Disclaimer: The characters of Twilight are owned by Stephenie Meyer. No copyright infringement is intended. Impact's plot and original characterizations are the intellectual property of Nise7465.

~*Impact!*~

Chapter One

~Bella~

June 2008

How do you handle the most devastating experience of your life when it has lead you to the person you love more than life itself?

How do you reconcile the two when your best and worst collide?

The most heartbreaking thing I've ever been through has brought me to the person who has become my life.

Today, I began a journey with the man who I had thought was my greatest enemy.

My name is Bella Swan. I am a person with a disability.

While Edward Cullen was never my doctor, he was instrumental in assessing my condition and confirming my diagnosis. Even though it was his uncle who delivered the shattering blow that devastated my life, it was Edward's expertise and knowledge that made it my truth.

My first experience meeting the love of my life was overwhelming, as well as tremendously embarrassing.

I met Edward a few days after Christmas, eighteen months ago.

While he tried to encourage me that my life was not in fact destroyed, his words did not negate the fact that my life had been irrevocably changed.

Edward Cullen didn't make me sick. It was my own body that had turned traitor on me. But, it was hard to ignore the irony of the situation; it was as if fate was laughing at me, when she sent a messenger in a wheelchair to welcome me to his world.

He tried to explain his scientific basis for my diagnosis, but life as I had known it was spiraling out of control, and his words swirled around my head in a confusing vortex, while I tried desperately to make sense of the life-altering situation.

His uncle had tried, in his gentle way, to soften the blow. But when Edward identified himself, my body locked down in defense. I knew what was coming and there was nothing that could have made hearing it any easier.

If someone had told me that day, that I'd be making life plans with this fine specimen of a man in the near future, I'd have told them to get their head examined. People like Edward Cullen didn't fall for ordinary girls like me. Yes, meeting him had altered my life radically; I just never imagined that we would come full circle like we have.

The Christmas after my 27th birthday was by far the most memorable in my life. While we learned so much about loss that holiday, it never occurred to me that in losing… I'd gain so much more.

While my first meeting with Edward was an embarrassment I'd love to forget, it was a blessing in disguise that he rolled into my life that day.

Christmas 2006

I was at home, baking cookies and decorating my new apartment. I'd already bought a few gifts for Charlie and Renee, as well as all the food needed to make a nice Christmas dinner. It was the first Christmas Charlie and Renee had spent together since I was a baby.

Renee met a guy who was a semi-pro baseball player. They'd been seeing each other for a few months and she wanted him to come to Seattle with her. He refused, stating simply that he wasn't ready to meet Charlie or me yet. Mom had already promised to come visit before she and Phil met, and she told him she refused to change her plans.

Dad seemed unsure about staying with mom and me, but the ride from Forks to Seattle was a long one and after no small amount of coercion, he agreed to stay at my place with us. We had only ever spent one or two Christmases together, the three of us, and I was excited.

Charlie had booked a room at the Marriott on the waterfront, but it was only for one night and I persuaded him to sleep on my couch while Mom and I shared my bed.

Charlie couldn't leave Forks until his shift at the Forks Police Department ended; Mom's flight arrived at Sea-Tac early on Christmas Eve day.

We spent the afternoon drinking Christmas slush and putting together some of the dishes for Christmas dinner, because my oven was really only big enough to hold the roaster with the ham in it. Mom and I eventually went to separate rooms and wrapped a few last minute items for the next morning.

Christmas Eve was going to be a simple dinner. I made Charlie's favorite- chicken enchiladas, as well as a cheese sauce and heated salsa for nachos. Renee and I were still drinking the slush when Charlie arrived. His eyes lit up in a way I'd never seen before when my mother came out of my bedroom. For a while, things were awkward, but by the time dinner was over and Charlie had also partaken of a few glasses of my slush, the conversation was flowing freely. Renee was smiling. All seemed right with the world.

We spent a few hours playing Christmas music and decorating my tiny tree. We also put in the film 'It's a Wonderful Life' and watched it before turning in for the night. It was the most carefree, happy Christmas Eve I'd ever had.

Then I woke up.

I felt the bed move as Renee got up. I heard her walk down the hall, and in a few minutes, the toilet flushed and I heard her in the kitchen. As much as I wanted to lie in bed all day, there were so many things to do. I compromised with my conscience and decided I'd lie there just a few minutes more…

As the fog lifted and I became truly awake, panic set in. I tried to rub my left eye, but my arm wouldn't budge. In my mind, I kept telling it what to do, but nothing happened. There was a strange tingling feeling as I continued to try and move it. It almost felt like I had slept with it under me.

Don't panic, Bella.

When I attempted to roll on my side and curl up, I found that I couldn't pull up my left leg. It had only been a few seconds since I'd awakened; just a few seconds more and complete panic set in. Something was terribly wrong. I couldn't move my left arm or leg, yet my right arm and leg seemed to be fine. It was like someone had drawn an invisible line down the center of my body. The right side of the line was alive, and the left side of the line was dead.

Oh my God! What was wrong with me?

I did the only thing I thought to do.

I screamed.

Charlie was the first to get to my room, pistol in hand as he looked around for some unknown intruder. He had no idea the assailant was my own body.

The panic took my breath away. "Daddy, I can't move!" A million scenarios ran through my mind.

Why can I only move one side of my body? Why is this happening to me?

He tried, but failed to calm me down as the sobs took over my body. I felt like I couldn't catch my breath, almost as if I'd just finished running a marathon.

A minute later, my mom ran in, reeking of cigarette smoke. She stood like a bystander gawking at an accident scene.

Charlie acted calm and cool as he went into cop mode, his limited medical training kicking in. He asked me some questions, shaking his head in frustration as nothing seemed to add up.

"I'm calling 911, Bells."

Renee looked shocked. "But it's Christmas, Charlie!"

Charlie turned beet red as he screamed at my mother, a look of disbelief on his face. "Renee, she's paralyzed! Who cares what day it is?"

My dad answered the questions the dispatcher fired at him rapidly. He was pacing; failing miserably at not appearing too emotional, I could tell he was on the verge of freaking out.

"Has this ever happened before?"

"Um…no? I think I would remember if it had."

He hung up the phone and came back to sit on my bed. "Bells, how much did you drink yesterday? I wonder if that has anything to do with this."

I'd never experienced anything like this from drinking. It angered me that he questioned my abuse of alcohol; he'd been here last night. He knew I hadn't overdone it. "The slush doesn't have that much alcohol in it."

I heard the sirens wailing in the distance. Charlie stood up and looked at my mom, who was sitting to my left, still clutching my limp hand. "You stay with her. I'll let them in."

My dad was still acting strictly professional; it was the role he automatically slipped into when something happened beyond the grasp of his control. He'd behaved like this when Grandma Swan had her heart attack. To be honest, it scared me. It made me wonder how serious this could be. What happened overnight that had rendered my body useless?

When the EMTs came in and assessed the situation, they returned with what the one referred to as a wheelchair stretcher. They said a regular stretcher wouldn't make it down the hallway and into my room; the halls were too narrow- the turns too sharp. When they got me to the living room, a regular stretcher was waiting for me. The older EMT talked in hushed tones, trying to keep me calm. He started an IV and I was glad to be lying down, my head spinning as he stuck me.

When Charlie introduced himself as the chief of police in a local community, they offered to let him ride in the front of the ambulance, but he refused, saying he needed to drive Mom.

The EMT who had been working on me introduced himself as Jasper, and the entire way to the hospital he kept me engaged in conversation. I felt bad that he was here, taking care of me, when it was Christmas.

Christmas.

I began sobbing again. The holiday was ruined, Renee said so. Jasper rubbed and squeezed my shoulder as he continued to talk to me, gently prodding me with questions as we rode through traffic. I felt fairly composed by the time we arrived at the emergency room. Jasper had a very calming effect on me; what a beneficial asset for an EMT to possess.

Jasper and his partner, who I later learned was named Spencer, checked me into the emergency room. Jasper stayed in my cubicle until the nurse came in and took information from him, entering it into a small laptop computer. Jasper bid me good luck, and said he'd talk to my parents, explaining that the nurses would let them know when they could come back with me.

As Jasper was pulling the curtain back to leave, a tall, lean blonde gentleman walked up to him and clapped him on the shoulder. "A merry Christmas to you, Jasper. Are you coming by this evening? We're having a small get together in the doctor's lounge up on Edward's floor."

"Wouldn't miss it, Carlisle. How's he doing?"

"He's battling a kidney infection right now. I suspect it is MRSA, as it's not responding to anything they've given him. The infectious disease doctor is consulting with him tomorrow."

"Tell him we'll be by. Alice wouldn't miss it for the world. We'll see you and Esme later."

The man, whom I assumed was my doctor, smiled and shook his head as he headed over to the tiny computer next to my bed. "So, Miss Swan…"

"Bella, please," I interrupted.

"Bella." He cleared his throat. "I'm Dr. Cullen. I want to do a few simple tests." I swallowed hard at the words, but in a very reassuring manner he said, "Just relax, I promise it won't hurt a bit."

Dr. Cullen reached into his pocket and pulled out a little hammer. As he walked around my gurney, systematically lifting my arms and legs, he tapped each one, testing my reflexes. He bent and straightened each before poking, pulling and twisting, asking if there was pain.

Taking my socks off, he ran something sharp up the sole of my foot. I gasped and my toes stretched involuntarily, causing a spasm in my leg. This earned a perplexed hum from the doctor as he tapped notes out on the keyboard next to my bed. He then asked what I could feel.

"I felt something sharp on my foot. It didn't hurt."

"What did it feel like on the other foot, Bella?"

"I didn't know you had done that to both feet." I hadn't been watching and never realized.

"Close your eyes, Bella. I want to see how much sensation you have. If you feel a tiny poke, tell me. No peeking."

As soon as he said no peeking, I jerked my head up trying to see what he had in store for me. A gentle hand pushed on my shoulder, silently commanding me to lay flat and cooperate. I soon felt a poke in the end of my right toe. He continued up my right leg to my thigh. As Dr. Cullen poked, I would let him know what I was feeling. He poked my stomach in a few places, and then moved on to my arm, hand and fingers.

I heard, rather than felt, Dr. Cullen work his way around the room. Once in a while I'd have a sensation similar to pins and needles, not unlike the feeling I experienced when my foot fell asleep. I didn't feel many of the tiny pricks as Dr. Cullen's voice got closer to the head of my bed. He asked me to describe the random tingling as he typed more into his computer, but I could only concentrate on the questions that were swirling inside my head.

"Dr. Cullen, why is this happening to me? What's wrong with me?"

"I'm not sure, Bella. This is definitely a neurologic episode, but I can't answer you with certainty until we run some tests. As soon as they have one ready, we'll get you into a room. I'm sorry you have to be here on Christmas; I can't get a neurology consult in here for you today, but I'll schedule one of the residents first thing tomorrow morning. We've got a skeleton crew on today. I can't really run any tests, other than taking some blood from you."

"I really don't want to stay," I said, more to myself than to him.

He smiled sadly. "I'm sorry. I don't want to be here today either, dear." Patting my shoulder he said, "I'll have Nurse Stanley bring your parents back."

I rested on the gurney, staring at the ceiling and feeling sorry for myself. Feeling sorry that I wasn't at home, cooking my ham. Feeling sorry that I couldn't wiggle my fingers or toes as my body turned traitorous. I'd never felt more alone. Once again, the tears came as I lay there wondering, 'why me'?

Renee and Charlie came in soon after. Charlie had a stiff look on his face, but he took my hand and smiled at me. "I love you, Bells. We'll figure this out." He took a tissue from the box on the counter and wiped my cheeks.

Renee, in her infinite wisdom, blurted out the last thing I needed to hear. "What are we going to do? Christmas is ruined!"

Dad furrowed his brow and glared at her. "Renee!"

"I'm sorry. I didn't mean to upset her." Looking over at me she muttered. "I'm sorry Bella." Yet she continued to ramble on about Christmas dinner being ruined, the gifts being left unopened, and how long we'd be stuck here. The more she talked, the more my head hurt.

"Dad, can you please turn the light off and take her out to the waiting room?" I rubbed my forehead with my good hand.

He laughed. "Sure, kid. She's giving me a headache too." He smiled softly as he put his hand on her back and guided her out of my cubicle.

I slept for a long time. My multiple breakdowns had exhausted me. I barely registered someone turning me onto my side, but at some point I realized I felt much more comfortable. I awoke to someone shaking my shoulder. It was Nurse Stanley. "Bella?"

I rubbed my eyes. "Yeah?"

"Are you hungry? Dr Cullen called the dietary department. I have a Christmas dinner for you."

I nodded my head. I was hungry; I hadn't eaten since we'd had nachos while decorating my tree the night before. But I didn't know if I could eat. I was so distressed over my situation.

I felt bad that my young nurse had to be here taking care of me on Christmas. Surely she had a lonely boyfriend or husband celebrating at home alone because she was forced to be here.

"Do you have anyone at home missing you?" She looked to be about my age.

She reached out to shake my hand and frowned before she withdrew it, apparently forgetting my situation. "Please call me Jessica. And no, I volunteered to work a long shift so staff with families could be home today. I broke up with my boyfriend a few weeks ago. It's just me."

She was bubbly, giddy and way too girlie. Her demeanor was almost too sweet for a dismal place like a hospital. Perhaps it was good for some patients. I'd just rather they ignore me and let me stew. I'd be more comfortable suffering in silence.

I wasn't sure what to say, so I just smiled. "Me either. Well, just my parents. My mom came in yesterday from Phoenix."

"That explains her wonderful tan. No one in Washington ever tans, and it's December." She stretched out her ghost white arm and rubbed over it, looking jealous.

I used my dad's favorite analogy for the Caucasian citizens of Forks. "People in Washington don't tan, they rust." If you weren't white, you were Indian… with a perpetual tan.

She laughed heartily. "That's so funny!"

Jessica brought me my dinner; it was late afternoon now. She helped me sit up a little more and helped uncover all of my food. I was glad my right side wasn't affected, as I was right hand dominant.

It would be nearly impossible for me to write or feed myself with my left hand, and it would be extremely difficult to teach my students without the use of my dominant hand. Charlie and Renee had been in and said they were going to find something to eat in the hospital cafeteria, but they'd be back soon.

They were gone for quite a while. After I ate, a tall, dark orderly- a Quileute boy, with shoulder length black hair came into my cubicle.

He held out his hand. "Hello, Bella, my name is Sam. I'm here to take you up to your room." His smile was infectious, and it felt almost foreign to feel a smile creeping across my face as I took his hand.

It took a while for them to get me settled. As Sam was leaving, he told me that Dr. Cullen would be up soon to talk with me. He also said Jessica would make sure my parents knew where to find me when they returned.

My nurse propped me onto my side with some pillows and had turned my TV to a music channel with Christmas music. I was about half asleep when I heard quiet footsteps in my room. The light over my bed came on and someone gently laid a hand on my shoulder.

"Isa - er, sorry, Bella. I wanted to stop back and talk with you," Dr. Cullen said softly.

Because of the position I was stuck in, I heard him walking around the foot of the bed before I could see him. I couldn't roll myself from side to side. My left side was useless, leaving me feeling like a fish out of water.

Being immobile was becoming a real inconvenience for me. I wasn't used to having to wait for people to do things for me. I couldn't wait until I was back on my feet and out of this hospital. This had to be some sort of fluke. Maybe it was a pinched nerve or something.

Would a pinched nerve cause symptoms like this?

As quickly as this came on, it had to be something simple. Didn't it?

He pulled a chair up next to my bed so we were face to face. He was a pretty man, soft spoken, with a pleasant smile and a compassionate demeanor. He was obviously distressed.

"I've been thinking about you most of the day. I believe I know why your body is behaving the way it is. I hope you aren't offended, but I spoke with my nephew about your case."

I was sure I gave him a wary look, not understanding why his nephew would even care.

"He's a doctor in the neurology department. He's out on a medical leave of absence right now; in fact, he's a patient here at the hospital. He was the closest I could come to a neurology consult today."

Before I said anything, he continued. "I want to begin running tests on you as soon as possible. If I'd waited for the neurology consult tomorrow, it would be several days before they could start anything. After talking with Edward, I have an idea of where to start. I don't want you to be stuck here any longer than necessary; I can order the tests today. In the mean time, I can get neurology involved in your case."

I nodded my head and mumbled a 'yes' a few times, but I had no idea what was happening other than his nephew was a neurologist as well as a current patient, and in the morning, I'd be poked and prodded a lot more than I would like.

Suddenly, I remembered the conversation my doctor had with the EMT, Jasper. He said 'Edward' had a kidney infection. If he was a doctor, wasn't he supposed to be on top of things? How does a doctor get a kidney infection? Don't they usually start with something simple like a UTI? Maybe I didn't want this guy offering advice on my case, if he couldn't even take care of himself.

Somewhere during my inner monologue, Dr. Cullen had stood and touched my shoulder once again. He was saying something.

Pay attention, Bella.

"I'll see you tomorrow. Dr. Gilmer is the family practice doctor who will be your attending physician, but I'll be in to check on you and to make sure everything is started as soon as possible."

I think I drifted off again, and when I woke up, I heard Charlie and Renee whispering. He wanted to go to a hotel; she was insisting he stay at my place. "Dad? What's wrong?"

He shuffled over and sat on the foot of my bed, laying a hand on the calf of my leg. "I can't go home, Bells. Not until we know what's going on. Your mom is staying too; she'll meet Phil in Jacksonville once they finish running these tests. We talked to Dr. Cullen, and he thinks you'll be here a couple days."

"But what about work, dad? Won't you get in trouble?"

He laughed. "I'm the Chief, Bella. There's no one for me to answer to. Deputy Mark is going to be on call for emergencies, but we typically don't get a lot of calls anyway."

I tried to turn and look at Renee. "Mom, what about Phil? Is he okay with this?"

"Phil insisted I stay here with you until we know what's wrong. We were supposed to spend New Years together in Florida. I'm not sure how long I'll stay, probably not more than a few days."

"Will you both stay at the apartment? It's close by. There's a bed and the couch."

Charlie ran his hand through his hair, looking uncomfortable as he tried to decide. "We'll go back there tonight. Tomorrow we will figure everything out."

"Dr. Cullen is running the tests tomorrow, dad. I don't know how much I'll be in my room."

"We'll grab some breakfast and come over. We don't have anything else to do but come to the hospital."

I wondered how weird it was for him to be spending this much time alone with Renee. I didn't ever remember him dating anyone and always suspected he'd never gotten over her.

Renee stood with one hand on the door, as if she couldn't get out of here fast enough. "Is there anything else you need?"

I never knew how to react towards my mom. Yesterday she acted like we were best friends and today she was treating me more like an acquaintance than a daughter. It was almost like she couldn't grasp the reality of my situation. I was paralyzed and she wasn't acting like a normal mom would act. If my only child were in the hospital as a result of some mystery illness, you wouldn't be able to tear me away.

"No mom, just rest." I was exhausted; it seemed strange to be so tired when all I'd done all day was lay around, but I could barely keep my eyes open.

"We'll see you in the morning, then. Love you, sweetie." It was so much less stressful dealing with my mother and her issues via our long distance relationship. It was a relief to see her go. I'd never been able to understand how she could be so hot and cold. It was almost like dealing with two different people.

"Love you, Bells. We'll get to the bottom of this… whatever it is. Don't worry." Charlie was a man of few words, but his devotion to me was never questioned.

Even though he had always had an aversion to sick or overly emotional situations, and tried to avoid those things at all costs, I knew he'd be by my side for as long as I needed him.

Before I knew it, I was alone to ponder this unbelievable situation I was stuck in. I didn't understand how my life could have turned upside down in the blink of an eye.

I kept trying to move the limbs on my left side, hoping for some sort of miracle. Instead, I was met with the sensation of millions of tiny electrical impulses. I remember as a child wanting to bolt out of bed to see what I was getting for Christmas. Christmas morning was full of surprises. This Christmas morning had been too. Just not in the way I had expected.

Someone had a sick sense of humor. I kept wondering when I'd awaken from this nightmare.

An older nurse came in and rolled me onto my back as she raised my bed into a sitting position. "Hello Bella. I'm Maggie; I'll be your nurse tonight." She pushed a cup with two little pink pills into my right hand. I made a face.

"Dr. Cullen thought you could use something to help you sleep, dear. You seem out of sorts. Tomorrow will be a long day and he wants you to get a good night's rest."

I opened my mouth and popped the little pills inside. Maggie handed me a foam cup with a straw. I swallowed the pills and left my head sink back into the pillow. "I'll be in off and on tonight to check your vitals. I leave at 7am. If you need anything, just push this button." I nodded my head and swallowed. For the first time today, I felt truly alone.

Before it was daylight I heard footsteps, followed by the sound of water running. I looked as far as I could to the side, but I couldn't tell who was in the room. Soon enough Maggie came into my field of vision. "Good morning, dear!" She had a huge smile on her face that made me want to believe everything would be okay today.

Maggie helped to bathe me and get ready for my day. They withheld my breakfast but Maggie told me I'd most likely receive lunch. She also explained that some people became nauseated from the one test I would be having done.

A young redheaded girl with big glasses and a smattering of freckles across her cheeks came in and dropped a chart on the foot of my bed. "Bella, I'm Ivy. We're going to go down to radiology for several tests. They are doing an MRI and a myelogram. The myelogram is a test involving your spinal fluid, it'll help diagnose the origin of your paralysis."

I cringed. "Is it painful?" I needed to know what to expect.

"I've never had one, but I don't think it's pleasant. First, you'll be having a spinal tap done. They numb a spot on your back with a tiny needle, and then they use a larger needle to take fluid out of your spinal column. Then for the myelogram, they inject a contrast dye so they can see everything that's going on with your nerves and spine."

I shuddered. I wish someone was here with me. I didn't think I'd really want Renee fluttering about all day, but it would be nice to have Charlie and his silent support.

She patted my hand. "Don't worry; I believe your paralysis may prevent you from having much discomfort."

I couldn't imagine any benefit from the situation I was in now. It was ironic that my mystery illness could actually help me get through the tests I was terrified of experiencing.

Ivy and one of the nurses lifted me onto a gurney, and before I knew it, we were heading down the hallway. I didn't have to wait very long before they took me into the room with the MRI chamber.

Two orderlies lifted me onto the little platform and soon I was inside the machine. Ivy asked me if I'd like to listen to some music as the machine was quite loud. I nodded my head and someone turned on some upbeat mix of pop music. It didn't drown out all of the thumping and bumping but I imagined I'd have a headache just listening to the thumping noise the machine was making without something to cover it up.

The MRI wasn't all that bad; I got slightly claustrophobic in the beginning so they took me out and gave me a small pill for anxiety. After about fifteen minutes they put me back in and it didn't seem to take long at all.

The myelogram was the test that scared the shit out of me. Ivy was right - the paralysis prevented me from having any pain from the test. A spinal tap was done before the dye was injected for the myelogram. I was strapped to a huge table that twisted and turned at all different angles as X-rays were taken.

It wasn't more than two hours until I was back in my room. It was early, my clock reading just after 9am. It was amazing what you could get done when you get up early. I don't think the hospital staff believed in letting anyone sleep in.

Charlie and Renee were waiting for me. Charlie held his head in his hands while he sat in a chair in the corner. Renee came over and gave me a big kiss, asking if I wanted a sip of water as she sat the head of my bed up, fussing over me.

I remembered the warning Ivy had given me to remain flat as long as possible. "No! Mom, they said I should lay flat for a few hours."

Renee continued to raise the bed. "It's okay, Bella, don't argue with your mother. Here, you need a drink. They said you'll have problems if you get dehydrated." She thrust the cup into my hand.

"No, mom, really," I begged her. "Please just lay me down!"

My head was pounding, the pain became unbearable. I squeezed the button for the nurse. When she entered the room, she gasped. "Bella! You shouldn't be sitting up, yet."

"My mom did it; she won't lay me back down. My head is pounding; can you give me something for the pain?"

The nurse chuckled as she lowered my bed. "Your head hurts because of the difference in spinal fluid pressure. Some people have no problem after a myelogram, but we recommend you rest for several hours afterward. The pain is excruciating for some people." She laid me back down and the pain subsided some.

"That is a bit better."

"How is your headache?"

"It is still the worst headache I've ever experienced."

She looked sympathetic. "I'm sorry it hurts, Bella. I can give you some Demerol. It should help with the pain so you can rest."

I could've cried it hurt so badly.

I could tell my mom was nervous and upset, but it didn't excuse her need to take things into her own hands and do as she saw fit. I knew trying to keep her reined in was like babysitting a hyperactive kid. She wouldn't leave her hands off things; she'd butt in and interrupt important conversations. I had spent my life being the one mothering her.

I didn't need this.

I wished she'd be a bit more cooperative, even if just for today. I wished, for once, she would act more compassionate. I couldn't think of a time when I needed her to just be my mother more, yet there she was, up to her old antics. Christmas Eve was incredible; I couldn't remember a time when I'd had so much fun with her. Today, I just wanted her to go home.

My nurse left for about five minutes and came back brandishing a syringe with a huge needle. As I swallowed audibly, she shushed me and picked up the IV tubing. "I got you something stronger than the Demerol, it'll work almost immediately." She stood, rubbing my shoulder then she turned towards my mother. "Ma'am, if you can't behave yourself, I'll have security remove you from Miss Swan's room."

Charlie laughed as he pulled out his Forks PD badge and said, "That's not necessary. Another stunt like that and I'll ship her back to Phoenix myself."

The nurse laughed as my dad nudged Renee.

"Come on Renee; let's go down to the coffee shop. I think we need to let Bella rest for a few hours." He turned towards me. "Bells, get some rest and we'll be back."

I was beginning to feel extremely fatigued. "Yeah, I'm not going anywhere," I joked, trying to lighten the mood. No one laughed.

I watched as my dad put a hand on the small of her back and maneuvered her out of the room as quickly as he could.

Before long, my day nurse came back. She shook my shoulder to rouse me. "Have you gotten any relief, Bella?"

"It's just a dull thudding now. It's definitely better than it was. I can manage this."

"I'm Sandra, by the way. I'll be here until three if you need anything. Do you want a drink or something to eat?"

I shook my head. "No thanks. I think I'll try to sleep for a while. Am I getting lunch?"

"Yes, they held your breakfast because some people get nauseous during or after the procedures. Your lunch is coming up in about three hours. I asked them to hold it until you are comfortable sitting up. I know you're hungry, but it'll be easier for you that way."

As the day progressed, my pain went away. I could finally concentrate on something other than my pounding head. Sandra brought in my lunch and set my tray up for me. She placed everything within reach of my right hand and told me she'd be back later. After attempting to not make a huge mess with my lunch, I started contemplating my future.

I'd have to talk with Principal Banner about a teacher's aide. The additional help would lessen my workload. I would have to call him at home so he could arrange a substitute teacher until I was feeling a little stronger. At the very least, I'd be out of school weeks after classes resumed from Christmas break. Fortunately, I had enough time accrued to take a medical leave for an extended amount of time.

I couldn't cut back to part-time; it wouldn't be fair to my students, and my full-time status was what allowed me to keep my health insurance. The school district had been getting less state funding every year and they began cutting as many corners as possible. I didn't want to give them any excuse to cut my healthcare benefits. The diagnosis of a long term illness was going to be a red flag as it was. Too many Americans were without healthcare benefits. I didn't want to be another statistic.

It was going to be difficult maneuvering around the school in a wheelchair. I didn't know how I was going to go home to my apartment either. I couldn't go to the bathroom without someone lifting me on and off the toilet. I'd never had to be dependent on anyone else.

I shoved my tray onto the floor in frustration, dishes and food clattering to the floor. How could I ever possibly care for myself again? There was no way of knowing if I'd ever even walk again. I was sure Charlie would want to help me, but he couldn't take time off work to be my nursemaid. Renee was one of the most unpredictable people I knew and she wouldn't help me. Would I have to go to a nursing home to recover?

Even Dr. Cullen had said there may not be any concrete answers with my condition.

Despair washed over me as I contemplated all the things I've always taken for granted. Sobbing, once again, I fell into a restless sleep.

I awoke to the clanking sounds of metal and what sounded like…dishes? Someone had turned the light on over my bed. I looked over to find Charlie was picking up the remains of my lunch. Guilt washed over me as I watched him gather pieces of glass, silverware and food from the floor. After he put the last cooked carrot on what was left of my plate, he stood up, setting the tray on the bedside table.

"Will that be safe there?"

"I'm sorry, dad; I didn't mean to make a mess for anyone. I'm just so frustrated."

"Its okay, Bells. I'm glad to see you're letting it all out."

"Where's mom?"

"Your mother is back at your place, talking to Phil. I don't know if she'll make it here tonight." Charlie looked much older than usual tonight.

"Hey, it's alright. This can't be a fun holiday for her. She came all this way to end up sitting in a hospital."

"Bella, you should be her biggest concern. I'm just relieved we were both already here so you didn't have to face any of this alone. You couldn't get out of bed; you wouldn't even have been able to call an ambulance. I don't like you staying here all alone. You're over three hours from home. I think you should come home with me."

"Dad, I can't expect you to take care of me. That would be uncomfortable for both of us."

"I spoke with Dr. Cullen, and the hospital social worker is coming in to talk with us tomorrow after your therapy. I really like Dr. Cullen - do you realize he's been off your case since they brought you to a room, yet he's gone over all of your tests, set up consultations with different specialists and referred us to someone who can help find someone to take care of you when you get home? He's a very dedicated doctor."

While I was sleeping, Dr. Cullen had told Charlie I would be discharged in a few days but there were more tests he wanted to run. Before Christmas, I'd been having trouble making it to the bathroom in time. I hadn't thought anything of it, but apparently it was another piece of this mysterious puzzle.

Tomorrow afternoon I would begin physical therapy from my wheelchair. Dr. Cullen wanted me to be able to maneuver myself; he said it was important that I learned how to get myself in and out of bed, dress from a sitting position and a few other things I'd need to perfect before I returned to my students. I felt fortunate that my students were older and didn't need assistance with putting on boots and coats.

Once more, I drifted into a fitful sleep, and I almost wished I had more of the sleeping pills Dr. Cullen had prescribed to me the night before.

Again, when morning came, I awoke to find Maggie smiling down at me. She helped me bathe and get dressed in a t-shirt and sweat pants. I'd be spending a few hours in the rehab gymnasium this afternoon.

"Dr. Cullen is coming by in a few hours to see you. He wants to go over the preliminary findings of your tests, and he also wants you to meet his nephew."

I frowned. "Isn't it inappropriate for another patient to be involved in my case?" I was certainly concerned for this young doctor who couldn't seem to keep himself healthy enough to stay out of the hospital.

"From what I understand, Edward has been discharged from the hospital this morning. He's got a reputation, though. He's by far the most promising doctor in the neurology program. He was always ahead of his peers in school, and he's more prepared to help you than any other physician here.

"You can't tell anyone I told you that, but you seem so hesitant. I'm not supposed to say one doctor is any better than another, but if it were me I'd ask to be referred to Edward. He's a very compassionate person. He understands what you're dealing with. I've known him since he was a little boy. He's a good person, Bella."

I wished there was some way to predict what my future held. Dr. Cullen said he was almost certain he knew what the outcome of yesterday's testing would show. While I dreaded the news, it would be better to know what I was facing

Before breakfast was delivered, Dr. Cullen stepped in for a few minutes and sat down. He looked downtrodden. As he rubbed his eyes with his hands, he began to speak.

"As you're aware, Bella, I've believed since your admission that the symptoms you're experiencing are the result of a neurological condition. The MRI and CT scan show white areas on your brain; we refer to them as lesions. These 'lesions' suggest you have Multiple Sclerosis. MS is an inflammatory disease that affects the central nervous system. The white lesions on your MRI show areas where the myelin is lost; the myelin is like the insulation on a piece of wire. When the disease is active, as yours is now, the myelin is stripped from different nerves. This causes your nerve impulses to slow down or stop. The myelin doesn't grow back, but in your case, we believe the disease will go into a period of inactivity. We feel your MS is the type that relapses and goes into remission. Each relapse is called an exacerbation, and many people fully recover from the episode. Every case is different, and each exacerbation is different. Based on the previous episodes you encountered in Phoenix, I believe this is your second exacerbation. "

I remained quiet through his explanation, but some things puzzled me. "I barely mentioned the things that happened in Phoenix. Really. They all seemed like coincidences. Were they really all that significant?"

"Bella, dragging your feet and tripping frequently is significant. You mentioned it was always your left foot. Your left side was being affected back then too."

"I just chalked that up to being clumsy. I never made the connection."

"Your episode after laying out under the sun is another piece of the puzzle as well."

"How can that possibly have anything to do with this condition?" I began to question the good doctor's sanity.

"Many MS patients are affected by heat. In fact, before doctors had the advanced tests we have today, they submerged patients in a tub of very hot water. If they became listless while in the tub but recovered after cooling off, they were almost always diagnosed with MS. Your days of laying out in the sun for a tan are over, Isabella."

"I don't think that'll be a problem here in Seattle."

Dr. Cullen chuckled. "I suppose not."

Dr. Cullen continued to talk with me, explaining how the issues with my vision and even the frequent trips to the bathroom had all been factors in my diagnosis.

He said many people who experience - what had he called it?-an 'exacerbation' like this - walk again with little trouble. He said the paralysis should subside over the next few weeks.

Dr. Cullen continued to speak. "The myelogram confirms the diagnosis. The spinal fluid we withdrew contains proteins. The way they group themselves tells us the diagnosis is correct. I've sent the fluid out for more in-depth testing, but I know the findings will be the same. I'm so sorry, Isabella. I wish I had better news for you."

I sat there in silence as I fingered the hem of the blanket that covered me. Tears fell freely. I couldn't do more than shake my head from time to time. He kept talking about new treatments, experimental therapies, things that would lessen the severity of the disease.

"But you said there's hope that this will possibly just go away?" I sniffled.

"No, Bella, the MS won't just go away. The symptoms you're experiencing right now will most likely subside. Over the years, you may have many different symptoms - any part of your body can be affected. You may not have any symptoms for many years. I suppose that is the most distressful part of the disease, not knowing how or when you'll be affected next."

I found that I had become distracted. I felt like I was on an emotional rollercoaster. I was hopeful that I would get past this and would be able to resume my life. The uncertainty about what the future held for me was very frightening.

I'd never been one to just give in when things got tough. Being a teacher, I realized I'd need to research MS and learn whatever I could, both about the disease and the treatments of which he spoke.

Finally, the doctor excused himself. He said Dr. Gilmer would be in later to see me. Dr. Cullen said he would stop later this evening to talk with my parents about his findings.

After my visitor, I didn't have the energy to eat much breakfast. Maggie sent most of my meal back to the cafeteria.

I was exhausted after the bath and breakfast. Who knew something so simple could be so tiring? Maggie left my radio playing softly after she adjusted me into a comfortable position. I didn't even realize I drifted off after awhile.

I was both physically and mentally exhausted. My body finally succumbed and for the first time since I'd been here, I fell into a deep sleep. When I awoke, I felt completely refreshed. Being alert had it's disadvantages, my mind was working overtime trying to process everything I could remember from my earlier conversation with Dr. Cullen.

Slowly my mind drifted to all the things that were about to change in my life. I couldn't help but obsess over all the things I loved that I might never experience again. Thinking about it was devastating. My heart broke into a million pieces as I lay sobbing, mourning my life before… because life would never again be the same. My carefree days of enjoying life to its fullest were over it seemed. I couldn't dress myself or use the toilet independently. Hell, my life was over.

While I was wallowing in self-pity, I heard a soft tap on my door. It took a minute to find my voice before I could choke out, "Come in."

I never heard anyone enter until I heard someone clear his throat. He introduced himself as Carlisle Cullen's nephew and started talking to me, telling me how this was merely a bump in the road and life as I knew it wasn't over. I didn't hear the rest of what he was saying as I launched into a childish tirade.

I was so tired of everyone's cheery attitude when my life was in tatters. Everyone… the doctors… nurses… my parents… all wanted me to look for the silver lining. This man, pushing his conversation on me was the very last straw and I snapped. I let him have it with both barrels. Certain that he slipped out the door once I finished, I opened my eyes. I was shocked to find myself eye to eye with the most beautiful man I'd ever seen.

~Edward~

I'll never forget the day that I met Bella Swan. It was December 27th, 2006.

I had spent my Christmas in the hospital, and I couldn't wait to get as far from that room as possible. It had been a dismal holiday from my perspective.

Had I not been ill, I would have been working the holiday in this very hospital, but being on the other side of the bedpan gave you an entirely different outlook. My urologist, Doctor Reilly, released me this morning. My body finally began to respond to the antibiotic cocktail he cooked up and it slowly rid my body of the infection that had made me deathly ill. I was relieved beyond words that it wasn't MRSA.

I could return to work almost immediately, but I was going to take a day or two off to recoup and try to regain some of the strength I lost laying in bed for days. It was back to Emmett and the physical therapy gym for me.

As I was packing my duffel bag, I heard a light tap on my door before someone walked into the room. I would've known the soft footsteps of my uncle anywhere; they were as soft as the rest of his demeanor. Everything about him exuded quiet, calm compassion.

I turned to see him looking at me with…uncertainty? This surprised me. Carlisle always seemed so collected.

"Edward," he greeted.

"Carlisle, I'm almost ready. I could have gotten myself home some how." When I looked at his face again, I knew there was more to this visit than just seeing me off. "Is something wrong?"

"I was wondering if we could stop for lunch in the cafeteria first. I have something to discuss with you."

I grimaced. "You know I hate eating there. Can't we go someplace else for lunch?"

At that point, my uncle looked at the floor, his hands clasped behind his back. He raised himself up onto his toes, then back down. "I have someone I'd like you to meet… before we leave the hospital."

I leaned back, hooking my arm behind the push handle of my chair to steady myself. "I haven't even completed my discharge and you already want to talk shop?"

I recognized the look on his face. It was the one he wore when he intended to take on the world. For some reason, this one had affected him. I knew already that it futile to try and get out of it. "It's a special case, son. I'd like your opinion," he said softly, and then added, "I need you, Edward. She needs you."

I was tired and cranky. I had been here far too long and just wanted to get away. "Is this the girl you ordered all the tests for?" I groaned. I was ready to go home.

"Yes. I'm certain it's MS. I spoke with her this morning. She's going home in a wheelchair, Edward. A few days ago she was a vibrant twenty seven year old with the world in the palm of her hands. She's very active, or rather, she was. She is absolutely devastated. She really needs to talk with someone. She needs to know this isn't the end of the world."

I headed off in the direction of the cafeteria, my uncle in tow. He knew I would react this way before he ever started the conversation. He was quite compelling when there was something needed for a particular patient.

It was a bit early; the lunch crowd hadn't really descended on the place yet, and breakfast had more or less cleared out, allowing us to find a quiet corner to talk.

Carlisle handed me a small folder. I looked at him with one eyebrow raised. He was never one to do anything unethical; this one must have really gotten under his skin.

Not yet looking inside, I asked a few questions. "What did you discover when you took her history? Have there been any abnormalities over the past few months?"

"She said no at first. Then, as we talked, she remembered a few things. Last fall, during a trip to visit her mother in Phoenix, she bought a pair of sandals. Almost immediately she began catching her left toe on things. Her mother chastised her for wearing the sandals, and before she even came back to Washington, she put them away. She's still been dragging that toe in her sneakers. She says she just chalked it up to being unnaturally clumsy. I guess she could trip over thin air."

"Was there anything else?"

"She started wearing glasses last fall as well. Just for reading. She gets blurred vision when she reads for any period of time. She's an elementary school teacher."

"So she reads a lot."

My uncle nodded his head. "Yes."

"Any double vision?"

He rubbed his chin and shook his head. "She said no."

"Is there anything else out of the ordinary?"

"When she was in Phoenix, it was very hot. Upper nineties the whole visit. She said she was lethargic the entire stay. Apparently the mother doesn't like to use the air conditioning."

I frowned as he continued. I knew what heat could do to someone with MS, especially relentless heat like the heat of Arizona.

"She decided to lay out with friends one afternoon. She couldn't get up; the neighbor had to carry her into the house. Once her friends turned on the airconditioning and helped her get cooled off, she was fine. She swore everyone to silence and managed to get away with it."

"So, you're thinking the initial exacerbation was around two to three months ago?"

Carlisle's face contorted into a frown. I could tell he'd already let this one grow on him. "It would appear that way, wouldn't it?"

"What were the findings of the tests?"

Carlisle frowned again, knowing he was putting the nails in her coffin, so to speak. A diagnosis like this wasn't terminal, yet we both knew her life could change drastically in as little as a few months.

"The MRI showed lesions characteristic with MS."

"And the myelogram?"

Carlisle let out a breath he probably didn't realize he'd been holding. "The protein in her spinal fluid shows every indication of MS."

I stepped in. "Those results, in addition to the two neurologic episodes over a three month span just cements the diagnosis."

"I told her as much."

I was saddened; I thought back over the things Carlisle had told me… she was only twenty-seven, an elementary school teacher. It always hit those who were young, and in the prime of their life. This was why I went into neurology. Not just for my own benefit, but to help other young people with life altering conditions.

"Tell me about her. What is she like? How is she handling all of this? Did you get her a psych consult? You know she's going to need it."

"They are meeting with her this afternoon. She's a mess." He hesitated, concentrating on something through the cafeteria door. "I was hoping you could get her to go to your support group."

Of course you were.

I sighed, "She's going to need support. The MS society has great self-help groups. Has anyone referred her to them? They can assist her with assistive technology and medical equipment as well. Does she have adequate insurance?"

"I'm not sure what sort of coverage she has. You know I don't have access to that information; when the patients get to us, they are all equals in regards to their ability to pay. That is between the patient and the billing department. She is a local teacher- I know most of the teachers have insurance through their union."

"An MS diagnosis will change things for her. It's hard getting medical insurance with a pre-existing condition. There are ways, though. Just make sure she sees the hospital social worker if she doesn't have insurance. It's difficult, but there are ways if you're creative. She can't afford to waste any time."

By now we'd finished eating our bagels and the coffee had run dry. I noticed I'd made tight little balls out of my napkin. Why was I nervous about meeting one of Carlisle's patients?

Perhaps because I was going to try to convince her that much worse things could be wrong with her and she should suck it up and put her shattered life back together.

I backed away from the table more forcefully than necessary. "Let's go see your patient."

As I pulled up to the door of room 511, I grabbed the chart from its holder. Isabella Swan. 27. DX, Multiple Sclerosis. I don't know why I bothered looking inside, I'd already seen all the pertinent information.

I took a deep breath. It was now or never.

I tapped on the door before I opened it. The soft "come in" that came from the room's occupant sounded more like it came from a little girl than a school teacher. She was lying on her side with her back to me. I watched as she lay sobbing quietly. How did I let my uncle drag me into this?

He always recruits me to console the young ones.

I cleared my throat to make my presence known; my wheelchair was so quiet, I could literally sneak up on people without them knowing. I didn't want to scare her. The sound of footsteps on the linoleum is something patients expected to hear as a caregiver approaches them.

As I examined the room to establish the best route to greet her face to face without knocking over any of the obstacles before me, I began talking. "Isabella, my name is Edward Cullen. My uncle asked me to talk with you."

I watched her stiffen and reach out with her right hand to steady herself with the bed rail. I remembered Carlisle telling me her left side was the one that had been affected.

"I know Dr. Cullen thinks he has all the answers. I'm not in the mood to discuss this right now. Please…just go." She sounded so broken. My heart clenched at the sound of her voice.

"Isabella," I started again, but she abruptly cut me off.

"If you're not going to leave me alone, at least call me Bella." I recognized the sound of defeat. She was devastated, and I didn't want to upset her further. She needed to find it in herself to rely on other people for encouragement and support when the going got tough. Because, I was certain, the going would get tough for her.

"Okay… Bella." I had no intention of leaving yet.

I opened her chart and looked over the result of her MRI, CT scan and the myelogram. The pattern of protein in the spinal fluid they withdrew during the myelogram was what had confirmed the diagnosis.

"The results of all the tests I ordered indicate MS as your diagnosis. I know you're trying to come to terms with this, but I want you to understand this isn't the end of the world. Many successful people work and live from the confines of a wheelchair."

Just when I expected more tears, she began screaming at me. "It's so easy for all of you to tell me how little my life has to change! Do you have any idea how humiliating it is to wet your bed because no one gets there soon enough to help you onto the toilet?"

Oh, honey if you only knew.

She continued to let loose and I was glad she was purging herself. "Do you know what it's like to have to wait, sometimes for hours, for someone to put you in a wheelchair so you can just go look out the window? Can you imagine what it's like to know you'll never hike or rock climb or ski again? Until you have some comprehension of what I'm going through, hit the road and don't come back. I'm so tired of being patronized! You don't have a clue what this feels like!"

I remained silent as she continued her rant. She needed this. It was important to let it all out. I made my way around the foot of her bed as she continued to yell. She had a death grip on the bedrail, her eyes clenched shut.

"I've lost everything! I'm twenty-seven years old. How dare you tell me I'll learn to adapt. You've given me a life sentence."

Her thought was lost as she opened her eyes and looked at me. At this point, I was next to her bed, mere inches from her face. Her eyes got big as she took in the wheelchair I was sitting in. Comprehension flooded her features and she hung her head in what had to be embarrassment. A bright read flush graced her cheeks. She simply said, "Oh God.", and buried her face in her hands.

I'd experienced this response before from patients I've had the advantage of sneaking up on. Often, when they realized I was in a chair, it took so much longer for them to let loose and voice their frustrations.

Most of them wouldn't want to appear rude, so they'd just keep it all bottled up.

The best thing for any of them to do was to get angry and vent their anger... to purge their soul. It was a rare occasion to find myself in a position that afforded me the opportunity to hide my physical condition from a patient before they began to open up.

I started the support group at Harborview during my first year working in neurology. I was shocked that there wasn't already a support group for people with newly acquired disabilities. There was a traumatic head injury group, one for individuals who had suffered strokes, and another for spinal cord injuries. I had attended the latter as soon as I came to University of Washington. I wasn't thrilled with the information or referrals they were providing patients, and their attendance was low. Apparently I wasn't the only person who was disillusioned after turning to them for assistance.

I decided something more was needed for people with disabilities, something with more options. My aunt jumped at the chance to assist me forming a group. We had a lot to offer new patients. I think our greatest asset was the buddy system we encouraged. Individuals were paired up based on type of disability, personality, lifestyle and interests. It fostered lasting friendships, often involving entire family units. This was the kind of mentality that allowed people to thrive, no matter what their ability was.

I smiled at Miss Swan. Bella. Suddenly, I wanted her to trust me. I wanted to be her friend. I wanted to help her put her demons to rest and get on with her life. I set a box of Kleenex next to her. These feelings were foreign to me. I never had any desire to bond with a patient.

Warily, Bella smiled back, looking more than a bit embarrassed at her rant. "I'm so sorry. I feel like a real jerk now." She pushed the button to raise the head of her bed up and grabbed a wad of tissues, blowing her nose loudly.

"Please, feel free to say what's on your mind. I'm not that easily offended." I was grinning like a damn ape. I knew she was upset, but her little rant was more beneficial than anything. I certainly was not offended. I wanted her to realize that I had come to terms with my situation and I truly am living a great life. This wheelchair is more than an annoyance, but I could either embrace my life or wallow in self-pity. The self-pity would fester and rot me from the inside out. Self-pity would have destroyed me. In my head, there had only ever been one option for me.

Bella looked thoughtful before her next comment. "You seem so at ease. Are you certain the wheelchair isn't a prop?"

I found myself laughing. "No, Bella, I assure you it is not."

She appeared embarrassed. "May I ask, um, how did…" She looked at the floor and then back at the chair.

"It's okay to ask, Bella. I know your history, it's only fair you know mine."

She sighed. "I'm sorry."

"Don't be." I'd told my story hundreds of times, and it wasn't the disability that altered my life and broke my heart. Losing the use of my legs was nothing compared to everything else I had lost that afternoon. I had a little different perspective than most disabled individuals.

"I was in an automobile accident shortly after my eighteenth birthday. My uncle Carlisle convinced me to go into medicine during my rehab after I moved in with him and my aunt."

I braced myself for the question I'd left open for her, but she didn't ask. They all wanted to know about my parents. Why didn't I go home with them? The question I always hated to answer never came.

"I'd like to invite you to join my support group here at Harborview. We're here for anyone with a newly acquired disability, and we have meetings every Tuesday. I try to attend whenever I can. You'd benefit from the fellowship as well as the resources we have to offer. I'll be there this week, if you'd like to go you'd have the advantage of knowing someone. I imagine you'll still be here tomorrow evening. I didn't read any discharge notes in your chart."

"No, I'm starting some sort of steroid therapy this evening and there are more tests I need to have yet. A CMG or a VCUG. Something about urination. I don't really understand all the tests."

"I don't mean to pry, but are you having problems with urination?"

"Yeah, to an extent. Your uncle seemed to think it was important that they investigate it."

"I've had both tests done. The CMG is less humiliating. Neither one is truly painful, just a bit embarrassing. The CMG uses a catheter with a special device to measure pressure in your bladder to determine how much it can hold and at what pressure you need to urinate. The other test uses contrast dye to see how everything flows. They're more of an annoyance than anything."

She frowned. "Oh, great."

I shrugged my shoulders. "I've been through worse."

I held my hand out to shake hers. She left go of the bedrail and feel back into her pillows when she reached to shake hands. As I held her hand relishing its warmth and softness, I sighed. Time to go.

"Well, I've got a few things to take care of. I should help Carlisle take my bags out to the car. I don't want him to do all the work."

She dropped my hand and cocked her head. "You haven't been discharged yet?"

"I've been a free man for an hour."

"I'm sorry I held you up. It was nice meeting you. I'm sorry about earlier. I didn't mean to explode."

"It's okay, Bella, really. It's good to let it all out. Can we consider it a date, then?"

"I think I'd like that."

I left the hospital feeling better than I had in days. I stopped by the rehab gym on my way out. I rolled over to Carmen's desk and pulled out my notebook with the list of support group members. I needed to take it home and study; I wanted to pair Bella up with someone who could truly help her learn to adjust.

~Bella~

My visitor left me with many things to consider. While he hadn't given me answers, he did give me options. He also made me realize I need to be more open minded. As good as it felt to light into him, the only word that came to mind when I set eyes on him was… embarrassment.

As Edward left my room, I settled back into my nest. While I still had this huge weight hanging over me, I realized that perhaps he was right. Maybe it would be easier to bear the burden if I allowed someone to share the load. While there would be obstacles, I'd never been a quitter. This was certainly no time to begin.

It wouldn't be so terrible to go to a meeting with the handsome doctor. I was glad that I agreed to go. I had a feeling the support group would become an important part of my life in days to come. After attending that first meeting I realized how great an asset these people could be.

Never in a million years could I have imagined my decision that afternoon would impact my life so deeply.

Here we are, nearly two years later, I felt so much better about myself. My life had gotten back on track, and I'd made the biggest move of my life. It took us so long to get here. It took almost losing him for us to reconnect. It wasn't always easy, but this has become the most enriching experience of my life.


Thanks for reading. Please review.