Life and Death: Twilight Reimagined (Page 129)
“I made an oath, Archie.”
“I didn’t,” he snarled.
“Wait, wait,” Edythe said, her head snapping up. “He deserves a choice.”
Her lips were at my ear. I clamped my teeth against the moaning, straining to listen.
“Beau? I won’t make this decision for you. I won’t take this away from you. And I’ll understand, I promise, Beau. If you don’t want to live like this, I won’t fight you. I’ll respect what you want. I know it’s a horrible choice. I would give you any other option if I could. I would die if I could give your life back to you.” Her voice broke. “But I can’t make that trade. I can’t do anything—except stop the pain. If that’s what you want. You don’t have to be this. I can let you go—if that’s what you need.” It sounded like she was sobbing again. “Tell me what you want, Beau. Anything.”
“You,” I spit through my teeth. “Just you.”
“Are you sure?” she whispered.
I groaned. The fire was reaching its fingers into my chest. “Yes,” I coughed out. “Just—let me stay—with you.”
“Out of my way, Edythe,” Archie growled.
Her voice lashed back like a whip. “I didn’t make any oaths, either.”
Her face was at my throat, and I couldn’t feel anything besides the fire, but I could hear the quiet sound of her teeth cutting through my skin.
I ENDED UP CHANGING MY MIND.
The fire in my arm wasn’t really so bad—the worst thing I’d ever felt up to that point, yes. But not the same as my entire body on fire.
I begged her to make it stop. I told her that this was really all I wanted. For the burning to stop. Nothing else.
I heard Archie telling her that everyone had said the same thing—reminding her that she’d begged Carine to kill her, too. Telling her my first decision was the one that counted.
I remember at one point screaming at him to shut up.
I think he apologized.
But mostly it was hard to pay attention to what was happening outside the fire. I know they moved me. It seemed like I was on the bloody, vomit-covered wood floor for a long time, but it was hard to judge how the minutes passed. Sometimes Carine would say something and it would feel like a year had passed before Archie answered her, but it was probably just the fire that made the seconds into years.
And then someone carried me. I saw the sun for another year-long second—it looked pale and cool. Then everything was dark. It was dark for a long time.
I could still see Edythe. She held me in her arms, my face near hers, one of her hands on my cheek. Archie was nearby, too. I think he had my legs.
When I screamed, she apologized, over and over again. I tried not to scream. It didn’t do any good. There was no relief, no release in it. The fire didn’t care what I did. It just burned.
When my eyes were in focus, I could see dim lights moving across Edythe’s face, though all around her head it was just black. Aside from her voice and mine, the only sound was a deep, constant thrumming. Sometimes it got louder, and then it was quiet again.
I didn’t realize I was back in the black car until it stopped. I didn’t hear the door open, but the sudden flash of light was blinding. I must have recoiled from it, because Edythe crooned in my ear.
“We’re just stopping to refill the gas tank. We’ll be home soon, Beau. You’re doing so well. This will be over soon. I am so sorry.”
I couldn’t feel her hand against my face—it should have been cool, but nothing was cool anymore. I tried to reach for it, but I couldn’t exactly tell what my limbs were doing. I think I was thrashing some, but Edythe and Archie kept me contained. Edythe guessed what I wanted. She grabbed my hand and held it to her lips. I wished I could feel it. I tried to grip her hand without knowing how to make the muscles move, or being able to feel them. Maybe I got it right. She didn’t let go.
It got darker. Eventually, I couldn’t see her anymore. It was black as ink inside the car—there was no difference between having my eyes open or closed. I started to panic. The fire made the night like a sensory deprivation chamber; I couldn’t feel anything but pain—not the seat beneath me, not Archie restraining my legs, not Edythe holding my head, my hand. I was all alone with the burning, and I was terrified.
I don’t know what I must have gasped out—my voice was totally gone now, either raw from screaming or burned past usability, I couldn’t gues which—but Edythe’s voice was in my ear again.
“I’m right here, Beau. You’re not alone. I won’t leave you. I will be here. Listen to my voice. I’m here with you.…”
Her voice calmed me—made the panic go away, if not the pain. I listened, keeping my breathing shallow so I could hear her better. I didn’t need to scream anymore. The burning only got more and never less, but I was adapting. It was all I could feel, but not all I could think about.
“I never wanted this for you, Beau,” Edythe continued. “I would give anything to take this away. I’ve made so many mistakes. I should have stayed away from you, from the first day. I should never have come back again. I’ve destroyed your life, I’ve taken everything from you.…” It sounded like she was sobbing again.
“No,” I tried to say, but I’m not sure if I even shaped the word with my mouth.
“He’s probably far enough along that he’ll remember this,” Archie said softly.
“I hope so,” Edythe said, her voice breaking.