Luminosity Ch 8

Author: Alicorn. Link to original: http://luminous.elcenia.com/chapters/ch8.shtml (English).

Translations of this material:

into Russian: Сияние разума (глава 8 из 29). Translated in draft, editing and proof-reading required.
Submitted for translation by timur.perevos 19.04.2013

Text

Chapter 8: The Future

Edward was gone for about fifteen minutes, and I passed the time by writing out the plan I'd devised, with some trivial embellishments. I knew Edward would remember it all perfectly, but I didn't want to have to consult him every time I wanted to check up on a detail.

I was scribbling a list of possible Europe and non-Europe destinations in the margins of my notebook when Edward and Rosalie came downstairs. She looked disgruntled but basically peaceable, and Edward held his features carefully neutral. He stopped at the foot of the stairs and watched her approach me, and then went back up - I supposed at least one of them thought it was a two-person conversation. Rosalie's high heels ticked regularly against the tile as she walked towards me and sat down.

"Edward said he didn't tell you about what led to - this," Rosalie said softly, gesturing at her perfect, white face. I nodded. "It's not a nice story," she said. "It doesn't have a happy ending. I'm going to keep it short."

It had been 1933, during the Great Depression, and Rosalie had been eighteen and living in Rochester with her parents and two brothers. And beautiful. Even as a human she'd been beautiful. The Depression didn't affect her family very much - her father had had a secure banking job, and Rosalie was quite able to traipse about town in pretty dresses imagining that the poor people she saw had brought their fates on themselves. She made her own life sound like a fairy tale - she was the lovely, happy princess, who wanted certain things and had every reason to believe she'd get them. Accordingly, one day the son of her father's employer began to court her. She went on at some length about the lavish wedding planned to end their whirlwind engagement, and about his habit of sending her a bouquet of roses every day so her house overflowed with them and she always smelled of their petals.

Rosalie experienced one pang of envy: a friend of hers had married young, at seventeen, and a year later had a baby boy, adorable with dark curls and dimples. They were not as sheltered from the economic troubles of the world as Rosalie's family was. Rosalie's parents would never have dreamed of letting her marry a man like her friend's carpenter husband, while they approved of the banker's son. But Rosalie's friend had the pretty baby, the happy marriage. So Rosalie amused herself with mental images of her own fair-haired children playing on the wide lawns she'd have surrounding her house soon enough.

The way Rosalie told it, it sounded almost rehearsed, like she'd thought a lot about all of the details and knew just how she preferred to describe them, the exact best intonation and vocabulary. Everything sounded floaty, and far away, memorized as much as remembered.

She implied, but did not quite state, the unhappy ending she'd promised.

But I was able to piece together the events well enough.

Her fiancé and several of his friends had gotten drunk, found her walking home alone from her friend's house, and gang-raped her, leaving her injured enough to be dying.

That was how Carlisle had found her, broken and bleeding in the middle of the street under the unseasonable April snow. He'd brought her home and turned her - over, Rosalie said, Edward's objections (he thought she was too recognizable, Rosalie explained on his behalf; and if they'd met socially, I doubted he'd have been favorably impressed). Between her screams (which she informed me did nothing about the pain of the transition), they were able to explain what she was becoming; and finally, she finished, and finally believed them.

Rosalie then chose this moment to tell me, "You know, my record is almost as clean as Carlisle's. Better than Esme's. A thousand times better than Edward. I've never tasted human blood." She sounded proud.

"Almost as clean...?"

"I did kill them," she said, complacently, and I knew at once that "they" were her attackers, and I could feel no ill judgment towards her. "But I was very careful not to spill their blood. I knew I wouldn't be able to resist that, and I didn't want any part of them in me."

She described their deaths in a bit more detail than I thought necessary, though I didn't try to stop her. She went over how she saved her fiancé for last, hoping he'd hear about the deaths of his friends and live his last days in fear. Considering she'd found him in a windowless room with doors like a bank vault's and two armed men guarding him - whom she'd also killed - this seemed to have been effective. She had stolen a wedding dress to wear for the occasion, to be theatrical about it. But there had been no blood, and no feeding.

I now had reason to believe that all of the Cullens except Carlisle had killed humans before. Was he the only exception? It would be consistent with the statement "we have not all killed people" if only one had abstained. Maybe the Denali coven had better records. But there was Carlisle, and neither Rosalie nor Edward had indeliberately killed. And I had been seen to adjust well, in Alice's visions. I might be all right. If I did not feel sure I would be all right, once I was a vampire and knew the scope of the thirst, then I would simply avoid humans in the flesh.

"I hope I'm not frightening you," Rosalie said, after concluding her elaborate description of her seven murders (the fiancé, his four friends, and his two guards).

"Thank you for telling me your story," I said. "I don't think I have a good reason to be afraid of you, if that's what you mean."

Rosalie nodded. "Do you understand why I think you should stay human?" she asked.

I thought about her story, and what relevance she might think it would have. Surely she had less reason than anyone to value the vulnerability of humanity, which featured heavily. She didn't seem to regret her homicides, for which I could hardly blame her either. And so...

"Vampires can't have babies?" I concluded tentatively. And so Rosalie would never have her precious blond children playing on the lawn...

"Right in one," she said softly. "Do you know where Emmett came from? I saved him from a bear that was mauling him, and carried him home to Carlisle - I didn't think I had the self-control to turn him myself, without killing him. He has dark curls... and dimples... just like my friend's little son. I didn't want him to die. I hated this life, and I was selfish enough to ask Carlisle to save him anyway. And I was lucky. Emmett is everything I would have asked for, if I'd known myself well enough to ask for the right things. And he needs me too. That part... I will admit, it worked out better than I could have hoped. But there will only ever be two of us. We'll never sit together on a porch somewhere, gray-haired, surrounded by grandchildren.

"You're young, Bella," she said suddenly, intensely, switching modes from the nostalgia for things that never were and could never be. "You don't know what you'll want in a decade. Two decades. Ten. It is rash, rash in the extreme, to make such permanent choices now. Do you understand? You have everything I want - I would trade everything to be you and have your choices, and you're choosing wrong!"

I nodded, slowly. I had never wanted children very much. They'd seemed like a vague, future possibility that might manifest if certain other events fell into place in potentially pleasant, but optional, ways. But Rosalie was right that however well I knew myself now, I did not have reason to believe that I knew what I'd want in my twenties or my thirties - whether I spent them human or not. And apparently becoming a vampire did close off an option that many women wanted, and chose to exercise, and if they happened not to have it through some medical misfortune, would often spend thousands of dollars to -

Oh.

There was an obvious solution.

"Carlisle's a doctor," I said. "He can harvest some eggs before I turn, and freeze them. Then, later, when I'm ready, if I want children, I can hire a surrogate. You're right, Rosalie, I don't know how I'm going to feel later about the idea. You're right that I'm young, and I really hadn't thought about it and I should have and I'm so glad you shared your experience with me to help me realize that it's important. Part of having a choice the way I do is that I can also make a plan, and I can plan to still have resources I might want, later. And someday, maybe, I'll make you an aunt."

Rosalie looked completely bowled over. I didn't know why. She'd been to medical school - granted, I didn't know how recently, but surely with three doctors in the house they did sometimes discuss advances in medicine from the seventies. The existence of the technology couldn't surprise her that much. Maybe no one ever took her advice, and that was what puzzled her? Maybe because I didn't have to lose the capacity to have children with vampirism, she resented me?

And then Rosalie lunged forward and before I could shriek or fall off my chair in shock or fear, she hugged me.

It was a tight hug, but careful - I didn't think I'd have any bruises later. Puzzled, but no longer frightened, I hugged her back. She was cool and unyielding, but somehow managed to be pleasant to hug anyway.

"Thank you," she whispered in my ear.

"You're welcome," I said, scripted, automatic, confused - what was she thanking me for? She let me go and sat back, her eyes alight with some strange pleasure.

"Will you let me help?" Rosalie asked. "With the eggs. I can't - I can't ever have my own - but if you let me help - Bella, please -"

"Of course," I said. That would probably be more comfortable than Carlisle anyway, for certain parts - I didn't know exactly what egg harvesting involved, but if it were less intimate than the average gynecological exam, that would constitute a surprise.

Rosalie hugged me again, a little tighter, a little faster. She released me again, smiling so beatifically that it made me wonder how I'd ever thought she was beautiful frowning when it was possible for her to look like that. "Thank you," she sighed, and then she got to her feet and flew up the stairs.

It took only half a minute for Edward to return once Rosalie had gone. He walked down the stairs as slowly as a dawdling human, looking preposterously confused. When he got to the table and sat down, he still looked bewildered. "How did you do that?" he marveled.

"Do what?"

"You're Rosalie's new favorite person. I didn't listen to the conversation - I put on music and tuned her thoughts and your voices out, I thought it should be private - and now her thoughts are all over the place thinking about synthetic hormones and baby clothes, and I don't know what happened, but she adores you and she's happier than I think I've seen her in the last decade - or two. What did you do?"

"I didn't expect her to react that strongly," I said. "I just listened to her story and thought her concern was important to think about, so I thanked her and said I'd get Carlisle to harvest some eggs before I turn, and she asked if she could help, and I said yes, and then she went upstairs. There were," I added as an afterthought, "hugs."

Edward made another one of those faces - full of confused, mixed-up feelings all fighting over the curve of his mouth and the angle of his eyebrows. I thought I could detect impressedness and frustration, but I wasn't sure of either, and there were at least a couple other emotional combatants. "You are nothing short of astonishing, Bella," he told me.

"Thank you," I said. "Is there anything else I should know?"

He looked heavenward, thoughtful and silent. I waited patiently for him to marshal his arguments.

"You know that you'll lose all your interest in human food, and that animal blood tastes comparatively terrible," he said. "You know that you will be thirsty all the time - that your throat will burn, constantly, forever, urging you to drink. You know you might not be able to see your family in person for years, if ever. You know it will probably interrupt your plans for school and that one mistake in your control near a human means murder. You know if you decide to use those eggs you won't be able to carry your children yourself. You know you'll have to move around every few years to avoid detection. You know you'll be seventeen forever - you won't know how you would have grown up, how you'd have matured. You know you have to follow the Volturi's laws, whether you like them or not, or they'll kill you. I don't think anyone's told you, but you might have guessed, that perfect vampire recall makes it comparatively much harder to remember human experiences. You know that I believe that in becoming a vampire, you'll permanently lose the opportunity to truly live forever, instead of merely living until you catch fire or are broken into tiny enough pieces that you can't reassemble yourself. You know that turning consists of three straight days of incredible pain - during which, I should add, it's very common that the turning person begs for death." He reminded me of these things in a near monotone, wringing the emotion out of each word with great effort, as though he thought emotions must be meaningless to anyone who wanted logic to hold a superior place in decision-making.

"You know," I replied, when he was done, "that if I never turn, I'll die. You know that I could catch the flu. Or fall off a cliff. Or be attacked by five all-too-human monsters. Or be mauled by a bear. I could suffer brain damage and never be myself again. I could lose the use of all my limbs in an accident or go blind or have a genetic disease that will pop up in my twenties and slowly -" Edward looked like I was stabbing him in the throat with every clause. "You know I'm vulnerable," I said, summing up instead of listing more horrible fates that could befall humans. "And if the Volturi ever find out that I exist, they will kill me - and probably your entire family - if I'm not a vampire or obviously on the fast track to becoming one. I already have to follow their laws whether I like it or not. I already face the loss of everything there is to love about being human - whenever something happens to me. And it could be any time; I don't necessarily have gray hair to look forward to." I took a deep breath. "I have notes on most of my experiences. I can read them when I'm a vampire and remember them almost as well as I do now. I've lived too far away to see one of my parents at every given time for the entire span of my life that I can call to memory - making it both at once will be a little worse, but only a little. I know that your reasoning about the afterlife is, as far as I can see or you'll explain or Carlisle can translate, bogus."

I paused for a moment, thinking, and said slowly, "Carlisle's never killed anyone. You, and Rosalie, have never killed anyone on impulse - and I genuinely don't think I'm going to calmly decide to murder humans. What kind of body count are we looking at for Emmett, Alice, Esme, and Jasper?"

"Jasper's is easily in the thousands," said Edward harshly. "He spent eighty years as a non-"vegetarian" vampire. He only came to join us later, after he met Alice. Alice's count might be similar to mine, or worse; she didn't see joining our family until the late forties and until then she was only haphazardly struggling towards living on animals via her own conscience. Emmett's killed the two humans I told you about, and slipped up a half a dozen other times. Esme's only made one mistake."

"And your Denali friends?" I asked implacably.

"All have eaten plenty of humans. Their family came to the vegetarian lifestyle independently of us," Edward said. "And they're each considerably older than Jasper, or even Carlisle. I wouldn't be surprised if any one of them had eaten more people than all of our family put together."

I pursed my lips. "But Carlisle never slipped up, and never decided, outside of a fit of thirst, to kill, the way you or Rosalie did."

Edward nodded.

"Did Carlisle," I hypothesized suddenly, "know that vampires existed before he became one?"

Edward looked startled. "Yes," he said, blinking. "He lived during the mid-1600's. His father was an Anglican pastor and enlisted his help killing witches and werewolves - and vampires. He was turned by a vampire he successfully trapped - he killed two other men and ran off with a third; Carlisle thinks he was too thirsty to think straight and didn't mean to turn anyone, but Carlisle was already full of venom and hid in a root cellar full of rotten potatoes so his father wouldn't find him. When he was done turning he was so repelled by what he was that he tried to kill himself several times - jumping into the ocean, that sort of thing - but of course that's very hard for vampires to do. He avoided humans and eventually discovered he could live on animals."

"Did any of the rest of you, or the Denali coven, even suspect that vampires might exist beforehand? Skip Alice, I know we have no information on her," I said. I seized my pencil and jotted down witches, werewolves for follow-up questioning later.

"No," said Edward, after thinking for a moment.

"So," I concluded, "the odds do look very bad if you sample out of all vampires ever. The only one with a perfect record is Carlisle. Who is also the only one we know of who had any idea what was going on before he was bitten. I have lots of notice. In fact, I'm in a position to make a deliberate, non-emergency choice. Alice saw me adjusting unusually well - and that's consistent with the hypothesis that vampires who knew what to expect are the ones who don't have to act like "normal" vampires. Who can anticipate and counter the instincts that make "normal" vampires treat humans like snacks."

I went on, to address the last, most fearsome point. Truthfully, I wanted to edit it out of my model of vampirism altogether. Forget about the "not fun". Pretend to myself that the three days were merely boring in some way - paralysis, not pain. But this would not be honest. I could not expect to make the best decision if I pretended the pain did not exist, when it did.

"Does it seem to you, in your experience," I said, "that vampires experience damage - mental trauma, flashbacks, phobias, phantom pain, anything like that - which is best explained by the pain associated with turning, as opposed to preexisting conditions or other aspects of being a vampire?" The part afterward - the part that could last forever - that was what mattered most. If everyone escaped truly unscathed...

"No," Edward almost whispered. He had to think about it, but came up empty.

"Is there a good medical reason why I should be conscious when I'm shot full of venom?" I asked. "I realize that most methods of knocking me out won't necessarily last three days, but perhaps I could skip part of it. Or painkillers? Put me on a generous morphine drip?"

"I don't see why that would interfere," he said quietly.

"If I beg to die while I'm turning, will you actually kill me?" I asked. "Or even if I don't? Get me dead and zipping off to heaven quickly, before it's too late -"

"No!" roared Edward violently. "No." He repeated it more gently, as though hoping to erase his previous utterance and replace it with the moderated version. "Bella, I don't want you dead. I want you to live. I just want you to live - properly. Human."

"I can't go on doing that forever," I murmured. "And every day I walk on fragile legs and look out on the world with soft eyes and fend off danger with weak arms, I run the risk of death. I am susceptible to attack. I can be hurt. I can be killed. Unless you're right about the afterlife - and you know I don't think you are - I can be destroyed - lost forever, irrecoverable. If you don't want me dead, you should want me armored. Edward, I am so unsafe."

He dropped his face into his hands. "I want you to live," he mumbled.

"I want to live," I replied, quietly, firmly. "I love being alive. I love the world and being in it. I want to see and learn everything."

He looked up, dropped his hands. Then he lifted one and touched my face. His palm was cool against my cheek, and smooth. "I could never kill you, Bella," he said. "I couldn't." Only one emotion was emanating from him as he said it - he needed me to believe what he said, he needed me to feel safe with him. He poured every ounce of sincerity he could into his words, begging me with his silken voice to believe them.

I had an instant's impulse to make a remark about how he was all too eager to let me die, if only at the hand of old age - but I wasn't sure he was so eager, anymore, now that I'd forced his emotional conflict over the problem to the surface. Maybe he had romanticized death by old age in some way he couldn't with injury or sickness. But I couldn't stay safe from the latter, less idealized trips to the grave while I was human. They were facts of human life.

And so I picked up my hand, and touched Edward's cheek in a symmetrical gesture. He closed his eyes and sucked in a breath.

"Edward," I said, "will you help me live?"

Edward nodded.

Jessica was thrilled to pieces about the opportunity to gossip when I told her, between Trig and Spanish, that Edward and I were "an item" (I decided to use those exact words). I injected enough squeal into my voice to give credibility to the "sickeningly inseparable couple" demonstration I'd be giving for the next several months. Jessica wanted every possible detail about our date on Saturday, excruciating precision about how we'd spent Monday afternoon, and rather intrusive levels of insight into how I felt about him. I placated her with tidbits - named the restaurant we'd been to, said I thought his sisters and parents liked me at least and left her to ruminate about what this implied about his brothers - and then pretended interest in weather-related Spanish vocabulary.

After Spanish, Edward sidled up to me while Jessica and I walked to lunch. "Bella," he said, in his most charming tones, and he offered me his arm. I linked elbows with him, and then turned my head just a bit to wink at Jessica, who looked about ready to explode from excitement. She broke into an outright run and careened headlong into the cafeteria. "Mike! Lauren! Angela!" I could hear her calling out before the door shut behind her. I could still make out her strident voice, but not individual words.

Edward and I continued at a more sedate pace. "Is she telling everybody who's got ears, just as planned?" I asked.

"You want me to check?" Edward asked.

"Listen, don't read," I said. "She's yelling in a semi-public space; whatever she's saying isn't meant to be private."

"Yes, she's telling everyone," he confirmed. "You'll sit with us today?"

I nodded. "I should probably sit with Jessica and the others at least, say, once a week," I said. "I don't want to completely fall out of the circle."

"I suppose I could join you at their table," he proposed. "Imagine the stir."

"Jessica would have fun with that," I agreed, and we reached the door. "But today I think I should let her gossip without breathing down her neck."

"Agreed. And Rosalie wants to talk your ear off about the drug regimen she's going to put you on," Edward said. "Will you visit again this afternoon?"

"Only if I can expect to get some homework done at your house," I laughed. "I had to stay up a bit late last night getting everything for today finished. Somehow when I go to that house I find myself occupied by talking to all the nifty people who live in it." Edward made a show of buying my lunch for me, which made Jessica eep from two tables away. We sat together at the vampire table. Edward unlinked elbows and draped his freed arm ever so casually over my shoulders. He looked smug, somehow, when he did it. I supposed this made some sense. I was still... sort of... pretending for the benefit of the humans watching us; Edward didn't need to pretend, he only needed to act on his reality. And I could well imagine that he'd like that.

"Bella!" exclaimed Rosalie once I'd sat down. "I ordered everything you need. The hospital here didn't have it all but it wasn't hard to get and it's on its way and you can get started on Friday or Saturday. The whole thing will take a few weeks. I made Alice look and she said you don't need to worry about any complications, but I printed out a pamphlet for you of everything anyway, here." She shoved it across the table at me. "Will you be able to keep the meds hidden from your father? You have to go on the Pill first and then there's some injections you need to self-administer and I don't think he really needs to know what's going on. And we're going to need to do some blood tests - well," Rosalie winced, "Carlisle should probably do the blood tests, to be really safe, but I will be able to handle most everything else. Like the ultrasounds. Those I can do."

She was very excited about this. "Friday, sounds good," I said. "Charlie doesn't go through my stuff. I don't think he'll find anything - Alice?" I asked, turning to the littlest vampire.

"Looks clear," Alice said after a moment. Rosalie sat back, smug, and closed her eyes. Alice added, "I don't see any complications but that doesn't mean you won't get side effects - you won't need to miss school or anything, and probably no humans will be able to tell anything's wrong if you're careful."

"And a good thing the going is to be so smooth, too," murmured Edward mirthfully. "Jessica has just expressed the opinion that she thinks we're going to have at least six children."

I choked on my soda. "Jessica," I said, after recovering the ability to breathe and dabbing my face with a napkin, "has exceeded all expectations as a fountain of exaggerated gossip. I'll need to buy her a very nice birthday present."

"I think she's partly motivated by the desire to get Mike Newton to stop fixating on you," Edward said. His tone was light, but I thought I heard his teeth grinding a little. "I couldn't help but pick up her memory of the conversation where you tried to set them up - that was what you had in mind, wasn't it? She doesn't seem to have quite noticed that you were doing it on purpose, but it was clear enough to me from the words you used."

"Yes," I admitted. "That was the idea. How's it working?"

"As well as I suppose could be expected. She's still hoping he'll make the first move, though."

"Of course," I sighed. "Well, the original point was to deflect Mike - mind, he might be cute with Jessica, but that wasn't the important part. And Jessica's handling that just as well without taking him off my hands directly, I suppose. Making it known that I'm off the market."

"So I'm a little confused," Emmett said. "Are you and Edward actually "an item"," (he made exaggerted air quotes to accompany the phrase), "or are you just telling everybody that because it's part of your plan? Which is a cool plan, by the way. Think we should go to Scandinavia or something? They say Finnish is hard to learn. Bet I'm fluent first, Rose." He jostled Rosalie with his elbow and she smirked.

"You're good at languages because you have the mind of a child, Emmett," Alice said, so brightly that it took me a split second to notice that this was not quite a compliment. Emmett took a little longer, but just a little, and then he tossed the pasta salad that was his prop for the day at Alice's face. She wasn't even looking in his direction when she picked up her tray to shield herself from the projectile.

"Scandinavia might work," I said. "We can go look at fjords."

"Hey, answer my other question," protested Emmett. Alice produced a napkin and smeared off the mayonnaise that had coated her tray, then wiped the pasta salad bits back onto their original plate.

I huffed. "It's important to the plan that, by the time I have to tell everyone we've eloped, it seem characteristic of us," I said. "That's why I told Jessica the way I did."

Emmett considered this for a second, then realized that it wasn't an answer to his original inquiry either. "Hey..."

Edward's arm, still around my shoulders, squeezed me protectively. "You don't need to make up your mind now," he murmured to me, and he shot Emmett a look. The giant vampire - the more I looked at Emmett, the odder it was that he could pass for a high-schooler; did people think he'd repeated grades or what? - grumbled but didn't push it.

It was good of Edward to deflect his brother - even though Edward must have been dying to know my answer too. It couldn't be comfortable for him - none of this could. I wished, suddenly, that I could read minds - his in particular - to sift through the knots in his head that caused those overcomplicated faces he made. He wanted me alive, he wanted me human; he wanted me to love him, he wanted me not to be put on the spot about it; he wanted to follow Alice's instructions to go slow, but he was having plenty of fun participating in our showy exhibition of public affection... On some oddly timed impulse, he lifted his hand from my arm and stroked my hair. I could barely feel the cold of his fingertips against my scalp. He was very gentle, very careful - how hard was it for him to touch me without hurting me? Was fine motor control lost with the acquisition of super-strength? It didn't seem like it, but he was so timid...

"You're not squeamish about needles, are you, Bella?" Rosalie asked suddenly.

"Uh - I'm a little squeamish about blood, but not needles per se. I should be able to handle the injections, I think, and I can close my eyes while Carlisle does the blood tests. I think. I'm not sure." I hesitated, then said, "If I'm wrong, then I might want Jasper to help -"

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