Long time reader, first time writer.
First things first - This is not only my first ever FanFic, but this is the first novel-length piece of fiction I've actually managed to finish! :D (snaps for me!) As in, the good news is, you can rest assured that I won't go AWOL half way through posting it and leave you hanging, because the final draft is 100% finished and sitting happily on my computer and a memory stick. :) That said, I am absolutely terrified of how you guys actually react to it... :/
HUUUGE thanks to National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) which helped to kick start this writing journey for me, and also to my awesometastic RL beta Robyn for nagging me until this fanfic was finally finished. :D
I'll post the first few chapters this week, and after that it will be one chapter every Sunday night.
Finally, this chp is so short it's kind of like a prologue... Although I chose to call it chp 1 instead of Prologue since chp 2 follows on so much from it... jsyk... :P
Learning to Live
"Bella, Bella, Bella," said the young doctor, shaking his head and smiling softly. "What are we going to do with you?"
"Sorry, Dr Whitlock," mumbled Bella, her eyes refusing to meet his. "You know how clumsy I am..."
Jasper Whitlock sat down slowly beside her, carefully inspecting the deep gash in her cheek as she winced.
"There's a lot of bruising," he muttered to himself as he prodded her gently. "You're going to need stitches. But you're lucky, the skin is very cleanly cut." Bella nodded shortly; she was no longer a stranger to the still-dreaded needle and thread. "Are you injured anywhere else?"
Her eyes stayed focused on her hands as they toyed with each other in her lap. "No," she mumbled. "I mean, there's a few bruises, but I'm fine."
Jasper's eyes searched her face with concern and compassion. "Bella... Is everything alright?"
She looked up at him in confusion. "I'm fine," she repeated, more clearly this time.
"Bella, this is the third time I've seen you here this month. Are you sure there's nothing you want to talk about?"
Her eyes narrowed in determination. "I slipped taking out the trash, Dr Whitlock. I'm clumsy, that's all. I'm fine. Now can somebody please stitch me up so I can go home?" Her pitch began to rise, her voice wavering. "I need to have dinner ready by the time Felix gets home from work..."
Jasper sighed and stood up. "I'll get Angela to fix you up." He searched her face once more, his brilliant blue eyes burning into hers. "Bella..."
"Please, Dr Whitlock. I really need to get home."
He closed his mouth and gave her a curt nod, turning on his heel and walking away swiftly, and exhaled a deep breath as he reached the nurses' station.
"Angela, darlin'," he drawled, his slight southern accent still strange in the small northwestern town. "Can you take care of some stitches for Bella Swan? She's in bed 6."
Angela raised her eyebrows slightly. "She's back again?" Jasper nodded and she sighed. "I wish that girl would just see sense..."
"I try to talk to her every time she comes in," he agreed, rolling his eyes, "but you know how stubborn she is. All we can do is patch her up, send her home, and hope for the best."
Angela ran a hand through her hair in agitation as she walked briskly towards bed 6. She knew Dr Whitlock was right, but she couldn't help feeling both angry with and sorry for the young woman who lay back against the flat hospital pillows, eyes closed, breathing nervously.
"How are we doing today, Bella?" she asked, putting on a false brightness as she began to gently clean the wound below Bella's eye.
Bella grimaced, but relaxed slightly in the nurse's friendly presence. "Hi Angela. Not too bad, I guess... I mean, I've had worse."
"That you have," murmured Angela quietly as she readied the local anesthetic.
Bella held her breath as the injection went in, and let it out again slowly as numbness began to seep over the right side of her face. She closed her eyes as Angela began to push the edges of her cut together, gritting her teeth and trying not to notice the soft sound of the thread pulling swiftly through her skin. She forced her breathing to stay even, and ignored the nurse's comment.
"All done," said Angela, after what seemed like only a few seconds. She carefully smoothed a small white bandage over the stitches and snapped off her gloves. "Bella..." She hesitated, before continuing carefully. "I know you don't want to talk to Dr Whitlock... but if there's anything going on... anything you want to share with someone in confidence..."
Bella took a deep breath and looked Angela in the eye. "There's nothing. Really. I know you guys find it hard to believe that someone could be as clumsy as I am, but it's true. I can't help it if I can't manage to walk across a flat surface without finding something to trip over!" She forced herself to smile a little, trying to break the tension, and the corners of Angela's mouth rose half-heartedly in return.
"Alright, Bella. But if there's ever anything you want to talk about..."
"You'll be the first person I turn to Angela. I promise."
Bella shrank back further into the hood of her cheap plastic raincoat, trying in vain to keep her face dry as she trudged along the sidewalk, the heavy sheets of rain making the ten-minute walk from the hospital to the flat she shared with her boyfriend Felix feel like thirty. She attempted to dodge the puddles, hopping nimbly from side to side whenever there was room, but was constantly buffeted by passers-by dashing desperately for the nearest cover. She was in no hurry to get home. She wondered whether Alice and Rosalie, her lifelong friends and – at this point – almost sisters, would be back from Seattle, but knowing Alice's compulsive need to appraise every single item of clothing in every single store, they wouldn't be returning till late in the night. Rose and Alice hadn't approved when Bella moved in with Felix straight after college. She had met him on the very first day, both of them majoring in philosophy with no idea what they wanted to do with their lives, and although Bella had soon switched to elementary education and Felix to an engineering degree, their mutual attraction remained undeterred. By the time they were graduating, Bella had convinced herself that despite her friends' worries – though Alice was on the other side of the country taking an interior design course and at the time had never met Felix, Rose had told her many stories that resulted in frequent worried phone calls to Bella begging her to rethink the decision – moving in together was the perfect next step in their lives. She sighed quietly to herself as she finally entered the shelter of her building, and moved slowly and silently up the stairs to the second floor. A year and a half later, she had never felt more unsure.
On entering the apartment she went straight to the kitchen, busying her mind with the task ahead of her: preparing Felix's dinner. She felt herself move about the room on auto-pilot, the unnerving lack of feeling that still lingered in her cheek adding to her dreamlike state. Without thinking she boiled pasta, diced tomatoes, artfully dodged the drops of hot oil that spat in her face as they met with the ground beef she lowered carefully into the pan. Dropping the empty plastic meat tray into the overflowing garbage can, she forced herself to ignore the stained shards of glass that lay conspicuously on top. She tensed, woken from her trance, when she heard keys rattling in the door. Felix strode down the hall and into the open kitchen, his huge frame dwarfing Bella and seeming too big for the tiny apartment. He glanced at Bella indifferently as she cowered over the stove, busying herself with the meal and not meeting his gaze. His eyes flicked quickly over to take in the empty dining table and without a word he opened the fridge and grabbed a beer, disappearing into the living room where Bella heard the flatscreen being turned on and the shouts of an over-enthusiastic sports commentator filling the air. She exhaled shakily, before spinning around quickly to save the pot of pasta before it boiled over.
Bella sat at the table opposite Felix, both of them eating in silence. Suddenly Felix let his knife and fork fall loudly to his empty plate and pushed it away from him. Bella looked up nervously to find his eyes scrutinizing her.
"You look tense," he said in a calm voice, deliberately ignoring the conspicuous white bandage that she had been trying to shield with her hair all evening.
"I'm fine," she said quietly, lifting her half empty plate and beginning to stand. Felix reached swiftly across the table to stop her, and she flinched. A look of annoyance flashed across his face.
"I'll take these in."
He walked across the room, the two plates balanced easily in his large hands, and she heard the sound of the faucet filling up the sink. Plates clattering. The water being shut off. He came back into view and stalked over to her, his eyes wary. Coming to an abrupt stop behind her chair, he rested his hands lightly on Bella's shoulders, before suddenly digging his fingers into her muscles. Her heart thudded against her chest and she froze, but instead of the pain she anticipated she felt only the rhythmic movement of his fingertips as he kneaded the knotted tissue on either side of her neck.
"Just relax, baby," he murmured, his voice blowing softly in her ear as he bent down to her level. She willed her hands to stop shaking, hiding them under her napkin away from his watchful gaze. His hands began to press a little harder as he felt her body remain tense and anxious. "Loosen up." This time his breath was in the other ear.
She focused on relaxing her shoulders and relieving the tension in her muscles, begging her body to obey as she felt Felix's fingers pressing deeper and deeper into her skin. Suddenly he stopped, hands grasping her shoulders tightly. Too tight. His fingers were cutting into her, she could feel bruises beginning to form. Without warning he suddenly pushed himself strongly off her small frame to his full height and paced quickly and angrily out of the room, slamming the bedroom door loudly behind him as Bella jumped in fright.
She heard him moving around, getting ready for bed, and her heartbeat gradually began to slow. Quietly, she washed the dishes and cleared up the kitchen, doing her best not to disturb Felix – he worked long hours, and if he didn't get enough sleep he became cranky and bad-tempered. The room in order, Bella curled up quietly on the couch, trying desperately to ignore the throbbing that was beginning to come from the deep cut on her cheek, and switched on the TV, the volume as low as it could go. She waited a while, then pulled the old, thin afghan from the back of the couch and covered herself with it, laying down and tentatively closing her eyes when she was sure her boyfriend was deeply asleep.
...Reviews make Felix work late...
[Also - if anyone knows how to separate paragraphs here on Ffn without actually putting something between them, please let me know! Every time I try doing a double space between them, it overrides it when I click save... :/ ]