“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?
6. The Light
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For the first time since I had been changed, time was moving too fast. Every second we said nothing and just held each was becoming the last in my mind. Whenever he took another breath, I would squeeze his hand and wait for a response. That cruel, tortuous second it took him to tighten his fingers around mine ripped away another piece if my heart.
I just repeated my mantra- this couldn’t be the last time, this shouldn’t be the last time, this couldn’t be the last time…
Terrible thoughts kept creeping in my mind’s back door. Had there been any way to stop? Would he have lived longer if he’d have had grandkids to stick around for? Would he be back at home, fit as a fiddle, if I hadn’t stressed him out so much about Jake? Did all those years when I didn’t keep in touch… did they turn him into this sunken, emaciated creature? They chased each other round my mind, fighting for my full attention when there were no answers. I couldn’t tear my eyes away from my dad, laid there so quietly. Where were the sparkling eyes? The roguish grin and the thick dark hair around his temples? Where was my dad, living for fry-ups and fishing and football? Where was Charlie?
“Bells,” He wheezed. “You’re here.”
I nodded, and then remembered that his eyes were closed. My throat closed up with the pressure and I had to clear it a few times to get it to work.
“I wouldn’t be anywhere else, Dad.” I promised, choking up. My eyes stayed dry as a bone as the rest of me fell to pieces.
I tried to keep all irrelevant thoughts out of my mind. That included ones about the faint scent of his blood that sometimes wafted into my conscious. The very idea of doing such a thing to him, of pushing the sharp strips of bones exuding from my mouth into his pale, ancient skin made my mind cower in disgust. To my body, it seemed perfectly acceptable that I could drink what was left of my father huddled, almost cowering, away from me. I felt so sick and so hungry all at once, like there were two parts of me, both despising the other in my mind. I had not breathed for a long time. It made it slightly easier, but compared to most of the Cullens I was still new at this resisting game.
“Bells,” Charlie muttered again, sounding more urgent now.
“I’m still here, still here.” I reassured him, trying to keep the shake out of my voice.
He waved a gnarled hand impatiently, deformed after too many years of curling it around a fishing pole.
“I know that,” He coughed quickly, trying to find the energy to open his eyes. “I’ve been thinking about what you said before.”I froze completely. Had he really been listening to me when I suggested he joined me and the Cullens? For a moment, there was a way out from all of this. My grief flew from my mouth as a gasp and evaporated as I leant in closer to him. The lines of worry were gone from my face and I could almost feel myself glowing again. He could stay with me. I would never have to think about a world without him. Somehow he would fit in with the Cullens, our lifetime spent indoors and in the dark. He would cope with out diet, our inability to settle down in any one place for a decent length of time. He could get used to not making human friends, to not being part of the community. I knew my dad, but if I only knew one thing it was that people (and vampires, as it usually was in my case) could change.
My golden eyes shone with hope, ready to be dashed.
“It’s my time, Bells.” He breathed. “I would only hold you back.”
I couldn’t have been in more pain. Everything behind my navel swirled into a black hole and sucked my emotions in, leaving raw bleeding wounds behind. For one dazzling, beautiful moment I had thought that he wouldn’t have to leave me anymore. What are we meant to do without our parents? Who will teach us, pick up the pieces when we make mistakes? I hadn’t spoken to Charlie for too long, but I had always known that he was somewhere, safe. That had been enough, until now. I started breathing again, just so that I could cough out the sobs that were smacking against whatever was left of my heart, again and again.
“You could stay with me,” I whispered, dry eyed. “But you won’t. Don’t you love me enough to do this?”
“You know it would never work, Bella.” Charlie reminded me slowly. “How could I live forever with him there all the time? It would drive all of us mad.”
I blanched, suddenly realising what he meant.
“I-if I left him.” I asked, dreading the possible answers he could give me. “Would you stay?”
* * *
Blank, staring eyes stayed settled on a worn patch on the ceiling. I refused to call them his eyes. Whatever had been left of Charlie was most definitely gone now.
It was so easy to believe that he could be watching me, right now. Sat on some puffy cloud, like the ones in summer skies drawn by children. I would have loved to think that he could see me, still here with him. Or what had been him.
I wasn’t a child anymore, though. I had seen death, I had felt its clammy, foreboding hand on my shoulder in those days of relentless pain. I knew that death meant never feeling again, it meant always being in the dark. For those hours I had screamed and cried through the pain I had welcomed such a thought. For Charlie, I couldn’t imagine anything worse.
Go into the light, they always say. But there is no light. It is the end, pure and simple.
I put my fingers on his eyelids, covering up the empty irises that stared from beyond the grave and pulling the empty eyes closed.
* * *
I knew I couldn’t live without Edward. I had tested that theory once, and the results hadn’t been pleasant. I wondered if my father’s life depended on it… I could make it through the pain that was leaving him and live for Charlie.
I stared down at my father, and wondered what kind of sick, worthless excuse for a daughter I was.
I already knew the answer to what he would ask me to do. I could never live without Edward. A life without Charlie seemed impossible, ludicrous… but I could see it. I could see myself living through it. Another break from Edward would leave me shattered, mangled beyond repair. A life without him was no life at all. If Charlie asked me to leave Edward, what would be left of me to live on with him?
He opened his eyes a chink, before he sighed deeply. I knew he had seen it too, this idea of an endless life. So much hung on this one decision. Charlie had imagined it all, but unlike me he had some choice when it came to his soul.
“I couldn’t ask you to do that, we both know it.” He muttered gruffly. “Besides, Bells, I know it sounds corny but… I want to see Billy and Harry again. I want to see my parents. It’s time for me to go on, I’ve known it for a while now, hon.”
His sudden wisdom amazed me. I was struck dumb for a minute by his rock solid beliefs that he would see them all again, that death held something in its beckoning fingers for him. I gripped him hand tight, too tight, as I wondered whether to tell him the truth. There was nothing. He could stay with me and never have to be part of the darkness. Couldn’t he see that?
“You don’t have to be scared, Bella.” He half-smiled, misunderstanding my sudden decision to squish the blood out of his hand. “I love you.”
My eyes closed for an immeasurable second as I made the final choice. My father or my lover? My heart or my soul?
When I opened my eyes, my decision had already been made.