A few weeks before the wedding Bella has a startling memory that could change everything. I dreamed of hall lights and unfamiliar faces, darkness and feeling small and helpless. I woke with a start. May contain triggers
10. What Bella Decided
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What Bella Decided
I’m dreaming. I know it’s a dream, but the terror grips me. The feet in the hall, the light comes on. I shrink down in my bed, the tears flowing down my face.
I can hear Renée yelling. Why is she yelling? And another voice too. Edward.
Edward? I can’t seem to open my eyes. The yelling continues.
“...don’t think you really get to say much. You’ve hurt her far worse than I have, and she forgave you.”
“I did what I did to try to protect her. It was wrong, and I’ve ASKED her to forgive me.”
“She may have forgiven you, but I haven’t. And she looked very protected laying in bed for a week staring at the walls!” Renée was scornful.
Edward was trying to stay calm. “This is not about me. Bella and I have worked out those issues. We were talking about you and whether or not you are going to ask Bella to forgive you.”
Renée snorted. “Look, I don’t know what kind of relationship you have with your mother, but Bella and I, we’re close. It’s not about forgiveness.”
“Do you not have any idea how badly Bella is hurting right now? How betrayed she feels that she had to ask you about this? This should have been dealt with – Charlie sent money for therapy.”
“She’s fine!” Renée insisted, “She’s doing just fine!”
Edward’s voice became menacing, “Of course she’s fine. Until you try to buy her a gift, or ask her to dress up, or in any way make her the center of attention. And maybe YOU’VE never noticed how she suffers with these little things, but I have. And I can’t stand to see her suffer.”
“That’s just who Bella is. Maybe you should start seeing her that way, since you claim to be so serious about marrying her. Kids getting MARRIED! You don’t even know each other!”
“Bella and I aren’t you and Charlie!” Edward growled. “We aren’t going to make your mistakes, though we’ll likely make our own.”
“I’m sure you will make mistakes. Then I’ll be Grandma and where will you be?” Renée was furious, her tone scathing.
“I’ll be right beside Bella no matter what happens,” Edward ground out between his teeth. “And I’ll be doing everything I can to help her to move on and come to terms with this. I know she wants you in her life; she wants to forgive you, but you have to ask her.”
It was a testament to how angry he was that I could hear him walking out of the kitchen.
I was surprised to hear Edward and Renée fighting in the first place. To hear Edward say those things about me, no matter how kindly he meant them. I knew he worried about that kind of stuff sometimes, that behind the eye rolling there was genuine concern, but... he thought I was broken. No, I told myself. He’s concerned because he wants you to be happy.
Another part of me was wondering if he was right. Was I reluctant to accept gifts and dress up because of what Steven had done? I didn’t like to think about that. I opened my eyes. I could still hear Renée banging dishes angrily in the kitchen.
“Good afternoon, Sleeping Beauty,” he said, bending to kiss me. I couldn’t even blush at his nickname for me. I’d been asleep for most of the past twenty-four hours, overwhelmed by what I’d learned from Renée and still taking strong painkillers.
Charlie seemed more comfortable with Edward, and had left most of the responsibility of getting me pills and food on a regular basis to Edward and Alice. They’d done everything with the same level of finesse that they usually did, although I wasn’t sure I was up for any more Pop Tarts. I planned on doing something about dinner tonight, even if it was just eggs.
Charlie had gone to work again this morning, after kissing my cheek, and telling me not to be difficult. Edward had helped me back downstairs. His idea of “help” really meant “carry”, and I couldn’t grumble too loudly. It was nice to sleep in my own bed. As soon as I’d got back downstairs, I’d pretty much gone straight back to sleep.
“So you heard that?” He asked hesitantly.
“Yeah, I did.” I paused. “Edward, do you really believe what you told Renée?”
He sighed. “I had hoped you hadn’t heard that much. Yes, I do believe it. It doesn’t change the way I feel about you, it just makes me angrier about what happened.” His words were tender, but his tone was hard and angry.
“Why were you and Renée arguing in the first place?” I knew Edward was angry with her, but he was usually so polite. It didn’t make sense.
He looked uncomfortable. “Oh. Well,” he said, struggling for words. I knew he was trying to be polite.
“Let me guess,” I said, “She’s been hanging around, waiting for me to wake up, saying rude things and acting like nothing’s wrong?”
“And trying to convince me that you don’t really want to get married,” he added, running a hand through his hair. “Never mind all the speculation in her mind about whether we’re sleeping together, whether you are only marrying me for money, and, my personal favourite, that I’ve had plastic surgery at some point.” He laughed, but I knew Renée’s speculations had to hurt.
“So, I wasn’t feeling very generous towards her, and she made a comment about you ‘expecting’ soon,” he shrugged, clearly embarrassed about losing his temper.
“I love you,” I said, squeezing his hand with my good one. “I want to marry you. We won’t let anyone stop us.” I sighed, still wishing that Renée would stop being so difficult.
Edward looked towards the door, and a second later I heard a car door slam shut. I looked at him, and he looked torn between wanting to laugh and cry. He quickly helped me to, painfully, sit up, and propped me there with pillows. I opened my mouth to thank him, and noticed how dark his eyes had gotten. He had hunted a few days before I’d begun remembering about Steven. I counted in my head; a little over a week. Too long, considering that he’d been at the scene of the accident, and with me in the hospital.
As Edward placed the last pillow, the front door banged open and I heard Emmett’s voice from the entryway. “Bella! You in there?” I smiled as Emmett and Jasper came into the living room, ignoring Renée, who was still banging around the kitchen.
“Sorry to burst in on you,” Jasper began, “Emmett’s been impatient to see you. He, well, we both, feel badly that we didn’t come and see you in the hospital.” All eyes travelled to the almost hidden line of stitches at my hairline.
My heart melted in gratitude. They felt bad about not coming to see me while I was in a place that reeked of blood? It never ceased to amaze me how the Cullens went out of their way to make me a part of the family when I’d caused them nothing but trouble.
“It’s all right,” I said to both of the boys who’d become my brothers, “I understand.”
I looked at Edward, and noticed his lips just barely moving. They were having another conversation that I couldn’t hear. He was probably telling them about his fight with Renée I realized.
“Good!” Emmett’s eyes twinkled as he held out a gift bag I hadn’t even realized they’d brought in. “We bought you something to help your recovery – or at least to help make it less boring. Carlisle said you weren’t going to be moving around much for a while.”
Edward brought me the bag, which was surprisingly heavy for its size. I stared at it.
“I don’t know...” I said. “You didn’t have to get me anything...” I felt very uncomfortable. Gifts from the Cullens were always expensive.
“We know,” said Jasper. “But we wanted to. And you have no idea how nice it is to buy a surprise for someone...I don’t get to do that often.” He smiled charmingly, and the discomfort faded away. I was suddenly very curious about what was in the box.
“Jasper...” I whined, realizing that he was influencing the situation.
“Bella...” He whined back. “Just do it. Don’t be anxious, just open it.” I couldn’t fight him, so I gave in. Edward helped me to open the gift without dropping it.
‘It’ was a video game system.
Edward chuckled. “Emmett, she has a cast on her right hand.”
Emmett looked perplexed. “Her thumb sticks out, right?” His expression was that of a child who’s just been told that there is no Santa.
“It does,” I showed him the cast, “but it kind of hurts to move it right now.”
“Oh, I’m sorry Bella – I was just trying to think of a way to keep you busy. I didn’t want you to be bored.”
“It’s all right.” I said again. Emmett seemed very disappointed – almost too disappointed.
Emmett continued to apologize. I realized that Edward was smiling and Jasper hadn’t said a word.
“Jasper! What are you doing?”
“You caught me,” Jasper said, without a hint of remorse.
“That was you man? I’m glad – I thought I was losing my mind there for a second.” Emmett grinned widely, showing his dimples and looking much more like himself.
“You didn’t really think that you were that upset over video games?” Jasper asked.
“He’s been that upset before,” Edward pointed out in a teasing tone. I thought I saw his lips keep moving – what were they talking about now? I decided that I didn’t care.
“All right Emmett, set it up.” I told him.
He smiled wide and moved towards me. Edward stood up lightening fast, blocking him. “You can’t do that for a few weeks,” he reminded his brother.
“Right,” said Emmett. “Broken ribs, no hugs. Rose told me before we left, I just...”
“Got caught up in the moment?” suggested Jasper, sounding amused.
“Er, something like that.” Emmett began assembling the game, after shooting me a wink. I loved that he was willing to play the fool for the sake of a laugh.
I tried to catch Edward’s eye, but he was avoiding it. My suspicion that his brothers hadn’t just decided to come for a visit deepened. He was up to something.
Emmett stood up. “There! All ready to get your ass kicked Bella?”
Edward rolled his eyes, but I laughed. It took some figuring out, but eventually Edward and I teamed up, so that I could use my good hand on half the controller, and Edward held it and did the rest.
We’d done two races, which Team Edward and Bella lost miserably, when Renée came into the living room, carrying a tray.
“Aren’t you feeling hungry Bella?” she asked in a nervous voice.
She’d been cooking while she banged around the kitchen. Oh boy. “Thanks Mom, what did you make?”
“Lasagne – it’s harder than it looks, even with those new noodles that you don’t have to cook first.”
I managed not to groan out loud. ‘It’s harder than it looks’ was Renée-speak for ‘I burnt it/undercooked it/mangled it beyond recognition’.
Renée set the tray down in front of me, and Edward helped to keep it balanced. I poked at the piece of lasagne. It was almost rock solid – way overcooked. Pop tarts were looking more appealing by the second.
I was too hungry not to eat something, and cooking something else would lead to another fight. A lifetime of eating what Renée cooked had taught me to survive bad cooking. I quickly cut away the crispy edges to reveal the center, which was still overdone, but was at least edible. Like most of Renée’s culinary experiments, if you got around the mistakes it was absolutely delicious.
Edward smiled as I picked around the good bits, trying to ignore the fact that I was the only one eating, and everyone was watching me.
“It’s good?” he asked.
“Yup,” I answered, very aware that Renée was still standing awkwardly across the room.
“Would you boys like some?” Renée offered.
The boys all exchanged looks, and had another quick conversation that I couldn’t hear.
“That’s very kind of you ma’am,” said Jasper, oozing southern charm and a lot of relaxation, “but Esme is expecting us home for dinner. All of us.”
Ah. Jasper and Emmett were here to take Edward with them. Looking at Edward I noticed again how dark his eyes were.
“You know Edward,” I said, “You do look hungry.” All three vampires eyes widened, and they shifted in their seats as they tried not to react. “Maybe you should go home and get something to eat.”
He opened his mouth to protest and then shut it again. “Are you sure?” he asked me. “I can stay if you want me to. Or I could send Alice over early.”
“No,” I smiled, glad that he wasn’t going to argue with me. Not only did he need to hunt, I had an idea that it would be easier to talk to Renée on my own if Edward and she weren’t fighting. “I’ll be fine till Alice comes to help me get ready for bed.” I ground my teeth together at the though – I hated being dependant on help to get dressed – and counted the days till I’d be able to dress myself without help. There were too many.
“All right then. Alice can drive Renée home when I get back. Charlie will be home by then too.” He sounded hesitant, but he wasn’t actually arguing.
“We should get going,” said Emmett, turning off the video game. “See you later Bella’s mom!” He and Jasper stood and carefully began walking towards the door. I swallowed a giggle – they were used to moving at a human pace at school, but had to be careful when they were anywhere else, or they tended to forget.
Edward leaned over to kiss me. I suddenly remembered that we’d been discussing vampire things, like Jasper’s power, with Renée in the next room
I whispered in his ear, “Renée didn’t hear anything we were talking about, did she?”
“No,” he shook his head and whispered back, “she was too busy re-wording the argument we had earlier so that she ‘won’. It makes her feel better.”
I turned my head just a bit, so that I didn’t get distracted by his delicious breath. “Good. Enjoy your dinner!” I added a little louder, and giggled as he rolled his eyes, kissed me again, and left.
Renée and I sat in crushing silence. After a minute, she picked up the tray and went back into the kitchen. I picked up my Jane Austen anthology, which was on the coffee table, and began to read Persuasion. I was having trouble losing myself in Anne Elliot’s world, and it took me a minute to figure out why.
Out in the kitchen, Renée was crying.
I could hear the soft clank of the dishes in the sink, and the part of me that had loved and cared for Renée for years wanted to go and help her. The part of me that was still a betrayed 7 year old was glad that she was suffering. The part of me that remembered that I’d been released from the hospital a day ago wasn’t sure I could walk that far without help.
In short, I was confused.
I sat for another minute listening to Renée’s quiet sobs and the gentle splash of the dish water. I didn’t want to forgive her, but at the same time I didn’t want to let this make me a bitter person. I’d always been forgiving – too forgiving, or so both Charlie and Edward thought.
Without making a conscious decision I began to scoot forward on the couch, knowing I would need the support of the coffee table to get to my feet. A painful struggle later, I was on my feet and began to slowly shuffle towards the kitchen. I used my good hand and my cast to support myself on any furniture and walls I could reach.
For the first time, I was grateful that Charlie’s house was so small. 15 small shuffling steps brought me to the entrance of the kitchen. I cleared my throat.
Renée whipped around, her tear streaked face startled. “Bella! You’re not supposed to be up. You should be resting.”
“Am I just supposed to ignore the fact that my mother is crying?” I asked, hoping we could move this conversation back into the living room. I ached all over, and my short walk had exhausted me.
Renée sputtered, “But...Ed...you...Bella!” she wailed my name. “You don’t really want to marry that pushy boy do you? He’s so bossy!”
I was shocked. She was still arguing with me even though I could hardly stand. I was disappointed. My knees shook a bit from the strain of standing and I grabbed the wall.
“Shit Bella, you need to sit down.” Renée gently helped me back to the couch. Close to her, it was hard to be mad for the things she said.
“There,” she said, adding in a last pillow.
“Mom, we need to talk,” I said, wincing as I settled in.
“About what?” she asked in a little girl voice. I sighed.
“About the fact that I am marrying Edward. That I want to marry Edward, because I love him and want to spend the rest of my life with him.” I actually planned to spend even longer with him, but Renée didn’t need to know that.
“Of course you do now, sweetheart,” she said, rolling her eyes, “but once you get to college you’re going to realize that there is so much more out there.”
“Mom, I know my own mind. I didn’t agree to this without thinking about all the consequences.”
“Bella honey, you don’t know all the consequences. You can’t. And why the big rush? Be engaged if it makes Edward happy, but you don’t need to get married right away. Next summer, after a year at college, would be beautiful. Don’t let Edward push you around.”
How could I explain this so that she would understand?
“Mom, Edward doesn’t push me around. We make important decisions, like getting married, together.” I took a deep breath, thinking about what Renée had seen of Edward. “Right now I’m sure he seems a little bossy. But, he was scared out of his mind when I crashed the truck, then, all this stuff about Steven coming up and,” I paused to blush. This was hard to say out loud. “I’m not always very good at remembering to look after myself. It’s... embarrassing to tell people I need help. Edward worries that I’ll overdo it,” my voice dropped to a whisper as I remembered my plans to cook eggs for dinner, “I was thinking about getting up to cook earlier, so I guess he’s right to worry.”
Renée’s eyes welled up with tears. “Bella, I just want you to be happy. I don’t see you being happy if this relationship fails. And getting married so young increases the odds that it will fail – Dr. Phil says...”
“We’re not talking about Dr. Phil.” I cut her off, “And life is short. I could get in another car accident, and not be so lucky. Something could happen to Edward,” although it’s not likely, I thought. “and I’m so happy. Edward makes me happy. We just want to celebrate our happiness.” I knew it was unlikely that I would ever see Renée again after the wedding and my subsequent change. I really wanted her to be at my wedding.
I took her hand. It felt good. I may have been eighteen years old and ready for marriage, but I would never stop missing my mother; even if she didn’t always deserve it.
“This wedding is happening, whether you like it or not. You are my mother, I love you and I want you to be there.”
She looked me in the eye, long and hard. “All right Bella. I give up. You’ve always known your own mind. I’ll support your decision, even if I don’t agree with it. Just, please be careful. I’m too young to be a grandmother!”
I blushed beet red. She kept going on about an unplanned pregnancy, and since I knew that was a major problem in her own relationship, I felt the need to set her mind at ease.
“Mom, Edward can’t have children. He was... sick when he was younger.” I managed to explain without lying.
Renée went pale. “Oh! And I said...oh! I’ll have to apologize...”
“Just drop it okay? It’s kind of sensitive subject for him.” I wished that were a lie.
She nodded. “Sure, sure. Well, you can always adopt when the time come.” She seemed strangely happy for someone who’d just been told they wouldn’t likely have biological grandchildren.
“You should sleep – I’ll go and finish the dishes.”
Later that afternoon, Renée and I looked through my photo album. We talked about me as a baby, remembered some fun times, and then, there it was. The photo of the foster family who had taken me in.
“What were their names again?” I asked. I felt terrible that I didn’t remember them more clearly.
“The Wheeler’s. Bob and Minnie Wheeler. They were so nice.”
“I don’t really remember them. Just that they were nice, and I liked to play with the kids, but their house seemed so noisy.”
“Oh, they were so nice,” she said again. “That was such a horrible week, I missed you so much, and then, with the psychologist’s evaluation...” she trailed off, uncomfortable.
“Oh, that’s right,” I looked at her expectantly and sighed. “You were going to tell me about that, right?” I prompted.
She looked down at her hands. “It was on Wednesday. On Saturday you broke your arm, Monday I stayed home from work and called Steven. I called the social worker too.”
“Sophia,” I filled in. Renée looked at me in shock. I blushed. “I remember bits and pieces.”
Renée nodded and continued. “I told her I had broken up with Steven. She was happy to hear it, and was nicer to me after that. She said I had to wait until you’d had the evaluation, and that Child Protective Services would be by to investigate the house – make sure that Steven was gone and that the house was clean and safe. I cried. I hated that you were with strangers because of my own stupidity.” She gulped loudly.
“I begged for something, anything.” She sighed. “I hated that she made me feel guilty for loving you. She said that she’d give my number to the Wheeler’s and they could give me an update over the phone. I was so relieved! I got off the phone and cleaned up the whole house while I waited for the phone to ring.”
I rolled my eyes. Renée was terribly messy when she was depressed. I didn’t mind listening to this part of the story. It was easier to listen to Renée’s pain when I knew that I’d been safe and happy.
“I was almost expecting them not to call,” Renée continued, “to be too busy. But Minnie called. And she was friendly, and supportive and so nice. She answered all my questions; told me cute stories about you. I was so happy that nice people were looking after you.”
I nodded. My memories of the Wheeler’s house were fuzzy and vague, but I could remember the warm loving tone of Minnie’s voice and Bob’s gentle laugh.
“I went back to work the next day. Sitting at home was torture without you, and I wanted to show CPS that I was employed in good standing.”
Renée fidgeted in her chair. “Oh and before I forget, I have all the medical records and stuff at home, if you want them.”
I nodded, unsure if I did or not.
“When Minnie called me that night, she told me about the appointment. I called Sophia about it. I had to be there, Bella. I didn’t want you to go through it alone. Sophia reminded me that you couldn’t see me, but said I could be there if I wanted to.”
I frowned, trying to remember this appointment. The way Renée described it, it sounded traumatic. I should remember it.
She didn’t notice the change in my expression.
“It was a very strange day. I arrived at the psychologist’s office, and had to stand in a little hidden room behind a two-way mirror while they brought you in. It was a beautiful room, full of toys. I can remember a huge wooden dollhouse that I thought you would love. We were all crammed in this tiny room; a police officer, a lawyer, Sophia, Minnie, and me.” She gave a little chuckle and then sighed. “You looked so unhappy, and you had that cast on and I all I wanted to do was hold you and tell you that everything was going to be all right. The psychologist was young and pretty and played with you. You were too shy to talk much, but you smiled a lot. Then she moved you to the table and you drew pictures for a while. You talked more, describing the kids at the Wheeler’s house. She mentioned how sad it was that kids got hurt sometimes, and it was like someone had given you an electric shock. I knew that you’d realized why you were there. You shut down completely. She couldn’t get another word out of you, although she tried for awhile. You just sat there, drawing awkwardly with your left hand.”
I didn’t remember any of this... it felt strange to hear about it.
“The police officer and the lawyer talked, but eventually decided that there wasn’t enough evidence to arrest Steven. There wasn’t anything else anyone could do to keep you safe. I was so mad I cried. Minnie hugged me.”
We sat in silence for a minute, staring at the photo of Minnie and Bob.
“So, he’s still out there?” I asked.
“I guess so,” said Renée, “I haven’t heard from him since that week they took you away. I boxed up his stuff and put it on his doorstep so I wouldn’t have to see him.”
“And I never told anyone? Why did you all believe it, if there was no physical evidence, and I wouldn’t talk?”
“You talked,” said Renée softly, “just not to the psychologist. On the Friday, Minnie called and told me. Apparently on Thursday night you had a nightmare. Bob woke up first, and went to go and wake you.” Renée kept talking, but I couldn’t hear her. I could remember that night.
Footsteps in the hall, coming closer and closer with nowhere to run. Tears streaming down my face as I begin to scream. “No, no, don’t touch me, please, no!” Awareness – it’s not HIM. Pleasant face, gentle hands...Bob?
I sit up in the dark, still not sure if it’s safe. Bob stops in the door, hands wide and open.
“It’s all right Bella, it’s just me. You had a nightmare sweetie and I was going to wake you up, that’s all.”
I nod, but my heart is still racing and I really want him to leave. I can hear other kids crying and am torn between embarrassment at waking them and terror, because there is still a man in my bedroom. A sob tears free from my throat. I curl my knees up to my chest.
Bob seems to understand. “Do you want me to get Minnie?” he asks, his voice still pleasant and calm in the dim light. I nod. He leaves and Minnie comes in a second later. She quickly pulls the blankets up for my roommate, a ten year old who can sleep through anything.
Minnie sits next to me, tucking me into her shoulder as I let loose, sobbing wordlessly. As the storm of crying passes, I realize that Minnie talking quietly.
“...it’s hard to be away from everything that you are used to. Nightmares are scary.”
It feels important to correct her.
“No,” I say hoarsely, “It’s not because of the nightmare. I thought Bob was ... HIM.” My name for HIM slips out. Steven is my Mom’s friend. Steven buys me treats. Steven tells me I’m pretty. HE...HE is scary.
“HIM?” asks Minnie.
“HE...HE comes into my room sometimes, when Renée is asleep.” I whisper, ashamed at breaking my promise to never tell.
“Really?” Minnie mumbles. She doesn’t sound angry, so I say a little more.
“HE, does things. Touches me. It’s scary. I don’t like it.” I say into the dark.
“That’s too bad.” Still not angry. I gather my courage to say one more thing.
“Sometimes he makes me touch him too. That’s the worst.” I say so softly it’s hard to hear, even in the quiet dark house.
“I’m sorry Bella,” says Minnie, drawing me in for another hug. I settle, tired, back to sleep.
“Bella?” Renée’s voice pulled me from the past. I shook my head.
“I remember,” I said quietly. “I remember telling Minnie about it.”
Renée nodded. “She was so upset the next day – and of course it was all inadmissible in court. It’s frustrating.”
I nodded mechanically, still stunned by the memory of that night.
“On Friday, Sophia brought you home. I was so glad to see you, and you were so glad to see me, and we hugged... it was great. Sophia left me the name of a therapist and I set up an appointment.”
I sighed. This was the only question left.
“Okay, so what happened? Sophia gave you a name, Charlie was sending money...”
“I did call and set up the appointments.”
I raised an eyebrow and she responded defensively. “I did. It took me a couple of months, but I did.” I nodded.
“The therapist, the appointments... they just didn’t seem to help. You’d been improving. Bedtime was easier, the nightmares had stopped... and then I took you to see the therapist. It was like someone had doused you in cold water. You took this huge step backwards and you were miserable. You didn’t want to go – I had to literally pry your hands off the car door to get you into the second appointment.” She shrugged, uncomfortable with the idea of physical conflict.
“At the time, it seemed like it would heal itself... I didn’t realize that you’d forget it and that it would be an issue later... it really seemed like the right choice to drop it. You’d never said a word to me about any of it – Steven, the hospital, the Wheeler’s, the psychologist. You’d always been so strong, even though you were so young. I didn’t realize you’d need help.”
I sighed. I knew that therapy often made things worse before they got better, but evidently Renée hadn’t.
“It was almost Christmas, you were so sad. I just had to cheer you up.”
A sneaking suspicion crept into my mind as I realized the time frame she was talking about.
“Mom! Please tell me you didn’t...”
“I took you to Disneyland.”
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