Warnings for the whole story - Discussions of past self-harm and depictions of the struggle (non-graphic). References to past suicide considerations (canon).
Heavy angst and conversation for the first 4 chapters, then the main story line kicks in. This is a prewritten story with 25 chapters.
I knew he'd notice something. I can just tell by those sideways glances. The looks that feel as though they're boring into my soul.
Ever since we'd come back from Italy, I'd been trying my best to act normally, to act as if nothing had changed. From his looks though, I know I'm failing. I just hope he doesn't know what I'm failing at.
He's been holding so much guilt over having left me.
I'm trying so hard to hold everything in, to not show him the damage caused by the last few months. I can't hurt him like that. He can never know.
Today is the first time since returning that Edward has agreed to hunt.
He'd insisted over the last two weeks that he didn't need to hunt, but it was obvious from the dark circles and black eyes that his words were untrue. Even if he hadn't been practically starving himself while he had left me, this length of time without anything was too much.
I tried not to show it, but at times, I was nervous about his control. Everyone knows how much of a klutz I am, it would only take me falling or getting another damn papercut to throw him over the edge.
If he slipped…, would he ever forgive himself?
I couldn't have that.
If he suffered through even the tiniest amount of pain that I did, it would be too much.
I love him. The thought of him suffering further was more than I could take.
Finally managing to force my face to cooperate, I form a smile. From the look on his face, I know it's coming out as more of a grimace.
Taking a shaky breath, I start talking. "Please, don't make this any harder Edward. I'll be fine. Carlisle is here, and so is Rosalie and Emmett and Alice and Esme will be home later. Just get going and hurry home to me."
I see him look over to Jasper who is standing by the door waiting.
"Please?" his slightly strangled voice pleads to Jasper.
"No," he says aloud for what must have been my benefit, "keep out of my head. People's emotions are meant to be their own. Besides, you need to hunt, it doesn't matter what she's feeling – no offence Bella."
I nod in his direction, showing that I understand his meaning.
We'd spoken briefly, despite a hovering and overprotective Edward strictly forbidding it. He had apologised for his actions that day and I'd reassured him that it wasn't his fault. I'd even commended him for maintaining the amount of control he had considering the thirst from others, especially that of Edwards given that I'm his singer. I didn't know much about his past, but from the information I knew, if he'd seriously wanted to get hold of me, no one in this house would have been able to stop him.
He'd smiled when I told him that and he'd thanked me for my understanding and acceptance.
Edward was fuming. Although he had forgiven his brother in words, he was still holding lingering blame for everything that had happened.
After a few tense looks, Edward let out an unneeded breath, said goodbye to me with a gentle kiss on my forehead and headed out the door.
I waited a moment until I was sure they'd gone.
I crashed back into the couch and grabbed the remote, flicking to a channel I had no intention of paying attention to.
As I watched the flashing images with no form of understanding, I felt the hole start to open up again.
It was the hole that had appeared when he left.
It was the hole that, even since returning, hadn't properly healed.
I didn't know if it could heal. Maybe I'm just broken goods now; just a good-for-nothing human living in a world I don't belong.
I pull my jacket sleeves down to cover my hands. A habit I'd developed sometime over the last few months.
Shaking my head slightly to try and clear the rising panic, I force myself to focus on the screen.
My hands are wringing in my lap, apparently unable to remain still.
There's a man, he's talking about something… I strain to decipher anything he's saying, just a single word, but my brain refuses to cooperate.
My eyes start to go out of focus, so I blink hard trying to clear them. It doesn't work.
Something warm is rolling down my cheeks, but I don't notice.
Words keep rolling around in my head.
I don't belong.
I shouldn't be here.
They don't want me.
I look down, unable to maintain my distraction efforts. The TV lulls into the background. An explosion could have been going off and I wouldn't notice.
Somehow, I remember where I am. I'm at the Cullen's. The Cullens are vampires. I can't panic here, they'll hear me. I need to stay calm.
My hands stop twisting and grasp my hair. The pricks of pain in my scalp grounding me ever so slightly.
I let out a shaky breath. Desperately trying to get a hold of my emotions.
At some point, the words had taken on the voice of Edward and his family. I could hear them all shouting at me.
You don't belong here.
We never should have come back.
Why are you even here still?
I tried to remind myself of the words they'd spoken to me. The promises of love and family they'd made only days ago. The promises I'd told them I believed but didn't.
How could they tell me they want me when they don't even know the truth, the full story? Surely if they knew everything they'd leave again.
I needed to leave.
I needed to get away from them.
I couldn't allow them to stay out of some sort of misplaced guilt.
Stumbling through the room, with very little awareness of my surroundings, I reach for where I knew the front door is, but there's something in my way.
Cold arms wrap around me.
If someone spoke, I didn't hear them. Instead, I start thrashing and screaming.
It's only when I start kicking with all my might that I'm released.
Disorientated and struggling to catch my breath, I once again try to dart out the door.
I'm not stopped, but I can feel the presence of someone close by.
On shaky legs, I manage to make it across the yard to my truck and, with trembling fingers, I try to remove my keys. As soon as they're out of my pocket, they're gone from my hand.
A voice from somewhere near me says, "I'm not going to let you drive."
I don't process it, instead, I start running blindly down the driveway. All I can think about is getting away from them.
Arms are once again wrapped securely around me.
We're lowered to the ground.
The arms stay around me as I struggled to get out of their grasp once again. It's useless. Being on the ground means I can't kick and they're holding my arms in a way that I can't get them loose.
My throat goes hoarse, but I continue screaming; begging to be realised.
I don't know how long it takes, but my limbs start to tire, and I lose the fight. Eventually, my screams morphed into incoherent whimpers.
It's then that I notice the soft words of reassurance.
"That's it, Bella. I've got you. We aren't going to go anywhere. Just keep breathing and relax. You're doing great."
The voice is that of Carlisle. It must be his arms too, though I can't make them out clearly through the haze and swelling in my eyes.
He doesn't want you a stray thought reminds me.
I try to squash down the rising panic, but Carlisle must have felt me tense as he is quick to reassure me.
"Everything is fine, you don't need to worry about anything."
But everything isn't fine. He doesn't understand. I have to get away.
My breathing once again started to quicken. Fast panting breaths which I know won't help me, but I'm unable to control. My head starts spinning again and my hands tremble.
"No, Bella you need to calm yourself down now," his gentle voice commands. "Can you feel my breathing?" I strain to focus my thoughts on the here and now. Around me, I can feel his body rising and falling slightly with each breath.
With a strangled gasp, I manage to pull some much-needed air into my lungs.
"Good, Bella, and again. Keep going with me."
Once again, I force my lungs to breathe in some of the much-needed air.
I focus all of my attention on his calm, yet firm words. "In slowly, out… Well done, keep going. In slowly, out slowly."
My body starts to go limp in his arms.
The world starts to come back into focus as I look around me.
A short way away, but still a fuzzy blob, I can make out a shape which can only be Emmett.
He's seen me. Carlisle has seen me. They're all going to find out. They're going to leave. They can't leave. Not again.
Carlisle must have heard my heart rate quicken because I can feel a slight rumble in his chest. It's a feeling I recognise from when Edward is talking to the family about something he doesn't want me to hear.
When it stops, Emmett starts walking away.
Did he tell him to leave? Is he going to leave next? Are they going to make me leave?
My breathing increases again and before I know it Emmett is in front of me.
His hand reaches out and touches my cheek gently. "Belly bear, I'm not leaving. I promise." Had I spoken those words out loud? Surely, I hadn't. Had all of my ramblings been aloud? No, they can't know. "Please calm down. I'm just going to get some things and Carlisle is going to take you out. I promise I'll still be here when you get back."
I want to believe him, I really do, but they've promised before. They all promised not to leave me. They all also broke their promises.
My lack of trust must have shown on my face because his face fell in shame.
The next thing I know, he's looking up at me smiling and playing with his hands.
Off of his left hand, he slides a small gold band. His wedding ring. Emmett is the only one of the teenagers who makes a conscious effort to wear his ring whenever away from school. I remember asking him about it.
He gently pries my hand away from Carlisle's shirt, which I didn't remember grabbing, and he places the small circle in my hand before closing my fingers around it. "You keep that safe for me, alright?"
I stared at my fist in disbelief. He'd given me one of his most prized possessions. He was trusting me with this. No matter what I thought his feelings about me were, I knew he'd never give it to me if there were a chance he was going to leave. He'd never be without it.
Before I realise I've moved, I'm throwing myself out of Carlisle's now relaxed arms and flinging them around his neck.
Thankfully his vampire reflexes meant that he was able to cushion the blow somewhat, but I'm sure I would be getting a few bruises from today's events.
"We love you, Bella. I'll spend forever trying to prove that to you once again."
He holds me close for a few seconds, then pulls away.
Looking me in the eye, he says, "I'll be back in a moment." He smiles and then steps away at human speed. It's then that I notice Rosalie on the driveway.
My face burns red as I realise yet another person has seen my stupid meltdown. I'm thankful that I can't make out her face. I don't think I could stand her dismissal at the moment.
Realising that Carlisle and I are in the mud, and I've soaked his shirt, I flush even further.
"I'm sorry," I start stuttering repeatedly, trying to get my feet underneath me.
Hands land on my shoulders. They hold me still, stopping my feeble attempts to get up.
Once I'm still, one of the hands takes my chin and lifts it slightly.
My eyes meet Carlisle's. Beneath his wisdom and aged youthfulness, I notice a hint of sadness. "Please, don't apologise."
I nod. There are no more tears to shed, but my eyes burn. Pulling my sleeves back over my hands, I reach up to try and rub them.
He stops me. "Let's go inside."
Slower than I thought necessary, I'm lifted from the ground and placed onto trembling legs. His hands stay on my shoulders.
It takes me longer than I would like to admit to steady myself in order for him to let go; after only a single step, I'm grabbing onto him once again for the support.
Together, we manage to make it into the house and up the stairs.
Opening Edward's door, Carlisle takes me inside and sits me on the bed. "Why don't you clean up a bit? Wash your face, and grab some clean clothes. I'm sure Alice has plenty for you in here, but I know that Edward won't mind you borrowing his either if you need to. Shout when you're done and we're going to go for a drive. Alright?" I can only nod. "Take it steady, there's no rush."
I watch him walk away and close the door.
What are you doing?! You're meant to be getting away from them, not crawling further into their web of lies.
Exhausted and knowing that there's no way I'm going to be able to get out of this, I push the thoughts away from my mind.
With slow movements, so as not to fall, I wobble over to the dresser.
Did Carlisle really mean it? Would Edward mind me borrowing his clothes?
Don't let them get closer.
Rummaging around in the draws, being sure to return everything to its pristine state as I go, I look for something suitable. Although I know I've got plenty of my clothes here, not including the crazy contraptions Alice insists are clothes, the temptation to wear something of his is too strong?.
If he has to be gone, I can at least be close to him in this sense.
I pull out my pair of faded jeans, hoping they still fit well enough because I don't have a belt. Along with the jeans, I take a plain green T-shirt and a dark hoodie. Both are going to be baggy on me, but I don't care.
As I make my way into his bathroom, I can't help holding the garments up to my nose and inhaling deeply. They smell like him.
The comforting scent grounds me once again and I can feel my head start to clear.
Running the cool tap and taking a washcloth from under the sink, I risk a glance at the mirror.
My face is red, blotchy and swollen. I still haven't gained back the weight I'd lost, so my sunken eyes and cheeks look strange the way they puff out.
No wonder Carlisle wanted me to clean up, he'd probably be embarrassed to be seen with me like this.
Again, I push that thought aside and focus on what I'm doing.
After scrubbing my face until it looks relatively normal, though the red tint to my eyes remains, I drag on the clean clothes, place the ring safely in my pocket and stumble out of the bathroom.
Perching on the edge of the bed, I take several deep calming breaths.
I must have gotten lost in my thoughts because I start at a gentle knock on the door. I'd been going back and forth panicking if I can leave this room with them here. Now they all know. Surely, they're going to treat me differently.
"Bella," Carlisle calls opening the door. He must have heard me stop moving. "Come on Darling, there's nothing to be embarrassed about." So, he knew I was avoiding him.
I allow him to take my hand and lead me into the garage and towards his Mercedes. I try to smile at him as he opens the door and helps me in, but I know it isn't any good. At least he doesn't comment on it.