"It is said, Percy, that civilised man seeks out good and intelligent company, so that through learned discourse he may rise above the savage and closer to God."
"Yes, I've heard that."
"Personally, however, I like to start the day with a total dickhead to remind me I'm best!"
— Blackadder II, Beer
I believe it was Kate Winslet, who, once in an interview, admitted to having been concerned about putting on a bra when the house she was in caught fire. I found it amusing if peculiar that such a thought would occur when your life is in danger. Because how hard is it, really, to have a reaction adequate to the situation? To be quick? To do the right thing?
Dad taught me to be that person, the one who keeps a clear head, the one who acts responsibly and quickly. (Imagine that, Emmett.) Unfortunately, however—and I don't think anyone will like the truth—you can only control your reaction so much before shock or panic takes over. As much as I admire the people capable of an adequate reaction and as desperate as I am to be the hero in every situation, there is only so much I can control.
When faced with a gruesome situation, don't we all imagine ourselves to be capable of staying level headed?
We do, don't we. I did. But you'll never really know how you'll react before the situation, even if you've learned and practiced the best way to act; in case of an emergency on an airplane, in case of fire, in case of drowning, in case of choking on a piece of meat. You know what to do, don't you, Emmett. And you never think of yourself as the one to scream or cry or freeze, incapable of coherent action. You never do. Because you want to be a hero, at least in your mind, and until you've been in that situation that defines your limits, you'll continue to believe you'd be the hero. Until you are not.
Edward tells me that when he arrived home at 01:30 AM, all the lights were on: kitchen, living room, hallways. That means that at one point or another, I had to have walked through the entire house, switching the lights on. I can't recall this. I vaguely remember seeing Edward's pale face through the bathroom's open door as I sit in my blood-soaked pajamas under a freezing shower.
Edward runs to me, presses a warm palm against my cheek, neck, chest. He checks my pulse. I think I motion at my room because he runs out only to reappear even paler with a phone in his hands, talking quietly and urgently before disconnecting. He turns off the shower. I observe my pruney, numb fingers, gaze up at Edward, stand, and press myself against the wall. I start the shower and step under the freezing water. I stare at him as he talks, soothing words and tender voice, arms open for me, coaxing me to get out. He later told me I fought him, but I can't remember.
I do remember him stepping into the freezing shower fully clothed, getting soaked.
He tells me that by the time the police and ambulance arrived, he'd managed to calm me down, just enough for me to agree to turn off the shower. I can't remember. I remember clinging to him, wet clothes and all, soaking in his warmth. He keeps whispering against my ear, and even though it's distant and incomprehensible, I bathe in his voice. Ambulance arrives. Police does, too. Edward wraps me in a towel before I talk to both—or so Edward says—but I don't make much sense. I can't remember. For some reason, they keep telling me that nobody blames me, that nothing will happen to me because it was clearly self-defense.
I don't know what they're talking about.
Edward tells me that after examining me, the paramedics want to take me to the hospital. I, apparently, refuse—again, I can't remember—and after coaxing for ten minutes with no results, they agree to let me stay with the promise that Edward won't leave my side until Carlisle arrives home. I sit there, staring at them as Edward talks to the paramedics (he knows one of them) and the police. I don't understand much.
After they leave, Edward wraps me in another towel, makes me lie on his bed and sits beside me. Stroking my hair, he takes a deep breath and takes out his phone.
"Come home," he says, quietly, not looking at me. "Well, I don't give a fuck. Bella shot John Newton." He pauses. "Yeah, that got your attention—how should I know? Just come here." Another pause. "I know. I've been volunteering almost as long as you've been working. I know. Shivers, vomiting, cold sweat. She's—in shock. I know. I know. Just—come here."
It's like he's speaking into a long, metal pipe that ends somewhere in another room. I'm starting to comprehend his words, but the volume plays tricks on me, it goes up and down and up again, emphasizing awkward syllables and making him sound strange. He disconnects and leans over me, running his hands through my hair. I find myself looking into his worried eyes before he lies down beside me and wraps both of his arms around the towel I'm in. I feel his weight on my side as he strokes my waist and breathes on my neck.
"Please, please be alright."
I feel my teeth shattering. He's warm, his legs and neck and ears. He's so warm.
"I—I just want to scrub it off."
He later told me that that's the first time (since he arrived home) I actually sound like myself.
Edward (still in wet clothes) guides me to the bathroom, unwraps the towels from around me and steps into the shower. He tells me it's lukewarm. It feels hot. He unties my elastic corset, wraps his fingers around the edge of my blood-soaked T-shirt, pulls it over my head, and helps me out of my shorts. I struggle with my bra, but Edward takes it off, and so I stand in front of him in my worn Sponge Bob boy shorts and nothing else. He eyes my face as I pull his own T-shirt over his head. He lets me. I unbutton his soaked jeans and he steps out of them. It's only when I let my fingers linger under the edge of his boxer briefs, only a little, that he wraps his around my wrists. I stroke his skin.
Not taking eyes off my face, he takes a step closer, runs his fingers over my cheek and tilts my head back. Water falls on my forehead, splashing on his forearms as we stand there, mouths agape, eyeing each other's faces. I run my palm across his stomach and chest. He's sporty and lean with long, almost gangly limbs. Darkish hair forms a line in the middle of his stomach, but his chest is almost hair-free. He shuts his eyes, sighing as I stroke and rub his skin. He keeps his arms to himself as I discover his body, innocent as I am, running my hands across his skin, his hairy forearms and protruding Adam's apple. He's warm. He's so warm.
I stroke his love handles and press my lips against his chest. I kiss the rough skin of his jaw and linger, sucking a little. His chest grumbles, but he does not move. It's only when I run my palms up and down his sides and kiss him full on the mouth, desperate and urgent, that he opens his eyes. He gives me a look filled with concern and wonder and truth, green irises under wide eyebrows, and rests his forehead against mine.
"Please," I say, raising myself on my tiptoes, kissing his neck.
His arms stay limp on his side when he leans closer and breathes on my ear. "Discover me," he whispers, his voice low. "Discover me."
In my confused haze, I figure this is guy-talk for, you know, and desperate to prove him I'm worthy, I slip my hand lower on his stomach, and manage to only graze under the material of his boxer briefs when his fingers lock around my wrist. I look up, and his jaw is clenched. Eyes filled with pain.
"No," he says. "Not like that. Not now." He guides my hands upwards. "Make yourself comfortable with me. Like you did before." He presses a warm, wet kiss on my lips, lingers just a bit, and closes his eyes—again, standing in front of me with his hands on his sides, letting me continue my silly discovery of the male physique. I know he's offering a distraction. I take it.
I find so much affection in his offer I find my loofah, pour body wash on it, and start covering him in foam. I rub him, shoulders, chest, stomach and legs, as he stands in front of me, arms on his sides but fists clenched. I step closer, so close our chests are touching, and continue washing his back with my arms wrapped around him. It's almost like I'm hugging him but not quite, and even as I'd noticed I had an effect on him, I didn't expect him to lift me up in his arms and wrap my legs around him as he supports my back with his hands.
"Lord help me."
He grinds against me (groans) and starts sucking on my neck. My back aches. A dull but distinguished ache. I run my hands over his biceps, and, new to this intensity, I try not to feel inadequate as I lower myself against him. It feels new and intimate. I turn his face to press my lips against his, and it's desperate, wet, filled with nipping each other's lips and touching tongues. It's not ideal, the way Edward's foot keeps slipping and the cold wall against my back, but his desire (like my own) is so new for me that I, for the first time, imagine what it would be like to take the next step. With Edward. He'd take care of me. I feel like I need this proximity, and not just how good it feels—because boy, does it ever—but the intimacy. The trust.
Our kisses grow more intense, and with Edward supporting my back and butt, (slippery) fingers digging into my skin, we start to reach an awkward rhythm. His skin is wet, he smells like soap, and he lets out a groan when my lips trail a pattern toward his neck. He pulls my lips to his, humming, biting my upper lip.
Edward pants against my nose, and slowly, very slowly places me on the ground but does not let go of me. He hides his face in my neck.
"Give us a moment," he says.
"Where are you?"
"Just give us a moment!"
As I start to shiver, Edward guides me under the warm shower. He envelops me into a hug, a wet, warm hug, and as my brain is switched on, I realize I'm pressed against him, non-existent breasts and all, in my old, soaked underwear, with an aching back. He nuzzles my ear, squeezing me.
"I'm sorry," he mutters, panting. "I am—so sorry."
"You killed my loofah," I say, not entirely sure why he's apologizing as I make him lift his foot. I squeeze body wash on my loofah, and with my heart in my throat, with quivering hands I hold it out to him, hoping he'll recognize the gesture. But he stares at it, hesitating. Immediately, I lower my hand, press my lips in a line and avoid his eyes. I blink. I gulp.
"It's—okay," I hear myself say, fragile, tiny voice directed at my loofah. Suddenly, I feel naked in front of him; raw, unpolished and so very naïve. I let go of his forearm and grip my elbow to cover myself up. My loofah falls. I step back.
"Bella," he says, eyes flickering between the turquoise foam ball and my eyes.
"Bella," he repeats, voice torn and step hesitant.
"It's fucking okay, okay?! I'm fine!"
I manage to step out of the shower just before two strong arms wrap around me, pulling me back against him. His warm hands stroke either side of my waist as he presses my back against his chest, resting his jaw next to my neck. "Shh."
"You don't want to and that's okay. You've seen better, anyway. It's fine."
"I said it's fine! I'm fine. You said I wear pink glasses, and you were right. But I—I don't want you to think I'm ugly and underdeveloped and shit, and now you do. Why else would you not want to—it was silly, anyway. Forget it."
"Stop it. It's nothing short of what I know about life."
My voice is breathy and so hollow that I start to cry even listening to it, the weakness it contains, yet my face is already wet, so if it weren't for my uneven breaths, you couldn't tell I'm crying. But Edward can. He steps back and pulls me with him, back under the warm shower. He holds me tight against him and starts to sway, back and forth. "Shh."
"Edward? Bella? Are you alright?"
"Fine, dad," Edward says, only slightly raising his voice. "Give us a moment."
"You—you don't want to, Edward." My voice breaks. "And that's fine. Just—can you just, for once, pretend I'm like them? That you—that you don't mind I'm—that I'm—"
"That you're what?" he asks gently. "What?"
"Stop being so nice to me!"
He squeezes my sides, stroking my skin with his thumb as I hold my arms in front of my chest, hiding his view. I can feel his breath on my skin. "Shh."
"I hate you."
"Do you now?"
Nuzzling my neck, he kisses it, and his touch is so feather-like it tickles. "That's too bad," he whispers, squeezing me. "Because I love you." He lifts the loofah, steps around me, close enough to rest his elbows on my shoulders, and makes eye contact. For an entire minute, he brushes his lips against my forehead as if he intends to speak but cannot. I slide my palms back and forth across his back, feeling the warmth and exhilaration of being close to Edward like this. My breathing calms.
"Don't assume a cause for my reaction that most suits with your perception of yourself."
With that, he pours shampoo (his, not mine) on his palm, takes his time washing my hair and scrubs me with my loofah, all gentle hands covered in foam and eyes barely leaving mine. His touch lingers on my ribs as he asks permission, and when I nod, he leans into a kiss as he rubs slow circles my chest. I shiver, and Edward's eyes smile, twinkling, like he's happy to have elicited the reaction. Yet he holds my gaze.
"I'll get you some dry clothes."
When he returns, his eyes fix on the top of the drier as he places clothes on it, and when I notice his red ears, I'm sure he caught a glimpse of my naked butt. He clears his throat. "Do you want me to help you?"
I dry myself. Edward stands back turned to me as I step into my boy shorts. I hold a tube in front of his face before I turn my back on him. He massages the cold content on my scar (it's tender), wraps his arm around me, and breathes a kiss on my neck as he covers the scar on my upper stomach.
I turn and envelop him into an all-consuming, bone-crushing hug. There's so much I want to tell him, but I don't trust myself to do it now. Everything is too intense.
"I'm sorry," I whisper. He squeezes me back, and I hide my face against his neck and chest. He places his jaw on top of my head.
"Do you always wear panties with cartoon characters?"
"Unless it's a picture of you."
His chest shakes. "I found nothing but pantyhose in your closet, so I brought you my pajama pants."
"Are you alright?"
"You're here." I pull back and attempt a smile. "That's enough."
His eyes smile. I lower my eyes and draw a pattern on his damp chest. I want to tell him he's amazing, I want to apologize for my behavior, I want to tell him he's the best thing that's ever happened to me, that I'm sorry for assuming shit, that he's incredible and I love him.
"It's okay," he says, kissing my forehead. "Not tonight. We've got time."
Drowning in Edward's grey pajama pants and a T-shirt that's a bit too wide but not too long (I ditched my elastic corset because it's soaking wet), I step into the parlor. Carlisle is resting his elbows on his knees, talking quietly to Esme who has her legs pulled up on the couch as she leans against him. She jumps when I clear my throat.
I wrap my arms around my stomach after I realize they're shaking. I don't feel well.
Carlisle asks me to lie on Edward's bed as he asks questions and checks over me, but all I can do is observe him, trying to figure out why he is the way he is. I watch him, his lean build and fair hair, his professional demeanor. He doesn't mention what I heard on Friday and I don't bring it up.
He ends a call to a fellow doctor before sitting beside me.
"Do you want Charlie to be here?"
I take a deep breath when I smooth over the T-shirt covering my stomach, and my first impulse is selfish.
He nods. "I'll call him."
"No—I want to. In the morning. I don't want to freak him out."
"Alright. I'll call Froula Alarm first thing in the morning. They've got a lot to answer to. Wake us if you need anything."
He stands up, hesitates, and I think I see a flash of guilt in his eyes. It seems he's about to say something, but he simply offers a good night before leaving. I crawl under Edward's covers, and not long after, Edward switches off the lights and joins me. He slides so close he's able to intertwine our legs and presses me tightly against him in a horizontal hug. I lift an arm to touch his and leave the other one on the pillow. I draw patterns on his jaw.
"Are you cold?" he whispers.
He pulls the blanket so that it's snug against me.
"I didn't mean it."
I press my lips against his and whisper, "I love you."
His eyes soften. "I know."
I leave my face so close to his I expect him to get uncomfortable, but he doesn't move.
"Do you think you'll be able to sleep? I can get you some sleeping pills."
"I'll try. No pills," I reply, and leave him with a whisper of a kiss. "Good night, Edward."
He smiles under my lips, and snuggles even closer. "Sweet dreams, my love."
Wee hours into the morning, I wake up dizzy and disorientated. I'm barely able to tear myself from Edward's arms before I crawl in the bathroom and vomit. I spend my time staring at the shower curtain before retching again. Later, when I start to feel humane, I brush my teeth and slide down on the cold wall, bending my legs as I hide my head between my knees. I listen to the sounds of an undisturbed house. It's quiet.
I come to when Edward runs his hand through my hair, crouching beside me, looking disarrayed and sleepy. He presses his palm flat against my cheek. It's warm and filled with concern.
"We should get you to the hospital."
"It's just shock or stress or whatever." I attempt a smile. "I'm fine. Your dad is here."
"My dad is too blinded by what others think of him to realize how serious this is," he says. "He's a cardiac surgeon. As skilled as he is at what he does, he's no psychologist. You need professional help."
He presses his lips in a thin line. My face crumples as shock or stress or pain or exhaustion, whatever it is, finally finds its way out and my throat closes up. I fight tears.
"Scoot over," Edward says, and sits behind me so that his legs are stretched out on either side of mine, hands on my knees. "Do you feel nauseated?" he asks. I shake my head and he pulls me to rest my back against his chest. My hand shakes as I cover my eyes and crouch.
"Make it stop," I whimper, voice high and unlike me. "Please. Make it stop."
He brushes his lips against my neck, and I wish he'd scream and shout so that I could argue, but he doesn't so I can't. He holds me as I start shaking from crying, silent sobs between sharp, erratic breaths.
"Please," I whisper. "I don't want to do this anymore. It's too—too much. I don't—want this. I can't."
"You can." His breath warms my ear. "You have and you will."
"But I can't. I just want to get off. I want life back to the way it was—before, when I thought I was fine, when I thought I knew my parents or yours or—or when Eric was just my harmless fellow torture-buddy. Or when Mr. Newton—when he—"
My sobs grow silent, and I cry and rub my eyes until there are no more tears left to cry. I can feel Edward's steady heartbeat, but mine is quick. I take a deep, almost even breath.
"I didn't kill him."
"I didn't kill him, John Newton. He—he came and—and shot Ping Pong, and then he wanted to—to shoot me, but—but he didn't."
"He shot himself?"
"He came here to kill you but shot himself instead?"
"But I thought—"
"No, it was him. You'll see it from the fingerprints if he, I don't know. I never—I couldn't have."
His exhaled breath tickles my neck.
"Ping Pong," I whisper. "Is he—"
He slides his hands to my toes and up again before intertwining his fingers together, creating a cocoon around me. He squeezes.
"His heart stopped before the vet made it here."
"I'm afraid so."
I suck my lip tightly, painfully, so that I wouldn't cry, but I'm fooling myself; my throat closes up. "Would he have—uh, survived, if I'd—if I'd—"
"No," he says with confidence and speed that fails to fool me. My face scrunches up in a grimace, and, shivering, I take silent, desperate breaths. Edward keeps running his hands up and down my body, squeezing, stroking, sharing his warmth and hiding his face in the crook of my neck. God, Ping Pong, I'm so sorry. I'm so sorry, Ping Pong. You beautiful, protective soul. If I'd only been quicker.
He lets me wail, silently, not saying a word, just sitting there behind me pressed against me. When I've calmed somewhat, I bring his knuckles to my face and kiss them.
"Tell me how to help you," he says, voice pained but rough with sleep I didn't notice before.
That's exactly what he does when we spend the night sitting on the bathroom floor until he falls asleep, head leaning against mine, limbs wrapped around me. When I turn my head and kiss his nose, he squeezes me, humming. I feel the thump-thump, thump-thump of his heart, the incredible warmth of his body, and think of life.
If we are the sum of our memories and experiences, what has Edward gone through to make him the man he is? What was his childhood like? Does he remember anything before Esme and Carlisle? Does he let himself remember? Did he ever have a rough time at school for being grown-up next to others? Is he so desperate to be everything to everyone out of desire to belong? By pleasing everyone—including his father? And how in the world did he end up caring about me, that crazy girl he asked to sit next to in Biology?
November feels like light years away.
What made him the person he is? What would it be like to feel as much pressure as he seems to feel? Is that why he enjoys my company? Because I expected so little of our friendship? I still fear expecting anything long-term out of our relationship, but somehow, that's the kind of fear that hurts him.
And finally, how in the world am I able to put all this shit behind me?
"You forgot to lock the door?!"
Grimacing from back pain, I slide my feet on the floor. With my snail-paced footsteps, I walk to the doorway and lean on it.
"He just walked in here. No signs of breaking in, nothing. He just opened the front door and walked downstairs to kill Bella. You do realize how serious this is?"
Edward's face is ashen-hued.
"You forgot the alarm. You nearly got her killed."
His eyes land on anything but Carlisle. He staggers.
"I would've never expected you to behave so irresponsibly."
Edward opens his mouth, but no words get out. He looks horrified.
"You're grounded," Carlisle says. "Until the end of the school year."
Edward simply blinks at him, slowly. Once the color returns to his face, he lets out a maniac-sounding little laugh. "Yeah, fucking ground me. You're doing me a favor, really. I've heard colleges dig not having extra credits." He takes a step toward Carlisle, and I've never seen him look so dangerous. "And where, may I ask, were you last night?"
"As if you've had any night shifts on Saturdays since we moved here. You hate working on Saturday nights."
"There was an accident and I had to—"
"Blah, blah, blah. Prior to said accident, I bet you asked Dr. Harrison to switch shifts. Didn't you."
"You are not—"
"Edward," he warns.
"Fucking hell, dad! You're scared of solving issues with a seventeen year old girl. So much so that you'd ask to work a night shift when it's completely unnecessary. You're a fucking coward."
"I provide for this family," he says, tight-lipped.
"Oh? So you want me to contribute? Please hold on while I drop out of high school. There's no way in the fucking world I'd fit a job in with the schedule I have."
"It is your choice—"
"Is it now? Is it really? So you promise not to bitch and moan about every single fucking choice I make about my life? Let me just drop out of everything but studies. Since you wouldn't mind."
"I am not you, dad. I don't want to drink champagne at the golf club and boast about my kids and a new Hummer and pretend to give a shit about someone who bought a new villa. I don't want to keep up pretenses. Word to the wise, dad—nobody actually gives a shit."
Carlisle pauses, staring at Edward. "Is this about Bella?"
"No. You leave Bella out of it."
"You never used to—"
"I said," Edward hisses, stepping closer. "Leave her out of it."
"So if you hate extra-curriculars so much, why are you taking so many?
"To escape you! If I need to amputate my leg to stay alive, I will."
Carlisle's lips form a hard, thin line.
"So how do you suppose I should punish you?"
"Christ." Edward tears at his hair, eyes pained and jaw clenched as he lowers his head. "Really? You don't think this is gonna eat at me? You don't think that's fucking enough? I forget shit, alright. I forget my wallet at home, I forget textbooks. You know that. Do you really think punishing me for this is gonna change anything? Fuck."
"You need to realize that—"
"What's it going to help, dad?! Huh? I'm absent-minded. I always have been. You know that. I know that. And you can change it as much as I can. You can't."
"What do you suppose I do?"
"I don't know! Sue me, ground me, give me community service if you want to have illusions about your power over me. Make me volunteer every day until I graduate. But don't feel obliged. I'll be fucking guilt-ridden regardless."
Displeased, Carlisle stands still, looking up at his son. "You never used to…"
"What? Curse? Have the courage to tell you you're suffocating me? Accept that I'll be just fine if I decide not to go to college? What, dad? What?"
"Fuck statistics! Do you want to punish me by forcing me to believe I'll be nothing without ten plus years of medical school? Is that it? Why do you so desperately want me to live the life you're living? You love Esme to death, and you're not even fucking happy. You explain that to yourself."
Carlisle stares at him for a half a minute before turning to leave. "This conversation is not over."
The moment Carlisle is gone, Edward slumps on the couch, looking about as empty as a broken balloon. Quietly, I walk up to him and run my fingers through his hair. He looks up, exhaustion and pain in his eyes, and wordlessly links his fingers with mine. I sit beside him.
"Hey," I say, tilting his chin up. He looks at me. I attempt a smile. "You're a beautiful man, Edward." The edge of his mouth twitches, but only slightly. "And I don't mean just here." I trail a finger across his cheek. "But here." I press my palm flat against his chest.
"Now who's filled with cheese," he says and covers my hand with his. He looks down. "I forgot," he whispers, voice filled with anguish. "I fucking forgot."
"So I heard."
"I almost got you killed."
"Was he wearing gloves?"
"John Newton, was he wearing gloves?"
His tilts his head back to look at me. "I don't think so."
"Maybe—if he didn't even bother putting gloves on before coming here, maybe he was so beside himself he would've shot a window or the lock and come after me even if you'd remembered to lock the door. Maybe he wouldn't have cared about an alarm. Maybe he always intended to shoot himself as well."
"Yes—maybe. But it would've woken you. You would've had time to hide, call the police, anything."
He lets out a breath. "Dad's right. It's my fault."
I straddle him. I pull him close enough to feel his heart beat and run fingers through his damp hair before wrapping my arms around him. The smell of soap lingers on him. His hands roam under my clothes on my back, waist and hips as he strokes, desperate hands seeking assurance, and pulls me closer still, nuzzling my neck. His touch is desperate and yearning, and I squeeze him, feeling his warmth and arousal. I lift myself, just a bit, and Edward tenses underneath me as his body jerks. I raise my eyebrows.
"I can't help it," he says. Somewhat embarrassed, he nuzzles my cheek.
Leaning away, Edward slides both hands in my hair and keeps hair out of my face. His eyes search mine and he kisses my forehead. "I can never forgive myself for what happened."
Edward presses his lips in a line.
"Please don't—I don't blame you. He would've found a way. Don't work yourself up over this."
"Please. I'm too hungry to argue. Seriously, first dad and then Emmett and now you, guilt-tripping to the moon and back. Don't torture yourself."
Once again, he nuzzles my jaw. "You mean the world to me."
"Likewise," I reply, and kiss his cheek. "Now, let's stop nuzzling every inch of my skin and start eating, agreed?"
I can feel his smile as he draws his nose to my ear. "But I like nuzzling. Your skin smells lovely."
"Is that your roundabout way of telling me I smell like you today?"
"Maybe," he replies, and touches my skin with his tongue before pulling back. "I am not complaining."
"Why don't you get it over with and pee on me."
He grins and stands, letting my feet slip on the ground but still holding on to me. "Maybe I will."
"Men are grose."
He laughs but then holds on to me, hugging me, leaning his head on my shoulder as he sighs. "This weekend hasn't turned out very well."
"You don't say."
"How are you feeling today?"
"Can't tell. Too hungry."
"Come on, let's get you some food."
Carlisle is gone. Esme is in church, or so Edward says, and I call dad to let him know what happened, but he picks up with, "I spoke to Tom. I'm at the airport."
So that's that. It's nine AM. He'll be here in five hours. As far as dad can tell, he's able to stay for a day. I don't question it. I want him here. I also call Emmett, but when he asks how I'm doing and if it's okay to visit me yet, I raise eyebrows at Edward. He, apparently, called both dad and Emmett early in the morning. Not only that, but he ordered Emmett to stay put until he's able to calm me down and make sure I'm alright.
I lean over and kiss Edward's ear. He squeezes my hand.
The pancake doesn't taste right, and next thing I know, I'm vomiting my guts out in the bathroom. My throat burns. After I'm remotely okay, Edward wraps me in layers of clothes and despite my arguing, takes me to the ER. I get a shot, meto-something-or-other, and I'm made to lie there for a few hours. Edward sits there, holding my hand as nurses ask questions. Edward answers most. I answer some, too. I'm prescribed sedatives. I drink water, lots of it.
Nothing seems to have changed: Edward's house hasn't, neither has the weather, so maybe nothing has. Edward stays by my side all day, touching me, letting me sit in his lap, snuggling with me on the couch. I have moments of oppressive clarity as well as confusion as I bathe in his warmth. The TV isn't on, neither is he on his computer as he offers what he needs most: proximity. We don't talk. We simply lie there, wrapped in each other's arms. I don't know how I'll manage without him, honestly.
I'm drowsy with sleep when Edward, still wrapped around me, whispers in my ear and pulls me to sit. He's been so tender and patient with me through the whole day, the way he's let me sleep in his arms and how he's listened when I'm confused. I open my eyes when he runs his fingers through my hair.
Dad and Emmett are standing in front of the staircase, observing us. Edward helps me stand before kissing my forehead. "Call if you need anything," he says. He rests his forehead against mine. "I love you."
"Love you too."
He smiles, shakes dad's hand and heads for his room.
"You're welcome to join us."
He hesitates, looking for cues from me. He must find what he's searching for because he nods at dad. "I'll just grab my phone."
By the look on dad's face, you'd think I'm taking my first steps. He opens his arms for me, sort of embarrassed, and I get a full, two-armed hug. I hold on. "Dad."
My throat tightens. Dad pulls back, holding on to my shoulders, watching my face. "My brave, brave girl," he says, pulling me to another hug. For some reason, two days' worth of emotion hits me as I hide my face in his high-necked cardigan. I press my lips together.
"I killed Ping Pong," I whisper. "I killed him."
Dad, who doesn't have the upbringing, habits or proclivity to be affectionate, simply squeezes me as I take a shaky breath and fight tears.
"I didn't mean to," I rasp. "I'm so sorry, dad. I'm so sorry."
I'm barely aware of being in Edward's pajama pants, but nobody comments as Edward tucks me by his side and we head to a restaurant. They're having a silent conversation that concerns me, but I don't pay attention. I observe them, the way dad casts brief but worried glances at me, the way Emmett doesn't crack a single joke, but mostly the way Edward keeps me by his side, hand around me, kissing my forehead occasionally as they talk. I feel minuscule, physically and mentally, and so ashamed of my shock last night I can't even think about it without biting back tears. Why did I have to get sick? Why do I still not feel normal? Why does seeing my history teacher kill himself affect me so much?
"Honey?" dad asks.
Edward squeezes me.
"I know it's hard but—can you please tell me what you remember of John Newton breaking in? Just as much as you remember."
"I… he was by my feet when I woke up. Ping Pong, uh, Wally, he was growling. He jumped and—and bit his thigh, and Mr. Newton, he shot him, and then he—pointed the gun at me."
"What time was it?"
"I—I don't know."
"That's okay. Continue."
"I, I told him I didn't regret letting the media know. And he—I was convinced he was going to shoot me, but next thing I know, his weight is suffocating me and his blood is pouring on me and—"
Dad and Emmett wait for me to continue, but I can't.
I look at them in alarm. "I—I can't—it's a bit of a blur—I don't know—"
"It's okay," dad says, squeezing my hand for a brief moment. Edward is drawing patterns on my forearm before he intertwines our fingers and kisses my knuckles.
"How long had she been alone before you got there?" dad asks Edward.
"It's hard to tell. David was sure it couldn't have been more than a half an hour later. An hour max."
"One of the paramedics."
"What did Tom say?"
I turn to look at Edward, his eyelashes and lips and curly hair, and it's almost like I see him for the first time. I see the boy I met in November, but I also see the man he is, the man who arrived home to a difficult situation and handled it with a firm voice and a delicate hand. A man who knew exactly how to take care of me and did so with such love and care he didn't let go of me even when I let go of him, a man who held me when I sat on the bathroom floor and carried me to his bed.
I watch as he slides a finger along his lower lip, as he licks his lips and shares a few words with Emmett, so confident and sure of himself, just like he is with his father (even if they do happen to disagree). How can this be the same man I met in November? Am I always meant to see a side of him he never lets others see? Like the back of the moon reserved for my eyes only.
He makes eye contact, and I swear he's changed. Maybe he's always had it in him to be the voice of reason in a tight situation. How did we get to this point? What's left of the two scared little kids spending the night in one oh six? What happened to the boy whose eyes lit up when he speaks about being involved in music? It came so naturally to him, taking complete control over the situation and dealing with police and ambulance, and the passion with which he helped me. The same way that, I'm sure, he prevented me from bleeding to death when I got shot. Judging by the way he talks, he's been in tight situations before.
Is this what Carlisle sees? A man with massive potential and unparalleled focus when he has no other choice but to take charge? A man with an innate ability to judge a situation and take immediate action? Even in casual situations, like when he saw Alice corner me and didn't hesitate to let me know how he felt to fix a situation? Or when he knew I needed him when mom died? I imagine Edward as a doctor, taking charge, and somehow, the image is not only attractive but seems so fit him. Is this really what Carlisle sees?
If yes, does that give him the right to pressure him to a point where Edward feels suffocated? Maybe Edward would discover a love for medicine or psychology if Carlisle stopped pressuring him. What if all it takes is for Carlisle to leave Edward alone for him to discover his talent and passion at this?
I catch dad watching me as I observe Edward; he offers a nod. Dad smiles with his eyes.
"So you arrived home to—what, exactly?" he asks Edward.
"The lights were on, all of them. The floor was covered in blood stains. I called out her name and ran downstairs to see Bella sitting under a cold shower, fully clothed, holding a toothbrush. But the look on her face, Jesus." Edward squeezes my hand. "She'd thrown up, too, and she kept apologizing. I called the ambulance and managed to calm her down, but—she's still shaken. Took her to the hospital this morning because she wouldn't stop throwing up."
I shift as worried eyes land on me. I'm scared to realize I don't want to crack a joke. I don't want this to change me, to change who I am, and I'm scared that all of it, knowing I wear pink glasses, feeling how ashamed I am of not reacting adequately, realizing I have problems of self-worth and letting myself close to Edward, I'm scared that everything will change. I'm scared that once it does, nobody I know will feel the same to me, and nobody will accept me. I'm fucking terrified.
"She should start seeing Dr. Hunter at least twice a week," Edward says.
"What does Carlisle think?"
"This is beyond him."
Dad appraises Edward, like an equal, like someone he trusts to know and do what's best for me. "Do you think that will help?"
"I do. She's been through too much. It's too much for her. It's too much for anyone."
I feel eyes on me.
"Do it. Whatever you think she needs, do it."
Edward and dad eye each other before Edward nods. He kisses the top of my head.
"You said she got Newton arrested all by herself," dad says, and their conversation continues as I observe them, three of the most important people in my life discussing my health and well-being. Dad, who traveled two thousand miles for a day to make sure I'm okay. Emmett, who is trying to make the decision that might take him across the globe from us, and Edward, my best friend, struggling to find his way in a world where too many arrows have been put there before him, who might set down his own arrows beside them but cannot because the arrows he feels are already there are suffocating him.
"Thank you." Their conversation halts. "Thank you," I repeat, making eye contact with each of them. So alike my father, I struggle to feel okay showing emotions. "It's just—you guys mean a lot to me." I offer a smile, lips pursed, and avoid their eyes because I'm so overwhelmed my own brim over. Dad takes my hand and squeezes it, making eye contact but not saying anything. Embarrassed, I pull my legs underneath me, hold Edward's hand close to my chest and watch them continue to talk and eat. I have an incredible family.
It is late at night when I'm snuggled up next to Edward (he's breathing in my ear) that I hear dad, occupying my carpet-less room, pick up a call and walk upstairs. It sounds urgent. I gather pillows for Edward to hug while I'm away. I follow dad.
He has already disconnected the call when I make it upstairs. Leaning on the wall, I walk closer as he stares at me in the darkness. When I sit beside him, dad takes both of my hands in his and holds them against his forehead.
"The son of a bitch hanged himself."