2

2. STITCHES

CARLISLE WAS THE ONLY ONE WHO STAYED CALM. CENTURIES OF experience in the emergency room evident. I was a few feet away from her. I had to leave, at the same time I had to stay—to make sure she was okay. What happened a few moments ago made me think for myself for a while. I had to decide.

"Emmett, Rose, get Jasper outside."

Emmett nodded. We're really sorry this happened Eddie Emmett pleaded repeatedly. Jasper struggled against Emmett's unbreakable grasp twisting around, reaching toward his brother with his bared teeth, his eyes still past season. I wheeled to crouch over her in a defensive position. I wasn't breathing. I was unstable. Rosalie stepped in front of Jasper—keeping careful distance from his teeth. You had to do it Rosalie thought. Esme held the door open, one hand pressed over her mouth and nose.

"I'm so sorry, Bella," she cried as she followed the others to the yard. I'm sorry too Edward. She pleaded.

"Let me by, Edward," Carlisle murmured. Edward, please, he asked. I nodded and relaxed my stance. Carlisle knelt beside her, leaning close to examine her arm. "Here, Carlisle," Alice said, handing me a towel. Alice gave a worrying look. There was nothing much in her mind. Just pleading apologies. "Too much glass in the wound." He reached over and ripped a long, thin scrap from the bottom of the white tablecloth. He twisted it around her arm above the elbow to form a tourniquet. I just stood there—watching. It made me realize so many things. We were truly a danger for her. I had to decide for myself—what was truly right for her.

"Bella," Carlisle said softly. "Do you want me to drive you to the hospital, or would you like me to take of it here?"

"Here, please," she whispered. I tried to look at her expression, but something was telling me to look away. I've seen more than enough.

"I'll get your bag," Alice said.

"Let's take her to the kitchen table," Carlisle said. Come on, help me carry her. Carlisle asked. I lifted her effortlessly, while Carlisle kept pressure on her arm.

"How are you doing, Bella?" Carlisle asked.

"I'm fine." Her voice was reasonably steady. She didn't seem to be affected by the current situation. My expression was flat in front of her. Alice was right beside me, and Carlisle's black bag was already on the table. I sat her gently into a chair, and Carlisle pulled up another one. I stood over her, still protective.

"Just go, Edward," she sighed.

"I can handle it," I insisted. I had to be here, knowing that I'd forced her to come here, she was my responsibility. I fought the thirst. I had to.

"You don't need to be a hero," she told me. "Carlisle can fix me up without your help. Get some fresh air." She winced as Carlisle did something to her arm.

"I'll stay." I demanded. Edward… Carlisle moaned inside his head.

"Why are you so masochistic?" She mumbled.

"Edward, you may as well go find Jasper before he gets too far. I'm sure he's upset with himself, I doubt he'll listen to anyone but you right now."

"Yes," she eagerly agreed. "Go find Jasper."

"You might as well do something useful," Alice added.

Go on now Edward. Carlisle added. Carlisle will take of this Alice too joined in. I gave them all black looks as they ganged up on me, but, finally, I nodded once and sprinted through the kitchen's back door.

I sprinted through the forest looking for Jasper, Rose, and Emmett. What had I done? I exposed Bella even more to our world, something I was trying to avoid. It was hard for me to think, at the same time look for Jasper. Surely, Jasper felt bad. All those years, trying to get rid of the temptation. He had tried so hard to fit in—to be good. In this one night, all his hard work had dropped down.

I heard Rosalie and Emmett trying to talk some sense into Jasper somewhere near the stream. Gosh, Rosalie mused. "Jasper?" I called out from the forest, a few feet away from them. "Edward?" Emmett called. Jasper was clinging toward a tree, Emmett's hand was gripping to the tree. He was struggling to let himself free. Rosalie was standing right beside him, trying to sooth him. "Jasper, calm down. We'll go hunting in the morning." Rosalie said. I walked toward the, and stood in front of Jasper. "Jasper…" I trailed off. The way he looked was ravenous. He wanted more. "Where is she!?" He screeched. "Jasper, listen to me. You have tried so hard to work this through and we're really proud of you. You have to snap out of this." I told him. His face started to turn smooth but his eyes were craving for more. "Sorry, Edward," he apologized. I'm really sorry, I couldn't help it. He thought. Jasper was always the weakest link in the family—or so Emmett says so. Jasper had hope though. He had Alice to help him. "Jasper let's go for a walk." I suggested. Emmett let one arm done, still in a defensive position. Are you sure Eddie? He asked. "I'm sure."

Jasper walked on towards the forest. Rosalie and Emmett stayed behind. "Edward, I'm so sorry this happened. I didn't intend—" I interrupted him.

"I know, Jasper. This current situation made me realize so much things." I mused.

We were truly a danger to Bella. Not only to Bella, but to the whole Forks as well.

"Like what?" He asked. He was definitely curious.

"I was warned once, but I never listened. If I keep on letting this happen to her… I don't what I'd do next. What if the next bad thing that happens to her, is me?" It was a rhetorical question.

"That was just an accident, Edward." He tried to sooth me.

"Nothing is an accident to her. It happens for a reason." What if this was a sign? What if there was something I had to do?

"It doesn't necessarily have to mean that. It was my fault, Edward. Don't blame yourself." He tried to put that blame on himself, but that certainly didn't work. Many things ran through his head. He repeated the situation over and over again. It pained me to see that.

"Can you stop thinking about that!?" I blurted out.

"Sorry."

"It was my fault in the first place." I said.

"It wasn't. Alice's joy was." He chuckled, trying to make the conversation turn a different direction.

"That's not what I meant, if I just listened to Rosalie in the first place. None of this would have happened. She would have lived happier if I didn't interfere. It was my curiosity that brought her here. Everything, all of us, we're a threat!" I raised my voice.

"Edward, we try so hard not to be. We've done a great job for the past years." He tried to sooth me once again. Anger and regret was just too strong within me to be soothed. I had to decide what to do next.

"Jasper, we can't just let this keep on happening." I said.

"It's going to be fine, Edward." He gave warm smile.

I felt like we were talking for hours. Jasper was certainly one of the easiest to talk to. He never interrupted or made fun of my opinions and idea's. I then heard footsteps from behind us.

"Jasper? Are you okay?" We turned around and saw Alice with a disapproving look. Alice stepped forward and hugged Jasper. "I'm really sorry I made you do that." She whispered against his chest. She reached up and gave him a kiss.

"I'm still here." I said. They had a tendency to do that.

"How's she doing?" I asked.

"She's okay, I guess. She's alone with Carlisle."

"Oh, okay."

Japer took her hand and led her to the opposite direction, leaving me alone to think. I sprinted across the forest not knowing where I was headed, I knew my way back anyways. I was very disappointed with myself. I didn't want this sort of thing to happen. I then had to decide what I was going to do next. First, I loved Bella more than anything in the world—she was my life now. Second, was I truly right for her? She deserved more than me. She deserved more than this. If I truly loved her, I would let her be free. But is that what I really wanted? I've always thought for myself, it was time I thought for others—especially Bella. My mind wasn't processing properly at this moment. What if I'd given way to Mike Newton? Would she be bleeding right now? Being stitched by my father? So many things started to rewind in my head. From last spring to now. All that, caused by me. All of that has led nearly to her death. But for Bella, it was a daily routine for her. After all, she is a danger magnet. Ever since I interfered with her life, it has gotten even worse.

I stopped by a near tree for a while letting myself think. But nothing was coming in. I really had to decide what to do. If I wanted to keep her safe, I had to do something. If I'd tell her to stay away, that certainly wouldn't work. Bella would do anything to be with me, and I'd do the same thing. Is that the only way to keep her safe? By being with her? I punched the tree beside me, leaving a mark. It was truly hard for me to think.

I decided to go back to the house and wait for Bella. The run going to the house didn't take long. Carlisle's was fixing his tools while Jasper was sitting in the living room with Rose and Emmett. I waited for Bella by the front door. She had gone upstairs with Alice to change her blood stained clothes so that Charlie wouldn't notice. From downstairs, I could partially hear her conversation with Alice.

"Alice," she whispered.

"Yes?" Alice's voice was low, all traces of happiness gone.

"How bad is it?" she asked.

"I'm not sure yet."

"He's very unhappy with himself. It's all so much more of a challenge for him, and he hates feeling weak." Alice answered.

"It's not his fault. You'll tell him that I'm not mad at him, not at all, won't you?"

"Of course."

She came downstairs, all clean. She's all yours, Edward. Alice mused. As she reached the bottom of the stairs, I held the door open without a word.

"Take you things!" Alice cried as Bella walked warily toward me. She scooped up the two packages, one half opened, and her camera from under the piano, and pressed them onto Bella's good arm. "You can thank me later, when you've opened them."

Esme and Carlisle both said a quiet goodnight. Have a goodnight too Edward. They both thought. Bella hurried past the lanterns and the roses. I paced with her silently, still thinking to myself. As soon as we reached the truck, I opened the passenger door for her, and she climbed without a complaint. She looked at the stereo conspicuously. She pulled off the ribbon and threw it on the floor. As I drove, none of us spoke. I had no intentions of speaking. I didn't look at her or the stereo; I just kept my eyes on the road.

"Say something," she finally begged.

"What do you want me to say?" I asked in a detached voice. What would I say? There was nothing much to talk about.

"Tell me you forgive me." Forgive her for what? She hadn't done anything.

"Forgive you? For what?"

"If I'd been more careful, nothing would have happened."

"Bella, you gave yourself a paper cut—that hardly deserves the death penalty." It irritated from the fact that she thought it was her fault.

"It's still my fault."

"You fault? If you'd cut yourself at Mike Newton's house, with Jessica there and Angela and other normal friends, the worst that could possibly have happened would be what? Maybe they couldn't find you a bandage? If you'd tripped and knocked over a pile of glass plates on your own—without someone throwing you into them—even then, what's the worst? You'd get blood on the seats when they drove you to the emergency room? Mike Newton could have held your hand while they stitched you up—and he wouldn't be fighting the urge to kill you the whole time he was there. Don't try to take any if this on yourself, Bella. It will only make me more disgusted with myself." I raised my voice then. I wasn't clearly thinking of adding Mike Newton into the conversation—just the fact of him being there. Mike Newton would have been much better for her. None of this would have happened if I would have given way to Mike Newton.

"How the hell did Mike Newton end up in this conversation?" She demanded.

"Mike Newton ended up in this conversation because Mike Newton would be a hell of a lot healthier for you to be with," I growled. He certainly would be.

"I'd rather die than be with Mike Newton," She protested. "I'd rather die than be with anyone but you."

"Don't be melodramatic, please."

"Well then, don't be ridiculous."

I didn't answer back. It wasn't the right time to argue. I glared through the windshield.

We pulled up in front of her house, my expression still blank. I had to think for myself for a while. What I had to do, the possibilities of what could happen next. I killed the engine, but my hands stayed clenched around the steering wheel.

"Will you stay tonight?" She asked.

"I should go home." I surely needed to.

"For my birthday," she pressed. For the sound of her voice, she was trying to find ways to salvage the evening, but clearly nothing could.

"You can't have it both ways—either you want people to ignore your birthday or you don't. One or the other."

"Okay. I've decided that I don't want you to ignore my birthday. I'll see you upstairs." She hopped out, reaching back in for her packages. I frowned.

"You don't have to take those." I told her. Her expression was clearly fake. For her, this was just another way of taking me back. But I figured— I could just play along.

"I want them," she responded automatically.

"No, you don't. Carlisle and Esme spent money on you." I remembered that she didn't want anyone spending money on her—especially me.

"I'll live." She tucked her presents awkwardly on her good arm and slammed the door behind her. I was out of the truck and beside her in less than a second.

"Let me carry them, at least," I suggested as I took them away.

"I'll be in your room." She smiled.

"Thanks."

"Happy Birthday," I sighed, and leaned in to press my cold lips to hers. She reached up on her toes to make the kiss last longer when I pulled away. I smiled, then disappeared into the darkness. I climbed up the back of her house and reached her room. I opened the window and climbed in. I sat in her bed and waited, staring at the presents. It wasn't the right time for me to be happy, knowing what had happened. I had to decide now—now certainly was the right time. I could hear her and Charlie talking from here, but I didn't bother to listen. I was too aggravated by the recent situation. I started to toy with one of the boxes in my lap. I twirled it carefully, in between my hands, unthinkingly. I suddenly heard Bella coming in.

"Hi," I said my voice sad. She went to the bed, pushed the presents out of my hands, and climbed into my lap.

"Hi." She snuggled into my chest. "Can I open my presents now?" She was suddenly enthusiastic about her birthday, something I thought would rarely happen.

"Where did the enthusiasm come from?" I wondered.

"You made me curious." She picked up the long flat rectangle that was from Carlisle and Esme.

"Allow me," I suggested. I took the gift from her hand and tore the silver paper off. I handed the rectangular white box back to her.

"Are you sure I can handle lifting the lid?" She muttered, but ignored her. Inside the box was a long thick piece of paper with an overwhelming amount of fine print. It took her a minute to guess the information.

"We're going to Jacksonville?" And she was excited. It was a voucher for plane tickets, for both her and I.

"That's the idea." I explained.

"I can't believe it. Renée is going to flip! You don't mind, though, do you? It's sunny, you'll have to stay inside all day."

"I think I can handle it," the sun after all didn't affect me, just my skin. "If I'd had any idea that you could respond to a gift this appropriately, I would have made you open it in front of Carlisle and Esme. I thought you'd complain." She was definitely excited.

"Well, of course it's too much. But I get to take you with me!" I chuckled. "Now I wish I'd spent money on your present. I didn't realize that you were capable of being reasonable." My gift for her wasn't something I'd spent money on. It was a simple gift, just to let her know that I care. She set the tickets aside and reached for my present, her curiosity rekindled. I took it from her and unwrapped it. I handed back a clear CD jewel case. I made her a CD full of my compositions. I'd thought that if ever I'm not here—hunting maybe—that she could listen to it. That was the case, before what happened this evening.

"What is it?" She asked, perplexed. I didn't say anything; I took the CD and reached around her to put it in the CD player on the bedside table. I hit play, and we waited in silence. Then the music began. The first piece on the CD was her lullaby. Alice had helped me record it. She listened, speechless, and wide-eyed. I was waiting for her reaction. Tears started to well up her eyes, and she reached up to wipe them away. I thought her arm hurt.

"Does your arm hurt?" I asked anxiously.

"No, it's not my arm. It's beautiful, Edward. You couldn't have given me anything I would love more. I can't believe it."

"I didn't think you would let me get a piano so I could play for you here," I explained.

"You're right."

"How does your arm feel?"

"Just fine." She was lying. The look on her face wasn't very convincing.

"I'll get you some Tylenol."

"I don't need anything," she protested, but I slid her off my lap and headed for the door. "Charlie," she hissed. Charlie wasn't exactly aware that I frequently stayed over. But he wasn't such a problem.

"He won't catch me," I promised and disappeared silently out the door…and returned, catching the door before it had swung back to touch the frame. I had taken the glass from the bathroom and a bottle of pills. She took the pills I handed her without arguing.

"It's late," I noted. I cooped her up off the bed with one arm, and pulled the cover back with the other. I put her down with her head on her pillow and tucked the quilt around her. I lay there next to her—on top of the blanket so she wouldn't get chilled—and put my arm over her. She leaned her head against my shoulder and sighed happily.

"Thanks again," she whispered.

"You're welcome."

It was quiet for a long moment. I had no intentions of talking at all. My mind was abruptly going somewhere else.

"What are thinking about?" She wondered in a whisper. I hesitated for a second before I told her.

"I was thinking about right and wrong, actually." Which I was.

"Remember how I decided that I wanted you not to ignore my birthday?" She asked quickly.

"Yes," I agreed, wary.

"Well, I was thinking, since it's my birthday, that I'd like you to kiss me again."

"You're greedy tonight." I said.

"Yes, I am—but please, don't do anything you don't want to do," she added, piqued.

I laughed, and then sighed. "Heaven forbid that I should do anything I don't want to do," I said in a strangely desperate tone as I put my hand under he chin and her face up to mine.

The kiss began much the same as usual—I was as careful as ever. But something began to change. I urged for more. My lips became urgent, my free hand twisted in her hair and I held her face securely to mine. For once I didn't stop her. I wanted more of her.

When I stopped, I was abrupt; I pushed her away with gentle, firm hands.

"Sorry," I said. "That was out of line."

"I don't mind," she panted.

I frowned at her in the darkness. "Try to sleep, Bella."

"No, I want you to kiss me again."

"You're overestimating my self-control."

"Which is tempting you more, my blood or my body?" She challenged. It was both a tie. Since in my past life, I'd never such experienced love like this, or love at all, I craved for her body. But at the same time, the sweet scent of her blood was calling me in.

"It's a tie." I grinned briefly. "Now, why don't you stop pushing your luck and go to sleep?"

"Fine," she finally agreed, snuggling closer to me. It had given me time to decide my next presumption. I had no time left. I felt as if there was something that had to be done. Something that wouldn't supply to either both of us.