Rose couldn’t help but ridicule herself as she jogged. Bella didn’t want her there. She needed to give Bella space. She wasn’t Edward. She wasn’t creepy like this. She didn’t sneak in while Bella slept. She didn’t stand by watching. She listened to what Bella wanted, damn it.
But jesus wept, her soul ached, begging for comfort.
The house was quiet as she approached, something she had expected. She paused behind the house, buried in the forest and sighed. This was what she had come to. She pulled herself into the tree she had spent those first few nights in and Bella’s scent, the sound of her deep breathing washed over her like a blissful cool to a burn. The night must have been warmer than she realized, that or Bella wanted her room cold because the window was open, letting it roll out.
She stretched herself out long on the branch and closed her eyes, but it wasn’t enough so she scrambled up to the roof, just beside Bella’s window.
Hands behind her head, she closed her eyes, reveling in the feeling of being able to breathe again, of being able to be still.
She missed her so much. When was the last time that things were just easy between them? It felt like so long ago, even if it hadn’t been.
She didn’t know, but she knew she didn’t want to think. Instead, she rolled onto her side, much like she would have if she were spooning with Bella, and closed her eyes.
She stayed there, meditative, her mind finally quiet and calmed as the sun began to rise. When Bella’s alarm went off, she didn’t move, didn’t stir other than to turn onto her back, looking up at the foggy sky. She listened to Bella yawn and stretch from inside of the room. She smiled a little when Bella groaned. There was a flutter of blankets being tossed aside and then Bella’s pattering feet as she left for the bathroom. The smile on Rosalie’s face fell. She had found a place of zen in the night, listening to Bella sleep, but now the anxiety came fluttering back.
Bella wasn’t going to talk to her that day. It was a simple thought, only one simple thought and it brought all of the problems back. Her teeth ground, her skin suddenly feeling a little too tight. She sat up, wrapping her arms around herself as she tried to breathe. But what was she supposed to do to fix it? There had to be something other than agree to change Bella into a vampire. She had to see that doing that wasn’t an answer but instead a death sentence.
She was still there on the roof, holding herself and unmoving when Bella said goodbye to Charlie and let herself out to head to school.
Perhaps she wouldn’t go that day, Rose thought. This charade of trying to be a high school student was beginning to wear thin. She watched Bella go down the walk toward her truck. She knew she was about to get caught. Unlike if she had stayed in the tree, there was nothing to hide her there. Not only that, but her light yellow sweater and brilliantly blonde hair would be easy to spot. Still, she didn’t move. Bella wasn’t going to talk to her, and she didn’t know what else to do.
She smiled just a little as Bella tripped over a crack in the driveway, stumbling but not falling and then swung herself into the cab of the truck. Rose looked down at her face, taking in the deep V of her brows that meant that something weighed heavily on her mind. The truck roared to life and yet even over that noise, Rose heard the startled scream that escaped Bella when she looked back at the house and saw Rose there.
Rose didn’t move, her chin and nose buried between her knees, her arms wrapped around her drawn-up legs. She just looked down at Bella as Bella stared up at her.
Maybe she had wanted to get caught, she could admit that to herself as she and Bella stared at one another, the truck idling at top volume. It was a confession, if nothing else.
Bella’s hands tightened on the steering wheel, her eyes narrowed.
Behind her knees, Rose smiled just a little. She wouldn’t have thought it could be seen but Bella glared, a sudden grit in her eye.
Rose’s eyebrows popped in response.
Then, with a jerk of her head, Bella looked over her shoulder and began to pull out.
Still, Rose didn’t move, listening as the truck went to the corner. Head tilted a little to the side, Rosalie listened to the truck departing, debating what she wanted from the day. The thought of going to school sounded insufferable. She didn’t think she could handle the inanity. The thing was, she didn’t want to be home either.
Her brows furrowed in confusion when three streets over Bella turned not to the right, which would take her to school, but instead to the left.
Where was she going?
Frowning, Rose hopped down and started up at a jog. Was she supposed to follow? Was that what she had meant by the little head jerk? Where the hell was Bella going? She caught up with the truck easily, but it wasn’t until she turned off the main road and toward the outskirts of town that Rose understood. She took off at full speed, beating Bella back to the house easily and was met with a living room full of people.
She paused just inside, her eyebrows high. All of the faces of her family turned as one, their looks expectant. She took a step back, somewhat on edge. “What’s going on?”
Alice had her head tilted, seeing something as she shrugged. “You tell us.”
“Right.” She mumbled. She supposed she didn’t know any more than they did, but she had seen that glint in Bella’s eye, so she knew it was something.
She turned and joined the party of living statues, going still and quiet as the truck slowly made its way up the drive.
As always it took an impossibly long time before Bella, without knocking, threw open the front door and marched into a room.
None of the others moved so much as a twitch, watching Bella with curious eyes. Rose smirked, impressed. It never failed to amuse and surprise her how willing Bella, their natural food source, was willing to throw herself into a room of vampires. She walked in like she owned the damn place.
“Err...” she paused, also surprised to see every single Cullen there.
“You wanted to speak to us?” Alice asked.
Bella nodded once. “Family meeting.”
Beside Rose, Esme beamed at her.
Rose almost rolled her eyes, knowing that it was Bella using their own family words that she loved, knowing that it was the fact that Bella included herself in them that made her happy.
“All right.” Carlisle nodded, already dressed for work. He glanced at his watch and then nodded once. “We’re all here.”
“Yeah.” Bella glanced around, her eyes lingering on Rose and avoiding Edward.
Rose shifted, crossing her arms, her eyebrows high in challenge. “Well?”
Both Bella and Esme sent her a glare which made Rose uncharacteristically wither. She was nervous. She was woman enough to admit that. She didn’t know what Bella wanted, but if she was coming to the whole family, Rose was sure it wasn’t going to be small.
Bella cleared her throat, her face set despite the obvious nerves. “I have a question to ask and it’s very simple. I just need a yes or no.”
“All right, dear,” Esme smiled and reaching forward, she squeezed Bella’s hand.
Bella squeezed back, Rose saw, probably with enough pressure that it would hurt anyone not made of stone. She took a deep breath, her eyes on the warm face of their matriarch as she said it. “I want to know if you all want... me.” For the first time, there was a hitch in Bella’s voice and uncertainty that Rose didn’t like. Did they want her? Rose opened her mouth to speak, to argue, but Bella cut her off as if she knew exactly what she was going to say. “I’m not asking you.”
Her teeth made a loud click as she snapped her mouth shut with an offended scoff. “Fine!” She turned away from Bella, giving her mate her back as she snarled inwardly. She should have known. What else could Bella possibly want to talk to them about?
Bella, it seemed, was entirely unaffected by her petulance. “I want to know if you want me, or would mind if, I joined the family.”
Esme’s answer came so fast it almost made Rose laugh. “Yes! Of course, yes!” Watching surreptitiously over her shoulder, Rose saw her move at a speed that wasn’t exactly human as she went to Bella, wrapping her in a tight hug. Bella yipped with surprise and then sank into it, sighing with relief.
After a second, Carlisle joined them, his hand falling to Bella’s shoulder. “It’s going to be complicated, but I think the answer is a clear yes.”
Rose stared at them, hurt. She had known their opinions, but to voice them like this, to ignore so openly all of the other issues that came with this.
Bella didn’t turn to look at her when Esme released her from the hug and wrapped an arm around Bella’s waist, even though Rose’s eyes were desperately digging into her, needing to not be ignored in this. Instead, she looked at Alice.
“All signs have pointed to you joining us for a long time, but they finally became solid when Edward told you that you are Rose are mates.” Alice beamed, her voice so happy it was almost a song. “So yes. It’s going to happen, Bella, don’t worry.”
Rose glared. Stupid, fucking, obnoxious pixie.
She hated this. This wasn’t fair.
... And yet, her mouth filled with venom, something fluttery tumbling in her stomach. She swallowed it down and squared her shoulders, fighting the strange desire. She would not do it. There was no chance.
Bella nodded, her eyes moving to Jasper. Only, Jasper wasn’t looking at Bella. He was looking at Rose.
Her chin rose. So he could feel what she felt, fine. That meant that he could feel that desire, but that had to also mean he could feel her resolve. It wasn’t her that felt that want to fill Bella that way, to tie her to her. It wasn’t. It was the stupid vampire side of her, and that side didn’t get to win.
He seemed to sense it all. She saw all of it pass across Jasper’s face as she stared back. Slowly it faded, his own feelings taking back over. The look he gave her was soft, understanding, and it made her want to lash out in anger.
She knew what was coming and she wanted to shout at him.
Jasper looked back at Bella and without words, he nodded.
Rosalie’s hands balled into fists.
When Bella turned to Emmett Rose expected a joke or a tease. She expected something very Emmett of him. Only, his arms were crossed and his face was very serious. He too was not looking at Bella, but instead at her. She looked back at the man she had loved for so long, the man she still loved in so many ways. She knew that he knew how Rose felt about this. Surely, this would be the one person who was on her side. Except, fire touched her gaze as she realized that no, she knew what he would say. Of course, she did. She knew it because Emmett had loved Bella from day one. She knew it because she knew him well enough, had loved him well enough to know that he would vote against her when it was, in his mind, for her own good. She knew it because she could see the apology in his face.
“I’m sorry, Rose.”
She let out a frustrated cry.
“I know you think it’s taking something from her, but it’s not.”
“No, it’s giving me something,” Bella agreed.
“Yeah. So I say yes.”
Bella grinned at him when he winked at her. She swallowed and turned.
Rose’s eyes followed hers to the last remaining Cullen.
Rose had forgotten to notice him in this conversation, had forgotten that he was there at all. Looking to him now, she was startled to see him. His hands were clenched, his eyes dark, murderous, his neck muscles popping.
“Edward?” Bella asked in a small voice.
“No!” He roared, standing and smacking his fist into the wall, which spit drywall everywhere.
“Edward! My wall!” Esme cried.
Emmett’s head shook. “Uncool, man, uncool. You gotta stop breaking the house.”
Rose barely heard them, however, over Bella’s shout. “Are you serious? So because I won’t be with you, I can’t be with the one I’m actually supposed to be with, either? If you can’t have me then no one will?”
Rose’s eyebrows shot up again, shocked by the forwardness of the comment. Actually supposed to be with?
Behind Bella, Rose saw Jasper give her a warm smile as if to say ‘see’. Rose ignored it.
“She cannot be turned! She cannot be changed!” Edward roared. “How can you vote for this – this –”
“Edward!” Esme warned.
“No! This has to be – this has to bad a joke! A farce! You cannot be taking this seriously!”
“Edward!” Rose suddenly snapped, unable to listen to him for even another second. She only just was able to manage to stop herself from launching at him and grabbing him by the scruff of the neck like a puppy that got into something he shouldn’t. “You do not get to yell at her!”
Edward spun around and Rose’s back straightened. “Someone has to!”
“Edward, it’s understandable that you would have feelings about this. No one doubts that you once cared deeply for Bella.” Carlisle said.
“We understand your upset, but you do not get to dictate—”
“I do! I do because someone has to! She will not be changed!”
Carlisle shifted. “No, Edward, that’s exactly what I’m saying! You don’t get to—”
“Edward, I’m not sure that’s your choice anymore!”
“Dick.” Rose scoffed at him, unbelieving at his behavior.
He turned on her, breathing hard, teeth exposed. It was a threat and Rose knew it. “If it makes me a dick to be the only one making sure Bella is protected then I’ll be that dick! I will protect her soul!”
“Whoa! Hold on!” Bella cried. “Hold on a second!”
“Even if you were still together, Eddie, you still wouldn’t get to choose! Don’t you get that?” She glared in turn at Edward and then Carlisle. “She isn’t an extension of you! She never was and she isn’t that to me!”
The latter nodded once. “You’re right, that was bad wording.”
“My soul is not in danger!” Bella shouted over their raised voices.
“We know that, sweetie,” Esme cooed, but also, Rosalie noticed, quieted her while the others yelled.
“Our souls are damned!” Edward shouted, his voice rising higher and higher.
“Our souls are not damned!” Carlisle cried, exasperated. “If they were then why is it we can walk into a church with no recourse?”
Rosalie scoffed. It was an argument that she had heard from them hundreds of times.
“You cannot change her when she has no way of understanding what it will do to her soul! You cannot! I will not let her!”
“She has a right to her own choices!” Rosalie shouted over all the other voices, adding to the cacophony.
Bella spun around, finally looking at Rose.
“She has a right to her... own... voice...” She frowned, her last few words trailing away when she saw the look on Bella’s face. She looked like she had just seen the possibility of her next checkmate. Rose took a step away from her, wary. “What?”
Bella’s smile grew into a wide smirk. “So then you’re going to do that, right, Rose?”
“What?” Rose frowned as Emmett laughed loudly. She didn’t... mentally she went through what all had happened and saw it. She gawked at herself. How could she have been so stupid? She had trapped herself.
“You don’t want me to be oppressed. You feel so strongly that I’m my own person that you’re going to let me choose my path, right, kitten?”
Emmett’s laughter doubled. “Kitten? Whoa now! Kitten?”
Bella barely shot him a glance. “Like you said. Because you do believe that, don’t you? ”
Rose scoffed, her mouth hanging open at the noose she suddenly found around her neck. Worst, her stomach suddenly felt warm at the stupid nickname that never should be a thing, and yet was quickly becoming one. Apparently. But she wasn’t supposed to like it. Her eyes flicked to the faces of her family and back to Bella. She was cornered. She did believe it, but this wasn’t what she had intended from it. “Uh, I uh...”
“I think she’s got you there, Rose,” Jasper said in his softest, mostly gentlemanly voice.
Humiliation rose in her. How could she argue now?
Carlisle spoke, coming to her rescue and she loved him for it. “Well, Bella, to be fair, Rose should have some say since it’s her bed you’ll be sharing.”
Edward’s teeth ground audibly.
“Okay then. Rose? Do you want me in your bed?”
Even though she didn’t want to, she felt herself smirk. “Is that what it’s about now? Sharing my bed?”
Bella’s cheeks went pink, holding her gaze defiantly.
Edward pushed away from the ruined wall, shaking his head. “This is wrong. I hope you all understand that this is very wrong.” He gave one last long look at Bella before he turned. “I can’t be here for this.”
They all watched him leave the house, heading slowly toward the woods.
“You know, we really know how to get Edward out of a room these days,” Jasper chuckled.
She looked back at Bella’s determined face and something new rose. Pride. Look at how strong her girl was. A smile almost twitched to her lips but didn’t quite make it. “Bella, it’s not this simple.” Her voice sounded remarkably like she was begging, even if she refused to see it that way. “I would be the one who would have to do it. How can you ask that of me?” Didn’t she understand what it was she was asking?
Bella shrugged. “You’d be doing something I asked you to.” She said it with such flippancy that Rose wasn’t exactly sure how she was supposed to argue. “So which is it? Do you respect me enough to let me choose my own path? Or…”
Rose didn’t answer, her eyes on the floor.
“Do you love me enough?”
Rosalie’s eyes shot to Bella’s face, the wobble in her voice demanding her attention. Bella’s eyes were bright, suddenly damp, nervous. Did she love her enough? That question made her want to laugh and cry at the same time. Did she love her enough? My god, she loved her enough. Trapped, she gave the only answer she could. “Of course I do,” she breathed out.
Bella nodded, sniffing. “Okay. Then it’s set. Let’s go.”
Rose’s stomach dropped out. Now? Just like that? Now?
“Hold on, hold on,” Carlisle jumped forward, chuckling. His hand clasped Bella’s shoulder with an indulgent smile. “I appreciate your enthusiasm, but it’s not that simple, Bella. We need a plan.”
Bella nodded once, looking like she might ask for a handshake on their agreement. Instead, she moved over to the seat closest to Rose and sat. “Okay then. Let’s plan.”
As a family, they began to discuss, each offering their concerns and thoughts. Rose, however, stood beside Bella’s chair, not listening. She was busy looking down at her, the ever-present smirk on her face gone.
What did she do now? Did she fight? Did she become allies with Edward, someone whom she felt was wrong to force his opinions on anyone? Could he be wrong and yet she agree with him about this? She didn’t think so. She didn’t want to be on the same side as Edward. “Bella.”
Bella’s face turned up to hers and Rose saw an honest light in her eyes, a joy that Rose just couldn’t understand. She bent, kneeling beside her, taking her hands. “Sweetheart, you might want this now, but who knows what you will want later,” she pleaded. “You’re so young, love. You’re so young.”
The sincerity of her voice seemed to focus Bella. She turned in her seat, focusing entirely on her. “That’s not how this works, right? Vampires mate for life.”
“Yes,” she sighed, touching her cheek. “But humans don’t.” Gently she leaned forward and kissed her face, soaking in its warmth. Maybe this time it was about letting Bella be her own woman. Maybe it was time to trust fate. But how could she? Fate had been cruel to her.
Bella smiled gently, warm and just for Rose, and for just a moment Rose wondered if that was actually true anymore. The past had been cruel to her, but here was Bella, looking at her like that.
“Bella… the person I was at eighteen is very different from the person I am now.”
“I know. But I think that for me this is an inevitability. Whether I’m nineteen or twenty or thirty, this has to be my future.”
“But why? Just tell me why. Please.”
Bella shook her head, her eyebrows drawn. Her chocolatey eyes flicked over Rose’s face. “Because, how could I ever want anything else?”
Vampire life. Immortality. Of course.
“I mean you, Rose.”
She stared, her mind struck silent and stuck. How had she known exactly what she was thinking? How had she known… was it true? Was it at all possible that it was true?
The room had grown silent, so very silent as they looked at one another.
“This is my choice and I want to make it.”
Rose didn’t respond. What could she say?
“Well, Bella…” Carlisle finally broke the silence after a long moment. “I have to head to the hospital, but we will continue this talk soon, okay? Be patient.”
Bella laughed, her eyes alight again. Her smile was so big that Rose thought she might be able to feel the rays of the sun from it if she got close enough.
Rose didn’t look away from her profile.
How could she want anything else either?
“Come on, Bella, I’ll walk you out,” she offered, rising out of her crouch.
Bella nodded, her hand slipping willingly into Rose’s.
“Are you okay?” Bella asked as they stepped out onto the porch.
Rose’s smile wasn’t large, nor was it natural. She opened her mouth to speak but the words dried when to the side of the door, Edward stepped out of the shadows.
Rosalie felt her body stiffen, making Bella turn in surprise.
“Please. Bella, let me talk to you. Let me try to talk some sense into you,” he begged.
“Ahh!” Bella gasped as Rose’s hand tightened.
“Shit, I’m sorry.” Rose let her hand go, glaring at Edward. She didn’t like the look on his face, didn’t want to leave Bella with him.
Beside her, Bella gave a large sigh. “All right.”
“Bella...” Rose started.
Bella shrugged. “It’s okay, Rose. I’m fine. This is gonna have to happen eventually. You don’t have to worry. I choose you.”
Edward took a step back, his eyes averted in pain and while Rose’s chest felt suddenly warm, it wasn’t exactly that which she was concerned about.
“Okay.” She nodded a little and with a snarl at Edward, stepped back into the house. She could still hear him, and she knew that Edward knows that. Still, she did her best to force herself to go and sit on the couch, to try not to listen.
She glanced out the front windows and away again.
Edward was walking her to her car, her hand in his.
Silently, Alice loped over and folded herself into the couch beside Rose, her head resting on Rose’s stiff shoulder.
Rose swallowed thickly, taken aback and at the same time, pleased.
The silence outside was strangling, a horrible counterpoint to the stressed chaos inside of her.
“What did you see?” Her voice was thick, choked as she asked the question that she didn’t want the answer to. “Before. What did you see?”
Alice didn’t move, not at all surprised. “Are you sure you want to know?”
Rose gave a deprecating cough of a laugh. If that wasn’t the stupidest question… “No. But I think I need to know.”
Alice nodded. “Well. The first thing I saw was confusing. I saw it right before Edward brought Bella to meet us.”
Alice nodded again. “It was just you and Bella, but you were looking at Bella… um, like you do now.”
Rosalie shook her head a little. So Alice had seen something before Rose had even known? “Why didn’t you say anything?”
To Rose’s surprise, Alice laughed. “To be fair, you had been with Emmett for a long time. I never would have thought… I just thought you two were going to become friends.”
Rose snickered. She supposed that was reasonable.
“But then I saw you kiss her. It didn’t make any sense until you started to avoid me. I mean, did you really jump out of a window to avoid me?”
Rose chucked. “I did.”
Alice shook her head, scooting in a little closer so she could take her hand.
Rose’s smile faded. “What do you see now?” Her voice was heavy, unsure she wanted the answer and even more unsure that she didn’t already know it.
Alice sat up, her hand still over her sister’s. Her face was distant, looking at something that only Alice could see. “I see struggle. And…” Alice’s eyebrows drew together into a deep frown. “And things that I’m not sure I understand. There are… gaps… I don’t…” she suddenly shook her head, snapping herself back to the world around her. She blinked and smiled a little. “I see happiness for all of you though. In the end.”
“But Bella.” She pressed.
Alice sighed. “I can’t make that choice for you, Rose. But I’ve always seen Bella as one of us.”
“So I’m going to do it?”
Alice nodded. “You always were going to, Rose.”
Despair filled her. So she hadn’t changed as much as she wanted to then.
“You’re going to be happy, Rose. You just need to let yourself.”
She nodded, locked in her grief.
She was going to do it. She supposed she knew that. How could she not do it now?
“Bella, just because you two are supposed to be mated doesn’t mean you have to be together. You’re human. You don’t feel what she feels. You told me that you would always want me. We can leave.” He begged. “Be with me. We can still do this.”
“But I do,” Bella said on a sigh. “I do feel what she does.”
In her seat, Rose pulled her legs up, holding them tightly, smiling. She does. She did.
Outside, whatever silence that Bella and Edward had been locked in finally broke.
“Okay, I’ll talk first,” Bella said. “Edward, I’m sorry I’m hurting you. I really really super don’t want to be. But we weren’t good for one another. I didn’t feel strong when I was with you. I don’t think what we had was real.”
Edward made a noise of protest but Bella continued.
“I think Rose was right that it’s my blood that you want. Look at you, Edward, you’re struggling just being this close to me. I can see it.”
“I’ll be fine.”
“We’re not mated, Edward. I’m sorry. I know that because now, with Rose, I feel something different.”
“I’m sorry, but I want to be with her. I want to be.”
“You’re wrong, Bella. You’re—”
“But I’m not. And I think it’s time you accept that. It time for you to be a good brother and to let this go.”
“Never. I will. Never let this go.”
The silence outside stretched after Bella’s fading words. Rose waited, and when it didn’t change, she rose, giving Alice’s hand a squeeze, and went to the porch.
“He left,” Bella sighed, looking out toward the woods.
Rose just nodded.