The Things We Carry

Disclaimer: I don't own Twilight and I assure you that SM would have never had them in this position. This o/s contains mature material and deals with cutting. If you are at all sensitive to that type of behavior then you shouldn't read this. It's not overly graphic, but it's very emotional.

I wrote this for the Beyond the Pale contest, but didn't submit it in time. I decided to post it anyway.

Image that Inspired You: 11

http:/beyondthepalecontest(dot)blogspot(dot)com/2010/07/three(dot)html


I loved her more than anything else in the world.

When she stumbled into my life, I had been completely alone, and if I was being totally honest with myself, I was toeing the line between life and death. If we hadn't met at all…well, I wouldn't be here right now.

She saved my life.

It was with this realization that I stood up and made my way to the bathroom.

This woman had given me a reason for existing again. She was my only reason for getting up every morning and going to my shit job to deal with people that I couldn't stand.

I stopped briefly in the hallway and leaned against the wall.

She was my entire world, and I gave her everything. She was funny and kind. She would pretend to be angry with me and have to bite her bottom lip to keep from smiling or laughing.

Our life was so good. It wasn't perfect, but I never expected it to be.

We fought, but our fights mostly revolved around this; what I was about to do for her. At one time they were about him. Sometimes they were about my OCD or her not accepting treatment. All of our real fights happened after she moved in with me, about a year after we started dating. Currently, the big fights centered on her need.

I couldn't understand why someone who was so outwardly happy and bold would need me to do this for them. Maybe more than any other thought, I wondered how I could do this to her. Was I really that great for her if I made her bleed? Did I protect her when I gave her scars to cover?

She saved my life.

I pushed away from the wall and continued down toward the room that she was currently waiting in.

I knew when she came home that she would need this, but I had put it off for so long; she had been waiting for at least an hour.

Thoughts kept rushing at me as I neared the door that she sat behind.

What kind of man was I if I did this to her?

You're doing this for her.

I'm not enough if she still needs this. I haven't helped her at all.

You make her smile. You make her happy. Her laughter and smiles say so.

If I refused to do this, she would leave me, and I couldn'tbe without her.

She wouldn't leave. She loves you. She'd try to do it herself or find someone else to help her.

That ended my internal debate. No one but me was touching her. I wouldn't allow anyone to come near her, to hurt her. She couldn't do it herself either, not again.

If she needed this to deal, then I would do it.

Before me she was reckless in her cutting. She hated the way it felt in her hand, and how it felt when the razor broke through her skin under her own violation. So she cut quickly and deep. The scars on her hips are angry reminders of a time when she didn't have me and of a time when I refused what she needed.

I shuddered when I thought about it.

"Let me do this. I'll do one, Bella. You do it too hard." I begged as she cried, holding a razor to her arm.

It was November and cold, so she had just pushed up her sleeve. I had tears running down my cheeks while I shook my head.

I took several breaths then I took her wrist in my hand.

"Don't do this. Let me. I won't hurt you. I'll be able to make it easy," I pleaded.

"You'll do this for me?" Her voice was shaking.

"Just one. All I can do is one. All you need is one." I tried to sound convincing, but even to my ears it fell short.

She took a little while then said, "Alright. You do one."

I gingerly took the blade and made one small cut on the inside of her bicep.

After I cleaned her up that night, I left saying I was going to get dinner. In reality, I sat in the alley beside our favorite Chinese restaurant and cried. Cutting her went against everything inside of me.

When I got home that night it was quiet, too quiet. I searched for Bella everywhere, before slowly walking to the bathroom door. I knew where she'd be all along.

She was lying slumped against the wall with her eyes closed and one hand resting on a crimson soaked rag. She was unconscious but still breathing. I took the towel away and finally saw the jagged, long line that stretched from the middle of her forearm to her elbow. It was deep, so deep.

My stomach clenched and I fought back the tears that were fighting to spill over. I should have known this would happen, I should have stopped this.

I took a final breath and gently pushed her hair over her shoulder before whispering, "Everything will be all right, Bella. I'll take care of it."

I cleaned the cut the best I could and used the butterfly band-aids we had to close it up. I didn't take her to the hospital; she would have hated me for that. Still, I had to fight every instinct in me to keep from putting her in the car and driving her there. Instead, I took her to our room and curled up next to her in bed. I sobbed silently while I waited for her to wake up. That was the last time I stopped at one cut.

I took a deep breath and pulled myself back to the present.

I knew how to make the cuts shallow enough to draw blood but still heal quickly. I wouldn't cause unnecessary pain. I would do this for her and do it as easily as possible. Then I would clean her, take her to bed, and hold her while she calmed down enough to tell me what had happened. Anything could trigger her, and I knew that the overwhelming, suffocating feeling that she was enduring was terrible.

I took a deep breath and opened the door. I didn't need to prolong this anymore.

I loved her. I would take care of her.

She saved my life.

When I walked into the room, she was sitting on the edge of the bathtub staring at it on the counter.

I reached out with shaky hands and picked up the tiny, offending piece of metal.

It was strange to me how something so insignificant could be shaping our lives, shaping our relationship. I weighed it in my hand and took a deep breath. I couldn't even feel it in my palm really; it was not a physical burden that weighed on me, but I could feel pressure on my chest because of it. This blade was very much alive for us, and it was the third wheel in our relationship.

I looked up and saw Bella staring at me with wide, watery eyes. She tried to smile, but it came out more like a grimace. The pain was weighing on her, and not just what had caused her current episode. She was hurting because she knew how this made me feel.

She knew my deep regard for her intervention in my life, and she knew I would do anything for her. She hated herself for using that against me—for making me feel obligated to do this.

I tried to stop thinking about the past, but it kept creeping back in. I remember one fight in particular; it was the last explosive fight we had. It had happened almost two years ago.

My chest constricted at the thought of it, and I was immediately taken back in time again.

I had just been appointed a junior editor at the publishing company I worked at, and the workload was heavy. I was having a difficult time adjusting to the job and the new responsibilities. If there was one thing about me that I hated, it was my inability to adapt well. To top that off, Bella had just started living with me and things weren't going so well.

She was far less tidy than I was, and I hated coming home to a dirty apartment, especially when she was home all day and could clean.

I walked into the apartment and was greeted with loud music and laughter. I so didn't want to deal with people right then.

Bella was sitting on the couch drinking a beer with her friends, Alice and Angela. There were a couple of guys there too, but I knew they were Jasper and Ben. There was nothing to worry about, she was comfortable with them. Then he came out of my bathroom.

No one knew I was there, and I watched as he walked to the couch and kissed her hair before sitting beside her. She flinched.

"What's going on here?" I asked above the music. Bella turned at the sound of my voice and had the decency to look guilty.

"We're just celebrating. We took our last final today," she answered and tried to smile.

"I never told you that you could invite anyone you wanted into my house." I knew I was being rude.

She bristled a little. "Well, it's my house, too."

I snapped. I'd had a bad day; I was trying to come to terms with Bella's problems; the house was a mess, and I just…snapped.

"You might live here, but I pay the rent, and I'll be damned if that son-of-a-bitch is going to sit in my living room stringing you along right in front of me." I was breathing heavy, and my fists were clenched.

"Don't start, Edward," she warned, with a cautious look toward the asshole in question.

"I sure as hell will. I know I'm not your first choice, Bella, but you don't get to bring him here. Not in front of me!" I brought my fist to my chest hard and pounded forcefully. "I love you. I've done things for you that I can't stand, and you do this to me? I can't live like this. I won't. If all you want me for is that…" I pointed to the bathroom, "you can forget it. Move in with that fucker because I'll be damned if I'll sit here, and watch you flaunt him in my face."

I could see that she was mortified as her guests started shuffling toward the door, everyone except him.

"I've held you together. I've taken care of you for the last year, Bella. If you're going to leave me when he gets around to you again, then do it now, because I will lose my shit if you cheat on me with that motherfucker. Especially after what I've sacrificed for you."

I could hear her breathing. It was the same pattern she always had: deep breath, hold it in, and shaky exhale.

"You don't get to say things like that to me when you don't even know what's going on, Edward," she ground out. "If you think I don't love you then you have no idea how I feel at all and maybe I should go. I've given you everything."

"Everything? Really, Bella? I seem to remember that I do anything that you ask of me, and you won't even consider help! Now you bring him around? He helped cause this problem to begin with."

She had tears running down her face, and she looked between the two of us.

"He'll never love you like I do. You and I both know what you are to him. You can leave if you want, Bella. Don't come back to me when you need my assistance because I refuse to do it!"

The asshole looked at Bella and shrugged. "You're really not worth it." He left without another word, but Bella stayed put. She wrapped her arms around herself and stared at me before running toward the bathroom.

I didn't make it before she locked the door. I heard her crying and the cabinets opening. I taunted her more.

"Do you think I'd just leave them out? I'm not stupid, Bella! You can't take care of yourself; why would I leave those lying around?"

She screamed then, and I busted through the door.

I was rough as I pinned her against the wall.

"You're mine, Bella. Mine. He can't have you."

"I don't want him. He tagged along with Ben. I hated having him here. I hated having him anywhere near your things—our things."

"He kissedyou," I seethed as I ran my hand over her hair.

"It meant nothing to me. I didn't want it."

Right before my lips met hers, she whispered, "You're the only person I've ever loved, and the only man I'll ever want. You're my first choice."

Her shaky breath brought me back to the present, and I glanced up at her. She was looking at me intently, almost like she knew the debate that was going on in my head. Only she had the power to end this, but until she did, I would give in willingly to her.

I took the blade between my thumb and forefinger and moved toward her. When I was standing between her legs, I sank down to my knees and placed my hands lightly on the top of her thighs. I briefly thought about trying to talk her out of it. Maybe I could calm her down enough to try. I had talked her down before, but that time was an exception. That was a time I couldn't have been here if I'd tried.

I was walking down a crowded sidewalk in New York. I been there for three days for a conference that the head editors had said I needed to attend. It was boring and long, and I just wanted to be home with Bella.

I was almost to my hotel when my phone rang. I smiled when I saw it was her.

"Love?"

I was met with hysterically crying that sent me into a panic attack. I slipped in between two buildings and leaned against the brick wall.

"Baby, Bella? What's wrong?" I tried to stay calm, but it was useless.

She didn't answer for the longest time, and I had slipped down and sat on the wet ground with my head leaning on my knees.

"I was walking home. It was dark…and I thought…you weren't there." She was hiccupping and taking deep, jagged breaths.

"Are you hurt? Oh God, love, please talk to me." I was in hysterics now, and I could only imagine what the people walking by the alley thought.

She was still crying. "No. I'm not hurt. I was alone, and it was dark. I freaked out. I ran home. I need you here, Edward. I can't do this alone."

I knew then that she was sitting in the bathroom, and I knew that she was holding that fucking piece of metal. My panic escalated, and my vision blurred. This was the worst I'd ever heard her, and I knew if she did this on her own, she could be hurt…badly.

That thought forced me to sober immediately, and I began to work through a plan.

"I can't be there now, love. I'll be there tomorrow. We can wait."

"No, Edward. I can't. I can't."

"Yes, baby, we can. Put it down." There was a sound of protest from her, and I repeated the previous command. "Put it down, Bella."

This went on for a few minutes before I heard the ding of the blade into the sink.

I breathed out a sigh of relief and began again, "Go to our bedroom, baby." I heard the door open and kept talking. I knew as long as I spoke she'd be calm. "I left my sweater, you know the UW one you love? I left it in the top drawer. Take off your clothes and throw them in the corner, alright? Put a blanket over them, and I'll deal with them tomorrow. Put on my sweater."

She didn't speak, but I heard her moving around. "I love how you look in my clothes, baby. It's the most amazing sight I've ever witnessed."

"I'm going to get undressed, hold on," she whispered. There were a few moments of silence before she came back. "I'm here."

"Did you do what I asked?"

"Yes."

"Lay down, baby. Cover up." I should have been home. I shouldn't have gone so far away. Something horrible could have happened. I cleared my throat of the lump that had formed there. "Did I ever tell you how beautiful I thought you were the day I met you? You were, are, so lovely. I remember thinking that my heart hadn't beaten that fast in so long, if ever. I loved you from the moment I met you."

I heard small sobs, but I continued speaking, knowing it was helping her and me.

"You knocked me off my feet. I thought I would never have a chance with you." I smiled at the memory. I would never regret meeting Bella.

"Sing to me, please?" she asked softly cutting off my happy memories.

"Alright, baby."

I got to the start of the song for the fifth time when I knew she was asleep.

"'Quote, you are my soul, unquote.'" I stopped after that line, and whispered to her, "I love you so much, baby. Please stay with me."

When I got home the next day we didn't have to cut. She had calmed significantly, and the only energy we had was put into loving each other. Even the bathroom was a sacred place. As we stood under the spray of the shower, I had kissed her scars and blemishes.

She cleared her throat, and I looked up at her. This was so different from that time. I desperately wanted to step into the shower and show her I could take away the pain with my hands in a different way—to love her thoroughly.

I knew she didn't want that though, so I gave her a small smile before tugging on the hem of her shirt. It was summer, and I was well aware that we cut on her stomach during this season. She never wore bikinis in public, and no one else ever saw her without a shirt. They were marks for me to see and for me to kiss and apologize for in private. Summer was a time for shorts and sleeveless shirts, all things she loved to wear, so cuts would not be making an appearance on those areas for at least three months.

Once her shirt was gone, I leaned my forehead against her stomach and softly trailed my lips over the visible lines in her skin. She ran her fingers through my hair, her own way of calming me.

Soon I leaned back and placed the hand without the razor against her skin. She was so soft.

I looked into her eyes and said the only thing that really mattered.

"I love you, Bella."

She only nodded. I knew that she was too tense for words, and for the first time since I walked in, I noticed just how badly her leg was bouncing.

I raised the other hand to her stomach. I knew her habits already, so I didn't worry when she took in a deep breath and held in it. I eased the blade across the skin directly above her belly button. As the line of red emerged, she let out a shaky breath.

"One more," she breathed.

I closed my eyes and let out a small groan. When I opened them again, I raised the blade above her newly bleeding cut and made another small, shallow line. Her process was the same; deep breath, hold it in, and the shaky exhale.Always the same.

Fingers twined into my hair and I looked up. I was met with deep brown eyes. I could already tell that the tension was seeping out of her. The lines around her eyes were softening, and the firm set of her jaw loosened.

"Better?" I asked softly as I moved to get a wash cloth and ointment. Band-aids wouldn't do us any good here.

She nodded but didn't speak.

I waited for a couple of minutes before cleaning the cuts. I knew that she liked to watch them bleed afterward. It was evidence that the pain was leaving her body, or so she said.

When she closed her eyes, I started to wipe over the red lines with the wet wash cloth, then I would gently dry them, and finally I would apply a thin coating of antibacterial ointment on them.

This was the least I could do.

She saved my life.

I scooped her up and walked us into our bedroom. This had been our routine for the last three years. The first year we were together we lived separately, but on nights when she needed this,our routine was the same.

After I placed her under the covers, I crawled in beside her. When I was situated she rolled toward me, and laid her head on my shoulder and an arm over my stomach.

We were quiet for a few minutes. I knew that when she was ready she would talk.

"I love you, too, Edward." I could feel her warm breath through the cotton of my shirt as she whispered the words then kissed my shoulder.

"Thank you," she added just as quietly.

We curled around each other, and I felt her hand grip my arm tightly.

"There's a group meeting Thursday. I looked it up. Will you come with me?" she asked softly.

"Of course, baby."

It didn't matter what she said, I would do whatever she asked. I hated when she needed this, but I wouldn't deny her. If I could give her peace then I would. If I could make her smile and laugh then I would. If I could make love to her and show her just how precious she was to me then I would.

She hugged me tightly, and I breathed in the scent all around her.

The hurt in my chest lessened, and the pressure started to go away.

We saved each other.


As always, let me know what you think. I know its OOC, but I hope you can appreciate the uniqueness of their relationship.

This was beta'd by PTB.

Thanks for reading,