Good afternoon. I’m sure everyone knows and understands how what had just happened affected Carlisle. But I seriously doubt anyone really understands how it affected me. Yes, I understand we have more mind readers in the area than ever before. But perhaps—other than Rogue—not too many people can read your soul.
So while Carlisle was out hunting with the boys—he was still feeling weak and was listening to Rogue’s advice about hunting more often to get his strength—I took an old notebook out from a cupboard that I used to write recipes on and decided to write out my feelings. No matter how much I adore Carlisle and how much I love speaking to him for hours and hours, some things just can’t be voiced through words. So just like others before me, I will write down what I feel and staple it into his diary for him to read and share with you. That way you can understand everything through my eyes.
Now you all have to understand, I didn’t care one bit about the whole Ashley/Carrie situation because as immortals, mortal drama doesn’t affect us. Yes I was very upset and sad about all the havoc she created, but when it came to personal danger for us, she was nothing but a flee. When it was all said and done, if she ever came after me personally, I would have just snapped her neck and gotten that over with. I’m sure you know I’m not a cold-blooded killer, but I will defend myself however I see fit if the need arises. Needless, to say I’m glad she is on death row and is out of our hair for good.
However, this whole ordeal with Ferguson and having my husband, my love, the very purpose of my existence, writhing in pain on the ground with his arm literally torn off almost made want to throw up and pass out at the same time. When Ferguson turned his attention to me saying that I would become his after he destroyed Carlisle and my family, I had the worst kind of flashback you can imagine. I felt like I was back in my mortal life and barely escaping the clutches of Charles, my horrific husband from that time. For a brief moment while we were all paralyzed, I felt like I was back on that cliff ready to jump.
I know Edward read my mind and the look of anguish on his face said it all. He remembers that time all too well himself. I knew, without a shadow of a doubt, that if it wasn’t for the Watchers saving everyone, it would have gone exactly the way Ferguson had said it would. I would have either run away from him or fought him until he destroyed me too. I would never have stood for being touched by another man, especially not someone as grotesque and murderous as Ferguson.
Amy had something interesting to say when she chased the last one into the forest after Rogue destroyed the other 3. She said that just before she decimated him she read his mind and figured out their plan. They had planned to come here, destroy all of us, then go to Denali and take care of our cousins after which—since there was apparently no more Volturi—create a full-blown newborn army numbering in the millions and take over the world! How sick is that? What they never counted on was the existence of the Watchers.
Ferguson wasn’t that much older than Carlisle. When Carlisle was turned, he was maybe about 30 years old himself—post transformation I mean. What made him go on this rampage and harm innocent people is beyond me. I sit here trembling as I write each letter, each word. Because our family is so large, and mostly all of the attention is focused on the more outspoken members, I am often left behind in a sense, or the background of my family. A lot of times that’s just fine with me, especially now that we have the Watchers here. We feel safer than ever.
Other times I feel that, even though I am loved, the people around me, save for the wolves who can’t get enough of my cooking, don’t really appreciate all that I do for them. I must admit that I often feel taken for granted; like I’m supposed to be there kind of like part of the furniture. I am Carlisle’s wife and that’s really it. What do I have really to contribute to this family other than being a chef to our oversized wolves? It’s like everyone has someone but me; I’m not talking about mates. We are all finally paired off. I mean when it comes to best friends: Bella has Leah—which kind of makes Alice jealous and it’s cute. Michelle and Nessie are inseparable. Kim and Rosalie have found a common ground with the whole fixing-of-cars thing. Amy and Corin are always together.
I have caught Rogue looking at me strangely a few times, but knowing that she’s a mind reader, I’m sure she’s figured all this out already. Sometimes, I just want to go for a walk and see if anyone, save for my husband, would even notice my absence. I think I’ll save that experiment until Carlisle is back on his feet 100%. I don’t want to be the careless wife who disappears just to prove a point when her husband needs her most. I will speak with Rogue first, though; I want her to know what is going on, if she hasn’t figured it, out and ask her to mask my thoughts so that no one will know what I’m thinking.
I’m serious about doing this experiment. Sometimes, my family has become so complacent that I fear I’m not a valuable part of the family. Who knows? Maybe I’ll go visit the Denali’s during my absence. They haven’t heard the entire Ferguson story yet. I haven’t traveled alone in such a long time. I wonder if I even have the nerve to do it. But I must, I have to show myself that I’m self-sufficient. This whole incident with Ferguson has shown me one thing: that tragedy can happen when you least expect it and you have to be able to fend for yourself.
I’ve always been protected by Carlisle, as he was the one who turned me, and Edward was already there. So I technically have never been on my own. As our family grew and expanded, I fell in love with every single one. I know in my heart of hearts that they love me too. The real question is: do they need me? Bella, Rose, Alice, and now Leah, know how to cook. Rose and Nessie can crochet and most of the ladies can tend to the garden. I need to go on this journey of self-discovery.
Who am I really? Who have I become? Can I survive without my family if the worst thing imaginable happened? I kind of understand the feeling of how human mothers feel when their children become teenagers and adults and no longer need them. I wonder how they deal with that? I imagine it’s far easier with humans, as they have short life spans compared to us immortals, and these things perhaps motivate them to take up sports or some other hobbies. I think I’m worn out from all the hobbies.
This scary event with Ferguson made me really want……no……more like need to reevaluate my life. It’s not the money, the large houses, the material things. I adore my family but I feel like I’m losing my sense of self. What do I contribute to this existence? In order to live a totally fulfilled immortal life and appreciate everything given to me fully, I must discover who I really am. I must understand whether my family really hold me in high regard or are they’re just so used to Mother Esme that I’m just there for sake of being there.
I’m not just a chauffeur. I’m not just the chef. I’m not just the wife of Carlisle the doctor, and I’m not just the mother, aunt and sister, or whatever story we are presenting at the time. But who am I? And I won’t be satisfied, nor will I stop looking, until I figure out the answers to those questions.
I hear Carlisle and the boys returning; time to put my best game face on and go tend to my husband. I really hope this hunting trip made him strong again so he’s back to his usual self. I firmly believe that this experiment will also strengthen the bond that Carlisle and I have. Complacency and lack of showing kindness towards others is deadly, even for immortals. As I walk downstairs, I see Rogue standing there. She is looking at me and only me and she nods softly. I nod back. Then I hear her voice in my head:
“Just tell me when you want to do it and where you see yourself going and we’ll do this. I completely agree that this is something you need to do. We all have moments when we question ourselves and our own identity. It’s a very important thing to know. And your family does need to figure out just how much you mean to them, which I suspect is a ton, but they need to learn how to show it. You’re absolutely right that ‘complacency and lack of showing kindness towards others is deadly, even for immortals’. So just give me a heads up and we’ll set this up. In the meantime, I’ll try to keep your thoughts as covered from everyone as possible.”
She then winks at me, greets Carlisle and the boys and walks on her merry way. They look at her then me with a strange gaze, shrug it off, then go into the living room. Carlisle greets me with a kiss and a hug and then proceeds to follow the others into the living room and sit on the couch. When he notices that I am still standing at the door and not following him, he pats the seat next to him. I sit down as he puts his arm around me.
“Is everything all right sweetheart?” he asks as the others don’t even bother looking our way.
I nod. “How was the hunting trip?” I ask nonchalantly.
“It went great. We think one more and I’ll be totally healed. Plus I don’t feel the tingling sensation in my arm or hand anymore, so that’s a plus! Perhaps I can get back to work next week,” he says with a big smile that melts my heart.
“That’s wonderful, honey. It’ll be good to get back to normal,” I say.
I feel bad that I will have to cause him heartache over my absence but I do feel this is the only way and I know my thoughts are covered totally by Rogue when I start thinking about this. Besides, she’ll be sort of shadowing me the whole time so I know if I get in trouble along the way, she’s not too far behind. It’s time to figure out who the real Esme is and whether she’s needed by people other than Carlisle.
Wish me luck.
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***I’d like to thank everyone for their patience while waiting for the website to go back up! Here’s what you’ve all been waiting for!! xoxo Olga***
We all held our breath; you could have heard a pin drop in that court room. The only sound was the tick-tock of the clock on the side of the room. The foreman was looking at the paper in his hand. The judge had asked Ashley and her defense attorney to stand as the verdict was read.
“We the jury find the defendant Carrie Cunningham . . . ” there was a slight pause and then he said, “Guilty.”
She was found guilty. The rest of what the foreman said was drowned out by the applause in the room and the sheer elation of practically everyone there. And she wasn’t just found guilty, but on all counts. Guilty of impersonating a medical professional. Guilty of using a poison with the intent to harm. Guilty of stalking and harassment. Guilty of attempted murder. Guilty of premeditated murder. Guilty of capital murder.
After the verdict was read, the judge thanked the jury and dismissed them. He was going to determine the sentencing himself. At this point the defense had one last option, and that was to try and spare Ashley’s life; because the prosecution was going full steam ahead with asking for the death penalty. Now it was time for the impact statements. We really didn’t have an order of those so the judge gave the DA and those of us who had decided to do it some time to figure out in what order we were going to go.
It was decided that Charlotte was to go first to get it out of the way, followed by Mr. Yang’s daughter, the relatives of those people she murdered cold-bloodedly and finally, I would go. I knew exactly what I was going to say. Before we went, Ashley’s attorney had a chance to address the court and after our statements, Ashley herself would be allowed to address the court as well as her victims. And you know something, I’m not calling her Ashley anymore because that’s not her real name. She may want to live in a fantasy world, but even our immortal world is reality, so from now on—until we no longer have to address her or talk about her—I will call her Carrie.
The defense attorney stood up before the judge and said, “Your honor, my client has been found guilty but I implore you to spare her life. Death isn’t the answer. She will not learn anything if she receives the death penalty. And she won’t receive the necessary treatment for her illnesses. She deserves a chance to make amends and right her wrongs. Thank you.”
Well that was short, I thought as we filed back into the courtroom. Charlotte and her fiancé then Ben walked to the podium that stood between the defense and DA tables and addressed the courtroom in a statement she had written. Her hands were shaking but Ben was there to support her as we all were.
“Good afternoon your honor and everyone present,” Charlotte said. “Carrie Cunningham doesn’t deserve to live. I have never been a real believer in the death penalty, which is kind of ironic since I’m originally from Texas and that state executes people on a regular basis. But as someone said to me once, ‘You’ll become a believer once it’s happened to you or someone you love or care for.’ They were right. Ms. Cunningham poisoned me and then brutally attacked me with a massive butcher knife that I believe you only use to slaughter sheep. Why? Because of a perceived notion that the object of her obsession liked me better than her. Even if that was the case, which it obviously wasn’t, who does that? Where does that appear in the world of logic? I truly believe that Ms. Cunningham is crazy, but she’s not insane. She’s as crazy as Aileen Wuornos was when she killed 5 or 6 men in Florida because she wanted to rob them and used the guise that they all raped her to justify doing it. Was she insane? No. Neither is Ms. Cunningham. What Ms. Cunningham is, is ruthless, calculating, methodical, cold-blooded, and vicious. She needs to be kept away from society as a whole, even those in prison. She will do this and again. Please don’t let my suffering and the loss of our patients at the hands of this snake be in vain. Thank you.”
The courtroom was silent as the judge thanked Charlotte and all you heard were the sobs of the relatives of the victims. Carrie, meanwhile, just sat there stone-faced and all but glared after Charlotte as she walked back to her seat. Then all the others who went before went up to say their peace. Mr. Yang’s daughter’s emotional statement brought everyone to tears. Even heartless Carrie couldn’t glare at her. She just sat there with her eyes down. Maybe it was finally getting through to her that she wasn’t going to skate by on her “insanity” crap.
Finally, it was my turn.
“Dr. Cullen, would please like to give us your statement?” The judge motioned me to approach the podium. At the mere mention of my name, Carrie’s head snapped back up and she looked at me with wide, startled eyes. I walked up to the podium and addressed the court. I didn’t have any papers with me, didn’t need them; I was after all a vampire with a super memory. But of course they didn’t know that. But I digress.
“Thank you, your honor, members of the court, ladies and gentlemen. I at first didn’t know whether I was going to be coming here today and speaking with you but then I decided to do it. I’m here on behalf of myself, my wife, and family, but most importantly, I’m here for the people who cannot speak for themselves and those are the patients who were in my care and the care of the hospital where I work; all of whom Ms. Cunningham murdered. I’m speaking on behalf of their families for whom it is too hard to get up here and address all of you. As a doctor, I have witnessed death in many different forms; some more gruesome than others. As a doctor, it is my number one priority to save a life, to spare a life, to make someone better.”
As I was speaking, Carrie’s eyes started to get hopeful, maybe I would actually ask for leniency on her behalf. What she heard next, smashed all of her hope into little pieces.
“However, in this case . . . I do not wish for Ms. Cunningham’s life to be spared. I fervently wish that you, your honor, sentence her to death. She has brought immeasurable pain to my loved ones and those who I work with, as well—if not more—for my patients and their families. That makes me very angry with Ms. Cunningham. It wasn’t her right to play God. The world contrary to her thought process revolves around the sun and not around her. Her obsession with me and perceived notion that I would leave my wife for her was childish and stupid. Ms. Cunningham is a narcissistic drama queen with a superiority complex and that’s where her so called mental disorders end. She’s very good at what she does having perfected her method in 2 other states before coming here. Your honor, this is a woman who even now as we all give our statements, still sits defiant and unapologetic. I beg of you, send her to where she belongs—and that’s straight to hell. Thank you.”
That last line elicited a gasp from Carrie as she tried to say something but couldn’t. Without even looking back, I then and sat next to my wife as the rest of my family patted me on the arms and back depending on where they were sitting or standing. The daughter of Mr. Yang as well as the families of the other victims all gave me grateful looks and nods of approval; I nodded back.
“Ms. Cunningham, this is your opportunity to address the court and your victims. Is there anything you would like to say?”
Carrie thought about it for a few seconds, than hopped up to her feet. She first looked at the judge then turned around and looked around the room until her eyes landed on me. She frowned. She looked back at the judge and said “Your honor, is it so wrong to love someone and go after him when you believe he’s interested in you? Is that a crime? Hospitals are for helping people, yes—but hey . . . it’s life, right? Shit happens! I don’t belong in hell. I belong alive and well and free. And all those people who called me names should all go to hell themselves. They’re pathetic! I know right from wrong and I know that I am RIGHT!”
With that she sat down in a huff and crossed her arms defiantly over her chest as we all looked her with utter dismay. She was never going to admit it. If family members came to seek an apology from her, they were sorely disappointed. She wasn’t giving it up.
Now it was time for the judge to speak. It seemed to me that he had made up his mind regarding the sentencing. A nod from Edward and Rogue meant my thinking was correct. All right, well this was it. All or nothing! Two choices were on the table; life without the possibility of parole, or the death penalty.
“Ladies and gentlemen, I have heard everything I had to hear today and then some. Ms. Cunningham will you please rise?” She and her defense stood up. She still had her arms crossed.
“Ms. Cunningham, the brutality of your crimes is unthinkable. Your lack of remorse, compassion, or caring makes me believe that you are a truly sad and soulless creature. You don’t have any concept on what compassion even is. If you are anything; it’s a total and complete psychopath. Therefore, my decision is thus. Ms. Cunningham, I sentence you to death by lethal injection. While you are waiting that date, you will be reprimanded to the New Hampshire State Prison for Woman until the date of your execution, which will be decided upon at a later time. Your crimes leave me no choice and sparing your life is out of the question. You didn’t give your victims a chance at life; why should I give you that chance now? You will not have any further contact with any members of the staff at the hospital, especially Dr. Cullen and his family; there will be a permanent restraining order placed against you on behalf of his family until the date of your execution. Your crimes are despicable and so are you. That is my decision. Thank you everyone for your hard work and effort. Court is adjourned!”
As soon as he said that everyone started cheering and hugging. We did it! We won the whole entire thing. And got the death penalty. As we were all cheering and talking excitedly, Carrie was being handcuffed to be led away but as usual she was determined to have the last word.
“So you think you are going to kill me? Yeah, right! I’m invincible, you hear me? Invincible!”
The guards proceeded to shackle her completely so she wouldn’t be able to move as she continued to holler. Then out of nowhere, Rogue was right in front of her. She didn’t even care if anyone saw her lightning speed approach. Rogue got right into her face as Carrie’s eyes went wide.
“Shut up, you crazy bitch. It’s over; you lost! It’ll be nice to see them stick that needle into your arm as you gasp for your absolute last breath of air. Gasp, gasp, gasp. And then down to hell you go! Make sure to give the devil a great big kiss; he’s right up your alley!”
Rogue whispered all of that into her ear through clenched teeth, and in that horrifyingly deep voice of hers that she only uses when the shit hits the fan. It gives even vampires’ goosebumps. So no one really heard what she said other than Carrie and all of the immortals in the room. The officers didn’t care, they just wanted to throw her in her cell until she was transported to the prison, lock the door, and throw away the key until her execution date. Besides, they all knew Rogue and knew that if she was up in someone’s ear, whatever she had to say wasn’t pleasant anyways.
After Rogue said what she said, she turned and walked away without looking back. Carrie was standing there in shocked silence with her mouth gaping open as the officers had to push her to get her to move. We all walked out of the courtroom and met everyone, and I mean everyone outside of the court house on the steps where there was a ton of media that the FBI quickly moved aside so family members could quickly get to their cars. They all left very quickly, but not before coming up to me and thanking me personally for all I said and had done for them. Some even hugged me, like Mr. Yang’s daughter for example. I knew her father would be released from the hospital in the next week or so, so that was wonderful news. I would check up on him a few times before then.
Charlotte was standing off to the side with Ben and her parents. When most of everyone left, except my family and the Watchers, they came over to me. Charlotte and I hugged. We didn’t need to say anything. But then Charlotte turned to Alice, who was standing off to the side and speaking softly with Rose.
Alice immediately focused her attention on Charlotte and walked over. “Yes, Charlotte?” Alice, of course, knew exactly what Charlotte was going to ask and was trying very hard to keep still. We all had to hold back our laughter.
“Now I know this is probably too soon, and too soon for me as well, but I was wondering, could you please help me plan my wedding to Ben here? Dr. Cullen has said on multiple occasions how amazing you are at those kinds of things. I mean, I’m not ready yet to plan it but when I am . . . and you know, fully recovered, I can’t afford a wedding planner. They are so very expensive,” Charlotte said.
“Really? You want me to plan your wedding? I would absolutely love to! Just tell me when you’re ready and we can sit down at a Starbucks or something and go over what you guys want, or you can come to our house. It’s totally up to you! And don’t worry about the price, I don’t charge a dime for my extraordinary planning skills.” Everyone laughed at that one. Looked like our little pixie had another wedding lined up to plan. At least she’ll keep busy.
As we all hugged and before we dispersed, we had invited Charlotte, Ben, and her parents to our house for dinner the following evening, which they graciously accepted. Bella and Leah winked at each other as they were going to help Esme cook. Finally, this large dark cloud had begun to lift off of all of us. Even though there will be appeals on behalf of Carrie’s attorneys to postpone the death penalty. We hope sooner or later it’ll get done.
This God willing that would be the last time we would ever see or hear of Carrie Cunningham!
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Today it’s my turn to take the stand. To show Esme how much it mattered to me that she was so supportive, I had two dozen red roses delivered to the house from 1800Flowers. She was very pleasantly surprised and gave me a huge hug and kiss for them. She put one bouquet in the living room and one in our master bedroom. I was set to testify at 10 a.m., and had asked a few days before if it was possible for my entire family to be there during the process. Of course the DA made sure to reserve seats for them all behind him. Everyone in my family went that day including all of the Watchers. Talk about a group gathering.
In the first row behind the DA sat: Esme, Rogue, Alexander, Amy, Keith, and Corin. Second row were: Peter, Edward, Bella, Nessie, Emmett, and Rose. Third row were: Jasper, Alice, Leah, Seth, and Jacob. And in the last row were Michelle and her parents.
I was standing outside of the courtroom gathering my thoughts before being called. Esme and Rogue stood outside with me. Esme kept rubbing my back to sooth me while Rogue was trying to keep me calm. And surprisingly, I was. I knew what I had to do, what I had to say up there. The defense could try to discredit me all they wanted, but I wouldn’t let them win. At exactly 10 a.m., the bailiff called me into the courtroom. I took a deep breath and followed him in.
Esme and Rogue walked in behind me and took their seats in the front row. I had one hell of a cheering section. I walked past the DA and defense tables where I knew she was sitting, staring at me. I walked to the stand where I raised my right hand and swore to tell the truth, and then was seated. I was wearing a suit and tie that morning. The DA got up first and walked up to me.
“Please state your full name and occupation for the court,” he said.
“Carlisle Cullen. And I work as a doctor at Hanover Medical Center.”
“Thank you Dr. Cullen. Can you please point out the woman who you knew as Ashley O’Donnell?”
I looked over at where she was sitting and pointed to her without blinking. She was wearing a flower dress with flats. Her hair was done nicely and she had make up on. She, however, was chained to both the floor and the desk. When I pointed at her, she blinked and smiled a hopeful smile at me. I directed my attention back to the DA, which, I could see out of the corner of my eye, made her frown.
“Please tell the court how you became acquainted with Ms. Cunningham?”
“Certainly. The hospital was in the process of hiring new staff, which included nurses. And while I was out for a few days on vacation, Dr. Connolly hired her along with 4 others who have already testified. My first day back from my vacation was when I met her along with the others. Ms. Cunningham and Ms. Clark were both to work for me while the remaining three nurses were taken up to the NICU.”
“It was Ms. Clark who eventually became the object of Ms. Cunningham’s rage and was attacked by her in the parking lot, isn’t that correct?”
“Yes, that is correct.”
“Only because she was trying to get between you and me! Don’t you get it?” Ashley boomed from her seat, staring straight at me. Everyone looked at her like she had two heads.
The judge rapped his gavel. “Order! Ms. Cunningham, you are to remain quiet during these proceedings, do I make myself clear?” the judge asked, sternly looking at her.
“Yes, your honor,” she said quietly while her attorney tried to quiet her down. She shifted uncomfortably in her seat.
“Continuing. Dr. Cullen, when did you notice something was out of the ordinary?”
“I would have to say it had to be around the time when my wife and I ran into her at the grocery store. When my wife and Ashley, or Ms. Cunningham, rather, shook hands, my wife later told me that Ms. Cunningham all but tried to rearrange her knuckles. Like she was showing dominance. My wife having a pretty strong hand shake herself wasn’t fazed, but still said that was beyond bizarre.”
“Yes, that certainly is. What about in the hospital or at any gathering? Wasn’t there a ski party at some point organized by Ms. Clark?”
“Yes, there was. That was another time when I felt Ms. Cunningham was acting inappropriately. She knew how to ski but insisted that I give her pointers, which I was glad to do. However, when we got to a certain point she pretended to fall and purposely pulled me down with her. I can’t really describe the look on her face but it would be that of someone who was ready and looking to be kissed. I was shocked and immediately revolted. She was aware that I am a married man. To still pull a stunt like that was ridiculous. I was feeling pretty uneasy after the fact. My family and I left the party not long afterward.”
“Dr. Cullen, do you believe Ms. Cunningham is mentally ill?”
“No, I do not.”
“Because she poisoned a good chunk of my staff multiple times, she killed patients, and had others code that barely survived, some with life long side effects. She knew the difference between right and wrong. Yes she stalked me and sent me a massive amount of flower arrangements with pretty creepy cards, but I believe that she uses the insanity defense only to suit her needs. She knows perfectly well what she is doing. She attacked Ms. Clark with a butcher knife. She admitted to me that she did it as well as all the other things. I have been a doctor for many years, Mr. Allen, and I know an insane person when I see one; Ms. Cunningham isn’t one of them.”
“But Dr. Cullen, in Ms. Cunningham’s mind, you were in a relationship. Wouldn’t that qualify her for the defense of not guilty by reason of insanity?”
“What goes on in Ms. Cunningham’s mind only Ms. Cunningham knows, but from what I have seen these last several months, Ms. Cunningham used the whole insanity gambit to cover up her actual crimes of poisoning, attempted murder, and murder.”
“If you had to classify your relationship with Ms. Cunningham, what would it be?”
“I didn’t have any relationship with Ms. Cunningham. She was a staff member at the hospital, nothing more, nothing less.”
“A staff member? You—you . . . how could you? I was the most important person in that hospital! Why are you lying?” Ashley sputtered and attempted to stand up but couldn’t due to her restraints. A few officers moved in to make sure she stayed seated.
“Ms. Cunningham! One more outburst from you and you’ll be removed from the court! Now sit down and be quiet!” the judge said coldly, rapping his gavel.
While everyone remained where they were—waiting for the defense and officers to calm Ashley down—I glanced at my family, who were all sitting there like shocked statues, shaking their heads.
Just then I heard a voice in my head; Rogue’s. “Don’t worry Carlisle, it’s almost over. Just remember to remind the jury every chance you get that she’s a killer and not an insane one. She’s using all her yelling to throw the DA off track. Of course she still believes you are in a relationship, but regardless, the most important thing is to keep hammering away at the point that she is a danger to society, has killed before, will kill again and has to receive death.” I nodded. The DA shook his head to clear it and looked away from the defense table to continue.
“Continuing. I hope all of these ridiculous outbursts aren’t hindering your testimony, Dr. Cullen.” The DA looked at me.
“Not at all, we’re all used to drama from her. One of my children called her a drama queen. Because when Ms. Cunningham doesn’t get what she wants, she throws these fits and tantrums. It’s quite childish really, for an adult. It’s also a way she used her supposed insanity to throw people off what’s really happening.”
“So are you saying she’s done this before to take attention away from something she was doing that was harming someone?”
“Correct. Most of the code red’s or poisonings would happen and then she would start acting out, so we would pay more attention to her as opposed to those that were in need of our actual help.”
“Let’s go back to the night that all of this came to a head. Can you please explain to the court what happened?”
“For starters, I arrived at my office to find one flower arrangement without a note. After doing my first rounds, I went back to my office to find 3 more. None of them had notes, and at first I thought that they were sent to me by mistake, but then when I asked the delivery guy who was still on the floor and he said that they were in fact for me. Because they didn’t have notes, I gave them away to some of my patients, who were extremely pleased to have them. Why waste beautiful flowers when you’re in a hospital? Continuing, when I returned home, my living room was nonexistent because of the literally hundreds of flower arrangements that covered it. There were notes this time and they were beyond creepy. I’m sure Agent Kramer has already shared those with all of you.
“After that, I had gotten an emergency call from Dr. Connolly saying that Ms. Clark had been stabbed. One of our patients coded and barely survived but was able to ID the woman who was in his room prior to his code red. I, and Mrs. Melanides, along with her husband and other family members, then rode to the hospital where we all met Agent Kramer and the rest I believe you know.”
“What did you do with all of the flower arrangements?”
“After Mrs. Melanides took several photos of them and sent them to Agent Kramer, we took them out in large garbage bags and burned them.”
Ashley’s eyes grew wide at that last part. She mouthed, “Burned them.”
“Burned them? Isn’t that a bit severe?”
“I don’t think so. After everything that we have been through we didn’t want to wait until the next trash day and look at them.” I shook my head and shuttered at the memory.
“No further questions,” the DA said and nodded toward the defense. “Your witness.”
As the defense attorney was trying to determine whether it was safe to stand up since his client didn’t seem all that stable, the door to the courtroom opened and Agent Kramer walked in. He found himself a seat next to Seth. We nodded at each other. He then looked over at Rogue, who felt his presence and smiled when she saw him. After that, he kept his eyes trained on Ashley. Rogue apparently texted him about Ashley’s outbursts already. He wanted to make sure he was there if anything else happened. Finally the defense sighed softly, stood up, and walked toward where I was sitting.
“Good morning, Dr. Cullen,” he said. This was the same way he opened with Rogue and then proceeded to badger her until the DA spoke up. I knew a lot was on the way but kept my cool.
“Good morning,” I said clearly.
“Tell me Dr. Cullen, isn’t it true that you gave my client a ride home from work her first day at work?”
“Yes, it is true. It was pouring rain and she was standing by the bus stop getting soaked.”
“But Ms. Cunningham had a car.”
“That I didn’t know until much later.”
“You didn’t give any of the other nurses a ride home when most of them don’t have cars. Why single out Ms. Cunningham?”
“I am aware other nurses don’t have cars, however, every nurse and doctor ends on different shifts so it’s not like I could just wait and give everyone a ride. Ms. Cunningham and I happened to end at the same time that day.”
“Isn’t it true that when you drove Ms. Cunningham to her apartment, you sat in the car for another 10 minutes or so, getting to know each other?”
“Yes, that is true. Is there something wrong with trying to get to know the person you’re going to be working closely with?”
“Of course not. But there is something wrong when you give that person hints that you are interested in them.”
“I beg your pardon? What hints?” I asked suspiciously.
“Well for starters, telling my client that you know she’ll find that right person in the future and soon. You can’t see that as being a little too forward?”
“Objection! Council is reaching,” the DA said.
“Sustained. Mr. Woods stay focused,” the judge said.
“My apologies; allow me to rephrase. My client clearly felt that you were coming on to her with that comment.”
“I can’t control how someone will feel based on something I say.”
“Dr. Cullen, you are married, correct?”
“Yes, that is correct.”
“Very happily.” What kind of dumb-ass question was that? I thought to myself. Edward and the Watchers smiled after reading my mind.
“So you would never leave your wife for my client, is that correct? Despite making her believe that you would.”
“I would never leave my wife for anyone, especially not your client. And I never said anything regarding leaving my wife for Ms. Cunningham. That is all part of her make-believe world where she pretends to hide from facing the truth about what she has done,” I said.
“What????? Part of my make-believe world????? Are you out of your mind?!? You love me! I know it . . . I feel it! You’ve smiled at me! You drove me home, no one else—EVER! Your wife is ugly! I bet you even sleep in separate bedrooms because of the fact that you can’t look at her! Pathetic! I’m beautiful and perfect for you! I can make you so HAPPY!
Ashley was screeching at the top of her lungs by this point, as the judge rapped his gavel and ordered her to be removed from the court. Agent Kramer and Rogue jumped into the fray to assist the other officers. She was resisting as they were ordering her to stop resisting.
Everyone was looking at her with wide eyes, including the jury. As she was literally being carried away she screamed out again.
“He came here for me today! He came to see me! Because I’m beautiful and he missed me! I love you and you love me, Carlisle! I know it, damn it! I know it! I will KILL as many people as I want. FUCK THEM AND FUCK ALL OF YOU TO HELL!”
That last portion was howled so loudly that I thought the walls would shake. Holy hell . . . what a freak! At that point the defense, who was shaking from head to foot, said, “No further questions,” and the judge dismissed me from the stand. He also called it an end for the day.
From then on, Ashley wouldn’t be allowed to be present at her trial. She would sit in her cell while the others testified. That was a good thing, especially for Charlotte who really was stressing about seeing her again. I’m glad she went ape shit on me and caused herself to be removed from the room so that Charlotte wouldn’t have to deal with her. I couldn’t care less though, granted that performance was something else and a half.
As my family and I left the courtroom and court house, I knew only one thing: I really, really needed a glass of wine, or three.
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Before the trial even started I was asked not to be in the courtroom for the whole entire thing, as we weren’t sure how Ashley or Carrie would react. It wasn’t really known if she would behave when I took the stand, but that’s a risk everyone, including me, was willing to take. I didn’t think I wanted to be there, to tell you the truth. Hearing all of that from the beginning, was just way too much, even for me, to handle. None of the others from hospital were going to watch the trial either. They were going to come when it was their day to testify, and that was it.
The only one who pretty much sat through the whole trial was Rogue. After being in law enforcement for such a long time, things like that were still of great interest to her. She was with the feds for 15 years, but was apparently also a consultant to the CIA for another 20 at some point, years ago. She knows government secrets we can’t even imagine. But of course, you know her . . . our enigma . . . she’s not going to tell us anything. Not like we want to know the government’s secrets. We have our own to keep and live with.
But I digress. I, along with Esme, was going to attend Rogue’s testimony because we wanted to see how she handled it to better understand what we would have to do. This was all new territory for me. I had never participated in the human world that much. But thanks to Ms. Cunningham, none of us immortals had much of a choice. The trial had started on a Monday, and by Wednesday they were ready to start with the eyewitnesses. So that was the day Esme and I went to court because Rogue was up first. We had received our order of testifying: Rogue, then Agent Kramer, then Mr. Yang—who was allowed to give a videotaped deposition since he was still in the hospital and nobody, including the judge, wanted to jeopardize his health.
After Mr. Yang, it was Bill, Shandy, Carol, Melanie, and Betsy. Followed by the 4 nurses that Ashley poisoned, and then it would be my turn. After I was done, the DA was bringing the 3 residents that saw Charlotte being attacked by Ashley in the parking lot and who ultimately saved her life. And lastly, Charlotte herself. I had spoken with the DA; the defense had very few, if any, witnesses to bring forth—other than a slew of psychiatrists. In any case it was going to be interesting.
On Wednesday Rogue took the stand. Esme and I sat in the very back row behind the DA. Just before she took the stand, the bailiff asked everyone to rise.
“Would everyone please rise for the honorable Judge Justin Hollister.” Then the judge walked out of a little room and sat down in his chair before the court.
“Please be seated,” he said. Everyone sat down. “Will the prosecution please call its first witness.”
“The prosecution calls Rose Melanides to the stand,” The DA said.
Rogue walked into the courtroom looking sharp; she had a black suit on with a red business shirt underneath. Her long black hair was done up in a French braid and she had very minimal makeup. She was also wearing low healed black shoes. She looked like she worked as a top ranking manager at Morgan Stanley or something. The bailiff walked up to the stand which she was standing next to.
“Please raise your right hand.” Rogue complied. “Do you solemnly swear to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth so help you God?”
“Yes, I do,” she said without hesitation. Afterwards she sat down on the witness stand. She had her now-famous poker face that betrayed zip emotion.
“Mrs. Melanides, can you please tell the court what you did and do for a living,” The DA who was standing not too far from her said.
“I worked with the Federal Bureau of Investigation in Washington DC for 15 years, and since then have continued to be a contract consultant for them as well as other agencies both domestically and internationally.” Rogue spoke clearly.
“Thank you. Now would you please tell us how you came to know Ms. Cunningham, or Ashley as you knew her?”
“By accident, actually. I moved to Hanover with my husband and family fairly recently. We live about 3 miles from the Cullen property. We became friends with the family almost immediately and I was on my way to see Dr. Cullen and his wife when I caught Ms. Cunningham sneaking around on their property.”
“What do you mean caught sneaking around? Can you please be a bit more specific?” The DA asked.
“Certainly. The Cullen’s are very private people and have ‘No Trespassing’ signs all around their property. To have someone hiding in the bushes spying on the house isn’t exactly something that happens every day.”
“Could Ms. Cunningham been invited to visit the Cullen’s? Do you think it was a misunderstanding?”
“Absolutely not. Ms. Cunningham was stalking Dr. Cullen. He never invited her to his property. And even if he did, a normal person would walk to the front door, not hide behind the bushes in front of the house near the mailbox. Besides, Dr. Cullen was surprised to hear that she was there. He told me himself that he never invited her, and he was even surprised she knew where he lived, as no one from the Hospital had ever been to his house. Other than Mr. Connolly and his head nurse Mrs. Keller, nobody knew his address.”
“Can you please tell the court what happened after you found Ms. Cunningham in that location?”
“I asked her what she was doing here, to which she lied and said that quote, ‘I was waiting for Carlisle.’ For starters, according to Dr. Cullen, she had never called him by his first name before, and secondly, why would anyone wait for someone hidden in the bushes? When I called her out on it, she became nasty and belligerent.”
“Did she leave soon after?” The DA asked.
“It took a little convincing but she eventually left, yes.”
“You have worked with Agent Kramer prior to this, isn’t that correct?”
“Yes he was my partner during all my years with the FBI.”
“Whose idea was it to use Dr. Cullen as bait to lure out Ms. Cunningham in order to arrest her?”
“His; agent Kramer’s, that is.”
“Thank you; no further questions,” The DA said and, as he walked back to his seat, he acknowledged the defense and said, “Your witness.”
The defense attorney looked nothing like the crisp and polished DA. He was a man in his late 50s wearing an old graying suit and tie. He had horn-rimmed glasses. Because of the sheer amount of people in the courtroom, I couldn’t see Ashley properly. The one thing I could see was the top of her head and it was blond again. The defense attorney stood up, buttoned his suit jacket and stepped forward toward Rogue, who continued to sit on the witness stand and wait for the cross-examination. The poker face never betrayed an ounce of emotion; she was the consummate professional. The jury could see that. The jury itself was surprisingly diverse, given our small town. There were seven men and five women. Four of the jurors were African American, and one was Asian. It was obvious that a few were students at Dartmouth.
“Good morning Mrs. Melanides,” the defense attorney greeted.
“Good morning,” Rogue replied.
“Mrs. Melanides, isn’t it true that you attacked my client while she was on the Cullen property and you omitted it from your previous testimony to cover up your actions?”
“Absolutely not, on both counts. I answered the questions I was asked for starters.”
“You physically attacked my client, did you not?”
“I acted in self-defense. When I told your client to leave the property she hauled back and attempted to punch me in the face.”
“You verbally threatened my client with bodily harm if she didn’t leave and then you nearly broke her arm and pushed her to the ground and kicked her, isn’t that true?” His voice rose dramatically.
“Absolutely not, your client is lying.”
“Or perhaps it is you who is lying, Mrs. Melanides!”
“That all depends on how you look at it and who is on trial here,” Rogue replied, her eyes narrowing. Uh oh.
“You didn’t answer the question,” the defense retorted.
“Objection! Badgering the witness!” the DA hopped up and said.
“Sustained. Mr. Woods, stick with the questions. The witness is not on trial here,” Judge Hollister warned.
“No further questions, your honor,” Mr. Woods said, and returned to his desk where Ashley was sitting with a cocky smile on her face.
It was the first time Rogue had looked at her. But instead of getting a rise out of Rogue, she would be disappointed as the DA said, “Re-direct your honor.”
“Mrs. Melanides, apparently there has been some confusion with this fight according to Mr. Woods, would you please tell us exactly what happened?”
“Certainly. As I mentioned, when I asked repeatedly for Ms. Cunningham to leave the property, she hauled off to punch me in the face. Thanks to my extensive knowledge of martial arts, that didn’t happen as I caught her fist, brought her arm around to her back and then pushed her to the ground. I did not kick her or in any other way cause her bodily harm. She ran back to her car shortly after that. That was the end of our confrontation. The whole thing from the time I found her crouched in the bushes to when she ran to her car lasted a maximum of seven minutes.”
“Thank you, Mrs. Melanides. No further questions.”
“If there are no further questions from either parties, you may step down Mrs. Melanides,” The judge said. Rogue nodded and got off the witness stand.
She walked past the DA, with whom she shook hands and proceeded to walk toward where Esme and I were sitting. Ashley’s eyes followed her the whole time and they grew wide when she saw Esme and me getting up just as Rogue passed us and follow her out the door. Neither I nor Esme spared Ashley a glance, though I could feel her eyes boring a hole into the back of my head.
Next to take the stand was Agent Kramer, who was waiting outside of the courtroom to be called. Rogue approached him and he smiled.
“Nice job, Rose! I loved how you put the defense in his place. She actually had the balls to say you kicked her. Cry me a damn river!”
We all laughed.
“Thanks, Scott. You’re up next so do what you do best . . . play poker!” she said with a smile.
“Aye-Aye, boss!” he said with a salute. Just then a bailiff came to get him. “Showtime! I’ll give you a call once I’m done. Tell Alexander I said hello.”
“Will do. Good luck, and kick ass!” she said with a wink. He nodded and disappeared into the courtroom.
We then exited the courthouse altogether. Esme and I had come by car, and Rogue had apparently flown there. But we invited her to drive back with us. She agreed. I knew it was still a few days before it was my turn to testify. Rogue said that Agent Kramer would probably spend at least 2 days on the stand as he’s the lead investigator in this whole case. There’s a ton of paperwork and Ashley’s giant list of charges to go through and process. So according to Rogue, it won’t be until the following week before I get to go up there and tell my story. The whole family promised to be there, as did all of the Watchers. I have no idea where the heck they will fit everyone. But at least I get to enjoy a few more days before reliving that nightmare on the stand.
In the coming days, the others would testify about everything they knew, saw, and experienced. Because Ashley poisoned pretty much everyone accept Carol, Shandy, and Bill, there was a lot to talk about when it came to her favorite poison of choice; arsenic. As each testified and left the stand, they said it was like lifting a giant boulder off their shoulders. It took longer than a week to go through all of those people before me. The 4 poisoned nurses had just finished up their testimony, which was short compared to some of the others. I knew that the following day it was going to be me on that stand. Oh boy.
As Rogue had said previously; ShowTime!
To be continued . . .
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The day after Rogue told me, told all of us, that I was asked to testify in court against Ashley, I was still trying to figure out what was to be done and said. I obviously had to do it; there wasn’t exactly an out. I had to testify. I told Rogue I would do it and the rest of the family looked on worriedly. She called Scott Kramer and told him to relay my message and consent to the prosecutor. Now we had to wait and see what would happen. We knew that Ashley was in the county jail awaiting the start of the trial. The prosecutor had over 400 pages of the indictment ready for the judge to read. She had already been found competent to stand trial. Her attorney had tried to get the grand jury to rule that she was legally insane, but the fact that she had done this in multiple states and was convicted in both, threw that notion out. Now she was going to stand trial.
Meanwhile, our Denali cousins had left. Marcus left with them as he and Tanya were now all but inseparable. I had a feeling there was going to be another wedding soon. Alice was all but jumping out of her skin with joy of that prospect. Marcus was very grateful for everything we had done for him. He’d had lengthy conversations with Alexander and they had gone on quite a few walks together prior to his leaving. So the neighborhood was a bit quieter but not by much. When you have Watchers and Wolves plus some Vampires, quiet is not something that happens often.
What made this upcoming trial bearable is the new gift that Rogue bestowed upon us: the ability to digest, taste, and enjoy food and beverage. My family and I went to the grocery store and stocked up for the first time ever. Then Esme and I went to the wine store and bought some amazing wine. We plan to go wine tasting after this trial is over. When we had the Watchers and Wolves over for dinner, everyone was able to eat and drink. We had hunted the previous week and were full that way, but it was still nice to enjoy a few glasses of wine and enjoy some of Esme’s exceptional cooking. On this particular night she made lasagna, Greek salad, eggplant parmesan, and garlic bread. For dessert she made tiramisu and an apple pie. Everything tasted absolutely heavenly.
I have determined that my favorite things to eat are green apples, chips and salsa, lasagna, and green tea ice cream. I also love semi-sweet red wine. I never thought I’d utter those words again after being turned. Being so used to saying that my favorite type of food was a nice juicy lion or bear was normal. But having a perfectly grilled steak or filet mignon is definitely a new thing for us all. Rogue, it turns out, was a great cook and Alexander would often brag about her cooking. She made killer stuffed peppers. They were absolutely delicious when she made them for us. As soon as Esme tasted them, she immediately wanted the recipe, which Rogue jotted down for her.
Getting down to business, Rogue told me that I had an appointment with the prosecutor and she said not to worry because he was just going to prepare me for the trial so I would know what to expect. So the next day, I got up, put on a suit, and made sure I looked like the consummate professional. I got into my car and drove downtown to the office of the District Attorney (DA). My appointment was at 10 a.m. When I got there, I parked, walked into the building, which looked like a very modern office building made out of primarily glass, and after checking in with the guard and going through the metal detector, I took the elevator to the 5th floor. After that I walked into the office, said who I was and sat down. I didn’t even have to wait 5 minutes when the DA walked out and introduced himself.
“Dr. Cullen, thank you very much for coming. My name is Christopher Allen and I will be trying this case.”
“Thank you Mr. Allen. Anything I could do to help.” We shook hands.
“Please follow me. We have everyone set up in the big conference room.”
“Everyone?” I asked as I followed him.
Before I could get the answer I was seeking, we had gotten to the conference room which was all see through because of all the glass and I saw some familiar people sitting there. As soon as they saw me, their eyes lit up and they all stood up; before me were Bill Connolly, Betsy, Melanie, Shandy, Carol, and Charlotte. I walked into the room and walked over to Charlotte first. I was so thrilled to see her here even under these circumstances. I could tell she was still very slim and limping a bit but her eyes were shining again and her face was split into an ear to ear grin. I felt like she was another one of my children. As we hugged, I saw Betsy wipe tears away. We all remembered the night we almost lost this sweet, sweet girl.
“Well howdy, Dr. Cullen. Fancy meeting you here,” Charlotte greeted me with her usual bright sense of humor. Everyone laughed, even the DA.
“Hi, Charlotte. It’s so good to see you. How are you feeling?” I asked.
“Eh, well you know—getting stronger each day,” she replied with a smile.
“Well that’s wonderful to hear. Does that mean you will be coming back to the hospital or have you decided to stay in Texas?” I asked tentatively.
“Naw, I can’t stay in Texas . . . too hot, remember? No I’m coming back here. Now I kind of have to anyways,” she said with a little wink to the others.
“What do you mean kind of have to?” I asked, puzzled. She hesitated for a fraction of a second and then stuck out her left hand on which I saw a diamond ring.
“Ben proposed! We’re getting married!” She was absolutely beaming.
“Oh my dear, that’s wonderful! Congratulations!” I said hugging her again.
“Thank you so much!”
Then the DA cleared his throat.
“I’m sorry to interrupt this but we really need to get down to business. There’s much preparation to be had before the trial.”
“Yes of course,” Bill spoke up. I quickly walked around shaking hands and hugging those in the room before taking my seat at the table. I was sitting between Charlotte and Bill.
The DA than began to speak. “I want you all to be prepared for what will happen in the court room. Ms. Cunningham will not be able to harm you or touch you as she will be shackled to the floor and table. She may scream something out but will be quickly removed if that happens. Do not be afraid of her. I will ask you questions regarding everything you saw and experienced. Do not leave anything out.”
He then proceeded to pass out a paper with questions on it. We all looked at them very carefully. I know I read each one at least twice before I refocused on Mr. Allen.
“These are the questions I will be asking you. I want you to familiarize yourselves with them. They are standard questions. Nothing out-there. However, when it’s time for cross examination, the defense will try its best to discredit you or throw you off track. They may even become belligerent. Your greatest impact is to stay cool, calm, and collective. Remember, the truth is on your side. We have a mountain of evidence but we need witness accounts, too. I know that Rose Melanides will also testify. I will call her to the stand first so you can understand what it will look like. From what I gathered from Agent Kramer, Mrs. Melanides is a former FBI agent and that will greatly help our case as her record with the bureau is absolutely spotless and she has testified in many cases previously.”
He took a sip of water that was in a Poland Springs bottle in front of him. We all had bottles in front of us as well as pens and yellow pads in case we wanted to take notes. I saw that Bill, Betsy, and Charlotte were diligently writing on their pads as the DA spoke.
Mr. Allen continued. “As you know we have her on tape pretty much confessing to you Dr. Cullen of practically every crime. We have her interrogation by Agent Kramer, all of your eye witness accounts. Not to mention the horrendous attack on Charlotte, and I’m so sorry that you will have to relive that on the stand but it’s the only way.”
“I understand. I want her gone,” Charlotte said gravely.
“And that’s what we are aiming for. I am not going for anything less than the death penalty on this one. We are also calling to the stand the three residents who found you in the parking lot after the attack and another very important witness is the patient Mr. Yang who survived Ms. Cunningham’s attempt on his life. As he has yet to be discharged from the hospital, he has graciously agreed to a video conference during the trial. I still want to speak with the judge on that one. Perhaps if the patient just gave a deposition as opposed to actually being present, even via video. I do not want his health to suffer,” Mr. Allen said thoughtfully.
At that point he let us just take in everything he had said and process it. Afterwards, we all stood up and shook hands. He understood that we needed time to review everything and prepare properly. He also said that if at any time we had any questions to call him; he gave us each his business card which even had his cell phone number on it. This man was very dedicated to his job and he wanted to make sure this case was closed once and for all.
After we left the office we stood in the parking lot trying to digest everything. We agreed that we would get together after trial as we had been asked not to speak to each other about it. No one wanted to give the defense ammo that we had practiced or made something up. We all wanted to have the trial go off without a hitch. So after hugging everyone, I got back into my car and looked at the clock. It was 1 p.m. We’d been in there for 3 hours. Talk about time flying by. I knew very much what I wanted to do and that was to go home.
I drove barely above the speed limit and when I pulled into the driveway, I sighed with relief. I sat there behind the wheel with the car turned off until I heard tapping on the window. I hadn’t realized that I was lost in thought still sitting in the car. When I looked up I saw that it was Esme, looking at me with concern. I smiled and got out. First thing I did was give my wife a real big hug and a very long very intense kiss. Then we walked back into the house where I headed straight to the kitchen, a location I almost never entered prior to Rogue’s little gift, and opened the refrigerator. There on of the shelves, in a Tupperware container, were two stuffed peppers left over from when Rogue cooked for us. While I got them out and warmed them in the microwave, Esme poured us both a glass of wine.
Then as I toasted my wife and as I chewed on the absolutely mouthwatering peppers, I explained to Esme everything that had happened that morning and what I had to do for the upcoming trial.
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***Hey guys! If you want to make the stuffed peppers mentioned, I’m attaching the recipe in the link below! It’s one of my best known dishes. Hope you enjoy it too! Bon appetite! ~xoxo Olga <3
The Watchers are home! And they brought Tanya and Marcus back from their hunt. When they flew in, it was one hell of a sight to see. Edward said that Tanya was thinking that it looked like an armada of warriors flying in a tight formation. It was also cool how they brought the other two home. It seemed that their hunt had gone awfully well considering the fact that they were not only standing very close to each other, but they were holding hands.
I think Irina’s message was dead on. I really hope nothing but the very best for Tanya and Marcus. They deserve to find happiness. I’m very glad that they were able to put their pasts to rest. I knew that they would soon be leaving. So we wanted to spend as much time with them as we could. We had heard from Carmen and Eleazer since and Tanya explained that we had figured it out on this end. Amazingly Zafrina had come to the very same conclusion as we all did regarding why Irina had come to Tanya. She had a special message and she wanted her to move toward the one man who could make her truly happy and leave the sadness behind: Marcus.
As soon as the Watchers touched down, everyone ran and hugged one another. Nessie squealed when she saw Michelle. Those two hugged until I thought they would pass out from not breathing. I watched from the porch and Rogue stood a little ways away and watched as well. She was smiling and her eyes were full of ancient wisdom. What I thought at that moment was how even keeled she and I were. I was considered the patriarch of my family while she was the leader of the Watcher armada. When our eyes met, she read my mind and smiled in answer. I walked off the porch at that point and walked over to her; we hugged each other without speaking. Sometimes words were just not needed.
I shook hands with Alexander and made my rounds ending with Michelle, who opened her hand and gave me a little marble elephant she had gotten in Africa. The Watchers had brought us each a gift of some sort that had elephants included in them. Apparently, elephants were considered symbols of good fortune and luck in Africa as well as other parts of the world. We all loved our gifts and said thank you. Who would say no to a symbol of good luck? Lord knows with everything that was always happening in our lives, we could use all the luck the world could provide under the circumstances.
Other than Michelle and Nessie, the other two who seemed to be incredibly happy to see each other were Alexander and Marcus. The two cousins were off to the side talking. With the sheer amount of people in our front yard, you couldn’t hear what they were talking about. Corin and Seth were holding hands and talking excitedly. Keith was off to the side waiting for Leah and Bella to return from their walk, which happened a few minutes after the Watchers return. As soon as the two ladies broke through the forest and Leah saw Keith, she shot away from Bella’s side like a bullet out of a gun and bolted into Keith’s waiting embrace. Bella walked at a slightly faster pace with a smile. She was happy Keith was home too; she knew how much Leah had missed him. Wolves without their imprints were not themselves and though she tried to keep Leah’s mind occupied as much as possible, she still knew how lonely she felt. Leah of course appreciated Bella’s efforts immensely.
Now that everyone was together again, Esme called on Bella and Rose to help her in the kitchen to create a welcome home feast for our arrivals. After planting kisses on Edward and Emmett respectively, the two smiled at each other and flew into the kitchen after Esme. Since it was a beautiful day, Edward, Jasper, Emmett, and I brought out tables and chairs to have the meal outside. Alice grabbed Nessie and Michelle to help her decorate for an impromptu gathering. In an hour everything was ready; the food made, decorations which consisted of a zillion candles hanging from trees, little sconce like shapes also adorning and crisscrossing overhead, and soft New Age music playing from our backyard invisible speakers. Everyone who ate was sitting at the tables next to their significant others and chatting away while we vampires sat at the tables, also chatting while the others indulged in the amazing food Esme and the ladies prepared.
Amy and Peter brought back wine from South Africa that they wanted to have the wolves try. Edward even let Nessie have a bit since Michelle had a glass as well. It was Nessie’s first taste of wine. Just then Rogue stood up with a glass of wine. She came over and brought it to me. Before handing me the glass, she waved her hand over it and something sparkly and shiny fell into the glass. Whatever it was dissolved instantly. She handed the wine glass to me. I looked at her with raised eyebrows. She, better than anyone, knew that vampires can’t eat or drink human food because of the fact that our bodies don’t absorb it. But she persisted. So I took the glass with everyone staring at me. Well everyone but the Watchers, who were watching with little knowing smiles on their faces.
The thing that surprised me first was that usually human food or beverages don’t smell pleasant to me but this wine, smelled well, like wine. I took a sip of it and was absolutely stunned when, instead of tasting like a nasty sweet beverage, it tasted like pleasant semi-sweet wine. It was the first time I had wine since being turned. Oh my lord! But how? How did Rogue do it? Everyone else, all the vampires and werewolves—well anyone who wasn’t a Watcher or Peter—were staring at me as my face must have gone through the gambit of expressions and emotions.
Edward spoke first. “Carlisle? Are you saying that actually tasted like wine to you?” He all but whispered in shock.
“Yes, it tastes like wine. And pretty good wine, I might add, if my memory still serves me,” I said, and took another sip.
“Can I try?” Bella asked.
She was the last out of all the vampires in attendance to be turned so she would definitely remember this better than the rest of us. So I handed her the glass and she took a sip.
“Holy crow! This does taste exactly like wine! Rogue, what did you do to it?” she asked, looking at our cheeky Watcher leader who was giggling nearby.
“Oh come on now. I can’t be giving all of my secrets away now,” Rogue said with a giggle.
“All of your secrets?? We don’t know any of them other than the fact that you’re super woman,” Seth squeaked nearby, only to be shushed by a laughing Corin.
“So what does this mean exactly?” I asked uncertainly.
“Well, after speaking with everyone else, I’ve decided to give you guys a choice. Basically, I can make it so that you can actually consume human food without being revolted or having the need to throw up. It won’t fill you and you’ll still need blood to sustain yourselves but at least it’ll make you fit in more with humans. You won’t always have to avoid the food situation anymore. Of course it’s up to you. It’ll also make cooking for Esme, Bella, and Rose a lot easier since they can now taste what they are cooking and not just guess that it’ll taste good. You can enjoy human food and the only difference is that, unlike the wolves, us, or Nessie, human food won’t fill you. You will still need to hunt. But at least you can enjoy a nice glass of wine every now and then to relax,” Rogue explained as we all listened with our mouths all but hanging open.
I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. Actually none of us could. For centuries and millennia even if you count Marcus, we’ve all assumed that eating human food would never be possible again. And here we had the opportunity to feel more ‘alive,’ if you will.
I looked at my family as in all of my family and we all took a few minutes to decide. The Denali’s were okay without this new advantage as they never went out into the human world much as is, with Alaska being so remote and all. Besides, Carmen and Eleazer were not with us and couldn’t take part in this new prospect. Rogue said that if they changed their minds, they’d be more than happy to fly out and do what needed to be done. Everyone agreed to this.
Which reminded me: what, exactly, did she have to do to bestow us with this new element of ourselves? Rogue reading my mind as always just asked all of us vampires who wished to partake in this little ceremony to come stand in a circle and hold hands. My whole family came together and we held hands. Rogue stood in the middle of our circle. She put her palms together in an almost prayer like position and then lifted her hands just like that toward the sky. She closed her eyes and suddenly she began to glow. Brighter than we’ve ever seen her glow before; she was glowing this very yellow gold color. All of a sudden we felt this glow envelope us all. I could hear a cell phone going off in the distance but no one was reaching for it. Everyone just sat there transfixed at the glowing orb of light that surrounded the Cullen clan.
It felt like you were being showered with sparkles. That’s what it felt and looked like. I sort of understood now what she had done with the glass of wine because she was doing the same to us now. We were her glasses of wine. She was changing us, some part of our vampire DNA, to allow for us to be more human even if in this small part. I know that a few people within our circle were thinking the same because I saw more than one person with tears glistening in their eyes. Than the glow disappeared and we were able to see each other and Rogue fully again. We were all given a piece of garlic bread to test if whatever mojo she put into us was working. I remember smelling the garlic bread and it smelled divine. I was the first to bite into it and what do you know: it tasted delicious. The others followed suit and closed their eyes, as if they had died and gone to heaven.
Food tasted like food! It didn’t taste nasty and disgusting anymore! Now if I felt like having an apple just to enjoy the taste of it, I could! The wonders never cease when it comes to the Watchers. Finally, we all became aware of the incessant ringing of a cellphone, which turned out to be Rogue’s. The ringtone she had for it was Guns N Roses, “Sweet Child O’ Mine.” Apparently she loved Slash’s guitar riff at the beginning, so that’s what was repeating itself over and over again. She frowned as she picked it up and looked at the number. Her eyes looked very serious and concentrating as she stepped away to answer the call.
According to Edward, he couldn’t read her mind as she had blocked him off. So something was up. But we couldn’t focus on that because we were all too busy tasting everything at the table and each time a new flavor hit, our taste buds would sing with joy. It was quite an adventure. Everyone was enjoying themselves and/or laughing at our reactions except for Amy and Corin. They were fully concentrating on Rogue. I guess that’s what happens when you are second and third in command of a powerful leader. If something seems off, no matter how happy and jubilant the surroundings are, you are always on alert. It’s not even that she said or did something that got their attention; it was just that they were so used to it that it was like second nature to them. The other Watchers including Alexander paid them no mind. Everyone was used to this. If something was to happen, Rogue would tell them so they just continued to laugh at us the whole time.
When Rogue got off the phone she came back to us. Her face was serious and thoughtful. Everyone stopped talking and looked at her.
She sighed, looked at me, and said, “I think it’s a good thing that I did this with you guys now because you are going to need that whole bottle of wine as soon as I’m done telling you what’s doing, Carlisle.” Before I could ask what she meant by that she continued. “That was Scott Kramer. Remember him? The FBI agent I worked with? Well he just called because Ashley has been extradited back here to stand trial for her crimes here. She’s already gone to trial in both Oregon and California. Well, they weren’t trials because she pleaded guilty for a lesser sentence. Oregon gave her 5-10 years, California 25 to life with the possibility of parole, and here the prosecutor is seeking the death penalty. Both states agreed to let her come here for the final trial. The absolute minimum that she can get here is life without the possibility of parole, and that’s what her defense attorney wants. But the prosecutor isn’t buying the plea bargain. They aren’t offering her anything. Reason I’m telling you all this, is because the prosecutor wants you to testify against her. He will be calling on Charlotte, Betsy, Bill Connolly, Melanie, Carol, and Shandy from the hospital as well. Scott wants me to take the stand just to put that last nail in her coffin so to speak.”
As I listened to her explain the whole litany of legal lingo, I can’t say I was surprised. I knew sooner or later this was going to happen. And she was absolutely right; I will need that bottle of wine which Edward handed me without hesitation. Everyone was frowning now. It never ceases to amaze me how one phone call or one thought can make such a wonderful evening go from pleasant to unpleasant in the matter of seconds. I poured myself the glass and sat there staring into the distance and remembering again all that nastiness as it happened. I knew I would have to give Rogue an answer soon enough. I didn’t want to be subpoenaed by the prosecutor.
But for now I just stared at the growing twilight, lost in thought, and sipped the exquisite red South African wine.
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Having Marcus here has been interesting. He’s gone hunting with us a few different times and with different sets of people. All have agreed that he’s a natural. As we get to know him better, we’re finding a lot of really cool things behind the façade. I really want to find out more about his history from the beginning but I know that it would remind him of Didyme and that’s still a pretty sore subject so I’m leaving well enough alone. The other day we were hanging around the backyard; well most of us anyways. The Denali’s were still here. Leah and Bella went on their usual hike. Nessie had gone to the Dartmouth campus to learn how to take photos with Rose and Alice. That left the rest of us to just chill.
Emmett and Jacob were wrestling while Seth acted as the referee. Jasper and Edward were busy arguing politics with Garrett. Kate and Esme were looking on and rolling their eyes at the men, while Esme was showing Kate her by now dog-eared crocheting book that Alice had gotten her in Japan. I was alone on the porch sitting in a rocking chair I had recently purchased. I usually don’t buy or pick out furniture on my own but I was walking downtown with Marcus as part of his test of being around humans and not wanting to eat them; he passed with flying colors. But I digress. So we were walking along and in one of those vintage stores, I noticed this beautiful oak rocking chair. We went in and after purchasing it, brought it home much to the surprise of Esme. But she fell in love with it instantly. So now I was enjoying my book, on the porch, in my new chair.
Tanya was sitting on our two person swing in the backyard by herself, but what got my attention was that very soon Marcus joined her. He was very hesitant. I really hope Tanya would give him the benefit of the doubt. Having super hearing meant everyone could hear everyone’s conversations, but we always tried to ignore so people could at least get some sort of privacy. When Marcus walked over to Tanya he spoke first startling her; she was lost in thought.
“Is this seat taken?” Marcus asked Tanya quietly.
“Ah . . . no . . . no, it’s not,” she stammered.
“Yeah . . . s-sure.”
“Thank you.” He sat next to her.
They were both quiet for a while, while the rest of us continued with what we were doing. Emmett and Jacob’s grunting and yelling drowned out any conversation anyways.
“I . . . uh . . . wanted to tell you that I was very impressed with your hunting skills,” Marcus told her. He looked at her sideways as if afraid to even turn to her.
“Really? Thanks. It’s nothing special,” Tanya said with a shrug.
“I would have to politely disagree,” Marcus said with a small smile.
“You know, you should smile a lot more—it really lightens up your face,” Tanya said softly and then looked down.
“Thank you. I will try. When I’m in your presence, smiling comes easily,” he said boldly. If Tanya could have blushed she would have.
Then Marcus stopped. He frowned and realized that he was vibrating. His phone was in his pocket again and it was going off. He fished it out and looked at it.
“It’s Alexander,” he said to Tanya then picked up the phone. “Hello?”
“Marcus, it’s time to tell them,” Alexander said on the other end. That got all of our attention. Everyone stopped what we were doing and looked at Marcus with raised eyebrows.
“Are you sure?” Marcus asked clearly unsure.
“Yes. It will help you with your future.”
“All right, I will.”
“And please tell Carlisle that we will be home in a few days.”
I nodded that I heard.
“Where are you anyways?” Marcus asked for all of us.
“Whoa.” Said Jacob. Then they hung up. And Marcus looked at us.
“What did he want you to tell us, Marcus?” I asked quietly looking concerned.
“It’s nothing bad . . . well it’s nothing bad about me. OK, that didn’t sound right either . . . ” Marcus was trying to figure it out in his mind while we waited patiently.
“Take your time,” I told him gently. He took a deep breath and got off the swing. It’s as if he didn’t want to make Tanya feel uncomfortable.
Then he finally spoke. “What Alexander wanted me to tell you, is that he and I are related.” He allowed a moment for that to sink in. When we were all breathing again, or at least blinking, he continued. “I am his great cousin times 5, basically, as Alexander is 532 years older than me. That is why he hated the Volturi more than any of the other Watchers. He hated Aro with a passion because I was the last surviving human in his bloodline and Aro turned me, effectively ending the bloodline and any chances of continuing his ancestry. Aro’s last name was Volturi. I don’t remember if Caius had one. My last name isn’t Volturi, it’s Melanides, just like Alexander’s. So that makes me Marcus Melanides. When I joined the Volturi and the Watchers came to us that very first time, or at least it was the first time I saw them. Alexander knew instantly that we were related and he nearly killed Aro right there and then. If it wasn’t for Didyme who begged for Alexander to spare Aro’s life, he might have killed him then. So Aro was safe and well, you know the rest. What did Didyme get for saving her brother’s life? Her own death because she loved me.”
He finished that last sentence with a whisper. His eyes had filled with tears and he turned away. We were all just trying to process everything that Marcus had just told us. Dear lord. Marcus was innocent. A total innocent! All these years all he did was exist because his reason for living was taken so cruelly away from him; he never left the Volturi because he had nowhere else to go. He wasn’t ready to give up the lifestyle so he didn’t join Alexander. That’s technically all that his crimes had entailed. But many of our closest friends still feed on humans. I knew then that Marcus was just a body, an empty shell when he was with the Volturi. He never actually wanted to kill anyone. He was just there because of Aro’s ability to manipulate and one of Aro’s gifted member’s ability to cut ties of families.
At that moment I looked at Tanya who was coming to the same conclusion as I was. She squared her shoulders and walked over to him. He still had his back to us as he was fighting back tears that would never fall. She put her hand on his shoulder. He knew it was her and turned to look at her. His face was unsure like he was afraid what he would see. It didn’t take a rocket scientist to realize that Marcus had fallen in love with Tanya.
Her face though still conflicted, had genuine compassion in it. She was feeling really bad for Marcus. Edward nodded at me, meaning my thinking was correct. She couldn’t combine him with the Volturi anymore; none of us could. He was their puppet used to show their power until they had gotten enough gifted members. They were even worse than we originally thought. I think we were all once again thankful that the Watchers had gotten rid of them. They were like parasites!
Marcus and Tanya were still standing there and looking at each other. At that point, Tanya realized she was thirsty and decided to go hunting.
“Carlisle, I’m going to go hunting. Marcus, would you like to join me?”
He looked surprised, but nodded. We let them go alone. I knew they needed the time to themselves. Tanya turned toward the forest and ran with Marcus, only hesitating for a split second and then running after her.
The rest of us sat back, all lost in thought in silence. We all knew that the one thing about life, or even our own life, is that every single day you learn something new. Learning was a part of living and we were all glad we had learned what we did that afternoon. Even though it did leave us at a loss for words as we all went through every encounter with the Volturi. I know I saw a lot of things through different eyes now. The revelation was astounding but at the same not really surprising. At least this piece was good news.
It also meant that Tanya had to figure out what her feelings were for Marcus and I knew she had them. A nod from Edward meant he knew, too. Edward was finally let in on what had transpired with Tanya seeing Irina so he wouldn’t be feeling completely out of the loop. That’s not something he’s accustomed to. A grunt from Edward confirmed my suspicions. Thinking back to Marcus and the fact that he’s survived thus far the way he has gave me a new sense of warmth toward him. It will be great when the Watchers return. He seems to feel comfort being around Rogue and Alexander in particular. Well it makes sense now considering he and Alexander are related.
Meanwhile, my family and I are just taking everything in . . . one day at a time.
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Holy crap! Marcus! I know I was not the only with the stunned expression. As everyone stood frozen, someone had to say something. I realized that someone would have to be me.
“Marcus! Um . . . I’m sorry for the silence but it’s just so shocking to see you here,” I finally managed to get out, trying to shake the cobwebs that seemed to have blocked a path between my brain and mouth.
“I’m sorry, Carlisle. I didn’t mean to startle you or your family. I’ve been coming this way for a while. I finally made up my mind after speaking with Rogue,” Marcus answered still holding his hands up towards the wolves.
“You spoke with Rogue? When?” Edward asked.
“A week ago I would say. I finally got the handle on those cell phone things. She had come by to see me when she was in Greece resting. She told me about the Children of the Moon. Nasty business, that. So she gave me her number and told me to call her if I needed anything. I always admired her. Alexander is a very lucky man. So I called her a week ago and she said that she and the others were leaving and I could come see you,” he explained.
At that point before we continued to question him, I waved off the wolves so Marcus wouldn’t be so stilted. He nodded toward me and relaxed as the wolves sauntered back into the forest to phase back and put some clothes on. We were also joined by the others from their hike, and to say they were surprised to see Marcus, was an understatement.
Just looking at Marcus made me think a lot has changed since we last saw him. For starters his hair was a lot shaggier looking, and it also appeared shorter. He looked like he had a bit of stubble on his face; he probably drew it or had something put on that was fake. Whatever it was, it looked pretty authentic. He was wearing a white shirt with rolled up sleeves about 1/4th up each arm. He wore jeans that looked slightly faded and they were tucked into tan cowboy boots. He had a chain of some sort around his neck and a leather bracelet on one wrist and a watch with a leather strap on the other. A picture of the before and after is below.
Marcus was actually looking modernized and quite handsome. Edward heard my thoughts and nodded his agreement.
Marcus’ eyes were pitch black, however, and that worried me. Why hadn’t he fed? Finally, I invited Marcus into the house. We were doing what Jacob would often describe as “standing around like freaking statues.” It was time to sit down and hear the rest of this story as, obviously, there was more of it or he wouldn’t have come here. Once everyone was inside and seated or comfortable at least we waited for Marcus to tell us what he was doing here. Emmett and Jasper still stood by him just in case he would try something though it seemed highly unlikely considering how outnumbered he was.
“I know you are wondering what I’m doing here. I obviously haven’t come to harm you. Actually, I have decided to leave Greece altogether. There is nothing for me there anymore. I can’t live there because it reminds me of Didyme and I can’t go back to Volterra because that’s not home either. So after careful consideration, I decided to try something new. I wanted to come here and learn from you, Carlisle.” He gestured toward me.
“What do you mean?” Bella asked.
“I want to try this ‘vegetarian’ lifestyle of yours. I realized that you were right all along, Carlisle. When you first came to us all those centuries ago and tried to persuade us to change our food—so to speak—we should have listened. I should have listened. Killing humans for their blood isn’t good enough for me anymore. That’s why my eyes are pitch black. I haven’t fed in a long time. I couldn’t stomach anymore what I used to eat,” he said. We were all astonished by this revelation of course.
“What made you have your epiphany?” Tanya, who was standing next to Kate, asked curiously.
He glanced at her as if for the first time. “Well it happened in Greece, actually. I was out hunting and realized that I would have to cross a river to get back to my home. There were boats I could take but I realized I had no money with me. A kind, old human man granted me access to his boat so I could return home. He saw my red eyes but pretended he didn’t. I had a feeling he knew what I was. This man risked his life ferrying a vampire across the river for free just out of the goodness of his heart. I thought about it all the way across that river. My God . . . what have we been doing all these millennia? We’ve been destroying families! That’s when it all changed for me.”
I know we were all processing what Marcus was saying. He actually wanted to become a vegetarian. Wow! Talk about a 180. Of course I was willing to teach him if he was willing to learn.
“All right Marcus. I’m definitely willing to help you with that. As you are in obvious need of immediate feeding. So we’ll take you—um Edward, Emmett . . . and erm . . . Tanya?”
I don’t know why I mentioned Tanya’s name but it’s as if something told me that that was the right thing to do. Great. Now I’m hearing things too? Tanya looked up at me surprised but then nodded like it seemed logical for her, too, all of a sudden. I could see the wheels turning in her head. Wonder what was on her mind? So when everyone assembled it was Edward, Emmett, Seth decided to go in wolf form, Tanya, Marcus, and myself; we walked outside of the house after quick hugs and kisses from family. I could tell more than one person was anxious about this little outing of ours.
Then we took off running. I was in the lead with Marcus in the middle surrounded by Edward, Emmett, and Seth. Tanya was running sort of between Marcus and me. Marcus understood he was totally surrounded by some of the most powerful members of our family because until he was fed properly, we were still weary of him. No matter how docile he was, as he always was actually, none of us could forget that he was once a member of the Volturi. And they had caused us pain and suffering. They nearly cost us our very lives if it wasn’t for the intervention of Rogue and her Watchers.
I got the feeling that he wanted to start fresh. And he did reveal that he had always voted against our destruction but because of the other two “chuckleheads” (Seth’s phrase) was always overruled. We, unlike the Volturi, gave second chances to people. Especially if they proved trustworthy.
The thing about Marcus was that, the other two were always in charge and barking orders that none of us really ever got to know Marcus alone as his own individual self. I think he came here partly because of the whole ‘trying something new’ and also because he wanted companionship from people he admired but could never get close to because of the other two “numb-nuts” (Jacob’s phrase). Soon enough my thoughts were interrupted with Edward saying we’ve come to a prime location for lions, deer, and bears . . . oh my!
“All right, well let’s start here. You’ll watch how Carlisle does it and let your instincts take over,” Edward began explaining.
“Now watch me and follow what I do,” I added, as I closed my eyes and focused on the sweet smell of a nice juicy bear about a mile to our west then I took off running after it. It just sat there as we all approached. I had the others climb up the trees and hang out up there while I stalked the bear. It felt that danger was near and it stood up on its hind legs and roared. Yeah OK . . . nice try there Yogi but you’re no match for me. Then I flew out from my perch and tackled it to the ground. I latched on to its neck and drained it dry. Very soon it was lying on the ground, lifeless.
Edward chuckled from his perch on the tree. When everyone looked up at him, he pointed to Seth who was perched high on a boulder and said, “Seth was just thinking that now that bear is dead, we can use him for a rug in one of the cottages.”
Everyone laughed. Good ole Seth could let out tension in any situation like air out of a balloon.
“Good one, Seth!” Emmett was on the ground in seconds and bumped his fist to Seth’s nose.
“All right gentlemen and lady,” I said nodding toward Tanya, who smiled.
She and Marcus were perched on the same tree only different sides. I noticed something interesting then. Marcus couldn’t keep his eyes off of Tanya. Well he was trying very hard in fact. He didn’t want her to catch him staring but a few times she did and I could tell that there was major conflict on her face. It made me for a second think about the message Irina had given Tanya last time she visited her: ‘Don’t be afraid to love. Even someone who seems unlovable.’ Is this what she meant? I guess we’ll have to wait and see. I could tell Edward’s eyes were all but bugging out of his head. Oh right . . . he wasn’t around when we had that conversation. I shook my head like not now.
“All right, Marcus, so do you have any questions or do you want me to show you again, though granted I’m full but maybe someone else can,” Seth grunted and that was a no brainer really.
“I’d like to see one more time and then I can try for sure,” Marcus said cautiously.
“Any volunteers?” I asked.
“I’ll do it.” Tanya surprised me by flying out of the tree as if she was shot from a slingshot. I don’t think she was particularly comfortable with Marcus just yet. Especially with all that staring.
“Alright Tanya . . . what’s on your menu today?” I asked with a wink and she giggled. Edward just then turned to Marcus with a puzzled expression on his face. Whatever Marcus was thinking got him really confused. Poor Edward he is really out of the loop.
“Ummm, I think I’ll try a lion.” All of the men whistled with appreciation. “What? You think girls can’t wrestle a little itty bitty lion? Isn’t this the 21st century? Women’s lib and all?”
Everyone laughed. Then Tanya bolted south and we all ran after her. When we smelled a lion nearby, we all got back up on the trees and Seth found a giant log to perch himself on. This time Tanya took over stalking the creature. And stalking was the best way to describe it. I mean it looked a bit like a seductive dance with the beast. And just like that it was all over, she attacked him with a speed of a lightning bolt. He didn’t stand a chance. She was very proud of herself when she was done; so much in fact that she drop-kicked the lions body into the forest.
“Any questions?” she asked dusting her hands off and looked at her appreciative and awestruck audience. The awestruck member of the audience was Marcus.
“So Marcus, what about it? Want to try?” Emmett asked.
“Might as well. I will definitely not be anywhere as good as you. So please let me know if I’m not doing something right.” Ironically he was looking at Tanya the whole time he spoke and then he finally looked at me very nervously.
I clapped him on the back and said, “Don’t worry, just use your instincts. It’s not human blood but it’s blood nonetheless so your body will still crave it. Now close your eyes and try to take in everything you hear.”
Marcus did as he was told and his eyes flew open moments later and he pointed to the north. “Are those deer?” he whispered to me.
“Correct!” I smiled and we all took off running with him leading the way and me running beside him.
Once we nailed the location of the deer, we took to the trees and boulder for Seth as it was Marcus’ turn to take over. He hesitated only for a second and then attacked with extraordinary speed and strength. He was proving to be a fast learner. He drained all 7 deer before he was done. He had gotten some blood on his white shirt but nothing to cry home about. He did fantastic. As he looked up at us, his pitch black eyes were now slowly turning gold like ours. And he sighed, closed his eyes, and just stood there as he took in the sensations of becoming strong again but with a different food source. One that was acceptable to him now. Then he opened his eyes and smiled up at us triumphantly. We all came back to the ground after that and each of us came and shook hands with him. He definitely proved he was willing to learn.
I knew that it would be a few more of these trips before he became 100% comfortable with this hunting process. He was welcome to live in the guest house that we had standing empty on the grounds for now and then who knows where life would take him. But I had a feeling he was going to become a natural in no time. Just then, Marcus’ cellphone rang making all of us jump. He had forgotten to take it out of his pocket. He fished it out and after looking at the number smiled and answered it.
“So how did you do? Are the deer to your liking?” the female voice on the other end asked.
“Actually a lot better than I thought I would. I mean Carlisle nailed a bear and Tanya took down a lion, so mine was very small compared to theirs,” he said modestly.
“Don’t underestimate yourself. You’re headed toward a wonderfully happy life, my friend. Just trust yourself and trust your instincts,” she said. We were still trying to figure out who he was talking to.
“I thought you didn’t use your telling the future power?” Okay, well that was a huge hint . . . he was talking to a Watcher and only one came to mind: Rogue.
“In this case I had to and considering Carlisle had just figured out who you’re talking to, please tell him and the rest of the family we all send our love. We will be home in a bit.” You could tell she was smiling.
“I think he heard you loud and clear. I hope you return soon. I want to talk to you about something,” Marcus said softly.
“Yes, I know.” She chuckled as Marcus rolled his eyes and shook his head.
“Yes, I figured you would. You Watchers can’t let us normal folk alone with all of your powers.” We heard Rogue laugh out loud at that one. It had all of us all smiling.
“All right guys, have fun hunting I got to go, the others are waiting.”
With that they said goodbye and hung up. Marcus shook his head. After 3,000 years of knowing each other, he still couldn’t get a handle on Rogue’s powers. I wondered how long it would take the rest of us. Edward grunted at my thought. I was just really glad the Watchers were on our side. They were the most powerful allies we could have on planet earth! After our hunting trip was over, we headed back toward the house. The others wanted to know what happened so Seth, after phasing back, gave them a play by play. Everyone wowed, especially on Tanya’s kick ass moves. But all were happy Marcus succeeded in his first vegetarian hunting trip.
Then Esme and I took Marcus along with the bag that he was carrying over his shoulder, which we didn’t even notice until we got back. Talk about preoccupation. He said he was carrying some clothes and a few personal items. He figured once he settled permanently somewhere, he could figure out things like clothes and furnishings. Well the clothes thing would have to be expanded while he stayed with us, too. Alice promised to take him shopping, which made a lot of women groan. Bella and Leah actually volunteered to tag along because, for starters, they wanted to keep Alice in check, and secondly, they seemed to understand Marcus’ style and wanted to make sure Alice adhered to that instead of just getting a whole closet full of Gucci and Versace when the poor man just preferred some Levis.
That night with our new guest in his guest room and everyone at their respective homes and rooms, we had a lot to think about. I laid my head on my pillow with Esme next to me. And even though we don’t sleep, I did close my eyes just to rest them. About 20 minutes into my day dream, if you will, who would pop in my head? Irina. She smiled at me, nodded, but didn’t say anything. It was weird but it was like I knew what she was thinking. Finally she did speak: ‘Help her Carlisle. She is afraid of risking it all. Tell her never to give up and to start everything with a clean slate.’
Hmmm . . . now I was sure that she had to be talking about Marcus. I couldn’t push him and Tanya together. It’s something they have to figure out on their own.
But if I have to be the catalyst to making sure Tanya doesn’t make the biggest mistake in her life by running away……so be it. We shall take it a day at a time and see what happens.
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I think it was very brave of Michelle to come to us with her secret. I can understand how hard it must have been to keep it from us. Not everyone is open minded, and there are plenty of ignorant people out there who just like to hate for the hell of hating. Some humans remind me of the Volturi. They wanted to punish and exact pain and harm on people for their own entertainment and pleasure. It’s quite sickening.
But we’re not like that. We treat everyone equally. We were told by Michelle’s parents that Kim may move up here permanently so she can be closer to Michelle. That and the fact that New Hampshire is one of the few states where it’s legal for gay couples to marry—if that is to ever happen between them, of course. I’m sure Alice would get a serious kick out of planning that wedding. Hell, what wedding does she not get a kick out of planning?
Moving on. Our house is a lot more full than it usually is. The Denali clan is visiting. We do these trips back and forth to each other a few times each year. Only Carmen and Eleazer weren’t with us as they had been invited to the Amazon rainforest by Zafrina and Senna. I don’t know what they were doing down there, but they will tell us at some point.
So it’s only Kate, Garrett, and Tanya at our house. Kate and Tanya are pretty used to the wolves by now, and Tanya always has a great time teasing Seth. It makes Leah very happy because now Seth is getting a taste of his own medicine with the practical jokes, and she’s getting a reprieve.
It turned out that this visit was more than a social visit for them. Tanya had been feeling a little out of it and wanted to speak to me in person, as well as in private, about it. So one particular day when everyone was hunting, patrolling, or hiking, she and I sat outside on the porch and had a conversation.
“All right Tanya, what’s been bothering you?” I asked gently.
She sighed and looked out into the distance. “I think I may be losing my mind.”
“What makes you think that?” I asked, surprised.
“I think I’ve been seeing things?”
“Well maybe not necessarily things,” she said cryptically.
“Tanya, I can’t decipher what you’re saying . . . so you’ll have to just come out and say it.”
She looked at me with anguished eyes. I couldn’t understand what she was so afraid to tell me. What she said next stunned me into silence.
“I’ve been seeing Irina. She’s been coming to me,” she said quietly.
I didn’t speak right away because I had to wrap my mind around what she had just said. Irina was killed by the Volturi, everyone remembered that. So if what Tanya said was true—and I knew she wasn’t lying or making it up. It had rattled her enough to come to me in person—then I had to figure this out. There was only one explanation: she was really seeing Irina. That my thought of heaven existing was real. That Irina was in heaven and had some sort of message for her sister.
Before I could say anything, she spoke again. “That’s why Carmen and Eleazer went to see Zafrina. They wanted to know if that type of thing was even possible, and Zafrina is a very spiritual being. If anyone has a connection to that world, it would be her.”
Well that explained the absence of the other two and what they were doing in Brazil. I was very curious as to what they would find out. I always admired Zafrina and I know she and Bella had gotten close when the amazons were here for that battle, when Irina lost her life. We saved Nessie and our family from destruction, but at the price of Irina’s life. So now I wondered about this vision of sorts Tanya was having.
“So when Irina comes to you, what does she tell you? Does she actually say anything?” I asked.
“At first she didn’t say anything. She would just come and stare at me. I wasn’t even sure it was her. And she would always come when I was alone. Never when the others were there. Finally, one day near our house . . . I was just walking around, ironically thinking of her, and all of a sudden she stepped from beyond the forest. I was so startled I literally fell. She walked—no more like floated, over to me and smiled. I instantly felt at peace. I wasn’t afraid anymore. She looked at me and the first words out of her mouth were ‘please forgive me.’
“I told her I wasn’t angry at her. I knew she was talking about what happened before she died. I told her I wasn’t angry, that none of us were. I had gotten off the ground by then. Then she said, ‘I’m all right. I’m safe and happy. I’m with mom.’ That shocked me. She said she was with our mother! That made me instantly happy. She was closest with her. It was what she said next that surprised me. She looked me straight in the eye and said, ‘Don’t be afraid to love. Even someone who seems unlovable.’ When I asked her what that meant, she just smiled repeated it and drifted away. Then she vanished. I have no idea what that meant. I still don’t.”
When she finished recounting the event, my mind was racing. I had no idea what that meant, either. ‘Don’t be afraid to love. Even someone who seems unlovable.’
Hmm . . . obviously Irina was trying to give Tanya a message of something that was to happen in the future. But what exactly did it mean? Maybe Zafrina would have an easier time deciphering that. Tanya had come to me to see if my medical expertise could lend a hand in this. But in all the centuries I’ve existed, I’ve never heard of spirits coming to vampires.
The Watchers weren’t home and said they would be gone for a while, so I couldn’t ask them. I had a feeling Rogue would know something about this. Lord knows after walking the earth for around 3,000 years she must have seen and heard it all.
Tanya and I both sat there looking baffled but composed. This was definitely different. Just then, we saw the wolves return. They had phased back and were walking and joking with each other. Suddenly, the smiles on their faces faded and they whirled around to the east. Without warning, all three started to run due east and phased back into wolves almost simultaneously. They disappeared into the forest soon after. Tanya and I looked each other. Wonder what that was about? We both stood up looking wearily into the forest for any signs of danger.
“We have company.” I heard Edward’s voice also come from the east.
He must have heard the wolves thoughts as they raced toward what I understood now was a new scent. He, Emmett, Rose, and Jasper had gone hunting and were just returning when they were nearly run over by the wolves. Kate, Garrett, Bella, Nessie, and Alice went hiking. They were still a good ways away, and I felt good that they wouldn’t be here for whatever, or whoever, was our new visitor. This was sort of like déjà vu from when the Children of the Moon were here.
Edward read my mind and shook his head. “No, the scent belongs to a vampire. He’s alone. The wolves are thinking they recognize the scent but can’t place from where. Looks like he changed course and is running here with the wolves giving chase; he should be entering our backyard in a few seconds.”
Just then a vampire did breakthrough the forest line. We were standing in defensive positions with Jasper and Emmett at the front, prepared for anything. At first none of us recognized him because he looked so different: younger and in different clothes. The wolves came to a halt behind him growling menacingly. He held out his hands to them pleading.
“Please don’t hurt me! I haven’t come here to cause you harm!”
It was when he turned his head to look straight at me and our eyes met that I realized in total shock that I was looking at Marcus!
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Ringing the door bell and waiting for someone to open up was really hard. I had no idea how Ness or her family would take my news, my secret. I’ve had this secret for a long time. I mean, technically it wasn’t a secret as my parents and the other Watchers knew. But ever since the Cullen family has come into our lives—including the wolves—and Nessie became my best friend . . . well, it became a secret.
Nessie opened the door, obviously surprised to see me. I took a deep breath and stepped into the house. My parents had wanted to come with me to support me, but I wanted to do this myself. I was, after all, an adult. Yes, I was seventeen when I was chosen, but that was 500 years ago. So I guess you could say I’m around 517 years old.
I saw the whole Cullen family, plus the wolves, in the living room sitting around. They looked up and welcomed me inside. I sat down on the couch and Ness came up and sat next to me looking concerned. Boy, I hoped they were open minded people.
Carlisle spoke first. “Michelle, do you want us to leave you and Nessie alone?”
“No . . . I mean what I have to say . . . you all need to know. Or rather, I want you to know. Everyone else does.”
“All right then, whenever you’re ready. No rush,” Carlisle said with a comforting smile.
I gulped, then started talking. “Well, I know that Nessie has been feeling like I’m keeping something from her and that I don’t trust her enough to tell her. And half of that is true, and that’s the first part. I do trust you Ness . . . I’m just scared that what I have to say, you won’t accept, and I’ll lose you as my friend,” I said, looking down.
“No way! You haven’t killed anyone in cold blood or harmed someone have you?” Nessie asked me.
“Of course not! Why would you even ask that?” I asked, surprised.
“Because that’s the only thing I won’t accept about you Michelle . . . other than that anything you tell me, I’ll accept.” She spoke surely. I, on the other hand, was not so sure . . . but I knew I was stalling. I had to just spit it out.
“Stop stalling, Michelle. Whatever it is, we can take it,” Leah said. She was sitting on the other side of me.
“Yeah, I am stalling, aren’t I? Well, Nessie you have been noticing that I have been on the phone a lot, texting and speaking with someone. I have. I’m guessing everyone has been thinking I have a boyfriend. It’s something like that. I actually . . . um . . . have a girlfriend. I like girls instead of boys.”
There was silence as I knew they were digesting it.
“So you’re saying you’re a lesbian, basically,” Alice said softly. There it was: the “L” word I was afraid to speak out loud for fear of the reaction. And here Alice just said it.
“Yes, Alice. I am a lesbian,” I said, holding my breath and waiting for their reactions.
“That’s it? That’s the secret you were afraid of telling me . . . telling all of us?” Nessie all but screeched.
I nodded, pressed my lips together. “Yes.”
“OMG, Michelle! I don’t care who you date or who you like or what your preference is! I was scared that you had another best friend or something!”
“No way, Ness! You’re my only best friend,” I said with a small smile.
“Oh goodie!” she clapped her hands like a little girl and everyone laughed. I still had no idea how the rest of the family felt.
That part was answered by Rosalie out of all people. “Michelle, I think I can speak for the rest of my family when I say that it doesn’t matter to us. We accept everyone, regardless of whom they like or who they marry or who they are. I’m sure the wolves feel the same.”
The wolves smiled agreeingly.
“I mean, come on Michelle, you were afraid to ‘come out’ to a bunch of wolves and vampires? Doesn’t that seem a bit strange that you’d think we wouldn’t accept you because of who you like to date?” Seth pointed out.
“Seth is right, you’re in the middle of a supernatural cluster-fuck—pardon my French—and it’s kinda par for the course for things to be different around here,” Jacob explained, and everyone laughed again.
Then Nessie hugged me, followed by Leah, Seth, Jacob, and everyone else. I had tears in my eyes. I couldn’t believe it! Or maybe I could. I had been thinking of the worst-case scenario for so long, I never thought about the best possible outcome; that they would actually be all right with it. That Nessie wouldn’t abandon me. I had dealt with homophobia years ago, and since then have been very careful about disclosing that part of my life. But the Cullen family and wolves have become a part of my extended family, so I felt like I had to tell them. Especially now that I had a girlfriend in my life.
“So—tell us!” Nessie said, bringing me back to the present.
“Tell you what?” I asked with a blank stare.
“Tell us about her! What’s her name? What’s she like? Duh!” Nessie rolled her eyes
“Oh, okay. Well, she’s also a Watcher and I’ve known her for the last 15 years, but we’ve only been seeing each other for the last 5. Her name is Kim and she lives in Oklahoma. She was very close to that killer tornado in Moore. Obviously she got the hell out of dodge, but she has also been a volunteer with the Red Cross—so she was one of the first on the scene. That’s how we met originally, through the Red Cross. She is 307 years old. So I’m older in that caliber, but she was chosen at the age of 27 so she looks older,” I explained.
“Oh wow, that’s really cool! Will we ever get to meet her?” Nessie asked curiously.
“Yeah. She said she would come up here once she’s no longer needed in Oklahoma. With all of these tornadoes, it’s a crap-shoot really.”
“It is tornado season,” Jasper explained, speaking for the first time. I almost forgot he was in the room.
I yawned inadvertently. It was time to wrap up the night. “All right, it’s definitely past a lot of people’s bedtimes, apparently. So let’s go get some rest everyone,” Carlisle said, clapping his hands together.
We all got up and Nessie hugged me; I hugged her back. I was very grateful to have met her. Everyone else then lined up to hug me, and Emmett joked that it looked like the receiving line for the president.
I was ready to fly home. Ness and her parents were walking back to their cottage and the wolves were making their way back to theirs. As I stepped outside, I breathed a huge sigh of relief. I flew into the air with a huge smile on my face and was ready to get some sleep; stress-free for the first time in a while. It was good to get stuff off your chest.
A picture of Kim and I is below. Hope you like it, and her. She’s very special to me.
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