“Doesn’t this ever just...blow your mind?”
Bella's voice was slightly muffled by the dusky lavender comforter that she pulled all the way up to her nose. Her eyes were peacefully shut with black lashes sweeping at the tender skin beneath them and though I could not see the rosy bow of her mouth, a smile was plainly written all over her beautiful face; the evidence was laid in the slight plumping of her cheeks and the lift of her graceful, elegant sable eyebrows. She was content and secure at my side in her little bed.
I chuckled quietly, tugging the blanket away from her face before folding it under her slightly-dimpled chin.
“What was that? I didn’t quite catch it, what with all the mumbling,” I whispered, lest Charlie hear us. He was in his bedroom across the hall getting ready for bed, and while my relationship with my future father-in-law had improved significantly since the early days following our return from Italy, I doubted our new-found camaraderie would survive his discovery of my nightly “sleep-ins” with his daughter—engaged or not.
Bella turned her head toward me and opened her eyes, though I was sure she could see very little in the darkness. I couldn’t help but notice how in the sanctuary of her room, she was more beautiful than anywhere else: her hair was haphazardly piled upon her pillow and she wore no makeup—not even the mascara and pineapple lip gloss that comprised her minimal daily embellishments. Her face was clear of the carefully arranged composure that she never failed to present to the rest of the world and I was humbled, undone by the naked vulnerability she showed me in these secret hours. It is in these simple moments that my love for her is the most apparent to me; it manifests as something like a metaphysical entity, swelling within my chest and pushing at the inward confines of my body—demanding to be set free.
“Alright, Mister Superior Ears,” she said, laughing quietly at the way her tongue stumbled over the strange sequence of syllables. “I’m serious, though. How do I even begin to wrap my mind around this? Us?”
My beautiful girl pulled her arms free of her bedding before rolling to her side so she could face me on propped elbow. She clutched at the collar of my bed-rumpled button-down shirt with both hands and fixed her eyes somewhere in the vicinity of my chin as she spoke. Our bodies were pressed together and our legs intertwined; physically, we’ve rarely been closer...but there was something in her eyes. Reluctance, perhaps. I didn’t understand it and the part of me that was afraid of losing her—that will always be afraid of losing her—was set on edge. The atmosphere turned from playful to serious too quickly.
“Tell me what you’re thinking, love.”
A line formed between her brows and her lips screwed up to one side, the way they do when she’s trying to find the right words. I waited patiently, though inwardly I groaned at the silence. I knew that attempts to hasten the process would be in vain— she would never speak until she was good and ready.
After a moment, she took a deep breath and released my collar before burrowing into me intimately, apparently deciding that this conversation required as much body (and as little eye) contact as possible. I rolled onto my back and she laid half on me, her left leg tangled between mine and her face pressed tightly into the junction of my neck and shoulder. I could feel the weight of her breasts pressed into me and her hot breath rushed over my skin like water on smooth stones. I had to remind myself that there was something weighing on her mind and that she needed to talk—we needed to talk. If she was willing to let me into her mind it would be a shame for me to miss it simply because my much-abused sex-drive wouldn’t allow me to multitask.
“Is this...normal? I mean, aside from the fact that you’re engaged to your food—”
“Bella, it sounds obscene when you describe our relationship like that.”
“No, I know. I was trying to be funny, you know? I’m nervous.”
My left arm was wrapped around her torso and my hand splayed against her pajama-covered lower back, holding her gently to me as I lifted my right hand and combed my fingers through her tousled hair. I tipped her head back a little, forcing her to look up at me, look up into my eyes.
“Darling, you have nothing to be nervous about,” I murmured urgently. “Anything you need to say, I want to hear. I know that the value of my promises is somewhat diminished as of late but I swear to you, Bella, your thoughts—your opinions matter to me. I don’t ever want to take that for granted.”
“I know, I know...and your promises Edward mean more everyday. It’s just...how I feel for you, I don’t think it’s normal for humans. It’s so intense, like...like I want to squeeze you as tight as I can with my jaw clenched and veins popping out all over the place.” She chuckled sheepishly and swallowed noisily. I counted to fifteen before she took another breath. “I want to crawl inside you,” she whispered against my neck, little more than breath passing her lips. “I can’t get close enough, tell you enough, show you how I’m feeling inside. Is that normal?”
Her question was utterly stunning—the description of her feelings even more so. There was not a day gone by that I didn’t feel an intense need to hold her as tightly to me as I could manage. It was almost as if I had an imperative to exert every bit of my physical strength in the expression of my feelings for her, as if anything less were insufficient. I had heard something similar pass through the thoughts of my family members and even heard the formation of hairline fractures in their stony flesh as they held onto one another for dear life in the midst of their lovemaking, embraces not unlike the constricting bear hugs that humans sometimes share. This impulse was as intense and as frightening to me as was my visceral reaction to the scent of her blood on that first day we met and indeed, the months that followed. My embrace could be as lethal as my teeth. Should I forget for a moment that her body is as delicate as gossamer, it could mean the crushing of her spine, or worse—her heart.
“Yes, love. It’s normal. Well, as normal as anything is with vampires involved.”
“I hate it when you say that. Don’t say that.”
I pulled my head back a little, surprised at her unexpected vehemence. “Say what?”
“That you’re not normal. That you’re...some kind of freak of nature.”
I scoffed. Would anything from this woman’s mouth ever be predictable?
“Bella. I’m a vampire. What about that is not freakish? We drink blood. We...sparkle, for crying out loud.”
“Edward. How is it any different than a starfish regenerating a lost limb? Or...the lantern fish! That freaky fish in Finding Nemo? Did you know that when they mate, the female absorbs the male’s body until there’s nothing left but his—”
I laughed out loud at that one, cutting her off mid-sentence, sleeping-Charlie be damned. “Love, you are utterly ridiculous. Brilliant, wonderful...but ridiculous.” I kissed her forehead, mindful of the gentle give of her flesh.
“And worms! I mean, seriously...you can cut one in half and it’ll still live...both halves! That’s freaky.”
“I fail to see how those things are at all comparable to vampirism on the freaky scale.”
“Maybe there shouldn’t be a freaky scale. Why are humans more normal,” she said, rolling to her back again and using finger quotes, “than vampires? Or mate-liquifying fish? You believe in God don’t you? I know you do. Where do you think vampires come from? Didn’t He make them—you, too? Just like humans?”
I was quiet for awhile after that, unable really to come up with anything to say. How could I argue with that logic? I wanted to say that the idea was absurd, that everything about my kind was unnatural, not of the created order. I’d always believed that we were an abomination, somehow existing outside of God’s permission.
Does anything exist outside of God’s permission? My God, what a can of squirming bifurcated worms that question opened up. Truly, I had abandoned the notion of a sovereign God shortly after awakening to this second life, my gift granting me full access to the abject depravity of the average mind. When man isn’t hating and coveting, they are raping and murdering. In that sense, I suppose they are no different than my own species. Why would a sovereign God create any sentient being with the ability to chose to do such harm?
I was startled by the burning sensation of Bella’s hot fingers on my face.
“Edward? Where did you go just now?”
“Oh. I, um…”
I willfully relaxed the muscles in my face, closing my eyes and unclenched my jaw. My neck was next, then my arms—I was glad to register that my hold on her wasn’t firm enough to bruise while I was lost in my musings—then my legs and finally, my toes. I did my best to paint a serene expression on my face, not wishing to alarm my beautiful one.
“I struggle with this, Bella. If I’m wrong, I have to change my mind about...everything.”
She had the audacity to laugh.
“Yes—your soul, your self-loathing, our future—they all hang in the balance.”
“How can you be so flippant?” I asked, careful to moderate my tone as I drew my index finger down her face affectionately. I didn’t want to argue; I just wanted to understand. She seemed so sure of herself, for all of her eighteen years. How is it that I, her senior six times over, was still so unsure? Even if she was horribly wrong about her philosophy in this (whatever it is), I envied her confidence.
Bella turned her head toward me again and gave a small smile. “I could be wrong, but I guess it seems to me that if God was smart enough to make everything from scratch, then He knows what he’s doing even if I don’t understand or agree. My brain is significantly smaller than his.”
The implications of what she was saying were...staggering. The possibility that the Creator of the universe planned for me to be what I am, created me with vices and thirsts, knew that I’d murder and allowed me to exist regardless…
It was all too much to consider.
“Love, you…you have managed to render me speechless.”
“Thank the all-knowing, almighty God. Will you kiss me now?”