A/N - So this is it, the final chapter of Broken. Longer AN at the end.
I don't own Twilight or any of the songs referenced below.
Chapter 26 – Final Freedom
It's amazing how quickly things can change. Last night, in Edward's arms, I felt peace for the first time since opening my eyes to my new world.
But it didn't last. How could it, since nothing had changed when everything did?
I don't even make sense to myself anymore.
I need time. My heart is numb has no feeling, so while I'm still healing, just have a little patience.
I left that song for Edward what seems like a lifetime ago but it's still so true for me. I'm hoping for patience from everyone around me but I'm wondering if I really deserve it. I should be better now. They have all tried so hard and been so understanding and I have done nothing for them. I have nothing to show for their patience. I feel like I need time but I have no way of knowing if that will really be enough.
I haven't left the house in months. I'm not ready. Here I'm safe. Here is controlled and I know what to expect. There are no surprises, nothing waiting to jump out at me from the dark. I look out the windows and see nothing but trees… and places people could hide. I see threats everywhere out there. I'm only safe here, in the house. Yet sometimes I feel like I'm being smothered here.
There's no escape. The weight of my own life, my memories, is crushing me and I can't breathe. I can't escape my past. How do I wipe the slate clean? I have to forget. It's too much. There has to be a way to just start over…
What do you do when there's nothing left? How do you start over? Can you really pick up the pieces of a shattered existence and make something new or do you have to start over, completely fresh.
All I have are questions.
Well, that's not exactly true.
It's a new year, so maybe I should focus on what I do have in this life. That's one thing, I'm still alive. I haven't decided if that's good or bad yet, so I'll leave that for now.
Charlie. He means well, and I know he's trying, but he's never been good with words or emotion.
I am damaged at best, like you've already figured out. I'm falling apart… barely breathing, with a broken heart, that's still beating.
I wish I could be the daughter he deserves. He needs someone that's whole, real. I'm a shadow. Not even that really, since a shadow is cast from something tangible when the light hits it. I'm a ghost. An uncomfortable reminder of what once was that won't let others move on. A ghost haunts, and is the presence of things best forgotten.
No, I need to focus on something else. Back to things I do have. The most obvious would be the people that are around me every day. Carlisle, for example. He took a leave of absence from the hospital to be here for me. Given how clumsy I am it's probably good to have a doctor around all of the time. I haven't needed him in a while though… come to think of it; I haven't really been all that clumsy since waking up.
That's new. I didn't really notice until just now, thinking about Carlisle and doctors. Before, I was constantly getting injured. Now I haven't had so much as a sprain in months. I'll have to think about that.
Esme is a mother at heart and I think she likes having someone that actually needs taking care of. Not that the others don't need her sometimes too… ugh, nothing is coming out right. I guess it's a good thing that this is my journal and I don't have to worry about someone trying to understand.
Why can't my world just start to make sense again? How long before I feel safe?
I was startled out of my thoughts by a cold hand landing gently on my shoulder. I couldn't help the gasp that slipped from my lips as I jerked the ear buds out of my ears so that I could hear again. I found myself looking at Jasper, who was trying not to smile.
"Sorry," he started, "I said your name but you were very focused on what you were doing. Plus, the music is kind of loud." I sighed, knowing what he was there for. "Ready Bella?"
"As I'll ever be." I sighed again before closing my journal and putting it away in my bedside table. I was really dreading today's session with Jasper. My head was too full and I wasn't ready to let what I was thinking out. The thoughts weren't formed into anything cohesive yet.
Together we walked down the hall to my office where Bella flopped unceremoniously onto the couch in her normal spot. I sat in what I had long been thinking of as my 'therapist' chair. I never sat in it otherwise. I was trying to keep the part of myself that was Bella's counselor separate from the part that was her friend.
"Can we please talk about something other than me today?" she pleaded.
"What would you rather talk about?" I asked, honestly curious.
"Anything: snow, pickles, current politics, just please not me," she said.
I couldn't help but laugh. "Pickles?" She giggled.
"Ok, maybe not pickles so much," she agreed. "For some reason pickles comes out of my mouth at the strangest times… but we aren't talking about me today." She paused and I could tell she was searching for a different topic. I started putting together what I knew about pickles, just in case. I could feel it when she found a topic she liked. She got excited. "I know! Tell me about you, Jasper."
I found myself hedging just a bit. I wasn't a topic for the faint of heart and I didn't want to damage the progress she had made with me as her therapist. Her trust in me was necessary, and it had to be absolute or I wouldn't be able to help her. "What about me would you like to know?"
"How has the world changed since you were human?"
This was a safe topic and I was relieved. "Everything has changed and nothing has changed, all at the same time," I told her. "The world moves at a faster pace and seems much smaller but people are inherently the same. Everyone feels lost and alone and longs for a connection and to feel loved. Motivations are the same, no matter the time period. People lie for the same reasons they did then, love just as fiercely, though I think that marriage has become a bit disposable, which I do not agree with."
"What do you mean?" she asked, her eyes bright with curiosity.
"When I grew up, marriage was not something that was taken lightly. It was sacred, and not easily ended. People really meant till death do us part. Now people marry and divorce out of boredom. Yes, there are some circumstances where divorce is absolutely warranted, but people aren't willing overall to really work at marriage, which is necessary to make it work."
"Is that why all of you are still with the same spouses after all this time?"
"Not exactly. Vampires are a little different. When we mate, we mate for life, so to speak. Change is something that does not happen easily for my kind and, when it does occur, such as with the bond with a mate, the change is permanent."
"Oh," she said. "That makes sense. Since you aren't really of this world, per se, things that can affect you aren't either. Things like emotion."
"Exactly," I acknowledged her insight.
"What do you remember about being human?"
"Not a lot. I remember my mother. She loved lilacs. They always made her smile. And bluebonnets. I was so eager to be a soldier and it broke her heart but she let me go," I told her.
"What about the others?" she asked, curiosity alive on her face. It was nice to see something there.
"It's different for everyone really. Rosalie fought to keep some of her memories. She focused on them every day I understand, until they became permanent for her. Edward doesn't talk about it much. Emmett always says that it's better to move on and so I'm not sure what he remembers. Carlisle has some very vivid memories of his human life, as does Esme. Alice doesn't remember anything at all."
Her eyes grew wide at that. "She doesn't remember anything at all?"
I shook my head.
She didn't say anything more and I could tell that she was thinking. The strange part was that I couldn't really tell what she was feeling at all. Things around her had gone all soft and fuzzy again and I couldn't make out her emotions. It troubled me because it reminded me of the time she was trapped in herself.
Suddenly I got one emotion very clearly: excitement.
"Jasper! I have the best idea. I need to talk to Carlisle and Esme. Can you ask them to come back and then go out with the others? It's a surprise."
I had never seen Bella so animated about anything so, of course, I agreed and made the call.
I found myself more and more drawn to the Cullen house. To the rest of the pack, I was fulfilling an obligation to a friend, an honorary member of the tribe, and assessing a potential threat. But I knew the truth. I was fascinated by what was happening between the Cullens and Bella Swan. I couldn't think of them as bloodsuckers alone anymore. They had changed in my mind. Of course, I didn't want them anywhere near my family. I wasn't stupid. But I was starting to believe the stories about them.
I was creeping ever closer to the house. It wasn't an attempt to intimidate, and I believe that the Cullens knew that, or they likely would have attacked me at some point. I wanted to watch their interaction with the Swan girl and hear more of what was being said. Sometimes it was difficult to understand as they spoke so quickly and quietly but if I was closer I could pick up more. They really did have nothing but good intentions where the girl was concerned. It threatened me in a different way somehow. It was as if the foundations of what I knew to be true were built on sand that was slipping away.
"It's not nice to eavesdrop, you know," said a voice from my left. I had been so intent on my study of the Cullen behavior habits that I hadn't heard one approach. Sloppy.
I heard a chuckle and glanced over to see the youngest, the one called Edward. I was annoyed that he had snuck up on me in my wolf form and couldn't see anything funny about it. I huffed in annoyance.
"Sorry, it's just that I can read your thoughts and it was amusing that I caught you off guard. I thought you smelled me coming."
Huh. He can hear my thoughts?
"Sometimes. It depends on the person. It can be very useful though."
"Not to me, but to others I suppose. We are all sort of used to it by now." He moved to sit on the grass next to me, a move that surprised me since it put him in a vulnerable position. "I doubt you're here to tear me apart. You would have attacked already," he commented.
True. I relaxed a little and looked over at him.
"You've been watching us for a while. Come to any conclusions?" he asked in a neutral tone.
I figured you knew I was out here.
"Hard to miss the smell. No offense."
None taken. You all don't exactly smell great to us, either.
"I can see that."
I'm not sure what to make of you. Bella Swan has been living among you for months yet you haven't hurt her. On the contrary, you all seem devoted to helping her. It's … unexpected.
"People aren't always what they seem at first."
You count as people? I stopped. Sorry, knee-jerk reaction.
"It's understandable. Your people have a history with those like me. But we aren't the same," he said softly but with iron behind the words.
I'm realizing that.
"I came out here to ask you a favor," he said quietly while staring at the ground.
Favor? I was wary.
"Relax, it's nothing you won't be able to handle. You heard about the gift Bella got Alice, Jasper, Rosalie, Emmett and myself?" he asked.
I nodded. I had overheard Bella's request of Carlisle and Esme a few days earlier.
"None of us can really say no to her, especially when her reasoning is that she wants to give something back to us, so we are going on her trip in a few weeks. I don't feel right not being here to look after her myself. I wanted to ask if you would watch over her even more while we are away. Carlisle and Esme are staying here with her but I would feel better knowing you are nearby. Just in case."
I studied him for a moment, trying to figure out his motives, but his face revealed nothing. Of course, I was aware of his feelings for the Swan girl, and hers for him, but I hadn't expected it to show so easily.
"Don't remind me," he sighed. "All these years alone and now I'm hopeless against one human girl."
I huffed out a laugh and he laughed with me.
This is weird.
"What? Laughing with a mortal enemy that just asked you a favor?"
Yeah, that. I laughed again. Okay Edward. I can do that for you. She will be safe while you are away.
"Thank you," he said, and I could feel the weight of his emotions. It reminded me of my Emily.
We sat in silence, each thinking of the girl we loved.
It's been nearly a year now since everything changed. Since I changed. Alice especially was reluctant to take the trip to Europe that Esme and Carlisle graciously paid for but was a gift from me to everyone. I was so embarrassed having to ask them to pay for the trips but they were quick to assure me that it really was the thought that mattered, not how it was paid for. I guess when money is no object that's really true. They have all done so much for me this past year, especially Alice in giving Jasper so much freedom to help me whenever I needed him. They deserved a break and I was glad to be able to give it to them, though it is quiet in the house with just Esme, Carlisle and I here. It's kind of nice, though I can't escape my own thoughts in a game of Clue with Emmett since he isn't here.
Edward didn't want to go either but I reassured him that I wanted him to go. It was important to me that he had a good time. He's been so amazing all of this time and so patient. Plus, this way he could make use of the musical tour aspects of his Christmas gift from Alice and Jasper.
It's strange how much I miss them but the people that were a part of my life before seem like a faded photograph of people I vaguely remember. Have I really changed so much that people I used to love are strangers now?
It's like the phoenix that is my symbol in this family. Rising from the ashes. When you come from the flames, there's nothing left of the old. I've served my time in hell. Or maybe it was purgatory, though I don't know what I could have done to deserved this. My point is, my time is done. Don't I deserve to be free?
Bid my blood to run, before I come undone. Save me from the nothing I've become.
Bella Swan closed her journal slowly and carefully placed it in the drawer beside her bed. She took a deep breath and stood, taking in her sanctuary with human eyes one last time.
It was time. Did I really have the courage for this? My mind raced back and forth between all the possible options but came to the inevitable conclusion I had reached weeks ago. Yes, this was the only way. I carefully made my way down to the kitchen where I could hear Esme puttering away, likely making me a lunch that I would never eat.
When I rounded the corner into the large, well-equipped (though never used before I took up residence) kitchen I saw her doing the dishes from my breakfast that morning at human speed. It made me smile, despite my plans. It was just such a mother thing to do.
"Mind if I help?" I asked as I approached. There was never a need to announce my presence in a house full of vampires.
"Of course dear," she replied with a smile. "I know it's probably odd to do this so slowly, but I have found that I missed things like this from my human life since you came to stay. I find it soothing now. It quiets the mind."
I picked up a dishtowel and began to dry those things that she had already rinsed. Truthfully there wasn't much to do since I was the only one that had eaten but still, I found that she was right. It was soothing. And it made what I had to do next even easier.
I was lucky that my heart was completely calm and didn't betray my intentions in any way as I reached for the knife Esme had just rinsed. I was drying it carefully as I spoke.
It was all I could say as I quickly and carefully drew the knife vertically from my wrist towards my elbow, flaying open my skin and scenting the air around me with my blood. I put my already pulsing arm directly in front of Esme's mouth.
She fought the urge; I could see that she did. But I knew the call of flowing blood right in front of her would prove too much temptation. And I was right. In seconds she had latched on to my arm and was drinking deeply.
It all happened in seconds and I waited until I could feel the burn begin before I spoke.
I probably didn't need to say anything because the scent of blood would have reached him by then but I wanted to make sure he stopped Esme. I didn't want my death on her conscience. He was by my side in an instant and pulled Esme from my arm. "It's not her fault," I said weakly. "Help her, I'll be fine."
Carlisle looked at me for a split second with unreadable eyes before dragging the struggling Esme from the room and out the back door.
Somewhere in the house a phone began to ring.
I always thought that the last moments of my human life would be terrifying, or that I would see everything flash before my eyes. It wasn't like that at all. Despite the pain of the burning, all I felt was peace. It was like every tendril of agony reached and released another painful piece of history, leaving blissful relief. There really is something cleansing in fire.
All I saw, instead of my entire human life, was Edward's face.
All I heard was his voice, telling me to be strong and that he was waiting.
I felt memories slip from my mind like sand through a broken hourglass. I couldn't have held onto them had I wanted to. In reality I wished they would fall faster. Three days of pain was my payment for a lifetime and longer. I happily paid the price and was grateful.
When those three days were over and my mind a nearly clean slate, I opened my eyes to a new life.
Edward was waiting.
Please don't hate me for making Esme do that. *hides under covers*
Broken has been the most challenging and exciting thing I have ever done and I've been so blessed and honored by all of you and your reviews and messages. I hope you have enjoyed walking this path with me as well. No, it is not over, just this portion is. There will likely be an epilogue that will lead into Damaged, the sequel to Broken, but with my life in such upheaval I can't guarantee when Damaged will be started.
For those that are interested, the baby is doing great. I'm 16 weeks pregnant now and looking for a new place to live so I can be settled before the baby comes in December. We find out Thursday if I'm having a boy or a girl and I'm so excited for that. Things are still a little crazy for me but starting to calm down a bit.
I hoped you enjoyed the ending of Broken and I hope that many of you will stick around for Damaged.