Disclaimer: Stephenie Meyer owns everything Twilight related. No copyright infringement is intended and there is no financial gain by myself in this story. The original characters, plot, and setting are the property of the author, NTJB. Please do not reproduce this story without the express permission of the author.
A/N: Hi :(
The last chapter, "Growing," marked the beginning of part 3. That was a glimpse of the present.
"Panic" goes back to the night of August 14th. Edward had left for L.A. Bella was descending into darkness.
This chapter has various symptoms of a panic attack, although not all, and some are not indicative of a panic attack, particularly the fainting. I've purposely decided to blur the lines of Bella's condition and not strictly categorize it. Anxiety disorders are quite serious, and I hope I don't offend those who suffer panic attacks in real life.
Chapter 30- Panic
August 14, 2010
I heard bangs.
No, they were knocks. Someone was at the door.
With the little energy and consciousness I had left, I crawled into the foyer.
Edward's coming back for me so that I could go to L.A. with him. He promised he'd never leave. After Liam died, he said he wouldn't live without me and now he's back.
On my knees, I pulled the door open.
"Edward..." The rest of my apology got caught in my throat. "No! No."
It was Alice. She stood silent and bewildered at my doorstep.
"Oh my God! Bella! Bella, what happened?"
When she rushed past me into the living room, she wanted to call maintenance to fix the shattered glass doors. When she saw the blood on the cup, the sofa, and floor, she called 911. I heard her say the word "ambulance," and cried out. Struggling up to my feet, I slapped her phone out of her hand before she could give them the address.
"I'm fine." I clutched my chest as the room began to spin. "I- I'm not bleeding any- anymore."
"Bella, please sit down. You're gonna collapse." She tried to lead me to the couch, but I pushed her hand away. "Bella, Edward must've hit you. You need to see a doctor."
"He-" I remembered his screams at the sound of his name. They sliced through me once more, and I bent over at the middle. I wasn't strong enough to fight her off this time. Alice helped me over to the wall with the painted arch. "He didn't. He didn't hit me."
My thoughts were on a racetrack, racing against time. One would start and get caught off by the next and the next. I couldn't keep up with them just like I couldn't breathe. Through the wild stringent words were blurry memories and in them was so much darkness, so much fire. But I never felt him strike me. Neither did I feel pain. I bled from my mouth, but I didn't know why.
"There's so much blood." Alice covered her mouth, her eyes watering.
"I'm fine now." I wrenched my arms out of hers, glaring at her. "You called Edward and told him about the money, didn't you?" I pulled at my yellow t-shirt, feeling confined by it. My skin felt like a rubber suit. I had to take it off. I had to take it all off.
"Don't lie to me, Alice." I was swallowing air like I had just crawled out from a makeshift grave. It met the rocks in my lungs, which grew in size with each breath. "I'm so sick of your fucking-"
"Alright, I did. I called him."
I pushed her feebly, yet she still stumbled back.
Why couldn't she- Fuck, she just had to- I need to be with- I needed Edward- I needed my- I needed- Why was she- Liar- He would never touch her. He would never touch her.
"You lied about sleeping with him. You didn't even tell me that you spread the... he raped you. Why?"
"Bella..." Her eyes opened wide as she shook her head.
"How dare you come here, calling-" I leaned my head back against the wall unable to catch my breath. "911, trying to fix this mess when you caused it?"
"Bella, I have to take you to the hospital."
"Get out. Get out!"
I hope you rot- You took him- I made him go- I love him so much- I hate you. I hate my life. I have no- How could Ben-
"I can't do that either," I heard her say. I couldn't open my eyes anymore. The lights were too bright to open them. "You're in trouble, Bella. If you don't let me help you, who will?"
I tried telling her that she was the last person I needed but my stomach heaved as soon I opened my mouth. I bent over in the middle, convulsing, expelling hot air.
"Please let me help you." She bent down, and I couldn't deny her. I shook in her arms, instead, scratching my arms. I didn't want this skin. I wanted Edward's. I wanted to fly inside of him and wrap myself in his skin.
"Oh God, Bella! Bella, stop!"
I shook so badly, I bit my tongue.
Then, I fell into the darkness once more.
Bleary-eyed, I woke up in a strange bed.
White and salmon-pink walls. Stiff sheets. Endless beeps. Machines. So many machines. My mouth was slimy. The breathing tubes in my nose were abrasive. I pulled them off, finding other tubes on my arms.
"You're okay." Alice's voice was soothing at my side. "You shouldn't take the tubes out. They'll help." When I turned my head to the right, she wore the same clothes. I assumed it was the same day, then. The room didn't have a window.
"Where are we? A hospital?" My voice sounded like sandpaper. I lowered the breathing tubes to my chest.
"Lenox Hill. You've been unconscious for a while."
"What happened to me?"
"You fainted. I think it was a panic attack."
"But you'll be fine, okay? You can stay with me until you get better."
"No! No, Alice." I reached for the button to call the nurse but Alice tugged it out of my weak grip.
"Bella, you need help." She lifted a strand of hair from my cheek.
"No. Edward will come back," I rasped. "I need to be at the penthouse. He'll come back for me."
"I'm sorry. I'm so sorry this is happening to you, but he's not. And you have school coming up. You need to focus on your health and on school. Let Edward help his father out. There's nothing else you can do for him."
"No. No, he's coming. He has to come. He needs me, Alice."
"If he needed you, he would be here." She chewed on her bottom lip as she squeezed my hand. "You can't worry about him anymore, Bella. There's nothing else you can do."
"You can't understand. You'll never understand."
Alice looked like she was about to rebuff me when a nurse with tiny ducks on her shirt walked in.
"You're awake. We're so relieved, Ms. Swan. The doctor will be in shortly."
"Thank you," Alice and I said simultaneously.
I stared at the tubes in my wrists that were connected to the machines. I was connected to steel that told the doctors what I was at every moment as if they could see inside of me. None of them could ever see what was really going on. His rocks were buried deep, weighing me down, reminding me of his paint and his tears and his fury. No, the machines couldn't see those things. Instead, they saw that I was better a few minutes after waking up. A balding doctor with glasses and a mole on his cheek walked in with his steel chart and agreed with their conclusions.
"You can head home, now," Dr. Cope said with this smile on his face. I couldn't see his eyes because the light reflected off his lenses, but the way he spoke made it seem like he was relieved. With his confirmation, Alice went to sign me out while he helped me to the chair near the door. I hated the bed. It wasn't my bed.
"This prescription will help with the attacks." He offered the slip of paper to me, but I didn't reach for it, and it fell to the floor. When he crouched down to pick it up, the light no longer reflected off his glasses, and I bowed my head.
His eyes were like Edward's. They were exactly the same.
He placed the slip of paper on the bed and pat my shoulder as the tears began to flow. The doctor had his eyes but nothing else. The rest existed in my mind.
Alice walked in, relieving the doctor of me and my crying. According to the doctor and the machines, I could go home. I thought about this word as Alice attempted to calm me down: home.
"Oh, Bella. Bella, it's okay. It'll be okay."
I left the prescription on the strange bed.
My head ached and my throat was tight as Alice walked me down the bustling emergency room. Red-faced babies wailed in the arms of their weary mothers. The greenish fluorescent lights made the pallor of the ill look even sicker. So many of them suffered. Some might not leave this emergency room alive, but those who did would get to go home.
I didn't have a home. My home was on the freckles on his skin, the near-raucous sound of his laugh when I told him a joke, the sea, the pools, the steel, gold, love, glimmer, Truth, and sorrow in his eyes.
We were at the emergency room entrance when I dropped back against the wall. I was sweating from my scalp to my heels. The rocks in my lungs had become boulders that stretched the tissue until they would rip open. My quiet tears became a piercing wail.
"I need him. Alice, I need him."
"Bella." Alice held me in her arms, stroking my hair in the heat. My skin was too hot. It had to come off. "Shh. It'll be okay. I'll help you and with time, things will be easier. I promise."
Alice hailed a cab after I had no more energy to cry. I begged her to take me to the penthouse, but she refused. We were a couple of blocks away from her apartment when I thought of the next place where there would be remnants of him.
"Crown Heights," I told the cab driver.
She agreed but demanded she stay the night.
"Were you ever gonna give me the money?" I asked after twenty minutes of silence. We were crossing the Manhattan Bridge. I leaned my head against the cool glass, looking down into the dark river. It was as ominous as it was comforting.
"I have the check right here."
I turned to Alice and saw in her hands a check to Ben Cheney in the amount of ten thousand dollars.
"So why did you call him? You knew he would blow up," I murmured.
"And you just accept that? Bella, you said he didn't hurt you so you don't know. You don't know what he's capable of."
"I do." I turned back to the window, letting the glass cool my feverish skin. "He told me he beat you. And I don't understand why you wanted to help him after he did that to you."
"As is everything these days," I grumbled.
When I saw the green and white Flatbush Ave. street sign, I shut my eyes. Brooklyn was so dirty. It was crowded and small and made of waste. I had to get out of here. I had to go back to the penthouse.
"He will come back," I said, facing Alice.
"What if he doesn't? You can't keep living your life for him. You have to take care of yourself."
"I am taking care of myself. Going back to the penthouse is exactly what I need."
"Bella, please. You have to let him go."
"No." I wiped my brow of sweat. "Never."
"He'll hurt you as badly as he hurt me. Hell, he's already hurt you."
"No, he didn't Alice. I told you he didn't hit me."
She traced invisible lines on the window pane. "He hurt you in so many more ways than that, Bella. You just can't see it yet. And he'll keep doing it because guys like that never know when to stop. One of these days, you won't be able to recognize yourself. I got this nose to prove it," she murmured.
I stared at her straight, perfectly-proportioned nose and wondered what the big deal was. It was fine.
"Your nose is great. Anyway, he'll never do anything like that to me. He hurt you because of what you did to Jasper and you lied about the rape. For fuck's sake, Alice, you ruined his life." She stopped drawing the intricate lines with her finger and dropped her hand onto her lap.
"Oh, so that makes it alright?" Her voice rose to a strained disbelief.
"No, of course not," I replied witheringly. "But everything you've done makes it seem like you think it is."
"I've never met a person who'd wanna give ten thousand dollars to someone who hurt them as badly as Edward hurt you. Are things really that complicated or are you lying to me about something else?"
"Bella, I was a stupid little girl and I regret everything I did. I was just trying to make things right again between him and me with this money. That's all."
"Oh. So, not complicated at all." I huffed. "What drove you to lie about the rape in the first place? That was a shitty thing to do."
"Oh, and you didn't do a shitty thing? You didn't lie? Besides, who cares about what I did to po' wittle Edward Cuwwen seven years ago?" She took a deep breath and dropped her mocking tone. "You shouldn't accept his shit just because you did something wrong. He was wrong to leave you like that. You deserve better."
I didn't respond, knowing she was wrong. I deserved the pain and the desertion.
Arriving at the reddish brick building I had resided in for three years, I realized how my broken promise caused his. I changed and he left. I should've stayed the same, just like my building's hallway, which still smelled like stale urine. Alice was the one who told me not to tell Edward the truth. She made me think he couldn't handle it but what he couldn't handle was the lying, not his dad's condition. I should've listened to Ben and told Edward everything instead of trying to control everything. The why girl wouldn't have done this.
I shouldn't have changed. If I hadn't broken my promise, he wouldn't have been so angry. He wouldn't have hurt me.
Inside my apartment was a stuffy wasteland. I went into the kitchen, searching the cabinets and fridge. There had to be pieces of him left here. He remained between these walls somewhere, more than the walls of my mind.
"Are you hungry? I can make you something if you are?" Alice asked as I made my way out of the kitchen.
"No, I'm fine."
She followed me into the bathroom and stood at the threshold with her arms crossed. I yanked the shower curtain to the side, then rummaged through my medicine cabinet.
"What are you looking for?"
I slammed the cabinet door shut and slid past her for my sterile living room. I rubbed my cheeks. The only place left to look was my bedroom.
"I'm not looking for anything. Just... leave, alright?"
When I turned on the lights, a bare mattress stared back. Some of my drawers had been left open, but there was nothing inside them.
"I can't. You really shouldn't be alone right now, Bella."
"I'm not gonna jump out of the window, Alice." I walked over to my closet. It had musty blankets from my mom. That was it. "Go live your life. You've really done more than enough."
"I'm staying the night and that's final. Now let me know what you're looking for so that I can help."
"No!" I exclaimed. I turned around to stare her down. "I want you to leave."
She twiddled her thumbs with a deep blush. "I won't. You should get some sleep and let me take care of the rest."
"It's four in the morning. I'm not heading back into the city right now. We'll fight tomorrow, I promise. Go to sleep."
I frowned as she turned and walked out. "I'll be right in the living room if you need anything, okay?" she called out. "Sweet dreams, Bella."
I didn't want to spend another moment arguing with her when I had to find remnants of him.
"Alright, fine. Night." I shut the door.
There were photos of me and my mom back in Phoenix up on the walls. All of this history that made me who I was no longer defined me. I was made of different fibers, now, and they were quaking for a piece of him. The cocoa powder for his cakes. His Irish Spring. A dirty sock from his early morning runs.
The last morning we were here, he had a nightmare that shook him up so badly, he went out for a run. Despite his frazzled state, he didn't leave any socks or shirts behind.
I grabbed the pile of blankets, hoping his mind wouldn't be wrought with those nightmares again. Resting my cheek on the blankets, I remembered how he was the morning after in the penthouse. He was a new man. This was how I would remember him until he came back to me.
I couldn't quiet my brain of Alice's words, though. She was right. I was a liar. I did something terrible. What was I to say to him if he did return? "Sorry?" He deserved better. Returning to the penthouse was a foolish notion. I didn't deserve Edward. I deserved Brooklyn.
When I woke up the next night, my room was cool with air conditioning. Lavender scented candles were on both nightstands. My dresser drawers were pushed shut. When I opened them, they were stacked with new underwear, t-shirts, shorts, and jeans. I even saw a couple pairs of sneakers and strappy sandals in my closet.
How could she do this? From the first day we met, she'd been über nice to me and for what? All I did was call her every rotten thing in the book.
The apartment was empty and quiet, save for the sound of an argument some drunk was having with another drunk outside, music blaring across the street, and intermittent police sirens. Those quickly became white noise, a backdrop to the cacophony in my mind.
The most brutal words pricked my brain like millions of tiny needles until I felt like they would seep out of my skin.
"You thought you were protecting me? My father could die tomorrow, Bella."
Finding pillows, a new sheet set and down comforter on the shelf in my closet, I prepped my bed as best I could without collapsing from Edward's screams. They were a constant whir in my head as I opened the door to Alice. She had a bag of groceries in both of her hands. I led her to my kitchen, which smelled of lemon Pine Sol.
"Thank you for everything, Alice." I whispered, watching her as she stocked my fridge. She shrugged me off.
"Here're your keys." She dropped them on the kitchen counter. "If you need anything, please call me." She transferred a white Iphone in her hand to mine. "It's your same number and it's under my account so you don't have to worry about the bill. Call anytime, okay?"
"Alice, why are you doing all this?" I rubbed my right temple where the pinches were more acute.
"You just bought out American Eagle Outfitters and Whole Foods. I don't deserve this."
"Bella, it's nothing. You helped me last semester with my final paper, remember? This is the least I could do."
"This doesn't equal the measly afternoon I spent on your paper."
"Oh, it does. My mom would've had my ass if I failed Evans's class."
She patted both of my shoulders. Then, she hugged me, promising to check on me everyday until school started. But the moment I turned the five locks of the front door, I opened it again only twice in the next week, and it was never for Alice.
I want to dedicate this chapter to my reviewers. You ladies mean so much to me. I thank you for your time and insight. Your questions make me work harder to make this as great as it could be.
To each reader, I'm shocked that you guys are reading this fic every week. Truly, I am so thankful for your interest in this. And while each view means a lot, I am especially humbled by those who read from other nations. United Arab Emirates. Chile. Germany. New Zealand. All of these countries where I doubt I'll ever see in my lifetime. I'll never see these people who speak a completely different language yet read these words that are so precious to me. There are so many writers out there whose version of English far surpasses my own. I am grateful you spend your time in my corner of the ffnet world.