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The Dorothy Factor

An unusual storm descends upon Forks, and Bella and Edward are caught in the middle. When the dust settles, nothing is the same …
Chapter Twelve: Somewhere Over the Rainbow
(the last chapter)
The only thing that had changed was Edward himself. He had returned a different man – with a new understanding about the constant ache in his chest and the vacancy he’d always sensed there in the periphery of his life.

Inspired by actual events; (see chapter one end notes). An incredibly huge, warm thank you to vnfan – an amazing author and an indispensable asset to me while writing this story. Not only did she help fix all my typos and “dumb blonde” moments (even though I’m a redhead, I still have dumb blonde moments) – but she also helped me get through a couple rough spots. Her response, as well, was encouragement to keep me going. To vnfan – thanks for being my first and most amazing beta ever; I don’t know how I ever lived without you and your help! I had so much fun writing this story. I hope you all enjoy it as much as I enjoyed writing it.

11. Chapter Eleven -- No Place Like Home

Rating 5/5   Word Count 2561   Review this Chapter

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It was bright when Bella opened her eyes again. She blinked, trying to get her vision to focus – while struggling to remember what had happened. Slowly, the fog cleared and she remembered the storm. She remembered the way the wind felt, lashing at her skin and whipping her hair around her face in a torrent of dirt and leaves. She remembered gladly facing the tempest, hoping it would carry her home. Then she remembered the cold shackle of Edward’s hand around her wrist – stopping her – and she shuddered.

She sat up, holding her head as it throbbed with a dull pain, and glanced out the window. Daylight poured in past clouds and trees, through the long glass window that covered the entire back wall of the Cullens’ home. They’d left Battle Ground; they were back in Forks. Bella looked around; she was in Edward’s room – tucked into the center of the large gold bed.

Her eyes turned from the window and there he was – seated like a Greek god at the foot of the bed, staring at her anxiously. When her eyes met his, he released his breath and slid closer, tucking himself against her side. He brushed the hair from her eyes and looked down at her lovingly. “You’re okay,” he breathed with relief.

Bella’s eyes narrowed. “No thanks to you.”

Edward stared back at her, hurt and confused. “I’m sorry,” he said. “I tried – I did the best I could. But the wind was too strong, you fell from my arms … I didn’t mean …”

His hands fluttered about her face, struggling to find a place to rest. Bella bristled at his touch and slapped his hands away – pushed uselessly at his chest – and continued smacking at his face and his arms.

Edward, surprised by the violent onslaught, sat in shock – absorbing each of her tiny thrusts. The pain in his eyes deepened with each slap. He didn’t know how he’d wronged her, but he was horrified by her reaction. Horrified that he could cause these emotions in her.

“You – ruined – everything!” She enunciated each word with her fist. “Now I’ll never get home. I’ll never see him again!”

Edward continued staring at her, his body hardly jerking with the force of her violence. It was nothing to him, physically – but each slap stung his heart. Something was wrong, he could tell. Perhaps she was suffering from amnesia or maybe she had a concussion … or worse. If she kept up this tirade, she would only end up hurting herself; he had to stop her.

Edward stilled her flailing hands and fists, shackling Bella’s wrists, and pushed her down into the pillows. Hot tears fell freely from her eyes and her body shook with the efforts of her angry sobbing. “Bella, it’s going to be okay.” He tried to use his most assuring voice.

“No, it’s not,” she bellowed. “I’ll never get home now!”

“Bella, Charlie knows you’re here. Carlisle called him.”

“Charlie? Carlisle?” The names seemed to calm her down, if only a little.

Edward sighed, relieved at this small gain. “Yes.” He smirked crookedly. “Charlie may not approve of me, but I think he’s grateful for all the free medical care you’re getting by marrying the son of a doctor.”

“Marrying … you?”

Edward sat back, his small smile falling away, disturbed again. “Bella, what do you remember?”

She shook her head, trying to clear away the fog that was pushing in on her brain again. Using her thumb, she twisted the gold band around her left ring finger, contemplating this. She remembered everything. Waking up after the tornado in a strange twist of reality. The perverted versions of her friends and loved ones. She remembered the cold, cruel Edward that had learned to love her – and then tried to stop her from chasing after the tornado. Her eyes shot up to the man before her. Had it actually worked? Was she home?

Bella sat up and began fumbling with the buttons down Edward’s shirt.

“Bella?” He tried pushing her away, back to the pillows – but she was persistent.

“Just – give me a minute.” She pushed his hands away and continued clumsily undoing the buttons. When they were free, she pushed his shirt back and took in the sight of his pale, perfectly-muscled marble chest. It was flawless. She ran her fingers over his left breast, the place where his silent heart called out to her. The skin was perfect; it had never been touched. Her eyes brightened and she looked up at his face hopefully. “Is it really you?”

Edward’s eyes searched her face, struggling to understand. “Of course it’s me.”

“It is, isn’t it?” she said gladly. “It’s you. It’s really you!” She flung her arms carelessly around his neck and pulled him against her, heedless of the shock and confusion on his face. Hesitantly, he wrapped his arms around her waist and slid her body onto his lap. He closed his eyes, burying his nose in her hair and inhaling deeply.

“I’m so glad you’re okay,” he sighed.

Bella pulled back only slightly, just enough to see his face. She caressed his cheek lovingly. “What happened?”

He smiled down at her. “There was a tornado, but you fell and hit your head. There was ... a lot of blood … I carried you here, to Carlisle. He fixed you up as best he could, gave you some drugs … it made you smell weird. I hated it, except it seemed to make you less uncomfortable – in less pain. But you were still unconscious. I’ve been waiting for you to wake up – hoping you were okay. You’ve been out for more than 24 hours. We kept you here so Carlisle could keep an eye on you – that’s what we told Charlie.”

Bella’s features crinkled with concern. “You mean … I was here the whole time? Blacked out?” Her eyes fell from his face, drifting somewhere in the direction of the carpet, but not focusing on anything in particular. She was seeing beyond the room – trying to remember.

“Of course,” he said.

Bella shook her head, struggling to comprehend. She couldn’t have been here the entire time – she’d been transported to that other world; that other version of reality. It had all seemed so real. She’d awoken with the blood dried on the back of her head, covered in dirt. She’d snuck into Charlie’s house; used the shower. She remembered the way the hot water felt on her skin and how she’d been forced to use Charlie’s generic soap to clean out her hair. She remembered that other Jake – younger, not yet transformed. She remembered walking up the overgrown driveway to Edward’s house and his cold, cruel greeting; how he’d so reluctantly agreed to help her – just to get rid of her.

She remembered the smell of the cosmetics she’d been pampered with at the Seattle department store – and the overwhelming aroma of the sales girls’ perfume; the feeling of the new skirt and sweater on her skin. She remembered the blisters that had begun forming on her toes from the red pumps and how she’d traded them for her ratty old sneakers.

She remembered the drive to Alaska and then back down to Portland. Meeting the other Carlisle, with his overly confident demeanor and his somewhat leering attitude. She remembered watching the rain fall through the large, arched windows; lying in bed with that other Edward – and his unwanted kiss. The smell of the takeout food Jake had brought back for her and her enthusiastic appetite. She remembered formulating a plan of action; following it through. Driving to the Gorge; gathering in the clearing. The fight with the trackers. How Edward had thrown himself at her to save her; how the entire scene had left her body in a cold, motionless shock for several minutes.

She remembered the ardent drive to Battle Ground – the whine of the Honda’s engine as Edward pushed the SUV past its limits. The way the raindrops speckled the windshield. Then, standing in the storm – waiting for the wind to embrace her and bring her home. And the fight – when that other Edward declared his love and she said the cruelest lie to make him let her go; how she’d fallen and faded away.

It all seemed too real for a dream.

“Bella?” Edward’s voice oozed concern, drawing her from her reverie.

She looked up at him achingly. “But … I was there.”

His brow furrowed. “Where? Bella, you’ve been here … in this bed …”

She shook her head. “I was there.”

“Where?” He clutched her chin in his hand and forced her to look up at him and meet his gaze. “Where were you, Bella?”

She shrugged. “I don’t know. Here, but not here. Somewhere very similar, yet horribly different.”

Bella rose from the bed and padded softly across the floor – pausing only once when a wave of dizziness temporarily disoriented her – then continued to the window against the back wall. She pressed her fingers to the glass and looked out at the familiar scenery – the moss-covered trees, the ferns coating the mud like a plush green carpet and the twisting Sol Duc River winding past it all. Every image was so vivid – but so were her memories.

Edward crept up beside her silently, snaking his hand around her waist. Bella’s heart sped up automatically and the skin at her hip tingled beneath his palm. She kept her gaze focused out the glass to maintain some composure, but Edward studied her profile critically. “You … think you went somewhere else? After the tornado?”

“I did go somewhere else,” she said emphatically.

“But you were here the entire time. I know. Bella, I never left your side!”

“I don’t know how it happened,” she argued, her voice petulant. She turned, finally, from the window to face him. “But it did happen.”

Edward stared down at her with wide, unbelieving eyes. He tucked a loose strand of hair behind her ear, studying her.

“It did,” Bella insisted, responding to his silent skepticism.

His brow crinkled as he considered this. “Tell me,” he said slowly – calculating. “Where you went … what happened to you … tell me. I want to know.”

Bella sighed and let out a long, hard breath. She turned and leaned her back against the glass wall. “It’s a long story.”

I’ve got time,” Edward said, smiling. He led her over to the sofa in the center of the room, guiding her with his arm secure around her waist.

Edward sat elegantly on the sofa and pulled Bella onto his lap, leaning her back to cradle her in his arms like an infant. She felt clumsy and small in his arms, but he kissed her forehead soothingly and brushed his cool fingers across her skin and she relaxed quickly. He waited interminably in silence, while she absorbed each of his caresses and found the words to begin.

Hesitantly, she commenced telling her story. “It was sunny when I woke up,” she began – launching into the lengthy and bizarre ordeal she believed she’d just endured. She didn’t leave out a single detail, confessing every thought and each facet, no matter how obscure or trifling it might seem. Edward listened to her account with rapt detail, hanging on to every word. Bella tried not to pay attention to his response, because every time his face changed in reaction to something she’d uttered, she’d find herself distracted. Then, flustered, she’d struggle to launch back into the tale where she’d left off. Ignoring his reactions – each tightening of his face, each furrow of his brow, each tick of his muscles – was easier.

When she had finished – explaining the last moments in the second tornado, that other Edward trying to keep her from going home and then waking up in his bed – she looked up at him shyly. She felt the blush blossom across her cheeks involuntarily, the heat spreading like wildfire on her face. Edward’s fingers brushed across the natural rouge and he smiled down at her, but didn’t say anything.

Bella bit her lip, her eyes darting away ashamed before returning to his liquid amber gaze. “You don’t believe me, do you?”

Edward’s lips curled inward as if he were fighting back an inappropriate response, but the smile still lingered.

She sighed, dejectedly. “I knew you wouldn’t believe me …”

Edward’s hand grasped her chin tightly and forced her face upwards. “But that’s just it,” he said, his expression amused and carefree as he gazed down at her. “I do believe you. I just don’t know how to explain it all. And I’ve decided … it doesn’t matter.”

Bella sat up in his arms, pushing his hands away from her face. “It doesn’t matter?!”

Edward threw his head back and laughed, a profound rumbling from deep in his chest. “Do you remember when I said that to you?” he asked. “When you said it didn’t matter what I was?”

Bella glowered at him, her eyes narrowing.

This only made him laugh harder. Eventually, his amusement died down into a soft chuckle, before fading into a contented sigh. “Oh Bella,” he said, scooping her up and carrying her back to the bed. He slid into the center of the mattress and leaned against the pillows, pulling her against him. She tucked her head into the crook of his arm, her fingers playing with the button of his shirt – still carelessly flung open over his chest from earlier.

“Don’t you see?” he said, eventually. “It doesn’t matter what happened to you … or rather, it doesn’t matter how it happened to you. It only matters that you’re back – here, safe and sound in my arms and none the worse for wear. Well,” he added, his tone leery as he prodded the partly-healed gash on the back of her head, “mostly intact, at least.”

Bella relaxed against him, her earlier annoyance forgotten – or at least forgiven. “My head hurts,” she said.

“I’ll get Carlisle to bring you something.”

“Not yet,” she amended quickly. “Just … give us a few more minutes alone. Please?”

Edward nodded. “Of course.”

“I love you.”

He smiled. “I love you, too,” he pledged. “I always will. Against time and space, I will always love you.”

She sighed happily at his confession. “I’m glad you believe me.”

“I have no reason not to,” he said. “It doesn’t make much sense, but your story … something about it just rings of validity. I can’t accept that it was all just a dream. Besides …” His voice trailed off, as if he wasn’t sure whether to speak his last thought aloud.

“Besides … what?” Bella pressed.

Edward stifled a chuckle. “Well, you were pretty much knocked out … and Carlisle had given you some fairly potent drugs … but did you know you still talked in your sleep, despite all that?”

Bella gulped; her face ashen. “What did I say?”

Edward grinned. “Oh, just something about ruby slippers and clicking your heels three times ...”

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