Everything was going so well.
Bella and I were supposed to get married.
We were supposed to go to Biloxi, where we'd be truly alone as a couple for the first time, where we could go and look for Mary Brandon, Bella's friend who she still pined over -
Alice smiled sadly at this.
-and hopefully would make Bella forget the terrible loneliness and abuse she suffered while Renée was alive.
"Did this William person know what Renée was like? Seeing that he was a relative or her or something," asked Alice.
"I don't think he knew for sure," said Edward. "But after seeing Bella in the funeral, I think he guessed."
"How would he know about Renée's death if he was in Biloxi at the time?" asked Rosalie. "He got suspended around that time, right?"
Edward would have turned red if he had been human.
"He was spying on me, wasn't he?" Bella asked a little angrily.
"I wonder what it is about our Belly-boo that makes guys want to stalk her," said Emmett in a wondering tone.
"Maybe it's the hair," said Alice, smiling.
"Maybe it's the clumsiness," suggested Jasper.
"Maybe it's Maybelline," said Emmett, earning him a smack from Bella.
And now we were lying on hospital beds, staring at space for some time, turning our heads to look at each other only when we had the strength to.
My mother barely moves anymore. Every time I look at her, a small part of my heart crumbles. If I look at her again, I might go mad.
Instead, I looked at my Bella, who looks pretty even with a frown over her face.
I can tell that she's worried. Again.
"Don't be scared," I told her.
She looked unconvinced.
"Nothing will happen to you, love. You're going to be all right," I whispered to her.
I barely had the strength to move my lips, but I needed to let her know that she was safe.
"I'm not worried about myself. I don't want to l-lose you," she stuttered.
"That's the exact opposite of how I felt when I first met him," Emmett muttered sarcastically. "I couldn't wait to lose him."
"You said I was interesting!" said Edward in an accusing voice.
"Interesting, as in, what-the-hell-kind-of-person-is-this interesting," said Emmett. "You were freaky even then, man."
"I'm not freaky," said Edward, hurt.
Jasper and Alice snickered at this.
"I'll always be there for you, Bella," I told her. "You won't lose me."
"You won't lose me?" said Rosalie. "Hmm, that's not stalkerish at all."
"Would you let it go?" said Edward, exasperated. "I'm not a stalker!"
Truth was, I couldn't bear to lose her.
"I'm scared of losing you," I said.
"You won't," she promised me.
I spent the next few minutes stroking her cheek. It wasn't long before she fell asleep.
Every time someone falls asleep, I pray that I'll see their eyes open one more time. How long can I go on like this?
"Not long," Carlisle sighed.
Just as I was preparing to enter the world of slumber, someone stepped into the room.
Other than the few doctors and nurses who treat us, we haven't seen a healthy person in a long while. Most of them prefer to stay safe in their homes, away from the polluted air of the hospitals.
But that didn't mean that I was happy with my visitor.
In fact, Ephraim Black would've been preferable.
"Why do you always drag Ephraim into everything?" asked Bella, amused.
"Ephraim left a hole in Eddie's ego, Bells," Emmett explained. "This is the only way he can hope to fill it."
William stood next to my bed, but his eyes were on Bella's sleeping figure.
He looked more than a little troubled.
"How is she?" he asked.
"Better than the rest of us, thankfully," I said. "You shouldn't be here."
"I won't catch the virus," he said simply. "And how are you?"
"You were looking for me," he said. "What did you find?"
I just looked at him. I had no energy to speak.
"The only place where I am mentioned is the newspaper from Biloxi," he said, looking quite calm. "The girl I saved. It was Bella's friend, Mary."
"Why?" I choked out.
"Two reasons," said William, smiling slyly. "One, because Mary Alice was living a life that she did not deserve. Second –
Alice smiled at this.
-because, your Bella blamed herself – or her mother – for Alice's imprisonment. I don't want her to be distressed because she feels that way."
"Why does she matter to you?"
William smirked. "Why do you think, Edward Masen? I have watched over Isabella Swan and her family since she was a child. I tried to do my best to make sure she was not hurt. I will continue to do this as long as I am alive."
"Are you a relative of hers?"
"Of course," he said.
William smiled. "You remember dear old Renée, don't you?"
"I know that Renée hurt Bella. Isabella suffered a lot because of Renée, and I'm sorry to say this, but the only reason Renée was so angry was because of me," said William, taking deep breaths.
"The only reason Renée was angry was because she was a pig," said Rosalie.
"Why? Were you her lover?" I asked him.
He chuckled. "Of course not."
Right then, Dr. Cullen walked in.
"Oh, man!" Emmett moaned. "Bad timing! Bad vampie!"
Carlisle looked at him in surprise. "I was checking on my patient."
Emmett merely pouted.
"I'm afraid you need to leave, Mr. Higginbotham," said the doctor, smiling kindly at the man. "You're wearing poor Edward out."
But only then did William turn.
And as he did, I saw the doctor's eyes widen. Before he could react, William had grabbed Dr. Cullen by the throat.
"That jerk!" Rosalie yelled.
"I don't remember any of this happening," said Carlisle, looking perplexed.
Edward stared at him, looking as guilty as a child with his hand inside the cookie jar.
And then William looked the doctor in the eye, saying firmly, "You will forget that I was here. You will forget all about Isabella. You will take care of Edward here, and leave me to take care of Bella."
There was dead silence in the room for a while.
"This was...planned?" Bella whispered. "He was planning to save both of us?"
Edward pursed his lips, knowing that anything he could say would only make the situation worse.
The doctor nodded, his eyes glazed as if he were in a trance.
"You will not survive the night," said William, giving me a harsh look. "And Isabella will undoubtedly want to follow you to the doors of death."
"She won't," I snapped.
"Of course she will," said William. "And I can't let that happen. For now, I want you-" he looked at Dr. Cullen, "-to make the necessary arrangements. Isabella will survive, and when she does, she'll want to find her friend."
"He knows you better than I do," said Edward, his voice tinged with sadness and surprise.
"I will protect her while she is on her journey to Biloxi," William continued, "while you teach this one how to live...peacefully."
I had no idea what he meant. Dr. Cullen did, apparently, because he was nodding every time William ended a sentence.
"Meeting Alice is not without dangers," said William.
"How true," muttered Jasper, smiling fondly at the love of his life, despite the tense atmosphere.
"- but I doubt that will change Bella's mind."
"Nothing changes Bella's mind once it's fixed," said Edward.
Bella smiled at him.
"If Bella is in danger –"
"She's not, not right now," said William. "But she will be, soon. You don't need to worry about that."
"Of course I need to worry. She's my –"
William silenced me with a look.
"There's a very, very dangerous man by the name of James," said William.
"So they had already met," said Alice, frowning.
"And already Alice is in danger from him. When he learns about Bella, she will be his next target."
"Who is this person, King of Cryptic?" muttered Rosalie.
"No, Rosie, that title belongs to Eddie here," said Emmett. "Eddie, who refuses to tell us the juicy details, either because he's a coward, or because he's scared of Bells."
"They're one and the same, Emmett," said Jasper, and the two started laughing, much to the annoyance of the others.
William ignored me.
"You don't need to worry about Bella," he said. "I'll take care of her. She won't be in any danger. I won't let James hurt her."
"What's your reason, William?" I asked him.
"I owe it to her," said William. "I couldn't protect her from Renée. At least I can try and protect her from James."
"Who is this James? Why is he –"
"You need to rest," said William, scratching his chin. He looked at Carlisle. "Remember what I told you."
Dr. Cullen nodded. His eyes still had the glazed look.
"You didn't tell me –"
"James," said William, looking me in the eye, "is my father."