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What Charlie Knew

Summary:
Charlie dies. Bella must deal. And the Cullens kept some secrets of their own for Bella's own good. Spoilers; post Eclipse, pre Breaking Dawn.


Notes:
I wrote this fanfic on an anniversary of a relative's death. It helped me deal and made me like Bella a little better because she's on the cusp of having to grow up a bit in this.


1. What Charlie Knew by Elektra

Rating 4.5/5   Word Count 2519   Review this Chapter

I could hear the wind howling outside the house. Just like I had for the past year and a half since I came to Forks. But, nothing was the same. Nothing would ever be the same.

“You’re awake,” Edward said, softly. I hardly heard him. His relative chill was comforting to me at this very moment. I didn’t want to think about it. I wondered, deep down, had he known what the Cullens really were, deep down? Is that why he had tried so hard to push Jacob on me? “Bella?”

“Yeah,” I said. Last night was a blur to me. I remembered Charlie’s deputy, Chris Struthers, sitting in the squad car in the front yard, waiting for me as Edward and I pulled in. I remember Edward grabbing my arm. Bella, don’t get out of the car just yet, Edward said. The look on his face. Something had happened. Just don’t. That’s the last thing I remembered. Everything else was just… black.

I didn’t know how much I loved Charlie. Charlie, my father. The one that embarrassed me so much, the one that insisted on putting up childhood pictures of me in the living room, the one that would look up with raised eyebrows when he caught on to little bits and pieces of Edward and my conversations. Our distant relationship had had its moments. Edward helped me to sit up in the bed. He, as always, had sweet breath and perfect hair in the morning. His marble skin was perfect in the light. I was, of course, a mess in the mornings. This morning, I was worse than ever. I could feel how swollen my eyes were.

I looked around this room. Charlie’s presence was everywhere. The reinforced floors, the painted walls, the old computer with the dial-up modem with the phone cord stapled to the wall. I had tried to customize it myself; the curtains, the pile of dirty clothes my closet was vomiting out, the bookcase filled with random books and a couple of porcelain figurines that I had acquired over the years that I never quite paid attention to, the random posters and drawings that Edward and I had acquired since I moved here, covering up his handiwork.

“Esme wants to see you,” Edward said, softly. “Do you want to go over or do you want her to stop by?”

I wasn’t sure. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to stay in my father’s presence or take a break from it. “I don’t know, you decide,” I said. A look of indecision crossed his face. I couldn’t imagine Carlisle and Esmse comfortable in this place, not right now. I couldn’t be strong in front of them. The first thing I’d do, in this house, in front of them, would be to cry. I had probably been hysterical last night. “No, no, let’s go to your house.” I wasn’t sure I could handle the details. I didn’t even know what happened to Charlie. Did he die at the hospital or on the scene? What killed him? Did somebody kill him?

“I’ll drive,” Edward said, although he didn’t need to tell me that.

“I need to take a shower,” I said.

He nodded. He got out of the bed, letting me out.

I took my toiletries to the bathroom and brushed my teeth. I finally looked at myself in the mirror. My eyes looked hollow. Empty. Numb.

I took a shower, letting the hot water burn me. Could it all be real? I slowly turned down the cooler water. I closed my eyes and just let it burn. All I could hear was the showerhead.

“Bella!” Edward tore the shower curtain aside and yanked me out. “Christ, what are you doing?” he cried. I was laying on the bathroom floor, naked and soaking wet in front of him. He nervously looked away from me and threw towel in my general direction. My whole body flushed tomato red, a light pink tinge on his cheeks, which I could see through the fog of the steam in the bathroom. “Why did you do that to yourself?”

“I don’t know,” I said, wrapping the towel around myself.

“Sorry,” he said. “This isn’t the time or the place to see you naked.”

“It’s Okay,” I said, softly, out of reflex, my cheeks still burning, standing.

“Can I trust you in here?” he asked. “Or do I need to call Alice?”

“No,” I said. “I mean, I can get dressed on my own.”

“Alright,” he said. He reached into the shower, carefully, and turned off the water, careful not to scald himself. He kissed my wet hair. “I’ll wait downstairs.”

He left the bathroom, leaving the door open. I didn’t want to close it. The open door helped to air the steam out. I wipe the mirror off with my hand. Then, I wiped my face off. What had I been doing yesterday? Edward, Alice, Jasper and I watched a foreign film with subtitles from Netflix on the Plasma screen TV over the fireplace in the Cullen’s living room. It had been a good break from planning the wedding. Oh God, that was right, I was getting married in less than two weeks. And then, I was going to be turned by Tanya. She had agreed to do it so we wouldn’t violate the truce between the Cullens and the Quileutes. All this was happening.

I rested my elbows on the counter, my head in my hands, just crying. Charlie wouldn’t walk me down the aisle. Ever. I wasn’t sure if we’d put off the big, white wedding Alice was planning. Why did things have to change so drastically?

Edward checked on me twice, I was taking so long. I finally just decided not to bother with make up at all. I didn’t bother with drying my hair. I finally got dressed when he threatened to call Alice, again.

“You know who you need to call,” he said as he drove to the mansion in woods.

“Who?” I asked.

“Renee,” he said. “I’m sure you want the details, first.”

“I do,” I said.

“I can tell you,” he said. “But, Carlisle was there when he died.”

“He was at the hospital when he died?” I asked.

“Yes,” he said. “He wasn’t conscious. Carlisle and I think it would be better if he tells you, not me.”

“Why?” I asked.

“Because it’s easier if you don’t hear it from me,” Edward said, taking my hand. “You’re shaking.” I looked at my hand. I was.

“I know,” I said. It would help if actually ate some food. Edward forgot to make me eat.

“Bella, I’m so sorry,” Edward said.

We rolled into the clearing. Edward parked close to the front entrance so I didn’t have to walk through the rain. The Cullens were almost lined up in the foyer, waiting for me.

Esme’s first reaction was to hug me.

I don’t know I thought that seeing Esme and Carlisle in my own house would keep me from breaking down, because I did. Right there. Nobody had to speak or make noise. Rosalie stood, watching me like stone, but I caught a gleam of smugness in her eye, as if she were saying, See what you’re giving up?

Esme and Alice took me into the living room, where I sat down. Just twelve hours earlier, I was talking about wedding favors with Alice and rolling my eyes. Everything seemed so easy.

“Bella,” Carlisle began. “Do you really want to know what happened?”

“Yes,” I said, softly.

“Your father was shot at a convenience store hold up,” Carlisle said. “It hit too close to his heart. He wasn’t conscious when the EMTs got him to the ER, but… by then, it was too late. He died on the way to the hospital. I’m so sorry.”

Everyone was so sorry. I’m sure I’d hear that phrase over and over and over in the next few months. …So sorry, Bella. We’re so sorry. I’m so sorry. Would these next people to utter it really mean it? My nose was still running. I looked over at Alice. I realized, with the look on her face, if she could physically cry, she would. Charlie had gotten attached to her.

Had she seen Charlie die? And not told me? Or had she not looked?

A sudden rage built up in me. “Alice, did you know?” I asked.

“It’s hard to say,” she said, her lips pressed into a thin, white line. “I saw a lot of things yesterday morning. I see a lot of things concerning Charlie. You don’t know how often Charlie almost died in his job, it would have worried you to no end.”

“He told me he never discharged his gun on the job,” I said.

“He only told you that to put you at ease,” Edward said. “I knew differently.”

I rested my elbows on my knees and rested my head. I felt the sobs re-wracking my body, my back shaking. I didn’t want to look at them. I thought Forks was such a safe, backward little town. Like Mayberry on that awful, old show, The Andy Griffith Show. “I thought it was so safe here,” I said.

“You only thought that because we kept the riff-raff out,” Jasper said. He got up and sat down beside me. He touched my back, and instantly calmed me.

“Jasper, don’t,” Esme said. Jasper’s hands retracted. The calming waves were gone. I couldn’t believe that Esme was letting me suffer like this. “I know, it seems cruel, Bella,” Esme said. “You have to mourn properly. That’s part of the process.”

My chest felt tight. “She needs to tell Renee,” Edward said. “We’ll do it in my room.” He picked me up and carried me upstairs, setting me on the bed. He handed me a phone.

I dialed Renee, trying my hardest not sob into the phone. It wasn’t a good way to talk to your mother when you answered, crying into the phone, but she’d know the second she said hello.

“Hello?” she asked, unfamiliar with Edward’s number on her caller ID.

“Mama?” I asked, reverting back to my childhood name for her. I knew my voice sounded like I had been crying.

“Bella!” she cried, immediately, her voice tensing up. “What’s wrong?”

“It’s Charlie,” I said. “He was shot yesterday.”

“Oh God!” she cried. “Oh God!” she repeated over and over, and I heard her begin to sob.

“Renee?” I heard Phil ask in the background, alarmed. I heard some scuffling. “Hello?”

“Phil, it’s me,” I said. “Charlie… Dad was shot yesterday.”

“Are you OK?” he asked. “Where are you?”

“I’m at the Cullen’s,” I said.

“Are they taking care of you?” he asked. “We’ll be up as soon as possible. Is this Edward’s cell phone number?”

“Yes,” I answered.

“OK, just sit tight,” he said. “Give the phone to Edward, I want to talk to him.”

I held the phone out to Edward. “Hi, Mr. Dwyer?” he asked. Edward had a conversation with Phil, pacing the floor. I laid down on the bed, and curled up on my side. What was I going to do?

Charlie was gone. I had to go down to the morgue and identify and claim him. My father. What was I supposed to do with his body? We had to bury him. I had no idea if he had a will. Was he supposed to be buried or cremated? I looked at Edward, and shuddered at the thought. When were they expecting me to do all this? Was I supposed to do it all? I was the next of kin.

I never thought I’d have to bury my own father this soon. At such a young age. I thought I had years left with him.

When Edward was done talking to Phil, he pulled me from the bed. “We have to get you to the morgue, and then, the funeral home,” he said, quietly. “I’m sorry we have to do this, Bella.”

I felt fresh sobs of terror in my chest. I didn’t want to do this.

I didn’t want to think about all that I had had to do in the past forty-eight hours. All this on my shoulders. My friends from Forks High came by the funeral, came by my house. Renee and Phil were there, staying at a motel in Port Angeles, and she insisted that I stay with her, but I didn’t want to leave Edward’s side. We stayed at the Cullen’s house. I don’t remember sleeping, but it all felt like sleeping.

Jacob and Billy came to the funeral. Jacob apologized to me. He threw a glare at Edward, but left it at that. He hugged me. I heard the chorus, over and over and over again. “I’m so sorry, Bella. He was a good man.”

I sat in the living room of my house. Charlie’s house. The Police Department’s lawyer sat down, shuffling papers. Edward, Renee and Phil sat beside me- Charlie had left everything to me. Pension, 401K, life insurance, everything. The lawyer had a cup of coffee and shook hands with all of us, and repeated the chorus, I’m so sorry. I was so sick of it.

“Bella, don’t you want to come home with us?” Renee asked. “We can put off the wedding. And college. Edward can come and visit whenever he wants. I’ve missed you.”

“I missed you, too,” I said. “But, this, here… this is my life… with Edward.”

“Bella, don’t you think you’re jumping into this too soon?” she asked. I could see her own fears bubbling up into her eyes. And being back here in Forks, such a reminder. Edward was standing right there. “Are you sure you want to get married right after your father died?”

“If she doesn’t go on, there’s always going to be a dark cloud over the end of July for the rest of her life,” Edward replied. “There’s a grief counselor in Port Angeles that wants to meet her.”

Fear pierced Renee’s eyes. Edward seemed so much more grown up than she realized. She reached over and touched his cheek, but he didn’t recoil, like he normally did. She did, though, out of surprise. She had never really touched him, before, so distinctly. It was like he was telling her what he really was, sending her a message.

I took Edward’s hand.

“We need to go,” she said. “Phil, come on. Bella, if you need to, you can come to the hotel for dinner.”

“Alright,” I said. “Thanks, Mom.”

She and Phil left the house. I laid down on the couch, Edward laid down on top of me.

“Did Charlie know?” I asked.

“Did he know what?” Edward asked, his face close to mine.

My eye filled with tears for the millionth time in the past three days. “You know what I’m asking, don’t play dumb,” I said. “Did he know, but never confronted you? Any of you?”

“Yes,” Edward said, bending his face down to press his lips to mine. “He knew.”