Okay, just so we're clear, this is a story where no one gets raped. Honestly, I couldn't write a rape scene. I would be uncomfortable and I feel like it would be disrespectful to anyone who has gone through such a terrible ordeal. Also, just so you know, I don't own Twilight. Obviously.
Carlisle's chest rose in fell in exaggerated calm, his sweet scent, so like Edward's, wrapped around my body along with his arms. I tried to remember the last time anyone but Edward had held me like this, and failed. Of course I would get half-hugs from my father, and my mother would hug me sometimes when she was really happy or gushing about something…or she would before Phil became such a huge part of her life. The Cullens were a different story though. Esme hugged me every time I saw her. Alice, too, seemed to enjoy physical contact, often greeting me or trying to comfort me by throwing her arms around me. Even Emmett would sometimes grab me in an exuberant but gentle hug, spinning me around the room until I was laughing too hard to breathe. But this was something entirely different.
I'd stared at the desk throughout my story, eyes dry and tone matter-of-fact. I'd actually been quite proud of myself for not breaking down. First I'd briefly explained about my mom's refusal to listen to me, then Jeremy, then Mark. There were a couple more guys, all bums or losers that did little more than feel me up and kiss me when my mom wasn't home, but I tried to play it down. After the scene earlier, I wasn't sure that Carlisle was above hunting these guys down. He didn't ask any questions, and I didn't chance a look at his face. When I finally finished, I sat in silence for a while, not sure what his reaction would be. I was sure he wouldn't shrug me off like Renee had, but I also wasn't sure if he would blame me for not telling her when it had begun to escalate.
Before I realized what was happening, he was crouching in front of me, making my heart stutter in shock before calming again. His eyes were sad, and his ice-cold hands rested on my knees. "I'm so sorry." He said softly. I bit the inside of my lip, then pressed my tongue to the roof of my mouth, determined not to cry again tonight. He must have noticed because he stood quickly, then somehow managed to maneuver us so that he was sitting in the chair and I was sitting on his lap, my back resting against his arm in a way that should not have been so comfortable.
'This is what was supposed to happen.' I realized. 'When I first told my mother I was scared, this was how she was supposed to react. Why couldn't she have done this?' I realized suddenly that I was crying, despite my best efforts, and that this day had been filled with too many tears. Still, there was nothing I could do to stop them, and I felt Carlisle pull me closer, my head resting against his shoulder. "Sorry." I managed to choke out, wondering briefly if my tears would ruin his shirt. He smoothed my hair with one hand and rubbed my back with another, leaning back so that I was balanced perfectly against him.
"Shh." He soothed me, his lips pressing a cold kiss to the top of my head. "You have nothing to apologize for."
"She…" I sobbed harshly, against my will, and the words poured out of my mouth. "…thought I was being….selfish." I finally managed. "Said...she deserved to…be happy." Carlisle took a deep breath, his arms tightening around me for a fraction of a second, then easing up again, as if he'd been close to losing control. "She thought…she thought I was…mad that she was dating. She wouldn't listen." I shook my head and burrowed my face into his shoulder, sobbing harder. He let me talk, my words barely coherent even to myself, but I was sure he understood. "I couldn't…couldn't make them stop…kissing me. And touch…" The words were physically painful to say. He must have sensed that, because he began rubbing circles on my back once again, neither demanding nor discouraging. "He….he said that...girls my age…were supposed to…" I couldn't continue with that line of thought, and fell silent, my whimpers and sobs the only noise in the room.
"This was not your fault." His voice was so firm, it took my by surprise, but I didn't move. "You should not have been forced to go through this. Your mother should have…"
"No!" I couldn't bear blaming my mother for this. "She…she didn't know! It was…his fault."
"She should have listened to you." He continued firmly as if I hadn't interrupted. "Of course, the men that did this are at fault as well, but it was her job to protect you, and she didn't."
"But she…my mom…she's…she loves me. But she's…I was the responsible one." I told him quietly, my words coherent once again, thinking about all the times I'd taken care of my mother, lectured her, explained things to her.
"I know you were, Bella. And it was so good of you to take care of your mother when she needed you. But it should not have been you who had to be the responsible one." I closed my eyes with a sign, not wanting to think about that. I had long ago given up on the idea of normal families. The thought made me smile a bit. Here I was, sobbing to my vampire father, who was telling me that my relationships weren't normal.
Once I finally finished crying, he continued to hold me, rocking back and forth slightly like Edward always did, causing my eyes to droop. I wanted to climb out of his lap and let him get back to work, afraid that I was imposing on his free time, but my body refused to cooperate; I was utterly wrung out. Instead, I left my head against his shoulder and shifted my right hand slightly so it wasn't painful. I was perfectly safe, and my body responded by falling asleep.
The loading screen flashed on the large wall-mounted television, the music looping against and again. Jasper and Emmett sat stiffly on the sofa, the game forgotten. They hadn't wanted to eavesdrop on their little sister's private discussion with their father, but their hearing was too good to miss her sobs. Emmett closed his eyes, as if to ward off whatever emotions were threatening him, while Jasper felt them all; Bella's pain and sorrow, Carlisle's anguish, Emmett's helplessness. But soon, Bella's emotions shifted, and she was content. Jasper smiled a little when he felt her exhaustion and then sleep. "She's fine." Emmett glanced up at his brother with a questioning look. "She fell asleep. Carlisle's still with her." He explained softly, the half smile once again on his face.
They heard shifting upstairs, and immediately they were outside of Carlisle's office. He opened the door, emerging with Bella in his arms, and gave them a reproving look. "We couldn't help it." Emmett said contritely. "By the time we realized what she was saying…we would have had to leave…it was too late." He tried to explain himself to his father who only sighed and shook his head.
"Of course. It isn't your fault." Jasper was already waiting at the door to Edward's bedroom and had pushed it open for Carlisle. He felt a wave of fond gratitude and grinned back at his father, sparing a fond look for Bella, happily asleep in the arms of a vampire. Emmett walked in ahead of them and pulled the comforter down, helping Carlisle lay her in the giant bed and tuck her under the covers. Carlisle pressed a kiss against her forehead and stared down at her sadly for a moment. Emmett ruffled her hair gently.
"Night little sis." He mumbled fondly, stepping towards the door and leaving the room. Carlisle followed him, turning to watch as Jasper gave the younger girl a long look. Taking a long, deep breath, Jasper leaned forward and, as gently as he could, pressed a kiss against her temple. Carlisle watched in surprised silence as Jasper hovered for a moment over her face, his mouth closer to her neck than he usually got, save for earlier that evening, then straightened.
"Night, Bella." He said quietly, and then followed the other two out, shutting the door quietly behind him.
I was only half aware of the gentle arms that lay me in the comfortable, if cold, bed, and the icy lips that pressed first against my forehead, then against my temple. Someone touched my hair at some point, and I heard someone say my name, but that was the last thing I was aware of before I heard a familiar voice.
There was some indistinct speech, and something about a dog. "That dog did what!?" I knew that voice, my brain informed me, but I couldn't think past the knowledge. "Wait…what about…her mother? Emmett! What are…me?" I realized that I could only hear bits and pieces of Edward and Emmett's conversation. After that were a series of hisses I couldn't make out, but someone said something about sleeping.
"Oh….oh my God. Oh poor Bella!" That was Alice, but I had no idea what she was talking about. I rolled over to face the door, as if that would help.
Suddenly Carlisle and Esme where speaking right outside the door, and I realized that Carlisle's office was by Edward's room. "Carlisle, what happened?"
"Jacob Black kissed her." I suddenly remembered what was going on, and felt my face flush. Surely Edward knew now, if he had read Carlisle's thoughts, but why would he be questioning Emmett? How could he know anything? Unless…I realized suddenly that he would have heard everything thanks to super vampire hearing and was overcome by shame. I didn't want anyone else to know about that. No one but Carlisle and Esme…and Edward since he would find out eventually. Pushing the thought aside, I resigned myself to everyone knowing. They were all family, anyway, and Rosalie was the only one who might resent me for it. If I was going to live with these people at some point, I would have to get use to not having any secrets from them. "She punched him in the face and sprained her hand."
"Is she okay?" Esme's voice was gentle and concerned, and I heard her move closer to the door.
"Physically she's fine. I bandaged her hand and later she fell asleep, so I put her to bed…but that's not all. She came into my office and…apparently she was assaulted in the same way…many times over several years, starting when she was thirteen." Esme whispered something, and Carlisle growled softly. "No. They were her boyfriends apparently." I realized that she must have asked something about my mother, and I ached to defend her. However, after my previous attempts to defend Renee, I had little doubt that I would fail again.
"Did they ever…" Esme trailed off, the implication clear in her voice.
"I don't think so." Carlisle spoke carefully, and I realized that theirs was the only conversation I could hear. "She only said that they would kiss her and…" I could hear the agony in his voice, hidden under the fury. "touch her." This time Esme gasped loudly, and I heard the doorknob turn. "Shh." He cautioned her gently. I shut my eyes and forced myself to relax, but she didn't open the door. They mumbled something about the morning and I wondered tiredly what time it was.
Then Edward's voice was closer. "…Emmett, I need to talk…"
"Leave her alone, Edward. She's sleeping." That was Jasper's southern drawl, and I wondered why they wouldn't let him in to see me.
"She could have called…" There was more mumbling. "…and that stupid wolf…" A hiss, followed by "thirteen, Emmett!" I winced; glad I couldn't hear the rest of that conversation.
"Don't you dare make this about you!" I knew that low, angry voice. There was suddenly silence as Esme and Carlisle stopped their mumbled conversation. "She was assaulted by her friend, and she's probably remembering being assaulted by those…monsters." That was Rosalie. "So don't you even think about yelling at her. She doesn't take any blame for this Edward. I mean it!" Rosalie didn't defend me. Ever. In fact, she threw me to the wolves (the pun made me smile involuntarily) as often as possible, complaining about my presence, hinting that I was a danger to their family, and generally making herself scarce around me. So why was she standing up to Edward of all people for me?
There was a long sigh, and I heard Carlisle's soft murmur, followed by Edward's, and then Esme. "Okay, but don't wake her." That was Carlisle again, and I felt another wave of calm lethargy roll over me. Swearing that I was going to scold Jasper later, although realistically I knew I never would get around to it, I let my eyes closed even as I felt another presence in the room. It was hard to fight the exhaustion that was suddenly weighing me down, but I managed until Edward climbed into the bed beside me, keeping himself above the covers so I wouldn't get cold, and scooting closer so that he could wrap his arms around me, my face against his chest. I sighed happily, shifting in his arms and snuggling against him.
"Hey." I whispered.
"Sorry. I didn't want to wake you." He said softly, his voice sad.
"No." I managed to mumble. "You didn't." I inhaled happily, not coherent enough to ask why he was sad. Unable to make out his face in the dark, I brought my hand up and started to touch him, but made an involuntary soft, pained noise when I moved my hand.
"Bella?" He gently grasped my wrist, holding it in one of his hands and allowing his cool skin to ease the pain. "I'm so sorry, Bella." And I knew he wasn't just apologizing about not being with me earlier. I smiled a little, not wanting him to feel bad.
"My fault." I told him simply. I felt him shake his head sharply.
"No! Bella, this was not your fault! You…" I shook my own head, too tired to really make him understand what I was saying, but trying nonetheless.
"Shouldn't have hit him." I murmured.
"Bella, he assaulted you! Of course you…"
I cut him off again with an exasperated sigh. "Hard head. Should have let you do it…think Emmett did." He finally chuckled slightly.
"Yea, he did. Broke his jaw."
"Thanks Emmett." I spoke a little louder, knowing that he would hear me from downstairs. "That's what I was aiming for." He laughed softly as I finally drifted the rest of the way to sleep.
The next time I woke, it was because of the light hitting my closed eyes. Groaning softly, I tried to roll over, but something was holding me…something cold. Opening my eyes, I looked into Edward's concerned face. "Oh!" I smiled happily. "Good morning." He gave me a cautious, sad smile in return.
"Good afternoon." He ran a hand down my back, and then stroked my hair, his thumb running over my cheek as he moved a strand of hair behind my ear. "How are you feeling?" Once again, the painful conversation came back. I'd suffered no more nightmares, since my vampire boyfriend had been close by, but the memories were another matter. Forcing a smile, I shrugged.
"My hand's a bit sore, but I'll be fine. Do you have any Tylenol?"
He obviously wasn't convinced, but didn't press the matter. "I'm sure Carlisle has something stronger for you if you'd like."
"No…it'll probably make me tired again. When did you get back?" I wondered, barely able to remember the conversations from his return.
"Around four in the morning…" He hesitated for a moment. "We finished up earlier than we had expected. I was going to go to your house but I saw your truck when I dropped them off. They weren't going to tell me…" He sighed softly, apparently unable to come up with the words he needed. "Carlisle said…well Emmett was thinking about…"
"Everyone knows." It came out in a plaintive voice, and although I wasn't angry, he hurried to apologize.
"Emmett and Jasper overheard…they couldn't help it." He rushed to defend his brothers. "And Carlisle had to tell Esme…and Alice was there when I learned it from Emmett…" He took an unnecessary breath, but hurried on before I could reassure him that I wasn't mad at any of them. "Alice…she feels terrible."
"She couldn't have seen!" I cried. "Why should she…"
"She feels terrible as your friend." He interrupted, correcting me gently. "She feels terrible that you had to go through all of that alone…we all do." He gave me a halfhearted wry smile. "Even Rosalie, believe it or not."
I remembered Rosalie's burst of temper toward Edward and nodded. I believed it. "She was so excited, you know." I looked up when his words broke into my thoughts, noticing immediately the fondness in his eyes. "Alice." He clarified for me with a smile. "When I made up my mind that I was going to hell regardless…" He chuckled softly. "She saw that the two of you would be friends, and she was so happy. She bugged me every day for weeks. 'Can I talk to Bella yet?'" He imitated her musical voice, and I giggled. "She missed you so much, before she even met you. She considers you her best friend…and she can't believe she wasn't able to help you." Illogical as it was, I could understand. I thought back to Alice's horrible past and knew that if I could go back and help her, I would without hesitation. I resolved to talk to her later.
For a while, we lay in silence, his arms around me, and my right hand aching a little. I shifted so that it was against his body, knowing that his cool skin would help more than anything at the moment. "What time is it?" I asked quietly, staring out the window over his shoulder.
"About one in the afternoon." My eyes widened. I hadn't slept so late in a long time. "Are you still sleepy?" I shook me head. I could probably sleep if I wanted to, but I didn't want to. "Are you hungry?" He pressed. I sighed softly. The thought of going downstairs and facing everyone was even worse than going back to sleep. "Esme has been wanting to make you something since she got back." I had to smile at that. "She's been debating just making you breakfast and bringing it up." He must have seen the wariness in my eyes. "Carlisle is in his study. Rosalie is…in her room with Emmett…you don't want to know." I reddened and shoved the thought away. "Jasper is reading downstairs. Alice…she's sitting with him but she's thinking about you." I signed, finally sitting up.
"Is it okay if I take a shower? Then I'll go downstairs and make something."
"Of course, you go ahead. I'll have Alice give you something to wear. And I'll tell Esme you're up. She's making you something to eat today…you might as well get used to the idea." I smiled a little, glancing down at the bandage on my hand. Gently, he reached out and began to unwind it. "Just be careful. When you're done, I can put it back on for you, okay?" He leaned over when I nodded, pressing his lips against mine for a long moment, then pulling away with a smile.
I entered the bathroom attached to his room and, after shutting the door behind me, I quickly slipped out of my jeans and socks. With a wince, I managed to pull my shirt off, and thought about how to unclasp my bra. Suddenly the door was open. Praying that it wasn't Emmett or Jasper, though I had no idea why they would barge into Edward's bathroom, I froze with my back to the door.
"Sorry Bella! I didn't know you were…" Alice fell silent and I turned my head to look at her curiously, relieved beyond measure. I was still wearing my bra, and didn't really care regardless. She'd helped me shower plenty of times, and I'd gotten over my embarrassment fairly quickly. But she wasn't looking at my bra or my face for that matter. She was staring at my lower back where I suddenly realized there must be a bruise, her eyes unreadable, her jaw clenched so that I feared for her teeth. "Did he…did Jacob do that to you?" Her normally high pitched, pixie voice was suddenly scary, and I mentally marked her off the list of Cullens I hadn't been afraid of. She was the last to go.
"Alice." My voice was softer than normal, as if I was trying to appease an angry animal. "I'm fine." I looked down into her hands and realized she was holding a set of folded clothes, complete with a bra and panties that looked like they came from Victoria Secret, and a bag. "Are you sure you don't mind lending me clothes?" I asked quietly, trying to distract her. She probably saw right through that, but visibly calmed herself.
"Of course not. I've already worn this top twice, and I must have seven pears of jeans just like these." She was forcing herself to smile calmly as she sat the clothes on the bathroom counter. Her movements too quick for me to follow, she turned on the shower and pulled the curtain, then placed the bag on the counter by the clothes, pulling out shampoo, conditioner, body wash, and a few other toiletries. "I thought you might need a toothbrush for when you stayed here…and I had extra shampoo that I bought a few weeks ago and I know all of Edward's stuff smells like man and…"
Alice didn't ramble, I thought with a bit of alarm. Gently, I reached out and grabbed her hand, which was gesturing wildly. Her eyes seemed to shimmer with tears that she could never shed, and before I could speak I was being crushed to her chest, which, due to my lack of clothes, was slightly awkward…and cold, but I didn't complain. "Alice, I'm fine." I assured her quietly. "Perfectly fine. Besides, Emmett and Jasper took care of Jacob." She smiled a little with me, but shook her head.
"I know about the other stuff too." She mumbled guiltily.
"Everyone knows, Alice. It's fine."
"No. It's not fine. You were only thirteen!" She cried. "And Carlisle said that it happened for years." Her butterscotch eyes were tormented.
"My mom met Phil when I was sixteen." I told her softly. "He was…a lot better than her other boyfriends."
"So for four years…" She whispered. I shook my head.
"I'm good at suppressing unpleasant things." I told her with a half smile. "Honestly. I never even think about it. Just…what Jacob did…it made me remember. But I'm fine now." She gave me a skeptical look, but seemed to accept my statement.
"If you need to talk to someone, you know I'll be here, right?" I smiled, hugging her tightly.
"Of course. Thanks." She grinned.
"And if you want me to beat up Jacob for you…"
"I think Emmett took care of that, thanks." I laughed. She shook her head.
"He broke the dog's jaw. I was going to break his face…along with a few other things." I had to grin at the thought of little Alice winning a fight against my well-muscled best…I stopped the thought. He wasn't exactly my friend…not anymore. She must have noticed my sad look, because she placed her hands on my shoulders. "Hey?"
"He was my best friend, Alice." I told her quietly. "I've known him since we were little."
"I know." Her tone was solemn, and she looked at me for a moment before giving me a little smile, squeezing my shoulders. "Come on." She placed a hand on my back and turned me around. "You'd better get in the shower before you freeze to death." She helped me with my bra and turned her head to give me some privacy as I slipped out of my underwear and stepped into the frosted-glass walled shower. "Carlisle was angry with Charlie." She informed me, her voice echoing in the large bathroom. I ducked my head under the water and began to wash it in silence. "I can't remember the last time Carlisle was so angry. Maybe never."
"Should I not have told him?" I asked quietly.
"Of course you should have!" I could hear the exasperation in Alice's voice. "We're your family. That's what we're here for. You could have told any of us and we would have had the same reaction."
Alice helped me dress quickly after my shower and sat on the bed beside me while Edward rewrapped my hand with as much skill as Carlisle. The three of us then walked downstairs at my speed, and they led me over to the kitchen table that they only used for meetings…well before I showed up anyway. Esme sat a plate of food in front of me and I thanked her. She surprised me with a hug and a kiss to my forehead as Alice grabbed me a soda. "It's no trouble, sweetheart." Esme assured me, smoothing my hair once more before sitting down beside Edward at the table as Jasper called out a greeting to me.
I cleared my plate, too hungry to be self conscious, and insisted on cleaning up myself. Esme gave in with a smile, but stood nearby as cleaned my dishes. I laughed when Alice picked up my soda can and gave it an experimental sniff, then shrugged and placed it back on the table, an expression of distaste on her face. Edward rolled his eyes and leaned up against the counter, his shoulder touching mine, while Esme watched the three of us fondly. "Okay, now that we've fed the human, we're going shopping." Alice grinned, grabbing my left hand in one of hers, and Esme's in the other. I knew that I should have expected this. Shopping was Alice's cure all end all.
"Shopping?" Edward spoke dubiously as Rosalie and Emmett appeared at the foot of the stairs. Emmett appeared beside me and threw an arm over my shoulder in greeting, whispering that he didn't think Edward and I would ever emerge from the bedroom, making me blush and stammar, and making him laugh loudly.
"Well obviously you aren't invited." Alice snapped at Edward, her eyes dancing. I choked on a laugh at the startled, offended look on his face, which quickly turned to a rueful smile.
"Good. Because I didn't want to go." He told her childishly, making Emmett chuckle beside me.
"C'mon bro. Let's me, you, and Jasper go have some fun." Jasper glanced up from where he was watching TV and lifted an eyebrow, obviously wondering what kind of fun Emmett had in mind. Edward looked at Emmett for a minute, and then smiled in agreement.
"Alright. We should be back in plenty of time."
I guessed that the only reason no one had actually asked if I wanted to go shopping was that Alice had already made up her mind. Besides, a day with Alice and Esme sounded like fun. Well…it did until Rosalie kissed Emmett goodbye (so passionately that I stared at the floor, my face so red it felt like it was glowing) and announced that we could take her BMW.
"No way! I wanna drive my Porsche!" Alice argued. Esme linked her arm through mine and led me to the door, pausing to let me kiss Edward goodbye.
The shopping trip was apparently only for me, and Alice and Esme spent the majority of the afternoon finding outfits for me to try on while Rosalie hung back, watching me closely. Neither Alice nor Esme commented on her lack of involvement, but seemed to be trying to make up for it by throwing more outfits at me. I suspected that they were actually buying all of the clothes they approved, but I didn't have the heart to tell them no. I hadn't spent any real time with Esme in a long time, and it seemed to make her happy to spend time with her daughters, so I didn't complain. Actually, I eventually found that it was fun spending time with them, even if I had to go shopping to do so.
However, my patience has its limits, and I finally begged Alice to buy herself some clothes and let me rest. Esme and Alice seemed reluctant until Rosalie stepped forward. "You guys go ahead and shop, and Bella and I will hit the food court." She reached over and picked up a few bags, leaving a few for me, and, stunned as I was at her volunteering to spend time with me, I would take what I could get. She led the way confidently, and I wondered how many times she had dragged Emmett to the mall and made him carry her bags around. The thought of Emmett the pack mule made me giggle, and she turned to me in surprise. When I didn't volunteer anything, she turned her attention back to navigating the crowds and led me to the large cafeteria surrounded by restaurants, placing the bags on the ground. "What do you want to eat?"
I was surprised that her voice was flawlessly polite, and that she truly didn't seem irritated….or angry…or any of the other emotions she usually felt around me. "Um…I can get it." I looked around and headed for a Chinese place before a cold hand caught my right arm. Surprised, I turned around and she let go immediately, staring at the bandage wrapped around my wrist and hand.
"Oh! Sorry! I didn't…" I cut her off by lifting my hand and laughing.
"Rosalie, it's fine. It doesn't even really hurt anymore."
"Oh. Um…here." She held out a black piece of plastic that I immediately recognized as a high-end credit card.
"Does Carlisle just hand these out? I swear everyone in your family has one!" I cried in amusement before I remembered whom I was talking to. To my surprise, she smirked as she pressed it into my hand.
"Well, sort of. Everyone in our family gets their own line of credit whenever we move. Of course, Carlisle prefers that we don't go to overboard…but that never stops Alice. Then again, it's kind of thanks to her that our money does so well in the stock market." I couldn't help but grin back at her. "Well, go on. Get your food, human." I laughed softly, nodding and going over to the Chinese place.
I brought the container back to the table where Rosalie waited, messing with her phone. She glanced up in greeting, and then went back to texting as I sat down. "The guys are playing football, and they apparently dragged Carlisle into their game." She informed me with a half smile, and I looked behind me as subtly as possible, wondering if one of her girlfriends that I didn't know about had come up behind me. "Edward says I'm not to let you out of my sight for a minute." Her eyes were strangely friendly, and once again I stared at her for a moment in silence before opening my container of food and breaking apart my chopsticks.
"Rosalie…" I began warily. She looked up from her phone where I assumed she was texting Emmett. "Is this the part where you kill me?" I blurted, then clamped my mouth shut, unable to believe that I'd let those words out of my mouth. To my relief, she barked a laugh.
"Well, I think Edward would hunt me down if I did, and Emmett kind of likes his brother, and you for that matter, so I'm not sure whose side he would take. Besides, Alice loves you, so she and Jasper would certainly join the hunt." She was still smiling, so I assumed that she wasn't offended. "This wouldn't exactly be the place to do it, regardless."
"I…I'm so sorry. I didn't mean…"
"No. I'm sorry." I stared up at her in surprise.
"I…I'm sorry about what happened…and I'm sorry that I've been a b*tch." She sighed and crossed her arms. "I know that…"
"Rosalie." I held up my hand. "You don't have to apologize to me. I understand completely. You're looking out for your family." She shook her head.
"You're a part of my family now." She said softly.
I took a deep breath, debating my next questions. But in the end, I had to know. "Then…why do you hate me?" Rosalie sighed, looking down at her phone that was now on the table.
"I don't hate you Bella. I…I envy you."
"What? Rosalie…you're the most beautiful person on the planet." She laughed, flashing her perfect white teeth.
"Thank you Bella." Her voice was sincere, but I could tell that I'd appeased her vanity as well. She took a deep breath and crossed her arms, leaning toward me. "You're making the wrong choice." She told me sadly.
"What?" I stared at her in confusion.
"I would give anything to be human again, Bella." She whispered, just loud enough for me to hear. I glanced around nonetheless. And then she told me her story.
Alice and Esme arrived just as I finished eating and Rosalie finished talking. I hadn't had much of a chance to react, other than to offer a horrified apology, and this wasn't a conversation I wanted to have in front of our sister and mother. I paused for a moment 'Our' sister and mother? I pondered the thought as I smiled at Alice, jokingly offering her some Chinese food that she turned down with a dramatic shudder, making Rosalie laugh, a sound I wasn't sure I'd heard before. Well, despite the fact that she disagreed with me decisions, she apparently accepted me as a part of her family. That was good enough for the moment.
Esme and Alice grabbed most of the shopping bags, of which there were many, and loaded them into the car. Surprisingly enough, it was Rosalie who insisted that I not hurt myself by grabbing the remaining bags, joking that, danger magnet that I was, I would probably sprain my other wrist. It was nearly six when we all pulled into the Cullen driveway, and all of our mates appeared by the car as we emerged. Edward held out his hand and gently helped me out of the car, kissing me instantly. "I thought I was going to have to come looking for you." He murmured. "I wasn't sure she was going to bring you back." I laughed. "Did you have fun?" I grimaced, but Alice and Esme were probably listening, and I couldn't bear to complain.
"Yea. We…did a lot of shopping. A lot. I feel like a Barbie doll." He chuckled. "And I'm pretty sure ninety percent of those bags are mine." His arms, at first loosely wrapped around my waist, dropped and he went to the back of the car as Alice, with Jasper close by, popped the trunk. He reached in and grabbed most of the bags, while Emmett followed closely behind to grab the rest. All of the bags were dropped into Edward's room and Alice danced away to be with Jasper, promising that she would help me put them away later. Before I could sit down, there was a knock at the door.
"Can I come in?" We looked up and found Carlisle in the doorway. I sat on the bed and Edward placed the CD in his hand back on the shelf.
"Of course." Carlisle shut the door behind him, although we all knew that it was more for the illusion of privacy than anything else.
"I heard you got roped into playing football." He chuckled and nodded, crossing his arms. "Who won?"
"I'm not really sure, to be honest." He looked over at Edward pointedly. "Once Emmett and Edward started brawling, we gave up keeping score." I laughed aloud, and Edward gave a sheepish grin.
Once I'd finished laughing, and Edward had finished trying to look apologetic, Carlisle sat down on the bed in front of me. "Bella…I need to speak with you." He said seriously. Edward stared at him, first in surprise, then in understanding.
"Do you think I should wait outside?" He asked quietly. Carlisle continued to look at me.
"That's up to you Bella. I wanted to talk about your…situation with your father."
For a moment, I debated internally. Did I want Edward here for this conversation? I bit my top lip, not sure what to say. "I'll wait downstairs." Edward said suddenly, dropping a kiss on the top of my head. "Just call me if you need me, okay?" I nodded, grateful for his understanding, and shifted so that I was sitting against the headboard.
"Bella, yesterday, when I spoke to your father, I promised him that we would inform him if you decided not to go home. I also informed him that if you decided not to go home…that you would be always have a home here, if that was what you wanted. Of course, if you want to go back with your mother…"
"No!" I closed my eyes, not able to bear the thought of leaving Edward behind. "I…Edward…I need to be with him." My tone was beseeching, my eyes full.
"Bella, of course Edward would go with you, if you asked."
"But…my mother lives in Florida." I whispered. "There's no way…he'd have to live inside all the time."
"He would do it for you. And it would only be for a little while…or as long as you wanted." I was still shaking my head, and he smiled a little. "As I said, that's just one of your options. If you want to go back and live with Charlie, one of us will drive you as soon as you're ready to go. And…Emmett and Jasper will probably be keeping an eye on him, as well as the wolf. I would advise you not to spend any more time with Jacob Black alone, Bella." He spoke gently, as if afraid he would upset me.
"I…I don't want to go home…not right now." I stared at the bed, unable to believe that I was asking this of him, that I was asking him to practically let me move in. A cool hand gripped my chin and firmly pulled my head up so that I was looking at him.
"Then you are more than welcome to stay here. For as long as you like." His eyes were too kind, too sincere to question, and I found myself with my arms around his neck, squeezing tightly, without any conscious thought. Once again, his arms were around me, rubbing my back soothingly.
"Thank you." I mumbled into his ear.
"Bella." His voice was gentle. "You'll always have a home here. No matter what. Even if you decide to go back to Charlie's, you're welcome here any time. No need to thank me." I nodded against his shoulder, wiping at my eyes quickly. He leaned back, his hands on my shoulders. "I'll call your father, okay? Or would you rather?"
"Could you?" I whispered, only a little ashamed at my own cowardice. He smiled, giving me a quick kiss on the forehead.
"Of course." With that, he was gone, back in his office, and Edward was sitting in front of me, appearing out of thin air and making me jump. Before I could question his joyous expression, his arms were around me, his lips on mine.
"You're staying!" He cried when he finally pulled away, then kissed me again. I had to laugh at his enthusiasm, although staying in the same house as him sounded wonderful to me as well.
"Yes…at least for a little while." His eyes softened, letting me know that he hadn't forgotten what had brought me to his house in the first place.
"If…if you want to talk about it, then…I mean, Alice already offered, I know, but I'm here for you as well. All of us are. So…just talk to someone, if you need to." He finished his statement clumsily, but I smiled at his thoughtfulness.
"I'm okay." I assured him. He looked at me like he didn't quite believe me, but nodded, accepting my statement for the moment. I knew that eventually I would want to talk to him about it, even if he'd already gotten the gist from Carlisle's thoughts, but for now, we were both content to relax (and kiss of course) after a long day of shopping and football…until the door was thrown open unceremoniously, causing me to jerk away from him in embarrassment.
"Bella! You're staying!" Alice launched herself at the bed, shoving Edward aside and throwing her arms around me. I stared over her shoulder at a shirtless Jasper who looked both frustrated and apologetic. "We have to start right now!" She jerked me up by the arm, somehow managing not to hurt me with the abrupt gesture, and drug me to the closet, throwing it open and grabbing Edwards clothes.
"Hey! What are you doing!?" He cried, watching as she threw a few of his shirts on the floor.
"We have to start on Bella's closet!"
Thank you so much for all of your reviews and encouragement. You have all been very kind and I appreciate it.
**There are now two sequels to this story that you can find on my profile, and another will be up soon. The next story is Shooting, and then People Will Talk if anyone is interested :) **