Four years. And an old woman by fifteen.
Just fifteen years of life.
But she was so healthy. Vital, bright, glowing, and happy. Her conspicuous well-being made it easy for me to be happy with her in the moment and leave the future for tomorrow.
Carlisle and Edward discussed our options for the future from every angle in low voices that I tried not to hear. They never had these discussions when Jacob was around, because there was one sure way to halt aging, and that wasn't something Jacob was likely to be excited about. I wasn't. Too dangerous! my instincts screamed at me. Jacob and Renesmee seemed alike in so many ways, both half-and-half beings, two things at the same time. And all the werewolf lore insisted that vampire venom was a death sentence rather than a course to immortality___
Carlisle and Edward had exhausted the research they could do from a distance, and now we were preparing to follow old legends at their source. We were going back to Brazil, starting there. The Ticunas had legends about children like Renesmee.... If other children like her had ever existed, perhaps some tale of the life span of half-mortal children still lingered___
The only real question left was exactly when we would go.
I was the holdup. A small part of it was that I wanted to stay near Forks until after the holidays, for Charlie's
sake. But more than that, there was a different journey that I knew had to come first - that was the clear priority. Also, it had to be a solo trip.
This was the only argument that Edward and I had gotten in since I'd become a vampire. The main point of contention was the "solo" part. But the facts were what they were, and my plan was the only one that made rational sense. I had to go see the Volturi, and I had to do it absolutely alone.
Even freed from old nightmares, from any dreams at all, it was impossible to forget the Volturi. Nor did they leave us without reminders.
Until the day that Aro's present showed up, i didn't know that Alice had sent a wedding announcement to the Volturi leaders; we'd been far away on Esme's island when she'd seen a vision of Volturi soldiers - Jane and Alec, the devastatingly powerful twins, among them. Caius was planning to send a hunting party to see if I was still human, against their edict (because I knew about the secret vampire world, I either must join it or be silenced... permanently). So Alice had mailed the announcement, seeing that this would delay them as they deciphered the meaning behind it. But they would come eventually. That was certain.
The present itself was not overtly threatening. Extravagant, yes, almost frightening in that very extravagance. The threat was in the parting line of Aro's congratulatory note, written in black ink on a square of heavy, plain white paper in Aro's own hand:
I so look forward to seeing the new Mrs. Cullen in person.
The gift was presented in an ornately carved, ancient wooden box inlaid with gold and mother-of-pearl, ornamented with a rainbow of gemstones. Alice said the box itself was a priceless treasure, that it would have outshone just about any piece of jewelry besides the one inside it.
"I always wondered where the crown jewels disappeared to after John of England pawned them in the thirteenth century," Carlisle said. "I suppose it doesn't surprise me that the Volturi have their share."
The necklace was simple - gold woven into a thick rope of a chain, almost scaled, like a smooth snake that would curl close around the throat. One jewel hung suspended from the rope; a white diamond the size of a golf ball.
The unsubtle reminder in Aro's note interested me more than the jewel. The Volturi needed to see that I was immortal, that the Cullens had been obedient to the Volturi's orders, and they needed to see this soon. They could not be allowed near Forks. There was only one way to keep our life here safe.
"You're not going alone," Edward had insisted through his teeth, his hands clenching into fists.
"They won't hurt me," I'd said as soothingly as I could manage, forcing my voice to sound sure. "They have no reason to. I'm a vampire. Case closed."
"No. Absolutely no."
"Edward, it's the only way to protect her."
And he hadn't been able to argue with that. My logic was watertight.
Even in the short time I'd known Aro, I'd been able to see that he was a collector - and his most prized treasures were his living pieces. He coveted beauty, talent, and rarity in his immortal followers more than any jewel locked in his vaults. It was unfortunate enough that he'd begun to covet Alice's and Edward's abilities. I would give him no more reason to be jealous of Carlisle's family. Renesmee was beautiful and gifted and unique - she was one of a kind. He could not be allowed to see her, not even through someone's thoughts.
And I was the only one whose thoughts he could not hear. Of course I would go alone.
Alice did not see any trouble with my trip, but she was worried by the indistinct quality of her visions. She said they were sometimes similarly hazy when there were outside decisions that might conflict but that had not been solidly resolved. This uncertainty made Edward, already hesitant, extremely opposed to what I had to do. He wanted to come with me as far as my connection in London, but I wouldn't leave Renesmee without both her parents. Carlisle was coming instead. It made both Edward and me a little more relaxed, knowing that Carlisle would be only a few hours away from me.
Alice kept searching for the future, but the things she found were unrelated to what she was looking for. A new trend in the stock market; a possible visit of reconciliation from Irina, though her decision was not firm; a snowstorm that wouldn't hit for another six weeks; a call from Renee (I was practicing my "rough" voice, and getting better at it every day - to Renee's knowledge, I was still sick, but mending).