"Certain thoughts are prayers. There are moments when, whatever be the attitude of the body, the soul is on its knees." Victor Hugo
Carefully, I grasped her hand in mine and stared down at her still body. Truly, the image before me was the subject of my worst fears. If I could sleep, and subsequently dream, I'd wake nightly, shaking with fear, my unconscious mind having conjured an image eerily similar to the one before me.
Machines, beeping, whirring, blinking, and dripping, were a constant sensory reminder that my Bella was alive. As if I needed them. I'd listened to every beat of her heart and watched every rise and fall of her chest. I sat in the same chair for twenty-four hours, holding my vigil, and no one could tear me away from my Bella—not Carlisle, not Alice, not even Bella's mother (who decided to sleep in the chair in Bella's room).
I had hoped to meet Renée under much happier circumstances, but she was very thankful for Alice's, Carlisle's, and my presence. She'd been nothing but cordial to me, but I couldn't wait to delve into the mind Bella said was childlike. I know I shouldn't have, but I wasn't sure how much, if anything, Bella had shared with her mother about our relationship. I wouldn't have been surprised in the least if Mrs. Dwyer thought me odd in some way, humans usually did, it was their own defense mechanisms kicking in, but I was surprised to find her concerned by how deeply I cared for Bella. She was already planning a conversation in her head about marrying too young and falling in love with a pretty face. But truly, that was not my concern, and I wouldn't apologize for loving her.
Mindful of the tubes and wires connecting her to the machines at her bedside, my fingers paused over the cool patch of skin beneath the gauze on Bella's left hand and I was reminded that it was entirely my fault Bella was here; so lifeless and still, because of me and my egotistical pursuits. I had the opportunity to walk away months ago, but I could not keep away from her—even for her own good, and for that I am selfish. My self-centeredness had put my beautiful angel here in this bed.
I held my vigil for hours, ignoring curious looks from the nurses, Renee, Carlisle and Alice as I hummed Bella's lullaby—it was for her benefit, not theirs. The familiar, sentimental melody seemed to provoke a reaction from Bella's heart; it almost made me smile to watch the reaction on the monitor.
A shard of light spread across the floor as the door opened and a nurse appeared at the threshold. She started upon noticing me in the shadows.
"Oh, good morning," she said briskly, the emotion seriously lacking in her voice.
I glanced up at the clock, gently bathed in the light from the hallway—3:00a.m—Alice and Carlisle had left hours ago. "Morning." I drew my hands over my face and let out a pensive sigh as I rose, knowing what was coming.
"If you'll excuse me for a few moments, I need to check her wounds."
Even the word forced my mind to consider things I didn't wish to think about. Right then her blood coursed through my veins. A part of me. When I thought of what happened—what could have happened… the warmth of her skin, the sensation of her pulse beating erratically beneath my lips, the sweet taste of her blood filling my mouth… the fear raging inside her, the pain I knew she was in, the unconditional love I have for her, the will to stop. I could have lost her—not once but twice, and the fault would have laid with me, and me alone. To never see her smile again, blush again; my world would be meaningless without her.
Not that I would have existed much longer if Bella went to place I couldn't go. No, my contingency plan had been in place from the moment I learned Bella had left Alice and Jasper at the airport. I asked Alice to peer into Bella's future and, seeing the outcome, my mind instantly began planning how I could cease to be if Bella left me.
Perhaps it was best if I did take temporary leave; my gloom wouldn't be good for her recovery. She didn't even smell like my Bella anymore. She smelled like metal and minerals—sterile even, like iodine.
The smell was unsettling, unfamiliar. I liked the way my Bella smelled.
But I also liked the way she tasted.
I pushed the thought from my mind as the nurse stared at me expectantly, fingers curled over the edge of her blanket.
"Excuse me," I said quietly, forcing myself to rise—to put the greatest distance between us for nearly a day.
I hesitated at the side of her bed, drawing a cold finger down the side of her face, careful not to disturb the oxygen tube looped around her ears and under her nose before forcing myself to leave the room.
Closing the door behind me, I stuffed my hands in my pockets and traversed the halls. A lone nurse sat at the desk, smiling hesitantly as I walked by.
Such a sweet, handsome boy, sitting all day with his girlfriend.
If she only knew why Bella was here then perhaps my vigil wouldn't seem so sweet.
I had no idea where I intended to go, but I needed a few moments of silence. My mind ached with worry and concentration, reading the minds of doctors and nurses all day. I needed to think, I needed quiet; somewhere without machines beeping and humming, somewhere where pervading thoughts could not invade my head any longer. I wouldn't stay away from Bella for long, but I had much on my mind, much to consider.
I stepped into the elevator, unsure of my destination. Waiting rooms were dotted with anxious family members, and I knew I could find solace outside, but I did not want to venture that far from Bella. The elevators chimed at the ground floor and I began walking again.
The hallways were quiet, but the glow of the florescent lights was distracting; they hummed and the light was cold. From up ahead, a shimmering radiance caught my eye and tugged cautiously at my unbeating heart.
I stopped. Candles flicked against the stained glasses windows, casting a peaceful flow in the hallway. If anyplace would be silent, it would be this place.
I gingerly pushed the door open and stepped inside, already knowing I'd be the lone visitor.
I'd been in churches a few times—a very few times from the life I remembered. I had no specific memories of attending services with my own family in Chicago, but there had been times with Carlisle and Esme—weddings and funerals for Carlisle's coworkers and those of human friends and mentors. It wasn't an uncomfortable feeling, just unfamiliar.
I moved to the darkest corner of the chapel and sat in one of the straight-backed chairs with an audible sigh. I had always found a peace in holy places—something I barely acknowledged to myself let alone anyone else. It wasn't that I was ashamed, no, on the contrary—it was a hope, a comfort I could barely afford to consider. Carlisle and I had many discussions over the years on faith, religion, and the afterlife and how vampires might fit into that doctrine. One thing that never wavered in my mind was that God and heaven existed. Whether I was eligible was another matter altogether.
I sighed again, letting out a nervous breath, and looked around the darkened room. It was fairly plain—no statues adorned the walls, but the candles flickered beneath a small cross on the wall. It seemed fated I'd ended up here—here, the place where you could always unburden your soul. If you had one left, that is.
Regardless, someone was listening. And I would strike a bargain with the devil himself if Bella would awaken and be well.
"I'm not really sure if I'm doing this right—or if I have a right to be here at all," I began, nearly chuckling to myself for talking out loud. Was that necessary? "I'm not here for myself. I'm here for someone I love."
I had been assured, of course, from both Carlisle and Alice that Bella would recover. Carlisle, whom I trusted more than anyone, had taken care of Bella himself and guaranteed me she was receiving the best care and would be in good health. Alice, naturally, saw Bella's future and continued to encourage me that Bella would be fine. It wasn't that I didn't trust them, I knew Bella would recover: bones mend, cuts heal, bruises fade, but scars remain. Both physical and emotional scars.
The fear that consumed me most was that this latest episode would be too much for her—too real. And yet that was the one thing I prayed for—a dawning realization.
"I know I'm not worthy of her," I relented with a sigh, "But I love her, and I would do anything for her. All I've ever wanted was to keep her safe and make her happy."
I rested my elbows on my knees and let my head fall into my hands. "Let her be alright, please." I'd come to the painful realization that it was me all along who had put Bella in danger. Though I loved her more than anything—anyone—ever, I would distance myself, sacrifice my happiness for her health and safety. I would walk away if the time ever came; if the choice ever came. "Keep her safe and I'll do right by her."
I sat motionless, eyes shielded from the flickering candlelight, visible prayers from people like me—well, perhaps not exactly like me, but here with their own petitions.
I sat waiting for several moments—for what, I wasn't sure. An immediate answer to my prayers? My own vaporization for being so bold as to ask for anything of God? The chance to rescind my bargain, trust Carlisle and Alice, and keep an eye on Bella on my own?
I eventually dragged my fingers through my hair and rose from the chair, striding toward the clutch of candles beneath the cross on the wall.
A mangled, worn pack of matches rested on a low ledge amidst the white votive candles. Smoothly, I tore the one remaining match from the pack and struck it against the striker on the back and watched the match head ignite and begin to burn.
Though I'd already vocalized my thoughts to a God who may or may not be listening to me, this felt official; a pact.
A small, white-hot flame was quickly and quietly burning down the match. I held my breath, afraid that one sigh would extinguish the brightness. I could feel the heat nearing my fingertips. I instinctively reached out, tilting the match toward the waiting candle wick.
The fire did not catch immediately, but slowly the flame seemed to transfer from one conduit to the other. As the wick began to burn, the match was extinguished, only the small, black portion pinched between my fingers not charred.
I closed my eyes, silently reaffirming my vow. I would give what's left of my life for hers. I want her to be safe, happy, but if it comes to pass that I put her in danger, if I can't protect her anymore, I'll leave her to save her. I knew it would kill me inside, but her life meant more to me than any part of mine had. The thought of her in agony was torture. I could—I would sacrifice myself to save her.
I opened my eyes and sighed. The flame flickered as I exhaled but continued to blaze. I nodded and turned on my heel to leave, hoping I'd not be called to uphold my end of the bargain. I left the dark of the tiny sanctuary and returned to my love, resuming my vigil.