|Once Upon a Letter
Author: CynicalDreamerC PM
Orphaned by the age of 5, anxious and lost by the age of 20. She's living in fear, and his voice is the only thing that makes her feel safe. She writes a letter one day and things take a turn for the worst... **heavy angst**Rated: Fiction M - English - Hurt/Comfort/Angst - Bella & Edward - Chapters: 18 - Words: 58,628 - Reviews: 146 - Favs: 75 - Follows: 121 - Updated: 05-20-12 - Published: 08-13-11 - id: 7282483
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
Once Upon a Letter
Chapter 18 – New Periods of Pain
Pain has an element of blank;
It cannot recollect
When it began,
or if there were
A day when it was not.
It has no future but itself,
Its infinite realms contain
Its past, enlightened to perceive
New periods of pain.
His Adam's apple bobs when he swallows, his body tenses. His fingers twitch at his sides before his hand is suddenly grasping mine. I jolt, surprised, and then we're walking. To the flat. I resist, but it's of no use. He's too strong, too determined and I'm too weak to fight, don't want to fight anymore.
It's warm when we get inside, and quiet, too. He doesn't make to move towards the flat upstairs. Instead we just stand with our clasped hands in the hallway, and all I can hear is my own heartbeat in my ears, pounding out a fast, too fast, rhythm.
He swivels to face me. "You can't just say that to me, Bella. You can't just say that and then expect me to leave . . ."
I swallow. "I don't know what you want me to say."
"Nothing," he utters. "Nothing, just . . ." He sighs, and his thumbs come to rest on the sleeves of my hoodie. "Can I see? Please?"
Defeated, the fight was pointless. "Fine," I utter. "Fine." But it's not fine, it's really not, not fine . . .
"I don't want you to!" I burst out suddenly, pushing away from him. "No!" I back away from him until my back hits the wall behind me. "Not this," I whisper, clutching the bottom of my sleeves so tight with my fingers. I don't want him to see the yellow that mars my skin, because it just doesn't matter. It's over, it's done. Can't we just forget about it now, please?
He starts to walk over to me, his palms raised up in the air. He's not going to touch me – or so he leads me to believe. I eye him warily when he comes to stop about a foot away. His eyes dart between mine for a moment, and I watch him back; feeling more and more anxious with every garden-green sweep of his irises.
"You're afraid," He murmurs; voice a quiet lull in an even quieter hallway. His eyes dart to my hands for a second, my arms, and then back to my face. I can feel them trembling. "I won't hurt you."
I swallow hard against the sudden dryness on my throat. I think I know that he won't hurt me – physically. But what about mentally? My body is just a shield against my fragile insides; they shake now, and even my physical form is unable to quell the tremors before the reach they surface, and spread like spit-fire over my skin.
"I'm not afraid of you," I whisper back, and it's a half truth. "Not in . . . not in the way that you think," I shake my head. I bumble and stumble over my next words. "I'm afraid of what . . . what you'll think when you see," Dread immediately consumes me and courses through my entire being. "What you'll think of me . . . " I can't finish my sentence, because I have so much riding on his thoughts. I hate being judged, but I can practically feel it happening already. That feeling of a million ants crawling all over your skin and shuddering, shuddering, shuddering. . .
Not him. Let me be something good – even if it's a lie.
And then desperations pars with insanity, because a friendship can't be built on lies, not one that's expected to last.
"Okay," And it's my voice, and it's a barely-there whisper, but it's still there.
I can feel my eyes widen, I watch as his do, too. He was expecting more resistance, and so was I.
A friendship can't be built on lies . . .
The yellow on my skin wasn't from a fall earlier, and it's more than nothing. In fact, it's something.
My fingers fiddle with my sleeves. If this is the end of a friendship . . . Mourning something I never really had in the first place.
I breathe and I breathe and I breathe. I try to get as much air into my lungs so it won't hurt so much later. My stomach turns and twists, like someone's anxious hangs pulling and tugging at an errant tea-towel. I look into his eyes and they seem like a warm sea frozen over – a passage in time paused.
I grip a sleeve in my hand; palm sweating. And then I just do it. I just tug it up.
A pained noise leaves my throat as I stare down at the mustard coloured bruises. They're shaped like hands and splodges. The paleness of my skin only serves to add a worse effect than the one already there. It's sickly and disgusting; it's like vomit under my skin that refuses to be washed off.
No matter how hard I scrub, they don't come off.
I'm afraid to look up, so I just continue to stare at my exposed skin. When I can't face it anymore my eyes shoot to the floor beneath my feet. My shoes are dirty and muddy, but even they can't serve to distract me from the racing of my heart; the feeling of incoming sick in my stomach and throat.
I'm unaware that I'm squeezing my hands into my fists – so tight that the nails cut into my flesh – until other hands surround mine; longer fingers, wider span, but sturdy – strong. Our hands are matching sets of pale under the artificial lighting of the building.
He loosens my fingers from their painful positions, allowing blood to flow back into my palms. I imagine blood trickling out from the wounds in my flesh; ripping open the skin over the bruises and washing veins, arteries, bare muscle and bone. His hands curl around mine, and I wonder if he could swipe away the colour, the memories that always resurface no matter what.
I don't look up and he doesn't say anything. Does he understand? Is he already retracting "friend' status?
But . . . no. He stands here. With me. Holding my hands. And they're like my very own support system. They ground me, they give me courage.
I look up.
His eyes are on my arm, and then my eyes once he notices I'm seeing him, seeing me. His brows are drawn over his eyes, a furrow settled deeply in between. And in that moment I wonder if that old saying, "the eyes are the window to the soul," hasn't just been silly babble all this time.
Because his are green fire; a forest lit alight. They swirl like the shower of fireworks in the darkened sky on bonfire night. Puddles polluted with oil to create an artificial rainbow; flames flickering blue, and then orange and red in an open fire. Then the storm hits, and there's thunder, the brief frightening flash of lightning. I can only duck for cover to avoid the heavy, violent downpour.
It's strange, because his hands are nothing like his eyes. Softness on skin competing with the harsh glinting in his green hues. He's a walking oxymoron.
He still doesn't speak. His mouth is set in a tight line, and then slowly, I start to function again. Rejection spins a sticky and painful web around my insides – capturing my heart in its trap. I want to back away, but I'm halted by concrete. I'm against the wall, to retreat is impossible. Forward is the only way I must go.
"I want to go now," I whisper, feeling tears slosh at the corners of my eyes. I tug my hands from his grip, and I side-step, because going forward would require going toward – into – him.
I walk on shaky legs towards the staircase, ducking my head down and counting my breaths as I start up the stairs. My hand finds the rail and my eyes find the darkness. I close them, because everything's dim under this painful light anyway. I'm not even half way up when my errant hand – which hands loosely and pointlessly by my opposing side – is caught, captured, by that same 'other' hand that held mine only moments ago. I know it's him, because who else would it be?
I pause, and I count to ten in my head.
"Bella, please," He whispers, and then comes around to stand in front of me. I slink deeper within my hoodie, because now he's up on a higher step, and even taller than me than he was before. Maybe he senses this, or maybe he just wants to see my face, but either way he sinks down in front of me. So low that now I'm the one looking down at him, and he's the one looking up at me.
I blink at him, feeling the wetness on my lashes as they join together and then tear apart once more. His face is tense and drawn, but there's an underlying softness to his features that makes him look younger, more vulnerable. I think once more, as I did the first time I went to his hotel and saw him, of course he's beautiful.
"Who did that to you?" He asks, and his eyes momentarily dart to the flesh I've covered back up. I just shake my head, because does it matter? A nameless, faceless person in the dark of night time . . .
"I don't know," I whisper in reply, because I really don't. I didn't ask, and nobody told me.
"You don't know . . . " He repeats quietly. But it's not to ridicule or to patronize me – make me seem stupid or silly. It just seems like he's realised something.
"Does it hurt?" He asks, after moments of silence.
I swallow. "Sometimes," I say. "But it's better – it's getting better."
And then I blink, and a tear drops from my eye and onto his cheek.
He rises then, and I follow my teardrop with my eyes. It wet and small and I think, now I'm on his skin. He doesn't wipe it away, but his hand rises, and he brushes away the remainder that have collected on my own cheeks. He retracts his hand, and then both of his arms rise out in front of him. It's an opening, an offering.
I accept it without conscious thought.
I step up onto his step, and push myself into his arms. His body is strong and steady and stable, and as my body yields to his strength, his arms yield to my tremors. He encloses me – safe. A strange noise fills the air then, like the sound of someone drowning, to suddenly find themselves above water again.
It takes a moment for me to realise the sound is coming from me.
I'm gasping against his chest, drawing in breaths only to let them out again before they can replenish my oxygen starved body. My tears soak his shirt as he rocks us slowly; his arms locked around my back, mine clutching at the material surrounding his waist. He doesn't shush me or quiet me, he simply lets me go.
I'm crying for that night I was unable to, when Alice held me and she cried for us both.
I'm crying because I'm feeling.
This time, I'm crying because I can.
I don't know how long he holds me, or how long I let memories pour out in the form of tears, but eventually they slow, until they stop all together. Then the silence is only filled with the sound of my wet blinks, my breathing and his. I push my head deeper against his chest and then – his heart.
After a while he starts to pull back. I push my head against his chest one last time before pulling away, too. I avoid his eyes, but he won't have that. He grasps my chin between finger and thumb so my eyes fall upon his.
"Ah, Bella," He sighs, he thumb brushing my bottom lip – chapped and raw from being abused so much by my teeth. "You're living in a world of hurt," He says, his index finger touching my blotchy cheek. "And I haven't been helping alleviate it any, have I?"
I shake my head. "It's not your fault."
His eyes search mine. "And it's not yours, either. You know that . . . right?"
I simply bite my bottom lip in response.
Do I know that?
"Bella," He says firmly, drawing my eyes back up to his from where they'd drifted to the collar on his t-shirt. "This . . . any of this," His hand lightly trails down my bicep before he places a gentle hand on my forearm – where I know the bruises lay. "Is not your fault, okay? Tell me you know that, pretiosa puella."
I simply nod, uncertain.
"Tell me," He says.
I hesitate. "It's not my . . . fault." I whisper, almost inaudibly.
I swallow. "It's not my fault."
"It's not my fault!" I burst out suddenly, violently, loudly. I quickly clasp my hands over my mouth, looking at him wide-eyed.
He lets out a laugh. "That's it, dulcis cor. That's it!"
I smile at him, and it's as if there's a great weight been lifted off my chest. Even though I hadn't told him what had happened . . . I could only guess he'd alluded to it. Those tears kept inside must have been like blocks of iron, or rods of steel weighing me down. Like when you're congested and you can't breathe clearly for all the yearning to be able to. It's like that. My sinuses have cleared up, my head has un-fogged. And my chest, for the time being, feels as weightless as a cloud.
I feel radiant.
"Can I see you tomorrow?"
I turn my back to him, using the ploy of unlocking the door so he doesn't see the wide, silly smile that spreads across my face.
"If you want to," I say, still smiling. There's no uncomfortable stiffness on my face from dried tears either, because he caught them before they could fall, and then wiped them away if they had anyway.
"I want to."
The key turns in the lock, and I bite my lip to reign in my smile when I turn around.
"Then of course you can," I say, but then my nose scrunches up when I realise . . . "I have a class tomorrow." I say regretfully.
He nods and shrugs he shoulders like this changes nothing. "That's fine," He says. "What time does it start?"
"Ten," I say carefully.
"And finish?" He inquires, shifting closer so he shoulder leans against the door-jamb. His close proximity makes my heart race and my palms sweat, despite the fact that we've been much closer than this – not even fifteen minutes ago.
But it was different.
"Uh," I stammer. "T-twelve."
He throws me a crooked smile that throws a momentary spanner in the cogs of my brain. "Then I guess I'll be seeing you at twelve, then."
"Yeah," I say, breathlessly. He's so close, and I'm so aware of this fact. "I guess so."
His eyes hold mine intently, and I know he's the one that's going to have to break our staring contest because I just can't seem to look away.
Green. Green was always my favourite colour because it symbolised nature, and nature was unequivocally and unconditionally free. His eyes, the colour of my own idea of freedom, and his voice that sounds like me.
I've only just met him, but I think he's already one of the best people I'll ever know, because he makes me feel normal. Like I'm just a girl, and he's just a boy. There's nothing else – there doesn't have to be.
I sigh when he finally shifts his stare away from me. He looks down the hallway for a moment before saying, "I guess I'll get going then," His hand finds my cheek for a split-millisecond in time in which he touches it softly, before he's backing up, taking his warmth and intensity with him. Before turning around he says, "I'll be seeing you."
I watch him go, a strange tightening in the pit of my gut. I think, I really hope so.
The day's lecture passes in a blur. Usually, I am so enraptured by whatever text we're caught up in, that it doesn't seem like any time at all before said lecture ends, but today I find myself watching the clock, find myself watching it as if watching paint drying.
I am acutely aware of what awaits me at the end of these two hours, and there's a tightening in the pit of my stomach. I can't tell whether it's from nerves or excitement – probably a little bit of both. All I know is that the more I will time to pass, the more it slows itself down.
Eventually though, as all things must, it ends.
I stand up and sling my bag over my shoulder, my feet carrying me to the door at a rapid pace. All of a sudden this lecture hall seems so dark and dingy and depressing, and all I want is to be outside with the fresh air clinging like water droplets to my skin.
I don't pause when someone says my name, so unused to hearing it being called that I ignore it.
Again, and my brows furrow but my feet don't stop. I shake my head slightly as I peer down at my feet; certain I must be hearing things.
I'm only sure that someone is addressing me this time because they stand right in front of me. I blink up at the person, opening and closing my mouth many times before just standing there – at a loss.
I swallow nervously, my spine tingling unpleasantly; my palms starting to sweat.
"Hey," The stranger says, waving a hand in front of my face to which I unconsciously flinch back from. He doesn't notice. "I never thought I was going to get your attention." He smiles, adjusting a strap on his shoulder.
My eyes dart from him to the clock which is getting further away from 12 each passing moment I stand here. Dread settles deep within my stomach.
I don't know what to say, so I don't say anything.
He frowns after a moment, probably wondering about my mental capacity. I mentally cringe against the thoughts I know he must be having. "Are you okay?" He asks, but doesn't wait for my response as he continues, "I was just wondering if you'd like to, you know, go and get a coffee with me sometime."
I just stare at him, wondering why he'd why to do something like that, and wondering how anyone could have the gall to come up to a complete stranger and –
And then the white-blonde hair and blue eyes dawn on me.
Suddenly, my ears are muffled like I'm underwater, and all I can here is his unkindly freak muttered what seems like eons ago. My face flushes in both anger and embarrassment, and all I want is to be far away from him. Because beneath that boyish, grinning exterior, is someone I don't like the looks of, and it's the insides of a person that count.
Outsides. . . we are given those by default.
"No," I say, voice small. "No thank you."
He looks baffled by my refusal, like he cannot fathom my answer. His arrogance makes me cringe internally, and my eyes seek out the door that's behind him.
"No?" He repeats incredulously.
I take a breath. I swallow. "No."
He starts backing away, leaving the air around me mine again. Breathing becomes easier and easier the more he backs up. "Whatever," He spits out, his face scrunching up in a hostile way. "I could do better anyway."
My face falls.
I realise he's probably right.
Back at the flat, I head straight to my room. I don't bump into any of my flat mates, and not for the first time; I'm glad.
Mike's words run around in my head until my brain aches; feels like it's going to burst out of my skull – its cagey environment. They bring me to a realisation that had been otherwise absent these past few days. . . these days and moments spent in the company of real life, actual friends.
The effect Mike's words have on me have nothing to do with Mike himself, I realise, as I spin around on the computer chair until my stomach start to roll with nausea. Instead, his words are applied to Alice, to Edward – even Rosalie. I imagine his words coming out of their mouths instead, and there would be no realising they were probably right.
They just would be right.
The nausea in my stomach has nothing to do with the motion of the chair now. Bitter tears sting at my eyes as I come to a stop. I breathe heavily, quickly, shallowly. I wonder who I was even fooling in the first place.
It doesn't take me long to come back to reality.
Though the landing it painful, sharp, and not forever.
I sit with my knees up to my chest half an hour later, darkening the denim on my legs with the salt water that leaks out of my eyes. I don't move. I don't make a sound. The only noise is that of the heart in my chest, where each pump seems too loud, feels so painful. I wish it would just stop moving so I could just crawl over into a dark corner and silently be removed from the world.
When there's a knock at the door, my whole body tenses.
I hold my breath as I wait for someone to answer it – but nobody does. Instead the knocks continue until they beat like a never-ending drum in my brain.
My eyes widen because I know that voice. It filters through the wood of the front door and passes mine with an ease that is so obviously graceful.
I clutch my knees to me tighter, a surge of panic whizzing up and down my system. I forgot he was going to come today. . . lost in realisations that it's ridiculous that he even should.
"Bella? Are you in there?"
I bite down on my lip harshly, barely stopping myself from calling out an answer. Yes, my body says, yes, I'm here.
Shhh! My brain hisses violently back. Don't be an idiot – a fool! This isn't meant for you.
I let out a shallow, shaky breath, fisting my hands up into tight balls. My body and brain are fighting; blood cells tearing and muscles and veins ripping as there is a valiant attempt to both ignore and want. I've always done the former – up until recently.
But it's safer that way. There's no one to rely on you, hurt you or want or need you.
My chest tightens – my heart locked up in iron bars. I've never let anyone touch it – not really. Why would they want to? And what would they do with it once they had it? Tear it, break it, rip it.
Reject, hurt, abuse.
My hand covers my mouth to stifle any noises that threaten to escape my throat.
Shakespeare once said that it was better to have loved and lost than to have not loved at all.
That statement always perplexed me because I just couldn't fathom how loss was worth a teeny bit of pointless happiness. Surely it was better than to not even have it in the first place, that way you don't know what you're missing, that way it you don't ever get hurt.
I seem to have come to a decision. My brain wins out – as it always does. And my heart is once again subdued – as it always is.
I slink back further into my chair; myself.
I won't be answering the door.
I try hard not to see this as a metaphor for myself as a sense of daunting dread settles over me like a pall of death. The idea of living the rest of my life like this, alone and isolated, is almost as great as the fear of letting people in, only to have them throw me away once they see I'm not worth it.
Almost, but not quite.
The door to my very being will stay locked as long as I am the key keeper.
I don't intend of ever letting it go.
"She must still be at. . . thought she would have. . . "
"She told me that. . . "
"How long. . . sitting out there?"
Voices filter in and out of my subconscious as I blearily blink my eyes open. The crick in my neck and stiff limbs alert me to the fact that I had fallen asleep. A quick glance to my wrist tells me it is now 1:15. The last time I looked at my watch it was 12:30.
45 minutes have passed yet my recent realisation is still fresh in my mind. There's a deflation in my heart as soon as I wake up, a sudden need to fall back into the land of empty because reality holds no interest for me.
I shift out of my position slowly, wincing at the strain in my limbs. I walk to my door and sleepily press my ear against it.
"I really don't know where she could have gone," Alice is saying, confusion clear in her voice as the sound of the kettle boiling fills the air of the flat. "Her lecture let out at twelve."
My brows furrow, I didn't know she knew that.
"That's what she told me," A voice is saying back, so melodic and unfamiliarly similar and familiar that I know who it is at once. "You don't think. . . well, you don't think she's ran into any trouble, do you?"
My forehead comes to rest on the wood of my door. My mouth opens, but no sound escapes.
"Oh no," Alice says, but her voice is off kilter and strange. "She's probably just gone to the library or something. You know, Bella and her books. . . "
But he doesn't know because he doesn't know me.
I move away from the door after that, not being able to listen to anymore. It seems so strange that those two people mere metres away from me were my saving grace not even a day ago. And now, now it's all changed.
I am not meant for you, you are not meant for me.
I drop my head into my hands, trying to ignore the sharp piercing in my chest that feels like a rib has been broken and is now cutting through my heart.
Their conversation continues and all the while it drifts over to me through the door in the form of quiet muffles. I wonder how long it will be before he gets up and leaves, how long it will be before she realises that I'm not at the library after all. That I am in fact, and have been all along, right here.
"Stuck between the burning shade and the fading light," I whisper, feeling my body tug me this way and that. The more they talk, the more I feel drawn to them, to that kind of closeness a friendship offers that I've witnessed and longed for many a time. I want to talk to them, laugh and joke with them. Simply be a part of something. But every time my feet itch, and I go to step toward the door, I'll hear Mike's voice again, telling me – "I could do better anyway."
I shrink back from possible rejection and loss.
When I hear feet start to shuffle, and the sound of a handle being turned, an abrupt sense of panic fills me that forces me to rush to my door. My palm is sweaty and clenched around the knob, but it doesn't turn.
I think they're saying goodbye.
"No," I whisper. "Please. No, no, no. . . "
My throat clenches tight, a distinct lump forming in it. Don't go, I want to say – scream. Don't go!
But no words come out, and my fingers simply flex on the brass metal.
My hands starts to shake, and then my arm, and finally some sounds escape me. They're strangled and quiet and just nonsense and nothingness. Tears bite at the corner of my eyes, their bitter sting just reminding me of my bitter failure once again.
"Edward," I finally get out in a broken whisper. "Alice."
My mind is screaming at me, telling me to get back, telling me of the pain that lurks secretly behind this door.
"No," I say to them through tears. "All I know is the pain of never opening it."
With a stiff face from dried tears and a heart palpitating much too fast in my chest, I tug the door open. All I can hear is my heart in my ears when I tell them to – "Stop!"
It's more of a whisper than a shout, but they hear me nevertheless.
They both turn around to look at me, and I watch as their eyes widen simultaneously. My eyes settle on Alice's face first, her brows furrowed and eyes clouded with confusion before settling on Edward. His dark brows are furrowed, too, but there's also something else other than confusion that flashes in his eyes – so quick that I miss it.
Before I can say anything else, he's striding over to me in a few quick leaps.
"What happened?" He's asking when he reaches me. He's not hesitant when his hand touches my face.
I open my mouth the say something – anything – when the realisation that I can't say anything at all hits me. I look at him looking at me through blurry vision and know I can't have him. When I just collapse against his chest – squeezing his waist oh so tight – and peer over his shoulder to see Alice – I know I can't have her either.
I squeeze my eyes tightly shut, letting my tears soak his shirt and hurt sobs fall from my lips. He crushes me against his chest, uttering soft shhh's in my ear that only make me cry harder.
I don't know how he can stand it – me – here like this, so close to him. I think it must be an act but right now, in this moment, I just don't care. Maybe he'll be glad to be rid of me when I go, but right now, I'm just glad he's here. He said he would be.
"Bella, Bella," He utters into my hair, trying to lift my head up. "What happened? What's wrong, baby?" Even through muffled hearing I can hear something desperate in his voice and it makes my heart clench within its iron.
I'm gasping desperately for air. "Nothing," I choke out, before pushing my face back into his chest again so he can't see me. "I just realised something," I whisper, not knowing whether he heard me or not.
And then quietly, slowly, and barely, I utter against his chest;
"My heart asked for pleasure first, and now must come the pain."
The heart asks pleasure first,
And then, excuse from pain;
And then, those little anodynes
That deaden suffering;
And then, to go to sleep;
And then, if it should be
The will of its Inquisitor,
The liberty to die.
A/N: Both of the poems within this chapter are by Emily Dickinson.
One step forward, two steps back, huh? Bella's got some issues – maybe even a disorder (I'm not saying anything) – so she's not just gonna be magically better. She feels hopeless and utterly defeated. Remember, she's never had any real friends before – she just doesn't think she's deserving of them. Her self-esteem is extremely low.
Thanks for reading, and sorry about the wait. I've been revising for my AS exams. Only two more to go!
See you next time! :)