AN: So, I'm still alive despite the odd death threat. ^^;
Keep voting on the poll for an epilogue in the future or the present or leave me a message in a review. Remember though, that ultimately I'll be making the decision whether you guys agree, so be warned. I haven't entirely decided what to do yet, but I've got an idea.
Four hours earlier...
The Halo hadn't changed a bit.
Well, that's a lie actually. There was new flooring – light pine to a dark oak panelling – and the seats had new covers in crimson, blood red which matched the new rug underneath the snooker table and the thick curtains which hung at the Georgian-style windows. There were a couple of new faces but many more old ones which greeted me as I entered the pub.
But the important things were still the same. The atmosphere was the familiar friendly tone with a hint of excitement. The music still played over in the corner and I was glad to recognise Jenny strumming Irish tunes whilst Gavin sung the well-known 'Galway Girl' despite neither being of any Celtic heritage let alone Irish.
"And I ask you man, what's a fellow to do, when her hair is black and her eyes are blue?"
Lisa, Natalie and I dumped our belongings on a table before joining Shawn at the bar, not worrying about our stuff being stolen. That was the type of environment that The Halo had, everyone was your friend and so everyone kept an eye out for one another.
"What we got here then?" Came the flirty voice of someone so very hard to forget. "Come on over 'ere, Lee, see what the cat dragged in."
I arched a brow at Ryan, a smile twitching on my lips. "Long time no see."
"Aye," Ryan replied with a flirty grin as his twin joined him, "Look at her, Lee, see that fancy dress she be wearing now? She's darker too, ain't she?"
"It'll be all that American sunshine she be soaking up whilst we were left in the rain." Lee shook his head sadly. "Never thought I'd see your face back in here."
"Can't get rid of me that easily."
He chuckled. "Aye, we ship ya off to California and you bloody come back! I thought women had no sense of direction?"
"Maybe, but unlike men we're willing to stop and ask for directions."
Ryan snorted. "Oh, below the belt."
Another voice cut in – a deep female voice with a husky undertone – saying, "What's all the fuss over here then? By God Lee, if you're flirting with another floozy you'll be going celibate for a while!"
Lee turned a deep red, averting his eyes to the ground like a scolded puppy as Maria made her way over. She flicked back her glossy, red mane ready to outdo anyone seeking for her fiancé's affection. She stopped short upon seeing my smiling face.
"Bella!" she screeched, eyes widening, "How are you? What are you doing our way? You haven't given up on America – I know the American Dream is a load of crap but–"
I shook my head. "Holiday," I replied, "Come down to see my new baby brother."
"Oh, Renée brought the little fella in the other day. He's so adorable, makes me want to have my own." She sent Lee a withering look. "He's always being punished with celibacy so I think I'll be looking elsewhere for a donor."
I snorted with laughter. "You lot haven't changed a bit – well 'cept for Lee, here, he's not as cocky. It's good to see someone bring him down a peg or two, we'll be waiting for Ryan's turn next."
"You offering, honey?" Ryan drawled with an easy smile.
"You wish," I scoffed.
"Maybe," he said, running his eyes over me affectionately. "Of course, I always had an eye on you. Charlie was always making a gun shape with his hand, aiming at my head but he needn't be worried with you and Gary wrapped around one another." He tossed a tea towel over his shoulder, leaning against the bar. "Been hearing about your new guy, some swanky American with an indoor pool–" at this I give Shawn a glare, "–and a medical degree soon to be in his pocket." His face lost its flirty tone and became serious as he said, "If he be treating you badly, I'm more than happy to deck him."
"Honey, you hate taking time off work. Flying to America to punch a guy then flying back will be two days, three tops."
Ryan broke out in another grin, a flash of perfect white teeth. "You be telling him I'm next in line for you."
Used to his flirtatious banter by now, I replied easily, "Will do, Ryan, will do."
"Speaking of boyfriends and all," Lee spoke up, glancing towards the other end of the pub and back my way, "I think you'd better know that Gary is around here somewhere with whatever flavour of the week. The guy is disgusting."
We all shot him a disbelieving look.
"Hey, I at least lasted two weeks, sometimes three. He barely makes it through the night before swapping."
I shrugged lightly. "I'm fine, just shows who came out better from the relationship. He's gone commitment-phobic and I'm almost into a year-long relationship."
"Is it serious?" Maria wanted to know, wiping up a spill on the counter.
Lee – who had been serving someone – turned to face me when the question was asked. Apparently it was on everyone's mind.
I shrugged uneasily. The topic of mine and Edward's relationship was always one that had me nervous. "Well, Edward says he's in love with me but..." I trailed off uselessly as I felt Lisa place a comforting hand on my shoulder. I guess the conversation we'd had last year had stuck in her mind.
"You don't believe him?" Maria asked. "I thought that with Lee, you know but I'm sure you'll eventually come to see it."
"No, no," I said, shaking my head, "I believe him – after all the wonderful things he's done I don't think I could deny his love for me. It's just, well, I don't love him. I love him like I love my friends, my family... even Gary."
"You loved Gary?"
"Yeah, but I wasn't in love with him. It's the same with Edward. If we broke up, I'm sure I'd be miserable just as I'd be miserable if Shawn died tomorrow or something."
Shawn's handsome face became shadowed with worry. He glanced uncertainly towards me and I gave him a nod – a signal that I was fine.
"Maybe you are in love with him," Ryan suggested with a shrug, "something is obviously keeping you with him. Relationships don't last a year without love."
"Yeah," I replied with a sad smile coming to my lips, "maybe I am in love. Maybe my brain just has to catch up with my heart."
My whole body was tingling.
I slugged back another Smirnoff Ice, feeling the familiar warmth spread throughout my stomach as it settled. I was drunk, that I was sure, and it felt great.
Shawn and Maria were dancing to the Irish songs being played, but they were just as drunk as me and had chosen to grind. An odd choice perhaps, even more so when Shawn should be grinding against a guy instead.
Maria stumbled over her own feet and quickly latched onto Shawn for support. From the corner of my eye, I could see Lee watching them both carefully.
Grinning, I swivelled on my stool – almost sliding off in the process – and called out his name. "Don't look so jealous, honey."
His eyes remained fixed on them.
"Come on, Shawn's gay, besides Maria is too bold for Shawn, their personalities would totally clash."
His eyes finally met mine. "I'm more worried about Maria's health, actually. I don't want her to hurt herself."
"She's a big girl," I replied, "she can look after herself."
He shrugged. "I'm male; I can't help but want to protect her. Besides, I think she's pregnant."
"Pregnant?" I echoed, dumbstruck. Through my drunken haze, I remember Maria saying she wanted kids and joking that Lee would never provide her that. "But how can you think it and not her? I think she'd be first to notice."
"She's too busy to notice."
I gnawed on my bottom lip. He stood there, behind the bar, looking so masculine and...worried. It was somewhat adorable. "Symptoms?"
"She's a few weeks late but she reckons it's down to stress. We're planning to open a new pub on the other side of town."
"Right, plausible both ways. What else?"
"She's been throwing up, not during the morning but just in general."
"Okay, anything else?"
He nodded, wringing the table cloth. "When we...er...have sex, she complains that her breasts ache."
I almost laughed. "OK, so they're all symptoms. So, perhaps she is pregnant or perhaps she's stressed which explains the first two and the tender chest just means she'll be having a period in a few days." I let out a sigh. "Look, I get that you're worried. Perhaps wait a few more days, see if she has her period and if not, sit her down and present the facts. Maria likes the facts being shoved in her face."
He nodded with an appreciative smile. "Thanks."
"You're welcome, honey," I replied. "You look after her, OK?"
When he promised he would, I grinned and slid off my stool, making my way over to Shawn and Maria. Tapping her on the shoulder, I asked drunkenly, "Mind if I cut in?"
Maria leaned forwards and kissed my cheek, or at least she tried to, but ended up more on my eyebrow. "Sure, thing sweetums." With a pat on my cheek, she stumbled off towards her fiancé.
Shawn was quick to latch onto my already wiggling hips, dragging me to every guy's centre of the universe – his groin. "Isabella, Isabella, Isabeeeeella," he sung, his thick Dublin accent obvious. "You know I love you, right?"
I nodded, swaying with him as the music changed to "I'll Tell me Ma".
I'll tell me ma when I go home
The boys won't leave the girls alone
They pull my hair & stole my comb
But that's all right till I get home
"I want you to be happy, my Bella, so happy," he murmured thickly. "Are you happy?"
"Of course I am," I replied hastily, even in my current stupor. "Really Shawn, I am. What more could I want? I've got money, a degree coming my way, I'll be getting an apartment with Edward when we return to college and I've got both Edward and my friends."
I couldn't see his face, but I got the impression he was rolling his eyes. "What about love Bella? Whether or not you admit it, you're a true romantic what with all those romance novels you gush over. Can you keep this up, without the love?"
"I'm almost there," I whispered and could feel the bitter tears begin to blur my vision. Hastily, I wiped my hand across my face and sniffled. "I think I'm faulty. Do you think God will give me a refund?"
His deep chuckled vibrated across my back as he buried his face into my neck. The scent of sweet apples drifted into my senses and as nice as it smelt, I missed Edward's familiar scent; a mixture of cinnamon and lavender, the latter a direct result of him staying over too often and using Alice's shampoo. "I think you do love him Bella, you're just waiting for a sign."
I rolled my eyes. "A sign? Are you serious Shawn? Just how drunk are you anyway?"
"Not drunk enough," he replied with a booming laugh. "Come get another drink with me, Bella dear! We must celebrate!"
"Celebrate what?" I asked, confused. Hadn't we been discussing my love life?
"Life, Bella, we celebrate life! It's glorious, it's beautiful and it's all we have to live for!"
I turned, narrowing my eyes at him. "Shawn, are you high?"
It felt like someone was drilling through my skull, like a stampede of overweight elephants happened to go cross my head, like someone was literally trying to hammer my head flat, like someone had placed me in a vice, like-
OK, you get the point. My head was pulsating, my stomach felt like Jelly and simply walking to the toilet proved a difficult feat when I tripped over myself three times more than I normally would have. And when I finally made it into a cubicle, I emptied my stomach down the repulsive-smelling toilet before flushing and stumbling back out.
A glance in the mirror backed up my earlier assumptions. I. Was. A. Mess.
My eyeliner and mascara no longer caused my eyes to pop but rather made me resemble a panda, my lipstick was smeared around my mouth from giving out too many goodbye kisses and my face was washed out, all colour vanishing along with my usual permanent blush. I looked like a zombie with a bad beautician.
I managed to sort it out, using tissue and water to wipe away most of the damage. My lips were feeling dry, dehydration from the alcohol, so I applied some balm and ran my hands through my bird's nest of a hair. I still looked like a tramp, but at least now I looked like a semi-alive tramp.
At some point, my heel had broken so I was currently walking barefoot across the pub as I tried to search for Shawn. Spotting Lisa and Natalie, they told me he was outside having a cigarette whilst he waited for me.
With a thanks and another set of goodbyes to everyone, I managed to coordinate my movements enough to find the doorway out into the clear night.
The air whipped around me, making me shiver. I regretted leaving the house without a jacket now, but there was no point whinging and whining about the unchangeable. Besides, I could always beg for Shawn's leather jacket. Hehe.
I stretched onto my toes, trying to spot his mop of messy hair in the crowds. It was last orders in the pubs lining the street, so most were all retreating home at the same time making it almost impossible to spot Shawn.
I followed the sound of my name, spotting Shawn on the other side of the road standing inside a bus shelter. Waving, I weaved through the dispersing crowds and stepped onto the road.
In that moment, three things became absolutely certain.
One, I'd left my broken pair of heels inside the pub erasing all ideas of gluing the heel back on. Had I not been drunk, I'd have probably gone back for the Louis Vuitton shoes which Alice had bought me last month, but my drunken high was leaving me a little reckless.
Two, whoever was making that damned awful squealing sound should rot in hell. It was prime-drunken time and jeez, some people were already feeling the effects of an early hangover.
And three, the car heading straight for me wasn't about to stop.
I heard Shawn call me name. I saw the driver trying to swerve. I heard people screaming as the car made impact.
And I felt my entire body lurch, as the car's bumper sent me hurtling through the air, only to land a few feet away. Somewhere, in the back of my hazy mind, I realised the position I was in wasn't good. My neck was twisted at the wrong angle and my back felt all awkward. Any feeling left my body, but at least there wasn't any pain. No tears rolled down my cheeks as the black haze filled my vision. No, somehow this was peaceful, like being in a dreamless slumber.
I could hear everyone screaming and Shawn's frightened sobbing by my ear. In the distance, sirens could be heard, but it was all fading away, like pulling the blinds, until eventually it was silent and I was left with my own thoughts. Thoughts which too, were slowly going.
I wanted to cry, I wanted to release the anger. I didn't want to be alone. I wanted Edward.
Oh God, Edward. What was I going to do?
And as my last thoughts disappeared, I could almost smell the spicy scent of cinnamon as the coppery smell of blood filled my nose.
I hated blood.
Author Note: So, another cliffhanger. Well, at least you know how she ended up in hospital. Next chapter will be entirely in Edward's POV. I think I can fully say that this story will end in 2-3 chapters. It depends on what I decide with the Epilogue. Quick apology for any mistakes, I figured you'd want this ASAP so I never had a chance to proof-read. ):
Other News: OK, extra bit here. For those who are curious, TEoA is making some progress. I wrote the next chapter, so it should be out once it's proof-read. Remember, it's still on hiatus so don't beg for super-quick updates because it won't be possible when the story holds no interest for me anymore.
HOWEVER, there is a silver lining in the cloud because, as I've told a lot of you, I'm going to begin writing on Fiction Press. I've got two stories in progress (on my computer rather than the actual account) but there was another story I was planning to do but I just couldn't fit it in. Then inspiration struck, and in short, I may have a new Twilight Fan Fiction in the near possible future. It's grabbed my attention and is pretty much throttling me until I begin it. I want to know your views though.
Should I start something? I'm pretty confident I'll complete it because I've never been this excited about a Twilight FF idea of mine. It will be pretty angsty, but it will come with a healthy side-order of humour and of course, romance. It'll feature around all the main characters in Twilight, including Jacob and.... Nessie. ^^ Only Nessie will feature as Bella's cousin, rather than daughter. It'll be set during High school, or technically Secondary School as it won't be American based. I'm contemplating setting it in Ireland, but I'm not sure I know enough about Ireland to succeed. Of course, I could always ask my beat for TEoA to help, seeing as she lives in Ireland. Hmm...I'm not too sure yet.
Let me know if you want a summary of the plotline released.