So. Hyde is setting out to write a series of asides bridging the gap between “The Darkest Hour” and “The Blue Hour”, most of them focusing on Edward’s journey and trying to give him the SLIGHTEST bit of closure after TDH because the poor little bastard got none
Really, I cannot fault Hyde for blaming this stuff on me — I’m the one who suggests she write asides to get into her characters’ heads, knowing full well that once she starts, she seriously, seriously does not stop.
Well, it’s me again, and back with some more of my Twilight revamp. And as seems to be the trend with my revamp’d pieces, this got way out of hand.
Mervin and I are still hashing out issues with “The Blue Hour” timeline and plot, but while we do that, I thought it might help to have a few pieces to bridge the almost 80-year gap between “The Darkest Hour” and TBH — ‘cause that’s a long time, and contrary to SMeyer’s crap ideas, my characters do and will change. So I thought it would be nice for me, from a characterization standpoint, and for you guys, just for continuity purposes, to see some of what went on then and how My!Edward has moved from the poor, broken little thing in TDH and into someone ready for romance. And, I thought, why not do that by exploring his relationships with the rest of his little family — and that way, I can get to know them, too, in preparation for TBH. We’ve met Carlisle and Esme, but what about the rest of the Cullen kids?
So, going in chronological order, I thought I’d start with Rosalie — that I’d revamp her back story (no rich Depression-era bankers here, thank you very much) and see how she interacts with Edward, and help to move him along from the events in TDH. I chatted with Mervin, and we came up with an idea for a one-shot between the two of them.
Yeah. It’s a novella now (a short novella, dammit!). *scowls* And here I have the nerve in my MS recaps to say that Wardo can’t shut up. Well, I still blame Mervin for it.
Oh, well. At any rate, here’s my take on Rosalie, on her history and her relationship with Edward, and how that relationship has made both of them grow and change.
Title: The Thorns Remain (Part I | Part II | Part III)
Author: Mrs. Hyde
Betas: das_mervin, ket_makura, kermit_thefrog
Fandom: Twilight Hate
Word Count: 18,680
Rating: R for thematic elements, disturbing imagery, violence, and rape
Summary: “He was waiting. Waiting for Rosalie to come back.” Edward sits up and waits for his sister to come home. A study in shades of gray.
Author’s Notes: A gap-filler that takes place between TDH and TBH.
Disclaimer: Any names, places, events, or specific backstory that you may recognize from the Twilight book or movie series belongs to Stephenie Meyer or Summit Entertainment, respectively, and no profit is being made from this work and no copyright infringement is intended.
Nothing from his life back East could have prepared Edward for the sight of the endless night sky over the plains of Wyoming. Having lived for over thirty years amidst the glaring lights of the city or buried in thick Eastern forests, he couldn’t even conceive of such vast emptiness as the one that spread all around him. The horizon seemed to stretch on forever, wide and open as far as the eye could see. During the day, it was well nigh enough to drive him mad, the huge flat stretches of nothing so different from anything he’d ever seen before.
But at night, it was magnificent. The great dome of black velvet reaching on and out and into forever, the darkness untouched by the paltry orange lights of man, and shot through with millions upon millions of stars scattered like a carpet of diamonds, broken only by the long, soft swath of the Milky Way.
He’d thought that he knew what it was like to run long and wild through the forests back East, but he’d been wrong. There was nothing like flinging himself over the low swells of the plains, his course uninterrupted for miles upon miles upon miles, where he could run for what felt like forever and never stop.
He wasn’t running now. He was sitting. He was waiting. Waiting for Rosalie to come back.
Edward sat on the dusty ground, tucked against the side of a dry arroyo where he wouldn’t be seen, but where he could spot her coming against the sky, which was just beginning to lighten with false dawn. The nights had grown long with the coming of winter; she would have more than enough time to get back while still under cover of darkness, and be home before the sun rose.
She’d planned it well. The only thing she couldn’t fully plan for, the only impediment to complete secrecy, was himself.
No one had secrets around Edward, and while Rose had concealed her plans very well, reserving her darkest, most specific thoughts for when she was far away by herself, he’d known she was up to something. That roiling, righteous anger that had been such an integral part of her since she’d learned the truth of what happened to her — very nearly since the moment she’d awakened — had in past months sharpened into something new — something focused. And while Carlisle and Esme had been curiously willing to cosset her and believe her insistence that she was fine, Edward couldn’t help but be suspicious.
But only tonight had he truly known — only tonight had he caught her. He’d followed her when she went out — the unwanted, tagalong little brother, he thought with a wry twist of his mouth — and confronted her.
And so now, here he sat, waiting for her to return.
Edward hadn’t expected their family circle to expand again. Certainly there wouldn’t be another set of circumstances like the ones that led Carlisle to change himself or Esme. At least, not so soon. And certainly not in the great emptiness of Wyoming.
After he had… after he came back, Carlisle and Esme had seen no point in staying in Maine. In fact, they’d wanted to get as far away as possible — to go somewhere completely new. There was nothing for them in Maine, only unpleasant associations of a time not worth remembering. And they were worried about Edward.
They shouldn’t have been. He didn’t deserve their worry, or their consideration — didn’t deserve anything. All Edward cared about was that wherever they went was remote and far away from civilization — far away from any people.
Wyoming fit that bill admirably. It hadn’t even been part of the Union for fifty years, and the population of the entire state was not even two hundred thousand. For a boy who had grown up in a city of two million, Wyoming might have well been on another planet. They’d settled in Niobara County on the eastern edge of the state, just up against South Dakota, and a more empty, God-forsaken swath of land Edward could not have imagined.
It was perfect.
Carlisle and Esme had stayed home at first. But it hadn’t lasted long. They’d wanted to be there for Edward, but Edward simply wasn’t there. He’d passed the nights wandering the High Plains like some forgotten shade, and his days were spent locked in his room in their tiny house. He didn’t want to see anyone — and didn’t want anyone to see him. And most importantly, he had to stay far, far away from any people.
Wyoming was nothing if not far away from people. Sitting out here propped up against the rough earth behind him was proof enough of that. Edward’s mental range had only increased over the years, he’d found to his frustrated disgust, and yet right now, as he waited for Rosalie, he couldn’t hear a thing. There was no one around for miles.
It was just what Edward needed, and upon arriving in Wyoming, he took advantage of it and all but disappeared out onto the plains. And so, having no need to be available for Edward, coupled with a drive to help others and a patent horror of being idle, it was no surprise that Carlisle and Esme soon decided to get back into society and back to work. Carlisle had started working at the small practice in Lusk, and Esme went after him and found a position as an assistant shopkeeper. They ran to work in the early mornings, though, rather than moving to town, because Edward couldn’t — wouldn’t — move any closer.
Really, they were better off, he thought. Carlisle and Esme, despite now possessing the unnatural good looks typical of vampires, had been born with the sort of faces that were ageless; either could pass for anywhere between twenty and forty and no one would question it. Without the unnaturally young Edward to ruin their cover by stubbornly refusing to grow older, the two of them could have stayed in their positions for years.
But then came 1929, and with it, the Crash, and in less than a year after that, the Dust Bowl.
They hadn’t been affected. With no need for many of the basic necessities of humans, they’d saved nearly all of their money. Since Carlisle didn’t trust banks or all that stock market speculation business (a relic of his seventeenth century upbringing), he kept most of his funds stored with him in gold and valuables, rather than notes. Oh, there was less money for frivolous nonsense, but as Carlisle and Esme had little need for such things and Edward had no business with them, that hadn’t hurt them in the slightest.
But everyone else was hurting — badly — and it wasn’t getting any better. By the time 1931 came around, the entire country — the entire world — was in dire straits, and Carlisle and Esme could not sit on the sidelines any longer.
Edward had come home one morning to find Carlisle and Esme sitting in the tiny living room of the former farm house where they lived. He’d heard their thoughts bubbling in their minds for months now, and they were practically shouting their intentions to the room, so Edward knew what was coming, and he’d prepared himself for it. Still, he sat down and let them explain themselves.
They couldn’t just stand by like this, Carlisle had said. Couldn’t secret themselves away from the world when so many people were suffering and they could help. He was a doctor, and in a time when the average man could barely afford food, his services were all the more dear. They had to move — they had to get closer to a larger town, to a place where he could do some good.
“It’s all right,” Edward had quietly interrupted him. “I understand — and I agree. You have so much to give, Carlisle — and you too, Esme — it’s selfish of me to keep you out here.”
They looked both apprehensive and relieved, and he’d softly added, “Don’t worry. I’ll stay out of the way.”
And he had. To the point that for a whole year, no one in their new home — Kemmerer, a mining town further west in the Rockies — had even known that Edward existed. Carlisle and Esme had settled down in a small house outside of town. Carlisle had followed his usual mode of operation and opened up a small practice downtown. Esme, who wasn’t yet quite confident enough around blood to take up her old mantle as a nurse, had nonetheless gone to work in town as well — not taking up a job that could be filled with someone who needed it, but rather using her position as a respectable doctor’s wife to work with the local churches and Ladies Aid groups, running food and clothing drives with all the skill of a general.
Neither of them even mentioned Edward. As far as Kemmerer knew, it was just the young doctor and his wife in the Cullen house. Edward had stayed away from town — away from the people in the town. He’d kept up his old habits, roaming far and wide during the nights, and hiding himself away during the day — fitting habits for a vampire.
The Rockies were just as new and novel as the plains had been, more craggy and rugged than any mountains he’d seen before. He ran wild over them, skirting around settlements and cities and keeping himself to the unsettled lands, prowling alone like the animal that he was.
Until finally, Carlisle and Esme had asked him to come home. To really come home — to stop hiding and skulking about and to come back and live with them. And God help him, selfish creature that he was, he’d agreed. It was better, he’d argued with himself, to stay away from everyone — the people didn’t deserve him, and he didn’t deserve Carlisle and Esme. But… he was just so lonely, hiding away and listening in on the happiness around him, but not having any for himself. He didn’t deserve it, but he craved it.
And so he had come home. Having never been seen by or mentioned to any of the locals, no one questioned it when he’d made his proper appearance in town, posing as Esme’s younger brother from back East come to live with them.
But he’d not gone to school. He couldn’t bear the thought, not since… not after he’d tried it — and failed — before. So he’d taken Carlisle’s advice: instead of going to school, he went to work. Lincoln County seemed to be made of coal, and mines dotted the countryside. It was perfect — the work was underground, so there was no chance of his being spotted in the sunlight. The air was choked with coal dust and rattled with the sounds of machinery, so he couldn’t smell the blood or hear the pulses of his fellow miners. The tunnels were clouded with filth, and the dust covered and hid his pale, unnatural beauty.
They’d scoffed at him, when he’d first presented himself to the foreman. Oh, not because of his age, which was a refreshing change for eternally-seventeen Edward — there were plenty of young men seventeen or even younger who worked in the mines. Since the Crash, people jumped for the chance for work — for money. No, it wasn’t his age — it was his size. Even the other young men, the other boys — they were all bigger, bulging with muscle from the back-breaking labor of working in the mines. And here stood Edward, pale and slim and delicate, insisting that he wanted to be a miner too.
He bore it all in silence, well able to acknowledge the ridiculous picture he made, despite the familiar sting of their mental jeering — really, it was nothing that he hadn’t thought himself. But he didn’t have to bear it for long. His appearance belied his strength, his silence masking his determination.
He’d been idle for so long that hadn’t realized how indolent and — well, bored he’d become, until he suddenly had something to do. He threw himself into his new work as though possessed; from before dawn until well past dark he worked, tirelessly, ceaselessly, drilling and excavating and hauling, never stopping for food or rest. The snide thoughts and remarks about the girlish little nancy boy had quickly subsided into shock at his drive and strength — although Edward was careful never to be caught in feats of strength beyond those of a human, he was aware that what he did allow himself seemed incongruous for one of his stature, lifting and hauling at least as much as men twice his size.
But he didn’t care. He was working. He had a way to keep his mind — and his teeth — occupied. He was safe. They were safe.
Day after day he worked, stopping only when the sun was well below the horizon before clocking out and disappearing into the hills to hunt. Then he would slink back into Carlisle and Esme’s house to clean himself and talk to them, to hear about their days and tell them about his, and then he would slip back into the hills to walk the rest of the night away until he could go back to the mine and clock back in and retreat to the catacombs below the earth. Again and again, over and over, day in and day out.
The mindless monotony was soothing — numbing. Edward might have been content to spend another thirty years like it — if Fate hadn’t decided to intervene once again, and rather than simply enduring his existence in a coal mine in the Rockies, Edward suddenly found himself once again in charge of a newborn vampire.
Edward sighed, scraping his hand through his unruly hair before leaning his head back to look up at the sky. And it just had to be her, didn’t it? he thought with a certain amount of bitterness. This time, the newborn wasn’t Esme — sensible, stalwart Esme, who regarded him with a mixture of sisterly affection and motherly fondness. Esme, who doggedly took to learning her new role and life as a vampire and who leaned on him for support and advice. No — this time, it was Rosalie. And from the moment Carlisle had brought her home, her dying body midway through the change, Edward knew that this time he would not be playing the part of the wise mentor — because nothing he had to say would interest Rosalie in the slightest. And that was because from the moment they’d met, the former Miss Rosalie Hale, Princess of Kemmerer, Wyoming, had hated him with every fiber of her being.
The Hales were one of the premier families of Kemmerer — no, they were the premier family of Kemmerer. They lived in a big brick house up on a hill overlooking the town, sitting in stately splendor amidst its court of tall pines. Lester Hale owned the largest and most profitable collection of mines out west of the city, land and minerals and the like being some of the few sources of wealth that hadn’t dried up in 1929. While the rest of the country was languishing, the Hales were still comfortable. More than merely comfortable — they were quite well off.
Mr. Hale owned and operated the mine where Edward worked — it was through Carlisle that he’d gotten the position. Carlisle himself had gotten his job through Mr. Hale. He had arranged with Hale to set up his doctor’s office to service the miners. Mining was by no means safe work, but in a time where jobs were scarce, people were more than willing to settle for dangerous conditions just to have a source of income. Hale already ran a general store where the coal miners could use their scrip to buy food and clothes and other necessities, and so when Carlisle had approached him, offering his services to set up a practice where the miners could receive extremely inexpensive medical care with the same, Hale had been more than receptive.
And he’d been generous, too — he had set Carlisle up with a very nice little office where he could see to all the miners and their families. He’d requested very little by way of payment from his patients — money was so dear these days — and Hale had agreed. But despite the low costs, Carlisle’s practice was still top drawer, and many families other than the miners’ would frequent his office — including the Hales themselves. Hale had become quite fond of Carlisle, and had invited him and Esme to dinner at his house on more than one occasion. And so, when Edward had made his official appearance in town, Hale had been more than willing to give him a position when Carlisle had asked.
Yes, Lester Hale was very generous with the town — but he was most generous of all with his only daughter and the apple of his eye, Rosalie.
Rosalie Hale was the darling of Kemmerer, Wyoming. Whatever Rosalie wanted, Rosalie got. If anything new came to town, Rosalie got it first. Rosalie was kept safely away from any suffering brought on by the Depression — Rosalie was barely aware that there was a Depression. Everyone in town knew Rosalie, and everyone in town just loved Rosalie.
Rosalie Hale was a brat.
But she was such a lovely, charming brat. Among the coal-dusted miners of Kemmerer, pretty blonde Rosalie shone like a diamond amidst slag. She would strut down the streets of town, and men would doff their hats and women would stop and fawn and flatter, and Rosalie would smile and laugh and flutter her eyelashes, and she loved everyone and everyone loved her.
Or rather, she loved everyone just so long as they loved her.
Fortunately for her, that was generally the case. Edward had heard enough of the thoughts in the mines and on the streets to know that every boy his age was half in love with her. She was sparkling, vibrant, and charming, and it didn’t hurt that she was simply gorgeous. Fair-skinned and golden-haired, with classically beautiful features and truly stunning violet eyes, Rosalie Hale looked more like a fairytale princess than the daughter of a mine owner in the backwater of Wyoming.
She knew it, too — and she loved it. She was an incorrigible flirt. She flirted with her schoolmates. She flirted with the miners. She even flirted with her father’s business associates twice and three times her age. And she was just so vivacious and high-spirited that men couldn’t help but flirt back.
He’d seen her before, sashaying through town, window shopping, giggling with the gaggle of girls that always seemed to surround her. His gift may have had the unfortunate side effect of dampening his interest in knowing girls, but he certainly wasn’t immune to the sight of a pretty girl — and Rosalie Hale was very, very pretty. On his way home in the evenings he’d more than once guiltily enjoyed the sway of her hips or the swish of her calves as she walked. Edward was not above admitting that he did not miss the board-flat figure that was so popular in the 20s, and Miss Rosalie Hale was the embodiment of the sweetly curved and rounded form that he preferred from his own youth and that was now making a comeback (only this time with about 25% less clothing — of which some part of him could not help but approve).
But the first time he actually spoke to her was on one of the last warm evenings of the fall of 1932. His team had broken into an unstable vein of rock that afternoon, and so no further work could be done until they got a crew to come down to brace and shore up the sides. They left the mines early that evening, just as the sun had ducked below the peaks, and the city was still bathed in the warm light of the sunset. Edward shuffled along home with the rest of them, with the group but apart from it. The contempt of his fellow miners had eventually given way to a grudging (if somewhat resentful) respect when he’d shown that he was not a soft little weakling, but his distant silence and inherent physical wrongness, while making him no enemies, had won him no friends, either. He was on cordial terms with the men who knew him, but that was all. He would walk home with them — but not among them. It was safer that way — it didn’t do to get too close, but he wasn’t going to simply snub them — not unless the situation was dire.
But tonight it wasn’t, so he walked along home with them, dusty and dirty and tired and hungry, just like all the rest of them (well, not just like), when their paths had crossed that of a group of young ladies out for the evening. And the group included Rosalie Hale.
The girls all stopped immediately — dirty and filthy though the company of miners may have been, they were still men, and therefore prey. Edward could hear the titters from the girls’ mouths and the excitement in their minds as they all began to smile and flutter at their targets. Rosalie was at the fore — they were her father’s miners, and therefore they were her miners, and Edward knew that she particularly loved to flirt and smile at them because they always bent over backwards to please her, because she was pretty and charming and because they daren’t do anything else.
Edward’s companions did not disappoint — they stopped and straightened and dusted themselves as best they could and eagerly doffed their hats to the ladies. Edward reflexively did the same, but his hat released a shower of pebbles and coal dust on his head, so he shook himself off and ran his hand through his hair and over his face — which cleared away enough of the smut and dirt for them to really see his face.
He heard their mental gasps before they even escaped their mouths, and he barely suppressed a groan. That was another advantage of working in the mines — he did not miss the vicarious reels of endless lustful suppositions involving his own person (the occasional and extremely disconcerting ogle from one or two of his fellow workers aside). It made him very uncomfortable — just as it was now — but there was nothing for it. He’d been caught, so all he could do was smile like the rest of his company and hope he could extricate himself from the situation as soon as possible.
It didn’t look good, though — the other miners didn’t take long to realize where the collective looks of delighted admiration were resting, and Edward felt that familiar antagonism spark up in their minds in response. The undivided attention of the fairer sex was always a welcome excuse for men to turn their wariness of his slightly inhuman appearance into outright enmity.
“Why, hello!” Rosalie was the first to get her breath and her bearings back, and her smile was dazzling.
“Good evening, Miss Hale — ladies,” he answered quietly, his hat in his hands and his eyes low.
They all twittered like birds, and Rosalie said, “I don’t think I know you — are you new?”
“Yes, miss,” he said.
He felt a combination of intrigued and perturbed delight with him coming from her, riding over the wistful jealousy of her coterie, who had stepped back as they always did to let Rosalie have first pick — she always got first pick. And so she had, and she’d picked Edward, and she continued to push him further with, “What’s your name?”
“Edward Evanson, miss.”
“Hmm — I don’t know any Evansons — has your family just moved here?” Edward could hear an angry restlessness from the others around him — they liked having Rosalie Hale’s attention on them, but that runty little pretty boy was stealing it.
“After a fashion, miss,” he answered evenly, reciting his multiplication tables in his head, thinking about anything but being this close to a pretty girl in years. “I’m living with my older sister and her husband — the Cullens.”
“Oh!” she exclaimed delightedly. “Dr. Cullen and his wife! Oh, yes, they’re friends of my father!” Edward could hear the slight confusion in her mind — what on earth was this lovely young man — and the brother of a doctor — doing working down in that hole? “My father sometimes has your brother and sister over for dinner,” she beamed, well conscious of the honor being bestowed upon them and making sure he knew it too. “Next time you’ll have to come as well.”
There was a burst of indignant surprise from the men around him. Edward clenched his jaw against the waves of sullen resentment now battering his brain, twisting his stomach, tightening his throat and making his teeth itch. He didn’t need to glance over his shoulder to see that they’d drawn away from him, forming a tight knot that glittered with spite-filled eyes. “That’s very kind, miss,” he said softly, his eyes on his shoes, wanting nothing more than to get away from here, “but I seldom leave the mines in time for dinner, and I wouldn’t wish to appear before your father in this state.”
There was a jangle of frustration from Rosalie's mind as a tiny furrow formed in her smooth white brow — why wasn’t he responding? Why wasn’t he playing along? The crease was gone in an instant, replaced with that glittering smile, and she said carelessly, “Oh, I could tell my father to let you off so you could come.”
Edward again fought the urge to groan. Please, Miss Hale! If nothing else, he could admire her tenacity in pursuing the admiration she felt her due, even if he hadn’t been attracted to her beyond her pretty face and figure. “I wouldn’t wish any special treatment, Miss Hale,” he said, his voice low but firm. “Nor would I wish you to take any trouble on my behalf.”
The soft mental whispering from her group of followers was growing louder, enough to be heard over the belligerent mental mutterings of Edward’s own set — they’d never seen Rosalie Hale have to put herself out to such a degree to get a boy’s attention — and never with such a lack of success! Because her friends they may have been, but they were jealous too, jealous of pretty, perfect Rosalie who had everything dropped in her lap, and to see her being rebuffed by some no-count miner, how delicious!
Edward’s hands moved restlessly, twisting his hat tighter and tighter, turning it into a shapeless mass of cloth beneath his fingers. He just wanted to get away from here — get away, get out, get home, get somewhere where it was safe.
Rosalie was pouting now, one ruby lip jutting out at him, but despite the sweetness of the expression, he could feel the real exasperation bubbling beneath the surface. He hoped that was a sign that she was going to give up — then he could get away, get back to the hills, where the only things to eat were animals.
But then, he only had a fraction of a second’s warning from her mind before she changed her tactics — she was Rosalie Hale, and no boy said no to her, and certainly not one of her father’s mine workers! Her pout suddenly twisted itself into a smile, not the sweet, sparkling one from before, but a slow, teasing one, and she lowered her head. “Oh, but it’s no trouble,” she purred, leaning close, and Edward’s nose was suddenly full of the smell of her, of her soap and her powder and the scent of lilacs. But below it all, he could smell that smell, that rich, warm, beautiful smell, that red smell, and he could hear it, could feel it, could see it, see the veins pulsing in the white column of her neck leading down towards the soft swell of her bosom, and too close too close she was too close!
In his haste to back away, he nearly stumbled, and he only managed to blurt out, “I’m expected at home — excuse me, Miss Hale, ladies,” and then he fled. He ran away, leaving behind him the appalled derision of his fellow miners (what was he thinking, running out on that?), the crowing triumph of the flock of girls (oh, my goodness, she just got snubbed!) — and the stunned, disbelieving outrage of one Miss Rosalie Hale.
There was a snap of a twig, distant but near enough to hear, and Edward reflexively jumped to his feet, a shower of dry dirt falling from the arroyo wall where he’d been resting. He relaxed shortly after — he’d know if Rosalie had come home; he’d hear her long before he actually heard her. But he was restless, so he didn’t sit down; instead, he started pacing back and forth in the dry little gulch. Waiting.
It was almost ridiculous, that he should be in this situation, involved with anything Rosalie could be doing — that he would be having anything to do with Rosalie at all. Or rather, that she would be having anything to do with him — but he supposed he’d given her no choice in the matter. No, if it were up to Rosalie, she’d never set eyes on him again.
That one meeting had been all it took. Through no fault or deliberate move on his part, he had made himself a dedicated enemy of Rosalie Hale. That he, a lowly miner in her father’s mine, had had the nerve to spurn her offers and flirtation — and in front of other men and her collection of fair-weather friends? It was tantamount to a declaration of war.
So as far as Rosalie Hale was concerned, there was no Edward Evanson. He was so far beneath her and unworthy of her attentions as to not even exist. She went so far as to seek him out on the streets in the evenings just to sweep disdainfully by with a sniff of her sculpted, upturned nose. Just to make it clear to all and sundry that she didn’t care in the slightest about him or anything to do with him.
As uncharitable as it may have been, it was a relief. No longer did he have to worry about the attentions of a pretty girl — of any pretty girl, for despite the giggles and longing glances that her hangers-on may have tossed him during one of the staged brush-offs, they were not about to sacrifice whatever odd social positions they held in Rosalie Hale’s entourage. So when she went flouncing by in all her high dudgeon, the tweeting flock that followed in her wake would pause, giggle, bat their eyes at him — and then hurry on after her. But they never got any closer, nor lingered any longer — which was as it should be.
On the flip side of that particular coin, Edward had been amazed at how far losing the regard of the local girls had gone to improving his image in the eyes of his fellow miners. He’d known intellectually that part of the hostility he felt from men was due to their misguided sense of jealousy, viewing him as a threat, a competitor for female attention, but he’d never fully appreciated just what a large role that had played until, for the first time, he was not the prime object for such attentions. Since then, he’d found himself the recipient of nods of greeting and the occasional diffident conversation — civility the likes of which he could hardly recall since his change. With his careful and deliberate shunning by most of the girls in town, it seemed that his fellow miners had decided that he wasn’t quite so objectionable after all.
Really, he was thankful that Rosalie Hale’s own sense of entitlement and her need to be admired and adored had actually managed to overcome the strange bewitching aura that surrounded him as a vampire. In some ways, because of Rosalie, Edward had been as happy — no, as content, at least, as he ever had been, and certainly more than he had any right to be.
But only a few short months later, his life had changed once again — and once again, it was because of Rosalie Hale.
Or rather, because of Royce King.
Despite no longer maintaining a constant body temperature, a shiver of revulsion rattled its way down Edward’s spine, and he stopped his pacing and sat down quickly on the ground. Small puffs of dust rose up around him as he drew up his knees and held them close.
Since waking up over sixteen years ago with the ability to see and hear into the minds of others, Edward had learned a great deal about his fellow man that he had never wanted to know.
People’s deepest, darkest, most private thoughts and secrets — things that most would never share and certainly had no place in the broad light of day — were suddenly being shouted at him from all sides. Edward had seen and heard and experienced things that he’d never even known existed, much less would have ever wanted anything to do with. And while it had certainly stripped him of any innocence regarding the darker side of man — and for a while seemed to be all he could see or hear or feel from the people around him — he’d eventually learned to see the good, too. He knew there was more than all that filth and depravity in the world. In all his years as a vampire, he had to admit that there were very few minds in whom he could find absolutely no redeeming feature.
Royce King was one of those special few.
He worked in the mines as well. He’d joined the workforce within only a few days of Edward himself, and much like Edward, he had few friends on his crew, working diligently and quietly by himself, going home to his own solitary existence in the evenings, and returning to the mine by himself in the early mornings. But he was on a different work crew, working in a different shaft, and as Edward had not sought him out — he never sought anyone out — their paths did not cross often.
That first time they had had been one too many.
The encounter was nothing out of the ordinary, just two teams passing by each other as they changed shifts, one heading for lunch, one leaving for lunch. Edward, who never ate in the mines (excepting the occasional rat or bat that had the misfortune to come too close when no one was looking), usually didn’t take his lunch break. Today, however, he’d accidentally breathed in a great lungful of coal dust, and it was irritating him beyond belief. He had no real reflex to cough or sneeze, so it had settled in his useless lungs and was driving him mad. He’d taken his break today to take the chance to pause in his work and try to expel the stuff — even if he had to pour water up his nose to do it.
He was standing by one of the rough walls in the higher tunnels where the men would congregate to eat, shaking his head and hacking like a cat, when another team passed by, heading down into the shafts once again. The foreman Herbie Chambers was first, and he’d only gotten the position because the better-qualified man, Jule Robison, was a negro and so had been passed over, and they both knew it, but there was little resentment on either side because that was just the way things were, and they both continued to do their jobs to the best of their abilities. Jens Olson, the big Swede, was hoping to hear from his brother back in Minnesota, to find out if he could get a position in one of the iron mines closer to where he was born, closer to his mother, and maybe he could find a nice Swedish girl to marry. Adam Finch’s son was turning four tonight, and he hoped he could get back home to wish him a happy birthday before he fell asleep, and oh, how that filthy squirrel had squeaked and squealed and squirmed, teach it to get into his attic, oh yes, and it was so tough, too, stayed alive so long, even when it was in so many pieces, its legs and tail and guts and skin and eyes and how Royce had laughed —
Edward recoiled, jerking back with such haste that he’d tripped and slammed his head against the wall, his stomach roiling, his skin itching, and he felt dirty, felt filthy, as if he’d just bitten into an animal only to find it dead and crawling with maggots, dear God —
“Hey — you okay?”
Edward blinked, and looked down into the impossibly broad, black face of Joseph Kitchner, or Big Joe as his crew called him. He was sitting on the rocky floor with his half-eaten sandwich in one hand, looking up at Edward in consternation. Edward had always supposed the man’s size gave him a certain level of confidence when dealing with his innate nervousness around a vampire, and combined with the fact that Edward had never treated him as anything less than a man — black or white, Edward knew he was a better man than he would ever be — he’d always been pleasant enough to him.
Edward swallowed convulsively, trying to shake off the phantom nausea and the lingering need to bathe, and gave him a weak smile — a very small weak smile, one that hid the fangs that still protruded excitedly at the memory of what Royce had felt — what he had felt. “Yeah — just — just all that dust. Getting to me, is all.”
Big Joe eyed him for a moment longer, and then just gave a grunt of acknowledgement and went back to his lunch, leaving Edward to grip his elbows to still his shuddering and try to dispel the lingering memories of watching something suffer, and that feeling of sick pleasure at the sight of it.
Edward had been left rattled and distracted by that encounter, eaten up with the desire to do… something. But what? After that first dreadful run in with the man, Edward had taken great pains to steer clear of him. The thankfully few times he’d been near Royce, near enough to feel that rotting cesspool behind his distressingly normal face, he’d seen no hint of his having hurt or planning to hurt anyone — any people. He was quiet and a bit of a loner, but no one thought ill of him — no one else knew of any of his less savory habits. What could Edward have done? Gone to Mr. Hale and said, “Oh, excuse me, sir, but I was reading one of your employee’s minds the other day and I think you should dismiss him?” Oh, certainly — someone would have been dismissed, all right. And so with no proof of any genuine wrongdoing, and no indication that he was planning on committing any in the near future, Edward was powerless to do anything but avoid him and try to put him out of his mind as best he could.
Edward leapt to his feet, resuming his pacing, but angrily this time, scattering pebbles furiously beneath his shoes. That was why he was here, wasn’t it? Why he’d told Rosalie what she’d wanted to know, why he hadn’t stopped her when she left, and now why he was cooling his heels out here in the middle of the desert, waiting for her to come back. Because he hadn’t done anything.
And Rosalie had paid the price for his inaction.
Table of Contents | Part II | Part III