Hope Springs Eternal Contest
Number of prompt chosen: 13
Title: Two Souls in Stillness Wait
Word Count: 10,258
Summary: You're the angel of my childhood, the one that gave me courage and strength. You're the force in my teen years that led me to get help I so desperately needed. You're the love of my life as an adult, the love between us a beautiful and passionate love.
Disclaimer: Twilight and its characters belong solely to Stephanie Meyer; I am in no way claiming ownership.
Part I: L'ange de son Enfance
The Angel of his Childhood.
The little boy stood at the edge of the cliff, his hands reaching out, searching. He knew enough of the world to know that if he stepped forward, he'd fall into the darkness. But he did not know that someone wouldn't always be there to help him, and sometimes he'd have to face the world alone. He kept his hands out, reaching, pleading, begging. He wanted to be saved. He wanted to be loved.
Surrounded by nothing but the cool winter air, the small boy began to cry. He shed tears for the cruel, harsh world that he was beginning to see. In a brief second of doubt, he considered taking that daring step forward, for it could not be any worse than the torture he'd endured on this side. The darkness was the unknown, and all the little boy had known was bitter words and searing pain. He lived in his own dark world; surely it could not get any worse than this.
Magnificent colours illuminated the sky then: flashes of red, blue, green, purple, and orange. The little boy stopped his musings and looked upward. He giggled but stopped abruptly, astonished that he was able to make such a happy noise. His features twisted with confusion. His small hands formed tight fists, mimicking the actions of his father.
The colours all blended into one striking shade of gold, shimmering beautifully. He had never thought of anything as beautiful. This strange vision befuddled him, and his thoughts became incoherent. He fell to his knees, in awe of the beauty he had just witnessed. His hands unclenched. His face broke out into a beautiful grin. The gold lit up his bronze hair, making it shine.
He was always meant to shine.
As the gold faded to a dim yellow, he felt the darkness cloud his mind once again. He was destined to live a dark life. There would never be any light with him. In him. Perhaps he was only the silly boy that always got in the way, just as his mother had repeatedly told him.
Before him stood an angel, her hair long and wild. Her simple white dress paled in comparison to her lovely face. Her face was nurturing, loving, compassionate; things the poor boy had been deprived of. She glowed as the sky did; she personified the sincere goodness and purity that was deep within every individual, including the little boy.
"I hurt," was what the little boy said, his voice trembling.
Waves of pain washed over the angel, her heart breaking. The boy did not know her yet, but he would. One day.
"I'll take it all away." She kissed the little boy's forehead, pouring all her love for him into the small gesture. He'd see soon enough that he wasn't meant to suffer, that happiness was all he deserved.
The little boy woke with a start, carrying the image of the girl in his heart as he endured the pain of the next fourteen years. He was weak, but the apparition had given him something much greater than brute strength.
She gave him love.
As the rain poured down on the black-haired boy, his eyes wandered for a place of shelter. As he passed the people calmly walking through the storm, they eyed him with curiosity. He had piercings all over his face, markings of events that he couldn't speak of. The only thing that kept them from eyeing him with pure disgust was his striking green eyes. Little did they know those eyes had seen things that no one should see for a boy that was eighteen years of age.
He didn't have a jacket, only a tattered white t-shirt with holes near the bottom. Wet and shivering, he sought shelter in a small building where the lights were beaming brightly. He grabbed the door handle and let himself inside, turning around just in time to see that he had become the center of attention.
But then he heard the most angelic voice; a voice that he had truly been yearning to hear since his childhood.
Bella had changed from her ballet costume into a sleeveless black dress and matching heels, her hair pulled up into a bun. At eighteen, she was a better classical dancer than some of the teachers she'd had. Her performance had just ended and, oblivious to the man who watched her intently, she chatted with a family and their eight-year-old daughter.
Fingers skimmed her bare shoulder with the reverence of a lover's caress, sending shivers through her body. She turned and her eyes met Edward's, his emanating a scorching heat that burned with familiarity. In her eyes was confusion and conflict, but an underlying compassion was brought to the surface for a reason that remained unknown.
He spoke first. "It's... you. I'm sorry, I-" Aggravated with himself and his inability to form a coherent sentence, he rubbed the back of his neck with his hand. A period of uneasy silence followed.
"Hi," Bella attempted regular conversation with the simple greeting. She wasn't repulsed by this man in the slightest. His eyes flashed up to hers once again, a smile tugging at the corners of his lips. "Did you like the show?" she prompted, determined to get a response out of him.
"I can't believe it's really you," he said, his eyes widening. She wasn't sure what he meant by this and she opened her mouth to ask him, but her words caught in her throat when she felt warmth spread throughout her body. His arms surrounded her, his embrace comforting. She closed her eyes and sighed in contentment, feeling the rise and fall of his chest with every nervous breath that he took. He pulled away too soon, and she missed the warmth of his arms around her from the second he let go.
A rational response would have been to shove him away, slap him, or yell at him. But she did none of these things; she just stood there gaping at him in shock.
Bella didn't know this man. They hadn't met before. She wasn't a firm believer in having a soul mate, but why did his arms around her feel so right? Like they had this instantaneous connection that could withstand any test of time? Her mind was always unchangeable, her decisions set in stone. Suddenly, the rigid order was breaking and her thoughts were wild, the chaos in tune with her increasing heartbeat.
"Your... name... is Bella?" he asked, laughing nervously.
"Who are you?" she asked bluntly, almost rudely.
That threw him for a second. The light in his eyes faded quickly, and an unsettling feeling was left in the air. Disappointment.
"I-I should... leave. You're good... too good for me," he said, his expression turning painful. "I'm... flawed-"
"What makes you think you aren't worthy of me?" Bella asked, surprising herself with the fierceness in her tone. This conversation was headed in a dangerous direction. How had they gone from a few words to a conversation about of this man's self-worth?
"You don't know me." The words came out harsh, filled with venom that didn't belong in his voice. His innocent, nervous stutter had turned into something darker. A voice that wasn't his. Someone had hurt him, this much she knew. Whoever it was had not only broken him physically, but had crushed his spirit in the process.
"I don't," she agreed. "But you don't know me, either. How do you know I'm good? I could be a serial killer for all you know," she added, trying to lighten the mood.
To her surprise, he laughed. "You don't seem like the type."
"Neither do you. You don't seem as evil as you say you are."
"Maybe what you see is a lie."
"Maybe," Bella agreed, "but I'm willing to take a chance."
"You'd take a chance on me?" he asked, his green eyes boring into hers. Her breath caught in her throat.
"Anytime," she said, matching his intensity.
The corners of Edward's mouth turned upward into an angelic smile. Bella grinned back; his smile was infectious.
But just as quickly, his smile fell. "I- I have to deal with... some things... now. We can't..."
Bella understood what he meant before he even said it. He needed help. There were things that he was dealing with that nobody had the capacity to understand. He was troubled, but not flawed. He was broken, but not beyond repair.
"I said, 'anytime,'" she reminded him gently. "I'll wait as long as it takes."
He inhaled a sharp breath at her confession. "You... I can't ask that of you."
His arms surrounded her then. His embrace was comforting. She closed her eyes and sighed in contentment, committing the feeling to memory.
The man smiled and turned to leave, but Bella grabbed his arm.
"I still don't know your name," she said.
His eyes darkened with an indecipherable emotion.
"No, I don't suppose you do," he said harshly, breaking her hold on his arm before walking away.
He shoved the doors open and sped down the street. He felt as if he was being taunted; the image of perfection was in front of him, yet still out of his reach. He could never be someone worthy of her, but he sure as hell could try.
He pulled out his cell phone and punched in the numbers he swore he would never dial, the numbers that made him feel like an abnormality. He wasn't an addict and he wasn't clinically insane, he thought.
While both may have been true, he failed to say that he wasn't a victim, for even he couldn't tell such a black lie.
It's a strange thing, watching time pass and lives change, but being stuck in the past. Bella would wake up every morning and find herself remembering small things about a man she'd only known for ten minutes, fifteen at most.
The way he smiled, the crease between his eyebrows as confusion would settle on his face, his head down, almost as if he deemed himself unworthy to look at her. Sometimes she'd forget things, like what colour his shirt was or if he had seven piercings or eight. She'd wrack her brain, trying to pull the memory from the deepest parts of her mind. However, like an old photograph, the colour and finer details would fade with time, the images lost.
Bella's life had changed drastically since that day. She was discovered by an agent and was now doing shows on Broadway. After every performance, she'd let her mind wander, remembering the way they'd met. Would he remember her now? Was she of any significance to him at all?
Her life may have changed drastically since that day, but her heart had stayed the same.
Bella quickly packed up her belongings and threw her tattered duffel bag over one shoulder. She was done for the day, but the thoughts of him and their encounter lingered in her mind. She'd given up trying to push the thoughts away. Instead, she surrendered to her feelings, letting the misery wash over her without a fight.
It was a chilly night, and her car was parked a few blocks away. Sighing angrily, she cursed herself for her stupidity. She exited the building and wrapped her arms around herself, trying to make up for the absence of a jacket.
But these aren't the arms I want around me, she thought absentmindedly as her heels clicked against the concrete.
The word was a whisper, one filled with confidence and disbelief. The voice was eerily familiar, but Bella didn't turn around. She didn't need to deal with anyone else today; she couldn't.
"Bella," the voice said again, louder. There was a sincere reverence in the way her name was spoken, as if she was of utmost importance. It was spoken like a prayer, an answer to all mysteries that had gone unsolved. It was spoken with relief and awe, devotion and compassion.
There had only ever been one man who spoke this way.
She turned hastily, her heart racing.
There stood the man that haunted her every thought, dream and fantasy. There stood the man who had once had piercings and an impaired sense of vision, because he did not see himself clearly. There stood the man that had stolen her heart, peace of mind, and the ability to look twice at another. It had been three years since she'd seen him last.
His hair was copper now, and he nervously ran his hand through it. The piercings were gone, disappeared with his insecurities and fear of the world. He held his chin up a little higher, the darkness that clouded his being replaced by the brightest light.
"You look different," she accused, feeling betrayed. How often had she searched the crowd for black hair and a man with hunched shoulders?
"Piercings aren't socially acceptable," he said simply, shrugging.
"You-" she broke off in anger, not having a cruel enough noun to describe him. "How could you do this to me? Why did you do this to me? I spent years feeling your absence and waiting for you. And that's all you have to say? 'Piercings aren't socially acceptable'?"
"I never told you to wait."
She realized that he truly hadn't told her anything of the sort; she had visualized this man as the centre of her universe. He had seen their brief encounter as a conversation, but she had imagined it as a life-changing event. She immediately blushed at her own stupidity. She felt like she had been cheated of the past three years, because she was holding on to a dream that only existed in her mind.
"You're right," Bella agreed. "You didn't. I told myself to wait."
Cars rushed by, and she crossed her arms across her stomach. The chill had become uncomfortable, but it was nothing compared to Edward's unnerving stare.
"I didn't think you'd remember me," he began. "I actually convinced myself at one point that you weren't real. That I just made you up. But then I got out and I heard about you and got on a plane to New York-"
"Slow down," she said, relaxing slightly. His nervousness was still as cute as it had been the first time they met, and this familiarity brought a small smile to her face.
"We have time," his voice rose at the end, making the statement sound like a question. He almost collapsed in relief when Bella nodded. She had gotten him through his treatments one day at a time, and he was determined to find her. Now that he had, he had almost scared her away.
He'd prove to her that he was someone worth waiting for, because even if the words were unspoken at the time, he had waited too.
"Dress warmly," he had said, laughing when Bella glared at him.
He doesn't understand what it's like for a woman to prepare for a first date, Bella thought, irritated. He refused to tell her where they were going, which left her with no information that would be helpful when deciding what to wear. What exactly was she supposed to dress warmly for?
Edward was so frustrating.
She mentally squealed at the thought that she finally knew his name. After calling him variations of "that man" and "him" in her head for years, it was finally nice to refer to him by his given name. He didn't seem like an Edward. She told him so, and he said he was named after his grandfather. Seconds after mentioning this, his cheerful expression faded and he quietly sipped his coffee, his lips pursed together.
Getting back to the task at hand, she decided to keep it casual. Edward didn't seem like the skirts and expensive dresses type. She finally decided on a pink cashmere sweater and some dark washed jeans, leaving her brown curls down. She applied minimal makeup and put on a black trench coat over her outfit.
The doorbell rang at the exact second she grabbed her purse; his timing was impeccable. Bella felt her heart pounding in her chest as she swallowed nervously. She walked down the stairs, gripping the handrail tightly, afraid of falling.
With shaky hands, she opened the door to see Edward grinning. She almost didn't notice the bouquet of white roses he held in his hand.
"Hi," he breathed, speaking first. "You look... incredible."
"Thank you," Bella replied, taking the flowers from him as she blushed. "I love roses. They're my favourite flower. And you don't look so bad yourself."
She took in his white button up shirt and jeans. She breathed a sigh of relief when she saw that he was dressed casually as well. Maybe this won't be so bad, she thought.
"Is this the part where we speak in clichés?" Edward teased her.
"It depends. Are you taking me to dinner and a movie?" Bella responded with the same energy.
"Definitely not," he said, his eyes widening in mock horror. "I thought we'd so something more weather-appropriate."
"Did you know that winter is my least favourite season?" Bella asked, wrinkling her nose. She wasn't a fan of the cold.
"I'm confident that I can change your mind," Edward laughed.
"I'm also pretty stubborn."
"I believe you," he murmured more to himself than Bella. He was still smiling, so she didn't let herself dwell on the subject.
The pair stepped onto the porch and Bella turned to lock the door, fumbling with the keys. Edward was staring at her intently when she faced him once again.
Bella felt self-conscious under his gaze. "What?"
"Nothing," he shook his head, "I just can't believe this. All of this. You."
Bella's brows furrowed in confusion. She didn't understand why he was fascinated by her. She'd always been ordinary, plain. Never one to stand out in a crowd. She never held anyone's attention for more than a few minutes, and yet Edward came back to her after years of separation. The time that had passed did nothing to change the easy conversation, the pull she felt towards him, and the feel of his touch...
Bella remained silent until they were inside his car. She could tell this worried him, seeing the crease in his forehead and the panic in his eyes. It amazed her that she could read him like one would read a book for the tenth time, already knowing the plot before reading the words. He didn't have to tell her what he was thinking; she could feel it.
"Will you tell me where we're going now?" Bella asked impatiently, trying to return to their playful banter.
"Ice skating," Edward answered without hesitation. Bella knew he wouldn't have given up the information so easily if he wasn't so distracted.
"I don't know how," she said honestly, but without fear.
"Oh... I'm sorry, I didn't even realize... We can do something else..." Edward rambled on, his eyes alarmed.
"It's fine," Bella said, smiling. "It just means that you'll have to hold on to me."
"I won't let go," Edward said, sincerity audible in each word.
And hold on he did. Not once did Bella fall, safe in the security Edward's arms provided. When she would stumble, his arms would tighten around her, holding her to his chest. Sometimes he held on for a second longer than necessary, and she savoured those moments. When he would finally release her, the tips of his ears would be coloured pink, but not from the cold.
Regardless of his efforts, she did fall.
Fall in a very different way.
And she discovered that all her fears had vanished.
Part II: Les Cauchemars de son Passé.
The Nightmares of his Past.
Bella stared at the ceiling, her body tense and alert.
She glanced at the alarm clock. 1:30 am.
Sleep was impossible. How could she clear her mind of all thoughts and drift into a peaceful slumber when an incredible, sexy man was sleeping just down the hall?
Every passing second was a constant struggle as Bella resisted the urge to climb into bed with him. She couldn't deny that she wanted him, but he needed time. There were some things in his past that still troubled him, and she wouldn't push him. He needed time and she would give him anything he needed, without hesitation.
Bella had offered to let him stay at her place, so he wouldn't have to drive though the pouring rain. They had been dating for six months, but she had seen fear in his hesitation. Fear that she didn't quite understand. She mentioned that he could stay in the guest room, and the tension in his eyes had evaporated before he graciously agreed.
Of course, this... frustration was something Bella hadn't considered. She rolled onto her stomach, hoping that burying her head into the pillow would rid her mind of the lustful thoughts.
Sighing angrily, she turned on the lamp on her bedside table and ran her fingers through her hair, her head resting against the wall.
After a few moments of silence, she heard a soft cry, a deep voice muffled by a pillow. She jumped out of bed and ran to her closed door, pausing in hesitation. She pressed her ear against the door, forehead creased with worry and apprehension.
The agonizing cries grew louder, followed by heartbreaking sobs. The voice was deep, masculine, and held an unsettling amount of terror. Without thinking, Bella burst through the door and sprinted down the hall, her heart pounding in her chest.
The guestroom door was open and she froze at the sight inside.
Edward was drenched in sweat, his face twisted in agony. He thrashed and screamed, pressing his face against the pillow. Gasping, he rolled over and cried out once again.
"Please... stop... please..." he begged, his voice breaking.
Bella ran over to him, pulling his body into her arms. He fought her, his limbs sprawling out as though to protect himself from an attacker. She rocked him back and forth slowly, her face wet with tears for the man who experienced more pain than she'd ever imagined.
"Wake up," she whispered softly, as one would do to a small child. "No one is going to hurt you ever again."
Edward mumbled something incoherently, before pleading for mercy once again. Bella kissed the top of his head and watched in awe as his tremors subsided. His shoulders relaxed and his expression returned to normal. Resting his head in the crook of her neck, he sighed in contentment before opening his eyes, suddenly aware of his surroundings.
"You were having a nightmare," Bella explained, trying to diffuse the tension in the room. Edward remained frozen as he clenched his eyes shut. She noticed he had a tendency to do that whenever something unpleasant occurred.
"I know," he said, his voice breaking. "I've had them since I was six."
It was a story she wanted to hear, but not out of mere curiosity. It had been the first time she didn't let her curiosity overtake her senses. She'd known that he had demons from many conversations that went unfinished, interrupted by the darkness of his past. Small things would trigger memories: asking about his family, his friends, the place he grew up. It was hard to know which topics were off limits and which weren't.
"It all started when they left me," Edward began in a quiet whisper. His haunted expression sent chills down Bella's spine. She was shocked that he was going to tell the story that he'd shied away from, that he'd pushed to the very back of his mind. "I was six when they dropped me off in front of the adoption centre. My mom said she was coming right back. I didn't understand then, why she was looking at me like we'd never see each other again."
Bella watched him as he spoke, his hands quivering.
"I was abused," he spoke again, the words robotic. "The family that adopted me wasn't looking for a child; they were looking for a prisoner. I... I was their plaything for years."
Edward stopped, thinking of the angel who had helped him in those dark times. She looked so much like Bella, but she seemed tortured in her own way. Bella was carefree in a way that the angel could never be. However, the resemblance was uncanny, their voices identical, and their compassion for him the same. Bella wrapped her arms around him, simultaneously giving him the strength to continue.
"I escaped from that life. Someone had given the police an anonymous tip about the abuse happening inside the house, but I don't know how anyone could have found out about it. They were very good at hiding it." Edward laughed bitterly. "Threatening my life and locking the doors. My room didn't have windows, a desk, a bed. It was a six by six room, like a jail cell. I had exactly two t-shirts. I had no hope."
Bella rubbed his back, trying to soothe him. He was shaking now and she was close to tears. In this moment, she realized that his pain was hers, and she loved him with a fire that burned not only in her heart, but in the deepest parts of her soul.
"After I got out, I lived on the streets. I got drunk and high. I did everything I could to forget, but it didn't stop the nightmares. I had no education, no chance of being someone any better than the assholes that abused me. I know I haven't explained this in the amount of detail that you would've liked but I can't..." He broke off, clutching his side, where there would always be a permanent reminder of the abuse on his flesh. Bella sensed he couldn't continue, so she held him until he eventually fell asleep, tangled in her warm embrace.
His pained whispers filled her mind and brought her a sense of indescribable dread.
"If you...if you left me," he had said, "I would lose everything. It's because you exist that I can find the strength to go on."
Unbeknownst to them both, he had jinxed his luck, and their lives would crash and burn regardless of his wishes.
Pure chance, that's what it was.
Edward had just moved in with Bella, after many heated arguments. He lived in a small apartment that was the only option when he worked odd jobs around the city. She didn't like the idea of him staying in that neighbourhood where a lot of crimes took place daily. She practically insisted. He was filled with pride, as every man was, but couldn't deny her anything. He waltzed in the room holding a bouquet of roses and set them on the table before spinning her around, a result of his own joy. He finally felt loved.
Smiling to herself, Bella walked on the streets of New York in her white trench coat and Vans. She couldn't believe that she and Edward had been dating for a year. He'd shared more with her than anyone he'd ever met, and was beginning to see that the past couldn't be erased, but it could be trapped within the barriers of time where it belonged.
Suddenly, Bella collided with another woman, sending the woman's purchases flying. Her eyes met a piercing, icy green stare, paired with straight copper hair.
She was the spitting image of Edward.
Dropping to her knees, the woman started picking up the grocery bags as Bella knelt down to help.
Edward had said the name of his mother once, in a nightmare.
"Elizabeth Masen." Bella spoke softly, trying to keep the venom out of her voice. Elizabeth froze at the sound of the name that no one knew. She dropped the bags in her arms and studied Bella. She didn't look like anyone from her past life as a loving mother, and definitely didn't look like anyone from her present.
"I- I love your son," Bella stated, her tone stronger. It was almost 10pm, but even in the dark, the light that appeared in the woman's cold eyes was visible. She appraised Bella in a new way, but dropped her eyes when she realized her son wouldn't need her approval or opinion.
"I don't have a son," she said, but her eyes watered and tears rolled down her cheek.
"You abandoned him," Bella accused with outrage. "He was hurt, he needed you!"
"I didn't have a choice," Elizabeth responded with urgency in her tone. "He was a child. He didn't know about the harsh realities of the world. He didn't know that his father and I saved his life!"
She looked around with sudden terror, knowing that the men couldn't be far away. They'd find her soon, and she couldn't live with herself if her son lost the one good thing he'd ever have. She admired this girl's courage and her audacity, but more than anything, she admired the love in her eyes, second only to her own.
Bella noticed that Elizabeth had a French accent identical to Edward's, another similarity that linked them despite their separation. She was processing what Elizabeth was saying when Elizabeth grabbed her hand and led her down an alley, the groceries forgotten.
"Tell him this, please," Elizabeth begged. "I need him to know what I'm about to tell you. I don't know what's been running though his head all these years, but it isn't the truth." Bella nodded once in confirmation, and Elizabeth visibly relaxed. "His father, who was also named Edward, was a police officer. He believed in enforcing the law and was dedicated to doing his duty. It was more than just a job to him."
Bella didn't see the connection, but she knew there was more to this story than a simple biography about Edward's father. She put her hand on Elizabeth's shoulder for support.
"He caught some criminals with drugs and charged them with possession of an illegal substance," she recalled, her voice shaking. "They tried to bribe him, but he became outraged and left them to rot in jail. The criminals were part of a larger crime circle, and were trying to do 'business' with another group. When they were arrested, the leader of the group came to our house one night."
"Edward's asleep," Edward Sr. said, his moustache twitching as he grinned wickedly. After dealing with criminals and paperwork all day, he wanted to spend some quality time with his wife. Elizabeth knew his devious smile and could easily predict the thoughts that were running though his head.
As her own devious smile slowly came into place, the front door was broken down and a gun was pointed at her Edward.
"I hear you arrested my boys, cop," a dark-haired man sneered, his grip tightening on the weapon. He was angry, murderously angry. Edward couldn't move but Elizabeth screamed, the sound echoing in the man's ears. He quickly turned and appraised the cop's wife, pleased with what he saw. He wondered what it would be like if she were to scream his name.
Without a second of hesitation, he fired the gun. Deluded into thinking that his home provided safety from his job, Edward shut his police instincts away and this was his mistake. He went limp, his body still and lifeless. Even with a spirit as strong as his, he couldn't survive the impact of the bullet. It had all happened so fast, in a matter of seconds.
The man harshly grabbed Elizabeth by the arm and spoke in a rushed voice, "I'm giving you one day. That boy of yours? He's worthless to me." The man laughed. "Get rid of him and come to the bus station. A car will be waiting."
"You monster!" Elizabeth yelled, furious and irrational. The man clamped a hand down on her mouth and enjoyed the feeling of her struggles.
"Come to the bus station, or I will kill your boy. I don't care where you run, I will find you."
With those words, the man strode out of the house, grinning at the red marks he left on her skin.
"The police?" Bella suggested weakly, knowing it wasn't even an option.
"They had connections with the police," Elizabeth replied. "Hell, the police would have helped them find me. People will do anything for money." Her breathing sped up. Something was wrong. She had a strange instinct when it came to evil ever since that day, and it was on red alert.
"Leave," Elizabeth said suddenly, a change in her demeanour.
"Edward!" A male voice spoke in a sing-song voice. "Your boy, right Liz?"
The voice of this man made Elizabeth's skin crawl with disgust. It sounded like the most cacophonous phrase, the most unpleasant noise.
"And who do we have here?" the man, Chad, said as he looked over Bella. "I sent you to do some household work and you spill our secrets, Liz?"
"She's just a friend," Elizabeth tried to say, but was cut off by the abrupt click of the man's gun. The threat was clear, but they both remained frozen, stunned into silence. Elizabeth, having one last chance to protect someone, stood in front of Bella with a defiant stare.
"Move," the man grunted.
Bella's heart hammered in her chest, faster with each passing second.
A man grabbed Elizabeth from the left, pulling her out of the way.
Shots rang out and Bella fell, her greatest crime being her love for a man. Elizabeth, gasping and screaming, momentarily frightened the man who restrained her. She ran to Bella's side and listened to her ragged breathing.
"Love him," she struggled to say in between spasms of pain. "Find him."
As Elizabeth was pulled away from Bella by the man once again, her mind filled with sorrow, for she could not fulfill her dying wish.
As Bella floated into a new world, she discovered a fountain that let her visit the past of the boy she'd always love.
Bella watched as he furiously scribbled in a small notebook, the pages worn and punctured by the fury of the writer's sharp jabs. Tears streamed down his face and he gasped once, helpless, breathless, and defenceless.
He needed someone to listen to him. He needed a friend. He needed help.
He wrote to his diary as if it were a person, apologizing for the gaps between entries and not writing sooner. He gave it character even though it was nothing beyond an inanimate object. He wanted someone to listen to him, anyone, and surrounded by this isolation and black night, he had no one to turn to. So he turned to this journal, an attempt to connect with something in this world, even if it did not possess the ability to respond.
He spoke to it, cried to it, clutched it to his chest. His broken sobs echoed down the halls but wouldn't fall onto deaf ears; ears that were indifferent and uncaring.
I'm sorry for not writing earlier. The bruise on my arm still hurts and it was too painful. I promise I'll write regularly, though. Don't be upset with me. Please?
He pulled me down the stairs today and kicked my back. Said if I screamed, he'd lock me in the basement for two days. It's dark and cold in there. I really hate it. I really hate him.
I'm afraid of him because he's bigger than me. He's stronger than me. He's doesn't care if he hurts me. He's a monster without feelings. But I'm a bad kid that must be punished. That's what he tells me.
But am I that bad of a kid? Am I?
He dropped the pen and walked over to the bathroom, clutching his side. He gave his reflection a long, steady stare, wondering what was wrong with him. He was just a boy. His hair was a strange shade of copper and his eyes were green. He didn't see anything worthy of torture. He just saw a regular nine year old boy.
But this isn't what his father saw. That man felt disgust and fury when he looked at the broken little boy.
The little boy looked at his reflection once again. The shield of innocence that always kept him safe from the cruelty of human nature was slowly peeled away. This innocence was the light in his eyes, the energy that gave him the strength to get through another day. It was the push that told him to fight, to keep a clear head, but it was now gone forever.
Instead, he saw his reflection and was repulsed at the being staring at him. He hated his reflection for being someone his father couldn't be proud of. He hated his reflection for deserving every single one of those lashes and cuts and periods of solitude. He hated it for being someone he couldn't change, and for not knowing what to change into.
It clicked then, suddenly falling into place. It was then that he saw what he thought was visible to everyone else.
And the little boy loathed himself at a very young age.
Bella fell to her knees, sucking in a breath at the boy's revelation. How could he truly believe that it was his fault? He didn't deserve any of it; he didn't deserve the mental or physical pain. She knew all too well that bruises heal, but scars on the heart are carried throughout lifetimes, maybe even long after one has passed.
She wanted to break down the barriers between their two worlds and hold him while he cried, rock him in her arms and tell him that he was good. So good in fact, that the sadistic nature of his father couldn't bear all the light the boy possessed, and wanted to crush his spirit. He and his wife had destroyed the boy, and she was left to put the pieces back together and rebuild his soul.
She would have. They would have struggled, fought, maybe even cried. But at the end of the day, nothing mattered to her more than him. And nothing, not anger, irritation, or pride, could keep her from where her heart belonged.
She would have taken care of him and loved every part of him, his strengths and his faults. But she was only given a short amount of time with him. She craved more, not because she needed him like air to breathe, but because he needed her in the same way. She was seeing a ghost of his past, but now he was living with the pain of her death on his shoulders.
Thinking of her Edward, she wanted to shake the little boy. He thought he was weak? He carried more of a burden than many do, and his smile is what she woke up to. He was stronger than he thought, and regardless of everything that had happened to him, still showed an immense amount of compassion and love for her every chance he got.
This is the boy that is Edward Cullen. He was the opposite of everything he was led to believe by the people who took advantage of a vulnerable boy. They envied the rare gem that was his heart, and stopped at nothing to rip it out with their clenched, grimy fingers.
Part III: Le Vide de son Coeur
The Emptiness of his Heart
I'm a mess.
You don't know the countless times I've retraced your steps in this house. Walked everywhere, my bare feet making contact with the hardwood floor you gracefully walked on. I sit by the fireplace and simply stare at the amber, yellow, and orange dance in the fire, remembering how you danced your way into my heart.
Some people think the abused have hearts made of stone. Because they never trusted anyone, they are afraid to let someone in because they can get hurt.
In reality, the abused constantly try to connect with the outside world, a desperate attempt to feel something with another person.
Compassion, friendship, anything.
We don't know how to feel. We know how to beat ourselves up over something that we can't control, hate ourselves for never being enough. But these emotions are filled with darkness, put there by people who don't have the ability to provide warmth or comfort. These emotions aren't real. Over time, we learn that.
But who would want to associate themselves with me? Back then, I had holes in my neck from sticking too many needles into my jugular, scars that would never heal, hair as black as the darkness of man's heart. I'd often sit in the park, mindlessly kicking at the sand. A child would approach me, blind of my appearance and seeing only my soul. We'd spend a few seconds together before their shallow mothers would drag them away by the hand, scared that my ugliness would somehow transfer to the small child.
I'd find myself wishing we could all be more like that. Like children. Have the ability to see the heart and not the physical appearance.
You were like that.
You blushed crimson when you looked at me, and I remember analyzing that blush for hours each day. How could a woman like you find me remotely attractive? You could have anyone you wanted, but instead, you wanted me. I couldn't imagine why.
But you changed me. Now, I understand why you looked at me and spoke to me like I was a normal human being. Your eyes were blind to appearances, and you chose to look at me with your heart. You saw the person I was and it didn't repulse you. But you looked at me with more than tolerance; you looked at me with love.
When you said you loved me, it was nothing more than a whisper, a brush of your lips, an exhale. The deafening silence made your words sound like a scream, an electric current that went straight to a place that had never been touched.
The shock was sent straight into the depths of my soul, enough to revive the empty mass that rested there. I felt as if with a twitch of my body, I was brought to life. A life I'd never seen. In that moment, my life was a colour gradient; I was being dragged out of the cold tones of blue and into the warmth and compassion of the glowing red.
The shift occurred so fast I couldn't breathe, suffocated by the myriad of emotions that hit me in that second. Shock. Fear. Calm. Lightness. Happiness.
I felt the strings that tied me to places I didn't want to be being severed and they disappeared without a trace. And just like that, I was free of the burden of my past life.
You were the angel of my childhood, the one that gave me courage and strength. You were the force in my teen years that led me to get the help I so desperately needed. And finally, you were the love of my life as an adult, the love between us a beautiful and passionate love.
I waited for you as a child, wondering when I'd see my angel and my best friend again. I waited as a teenager, wanting to be a man you could be proud of before entering your life again. I will wait now, as a grown man, until I can be reunited with my deceased love.
Edward couldn't write anymore; his tears had overflowed and spilt on the pages of his journal. He ran his fingers over the words on the page, over the memories of her. He finally broke down and wept, his body shaking with sobs, and he realized he could no longer feel the warmth of her comforting embrace to heal his grief.
In the darkest parts of Bella's mind lay the solution to her empty heart, her broken soul. It wasn't a matter of unity or separation anymore; it was a matter of his life or his death.
She wanted him to die.
If he were living a normal life, she'd like to think she cared enough about his happiness to let him live. But with each setting sun and the dawn of a new day, his misery was as consistent as a fresh wound that would never heal. Soon he'd bleed himself dry, but his experience with suppressing unpleasant memories would allow him to live as a walking corpse. She could take his pain away; give him the love he needed. It wasn't selfish to want that, was it? To want happiness for your other half?
They were separated by accident; she was told this by an external force she had never seen. Somehow, the lines drawn in the book that held all of fate's actions went off track, her line crossed a path it was never supposed to touch. The book never realized the raging force that was Bella's love, and even fate was no match for her desire to unite a mother and her broken son.
But with every action came a dire consequence, one that they were both living to this very day. She was trapped in her world and he was trapped in his own lifeless body.
You can change that, a voice whispered to Bella. Temptation was the most wicked of vices. It twists right and wrong into something that looks good, feels good, but is truly dreadful. In her current frame of mind, clouded by her desperation and despair, she discarded her morals and let herself slip into the skin of the snake.
"Show me Edward Masen," she whispered to the fountain, her hushed tones feigning innocence. She looked into the cool blue waters and saw him, walking down the street to his New York apartment. She knew in reality there was nothing she could do, because the power to change lives was not hers.
But there was another way.
Suddenly, a faceless figure appeared before her, wearing a white garment similar to her own. This figure frightened Bella and the evil inside her retreated to the safe confines of her mind.
"W-who are you?" she stuttered in awe.
The figure did not speak, nor did its being give any indication that it had moved, but she heard a voice in her head.
I'm The One.
"What does that mean?" Bella asked after a moment, utterly confused.
Different things to different people.
She pondered this. Was this figure the power that the universe believed in? The one and true higher power?
"I don't understand," Bella said, shaking her head.
No one does. Yet.
Being cryptic was one thing the figure was good at, Bella thought. But why was it here?
I'm here to show you the error of your ways.
She stiffened, alarmed that the figure had access to her thoughts. It must have heard of the plans inside her head, then.
You want him dead?
The figure grabbed Bella's hand. The hand had no texture of temperature, it simply was. With a harsh tug on her arm, Bella was pulled into the fountain. She kept her eyes open and saw images swirl around in the water, images of her life and Edward's. In that moment, her brain was assaulted with memories of their love.
Their heads broke the surface of the water, and she gasped in surprise. They were afloat in an ocean, and the figure was standing on the shore. It offered Bella its hand and she took it without hesitation, even if she couldn't understand her surroundings.
"Where are we?" Bella asked, alarmed. They were just in an ocean, but they were perfectly dry. Bella's mind was overwhelmed with questions and curiosity.
Earth. We are going to visit a friend.
In a matter of seconds, the entire scene changed. They were no longer standing on shore, but on the streets of New York. People passed by in a hurry, and Bella noticed that no one could see her and the ghostly figure.
They can't see us. We're sprits, child.
The way it said "child" warmed Bella's heart, and she stopped and embraced the feeling. It had been so long since she had felt anything except anger and sadness. The sense of content wasn't temporary, and that consistent emotion reminded her of Edward.
Speaking of him...
The spirit brought her here to see Edward? In an instant, Bella realized there was something wrong with this situation. If she wanted to see Edward, the fountain would show her what he was doing. Her fall to earth had a greater purpose than catching a glimpse of her lost love, a purpose that immediately made her shiver.
You wanted him to die. Watch.
She tensed and looked up, fear immediately running through her. He was about to cross the street, his head down. She looked wistfully at her other half before she heard it, a violent, unpleasant sound.
The chatter of the men and women, the sounds of nature, the wailing of children- all of it was silenced. In that moment, there was no other sound than the squealing of tires and the steady thumping of his heart. He didn't look up, didn't know that he only had a mere thirty seconds to live.
Bella tried to remind herself that this is what she wanted. She wanted him out of this world and in hers, because they belonged together. The evil chanted, let him die, let him die, let him die. She tried to maintain a brave face and she succeeded in this, but her body was shaking with sobs.
As he looked up and saw the bright red car that sped towards him, he was paralyzed with fear. His mouth hung open with shock, but his eyes held a strange acceptance. After seeing his expression, Bella would have it engraved in her memory no matter how many lives she'd have to live. That face gave her a second of clarity. The fight of evil and love within her ended with the lesser destroyed, and love rose above all things, as it always would.
What is wrong, Bella? You wanted this.
"No..." she soft whisper left her lips. "No!" The word became a scream, a plea, the voice of love that resided in her. She loved him more than anything. Even if this were the only way they could be together, she could not live with the guilt that it was she who took his life.
"Stop this, please!" she screamed again, her hands shaking. In that moment of pure selflessness, she saw nothing more important than him.
As you wish, child.
The car stopped a mere two feet directly in front of Edward, and she breathed a sigh of relief. A man got out of the car and apologized to him repeatedly, saying he had absolutely no idea why neither the brakes nor the steering wheel functioned properly. Bella glanced slyly at The One, only to realize that the mysterious figure was gone.
She fell to her knees, realizing that she had to let him go. He belonged here, where he could live, find love, grow old. It would do no good to chase after someone who didn't exist anymore, and she realized she couldn't fault him if he were to love another. He deserved a long and happy life. She quickly ran over to Edward and placed her hand on the side of his face, even though he'd never feel her skin on his.
"You're free," she said softly.
Edward, feeling an eerie presence in the air, looked at the air in front of him. He didn't realize that the emptiness in front of him was the only source of happiness in his heart. Bella was on his mind as he thought of his almost accident, and he wondered if she felt the same all consuming fear as she was about to die. His eyes became glassy as he turned away.
"This is where I first met him," the angel said wistfully.
"Who are you?" Anya's insides tensed with fear, but her blue irises held a curiosity that Bella had seen before.
She sighed at the girl that was half of him, half of the boy she loved. There was no betrayal, not anymore; there was only acceptance and faint longing that would never cease to exist. Before she could stop herself, her cruel mind conjured up images of the child she and Edward might have had. She could see a beautiful boy, with her eyes and his hair. A symbol of their love. As quickly as the images came, they vanished into the dark confines of her mind, where she had learned to enclose the pain to keep herself from falling apart.
"I'm-" How could she answer this girl? That she was the one her father loved?
"A friend," she decided at last, the lie constricting her throat painfully.
Anya knew from her mother that her father had loved another, not by words, but by the sidelong glances she gave him when he sat on the front porch with the roses every day for hours. She saw distrust in her mother eyes, but greater than this was the jealously that consumed her actions. Anya was handicapped with the curse of childhood, being too young to understand the world around her. However, her curse was also a blessing, for she saw everything in its true light.
"Do you like roses?" she asked on impulse.
"Very much," Bella whispered, knowing exactly what she had admitted to. The girl had the ability to detect even the slightest hint of a lie. The truth was easier, simply because it'd win her trust.
Bella saw this as the sole way to contact him, to give him a message. Something she'd so desperately tried to do since she came to this perfect, secluded world. Her thoughts swarmed with possibilities and hope that she never allowed herself to feel.
"Can you help me?" Bella asked the little girl eagerly, smiling at the impossibility of it all.
Anya was dazzled by the angel standing before her, the most beautiful thing she had ever seen. She realized that helping her wasn't something her mother would like, but she was curious to see what role her father played in this. She nodded noncommittally, thinking this was all a dream she could wake up from, and somehow the doubt of her father and mother's love would remain only in this world.
Bella was surprised by her quick reply, but winning the trust of this girl would prove to be more difficult than a simple honest answer. Something had hardened her heart and put her defences on high alert, and she needed a way to break her tough exterior. Realizing this would take more than mere minutes, all the time she had, she pointed at the sky and furiously began to write with flicks of her hand.
As her graceful fingers traced outlines of letters in the air, the letters engraved themselves onto the vast blue sky.
Mon coeur est à toi pour toujours.
"Repeat this to him, please," she begged, her voice raspy like she hadn't drunk water in days. She no longer needed the liquid to sustain herself, but the one thing she needed to live, she had to let go of. She understood that this message would haunt him, destroy him, but she was selfish. She had given him up to the real, tangible world; she deserved the small reassurance that she was in his thoughts, even if it was only for a fleeting moment.
An arm shook her sleeping figure on earth and Anya was caught between two worlds- hers and Bella's. As she struggled to remain with the angel, her subconscious surrendered to reality as her physical self and her conscious self became one once again.
She opened her eyes and they held a weariness that startled Tanya. She wondered how one night could age her daughter in such a drastic way. She felt as if her daughter was a mirror image of herself, because in her eyes was the doubt of her father's love.
As she repeated the words to her father and he shed tears for the angel, the feeling of doubt intensified.
Part IV: Le Retour de son Amour
The Return of his Love
Edward wasn't sane anymore, this he knew. He'd been hearing voices, whispers, in his head. From the moment of her death, he'd been hearing them.
Sometimes they were pleas, desperate cries of pain and anguish. Sometimes they were words of kindness and compassion. For a fleeting moment, he'd hear her voice as if she was whispering the words in his ear. They were never clear but he'd understand them anyway, the monosyllables enough to unlock the mysteries of her mind. When he first laid eyes on Bella, he knew there'd never be another. And yet, here he was, sitting on the porch of the house he lived in with his wife and daughter.
He wasn't proud of his decisions, but he craved companionship, something he had found with a girl who was lost to him forever. He never would have entertained the idea of loving another until she told him to.
"You're free," she had whispered. I could never be free of you, he thought bitterly. She was like a leech that latched on to fresh skin, absorbing his ability to love and carrying it with her far beyond the time of her death. With it, she took his happiness and his sanity, but left behind his empty soul.
"I'm a man that lost my heart and mind. Am I a man at all?" Edward laughed bitterly. He stared at the flowers that she'd loved, the garden that held a more special place in his heart than his flesh and blood. Tanya and Anya left and wouldn't return, but this didn't surprise Edward. After all, no one wants a worthless man.
A cold gust of air hit him and his body shook with shivers, but he was used to the cold. The cold that twisted and gripped his heart was far more dangerous than frostbite, and it had devoured him.
"Go inside, Edward," the flowers sang, and the ice that caged his heart briefly loosened and let him feel the warmth of being cared for.
"Who will look after you?" he said sadly. "You're all I have left."
His eyes filled with tears as he turned his head to the sky. He furiously blinked back the unshed tears, suppressing the emotion that made her absence real. He dropped his head in his hands and squeezed his eyes shut.
"I wish she was here," Edward said, his voice muffled by his hand. It was a phrase he hadn't uttered in years. The words hung in the air, the confession making him feel years younger. He dropped his hands in his lap and looked up, expecting to see the flowers and nothing else.
But he saw her.
"Edward," the angel said, her voice a mixture of wonder and disbelief.
"You can see me?" she whispered. He watched as her eyebrows rose and she bit her lip nervously. Her white garment blew in the wind and she was nothing extravagant, but she was everything he wanted and couldn't have.
"I see you everywhere," he laughed bitterly again. "I see you when a girl helps an old man cross the street. I see you when someone sways gracefully to music. I see you when I look at my daughter and see the goodness in her. I see you when I look in the mirror sometimes..." He trails off quietly.
His words made her heart swell with pride; he finally saw the goodness in himself. She looked inside the house and saw the emptiness of the walls, the lack of colour or furnishings. "Are you alone?"
Edward still couldn't believe he was seeing what was in front of him and his mouth hung open. The flowers whispered she loves you Edward in unison.
"Are you real?" he countered, reaching out to run his fingers over her skin. His fingers made contact with the side of her face but caressed thin air. He pulled his hand back abruptly, anger present in his eyes. This was just his mind playing games with him again.
"You can't touch me," she said softly, "but I'm really here for you."
Bella's fingers grasped his arm. Even though he couldn't feel them, he walked forward with her into a new life without sorrow or pain. She led him towards her perfect world, no longer secluded and lonely.
"Mon coeur est à toi pour toujours," she mouthed to him, the phrase of love and longing. Even without sound, he knew. This may not have been the first time he felt happiness, but he felt it so strongly that it overshadowed all of his pain. The past cannot be erased but it can be conquered; overcome not by suppression and concealment, but by love.
And love is something Edward would no longer be short of, because their souls were reunited once again, as they were always meant to be.
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