A/N for 2019-10-23: First up, this is not a new story, but a revised version of an older one. Many, many thanks to the talented and gracious chayasara, who has beta'd the story. I'll post new chapters as they're ready.
Update for January, 2020: For those of you who wish to read this in Spanish, you may do so here: s/13465917/1/LA-MANERA-EN-LA-QUE-ME-CONOCES, translation courtesy of Andy55TwilightOverTheMoon
"No," Bill said, walking up to Charlie, hand held out to prevent him from approaching.
"Go back. We've got this." He was shaking his head.
Charlie tilted his head, eyes narrowed, and brow furrowed. "I'm on call. What're you doing here?"
Bill swallowed, looking at the wreck, and then back at Charlie. "Where's Bella, Charlie?" he asked softly.
"At home. Why?" Charlie asked, but then he looked more closely at the twisted metal, and he didn't need an answer.
He knew the car, and he knew the license plate.
Bill's hand stopped him again, this time pressing the buttons of his shirt into his chest. "You don't need to see it, Charlie. Come on."
Charlie nodded automatically, understanding but not moving.
"Carol," Bill said, "you give him a ride back?"
There were other words, but Charlie wasn't grasping all of them. He had a vague sense he should protest and drive himself, but didn't, simply sitting in the front of the cruiser. He listened to the sounds of the car, his mind reeling a-whirr with how he would tell Bella.
He sat in the office, marking the responder notes with the tip of his pencil, pressing it down, putting little holes in the top of the carbon paper.
When Bill returned, notification papers in hand, Charlie shook his head. "Leave it," he said. "It won't spoil with waiting."
Bill nodded but looked at his watch.
Yes, there was work to be done, and only so much time to do it in.
"After lunch," Charlie mumbled, "after her midwife appointment." He didn't add that she usually ate better before those appointments, spurred to the extra care, knowing that her midwife Kerry would press the point. He wanted to offer her this small thing, this last meal, and a few hours of peace before they destroyed it with this news.
Bill followed Charlie home, letting him pull in and go inside first.
"Hey, Dad, what brings you home so early?" Bella asked, trying to push herself up from the couch.
Charlie didn't say anything but smiled weakly, putting a hand on her shoulder to keep her from standing up.
Bill entered, and Bella glanced up at the soft click of the door.
"Hey, Bella," Bill said, coming to sit across from her.
She looked at Charlie beside her and Bill across from her. They were disturbingly quiet.
Then Bill cleared his throat. "We've got some bad news, Bella. I'm sorry."
She froze. She knew exactly what was coming.
She just didn't know who.
Charlie took her hand into his own, squeezing it tightly.
"Jacob was killed in a car accident this morning," Bill finished.
Bella said nothing and made no noise. Her throat contracted as she tried to swallow but couldn't. Instead, she asked, with as much of a voice as she could, "Does Billy...does Billy know?"
Bill nodded. He and Carol had gone there first, sparing Charlie that misery.
Bella tried to breathe.
In and out, she told herself. Just breathe.
She couldn't let the grief take hold just yet. No. So she kept breathing, one hand on the swell of her abdomen, feeling the soft movement of the baby shifting inside her.
Bill looked at Charlie, his eyebrows raised. Charlie nodded and Bill stood. "I'm sorry, Bella," he said, and turned to go, his exit as quiet as his entrance.
"Help me up, please," she said. Charlie gave her his arm, and she shifted herself, leveraging her weight against his. She slipped on her sandals, the only shoes that still fit, and her coat.
"Bella," Charlie said, "where're you going?"
"For a walk," she said, her voice shaking. She held up her hand to him when he started to move towards her. "No," she said, "I need some time alone."
The gesture was reminiscent of the morning's horror, and Charlie caught himself. Keep it together, he told himself. She's gonna need you soon enough.
She shuffled herself outside, walking carefully down each step. Pregnancy, and especially advanced pregnancy, had made her coordination worse, if that was possible, and she instinctively moved slower, trying to spare the baby any unnecessary falls.
She followed the trail into the woods, finding herself winded sooner than normal, turning toward the bark of a giant cedar, hands caressing its spicy scented bark. Then she let the tears begin. She was far enough from the house that she knew Charlie wouldn't hear her, not that he would fault her for it, no, but she needed this to be private.
The tears became something else though, and gurgling up with the grief was a vitriolic anger.
He had left her.
Just like he had left her.
Her rational mind, squeezed aside by her emotions, rallied and told her that he hadn't left. He hadn't chosen anything. He wouldn't have.
The feelings were louder, though. Jacob was gone. Just like he was gone. This was enough for angry condemnation and a safe evasion of the worst parts of the grief.
It helped her to smash the heel of her hand into the minute curls of the tree's trunk. She must have stood there a long time, thrashing at the bark, because the snap of twigs told her she was no longer alone
"Come on," Charlie said softly. "Come inside. It's getting cold."
She'd let him put his arm around her, holding her up and walking her back along the path to the house.
The soft twilight of evening had come and gone, and the harsh darkness of night had made its presence known in more ways than one.
DISCLAIMER: S. Meyer owns Twilight. No copyright infringement intended.