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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:


4. Chapter 4

Rating 5/5   Word Count 3917   Review this Chapter

Survival of the Soul
Chapter 4
By Lady Saffir
Chapter Rating:
Story Rating: R/NC-17
AN – A big thank you to Megami76 for providing her wonderful beta services. :) Also, thank you so much to everyone who has left a review. You make my day, and I hope that I am able to continue to capture your interest in this story.

DISCLAIMER: I do not own any rights to the Twilight universe.

“Courage doesn’t always roar. Sometimes courage is the quiet voice at the end of the day saying, ‘I will try again tomorrow’” Mary Ann Radmacher

“Life is made up, not of great sacrifices or duties, but of little things, in which smiles, and kindnesses, and small obligations, given habitually, are what win and preserve the heart and secure comfort.” Humphry Davy
*********************

‘Edward, I need to speak with you’ Carlisle thought as he picked out the faint sounds of the Volvo’s engine in the distance. Less than a minute passed before the silver car glided to a stop in the middle of the road, perfectly positioned to allow Carlisle to slide easily into the leather passenger seat.

The car leapt forward at the slightest touch of the gas pedal. Edward took a second to study his father’s profile before turning back to the road. “What happened while I was gone?”

“Alice had a vision of a human we needed to save,” Carlisle began, recounting with his thoughts everything that had occurred.

Edward hissed as he realized the implications. “So now we have a human living with us? One that you will eventually have to damn to this life?”

“Yes.” Carlisle chose not to contest their theological disagreements in order to discuss more immediate concerns. “For now, though, we need to focus on helping Bella heal from her various wounds.”

They were now pulling into the garage, Edward searching for the mental signature of the human. He could only hear Esme and concluded that the human (Bella, his mind whispered) was sleeping. It would be tomorrow afternoon then before he was able to assist Carlisle and Esme in providing the care and comfort Bella needed.

“What does Jasper say?” Edward asked as they walked in to the living room. Esme appeared at his side in a flash, wrapping him in a welcoming hug. He gladly returned it, inhaling deeply as he detected what he assumed was Bella’s scent. It was wonderful, he noted, lavender and freesia mixed with a hint of something else, sniffing again before focusing on Carlisle’s words.

“She’s wary of us, naturally, but seems to be willing to accept some comfort from Esme. Any show of initiative on her part seems to be followed by fear, so I can only assume she was beaten for speaking out,” Carlisle ran a frustrated hand through his hair.

Edward tightened his arm around Esme as her thoughts saddened. “It’s the past,” he soothed, unable to stand seeing Esme upset over anything. “We’ll help her get better. With such a wonderful mother she can’t help but heal quickly,” he smiled, wishing he had Jasper’s ability to erase any sad emotions.

‘Thank you, Edward.’

Edward acknowledged Carlisle’s words with a short nod. “Where is everyone else?”

“Out hunting. We decided it would be best not to tempt ourselves now that Bella is living with us,” Esme said. “Once we’re used to her scent then we should be able to extend our time between trips, but for now we should err on the side of caution.”

“If what I smell is Bella then that is a very good idea,” Edward admitted, making no effort to hide his actions as he leaned down to smell the scent clinging to Esme. He had spent three days hunting, yet the burn in his throat was as potent as if it had been weeks since he’d last fed.

Esme stilled in his arms. “Edward? Will this be a problem?” she asked anxiously, exchanging a look with her husband. What would they do if anyone in the family had a problem resisting Bella’s blood?

“No,” Edward vowed, his smile sincere. “I won’t let it be a problem.”

~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Edward was regretting the rashness of his promise as he progressed down the hall to his bedroom. The human’s scent was permeating the air on the third floor, the mouthwatering smell of freesia and lavender drifting lazily from underneath the closed door. He swallowed harshly, holding his breath until he was safely in his bathroom, the door shut and the shower on, driving the smell away.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~

The dull light filtering through the curtains woke Bella from a deep sleep. It was the first time in years she had slept through the night so soundly. Rolling to her side, she took some time to think through everything that had happened to her.

She had all but given up hope of ever escaping the tortuous life James and forced on her. Every day, the thought of ending it became just a little stronger, a little more tempting. She had been nowhere near accepting such an action, she knew, but at the same time she had to acknowledge the lure.

And now...if she were to believe them, believe...Carlisle and Esme, she was safe. She would never have to fear punishment, never be hungry or cold or watch her actions again. The thought was staggering and quite daunting.

Staring out the window, Bella braced herself to face the day. No doubt she would be expected to interact at least with Esme and Carlisle, if not the other members of the coven. They called themselves a family but she had a hard time reconciling the word with a group of vampires. Surely they were only a family as long as their wishes did not conflict.

It was the thought of conflict that had Bella’s heartbeat accelerating. She had seen the fights that James and Victoria had engaged in, and seen the damage caused. During one such time, two other humans had been killed, ripped to pieces when they were caught in the middle. She had no desire to be anywhere near a fight when it broke out.

The knock on the door interrupted Bella’s thoughts, her heart stopping before resuming its tripping pace.

“Yes?”

The faint whisper was loud enough for Esme to hear as she opened the door slowly. She had been waiting for hours for any sign that Bella was awake, hoping they would be able to muddle through the day. With the children at school and Carlisle at work, Esme was afraid something would happen that she wouldn’t be able to handle.

“Good morning,” Esme said softly, stepping just inside the door.

Bella struggled to push herself in to a sitting position, the bulky cast on her arm impeding the movement. She was grateful Esme stayed by the door and allowed her to complete the action by herself. She was determined to be as independent as quickly as possible so that the Cullen’s wouldn’t be bothered by her slowness.

“I thought I would see how you were feeling this morning before I brought you breakfast,” Esme stated, gripping the doorframe to keep from moving closer to the bed.

“I’m fine,” the soft words were spoken hesitantly.

“What would you like for breakfast then?”

“...I don’t know?”

The response came out as more of a question but Esme was willing to take anything.

“We have Cheerios, Fruit Loops, Frosted Flakes and Raisin Bran,” Esme rattled off a list of cereal. “I’m afraid we don’t have anything like eggs or bacon, but if you’d like, I can certainly run out and get some for you.”

“Cereal’s fine.”

“Would you like to eat up here or come downstairs?” Esme asked, rushing to clarify before Bella could answer. “No one else is home so you won’t have to talk to anyone.”

Bella mulled over her options. She could eat up here but then Esme would not only have to bring her food but also clean up after her. If she ate downstairs she could minimize the amount of work Esme had to do, as well as see what the house looked like.

Curiosity and a desire to be less of a trouble had her replying, “Downstairs.”

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

It had been a difficult struggle for Esme, watching Bella hesitantly traverse the stairs. The hand rail was on the right so Bella was unable to grip it for balance, instead choosing to hug the wall down the two flights of stairs. Esme had trailed behind, hands outstretched and ready to dart forward to stop Bella from falling.

In the end though, they had made it downstairs safely and now Bella was seated at the island, pouring Fruit Loops into a bowl and awkwardly handling the milk jug. Esme was unsure as to whether she should leave Bella to eat in peace or sit with her and make conversation. She wanted to encourage her daughter to get used to being around vampires that meant her no harm, but was also afraid of pushing too far, too fast. She decided to stay through breakfast, at least, and gauge Bella’s reactions before deciding on the rest of the day.

“It will be nice to have someone else in the house with me during the day,” Esme said, smiling at Bella when she looked up. “With Carlisle at work and the children at school, the house just seems too big sometimes.”

“School?” Bella asked, hunching her shoulders and wincing. Questions last night hadn’t seemed to bother Esme or Carlisle, but she had interrupted. Esme was sure to be unhappy about that.

The flinch hadn’t gone unnoticed by Esme. She immediately deduced why Bella had reacted so and hurried to assure her such behavior wouldn’t result in punishment.

“It’s alright, Bella,” Esme soothed, waiting for her gaze to be met before continuing. “You’ll find in this house we have a tendency to all talk at once. It’s poor manners, I know, but you get used to carrying on multiple conversations and having others interrupt you. Emmett and Alice are especially bad about that,” she laughed.

“As for school, yes, Edward, Alice, Jasper, Emmett and Rosalie all attend the local high school. The younger they act, the longer we can stay in one place. Sometimes Emmett and Rosalie act like a young married couple and live apart from us for a few years, but all of us usually stay very close,” Esme continued. “Carlisle works as a surgeon at the county hospital and I restore old homes and furniture.”

Seeing Bella was almost finished, Esme moved on to discuss their plans for the day.

“If you’d like, you can watch some TV or a movie. We have a huge DVD collection as well as all the movie channels. I don’t know if we have anything you’d be interested in reading but we also have a rather large library,” Esme offered, cleaning up breakfast before Bella could insist on doing so herself.

“Um...TV, I guess.”

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

That had been almost two hours ago. Esme had shown Bella in to the living room, pointing out the DVD cabinet and showing her how to work the numerous remotes before excusing herself upstairs to her study. She had banished herself there in order to give Bella some time alone, but had been unable to resist going downstairs every half hour or so and checking on her.

This last time had found Bella asleep on the couch, curled on her side while the movie Pride and Prejudice played on in the background. Esme pulled a throw from the back of the couch and gently placed it over the slumbering girl, tucking it in at the edges.

Moving to an armchair, Esme pulled out a favorite book, opening it randomly and reading, content to wait for Bella to wake when she was ready.

It was forty-five minutes later that the sound of car tires turning on to the gravel drive came to Esme’s ears. She smiled, recognizing the Mercedes engine as it purred through the winding drive, coming to a stop before the house. The rustling of bags piqued her interest and she set her book aside, flitting to the door and opening it as Carlisle crossed the porch.

“What are you doing home in the middle of the day?” Esme asked, leaning up to greet her husband with a kiss.

“My patient found it relaxing to discuss his children while we were prepping, especially about the things they loved to eat and the sheer quantity of food they went through,” Carlisle began, heading in to the kitchen and setting the numerous bags on the counter. “So I spent most of the surgery thinking of things Bella might like or would need and building a list.”

Esme tsk’d him playfully. “You should have been thinking about the surgery. And isn’t today your day to present a case study to the residents?”

Carlisle grinned. “I was thinking about the surgery. And yes, I was supposed to present today but I told Dr. Leonard you were home ill and I wanted to come check on you. He was more than happy to take my place and hopes you feel better soon.”

“Tell him thank you for me,” Esme smiled, looking through everything spread out on the counter. “Did you leave anything on the shelves?” she teased. There was a wide assortment of lunch meats, cheeses, and spreads, along with various bags and boxes of chips and crackers. To drink there was a bottle of almost every soda available as well as packets of mixes for other drinks.

“I thought it best to get a wide assortment until Bella is comfortable telling us what she likes,” Carlisle protested. “How has the morning been?”

“It seems to have gone well,” Esme started, leaning in to Carlisle as she spoke. “She woke up around nine and wanted to come downstairs for breakfast. Afterwards, she started to watch a movie before falling asleep on the couch.”

“She will probably sleep a good deal for a while, until her body heals,” Carlisle said thoughtfully. “Has her arm hurt at all?”

“Not that she’s mentioned to me,” Esme stated. “And I haven’t seen any sign that it’s been bothering her.”

“Hmm. Alright, then. If it starts to hurt try giving her some Tylenol first before the Percocet,” Carlisle ordered. He pulled Esme to him for a brief kiss before heading back out. “I’ll be in the office the rest of the day if you need anything.”

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

The numerous glances Bella gave the clock were not lost on Esme. It was now two-thirty in the afternoon and she was sure that Bella was wondering what time the others would be home. Her heartbeat and breathing had been steadily increasing as the minutes passed. Esme spoke up, hoping to give Bella some measure of peace.

“School lets out at two forty-five,” Esme said softly, giving Bella a soft smile when she looked up, startled. “They’re usually home by two fifty-five.”

Bella stared at the clock, unsure of what to do. She knew Esme and Carlisle wanted her to interact with the others but she wasn’t sure she could do that right now. It was one thing to sit here quietly with Esme. She seemed to be content with the silence and had a very soothing presence.

It was one thing to be with a lone vampire. She could easily watch Esme and choose the actions she thought would be the most pleasing to the other woman. To keep track of six vampires, three of whom were male, was too much to think about right now. She would slip up and anger one or more of them. Bella shuddered, thinking of the multitude of things the big vampire or the blonde one could inflict upon her.

“May I go upstairs?” Bella asked softly, refusing to meet Esme’s gaze.

“Of course, darling,” Esme replied, setting her book aside. “Do you need help going up the stairs?”

Yes, Bella thought, wanting badly to say the word.

“No.”

“Alright. Call me if you need anything.”

Esme listened to Bella’s progress as she slowly made her way up the stairs, wishing she knew exactly how to comfort the human and gain her trust. Time, she supposed, sighing wistfully. She had all the time in the world and all she wanted to do was turn the clock forward to the time that Bella would no longer cringe and fear asking for things. The thump and quiet cry of pain broke into the older woman’s musings. She flashed up the stairs, appearing at Bella’s side before she could right herself.

The teenager was sprawled on the staircase, her wounded arm beneath her on the stairs. Her blush of embarrassment did not keep Esme from seeing the tears of pain that leaked out unwillingly.

Bella looked up, her eyes meeting Esme’s for a split second before being downcast once more, her shoulders curled inward, waiting for the expected blow. She had tried so hard to make it to her room without incident, hoping to keep her klutziness hidden as long as possible.

“I’m sorry,” she muttered, stumbling to her feet and leaning against the wall. “I tried to not fall.”

Esme stared at Bella’s bowed head, grief and anger warring in her heart. She knew all too well what her daughter was feeling. She too had been beaten for things beyond her control, had been degraded and made to feel worthless. She reached out hesitantly, tucking the dark spill of hair behind Bella’s ear.

The action surprised Bella, pulling her head up to meet Esme’s eyes. The warmth and understanding shining from the older woman’s eyes was staggering.

“Sweetheart, I’m not upset with you. No one in this family will be upset over anything that is an accident. You fell. All I’m worried about is whether or not you’re hurt.” Esme moved closer, tipping Bella’s chin up to look closely. “Are you okay?”

Bella nodded slowly, sniffing and scrubbing at the tears still tracking down her face. The words she had been longing to say earlier forced their way out of her throat, her voice catching as she gathered her courage.

“Can…can you help me?” Bella whispered.

Esme’s smile was warm and full of love. “Of course.”

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Edward was amazed at the amount of anticipation he felt as he steered the Volvo through the woods to the house. Alice, and Emmett, surprisingly, were full of thoughts and plans for Bella. Alice had looked ahead and saw that she and Bella would be good friends so she was anxious to lay the foundation of their relationship.

Emmett’s thoughts were protective in nature. He had been skeptical of a human living with seven vampires but was willing to go along with Alice’s vision. The amused thoughts had turned serious when he had seen the multitude of bruises covering Bella’s body and watched her cringe away from Esme, of all people. His declaration to Bella the previous night had been completely serious.

They were in the garage now, Rosalie immediately heading over to her car and popping the hood, intent on staying in the garage and not interacting with the human if at all possible.

Jasper trailed his wife in to the house, an amused smile on his lips as he let Alice’s good mood infect him. Emmett was directly behind him.

“Hey Ma, we’re home!” he yelled, grinning at Esme when she appeared before him.

“Emmett, there is no need to yell,” she admonished, laughing when he picked her up for an enthusiastic hug. “What was that for?”

“Just doin’ my part so Bella gets the whole family vibe,” Emmett replied, craning his neck to look into the living room. “Where’s the squirt?”

“Thank you. Bella is upstairs in her room.”

“Aw, man. When’s she going to come downstairs?”

Esme fixed Emmett with a stern look. “I don’t know and I don’t want you pestering her. Let her come to you.”

Emmett huffed but recognized the resolve in Esme’s words and stance.

Shaking his head at the change Bella had wrought on his family in less than twenty-four hours, Edward headed upstairs, intent on listening to some jazz music while letting Bella’s thoughts wash over him. Her mind was sure to be an unhappy place, he thought.

Passing the closed door Edward was surprised to hear only the occasional turning of a book page. No thoughts bombarded him that did not belong to his other family members. Curious, he went to his room, turning on the sound system before softly calling for his sister.

“Alice?”

She was at the door before her name was finished, an expectant look on her face.

“Why do you need me to talk to Bella? Why don’t you just knock on the door yourself?” She asked, crossing her arms over her chest.

“It would be better, I think, for her to find another woman waiting for her than a man. Carlisle suspects she was raped, given her reactions to men. I don’t want to upset her,” Edward explained. “Besides, I know you want to discuss shopping and clothes with her.”

Her brother’s smirk had Alice sticking her tongue out. “Fine, I’ll go talk to her. Why don’t I introduce you too? That way she’ll know who you are.”

So saying, Alice reached out and grabbed Edward’s sleeve, pulling him into the hall with her. Two doors down she stopped and knocked, calling out, “Bella? It’s Alice and Edward. Can we come in?”

The heartbeat on the other side of the door stuttered before starting a tripping pace. The sound of a book being set aside and feet shuffling to the door heralded it opening, Bella’s wide eyes the first thing Edward noticed of his newest sister.

She was almost as pale as they were, Edward noted, taking in her heart shaped face and long tangle of dark brown hair. Her features were ever so slightly disproportionate, her brown eyes deep and unreadable as they took in the two vampires standing in the hallway.

“Alice?”

“That’s me,” Alice chirped, waving a hand at her brother. “And this is Edward. He has the other bedroom up here. I was – “

Bella gasped, cutting Alice off. Emmett had appeared behind Edward, his eyes light and his grin wide.

“MOM! ALICE IS BOTHERING BELLA!”

Bella winced at the volume his shout reached, flinching back. She didn’t want to be the cause of trouble. “No,” she protested when Esme appeared in the hallway. “She’s not bothering me, I swear.”

Edward had been hoping that by hearing Bella’s physical voice, her mental voice would become clear to him. Such was not the case. He shook his head, frustrated.

“I can’t hear her,” he stated, answering Esme and Alice’s thoughts.

“Um…I said, she’s not bothering me,” Bella repeated. She had never heard of a vampire having hearing trouble before. What kind of damage would cause such impairment?

“I can hear you,” Edward replied, exasperated. “But I can’t hear you,” he said, tapping a finger to his temple.

Bella looked to Esme for answers.

“Edward can hear other’s thoughts,” Esme replied.

“But not Bella’s. Hmm, I wonder why that is,” Alice mused, tapping her chin thoughtfully. “No matter, we have more important things to discuss.”

Edward agreed that the fact he couldn’t hear Bella’s thoughts was trivial next to a bigger problem. Her smell last night, caught from Esme’s clothes and from the air around her room, was insignificant compared to now. With the door open and the blush staining Bella’s cheeks warming the air, Edward found himself swallowing back the venom suddenly pooling in his mouth. He was in control, but only barely. The urge to pull her to him and breathe her in was strong, causing him to step back quickly, retreating to his room and ignoring the questioning thoughts his family was sending him.

How was he going to cope with having mere feet from him a human that had the most appealing scent he had ever smelled?