PRETTY THINGS

CHAPTER 5

BPOV

***MERRY CHRISTMAS!

Without actually realizing it, I ran all the way to the memorial park. As much as I hated it being there, especially when Charlie was still alive, I still found myself wanting to be there. It was so serene, so quiet. It gave me a place to think.

Peace.

Quiet.

The swans were nowhere to be seen today. A few times I saw their feathers, but for the most part they stayed hidden. A few leaves from the trees littered the ground. It was bitterly cold, which I hadn't realized this morning as I was making my getaway, and I was about to leave when I sensed someone's presence behind me and a small, spritely shadow covered my own. She sat down next to me.

"I'm so sorry, Bella," Alice said in her tinkling soprano.

I sniffled. "For what? You didn't do anything wrong."

"About Edward," she said. "I'm sorry I didn't tell you he'd be flying in so soon. I honestly didn't know."

I shrugged. "It's no big deal."

She winced at my cold voice. She placed her umbrella on the ground and sighed. Her head dropped. "Bella..."

"Alice, I'm fine."

She shook her head, and when her head came up there were tears in her eyes. "No, Bella, you're not. You're not the same."

"Sorry." I shrugged again.

A strangled sound came from her throat. I didn't understand her. What the hell was she crying about?

"What are you crying for, Alice?"

She ran her hand under her nose, like a little child, reminding me that this was Alice. Underneath the designer clothes and expensive spray tan and hair care, she was still Alice. My best friend. She hadn't changed at all.

I had.

"You're not Bella anymore," she sobbed. "You're...you're just this empty carcas. This empty shell of the girl who used to be my best friend. You used to be so happy. You were funny and beautiful and carefree and just... Bella. And I don't know why--"

"Yes you do," I interupted.

"What?"

"Let me ask you a question," I said, standing, a rush of emotions passing over me so strongly that it clouded my sense of reason and I grew angrier and angrier. "Where were you when Charlie got sick? Where were you when my mom died? Where were you when he left? Where were you when I got into college? Where were you when--"

"I was right here, Bella," she protested.

"No you weren't!" I yelled, my face flushed.

"Oh, Bella."

"You left me! You left for more important things! Things... that were... better than--"

She wrapped her arms around me as I came undone. Sobbing, my fingers dug into her back as I tried to cling onto reality. She rubbed my back and hair as I cried everything that was left in my body. I felt her move and with unusual strength, dragged me down onto the ground with her. I buried my face in her neck as I cried and she hugged me.

"Why did he leave, Alice?" I sobbed. "What did I do wrong?"

"It wasn't you," she said. "You didn't do anything."

I sniffed. "That's what everyone says. But he...he wouldn't have left if I hadn't done something wrong. If I hadn't screwed up. If..."

"Stop," Alice said. "Bella, I'm not sure what you know, I probably don't know much more, but if you knew how much he loved you, you wouldn't be saying that--wouldn't even pause to think it. Bella, he loved you with every bit of soul he had in him. I knew him since preschool, and I'd seen him go through crushes and girlfriends like underwear." I winced. "But with you, he was... different. He would have done anything you asked him to. And when he told you he loved you, it wasn't just words to him. I saw it. Every time he looked in your eyes and said, 'I love you,' it was like he was giving you a piece of himself. He was sharing a part of himself that no one else got to see."

"It's...it's just not fair. He didn't let me say goodbye. He just packed up and left. Without even telling me. Who does that?"

She sighed. "Bella, I know you're confused, but so is everyone. I don't know why, Rose doesn't know, Jasper doesn't, even Emmett... and its a tough call between him and Jasper who Edward hurt the most. I don't mean to say that what you lost was any less, but Jasper lost his lifelong best friend, and Emmett lost a brother, neither of them knowing why either. Do you know how many times I woke up at night to hear Jasper crying? Too many to count. And you know him-- doesn't like to show emotion in front of anyone. How much must he be hurt to cry like that?"

"But I still don't understand..."

"I know," she stroked my hair. "None of us do." She giggled. "But won't it be funny to see Edward get his ass kicked? Emmett's been talking about it for years, and he's going to ask Jasper to help, which I'm sure he'll do. And Rose, you know her, she punches the guys that hit on her before Emmett gets the chance. And I want my share of ass kicking too, so... that's just a start."

I couldn't help but laugh, and wiped the tears from my face. "Look at me. I'm a blubbering idiot."

Alice chuckled and hugged my tightly. "But you look like a genuine blubbering idiot. It's the first bit of you I've seen in almost ten years. I've missed you, Bella."

I nodded. "I'm sorry. I'll get better... I'll..."

"Nobody's asking you to," Alice said quietly. "Like it or not, this is all a part of you. All of this angst, its a part of you, and is building you stronger every second. The thing you have to look out for is the one trial that will test your strength. And you have to stop yourself and ask, Am I ready for that?"

I nodded. I didn't know what it meant, but I knew right then that something major was going to be happening...

...Soon.

*

Alice agreed to give me a ride to Charlie's and she would tell the others where I was. I smiled, finally smiled, as I climbed out of the car. I felt like something was being put back into place. Something key that had missing from my body had been put back, and I felt light and airy as I bounced up the porch stairs, radiant and cheery.

It was hard to keep that attitude as I entered the dreary interior of my once-been home. The dust and rigidity of everything was suffocating, but, plastering a smile on my face, I marched up the stairs and had to restrain myself from pushing the door open forcefully to announce my presence.

Gently, I eased the story open. Charlie was awake, staring feebly at a book placed in front of him.

"Hey, Dad!" I said emphatically, pulling a chair from the wall over to the side of his bed and plopping down.

He grinned. "Hey... kid," he replied, his frail voice saturated with happiness and warmth. "You seem happy."

I giggled. "Yep. I'm feeling happy today."

He smiled widely. "Then why... are you here, honey? Don't... let me... drag down your... good mood."

"Nonsense," I said, pulling his back forward gently so that I could fluff his pillows. "I love being here."

His brow furrowed. "Now I... know you're... shitting me. What do you... want? A way out... of my... will? Too bad kid... you're in there... for almost... everything I've got... and there's... no way... you're getting... out."

I blushed. "Dad, stop it."

"It's the... truth."

I put my hand on his neck, bringing my eyes close to his. "You're not going to die," I said passionately. "I've seen the memorial park and don't care about what I get from your will. It doesn't matter, because you're not going anywhere. You're staying right here, with the people you love, and 'there's no way you're getting out.'"

His fingers brushed along my cheek, their texture sand papery rough and dry. "Bells, I'm dying. That's a... fact that I've... accepted. No, 'there's no way... I'm getting out,' but... I know that. I just want... to spend my... last days... in happiness."

I nodded. I was determined that he was wrong though, and smiled at him. "You've let this house get dirty, and I won't have it. Where's Sue?"

"She went... to go... see Lea... out at the rez."

"And left you here?"

His face flushed pitifully and he squinted at me. "I can take... perfectly good care... of myself... thank you."

I laughed and kissed his hollow cheek. "I'm sure you can. So, I'm going to leave you to it and go clean the house. Don't do anything devilish while I'm gone."

He flushed again. "Sue restricted me... from the computer... when she... found me... watching porn, so... there's not... much else... I can do."

I blushed furiously.

"I'm... kidding, Bells."

"Uh-huh."

I moved to the closed curtains and yanked them open. "You need a little cheerfulness in here. Leave 'em open."

I left the door open as I moved downstairs and into the kitchen, hoping that there were some cleaning products left. I checked under the sink and could have shouted in happiness when I found a half-empty bottle of bleach, some Windex, 409 and Pledge. I donned a pair of gloves and a mouth mask and went to work, cleaning off every surface I could make it to.

I tried to log onto the Internet to check up on baseball statistics, but found the the Internet was cut off. After calling the provider, I was able to get it turned back on--and a massive bill added to my credit card--and printed out page after page of stats from this year, including the scores to every game.

I scrubbed until my knuckles were raw and my nose tingled from the smell of lemon cleansers. But I was happy. I was doing something for Charlie, in the place where I had spent so much time. I was doing something useful with my body, and I was pleasing someone whom I loved.

I couldn't say as much for other people.

EPOV

I wasn't expecting the greeting I received when I got home. Of course, I knew that I wouldn't be welcomed in the best of lights. I had left without so much as a word to anyone besides Carlisle and Esme. So it was understandable that they would hate me.

Jesus, I was an ass.

I had been stupid to assume that when I came back that Bella would still love me. I had hoped she would wait for me, and that that faith would carry me through the days until I could come back home to see her.

It hadn't and my heart felt like it had been ripped from my chest.

On the day that I left for Chicago, after winning the championship football game, I had received a text from Bella on my way home the night I left. It had been simple, the way Bella's texts always were, and said,

Your brother's an ass. I still love you. Will you be over tonight?

She had always brought a smile to my face, even before we started dating. My fingers were on the keys in a reply, I didn't get a chance to respond as in the second later, my phone buzzed again, this time, the number from home. I picked up immediately--Carlise and Esme rarely called on this phone. They usually called Emmett, since he was my main mode of transportation.

"Hey," I said picking up. "We're on the way home right now. The game ran a little longer than expected. We're right around the corner."

"Hurry," was all Carlisle said before he hung up.

Emmett pulled into the driveway, and before he could say anything, I jumped out of the car and dashed for the door, barely noticing the sweep of Emmett's headlights as he drove away again, probably heading to Rose's. Thinking that someone was dying, I burst through the door to find Esme, her hands clasped together, tears in her eyes. Carlisle had his arm around her, and he too looked on the verge of a breakdown.

"What is it?" I asked nervously.

"Edward, we... we have some things to talk about."

I nodded impatiently. "Okay. What's going on."

"Sit down, son, so we can talk about this."

I did as they told me, but the second my backside touched the sofa I started firing off questions. "What is it? Are you sick? Is Esme? Are you guys getting divorced? Because that's plain stupid. Did you lose your job? Are we moving--?"

"Edward, calm down," Esme said. "It's not what you think."

"What else warranties Esme crying and you in an emotional mess?" I was growing frustrated.

"Edward, we... we got a call from the adoption agencies."

"Are... are you guys giving me back?" No, they couldn't. They... they loved me. I hadn't done anything wrong...

"Of course not, dear," Esme said, her beautiful face shockingly white.

"Then what's wrong?"

"Now, Edward," Carlisle said. "I'm going to need to treat you like an adult instead of a sixteen year-old, because you're being put under adult circumstances, and I need you to try--"

"What the hell is going on?"

He sighed and exchanged a glance with Esme. "I've got the computer all set-up to get you a seat on the plane if you should so choose. All I need to do is confirm it."

"Where am I going?" My hands trembled.

"Edward, we... we've found your mother."

"Mommy, please, don't make them take me. I want to stay with you."

Her auburn hair was piled on top of her head, and her normally beautiful face was pale and ashen. It had been a constant stream of vomitting and trips to the bathroom for two weeks, and I didn't know what to do. They had taken Daddy away about a month ago, after I had tried to wake him up and he wouldn't open his eyes. He had promised me to teach me to play baseball that day.

"Honey, do as the policeman says. It's only for a while. I'll get better and then we'll be back together again. It's only for a little while. Use your manners with your new mommy and daddy."

I had been in the house, trying with all the might of my five-year-old mind to take care of her, but I just wasn't doing good enough. I brought her soup and colored pictures to make her feel better and read from my First Year Reader to her every morning, but she wasn't getting any better. Her body was deteriorating before my eyes, and I was powerless to stop it.

"But you're my mommy! You're supposed to protect me."

"I am, baby," she said. "Someday, you'll realize that I am."

That was the last day I had heard from or about her.

Until that day.

And I was helpless from going to help her. I had been considered masochistic in my medical career, resisting sleep and friends to perform complex surgeries and rack up hours in the ER. But no time had ever defined me as a masochist until that moment, when I gave up the one thing I loved most in the world for something I didn't even know still wanted me.

It was the biggest mistake of my life, and I was paying dearly for it now.

AUTHOR'S NOTE: So there. I hope you have it. I know it's still a little evasive, but this was just a filler chapter, kind of my Christmas present to you all. I promise, in the next chapter, you will find out why he left. I hope you liked it!

Gosh, I appreciate the reviews, however, I have a small request. While I appreciate the many reviews I've been receiving, please try to sign them. The frustrating thing is, usually the people who have the best questions don't sign their reviews and so I can't respond to them :) I'll try to answer as many of the most commonly asked questions here.

1. Why did Rose say 'She doesn't love you anymore' in the last chapter?
You've read Twilight, you all know how Rose is. She really is trying to look out for Bella, even in her pigheaded, abrasive, annoying and sometimes wrong way. I needed also a way to develop Charlie's story, and this way Bella will pay more attention to him.

2. Why did Edward leave?
I'm sorry guys, I can't really tell you anything without ruining the story. It will come up soon.

3. To "LARKIN": When is the next chapter?
LOL to the extreme… I will post it as soon as I can write it.

4. To "MADDY":
How am I supposed to take your review? Critisism of me or my characters?

And, since you are all being so patient, here is a spoiler I've decided to give you all, just for the hell of it.

Will there be lemons?
Oh, yes. There will be many later on.
So there, you kinda know how the story end…
…Or not

You guys are amazing! Keep reviewing!

-Carlynn