A/N: I don't think you want to hear all my apologies for waiting so long. Truth is: real life caught up on me. Lots of work, a new intern to train, lots of work in my office because everything has to be finished before Christmas, sickness in my family and the death of my grandmother.
But I've still been writing on my story. Thanks for sticking with me.
I still don't own Twilight *sniff*. Loved Welcome to the Rileys*yay*.
A/N: Please notice the different timelines. Bella was still ahead one day in the last chapter. Now Edward and the Cullens are catching up.
Recently in After Dark: EPOV
"So you're the guy, hah?"
"Oh, there's always a guy. First there's the overprotective brother, then there's the guy. So what did you do to her? Should I call for Emmett roughing you up a bit?"
Chapter 26 – Facing Reality Part 2
Rebecca hadn't been able to give me as much information as I had hoped. Actually, she couldn't give me any more information she hadn't already given Emmett. But that was enough to kill my dead heart completely.
Defeated, I had walked back to Bella's place and buried myself in the blanket on her bed, inhaling the faint smell on the sheets like a junkie. I had planned to go to the college to gather some more information, but I didn't think I could handle more of it. I wanted to stay here forever, not thinking about anything and not facing reality.
Everything Emmett had told and shown me was true. There was no single lie in it. I had destroyed Bella.
Agony hit me like a wrecking ball, washing over me again and again like a tidal wave. There was so much pain. It rocked through my body, making me tremble and shiver with fever. The walls blurred, and I had to close my eyes. I felt sick.
She was supposed to be safe and happy. She was supposed to have a normal, happy life with a normal husband and normal babies. But I had destroyed everything and because of my mistakes, she had given up to achieve the happy, normal life she deserved. She had turned her back on her friends and her family. She had given up her career opportunities. She had turned to being comforted by drugs and alcohol and what else.
I couldn't turn my back on her now and disappear again. But I didn't deserve being with her, either. So if I had anything left that resembled a human soul, if I had left any shred of humanity in my dead body, I would arrange everything she needed to get better. And then I would leave her alone for good.
I didn't know how long I stayed in this position. I had no sense of time or whatsoever. I knew I had to get it together so she would get the help she needed, but I couldn't make myself move. My will was crumbled, my body and soul a dead weight that held me down. I could feel the vibration of my cell phone several times. But I didn't move. I couldn't move. And I didn't really want to. My brain seemed to shut down gradually. The only things I was aware of were the beautiful pictures of my beautiful Bella lying in the meadow, smiling at the sun and radiating happiness. And then there were the ugly pictures I had seen in Emmett's mind. The ugly pictures in Rebecca's mind. The ugly pictures in that vile's head, tainting my Bella with his disgusting thoughts.
I should have killed him. But I couldn't. I was exhausted, mentally and physically. I wished I could sleep. If not forever, then at least for a few hours.
I wondered if I was in hell. Maybe I had finally died and this was my punishment.
At one point, I could hear some annoying voices and whispers around me. I think they belonged to my family, but I wasn't sure. It wasn't important. All that mattered was Bella's smell around me and her angelic face in front of my eyelids. And these stupid voices tainted it. I think I growled.
I could feel a hand stroking my hair. I could hear more whispering. The voices didn't seem to agree with each other, but I didn't really care.
More time passed. I was vaguely aware of being moved by a strong pair of arms. I didn't care. It didn't matter. Nothing mattered anymore. I clutched Bella's scent desperately, not wanting to ever let it go.
Some time later, I realized I was still moving, but the movement was different this time. I was in a car. I opened my eyes and took in the new surroundings.
I was in Carlisle's car, lying on the back seat with my head in Esme's lap, my legs pulled up to my chest, my fingers clutching Bella's bed sheets. Esme was stroking my hair.
"Finally", Emmett's voice boomed from the front. At least this time Alice was right. This catatonic mutism was kinda creepy. I could hear Alice and Esme sigh in relief.
"Where are the others?" I croaked.
"Carlisle went back to Ithaca to arrange the move. Rosalie and Jasper are already in Forks to set up the house and organize the necessary formalities. They travelled in Emmett's car", Esme explained. "Carlisle will join us soon. He's taking Rosalie's car. The rest will be shipped overnight."
"I would have liked to travel in my own car with my wife, but Jasper couldn't handle your mood, so we switched", Emmett grumbled.
"Doesn't make sense to me", I mumbled. There would have been enough space in Emmett's car for all three of them. Actually, nothing made much sense to me right now. What was with all the travelling back and forth?
I could feel their eyes on me, like they were waiting for me to snap. Good thing Jasper wasn't here. He hated being bombarded with so many strong emotions at once. All this tension in the car, paired with my changing emotions would have been difficult to manage for him. He was better to stay away from me. But still, what were they waiting for?
I had to pick some more thoughts out of Emmett's brain until I was finally able to make the connection. "We're moving back?" I gasped.
"Yep", was his only answer. Well, the only one he said out aloud. Took you long enough to realize. Have you gone stupid while you've been away? You sure seem a bit slow lately.
"We can't move back. We can't. We just can't", I bubbled.
"Why not? I guess we all agree that Bella needs help. And it's easier to help Bella from there if she's also there right now."
"You're overruled", Emmett growled. Damn, why don't you get it? "It's not your decision this time. And don't even think about jumping out of that car and getting a one-way-ticket to Volterra. Alice is already edgy enough as it is."
"I… I don't get it", I mumbled, clutching my security blanket. "What day is it?"
"Jeeeesh", Emmett whisper-yelled to Alice. "His brain really isn't working right. I think he's traumatized or something. Can Vampires get PTSD?"
Alice just rolled her eyes.
"It's Friday, honey", Esme answered. "You went to Bella's place the day before yesterday. You checked out her appartement and you went to the bar where she used to work. Then you stayed at her place…" she trailed off, stroking the hair out of my face. "We were worried. Alice could see you're not well, but you didn't answer your phone. Bella's neighbour found you in her bed."
"The elderly lady", I mumbled. What was her name again? "I gave her money to feed the cat…" I couldn't remember anything. Had she talked to me? Had the cat been there at some point? Probably not. I must have scared her off. All my thoughts were jumbled. "Her husband is sick."
"Carlisle checked on him before he went back to Ithaca. He's fine. He just needs to stay in bed and take the medicine he needs."
"So", I rubbed my forehead before sitting myself up heavily and leaning my head back against the headrest. "We're moving back." I should have felt immense joy at the prospect of being near Bella again, but all how I felt was defeated and tired.
"Bella is a part of the family and a part of you. A part of your heart, of your soul", Esme said, taking my right hand in both of her hands while turning to me. I snorted about her musings. She sounded like Carlisle right now. They both knew how I thought about me and souls. And I wasn't sure if I had a heart. Either it was as black as the night for being able to do such horrible things, or it wasn't there anymore since my chest felt like a big, empty, throbbing hole.
"It doesn't matter if you believe in your soul or not", Esme continued. "As long as she isn't here, with you, you aren't here, either. If you don't believe in your soul, believe in your heart. Without her, your heart is broken. You're not happy, and you'll never be. You can't ever be happy without her. And-" she stroked my cheek, "we can't be happy, either. I can't be happy if my children are suffering."
Just then, I could see Esme's face in Alice's and Emmett's mind, looking shattering and worn out. And I could read in Esme's mind that she had meant Bella with the term children, too. For her, Bella had already been another daughter.
"I'm sorry", I whispered. "I know it's not enough, but I am. I'm really sorry. But it doesn't matter what I want or if I'm happy. And it's not your job to make me happy. All what matters is that Bella's happy."
"She's not happy without you."
"You don't know that", I argued, facing away from my mother and staring out of the window.
"Well, you can see she's not", Emmett hissed. Stupid, stupid, stupid! I'm sick of your constant arguing. I think your human braincells never made the transition when Carlisle changed you. He must have done something wrong, him biting someone for the first time and all that.
"Just because I did everything wrong, not because she's not with me", I mumbled in annoyance about Emmett.
"I can't believe you are my brother", Emmett groaned. "You repeated High School over twenty times by now. You repeated college several times. You have two medical degrees, for chrissake. But sometimes, you're just so stupid."
"Emmett!" Esme chastised him. "Could you try at least to be more sensitive?" She was edgy and tense, thinking about me disappearing again for months.
"I don't think I have the right to be with her anymore. I had given that up right at the moment I dumped her like trash in the forest next to her house", I whispered. "I lied to her."
"Edward", Alice voice came from the front. "It doesn't matter right now what you did. You're not giving up now. Edward, we're going to fix this. Bella needs us. And you'll help fixing this. You owe this not only to Bella, but also to us."
My eyes focused on the familiar people in the car. Even while only seeing the back of Emmett's head, I knew there would be pain in his eyes. Even if I couldn't see into Esme's eyes, I knew there would be tears if she could cry.
"Alice, I agree that we should fix this mess. But what am I supposed to do? Walk up to her and say Oh sorry, I didn't mean it like that? Let's get you some therapy and everything's good? And I still don't think we should be near her. It's too dangerous. I did enough damage. She was almost killed twice because of me", I dry sobbed. "Maybe even three times because she got lost in the woods and had to suffer a whole night alone out there. Dear God, she could have been eaten by a bear or a wolf. She could have died of pneumonia. She could have-"
"Stop it, Edward", Esme said, grabbing my hand and tugging with so much force my body slumped back so my head was in her lap again. "What's done is done. Now were going to look forward. You should save your strength. There's much to do."
"I feel so tired. I just want to sleep", I moaned, closing my eyes. I really missed sleep. It seemed like a sweet escape. Something else that was denied me. Maybe that was my punishment. No escape and no distractions for the rest of my existence.
The first months, it had been easier to survive all these endless days. There was a trail to follow, a duty to fulfill. I had run as fast and as hard as I could to catch up with Victoria. The more distance I had put between me and Forks and my sweet Bella, the better. It was safer for her, after all.
What a waste. I had spent more than two years away from my family, tracking Victoria. And for what? I hadn't succeeded, not even partly. I had not only hurt my family, but I had been hundreds of miles away running around uselessly on a wild goose chase while my Bella had needed me. I couldn't even bring back Victoria's head as a hunting trophy as an excuse for staying away. All of it had been for nothing.
Now, all I wanted to do was to sleep. Not thinking anymore. To forget. Maybe that was my punishment – that I could never forget what I did. I pulled my legs up on the seat and up to my chest, clutching the blanket with all I had. I think I could hear some tearing and ripping.
"You're weak, Edward", I could hear Esme say while prying my fingers open. "That's why you're so tired and have difficulty to think as fast as you're used to." She pulled the sheet over my exhausted body and I was engulfed again in Bella's sweet scent. "You haven't fed yourself properly over all these last months you've been away. You only fed once since you came back to us, and it wasn't enough. You're eyes are black as night again. You need to eat. And you're sad. Really, really sad. That makes it so much more difficult." She massaged my scalp in a soothing manner, and I could hear her thinking about depression and Carlisle. "I really wish you could sleep."
"Edward, I love her too", Alice said. Her voice sounded as exhausted as I felt. "We all do. We're not staying by while watching her slowly kill herself."
"She probably hates me", I mumbled to myself. "She surely hates me for putting her through misery all the time and bringing death to her. I can't stop you from going back to Forks, but I shouldn't come with you. I think I should stay in Ithaca."
I heard Emmett swear violently in several languages in his head. Good thing Esme couldn't read minds.
Alice sighed. "Don't decide for her what she has to feel. That's what got us in this mess in the first place. Let her decide for herself if she really hates you."
"Did you see something?" I whispered. My voice felt weak, too. My whole body didn't seem to function properly. Had I been human, I would have thought I was sick. Maybe they were right. I needed to feed. But I didn't feel thirsty at all. I haven't cared in so long about feeding, I didn't care about it now. There was no need to survive if in the end she told me she hated me anyway.
"No, not really. I still have difficulties to see her. It's like she's blending in and out. I guess I have to get attuned to her again", I could hear her shrugging her shoulders. I could also hear her singing the National Anthem of China in her head. I knew she was hiding something. But I was too exhausted to think about it.
Suddenly, the car came to an abrupt stop. "Are we there?" I asked, trying to get a glimpse out of the windshield trough Emmett's head, dreading the familiar sight of the rainy, sleepy town.
"Almost", he answered. "First, we have to take care of something." He turned to me, grinning wickedly. "It's dinner time."
"I'm not hungry", I mumbled.
"Yeah, I know. We just need to wake up your taste buds."
I snorted at the images in his head. "What? You want to drop a deer at my feet, hoping I can't resist?"
"Why not? If that's what I have to do to get you to drink? I can always shove it down your throat…" he trailed off. "It's either that or we're going hunting, you and me."
"I hate you", I groaned, pulling Bella's blanket over my head. I wanted to stay in this sweet cavern forever.
"No, you love me", Emmett chuckled. "Because I'm going to save you and Bella. And for that, you will owe me for at least the next 500 years."
"Tell me the truth", I said, patting my full stomach. I felt sloshy and still tired, but I could already feel the blood in my veins making me stronger. "Did she ever ask about me?"
"We never really… talked about you. It hurts her too much." Emmett patted the earth softly to hide the last proof of the drained animal he had just buried and got up. "Let's go. They're surely already waiting."
I grabbed his wrist. "What are you hiding?" I furrowed my brows, suddenly suspicious. "Did something happen when you picked her up at the hospital?"
"I didn't pick her up at the hospital", I said slowly, trying not to show him everything at once.
"She wasn't there?" he spluttered, already hyperventilating. "She has been drinking again? There was a… what?" he shrieked.
I grabbed him by the shoulders, trying to hold him still. Damn Alice! Couldn't she have warned me beforehand? The fact that he had his full strength back made holding him in place much more difficult.
"Well, if you'd let me think in peace, I could show you everything in order. That would make everything much more easier for both of us."
Reviews are better than Edward's constant hysteria and angst.
Coming up next: Some Bella meeting other people in town and some Emmett filling in Edward on the latest news.