Bella woke up the next morning expecting something. Her eyes opened wide and she felt not at all tired, but as the rumpled bedsheets were sitting at her upper hip and her brown irises blinked thoughtfully at the ceiling, her brow furrowed. Her arms twitched like she was expecting something to be in them. She had a vague idea that perhaps her dreams of strange lightning and bronze feathers had something to do with it. Then she sighed, gave up, rolled over, and closed her eyes again.
They opened with a startled snap as memories of the previous day weaved their way into her mind. That inexplicable lightning was real. And those bronze feathers...feathers from huge wings -
The wings of an angel.
"Edward?" Bella cried out without thinking of her words, flinging the blanket off of her and swinging her legs over the side of the bed.
Then she froze and let out a breath.
"It was just a dream," she muttered, squeezing her eyes shut and shaking her head, her brown locks gently swaying with that movement. "Of course it was just a dream."
Bella shrieked and opened her eyes to see the beautiful man from her dreams – and, apparently, yesterday – poking his head through her bedroom door, an adorably confused look on his face.
"Bella?" he asked again, confused and Bella realized that her entire stature had changed - she had curled her knees up to her chest and put her hand over her racing heart.
"You're really here," she said incredulously.
"Yes..." Edward said, coming to stand fully in the doorway. His confusion now changed from adorable to concerned, his eyes clearly questioning her state of mind.
"I'm sorry," Bella breathed, finally relaxing her body to sit normally again. "You might understand if I say that yesterday was a little...abnormal. I questioned its occurrence."
Edward nodded. "Yes. I can understand that." He looked back toward where he had come from. "Do you have anything besides that cereal you gave me yesterday?"
Bella took in a breath, steeling herself for another day plunged into the surreal. "Yeah Edward." A tiny chill went through her body. "Come on, I'll help you."
"Can I ask you a question?" Bella inquired over a meal of buttered toast and purified water that Edward seemed to be stomaching better than cereal.
"I – okay," Edward gave in, though he looked at her skeptically, hoping she wouldn't poke more at what he didn't want to think about.
"Since you were an angel," she said, picking apart her toast instead of looking at him, "You should be able to tell me. Is there a heaven? And a god? Up until this point I suppose I haven't thought much about it, instead being more indecisive and kind of unconcerned about the whole thing. But I guess it would be nice to know."
"Heaven and God," Edward muttered, then rolled his eyes. "It really is amazing at what explanations you humans come up with for things you don't understand. We marvel at it, actually."
"Oh?" Bella asked, raising an eyebrow. "Do tell."
"Well, heaven is relative I suppose," Edward began. "There are other...places, on the other side of the mortal existence. One we call Caelum. That's where angels live and the Moirae and the Horai. If you wanted to call them Gods, I suppose you could."
"So after you die, you become an angel."
Edward rolled his eyes again. "Absolutely not. It's complicated...but angels are made differently from mortals. We are created as we are. And as for mortals...they go to Hades, where their souls rest in the River, or at least that's our nickname for it. They feel nothing, just physical echoes really. I suppose you could say they no longer exist at all."
"Then why do souls go there? Why don't they just...disappear?" Bella asked.
Edward hesitated. "There is a balance to the universe," he said cryptically. "And then there are...exceptions."
"What does that mean?" Bella asked, her brow furrowed.
Edward just shook his head and went back to eating. Bella understood that he wouldn't continue, no matter how she pushed. For now. So she sighed and went back to eating, before finally a thought occurred to her.
"Won't you get in trouble?" she asked. "By the ...whoever cast you out? For telling me this?"
Edward chuckled derisively. "Oh Bella," he sighed. "No one gives a damn what I do anymore."
His little girl came racing to him, a huge smile on her petite face, cheeks the color of the fresh apples surrounding them in the orchard. "Daddy, Daddy!" she shrieked, kicking her legs up with her hands outstretched with a proffered apple, fulling putting her trust in the main man in her life to catch her.
He didn't fail, opening his arms and catching her under the arms and lifting his precious girl to his chest. He took the apple from her, beaming. "Thank you, princess," he said, kissing her until she giggled in delight at his fatherly affection. It was times like this that life was good and he wanted nothing more than to stay in this moment forever.
The sun shined low through the California apple trees as it set for the day, refuting his wish. His little girl wiggled her way out of his arms and ran to a tree, where a branch only a few feet above her father's head hung with the plumpest, reddest apple she'd seen yet.
"Daddy!" she cried. "Pick me up!"
He laughed, shaking his head. "I just was!" he protested lightly.
"I want that apple!" she cried in such dismay he couldn't deny her. Sighing but secretly settled, he hoisted her over her head so that she could pick that perfect fruit. As she descended, she took a soft bite out of the apple and closed her eyes in innocent happiness.
Her father watched, smiling and sharing her emotion. Suddenly he felt his phone vibrating in his pocket. Brow furrowed, he pulled it out and checked the number. His face paled. Another debt collector. Swallowing, he put the phone back in his pocket and tried to ignore it and regain the happy moment. But the vibrations seemed to stay in his chest like a beating heart hidden under floor boards.
Unknown to either of them, a set of eyes watched them from afar.
"I feel...distinctly...unclean?" Edward hazarded to guess, clearly unsure of his words. He ran a hand over his skin then through his hair and shuddered.
"Yeah, I guess you should take a shower," Bella nodded, clearing the lunch dishes. Edward had spent the morning alternately eating, exploring the bookcase, and sleeping. He would get exhausted very quickly, Bella noticed. But she supposed that until he got used to the...heaviness of being mortal, after living an existence free of physical pain, exhaustion, and tension, that he would tire easily.
She led him to the bathroom door. To both of their relief, Edward had figured out on his own how to use the facilities. Both of their faces had colored at the idea that Bella might have to help him with that. Her modesty and his pride would have been too much for the situation to handle.
"Do you know how to clean yourself in the shower? Like, what products to use and how and stuff?" Bella asked, unsure.
"In theory, yes," Edward muttered. "I never watched anyone in the shower though."
"So you were a guardian angel!" Bella said, triumphant.
"Please stop guessing," Edward sighed. "And assuming."
Bella shrugged, then walked in and opened the frosted glass door of the shower.
"This is my shampoo," she said, holding up a pinkish-red bottle. "Run it through your hair, let it sit for a few moments, then rinse it out." She grabbed a similarly colored bottle. "This is my conditioner. Put it in your hair and let it sit for a few minutes. Then rinse." She pointed to a bar of soap. "Use that to clean your whole body. I usually do it while I'm letting the conditioner sit to speed up the process. Two birds, one stone and all that. And you don't look very hairy, but I'll go get you your own razor at some point. And some more manly scents," she said, laughing a little embarrassedly.
"Why?" Edward asked, very confused. "If it's how you smell, then I want it. You smell just amazing."
Blushing, Bella started to stammer, then just ducked out of the bathroom instead, closing the door behind her. "Call me if you need anything," she squeaked and heard Edward merely chuckle in response.
The feeling of a shower was something Edward felt he could get used to, one of the few times he had felt that since becoming mortal. The hot water rained down on him and he breathed out as the droplets gently hit at his skin, sticking and sliding down. He stood face forward to the water and felt his hair dampen and lay hugging his scalp and face. Down his chest, the droplets fell until they jumped from his skin to their fate in the drain to be reincarnated at some point, somewhere else.
Turning around, he let the water rain on his back. As steam built up and he breathed in the damp air, he felt completely calm for the first time.
Reaching for Bella's shampoo, he reflected again upon the kindness and strangeness of his new girl friend. Or lady savior, as she more accurately was. He took a whiff of the condensed gooey liquid through the open cap and was reminded of last night, with Bella hugging him tightly, her hair falling in a sheltered curtain around him. It was like being in the calm wind in the very center of a tornado.
He was still confused at her implication that he wouldn't like her hygiene products. She smelled heavenly – and he would know best, of course – and as much as thinking about his home pained him as he knew it was lost to him forever, it was still the only home he had ever known. Pain and ecstasy. How contradictory it was to be human.
Edward put his hands against the sweating tile and let the water pour over him until the shampoo washed away on its own and he was clean again.
The rest of the day continued on in much of the same fashion as the morning.
At some point, Bella asked another question. "Edward?" she asked.
"Yes?" he responded, raising his head blearily from where he had sprawled out on the floor in another episode of severe exhaustion.
"Why do you think you landed near me?"
Edward closed his eyes and laid his head back down. "I don't know. I've wondered the same thing myself. All I can is thank the Horai for their sliver of kindness."
"What do you mean?" she asked.
Edward raised his brows while keeping his eyes closed. "They put me near the kindest, most understanding and empathetic human I've ever witnessed. I'd say that was some mercy on their parts."
Bella blushed. "Wow. You don't even know me really."
"I've got a pretty good picture," he mumbled, starting to drift off again.
"Besides," Bella continued. "I was asking what you meant about the Horai. You know, you're going to have to explain to me the workings of the universe more specifically eventually."
"Oh just stop asking questions," Edward breathed, and then began to snore softly.
Bella rolled her eyes and went back to her book. "Oh yeah," she muttered. "You really don't know me."
Note: I am referencing a lot of Greek mythology, but I'm not planning on sticking to the script exactly. Consider it more inspiration than anything. I certainly like to take my own spin on things.
Please review and leave a thought, comment, whatever. I love hearing from you! I have a new computer so I should go back to updating more frequently again. Yay!
- The Romanticidal Edwardian