Bella Swan never thought she would return to Forks after leaving in 9th grade when her parents divorced. She remained in Arizona for college, medical school and residency, pushing herself towards an unknown goal. When she heard that Jacob had died in a motorcycle accident, Bella returned to Forks and to a world of old ties and new opportunities. The Cullen Retreat was recruiting for a new psychiatrist and Bella found herself accepting the job. Perhaps returning to her roots would be just the asylum Bella needed to find herself. But the founders of this mental health respite were quite a mystery to Bella and the people of Forks. The most intriguing part of the job was not the opportunity itself, but the benefactor's youngest son Edward. He seemed to ensnare Bella's thoughts and decisions from the moment she arrived...
A/N: This is my first FanFic! The first chapter starts out slow, I hope you will hang in there through at least chapter 4! If you're still not interested by then, thanks for giving me a chance!
This is now a complete work! But I hope you will give me feedback as you enjoy!
Java and Jitters
Glancing in the visor mirror as I sipped my java, I rapidly sped down the damp highway. I'd never really been a morning person, so I don't know why I thought that today would be any different.
I can't believe I didn't remember to put on make-up!
Yes you can, Bella, you're lucky you washed your hair last night.
Conversing with myself was a common occurrence that started when I was just a child. It was the very personality trait that had kept everyone away from me, except for my first, and only, true friend.
I still couldn't believe that he was gone.
When my dad, Charlie, called and said there had been an accident, I had felt time stop. Standing outside of my apartment for hours, I let the tears trail down my face. The world looked darker than before, despite the stars in the Arizona sky. I was unable to fathom that Jake was no longer gazing at those same stars on the reservation outside of Forks.
As the stale, dry air entered my lungs, I dealt with the reality that he no longer breathed. Jake had always said I would never be alone. He promised he would carry his love through the moonlight to my heart, no matter how far away. Those promises were gone now.
It was hours later, and breaking dawn, before I booked my flight back home.
Well its close enough, Bella.
I suppose Forks, WA was the closest thing I had to home, considering my time in Arizona had been consumed by the hours of studying and hospital duties. I was always pushing myself to the next goal while my peers told me to slow down and enjoy the moment. "I can enjoy it when I'm done" was my mantra, but those who knew me realized I would always have another goal before the current one was reached. Even my one, and only, adult relationship had been on scheduled terms.
Fitting time into our checklists for the week was a convenient arrangement for us, especially since Sean was just as obsessive in Cardiology residency as I was in Psychiatry.
The return to Forks for the funeral service was the longest break I had taken since medical school started eight years ago. Jake had promised to come to Phoenix for a visit this summer, after I finished my residency. I would have had time to show him around the area before the start of my new job at the Arizona state hospital.
You should have taken the time sooner.
Yeah, I know.
I grimaced as I hit a bump in the road and watched hot coffee spill down the front of my blazer in slow motion. It barely missed my favorite pair of black pants. Another commonality, linked to my internal diatribe, was my clumsiness.
Ugh! Not today!
I leaned over into the passenger side floor board of the rental car, searching through my 'no man's land', called a briefcase. There had to be a napkin or something with which to salvage my power suit.
My hand was grasping onto a tissue when the sound of a blaring car horn and squealing tires surrounded me all at once.
Snatching the steering wheel back, I immediately slammed on the brakes. Once my own screaming subsided, I confirmed that I was now back on my side of the highway. However, a large cypress stood taunting me only a few feet away from the rental. In stunned silence, I watched as a silver streak whipped around me and disappeared into the next curve.
Stupid, shiny, Volvo owner.
Well you WERE swerving all over the road, Bella.
I finally recovered from the near death encounter, and from losing half of my coffee. In comparison, the java loss was far more disappointing than staining my jacket or running off of the road. The rental car grumbled in argument as I made my way up the long gravel drive to the new mental health respite facility.
The Retreat had been open for only six months. Dr. Carlisle Cullen was the neurologist, founder and benefactor of this holistic approach to mental well being. His name was well known to me through medical conferences and journals, and his respect on the national arena was incomparable. On the evening of Jakes internment, I had found myself gawking at Rosalie Hale while she pleaded with me to visit the facility. She had excitedly recalled the recent events of Dr. Cullen's arrival to the area, as well as his establishing the Retreat.
I chuckled to myself.
Some things never change.
Yeah, like you giving into others again, Bella.
Rose lived across the street from me during my entire childhood. She had provided daily exposure to a world of perfection—perfect looks, perfect family, perfect confidence. Although I transferred from Forks with a perfect GPA and continued to excel in my medical career, I often thought back to Rose. I envied the self assurance she had projected all those years.
Even now, her presence and esteem were just as intoxicating as ever. This was demonstrated by her convincing me to entertain the idea of employment at the Retreat. Rose had been working there as the vocational rehabilitation counselor since the opening. She was successful and driven in her career. Her blatant irreverence and determination to push people beyond their comfort zone, as well as her mechanical and technical abilities, quickly contradicted the common prejudice that blonde bombshells were purely for window dressing.
Rose was like a pit bull on the attack on the night of our somber reunion. She would not stop talking until I acquiesced to her pleas for me to interview with Dr. Cullen. When she called me the day after Jake's funeral, I knew she was going to win.
Her words echoed in my mind. "Bella, it's like nothing I can describe. You're gonna wet yourself over the building alone!"
Good thing I spilled half my coffee already, Rose.
Passing the large iron gates, I suddenly felt my jitters double. I made my way to the stone paved parking area to the right of the facility, slowly absorbing the meaning of her words as I saw the Retreat with my own eyes. The estate was nearly one hundred acres, but the Retreat earned its station as the central highlight.
A building, Rose?
If you can call a castle in the middle of Washington State a building, you need my services.
Realizing I was already five minutes past my appointment time, I quickly bolted from the car. I decided to ditch my blazer with the coffee stain, which strangely resembled the face of Mickey Mouse from a certain angle. Brushing off my white wrap shirt, I hoped to God it wasn't too wrinkled. When I approached the entrance, I registered that a silver Volvo was parked in the lot. The same car I had almost totaled just moments ago was only three spaces down from me.
This is the story of my life. I'm like a comedy of errors.
More like a tragedy.
I bit my bottom lip out of nervous habit and let out a sigh. If the owner was as much of a prick in person as from behind the wheel, I prayed that I wouldn't cross his, or her, path.
Curved steps led me to the front of the indescribable structure before me. Even though the details of the estate had been described ad nauseum since my return home, seeing them in person was surreal. It transported me into another place in time.
The main building itself was built mirroring a gothic revival style, like something popular in the Edwardian period of the early twentieth century. Each dark grey stone contained the slightest veins of red and had been locally hewn from Andesite basalt. These were gathered from the multiple rock quarries throughout Clark County, Washington. The grand entrance was outlined by crenellations and merlons spanning the roof. Two large turrets projected vertically on each side, flanking the structure. As I approached the door, I suddenly felt as if I were storming a fortress.
Where's a catapult when I need one?
Before I could make a fool of myself by looking for a doorbell on the monstrosity, I was confronted by the sight of an amazingly beautiful man. He opened the door, grinning at me with childlike enthusiasm.
"You must be Dr. Isabella Swan!" he spoke.
I attempted to smile weakly as he shook my arm vigorously. "And you're Dr. Carlisle Cullen." This statement was a fact from my memorizing his pictures. But none of the photos I had found on google compared to his presence. He stood at least a foot taller than me, with golden blonde hair framing his distinct Roman face. His eyes were a steely gray and seemed to penetrate the frailty of my self assurance.
"Please, call me Carlisle. What do you prefer to be called?"
"Bella. I prefer Bella."
As we entered the Retreat, I was immediately stunned at the disparity. The exterior could have been fitting for any historical Scottish estate, but the interior was a modern, contemporary masterpiece. I could feel myself gaping at the surroundings while Carlisle pulled me along the grand foyer and down the right wing.
"My wife, Esme, loves design and architecture. She has very differing moods, though." He laughed as he read my expression of confusion and disbelief. "Our retreat is fully modernized, Bella. It's state of the art. We even have wireless technology and interface throughout the main building and all of the cottages."
I listened as he described the planning of the retreat, from the contemporary amenities to the historical design of the exterior. He was meticulously detailed in every description of his holistic approach to this "place of asylum and refuge". The Retreat even included riding stables, herbal gardens, gourmet chefs and constant activities.
And you don't think he noticed you were ten minutes late?
We finally arrived at his office, where he invited me to sit with him to discuss my career aspirations. Time passed by quickly as he described his disenfranchisement with the current practice of medicine. This explained why his name had suddenly disappeared from the medical realm over the past several years.
When his father had died, Dr. Cullen was left with an enormous trust. Only a meager portion was used to fund the Retreat. His entire family had embarked on this endeavor together, with the ideals of creating a true sanctuary for those suffering from mental anguish.
"Why Forks, Dr. Cu..., I mean, Carlisle? And why mental health? You could have chosen a seizure clinic or stroke clinic with your background in Neurology." It was a question I had asked myself repeatedly since returning home.
I almost thought he wasn't going to answer at first, and I witnessed the smallest flicker of regret pass over his face. He recovered quickly.
"Forks is beautiful and away from everyday life, Bella, but I know what you're asking. Although psychiatry and mental health carry such stigma in the public, I wanted a chance to advocate for those patients who have no voice. Too many times, I watched as no one was there to stand up for them, or to provide them care that is as deserved as for any other medical disease. I want the opportunity to treat not just the biological aspects of their illnesses, but the psychological, social and cultural as well. I want them to have the chance to be whole again. Everyone needs that chance, right? I don't even like the name 'patient' here, but we use 'resident' instead. I want them to imagine themselves getting better, not remaining ill."
Can I get an Amen!
I sat awestruck like a follower at an evangelistic tent meeting while he weaved his story of social injustice and his vision for the Retreat. I was mesmerized, smitten even.
My insight into my own choice in psychiatry was the result of devastation from the divorce between my parents. My mom, Renee, was always in need of my help. I had served as her caretaker from the moment we had arrived in Arizona. Cleaning up her shards of broken esteem was a habit, I practiced it each time her relationships, proclaimed as 'The One', failed.
Amateur baseball players are not Christopher Lambert.
But in all my years of training, I had never been so inspired in my field as I was in that moment with Carlisle. I didn't even realize we had been talking for most of the morning, until he mentioned lunch.
When I stood up to stretch, I felt my right leg tingle. It had long since fallen asleep. I attempted to follow Carlisle, trailing behind him towards the dining room. My social anxiety and newfound limp made me feel like Hopalong Cassidy in an Old West flick.
Did Hopalong actually hop? Didn't he get shot?
Focus, Bella, or you're gonna fall on your face.
Carlisle was kind enough to ignore my instability, and what I would assume looked like a constipated grimace. He finally stopped at the door of the dining hall for the patients and staff.
"We share the dining space with our residents here, although the staff usually eats together for a chance to socialize face to face," Carlisle explained. He led me to the back of the dining area to a long sleek table made of what appeared to be teak. It was already occupied with several people gathering to eat. "Many of our communications are through the intranet, list serves and instant messaging here, so it's rare that we have this time together otherwise."
I nodded and followed him to the head of the table. My limp was slowly receding but my blush was ever increasing. I hated introductions like a root canal.
"This is Dr. Isabella Swan, everyone. She is a psychiatrist who just finished her training in Arizona. She's also a local girl returning home, as I believe Rosalie may have mentioned to you all. Please make her feel welcomed on her interview here today."
As Carlisle finished his introduction, I swallowed the bile rising in my throat. I braved the moment of making eye contact with my apparent lunch companions for the day, and possible colleagues.
"It's Bella. Please, call me Bella." I managed to get the words out in a surprisingly secure voice.
To my immediate left was a smirking Rosalie who smiled her pearly whites back in my direction with a knowing 'I told you so' look in her eyes.
Just to her left I acknowledged an exuberant set of brown eyes and pixie-like hair, framing an angelic face that was welcoming to say the least. "Hi! You know Rose already, and I'm Alice. It's great to meet you, Bella- I feel like I've known you forever!"
I nodded at them both as I continued my gaze around the table and encountered a burly beast of a man. He would surely rival the giant from Jack's beanstalk on any given day. His large frame was balanced by his grin and dimples. He started laughing contagiously. "Yeah, yeah. You know everyone, Alice. Hi, Bella! I'm Emmett, the firstborn and golden boy of Dr. Cullen there, as well as the head of all things 'active' around here."
Carlisle just rolled his eyes as he looked at me apologetically. "He's our activity therapist, Bella. And also has a healthy dose of narcissism, as I'm sure you can gather."
With that comment, Carlisle's gaze became more hesitant. He turned his body towards the right side of the table, and I leaned around him to acknowledge the final person who was seated.
Holy mother of God, is he for real?
I'm going to have the vapors right here…all Gone with the Wind and never be hungry again crap.
Did he just watch me limp in here like the Hunchback of Notre Dame?
For all that is sacred, just don't stutter, Bella!
The man sitting before me was the epitome of sex on a stick. In fact, his picture should have been added to that definition in the Urban Dictionary.
A/N: Wonder who the sex on a stick is? ;)