Here's the next edited chapter. I hope you enjoy it!
I woke up the next morning confused and cold, the meager predawn light struggling through the blinds on the window. Sometime during the night I'd kicked off my sheets, leaving me naked and exposed to the chilly morning air. I felt the heat rising up my neck at the idea of Charlie "checking" on me during the night and finding me in such a state. Charlie sometimes liked to check to see if I was sleeping.
Sometimes, he tried again.
I struggled in my bed, moving through the dark of the room to find the switch. The harsh fluorescent light in my bedroom stuttered to live with a dull buzzing, momentarily blinding me as I blinked furiously. Once my eyes had adjusted, I snatched up last night's ugly pajamas and redressed, wrapping my arms around myself for warmth.
It would be a chilly morning.
In the bathroom I caught sight of my marred face. There was a large, angry bruise spreading from my cheek down to my jaw—a dusky shadow that commemorated Charlie's victory over me. I watched in the mirror as my hand rose up and pressed gentle fingers to the mark, sending a flaring pain up the side of my face. I very carefully opened and closed my mouth to test the motion, and was pleased to find that aside from the dark mark, there was minimal swelling.
It should be easy enough to conceal.
I quickly threw my hair back in a messy bun and made my way downstairs, gripping the banister in the darkness of the staircase. As the lower level of the house became visible, I noticed that while the living room was dark and still, I could hear shuffling and movement from the dimly lit kitchen. Charlie, seated in his spot, appeared to have procured his own breakfast, and was eating away steadily at the bowl of Cheerios in front of him.
"Morning," he grunted, glancing up as I made my way inside. I grabbed myself a glass from the dish rack and filled it with water, offering him a quiet greeting in response.
"You're up early." His voice broke the silence of the room and sounded louder than usual.
I shrugged noncommittally, turning away when his head snapped around to watch me. He waited a moment for elaboration, and when none came, he spoke sharply.
"I asked you a question, Bella."
"I slept fine," I said, placing my glass in the sink.
"There," said Charlie, appeased. "Was that so hard?"
I stayed still at the counter, unsure of where he wanted me. Normally, when I woke, Charlie would have me prepare breakfast for the two of us, usually something hot. On the odd days when Charlie made his own food, he was the one to wake me, to ensure I made it to school.
"Your brothers should be here for dinner," said Charlie, dropping his spoon into the milk left in his bowl. "Before they get here, this house needs to be cleaned, we need food, and you need to cover that mark."
"Right," I said, nodding.
"I got you this," he continued, producing a small bag from the local 24-hour drugstore from the chair next to him and tossing it on the table. The glass bottle inside knocked loudly against the table, and when I didn't move to take it, Charlie nudged it roughly towards me.
"Go fix it," he urged, impatient. "Get ready, eat, and then get going. I've got some paperwork to do at the station. I'll be back before the boys get here." His words struck me dumb, and I stared stupidly at the table, my stomach lurching excitedly at the thought.
A day at home without Charlie?
Those were few and far between.
"Make sure shit gets done," he warned lowly, pointing a finger at me as he stood and stretched. "I don't want to come home to a pigsty." I nodded quickly, refusing to meet his gaze as I moved to the table and grabbed up the concealer, reaching into the bag to take it out. Charlie knew my brand and colour by heart, having been to the store for it countless times.
Charlie moved to the door and grabbed his coat and keys, speaking again as he prepared to leave.
"There's money in the jar and the truck keys are on my bedside table. Get whatever they like, and don't forget the stuff for whatever the hell Em wants."
"You might need to wash some sheets too," he added as he opened the door. "I don't know what's left in the closet. Make sure it gets done."
When he slammed the door, making the flimsy key rack rattle with the force, it was all I could do not to whoop with exultation. The feeling of dread that had overtaken me before sleep last night was lifted at the thought of Charlie leaving, and having the peace and quiet of the house to myself for the day was more than I could have ever asked for.
As soon as the door snapped shut and I regained some sense, I took my cover up to the bathroom. The track lighting above the sink dazzled me when I adjusted it to shine on my face, the intense incandescence sending blooms of red and blue swimming across my vision. I focused on my image in the mirror for a moment until they disappeared, taking a better look at the side of my face. The bruise stood out in stark contrast to my naturally pale complexion, and a sudden burst of anxiety bloomed in my belly as I wondered whether or not the makeup would work.
What would Charlie say if it didn't?
'He'll be mad, he'll be mad, he'll be mad, he'll be mad-'
"Shut up," I said out loud, as if my own inner thoughts belonged to the other Bella in the looking glass.
Taking a small makeup sponge from the drawer, I carefully poured a generous amount from the bottle, using my thumb to rub it in. When I brought the sponge to my face I had to force myself not to wince or cry out, as the pressure on the bruise sent jolts of pain straight through to my teeth. I powered through as quickly as I could, trying to make a seamless transition from makeup to skin.
Too little product, and the bruise would show. Too much, and it would be obvious.
The makeup became more and more difficult to distribute, and once it started to dry, I was forced to give it up.
Instead of a dark bruise, there was an orange splotch with a dusky center, my pale skin made even more grotesque by the alteration.
I rubbed it off and tried again.
Three tries and half an hour later, I managed to make myself somewhat presentable. The mark was not overtly visible, but I knew both of my brothers would notice the makeup. After years of being somewhat of an anti-cosmetic advocate, the change wouldn't go unnoticed.
The makeup, however, was explainable.
"Good," I said, speaking out loud again. I smiled when no voice responded to me, either angry or joyful. The serene quiet was response enough for me.
With my face taken care of, I made quick work of the rest of my morning routine. Once I was properly dressed, primped and combed, I went into Charlie's room to grab the truck keys, noting that his room would require a thorough going over before our company arrived. Emmett and Jasper had seen dad's mess enough before, but I was sure Charlie would embarrassed if their girlfriends were privy to it.
By the time 5 o'clock rolled around, I had the groceries put away, beds made, house cleaned and dinner well on its way. It was while I was chopping vegetables for a salad that Charlie walked in the door, grunting and cursing as he hefted a heavy bag of paperwork onto the dining table.
The fledgling confidence that had hatched earlier in the day died as soon as I saw his scowl, and I inadvertently hunched my shoulders as I worked. My stomach roiled with anxiety and I took a deep breath.
"Hello," I said bravely, keeping my voice steady and sure. "How was work?"
Charlie just grunted at me and kicked off his boots, stalking deeper into the house to inspect it. I heard no complaints as he searched through the living room and then the bathroom, which had required a bit of elbow grease.
"Dinner almost done?" he asked gruffly.
"In a bit," I said, my voice trembling.
"They'll be here soon," he warned me. "Jasper called me from the road."
"Look at me," he said, taking a step closer to the counter. I abandoned my knife and pepper to turn and face him, tilting my face up to the light.
He sighed harshly and maneuvered my face so he could examine his handiwork, nodding carefully in approval.
"Good enough," he said. "If they ask, make something up."
I could only nod.
I fell. I walked into a wall. I got hit by a ball in gym…
Anything but the truth.
"Oh, and Bella?" I snapped my face up to meet his gaze. He wasn't looking at my face, however, and when I followed his gaze, I saw the marks on my arms.
"Go find a sweater."
I scrambled away from the cutting board and knife, cursing my lack of self awareness. What would I have done if they'd arrived early, and seen my marks? What would Charlie have done?
I shuddered at the thought, and immediately threw open my closet, snatching an oversized UDub sweater Emmett had gotten me for Christmas last year. It was warm and cozy, and had a pocket in front that was big enough for a paperback.
Going back downstairs made me nervous again, as I could hear Charlie pacing. Charlie was always on edge when people came over, and when Charlie was nervous, he was snappy and jittery.
Sometimes I wondered why he did the things he did. Why he hit and touched. I wondered whether or not he really knew what he was doing, or if maybe, the real Charlie would come back…
'He's a cop,' reasoned the little voice. 'He must know what he's doing…'
'But he's a drunk,' I thought. 'If he's drunk, how can he know what he's doing?'
'He wasn't always a drunk,' the voice reminded me. 'When mom was around, he never drank. He came to your dance recitals. He let you play with the lights in the cruiser. He took you to the Seattle Zoo. He brought you fishing with Billy…"
My inner dialogue came to an abrupt end as I heard the slamming of a car door, and the boisterous voice that could only belong to one person. More sounds followed, laughter and banter audible even as far away from the front door as I was, and I froze in place. I heard Charlie scraping a chair on the floor before the front door opened, the footsteps and laughter growing louder.
"We're here!" cried Emmett's deep, carrying voice. "Hey Dad! Where's Bell?"
"Hey son," said dad, sounding every bit as normal as he pretended to be. I stood on the staircase, my knees feeling like jelly as all my anxieties rushed back all at once.
They'd notice my makeup. They'd see my bruise. They'd see my arms. They'd know…
I heard my brother's laughter before I saw him, standing with his arms crossed and a wide grin on his face at the foot of the stairs. The moment I laid eyes on him I found the strength to ignore Charlie's warning glance, my face breaking into a smile despite myself. Emmett reached towards me, taking a step closer.
I flew down the staircase in a whirlwind, nearly missed the final step. I avoided catastrophe and caught myself on the banister, letting Emmett help me.
"Jesus, klutz," he said, chortling as he took my arm, steadying me. His hand squeezed lightly as he drew me in, closing over one of Charlie's bruises. But in that moment, as his arms enfolded me, I knew I'd endure the sting a thousand times over. I tossed my arms around his neck and buried my face in the familiar t-shirt, taking in a deep breath.
"Missed you too," he laughed, patting me on the back. "Loving the sweater?"
"Mhm," I nodded, doing my best not to rub my makeup on his shirt.
"I knew you would," he said, grinning. "Best gift ever, right?"
It was then that he took his arms away, gently urging me back to take a look at me. His eyes zeroed in on my cheek almost at once, and I saw his jaw twitch before he reached out to touch it. I frowned and released him, taking a step back and wrapping my arms around myself instead.
"What's this?" he asked carefully, turning my head to face the light from the window. I saw Charlie's face pale as he pursed his lips, offering me a quiet, sinister shake of the head.
"Nothing," I said quickly, moving away from his outstretched fingers. "Got hit in gym."
"It looks nasty, Bell," he said, grimacing. "Did you get it looked at?"
"It's fine," I evaded. "No big deal."
"Did you at least ice it? 'Cause you know Jazz will throw a fit."
"Yeah," I said, forcing a smile. "I know."
Jasper was in a pre-med program at the university, and was dead set on one day becoming a doctor. He would—
"Hey Bella," came the honey-sweet voice of my other brother as he entered the house, carrying two bags with him. He deposited them by the door and walked over to me, stealing me away from Emmett.
"Check out her face." Emmett's words made my head snap over to him, scowling.
"It's nothing," I insisted, turning to glance at Charlie. His face was serious and somber as he took a step closer, clapping Emmett on the shoulder.
"School nurse says it's fine," he dismissed. "She bruises like a peach. Says it doesn't even hurt anymore."
I nodded quickly as Jasper snatched my chin, and I forced myself to hold still.
His hands were gentler than Charlie's and much softer, but the way they encased my face made my mind go right back to last night.
I focused on his face instead, watching the liquid brown of his eyes as he examined me.
"Looks fine," he said, pressing a gentle kiss to the injury before he backed away. "Nothing to worry about."
"See?" said Charlie, looking at Emmett. "Nothing serious."
Emmett just grunted.
"Come and meet the girls," said Jasper slowly, eying Emmett with a peculiar, serious look. "They're just outside."
"Was it that Newton kid?" demanded Emmett quietly, taking my shoulders as he steered me to the door. "Because I'll kick his ass for you."
"No," I giggled, glancing up. "It was an accident." Emmett looked like he wanted to argue, but something outside distracted him. Releasing my shoulders, he took a step forward, reaching towards his vehicle.
His voice garnered the attention of one of the girls in the back of my brother's Jeep. She smiled through the window and reached for the handle, opening the door and lithely hopping down. She was tall, I noted, and very pretty, with long blonde hair that cascaded down her back and startlingly blue, piercing eyes.
"This is my dad, Charlie," said Emmett, pointing at dad. Dad nodded politely and observed from the porch, but I was not granted that same courtesy.
"And this is Bella," he said, urging me off the porch and into the yard to be closer to her. The girl reached out and took my hand, smiling kindly at me.
"This is Rosalie," he said, for both my benefit and dad's.
"It's so nice to finally meet you," said Rosalie. Even her voice was pretty, and I felt my meager confidence shatter on the spot.
"Come on inside," said dad, sounding pleased. "Sit down and have a drink."
"Thanks," said Rosalie, moving past me with another smile to enter the house. The other door of the Jeep popped open then and the figure that emerged appeared to be the polar opposite of Rosalie.
"I'm Alice!" said the girl, chipper and excitable. "Jasper's told me so much about you!"
"Oh?" I said, leaning back on Emmett.
"We'll be great friends, I'm sure," she said. Emmett just laughed when she took my hand from him and pulled me in for an enthusiastic hug, looking me over once she was done.
"You're just as pretty as he said you were," she beamed, pressing her lips to my uninjured cheek. I felt my face flame twenty different shades of red at both her actions and words, and I turned to look accusingly at Jasper.
As always, Jasper looked unabashed at his complimentary description of me; he was always one to try and make me out to be more than I was. Although I was plain and ordinary, Jasper was always ready to call me beautiful and one-of-a-kind.
I supposed it was one of his quirks.
"Come on inside," I said, clearing my throat as Alice walked alongside me. "I've got dinner almost ready."
"Good," said Emmett, cutting in between us. "I'm starved."
"You're always starved,"I accused. "Is there ever a time when you're not eating?"
"Yes," he replied in mock affront. "Right now. And I'm wasting away."
"I'm sure it won't be long," said Charlie. "Bella?"
"No, not long."
I went to the stove to stir the pasta as my brothers and their lady friends sat down at the table. I heard Charlie rise before I felt him behind me, wrapping an arm around my shoulders. He squeezed them a little too hard and my breath hitched, wondering what he might do.
"I asked you to fix that mark, not fuck it up more," he whispered quietly, making my knees wobble. "I ask so little of you, Bella, and you can't even do that."
"I tried," I said quietly, moving away from him to toss the salad. "I tried to—"
"I don't care what you tried to do," he hissed, pressing a deceptive kiss to my temple. "Fix this, or I swear to god…"
"How?" I whispered back, panicky. I felt his hand squeeze mine before he stepped back to the table.
"You sure you're alright?" he asked loudly, for the benefit of the newcomers. "Don't need any help?"
"Here, Bella," said Jasper quickly, jumping from his seat. Flustered, I looked back to see Charlie turning away from us to laugh at a crude joke of Emmett's, obviously not acknowledging his quiet threat.
He's mad, he's mad, he's mad—
"Here," said Jasper, suddenly right next to me. I jumped in surprise, nearly slicing my hand on the paring knife I was holding, but Jasper's quick intervention prevented serious injury.
"Careful," he warned gently, taking the knife from me. He laughed lightly, nudging me playfully with his shoulder. "Didn't mean to scare you."
I laughed—a high, thready laugh that betrayed my anxiety. The smile melted from his face before he caught himself, turning away to tend to the pot on the stove.
"It's fine," I said, taking a step away. Jasper took the pasta from the stove and poured in the colander for me, leaving me to stir the sauce. His voice was loud enough for me to hear, but quiet enough for everyone else to dismiss.
"You sure you're okay?"
"Go and sit down," he said gently. "I'll get this." I had no desire to sit next to my father for longer than necessary, so I shook my head and gently reached for the colander.
"Go sit," he insisted, refusing to let them go. I sighed and turned away, focusing on the salad instead, bringing it to the table along with various dressings. When I had placed them just right, I had no choice but to sink into the chair that was uncomfortably close to my father. Our table was made for four, not six, and it was a tight fit.
"Looks great, sweetheart," said Charlie, piling on the charm. "Dig in, everyone."
My plate sat before me, gleaming and white as everyone spooned food onto their plates. As usual, Emmett hijacked the serving spoon first, handing it directly to Rosalie once he was done.
With an ungodly amount of food on his plate, he didn't say a word before he took a big bite, his eyes rolling as he groaned.
"Great, Bell. Really good…"
I gave him a shaky smile.
"Eat, Bella," said Charlie quietly from my right hand side, plopping some salad on my plate for me. He handed me my preferred dressing, but at the very thought of eating, my stomach clenched and I turned away.
"No thanks, dad," I said, in the most convincing charade of tenderness I could manage.
"Honey, you need to eat," he said. "Here, have some pasta."
He spooned stroganoff onto my plate next, and I felt my stomach roil, forcing me to lean away from the table.
Everyone at the table was watching me, concerned eyes flickering between my father and I. Rosalie and Alice glanced only briefly, looking down at their plates in polite awkwardness, but my brothers stared.
Emmett didn't take another bite.
"I'm sorry," I said, speaking to both Charlie and the rest. Charlie watched with anger in his eyes as I pushed away from the table and rushed to the washroom, my rebellious stomach lurching just in time for me to make it to the toilet.
"I'll go check on her," sighed Charlie loudly. "She's been a little off ever since your mother…"
At the mention of mom, my mind went back to the blood and the screaming, and I dry heaved.
The clinking of dishes slowly started back up again but much to my dismay, I heard the distinctive, loud, thumping footfalls of my father approaching my bathroom refuge.
"Open this door," I heard him rumble. "Now." My hand reached over and flicked the lock, and the door immediately swung open, letting Charlie slide inside.
"Enough of this bullshit," he spat, gripping my arm to haul me to my feet. "Get out there and do as you're told."
"I'm sorry," I whimpered, my voice laced with panic. As I stared at his angry, snarling face, the walls began to waver around me, my chest began to tighten and my breathing grew quicker and quicker…
"Oh for fuck's sake," he barked, running a frustrated hand through his hair. "Either get out there and eat or go up to your room and play sick. Don't go freaking out on me again…"
"I'm sorry," I gasped again, trying my best to get a hold of myself.
Can't breathe, can't breathe, can't breathe…
"Piss me off again tonight, Bella, and I swear to god you'll get it," he threatened. "They're only here for a few days. You're here for a long while yet."
"I'm sorry," I repeated—they were the only words that would form.
"Handle it," he snapped, sidestepping the unflushed toilet with a grimace and slamming the bathroom door behind him. His loud voice carried back to me as I gripped the sides of the porcelain bowl, willing myself to calm down.
A panic attack is what Jasper would call it. He'd seen me at mom's memorial, in the very same situation in the back room of the church's basement. The very sight of me, pitiful and weak, had sent him rushing over to hold me, gently coaxing me to take a deep breath in and slowly let it out. I tried the same thing this time, but without the comfort of another body, it wasn't as effective.
"No, Jasper, she's fine—" Dad's voice came from near the bathroom door, and I startled again, reaching up to flush the vomit away.
"I know, dad," came my brother's gentle voice. "I just want to talk to her."
"It's fine, dad," said Jasper again, his knuckles rapping lightly on the bathroom door. "Bell? Open up, please."
"I'm fine," I called out, my voice warbling and cracking. "I'll be out in a minute…"
The door opened anyways and I felt his warm arms pulling me away from the toilet for a fierce embrace, his head resting on my hair.
"Please don't be sad, sweetheart," he said softly. "It'll be alright."
"Yeah." I took a shallow, shuddering breath and Jasper's grip tightened
"Deep breaths," he reminded me softly, running a hand down my back. "Take it easy, honey."
"Sorry," I repeated, trying to pull back.
"Nothing to be sorry for," he said easily. "Just relax."
Another few minutes and I felt the bands around my chest easing away, and my nausea turned to simple butterflies.
"There now," he soothed. "Better?"
"Yeah," I said awkwardly, wishing for once in my life I could just get it right.
'Such a fuck up…' came the mean little voice. 'Charlie's gonna kick your ass…'
"You want to come out and eat something?" asked Jasper quietly, helping me to my feet.
"No thanks." He opened his mouth to protest but I cut him off with a careful promise. "I'll eat later. I'm just not feeling it right now."
"Alright," he agreed, ushering me out of the bathroom with a gentle, guiding hand. "Come and sit down. We haven't seen you in forever."
In the living room, Charlie was engaging both Alice and Rosalie in quiet conversation, leaving Emmett alone on the sofa, staring in the direction of Jasper and I. He caught my gaze when I came in and frowned, glancing up meaningfully to our brother.
I had no idea what their unspoken language was conveying this time, but I was sure it had to do with me. My suspicions were confirmed when Emmett wiggled his finger to me, urging me to come closer.
"You okay?" he asked in a hushed voice as he sat me down next to him.
"Fine," I said, giving him a brave smile. His lack of a grin proved that he didn't believe me, but he nodded anyways.
"How's school going?" he asked gently, switching the subject. "Doing well?"
"Yeah," I said. "I've passed everything so far."
"I knew you would," he said, cracking his first grin since dinner. "Thinking of UDub?"
"Maybe," I teased, knowing very well that I would like nothing better than to go where my brothers were.
They were my solace.
"Emmett," said dad, cutting into our conversation. "Have you given any thought to where you'd like to sleep?"
Emmett just grinned.
"Doesn't matter to me," he said quickly. "Maybe Rose and I in the spare room?"
"It's still your room," said Charlie gruffly, turning to face him. "Beds are still there and everything. Spare room…." He shook his head and scowled, turning to Jasper.
"Wherever there's room," he said graciously.
"How about Emmett and Rose in your room, you and Alice in mine, and I'll take the couch."
"Sounds great," said Jasper, smiling at Alice.
"Are you girls alright sharing rooms with those two?" asked Charlie, shooting a sly grin at both his sons. Jasper just shook his head, smiling, and Emmett wheeled around in mock-offence.
"I'll have you know, old man, that Rosie and I are plenty familiar with shared beds…"
"Emmett!" Rosalie's cheeks stained pink as she turned to face him, her eyes flashing.
Emmett and Charlie both laughed.
"I don't want to put these nice young ladies in an uncomfortable position," said Charlie, chuckling. "And no funny business, either, Mister."
Emmett waggled his eyebrows, shooting the red-faced Rosalie a wink.
When 11 o'clock rolled around, everyone was yawning and Charlie was nodding off in his La-Z-Boy chair. I was curled up on the sofa, my feet tucked securely under Emmett's legs, keeping my feet warm. Jasper had his arm around my shoulders, letting me rest on him as I tried my best to look sleepy, as everyone else did. The movie we'd all been watching had come to an end nearly five minutes ago, and as the last of the credits rolled, Jasper turned off the television.
"Bed, guys?" he said quietly, looking between the girls, Emmett and myself. "I'm done for."
Emmett sat up and stretched his long arms out, yawning.
"Sure," he said. "Rosie?"
"Yep," she said, standing and reaching out for his hand. "Goodnight, Bella. It was great meeting you."
She smiled gently at me and took Emmett's hand, letting him lead her up the staircase towards the bedroom he'd once shared with Jasper. Jasper nudged me away so he could sit up and show Alice the way to dad's room.
"See you in the morning, Bell," he said. "Love you."
"Love you too," I said quietly, standing carefully so as not to wake Charlie up. "Goodnight Alice."
"Goodnight, Bella," she replied, stepping forward to press a kiss to my sore cheek. I forced myself not to wince, and followed close behind. I had no desire to be left alone with Charlie in the dark living room, even if he was asleep. When we reached the top of the steps, Jasper went across the hall to the master bedroom and closed the door behind him, leaving me alone on the landing. I did my best to avoid the squeakiest floorboards on my way to my room, locking my door behind me.
I wasn't the least bit tired, and the quiet of the house was unnerving.
Trying to be as silent as possible, I put on the ugly pajamas I'd discarded last night and slipped under the sheets on my bed, drawing them up to my chin. The sound of my breathing was loud and cumbersome in the silence of the house. Without Charlie's snoring across the hall I had no way of knowing if he was awake or asleep, and the very thought unnerved me.
Emmett's snores soon took over for the usual noises dad made, but even as the clock flashed 3:08, sleep eluded me. Without warning, my stomach growled noisily in the dark, and my lack of dinner and episode of sickness caught up with me, leaving me famished.
Dad was a heavy sleeper, I knew, and with the boys upstairs, there would be little chance of the microwave waking them…
I rose from my bed and slid down the stairs, arriving in the kitchen without much ado. The refrigerator was easy to find, even in the dark, and when I opened the door, I had to blink away the spots in my vision. The pot of pasta and the covered salad bowl sat on the shelf in front of me, and I reached out to grab it.
It was only when I heard the soft breathing behind me that I realized there was no snoring coming from the living room.
A/N: Sorry about the wait, folks. I appreciate your patience! Let me know what you think of the new, edited version of the story with a review!