A/N: Thank you for the continual reads and reviews and for all the PMs telling me to get my butt in gear and produce another chapter for you. There are many reasons why I've been such a fail lately. As usual, I have writers block, it's a struggle for me to write anything of length anymore. Also, I have a new job now which keeps me pretty busy and when I get home, I'm too tired to even contemplate writing. And finally, someone paid for a one shot to be written for charity and even though it took me around six months to write it, it was a priority for me and so I made sure that was written first and now I'm taking part in Fandom for Heroes so I'll be working on that one shot until it's complete too as it has a deadline and this doesn't.
I'm aware thatI will have lost readers and for that, I'm sorry BUT to those of you who remain, thank you and I hope you'll stick with me to the end because this will end… One day.
An absolute massive thanks to SweetVenom69 for all her medical help with this chapter. For any of you reading who understand medicine, this will not be spot on, I've changed things around so that they suit the needs of my story because at the end of the day, that's all this is… A story.
Thanks as always to my beta Tammygrrrrl who never fails to accept chapters/one shots from me.Chapter Five – Breathe (2am)
'Cause you can't jump the track, we're like cars on a cable
And life's like an hourglass, glued to the table
No one can find the rewind button, girl.
So cradle your head in your hands
And breathe… Just breathe,
Oh breathe, just breathe.
"How is she?" Edward asked as he stepped quietly into the room, the door shutting behind him with a soft click.
"She's okay," I whispered, brushing the hair from Bree's face as she slept and I kept up my bedside vigil. My face felt tight from the multitude of tears which had fallen throughout the past two days but I was beyond crying now, at least I hoped I was, since I was completely emotionally spent.
Edward stepped up behind me, placing his hands on my shoulder and squeezing gently, comfortingly, his voice low, scratchy, concerned as he asked, "And how are you?"
My breathing hitched as I choked on a sob, screwing my eyes shut tight, refusing to allow myself to cry anymore. I didn't want Bree to wake up and see me that way. I had been lucky so far, I guess you could say, seeing as she had been in no fit state to see what a mess I was in but then on the other hand, I'd witnessed something that no parent ever wants to see, no parent should ever see.
I had been seething as I left Edward to deal with Bree after she'd decided to wreck the parking lot for no good reason. I'd stormed back into the canteen and proceeded to annoy Rosalie with my short, crisp answers and my mutterings about the best way to punish Bree when I got home after work. I'd also managed to put a few customers off of their lunch, most likely deciding to grab something less than healthy from a vending machine, than face me at the register.
And then I'd received the phone call from Edward, a garbled and strangled message that I'd made him repeat over and over, my mind absolutely steadfast against withholding the information. And finally, growing impatient with me, he'd shouted down the phone and told me to meet him in the emergency room and that he would be there in less than five minutes. I hadn't even bothered to say anything to Rose as I flew out of the cafeteria and down the winding hallways, coming to a halt in front of the ER doors, pacing up and down as I waited, chewing my nails to stubs.
The automatic doors slid open, my heart beat faster, threatening to escape from my body as the sight of my daughter, convulsing violently on a gurney, met my eyes. Her frail body surrounded by medics, including Edward and his father the Chief of surgery, Carlisle Cullen.
"What happened?" I screamed as I rushed at Edward, anger clouding my vision as my body vibrated. "What did you do to her? I thought I could trust you!" I didn't even realize I had moved closer to him until my fists were beating against his chest and his arms were wrapped around me, holding me close, allowing me to leave all of the blame at his door.
I looked past him, with red rimmed eyes and tear stained cheeks and saw that Chief Cullen's wife (whom I'd seen at charity events) was following along, with Bree's book bag in her hand. It was only then that I stopped long enough to question what had actually happened. It didn't make sense that Edward's mom would be with them. She had looked at me sadly but knowingly. It didn't matter that I had just laid hands on her son, she understood, she was a mother.
"I'm sorry I blamed you," I announced to the silent room as I pulled myself back to the present. "I had no right to do that and I'm sorry. I didn't really think you were to blame." I looked down at my sleeping daughter and heaved a sigh of relief. She might have been very unwell but she was here, she was safe and they'd finally managed to stop her seizures. They'd also taken her to surgery to perform a procedure which hadn't taken too long but no one had really told me what was going on.
"Bella, really, it's okay. I'm sure any parent would have reacted the same way," Edward replied gallantly.
I nodded slowly, my eyes never leaving my daughter's sleeping face as Edward dragged a hard, plastic chair closer to the bed and settled himself in it. Silence fell between Edward and I once more, the only sounds in the room were our combined breaths and Bree's soft little murmurs as she slept. Since she was a baby, she'd mumbled in her sleep. I'd always waited for her to form actual words but it never quite got that far, it was still entertaining and comforting to watch though, she was alive, sleeping, dreaming.
"Do you know what's wrong with her?" I whispered, breaking the silence, still refusing to tear my eyes away from my baby girl.
"I spoke to Carlisle before I came in and her test results aren't back yet," Edward replied quietly.
I shook my head as a small smile flitted across my face. Edward must have taken avoidance classes while he was at med school. "That's not what I asked." I turned my palm up, resting the back of my hand on the bed, hoping Edward would take the hint and offer me skin on skin contact, comfort. He didn't disappoint, taking my hand in his and gripping it tightly. "You must have some ideas what it could be."
His head bobbed slightly in my peripheral vision. He knew but he just didn't want to say, not until he had the evidence he needed to back up his theories.
"The headaches, mood swings," I paused and took a deep breath, visions of the scene from earlier today replaying in my mind, the tears threatening once more, "and now this. I know it's not just migraines like her pediatrician said a few months back when her headaches first started. It can't be," I sighed and shook my head.
"It could be a number of things, Bella. But no, I don't think it's migraines," he confirmed.
"How could I not have seen this? I'm her mother and I should have noticed the signs. I should have known that she wasn't just acting up or going through a phase. I should have known it was something more. That's my job!" I released Edward's hand and hung my head in my own, guilt overwhelming me.
"Bella, you can't blame yourself. No one could have foreseen Bree getting sick."
"That's not true. If it was your child, Edward, you would have noticed."
"I have medical training, Bella. It's a different scenario completely."
"It's not. Mothers know. They always know when something is wrong with their child. I was too wrapped up in my own world to even take an interest in her properly. Trying to keep James out of our lives, you out of my bed and constantly focusing on work have been my only real concerns. I've been so selfish."
Edward's large hand moved to the back of my neck, his thumb rubbing softly at my flesh, the small hairs on my neck rising in response.
"Do you regret taking me to your bed?"
"Then why did we stop?" I didn't need to look at him to know that his face was confused, yet also hungry and wanting. His voice told me all of that and more.
"You know why I stopped it," I replied, refusing to look at him. This conversation had been a long time coming and while I could talk about it with him now, I couldn't possibly hold his questioning gaze too.
"You told me then but that still doesn't mean I understand."
"We just wanted to scratch each of our mutual itches," I thought aloud.
"Yes, we did," he said. "I thought we were doing quite well with that too."
I nodded. "Yes, too well, perhaps."
"That's really why you ended it, because it was becoming more than sex to you?"
"I told you that before."
"Yes, but I didn't believe it; I thought it was just an excuse. I thought you were scared because that just doesn't make any sense to me, Bella. What's wrong with having more when it's something we both wanted?"
"How would that have looked to Bree? I left her father. I'm trying to teach her that you don't need a man to be happy, that you don't have to stay in an abusive relationship because of fear. I'm trying to teach her to be strong and independent. Sleeping with you in secret was one thing but having you there for breakfast or going out on family outings just wouldn't have been right. Any relationship I have isn't just me Edward, it's me and Bree. We're a package deal." I took a deep breath and ran my fingers through my hair.
"Bella, Bree is almost fifteen; she'd understand you having a boyfriend." His arm slipped around my shoulders and I allowed my head to rest on his shoulder, enjoying the comfort of him. "I would have chosen you both, Bella. I knew that choosing you meant having Bree too. I knew that and I wanted it and despite what you may think, or how strong you believe you are, right now, you need someone, Bella. You need me."
"No. Right now I just need to look after my daughter." Silence fell between us again before a fit of giggles erupted from the bed and both Edward and I snapped our attention to Bree whose eyes were wide open, moving from my stunned face to Edward's.
"Oh, my God! I can't believe you've been sleeping together. I should have known!" Her grin widened as she propped herself against her pillows, getting herself comfortable now that she was sitting up slightly. "Just wait until I tell Victoria!"
"Bree!" I laughed and shook my head slightly as I hauled my tired and aching body from the hard, plastic chair and settled myself on the edge of her bed, as close to her as I could get, too happy to see her awake and looking better to chide her for her comment.
My hand reached out to her, tucking her bangs behind her ear, smiling at her lovingly, laughing as she halfheartedly tried to push me away.
"How do you feel?" I asked, staring deep into her eyes, gauging her response.
"Stop fussing, Mom, I'm fine," she replied as she turned her sparkling eyes on Edward. "So… you're in love with my mum," she stated.
"I… Uh…" Edward stuttered, his cheeks turning pink in his embarrassment.
A gentle tap sounded at the door and an ominous silence fell between us, all joviality from the moment before lost as my breath halted in my chest and Edward mumbled a quiet 'come in'.
The Chief's blond hair and smiling face peeked around the edge of the door and I knew then that our lives were due to change forever because while Carlisle was smiling on the outside, I could see the turmoil and sorrow in his eyes and his thinly veiled attempt to hide it.
"Bella, would you mind stepping outside with me for a moment?" he asked softly, his hand resting on the door handle, that tight, polite, reassuringly fake doctor's smile firmly in place.
My eyes flicked first to Bree, who shrugged her shoulders, clearly not bothered by the goings on as she reached for her phone on the bed side table and began tapping out a message to one of her many friends. I shifted my gaze to Edward next, who smiled that same smile which Carlisle offered and I wondered, briefly, if he'd inherited it from his dad or learned it at med school.
"I'll stay with Bree," he murmured, nodding his head toward his father, his eyes still on mine, his gaze pleading with me to find the strength to get up and leave the room.
I stood on shaky legs, my vision tunneled until all that was visible to me was Carlisle's foreboding form, framed by the doorway. And then I was outside Bree's room, the door closed behind me as I pressed my back up against the corridor wall, the scent of the hospital flooding my senses.
My hands were shaking as I clasped them in front of my body. My legs were like jelly and I just wanted to collapse to the floor and sob. I didn't want to hear what I was about to but I knew that I had no choice.
Bree's laughter broke through my thoughts and I turned my head slightly to glance through the window and saw her laughing and joking with Edward, both of them wearing dazzling smiles, both of them seemingly happy, without a care in the world. The only evidence to the contrary was the sadness hiding in Edward's eyes. He knew.
"Bella, would you like to sit down? We can go to my office if you'd prefer?" Carlisle asked as he placed his strong hand securely on my shoulder.
"No," I squeaked, my throat tight. "Please, just tell me."
Carlisle nodded tersely, steeling himself for the news he was about to break to me. He ran his hand through his hair, a move I had seen Edward complete many times, his usually perfectly slicked back, blonde hair falling into his eyes as he trained his gaze on mine, his face showing nothing but compassion and regret.
"Bella, as you know, once Bree was in a stable enough condition we ran some tests. We received the results of her MRI yesterday and that's what prompted us to take her for a biopsy," Carlisle began, before I cut him off with my questioning.
"Biopsy? No one told me about that. Why would she need a biopsy?" My voice had risen slightly and my hands began to shake. I looked through the window at Bree and Edward, taking a deep breath to try and calm myself and get through this.
"The MRI showed a tumor in Bree's frontal lobe," he continued as if I had never interrupted him, while my breath halted in my chest and my head began to swim. Tumor? Tumor?
"The tumor has been diagnosed as a glioblastoma multiforme. It's the most aggressive form of brain tumor and unfortunately, it has a very high regrowth rate."
"What does that mean? The uh… The regrowth rate?" My mind was still foggy and I was having trouble focusing on his words, let alone voicing my own thoughts properly.
Carlisle took me by the hand and led me toward the floor's waiting area, which thankfully was empty as he sat me down in yet another hard plastic chair, orange this time, I noticed as I tried to process the things Carlisle had already told me. Bree had a brain tumor, my little girl had been sick all this time and I'd failed to notice.
"It means that even if we were able to remove the tumor, it would continue to grow back. I'm so sorry, Bella, I wish I had better news," he said as he took my frigid hand between his and squeezed gently. "I'm afraid Bree has incurable brain cancer. There is nothing we can do to save her, only a treatment regime and medication that will slow down its progress but ultimately, this condition will take her life."
I swallowed and nodded, unable to open my mouth to speak, for fear of what may come out of it. Carlisle continued on, nonetheless, obviously trying to give me as much information as he possibly could before I'd inevitably break down.
"She'll become weaker and weaker as the disease progresses, her mood swings may increase and she will be in a lot of pain but we'll give her medication to try to control that as much as possible and to make her comfortable. There is a strong chance that she'll end up in a wheelchair toward the end, or possibly even bed ridden. Bella, do you understand what I'm saying to you?" Carlisle asked, lowering his head as he tried to catch my eye.
I forced myself to look up at him and nodded slowly, swallowing hard past the lump in my throat, surprised to find that I wasn't crying, I wasn't even close to crying. "Yes," I murmured, breaking eye contact as I turned away from him, looking at the wall opposite, seeing the posters stuck to the walls but not actually seeing them, as I spoke monotonously. "Bree is going to die."
"Yes," Carlisle confirmed and I wondered if he had to repeat it over and over in case I refused to actually listen, in case I chose to forget it instead. Perhaps that happened often with patients who received bad news. Maybe it seemed like that, taking it all on board, but really they're letting the words flow right through them, refusing to believe.
"Would you like me to discuss treatment options with you now?"
"What options are there?" I whispered. "From what you've just said, there doesn't seem to be a lot available."
"There is palliative care available, drugs which will make Bree comfortable but ultimately it will have no effect on the tumor, allowing it to continue growing," he paused.
"Or we can remove the tumor and implant a gliadel wafer in place of the tumor which will release the medication over a two to three week period. It would be a one-time procedure, which we could perform when Bree is feeling a little stronger, and in conjunction she'll have a prescription of Temador to take daily at home, along with Morphine for the pain and Zofran for the sickness."
"That's invasive," I said, trying my hardest to keep a firm grip on the information I was being provided with while my heart was breaking.
"Yes, it is a more invasive approach but Bella, in my honest opinion, this is the only option I would choose, if it was me."
My anger flared as I stood up, knocking that stupid plastic chair over, satisfied with the crashing sound it made as it clattered to the floor. "If it was you? If it was you?" I shouted, my face growing red. "It's not you though Carlisle, is it? This is my daughter! My fourteen year old daughter." I slumped to the floor as my body ran out of steam, pulling my knees to my chest, trying fruitlessly to hold myself together as the tears finally came, the shock passing as the sorrow crept in. "My little girl, my baby."
Carlisle crouched in front of me, hovering for a moment before his arms wrapped tightly around me, offering me the same comfort that his son would.
"I truly am sorry, Bella, if there was any more that I could do. I would."
"I know," I cried, my voice cracking as I buried my face in Carlisle's chest, allowing my tears to soak through his shirt. We stayed that way for some time, until the sobs had finally stopped wracking my body and I had calmed enough to stand.
"Would you like me to explain it to Bree?" Carlisle asked softly, his golden eyes fixed on mine.
I shook my head. "I'll do it, thank you." I looked away and took a deep breath, getting myself back under control. "When can I take her home?"
"I'd like her to have something to eat before she leaves. I'll get her prescription ready for you and she can begin taking her medication. I'll call you in the next few days to schedule the surgery."
"Okay," I replied as I stepped back toward Bree's room. "Excuse me but I need to be with my daughter."
"Of course," he replied. "I'll check in on Bree before you leave." I nodded and turned away from him, stopping outside Bree's room for a moment, making sure that I plastered a smile on my face and cleared my mind of any negativity. I would tell Bree what was going on but first I wanted to get her home, where she would feel safe.
I stepped back into the room, my eyes were red and puffy, I knew that, but I painted a smile on my face regardless. My feet carried me across the room until I was perched on the edge of Bree's bed once more.
"Mom?" she quietly asked, a flash of worry crossing her face.
I forced myself to smile wider, feeling my cheeks pull, as I took her hand in mind, trying not to cry as I looked down at her small palm wrapped protectively in mine.
"Is everything okay?"
"Mmhm." I nodded before realizing that I'd have to speak actual words and not just make sounds, hoping my voice would hold out. "Yes, of course, everything is just fine."
Edward's eyes flashed to mine, his brow furrowing. He could see through the lie easily because he knew, even without having seen the tests or speaking to Carlisle, he knew as any doctor would that something was seriously wrong with Bree. I just hoped he'd let me handle this my way, the way which was best for Bree. She was so young and she didn't need to know the seriousness of this illness.
"Cool." She flicked her phone open and closed over and over, barely even focusing on her surroundings, clearly lost in her own thoughts.
"Victoria wants to know when I'll be going home."
I smiled for real this time as I replied with, "Doctor Cullen says we can go home later tonight, as soon as you've eaten and we've collected your medication."
"Edward said he'd get me a Chinese," Bree replied as she sent a message to Victoria, no doubt letting her know that she'd be home in a few hours.
"Did he now?" I smiled as I turned to him, laughing softly as he shrugged his shoulders in response.
"Yep." She popped the 'P'. "And he's even going all the way to the Golden Dragon."
"That's quite a ways from here, Bree. I'm sure Edward doesn't want to drive all that way."
"It's fine, Bella, I said she could have whatever she wanted." He smiled sheepishly. "Anyway, I kind of promised so I can't really change my mind now."
"You shouldn't spoil her," I replied, trying to scowl but failing miserably. Despite the news I'd just heard, I was somewhat happy. My baby girl was awake and talking and more importantly, she was back to her normal self.
"It's just this one," he assured me, standing up and dropping a kiss to the top of my head before moving to the door. "Special Chow Mein for you?" he asked, having already taken down Bree's order while I was out of the room and knowing my usual from our many nights of take out and sex.
"No prawns," I called after him. He laughed and acknowledged my request with a small wave of his hand.
"Can Victoria come over when we get home?" Bree asked, drawing my attention back to her.
"Not today, Sweetheart. I think when we get home we should put our pajamas on, grab some blankets and camp out on the couch with silly rom-coms and a pint of Ben and Jerry's. You might be feeling better but you should still get some rest. I know what you and Victoria are like together and I don't want you running around all night."
She shrugged. "Spending the night watching DVDs with you sounds much better anyway." She smiled brightly and wrapped her tiny arms around me, squeezing me fiercely. "Thanks, Mom."
I held her tightly to me, my eyes closed as I committed the moment to memory. "You're welcome, Darling."
She pulled back slightly and frowned at me, confusion written on her face. "What medication?" she asked, following it up with a yawn, as she remembered my comment about it earlier.
"We'll talk about it later. Get some sleep, Baby. I'll wake you when Edward gets back with your food."