Alas, it must come to an end. I don't want to write this story into the ground, so I'm ending it with this chapter.
Once again, thank you to all my friends who have helped me with this story: Rachel, Katie, Allison, and of course all my reviewers. This chapter is for you.
Disclaimer: I do not own Twilight, New Moon, Eclipse, or any of Stephenie Meyer's characters.
The time dragged endlessly on, the hours blurring together until it seemed like one long succession of listless days and sleepless nights. I felt as if I were drowning in the languidness of the hospital, the regular phone calls from Phil acting as the only life preserver for me. The only times I ever left Bella's room were to check my messages and eat.
By that time I had fully adjusted to Edward's constant presence at her side. The only times I saw him leave were at night when I made it clear to him his visiting hours were over. And in spite of that, I had the itching suspicion he sneaked back into her room after I was fast asleep on the recliner. No doubt he could charm the nurses into letting him stay late.
Now that I understood Edward's obvious obsession with my daughter as the result of being in love, I ceased my careful scrutiny of his every action and stopped trying to analyze any hidden meanings. I allowed the physical fatigue and mental exhaustion of the last week wash me over and pull me under. I was barely conscious of the hours I spent at Bella's bedside, nor could I recall any conversations I'd had with Dr. Strauss. I permitted this dulled state of mind to take over, flying on autopilot until Bella woke up and my life could return to normal.
I felt my eyelids drooping as I stared blankly at the heart rate monitor next to me. The continual horizontal weave of light across the screen and the slow, rhythmic beeping of her pulse helped lull me into oblivion.
My thoughts drifted towards the small house Phil and I had picked out in Florida. It was at a perfect location, right off the water and plenty of kids Bella's age in the neighborhood. The house itself looked like one from a silent film; old, quaint, and comfortable. Once I explained to Bella how she would have plenty of space — her own bathroom, for instance — I was positive I could coax her into moving in.
On the other hand, she had refused to come when I had asked her before. And I'm pretty certain about her reasons why, I thought sourly as my thoughts returned to Edward. He would complicate things surely, but as long as I could get to her first and convince her of all the luxuries in Jacksonville…
Edward shifted in his seat, causing my attention to switch back to him once again. He was leaning in closer to Bella, holding her bandaged hand against his chest, his eyes more intent than usual on her face. I followed his gaze. Bella remained motionless on the bed, her pale skin looking waxy under the fluorescent lights.
"I thought I saw her eyelids flicker," he murmured as he sat back, more to himself than to me.
I nodded absently, and idly glanced up at the clock. I would need some lunch soon. As usual, I offered to bring him back something, and as usual he politely said no.
I smiled at Alice out in the hallway. The other two Cullens had been almost as attentive as Edward, one of them always patrolling the corridors waiting for the latest news on Bella's condition. I imagined Carlisle was off having a discussion with one of the doctors at this very moment. Alice returned my smile over the cover of her Vogue magazine, and went back to examining the glossy-print pages.
I shook my head as I set off towards the elevators, the strangeness of the Cullen family never ceasing to perplex me.
There was a flutter of excitement in the hallway when I returned fifteen minutes later. Alice stood outside, her head cocked uncertainly in the direction of room 301 while a nurse scribbled notes on a chart next to her.
"Is something the matter?" I asked tentatively. Had there been some complication? I shuddered to think of what could go wrong while Bella was in this condition.
"I think…" Alice said, squinting at the door, "Bella's woken up now."
She stood aside to let me pass. I opened the door a fraction to peer inside. There was Bella, sitting up, awake, and wide-eyed.
I opened the door wider, and caught sight of Edward asleep on the recliner. He picked the wrong time to take a nap, I thought, feeling bad for him albeit triumphant for myself. I would get to talk to Bella alone.
"He never leaves, does he?" I wondered the obvious statement aloud. I shifted my gaze from Edward's sleeping form to my daughter.
"Mom, I'm so glad to see you!"
Now that she was awake, she looked more like the Bella I remembered. Lying in the hospital bed for a week had given her the limp, lifeless look of someone in a coma. I was glad to see color in her face and light in her eyes. My own eyes involuntarily filled with tears, and I had a hard time restraining my emotions as I bent over to embrace her.
"Bella, I was so upset!" 'Upset' didn't even begin to describe how I had felt, but it was the best word I could come up with at the moment.
"I'm sorry, Mom. But everything's fine now, it's okay."
"I'm just glad to finally see your eyes open."
"How … how long have they been closed?" Confusion mixed with alarm colored her voice.
"It's Friday, hon, you've been out for awhile." I had to remind myself how much time had passed.
"Friday?" She echoed, stunned.
I mentioned the sedation, reminding her of the reason why she was in the hospital in the first place. "You're lucky Dr. Cullen was there. He's such a nice man … though he looks more like a model than a doctor …"
"You met Carlisle?"
"And Edward's sister, Alice. She's a lovely girl."
"She is." Bella nodded in agreement.
It felt natural to voice my opinions aloud to Bella; we had always been more like friends than mother and daughter. Now that the danger was past, I was confident she would confide in me. I stole a glance at Edward, still sleeping quietly at the foot of the bed.
"You didn't tell me you had such good friends in Forks," I began. I tried to keep my choice of words simple, not quite ready to play the 'boyfriend' card just yet.
Bella whimpered quietly in pain. I instantly forgot my question.
"It's fine," she gasped. "I just have to remember not to move." She straightened up a little. "Where's Phil?"
The mention of my husband brought back the flood of news and plans I was eagerly waiting to share with her.
"Florida — oh, Bella! You'll never guess! Just when we were about to leave, the best of news!"
Bella put on one of her knowing smiles. "Phil got signed?"
I enthusiastically filled her in on the details, describing our new house, the attractions in Jacksonville, even throwing in the bathroom feature. She surprised me by interrupting mid-sentence.
"Wait, Mom! What are you talking about? I'm not going to Florida — I live in Forks."
"But you don't have to any more, silly!" I recovered quickly, backtracking to my former arguments. "Phil will be around much more now, and we've talked about it a lot." I hurriedly explained to her the new arrangement.
"Mom," she said, seeming to phrase her words carefully. "I want to live in Forks. I'm already settled in school, I have a couple of girlfriends … and Charlie needs me. He's just all alone up there, and he can't cook at all."
"You want to stay in Forks?" I repeated dumbly, allowing myself a quick glance at the foot of Bella's bed. "Why?"
"I told you. School, Charlie — ow!" She shrugged, and winced from the motion.
"Bella, honey, you hate Forks," I said, patting her forehead as it was the only place free from injury.
"It's not so bad."
There was no mistaking the emotion in her eyes as she vehemently denied moving back in. I carefully looked between her and Edward, studying the two of them together. I lowered my voice in spite of Edward's evident slumber.
"Is it this boy?"
"He's … part of it …" Her voice trailed off as she looked at him. "So, have you had a chance to talk with Edward?"
"Yes … and I wanted to talk to you about that." I had been planning this particular chat for when she woke up, wanting to be sure and get both sides of the story. "I think that boy is in love with you." There, I said it, I thought, mentally grinding my teeth together.
"I think so, too," she answered, the corner of her mouth visibly turning up under the gauze taped across her face.
"And … how do you feel about him?" My one last vestige of hope was that she didn't feel as strongly, and that their relationship wasn't as intense or as serious as Edward made it out to be. Plus I was just downright curious.
She inhaled deeply. "I guess … I'm pretty crazy about him."
I felt the hope fizzle down to nothing like the air out of a balloon. "Well … he seems nice, and, my goodness, he's incredibly good-looking, but you're so young, Bella …" As young as I was when I made that hasty decision …
"I know that, Mom. Don't worry about it. It's just a crush."
Thank God. "That's right." I knew she'd be reasonable about it. I suddenly remembered Phil's promise he would call around two, and bit my lip as I anxiously checked the time. "Phil's supposed to call in a little while … I didn't know you were going to wake up …"
No problem. I won't be alone." Her brown eyes grew softer as she looked at Edward again.
"I'll be back soon," I promised. "I've been sleeping here, you know."
"Oh, Mom, you didn't have to do that. You can sleep at home."
"I was too nervous. There's been some crime in the neighborhood, and I don't like being there alone." I told her about the scene at the dance studio. She shuddered at my descriptions. "I can stay, baby, if you need me."
"No, Mom, I'll be fine. Edward will be with me."
"I'll be back tonight," I repeated, throwing the warning out to Edward even though I knew he couldn't hear me. I let the aphorism hang there as a reminder to both of them I would be on the look-out.
"I love you, Mom."
"I love you too, Bella. Try to be more careful when you walk, honey, I don't want to lose you."
No doubt if she ever were to stumble again, I knew who would be right there to catch her.
I kissed her forehead and tiptoed out of the room, quietly closing the door behind me. I took a deep breath, and prepared for life to begin once again.
Sadly this does not rhyme, but here's the deal: the more reviews I get to this chapter (even though it's the last one), the sooner I write more stories. Deal?