Summary: Edward spends his nights struggling to fall asleep, but when he does, he's haunted by a beautiful woman who's scared of something he can't see. One night reality and his dreams intersect and the results will change both of their lives forever, because the only chance they have at being whole, is being together.
AN: This story haunted me, much like Edward's dreams of Bella haunted him, and when I decided to write for this compilation, this story begged to see the light of day. Gisela reminded us that we are a family in this fandom, we call each other sister, bestie, wifey, and in some ways we understand each other better than people we see every day. I had the help of two such angels on this piece. My beta/wifey/partner in crime, Mizzdee, of all the gifts this fandom has given me, you are the most precious. Secondly, DICATAKADD, someone who has been with me for a long time as a reader and reviewer and always has the most wonderful words of encouragement and love. I offered her the opportunity to pre-read this and I'm already thrilled that she has joined Team AGW. This is the first chapter of a short fic, so I hope you enjoy this first installment.
The second chapter of this will be donated to Fandom Fights Hurricane Sandy, so please check out the link on my profile for more details.
Disclaimer: All publicly recognizable characters, settings, etc. are the property of their respective owners. The original characters and plot are the property of the author. The author is in no way associated with the owners, creators, or producers of any media franchise. No copyright infringement is intended. Story is rated M for descriptions of violence, language, and lemons.
Don't look at the clock. If you don't look at the clock, then you won't be pissed about how late it is.
Knowing that the ship had sailed on me being pissed about the fact that I wouldn't get a lot of sleep tonight, I rolled over and looked at the offending object.
Getting up, I dug out my earmuffs and eye mask, hoping that if I couldn't hear or see anything, I would finally fall asleep.
It took a long time, but eventually I was back in what were now familiar woods. This seemed to be my happy place, and I found that if I sat down and waited until I saw her, I would get more sleep. The woods here were eerie, and I couldn't figure out if I'd seen them before, or it was just the dream that gave that quality, but eventually I saw her.
She ran in front of me, looking around nervously before she ducked into the woods and wandered further from the path. I tried to catch up with her, but she kept moving. Her pace didn't seem particularly fast, but she was always too far for me to catch up to. When I was about to give up she stopped, turning to look at me just as the buzzer on my alarm sounded.
Surprised that I slept that long it seemed to be a good sign. Maybe this bout of insomnia was coming to an end and I could actually manage to get my keys back from Alice.
A banging on my apartment door let me know just how late it was. "Edward," Alice called, "I'm leaving in fifteen minutes."
Rushing to throw on jeans and a shirt, I slipped my feet into my shoes and grabbed my bag, knowing we'd be hitting a drive-thru Starbucks on the way to school.
"How'd you do last night?" Alice asked as I locked up.
"Didn't fall asleep until after three, but once I did I slept until right before you knocked," I told her truthfully.
"Edward, that's five hours! I'm so happy for you." Alice hugged me from where she was standing to my left, giving me a firm squeeze.
"Thanks, Alice. You're the only one who supports my choice to go drug free."
"My dad loves you, Edward; he just doesn't understand that you don't want that kind of help. And you're doing so well. We just need to get you through this episode and then we'll be ahead of the game."
"I hope you're right," I said, doubting it.
"Edward, I've been with you fighting this since you were eight, and you are getting better -"
"Until I get worse again," I muttered.
"Don't do that, Edward," Alice warned. "You're my cousin, and I love you, but you have to have a little faith."
"Faith is hard to find when I keep slipping back into old patterns," I reminded her and she grimaced.
"I know he isn't your favorite person to discuss this with, but maybe you should talk to my dad. If you tell him you want to try treatment that focuses more on therapy and less on medications, he may help you find a doctor. The only thing we want is for you to be well again, Edward."
I shook my head at her offer, because Carlisle would try and get me back onto antidepressants like I'd been on when I was younger, and that was the last thing I needed . But as much as I didn't want to be medicated, the idea of talking everything out with a stranger made me even more anxious. If only I could forget.
The drive to school passed quickly and as I walked into the education building, I smiled at how close I was to being done with school. I'd struggled through the last seven years, having a medical withdrawal during the first semester of my sophomore year when I was hospitalized, which caused me to take an extra year. But now I only have two classes left, one being my composition thesis, which requires me to meet with my advisor to discuss my progress, and my education class, which coincides with the last of my student teaching.
This semester I was at the Bush School, and I was already told that if I complete my degree this semester, that the academy would offer me the position being vacated when one of their music teachers retired in the spring. That meant that I'd have the summer off to prepare and then I would be back to teach at a place that was a lot less chaotic than any public school I might teach at.
Our teacher droned on about the issues that might be faced upon entering the work force, making us come up with our own ways of solving the problems. I answered my weekly assigned issue using the model that my current employers enforced, and Mr. Banner tried to call me out on it.
"The reason we come up with these assignments, Mr. Masen, is to see how well you problem solve for yourself, not how well you can copy from your employee handbook."
"But in this case, Mr. Banner, if I'm working in an environment that has set procedures, shouldn't I follow their rules, especially since I will be continuing on there in the fall. Their handbook will be the one I will need to use as my guide."
I watched his face fall slightly. "You've been offered a position at the Bush School?"
"It's contingent on my graduation this semester, but yes. The Dean called me into his office on Monday to give me the news," I explained.
"Well then, you better get to know their discipline code very well as we finish up these next few assignments." Mr. Banner turned to the next student, appeased with my work now that he knew I wasn't cutting corners.
When my class was done, I walked over the student union and pulled out my notebook. It was already March, so I was two months from graduation. Two months to wrap up these last projects and begin my professional life.
The fact that my three days of student teaching were the happiest days of my week gave me hope that I would be able to put some of the extra stress behind me. I'd yet to have a single panic attack at the Bush School, which was something I couldn't say about many other places.
"Hey man." Emmett walked up, interrupting my thoughts with his jovial energy.
"Emmett, what's up?" I asked, gesturing towards the seat across from me.
"Same old, trying to move on with my life now that your cousin kicked me out, but Jasper's been cool about letting me crash on his couch until Ben moves out. Then I'll take the second bedroom."
I felt like I'd missed a whole series of events, but that was what my current state had left me with. I was too tired to go out, but I still couldn't sleep. "Ben's moving out?"
Emmett looked at me strangely and then his face morphed into one of understanding. "Yeah, Angela found a townhouse to rent for the two of them. The community has rentals and sale properties, so they're moving in hoping that they'll build favor with the management company in case they decide to buy one of the units eventually. Either way, it leaves a room vacant for me now that the ice queen and I are done."
"Rosalie was always a diva, but I'm sorry that her attitude screwed you up any," I admitted honestly. How Alice and Rosalie could be sisters was beyond me. They were as different in appearance as they were in personality.
"Whatever, I'm living with my best friend so it isn't all bad. You should come and hang out. We don't have to go to a club or anything; we can order some pizza, buy some beer and watch the game. What do you say?"
That was another reason I loved Emmett. He, Jasper, and Ben accepted my illness and rolled with it. They didn't make me feel bad that I couldn't go out to the bar or a game with them; the four of us would do something low-key, something that could be controlled.
"Sounds like a plan," I told him. "You guys pick a day and we'll do it."
"Why not tomorrow? Canucks have a home game, so it won't be too early. You don't have any plans for Saturday, right?" Emmett asked, his mind was probably already thinking about what kind of beer he would buy.
"Nope, I'll see you guys tomorrow. But right now, I better get going. I'm having dinner with Alice and Esme and I have to be ready or Alice will turn into a smurf."
"She does turn a little blue when she gets a rant going, doesn't she?" Emmett teased and we both laughed.
Packing my things, I took off on the twenty minute walk home, happy about the weekend ahead of me. I got inside just as the rain started, and picked out my clothes before jumping in the shower.
I knew that with Esme and Alice taking me out, we were going to a nice restaurant, so I slipped on my sports coat and waited for Alice to come and pick me up.
She knocked on my door right at five o'clock, and I followed her out as she joked about something that happened in one of her classes. I loved Alice dearly, but I just couldn't keep up with her excitement. I thought she realized it, because she turned to ask if I was okay.
"Fine, Alice. Just tired, but we know that isn't an easy fix, so don't worry." I knew that wasn't going to make her happy, so I decided to share my plans. "I'm going over to the guys' place tomorrow to watch the hockey game."
"Yeah? That'll be fun!" she said a little too brightly. "How's Emmett doing?"
"Better now that he's free of Rosalie," I remarked. Rosalie and my issues were well established, so Alice just stayed out of it for the most part.
"I'm glad, he'll find someone who isn't as uptight, and she'll go back to her normal type. I'm actually surprised she stayed with him that long," Alice remarked and then asked how class was. Taking about our classes allowed the conversation to relax some as the rest of the ride passed in easy conversation.
We arrived at the restaurant to find Esme already seated at the table. She stood up as we approached and gave us both a hug.
"Edward, have you lost weight?" Esme started right in, and I nodded, letting her pick at me for a moment.
"You know how I get when I'm stressed, and I'm pushed up against graduation with my composition and my final education class."
"How about the student teaching, is that going well?" she asked as the waiter came to take our drink order.
"It's great, in fact, I was offered a full-time position in the fall as long as I graduate in May, so that's why I'm feeling the pressure a little." I tried to smile, but my aunt saw right through me.
"Alice, why didn't you tell me that his insomnia is back?" Esme asked the question to my cousin, completely bypassing me.
"First, Edward's right here, Mom, and if he wanted you to know, he would have told you. But secondly, he's handling it. In fact, last night he got five hours sleep once he fell asleep, so he may be turning the corner by managing his anxiety and blocking out any stimulation that would keep him from falling asleep." Alice took my hand and squeezed it, causing Esme to hold her hands up in surrender.
"If that's the case, I'm happy that you're managing to handle it, but don't push Carlisle and I away because of how you feel about last time."
"Uncle Carlisle knows how I feel about being medicated like that and he did it to me against my wishes. I know you both mean well, but that's the one thing I can't stand." I could feel the bubble of dread growing in my chest as I sat back against the chair, and my family saw it too.
"Edward, it's just the three of us, this dinner may have started a little rough, but we'll leave all of that behind and try to enjoy the night. I've missed you." Esme looked so sad as she said the last part and I knew I missed her too.
"I'm okay with that," I agreed and we continued on with dinner.
After we said goodbye to Esme, Alice and I headed back to our building and as we said goodnight, she stopped the elevator to offer me one last kindness. "I'm right above you, so if you need me, just bang on the ceiling."
"Okay, Alice," I agreed, even though both of us knew it wouldn't happen.
I walked into my apartment and powered up my computer. I had my last five education assignments sitting there, and I needed to get them done so that I could focus on my music. I had enough free time at school to do my student teaching journals, so if I could knock out this work, another weight would be lifted off me.
For the next six hours I looked over the various procedures offered depending on the schools disciplinary codes and wrote up next week's assignment. I strayed from the Bush School's structure to show I was being flexible, and by the time I had it finished, I felt comfortable to discuss it in class.
As I closed my computer and contemplated what to do next, the muddled feeling I was now so familiar with took over my consciousness, letting me know that even with the sleep I'd been getting recently, my body was shutting down. I walked into my bedroom and grabbed my earplugs and eye mask, getting myself set up before I slipped on my noise cancelling headphones and tried to go with the need to sleep.
I was once again in the woods, they were the same, but there was also a startling difference to them. Where there was normally some light visible, creeping past the foliage to shed a little glow on the space, tonight they were considerably darker. I knew something was inherently wrong. The sense of dread was intense and I could hear the young woman somewhere in the distance. There were voices telling her to stop, calling her Bella and demanding she listen to them. But as she came into view, her pace increased.
The woods continued to grow darker as she ran towards me, but far off to the left. Her skirts were tangling around her legs, tripping her until she lifted them so she could run faster. I took off in the direction she was heading, but as I neared the area where she would cross my path, I fell. I rolled down a small hill and knocked Bella over as we collided, coming to a stop with me on top of her. Our eyes met and a blood curdling scream erupted from her.
I sat up in bed, shaking and panting as the adrenaline sent my system into overdrive. I tore the mask and headphones off, pulling the ear plugs from my ears so that I was fully aware. The image of Bella terrified was burned into my mind so I couldn't go back to sleep even if I was able to.
My body was vibrating so bad that I had to get up and move, I had to try and control the energy I suddenly had. Pacing my bedroom floor helped a little physically, but mentally my mind was racing with thoughts of Bella. I couldn't tell you what period her clothing was, or if it was just a costume, but it was far from modern looking. The questions kept coming with no known answers. Who was she? Where had she come from? Why was she being chased? Who were those men that had her so afraid? And why was this the only dream I seemed to have these days? Was I going crazy?
That thought was the one that had me perpetually circling the room, trying to make sense of the senseless. I hadn't always been like this, but as I got older it seemed that things snowballed and my hours were once again being eaten up by this illness. I was so close to having my master's degree and even that didn't seem to matter. I was still the little boy that had been broken all of those years ago. Every new life event added to the cracks and soon it would be too much and I would shatter.
That thought had me running to my front door to Alice. I knew that she was the only one who could even attempt to center me now, but as I bent down to get my keys, I knocked over the stack of mail from this afternoon. Picking it up, I froze when I saw the now familiar woods from my dream on the cover of a pamphlet for an event at the Washington Park Arboretum.
Was that why they looked familiar? I'd been there plenty of times, so maybe I was imagining woods that I knew well, so it would be more realistic. But even as I tried to rationalize it, I knew that at some point tonight, I'd be walking along the paths, so I might as well get going.
Throwing on a pair of jeans and a sweatshirt, I grabbed my keys and my wallet and headed down to the street. A cab was easy to hail, and I gave the driver an address a few blocks away so he wouldn't think I was crazy for asking to be left at the entrance of a park that had closed hours ago.
It was after midnight when I entered the park and the sense of dread was back again. I followed the east trail and soon I reached the area that I'd spent the last few weeks visiting in my dreams. As I paced the area, I realized that it wasn't real, but at the same time, I'd come here like she would come running over that hill and find me.
Unzipping my hoodie some, I sat down under one of the trees and just tried to breathe. This was a really bad idea. A really stupid, dangerous idea. I tried to reign in my feelings and emotions when I was tackled the rest of the way to the ground.
A new wave of panic washed over me as I felt them cage my body with their arms, until they pulled back and began rambling.
"Sir, please let me apologize for knocking you over like that. I wasn't watching where I was walking and it is entirely my fault. Are you all right?"
The voice was so familiar and the manner of her speech caught me off guard as I looked up to see Bella, the woman from my dream, standing over me.
"Sir, I can't stay here, because they'll find me, but I need to know that you aren't hurt," she urged and I stood up, my sweatshirt falling off my left shoulder.
"I'm fine, really it's cool," I told her, but her eyes were focused on my chest.
"The lion will save you," she murmured.
I looked down to see that she was staring at the lion tattoo I had over my heart. It was simple, a basic tribal profile of a lion as a way to honor the Cullen's after they took me in, but it seemed to mean something to her.
"I'm sorry, I didn't catch that?"
"Sir, I -" she started, but I interrupted her.
"My name is Edward," I supplied.
"Edward, there are some very bad men looking for me, and I need to get away from here. I know this will sound crazy, but my great aunt once told me that a lion would save me. I know it is completely inappropriate, but could you help me exit these woods safely and get me out of the open?"
"Sure, come with me …" I trailed off, hoping she'd give me her name so I wouldn't freak her out by possibly knowing it.
"Bella," she told me, cementing the fact that I'd completely lost my mind.
"Let's go, I'll keep you safe."
She took my arm and I returned the way I'd come, knowing there was a bus stop nearby. We might be waiting there a while, but it was our best option.
We left the park and immediately Bella stiffened, the sounds of the cars and the lights causing her to shrink into my side. "What is this?"
"It's Seattle at night? Is this not how you remember it?" I don't know why I asked the second question, but it spilled from my lips before I could stop it.
"Not at all," Bella said firmly.
"Listen to me, Bella. I'm going to bring you to my apartment, that way you can sleep, and in the morning we'll figure out what happened and how you got here. But tonight I need you to follow my lead and say as little as possible. Trust me." I watched her nod as she whispered about the lion again.
Zipping up my sweatshirt, I pulled out my ORCA card and walked to the bus stop. Bella kept looking over her shoulder for men that weren't there, if they'd been from her time, but as the bus stopped in front of us she gasped. After struggling to get her to move, I wordlessly guided her onto the bus and used my card to pay for our ride. We sat down near the front of the bus and a few minutes later we got off, walking the block to where we'd catch our second bus. The entire time Bella didn't say a word, but her eyes took in everything.
We got off the second bus and I once again pulled her along into my building and over to the elevator.
"I can't get into that," Bella protested. I really didn't feel like walking the five flights of stairs, but she didn't make a scene on the bus, which was a miracle, so I conceded.
"Fine, let's take the stairs."
We climbed to my apartment and I opened the door, allowing her to look around. The lights seemed to bother her, so I dimmed them, which only upset her more.
"The bathroom is in here, if you want to get cleaned up, and if you need a change of clothes, I can loan you something," I offered and she nodded, looking down at her muddy skirts.
"Thank you, Edward," she whispered as she walked into the bathroom and turned to stare at the sink. I followed her in long enough to turn the knobs and smile.
"It's kind of like a pump sink, but these keep it flowing. Just turn them to shut it off when you're done."
I closed the door behind me and went to change back into my pajamas. Bella walked out of the bathroom, staring at my entertainment center like it would attack her. But seeing as she clearly had no idea what it was, it was smart of her to worry.
"Bella," I spoke and she jumped, blushing at her reaction. "You must be tired, let me show you where you'll be sleeping tonight."
I opened my bedroom door and Bella looked around again. "Where do you sleep?"
"In here," I answered and the fear was back in her eyes. Knowing my mistake, I quickly explained. "I mean that's my room, but I don't sleep much and I've gotten my rest for the night, so I'll be out here. I promised to keep you safe, Bella, and I meant it."
"We will be able to talk tomorrow and try to figure out what has happened?" she asked and I nodded. "Goodnight, Edward."
"Goodnight," I said as she closed the door.
With Bella safely in my room, I began to pace again, so very confused. She was real. I paid a bus fare for her and felt her hand on my arm. But she couldn't be what I think she is.
I tried coming to terms with what happened tonight, but as I failed, I did the one thing that I didn't want to do, but knew I needed to. I called Alice.
"Yes, Edward." She yawned, but I already heard the movement above.
"Alice, I think I'm really losing it this time. Please come down."
"I'll be there in a minute, Edward, try to start your breathing." The line disconnected and I started to do my breathing exercises.
The door opened as Alice came in, sitting in front of me. "Edward, what's wrong?"
"I had the dream again," I told her.
"That's good, the dream seems to help you. So what happened to make you panic tonight?" Alice tried to get me to focus on her, but I kept looking back to my bedroom.
"Tonight the dream was darker and Bella, the girl in it, was scared. I dreamt that we ran into each other and she was terrified. The scream in my dream actually woke me up." I looked to see Alice listening intently to my story. "I was pacing when I realized that I knew the woods, they're the Washington Park Arboretum. So I went there to prove to myself that it was just a dream."
"Edward," Alice admonished as she sat beside me on the couch. "You can't do things like that. You could have been killed, don't you realize that?"
"I needed to prove that it was a dream," I told her again, causing her to sigh in frustration.
"And you proved that it was a dream?" she asked.
"Promise you won't scream?" I asked, knowing it was a good possibility.
"Edward, you're scaring me," Alice whispered as I led her to my bedroom door and opened it to reveal a sleeping Bella tucked into my bed. "Who is that?"
"Bella. She's real, Alice, and she's not from our time."
"Edward, she has to be from 2012, women don't just fall out of the sky!" she whisper-yelled at me.
"I'm aware of that, but you should have seen her. She's petrified of my entertainment center, I had to drag her onto the bus to get us home, and look at her clothing." I gestured to the laundry closet.
Alice picked up the skirt from the pile on top of the washer and began to inspect it. "This is hand-sewn, and the material is rough, not anything you would buy nowadays, or willingly wear for that matter. Either she's a method actress and she's taking you for a fool, or she really is from the past."
Alice put the clothing down and started pacing herself. It was a little comforting to see that she was as baffled as I was. "This is amazing! It could be a tear in the fabric of time, like Back to the Future or Kate and Leopold. You're Hugh Jackman, Edward! Well, wait a minute, he traveled through time so that makes Bella Hugh and you're Meg Ryan, which is gross. But -"
"Breathe, Smurfette," I teased her and she laughed, sitting back on the couch beside me.
"You look exhausted, Edward. Why don't we lay here and we'll see if you can fall back asleep, because you're going to need it in the morning."
"Fine, let me settle in on the couch and then you can lie down." I let myself lie on the couch and then Alice kicked out the reclining chair that was the left side of the couch so she could lie back while I sat my head in her lap and let her run her fingers through my hair like she did when we were younger.
I woke up to a bang and a softly spoken curse as my head popped up from Alice's lap to see Bella standing in the hallway.
"I'm sorry, Edward, I didn't mean to wake you, or interrupt -"
"Bella, it's okay, Alice is my cousin. She came over last night to help me with your situation." I stood up and met Bella by the entrance to the living room.
"My situation?" Bella asked.
"We're going to talk about everything, and there are some things you're going to need a woman's help with," I tried to tell her. When she looked even more confused, I decided to start simply. "I don't know anything about women's clothing, or personal issues, and she's the person I trust the most in this world. You can trust her, I promise."
"Edward?" Alice called me and we both looked up to see her stretching on the couch. "Oh, hello … my name is Alice Cullen. It's nice to meet you."
"I'm Isabella Dwyer, but you can call me Bella. It's a pleasure to meet you." Bella smiled sweetly as she moved to sit next to Alice and took her hand.
I moved to the other side as Alice started to ask her first question. "Bella, this might seem like an odd question, but what year is it where you're from?"
Bella turned to me and then whispered, "1902. What year is it here?"
"2012," Alice answered and Bella paled. "There's a lot that's changed here, but I'm sure you saw that last night."
Bella nodded. "What was that thing we got on last night?"
"It was a bus; it's a way for a large group of people to travel together. They move on a set path and you pay to ride on it." I felt like I was missing so many steps, but she seemed to understand.
"So it is similar to a train?" she asked.
"In a way, yes," I agreed.
"What about the washstand last night? The water just kept coming." She sounded excited.
"The plumbing is much better now, it is pumped into a house through a pipe," Alice tried to help.
We sat there for over an hour, trying to give her some answers while gaining some of our own. Bella seemed to feel better once we went over things she recognized, but I knew we would be venturing into dangerous territory soon.
"Bella, how do you think you got here?" Alice finally asked.
"I was running away from some men my father knew, bad men, and I fell into a deep ditch from where they'd been digging for the expansion of the East side of the city. I landed on top of Edward. I don't know what happened between falling and hitting him, but I've never been so happy for being clumsy before. Landing in your time saved my life, and I don't care if it was possible to go back, because I would never try."
Alice looked to me and I knew where she was going. "Jasper can contact Jenks, we'll get her the basics, and she can grow it from there. We'll move slowly with her and do what he thinks is best."
"What are you discussing? Who are these people?" Bella asked.
"Jasper is my boyfriend, and Jenks is someone he's known forever. He used to work for the witness protection program, creating new identities for people who are helping the government with cases. But now he helps people the government can't or won't. His contacts will be able to get you everything you need to live. They can make it look legitimate so you never have to worry about having a problem with your new identity."
I could see that Bella was lost, so I cut in to explain. "Today we have a lot of different forms of identification and they need to be perfect or someone will find out, that's why he'll handle it for you. This was his job so he knows how to make it look."
"That sounds so costly, I wouldn't want to -" Bella began, but I stopped her.
"He's our friend, don't worry," I told her, knowing that I'd pay whatever I had to for her to be set up right.
Alice cleared her throat as she looked down the couch at us. "The stores will be open soon, do you want me to just get Bella a few things like I had planned, or take her with me and get her wardrobe set? I can show her a few more things about the 21st century and bring back some lunch."
"It's up to you, Bella. Do you feel overwhelmed by everything, or can we take another big step this morning?" I asked.
"Would you be coming with us?" Bella asked in return.
Alice jumped in there, shooting me a bitch brow as her warning not to contradict her. "Lesson number one, Bella, bringing a guy along on a shopping trip makes it so much harder to get everything you need."
"Have fun with Alice, I'll be here when you get home," I told Bella before addressing Alice. "Don't go crazy, just get her what she needs."
"Yes, Edward. Now work on your homework so I can start to hear your beautiful music again."
"You're a musician?" Bella's face lit up with her question.
"I play piano," I answered and pointed to my keyboard.
"Things sure have changed," Bella whispered as she looked around. "What will I wear to go shopping?"
"I'll find you something upstairs," Alice said as she led her out the door.
With my apartment empty for a few hours, and having got some of the best sleep I had in a while, I went into my bedroom to grab my laptop. Two of my assignments were much simpler than the monster one I did last night and I was able to finish them quickly. The third one took me nearly two hours, and when I saved it, I picked up my phone to see how they were doing.
We're at Victoria's Secret, another hour or two tops. Does Chinese sound good for lunch?
I groaned at the thought of her picking out underwear for Bella and told her that Chinese was fine. Concentrating on my final assignment was a lot harder than the earlier ones, but it was finally done by the time I heard my door open.
Not even waiting to put down her bags, Alice launched into her play by play of their shopping trip. "Bella did so well, Edward. After she got over the way I drive, the stores were a breeze. Did you know that there used to be a huge market on the pier that sold practically everything you needed back then? Oh, by the way, you have to take Bella to Pike's; she's been talking about how much she loves to cook."
"That's easy enough, but teaching her to use the stove and stuff will be the challenge." Turning to Bella, I asked, "How about we wait until tomorrow? I'll take you to the supermarket and the fresh market and then I'll show you how to cook in there."
"That sounds fine, Edward. Honestly, I'm starting to feel a little overwhelmed. Maybe we should eat and then you can get back to work and I'll unpack my things." Bella stopped for a moment, looking at me. "Where will I be keeping my things?"
"I'll make room for you," I told her and she relaxed.
Bella and Alice grabbed plates and silverware and we sat in the living room and picked out a variety of the dishes Alice had ordered. Bella tried a little of everything, making the cutest faces as she tried everything.
"How did you like it, Bella?" I asked and she blushed.
"It's different, but delicious," she admitted and I laughed at her.
"Good," I gestured to the bedroom. "I'm going to clear out a few drawers, and then you can settle in."
Heading into my room, I removed my clothes from the right three drawers and squeezed most of it into the other three drawers, hanging up the rest. I had a ton of hangers that she could use and plenty of space left in there, so I walked out and evidently interrupted their conversation.
"Let's head in there and leave Edward to his homework," Alice said, but I smirked and told them I was done. "You're done? Oh that's great; it will give you even more time to spend with Bella."
I noticed the way Bella ducked her head a little, but didn't say anything as she grabbed her bags.
In the time they spent in my room, I pulled up my composition and started studying it. I'd had it sitting aside for a while now and I wanted to get back in the feeling for it so I could move forward.
My phone rang and I answered it, not even looking at the name. "Hello?"
"Edward, what time are you coming over tonight? We want the pizza to be on the way when you get here," Emmett asked and I cursed, having completely forgotten about my plans.
"Emmett, don't get pissed, but I can't come over tonight, something came up."
"Bullshit, Edward. You're coming over tonight. We won't let you retreat back in on yourself again, so throw on some shoes and be ready for Jasper to pick you up," Emmett demanded, but I wasn't going anywhere.
"Another night. Call Alice if you don't believe me, but I'm busy and I need to take care of what happened. Just don't force this."
I hung up before he could argue and decided to take a shower while Bella was finishing her girl time with Alice. Popping my head in, I picked out something I could lounge in after my shower and Bella admitted to wanting to poke around the kitchen and see where things were, something about looking for familiar items. I was just glad she hadn't freaked out yet.
The hot spray of the shower worked wonders on my back and shoulders and calmed me down. I heard something loud just as I turned off the water, but it wasn't until Bella's scream rang out through the apartment that I realized it was serious. Throwing my shorts on over the boxers I'd just pulled up when she screamed, I ran into the apartment to find Bella.
What I saw next shocked me.
Bella was backed up near my sink with a giant knife pointed at Emmett.
"Are you fucking crazy?" Emmett yelled.
"Stay away from me," Bella shouted with a tremor in her voice.
Alice was trying to get Emmett's attention, but I pushed past the crowd to stand between them.
"Edward, who is this bitch -" Emmett started, but I shoved him back towards the doorway.
"Don't you dare speak about her like that," I seethed. "She's terrified and you're making it worse. I told you that I had something going on and you just couldn't let it go. Now get out of here."
Turning to Bella, I shook the knife free from her grip and threw it into the sink. "Bella, its okay … you're safe."
Bella crumpled against my chest, her arms snaking around my neck as I pulled her closer, her tears hitting my chest.
"I'm going to walk the guys out and I'll see you both tomorrow, okay, Edward?" Alice said from somewhere behind me.
"Thank you, Alice," I replied, never taking my attention off the girl in my arms. As Bella finally calmed down, I walked her into the bedroom and let her sit on the bed.
Before I could say anything, she started in, "Edward, I'm so sorry. I know they're your friends but that man … he just …"
"You don't ever have to apologize for being afraid, Bella. Our bodies react that way for a reason and we have to listen to them. It's what kept you alive until you met me, and it will continue for a long time to come. This is your home, for as long as you want it to be, and this has to be where you feel comfortable." I knelt down in front of her and once again she was transfixed by my tattoo.
"Alice's family, the Cullen's, have a lion on their crest. So when they took me in after my mom died, I wanted to honor them." I thought maybe an explanation would help her understand the symbol that drew her to me.
"I'm sorry about your parents," she whispered.
"I never knew my father. My mother was a drunk and a drug addict and he was a one night stand that didn't even wait until morning. She contacted him after I was born, saying that he had a son he would never know, and he tried to find me for a while, but didn't have much to go on.
"My mom overdosed when I was eight and a social worker brought me to my aunt and uncle's house. They have two daughters, but my Aunt Esme took me in her arms and that was it.
"I was seventeen when my dad died of cancer. He knew he was dying so he poured ungodly amounts of money into finding me, until he finally did. He was a young guy, so he thought that he had time, or that they'd catch a break and I would go searching for him with information from my mom. But she'd died with that secret so I got two days with him, and then a giant trust fund that I could never dream of spending."
"Well I'm glad Alice's parents took you in so willingly," Bella spoke through the emotion she was holding in, "you deserve to have people love you and fight for you."
"My uncle fights with me more than for me these days, but for better or worse, I know he loves me," I admitted it because it was true. Carlisle may piss me off, but he did what he did because he cared.
"As much as I may be put off by it, Alice explained that watching TV could be relaxing. Would you want to watch it with me?" Bella's unnatural fear of my television was cute and I was excited to sit her down and show it to her.
"Get comfortable on the couch and I'll make some popcorn," I said, taking a moment to finish getting dressed. With the popcorn cooked, I carried it in with two drinks and turned on the set. "The television displays images, but it isn't real. It is merely a picture of something that has happened, or is happening. The images may be upsetting, but all you have to do is change the channel or turn it off and it's gone."
"Can we watch something upbeat?" Bella asked. "Something you'd let a child watch, maybe?"
Laughing again, I picked out Finding Nemo and put it in. "All Disney movies have a little bit of darkness in them, but this one is also really funny. Plus, it's animated, so it's obvious that it isn't real."
Bella nodded and I was pleased when she snuggled in closer to me. I had no idea when I fell asleep, only remembering that it was around nine when we started watching the movie. One a.m. meant that I got somewhere under four hours, which was good when the sleep was solid.
I was surprised to realize that I was covered in the throw blanket that normally sat on the back of my couch and looked around for a sign of Bella, but found none. Worried, I got up and went to my room, relaxing when I saw she was nestled in my blankets.
Pulling up my papasan chair, I settled in to watch her sleep, glad that one of us was getting a good night's rest.
I dozed on and off, but most of the next few hours were spent watching every breath Bella took. I felt like such a creeper, but she'd had a hell of a day, and I didn't want her to wake up feeling alone. As if I could sense something about her, she started to struggle with the blankets and talk out against whatever was scaring her.
"No. Please … not him, Papa … I …"
Not being able to listen to her cry out like that any longer, I shook her shoulder, waking her with a start.
"It's Edward, Bella, you're okay."
Not addressing her dream, she looked from my chair to my face and her brow furrowed. "Why are you sitting there while I sleep? Am I keeping you from getting any rest?"
"I don't sleep much, and I needed to make sure you were all right after the day you had," I explained to her.
"Could you do that while lying next to me? Because I'd feel better knowing that you were comfortable and close." She eyed me for a moment before adding, "And I think it might help with the nightmares."
"Will you tell me about them?" I asked.
Bella patted the bed where she had been laying, moving back to make room for me. "Once you lay down."
I got into bed and was surprised when Bella cuddled into my side, her head finding my chest. "My father was a foreman who worked on the construction happening in the eastern part of the city. He wasn't happy that my mom had given birth to a girl, but he had several men on his crew that he thought could be a good son-in-law. I had managed to delay that possibility for as long as possible, but the night I ran, my father told them that it was up to them who got me, and all they had to do was give him an answer in the morning so he could call the preacher to officiate the ceremony. They decided that they would have a go at me before one of them claimed me."
"Your father couldn't have been okay with that?" I asked, unable to see a man who would allow that to happen.
"I was twenty-three, an old maid by my time's standard. All he wanted was one less mouth to feed. The men were in the outer room drinking when I snuck out of the window, hearing their plans. They realized it, gave chase and now I'm here." Her details were almost none-existent, but I don't think I could have heard them if she could have shared them. Neither of us had parents we could be proud of, but her father was lucky we were not in the same time.
"And the dream?" I asked.
"I was back in the woods, but it was your friends from this afternoon behind me. My father was giving them the same talk he had with his men. I know you trust them, and I'm sure I will in time, but I've never done well around men, Edward. Except you, that is."
"Well, if I know Emmett, he'll come by tomorrow night, wanting to apologize. And for as scary as he looks, he's a big softie, and fiercely loyal. Once you get over your fear of him, he'll be someone that you'll be close to. And I know you didn't see much of him, but Jasper was with him, and Alice will give him all your information if she hasn't already."
"You trust them, for me that's enough." Bella yawned and I hugged her closer.
"Get some sleep, Bella; everything will look better in the morning."
"Good night, Edward," Bella whispered as she drifted off to sleep.
I barely moved while Bella slept in my arms, but it didn't matter to me, because she was real and she needed me. And I would be everything I could for her, because she had helped me even before she landed in my life.