I wasn't expecting anything else, but it still stings. Emergency room doctors, nurses, specialists…they all have the same news. Nothing.
"You should go home, Bella. He's in good hands," Lauren says, looking over at me as she changes the IV fluid bag. "I know you don't want to spend another night in that awful recliner." She smiles at me knowingly, and I can't help but smile back. Lauren is one of my favorite night nurses here at the hospital- she has a sweet smile, charismatic personality, and is an efficient and compassionate nurse. Under any other circumstances, she is the type of person I could see myself becoming close to. But there is no one and nothing here at this hospital I want to be close with, save for the man in the hospital bed before me.
We met when I was eighteen, a freshman at Washington University and naïve to all the workings of a city I barely knew. He was a grad student at the time, and took me under his wing. For months, it was innocent, just a deep friendship that we both valued greatly. I had never known someone else to be so unabashedly confident and kind. It slowly but surely turned into more, and I found myself to be completely captivated by him and his beautiful green eyes. A year after we met, after months of flirting and even more time spent as friends, he asked me to be his.
Almost ten years later, here we are.
The house is a mess. Dog toys are strewn across the floor and I haven't really picked up after myself in weeks, so it seems like every surface is covered in clutter. If it weren't for our dog, Stan, I probably wouldn't even be living in the house while my husband is in the hospital. Living here alone has taught me that without my husband, our house just doesn't feel like a home. It feels empty, just like I do.
Our marriage wasn't perfect, but Ben coaxed out parts of me I didn't even know existed. I was his rock, and it felt so good to have such a wonderful person love me and depend on me. We had been working together as a seamless team for years, and without him things just didn't run as smoothly.
After feeding Stan and letting him outside, I retreated into Ben's office to get some work done. When we built this house, two separate offices had been a must. Neither of us could get any work done if there were distractions, and that included each other. Using his office never seemed like a big deal before, but at this point, I'll do anything to try and feel closer to him again. His office is a small comfort, but a comfort none the less.
Around midnight, I finally go to bed in the guest room and allow myself to cry.
None of this is fair. Ben is only thirty five, and was perfectly healthy before having the massive stroke that put him in a coma, living off of machines in the hospital instead of at home with me, his wife.
When we got married, we had promised each other that our feelings towards each other would never change.
Now, after ten years of marriage, I know that those vows were unrealistic. We continued to love each other, but marriage is hard. It changes things. I also grew up a lot in the time that we had been married. I was a twenty year old bride, young and infatuated with Ben. Now, I am a twenty nine year old woman, still in love with my husband, but also in love with my own life. With Ben so suddenly removed from my life, it has been hard to come to terms with how much our lives had intertwined.
After he slipped into the coma, I had thrown myself into work. I never thought I would be working for a baseball organization, but after getting my masters degree in communication, that is where I ended up. Ben teased me about my front office job, saying he was worried I would leave him for one of the players. I had been mad for that comment, but now I miss his teasing. I miss him.
"Mrs. Cheney was here this morning."
My head snaps up, and my eyes narrow. "When? She didn't say a word about it to me."
The nurse, Hannah, shrugs her shoulders, probably thinking she shouldn't have told me. "Around ten, I think. It was before I went on break for an early lunch. She said she didn't want to bother you, but I assumed you knew. She also mentioned that she would probably be back tonight."
I shook my head, a little frustrated, as always, with my mother in law. "She always does that. I love Esme but she acts like I'm incapable of dealing with this…or with anything."
"Well, Bella, I hate to be like this…but I think you are having a harder time than you want to admit. Have you gone to see the psychologist Dr. Harper recommended?" Hannah is trying to be helpful, but I'm not in the mood for help or pity.
"Not yet," I say shortly, returning my attention to my work.
Hannah leaves shortly after, knowing that she had hit a sore spot with me. After eight weeks of me being here every day, the nurses have figured out when I just need to be left alone.
I continue to work on my laptop, glancing up at Ben occasionally. I don't know what I'm expecting to happen, but I can't stop myself from keeping an eye on him. Day after day, I'm still shocked at his appearance. He looks sickly and pale, nothing like the playful, lively man I know. I can't see his beautiful green eyes, and there are tubs and monitors everywhere. It's getting harder each day to deal with my new reality, so I wipe the tears out of my eyes and put all of my attention into my work.
Around seven, I start to wonder if my mother in law is ever going to reappear. Esme Cheney is the powerhouse of her family, a perfectionist homemaker who, I think, secretly wishes her son was more of a momma's boy. She loves me, but Ben has always been the apple of her eye and it is hard to live up to her standards. Just as I'm about to try and call her cell phone, she swoops into the room. Clad head to toe in understated designer clothing and holding a basket of muffins, she is the epitome of a rich housewife.
"Isabella, darling," she murmurs, giving me a hug after setting down the basket of muffins.
"Hi, Esme." I squeeze her tightly for a few moments, allowing myself to get lost in her motherly hug and the familiar scent of her Tom Ford perfume. "One of the nurses told me you were here earlier, why didn't you mention it to me? I would have come and seen you then."
Esme shook her head at me as we sat down close to Ben's hospital bed. "I didn't want to bother you, honey. I know you've been trying to work more and I also know it's hard to be in here…hospitals aren't exactly the happiest places." Both of us look over at Ben again, and I reach over to take his hand in mine.
She's right; it is hard to be here. But it's where I need to be, and I tell her so.
We sit and talk for a while, and I never let go of Ben's hand. It's nice to have another person to talk to that isn't a hospital employee, even though I have come to like some of them. Esme is a part of Ben, so it is a little easier to find comfort in her presence.
Esme doesn't leave until a few hours later, but as she departs, she tells me that Ben's brother will be in from Chicago next week, so I should be expecting a call from her to make plans as a family. Without Ben, family plans are already very unappealing to me, but adding his brother into the mix makes it that much worse.
Edward is really Ben's half-brother, the product of Esme's disastrous first marriage that even Ben doesn't know all the details of. I've only met Edward a few times before, and he didn't even show up to our wedding. Most of what I know about him is from my husband, and therefore my opinion of Edward is based on Ben's.
Ben always said that Edward was power hungry, insensitive, and an incorrigible flirt. They had never gotten along, even when the two of them were young. Ben is so charismatic and easy to be friends with, so it's easy to assume that in their relationship, Edward is the problem. Even Esme has some problems with her older son, and his presence alone puts Ben on edge.
And because of that, I despise Edward Cullen.
Esme Cheney's living room is so perfect, it's almost unsettling. Nothing is out of place and it is so clean that everything shines. I grasp my wine glass tightly, sure that if I allow myself to relax, I'll drop it all over the Cheney's expensive Persian rug.
Edward is, of course, late. Esme is practically beside herself because his late arrival has disrupted her perfectly planned out evening, and I can't help but wonder why she even tried to plan around her unreliable sun.
Alice, Ben's younger sister, unexpectedly slips her hand into mine; startling me so much that I jump and almost spill my wine. "Bella, relax!" She exclaims, her sweet laughter filling the otherwise quiet room. "You've been putting up such a strong front for the past two months. It's okay to try and unwind a little bit." Her words are comforting, but I don't think I'll be able to actually calm down until I can be back at the hospital with Ben.
So I just smile at her and squeeze her hand tightly. She, unlike her oldest brother, has always been close to Ben and has become a close friend to me as well. She had been in the hospital with me a lot when Ben first had his stroke, and she still comes often when she can get away from work. She is the most optimistic about his recovery, and is always making me feel like there is hope.
"Tell me about Ben. Have there been any changes? How are you doing?" It is easy to talk to Alice, even about such a tough subject. I thank my lucky stars that when I married Ben, I got Alice too.
"Sorry we're late."
Edward stood awkwardly in the doorway of the Cheney's formal dining room, his arm around the waist of a statuesque redhead.
After an hour of waiting, we had gone ahead and moved into the dining room, sipping on wine and eating some appetizers. Esme had been so mad about starting dinner late and without Edward, but she still runs up to Edward and put her arms around him. Despite their issues with each other, mother and son hug for a long moment. When they break apart, Edward clears his throat and gestures to the redhead on his arm.
"Everyone, this is Victoria. Victoria this is my mother, Esme; my stepfather, Carlisle; my sister, Alice; and this," his eyes meet mine and he raises his eyebrows slightly, "is my sister-in-law, Isabella."
Greetings are exchanged, but I don't say much. Edward and his date don't seem to notice, and they join us at the table.
Dinner is finally served, and I am still quiet as I pick at my dinner. My thoughts are divided between worrying about Ben and being irrationally angry at Edward. The man drives me crazy, even though we barely know each other.
Eventually, Esme speaks directly to me and breaks me out of my little trance. "Bella, are you going to be at hospital tomorrow evening? I thought I would come by with Edward." She looks at me expectedly, and I nod unenthusiastically.
"I'll be there after I get done with work, as usual. I can go by later though, if you'd rather. That way you could just have some time together-"
"I hate hospitals," Edward interjects bluntly, "so the more people there, the better. I can't stand being alone with…sick people."
"He's not sick," I said snottily, not even caring if I upset Esme. "He's in a coma. Why bother visiting if you don't want to see him? It's not like you ever came to see him while he was conscious, either. Or to visit any of your family, period!"
The room falls completely silent, and I see Carlisle reach over and put his hand comfortingly over Esme's. The action somehow makes me angrier, because all I can think about it how my husband can't be here to comfort me.
"I'm sorry." I stand up abruptly, setting down my wine glass. "I need to go outside and clear my head."
I smile sadly at Esme as I pass her, trying to not let her see the tears that are quickly gathering in my eyes. She sees anyway, and clasps my elbow as a walk by. "Take your time, darling. It's okay."
Out on the deck, overlooking the lake, I allow myself to cry. Maybe I am going crazy. I've never been crazy about Edward, but he probably didn't deserve that from me. Truth be told, I know practically nothing about the man, and I shouldn't be lashing out at him just because he has never had a good relationship with the family I have come to love. I wipe away my tears, looking out at the lake. If Ben were at my side, dealing with Edward would be nothing. Ben has always made everything unimportant else disappear for me.
Just as I'm about to get up, head back inside, and apologize profusely, I hear footsteps behind me on the deck.
"Man, you really don't like me, do you?"
Hiya! Thank you so much for reading. This is my first fanfic and I know this is a shorter chapter, but I want to see if people like it before I continue with posting and working on longer chapters. Leave me a review, and let me know. I hope for Wednesday's to be my regular posting days but I suppose that could change.
Again, let me know what your thoughts are and thank you for reading.