I love you. I am so sorry. He has my mom, and I have to try. I know it may not work. I am so very, very sorry.
Don't be angry with Alice and Jasper. If I get away from them it will be a miracle. Tell them thank you for me. Alice especially, please.
And please, please don't come after him. That's what he wants, I think. I can't bear it if anyone has to be hurt because of me, especially you. Please, this is the only thing I can ask you now. For me.
I love you. Forgive me.
Sighing, I folded the note up on its worn out creases—I'd read it numerous times since receiving it—and placed it back in my pocket, setting my eyes on my love. I was seated in the chair next to her hospital bed, admiring her broken body.
I ignored Alice's voice and kept my eyes on Bella, finally safe and getting the medical attention she required. Her breaths were coming normally, her face adorned with a serene look. Anger built up in my chest when I thought of James, what he must have said to her, done to her before I'd arrived. I'd heard her screaming my name, and then the sound of her head smashing into the glass… and that was when I'd attacked James, fought him off… and Jasper and Emmett took care of him while I found her, bleeding…
"Edward," Alice said again, more urgent this time. She'd been repeating my name over and over, trying to get me to answer, but I didn't want to move; I was content with spending time with Bella, watching her breathe, watching her exist. She no longer smelled like other people's blood—that had been interesting—and her sweet scent was wafting into my nostrils. I wished she would speak to me, or move, or do anything to prove that she was alive.
Someone slapped me across the face, which forced me to tear my gaze from Bella's sleeping form. "Edward," she seethed in a quiet voice, "Renée's getting on the plane now, but when she get here she's going to want time alone with her daughter, you haven't budged an inch from her side since she got here—"
"We've been here for a half an hour!" I spat back, but Alice continued talking.
"—found this video camera with a video inside it, but we haven't watched it yet, waiting for you."
I'd turned back to face Bella, but now I froze and slowly pivoted to meet Alice's eyes. "What?"
"You heard me. Jasper found a video camera in the ballet studio and brought it back. We haven't watched it yet; we've been waiting for you to get your tail out of here so we can watch it."
My heart got desperate. I looked at Bella longingly and Alice met my gaze, her eyes holding sympathy and affection. "She's not going anywhere. She won't wake up for a while. Guaranteed you'll make it back before Renée does… just come with us so we can watch it. It was on top of the VCR; it was there for a reason. He meant for us to watch it."
Very hesitantly, I followed her out of the hospital room, waving goodbye at my sleeping Bella.
Of course, the doctors at the hospital had recognized Carlisle's name, and when he asked for a private room to converse with his family in, they provided one. Rosalie, Jasper, Carlisle, Esme, and Emmett were already in the room, either sitting in chairs or glancing out the window. When we walked in, Esme was the only one to stir. She walked over to me, wrapped her arms around my shoulders, and hugged me tightly to her body.
"Esme," I breathed, pressing my face into her hair.
"You're okay." My shoulder muffled her voice, but I could hear the note of relief in it. I chuckled quietly—she sounded like Bella sometimes.
"Let's start this," Carlisle said, and slipped a memory card into one of the hospital computers. "It was recording when we found it," he warned, "so… it might not be something pleasant to see." He quickly uploaded the file and, after giving me a level look, hit play.
It was focused on Bella's face, horrified, a good distance away. "I'm sorry," James' voice rang out, "but I just don't think that he'll be able to resist hunting me after he watches this. And I wouldn't want him to miss anything. It was all for him, of course. You're simply a human, who unfortunately was in the wrong place, at the wrong time, and indisputably running with the wrong crowd, I might add."
He took a step toward Bella, who leaned backward subconsciously. "Before we begin… I would just like to rub it in, just a little bit. The answer was there all along, and I was so afraid Edward would see that and ruin my fun. It happened once, oh, ages ago. The one and only time my prey escaped me."
Carlisle's eyes flickered to mine, but I turned back to the computer, feeling fury bubble in my chest as James continued to talk. "You see, the vampire who was so stupidly fond of this little victim made the choice that your Edward was too weak to make. When the old one knew I was after his little friend, he stole her from the asylum where he worked—I never will understand the obsession some vampires seem to form with you humans—and as soon as he freed her he made her safe. She didn't even seem to notice the pain, poor little creature. She'd been stuck in that black hole of a cell for so long."
Next to me, I felt Alice go rigid.
"A hundred years earlier and she would have been burned at the stake for her visions," the hunter continued. "In the nineteen-twenties it was the asylum and the shock treatments. When she opened her eyes, strong with her fresh youth, it was like she'd never seen the sun before. The old vampire made her a strong new vampire, and there was no reason for me to touch her then. I destroyed the old one in vengeance," he added, sighing.
"Alice," Bella exhaled a second after he finished.
I now understood why Alice had gone rigid. Jasper was pressing her body into his, facing her away from the screen and snarling softly at the computer. It was menacing despite the low volume, and I felt another surge of hatred at James.
"Yes, your little friend," James said. "I was surprised to see her in the clearing. So I guess her coven ought to be able to derive some comfort from this experience. I get you, but they get her. The one victim who escaped me, quite an honor, actually."
I growled at full volume, understanding what he implied.
"And she did smell so delicious. I still regret that I never got to taste… she smelled even better than you do. Sorry—I don't mean to be offensive. You have a very nice smell. Floral, somehow…"
He advanced on Bella, stopping centimeters from her. Taking a strand of hair, he smelled at it, and then pressed it back against her neck. He stroked Bella's cheek, and I growled even louder, though I knew I had to be careful about what animalistic sounds I was making.
"No," James said quietly, barely detected by the camera's microphone. "I don't understand. Well, I suppose we should get on with it. And then I can call your friends and tell them where to find you, and my little message."
Bella trembled as the tracker circled her, ending in a crouch. Then, obviously a snap decision, Bella broke into a run toward the emergency exit. I resisted the urge to yell and tell her to stop.
He launched himself in the air, smashing her into the mirrors, her head hitting exceptionally hard. Glass shattered around her, embedding in her hair and sprinkling across the ground below her.
I pressed my hands to my eyes and backed away from the screen, trying to contain my rage. How could he do this? How did I let it happen? "I should've been there," I groaned, guilt and ire magnifying itself each time I thought more about it.
"That's a very nice effect. I thought this room would be visually dynamic for my little film. That's why I picked this place to meet you. It's perfect, isn't it?"
"Stop!" I shouted, covering my ears. I couldn't watch this. Bella was suffering, because of me. "Stop it!"
I heard the crack and knew it was Bella's leg without even watching the screen, and let out another cry of despair as she screeched in agony.
"Would you like to rethink your last request?" Another scream.
"Stop!" I yelled again, and I could feel pitiful glances on my back.
"Wouldn't you rather have Edward try to find me?"
"NO!" she screamed, "No, Edward, don't—"
She went through all of this because of me. She refused to let me save her. She didn't want me to get hurt. My hand flew to my pocket, and I took the note out and pressed it between my hands.
There was another smash, and I rifled around, facing the computer. Her head had come in contact with the mirrors again, and blood was spilling out of her head at an alarming rate. The whole time, James was grinning, pleased with himself.
In a final attempt of protection, Bella raised one hand in front of her face, and that was when he bit her.
I swore once under my breath, a broken sound, as I felt my composure collapse. Turning from the computer, I found the corner of the room and leaned against one of the walls, my hands covering my eyes. The dry, shattered sobs fell from my mouth as I loathed myself.
Bella had endured the worst for me, in a feeble attempt to save her mother and keep me safe. She had known she was going to die, and yet she'd done it anyway. And what had I done? Allowed her to get hurt. Almost killed. We were almost too late.
In the background, I could hear Jasper and Emmett tearing James apart, and Bella's screaming, my pleading and dry crying, similar to what I was doing now. Someone pulled me away from the wall and into their arms, and by their height, I could tell it was Alice.
Esme was right behind her, wrapping her arms around my side, resting her chin on my shoulder. "It's okay now, Edward," she murmured softly, trying to soothe me. "Please, don't cry, Edward. She's okay; she's going to heal. James is dead. It's all over."
"Don't be upset, Edward," Alice added. "Everything's okay."
But it wasn't. Victoria and Laurent were still out there. Bella was alive, but for how long? How long until they would attack again.
"It's okay, man," Emmett reassured me from somewhere behind Esme, his voice sounding shaken.
A wave of relaxation swept through the air, and I knew Jasper was at work. My rapid emotions were probably driving him insane. I pulled away from Alice and Esme slowly, sending them thankful looks, and met Jasper's gaze. "Sorry," I apologized.
He shook his head. "Absolutely fine. Don't apologize for feeling the way you do."
Rosalie hadn't met my eyes once. I feel bad for him. He shouldn't have to go through this… over a human. Since she's found out, our life has been turned upside down. How can he care so much about her? She's so… average.
My teeth clenched together, but I didn't say anything to her. Carlisle walked up to me and gave me a very manly hug, but the love behind it was obvious. I watched as the video on the computer ended, Jasper's long fingers blocking the lens, his voice muttering incomprehensible things.
"Alice," I said, and her eyes met mine. Her thoughts were untroubled—she was happy to know where she'd come from. "Are you okay?" I asked anyway, not sure if she was hiding something from me.
She shrugged, and her thoughts remained the same. She wasn't translating anything into a different language, so I thought it was truthful. "It's a help to know," she smiled. "It's just… odd… not remembering, you know?"
"I'm going to go back in with Bella," I declared, and exhaled deeply. "If you need me… I'll be there."
I turned and left the room, walking swiftly down the halls, turning into Bella's room. She wasn't awake yet, of course, but I hurried to her side and lay down next to her on the hospital bed. My love was safe, her pursuer was dead, and nothing would ever take her from me again.
I was content.
I'm rereading Twilight for the billionth time, and felt a desire to write this. I hate it when things are left unanswered, and I can't wait until MS comes to put this into play. (:
I've realized that it was either Tuesday or Wednesday when James found Bella (starting from the fact that it was a Sunday when Bella met the Cullens/the baseball game, and then counting the number of times Bella woke up. She woke up from unconsciousness on Friday, so was out for at least two or three days.
ANYWAYS. Please review!