A/N Twilight isn't mine, but Torn is
Hi everyone! Sorry for the long wait! It was hard to write this chapter, with both software and hardware problems to overcome. Thanks to Sherry and Momduckie for reading, thanks to everyone who is still with me on this journey.
Chapter 80... Can you believe it? I hardly can!
A couple dozen times, he said.
I'm thinking it might be closer to a million, especially when I realize that I can't even count the times I learned I was safe here on two hands anymore.
But, I want to try, even though I have no idea where to start.
I haven't really slept during the night. Edward stayed with me all evening and in the end we didn't even change - he just pulled the comforter over us both and held me while I stared at the ceiling. I'm pretty sure he didn't sleep much, either.
We didn't speak, and we still don't when we go downstairs for breakfast. Edward's hair resembles a haystack and I can't imagine mine looks much better.
But for once, I don't really care. Yet another part of the walls around me have crumbled last night, and when Edward pours juice in two glasses at the counter, I walk up to him and lean into his side, wanting to be close.
His arm comes around me and he hugs me against him for a moment before he hands me the glass.
We spend a few peaceful moments together, sipping our juice as we look out the kitchen window.
"What do you want to do today?" he asks, his voice low as if not to disturb the silence.
"I'm going to-" I hesitate, not sure if it's up to me to tell Edward about Rosalie. Did I ever tell him? Does he know? I can't remember. "Um. Out, with Rosalie," I hedge, but I'm the world's worst liar and Edward knows it.
"Um. Out with Rosalie?" he echoes me in a teasing tone. "What are you up to?"
"Nothing," I say, too quickly. In order to divert the attention, I start pulling out ingredients for scrambled eggs.
I focus intently on the frying pan as the butter slowly starts to melt. I shake my head curtly. "Nothing," I repeat.
"Okaaaay," he says slowly. "If you say so."
I clear my throat awkwardly and keep myself occupied by cutting up some tomatoes.
"Do you want cheese with the eggs?" I ask, my words stilted.
"Sure," Edward says. "I hope you'll have fun with Rosalie today."
I stare into space as I try to imagine what today is going to look like. It's not going to be fun by any means, that much is clear.
"Thanks," I whisper. I clear my throat again. "What will you do today?"
"I think I'll try to meet up with Ben or Eric," Edward says. "Otherwise mom will complain that I'm not going out enough."
"Maybe Jasper will come?" I ask, trying to make conversation.
"Maybe," Edward says.
He helps me fill the plates, and we move to the kitchen table to have our breakfast.
"Are you going to the gym again?" he asks after a while. "You seemed to like it that first time."
I think for a moment, chewing. "It was okay. But I think I like running better."
"Good morning," Emmett says as he walks in, stretching and scratching his head. He yawns so widely his jaw cracks, making Edward cringe.
"Any eggs left?" Emmett asks as he shuffles over to the counter.
"I can make them for you," I offer.
"Nah, 'sokay," he says, yawning again. In his own sweet time, he fixes himself a bowl of cereal. When you see him move like that, you'd never expect him to be so quick in the field when he plays.
"Hey Em, do you want to go to the beach today? I'm asking Ben and Eric, too."
"No, I got plans already," Emmett replies after swallowing a huge bite. "Tomorrow?"
Edward shrugs. "The sun is out today, not tomorrow. What are you doing today?"
"Out with Rosalie," Emmett says easily.
Edward narrows his eyes. "Out. With Rosalie."
"Yeah? What's wrong with that?"
Edward cocks a brow. "Because Bella is going out today too. With Rosalie." His tone implies he's not impressed by our flimsy explanations.
"Are you?" Emmett asks me. "Cool."
Just as I pick up our plates to put them in the dishwasher, Carlisle and Esme walk into the kitchen. Edward is still frowning when he looks up at his parents.
"That smells delicious," Carlisle says, inhaling. "Would you care for scrambled eggs, love?" he asks Esme.
"That would be lovely," Esme says as she sits down at the table with us. "Good morning."
I'm moving to the fridge to help Carlisle get the things he needs to make the eggs when Edward speaks.
"Are you two going out with Rosalie today as well?" he asks, a hint of accusation in his voice.
"We are," Esme says. "Why does this bother you?"
"Because there is obviously something going on I don't know anything about," Edward replies.
"You can't know everything," Carlisle says calmly. "In fact, it's quite impossible."
"Which is not the point," Edward counters easily, as if he is used to Carlisle's method of steering a conversation into a different direction. "You all look like something bad has happened. What's going on? What happened?"
Esme looks over her shoulder at Carlisle, seeking help. I step up to him quietly, offering soundlessly to take over his cooking so he can focus on the conversation. Carlisle whispers a thanks.
Edward, of course, sees it all and it doesn't help him relax.
"She is not in trouble. There are just some things that need to be taken care of," Carlisle says, walking over to the table.
"That's helpful," Edward murmurs. "When did this house become one of secrets?"
"Let it go, Edward," Emmett says. "You'll learn soon enough. Just not… now, okay?"
Edward looks over at Emmett, stunned not by his words but by the obvious tension that lies underneath them.
"Is she pregnant?" he bursts out.
"God, no," Emmett says, rubbing his face. "And now stop digging. Please."
"I don't like this at all. But fine, go ahead and don't tell me anything." Edward gets up in a sulk and turns to leave the kitchen, just as Rosalie walks in, looking white as a sheet with dark circles under her eyes.
Edward checks, concern bleeding through his dark mood.
"We'll leave in about an hour," Esme says. "Rosie, dear, won't you have some breakfast?"
She shakes her head, her arms wrapped around her waist. She walks up to Esme, seeking comfort and support.
"You okay?" Edward asks her tentatively.
"Yeah," Rosalie says, her voice surprisingly light. "Why wouldn't I be?"
Edward frowns and shrugs as he turns to leave. "Fine. What the fuck ever."
"Language," Esme warns in the direction of his back.
"What the fuck ever!" Edward repeats, louder now, before he stomps off, taking the stairs two at a time to his room.
Maybe after yesterday, everything was not resolved. I rub my eyes and sigh desolately.
"What was that all about?" Esme asks quietly.
"He and Bella had a fight yesterday. I guess that wasn't over?" Emmett asks in my direction.
"I thought it was," I whisper, forcing myself to speak with Carlisle in the room. "I don't understand."
Emmett must have heard our raised voices, and it makes me feel very uncomfortable that others have noticed Edward and me fight.
"All right," Carlisle says, and I think I can hear understanding in his voice. He sighs. "Let's just have breakfast. Rosalie, come and sit down. You need to eat."
"I'm not hungry," she protests.
"Regardless. Please eat something. You'll need it."
Carlisle fills three plates and brings them to the table. Thinking I would like to get away before the questions start, I slip from the kitchen, going to my room.
I wonder why Edward is so tense so suddenly. I would like to go to his room and talk to him, but I don't think that's a good idea. He knows I know where we are going today, and I won't be able to talk to him about it. It's not my decision to make, not my story to tell.
Could it be that he can't stand it that I am privy to something he isn't? But that would seem awfully childish, wouldn't it? Or maybe I'm just overthinking it.
Maybe things just aren't okay after yesterday. But things felt okay when we went to sleep and usually I have a good hunch of what people's moods are.
I don't know.
I'm still pondering over it when I emerge from my bedroom after having showered and dressed, and I'm half distracted when we pile ourselves into Carlisle's Mercedes to go to the police station in Port Angeles. Rosalie is pressed against me in the car as we're squeezed into the back seat with Emmett, but I try not to let it bother me so much.
She is more stressed than I am today, her body rigid even as Emmett pulls her closer in an attempt to give her some comfort.
We're quiet when we arrive at the police station, and wait in silence for someone to collect us as the lady at the desk promised would happen. I sit in a plastic chair that's hard as concrete, and I look at Rosalie from the corner of my eye.
"What if they don't believe me?" Rosalie whispers to no one in particular. "What if they say it's too long ago?"
"It isn't," Carlisle assures her. He moves from his seat to squat in front of her, taking both her hands in his. "They would have said so when we made this appointment. They will take you seriously, I promise."
Rosalie looks away from her father, but I don't miss how she squeezes his hands for support, and he squeezes right back.
Involuntarily, my stomach clenches in jealousy. I'm still so wary around Carlisle and it's so hard for me to have him close, yet when I see how easy Rosalie and all the others are around him, I just wish I could have that, too.
Thinking back to my umpteenth epiphany of the day before, I wonder if it really would just be a matter of reaching out, and for a moment I wonder if I would ever have the courage to do so. Then again, now is really not the moment to be reaching out or courageous. Now is Rosalie's time, and I have to do my best to support her in any way I can.
So, wary or not, I get up as well and sit down next to Rosalie, closer to Carlisle than I've ever done before save for when he held me, and I nudge her shoulder with mine, letting her know I'm there.
Rosalie gives me a wan smile and sighs, then stiffens as a female cop briskly walks up to us, a clipboard in one hand, the other outstretched in invitation.
"Miss Cullen? We're ready for you now. I'm detective Duncan. Who did you bring?"
"My parents, and Emmett and Bella," Rosalie says in a voice I would hardly recognize as hers.
"I'm not sure if we can find a room that will be able to fit all of you in," the detective says. Her voice is kind, and warm. It matches her eyes, which seem to show more than professional sympathy. I think I like her.
"Would it upset you very much if one or two would have to wait outside?"
"Um," Rosalie says, her face unusually pale. She looks to Esme helplessly.
"I can wait outside," Carlisle offers. "If that's easier?"
"No," Rosalie says. "I don't know."
"Bella and I will wait outside then," Emmett says resolutely. "You go in and we'll be right here when you're done."
His voice is so assuring and steady, that I suddenly understand why people seem to think of Emmett as a comforting presence so often. I'm fine with waiting outside, even though I would have liked to hear how such an interview would go.
"Okay," Rosalie whispers.
I watch how detective Duncan ushers Rosalie, Carlisle and Esme to a small room down the hall, and when the door clicks closed, the silence is oppressive.
"I saw a vending machine near the entrance," Emmett says. "Want to see what it has to offer?"
It's beyond me how anyone could possibly think of food in a situation like this, but when I look at Emmett, I can see the tension in his face. He's just looking for some distraction, and to be honest, I could use it, too.
He finds some coins in his wallet to buy a packet of gummy bears, and then we walk over to the small sitting area with two month-old magazines lying on the coffee table. Emmett opens the packet and holds it out for me, but I can't eat here, in a strange building, with strange people walking by.
Emmett shrugs and starts flipping through one of the magazines, until he finds a crossword that hasn't been filled in yet. "Coolies," he says. "You got a pen?"
I shake my head, so Emmett walks to the reception desk and returns a moment later with a ball point in his hands.
"All right," he says, settling down again. "Tree, three letters. Oak."
I think back to yesterday again, how Edward said that he can't fight my demons alone.
No, I think. But maybe I can. I have to try.
Reach out, I tell myself. Do it.
"Ash," I whisper, nearly choking on the word. "Or Fir. Or Elm."
Emmett cocks a brow at me in a 'really'-look. "Now she talks," he murmurs. "Okay, miss smarty pants. 'Dispirited', four letters."
"Glum," I offer. "Dark. Dour. Blue?"
"For someone who doesn't talk much you have an awful lot of words up your sleeve," he grumbles. "I mean, really?"
I want to apologize, but then I see the sparkle in his eyes. He names the next word, and together we make steady work of the puzzle to kill some time.
When we're done, Emmett checks the clock. "They've been in there for nearly an hour," he says. "Did you know it would take that long?"
I shake my head. "They need details," I say quietly, aware that the lady at the reception desk is no longer on the phone and can hear us speak now. Hear me speak, specifically. "And then they need to check the story, see if they got it all down right?"
"I guess," he says. "I wonder if they will ever catch who did it." His eyes darken when he says this, and my heart warms when I see how protective he is over Rosalie. "The odds are against us though."
At this I shrug. It's been years ago that it happened - in all honesty I'd be surprised if they would ever find someone who matches the description Rosalie will no doubt give. My stomach clenches when I think that if I would ever consider pressing charges, I'll have to go through this process as well - not just the retelling and reliving, but also the question whether they will be able to catch Laurent and Stefan and send them to jail.
I grit my teeth, not wanting to linger on those worries.
"It's great that you're here though," he says next, making me look up. "It means a lot to Rosie that you came along. She knows how hard it is for you, what with your past and all."
I remember a talk I had with Emmett a while ago, when we looked out over the water and he told me in his typically clear way that my behavior was unacceptable. I remember how much I have come to like Emmett, and how I would never have perceived it possible to be at ease with such a big man.
"I wanted to help," I try to explain. "If she needs me, I want to be there."
"That's really you, isn't it," he states rather than asks. "If someone needs you, you're there, no matter the cost. You've skipped nights because of Wisp, haven't you?"
I nod, surprised at his accurate description of my character.
Emmett is quiet for a moment, doodling in the magazine. I follow the trail of loops he is drawing with my eyes.
"Edward needs you too, you know," he says quietly, carefully. "We all need you, actually, but Edward needs you more."
I open my mouth to reply, but hesitate. After yesterday, I've come to realize it, too. To me, Edward has been such a steady anchor that I rarely spent a moment's thought on his own demons, his worries and his fears. Sure, I know he tends to overthink things, but when he's around me, usually he's so balanced and quiet, I have forgotten to try and see things through his eyes every now and then.
"I know," I finally whisper.
Emmett looks at me, searching my face. "You need to take care of him, you know," he says. "Don't be fooled by his calm. He carries the weight of the world on his shoulders."
"What do I do?" I ask. "How do I reach out?"
For a split second, he looks at me as if I have two heads, but he masks his surprise quickly. "Do what feels natural, I guess," he says.
I shake my head and pull my sleeves over my hands in a gesture that betrays my discomfort. This is an excellent moment to actually 'reach out', may it be in a different way than Emmett means. Still, I have to try it, even if it is the worst possible moment - Rosalie's interview can be over any minute now.
"I don't know how. I'm always afraid to be a bother."
Emmett blinks, then raises his brows in a way that shows he is clearly not impressed. "Come on, really? I'm sure you know better than that, now."
I shrug, uncomfortable. No need to tell hem the hows and the whys. It's bad enough that I feel this way, period.
He thinks for a moment, clicking his pen. "Have you ever asked him to do something for you?"
Now it's his turn to shrug. "Have you ever asked him for anything at all?"
I have to think about that. "Maybe? A few times?"
"Try it," he says. "If I know my brother, and I think I do, he needs to feel as wanted as you do. Ask him whatever. Ask him to spend time with you, to watch a movie, ask him to take you out anywhere."
"What if he doesn't want to?"
Emmett leans forward on his elbows. "Then the world won't stop. And he'll love it. I'm sure of it."
I'm not so sure of that, but in the end I do realize that if I don't reach out, I won't get anywhere, anyway.
"Ask him to sing for you," Emmett says. He opens his mouth to say more, but right at that moment, we hear voices down the hall approaching; Rosalie's ordeal is over.
Emmett is up in a split second, and the moment Rosalie appears, he walks up to her to wrap her in a bear hug. "Hey," he whispers, and even from where I am now standing, I can see how she clings to him, and how he is holding her up.
Carlisle looks ashen, and Esme looks drawn and tired. Her eyes are red-rimmed, as if she has been trying to withhold her tears.
"You'll hear from us," detective Duncan says as she shakes hands with Rosalie, Esme and Carlisle. "You did great today, Rosalie."
"Thank you," Carlisle says. Rosalie simply nods. She's white as a sheet and looks like she could sleep for days.
I walk up to them as the detective walks away, unsure of my place in all of this. But Rosalie notices me and pulls me into a hug. Caught off guard, I freeze up, but a moment later I become aware of how she is leaning against me, seeking my support. I rub circles over her shoulders as she sighs long and deep.
"That was really uncool," she whispers. "But I'm glad I did it."
I have so many questions for her, but I know now is not the moment to ask them. When Carlisle proposes we go home instead of having lunch in Port Angeles, we all agree.
Rosalie is quiet on the way home, as I expected she would be. I don't know what else I can do but stay close to her. Maybe I can bake something nice when we get back?
God, I suck at this socializing thing.
"Rosalie?" Carlisle asks quietly when we drive through Forks.
"Yeah?" she replies, but it comes out as a croak. She tries again. "Yeah?"
"We need to talk about what you want to tell the others," Carlisle says. "Have you thought about that?"
I can see the resistance she feels in her eyes, but she's strong, stronger than I am, apparently, because she lifts her chin and meets Carlisle's eyes in the rearview mirror.
"I think we have to tell them, right?"
"It's up to you, honey," Esme says.
"I can't keep it from them, I think," she says. "Right?"
"It's up to you," Esme repeats.
She doesn't say the others are bound to have noticed something and that they are bound to have questions, and I appreciate her all the more for that. Pointing out the obvious is not going to help Rosalie.
I wish I had any wisdom to share, but my throat is blocked; squeezed shut by the amount of people in the car.
"But what if they look at me differently?"
"They won't," Emmett says. "Why would they?"
He voices my thoughts to the letter, and I know her question in that regard is absurd, even though I struggle with the same thing still. On a rational level, I know those around me do not judge me for what happened, yet it's still so hard to overcome the fear that they will.
"You don't look at me differently," I whisper. My face flames up immediately; not just for having spoken with all of them present, but also because I am purposely referring to my own past. I don't want to make this conversation about me, but somehow I feel that my own experience is the best argument I have to offer.
"But that's different," Rosalie says helplessly. "I went out, in a dress I wasn't supposed to wear. You never provoked anyone."
A short, bitter laugh flies from my mouth, so sharp that Esme looks over her shoulder to check on me.
Baffled and ashamed by my own reaction, I turn my face away to look out the window, wringing my hands in my lap.
"Bella?" Rosalie asks quietly, but I shake my head, unable to talk or even communicate.
I shouldn't have said anything.
I should just have kept my mouth shut. Not just now, but back then, as well.
I miss most of the remainder of the conversation the others have on the last bit of the ride home, but when we get out of the car, I gather that Rosalie is going to give the others the gist of what happened.
She asks the others to come join us in the living room, but I'm only half tracking what is being said. What I don't miss, however, is how they are all equally upset about the ordeal she has been through, and that she shouldn't have kept it a secret all those years.
Edward is sitting on the couch, and there's a dark look in his eyes I can't place. When he meets my eyes however, his gaze warms up and he smiles at me.
"So that's about what happened," Rosalie says on an exhausted sounding sigh.
"She thought you'd see her differently when you knew this," Emmett says, rubbing Rosalie's back comfortingly.
"Psh, no," Alice huffs, incredulous. "Why would we?"
"See?" Emmett says, and Rosalie smiles through her drying tears.
"I'd like to meet those bastards who hurt you," Jasper says. His eyes are hard - he's visibly upset. "I'd need only once."
"We feel the same, Jasper," Carlisle says.
"As do we about the fuckers who hurt Bella."
Edward's voice as well as the mentioning of my name makes me look up, pulled back into the conversation immediately.
"But if she doesn't press charges, nothing will happen," Alice says.
"We don't even know if something will happen now I did," Rosalie replies. "It's been a long time ago, and who knows if those guys can be found?"
"Maybe they will," Jasper says. "Were you able to give a good description?"
"I think so. But it was years ago."
"Maybe at least this will give you some sort of closure," Emmett murmurs.
"God… Aren't you scared to go out now in the dark?" Alice asks suddenly. "I know I would be."
Rosalie shrugs. She's fussing with her cuticles, refusing to meet anybody's gaze. "I just feel guilty for breaking the rules."
"Oh, sweetheart," Carlisle says, moving closer so he can wrap an arm around her. "No matter what you had worn that night, that scum was looking for trouble. They had no right."
"So you're really not angry?" Rosalie asks in a small voice.
Carlisle shakes his head vehemently. "I can't approve you going out late at night, but I can't hold that against you. The fact that we've come to live in a society where teenagers can't be safe on the streets upsets me more."
My hands are cold, and I push them in the pocket of my sweater to warm them. Everything that is being said, I know goes for me, too. Yet, I still can't shake the feeling that somewhere, somehow, I've done something horribly wrong.
I listen to the rest of the conversation, soaking up the comforting words Rosalie is receiving. I am so relieved for her that everybody is so protective and not judging her for what happened. Alice is very emotional, but I watch with a warm glow how she in turn is comforted not just by Carlisle and Jasper, but by Rosalie as well.
When the atmosphere settles and Esme gets up for tea, I follow her to the kitchen, planning to bake some treats. I whip up a dead easy recipe of honey, flour and oats, and they're in the oven in a blink.
Standing over the sink, I look outside the kitchen window. The forest is so green, it's hard to believe it's real and not enhanced in some way.
As my thoughts wander, they land on what Alice said. If I don't press charges, nothing will happen. And I saw with my own eyes today that Rosalie did and came out on the other side. Except, I guess, with her there is no certainty that they will catch the guys. She will probably not have to testify.
Whereas I know exactly who did it, and when Stefan and Laurent get caught, I know I will very probably have to testify. Maybe I should google it, and try to find out what would happen. All I can think of now is how my stomach clenches with dread just when I think of having to face either of those two men again.
Two hands on my waist catch me off guard so bad my breath escapes in an audible rush, and my heart jumps in my chest.
"Ssh," Edward says behind me. He kisses my jawline as he wraps his arms more fully around my waist. "It's just me."
I exhale, my heart still hammering in my chest. "You okay?"
He chuckles, a humorless rhythm of sounds. "No, I don't think so."
I turn in his arms so I can see his face. There is still darkness in his eyes, and he looks so sad, so sad.
"I think I need a hug," he says.
"I can do that," I reply. And instead of him opening his arms for me, I now do the same for him, and he comes to me so sweetly I want to cry. I hold him as tightly as I can, feeling his warmth against my body and being once again so thankful that I can allow such simple things like hugs now.
"I don't understand this world anymore," he says into my hair. "I can't wrap my mind around what happened to you, and now I learn that Rosalie has been through such a horrible thing as well?" He sighs. "How do you deal with that?"
Now it's my turn to chuckle without mirth. "I think we've established that I don't."
He groans, but laughs through it. "I could have seen that coming."
Feeling brave, I reach up to thread my fingers through his hair. As a response, he pulls me closer still, the softest hum coming from the back of his throat.
"I'm sorry," he says after a silence.
I pull back to meet his eyes. "Why?"
"I feel like I've pushed you too far, too quickly."
I shake my head, even though I don't have words right away.
"No," he says. "It wasn't my place to force you to move forward."
I frown. "But if you don't tell me, nobody does."
"Maybe they have a good reason for that."
"Or maybe you're the only one who doesn't treat me like I'm made of glass." I check. "Well, you and Rosalie."
"Asking you to come with her was huge - for you both, I think."
I nod, chewing on my lip. Around us, the delicious aroma of the cookies I'm baking drifts through the air.
Edward leans in, slowly, and presses a soft kiss against my lips.
"There is just so much darkness in the world," he says when he looks into my eyes again. "And while I hate what happened to you, I know that if it hadn't, I would never have met you. And that doesn't sit well with me."
"Is that what you worry about?" I ask, reaching up to touch his sideburn.
He nods, and now the lingering darkness in his eyes changes to sadness.
"Well, I'm glad to be here," I say, trying to sound comforting and light. "And I know I have to figure out a way to deal with my past, but I'm glad I'm here now."
He smiles crookedly and pulls me back into his embrace, and I tuck my head into the crook of his neck. "You're such an angel," he says. "You have no idea."