Chapter 3 - My Last Tie To Forks

Over the years, I've learned that I tend to waste a lot of energy worrying over things that don't amount to a hill of beans.

For instance, with Renesmee was born, I was worried that she would be a burden on the Cullen family. I mean, these are people who have lived a century doing anything and everything they've ever wanted. Why would they want to be tied to raising a child? How much more wrong could I have been?

Esme, Alice, and Rosalie practically arm wrestled over who would get to hold Nessie … and they looked at dressing her as if they had a living doll in the house. I'd been ashamed to ask them the first time if they would watch Nessie so Edward and I could have a little time alone … and then sat there in shock as they all began to laugh.

"Bella, we've been trying to give you and Edward space … " Esme began.

"See, we'd really rather just keep her here 24/7," Rosalie interrupted.

"But we didn't want you think we were trying to steal your baby!" Alice finished.

So once again, my fears were unjustified. After that first embarrassing conversation, it was a rare evening that one of the three didn't come up to me and whisper, "Would you like a little alone time?"

And so the years passed. We'd all come to an agreement that we would relocate after my 10th anniversary. After all, you could only claim to "age gracefully" for so long. Even Dick Clark started to show his age after awhile. So, we quietly made plans for where we would live and what schools we would attend.

Eight years into this decade-long relocation plan, I got the call.

My iPhone vibrated in my pocket as I surfed online in our cottage. I was shocked to hear Carlisle's voice so shaken, "Bella, I need you to come to the hospital immediately. Something's happened to Charlie …"

But before I could hear anything else he said, the door burst open and Alice screamed, "Bella, come on, we have to go!" Edward was already waiting in the car when I reached the main house. "Rosalie and Esme have already left, common, we have to go."

"Edward, Alice, what's going on?" I whimpered "Please, please tell me about my father."

I saw Edward glance into the rear view mirror and look at Alice, his brow lowered in concentration. "It's serious, Bella. A deputy found him collapsed next to his desk. He was conscious but in pain. Carlisle is already working on him … they've called Sue."

"But what is it? What's wrong?" I stammered as I heard Alice gasp in the back seat. Her eyes cleared and connected with Edwards in the rear view mirror. "Go, Edward! Drive faster!" In the softest, saddest voice I'd ever heard, Alice whispered, "It's okay, Bella … I see us making it in time."

But in time for what? To say goodbye? Even her assurances were sad and weak. We drove in silence for the rest of the way. I could tell Edward was constantly searching Alice's mind for a sign of what we would face.

We ran into the ER and immediately found Carlisle standing with Rosalie and Esme. My heart broke as soon as I saw Esme's face. Yes, we had made it … but it wouldn't matter. She ran to me and pulled me into a hug, her body shaking with tearless sobs.

Carlisle gently pulled on Esme's hand to separate us. "Bella, it isn't good news. Your father's had a severe heart attack. The damage is … is … massive. He's up in the Cardiac ICU and we're going to try surgery but … there's just so much damage." Carlisle turned to Alice and she very simply shook her head. The movement was so small that no human would've noticed it.

I felt my weight go out as Edwards hands stretched out to catch me. Could vampires faint? Despair came off me in rolling waves. Alice came up and put my face in her hands. "Bella, listen. Pull yourself together. You need to go upstairs and see Charlie. You have to speak to Charlie before he's gone."

Gone … the word echoed through my brain … gone.

Edward turned me around to look at him, "Bella? Bella? Listen to me …"

I looked up into his golden eyes and for just a moment I was able to hold onto the sound of his voice. My voice broke but I was able to speak, "I'm listening …"

"No one lives forever … this is your chance to say goodbye. Not everyone gets this chance … you can do this." Suddenly the double doors burst open and Renesmee came running in with Jacob in tow. "Where's Grandpa Charlie?!" she asked in a panicked voice.

Suddenly … every ounce of strength I had returned … my daughter needed me. So beautiful she took my breath away, Renesseme looked eighteen or nineteen, although she'd just celebrated her eighth birthday. I went to her and held her, "Come in, let's go see him."

And so we walked, hand in hand, into the elevator. The entire family walked close together, holding hands and leaning against each other as we went into the Cardiac ICU. Carlisle stopped us. "Everyone, let's give Bella and Renesmee a moment. We can't all go into his room at once."

I looked painfully up at Edward and saw Nessie give an identical look to Jacob. So much alike, she and I. I took her hand and softly spoke, "Let's go, hon …"

Charlie had aged 20 years overnight. His cheeks were gaunt and pale and suddenly lined with wrinkles I'd never seen before. He was covered with wire and monitors surrounded his bed. So much braver than I, Renesseme walked over to the bed and took Charlie's left hand.

"Grandpa?" she whispered. Charlie slowly opened his eyes.

"Aw, Nessie …" and tears began flowing down Renesseme's soft pink cheeks, "Don't cry, honey, I'm okay." Charlie looked over her head into my eyes and I could see the tears in his own.

I walked over to the other side and took his right hand. "Hi, Dad … I ... heard …" and I couldn't speak … my throat seemed to seize up and refuse to move.

"It's okay, Bella. Can we talk for a minute?" I nodded and looked out the door at Jake … he took my clue and came in and smiled at Charlie, "Hi there, Charlie …"

"Hi, Jake … " Charlie's voice was getting horse and more strained. My brows knitted together at the sound …

"I'm gonna borrow Nessie for a just a moment …" and Jake put his arm around her shoulders and steered her into the hall. I could hear her crying harder once she'd left the confines of the small, ICU unit.

"Oh, Dad …" I sighed.

"Bells, it's okay. Listened, I've had a good life …" he began.

"Stop it, Dad … Carlisle says they're going to try surgery in the morning …"

"Aw, Bells … it's too late."

Where were my tears? I needed my tears. My heart had stopped beating years ago, and yet I could feel it breaking into pieces. I felt a sob come out of my chest.

"We had a lot of fun, Bella. And I'm so glad you came back to Forks to live with me."

"Charlie, I'm so … I'm so sorry I didn't come up more when I was growing up … I just … I just …"

"Hon, I understand …" and I could hear a slight wheeze enter his voice. "What little girl wants to fish with her old man and his buddies? Forks isn't a very girly place …"

"I love you so much, Dad …"

"I love you too, Bells. But you've got a good family out there. Edward loves you. He's always gonna love you."

I nodded my head in agreement, unable to speak.

"And that little girl of yours …" he sighed. "Bella, you had a beautiful daughter." He looked up at me as he placed the emphasis on "you". He was letting me know he knew … he knew Nessie was his granddaughter even though he would die and we could never speak of it.

"She loves you, Dad … we all do …"

"I know. Now listen, you tell Jake to take good care of Billy. Just taking care of Nessie isn't enough." I nodded again. "And Alice … aw, have Alice come here, I want to tell her how much I loved having her around.

Before I could speak a word, Alice opened the door and softly spoke. "Hello, Charlie … did I hear you say I should come in here?"

He tried to laugh but coughed instead and pain crossed his face so suddenly. "Dad, should we …"

"No, no … it's fine. I just wanted to tell Alice here how happy I am with her. You sure made the transition easy." Alice and I looked at each other in an uneasy glance. "Transition, Charlie?" "Yes … from having my little girl living at home to being a grown woman with a husband and a family. Thank you, Alice."

She smiled at him with the sweetest smile I think I've ever seen and said, "You're very welcome, Charlie … I'd do everything again in a heartbeat. But Charlie, Edward wants to see you, would that be alright?"

"Yes, yes … please Alice, let me talk to him really quick …"

And in a flash she'd gone and Edward stood in her place. Charlie cringed a little. They'd move a little too fast in their haste to change places. "Hey there, Charlie … " Edward spoke.

"Son, I just want to tell you how glad I am that you came back."

I was breathless. This was the first time in years that Charlie had spoke of those horrible months. It was as though we'd all agreed to pretend they never happened. And now, now he brought them up.

"Charlie, I can't apologize enough …"

"Oh, now stop. I didn't bring it up to make you apologize. I want you to know … that I know … how happy you make Bella. You're a great father and a great husband. And I'll be watching, Edward …" he winked.

"Aw, Charlie … I know you will."

Sue Clearwater knocked on the door. How had I forgotten Sue? She and Charlie were living together … but she'd been on LaPush with Billy when we got the call.

"Charlie …" she sobbed.

"Aw, Sue … now common …"

And I backed out of the door with Edward to give them a moment of privacy. I walked straight over to Alice, "Alice, you have to tell me, is there any chance …"

And her tiny frame seemed to wilt as she shook her head no.

And so we sat in the waiting room outside the ICU … taking turns spending a moment here and there with Charlie whenever he was awake Over time more people joined us, Emmett and Jasper returned early from their hunting trip, Seth brought Billy up and he got to stay goodbye. Even Angela and Ben came up to comfort us.

As the sun set and it became twilight, I felt Edward's hand on my shoulder … "He's thinking of you. He wants to be with you … I think … I think it's close."

I stood up and walked over to Sue's chair. Leah had come up earlier and Sue sat slumping to the side with her head on her daughter's shoulder.

"Sue," I held my hand out, "Would you like to come see Charlie with me?" She opened her eyes and looked at me for a moment. She understood. She understood everything. With Seth and Leah as children, she knew things most people would never imagine. And so when I offered her my hand, she took it with a resigned sigh.

Charlie never regained consciousness. He slipped away and we lost him as the last of the sun left the sky. And with him I lost my last ties to the human world.

After the funeral, I had no reason to stay in Forks any longer. Edward had only been waiting for me. Our ten-year plan was just a compromise to allow me as much time with Charlie as possible.

So now … with Charlie gone and Renesseme an adult … there was no reason to wait any longer …

And I'll take with me the memories
To be my sunshine after the rain
It's so hard to say goodbye to yesterday.

Boyz II Men – It's So Hard To Say Goodbye