"...there are two types of people in the world: those who prefer to be sad among others, and those who prefer to be sad alone."
~ Nicole Krauss


Ragweeds.
Chapter Three : The Glass That Shattered.
What happened in Bella's life before Edward that made it all change.
Note: AGAIN, in Ragweeds, Esme/Elizabeth is NOT Edward's biological mother, and Renee is NOT Bella's biological mother.

Special Shout-Out's:
-- To my faithful readers/reviewers/twilighters/lexiconers.... Thank you for bearing with me through the angst. Thank you for telling me your personal stories, as you or someone you know can relate to either Edward or Bella's lives. It's sad to hear it, to know that people go through this in real life. But it's one of the reasons I enjoy writing. I love to raise awareness and get people's voices heard when they can't find a way to speak for themselves. Please know that you're not alone. *hugs* You may want to fasten your seatbelts with this chapter also but it will ease up soon enough. ;).
-- To my lovey, my beta, Caryn (Jazz Girl)... Always the one who's willing to not only do your part, but also goes that extra step in telling me your feelings, and debating with me about certain aspects. You're not afraid of me. It's what I admire you for. Thank you, a million times over.
-- Again, thanks to Kayla (OpenHome) & Aura (Rebecca's Mom) for all your help. I owe you!
Disclaimer: I own nothing that is Twilight or Stephenie Meyer related. (But I busted my ass to write this story. Do not take what is not yours.)


"I can't leave the house. I can't get out... of bed. I can't stop the tears, from running down my face... again.
I can't move an inch. I can't feel my legs... and feet. I can't feel the rain, running down my face... again.
I can't stop the pain. I can't make the fever break. I can't taste the sweat, running down my face... again.
Can you make it go away?
I can't even scream. I can't even let it out. I can't see the blood, running down my face... again.
Can you make it go away?
Make it go away."
~ Michelle Featherstone, "Running Down"


Chapter Three : The Glass That Shattered.

BellaPOV

There were so many things I never imagined before the it all changed. There was stuff I never thought about, never thought I had to think about... Like a breeze or blind faith. I knew it existed, but I never saw it coming until it hit me.

When I was a child, my mom highly encouraged me to believe in the tooth fairy, and Santa Clause, and the monster that came if I didn't take my cough syrup. She told me ghost stories about goblins and witches, animating the voices and even drawing pictures on the chalkboard of what she imagined these characters to look like. I never told her I didn't believe any of it, even at a young age. I went along with it, sang the songs, did the dance, laughed at the funny parts, cried during the sad parts, and covered my eyes when it became scary. I did it mostly for her. It was her game, her playground. She was the actress, after all. Who was I? I was the baby, the young one. I was Isabella Harris-Swan... or to most folks, simply Jaqueline Harris's daughter. The pretty girl, the young girl. The brunette in the corner.

My mom did the best she could to keep me out of the spotlight. I wasn't shy or introverted by any means. But that didn't mean I enjoyed strange old men following us to the ice cream parlor or into the post office, snapping pictures and shouting things, as if they had all the right in the world to know about her private life. The hollered questions about who she was dating, how old I was, where my father was, what she ate for breakfast, what screenplay she read, and so on and so forth. Sometimes they'd chase us in cars, honk their horns, cut people off in traffic, occasionally causing a fender-bender. It frightened me to be with her when I was younger. I didn't know who anyone was, couldn't understand the concept. Most days, I did my best to avoid all things related to red carpets and press junkets, even when kids at school mentioned that, if they were in my shoes, they'd be 'doing it up with the celebrities'. I didn't care about celebrity and money. I just wanted to be sixteen.

The worst part was when the paparazzi would follow us, harass us for long hours, and she'd simply laugh and turn it into another game. She claimed she was trying to make the best out of a hard situation, because she couldn't avoid it. But I knew better. "Let's pretend we're secret agents," she'd giggle as we ducked behind a sales counter. "First one through the back door without being seen wins." Though she protected me from the hassle, she never took it seriously. She loved the attention when it was on her, and when it wasn't, she missed it. In fact, if it didn't come back soon enough, she'd get very upset.

That's why I first began drawing.

She went through what she considered a "mild drought" in her career. She wasn't getting very many call-back's, which meant she was home more often. She was always one for the dramatics, complaining that no one cared if she disappeared, how an article said that she wasn't cool anymore. She never said anything in front of me, but always on the phone when she thought I was out of sight, to one of her agents, or her publicist, or whomever would listen. I'd hide in the corner and watch her rant, all the while admiring her beauty and long legs.

My original idea to cheer her up was to pretend to be the paparazzi I loathed, snap a few pictures to make her smile. But I couldn't imagine being one of them, even in the pretend world, so I decided I'd try something a little different and draw her instead. It took me two days, six hours total, before I decided it was presentable enough to show it. As it goes with all artists, I wasn't happy with it and kept picking my work apart until I drove myself crazy. But seeing the look on my mom's face when she opened the folded piece of paper... that beautiful smile and her wide, warm, surprised eyes... I'll always remember that expression. I froze it in time and locked it in my heart.

After hours of admiring it, I asked my mom what she really thought. I demanded the whole truth and nothing but it. And my mom, because she knew I was serious, was kind enough to be honest. She pointed out to me little places where I'd over-exaggerated her jaw line, or trimmed her hair too short. She laughed at all the freckles I gave her, tickling me all the while. But the funny thing was, she said that was the best part about my drawing. She talked about how it was the way I saw her, that I gave her a glimpse behind my eyes, and that was what made it beautiful and special to her. She felt like she could read my mind when she looked at my work. That night, she told me she was proud of me for being brave enough to show her something I worked so hard on in private. She said it was like sharing another secret. I loved our secrets.

That single picture made us closer than ever before. And, I was hooked on art from that moment on.


The public school I went to in Seattle was kind enough to understand my mom's schedule. When it was time for her to film, they'd give me weeks of away time, where I did my schoolwork with her on set and later would email or fax it back to them. As long as I finished my work, they compromised easily with us. I felt very blessed. But, sometimes, I missed my friends and my normal high school life when I sat in the corner of a hollow film set, full of crew members and lights and service people, with no one I knew besides my mom and a few of her agents or her make-up artist Shira.

I spent most of my time reading books, drawing, and, occasionally, fantasizing about where else I'd rather my mom and I be instead. Maybe a deserted island or a freezing cold ski-slope. Sometimes the fantasies would progress and I'd be older, under a waterfall with a mysterious lover. It never failed that my mom would pick those precise moments to notice me staring off, making some sly comment, and my blush would give every thing away. She gave me the sex lecture when I was thirteen and got my first period, so she felt from then on I could be honest with her about boys. Most of the time, I would tell her the truth. Other times, I kept my thoughts to myself. I didn't feel the need to tell her everything.

It's not like she told me everything all the time. Not about all her feelings, her fears.

Especially when it came to a man named Tom Carny.

For as long as I could remember, my mom made it clear to me that she never wanted to be married. She never married my father. She said she had everything she could possibly want, so what would a man be for her except a fly on a wall and someone to warm her sheets? She remained passionate about independence, equal rights, and fair roles, dignity and self-respect. She was what the New York Times considered, "a woman's woman". Seeing her face on a billboard represented strength, courage, willpower, guts. She flaunted it proudly with the press. Sure, her flirtatious nature and cock-tease reputation got her into all sorts of trouble as the years went by. But she never apologized, never took back her words for any thing or any one. Except for Tom Carny.

Tom fought hard to win over my mom. And, it was a good thing he had patience because it took a long while to do it. She'd blow him off when he tried to speak, claim she never ate when he asked her to dinner, that she'd rather crawl through lava and glass before she was seen in public with him. He was an up-and-coming agent, only had one client at the time. She scoffed at his willpower, his blue dress shoes, his spiky hair-cut, his suave smile. She ignored him when he'd come and talk with her agents, trying to get her on his team. She wanted nothing to do with him.

It took getting into my good graces to make her come around. I was young, twelve at the time. After watching men spend time with my mom only to leave over and over before the sun went down, I decided I wanted more structure. I wanted to see what it felt to have a man pay for dinner, put his jacket around my mom's shoulders, take care of her for a while. I wanted to hide behind the couch and watch them dance in the middle of the living room. More importantly, I wanted her to experience those things.

After a few weeks of him pursuing my mom, I decided to give him a chance. And I fell in love with his charm immediately.

"Mom, please go out with him!" I begged, following her around her trailer.

"Why on earth would I want to do that, Isabella?" she asked, shaking her head.

"He's nice, he's charming, he works, and he likes you?"

"He doesn't like me," she scoffed. "Men don't like women, darling, this isn't middle school. They want them. They want them to be another knotch on their belt. And if I simply gave him what he wants the most, who says he'll be back tomorrow? Always, always leave a man wanting more. If they don't have the decency to wait for you, then they simply aren't worth it in the long run."

I scoffed and pouted, crossing my arms. "I like him."

"Then you date him."

"I'm twelve!"

My mom laughed, her perfect teeth shining. "Then I guess you and... Mr. Carny are both out of luck."

I rushed over to her, dropped to my knees, and grabbed her hands, giving her my best puppy-dog eyes. "I swear, if you go out with him and give him an actual chance, I will go to bed on time, I won't fuss about doing the dishes, I'll eat freakin' disgusting Chinese food when you order it, and I'll do my best to get A's in Math."

My mom shook her head, smiling adoringly down at me.

"Come on!" I cried, huffing harder.

She shook her head.

"Fine, fine. Okay? Fine. I'll... learn how to iron too. So you don't have to do it anymore."

She grinned at me, pursed her lips. She was thinking. Thinking was good.

"Please?" I begged, batting my lashes. "Pretty please? I promise, I think he's a good guy, and if you don't like him, I can go with you and do the fake cough or the pass out in the resturant, or anything you need to get us out of there. But please, please, please give him a chance, will you pl-"

"Oh alright," she sighed, covering my chatty lips. "Fine. I'll go to a... lunch meeting... with him, if you not only go and do as you promised, but also never beg me to see him again if I decide he isn't worth it."

I jumped in her arms, almost knocking her into the window she was sitting in front of. "Yes! I promise!"

She giggled, squeezing me tight to her chest. I'd never been more happy than at that moment. My mom letting down her guard was like watching a baby deer take it's first steps into the wilderness. Anything could happen. And it did.

Tom not only played his cards well, but he played them right. He won pots left and right. He knew every angle and way to dazzle her. Long weekends in Maui. Dinner in Washington. He took us to France for a week. But it wasn't just the big events that earned him points. My mom could have paid for all that herself. Tom knew this, so he swept her off her feet with the little things, things she'd never done before, like watching a race, or going horseback riding, or helping me with school work. He adored me, and that melted her heart. Four months later, my mom was nothing more than the love-sick, dancing-in-the-stars type of woman she once resented.

They kept their life out of the lime light for a good amount of time before the press caught wind of it. Once the pictures were sold to tabloids, the relationship began to turn. Executives at Tom's company said he was interfering with their business, discouraging potential clients. He fought with them, never with my mom. But once my mom heard about it, she tried to push him away. "Go do what you have to do," she said, slamming the door in his face, which he reopened immediately. "I'm not stopping you."

"I'm not going to let them win, Jacquelin!" he shouted angrily, following her through our house. "I can do my job and have a personal life!"

"But part of your personal life is in your job!" she argued back. "Me. I'm your client."

"You're more than a client to me."

"But not to them."

She kicked him out that night and ignored him for a week. I didn't speak to her the entire time either. I was mad. Mad that she was thinking of herself, mad that she wouldn't let us be happy. Tom brought a lot of balance to our lives. How could she dare take that away because of her own self-doubt?

"You will get over it," she exhaled sadly after one argument we had. But I knew she was talking more to herself than to me.

"No," I exhaled slowly. "I won't."

After the press tour, we returned to Seattle, our home base. School became school, mom was still mom. She grew tired of moping around, tried to move on with her life with the occasional visitor. But no one pleased her like he did. No one gave her more than a knife so she could add her knotch to their belt. Just as they wanted, like she always said.

After months of unreturned phone calls, Tom left a heated message on mom's voicemail, claiming he was through waiting on her, that he was moving on, and that he was dropping her as his client. For some reason, that was a slap in the face to her. She didn't like knowing he held the strings, making her his puppet. "Who does he think he is?" she scoffed, storming around the coffee table. "Ending things with me. Does he have any idea what he's done? Who I am? No one dumps me, Isabella! Not even as a client!"

"Mom, he's angry, and he has every right to be. You pushed him away."

"He was going to lose his job!"

I jumped off the couch and glared at her. "It wasn't about that and you know it!" I argued, raising my voice with her. I had never done that before. The shock on her face was evident. "You were scared!" I continued. "Scared of feeling vulnerable, scared of letting yourself go! You probably thought about it, tried to find a way out because you got too freaked. This was the perfect opportunity. A threat to his job as the perfect excuse. You saw it and you rushed to end it because it was your only way to escape getting hurt once the relationship failed, like you supposedly knew it would!"

"Don't raise your voice with me, youn-"

"Someone has to!" I shouted, tears streaming down my face. "Someone has to scream, to wake you up! Mom, I love you. You're my best friend! But how do you think this effects me, hmm? I loved Tom, he loved us, and he did nothing wrong, and you ripped all of our hearts out because of your own insecurity! Why can't you just let us all be happy?!"

She shook her head fast. "One day you'll understand what vulnerability gets you, Isabella. You let your guard down, you trust people, and they'll drive a stake in your heart as soon as it gets too dark for them. No one deserves to know everything about you, every desire, every thought. And that's what love does to you. That's why it curses you, makes you weak. It waters you down until you're nothing but an unrecognizable shadow of yourself."

She took a deep breath. "You think I'm not hurting too? You think my heart isn't aching for him? But I can't let him back now, Isabella. What's done is done and if he were to walk through that door and then it does end eventually, do you know who besides my reflection could say, 'I told you so'?"

I couldn't answer her. I was too worked up, too upset.

She took a second to calm down, then answered the question herself. "I'll tell you who. Everyone who's been burned before," she said. "Everyone who doesn't want to be burned again. Flame is a lesson you don't need to learn twice. Once is enough."

During the weeks that followed, things slowly returned to normal. I felt I had no one when I didn't have my mom, so I stopped screaming at her and blaming her for their relationship ending. It wasn't worth it. I wanted my mom back.

There were days of joy and elation, when she'd get a call back or see herself in Cosmo. But there were days of sadness, when she'd hear a song that reminded her of their trip to France, or find one of his old shirts at the bottom of her closet. The wastebasket filled with crumpled letters she'd never send to him. She moped around, drank wine from sunrise to sunset, and murmured about what it meant to love and lose someone. Sometimes I'd try to cheer her up with a board game, or a caricature I drew of her. But she never stayed cheered for long. She'd never say it out loud, for fear that my temper would ignite again, but she missed him.

She always missed him.

For four years, she missed him. And, I missed him, too. So, when I watched him saunter across her latest film set in his well-cut suit, bluetooth attached to his ear, my heart skipped and slowed at the same time. It was such a shock to see his handsome face. They hadn't spoken in years, as far as I was aware.

Without thinking, I tossed my sketchbook on the pavement and ran to him, laughing. I didn't know if he recognized me. I had filled out in a few places while he was gone. But as soon as he saw me, he opened his arms and I leapt into them. "Tom!" I shouted, inhaling his familiar scent of woodpine and man. "What are you doing here?!"

"Bella!" he chuckled, bouncing us up and down, "you've grown so big! Look at you, so beautiful! God, you look like your mother."

I laughed as he set me back on the ground. "What are you doing here?" I asked again, not letting him go.

"Your mother called me, said she was back in town. For a moment I thought this was another of her games. You know she's played a few over the years. But, it's obviously true, since you're here. How ya been, kiddo?"

"Good," I beamed up at him. "I'm happy to see you."

He threw his arm around my shoulder and tucked me into his side. "I'm happy to see you too. Come on, let's go find your mom."

I half expected mom to pick up one of the prop knives off the table in front of her and toss it at his head. I felt nervous the entire walk toward her. It surprised me greatly when she took a deep breath and walked over to us, still in the formal gown from her last scene. "Tom," she exhaled, taking his hands. I had to duck beneath his arms to get out of the way. "It's been too long."

"Indeed it has," he replied with a warm grin that was sure to melt her heart. He hadn't lost his charm at all.

Tom took us to dinner, made us laugh, showed us the pier, took us for a walk down the beach. He spoke little about work, claiming he didn't want to bore us. But we knew all about his successes, the celebrity clients he had gained. He was doing amazing in the field. The fact that he didn't want to discuss it showed exactly what kind of man he was. A respectful one. My mom didn't stand a chance.

He came home with us when she wrapped the film in November. I thought we were safe, thought everything was happening for a reason. I believed in fate for the very first time, saw what I thought it was with my own two eyes.

As days passed, however, something changed. The wind blew, the dust spiraled up. They'd bicker about small things, and then argue later because they had bickered. My mom was so stubborn, she wouldn't let anything go without a fight. I didn't know if she was trying to push him away again but I begged her not to. I wanted this to work. I wanted Tom to become my stepfather, at the very least, maybe even adopt me. I wanted us to be a family. I cried for it, prayed for it, anything I could. But it wasn't enough, and after a few weeks, Tom got fed up. She asked him to make love to her one last time. After, he left her in her master suite, kissed me on the forehead while I sat on the couch watching CNN, gathered his briefcase, and left.

I didn't fight with my mom after that. I knew she hurt just as badly as I did. I saw it in her eyes, saw it in the way she presented herself. This was way worse than the last time, when she swore she'd never need to learn the same lesson twice. I don't know why she touched the flame, she let it burn her too deep.

Days fled. She wouldn't come out of her room. She wouldn't eat. She'd try to smile whenever I hugged her, show me she was fine. But she was my best friend. My twin in some ways. We had the same eyes, the same soft hands, the same lips, long hair, same facial expressions. I knew her joy. I knew her pain. I was involved with it. With every aspect of it.

We were all each other had.

"Mom," I sighed as I crawled in to her bed, removing the empty wine bottle and glass that lay next to her pillow.

I pushed her robed body off it's stomach and brushed the silk hair out of her face. "I think you've had enough for today."

Her brown eyes swelled with tears and she nodded her head, swallowing deeply. "I think I have, too, sweetie."

The wind rattled the glass doors to her balcony, startling me momentarily. I took a deep breath, refocusing on her. "Do you want me to get you some water?"

Mom shook her head and pulled me down onto the blankets, wrapping me up in her body heat until all I smelled was fabric softener and Tempranillo wine. "No baby," she sobbed, squeezing me tighter. "All I need is you tonight."

My heart ached as I held her close. I wanted to fix her. I wanted the universe to shift, for us to get better.

I needed her to forgive me for ever begging her to allow Tom Carny into our lives, only to destroy our hearts later. I loved him, but he couldn't do this to us anymore. Even if he didn't mean to.

"Please don't leave me," she whispered, showing me her vulnerability for the first time ever. Her body shook. How could it be shaking when she was so warm? "Please stay in here tonight, Isabella?"

"I will," I closed my eyes, massaging her hands. My hands. Our hands.

"Please don't be scared. I promise, things will get better."

"I'm not scared," I insisted softly. "I just want you to feel good again."

She nodded, hugging me as tightly as possible. "I will soon," she promised, before whispering in my ear, "...I love you and wrap you in stars."


Like every day, I woke up early, when the sun was still rising. I looked to see my mom rolled away to face the window, the covers tucked to her chin. It was a new day, a fresh start. I wanted to keep the optimism, prove to her that we'd make it through.

I crawled carefully out of the bed, tiptoed out of the room, and into my bathroom to take a long shower. I wanted to let her sleep as long as possible, knew she sobbed through the night when she thought I was asleep. I didn't drift away until close to one, still wrapped completely in her arms. But now, it was her turn to rest, to dream about Tom or whatever would make her happy again. Because that was all I wanted. To see a true smile.

After my shower, I took Jax for a walk around the yard, recalling the days when we first got him, how he ran around everywhere. Now he walked steadily beside me. When we went back inside, I drew for a little while, inspired by Jax's changes. Regis & Kelly played on the television behind me with the volume low. I never paid too much attention to the box, unless it was news. I loved Nancy Grace, had a strange obsession with her. She was a powerful lady, like my mom. I admired her for that.

After a while I checked on her, to find her still asleep. I went back downstairs to the kitchen, deciding a way to get her up. My mom loved the smell of fresh coffee, often saying only that and callbacks were what woke her up to a good morning. I filled the pot with water and closed the lid, waiting while it brewed. I didn't know how to cook much because mom loved to do that for me, and I didn't dare to try and burn the kitchen down. Instead, I peeled some oranges and added them to a bowl with bananas and fresh strawberries.

Mom's bedroom was a bright gold, with the sun high in the sky and shining through the glass. The room had drained of all scents, the smell of alcohol finally clearing. I walked around to the side my mom slept on and placed the breakfast tray on the nightstand, along with her glass of orange juice, coffee, and a tiny note with a smiley face. I hoped when she saw it, it'd cheer her up.

Jax hopped on the bed, trying to get my attention, but I shooed him away. Mom's lips were parted, and she wasn't snoring, which shocked me. She always snored lightly when she had too much to drink. Maybe I had overestimated her intake.

"Mom, time to wake up," I whispered softly, smiling at her beauty. I brushed the hair from her face, a whiff of metal floating in my direction. The hair stood up on the back of my neck and my stomach twisted in a weird way. My mom didn't respond. She was a light sleeper.

"Mom," I said again as I shook her gently. "I made you breakfast... your favorite."

She didn't do anything. I shook her harder, waiting for her to pop up, act like a drama queen, demand more sleep like she sometimes did. But her head simply lolled to one side.

My heart climbed in my chest. "Mom, time to get up," I almost sneered, wishing she'd stop playing around. We weren't on a film set and this wasn't rehearsal time. Why was she doing this? "Mom!" I screamed in her ear, shaking her harder. "Stop goofing around. I don't think you're funny at all."

Nothing. Not even a smirk at the corner of her lips.

Exhaling, I grasped her right arm with my hands and shook the hell out of her. That'd wake her up. It had to. "Mom! Wake up!" I laughed, growling playfully at her. "Stop with the dramatics and eat your breakfast. I slaved in the kitchen for two whole minutes! You'd be so proud."

As I shook her, I heard a rattle, and then a thunk. My hands stilled as my eyes roamed down the side of the bed skirt to the plush white carpet, where a pill bottle lay. My heart climbed even higher, almost inside my throat. Something wasn't right.

"Mom," I whispered shakily, slowly lifting my hands from her arm. I bent down, watching her face the entire time. I reached toward the carpet until my fingers wound around the bottle.

Something was definitely wrong.

With trembling hands, I looked at the label. It was the Vicodin she got after she hurt her back doing her own stunt nine days prior. I read it carefully. Taken twice a day for pain, the prescription was for 30 pills. There were three remaining. That didn't add up. I turned the bottle. Read the warnings: MAY CAUSE DROWSINESS; ALCOHOL INTENSIFIES EFFECT, USE WITH CARE WHILE OPERATING MACHINERY, TAKING MORE THAN RECOMMENDED MAY CAUSE BREATHING PROBLEMS, DO NOT DRINK ALCOHOLIC BEVERAGES WHILE TAKING THIS MEDICATION.

Gasping, I dropped to my hands and knees, looked beneath the bed, in her covers, on the nightstand. There were no dropped pills. Not one.

I glanced back up at my mom's face. That's when I noticed she was not breathing. Her complexion had a faint blue tint to it.

The sound that came from my throat was not a scream. I felt a tunnel open up behind me, sucking me into it.

I tried to yell for her, tried to reach over and grab the phone. I couldn't find my balance, knocked everything off the nightstand, causing the glass to shatter. I clawed at the curtains so I wouldn't fall back to the ground, but they wouldn't hold me. The fabric and the rod came down and I crashed anyway. My lips moved, I heard my screams in echoes as I crawled franticly back over to the nightstand. The phone fell into the crack between it and the bed, and I yanked it back to me, dropped it once, and picked it up again.

The operator answered immediately, and though I thought my response, I wasn't sure if I said anything at all. I heard buzzing in my ears, felt the static and sweat cling to my body. The lady told me to stay on the line with her but I dropped the phone as I stared at my mom's eyelashes. I felt my entire being grow numb.

"MOM!!" I screamed as loud as I could, crawling over to her. I tried to shake her, shake her as hard as possible. Maybe it wasn't too late, maybe she didn't drink too much, maybe she'd flushed the rest of them. She never liked taking pills before. This couldn't be right. Was it an accidental overdose?

I screamed her name again, straddled her, tried to beat her chest. The tears streamed down my face, onto her white silk robe, soaking it thoroughly. "PLEASE WAKE UP!" I screamed into her face, into her ears. "PLEASE, PLEASE, WAKE UP!"

She never stirred.

"MOM?! MOMMY!!"

I slapped her, growled, lifted her upper body from the mattress. She was too heavy, too awkward. Too stiff. It almost made me sick.

I couldn't get sick. I needed to calm down if I was going to save her.

"Okay mom," my voice trembled as I tried to maintain some perspective. "You're going to be okay. Do you hear me? You're going to be okay, and the ambulance is on its way, and you're going to be okay. All right? I 've got you, I promise, we'll make it. Just stay with me, okay? I need you, please. Stay with me!"

Still no response.

"MOM!" I shouted, growing angrier and more scared. "DO NOT DO THIS! OKAY! DO NOT!" I dropped her limp body back down, pushed my face into her collar bone, squeezed her into the tighest hug I could manage. "STAY WITH ME! MOM! STAY WITH ME, PLEASE DON'T LEAVE ME! PLEASE DON'T LEAVE ME, PLEASE, I DON'T HAVE ANY BODY ELSE! MOM!! ARE YOU LISTENING! MOM!"

Her lips were slightly chapped. She looked so pale, so cold.

I kissed her face, her cold hands, her wrists. She used to kiss me when I got hurt, maybe it'd help. I didn't know what else to do.

I repeated her name, calling her out of her mind, praying she'd open her eyes. "Mommy," I whimpered, barely. "Stay...."

She didn't respond. She never did.

By the time the ambulance arrived, I was weeping in her nightgown, hovering over her body, murmuring, "don't go, don't go, don't go..." over and over again. I knew she was dead at that point.

It took two police officers to pull me from her, kicking and screaming. I didn't want to let her go, didn't want to lose the feel of her. Then it would truly be real.

They tried to question me, tried to get some answers while they were fresh in my mind. What did she take? How was her mental history? Was there anyone here with her last night? Were there any signs?

I didn't say a word. I stared from the banister into her bedroom while they loaded her onto a gurney.

Weak, I watched her arm fall limp, her fingers dangling lifelessly.

The sheet they covered her with didn't reach her hand.

I didn't have anything to say, couldn't feel any emotion at all. I couldn't even cry anymore.

The only thought that registered in my mind, over and over again, was how it was all my fault. I made her give in to Tom. I let her sleep longer. I didn't do enough. I, I, I... It was all me. I let her down.

Like a large crowd, being tugged in different directions, I reached out for her but couldn't find anything. There were no fingers to take. She was no longer there.

The paramedic walked around and grabbed her hand, tucking it beneath the sheet.

But I knew all too well what it looked like, even when it was hidden again. All I had to do was look down at my own hands.

They were hers also.


----AUTHOR'S NOTES----

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