Truly Anonymous Twilight O/S PP Contest

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Title: Settling for Solace

Picture Prompt Number: 23

Entry #33 - AH

Pairing: Bella and Edward

Rating: T

Genre: Hurt/Comfort

Word Count: 7,671

Summary: During rough periods everyone needs someone to lean on. When these rough periods leave you without a shoulder to cry on, the grievance center is available. When you need more, you come to us. We can't offer a solution but we can- we will care. AH

Warnings and Disclaimer: Standard Disclaimer Applies. Subject matter deals with, but does not depict, rape and abuse.

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"Isabella?" I sighed as I looked up to the small group of teenagers. All of whom were here for the same thing.

Grief counseling.

The entire program was set up so that we teens and young adults would meet and get to know others before we broke off into different sections that dealt with the actual issue in more depth. This was the group centered on familial deaths, specifically parental. I felt inferior as I looked upon the sad faces of the kids around me. Everyone's stories were dramatic and definitely reasons to be in this group. My own story made me look like a dumbass for mourning the loss of my parents.

Like Angela, she was the victim of a home invasion, tortured and forced to watch her mother and father die. Then there was Emmett who had hit and killed both of his parents, with his jeep, after coming in wasted from a high school party. Jessica, her family history was cursed by depression; her parents had taken their own lives leaving her to find their lifeless bodies.

"Isabella, would you like to share your story with us?" The caramel haired woman asked with nothing but kindness in her eyes.

"Is that what this is to you? A story?" One of the quieter boys asked from the corner, we all looked towards him in shock and he kept his gaze focused on Esme, the group counselor. However a weight was lifted off of my chest as I realized that she'd probably forget about me.

"Of course not, dear." She said taking on a motherly tone. One that most of us flinched at and shied away from. "It was just my loss for words, alright?" James nodded and slumped back into his chair. "Isabella?" She nodded towards me and I frowned before straightening in my chair, and pulling the hood off of my head. Something I had seen most everyone else do, it was sort of symbolic, showing that we were letting down our guards for our peers. Opening up for everyone to see. Yet when they had done this they all looked as though a weight was lifted off of their shoulders. I just felt exposed.

"Go ahead, dear." There was a simultaneous huff from a few of the group members at the term of endearment.

"My name's Isabella Swan," I started out softly before running my hands through my hair. "My parents were victims of a drunk driver." There were the few forced, sympathetic, 'awe's that everyone received after explaining what happened to their parents. The robotic noise that made the speaker feel like shit. It made the person sharing feel as though their story fell on deaf ears. We weren't speaking to a group of people we spoke to an unhappy bunch of mechanical 'awe's. Not seeing us, not hearing us… yet always awe'ing for our muted pasts. Even though we all felt the same way we had the audacity to sit down, unheard and do it to the next speaker.

"Thank you, Isabella. Is that it?" I nodded and sat back down pulling my hood back up. The fabric that was supposed to free me only opened my vulnerable feelings to robotic mourners. The girl next to me stood and much like the rest of us pulled her hat off. That sign that said that she was ready to admit how she felt. When she started to speak she seemed to lose her sense of freedom.

"My name is Lauren Mallory." She had a thick Brooklyn accent like most of the teenagers in the group. "I- uh- I lost my parents last week." This time it was my turn to join into the chorus of awe's that had hurt me only a minute ago. She bit her lip and tugged on the sleeve of her light jacket. "They were in the Bahamas plane crash." She rushed out before sighing and sitting down, shutting herself off to the unknowing, uncaring faces.

Esme nodded and looked at her clip board; that held the sheet of conversation topics. "How did you feel when all lost your parents?" She looked around to a crowd of stoic faces and sighed. "You can raise your hands."

The 'quiet' boy in the corner lifted a hand and I wondered why everyone called him quiet boy. He was the only one that continuously talked. "It hurt. I think it's safe to say that we all fucking hurt." There were nods before James looked to Emmett. "You know, unless you killed your parents. I have no idea what'd you would feel then. How do you feel, Emmett?" Emmett lurched out of his chair and took James's smart ass out, tipping over the chair with his weight and sending the two of them skidding across the room as Emmett laid into him. Some of the kids stood and watched but the majority of us sat and waited for someone to break up the fight, this was New York. We had all seen fights and they were no longer a novelty, more like an irritant.

Esme flipped out though, "Boys!" She called to them, of course they ignored her though and Emmett continued to beat the hell out of James. Two of the bigger guys in the class reluctantly moved from their spots in the audience and put their all into separating the boys.

When everyone was seated and calmer Esme glared at her watch and sighed. "I'll see you all tomorrow; we have to make up for lost time and topics." She shook her head as she looked up at James and Emmett, who were still in the room. Due to the shitty operation, they didn't turn anyone away, and while that sounded good, it was just a target for trouble. Some just came looking for a fight, boys and girls who had nothing better to do than go to support groups and break others down.

Some of these people weren't even grieving.

We all sighed in relief, shuffling out of the room as quickly as possible. The group was voluntary, and every time we went we all wanted the experience to get better. We wanted to feel better about our situation. We wanted someone to care. Yet at the end of the day we were all disappointed, seeing that nothing had actually changed. At the end of the day we had all just wasted another day, another hour of our lives.

The large support center was set up like a school. It was a one level building with multiple rooms but when the hour was up children, teens and adults, alike ambled through the hallways, trying to find a way through life. Hoping that somewhere in the building the key to making it; surviving trauma, surviving loss would be in this building, in a class, in a person. Yet most everyone knew the key was inside of them; something that we all learned on our first day of the groups.

We just had to find it.

I slung my tote bag onto my shoulder and hugged it close to my body, making sure to watch out for the many bodies squeezed into the small building. I looked to see James follow Emmett into the bathroom with the two boys from our Parental Grieving group; the same two boys that pulled Emmett off of James today. My eyes widened and I came to a complete halt in the middle of the hallway. Never a good idea, whether in the streets or anywhere else abrupt stops in the middle of rushing New Yorkers was just asking for an accident.

And an accident is what I got; I was slammed into by someone behind me.

"Oh shit… I'm sorry." A voice said lowly into my ear, before my hand was grabbed and I was led to the side of the hallway, out of the middle of the rushing crowd. When we were out of the way I yanked my wrist from the man. "Are you alright? I didn't hurt you did I?" He seemed a lot more worried than your average New Yorker. Most would have glared and continued to walk.

"Yes, I'm fine." I held my wrist to my chest and looked up to see wide, bright green eyes looking down at me with concern. The young man couldn't have been more than two years my senior and was strikingly handsome, his features were sharp and yet soft at the same time. His plump pink mouth moved a mile a minute as he spoke, reminding me that I should be listening, and trying to help Emmett.

"Excuse me?" The man said before waiving a hand in front of my face.

"Sorry, um… yeah, I'm okay… but I need your help." I said boldly, his eyebrows furrowed but he said nothing more. "Please help my… friend." I said awkwardly, not really knowing what to call Emmett. "He was followed in there-" I pointed at the bathroom and the man bit his bottom lip before turning to another tall man who quickly approaching us with the pedestrians.

"Jasper!" He called his voice was loud and yet still soothing. The blonde man turned and pulled away from the crowd heading towards us. "What's your friend look like?" He asked, I gulped, shocked that this complete stranger would help someone just because they asked.

"He's tall like you," I pointed at the man and widened my arms. "But bulky… He was followed by a few people and I don't want him getting hurt." The two men nodded before a loud crash from the bathroom alerted us that something was indeed going on in there. The thump seemed to go unnoticed by passer byers, though the two men hurried into the men's bathroom. I stood against the wall, wondering if I should call the cops or leave. I ended up doing neither and just waited for the three men to emerge from the bathroom. Around ten minutes late, when the halls were significantly less filled the two men I had enlisted to help Emmett came out with him in tow. They all three looked fine yet grim.

Emmett said something to the man who ran into me and the man pointed at me. Then the three of them approached me quickly. I shied back by reaction but I wasn't afraid as I usually was.

As I should have been.

"Isabella, right?" I nodded, "Thanks… Uh, you didn't need to do that. It was nice of you." He said before rubbing the back of his neck.

"No problem." I turned to the two strangers and smiled at them, "Thank them, they were the ones who actually helped." The two men shook hands with Emmett before they all turned to me.

"I'm Edward." The gorgeous green eyed man greeted with a smirk. He jerked a thumb at his friend, "That's Jasper." Jasper nodded.

"Bella. Thanks again." I waved awkwardly before turning when I felt a hand on my shoulder.

"Wait a second, Bella." I turned my head and my eyes landed on Edward's hand, before turning to him with a raised eyebrow. "Will you two meet Jasper, me and a few others at Central Park later today?" My eyes met Emmett's and I hesitated. There was no reason not to trust these men, in my opinion. But if there were a reason to trust them I wasn't aware of it.

This city was filled with crooks, killers and rapists. Every city was, if it weren't, half of this grievance center wouldn't even exist. I was working on opening myself up though and I honestly had nothing to lose. My parents were gone, I wasn't going anywhere education wise. After their passing my junior year of high school I had let my grades drop. Figuring that I should work on mourning and then getting emotionally fit to return to school work, and I hadn't bull shitted myself, I worked on it.

I'm still working on it.

"There will be other women if that's what you're worried about, Bella." Jasper assured, I sighed and looked to Emmett before shrugging simultaneously.

That is how I found myself walking next to Emmett's hulking form as we entered Central Park. The two of us had decided to stay together after the bathroom debacle and just head to this- whatever it was, together. The entire afternoon had been filled with sorrow as we relayed our stories to each other, this time actually listening. Actually caring. We found that he was four years older than I, putting him at twenty two.

"Did they say where to meet them?" I asked as we took a walk around the huge park, about ten minutes into our walk we saw two women from the Grief center sitting on a large comforter.

"Bella! Emmett!" The same velvety voice from earlier called from behind us, Edward jogged up to us holding three water bottles. "Sorry, I didn't know you two were here, I would have gotten more." He said as we followed him to the large blanket. He handed a water bottle to both of the women on the blanket, who accepted them graciously. "When Jasper gets here we'll explain every- there he is." He waved over Emmett's head and another body dropped onto the blanket next to me.

"Hey guys." He said easily with nods at us, we all nodded back and Edward spoke.

"Alright, I know that all of you are confused as to why we're here. I'll get to that but first we should go through introductions, it might make a bit of sense after we do." Edward smiled, and he didn't look as grim under the warm sunlight as he did under the fluorescents from this morning. His skin seemed to glow and he radiated an easy going vibe.

"I'll start." Jasper volunteered, with a raise of his hand. Unlike this morning filled with ignoring ears and limited attention, we all turned toward Jasper. "Okay, My name is Jasper Whitlock. I'm nineteen and I come from an abusive home." I leaned back a little bit, not knowing that it was this kind of an introduction. "I've been going to the grievance center for nine years now. I started running away at ten, going to the grievance center when I was officially diagnosed with clinical depression." He stopped and there were no awe's making me feel just a bit more assured about this group of people. He then looked to Edward who took a deep breath.

"My name's Edward Cullen. I'm nineteen, too." I could have sworn he was twenty plus, people lie though. "I was sexually abused from age ten to fourteen by my stepfather." I bit my lip sympathetically but instead of looking forced to admit what had happened he just continued easily. "I've been going to the grievance center since I was ten as well. Jasper and I met there." He stopped and let his sentence hang in the air before looking around.

"Uh, I'm Emmett McCarty, I hit and…" He cleared his throat, his eyes darting around nervously, afraid of the reaction he'd most likely get. "-killed both of my parents while drunk. I served four years in jail after the fact and I'm twenty two. I've been in the grievance center since I was locked up, it was required due to my depression, which had been present years before the car accident. I just kept going after that. I might stop though… It's not as productive as it used to be, now though." I nodded in agreement and he leaned over and gave me an encouraging nudge. All five pairs of eyes stared at me but I was locked into a certain green pair.

"My name is Bella Swan. I'm eighteen." I tried to remember what they had just admitted and followed suit as best as possible. "Last year, my Junior year, my parents and I were in a car accident caused by a drunk driver, she was driving in the wrong lane, hit my car head on, she and my parents died that day and I was the only survivor of the crash. I've been going to the Center for a year and a half, since my parents died." I nodded to signal that I was finished and received a couple of nods, and a small rub on my back from Emmett. Something I wasn't used to. I had completely confessed my entire story to these people not needing to take down my hood and feign the release of pressure or emotional build up. They accepted my story, they heard my story but they had also listened to me.

To a piece of who I was.

I looked across the small circle at the littlest woman, she had black short hair that was flipped up on the ends, her features were sharp, like Edwards yet they were all very small. She breathed in a shaky sigh. "I'm Alice Brandon." She started off quietly; her voice was high pitched and sounded like church bells as she spoke. "I was raped at fourteen, and got pregnant. I had the baby aborted, forced to have my baby aborted…" She corrected. "-and I've been living with depression ever since."

Her eyes filled with tears and Jasper reached across the circle and took her hand in his, gently running his thumb over the back of it. She obviously didn't know Jasper well enough for his slightly intimate touch but she continued and let him cradle her hand. "I've been going to the Grievance Center for three years now, after the abortion. I'm eighteen." She hung her head and we all seemed to move closer by reaction. My knees touched Emmett and Edwards as we moved closer. Edward smiled sympathetically at me and rested a hand on my knee.

The blonde woman rubbed her friend's back comfortingly.

"I'm Rosalie Hale; I come from a home like Jasper and Edward's." She cleared her throat. "My father raped me from the time I hit puberty until I moved out, my mother was physically and emotionally abusive. I'm twenty and I moved out at eighteen. I'd been raped since twelve. I've been at the Grievance Center since I was fourteen." Alice hugged her tightly and Jasper used his other hand to pat her back. The physical barrier between the six of us had been broken after Alice's story. "Are you going to tell us why we're here?" She bluntly asked Edward, who nodded.

"Jasper and I wanted to start our own organization of sorts. Kind of like the Grievance Center but led by us grievers." He said before taking a sip of water.

"How would we be able to help anyone?" Alice asked softly.

Edward smiled and shook his head, "Everyone has the ability to help someone. We each have had different… horrible things happen to us. Wouldn't you be more comfortable talking to someone who's been through the same thing as you?" He looked around the group to see us all entranced by his words. "We can help and be helped. Because I don't know about you all but standing up once every week and saying that someone raped you isn't much help to me. Especially after nine years of doing so, and being ignored." I nodded and murmured my agreement.

"No one listens in the meetings, why would they listen now?" Rose huffed.

"I can't say for sure that they will. But we can always try. Some people need a support system constantly and the Grievance Center, while a great escape, isn't doing enough."

"Where would we have all of this?" Emmett asked from next to me.

"Right outside of the parks perimeters there is a large row of abandoned buildings, one's which we can and will break into." I shook my head.

"It wouldn't help anyone if we got arrested." He rubbed a thumb over my knee and smiled.

"Jasper and I have lived in one of the buildings for three years now. It will be fine. There isn't much furniture or anything but it's a place to be." He stood from the blankets and we rose with him, each of us grabbing our belongings and items from the blanket. "I'll take you there."

"How are we going to get things out? You know let people know about all of this?" Alice asked, her hand drifted down to her stomach and she cradled her flat torso gently.

"We just let word spread." I raised an apprehensive eyebrow at his use of the past tense but kept quiet. "I'm not really expecting a large crowd so… There they are!" He said pointing at a large, worn and ugly brown building. He went up to the side of one building and yanked the fire escape down. He let us ladies pass before he and the other men carried picnic supplies up.

"Third floor window!" Edward yelled, as I came to the third floor. I pulled open the large window and slipped inside, my feet hitting the hardwood floors with a loud thump. The sound echoed through the apartment due to its high ceilings and open space. There was an old couch and T.V. set on one side of the room and a kitchen on the other before there was a hallway leading down to a couple of white doors. The entire space was large and bright.

"Sorry, we would have everyone come into the second floor, not the third. There is a stair case leading up to the second floor right at the entrance of the building." He set down the comforter that we'd been using on the floor at the foot of the window. "I take it that you all are agreeing to the support group?"

"Of course. Sounds great." I whispered as he stepped closer to me.

"Do any of you need a more permanent residence?" Jasper questioned my hand, as well as Emmett's, rose and I looked bashfully up at Edward.

"You'll stay here." He said before running his fingertips down my cheek lightly. I nodded incoherently and was pulled out of my Edward induced haze by Emmett.

"You think this is a good idea?" His eyes flicked up to Edward who backed away from me slowly.

"We have to rely on them for this group thing, and travel back and forward to the building; wouldn't it be easier to just live here?" He nodded slightly and I smiled, patting his shoulder.

"We'll stay long enough to get this on its feet and get it going." I said, turning to Edward. He beamed and wrapped me into a hug; completely invading my personal space. Yet, I embraced him back a little bit and smiled. He went to lead me towards the couch when Emmett stopped him, claiming a need to talk to me.

He pulled me out onto the fire escape, "Doesn't this seem a little bit too good to be true?" He asked nervously, his eyes darting around.

"I guess, but maybe things are just looking up. We've been through shit, the past years. All of us have. I guess this is just the universes way of thanking us for helping out?" My answer turned into its own question.

"They're a little happy for two dudes that should be more fucked up than you and I…"

"No one should be fucked up." I shook my head. "Let's just see where this goes?" He nodded and opened the window for me. My eyes widened as I took in the empty room. The television was still running and our blankets from earlier were haphazardly discarded.

"This is what I was talking about." Emmett said, his voice a few octaves too high. I walked farther into the room when a window opened behind me. Emmett was on his way out when I turned. His face held pure panic as he lifted his leg out of the window.

"What are you doing? What if something's wrong?" I threw my hands out as I hissed at him. His eyes darted around the room and there was a crash from the floor below, causing me to jump and gravitate toward the window as well.

"Bella, I can't go back to jail," He was almost shaking as I lifted another massive leg out of the window. "You should help. You're good enough to. That's why they wanted you here." He ducked under the window sill.

I went to the door and grabbed his arm, making him flinch. "Why do you think they brought you?"

"I guess that doesn't fucking matter know since they're fucking with the two chicks…" He stood on the escape and I leaned out of the window.

"Please. Don't. If you do a good thing you won't get put in jail." He shook his head.

"You're just naïve. There were plenty of good people in that jail I went to." I grabbed his hand and held it suspended in the air.

"One of those people was you, Emmett! Get back in here." I tugged on his hand and his face softened with concern as there was another crash underneath us. He sighed heavily before ducking back into the window.

"Down stairs." I said before pulling open doors, attempting to find the steps. The door in the farthest corner swung open and Edward strutted through it, coughing.

Emmett and I looked on, wide eyed as he crossed the room. "The, uh, center beam fell downstairs." He grabbed a few rags and tossed one to both Emmett and I, grabbing a broom himself. "It's disgusting down there. We're going to need to clean up if we're planning on having people over." He moved to the door and Emmett and I locked gazes. Edward tossed us a curious look over his shoulder before stopping and turning around.

"Aren't you coming?" I took a deep breath and jerked my head towards him, my eyes never leaving Emmett's.

"Yeah," I broke our gaze and went to Edward; a quiet shuffle told me that Emmett wasn't far behind. We headed down the drafty, cracked stairwell until we reached another level. Edward jiggled the knob before sighing, rearing back and kicking the door right underneath the lock.

"Lock's busted." He said quietly as the door gave way.

"Well when you do that…" Emmett mumbled underneath his breath. My lips quirked into a smile and Edward stepped aside, letting me pass. The second floor of the building was larger than the first. It had potential but at the moment it was dark and dingy, it was disgusting. Like Edward had said there was a large beam lying in the middle of the floor surrounded by pieces of ceiling and whatever it had crushed lay haphazardly around it.

"Oh good, he found you." Jasper said smiling widely and clapping loudly. "We don't have much time to get all of this together… Especially with-" He pointed at the beam at his feet. "We just need to make this less sweat shop like and more… grieveable." He lifted an eyebrow and smirked at himself. "Not a word…" He whispered, I turned to Emmett and he just shook his head.

"What do you mean we don't have a lot of time?" I asked as I walked to a window and pushed it open.

"The flyer was dated tomorrow and on." Jasper said as he moved towards me washing the freshly opened window.

I stepped away from him and cocked my head to the side. "How did you know we'd all agree to this?" He shrugged.

"We didn't." Edward nodded before speaking up himself.

"We would have run this on our own, but we saw something in you all, that was special, something we thought was needed to keep this going."

"What's that?" I whispered before pulling down a blackout curtain and tossing it onto the fire escape.

"Well, in Emmett I saw brawn at first. He was doing work in that bathroom." Emmett scoffed and swept some ceiling shavings out of a floor length window. "But he's also the type that wouldn't take shit just because he's a griever." He looked up from his rapid opening of windows and met my eyes. "I saw compassion in you that even I don't have." I shook my head.

"That's not true. If my 'compassion' topped yours, we wouldn't be planning to host a therapy session for who knows how many people."

He smirked, "I said compassion. Not drive; they don't always come hand in hand." He shook his head and grabbed a broom, joining in on the sweeping with Emmett.

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Six metal chairs.

Six broken souls.

Six hearts.

Twelve ears.

One room.

The six of us sat in a circle silently as we waited for everyone to arrive. I wrung my hands in my lap as Edward and Jasper gave us pep talks, complete with back pats and knee rubs.

"Hello?" A soft feminine voice rang out from the stairwell and all of our heads snapped towards the noise. Edward stood, patted me on the back and headed towards the door.

"What do we do if we can't help them?" Alice said quietly, looking to Jasper. Edward ushered in a skinny girl with his hand high on her back. He whispered softly to her and she nodded. I looked at her with wide eyes and we all stood to greet her, simultaneously pushing our chairs away, to widen the circle.

The girl went up to Jasper, glaring at his outstretched hand. She warily looked to his eyes, "This isn't some kind of cult is it? I'm fucked up, but I don't need no damn voodoo shit."

"No, honey." Rose held her hand gently and spoke softly. "We're just waiting for the rest of the attendants to come. Wanted to make room." She gave the girl a push towards me and the girl's small frame fell into my arms.

"I'm Bella," I righted her and she sneered at me. "How are you?"

"Agh," She moved on to the next person. Multiple footsteps stomped up the stairs and about nine people entered the room. They were all silent as they entered, looking around cautiously. Edward grabbed my hand and pulled me towards the door to greet the wary newcomers.

I shook hands and gave hugs until I was stopped by Edward, "Bella, this is Jacob Black. He and Emmett will be in charge of security for the group." I shyly shook hands with the large man and he beamed down at me. It was hard to believe that anyone could smile like that, when everything was so laden down with somber people in horrible situations.

"Security?" The angry girl from earlier spoke, midway through shrugging off her jacket. "The cops?" She pulled the jacket back up on her shoulders and Alice moved towards her while more voices drifted up the stairwell. Soon we were all surrounded by Grieving peers and Grievance center group members. It was a slightly awkward affair, most of us staying quiet until it was deemed that the last of whoever was coming, had already arrived.

Jasper smiled, "Alright looks like we're ready to start please make yourself comfortable." It was kind of a useless gesture; there were a total of six chairs in the room, each occupied by those of us leading the groups. Everyone looked around before they either sat on the ground or leaned against any standing objects. Jasper went and clapped Edward on the back, passing the torch to him, so to speak. The passing was interrupted by a large man who stood next to Jacob.

"If this is like that dumbass center they got down town, I don't want no part. How in the hell ya'll gonna help me when you don't even look like you can help ya' selves?" He roared, there was a chorus of agreement and Rose stood too, her face beat red.

"Now hold on!" Jasper stepped in front of her and eased her into her seat, before the hopefully helpful environment turned hopelessly violent and hostile. The tension was already thick and we were all on edge. It was the New York mentality. Why should we trust those we don't know? Why should we come and show them our weakness our troubles when they came for the same reason, and don't want to hear your own problems?

"What's the big idea? If I wanted to be sad and shit, I'd go down to that center. I need fixing. Not fucking story time." Edward shook his head and attempted to calm down the irate woman, before speaking gently to the crowd.

"During rough periods everyone needs someone to lean on. When these rough periods leave you without a shoulder to cry on, the grievance center is available. When you need more, you come to us. We can't offer a solution but we can- we will care." He confirmed. "This is a group for you. This group is for us to connect, with no guidelines, or topics for conversation." Edward said strongly as he stood, looking at the crowd of at least forty kids.

"This is the first time we're trying this," he said with a look down at me. "The system is flawed and has no organization what so ever. But please respect the fact that we've all been there. From today on this-" He gestured around the large building. "is a family, one that will accept you for who you are without the underlying judgment." I was shocked at how well-spoken Edward was. "There are two rules though. Do not have sex within this building. Do not smoke within this building. Respect that we aren't all too fond of second hand and voyeurism."

There were a few chuckles, the almost palpable tension lifting, and Edward smiled. "If you decide that you are unable to be in this group without fighting or bullying then leave now or you will be escorted out." He turned and gestured to Emmett and Jacob who stood behind us. "So I guess that makes three rules. Feel free to talk to us and everyone around. We're all here for you."

He turned to the kid that spoke before him, "We can't fix you. So please don't put that on us, we are here to aid and listen. We just hope that you'll feel better in terms of your situation." The kid nodded. "Thanks for coming guys." He smiled and sat back into his metal folding chair. "Anyone else want to say something?" We all shook our heads no, but Alice raised her hand.

"I'd like to." She said her tinkling voice soft, Edward nodded in encouragement and Alice stood. "We are here to listen and be listened to. No one wants to speak to a brick wall, please leave your hostility at the door. We all deserve a happily ever after, and if this is the only chance we can take towards achieving one, then we should take it. We should offer our help in achieving it." Her voice was powerful as she spoke to the group and I was taken aback by the change that was in effect when she spoke to them. Her words were childlike but all too meaningful.

I nodded in thought and Alice continued, "Go, mingle, vent, hug, listen, love." Most people in the room, including myself, tossed her a skeptical look at her last request. "It's what we are here for." She reminded. The room's occupants all stood and started to slowly converse. We tried our bests to move around the room and help ease conversation where we could.

I came up behind Edward as he spoke to a small gathering of three about his being sexually abused and one woman was in tears. She was tucked under his arm as he continued to speak.

"It was hard, being so young and going through all of that, I'll admit it." He rubbed the woman's shoulder gently and smiled as I squeezed in between the only other man and another woman. This happily ever after that Alice spoke of seemed like nothing but a dream. An unachievable dream that we all reach for, only to be disappointed. Everyone here had been through so much, a happily ever after was a ridiculous thought. How were we supposed to reach a happily ever after with all of our baggage and trauma? A useless hope is what it was.

"I was seventeen, when my god father raped me. My parents had died and I was developed enough so he just figured why not? You know?" The woman next to me whispered at Edward's pause. Her hand started violently shaking as she spoke and I took it in mine, holding it firmly. Her eyes met mine and a tear fell from her left eye, "I tried… to forgive. I couldn't, I hated that man so much from the bottom of my heart. He took advantage of me because he knew I was alone. He knew I had no one to run to. He had me cornered." She sniffed loudly before wiping a tear. "I killed him, in '08. Self-defense, the only reason I'm not in jail right now. I feel guilty. I never pictured myself a murderer." Her eyes locked on mine her gaze pleading. "Believe me."

"I do, honey. I do." My stomach turned from hearing her story, but in all honesty I did believe her.

"The sickest part is, even though I didn't want to kill him… I did. I can't find an ounce of regret. There is guilt which will always be there, but there is no regret that overcomes my feeling secure." I nodded and she turned full on to embrace me, taking me aback as the woman near Edward spoke into his ear. I let go of the woman I was comforting and moved towards Emmett, who was on the floor, speaking to the group of men that had suffered a familial loss.

Even though the system had no sort of structure we all ended up drifting towards the people in similar situations. This was much different from the grievance center, though it may not seem like it upon first glance. The easy and structure less atmosphere had a universal comfort. No matter what situation you were in, or what you look like or age groups. We just were.

Well, they just were. I was still trying to be.

I sat down next to Emmett as they listened to another man speak on his watching his parents die. Watching as they were burned alive by a fire that had lit up his entire apartment building. He and his neighbor's youngest daughter were the only ones to survive. She was here as well, speaking to Rosalie.

He finished and looked to me, "What about you, shorty?" I frowned at the name and shook my head. "Nothing you want to say?"

"Not really," I looked to Emmett and his eyes glowed with encouragement. "I'm sorry, I can't." I stood and went to the window, drawling out and sitting on the extended ledge, that wasn't too far up and had plenty of room for me to hide out. I shook my head as I thought on the man's invitation for my story.

I shouldn't be here, much less helping to 'lead' the group. I couldn't console and I couldn't share. My feelings and experiences were lodged inside of me, in a place where I couldn't find them, leaving my body numb as I listened to my fellow grievers. It was idiotic of me to listen to Edward, to think I could help someone. Hell I couldn't even help myself. I shared my story with a group of emotionless strangers multiple times, why get close and share with any of these people who actually care when they'd just end up leaving in the end. Everyone leaves and or dies at some point. Why should I entrust my heartache and my pain to anyone?

It just didn't make sense to me that all of these people from all around New York could share, laugh and cry with a group of generous strangers. But as one of the generous strangers I couldn't share myself. I knew why I wasn't able to share my story. I have no place in any kind of grievance community. Everyone loses their parents. Everyone. These people have been through some traumatic shit, which should put them in a place where they can share and have their spirits lifted. I had no right, to invade what they had here, because of my dead parents.

Yet I want to show up and try to fit in with the rest of these broken people. I snorted and shook my head. It's all just ridiculous. The window next to mine was pulled open and there was the sound of someone crawling onto the ledge. I turned and peeked around the small divider that separated me and my window mates backs.

"Bella?" It was Edward, his head peaked around the divider too, and we were face to face. "Why are you out here?"

"Why shouldn't I be out here? I feel so idiotic, so ignorant, when I'm in there." I shook my head before letting it thump on the concrete area surrounding the window pane.

"Why is that?" I sighed and kicked out a leg, grabbing onto the fire escape and swinging myself out of my window and into his little nook.

"I have no reason to share my wimpy story when it's got the competition of watching your parents die in front of you." I scoffed at my own stupidity.

He shook his head. "It isn't a competition, Bella."

"I know that… but it sure seems like I'd be ridiculed for my lack of trauma. They'd admit that I have no reason to be here." I shrugged and shook my head.

"Everyone is allowed to grieve, Bella. Nothing is to be minimized. You are just as important as anyone else. We all grieve. We're here to get away from our problems, To get better, don't hold yourself back from that." He scooted closer to me, in the small space, and picked up my hands, clenching them in his own. "You're hurting. Just like everyone else in there is." I shook my head but a tear slipped down my cheek. He wrapped an arm around my shoulder and pulled me so that I sat between his legs, my back against his chest. I tensed in the all too intimate position and he ran his finger from my wrists to my elbows, in a short soothing circuit.

"Talk to me." He whispered in my ear. I squeezed my eyes closed tightly and bit my lip.

"You already know what's wrong with me." I said softly, focusing on my hands as I wrung them in my lap.

"There is nothing wrong with you, Bella."

"If that were true neither of us would be here. Now would we?" I shook my head at myself and he placed his finger underneath my chin, tilting my head up so that I met his eyes.

"Bella." He groaned, his eyebrows drawing together sadly.

"I don't know what you want me to say." I admitted, feeling hopelessly lost. "I lost my parents. I miss them," I shrugged and he rested his chin on my shoulder, listening to me speak. "They both went so quickly, and at the same time. I can't… I can't wrap my head around the fact that my mother won't ever ramble and complain about my dad..." I smiled to myself remembering her last rant about Charlie missing dinner even though she had made it two hours before the end of his shift. "My dad, he won't see me graduate, I won't ever-" I wouldn't ever get another hug, that was filled with love and warmth.

Love and warmth that just wasn't properly displayed.

I sniffled and Edward rested his head against mine, moving his arms to my waist so that he could give me an assuring hug. I swiped impatiently at my tears and Edward grabbed my hands, lowering them into my lap before gently wiping the moisture from my cheeks.

"I- I miss them so much, Edward…" I turned towards him and he rested his forehead against mine, cupping my cheek.

"I've got you…" His head tilted up and he pressed a kiss to my forehead.

We sat there together in our close embrace for hours, as I cried myself dry. Edward didn't speak another word, just placing soft kisses on my forehead or cheek, when he deemed it appropriate. His hands never drifted or copped, instead staying stationary at my waist. Sitting there in his arms was the closest I had come to comfort since the crash. Despite the waterfall of tears, this was the most unworried and relaxed state I had been in a year. It was strange, the circumstances one could find themselves in. I would never have thought I'd be soothed by a man who was just on the verge of being qualified as an acquaintance, on the ledge of his abandoned warehouse. Yet despite the odds…

Things felt okay.

I don't know if I'll get a happily ever after. Does anyone? The closest I could come, to this fairy tale inspired term, is solace. Solace in being able to come to terms with the fact that I was allowed to grieve over the loss of my parent's. Knowing I had a support group, people who understood and were willing to help me, just as willing as I was.

I looked up at Edward, who was rubbing up and down my arms soothingly and humming quietly in my ear. He smiled gently at me and I laid a hand on his cheek, before pulling his lips down to mine.

If solace was as close as I'd get to a happily ever after, then I just might be alright with that.

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