AN: Guys, again, I am SO sorry. Life has been majorly getting in the way, and on top of that, despite having almost all of the chapter done for quite a while...I hit a block, for the Charlie scene, despite having the rest done. So, as my own birthday present, I get to post this finally, so I can be happy knowing that you guys finally get the chapter you've been waiting for. All of you who are still with me, and those who have sent PM's asking about the story...all of you are amazing!
I know you want to get reading, but be sure to read a VERY important AN at the bottom, okay?
Disclaimer: I don't own Twilight.
Beta'd by Feenrai, who is, hands down, the best beta ever =D.
We didn't seem to need words, then, as we sat there. He seemed content to just be, and I was grateful for it, as I attempted to get used to the discomfort of being touched right now. Wanted or not, my thoughts stampeded my mind again, and I couldn't get his words out of my mind. They played over and over in my mind, along with so many memories of our friendship, and the way we used to be with one another - trying, unsuccessfully, to figure out if he really thought that was what I wanted.
As I sat there, staring unseeingly at the gaping hole in Edward's wall, I couldn't help but feel even worse than I did earlier, because one thought - one poisonous, numbing thought came to mind:
Did all of this happen because I led Jacob on?
"Oh, Beeeella! Edwaaaard!"
Our names were sing-songed in a high, trilling voice which could only belong to one person: Alice.
She bounded into Edward's room, forgoing knocking as she came to a halt in front of us, her loud entrance having woken me up to the bright morning light streaming in through the windows.
"Alice," I whined, her voice being entirely too loud to someone who just woke up. As I went to rub my eyes in an effort to wake myself up, my left hand didn't budge. Instead, I realized it was wrapped loosely in icy fingers. With a gasp, I realized I must have fallen asleep like that, after offering him my hand in the only kind of comfort I could.
I turned my head to smile shyly at him, which he returned just as tentatively.
"Good morning, love," he spoke softly, his thumb slowly brushing over my knuckles.
I shuddered, but not in an unpleasant way - more out of elation that I was able to sleep while touching him in some small way. However, to try and get the attention off of me, and my reaction, I turned to Alice, and pointed my free index finger at Edward. "That is the volume of how nice people talk in the morning."
Edward chuckled beside me, our hands jiggling with his movement. Alice only smiled wider, and began to suspiciously rock back and forth on the balls of her feet.
I narrowed my eyes at her. "What?"
"Yes, out with it, please," Edward interjected. "The song you're singing to mask your thoughts isn't very...appealing."
"Exactly," she beamed at him, clearly enjoying trying to get a rise out of him. After he raised his eyebrow, she sighed, and stopped rocking. "I have a surprise for you two!"
"Alice, you know I don't really like surprises..." I mumbled, apprehensive to even know what kind of surprise it was - I had had enough surprises in my life lately, none of which have been good.
"Please, Bella...humor me? You'll like it. Besides, I haven't been able to be there for you as much as I want to lately, so please?" I couldn't decide if her blinking was just that...blinking, or if she was attempting to bat her eyelashes, hoping to sway me.
A smile ghosted over my lips. I couldn't help it. I had honestly missed her, even with seeing her as much as I have lately.
She squealed, already seeing my answer. "Okay, up! Be downstairs in five minutes!" she yelled as she bolted downstairs.
After taking a few human minutes, Edward and I made our way downstairs, no longer holding hands, but still staying close to one another.
"You know," he leaned in conspiratorially, just whispering, "we could just try and sneak out the back..."
"Don't even think about it!" Alice yelled, still out of sight.
I laughed, knowing it was an impossibility from the beginning. What surprised me was the beautiful, albeit small laugh that came from Edward. It made me happy to see him smile after last night.
As we came into the room, and my eyes settled upon Alice, and what was beside her, I stopped mid-step, causing Edward to freeze.
"Ta-da!" Alice sang, a brilliant smile on her face, as she held her hands out towards the item.
"Your piano..." I whispered, feeling irrationally emotional, seeing as Alice replaced Edward's old one that he had destroyed. I was about to open my mouth to thank her, knowing that her replacing the piano would make Edward happy, and hopefully give him an outlet for his emotions, but she interrupted before I could speak.
"You don't have to thank me. I figured you guys might like the day - and the house - to yourselves, to just spend the day together. Maybe try out the new piano," she hinted, as I caught a tiny glimmer of something in her eyes.
"Thank you," Edward spoke, his eyes only darting to Alice for a moment, before settling back on the beautiful, shiny, black piano. She smiled back at him, more gentle than excited now, and if she responded, it wasn't aloud, though she seemed to realize there was a bit more to Edward's simple 'thank you'.
At first, a temporary blur as he came through the doorway, Jasper immediately slowed to a more human pace, as he came to stand beside Alice, wrapping his arm around her waist.
"Rosalie, Emmett and Esme are out hunting for the day, and Carlisle's at work...and now that Alice has shown you your surprise, Alice and I will be out of your hair," he explained with a barely-there smile.
As they began to retreat, I distractedly called out a goodbye, all the while my eyes stayed fixed on Edward, as he approached the piano, his fingertips grazing the top surface, before stopping in front of the keys. He sat down on the bench, and suddenly looked up, his eyes locked on mine, as he held out his hand to me, inviting me closer - inviting me to join him.
I only hesitated for a split second, steeling my nerves and my resolve, as I placed my hand in his, and sat down beside him. We sat there, staring at the keys, neither one of us touching the piano, neither one of us talking. The only sound in the room was my own breathing. More than anything, it was beginning to set me on edge, so I hesitantly reached out with my free hand, and pressed down on a key, the room reverberated with the loud sound and caused me to snatch my hand back.
Edward looked at me, then, his eyes locked on mine. I could only maintain the eye contact for a second, before I had to look away. With a gentle squeeze, he released my hand, and began to play. It was a song I would know anywhere, and within the first few notes, I began to relax, enjoying the soothing melody that was forever etched in my memory: my lullaby.
As the final notes of my lullaby filled the air, he seamlessly began something else. Something beautiful, but almost heartrendingly sad. My eyes were already wet from hearing my lullaby being played for me, because it just felt so...normal. Something like we would have done before, and have done many times before. It just felt normal, and for those few minutes...I felt normal. Above all else, I cherished that feeling, that normalcy, because I didn't feel normal anymore. I wasn't normal anymore, and that scared me. Lately, that was also one of my biggest fears.
Adding to my emotional state, though, were these unfamiliar notes filling the air, its sadness pouring into me and making me wonder if this was how Edward felt.
I had managed to hold off the tears as the final notes faded into silence...unfortunately, I still flinched, and then stiffened as I felt Edward's fingers barely grazing my hand, before incredibly slowly taking my hand back in his.
As I controlled my breathing, and tried to force my muscles to relax, I squeezed his hand, trying to let him know it was okay. I could see him looking at me worriedly out of the corner of his eye, but I was trying. I needed to try, and I knew that. Sometimes I just needed to feel him, to touch him, and after last night, I knew he felt the same way. I couldn't guarantee that I would always be able to manage the contact, but I would try. I resolved myself to at least try, because I wanted so badly to have that aspect of normalcy back.
"That was beautiful," I whispered, when I had finally managed to compose myself.
"Just like you," he breathed, his hand holding mine a little bit more tightly, as his thumb began to ghost over my fingers.
I didn't respond, feeling anything but beautiful lately, but I tried to at least smile. Instead, I said, "thank you for playing my lullably."
At this, he did smile. "It was my pleasure, m'lady," he joked, as he attempted to bow from his seated position.
Without my consent, and to my own surprise, a tiny giggle escaped out of me at seeing him be so...chivalrous, and I couldn't help but picture him from his own time period. The only conclusion I could come to in my imaginings, was that he still looked just as handsome, regardless of how he dressed or wore his hair.
I sighed, realizing that I stood no chance of being pretty next to him, especially not now, not after what had happened. He was beautiful, and I was just...gross.
Edward seemed to sense my mood, as he squeezed my hand a little more firmly, and I could feel his eyes trained on the side of my face, imploring me to look at him. When I did, however, I could only look at him for a second before diverting my gaze to his neck instead.
"Oh, my beautiful Bella. What am I going to have to do to make you see yourself the way I do?"
"The way you used to see me, you mean," I murmured, not sure if I even wanted him to hear the words, but unable to restrain them from falling from my lips, holding nothing but truth.
"No, Bella..." he told me, his voice even, sure, causing my eyes to flicker to his for the briefest moment. "I mean how you are now. Not just before, but now, too. You're still the same Bella, just with some scars - but they're a part of you, and they don't change how I see you."
"But I'm different..." I mumbled, feeling my eyes fill with tears that I refused to let fall. I was sure of my words, sure of the feelings coursing through me. It wasn't just new scars added to me - everything about me was different.
It was the absolute truth. I was different. I wasn't the same as I was before...before this happened, as much as I wanted to be, or even tried to be. I acted differently, and I, especially, reacted differently. My thoughts were barely even my own lately. I wasn't the same person that Edward fell in love with, and what scared me the most, was that I wasn't sure I ever would be again.
"Bella," he murmured, his hand squeezing mine ever-so-slightly. I wanted to take my hand away, to break some of the intimacy of the situation, but I couldn't. I refused to do that to him, or even myself. "You have always accepted me for what I am, and I will always accept you for who you are - be it the old Bella, who stumbled over her words and shyness...and her own two feet. Or this Bella, sitting right beside me. What happened, Bella...it may have changed you in some ways, but underneath it all, you're still that same amazing, beautiful woman that I fell in love with," he smiled gently at me, bringing our connected hands up to his mouth to lay the softest of kisses on the back of my hand. "And should you ever change, my love...I would still love you just the same. From your flushed cheeks and beating heart, to when your heart no longer beats." He brought our hands to rest over his silent heart, emphasizing his point. "All the old parts, and the new. All of you, Bella. Always."
"So much for not crying..." I muttered, using my free hand to swat at the unwanted tears. Though it was nice for once that the tears were out of happiness. I heard him chuckle lightly, obviously having heard me anyway.
His words, though...his words made me feel warm, and safe, even if it was just fleetingly. I still had that voice in my mind, screaming that it couldn't be true, or that I didn't deserve his love, but for right now, for this moment, I chose to try and ignore that voice, and just...be with him, and let those words try to comfort me.
"I - I...," I huffed out a breath, frustrated, because the only sufficient words I had at that moment, were to tell him how much I love him, but due to everything yesterday, I couldn't seem to force the words out. Instead, I brought my hand up to my chest, resting above my heart, as I tried to put it into the only words that I could, while trying to tell him with my eyes, what my words could not. "So much."
I jumped, my heart pounding, when seconds later, there was a heavy knock at the front door.
"Shh, it's just Charlie," Edward murmured soothingly to me. To Charlie, he called, "come in!"
A moment later, Charlie's head peeked around the door, assessing the room before completely stepping inside and clearing his throat.
"Hi, honey," he spoke softly, almost gauging my reaction.
"Hi, Dad," I attempted to smile, unsure of his presence, and the nervous twitch he seemed to be exuding.
"Chief Swan," Edward nodded.
"Could I speak to both of you?" he asked formally.
"Of course," Edward answered, standing and guiding me by the hand he still held, over to the living room, where the three of us all sat down, Edward close, but not touching my side, as Charlie sat in a single chair across from us.
"I have some...good news. Or at least, news that should be a relief," he amended. He gazed at us both, his eyes assessing, deciding. "Jacob turned himself in today and admitted to...what he did," he breathed, his eyes never leaving my face.
I froze, my muscles all locked. Beside me, Edward seemed to breathe a huge sigh of relief, but me...I wasn't sure what I was feeling.
I should have felt better - relieved. Safe. But instead, my mind was a jumble, various degrees of guilt and blame clouding my thoughts.
I should be relieved and safe, knowing he's locked up, knowing he won't be able to come anywhere near me, or do anything else to me. I should be feeling validated, knowing that he turned himself in, and is admitting, not just to me, but anyone else, that what he did was wrong. That everything I've been feeling has been reasonable - his words no longer covered by denial. I should no longer be afraid.
Instead, all I felt was guilt. Every inhale tasted bitterly of guilt, and every heavy exhale was tinged with feelings of self-blame. I led him on. Could I be to blame for why he acted the way he did? It was my own selfish behaviour, and his then-comforting warmth, that caused his lines to blur. That caused his line of fantasy and reality to become a tangled mess, keeping him from seeing the truth at the time. I did that. I caused that confusion. Yet, he's now in lockup, for who knows how long...his life now gone, wasted...and, possibly, all due to my actions. I wasn't sure whether he was solely the guilty one, deserving of punishment. A large part of me couldn't help but tell me that I must be responsible for all of this - that I must have caused this.
"Bells, you okay?" Charlie asks, breaking me out of my thoughts. My gaze darts to him, his brows furrowed, eyeing me closely. It's then that my gaze lands on Edward, who sits beside me, still holding my hand, surely noticing the tension in my every limb. His eyes are intense, full of worry and, maybe, grief. I don't know what he's thinking - but then, do I really even know what I'm thinking anymore?
"I'm fine," I say, trying to keep my voice even, confident.
The only thing is...I'm not sure if I am. A part of me thinks so, but another part is doubtful...the same part that wonders if I caused this. From Jacob being the sweet, caring boy, and loyal friend...to now ending up in jail. My mind can't seem to comprehend how one could go from sweet, innocent boy...to what he's done, what he's become. The only logical explanation in my mind, is that I must be responsible in some way.
"Are you sure?" Edward asks quietly. I shut my eyes, and nod, not sure of what other words I'll be able to get out.
"You coming home tonight, Bells?" Charlie asks me, his words neutral, though his facial expression showing he'd like me to come home.
And that only brought another round of guilt, as I realize that with everything that happened yesterday, and Charlie working a late shift...he doesn't know about what happened. Edward seemed to realize this at the same time I do, as he clears his throat, and began telling Charlie the words that I know won't go over well.
I was right. As he recounted the evening, telling him that Jacob showed up at the house, wanting to catch me alone to talk to me. First, Charlie's ears, and then, his entire face went red, nearly purple, and his hands ball into fists.
"I'm okay, Dad," I assure him quickly. "Edward came for me-so did Alice-and Jacob left on his own. I was just a little...shaken," I say carefully.
"Damn it!" Charlie yells, his fury apparent.
His shout, however, caused me to visibly jump, and instantly, his fury was replaced with worry, and I felt Edward's hand squeeze mine, and Charlie's face looked instantly sorry.
"I'm okay. I just...we forgot, that with everything that happened, and you being at work, that you didn't know, that no one had told you. I wasn't trying to keep it from you," I murmur, my voice unsure.
"I'm not mad at you, Bella. I'm mad that he went anywhere near you, and cornered you like that. I'm mad that I wasn't there to look out for you - to protect you," his voice softens, eyes pleading.
"I know," I tell him, because it's true. I knew it would bother him, to know he hadn't been there when it happened, but it wasn't his fault. I knew he just wanted to protect me, especially now. "I'm sorry."
"No," he says, voice strong. "I'm sorry. For not being there."
"Dad, please - don't. It's not your fault."
He opened his mouth, ready to argue, but then thought better of it, and closed his mouth.
"Are you going to come home tonight?" he asks instead, after a few moments of silence. He looks completely unsure.
"I... I don't think that...I can right now," I force out, not wanting to hurt him, but knowing I'm speaking the truth. "Right now, it's just...him being there is so fresh in my mind, and it just...it sets me on edge," I shudder, thinking back to yesterday, and the emotions that swirled through me, as I sat in the house, locked in with him. Edward's thumb suddenly started rubbing across my knuckles, its rhythmic pattern soothing. "Not tonight," I murmur.
Charlie nodded, accepting, and not arguing. His brows were still furrowed, worried. "Whatever you need, Bella. Wherever you feel safe," he said lowly, his eyes sad.
I smiled a sad smile at him, not wanting to hurt him. It's not that I didn't feel safe with Charlie, especially knowing that he is now locked up, no longer roaming free and able to appear whenever he pleases. I did feel safe with Charlie, it was just that the memories of being trapped in that room with him, caused me to shudder, and my eyes to dart to every corner of the room. The memories were just too fresh, the fear still not completely gone from my system, from yesterday.
"I need to get back to work." Charlie stood rather abruptly. "I told one of the other guys that I'd come over here to tell you the news myself, so I need to get back," he explained, his eyes staying on me.
He came closer, leaning in as though he'd like to offer a hug, a kiss to the head, maybe, but stops himself, and looks at me yet again. "Just be safe," he tells me. "And don't you go anywhere by yourself again," he warned, all business, and worry.
"I won't," I promised him, all too easily, still rattled from yesterday, and not wanting anything like that to happen again. Edward was also my safe haven, and I didn't want to leave him.
Charlie's gaze flicked to Edward. "And you," he muttered, pointing his finger at him, and offering another warning. "Keep my little girl safe, and do not let her out of your sight."
"I will, sir," Edward vowed.
As Charlie walked by on his way to the door, he placed his hand on Edward's shoulder, giving it a squeeze. As he got to the door, knob in hand, he stopped. "I'll see you tomorrow, Bells. And call me later - let me know how you're doing."
"I will," I promised, as he turned, offering his goodbyes and was out the door.
As Edward and I sink back down to the couch, both of us still connected by the hand, and now our thoughts both reeling from this latest news, we remain quiet - thinking.
"Wow," he breathed the word after a while. He looked at me out of the corner of his eye, as he softly said his next words, his relief evident in them. "He can't come near you ever again."
"Yeah," I whispered, stuck in my thoughts. He can't come near me ever again...but is it because of what I did, that led him to that place - led him to the actions that put him behind bars?
Edward's other hand began to lightly trace the top of my hand with his finger tips, encasing my hand between both of his.
"You're quiet," he murmured, eyeing me warily. When I didn't respond, he asked, "are you okay?"
I stayed silent, not sure what to answer. Thankfully, he seemed to understand this, and didn't push. His eyes, however, kept sliding to me, checking on me, worrying about me.
Every breath, every beat of my heart, made me feel a touch more guilt, a touch more confusion. I couldn't make sense of it - of whether I caused this, or he did.
"I just...I think I need to be...alone," I admitted, honestly just needing time to think, to process. Time with no worried eyes casting obvious glances at me every few minutes. Although my thoughts were relentless, and I didn't know what to feel - I'm wasn't going to shatter.
Edward looked at me for a moment, contemplating. "I think I just want to have a shower - try to clear my head," I elaborated, hoping to appease him.
"Okay," he conceded. "I'll be here."
The worried look on his face as I left the room didn't escape my attention.
Already stripped down, with nearly ice cold water running from the shower head, I stepped under the cold spray.
I expected to feel relieved, but honestly...I'm wasn't. A large part of me felt guilty. Guilty for leading Jacob on, for sending him those mixed signals that caused this. In some ways, I feel like have no one to blame but myself, yet he's the one who will be stuck behind bars for who knows how long...for something that I ultimately caused.
I hated what he did, with every single fibre of my being, and nothing could make what he did okay - but could I honestly say he's the only responsible party?
The thoughts were relentless, and not even the frigid water seemed to clear my head. I'm not sure how long I was in there, but by the time I came out, I was shivering.
I didn't know what compelled me, but I chanced a look in the mirror after I had dried off and dressed.
For some twisted reason, I expected a different result. All I can see is ugliness. A girl who is run down, ugly, and lacking any attractive qualities. Some part of me expected me to look different now, to look normal now. Just like that same part of me expected me to feel different now - relieved, safe, free. Instead, all I can feel surging through me at the mirror's reflection is rage.
Why did this happen? Why did I lead him on? Why did he act on it, why did he do it? Did I honestly deserve it, no matter the mixed signals I may have sent? And why...why don't I look different? Why don't I feel different now that I know he's behind bars?
Why. Why. Why. Why.
More than anything right then, my reflection in the mirror continued to piss me off with its lack of results, but I couldn't seem to look away. I was transfixed in my own gaze, and hating - absolutely loathing - every single part of myself that I could see.
I didn't even think about it, as I grabbed my hair brush off the counter and flung it at the mirror with all my strength.
As beautiful, sparkling shards of glass flew around me and scattered along the counter and floor, I couldn't help but feel better - relieved. Because now, the broken, fractured, and disjointed reflection staring back at me finally seemed accurate. My reflection finally matched what I felt - what I was.
As I take a step back from the glittering pieces, I could already hear hurried footsteps rushing down the hall. I already knew it was Edward.
Apparently, he was right. I was going to shatter.
Good news...majority of the next chapter is actually already done, and I'm still in a writing mood, so things shouldn't go crazy and take forever for an update. Another thing to mention quick...Holly made a beautiful banner for Fix You, which I will be putting on my profile tomorrow, so check back soon for that! Thank you, Holly! I promise I will PM you later today [finally!].
Next chapter: Just how badly will Bella shatter, and how is everyone going to react to that? Is she going to share her thoughts of blame/guilt with Edward? If so, how will he react?
Time for that important AN now that you've read the chapter. I'm sorry, it's quite long, but it's important, and I don't want there to be any misunderstandings or confusion regarding some things you've read in this chapter. I don't want to offend anyone in any way with the author's note, either, so please bear with me, guys.
Bella did not lead Jacob on, nor is she at fault. She is notdirty, worthless, or any of the negative thoughts she mentions in this chapter. Its common for rape/sexual assault victims to mistakenly place blame on themselves, or suffer severe drops in self-esteem, as you've seen Bella do. Her thoughts are NOT a reflection of the author's thoughts or beliefs, but rather a realistic representation of the incorrectself-blame rape victims sometimes suffer.
Just remember - have hope. I'm not going to write a tragedy with a sad ending. Bella will continue to heal and cope with the trauma she suffered, and she'll stop falsely blaming and hating herself - in time. But I'm not going to rush to the happily ever after and ignore the pain and suffering it takes to get there, either...that isn't realistic. My main goal has always been to keep it as realistic as possible. I don't want to gloss over the harsh reality of the long-lasting pain someone in Bella's situation goes through, even if it's uncomfortable to read sometimes. And I won't pretend that afterwards, the victim is instantly all better and their life is perfect again. Doing so would be disrespectful to those who have suffered through something like in this story. However, things will get better...like I said, have hope, and be patient with both me, and Bella. So, just to be clear:
1. Rape is neverthe fault of the victim. No victim "asks for it," "deserves it," or any of the other nonsense prevalent in our blame-the-victim culture.
2. The negative, self-hating thoughts Bella relates are realistic representations of what some rape victims actually think. They are NOT what the author thinks, and most importantly...they are NOT TRUE! Its just one of the many painful, possible stages a victim may go through in trying to cope with a trauma, so just bear with me, please.
With all that said, hopefully you all are still with me? I would love to hear your thoughts on the chapter! Or even just tell me your theories for just how far Bella will continue to shatter. Leave me a review so I know you're still interested, and tell me what you thought!