It had been a few weeks since my horrid nightmare. Since I vowed to not sleep without Edward, they hadn't returned. It was a quizzical situation. I couldn't fathom why his nearness would keep them at bay, but I certainly wasn't complaining. My refreshed state and the multiplying minutes I spent with him, further made me believe I evolved into the person I always longed to be. I was relishing in the perfect turns my life had taken, happily arranging fabric swatches in the front of the design studio, when the door opened.
Edward stood in the entryway, momentarily distracted as he shook his large grey umbrella and closed it swiftly. I stared at him with unexplainable fascination. Every time I saw him, it was as if I was looking at him for the first time, awed and completed by his presence. His eyes conveyed the same sentiment to me the very instant they met mine.
Though, as my gaze caught his, a desperation I believed was abandoned, forcefully reappeared. I attempted to question him. I rose to my feet steadily and smiled reassuringly. I brushed his cheek with my fingers, communicating wordlessly, that he didn't have to feel any fear. Even though he couldn't read my mind, he understood the gesture's unspoken sentiment. With a kiss of my hand, he closed his eyes, and relayed he wasn't wholly convinced I would be so forgiving.
Alice quickly came in from her office, jarring us from our voiceless, but intense exchange. Her normally perky demeanor was gone. Her features stark and her expressive eyes consumed with fear.
Edward's expression soon mirrored Alice's, as he read the assuredly horrid thoughts that were silently streaming through her mind.
"Bella, we have to go. Right now!" Edward ordered hurriedly, taking my hand and pulling on it in a distraught manner.
"Why?" I questioned looking in between him and Alice, as we practically flew through the door.
It was pouring, the heavy drops of water sending chills throughout my body complimenting the terror which slipped in. The doors of the Volvo were opened immediately. My stomach was in endless knots and adrenaline coursed through me. Although, I had no idea what was happening, I knew that whatever it was could not be good.
"I'll explain as we drive," Alice tried to reassure me, as the three of us clamored inside the car.
Alice began speaking, as Edward drove and I sat petrified with uncertainty.
"Bella, I want you to try to remain as calm as possible, but I believe Jacob is with Josh and Adrien right now."
"What?" I cried. I felt like the floor had been ripped away and I was free falling. My breathing quickened. "How?"
Edward's hand grasped mine briefly squeezing it before, letting it go and grasping the wheel.
"It'll be okay, Love."
The rain was sheeting down the back window and relentlessly pounding the car, and the roads were slick.
"Jacob's direct presence with anyone obstructs my visions," she explained nervously. "When I went to look for the boys after school, their future's had disappeared. Which means he is currently with them."
"Where?" I was only able to get out one word at a time. My brain was completely paralyzed by fear. The overwhelming sense of loss was constricting my blood and I felt like I was seconds away from passing out.
"Breathe, Bella," Edward encouraged from beside me. I took a ragged breath and felt only slightly better.
I didn't want to believe what Alice was telling me was real. Maybe she didn't know what she was talking about. I immediately took out my new phone and dialed the school, hoping she made a horrible mistake.
Luckily, I recognized the gravely voice on the other end.
"Hello? Mrs. Cope? This is Bella Swan. I need to have my boys pulled out of class..."
"I'm sorry Mrs. Swan. Mr. Black appears to have already signed them out."
I heard Edward curse from beside me and felt the car speed up. My lip started to quiver, as my heart began to crack
"There's a restraining order in place against him!" I argued, knowing it was useless, but determined to make someone accountable. "He's not allowed within one hundred yards of them."
"Oh? There is nothing in their files about that," she defended.
"How long ago?" I yelled through tears. The rage blinded me.
"Maybe, ten minutes ago," she answered. The compassion in her voice wasn't nearly enough for the atrocity committed.
"Dammit!" I screamed throwing my phone, my despair dictating my actions.
"We're only a few blocks away from the school." Alice's attempted consolation fell on preoccupied ears. I was ultimately consumed with the anguished screams of my soul. The eerie heart wrenching rhythm kept time with the rain.
"Alice, they could be anywhere by now!" I responded, through a straggled sob
I faintly heard Alice on the phone with the police, I heard Edward's voice try to sooth me, but I was submerged in my grief. My sorrow mirroring the torrent of water pouring down the windshield.
I heard Alice yell something about pulling in, but I couldn't see where we were let alone why we should pull in.
"Adrien made it back to the school, Bella," Edward informed shaking my shoulder
I gaped at him in disbelief and then back to Alice. They both wore tentative masks of relief.
"He's there. In the bathroom with the red door," Alice directed with a point of her finger. She said something about waiting for the police while I extricated myself from the car and launched myself across the puddle filled grounds. I was only vaguely aware that someone had followed me, though I knew it was Edward.
I pushed the door open hard enough that it hit the wall behind it making a loud crack. My heart pounding with my exertion and adrenaline.
"Adrien?" I yelled. Hoping against all probability that Alice was right.
"Mom?" I heard his little voice call. Relief flooded my body causing a new wave of tears to form in my eyes.
"Baby, where are you?" I pleaded. I just needed to see him.
He quickly emerged from one of the bathroom stalls, soaked from head to toe and shivering, but he was there.
I fell to my knees and hugged him to me tightly before pulling away to make sure my eyes weren't playing a wretched trick on me. I brushed his dark damp hair out of his angelic little face and stared into his dark, frighteningly innocent eyes.
"Are you alright?" I questioned.
He nodded. I needed to hear him speak again and I desperately needed to find out if Josh was nearby.
"Where's your brother?"
He looked guilty at the ground.
"Please, Adrien?" I coerced, stroking his hair. "Baby, you're not in any trouble."
He looked up at me and swallowed. "He's uh in somewhere with, Dad."
"Where is your dad, Honey?" I asked, cringing.
He looked between Edward and myself before answering in a meek voice. I heard Edward saying something into his phone about basketball courts and trees.
"Parked by the basketball courts. Near the tall trees. He said he didn't want anyone to see us."
Edward wordlessly rushed the two of us out of the door, back into the downpour and across the play-yard. After a decent down a steep slick hill of grass, we reached the tall junipers and Jake's parked Four Runner. A police cruiser was pulling up along side and Edward rounded on the driver's door.
I saw several things happen at once; the Volvo pulled in front of Jake's car, effectively blocking him in, the Four Runner's door swung open and Jake was toe to toe with Edward.
Alice ran to me, a yellow umbrella shielded her from the rain. "Bella, let me take Adrien to the car."
I nodded and quickly told Adrien that aunt Alice would take care of him and to do exactly what she said. He obediently agreed and was walking away with Alice, as I arrived alongside Edward and Jake's standoff. The officer joined at the same time, assessing the situation.
"Where is Joshua?" I demanded, focusing on Jake. He had the nerve to sneer at me, then turn his head back to Edward.
"I need both of you to back away from each other immediately," the officer demanded.
I was aware Edward had already backed away a considerable amount before the officer spoke.
"We have a report of an attempted kidnapping, and violation of restraining order?"
"Yes," Edward spoke looking over at me. "Mr. Black was attempting to conceal his children despite a restraining order. '
The officer nodded in acknowledgment and turned to Jake. Edward seemed slightly pleased with himself. No doubt, he told the officer exactly what he wanted to hear.
"They're my fucking children! I can take them wherever I want. The whore doesn't have a say!"
I could sense the anger radiating from Edward. His jaw was locked tightly and his arms unarguably stiff, but he held himself firmly where he stood.
"Sir, you need to calm down or you will be in the back of the squad car until this is resolved."
"Where is Josh?" I asked Jake again, looking fruitlessly through the fogged windows of the SUV.
"Mrs. Black, I'm assuming?"
"It's Mrs. Sawn until the divorce is finalized," I educated with a pointed stare at Jake, "But I prefer, Bella. Can I please just see my son?"
"Sir, is the child with you now?"
Jake stared me down, the flame of hatred he bore was becoming its own entity, willing me to cower to it. I had no intention of backing down. I was no longer afraid, but instead spurred by my solidified freedom.
"Yes," he hissed eventually. "He's asleep in the backseat."
A staggered breath seeped into my crushed lungs, and my heart began to beat again.
I heard the officer talking to his partner and running Jake's plates. Edward slipped his hand into mine and glanced at me.
Alice came over to us, sans Adrien. She shot me a look that said not to worry and began speaking.
"Ali? How are you involved in all this?" He motioned to the three of us.
She chuckled a bit, lightening things considerably. "This happens to be my brother and his girlfriend."
"Girlfriend," Jacob mumbled. "She's my fucking wife!"
"Sir, one more outburst and I'm going to cuff you!"
"Jasper will love that," she smiled widely. "Since he's the one who filed the restraining order."
Mike, who I noticed was Officer Newton, took a hard look at Jake and then turned to Alice again.
"Doesn't this beat all?" he laughed lightly.
Mike's partner had come up behind, relaying information I couldn't hear.
"Mike, you know what's going to happen here. Can Bella please see Josh now?" Alice begged. I didn't know if it was Alice's obscure relationship with Mike or what the partner said, but things were finally moving forward.
Officer Newton nodded stiffly and opened the back door, amid Jacob's protests. The other officer began to cuff him and read him his rights. Apparently, there was a bench warrant out for failure to appear a few years ago. Added to the restraining order violation, it didn't sound good for him.
In what seemed like slow motion, Jake was being led to the back of the squad car while shouting obscenities and death threats. However, I couldn't be bothered to listen to his ravings. I was scooping a still sleepy Josh up in my arms. I looked his little body over time and again as I kissed him and held him to me. Knowing he and his brother were safe, inoculated me from anything Jake attempted to verbally terrorize me with.
"Mommy?" Josh asked, lazily looking up at me. his toothy grin and ambivalence made heart leap. "Can I have some juice, please?"
I shook my head as the tears flowed freely down my cheeks. "Of course, Baby. As soon as I can get you some."
"Why are you crying, Mommy?" he asked, worriedly.
I had to assure him several times that they were happy tears as we darted to the car. The rain was still pouring, but Alice had the heater on full blast and Adrien was preoccupied with Nate's handheld game.
As I placed Josh in the back of the Volvo, Officer Newton came trotting up to Alice. "Ali, he's a piece of work. Isn't he?"
"You have no idea," Alice answered with an solemn nod.
"Tell Jas I said 'hello' and that he still owes me a beer over that Mariner's game."
"Will do, Mike! Give Jessica my best would you? Tell her things are a little crazy right now, but I'll find time to call her soon?"
"She'll hold you to that," he chuckled, tapping the car with two fingers. "Take care, guys."
As we drove and uncoiled ourselves from nearly catastrophic events, I sat between my sons, wrapping my arms around their tiny shoulders. Something shifted as I sat there in the
seat and caught Edward's fantastically blue stare. It felt as if a labyrinth of uncertainty cleared and the path of clarity shown bright in the resolute promise of Edward's visage.
I knew the car was turning, but I suddenly couldn't see the road anymore. My eyes closed and sage eyes met mine. They looked condemned and disillusioned. Minced words of sadness tore from our mouths. The words came in fragments and made little sense with the context they were in.
"Don't do this."
His features twisted painfully. You...you.. never loved me? "
I simply bowed my head and shook it meekly, unable to look up.
Then he turned swiftly and walked away from me. Every anguished step trampled my heart, but I couldn't call him back.
In a wave a motion and hypnotic color, I was brought back to the house with the gray eyed man and he was laughing as two children were being dragged away and into the back of a car. I couldn't see their faces or hear their cries, but I felt it everywhere. The pain solidified my body and trounced on my stuttering heart. I couldn't breathe. I gasped and tried again and again, but I only felt the insurmountable pain.
I couldn't tell what was real and what wasn't when everything subsided. The awful images faded and new ones were being put in their place. My sons looked petrified and the Volvo was pulled onto the side of the road. Alice was staring curiously at me and Edward had already opened the back door and was frantically pulling at me. I shook my head, trying to clear whatever had infiltrated me as Edward called my name.
I stared straight at him in an attempt to clarify who he was. I nodded my head in conformation of my name and sat back a little.
"Sorry," I muttered flatly. "I...I think everything caught up to me."
"Are you okay, Mom?" Adrien questioned, his little eyes stemming with worry.
I put on my best reassuring smile. "I'm fine, Baby."
Edward appeared skeptic and frowned.
"It's nothing," I lied.
I knew this answer would only pacify him for as long as it took to get us to Alice's. In the meantime, I had a very short car ride to try to concoct a valid explanation about what happened to me. Stressed induced hallucinations wouldn't be too far fetched, I decided quickly as Edward got back into the driver's seat.
Not too long after, I was sitting at the pristine bar in Alice's kitchen, sipping water and refusing to meet Edward's eyes. I'd hugged the boys until they complained and reassured me for a hundredth time they were alright. With some prodding and whining from them, I managed to let them go long enough to play with Nate.
"What happened, Bella?"
"My sons were almost kidnapped," I responded, refusing to look at him. I couldn't get the events of the day to settle. More importantly, I couldn't erase the images of the opposing men out of my head.
That wasn't real.
It felt real.
"We know that," Alice answered warily. "What happened in the car?"
Her questioning was lost in another illusion, suddenly a petite blonde was speaking to me.
"He isn't going to survive this. " Her tears ran wildly down her youthful face before she faded into nothingness.
My lip was quivering as Alice came into view again. Edward caught me only seconds before I would have fallen over. I tried to stay upright, but there was no way I could explain what was happening. I postalized the stress from recent events was manifesting into psychotic episodes.
"Bella?" Edward's voice was the only thing keeping me rooted somewhere in reality. "Love, talk to me."
I glanced up and saw his cerulean orbs infused with fear and I trembled with our shared emotion.
"What are you afraid of?" he questioned as he brought my body across his and held me like a delicate treasure on the verge of breaking.
"I.. I don't feel well." It wasn't entirely a lie. I certainly didn't feel like myself and I definitely was failing to act like I was. "I just need to rest."
Edward eyed me skeptically and began to speak, but Alice interjected.
"Let her rest!" Her tone was final and disarming. I could see they were silently conversing, but I was in no state of mind to discern what they were saying. Although, I imagined it had everything to do with me and my strange behavior.
The psychic and telepath were silently judging me.
Edward obediently nodded and laid me on the couch in the den. I didn't believe he would let what happened go so easily, but he didn't question me for the remainder of the night. Luckily, I continued to only see what was actually in front of me.
Two more weeks passed and I spent a majority of that time with Edward and my boys physically, but mentally I'd never been so exhausted or detached. Whatever was happening to me was occurring more frequently, and the bouts were getting longer. Sometimes, I would see horrific things and they would cause me to shake and tear up. Other times they were light and bathed in beauty so encapsulating, I didn't know how long I'd been staring.
Despite, managing to cope with the ongoing dents to my sanity, I was frightened beyond all measure.
I insisted on cooking dinner at Alice's in an attempt to distract myself. She seemed to have no reservations about my highjacking her kitchen for the evening, but insisted on helping in any way she could and ultimately learn whatever culinary secrets I would share. I was happy to explain my method of using an open grill to cook the chicken on high heat, but the unseemly things occurring in my brain would remain my burden.
That was until Jasper decided to watch television. He was watching a show about the French Revolution on the History Channel. I remember being more aware, and I twitched slightly before I was engrossed with a small group of women.
The small cluster was whispering in what sounded like French. I looked up and saw the object of the whispers at the guillotine.Her eyes were resolute and a defiant smile lingered. With a yell, the unbiased blade sped towards her neck.
I pinched my eyes shut and thankfully the image faded and I was once again in the kitchen attempting to make dinner with Alice.
"Bella. Are you alright?"
"Je vais parfaitement bien."
Alice smiled widely. "Merveilleux! Je n'avais aucune idée que vous pourriez parler français!"
I swallowed hard and looked at the ground, desperately trying not to faint. "I can't."
Her mouth perked to the side. "That certainly sounded like French to me."
"It was. I mean. I think it was." I was beyond perplexed. What I knew to be true about myself was slowly being replaced with an overload of information. I never so much as said merci before, but I suddenly knew how to speak the language and understand it.
"You think?" she laughed and patted my back. "You have a perfect accent by the way."
Jasper rose from the couch in the living room and joined us. "She tutored me in French."
"We were speaking of languages. Not techniques," Alice corrected and melted into his embrace.
Their love was like nothing I'd ever believed existed. The harmonious intertwining of yin and yang, which bordered on the edge of modernism and swung backwards to dip itself in vintage shades of devotion. Balancing one another as only two complete halves of the same whole could. The same way Edward and I complimented and honored each other.
I was suddenly contemplating whether or not to say anything to him about the obscure things happening to me. It upset me that I was wavering. It seemed prudent to tell someone, but at the same time I didn't want any more focus on me. Edward had already done so much for me and I didn't want to burden him with something I might have been imagining.
The oven timer dinged, disrupting my ping ponging resolve. "Time's up."
After the boys were put to bed and the three of us finished a bottle of Pinot, a very sober Edward turned to me and spoke tentatively from beside me. "What would you say about going on a little trip with me?"
I was intrigued, but more than tipsy. "To the store?"
He snickered. "I was thinking someplace a little further away. Like Canada, maybe?"
I jumped a little, entirely confused at where his request was coming from. "Canada? You want to take me to Canada?"
I was petrified at the prospect of traveling north with the manifestations wickedly manipulating my head, but it would be the only time I would be able to privately tell Edward what was happening to me.
You can't tell him anything.
You're imagining it all.
Where do you think Josh gets his imagination from?
One thought of my son made the longing to leave evaporate. Jake was denied bail and still incarcerated, but Jasper informed me he was going to try again with his own lawyer as opposed to a public defender. Despite his assurance the motion would be denied again, I couldn't risk being away if it wasn't.
"Please, Bella? You're going to have a wonderful time. It should be a very enlightening trip," Alice assured brightly as she sipped the last of her wine.
She was too confident of my enjoyment, psychic abilities or not. It wasn't an option. I couldn't simply leave the country on a whim. Not with the incessant interruptions from my decaying mental faculties.
"I suppose it would be to much to ask for a psychic assurance of said enlightenment?" I challenged, trying desperately to keep my voice light.
I turned my head slightly, and spared a glance at Edward. Which caused me to truly see him for the first time in weeks. There was something amiss in his normally rapt regard which caused me to divert my attention to when it began. I could see the little wounds I'd been inflicting. Each tiny injury marred the perfect blue of his eyes. I'd been distancing myself since the boys were almost snatched from me and I hadn't noticed how affected Edward was. I felt a knot of guilt swell to the point of suffocation. The acute feeling dampened everything around me.
"I don't... we don't have to go to Canada." He was trying to apologize for an uncommitted transgression, though I was the one committing the crime by folding inward. Edward was shifting uncomfortably in his chair, which was extremely unlike him and could hardly look at me.
I left my place at the table and outside into the rain-filled night. I inhaled deeply and walked down the side of the driveway. There was no comfort in the unforgiving drops hitting my nose and dampening my hair. I couldn't figure out what was wrong with me. The multiple, unflappable disconcerting breaks in my sanity were taking a monumental toll on my relationship.
I began screaming obscenities into the night and mercilessly kicking at very large juniper. The images started speeding in rapidly, the car and the opposing men, the little blonde girl. All unknown and completely mysterious, but wholly consuming.
"Stop!" Another shrill cry came from somewhere. "You're going to hurt yourself."
I was suddenly off my feet and away from the tree. My arms were restrained. I saw Alice's face, but the little blonde girl was next to her. I tried to scream, but nothing came from my mouth and I saw nothing after, except stifling blackness.
My eyes opened and tried to blink back the horrible dream which lingered. Seconds passed like hours, as I recalled what happened wasn't nightmare, but a breakdown. I winced when I moved my foot, my right hip was achy and I must've have punched the tree at some point because my hand was bruised. I felt ashamed and tried to close my eyes again. Handling the simple task of getting out of bed was too bothersome, especially given the fact I didn't remember how I made it into bed in the first place.
"Bella." I swallowed at my the sound of my name being sung by Edward's voice.
I realized I was subconsciously angry with him. That on some level, I believed it was his fault I was stricken with this uncanny sight of the imaginary. I needed to let my anger go and finally let myself concede that something was inexplicably wrong and let someone know before it killed me.
"I...We have to leave. I need to get you out of here and we need to talk."
The hesitancy in his tone shouldn't have surprised me. "I'm not fit enough to go anywhere. Or did you miss my rounds with the Juniper outside?"
"Our bags are backed and Alice is taking the boys...for the weekend."
I shook my head, but didn't move to look at him. I stared steadfast at the ship on the wall, wishing I could be on it. I imagined it making me normal again. Taking away all the unbidden images and bringing me back to Edward. Even though he was standing feet away from me, I felt like I'd been on an open sea drifting further and further away.
"I can't leave my sons, Edward."
I heard slow footsteps approach my beside and I stiffened. "You're not just leaving them with anyone, Bella."
Alice's reminder startled me and caused me to turn slightly. My attempt to argue with her was met with immediate resistance. "But..Jake."
"Is in jail," she interrupted tersely. "And as far as I can see, he won't make bail."
It was of little comfort to me. It wasn't only the issues with Jake, my own rationality was slowly slipping away and I had no business galavanting to some unknown location with Edward while I was under extreme pressure.
"Bella," Alice began. "He won't come near them. " Her assumptions were starting to wear on me. I wanted to scream at her, at both of them.
Do you have any idea what I'm going through right now?
They don't because you haven't told them.
I was trying to make them both see how unnecessary it all was, but I felt completely trapped with little chance of escape. "I'm sure you could try, but if for some reason he was released..."
"Isabella," Alice interjected determinedly. "I could kill Jacob in a half a heartbeat and not give it another thought. I would lay down my life for those boys in a second, but I'd rather see the bastard suffer instead."
I was speechless. Her devoutness was unexplainable to me, her loyalty to someone she'd known a few short months. I wracked my brain for an answer as her hands clasped mine and Edward lingered in the doorway. Her expression was dotted with tears that stopped at her chin. Her empathy knew no bounds and as if I was channeling her, a few tears fell from my eyes.
They were both amazing and gifted beyond anything I'd ever encountered; giving, kind and completely selfless. Suddenly, my trust in her solidified immensely as a realization dawned on me. She must've known Edward would meet me, and we would ultimately fall in love. She had called me family from the minute we started working together, and she was the reason Edward was at the park. She knew me before she met me, she knew my sons and she saw our future was going to collide with hers and for all intents and purposes she could have guided Edward away from me.
And I never would have met Edward. My heart sputtered, but it only required a glance from him to regulate it.
My gaze turned reluctantly from Edward's eyes to Alice's green stare.
I never would have met her. The woman who was like a sister I never knew I wanted would have remained a stranger.
I realized I owed her more than I could ever repay, but I would spend whatever time I had left on the earth trying. I couldn't stop my life based on a neurological disorder. With the hallucinations and my life long affliction involving nightmares, it would be the only logical explanation. I knew I wanted to spend whatever time left I had with the people I loved.
I was going to live whatever time I had left to the fullest and hope for the best.
"I'll go." My resistance had been demolished as I sat up and any anger I had evaporated. "I know you'll keep them safe, Alice."
She nodded and gently moved a strand of hair from my eyes. "Everything will be amazing, Bella. Trust me."
I smiled genuinely for the first time in a long time and hugged her to me.