By His Side

Chapter One

"What do you mean she won't leave?"

Charlie stared hard at Carlisle who was pinned down by the glare of the porch light. It was late and Charlie wanted Bella home, not
an excuse from a third party he thought far removed from the situation. He was an acquaintance, a good doctor, his daughter's boyfriend's
adoptive father. None of those gave him the status to stand here in the middle of the night and tell him his daughter wasn't coming home.

Carlisle shifted his stance uneasily and tried a placating yet comforting smile.

"She's with Jacob, Charlie. He's going to be laid up for a while getting over his injuries from the accident, and Bella seems to have a bit
of a Florence Nightingale syndrome going."

He hoped the light humor would appease Charlie and perhaps reduce the amount of blood currently flowing in Charlie's bulging facial and neck veins.
He also was attempting to deflect some anger from Bella and curiosity away from Jacob's current status.

"She's actually being a great help to Billy and me. Naturally, I can't stay at Jacob's bedside and Billy is limited as well. Won't it be acceptable if
she continues to help us look after him?"

Charlie grumbled, fussed, swore under his breath, swore not under his breath, paced and stomped. The usual.

"All right, Doc, I guess I can't complain too much if she's actually helping out.
I'll call over there and talk to her and let her know I expect her home as soon as Jacob's up and around. Thanks for bringing me the message."

He extended his hand and Carlisle shook it hesitantly and quickly, lest Charlie get too much of an opportunity to sense the severe temperature difference.
Charlie watched as Carlisle backed out of the driveway and headed toward town, back to the hospital no doubt. He closed the door just a little too hard and
swore again as the picture hanging on the wall next to it turned loose and crashed to the floor. That girl was going to be the death of him, and if not her
then those damn boys she couldn't leave alone,...or that wouldn't leave her alone. He went to the phone and jabbed in the number of Billy Black's home
in La Push. Even at this hour, he was damned well going to speak to his wayward daughter and push that little piece of his mind through the phone line somehow.
Billy picked up before the second ring echoed away.

"Hello?"

"Billy? Hey, it's Charlie. I'm sorry to call so late, but I understand that my daughter has camped out at your place. Can you please put Bella on the line?"

Billy snorted and sounded a bit surprised at Charlie's attempt at polite conversation. His growling voice didn't fit with the words.

"Sure thing, Charlie. Hang on just a minute."

There was a pause that Charlie felt was longer than he'd like, some shuffling noises, some muffled voices, then finally some familiar timid-sounding footsteps.

"Dad?" She sounded sleepy and somehow, about five years old. Charlie had to smile and just shake his head.

"Bells, honey. Are you alright?"

"Yeah, Dad, I'm fine. What did you want? You're not gonna make me come home are you? I have to stay with Jake, he's hurt, Dad, please don't make me leave..."

"Bella! Honey, honey, it's ok. No you don't have to leave him right now, I understand, at least I'm trying to.
I don't want you out driving alone at this hour anyway. Just behave yourself, don't get in Billy's way, and call me once in a while, ok?"

There was a very extended silence on the line.

"Okay, umm,...thanks, Dad. Hey, uh, Dad...did...Edward call over there...or anything?"

Charlie was stumped there.

"No, he didn't. Why, when was the last time you talked to him? Doesn't he know where you are? What's going on Bells?"

His voice was growing agitated. He was losing the composure he was fighting to maintain. Bella stuttered and stammered.
She had painted herself into a bit of a corner.

"Nothing's going on, Dad. It's just that I haven't talked to Edward since yesterday and he doesn't exactly know that I'm still here...or why."

"Well, you can bet that he'll know you're still there as soon as Carlisle gets home, if not sooner. He just left here not five minutes ago after
delivering your message. Why ARE you still there, Bella?"

Boy, he wasn't going to beat around the bush, was he? Bella took a deep breath and let it out slowly, trying to get her voice to come out more steadily.
May as well practice biting the bullet with Charlie before she stepped up to face Edward.

"Dad...let me say this all at once, don't interrupt me and don't question me on this now, okay? I promise I'll explain everything to you later."

She paused, waiting for his acquiescence or his vengeance. Charlie was holding his breath but managed to grunt, indicating she should continue.

"I've decided to break up with Edward. I've chosen to be with Jacob as long as he'll have me, if he'll have me. Nothing bad happened between Edward and me,
it's just the decision I've made. I've thought about this a lot, so don't try to talk me out of it or anything. I love Jacob and I'm going to stay here and take
care of him as long as I can."

Bella would likely have huffed and stamped her foot if she could have seen Charlie at that moment. As quietly as he could manage, he
was fist-pumping and doing his best imitation of an end zone happy dance. He tried to calm down and stand still before he made his response
in as much of an understated manner as he could manage.

"Well, honey...I understand that couldn't have been an easy thing for you to do, and I don't want you to worry about me. Just make sure your
careful and do what you need to do to be happy. That's what you deserve and that's all I want for you."

Charlie was going to try to be humble when he accepted his Oscar for this performance. Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes!

Another long silence on the line was accompanied by the unmistakable sounds of repeated heavy swallowing.

"T-t-t-thanks, Dad? I'll keep in touch with Jacob's progress, I promise, ok?"

"Sure thing, honey. You take care now. Love you."

"Love you too, Dad."

And the line went dead.