Disclaimer: Not mine.
My nose burned from the harsh smell of antiseptic. I didn't want to be here. Not again. I wanted to be with Edward. I wanted to be wrapped in his arms while we talked about the future. Our future. All the things we wanted together.
"Could you please slide down for me?"
The paper crinkled as I scooted down the table, the heels of my feet resting in the cold metal stirrups. "Is this okay?" The break in my voice was impossible to miss, as were the tears leaking from the corners of my eyes.
The doctor looked at me with sympathetic eyes. I didn't want her sympathy. I wanted her to tell me the last few months had been nothing more than a nightmare. That I was fine and my body wasn't revolting against me. That I wasn't broken in the most horrific way a woman could be broken. But we both knew that wasn't going to happen. We knew it six months earlier when she'd hacked into my cervix, cutting out piece after piece of cancerous mass.
"Okay, hold still. I'm going to take a sample. You're going to feel a slight pinch."
My body tensed and my fingers curled around the edge of the table. "I'm ready." It was a lie. I wasn't ready. I didn't want the test. And I wanted the results even less. I wanted to run from the room, flee from the card life had dealt me. I wasn't sure what I had done to deserve this fate, this form of punishment, but if God would give me a second chance, I'd do whatever he wanted. I'd give him everything, all that I was, just to be normal. Just to be given a chance at the life I dreamed of. The life I yearned for.
"Ouch," I choked, my muscles constricting as the doctor burned off yet another piece of my cervix. It wasn't the first time, and as optimistic as I wanted to be, I knew it wouldn't be the last. I was damaged goods. My body was no more than a wasteland of diseased flesh. My throat tightened as my thoughts drifted to Edward. I saw his face in my dreams, his bright smile and loving eyes. I saw the way he looked at Maggie, the way he looked at all children. It was in everything he did. It was in everything he was. There was a light that surrounded him, one that only shined brighter when he was in the presence of children. Children that I would never be able to give him.
"Okay, one more sample. I need you to relax, Bella. We're almost done."
I nodded and fixed my eyes on the ceiling. I tried to ease my muscles. I knew I was only making things more painful by coiling my body with tension, but I couldn't stop. I couldn't let go of the anxiety eating away at me like acid. Because this was it. Test after test. Treatment after treatment. Everything I'd been through, every doctor's appointment I'd hidden from Edward, it all came down to today. My stomach rolled as I thought about the possible outcomes. What I would do if the doctor walked into the room and told me it was game over. That I'd never have children. That due to the severity of my situation, I had no choice but to remove the parts of me that defined me as a woman. The part that allowed me to give Edward the one thing he wanted most. One of the many things he deserved.
"Okay, that's it. I'm going to send this off to the lab. Unfortunately, they're backed up, but I promise to give you the results as soon as possible. No more than a couple of weeks."
I sat up, wincing from the pain in my abdomen. "You put a camera on it, didn't you? Can you tell me if you saw anything?"
Silence swelled around me when she hesitated. My heart lodged in my throat, and I couldn't breathe. I didn't want to. I didn't care if I ever did again if her answer was what I thought it would be. I'd always prided myself on being a strong person. I thought I could face any obstacle, overcome anything life threw at me. I was a fool. Because this was breaking me. It had broken me.
"Oh, God," I choked, the tears stinging my eyes, breaking free and sliding down my cheeks. "No. Please, no."
"I can't say for certain yet, but the dark masses are still visible."
"Why? Why are they still there?" I cried. "After everything...they're supposed to be gone. Why is this happening to me? What did I do?"
"Bella, this isn't your fault. You can't blame yourself."
"Then who do I blame?" I screamed, my body wracked with sobs as my hands slammed on the table. "Do I blame God? He's supposed to love me! Did I fail him? Did I not measure up to his expectations?"
"No," I spat. "Don't say anything else. Your platitudes mean nothing to me. I have been through hell. You have cut out parts of me, and you have burned my organs. You have infected me with poison, and you have injected me with every drug known to mankind. I don't care how sorry you are. You were supposed to fix me. I don't give a fuck that you can't guarantee anything." I pressed my hands to my chest and looked at her through blurry eyes. "Why can't you fix me? Please, God, why? Why can't I be fixed? I just want to be normal. I want to be a woman. Having children is the most basic act of being a female. Why can't I have that? Why?"
"If you want to talk to someone, then I can recommend―"
"No! I don't want to talk to anyone! I don't want to be broken. I want to be me. How can I tell him? How can I tell him that I can't give him children?" I jumped from the table and clutched the paper gown around my waist. "Fuck this and fuck you. Fuck God, too. All of you can go to hell. Get out. Let me have some dignity. It's the only thing I have left."
I stared at the doctor with hard eyes as she turned and walked out of the room, the door making a soft click behind her. I looked around the room. My heart felt heavy, and my body was so tired. I was tired of fighting. Tired of the hope that refused to die. It swelled in my chest every time I walked in the doctor's office, only to be shattered and smashed time and time again. I thought I could beat this on my own, save Edward from needless worry. Save him from feeling an ounce of the sadness I did. Because I never wanted that. I never wanted to cause him pain. I never wanted to be the root of anything that dimmed the light that shimmered behind his eyes and brought warmth to anyone who was graced with his smile.
But that's exactly who I'd become. Because I was going to cast the biggest shadow he'd ever known. I was going to blanket him in the same dark sadness that shrouded me. And I hated myself for it. Pulling on my clothes, I stumbled numbly to my car. Alex was having a party tonight and not going wasn't an option, even though it was the last place I wanted to be.
I smiled and spoke when necessary. My chest ached and my head throbbed as I thought about how I was going to tell Edward. I'd kept it from him for so long. I was terrified of what his reaction would be. But I had to tell him. I had to let him know that the life we'd planned and the dreams we had were gone, and I was to blame. Grabbing a drink off the table, I slammed it back. I needed to numb myself. I needed to take the edge off.
An hour passed before Edward finally walked through the door. He was so fucking beautiful. He made my knees weak and my heart flutter when I looked at him. He was my entire world. I never wanted to disappoint him. But it seemed that life, fate, karma, or whatever ruled my future didn't give a shit about how I felt or what I wanted. I staggered to the corner to hide myself from view. I wasn't ready to see him yet. I wasn't ready to face him.
I looked at the guy in front of me and smirked. He was a damn fool if he thought he had a chance with me. My thoughts drifted to the past, when Edward and I used to make each other jealous. How we used to push each others buttons until we thought we'd explode. I cut my eyes to the side when I heard the back door open. I watched him cross the room, his arms full of plates, his face content, happy.
I burned for him.
The guy in front of me, Paul he'd said, spoke again, and I don't know why I did it, but I laughed. I didn't even hear what he said, but I wanted Edward to look. I wanted to see that fire burn in his eyes like it burned in mine. It was stupid and immature, but I felt raw and vulnerable and I wanted to see him fight. I wanted to know that I was worth it. I wanted reassurance that when I shattered our future he'd still be there. Standing with me in the wreckage. But that fire never came. As much as I tired, there was nothing more than an impassive glance in my direction as he chatted with his brother before walking away. I felt like a stake had been driven into my chest.
Paul continued to speak, but his words were like static in my ears. All I could see was Edward's retreating form as he turned away from me. Did he not care? Was I in this alone? Never once had he ever walked away from me. Fear and sadness wrapped around my chest and squeezed until the breath left my body. My eyes watered and my entire body just...ached. For him, for me, for us, for what would never be.
Disentangling myself from Paul, I followed Edward. I stopped in the doorway and ducked out of sight as he fell to the floor beside Chelsea and Maggie. My eyes stung at the sight of the smile that lit up his face when he held Mags in his arms. He was so gentle, so sweet. He was meant to be a father.
I snatched a shot off the tray next to me then grabbed another. My eyes were heavy, but not heavy enough. I could still see Edward's smile. I could still see Chelsea's lust filled gaze as Edward kissed Maggie's face.
Strong hands clutched my hips. Fingers pressed into bone, demanding my attention, persuading me to forget about the pain, the heartache of my loss and just feel. Fall into the oblivion of avoidance and not think about tomorrow. Not think about Edward and our situation, not think of right now and how fucking happy he was with a baby in his arms.
But when too soft lips―sloppy with need―latched onto my heated skin, I jerked away as though I'd been burned. I didn't want another man touching me. I didn't want the brush of his skin or the vibration of his voice rumbling against me. I blinked rapidly as my face flushed and my throat tightened. The room began to tilt and it was then I knew I'd passed my limit. If I stayed where I was a second longer, I would hate myself in the morning and every day after.
I pushed away from Paul without a word and stumbled forward. My vision blurred and my body swayed as I made my way toward Edward. Anger irrationally swelled in my chest and in that moment I hated him. I hated him for making me love him. I hated him for being so perfect. But most of all I hated myself for not being able to give him the one thing he wanted most.
I fell into him, drunk and pathetic. I wanted him angry. I wanted him to be ashamed of me. I wanted him to hate me as much as I hated myself. In hushed words he chastised me, his hot breath seared my skin, branding me with humiliation. His grip caused an ache in my bones, but it felt like home. Because as long as I felt the heat of his touch, it meant he was still there. It meant I wasn't alone. It meant for a little longer, he was still mine.
He dragged me to his car, leaving mine parked along the curb. Every step, every tick of the clock, every mile to the home we shared caused bile to rise from my stomach. It ate away at the parts of me that I loved. The parts of me that Edward loved. By the time the car pulled to a stop I felt as barren emotionally as I was physically.
When he begged me to talk to him, I wanted to scream. When I belittled him, I wanted to slice the flesh from my bone. I wanted to absorb every ounce of pain I caused and soak it into my soul when his wounded eyes locked with mine.
He took me hard and rough, just like I asked. But it was empty. It was forced. It was retaliation against the embarrassment and hurt I'd inflicted. When he left me alone and panting―unsatisfied―I couldn't help but smile. It was exactly what I deserved.
I hid my face in shame for the next few weeks. As much as I was embarrassed, I was also preparing. I was conditioning myself for a life without him. I felt myself disconnect and break, a part of me retreating to darkness. The part of me that was a coward, the part that never felt like I deserved his love in the first place grew. It swelled until it swallowed me whole.
The day I walked into our bedroom and saw him packing my heart stopped. It was what I thought I wanted. What I pushed him toward. But the sight broke me in more ways than I could have ever imagined. I'd never wanted to give up, to fall to my knees and beg for forgiveness more than I did in that moment. When his angry eyes turned to mine, when he spoke in harsh whispers laced with pain, I wanted to be as dead as I felt.
My relief when I realized he was going out of town for a conference was undeserved. I was a horrible girlfriend. I was a horrible person, selfish. I had to stop hurting him. Neither of us could go on like we were. He didn't deserve it. Not him. Never him.
He pushed, he begged me for answers, but I was a coward, pathetic. I couldn't stand the thought of the pity that would reflect in his eyes. The understanding and then ultimately, the self sacrifice. Because as much as I had convinced myself that he would leave, that he would walk out the door to have the life he always dreamed of, I knew better.
He would love me until he hated me. He would promise it didn't matter until he suffocated his resentment in lies. He would give up the life he craved for a person who wasn't worthy. Because he deserved the world, and I couldn't give him that. I couldn't give him anything, but that didn't stop me from taking from him.
I wrapped my arms around his neck and kissed his lips. I lost myself in the warmth of his body pressing against mine. Pushing away my thoughts, closing my mind to anything expect that moment, I let everything melt away. There was no pain, no secrets. It was just us. It reminded me of how we used to be. The memory slammed into me. I felt desperate. I wanted to feel him push inside of me. I wanted to see him look at me like I was his entire world. I wanted it ingrained in my mind. He noticed. He noticed everything. And like always, he gave me exactly what I wanted. My selfishness disgusted me.
I lay in bed that night, my eyes focused on the ceiling. My skin crawled with anxiety until I wanted to claw it off. I knew he was going to press for answers as soon as he woke. A sharp pain sliced through my abdomen, a reminder. Wincing, I squeezed my eyes shut and waited for the stab to dull to an ache. I pressed my hand to my stomach and gritted my teeth until I was able to slip out of bed and into the bathroom. Swallowing a couple of pain pills, I stepped into the shower, letting the hot water scald my skin and relax my tense muscles. Dressed and anxious, I made a fresh pot of coffee and propped a note against the front. Tiptoeing into the bedroom, I pressed my lips to his.
"I love you," I whispered before disappearing out the front door.
I buried myself in work and ignored his calls and texts. When I walked into our empty home that evening, a hollow feeling bloomed in my chest. I imagined what it would be like to feel this way every day. The thought was crippling. I spent the night tossing and turning. Silent tears stained my cheeks as I pressed his pillow against my face. The next morning, my eyes were swollen and my body ached. After a quick call to the office that I wouldn't be in, I fell back into bed and sucummed to fatigue.
Hours later, I dragged myself out of the bedroom and tried to pull it together. Flipping through the mail, my heart stopped and my breath stilled when I found a letter from the doctor's office. It was my test results. With shaky hands I ripped open the envelope. My vision blurred and my knees buckled as I read the results. Words like, absent, normal, and not detected caused my chest to expand to the point of pain. I felt as though I was going to burst.
My results were clear. The masses were benign. Everything was going to be okay. My arms wrapped around my middle, and I leaned forward until my cheek pressed against the cool tile floor. Sobs of relief stole my breath and mended my heart. I cried out every ouch of pent up hurt and anger. Months and months of uncertainty left my body with each shuddering exhale. It was finally over.
His name tasted like honey on my lips. I jumped to my feet and stumbled to my phone. I wanted to talk to him. I needed to hear his voice. I had so much to make up for. His shock was evident in his tone when he answered. Shame bit into my skin. I'd treated him so badly. But all of that was over. I was going to be okay. We were going to be okay. Or so I thought.
Stirring sauce in a pan, I hummed along with the song on the radio. My cheeks ached from the smile that had permanently fixed itself to my face for the past several hours. My heart thumped and butterflies fluttered in my stomach. It was the first time in months that I felt at peace. It was a high like none I'd ever experienced. The phone rang, pulling me from my thoughts. I reached for it absently, not bothering to look at the caller ID.
"Yes?" I asked, touching my tongue to the sauce-covered wooden and wincing when it burned the tip.
"This is Dr. Tanner."
My face split into a wide smile as I dropped the spoon and turned my attention to Bree. "Hi! I was going to call you later. I got my results. I don't even know where to begin. I'm so sorry for the way I acted the last time I saw you. I was so stressed and frustrated. I'd almost given up hope. But you did it. You fixed me. I can't thank you enough. I can't tell you what this means to me. Do I need to come in for a follow up? Is there anything else I need to do?"
Silence hung in the air. I pulled the phone away from my ear. I thought the call had been disconnected, but the timer continued to tick. "Are you there?"
"Bella." Bree's voice was cautious, hesitant. It caused my stomach it twist and drop.
"What is it?"
I listened as Bree pulled in a sharp breath before shattering my world into a million pieces. "I'd hope to call you before you received the letter. There―" Bree cleared her throat. "―there was a mix up at the lab. Those aren't your results. I'm so sorry to put you through this. The lab was backed up. Several samples were labeled incorrectly. We didn't realize it until I received a hysterical phone call from another patient."
I didn't have to hear any more. I understood. "She had my results, didn't she?"
"And she was hysterical because the results came back that she had cancer."
"I'm so sorry."
"God damnit!" I screamed, my free hand flying to my hair and yanking until the strands pulled free. "No! Why? How could this happen? Do you―" I closed my eyes and tried to stop the room from spinning. Every bit of hope and happiness that had surged through me mere hours ago suddenly vanished. I was crushed. I was done. It was over.
I flung the phone across the room. The sound of plastic shattering against the wall and falling to the floor echoed around me. I screamed until my lungs burned and my throat was raw. I begged for answers I would never get. I cried until my tears ran dry, until I was numb. An empty shell. Until I felt nothing. Everything blurred together until pieces of a plan started to form. I couldn't do this anymore. Images of surgeries and treatments floated through my mind like a fog. Depression and hopelessness swelled in my chest and spread to my limbs. I saw Edward's slumped shoulders and sad eyes reflected back at me. It cut to the core.
I wouldn't make him suffer with me. I couldn't. I'd been selfish enough already. Without thought I drove to the store and filled my car with boxes. One call to my boss was all it took to secure the job she'd offered me just a week ago. The one on the other side of the country. Charlie tried to reason with me, but I wasn't going to change my mind. He knew it. I was methodical in my planning. I didn't allow myself to think about the wheels I'd set in motion or the hole they would rip in my chest.
I didn't talk to Edward. It forced me to realize something about myself. The only thing that surpassed my selfishness was my cowardice. It just served as further proof that I didn't deserve him. So I removed myself from our home piece by piece. I tore down all that we'd built. I didn't think it was possible to feel more broken or empty than I already did until my eyes landed on the diamond ring hidden in one of his drawers. The tears I thought were long gone wrecked me all over again. I hoped he hated me for what I was going to do.
But with all my planning, the one thing I hadn't accounted for was him coming back from the conference early. With my things in storage and my plane ticket booked, I put on my best dress. I fixed my hair and makeup. I looked exactly like the fraud I was pretending to be. I tried to avoid him, but this time, he wasn't giving up.
"Tell me what the fuck is going on," he roared, his eyes both frightened and angry.
The pain etched in his features was too much. I snapped. "I'm leaving," I screamed, my face flooded with heat.
He froze, and when he spoke his voice was barely above a whisper. "What?"
"You heard me. I'm leaving. We're done." I blinked back tears as I looked into his eyes. My mouth watered and the urge to vomit consumed me.
"What? No. What are you―" He reached up and threaded his fingers into his hair before a look of determination crossed his face.
I knew that look. I dreaded it. Because he was going to force me to tell the biggest lie of my existence.
"No. You don't get to leave me, Bella."
I balled my hands into fist, trying to stop their shaking. "That's not your decision to make. I have to do what's best for me. I deserve to be happy."
"Bullshit," he spat. "I have no say? I'm just supposed to accept this and let you go? We're supposed to be a team. Me and you. We make these decisions together. You don't get to throw us away!"
I felt like I was on fire. Like my body had been shoved inside of an incinerator. My insides charred but on the outside I was icy steel. "Do you love me, Edward? Do you want me to be happy?"
His answer was immediate. And it was exactly what I expected. "Of course I fucking do."
"Then don't ask me to stay. Don't force me into a relationship I no longer want."
I wanted to vomit. I wanted to hit something. I wanted to do anything that would close the gaping hole in my chest.
His face twisted with pain, and for the first time, I welcomed the agony that ripped through my stomach. I wanted the poison inside my body to infect every inch of me. Torture me slowly until there was nothing.
"How can you say that to me? We made plans, Bella. We have a future. We promised forever."
"You made plans, Edward. Oh, my God. Can't you see?" I yelled, throwing my arms wide. I needed to leave. I needed to get away from him. If I stayed any longer, I was going to break down and ruin everything. So I lied. Again.
"This is not the life I wanted. This is your life. Your plans. Your future. You wanted the steady job. Marriage, kids, and a white picket fence. I feel trapped. Caged. I feel like I'm suffocating. Do you remember when we first met? How we planned to see the world and work stupid odd jobs and live life to the fullest? That's what I agreed to. Not this."
He stared at me in stunned silence. I watched his face, watched as the wheels turned in his head. As he put together the pieces of a puzzle that was created from lies. That's when I saw it. Desperation. He wasn't going to let me go. Not until I crushed him. "You want to travel? We'll travel. We don't have to get married or have kids. I just want you. Don't you know that? I don't care about any of those things. They mean nothing without you."
"I don't want that. I don't want you to give up your dreams so that I can have mine. Neither of us should have to make that sacrifice."
"I don't care about that stuff. Don't you understand?"
I grasped at straws, saying anything I could to avoid uttering the ultimate lie. "So are you telling me that you haven't bought a ring? That you don't have plans to ask me to marry you?"
"How do you―"
"And what about kids?" I continued, not giving him a chance to sway me. "I see how you are with Maggie. You're a child psychologist for Christ's sake. You've built your entire career around children."
"But you're my life, baby."
My chest constricted and everything fucking hurt. I thought about what our lives would be like if I stayed. If I told him the truth. And then I imagined what it would be like when he realized he made a mistake and left me anyway. I was too much of a coward to take that risk. "You say that now. But what about in a year? Two years? What if you decide you want to marry and have children? I don't want that. Why prolong the inevitable? Why put off finding someone who shares those dreams with you?"
"Because I don't want someone else," he choked.
Crossing the room, he wrapped me in his arms. I tried to push him away even though everything inside of me wanted to pull him closer. I cried out, my body rigid as I fought for the strength to shove against his chest until he stumbled back. I turned away and wiped under my eyes, trying my best to keep it together. Just a little longer. Pulling in a deep breath, I faced the love of my life once more. I hid behind my lies. I buried my feelings and pretended that I wasn't dying inside.
When I spoke, my voice was void of any emotion. "I'm sorry. I never wanted to hurt you."
A dozen emotions flickered across his face before hard lines dominated his features. "No you're not. You don't feel anything. You can't possibly feel sorrow. Because if you did, you'd be dying inside. Just like me."
I narrowed my eyes and pressed my lips into a thin line as I battled the hysteria stirring in my chest. He had no idea how dead I was inside. Except my deadness wasn't metaphorical. It was real and irreversible. My anger spiked. Not at him, but at myself. Because the only reason he didn't know these things was because I chose to keep them from him. "Don't play the victim," I sneered, channeling my anger so I could end this once and for all. "You're not dying. You'll move on and find someone else. In time you won't even remember me."
"I could never forget you. I love you. How can you walk away from everything we are?"
"What are we, Edward? We're nothing. Just two people who tripped into each other's lives for a moment in time. We were never meant to be forever. Stop imagining what could have been and accept it's over."
His back slid against the wall as he fell to the floor. He searched my face, his eyes pleading, but I didn't waiver. I didn't give in. I burned myself from the inside out until there was nothing but a vacant shell.
"What happened to you? Don't do this. Don't end us. I don't know how to live like that. Because a life without you?" he choked, his eyes pained. "It's nothing. There's no life without you. Not for me."
I dropped my eyes to the floor, too much of a coward to look at him. To see the crushing pain tearing him apart. In a soft spoken voice, I told the most vile lie of my life. "I'm not in love with you anymore. I'm sorry."
I didn't look at him as I walked out the door and fell into my car. I ignored the pain in my chest that felt like I'd torn my heart out and left it lying on the ground. I made it two blocks before I flung open the car door and spilled the contents of my stomach. I drove the block eight times before turning out of our neighborhood. And then I turned around again. I sobbed against the steering wheel until the sun set and rose once more. I'd missed my flight, but I didn't care.
When I finally pulled myself together and rescheduled my flight the next morning, I was completely numb. I'd walked out on the best thing that had ever happened to me. I'd ripped out my soul. I'd never be whole again. But even in my haze of anguish, the pain that knotted my abdomen was all the reminder I needed that I'd done the right thing. He deserved someone better. He deserved a real woman, not a fraud.
Sup. I'm pretty sure some of you are like mannnn EFF this Bella. She's an idiot. She should have told him! *screams, rages, and yanks out hair* Others are probablytrying to stop that weird twisty thing in their stomach because they get it. Whether it's because they've been in a similar situation or know someone who has. I just ask that everyone keep an open mind. It's a really tough, emotional situation to deal with. And sometimes people make really stupid decisions that they wish they could go back and change. Just to that one split second in time before everything was fucked up.
So where do we go from here? I have this plotted out to be about 7ish chapters. It's primarily going to be EPOV so for those of you wanting to strangle Bella, you won't have to spend a lot of time in her head. This won't be some crazy long story like Glycerine (don't worry, I'm getting to that.) I'm going to try to have some of it written before I start posting so you don't have to wait long between updates. I have a particular reader who kinda frightens me. I don't think it would behoove me to make her wait. ;)
For those waiting on Glycerine, I had to scrap 2k and start over because I was SO UNHAPPY with the chapter. Once I did that things started rolling again. I have 5k done and I'm hoping to wrap it up this week. *crosses fingers and toes and wiggles my nose*
Also, anyone interested in reading some Halloween flash fics, myself, Raggdolly, and darkNnerdy have been posting some to our blog which can be found at theunholytrinityofhorror dot BlogSpot dot com. We'll start posting our collab in three days!
Epic a/n is finally over.