Life and Death: Twilight Reimagined (Page 105)

She laughed again, but this time there was an almost hysterical edge to her laugh. “Oh, indeed! Why should I feel guilty?”

The darkness in her eyes made me anxious. There was pain there, and I didn’t know how to make it better. I put my hand against her cheek. “Edythe, I don’t understand what you’re saying.”

She closed her eyes. “I just can’t seem to stop putting you in danger. I think I’m in control of myself, and then it gets so close—I don’t know how to not be this anymore.” Eyes still closed, she gestured to herself. “My very existence puts you at risk. Sometimes I truly hate myself. I should be stronger, I should be able to—”

I moved my hand to cover her mouth. “Stop.”

Her eyes opened. She peeled my hand off her mouth and placed it over her cheek again.

“I love you,” she said. “It’s a poor excuse for what I’m doing, but it’s still true.”

It was the first time she’d ever said she loved me—in so many words. Like she’d said this morning, it was different, hearing the words out loud.

“I love you,” I told her when I’d caught my breath. “I don’t want you to be anything other than what you are.”

She sighed. “Now, be a good boy,” she said, and stretched up on her tiptoes.

I held very still while she brushed her lips softly against mine.

We stared at each other for a minute.

“Baseball?” she asked.

“Baseball,” I agreed much more confidently than I felt.

She took my hand and led me a few feet through the tall ferns and around a massive hemlock tree, and we were suddenly there, on the edge of an enormous clearing on the side of a mountain. It was twice the size of any baseball stadium.

All of the others were there. Earnest, Eleanor, and Royal were sitting on an outcropping of rock, maybe a hundred yards away. Much farther out I could see Jessamine and Archie standing at least a quarter of a mile apart. It was almost like they were pantomiming playing catch; I never saw any ball. It looked like Carine was marking bases, but that couldn’t be right. The points were much too far apart.

When we walked into view, the three on the rocks stood. Earnest started toward us. Royal walked away, toward where Carine was setting up. Eleanor followed Earnest after a long look at Royal’s back.

I was staring at Royal’s back, too. It made me nervous.

“Was that you we heard before, Edythe?” Earnest asked.

“Sounded like a hyena choking to death,” Eleanor added.

I smiled tentatively at Earnest. “That was her.”

“Beau was being funny,” Edythe explained.

Archie had left off his game of catch and was running toward us—it was like his feet never touched the ground. In half a heartbeat he was there, hurtling to a stop right in front of us.

“It’s time,” he announced.

The second he spoke, a deep rumble of thunder shook the forest behind us and then crashed westward toward town.

“Eerie, isn’t it?” Eleanor said to me. When I turned to look at her, surprised that she was so casual with me, she winked.

“Let’s go!” Archie took Eleanor’s hand and they darted toward the oversized diamond. Archie almost… bounded—like a stag, but closer to the ground. Eleanor was just as fast and nearly as graceful, but she was something altogether different. Something that charged, not bounded.

“Are you ready for some ball?” Edythe asked, her eyes bright.

It was impossible not to be enthusiastic about something that clearly made her happy. “Go team!”

She laughed, quickly ran her fingers through my hair, then raced off after the other two. Her run was more aggressive than either of the others’, like a cheetah to a gazelle—but still supple and heartbreakingly beautiful. She quickly caught up to and then passed the others.

“Shall we go watch?” Earnest asked in his soft tenor voice. I realized that I was staring openmouthed after them. I quickly reassembled my expression and nodded. Earnest kept a few feet farther away than was exactly normal for two people walking together, and I figured he was still being careful not to frighten me. He matched his stride to mine without seeming impatient at the pace.

“You don’t play with them?” I asked.

“No, I prefer to referee. I like keeping them honest.”

“Do they cheat?”

“Oh yes—and you should hear the arguments they get into! Actually, I hope you don’t, you would think they were raised by a pack of wolves.”

“You sound like my dad,” I laughed.

He laughed, too. “Well, I do think of them as my children in most ways. I never could get over—” He broke off, and then took a deep breath. “Did Edythe tell you I lost my daughter?”

“Er, no,” I murmured, stunned, scrambling to understand what lifetime he was remembering.

“My only child—my Grace. She died when she was barely two. It broke my heart—that’s why I jumped off the cliff, you know,” he added calmly.

“Oh, um, Edythe just said you fell.…”

“Always so polite.” Earnest smiled. “Edythe was the first of my new children. My second daughter. I’ve always thought of her that way—though she’s older than I, in one way at least—and wondered if my Grace would have grown into such an amazing person.” He looked at me and smiled warmly. “I’m so happy she’s found you, Beau. She’s been the odd man out for far too long. It’s hurt me to see her alone.”

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