ROSALIE HESITATED IN THE DOORWAY, HER BREATHTAKing face unsure.
“Of course,” I replied, my voice an octave high with surprise. “Come on in.”
I sat up, sliding to the end of the sofa to make room. My stomach twisted nervously as the one Cullen who did not like me moved silently to sit down in the open space. I tried to come up with a reason why she would want to see me, but my mind was a blank on that point.
“Do you mind talking to me for a few minutes?” she asked. “I didn’t wake you or anything, did I?” Her eyes shifted to the stripped bed and back to my couch.
“No, I was awake. Sure, we can talk.” I wondered if she could hear the alarm in my voice as clearly as I could.
She laughed lightly, and it sounded like a chorus of bells. “He so rarely leaves you alone,” she said. “I figured I’d better make the best of this opportunity.”
What did she want to say that couldn’t be said in front of Edward? My hands twisted and untwisted around the edge of the comforter.
“Please don’t think I’m horribly interfering,” Rosalie said, her voice gentle and almost pleading. She folded her hands in her lap and looked down at them as she spoke. “I’m sure I’ve hurt your feelings enough in the past, and I don’t want to do that again.”
“Don’t worry about it, Rosalie. My feelings are great. What is it?”
She laughed again, sounding oddly embarrassed. “I’m going to try to tell you why I think you should stay human — why I would stay human if I were you.”
She smiled at the shocked tone of my voice, and then she sighed.
“Did Edward ever tell you what led to this?” she asked, gesturing to her glorious immortal body.
I nodded slowly, suddenly somber. “He said it was close to what happened to me that time in Port Angeles, only no one was there to save you.” I shuddered at the memory.
“Is that really all he told you?” she asked.
“Yes,” I said, my voice blank with confusion. “Was there more?”
She looked up at me and smiled; it was a harsh, bitter — but still stunning — expression.
“Yes,” she said. “There was more.”
I waited while she stared out the window. She seemed to be trying to calm herself.
“Would you like to hear my story, Bella? It doesn’t have a happy ending — but which of ours does? If we had happy endings, we’d all be under gravestones now.”
I nodded, though I was frightened by the edge in her voice.
“I lived in a different world than you do, Bella. My human world was a much simpler place. It was nineteen thirty-three. I was eighteen, and I was beautiful. My life was perfect.”
She stared out the window at the silver clouds, her expression far away.
“My parents were thoroughly middle class. My father had a stable job in a bank, something I realize now that he was smug about — he saw his prosperity as a reward for talent and hard work, rather than acknowledging the luck involved. I took it all for granted then; in my home, it was as if the Great Depression was only a troublesome rumor. Of course I saw the poor people, the ones who weren’t as lucky. My father left me with the impression that they’d brought their troubles on themselves.
“It was my mother’s job to keep our house — and myself and my two younger brothers — in spotless order. It was clear that I was both her first priority and her favorite. I didn’t fully understand at the time, but I was always vaguely aware that my parents weren’t satisfied with what they had, even if it was so much more than most. They wanted more. They had social aspirations — social climbers, I suppose you could call them. My beauty was like a gift to them. They saw so much more potential in it than I did.
“They weren’t satisfied, but I was. I was thrilled to be me, to be Rosalie Hale. Pleased that men’s eyes watched me everywhere I went, from the year I turned twelve. Delighted that my girlfriends sighed with envy when they touched my hair. Happy that my mother was proud of me and that my father liked to buy me pretty dresses.
“I knew what I wanted out of life, and there didn’t seem to be any way that I wouldn’t get exactly what I wanted. I wanted to be loved, to be adored. I wanted to have a huge, flowery wedding, where everyone in town would watch me walk down the aisle on my father’s arm and think I was the most beautiful thing they’d ever seen. Admiration was like air to me, Bella. I was silly and shallow, but I was content.” She smiled, amused at her own evaluation.
“My parents’ influence had been such that I also wanted the material things of life. I wanted a big house with elegant furnishings that someone else would clean and a modern kitchen that someone else would cook in. As I said, shallow. Young and very shallow. And I didn’t see any reason why I wouldn’t get these things.
“There were a few things I wanted that were more meaningful. One thing in particular. My very closest friend was a girl named Vera. She married young, just seventeen. She married a man my parents would never have considered for me — a carpenter. A year later she had a son, a beautiful little boy with dimples and curly black hair. It was the first time I’d ever felt truly jealous of anyone else in my entire life.”
She looked at me with unfathomable eyes. “It was a different time. I was the same age as you, but I was ready for it all. I yearned for my own little baby. I wanted my own house and a husband who would kiss me when he got home from work — just like Vera. Only I had a very different kind of house in mind. . . .”
It was hard for me to imagine the world that Rosalie had known. Her story sounded more like a fairy tale than history to me. With a slight shock, I realized that this was very close to the world that Edward would have experienced when he was human, the world he had grown up in. I wondered — while Rosalie sat silent for a moment — if my world seemed as baffling to him as Rosalie’s did to me?
Rosalie sighed, and when she spoke again her voice was different, the wistfulness gone.
“In Rochester, there was one royal family — the Kings, ironically enough. Royce King owned the bank my father worked at, and nearly every other really profitable business in town. That’s how his son, Royce King the Second” — her mouth twisted around the name, it came out through her teeth — “saw me the first time. He was going to take over at the bank, and so he began overseeing the different positions. Two days later, my mother conveniently forgot to send my father’s lunch to work with him. I remember being confused when she insisted that I wear my white organza and roll my hair up just to run over to the bank.” Rosalie laughed without humor.
“I didn’t notice Royce watching me particularly. Everyone watched me. But that night the first of the roses came. Every night of our courtship, he sent a bouquet of roses to me. My room was always overflowing with them. It got to the point that I would smell like roses when I left the house.
“Royce was handsome, too. He had lighter hair than I did, and pale blue eyes. He said my eyes were like violets, and then those started showing up alongside the roses.
“My parents approved — that’s putting it mildly. This was everything they’d dreamed of. And Royce seemed to be everything I’d dreamed of. The fairy tale prince, come to make me a princess. Everything I wanted, yet it was still no more than I expected. We were engaged before I’d known him for two months.
“We didn’t spend a great deal of time alone with each other. Royce told me he had many responsibilities at work, and, when we were together, he liked people to look at us, to see me on his arm. I liked that, too. There were lots of parties, dancing, and pretty dresses. When you were a King, every door was open for you, every red carpet rolled out to greet you.
“It wasn’t a long engagement. Plans went ahead for the most lavish wedding. It was going to be everything I’d ever wanted. I was completely happy. When I called at Vera’s, I no longer felt jealous. I pictured my fair-haired children playing on the huge lawns of the Kings’ estate, and I pitied her.”
Rosalie broke off suddenly, clenching her teeth together. It pulled me out of her story, and I realized that the horror was not far off. There would be no happy ending, as she’d promised. I wondered if this was why she had so much more bitterness in her than the rest of them — because she’d been within reach of everything she’d wanted when her human life was cut short.
“I was at Vera’s that night,” Rosalie whispered. Her face was smooth as marble, and as hard. “Her little Henry really was adorable, all smiles and dimples — he was just sitting up on his own. Vera walked me to the door as I was leaving, her baby in her arms and her husband at her side, his arm around her waist. He kissed her on the cheek when he thought I wasn’t looking. That bothered me. When Royce kissed me, it wasn’t quite the same — not so sweet somehow. . . . I shoved that thought aside. Royce was my prince. Someday, I would be queen.”
It was hard to tell in the moonlight, but it looked like her bone white face got paler.
“It was dark in the streets, the lamps already on. I hadn’t realized how late it was.” She continued to whisper almost inaudibly. “It was cold, too. Very cold for late April. The wedding was only a week away, and I was worrying about the weather as I hurried home — I can remember that clearly. I remember every detail about that night. I clung to it so hard . . . in the beginning. I thought of nothing else. And so I remember this, when so many pleasant memories have faded away completely. . . .”
She sighed, and began whispering again. “Yes, I was worrying about the weather. . . . I didn’t want to have to move the wedding indoors. . . .
“I was a few streets from my house when I heard them. A cluster of men under a broken streetlamp, laughing too loud. Drunk. I wished I’d called my father to escort me home, but the way was so short, it seemed silly. And then he called my name.
“‘Rose!’ he yelled, and the others laughed stupidly.
“I hadn’t realized the drunks were so well dressed. It was Royce and some of his friends, sons of other rich men.
“‘Here’s my Rose!’ Royce shouted, laughing with them, sounding just as stupid. ‘You’re late. We’re cold, you’ve kept us waiting so long.’”
“I’d never seen him drink before. A toast, now and then, at a party. He’d told me he didn’t like champagne. I hadn’t realized that he preferred something much stronger.
“He had a new friend — the friend of a friend, come up from Atlanta.
“‘What did I tell you, John,’ Royce crowed, grabbing my arm and pulling me closer. ‘Isn’t she lovelier than all your Georgia peaches?’
“The man named John was dark-haired and suntanned. He looked me over like I was a horse he was buying.
“‘It’s hard to tell,’ he drawled slowly. ‘She’s all covered up.’
“They laughed, Royce like the rest.
“Suddenly, Royce ripped my jacket from my shoulders — it was a gift from him — popping the brass buttons off. They scattered all over the street.
“‘Show him what you look like, Rose!’ He laughed again and then he tore my hat out of my hair. The pins wrenched my hair from the roots, and I cried out in pain. They seemed to enjoy that — the sound of my pain. . . .”
Rosalie looked at me suddenly, as if she’d forgotten I was there. I was sure my face was as white as hers. Unless it was green.
“I won’t make you listen to the rest,” she said quietly. “They left me in the street, still laughing as they stumbled away. They thought I was dead. They were teasing Royce that he would have to find a new bride. He laughed and said he’d have to learn some patience first.
“I waited in the road to die. It was cold, though there was so much pain that I was surprised it bothered me. It started to snow, and I wondered why I wasn’t dying. I was impatient for death to come, to end the pain. It was taking so long. . . .
“Carlisle found me then. He’d smelled the blood, and come to investigate. I remember being vaguely irritated as he worked over me, trying to save my life. I’d never liked Dr. Cullen or his wife and her brother — as Edward pretended to be then. It had upset me that they were all more beautiful than I was, especially that the men were. But they didn’t mingle in society, so I’d only seen them once or twice.
“I thought I’d died when he pulled me from the ground and ran with me — because of the speed — it felt like I was flying. I remembered being horrified that the pain didn’t stop. . . .
“Then I was in a bright room, and it was warm. I was slipping away, and I was grateful as the pain began to dull. But suddenly something sharp was cutting me, my throat, my wrists, my ankles. I screamed in shock, thinking he’d brought me there to hurt me more. Then fire started burning through me, and I didn’t care about anything else. I begged him to kill me. When Esme and Edward returned home, I begged them to kill me, too. Carlisle sat with me. He held my hand and said that he was so sorry, promising that it would end. He told me everything, and sometimes I listened. He told me what he was, what I was becoming. I didn’t believe him. He apologized each time I screamed.
“Edward wasn’t happy. I remember hearing them discuss me. I stopped screaming sometimes. It did no good to scream.
“‘What were you thinking, Carlisle?’ Edward said. ‘Rosalie Hale?’” Rosalie imitated Edward’s irritated tone to perfection. “I didn’t like the way he said my name, like there was something wrong with me.
“‘I couldn’t just let her die,’ Carlisle said quietly. ‘It was too much — too horrible, too much waste.’
“‘I know,’ Edward said, and I thought he sounded dismissive. It angered me. I didn’t know then that he really could see exactly what Carlisle had seen.
“‘It was too much waste. I couldn’t leave her,’ Carlisle repeated in a whisper.
“‘Of course you couldn’t,’ Esme agreed.
“‘People die all the time,’ Edward reminded him in a hard voice. ‘Don’t you think she’s just a little recognizable, though? The Kings will have to put up a huge search — not that anyone suspects the fiend,’ he growled.
“It pleased me that they seemed to know that Royce was guilty.
“I didn’t realize that it was almost over — that I was getting stronger and that was why I was able to concentrate on what they were saying. The pain was beginning to fade from my fingertips.
“‘What are we going to do with her?’ Edward said disgustedly — or that’s how it sounded to me, at least.
“Carlisle sighed. ‘That’s up to her, of course. She may want to go her own way.’
“I’d believed enough of what he’d told me that his words terrified me. I knew that my life was ended, and there was no going back for me. I couldn’t stand the thought of being alone. . . .
“The pain finally ended and they explained to me again what I was. This time I believed. I felt the thirst, my hard skin; I saw my brilliant red eyes.
“Shallow as I was, I felt better when I saw my reflection in the mirror the first time. Despite the eyes, I was the most beautiful thing I’d ever seen.” She laughed at herself for a moment. “It took some time before I began to blame the beauty for what had happened to me — for me to see the curse of it. To wish that I had been . . . well, not ugly, but normal. Like Vera. So I could have been allowed to marry someone who loved me, and have pretty babies. That’s what I’d really wanted, all along. It still doesn’t seem like too much to have asked for.”
She was thoughtful for a moment, and I wondered if she’d forgotten my presence again. But then she smiled at me, her expression suddenly triumphant.
“You know, my record is almost as clean as Carlisle’s,” she told me. “Better than Esme. A thousand times better than Edward. I’ve never tasted human blood,” she announced proudly.
She understood my puzzled expression as I wondered why her record was only almost as clean.
“I did murder five humans,” she told me in a complacent tone. “If you can really call them human. But I was very careful not to spill their blood — I knew I wouldn’t be able to resist that, and I didn’t want any part of them in me, you see.
“I saved Royce for last. I hoped that he would hear of his friends’ deaths and understand, know what was coming for him. I hoped the fear would make the end worse for him. I think it worked. He was hiding inside a windowless room behind a door as thick as a bank vault’s, guarded outside by armed men, when I caught up with him. Oops — seven murders,” she corrected herself. “I forgot about his guards. They only took a second.”
“I was overly theatrical. It was kind of childish, really. I wore a wedding dress I’d stolen for the occasion. He screamed when he saw me. He screamed a lot that night. Saving him for last was a good idea — it made it easier for me to control myself, to make it slower —”
She broke off suddenly, and she glanced down at me. “I’m sorry,” she said in a chagrined voice. “I’m frightening you, aren’t I?”
“I’m fine,” I lied.
“I got carried away.”
“Don’t worry about it.”
“I’m surprised Edward didn’t tell you more about it.”
“He doesn’t like to tell other people’s stories — he feels like he’s betraying confidences, because he hears so much more than just the parts they mean for him to hear.”
She smiled and shook her head. “I probably ought to give him more credit. He’s really quite decent, isn’t he?”
“I think so.”
“I can tell.” Then she sighed. “I haven’t been fair to you, either, Bella. Did he tell you why? Or was that too confidential?”
“He said it was because I was human. He said it was harder for you to have someone on the outside who knew.”
Rosalie’s musical laughter interrupted me. “Now I really feel guilty. He’s been much, much kinder to me than I deserve.” She seemed warmer as she laughed, like she’d let down some guard that had never been absent in my presence before. “What a liar that boy is.” She laughed again.
“He was lying?” I asked, suddenly wary.
“Well, that’s probably putting it too strongly. He just didn’t tell you the whole story. What he told you was true, even truer now than it was before. However, at the time . . .” She broke off, chuckling nervously. “It’s embarrassing. You see, at first, I was mostly jealous because he wanted you and not me.”
Her words sent a thrill of fear through me. Sitting there in the silver light, she was more beautiful than anything else I could imagine. I could not compete with Rosalie.
“But you love Emmett . . . ,” I mumbled.
She shook her head back and forth, amused. “I don’t want Edward that way, Bella. I never did — I love him as a brother, but he’s irritated me from the first moment I heard him speak. You have to understand, though . . . I was so used to people wanting me. And Edward wasn’t the least bit interested. It frustrated me, even offended me in the beginning. But he never wanted anyone, so it didn’t bother me long. Even when we first met Tanya’s clan in Denali — all those females! — Edward never showed the slightest preference. And then he met you.” She looked at me with confused eyes. I was only half paying attention. I was thinking about Edward and Tanya and all those females, and my lips pressed together in a hard line.
“Not that you aren’t pretty, Bella,” she said, misreading my expression. “But it just meant that he found you more attractive than me. I’m vain enough that I minded.”
“But you said ‘at first.’ That doesn’t still . . . bother you, does it? I mean, we both know you’re the most beautiful person on the planet.”
I laughed at having to say the words — it was so obvious. How odd that Rosalie should need such reassurances.
Rosalie laughed, too. “Thanks, Bella. And no, it doesn’t really bother me anymore. Edward has always been a little strange.” She laughed again.
“But you still don’t like me,” I whispered.
Her smile faded. “I’m sorry about that.”
We sat in silence for a moment, and she didn’t seem inclined to go on.
“Would you tell me why? Did I do something . . . ?” Was she angry that I’d put her family — her Emmett — in danger? Time and time again. James, and now Victoria . . .
“No, you haven’t done anything,” she murmured. “Not yet.”
I stared at her, perplexed.
“Don’t you see, Bella?” Her voice was suddenly more passionate than before, even while she’d told her unhappy story. “You already have everything. You have a whole life ahead of you — everything I want. And you’re going to just throw it away. Can’t you see that I’d trade everything I have to be you? You have the choice that I didn’t have, and you’re choosing wrong!”
I flinched back from her fierce expression. I realized my mouth had fallen open and I snapped it shut.
She stared at me for a long moment and, slowly, the fervor in her eyes dimmed. Abruptly, she was abashed.
“And I was so sure that I could do this calmly.” She shook her head, seeming a little dazed by the flood of emotion. “It’s just that it’s harder now than it was then, when it was no more than vanity.”
She stared at the moon in silence. It was a few moments before I was brave enough to break into her reverie.
“Would you like me better if I chose to stay human?”
She turned back to me, her lips twitching into a hint of a smile. “Maybe.”
“You did get some of your happy ending, though,” I reminded her. “You got Emmett.”
“I got half.” She grinned. “You know that I saved Emmett from a bear that was mauling him, and carried him home to Carlisle. But can you guess why I stopped the bear from eating him?”
I shook my head.
“With the dark curls . . . the dimples that showed even while he was grimacing in pain . . . the strange innocence that seemed so out of place on a grown man’s face . . . he reminded me of Vera’s little Henry. I didn’t want him to die — so much that, even though I hated this life, I was selfish enough to ask Carlisle to change him for me.
“I got luckier than I deserved. Emmett is everything I would have asked for if I’d known myself well enough to know what to ask for. He’s exactly the kind of person someone like me needs. And, oddly enough, he needs me, too. That part worked out better than I could have hoped. But there will never be more than the two of us. And I’ll never sit on a porch somewhere, with him gray-haired by my side, surrounded by our grandchildren.”
Her smile was kind now. “That sounds quite bizarre to you, doesn’t it? In some ways, you are much more mature than I was at eighteen. But in other ways . . . there are many things you’ve probably never thought about seriously. You’re too young to know what you’ll want in ten years, fifteen years — and too young to give it all up without thinking it through. You don’t want to be rash about permanent things, Bella.” She patted my head, but the gesture didn’t feel condescending.
“Just think about it a little. Once it’s done, it can’t be undone. Esme’s made do with us as substitutes . . . and Alice doesn’t remember anything human so she can’t miss it. . . . You will remember, though. It’s a lot to give up.”
But more to get in return, I didn’t say aloud. “Thanks, Rosalie. It’s nice to understand . . . to know you better.”
“I apologize for being such a monster.” She grinned. “I’ll try to behave myself from now on.”
I grinned back at her.
We weren’t friends yet, but I was pretty sure she wouldn’t always hate me so much.
“I’ll let you sleep now.” Rosalie’s eyes flickered to the bed, and her lips twitched. “I know you’re frustrated that he’s keeping you locked up like this, but don’t give him too bad a time when he gets back. He loves you more than you know. It terrifies him to be away from you.” She got up silently and ghosted to the door. “Goodnight, Bella,” she whispered as she shut it behind herself.
“Goodnight, Rosalie,” I murmured a second too late.
It took me a long time to fall asleep after that.
When I did sleep, I had a nightmare. I was crawling across the dark, cold stones of an unfamiliar street, under lightly falling snow, leaving a trail of blood smeared behind me. A shadowy angel in a long white dress watched my progress with resentful eyes.
The next morning, Alice drove me to school while I stared grumpily out the windshield. I was feeling sleep-deprived, and it made the irritation of my imprisonment that much stronger.
“Tonight we’ll go out to Olympia or something,” she promised. “That would be fun, right?”
“Why don’t you just lock me in the basement,” I suggested, “and forget the sugar coating?”
Alice frowned. “He’s going to take the Porsche back. I’m not doing a very good job. You’re supposed to be having fun.”
“It’s not your fault,” I muttered. I couldn’t believe I actually felt guilty. “I’ll see you at lunch.”
I trudged off to English. Without Edward, the day was guaranteed to be unbearable. I sulked through my first class, well aware that my attitude wasn’t helping anything.
When the bell rang, I got up without much enthusiasm. Mike was there at the door, holding it open for me.
“Edward hiking this weekend?” he asked sociably as we walked out into the light rain.
“You want to do something tonight?”
How could he still sound hopeful?
“Can’t. I’ve got a slumber party,” I grumbled. He gave me a strange look as he processed my mood.
“Who are you —”
Mike’s question was cut short as a loud, growling roar erupted from behind us in the parking lot. Everyone on the sidewalk turned to look, staring in disbelief as the noisy black motorcycle screeched to a stop on the edge of the concrete, the engine still snarling.
Jacob waved to me urgently.
“Run, Bella!” he yelled over the engine’s roar.
I was frozen for a second before I understood.
I looked at Mike quickly. I knew I only had seconds.
How far would Alice go to restrain me in public?
“I got really sick and went home, okay?” I said to Mike, my voice filled with sudden excitement.
“Fine,” he muttered.
I pecked Mike swiftly on the cheek. “Thanks, Mike. I owe you one!” I called as I sprinted away.
Jacob revved his engine, grinning. I jumped on the back of his seat, wrapping my arms tightly around his waist.
I caught sight of Alice, frozen at the edge of the cafeteria, her eyes sparking with fury, her lip curled back over her teeth.
I shot her one pleading glance.
Then we were racing across the blacktop so fast that my stomach got lost somewhere behind me.
“Hold on,” Jacob shouted.
I hid my face in his back as he sped down the highway. I knew he would slow down when we hit the Quileute border. I just had to hold on till then. I prayed silently and fervently that Alice wouldn’t follow, and that Charlie wouldn’t happen to see me. . . .
It was obvious when we had reached the safe zone. The bike slowed, and Jacob straightened up and howled with laughter. I opened my eyes.
“We made it,” he shouted. “Not bad for a prison break, eh?”
“Good thinking, Jake.”
“I remembered what you said about the psychic leech not being about to predict what I’m going to do. I’m glad you didn’t think of this — she wouldn’t have let you go to school.”
“That’s why I didn’t consider it.”
He laughed triumphantly. “What do you want to do today?”
“Anything!” I laughed back. It felt great to be free.