“Goodbye, Bella.” He whispered, before closing his eyes again. His hand began to lose its grip on mine, and I held it tightly to me like it could somehow stop him from leaving me. Bella has always known this day would come, but that hasn't prepared her any better for it. Can she handle saying a final goodbye to someone so important in her human life, whilst she lives on forever? And why is Edward absent in her hour of need?
10. Too Many Goodbyes
Rating 5/5 Word Count 4080 Review this Chapter
Too Many Goodbyes
I anticipated the infamous Forks rain and brought a waterproof. I pulled the dark hood up over my head and pulled the elastic tight as I made my way through the drizzle, though wet hair was the least of my worries.
An angel shone through the impenetrable fog, a small reminder of goodness in the world. Unfortunately I hadn’t been seeing much of that lately. His hand slipped out of his matching jacket and it wasn’t until his cool fingers interlocked with mine and guided me forwards, that I realised I’d stopped walking.
“Not much further, Bella.” Edward told me quietly, pulling gently on my hand as he helped me.
As we neared our destination, the urge to curl up in the puddles at the side of the road and close my eyes, to block everything out… grew unbearably strong. I wanted to hit something, which was an urge which surprised me. I prided myself on being a pacifist most of the time. The wish to lash out at something, to get even with the world was tempting, but stupid. I huddled closer to my husband and walked calmly to my breaking point.
End of the line- no sanity from here on.
The rain threw itself down harder from the heavens, each droplet flying desperately to its demise.
The words from the small, suit-clad man’s mouth were thick and garbled. “True”, he said, “Honest, kind, noble.” Words that meant nothing and said nothing. Words that would have made Charlie smiled that favourite crooked grin of mine, and laugh at the thought of them being used about him.
I stared at the small, wooden box and tried to imagine my dad fitting into something so clean-cut and tidy. It didn’t suit him. Nothing here suited him- not the black ties and dinner jackets. Not the tuna and cucumber sandwiches stagnating at the reception. I could almost smell them over the ever-present scent of blood, this time from the weeping, sweaty mourners. The church was only half-full, but it had enough people to make sure me and Edward were unnoticed. Luckily Renée hadn’t been able to fly out. If she’d been there, I don’t think I would have been able to stop myself from falling on my one remaining parent and begging God to make time stop for her, too.
The man stepped down from his little podium and a group of men from the Forks police station began to carry the little box of leftovers down the aisle. I could feel a sob, loud and uncomfortable, rise up in my throat. I shook involuntarily, and Edward reached for my hand again. Around me, people stood and began to sing. Their voices mingled as one. The sound reached up to the roof and regrouped, before echoing back to me…
All things bright and beautiful, all creatures great and small…
Someone pulled open the doors and the wintry light glinted off the lid of the coffin and into my eyes. I didn’t squint. I tried not to show Edward I was in pain. I didn’t want so much as a second of today to be about me- today was for Charlie. For all the time we had spent together, and for all the time I had left him alone. I didn’t know anyone as solitary as him- there was only one person I could think of, a long time before. I saved him, the beautiful boy who held my hand now as I shattered into pieces. I might have saved Charlie, for a while. Then I had left, and he had turned into something that fit in that small, lacquered box that was being carried away from me.
All things wise and wonderful, the Lord God made them all…
I wondered why such a song had been chosen. What was bright and beautiful about today? Where was my Charlie, who was not necessarily wise but who knew me like nobody else? What was wonderful about his death? What did the Lord God have to say about his absence, which every person here felt like a hole in the heart?
He made them high and lowly, each to their estate…
The song ran to a close and the final straining chords of the organ dissipated. People milled about in the church for a while, before following the vicar out slowly. The old metaphor of shepherds and sheep came to mind. Who was my shepherd now? Parents are the glue in the world, they keep us responsible, realistic... I looked at Charlie’s life and I saw the meaning drop out of mine. What was left? What was ahead? The years ahead stretched out endlessly, unchanging and cold as the face I saw in the mirror each day.
A minute later we were at the grave-side. I didn’t remember any of the journey there and stopped still for a moment. Instead of leading me on again, Edward had frozen too. His eyes shifted to a darker shade of gold as they glared across the cemetery. I flinched back from his gaze- the angry set of his mouth told me whatever he could see was not good news.
“We’ve got company,” He managed to murmur through the pained grimace marring his features.
The four Quileutes that had decided to come walked casually through the graves towards us. No, that was wrong. They were trying so hard to look casual, that they stuck out a mile. Their arm muscles bulged in their jackets whilst their fists clenched. They walked with an exaggerated swagger, like they were holding back yet walking forwards at the same time. I examined the four faces in turn- Sam, Embry, Paul…
I breathed a sigh of relief whilst Edward growled quietly in their direction. There was a face absent which I both longed and detested the idea of seeing. Sam looked up slowly at Edward’s warning, but the movement was again too measured, too calculated to be casual. They stopped a few feet behind the ceremony. Close enough to watch, but too far away to hear what the vicar was saying.
My thoughts were on the wolves as Charlie was lowered- ashes to ashes, dust to dust.
I saw one of the people from the police station toss something into the hole after him. His old work hat, I realised a second too late. All of a sudden, my hand was ripped out of Edwards and the hood of my waterproof had fallen as I ran to the edge of the grave. My knees sank into the soft, wet mud and I gazed down into the darkness and cried out. I could still see the box, just, with the hat and a few handfuls of earth on the smooth lid.
I hugged my waist hard, digging in my fingers and staring up into the cloudy sky. Would nothing make the pain stop?
Gone, dead, passed away… there were a million ways to describe Charlie but I didn’t want to use any of them. He was funny. He liked time to think, time to be alone. He was honest, and caring, and rude and… my dad.
Still, I had let him die.
Suddenly Edward was next to me, prising my hands from around my self and fitting me into his embrace. He kissed me lightly on the forehead again and again. The love he gave, I didn't deserve. I was sick. I was a murderer. Still the harder I dry-sobbed, the closer he came to my lips. My eyes slid back to Charlie, ignoring the amber ones trying to convey something I didn’t want to understand. He pulled the hood back up over my head as thick, fat raindrops began to course down my cheeks and people began to whisper behind us. All these hiding games we played, Edward and I. They all seemed trivial when I remembered that I had picked them over my father’s life.
People began to drift away now that the show was over. The rain slid across my father’s coffin in streams and patterns. I closed my eyes, trying not to think about leaving Charlie here in the dark. Alone, again.
“It’s time, Bella.” Sam muttered, suddenly behind us with the other pack member he had brought. As back-up, presumably. “You’ve been here long enough.”
“These aren’t even Quileute lands, what do you care?” Edward snarled back with full force now it was just us, “Her father’s dead, can’t you give her some time…?”
“You’re already on extra time, leech.” Paul spat vehemently. I’d wondered how long it would be until someone dragged up all the old insults.
“Well thank you, dog, for allowing her to say goodbye to the man who raised her for eighteen years.” Edward replied sardonically, removing his arms from around me standing up to face Paul full on.
“You’re welcome,” piped up Seth Clearwater, with a badly concealed grin.
“Enough. Just enough, okay?” I whispered , closing my eyes and speaking with a voice that seemed to carry all my real age in it. “Charlie wouldn’t want fighting, especially not today.” I managed to continue before a shiver that had nothing to do with the weather shook through me. My head dropped again as the sobs took over.
Edward took a step away from the wolves, and tried to lift me to my feet. I wasn’t ready to stand just yet. I gripped the edge of the hole tightly enough to turn the wet grass to dust, and leant farther over the edge of the gap with my eyes closed. For a second, I wanted to jump down, to rip open that stupid box and crawl up next to Charlie. To be ‘at peace’. To be wherever he was, because that was enough for me. The bickering carried on behind me and Edward turned back to the wolves, trying to shield me from the terrible things they were saying.
“Well we all know what Charlie did want…” Paul challenged, grinding his teeth together in some supposedly menacing way.
I felt Edward stiffen behind me, as he heard the boy’s thoughts before he said them aloud.
“He wanted Bella to be with Jacob,” Sam finished, refusing to stop now this conversation had been started. Each word hit me like a knife in my back, and I curled up tighter in pain with every syllable.
The truth really did hurt.
I could feel Edward, tense and angry, ready to snap. I half turned towards him, and placed a granite hand on his arm to steady him. The words they said were true. There was nothing to dispute, nothing to deny. Charlie chose a path where I could stay with him. I chose the other.
“Still, if I had the choice between eternal life and a nose job, or picking up Jake’s dirty socks… I guess I know who I’d choose too.” Seth commented, whilst the rest of the pack barked out loud, cruel laughs.
They’d gone too far with that- it wasn’t Edward who needing restraining this time. I flew to my feet, my hand reaching out to tear at their stupid, snickering faces. The urge to rip, to kill- it rose in me like never before. They were mocking the choice I’d agonised over making. They were laughing at me, at Charlie, at everyone I loved… The grating snarls that rolled effortlessly out of my throat echoed around the near empty graveyard like thunder.
Edward and Sam were suddenly at my side, pulling me back from Seth as I roared. His face went pale and he backed away, all the swagger dripping off his face with the rain. I was completely shocked with myself, not able to believe what I had been doing. I could still see my hate-filled expression glaring back at me in Edward’s worried eyes. All the anger drained away and I went limp, slipping through his icy arms and landing on the wet, dark grass next to Charlie’s grave once more.
I couldn’t see any of their faces now, but I could feel their eyes burn into my backs as I shook silently. I could hear Sam give Seth a whack on the arm, and was glad that the wolves realised that what had been said was out of line. I huddled closer into myself as Edward spoke quietly with the pack leader. I had failed everyone and it was too late to apologise. My fingers reached across the dark, gaping hole where Charlie was hidden to touch the smooth headstone depicting his name, age, and a small message-
Charles William Swan
Loving father. Gone but never forgotten.
It seemed that nine words were all it took to break my heart.
“He’s promised you five minutes alone here, Bella.” Edward whispered to me, his cool breath tracing my inner ear. I realised the wolves had gone, only Edward and I remained. The thick rain still fell, dampening my senses and my emotions. I turned only to search for Edward’s lips. He pressed them to mine briefly, immediately understanding, then stroked his finger along the line of my jaw gently.
“Alone?” I asked, my voice monotonous and empty.
His golden eyes were filled with words he couldn’t say. He opened his mouth quickly, then closed it again. I stared numbly into my butterscotch sky, trying to feel some of the warmth and emotion that radiated from Edward's gaze.
“I’ll be in the car,” He sighed eventually, shattering the tenuous connection of our shared gaze. Edward’s eyes focused on the gates of the small cemetery as he said, “The pack says just four minutes, love. Say goodbye to him- for me.”
Before I could nod, he was gone. The rain soaked him up like the vision he always seemed to be. Without the light shining from his skin, the world around me was empty. Charlie lay quietly where I could not reach him. No birds sang or creatures skittered in the silence. They seemed to understand that this was a place of mourning, of quiet and contemplation. Only the worms coiled indifferently below my feet, turning loved ones to mulch.
“I’m so sorry…” I began, though I knew Charlie was in no place where he could hear my words. “It was never meant to happen this way. I never thought about this, the future…” I closed my eyes, “I just thought about me.”
The words didn’t help at all. If anything, they made it harder. My mind drifted into the future, to the end of my four minutes. I couldn’t imagine leaving, turning my back on Charlie and walking away. Though, why not? my mind murmured silkily. I had done it once before…
“I’m sorry.” I whispered once more, my voice breaking with the hurt and regret it failed to carry. The lack of forgiveness was eminent in my grey, hazy surroundings.
“You should be,” a voice said behind me, making me jump so hard that I nearly toppled forwards into the darkness.
I got my balance again, somehow. As slowly as I could manage, I stood up and turned to face the other love I had left behind.
I got the name right first time, at least. Unlike my last trip to visit him. I had to admit; even I found it hard to tell the difference between the guy in front of me and his teenage son down in La Push. ‘Teenage son’ and ‘Jacob’ were still pretty hard for me to fit in a sentence together. Jacob Black had Billy’s teenage slouch down to a tee. He wore a dark suit which was slightly baggy and missing a button, probably one of his dad’s old ones, judging by the style and the wear on the elbows. His hands were shoved deep in his pockets and his dark hair hung in wet strands over his eyes, which were staring boldly into mine.
“Jake.” I half asked, barely managing to get the word out. He nodded once, either in confirmation or in greeting. I wanted to step forward and hug him, my best friend… but too much time had passed. Too many things had been said.
He kicked at the grass with cracked black leather shoes, trying to fill the silence. I wanted to turn back to Charlie, but I didn’t want to look away from Jacob either. When did he ever get so… tired? The slouch wasn’t just attitude, it was exhaustion. The shadows under his eyes were nearly as pronounced as mine. He looked world weary, like life had given him too many hits for him to keep going.
I tried not think about how I might be responsible for that.
“I’ll miss him,” Jake confided, looking past me at the headstone with Charlie’s full, formal name written on it. “I like to think that he found Harry and Billy- probably at some great fishing spot up there.” He smiled, “They’ll all be laughing their heads off at us, for crying so hard.”
A laugh of my own managed to mix in with the small, shaky sobs that were still overpowering me. My arms were crossed around myself as I turned to look at the headstone with Jacob. The rain felt right, making patterns on my blushless cheeks.
“So not being able to cry,” Jake asked slowly, “Is that a vampire thing?”
“So being completely tactless,” I replied, my voice thick, “Is that a werewolf thing?”
He grinned, turning to me with a snort. “Touché,” He muttered. He took a step forwards, so that we were stood side by side next to the unfilled grave. It reminded me off La Push, the two of us staring off the cliff at those guys who’d been crazy enough to dive off. We both stared down, both of us trying not to think of the bottom.
“I wasn’t going to come, Bells.” Jacob began, still looking down instead of at me. “Today’s about Charlie, I know that.”
I wondered how he knew what I’d been thinking today. That was one of the things about him- he’d always been able to pick up on my wavelength without me having to say a word. Like when I’d stopped listening to music after Edward… left. Jacob just knew.
The nod I gave was unnecessary.
“Then Sam said today… today was really the last time he’d let you back.” Jake continued, finally meeting my golden gaze. “And I knew I had to.”
I realised, suddenly, that Edward had known about this. His look at the gate, the message he’d been trying to give me… “Say goodbye to him- for me.”… Who had he been referring to?
“I can’t get used to your eyes,” Jacob threw out randomly. “I miss the way they were, before.”
Again, there was nothing I could say in reply. He shoved his hands deeper in his pockets and I turned without thinking. I reached out a hand for one of his. The second of hesitation he gave made me want to cry out with pain. When had he become so… wary? Yet if anyone had the right not to trust me…
His hand tensed when he slid it into mine, the difference in temperature made more obvious by his unusually warm skin. Our fingers felt good entwined together, the heat making my skin tingle. After a few seconds, his hand fell away but something remained.
I looked at him with questioning eyes, but his expression gave nothing away.
The little wolf charm I’d given him back lay in my ivory palm, the dark wood oddly warm.
I opened my mouth in protest, but he got there first.
“I’m taking your advice Bella,” Jacob smiled, speaking too loud for our empty surroundings. There was no sorrow or regret in his voice; it was like he was trying to persuade me to a point of view I didn’t understand.
“I’m done hurting you. It’s not fair on anyone.” He quoted back to me, his eyes hard and empty. I flinched, trying not to think about what that letter had done to him. I was going to have a lot of repressed memories to deal with later.
“I just wanted you to move on. It’s better for everyone,” I explained carefully, trying to convince myself just as much as him.
“That doesn’t mean you had to give back my present, though.” Jake replied sulkily, crossing his arms and pouting in imitation of an upset child. I tried to laugh for him, but it turned to a sob somewhere between my throat and my lips.
“No, you were right. I called Karen, we’re engaged.” He told me, letting a little warmth leak into his voice. “I won’t let you tear yourself up about me like this, Bells.” Jake promised seriously, his eyes flicking over to where Charlie lay.
He took a step forward and hugged me tightly, warming me through even through the thick waterproof I had on. The smell was so different to the last time I’d done this, when I was human. The soft, earthy scent had replaced by something much more bitter, with a hint of- however much I hated to say it- wet dog. When I stepped back out of his embrace, Jake had a tight hold on my arm. He shook back the sleeve so my bracelet was visible and took the tiny howling wolf from my hand. Flicking the tiny glittering heart out of the way, he reattached the charm on the opposite side of the bracelet.
“It wasn’t your fault,” He tried to tell me, but I just shook my head wordlessly.
Then, hesitantly, he let go of my arm and took a step away.
"Bella..." he began, and then stopped. There was recognition in his face, when he looked me in the eye. I knew where he might have seen my expression before, but I had no energy to change it. The waves of pain showed clearly in my eyes and I knew it- but I could never hide my feelings, now or before. His mouth opened again, with reluctance.
"When it's my turn..." He began, until I understood what he was starting to say and shook my head angrily. Images of Jacob- cold, blank, still... The skewer it pushed into my heart made me want to scream. I turned away but he grabbed my arm and turned me to face him. I could have pulled my arm from his grip in a second, but the torn look on his face made me stop. It was split somewhere between pain and forgiveness, between hurt and love. I begged him to stop now with my eyes, for both our sakes, but the words kept spilling out.
"When it's my turn," Jake began again, breathing slowly, "I don't want you to hurt yourself like this. You did nothing wrong, remember that."
His lies were kind, but his grip wasn't. His hold on my arm was unrelenting, though we both knew I had to leave.
“Remember us,” He whispered across the space that was really so much bigger than the few steps that separated us. Jake’s eyes flicked to the dark shape in front of the church gates. A car sat there in the drizzle, purring gently as the engine pulsed in an oddly threatening manner. There was everything left to say and nothing left to lose, but there was only one word on my lips for both of the ghosts in front of me.
“Goodbye,” I croaked to Charlie, ignoring the searing hot pain that was ripping me apart. I read the gravestone through closed eyes, the image forever engraved in my mind. And whatever was left of my heart.
A gust of wind and a last patter of wind was my only reply.
“Goodbye,” I whispered to Jacob, resisting the urge to bury myself in his warm, strong arms one last time. Would this be the last time I would see him, alive? I looked into his dark eyes and knew he was thinking the same. I manage to hide my sob behind a malnourished smile for a second. His replying one was small and brief, but it helped a little. My miniature sun- now a lonely, dying planet.
My time was up. Refusing to think or feel, I turned away from everything I knew and followed the steady path back to the rest of my heart.