Disclaimer: The characters of Twilight are owned by Stephenie Meyer. No copyright infringement is intended. The plot and original characterizations of Your Guardian Angel are the collaborative intellectual property of Nise7465 and Musicflare87. The title and inspiration for the story came from Red Jumpsuit Apparatus' song, Your Guardian Angel. If you've never heard the song before, go visit YouTube. You'll understand.
Warning: This piece makes reference to character death/ suicide. Our pre-readers have also suggested a tissue warning, nuff said?
Your Guardian Angel
The young woman at the front of the small court room commanded the attention of everyone in attendance on that bitter January morning. Her gray suit was impeccably tailored; her perfectly styled hair lay in soft curls around her face. She could have been mistaken for an officer of the court... a paralegal or stenographer, perhaps... save for the way her foot bounced nervously, or the way her wide eyes jerked nervously around the room before settling on some indiscernible spot on the floor.
The silence in the room was so pronounced that her gasp was easily heard when the judge entered the room from his chambers.
"All rise! Court is now in session, the Honorable Judge Felix Volturi presiding."
When she sat, she gripped the chair's armrests until the tips of her fingers turned white, seemingly oblivious to their surroundings until her counsel gave her a gentle nudge.
"Would the defendant please rise?"
She stood on wobbly legs; lifting her eyes for the first time to the face of the man who held her fate in his hands.
"In the matter of the state vs. Swan, how do you plead?"
Gaze dropped to the floor, she responded quietly, "Guilty, Your Honor."
"Please speak up when you address the court, Miss Swan. How do you plead?"
For just a moment, her mind went to her sister and wondered if the suffocating pain that gripped her chest even began to compare to the pain her sibling, the victim of a weakened heart, endured from time to time. She cleared her throat and responded with confidence that belied the fear that had caused her chest to constrict. "I plead guilty to the charges, Your Honor."
His heart hurt when the young woman took ownership of her actions. Having had a daughter of his own, a high school senior and fellow classmate to the defendant, he could certainly sympathize with the girl's father who sat powerless in the second row of the court wringing his hands. The downtrodden man was in sharp contradiction to the normally confident police chief who had testified at numerous cases in that very room.
Judge Volturi knew Charlie Swan well; had worked with the chief often during Volturi's appointment as the King County district attorney for a number of years before he was appointed judge.
He was filled with his own twinge of guilt for having to bestow this punishment on Charlie's girl when the knowledge that the Swan's other daughter lay in a hospital room with a sick heart sat in his belly like a rock.
"Miss Swan, You stand convicted on your plea of guilty in the offence of involuntary manslaughter which caused the death of Seth Clearwater. The offense occurred when you lost control of your vehicle while text messaging. Your inattention to driving that day took someone's life, and requires consequences.
"You have acknowledged your guilt. You do not seek to pretend that your actions were other than what they were. In doing so, you have spared the deceased's family the agony of a trial. Do you understand the charges?"
Her face remained downcast, but she spoke loudly and clearly this time when she answered. "Yes, Your Honor."
"By entering a guilty plea you give up the right to a trial by jury. You give up the right to remain silent. You give up the right against self-incrimination. Do you understand what you are giving up by pleading guilty?"
"Yes, Your Honor."
"Miss Swan, has anyone threatened you or forced you to plead guilty?
"No, Your Honor."
"Has anyone promised anything to you if you plead guilty, other than the district attorney in your plea discussions?
"No, Your Honor."
"Tell me what you did that makes you guilty of this crime."
The trembling girl took a deep breath and tried to center herself before returning to that devastating afternoon in her mind.
It wasn't hard to remember, as if she could ever forget that moment several weeks prior...
Her fingernails dug into the edge of the desk trying to find purchase in a feeble attempt to steady herself as the images played in her head like scenes from a movie.
Her voice wavered as she recalled the chain of events that led up to her broken admission in front of the court, her family and the family of the child whose life she had taken.
"It was the New Year's Eve and we had every reason to celebrate!
Izzy, my beloved twin, was finally home from the hospital and recovering from a bout of influenza. It was just another of the ongoing hospitalizations she'd endured since we learned her heart was unwell, but that particular hospitalization had left a dark cloud hanging over Christmas; her release two days later allowed us all to breathe a sigh of relief.
Her condition had improved enough that our parents felt confident leaving us for the weekend, under the watchful eye of our next door neighbors and close friends, Tony and Liz Masen. Holiday stress and the added tension of Izzy's illness had taken a toll on our parents and their mini-vacation was a much needed getaway.
Liz had offered to chaperone a handful of friends from our senior class and helped organize a small, quiet party at our house so Izzy could enjoy the holiday from the comfort of our sofa. A quick trip to the Thriftway netted everything I needed to whip up some quick snacks. I was in a hurry to get home. Rose had gone straight from school to help Izzy get ready and I didn't want to miss out on all the fun.
I had just pulled out of the store parking lot when it happened… the vibration of my phone in the cup holder. I smiled when I read Jasper's name on the screen.
Hey Baby, how long till you're home?
I hurried to respond.
I'm on my...I typed, and glanced up when I heard a blood curdling scream. The glare of the afternoon sun coming off the wet pavement made it impossible to see, but it did nothing to camouflage the sickening thump that came from under my tires.
Oh God, Oh God! What had I done?
My heart pounded as I slammed on the brakes and skidded to a stop. There was nothing in the rearview mirror. I breathed a sigh of relief, an animal; it had to be an animal. But, I couldn't just leave it without checking. What if it needed medical attention?
My hand shook as I reached for the door handle, but it was the sight behind my car that brought me to my knees.
A bright yellow circle of plastic lay crushed under my car, its brilliant surface marred with black skid marks and splashed with crimson.
A child's flying saucer.
He'd been sledding.
I could hear his cries before I saw him.
But he was already quiet by the time I had crawled on hands and knees to where he lay.
His jet black hair peeked out from under his woolen cap, a puff of down spilled from the tear in his jacket and the one thing that stuck out in my mind was how odd it seemed that he wore only one boot.
I don't remember picking him up, but Charlie later told me the police report stated that I was clutching him to my chest and begging him to open his eyes when the first responders arrived.
I remember waking up in a hospital cubicle to blood curdling screams, and being shocked when I realized they were my own.
I clung to Tony as he quietly ushered me to his car, muttering reassurances that Charlie was on his way home. But even under the vestiges of whatever drug they had sedated me with, I knew that Daddy couldn't get me out of this... "
A sheen of sweat covered her face and she dragged the pads of her fingers across her cheeks to clear away the tears that had fallen. Jay Jenks nudged her arm and motioned with his eyes towards the judge's bench, silently demanding her attention.
"An offence which involves the loss of a human life is obviously a very serious matter. The deceased was seven years old. He had every reason to look forward to a long and happy life. You have robbed him of that opportunity. You have robbed his family of that opportunity."
"Yes," she cleared her throat and tried again. "Ahem, yes Your Honor."
"Miss Swan, I believe you feel remorse by your actions. The Clearwaters have forgiven you. I hope you learn from this tragic mistake and do something positive with your life."
Surprisingly, she had managed to retain her composure, but being reminded that she'd been forgiven for taking the Clearwater's baby from them; she crumbled and slumped into her attorney, clinging to him for support.
"Do you have anything to say to the family?"
Jay Jenks pressed his hand to the small of her back in reassurance, but the girl shook her head, knowing she couldn't have gotten the words out- not even if she'd tried. The attorney pulled a slip of paper from his breast pocket and read the words that she had been unable to verbalize, her condolences to Harry and Sue Clearwater, telling them how sorry she was for her actions.
Alice sobbed silently as the judge read his decision.
"The Clearwater family has agreed to your plea and I amend the charge from vehicular homicide to involuntary manslaughter. I order that you, Alice Swan be imprisoned for a period of twelve months, to be served at the Cedar Creek Corrections Center for Women. Upon your release you are subject to five years probation."
The resounding crash of the gavel, followed by the ice cold bite of the handcuffs, as they were tightened on her wrists, jerked the girl back to reality.
"Court is adjourned."
Hanging her head in shame, the bailiff led her out of the court room. She couldn't bear to look into the disappointed faces of family and friends, not even as they quietly called her name and reached out their hands as she slipped out of their lives.
After what seemed like hours of processing, she was finally led to the cubicle that would serve as her home for the next twelve months.
One glimpse of her cell-mate caused Alice's heart to drop like a boulder to the pit of her stomach. She knew this girl. Or knew her well enough to warrant the icy tendrils of fear that wrapped themselves around her and caused an involuntary shudder to pass through her body.
She'd never seen her minus the minions who did her bidding nor without her confident facade...
The waif-like blonde always looked like one of those expensive Jan McClain dolls Alice had seen in Seattle with the creamy foundation that made her skin look like porcelain, or the liner and shadow that made her blue eyes appear too large for her delicate face. She dressed like a throw-back from the seventies with her faded jeans and denim jacket that had been covered with patches and drawings. Some retro band shirt clung tightly to her small torso underneath. Her tiny feet always sported a colorful and funky pair of Chuck Connors, some days she mixed it up and wore a mismatched pair. Her brown prison jumpsuit and white cotton slip-ons were in sharp contrast to her former colorful appearance. Yet, even in her current surroundings she wore an air of confidence that belied her soft, delicate features.
A wolf in sheep's clothing.
The scathing glare she'd given Alice upon her arrival had been enough to send the bubbly girl who'd always seemed to acquire friends effortlessly, scurrying quickly to the dark corner at the back of her bunk.
Alice could hear the laughter through the thin blanket she'd pulled over her head in an unsuccessful attempt to shut out her new world, and she knew she wasn't imagining the barb that was later whispered into the silent darkness.
There's no place to hide.
Eventually Alice fell into a tortured sleep. Her rigid body pushed up tightly against the concrete wall as was possible in a feeble attempt at self preservation.
Jane Hunter had been sent here with no bail to wait out the time until her trial. Chief Swan had been livid when he was assigned the case, asking both his girls if they'd ever encountered the vapid girl who'd had a reputation for bringing an adversary to their knees with a handful of words. She'd finally taken things too far with a timid freshman, harassing her not only at school, but through various social networks as well.
Charlie barely made it to the Stanley's toilet before purging his breakfast. The memory of Jessica Stanley, hanging limply from the bar in her closet, along with the cruel taunts that continued to pop up in the little box on the screen of her computer with a resounding ping long after she'd gasped her last strangled breath, were burned forever into his memory.
Neither Swan daughter had admitted their own personal encounters with the school bully, as their father grilled them, although they'd both breathed a sigh of relief at her exodus from the halls of their school.
Lying on the thin mattress just mere feet below her, Alice chanted the old childhood affirmation in her head, "Sticks and stones can break my bones, but words will never hurt me."
But, it didn't take long for Jane to realize that even though she had learned very little by way of remorse, the walls of her cellmate's self imposed mental prison were practically impenetrable. The Swan girl was far more broken than the normal prison fare and she soon gave up in search of a more interactive quarry. There was no fun in tormenting something that didn't at least make an attempt to fight back.
The spider loses interest when the fly quits struggling.
The teenage girl giggled as she tickled her charge, her red ringlets falling over her shoulder as she kneeled over him on the couch. She teased the young boy relentlessly in a sing-song voice. "Anthony and Izzy up in a tree, K*I*S*S*I*N*G! First comes love, and then comes..."
"Maggie!" he interrupted, exasperated. "Stopppppp!"
Anthony Masen had had a crush on Izzy Swan for as long as he could remember. Maggie, the high school girl who had babysat all the kids on their block at one point or another, seemed to be the only one who picked up on it, and she teased him about having a crush on the neighbor girl who lived next door before he even understood what the word crush meant.
One night when his parents were out to dinner, Maggie sang the words to a song called Puppy Love and giggled when the young boy blushed and ran to his room, but lying on his bed with his face buried in his pillow in embarrassment, he realized that what she said was true.
It seemed like it had been another lifetime when Maggie had teased him so. Now she was married with little boys of her own. She still lived on the corner in the tiny white stucco house she'd grown up in, her parents having long since moved away, leaving her and her small family to make their home in the warm little bungalow.
He and Izzy had played side by side, inseparable friends since nursery school, and now, years later, he watched in fascination as she grew into the loveliest young woman he'd ever seen. Anthony was always surprised when someone marveled over their difficulty to tell the Swan girls apart; to him they were nothing alike.
While both were slender and small statured, their coloring and facial features identical, Alice was more colorful in both appearance and personality, while her counterpoint wasn't nearly as bold. Izzy's natural looks, shy personality and scholarly attitude were in sharp contrast to that of her exuberant sister, yet no one saw the foreshadowing that suggested there might be something more to their differences than just attitude and appearance.
The young couple had spent some part of nearly every day together over the last fifteen years or so, and it never occurred to the handsome young man that he would spend any part of his life without her... not until he stood, wide-eyed with his face pressed to the frosty glass of his bedroom window one cold February morning. The flashing red and blue lights of the ambulance were distorted when he struggled to get one last glimpse of her tiny body through the frosty panes as they rushed her into the huge ambulance and sped away.
Anthony had paced frantically when they'd heard the call come in over the police scanner that morning during breakfast. His heart nearly stopped when the dispatcher's voice relayed the information; eighteen year old female with a suspected acute cardiac arrest... and not any eighteen year old girl, but the one whose address was right next door.
His every instinct urged him to rush over there as soon as he heard the news, and a physical altercation nearly occurred when he collided with his father who tackled him to the floor and forbade him to leave the house; but he'd relented when his father warned that interference at such a crucial time could jeopardize the life of the girl he'd come to love. He did the only thing he could; he ran to his room and watched from the best vantage point in the house. And when they had pulled away, his father drove the young man to the hospital himself, sitting by his side for hours until there was news.
Alice had ignored their visits for weeks. Every time she sat holed up in her cell when she'd had the opportunity to go to the visitor's room instead, her obstinacy had brought on a visit from her prison counselor. The woman feared for the young girl's well-being. Alice Swan couldn't have been paired with a worse cellmate. Not once had Jane Hunter been paired with a cellmate that could withstand the girl's taunts for any length of time, and it worried the counselor to see Alice sink deeper and deeper into the depths of despair and isolation.
Sasha urged the girl to maintain her bonds with family and friends; gently reminding her that life would be different when she went home. She came from a close-knit community, where there were ones sympathetic towards the young girl who would carry the burden of her actions for the rest of her life and there were others who would blame her for taking that little boy's life, even if she'd never intended for it to happen. It would be the ones who loved and supported her that she would come to rely on, on those days when she felt like the world was out to get her. The act of pushing them away was something she could ill afford.
Jasper was the first to lose interest. After months of her self-imposed isolation he wrote, offering Alice friendship but nothing more. Her time away had been hard on him, and it was easier to walk away from the situation than to defend a girlfriend who refused to give him the time of day.
Her father had given her time to adjust to her surroundings, but he had grown tired of his daughter's snubs. Finally, he'd asserted his professional authority, and she found him sitting in the day room one Tuesday morning after she'd returned from the gym. She was shell-shocked at the sight of him, but crumbled when he'd pulled her into his arms and she clung to him like her very life depended on his presence. A few days later, she relented to a teary visit with the rest of her family and she knew as soon as she saw her sibling, something was terribly wrong. They were two halves of a whole and she couldn't shake the feelings of foreboding that continued to haunt her long after the visit had ended.
Her predicament had given her plenty of time to reflect on life at home. The accidental comments and silent exchanges between her parents when they began to make excuses and refused to say why her twin hadn't made a return visit confirmed what she could feel in every fiber of her being. Her sister's heart conditioned had worsened.
Looking back, she'd somehow known from the moment her sister was admitted to the hospital with the flu that something about her sibling had changed, she'd just been too wrapped up in her life as a teenage girl to realize at the time.
They never missed a telephone day, and Ali had clung to what had become her lifeline to the one person who meant the world to her. Their father had forever been in awe of the unique connection his twin daughters shared and he made it his priority to ensure that her account at the prison was fully funded to ensure that their line of communication remained open. If anyone could heal his daughters' broken hearts, he hoped they could somehow help one another.
Dr. Cullen's newest patient studied the framed photo on his desk with rapt fascination while a Chopin ballad played quietly in the background. It was a candid shot of a ruddy-haired young man sitting confidently on the bench of a concert grand piano. The black lacquer, which shone like glass, reflected his image. His hands were a blur in the photo and the intensity of his face was mesmerizing. He was attractive, this musician who bore a vague resemblance... to someone in her past. A face she recognized, but couldn't quite place. For some reason she couldn't bring herself to return the frame to his desk, so it sat in her lap as she closed her eyes and settled back into the borrowed wheelchair her father had used to push her through the long corridor to the office of her cardiologist.
A gentle voice broke the silence in the room and brought her out of her reverie with a start.
"That's my son, Edward; he plays with the Northwest Symphony." The doctor commented softly, and with an air of sadness and his new patient briefly wondered whether the flawlessly performed piece that continued to fill the air was a recording of the young musician.
Her hand rested over her heart and rubbed soothingly in an attempt to calm the broken organ after it had lurched uncomfortably in her chest at the startling sound of his voice. Her father lifted the frame from her hands and placed it gently back on the imposing mahogany desk whose top was littered with files and paperwork.
"I... I think I know him, but I don't... "She shook her head, it was right there in the periphery of her thoughts, but try as she might, she couldn't puzzle it out. Izzy squeezed her eyes shut and wracked her brain as her father and the soft-spoken doctor exchanged pleasantries.
Edward... Edward... she couldn't associate the name with his face, but she remembered him... as a thin ragamuffin of a child... grungy clothes... hunched under the skirting of the dilapidated trailer that sat next to the one Renee had rented and dragged she and Alice to on one of the many occasions when she separated from Charlie. Broken images flittered briefly through her mind... a red-headed woman in filthy clothes that were much too large for her emaciated frame screeched at the silent little boy... a 'filthy little bug' she'd called him... no, it couldn't be... Edward. Had she ever heard anyone call him that? His name tugged at her, it had to be him. But how?
She'd approached him once, held out a candy bar to him, but she'd dropped it and run when he began to scream. Those same earth shattering shrieks got the attention of her own mother a few hours later when the gooey confection melted all over his little fingers. She pulled an old washrag from the cupboard and wet it with water before approaching him and leaving it in the grass a few feet from where he sat still as a statue, staring at something in his own little world.
The next day, she'd left to spend a few days with her daddy, and when she had returned the sad little boy was gone, and her mother had explained as simply as she could that he had been taken away. Not long afterwards the dilapidated house trailer had been hauled away and replaced with something shiny and new.
Charlie's tightened grip on her elbow caught her attention. "I'm sorry; I beg your pardon?" she muttered, shaken by the memories and embarrassed by her own inattentiveness.
The blonde doctor smiled softly, as she accepted his outstretched hand. "I'm Dr. Cullen, but please... most of my patients call me Carlisle. I'm pleased to meet you Izzy."
"Thanks. It's nice to meet you, too."
The quiet doctor explained emotionlessly that customarily, the first step in treating a heart condition such as Izzy's was to identify and treat the underlying cause. However in her case, the cause had already been identified. He threw around words she'd become accustomed to over recent months... sub acute-to-chronic dilated cardiomyopathy... decreased pumping function... life-threatening arrhythmias... she zoned him out and let her thoughts drift to much less painful thoughts... thoughts of that little boy. Somehow her own fears were less difficult to process when she allowed her mind to dwell on the circumstances of someone else.
"I remember that boy," she blurted out. "Your wife... I remember her too. I ... we lived in a little trailer park with my mom... he lived next door. I remember her being so mean to him."
His expression became stormy, a sharp contradiction to the gentle personality she'd encountered during their introduction just moments before. "That woman was not my wife." He bit out, punctuating each one of the words.
Izzy shrunk down into her seat in an act of self preservation, but he quickly apologized.
"I'm sorry for losing my temper. That woman, was Edward's mother for lack of a better term. My wife, Esme brought him into our lives after she found him in a children's home; years after his mother left him abandoned " His expression morphed into one of overwhelming sadness.
He held out a smaller frame, one that contained a family portrait of the handsome doctor; an auburn haired woman who could have easily been the boy's biological parent, but was, presumably the doctor's wife, and the boy. That boy. His eyes looked as empty as they had when he existed in that horrid trailer, but he was slightly older and looked much cleaner... and healthier...
He looked well.
Despite the fact that she was already certain it was the little neighbor boy, she drew in a breath at actually seeing his young face. It cemented a memory that she didn't even realize was stored away in her memory bank. It made him more real somehow. "Yes, it is him."
He rubbed his hands over his face and drew in a deep breath. "We don't often talk about that time of his life, I'm sorry."
She fingered the hem of her shirt nervously and replied without taking her eyes from her lap. "I apologize for any misunderstanding. I didn't mean to... "
"You had no way of knowing. You must have been very young if you remember him living there."
She nodded, "We had just started school, so we must have been five or six."
Her comment caught the doctor off guard; surely she hadn't attended school with Edward. He was unaware that he'd attended public school during the time he'd lived with his birth mother. "We?"
"Yes, my sister Alice and I are identical twins."
"So, your son, Edward? He's happy... well?" He certainly hadn't seemed that way when she'd last seen him. But, in that photograph, the young man at the piano who wore the intense expression on his face... if he played with the symphony... he had to be an accomplished musician, his life obviously improved.
Carlisle was only half heartedly listening to her question, still pondering the fact that she had a twin and wondering how that could impact the situation with her heart. Not wanting to appear rude, he steered his thoughts back to her question about his son and beamed, "He is." Of that he had no doubts. He'd had a few misgivings when they'd first brought the tiny scrap of a boy home and his wife began to nurture him, but he'd seen his unabashed smiles... and was pleasantly surprised to hear the laughter bubbling out of him since he'd recently found the love of his life.
"He's incredibly happy." While the doctor would never share the details of his son's situation with a stranger, he couldn't help thinking back to the day they'd made the decision to welcome Edward into their family and smiled with pride when he pictured the fine young man he'd become.
"Me too," he smiled.
While he understood the young girl's need to deflect the conversation away from her dire situation; he felt it was paramount to gain her trust as well. The busy cardiologist was forced to adhere to a strict schedule, yet it was his nature to be as thorough as possible when conversing with his young patients, for an educated patient often experienced a more promising outcome. She was placing her young life in his hands, and he'd do everything in his power to ensure that she enjoyed a long and healthy life, no matter how challenging that might prove to be.
He brought the conversation back around to Izzy, and things less pleasant... he'd reviewed her file and studied the results of her lab tests... the report from the CT scan was discouraging... he knew from her chart notes that the drug therapy prescribed by her general practitioner had become ineffective, no longer reducing the workload on her heart.
Even without all the supporting documentation, the majority of his suspicions would have been confirmed after discussing the symptoms she was experiencing. The swollen legs and puffy abdomen; the dizziness and fatigue... her inability to tolerate any amount of physical exertion, it was perfectly clear to him. Her heart was failing.
Charlie Swan pushed his daughter to the car with a heavy heart of his own. He had hoped... hell, he'd prayed... that the well known cardiologist could give them more promising news. He was positive Dr. Gerandy had been wrong but Izzy's new doctor, Dr. Cullen, had confirmed old Gerandy's diagnosis, and if it was at all possible, he made her condition sound even more detrimental.
The chief remained stoic as he gently helped her to stand and lower herself into the car. He would not break down in front of her. She needed to be able to lean on him, and how could she do that if he allowed her to see how truly weak he was? His little girl had received a life altering diagnosis and there was not one thing he could do to change that fact.
His thoughts drifted to his other girl, and his heart broke a little more. He was just as powerless to make her situation any better and he'd never felt like more of a failure as a father. He was supposed to be able to fix anything that was broken, and ward off the big bad monsters… never in his imagination had he pictured that their lives would have become so hopeless. Because that was what he was feeling at that moment… utterly hopeless.
The stop at the pharmacy was paralyzing and the breath he'd been holding rushed out in a loud gust as he flopped into his own side of the cruiser, the contents of the small bag had cost him a fortune... a different diuretic, a blood thinner and medication to lower her blood pressure. He wasn't a God fearing man, but he prayed to whatever God who would listen and begged him to intervene. He slipped the appointment card into his breast pocket hoping that the next visit would bring with it some positive change. Some improvement, no matter how minute- indicating that his girl was going to be okay.
Her breathy comment brought him out of his reverie. "It's Thursday."
When he acted like he hadn't heard her, she pressed on. "I wish we could stop and see Alice. If you parked in the handicapped stall, I think I could make it into the waiting room."
He thought about the long day they'd had. The battery of tests she'd been subjected to, and the serious conversation they'd shared with her new physician. Her gaze dropped to her lap and she fought to stop the tears when he barked out a reply that sounded much more harsh than he'd intended. "And risk a catastrophe? We've... you've had a long day." He lifted her chin gently and looked into her sad eyes. "I'm sorry honey; I don't think that's a good idea at all."
She knew he was right. It took everything in her to remain awake and the pressure in her chest made it feel like she was fighting for each breath she drew in, but she'd never felt more alone and there was one person who could ease the pain she was feeling. "I've missed so many visiting days, and we're so close by."
It was true, her illness had taken precedence over everything in their lives, and she'd been too sick to make the trip. It wasn't a question of finances, but a matter of timing and wellness... things they'd had little control over in recent weeks and it broke him to deny her request.
"Izzy, you know we can't. Maybe next time when you're feeling stronger... when the new medicine starts to help. I make sure she always she has plenty of money in her J-Pay account so she can call you." He scrubbed his hands over his face as he sat at the red light. "I'm sorry. It'll have to do for now."
She nodded, unable to meet his gaze.
He squeezed her hand. "She'll be home soon, baby. Before you know it... "
Alice thought she'd dialed the wrong number when the person on the other end rasped out a breathy hello, but the familiarity of her sister's voice was unmistakable. "Izzy?"
"Ali!" Hearing the voice of her twin was the balm she needed to soothe her soul. She was still upset that her attempts to coerce their father into an impromptu visit had been thwarted, but she understood his concerns, even though she hated to admit he was right.
"How are you sissy? Are you feeling any better?" She sounded terrible to Alice, like it was an effort to draw each breath.
"I've got a new doc. He's put me on a bunch of new meds; I guess time will tell, eh? How are you?"
"Meh, I'm alright. It's not so bad here. Cruella de Ville has moved on to bigger and better things," she sighed and they both knew she was talking about their high school tormentor. She quickly changed the subject, "So, tell me about this new doc! Is he young? Is he hot?"
Izzy smiled to herself and blushed when she thought about the attractive man who was old enough to be their father. "Incredibly hot, but older... and you'll never guess who his son is!"
"Ooh, a DILF! But he's married with kids?" Alice asked, not attempting to hide her disappointment.
"Allll-ice! I'm not looking for a man!"
"That's right... you've got one of those right next door." She'd been trying to encourage Izzy to make a move on the boy who'd followed her around like a lost puppy practically since the day they'd moved in next door. Everyone could see their devotion to one another, if only they'd realize they were destined to be more than friends. She wondered what it would take for them to move their infatuation with one another to the next level.
When Izzy didn't respond, her sister back-pedaled. "Okay, I give; tell me about the hot doctor and his mysterious son. Who is he?"
"Well, now, he's a composer and pianist for the Symphony, but... do you remember that little copper haired boy who lived next door to us in the mobile home court?"
"The kid who lived like a troll under that horrible trailer next to Renee?" she gasped.
Izzy didn't expect such a colorful reply, but she responded in kind. "He was the little boy who lived in the trailer, not under it." She admonished her sister for being so cruel.
"And you think he plays for the symphony now? What kind of drugs did the good doctor put you on, sweetie? They seem to have gone to your head," she teased.
"I'm dead serious; Al. Apparently his mother neglected him."
"Ya think?" Even at such a tender age, it was obvious to her that the boy wasn't treated like normal children were. Alice shuddered when she remembered the little guy standing out back scrubbing his dirty PJs in a bucket of grungy water that his mother had supplied from the garden hose.
"Dr. Cullen and his wife adopted him. I get the impression he's different somehow. I don't know… The doc was pretty tightlipped about it all; he seems like the proud father, though. I'm glad Edward was taken away. I can't imagine what would have become of him without intervention."
"Okay babe, enough of the sad memories. When are you coming to visit me?"
Subsequent visits to the good doctor over the span of the following eighteen months were unsettling and she'd never been able to visit her sister again at the prison, or do much else for that matter. Thankfully, Alice had come home; and while she seemed to always carry an air of sadness about her, Izzy couldn't have been happier to have her close by again.
Izzy worried though, that her sister's sadness ran deeper than she'd ever let on, and hoped that she wasn't acting a martyr to further pay penance for her actions. Alice wasn't the same bubbly girl she grew up with, and it all made sense to Izzy- the guilt over the little boy's death, Jasper's desertion of Alice when she needed him most, the way that horrible girl in prison bullied Alice. Poor girl was bearing the weight of the world on her shoulders. Why didn't anyone else see it? Why did they brush it off?
Izzy was miffed over the way her parents pretended life was back to normal since Alice was home, as if nothing had ever happened. Understandably, Charlie and Renee had been consumed with Izzy's continuing medical needs, but the young girl worried that they were so caught up in her situation that they had all too conveniently accepted Alice's assurances of well-being at face value. It was almost as if they didn't want to admit to themselves that both of their girls were battling serious issues.
While Ali might have been able to snow their parents, Izzy knew her twin better than anyone and she'd witnessed her sister's bouts of depression after each unsuccessful job interview… at the notion of not getting into a good college without her high school diploma… and with each change in the status of Izzy's fragile health. Alice had a lot on her plate, and she was shouldering the burden alone.
Alice seemed like a different girl when she flopped down on Izzy's bed one afternoon- sandwiching her sister between herself and Anthony. She had a stack of envelopes in her hand. "Come on sissy, we're planning our futures today!" she exclaimed, happier than Izzy had seen her in months.
Anthony helped Izzy sit up and wedged a bunch of pillows behind her to make her comfortable.
"What gives Ali? What do you mean?"
"College Apps, come on, we're not getting any younger." She replied, thrusting a clipboard and pen into her sister's hands, and then she turned to the young man at her sister's side. "Come on Ant, I've got some for you, too. I know you're never gonna let her out of your sight," she added with a knowing smile, handing him a small stack of papers and a pen of his own.
It didn't escape Izzy's notice that her sister was applying to community colleges while she herself held applications from some of the more prestigious colleges around the nation in her own hands.
"Um, Ali?" She asked, while holding out an application for Dartmouth.
Her sister responded with a smile that couldn't have been more genuine. "Sweetie, you're destined for something great. I can just feel it."
"But you..." Izzy hesitated.
"Have a GED. You may have been homeschooled by a tutor for a few months, but I didn't walk with our class or get a diploma like yours." Technically Izzy hadn't walked with her class either, but Charlie hadn't been able to contain his pride the day he'd pushed her to the small stage and Principal Banner had stepped down off the platform to hand the diploma to her and shake her hand.
"There are tons of colleges that will accept you with a GED, Al." Anthony spoke up.
"I don't really have a career goal in mind; I promised Mom and Dad that I'd at least go to a local college until I decide. Perhaps in a year or two, but…"
She climbed over Anthony and practically sat in her sister's lap. "You, Izzy… you're destined to be this great author. It's always been your dream."
Even still, Izzy didn't see herself leaving their tiny hometown, either; it left her breathless and sapped all her energy to walk to the bathroom anymore. "It's all I can do to leave my bedroom. This is a pipe dream. I'll never be able to…" she breathed.
Alice grabbed her hand, squeezing it painfully. "Promise me you're not giving up, Izzy. Don't ever give up…"
Izzy fingered the article again, she had started her bucket list shortly after they'd gotten the news... when they learned that her heart had turned traitor... and she vowed to live each day as if it could quite possibly be her last.
This... thing... put her entire life into perspective.
The words heart failure certainly made you sit up and take stock of your life. Of what you'd achieved and of what you still hoped to... and it wasn't without misgivings that you took stock of the things you'd put off for another time. Another time that might possibly never come... not now.
Yet, attending a performance of the Northwest Symphony was one of the few things on her list that she could accomplish without causing damage to her already compromised heart and she'd made it her mission to attend one of their performances.
Feats like sky diving and mountain climbing were impossibilities that she could never hope to entertain in her current condition, but they resided on that list none-the-less, a constant reminder that as long as she drew breath, there was indeed hope.
She drank in the words again. The author of the article praised the bright young composer, one of Seattle's own, raving about his talent and years of training and she suppressed the chuckle that tried to erupt because she knew he was no older than she.
Her sad little former neighbor boy turned accomplished composer and musician... she'd tried to befriend him as a small child but he'd denied her that kindness... now he was all grown and educated, but seeing his photo and interacting with his adoptive father had piqued her interest and she was beside herself with curiosity as she took this little glimpse into who he'd become.
The entertainment columnist went on to say the well renown musician was a man of few words, but the intricate compositions that flowed like lightening from his fingertips more than made up for his quiet demeanor.
A musical prodigy who was driven... focused... that was how they described him... the reporter gushed about the brilliant young man with the dazzling green eyes and one needn't read between the lines to realize she was more than slightly enamored by the subject of her article...
It was as if fate had thrust this opportunity into Izzy's path.
She hadn't looked at the brightly colored slips of paper when her therapist had pressed them into her hand, nor when she'd hugged her lightly and whispered that she'd thought of Izzy when she'd learned of the fundraiser. Zafrina referred to the gift as a little something to help your bucket list along and suggested that if she were to ask that adorable neighbor boy to accompany her, she might possibly mark several things off that list.
The card stock quickly became damp with tears when Izzy realized what she held in her hands.
Bucket list indeed.
"The Last Wonder of the World"
Friday, November 4, at 8 PM
Downtown Seattle (3rd & Union)
Mateo Messina and Edward A. Cullen, composers
Anthony Spain, conductor
Northwest Symphony Orchestra
featuring piano soloist, Edward A. Cullen
The Last Wonder of the World is the Symphony Guild's
14th annual fundraising concert.
Join us in celebrating the enduring hope
and unbreakable spirit of the patients
at Seattle Children's Hospital
and in all of us.
As much as she was loathe to admit it, for the first time in her life she was thankful to be the subject to Alice's primping and prepping. Her once effervescent sister had a new found spring in her step and Izzy got a glimpse of the Alice she remembered... the Alice who had bubbled with life before the light in her eyes was snuffed out, just as surely as the life had left that little boy. And if this little thing afforded her sister any measure of happiness, it was worth every minute of torture.
She'd heard the whispers, the things people had said about her sister after her release... they referred to her as a baby killer, said she wasn't punished harshly enough... if their dad wasn't a cop with connections she'd have done harder time... but if they knew Alice at all, they'd see that she was indeed serving a life sentence, confined to her own self-imposed prison.
But Ali was smiling now, as she jabbered a mile a minute while circling her sister with a palette of makeup and wielding an intimidating curling iron. She spun the desk chair around in front of the vanity mirror and poked at Izzy's face with the puffy brush. "You're so pale," she complained, as she worked to bring color to her sister's face, but when she was done, she placed her hands on her hips with a satisfied smile and examined her work. "There. You're perfect," and she was.
Alice had dressed her in a sweater dress the color of melted chocolate and draped a soft scarf around her neck and over her shoulders in a rhapsody of the most brilliant fall colors. The autumn hues made her look warm, and her cheeks look rosy. She was, for all intents and purposes, the picture of health.
He'd become her rock and her new confidant when her sister was taken away and at some point during the months that had passed since she'd gotten sick, he'd come to realize that she was the girl he wanted to marry.
One rainy Saturday as they sat inside watching the drops of rain slip down her window in tiny rivulets, she thrust her notebook in his hands and asked him to help her make a bucket list. He sat at her kitchen table as she slowly paced the room ticking off the things she wanted to accomplish in her life. He encouraged her to include the more daring dreams, and offered reminders for activities she'd shown an interest in during the past.
When she said she'd never kissed a boy, he made her blush as he nervously pressed his lips to her mouth, and she giggled when he wrote it down anyway and then crossed it off with a flourish.
They'd spent every waking hour together after that and on the days she was too tired to do anything else, they lay on her bed with their heads together whispering plans for a future he hoped beyond hope she'd live long enough to share with him.
That was how, on a cold November afternoon, he found himself shivering and washing his car with shaking hands in preparation for their first official date; but it was with her and it had to be perfect. When her therapist had gifted her a pair of tickets for the sold out fundraiser to the Northwest Symphony at Benaroya Hall that he had tried and failed to secure for her himself, it seemed like a dream come true.
She couldn't stop talking about the doctor who promised to leave no stone unturned in his quest to heal her, or of the little boy she remembered from her childhood. When she said she saw his success in life as proof positive that the doctor could save lives, even if their situations were completely different, Anthony vowed he'd move heaven and earth to get her there.
She looked lovely when he'd picked her up, she was delicate as a porcelain doll, but when he'd seen her basking in the glow of the fire in Charlie's living room, it was hard to remember that she was fighting for her life.
She gave him a wan smile later as she poked at her dinner, "I'm sorry, I'm never very hungry anymore," and he gave her hand a reassuring squeeze. "It's okay Izzy, would you like to go over to the hall and get seated?" He hoped that an early entrance would ensure the ease of finding their seats without too much difficulty.
"I'd like that, thanks." His attentiveness to her needs made him endearing to her; she'd remember the night for the rest of her life. It was her first real date with the boy of her dreams. Her happiness eclipsed the embarrassment of him having to wheel her to the front of the concert hall to their seats, she was far too weak to walk all that way, but he was chipper and reassuring and his enthusiasm radiated to her as well. The important thing was that she was well enough to attend and that they were together.
"Don't sweat the small stuff, Izzy,"a little bird whispered in her ear, as her date helped her into her seat before stowing the wheelchair along the aisle.
When Dr. Cullen recognized the young woman who leaned into her date for support, he smiled and went quickly to greet them. He'd been more than happy to acquire the tickets Zafrina had requested for Izzy; and his wife, upon learning of Izzy's connection all those years ago to the little boy who had stolen Esme's heart, had eagerly arranged seating for the young woman and her date thoughtfully close to not only an exit, but to the doctor as well.
Just in case.
The delicate brunette appeared tired, but her eyes twinkled with excitement, as the doctor gave her a gentle hug. Brief introductions were made and he bid them a good evening. He'd hoped her health would permit Izzy's attendance, and he was pleased to see her there and in such good spirits.
He couldn't help but smile when he witnessed her cuddling close to her date, and whispering in his ear, her hand splayed out over his heart. From time to time the young man would lean down and brush against her ear, causing her to smile and nod.
It was moments like those that reassured Dr. Cullen that he'd chosen the right profession.
Carlisle Cullen looked around the room, taking stock of the plaques and diplomas that hung from his walls. If the accolades he'd accumulated over the years were any indication, one would consider him a successful man.
The heart of the young girl with the big doe eyes and the gentle demeanor whose test results he'd pored over for the last hour hadn't stabilized as he'd hoped it would and the advanced progression of her heart disease was disconcerting.
Her recent impromptu visit to his office had given him cause for concern and he'd sent her for a battery of tests to determine the current status of her heart. In a short period of time, drastic changes in the girl's cardiac health had evidently occurred.
Even since their brief encounter at the symphony, it seemed her health had declined. The results of the testing confirmed it.
It would have been unprofessional to become emotional in front of his patient, but the pallor of her clammy skin and the way she held her chest and fought to catch her breath upset the doctor greatly.
He'd grown quite fond of Izzy Swan over the months since she'd come to his practice and whether it was due to the kindness she'd shown his son at such a young age, or simply her endearing personality, she'd undoubtedly become one of his favorite patients.
No, he didn't feel very successful, not considering the news he was about to deliver to the young lady who was due to arrive as soon as his lunch break concluded. Despite his efforts to manage her condition medically, her heart was no longer responding. He couldn't help but feel he'd failed her somehow.
It was with a hope and a prayer that he referred her to his trusted friend and colleague, Demetri Eleazar, an accomplished cardio-thoracic surgeon whose office was just down the hall. With her impaired heart function, placing her on a transplant list was the appropriate protocol, and while it was a last resort, a transplant had the potential to completely change her life.
Izzy had slipped into unconsciousness after her third heart attack. They'd been sitting together on her bed, she and Ali, when she felt the all too familiar pressure... the weight of a million elephants that stood on her chest and stole her breath. Dr. Cullen had told her parents later, after she'd recovered from the surgery, that it was the sort of attack one only survived if they were already in the cardiac intensive care unit... and she had, but only after her sibling had made the ultimate sacrifice.
It had been too easy. The idea had taken root and grown from the moment the attractively graying surgeon had made the off the cuff comment in front of the two sisters while they sat playing a quiet game of cards in Izzy's hospital room weeks before the devastating attack.
He wore a sad smile when he looked at the identical sisters and quipped that if it were a liver donation... or a kidney they'd been desperately in need of, an isograft as he'd called it- the donation of an organ from a genetically identical donor to a genetically identical recipient, Izzy would have already had the perfect match and would be well on her way to recovery.
Seth Clearwater's little cherub face haunted her days and tormented her nights, long after Alice had served her time and paid her debt to society. It was Jane Hunter's voice she heard when she closed her eyes. Baby killer… MURDERER, and what she said was true, that was what Alice was. There was no measure of time, no length of incarceration that would ever assuage the guilt that plagued her on a daily basis. She'd taken a life, and there was no way she could ever pay penance enough, unless... what did it say in the Bible? An eye for an eye? A tooth for a tooth? A life for a life...
"Oh Izzy, I'll be with you through it all, even if saving you sends me to heaven…"
Demetri Eleazar certainly never meant to imply that Alice should slip the service revolver from her father's holster as he was slumped, exhausted in the CCU waiting room and he never encouraged the young girl to hold the gun to her temple and pull the trigger in the second floor ladies room just doors from where her sister lie, waiting for a heart.
But the guilt of uttering those words crippled him just as surely as they would have if he'd pulled that trigger himself.
He watched, defeated, as his patient's parents stood at their daughter's bedside and prayed the Lord's Prayer before placing a kiss on her sister's forehead and saying goodbye to the daughter they never imagined losing. Allowing Izzy's illness to command such a prominent presence in their lives, they remained completely oblivious to the depths of Ali's despair which, while not blatantly as obvious, had proven to be just as life threatening.
The surgeon prayed for the strength to look at the situation like that of any other organ donor who had suffered a life ending accident. For if he allowed the guilt that was consuming him into the operating room that day, he could never successfully perform the operation both girls were now depending on him to perform.
He walked into the brightly lit cardio-thoracic surgical suite full of hope but with a heavy heart. The pristine operating room was the newest jewel in his hospital's crown and his presence commanded the attention of everyone in attendance. He'd always treated the surgical staff with the utmost respect, and in turn, they worked diligently to assist him.
This was the most bittersweet situation he'd ever found himself in. He'd been present a short time earlier, when the donor heart had been harvested and he'd had trouble reconciling its source. Looking down at the donor patient had shook him to his core, and he promised the young woman who'd provided the perfect match for one of his favorite patients, that he'd do everything in his power to ensure that her sacrifice had a positive outcome. Even though he knew his words fell on deaf ears, he hoped that somehow she'd heard his vow.
His ritual before every transplant was the same, with head bowed in a moment of silence he asked his creator to help ease the pain the donor's family must be experiencing by allowing their sacrifice to ensure a life; one that was long and filled with happiness and good health for the recipient. Never had he found himself in a situation where the donor and recipient shared the same parentage.
Next he asked for the blessing of guidance and steady hands during the procedure that would replace Izzy's broken heart. Looking down at her face, peaceful in her medically induced slumber, he made her the same promise he'd made to her twin, the promise that he'd do everything in his power to ensure that very soon Izzy would walk into her future with a strong healthy heart.
Three weeks later when he signed her discharge papers, the implications of his off-handed comment no longer hung over his head like a crown of guilt. He'd spent numerous hours with a therapist who was adamant that he was not responsible for the unstable young girl's actions, nor could he have predicted that she'd attempt to take her own life to save that of her sister's. He still felt a twinge of guilt each time he'd visited his patient, but the all consuming remorse had been replaced with acceptance as he watched her health improve in leaps and bounds.
He watched with pride as one of the cardiac nurses wheeled his patient out of the cardiac unit in a wheelchair, with a healthy pink blush on her face, and an adoring young man clutching her hand. The elder Swans followed hand in hand, wearing the smiles of relief he recognized as that of parents who had been given a second chance, but he knew that relief had come at a hefty price and he prayed they'd all find the strength to get through their loss.
The attractive brunette looked down the expanse of the long, daunting corridor. Like a scene out of Alice in Wonderland, it seemed that with each step she took towards her destination, the room she knew she'd find at the end of the hallway seemed to loom larger and larger.
She pulled in a deep breath and stood tall. They had encouraged her to do this, promised it would help ease the pain of loss that threatened to suffocate her on a daily basis. She needed this. The fellowship of the others who had walked the length of the corridor held the promise of helping her to heal her broken heart.
It had been more than six months since she'd lost her twin, the other half of her heart... the other half of her soul.
They'd lost an entire year that could never be replaced, and she swore that if she could wish for one thing, it would be for just a few more moments with her.
Izzy cursed her sister then, for not having the strength to hold on. She'd have found a way to change things if she had- to change the outcome, Izzy would have never allowed it to spiral out of control, but her sister ensured there wasn't a thing they could have done to change it.
Thankful for the distraction of her thoughts, she realized that the entry to her destination was just before her.
She closed her eyes and collected herself. Her mind said to turn tail and run, but her heart told her she couldn't. She'd promised them all that she'd do this. She needed this, to heal her soul just as her body had been healed. Trembling fingers reached out and brushed over the unassuming brass plaque, tracing each engraved letter.
Pacific West Bereavement Support Group, it said.
She could do this.
The hope to find a chair in the back, or some non-descript corner was dashed as soon as she looked around her. The chairs were assembled in a large circle. The decor was a mish-mash of shabby chic furnishings in all variety of shape and color. It looked more like a campus coffee house than a conference room in one of the most prestigious hospitals in the Pacific Northwest.
Her hand went to her chest, as it often did in times of stress and she gently fingered the talisman that hung over the bright pink scar which ran the length of her sternum. She never went any place without the keepsake her sister had left clutched in her hand while she lie unconscious that day. She'd read and re-read the tattered note that represented the final interaction she'd ever shared with her sibling, even if that brief meeting had been one-sided.
When Liz stumbled upon her son and the sobbing girl in the tiny hospital chapel on the day of her release, Izzy was clutching the fragile piece of parchment that had been folded and unfolded a million times. The motherly woman promised to find a permanent vessel to protect the priceless memento, and now, the slip of paper resided inside a sealed vial, nestled inside a filigreed storage locket crafted from the finest sterling.
The girl didn't need to look at it to know what it said; the words were etched into her soul. "Take care of my heart; I've left it with you."
A group of young people, other members of the bereavement group, had filtered in while she stood in the middle of the room staring like a deer stuck in the headlights. The chairs began filling up quickly, and she chose a seat that was as isolated from the rest of the group as possible. But, her strategy was all for naught, when a bubbly girl brushed against her and slipped into the adjacent seat.
"Hi, I'm Angie. You're new here."
"Yes." She replied, taking the girl's proffered hand and shaking it hesitantly.
They were interrupted by an older woman who clapped her hands together a few times to steer the group towards some semblance of order.
"Hello everyone! Welcome."
She turned her gaze upon the newcomer. "Izzy, I'm pleased to see that you've chosen to join us. Welcome."
The group settled, taking seats around the ring and quieting substantially.
"Everyone, we have a visitor this evening. Would you please go around the room and introduce yourselves to our guest by stating your name and telling us a little bit about yourself?"
One by one they stood and welcomed the new girl with kind words and a brief introduction; they were all bound to one another by one common thread. If she chose to join them, that thread would be woven into the tapestry of her life as well. She owed it to herself to give it an honest effort. She owed it to her sister to make the most of the life she'd sacrificed on her behalf.
Once she learned to channel the anger and the pain in a healthy manner, perhaps she could truly enjoy the life she'd been so selflessly gifted.
After each of them had stood and spoken and Angie's formal introduction was complete, the girl took a turn to introduce herself.
Her hands shook as they rested over the pendant that hung around her neck and a tear slid, unbidden, down over the apple of her cheek before she smiled and made her own introduction.
"Thank you for the warm welcome. I'm here because I've lost someone dear to me, just as you have. My name is Isabella Swan; I was on the transplant list for a new heart for a very long time. When it became apparent that I had run out of time, my twin sister took her own life so that I could live. I have to believe that she's my guardian angel."
Many thanks to everyone who pre-read and offered advice. Thanks to Sherriola for betaing.
A warm welcome to our guest pianist, Betti Gefecht's Little Green, and a huge thank you to Betti for entrusting us with her boy. He's one of a small handful of autistic Edward's who exist in the Twi-fandom, and it was an honor to feature him in a one-shot that was written to benefit the Fandom4Autism. If you don't know Little Green, you really should go visit him. He's owned us from the very first chapter, and over a year later, he continues to captivate.
Thank you to everyone who participated in helping to make the Fandom4Autism fundraiser a success.
*Quoted from the Red Jumpsuit Apparatus song- Your Guardian Angel.