|More Than One
Author: BabelFish42 PM
For Alice, some things in life are straightforward. Like not wearing white after Labor Day. But not all questions have simple answers. Why was she really avoiding Bella during her pregnancy? And how exactly do you define a family? Formerly 'Heartache'Rated: Fiction T - English - Family/Hurt/Comfort - Alice & Esme - Chapters: 2 - Words: 6,760 - Reviews: 30 - Favs: 40 - Follows: 20 - Updated: 01-16-09 - Published: 01-07-09 - id: 4777560
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
A/N: To everyone who reviewed the first chapter, thanks so much! You guys are amazing.
Disclaimer: Why do we even have disclaimers? Isn't it kind of ridiculously obvious that Meyers is the author, considering how all the books have her name printed on them in big bold letters? Well, anyway, Twilight still isn't mine.
It had been a very long night, even for someone like me who was used to never sleeping. That can be both a blessing and a curse, you know. The sleeplessness. For us, there's no temporary escape into unconsciousness. There are no dreams and no nightmares either. For better or worse, everything we experience is real, the good and the bad. So I knew I wasn't dreaming anything that had happened in the last week. I knew there would be no waking up from this living nightmare.
I shoved away the wooden stool that had been sitting in front of the washing machine, opened the lid, and was just starting to pile in a load of sweat-soaked bedsheets- for something to do, not because there was a shortage of clean linens in the house- when Carlisle entered the tiny room, looking paler than usual in the dim predawn light coming in through the window.
"How is she?" I asked.
I was hoping desperately that Bella might be doing better, now that we were feeding her (well, trying to feed her) intravenously. I was hoping against hope that she might pull through this. But the defeated look on Carlisle's face told me otherwise. Last spring, when we'd heard Edward was on his way to Italy, I'd thought my husband couldn't possibly have looked more forlorn, more heartbroken and defeated. I'd been wrong. He looked much worse now.
"Not good. The IV isn't working. Her body won't absorb anything I try to give her, she's severely hypoglycemic already, and her blood sugar level is still plummeting…. I doubt she can last more than a day or two. Maybe not even that long."
He sighed heavily and collapsed onto the wooden stool, staring down helplessly at his hands. The same hands that had saved so many other lives.
"I don't know how to help them. I don't know what else to do."
I walked over and gently embraced him from behind, resting my chin on his shoulder.
"You're doing everything you can."
"It's not enough." His voice was barely audible. "It's not enough."
"It's all anyone could ask of you." Even as the words left my lips, I knew they weren't quite true. There was one person who would always ask more: Carlisle himself. He would always think he should have done more, that he should have somehow been able to do the impossible. I hugged him a little tighter. For Carlisle, nothing was worse than being unable to help someone who was suffering. Especially someone he loved.
When he spoke again, it was almost as if he was speaking to himself. "I've never understood why it happens this way. Why some are given more than three hundred years, when others don't even have nineteen."
I didn't respond. Not with words, at any rate. A moment later, a breeze blew in through the window, carrying a familiar scent.
"Is that Alice?" he asked, raising his head to peer through the window towards the river, where, sure enough, a tiny figure was visible in the gray light. Carlisle and I exchanged a look. Alice was not usually one to brood, or to isolate herself.
"I'll go see," I said, standing up to leave. "You'd better stay close to Bella."
Though she must have heard me coming, Alice didn't look up until I took off my sandals and sat down beside her on the riverbank. Then she turned, acknowledged me with a brief smile, and went back to staring at her bare feet tracing patterns in the water.
"Alice," I asked tentatively. "Are you all right?"
"I'm fine," she muttered. "Head hurts."
I had a feeling her head wasn't the only thing that was aching.
What was it about girls? Edward and Emmett were always so easy to read, and Jasper too, if you knew him well enough. When they were upset about something, I could always tell. Edward especially. He was sure to break something. But my daughters kept things hidden.
"The river's beautiful, isn't it? For a while, before you met us, I went through a phase where I was a little obsessed with painting bodies of water."
"I remember," she smiled. "I saw you."
"The water is so… fascinating. Perfectly smooth and calm on the surface…." I lowered my foot into the stream, and its shape immediately became fluid and distorted, light refracting off the skin to create a surreal image. "… but the surface calm is just an illusion. A mask. What's really hidden below the exterior is anything but calm and serene."
Alice smiled slightly. "Good metaphor, Esme."
I laughed. "I try."
"I guess that was your round-about way of saying I don't fool you for a second, and you're here so I can pour my heart out to you?"
"Only if you want to. I won't dive in without your permission."
"No, I don't mind. I'm just worried you won't think so highly of the water once you know what's really lurking deep down below the surface... It's just that… Rosalie's right, I guess. I don't understand." Alice turned her piercing yellow eyes on me- only these were not the same eyes I was used to seeing in my daughter's face. These eyes were not bright and confident, but lost and confused and hurting.
"Esme… you chose to die rather than live with the pain of losing a child only a few weeks old," she went on, in a flat, emotionless voice. "Bella is dying for a child that's not born, and probably not human. Edward's human mother was determined to protect him, no matter what happened to her. Even Rosalie would trade anything for a child."
Alice took a deep breath, and turned to gaze out at the forest without really seeing it.
"I don't understand…" she continued. "If mothers are supposed to love their children so much… then what was wrong with me?" Her voice cracked as the mask fell away, and the emotion in her eyes finally seeped into her words. "Was I that horrible… that unlovable?"
There are many different kinds of pain, and I happen to be familiar with most of them.
There's the physical pain of broken bones from falling out of trees, and the agony of a shattered ribcage and cracked skull from slamming again and again into jagged rocks as you tumble down a cliff. There's the less physically biting, but more emotionally potent pain of dark bruises on your arms and face, marks of shame that no amount clothing can completely hide from the curious gazes of people in the street. There's also the frustration of having so very little control over your own life, the sting of abandonment and betrayal that comes when your own parents force you into a marriage you do not want, the crushing weight of despair that settles like a boulder on your soul as you watch every dream you ever had go up in smoke, the three days of being burned alive by venom rushing through your veins and stopping your heart.
But there is nothing, no imaginable pain, worse than seeing your child suffer. My own heart broke in tandem with Alice's.
"Oh, Alice," I exclaimed. "Come here." I hugged her tiny body tightly against my chest. She leaned her head against me, her face a grimace of pain, crying tearlessly.
She was so small. Chronologically, we were both about the same age (born around the same time, I mean) and we were certainly both adults. In most ways, Alice was a full-grown woman, far older and wiser than the teenager she pretended to be. She was more than capable of caring for herself.
And yet… no matter how many centuries went by, there was a small part of her that would always be a nineteen year old girl, a girl who had been alone and abandoned for far too long. There was a small part of her that still needed a mother.
"I'm sorry, Esme, I'm being stupid," she murmured. Her smooth marble mask was back in place now, though a little less convincing than before.
"You're not," I replied gently. She shook her head.
"I am. Stupid and selfish too," she responded. "I should be thinking about Bella. I should be with Bella. The past is the past. It doesn't matter." She said the last sentence rather forcefully, as though trying to convince herself more than me.
"But it still affects us," I said softly. "It's still a part of us." And it does matter to you, I thought.
We both fell silent for a moment, then Alice spoke up again.
"Why?" she asked quietly. "I mean, why do you think they…? Did I… did I hurt someone, do something horrible? Was I just a bad daughter to begin with, and that was the final straw?"
"A bad daughter?" I echoed, trying to keep the pain out of my own voice. "Alice, I couldn't ask for a better daughter than you."
She gave me a half-hearted smile. "In spite of the credit card bills?"
"Yes," I smiled back. "You're completely worth it."
"Thanks," she replied sincerely. "But that doesn't answer my question."
I sighed heavily. "I don't know why. Maybe… maybe they weren't the best parents. Or maybe, for all I know, they really thought it was for the best?" I finished weakly, finding it hard to believe my own suggestion.
"Yeah," said Alice flatly, obviously just as unconvinced as I was. "Maybe." She shrugged her tiny shoulders and folded her abnormally tiny arms across her too-thin torso. If I looked closely, I couldn't help noticing the way her bones were visible beneath the fashionable clothes. A harsh reminder that Alice's short, spiky hair was not the only physical marking leftover from her previous life.
It's dangerous to have children, you know. Absolutely worth it, but dangerous. It's so easy to ache for them, to absorb their hurts as your own.
"Whatever the reason, at least it eventually brought you and Jasper to us. You know how much we want you here. Terrifying battle scars and bizarre physic abilities included."
She smiled, though it was an unusually sad smile for her.
"I know," she replied softly. "I always knew you would, even before we found you. And I appreciate it. I love you too. It's just… part of me wishes my real relatives had felt the same way. That's all."
"Your real relatives?"
"I chose this family, Esme," she said, as though she were explaining a childishly simple concept. "And one reason why I chose to find you and Jasper and everyone else is that I already knew you'd want me."
She lowered her gaze to her feet, which were swinging gently back and forth just below the surface of the river.
"It isn't exactly the same," she finished quietly.
"No, it isn't the same," I agreed, draping my arm across her shoulder. "What we have is different. But do you really think that makes it less real? There's more than one kind of family, you know. There are the families we're born into… or married into. The ones we don't choose. And then there are the families that we do choose to be part of…"
My words trailed off, and I paused for a brief second, lost in thought. Two faces materialized in my mind. One was the scowling face of an unshaven man with bloodshot eyes framed by dark scraggly curls. That first face contrasted sharply with the second one, kind and smiling, with warm butterscotch eyes that matched its sunbeam-yellow hair. Charles and Carlisle. The husband I had never chosen, and the one I had.
I turned my attention back to Alice.
"Believe me, the second kind of family is just as real as the first. Sometimes more."
Alice stared out across the river without replying. The first rays of morning light glinted brilliantly off the smooth water, illuminating its surface and, I liked to think, though the surface reflection was too blinding to tell for sure, brightening its depths as well. Several peaceful moments passed before I broke the silence again.
"I was thinking… Jacob and Seth have been out there all night. Maybe we could offer them some food and a change of clothes. It's the least we can do."
"You want to offer them some of our clothes?" Alice raised her eyebrows, an amused grin tugging at her lips. "You think they'll accept them?"
Actually, I wasn't very optimistic. "It doesn't hurt to offer. And you know better than me what's out of fashion."
"Okay. I'll help you find a few things that won't be missed. Too bad it all reeks of vampire."
We stood and crossed the damp lawn back towards the house. Alice was still not quite herself.... Her amused smirk had vanished now that we could see the hospital bed and glowing monitors through the living room window. But, before disappearing upstairs, Alice gave me a quick, wordless hug and a smile that was brief but genuine.
She would be all right, I decided. Even without her visions, Alice was naturally more focused on the present and future than the past. Her optimism was part of her innate personality, as well as a result of her unique talent. Or maybe… maybe it was the other way around. Maybe she wasn't optimistic because she could see the future, like I'd always assumed. Maybe she was precognitive because of her tendency to dream about tomorrow instead of dwelling on yesterday. Alice was the sort of person who knew- not just believed or hoped, but knew- that eventually, the sun would come out again, no matter how violent the storm. Alice was not the cliff-jumping type. Whatever happened, she'd be able to keep moving forward. She'd find a reason to smile again.
Yes, Alice would be all right. I only wished I could say the same for the rest of my family.
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