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Moving Forward

Summary:
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


Notes:


11. What Alice Painted

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What Alice Painted

BPOV

When I woke up, I knew something was wrong, despite Edward laying in the bed next to me. Then I remembered. Edward had asked me for permission to go and kill Steven. I still couldn’t believe it. On the one hand, it was strangely reassuring to know that he loved me so much, to know that whatever pain it might cause him, he would protect me.

On the other hand, I couldn’t imagine what it would do to Edward. I could still remember how hard he’d fought to not kill the men who’d tried to attack me in Port Angeles. I couldn’t let all his struggles (more than 70 years!) be for nothing. He was stronger than that, and I wouldn’t let Steven Hunter weaken him.

Part of me was angry that he’d put the decision on my shoulders, and at the same time I was so glad that at least he’d asked. It wasn’t so long ago that he would have acted and then told me what had happened later.

“Bella?” came a quiet voice beside me. “Are you awake?”

I smiled. Even when I was furious with him, I was still happy he was here. Happier than I’d ever been.

“Sort of,” I yawned. “I will be.”

He laughed softly. “I’m going to have to leave soon. Charlie’s home, and though he’s been good about us spending a lot of time together lately, I don’t think he’d be able to deal with me spending the night.”

“I know. What time is it, anyway?” The grey light of Forks was bright behind my curtain, but gave no hint as to what time it was.

“It’s nearly noon.”

“Wow.” I was amazed by the amount of sleeping I’d done since the accident. It helped that I had the best reason to stay in bed lying next to me. He was serving a useful purpose these days. Though I no longer fell into nightmares every time I closed my eyes, I still had one almost every night. Edward woke me patiently from each one, holding me tight or giving me space when I needed it. They felt so real, and were so upsetting. I hated the way they had me trapped.

“Bella!” Charlie’s voice came from downstairs. “Alice is here!”

“I guess that’s my cue to leave.” Edward smiled gently. He kissed my cheek. ‘I think Alice has something planned for today,” he said, clearly unimpressed by the idea. “She’s trying to block me, but she’s really excited.”

I laughed. “It’ll be fine. I haven’t seen much of her outside of my bathroom. It’ll be fun to hang out.”

He gave me another crooked smile before ducking out of the window. The second he was gone, Alice opened the door. “Wake up sleepyhead. I’ve been waiting for you for hours!”

I rolled my eyes and sat up, yawning. “Hazards of making human friends,” I said unsympathetically. She stuck her tongue out at me. “Very mature, for someone who’s over 100.”

“Bella, bringing my age into this is a low blow. Now, how much help do you need today? Because I’ve got to get back home and set up.”

She’d lost me. “For what? What’s going on?”

“Just some girl time. But you know me; I like to have everything set up perfectly. And if you don’t get out of that bed in a second, you’re going to wreck my whole day!”

I got up. “I think I just need you help getting the mitt thing on and off. I just can’t wear anything with buttons til this comes off,” I said, gesturing to the cast. The mitt was my favourite new invention. Instead of wrapping my cast in garbage bags while I got wet, (even the fibreglass was only “water resistant” not “water proof” and they’d stressed that before I left the hospital.) I could just stick it in what looked like a large plastic oven mitt. It worked well at keeping the cast dry, and made me bless Alice’s tendency to over-shop. I never would have found it on my own.

Freshly showered and in my robe, Alice got the mitt back off before dashing downstairs and out to her car. I heard the tires on her Porsche squeal as she sped away. Future telling abilities aside, it was good that she had Charlie wrapped around her little finger or she’d have been arrested by now.

Once I was fully dressed, (which was harder without Alice, but at least I didn’t have to defend my wardrobe) I headed downstairs. Charlie was pulling something out of the oven.

“Good morning Bella. Did you sleep well?”

“Yep. What’s that?” I really hoped that neither he nor Renée had cooked it, whatever it was.

“Chicken casserole. Sue Clearwater sent it up. She knew you were out of commission and how terribly I manage on my own.” He rolled his eyes, the sarcasm obvious.

“Sue Clearwater is very sensible,” I said, taking a deep breath of the delicious smell. Part of me was amazed that she’d found the time and energy to cook for us while trying to keep two werewolves fed.

“She’s had to be. She’s taken Harry’s spot on the council, both the kids are busy all the time, plus there was all that drama with Leah and Sam a while back, and she’s done most of it on her own.” His voice was full of admiration.

We ate in comfortable silence. The food was fantastic. Charlie ate with a big grin on his face. I wondered for a second if maybe Charlie might feel something for Sue, but decided that I must be crazy.

After lunch, I let Charlie know I was headed over to the Cullen’s and went out to confront the Volvo. When I’d gotten home from the hospital it had been parked in the driveway. Edward and I had made short trips in it with him driving since then, but this would be my first time driving it alone.

I opened the door and got in, feeling a momentary pang of longing for my familiar truck. It took me a minute to find all the adjustors for the seat – most of them power features – so that I could sit closer to the steering wheel. It felt strange to move the seat from where Edward had adjusted it for his long legs. I took a deep breath as I fixed the height of the steering wheel and got a wonderful whiff of Edward. The whole car smelled just like him and it lifted my grey mood for a moment. It was like having him with me.

As I put the key in the ignition I realized how nervous I was about driving again. It was the first time since my accident, and I was alone. I sat in the car listening to the radio, but I was too scared to put the car into gear.

A tap on the window made me jump with a little yelp. I opened the window.

“You know,” said Charlie, leaning on the edge of the window, “you learned to ride a bike up here. You were five and I spent most of a morning running behind the bike and when I finally let go you did great for about 4 feet and then you fell and scrapped up your knee and elbow. I thought you’d want to stop for a bit after that, but you insisted that we get right back out there to try again. And we did and you got it. You were always a brave girl. Well, unless I wanted you to talk to someone.” He chuckled. “Ready to go?” he asked as though it were perfectly normal for him to see me off this way.

I nodded, choked up by his unusual display of caring. “Have a good day,” he said cheerfully as I put the Volvo into reverse. He patted the roof of the car before he backed away. I carefully reversed out of the driveway and headed down the road towards the Cullens. Alice apparently had plans for me.

It was awkward, driving with the cast on, but I couldn’t deny how much easier it was to manage the Volvo’s automatic steering. My heart was beating hard as I pulled onto the empty main road. The brake seemed very touchy, but the roads were clear of both rain and traffic, so other than a few rough stops, it wasn’t bad. My confidence grew as I went, although both a car traveling in the opposite direction and a cat on the side of the road made me jump and hit the breaks.

In no time at all I pulled into the driveway at the big white house by the river and Alice was at the car door before I could even get it open.

“We’re going to have so much fun!” she squealed, helping me from the car.

“What are we doing?” I asked hesitantly. Alice and I had lots of fun together, but she tended to go overboard quite regularly.

“We’re going to have a spa day! Except we’re going to stay here. It’ll be so much fun!”

“Oh,” I said stupidly, following Alice’s impatient steps inside and up the stairs towards her enormous bathroom. I wondered what Alice meant by a “spa day” and worried that I’d have to remind Alice about the cast.

“Don’t’ worry,” said Alice as we reached the second floor, “we’re just going to do manicures and pedicures. It’ll be easy enough to work around the cast – it’s not sore when you move your fingers anymore, right?”

I nodded and tried to smile. I instinctively wanted to say no to painted my nails, and put up a fuss, but since hearing what Renée had said about me wanting to dress up for HIM I was trying to look at my dislike objectively. I knew some of it was a simple dislike of fuss – I couldn’t really remember ever liking girly things myself. Some of it was fear though, deep down in my belly. It was a fear I now knew to associate with Steven, and recognized as being a fear of putting myself back in that helpless position. It was silly. I knew logically that nothing bad would happen letting Alice paint my nails, but the fear was still there.

I took a deep breath. I wasn’t going to let this change me. So I couldn’t be afraid of something illogical. I couldn’t let HIM control me anymore.

“Let’s go and see what Alice has set up. She’s likely bought the entire O.P.I. line just for this,” said Rosalie with an eye roll, as she came up beside me.

“You’re coming too?” I asked as I took a hesitant step towards the door. Rosalie didn’t usually do girly things with Alice and me.

“Yeah, if... that’s okay with you?” Rosalie turned to face me and smiled shyly. I inhaled to tell her that it was fine, but she was too close and I got a big breath of human-dazzling vampire scent and temporarily forgot how to speak.

Alice laughed from the bathroom. “Back up Rose! You’re “dazzling” her.”

Rosalie frowned, but took a step backward and my head cleared.

“That’s better.” Alice was highly amused.

“I thought only Edward did that?” Rosalie asked, confused.

I blushed, but smiled, glad that she was talking to me directly and not asking Alice. “Alice has done it by accident a few times. Mostly just the same as you, she stepped too close and looked me in the eye just as I breathed in.” I shrugged, not adding an unnecessary “it’s a vampire thing”.

“Huh. Who knew?” Rose looked amazed.

“Are you two done bonding in the hallway yet?” Alice yelled impatiently. We quickly scooted into the room. I gasped looking at the array of files, bowls and tiny bottles of nail polish that were laid out on the marble countertop of the vanity.

“Rose, you pick your colour and then grab a few for Bella to choose from, okay?”

I moved closer to the vanity, but Alice took my good hand and sat me on the stool she kept there just for me.

“Here, we’ll soak your fingers first,” she said, dipping the ends of my fingers into a little dish. She stared at the cast for a minute as though she could make it heal by sheer willpower. “Hmm. I guess we’ll just skip this hand and go right to shaping and filing.” I nodded, not caring.

I didn’t say much, and tried to enjoy the warm water on one hand and the gentle nail file on the other. While Rosalie and Alice discussed the latest line of some designer I’d never heard of, my thoughts drifted back to my argument with Edward. We hadn’t had a chance to discuss it this morning, and it made me feel uneasy. The shock was wearing off and reality was sinking in fast. Edward wanted to hunt someone down and KILL him – for me. I shivered.

“Bella?” Alice’s voice pulled me from my thoughts. “You still in there?” she asked gently.

“Yeah, just thinking. Edward...” I trailed off, unsure how to put my feelings into words.

A look of comprehension passed over Alice’s face. “Oh, he asked you then?” she asked. I got the impression that it was Alice who’d made sure he asked me first.

Rosalie was out of the loop. “Asked her what?”

“Revenge.” Alice summed up the whole situation with one word.

“Oh. And you said no?” Rose asked, her tone carefully neutral, her amber eyes sad.

I nodded. “It doesn’t feel right.” I blushed as I realized that they were both listening intently, staring, still as only vampires can be. “It feel like if I sad yes it would always be there, this little bit of guilt about it. I don’t want to add anything else to Edward’s guilty conscience. And I want the past to stay in the past.”

They both nodded, breaking out of the statue-like stillness, and Alice took my left hand out of the water and began to dry it before she clipped my nails.

“So how is the leaving the past thing going anyway?” asked Rosalie, changing the subject and paying excessive attention to her right pointer finger as she painted it a maroon-red.

I shrugged and stared at the cast in my lap as Alice began filing the nails on my left hand. “Oh. All right. Still have nightmares, but Edward wakes me up. I’m glad to have all the answers now.”

Rose quirked an eyebrow, reminding me that all the family news doesn’t always reach her.

I shrugged again. Alice followed my hand exactly as I moved it. “Renée had her head in the sand. Signs of... abuse weren’t as well known then. She broke off the relationship when she knew for sure, but they couldn’t arrest him as there wasn’t really any proof.”

Rosalie narrowed her eyes. “Don’t you do that, Bella.”

“Do what?” I asked, confused.

“Feel like you have to forgive her. It’s all right to be angry at Renée.”

“I know and I was really angry before. It’s just, hearing her side of the story, I remember how young she was. She was only 26 – my Grandma was dead and most of her friends either didn’t have kids or just had babies. She couldn’t talk to Charlie about it – she was all alone.”

Alice nodded to indicate that she was listening, and began putting clear polish on my nails.

Rose frowned. “Well, yes, but if you want to be angry at Renée, be angry at her anyway. You don’t have to be understanding. It’s all right to be completely selfish about this.”

I smiled. I remembered Edward telling me about how loyal and protective of her family Rosalie was back when we’d first met. It was nice to be counted as worthy of that protection. “I am being selfish really. By my own choice, I probably won’t see much more of Renée other than the wedding and I’d rather not have my last memories of her spoiled by fights. It makes me feel better.”

Rose shrugged. “Well, whatever.” She smiled. “Your choice.”

“Oh!” Alice stopped, staring at nothing.

Rosalie and I waited expectantly til she came back. She stared at me strangely. “Bella, has Charlie been spending time with someone from the reservation?”

“I think so,” I said, confused. “Sue Clearwater. She’s sent some meals up too.”

“Charlie just decided to ask her on a date!”

My jaw dropped. My father hadn’t been on a date since Renée left him. “Are you sure?” I asked, half convinced it must be a joke.

She smiled. “As sure as he is. He can still change his mind.”

“Wow.” I was stunned.

“You’re okay with it, right Bella?” Alice asked.

“Yeah, I’m just really... surprised.” It was a good kind of surprised; nice to know that someone would be there for Charlie if and when I wasn’t. I smiled at my new family, comfortable that my old family would be taken care of.

***********

Several hours later, Alice had painted my finger and toe nails a pearl colour that turned blue in certain lights. It was called Kyoto Pearl. While Alice had been painting, Rosalie, Alice and I had spent a lot of time teasing a laughing. It was new, but fun. I liked the way Rosalie called Alice on being bossy, and it made me more willing to do the same. We had a good time.

When we were done, Rosalie took off to spend some time with Emmett. Alice tidied up the bathroom and I picked up my purse to drive home for dinner.

Walking carefully downstairs, I saw Esme leaning over the kitchen counter. She looked up as I came closer. “Hello Bella. Did you enjoy getting your nails done?”

I smiled and held up my good hand as proof. “They’re very shiny, and Alice is better than me at shaping them. I always end up leaving rough edges.” I looked at the papers on the counter. “Is that wedding stuff?” I asked, pointing at a list of food items.

“Yes, it’s from the caterer. We’re having it buffet style to help out the guests who don’t eat, but it makes it tricky to give appropriate numbers to the caterer. We need place settings for all the guests, but only enough food for some.”

She smiled as though this was a common wedding problem and I felt guilt well up inside me for dumping the wedding on Alice and her.

“Oh Esme, I’m sorry...” I didn’t get any further before she placed a gentle finger on my lips to stop me from talking.

“Don’t you dare apologize for letting us plan your wedding! First of all, we’re enjoying it immensely – catering headaches and all. Secondly, do you have any idea how much I’m looking forward to having you officially as my daughter?” I blushed and she wrapped a cool arm around my shoulders. “You are a member of this family. You have the right to have us fuss over you because we love you!” she scolded gently. A tear traced down over my cheek and she wiped it away before pulling me into a real hug.

We stood there for a moment and then Esme pulled away, saying “Well, I’d better call the caterer and sort this out. We’ll see you soon?”

I nodded. “Thanks Esme,” I said softly.

She smiled again before dialling the phone. I walked to the garage. Edward’s new car – a Ferrari – was parked next to the Volvo. Perched on top was Alice.

“Did you enjoy your day?” she asked brightly.

“Yes, thank you. My nails are lovely.”

“I didn’t mean your nails – they were just an excuse.”

I realized that Alice had orchestrated this whole day so that I would have the time to bond with Rosalie and Esme as well as herself.

I didn’t know what to say.

“You needed it.” Alice explained out of no where. “Just – remember that we all love you, okay?” she added cryptically, giving me a little hug and helping me into the driver’s seat.

I drove home thinking about having sisters and Esme’s hug. It was nice to think about spending forever with them. I’d never really thought about it after being an only child all my life. Esme always left me feeling like I’d been wrapped in a bubble of love and caring.

When I walked in the front door of Charlie’s house, I saw Renée sitting at the kitchen table.

“Bella, there you are!” she said in a scolding tone.

“Hi Mom. What are you doing here?” I asked, confused. I had thought she’d be out with her yoga friends – today had been the last day of her spirit class.

“Saying goodbye of course. I’m flying out first thing in the morning.”

“Oh.” I looked at Charlie, who shrugged.

Renée kept going, oblivious. “Phil called me yesterday, and asked when my class was done, and I told him today, and he told me all about this group of pendulum readers who are starting to meet at the library. They start the day after tomorrow, so he booked my flight right then!”

I nodded, and bit my bottom lip. I’d been thinking that Renée would want to spend one more day with me before she left. I’d even planned to drive us to Port Angeles. The disappointment felt heavy in my stomach.

“So come and give me a hug!” Renée trilled, picking her purse up from the floor. “I’ve been waiting silly!”

I decided not to mention that Charlie must have told her where I was, and she had decided not to call.

Renée hugged me briefly, lightly and yet still managed to pull my hurt ribs. I couldn’t help but compare her hug to Esme’s. Renée’s hug was over quickly, leaving me feeling like a burden with nothing left but the scent of patchouli.

“Call me, Bells! I’ve got Edward’s mother’s number – Esme, right? – and maybe I’ll come up the week before the wedding to help out.”

I nodded again, but she wasn’t looking. A cab honked out front. “Bye guys! Bella, I left you my new email address, right? I can’t find the password to my Windows Live account!”

“Yep, I’ve got it Mom. Have a great flight! Call me when you get in so that I know you made it!” The part of me that has spent years mothering my mother kicked in, and I waved from the door as she got her bags situated and drove away.

I stood there for a minute, my stomach churning as I realized that when I’d left my mother to move to Forks, she’d left me right back.

I walked slowly back into the kitchen, to find Charlie standing in front of the microwave. “I’m just heating up some leftover casserole for you Bells.”

My stomach was still upset, but I knew he wouldn’t take no for an answer, so I sat down at the table. He put down the bowl of reheated casserole and handed me a fork. I ate awkwardly with my left hand, using the cast to brace to bowl.

Charlie watched me eat. “You can’t change her, Bells,” he started out of nowhere. “It’s hard sometimes to be a grown up and realize that people aren’t perfect, but you’ve got your own life now. You’re 18 and you’re getting married and that whole clan loves you to pieces. You’ll be off to college soon and you’ll leave your old parents behind.”

I remembered Alice’s vision from earlier. “You’re not that old Dad,” I said, trying to be sneaky, “And I hate to think of you all alone here.”

It’s hard to pull one over on a cop. His eyes narrowed, but he smiled. “I’ve got people. Billy, the guys at the station. Sue called today. We’ve been chatting and...” He coughed before continuing, “I’m thinking about taking her to dinner. To thank her for the food she’s been sending up.”

I couldn’t hide my grin. “I’m sure she’ll appreciate that.”

Charlie grinned too.

Later, after dinner I waited for Edward in my room. I started thinking about Renée again. About how she’d made me feel like a blip on the map of her life. I was working myself up to have a good cry and get it over with when the phone rang.

I heard Charlie walk up the stairs. “Bells? It’s Alice.” I opened the door to accept the portable phone Alice had bought and installed just for situations like this.

She didn’t beat around the bush. “Stop that! What did I tell you when you left here?” It took me a second to remember, which was far too long for Alice. “I told you to remember that we love you!”

“I know, Alice,” I sniffed. “It still hurts.”

Her tone got softer and more understanding. “I know. Trust me, I know. This is the only family I can remember, but I used to imagine what the family I was born to was like.” Her voice was sad. “I don’t anymore.”

“Sucks” I said, choking up again. At least Renée hadn’t abandoned me in an insane asylum.

“Yeah.” Alice’s tone got brighter, “We’ll just have to make our family the best family ever – to make up for it! Now, listen to your sister and stop crying. Edward’s on his way.”

It seemed silly that I hadn’t asked this all day. “Where’s he been all day, anyway?”

“Oh, he and Jasper went out.” Alice was an excellent liar, but something told me that she was leaving things out.

“He’ll be there in 2 minutes, so go and splash some water on your face.”

I laughed and said goodbye. I headed to the bathroom, where I did splash some cold water on my face, and then I brushed my teeth and changed into my pyjamas.

When I came back into my room Edward was there, sitting in my rocking chair. My face lit up when I saw him, tension I hadn’t realized was there relaxed and I moved as quickly as I could to sit with him.

When I was curled up in his lap I asked, “Where were you and Jasper all day?”

“Oh. We had to go into Seattle.”

I frowned. “What for?”

He gave me a nervous smile. “I need a copy of a plausible birth certificate to apply for the marriage license.”

I felt silly for being suspicious. I kissed him and he responded. I’d missed him, even when I’d been enjoying myself with his sisters. My hands moved up to touch his hair – it was soft and silky under my fingers. His hand moved up to rub my back. The kiss deepened and I could feel a growl start deep in his chest. I ran a hand down the front of his shirt, and then moved it underneath, enjoying his cold, smooth skin. His hand did the same, coming up under my shirt to cup my breast. I pulled away and smiled at him.

“Tired, love?” he asked. I nodded, and curled up again. He rubbed my back gently and began to hum my lullaby. I yawned.

We moved to the bed, and as I laid down next to Edward, I relaxed completely. As I drifted off to sleep I remembered what Alice had said on the phone. I’d have to tell her in the morning – we already had the best family ever.