I hope everyone had a WONDERFUL CHRISTMAS/HOLIDAY! I know I did. Even though my kid talked me into putting a temporary tattoo of a cartoon character on my ass. Next year I won't by those as stocking stuffers.
A little more of a time jump here. It's late Spring now (mid-late May) and Edward has been back for around 9 months.
Anyway, a lot of you have been asking for a while now what exactly happened in the past with Bella, Jake and Victoria. Well, this chapter tells you. Everything. So hold on tight, it's a bumpy right. It's not pretty and there is some violence involved. So read with caution.
You have been warned.
Many thanks to the AMAZING beta goddess theswandive for getting this chapter back to me today. She's just awesome like that. You should go follower her on the twitter. (at) theswandive.
SM owns Twilight. I own a truckload of used wrapping paper.
Over the next few weeks, I didn't hear from, or see Ben at all. I couldn't deny that I felt bad for how things had ended, but what was I suppose to do? I couldn't lead him on any longer, letting him think I was still interested in a relationship with him when I couldn't stop thinking about someone else. I had to let him go. And even though it was killing me inside, knowing that I, once again, hurt someone that cared about me…I knew it was better for him. He would find someone else, or realize that his wife was the one he should focus on.
Of course Alice knew what had happened before I did. My next conversation with her was a bit uncomfortable.
"So does this mean you're going to give Edward another chance?" she had asked.
The thing was, I wasn't sure what the answer was. I hadn't even let my mind wander that far in to the future. I wasn't sure if I should allow myself to be that vulnerable - especially with Edward. He could destroy me and I wasn't sure if it was worth it to take that chance again. Besides, there was still so much that needed to be said between us before any decisions could be made. I blew off Alice's question the best I could and made plans to come to Kingston to bring the last item for her room.
I packed the framed pictures I had taken of Alice and Jasper in the trunk of my 'Vette and drove the two and a half hour trek to their house. The closer I got, the more my stomach churned.
Edward had come clean to me last Fall and now it was time for me to do the same; I owed him that much. Hell, I owed myself that much, too. I wanted no more secrets between us.
And holy fuck, that was going to be difficult.
As soon as I parked the car in front of the Cullen house, my door opened and Edward was extending his hand to help me out.
"Hi, Bella," he said, softly, with a smile on his face.
"Thanks, I mean, Hi," I said as I got out of the car. I walked around to the back of the car and opened the trunk, pulling out the package I had inside.
"Let me get that," Edward said as he took it from me, reaching up and closing the hatch.
"Thanks," I lamely said again.
"No problem. Where do you want it?" he said, his smile wider.
"In Alice's room, it's the last thing for the space," I said.
"She'll be thrilled," he said I followed him inside and toward the stairs that led up to her room.
As soon as we stepped across the threshold to Alice's room she blindsided me, hugging me tightly.
"Oh, Bella, I love them! We've never had anything like this before, and they'll complete the room perfectly. Thank you so much!" she exclaimed while her arms were still holding me tightly.
"You spoil all the fun, Alice. It was supposed to be a surprise," I said a little petulantly.
"Let's pretend I know nothing of it. I'll step outside while you work your magic," she said with a large smile as she made her way toward the door, pulling Edward with her.
As soon as the door to her room closed behind me, I picked up the package and walked over to the bed, running my fingers over the black and white duvet. I opened the package, revealing the three framed black and white pictures inside of Alice and Jasper embracing and being affectionate. I hung the ensemble over their bed and took a step back, looking around the space. It was simple, yet elegant, mostly black and white with a hint of color here and there. It was finally finished.
What a bittersweet moment.
"Can we come in, Bella?" Alice said through the door.
"Yes, of course you can come in," I said with a laugh, grabbing the box the pictures had come in, holding it under my arm. The door swung open and Alice bounced into the room. She literally bounced, which was still annoying, yet endearing at the same time.
"It's so perfect, Bella!" she squealed, stepping next to the bed and admiring the pictures. She looked around the room, smiling widely. "The entire room is perfect."
"I'm glad you like it," I said with a twinge a sadness, knowing I had no real reason to be here any longer.
"Like it? I love it! I knew hiring you was the right thing to do," she said, giving me a knowing look just as Jasper walked inside, his eyes sweeping the room, nodding his head in approval.
"Now go play with Edward, Bella. Jasper and I need to christen the place."
"Eww, gross, Alice. I didn't need to know that," I said as she pushed me from the room. As soon as the door slammed in my face I yelled through it. "You're defiling all my hard work!"
The only response I got was a lot of high-pitched giggling and a few low chuckles.
"Damn horny vampires," I muttered to myself.
"So ungrateful," I heard behind me. I turned to find Edward smiling at me.
"Tell me about it," I muttered, looking back at the closed door.
"They're going to be in there for a while. Might as well find something else to do," he said with a shrug of his shoulders. He looked a little nervous. I understood the feeling.
"Actually, I'd like to talk to you. If that's okay with you?" I asked hesitantly. Edward's brows knitted together as he looked at me.
"Sure, Bella, I'm always here whenever you need me," he said.
A loud bang sounded from the door behind me, echoing throughout the hall, immediately followed by more giggles from Alice. It seemed they were testing out the steel reinforcements on the bed I'd had custome-made for them.
"Can we go some place a little more private?" I asked, looking up into his eyes. This conversation was going to be unpleasant as it was. I didn't need to hear Alice and Jasper having sex as background noise.
"Of course, come on," Edward said, calmly, extending his hand for me to take. "Will the gazebo work?"
"That's fine," I said grabbing a hold of his hand. How fitting it would be for us to talk in the gazebo. Edward had spilled his guts out to me there; it was only fair I did the same to him.
We made our way through the house, and I deposited the box I was carrying in the trash, then we went outside walking around the landscaped backyard, hands still linked. Six months ago I'd never have thought I would be in a place where I would be okay with him holding my hand, platonic as it was. Somehow, as strange as it felt, and for a reason I couldn't' yet decipher, it felt right. It felt like home.
When we reached the gazebo, I dropped his hand and stopped, taking in the view around me. It was so much different from the last time I was out here. This time, the vines and flowers that covered the structure were in full bloom, no longer in their dormant state. The brook was no longer overflowing its banks. .
Today the sun was shining brightly, and as I turned around, I saw the rainbow patterns Edward's skin was making radiate around him, like an aura.
He was utterly beautiful. It still felt strange to be standing in front of him again, but I also couldn't deny that it gave me peace.
He sat down on one of the many benches and waited for me to begin. It took me a while to gather my thoughts, yet he still waited patiently, never pushing me to start. I stood with my hands upon the railing, looking over the brook a few feet away.
It seemed like hours I stood there trying to think of what to say first, how to start, but I'm sure it was only a few minutes.
"When you first came back into my life, I was pissed," I began. "I have to admit that, although I'm pretty sure you knew it all along. I'd gotten to a point in my life where I thought I was finally over you. It took me a really long time to get to where I was. I thought I had moved on. At the time, I thought you coming back would ruin everything I had worked so hard to achieve."
"And now?" he asked quietly, like he wasn't sure if he wanted to hear the answer or not.
"Now, I'm glad you're here," I said, turning around to face him. "Now, I see that I really wasn't over you at all. I was hiding. My life was nothing but a lie. I see that now," I said, sadly.
"Bella...," he interrupted as he got to his feet, reaching out for me.
"No, let me say this, Edward. I need to say this," I said, raising my hands in front of me, stopping him from reaching me.
"Okay," he said, timidly, sitting back down and placing his hands in his lap.
"For the second time in my life, you opened my eyes to what being alive is like. What truly being alive is like. Which I know you probably think is ironic, seeing how you're not technically living," I said with a small laugh.
He smiled at me.
"Anyway, I want to thank you for that," I said.
"You're welcome, Bella," he said, softly.
"I also want to tell you that I forgive you," I said, and his eyes went wide, not expecting my forgiveness. I knew that if I was going to truly move forward with my life, whether that life was with him or not, I had to forgive him for what happened so long ago. The past was in the past.
"I understand why you did what you did. I can't deny that it really hurt me, but I understand your reasoning. I was young and stupid and completely blinded by you. I couldn't see what I would be giving up by being with you, by becoming one of you. And although, I would never have regretted my choice by being with you, I'm glad to know there was something more out there," I said.
There was a lot more out there than I ever thought there would be. Not all of it good – definitely not all good – but so much more. I was a sheltered child with clouded sight back then, thinking I knew it all.
"You gave me a chance at living. And I blew it," I whispered.
"You didn't blow it, Bella," he said, pain in his voice.
"Yes, I did. I completely blew it. I may be better now, but my life was really fucked up there for a while. I blamed it on you, but it was all my doing. I chose the path I went down and I only have myself to blame."
I walked over to him and sat down next to him.
"I'm sorry, Edward. I just want you to know that."
"You have nothing to be sorry for," he whispered.
"That's not true. I was so horrible to you when you first came back. I took my anger out on you when I should have been making changes within myself. I'm sorry. Forgive me, please?" I felt like a horrible person, treating him as I did. I had no excuse for my actions. I may have been scared, but that didn't give me the right to be a bitch to him.
"Of course," he said, tenderly.
"And now I need to be completely honest with you. You need to know why I acted the way I did when you came back, my reasoning for being so awful," I said.
"What do you mean?" he asked, confused.
"You need to know what happened back then, after you left, the real reason why I changed so much."
"I'm not following you, Bella," he said, bewildered.
"It's a long story. A lot of things happened that I'm not particularly proud of and other things that were completely out of my control. You have a right to know it all."
"Okay," he said, still confused, his eyes searching my face for answers.
I took a deep breath, twisting my hands in my lap. Sensing my unease, Edward reached over, grabbing my hands in his own, holding them tightly, silently telling me he wasn't going anywhere.
"After you left, I was a zombie. I didn't eat, I didn't talk. I didn't do anything other than go to school and make sure Charlie was fed. It was bad. Poor Charlie was at a loss. He had no idea what to do with me. He called Renee, and she came to take me home to Florida with her. I completely flipped out on them, refusing to go. In my head, I was hoping that you would change your mind and come back to me."
I kept my gaze on our hands. I couldn't look him in the eye as I told him the rest.
"You never did, of course, and I started trying harder to live my life. Well, not really. I started trying harder to fool Charlie into thinking I was better, that I was getting over you. It was all a lie. I couldn't bring myself to reach out to anyone at school, they had all long since written me off, so I started hanging out with Jacob."
I smiled sadly, remembering Jake's big, silly grin and sunny disposition. He was the one person that could make me laugh; make me think of other things besides the bottomless pit of despair I was living in.
"Jacob was wonderful, he was bringing me out of my funk. We became very close and I was thankful to have him in my life. After a while, he began distancing himself from me and I had idea why. I didn't know what he was at that point and he was forbidden to tell me that he was a werewolf. The solitude brought on by losing Jake sunk me into a deeper depression, and that's when I first started using drugs. It was only weed, but still, I think I was hooked instantly. It took the edge off and all I wanted was more."
"Eventually, I found out about Jake being a werewolf in a roundabout way, I was so thankful he didn't have to avoid me anymore and that I had him back. We spent all of our free time together and he really helped me, brought me back from the dead, so to speak. I only saw him as a friend, though. I knew he wanted more. We talked about you and why I was unable to give him anything else. It really pissed him off, but he stood by me."
I paused for a moment, my gaze still on our intertwined hands. Edward reached over and stroked my cheek, again letting me know he was there for me.
"One night during Spring break we decided to go camping on the beach. I talked him into getting messed up. I had some weed and some of Charlie's beer with me, and he grabbed a couple bottles of Vodka from I don't know where. It was just the two of us and we sat around the fire, smoking, drinking and just being stupid, immature teenagers. We were so drunk and high, that I really don't remember anything else. The next morning, we woke up inside the tent, both of us completely naked and he was still partially on top of me. We had obviously had sex during the night before. It was the first time for both of us and I was horrified by what I had done. I swore to myself that I would never touch drugs or alcohol again after that."
I felt Edward's hands twitch as they still held my own a deep breath coming from him when I mentioned having sex with Jake. It was the only time he and I were together that way. I didn't blame him for how it had happened. To be honest, I'm pretty sure I was the one that instigated it.
What a way to lose your virginity, though. I still remember opening my eyes that morning to the worst hangover in the history of hangovers. It hurt to blink.
I remember feeling the intense heat that was Jacob lying halfway on top of me, his right leg draped across me, resting between my thighs. A smear of blood was smudged on my leg, giving proof to what we had done. His arm was still flung across my chest with his hand still cupping my naked breast. We must have both passed out as soon as we were done and didn't move the rest of the night.
When I realized what happened, I panicked, totally and completely freaked the fuck out. Screaming "Oh my God," didn't help with the massive hangover I was suffering, but it sure the hell woke Jake up with a start, causing him to jump up into a crouch. His eyes nearly popped out of his head when he looked at my naked body, the blood on my thigh, and then his own nakedness.
The fight we had after we put our clothes on was terrible. He continued to apologize for what happened, swearing he didn't realize what he was doing, but I was so angry that he took my virginity. I was so angry it was him, and not Edward.
"After that," I continued, "I distanced myself from Jake somewhat. I was embarrassed, angry and just overwhelmed by everything that had happened. It was all too much for me and I found myself withdrawing from life again, turning back into that zombie. I stayed away from the drugs like I promised myself I would, but I also stayed away from Jacob, despite how often he tried to contact me. Charlie was pissed. He was even more pissed off when I found out I was pregnant a month later."
At this, I saw Edward's face crumble in pain. I knew the pain was only beginning for him, though. The story wasn't pleasant. Not by a long shot, but still, he needed to know everything.
Remembering the details, I couldn't help but spew more about that awful period in my life. "God, Jake was only sixteen at the time. Of course, Charlie and Billy demanded that Jake and I get married. That really surprised me, seeing how well Charlie's marriage to Renee worked out, but he thought things would be different for us. At first I refused, but after awhile, after all the pressure from everyone, I agreed. Jake and I decided to do it after I graduated."
"So, you and Jacob were married?" Edward asked, quietly, the pain still clear in his voice.
"No, we never made it that far," I said, standing up and walking to the other side of the gazebo, staring out into nothing. I felt cold, despite the warm breeze that was blowing around us, so I wrapped my arms around me and closed my eyes. The worst part was coming.
"We set a date for the wedding. It wasn't going to be anything special, really. We would simply go to the Justice of the Peace one afternoon.
I had already received my scholarship to NYU, so we were going to move out here. Jake would get his GED while I started my first year of college. None of that ever happened, obviously."
I opened my eyes and turned to face Edward. He was watching me intently, sadness etched on his flawless face.
"You've wanted to know about the epilepsy, right?" I asked.
"I do, but only if you want to tell me," he replied. I could tell he was worried about what had happened. Still, his eyes told me he wanted to know.
I turned back around; I couldn't face him when I told him what was next. I couldn't see the self-loathing that would surely take over his face. For years, I blamed him for what happened next, but now I knew it wasn't his fault.
"Do you remember when I told you about Laurent, and how the town thought it was bears attacking people, when in reality it was a vampire?" I asked.
"Yes. Laurent attacked you and the wolves killed him," Edward said matter of fact, as if it were an every day occurrence.
"Right. Well, he wasn't the only vampire out there. There were many of them."
"What do you mean?" he asked, aghast, his voice rising in volume and pitch.
"There were about twenty of them. All sent by Victoria," I said, letting the name linger in the air between us.
"Victoria?" he said with a growl.
"She came back, Edward," I said and heard him stand up and begin pacing around the gazebo behind me.
"How is that possible? I tracked her to South America. I made sure she was no where near you." I didn't have to see his face to know that his hand would be fisted in his hair, baffled about how Victoria made her way back for me.
"I don't know, but she made her way back to Forks with a lot of friends helping her out. The wolves' numbers grew to about seventeen by that point. They knew something was going on, that more vampires were coming because they only transform out of necessity, to protect their people. Since you and your family were gone, that meant others were out there."
"What happened, Bella?" he asked, his voice strained.
"At first, it was only her. She would try to break through the wolves' defenses, and she nearly did a few times, but they held her off. I knew she wanted me, Laurent told me as much. So the pack set up a constant patrol around my house or anywhere I went. They were extremely protective of me since I was carrying one of their young. Normally, I would have found that kind of thing annoying, but I knew how lethal Victoria was."
"Toward the end of June, it was becoming obvious that I was pregnant. I was about fifteen weeks along by then and starting to show a bit. Jacob was terrified and angry – his future wife and child were in danger and there wasn't much he could do about it."
"I didn't know this until later because they kept it from me, but one night, the night before Jake and I were suppose to get married, Seth Clearwater picked up the scent of all the vampires. They were headed toward Forks and the wolves decided to head them off, not let them get that far. They ended up fighting in a clearing in the woods. Luckily, the vampires weren't aware of the wolves and were taken out fairly easily. Collin, one of the youngest wolves, stayed behind to guard me. Charlie was working all night, and I was home alone and exhausted, so I went to bed early."
"I woke up in the middle of the night feeling that something was wrong. At first, I thought it was the baby, but that wasn't it. Once my eyes adjusted to the darkness, I saw Victoria standing over my bed. She had a curious, but pleased expression on her face. I remember hearing a lot of howling in the distance, and praying the pack would be able to get to me quickly."
"I remember so clearly, how Victoria smiled at me so wickedly, and then reached out and stroked my stomach. She was able to hear the baby's heartbeat, and it thrilled her. I was frozen, I couldn't move at all."
I recalled her cold, hard hand rubbing my stomach gently, back and forth in a agonizingly slow motion. It was almost in admiration, but I knew better. I knew she was figuring how this new piece of information would play out for her.
You're with child, she had said with amazement, here eyes lighting up.
And it can't be Edward's she said, laughing. She watched me for a while, that same expression on her face.
Do you know why I'm here? She asked me, but I didn't respond. I couldn't respond.
Your Edward killed my James. He killed my mate. I think it's only fair you die as well. But your Edward isn't here, is he?. I wonder why that is. Did he toss you aside, human? Does he not love you after all? She asked, faking concern.
"I told her you were hunting and that you should be back any minute. I tried to scare her into leaving me alone. It didn't work, of course. She knew you weren't coming. She had been to your house and had seen that it was empty."
A strangled, half-choking, half-sobbing sound came from behind me. I knew if I turned around, I would see that self-loathing look upon his face.
"The howling was getting closer so she was running out of time. When she attacked, it was brutal. She wanted me to suffer for a while before she killed me, but she made an effort not to spill my blood. She took particular joy in hitting and kicking me in the stomach."
I remembered begging her to let my baby live. Every time I pleaded with her it seemed to spur her on. She thoroughly enjoyed what she did to me. She relished killing my baby.
"The pain was unimaginable, the intensity so bad I could hardly breathe. Every time I would cry out, beg her, she would only laugh and hit me harder. She tossed me around that room like I was nothing more than a rag doll. The last thing I remember is hearing the wolves right outside just as she picked me up from the floor and threw me through the window. I don't remember this part, but apparently I hit the tree outside the window before falling to the ground below. I guess the branches on the tree slowed my fall, but I hit each one on the way down."
I didn't realize it until I stopped talking that tears were streaming down my face. I had never told anyone what happened inside that room that night. Not even Jacob. I rested my hands on my flat stomach, thinking of the child that never had a chance to live.
I felt Edward come up to me and place his hands on my shoulders. He slowly turned me around to face him. He reached up and wiped the tears from my eyes with his fingertips and then pulled me to him. I grabbed a hold of him tightly, letting the tears continue to fall onto his shirt. I felt his chest shudder, and I knew that if he could produce tears, he too would be crying at that moment.
After a while I pulled myself together enough to finish the story. Tears were still coming from my eyes, but I was able to speak. Edward's arms were still around me. I have to admit, that made it easier to continue.
"I woke up almost three weeks later in the hospital. My baby was gone," I said, fresh tears coming to my eyes.
"I am so sorry, Bella. If I had known...," Edward began, but was unable to finish his sentence.
"I don't blame you, Edward. Not any more. It wasn't your fault," I said.
"It is my fault, don't you see? Even if I hadn't gone back to you, which is what I should have done, I should have found Victoria and taken care of her when I had the chance. She never would have gotten to you if I had finished what I set out to do."
I didn't know what to say to him at that point. How was I to make him see that no one was to blame for what Victoria did? I had no words, so we both remained quiet for several minutes.
"What happened when you woke up? How injured were you?" he asked, breaking the silence. I pulled away and his arms dropped to his sides.
"They kept me in a medically induced coma because of all my injuries. I had some broken bones and lots of cuts and gashes that had already begun to heal by the time I woke up. The scars you saw under my tattoo are from that night. I can't have children anymore. I had a hysterectomy because they couldn't get the bleeding to stop after losing the baby.
"I also had a subdural hematoma from hitting my head while going through the window or from the fall. They ended up doing a craniotomy to reduce the pressure on my brain and used titanium plates and screws when they replaced the section of my skull. I remember waking up with a terrible headache, my head shaved on the right side with a horrible scar."
Edward slowly raised his hand to my head, weaving his fingers into my hair, feeling the thick scar that was hidden there.
"Along with the baby, Collin and Sam Uley were both killed that night. I've struggled with guilt over their deaths for years. How is it that I survived when they lost their lives? How is that fair?"
"None of them should have died. None of them, but especially not your baby," Edward said, quietly. His hand slid from my hair to cup my cheek. He didn't say anything else, but his eyes said it all. I knew he was immensely sorry for what had happened.
"I recovered with some scars, occasional seizures and a significant personality change. I tried my best to run away from it all. After I left Forks that Fall, I never went back. I refused to speak to Charlie or Jacob and ignored them when they came out here to see to me. I didn't even go back to Forks when Charlie died. The closest I've been is Seattle for the wrongful death trial.
"I let myself get lost in drugs, despite my vow to stay clean. The drugs led to meaningless sex with random guys. I couldn't begin to tell you how many men I've been with because I don't know how many there have been. When I met Ben I didn't sleep around as much, but it still happened. Honestly, I'm surprised I didn't die from overdosing at some point or contracting HIV or some other disease. How I made it through college is still a mystery to me." I realized that I was babbling and probably not doing myself any favors by continuing.
"Anyway, that's everything," I finished lamely.
"How can you not hate me?" Edward asked.
"I did hate you for a long time. Then I came realize that I'm the one that made the poor choices. I'm the one that made me miserable. Sure, what Victoria did wasn't in my control, but everything else was. How I reacted to it all was in my power and I chose to see the negativity. I chose my path. Thankfully, I've grown up. What's sad is that it only happened recently. You're the one that opened my eyes. I suppose now the real question is where do we go from here?"
"We go wherever you want to, Bella. I will always be at your side, as long as you want me to be, that is."
"My past doesn't disgust you? All of the men? The drugs?"
"No," he said simply. "I'll admit that I wish they were never in your life. I'm a jealous creature by nature and I don't like to think about them. But it doesn't matter now. They're a part of your past. I hope to be a part of your future, if you'll have me."
He was still standing right in front of me so I looked up into his beautiful face. He looked so sincere, so hopeful that I couldn't help the small smile that came to my lips.
"It's been a long time since I was in an actual relationship. We can try, but it scares me," I whispered.
"We'll take it slow. How does that sound?" he said as he wrapped his arms around me once more. I laid my head against his chest and smiled wider.
"That sounds perfect."
Whew. Put a fork in me, I'm done.
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