So, here's the end. I'm a little sad about it, but I hope you guys like what I've done with it. This is short, but not very sweet - and I'll say right now, this chapter makes me cry every time I read it.
Song rec: "Brick" - Ben Folds Five
Charlie's house in Forks stood empty. The halls were musty, dusty, stale—the curtains dingy. A coffee cup long-since stained sat in the kitchen sink, alongside a single plate and fork. Dried, crusty eggs were in a skillet, begging to be soaked and cleaned. An imprint was left in the recliner in the living room, a familiar body filling it every night.
But the recliner was missing its occupant, and the coffee cup had no one to drink from it. No one was dusting the picture frames or vacuuming the floor. No one stepped on the creaky stair leading upstairs, or pulled at the broken handle on the bathroom vanity. The house was empty. The house was lonely.
Across town, Bella sat by her father's side. A machine beeped consistently behind her. A gush of air sounded every few seconds as Charlie was pumped from a tube. Bella looked down at the man that loved her more than his own life as he faded away. She knew it was almost time; the doctors would be in soon to remove his tubes and wires. His life support was ending. Bella cried without tears.
Edward stood in the corner, allowing her time with her father, but unable to part from her. She needed him, even when she didn't or couldn't say it, and he knew he had to stay. He had to help her say goodbye.
It had been years since they'd seen Charlie in person. Bella should've been claiming thirty-five at that point, Edward still a young thirty. They both were lucky to look old enough to pass for late twenties, but thirty was pushing it. Edward, turned in a time when boys became men early, looked a good twenty-four, due to the labor he'd partaken in as a child. His wearied traveler look transferred well in the modern age.
Bella's change in her early twenties left her in that in between—some thought she was a teenager, some thought she was well passed her quarter-life crisis. The crow's feet that had only just begun to deepen on her face lent her a mature air, even when the supple, smooth skin of her cheeks gave her away.
Her father noticed that she'd barely changed over the years, but with different clothes and different hairstyles, she managed to look slightly older. Edward chose khakis and button-downs tucked in, skipping the tennis shoes for boat shoes, and combing his hair. Bella found a bun or elaborate twist, coupled with a pencil skirt and glasses, made her look older. They were getting good with their tricks.
In the thirteen years since Bella departed Forks, she'd come to grips with her new life. She often found herself imagining her own alternate reality, living in a sideways world where her mother was never murdered, and she never knew about vampires. It was futile, but it was a way for her to pass the time.
Edward encouraged her to write, and when Bella grew tired of filling journals with her thoughts, she turned to her laptop and typed out novels of fiction. Her ideas were well-formed, and after completing a second degree in English, she was able to write well perfunctorily. Edward told her she should try to get published, but her words were her own, just for her—and him—and she wanted to keep it that way.
Bella and Edward stayed in the wilderness for three years, allowing her time to adjust to her cravings. She started going out and being around humans in small amounts, eventually leading her to be able to attend a four-year institution with ease. The couple joined up with the rest of the Cullens frequently, eventually opting to share a home with Jasper and Alice, but staying near the others, as well. Bella was able to read Alice's mind perfectly, adjusting to it over time, and always knew what she was thinking or feeling. She also worked on controlling her ability, and was able to successfully block others out when she wanted.
Edward had no qualms about Bella being inside of his head all of the time—he truly had no secrets, and would share anything with her. He wished, more often than not, that he could see into her mind, especially when it seemed she was growing depressed with her new life. She was changed in a terrible way, against her will, and had a prejudice against vampires in general. He hadn't expected her to jump for joy over her transformation, but he hoped that given time, his companionship would help her.
Bella did the best she could, and she found that after many years, many thoughts and fears and arguments, she was finally…happy. She had Edward. Forever. She had a good family, and she was able to learn and work and travel. She missed her father, but was thankful she didn't have any other family she had to let go of. Charlie accepted Edward readily, surprisingly, and they visited as often as they could.
Bella recounted the last conversation she'd had with her father, just a couple of weeks prior to his accident, and smiled.
"Bells…are you…you're happy, right?"
"I am, Dad. I…there were times when I wasn't, but I truly am, now," she told him honestly.
"And you're glad you married Edward?"
"Always. He's the best thing in my life—the best thing that ever happened to me. Even if I regret other things, I'll never regret that."
"Good. I'm glad to hear it. I used to worry about you so much, but…knowing that you're happy, it…it makes me happy. I'm thankful you found someone to love, who loves you back. I think you two will be happy together for a long time, Bells," Charlie said, emotion thick in his voice. Bella was surprised at Charlie's wordy response.
"Thanks, Dad," she said.
"I love you, kid. You know that, right?"
"I do. I love you, too. What's with all this…emotional talk, huh?"
"Oh, just the ramblings of an old man, that's all. I have a lot of time to think about things, and…I…well, it puts me at ease knowing you're taken care of. I won't be around forever, and I trust Edward to keep you safe."
"He does keep me safe. And I keep him safe. But you're the only dad I've got," she told him.
Charlie was barely fifty-eight years old, but now he lay prone in a hospital bed, his face looking slack and wrong, his body bandaged heavily, and Bella had to say goodbye. Even with his heart still beating in front of her, she knew he wasn't really there. Machines were breathing for him, keeping him alive, and she knew her father's spirit wouldn't stick around for that.
She spoke aloud, hoping his soul could hear her, as she said her piece. "I love you, Dad. I wish I could've been more honest with you about what I am. I want…I want to see you again, but truthfully, I don't know if I will. It might be a really long time from now. I hope you're fishing or watching sports or chatting up some ladies wherever you are. You were always a good man. You deserve happiness in the afterlife. You deserve to get everything you always wanted. I miss you already, Dad."
Bella stood, feeling Edward's hand grip hers and shutting her eyes against the emotion that threatened to overtake her. When she got the call about a tractor-trailer demolishing Charlie's squad car, she panicked, but she didn't grieve. Now, all she saw before her was a sea of sadness, the waves slowly coming in and lapping against her. Each ripple set a new motion in play, and all she could do was swallow the lump in her throat, and stand against it.
Death was an inevitable part of life. Nothing lasted. Not humans.
Bella bent and kissed her father's cheek. Edward wrapped his arms around her from behind, cradling her and humming into her hair. The doctor appeared at the door, and Bella nodded. Things were unplugged or turned off or pulled out—Bella wasn't sure. She felt the final departure of her father from this world, and she let out one small cry of anguish.
She left the hospital that day a little different. She was a little older. A little sadder. Hopefully, a little wiser. She knew she'd live a long, long time, and would have to witness death a hundredfold.
She bit her lip, a habit never broken, and Edward led her towards their car. He kissed her forehead, his lips lingering on her skin as he waited for her to speak. Bella finally looked up at him, her eyes somehow glistening without tears, and she saw his pain reflected back at her.
"That won't be us, right? That'll never be us," she stated, her voice small and timid in the early morning dewy mist.
"Never," he vowed. The pair stood still as statues, embracing as if their lives depended on it.
I hope you all won't try to stone me in the town square over that. I know it wasn't a traditional "happy" ending, but this was never really a happy story. Thanks for traveling with me on this ride. I am truly grateful to all of you readers out there.
I'm posting the Prologue to my newest fic, Elevation, right after this, so if you want to read a short little intro to my AH story, check it out. Here's the summary:
At 12, they called her "The Next Big Thing." At 15, she made millions of dollars starring in blockbusters. At 17, she was a washed up starlet and laughingstock of LA. Can Isabella Hale find out who she really is, or will she always be playing a part?