Carlisle turned the page around so that we all could read.
Don't look for us. There isn't time to waste. Remember; Tanya, Siobhan, Amun, Alistair, all the nomads you can find. We'll seek out Peter and Charlotte on our way. We're so sorry that we have to leave you this way, with no goodbyes or explanations. It's the only way for us. We love you.
We stood frozen again, the silence total but for the sound of the wolves' heartbeats, their breathing. Their thoughts must have been loud, too. Edward was first to move again, speaking in response to what he heard in Sam's head.
"Yes, things are that dangerous."
"Enough that you would abandon your family?" Sam asked out loud, censure in his tone. It was clear that he had not read the note before giving it to Carlisle. He was upset now, looking as if he regretted listening to Alice.
Edward's expression was stiff - to Sam it probably looked angry or arrogant, but I could see the shape of pain in the hard planes of his face.
"We don't know what she saw," Edward said. "Alice is neither unfeeling nor a coward. She just has more information than we do."
"Wewould not - ," Sam began.
"You are bound differently than we are," Edward snapped. "1/1/e each still have our free will."
Sam's chin jerked up, and his eyes looked suddenly flat black.
"But you should heed the warning," Edward went on. "This is not something you want to involve yourselves in.
You can still avoid what Alice saw."
Sam smiled grimly. "We don't run away." Behind him, Paul snorted.
"Don't get your family slaughtered for pride," Carlisle interjected quietly.
Sam looked at Carlisle with a softer expression. "As Edward pointed out, we don't have the same kind of freedom that you have. Renesmee is as much as part of our family now as she is yours. Jacob cannot abandon her, and we cannot abandon him." His eyes flickered to Alice's note, and his lips pressed into a thinline.
"You don't know her," Edward said.
"Do you?" Sam asked bluntly.
Carlisle put a hand on Edward's shoulder. "We have much to do, son. Whatever Alice's decision, we would be foolish not to follow her advice now. Let's go home and get to work."
Edward nodded, his face still rigid with pain. Behind me, I could hear Esme's quiet, tearless sobs.
I didn't know how to cry in this body; I couldn't do anything but stare. There was no feeling yet. Everything seemed unreal, like I was dreaming again after all these months. Having a nightmare.
"Thank you, Sam," Carlisle said.
"I'm sorry," Sam answered. "We shouldn't have let her through."
"You did the right thing," Carlisle told him. "Alice is free to do what she will. I wouldn't deny her that liberty."
I'd always thought of the Cullens as a whole, an indivisible unit. Suddenly, I remembered that it had not always been so. Carlisle had created Edward, Esme, Rosalie and Emmett; Edward had created me. We were physically linked by blood and venom. I never thought of Alice and Jasper as separate - as adopted into the family. But in truth, Alice had adopted the Cullens. She had shown up with her unconnected past, bringing Jasper with his, and fit herself into the family that was already there. Both she and Jasper had known another life outside the Cullen family. Had she really chosen to lead another new life after she'd seen that life with the Cullens was over?
We were doomed, then, weren't we? There was no hope at all. Not one ray, one flicker that might have convinced Alice she had a chance at our side.
The bright morning air seemed thicker suddenly, blacker, as if physically darkened by my despair.
"I'mnot going down without a fight," Emmett snarled low under his breath. "Alice told us what to do. Let's get it done."
The others nodded with determined expressions, and I realized that they were banking on whatever chance Alice had given us. That they were not going to give in to hopelessness and wait to die.
Yes, we all would fight. What else was there? And apparently we would involve others, because Alice had said so before she'd left us. How could we not follow Alice's last warning? The wolves, too, would fight with us for Renesmee.
We would fight, they would fight, and we all would die.
I didn't feel the same resolve the others seemed to feel. Alice knew the odds. She was giving us the only chance she could see, but the chance was too slim for her to bet on it.
I felt already beaten as I turned my back on Sam's critical face and followed Carlisle toward home.
We ran automatically now, not the same panicked hurry as before. As we neared the river, Esme's head lifted.
"There was that other trail. It was fresh."
She nodded forward, toward where she had called Edward's attention on the way here. While we were racing to save Alice...
"It has to be from earlier in the day. It was just Alice, without Jasper," Edward said lifelessly.
Esme's face puckered, and she nodded.
I drifted to the right, falling a little behind. I was sure Edward was right, but at the same time... After all, how had Alice's note ended up on a page from my book?
"Bella?" Edward asked in an emotionless voice as I hesitated.
"I want to follow the trail," I told him, smelling the light scent of Alice that led away from her earlier flight path, i was new to this, but it smelled exactly the same to me, just minus the scent of Jasper.
Edward's golden eyes were empty. "It probably just leads back to the house."
"Then I'll meet you there."
At first I thought he would let me go alone, but then, as I moved a few steps away, his blank eyes flickered to life.
"I'll come with you," he said quietly. "Well meet you at home, Carlisle."