Story name: Worth it
Your name: duskwatcher2153
Summary or synopsis: Desperate and alone, Bella has climbed the highest structure in Forks: the water tower. The small town Forks Fire Department sends Edward, the new guy, up to talk her down.
This story is not meant to be an accurate depiction of mental illness. If you or someone you care for is dealing with suicidal thoughts, please contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255
"Miss, please, you have to come down."
"No! Keep away! Don't touch me!" The young woman was wild-eyed, nearly hysterical, and perched precariously on the catwalk of the highest structure in Forks: the water tower.
"Please, miss. I don't wanna have to come over there and get you." Volunteer Fireman Mike Newton looked over his shoulder at the ground below, holding tightly to the metal ladder which was the only way up the tower. The ground was far enough away that it could be serious splat! material.
"Then don't! Just leave me alone." She stood on the narrow ledge, staring at the ground below. She had sidled away from the ladder and was about fifteen feet away from Newton. The only thing keeping her from plunging ninety feet to the ground was the single rail of the catwalk that circled the tower.
Newton looked down longingly at the other firemen below him on the ground. Chief Martin should be here; what the hell did Newton know about suicides? He took another look at the woman. She was young, brown-haired, probably pretty if she'd stop crying. Kinda hot, actually.
Very carefully, with his forearms wrapped around the ladder, he pulled his walkie-talkie out of his pocket. He hadn't realized how strong the wind was up here. "She's not coming down. Over."
The radio crackled. "Did you try talking to her? Over."
"Ah, yeah. She doesn't seem to want−oh, shit!" The radio had slipped from his grasp, and Newton watched it pinwheeling through the air to smash at the feet of the men below. He looked at the lady, then back at the ground and then back at her. "I'm, uh, gonna go back down. You stay right here, okay?"
She glanced at him with red-rimmed eyes from behind the windblown mass of brown hair, saying nothing.
"Okay, then," he answered himself. "Just…just stay." Cautiously he backed down the ladder rung by rung, gratefully reaching the ground below. He shook his head, turning to Eric and Ben, the other volunteer firemen standing at the base of the ladder. "She's not coming down on her own."
Eric's eyes widened. "Don't look at me. I hate heights."
Newton rolled his eyes. "Well then, what the fuck did you join the fire department for?"
"Girls. They think firemen are hot," Eric said as if it was entirely self-explanatory. They turned toward the street as the fire chief's car pulled up. But instead of the chief emerging, it was the new guy, Edward. The only other paid full-time firefighter on the force beside the chief, he'd been recruited last month. He'd just graduated from Boston U with a degree in Fire Science and he'd yet to prove himself. Dressed in jeans and a uniform shirt, he glanced up at the water tower before approaching the guys.
Mike scowled, his hands on his hips. "So, where's the chief?"
"He's in Seattle." Edward adjusted the baseball cap on his head. "Take him about three hours to get here."
Mike scuffed the dirt with his foot. "Shit. Now what are we going to do?"
Edward peered up at the tower again. "I called the hospital. They're going to try to reach a shrink to get over here when they can."
"Did they say when?"
Edward shook his head. "They have to reach someone first. They'll call us when they know."
"We gotta get her down here somehow," Eric said. "She goes off that catwalk, we'll be the ones cleaning it up."
"Christ, aren't you the compassionate one?" Mike glared at him.
"It's true, man. You weren't here when we had to clean up that logging accident." Eric shivered. "That was nasty."
"Do we know who she is?" Edward asked.
"She's Charlie Swan's daughter," Ben answered. "He used to be the chief of police before Mark Gaines took over. He died in a hunting accident."
Edward nodded, looking at the ground, thinking. "She have any other family in town?"
Mike shook his head. "None. Charlie was kind of a loner. She moved here when he passed." Mike nodded toward the small, lone figure, perched against the massive roundness of the water tower. "Poor kid. She's probably been rattling around that big house all by her lonesome."
Edward looked at the darkening grey sky. "We better get her off there soon. That metal's going to be slippery when it rains."
"Well, I tried talking her down, but she's not moving," Mike said, crossing his arms.
Edward looked up the girl. "Mind if I take a stab at it?"
Mike took a step backward and gestured toward the ladder. "Be my guest."
Edward patted his pockets. "Got a radio?"
Mike glanced at the pieces on the ground, but Ben stepped forward. "Use mine."
Edward tucked it into the back of his waistband. "Thanks." He turned his baseball cap backwards, and reaching for the ladder said, "Wish me luck."
"Good luck," the others chorused as they watched him begin to climb.
"Poor bastard doesn't stand a chance," Mike muttered under his breath.
Edward was about half-way up when he stopped to look around. He was just at the level of the tops of the trees and that was all he could see around him − a sea of trees. Looking down, he saw the field surrounding the water tower was beginning to fill up. A police car had arrived, several spectators were arriving from the ball park next door, and a couple of people with dogs were headed toward the tower.
He kept climbing until he reached the level of the catwalk. The girl was there, about fifteen feet away, holding so tightly to the railing her knuckles were white. She was dressed modestly in jeans and a hoodie, and her brown hair was blowing crazily around her head. He stopped, still on the ladder, figuring if he was lower than her, he'd seem less threatening. She glanced quickly at him, her eyes red from crying.
He spoke softly. "Hi, I'm Edward."
She said nothing, just looked down at the ground.
He rose another two rungs on the ladder and looked around. He could see for miles. "Wow, nice view up here, huh?"
She glanced at him frowning, like he was the crazy one.
"I bet you can see the ocean when it's clear," he added.
She finally spoke. "Why can't you all just leave me alone?" she asked bitterly.
He shifted, wrapping his arms around the ladder."Well, it's my job."
"It's your job to bother innocent people going about their own business?"
"No," he said. He glanced down at the ground. "It's my job to protect people."
Her hands shifted on the rail. "Even if they don't want protecting?" She sniffed, then wiped the sleeve of her jacket across her eyes.
"Maybe that's when they need protecting the most," he said gently. "I'm Edward, by the way."
"I heard you the first time."
He waited expectantly. She gave in. "I'm Bella. Bella Swan."
"Hi, Bella. I'm kinda hoping you'll let me talk you down off of this thing. It would really impress the guys below."
That wasn't what she was expecting. She leaned forward slightly, to peer over the railing. "What, those guys down there?"
"You need to impress them?"
"Kinda. I'm the new guy so, well, I have yet to prove myself." He shrugged. "It's a guy thing."
Being a sheriff's daughter, she knew about these kinds of dynamics. She nodded knowingly. "Guy thing."
He shifted on the ladder and adjusted his cap with one hand before grabbing the rungs again. "Yeah, they're pretty sure I can't do anything right."
She looked at him with interest from behind the mass of her blowing hair. Her brown eyes were large and the color of polished mahogany. "Can you?" she asked skeptically.
"Well, usually." He grimaced. "I don't seem to be having a whole lot of luck lately."
He sighed. "You really want to hear this?"
"Yeah. Yeah, I do."
He glanced at the ground again. "It's kind of shaky on this ladder. Can I come sit up there?"
She looked suddenly suspicious of his intentions. "You're not going to try anything, are you?"
"We're 100 feet up in the air. There's not a lot for me to try. I just want to sit down." She didn't look convinced, so he continued. "This isn't like Jack and Rose on the Titanic − 'you jump, I'll jump.' That's not an ocean down there."
She raised her chin. "I know that."
"You jump, you'll go splat. Then I'll climb down carefully."
"Geez, thanks," she said sarcastically. He started to climb but stopped when she spoke. "Maybe I want to go splat."
He shook his head. "Nah, you really don't. Believe me, I've seen it. It doesn't always go the way you think it would."
She puzzled over that while he climbed the remaining rungs. He paused before making the step over to the catwalk. There was a gap of about eighteen inches between the ladder and the start of the catwalk with nothing below but air. He steeled himself and glanced once more at her. "Okay, I'm coming over."
He grabbed onto the railing with one hand and put one foot on the catwalk. Suddenly his foot on the ladder slipped, and he made a wild grab for the catwalk. Bella screamed as he hung suspended for a moment before his foot found purchase, and with a mighty heave, he pulled himself onto the narrow catwalk, falling to his knees.
The two of them stared wild-eyed at each other, him panting with the sudden exertion and her finally taking a breath. He rose slowly from his knees with both hands on the railing. "Well, that was exciting," he said, his voice just a tiny bit tremulous. "It's, uh, kinda slippery."
Bella made a noise that sounded like a very quiet "meep."
The radio crackled at Edward's back. "You okay up there? Over."
He slowly reached behind him and pulled the radio out of his waistband. He kept his eyes on her face as he spoke into the radio. "We're okay. Just talking. Over."
"Really? Cause that looked like you were just about to–" Edward thumbed the switch that turned the radio off and put it back behind him.
"Okay if I sit down?" he asked.
"Be careful," she whispered, still wide-eyed, holding even tighter to the railing.
"Thanks." Cautiously, he sat down on the catwalk, letting his feet dangle over the edge on either side of one of the support posts. "Okay, so where was I?"
She visibly swallowed. "You haven't been having any luck lately with the guys down there?"
"Oh, yeah." He sighed and adjusted his baseball cap visor around so it was in front. Slightly abashed, he started his story. "Well, last week we were having a drill." He looked over at her, and she nodded her understanding. "I was driving the ladder truck, and I must have hit the extension gears. The ladder on the back of the truck, it, uh, went up. I snagged the stop lights at the corner of Route 101 and Bogachiel. Dragged them for two blocks before I noticed. Knocked down some power lines. Half the lights in town went out."
"Oh my god. The blackout last week? That was you?"
He smiled crookedly. "Yeah."
She shifted her feet slightly, and her hands loosened just a bit on the railing she held. "Wow, I can see what you mean."
He frowned, and his eyebrows drew together. "Yeah, I'm not the most popular person in the firehouse right now."
"I'm sure they'll forgive you," she assured him.
"Some day." There was a moment of silence as the two of them thought that over. He glanced over at her. "So, why are you up here?"
She shook her head. "You don't want to know."
"Yeah, I do. I climbed all the way up here, didn't I?"
"You came up here to impress those guys." She nodded at the ground below.
He peered up at her from his seat on the catwalk. "Well, that's true. But that's not the only reason."
"What? Maybe you're like those people." Below them the crowd continued to grow. "Just come to gawk," she said bitterly.
"No." He adjusted the visor of his cap before he looked up at her again. "I came because I don't want to see a beautiful woman throw away her life."
Her chin rose, and he could see her lower lip trembling. "It's my life. I'll throw it away if I want."
"Yes, you could," he admitted. "But there are so many other options."
"Options, ha!" She grimaced like she held ashes in her mouth.
They were silent for a moment. He peered up at her. "Can you, just like, sit down? You know, you could sit down and maybe we could talk like, you know, normal people."
"Yes, sure. Let's be normal by all means while we're a hundred feet in the air," she said, but still, carefully, she sat down a few feet away from him. The two of them dangled their feet off the catwalk.
"Hey, that's my mother down there," he said, pointing.
"Where? Which one?"
"The brunette in the blue jacket." He waved, then cupped his hands around his mouth. "Hi, Mom!"
She yelled something back, but the wind snatched her words away.
"What did she say?" Bella asked.
"I don't know." He shrugged. "Probably telling me to be careful." He waved at the woman on the ground again, like he'd received whatever message she had tried to tell him.
"She must love you very much."
He shrugged, slightly embarrassed. "Well, she's my mom." He thought for a moment. "I, uh, heard about your dad. I'm sorry."
She dropped her head and her hair fell between them. "Thanks." There were a few minutes of silence, and he heard her sniff several times as if weeping. "What hurts," she said softly, "is I never got to tell him I loved him."
He nodded, and she glanced at him with red, teary eyes.
"He wanted me to come live with him when I was in high school, but I didn't want to leave my friends. I kept meaning to come up north to visit him, but then there was school and work…and then it was too late." She started sobbing softly.
She sniffed loudly, and he searched his jacket pockets for something to give her. Finally, he pulled a knit glove from his pocket and offered it to her. "Uh, thanks," she acknowledged before wiping her eyes and blowing her nose with it. Sheepishly, she offered it back to him, but he declined.
"Keep it," he said.
She tucked it back into her pocket and took a breath. "And now, I can't even hold onto the house. There's this huge mortgage on it, and the bank is going to foreclose. I can't even pay for school this year, never mind the mortgage."
She started sobbing again. "I am like the worst daughter ever."
He scooched a little closer to her so he could reach out and touch her shoulder. "I can't see that."
"Oh, you don't know the half of it," she said, sniffling. "I haven't even mentioned what's going on with my mother." She cried softly for a few minutes. "I thought that maybe moving up here it would be a chance for me to start over, but I can't. I'm just stuck."
He nodded sympathetically. "I know what that feels like."
She straightened up, looking at the sky and trying to blink back the tears. "I'm sorry. I don't know why I'm telling you this."
He was quiet for a moment. She finally glanced over at him. "You know, there are. There really are," he said.
She raised her eyebrows, questioning.
"Options. There are always options," he explained. "Sometimes we get too close to things. We can't see the choices that are available."
She snorted derisively. "Choices? Choices are for the rich."
"What makes you say that?"
"I would choose to go back to college if I had the money. I would choose to stay in my dad's house if I could pay the mortgage. But apparently, that's not an option right now."
"Can you, like, work for a while? Maybe take night classes?"
She drew back. "Did I ask you to fix me?"
That surprised him. "No, I'm…I'm sorry." He held his hands up. "Just trying to help. I hate to see someone like you in pain."
"Someone like me?"
"Well, yeah. Young, beautiful."
She rolled her eyes. "Yeah, right."
"What do you mean by that?"
"You have to say that,. right?"
"Yeah, you know. Try to talk−" she used her fingers to indicate air quotes "− the suicide down. Build up confidence."
"No, there's nothing in the manuals about that. I said that because it's true."
She peered at him, trying to gauge his sincerity. His bottle-green eyes were watching her carefully, full of empathy and concern. He seemed like a really nice guy. A little klutzy maybe, but she knew what that was like. And he said she was beautiful. Suddenly, her cheeks began to get hot; compliments always made her self-conscious.
She began to think that maybe this whole idea of throwing herself off the tower wasn't such a good one. It had really been a spur-of-the-moment impulse. She'd been weepy all week and had gone for a walk when she'd spotted the tower and decided to climb it. Then people had started showing up and she'd begun to realize what her actions really meant. She'd just felt so alone.
It was as if he'd read her mind. "We all feel alone at times," he said softly.
Tears started to drop down her face again. She nodded silently.
Down below, they could see the other firemen waving their arms, trying to get their attention. "Guess they want to talk." He reached behind him, brought out the radio and thumbed it on. Instantly, it crackled into life. "−the goddamn radio, you feckless son of a bitch. We've got the doctor here."
"Ah, hey guys. Over."
"Come on down. The shrink's here. He's going to go up. Over."
"Be down in a moment. Over." He turned off the radio and sat with it in his hand. "They want me down there. They're going to send the doctor up."
She let her curtain of hair fall between them and clasped her hands in her lap. "What's going to happen to me?"
"They'll take you to the clinic in Port Angeles for a mandatory 72 hour watch. There'll be doctors there that can help you."
"I can't just go home?"
"No, not right away."
She tossed her head back. Tears were brimming in her eyes. "God, I've really fucked things up, haven't I?"
"Hey, we all fuck ourselves up every once in a while. It's being human."
"It's just so…" She took a ragged breath inward, trying to fight back her tears. "Hard."
He reached over and took her hand. "I can't tell you it's going to be easy. I can tell you it's going to be worth it."
She looked at him with tear tracks on her cheeks. "You didn't just make that up," she accused, struggling to smile.
He smiled back at her. "No. It was on reflection of the day dot com."
That made her laugh, despite the tears. "Well, thanks anyway."
They sat in silence for a moment. "Maybe, when they allow you visitors, I could come by."
She raised her head and looked at him. His green eyes smiled back at her brown ones. "I'd like that."
"Alright. Well, looks like they want me down now," he said. Below them, several dozen people were milling around. Newton was waving at them. Carefully, Edward rose to his feet.
"I'll come down with you," she said, also rising cautiously.
"I'm glad, Bella. Very glad." He held out his hand to her, and she grasped it. It was warm, firm and protective, and it made her heart leap a little.
"Ready?" he asked.
She nodded, realizing that she could trust him. "Ready."
Together, they sidled back over to where the ladder was. He crossed over the gap to the ladder first, and moved down a few rungs to give her room to grab onto the ladder. She glanced down, and he could see the fear in her face. Her knuckles were white with the strength of her grip.
"It's easy," he assured her. "One hand on the ladder, then step over. I'll be right here."
She nodded and then, with a shaking hand, reached out and grabbed the ladder. She tentatively stepped onto the ladder with one foot and, transferring her weight to the ladder, crossed the gap. Her foot slipped and she lost her grasp on the ladder. She screamed as her feet went out from beneath her, having completely lost her footing and grabbing desperately for the railing. .Dangling from the thin pipe railing with nothing but ninety feet of air beneath her, she twisted, trying to bring her legs over to something solid.
There was an audible gasp from the crowd below and several high-pitched screams rang out. Edward reached out with one arm and grabbed her waist, bringing her over to him on the ladder. She was stretched with her hips trapped between his and the ladder, and her hands on the far railing. He could feel how violently she was shaking.
"Don't let me go. Don't let me go," she prayed. "Oh, God. Don't let me fall."
"I've got you. I've got you," he murmured soothingly. "Bella, just listen to me."
"Oh, Christ, don't let me fall."
"I've got you. But you have to let go of the railing and grab the ladder."
"I can't, I can't."
"Yes, you can."
"My hands. I can't move them."
"Bella, listen to me. I've got you. I won't let you fall. With your right hand, let go of the railing and grab my neck."
"You can do it, Bella. I've got you. Let go of the railing and grab me."
"Oh, God," she whispered, but slowly the fingers of one hand peeled away from the railing, and then quickly wrapped around his neck, uncomfortably so.
"Okay, now the other one."
He rose one rung on the ladder, trapping her more firmly, as her other hand moved from the railing. They stood on the same rung with her twisted, one arm behind his neck, the other hand on the ladder. His body and arms trapped her against the ladder, securing her. They looked into each other's eyes. "You okay?" he asked softly.
She was still trembling. "Yeah. Yeah, I think so."
"Okay. Both hands on the ladder and we're going to climb down together, okay?"
She nodded and with him just a rung or two below her, keeping himself behind her as her safety net, they made the long climb back down to the ground.
They were swarmed by people as they touched down and were instantly separated. Chief Martin and Newton grabbed his arms. "Are you okay? How'd you get her down?"
"I'm fine. I'm fine." He tried to see Bella through the crowd, but there were too many others in the way.
"What did you say to her?"
"We just talked." He stood on tiptoe trying to see her, finally catching sight of her as two ambulance attendants led her away. She looked back over her shoulder, scanning the crowd. Her eyes stopped when they caught his. He smiled encouragingly at her.
Tentatively, a smile crossed her face and then she turned away as they helped her into the ambulance.
Edward's mother came up to him and hugged him around his waist. "I was worried about you."
"Hey, it's my job," he said, hugging her back.
"But you were so high. That was dangerous."
"Maybe." He watched as the ambulance pulled away. "But it was worth it."