I flung my keys on the table as I stumbled over the welcome mat of my small, box flat. The lights flickered on slowly, before the bulb in the kitchen plunged the room into darkness again.
"Great," I muttered to myself as I shrugged out of my jacket and left it on the floor behind me. In front of me, I could feel the sofa with my fingers and to the right, the lamp. So just a bit further to the right must be...
"Fuck." I said, louder this time, as my knee collided with the side of the coffee table. Luckily for me, it didn't take long to navigate where the switch on the lamp was. Balance wasn't a strong quality of mine, and the darkness certainly wasn't going to help.
The phone beeped once next to the lamp, and I pressed the message button as I ran my fingers through my hair, messy and dishevelled from the wind outside. I couldn't care less about my hair though. I was home, which meant no work, no grungy offices and more importantly, no Edward.
You have one new message.
Sent at 4.54pm.
"Hi Bells, it's Charlie."
The sound of his voice made my muscles locked. Dad never called home. I spoke to him at Thanksgiving and the Christmas's I couldn't make. But that was it.
I wished we talked more. He'd give me some sanity in my life.
"The doctor said I had to call a family member, so here I am talking to your answer phone. I had a fall at work, nothing major, just a few broken bones and something else... I kinda tuned out of the gory details. But the Doc. says I'm going to be here for a few days. So if you're still coming down this Saturday, it'd be nice to see you then Bells. Just give me a call and I'll let you know where I'm being held prisoner."
He paused, a deep throaty cough sounding down the answer machine.
"Okay, Doc. needs me now. Speak to you soon Bells."
As the line went dead and the answer phone message finished, there was only one thing I could do. I jammed the numbers of his cell into the phone, my fingers winding around the lead impatiently. I wasn't even going to allow myself to consider the other possibilities that dad being in hospital could mean. It was just broken bones he'd said.
"Dad?" I asked quickly as soon as the receiver picked up the line on the other end.
"Oh, hey Bells," he croaked back, and I closed my eyes at the sound of his hoarse, rasping voice. That wasn't just broken bones. "I see you got my message and all."
My eyes flickered to the clock by the TV.
Screw sleep, I thought to myself. "Yeah I did dad, but listen, if I leave now and catch a train to Seattle, I'll be with you in a few hours and-"
"Bells, seriously." He cut me off. "It's late and dark outside, and you have work tomorrow."
"Work doesn't matter." The statement couldn't have been more truthful. It paid my bills and gave me something to do in the day. But family mattered. Work was just another insignificant necessary event in my life.
"That's sweet of you," he said kindly, his voice rasping. "But the Doc. here has me fixed up all right and says I'll be out in no time."
"Bells, if you still want to come down and see me Saturday, then I'll give you directions. But you're not getting them now." He bargained. "I'm going to be fine."
I sighed in frustration as I dropped the phone lead from my fingers. "How sure are you about that?"
I could almost picture him rolling his eyes down the phone at me, and the smile on his face that he would be trying so hard to hide. "I'll see you Saturday?"
"Of course you will." I promised as we said goodbye to each other before both hanging up. He would be fine. I promised myself once again. The sound of his voice that I'd heard down the broken phone line was nothing I needed to worry about.
I just wished he'd let me drive down this evening.
There were times when dad could be as stubborn as me.
The train journey to work was a quiet one, and that was partly due to the fact that I was finding it extremely difficult to stick to my promise. I had no incentive to go to work, other than the fact it helped pay my bills. I had no true friends there and no one that kept me going back each morning.
Regardless of what Edward liked to believe.
You have now arrived on level twelve.
The elevator stopped and as the doors swung open, I tried to smooth out the creases of worry that had etched their way onto my forehead. I really didn't need his sympathy right now, let alone his derogatory comments.
I didn't even hear his few words of greeting as I passed him. Maybe I should've at least tried to communicate, but I doubted that I would've been able to say anything coherent.
On my desk, there was just one report.
I had been counting on Edward's usual three to keep my mind off other things, but typically, he always did the one thing I wished he hadn't. And that left me sitting behind my desk, my fingers drumming along the table as my mind drifted back to Charlie.
However much I tried not to, I couldn't help but picture him in a hospital bed, wires running in and out of him, monitors flashing beside him, and the image drifted around my mind, always going in circles... never leaving, or fading.
I'd tried to call the hospital on the way to work, but each time they gave me the same repetitive message. He's sleeping, or, he's with the doctor, but he's doing just fine.
I sighed, deciding to finally get on with writing the report in some vain hope that writing might take my mind off him. It would've done, even for only a brief hour... if it had been on a different topic.
The report was on the growing number of hospitalised patients and the lack of hospital beds, and as I flicked through the evidence, I found a table showing me the soaring numbers of 2008, compared to the dwindling, almost non-existent numbers of the year 1980.
"Mr Cullen," my voice sounded far shakier than I would've liked, as I opened my office door. He looked up, dropping whatever file he was looking through onto his desk and forgetting about it in an instant.
"I can't do this report." I said quickly, my voice blunt as I thrust the report into his open hands. "If you want to give me extra reports, or any of your spare ones, or some from other levels, that's fine."
"Any reason why?" he asked quietly, and before he'd even finished his question I was shaking my head.
"Maybe I could do it in a week or so," I sidestepped. Once I knew dad was going to be fine. "But I doubt they'd give me an extension." I moved back towards my office timidly, hoping that for once, he wouldn't question me any further.
"Of course," he said genuinely as he flashed a curious, warm smile towards me. "Are you alright?"
I nodded quickly, not daring to speak as I spared him a short, attempt of a smile back, before turning back towards my office.
It only hit me when I sat down.
He hadn't insulted me. He hadn't flirted with me, or given me compliments he didn't truly believe in. He hadn't been angry that I was giving him a report back. More importantly than that though, he'd said yes, without hesitation.
I was beginning to like this new side to him.
"Is this Miss Isabelle Swan that I'm taking to?" a strange, unknown voice asked down the phone. I'd been waiting for it to ring for the past three hours, hoping for some news from the hospital, because no matter how many times I called their receptionist, the news was always the same.
"Speaking," I replied as a frown formed across my forehead.
"I'm calling from a hospital in Seattle," the voice explained, and at the mention of the hospital, I lowered myself into my office chair and pulled my glasses off my nose. "It seemed your father was transmitted to us just now and he wanted me to call you."
"Is he alright?" I demanded, my eyes widening.
On the other end of the line, there was a pause. The voice inhaled deeply, as though he were preparing to tell me news I didn't want to hear. My face paled. "Your father suffered from a heart attack this morning."
My blood turned cold.
That short, terrifying sentence made my knees buckle, and my fingers tightened around the armrest of my office chair. Time around me seemed to slow and as my eyes closed, I tried to concentrate on the sound of my own breathing. But I couldn't even breathe. My lungs felt trapped, like a large heavy weight was pressing down upon them. I couldn't hear, and as I tried to open my eyes to the blinding light of my office I couldn't even see.
A heart attack.
"How serious?" I wasn't sure how I had the ability to ask a coherent question, but somehow, the words pushed past my lips in a choked whisper.
The doctor's voice was quiet and gentle. "I'm sorry Miss Swan. We're doing everything we can at the moment to save him."
I managed a hoarse thank you before the phone slipped between my fingers, bouncing off the hard lanolin floor and I sank down underneath my desk. With my back pressed against the cold wood, I wrapped my arms tightly around myself, feeling my heart throbbing inside of me as my shirt dampened with my own tears.
We're doing everything we can... That's what doctors told you when things didn't look good and when to them, their patient just seemed like a lost cause.
I'd always told him not to eat so much red meat.
The door of my office opened slowly, and I cursed under my breath as Edward stared back at me, the tears only falling faster. Of all the days he chose to listen in through the thin walls of my office...
"What do you want?" I asked bitterly as I hastily tried to push the tears away from my eyes. My father was dying and he'd probably come in to ask if he could borrow some paper. It all seemed so stupid.
He opened his mouth, his eyes wincing as he saw the tears falling down his face. Then, he closed his mouth again, not saying a word.
"My dad is dying in a hospital that is hours away from here," I whispered, and I bit down on my bottom lip quickly to stop it from trembling. "There is nothing that you can say to me."
For once, he listened.
I scrunched my eyes tightly together as I hugged my knees closer to my chest and buried my head deep into the cradle of my arms. I heard the door close softly, and I no longer tried to hide the sobs I'd forced down.
Then, a pair of arms wrapped around me slowly, pulling me against a body, and I looked up, seeing Edward's face through my tears.
He stayed with me, waiting until my eyes had no more tears to shed and my throat was so dry that crying was physically impossible. I didn't understand why he did, or why he had the patience to stay.
But in a way, I was glad.
He sat beside me, pushing tissue after tissue towards me, and his body was warm and comforting against mine. His shirt smelled nice.
I needed silly things like his cologne to distract me.
I knew I had to get out of the office and to the hospital where Charlie was. But there were far too many things stopping me. They said they were doing all they can. But here in the office, I still knew he was alive. My reality hadn't been ripped apart by my own father dying, and I could pretend, just for a short delusional moment, that everything was going to be alright. Here in the office, regardless of what had happened at the hospital, I knew he was alive.
"Why are you doing this?" I asked finally as I cleared my throat, my voice rasping.
His eyes, thoughtful for a moment, stared calmly back into mine, and he offered me a kind smile. "I don't want you to have to do this alone," he squeezed my shoulder gently. "And because I like holding you." He added sheepishly.
"No more crackpot jokes?" I raised my eyebrows.
"I was, for once, being truthful." He winked. Then, he pulled himself up from underneath the desk before offering me his hand.
I put mine in his, his skin soft against my own as he pulled me to my feet, dangerously close to his own body. For some unknown, God-forsaken reason, I blushed.
"Can you deal without me this afternoon?" I asked hurriedly as I turned my face away from his and reached for my coat. The only reason I'd blushed was because I was emotionally vulnerable, I told myself quickly. "If you get any late reports through, I'll do them Monday, or work on them in the evening, and if, maybe-"
"Bella," he stopped me from rambling by resting his finger against my lip. "Go to your father."
If I'd been blushing before about his hand in mine, his finger on my mouth certainly wasn't helping. He moved his fingers to my hair, pushing it back behind my ear.
I didn't need any of this right now. I took a step away from him, offering him a weak smile. His touch shouldn't feel that good.
I needed to see Charlie.
"Thank you," I mumbled, forcing my thoughts into some form of coherence. He smiled brightly back at me as he passed me my bag. His eyes, now a deep mellow green, were soft, and for the first time since I'd met him, I saw an emotion that I hadn't ever expected to see. Compassion.
He smiled one last time. "He'll be fine."
I nodded gratefully as I offered him, what I'd hoped, was a convincing smile in return. "I hope so." Then I turned away from him towards the elevator doors.
"I'm here to see Charlie Swan," I said to the receptionist, as I hovered impatiently beside her desk, my fingers drumming along the wood. Her manicured nails flicked through the files, and as she turned her head back towards me, her faultless hairstyle rippled with the movement.
"Room forty one," she said in a clipped tone, following it up with a tight smile. "Up the stairs, turn right and then it's two doors down on the left."
I was already moving towards the stairs before she'd finished speaking, and I offered a quick thank you over my shoulder as I raced up the stairs, taking two at a time. My pace slowed as I got closer to room forty one, doubt rising in my stomach as to what I'd find in the room.
The very fact that he was in a room and not in a morgue somewhere gave me a flicker of hope.
I knocked gently against the door and within a few seconds it opened and a doctor, with light blonde hair, green eyes and a pure white lab coat, stepped outside, his eyes fixed on me curiously.
"Can I help you?"
"I'm here to see my dad," I explained quickly. "I'm Bella Swan, Charlie's daughter." Then I waited for him to elaborate on exactly what state my father was in. I hadn't dared call the hospital on the train journey up to ask.
He shut the door of Charlie's room behind him, and touching my arm gently, he pulled me to the side of the corridor. So I wasn't allowed to see him? Before I could ask, the doctor sat down on a bench in the corridor and gestured for me to sit beside him.
As I took my seat hesitantly, he finally turned to me.
"Your father's very weak Bella," were his first words, and I nodded stiffly, biting my lip. Weak was better than dead. "Excluding the three broken ribs, a broken leg and a slipped disk in his spine, his heart's been extremely strained through his years in the police force." The doctor offered a kind smile between his words. "We don't know yet whether his heart attack was a one off or whether it's likely to happen again. But for the time being, we want to keep him here, just to be on the safe side."
"He's going to be okay?" it was the obvious question that I had to ask. On the journey up, my mind had been running through all the possibilities of what could've happened to him, and the fact that the doctor hadn't announced him the lost cause I'd feared they would made me breathe a sigh of relief.
The doctor nodded seriously. "He should be awake within the next few hours, so if you want to wait, I'm sure he'd appreciate a visit from his daughter." Then, he added with a smile, "there's a sofa inside and I'm sure it'd be far more comfortable than a plastic hospital bench."
I smiled thankfully back as I stood up and took a step towards his door. Taking a deep breath, I pushed it open gently.
The first thing to hit me was the strong stench of hospital fluids and equipment.
But the second and more frightening thing was the picture of Charlie.
He was lying opposite me, unresponsive and coma-like as a monitor beeped repetitively next to him. Above it was a sack containing a white fluid and a transparent tube fed out from the bottom, running towards his lifeless body and piercing his wrist.
I raised my hand to my mouth, forcing myself to bite back my tears as I took another step towards him. Charlie had always been a strong figure in my life. He was the one that picked me up from the mud when I used to fall down, or help plaster up a scraped knee. He helped me buy my first apartment and he taught me how to drive, and now he was like this?
He'd always seemed so indifferent about his health, thinking that the amount of steaks he ate didn't matter, and that life was too short to worry about what it did to his heart.
I guess time caught up with him.
"Renee?" Charlie asked groggily as his eyes flickered open, and his fingers twitched beside his side. From my position on the sofa, half dozing, half dreaming, I shot up toward his bedside, instantly awake.
"Dad, can you hear me?" I took his outstretched hand in mine. "Dad?"
"Renee?" he said again, confused as his eyes struggled to absorb the harsh light of the monitors.
"No dad, it's Bella." I reassured him as I patted his hand gently. I knew all too well that Renee was probably currently sat on some balcony of a sunny villa in Phoenix with her boyfriend, Phil. When I was younger, I'd told myself that my parents were perfect for each other. But in hindsight, Renee wasn't someone that would sit down with Charlie and eat a steak over dinner. Likewise, Charlie wasn't the man that had time for Renee's erratic nature.
"Bella," he said my name slowly, his breathing shallow as he clung onto my hand tighter. His fingers trembled against my own. "You didn't have to come and see me."
"Don't be stupid, of course I'd come and see you." I retorted back with a smile, and the left side of his face pulled up into a lopsided smile in return. Then, his grip on my hand loosened and his arm fell back down to his side.
"Thanks Bells," he whispered, before his head lolled back onto the pillow, and his eyes closed shut with the lure of sleep.
"Mike?" I asked in surprise as I picked up my phone and heard his voice down the other end of the line.
"Hey Bella," he called cheerily back as I stood up and stepped outside of Charlie's room for a moment. "I just wanted to check that you were alright. Cullen said you'd gone home early yesterday when I went to see you."
"I'm fine thanks." Edward didn't lie to Mike?
"On the topic of Cullen," I could hear the smile in his voice already. "I've been thinking, and I've come up with some new plans that would really push his buttons, and-"
"Mike," I interrupted him, not meaning to be rude. "I'm sorry but I can't be part of that anymore."
"Why?" his question was blunt, and I could almost imagine him reminding me that it was my idea.
"I'm okay," I clarified uncertainly. "But my dad's not, and Edward was in the office when I found out." Honesty always was the best policy. "He was really nice about it, and I guess I feel... I don't know, maybe I should cut him some slack." Mike paused shortly and when he finally answered, I could hear the regret in his voice.
I bit my lip. "Listen, you've bought me a drink, so now it's my turn to. How about we meet up next week and go grab a drink?"
The tip I'd learnt with Mike is that it didn't take much to get him back on your side, and when he answered, the smile was in his voice again. I ended our conversation shortly after, not wanting to stay away too long from Charlie, and as I sat down beside his bed, my feet tucked under my knees, I finally let my eyes slip close.
If only life's problems could be solved over a cup of coffee.
AN - What do we think of the new Edward? Impressed like Bella, or sceptical that he's just going to slip back to who he was? As always, reviews are very much appreciated :P. Writing a story with constant feedback from you is a privilege I will never be able to take for granted.
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