A/N: This isn't my typical kind of story to write... Hopefully you guys enjoy it and leave me some love at the end...
Title: Swept Away
Warnings and Disclaimer: This story deals with severe depression and suicide.
I don't own twilight or any of its characters…
BIG HUGE hugs and sloppy kisses to my beta girls, Ninmesarra and prettyflour. You guys are amazing! I love the input and insight you guys give me on how to make things better- not just the grammatical fixes. Thanks ladies!
I stood at the edge of the water. The waves beckoned me closer and closer still. The tide threatened to pull me in. I could feel the undertow as it brushed my ankles begging to take me under. The smell of saltwater filled my nose as I inhaled. The sounds of the crashing waves echoed in my ears. I was ready to take the plunge. To fall to the ocean floor and never re-surface.
The starlit night mocked me with its clarity. My mind was anything but clear. The pain and thoughts of days-gone-by swirled like the maddening colors of an abstract painting that I couldn't grasp the meaning of. I was overwhelmed.
How could I make sense of the world after this? The quiet sound of the nightlife on the sandy beach seemed to echo my question. The frogs croaked in the background of the crashing crescendo of the waves. My ears threatened to implode from the quiet magnificence that I held no appreciation for.
I sat and reclined in the wet sand, not caring that it was clinging to my clothes, skin, and hair. The wind caressed my cold cheeks, chapping them, but I couldn't feel the pain. The agony within my soul was stabbing me with the blades of a million knives, so I couldn't have cared less about pain inflicted on my body.
Looking over the sea, I could make out the lights of boats in the distance. Just a few were out drifting along in the night-blackened abyss. I wanted to scream at them to be careful! My heart caught in my chest as I watched them until they were out of view.
The crickets chirped their mocking tune; their sound vibrating within my body, driving me insane. I couldn't take the noise anymore. Standing, I ran into my small cottage and slammed the door. The silence in the house caressed my jagged edges. My heavy breath sounded loud in the stillness. I leaned against the door and sank down. Drawing my knees to me, I leaned my head against them and remembered.
"Honey! I'm home!" his voice was like a silky dress that enveloped and embraced me. "Mmm, something smells good, baby." His warm arms surrounded me as he hugged me from behind. He was warm comfort, home.
"I'm making your favorite- I found a recipe online for homemade alfredo sauce. Here, taste it," I scooped some of the hot, white sauce onto the spoon and turned in his arms. His tongue darted out to draw the sustenance into his mouth. His groan of appreciation turned my lips up into a happy grin- thrilled that I could please him so easily.
"That is so good. My stomach is growling because it was just a teasing glimpse of what's to come," he winked at me as he grinned my favorite crooked smile. The dimple in his cheek deepened at the action. "What can I do to help?"
I handed the plates and silverware over to him with a request to set the table. He was done quickly and helped me carry the serving bowls and basket of bread to the dining room. When the work was finished, we filled our plates and ate. He consumed the food like he hadn't eaten in years.
When we finished, he helped me clean up and then we walked to our beach. It was truly our own slice of heaven. He sat down in the sticky grains of sand and pulled me to rest in front of him. His arm encircled me while his other hand held mine- his fingers twisting the rings he'd placed there two years earlier. After a few moments had gone by, I turned to face him and brought our lips together in a kiss filled with searing passion.
"I have good news!" I was so excited I couldn't wait another second.
He chuckled at my exuberance, "Are you going to make me tickle it out of you?" the question was asked with a flourish of his hands mimicking the action in the air.
I squealed, "NO!" and giggled before becoming serious. The smile that split my face was mirrored on his and he didn't even know why, yet. "Well, you know all that practice we've been doing?"
His brow furrowed as he thought over my question. Soon his face was transformed as a look of desire darkened his eyes- he was sex on legs, and he was mine. "You mean this kind of practice?" he asked as caressed my chest.
The air entered my lungs in a hiss as his touch enflamed me. "Yes, yes- that kind of practice." I pushed his hand down before he was able to distract me completely. "Well, Edward- it finally paid off. We are going to have a baby!"
His joyful whoop resounded in the air around us as he stood and drew me up from my knees into his arms. He spun me around and laughed with boyish abandonment. "I can't believe it!" he finally said when he set me back on my feet. "I'm going to be a daddy!"
His kiss melted me like all the ones before it had. This was the man of my dreams. And he was mine.
I blinked the tears from my eyes and stood up. I slowly made my way to the bathroom and turned the water on cold. I needed to get myself back together. As I shed my clothes, I looked in the mirror- my hands automatically going to the scars on my abdomen. My fingers rubbed the puckered skin. Forcing myself to look away, I punished myself with the freezing spray of water on my body.
When I was sure my lips and appendages were blue, I emerged from behind the curtain to towel off. I pulled the too-big t-shirt, one of the only things left of him, over my head and curled my arms around myself.
Finally able to stand straight again, I picked up my comb and pulled it through the tangled strands. It snagged on several knots, but I pulled it through them, flinching in satisfaction at the sharp pain that diverted my attention from the torture of my spirit.
I went to the kitchen and scavenged through the barren cupboards. Jake hadn't been by to bring me groceries in a few weeks. My older brother was determined to make me a functioning member of society again. "You can't stop living, Bells. I know that you miss Edward, but he won't come back. I'm so sorry, sis. You have to let go." That was what he'd said last time he was here. It was followed by pleads for me to talk to him, to talk to someone, to speak at all.
I didn't even know if my voice would work anymore. I hadn't used it since I'd begged him to stay with me. But he hadn't fought hard enough. He left me anyway. I hadn't uttered a single word since that day. How could I? The sound of my own voice was torturous to my ears.
All I'd ever wanted in my life was to have a family with my… with him. Even the thought of his name hurt like fire burning within- eating my soul piece by broken piece. I don't think he knew how bad it would affect me when he gave up.
Striking upon an abandoned half sleeve of crackers, I nibbled on one. The stale offering tasted like sawdust. I washed the bite down with a glass of water and threw the rest of the offensive cracker in the trash. Deciding nothing was better than the torment of eating wood chips, I trekked through the house to the bedroom.
The bed still sat in the same place it had when he was here. I fell onto it and hugged his pillow close. The scent of him had long since faded. I missed it. There was an ache in my heart where it should have lived. Old Spice and spearmint gum; and the scent that was just him. He always told me I was crazy because I even loved the smell of him after he'd gone for a long run in the hot, summer sun and was dripping with sweat. It was him- and I loved him.
Tears seeped from my clenched-tight eyelids like water drops from a leaky hose. Silent sobs tore from my throat, ripping the tatters of my heart into smaller pieces. Eventually, what was left was going to look like the sand in my yard- so small that even a breeze could pick it up and blow it away until what was inside matched what I wanted to feel- nothing. I would be nothing but an empty, hollow, shell- and that was fine by me. If I were empty, void, vacant, bare, then I wouldn't feel abandoned, used-up, afraid, and so very wounded.
Sometime during the night, I managed to drift to sleep. My lungs expanded enough to let air in. Thankfully my sleep-ridden body was exhausted enough to not feel the agony of continuing to breathe. In and out. In and out. The air moved within my body, supplying vital organs with necessary oxygen and cleansing impurities from them. If I'd have been awake, each breath would have been a constant reminder of living- when I didn't want to.
I was floating in the canoe- his small fishing boat- when a strong wave capsized it. I struggled to the surface but all that surrounded was an inky blackness. I couldn't decide which way I need to swim to emerge from the water. I swam in one direction determined it must be the way out of the cold water. The pressure was building and I had to let out some air. The bubbles went the opposite way I'd been swimming. I pulled myself around and tried to follow the bubbles. Pull after pull, my arms moved through the water. My breath slowly left my body. Eventually there was nothing left to exhale and I thought my lungs would combust within.
I opened my eyes and his emerald greens were staring back at me through the murky water. He was trying to tell me something, but I couldn't understand. It was coming out garbled from the water and it blurred the movement enough that I couldn't read his lips. I screamed in frustration, begging him to repeat it, but then my lungs couldn't hold out any longer. I sucked in a deep breath, forgetting I was submerged in liquid. My hands flew to my throat. He smiled his crooked smile, and waved good bye.
Sitting up in bed, clutching the blanket to my chest, and panting for breath, I tried to calm down. It was just a dream, I told myself. I couldn't remember what he tried to tell me, only that he tried to say something.
It was strange that I could perfectly recall his face even though I had no pictures left. Someone had taken the ones they could find after he left me and I don't know where they'd been placed. I miss seeing his adoring face and the feel of his warm hugs- enfolding me like my favorite sweater- it just fit. I miss his crooked smile and his slightly pointy nose. I miss the sound of his musical laughter dancing in my ears, the way his fingertips would dance over my skin, playing me like his piano.
Someday. That's what we'd told each other. Someday we'd buy a bigger house with room for company and more children. Someday we'd have children. Someday we'd take a vacation to Europe and travel. The problem with someday is that it never came. I hate the word someday. It's full of empty promises.
I was awake with no chance of falling back to sleep. I'm not sure anyone would be able to sleep after dreaming of drowning. That's how I feel. Every day. Every friggin' day feels like I'm wearing a thousand pound weight around my shoulders and its pulling me deeper into my own black hole from which I may never reappear.
I sat on the couch with a crossword puzzle and stared at it. One down, A married lady- mrs? I jotted it in the blanks. After a few more puzzle answers were written, I started on answering the ones going across. Eight across, Nine months long- hmmmm- pregnancy? That was the last straw. I threw the book across the room to top the mound of other books that have collected in that pile over the last year and a half.
For hours, I sat in that dimly lit room. The quiet sounds of my own respirations the only disturbance to the silence. I don't even know how long I sat there, begging time to speed up.
The sound of a key in the lock registered in my mind. I quickly got up and pretended to clean something. Hearing footsteps in the entryway, I waited with baited breath to see my visitor's face. I knew it was most likely Jake. But my soul prayed it would be my heart returning to rest in the empty cavity within my body where it used to reside.
The closet door squeaked open as a jacket was hung up.
Shuffled feet as shoes were removed.
The jingle of keys as he hung them on a hook by the door.
Sock-clad toes entered my vision.
One more step and I could see the long slim legs wrapped in jeans. My gaze travelled up to see the t-shirt that was just tight enough to show the lean-ness of his figure without being skin-tight. Up a long, slender neck, and to a face that was as familiar to me as my own. Plump lips, flashing eyes, and a mussed hairdo made up his chiseled face. He looked as haggard as I felt.
My shoulders slumped as he spoke, "Hello, Bella." It wasn't the voice I wanted to hear. It was slightly higher pitched and held no promise of passion for me later.
I nodded slightly to acknowledge him.
"How've you been?" he waited, knowing I most likely wouldn't answer.
"I'm doing great. Edward's clinic is flourishing- it's amazing the amount of support this non-profit clinic truly is gaining. Esme sends her love. She misses you something awful. She'd love for you to come visit." His mindless chatter continued on for a while. I sat at the breakfast bar in the kitchen listening to him ramble. "Jake says you still haven't left the house- other than those two times. I know how painful that must have been for you. I'm sorry it ended so badly, Bella." His tear-filled eyes spoke of his sadness.
I blinked to let him know I heard him, but I wasn't going to talk. When he continued to fight back tears, I couldn't help but cry, too. This man- my former father-in-law- was one of the strongest and most caring men I knew. He never cried. And yet he was sobbing over me and Edward. In my kitchen. I couldn't continue this charade of apathy. I stood from the stool and walked over to him and pulled him into a hug. Carlisle had always been a pillar of strength for his family. It was weird to be offering him comfort. He sobbed into my shoulder until I didn't think he could possibly have a tear left.
The bags he'd been unloading had been abandoned on the counter while he talked and cried. I began to stack canned goods up in the cabinets and put eggs and cheese in the fridge. He blew his nose in a napkin and after washing his hands, helped me finish putting them all away.
He pulled me to follow him into the living room and sat me down on the couch. He sat beside me and turned to face me, one foot under his leg. "There is no easy way to say this, Bella. You know our family loves you even though…" his voice trailed off. He couldn't say it either. I nodded and he finally continued, "well, Alice and Jasper got married last month and Emmett and Rose are… are…. Are expecting," His voice had trailed off to a whisper.
I blinked and stood up quickly. I rushed to the mantle and pulled down the only picture I had of my baby. It was an ultrasound picture and looked like a tiny little bean. Carlisle came to stand behind me and dropped a hand to my shoulder. "I'm sorry, Bella. There's nothing else to say. I wish it had been different."
My eyes filled, but I fought to keep the water works at bay. I nodded again, to show that I'd been listening and he sighed. Most likely it was a frustrated sigh. I knew they all loved me- I really did- but I hated the fact that they were moving on, while I was stuck here. I couldn't bring myself to move out of this limbo without him. I didn't want to move on without him at my side. He was my life. The constant that kept me anchored in this crazy life.
I could feel Carlisle still standing close behind me. He heaved another heavy sigh. I felt him turn away and his hand fell from my shoulder. He was going to leave. For the first time in a long time, I didn't want to be alone. I reverently placed my treasured picture back on the mantle and turned to stop him.
How could I get him to stay? I couldn't say anything. I couldn't. I hadn't in so long- I didn't think my voice would even work.
He reached for the closet door and opened it. His hand was reaching in for his jacket. I rushed across the room and grabbed his hand. His eyes were questioning as he looked at me. I shook my head at him, trying to convey that I wanted him to stay.
"Bella, I- I need to go."
I shook my head again, harder. I needed him to stay. I couldn't just ask though. It hadn't worked well for me in the past.
He sighed again, "Bella, I really need to go. If you aren't going to talk…" he let the trailing sentence speak for itself.
My mouth opened and closed. I was sure I resembled in a fish in that moment. My breathing turned heavy as I fought back the panic. My knees were quaking. I wasn't sure if I'd be able to stand any longer. I could hear him saying my name, but he sounded so far away. My legs began to buckle beneath me, but then I was caught up in strong arms.
He carried me to the couch and forced my head to my knees. "Breathe, Bella, breathe."
Suddenly I was sobbing. I tried to tell him I can't, but I couldn't get the words out past the lump in my throat. He cuddled me into his side, just like my own father would have as he offered me comfort. When my sobs subsided into gasps for breath, he asked me to breathe again.
I lifted tear-stained cheeks to look at his face. His thumb wiped them away- just like my own dad did when I was little and had wakened with a nightmare. "Bella, please, breathe. Please talk to me. Let us in again," he was practically begging me.
I moved my mouth, again opening and closing it. "I- I- I-" was what I managed to whisper. His eyes grew round and large. He waited patiently for me to continue. "I- I- I can't," was the whispered phrase that finally fell from my lips.
His shoulders fell. "Bella, I can't stay and have a one-sided conversation for long. I don't know what you want to know. I don't know what to say. I know you hurt. I know you feel like your heart is non-existent. But honey, we are so worried about you. You can't continue to live like this anymore. You have to get out. I know, you are probably sick of us all telling you this, but it's the truth. Please, at least try to talk to me."
I looked at his face, so like the one I missed with very breath. My shoulders sagged. I was afraid of his reaction if I told him my true feelings. Did he really want to hear that I didn't want to live?
"Bella, please, tell me what you're thinking." He was begging, pleading with me to speak.
I tried to accommodate, but I couldn't look at his face when it registered what I said. I stared at my hands- my thumbs fidgeting around- while I summoned the courage to tell him what he wanted to know. Finally a whispered confession fell from my lips, "I don't want to live."
His fingers dug into my shoulder as he lifted my face with his other hand. I had known he would be angry. But, when I looked in his eyes, it wasn't anger I saw there. It was compassion, empathy, remorse. His eyes filled with tears again. "I know, Bella, I know."
He put his arm around my shoulders and rocked me back and forth. My mind tried to makes sense of his reaction. I was sure that he was going to try and have me committed. I wouldn't let that happen.
He must have realized that was all I was going to give him. He started talking again. Telling me all sorts of random things that I wouldn't have a clue about- like a new study he was undertaking. When his voice was hoarse and he couldn't talk anymore, he stood up and kissed me on the forehead. I stood and trailed after him. Again he went to the closet to retrieve his jacket and shoes. This time, I didn't try to stop him.
Once he'd gathered all his belongings, he hugged me tightly. After he released me, he bid me one last good-bye and left my small house.
I wandered into the kitchen and searched through the cabinets. I didn't want anything that would remind me of him. I couldn't stomach the thought of it. But if I was going to make it out tomorrow, I was going to have to eat something. Finding a small can of ravioli, I opened it, poured it in a bowl and placed it in the microwave. I only managed to get a few bites down, before my stomach rolled.
Bolting for the bathroom- barely making it- I sank to my knees before the porcelain seat and emptied my stomach. Once the retching stopped, I curled on my side on the floor beside it. I pressed my forehead into the cool tiles.
My breathing evened out and I slept. For once, no dreams haunted me.
When I woke the next morning, still curled on the bathroom floor, I quickly stripped from clothes that reeked of vomit. Once the water was flowing through the showerhead, I stepped into the spray. Again, it was set on the coldest setting. Maybe one of these, I could stop punishing myself with the ice-cold drops. I must be kidding myself there was no way I'd stop. I needed it.
They say the truth will set you free, but the truth only breaks you down. It corrupts your soul and breaks you into nothing. No one I know wanted to know the truth of that day. They were all content to believe what the reports said. I couldn't speak about it. So, I'd stopped talking altogether. Until yesterday, but that won't happen again. I can't show weakness, and that's what the truth will make me. Weak. It's what it has made me.
I dressed in a ragged pair of jeans that didn't fit anymore. I'd lost too much weight from not eating right, or so my family and his repeatedly told me. My flannel shirt hung from my bony frame. I didn't bother combing my hair- I didn't care what I looked like, or what anyone thought of me.
It was time to visit my baby. I made the trek there every six months. I couldn't bear to go more often than that. My heart was already thumping wildly in my chest, and breath was heaving through my lungs. I grabbed the paper sack from my purse and breathed into it, trying to stop the panic before it got out of hand.
Finally calmed, I stepped into the blue Volvo. Even after six months, it still smelled like Ed- him. I inhaled deeply, drawing it into my lungs and holding it there. I started the car and drove. I passed by a flower vendor not far from where I was going and decided to buy some as a gift. Returning to the car with the small bouquet of daisies and pink roses, I drove the rest of the way to where my baby girl was.
Exiting the car with the flowers clutched tightly in my hands, I carefully picked my way through the grass to where I knew she was waiting. Falling to my knees, I lovingly placed the flowers in the vase on the massive stone. My hands traced the lines engraved on it. Elizabeth Marie Cullen- Beloved daughter and granddaughter- May 14-May 26, 2011. My hands shook as they continued to trail along the lines. An angel was depicted in the stone.
I couldn't hold the sobs in any longer. They exploded from me with great force. I was beside myself with anguish. It was supposed to be me first. No parent should ever have to watch their child die, especially not an infant. I knew what the statistics said. As far as I was concerned, statistics could screw themselves. No child should die like my little Lizzy did. I hated life. I hated the world. I hated everything.
I collapsed upon the turf at her little headstone. There were several other bouquets in the vase and I fell to the side so I wouldn't smash her pretty gifts.
My mind was drawn back in time as I remembered the joy and devastation of her birth and death.
The doctor had just told us we'd had a beautiful baby girl, but the nurse quickly whisked her away and I heard them page a pediatric surgeon- stat. There was a flurry of activity in our room as the surgeon appeared. "Mr. and Mrs. Cullen? We need to take your baby for a CT scan immediately. She's turning blue. We are going to have to figure out what is going on with her right now. Time is of the essence. Jane," she motioned to a nurse, "will go over forms with you, by the time they are signed, we should know what is happening inside this tiny body."
"Okay." How I managed to speak at all was beyond me. "Edward, go with Lizzy. I'll sign the forms and you guys can let me know what the heck is going on as soon as you know."
His ashen face nodded in return. In what seemed like a flash, the nurses and surgeon were off to find out what was wrong with my baby. My poor husband rushed after them looking overwhelmed and haggard.
It seemed like an eternity had passed before the surgeon and Edward returned. "Her lungs aren't fully developed, her liver isn't functioning and her kidneys are deformed. We are going to do all we can for her. I'm going right now to get her on the list for organs and the nurse took her to NICU for monitoring."
Edward looked shell-shocked and my world had just crumbled. My baby might die. That was the thought running through my head. How could this happen? I don't know what I did. It had to be my fault somehow. What had been doing? I knew she wasn't due for another seven weeks. What had happened?
I'd been reaching for something and felt a sharp pain, then a gushing from between my legs. Looking down, I saw blood pooling on the floor and my jeans. Searing pain had ripped across my stomach. I crumpled to the floor and screamed.
Edward had been home thankfully and rushed me to the hospital. They'd had to deliver Lizzy via C-section. The obstetrician had allowed Edward in, even though it broke protocol because I wouldn't calm without him by my side.
I blinked my eyes and re-focused on the conversation. The surgeon had left and I was staring at my husband. He looked like he was going to pass out. We called our parents, realizing we hadn't done that yet and they rushed to the hospital. Renee, my mother, was in Japan with her new boy-toy and couldn't be bothered with my troubles. My thought was, I love you, too, Mom.
I asked Edward if he could have the nurse page the OB. Dr. Ely had explained what had happened to me, but I couldn't recall his words. The doctor entered the room solemnly. "Bella, I understand you have questions for me? You were in shock when I was trying to explain earlier. Do I need to start at the beginning?"
I nodded, and he began. "You suffered a partial uterine rupture. That means that your uterus was weakened by something at some time, or just weak in general. It's nothing that you could have helped. I'm a little surprised though that you didn't have any pain from it before. Your uterus just wasn't strong enough to go through labor or grow anymore. We couldn't save it though. I'm so sorry Bella, but we couldn't save your uterus. We had to take it out."
"Wait. So, I won't- I can't- We won't have any more children?"
"I'm so sorry," the doctor's voice was quiet.
I didn't register that he'd even moved, but all of a sudden, Edward was at my side, wiping tears from eyes. "I'm so sorry, baby. I'm so sorry. You know I still love you. I've never loved you more, in fact," my husband declared. He was kissing my cheeks as we both cried over the loss of the children we'd dreamed of.
We visited Lizzy as much as they would allow us to. My fingers longed to touch her, to let her know that we were close by. I talked and Edward sang to our tiny baby until we were hoarse. I read her the book we'd bought and read every night at bedtime after we'd found out I was pregnant. I just wanted to hold her. To feel her slight weight in my arms. I ached for her.
On the eleventh day of her short life, she had almost died. They were able to revive her, but unless something happened soon, she wasn't going to last longer than the next day, they'd said. We prayed, begged, and pleaded for a miracle. But none came. The next day, after lunch, they called us in and said she was failing. The chances of her surviving a transplant surgery, should organs be found, were too slim to really hope for. But that didn't stop me. I hoped. I hoped with every fiber of my being. They let us in to hold her. Her tiny form was overwhelmed with wires and tubes sticking from every appendage. Her chest rose and fell with the beep of the respirator. Little patches adhered to her chest monitored her heartbeat. The constant beep-beep, beep-beep was reassuring.
We'd been given two hours with her- two hours where we could hold her and kiss her and just love her. After two hours and two minutes exactly had gone by, she took her last breath in her father's arms. Nurses and doctors had swarmed in and taken her from us and herded us out. This time, there was no miraculous reviving. She'd been too weak to continue with the dysfunctional organs she'd had.
My baby girl had died. At twelve days old. The only child I would ever have.
My heart clenched in agony as I relived those moments. I'd loved her with a vengeance those short days. I was glad she hadn't had to suffer long, but I'd be lying if I said I didn't wish every second of every day that she'd been one of the lucky few to get her transplants and live.
The car ride home was unbearable.
I hated myself. I hated my body. It had been incompetent to do what it was created to do and my little Lizzy had died because of it. I'd blamed myself. Nothing anyone said could convince me that it wasn't my fault. Why couldn't they see it? Carlisle, Esme, Rosalie, Alice, Edward, Charlie, they all told me it wasn't my fault, but I couldn't reconcile that to my heart. It was my fault. I knew it. Why couldn't they just accept it?
I went through the mechanics of living the rest of the day. I ate, cleaned, showered, and slept. I was done trying to live. Tomorrow was another get-out-of-the-house kind of day. I didn't want to face it yet though. So I lay in bed and counted the stars I could see.
The twinkling stars made me angry. They looked so happy blinking down at the world I hated. I couldn't find anything I loved any more. My family tolerated me, and I couldn't figure out why anymore. They deserved better than me. I was just taking up space and earth.
A coward- that's what I was. I had an inability to do the one thing that would make life easier for my family. To end it all. Every time I held the knife to my wrist, my hands shook until I dropped it and collapsed to the floor in a panic attack. The few times I held the gun up, my hand had trembled until I shot a hole in the floor when I dropped it. I'd been lucky that day, or so they told me. I could have killed myself. If only they knew…
The next morning, I trudged back to the Volvo, another errand looming over my head like a thundercloud, ready to strike with lightening quick fury. This day, I stopped at the same little flower vendor, dressed in another pair of ragged jeans, but this time, it was topped with his too-big sweater. I drove to my destination. Picked my way through the grass and collapsed at the foot of the heavy rock. This rock was the one that broke me. When it was placed, the few pieces of my heart that had remained had shattered. The jagged pieces left pricked at my insides until they bled tears.
The script on this one read Edward Anthony Cullen- Beloved husband, father, son, and brother- 1984 to 2012. I placed the flower offering at the foot of the headstone. My hands caressed the stone lovingly, as though it were him.
My thoughts flitted to the day it happened, just six months ago.
We'd been fighting. "Bella! I swear to God! It is not your fault! We can't stop living. Yes, I loved Lizzy too, but I'm still here! I still love you- with every breath! More and more with every second! Why do you keep pushing me away? You are my heart. Do you know how bad that hurts?" His eyes were flooding with tears as they overflowed.
"Why can't you understand?!" I screamed at him, venom dripping from my voice. "It was my body that killed Lizzy! Not yours! Mine! How the heck am I supposed to just get over that, Edward? I can't! Every day it hurts to breathe. Every day it hurts to wake up. Every day it hurts to know that the nursery she was to sleep in lies empty down the hall. And it is my fault! My body is the one that failed, not yours. Not yours. I just- I can't do it. It was one year ago, Edward. I can't do it," I'd pleaded with him to understand. But his eyes showed how hurt he was.
"Fine. I'll leave you alone for a while. I'm going fishing," his eyes were dimmed- his face clearly showing how hurt he was. I hated breaking him, but I deserved to see the pain on his face.
I watched him collect his fishing gear and pack a lunch. He changed his clothes into his ragged shorts and flimsy shirt he always wore when fishing. He carried it all out of the house and dropped it into the small canoe he fished from. I watched from the window as he cast one last sad glance at the cottage and shoved the skiff into the water. He rowed out to sea and cast his line many times. I went back to the bedroom and cried myself to sleep.
I'd been awakened by thunder. A storm had quickly come upon us and Edward hadn't made it in. I dashed to the kitchen window- the one that looked out to his favorite fishing spot, and my heart collapsed. The canoe wasn't anywhere in sight. I searched with my eyes, finally seeing a small vessel far off in the distance. I placed a call to the coast guard and within twenty minutes they had arrived. They pulled his empty canoe- it had capsized- to shore. He never used a life jacket. From what they could tell, he'd started paddling towards shore when the storm raged upon us, but a wave had overturned it and he'd been pulled down in the undertow.
It had only been a few minutes of them looking before they found him. They started CPR and I'd screamed at him to make it. Begged him to stay with me. "Breathe Edward! Don't you leave me dang you! I can't do this without you! Stay with me! Please! Please! Don't you dare die!" When the rescuers ceased CPR, I picked it up. Pumping his chest with all I had. Breathing until I thought my lungs would burst. Pumping and breathing, pleading with him to stay with me. How could he leave me? How could he leave me like that? "Fight dang you! Fight Edward! I need you! Don't you dare die!" But he hadn't fought hard enough. He'd let the sea, his favorite get-away, steal him from me. I collapsed, with great heaving sobs shuddering throughout my body, as they transported him to the hospital. He'd been pronounced dead on arrival.
I'd made it through the funeral before I'd collapsed. I'd woken up in a hospital hooked to an IV. I'd been dehydrated. They seriously thought that would matter to me? They should have let me die too!
Obviously those thoughts still echoed through my mind and body. Daily I wanted to die. Every day, someone would text me or call me and I ignored it. I couldn't ignore when they visited though.
Only three days had passed since Carlisle's visit had passed before Esme was visiting. That was different from the normal one person a week. Apparently since I'd whispered words to Carlisle, they decided to up my weekly quota of social interaction. Why couldn't they just leave me in peace?
"Hi Bella," her timidity surprised me. She usually pretended to be so cheerful. I nodded my greeting to her.
She sighed. "I had hoped that since you said something to Carlisle, you'd talk to me a little bit, too?"
I quirked my eyebrow in response, a silent, oh really?
She chuckled at me. "Listen, Bella, I know that you are mad at us for encroaching on you. For cluttering up your space and taking care of you. But it's only because we love you." Her hand reached across the space and gripped mine tightly, "You are all I have left of my son. I need you. I need you to be okay. I need you to want to live and get better. You are the only living part of him I have left and you are like my daughter too, Bella. Maybe not of my womb, but you two grew up together. I've known you since you were in pigtails and I brought Edward to apologize for chasing you and making you fall in second grade. You may as well have been born to me- I couldn't love you more if you had been. Did you hear me? I love you, Bella. Just like I love my own children. Fiercely. I cannot stand here, or sit idly by and watch you waste your life."
Bella squeezed her hand in return. I wanted to scream at her. She was making me mad. I know what I should be doing. I should be dead. If only I weren't a coward.
"Isabella Marie. I understand that you are angry. I understand that you are completely broken, but sitting in this house doing nothing will not change anything. You need to get up and get out of this house. You need to talk to someone and tell them what you're thinking. You need to tell someone how you feel. Not just sit here in silence, day after day."
I couldn't hold it in anymore, I exploded. She'd infuriated me. "You want to know how I feel, Esme? You want me to tell you how I feel about killing Lizzy? You want me to tell you that I wish every freaking day it was me instead of Edward that drowned out there? You want me to tell you that every week since he died I've tried to kill myself, but I'm too much of a coward to follow through with it? Is that what you want me to tell you? Is that what you want to hear?
"Or do you want to hear how I sat idly by, while your husband, came in and removed every piece of my husband that I had left? Because he thought he was helping me! Do you want me to tell you how I have hated him every day since then, because he stole my memories. Mine! He took my most treasured possessions away from me! They were mine! Mine to keep! Mine to do with what I wanted, even if it was to just stare at them mindlessly, or wander around in the too big t-shirts left from him. Carlisle left me one shirt and sweater and not a single picture. Why?! Why the heck would he do that Esme? And where the heck are they? Where in God's name did he put them? I want them back." My anger dissolved into sobs, and I wondered if she knew I was no longer talking about things, "I want them back… I need them back… "
I was shocked by my outburst, but not by the soul-consuming sobs that escaped. The quality and tone of my voice had changed after so long of disuse. It had sounded foreign to my ears. I had never registered my feelings about my father-in-law and his actions before. I was surprised by the intensity of them. I hated Carlisle. I hated myself.
Esme's arms came around me and we cried together. "I'm so sorry, Bella," she said as she rocked me in her mother's embrace. She'd been more a mother to me throughout my life than Renee ever had.
When I'd cried myself to sleep, she covered me and left. When I woke the next morning, all of my pictures and all of Edward's things were back. I found a note from Carlisle on the kitchen counter. It simply read- I was only trying to help. I'm sorry, Bella. Like that excused it?
I wrapped up in my favorite sweater of Edward's and put on his fishing hat. I walked from photo to photo, caressing his familiar smile and face. I drew strength from his portrait. The album from our wedding set on the coffee table, where we'd always kept it, beside it sat the small book with the pictures of Lizzy. I flipped through them both, admiring the tiny baby whose life was too short and one of the happiest days of my life. I'd long since forgotten how it felt to be happy.
I decided to visit my father and Jake. Charlie wasn't doing so great these days, according to Jake. I slid myself into the car and drove to his house. He lived about thirty minutes from our shoreline cottage. The drive was uneventful.
When I pulled up in front of their house, they both came out. Charlie was limping. He looked like death. He'd been diagnosed with cancer three months ago, but it was bad. They weren't sure if chemo was going to work. Another loss- claimed by the unfairness of this world. I hugged my dad- tight- and was glad to feel the strength still in his arms as he wrapped them around me and squeezed me to his chest.
Jake was still standing on the porch, looking dumbstruck. Charlie called to him, "Are you gonna stand there or come hug your sister?" Jake shook himself free of his stupor and ran the short distance before scooping me up and twirling me around.
"Bells! I'm so glad to see you!" He exclaimed when he finally put me down.
"You too, Jake. I've missed you guys. So much," I told them, and almost smiled when they looked as though they'd just seen Elvis.
We talked and reminisced for a few hours, but that was all I had in me. It was more than I'd given in a long time. When I left, they were standing on the porch, huge smiles on their faces, and I cried the whole way home.
"I'm so sorry, Edward. I'm so sorry, Lizzy," I begged their spirits to forgive me. I'd broken my vow and spoken. Hopefully they'd understand it was just to say good-bye.
When I reached home again, I walked in and headed to the bedroom. I took off the sweater and pulled the warm flannel that was Edward's favorite over top of big tee, and buttoned it up. I walked from picture to picture caressing the smiles that graced each frame. I was gathering strength and courage.
After I'd touched each picture, I wrote a letter and walked to the battered fishing boat. I left the life jacket on the beach and pushed the boat out to meet the first of the waves. Clambering in, I paddled as well as I could, as far out as I could manage, until my arms gave out and the oar dropped into the blue water that surrounded me. I lay back in the small vessel and stared at the clouds. When they all blurred together and looked the same, I stood up carefully. I pulled in a deep breath, and re-anchored the fishing hat to my head.
I jumped into the liquid abyss and let myself sink towards the bottom. If this was how Edward had gone, this was how I would go. I didn't deserve quick and easy. I'd done nothing but torture my family and his lately. I couldn't see myself moving on and getting over this. I knew I could never move on. I wouldn't.
My lungs were burning in my chest as I swam deeper and deeper into the water. When I reached the bottom, I let all the air out.
I knew this was going to hurt them, but they'd go on. They'd get over me. I could never live without my Edward and Lizzy. They were all I'd ever wanted. I had no hope without them.
I needed to breathe. I couldn't breathe. I was under water. I'd been down longer than I anticipated it would take. I couldn't stay down here and hold out without oxygen for long. I was going to panic. I knew it. All this planning, and here I was- botching it again.
My lungs burned with their need for oxygen. Pain flowed through my body. Sucking in a lungful of water, I forced myself to relax. The agony intensified and I knew death was imminent. Finally, I took the coward's way out and succumbed to the blackness that enveloped me.
The family gathered together, around the box. All they'd ever found, after a week trolling, was a fishing hat. The note had spoken volumes. It had been Jake that had found it. He'd immediately ran to the beach and searched for the boat. All he'd found was an oar. Broken and dirty- it had washed up on the shore with the tide.
My dearest Family,
I'm so sorry I've failed you. I'm so sorry I couldn't be the person you all remembered. I'm not her anymore. A portion of her died with Lizzy. The rest was shattered and scattered into oblivion with Edward. I tried, I really tried. For you guys. But I couldn't do it. I need to be with them again. You guys will move on. You will live and love again, but I never would have.
Dad- Charlie- please, be okay. Please fight hard to stay with Jake. He needs you. You're all he has left in this world now, until he decides to marry Leah. Please don't give up the fight. Please. Remember, you always told me I was stronger that I looked and I could handle things most people couldn't? I learned that from you. You can get through this. You can. I'm sorry to let you down like this. Thank you for raising me to be a person that cared and loved with every atom within me. Thank you for loving me completely- flawed and all. I love you daddy.
Jake- Be strong for dad. Please take care of him for me. I know you have so far, and I'm so sorry I was no account to help. I should have. He's my dad too. Please don't wait too long to go after your happy ending. Life is short. Live it like it won't last, because it won't. It's too short to spend forever wondering what if. Trust me. It only drives you insane. Love Leah and let her love you. Don't be afraid. You aren't Charlie and you aren't Renee. You will be fine. I love you big brother. Thank you. For everything.
Esme- thank you for being the mother I never had. Thank you for loving me with a mother's heart and letting me love your son. I'm sorry I screamed at you. It was never you I was mad at. I love you, mom.
Carlisle- Yes I was mad at you, but I could never hate you. You always were our biggest supporter. Thank you for trying to do what was best for me, even though it wasn't. I forgive you. I love you, too. Please take care of Esme and look out for Charlie and Jake for me.
Rose and Emmett- I'm sorry I didn't stick around and that I was so distant. I love you guys and your desire to live big. Raise that baby to be the best it can be and love it with the fire of a thousand suns. I love you both. You always were like a brother and sister too me.
Alice- my best and most loyal friend. I know. I should have stayed. But what kind of life would I have led? Always pining after your brother and Lizzy? Wishing I were dead? I know that's not what you want to hear, but it's the truth. I never want you to experience that pain. It's like a black hole that eats you alive. Live Alice. Never lose your pizzazz. Love with all of your might. With everything you have. Embrace the time you have with Jasper and any children you are blessed to have. Embrace the essence of your life. Spark on my little firecracker friend! I love you sis!
Jasper- take care of her and love her like no one else. Support her and be there for her like I won't be anymore. If you don't, I'll haunt you. Seriously though, hold her like no one else and love her forever.
Please take care of each other. Don't fall apart because I'm not there. Don't cry for me- I'm where I want to be now. Please don't grieve for long. Celebrate life. That's what it's all about. I'm just learning that too late to join you. Never doubt that I love you all. Cherish every moment you're given. Capture them on the film of your memory. Embrace each second of time you get. Like the sands of the hour glass eventually run out, so will the time given each of you on this planet. Never let it be said of you that you didn't live. Don't let the sand blow away without leaving your mark on the world.
They'd held a memorial service and in place of a body or ashes, they'd buried a time capsule of sorts, with mementos each of them held dear- that had a memory of their lost daughter/sister/friend tied to it. The service was truly a celebration of her short life.
The family departed, determined to make good on their promises to follow Bella's advice. Even if she'd only been twenty-eight, she'd touched them all in a tremendous way.
A/N: Hopefully you guys don't hate this, but can see the beauty in the words and the influence she had on her family in spite of the fact that she couldn't see her way to the light... And her letter- I'd like to think that inspires each of us to live our lives to the fullest, appreciating each and every second we are given with our loved ones. My challenge to you: Decide what mark you want to leave on earth, and begin making it now. It's never too late to embrace life and change things that you don't like. Thanks for reading!
Luv and Hugs,