This chapter is rough and could be disturbing. So turn away now and read one of the many wonderful stories on this site that will leave you smiling, dear reader. And if you choose to go ahead, know I believe in HEA's, but the road to such can be very rocky.
He brooded for two days. He got drunk and told Bella off in the empty house. He went so deep down the well of self pity he could barely breathe. He called Alice and yelled and Jasper got on and told him to deal with it and to shut the fuck up and then nothing.
Oh, so this was the new approach now. Fuck him over…then tough love. "Fuck you," he yelled before throwing his phone and hearing it break apart on the floor…where he'd been with her…that cunning bitch…that fucking traitorous bitch.
He'd passed out on the floor. Mrs. Cope found him there the following morning. "Are you alright Mr. Cullen?" she asked, leaning over him, startling him as he opened his crusted eyes and tried to focus on her round concerned face.
He felt shame. Time was…he put others first…he'd cared how he came off…how he represented…love. Now he struggled to get up. "I'm fine," he mumbled, then he rolled onto his knees and defied gravity to get on his feet. No sooner had he gotten his bearings than he had to run out the door she'd left open. The fresh air was a shock. He leaned over the railing and threw up and the sea rolled and his stomach with it, but there wasn't much inside him…he hadn't eaten.
So he was quiet and sick deep down then. He hoped Alice was happy, pulling him back to all of the crap, the voices, the feelings, he hoped she was wrecked and Jasper was cursing him while he tried to comfort her. He knew how he'd leaned on them, but that was Alice. She'd have it no other way…his enabler. Now she was trying to get rid of him, trying to move him past it all so she could breathe. He'd told her to back off, he'd said it and said it…they weren't joined at the hip…he had a right to feel terrible…to be terrible. He had a fucking right.
When he calmed some, and he always did eventually, he cleaned up and drove in to the library in town to use the computer. He didn't have Wifi at the house, and with his phone broken…. He didn't want it. But here, using the library's technology, he Googled Bella Black. There were five of them, maybe more, but she was head of the list…well, she would be. It had been a big story, and there was her name…linked to his…the dead grandfather…the wounded kid…linked to him. On the computer…linked forever.
The intersection of two souls on the beach…orchestrated. His sister. The one he'd leaned on…the only one left...and now…nobody.
He followed the thread on the boy…story after story. He'd recovered. He was walking. She was the mother…Bella Black.
Emotion opened…a sinkhole, a pit. That kid was walking. He shut it off then. He looked around, made sure he was alone as he wiped over his face with a shaking hand.
He hadn't wanted to see the boy. He hadn't wanted it. It was the only way to control something…and from his core…he'd refused all interviews.
He'd done his part…all he could…limited…pathetic. He'd had to let go. Or appear to. He had to appear to let go…like he could.
He'd pulled out of everything, quit everything, his work, his life. Tanya. Just quit. And months in his apartment…then at Alice's. Counseling in another town. Two weeks trying to sell the latest technology at a superstore. Then not coming out of the house again. Drinking. Counseling. Waiting tables. Drinking. Anger. Seclusion.
Now here, to the house, his grandfather's dream, that's when he'd moved in and he found…he couldn't move at all, not really, but he was great at pretending to move. That he could do…on occasion…for brief spells of time.
For a few weeks, they had loved him, held him up, and he had hidden while they created their idol that was him…without him, the young pastor who had tried to stand before the sixteen year old giant wielding an assault rifle…like the Chinese student in Tiananmen square, before the oppressor's tank he'd stood. Like David of old standing before Goliath with just a sling. Like Gandalf with the Balroc slamming his staff in the path of its onslaught, "You shall not pass."
They had said all of those things in various articles, not that he read them, but Alice did, and that was nearly the same.
They were tired now, those writers and wielders of laurel wreaths, the cheerers and worshippers of the courage they'd ascribed him, the superman suit, but there were more tragedies lining up all the time, and he was pushed to the back of the line then off the hero's cliff altogether, and those who knew him best were left with the truth…he was human and distant and no more brave than the next person working his ideals in a church where boys came to practice walking the aisle…for Boy Scout week.
Charlie Swan was shot first, the proud grandfather watching his grandson practice from the back row, straight from work. Charlie wasn't a leader, he had too much work to do, heavy responsibility, but he came whenever he could, always on the sidelines of his grandson's life, filling in for a father that never was, and he'd watched his grandboy carry the flag and march in step, and all the aisles a boy walked in his life, all important, and this no different, but Charlie was first, nearest the door when the shooter came in, the first to go, and that's when they knew, when their heads snapped up, when they looked to the source of a noise these hallowed halls had yet to hear, for all the sins confessed, for all the tears cried, it had never heard the pop of an assault rifle, for all the talk of the blood of Christ and how it cleansed and forgave, it had never seen that shocking red explosion, that far flung spill that quelled the few splatters of communion wine it had witnessed, brighter, bolder was this spray this spill, warmer, no less life altering, no less precious…sacred.
Edward had met him in the center aisle, but not before James shot two more, the flag bearers at the end of the group, Seth Swan and Riley Barnes. He paused and boys screamed and yelled and moved behind him, but Edward, hands out, kept approaching the shooter, and he recognized him, knew him, "James," he said, "no…no…don't do this, no, no…."
There was no remorse, no repentance, but a set look, and James raised the rifle and Edward dropped and moved forward on his hands and feet, and more shots over his head and screaming and like a crazed perversion of himself Edward made a sound and closed the gap, and this was the moment, where he reached James and took him down, and the rifle pressed on James neck and Edward…all his weight pushing that weapon into James' neck, pushing, pushing against James' wild struggle, pushing down, crushing breath…until he wasn't moving, until some time later a voice, an agonized voice, and a hand on his shoulder pulling him, pulling, telling him to stop, to stop. And he looked up and it was one of the boys, tears tracking his soft face. "Stop Edward."
He had strangled James Carson. He was dead. But he didn't stop. "Go on and wait for the ambulance," he told the boy. He stayed on top of James. He held the rifle where it was. Minutes later, the sheriff had to pry Edward's hands from James' gun. He didn't want to let it go…he couldn't on his own.
Back at his grandfather's house he stood, looking out the door, at the sea. He wanted to walk into it again, to let it slam against him…but the pot from her soup…and the lid. He walked out there and gathered these, put the lid on the pot and holding it by the green handles, he walked some and gathered her discarded clothes, her bra, and he kept glancing at the sand encrusted cloth that seemed to make her so intimately real, and he thought of her, he didn't want to…but he did…and how broken she was…had to be…was…and he neared the cabin, and went to the porch, and not knowing if she still lived inside, he set these things on the porch, and he turned away and walked home in the path they had carved beyond the ocean's reach, and he knew regret to not have those things in his hands anymore. He knew real regret.