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Survival of the Soul

Summary:
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. sots banner


Notes:


16. Chapter 16

Rating 5/5   Word Count 4118   Review this Chapter

Survival of the Soul

Chapter 16

By: Lady Saffir

Chapter Rating: PG

DISCLAIMER: I own no rights to the Twilight Universe, Stephenie Meyer does.

Thanks to Megami for her wonderful help tackling tricky plot questions and JokesOnJane for my pretty banner. :) I will give warning that this chapter is being submitted without being beta’d, so any glaring problems are all my fault.

Note: We’re now roughly in the first week of December. And oops, I goofed on Mr. Banner’s name. It’s Bob, not Bruce. So no, Mr. Banner is not the Incredible Hulk. I’m just an incredible idiot. J

"What you need to know about the past is that no matter what has happened, it has all worked together to bring you to this very moment. And this is the moment you can choose to make everything new. Right now.”

“Is solace anywhere more comforting than that in the arms of a sister.” Alice Walker

************

“Something’s wrong,” Esme fretted, casting a quick glance at the ceiling. Bella’s dreams had abated significantly in the past few months. She was able to easily interact with their family and was becoming more outspoken regarding her wants and needs. But now the dreams were returning with a vengeance and she had retreated into the quiet solitude of her room almost every day for a week, shunning offers to spend time with the family.

“She won’t talk to me. She just keeps repeating that she’s fine. Carlisle,” Esme trailed off, turning into her husband’s welcome embrace as he hugged her tightly.

“We’ll get her through this,” Carlisle promised.

**********

“Maybe she has SAD?” Emmett suggested.

“What?”

“You know, Seasonal Affective Disorder? Maybe this is just her reacting to winter coming.”

“I don’t think that’s it,” Edward scoffed.

“Well, what’s your idea, Mr. I’ve Been to Medical School Twice?”

Edward sighed. “It could be any number of things. For all we know, she’s just upset over getting that C on her Trig test.”

“This is a really sucky time for you not to be able to read her like everyone else.”

“Thank you, Emmett. As if I wasn’t already aware of the lack of help I’ve been able to provide,” Edward turned to glare at his brother.

“Will you please both stop arguing?” Alice asked. “Neither of you are helping.”

“I’m sorry, Alice,” Edward apologized. “I just hate feeling useless.”

“You aren’t useless,” Alice refuted, slipping down to sit next to her brother. He pulled her into a hug, the two of them frowning off into the distance.

“Jasper, Edward’s hitting on your wife,” Emmett razzed.

Jasper’s snort was quite audible, even though he was upstairs in his study.

“I am NOT…”Edward trailed off, breathing heavily through his nose. “Do you try and be this annoying, or does it come naturally?”

“It’s a talent,” Emmett boasted. “Now, are we gonna figure out what’s up with Bells or not? And why can’t we just ask her? It would make fixing whatever it is a lot easier than us trying to guess.”

“Oh, yes, that won’t upset her at all. I can just see it now,” Edward mocked. “Bella, we’ve noticed you regressing into behaviors we thought you were past. Are we doing something that’s reminding you of the time you were tortured and abused, and if so, what can we do to make it better?”

“Anything sounds bad when you say it in that tone of voice.”

About to retort, Edward stopped as a vision overtook Alice. Esme’s image wavered as she walked into Bella’s room, finally fading away, leaving only the teenage girl alone in her bed. The vision jumped ahead to show the family, minus Alice and Bella, seated at their usual lunch table.

“Why aren’t you going to school on Thursday?” Edward asked.

Alice frowned, searching the vision for any clue. She prodded the vision along, sighing when she finally saw herself entering Bella’s room, the girl curled up under her quilt.

“Ah,” Edward was mollified. “I’ll be sure to get yours and Bella’s homework.”

The vision jumped ahead to show the two of them sitting and talking, comfortably resting against each other, smiling at some shared joke.

Finally!

Edward smiled indulgently. “You have been waiting quite a while.”

“Oh, come on! You two do that just to drive me insane.”

************

Bella hated this time of the year. True, this was the first time in three years she was absolutely positive of the date, but she had always associated the end of summer and coming of winter as something to be dreaded. It had always taken the warm weather coming again before she knew she had passed that hideous day. At least now she knew when the exact day of her parents’ death arrived.

Knowing the date didn’t make the pain go away though.

She had slept fitfully, her dreams full of things chasing her, scary enough to keep her from falling deeply asleep yet not bad enough to pull Esme upstairs.

She rolled over to stare dully at the clock. She knew Esme would be coming upstairs any minute to wake her for school. She didn’t want to go. Why couldn’t she stay home? But staying home meant explaining why she didn’t want to go, and Bella didn’t want to say the words aloud. She turned over, burrowing her head under the blanket and closing her eyes, wishing she could just fast forward time.

It seemed like only a few minutes had elapsed before she was uncovering her head to look at the clock questioningly. To her surprise, it was nine in the morning. She’d overslept? But why hadn’t anyone come to make her get ready for school? A weight shifted at the end of her bed, making her gasp and sit up in surprise.

It was only Alice, perched on the bed, her legs crossed as she stared off into space. Sensing Bella’s gaze, she turned her head to offer a small smile in apology.

“You needed to sleep,” she offered by way of explanation. “Don’t worry, you aren’t going to miss anything important today, and Edward is going to be bringing any work we have home with him. Now, would you like to tell me what makes today so significant?”

Bella’s shoulders hunched. “No.”

“Alright,” Alice replied calmly. “Do you want some breakfast? I can run down and get you something.”

“No.”

“Are you going to speak in one syllable answers all day?”

Anger flared through Bella. Even as she opened her mouth to yell at the other girl, she felt the tears gather, hard and fast. She blinked several times to try and hold them back to no avail.

Alice shifted closer as the first drops fell, stretching her legs out in front of her. She reached for Bella, her hand continuing on even after Bella muttered ‘don’t’. She was relentlessly gentle, tugging her sister towards her, stroking her hair as Bella finally gave in and rested her head on her leg.

Bella’s tears fell fast and silent, her breath catching occasionally. They continued on like this for some time, Alice running her fingers through Bella’s hair, not attempting to talk or break the silence in any way.

Bella finally snuffled, rubbing one hand angrily against her eyes. She didn’t want to sit up and look at Alice, see the pity that was sure to be in her eyes. Even so, she tried, stopping at the gentle pressure Alice exerted to keep her head down.

“Please talk to me, Bella,” Alice pleaded. She had seen that her sister would need to stay home, and that someone would need to sit with her. The vision at first had shown Esme, her compassion allowing Bella to talk about her parents. She would have gone on to stay quiet and withdrawn for several days, not emerging from her funk for almost a week.

Testing the vision, Alice had replaced herself with Esme. The outcome was exactly what she had been hoping for. Although she was the first of the ‘younger’ Cullens Bella would turn to or talk with, their friendship had yet to grow like Alice had foreseen. She was being greedy, she knew, denying Esme this mothering moment, but she wanted her friend. Esme had already cemented herself in Bella’s heart as her surrogate mother. She wanted her chance to do something, even if it was only listen.

“We were going Christmas shopping,” Bella began slowly. She bunched the quilt up in her hand, fisting it tightly with the remembered pain. “Me, and mom, and dad. We were at the mall all day; my dad hated shopping but went along to be a pack mule for mom. I took turns going with each of them. I would help mom pick out things for dad, and she’d drop hints if she saw something she liked. I’d tell dad when I was with him. It was just like every other year,” she continued slowly. “I…I didn’t notice anything different. The mall was crazy, people constantly bumping into other people.”

“Then we went home and unloaded the car and I went to bed.”

If she didn’t have the advantage of seeing the future, Alice would have been afraid that Bella was going to pass out. Her breathing had increased, her heart almost pounding out of her chest. She still said nothing, continuing to comb her fingers through Bella’s hair. This was a wound that Bella needed to lance for herself.

“When I woke up,” Bella shuddered, taking several minutes before she could continue, “He was in my room. He…he had my mom and…he killed her in front of me, drank her blood. I, I couldn’t DO anything. It was just a bad dream, I thought, even though I knew I was awake.”

“And then he took me and made me his pet. Three years, Alice,” Bella’s voice was distant, as if relaying a bit of news she’d seen on television. “You know what he did to me. I wanted to die every day. I could have, but…I couldn’t do it.”

“Bella,” Alice sighed, unable to help herself. She bent over and placed a kiss on her sister’s temple. “Now I understand why today has such horrible memories for you.”

The room was quiet for several moments before Alice spoke again. “Did I ever tell you my story?”

Bella shook her head, still lying against Alice’s thigh.

“I don’t remember my human life,” Alice began. “For most vampires, the human memories are very dim, but there. They can recall things from their past. For me, though…all I can remember is darkness. I don’t even know if Alice is my real name.”

“But-“Bella sat up, scrubbing at her eyes even as she looked at Alice in amazement. “How-what-“

“I woke up on the banks of a river. I had no idea where I was, or who I was, but I knew one thing.”

“What?”

“I could see Jasper in my mind and knew he was meant for me,” Alice smiled at the memory. “It took some time for me to track him down, but once I did, we traveled together, searching for Carlisle and his family.”

“What happens to the human memories?” Bella asked. By now she was sitting up, knee to knee with Alice.

“The memories are dim and will fade over time, but they’re still there. We can make them stronger if we try to focus on the memories. Carlisle isn’t sure why I can’t remember my human life, but it doesn’t matter so much to me.” Alice’s smile was serene. “I knew that I would have a family and Jasper, so my past didn’t matter so much.”

“I wish I could forget my past,” Bella whispered.

“Even if it meant forgetting your parents?”

Bella’s breath caught.

“No, I don’t want to forget them,” she sighed. “I just want to forget…” she trailed off.

“All the bad stuff?” Alice suggested. “That’s understandable, Bella. But removing all the horrible things would take away from who you are today. You have to accept that everything that has happened to you so far has brought you to where you are today. I am sorry for what you had to endure, Bella,” Alice leaned over and took one of Bella’s hands in her own, “but it brought you to us.”

Bella wiped several tears away. “I still don’t know why you guys want me as part of your family.”

Alice sighed. “Bella, I thought we were past this. We love you and we don’t care about your past. You’ve heard our pasts, so why would you think that would change our feelings for you? I know you don’t see it, but you fit so well into our family. We love you and we want you to be happy. I think you could ask for the moon and we’d fight over who would be the one to pull it down for you,” Alice teased, laughing as Bella blushed.

“Would you do something for me?” Alice asked abruptly.

Bella nodded hesitantly.

“Would you tell me about your parents? Things you did as a child?”

The familiar pain of thinking of her past had Bella pausing. The ache was old and duller than it had been but still had the power to make her breath catch. Did she want to open the well of memories? Looking into Alice’s face, she thought it worth it. She could share her parents with her friend who couldn’t remember her own.

************

“He pulls that look off very well,” Alice commented.

“Hmmm.”

“You don’t like the long hair, tall, dark and dangerous look?”

Edward and Jasper both stopped in the doorway to the living room. They had just returned home from school and found the two sisters on the couch. Jasper was surprised to find his wife, her head pillowed comfortably in Bella’s lap. The two were watching a movie, both relaxed and at ease as they critiqued the action on the screen.

“Hey Jazz, Edward,” Alice greeted. Bella turned her head and smiled tentatively at the two men.

“Alice. Bella,” Jasper replied, settling himself at the other end of the couch and moving his wife’s feet so they were propped in his lap.

************

Esme watched Bella while she prepared dinner, curious as to what had transpired during the day. Bella was still quieter than usual but she didn’t seem as stressed and upset as she had yesterday. What had Alice said or done that had brought her daughter back?

From her vantage point she could easily see into the dining room where Edward was explaining the day’s homework assignment to Bella. Something had changed there as well, she mused. No longer did her son hang back as much as he had before, though he was careful to intersperse the number of times he initiated the conversation with simply joining Bella and the other family members.

Why the change, Edward?

Her son gave no indication of having heard her, continuing on with his lecture. After several moments and Bella’s quiet assurance that she understood the lesson, he joined her in the kitchen, leaning back against the countertops and watching as she layered the sauce over the pork chops.

“I decided if Jasper can interact with her normally, I had no excuse,” Edward said.

Ah. I wondered if that might have had something to do with it.

“Besides, there might come a time when I’m the closest to her and I don’t want her afraid to ask for help,” Edward defended his decision, crossing his arms as he stared off into the distance.

Mmmm.

“And now you’re humoring me,” Edward pushed off from the counter, wandering into the living room. He felt himself pulled to his piano, his fingers lovingly tracing over the keys as he seated himself. It had been quite a while since he played and he began with Esme’s song by way of apology.

Thank you, Edward.

He acknowledged Esme’s thought with a small nod. When he finished with her piece, he moved on to the song he had written all those months ago as he watched Bella sleep. He had only played the piece a few times since it had first come to him, each time the melody bringing him peace.

“What are you playing?”

There was only the faintest of pauses as he fumbled the fingering of the next few notes. It wasn’t enough that Bella would have noticed the gaffe, but Esme certainly did. Edward chose to ignore his mother’s speculation as to why he had stumbled and instead chose to focus on answering Bella’s question.

“Just a little something I wrote,” he replied easily, unwilling to divulge its name. Even Esme didn’t know that he had named it, only aware of the inspiration behind the song.

“You wrote this?” Bella stared at him in awe. “And the song before, did you write that as well?”

“Yes. I wrote it for Esme,” Edward added. “Would you like to play?”

“No,” Bella replied quickly. “No, I…I need to finish my homework,” she explained, retreating back to the table and her books.

Edward watched her go, a part of him wishing she had taken him up on his offer.

************

It was several days before Bella was totally back to her usual self, and each day the tension level in the Cullen household went down several notches. It was odd, Jasper mused, just how tightly woven into their family fabric Bella had become in such a short time. He knew the stress level the others were feeling wasn’t from the family being afraid of upsetting the human in their midst, but rather everyone simply wishing they could do something to provide a balm to her wound, as they would with any of the others.

He and Alice were stretched out on their bed, taking time to simply relax. Alice was tucked into the crook of his arm, her head resting on his chest, one hand idly drawing patterns on his chest. He tucked the arm not currently wrapped around his wife under his head, drawing in a deep breath and the relaxed, content feelings Alice was emanating.

“How are things now?” Jasper questioned, knowing Alice would know of what he spoke.

She giggled, raising her head up to look at him. “We’ll be just fine by mid morning,” she replied.

Wary now, Jasper raised an eyebrow. “What did you do?”

“Nothing,” came the too innocent reply.

“Are you baiting her?”

“I don’t know what you mean. I simply did something that I would do for any family member.”

“Mmm. Does Bella know this?”

“I don’t know that it has been brought up in conversation before, no,” Alice answered. The previously random tracings of her hand became more deliberate, their path causing Jasper’s breath to catch.

“So long as she won’t be looking for you until morning,” he said, pulling his wife up for a kiss.

********

Bella stared in confusion at her closet. Somehow, in the course of a day, her closet had been exchanged for that of a stranger. Gone were her loose and comfy tees, her relaxed fit jeans. Instead the hangers were full of clingy blouses and tops that Bella knew hadn’t been there yesterday.

Puzzled, she stepped back, looking around the room as if expecting the missing clothes to suddenly appear. A knock at her door had her moving to answer it, blushing when she saw Edward there.

“Hi,” she said cautiously. Was she late? Turning back to look at her clock, she saw there was plenty of time before they needed to leave for school. What did he need then?

“Good morning,” Edward replied. He knew Bella was wondering why he was at her door and chose to point her in the right direction. “Just think about who would do something like that,” he ordered, stepping back from the doorway as enlightenment dawned.

***********

“ALICE! GIVE ME BACK MY CLOTHES!”

The stomping (and tripping) of Bella down the stairs had everyone pausing in their morning activities.

Jasper sighed, stepping over to stand next to his wife.

“Afraid she’s going to hurt Alice?” Emmett asked.

“With the way she’s feeling, she might try.”

“Bella, why would you want those old clothes back?” Alice tried to reason with her sister. “You’ve already worn them several times.”

“Nothing was wrong with them, Alice. And I don’t like what’s in the closet,” Bella glared. She was now only inches from the petite woman, one finger pointed warningly. “Give them back now.”

“I’m afraid I can’t do that.”

“Why not?”

By now Rosalie had been pulled downstairs, smirking at the spectacle of Alice, partially hidden behind Jasper, while Bella fumed.

“I gave them away.”

“YOU WHAT?!”

“Now, really, Bella,” Alice tsked. “In case you haven’t noticed, no one in this family wears the same thing more than once or twice. Time and fashion wait for no woman.”

“I don’t care. I want my clothes back.”

“I guess you’ll just have to go shopping and replace them,” Alice stated serenely. “In fact, why don’t you take Angela with you? The four of us could go to Seattle, do some Christmas shopping.”

“Alice….” The single word was long and drawn out, Bella’s voice practically a growl.

“Perhaps this conversation can be continued after school? We need to be leaving soon,” Edward suggested.

Bella shot another glare at the petite woman before turning and stalking up the stairs. The rest of the family watched her go, Edward raising an eyebrow as he turned to stare at Alice.

Alice returned his look, rolling her eyes as she gave up her mock annoyance. “I can’t be too mad at you right now, but you pull another stunt like that…” she trailed off, thinking of the various things she would do in retribution.

Edward raised his hands in surrender. “My lips are sealed.”

************

“That’s a really pretty top,” Angela commented, taken aback when Bella scowled. “What’s wrong?”

“Alice stole all my clothes and replaced them,” Bella muttered, turning to shoot her sister a dark look.

“Oh.” Angela tried to find something positive. “Still, it must be nice to have a sister who will do something like that,” she offered.

Bella snorted. “You can have mine, then. Rosalie wouldn’t do something like this,” this last statement was directed at Alice.

“You’ll get used to it in time, Bella,” Alice replied serenely.

************

Something isn’t quite right, Carlisle thought. He had entered the house to find it in its normal state, everyone scattered and pursuing their various interests. Emmett and Jasper were watching a basketball game, alternately cheering and booing their teams’ actions. Alice and Rosalie were working together on the computer, and Esme was upstairs in her studio. Bella was seated at the dining room table, her homework spread before her.

Carlisle studied the scene a moment longer. It was…too quiet, too normal. Dear god, now what do they have planned?

Edward snorted, drawing Carlisle’s attention. “Nothing that I’m aware of,” he replied, he and Jasper both smiling at the relief that coursed through their father.

“Edward, could you help me with my Trig?” Bella asked.

“I’ll do it,” Alice offered.

Bella sniffed. “I’m still not talking to you.”

Ah, that’s it, Carlisle realized. Bella’s typically staid expression was replaced with a glower when she looked over at Alice. “What did Alice do, Bella?”

“She stole my clothes.”

“At least she replaced them,” Emmett reminded her. “One time she took all of my clothes and didn’t leave anything in its place.”

“Stop saying that! She stole the clothes I picked out and didn’t ask my opinion,” Bella was vehement.

“Alice,” Carlisle started. “You shouldn’t-“

“You always take her side,” Rosalie interrupted.

“I do not always take Bella’s side,” Carlisle refuted.

“Yes you do,” came the reply as a chorus.

What happened to the group of adults that used to live here? Carlisle wondered.

Edward coughed, trying to hide his laughter.

“Alice you should have given Bella some warning that you do things like this on a routine basis. Bella, Alice has always felt the need to play the part of personal shopper for the family and she isn’t about to change that. I’m sorry she did it without telling you but it’s something you’ll have to live with. You’ll need to work it out with Alice, regarding what clothes she will and won’t touch,” Carlisle lectured. “Anything else?”

Emmett raised his hand. “I got a speeding ticket the other day, ninety in a forty-five zone,” he offered, grinning as Carlisle stared at him before turning and pacing up the stairs.

*************

The week before Christmas and the start of winter break found the family moving about the house, decorating for the holidays. Esme was happy she could finally bake Christmas cookies and someone in the house would eat them. Usually she baked several dozen and donated them to a local shelter, and she planned on still doing so, but this year she had Bella to assist. They were in the kitchen, preparing to ice the first batch, when Alice wandered in.

“Can I help?”

“Of course,” Esme replied, handing her a tube of red frosting. Bella was already spreading a thin layer of white frosting across the tops, methodically ensuring the icing went to the edges.

The three women worked together easily and the first batch was half finished when Alice paused, her eyes focusing on something in the distance. From upstairs came Edward’s groan, even as she announced, “We’re going to have visitors for the holidays.”