A/N: I can't get this story out of my head so here's another installment. ;)) And for you lovers of CoL, my goal is to get that first epi done by this weekend. ;)))
I have so many to thank: my fantabulous beta, LifeInkognito, who returned this in record time even though her laptop died in a coffee-dousing incident through no fault of her own. And to my pre-readers: gjficfan, Lfcpam, Firedancer07, and Micki Martini. I love you chicks to no end.
SM owns Twilight.
A STREET WITH NO END
I hear the familiar voice, but for some reason, I don't acknowledge it.
"Edward." I feel a hand on my shoulder.
"Yes?" I finally answer. My voice is hoarse.
I look up into Dr. Whitlock's concerned face. Jasper is one of my closest confidants at the hospital. "Are you okay? I really think you should have a CAT scan done," he says.
"No. No, I'm good." My gaze immediately drops back down to my lap. To the splattering of dried blood that stains the long sleeves of my white shirt.
Whose blood do I wear?
He sighs. "I don't agree with you, but it's your choice." I hear the snap of his surgical gloves as he tugs them off. "Six stitches in your forehead. It'll barely be noticeable."
"You're running a fever, though," he states, raising an eyebrow.
I swallow and the searing pain in my throat is so intense that I'm unable to hide my grimace. He chuckles as he turns around, reaches for a glove, and wraps it around the end of a tongue depressor. "Open wide," he says in a childish voice.
Normally, I would roll my eyes. Instead, I simply open my mouth. "Jesus. Looks like it could be strep. I'll order a Rapid Strep Test."
My throat hurts so badly that I don't find this news the least bit surprising.
He tosses the glove and tongue depressor in the trash then crosses his arms over his chest as he leans back against the counter. "So. What happened?" he asks. "Do you remember anything about the accident?"
I shake my head slightly. I remember a lot of things. Things I don't want to remember. But most of all, I remember that woman's face. It's there. Constantly. Causing a dull ache in my chest.
Even though Jasper is one of my closest friends, I'm incapable of talking about it right now. I'll eventually tell him everything. When I'm able to. But not now.
I shift in my chair, trying not to let the pain I feel from the impact of the seatbelt show on my face. My whole body is beginning to feel sore. "The woman. The one that was in the truck. Do you know where she is?"
"Yeah. She's in surgery. You know you saved her life, right?"
I know this so I nod. She would have died if I hadn't done what I did. "Do you know the extent of her injuries yet?"
"No. Not yet." Jasper reaches for a rolling chair and drops onto it, rolling up directly in front of me. He rests his elbows on his knees as he stares at me for a minute. "I know there was a fatality. You sure you don't want to talk?"
My eyes stay on his for a moment before I draw in a deep breath. The movement causes the muscles across my abdomen to burn and constrict. "Not right now." My brows pull together. "I just need to think about some things first. I haven't quite figured it all out in my head yet. But I will. Talk. When I'm ready."
He nods. "All right. I'm here any time you need me, okay?"
"Thanks," I say. The corner of his mouth turns up slightly before he rolls the chair back into place.
"Want me to go see if I can get an update on her?"
I nod as I lick my lips. I have to know. I just have to.
He gives me a quick nod in return as he reaches for the doorknob. "Have you called your parents yet? Or Rose?" he asks.
I shake my head slightly as I tug my phone out of my pocket. "You better call Rose first," he tells me with a cocked eyebrow. He knows my fiancée too well. "I'll go see what I can find out," he continues. "And I'll be back with that strep test. And some scrubs," he adds, his eyes glancing downwards for a second. He exits the room as I dial Rose's cell.
I know I'm going to wake her; she has to work in the morning. As I wait for her to answer, my eyes slip to the blood stains again. I can't help but contemplate whose blood it is. Or… is it a mixture? I click 'end' and drop my phone as I lunge for the trash can where I empty the contents of my stomach. With my heart in my throat, I tug the shirt off as quickly as I can and scrub my hands and face with soap in the wash basin. I'm rinsing my mouth out with water when my phone rings.
I hastily answer it. "Rose?"
"Edward?" she answers in a confused, sleepy voice. "Did you just call?"
"Yeah," I say softly. "Sorry to wake you."
She clears her throat. "That's okay. What time is it? Aren't you supposed to be home?"
"Yeah, um, I'm at the hospital-"
"What? You told me you were coming home tonight. You've been there for three days, Edward. Three days. They can't make you stay." Her voice is livid. Angry. But then it softens. "I want you to come home. Now. I miss you. The bed is cold without you in it."
I should have organized my thoughts better before I rushed to call her. "No, I didn't mean that I'm here still working. I meant that…" I pause, frowning, trying to word it in a way so as to not panic her. "Everything is fine, all right? I don't want you to get upset, but I-"
"Edward? What's going on? You're scaring the hell out of me right now."
"There's nothing to be scared about. There was an accident tonight. On my way home, but I'm okay. I'm perfectly fine-"
"An accident?" I hear fear vibrating in her voice. Her breathing begins to increase. "Did they admit you? How bad are you hurt? Oh my god."
"Rose. Calm down. I told you I was fine. I'm not hurt. And they didn't admit me."
"You're not hurt?"
"No, I'm fine. I'm perfectly fine."
"Oh god, Edward. My heart is pounding so hard right now. If anything happened to you…"
"I know, sweetheart. I feel the same about you. But everything's okay."
"Okay," she repeats. I hear her inhale a deep breath. "Okay," she says again. I know she's just trying to collect herself. "Do you need me to come get you? Can you drive your car or, how bad was it? Did someone hit you? What happened?"
A collage of pain-inducing images assaults me. My eyes clench tight against them, my shoulders curling inward as I try to force them out of my mind. But my efforts are useless. It's as though someone is repeatedly hitting the button on an old overhead projector as I see image after image in my head. Glittering fragments of glass scattered across a darkened pavement. An overturned, twisted ancient red truck. The mangled, crushed remains of my totaled Volvo. And the images that cause the most anguish: that young boy's bloodied face. And the unforgettable, pale face of that beautiful woman.
It's hard to breath. I rub my bare chest. It hurts to touch it. And does nothing to make the pain go away. The pain is deeper. Inside of me. In my innermost self. A spot that can't be touched physically.
I can't reveal the extent of the accident to Rose just yet. Because it would terrify her. And I'm not ready to face it yet myself. I clear my pained throat. "I'm not going to be able to drive it. But there was another vehicle involved. I'm going to stay here to make sure the other person is all right. I'll catch a ride home with Jasper or something."
"I can't let you stay there by yourself. You were just in an accident, Edward, I'm going to-"
"But you have work tomorrow."
"Fuck that. You're more important than work. I'll get dressed and be there in a little while."
I sigh. There's no arguing with her. "All right."
"I love you," she breathes, her voice heavy with emotion.
"I love you too," I respond softly before I hang up.
As I debate whether to call my parents or not, there's a light tapping on the door. "Come in," I call out.
Jasper steps inside. As he hands me the scrubs, he looks down at my chest. "That's gonna hurt tomorrow," he remarks. I don't have to look at it to know. I feel it.
I quickly throw on the scrubs.
He sets the strep test down and pulls the rolling chair over again. He leans his elbows on his knees and clasps his hands in front of him. His face is grim. My stomach drops. I know the news he is about to deliver is not good.
My mouth feels dry. Parched. I swallow and my face scrunches up from the pain. But I keep my eyes glued to his face, watching his every nuance. My heart pounds so forcefully it's almost painful.
He clears his throat. "Well, she's in pretty bad shape. She has a ruptured spleen so they're working on removing that right now. She has multiple fractures: ribs, femur, wrist, but…" He pauses, and it's as if his face pales right before my very eyes. His Adam's apple bobs up and down.
I have the overwhelming sensation to empty the contents of my stomach again even though there's nothing left. I know where this conversation is headed. "The cut? On her head…?" I prompt.
His lips thin as he nods once in confirmation. He doesn't have to say a word. Because I know.
Traumatic Brain Injury.
I've seen it dozens of times.
"Have they classified her yet?"
He nods. "Moderate."
"What was her GCS?"
My heart sinks. She just barely made it into the moderate classification. An eight classifies as a severe brain injury. With a moderate brain injury her chances of having a permanent life-altering disability increases to well over 50%.
That lovely woman could be a vegetable for the rest of her life because of me. I bend over, gasping for air.
Jasper grabs my shoulders. "Deep breaths," he says in a soothing voice. "Calm down, Edward. You know it's too early to make assumptions. Every person is different. We just have to be patient and see what happens."
I'm having a full-blown panic attack. Even though I'm panting, it's like I can't get any breath into my lungs. I've never felt like this before. Ever.
"Come on, Edward. Deep breaths, do you hear me? Slow your breathing down."
I focus every ounce of my energy solely on my breathing. Slow breath in. Slow breath out. Slower. Slower. Gradually, my racing heartbeat begins to slow, and my breathing returns to almost normal.
I look up at Jasper. He's watching me carefully. I run my hands roughly over my face. "I, I might have… fallen asleep…" I say, my voice barely above a whisper.
"Jesus Christ, Edward," Jasper mumbles. He stands and begins pacing in the small examining room, rubbing the back of his neck. "Why didn't you just stay here and get some sleep?"
"I don't know. I just wanted to get home. I was exhausted, didn't feel well. I just wanted to go home."
"Fuck. This isn't good. Shit, you could get charged for this. You could go to jail." He stops pacing and stares at me, his eyes wide. He looks as stunned by that statement as I feel. I hadn't even thought of that. I'd been so wrapped up in my fear over that woman's fate that I'd not even given a thought to the other ramifications. I could go to jail.
I could go to jail.
Those five words play on repeat in my head. I expect to feel fear and abject terror. But I don't. I feel a strange calmness. A sense of peace. Because if I am responsible for that death of that boy and for the - I have to clutch at my stomach as a wave of nausea hits me - the injuries to that woman, then I deserve to be put in jail. I will gladly pay for my sins.
"The family could sue you. Take every damn dime you have."
I would give it willingly. Money could never repay what I've done. Because how can it compare to the worth of a person's life? It can't. But if it could help ease some of the burden on the family, I would do all that I could. Without a fight.
"You need to call your attorney. And the police are out in the hallway wanting to take your statement. I told them they'd have to wait until I was done treating you."
I nod my thanks to him. I'm grateful to have a friend like Jasper. But I will not be calling my attorney. I will face this on my own.
Jasper does the strep test and it comes back positive. As he's writing me a script for antibiotics, I get a text from Rose.
I'm here. What room r u in? –R
I quickly text her the room number. Then I pick up the bloody shirt and shove it in a bag that Jasper brought in. I'll figure out what to do with it later when I'm more coherent.
Within minutes, she knocks on the door.
I startle at Jasper's voice. I'd forgotten he was in the room. "Anything you need, I'm here for you," he says. "Got it?"
I try to muster a smile but can't. So I just nod. He claps me on the shoulder, squeezing it, before he opens the door.
Rose's face is pale, her blue eyes wide and frightened as she rushes past Jasper and throws her arms around my neck. I grunt and grimace at the impact on my sore body.
"Oh, no, did I hurt you, baby?" she asks as she pulls back and stares up into my eyes. She touches the bandage on my forehead and runs her fingers lightly over my face. Her hands go back behind my head, and I know what she's about to do as she tugs me down towards her. I reach my hand up and touch her lips.
"I've got strep," I say, warning her.
"Strep? As in strep throat?" I nod. "You poor baby. Let's get you home, and I'll take care of you."
I look behind her and see that Jasper has left. "I need to talk to the police before we leave. They want to take my statement."
"Do you want me to go with you?"
"No. I need to do this on my own. Maggie's here. Why don't you go sit with her until I get done?"
"Are you sure?"
I nod. "Yeah. I won't be long."
She searches my eyes for a moment with hers before she touches my cheek softly and leaves the room. I inhale a deep slow breath before I grab the bag and follow her. I see two police officers standing in the hallway talking to each other. I approach them.
"I'm Edward Cullen. Dr. Whitlock told me you wanted to talk to me?"
They acknowledge me and I take them into an empty office. We sit down, and they immediately begin firing off question after question at me…
Why were you on that particular road?
How long were you at the hospital?
How fast were you driving?
Have you been drinking?
Explain to us in your own words how the accident happened.
I swallow and it feels like I just swallowed a handful of razor blades. My hand nervously runs over my upper lip, wiping away imaginary perspiration. I'm actually shivering slightly because of the fever I have.
"I don't remember exactly what happened. I remember watching some taillights in the distance and watching the lines on the pavement… And the next thing I remember is the impact. I'm not sure…" I pause and clear my throat. "I may have fallen asleep. I don't know for sure because I can't remember."
"That's understandable," one of the officers says. "You do have a bump on your head. Don't worry about it. There'll be an investigation. An Accident Investigator will be assigned the case and will piece together what happened. He or she will be in contact with you."
"Just a warning. They're pretty backed up with cases so don't be surprised if it takes months for them to get this thing resolved. But they will get it done."
Months? I'm going to have to wait months to know whether or not I've murdered someone?
The policemen do a sobriety test, which I pass with flying colors, and we finish up. I make my way to the nurse's station. Maggie and Rose are deep in conversation. I hear Rose's voice, "… gowns are a deep burnt orange. They're gorgeous. And they're going to carry white orchids."
Anger burns savagely through my veins. How dare she talk about something so trivial as gowns and flowers when a boy died tonight. And when that woman lies battered and broken in this hospital right now. But then it hits me. Rose doesn't know a single thing about what happened. What's happened to me. What happened to them.
Rose stops talking and smiles happily when she sees me.
"Hey," I say quietly to her then turn my gaze to Maggie. "Can I talk to you for a minute about a patient?" I ask.
"Sure," she says as she makes her way around the desk towards me.
"I'll be back in a few, okay?" I say to Rose. She smiles and nods.
I walk down to an unoccupied room and open the door for Maggie. We step inside. I turn to her. "The woman that was in the accident, has her family been contacted yet?"
"No. Her phone is password protected so we couldn't get any contact info from it. And all she had on her was her wallet. The police went to her address, but no one was home. So we're just waiting until someone calls her cell phone."
I nod. "Do we know anything about the… boy… that was with her?"
"No. He didn't have any identification on him."
"Can you call me as soon as you know something?"
"Rose doesn't know how bad the accident was, does she?" Maggie asks.
I shake my head.
"I figured as much. How're you feeling? You okay? You've had one hell of a night."
"I'm okay." She slowly raises one eyebrow as she stares up at me with her wise eyes.
I bite the inside of my jaw and shrug a shoulder at her.
"Go home with Rose and get some rest," she says as she touches my arm.
"Can you keep me updated on the woman?"
"Now you know she's not your patient, and with HIPAA law, I can't-"
Fuck HIPAA laws.
"Just in general. Please?"
A look of resignation crosses her face. She sighs as she closes her eyes and nods.
"Thank you," I breathe back.
We walk back to where Rose awaits us. She stands and links her arm through mine. We say our goodbyes to Maggie and stop by the pharmacy in the hospital to pick up my prescriptions.
"Where's your coat?" Rose asks.
Bile stirs deep in my stomach as a flash of that woman on the pavement with my coat draped over her crashes into me. "I forgot it," I lie. I never want to see that coat again.
"But it's freezing outside. Shouldn't we go back-"
"No." My tone is much harsher than I intend as I tug her forward. The doors of the hospital open, blasting us hard with a wave of freezing air. Rose shrieks and buries her face in my shoulder. I spot her BMW immediately and am thankful for its bright red color for once. We half-jog to it. I quickly open the door for her. When I get around to my side, I frown when I look down at the door handle and my heart starts beating faster. I'm confused by my reaction. I'm freezing, shivering. I should be flinging the door open and jumping inside. But as I reach my hand out towards it, my breathing accelerates. When my fingers finally touch the cold metal, I gulp, grimacing against the needles of pain in my throat.
Rose gives me an odd look when I finally get into the car. "You okay, baby?" she asks. My eyes meet hers for a second as I nod. I slump against the window, shaking uncontrollably. My pulse still pounds way too fast and my breath puffs roughly in and out of my lungs. The heated air that leaves my lips paints frosted clouds on the window. I pull back, laying my head against the headrest and watch as the defrost begins to eat away hungrily at the frosted swirls.
Rose slips her fingers through mine. The warmth of her skin feels good against me. The silence is soothing.
Once home, I walk slowly to my bedroom. Rose asks me mundane questions: Do I want some soup? Something hot to drink to warm me up?
I only want to do one thing.
Take a shower. A hot scalding shower to wash away the night. The blood. The guilt.
Once I'm behind the closed door of my bathroom and have removed my clothes, I pull out the tainted shirt from the bag, staring at the blood splatter as I rub the material between my fingers. I look up and gasp as I catch my reflection in the mirror. There's a massive black and blue bruise running from the top of my shoulder, across my breastbone and down across my abdomen. I've seen this in the hospital many times before, but seeing it on my own skin is shocking. My fingers ghost across it.
I fold the shirt up reverently and lay it on the counter. I don't know what to do with it. Burn it? Bury it? Keep it? Strange, morbid thoughts fly at me from every hidden corner of the room. I know I can't let Rose see it. I put it back in the bag and shove it under the sink.
When I step under the spray of the hot water, my eyes close as I savor the massaging fingers of water that press heat and soothing relief to my sore skin and tired muscles.
My palms rest against the wall as the water pounds against my bowed neck. Rivulets of water stream in downward spirals around my head and cascade down the sides of my face.
The clawing darkness that I've been trying to keep subdued scratches feverishly at my insides, leaving deep open gashes.
I see the woman's face again. It's branded into my mind. Frantically, I memorize every detail as I let the pain engulf me.
GCS: Glasgow Coma Scale
A/N: I'll update again soon. ;)