I wasn't sure how long we'd been in the waiting room.
My nose burned with the smell of the hospital. The medicine, the sickness. The stench was too much for me. I couldn't remember ever being so bothered by a hospital. Then again, I'd never been in one for any more than a checkup, a vaccine. Never for something like this.
We hadn't been allowed to go in with Rose. Emmett fought. He almost got himself kicked out, cursing and threatening the doctors. Jasper held him back. They sat on either side of me, both as pale as the white walls behind them. I hadn't seen myself since we arrived. I hadn't even moved. I probably looked just as bad, maybe worse. My makeup wasn't waterproof.
Bella and Edward sat across from us. Bella was still. Her chest hardly rose or fell with her breathing. Edward had been on the phone since he arrived, talking to Carlisle and Esme, my mom, Rose's parents. Jasper had tried to talk to his mother, but had given the phone back to Edward after a few moments.
"She's screaming," he said, his voice shaking. "I - I can't."
His head fell into my lap and he cried. I stroked his hair as his sobs shook his body. I ignored the stares from other people in the waiting room - some sympathetic, some annoyed. I bit back my tears. My tongue brushed my lip and I tasted blood. I kept biting. Someone had to be strong. I only wished it hadn't had to be me.
Every time the double doors that lead to the hospital rooms opened, Emmett would stand. The nurse or doctor who exited the doors would shake their head and continue on their way. Every doctor who failed to bring news about Rose frustrated him. He grew steadily more desperate as the hours went on. I glanced at him only once in all those hours, and regretted it immediately. He'd aged so much in just that night. The happy, light-hearted Emmett who I'd seen carrying groceries that morning was gone. His eyes looked darker. His lips seemed as though they'd be unable to ever form a smile again. He looked nothing like the Emmett from my childhood. I wondered what Rose would look like the next time I saw her. A lump formed in my throat that I couldn't swallow.
The clock across the room read midnight. The window directly under it showed mostly darkness, the only light being from the streetlamps reflected off the ghostly white snow. The lack of cars made me forget we were in the city. Everyone was home, celebrating the holiday with their families, patting their turkey-filled stomachs and sipping champagne as they sent their children off to sleep.
I'd give anything to go back. I'd give anything to insist Rose took my car, or at least walked with her. There was nothing I wouldn't do to be able to turn that clock back and stop her from going out that door.
Jasper was still trembling in my lap. Emmett stood as the doors opened once more. A nurse with red hair shook her head at him.
"God DAMN IT," Emmett yelled, his fist colliding with the wall. "GOD DAMN IT ALL."
"Em," Bella said, lightly touching her arm with her fingertips. Only then, with her face tilted up into the light, did I notice the tears that stained her cheeks. "Stop. You're disturbing everyone. The other people in here are worried about someone, too."
Emmett flinched away from her hand like he'd been burned and slid back into his seat. His head fell into his hands. The next time the double doors opened, he didn't stand.
It was a waiting game. Several nurses came to ask us on occasions if we needed something - food, water, a bathroom. All for no cost to us, of course. Edward politely declined them on our behalf each time. I tried to at least smile politely, but the corners of my mouth wouldn't turn up. I managed a grimace.
It was nearly two in the morning when the doctor who walked through the double doors didn't shake his head at us. I shook Jasper, who had fallen asleep in my lap, awake and patted Emmett on the shoulder. He lifted his head out of his hands. His eyes were red. I caught Bella and Edward's attention.
"I have to go," Edward said into the phone. "The doctor is coming… yes, I'll call back with any news. Bye."
The five of us stood up. The doctor looked tired, and very stern. It worried me. I searched for Jasper's hand and squeezed when I found it. He stroked my thumb.
"She's conscious," he said without introducing himself. His nametag read Dr. Clearwater. "But I can only let family in the room for now."
"We're family," I said, without thinking. I often forgot that Rose wasn't really my sister, or even my cousin. How could I ever consider her only a friend? I couldn't, of course.
The doctor raised an eyebrow at me. "All of you?" he asked suspiciously.
"We grew up together," Bella said pleadingly. "Please. We have to see her."
"And you will, in due time," he said. "For now, only family. Hospital regulations. Does she have any family here? Parents, a husband?"
"I'm her boyfriend," Emmett said. His fists clenched and unclenched at his side.
The doctor took off his glasses. "Family only."
"I'm her brother," Jasper said. He pulled his ID out of his pocket and held it up to Dr. Clearwater's face for inspection. "May I please see my sister?"
Jasper's voice was broken, like he had to strain every word through bloodied vocal cords. I'd never seen his face so drained. He looked as though he hadn't slept in days.
"Follow me," Dr. Clearwater said to Jasper. He turned toward the doors, but Jasper turned to face us.
"You'll all see her soon," he said. "You heard him. I'll find out whatever I can. Emmett." He let go of my hand and put one hand on either of Emmett's shoulders. "She's okay. They would've told us if she wasn't."
Emmett nodded. I'd never seen him show any affection toward someone who wasn't Rose, but he hugged Jasper without any hesitation.
"Tell her I love her," I heard him whisper.
"I will." Jasper tried to smile as Emmett stepped back. It didn't work.
He took one of my hands in both of his and kissed it.
"I'll be back," he said. He followed the doctor through the double doors and was gone before I could blink.
For the rest of us, it was back to playing the waiting game.
Emmett didn't sit down. He couldn't after that. He paced at times, stood at others. Bella sat curled up into Edward, his head resting on hers. Bella was the first to fall asleep. Edward, though he tried not to, followed soon after. I sat alone across from them.
"I'm going to go get food," I said as a spur of the moment decision. I was tired of staring at the same wall, the same double doors. "Does anyone want anything?"
Bella and Edward stirred. Emmett stopped pacing, but he didn't say anything.
"Anything," Bella said. "I'm not picky." Edward nodded in agreement.
"Okay, I'll be back."
I walked toward the front desk to ask where I could find the cafeteria. The nurse smiled at me.
"Take the corridor to your left, then the first right," she said before I could ask. "You can't miss it."
"Thanks," I said. I suddenly noticed how cold it was. I looked back at Bella. She was shivering. Edward took off his jacket and wrapped it around her shoulders.
"Um, do you know where I could get a couple of blankets?" I asked the nurse.
"I'll find some for you and your friends," she said. "A couple of pillows, too, if you'd like."
I wanted to cry. "Thank you so much," I said.
"It's no trouble," she said. "Really. I know how hard it is. I've seen dozens of people come in here just like your friend, seen how their families and friends react. Rape is an ugly thing."
Rape? Who said anything about rape? I nodded, trying to be polite, but I ended up gagging. I keeled over, landed on my knees, and vomited.
"Oh, goodness!" the nurse at the desk exclaimed. I burst into tears.
"I'm - sorry," I said between sobs. I reached up onto the counter for a tissue and tried to clean up my mess. I tried not to look over at Bella, Edward, and Emmett. I hoped they hadn't noticed. "I'll - clean. I'll clean - it - up."
"No, no, sweetie, it's okay," the nurse said, coming around the desk with a mop. "It's fine, really. Do you want to lay down somewhere? We can get you a room if you feel sick."
"No, I'm okay," I lied. I wiped my face and found a huge streak of black on my hand. I never wanted to wear makeup again.
"I'm - I'm sorry," I said again. I stood up and ran into the corridor. I pushed open the first bathroom door I saw and saw a urinal directly across from me. I would have backed out, but my body thought otherwise. I vomited again, missing the sink by a couple of inches. I stumbled into a stall, locked the door, and kneeled by the toilet, preparing myself for another wave. All I got were dry heaves. I hadn't eaten in hours. I had nothing left to throw up.
Rape is an ugly thing, she'd said. I started sobbing again. Rape? Rose? Who could ever - who would even - how could anyone…?
I heard Bella's soft voice drifting in from the door. I pulled myself up from the floor.
"Alice?" she said again. "Are you okay?"
"Yeah," I said, stepping out of the stall. "I'm… yeah."
I leaned against the sink, my mouth aiming for the sink. I felt like I was going to be sick again. I wanted to be prepared. My eyes deliberately ignored the mirror in front of me.
"Are you okay?" Bella asked, unsatisfied with my previous answer.
I collapsed onto her. She managed to catch me, and she stroked my hair as I soaked through her shirt with my tears.
"Shh, shh," she crooned. "Everything's going to be okay. Rose is fine. She'll be just fine."
My sobs grew louder with each of her words. Fine? God, how could she be fine after this? She would be fine, of course, she was Rose. Rose was always so strong, so… together. But… rape? I pushed Bella away from me and threw up into the sink. She held my small amount of hair out of my face and rubbed my back.
My tears mixed with my vomit and I couldn't avoid the mirror anymore. Behind me, Bella was crying. Her cheeks were red, but so unlike the Bella Blush I'd giggled at since we were kids. Her hair was up, and her bangs stuck to her forehead. My eyes flashed to my own face. My face was stained black with eyeliner and mascara, my face was red, and my eyes were puffy. All of my curls had curled out of my hair, which hung limply around my cheeks. My clothes were stained with dirty snow and - I gulped - Rose's blood. It wasn't much, but it was enough to make me sick again.
"Do you want water, Alice?" Bella asked when I finished. "Should I get a doctor? You might be coming down with something… This can't be okay."
"No, no, I'm fine," I said. My voice was cracking and my lips were dry, but I didn't want water. I was sure anything I ingested would just come right back up.
I leaned over the sink in silence for a while, Bella rubbing my back the whole time. She didn't ask anything. She didn't have to. We were twins. She knew me better than anyone, and she knew I'd talk when I was ready.
"I know what happened to Rose," I croaked after what seemed like an eternity. "The nurse told me… she didn't know we had no idea."
"Really?" Bella said, leaning in so that her face was right next to mine. "What… what happened?" She wasn't sure she wanted to know. I could hear it in her voice. I started crying again.
"Bells…" My voice trailed off. Could I even get it out? "She - Rose was - she was raped, Bells. Raped." The last word was a sob. Bella's choked gasp rang in my ear, and suddenly we were hugging, sobbing into each other's shoulders.
"Who - could - do - that - to - Rose?" she asked.
I couldn't answer her. No one could. It made no sense. Rose was beautiful, of course. Everyone knew that. But that didn't merit… nothing made her deserve… nothing made anyone deserve that. There was no 'she shouldn't have been out by herself' or 'she shouldn't have made herself look so attractive' about it. It was so brutally unfair. Rose had done nothing wrong. It was someone else's fault, someone who I wanted dead. Whoever it was, I wanted to strangle them. I wanted to hold their neck in my tiny hands and somehow squeeze the life out of them.
Of all the inexplicable things in the world, this had to be at the top of the list. How could anyone do that to Rose?