Sterile hospital hallways formed a maze, trapping me inside of their depths. Try as I might, there is no escape.
The ending point is impossible for me to find alone, but a guiding hand is reached out, and the hand belongs to Dr. Cullen.
"Isabella, talk to me."
He stares at me with the cool, calculating demeanor of a doctor, but the gentle warmth and sympathy of a parent.
Everything around me keeps moving and whirring, and only when he places his hands on either side of my face do I realize I've been shaking my head rapidly back and forth.
Sobs rip their way out of my heart, and I can only stare brokenly back at Dr. Cullen, begging him to keep away the demons of what has happened.
Hard footsteps race toward us, and before I can even turn my head to see whose they are, a flash of bronze engulfs me in a hug. Digging my face into his chest, our sobs and cries bleed together as one.
Dr. Cullen stands there, whispering soothing words to both of us, but nothing can calm our whimpers.
"I'm s-so s-sorry, B-Bella." Edward tries his best to comfort me, but all I need is the gentle rocking of our bodies as he tries to calm me down.
Tears roll down my cheeks and I can't even utter a single word. My eyes search his for some sign of hope, but all I find is a giant pool of sadness.
Grief drowns me in its bottomless waters, my hollow soul sinking deeper and deeper without so much as a fight to stay above the vicious tides. But no matter how much I try to let them take me to the bottom of abyss, the Cullens keep ripping me out of the water, pulling me into their protective arms.
Mustering up the will to speak, I look at both of them. The sympathy on their faces is too much. All I want right now is for Jake to give me a noogie, and for Dad to chide me when I 'accidentally' shove his head in the toilet.
"Please, stop. Just stop… Looking at me like that."
Dr. Cullen's face shows understanding and he nods. Edward only shows confusion, but follows his dad's actions anyway.
"Bella, I know this is tough, but would you like to talk to someone?" Dr. Cullen seemed ready to shove pamphlets and therapists at her, while his son looked ready to break down and beg her to talk to him.
But talking seemed irrelevant now. What good would talking about it do? Would it bring her dad back? No. Nothing would. And while on the surface she knew her thoughts were irrational, inside the same thought kept rising up and pestering her incessantly.
You already have one parent that hates you- that didn't care enough to stay. Now you killed the only one who bothered to stay behind and take care of you?
Eleven years old, exactly, and Bella Swan was a murderer. At least in her eyes.
Gazing up at Dr. Cullen, Bella spoke. "Is there… is there any of my… family here?"
Somehow I hoped that my mother had been contacted and would show up. Maybe she'd confess that she never wanted to leave me behind. Maybe we could begin to move past this loss.
Dr. Cullen saw the hope on my face and his lit up with optimism, eager to give me any small smidgen of happiness.
"Actually, your grandfather's here. Do you know him, Bella? His name is Aro."
The small glimmer of hope vanished, like a candle flickering out its last flame.
Looking down at my lap, I took a deep breath. Crying wouldn't solve anything. My dad wouldn't be coming around that corner to wipe the tears off my face with his old flannel shirt sleeve. He never would again.
Putting on a brave face, I looked up at Dr. Cullen. "Can I meet him?"
Smiling gently back at me, he takes me by the hand and guides us through the maze of sterile white hallways and ominous doors. When it opens up, I find myself in a waiting room.
Looking from face to face, I observe each person's composure.
Some look hopeful, a sad but optimistic light in their eyes. Others have lost all hope, shoulders slumped and a dull sheen of unshed tears masking the pain in their eyes.
Dr. Cullen leads me over the corner, where an exhausted looking older man sits. He too, has the look of someone who has lost.
"Mr. Swan, this is little Isabella." I couldn't even find it in me to cringe at the use of my formal name.
"I believe we've met before, a long time ago." He stood slowly from his chair, as if not to frighten me.
A spark ignited in me then, and defiance colored my words. "Nice of you to finally show up."
Hurt painted its way across his face, and for a spilt second I felt ashamed. But soon that feeling was overcome with satisfaction.
The pain washed away and morphed into playful challenge. "Well, Miss Swan, I'd hoped to get an invitation to visit at a better time than this, but it seems all the others must have gotten lost in the mail."
Our banter began there and took off, teasing and laughter distracting from the dread creeping back into my system.
Dr. Cullen and Edward had long since excused themselves, and now I sat in a chair directly across from my grandfather, or Uncle Aro as I'd taken to calling him. He looked too young to be a grandfather.
Slumping down to eye level, his face took on an air of seriousness. "So, Bella, I know that this is going to be hard. And I know it's going to be hard. But..."
His eyebrows scrunched together in frustration, and before I could stop them, agitated words spilled from my mouth. "Oh, just spit it out already. I'm not getting any younger and God knows you can't afford to waste any time old man."
Those same eyebrows from before now shot up in amusement as my hand slapped down on top of my mouth, open in shock.
"Well, as you so kindly put it, I guess I should quit beating around the bush. Would you like to come live with me in Chicago, Bella? I know this is the first time you'll be able to remember meeting me, and it'll be hard moving away from all of your friends, but I'd really like it if you would."
I gave him a hard stare then. And my face took on an emotionless mask.
It felt like hours as I sat there and looked at him. Just staring, searching his face for something unknown even to me.
What I found were kind, coffee brown eyes that reminded me of Sunday mornings with my dad. I found greying hair, but slight hints of the familiar brown that also sat upon my father's head. I found the same creases and dimples along his slightly crinkled face that once took residence on Dad's cheerful face. And when he smiled hopefully at me, I found that same protectiveness and security that I always took comfort in when Dad used to grin at me.
Right then and there, I realized something. Dad had tried to give me the best childhood he could, and raise me into a young woman with no regrets. So from now on, I'd live trying to fulfill that wish.
I'd never hesitate to do what felt right. I'd live in the moment and try to live life to its fullest.
And looking back at Uncle Aro, I must have felt something right.
"I'd love to come live with you."
So, that's the new chapter guys. Sorry I'm getting it out late, but Happy Thanksgiving and all that jazz! Whew, I think we'll all be happy to move past the tears and angst and into a happier time, hmmm? Seeya next chapter ;)