Entry for the Straight thru the Heart Contest

Title: I Know You

Summary: I know you, I walked with you once upon a dream. I know you, The gleam in your eyes is a familiar a gleam. And I know it's true, That visions are seldom all they seem. But if I know you, I know what you'll do, You'll love me at once, the way you did once upon a dream.

Pairing: Edward and Bella.

Rating: T

Word count: 6,866

Disclaimer: The author does not own any publicly recognizable entities herein. No copyright infringement is intended.


From: Bella M. Swan

To: M. Alice Brandon

Date: Saturday, September 12, 2015 at 2:39 PM

Subject: Straight thru the heart…

Dear Alice,

Have you ever walked on clouds? I think I did and am. The feeling is indescribable. I may have scared a few people, though. No, not from my cloud walking but my maniacal laughter, or maybe it was the clown-like smile…

Visualize me as the twin sister of Joker from the Batman movies or close to that. I think I scared poor Mrs. Cope. She came out of her apartment while I danced a jig in front of our doors, and she went right back inside, closing hers with a bang.

No, don't go and call Uncle George. I'm a hundred percent perfect and happy, happy that it finally happened.

When are you coming home? I miss you and want someone to scream with, share my happiness.

Stop rolling your eyes. I'll tell you why I sound extra loony.

Well, here it is…

I MET MY DREAM GUY! (I can't stop smiling.)

His eyes remind me of the first sprig of leaves when spring starts. Okay, laugh it up, but I'm sure you'll agree with me when you meet him. I'm aware that I have a weakness for green eyes, but this pair is in its own league and has turned my whole being to mush.

How should I describe… Time—time lost its meaning while I watched his soulful, sad eyes as they stole my breath. I know it sounds cheesy, but I get the privilege of adding extra cheese after the suffering I went through when you met Jazz.

Can I be in love, Alice, already? I feel as if I'm a boat that has wandered the sea for so long and finally found its shore.

Should I go into detail? I should, right?

Once upon a time, in a faraway land, lived a princess called Bella, beautiful as her name sounds and loved by her aunt, uncle, and evil cousin. (Lol, couldn't help it.)

Stop skimming through this. I'll be serious, but I have to tell you, being serious is overrated. Who wants to be serious when you can enjoy the moment with happiness?

Back to how cupid hit me between the eyes before you give up reading this. Yes, I think the little diaper-wearing cherub hit me with his arrow, which descended, pierced through my heart, and lodged there.

Ah, the sweet pain….

(Fine, I'll stop being sappy.) Let's start from the ungodly time of dawn. I woke up today… I had this brilliant idea to take my camera (I bought a new one, a Canon DSLR) to the park, take some test shots, hoping to capture a few unspoiled scenes before half the New Yorkers descended.

Walking down five flights of stairs isn't the best idea when half asleep and bleary-eyed. (No, the elevator works fine, but I thought taking the stairs might wake me up.)

Billy's chipper smile didn't help (6:30 is just too damn early) as I walked around the lobby all droopy-eyed. Maybe in his long career as the doorman, he's seen plenty of scowling faces 'cause he still told me good morning with his ever-present smile.

But with a bit of sun on my face and a nice cup of coffee, I was back to my old happy, sappy self. Summer has officially fled, and I inhaled cool, crisp air into my lungs. The pavement was wet from the rain last night, and steam rose from a manhole here and there. Fall is magical in a sense.

I'm glad we live closer to Central Park since it was relatively less crowded by the time I reached The Pond.

Do you know the leaves have changed colors? It looks like a sunset from dawn 'til dark, with trees filled with red, orange, and yellow. I'm starting to miss seeing green, though. It's such a fresh color, soothing to the eye…

It brings me such comfort, a feeling of love and care. Is it because I lived my first seventeen years surrounded by it, as you said, and my consciousness is missing it?

While we're on the subject of comfort, it's back—the feeling, the slight burn I mentioned… A week ago, I came from your parents' place after a late dinner, and it started, with a slight burn behind my neck, a tingling sensation. Do you think it could be the neurological condition lingering from all those years ago? The frequency has increased since you left. I have some theories. They're ridiculous, but I like the first two. Can an angel be watching out for me? Maybe a ghost (I would love to see either one). What do you think? The last one I'm sure you won't like, and that's that I'm being stalked. (Don't panic. They're theories.)

Back to my early-morning photo session. There I was, going trigger happy with my pointer finger, when wham! Out of nowhere, I see these eyes through my lens; they stood out. Did I mention they were green? I was near the entrance side of The Pond, and he was on the opposite bank, and I—I don't know how to describe the feeling of seeing those eyes. They were a brilliant shade of bottle green, and I was rooted to the spot as I stared at them through the camera.

And I, Isabella Marie Swan, freelance photographer of twenty-six, who had seen and photographed thousands of eyes, froze and fell in love. No, I don't think it's infatuation. It's as if my soul recognized its other half. I was a mess and still don't know when I decided to move until an older woman in her late sixties asked me if I was okay or lost. What's more surprising was that I was standing right where he'd been, and I was full-out sobbing.

Should I consult Uncle George, Alice? Did you cry when you met Jasper? My moods are riding a roller coaster. One minute I'm happy; the next I wanna scream and gather a task force to find those eyes.

I miss you and want you here now the most.

Take care! Love you!

Your confusedly in love cousin,

Bella


From: M. Alice Brandon

To: Bella M. Swan

Date: Sunday, September 13, 2015 at 10:00 AM

Subject: Happy Birthday, Sweets!

Dear Bella,

Wishing you a very happy birthday, baby cousin, and may all your wishes come true! Did you get my present? Hope you like it.

I missed you too, and I love my work here, but in a few months, we'll be together.

Are you being stalked? I'm worried. What's this dream-guy-with-green-eyes business? Do I have to point out that the few guys you went on dates with had green eyes? Are you sure it's a man? Could it be a woman? What if it's a man but he's married? You only saw a pair of eyes, right?

Write to me more about this losing time thing. Please go see Dad. He'll get you an appointment with a neurologist.

Take care of yourself.

Your worried cousin,

Alice


From: Bella M. Swan

To: M. Alice Brandon

Date: Sunday, September 13, 2015 at 6:43 PM

Subject: I loved it.

To the best cousin in the whole world,

I love the underwater photography session you arranged for me but keeping it for later so we can go together since it has a six month expiration date.

I'm going out for dinner with your parents, and Jazz will be here to pick me up in a minute. We're going clubbing, and I'm trying to rope Aunt Cynthia. We have a plan (Uncle George and me). If all works, I'll send you pictures. Wish me luck.

Oh, Jazz is here and trying to break the door. Write to you soon. Take care!

Your cousin,

Bella (I love you, and thank you for the awesome gift, and don't worry. I'm safe.)


From: M. Alice Brandon

To: Bella M. Swan

Date: Sunday, October 4, 2015 at 12:30 PM

Subject: New hobbies.

Dear Bell,

A little bird told me you are being a bit grumpy and scatterbrained these days. Did you make an appointment with a neurologist? What's going on with you? I have top secret info on how you're dragging your butt to the park these days. You know I don't like you wandering there alone. It might be safe, but who knows what lurks in lone places? Stick to the crowds, okay?

I expect a lengthy e-mail. It's been three weeks since I got the last one. Please take care of yourself. Your silence is worrying me. Write me now!

Your cousin,

Alice


From: Bella M. Swan

To: M. Alice Brandon

Date: Saturday, November 7, 2015 at 11:00 AM

Subject: Should I rent a billboard?

My Dear Alice,

Stop worrying. I'm fine. Sorry for taking so long to write. I'm feeling the blues. I thought I'd stop feeding your nosy bird. It'll teach him to not be a tattletale, right? Seriously Ali, is it necessary for me to have a babysitter? Jazz is annoying me.

Yesterday, we went out after a shoot, and I found him lurking outside the bathroom. What's next?

Will you please call off the one-man cavalry? His snivelling is grating on my nerves too. I didn't ask him to wake up at the crack of dawn to go for a run, did I? Sorry for being grumpy. Blame it on lack of sleep and the man with the bottle-green eyes that haunt my dreams. They are haunting me, pleading with me to stay awake the second I'm drifting off.

Fifty-six days since I lost my heart to a pair of green eyes. I'm desperate enough to rent a billboard and advertise with the only photo I have of them. I can offer a reward too, for a name and an address.

I'm running out of fuel, Alice, and I have a wedding to photograph tomorrow. I'm off to bed early, let's hope for a good night sleep.

Your sleep-deprived cousin,

Bella


From: M. Alice Brandon

To: Bella M. Swan

Date: Sunday, November 8, 2015 at 1:00 PM

Subject: I'm calling the national guard now.

Bella,

I'm going to e-mail Dad, or better yet, Mom. I'm worried about you. Please go talk to Dad.

Your extremely worried cousin,

Alice


From: Bella M. Swan

To: M. Alice Brandon

Date: Friday, November 27, 2015 at 1:17 AM

Subject: Call off your boyfriend.

Alice,

Happy Thanksgiving! We missed you on turkey day with your boneless chicken dish. Uncle George and I had apple pie with vanilla ice cream while we hid in Uncle George's study.

Can you get Jasper out of my hair? I have an appointment in a week with a Dr. Cullen since Dr. Banner is retired. Uncle George told me he's the new department head at NY-Presbyterian and one of the best in the field. I hope it's enough to look forward to peaceful days without your boyfriend breathing down my neck.

Hope to hear from you soon!

Your favourite cousin,

Bella


From: M. Alice Brandon

To: Bella M. Swan

Date: Sunday, November 29, 2015 at 12:23 PM

Subject: Happy Thanksgiving to you too!

Hello, Baby Bell.

I miss you guys. After watching the hardships people go through here, I'm thankful for my parents, my education, opportunities I took for granted.

Have I told you how happy I am that you came into our life? Though in a tragic way, thank you for giving me a sister and being alive, Baby Bell. Though he seems rather annoying, Jasper loves me and knows how much I love you, which is why he's overprotective. Bear with him. He's a worrier like me.

Glad you've talked to Dad and made an appointment with Dr. Cullen. He's one of the best neurosurgeons in the country; I'm sure you'll be in good hands.

Girl… billboard? (SMH) What if he's a tourist? Would you hire the CIA, then? If it's meant to be, you'll meet him one day, but I have a hard time believing it's love at first sight. Are you sure it's not lust at first sight?

I don't mean to be a pessimist, just a realist. Rant and rave; let it out. Since I'm thousands of miles away, I can take it. (Wink.)

I love you. Have to go now. Take care!

Your only cousin,

Alice


From: Bella M. Swan

To: M. Alice Brandon

Date: Sunday, November 29, 2015 at 10:37 PM

Subject: I want to meet him before I'm ninety.

Dear Alice,

For the first time, (as far as I can remember) I feel all the puzzle pieces are in their rightful places, and rationality has fled a long time ago.

Still, I'm restless; actually it's Jazz who pointed it out. He said I've become a thumper; he's right (don't tell), as I can't stay still for five seconds and feel anxious when I'm not busy. Uncle George thinks it's due to sleep deprivation.

But me… I think it's my anxiousness to find those green eyes. I can't control it. No matter where, a part of me looks for them. Is this how you felt when you fell for Jazz, as if the world had lost its color?

I want to see those eyes once again. They were sad, and I felt as if a knife had been pierced through my heart. Eyes like that shouldn't be sad…

I have a long day tomorrow, and I'm sure I don't need to burden you anymore. I'll expect mail on Sunday. Until then, take care of yourself!

Yours,

Cousin Bella


From: Bella M. Swan

To: M. Alice Brandon

Date: Thursday, December 3, 2015 at 9:48 AM

Subject: OMG!

He's here! Eeeeeeeeek! I'm going crazy, or I'm hallucinating.

Bella


From: Bella M. Swan

To: M. Alice Brandon

Date: Thursday, December 3, 2015 at 3:09 PM

Subject: Come home now, or I'm going to stalk you throughout the African continent.

Alice,

Why are you in a different part of the world when you're wanted here? I want you to be my eyes and ears at NY-Presbyterian Hospital.

Do you know a Dr. Edward Cullen? Please tell me you do. Please! Please! It's him. The guy with bottle-green eyes. I'm a hundred percent sure, and he's a freaking doctor. Argh! I'm going crazy here. Why didn't you set me up with him? Remember the guys you've set me up on dates with? Why wasn't it him?

I've got jitters and can't sleep. I feel as if I'm on a caffeine drip. My heart hasn't stopped galloping, and I'm giving myself palpitations. Alice, I'm freaking out. Help a sister, will you? Why isn't there internet in the jungle? You should've taken a satellite phone. Write to me as soon as possible.

Your impatient cousin,

Bella


From: M. Alice Brandon

To: Bella M. Swan

Date: Sunday, December 6, 2015 at 12:05 PM

Subject: Oh dear, you're in trouble.

Poor Baby Bell,

I thought you had an appointment with Carlisle Cullen… Wow, so it's Edward Cullen, is it? Yeah, I get it now. Dr. E. Cullen has quite striking eyes, and he's one of the most drooled over doctors among the hospital staff, not to mention a few patients.

I've heard he's adopted by Dr. C. Cullen and his wife. Dr. C. Cullen worked in Chicago before he came to NY, around the same time Edward Cullen entered Cornell, I think. He was a first-year med student when I was on my last there, but it was later at NY-Presbyterian I noticed him.

He keeps to himself, nurses call him Ice King, and I've heard a few stories about how nurses made fools out of themselves trying to seduce the poor man. I'm sympathizing because who wants to be simpered at throughout a gruelling shift?

You have to be either ill or dying for him to pay you a speck of attention from what the nurses in my department were crying about. It's a good thing he's in the neurosurgery department, as most of the patients there are either unconscious or too sick to moon over him.

I haven't heard any gossip of a partner. If there's someone, I'm sure the news would've spread like a wildfire. He's quite a private person, so who knows?

I've seen him around the hospital here and there, but doctors from neuro rarely set foot in OB/GYN wards. I'm sorry I won't be much of a help to you.

You should butter up Dad. He's good friends with Dr. C. Cullen. Now, tell me the results of your neuro appointment, and please get some sleep. Looking forward to hearing from you.

Love,

Alice


From: Bella M. Swan.

To: M. Alice Brandon.

Date: Monday, December 7, 2015 at 11:32 PM.

Subject: Time machine.

Dear Alice,

Where is a time machine when you want one?

Why couldn't it be like in the Victorian era? Then I could've sent Uncle George with a marriage proposal…

While I'm still a loony insomniac, I'm going to fill you in on the day's events and go to bed.

My appointment was at 9:30 in the morning, but the doctor was held up in surgery. I was led to an examination room by a nurse and asked to wait there for the doctor. Me being the sleep-deprived zombie that I am, I found the hospital bed quite comfortable and fell asleep. (Maybe it's because I spent a year sleeping on them. I'm thinking of buying one if I can't fall asleep tonight. What do you think?)

You were right. Dr. C. Cullen is wonderful and charming with sky blue eyes. (Is it required to be physically attractive to get hired there?)

After an examination, I had to undergo a few tests and found myself attached to all these beeping monitors. I was bored and looking around when I saw him. The doors there were made of glass, and I could see the corridors from my chair. He was talking to a nurse, but I saw his eyes, and they were the same sad bottle-green ones.

Did you know the heart monitor I was attached to went crazy then? Dr. Cullen ran in, shouting to the nurses that I was going into cardiac arrest. But I was blissed out with a loony grin.

From there onward, things were easy, and I had a name: Dr. Edward Cullen. Edward… I like it, old-fashioned like Isabella…

On that note, I'm going to bed. I have a dream date with one Edward Cullen…

Good night, and sweet dreams, Alice!

Yours,

Bella


From: M. Alice Brandon

To: Bella M. Swan

Date: Sunday, December 20, 2015 at 12:58 PM

Subject: Christmas?

Dear Bella,

I heard you were in Spain. You'll be back home for Christmas, won't you? I feel bad since Mom and Dad will be alone, though it might sound selfish. Will you be able to finish your work by Christmas?

What's the situation with your green-eyed doc?

When you get back home, can you send the presents I've left in my closet? Yes, you can open one of yours whenever you want, but leave one to be opened with family. And play the nice elf, and send Jazz's present please!

When you get a few minutes, e-mail me.

Your cousin,

Alice


From: Bella M. Swan

To: M. Alice Brandon

Date: Wednesday, December 23, 2015 at 4:41 PM

Subject: Belle of the Ball.

Dear Alice,

I'm back home. Though I love the Spanish countryside, being home is the best. I love the cream-colored sweater. It's so soft. I'm wearing it right now.

Don't worry. I'll take your gifts and play secret Santa.

I have to get ready for the NY-Presbyterian Christmas Charity Ball. I'm being a supportive cousin and going to represent you. (There were a few bribes, passed under the table in lieu of Grandma Swan's chicken pot pie to get the last minute invitation from Uncle George, but I'll deny it if Aunt Cynthia questions me.)

Before I forget, I'm borrowing your boyfriend for the night. Hope you don't mind. Even if you do, too bad. It's your own fault for jetsetting to the jungles and leaving nice arm candy surrounded by these stick-figure models.

Jazz is my new Alice, and he found me a dress at the last moment, which he thinks will knock Dr. E dead. He's more eager than me to meet him. Should I be worried? Oh, Jazz is here with his minions. Gotta go!

Bella


From: M. Alice Brandon

To: Bella M. Swan

Date: Thursday, December 24, 2015 at 12:46 AM

Subject: Pictures.

Dear Bella,

Surprise! I'm off to Tanzania for two days with some others. It's easy to access internet here.

Thank you for being my ambassador, and good luck with seducing Dr. E. I'm sure if anyone can get the man to notice a healthy female, it'll be you. Don't mind Jazz. He's just curious.

Don't worry. You'll look wonderful, and I expect a lengthy e-mail of how Edward couldn't take his eyes off you. And pictures. I want pictures of you. (It'll be nice if I can have some of my Jazz too.)

It's past one here, and my eyes are blurring, so off to bed in a few. I expect to see pictures when I wake up. Enjoy the party.

Your cousin,

Alice


From: Bella M. Swan

To: M. Alice Brandon

Date: Wednesday, December 23, 2015 8:19 PM

Subject: Re: Pictures.

Alice,

I'm uploading the pictures while we're stuck in traffic.

I've made discreet inquiries into whether or not Drs. Cullen will be in attendance, and Uncle George was quite helpful once I dangled an apple pie under his nose. According to my source (Uncle George), the Cullen family will be there.

Oh, we're here. Bye!

Love,

Bella.

P.S. I sent you Jazzy's pics too. Enjoy drooling over them. (Evil wink.)


From: Bella M. Swan

To: M. Alice Brandon

Date: Thursday, December 24, 2015 at 1:41 AM

Subject: Road runner and Wile E. Coyote.

Dear Alice,

I feel like Wile E. Coyote in Looney Tunes. I've always felt bad for him and disliked that awful bird.

I'm flabbergasted. I mean, he just—he ran. 'Bella Swan: Edward Cullen repellent'

Can you believe it?

Jasper thinks doctors are jerks with God complexes. I had to mention his girlfriend is a doctor too, and he wore his thinking face the whole time. Expect to answer some questions.

It was easy to find Uncle George and Aunt Cynthia since Uncle's loud baritone voice carries quite far and my bat senses were fully honed on them.

Are fluttery sensations in the stomach a symptom of love? (I was too excited; I don't think I had lunch…) From the first glance, he had my senses going haywire.

Poor Jasper certainly got bruised. I had a death grip on his forearm. I feel bad 'cause he found me a bottle-green dress, a slinky floor-length halter neck piece. (I can see the advantage of having a fashion designer future cousin-in-law.)

I thought about it, the concept of soul mates, one person specifically made for you. My heart says it's him. Edward is my Jasper. (You'll understand then, right?)

I knew he was closer as we moved toward your parents from the increased beat of my heart, the slight pick-up on my breath. It felt as if my system had short-circuited. It can happen, right? I mean, humans have electricity inside their bodies… I remember you telling me once.

Jasper told me I marched, dragged him, but for me, it felt as if it had been decades since I saw him behind the glass door. I was ready to introduce myself as his future wife and mother of his unborn children. (I was tongue-tied, so you don't have to worry.)

We were five feet away from the small gathering when Uncle George greeted us loudly.

Now, this is where things became quite peculiar.

He stiffened. When he heard my name, and no, I didn't imagine it, Alice, really. He froze. One can recognize when a person stiffens from how his shoulders twitch, back straightens, and breath hitches.

In my eagerness, I didn't care but instead latched on to his hands as Uncle George introduced us.

Can a simple touch wake you up from a thousand-year slumber? That's how I felt. Everything looked colorful, like a filter had been lifted from my eyes, as if all of my senses were running at full capacity.

Two seconds later, he pulled his hand from mine. (I wanted to cry and clutch on to him.)

The whole two minutes he was there, he looked distracted, eyes jumping from one person to another, except me, and he excused himself and left the gathering. Apparently he was on call. Fifteen minutes later, I sat at the bar, nursing a Long Island iced tea with a broken heart.

At least it brought me to one of the Cullen family fans. Do you know a surgical nurse, Jessica Stanley?

CIA lost a good spy when she became a nurse. Half an hour later, I could write a Cullen encyclopaedia.

Nurse Stanley thinks Edward had someone, said he wears this chain with two rings on it, all the time. Someone had seen it while at the lockers.

Should I take her story as fact? Can it be true? If he's pining or lost someone, I'll have a battle, won't I? Maybe forgetting something is better than having the memory and suffering, right? I wish I could give him that, a clean slate… Then we can start our life with our two point five kids… or four point five. (Green-eyed miniature E. Cullens, yay!)

Life should be lived. There's nothing one can gain from living in the past, and I don't think he'll have a better person than me to teach him that. I've decided to fight for him, the way everyone was there for me, to bring a smile to his face.

I'm off to bed now. I have a few things to do tomorrow. Have to play secret Santa and then plan to thaw the heart of Ice King Cullen. Wish me luck, and take care!

Merry Christmas!

Bella Cullen (It has a nice ring to it.)


From: M. Alice Brandon

To: Bella M. Swan

Date: Sunday, January 10, 2016 at 11:53 AM

Subject: You're driving me crazy.

Baby Bell,

Three weeks is long enough, and what's this I hear? You made E. Cullen sick with your brownies? You must be losing your touch. Jazz told me he's embarrassed and had lost count of how many times you were rejected by Edward.

Tell me what's going on. I'm worried sick, but don't lose hope. He's an idiot who doesn't know how wonderful you are. There are plenty of fish in the sea; I'm sure you'll find your own one soon.

Just two words, please!

Your loving cousin,

Alice


From: Bella M. Swan

To: M. Alice Brandon

Date: Thursday, January 28, 2016 at 6:07 AM

Subject: Final time.

Alice,

I'm going to ask him on a date for the last time, and if he says no, so what (I'm thinking of kidnapping him). Life is too short to wallow and be left adrift. Wish me luck!

Your cousin,

Bella

P.S. I want him to be my French angelfish.


A shudder ran through her body despite the layers she had on. The cold had slowly creeped through her snow boots and past her double layer of thick socks. Bella stepped from one foot to the other while flexing her toes, her ears and nose already numb as she stood praying for Edward to come out soon. She had arrived twenty-five minutes ago and stood closer to the back entrance of the hospital.

Temperatures had dropped through the night, making the world freeze over. Even NYC taxis were being cautious. Bella wondered if Edward had left early, if she'd missed him.

Where was he? Did he take the front entrance? Bella decided to watch for five more minutes and then go in and ask the receptionist.

Oh! Is that him? Her eyes moved to the hunched form of a man she'd become familiar with moving away from her, his eyes on the road.

When did he pass her, and how come she'd missed him walking past?

Shaking her head, Bella ran. She forgot the roads were slippery. Fortunately for her, she avoided falling down until a hairsbreadth away from him and caught his sleeve, trying to save herself from landing on her knees.

"Oh, I'm so sorry." He was slow to turn around, and his gaze was firmly fixed on her hand clutching his sleeve in a death grip.

"Hello, Dr. Cullen." Bella gave a surprised smile while he still didn't lift his head to look at her face. "We met at the Christmas charity ball… And I'm sorry you became ill because of the brownies." She gave her best smile and waited for him to stare at her with his arresting green eyes, which reluctantly lifted to her face. Her breath escaped with a whoosh of steam from her mouth. There was a slight burn between her chest, and her stomach felt hollow as he held her eyes with his.

"Hello, Miss Swan. If you don't mind, I've finished a thirty-hour shift. I'm dead on my feet and would prefer to be home and in bed getting some sleep."

"Oh, that's—that must be quite tiring, but if you have two seconds, I'd like to ask you something." He stared at Bella's face without uttering a word. "Will you go out with me—on a date?" She stared at him. Please say yes, please, please, please!

"I'm sorry, Miss Swan. I don't date. If that's all, I'll be on my way." He turned around and left her gaping after him for few seconds.

Blame it on desperation, but questions poured out of her before she could think. "Are you married or have a girlfriend? Fiancée? Are you gay?" He stopped but didn't turn, and Bella knew she had his attention.

"I'm right, aren't I? You're gay… Wow, I didn't expect that—"

"I'm not gay." The wind carried his voice back to her, and Bella felt her spirit lift.

"Did someone leave you?" Please say no, please, please. As seconds passed with no reply, Bella felt sad for Edward. "She's a fool. If it were me, I would never let you go. You know wallowing in the past makes your present miserable…"

"I don't know any other way to live." It was a soft whisper, and then he was briskly walking away.

Bella watched him move away from her. "Give me a chance, will you? I'll make you forget the past." She cupped her hands around her mouth and shouted after him as he waited to cross the deserted street.

Maybe he was lost in his memories, or he was too tired and didn't see the white van speeding toward him. The driver saw the man had started to cross the street and hit the brake, but unfortunately for both of them, a patch of black ice was underfoot. The tires slipped on it, and he felt the vehicle losing traction. With wide, horror-stricken eyes, the driver could do nothing as his van skidded toward the man in the middle of the road.

Bella watched the van careening toward Edward with mounting dread and screamed his name. Her voice must have snapped him out of his thoughts because he stopped in the middle of the road with a bewildered look, his back to the moving vehicle.

Was it an adrenaline rush? Bella didn't had time to analyze, but she propelled toward him at blinding speed, her blood pumping in her ears, her mind screaming, 'No, not him.' She pushed him out of the way, but the side of the van nicked her hip, throwing her to the pavement with a resounding crack, followed by a blinding pain as she hit her head on the concrete and lost consciousness.

It was a good thing the hospital was only a few yards away. The sound of screeching tires and hitting of a wall had brought the hospital's night watchman running to investigate. Both Bella and the driver of the van were ushered to the ER. While the latter was conscious, Bella lay limp and pale, bleeding from a wound she received from the hit to her head.

"Carlisle. Call Carlisle. Now!" The few hospital staff attending were quite bewildered by the panicked man as Edward shouted frantically.

"Yes, Dr. Cullen." One of the nurses nodded and darted toward the nurses' station to get a hold of Dr. Carlisle Cullen, while others were snapped and hissed at as they tried to prod at Bella's injuries.

Carlisle came down to the ER as soon as he received the message and found a hysterical Edward with Dr. Brandon's niece.

"What happened, Edward? Isn't this Miss Swan?" He was already getting out his penlight and moving toward her.

"She hit her head on the sidewalk, Carlisle. There was a van, and she pushed me out of the way, and she hit her head…"

"Pupils are dilated; there's a slight unevenness to them. She probably has a concussion. Get her ready for an MRI immediately," he instructed the nurse, who was looking at his son with a frown and then back at the girl on the bed.

"Yes, Doctor." She ran out of the room, and Carlisle turned to his son.

"Are you all right, Edward? You must be in shock—"

"She might be bleeding internally… and why isn't she waking up?"

Carlisle couldn't help but frown at this behavior from Edward, who was cool as a cucumber most of the time.

"We'll know if anything is seriously amiss. Her blood pressure is slightly elevated." Carlisle turned toward one of the interns who was keeping out of the way. "Call Dr. Brandon."

The intern nodded and scurried off.

"You don't understand, Carlisle. She has retrograde amnesia. A second trauma to the head can be dangerous to her. Do you think she'll go back into a coma?"

Carlisle froze and looked at the girl and then back at his pale son. How did he know that? As her doctor, Carlisle was aware that the girl had retrograde amnesia, but he was sure he hadn't mentioned it to his son.

It was half past two in the morning, when there was a lull at the busy hospital, when patients in the wards were settled and deep in sleep. This was the window of time when the doctors and nurses were found nodding off, some on their work stations, while some found an on-call room to rest.

Carlisle was tired. His body ached since he'd been in surgery for ten hours, and he was not the energetic youth from when he interned. Still, he couldn't shake off the feeling of unease or forget Edward's panicked face.

Giving up his sleep, he dragged himself out to the doctors' lounge to get the necessary caffeine into his system.

The room was empty except for Dr. George Brandon and his wife, Cynthia. Carlisle was better acquainted with Dr. Brandon than his wife or daughter. He knew Alice worked in this hospital, but he remembered Dr. Brandon mentioning her volunteering to work with Doctors Without Borders for a few months.

Carlisle was curious about their niece, Bella. From what he'd read in her file, she was related to Cynthia Brandon, and he wanted to find out what made Edward behave so peculiarly towards the young woman.

He felt eyes on his back and turned his head toward the bloodshot eyes of the gray-haired man behind him. "Would you like some coffee?"

"Please." Dr. Brandon's deep rumble woke up his wife, who looked around with panicked eyes.

"Is Bella okay?" She looked at her husband, her hair a bit messy, clothes wrinkled after spending the whole day at the hospital.

"I'm sorry for waking you up, Mrs. Brandon. But don't worry. Isabella is resting, and I'm sure she'll wake up on her own when she feels ready. There's nothing amiss with her other than a slight concussion." Carlisle brought two cup of coffee and offered them to the haggard-looking Brandons.

The cups were lifted to their lips, and sips of coffee went down. Still, all three were lost inside their minds until Carlisle cleared his throat. "Miss Swan seemed like such a wonderful young woman the first few times we met. Brave, determined, and quite passionate…"

"She got that from her father." It was Cynthia Brandon who replied with a half-smile on her face, eyes glazed, lost in a memory.

"Her father?"

"I had a younger brother—stubborn, passionate, loving… Bella got it from her dad with the Swan hair and eyes." Cynthia turned to Carlisle with a sad smile as George squeezed her hand that he held on his lap.

"Had… So—"

"Both he and his wife passed away in an accident nine years ago."

"That was when she lost her memory?" Carlisle turned fully toward her, eager to know more.

"It was Bella's birthday that weekend, and Charlie, his wife, and one of their family friends took a trip. The police said their vehicle had run off the road and fallen over a cliff. Only Bella had survived. She was washed up on the beach and brought to the hospital, and I was called a few days later… You see, our parents were against Charlie when he brought Renee home and rejected everything to do with them, and then they disappeared. After eighteen years, I received news of his whereabouts only to find him in a body bag. The police thought Charlie must have lost control of the vehicle, said all of them were still locked with seat belts except Bella and the son of the other family, whose body they didn't find. They thought he got dragged into the deep sea with the current. It was a surprise Bella got swept to the beach. We brought her here with us, and she woke up a year later with no memory of her past life."

"I'm sorry to hear that, Cynthia." Carlisle had a small frown on his brows. "Nine years, you say? Where did this accident happen?"

"Washington state, a few hours away from Seattle. There's an Indian reservation there, closer to Port Angeles. I can't remember the name of the tribe… something starting with K or Q—"

"Quileute."

"Yes, that's it, I think. You've been there?" Cynthia smiled at him.

"I was in Seattle for a medical conference nine years ago, and Esme tagged along with me. It was our fifteenth wedding anniversary. We rented a small yacht and set sail around the area. By the way, what was the name of the family friends of your brother?"

"Masens. Anthony Masen was a judge and his wife a professor. Charles apparently had joined the police force. Maybe that's how they met. I'm not quite sure. I think their boy went to the same school as Bella and was around the same age."

The memories were too bleak, and they all once again found themselves drifting away into thoughts and questions of what-ifs.

He crept inside, closing the door after him with a soft click. Dim light filtered through the window panels, making him freeze as his eyes raked over the feminine figure peacefully sleeping on the hospital bed. She looked pale, dressed in a blue hospital gown, her head swathed in a white bandage.

He moved as if in a trance, as if she had him tied to her by a string and was pulling him forward with every passing second. There was a chair next to her bed, where Cynthia Brandon had spent most of her day, and he sat on it now. He couldn't help but rake his eyes over her, greedily taking in her features, just a little bit different, nonetheless still making him want to touch, taste, and love.

With trembling hands, he picked up her hands. They were still small in his and still hummed as if her skin was greeting his. A slight beep in the heart monitor brought a chuckle to his lips, and he couldn't help but touch his lips to the back of her hand.

"You shouldn't have done that," he whispered against her skin. "I can't do that, you know… I can't forget the past. Stop loving a woman I've loved my whole life?" He shook his head. "It's safer this way, though it's killing me to see you getting hurt. What am I going to do with you, Bella? It would have been safe for you if I'd gone back to the way it was, watching you and protecting you from afar. But what could I do? I'm like a man in a desert finally seeing a drop of water. I'm sorry, so sorry I can't let you go, can't stop loving you. I'm sorry…" A tear slipped from his cheek and fell onto her hand.


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