Chapter summary: You think that you have your concerns. And then ... nothing matters and you realize, too late, what you did have, and then it's gone. It's all gone. And there's nothing you can do, except watch her die right before your eyes. And hold her. And love her. Helplessly. Incidentally, Carlisle will be so pleased to know my prayer life has improved. Oh, look, I, Rosalie Lillian Hale, just told a joke. Hurray.


"Bella," I called out into the emptiness of the forest surrounding the Harsha Lake.

The emptiness responded with a reproachful silence.

"Bella," I tried again, "Ren is dying. Your daughter, she's dying."

The silence was now filled with shock and disbelief, and mistrust, and, yes, hatred.

Bella was here. I could feel it.

Or … and looking back at this last month and a half, maybe it was just my own desperate hope that she would be here, to hear this message, to save the day, to make it right.

Mothers made things right for their children, didn't they? I mean, I had surely failed at that, and miserably so, just so helplessly watching Ren deteriorate right in front of my eyes. Right in front of all our eyes.

And my own mother? …

Well, in general, mothers made everything right for their children. They didn't leave their children to be raped and murdered by their fiancés. They didn't leave their children to die.

Bella wouldn't do that.

But Bella was gone. Bella was gone this last month and a half, and if the Volturi with their infallible tracker Demetri couldn't find Bella, how in the world could we — could I — possibly locate her if she didn't wish to be located.

And her last communication with me made it very clear that she didn't wish to be located.

"Bella," I called one more time, and waited, hoping, hoping against hope that she would respond, that she would magically appear out of the thin air, as she does now.

Nothing.

I sighed in defeat, and lifted the boulder with Bella's scent still so strongly embedded into it, glanced at the words carved into the stone by her fingers, burned into my retinae forever, and placed Carlisle's medical report folded up into a business-sized envelop with the name 'Bella Swan' written on the outside. The envelop was sealed in a plastic bag.

The medical report indicated Ren's heart rate was just below fifty beats per minute, where her normal heart rate had been ninety beats per minute, and … she was succumbing to arrhythmias.

It would be today that she would die. Or if we were very, very lucky, it would be tomorrow morning.

Maybe.

I shook my head at the impossibility of it. Ren was starving herself to death. Yes, she wasn't an immortal child, so did that make her mortal?

Unfortunately, the overwhelming evidence was pointing at that very bleak possibility.

And no amount of pleading, nor cajoling, nor love on my part nor on the part of the family would make her rise from her bed, nor move, nor face us, nor release that death grip she had on her pillow, and we just watched her, helplessly, turn sallow and gaunt.

And we heard her heart rate, these last few days, slow.

And they she did something today that terrified me: she sighed and she smiled, and she hugged her pillow and whispered the first word in more than a month: 'Mommy.'

And so I was here in this forest again, where Ren and I had come a month ago at Ren's ... insistence, and had found not Bella waiting for us, but this boulder, beneath which was a particular message for me that I thank God that I lifted the boulder away from Ren's sight so she could not see the hate scratched into the rock with every letter of Bella's message, and an envelop with Ren's name written in Bella's chicken scratch: "Renesmee Carlie Cullen."

I wanted Ren to have Bella's name: Swan. Bella wanted her to have mine. I insisted she was her baby: Bella birthed her. She insisted she was mine. For, as Bella pointed out with more than a bit of glee, I was after all, God help me, the 'father.' We wouldn't compromise, so Bella finally proposed she be named 'Cullen' after her (non-)Grandparents, after the family she belongs to. That made the most sense to Bella, she had said reasonably, the last name is the family name, and Renesmee was in the Cullen family.

This, of course, pleased the Cullens no end. Alice was particularly annoyingly radiantly cheerful about that option, and Esmé? 'Grandma' Esmé? God! Please don't remind me! So I caved under the combined weight of Bella's and everybody elses' wishes.

I never learned what the letter said that Bella had written to her daughter, for Ren took the envelop from me, and didn't open it until we got home, after not hunting, and she went straight to her room and closed her door.

We all heard her carefully tear open the envelop. Then we heard her gasp.

And then it was quiet for a few moments.

And then we heard her eat the paper: the letter and the envelop.

And that was the last sound we heard from her. Until today.

Carlisle had wanted, after a couple of weeks, that is: after a month of Ren not eating, … well, he suggested we try force-feeding her something, some blood, some human food, something, anything.

But Carlisle had a medical education that predated the Civil War, and the Revolutionary War, and although he tried to keep up, he hadn't received the medical education his wife and children had. He didn't know that attempts at force-feeding resulted in death. And if the patient did survive the experience, the experience in and of itself was comparable to rape. What? How would her jaw be forced open? Who would break it? Who would bite it off? Moreover: this? at the hands of her own family members?

No. I would not allow my daughter to go through that experience that would scar her forever.

I knew: I carry these eternal scars myself, and I … informed him of this, and my views of what he could do with his helpful suggestions.

Carlisle looked contrite and Esmé, furious (in that Esmé way of being furious with her 'children' which was more reproachful than angry).

Me, I had no sympathy to spare on them: my daughter was dying, and I got from them suggestions on how to kill her faster or damage her psyche eternally?

So I did what I could. I did what a mother would. What I would want my mother to do to me and for me. I stayed by her side, there for her, but not bugging her … not too much, anyway, just being there for her, loving her, protecting her from the world and instantly ready to do anything and everything for her if she so much as hinted at anything.

So I stood, and sat, by a stone, loving her, watching her die, watching her kill herself, and not being able to do a God-damned thing about it.

Until now.

And here I was in the Hasha parkland doing the only thing I could do.

... which was nothing.

I watched another moment, willing Bella to materialize.

Nothing did. I sighed, turned back toward home.

Then turned right back to face the Harsha.

"Bella," I called, "please."

And waited.

Nothing.

I shook my head. From the past, it would be at least another two weeks before Bella let go of her anger for me, and judging from what was written underneath the boulder, much, much longer than that.

I mean, words like 'I can't believe you would sink so low as this! Using my own daughter against me? I never want to see you again!' And then there was a whole line that was scratched, no, clawed right out of the rock, as if she had written something, looked at it, and ripped it right out of the stone that she had gouged into the rock with her angry finger.

Bella coming back in weeks? That was optimistic ... months was standard Bella reparation time, but even that, now, was optimistic.

Months. By that time, Ren would be dead.

I left under the reproachful silence of the darkening forest.

...

"Ren," I called quietly as knocked at her bedroom door.

Nothing. Except — thank God! — the weak flutter of her heartbeat.

I let myself in, very quietly, and looked on her.

Horrifying.

I had seen her, over the instant of time these brief three years of her life had been begin to bud into womanhood, and I had been with her every day during these last six weeks as she had starved herself, and see her reverse that process. If I weren't fighting with every fiber of my being, willing her to hang onto her existence, I would be scared out of my mind that she was causing permanent damage, stunting her growth like this.

But that was a trivial concern with what I saw.

What I beheld before me was a shadow of the daughter that I knew and loved. A skeleton.

... that I know and love. I corrected myself angrily.

I sat beside her and rested my hand of her forehead.

If the starvation didn't kill her first, the fever might just finish the job.

She turned away from 'looking,' blankly, at the ceiling to face the wall, grasping her pillow in a fetal hug.

'Looking.' Her eyes had gone from a crystal blue to an angry red.

Her being was consuming her body from the inside out. It had consumed the fatty deposits all living beings have, then it attacked the pigmentation of her eyes, blinding her. And then ... and then ...

We actually heard the venom beginning to attack her brain cells, so rich in fat.

Ren was literally losing her mind.

"Sweetheart," I called softly and sweetly, and, hearing my own voice, I was appalled at the utter weakness and helplessness I couldn't hide behind me trying to sound strong and confident and caring.

"Sweetheart," I tried again, slightly more strongly, "I ... I went to the Harsha today, honey. Bella will be coming tomorrow, okay? Can you just hang on? Your ... your mommy will be coming tomorrow."

"You said that yesterday," the softest of whispers greeted my shocked ears. I heard the quiet, respectful movements of the vampires downstairs as the sound reached their ears, too.

These were the first words I had heard from Ren in weeks.

My heart dared to hope.

Stupid heart. If I had one beating, I would have crushed it for its foolish hope.

I tried to control the trembling excitement in my voice.

"I did," I admitted, "but this time I'm sure of it. She's coming, sweetheart; she's coming to see you."

"How do you ..." Ren began angrily, but then she started coughing, feebly, but those feeble coughs racked her delicate frame, and they didn't stop for a while.

Ren flopped supine on the bed. I took a tissue and very gentle wiped away the spittle from her mouth.

Ren mouthed the word, 'water,' and I stood to get her a glass when I felt a rush of air and a knock at the door.

Alice.

She carried a tall glass of ice water in a tray. I smelled the sour scent of the juice of lemon squeezed into the water. Yes, of course: citrus to counteract the scurvy marring my baby's soft skin.

Alice looked so funny, so odd, looking so serious, so unlike her usual self.

I smiled wanly at Alice, and made to take the glass.

Alice didn't give it to me, and she didn't leave. She even ignored my obvious death glare. She moved to Ren's side and propped up her head.

Ren shook it. Alice smiled in understanding and put her tiny index finger into the glass, wetting it, she moved her finger to Ren's mouth, wetting her lips.

Alice just loved to baby my baby.

"Tastes funny!" Ren complained faintly.

Alice smile didn't leave her face, nor alter an iota. She simply put the glass aside on the end table.

Ren's eyes narrowed suspiciously at her aunt.

Alice glanced at me then looked right at Ren.

"This is just so stupid," Alice said distinctly.

Ren closed her eyes.

"Alice," I began warningly.

Alice's eyes flashed to me. They said shut up!

Her eyes went back to Ren before my eyes could answer hers.

"Ren, really!" Alice continued angrily. "You think you're going to bring Bella back with this stupid little stunt? No! The only thing you're doing is hurting yourself, which you don't care about, I know, but you are killing the rest of us! I mean, look at Rosalie! Do you know what's going to happen to her if you kill yourself doing this?"

"Alice, this isn't about me!" I shouted.

"SHUT UP!" Alice screeched back.

Ren's eyes snapped open in shock at her Aunt's scream. She glared angrily in Alice's direction.

Alice turned back to Ren.

"Do you think I don't know about what you're going through? That I don't know why you're doing this?" Alice snarled. "Well, let me tell you something, little girl! When we first got here, Jasper and I, Jasper almost made a mistake, and he hated himself so much he left me, huh? You listening to me? And what did I do? I shut down, shut myself in my room and sang 'woe is me' for a whole month putting everybody else through Hell. And what did it do?"

Alice waited a beat then screamed "NOTHING!"

Alice was panting with rage.

"Al ..." I began angrily.

Alice's black-black eyes flashed at me in fury.

She turned back to Ren. "The only thing," she continued angrily, "the only thing that made a difference was when Edward pulled me out of the bed and pulled me out of the house to go get Jasper back."

Alice breathed in angry gasps for a second.

"So get your sorry, bony butt out of this bed, get something in you and go out and go get your mother RIGHT NOW!"

It was quiet for a moment as the words washed over Ren.

Then she turned away from us again, grasping her pillow to herself.

Alice stood, rising inches from her sitting position and crossed her arms.

"Fine! FINE!" She shouted rancorously. "Go ahead and have your pity party and kill yourself. You keep doing what you're doing and you'll succeed. I know. I've seen it. And you know what that will do to everybody? You know who's fault that will be?"

Alice leaned over Ren and whispered angrily: "Yours."

"Alice," I intervened, "thank you, that's quite enough!"

Alice glared at me then the looked back at Ren. Alice shook her head sadly.

"Yes," she whispered, "unfortunately ... it is."

Alice swept out of the room, a look of contempt for both me and Ren.

The very first thing I would do, after Ren's funeral, would be to tear Alice into tiny little bits. I might just bring matches; Jasper be hanged.

"I love you, too, sister dear," floated a sarcastic pixie's voice from downstairs.

Fucking seer and her fucking seeing my plans.

"Don't you think you went too hard on her, though, Alice?" Esmé's gentle concerned voice was slightly chiding.

Alice snorted in surprise. "Excuse me? And just standing around watching her kill herself is just so much kinder!" then she spit a spiteful: "AND just so much more useful!"

"Jasper!" came Alice's impatient authoritative bark, "I'm starving; let's get the hell out of here and hunt."

I heard the door open and close as Alice and her submissive puppy-dog mouse of a husband leave. Jasper was clearly cowed by mood he could feel pulsating from the little ball of black-haired and black-eyed hurricane of rage known as his wife.

I tsked. At least Emmett is his own man. He never let me walk all over him like that.

Well, not all the time, anyway.

I sighed and sat by Ren's side, resting my hand lightly on her shoulder. "I'm sorry, baby. Aunt Alice can be ... a little dramatic at times."

I felt Ren shrug. "Not like I don't deserve it," she whispered very softly.

"No, baby ..." I began.

"Mom," Ren stated clearly, "shush, huh?"

I felt my brow cloud and my mouth tighten into a frown. In my day, children did not upbraid their parents.

It took effort, but I swallowed my retort, took a second to collect myself, and asked tentatively, "Did you want to drink a little bit of water?"

Ren shook her head.

"Why not?" I demanded.

Ren shrugged. "Changed my mind," she whispered listlessly.

My eyes narrowed. She was dodging. I didn't allow this.

She must have felt my censure. So she eventually added, "and ..."

"And," she whispered more strongly, "I tasted the lemon. Trying to sneak in one little thing to make me all better. Trying to pretend that it's okay that everything is like it is, but it's not. Mommy's not here. Why eat? Why get better when it's not, and it never will be."

"Ren, that's ludicrous!" I exclaimed.

"No," she objected weakly, "it's not ludicrous; it's reality."

"No, Ren," I objected right back, "that's errant nonsense talking."

"Oh, yeah," Ren whispered defiantly, "how do you know?"

I closed my eyes, breathed in and out, and said quietly: "Because that's what I used to say all the time, so filled with hate and spite and self-loathing, and then ..." I paused.

"And then ... I let love come in," I said slowly, grudgingly, "and then I got the most precious gift in the world ... you, sweetheart."

And please don't take that gift away from me, I begged silently.

"Some gift," Ren whispered regretfully.

I sighed.

She was quiet for a moment, then asked with a distant curiosity, "How long did that take, for 'love to come in'?"

I smiled sadly and said, "Oh, about one hundred years."

My voice was laced with irony.

Ren thought about that for a moment and then nodded her head.

"You waited that long for her?" she asked quietly.

"Yes," I said, thinking of Bella, and how desperately hard I love her, even now.

"How?" Ren's voice interrupted my reminiscence.

My lips twisted into a wry smile. "The trick is to keep breathing."

It was quiet for a moment.

"The thing is ..." Ren said timorously, "I don't have that long. What did Grandpa say? Another four years and then ... what? It's over for me."

"Another four years and you stop growing, sweetheart, that's all we've know," I countered vehemently, then added: "You could become immortal then."

"To face forever of what?" Ren asked. Then she whispered to herself: "Probably better that I'm gone anyway, freak of nature that I am."

"Renesmee Carlie Cullen!" I barked angrily. "How dare you say that! That's entirely false!"

"Not human; not vampire," she moaned a whisper. "Not either." She said mournfully, and then repeated: "Not either."

"No, you're not," I affirmed. "You're the best of both!"

"Uh-huh," she sighed, hugging her pillow tighter to herself.

I clenched my teeth. She was entirely caught up in herself, and I wasn't getting through to her at all. If only she would open her blind eyes and see what she meant to me, what she meant to us all.

I collected myself. I picked up the water from the table and clinked the ice in the glass.

"Drink?" I asked softly.

Ren shook her head. "Not thirsty," she whispered.

Desperation crept into my voice: "Is there anything I can do for you?"

Ren swallowed nothing down her dried out throat. "Hold me?" she pleaded.

"Yes," I said firmly and quickly. I raced to my room and changed into my 'mommy-pajamas' that now gave me none of the shame and embarrassment I had felt when I first bought them after Bella had left us all and Ren in my care, then raced back to Ren's room and slid easily under the covers, spooning into Ren's frail form.

I felt Ren relaxing into sleep ... but then: "Will you tell Mommy something when you see her again?"

I tried, very hard, not to make grinding sounds as I clenched my teeth.

"You can tell her yourself," I snarled as calmly as I could manage.

"Uh-huh," Ren said dismissively.

We really needed to work on her respecting her parents. When she recovered — when she recovered, I reemphasized — I would have to take her to task on this.

"Could you tell her that I love her? That I'll always love her, okay? And ..." she paused, breathing shallowly, and gulped again, "Auntie Alice was right, so tell her not to blame herself if she does, okay? It's not her fault: it's mine."

"Ren," I said shaking my head, "you are just so ..."

A long sigh, like the death rattle, escaped from her lips, shocking me into silence.

"Just so ti..." she whispered.

Then nothing, except for the lug-dub, lug-dub, lug-dug of her laboring heart and the sometimes even, sometimes hitched breathing of my baby girl struggling in a restless sleep.

I held the furnace that was my little girl, so much hotter than Bella when she was human, and prayed with all my might as she slept that Bella would come tomorrow to find my baby — her baby! — still alive, still fighting for one more day of life.

Her little former-hummingbird heart gasped and sputtered throughout the night.

Lug-dub. Lug-dub ... lug-dub. lug-dub.

Bella, please God! I begged, please just come, just get over your God-damn righteous anger and peek in on the hunting ground and see the note.

Please, I prayed, please come.

... lug-dub.

Foolish hearts, I thought ruefully: mine for hoping, hers for beating on. I added another prayer, that Ren's foolish little heart would keep beating, and that tomorrow, there would be a reason for it to do so.


[1] The story You've Kept Me Waiting by Mandi1 tells the story of Alice and Jasper from the beginning. It relates Alice's withdrawal when Jasper makes his mistake and runs away in shame in chapter 36 and on.

[2] I think one of the saddest stories I've read is my bb's, geophf's, one-shot Reminiscence. Unlike my Fireworks, his Rosalie doesn't get Bella back after losing her.

[3] The song "The trick is to keep breathing" by the band Garbage: another saddy. In fact, their entire album Version 2.0, when it's not snarling, is a heady brew of sadness.