Author: ineedyoursway PM
ONE SHOT. AH. Bella is a librarian. Edward has leukemia. M for graphic images and a touch of lemon. tattward/inkella contest submissionRated: Fiction M - English - Romance/Hurt/Comfort - Edward & Bella - Chapters: 4 - Words: 22,530 - Reviews: 637 - Favs: 879 - Follows: 172 - Updated: 12-10-09 - Published: 07-24-09 - Status: Complete - id: 5245649
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
Tattward & Inkella One-Shot Contest
Title: White Blood
Your pen name: ineedyoursway
Characters: Edward/Bella… with a hint of the other Cullens.
Disclaimer:don't own it
To see other entries in the Tattward & Inkella Contest, please visit the C2 page:
There are three things you should know about me.
One, my name is Isabella Marie Swan.
Two, I live in Portland, Oregon.
Three, I am not prepared, not in the slightest, for a boy named Edward Cullen.
I walk down Broadway near sunset. The Pearl district is littered with the homeless, aching and clawing at my ankles on the sidewalk. The nearby bar that houses the city's transsexual population is teeming with life, overflowing glamorous disguises onto the street. I try to move briskly, uncomfortable with this part of town, eager to get to the loft I share with my best friend Alice.
Alice and I met in college. I have been friends with her ever since.
But, unfortunately, I love her.
I duck from awning to awning, dodging the rain. I should have taken the street car. I should have taken an umbrella. I should have predicted the rain that falls near every day in this god-forsaken state. But, I didn't.
So now I am stuck fighting a lost cause.
I let the rain soak into my hair, chilly water running droplets down the back of my neck and underneath my rain jacket. I feel it on my spine.
I reach my building without much hassle. I leave a trail of water from the lobby to our room, mounting the stairs with the huff and puff of the inactive. I open the door quietly, as not to disturb Alice, and wring my hair out on the doormat just inside. I'm just setting my purse on the table when a steady thump, thump, thump emanating from Alice's bedroom catches my attention.
I let out a sigh, attempting to exhale my loneliness, and settle on the couch. I scold myself for not remembering to buy earplugs. I turn on the TV, attempting to alert Alice of my presence and inadvertently remind her of some manners.
Alice walks out of her bedroom, disheveled and post-coital.
"Have fun at the library, Bella?" she asks. This is sort of a ritual of ours.
"Oh my god," I reply. "It was even more exciting than yesterday!"
She giggles at my sarcasm, but on my half it is only partial. I do enjoy working at the library. The smell of books fills my senses, and the locals of Portland Public are polite and easy to work with. Hushing rowdy teenagers is the only downfall of the job. That, and being a librarian has turned me into the beginnings of a crazy cat lady.
I haven't gone on a date in 2 years, 6 months, and 22 days.
Not that I'm counting.
"So, Bella," Alice breaks me from my thoughts. Jasper lumbers into the room in only his boxers. He nods at me over Alice's shoulder. "Do you want to come to my house this year for Thanksgiving? I know that you usually go see your Dad, but maybe he won't mind for just this time."
"Oh, um…" Meeting her family makes me feel uncomfortable.
"You don't have to, of course. But they are dying to meet my best friend." She gives me her best pleading, my-cat-just-died-how-can-you-possibly-deny-me-anything face, and I am forced to relent.
"I guess that would be okay," I mumble, throwing a pillow at her. She squeals and lets it hit her, hopping up and down.
"Ali, calm yourself!" Jasper calls from the kitchen. I snicker. Poor Jasper and I have suffered far too long.
The end of November comes much too soon.
I am wringing my hands nervously. They are sweaty. The backseat of Alice's car sticks to my legs. I feel like pulling a 5-year-old and asking 'are we there yet?' over and over and over again. I have to pee. I have to run. I have to hide. Jasper's hand clutches Alice's and their arms are draped languidly over the center console. Their comfort in each other taunts me viciously.
I look out the window, watching trees whoosh by at an uncomfortable rate. We have passed Seattle, and are now on our way to Forks, Washington. My father, Charlie, also lives there. I never spent much time with him, save for various holidays and the occasional summer. Our relationship is awkward at best. I am preparing to spend some days with him, and some days with Alice's family.
I can't tell which is worse.
"Welcome to Forks!" Alice trills from the front seat. She actually sounds excited. I fight the urge to vomit.
We drive completely through downtown, the whole two blocks of it, and are immersed once again in trees. Alice's childhood home is surprisingly rural, contrary to Charlie's house in Forks' suburban neighborhoods. She takes an almost invisible dirt road off of the main highway. The branches of huge elms lick our car ominously.
"Home sweet home," she calls, jumping out of the car and turning off the ignition simultaneously. I walk slowly out of the back, filled with trepidation. Alice and Jasper turn to me, urging me forward against my will.
Four people stand on the front porch awaiting our arrival. I recognize one as Alice's brother Emmett. Alice told me, at one point, that he was engaged to a model named Rosalie. She wasn't exaggerating. I assume the elderly couple beside Emmett to be Alice's parents, Carlisle and Esme. Their classic beauty is intimidating, and I find myself trying to hide behind Jasper and Alice.
Alice blows my cover by running up to her parents, gathering them both in one hug. It is an impressive feat considering how small she is. Emmett engulfs her next, and then Rosalie hugs her politely. I stand awkwardly at the side, awaiting my turn with apprehension and doubt.
"You must be Bella," Esme addresses me. I smile and nod. Suddenly all the words are stuck in my throat.
"It is a pleasure to meet you," Carlisle chimes in.
"Heya, Bella!" Emmett calls. We've met once. I feel like I've known him for years.
We all walk inside their enormous home. From the outside, the structure screams empty and vacant, but on the inside it is filled with quaint, sleepy rooms and antique furniture. The family congregates in the living room where everyone claims a spot. I wind up sandwiched between Rosalie and Esme, causing me to fidget uncomfortably. I cross my legs. Uncross them. Recross them.
I manage to relax after a couple hours of nonchalant, mindless chatter. I lean back against the couch and allow my eyes to droop, taking in my company with a new, calm air.
They are all very similar. Well-manicured, timeless and polite. They age gracefully and hold contempt only in hidden crevices. They are picturesque and symbolic of the American Dream. Not a hair out of place. Not a hint of trouble or doubt lines their skin. And they are beautiful.
In the midst of my marveling all talking ceases. Their eyes look past me, behind my shoulder, to the rounded staircase. I follow their gaze, and am shocked by what I behold.
There is a boy. No, a man. He has wide, green eyes that he uses to look at me with benign interest. His hair is long, auburn, a mane frayed and abused by hands and beds. He is skinny, too skinny, and he almost cowers in on himself in protection. Though he wears a long-sleeved shirt, I can see tongues of ink peak out under the seams, etching the pure white skin of his hands and neck. I bite my lip. He backs up a step and breaks my gaze.
"Hello, Edward. I wasn't sure if you were up to coming down today," Carlisle says tentatively.
"I'm fine," he says so softly it is almost impossible to hear. Even so, his voice is music.
"Bella, this is my younger brother Edward. Edward, this is my friend Bella," Alice introduces us cautiously and I can tell the family is waiting with bated breath.
"Hello," I say quietly, cursing myself for sounding so timid.
"Hello," he replies in his soft voice. We stare at each other for a moment, and then his pale face turns a bit green. He opens his mouth as if to say something, and then spins around, loping up the stairs like a lion. There is a thunder of feet and then a slam of a door, throwing finality into his departure.
I turn around, a bit awestruck, a bit nervous, and see that everyone is watching me.
"Edward is feeling a bit sick lately, he just ran to the bathroom," Carlisle explains. I nod in response, closing my mouth when I realize it has fallen into an 'o' of surprise. We are uncomfortable after that, and I want to accuse Alice for never telling me she had another brother. As if reading my mind, Alice meets my eye, her face apologetic.
We carry stilted conversation for a few more hours, until it is time to go to bed. Alice leads me to a guest room saved for occurrences such as mine. It is tastefully decorated, I assume Esme's doing, but I find myself wondering where Edward's room is. The house is so vast; the probability that we passed it is slim to none. Alice bids me goodnight, thanks me again for coming to meet her family, and prances off to the waiting arms of Jasper. I lie awake for hours, ages. The room is black as night. My eyes adjust. I see nothing.
It must be very early in the morning and I am still awake. I make up my mind and stumble out of bed. Using the wall to aid me in the darkness, I make my way downstairs to the kitchen in an attempt to get a glass of water. I round the corner and am assaulted by light. The source is the refrigerator, though a broad, heavily-tattooed back obscures part of the luminosity.
"Oh!" I gasp out in surprise. He spins around to face me, peanut butter in one hand and jelly in the other. He opens his mouth, flustered, but no words come out.
"I like your tattoos," I blurt out. I'm embarrassed, but it's true. I've never had the balls to get one myself. He raises an eyebrow at me, seeming to obtain his bearings. He closes the refrigerator door with his foot and sets the condiments down on the island in the middle of the kitchen. I stand across from him, separated by a measly, lonely excuse for a counter, my hands sweaty and smacked firmly on the marble.
"You like them," he repeats, skeptical. I nod my head fervently in response, trying to portray the truth of my statement. Mostly, I just really, really don't want him to leave. "That's funny, because I use them to keep people away." His voice sounds louder in the silence of the house.
"Why?" I ask, intrigued.
"Want a sandwich?" He ignores my question.
"Sure," I say, not willing to call him out on it. I watch him make two sandwiches. In reality, I'm watching the way his muscles change shape, and the way it transforms the tattoos that encase both of his arms. I see that they trail down his back, too, but his chest is completely clear. When he is finished he reaches over the island to hand me one, and I read strength on the inside of his left wrist.
"Why strength?" I ask.
"Because I want to be a body builder, can't you tell," he replies, rolling his eyes. Okay, Edward doesn't answer questions. That's okay. He takes two bites of his sandwich and then throws it down, his face turning green again. "Excuse me," he forces out, brushing past me so that I am only left with his scent. He is back a few minutes later, wiping his hand arm across his mouth. He returns to his sandwich, but eyes it like a foreign object.
"Are you sick?" I question him even though Carlisle already said he was. I don't expect him to answer, but I ask anyway.
"Yep," he pops the 'p', completely carefree. "Don't worry, you won't catch it," he winks and takes another hesitant bite of his sandwich. I try to stop the flurry in my stomach that occurs after his wink. I watch him eat for a few moments, and then I am forced to stifle a yawn with the back of my hand. He notices. "Go to sleep, Bella," he chides. My heart thumps erratically at the sound of my name on his lips.
I debate whether to protest, but another yawn building inside me forces me to acknowledge my body's needs.
"I'll see you in the morning?" It comes out as a question.
"Maybe. But happy Thanksgiving, just incase," he says.
"Happy Thanksgiving," I reply halfheartedly, turning back to my room. He doesn't stop me.
Thanksgiving comes and goes. I don't see Edward. I spend a day with Charlie. It is boring. I try to find something to do. I try to act civil around Alice's family. I try to not think about Edward. I fail on all three counts.
I finally confront Alice.
"So… Alice…" I attempt carefree. "Where has Edward been? How come he doesn't eat with the family or anything?"
Alice practically chokes on the leftover turkey sandwich she is eating.
"Oh, Bella, I thought you knew," she places her hand over mine protectively. "Edward's at the hospital. Esme took him early Thanksgiving morning. You were still asleep."
"What?" I exclaim, dropping my lunch with a clatter. "Why is he in the hospital?"
Alice looks like she is in pain.
"I was afraid this would happen…" she murmurs, almost inaudibly. I am about to throttle her throat. "Edward has leukemia, Bella." My heart pounds unsteadily. I want to throw up. Every part of me tingles like I'm on fire. I swallow heavily, my throat is dry. Alice's presence feels overbearing. Yet, I speak with a completely calm, rational voice.
"Okay, let's go to the hospital."
The drive is silent. Only Alice's voice echoes in my mind.
We approach the hospital, a small branch of Seattle's main center. The lobby smells like the dying and the dead. I hate hospitals. Alice grasps my hand tightly just as someone rolls by on a wheelchair, their head lolling to the side unresponsively. The receptionist, a plump woman with rosy cheeks and flat eyes, directs us to a room. I'm scared. I can't deny that. I pull closer to Alice as we walk down the hall, feet clacking against the linoleum.
We turn into the room and I see it now.
Edward is sick. He is thin and gaunt and attached to wires and tubes. His head is held disjointedly on the pillow, eyes clenched tight, angled to the partially open window. His tattoos peek out underneath his hospital garb, trailing along the arm that lies on top of the blanket. I approach silently, looking at the thin excuse for a limb. Colors and patterns are what cover the arm primarily, but I see hidden pictures and Chinese symbols etched between the chaos. There is a witty little line right above the crease in his elbow that reads 'needle goes here' with an arrow pointing to where a needle is currently lodged.
I kneel down beside his bed and place my hand in his. Alice is gone and it is just us, however unaware he may be. Right now we are the only people in the universe. Even in this hospital room, sterile and white and disgusting in its cleanliness, it is only us two. I pull up a chair to his bedside. It is hard plastic, but resting my hand in Edward's allows me to find sleep quickly.
I wake slowly to the feeling of fingers running through my hair. I am disoriented, and squint a couple times before completely opening my eyes. I lift my head to see Edward staring back at me, his head tilted and his mouth parted slightly. He removes his hand quickly as if shocked.
"What are you doing here?" His voice is scratchy.
"Why didn't you tell me?" I answer his question with a question.
He glares at me. I glare back. And then he surprises me by chuckling. His chest rises and falls with the motion and it makes him look so fragile. He looks at me and stops chuckling.
"Don't do that," he snaps, harsh.
"Don't do what?"
"Don't look at me with that pity. Glare at me because I'm treating you like a piece of shit, please. I hate the pity." His statement is futile. It only makes me feel worse, because I can imagine all of the pity he has received. He sighs and looks away, towards the window, done with me.
"Tell me about the tattoos." He looks back to me and I feel secret victory. We spend hours outlining his ink. The Chinese symbols are translated into faith, trust, love, and family. He pushes himself up, much to my protest, to explain the ones trailing down his back. I laugh at the fork. I almost cry over a lily on his shoulder, a 4-year-old he met when he was younger who passed away from leukemia two months after their introduction. I grin at the pixie wings, a perfect symbol of Alice. The words Carlisle and Esme are etched near the base of his spine, surrounded by dove and peace symbols. I run my finger along the olive branch and he shudders. There are sharp, pointed vines surrounding his upper arms, a modicum of defense. They are contrary to his other tattoos.
There are more but I can hardly discern them all from each other. A nurse comes in and checks Edward over. She looks at me, surprise blatant on her features, and informs me that visiting times are over.
"I'll be back tomorrow," I tell him.
"You don't have to do that." He looks uncomfortable. He turns green, leans over, and vomits noisily into a basin at the side of his bed. Beads of sweat appear on his forehead, and when he looks at me all I see is his own self-disgust.
"I don't have to do anything. I want to," I assure him, giving him a light kiss just over the prominent line of his jaw. He catches my wrist before I can turn and I am right there, right up by his face.
"I'm no good for you, Bella. All I do is hurt people." He is broken, forcing me to leave. It brings tears to my eyes and he huffs in annoyance, proving his own point.
"Your tattoos aren't enough to keep me away, Edward. The illness isn't enough, either." I force him to believe me, placing two palms on either side of his clammy face. He squints his eyes slightly and I glare back, causing him to release a beautiful crooked smile.
"I'll see you tomorrow," I say. And then the nurse is forcing me out and I am gone, greeting Alice in the hallway.
"Why is he in the hospital?" It is the first thing I ask. Edward wouldn't tell me.
"He just has the flu at the moment. The leukemia makes his immune system weak, and they don't want the flu to progress into pneumonia. He is also awaiting another bone marrow transplant." She explains it to me as if reading it out of a book.
"But he'll be okay, right?" I am desperate. Completely desperate.
"Oh, Bella." Her tone says it all. She holds me and we cry together.
Edward is doing great. He isn't healthy, but he isn't sick either. He is well-fed, beautiful, and completely mine. He moves down to Portland for me. The first thing he does is register with the hospital. The next thing he does is move in his stuff to the loft that was formerly mine and Alice's. Alice moves out to live with Jasper. We both feel bad, as moving in separate ways often causes friendships to dissolve, but we keep in touch.
I watch as Edward lounges on our couch, feet dangling off the edge. His is much too tall. I love it.
"Bella, love, come here," he calls me to him. I snuggle into his side, a magnet drawn by unstoppable force. The couch is too small for us.
"I want you on me," I say softly. He moans quietly and his lips are in my hair and on my forehead, my arms and neck and scalp. "Your name, I want your name on me," I clarify. Though I want both. How I want both.
"Tattooed? Isn't that a relationship-killer?" he jokes, running his finger down the slope of my nose. We both know relationships like ours aren't ever broken. Not even in death.
"I want it. Plus, I'm too clean compared to you." I have been complaining about this often. Edward and I don't look like we belong together.
"Then your name has to be on me," he decides.
We walk to the tattoo parlor, hand in hand, giddy as teenagers and triumphant in first love. Edward walks in first. I am nervous, and eye the place skeptically. The tattoo artists have more tattoos than Edward does, and to me that is infinity.
"What can I get for you two?" he asks us patiently.
"Our names on each other," Edward tells him, clutching my hand because he feels my panic. I spot a huge needle and cower. The tattoo artist looks at us with dubious amusement. I am sure he has seen this mistake many times before.
"All right…" he drawls. "Ladies first." He beckons me over to the chair. I sit down tentatively, throwing mayday glances at Edward. The needle is big and I'm second guessing my spontaneous decisions. He smiles his crooked smile at me, and I begin to calm.
"O-on my shoulder," I stutter out. I lie on my back and feel him prepare the needle. It buzzes and I look away.
"Name?" he asks Edward.
"Edward!" I hiss out. Edward is laughing hysterically, clutching his sides. I, personally, am fuming. The man could have put the wrong name on me!
"Edward, my name is Edward," he corrects himself, chuckling. "I like it when I make you angry," he whispers in my ear, just for me. I glare, but only for a moment. I can never stay angry at him when he's smiling like that. I feel the needle touch my back and I am distracted. It hurts, but isn't painful. I still clutch Edward's hand in fear.
All in all it takes about a half an hour. When the man announces he is done, I am ecstatic. I jump up to look in the mirror, elated to see Edward's name across my formerly-untouched skin. I beam at Edward and he is grinning at me, his expression unfathomable. The artist puts a bandage over the fresh tattoo and then it is Edward's turn.
"Where do you want it?" he asks Edward. To my surprise, Edward peels off his short-sleeved shirt. He points to his clean, completely bare chest. Right above his heart. And then I am crying. I throw myself at him; wrap my arms around his neck in love and want and everything. Because that is what he is to me. He wraps his arms around my waist, carefully steering clear of the tattoo, holding me tight.
"I love you," he whispers into my ear, so quiet, so Edward.
"I love you, too," I whisper back and it's a whimper. The tattoo artist clears his throat awkwardly, and I reluctantly free Edward's neck. I feel his touch burning into the skin where my shirt doesn't quite reach my pants.
When the needle touches Edward's skin, he smiles.
I buck my hips into his hand, unable to contain myself. He is smiling, sweaty, hovering over me, doing everything he can to make me whimper and call out his name. I grasp at his skin, trace my fingers over his sleeves of tattoos and over my name specifically. He bites my ear and that is the last straw. I am there for him, coming for him, calling and living and dying and screaming and everythingfor him.
I pant, trying to calm myself down as I slump deeper into the pillows. There are days when we don't leave this bed. Those are the best days. He strokes the sides of my face, his chest heaving, and it doesn't look sickly anymore. It is easy to pretend that he's not sick, that he's perfectly normal, when we're together completely.
He hisses when I reach down to stroke him. He ducks his head into the spot over my shoulder, licking, sucking, biting. I tremble, gripping him harder, feeling him shift underneath me.
"Edward," I moan his name, aching to have him inside me.
He strokes his hands down the sides of my face and down to my stomach, pausing to cup my breasts and knead them. I arch up, up into him as he whispers kisses along my face. I taste the salty sweat on his skin, run my tongue over the pointed barbs of his forearm, clutch his neck and tug his hair.
Finally, oh finally, he thrusts inside me. I trace my hand over the muscles at the pit of his stomach, the deep 'v' coming between us, meeting my own skin, slapping hard. He kisses me passionately, biting and pulling at my lower lip as he hovers above me, resting on his forearms. I press the lines of my body into his, marveling in the way we match like puzzle pieces, perfectly designed for each other.
"Bella… you're so tight," he moans as we rough each other up, climbing the mountain to the brink.
We stumble over, falling hard, rushing into each other, collapsing in a tangle of limbs and exhaustion.
He runs his fingers across the length of my spine, up and down, as we curve into each other. It is late and the moonlight leaks into our window, casting wayward beams of light across our naked bodies. I pull the blankets up and over us, listening as a gentle patter of rain begins to fall against the glass. The white noise lulls me, gentle and soothing, into a deep sleep.
Two weeks later I come home to a silent house.
I thunder around loudly, taking off my soaked rain boots and coat, slamming my purse on the counter, opening and shutting the door, creating a storm of an entrance. Usually, Edward greets me at the door. He's not here. My intuition is screaming that something is not right. I try to write it off, telling myself that he just went to the drug store, or paid a visit to Alice. I glance around the entryway to see if there are any notes left from him. Nothing.
"Edward?" I call out tentatively. No answer.
I walk down the hallway to our bedroom, finding nothing except the remnants of our morning in bed. My heart is pounding erratically as I make my way to the kitchen, the only unchecked room in our small loft. I am not prepared for this.
There is a trickle of ominous blood lurking out from behind the island in the center of our kitchen. Its small amount is deceiving, for when I turn the corner there is blood. So much blood.
Edward holds a dishtowel, completely soaked through, to his head. He lies on the floor, skirting along the line of unconsciousness. I see his eyes roll back, attempt to refocus, and roll back again. The blood isn't clotting. I am panicking, frozen, shocked, afraid. The breath comes fast in and out of my lungs and I will myself not to join him on the floor. I know better than to move him.
I manage to get my fingers to respond to my brain, and I open up my cell phone to dial 911. They assure me they are on their way, and then I dial Alice. I can barely get the words out by the time she answers, and I realize it is because I am sobbing.
"What's going on? Bella? What's happening?" She is panicking now. She knows that this reaction is only elicited by something going terribly wrong with her brother.
"Alice… come q-quick, I need help." I am crying into the phone.
"I'm on my way."
I crouch down beside Edward, grabbing as many dishtowels as we own, pressing them into his head. I can't even see the cut. There is too much blood. His eyes are flickering unnervingly.
"Edward, come on, look at me, stay with me, Edward, please," I beg him. I am pleading. I see him try to focus on my face. I am rocking back and forth on my heels, blood soaking into my socks and the cuffs of my jeans. I am swimming, drowning.
I hear sirens in the distance. "They're almost here, baby, it's okay. It'll be okay." My voice is shaking and I know I don't sound confident at all. Suddenly I hear my name and he is looking at me for just a moment. It is all I need. "That's right, Edward, stay with me. It'll be okay. Everything will be okay." The paramedics are rushing in and they find us, lying in the Red Sea. They start asking me questions that I can barely comprehend, and then I am pulled away into the waiting arms of Alice. We are both in shock, watching as they lift Edward onto a gurney, wrapping his head in tight cloth that is quickly tainted red. We follow the ambulance to the hospital, but we are ordered to stay in the waiting room.
Alice provides me with a change of clothes, considering I look like a murder witness. We are silent for hours. The ambiance of St. Vincent's hospital is stifling.
"What happened?" Alice asks, deathly quiet.
"I don't know. I wasn't there. I should have been there…" I am rocking, my knees to my chest, the hard plastic waiting room chair vibrating.
We are silent for a few more hours, until a doctor comes out and calls Alice's name only. She stands up and I walk with her, approaching the doctor.
"Edward is okay," he says. I feel all the air whoosh from my lungs. Alice's step falters. We were prepared for the worst. "It looks as though he fainted and hit his head on a counter. Because of his leukemia, as you both know, the clotting was slim to none. We got it under control, and he received a few transfusions. We ask that he stays in the hospital for a few more days, just to monitor him. And then he is free to go home." We both hug the doctor, clutching him tight, thanking him for his hard work.
"Can we see him?" I ask, wringing my hands together, anxious.
"Are you family?" he asks me cautiously.
"No… not technically… but I'm his girlfriend. We live together," I answer, willing him to understand.
"I'm sorry, only family member at this time." Finality.
Alice gives me a one-armed hug, moves to meet Edward, and leaves me sitting alone in the waiting room.
I am allowed to see him two days later.
I thunder down the hallway, dodging doctors and nurses, patients and psychiatrists, to find him sleeping. His head is wrapped with layer upon layer of white gauze, shielding his auburn mane except for a few strands that have managed to leak out. His hair is always untamable. I pull up a chair and run my fingers over his jaw lightly. He looks at peace. He doesn't look sick, just hurt. Bruised.
He wakes up a few hours later with a tranquil smile on his face.
"Oh, hello," he greets me like any other day.
"We have to get married," I cry. "They wouldn't let me in here. We have to." At first, he is shocked. Then one corner of his mouth turns up mischievously.
"Are you proposing to me?"
"Edward." I start to bawl. He furrows his brow and he reaches up to rub the tears away from my cheeks.
"Bella, I was just joking. Of course I'll marry you," his voice is soothing, but the comfort is misplaced.
"No, Edward, I thought you were going to die," I say, clutching his forearm, right over the Chinese symbol of 'trust.'
"I am going to die. If not now, later. I'm so sorry," he strokes the side of my face and I can see that he has accepted this. He may have, but I have not. He was diagnosed when he was 12, and if he has survived as long as 24, he can keep going. "Come here," he whispers. I climb on the bed and wrap myself around him, carefully avoiding the wires and tubes.
Alice hires a priest to marry us on the hospital bed. She witnesses. It doesn't matter that I don't have a huge wedding, with all of my family and friends. It doesn't matter that I don't have an elaborate dress, party favors and catered dishes. The only thing that matters is that Edward is here, now, and that this is the time we have together. That is the only thing that matters.
Our son Jude is conceived the night Edward is released from the hospital.
After birth, the first thing he is tested for is leukemia.
I have this thing where I have to document everything. It's a sense of immediacy that comes from Edward's condition. For example, I probably have over one hundred pictures of Edward holding baby Jude. I have a hundred more of Edward attempting to teach toddler Jude to walk (he fails miserably, Jude doesn't walk on his own until 18 months). There are pictures from family trips to the zoo, Jude sitting on Edward's hospital bed after he has a bone marrow transplant, eating lunch at the grey Oregon coast.
One day, after Jude's first day of kindergarten, we bring him to the tattoo parlor and taunt him with a needle. He runs and hides behind Edward's legs, just like his mother. The tattoo artist, the same man from ages ago, commends our relationship. I am surprised he remembers us.
Edward goes first this time, getting the name 'Jude' scripted elegantly underneath my name. I get 'Jude' and 'hope' written together on my hip. This time the needle doesn't hurt so badly. It almost seems surreal. After we are all patched up and ready to go, Jude forces us to take him to Ben and Jerry's. He is utterly split when he sees Saint Cupcake and the ice cream shop side by side.
"Momma! Let's get a cupcake." His little hand, still chubby with the baby fat of childhood, pulls me to the right.
"Jude, I thought you wanted ice cream," Edward says, raising his eyebrows. Jude runs right and left. Other couples look at him, passively amused. The sun is shining, a rare commodity in Portland, and the sidewalk glitters the sparkles of a former rain. Edward's skin, unusually pale, is almost translucent in the light. I pull him to me with the desperate need to kiss him. He laughs and wraps his arms around me, while Jude pushes apart our PDA.
"Ice cream. I decided," Jude says confidently.
"Are you sure?" I ask him playfully. He looks undecided for a moment, and then stares at Ben and Jerry's again.
"Yessssss," he whines, pulling our hands into the shop.
We feed each other ice cream in blissful virtual reality.
Edward gets sick again. I worry about him, but he assures me that he is fine. It is just like all the other times, and he'll get better in a few weeks. At least that is what he says. I take Jude to get tested again, just incase. He is still all clear. While I am at work and Jude is at school, I worry constantly. Ever since the time Edward hit his head, my patience for leaving him home alone is almost nonexistent. The doctors assure me that Edward is strong. That he is well past his original life expectancy, at 29, and he doesn't show any signs of getting worse.
It is practically remission, except that it isn't.
That's what the doctors say.
I come home to find Edward curled over the toilet, one with the porcelain, similar to our first meeting. Jude is watching cartoons in the living room. Spongebob echoes loudly. He looks up at me, winces, vomits. I rub his back up and down soothingly. I hum the theme to Yesterday, by the Beatles, his favorite song. I hold him for hours until I am forced to put Jude to bed.
"I'll be right back," I whisper into his ear. Jude is asleep on the couch. I pick him up and take him to his small bedroom, a child's epitome encased in Jimmy Neutron, Spongebob, and Danny Phantom. I lay him down on his bed, and he is still sleeping. He curls his arms under the pillow, one hand tucked under his chin, breathing heavily. I kiss his forehead and return to Edward, his back resting against the edge of the bathtub.
I feel his forehead. It is too hot. He quakes under my touch.
"We need to go to the hospital," I tell him. He shakes his head vehemently in response.
"I'll be fine, it'll go away." Suddenly he is begging me, yearning for me to join his denial.
"I'm going to call Alice, ask her to watch Jude for tonight."
"Bella, please." He grips my hand and his touch is clammy.
"Come on." I help him stand and he relents, resting heavily on me just to walk. I have never seen it this bad before. I call Alice on the way out to the car, and she says she'll be over right away. I thank her repeatedly and help Edward into the car.
We sit in the emergency room with the other sick families. There is a father with a huge gash in his forehead, easily fixed with a few stitches and a band-aid. There is a young girl with a penny up her nose, easily fixed with a pair of tweezers and some pain medication. There is a drug addict suffering from an overdose, easily fixed with a stomach pump and some nutrients. And then there is Edward, fighting for his life with hardly an immune system to fight with him, no fix in sight.
We are called before everyone else, and receive dirty looks. I am jealous of their ignorance. Edward is rushed ahead of me, and I am not allowed to follow. Still. I want to scream.
A few hours later the doctor comes out, hanging his head heavily.
"He has pneumonia," he says softly. "It doesn't look like his body can fight it anymore."
I am silent, and then I am screaming.
"And this is a hospital! There is nothing you can do? Are you kidding me!" Angry tears are spouting from my eyes. I am restrained by hospital staff, but not moved. "This is a joke. You know he has a 5-year-old child at home? Do you know that?"
"Would you like to see him?" he asks, beckoning the staff to let me go. He has seen this many times. I nod, still furious, and follow him down the hall.
The sight of Edward completely evaporates my anger. He is sick. He looks so sick. I run over to him, kneel by his side, and cradle his face in my hands. He smiles at me.
"You can't let this get to you, okay?" When he speaks his breathing is labored. "You have to take care of Jude, and be a good Mom to him. And make sure he gets tested so that if he has it, you can eliminate it early. Don't break down, okay? You're stronger than that."
"But, Edward." My voice is already broken and I am crying. I don't like this tone of speaking, this finality, this means to an end. He is too young. He is only 29. He has a whole life ahead of him. And the doctors said he was doing so well…
"No, none of that. Not that pity. Know that I'll love you always. And I'll see you again someday," he whispers his last phrase out.
Edward lasts a week after he stops speaking. His family flies down from Washington, crowds around his hospital bed, mourns and takes turns watching Jude. He is to be buried in Forks, along with the rest of his ancestor's graves. The funeral is brief. I can't help but hate the decrepit rock that represents Edward's life.
This boy, he filled me with such doubt, such fear, and such overwhelming love, that I can't even regret a single second.
Jude and I visit his grave every year at Thanksgiving. We put flowers on his grave, give him updates on Jude's school life and my exciting library life. Alice helps me a lot. She is my saving grace. She helps me to get back on my feet, continue my life. She arranges photo albums, hundreds of pages filled with picture after picture. Edward and Jude on the swings. Edward feeding Jude. Edward and Jude visiting me at the library.
There comes a day when I finally, finally, know what I have to do.
I print a picture off of the computer and bring it to the tattoo parlor, a symbol. A promise.
The tattoo artist, the same man from all those times ago, recognizes the orange ribbon, the leukemia symbol. I want it right above my heart.
"Your husband, he had leukemia?" he asks cautiously.
"Yes," I answer sadly, running my fingers over his name. The pain may ebb and flow, but I know I will never stop hurting.
"I'm sorry for your loss."
When the needle touches my skin, I smile.
Yesterday love was such an easy game to play
Now I need a place to hide away
Oh, I believe in yesterday
Dedicated to: cancer patients, cancer survivors, cancer families, cancer lovers, cancer fighters.
Thanks for reading. (by the way, I'm not a doctor. I'm a professional Wikipedia reader. So if the leukemia stuff is off in any way, I apologize profusely.)