Disclaimer: I do not own anything Twilight, it all belongs to the Great Stephenie Meyer.
A Part of Something Big
"Jasper wants to go hunting tonight."
"NO! Don't leave me!" The panicked words left my mouth before I even thought them. I knew it was wrong. I knew he needed to hunt. Who knows when the last time he had fed was. His eyes had been pitch-black when we found him in Volterra. Each day I thought that I couldn't see a deeper, darker color. Each day I knew I was wrong. The bruises under his eyes now resembled the grease paint that athletes used to deflect the light. My conscious mind knew that he needed to leave, the part that shouted out only knew that I couldn't let him.
My instant reaction told him what I couldn't say out loud. I was afraid. Each time he left my side for the one hour that we were forced apart during school, I spent in a haze of anxiety. The four mandated hours after school that we were separated- due to my recent restrictions enforced by Chief Swan- nearly spiraled me back into that grave that "Zombie Bella" had so recently crawled out of. I tried to hide my fears from Edward, but he heard every beat of my panicked heart. I couldn't let him leave me for an entire night. I wasn't ready then.
That was two weeks ago. Edward had tried desperately to assuage my every fear. He never left my side for a single second that was unnecessary. The panic was slowly beginning to wane. I knew that it was time to let him go. He had suffered enough for my peace of mind. "Just hurry back to me," I whispered urgently in his ear. He gazed a long moment into the depths of my eyes, searching for any sign that I was about to break my careful resolve. I held my breath and froze my mind in place so that he wouldn't see the cracks.
"Are you sure, love?"
"It's only one night, Edward. You need to feed. I can't stand to see you wasting away before my very eyes." I attempted to joke. His eyes darkened further as he raked his gaze over my thin body. I still had not fully recovered from my personal dark ages. I had lost about fifteen pounds then, and had only regained five. I instantly regretted my attempt at humor. "Leave. Now. Just promise I will see you in the morning."
"I promise you will see me in the morning. I swear it." With this oath he pulled me to him. I felt myself swoon as our kiss deepened. Reluctantly, he pulled away. "Not a second longer than necessary, love." And with that, he turned and was gone. For the second time, I froze my mind, this time to assure myself.
I did it. He was gone. I smiled to myself as I turned to go back in the house. Normally, I would be rushing up to bed as soon as Edward "left" for the evening. Tonight there was no reason to rush. There was nothing waiting in my sanctuary for me. Oh, God! He was gone! What have I done? The panic started to bleed through the cracks. Quickly, I froze again just inside the door. No. I couldn't let Charlie see me fall apart. He wouldn't understand. As far as he knew, I said goodnight to Edward every night at this time. There was no way I could explain why I was falling apart like this now.
I took a deep calming breath and created a steel barrier against the fear. I walked in to the living room and sat next to Charlie.
"Well, to what do I owe this unexpected surprise? You're usually headed to bed about now aren't you?" I knew that I had been neglecting him. He had dealt with so much during my depression. I owed him better than to ignore him. He needed to see that Edward's return was a good thing for me, and that included spending more time with him. I resolved to do so. Even if it meant watching sports.
"I just thought I would sit with you a bit, if you don't mind."
"I don't mind at all, sweetie." He moved his arm and placed it around my shoulders. It felt nice having my father close. The years of his absence in my life seemed to melt away for a moment. It had been difficult growing up without him. The occasional vacation hadn't really cemented the father/daughter bond. My moving here had been an experiment in family relations. Neither of us really knew if it were going to work. The routines that we established when I arrived had allowed us to live comfortably together. It wasn't until… then that it really happened. Though neither of us mentioned it, our relationship had been forever altered. He had watched over me, guarded me, even prayed for me. He became the father that I needed. This was hard for me to realize. I knew it would hurt so much more now to say goodbye to Charlie. As resolved as I was to make the necessary changes in my life to stay with Edward for eternity, I wanted so badly to maintain this new relationship with my father. If only there could be a way.
I hadn't realized that I had drifted off to sleep until Charlie moved his arm and attempted to slip out from under me. "Sorry, Bells. I didn't mean to wake you. I was just heading up to bed. You go back to sleep here, hun."
"No, that's O.K. Dad. I'll go head up to bed. I guess I'm tired enough to sleep, now" I chuckled.
"Have been for about two hours," he chuckled back.
"Wow, two hours? Why didn't you send me off to bed earlier?"
"I enjoy watching you sleep peacefully. It reminds me of when you were little." He smiled at the memory as he helped me up the stairs. I blushed at the thought. How entertaining was I when I slept?
"Goodnight, Bells. Sleep well," he spoke as he reached the top of the stairs.
" 'Night, Dad," I turned the opposite direction to my own room. Oh how I would miss this, miss him.
I quickly changed into my night clothes, still feeling the groggy effect of my unintended nap. I wanted to get back to sleep before it wore off. I sighed deeply as I snuggled into my pillow. I felt the slight tug of anxiety as I started to drift off. Quickly, I slammed that feeling to the back of my mind. It wouldn't do at all for me to start panicking now. I wanted, needed, to get to sleep quickly to speed up the arrival of morning, when I would see Edward again. I forced myself into a pleasant dream. I dreamt of Edward, me and our meadow. I smiled at the vision.
The gentle breeze swayed the grass around us. Edward's smile was more radiant than his diamond skin. His lips brushed my cheek as he leaned in to my ear. "I'll be right back, love." And he spun around, disappearing in the surrounding woods. I waited. And waited. The light from the sun stole swiftly behind the trees and still, I waited. The peaceful meadow of my dreams changed, morphing into the silent nothing of my nightmares. It was the same place, but so entirely different. I circled and spun until I was dizzy. I searched each path for some sign of his return and still, I waited. And again there was nothing.
I bolted upright in my bed, covered in the sweat of my night terror.
Before I could scream, the icy hands were caressing my face, calming my fear. I gulped at the air that surrounded me. My eyes searched the dark for his face, but couldn't find it anywhere. Slowly, I focused on who was calming me. Alice. Her gentle hands stroked my face, caressed my hair.
"It's O.K. Bella, it's o.k. I'm here. We won't leave you. I promise. It's o.k." Her soothing murmurs eased my fear.
"Alice? What are you doing here?" I asked when I could finally find my voice.
"I knew you were going to have a hard time tonight with Edward gone."
"Did he send you to babysit me, then?" Irritation at the thought crept into my voice unintentionally.
"No, he doesn't know I'm here. If he had known, nothing could have made him leave, not even as desperately thirsty as he is now."
"How did you keep him from not knowing? Didn't he see this in your mind?" I still did not understand the workings of Alice's visions, or how much Edward would "see" through them.
"I didn't need a vision to know how hard tonight would be for you, Bella. We can all see what this separation has done to you. Jasper has been beside himself with worry over you all day. If it weren't for the fact that he was the one assigned to take Edward out, he would have been outside your window all night trying to calm you."
A sudden well of emotion swept over me. Jasper was worried about me? I had been startled by his vote the night I asked to become a member of the Cullen family. Until then I did not know whether he could accept me or not. I knew he still blamed himself for the upheaval that I had caused his family. I had tried to convey that I forgave him for his attack. I knew that it wasn't his fault I was a tasty human. It still surprised me that he could and would accept my presence in the family. And now he was worried about me. He was actually concerned, about me?
"We all love you, Bella. Our family is not complete without you," she stated, sensing my apprehension. "Edward is not the only one who has changed because of you presence in our lives. While we were gone, nothing was the same. Carlisle spent more and more time at work; Esme sat around the house; Emmett stopped laughing; and Jasper nearly went insane for the grief. Even Rosalie, though she's too stubborn to admit it, missed the effect you had on our family. You bring out the best in all of us, Bella. We need you. Don't ever forget that."
I pondered her words for a moment. All of my life I had a very limited perspective of what a family was. Growing up there had just been Renee and myself. We grew together, we depended on each other. When Phil entered the picture, I knew Renee didn't need me anymore. My relationship with Charlie had always been strained. It was only now that we were developing the types of bonds that a true father and daughter shared.
The feeling of love and acceptance I felt with the Cullens was foreign to me. I knew that they accepted me with Edward, and I loved them all dearly. I admired the love that Carlisle showered on Esme, and the way that she returned that love to him. Even though Emmett's teasing irritated me to death, I would gladly endure it to feel the security of his strength. Alice's friendship had come so easily, it was as if we were sisters separated at birth. I had missed them all so much while they were gone. I hadn't thought that they may have missed me, too.
"Oh, Alice," I sobbed as I pulled her fiercely into an embrace. Words failed to express the overflow of emotions I was experiencing.
"There, there. It's all right. We're here and we won't leave you alone, ever again," she cooed as she slowly stroked my sweat-damp hair.
"I can't tell you how much you all mean to me," I wailed.
"We know, sweetheart, we know. Now lie back down and go to sleep."
"Before I do, promise you won't tell Edward how weak I've been."
"Don't worry, Bella," she chuckled in her bell-like tone, "no one will breathe a word of this to him. He's been suffering too much lately as it is. Now lie down and go to sleep."
She pulled my head down on to her lap, stroking my hair and humming a sweet lullaby. Not my lullaby, something more traditional. It was enough. After a few moments, I drifted off into an amazing dream. I was surrounded by beautiful colors and warm fragrances. And everywhere I looked I was surrounded by my family and I was home.