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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:


21. Chapter 21

Rating 5/5   Word Count 4304   Review this Chapter

Survival of the Soul

Chapter 20

By: Lady Saffir

DISCLAIMER: I own no rights to the Twilight universe. I’m just playing with S. Meyer’s creations.

Thanks to Megami for being an awesome beta. J Jerhende, here’s your slice of cake. ^_~ For those of you still clutching your ‘oh shit’ bar, you may now loosen your grip - slightly.

It was hard to narrow down the choices for quotes, so I think I’ll post the ones not used for this chapter on ff.net

“Anger is a symptom, a way of cloaking and expressing feelings too awful to experience directly - hurt, bitterness, grief, and, most of all, fear” Joan Rivers

“There are two things a person should never be angry at, what they can help, and what they cannot.” Plato

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

How could he have reacted so poorly? If he hadn’t known better, Edward would have sworn he was a newborn vampire. He knew, as soon as it happened, what was going on. He should have been expecting this. He knew Carlisle was surprised that Bella had not experienced menarche yet and had been waiting for the day.

Worse, so much worse, was the vision that had flashed through Alice’s mind. Himself, his arms holding Bella like a vise, his mouth fused to the arm that she had thrown up in a futile effort to protect herself. And Jasper – JASPER, of all people, tackling him, their bodies slamming through the glass panes of the window.

He had fled then, unable to look his family in the eye. They had no knowledge of Alice’s vision, but he would know. Was he really that weak? He had been surrounded by the all too delicious scent of her blood, day in and day out. Had he no tolerance?

Edward shuddered to think of what would have happened had there been blood other than menstrual blood.

He had driven for hours, lost in his thoughts. He had questioned whether or not his reaction would be typical every month. He could only hope that she would have a regular schedule so that he could prepare himself and soften the blow.

***********

Edward took the hairpin turns to the drive at a leisurely pace, in no hurry to return to the house and the no doubt lingering smell of blood. It was one thing to spend a few hours each day around human females that were menstruating, but to have one in the house, and one that smelled infinitely better than any human before…well, it seemed like a disaster in the making, regardless of how old the blood was.

The thoughts of his family intruded upon his mind, their distress a cacophony in his mind. Foremost was Esme’s grief, followed by Jasper’s guilt that he had caused the scene. No one was thinking of what exactly had happened; only that Bella was in distress and shunning their comfort.

The screech of tires brought Edward back from his ruminating, to find the front fender of the Vanquish an inch from the wall of the garage. He was out of the car and in to the living room in a flash.

“What happened?” he asked tersely.

The question served to focus everyone’s thoughts. Edward was bombarded with images of what had occurred, each family member relaying their memory of what had transpired.

“You idiot,” he hissed at Emmett, one hand curling up to avoid striking his brother.

“How was I supposed to know she hadn’t figured it out yet? She’s a smart girl,” Emmett protested.

“Emmett isn’t entirely to blame,” Carlisle interjected. “If we had been honest with Bella from the start, this wouldn’t be an issue.”

“What happened, Carlisle? I want to know everything,” Edward demanded. He watched in horrified fascination as Carlisle remembered.

******

Bella trembled at the words. “Changed? I don’t want to be changed,” she whimpered. The flinch back from Esme’s touch was quite pronounced, and Carlisle knew how upset his wife was at the action. “Don’t touch me!” Bella cried, shrinking back as much as possible. “Leave me alone.” “Bella, we’re sorry. We’re so sorry, but there was nothing we could do,” Esme tried to explain. She wasn’t hearing the words, Carlisle noted. Bella’s breathing had accelerated to the point of hyperventilation. She abruptly sprung from her seat, the vampires in her path stepping back to allow her a clear path to the bathroom. The sounds of retching soon followed. “We should go downstairs,” Alice whispered, clasping Jasper’s hand in her own. Emmett and Rosalie followed. Carlisle knew without looking at Esme that she would be distraught. This was the second time that Bella had rejected her touch or comfort, and he feared that the damage done tonight would be lasting. What would they do if Bella refused to listen to them, to hear them out? Would they have to resort to changing her violently, and deal with the aftermath? For everyone’s sake, let alone Bella’s, Carlisle prayed for the strength needed to overcome this latest obstacle. ***********

Edward listened intently. He could hear Bella up in her room, her breathing unsteady.

“It’s been four hours?” he confirmed.

More images bombarded him. Attempts to reason with Bella had failed as she had told them to go away. Offers of food had been ignored. The onetime Esme had tried to enter the room she had been surprised to find a book flung at her. After that attempt, no one else had been upstairs.

She won’t even talk to me, Alice thought. Edward looked over to find his sister curled up in a chair, her arms wrapped around her knees.

“Can you see anything, Alice?” Edward asked. He watched as a flash of images swept through his sister’s mind, all inconclusive.

“I think we’re muddying the future, as each of us tries to come up with a way to talk with Bella,” she explained.

“This sucks,” Emmett suddenly declared, swinging everyone’s attention to him.

“Well if you hadn’t opened your mouth,” Edward growled, cutting the sound off at Carlisle’s gesture.

“That won’t help us with the situation, Edward. We need to focus on finding a way to best help Bella.”

“Well, how were you going to do it, Carlisle?” Emmett asked. “I don’t see you just yelling it out.”

The second everyone took to consider this idea had Alice smiling in triumph.

“That’s it. We stay out of it and let Carlisle and Esme handle it,” she stated, pausing as another vision took hold. “And you might as well call in to work now, Carlisle. I can see this talk not happening until tomorrow morning, at the earliest.”

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

How could they? She loved Esme and Carlisle and everyone else, but she didn’t want to be a vampire. Why didn’t they know that?

Bella curled up on her window seat, trying very hard not to think about the fact that the only reason she had a window seat was because Esme had put one in for her. After throwing up what felt like everything she’d ever eaten, she’d emerged from the bathroom to find the bedroom empty. She had been surprised to find that she was glad no one was waiting for her. What would she have said to them?

The longer she sat alone, the more her anger grew. They had tricked her, taking her in and making her a part of their family. They had known all along they were going to make her a vampire, and they had never said a word, never given a hint of what was to come. Had they thought making her love them and want to be around them would make her glad to become a vampire?

The knock at her door startled her.

“Bells? Look, I’m sorry,” Emmett’s voice floated through the still shut door.

“Go away,” Bella whispered. Emmett had known. Why hadn’t he warned her? Tears stung at her eyes as she thought of him. He was her big brother. He didn’t see her humanness as a weakness, didn’t act like she was a child that needed things explained to her. He invited her to join him when he was playing games, teased her, surprised her, protected her. Why didn’t he tell her what was coming?

She had no idea how much time passed, but gradually the tight hold she had around her knees loosened, her angry thoughts lessening. Perhaps she had been rash, she thought. After all, what had she expected, them to tell her the first day she was here?

Bella was on the verge of getting up and going downstairs when she realized what was happening.

“Stop it, Jasper. I don’t want to,” Bella ordered. Now that she knew what she was looking for, she could feel the outside influence being exerted. How dare he? She had a right to her anger and they all knew it. Making Jasper calm her down so she wouldn’t be mad at them wasn’t fair.

Summoning up all of her hurt and anger, she screamed.

“JUST LEAVE ME ALONE!”

Abruptly the good-will feelings vanished, and Bella knew she had been right in guessing Jasper’s role. Alone with her feelings once more (though she knew Jasper was monitoring and reporting back to the family) Bella felt the tears begin to fall again. The abrupt rumble of her stomach reminded her that she had to eat, and unfortunately all the food was downstairs. She couldn’t even sneak down to the kitchen, she thought bitterly, without anyone in the family knowing exactly where she was and what she was doing.

That led to thoughts of other things she couldn’t do without everyone hearing. Showering, using the bathroom, farting...Bella had grown resigned to the fact that the family would hear every little movement, but now she was only angry. It wasn’t fair, she thought, wiping at her eyes. Other teenagers had no problem hiding things from their family, let alone basic bodily functions. Why did she have to be a part of such a family?

Once more a knock sounded at the door, startling Bella from her reverie.

“Bella, if you’re hungry we can make you something to eat. Anything, sweetheart.”

Esme’s voice easily carried the pain she was feeling through the air. Well, good, Bella though harshly. Why should she be the only one upset? SHE hadn’t lied to them about anything. It was only right they had to suffer with her.

About to bury her head back in her knees, Bella was startled when the doorknob began to turn.

“Bella-“ Esme started, poking her head through the barely open door.

“I SAID, GO AWAY AND LEAVE ME ALONE!” Bella’s hands found the first thing they could, and she flung the object with all her strength, the book sailing through the air and smacking harmlessly into the wall feet from Esme’s head. Esme’s instinctive jerk back had Bella even more enraged.

“Why did you even do that?! You had all the time in the world to see it wouldn’t hit you, didn’t you?! Isn’t that what makes vampires so special?! Stop acting human, you aren’t!”

Bella’s voice by now was almost an octave higher than its usual tone, her anger and fury woven tightly into every word. She turned her head to look outside, the window poorly reflecting Esme’s motions back to her. The older woman bowed her head, murmuring as she closed the door.

“We do love you, Bella. We’ll be downstairs when you’re reading to talk.”

***********

It was perhaps one of the longest nights in the Cullen household since Bella had first arrived. Carlisle and Esme were constantly second guessing every decision they had made regarding Bella. The others, wanting to provide comfort to both their parental figures and their sister, were torn. In the end, Jasper sent feelings of warmth and love to all three, though he knew Bella was angry at him for such an action. Alice constantly searched the future, but could only see Esme and Carlisle entering Bella’s room in the morning. It seemed there was at least one crucial turning point that was keeping the future murky.

Edward played the piano for hours, playing everyone’s favorites and monitoring his adopted mother’s thoughts most closely. She was hurting more than she let on by Bella’s actions. The urge to continuously push her comfort on Bella was overwhelming, but Esme recognized such action right now would cause more harm than good. Carlisle was recalling several conversations he had with one of the hospital’s therapists, in the event a situation like this occurred. He had been warned that anger was to be expected, and while good, they must tread carefully, all the while maintaining a firm parental force. Not an easy path, and Edward didn’t envy his foster parents their task.

Rosalie was all for bursting in to Bella’s room and not leaving until she had beat some sense into the teenager’s head. Her thoughts vacillated between understanding of Bella’s reactions and her own anger on Emmett’s behalf. It would be better for everyone, Edward thought, to have Rosalie out of the house, and Emmett too. He had a feeling his brother’s feelings could very easily be hurt by a stray comment on Bella’s part, no matter how intentional.

Edward transferred his attention to his ‘middle brother’, noting the uncharacteristic worry in Emmett’s mind. It wasn’t often he dwelled on a troubling issue, choosing usually to charge head first and deal with things as they occurred. In this instance, though, he was powerless, for all his physical strength. His attempt to apologize to Bella had been met with harsh words, and he was afraid their brother-sister bond had been damaged irrevocably. He was tossing around the idea of buying out all of Barnes and Noble’s classic section, it seemed, not above trying to bribe his way back in to Bella’s good graces.

“I don’t know that would help, Emmett,” Edward murmured, his fingers never breaking their seamless flow across the ivory keys. “I’m not saying it would hurt,” he amended, trying to make his brother feel better.

“It’s a good idea,” Alice chimed in. “It will still be cloudy and overcast in Seattle. And if something catches your way along the way, go for it.”

Used to Alice’s cryptic words, Emmett merely nodded in thanks before turning to his wife. “You up for a trip, Rosie?”

Rosalie tossed her hair back. “Yes. I need to get out of this house before Jasper drives me to the brink of hugging everyone and everything in my sight.”

Jasper merely shrugged, used to his sister’s slights.

That settled, the three remaining siblings looked at each other in unspoken agreement, rising as one. The sun was just beginning to rise, for once the sky a cloudless blue that let the world know Spring was on its way, if only the world would be patient.

“We’ll be back,” Alice paused, checking ahead, “around noon. Call if you need anything.”

At that, she and Jasper were out the back door. Edward rose, walking over to the couch where Esme and Carlisle sat. Bending down, he placed a swift kiss on his mother’s cheek, clapping on hand on his father’s back as he rose. It would be a rough day, he knew. He only hoped the Cullen family would emerge relatively unscathed at the end of it.

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

The sound of Bella’s feet above their heads had the married couple looking at each other. For most of the night, Bella hadn’t moved from her perch on the window seat, merely shifting occasionally. Esme thought that perhaps Bella had fallen into a light doze around three A.M., but her sleep had been fitful, her moans and whimpers a fresh stab every time.

Esme knew they had bungled the handling of the topic of Bella’s change. She and Carlisle had even discussed after Christmas when and how they would bring the subject up. They had hoped to have Bella in a better place, emotionally and mentally, but now they were facing an uphill battle. By not being honest with Bella they had damaged the trust they had built. She knew, intellectually, that Bella had not been ready for the subject to be breached, but the what-if’s and If I Had Only’s were quite strong.

“What will we do if she won’t listen, Carlisle?” Esme voiced her biggest fear. “Will we be forced to change her now and deal with the consequences with her as a newborn?”

Her husband, her calm, cool, collected husband, looked frazzled. The repeated running of a hand through his hair had left the strands a tousled mess, rather resembling Edward’s usual hairstyle.

“I don’t know,” Carlisle replied honestly. “I suppose we’ll just have to see how she handles everything. I think we can safely give her a few days to calm down, should it be necessary, and then reevaluate from there.”

The sounds of the toilet flushing had Esme rising, heading into the kitchen. She retrieved a package of strawberry Pop-Tarts, Bella’s favorite, and poured a large glass of orange juice. Even if Bella wouldn’t listen to them, she still needed to eat.

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

Bella knew they would be coming upstairs to talk to her. She had been surprised that they had left her alone all night. Unless they were planning on how to get rid of her? The thought had scared her. Her anger was mostly gone, the long night giving her time to burn through her fury and start to think of reasons they might have kept this hidden. She still wished she had found out some other way.

She was also desperately wishing for anything to ease the cramps she was experiencing. In light of Emmett’s startling revelation, it had been easy to forget why he had blurted out the truth, but her trip to the bathroom this morning had brought reality back. Thankful the necessary supplies were kept in her bathroom and not elsewhere in the house, Bella had made the required changes before crawling into her bed. Her eyes felt like they were full of sand, her head twice as heavy as it had been yesterday.

The knock on her door startled her, pulling a gasp from her lips. Knowing what was coming, she burrowed more deeply into her bedding, pulling the quilt tight around her shoulders.

“Bella, we’d like to come in and talk with you,” Esme said.

Her voice didn’t sound like she was mad. But then, even when she was yelling at the others for trashing her flower bed, she hadn’t sounded angry.

“Okay?” Bella hated how her voice sounded. She sounded weak and needy and it would probably remind them of why having a human around was bothersome and change her then and there so they wouldn’t have to put up with it anymore.

The door opened slowly, Esme and Carlisle stepping into the room. The bright wash of sunlight in the room sent a wave of rainbows across their skin where the light touched, making Bella wonder how odd it would be to look down and see her skin sparkling.

The married couple advanced into the room cautiously, settling onto either side of the foot of the bed.

“I brought you something to eat,” Esme offered, holding forth the package of Pop-Tarts and juice hesitantly, afraid Bella would lash out and refuse food again. To her relief, her daughter sat up, blushing as her stomach protested its lack of food loudly.

“Thank you,” Bella said quietly. She fiddled with the packaging for a minute, wanting to eat but afraid if she put anything in her stomach it would just come right back up. As if reading her mind, Carlisle smiled at her.

“If you’d rather wait until we’re finished discussing everything, that’s fine, Bella. We just don’t want you to go too long without eating.”

“You aren’t going to change me when we’re done?” Bella asked. She had half thought that perhaps that was their plan.

Carlisle breathed deeply, looking at his wife for a moment. It looked like they were going to jump straight into the discussion with no warm up talk. It wasn’t how he wanted to do it, but he thought it would be better to let Bella dictate the course of the conversation.

“No, Bella. That wasn’t our plan at all,” he began gently, sorrow hitting him when, instead of relaxing, Bella tightened up even more.

“But you said soon,” she pressed, her eyes smarting with tears.

“Time passes differently to us,” Carlisle said. “We don’t have an exact date set, but most likely some time before your twentieth birthday.”

What? Her twentieth birthday was YEARS away, Bella thought. Why then did….

Bella opened her mouth to call them on their lie. Emmett had said twelve periods. That meant a year, which meant she would be eighteen. Just as quickly her mouth snapped shut. She didn’t want to say anything, remind them differently. What if they thought she wanted to be a vampire? Would they stick to the year plan then?

Afraid, Bella lowered her head, rolling the edge of her quilt in between her fingers.

“Bella?”

She ignored the question in Esme’s voice.

“Bella, you can say whatever you want to say. You have a right to be upset with us and angry. We understand you’re shocked and worried and afraid. That’s okay,” Carlisle stated, shrugging when Esme looked at him after Bella continued to hold her silence.

“Bella.” Esme tried. “Sweetheart, we love you. You’re family and you will always be family.” Esme scooted closer as she spoke until she was able to place a hand on Bella’s knee. When she still received no response, she leaned forward, tilting her daughter’s down turned head up until she could meet her eyes. “Talk to us, please,” she begged.

Bella licked her lips. “I don’t want to be a vampire,” she finally uttered.

“I know, sweetie. I know you don’t, but we don’t have any control over this.” Esme’s pained expression was too real to be faked, Bella thought, even as she hated the words.

“But why?! Why do I have to be changed?! I can keep a secret, I can!” Bella protested, her gaze swinging to Carlisle, trying to convince him.

“We know you can, Bella,” Carlisle’s attempt to soothe and calm Bella only infuriated her more.

“Then why not?!”

“Do you remember when we found you?” Carlisle asked softly, hating the automatic flinch. “There were other vampires there, and one of them helps rule our kind. Do you remember a man asking if you knew what we were?”

Bella cast back her thoughts, only vaguely aware of being asked such a question. She nodded reluctantly.

“Well, that was Aro. And one of his rules is that any human that knows about vampires’ existence either dies or becomes one of us. We had no choice, Bella,” Carlisle finished. “I don’t think it will cross his mind to think of us for many years, though,” he added, hoping to calm Bella. At the word ‘die’, her heart rate sped up, her eyes darting back and forth between himself and Esme.

She couldn’t stand it. She had to say something, remind them-

“Emmett said a year,” Bella muttered, looking at Esme to see her reaction. When none was forthcoming, she switched her attention to Carlisle.

“You will be changed when you’re ready to be changed, not one minute before,” Carlisle promised her. His word was good, Bella knew. Emmett’s words still bothered her though, as did-

“Alice saw,” the words slipped out. “Alice saw me as a vampire next year. That’s it, isn’t it?” The words flew, tumbling over each other as Bella rushed them out. She caught Esme’s wince from the corner of her eye and turned to look at the other woman. “She did. So it doesn’t matter that you want to wait, Alice-“

“Alice’s visions are subjective, Bella,” Carlisle reminded her. “And she still isn’t certain. You can ask her yourself. She has seen you celebrate your nineteenth birthday at times,” he promised.

*****

Silence had fallen after Carlisle’s last words, and neither vampire wanted to rush Bella. She needed time to understand what was going on, each knew. Having to discuss the way your life would end would be enough to make any person need several days to think it over.

That thought in mind, Carlisle rose, Esme following suit.

“We know it’s a lot to think about,” he promised. “And if you want, we can leave you alone for a bit. Do you have any questions for us right now?”

Bella shook her head no, even though a thousand were trying to fall from her mouth. The cramping had only grown worse through the discussion, and all she wanted was to curl up and wait for the pain to go away. Her arms unconsciously crossed over her stomach, one hand idly rubbing.

Esme’s sharp eyes noted the movement, and she disappeared, returning a moment later with a heating pad and a bottle of Ibuprofen. “These will help, Bella,” she offered.

Bella took the items gratefully, setting them next to her.

“We’ll be downstairs if you would like to talk with us or have any questions,” Carlisle reiterated.

Bella watched the couple retreat. As she was turning back to lay down, the forgotten package of Pop-Tarts caught her attention, and her stomach reminded her again that it was patiently waiting for an offering. Ripping the foil open, she quickly devoured the two pastries before swallowing three Ibuprofen and finishing off her juice.

Sleep pulled her under quickly, barely giving her time to wrap the heating pad securely about her waist before succumbing to darkness.

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

Emmett’s arms were laden with bags. Not all of them were for Bella. Rosalie, taking advantage of their impromptu trip, and already purchased several things.

At the moment, Emmett was loitering outside a store, waiting patiently for his wife to finish. The cloying smell of perfume in the store had driven his sensitive nose insane, pushing outside and into the fresh air. He could see Rosalie at the register paying when a window display next door caught his eye. He immediately thought of Alice’s words, to buy whatever caught his eye. Well, maybe this would help Bella.

Resolved, he stepped over to the store’s door and pushed his way inside.