February 4, 2014
There are many things you forget with the passage of time—broken bones, scraped knees, and misguided words and so on. You go through them and forget them. Soon, they occupy nothing but a sliver of a place in your memory and none in your heart.
Then, there are wounds that even time can’t heal; voids that even the moving clock can’t fulfill; memories that ingrain themselves in your mind so indelibly that you can’t scorch them out even with a white hot branding iron. There’s always something that person said, something they did, some way they reacted that you can’t help but think of them at every turn and corner of your life.
So even after two years of losing Leah, the gaping hole that she had left was wider and more hollowed than ever.
Let me set the record straight: she wasn’t dead. That she was alive we knew very well. That was also all we knew about her anymore. None of us, not even Seth, knew where she was, what she was doing and how she was living. Yes, there was the occasional letter and phone call, but it was always devoid of a return address or made from an untraceable cell.
To think that Alistair would drive her to such insanity, such vigilance, such privacy. She could very well be dead if not for her intermittent manifestation of her state of living.
Time had moved, yes, yet stood still. We were all very far ahead now: Bella and my sons were almost two. Renesmee stood close to the threshold of adulthood . . . and marriage. Mark and Katherine had set up house right next to us, and Lucy was already showing signs of being bound to Benedict, one of our sons.
Today was Leah’s birthday. But you would think somebody in the Cullen household had died with the kind of atmosphere that was prevailing. Jacob had not been seen since last night, so had Seth. Charlie had called today, and I picked up hints of his conversation with Bella—Sue had been bawling her eyes out. Katherine and Rosalie were particularly grim. Leah had become a sister to them, as she had to Bella.
Said woman, and my wife, however, was a bit cheerful today than most days. Even though Bella missed Leah like anything, she always counted the days when she could next talk to her. Leah hadn’t called in six months, but Bella thought that today might be the day the term would come to an end. I, however, was skeptic. I had been noticing a pattern in Leah’s calls, as had Carlisle. They came a month apart earlier, then three, and at last five. There was no telling when they would come next, and we thought that one day they would stop coming at all. I think I knew what Leah was doing to us—what I had done to Bella years ago but in an excruciatingly small amount of time. She was giving us what I had never given to Bella: time. But lord help us the day the phone would not ring at all.
I looked up from my place on the couch to see Benedict and Lucy at the piano. Benedict looked almost seven now—tall for his age, lean and pale, with black curly hair framing his egg shaped visage. He was much like Mark’s oldest son, Abraham—stoic, disciplined, punctual, quiet, attentive, determined, sensitive, and fiercely independent, kind and generous. He was the child who would give up his lunch for another who was hungry, who would learn sign language to communicate with a mute child in his class, who would buy a candy for a homeless child. His twin, and our other son, William, were much like each other, differing only in physicality. William also had a rebellious streak to him, and was much more vocal about it, something which Emmett had only too much fun furthering. While Ben was Carlisle’s clone, William was Jasper’s.
“That’s a C, dear,” I said, listening to what Benedict was playing, a melody of his own, and one he was composing for Lucy, “Maybe you should try an F.” Ben didn’t look at me, but tried the change anyway. With the way he hummed and nodded, and then picked up a pencil to make the correction in the music sheet, I knew my suggestion had been right.
“Thanks, Dad.” He nodded quietly, and turned to Lucy to play it to her again, from the top. I smiled at him and made for the kitchen, where the ladies were cooking for the other mouths.
William and Abraham were sitting at the counter—hideously violating Esme’s rule of not having books on the table. The counter was cluttered with tomes about the civil war and the Emancipation Proclamation, but Esme, who was frying chicken couldn’t care to check the boys. It was probably Jasper who had supplied the books.
I caught sight of Bella chopping the celery and smiled as a distant memory came to mind. One of the things that made her glad about being a vampire was that she was able to chop vegetables and meat with inhuman speed. That, to her, was a huge improvement from her human days when she had to be careful so as not to chop her own finger off. However, today her attention was focused more on the phone than the celery. Of course, she was expecting the clouds to rain after the long dry spell.
“You really think?” I came up behind her, asking softly. Too much talking would make the boys start clicking their tongues.
“Yeah. It’s been too long.” She sighed, but it was a hopeful one.
“Exactly. It’s been too long.” I said. I don’t know if it was my perennial pessimism, but I always thought that each of Leah’s calls would be the last one.
“She will call, Edward. I’m sure of it.” Bella reiterated, and as always, I left her to it.
So, I was hardly surprised when the phone rang and Bella ran to it. A moment after, I heard her voice, “Leah, hey.”
“Hey Bella, how are you?”
“I . . . I’m fine. How are you? And Happy Birthday.” Bella smiled into the phone. By this time, all of us save Mark and Katherine had gathered in the living room.
“I’m good, thanks. Uh, thank you. How’s everyone? Are the babies good?”
“Yeah, they’re beautiful. They’re growing fast. I was just cooking for them.”
“So . . . what are you up to these days?”
“Uh, I’m busy, actually. I got a job as a pediatric nurse in the local hospital. Plus, I’ve got school so I hardly have time.”
“Are you taking care of yourself?”
“Yeah, yeah, I’m fine, absolutely fine. I have long shifts, so I can’t afford to skip meals . . . How’s Seth? And . . . have you talked to Mom?”
Bella hesitated a little, “Seth’s alright. Um, he started college so he’s pretty busy these days. He’s always tired. I tell him he works too hard, but when does he ever listen?”
“Yeah, that sounds like him . . . and . . . Mom?”
“She’s okay too. Um,” Bella looked towards me for help, and I nodded, giving her my support, “I talked to Charlie today. Sue’s worried, Leah. She misses you. She hasn’t spoken to you in over a year. Why don’t you call her?”
There was a long silence at the other end.
“I don’t want to worry her, Bella. She knows I’m safe, and that I’m okay. Let her be okay with this, you know. Plus, you can tell her what’s up with me. You talk to Charlie on a pretty regular basis.”
“That’s just it, Leah. I can’t: I can’t talk to Sue. I can’t tell her what’s up with you, because it saddens her. She wants to talk to you, Leah. I’m a third party. Do you know how much it hurts her when she has to find out about her own daughter from me?”
“You’re her daughter too.”
“It’s not the same thing, Leah. Just . . . call her once, okay? Let her know what you told me. Let her have some . . . reassurance, please?”
“Okay . . . Okay, I will.”
“Okay, I gotta go. I’ll talk to you later?”
“Yeah, okay. Bye, Leah. Take care.”
Bella put down the phone with a heavy heart, and the feeling resonated in Ben’s tunes which suddenly turned somber. I put my arms around Bella. Of course we knew Leah wasn’t going to call Sue, or Seth or Jacob. It was too hard for her. They always persuaded her to come back, which was the one thing she proclaimed she couldn’t do. She had escaped to flee from her memories, not to go back to them.
“I hate Alistair.” Bella sighed, “I hate him, and I will never forgive him for what he did.”
“We all do, love. We all do.”