"I'm so sorry, Mrs. Cullen. There was nothing to be done."
I couldn't tell you the name of the doctor in front of me. I couldn't tell you if it was raining, if it was a full moon, or if there was a meteor shower. All I knew in that moment was that my father was gone.
Taken from all of us by a drugged-out teenager who got behind the wheel of a car and struck my father as he made his daily drive through the town. He had plans to meet everyone down on the reservation tomorrow to go fishing and celebrate Billy's birthday.
Oh God, how am I going to tell him Dad's gone?
"Bella," someone said next to me. "Bella, are you okay?" I looked to my left and saw that it was David – Dad's second in command. He was banged up as well – a cut on his face, and his arm in a cast. "Would you like me to call your husband?"
"Can I see him?" I quietly asked the doctor who was still standing in front of me.
"Are you sure that's a good idea?" David asked.
"I need to. Please," I begged.
"Of course. I'll bring you back," the doctor said.
How could this be happening? I thought as I walked with the doctor back to see my father. How could he be gone? He's too young. He still has things to do. Nurses and doctors gave me sympathetic looks as we walked through the ER. I couldn't meet their gazes – my eyes were now full of tears.
"Mrs. Cullen, he's just in through here," the doctor said. "I should warn you, his appearance may shock you." Next to us was a room, closed off to the rest of the ER by a thin curtain. I noticed now how quiet it was. No machines were beeping; no phones were ringing. It was quiet. Eerily quiet.
I can't do this.
"Are you sure you don't want to wait until your husband arrives?" he asked again.
"No. Please, I need to see him."
The doctor slowly pulled the curtain back, and my knees gave out. Thankfully, he caught me before I fell to the floor. Dad was on the gurney, covered by a blanket, with the tubes and such removed from him. His face had cuts, gashes, and bruises. Despite all of that, he looked peaceful, as if he was just asleep.
Oh, Daddy. How could this have happened? How could this have happened to you?
I found my strength and slowly walked over to his bedside. I wanted to brush the hair out of his face, but was afraid to touch him at first. There was a chair next to him, so I sat and took his hand. He was cold.
"Could I have another blanket for him, please?"
"Ma'am?" the doctor asked, confused.
"A blanket. He's cold."
The doctor stared at me for a moment before he disappeared behind the curtain. Part of me knew that what I had asked was ridiculous. Why would my father need a blanket if he was dead? But the child in me, the one who still couldn't believe her daddy was gone, knew that a blanket would warm him. Hospitals could be so drafty.
I wondered if the world would notice that Dad was gone and if it would mourn for the loss. Surely someone like him would be noticed, right? Someone who cared for people and treated everyone as his equal would be missed. He never looked at how much money a person made, or what type of job they held. As long as they treated others with respect, he respected them.
What will we do now that he's no longer here?
I didn't know how long I had sat there, silent and motionless, when I heard the curtain pull back. I turned my head and saw Edward, Carlisle and Esme standing there. No one was holding a blanket for him. I could tell they were hesitant to say or do anything.
"Bella," Edward whispered. I turned away and looked back at my father. He was such a handsome man. I wondered if he'd make a handsome angel in heaven. "Bella, my love, we have to go," Edward said again. He was now next to me, bent down so he was at my level.
"I can't leave him. He's too cold, Edward. I asked for a blanket, but no one brought one. He's cold."
"I know. They'll have a blanket for him where they're taking him, but we have to go. There are things that need to be done," he said gently.
"I want to go with him. I need to make sure they'll be gentle," I said as a fresh wave of tears came.
"They will be." He placed his hand on mine, which was still holding Dad's hand, and began to pry it away. "Come on."
"No!" I shouted, suddenly angry. I needed to make sure Dad would be okay. I needed to be there with him. "No!"
"Bella, please," Edward said as his voice cracks. "Please. Let's go home."
"No!" The tears that once filled my eyes have spilled over onto my cheeks. I can't leave him. I knew what would happen when I left, and I knew there were so many things to plan and people to call, but I just couldn't leave him.
"Sweetheart, please," Esme said as she walked over to us. She wrapped her arms around me from behind and held me tight.
"Why?" I sobbed. "Why did he have to die?"
"I don't know, sweetheart. I don't know," Esme said as she cried with me.
"Do you think... he was... in any pain?" I asked in between sobs. It was a question everyone asked, but it was one that somehow provided an ounce of comfort. I already knew the answer, but I still needed to hear it. "Do you think he knew what was happening?"
"No, honey," Edward said. "He wasn't in any pain. It happened so fast."
I threw my arms around Edward's neck and sobbed harder. I missed my father; I missed his voice, laugh, smell, and spirit. I wanted him back. I wanted him to wake up and tell me this was just a dream. I wanted to visit him tomorrow and have him tell me that the fish weren't biting, but that he had a good time with his best friend. The realization that none of this would happen again hit me like a ton of bricks, causing me to sob harder. Edward pulled me flush against his chest as he stood. I felt like I should say goodbye, but I couldn't bring myself to do it yet.
Outside, the sun was up and puffy white clouds played in the crisp blue sky – the perfect kind of day according to Dad. "The kind of day that makes you happy you're alive to see it," he'd say.
I didn't want to leave the house today. I didn't want to face everyone from town and see their sad faces or listen to their words of comfort. The memorial was bad enough. Everyone had said the usual 'I'm sorry for your loss,' and 'Call me if you need anything' before giving me an awkward hug. I knew they all meant well, but I just didn't want to hear it. I just wanted to hide from everything and everyone, and grieve in my own way – alone.
I wanted to wake up from this nightmare. It was too soon to be having it again, and I cursed the world for its horrible return. Two years ago, Mom had gone to the doctor after finding a lump in her breast. After undergoing a slew of tests, they realized that the cancer was too advanced, and gave her six months, at most, to live. Two weeks later, Mom had a small burst of energy. Dad had packed a picnic and brought her to her favorite spot on the lake for dinner – he had even purchased a bottle of her favorite wine. The only thing Dad said about that night was that the both of them had said everything they wanted to. The next morning, Dad awoke and found she had passed. At least it was peaceful. While I was a wreck during her funeral, Dad was calm. He said he knew she was at peace, and that she wanted the same for him.
When we reached the Lutheran church that my parents were married in, there were several cars already lining the streets. I noticed, then, that the trees had yellow ribbons tied around them and that flags were at half-staff. It was a sign of respect for their fallen officer and fellow citizen. It provided me a moment of comfort from my never-ending grief. Forks Police Department hadn't lost an officer in the line of duty in twenty years, yet my father had gone to a few funerals for officers in surrounding cities. He used to say it was his duty as police chief and fellow officer, and that he hoped others would do the same for him. I wondered if he knew this was coming true.
In the entry way of the church were pictures of my father. Emmett and Jasper had brought them over from yesterday's memorial, and I found myself standing in front of one in particular – my father's police photo that was taken just this year. His brown eyes were caring, and his small smile was welcoming.
"That's a good one of him," Billy said from behind me.
"How are you holding up, sweetheart?"
"Honestly?" I asked. Billy nodded and took my hand. "Like hell. How am I supposed to say goodbye, Billy?" I asked as tears filled my eyes again.
"You don't have to do it today you know," he said as I sat in his lap. "You'll find your own way when you're ready."
"But how could you do it so fast?"
"I'm not sure. Maybe it's because I know he'd be pissed that we were fussing this much over him. Or maybe it's because I promised him I'd look out for you if something happened."
"He loved you, you know? You were a brother to him," I whispered as I lay my head on his shoulder and let the tears fall.
"I know. I loved him, too. And I miss him already."
Months had passed before I could look at a photo of my father without bursting into tears. It had been a struggle, but with the help of Edward and his family, I was able to get through the darkest days. I still missed him like crazy. There were days when I still dialed his number to ask a question or to make plans.
I hadn't had the heart to sell the house yet. I knew Dad was probably shaking his head at me, but it felt too real, too raw to sell it. I knew I would in time, but not yet. I was thankful that Edward hadn't pushed the issue. I had, however, given a few things away – mostly small things like his fishing gear and his tools, and of course I had to give the cruiser back. They were small things, but they were still pieces of him, and it was still a hard thing to do.
This morning was Dad's birthday. I had decided to invite some of Dad's friends over. It was probably silly, but I figured that if I could get through this day I could get through the rest. The barbeque was hot, steaks were marinating, and the beer was cold. It was exactly what Dad had every year for his birthday. Before returning home from last minute errands, I made a stop at his favorite place – a place the locals called Forks Hill. It was an overlook on the outskirt of town, but you could see everything for miles. Dad used to sit up there when he worked overnights to watch the sun rise. He said there was something peaceful and beautiful about watching a town wake up. At the time, I thought he was crazy, but now that I stood here, I understood what he meant.
After sitting on the bench and just watching the eagles soar and listening to the waves hit the beach, I pulled out a letter I had written. I had written one for Mom when she passed, but this one was harder to write. I wasn't sure if it was because his death came as a shock, or if it was because of the realization that both of my parents were gone. It wasn't an easy thing to accept, either.
God, I miss you. I'd like to think you're with Mom up in Heaven. It's a thought that's comforted me since the night you left. I'm sure she's her usual crazy self, and I'm sure you're loving every minute with her.
I came across a picture someone took of us at my wedding. You looked so handsome in your tux, even though you hated wearing it. I remember watching you with Mom – she couldn't keep her hands to herself that day. At the time, it weirded me out – to see you two so frisky, but now I see it as her way of showing the world how much she loved you. And who couldn't? You were honest, caring, funny, and loving.
I still remember the words you told me just before we walked down the isle. "Bella, I snuck a can of mace in your purse. Just in case." You knew just the thing to settle my nerves, even though the first time you said it you embarrassed me. I know now that you were just trying to protect me.
You were amazing as a cop. The way you handed tough situations and calmed down the anxious and frightened – it was an amazing thing to witness. I think my favorite part about you being a cop was the way you were around kids. You were so gentle with them, so trusting. I remember when I was in elementary school and we got to tour the police station. The way your eyes lit up around my classmates...I always wondered if you and Mom wanted more kids.
Speaking of kids, I know you wanted grandkids. Seemed like every time you saw me after Mom was gone you'd ask me about them. I kept telling you I was working on it, and now I can tell you that's pretty much a done deal. Edward doesn't know it yet, though. I thought I'd share this news with you, first. I'm really hoping it's a boy. I hope he's laid-back like you, but knows when to step in and draw the line. I hope he'll play horseshoes and tell scary stories when he's older. Of course I'll tell him THE story – the one you used to tell Jake and me when we were camping. Thank you, by the way, for all those nightmares. They were super fun. Seriously, after the fifth time, I could predict down to the minute when Jake would start screaming in his sleep. Just once could you not have told that damn story? I tease him about now, though. And you bet your ass I'll tell his kids when they're older. I figured you'd like that.
Billy has been getting sicker these last few weeks. Jake's tried to assure me that he'll be fine, but I'm not too sure. From what Leah tells me, Jake is bringing him to see a doctor in Tacoma for a second opinion. Will you watch out for him? I know he misses you, and I don't think I could bear to loose one more person.
Not this soon.
It's still too raw for me. I still drive past the diner and look for your cruiser. I still look for your boat on the lake whenever I pass by. Truth be told, I still look for Mom at the craft store, too. I know you'd say I was crazy, but I can't help it. I miss you both so much. I know that you'd tell me stop all this and appreciate everything I have around me. I will, I promise.
I suppose I should go now. I'm sure Edward and everyone else is wondering where I am. We're having steaks and beer for your birthday. Yes, I got them from Stan's – I know how you think he's the only butcher who cuts them the way you like them. I'll keep one waiting for you.
Give Mom a kiss for me, will you?
I miss you.
I love you.
I folded the letter and kissed it before pulling out a lighter. I had placed the letter I had written to Mom in a bottle and placed in the river, since that was her favorite place. I probably could have just let Dad's letter go with the breeze, but I didn't want to risk someone finding this. It was too personal. Instead, I lit it with my lighter and placed it on the bench next to me. As each piece of ash floated away, I said goodbye to him.
The man who let me stand on his feet and danced with me in the living room.
The man who taught me how to throw a punch when I started middle school.
The man who made me carry a can of mace with me on every date.
The man who told me I would always be his little girl the day I got married.
When the last ash was gone, I whispered goodbye, blew a kiss in the air and went home. I would still miss him, but the hurt seemed to lessen as I drove away.