Right--I also feel the need to remind you of the rating, because it really comes into play here. Not explicit or horribly detailed, but very unpleasant. Just a warning.
Onto the story!
It happened on a cool evening in the early spring of 1933. The days were balmy and sunny, but the evenings still carried the bite of winter, just like it did on this one. It was an evening like many before it as Edward walked home — except for the low thrum of disquiet that had settled on the town, the buzz of rumor that jumped from mouth to mouth on the streets, and that Edward plucked from the minds of passersby as he made his way quickly towards the outside of town.
Rosalie Hale was missing.
She’d gone out with her girlfriend Vera Marsten that afternoon, and she stayed at her house often enough that her parents had thought nothing of her not coming home, assuming that she was staying the night as she often did and that she would call later. But she didn’t. When the Hales had finally called the Marstens, a confused Vera had told them that Rose had a dress that she had been working on and wanted to finish hemming for the Wednesday dance and so had gone home earlier that evening.
Only she never got there.
By the time Edward got home, it was all over town; Esme had gotten a call from one of her Ladies Aid bunch and was wearing out the hall rug, pacing as she waited for Edward to come home from work and Carlisle to get back from his hunting trip.
The townspeople were talking of organizing a search, and Esme thought that the three of them would be eminently suited to it, more so than anyone else, but they had to hurry; who knows where the poor girl could be, what could have happened to her, and the Hales were distraught, poor Marian nearly hysterical, and Esme just had to do something.
But she couldn’t. No one could. Around eleven o’clock that night, Carlisle came home. And in his arms was the broken, battered body of Rosalie Hale.
Edward and Esme froze in horror at the sight of her: pretty, vivacious Rosalie Hale, the last remaining scraps of her dress torn and filthy, her long golden hair matted with dirt, her red lips cracked and bleeding, her lovely face mottled with bruises, her limbs twisting and limp and laced with cuts, her head lolling horribly in Carlisle’s arms. Esme snapped to action first, wildly directing him into a bedroom, merciful heavens, what had happened to her, they had to get her to the hospital, had to sound the alarm that she’d been found —
Edward was still. He couldn’t look away. He didn’t need to look at Carlisle’s face to see the confirmation there. He could hear it all in his mind — hear the memory of the sobbing and then the screams, the laugher, then the sharp, wonderful, horrible smell of fresh blood, the desperate race through the trees only to find the helpless, gasping girl, writhing in agony on the forest floor as her blood and her breath leaked from her body through the great gaping gash in her neck, the way she flailed wildly under Carlisle’s touch as he tried to stem the flow, tried to use his gift, tried to help her, but it was too much, too late, she’d been savaged — she was dying — and then those wild eyes suddenly snapped into a terrible, perfect clarity, and she seized his arm with a clawed hand, and in a rasping, wheezing voice that came from her slashed throat with a sound that would haunt him the rest of his days, begged him to help her, to save her, to make her live.
Edward didn’t need to ask. He knew. He could see it in Carlisle’s eyes, see it in his mind — and see it in the two sharp puncture wounds just below the tear in Rosalie’s throat.
Carlisle laid the unconscious girl on the bed and grabbed Esme, taking her aside to explain in an unnecessarily hushed voice. Edward didn’t say a word; just stood by the bed, looking down at Rosalie. A Rosalie he would not have recognized at first glance, her features spoiled and broken — and changing. He could see her injuries starting to heal, could see the strange, disturbing ripples beneath her skin as her body altered itself. Her breathing was labored, her heartbeat erratic. She was changing.
She was dying.
Esme and Carlisle returned; Esme was silent, her mouth set in a grim line. Carlisle sat next to the bed and laid his hands on the convulsing body before him; Edward knew he was exerting all of what little power he possessed to heal her, to save her — to make her live. Esme moved to stand beside him, and Edward heard their prayers for the poor girl dying on the bed. Edward, who had no place there, merely stood to the side, saying nothing, offering only his own unvoiced hopes — although for what, he couldn’t say. He just hoped — just wished that whatever happened, one way or the other, her suffering would ease. Pretty, pampered little Rosalie didn’t deserve this fate, and he just wished that for her it would end.
By two-thirty in the morning, Rosalie Hale was dead.
She’d been kept in a state between death and life much longer than she would have without the venom coursing through her system; gasping, writhing, moaning, convulsing for hours. But finally, she just… gave up. And she died. Now all they could do was wait. Either she would stay dead, and then Carlisle would be forced to hide the body where someone would find it later, her corpse mysteriously lovely and unblemished, but quite dead.
Or she would come back.
Edward was betting on the latter, albeit with some trepidation. Carlisle had, as he understood it, a very good track record when it came to changing humans. Better than good, actually — it was outstanding. Edward didn’t know if it was because of his incredible control that he could let go after biting, rather than draining and killing the victim, or if it was because of that tiny spark of his gift for healing. But whatever the cause, of the humans he’d bitten with intent to change, he’d only had one failure, only one who stayed dead.
That first attempt, some two centuries ago — a young girl from Marseille dying of the Great Plague whose new husband had begged him to save — and his subsequent failure had motivated him to seek out the Imperial Heads all those years ago, to learn the truth of what he was. There he’d found that the odds were vastly against a bitten human completing the change. Those that drew a vampire’s notice as holding the potential for powerful gifts seemed to be the most likely to successfully be turned. But even then, between the maniacal loss of control experienced by a vampire when it bit a human and the powerful, violent changes wrought on a fragile human body by whatever agent of transformation was carried in vampire venom, the chances were that a human would die before being changed — hence the reason there were so few vampires. For Carlisle to have successfully changed two out of the only three humans he’d bitten, and one with so trifling a power as Esme’s, was nothing short of amazing.
Edward was unhappily sure that some three nights or so hence, despite having never felt any particular pull towards Rosalie beyond the scent of her blood, Carlisle’s success rate would spike even higher.
But there was nothing any of them could do for her now. Just as Carlisle, Esme, and himself had done before, her body had died. Now all they could do was watch and wait and see what would happen.
They all decided to go about their business that day — not that they were under any suspicion, and all had alibis, but it wouldn’t be wise to court gossip and speculation by behaving strangely just after Rosalie had disappeared. So before the sun rose, Carlisle reluctantly went in to work, Edward went back down into the mines, and Esme, casserole in hand, took up the thankless task of going to the Hale house to see to Mrs. Hale and help to coordinate the fruitless efforts to calm her.
The mine was abuzz with speculation about Rosalie, and Edward’s head was full of it from the moment he got there. Immersing himself in the emotions of those around him helped to hide what he was really feeling, let him keep his face schooled into expressions of concern, speculation, and worry — all of which he did feel, but not the same way that everyone else did, because he knew what they didn’t. He threw himself into his work all the same, his thoughts turning towards his home and the pale, lovely corpse beneath the sheet on his bed.
The day seemed to crawl by. News from the outside trickled down under the ground as it always did, and Edward heard it all, spoken aloud or not. Jim Hines wandered by; he’d been on one of the search crews last night but had turned up nothing, already Hale’s daughter been gone over twelve hours and it didn’t look good. Foreman Chambers had seen Hale last night, and he looked to have aged ten years in ten hours, and he was rightly worried about what this could mean for the mines and the workers. Billy “Kid” Belnap was largely untouched by it all, his thoughts rarely wandering far from his own private world of daydreams, while Big Joe was not so fortunate; he and many of the other black workers were feeling the strain of the automatic, unspoken suspicion, but Royce King wasn’t, oh no, they’d never know, but he’d know, he’d always know, swish your hips at me, will you, pretty girl, well, you’d gotten what’d you’d wanted, didn’t you, oh, yes she did, and she’d begged, and she’d cried and she’d screamed and it was glorious —
Edward flew backwards from his work, fleeing, not caring about the stares he got from his fellow miners, he just had to get out, get away, his gut churning with reflexive, helpless nausea, and he just barely managed to get away from all prying eyes before his cramping stomach seized up and disgorged what was left of his last meal, vomiting up thick, clotted blood that spattered on the dusty floor and rocky walls. Edward fell to his knees, gasping, clutching his stomach, his fangs perversely protruding in memory of what he saw, what he felt — my God, he’d raped her, he’d beaten her and raped her and sodomized her and tortured her, and he’d left her to die in the dirt with her throat cut, she was a girl, just a girl, she’d never hurt anyone, and he did that, and Christ in Heaven, why hadn’t he done anything?!
A noise like a sob escaped him as he slid to the ground. He’d known. He’d known what King was — and yet he’d said nothing. He made his excuses that he couldn’t, and he’d done nothing.
And now Rosalie Hale was dead.
“Hey, kid — you all right?”
Edward snapped back to reality, quickly brushing dust over the congealing blood splashed on the floor of the mine before Big Joe saw it, and he stood, trembling. “I — no, I don’t think I am.”
Big Joe was looking at him with something close to alarm, and Edward could see why — he never looked his best on normal days, but now he was ashen and shaky, his eyes horrified holes in his face, and Big Joe said unnecessarily, “You don’t look it.” His eyes cast around for a moment, and then he said, “Why don’t you get on out of here — I’ll punch your card for you.”
Edward blinked for a moment, and then managed a weak but sincere smile, albeit barely more than a lift in the corner of his mouth. “No, that’s okay — thanks, but I’ll just clock out myself. But I will leave, I think,” he said, his voice halting, his mind and stomach still churning. “I — I need to go home.”
He reassured Joe that he’d get out on his own, and then he fled. He had to get out, to get away from all the indifferent and oblivious minds that surrounded him, to get away from all the speculation and gossip, but most of all to get away from him, from Royce King, and from the horrible laughter and ecstasy and the memories of the way that she’d cried and she’d begged and in the end she only screamed.
He pushed his way through the miners, ducking down the tunnels, quick and hurried and not looking at anyone, only interested in getting to the clock. He punched himself out and told George he wasn’t feeling well and not to look for him tomorrow, and then he escaped. As soon as he was out of sight, he tore away from the mine and up into the hills, running, running all the way to the outside of town and not stopping until he got home.
He stood outside of the house for the longest time, his motionless heart a lump of lead in his chest, his stomach still knotted with nausea, before he finally let himself in. The house was still and quiet; he couldn’t hear anything, in his ears or in his head. He went inside, into the quiet darkness; Carlisle would still be at work, and Esme likely at… at the Hales.
He moved through the house on shadow’s feet, pausing at the foot of the stairs, just looking up into the hall, as hesitant and fearful as a child looking for a monster. Taking a deep, unneeded breath, he walked up the stairs, each footstep seeming to echo, his weight on the wooden risers making the stairs creak with his every move.
The door at the end of the hall — his room — was closed. He walked towards it, the only sound the soft shush of his shoes on the worn hall carpet, and he hesitated again just outside, his hand on the knob, before then he turned it, and the door swung open.
The room was silent and dark, the curtains drawn. He could see dust motes dancing in the bars of sunlight that crept in past the blinds, and he watched them, anything to keep from seeing what lay on his bed, but his eyes were pulled there like a compass needle towards North, and he looked.
The bed was draped with a white sheet; even at home, Carlisle adhered to the strictest medical propriety. Perhaps they should have tied a tag to her toe — D.O.A.
The thought was unwelcome — but how could he think anything else when it was so painfully obvious that there was a corpse beneath the cloth?
Edward didn’t realize that he was crossing the room until he was standing over her. He could still make out the contours of her face and her body through the drape of the sheet; all traces of what had happened would be gone, her features regular and beautiful once more. No trace of what King had done to her.
No trace of what he had done to her — all because he’d done nothing.
One trembling hand was reaching for the sheet before he even knew what he was about, but he snatched it back. Not now. He couldn’t — couldn’t look at that cold, pale face, serene in its mute accusation.
But it didn’t matter — he didn’t need to see her face. The motionless figure draped in the sheet said enough.
He sank into the chair at the edge of the bed, the breath he’d taken leaving him in a rush, and he buried his head in his hands.
That was where Esme found him when she came home, her face hard but her eyes filled with agony, and Edward could hear her sick heart, feel how much it was weighing on her that, knowing what she did, knowing where Rosalie was, she’d looked right into Marian Hale’s eyes and lied to her, told her that it would be all right. That was where Carlisle had found him as well, when he’d come home from the clinic, his face grim as he came up to check on that one last patient. And that was where Edward stayed, all through the night and the next day, a silent vigil over Rosalie Hale.
Only this time, that deadly finality wasn’t quite so final. Carlisle had stayed home those next two days, watching, waiting — because in either case, whatever happened, they would have to be ready. And so ready they were, all three of them, on that evening on the third day, in the fading blue light of the hour just after sunset, when it happened.
Rosalie Hale woke up.
It was Edward who knew it first — he heard her. While she lay dead on his bed, there was nothing, no sound, no thought, no feeling. But that night, he heard something. Just a whisper, the tiniest flicker at the end of a long tunnel. It was gone in a moment, but it had been there — and then it was there again. Gossamer threads of feeling, of memory, of mind, gently floating through the air around him.
He and Esme both looked up; Edward had straightened in his seat and was looking at her, staring at her, and he knew that they knew before he even told them, “I can hear her. She’s there. She’s waking up.”
It wasn’t immediate; there was still no movement, no true sense of mind, and Edward knew after watching Esme rise again that it would be hours before the soft, mindless noise beneath the sheet would suddenly snap into the excruciating clarity of vampiric awareness.
Carlisle was the one who stayed with her when Edward told him that she was almost there. It was always Carlisle, Carlisle with his gentle manner and soothing words and overwhelming compassion, who had lead both Edward and Esme out of that dead darkness and back to consciousness. It would be better that way, to have his familiar, reassuring face there, and not to overwhelm her with too many people all at once — because she would already be overwhelmed. She already was overwhelmed, and Edward leaned against the wall where he waited outside the room with Esme and squeezed his eyes shut against that sudden, agonizing consciousness as Rosalie was violently jerked out of her first and last sleep as a vampire and into the wide awake life of her death.
He could see it all through Carlisle’s eyes, see the trembling of the sheet as she struggled to move, hear the strange, animalistic sounds that were wrenched from her throat as she tried to speak. But he barely noticed what Carlisle saw — because all he could feel was what Rosalie felt.
The memories of his own change had softened with time, but he relived them again with Rosalie, unsure if it was merely the power of her sudden rush of emotion and feeling that was overwhelming him, or if he was forcing himself to listen, forcing himself to join in enduring this torture with her after what she had already endured because of him. He listened, and he remembered, and he lived it again — the shocking rush into unbearable wakefulness, the horrible sluggish feeling of leaden limbs that screamed as she tried to force them into action, flopping uselessly as they no longer responded in the ways she knew, the thick tongue like clay in her mouth, the cold, that endless, pervading cold, the fire of desperate thirst that burned in her throat, but worst of all, that panicking feeling of being squeezed, of being starved, of being suffocated as her body cried out for sustenance — for blood.
And above it all, the sudden choking terror as she remembered who she was, remembered her last hideous moments, and then realized that she didn’t know herself anymore, that she didn’t feel herself anymore — that something terrible had happened to her.
Edward doubled over, choking, only dimly hearing Esme’s voice and feeling her hand on his shoulder; he was drowning under the crashing waves of fear, helpless to stop the bile rising in his throat as his mind filled with images of a faceless attacker (nonononoNO HELP ME HELP ME), of being dragged through the dark and fighting and kicking but it was useless, she couldn’t get away (OH PLEASE OH PLEASE DON’T LET HIM HURT ME), reliving all those nightmarish memories that he’d seen in King’s mind — only this time, he was on the other end of it, feeling the fear and the terror (OH GOD OH GOD NO DADDYYYYYYYYYYYYY) and the screams and the laughter and the all-consuming pain, and Edward barely made it into the bathroom before heaving up what blood was still in his stomach into the sink.
He squeezed his eyes shut, breathing heavily, trying to block out the world, but all he could hear was her panic and terror… and then, that horrible, horrible instant of hope when she recognized Carlisle’s face and for just one moment knew that she was safe and alive and her parents would be there soon and she was safe. And then Carlisle soothed and quieted her, talking to her in low tones and telling her that it was all right, lying to her that it was all right, and something like a sob wrung itself from Edward’s throat as Carlisle spoke once more, and that little flame of hope in Rosalie’s heart went out.
Edward stopped his pacing and slumped back against the side of the arroyo, ignoring the hail of dust that his movements brought down on his head. That had been the worst of Rosalie’s transformation. Edward had had at least some idea of what was happening to him, of what was going to happen when he’d taken Carlisle up on his offer. And Esme too — less of a warning, perhaps, but enough to know that things were going to change when she woke up, and she was pragmatic enough to deal with it when it came about. Rosalie had not been so fortunate; she’d been so near death and so incoherent with panic and pain and loss of blood and air that she’d lost consciousness before Carlisle could truly explain.
But she’d been awake and aware long enough to beg for her life. Edward wasn’t sure if Carlisle’s innate goodness had in the end done any good in her case. But he couldn’t help it, couldn’t just leave her there, not when she’d cried and begged in pain and terror — and so he bit her.
No — poor Rosalie had no idea what she was in for, what she had become — all she knew was what she had lost. Edward had been orphaned, his parents dead. Esme had been alone, her husband gone, her family scattered and not close to her at all. Rosalie had been happy and adored and in the blink of an eye, everything she’d ever known and loved and wanted had been torn away from her. She was trapped in an unfamiliar body, besieged by unfamiliar urges, stuck in unfamiliar surroundings, and she could never go back to what she had known before.
A small huff escaped his nose. Looking back on it, he could derive a certain dark amusement from the scene — in typical brat fashion, Rosalie had responded with a tantrum.
Only it hadn’t been funny at the time — it had been awful. Her panicked crying, her screams for her mother and father, her wailing over the life she’d lost, her fury against the one who had taken it from her — she had been consumed in a maelstrom of pain and fear and anger that had sent Edward reeling. In the end it had taken all three of them to restrain her, her wild, uncontrolled newborn strength more than a match for any one of them, to keep her from fleeing and running home. Carlisle’s soothing and Esme’s assurances hadn’t been enough — in the end, it had been Edward who got through to her; overwhelmed and in agony from the relentless pounding in his head (my life my life IT’S MY LIFE), he had suddenly bellowed, “You’re dead, Rosalie! You can’t go back to your life because you’re dead!”
She had gone still, staring at him from wide, golden eyes, filled with hate and horror, and then had broken into helpless, heaving sobs. Edward hadn’t needed Esme to tell him that he should leave. He left the job of comforting her to those who were better at it, and went outside, far away, trading the horror of Rosalie’s change for the silence of the starry night.
And so then they had had a newborn on their hands — a miserable, angry newborn — and they had to do something about it. Carlisle had gone back to work as if nothing had happened — but Edward had tendered his resignation at the mine. Between the three of them, they spread the fiction that some relative of his and Esme’s had died back east and they had gone to the funeral, and then Edward had decided to go to school afterwards and wouldn’t be back. In reality, Esme had purchased a small house out in the wilds of Sweetwater County, where it was desolate and empty but with plenty of antelope, and the two of them had bundled Rosalie off and away from Kemmerer.
They’d had some vague plan for Carlisle to “decide” to travel back East as well, to allow him to get away and join them to help Rosalie along, but in the end the decision had been taken out of his hands.
As it happened, some of the search parties had finally found a few signs of Rosalie — her purse, a scuffed shoe, and most damning of all, a bloodied scrap of the purple dress she’d been wearing that night. They would never find a body, but what little they had found had made it more than clear that foul play had been involved — and that she wasn’t coming home.
And Lester Hale gave up. Carlisle had only seen him once after it all happened, but the image that Edward had plucked from his mind had shocked even him — he looked old, defeated. Mrs. Hale had had a nervous breakdown, and Mr. Hale — he didn’t have it in him to care about anything anymore. Within a few weeks, he’d sold everything he owned in Kemmerer, and then he and his wife left to go back to their family in Colorado.
The new owners of the mine were not nearly as interested in the well-being of their workers; wages had been cut, as had enmities. They hadn’t thought a company doctor all that necessary, and while Carlisle had gracefully resigned, everyone had known that he was going one way or the other.
And so he’d gone, and they’d left Kemmerer behind them, never to return. None of them would ever go back — especially not Rosalie.
Living with a newborn Rosalie was a vastly different experience for all of them. She was fractious, angry, and prone to fits of that horrible dry weeping that was now her lot as a vampire. She wanted to go home — she wanted her parents, which made the knowledge Carlisle and therefore Edward shared about them all the more heavy.
Esme was grim; she’d spent a good portion of her previous life as a nurse dealing with girls who’d been traumatized, hurt, and abused like Rosalie, and she was doing her best to help her, but this was a case unlike any she’d seen before — with the girls in the past, they had survived the attack. Carlisle was torn by sorrow and guilt — sorrow that he hadn’t been able to save her, sorrow over the horrible mess that had been made of her family’s lives, and guilt that he’d ever changed her in the first place — because how could he keep from seeing how unhappy she was? Had he really saved her if all he’d done for her was condemn her to an eternity of misery? She hadn’t truly known what she was asking for — what right had he had to force this new life on her? Perhaps it would have been kinder to let her die.
And as usual, Edward was forced to carry their burdens along with his own, compounding his own consuming, wracking guilt that it was all his fault in the first place. If only he’d said something — if only he’d done something. At one horrible moment, he’d wondered if maybe, just maybe, he might have been excused if he’d — no, no, no! Not that. Never that.
But it was so hard not to wonder, when he was confronted day after day by the real, physical reminder of what he’d done — of what he hadn’t done.
He’d never really known Esme before she’d been changed. As far as he was concerned, Esme was Esme and had always been just the way he’d known her. But Rosalie — he’d known her before, when she was a happy, lovely human girl, all bright smiles and rosy cheeks and soft curves. But no longer — oh, the change had worked its usual miracles, smoothing any imperfections and casting her face in a new, flawless mold. Rosalie Hale had been lovely before — now, she was breathtaking.
But to Edward, she looked wrong somehow. He’d liked her human softness, her sweet smiles and healthy glow. Now she was beautiful, but it was hard, cold. Lifeless. As if she was no longer warm flesh, but unyielding stone.
However, the disturbing outward changes were nothing compared to the changes inside, changes that Edward alone was truly privy to. Rosalie had been a happy, thoughtless, carefree young girl when he’d known her before. Now all of that had been torn away; she was bitter, miserable, despairing — but most of all, she was so very angry. Her perfect little life was gone, her happy family taken from her, her innocence stripped away — little wonder she was so filled with ire. Sometimes Edward wondered if that was all that was keeping her going, the mindless, burning fury that filled her.
She was angry with Carlisle — she blamed him for not saving her, for not giving her back her old life, for letting her die. She was angry with Esme — she didn’t know what this was like for her, didn’t know what she’d gone through, so how could she presume to tell her how to feel, how to move on?
She was angry with Edward, too — but that, at least, was familiar territory. Edward rather had the impression that hating him was the one thing she’d managed to retain from her old life, and so she clung to it in its familiarity with a dogged tenacity. She’d hated him for his perceived snub before, but now, knowing what he was, that he’d been unnaturally attracting her with his vampiric fascination that now no longer affected her… now she seemed to have it in her head that he had been actively trying to seduce her.
Not only that, but when she’d found out about his abilities, when she’d realized exactly what he was capable of, what he could hear — what he could see — she’d flown into an absolute rage. She’d accused him of spying — of peeping — and had screamed him out of the house and out of her head. When he’d finally slunk back home, she’d been lying in wait for him, and had furiously demanded to know how to keep him out — because, she said, she didn’t want some filthy little boy poking around in her head.
Little boy — that’s what she called him. He’d had enough of that after a few weeks and had angrily told her that he was well over thirty, but she’d sniffed disdainfully and told him that any pathetic creep who spied on pretty girls and used his looks to get his way was nothing but a bratty little boy as far as she was concerned.
He had never in his life thought he would be tempted to hit a girl before.
And so he’d found himself in the unpleasant position of giving her those same lessons that he’d once given to — of teaching her all the ways to hide her thoughts from him, to keep her mind secret.
Edward ground the heels of his hands into his eyes. His gift was such a weight on him — yet why was it that every time he taught someone how to circumvent it, it always turned into such a disaster?
He should have known. He should have known was what going to happen. The signs were all there — and right from the very beginning.
She was angry with Carlisle. She was angry with Esme. She was angry with Edward. She was angry at the world. But her anger towards them all paled in comparison to the fury she felt for Him.
That was how she thought of him, the one who, in the end, was the true author of all her troubles. The one who had attacked her. The one who had killed her. Him. She had no face to go with that filthy touch, no name to put to the cruel laughter that haunted her. He was simply “Him,” in her mind.
And above anyone and anything else, she hated Him.
Table of Contents | Part I | Part III