It was official. I was coming down with something.
Edward was going to freak.
It was probably only a cold. I had woken up with a sore throat and a tickle in my nose. It wasn't even surprising really. My body had dealt with so much – depression, stress and then the three day dash to Italy. My lack of appetite during Edward's absence had severely drained any resources I had. Really, the surprise was that the cold had taken so long to show up. It always happened. As soon as any stress was over, BAM, a bug of some kind would appear.
If I was very lucky, he would never need to know. He had left this morning to go hunting with Emmett for a couple of days. I had practically had order him out of the house. I hated having him away from me. The hole in my chest seemed to grow bigger every minute when he was gone, making it harder for me to breathe. But he needed to hunt and, though he denied it, he needed to spend some time with Emmett. Edward was angsty enough at the best of times; since our return from Italy he had progressed to downright maudlin at times. He needed a bit of Emmett's joi de vivre now more than ever. If he knew that I was sick, I couldn't have pried him away from me with a crowbar.
The first time he had left me to hunt after Italy had been horrendous. Edward had been subsisting on local forest animals. It was obvious even to me that they were not enough; his eyes were constantly black. His family had been trying to persuade him to hunt properly with no success. Alice had kept me filled in on the details –Edward refused to discuss it. In his eyes, I could see same panic that I felt at the mere thought of being apart.
Typically, Emmett and Rosalie decided to take matters into their own hands. Without warning, Rosalie had whisked me into the house one day (more carefully that I would have expected) while Emmet had tried to grab Edward and head for the mountains. Edward had evaded Emmett and had been about to break down the front door and tear Rosalie apart with his bare hands when Carlisle finally put a stop to it.
After that, Edward and I had had a long talk. I got my act together and hid my dread of his absence, insisting that I wouldn't eat my dinner if he didn't have his. Alice had sworn on her entire shoe collection that she wouldn't leave my side for a second and Emmett had attempted to redeem himself by offering to patrol the property to ensure no evildoers (who he left unspecified) could find me. After considerable resistance from Edward (Carlisle had actually threatened to "dock his allowance"), he had finally agreed to go hunting with Esme. I suspected some silent guilt-tripping on Carlisle's part.
Edward had only been gone four hours but I had spent the entire time sobbing in Alice's arms. Thankfully, she had warned me in enough time to pull myself together before he returned. Alice swore that she had neither told Edward nor thought about it in his presence but I wondered. His eyes had been pitch black for days before he agreed to go hunting again. I had eventually told him that I was inviting Alice and Angela over to do makeovers and that if he was in the house, I would let his sister paint his toenails.
So this morning I had hidden my pain, physical and emotional, smiled brightly and kicked him out of my window first thing. I stood and watched and told myself to get a grip as he disappeared into the forest. Then I had dosed myself with vitamin C and hoped like hell that the cold would just go away.
I sped through the trees as fast as I could. I had held off as long as possible but I just couldn't stand it any longer. I needed to see her. My Bella. This was the time when the crystal clarity of vampiric memory was a curse. The nothingness of life without Bella pressed down on my chest. When I wasn't with her I couldn't concentrate; I could barely breathe. I had made it through the first day by concentrating on the happy memories, remembering her smile, the way her face lit up when she saw me. Those memories brought a torture of their own. I ached to see her, to touch her, to feel her touch me.
I burst out of the trees and there it was. The portal to my every dream come true. Bella's window stood open, though the night was chilly, a silent invitation only for me. There was no light. She would not be expecting me tonight and it was already past 1:00. I dashed up the conveniently placed tree and slid in her window.
Bella never failed to take my breath away. It's a good thing I don't actually need to breathe, I thought, chuckling to myself. She lay on her bed, her dark hair splayed across her pillow and pale skin glowing in the moonlight. She looked too beautiful to be real, an angel that I still could not believe could have been sent for me.
As I gazed at her I realised that something was wrong. She was too still and too silent. Her heartbeat, the most significant sound in my world, was too fast. Her lungs laboured over every breath. I could actually hear the blockages as the air whistled around them. I crept to her side and picked up her hand. Her skin felt hot and dry against mine. I pressed her tiny hand to my lips, willing her eyes to open and put my rising fear to rest, but she didn't move. I leant over to kiss her forehead. The heat burned my lips and sent a shock through me. Surely she was not usually this hot.
I shook her gently. "Bella? Can you wake up, sweetheart?"
There was no response. I shook her again, a little more forcefully, but still nothing. I held her torso in my arms, begging her wake.
My years of medical training had never prepared me for the sight of the woman I loved, limp and unconscious. Even my perfect vampiric recall couldn't compete with the panic fogging my mind. All I could see was her face swimming in front of my vision. All I could hear was the air catching in her congested lungs.
Carlisle, I thought. I need Carlisle.
"Keep breathing, my love. Just breathe. I'm going to get you some help."
I gathered her frail body in my arms and jumped out the window.