Twilight Summary: In Chapter 13, Edward and Bella spend the weekend alone together in the woods.
Twilight, Chapter 13: Confessions
Where were we?
He smiled, but his face was ashamed. “I think we were talking about why you were afraid, besides the obvious reason.”
I looked down at his hand and doodled aimlessly across his smooth, iridescent palm. The seconds ticked by.
“How easily frustrated I am,” he sighed. I looked into his eyes, abruptly grasping that this was every bit as new to him as it was to me.
I mentioned before that I like Chapter13!Edward and Chapter13!Bella so much more than the Edward and Bella we've received over the previous twelve chapters, but I'm going to mention it now again.
I like this. I like that instead of haranguing Bella to share her unedited thoughts and hassling her to share them now-now-now and imperiously ordering her to forsake any sense of mental privacy and sulking fiercely any time she fails to speak stream-of-consciousness style the moment Edward demands it, I like that here he's just honestly and openly stating that this is hard for him -- and that he's not handling it as well as he would like.
I'm a fan -- a big, big fan -- of communication in relationships. Not necessarily the kind of communication Edward would like; not the kind where each party has no mental privacy whatsoever and feels morally bound to blurt out every thought, no matter how painful. (Nothing good can come, I think, from my randomly announcing unbidden that I think that guy over there is sexier than Husband. Nor can anything helpful come from him verbally noticing that my hair just didn't come out right today because of the high humidity. These thoughts are better kept private.)
But I like the kind of communication that openly notes the things one is struggling with, and which notices when one is doing badly, and why. I'm sorry, I know I'm not being very patient right now, conveys to Bella that Edward is trying -- and it conveys the framing that his frustration is his fault, and not hers. She's not to blame for him being frustrated and impatient and snippy; he is. And he's aware of it and working on it, and he's sorry in the interim that he's doing so poorly. This isn't a panacea to salve over any and all relationship issues -- the onus is still on Edward to actively improve, and Bella has the option of walking away at any time if she decides she doesn't want to deal with this shit anymore -- but it's a good start to communicating why things aren't as they should be. And I like that.
“I was afraid . . . because, for, well, obvious reasons, I can’t stay with you. And I’m afraid that I’d like to stay with you, much more than I should.” I looked down at his hands as I spoke. It was difficult for me to say this aloud.
“Yes,” he agreed slowly. “That is something to be afraid of, indeed. Wanting to be with me. That’s really not in your best interest.”
This is a Vampire Romance, so Edward is talking right now about the fact that he feels a constant urge to murder Bella for his own sustenance. But placing that to the side for a moment, there are other reasons why it's not in Bella's best interest to be with Edward.
For one, it's unclear what kind of a future they have together. Bella hasn't said so far if she's ever wanted children, but Edward assumes that he can't give her any. (Certainly he won't be able to give her more than just the one, since the Vampire/Human hybrid trick can really only work once per couple -- the pregnancy, as far as I can tell, inevitably results in the death of the human mother, one way or another.)
Even if Bella doesn't want children, it's going to be difficult to live as an established couple in a relationship where Edward can only come out at night (unless they're in Forks) and where Bella will eventually outpace him age-wise. "I'm Bella, and this is my younger boyfriend Edward" will work for an introduction, but they'll have to continually revise and re-memorize a realistic "How We Met" story as Bella moves from A Little Bit older to Moderately older to Noticeably older to Significantly older. The alternative -- that Bella becomes a vampire and matches Edward in age -- will allow them to live together in harmony with regards to daylight hours and age-matching, but will be an end to Bella's life in its own way, and will certainly alter her future.
Incidentally, I will take a moment here to note that Buffy and Angel do grapple with these questions in Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and it's interesting to see that I feel that the show handles these issues both better and worse than Twilight does. On the one hand, it's nice to see an acknowledgement of these problems that would beset a Human/Vampire couple. On the other hand, given the realities of the Buffy-verse -- a world which is vastly different from ours and Bella's -- these problems seem laughably moot. In a world where vampires are one clever idea away from burning Buffy's house down at night in order to get rid of her, I don't think eventual child-bearing and facial wrinkles can possibly factor very high on the Importance 'o Meter.
(At least when Piper of Charmed was pregnant, her Whitelighter baby was capable of healing her instantly, which more than made up for the lost combat prowess while gravid. And at least there is, or has been, some concept of heroic retirement in that universe and the passing of the Chosen One mantle on to a new group. I don't get the impression that there are retired ex-Slayers in the Buffy-verse.)
But setting aside the usual stuff like Babies and High School Reunions and whatnot, staying with Edward is not in Bella's best interests because eventually we will retroactively introduce the Volturi: the violent ruling vampire clan who murder and/or turn any humans who know about the existence of vampires. No matter how careful the Cullens are, Bella is eventually going to pop up on the Volturi radar. For Edward to neither consider this, nor to warn Bella of this eventuality is pretty shitty of him, though I can possibly forgive him on the grounds that I kind of doubt they existed when Chapter 13 was written. But still.
“I don’t want you to leave,” I mumbled pathetically, staring down again.
“Which is exactly why I should. But don’t worry. I’m essentially a selfish creature. I crave your company too much to do what I should.”
“Don’t be!” He withdrew his hand, more gently this time; his voice was harsher than usual. Harsh for him, still more beautiful than any human voice. It was hard to keep up — his sudden mood changes left me always a step behind, dazed.
“It’s not only your company I crave! Never forget that. Never forget I am more dangerous to you than I am to anyone else.”
And then there's this. Edward is extra-special-super dangerous to Bella because she sets off all his scent-tingles in a way that no one else can.
It's a staple of the romance genre for a heroine to be so irresistible that the hero is overwhelmed by her wonderfulness. In Old Skool romances, this could manifest as a rape fantasy: she was so irresistible that he just couldn't prevent himself from doing what he did, even over her objections and his own morals (assuming he started with any). That was how overriding her presence was to him. In New Skool romances, the power of the irresistible woman can be felt in the fact that no other woman can satisfy the hero after he's had a taste of the heroine. In Beyond Heaving Bosoms, Candy Tan and Sarah Wendell write:
In some ways, the myth of the irresistible women is appealing: even though it exonerates the man of the responsibility (He couldn’t help himself! Her blazing beauty addled him! Her Magic Hoo Hoo could not be resisted!), having the ability to drive men mad with desire gives the heroine considerable power, even if it’s not a power that can ultimately be wielded for her own ends. Significantly, the Old Skool hero is unfailingly portrayed as being completely in control of all his responses—jaded and cynical, in fact—except when it comes to the heroine, which in turn infuriates him. After all, he’s the premier cocksman in all the land, and here comes this insignificant little chit who’s making him spooge prematurely, even though all she does is move her body with shy, clumsy inexperience during the dance as old as time. Even worse, after getting a sample of the heroine, he finds that no other hoo hoo in the land will do, because lo, she is in sole possession of the Magic Hoo Hoo. Women he formerly found luscious are now overblown and undesirable. This leads to more anger and even more highly charged interactions, until he’s forced to acknowledge his feelings for the heroine and eventually gentles his treatment of her. The heroine, in being raped and having her will overborne, gains power because the hero himself is no longer in full control of his actions. The fact that the hero Loses His Shit every time he’s around the heroine is an indicator of True Lurve instead of a True Need for a Restraining Order. [emphasis mine]
So it is perhaps not surprising that Bella's magic
Twilight is an abstinence romance: a great deal of the tension revolves around the resolution of the Will They or Won't They question. But unlike non-paranormal abstinence romances, the question isn't whether or not they will have sex. Bella and Edward do grapple with sex and abstinence from it, and this being a fantasy they are able to beat the odds despite abstinence having arguably the highest failure rate of all contraception methods available.
But the other half of the Twilight abstinence romance revolves around whether or not Edward will lose control and murder Bella. If he slips up, Bella will either die permanently or (in the best case scenario) die and become a vampire. And this abstinence choice isn't even presented as consensual most of the time: the question isn't so much "Will Bella and Edward do It?" (and risk pregnancy! and loss of social standing! etc.) but "Will Edward do it to Bella?" (which will end in her death). There's very likely an intended implicit rape metaphor here (coupled with the Irresistible Woman as explored above), but it's a nevertheless extremely deadly rape metaphor.
Edward and Bella rely on their -- or, rather, Edward's -- willpower because Twilight is a modern romance that is supposed to appeal to modern teenagers. Most mainstream American teenagers aren't going to be interested in or familiar with the forms of chaperoned courtship. (Despite the face that, ironically, Edward should be aware of and reasonably well-versed in that, by virtue of his age and telepathy.) And being abstinent while your Strict Dad is in the room staring at you both, yardstick at the ready to measure the difference between you, obviously packs a little less literary-erotic punch than private sojourns in the local picturesque meadow while you twine fingers together and longingly long at each other. I get that.
But. By not dating in public places, where Edward would be more motivated to stay on good behavior, or with chaperones such as Carlisle or Alice or Rosalie (all of whom have excellent track-records re: blood-abstinence, and all of whom are thoroughly committed to the masquerade), Edward is placing Bella in mortal peril in order to satisfy his own romantic whims for privacy and finger-twining. And because there is a difference between Literary Motivations (they don't double-date because then the story would suck) versus Character Motivations (they don't double-date because then Edward wouldn't have his fantasy romance the way he's always envisioned it), the end result is to make Edward look extraordinarily callous and careless: willing to risk and lose the woman he loves and the future he craves in order to have a fleeting private stroll through the forest with her.
The ideal, of course, in writing is to make Literary Motivations link nicely with Character Motivations, such that a literary necessity doesn't even appear behind the scenes to the reader because it merges so seamlessly with the character. And I think that you could possibly make this work, in the case of Edward, if we removed the points that (a) one bite is apparently venomous enough to kill-and-turn Bella and (b) the other Cullens have (for the most part) tremendous self-control. If Edward thought that, in the case of his blood-lust overwhelming his love for Bella, he might be able to stop himself after a moment or two, but that once her blood was spilled his nearby family wouldn't be able to stop feeding, then it would make sense to keep solo-dating with Bella rather than inviting Carlisle along. (Although we would then still have the issue of them not dating in public, coupled with new unfortunate implications every time Edward takes Bella home for a visit.)
But to do so would be to sacrifice some of the perfect perfection that is the Cullen family, and presumably that was too crucial to jettison. So instead we just have Edward being so stupidly selfish that he's willing to risk Bella's life not in order to date her -- because there are ways for them to safely date, or at least to date more safely than they are now -- but in order to date her in a very specific kind of way. And despite that way of dating being new enough that old-school Edward might well find it strange and unusual, were he not so busy greedily sniffing Bella's hair or whatever.