Rosalie stood in front of her full-length mirror and smoothed her dress again with a critical eye. She had wanted to dress up for the day. It was a significant one. But looking at herself she frowned, wondering yet again if it was a mistake. Who traveled like this? No one got on a plane for fifteen hours dressed in a red pencil dress and black heels. Was she giving away their plot before they had been given the change to try?
“Stop second guessing yourself, Rose. You look beautiful.”
She smiled a little uncertainly over her shoulder at Esme. “It’s not too much?”
Esme shook her head. “Not at all. Not for today. And I’m sure Bella will love it.” She smirked, her eyebrow rising in suggestion.
She bit her lip and looked at her reflection again. She hoped Bella would. That was the point. “Is everything else ready?”
Esme just nodded.
Her hand settled on Rose’s back, lightly pressing, massaging the muscles that were far too hard. “Don’t worry, it will all go according to plan.”
She cleared her throat. “All right.” She smoothed her hair and cleared her throat again. “I’m going to tower over her in these.” She laughed a little, but it was hallow and nervous. She was nervous. Oh, she was far more nervous than she had thought she would be once they finally got there.
“Well—” Esme leaned in, divulging a secret, “—sometimes us little people like that.”
She had to laugh. “I guess you would know.” Esme was tiny in almost every way, and far below Carlisle’s stature.
She studied herself, looking for any flaw. She was stalling just a bit, she knew that.
This was it. Once she left the house, this was all in motion and she still wasn’t sure that this was right. Despite what Alice had said, despite the euphoria Bella had been living in, despite her own words in Bella’s defense, she wasn’t sure.
Right or wrong, however, the choice was long out of her hands. Every time her hesitance came up, every time she began to remind Bella that she had reservations, Bella said the same thing. ‘But it’s my choice, right, Rose? And you respect me enough to let me make it, right?’ It hogtied her.
The worst part was that she did believe that Bella deserved to make her own choices as a separate person from her. It was one of the ways that she and Emmett had always worked. They had never needed to be one. They had always been comfortable being two together.
That wasn’t saying that she hadn’t protested. She had spent a solid few weeks in a terror of a mood because her own choice was gone. It would be she, after all, who would be stealing her mate’s human life.
Then when Bella, understanding but immovable, changed her plan to have it be Carlisle who did it, her attitude had changed. The thought of it being Carlisle and not her had sent her into a jealous fit. She had barely been able to talk to Bella for a full day. She had refused to allow someone else’s venom in her.
That fact had sent her into a week-long depression, confused and upset because part of her did want this and that made her hate herself.
She had been disgusted.
Bella hadn’t understood what was happening in Rose’s head, but Carlisle apparently had. He had pulled her aside and promised her that this was the right thing to do. Though she had always hated it, and hated him to a point, he had never been anything but good to her, and she had listened.
So as the school year had drawn to a close, Rosalie graduating yet again, she, Bella, Carlisle, and Esme had made plans. It had come down to this.
Bella was to tell her father that she had applied for an exchange program in Spain for her final year of high school. Charlie, according to Bella, would most likely be a little confused but happy for her and proud she was such an achiever. Renee would protest, but since Bella wasn’t living with her anymore and had grown increasingly busy lately, Bella had been sure that she could escape any argument Renee made.
It had gone exactly as Bella had said it would.
Rose smiled warmly, keeping a respectful distance from Bella.
Charlie’s face turned up to her, confusion thick. “You wanna go to Spain, Bells?”
Bella rolled her eyes just a little. “Well, yeah, dad! This is great!”
The room filled with silence as Charlie stared at her with vague eyes and Bella waited.
The lack of expression in Charlie’s face made Rosalie nervous. Unsure if he was imploding or thinking, she stepped in.
“It’s a really great opportunity, Chief Swan. I’m going too as a post-graduate.”
“You are, huh?” He asked, seeming a little intrigued by that. “All of you Cullens get good grades, right? Didn’t you get into—”
“Harvard Med,” she nodded. She hadn’t actually applied and instead had just named the first school that had come to her mind when Charlie had asked the month before. She supposed it was good to have a place she was supposedly off to.
He blew out a whistle. “Harvard Med. That’s quite a school.”
Rosalie smiled, sending Bella a quick wink. “The admissions board seemed very impressed that I was going to be part of this program.”
“They did, huh?”
She just nodded. “Carlisle says it’s an opportunity that I’ll probably never get again. Bella too.” All right, she thought she was laying it on a bit thick now. Bella, it seemed thought so too. She sent her a warning glare, but Charlie seemed to be eating it up.
“He did, huh?”
In the end, Charlie had agreed, seeming bemused but proud.
Then all they had to do was wait out the summer, spend some time with Charlie, and send Bella to go visit her mom. In truth, she hadn’t seen Bella much over the past few weeks and that had been hard, but not as hard as she had thought it would be. It was as if their bond had known that her absence was not a malignant one. It was as though their bond knew that it was about to get its way.
A few weeks later Bella announced to her father that she had gotten the spot and that was that. Their plan was in motion.
Bella had shown up from Phoenix the week before, seeming stressed after her time with Renee. She had come over to the Cullen house in the middle of the night, something that seemed to have become a habit, and had announced that it was time. She had insisted that they could say she was going to settle in early, that she was ready, but the Cullens had held to their plan.
Which was a good thing. It had given Esme the time she needed to prepare the house, readying it for the next few days and then for the possibility of being empty for the next few years. It was an alarming prospect, but also one that was far too real.
Rose sighed into the mirror and turned. It was time to go. She smiled at Esme, whose face was the face of a mother on her daughter’s wedding day. Her hands were clasped together under her chin, her expression dewy.
After a year of pretending to be in Spain, Bella would tell Charlie that the program had given her the choice to renew for another year and at the end of two years they would see if, with some hints not to ask questions, they could reintroduce Charlie into their lives so that there was no real suspicion. If Bella didn’t seem ready then Bella would announce she had decided to stay in Spain, for school or for love, Bella would decide later. The Cullens would flee to Alaska where they would all stay until it was safe to come back. Bella was uncomfortable with that idea, feeling guilty about them possibly needing to leave. Rose thought it wasn’t so much of a problem since they only had one more Cullen in school, and then within the next four or five years, they would have to leave anyway, waiting a generation or so to come back.
That was all if things went according to plan. Esme, however, had prepared the house just in case. Bella as a new vampire was likely to be erratic and possibly a danger to others. If so, the house was ready, the Cullens were packed for an impromptu move. Carlisle had spoken to a hospital in Anchorage about a possible job, and the rest were willing.
But that was only if things went as badly as they could.
Having descended the stairs with a nervous stomach, she slid into her car, which she still refused to think of as Sappho and headed over to the Swan house.
“Hello?” Rose called as she knocked on the open front door.
“Hey!” Bella jumped up on the couch, her eyes over large and a little pale. Her hands were shaking like she had downed a few cups of coffee, but her smile was huge… maybe too big to be real, Rose considered. “Errr…”
Bella blinked, her eyes trailing down Rose’s body and back up.
Rose smiled and winked. It was amazing how often Bella made her smile like that. “So you like it?”
Bella swallowed, her already over-blown eyes bugging.
“Are you ready to go?” She asked it for Charlie’s benefit, her eyes asking a different question. Are you ready? Are you sure?
Bella seemed to understand, but what her response was, Rosalie wasn’t sure and that made her anxious. She took a step forward, her hands out to touch Bella but from behind them, there was a clatter of footsteps as Charlie came out of his room.
“I don’t know how the hell we’re going to get all of this to the airport,” Charlie grumped, dropping another bag on the pile. “The airline doesn’t have a bag maximum?”
Rose turned and laughed when she saw the pile of bags beside the door. It was indeed a lot, far more than they would be allowed if they were going anywhere overseas. “Don’t worry, Charlie, the program pays for our baggage.”
“Still,” he grumped, eyeing them sullenly. Rose thought she noticed a slightly nasal quality to his voice, like perhaps he had been crying recently. She studied Bella’s father’s face, surprised and impressed. His eyes weren’t very red, but there was just enough. She wondered if Bella knew.
An awkward silence fell as they all stood in the foyer, eyeing one another, all seeming unsure what to do or say next.
“Well, uh, let’s get loaded up.” Charlie finally said with a clap of his hands.
“Right.” Rose picked up a handful of bags without thought and then caught sight of Charlie’s surprise. She let out a fake cry of strain and dropped half the bags.
“Here, let me help, Rosalie,” he mumbled, grabbing a few bags.
“Oops,” she laughed as Charlie headed out the door.
“Thought you were stronger than you were, huh?” Charlie chuckled.
“I guess so, Charlie,” Rosalie forced a laugh.
Bella rolled her eyes at her.
“What?” Rose cried, indignant. She didn’t get it right all of the time, she knew that. She had forgotten for just a moment to pretend. It happened.
Bella just shook her head and snuck a kiss to Rose’s cheek, making the glare Rose had been giving her drop right off of her face again.
Following Charlie, she threw the bags she had carried into the bed of Bella’s truck. They would be stopping at an office building where they had told Charlie that their luggage would be picked up and shipped by the program. Really it was an office that Carlisle sometimes used for off-campus meetings. She and Bella would swing back by on their way back and gather the bags.
After weeks of planning time, no detail had gone unseen or planned for.
“That’s Rosalie’s car?” Rose heard from the truck in front of her a few minutes into the drive. Being stuck behind the truck, and not only that but Charlie driving said truck, was a little nerve-wracking. It was incredibly slow. Rosalie put a CD on and hummed along, trying to get her mind off of the forty-five she was going.
It was an insult to her truck, that was what it was. No car this beautiful should be stuck going this slow.
Rose chuckled a little at the confusion in Bella’s voice.
All right, they had planned for everything, but they perhaps hadn’t thought about the fact that Rose should have driven something a little less eye catching.
Charlie huffed and Rose saw his eyes on her in the rearview mirror.
She pushed her sunglasses up a little tighter, pretending to be singing along with a CD.
“Oh. Err, yeah, it’s not hers. It’s Carlisle’s. He lets her use it.”
Good girl, she smiled a little to herself.
“And she’s just parking that at the airport?”
Rose sighed. Of all times, this was exactly the worse time for Charlie to begin to notice what was happening around him.
“What? Oh, no. Um. One of the Cullens is flying in from a trip tomorrow. They’re gonna take it.”
After what felt like an entire vampiric lifetime, the three walked into the airport stiffly, Rose trailing a little behind Bella and Charlie. Looking around in confusion, Charlie directed Bella to the left toward the airline on their tickets. As far as Charlie knew, they were supposed to take a puddle jumper to Seattle, a flight to New York, and then from there a direct flight to Barcelona.
“So I guess this is it, huh?” Charlie said, glancing around the airport.
Bella nodded and Rose wasn’t surprised to see tears in her eyes. She hoped, deeply hoped that Bella wouldn’t have to lose him. In her opinion, Charlie was deeply lacking in the fatherly department, but she knew Bella loved him.
She took a small step back from the father and daughter. This was a big day. She would be there in whatever context Bella wanted.
“Okay, c’mere, kid.” Charlie pulled Bella in, his own eyes looking so much like Bella’s as they also sparkled. “I’m glad you came here, kiddo. I hope it wasn’t a miserable time.”
“Of course not, dad.” Bella sniffed into his jacket, holding on to him awkwardly.
Rosalie averted her gaze, turning to studying the poster beside them.
He gave a nod and held her at arm’s length. “Now you call me every day, you hear? I gave you about a million calling cards. I put them in your blue duffle.”
And they would, for the first few days. But then…
“I know, dad,” Bella gave a watery laugh and eye roll. “You told me twice this morning, remember?”
“Oh. Err, that’s right.”
Bella glanced at Rose, fear on her face.
Rose took a step forward, holding her gaze, trying to communicate sympathy and love. If she thought for a second that the fear was for her life and not leaving the nest then she would intervene, she would put her foot down. She would welcome it. As it was, Bella took a deep breath and the look faded. “I gotta go, dad.”
He nodded and pulled her in for another hug before pushing her back again. “And don’t forget to call your mom.”
He took a quick step away, clearing his throat gruffly. “You uh, you look after her, Rosalie.”
She stepped up beside him, doing her best to make her face warm and comforting. If she were human, she thought, this would be a time to touch him. She should put her hand on his arm, or even hug him. As it was, she did her best not to touch humans and the last thing she wanted was to suddenly alter Charlie that there was something different about her. In that moment, she mourned that inability. She deeply wanted to give the man who had created her mate some type of comfort. “I will. I promise, Charlie. I will take very good care of her.”
“She will, dad,” Bella agreed with the smallest of teasing smiles for Rose.
“No parties. No boys.” He insisted, shaking a finger at her.
Rose nodded, her face solemn. “I promise,” she said with all the vehemence she could, “no boys.”
“Good.” He clapped her on the shoulder, something she found she kind of liked. “Goodbye, Charlie.” She smiled and leaning forward she kissed his cheek, then pretended she hadn’t noticed him go red. “Shall we?”
Bella took a deep breath, taking the ticket from Rose. “Yeah.”
They joined the small line to go through security, Charlie silently wiping his eyes in like just as Bella was.
“You don’t have to leave him,” Rose reminded her in a gentle voice. “We don’t have to do this.”
“Yes, I do.”
“We don’t. You could stay as you are. You could still move in. We could get an apartment in Forks or somewhere else.” Rose looked at her small mate, saw her pink nose and wet eyes. “Bella.”
“It does have to be this, Rose. I want it to be.”
Rose nodded. She had already known that would be the answer.
Her eyes were so beautiful that way, wet, slightly red as she did her best not to cry. She wanted to reach out and touch her, to pull her into her, but they had never agreed to let Charlie know about their relationship. So instead she just stood awkwardly in her affections, the thought echoing in her head: ‘Bella, my love, I will do anything to make you happy.’ “All right, I promise, we’ll do everything we can so you can still know your parents.”
She would do everything she could for Bella’s happiness, whatever it took.
Bella smiled a little.
They made it through security and then with one last wave at Charlie, they turned the corner and started down the long hallway toward the terminals.
“You know,” Rose gave her a sly grin and a nudge. “We could use these tickets. We never talked about that idea.”
“What do you mean?” Bella asked, her look suspicious.
“I mean we could get on a plane. You know, spend a few weeks in Spain.”
Bella eyed her. “You’re not getting cold feet, are you?”
“My feet are always cold.”
Bella groaned. “Ha, ha, very funny.”
Rose smiled a little. “I’m not, if you’re not, Bella.”
Bella nodded, twisting to avoid a stationary man in the middle of the walkway.
She felt the warmth suddenly coming from Bella before she realized that Bella was having some type of thought that was making her blush deeply.
“What?” she asked, intrigued.
“Nothing.” Bella shook her head fast.
Bella glared a little from the corner of her eye. “I was just thinking… have you thought about what this is a lot like?”
Rose’s lips pursed, a single eyebrow bouncing as she looked straight ahead, ignoring an ogling man. She had, actually. It had occurred to her not long after their plans had been set in stone. The moment that Rose’s teeth sank into her skin might as well be the moment that Bella said I do. Perhaps it could even be argued that it had already happened the moment they had separated from Charlie. The moment she bit her, however, their bond would be sealed. They would become one another’s other half. “I have,” she admitted, surprised by her own sheepishness.
The silence from Bella didn’t surprise her. Still, without looking at her, she squared her shoulders, standing a little higher in her insecurity. “Do you want to do it in a more conventional way?”
“What?” Bella squawked. “No! No way! I’m a teenager!”
Rose scoffed. Old enough to become one of the living dead, but too young for marriage. “Are you sure?” she teased. “We could go to Vegas. Or Niagara Falls. We are in an airport, after all.”
Bella spluttered and hiccupped, trying to say something that looked like words, Rose was sure.
“You’re going to have to marry me eventually. I like weddings.”
“You like parties that are for you.”
“That too,” she laughed. “Are you sure that you don’t want it to be now? I’m sure we couldn’t find you a big white dress today. Something traditional and—"
“Don’t do that!” Bella cried.
Rose just gave a slightly evil chuckle.
They waited a solid thirty minutes before they headed back through security, dumping their useless tickets as they went.
“I didn’t see,” Bella said as she covered her eyes to shield from the sun. “Where’d you park Sappho?”
Rose’s feet stopped. “My – car – is not – named – Sappho!”
Bella looked at her curiously. “Oh? Did you get a new one? Because I could have sworn I saw you drive Sappho up here.”
Lips pursed, Rose haughtily decided the best idea was to ignore her.
“Hey!” Bella called, laughing. Rose had left her in the dust as she started toward her car, which was more certainly not called Sappho.
She paused just long enough for Bella to catch up, her hand slipping into Rose’s. Bella gave a pull, but Rose still ignored her. Bella pulled harder. She turned, her glare hard.
Bella, seeming completely unconcerned by it, leaned up onto her toes and pulled Rose’s face down.
“You’re too tall in those. They have to go.”
Bella was still smiling when she kissed her, which in turn made Rose smile. “You look beautiful, by the way.”
Rose’s mouth opened, feeling that school girl pleasure again. “Do I?”
This time Rose kissed her, long and deep. “Thank you.” She pulled Bella’s hand up to her lips and kissed it. “Come on. I think the sun is going to come out soon.”