Children are the only form of immortality that we can be sure of.
- Peter Ustinov
My phone was ringing. It was an omen; bad or good? I groggily looked at the alarm on my nightstand. 1 AM. It had been a couple of weeks since I had heard any news.
Jacob had come back and I had seen him, but he had been of no help. He didn't know what had become of Bella since he had left. There had been something new about him, a quality of weakness I had failed to notice before. He had shrunk in front of my inquisition, avoiding my eyes. I hadn't been there ever since – Billy kept on calling me, but I wasn't returning his calls.
"Charlie Swan," I answered the phone, feeling in my gut that very soon I would hear something bad. Something very bad. It could be a work call, but something told me that this was about Bella. A flash of scenarios ran through my head: Bella found dead in a gutter somewhere, her throat slashed open. Bella found after a car had hit her; dead within minutes. Bella found selling or buying drugs, her arms full of bruises... Who knew?
"Hello, Charlie," I heard a voice. I recognized that voice, my God, did I recognize it. He wouldn't call me unless it was about Bella.
"Tell me," I said, my voice hoarse. I was waiting for the final blow; why wasn't he telling me? Why was he always so polite, never in a hurry? So composed? Why couldn't he just blurt out what he had called me to say and get it over with? I wanted to kill him, right there and then. Unless he had found her alive and well; in which case I would let him make babies with her and name their firstborn son after him.
"I have found her. "
"And?" I prompted him, my blood racing, my heart beating. "Is she all right?"
A moment of silence, a heartbeat of pain.
"Yes. She is."
I buried my head in my hands and cried in silence, forceful spasms taking over my body as I wept into the phone and tried to muffle my teary sobs from his ears. And he was quiet for a very long time, as if he somehow knew what was happening, thousands of miles away.
As if he knew everything.
"She seems to have trouble remembering… things." He continued after my muffled sobs had ended. "We are not certain, but it seems like she has some kind of a concussion – but we don't know how it originated."
Does she remember me? I wanted to ask him, but I don't. And then: does she remember you?
In the morning I called the Seattle airport and ordered myself a ticket to Phoenix. I also called Renée.
"Hello, you have tried to contact me! Well, I guess you knew that already. Just leave a message and I'll get back to you as soon as I remember!" Her answering machine greeted me cheerfully. It had been recorded years ago: at a time when I still occasionally called her number from an anonymous number just to hear her voice, just to remember better times.
"Hello, Renée. It's me. .. Charlie" I decide to add after a moment of hesitating. "I'm just calling you to… well, we have found Bella. She's in Phoenix, apparently in a hospital. But she's supposedly fine. I am coming there to see her. I will land tonight at seven thirty. Call me, bye."
My flight landed in Phoenix a little late from schedule. When I opened my phone I had received several calls and messages from Renée, who was ecstatic, weepy, over-joyed and dubious, all at once. She told me to come to her house. I called her and told her I would come there later; I wanted to see Bella before. She insisted on coming with me, but I told her she should come tomorrow instead. It was selfish of me, but I couldn't imagine carrying the weight of her mood-swings when my own mind was in such turmoil. Renée started crying on the phone; she had been drinking, I could tell.
"My baby girl, Charlie! I have been so worried. No, you're right, I shouldn't come in such a state, I don't want her to see me like this. No, no, I have to come! What kind of a mother would I be , not coming?" and she started crying even harder. I heard a man's voice from the background. She said something back at him, and then there was a moment of silence.
"Uh, hello, Charlie. This is Phil speaking." I froze: I had never spoken with him before. A bunch of emotions took over me for a moment. Anger. Pain. Loss. I suddenly remembered Renée on the first evening after we had moved in to our house in Forks. She had painted the kitchen cupboards yellow. And after that she had turned toward me, with a big smile on her face and said:
"I intend to get very wasted tonight. And then I intend to make love to you in every room of the house!"
"Hello," I managed to say. My voice sounded flat. Had Renée said something like that to this guy, when they had moved in together?
"I would just like to say that I'm really glad you found Bella. I mean, I'm not trying to be a father to her or anything – "
as if you could, I'm thinking. You're only twelve years older than she is.
"- but I really loved that girl, and Renée and I have been very worried… anyway, Renée is not in the best of shape right now, so perhaps we could visit Bella tomorrow and you could come stay at our place tonight and tell us everything?"
Was he kidding? Me, staying over at their place? What was wrong with this guy?
"Sure," I heard myself agreeing.
Phil sounded very relieved. Then I talked some more with Renée, already stepping into a cab and giving the driver the address Cullen has given me earlier. She had seemed to calm down a little, and agreed with me that she should wait till she's sober to see Bella. I affirmed my promise of coming over and staying at their place for tonight. It felt tiresome to talk with Renée; there were too many worries in my head tonight. I felt out of place here in Phoenix. It was too hot, too dry. There were too many big roads and too many cars.
After finishing the phone call I sat quietly for a long time, leaning my forehead against the chilly window. The a/c was blazing, and I was shivering. I was shaken out of my thoughts when the driver pulled in front of a building.
"We're here," he said. I looked up at him, surprised.
"What do you mean, we're here?" I asked.
"I mean: we're here," he repeated and looked at me strangely from the rear mirror.
"But I thought we were going to a hospital," I told him. He shrugged.
"This is the address."
What could I do but to get out of the car? I am left standing there with my suit case. I dug out my cell phone and chose Cullen's number.
"Hello, Charlie," he answered after just one ring, his voice politely pleasant and composed.
"What the hell is this?" I replied, equally polite. "I thought she was in a hospital?"
"Oh no, she's staying in our apartment. There was no need for a hospital – we had my father have a look at her. She was fine, perfectly fine. "
Apart from not remembering stuff, I added in my mind. I tried to think back – I was certain I had understood she was in a hospital. But what did it matter, really? If she was fine enough to not require hospital care, the better for her.
"All right. I am outside of the building right now."
"I know," he reassured me. "The guard will let you in when you tell your name. Nineteenth floor; second door to the left."
I went in, irritated. The guard nodded me in, scanning me from head to toe. I suddenly felt like I should've dressed up, or something. Ridiculous. It might've been posh, but I didn't approve of buildings with uniformed guards and wide lobbies and marble floors. They made me feel shabby. I was missing my home in Forks already. I liked its worn-out shabbiness, and the old feeling of it. I missed my kitchen with the yellow cupboards.
The elevator lifted me up smoothly. The nineteenth floor had expensive-looking cream-coloured carpeting and dark wooden doors. There were four doors, two on each side of the elevator, and I had forgotten the directions Cullen had given me on the phone. Had it been the second door on the right? There were no names on the doors, but I didn't need to hesitate long; as I was standing there a door on the left was thrown open and somebody ran against me, hugging me.
"Alice!" I exclaimed, surprised, but pleased. I hadn't expected her to be here.
"Charlie! It's so good to see you!" She chirped, smiling up at me. I couldn't help but to notice that she looked just as pretty as she had the last time I had seen her. And exactly the same; I could've sworn not one day had passed since I had last seen her.
"Come in, Bella's dying to meet you!" She continued, leading me towards the door before I had the time to catch my breath and get over the shock of seeing her. She pushed me through the door and closed it behind me.
It was beautiful inside the apartment. Not my style, but still: everything was design. Not in a flashy way, but in a "I-have-money-so-I-have-no-reason-to-not-buy-the-best-and-even-though-it-might-not-look-like-it-just-that-mirror-on-the-wall-alone-cost-7000-dollars"- kind of way. Very smooth lines and carefully chosen items decorated the hallway. However, it was a little dark inside the apartment, I noticed. I squinted my eyes.
"Could we put some more light on?" I asked her.
"Um, sorry, no. Ah, we have some… problems with the lights." She gave a little laugh. "We've already called somebody to come and fix them, but it might take till tomorrow… or the day after."
Bizarre. All this money, and they can't get somebody to come and change a couple of light bulbs. I shook my head.
"Dad?" I heard a voice from the living room. It's all I can do to not rush inside. It was Bella – she was really here! And expecting me!
Alice nodded to me in encouragement and gave me a little nudge. "She's been expecting you."
She accompanied me to the door. I held my breath, turning over the corner. I saw Cullen first – his face was towards me. He was holding his hands around Bella, who stood with her back towards me, her head against his shoulder. I stopped; the scene was somehow very intimate. I felt like an intruder. And there was something about it that I didn't really understand – the way Cullen was holding her. He wasn't just holding her – he was grasping her against himself, as if afraid she might at any moment run away from him. I gave him a murky glance – she should be running away from him. He had treated her like shit. He looked up at me, as if reading my thoughts. His eyes were penetrating, unreadable.
"Charlie," he nodded, a hint of reservation in the tone of his voice.
"Edward," I replied.
I avoided his gaze and looked at Bella instead. Cullen looked at her, too, with a gentle look on his face. It looked as if he was giving her a brief nod. Then he looked at Alice – something that I couldn't quite read seemed to pass between them. And then Edward suddenly let go of the clutch around Bella and taking her hand into his instead, giving her a smile and another small nod. Or was I just imagining things?
"Bella?" I asked, my throat dry.
Upon hearing my voice – as if she would've been waiting for it this entire time - Bella turned towards me, with a smile on her lips, and I felt my eyes widen in shock.
What have they done to you?
A/N: What has happened to Bella, hmm?
To be updated shortly….: -) please remember to leave a review! Perhaps it will motivate me to write quicker ;-p