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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:


5. Chapter 5

Rating 5/5   Word Count 3116   Review this Chapter

Survival of the Soul
By: Lady Saffir
Chapter 5
Chapter Rating: PG-13
Story Rating:R/NC-17

DISCLAIMER: I do not own any rights to the Twilight universe, just this humble plot line.

AN - A big thanks for Megami76 for being a wonderful beta and sounding board.

“Remember, as far as anyone knows, we're a nice normal family” Dan Castellaneta

"Families are about love overcoming emotional torture.” Matt Groening

~~~~~~~~~~

Bella had retreated back to her room after Esme had shooed Alice and Emmett away, huddling on the bed and staring aimlessly out the window. She had thought that Carlisle was the most handsome vampire she had ever seen. When she had opened the door to find Alice standing there with Edward, her mind had instantly booted the patriarch of this family to second on the looks list. With his unruly auburn hair and lanky build, Bella had to admit he was more than handsome, he was beautiful.

And he apparently wanted nothing to do with her, she thought, hunching her shoulders at the memory of his glare when she’d spoken. She had insulted him, she knew. She had hoped to maintain a low profile until she knew how everyone wanted her to act. That was a moot point now. She would have to work hard to show him she was sorry.

Her mind turned back to the perfection of his features. Obviously there was no way he could find her attractive. It had always been made painfully clear to Bella that she was barely tolerable in the looks department. Only the taste of her blood had made her worth keeping around. If he was committed to never tasting human blood as Carlisle had said then she had nothing to offer him except her body.

Revulsion at the thought of being touched, even by the Adonis in this family, ripped through Bella, her entire body shuddering at the thought. No. He could hate her for as long as she lived but she refused to barter her body for anything. James had whored her out, made her participate in things she wanted no part of. That would never happen again.

Just the thought of James had Bella cringing, remembering the beatings and torments he loved to inflict upon her. Tears fell fast on to the sleeves of her shirt, the darkening patch of fabric growing ever wider as the teenage girl cried silently.

~~~~~~~
Jasper clutched at his chest, his breath coming in short gasps. He had thought to check on Bella’s emotional state, see if she had calmed down after Emmett surprised her. The undiluted pain and anguish that greeted him was staggering.

“Jasper? What’s wrong?” The alarm in Alice’s voice pulled the other house occupants to their bedroom, everyone crowding in and staring with anxious eyes.

“Bella,” Jasper pushed through clenched teeth, trying to focus long enough to push the heavy emotions away and replace them with something lighter. “She’s…something’s upsetting her.”

Esme took a step towards the door, pausing to look at Alice. “Should I go to her?”

Alice paused from rubbing comforting circles on her husband’s back, eyes blanking as she looked forward.

“No. Let her work through this. She’ll know that we’ve spied on her and that will make her distrust us,” she stated, going back to thinking and feeling as many loving, warm thoughts as she could to help Jasper work through the emotional pain.

Thought it pained Esme to agree, she abided by Alice’s vision, bowing her head as she closed the door.

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

Bella woke to the light knocking on her door. Her crying jag had left her physically exhausted, so she had crawled under the blankets, curling up and allowing the dream realm to steal over her. The light outside the window was dimming, the bedside clock reading five-thirty.

“Bella, it’s Alice. Can I come in? I promise I’m alone,” the softly trilling voice carried easily through the closed door.

Bella moved to open the door, tripping once and stumbling for several steps. She opened the door to find Alice on the other side, a look of anticipation on her face.

“What…what can I do for you?” Bella asked.

“I was going to ask you that,” Alice laughed. “I was hoping I could help you make dinner.”

“Um…sure.” A vampire that wanted to cook? Was this house full of vampires with odd quirks like that? Not wanting to anger the mate of another vampire in the house, Bella reluctantly agreed to Alice’s request. In truth, she had planned on skipping dinner, far too used to only eating every couple of days.

Leaving the safety of her room, Bella ventured out in to the hallway, heading slowly down the stairs with Alice at her side.

“I was actually going to make you dinner but saw that I’d give you food poisoning if I tried to fix everything. So then I looked to see how it would go if I just helped and the outlook is good,” Alice laughed. She flowed down the stairs gracefully, her movements making Bella painfully aware of how slowly she was moving.

Esme was already in the kitchen, the center island covered with sheets of paper.

“I wasn’t sure what you would like, Bella, so I printed off several different recipes just to give you an idea of what we could make. If none of these appeal to you we can find something else,” Esme stated, moving over to make room for Bella to peruse the offerings.

After staring at the recipes for several minutes, Bella gave up. She didn’t know what half of the ingredients each one called for were. A recipe for lasagna caught her eye, giving her an idea. She hated to ask for something that wasn’t offered. Esme didn’t seem to mind her asking for things though.

Bella looked sideways at Alice. If she could see the future then she probably already knew what Bella was going to ask for. She didn’t seem bothered by the thought of one of the recipes not being picked so maybe it was okay to ask for what she wanted.

“Can I just have spaghetti?” Bella asked softly, looking to Esme for approval.

“Of course, sweetheart.”

The answer, given easily and warmly, relaxed the tense set of Bella’s shoulders. Alice was already moving to the fridge, taking out a package of hamburger and some butter.

“Two pieces of garlic toast, Bella?”

~~~~~~~~~~
Bella was surprised to find how relaxed she was through dinner. Esme and Alice had stayed in the kitchen with her, chatting casually while she ate. Both women had included her in the conversation but were also content to simply talk, allowing Bella to observe their easy interaction. It was obvious the affection the two held for the other, the quick laughter and teasing doing much to keep Bella at ease.

It was as they were cleaning the kitchen that Bella met the last family member.

Rosalie was preceded in to the kitchen by Emmett, his large shoulders hiding the woman behind him. Bella had turned to offer a tentative smile to the hulking vampire, trying to make up for her earlier reaction to his appearance.

“Bella! I’d like for you to meet my wife, Rosalie,” Emmett said, turning sideways to pull Rosalie forward.

Bella cringed backward at the hostile look directed at her by the blonde vampire. Her stance showed her distance, the arms crossed over the chest and one foot out in front showing her distaste for the moment.

The hostility radiating from Rosalie did not detract from her beauty. If anything, it accented her features, her blonde hair framing a face that was snarled in anger.

“Rosalie,” Esme warned, stepping forward to place a comforting hand on Bella’s shoulder.

“I have to accept that you’ve brought a human in to our home,” Rosalie spat, glaring at Bella. “But I do not have to like it and I certainly don’t have to play nice.”

A flurry of conversation erupted as Edward and Jasper appeared in the doorway.

“Rosalie,” Emmett begged, kissing his wife’s hand beseechingly.

“We didn’t expect you to play nice, just keep your mouth shut,” Alice hissed.

“Perhaps we should discuss this calmly,” Jasper began.

“Don’t you dare play with our emotions,” Rosalie growled. “If you don’t like the atmosphere, leave.”

“Don’t talk to Jasper like that!”

Esme stepped in, refereeing between the two sisters. “Girls, don’t yell at each other. Alice, I’m sure Rosalie didn’t mean-“

“I meant what I said, Esme.”

“Come on, Rosie, let’s just say hello to Bella then go upstairs,” Emmett pleaded.

Edward stayed in the doorway, an amused smirk on his face as he watched his family argue. Their thoughts were quite interesting, and he wondered if they realized Carlisle was pulling in the garage and about to interrupt the fight.

His gaze landed on Bella, who was huddled back against the counter, her eyes wide and fearful. His amusement abruptly vanished. He seriously doubted that Bella saw this as simply a sibling argument. Her eyes were darting back and forth between Esme and Rosalie, her heartbeat and breathing fast. What color she had in her face drained and Edward was sure she was about to faint. Feeling oddly protective, he interrupted the fight.

“That’s enough,” he stepped in, the roughness of his voice momentarily silencing the room.

“I agree,” Carlisle said, his sudden appearance coming as a shock to everyone but Edward. “I thought we had discussed acceptable behavior.”

The quiet censure in Carlisle’s voice was enough to keep Rosalie from voicing her opinion. Esme immediately turned to Bella, taking her hand and patting it gently, ignoring her flinch. Alice moved to Jasper’s side, her glare disappearing as she looked at Bella apologetically.

“I’m sorry, Bella,” Alice said. “We didn’t mean to argue in front of you.”

Bella chanced a quick look around the room, gauging the mood. No one seemed terribly mad, aside from Rosalie’s dark looks. Carlisle moved so that he flanked her left side, while Esme was on her right. His presence was reassuring, as the others seemed to accept his authority and respect him. Jasper and Emmett were quick to add their apologies, their smiles appearing sincere, as were their words.

“Rosalie,” Edward growled, not liking the vitriolic thoughts his sister still harbored.

“I will not apologize to her for arguing with my family,” Rosalie growled, rolling her eyes as she watched Bella cringe back at her words. “You,” she said, pointing a finger at the human partially hiding behind Carlisle, “need to realize that just because we argue doesn’t mean we’re going to resort to physical violence. We’re a family. We fight. Grow a backbone,” she sniffed, stalking out of the kitchen.

~~~~~~~~~~~

The dreams began that night.

Bella had retreated back to her room shortly after the kitchen fiasco, curling up by the wall of glass to stare out at the stars as they appeared in the sky. The house was mostly silent, only the occasional shout from downstairs as Emmett cheered on his baseball team.

She had spent three hours thinking over everything that had happened in the last twenty-four hours, still unable to believe that she was safe. Sleep had begun to pull her eyelids down around nine-thirty, leading her to pull the quilt from the bed and wrap it around her where she sat. There was something soothing about staring at the nighttime sky without any lights to detract from the beauty.

The slide in to the dream world was so subtle Bella was unable to realize it was simply her mind trying to give her an outlet to work through everything.

She was back in the tiny closet, huddling in on herself to try and stay warm. If he was in a good mood, James would allow her a blanket. Today, however, she had slipped and fallen down the stairs, banging her head sharply against the wall. He had punished her and locked her in the closet, making sure to remove anything that could provide comfort. She was hungry and thirsty and desperately needed to use the bathroom but knew it was folly to even think of leaving her confinement. The building pressure of her bladder had her crying out softly, stifling the sound by biting on her knuckle.

~~~~~~~

Edward paused the CD currently playing on his sound system, waiting for the whimper to repeat. He could hear Bella shifting restlessly, her vital signs giving evidence to her distress. The quiet sound repeated, pulling Edward from his couch and out in to the hallway where he met Esme and Carlisle.

Esme’s thoughts were jumbled; her concern and need to provide comfort to Bella at war with her knowledge that Bella would be hesitant to allow herself to be consoled. Carlisle’s thoughts were just as concerned but more practical, accepting that Bella would more than likely have nightmares as she came to terms with everything that had happened to her.

“You can’t get anything from her?” Esme asked, staring at the door as another whimper sounded.

“No,” Edward ran a hand through his hair in frustration. “She’s completely silent to me.”

“We’ll just have to play this by ear then,” Carlisle said thoughtfully, gesturing for Esme to knock on the door. “I don’t think she would take much comfort from me right now.”

Esme knocked lightly, repeating the action a bit louder when Bella simply cried out in her sleep. “Bella? It’s Esme.”

“Please….” The soft entreaty was enough for Esme as she opened the door quickly, crossing to the corner where the teenage girl huddled in a heartbeat.

“Bella? Is everything okay?”

“No…please…I-" the words were choked out as Bella slept on, her hands fighting to free themselves from the tangled mess of the quilt. “Please,” Bella whispered again.

It was too much for Esme. She continued to call Bella’s name while shaking her shoulder gently, wondering what she would do if Bella didn’t wake up.

Bella could hear a warm voice calling her name through the closet door, entreating her to come out, promising safety. Did she dare believe the voice? If James found out she would be punished even more. Sharp pricks of pain throughout her body decided for her. Timidly reaching up and grasping the handle, she pushed the door open slightly, blinking her eyes against the sudden light.

Esme sighed as Bella’s eyes fluttered open, confusion clouding the deep brown before clearing in surprise. “It’s alright, sweetheart, you’re safe,” Esme whispered. “You’re safe and he can never harm you again.”

A dream? She wasn’t back with James? She was…safe.

“What were you doing on the floor?” Esme asked softly, unthinkingly reaching down to help Bella to her feet. The hesitation was only slight before Bella accepted. The two slowly made their way to the bed, Esme fluffing the quilt back over the sheets.

“I wanted to look at the stars,” Bella replied, crawling under the sheet Esme held up.

Esme’s heart was full of joy as Bella let her help her up and in to bed. Tucking the sheet and quilt around Bella, Esme kept her voice even, knowing the strong emotion would only be heard by another vampire.

“We’ll find a way to make it a bit more comfortable for you next time,” she promised. “Would you like for me to sit with you a while?”

Yes. Hold my hand and keep the bad dreams away, Bella ached to say. It would be an impossible task, she knew. Besides, she had taken up enough of Esme’s time. Surely she would want to spend time with her husband. Not to mention her other family members, whom she would not have to watch her every action.

Instead, Bella shook her head no, closing her eyes to keep from watching Esme leave.

~~~~~~~~~~~
Edward had retreated to the hallway when he saw Bella accepting Esme’s help. His vantage point allowed him to stare unabashedly at Bella as she spoke to Esme. The tiny furrow of her brow and the tightening of her eyes showed her anxiety. He was sure she wanted to accept Esme’s offer to stay but was unable. He almost spoke up to encourage his mother to stay but held his tongue. Bella would learn to voice her wants and needs in her own time.

~~~~~~~~~~
Esme pulled Carlisle down the stairs to their bedroom, curling up on a settee in the corner, her feet tucked beneath her.

“You were expecting the dreams,” she stated.

“Something like that,” Carlisle agreed, sitting down next to his wife. “Most people who experience traumatic events often have such dreams. It’s the mind’s way of working through everything.”

“What else can we expect?”

“With every person it’s different. Some have an easier time coping and adjusting to the change in lifestyle. Others act out and have periods of intense anger. She might even experience Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. We won’t know for a long time which route Bella will take,” Carlisle sighed, running a hand through his hair. “Even after she’s gotten used to us and our way of life, she might still have triggers. Something will happen that will make her regress to her previous behavior, such as expecting punishment for something she thinks is unacceptable.”

“We’ll need to be very patient with her,” Esme whispered to herself.

“Yes.”

“Is it better for her to be continuously exposed to behaviors that previously would have caused her to be punished?”

“What do you mean?”

“Well, she doesn’t like confrontation or arguments. Would it be better to have us argue openly in front of her, or should we try to present a calm façade?” Esme questioned. “Earlier is a prime example.”

Alice appeared in the doorway. “We have to act like a real family would,” she stated, stepping in to the room uninvited. “And that means arguing and bickering and teasing each other mercilessly. Besides, do you really think Rosalie and Edward can keep from arguing with each other for extended periods of time?”

“Keep me out of this, Alice,” Rosalie warned, her voice carrying down the hallway easily.

“Too late,” Alice trilled. “You’re involved whether you like it or not.”

“I agree with Alice,” Edward added, still in his room. “Bella needs normalcy, and a normal family doesn’t not argue.”

“It would be a moot point,” Alice added. “Edward’s going to be short tempered with all of us for a while.”

Whatever she saw had Edward groaning and Emmett demanding to know what was going to happen.

“Alice, don’t you dare,” Edward warned. “I won’t order your present.”

The petite vampire was about to retort when she was interrupted by Carlisle.

“I thought we had agreed that whenever a couple was in their room, the rest would ignore whatever was said. I would like to point out that Esme and I were having a private discussion in our room.”

“You were going to make the wrong decision,” Alice stated confidently. “Bella will get used to us in time.”

“Thank you, Alice.”

Alice chose to ignore the tone in which the words were spoken. “You’re quite welcome. Now that that’s solved, I’m off to plan Bella’s lesson plans. Starting tomorrow she’ll have homework just like the rest of us.”