Chapter 12


Warning! It was recommended that I issue a caveat with this chapter. Emotional responses may result! I don't know if it's to the point of Kleenex...but, yeah.


BPOV

The majority of my day was spent in anger and tears. I kept trying to pinpoint why I was so upset and shaken by Edward's words. It was stupid, really. He was basically a stranger. We had shared one kiss while both of us were heavily intoxicated (especially me). Nothing else happened, and he was leaving in two days.

I don't care. I shouldn't care.

The words I'd spit back at him in self defense kept echoing in my ears.

"Does this look like the face of a person who cares?"

Liar. I did care. So much. But why?

Troubled and full of unexplained hurt, I struggled with my first two patients. A young married couple who had been in a car accident together a year before, they had a joint session of back mobility and hand coordination. Ben and Angela. They were fucking perfect. They always booked their sessions together. They always helped each other, both in and out of the rehabilitation room. Words of encouragement flowed easily between them, even when their faces were twisted in the pain of relearning simple physical movement.

I'd always admired them in the past, but today...today, it almost made me sick to my stomach.

I'll never have that. I'm going to be alone for the rest of my life. No one wants to date me, let alone kiss me.

Even Edward, who could easily take advantage of me—and trust me, I would have let him—and then bail back to Chicago with no strings attached and no responsibility, said he didn't want to kiss me.

It was all too similar.

By the time Ben and Angela left, I was a mess. I retreated to my office where I broke down, hot tears spilling over my red, blotched face. Alice found me, cleaned me up, and sent me home with orders not to come back until I felt better. She thought I was PMSing. I knew I wasn't.

I barricaded myself in my room with Lord Voldemort, tons of much-too-spicy Indian food, and a trashy novel. The hours passed slowly. I napped. I cried. I threw the book against the wall when the inevitable bodice-ripper sex scene showed up. When I finally emerged to let Voldy out on the patio for his litter box, I found myself plating the leftover food for Edward.

"Don't do it," I muttered to myself, even as I covered the dish in foil and wrote a simple note. "He doesn't deserve it."

But the plate ended up on the kitchen table. I cleaned up the mess he'd made earlier that morning, finished the dishes, grabbed "Love Actually" from my DVD collection, and returned to my Bella cave of weepiness.

I must have fallen asleep again, because Voldy was suddenly meowing in my ear. I perked up, and heard rustling in the kitchen.

Edward.

My insides churned as I froze, my blanket half covering my legs, Keira Knightly's voice in the background. I hit the space bar on my laptop, pausing the movie. I listened more intently, but couldn't make anything else out. Water was running, and then it stopped. Voldy scratched at my legs, before leaping to the floor and pawing at the door.

I hesitated. Did I dare leave my room? I was thirsty. Too much curry. But leaving meant seeing Edward.

I waited a few more minutes, my warring emotions making a decision difficult. Finally, Voldy's meowing and my dry throat won out.

Not bothering to even check my appearance in the mirror, I opened the door and slowly made my way to the kitchen.

There he was, sitting at the table, eating my leftovers.

He stared at me. I stared back, steeling up my insides.

Don't let him see you. He'll just hurt you more. Don't you dare cry, Swan!

"Thanks for the food," he blurted out.

The words forced themselves from my mouth. "Even jerks deserve to eat."

He had the decency to look ashamed. "I, er...take it you're still angry with me."

"You're so brilliant. How did you ever come to that conclusion?" I snapped, moving to the fridge. I grabbed a glass from the cupboard, quickly pouring a glass of water. I was in enemy territory, and the sooner I was gone, the better. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw a bouquet of flowers. My heart jumped, but I kept my back to Edward.

Replacing the Brita pitcher, I sensed him moving behind me. It wasn't because of his breath coming closer, or the steps on the kitchen tile—there was something else that alerted my very cells to his nearness. I took a sip of water.

And then he was holding my hand and I nearly dropped the glass. His skin against mine made my heart race, and I was even more angry at myself for loving the way it felt.

"Bella—"

"What?"

"Please...please, can we talk about this?"

"Please let go of my hand."

I couldn't stop looking at our entwined fingers.

Our hands fit well together. Perfectly. Ugh, stop it!

His green eyes were boring holes in my very soul. His voice softened as he spoke. "It was just a misunderstanding. Please, Bella. I want you to understand, more than anything."

What is he doing?

I bit my lip. "What does it matter? You're leaving in two days anyway."

He didn't answer, and I studied his face for a moment. There was something going on behind those eyes. Something he hadn't told me.

But it was safer not to care. Before I could let myself be swayed by his nearness and undeniable appeal, I snatched my hand back.

He nearly jerked with the force of my movement, stumbling over his words and his feet. "I—I didn't mean it the way it sounded."

"Good night, Edward." I swallowed my heart and practically ran from the kitchen.

#

It was too early for bed, but I couldn't face being in the same room as Edward any longer. Shame was embedded in my nerves.

Jake had apologized, too. He'd brought me flowers and tried to hold me close again. This was just all too familiar. I'd prayed never to feel like this again, and yet here was Edward, reawakening the same embarrassment no woman should ever have to feel at the hands of the man she thought she loved.

Love? I nearly spit the word out loud, catching myself just in time.

I had loved Jacob. I barely knew Edward.

"You're just a stupid girl," I whispered, rummaging in my purse for my cell phone. I needed a distraction.

I dialed the number by heart, and waited patiently for someone to pick up.

"Pasadena Villa, Courtney speaking, how can I help you?"

"Hi Courtney, this is Bella Swan."

"Oh hi!" the receptionist's voice became shrill with excitement. "It's been so long since your last call? How are you?"

I rolled my eyes, dreading small talk. "Oh, fine. And you?"

"I'm just great! I saw your mom today."

I swallowed another sip of water, holding the phone just a little tighter. "How's she doing?"

"Oh, not half bad. She was able to eat in the dining room this morning. It's so great!"

But I had spoken with Courtney enough times on the phone to detect the truth. "Courtney," I said softly. "Tell me."

Courtney sighed, slight static coming through the connection. "She made it to the door of the dining room before she had an episode. She thinks Kate is a ninja who was sent by King Louis XIV to murder her."

I set the water down on my nightstand and pinched the bridge of my nose. "Is she awake?"

I heard rustling on the other end. "Let me check." Courtney put me on hold as she went to contact whichever CNA was on duty.

I waited patiently, absorbing the music meant to entertain me while on hold. Pasadena Villa always chose classical. I faintly recognized Bach from my days of studying for exams.

In a moment, I had my answer. "She's awake," Courtney breathed into the phone. "Amy says she's feeling better now, so it's probably a good time to talk."

"Great. Thanks Courtney," I sat up a little straighter on my disheveled bed, setting the water down on the nightstand. I patted my hair, even though she couldn't see me.

I heard the phone ring on their end as Courtney transferred me. It rang three times before someone picked up.

"Renee's room! This is Amy."

"Hi Amy, this is Bella," I spoke more hesitantly. I'd never met Amy in person. She'd only been working there a few months, and I wasn't sure how I felt about a less experienced person dealing with someone who had my mother's symptoms. But she seemed nice enough over the phone, even if Renee didn't always think so.

"Oh, hi Bella! Your mom is right here," she said just before passing the phone over. My heart started to race, and my palms were suddenly moist. It had been some time since I'd called. Would she remember? Would she rebuke me?

There was always the chance that she wouldn't even remember who I was.

"Hello?" the voice that greeted me was soft. Scared. All thoughts of Edward disappeared as I focused intently on deciphering my mother's mood.

"Hi Mommy," I managed to say cheerfully. "This is Bella."

She paused. "Isabella?"

"Yes, Isabella."

"Oh, Isabella, you said you were going to take me away!" her voice was still soft, but it had turned from scared to a frantic whisper.

I swallowed. She'd had an episode earlier today. She probably still thought that Kate was a ninja, and probably imagined that Amy was an accomplice. At least she knew who I was, which was always easier to handle than the days when she thought I was just a nice stranger who looked like someone she couldn't quite recall.

"Yes, Mommy, someday you won't have to stay there anymore."

Liar.

"They're after me, Isabella. I play along so that they won't hurt me, but they want to hurt me."

Renee sounded close to tears. I took a deep breath. It would do no good to tell her that the CNAs were there to help her. I could repeat myself until I was hoarse, a broken record, and she would still cling to her illusions. I chose a different route. Distraction.

"Mommy, have you been doing anything for fun? Have you drawn? Or maybe painted?"

Like lightning, her tone changed again. She sounded slightly wistful, like she couldn't quite remember what she wanted to say. "Oh, I watch them painting. They look like they're having fun. I wish I knew how to do that."

I tried to fill in the missing information. She had a habit of leaving out people's names. Not that I could blame her. Half the time, she confused who worked there with her fellow patients. "You watch the people in the painting class?"

"Hmm."

"Why don't you try next time?" I felt tears threatening my eyes, the sharp pain that often accompanies crying creeping up the back of my nose. I cleared my throat.

"I don't know how."

Today must have been a day for old feelings. The same ache I'd experienced at fourteen tiptoed into my chest. "Promise me you'll try. Next time. Just try. Pick up a brush and see what happens."

Renee sighed. "I promise, sweet pea."

I smiled sadly. Sweet pea. Our time was up. The longer our conversation, the more likely she was to forget who I was in the middle of a sentence.

"I love you, Mommy."


A/N: Slow burn, remember?

Thank you all so much for your patience and understanding over the last few weeks! Hence you getting your update a few hours early (well, technically like two weeks late, but who's counting?) :) As always, a very special thanks to my beta and prereaders! I couldn't do this without them!

I know I totally failed at replying to the last chapter's reviews. But trust me, I read and cherished every single one. Thank you for your feedback. I appreciate it more than you can imagine! So glad to hear that so many of you can identify with both Edward and Bella's current situations.

So poor Bella is feeling sorry for herself. Do you think she's justified? Oh, the questions! What does Renee suffer from? What happened with Jacob? When will she reveal these things to Edward? When will they finally reconcile and just "do it"? How the fuck do we get back to the prologue?

Stick with me, guys.

xoxo