“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?
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All this time changed and I still loved the feel of warm sunlight on my pale, rock hard skin. The weak rays weren’t strong enough to warm through my surface, but it had an impact. Like a feather brushing lightly across my arm, or the kiss of cold wind on bare skin. I closed my eyes, enjoying the sensation for a moment.
After that, I couldn’t find any more excuses to not look at Charlie.
The light which refracted off my skin was beautiful. It struck the grey strands of his hair with full force, so they shone in a dazzling shade of white. The ancient, baggy skin around his eyes stretched out in wonder and surprise whilst his weathered hands gripped the hospital sheet. The reflex action made me smile- what use was it? Still, the smile was short. It took me a moment, but I soon realised the adrenaline in his bloodstream couldn’t be wasn’t a reflex. He was terrified. Of his own daughter.
His whole body seemed to be shaking. His jaw shuddered up and down helplessly, and his pupils roved over every centimetre of my skin that was emanating the crystalline, ethereal light fragments. He couldn’t take it in, this impossible, beautiful thing. The light seemed to avoid him too, as he shook in his gloomy hospital bed.
Then I saw myself in a small medical mirror at the opposite side of the room. There I stood- strong, tall, flawless and exuding beams of light. My father was huddled, close to pulling the cover over his eyes. He seemed smaller than ever compared to me, an everlasting, never-ending mythical. It was as if I had been sucking the life out of him all these years… and now that the time came close for him to go, I was here. Wringing out every last drop of anything, and everything, that kept him alive.
I staggered backwards out of the light, wondering what I had become.
It was then I saw he was crying. He laid back again, not even trying to cover up the sobs that seemed to be controlling him. The small beads of moisture ran in rivulets down his wrinkled face and his eyes were closed tightly. Not a sound came from his mouth, but the sobs that shook him seemed to be coming from the very centre of him- like the echo after a landslide, it just seemed to be from everything. I rushed back to his side, kneeling down and then reaching for his hand. He shook his head, and pulled it away with the little strength he had. The gesture cut me deep, but I didn’t recoil from him. I leant right over the bed and took him right hand in both of mine.
“Charlie, Charlie please don’t…” I stammered, but what could I ask him? Not to cry? He had every right to be terrified at what I was, repulsed by what I had become. Heck, I was ready to point out all the faults right there with him. If only he would stop crying, if only he would stop pushing needles into my heart.
My voice seemed to still him for a minute. I could almost see everything I had said so far sink in. It was too late to deny, to argue. It was too late and it was all my fault.
“How long?” Charlie demanded in a tone of voice that didn’t match his expression. The sobs had stopped, but the tears still clung to his cheeks and lashes like stray snowflakes. “How long have you been… have you-”
“Since I moved out, Dad.” I whispered in reply. After all this, he wanted to know whether I had been like this when I lived with him. What kind of a risk had I posed to him all this time?
He nodded and swallowed in one movement, his dark eyes piercing my amber irises.
“You would have made such a good Mom,” He whispered to me from the dark.
All the breath in my lungs whooshed out in a second. It was like he’d physically hit me, the way that those simple words had hurt. Of course he hadn’t meant to… he was grieving for the loss of any grandchildren just as much as he was sad for me. Yet as I shook at the pain, I saw those two dark haired children running off into the woods. Still away from me. Always running away.
“How did you-” I began to ask, not knowing how he could understand so quickly.
“Bella, honey.” He half smiled at me, “If you never grow up, then how can something that lives in you? Plus I can’t think of anything else that could stop Esme being a Mom.”
Charlie took my silence as an agreement, and then began to shake his head sadly. I thought it was just because of what he’d found out, what he’d only just begun to comprehend. Then he spoke again.
“But that’s not right… You do grow up. You just don’t grow old.” He continued, mostly to himself. “Too wise, too young,” Charlie wheezed, laughing at some private joke. “That’s what I always thought about Edward. Those eyes… I didn’t know how close, how right I was…”
His eyes drifted closed again and my grip tightened on his hand. He’d hurt me, this man. He’d tried to get Edward out of my life. He’d said so many things that made my blood boil… But he was my dad. My Charlie. I wanted to have a say in the matter of his life.
There was a thought. Maybe I could have a say...
I recoiled from the notion and from him, my hand slipping out of his as it lost all feeling. Could I do that? Could I bite him, put my own dad through so much pain? On the other hand, the idea of him never leaving me, of him always being there for me seemed like a sudden and perfect solution. Why hadn’t I thought of it before?
“Bella,” Charlie coughed, interrupting my thoughts. “There’s something else I wanted to ask you.”
Maybe he had thought of it already, my thoughts whispered wildly. The second he had seen what I was- beautiful, breakable, unchanging- he had decided that he wanted to be like me. That he never wanted to die. I wasn’t sure what it would do to his old age, his sickness- in all my time changed, I had never seen any rheumatic vampires. A picture of Aro flickered into my mind, his watery red eyes misting over as his life spanned across the centuries. Anything would be an improvement to his current state. Right now even breathing tired him out.
“I came to the La Push hospital for a reason,” He began, not knowing that my thoughts had taken a macabre turn. “Not just because the Forks one has been no good since Dr. Cullen left- hell, the place feels like a death-trap to me ever since Harry died there. It’s just, I was hoping you would do something for me. You know, an old man’s final wish.” Charlie wheezed, speaking more at once than I’d heard him say for the entire time here. He paused to catch his breath, but had enough energy to fix me with a pleading look and a weak, earnest smile.
“Anything, dad,” I promised fervently whilst waiting for him to continue. My mind was still distracted with thoughts of a vampire Charlie. He had been reluctant to kill animals when campers were being mauled. How would be feel about having to kill to have his dinner?
“While you were down here- it’s just a thought Bella, but I think it would be good for you,” He mumbled. “He might notice that you don’t look any different, but I was hoping…”
I nodded silently, not really noticing what he was saying.
“Hell, Bella,” He said, giving up on the tact. “I want you to go see Jake.”
My head froze in place, along with my expression. That name still brought back a thousand emotions and memories. How could Charlie ask me that? I could only imagine what Jacob would do if he saw me back on Quileute lands. Actually, I could only imagine what the rest of the wolves would do. What if Jacob’s theory was right? One visit from me could cause all the teens in La Push to turn into hairy, slobbering canines… but that wasn’t the main reason why I couldn’t go.
“I can’t, Charlie.” I whispered back, knowing that he wouldn’t understand.
“You can, Bella, you just won’t.” He argued firmly, with more force in his shaking voice than I’d heard since the first time I came in. “You know he misses you. Yeah, he might be a little… confused, to see you like this.” He admitted, waving in my direction with a trembling hand. “If you explain it, he’ll be just fine.”
“He knows about me, Dad.” I explained quietly, “It’s just-”
“He knows?” Charlie asked, his voice tinged with hurt. “I thought you said it was after you left?”
“I was changed after,” I back-peddled quickly, “It’s just I told him what was going to-”
“You told Jacob and you didn’t tell your own father?” Charlie demanded, angry now. “You didn’t tell me but you told the kid you punched in the face?”
I sighed. He was twisting what I was saying so it fit into his argument. I was telling him about it now, surely that was what mattered? Anyway, I could hardly drop into the conversation now that Jacob transformed into a werewolf at will…
“Dad, what does it matter anymore? I can’t go to see him. He told me to stay away,” I countered evenly. Well, I’d told Jake to tell me if he ever wanted to see me again. He’d never said anything. The same truth applied.
“Things are different now,” Charlie replied eventually after a few deep breaths. “Now that Billy’s gone and he’s been through his third divorce… that kid can’t seem to keep a woman…”
“I’d be intruding.” I told my dad firmly. It wasn’t the best excuse- really it wasn’t even a half-decent one. Still, it was my tone that said pretty clearly I wouldn’t be running down the help him with the bikes any time soon. “It wouldn’t be right of me to barge in on him like that. He has a life, I have mine.”
“I can see you’re not going to change your mind.” He sighed in reply, playing up the disappointment. A ghost of a smile played across his cracked lips, “You always were a stubborn kid.” He chuckled.
I tried to laugh too, but my heart wasn’t in it. For a while, I hadn’t been as sure of that decision at all. Edward had tried fruitlessly to talk me out of going to see Jake, but I wouldn’t give up on the idea for the longest time. At one point I had come pretty close to messing up the treaty- but I saw just in time how selfish it would be of me to do that to him. Whatever I said to contradict it, I missed him. I missed everything from his goofy grin to his big, russet brown arms that felt so safe and warm. I more than missed them, I loved them. There was something about him that had made me want to smile, all the time. Still, I had made my choice the day I said my vows to Edward, probably some time before that. I didn’t want all the promises I made to end with my transformation, but what could I do?
My mind played back a time when I had thought there was something I could do to keep those promises. I see now that they were broken oaths anyway. The only things that could hurt Jake more than me.