A/N Twilight isn't mine

Hi! Long time no see! Hope you're all well and healthy and coping in this pandemic. I wrote this chapter, deleted it entirely, and wrote it again. I messed up the timeline so bad I am not sure if it would've been better to just scrap it once more and try again instead of trying to fix it. I just didn't want to make you wait any longer. So here is 6000 words of slightly chaotic storytelling. Thank you for your patience! Many, MANY thanks to Therese for helping me with the chapter, the timeline and everything else :)

I did an insane amount of research for this chapter and combined it with some creative liberty. Not just on the med descriptions, which I tried to make as realistic as possible, but also on Scrabble words. 'Phpht' is a word you can use in Scrabble. Now you know too.

Bella was in a bad place in the previous chapter. She's trying to get out of it now.

If ever I doubted Esme's ability to be a mother figure for me, to be a beacon of calm in the storm, a ray of light when everything is dark, I don't need to worry about that anymore. In the days after I hit my all time low she's practically glued to my side, spending every waking moment with me. Sometimes we just sit in silence, sometimes we work alongside each other in the kitchen to cook meals for everyone. I find comfort in the rhythm of everyday chores and she seems to understand this.

She takes me to First Beach on a sunny day so we can walk along the shore. She even manages to convince me to take off my shoes so I can feel the soft sand between my toes.

We talk, on the beach. Or rather, I do. With the roaring of the ocean, the wind in our hair and the screeches of seagulls overhead, I find that the words come easy. Every memory that has resurfaced after our visit to the trailer, I relay to her. She listens, asks questions, and she never judges. She also doesn't try to play therapist, for which I'm grateful.

"Have you looked into that diary yet?" she asks when we're just about to turn around to walk back. "The one your mother left?"

I shake my head. "I'm kind of scared of what I'll find," I admit. "Or what I won't find. She left it in the trailer so I will never know what she was thinking later, when she left me with Laurent."

"That's true," Esme agrees. "Would you want to know? Would you want to meet her, if the chance arose?"

I have to think about that. I've always felt zero desire to meet her. I don't know where she is now or what she's doing. In honesty I don't think I could shelve the resentment I feel towards her for leaving me when she knew, she knew what was happening.

"I didn't mean to upset you," Esme says quietly. She squeezes my shoulder. The touch is not unwelcome.

"I still don't understand how she could leave me like that." My voice wavers on the words, much to my annoyance. I feel like I've asked this question a hundred times, either in my head or out loud. It's a pain so deep I'm always afraid to acknowledge it. It's the kind of festering wound that will never heal.

"Maybe something to discuss with Siobhan," Esme says. Her voice is kind. "It's no use speculating."

"You wouldn't leave your children like that," I say. "You wouldn't even think it."

"I'd give my life for all of them," Esme agrees. "All six of them." She meets me with such a solemn gaze I can only fall into her arms to hug her tight.

~O~

While I spend my days mostly with Esme, the nights are when I am with Edward. He is, as always, an anchor in stormy seas. More nights than not he's with me and we're pressed skin to skin, our shirts discarded on the floor, my starvation for touch stronger than my revulsion to it.

I'm a shell of a human being during the days of that first week, because during the night, even though he is with me, I have nightmares.

Waking up screaming isn't awesome for me, but it isn't for the rest of the house, either. More than once I hear multiple people roaming about the house after I've calmed down from my night terrors and can register anything else over the roaring in my ears and the hammering of my heart.

Carlisle ends up giving me a tiny pink pill that I can take to sleep and to keep the dreams at bay. I ask Edward to let me sleep alone, which he does, reluctantly. The pill works like a charm and I sleep through the night, uninterrupted by nightmares. I wake up rested, if a little groggy, and a lot relieved.

When I check my phone for the time I see there's a text from Edward.

Hey Bruiser, let me know when you're awake?

I text him back to let him know that I am, and then slip into the bathroom to take care of business. I've slept around fourteen hours, I realize when I do the math in my head. I needed that.

When I appear again, Wisp has woken up. She darts for my toes, rubbing her little cheek against the top of my feet and purring. I haven't given her a lot of attention these past few days, I was too out of it to be able to. But now I pick her up and push my face into her fur. She feels so warm, so trusting. I take her into bed with me, even though I know that Esme doesn't really like it when I let her get under the covers, and contemplate if I have the energy to get up and do something or if I just want to stay in bed for the day. The pill I took surely makes me want to do the latter.

The door opens slowly after a knock, almost gingerly, and in steps Edward with a fantastic bed head, holding a tray with breakfast fit for a king.

"Mom says you need to eat and drink," he says by way of explanation. "So I got you all the stuff you like."

"Thank you," I say, surprised. I wave him over.

Balancing the tray in his hands he knee-walks onto the bed, settling in next to me. The tray is filled with various treats. Toast and jam, fruit, and fresh orange juice are arranged carefully around a flower I think he must've taken from the garden. I smile at it and finger the delicate leaves.

"I stink," I warn, when Edward scoots closer. "And I look awful."

"Eh," he says, waving my concerns away. He manages to crawl underneath the covers with me, sweats and all.

Wisp climbs closer to the tray, obviously having smelling the food. I pick her up to keep her away and grab a piece of toast.

"Thanks," I say again, then take a bite.

"You wouldn't even eat with anyone present back when you first came here," Edward says, snatching a grape. "And look at you now."

"Depressed, incapable of feeding myself properly, and generally unable to function," I retort. "I'm doing just fine."

"At least you're wearing your own clothes," Edward replies easily.

I crack a smile at that and eat some more, thinking back to my first night here, when I met Edward and he caught me wearing his sweater.

I take my time finishing the food he prepared for me and wash it down with the cup of tea that's also on the tray. I can taste he heated the water in the microwave but decide not to say anything. It was sweet of him to even go through all this effort to begin with.

"Should've made me some hot milk," I say by way of a joke, and he slaps his forehead.

"I should've totally done that."

The energy I need to process my breakfast makes me feel even more lethargic than I already did and I still haven't decided if I want to get up at all. Edward wholly supports the idea of staying in bed for as long as possible.

I settle in with him, snuggling up close and enjoying his body heat against mine. There's something different about me today. It's not just that I finally slept without dreams. It's like the sleeping pill I was given has a leftover effect on my system and I feel drowsy, but not to the extent that it's impeding. It's just… nice. The storm in my head is a little quieter. I never realized just how much anxiety was raging around in my body until it disappeared. What remains is a strange hollowness I can't bring myself to mind. It's new.

Edward and I watch movies all day. He dozes off during Dirty Dancing, for which I can't blame him. Around dinner time though, my body is protesting, my muscles stiff and aching from not moving around. At Edward's urging I take a shower and then we go down for some food.

Dinner itself is a quiet affair, as Rosalie and Emmett are off to Port Angeles with a bunch of others for Rosalie's birthday. She flat-out refused to celebrate it at home, which I think I understand. With how awful I've been feeling I haven't even been able to find her a decent gift, and I feel tremendously bad over that. She's told me jokingly she'll find a way for me to make it up to her. I hope I can deliver.

She and Emmett leave for college next week. I can't imagine what the house will be like once they're gone. How I'm supposed to manage without Rosalie's silent support, or Emmett's jokes. I don't even want to know how Carlisle and Esme are going to deal with them moving out, even though they will probably come back home often for weekends and holidays at least.

Edward stays plastered to my side even after dinner, and I don't have the heart to tell him that I need some time for myself. I escape into the bathroom instead, under the ruse of wanting to brush my teeth.

I turn on the tap and glance at myself in the mirror. I need time to think, to process the events in the trailer and what we learned there.

My own thoughts are not nice companionship, though. My memory dredges up images of the trailer, of the messy state it was in, and I can smell the phantom scents of my childhood, the mouldy walls and the musky towels. There was a draft we never could quite find the source of. The walls were paper thin. I'd often lie awake at night, listening to my grandfather's wrestling programs on the crappy tv and his occasional shouts at the players. The hoppy scent of beer and the stale smell of cigarettes that seeped into everything, so that even when I was outside the trailer that smell still invaded my senses as it lingered in my hair and clothes.

I used to be bullied at school, for that smell. My mother tried to dress me nicely, made a point of combing my hair every morning, but no matter how hard we tried I could never get quite clean. I was miserable most of the time. Hungry, too. Of course, it only got worse after that. At least with my mother, there'd been hugs at some point. Long ago.

My life has been such a battle, from my earliest moments. And no matter how hard the Cullens try to convince me it's all worth it, I am tired of fighting, sometimes. As my body has rid itself of the final remnants of the sleeping pill during the day, the anxiety comes creeping back in, too, as we get closer to bedtime. I want to moan at the unfairness of it all. If I'm wound up like that, I won't be able to sleep again and I'll be in for yet another restless night.

I can't let that happen. I don't want to.

"You okay here for a bit?" I ask Edward when I come back out. He's lying on my bed, playing with Wisp on his chest. "I need to ask your parents something."

"They're your parents, too," Edward says without looking up.

Still. It feels super weird to call Carlisle and Esme 'my parents' although I'll admit a small part of me would love to be ale to and to believe it.

I slip down the stairs to find Carlisle and Esme in the living room. Alice is there too, and she's watching a movie with Esme. Carlisle is engrossed in the book on classic cars I gave him. Feels like that was a lifetime ago. It makes me want to smile to see that he's clearly enjoying my gift.

Esme beams at me when she spots me and pats the couch cushion to invite me to come sit down next to her. I do so, and lean against her immediately, soaking up her warmth and affection.

"How're you feeling?" she asks quietly. She's probably not wanting to disturb Alice's focus on the movie, but Alice is sitting so uncannily still I'm pretty sure she's listening in.

"I'm all right," I say. It's a blatant lie, but I'm not sure how to convey everything that's washed over me in the past two weeks and how it's left me feeling rattled and raw - more so than I've been since I came here.

Esme nods understandingly. "Do you need anything? Food, drink? A hug?"

I press closer against her in response to her last question and gather the courage to actually ask for something. "I'd like one of those sleeping pills again," I say softly. "They really helped."

"It's really not a good idea to take them too often," Carlisle murmurs, gently. "The FDA hasn't approved any of the medicine used for insomnia for minors. Well, besides some antidepressants which can have drowsiness as a side effect."

It's the softest let down ever, but it feels like a blow to my stomach anyway. I'd hoped to sleep for a while, void of any dreams and memories, and just recharge for once instead of waking up exhausted.

"Just one more night," I say. I don't like the pleading sound in my voice. I don't think I've ever asked Carlisle for something as directly as I'm doing now.

I flinch when he looks up from his book, afraid I've overstepped some line when rationally I know by now there's nothing to fear here.

"One night," he says, conceding. "After that, if your insomnia lingers, we'll find you a better treatment."

He leaves the room and when he comes back, he's holding the tiny pill in his hand. "Take this half an hour before you want to go to sleep."

I take the pill from him, clutching it as if it were a precious diamond.

"This is called quetiapine, and it's actually an anipsychotic," Carlisle explains. "And it has a slew of other side effects we wouldn't want you to suffer from. This really is the last time, okay?"

I nod. "Thanks for explaining," I whisper.

No matter how tempting it is to take the pill right now and let the effects wash over me, it really is too early to roll into bed. Instead, I get up to put the pill away safely in my bathroom and play Stratego with Edward until it's finally time to go to sleep.

Needless to say… I win.

oOo

Much to my own amazement, I find myself purposely not taking the pill that night, nor the night after. Just knowing I have it makes me less anxious and I want to save it for a rainy day, so to speak. If Carlisle asks, I will tell him. I will have to, as that night I wake up screaming once more, my shirt soaked to my back and phantom hands still gripping my ankles, my wrists. With the pill, I probably wouldn't have had those dreams.

I force myself to focus on keeping busy during the day. It's easy, too. In between Rosalie and Emmett packing and preparing for college and Esme walking around forlornly, clearly not knowing how to deal with the upcoming goodbye, it's like everybody is going out of their way to cram in as much quality time as possible before they leave.

Today, Jasper, Emmett and Edward have gone to Port Angeles together to play games at the arcade hall. Rosalie has been demanding my time at home so I can teach her how to cook more. She tells me this can be her birthday gift, but I don't think that's a good enough gift for her. She wants to be able to prepare a few things though, as, in her words, they 'can't live on pop-tarts and take-out'. Emmett objected that 1) they can, and 2) there'll be a campus restaurant where they can get food, but the glare Rosalie sent him made him snap his jaws shut and leave for Port Angeles with his brothers without so much as another word.

"Remind me to tell him not to put an egg in the microwave," she tells me while she's washing the spinach. "God knows he'd actually do it."

We've made some meals so far to put in the freezer, just so Rosalie could learn. Lasagna, pasta and burritos are now on her 'can do' list. For dinner tonight, we're doing mashed potatoes with spinach and fish with a crispy coating from the oven.

"Maybe also tell him not to put any metal in a microwave either," I add. "Like canned beans."

She sends me a smile, a rare dimpled one that makes her eyes light up. "I will. I'll miss you, Bella."

Her unexpectedly sincere words take me off guard and for a moment, I don't know how to respond. "I'll miss you, too," I reply finally, and I mean it.

"We'll come visit during the holidays, obviously," Rosalie says. "And we can Skype?"

"I'd like that."

Rosalie has shown before that she accepts me and she has a fierce protective streak for every member of the family, but to hear her admit she actually likes my company and that she will miss me catches me off guard. I'm so used to being disposable I never realized that there actually are people around who like me for me.

It's still such an alien concept.

Her hands still, and I can tell she's searching for the right words. "I hope you'll start feeling better soon," she says then. "I felt down for such a long time, but it's better now. But I want you to know that I know it's not just a matter of keeping your chin up and putting your back into it. Depression is a treacherous animal."

"I…" I start, but I don't know what else to say. Is this what is happening? Am I depressed?

"It's okay," she soothes when I stay silent for too long. "You're going to be fine. All you have to do right now is get through the next hour, and the next and the next. And maybe figure out what makes you less sad and do that."

That… sounds doable.

"And discuss it with your therapist, obviously," she adds like an afterthought. "Mom and dad worry about you, you know."

"They don't have to," I say, too quickly. I don't want to be a burden to them.

"That's what they're parents for," Rosalie says easily, and when she smiles I'm blinded by her beauty. "It's what happens when you love someone."

She smiles knowingly when I stay quiet, flushed and awkward, and we finish dinner in a companionable silence that I will miss when she is gone.

Later, Rosalie glows with pride when Carlisle and Esme taste the food and praise her cooking skills. She tries to brush it off to my assistance, but I insist that it was all her. I only prevented her from undercooking the potatoes and I mashed them for her so that she could finish the sauce for the fish.

"Where did you learn how to cook like this, Bella?" Carlisle asks. "I don't remember if we ever asked you."

I shrug, suddenly shy as four pairs of eyes shift over to me at the table. "I used to read a lot. I stayed at the library and read. Then, when I was out of novels, the library lady wouldn't let me move on to the books for grown ups. I found cook books instead. At first I just looked at the pretty pictures of food, because I was hungry all the time. I started memorizing the recipes for when I grew up and would have the money to buy the ingredients. I guess some of that stuck. Also, if I didn't cook, I didn't eat, so."

I don't think I've ever said so many words in one go with Carlisle present, and the way he is beaming at me tells me he's noticed it, too.

"You could consider culinary school," he muses. "If you find joy in cooking."

"Cullen-ary school?" Alice jokes, evoking laughter from everyone.

I shake my head. "I don't know yet. But I don't want to cook for a living."

I want to write. I used to make up stories. Maybe I could try that again. But writing won't be enough to make a living, unless I'm the next JK Rowling which I am obviously not. I'll probably choose something with numbers because I'm good at math. Also, those kinds of jobs don't necessarily need me to be social. I see no disadvantage there.

After dinner, we watch some game show and another random program and I keep nodding off until Esme gently comments that I look beat. Even with a sleeping pill, I'm not looking forward to going to bed.

Edward comes up with me while I take a quick shower. I'm taking the sleeping pill tonight. I'd hoped to put it off longer but the bags under my eyes have started to get a purple hue and I'm just drained.

When I come back out of the bathroom, Edward's on my bed, Wisp on his chest. I've told him already I'd like to sleep alone - with the heavy, medication induced sleep I want my own space to recuperate, and he says he understands.

I know he doesn't, not really. He's told me he sleeps better when he's with me and I believe that. But I need to find - and establish - my own boundaries here, too. It's a wonderful thing that he never questions them. He just listens. It would be easy to take advantage of, I think.

It's when I am lying with him, my head tucked into the hollow of his neck, his elegant fingers toying with mine, that he speaks.

"Why do you shower in the dark?"

I freeze.

"You noticed?"

"A couple times, yeah, and just now again. Why's that? It must be inconvenient not to see anything?"

I blow out my breath, taking a moment to think.

"I hate looking at myself," I finally say. "It feels safer when I can't see."

I sense him tense up and expect him to say something about it, but for once he keeps silent and buries his nose in my hair.

"How long before the sleeping pill starts working?" he asks after a while.

"Half an hour. So maybe fifteen minutes, now." I'm looking forward to shutting out the world for a while. Especially in a way that keeps the dreams away as well.

Edward kisses the top of my head and slides out of the bed. "I'll leave you then."

"I'm sorry," I blurt out when he's almost at the door.

He turns, a surprised look on his face. "For what?"

"For… this," I say, gesturing vaguely. "I feel like I'm leaving you out in the cold when we'd only just started to find each other."

Edward thinks for a moment, then sits back on the bed and takes my hand. "It's not easy," he admits. "But I told you I love you, and I meant that. It's unconditional. I knew you inside and out and still I fell for you. I never thought it was going to be smooth sailing. You're not shutting me out."

He's very generous to say this, because I am asking him to leave when we've spent so many nights together already. I am, by definition, shutting him out.

"Aren't you going to get tired of this?" I ask, trying and failing to sound teasing.

He shrugs. "Can't see that I will, but if something bothers me I'll let you know, all right?"

I chew my lip, mulling over his words. "You don't want… More?"

"More what?" he asks. He sounds genuinely confused.

"More… I don't know. Intimacy. Um. Sex?"

He smiles at that, and even in the dimly lit room I can see a blush darkening his cheeks. "Intimacy, yes. I love being close to you. But. We can figure it out together when we're good and ready."

His words put me at ease, and I think I smile at him, but my brain is already starting to get fuzzy around the edges so I'm not sure.

"You look ready to conk out," Edward says, interrupting my thoughts. His voice is fond. "Go to sleep, sweetheart. I'll see you in the morning, yeah?"

I nod and close my eyes when Edward kisses my forehead.

"I love you," he whispers as I drift off. "Don't you ever forget that."

~O~

The sun is out the next day, and we end up going to the pond close to the house. I am wearing a bikini underneath my clothes, courtesy of Alice, but I am also wearing shorts and flip-flops which is such a huge accomplishment for me that even Emmett has to do a double take when he sees me coming down the stairs.

I think it's the remnants of the sleeping pill. It makes me worry not so much, like everything that usually feel overwhelming now only reaches me from a distance.

We laugh and I watch as the girls play catch. Jasper has looked up a video on youtube on the basics of juggling and he brought three small balls with him to try it out. Emmett is going out of his way to distract him. Edward is reading a book. Some sort of detective novel, by the looks of it.

It's a relaxing day, and we're all rosy from the sun when we go back home for dinner.

If this were a movie, ominous music would start playing in the background right about now.

But in the house, nothing can be heard except from the radio, and I shake off my feeling of foreboding when Jasper asks us to play Scrabble. Emmett and Rosalie have gone upstairs to finish packing and preparing.

Esme opts out of playing, preferring to watch some talk show that's on tv. I let Jasper convince me to play and before long I'm drawn into the game entirely.

"Snutch isn't a word," Carlisle protests, halfway through our second game.

"Yes it is," Jasper exclaims. "It's past tense of snatch."

"Use it in a sentence then," Carlisle counters.

"I snutch my camera on my way out."

"Isn't that supposed to be 'snatched', sweetie?" Alice interjects quietly.

Jasper huffs. "I thought you were supposed to be on my side unconditionally." There's no venom in his words though, and there's mirth in his eyes when he takes the tiles back off the board.

I like their banter. I like how they can call each other out teasingly. I like how Carlisle doesn't lose his shit when something happens he doesn't like. I'm currently leading by 48 points and I don't even feel bad about it.

Edward and I share a rack, but so far he's been content just sitting next to me and letting me play.

Jasper ends up laying 'lush' for 9 points.

I use his 's' to lay out 'sneaker' with triple word score, adding up to 36 points.

"Jesus," Jasper mutters.

Carlisle just smiles and adds up my tally. "Jesus wore sandals, I believe," he says dryly. I grin at his lame joke and his smile is then directed at me, so warm and fond that I can't look away for a moment.

I can feel Edward beaming with pride next to me.

I bow out after winning that second game. My head is tired and I just want to sit back and watch them.

Alice has Wisp on her lap, and she plays with the kitten while she plays the game. Edward is now playing alone, although I do help him once or twice to spot an opportunity he didn't see, winning him some points.

Jasper spells 'hyena' and lets out a victorious roar when he hits a triple word score with it. Alice manages to spell 'fabric' which doesn't get her a lot of points but which is a word that suits her so well she's proud of it anyway.

Carlisle annoys them by spelling Latin words he knows from his medical expertise, until Jasper gets out the rules and tells him with exaggerated arrogance that only English words are allowed.

I like seeing them so carefree and I wonder what my life would've been like if I hadn't had such misery for so many years. Would I have been able to enjoy a game like this? Would I have had clear eyes, a ready smile, and would I be okay sitting with my back to the room instead of being close to a wall? It must be so nice, I muse, to be so unblemished and naive.

I like seeing them play like this, though. I like that they are so at ease around me and that I'm welcome to just be here, even if I can't always join them. Like Eeyore from Winnie the Pooh, they keep inviting me along even if I don't always have a sunshine mood.

It's a stark contrast to when I just got here, when I was listening in my room through a crack in the door to the family who was playing a board game, hearing their roaring laughter and exclamations of fun, and I felt so cut off from that world, unable to ever join it.

I'm here now, and even if their happiness still seems lightyears removed from me, at least I can bask in their glow a little.

"I want Bella on my team for the next one," Jasper announces when he's lost spectacularly for the third time.

"That's not fair," Alice pouts.

"Next time I'll help you," I promise her. "But you're really very good already."

Alice beams at that and hugs Wisp in response. The kitten is happy sitting with her, toying with Alice's fingers. She's so playful, the whole world must feel like one big adventure to her.

"This is the last one," Carlisle announces. "At least for me. Early day tomorrow."

"Still so busy at work, dad?" Jasper asks.

"Sorry son. I hope it'll ease up at some point."

Carlisle sends me a meaningful look. I haven't told the others about what Carlisle confided in me. About his job, about his second-in-command having betrayed him. I wonder why it's all taking so long and what the consequences might be. I don't dare ask.

I shake my head to clear my thoughts and change seats so I can sit next to Jasper. It's weird to be so close to him, so suddenly, but I'm across from Edward now and every time he looks up he catches my gaze with his soulful eyes and it lifts me up.

"Wait, wha-" Alice protests. She scoots her chair back to look under the table and glares at Edward. "Wrong feet, brother."

"D'oh!" Jasper exclaims while Edward's jaw drops in surprise and he looks mortified.

"No funny business under the table," Carlisle warns, but he can barely contain his laughter.

Edward's going to be hearing for a long time about how he tried play to footsie with the wrong set of feet, I'm sure. His blush takes a hilariously long time to die down.

As we play and I help Jasper out, carefully rearranging the tiles so that he can spot his options better, I realize it becomes less awkward to be so close to him. It helps that he's mostly tuned in to Alice at all times, thus keeping turned away from me somewhat. I don't think it's something he does on purpose. Like Edward with me, he just seems aware of Alice at all possible times.

I help him spell 'qat' to get rid of his q, and a strategically placed 'knows' helps boost his points. I congratulate him when he manages to place 'joe' with the J on a triple letter score without my help, and he beams at me.

He doesn't win, but not for lack of our combined effort. Alice was lucky with two bingos and she's gorgeous when she smiles, her happiness evident.

"I want to go to First Beach tomorrow," Jasper announces as they put the game back in the box. "The weather'll be nice enough."

"Shall I join you?" Edward asks. "I'd like to see the ocean."

"Yes, awesome," Jasper says. "Your car or mine?"

"Take Edward's car," Alice interjects. "In case I want to go somewhere."

Carlisle gets up to use the bathroom and I'm just about to go to my room as well, when Jasper suddenly turns to me. "Do you drive?"

I shake my head.

"You never learned?" Jasper asks, just to clarify. His surprise is evident.

I want to say something snarky, like Stefan was busy 'teaching' me other things than something useful like driving, but I hold my tongue. Jasper can't possibly be blamed for not understanding.

"No," I end up saying.

"Would you like to?"

"Uh," I hedge. His question is unexpected but not unwelcome. I just never really considered it, thinking it would be a hassle and then some to get a license.

"See, you're almost 18 right? So once you're an adult you don't even need an instruction permit before you apply for a test. You just have to do the written exam and the drive test."

"And actually learn how to drive," I add. Where is he going with this? "Wouldn't I need lessons for that?"

With an instructor. A stranger who'd be in a small, confined space with me.

No, thanks.

"We can teach you," Jasper says. He can barely contain his excitement. "We can practice here on the driveway."

"That wouldn't be enough to make you pass a test or actually prepare you to drive on real roads," Carlisle says as he comes back into the room. "But I think it's a great idea. You can start on the driveway. Do not, under any circumstance, go out on the main road."

"Obviously," Jasper says. "But she can get the basics to start with." He turns back to me. "Would you like that?"

I think about it. If I could manage to buy a car for myself, I'd have a lot more freedom of movement and I'd be able to leave the house on my own. Public transportation is not fantastic here, and it would mean I could go to horse therapy by myself, or even to Siobhan when that picks back up.

I smile. "Yes."

We agree on waiting a few days to start, since I'm still poorly from my week of interrupted sleep and poor eating.

It'll be an… experience to say the least to learn driving from Jasper, but even Carlisle agrees that Jasper will be a great teacher for me. And to be honest, I don't mind spending the time with him. He's been the most quiet of all the Cullens and yet he's been so generous and thoughtful towards me. It might help us bond a little.

Edward's over the moon with the prospect, although I do wonder if he's not a little jealous that it'll be Jasper teaching me instead of him. If he is, he doesn't let on, and it helps me relax about the idea even more.

Great strides, I think. But still, my earlier sense of foreboding doesn't leave me and it sticks with me during the night. I don't have continuous nightmares, even without a pill, for which I am grateful. Instead, I have weird, vivid dreams that wake me up several times, my brain scrambling to make sense of what's real and what was a figment of my imagination. Edward's there to soothe me back to sleep every time, but I am drained when I come down in the morning.

It's when Esme comes back inside after lunch, carrying the mail with an ashen face, that the other shoe suddenly drops.

"I'm so sorry Bella," she tells me. She's holding an envelope, the paper crumpled in her white-knuckled grip. "We just got a letter from our lawyer. It seems that Laurent has indeed been let out of jail."


Torn is 10 years old today!

Sorry to leave you with a cliffhanger. I'm going to try my level best to not keep you waiting so long for the next update.