A/N: Welcome to the rewrite! I hope you enjoy it as much as you did the old version!
The story itself is the same- there will be no changes from the original, aside from writing and a few minor plot points. For those of you who know the ending (I won't spoil it for those that don't), there will not be a new storyline.
Familiar greenery surrounded the car as it moved through the trees, driving down that long, winding road that would bring it to the one place Bella longed to be. The ride was silent—not even the radio could be heard over the dull rumble of the police cruiser, and it was all she could do to keep from staring at the man in the driver's seat. It had been so long since she had laid eyes on her father in the flesh, so long since she'd been able to watch him as she was so apt to do, that she had almost forgotten the way his brows would pinch together when they got stuck behind a transport truck, or how his moustache would twitch when he would look over and see her watching. Bella had never been quite sure just what it was that she loved so much about her little town in the forest, about the tiny, poky place she called home, but that unvoiced, unexplainable yearning was burning hot in her breast—she could not wait to be back.
She breathed a deep sigh, closing her eyes as the scent of woods, damp, and her father's leather car seats hit her all at once. Bella had missed that smell—the one that reminded her so intently of home that she could not help but wax nostalgic as she rested her head against the back of the seat. She heard Charlie's low, gruff chuckle as he turned to face her, keeping one eye on the road.
"You alright?" he asked, and Bella could hear the note of genuine concern under his amusement.
"I'm great," she said, smiling as she opened her eyes again. Charlie grunted, turning back to the road.
As the car drove into the town itself, passing the kitschy "Welcome to Forks!" sign that stood on a little rock cut about ten minutes from the town center, Bella felt a thrill of excitement course through her. During her time in Jacksonville, at the Mayo Clinic, Bella had wondered whether or not she would ever see it again. When she had left Forks all those months ago it was only supposed to be for a short visit to get reacquainted with the mother Bella barely knew. Bella could not have known then, when she'd hugged her father and siblings goodbye before her two weeks of sand and sun, that it would be almost four months before she would come home. She hadn't known then, as she did now, that less than one week into her trip she would wake in the night to a sickeningly familiar nosebleed, and that her mother, her hair-brained, distractible, flighty mother, would have to drive her to the emergency department in the dead of night.
Bella had never been more grateful for her mother's new husband, Phil, than she had been on that night. When Bella had woken her mother up, blood dripping down her chin, Renee had gone into hysterics. Bella had been forced to jump back, startled, when her mother had leapt out of bed, shoving a towel in Bella's face to staunch the flow. It had been Phil, dependable, quiet, and if truth be told, a little awkward, who had jumped into action. It had been he who had pried Renee off of Bella, directing her calmly to the car before he had guided Bella down the stairs, ushering her into the back seat. Renee had been too upset to drive so Bella's new stepfather had taken control, driving carefully through the bright lights of the city towards the nearest hospital, where Bella had been seen by the trauma doctor, and then the oncologist.
Bella bit her cheek as her father made the turn onto the main road that would bring her home. Every time she remembered that dreaded phone call she had been forced to make, she could not help but tear up. She had sat in that strange hospital bed, hooked up to wires and tubes, as the doctor left her alone with the news that she lived in constant dread of hearing. She had been so certain, so sure that she had finally tempered the skulking beast that had stalked her through her childhood. When Bella was left alone—her stepfather had returned home while her mother spoke with the doctor outside—she had picked up the phone at her bedside, dialing the familiar number that she knew would put her through to the one person she had to talk to. She remembered Charlie's groggy voice, the confusion in his tone when he'd rasped out a muffled "Hello?", and Bella, unable to speak, had broken down in tears.
"Hello? What the…" Charlie's voice distanced and Bella could hear the creaking of his bed as he sat up. "Is someone there? Hello?"
"Dad..." Bella's voice was barely audible.
"Bella? Baby? What's wrong? Where are you?"
"Dad, I'm sorry…"
"Where's your mother?" demanded Charlie, his voice louder now. "Bella? Honey? Where's Renee? What's wrong?"
"She's talking to the doctor," said Bella in a little, hiccupping voice.
"The doctor?" asked Charlie, and Bella heard his fear. "Are you hurt?"
"What, Bella?" There was dead silence on the other end.
"They said that…" She could not make the words come. "They think I'm sick again."
"What do you mean, sick?" demanded Charlie, after only a brief pause. "Bella?"
"Give me the phone, sweetie," said Renee, stepping back through the door with red eyes and a gentle smile. "I'll talk to your dad."
Bella relinquished the handset without hesitation, unable to speak that dreaded, hateful word to her father, who was sure to be worried and anxious. Although he had never let her see it, Bella knew that Charlie lived in constant worry for his youngest child—the one he had come so close to losing so many times in her short life. Bella pressed her face into her pillow, unable to stop the keening sobs that escaped her, even when the kindly nurse came in to change her saline.
That day, over three months ago, had been one of the worst she could remember—that was the fourth time in her sixteen years that she had heard the doctor speak that horrid word, the one word that could bring her to her knees. Like every other time, Bella could not bring herself to pay attention to the dull platitudes and empty reassurances that each adult would speak to her.
Things will work out. We're going to fight this. You're so strong. I know you can do it…
Bella had been only four years old the first time she remembered the doctor's sad, sympathetic eyes and her father's look of abject terror. She hadn't known it then—what four year old could?—but looking back she knew that the moment Charlie had first heard the word pass the doctor's lips had been one of the worst of his life. When Bella had first grown ill Charlie was less than a year out of his doomed marriage to Renee and a single father to three young children. Although she knew he would do nothing less, Bella could not help the flush of embarrassment and of desperate, undying gratitude that flowed through her when she thought of everything her father had given up—he had left his dangerous job in Seattle and relocated the family to Forks, and he had taken a leave of absence, with significantly lower pay, to sit by his daughter's bedside day and night, making sure that she was never alone during those first, terrifying rounds of chemo. Bella remembered her father only vaguely from those early days, but some of the most distinct memories she had were of him sitting in a hard, wooden chair next to her bed while she was supposed to be resting. There was often another sleeping child cradled in his lap while he stared blankly at the wall next to the bed, not knowing that his littlest daughter was watching.
Bella wondered, as her father turned the car down the long road that lead to their home, how many times he had worried over her these past years. Bella was only a teenager—she had a mere sixteen years to her father's forty—and she did not think she would ever fully comprehend the depth of his love for her.
"Your brother and sister are glad to have you home," said Charlie suddenly, breaking the silence. "They're just starting winter break, so…"
"Great," said Bella, smiling. The action felt false, but when Charlie's worried frown softened, Bella made sure to keep it in place.
"I think your brother wants pizza."
"Sounds good," Bella said, shifting in her seat. "Better than hospital food."
As familiar houses began to flash past, Bella looked carefully over at her father, whose narrowed eyes were glued to the riveted road, rough with potholes. Knowing he was not looking at her, Bella took a moment to truly see her father for the first time in a long while, and she frowned when she noticed small details that had not been there the last time she had seen him. If she was not mistaken—and she could not be sure that she wasn't—Charlie had a few more lines around his eyes than he'd had when she'd left for Florida, and where the hair at his temples had been steadfastly dark for as long as she could remember, it was now peppered with grey.
Bella fought back emotion, knowing in her heart that she was the cause—she could not even fathom the amount of stress she had caused him these past months.
"I'm very sorry, Mr. Swan," the doctor had said. "She's not strong enough for the transplant, and there's not much else we can do for her. You'll need to make a choice."
"No!" Charlie's voice echoed through the small room and Bella cringed. Renee sat stony in a chair, unwilling to meet Charlie's gaze even in this most dire situation. "Alice is…"
"Your eldest daughter is a partial match," said the doctor, "but with Isabella in her condition, it is highly unlikely that it will take."
"But…" Charlie squeezed Bella's hand so hard that she flinched. "You…" He stared at the doctor, mouth moving without sound, and Bella could not watch as the realization set in.
"I'm very sorry, Mr. Swan. My recommendation is that you talk it over with Isabella and Mrs. Dwyer. We'll make her comfortable."
"Dad…" Bella's voice broke. For the first time since the doctor had entered, Charlie's attention snapped down to the little white face in the bed, with her big, watery eyes staring up at him. Bella did not know what to say when his face crumpled and the dam holding his tears broke, or when he snatched her up in his arms and crushed her to his chest.
"I love you," he said. "I love you, baby."
Bella could do nothing but wrap her little fists around his shirt and listen as her mother, sniffling, slipped from the room.
Bella was still not sure she had fully processed what the doctor had repeated to her numerous times before her discharge.
"The medication isn't working like we'd hoped."
"The radiation isn't strong enough."
"Your sister's marrow would likely kill you."
"We can keep you here with us or we can release you and let you go home."
"Six months, maybe seven, if she's lucky…"
"We're here, Bell," said Charlie and Bella jumped, glancing out the window. Her house stood before her—the modest two-story building with white siding and an overgrown flower garden laid out under the front window. Bella grinned when she saw the mailbox—something to which she was irrationally attached—perched as precariously as ever on the wooden post by the end of the chain-link fence, its little red flag hanging limply. At four years old, when Bella had first moved into this house, she had fallen completely and irrevocably in love with the stupid thing—it looked just like the ones in her favourite television shows. Bella recalled many an afternoon spent playing pretend, jamming old bits of paper and discarded envelopes she found in the trash back into it just so she could put the little flag up and make her father run out to check it.
When Emmett, learning to drive on Billy Black's old red Chevy, had backed into it and knocked it over when Bella was fourteen, she had burst into tears and refused to even look at him until he had gone down to the hardware store and returned it to its original state.
But not even Emmett's tinkering could make that little flag work again.
Before Bella could even get her seatbelt off, her father was at her door, opening it for her so she could step outside. Bella knew better than to take her suitcase—Charlie had given her the stink-eye at the airport when she'd tried to pull it from the carousel. She could not help but grin as her father tugged it out of the trunk with ease, rolling it along behind him as he put a hand on her shoulder, urging her up the few stairs that led to the front door.
When he opened it and ushered her inside, leery of having her outdoors for too long, Bella breathed a deep, satisfied sigh. She could smell the lemon Pledge her father used on the tables, and the strangely homey scent of lavender from the floor cleaner her family favoured. She could see, on the hook by the door, her brother's letterman jacket alongside the denim button-down that could only belong to Alice. Stumbling slightly as she entered the kitchen, she looked down and laughed. She could expect nothing else from her brother—there was his new schoolbag, stuffed haphazardly with freshly purchased school supplies still in their packaging, thrown pell-mell on the welcome mat where it had no business being. Charlie caught her by the arm, though she was in no real danger of falling, and grumbled his discontent as he left her suitcase by the door, stalking off to find the culprit.
"Emmett!" Charlie's voice rang out. "Come and pick up your bag by the door!"
"Sorry!" Bella could not help the wide, genuine smile that spread across her face as she heard the familiar voice, accompanied by booming, thunderous footsteps on the stairs. "I forgot it was even there…"
Emmett, taller and broader than ever, appeared before her with a wide smile on his face and Bella could not help but laugh when he pounced on her, pulling her in for a hug. He was surprisingly gentle for someone so large—Bella wondered if their father had warned him to be kind.
"Hey you!" he said, his large arms giving her a gentle squeeze. "Nice to have you home."
"Yeah," said Bella, breathless as he let her go. "Thanks."
"Hey Ali!" he hollered, making Bella cringe. Charlie rolled his eyes. "Bell's home!"
"Bella!" Charlie smiled as his eldest daughter loped gracefully down the stairs, shoving her brother out of the way for a hug as well. "I'm so glad you're home! So much has happened!"
"Oh?" said Bella, returning the hug. Alice pressed a kiss to Bella's cheek as she let her go, looking her over before she stepped back.
"You're skinny again," she frowned, cocking her hip. "You need something to eat."
Bella laughed, looking down at the loose-fitting shirt she was wearing. It was one of the ones she'd packed to bring to Florida, and Alice was not wrong—when she had left Washington, she had filled out most of her clothing.
"I'm fine, Alice," she said, ignoring Alice's troubled frown. "I promise."
Alice did not reply.
After only a brief moment of awkward silence, Emmett put on a brave smile and reached for the suitcase, announcing that he'd take it upstairs for Bella to handle later. Alice, who had taken to staring at her sister from her place by the counter, snapped out of her daze and turned to the refrigerator, taking down the thick stack of menus from the restaurants around town. Charlie, predictable as always, simply touched Bella's arm as he passed, settling in at the head of the dining table with the newspaper he hadn't had the time to read that morning.
"Pizza sound good?" asked Alice, her voice tense.
Bella sat at the table opposite her father, tracing the long crack that ran through it with the ragged nail of her index finger. She could see Alice out of the corner of her eye, shuffling through the pizza menus, reading them over even though Bella knew there was no need—they would order Frennetti's, as they always did, and there would be a large meat pizza, a medium pepperoni, and a small veggie for Bella.
"I'm going to go and freshen up," Charlie announced suddenly, dropping the paper and rising from his seat. "You girls order whatever you want. Just make sure you get your brother something he likes or we'll never hear the end of it."
"Sure dad," said Bella, grinning. Charlie smiled at the two of them as he made his way to the stairs, walking quickly. There was silence in the kitchen before Bella heard the upstairs sink start up, and the bathroom door clicked shut.
Alice did not speak as she stood, facing away from Bella to stare out of the window above the sink. She tinkered gently with the dishes in the drying rack, taking a glass and filling it with water. She took a long, slow sip.
This awkwardness, this strained silence, was exactly what Bella had been afraid of.
"Are you okay?" she asked, blinking hard against the impending tears. She would not cry.
"I'm fine," said Alice, turning to face Bella with what Bella knew was a false, static smile. She had seen it many times over the years, and she was intimately familiar with the guilt and awkwardness that was bound to come when those around her had to fake smiles and laughter. Bella did not want them to pretend—she did not want her sister to have to play make-believe now that Bella was back home for good.
Alice faced the window again.
"Alice…" began Bella, sliding her chair carefully from the table. The legs scraped loudly on the floor and Alice sighed, her shoulders sagging.
"I'm fine, Bella," she said again, putting her glass down. "For real. I promise. It's just a lot to take in."
Bella halted half way across the room. Alice was watching her now, a frown puckering her forehead. Bella did not know what it was about her sister that made her hedge—Alice was only two years her senior, barely old enough to make much of a difference, but whenever Alice looked at her in that knowing, shrewd way, Bella always felt like an errant child. Ever since they had been small children, Alice had always been able to read Bella like a book.
"I missed you," said Alice in a little voice, speaking just loud enough for Bella to hear. "It's not the same when you're not around."
Bella's eyes burned. She knew what Alice was saying, what she was implying with her gentle words. She might say one thing but Bella knew she meant another—she was not only happy Bella was home, but this was her way, Alice's way, of acknowledging the great elephant in the room.
Soon, you won't be around and nothing will ever be the same again.
"I missed you too, Alice," breathed Bella, closing the gap between them with three long steps. Alice tensed for just a moment when Bella wrapped her up in a hug, resting her chin carefully on her sister's shoulder. Bella bit her lip as hard as she dared, determined that she would not break down, breathing a sigh of relief when Alice's arms enveloped her in return, running gently over her back.
Neither girl spoke before their brother—their big, bulky, bear of of a brother—came lumbering in as well.
"Did you ladies order yet?" he asked, breaking the tension as he flopped down on a dining chair. Bella cringed when it creaked beneath him, wondering how long it would be before he broke it—surely the chair could not take such abuse.
"No," said Alice, clearing her throat as she dropped Bella like a hot coal. "Not yet." Bella took a step back and Emmett watched them, his eyes darting to and fro as if he were watching a tennis match.
"Is someone going to cry?" he asked bluntly, bringing an unholy smile to Bella's face while their sister turned, offended.
"You have no tact," she snapped angrily, throwing the Frennetti's menu at his head. Emmett caught it with ease, staring at her. "Order it yourself." Without so much as a backward glance at either of them Alice stormed out of the kitchen and Bella distinctly saw her wiping her eyes on her sleeve as she slipped upstairs.
Emmett looked down, a little sheepish.
"She's a little touchy lately," he said gently, pushing out a chair with his foot. He gestured for Bella to sit. "Sorry about her."
"It's fine," said Bella, shaking her head. Amused as she was by the familiar banter of her siblings, Bella could not help but think that Alice was right—things were not the same as they were before.
"Veggie for you?" asked Emmett, breaking his staring match with the table to sneak a glance at her. "Same as always?"
"Same as always," she confirmed, swallowing back the lump in her throat.
Her brother was trying so hard to make things normal.
Bella picked at her fingernails, a nervous habit she'd had since she was just a little girl, while Emmett placed their delivery order, speaking in the same gregarious voice he always used. In that moment, as she fought back laughter at her brother's expense, she could almost imagine that things were normal, that nothing was different, that she'd just walked in from her visit with her mother, and that as always, her brother and sister were fighting.
But when Emmett hung up the phone and turned to her, his bright, laughing eyes growing soft and sad, Bella knew there would be no pretending.
"I love you, kiddo," he said, turning red as he reached out to pat her on the head.
"Love you too. Don't you go getting soft on me," she said, a feeble attempt at a joke.
"Gotta be soft sometimes," said Emmett. "Even me. And I don't think I tell you that as much as I should."
"You say it enough," said Bella, shaking her head and avoiding his gaze. "I love you too."
"And I don't mean to be tactless," he added, fixing his eyes on the far wall. Emmett was never good with feelings. "I just…"
"It's fine," said Bella, shaking her head. "Really."
Her brother nodded.
"Well," he said, stretching as he turned to face her again. "Did Alice tell you about the old haunted house?"
Even now, almost ten years after her childhood misadventure, the sound of that old, creepy building that sat across the field from their back yard made Bella shiver.
"No," she said, leaning to look out the back window. "What about it?"
"New owners," said Emmett, grinning. "A nice family."
"I doubt that," said Bella, "if they live there."
"They're really awesome," he insisted. "Really, they are."
"Do you know them well?" asked Bella.
"Well enough," said Emmett. "They moved in about two weeks after you went to mom's."
"Some," said Emmett, nodding. "Their dad is the new doctor in town."
"Cullen?" she asked, brows raised. "My doctor?"
"That's the one," said Emmett. "His wife wanted out of the city so they decided, for God knows what reason, to move to Forks."
"Hey now," protested Bella, poking Emmett's arm. "Be nice to my town."
"I'm almost positive that besides you and dad, not one person on this planet actually likes Forks," said Emmett, chuckling. "What you see in it, I'll never know…"
"Anyways," said Bella pointedly, interrupting with a frown. "What about the new doctor? Is he nice?"
"Super nice," said Emmett. "Like really cool."
"What about the kids?"
"Three," said Emmett, holding up three fingers. "They've got one son that's actually theirs, and then they've got their niece and nephew."
"Are they friendly?"
"You could say that," said Emmett, grinning. "Rose, I mean Rosalie, and her brother, Jasper, are in senior year too…"
Bella could not help her wicked grin.
"And is 'Rose, I mean Rosalie', pretty?" she teased, enjoying her brother's blush.
"She's lovely," said Emmett in a false, chirping voice. Bella chortled. "Absolutely spiffing. A marvelous treat for the ocular organ…"
"Okay, okay," laughed Bella, rolling her eyes. "What about the others?"
"Well, ask Alice if you want a full account of Jasper," Emmett said the name in a girlish, mocking voice. "She's got the most knowledge…"
"Alice has a boyfriend!?" cried Bella, a feeling of betrayal coursing through her. How could she not have known?
"For all of a month," soothed Emmett gently, looking slightly alarmed. "She was waiting to tell you in person..."
"What about the other one? The nephew or son or whatever he is?"
"Their son," said Emmett, a slight scowl crossing his face, "is Edward. He's a bit of an asshole, but hey—the others make up for him."
"Never mind Alice," he said quickly, glancing carefully at the staircase. Both he and Bella knew that if Alice found out that Emmett had spilled her secret, there would be hell to pay.
"Are you dating the sister?" demanded Bella, eyebrows raised. "Because if Alice spills your secret before I hear it from you, then I'll be doubly pissed…"
Bella hated being left out of the loop.
"Damn right I am," said Emmett, puffing up with pride. "And she's a damn fine specimen, let me tell you…"
"You'd do better to speak respectfully of that girl, Emmett," said Charlie suddenly, stepping into the kitchen with a freshly shaved face and a new shirt. "She'll kick your ass into next Sunday, I don't doubt…"
"Ah, but you're a cop," grinned Emmett, "and that would be assault. You'd have to arrest her."
"Watch it, boy, or I just might let it slide…"
Bella giggled as the two bantered, each one too stubborn to give up until the pizza delivery boy rang the doorbell and Charlie went to answer it. Bella could smell the food before she could see it, and her mouth began to water with anticipation as Charlie made awkward small talk with the boy—a high school kid working evenings and weekends to help with his college fund. Bella recognized him from the grade above hers.
When Charlie returned with their dinner, setting it carefully in the middle of the table, Bella grabbed a stack of plates and went to call her sister down, deeply amused when Alice appeared and refused to sit next to their brother.
As Bella snatched her first slice of veggie pizza, the only kind she had ever liked, she could almost imagine, for just a brief moment, that everything had gone back to normal.
A/N: Let me know what you think of the edits! I'll have more as soon as I get the other chapters written up!