Survival of the Soul
The trauma suffered by Bella for three years has left lasting mental scars. Surrounded by the support and love of the Cullen family, Bella begins to grow and finds out there is more to life than simply surviving.
10. Chapter 10
Rating 5/5 Word Count 3885 Review this Chapter
Survival of the Soul
By: Lady Saffir
Story Rating: R/NC-17
DISCLAIMER: I own no rights to the Twilight Universe, that would be Stephenie Meyer.
Come play with us on the AU forum at Twilighted! I promise to answer questions and give sneak peeks at upcoming chapters. Thanks to xsecretxkeeperx for starting it!
After this chapter we should be able to jump ahead quite a bit, probably to school starting.
Thanks to Megami76 for beta-ing.
“Progress, of the best kind, is comparatively slow. Great results cannot be achieved at once; and we must be satisfied to advance in life as we walk, step by step.” Samuel Smiles
“Bella, sweetheart, it’s time to wake up.”
Esme’s soft voice pulled Bella from her slumber, the wisps of dreams falling away even as she fought to hold on to them. They had been pleasant, Bella knew, but that was all she could recall. Pulling herself into a sitting position, she blearily rubbed at her eyes, squinting to focus on the alarm clock. Ugh. Five A.M.
“Don’t,” a yawn interrupted, “wanna.”
Even though it was dark, Esme’s smile was evident in her voice. “You have to, Bella. You need to get ready so you can go have your cast removed.”
This was exactly why she didn’t want to get up, Bella thought, keeping the words to herself. She wanted the cast off, but that meant going to the hospital, and that meant other people as well as…needles. Shuddering, Bella recalled Carlisle’s words.
“I would like to also run some blood tests, Bella,” he had started softly. “Just some routine things to make sure you’re okay.”
She had only been able to nod.
Well, hopefully she would be able to control her usual reaction to blood, though Bella doubted it. She had yet to not faint or throw up at the sight and smell of blood and today would be no different. Then Carlisle would know how much of a wimp she was.
‘He won’t think that’ her mind whispered. ‘Carlisle will understand.’
Desperately wanting to believe the words, Bella slid from the bed, staggering towards her bathroom.
Carlisle studied Bella from the corner of his eye as he drove towards the hospital. She had been quiet all morning, which could be due to the early hour. He doubted it though. It was most likely the thought of the morning ahead. Well, they would weather through, hopefully rather quickly, and then she could go shopping with Esme and the girls.
The halls of the hospital were still dim when they arrived, the night shift preparing for the day’s procedures as they moved through the corridors. Carlisle had already cleared the scans with the radiology department so they should be able to finish up quickly.
“Let’s get that cast off, shall we?” Carlisle asked, gesturing for Bella to step into an empty treatment room.
Bella silently pulled herself onto the exam table, extending her arm out and turning her head. The buzz of the saw through the plaster was familiar. She had broken several bones as a child. The ghost of her parents surrounded her as they always had, their voices almost audible as they offered comfort and distraction from the procedure.
They were only in her head, Bella knew, biting her lip to keep the tears at bay.
The sheen of tears in Bella’s eyes wasn’t lost on Carlisle as he finished up, asking for her to move her arm this way and that. Satisfied that bone had indeed healed, he took Bella’s elbow to help her down from the table.
The scans were quickly finished, the radiology tech looking interested as Dr. Cullen hovered protectively over the teenage girl but asking no questions.
“I thought we could do the lab work in my office,” Carlisle stated as he and Bella waited for the elevator. “It will be a bit more private.”
Bella simply nodded, keeping her eyes down as they traversed the corridor. She could feel the eyes of the hospital employees and knew they were wondering who was with the doctor. It was obvious from the numerous greetings offered to Carlisle that he was fairly popular. Bella swallowed, hoping she wouldn’t be sick when they drew the blood. She didn’t want it to get around that Dr. Cullen’s adopted daughter was a wuss.
Carlisle could feel the anxiety radiating from Bella as they finally entered the surgery office suite. What he wouldn’t have given to have some of Jasper’s ability right now, he thought ruefully, automatically smiling at Anna, the department’s secretary.
“Good morning, Anna.”
“Good morning, Carlisle. Good morning,” Anna directed at Bella, smiling kindly to the teenage girl. She had known that Carlisle would be bringing in his daughter for some scans and blood work. She hadn’t known how scared the poor girl would look. Some people were like that in hospitals but Anna didn’t think that was the case.
“Good morning,” Bella murmured, looking up quickly before returning her gaze to the floor. The quick impression of the woman before her was one of confidence and competence, but she wasn’t intimidating.
“Anna, this is Bella Swan, my newest daughter. Bella, this is Anna Robins, the surgery department’s secretary. Without her we’d all be lost.”
“Ha! Dr. Keller, yes, but I have a feeling you’d be perfectly fine if I wasn’t here,” Anna replied, smiling at the thought of a bewildered Carlisle. “Cassie called to say she’s running a few minutes behind but she’ll be right up,” she continued.
“Good. We’ll be in my office.”
Bella looked around at Carlisle’s office. It looked like every other doctor’s office she had ever been in, complete with bland décor and the requisite diploma’s hanging on the wall. Carlisle had added a few paintings, and scattered on the bookcase were photographs of the family. She moved to look at the pictures, sighing to herself as she saw the perfectness of everyone’s features.
“Esme will be happy to have a reason for another family portrait.”
Carlisle’s words pulled Bella back. She winced at the thought of marring the perfection of the family photos with her ordinariness. Perhaps she could convince Esme she didn’t want to be included?
Choosing not to answer or acknowledge the statement, Bella moved to the couch, sitting gingerly on the edge, her hands automatically knotting together as she held herself motionless. It was something she had done when she was with Him, always with the futile hope that if she was still enough he’d look over her. She didn’t want to be here, didn’t want to have to deal with the memories that the blood draw would dredge forth. She wanted to be back in her bed, waking up and having a normal day.
Carlisle was well aware of what Bella was doing, Jasper having correlated the action to her emotions the first week she was with them. Determined to not let her sink into bad habits he moved to sit beside her, pulling something from his pocket as he did so.
“I thought I’d give you these while we wait,” Carlisle offered, offering Bella two small rectangular pieces of plastic.
Bella flipped them over, staring in consternation at herself. Her eyes quickly skated over the rest of the card, realization making her gasp and look up at Carlisle with wide eyes.
“A license? But…I can’t drive,” Bella protested.
“We’ll teach you,” Carlisle promised.
Wanting to argue but secretly pleased at the thought of learning to drive, Bella looked at the other card in her hand. The Visa logo in the corner had her dropping the card as if it were red hot.
Carlisle neatly fielded the piece of plastic, trying to hand it back.
“It’s yours, Bella. Everyone in the family has one. I’m sorry it’s taken us so long but we needed to get several other documents made first.”
Whatever protest Bella was about to make was cut off as there was a short knock on the door before it swung open. The woman framed in the doorway was tall, her features striking and complimented wonderfully by the deep red of her hair.
“Morning, Carlisle,” she greeted cheerfully, turning to smile at Bella. “Morning, Bella. I’m Cassie.”
“Cassie, good morning,” Carlisle returned the greeting, turning to face Bella. “Bella, this is Cassie Grouse, one of the anesthesiologists here at the hospital. I’ve never seen her miss a vein yet, so I asked her to draw your lab work.”
“Nice to meet you, Bella. No, don’t get up, I’ll come to you,” Cassie continued on, breezing into the room and dragging a chair over to the couch. “First I’m just going to put this tight band around your arm and have a look, see what you’ve got. I’ll be cleaning your skin with some alcohol and you’ll feel me tapping on your arm in some places, seeing if the veins will pop,” she instructed, matching actions to words.
This woman reminded her of Alice, Bella thought. Both were so confident and went full speed ahead. Bella envied them both this ability even as her stomach turned. Just the feel of the tourniquet on her bicep had her swallowing hard, closing her eyes and taking small breathes.
Cassie’s eyes were sharp, taking in Bella’s reaction before looking at Carlisle intently. Understanding what the other doctor wanted, Carlisle moved closer to his daughter, his right arm curling around her shoulders and pulling her to him, his left tucking her head into the crook of his shoulder.
“She’ll tell you before she does anything, Bella, I promise,” Carlisle soothed, gently stroking her hair. “I wish I had known you didn’t like needles. We can stop; I don’t really need the lab work.”
Bella shuddered, trying to ignore the cowardly voice that was yelling for her to take the offered out. “No, it’s okay,” she lied unconvincingly. “I’ll be okay.”
“If you’re sure,” Carlisle murmured, pressing an absent kiss into Bella’s hair. He bent his head, keeping it at an angle so that he could watch Cassie continue to work.
“Alright, Bella, I see a good one. I’m going to loosen the band for a moment while I get everything ready. Then I’ll count to three and start,” Cassie instructed.
It wasn’t the same as before, Bella thought, her breathe rasping out. This was to make sure she was okay. Carlisle wasn’t going to do anything with the blood other than check it out. It would be okay.
The thoughts ran circles in Bella’s mind, her heart beat increasing even as her breathing became uneven. She closed her eyes tightly, burrowing her face into the crook of Carlisle’s shoulder.
“It’s okay, Bella,” Carlisle soothed. “Slow, deep breathes. It’s alright sweetheart.”
Over Bella’s head he nodded to Cassie.
“One, two, three,” Cassie counted, easily sliding the needle in on ‘three’. She was rewarded immediately with a blood return. She popped a vial onto the end of the tubing, watching the dark ruby liquid fill the chamber. She changed out the vials three times, all the while keeping an eye on Bella. The teenager had gone pale, her breathing ragged. Cassie was afraid she was going to throw up or pass out, even as she withdrew the needle and held pressure with a piece of gauze.
“It’s over, Bella,” Carlisle whispered, continuing to stroke her hair. Her skin was clammy were it pressed into the juncture of his shoulder and neck, her hot breath a contrast as it puffed out irregularly. He felt Bella swallow heavily, the sound loud to his ears.
“I’ll be okay,” the faint words floated up.
For his part, Carlisle was content to hold Bella against him, even as he wished for a better setting. It was rare that she allowed him to touch her without Esme also present. He anxiously waited for the day he could freely touch his daughter without her flinching in response, or accepting the touch only because she needed a distraction from the nightmares and memories.
Bella looked up, meeting Cassie’s steady gaze. She flushed, looking away, knowing this stranger had seen her be weak willed. Why couldn’t she control her reactions better? Now everyone would know that Carlisle had taken a pathetic teenage girl into his house that couldn’t even tolerate a simple blood draw.
“Having blood drawn on an empty stomach makes me queasy too, Bella,” Cassie consoled, patting her hand. “I’ll just run down to the cafeteria and get you some orange juice. That should help you feel better in no time.”
The door opened unannounced, Alice gliding into the room, followed by Esme and Rosalie.
“Hey, Bella! Oh, good, you’re finished,” Alice stated, taking in the used supplies. “We stopped and got you some breakfast. I didn’t know if you’d want milk or orange juice so I went with the juice. How’s a sausage biscuit sound?” she continued, not giving Bella a chance to answer as she settled herself on the couch.
“It seems I’m no longer needed,” Cassie stated, scooping up the vials of blood and the rest of the paraphernalia she had brought with her. “Bella, enjoy the rest of your day. Carlisle, I’ll see you in an hour.”
With that she swept from the room, pausing to exchange a brief hello with Esme.
Bella kept her eyes focused on her sandwich as the family conversed around her, the food doing wonders to settle her stomach. When she at last finished, she looked up to see Alice looking at her, a gleam in her eyes.
“Ready to go, Bella?’
Edward was leaning against the porch railing as the Volvo came to a stop in front of the house, an amused smirk on his face.
“Buy out the stores again, Alice?” he called, stepping out into the rain to help unload the packages.
“No, I did not buy out the stores,” Alice retorted, sticking her tongue out at her brother. “I should keep your gift for that comment, but I’ll let it slide since I know you helped haul the furniture upstairs.”
“They’ve already delivered everything?” Esme asked.
“A desk, two chairs and a bookcase,” Edward rattled off. He was about to step forward and take the bags from Bella’s hands when Alice stopped him.
Don’t, Edward. She won’t see it as you helping; she’ll see it as you thinking her weak Alice warned.
Edward smoothly reached instead for Esme’s bags.
Bella stared at the mountain of shopping bags on her bed. They were perched precariously, appearing ready to fall off the bed any moment. Why had Alice bought all of this for her? All she needed – or wanted – was a few pairs of jeans and some t-shirts. The sight of a dress bag had her frowning. And why would she need a pink ball gown? Were the Cullen’s going to throw a party or something?
“It’s best not to question why Alice buys the things she does,” a male voice broke the silence.
Startled, Bella whirled to see Edward standing in the doorway.
“I…I thought you couldn’t read my mind,” Bella blurted out, wincing as she wished she could take the words back.
Edward smiled. “I can’t. You’ve never been subjected to a shopping trip with Alice before, so I’m sure you were wondering how she talked you in to everything,” he explained. He continued on before an awkward silence could fall. “I thought I’d check and see if you were happy with the furniture placement, or if you wanted it moved around.”
“Oh. Um. No, it’s fine,” Bella said, turning to look at the furniture arrangement behind her. The bookcase, chair and a floor lamp had been arranged in one corner, a soft throw draped over the back, practically encouraging a person to sit down and lose themselves in a good book. The desk was in the opposite corner, positioned so that even while working, Bella would be able to look out the back window.
“I’ll leave you to sort through everything then,” Edward replied. “After dinner, shall we go over your next lesson?”
No. I don’t want to study science, Bella thought.
They were finishing up the lesson, Alice patiently seated next to Bella, awaiting her turn to lecture, when Edward pulled something from his pocket.
“I thought you might enjoy a bit of music while you studied,” he explained, holding out a small mp3 player.
Bella reached out, gasping and jerking her hand back when one of her fingers brushed against his. The shock, almost like static discharge, was unexpected.
Thinking Bella was reacting to the fact he was male, and therefore not to be trusted, Edward lowered the device to the table instead. His entire being focused on not alarming Bella, he missed the quick gleam of excitement that raced across Alice’s features.
“I’m sorry,” he apologized formally. “I know how tedious studying can be. I’ve loaded a variety of music and categorized it, so if you don’t like a particular style of music you can skip it.”
Why was he being so thoughtful? Bella wondered.
“I’ll show you how to work it,” Alice offered, her smile large. “Run along, Edward, it’s my turn.”
Edward was almost to the door before Bella found her voice.
Edward turned, ignoring the skipped beat of her heart.
“Principal Smith, thank you for coming out to see us,” Carlisle greeted as he opened the front door.
Marcus Smith was tall, his thin body so far having escaped the typical weight gain all middle aged adults were cursed to fight. His hair was dark except for the silvers fanning out along his temples, his blue eyes kind.
“Not a problem at all, Dr. Cullen. Please, call me Mark,” he offered, shaking Carlisle’s hand.
“Then please, call me Carlisle. This is my wife, Esme.”
“A pleasure to meet you,” Esme greeted, gesturing towards the couches. “Please, won’t you be seated?”
“I have to say, this is a beautiful home,” Mark stated, looking around with interest once he was seated.
“Thank you. Can I get you anything?”
“Nothing for me, thanks. So,” Mark settled down to business. “I understand you have a new adopted daughter you’d like to get enrolled.”
“Yes,” Carlisle replied. “Here name is Isabella Swan, though she goes by Bella.”
Principal Smith pulled out a legal pad, jotting down her name. “How old?”
“She’s currently sixteen but will be seventeen come September.”
“Mmm. Do you have records from her previous schools?”
The hesitation made Mark look up. “Something the matter?”
“We do have copies of her elementary and part of her middle school years,” Esme started. “However, Bella…” she trailed off, unsure of how to proceed.
“When Bella’s parents died, she was taken in by someone who abused her,” Carlisle continued, meeting the other man’s gaze frankly. “She hasn’t had formal schooling for about three years. Obviously we’ve hired private tutors to get her caught up to the tenth grade level and we’ll be happy to get whatever paperwork is necessary to show that she will be capable of functioning in the school environment.”
“I see," Mark began slowly. "May I know the type and extent of abuse?"
Carlisle's voice was quiet, the anger lacing his words making them sound harsh. "Every type imaginable."
"Ah. I need to ask a question and I need you to be very honest with me: Is Bella ready for the stress high school will place on her?"
Carlisle and Esme shared a long look.
"As of this moment, no, I wouldn't say she's ready," Carlisle began thoughtfully. "We're hoping that by the end of August she will be, though."
"She's making such great leaps in her recovery," Esme explained. "She used to never speak up and she didn't like to have more than one man in the room. Now, though..." Esme trailed off, trying to find the best example. "She'll watch T.V. with all of us and she's allowing Edward to teach her piano."
"It's good that she's opening up," Mark stated, jotting down another note. "Who in the family is she most likely to turn to for comfort or guidance?"
"I would have to say Esme." Carlisle replied immediately.
"Followed closely by Alice," Esme added.
Mark tapped his pen on his knee, thinking for a moment before speaking. "Alright, here's what we'll do. We'll go forward with the assumption that Bella will be able to attend high school. I'll speak with the staff and give them a brief heads up regarding Bella's situation so they can keep an eye out for her. I can assure you that no one will gossip about her or single her out in a way to make the other student's aware of her history. Does this sound fair?"
"Is it...would it be possible for Bella to be in as many classes as possible with one of our other children?" Esme asked. "Alice would be the best choice, but any of the children would be more than happy to help Bella in any way."
"We'll see what we can do," Mark promised. "Is there any way I could meet Bella today?"
"She should be finishing up her lunch, I'll go see if she'd like to speak with you," Esme said, standing and heading into the kitchen.
"Bella? The principal is here and would like to meet you."
Esme's words had Bella flinching. She straightened her shoulders, taking a deep breath as she slowly set her glass down. She had known that Esme and Carlisle would be meeting with the school's principal sometime soon, but had no idea that he would come here.
Bella trailed Esme into the living room, only briefly meeting the strange man's gaze. She flushed, biting her lip and looking away. She knew he had to be told about her, about her past, but she didn't like it. Why couldn't she just continue to be home schooled?
"Hello, Bella. I'm Marcus Smith, the principal at Fork's High."
His voice was deeply pitched, not matching his body at all. Chancing another look, Bella saw his face was kind. He met her gaze evenly, offering her a small smile which she hesitantly returned.
"Hello," she returned. Esme pulled her to the couch and Bella was glad to be flanked by the two adult vampires.
"We've been discussing enrolling you in school in the fall," Esme explained. "We're hoping to arrange your schedule so that you'll have most of your classes with at least one of the others. Do you think that would help?"
Bella was torn at the idea. It would be nice to know at least one person in each class, someone that she knew would protect her and not judge her. But to realize that everyone thought she needed a babysitter...did they not trust her after all? How could she convince them she wouldn't spill their secret?
'That isn't why they're doing this' the tiny little voice that always advocated for a positive spin on things was slowly growing louder. 'They just want you to be as comfortable as possible.'
Perhaps, perhaps not, Bella acknowledged the thought. Maybe she could ask Esme about it later?
Realizing the adults in the room were waiting for a response from her she nodded, looking down as she nervously toyed with the hem of her shirt.
"Can I go study now?" Bella waited for a lull in the conversation going on around her before asking.
"Of course, sweetheart. We just wanted you to meet Principal Smith," Esme replied.
The three adults in the room watched her retreat, Mark staring after her thoughtfully.
"We'll work with her schedule as much as possible," he announced. "I'll just need to know where she is in her studies by the beginning of August."
- Lady Saffir
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