Chapter 17


As soon as the elevator door at Rosalie and Emmett's apartment opened on their floor I was lifted off the floor and into a giant bear hug from Emmett. I grinned in spite of myself. Emmett could almost always make me feel better.

"Why haven't you visited?" he asked. "The last time I saw you was…" He trailed off. The last time he had seen me I was moving all my things out of his apartment to move in with Jacob after nearly overdosing…and dying.

"I've been busy," I said quickly. "I've been trying to stay on top of…everything."

"Listen, Bella, I want you to know, I don't blame you for what happened," he said. "Honestly it was just a matter of time before I turned him in or kicked his ass. If I had found out he gave you more coke…I wouldn't have been able to stop myself."

I smiled in spite of myself and blinked rapidly, trying to stop the tears stinging at my eyes from forming. "Thanks Emmett, that really means a lot to me."

"Come on, Rosie's waiting for ya. My mom's gonna take you guys for lunch somewhere." I followed Emmett down the hall to their apartment and as the door opened I was immediately enveloped into a tight hug from Rosalie.

"God, I can't believe he did that to you," she said angrily.

"It's alright, it's all been sorted out now," I said, hugging her tightly back.

"We should get going; Esme's waiting for us," she said. She pecked Emmett on the cheek and said, "See you later, Em."

I followed Rosalie out of the apartment and down to where her car was parked. As she drove we just talked. It felt so good to be talking to someone other than Jacob or the people at work. It felt like it had been ages since I had seen Rosalie and it felt nice to be with her again. She drove to this fancy restaurant in the Upper East Side where we were meeting Esme. She pulled into a parking lot and I felt my stomach knot in nervousness.

I hadn't seen or spoken to Esme since before Edward and I had broken up and now I was seeing her after my new boyfriend put him in jail.

So, to say I was nervous was an understatement. I felt like I was going to puke my guts out. My legs felt like gelatin as I walked with Rosalie into the restaurant. Rose confidently walked up to the hostess and told her that we had a reservation under the name "Cullen". Oddly, just at the mere mention of the last name I felt a little jolt. Nervousness shot through me and I began to feel nauseous and almost dizzy.

I didn't know why it was affecting me like this. It's not like I was going to be sitting across from Edward at the table. This would be easy. I had always liked Esme and she had always seemed to like me.

The hostess led us to a table toward the back of the restaurant. I knew this was one of Esme and Carlisle's favourite restaurants as we had celebrated their birthdays here a few times. In the back of my mind I thought, what if Esme decided to bring Alice today to try and make things better between us? The thought almost stopped me dead in my tracks, but I forced myself to keep moving.

As we turned a corner I saw that Esme was sitting alone at a table with her hands gently folded on her plate, waiting for us.

At the mere sight of her I felt the tension melt away from me. Esme had always treated me like a daughter, and her body language and face radiated kindness. I had nothing to worry about. However, as we got closer to her, I could see the lines of stress on her face. She still looked as beautiful as ever, but I could see that her eyes had dark circles underneath them.

As she saw us, her mouth lifted into a smile and she stood up. She came right for me and hugged me tightly. I felt her love and warmth in that hug and I melted into her embrace. I felt tears sting at my eyes and as she pulled away from me I noticed that her eyes had welled up with tears as well.

"It's okay, Bella, Carlisle and I don't blame you for what happened," she whispered. She turned to Rose and hugged her too. We all sat down at that table and looked over the menus. A waitress came and we ordered and then a silence fell over the table.

"Are you doing alright, Esme?" I asked when I couldn't take it anymore.

"I'm fine, Bella," she said, smiling warmly at me. "A little stressed about the whole situation, of course, but besides that I'm fine. Are you doing okay?"

"I'm…okay," I said. "Alice called me yesterday."

Esme's entire posture changed immediately. She stiffened and her lips drew tightly together. "What did she say?" she asked. I noticed the tightness of her jaw and the way her tone had gone slightly cold. My eyes widened slightly and I explained the conversation that Alice and I had had. Throughout my explanation Esme seemed to get more and more annoyed. I finished talking and Esme said, "Well, believe me Bella; I have a few things to say to her."

"Has she been…different lately?" Rose asked.

Esme took a deep breath. "Well, she hasn't come by the house very much, and when she has visited I've noticed a definite decline in her personality. It looks like she's lost weight, she always looks exhausted, and whenever I ask her what's going on she gets angry with me."

"She's lost weight?" I repeated and Esme nodded. Alice was already very thin; I couldn't imagine her looking any thinner than she already was.

"I haven't seen her since I quit at the club," Rose said. "But Emmett's been telling me she's been missing half her shifts and when she comes in she's…" she trailed off and glanced at me, then said, "She just doesn't act right." I knew exactly what Rose meant by that. Alice was going to work high. She hadn't wanted to say it in front of Esme but her look to me had told me all I needed to know.

Esme's eyes welled up with tears. "I'm guessing neither of you have any idea what's…?"

"No," I said immediately. I hesitated slightly before saying, "Has Jasper been around?"

"She hasn't talked about him recently," Esme said.

"Emmett hasn't said anything about him missing work," Rose said.

"Maybe something happened between them?" I asked.

"Maybe," Esme said. "I don't think she'd talk to me about it if she did. Bella, I know that she blew up on you, but maybe if you and Rosalie tried…?" She trailed off and bit her lip, then said. "No, no I can't ask you to do that."

I glanced at Rose and said, "Well, maybe we could stop by her apartment or something?"

"Yeah, maybe later on we'll go and check on her," Rose said.

A smile hinted at Esme's lips and I saw her eyes practically light up. "Thank you so much, girls. I didn't want to ask but I couldn't help it…I don't know who else to turn to."

"I understand completely," Rose said.

Our food came at that point and the conversation turned lighter. We talked about simpler things, but what Esme had told us about Alice was bothering me. I hated to admit it after the things she had said to me, but I was worried about her. She had been one of my only friends when I had first moved here and now she was probably getting into dangerous shit. Had she and Jasper broken up? Was that why she was acting like this? I remembered when she got angry with me for leaving Edward because he had cheated on me. Had something like that happened with Jasper as well?

"Esme, have you been to see Edward?" I asked, oddly finding it difficult to actually say his name.

"Carlisle and I went to see him once," she said. "He got angry with us when we wouldn't bail him out. Carlisle told him that he did it to himself and we weren't going to get him out of there." Her eyes welled up with tears again and she said, "He called us bad parents. He started yelling at us. The guards had to drag him away from us and escort us out of the building."

I heard a sharp intake of breath escape from Rosalie. "He actually said that to you?"

Esme nodded. "It was terrible. Carlisle and I won't be going back. I feel like I'm losing my children."

"You aren't," Rosalie said soothingly. "You're all just going through a rough patch. It'll be okay."

"Yeah, exactly," I said. "We're going to go try and figure out what's wrong with Alice and you still have Emmett who's sane. Edward will…he'll get over it. He won't hold it against you, Esme, if anything it's me who he'll hold a grudge against."

Esme pursed her lips. "I guess you're right. I just don't want him to try and do anything to you. Promise me you'll call me right away if he does, Bella."

"I will," I said. "Do you know if Alice has been to see him?"

"She goes as often as she can," she said.

I pursed my lips. Nervousness crept up neck as I thought about what they could be talking about when she visited him. Were they talking about how they'd get back at me? Were they talking about how much they hated me for what I did to him? Were they planning on getting revenge on me when he got out?

We finished eating everything and the bill came. I pulled out my wallet, as did Rosalie, but Esme waved us off saying, "It's the least I can do, really. Don't worry about it."

We said our goodbyes to each other and then Rose and I drove away.

"Alice has obviously been using," Rose said. "I don't really know what she's been using, but Emmett's said that she's gone in to work high out of her mind at least five times in the past week. No one knows what's gotten into her."

"Are we going to go see her?" I asked.

"Do you want to?" she asked.

"Yeah…I think we should."

"Are you ready for it?"

"I think so. She probably won't want to see me, but we'll find out what's going on," I said.

"If you're sure…" she said, turning onto the street where Alice's apartment was. She drove up to the building and parked in visitor's parking. We walked into the lobby and Rosalie called up to Alice's apartment.

"Hello?" she asked in a dull voice.

"Hey Alice, it's Rose!" Rose said in a bright voice as if trying to ignore how odd Alice had sounded. "I was in the neighbourhood and decided to stop by. Can you let me up?"

"Yeah," Alice mumbled. "Come on up."

I heard the front door click open and Rose and I walked to the elevator, nervousness building in the pit of my stomach.