Dr. Franz looked like she needed therapy more than I did. As much as I had let my appearance go since Edward left and took his fashion policing sister with him, I looked more polished than Rosalie beside her. Everything she wore was too big for her; today it was a seasonal sweater that covered up any clues that there was a woman underneath, a pair of corduroy pants, and the usual black framed glasses too big for her face. Her brown hair was turning gray, but she either didn't notice or chose not to. I wasn't normally one to look for flaws in others to make myself look better, but I was in a slightly bitter mood today. Therapy was supposed to make people feel better, but all I could feel since I started seeing her was rage. Blinding rage, and crushing loneliness. The hole Edward left inside me had become something more tangible: a nest where pure hatred and abandonment and an even darker breed of sadness and misery lived. It wasn't enough hearing his voice or seeing him in my nightmares anymore. I lived and breathed my own misery and resentment, and every trip inside me only made it worse.
Before this appointment, I had filled the journal she made me buy with a mostly bullshit account of my "fun time out" with Jessica. I omitted the part where I practically walked into a rape scene just to hear Edward's voice, and where Jessica decided she didn't want to be a part of the Bella Swan mess and left me alone, just like he did. Throwing myself onto the couch across from Dr. Franz's executive chair, I absently tossed her the notebook, hoping she wouldn't ask the drilling questions that were always open to more answers than I wanted to dig for.
"Who is this Jessica?" Dr. Franz turned the pages carefully as though she were examining records for a patient with brain cancer. "I don't recall you ever mentioning her."
"A girl from school," I shrugged, "we were kind of friends before," I still couldn't bring myself to say his name, "well you know."
Her eyes lowered, returning my sloppily written account of how the night went. "Do you suppose you'll hang out with her again?"
"Maybe," I said, "I don't know. Sure."
"What I wonder is whether you went out with her to have a good time, or mostly to get Charlie off your back," Dr. Franz said thoughtfully, as though discussing something far less trivial than my angsty teenage existence.
As both Edward and Jacob had noted, I had a terrible problem with blushing. Some people found it cute, supposedly. In this case, it definitely was not cute and always seemed to give me away. "It kind of worked," I muttered defensively.
Dr. Franz nodded thoughtfully. "Let's talk about Charlie," she set the notebook on her desk and focused her eyes on mine, while I was pointedly trying not to look into hers.
"Okay," I said, "what's to talk about? He's good, he tries, he worries like any father but overall he doesn't pester me. No complaints."
"I see," Dr. Franz said, "from what you've told me, you were basically the adult in your relationship with your mother."
I hugged my knees to my chest. "Yeah, but she's got someone new to babysit her now." I was a bit surprised by how harsh I sounded, but suppose I shouldn't have been considering how things had been lately.
"And Charlie needed you more?" Dr. Franz asked.
"Not exactly. I mean, he got lonely without me around but it wasn't like he didn't function. He had Billy and he had the police force. He managed," I said.
"That must have been hard," Dr. Franz said, her face remaining emotionless through her empathic language, "it doesn't sound like you've ever really had anyone stable in your life to hold onto, and count on to be the adult."
"I managed," my voice grew more defensive than I realized it would.
She nodded grimly, "so tell me about Edward again."
After wincing at the way she carelessly threw his name at me, I dug inside me for those blurring images of what little time I had with him. "He was strong. He was confident. He was smart."
"I remember you telling me he pushed you out of the way when a car was about to hit you," Dr. Franz said.
Naturally, I had neglected to mention that he had literally used his body as a barrier between my fragile human body and the two ton aluminum monster. "Yeah," I said, trying to sound casual about it.
"I feel like that was really when you started to fall in love with him," Dr. Franz said, "did you feel like he was somewhat protective of you?"
"You have no idea," I laughed awkwardly. If she only knew that being tired of saving my ass time and time again was the reason he left.
"I see a lot of girls with unstable home lives fall for men like Edward," Dr. Franz said, "forgive me if this sounds presumptive, but men like Edward make you feel taken care of. They make you feel like there's something stable and unchanging in your life that you can count on. One thing that you don't have to manage yourself. It feels like the perfect relationship, but often there's a downside to dating your savior."
"Only downside was that I wasn't good enough for him," I grumbled.
Dr. Franz shrugged. "If you really weren't good enough, would your friend Jacob be so enamored with you? It sounds to me like you have no problem attracting boys, but Edward is the only one who really interests you. Why do you think that is?"
"He was always there for me," I said lamely, knowing there was no real way to sum up what I felt for him and why.
She nodded. "It sounds to me like your friend Jacob has been there for you a lot too. What do you think makes him different?"
"He's…he's great," I said, "but he's just Jacob. I can't explain why I love who I love. I just do."
"Last time you were here, I think you described your friendship with Jacob being as easy as breathing," Dr. Franz said, "did you feel that way with Edward?"
"Not exactly," I said, desperately wishing she'd drop the subject.
"Why do you think that is?" Dr. Franz asked.
I wanted to scream, "I don't fucking know!" but my manners wouldn't allow it. "First of all, Edward's family is pretty reclusive. His sister, Rosalie, kind of hated me when we met. I was cool with Alice and Jasper and probably Emmett, but Rosalie always felt like I was kind of…"
"Invading their family?" she guessed.
"Yeah," I said, "I guess so. And Edward worried a lot. With Jacob, he's always happy to see me but he doesn't need to see me. He doesn't try to be my guardian angel. He's just Jacob and I'm just Bella."
"That sounds like a pretty healthy relationship," she said.
"So you're rooting for Team Jacob then?" My tone dripped with sarcasm.
"I'm not telling you that Jacob is right for you," she said, "I'm just asking you to consider that at eighteen your life has barely begun. There are millions of boys out there, and I think it might be wise for you to give one of them a chance. Even if you aren't ready to start dating again, Edward isn't the last person who will ever care about you."
"No," I said, "but I'm never going to love anyone else."
Before she could really argue with me, the clock beat her to it and our fifty minutes were up. I left the office and got into my truck, which still had that eyesore of a gaping hole where the radio should have been. I wished, sometimes, that I hadn't pried it out with my bare hands. It would have been nice to have something to listen to besides my own angry and defensive thoughts on the way home.
"Jake called," Charlie said, with the optimistic grin he wore when talking about his friend's son, "wants you to call back." When I didn't answer, he asked, "how was therapy?"
"Look," he said, as I tried to bolt up the stairs and away from the conversation, "I don't mean to be the nagging Dad, Bells but I worry about you."
"I know," I smiled awkwardly; "I'm going to call Jake."
I knew me seeing Jacob always made Charlie worry a little less, but I also knew he thought that Jacob had a chance with me, and that I was legitimately calling Jacob out of genuine interest in seeing him. This time, my reasons were a bit more selfish.
"Hey Jake," I said into the phone.
"Bella," there was a smile in his voice, "where've you been all day?"
"I slept kind of late," I said, "then I had to go to therapy."
"Therapy," he chuckled, "I'd need it too if I used to date a bloodsucker."
"Knock it off, Jake," my tone was sharp enough that he knew I wasn't kidding.
"Sorry. So Charlie pushed you into therapy?" he asked.
"Yeah, don't really want to talk about it though," I said, "any chance you wanna try cliff-diving today?"
"It's supposed to storm later," Jacob said, "I'm not sure if today's the best day."
"Come on, I'll be fine," I was definitely feeling frustrated with how fragile my supernatural friends seemed to think I was.
"I don't know, Bells," he said, "another time maybe. I was just wondering if you wanted to come chill for a while."
As mad as it made me at myself, I was definitely not in the mood for "chill." "You know, maybe another time," I said, "I'm feeling kind of restless. I think I might go for a jog or something."
"I'll jog with you. I didn't know you jogged. I kind of thought you hated running."
"No thanks," I said, "I just kind of want to be alone."
I lied to Charlie and told him I was seeing Jake. It was probably a stupid thing to do, since he was friends with Jake's father and could easily sniff out a lie without even trying, but I wasn't exactly thinking straight. I wanted to jump. I needed to jump. I wasn't really thinking about the outcome, only about the experience. I wanted to throw myself off the edge of a cliff and land in freezing cold water; I needed a terror-thrill catharsis. Whatever came of it came of it.
It didn't take too long to drive my car to the bottom of the cliff and to climb the trail that led to the top. My feet grew tired and felt like they were surely getting blistered, but I didn't care. I wanted to jump. But when I finally got to the edge, there was no jump, no action, just an anticlimactic slip. I stood at the edge and let myself fall, let my stomach drop and my body race like a speeding bullet toward the water. As fast as I was following, my thoughts were jarred and racing. Rocks…shit…what if there were rocks at the bottom? Waves, it was starting to rain, the water didn't look steady. How fucked was I, how stupid was I? Maybe I would die, maybe word would get to Edward that the stupid girl he left in Forks jumped to her death. Would he feel sorry for me? Maybe, but he'd get over it.
I hit the water hard, and it smacked my body while the waves pulled me farther and farther under. The sinking was relentless and almost soothing once I realized his voice wasn't going to come. There had been no point to this. Maybe the only point was to get away. Maybe I was going to die. Maybe that was okay.
A violent wave threw me above water, then under again, then above and finally a voice came to me, begging, "Come on, Bella. Swim!" The voice was beautiful, filled with bells and an almost song-like quality. But it wasn't his. It was lighter, softer, more feminine. Could it have been…it couldn't. I continued to fight, and eventually felt a tiny figure latch on to me, pushing against the currents while I was a limp ragdoll in her arms. We finally reached shore and she pushed me onto my back, pressing against my chest and breathing into my mouth.
It was a while before I was speaking again, and by the time I could mutter her name in confusion, hoards of people had arrived. First Jacob, then Sam and Emily, then a crowd of other Quilettes who looked disgusted with Alice's vampiric scent, then finally Charlie who looked completely shocked.
When he realized I wasn't going to be much help, he turned to Alice, who was still hovering over me and listening to my heart.
"Alice? What…how did this happen?" Charlie practically demanded, falling to his knees beside her and feeling my pulse.
"I don't know," I couldn't really blame Alice for not forging a crafty excuse for me. I couldn't have thought of one if I had tried, "I came back to visit and I was taking a walk and…I think she must have jumped."
"She mentioned wanting to go cliff-diving," Jacob interjected, "we had talked about doing it together but, I swear we were going to start on a smaller cliff and not in the rain and…oh God Bella," he joined Charlie at my side.
"Alright, coming through, paramedics," some voices grumbled. I was lifted onto a stretcher and they said they could only fit one person in the vehicle, which was naturally Charlie. I still feel guilty for having wanted Alice.
"Bella," he said when the doors were securely closed, "sweetie. I knew you were depressed but, I had no idea. I'm so sorry Bella."
"I wasn't trying to die," I murmured beneath a respiration mask, for whatever it was worse.
"Then what were you trying to do?" he asked.
I didn't have a good answer for him. "I was…I don't know. I'm sorry, Dad."
"Don't ever scare me like that again, Bella, do you hear me?"
A paramedic shushed him and asked me a few similar questions, trying to drive the dark motivation behind my stupidity.
"I swear, I'm just an idiot," I said lamely, "and it won't happen again."
The hospital stay was probably mostly unnecessary, but for whatever reason they chose to detain me for a few days since I had "exhibited suicidal behavior." As ridiculous as it seemed, I was still shaken enough to fall asleep when they finally left me in a room. I slept a dreamless sleep, for the first time in month, and woke up to a pair of beautiful golden eyes watching me.
"Alice!" My voice was overjoyed. "How'd you get in here?"
"I know some people," she smiled cleverly, "why did you get in here," her expression became more serious.
"I was just stupid," I said lamely, "it was nothing."
"I'm really sorry I left with the rest of them," Alice breathed heavily despite the lack of need, "I knew my brother was an idiot for leaving you by yourself and I told him you wouldn't be better off, but you know how he can be."
"Is he…" I was almost too afraid to ask, "with you?"
She shook her head, "I had a vision of you jumping and I came alone. I didn't tell anyone though, because I knew they'd either try and stop me or…who knows what else."
I smiled meekly. "So you came all the way here just to save your brother's stupid ex-girlfriend eh?"
Her cold hand reached out to hold mine, and I felt a blush creeping on. For a quick moment, I started to feel alive again, like I did when I came out of hiding and restored my friendship with Jacob times infinity. I felt a sudden urge to hold her, and cry a million tears that hadn't come out in my months of loneliness.
No, I reminded myself. This isn't Edward. This is Alice. You're confusing them because you're stupid and you're lonely.
"Eventually you're going to let me hold you," Alice giggled lightly, "and you're going to cry and I'm going to tell you it's okay. But that probably won't happen until later when they let you go home and I come over to cheer you up."
"Where are you staying?" I asked, remembering that she was traveling alone.
"Well I could stay at a hotel," she mused, "but I was hoping maybe I could come keep you company. You seem like you could use some."
"You think Charlie would like that?" I laughed a bit at the thought. "I think he's pretty much ready to never see another Cullen in his life."
"I did save your life," Alice said, "plus come on. You know my brother can be a bit off-putting. I'm not mean heartbreaking Edward. I'm just sweet, carefree Alice. Everyone loves me."
It might have sounded vain coming from anyone but her. A person would have to be crazy not to love Alice. "Charlie put me in therapy," I blurted.
"For as much as Edward's been torn up about leaving you, it hurt me too," Alice sighed, "I know it's probably not the same, but I care about you too."
"If you care at all, you care more than he does," I responded bitterly.
I bit my lip, trying to think of how to ask the question I wanted to ask. "How is he?"
"I don't know, he doesn't really talk about his feelings too often," Alice said, "though I've seen him debating coming back to you but his decision always remains the same. He's an idiot though. I don't know how you could leave someone you love."
"Easy," I said, "he doesn't love me."
"He wanted to. But I think he realized it was more complicated than a happily-ever-after. He couldn't be an immortal seventeen-year-old following you around, watching you grow old and eventually die while he stayed the same forever, but he couldn't bear to change you and see you confined to our life either. He figures you wouldn't really be happy, that you couldn't really love him if you understood how horrible he really is, and how hard our lives really are."
"I do," I said weakly, though I couldn't fully put money on it, "being a vampire is a constant struggle, a constant balance of will and sometimes it hurts. But if I could be with someone I loved forever, I'd rather have that than an easy life alone."
Alice nodded. "I know, and that's what makes you so special. You get it. There are plenty of mortals in Forks who have had crushes on Edward. Jessica, Angela, Lauren. All of them would love to walk down the halls holding his hand, but do you think a single one of them would even consider going through the painful transformation process and leaving everything they have in this life behind for love?"
My mind conjured the memory of me running after dangerous boys to hear Edward's voice while Jessica looked on, flabbergasted. "No," I said.
"If I had someone that devoted to me, I'd never let them go," Alice said, squeezing my hand a bit more tightly.
"But, Jasper," I frowned, "what happened with Jasper?"
"We were together for a long time," Alice said, "almost fifty years. But about a decade ago, he met a girl and…well…so did I. We still loved each other, so we decided to take a break and see other people. We figured maybe fifty years was just a really long time for anyone to stay committed. But then both our hearts were broken and we tried again, and it just wasn't the same. We could hold each other for hours and we still loved each other just as much but it wasn't, you know, the same."
"You're bisexual?" I asked, almost hoping she would say no. Alice was probably one of the few females who would ever be able to make me question, and I had enough confusion in my life without that curveball.
"Jazz is actually the only man I've ever been serious with," her eyes grew wistful; "I'm probably one point away from gay on the Kinsley Scale."
My cheeks felt hot and I once again hated being human. "So how come your family still thinks you're together?"
"It was easier that way," Alice said, "after Sarah I really didn't date any other women. I figured we'll go to a hundred high schools and any women I'm likely to meet are going to get old and die. I didn't want to get involved in that mess."
"And Jasper?" I asked.
"Same deal pretty much," she frowned, "although he's had a few short-lived relationships with vampires. I think he and Tanya were interested for a while, but nothing ever came of it."
"Tanya?" I asked.
"Another vegetarian vampire. Had a huge thing for Edward, but we all kind of assumed he was asexual until he met you," she recognized the dismay in my face and immediately apologized. "Well anyway, she couldn't have Edward and Jasper was kind of rebound for her. The Cullens don't know because, well, Rosalie would flip for one. It makes her nervous enough that Edward's single and fell for a mortal. She wouldn't like that two more of us are single and 'on the prowl.'"
I laughed at the image of Alice 'prowling' women. "Is this awkward for you?" I asked, motioning toward our linked hands.
"No," she said, "is it awkward for you?"
My heart started to beat a bit faster, and she pulled slowly away. "Are you okay, Bella? Your face is kind of…"
"I know, I know," I grumbled, "damn blushing."
Alice's expression went from intrigued to almost startled. "Am I making you uncomfortable?"
I shook my head, though I missed the feeling of something close to human contact, and crossed my arms at my chest. "I'm not homophobic," I said, "when you're friends with vampires and werewolves you can't exactly afford to be afraid of gay people."
"I just thought maybe…you'd think it was weird that we were," she shrugged, "never mind. Look, I need to go," she said, somewhat unconvincingly, "but just know that my brother was an idiot for leaving you and just…don't throw away your life for him. Promise me."
"I…" I breathed. "Okay. I promise."
My mind was starting to fumble at the pieces, asking impossible questions that surely would lead to resounding "no's," that probably stemmed from nothing more than misplaced affection and pathetic angst for Edward, and she was gone before I could think to ask them.
It's okay, I told myself. I did everything the nurses said, I attended group therapy and listened to stories far more gruesome than my own and talked to this therapist and that therapist, holding on to the promise of her vision. She'll be there when I get home.