A/N: Man, it's been ages since I've posted one of these, an AN and a chapter both. I would like to sincerely apologize to all readers who may or may not have lost faith in me. It is hard to admit, but I'm more ashamed in the fact that I let my personal life affect updating than I am in not updating. If you'd like to understand a bit of what's going on and why I didn't update for so long, you can look on my profile page, first thing under my name and age.
Disclaimer: I own nothing.
CHAPTER 22: FAMILY
It was a blissful silence that engulfed us. We sat in each other's arms, my head tucked beneath Edward's chin, his large hand rubbing comforting circles in the small of my back. It was the most relaxed I had felt in a year.
It was funny that, as virginal as I was (am), I was the one who initiated…whatever it was that happened. As that thought crossed my mind, I felt my cheeks burn with realization. I hid my face deeper within Edward's warmth, hoping that if he noticed, he wouldn't question it.
He chuckled, laying a kiss in my hair, not saying a word.
I hoped the silence would last forever.
The funny thing about peace was that it was ephemeral. Two days later, I was in a doctor's office, making an appointment for the surgery that would revert my life to something I could no longer recognize.
"Normalcy" was the word Dr. Calgary had used. "Solitary" was what I was thinking.
Edward was doing a great job with the prospect of having a normal girlfriend. He wasn't jumping for joy, exactly, but he was being supportive, supporting any hope I may have had with augmented displays of encouragement and strength—strength that I couldn't possibly be capable of.
It was that in which kept Edward afloat amongst his own drowning that kept me hoping that the lack of oxygen would force Edward to stay with me. Because staying with me was like drowning, it seemed. I loved him, more than I had loved any one person, but I had learned a valuable lesson from James.
You've got to separate yourself from the things that hurt you. And I was the disease that would kill Edward.
I was a depressing person, a being that probably wasn't capable of being strong for him. Look at what I'd done previously. I'd been weak and questioned him, cried for him, but no action had taken place on my part that wasn't selfish. He was strong, trusting, and capable of forging this relationship from my unwillingness and turning me into someone, a somebody. I mattered when I was with him.
It was selfishness that kept me holding his hand loosely in mine, feeling his smooth fingertips, lightly tracing the smooth line of his fingernail. He drove along, humming along to a comforting piano piece that flowed from the car's speakers. It wouldn't be long before he would leave me at my house.
"You're surprisingly quiet, Bella. Are you alright?" he asked, his thumb rubbing along the skin of my wrist. I smiled, nodding away his worried.
"I'm fine. Just a bit worried, is all. The surgery's pretty soon, you know?" I could practically see his exasperated, teasing grin. He lifted my hand to his cheek, kissing my wrist.
"There's no need to worry, love. Dr. Calgary promised that everything would go great. From this point on, it's purely routine."
I nodded, taking a deep breath that Edward understood to be relief. It was, but not for the reason he thought. If Edward had realized that I was thinking these thoughts, bleak as they were, he'd surely try and comfort me. The sad thing was, Edward was like a prescription antidepressant. His affects were nearly instantaneous and just clearing him from my system took days. For me, I feared it would take years.
Separate yourself from the things that hurt you, Bella, I thought to myself. Your mind, for example. Hold what comforts you tightly, and let everything else go.
It was selfish, but I could do it. I'd been relying on my own needs to make my decisions for awhile now. It was a human reaction, something that I couldn't avoid. It was like falling in love with Edward.
Totally out of my own control.
We pulled into my driveway and I forced my hand to release Edward's. He opened the door for me and kissed my cheek lovingly as I stepped out, rubbing the back of my hand with his thumb again.
"I'll be back tomorrow. I fear I've been neglecting Esme. She's been missing her gardening buddy." I frowned, ready to chastise him for putting me before his family, but he merely kissed my cheek once more before pecking me on the lips. He laughed at my surprised expression and pulled me inside my house before saying goodbye.
I shook my head, trying to clear it of the haze before going up the stairs to my room.
"Hey Bells!" I jumped, nearly tripping over myself.
"Emmett, what the heck? What are you doing in my room?"
"Just checking my email." I shook my head, reorienting myself and walking over to sit on my bed. My brother had lost most respect for personal space or property. He was funny that way.
"Fine, just sign back into mine when you're done, please. I need to see if there are any emails from Renee. Edward's not the only one neglecting his family." Emmett laughed boisterously, his fingers clacking along the keyboard.
I relaxed as Emmett read me some emails that he'd gotten from Renee—doing high-pitched impressions while he was at it—most of them questioning why I hadn't replied back to her emails. I groaned at her worries, but quickly reassured myself that all would be well once I got to typing up my replies.
Emmett signed back onto my email and went through the notions, typing out my words for me, reassuring Renee and giving her some of the juicy gossip (I didn't really trust Emmett to not completely butcher my relationship with Edward with exaggerations so I typed those parts myself before seating myself on the bed again) before wishing her well and saying "Send".
"Bells, you've got a couple other emails here. Do you want me to read them for you?" Surprised, I sat up. Nobody emailed me.
"Who're they from?"
"Hmm, it just says 'Red' in the sender bar. It's not flagged, so it doesn't have a virus. I'll check it anyway."
I hummed in response, assuming it was just spam.
"Bella," Emmett said, but that wasn't what caught my attention. His voice was reserved, calm but startlingly serious. "What's going on that you aren't telling me?"
Confused, I frowned, "Nothing…you do know that I'm having surgery in a week, right?"
"This isn't a joking matter, Bella."
"What exactly is the matter then? I have no idea what you're talking about."
"I'm talking about this person claiming that you're a murderer!"
I sat up quickly, "What?"
There was the sound of static and a couple erratic clicks before there was any sort of proper sound and it was so familiar, suddenly.
"Hiding away again, aren't you Isabella? Such a sick, cowardly thing to do, you filthy, conniving bitch. After all that James did for you, for all that he sacrificed just to give you an image, you kill him? You just used him, didn't you? I swear on my life that I'll avenge his death, Isabella. He may not have realized who truly loved him but I'll show him. You're dead, Isabella."
I stood, shocked and otherwise unable to move.
"You know who did this, don't you?" Emmett said accusingly, the chair he sat on scraping against my floor. "Bells, you need to tell me immediately. This can't be safe. If she's some kind of psychopathic freak, we need to talk to Charlie about it."
Shaking my head, I blinked repeatedly, as if my eyes were suddenly the key to understanding. "No, Emmett, it's just Victoria. She's probably still angry or something. I mean, the last one—"
"Wait, you mean there were more?" I nodded hesitantly. Emmett really didn't need to freak out over this. There were people who got angry and then there were people like Victoria who never stopped being angry. I could handle that.
"Her full name's Victoria Scott, right?" I nodded again and Emmett's clicking continued.
"Jesus," he murmured, his breathing suddenly much louder. "When was the last time you checked your email, Bells?"
I shrugged. It was probably the easiest thing to do at this time. "I'm not really sure. Probably not for about a month or so. Why?"
"Because you've got about thirty emails from this girl, some from a Victoria Scott and the rest from Red. They're all about the same, saying the same things."
"Bella, you can't tell me you didn't know about this. She's done this before, right?"
"Well, she didn't—look, it's not like she actually has done anything about it. I'm sure that she'll let it go soon. She was really torn up when James died. I can see how it'd be hard for her."
Emmett sighed, his hand coming down "gently"—if that word was even in his vocabulary—on my shoulder, weighing on it just enough for me to know that this was one of his comforting touches.
"Bells, there are more than enough psychodramas out there for me to know that death isn't easily let go of. This Victoria chick is seriously messed up in the head if she thinks threatening you will get her anywhere. She's tossing words like "avenge" around and that worries me." He pulled me into his chest tightly.
It was then that I realized that Edward wasn't the only one who had been sacrificing so much for me. However, it was this familiar hug that Emmett gave me that told me that my neglect hadn't affected our relationship negatively.
"I can't hit a girl, so this chick is out of my range, but we're going to have a long talk about this when Charlie gets home." He pulled away and held both my shoulders so he was facing me. I could envision him looking at me with his head inclined,
"Charlie and I almost lost you with that crash, Bells. I'm not trying to guilt you here, but we were torn to bits about it. Then we found out about all the shit you'd gone through and how screwed up that James guy was and it was like another red flag going up. We don't want more alarms sounding when it comes to you. One was enough for a lifetime."
My throat wouldn't swallow around the ball of leaden guilt, but I managed to hold back the waterworks as I hugged Emmett as tightly as I could, nodding as he pet my hair in his rough, caring hands.
"It'll be okay, Bells. Everything will work out in the end."
Somehow, I managed to find hope in his words, as well as a sense of that self-preservation I'd severely been lacking. Victoria was a problem and I'd have my family there to back me up for every step of recovery.
A/N: Wow, this is probably the first chapter in a long time that hasn't had a complete cliffhanger. It's pretty short, but it's enough to open up a new chapter for me. I hope you enjoyed it.
Thanks for those of you, the ones who stuck with me and the ones who have found me. I really appreciate it.