not sure,” she finally said.
“Tell me when you decide.”
And while she thought about it, I couldn’t resist drinking in her scent. How I’ve wanted to be this close to her, thinking it in impossibility, and yet here I was, right where I should be. Where I wanted to be. Where I belonged. At least for now.
“I thought you were desensitized.”
“Just because I’m resisting the wine, doesn’t mean I can’t appreciate the bouquet. You have a very floral smell, like lavender… or freesia. It’s mouthwatering.”
“Yeah, it’s an off day when I don’t get somebody telling me how edible I smell.”
My laugh turned into a sigh.
“I decided what I want to do,” she announced. “I want to hear more about you.”
“Ask me anything.”
“Why you do it?” she asked. “I still don’t understand how you work so hard to resist what you… are. Please don’t misunderstand, of course I’m glad that you do. I just don’t see why you would bother in the first place.”
I thought about my answer before responding. “That’s a good question,” I stalled. “And you are not the first one to ask it. The others –the majority of our kind who are quite content with our lot- they, too, wonder at how we live. But you see, just because we’ve been… dealt a certain hand… it doesn’t mean we can’t choose to rise above –to conquer the boundaries of a destiny that none of us wanted. To try to retain whatever essential humanity we can.”
I let Bella mull things over in her mind. It was several minutes before I decided to speak up, desperate to know what my new revelation had meant for her. “Did you fall asleep?” I whispered. I knew she had not; I could tell by her breathing that she was still awake. Plus the room, which might appear very dark for Bella, it was not very dark for me. And I could see her eyes, open, staring at the ceiling. But I thought I would give her the option to pretend.
“Is that all you were curious about?”
She rolled her eyes. “Not quite.”
“What else do you want to know?”
“Why can you read minds? Why only you? And Alice, seeing the future, why does that happen?”
I shrugged. “We don’t really know. Carlisle has a theory. He believes that we all bring something of our strongest human traits with us into the next life, where they are intensified, like our minds, and our senses. He thinks that I must have already been very sensitive to the thoughts of those around me. And that Alice had some precognition, wherever she was.”
“What did he bring into the next life, and the others?”
“Carlisle brought his compassion. Esme brought her ability to love passionately. Emmett brought his strength, Rosalie her…” Hmmm…
“tenacity. Or you could call it pigheadedness.” I laughed. That was being kind.
“Jasper is very interesting,” I continued. “He was quite charismatic in his first life, able to influence those around him to see things his way. Now he is able to manipulate the emotions of those around him- calm down a room of angry people, for example, or excite a lethargic crowd, conversely. It’s a very subtle gift.”
Bella seemed to consider this before asking her next question. I allowed her all the time she required. It was a lot to take in.
“So where did it all start? I mean, Carlisle changed you, and then someone must have changed him, and so on…?”
“Well, where did you come from? Evolution? Creation? Couldn’t we have evolved in the same way as other species, predator and prey? Or, if you don’t believe that all this world could have just happened on its own, which is hard for me to accept myself, is it so hard to believe that the same force that created the delicate angelfish with the shark, the baby seal and the killer whale, could create both of our kinds together?”
“Let me get this straight. I’m the baby seal, right?”
“Right,” I laughed again, as I kissed the top of her head. I haven’t laughed this much in a long time.
“Are you ready to sleep? Or do you have any more questions?”
“Only a million or two.”
“We have tomorrow, and the next day, and the next…” I said, happy that I could say this truthfully now.
“Are you sure you won’t vanish in the morning? You are mythical, after all.”
“I won’t leave you,” I promised with my whole heart.
“One more, then, tonight…” And whatever she was about to say, I knew would be good, for the blush that reached her cheeks, was enough to warm the space between us, if only fractionally.
“What is it?” I urged.
“No, forget it. I changed my mind.”
“Bella, you can ask me anything.”
But she didn’t respond, aggravating me like only Bella could, with her infinitesimally private mind. I groaned in irritation.
“I keep thinking it will get less frustrating, not hearing your thoughts. But it just gets worse and worse,” I complained.
“I’m glad you can’t read my thoughts. It’s bad enough that you eavesdrop on my sleep talking.”
“Please?” I was begging.
She shook her head causing me even more anguish.
“If you don’t tell me, I threatened her, I’ll just assume it’s something much worse than it is. Please?” I pleaded again.
“Well,” she began, blushing again.
“Yes?” Come on, Bella. The suspense is
“You said that Rosalie and Emmett will get married soon. Is that… marriage… the same as it is for humans?”
The laugh that followed from my body was powerful and unpreventable as I interpreted her meaning. It was perhaps the most unexpected question she could have asked.. “Is that
what you’re getting at?”
Her uncomfortable silence was all I needed for confirmation.
“Yes, I suppose it is much the same. I told you, most of those human desires are there, just hidden behind more powerful desires.”
“Oh,” was all she said.
“Was there a purpose behind your curiosity?”
“Well, I did wonder… about you and me… someday…”
And as the full blow of her insinuation struck me, I became instantly rigid with seriousness. “I don’t think that… that… would be possible for us.” Not that I hadn’t wished it could be… but we could never….
It had never occurred to me as a possibility. I had not even allowed myself to consider physical intimacy would ever be an option for us to consider. But of course Bella would wonder about it, though. How could I have not seen that coming? It was such a very human thing to be curious about.
“Because it would be too hard for you, if I were that… close?” she asked.
If that were only it….
“That’s certainly a problem. But that’s not what I was thinking of. It’s just that you are so soft, so fragile. I have to mind my actions every moment that we’re together so that I don’t hurt you. I could kill you quite easily, Bella, simply by accident.” I reached out carefully to cup her face in my hand. “If I was too hasty, if for one second I wasn’t paying attention, I could reach out, meaning to touch your face, and crush your skull by mistake. You don’t realize how incredibly breakable
you are. I can never, never
,” I stressed… “afford to lose any kind of control when I’m with you.”
And with all the intensity of my declaration, Bella did not react. “Are you scared?” I asked tentatively.
She took a minute to respond, every second her hesitation making me uneasy. But to my intense relief, she finally replied, “No, I’m fine.”
But her line of questioning had effectuated questions of my own. “I’m curious now, though,” my voice almost to whisper now. “Have you ever…?” I realized that I couldn’t even say the words. I was glad I didn’t have to worry about blushing, for this topic was just as embarrassing for me to discuss. I couldn’t believe how quickly the conversation had turned.
“Of course not,” she flushed. “I told you I’ve never felt like this about anyone before, not even close.” And I took immense solace in her words, comforted that I was spared the jealous rage of imagining her with anybody else besides me.
“I know. It’s just that I know other people’s thoughts. I know love and lust don’t always keep the same company.”
“They do for me. Now, anyway, that they exist for me at all,” she sighed.
“That’s nice,” I said, satisfied. “We have that one thing in common, at least.”
“Your human instincts… Well, do you find me attractive, in that way, at all?”
I laughed, and playfully ruffled her damp hair. “I may not be human, but I am a man,” I assured her. And I lamented inwardly, because that was just one more hunger that I must keep on a tight leash. Another thirst that would be forever unquenched. For I could never be that man who Bella deserved. Our love could never be expressed in that most intimate of ways. And I cursed at the invisible shield that would always keep us apart.
“I answered your questions, now you should sleep,” I insisted.
“I’m not sure if I can.”
“Do you want me to leave?” Please say I can stay!
I laughed, and struck up Bella’s Lullaby, humming softly in her ear. And within minutes, I felt her body relax, her breathing slow, as she fell asleep peacefully in my arms.