Please read the A/N at the bottom.
I spent two more days in the hospital after I had finally woken up. The Cullens had stayed in the hospital, as well, but they weren't always all in the room with me. I hated to admit it, but I liked it better that way― I felt pathetic enough all bandaged up; there was no need for them to bear witness to how lame I really was. I could barely even get up by myself to go to the restroom.
When Carlisle had told me I was allowed to go home, I was so excited that I almost burst out of my plaster cast. The entire Cullen Clan had had a good chuckle over my enthusiasm. I couldn't contain my anticipation as I jumped up and down in the patient-release wheelchair. At home I was going to have to use specialized crutches, which I knew were only a recipe for disaster with my luck.
Carlisle had driven me home, with Alice bouncing and Edward brooding in the backseat. I just sat with my head facing the window, contemplating the past few days as I stared unseeingly at the passing landscape. All I could think about were Edward's words in the rain that night; the conversation flew over and over again threw my mind. He had seemed sincere― and had remained the longest in my hospital room during my unfortunate stay there― but, for some reason, I still couldn't believe his words of apology. It had never made sense for such perfection as him to have loved me, so after the seed of doubt had been planted within me, it had sprouted to full on disbelief.
Although the car ride had passed in silence, my inside turmoil was anything but hushed. I considered all my options― forgiveness and romantic reconciliation; ignoring him until the Victoria issue was resolved and them continuing on with my life; or including Edward and the Cullens in my life as merely friends. The first seemed highly unlikely, but the second was too painful for me to contemplate; my chest throbbed with ache at the thought itself. So, I guessed I might as well try the final alternative: becoming friends with Edward again.
Friends. Could I manage that with him? I was sorely tempted to turn around and gaze upon his beautiful, flawless face, but resisted it. He didn't need to see how pitiable I was. I supposed for the sake of retaining him in my life, friends would have to do. Sure, I would die a bit on the inside each day when I saw him but couldn't have him, but at least I'd be able to watch him from afar.
What would happen when he found love again in front of my very own eyes? Could I handle that? Probably not. But could I fake it and pretend that I accepted it? Probably.
God! What had I ever done to have deserved such a fate?! How cruel must I have been in a prior life to have had heaven handed to me and then snatched away so soon after? Surely some heinous crime must have been committed by me to have so horrible a hand thrust upon me. Or maybe it was just the opposite. Perhaps one was only allotted a certain amount of bliss, and my euphoria had been much too much. I had used it all up so quick and fast, and it had to have been ripped from me like it had been. That made more sense to my messed-up psyche.
When we had arrived at last, I was surprised that we did not pull up to my familiar dorm building. Rather, we pulled up to the Cullen's home. Emmett's jeep, which he, Rose, Esme, and Jasper had driven home in, was parked next to us in the massive driveway. I turned around in my seat for the first time and shot a puzzled look at Carlisle.
"Welcome home," he had mumbled, taking the key out of the ignition. My brow furrowed in confusion and he sighed. "Bella, we think it more… appropriate… if you stay with us for a while; at least one of us will be able to watch you at all times―" I glared and opened my mouth to protest, but he laid a placating hand on the shoulder of my good arm and continued calmly― "With Victoria running around right now, your safety is the number one priority. None of us can very well stay in your dorm with you and your room mate to keep watch, so this is most convenient. One of us will be able to keep you safe at all times. We already spoke to your room mate and told her you'd be staying somewhere else for a bit."
I couldn't argue with that logic, but I certainly didn't have to be happy about it. Alice kept up her grin and Edward remained stoic as Carlisle opened his door. I had just sat there and waited for aid in getting out.
"Wait!" I called before he could stand up. Carlisle looked over at me and nodded.
"Well, um… how long do you think… I'm going to… have to stay here? I mean, I don't want to be a burden or anything…." I trailed off and looked down sheepishly at my lap. Carlisle reached out and ran his fingers soothingly over my head.
"Don't worry about it, Bella. We are the ones who initially put in you in danger, so we will be the ones to― by any means necessary― keep you out of it."
I grimaced. I didn't want to be their useless charity case. But what could I do? They obviously weren't going to take no for an answer.
I had nodded once, trying to preserve my dignity.
Carlisle had continued getting out of the car, and, as I pulled the door handle to open my door, started to walk around to help me out. Before he could make it over, however, Edward, who had sat behind me quietly the entire trip, dashed out of the car and stood before me. Always the perfect gentleman. He had helped me out of the car and up the stairs to the spacious house. His touch sent thrills throughout my whole body. The entire family had greeted me inside, while I just stood there and smiled nervously.
Alice had brought me upstairs and showed me the guest room that I'd be staying in. It was very pretty, with sparse furnishings. Alice had assured me― to my utter chagrin― that she'd "fix it up" soon. Great; we had gone from playing with Bella Barbie to playing with Bella Barbie's Malibu Dream Room. Just what I needed.
It had been a week since the day I had gotten to the Cullen's home. Carlisle and I had gone down to the college the first day and had explained that I had been in an accident. Unfortunately, with the time I had missed in the hospital― and the time I would surely miss with all the upcoming chaos― I had to take this semester off. My dorm and classes would still be available to me next semester, but it still didn't make me any happier. Edward would also resume his post as TA next semester. That made me feel a bit better about the whole situation.
On the first three nights, Alice had stayed upstairs in the room with me. Needless to say, when Alice had been here, I'd gotten very little sleep. She was entirely convinced that sleepovers in reality were much like those in chick flicks. Wrong. But she was simply incorrigible, so I couldn't stop her. She had braided my hair, painted my finger nails and toe nails, given me a facial (I couldn't really complain about that one; it had felt superb), and had made me watch girlie movies with the 'whole experience'― dimmed lights, sleeping bags (mine was on the bed, hers on the floor, even though I insisted it was unnecessary because she couldn't sleep), and about ten tons of buttered popcorn. I could just feel the blood clot coming on.
Tonight, however, the Cullens had to go hunt. Edward was staying behind with me, because apparently I was no longer capable of looking after myself. Humph. I had warned him as soon as the others had left that there was to be absolutely no watching me sleep. He had nodded his assent solemnly.
Now, I was getting ready to go to sleep, pulling on a pair of tattered sweatpants and a t-shirt that Alice had picked up for me at my dorm. I couldn't exactly navigate those stairs by myself, so I had sent her to bring me some clothes and toiletries. I mean, so far, I had tripped seven times with these crutches― today alone!
I hobbled over to the king-sized bed and laid my crutches against the nightstand before climbing onto the mattress. I snuggled underneath the hunter green covers and rested my head against the down pillow, sighing before drifting off into slumber.
My dream was simple, just a swirl of pastel colors and shapes, moving together in harmony. I floated between the colored spaces, drifting in and out of bright patterns. Every time I reached out to grasp something around me, though, it would slip through my fingers and dance away.
All of a sudden, a tune began to play, its familiar melody gliding through the soft air. The whirls and twirls of color gracefully spun along to the notes, perfectly matching the cadence. The rhythm suddenly grew in volume and force, and the notes dashed out faster and harsher. Then… SLAM!
I woke with a start, breathing heavily, but quickly recovered when I noticed where I was. Again, I heard the pounding beat, and immediately recognized where it came from. It was the sound of piano keys, forced down by forlorn, tortured fingers.
As soon as it started, it stopped, and once again turned gentle. The lull of my lullaby greeted me once again, and before I realized what was happening, I slipped quietly from the bed, soundlessly picking up my crutches.
I hadn't heard this song in so long― way too long― and the tears fell relentlessly down my face, dripping onto my hole-ridden white shirt. I walked mutely― or mute to my ears anyway― out my door and down the hall, determined to figure out the culprit of this heart wrenching rendition of my lullaby. It wasn't exactly the same― too dark, too dismal― but it was unmistakably mine. Or, at least it had been, long ago, in a much happier life.
Miraculously, I somehow made it down the stairs without harm to myself, and without much noise. Whoever was playing either didn't notice my approach, or didn't bother acknowledging it.
As I rounded the corner into the living room, I was met with the saddest sight I had ever laid my eyes on.
Edward sat before the piano, his gorgeous body limp upon the bench. His shoulders were hunched, and, although I couldn't see his face from the back, I knew it would be pained. He continued to drown in the music as his fingers stroked again and again over the pearly keys of his beloved instrument.
And as he played, he whispered one lone word.
My eyes grew wide and the tears fell heavier and more rapidly, blurring my world until the only thing that existed in my vision was his sad form, draped over the piano.
My heart broke over and over again as I watched the scene play out.
I realized then that he didn't know of my presence― surely he would have said something by now. And when he had spoken my name, it wasn't in recognition of my being there; it was in a broken lilt of want. He was so caught up in the music and in the moment that he wasn't even aware that I was in the room, now walking closer and closer as I cried.
When I was directly behind him, I dropped my crutches and laid my hands upon his shoulders, using him for support. Suddenly, he spun around, noticing me for the first time. I stumbled, and he caught me around the waist before I could fall. He stood up in an instant, keeping his hands on me. That was a good thing; I didn't know if I'd survive if he wasn't touching me right now.
"Bella, I'm so sorry!" he exclaimed, closing his eyes. "I didn't realize you were here."
My breathing was coming quick, as was his. "Edward, no," I murmured, "I am the one who is sorry. Seeing this, hearing you play that song, I figured it out."
He opened his eyes hesitantly, and I stared into his ocher gaze. "Figured what out?" he prompted.
I didn't bother responding with words. Instead, I reached my arms up and fastened them around his neck, pulling his face down to meet mine.
I met him halfway, and as my lips connected with perfection, I felt the ruptured hole in my heart fill at once. It didn't heal and scar… it merely disappeared.
Songs for this chapter: The Man who Can't be Moved by The Script
Dream by Priscilla Ahn
Obviously, things are not automatically going to get better. The next chapter will pick up right where I left off. I was going to make this longer, but my evil grandparents are bringing me to their house in a few minutes. Sorry. ):
Tomorrow, I am leaving to go to sleep away camp. I will be gone until July 24th, but I hope to get another chapter out within a day or two of my homecoming. Oh, and by the time I return, I'll officially be 15 years old! Woot!
Please review! I'd love to come home a month from now to a bunch of reviews from you lovely people. :D