Author: Gondolier PM
Skygod: A person of noted freefall ability. Sometimes the term refers to skydivers whose egos are bigger than their canopies. Hydraulic Level 5 vignettes, as told by Edward. Note: Contains SPOILERSRated: Fiction M - English - Drama - Edward & Bella - Chapters: 2 - Words: 9,098 - Reviews: 295 - Favs: 398 - Follows: 472 - Updated: 02-22-10 - Published: 02-10-10 - id: 5735214
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
Stephenie Meyer owns any Twilight characters that may appear in this story. The remainder is my original work. Copyright 2010 by Gondolier. No copying or reproduction of this work is permitted without my express written authorization.
Disclaimer: Skygod contains SPOILERS for Hydraulic Level 5 (HL5). If you haven't read HL5, I recommend putting this story on hold (unless you don't mind spoilers…you've been warned ;) ).
Skygod Ch. 1 & 2 was written for Support Stacie Auction winners Revrag and Peyotemusic. They chose several key HL5 outtakes from Edward's point-of-view, so be sure to thank them—without their generosity, the vignettes wouldn't have been written.
Skygod: A person of noted freefall ability. Sometimes the term refers to skydivers whose egos are bigger than their canopies.
(Hydraulic Level 5 vignettes, as told by Edward)
o o o
What happens when a skydive formation self destructs.
When I was eight years old, I fell in love with a girl.
She was a neighbor girl with large brown eyes who studied me in singular fascination, as if I were a moth breaking free from a chrysalis. And through her intense study she became an expert of me. Reading my moods, knowing when to push and when to back away, and when to make me laugh. If she'd wanted to, she could have rattled off secrets about me as if she were listing my favorite food, color, song, book:
Edward's greatest fear: falling out of a high-rise window.
Edward's most embarrassing moment: wetting his bed and hiding the sheets in his closet.
Edward's most despised pastime: talking about his parents.
But because I despised even thinking about my parents, I never told her that I wet the bed after having a nightmare about tumbling from our high-rise window in Chicago, struggling against my mother's arms as wind whipped our hair and clothing and skin, and gray pavement loomed closer…closer…closer. And because I despised talking about my parents, I never told her how my mother—my real mother—had, in fact, been broken and splattered across the sidewalk of the historic Belden Stratford Hotel, where she'd fallen to her death not two miles from Wrigley Field.
With time came the knowledge that my mother's death was not accidental, and my fear of tumbling from high-rise windows subsided. But my hatred of discussing anything at all about my parents did not. Because, for the longest time, I believed in fate…Rota Fortunae had spun my family to suffer. Medieval, yes, but I truly thought the course of my life was set the moment I was born.
So I loved this girl…and I left her. I left her because I was fated to fall from a high-rise window, her innocent body wrapped in my arms.
o o o
Two years earlier, the day before Thanksgiving…
"How are the roads?" my mother asked, glancing up with concern from a chopping board piled with celery and carrots. My father sat on a stool across from her, one of his countless medical journals open beneath his hand. Somehow, when I whipped around the outskirts of rainy Forks roads after my trip to Port Angeles for guitar strings, I knew I'd find them just like this when I returned. Affectionate and content, tucked away in a kitchen fragrant with Thanksgiving pies cooling on counters. I'd missed this kitchen, with its warm oak and tall walls my mother had since painted a rusty red.
And soon, in a couple of hours, this room would be perfect because she'd be here.
"Just wet—no sleet." I shook drops of rain from my coat and hung it on a peg in the mud room. One single step into the kitchen and my mother hissed.
"Shoes! I just mopped."
I cast a rueful look as she mumbled about some things never changing, and discarded my muddy shoes.
"I hope Bella doesn't have any difficulty on the back roads," she said as she started on a pile of red potatoes for the vegetable soup she was brewing. "Perhaps she should wait to visit until the rain stops." She wiped her hands and reached for the phone.
"No!" I said quickly. Both parents froze. I ruffled my hair, embarrassed. "Look—the temperatures are rising, so the roads won't freeze. And it's a fairly big deal that she even agreed to come over while I'm here, in the first place. I don't want to jinx it."
My father and mother exchanged a meaningful look before they returned to medical journal and potatoes. But their worry was not lost on me.
Dad cleared his throat. "About that. Your mother," he stressed, "thought it unnecessary to actually inform Bella you'd be here."
I frowned, turning to my mother for an explanation.
She sighed. "Oh Edward. It's just…Bella is so leery of you these days, especially after your books caused such a storm. I thought if we could actually get her through the door, everything else would sort itself out."
Sort itself out? Not likely.
My heart bottomed out as I processed my mother's confession, along with the hope that had climbed to stellar heights. This wasn't Bella willing to accept my olive branch after five years. This was a set-up, and she was about to be blindsided by my mere presence. This was not going to be the heartfelt reunion I was anticipating. In fact, she'd be furious. She might not even take her coat off before she was sprinting back to her car.
I groaned and reached for the phone. "I'm calling her. Is she at Charlie's or Renee's?"
"Renee's," my mother said sheepishly.
I punched in half the number then paused, my finger hovering over the next button. And then it drifted to the 'end' button. I couldn't do it. A coward, I dropped the receiver and buried my face in aggravated hands. "Damn it."
Dad tentatively patted my shoulder, still on edge after our argument last night. I wasn't entirely ready to forgive him, either. Our confrontation had been a long time coming, and we had layers of hostility to chip through. It wouldn't happen overnight.
"I'm just asking you to be realistic," he'd insisted yesterday evening while I plunked on my guitar, as if I didn't already live with my reality every morning I swallowed my meds. "If you plan to let Bella back into your life, you need to at least tell her what that life will be like."
"My life is as normal as the next person's, Dad," I said, my voice biting. "I've had no moods that haven't been manageable since I started the meds, and definitely nothing so extreme it disrupts my life."
He crossed his arms. "And your little arrest last year—that wasn't disruptive?"
"That wasn't my illness," I fired back. "That was…a relapse."
"The fact that you're willing to deny your behavior was a hypomanic episode tells me you aren't being realistic."
"I haven't been hypomanic since I was in Raleigh, and I certainly haven't had any debilitating moods. Christ's sake, Dad, I've published five books, staged two plays, and built up a fan base that rivals J.K. Rowling. If that's debilitating, then I'd hate to see your idea of normal."
"Watch your language, please. It isn't like you." He gazed at my face with those sharp doctor's eyes, as if he could see straight into my head to examine every single malfunctioning synapse. "Edward, I know you've dealt with this remarkably—you have the greatest resilience I've ever seen. You've always been brilliant and savvy. But even you, son, are fallible. Don't forget what hypomania is, what it does, how it makes you feel. Half the time, you aren't even aware you're in a hypomanic state. Or when you fall out of one."
I pursed my lips, holding back an even angrier retort that would simply add credence to his assertions—my moods were not quite under control.
Given all outward appearances, I'd been functioning normally for five years and no one, save for my parents and Charlotte, knew the mental battle raging in my brain. By now, I was an expert war strategist when it came to battling funks and highs, and I thanked God for my natural inclinations toward logic and reason. I'd fought long and hard to keep my mind grounded. If I'd been a flighty person, this illness would literally have been the death of me, long ago. I knew better than anyone—my mother, my father, my therapist—what I was and wasn't capable of. And after five long years of sparing Bella the enslavement which comes with loving someone like me, at last I could offer her a healthy mind. She deserved that much.
"I am done having this discussion with you," I said darkly. "Bella wants to see me, period. You and Mom will refrain from interfering in this matter. Am I clear?"
My father only stared me down with a mix of sadness and regret. I looked away and refocused on the song I'd been writing for Bella since noon, trying to forget that he'd read every single one of my books five times over, clinging to my bizarre words in my absence…
My mother's steady potato chopping broke through my thoughts. "Edward," she said quietly, "for what it's worth, I think she'll be happy to see you again. If she's upset, let me take the fall for tricking her. She'll understand why I had to do it."
"Because she hates the sight of me," I grumbled. Now I knew where my father's piteous looks were coming from. Bella didn't want to see me, after all. Perhaps I was deluding myself as he'd hinted, thinking I could ever be to her what I once was. But, God help me, I had to try.
"She doesn't hate you. She's afraid to see you again, I think. Bella has such bravery in everything she does, except when it comes to you."
"Can you really blame her, Mom, after what I did? I left her in a horribly cruel way."
"You were sick—you couldn't help it."
"My illness is not an acceptable excuse for abandoning and cheating on my wife."
"It's an explanation, not an excuse. One is what one is, and it's time to stop hiding, sweet child. It's something Bella needs to hear. She's grown so much stronger, so confident in recent years. She could handle…everything," she urged.
I glared at my mother, then my father, wondering if they had organized this joint plan of attack before I'd set foot in Washington. Both were suddenly very keen on hitting Bella with every sordid aspect of my mental struggles before she had a chance to wish them "Happy Thanksgiving." But I knew Bella better than either of them. I knew she had a tendency toward rashness, and mistrust, and fear of commitment. The entire time we were together, long before my illness struck, she was waiting for the other shoe to drop. In fact, she expected me to leave someday…perhaps she had a bit of the Rota Fortunae fear in her, too. And if I spilled everything at her feet, from the drugs to the moods to my parents, she'd panic and run. No, a little at a time was best when it came to a skittish Bella.
Mom gazed at me with hopeful, shining eyes. I squeezed the bridge of my nose and relented a bit.
"I'll tell her. Just not today. Today, I simply need to convince her to spend more than five minutes in my presence."
"But you will tell her," my father said, a statement rather than a question.
"Yes. I'll tell her." Some day.
o o o
When I was eight, I informed Esme I was meant to be in love with the neighbor girl. My adopted mother cooed, smiled, hugged me and told me what a sweet boy I was to believe myself in love. She went on to explain that at my age, it wasn't really possible to be in love—even though I was certain I loved Bella.
And I was certain. I knew it was possible—entirely possible, given I was already an oddity. I was the brainy boy who corrected teachers. I was the quiet boy who knew things that no child should know. I learned quickly that five-year-old boys who spoke about things like night clubs, little white pills, vodka, blades and cutting, sex and death ended up in the office of a pompous prep-school shrink. And because I was different and knew about these things, I knew Esme was wrong—that I could be in love with the neighbor girl.
But with every other fleeting childhood fancy, the idea was forgotten as some other fancy took hold, discarded in my closet like a toy whose novelty had worn off. And yet, the feeling remained.
I swirled the amber whiskey in my glass, watching as the crystal caught the dim light above my parents' basement bar and colors fractured against my hand. There would be no sleep…not tonight. With the meds I was taking, I wasn't supposed to touch alcohol. Yet here it was, warm and ready and numbing.
It wasn't until years later, when I became a wordsmith, it occurred that my problem was not a child's inability to be in love. My problem was the English language. The Greeks have four separate words for 'love'—agape, eros, philia, and storgē—each with a slightly different connotation. In English, we have one word—love—that can mean a thousand different things:
I love the ocean.
I love my family.
I love music.
I love you.
I love cars.
I wish there was a word in the English language to describe the love that is pain and ceaseless in devotion. The kind of love I could destroy myself over, and gladly. But there was no one word. Because we are frail beings who only use a small percentage of our brain capacity, it is impossible for us to describe the strength of love we can hold in our hearts for another. And because I was a child as well as a frail being, I couldn't explain to Esme, or the neighbor girl, what was in my heart.
All I could say was "I love you, Bella."
I rolled the glass between my fingers again and snorted. Healthy indeed, my broken mind mocked. Just down the damned drink, you coward. Get it over with.
She was here this afternoon, in my arms. I'm older, wiser. But why was I still unable to make her understand how I loved her? Me, a master of words. There was nothing I could say that she would believe, now, after all these years. English is sadly lacking. And so, apparently, is my judgment.
I was so wrapped in my wallowing, I didn't hear the back door open and close, or see the hallway light flick on. And I didn't hear the heavy footsteps of my friend as he tromped down the stairs, into the dark basement.
Emmett immediately snatched the glass from my hand and sniffed, his nose crinkling. "I thought Big Daddy C locked up the liquor cabinet."
"He still thinks I don't know where he hides the key."
He sighed, not returning my glass. "How much have you drank?"
"Not a single…fucking…drop."
"Could have fooled me, bro. I hear you and the parental units pulled a fast one on Bella today."
I sat up sharply. "You've talked to her? How is she? What did she say?"
He plopped into an armchair across from me. "No, I haven't talked to her. But Rose said she's pretty messed up. It was all I could do to keep your sister from storming over here and clawing out your eyes. Dude, I could have warned you that making nice with Bella will take more than a pretty song and vegetable soup."
"She really hates me, then."
"Yeah. It's only because she's still so hung up on you, in spite of everything."
"No, Emmett. I don't think she is." I may have poor judgment, but I wasn't a fool. I understood the irreparable damage I'd caused better than him or Rose, or my parents.
Today had been a disaster. A fucking disaster. I should have known better.
I played the overconfident golden boy. It didn't fool her for a minute.
I tried to walk her back to an earlier, easier time. She resisted every step.
I pretended we were still best friends and the past five years hadn't happened. And she let me have it.
But the words that hurt the most…Bella never wanted to marry me.
Why hadn't I listened to her concerns all those years ago? She thought we were too young. Her parents screwed up their lives by getting married. We still had so many things to worry about, like college and finances. And after cleaning up Renee's messes and caring for Charlie for so long, she just wanted a chance to be a kid. If I'd once stopped to consider what she was really saying—she didn't want to marry me yet—I would have heard her, loud and clear. If we'd waited, maybe things would have been different.
But in every excuse, all I ever heard was I don't love you enough, Edward. And because she did love me, she gave in. She fucking sacrificed herself for my happiness, and look where it got her.
Never again would she sacrifice herself. Never again would I consider dragging her into dark places with me.
"Anyway, it's the way it should be," I said firmly.
"What the hell is that supposed to mean?" Emmett scowled. "You're just giving up?"
"Trust me, you don't want your friend around a sick lunatic. There's a reason I stayed away and that reason still exists. Carlisle's right—it always will exist. It's better for Bella if she's not around me."
Emmett looked thoroughly confused. "Man, you always did have some major self-loathing issues. Whatever went down can be fixed—"
"You don't get it," I cut in harshly. "I can't be fixed. I'm not normal. Normal people pass the meat counter in the grocery store and think 'those steaks would be great on the grill' or 'we need a pound of hamburger for spaghetti tonight.'"
"Seriously man, have you been drinking? Let me smell your breath."
"Do you know what goes through my head?"
"No," he frowned.
"I see a row of steaks and from the blackest cave of my mind, thoughts escape. Strange images, like toe tags and body bags, and carcasses—just a reminder that life ends at the charnel house; that we're always decaying, always dying. It's…not pleasant, Emmett. Frankly, it's insane. And I certainly don't want Bella hanging out there."
He was quiet for a long moment. I kept my head down, so I only heard him dump the whiskey down the drain and the soft clink of the glass as he left it in the bar sink. I felt him sit across from me, his clear eyes heavy on mine.
"Does this always happen when you go to the grocery store?"
"Are you depressed?"
"Only sometimes," I repeated.
"Why didn't you tell me?" He squirmed uncomfortably, and I saw the blatant fear and sorrow in his face. Guilt clouded my conscience. I offered him a smile.
"I didn't want to put you in a bad position. Rose doesn't know and I prefer it remain that way, at least for now. She can be…unpredictable."
"Rosie does tend to force issues. And she'd definitely tell Bella if she knew."
"Bella can't know, Emmett," I said gravely. "Do you understand why?"
"Yeah, I get you. Bella's a damned martyr. But man…" He scrubbed his face, torn. "Maybe you should let Bella decide what's best for her. She's a smart cookie, and super strong—give her a chance. She might surprise you."
I nodded, suddenly envious of all the time Emmett was able to spend with Bella. They'd obviously grown closer in my absence.
"Is she happy?" I asked softly.
"Yeah, she's real happy. She's a big name on the OP now, what with her marketing business and her hot little ass the ticket to score." He grinned, then took pity on me. "She misses you a lot, though. She'll never say it, but she does. You two always had that weird connection, you know?" He thought for a moment, then snapped his fingers. "You should invite her to a concert or something. She'd like that."
A small flame of hope rekindled in my chest. "Do you think she'd go?"
He shrugged. "It's worth a shot, as long as you don't try to trick her again. You know better than anyone that she hates it when people treat her all fragile and stuff. Just ask her out, dude—a friendly little concert. Music's your thing, remember?"
"Maybe," I answered, already knowing I'd be scanning the Seattle Sound for upcoming Bella-ish gigs. My beautiful neighbor girl had loved me, once. Perhaps she could again.
In spite of everything, I still wanted her to. I wanted to believe I could change my fate. That there was such a thing as free will and choice, and I had the weight to defy Fortunae—even after her wheel felled me time and again.
I defy you, stars, I mused grimly. God, I was a monster.