Unbecoming Chapter One
Story Summary: In the aftermath of her divorce, a heartbroken Bella Swan looks for danger to give meaning to her life. If only her hot ex-husband would stay out of the picture. AH ExB
Disclaimer: All publicly recognizable characters, settings, etc. are the property of their respective owners. The original characters and plot of the Twilight Saga are the property of its author. I am in no way associated with the owners, creators, or producers of any media. Copyright infringement is not intended, nor will I ever make a dime from this fanfiction. So there.
AN: There is no cheating in this story. This story deals with the sensitive subject matter of the impact of a miscarriage on a relationship and may be a trigger for some. Please rest assured that I have taken great care to handle this issue as delicately as possible and though the journey that these characters are taking is intense and emotional, I promise that it will be worth it in the end. I believe in HEA's. I usually write AU, so writing AH is an adventure for me. I will do my best to update once a week.
Many thanks to LJ Summers and prettyflour for the beta skills. And free offerings of snark. Thanks to KristinHazzard, Twilover76, EternalSummer79, MuttNFeathers, Mamabean30, perrymaxwell, Detochkina, and pomme_de_terre for pre-reading. Thanks as well to GinnyW_31 for the consulting and advice.
Feel free to follow me on Twitter at BookishQua. I tweet when I update or post teasers. I also don't bite. Much.
Thanks for reading! - Books
It happens in the blink of an eye. The rebel soldier grabs the young boy by the upper arm and begins to yank him from his wailing mother. She hangs onto her son with emaciated arms and the little boy is stretched between them like a wishbone about to snap, too afraid to cry. There are five other soldiers making their way through our camp, scavenging for food and new recruits. They prefer to take young children. I've seen this happen more times than I can count in the past six months. We are unarmed aid workers. We've been instructed not to interfere.
This time is different: I know the little boy. His name is Peter. I've been teaching him how to read, and I'm not letting him go quietly. Without hesitation, I grab a warm rock from the ground and wrap my fingers around it until my knuckles are white.
My eyes burn. I am running on fumes; I am so tired. I can't remember the last time I slept. Sweat trickles down my forehead and I wipe it before it runs into my eyes. The heat is merciless as I stand in a crowd of refugees watching the last of the food disappear into desperate hands. Alec, our doctor, shakes his head in frustration from his position by the supply truck. He apologizes in French as he tells the crowd we have no more food. We are short, again, and the ones that go hungry try to console their crying children. I can feel every inch of my skin as adrenaline fuels my rage. As Peter wails in fright, I release the rock in my hand to fly through the scorching fetid air.
My heart is beating so fast from fear I can feel it in my throat. I'm surprised the refugees packed around me can't hear it.
The rock makes contact, breaking cartilage, drawing first blood. I grin and hurl another. Jasper had taught me how to throw a fastball. He'd be so horrified to see me right now. Oddly enough, that sentiment cheers me.
When it happens, the sound is deafening. I see people covering their ears and diving for the ground. My aim was true. The second rock I flung hit the soldier in his forearm, causing his gun to shift position away from the little boy he had targeted.
Peter cries, "Miss Bella!"
Knowing I have but seconds, I yank Peter away from his captor and toss him at his sobbing mother.
"Run!" I hiss.
I don't need to tell her twice. She doesn't speak English, but we both understand the universal dialect of a mother's terror for her child. The woman dives into the crowd vanishing in a sea of angry faces. I turn around to face my enemy. It seems I've sparked a rebellion of my own as the crowd starts baying for blood.
My shoulder burns and I'm jerked back, almost as if someone snuck up behind me and tied ropes around my torso and yanked when I didn't expect it. I hear screaming and wailing and more gunshots, this time from behind. The ground rushes up to meet me as my head smacks on a rock so hard I bite my tongue and feel the blood rush into my mouth. My head is numb at first, then the pain is transmitted by my screaming nerve endings and I can barely move my body hurts so bad. I am sprawled face down on the barren ground.
Using the earth as my pillow, I close my eyes and see his smiling face. It's our wedding day in my mind. He's so handsome standing there in his tux - his green eyes shining. He knows I'm nervous coming down the aisle, terrified to be in front of so many people. But I do it for him. For my family. To give them the wedding that they want. For me - I would have been perfectly fine eloping.
He whispers, "You did it, Sunshine! You make me proud! God, I love you."
I can see his face light up with joy when I lift my veil and take his hand. The minister pronounces us man and wife. Despite the crowd around us, my love pulls me into a passionate kiss. My whole being is captivated by his kiss. I want it to never end.
"Edward," I manage to whisper.
My heart is slowing as my blood soaks the dry earth. Death comes on winged feet after I've waited for it so impatiently.
Alec's firm hands touch me, and carefully turn me over. Instead of screaming in pain, I grit my teeth and pant.
His eyes are intense. He growls, "Bella, I need you to stay awake."
I smile as if he told a hilarious joke. "Bye."
When I'd first met Alec, I had thought his golden curls made him look like an angel. Silly me, he ended up being my own Angel of Death. I'm tugged into a pool of blackness and stretch out my arms to meet the sky. Edward's face is the last thing I see.
I dreamed of our wedding. How proud our parents looked as we stood under a canopy of pink and white roses to have our portrait taken. So many important people were milling around and watching us. The pressure made me a nervous wreck.
"I love you, Bella. You're doing fine," Edward murmured in my ear and rubbed my shoulders. I remembered how gentle he was with me that night, helping me out of the dozens of buttons on my wedding dress. I had been so scared that with my virginal fumbling I wouldn't be able to make him happy. He was, after all, older than I. And he had made me feel so loved, so cherished in his arms, the rest of the world melted away.
"You are my everything," he vowed as the sun rose and my eyes drooped after the wedding night of my dreams had come true.
"I love you." I told him back as I cuddled in his arms.
Eleven-year-old Edward took one look at me the day the Cullens brought me home and quietly informed his mother, "She cannot be my sister. I'm going to marry her." He went back to reading his comic book as if he had commented on the weather. Somehow, I just knew I loved him and that he was mine. I never questioned it. Edward never wasted time with the other girls that threw themselves at him, much to their dismay. Our parents were mystified by the whole thing. They expected one of us to grow out of it. He was my first everything. First love, first kiss, first time making love, and ultimately, my first heartbreak.
The rest becomes confusing in a blur of pain. I remember the pain in my chest caused by the jostling of my body when the jeep drives over ruts and rocks. Alec is saying something to me, and my arm burns. Lights shine into my face later, and Alec is still talking to me. I have no idea what he is saying. Someone slips something cold over my face and I'm running into the darkness to find shelter in Edward's strong arms again.
The beeping and hissing of machines jarred me back to life. I came to consciousness, kicking and dragging my heels like a temperamental toddler the entire way. My teeth chattered in the cold of the room as I awoke staring at a blue blur. I just wanted to go back to that dark warm place in my mind and sleep. Everything seemed out of focus, like I was someone caught without wearing glasses. I wiped at my eyes with a shaky hand and realized I was staring at a picture of a beach that had been taped to the ceiling.
Ouch. That hurt. Moving my head, that is. It felt like someone beat a crowbar against the back of my skull.
Disappointment warred with confusion as I took in my surroundings. I thought I had died. Where the hell am I? I sniffed and smelled institutional laundry soap coming from the thin gown that cheerily waved at me from across my chest. My worldly possessions were in a small battered silver suitcase by the window that I never bothered to unpack.
What was it that I was trying to figure out?
Oh. Another hospital. Lovely. My head throbbed so hard that it hurt to think. I vaguely remembered a series of disjointed images. I saw screaming women and children. I felt the muscles strain in my arm as I threw a really big rock in the face of a screeching rebel soldier who had been trying to steal Peter from his mother. Then I recalled a burning pain in my shoulder, more shouting, frantic orders from Alec, our doctor, and then nothing. I had come so close and had failed. Again.
From looking out the window, I could see I was back in the States in a town I had hoped never to see again. How did I end up here, in my own personal hell? I didn't even want to think about how long I'd been unconscious. Or what the bill for transporting me all the way from Africa was going to be.
I heard a throat clear off to my right and noticed a small blond woman with a clipboard in her hands watching me. She looked like something out of central casting for a horror movie: a perfect angel with a demon's smirk. It would not surprise me if she felt called to healthcare because she liked seeing people in pain. Her nametag said, "Jane." She had scrubs on with a top that looked like it was covered with confetti.
"Miss Swan, welcome home." She crinkled her nose as if I were a patient faking an injury. "How are you feeling?" Her pen flew as she recorded my vitals.
"Like I've been shot twice. How did I get here?"
"Good one," Jane smirked. "You were flown in from Germany."
"How did I get there? I was in Africa?"
"You were flown to Germany for your first surgery. From there, you came here."
"I don't remember that part."
"I'm not surprised. You're dealing with a head injury too. It's normal to be confused. If you need more pain medication, just press this button."
She turned around and said over her shoulder as she exited, "Oh yeah, there's an annoying doctor who insists on seeing you. We kept him away when you were out of it. Edward something or other."
My heart froze at hearing his name. I schooled my features into a composed mask, doing my best to appear bored. She must be new to town. Everyone knew who he was.
In what I guessed to be an uncharacteristic act of kindness, Jane allowed me to save face. She ignored the acceleration of my heart on the monitor that proved the lie of my features. Instead, she canted her head to one side and studied me, almost like someone would stare at a painting at a museum.
"You look pretty tired. Want me to tell him to take a hike?"
Briefly, I shut my eyes and prayed for strength. "I have no idea what he wants. But if he insists that he wants to see me, then he'll just ignore you."
She scoffed, "We have ways of dealing with jerks like that. I'll make sure his visit is short."
"Jane, you're new to town, right?"
"Yeah, is it that obvious?"
"His family owns a fifty percent share of this hospital. Tread carefully."
She paused writing and raised her eyebrows. "Noted. Anything else?"
"In the South, you can say anything you want about someone if you say, 'Bless his heart,' in front of it."
Jane laughed. "I'm going to like having you around."
He was notorious for being stubborn. People tolerated his demeanor because: first, he was usually right, and second, he could tell a great joke to smooth ruffled egos.
Jane all but scurried over to peek out the doorway into the hall.
In that moment, my vanity reared her head and roared.
"Wait," I asked. "Do I look as awful as I feel?"
She turned back to face me and grimaced.
"Isabella, I'd brush your hair if I could, but with that concussion, I don't think you could handle it. I can offer you Chapstick. We've got a bunch of samples." She reached into her pocket and held out a tube.
Well, at least my lips would be minty fresh. It wasn't like I had to worry about him kissing me.
I had this sinking feeling erupt in my stomach.
Could someone please just shoot me in the other shoulder? Now? I was so not in the mood, nor was I medicated enough, for this. Courage, after all, was the better part of valor. I didn't mind taking the coward's route. Being brave was exhausting.
Once my heart had soared at the sound of his voice. When we first split, I would have given just about anything to have him back in my life. I would have happily sold my soul. Today, I knew better. Cruel experience had taught me the despair of having hope. If he wanted to see me, it was only to impart some kind of news that would indubitably hurt. They didn't make pain killers to assuage the soul-deep agony of a heart broken beyond repair.
I had fled the continent to escape the pain he'd inflicted, and had done my best to disappear. Over the past months I had become used to not having him in my life, to that ache in my heart where our love used to reside. The certainty of silence offered more comfort at the moment. And my head hurt so much I didn't think I could concentrate regardless. If I saw him, I feared the Old Me would come back - the weak one. I had to stay strong.
Muffled voices that sounded like they argued came from the hallway.
Wasn't I not supposed to feel any pain? I thought that I was drugged to the gills. My eyes wandered, searching for something to divert my attention, when I found a familiar sight. I think Jane said something about it, too. Like an old friend, my only friend, I reached out and touched it reverently.
I pressed that magic button that dispensed my own personal dose of morphine and slid like a thief into sleep. If Edward came in, I had no memory of it. Luck, that capricious wench, for once took my side.
Of Esme's three children, I and I alone had artistic talent. When I was younger, I used to spend hours drawing things. One of my teachers in elementary school said that I might be quiet, but God had clearly given me another way to speak to the world. When I drew, the world vanished. I had found Edward staring at this one picture in a book. It was a landscape from Ireland. I knew he liked it. So I decided to give it to him for his fifteenth birthday.
I was only nine. I had never drawn anything this difficult, but Esme helped me. Secretly, I spent hours working on it, thinking of how excited he would be when I gave it to him. I almost got caught once when he came home from school and found me at the kitchen table putting the finishing touches on it. I quickly flipped the drawing over and pushed it to the side, and worked on my algebra homework. Esme asked me to come help her with dinner. When I came out of the kitchen, I found Jasper grumbling about his calculus homework and showing Edward a problem that he couldn't quite master.
"This is a waste of time." Jasper tore his work up into bits and threw them into the air in frustration. I gasped when the paper landed on the table.
"What the heck is your problem?" Jasper asked.
I stammered, "My drawing." Esme had always said a lady never makes a scene. So I left the room and went outside to try to calm down.
"Jasper, how could you?" I heard Mother say.
"What is everyone so upset over?"
"You ruined Bella's birthday present for Edward."
Jasper yelped, "Oh crap."
Mother scolded, "Language!"
"Jeez, Mom, I didn't know. I just grabbed some scratch paper. Shit. What do I do? I have to leave for practice!"
Before I went to bed, I found the drawing leaning against my pillow. Edward must have spent hours gluing it piece by piece to a sheet of black construction paper. The scraps of paper reminded me of tree bark. He left me a note that said, "I'd like your autograph so I can frame this." It hung over his desk from then on, and I loved him for it.
I thought I tried to wake up a time or two but kept falling back under sleep's spell. I could have sworn I felt him holding my hand. I blamed that on the drugs giving me odd dreams. He hadn't laid a finger on me almost a year.
Pathetically, I had craved his touch. And I had withered like a vine left in the desert's scorching sun when we fell apart. I couldn't help but think of our marriage like the ruins of Pompeii– buried under layers of volcanic ash and sand, silently standing witness to something both vibrant and wonderful that had thrived in its halls -once upon a time.
More on Edward and Bella coming up in the next chapter. Thanks so much for reading. Please review!