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.
11. Chapter 11
Rating 5/5 Word Count 2971 Review this Chapter
Survival of the Soul
By: Lady Saffir
Story Rating: R/NC-17
Chapter Rating: PG
DISCLAIMER: I own no rights to the Twilight universe.
Alright, I lied. I have to cover some of the summer. Emmett was demanding not only screen time, but big brother screen time. Having consulted with Alice, she agreed with Emmett. And thus the beginning of this chapter was born. And thanks to Megami for being a wonderful beta! And I’m thinking I might have to move to every other week updates, as real life is not being conducive to writing time. *sigh*
“Other things may change us, but we start and end with family” Anthony Brandt
“What would life be if we had no courage to attempt anything?” Van Gogh
Bella was only partially paying attention to the book held loosely in her hands. She was on the front porch swing, the gentle motion accentuated by the soft rainfall as it fell onto the roof overhead. It was nearing the end of July, school having been out for two months. It was strange to have everyone in the house, Bella thought, but not bad. It had actually allowed her to grow more comfortable as she was able to watch the family interact on a constant basis.
Two of those members were missing at the moment, Rosalie having dragged Emmett out of the country for a couple weeks. With the beautiful blonde vampire there had been little progress, though Bella was happy she had finally stopped whatever it was that had been bothering Rosalie so much. Rosalie had actually said good morning to her before she left, causing Bella to choke on her cereal before stammering out a return greeting.
Truthfully, Bella had missed Emmett while he was gone, though she hadn’t expected to. The large vampire that had been so scary at first was almost a comfort to have around. He didn’t treat her like she was fragile, inviting her to play video games with him, then laughing when she admitted she had no idea how to play. It hadn’t been a mean laugh, she remembered. They had spent three hours that day in front of the T.V. as he had taught her how to play a racing game.
The crunching of tires on gravel heralded the arrival of Rosalie’s BMW, Emmett tossing Bella a wave as they circled around to the garage.
"Hey, kid. Catch," Emmett called out, tossing a package towards Bella. He walked over and sat down on the swing next to her, smiling in encouragement.
She fielded it awkwardly, turning the small parcel over.
"Saw it and thought of you. Fifty bucks if you wear it the first day of school," Emmett added.
"For me," Bella clarified, staring down at her lap. Why would he have thought of her on his trip?
"Yup. You gonna open it?" Emmett prodded.
Bella slowly opened the package, lifting up the t-shirt that fell out.
"'Remember, I have older (and bigger) brothers'," Bella read.
"Exactly. I know how teenage boys think, so I thought we should give them fair warning," Emmett said. "What do you think?"
"You thought of me while you were on your trip?" Bella asked, fingering the soft fabric. It was even her size, she noted.
"Sure. Anytime we see something that reminds us of one of the family we get it. Rose thinks you'll like her gift better, and you probably will, but I decided I needed to get that for you."
Bella was silent for a moment before reaching up and swiping one hand under her eyes.
"You're crying?" Emmett was appalled. He knew his gift was cheesy, but tear inducing? "Ah, Bells, don't cry. I'm sorry, I'll take it back. Shit. Hell. Alice!"
"No! I'm sorry," Bella sniffled, turning her face up to Emmett. "Thank you for thinking of me."
Emmett regarded his sister for a moment before reaching over and affectionately tousling her hair. "You're a piece of work, Bells," he laughed. "I can't wait till you get your first big present."
"Big...present?" Bella echoed, eyes wide.
"Sure. Alice probably has a car picked out for you or something," Emmett shrugged.
Oops, Emmett thought, taking in the color draining from Bella's face.
"Kidding, squirt," he back tracked, raising his hands into the air when Alice appeared on the porch. "I didn't do it."
"Hmph. Anytime anyone says that they're usually guilty," Alice sniffed, crossing her arms as she glared at her brother. "Run along. I'm sure Jasper won't mind going hunting with you. And if you're going to concoct a plan to jump Edward, I suggest you throw out your first idea."
"Thanks, Alice. Jazz, let's go!" Emmett yelled. "Later, Bella!" He ruffled her hair once more before leaving.
Bella watched as he darted off the porch, unaware that he had touched her twice and she hadn’t even flinched from the contact.
Rosalie would never admit to anyone, not even Emmett, but she was fascinated by the progress Bella was making. She had gone from a timid human that flinched at every sound and movement to someone that was gradually realizing that everything would be okay, if only she could find the courage to face life. It wasn’t how she would have approached things, Rosalie knew, had she survived as a human from her attack. This slow and steady progress seemed to be working for Bella though, so Rosalie could only sit back and watch.
It was also interesting to watch her husband as he interacted with their new sister. Emmett, for all his appearances, was one of the most loving souls she knew. He didn’t change his typical behavior around Bella so much as modulate it, perhaps pushing her a bit faster than Esme and Carlisle were comfortable, but not going all out like she knew he was dying to do. It gave her a glimpse of the sort of father he could have been, and she felt the familiar ache of not being able to give him a child of his own.
She shook her musings off, refocusing on Alice’s words as she helped her unpack from their trip.
“It was a good choice as a gift for Bella,” Alice stated, pausing to eye a blouse she was hanging up. “You’d look better in a darker shade of red,” she added, turning with a smile.
“Thank you for both opinions,” Rosalie replied dryly, setting the small box containing Bella’s gift on her dresser. She paused for a moment before speaking again, her voice uncharacteristically hesitant. “Alice, will you look for me?”
Alice stared for a moment while Rosalie debated her choices of ways to give Bella her gift. She tried not to ask Alice for advice on the future too much, instead accepting the good and the bad that would come with any choice. But this…she didn’t want to embarrass or upset Bella with her gift. She’d had no plans to purchase anything for her sister, thinking Emmett’s gift, gag though it might be, was enough. Bella would accept the present from her husband because they were beginning to bond. She, on the other hand, had spent no appreciable time with her sister. Her own fault, she knew, and she was planning on rectifying her mistake.
“Before she goes to bed, Rose, when no one is around,” Alice stated.
Alice grinned. “Not a problem. And you might want to go rescue your husband from the wrath of Esme.”
Bella had moved inside, the wind having picked up and made the porch a little too cold for her comfort. Unable to maintain her concentration with her book, she had resorted to flipping through the television channels. Movement from the corner of her eye had her turning to stare out the back window, her breath catching in her throat.
They were mostly a blur, but she could see that Emmett and Jasper were ganging up on Edward. He was quick, though, evading their hands and springing away, only to be tackled again by Emmett. She was halfway out of her seat, the urge to run and hide warring with the need to yell for help, when Alice and Rosalie strolled into the living room.
Rosalie took one look at Bella’s face and sighed. Her husband was in for an earful when Esme found out.
“They’re just playing around, Bella,” Rosalie stated, moving so she and Alice flanked Bella.
“Playing?” Bella echoed dubiously, casting another look at the scene outside. They were moving almost too fast for her eyes to follow, blurs that shifted across the yard.
There. Edward had jumped back, standing still for a moment. He was laughing at Emmett and Jasper as they advanced, his body loose and ready for their attack.
“For reasons science can’t explain, men seem incapable of expressing affection to each other without one-up-man-ship being involved.”
Carlisle’s dry tone had Bella whirling. She hadn’t heard him or Esme enter the house from their day out. She looked over to Esme who was staring outside, her features exasperated.
“Mud everywhere,” she muttered. She gasped, her eyes narrowing as she strode to the door.
Bella turned around to see Edward attempting to rise from one of the flower beds. Jasper was on his back, playfully shoving his brother’s face into the ground while Emmett sat on his legs.
“What are you three doing?! You’re ruining my herb garden!”
Bella had never heard Esme raise her voice before. She watched, fascinated, as the older woman strode outside, angrily gesturing at her garden before pointing towards the river. Emmett had put Edward into a headlock, rubbing his knuckles playfully in his brother’s hair as he dragged him towards the running water.
“Jasper, don’t-“ Alice cut herself off, sighing as her husband picked up a garden hose, cranking it on before aiming it at the two retreating men. The stream of water shot out, smacking the back of Emmett’s head.
The large vampire turned slowly, eyeing Jasper before he and Edward shared a grin, both stalking forward . Jasper darted away, not quick enough to keep Edward from jumping on his back, bringing him down to the ground. Emmett was there, gripping Jasper’s arms behind his back as Edward moved to grab his legs.
Bella saw that Jasper was laughing even as he struggled to get free, giving what she assumed was trash talk to his brothers. They disappeared into the river, the three going in as one, Jasper still held captive as they vanished underwater.
“I’ll help you replant,” Bella offered later. Esme had come in from assessing the damage, shaking her head at three of the four men now sitting in the living room.
“Thank you, but I already have three willing volunteers,” Esme replied.
Emmett groaned. “Ah, man, Esme, it was an accident! And it’s Edward’s fault, anyway. He should have to help you.”
“My fault?” Edward asked incredulously. “I didn’t ask for you two to jump me. It was your plan.”
“How do you know it was my plan? Maybe it was Jasper’s.”
“I know it’s yours because I heard you thinking about it,” Edward replied, rolling his eyes at his brother. “If anything,” he continued, “I should be excused. I’m the victim here.”
The room went silent.
Bella was aware that every eye in the room swung to look at her. She wished desperately that she could become invisible. The word hadn’t even bothered her, she wanted to say. It is a word, and I know you’re just joking around with your family. It hadn’t been a big deal, but now, with everyone silent and cringing away from her, it was, and the words stuck in her throat.
Instead she fled from the room, evading Esme’s outstretched hand.
“I didn’t know you were flexible enough to get your foot to your mouth, Edward.” Emmett
Jasper simply shook his head.
Everyone looked to Alice, more because of the force behind the word than the word itself.
“What is it, Alice? What do we need to do to make it better?” Esme asked, afraid of the setback Bella might take.
“You need to stop treating her like she’s fragile!” Alice exploded, pacing the room. “I keep telling you Bella’s strong, and you keep ignoring me! Emmett touched her TWICE today, and it didn’t bother her. I don’t think she even realized what he did. And just now, she didn’t look like a scared little girl. She looked like a teenager who was enjoying watching her brother’s squirm.”
“But now,” Alice shook her head. “Now she’s back to being hyper aware of the fact that she doesn’t quite fit in.”
“That’s bullshit,” Rosalie argued. “She fits in perfectly well. She just needs to relax more often.”
Alice smiled. “Then go tell her that right now. And take your present with you.”
Rosalie pushed the door open slowly. Bella hadn’t answered when she had knocked, but if there was one thing Rosalie was good at, it was not taking no for an answer. She surveyed the room from the doorway, hoping desperately she would find the words Bella needed to hear.
Bella turned her head from where she was resting it against the window pane. She had curled herself up on the window seat Esme had built for her, her knees pulled to her chest. The shock of seeing Rosalie, of all people, had her mouth falling open in surprise.
“May I come in?”
At Bella’s nod, Rosalie stepped into the room, closing the door behind her gently. She settled herself on the desk chair, crossing her legs and nervously plucking away a stray piece of lint. Now that she was here, the words she wanted to say vanished, leaving the two women in an uncomfortable silence.
“I’m sorry,” Bella finally muttered, her face turned once more towards the window.
Rosalie’s eyes narrowed. “And what, exactly, are you apologizing for?”
One shoulder jerked up in response. “For making everyone feel like they have to watch what they’re saying.”
“You really weren’t bothered by what Edward said?” Rosalie asked curiously.
Well, hell, Rosalie thought. Why was she the one up here trying to talk to Bella? She knew the ability to empathize with others was one of her weaknesses. Esme or Alice should be the one up here trying to convince Bella the family wasn’t walking on eggshells around her. For that matter, any one of the others could handle this better than she was. She was about to throw in the towel and call for Esme when Bella spoke again.
“Now why are you apologizing?” Rosalie asked, exasperated. She wished Bella would turn and face her.
Bella’s voice was small when she replied. “For whatever I did that made you not like me.”
“You have no idea what you did to make me not like you but you’re apologizing anyway?” Disbelief and anger colored Rosalie’s tone and had her stalking over to sit across from Bella. “Look at me.”
The misery etched into every line of Bella’s face had Rosalie softening her tone. She hadn’t wanted to divulge her past to Bella just yet. She’d hoped for time, hoped that the two of them would be on closer speaking terms than they currently were.
The best laid plans, Rosalie acknowledged ruefully.
“Bella, I don’t not like you,” she began slowly. “Your story, more than you yourself, bothered me.”
“You didn’t like Carlisle and Esme taking in someone like me?” Bella interrupted, cringing back when the other woman glared at her.
“Don’t put words into my mouth,” Rosalie snapped, taking a deep breath before continuing. “Your story reminded me of my own past, and I don’t like things that bring those memories forth.”
“Your past? What-“
“Are you going to let me explain or are you going to keep interrupting me?” Rosalie asked. There was no real heat in her voice though. She instead offered a small smile before continuing.
“I know Esme’s told you her story, but you need to hear mine as well,” she began, pulling forth the memories that were still able to cause pain.
“So you see, Esme and I can understand what you’ve gone through a bit better than the others,” Rosalie concluded. By this time her own knees were pulled up, she and Bella mirrors in their positions. “It takes time, but you will eventually get to the point that the memories aren’t the first thing you think of in the morning and the last thing at night.”
“You’ve already made so much improvement,” Rosalie continued, the words coming easier now. “And, well…I had no intention of buying anything for you on our trip, but I saw this and thought it might give you something to think about.” So saying, she held out a small jewelry box.
Bella took the package, looking once at Rosalie before pulling the lid off. Nestled inside was a silver bracelet with wide links and a single charm attached. Lifting the bracelet, Bella saw the charm was a flat silver disc with words engraved on either side.
“Hope,” she read, flipping the piece over, “courage.”
“You’ve already shown courage just living with us,” Rosalie’s soft voice was barely audible. “Now you need to find your hope.”
Bella stared down at the piece of paper spread before her on the kitchen counter. Esme had stopped by the school earlier in the day to pick up everyone’s schedules. Alice had already appeared and marked the classes they shared with a large ‘A’. Edward had quietly written an ‘E’ next to English and Biology, and Emmett had laughed when he saw she had gym with him and Alice. She didn’t appear to share any classes with Rosalie or Jasper, but that made sense, since they were a year ahead of her.
It also left two classes where she would be on her own: History and Spanish.
Trying not to think too hard about the fact that in two days she would be faced with all the splendor and drama that was high school, Bella shoved the paper into her back pocket and tried to focus instead on the recipe for chocolate chip cookies.
- Lady Saffir
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