Chapter 36: Finding Peace

APOV

Ding.

Silence.

Ding.

Silence.

Ding.

More silence.

Ding.

"For the love of GOD… somebody please answer the freaking door!" I shouted.

The house gave a quiet sort of echo, affirming that I was the only one around.

I heaved an aggravated sigh.

"I'm coming!" I shouted in my loudest voice, doubting the person on the other side could hear me. I was two floors and half a house away.

I hobbled down the stairs as fast as I could; which was slower than a turtle that took a valium. Really, I had to sit and scoot down each step. I wondered if the person had left or perhaps they had heard my shout?

I sighed in exhaustion as I made it to the last step. I was going to have some serious upper body strength if I kept this up.

Now I just had to make it through the living room.

I hopped across the room teetering on the verge of falling multiple times before I finally made it to the door.

My heart was beating wildly and I was sure I was covered in sweat from exertion. Why did the house have to be so huge? And where the hell was everyone?

I opened the door balancing on one leg.

"Sorry it took-" My words died as I realized who was on the other side.

Damn, why did I always have to look atrocious around him?

"Hello."

Edward was standing there in all his sculpted glory. It almost hurt to look at so much beauty. It really wasn't fair for anyone to be so appealing.

"Edward. Uh, hi." I mumbled stupidly.

He frowned over me. I wondered if I looked worse than I thought.

"I apologize for making you rush. I thought your friend would open the door," He offered apologetically.

"So he is here," I mumbled throwing a dark look over my shoulder towards the stairs. Damn Brennan.

Edward's lips quirked.

"I do not think he heard the doorbell. Earbuds." He clarified tapping his ear. I sighed shaking my head. Brennan did have a tendency to listen to music on full blast. Still, I wouldn't put it past him to pull a stunt like that.

"It's all good." I mumbled, thinking what a load of crap that was.

Looking at him standing in the door way with rays of sunshine casting a golden glow about him, I had to wave back the desire to drag him into my arms and kiss him soundly.

Wait.

What?

I was quite startled by my own thoughts, but I supposed I had to accept that there was something about Edward that managed to trigger that side of me. The side I kept buried deep and ignored.

Maybe it wasn't so strange that I felt that way. He was my first love. The one I was never able to get over. And even though his presence after so much time was heart-wrenching, I admitted being near him again started to fill the spaces of my heart that felt empty for so long.

I realized belatedly that I had been staring at him wordlessly. I wondered if he could tell path of my thoughts. He was always good at reading me.

The thought made me uncomfortable.

"Sorry." I mumbled yet again. "Come inside if you like?" I gestured opening the door a little wider for him. I turned around and tried to decide where to go next. I was already tired from the stairs, but I didn't particularly want to talk in the living room.

"Would you like some help?" Edward asked closer to my ear than I expected. I had to stop myself from shivering.

Did I want him touching me? Holding me?

God yes.

I wanted it so bad I was practically radiating heat.

Since his first touch at the hospital, a dormant place deep inside of me had awoken. And even though my heart was torn on the subject, I wanted nothing more than for him to hold me in his arms like before.

And yet I was afraid. Afraid to let myself enjoy it for fear it would all disappear. Could I live through that again?

Could I let him back in my heart only to have him walk out?

My heart throbbed impulsively.

I chastised myself for getting carried away.

Who said he wanted to walk back into my life?

He was a doctor, asking to help me not injure myself wasn't exactly a proposition to ravish me.

Old sadness settled back in.

"No. I think I can manage."

His eyes flashed something too quickly for me to catch.

I hoped it wasn't anger. I was just trying to preserve my sanity. How could I do that if I gave in and let him touch me? Although I knew he meant it strictly platonically, I couldn't be trusted not to let myself get carried away. I mean wasn't I just daydreaming about kissing him because he knocked on my door?

Talk about pathetic.

Shaking off my scattered thoughts, I hobbled across the living room floor.

"The kitchen is this way. Would you like a cup of tea… or coffee?" I asked heading over to the range.

I myself needed something. A cup of tea would at least keep my hands occupied and less tempted to grab on to that wild hair.

"Tea would be wonderful." Again, he was much closer to me than I expected and this time I wasn't able to hold back the chill that raced down my spine.

God I was a mess.

"Two teas coming up," I announced more for the sake of saying something than anything else.

The process of readying the tea kept me distracted from the urge to stare at him. Well, mostly I amended. I could see him watching me out of the corner of my eye.

His tall frame leaned casually against the counter, taking up way more space than I thought could really be possible.

How did he seem so imposing even in such a large space?

And what was he thinking?

Was he here just to check in; a patient follow-up of sorts? Or did he want to talk? And if so, what about?

My mind was rampant with hundreds of scenarios, none of which were satisfying to me.

Well I amended, one or two would have been satisfying, but I was getting carried away again.

I had just finished pouring over the tea, when Edward advanced to my side.

"Here, let me help." He gently took the cups and walked over to the kitchen bar. "This okay?"

I nodded my head and followed him over.

As I took my seat on the stool, I wondered what I should say. Nothing appropriate came to mind. So instead I sipped the hot tea, searing my tongue only slightly in the process.

"This is good," Edward mentioned as he drank from his own cup. "It tastes like oranges."

"Blood orange." I offered, realizing how ironic that was.

Edwards lips quirked into a sort of smile.

We were both quiet for a moment.

"I came by to see how you are feeling." He said after a while.

I felt my eyebrows furrow.

"I'm okay." Which was true. "Being in a cast makes it hard to get around, but nothing I can't handle." I added with a shrug. It had only been a week since I left the hospital.

"How is the pain?"

"Manageable."

"Would you tell me if it wasn't?"

The doubt in his voice got a hint of a smile out of me.

"Maybe."

He nodded.

"So, you came out to check on me then?" I asked after a while, not knowing what else to say, and hating the silence.

He turned to look at me.

In his eyes, I saw so many emotions flitting around wildly. I thought for a moment I was seeing my own turbulent reflection.

"Ana," he started then stopped. I waited for him to say more. "I did come to check on you, but more than that I came to see you."

I must have looked puzzled.

"See me?" I asked trying to wrap my head around what he meant.

"I think we should probably talk… about what happened."

I'm not sure what I expected him to say, but that certainly wasn't it. I felt suddenly overwhelmed with the idea.

This was the conversation I had been waiting to have since the night he left nearly two years ago.

It was a terrifying prospect.

One that I knew without a doubt that I needed to see through. I finally ask those questions buried deep in my heart. To understand and maybe, hopefully, find a sort of closure.

"Okay," I said trying to feel more certain than I was. "But maybe we should take this outside?"

It wasn't a conversation meant for a public living area. I wanted to go somewhere we wouldn't be interrupted by accident.

He nodded agreeably.

"Where to?"

"There's a nice overlook at the edge of the cliff. There's not a bench or anything, if that matters."

"Not at all."

So we abandoned our tea, now half cold, to walk out into the afternoon breeze.

We walked slowly to my favorite spot. Maybe it was unwise to have this conversation here, a place I took solace in, but I couldn't think of anywhere else more comfortable.

When we made it to the edge I eased down near the rock. Edward followed suit keeping just enough distance that an objective onlooker passing by might think they were good friends.

"This is a beautiful spot," Edward commented looking out at the sea below.

I nodded my head.

"I come here a lot to think. It's not too far from the house so Brennan doesn't freak out if go out alone."

"He cares for you a great deal."

"I care a lot for him too. He's a great friend."

We sat in silence for another moment. It wasn't long, or awkward. Just necessary.

"I have a question for you." I didn't want to ask, but if we were going to have this conversation, perhaps this was the best way to start.

Edward turned to look at me curiously.

"I guess… I want to know, why now?"

He let out a deep breath.

"That is a reasonable question, but one I'm not quite sure I have a satisfactory answer to." He looked contemplative. "The best explanation I can offer is that you are here. With you being here I have had to face what happened between us and I imagine you have had to do the same."

He was right.

It wasn't a satisfactory answer, but one at least that I understood. When we were apart it was easier to ignore, but being so close again brought back all the old memories.

"That's fair." I answered after a moment.

"I have a question for you now," Edward commented.

"Okay?"

He paused for a moment. "Why did you never read the letter I left you?"

The question completely took me off guard.

I blew out a breath trying to think of a way to explain.

"I guess I didn't think it mattered." Edward looked at me curiously. "You'd left. The house was empty and I knew that you weren't coming back. The letter just seemed so final. I couldn't bring myself to read it because I figured no matter what, it wasn't going to change the situation. You were gone and you didn't say goodbye."

I couldn't look at him when I spoke. With so many emotions to control, I was afraid looking at him would be my undoing.

"Why did you leave?" I couldn't help but asking, needing to know after all this time.

"I thought I was protecting you." His words were eaten with anguish. I couldn't resist looking over to see his eyes filled with the deepest sadness.

"You didn't say goodbye." I could barely breathe my heart was aching so.

"How could I?" He looked at a loss. "How could I ever face you again? The things I said," his voice cut out as if he couldn't continue. "I never wanted to hurt you Ana. I know that may be hard to believe, but I truly thought you would be better off without me."

It hurt, hearing him say that.

"For a long time, I thought you hated me."

Edward looked so ashamed.

"I never hated you. That night- I said unforgiveable things to you. When I look back and think about it, I wonder how I could have been so stupid to think, even in just those few moments, that you had lied to me." His voice was hoarse.

"I owe you an explanation for that night. I don't think it will change how you feel, but I hope I can at least clear a few things up for you."

I nodded my head, understanding I was giving him permission to tell his side of the story. One I hoped that would end the pain.

"How well do you remember that night?"

I winced letting the old memory resurface in my mind.

"I remember everything," I nearly whispered. "Watching Harry Potter with you for the first time, and falling asleep on your lap." I gave a shaky laugh. "I remember dad calling, he was finally home. I made him green beans and hamburger steak. Then he had to go and I was upset. You were trying to comfort me, we got a little carried away." I smiled slightly. We had been all over each other.

"I realized right then, when I was in your arms, that I was ready if you wanted to make love to me. And that for me to want that meant I had fallen in love with you." A splash of water on my hand startled me. I realized I was crying. I looked over at Edward, his eyes filling with tears of his own.

"I didn't know," he whispered.

I shrugged.

"I was going to tell you, but at the time I just wanted you to keep touching me. There was so much going on inside me and being with you just felt so right." I paused. "At least until I panicked."

"Oh God Ana." Edwards tormented voice drew my gaze. His eyes were filled with so much pain.

"I never told you why I panicked."

Edward shook his head.

"You don't have to now."

"Yes, I do. Because it's part of why things happened the way that they did." I felt he deserved to know.

"No Ana. You don't owe me any explanation. The only person that over reacted that night was me. You panicked, and got sick. Why it happened doesn't matter nearly as much as how I reacted to it." He told me vehemently.

"You are not to blame for what happened. For all my special abilities, when it came to you I was so blind Ana. I don't know why I wanted to believe the worst. It makes no sense looking back, but in that moment, I was so certain it was all a charade. That you didn't care for me."

He looked at me hopelessly.

"Maybe because you were just so different from everyone else, I couldn't accept that you cared for me. Not being able to read your mind, and with so many secrets, doubt wiggled its way in. How could you really want to be with me? A sweet innocent young girl, care for a Vampire? It made no sense. You deserved to be with someone that was your equal.

"And then that night, when you recoiled from me… it all seemed so clear. It didn't matter that there were many other reasonable explanations for what happened. For God's sake you'd just been attacked a few days prior. But my mind twisted it all up. I took it to mean you didn't care for me. That I repulsed you."

His voice had grown bitter and I hated the look of disgust that crossed his face.

"After convincing myself that you couldn't possibly care for me, I had to rationalize why you bothered to pretend. And a sick thought came to mind. That you were pregnant and too afraid of me to say anything." He shook his head in disgust. "It was bad enough I had thought those things, but to confront you the way I did and accuse you…" he trailed off. His voice was this with heavy emotion, laced with regret and bitterness.

"Nothing I can say will change what happened, but you deserve to know that everything I said to you was from a perceived place of the deepest hurt and betrayal. When I realized what an imbecile I had been, I knew I couldn't stay."

He looked so ashamed. His body poised with anger, anger that I was starting to understand he directed at himself.

"For as much as I hated that you didn't trust me, I was the one that didn't trust you. And when I thought of your face, after I said all of those cruel things, I was sick with myself. There was no way I could face you after that Ana." His eyes searched hers, imploring for her to understand.

"You would have forgiven me, and taken me back, no questions asked. I knew that if I saw you again, that's what would happen. I couldn't let you take me back, you deserved so much better. So I left without saying goodbye because I wasn't strong enough to face you."

After listening to his story I felt a little sick myself. All the wasted time, due to a simple misunderstanding that would never have happened if I had been more honest with him up front.

I was quiet for a long time.

"I know I have no right to ask, but please tell me what you are thinking." I looked over at Edward who was watching me with haunted eyes, waiting for me to say something.

"I don't mind that you asked." I paused. "I'm thinking about what you've told me. And I know you feel guilty for everything, but all I can think is that we could have avoided all this heartache if I had been upfront with you to begin with."

He looked stunned.

"After everything I've told you, you think you're responsible?" his voice rose slightly and he laughed humorlessly. It was a cold laugh that gave me chills.

I wrapped my arms around myself and looked away to the ocean.

"It's how I feel." I said simply, not looking at him.

Cool hands reached out to turn my face. I found myself looking into Edwards soulful eyes. They tormented and touched me at the same time.

"I hate that you feel responsible, because you aren't. Everyone in this world has secrets and most people manage to still treat each other with respect and dignity regardless. You should never feel guilty for not telling me something that isn't my business. And I shouldn't need you to tell me to treat you properly. None of this was your fault Ana. None of it."

Tears were falling down my face, because no matter how I felt, I really needed to hear that from him. I needed to know that it wasn't all my fault for what happened. I had blamed myself for so long and felt guilty for my reticence. I couldn't help the sob that worked its way up my throat.

In a flash I was lifted into strong arms that held me tightly.

"Please don't cry Ana, my love. It's not your fault. It was never your fault."

His whispered words did nothing to calm my tears. I gripped at his shirt, holding him so tightly never wanting to let go. I needed him so much. This embrace was the reunion my soul ached for. To be held by him again, knowing he didn't blame me. Knowing he still cared, at least enough to be there.

Edward rocked me gently, cupping my head to his shoulder, stroking my hair and whispering sweet words in my ear.

It was only a few minutes later that my emotions settled down and I was able look Edward in the face.

His eyes were so sad. A reflection of the pain we both shared. And for the first time in two years my heart, no matter how mangled and aching, was starting to feel whole again. To finally know why, and to feel a sense of relief that maybe, after all of this, just maybe, I could find peace.

I don't think an apology is sufficient to show the regret I feel at not having updated in quite a long time.

I think I wrote and re-wrote this chapter well over ten times, each time less satisfying than the last. I am, and perhaps always will be somewhat dissatisfied with this scene. It's very emotional and needed to explain a great deal, hopefully I have done so well enough today.

As always let me know what you thought! Any suggestions or comments are always welcome.

-Shadows