I was very worried at Bella's lack of grieving. I knew that each person did so in their own way but the happiness and giggles were sure signs that she was repressing what she truly needed to process. My poor youngest daughter, I sighed, I hope she can move on from this.
I set about making Bella's meal as I heard the shower turn on upstairs. Some homemade soup and bread sounded like a good idea. I set about pulling out the ingredients as Carlisle walked in.
"Can I help you with anything?" he asked me, as he washed his hands at the sink at a very human pace.
I pulled myself from my thoughts. "I'm thinking of making Bella some homemade bread and soup. Would you mind getting the cutting board and chopping vegetables" I replied as I measured out the ingredients for the bread I was going to bake.
"Not at all" he replied with a slight smile, as he moved passed me, kissing my cheek.
We worked in companionable silence for a few minutes until he sighed, placing his knife to the side.
"I'm worried about her Esme" Carlisle spoke quietly, glancing up to make brief eye contact before crossing the kitchen to pull out a pot, fill it with water and put in on to boil.
I finished adding the ingredients needed to make the bread and set about mixing and kneading it with my hands. "Me too sweetheart", I said giving Carlisle a small smile.
"It's just that she seems to be so ok with everything I think she's not processing anything, and I'm afraid the longer she waits the bigger the breakdown is going to be. I'm not surprised she took the abnormal parts in stride but the loss of her father, and then us reappearing in her lives, and finding out what Edward said to her, I think it is all too much" he spoke quietly as he added noodles to the pot.
"I agree. I think we need to talk to her after she eats. It's not that I want to see her hurt, but I believe, as you do, that the longer she bottles it all up the worse it will be" I injected as I finished kneading and pulling out a cookie sheet to bake the bread on.
"But I must say, I am very happy for her closeness with Jasper and the way she handled his story. She never ceases to amaze me. I can see she really soothed his soul today and I would gather that the two of them will end up being closer than her and Alice, or her and Emmett. They are simply too similar to not enjoy one another. They have the same care and compassion for others, and the same need to protect. It's such a shame Edward kept them apart because as much as Jasper fails to see it, he is a gentle soul and I think not only does Bella bring out the best in him, but she gives him a sense of peace he's not known before" Carlisle reflects, stirring the pot and adding the vegetables.
"I agree, and it was such a beautiful thing to witness. I'm so happy that both him and Alice are physically apart of this family now. They've been officially apart of this family for decades now, but somehow this just feels more permanent" I ponder as I slide the bread in the oven, thankful Carlisle had turned it to the right temperature.
"I'm still turning that one over in my head but I can feel the difference in the strength of the bonds. And the look of happiness on Jasper's face when he realized that it is now my venom in his veins rather than Maria's warmed by heart; it's a moment I will cherish for the rest of my existence. Bella is truly a gift, and I believe she'll make a fantastic immortal should she still choose that" Carlisle spoke as he pulled chicken out to chop.
I laughed, "Do you really think there is still a choice to be made? She has told us time and time again that this is what she wants and we foolishly have not listened to her. I for one, will not make the same mistake we did in leaving her ever again and I am selfish enough to want to keep her for eternity even if she and Edward were to part ways."
Carlisle had paused and was standing stock still looking at me with horror in his eyes, "You really think I'm not selfish enough to want to keep her as well?"
I rushed to placate him, "Oh no sweetheart, I was merely saying that there is no choice left for her. Surely I know you would never turn her against her will but she's made her choice again and again and I don't think we should, or need to ever consider, there being another outcome to this arrangement" I said as I reached out to touch his face and he leaned into my touch.
"Of course, I was jumping to conclusions. I just think she needs to process her grief before we broach the subject with her. Of course if it comes up, I won't hesitate to talk with her about it, but it is even more important that she deals with her loss before she is changed if she is not to grieve for the rest of her existence" he insists as I drop my hand and he goes back to cutting the cooked chicken.
"I agree, but whatever happens, we'll help her through it and we're not letting her go. She needs to know that" I say as we hear the water shut off upstairs.
"Agreed" my husband replies as he tosses the meat in the pot, adds a lid, and pulls me to him with an arm around my waist.
After I rushed into the bathroom after teasing Jasper I decided a quick shower and change of clothes was needed. I undressed and looked myself over in the mirror. I could see what Carlisle was talking about. I had a series of bite marks along my chest and the one by my knee.
But honestly, they didn't bother me. They were a sign of what I had survived. My skin had a little bit of an extra shine in some places but not enough to cause bystanders to stare so I was safe there. I certainly was thin, and I was sure that Carlisle planned on fattening me up a little, I thought as I rolled my eyes.
I walked over to the shower and noticed Alice had laid everything out for me. Sometimes she was useful, "don't get used to it" I thought, knowingshe'd see my decision to say that to her.
I turned on the water, stepped in the shower and tried to process some things. First, the Cullens were back and they supposedly loved me. Two, Edward had apparently lied to me and was still MIA. And three, Charlie was dead.
It was on that third one, that my heart shattered. I was working through the first of those three and knew that I would come to terms with the second later but the third was gut wrenching. I'd lost my dad and here I had been having fun playing with the Cullens for the last 24 hours. What kind of daughter was I?
I quickly finished my shower as I broke down in tears over the loss of Charlie. Would I be able to go to the funeral? How do you say goodbye to someone you're never going to see again, especially if you plan on living for eternity?
I looked at my reflection in the mirror after I had thrown the clothes on Alice had handed me. How do I grieve? I was so used to feeling nothing, that the emotions were overwhelming. I slid to the floor and just cried. Soft footfalls announced the presence of someone outside the door. There was a timid knock.
"Bella, sweetheart? Can I come in?" Esme asked quietly from the other side of the door.
That just made me cry harder. She was being so kind and I had neglected my own father.
"Bella? Please?" Esme asked, and I could hear the distress in her voice.
"It's unlocked" I replied, not willing to move from my position on the floor.
Esme carefully opened the door, and I could see her carefully peer around it. "Oh sweetheart" she said as she rushed to me and pulled me into her arms as I sobbed harder.
"It's ok, I'm here, just let it all out" she crooned softly as she pulled me into her lap and rocked me softly.
After about 10 minutes my tears had subsided to a slow trickle. A soft rap on the door was followed by Carlisle's voice, "Everyone decent? Can I come in?"
Esme looked down at me, and I gave a quick nod. "You can come in" Esme replied.
Carlisle looked around the door until his eyes rested on us sitting on the floor. When I met his eyes, the crying started again. "Am…I…A…hor..ri…ble…dau..ght..ter?" I managed to choke out.
"No sweetheart, what would ever make you say that?" Carlisle asked as he knelt down and sat in front of me.
"Because Charlie is dead and I'm sitting here with you thinking how lucky I am" I said from the circle of Esme's arms.
"Bella, you have had an amazing number of hardships befall you since we walked into your life and you've handled each with a grace and dignity I didn't know was possible, from human or vampire. You accepted us into your heart, and you've never shied away from what we are. You are truly amazing. You are not a horrible daughter, and if you didn't mourn Charlie, I would be worried. Actually your giggling is what gave me pause for I gathered, correctly it would appear, that you weren't processing your grief but rather shoving it to the back of your mind. Everyone processes grief differently and it would seem you went into survival mode. You are a wonderful daughter, and I am sure Charlie would say the same if he were here to tell you that. Did you know I spoke to your father when you first started dating Edward?" Carlisle looked to me. This caught my attention and I pulled myself upright in Esme's lap.
"No" I replied.
"Yes, I did. He was worried that you were imposing yourself on us, which is ridiculous by the way" he threw me a wink, and I gave him a small smile in return "It was then that he asked me to watch out for you. He said that you spent so much time with us that we were your second family and that if anything happened to him, he expected me to take care of you. This was pretty early on, but he could see how close you had become to my family, our family. I didn't have to forge the custody documents. We did make up a story about your being abroad etc, but your father had it drawn into his will that should anything happen to him, I was to become your legal guardian" Carlisle said.
"Really?" I asked, shocked.
"Really" he confirmed "It's been there all along. I wanted you to know that under no circumstances are you a horrible daughter. And that Charlie wanted you to be a part of this family should anything happen to him. Even after we left, he did not change his will" he nodded solemnly.
After thinking that through for a second I launched myself at Carlisle, his reflexes and instincts catching me as I cried happy tears.
"Thank you so much for telling me that, but also for wanting me" I whispered.
"I'll always want you sweetheart. I'm not here to replace Charlie but I want you to know that I'll always be here for you" he said, hugging me to his chest.
"I know" I simply replied.
After a few more minutes of calming down, I pulled back to look at him, he wiped the tears from my face.
"Bella, I know that Charlie's death is not something you wanted to deal with but it is something you'll have to come to grips with, and it will take time, but I want you to know you can always talk to me or Esme, or any of the others if you so wish. We love you and we want to support you" he said, smoothing his thumbs across my cheeks.
"Thank you" I replied again, as I hugged Carlisle once again. It was going to take time to process but I couldn't be more thankful for my vampire family, or the foresight Charlie had had in trusting Carlisle.
"Now" Carlisle said, standing with me wrapped around him like a Koala "do you think you can eat something?"
"Good, Esme and I made some chicken soup and bread, so let's head to the kitchen" he said as he walked at a very human pace carrying me down the stairs, Esme flitting ahead.
Carlisle set me down at the kitchen island while Esme placed a steaming bowl in front of me, with a small plate of warm bread. "What would you like to drink?" she asked, turning to the fridge.
"Just water, please" I replied, reaching a hand out for the spoon lying next to bowl. It sure smelled good, no doubt it would taste just as well. The Cullens were good at everything. I rolled my eyes.
"What was that reaction for?" Carlisle asked, sitting down next to me.
"You're good at everything" I replied, taking a bite and noting that it was, in fact, as good as it smelled and I thought it would be. Both of them chuckled.
"Not really Sweetheart, but we appreciate it just the same" Esme said as she moved to place the rest of the soup in containers to put in the fridge for leftovers.
I ate while Carlisle pulled out the newspaper and Esme hummed to herself at the sink cleaning the dishes.
"I'm sorry for my breakdown earlier" I whispered, pushing the remains of my soup around the bowl. Carlisle carefully folded his newspaper to my right with a sigh.
"Bella" he started "what you experienced earlier was normal. And I would be far more worried if it hadn't of happened. You need to process your grief and on top of that our abrupt departure and reappearance. Please never feel sorry for you emotions, I'm sure Jasper would tell you the same. You are allowed to be happy, and I know that Charlie's death will take time to heal from but you will move on, and you're allowed to. He would want you too" it seemed Carlisle thought I needed to hear some of the same words again, and I felt myself being validated.
"Thank you" I whispered reaching for his hand and giving it a gentle squeeze.
"Anytime, and always" he replied with a small smile.
I knew I needed time, and I still had questions for the Cullens but for the moment I was happy with just being. Tomorrow I would tackle the next round of concerns.