A/N

Okay – here it is – see, the wait wasn't so bad now was it?

Thanks as always to my supercalafragalistic beta Blackjacklily – who got this done lickity split!

I also want to thank everyone who reviewed my last chapter. I loved hearing from everyone, especially those of you who want Bella to kick Victoria's ass…

On with the show – longer A/N at the end.


Hold On

EPOV

Hang on baby, please hang on… I kept repeating this over and over in my head as I made my way back to Los Angeles. I was exhausted and yet my brain wouldn't shut off with the events of the morning rolling around inside of it.

When Victoria took me off of speaker phone, all I could do was listen to the crackle and roar of the fire that overtook Bella's house. I was already on the hotel phone dialing Emmett, trying to figure out some way to rescue her. When he told me he was actually working tonight and was en route to a house fire that had been called in, my stomach rolled. I was happy that someone had called it in so quickly, but nauseated that the fire was big enough for someone to have already noticed.

"Bro are you there?" I reflected on Emmett's words from earlier.

"You're going to Ninth and California, aren't you?" I could barely speak, tears streaming down my face, knowing there was absolutely nothing I could do. I never knew what it felt like to be impotent until that very moment.

"I am. How did you know?"

"Emmett, its Bella's house! She's inside. Please hurry…"

"Fuck, are you sure?"

"Emmett, Victoria just torched her place; please let the firefighters know that there is a woman inside that house." I was surprised that for as panicked as I was, I managed to sound calm and coherent.

"I gotta go. I'll call you later." He hung up quickly, not even letting me respond.

My foot was tapping impatiently on the floor of the first class cabin as I waited for our plane to pull up to the gate. I hadn't heard back from Emmett before I caught the first flight out of New Orleans. My parents knew my flight information and were picking me up when I arrived.

When we finally disembarked the plane, I pulled the baseball hat further down over my head and kept my eyes on the ground. If I slid my sunglasses on now, it was like hanging a big ass flashing arrow over my head that I was someone who didn't want to be noticed. Thankfully it was still very early in the morning, so I hoped I could get out of the airport unscathed.

Making my way down the escalators towards baggage claim it was the sadness that reflected back at me from my mother's eyes that almost caused me to collapse where I stood.

"Mom! Please tell me…" I ran into her soothing embrace, waiting for her to tell me that the woman I've loved since high school was gone.

"Shhhh…. Edward, she's in critical condition, but alive. The smoke inhalation is extensive, but it looks like she wasn't burned badly."

I broke down and bawled on my knees, surrounded by a thousand strangers and hundreds of bags revolving around in circles.

I prayed the same prayer that I had been chanting all morning. Please let her live, please let her live…

BPOV

Beep… beep… beep… beep…

"I'm sorry Sir, family only..."

Beep… beep… beep… beep…

"I'm allowed to be here. I'm her mother…"

Beep… beep… beep… beep…

"Baby, I'm sorry. I shouldn't have waited so long. Please come back to me…"

Beep… beep… beep… beep…

"They finally let me come and see you. Dad had to pull some strings…"

Beep… beep… beep… beep…

"I love you so much…I'm going to marry you one day…"

Beep… beep… beep… beep…

"Bella honey, please wake up. Mommy's here. Please wake up…"

Beep… beep… beep… beep…

My eyes flickered open and shut again, blinded by the bright fluorescent lights. I struggled to lift my arm, I felt like I was suffocating, my throat parched and painful.

"Oh my God, I think she's waking up…"

"Isabella, this is Dr. Graham, you have a breathing tube down your throat, I know it's uncomfortable, but please relax and we'll see about removing it soon…"

My eyes fluttered open again to see a tall middle aged man with sandy colored hair smiling down at me. I felt panic, not understanding how I had got here, let alone where I was and what was shoved down my throat.

"Isabella, relax, you need to calm down. You're in a hospital. Do you remember what happened? Just nod if you do. Don't try to speak, okay?" His words were supposed to be soothing, but my fog filled brain couldn't comprehend his words. I closed my eyes and drifted back off.

"Bella, Bella honey? It's Mom. You're in the hospital. You lived baby girl; you're going to be just fine. Just open your eyes. Edward is in the hall waiting for you to wake up, just like all your other friends, okay…"

"Mom?" I mouthed, allowing my eyes to open once again, confused at the sight of a woman I hadn't seen in almost five years.

"Oh my God, baby. Yes, you scared me. It's me." Elation was dripping from her voice but I was still incredibly confused as to why she was here and where she came from. I just wanted Edward.

"Ed… ward." I gasped, trying to say his name around the tube that was choking me.

"Isabella? This is Dr. Graham. I'm not sure if you remember me from earlier, but we're going to remove the breathing tube, so I need you to relax and stay calm for a few minutes while we pull this out okay?"

I closed my eyes and nodded, opening my mouth wider, hoping to get the contraption out of my mouth as quickly as possible.

A minute later I was gagging as the tube was pulled gently out of my throat. Gasping for air, I winced at the pain of taking my first breathe since… well I didn't actually know how long I had been in this bed.

"Water?"

"Here, take only a small sip, as it's going to sting." A raven haired nurse handed me a large cup with a straw, holding it out to me to drink.

Taking a tiny swallow, I flinched when the searing pain hit me as soon as the water left my mouth. I finally noticed that my mother was sitting in a chair near my bed while Dr. Cullen, Edward, Alice, Jasper and Esme all looked on with worried faces from outside the large window wall that made up my ICU room.

"Isabella, I'll be back a little bit later to go over our treatment plan, okay? You're going to be a bit groggy for a while, so just relax. I'll be back soon." The doctor smiled genially at me, tapping my foot as he walked back out of the room.

I closed my eyes and rested for a few moments, allowing myself some time to rouse the sleepiness away.

"Edward," I gasped, nodding my head in his direction, hoping that he would come in. He was the only one I wanted right now. I thought I had lost him forever.

"I'm just going to go outside. They said only one visitor at a time…" My mother explained softly as she headed for the door. A distinct look of apologetic sadness looked back at me before she opened the door and exited.

"Bella, oh my God. How are you?" Edward rushed in, throwing himself down and wrapping me up in his arms in one fluid motion. He was still rambling apologetic sweet nothings in my ear, but all I wanted to hear was his beating heart. To know that I could hear that above everything else made it real. I still wasn't sure how I got here, but I wasn't quite ready to hear what happened yet. Hearing the thumps of Edward's heart was all I needed to hear to know that I was actually in his loving embrace.

Feeling him pull back slightly, I released my death grip and allowed him to survey me.

"God, I thought I lost you…"

Tears were sliding down his perfect cheekbones and onto my ugly hospital gown. I reached up with the hand not attached to the IV and wiped them away with the pad of my thumb. Confusion was still bogging me down, but words seemed like a cheap representation of how I felt at this moment. I never wanted to be without this man, ever.

"Ed…ward?" I rasped, smiling gently up into his bloodshot, exhausted eyes.

"Shhh, baby, don't try to speak yet. The smoke did a lot of damage to your throat and lungs, do you want more water? I can get some paper for you to write out what you want?"

"I just want you," I mouthed silently, taking heed of what he told me but also feeling how much it hurt without even speaking.

"I'm right here, baby. I'm not going anywhere." He grasped my hand and sat in the chair next to the bed. We both just stared into each other's eyes, mesmerized that I was still alive and laying next to my beloved.

"What happened?" I wordlessly asked, making the gesture for a pen at the same time. I wanted to make sure I could ask questions when he started telling me the story.

"Hang on, let me find one. I'll be right back." He stood up abruptly and my hand flew reflexively out and caught his wrist.

"No!" I rasped, my voice barely above a whisper. Irrational fear of his disappearance wouldn't allow him out of my sight.

"Bella?" he questioned, looking down between my hand gripping his arm and my eyes.

"Sorry…" I glanced down apologetically and slowly released him, feeling ashamed at my erratic behavior.

Feeling fingers tipping my chin up, I saw Edward lean down to kiss me reverently. "God I missed that…" he murmured against my lips. "I'm not going anywhere. Let's just ring the nurse and see if she can get us one, okay?" He smiled lightly at me as he sat back in the chair.

We sat silently with only the hum and beeps of the machines around us while we waited for my nurse to bring us what we asked.

"Here you go How are you feeling? Do you need more pain meds? You're due for them, but you have to let me know when you need them. Okay?" she asked, handing me the pen and paper before looking at the computer and the paper read outs that sat on the shelf beside my bed. Nodding my head, I wrote:

Pain meds please. They won't put me to sleep will they? I knew now that I was coherent. When I allowed myself to shut my eyes all I would see would be hauntingly blue eyes shaded by blazingly red hair. No, I wasn't ready to sleep just yet.

Glancing down at my note, she just smiled and said, "No, dear. We can give you something a little lighter. We'll save the good stuff for tonight, okay?" She winked conspiratorially before walking out.

"I'm sorry to interrupt…" Carlisle appeared, knocking lightly on the door before walking completely into the room.

"It's okay, Dad."

"How are you doing, Bella? You gave us all quite a scare."

I'm doing okay, feel like crap.

Reading over my short note, he patted my hand before continuing, "Your mom's here. Did you want to spend some time with her? Edward and I can go get some coffee or something?"

No, I'm not ready to deal with her just yet. Please apologize for me, but I'm just, not.

"It's okay. She's pretty broken up about it. She arrived a few hours after you were admitted. She heard it on the news and came straight away."

Just need some time to process, okay?

"Of course. The police were here earlier and wanted to get your statement. I'll let Edward fill you in on what's happened over the last couple of days."

I scribbled frantically, what day is it?

"Wednesday, you've been out for two and a half days."

What happened? Where's Victoria? What about your tour? I was writing furiously, my head ached as I searched my thoughts trying to figure out exactly what had happened.

"Calm down, baby, I'll tell you all that you want to know, okay?" Edward was running his thumbs across the back of my hand, trying to soothe me, when he heard the speeding up of my pulse on the machine.

"Bella, you do need to stay calm. Your body's really been through hell and you need to rest. Now that you're awake, you're going to likely have some breathing treatments for the smoke damage. You have some other injuries too. Your shoulder was dislocated and you have a few minor burns, probably from falling debris. Not to mention the severe concussion and facial contusions that are still healing. You're probably going to be plagued with some headaches, dizziness, nausea, blurred vision, and will likely be a bit confused at times, even having some short term memory loss. So don't panic. It's all completely normal. The doctors here will have you fixed up in no time." He patted my shoulder, giving me a kind smile before turning to leave. "I'm going to go let everyone know you're doing okay. I think Alice is about to break down the door if she doesn't get a chance to check on you soon…" Carlisle grinned at me before walking out the door, giving Edward a pointed glance. "Keep her calm, son."

Well?

I could hear him chucking as he read my note while I was writing it.

"So impatient… Well how about I start with what the police told me yesterday and you can fill in your side when I'm done?" He bent over to give me another chaste kiss before continuing.

Wait… Are YOU okay? I asked after taking a really good look at him. He looked terrible. Dark circles under bloodshot eyes. His skin looked sallow and a little grey. I really wanted to know what had happened, but I needed to hear how he was doing.

"You're sitting here in the hospital after almost dying and you're asking me if I'm okay?" He laughed morbidly, and it sounded like a symphony to my weary ears.

Hey, I'm fine, see? How are you? Please tell me what happened. I'm fuzzy.

"What do you remember?"

Honestly, not much. My memory was only allowing me to remember snippets, but I just couldn't put all the pieces together coherently.

"Well… when Victoria called me…"

I cut him off, grabbing his hand tightly before picking up the pen and writing again. Memories quickly flashed before my eyes at his words.

Victoria

Garrett

Flames

Oh my God Edward… my house. And you had to listen. Oh God.

I couldn't stop the heart wrenching sob that escaped when I realized that my beautiful home was destroyed and that Edward had been on the phone listening to me gasp for air, dying on the other end of the line. He wrapped his arms around me and shushed me, trying to get my erratic pulse to calm down. I heard a flurry of activity around me, but never looked up from Edward's tear soaked shirt before sleep unwillingly overtook me.

When I awoke some time later, I was in a different room and the lights were all off except one that was dimmed over by a sink lining the wall.

I took a moment to get my bearings as I woke up out of the drug induced haze. I was in a regular recovery room. They must have moved me from ICU sometime when I was out. Glancing around, I saw my mom asleep in an uncomfortable looking chair while Edward's head lay across one of his arms on my bed, his other arm lay limply around my waist. The clock on the wall said it was four-thirty in the morning. I was still groggy but felt parched and needed a drink badly. There was no way around waking Edward up if I reached up to the nearby table with my cup on it.

"Baby," I whispered, glad that my throat hurt much less than it had earlier in the day.

"Bella?" he mumbled, sitting up and rubbing the sleep out of his eyes. It took a moment before a look of concern once again filled his weary eyes.

"Hi," I muttered shyly, feeling embarrassed by my earlier meltdown.

"Hi." He leaned over and gave me a gentle kiss, while his knuckles caressed my cheek. "How are you feeling?"

"Can I have some water?" I nodded in the direction of the table set up next to him. I didn't want to talk about how achy my body felt and the terrible throbbing in my head.

"Here," he said, holding the cup up to my mouth and waiting for me to take a sip. My throat was still raw even after taking a drink. I sighed heavily and flopped back against the stack of pillows that lined the back of my bed.

"Honey, are you awake? How are you feeling?" My mother's voice rang out from the dim corner of the room.

"Mmhmm." Edward squeezed my hand in silent understanding that this reunion was years in the making. "I'm okay, a little tired…"

"Do you think we could talk?" She was anxiously wringing her hands as she walked over my bed waiting for my answer.

"Mom, can you give Edward and I just a few minutes. I really need to talk to him about a few things first. Is that okay?" I recognized her desperate need to reconnect with me, but I still didn't know what had gone on for the last few days and curiosity was getting the better of me.

"Sure, of course. I'm going to go get some coffee. Edward, would you like anything?" She smiled nervously at us both while taking Edward's coffee order. Once she left I felt Edward's soft lips on my temple, whispering soothing words in my ear.

"Edward, I need to know what happened. Where's Victoria? Did you know that Garrett was in on the whole thing? He's the reason…" My anxious rambling was cut off by Edward's lips glancing across my own.

"Baby, I'll tell you everything if you promise to calm down. Can you do that for me?" He sat back down and took my hand in his.

I could only nod and take deep cleansing breaths while I waited for him to begin.

"Okay here goes. First, Victoria and Garrett are both in police custody, so you don't need to worry about that. Garrett turned them in when Victoria freaked out after she saw on the news that you were still alive. I guess she started trashing their motel room in Barstow and he had had enough and called the police. They picked them up early Tuesday morning."

"Thank God. What else?" I exhaled the breathe I felt like I had been holding since I woke up.

"According to Garrett's confession, he's the one that called 911. He said that while he was in on the plan to hold you hostage, he supposedly didn't know she was planning on burning down your house with you still inside of it. So he called the fire in before she even had started it."

"Now that I think about it, I knew he wasn't completely on board with the plan. He looked like a scared animal the whole time."

"I think he's trying to work out a plea deal for himself and some sort of mental treatment for Victoria…"

"It's over though, right? She won't be back?" My mind raced at the thought of her getting out in only a few months if she was seen as insane. She had attempted to kill me and while I didn't know the law, I was hoping she would be put away for a long time.

"She's under psychiatric care right now, so unless she escapes where they're holding her, she's not going to bother us anymore," he sighed, running his hands through his unruly mop of hair, looking more frail and tired than I had ever seen him. "God, I'm so happy you're okay…" He took my hand and placed a kiss on my palm but didn't release it. Instead he kept it in his hand and alternated rubbing his thumbs along my knuckles and kissing them tenderly. "Will you tell me what happened? What she did to you?" he mumbled into my wrist, running his nose up my arm before kissing the crook of my elbow.

"Can we do it a bit later? My head is killing me."

"Why didn't you say anything? Here, let me ring the nurse." He leaned over and pressed the call button on my bed, kissing the top of my head at the same time.

"When did they move me?"

"A couple of hours ago. There was a big traffic accident and they needed the bed. They would have moved you anyhow once you woke up…"

"Ah, Miss Swan, you're awake. How are you feeling?" A portly woman waddled in to take a look at my stats on the computer behind me. "I'm Juanita, you're nurse, well at least for another few hours I am." She giggled, sounding more youthful than she was.

"I'm okay. My head is throbbing. Can I take anything for that?"

"Of course, dear. Let me go grab that, I'll be back in a sec," she replied over her shoulder, wandering out the door.

"Do you want to rest for a while? It's still pretty early."

"Will you stay? I know I'm pathetic, but I'm so tired..." Tears were welling up in my eyes and I swiped at them angrily. I wasn't sure why my emotions were all over the place, but between the throbbing of my head and the exhaustion in my bones, I couldn't hold them in any longer.

"Baby, I'm not going anywhere. Shut your eyes and rest. We'll all still be here when you wake up."

"Here you go. You just rest up and you'll feel better in no time." The nurse handed me two pills along with the cup of water. Swallowing them quickly, I leaned back into the pillows and shut my eyes, squeezing Edward's hand. I drifted off to sleep feeling Edwards lips continually kissing my hand, wrist and fingers, never once releasing his grasp on me.

I was hot, surrounded by oppressive heat that was suffocating me. Oranges and reds swirled around bright orbs of blue. I needed to get out. I was trapped, nowhere to run, nowhere to hide. Pain shot out of my arm as I let out a wail, "Edward!"

"Bella, Bella, wake up! I'm right here, baby. Shhh… it's okay, I'm here.…" My eyes flew open when I felt his words whisper across my ears, enveloped in his warm breath. His hand was stroking my hair while the other was holding my wrist close to my side.

My breathing was harsh and ragged as I struggled to control it. I felt someone tug my arm out of Edward's grasp. Looking up I saw a grim faced nurse looking down at the IV I had inadvertently pulled partially out of my arm.

"Now I'm going to have to find a new vein," she mumbled, more to herself as she walked over to the cupboards to pull out whatever items she needed.

Tears were streaming down my face again, unbeknownst to me. I wasn't sure why I was crying and told Edward that when he asked a moment later.

"You're emotions are going to be all over the place. You've been through so much. I'm sorry I did this to you. Got you sucked into my world…" Edward's lamenting words hitting my ears struck me dumb.

"Hey!" I exclaimed, breaking him out of his pity party. "You did nothing. That wench on the other hand…"

"Sorry, sorry… It's hard not to blame myself."

"You did nothing wrong. If it wasn't for you, I'd still be that shell of a person. You are forcing me to live and this little… incident, for lack of a better word, has just made me all the more resolved. Okay, so cut it out. I'm alive, you're alive, and that's all that I really need to know right now, okay?"

"When did you get so wise? Hmm?" He pressed his lips against my temple again, before sitting down to allow the nurse to replace my IV line.

It was then that I noticed my room was completely surrounded in bouquets of flowers in every shape, color and size.

"Who sent all these?" I asked, shocked that my hospital room now looked something like a florist shop instead of the dingy blue walls that were supposed to be soothing but ended up looking drab.

"Apparently you have some admirers of your own." He teased,teased; plucking a couple cards off of some bunches nearest to us.

B-Girl – Best wishes for a speedy recovery. Love, your crew at KDLE

Bella, you better heal fast. Lunch. You, me, World Café when you're back on your feet. Love Alice (oh and Jasper sends you his love too!)

Miss Bella, Hope you are feeling better. I miss you. Maybe we can play connect four in your room. Love Bree.

My mouth gaped open, how had little Bree sent me a bouquet of flowers. Edward had gotten very still and quiet and when I looked up into his eyes, guilt was written all over them.

"Okay, I might have gotten some flowers for her to send to you. She was so worried about you…"

My hand raised up to silence him and tug on his shirt to bring him down to my level. The kiss was warm and loving and I wished like hell that I wasn't so incapacitated at the moment to really ravage him properly

"That has to be the sweetest thing…" was all I managed to say before crumbling into another mess of tears.

I didn't have long to wallow as the door slammed open and in walked Emmett, Alice, and Jasper.

"Well… well… well… looky who's up and awake." Emmett's booming voice echoed across my room as he sauntered over to the other side of the bed.

"Bella, oh my God. Look at you. How are you? I can't believe all of this. It's just so, so… unbelievable…" Alice's hysterical ramblings were cut off by Jasper grabbing her shoulders and spinning her around to look at him.

"Alice, please." Was all he said before spinning her back around. It felt wonderful to be surrounded by my friends, my mood instantly lifted as Alice perched herself on the corner of my bed and waited excitedly for me to respond.

"Um, hi guys."

"That's it? Um, hi guys? You almost die at the hands of a psychotic crazy woman and all you can give me is 'um hi guys?'" Alice was waving her hands around her head frantically and looked a bit stark raving mad at the moment.

"Sorry, she's been down in the cafeteria for the last couple of hours waiting for you to wake up and may have indulged in her love of iced mocha coffee one too many times," Jasper explained running his hands lovingly down Alice's back in an attempt to calm her down.

"Sorry…"

"So yeah, that happened…" I smiled trying to joke about the last few days.

"So, baby bell, now that I saved your life… Someday, and that day may never come, I'll call upon you to do a service for me. But until that day…accept this justice as a gift…" Emmett started speaking with a really bad Don Corleone accent, causing us all to laugh, letting out the nervous tension that had begun to feel oppressive.

"Emmett, you saved me? How? God, I still don't know what the hell happened." I felt frustrated at my lack of memories. I just wanted to know everything and move on.

"Ah BB, don't worry. Your brain is just protecting you from all that shit. It'll come around." Emmett's large mitt of a hand patted my shoulder gentler than what I would have ever credited him with.

"So…"

"Well, Eddie here called me as I was already en route. I guess it was a good thing I was on the responding rig. I let dispatch know there was a person inside & well… you technically owe Johnny Allred your undying love and affection since he's the one that found you on the floor and pulled you and the chair you were tied to out…" He looked down at me suddenly and a look of pity flashed through his eyes. "Are you sure you want to know the rest?" I could only nod. No matter how bad it was, I needed to know. Edward tensed up next to me, causing him to clench my hand desperately.

"Well you were technically dead, Bella. We had to shock you twice to get your heart going again." I felt my emotions begin to unravel, but it seemed I wasn't the only one. Alice launched from her seat at the end of my bed and gave me a bone crushing hug, weeping thanks to the heavens that I was still there. I glanced up and saw that we weren't the only ones weepy. The men of course tried to cover it up, but I caught it and it moved me that I had people around me who cared so much. I wondered if I had let more people in after my accident years ago what kind of person I would have become. Alas, hindsight is 20/20, so it was silly to dwell on what couldn't be changed.

"Um, am I interrupting?" I heard my mother call from the door. Everyone's heads snapped to look at me. I could feel my face heating as the blood pooled beneath my cheeks. I had a feeling that everyone but me knew about my mother's mysterious arrival and what it meant for me.

"We'll just go wait outside. We'll be back in a bit." Jasper pulled Alice off of my bed and was quickly followed by Emmett and Edward after he placed a gentle kiss against my temple.

"Have a seat." I nodded my head towards the chair Edward just vacated.

"Bella baby, I'm so happy you're okay…"

"Mom, cut the crap. I haven't seen you in years and you waltz in here and expect me to welcome you with open arms…. Where have you been? I know I'm the one that pushed you away, but you're my mother. I was hurt and angry and you walked out…" Angry tears were flowing down my bruised cheeks and I did nothing to stop them. It felt good to release the negative emotions that had been plaguing me for so long.

My mother let out a huge sigh beside me, cradling her head in her hand, but I wouldn't let her off the hook. I let the awkward silence settle between us, doing nothing to relieve it.

"Bella, did you ever hear about why I left all those years ago? Did Charlie ever tell you?" She was talking down to her lap, still unable to actually look at me.

"No, he just said you had to go and that you loved me."

"Bella, I'm an alcoholic. I left because your father kicked me out after coming home one too many times drunk. We tried rehab when you were about four, but that only lasted about six months. When I moved to Arizona I finally cleaned up and was sober for a long time. Your dad allowed me visitation rights once I proved to him that I was on the wagon. You got to come see me regularly when you were about eight or nine I think..."

"Okay, so that still doesn't explain why you've been absent from my life for the last four years." I wasn't sure how to react to her revelation. It was shocking that for my entire life I never knew that she had a drinking problem.

She exhaled a deep breath and continued, "I met a man right before your accident. He was younger and liked to go out to sports bars and watch baseball. It had been so long since I had a drink that I thought that I could handle having one once and a while. And for a while I could…" She finally glanced up at me with damp eyes and I could tell that she was itching to reach out and grasp my hand. I wasn't there yet and kept it tucked under the blanket.

"Then your accident happened…" Her lip started quivering and she was trying so hard to hold back her emotions. "I came up right after it happened and seeing you in so much pain…" Tears began to trickle down her tanned face and yet I could still offer her no comfort. My resentment was deep seeded and even though with every fiber of my being I wanted to reestablish our relationship, I still needed time. It had been years, yet my wounds were still as raw as the day they were made.

"I would leave the hospital and walk to the bar across the street when you were having your treatments. I would drown my guilt over not being able to take away any of the pain and over not being the mother that you deserved to have. I was selfish and it was so hard. So hard to watch you… When you demanded I leave, just like you did with that boyfriend of yours, I didn't need to be asked twice. I ran. I ran away from the responsibility of taking care of you. The responsibility of being a mother and responsibility for my addiction. I'd been drunk up until about a year and a half ago. The man I was seeing finally left me and I realized that if I kept doing what I was doing I would end up dead and alone. Neither of which appealed to me. I went to rehab again, but have also been seeing therapist. I've been on the wagon for fourteen months now. I had planned on finding you after I hit a year of sobriety, but I kept procrastinating, unsure if you even wanted me back in your life. When I heard on the news that you were injured, I knew my time for self wallowing was up. So I came and all I can do is beg for your forgiveness and hope that we can try to resurrect a relationship. I'm sorry, Bella. So sorry…"

I sat there stunned by her confession. My poor wounded brain wasn't quite sure what to do with the information. All I did know was that I needed time to process everything she told me. I wanted so badly to trust her and believe all that she said, but once burned twice shy.

"Mom, I… I want you to know that I appreciate you coming here. Telling me everything… but at the same time I'm not quite sure where we go from here either. It's not like I'm eight anymore and need my mommy. You sort of missed that boat and we now need to forge ahead with some other kind of relationship, because while a piece of me loves you, a whole other piece is fighting hard to hate you. And I really, really don't want to hate you. Hate is such a wasted emotion." I was still looking down at my lap, playing with the edge of the sheet and trying so hard to control the swell of emotions I knew was tenuously being held back. "So give me a little time, okay?" Finally I managed to glance up and see my mother's nervous face break into a huge smile.

"Baby, I'll give you all the time you need. Just don't shut me out. Hope is a wonderful feeling to have after spending so many years in the dark." She squeezed my hand once before getting up and kissing the top of my head. "I'm here for another few days and then I have to get back to work. Edward has my number, call me when you're ready."

As soon as the door shut behind her it swung open again. Edward was standing in the doorway looking nervous and shy and worried. My stomach sank. I wasn't sure how, but somewhere in the recesses of my mind I knew trouble was lurking.

"Tell me."

"Tell you what?" Edward smirked before he took long strides over to the chair beside my bed. He looked tired; almost as tired as I felt. Sitting down, he immediately took my hand in his and kissed all four knuckles on my hand so gently it felt like breaths cascading over them.

"You look like crap," I" I blurted out. My filter was apparently as broken as I was.

"Gee, thanks…" God he's so sexy when he smirks… I didn't think it was possible in my battered condition, but I felt myself getting aroused just looking at him, even in his disheveled state.

"You can go home and sleep you know. I'm not going anywhere…" I tried to tease to lighten up the mood, but I felt the anxiety still swirling around me, my nerves taut just waiting for the right moment to unravel.

"I'll go home when you can come with me…" My mouth was suddenly filled with his, and the kiss was neither soft nor gentle. It was hungry, like a man who's been searching the desert for water and it was delicious even against my bruised lips. Ignoring the ache, I kissed him back just as desperately, missing the connection that we had been so lost without since he left earlier in the summer.

After a few minutes, our tongues receded back into our own mouths and our lips began to soften and slowdown.

"Bella," he whispered, waiting for me to respond.

"Hmmm?"

"I need to show you something, but I need to know if you're doing okay. It can wait…"

"Like I said earlier, just tell me. Whatever it is. My week is already shot, so what's one more thing?"

"Here." He threw a magazine that he had pulled out of his jacket at me, but I don't catch it right away and it fell into my lap. My own reflection was glaring back up at me from the cover with smaller images surrounding it; images from my past that I had hoped would have stayed there.

"I'm sorry…" he" he muttered, sitting down beside me and I felt the weight of his stare even without looking over at him.

The headline screamed in bold yellow text about a tragic past and a rosy future until being snatched away at the hands of a psycho. Groaning, I now knew what Jacob meant when he said, "If you had been nicer, I would have considered not doing it…" The article wove the tale of my happy childhood growing up in a small town, being the popular teenager who ended up almost dying in a ditch on the side of the road while her father was burned alive in the car beside her. It got more fictional as the story moved towards the present, but I didn't care to read any more.

My insides felt raw and exposed , just like I felt sitting at a picnic table alone, pale, and sickly years ago, the photo that's now gracing the middle of the article. I don't remember the day the photo was taken, but they were all the same anyways so it didn't matter. Hoodie up to cover my growing hair, cuffs pulled down over my hands trying to disappear from the world, eyes looking down, always looking down. Never wanting to be noticed and yet someone had and it was now out in the open where anyone standing in a checkout line could see.

"I'm so sorry baby…" I heard whispered beside me as I leaned my head back and closed my eyes from the painful assault of my past coming up to bite me in the ass.


A/N

Okay, so what'd ya think? This is the end of Bella's shitty week… thanks for hanging in there with her.

Artistic license has been taken with the hospital info. I am not a Dr. or a nurse and the only time I've actually even been admitted to a hospital was the birth of my 2 kiddos… so yeah, it's fiction. Take it as it is.

Thanks again to everyone who has put this story on alert or as a favorite. It makes my heart swell that you like my little story. Don't forget to hit that review button… we're getting close to 200 – so the outtake is still up for grabs… Even if you're not 200 - let me know if you have an idea for an outtake - I just might feel inclined to write it if the plot bunny is interesting enough!

I was also thinking about maybe doing a little outtake if Bella hadn't survived… anyone want to see that after this is done? Just curious.

One more chapter & an epilogue left. I'm a little sad to see this coming to an end after so freaking long.

Much love!