“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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This couldn’t be the last time, this wouldn’t be the last time…
This shouldn’t be the last time.
“Charlie?” I finally managed to say. My breathing started going into overdrive as the silence stretched out for minutes. The longest minutes of my drawn-out life. The silence in the room was deafening, throbbing painfully in my ears. I finally noticed why- the weak heartbeat emanating from his chest was gone. His ribcage had stopped shifting up and down with the pattern of his awkward breathing. Even the corner of his mouth had gone slack. Just like it used too when he was so into a game on TV that he forgot to blink, I thought irrationally.
“Charlie…” I repeated. Nothing happened. “Charlie?!” I screamed, losing any composure I might have been hanging onto. A low, groaning sound started to fill the room and I realised that it was me who was causing the chair to shake and rattle. It flew to the other side of the room and the plastic all down the back of it snapped as I fell onto my knees. Jerkily, I pulled his hand into mine as I mumbled his name. He slid down the pillow slightly towards me, never focusing. His hand felt unusually clammy but I hung onto it like it was a lifeline, our final connection. No matter how many times I shouted, his eyes stayed empty.
He was g-
“No!” I whispered, the sound steadily getting louder as I pushed my head into the bed covers to stop the word from being said. The thin hospital light casting shadows across his vacant face made it all too real. This was just a daydream turned bad, like all the ones I’d been having now that sleep couldn’t haunt me. “No, no, no, no…” I muttered as I tried to make this stop, to make time turn back. To make the impossible possible.
Yet here I sat, with dry cheeks and dry eyes. I would never speak to Charlie again, never nag him about what he ate or listen to him talk about his boring days at work. My last words to him were done. ‘I love you,’ he had said, ‘Goodbye’… but what did I do? I closed my eyes. I looked away. I wanted to crawl up next to him, to close my eyes and follow him into his stupor. I wanted to follow him and tell him that I loved him, one last time. The unfairness of it all was crushing me, pushing down on me until I wanted to cry out with pain…
Behind me, I felt the cool air on my back. It was the draught from the door opening. I heard to faint resistance from the metal hinges and the shudder of the wood as it scraped along the floor long before I heard the voice of the nurse poking his head around the door.
“I’m sorry. We tried to make him as comfortable as possible,” He offered, his words as smooth and slick in my mind as the oil he’d used to keep the hair off his face. It surprised me for some reason. My dad had left me and still people did their jobs. Still put on deodorant and put on hair gel. I could hear someone on the phone outside talking about the weather. I could smell someone down the hall taking a shower. The rest of the world kept on ticking, even though mine had shuddered to a halt. No one else knew that this man who had taught me to ride my first bike and gave me chocolate ice cream when I fell over was dead. What was worse, so one cared. They carried on. My heart had frozen over and they carried on.
I just shook my head in reply to the nurse, unable to turn to face him. I was so numb, so adrift… I couldn’t deal with anything else. He nodded, silently understanding what I couldn’t say.
“I’ll leave you alone for a while,” He murmured sympathetically, “But things will need to be sorted out, Ms…?”
“Cull- Swan.” I muttered, before I changed my mind. Cullen might set alarm bells ringing on the reservation. “Bella Swan. I’m his daughter.” I finished awkwardly. My voice sounded slightly slurred, even to me, as I tried to cover up the shake that had entered it. My hands were buried in the bedclothes, where even I could hardly see them tremble.
The door gave a metallic click as it closed behind him.
* * *
I couldn’t cry. Not a single tear. Never before had I missed this simple way to show what I felt, but now I craved the release. To be able to leak out some of this grief, remorse, anger, despair and a million other emotions bottling up inside me would be bliss. Instead, they sat in my stomach and writhed. I wanted to curl up and hold all the pieces of myself together, but I would rather join Charlie than leave his side.
I held my father’s hand as it lost all grip and turned cool to match my icy skin. I ran my fingers over his closed eyes a dozen times as it finally sunk in. There was no changing this. Now our silent hearts were still, together- but I was still here to live and breathe and think. I thought of him alone, in the dark and I had to gasp at the pain it caused. It felt like I was being folded in half again and again until I was small enough to be crumpled to dust. The last of the colour in his cheeks began to fade away until soon enough his pallor matched mine exactly.
I had wanted him to become one of us, and now had. Now his chest was as silent, his skin was as cold…
Somehow, a little part of me was able to think of Edward. I tried not to think about what kind of person that made me. I would fall into his sturdy, waiting arms and scream at the unfairness. Here, in the silent hospital room, it seemed wrong to shout. There was no-one else here to witness it. I wanted Charlie to be quiet, at rest… but at the same time I wanted to pull him into a sitting position and shake some life into him. I wanted Charlie here. I wanted to cry. I wanted Edward. The dry sobs wracking my body seemed childish, ineffectual. Did any of it really help? Any way that I mourned, Charlie would still be… I couldn’t think it. I knew that it would finish me.
I simply lay my hand of his cheek and felt the last of the warmth leak away.
Too soon, I heard the door open behind me. The dry sobs that had been tearing through me had run their course. I was just sat in the midst of the silence, like a boat with the bobbing on the waves that hit the sides. I closed my eyes and thought about every moment we’d spent together, as I held his hand. How he’d taught me to ride a bike and cook a fry up. How he’d taken me fishing and driven me into Forks with the flashing blue lights going on his cruiser. I revisited them all, good and bad, because in all of them, he was there. He was in all of them, even when I was embarrassed or angry or upset. And that was enough.
“Does this have to be now?” I asked quietly, making myself turn away from Charlie with a lot of effort.
It wasn’t the helpful nurse that had been there before.
“Hey, Vampire girl.” Paul smirked coldly, not looking a day older than when I’d last met him. Jared stood silently with his arms crossed at his side.
It was getting harder to feel with the numbness enveloping everything. Colours were beginning to blur into each other and the light seemed off key… it was hard to describe how the world was falling to pieces. Still, the complete surprise threw me for a moment. The world shifted a little as I blinked and tried to focus on the two familiar faces.
“Paul? Jared?” I asked, sounding seventeen all over again. “I’m sorry, you’re too late. He’s…”
“We know.” Jared offered, refusing to look at the bed. “We came to see you.”
My mind took a step back as the confusion took over. What could they possibly want with me, as I sat here with what was left of my father?
“You’ve broken the treaty, Bella.” Paul barked harshly as he saw my expression turn blank. “You were never meant to come back, that’s what was agreed.”
I couldn’t be sick, my system didn’t work like that anymore. That didn’t stop the venom rising up, acidic on the cool skin of my throat. I felt sick, physically sick as I realised what he was saying.
They had waited for Charlie to die, and then come to chase me off.
I put my hand over my mouth for a second and leant forward. I had the strangest urge to cover Charlie’s ears, to stop him from hearing the terrible things the Quileute boys were muttering.
“So kill me.” I whispered, my voice carrying as much venom as my mouth. “Charlie’s dead, that’s one less bloodsucker sympathiser down. How many more to go?”
Jared had the courtesy to flinch, but Paul could give out as much as he take.
“How close were you to biting him when he lay on his death bed? In fact, is that the reason he went so qui-”
A feline growl hit the walls as it flew from my chest. In one smooth movement I was crouched in front of Paul, teeth bared. Jared moved in my path to stop me from jumping the heartless, filthy dog.
“Dammit, Paul!” Jared roared whilst he struggled to pull me away from him, “This isn’t the way to do this! You can’t say things like that and expect her to take it! Charlie is dea-”
“Jacob took it.” Paul said slowly, staring straight into my coal black eyes as he enunciated every word. “Jake took everything she ever dished out and look what it did to him.”
I dropped my gaze to the floor and backed away from them both. How many pieces could I be torn into before I couldn’t pull myself together again? Everyone in this rainy, God-forsaken hole hated me. For some reason, I thought an old man’s suffering might make a difference to what the wolves would do.
“I’m sorry Bella, but he’s right.” Jared agreed. He was gasping, almost out of breath from the effort it took not to phase. “You weren’t even meant to get as far as the hospital. Orders from above.”
What did that mean? Had Sam told the guys to stop me? Or maybe it was the true Alpha who was running the pack now. My face returned to the bed. Who would deny me the last few minutes I had on earth with Charlie?
Paul coughed loudly whilst Jared took a step forward to lead me away from the silent hospital bed. Like a child, I let them decide what was best for me. I ignored how Jared flinched at my touch. I ignored Paul’s supposedly innocuous mutterings. I stared at Charlie, getting this last image of my dad into my head. I didn’t want to remember him in this way, but I didn’t want to forget the time we’d spent here.You would have made such a great mom. I love you…
And then I was in the busy hospital corridor. People overtook and sidestepped our slow little group as we marched our way to the doors. I thought I saw the nurse from before open his mouth, but Jared said something quickly and he hurried away. Other arrangements would have to be made, by people who knew nothing of my dad. I would never see their handiwork- Dad wanted to be buried in Forks cemetery. No guessing what Sam would say about my wish to be at the funeral.
Finally, we were outdoors. The thin shafts of sunlight had slid from the skies onto the surface of the puddles, reflecting the unwelcome grey clouds so that I could see them from every angle. I gave up trying to do anything except put one foot in front of the other, again and again.
We came to a stop.
“Be out of here by sundown.” Paul threatened quietly. “After that, we’re not responsible for what happens.”
I felt Jared slip something small and box shaped into my jeans pocket and give it a pat.
“We were meant to do it, but I think… I think it’s your job.” He whispered, to close to my ear for comfort. Even his breath was too hot as it ticked the spot where my earlobe joined to my skull. I tried to nod, and after a few attempts I succeeded.
With a last glare from Paul, they disappeared from the trees.
I stroked the object in my pocket slowly, realising what it was Jared had asked me to do.