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
7. What Charlie Heard
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Shortly after Edward left, I yawned. Charlie squeezed my now IV-free left hand. I suddenly realized that I wasn’t wearing Edward’s ring.
“Dad? Where’s my ring?”
“What ring?” he asked, confused.
“My engagement ring.”
“Right. I don’t know,” Charlie said. “Do you want me to go and ask the nurses?”
I nodded and he left the room. With Edward gone home, I wanted a visible reminder of him.
Charlie returned a minute later. “They gave it to Edward, after they took it off in the ER,” he said. “I’m sure he’ll give it back to you once he’s done at home. He really needed a break though - boys need to eat!”
I nodded, hating that Edward had had to leave just to keep up appearances. I knew it was necessary, but that didn’t mean I had to like it. I yawned again.
“You should probably take a nap Bella.” Charlie’s voice was low and soothing, and I was tired. “If you sleep now, you’ll be all rested up when that boy of yours comes back,” he added a slightly more teasing tone. I smiled, but it was hard to keep my eyes open. I drifted quickly into a deep sleep full of dreams.
I lay in bed. I was wearing my pretty new nightgown, but I was scared. I didn’t remember why I was scared and it didn’t make sense to be scared while I was in my own bed.
I saw a light come on in the hall and could hear my heart pounding in my ears. I pulled the blankets over my head, but knew deep down that it wouldn’t help. He was getting closer, I could hear his footsteps. The door creaked open, and he walked in.
“How’s my little love doing tonight?”
“NO!” I screamed, trying to sit up in bed. “Oww.” I had pulled at my ribs, and collapsed backwards.
“Bella! Are you all right?” Edward was leaning over my bed, looking concerned. Alice and Rosalie were sitting near the end of the bed.
“Yes. No. I don’t know.” A single tear traced down my cheek.
“Did you have a nightmare?” Rose asked.
“Yeah… about… you know.” I shut my eyes, and took a deep breath. “God, I hate this.”
“I know you do, love. I wish I could help.”
“You do.” My voice was a little dry. I needed a distraction.
“The nurse brought water and pills for you,” Alice said brightly.
This had happened when I was in the hospital in Phoenix as well. Alice had been excellent help, but it was one of those situations she didn’t really understand, because she couldn‘t remember being human. I think she took most of her ideas about what happens in hospitals from old movies.
“Do you want me to fluff your pillow?” Alice asked me excitedly.
I groaned. And sometimes I was sure she did it just for comic relief. She was distracting though.
“Let’s just start with the pills Alice,” I said sternly. I didn’t want her to get carried away.
“Here you go.” Rosalie was quickly at my side, handing the medication to me.
I swallowed down the pills and the little cup of water that was with them. I needed to change the subject.
“Edward, what happened to my truck?” I asked.
It worked. Three heads popped up.
Edward sighed. “They towed it to a mechanic, to have it evaluated for the insurance company. It’s fixable, but the work would cost more than the value of the truck. So they are considering it a write off.”
“Oh.” I don’t know why I was surprised. I sighed. “I’m going to miss that truck.”
Rose snorted. Edward said, “I won’t.”
“I know you didn’t like my truck, but have a little respect,” I said severely, beginning enjoy the familiar argument. “It’s old.”
“So am I, but I go faster than 55 miles per hour.” Edward’s eyes twinkled as he teased. “And I’m probably a lot safer for you.”
Ah, the old safety argument.
“That truck is solid. It took a lot to destroy it!”
Rosalie stared at me. “Bella, did you take physics?”
“No, I took chemistry, and then biology. Met my fiancé there, remember?”
“Well, let me explain something to you. It’s a lot safer for the car to crumple. Otherwise, chances are good that you will.” She gestured to my broken wrist.
“Oh.” I couldn’t really argue with that. Who said she could get involved?
“Oh?” asked Edward, “Oh? I’ve been having this conversation for two years, Rose gets involved, and all you can say is Oh?”
“Well, you’ve never said that before. I don’t have an argument for it.”
He got a sneaky gleam in his eye, “Does this mean you’re getting a new car?”
I groaned. “Edward… I really and truly appreciate the thought, but I don’t want you to buy me a new car… I’ll feel so conspicuous. Enough people are already staring at me… I don’t need more of an audience.”
Alice started with, “Bella, you shouldn’t worry so much about…” but was interrupted by Rosalie.
“So this whole time, the only thing that has kept you driving that old clunker was you worrying that you would be stared at?”
My cheeks burned. “No, I really liked it, and Charlie bought it for me, to welcome me to Forks.”
“Okay, whatever. Now the truck is gone. So you need something else, but you are worried that Edward is going to go overboard.”
“Yes,” I said, not looking at him, “I think he’ll try to get me something like a tank…” I peeked up at him. His face was carefully blank. I groaned again. “I don’t even want to know what you are thinking of.”
He didn’t move. Alice gave a little laugh. “No, you don’t. Edward, that won’t work - I think she’d rather walk.”
“Edward, all she needs is a nice new reliable vehicle. Nothing fancy, because otherwise she won’t drive it. Can you imagine the trouble she would get into walking around Forks?” said Rosalie, sounding terribly reasonable.
Edward put his head in his hands. I smiled when he groaned. He didn’t seem to like Rosalie’s interference. any more than I did.
“Ok, so here is what Bella needs in a new car; inconspicuous, easy to drive, something she feels comfortable in, with reliable safety features.”
Edward and I both nodded. Rose had a sly smile on her face and I suspected she had something up her sleeve.
“Rose, yes! That’s it! Why didn’t I think of that?” Alice started bouncing in her seat.
“The Volvo?” Edward looked at Rose.
“What’s the Volvo got to do with anything?” I asked.
“Well, you like the Volvo, don’t you? Doesn’t make you want to make a run for it or anything?” said Rosalie.
“I like the Volvo,” I admitted. “So?”
“So,” Rosalie said, “I think that Edward should give you the Volvo, and buy himself something new.”
I opened my mouth to protest - and shut it again. I did like the Volvo. It reminded me of Edward, and all our awkward beginnings. Of driving home from Port Angeles, asking each other a thousand questions on the way to school, being rescued from attack, of discussing stars and twilight and finding out the truth about Edward.
Plus, it was a familiar sight around town, and I knew no one would stare.
“Rose, you’ve rendered her speechless,” laughed Alice.
“What do you think, love. Would you like the Volvo?” He saw the look on my face - I still didn’t like the idea of a huge expensive gift - and changed tactics. “Would you accept the Volvo?”
I made the mistake of looking up. I was caught in twin pools of molten gold, begging me to say yes. I’d had conditions, stipulations, sarcastic comments - but all that came out was a faint, “Yes.” He’d dazzled me again.
“Yes!” crowed Alice. “Rose, I knew you’d be the one to do it!”
“Do what?” I asked.
“Solve the puzzle of ‘Who can get Bella to drive a prettier, safer, quieter vehicle?’” Alice wasn’t even looking at me as her fingers flew over the keys of her cell phone. She was texting the ‘good’ news to Jasper most likely.
“Was it really that bad for you?” I asked Edward.
He considered his words carefully. “Bella, I don’t think that you’ve had time to realize that if you’d been driving something like the Volvo during this accident, you likely would have been able to walk away. Working seat belts and airbags make a significant difference. I worry about you -always. So yes, it really was that bad.” His fingers traced up and down my cast, feather light. His eyes were so sad; it really bothered him that I was hurt.
“All right,” I said, giving up a useless fight. “Yay Volvo,” I added sarcastically.
Edward quirked a smile at me, and my heart melted.
My lunch arrived then, Cream of Mushroom soup, and a tuna sandwich. After lunch, an orderly arrived to wheel me down to be X-rayed. The Cullen’s weren’t allowed to come with me, so they headed out to “play human” and pretend to get some lunch.
They hadn’t returned when I got back. I was tired after all the activity, and that, combined with the meds I’d taken with my lunch sent me straight to sleep.
Bed. I’m in bed. The blanket is heavy, pinning me down. I try to get away, but the words are there. I hate those words.
I can’t go anywhere. There isn’t anywhere to go. There isn’t anyone to help. My face is wet with tears and I sniff and concentrate on the hall light.
I came awake gradually, trying to shake the fear from my dream. Someone was calling my name.
“Bella, Bella, love. Wake up.” Edward’s hand was on my shoulder, gently shaking me.
“Wha?” I said as my eyes came open.
“It’s all right Bella, you’re safe now. Open your eyes love, I’m here.” Edward’s voice was so soothing. My eyes came open, and he looked relieved. “Were you having a nightmare?” he asked.
I nodded, my heart was still pounding with left over fear.
“I thought so, but you didn’t say anything. I was worried that I was waking you from a good sleep, but your were…twitching and you didn’t look happy, and it just… felt wrong.”
It never stopped amazing me how much time Edward had spent watching me sleep, and how attentive he was to my every mood and facial expression. Sometimes I found it embarrassing, but in this case I was glad. Awake was better.
“No, I’m glad you woke me.”
“Does it happen every time you go to sleep?” he asked gently.
“Yes. It’s just… I don’t even know what’s happening. Nothing’s clear, and nothing happens, it’s just… I’m a little girl and I’m in my bed and I’m afraid and something’s coming for me and…”
I stopped talking and shut my eyes, trying not to cry.
“I know, love. I’m so sorry.”
I wiped my face. “Why are you sorry? This isn’t your fault. You’ve been nothing but fantastically supportive, even when my dumb ass driving skills land me in the hospital, and this isn‘t your fault. You don‘t need to apologize.” I sighed. “I just need to know what happened.”
“I know. Charlie should be here before suppertime, and if you want to ask him them, I’ll be here with you. I love you Bella.”
“I love you too. It just seems like such a long time to wait, and I’m so scared about what he’ll say…” my voice trailed off.
“I know love. How would you feel about some visitors to distract you while you are waiting?”
“What kind of visitors?” I asked.
“Well, Alice and Rosalie are still here, and Carlisle and Esme are with them.”
“Where are they?”
“Sitting out by the nurses’ station.”
“How long have they been there?” I was horrified at the thought of Edward leaving his family waiting while I slept.
“Not long love. Don’t worry they don’t mind.”
“Maybe they don’t, but I do! How long?”
He sighed. “I sent them out before I woke you up. I thought you would need some privacy.”
“Oh.” While I appreciated the gesture, I didn’t appreciate Edward not answering my questions.
He looked down, and sat so uncomfortably that it was easy to believe that he was 17 years old. He looked like a kid who’d been sent to the principal’s office.
“What’s wrong?” I asked more gently.
He looked up at me, and in his eyes I saw more than a lifetime of loneliness and sorrow.
“Bella, I feel so guilty that I didn’t listen to you. If I’d done as you asked and changed you without setting up conditions, then none of this would have happened. You wouldn’t remember any of this, and even if you were in a car accident, you’d have been fine. So I was thinking while you were unconscious and… I won’t put any more conditions on your change. You don’t have to marry me. I just want you, and I want you forever.”
I was stunned. “Edward, I want you forever too. But none of this is your fault. You can’t take responsibility for every bad thing that has ever happened to me. I had a car accident because I wasn’t paying close enough attention to the road. I am hurt because apparently I’ve been stubbornly refusing to understand that my truck was unsafe to drive. And I want to marry you. Maybe not in the same way you want to marry me, but I do.”
I reached out to take his hand in my mine, and realized I still didn’t have my engagement ring back. “I really mean it… I even asked Charlie to find out what happened to my engagement ring when you went home.” I looked at him expectantly.
He smiled, some of the tension going out of his body. “Isabella Marie Swan, I love you. You make everyday better than the last and I don’t want to spend a single moment away from you for the rest of eternity. Will you marry me?”
“Of course I will. I love you Edward.” I couldn’t help the grin spreading across my face as Edward pulled him mother’s ring out of his pocket and slipped it onto my finger.
“Aww,” said Alice from the doorway. “You guys are so cute!” She bounced into the room, followed by Rosalie, Esme and Carlisle. Esme gave me a hug.
“How are you feeling sweetheart?” she asked. “Do you need anything?”
I shook my head. “Just a visit is wonderful.”
“Well, of course we’d visit,” she said in a mildly shocked voice. “We’re family, we love you.” Talking to Esme was always like being wrapped in a warm hug. She took my hand. “That ring truly suit’s the shape of your hand, don’t you think girls?”
“Yeah,” said Rosalie, bending closer to examine it, “If any of the stones were bigger they’d stick up off your hand too far.”
“You’ve got skinny hands like me,” added Alice, “It’s a pain to find rings that don’t look silly.”
“Do you have a ring?” I asked. It occurred to me that I had no idea if Alice and Jasper had ever had a wedding.
“Of course I do. Jasper and I got married about a month after we met.” I gaped at her and she shrugged. “We both knew it was forever, and well, I wanted a last name that really belonged to me. I’d been using Smith when I had to make something up.” A shadow crossed her sunny face, but it quickly passed. “I love my ring - I’ll show it to you the next time you come to the house. I just can’t wear it to high school everyday - people would notice.”
I looked down at my beautiful ring. One day I would have to leave it at home, just like Alice.
“Does it bother you?” I asked.
“No.” she smiled, “I know what’s between Jasper and I, and I don’t need a ring to make it real.”
I smiled back. “What about you?” I asked Rosalie. She smiled too.
“Well, Emmett and I have been married 8 times. I love weddings, and Alice and Esme love planning them. So far I’ve got three rings - my favourite is a diamond solitaire.” Rose was gushing. I smiled more; this was a side of her I’d never seen. “We had to wait through his newborn year to really get together though.”
“Was it hard to wait?”
“Not as hard as you might think. Emmett as a newborn was…” she trailed off.
“Interesting,” supplied Carlisle.
“Interesting?” asked Edward incredulously. “Try insane, insatiable, fast as heck and strong enough to tear a mountain apart.”
“He did keep us busy,” mused Esme fondly.
“And kept a lot of skills in top form,” added Carlisle.
“Because we spent the bulk of our time either herding him towards animals or chasing him away from humans!” Edward looked a touch exasperated, but his eyes were smiling.
“So, the point is,” continued Rosalie, “We all, even me, had more to think about than weddings and the things that go with them. Even once he’d calmed down, it took him a while to ask me, because of, well, you know.”
I nodded. I would imagine that knowing Rose’s story would make asking her to marry him had been very intimidating for Emmett. Rosalie made a face at the memory, and then brightened up. “My first wedding was so beautiful, Bella. I had the prettiest dress!”
I laughed at her enthusiasm. Carlisle and Esme were holding hands and smiling.
“What about you two?” I asked, deciding to round things out.
“Well, I met Carlisle when I was 16, while I was still human.” Esme said.
“Really?” This surprised me.
“Yes. He set my leg for me, I’d broken it climbing out of a tree. I loved him even then. But I didn’t see him again, so I got married. My first husband… well, he wasn’t a kind man.”
“When they brought her into the morgue,” said Carlisle, taking over, “I’d thought she was beautiful when I’d met her, with such a gentle soul. I hadn’t been able to stop thinking about her. I was so happy when I realized that her heart was still beating - I didn’t even thing about it. I probably should have.” He made a wry face. “Edward was only a few years old at that point, and was more likely to need help than to be able to give it. That was also a busy year.”
“Esme was sneaky, that was the problem.” Edward laughed. “At least I’d growl or snap; she’d just take off.”
“I was scared that Carlisle didn’t feel the same way that I did. I thought he’d never ask me to marry him. But he did. And we were married in a beautiful old Anglican church. It was a lovely ceremony in the middle of winter. Carlisle bought me a white fur wrap, it was such a lovely soft thing.” She held out her hand, showing me the beautiful ring that she wore. “I’ve only had one ring from him, and that’s all I’ve ever wanted.” She gazed lovingly into her husband’s eyes.
When I looked away, Alice was staring into space. “Charlie will be here in about 30 minutes,” she announced. A chill ran down my spine and I saw Edward shift beside me. I didn’t want to talk about it with his family and changed the subject.
“What’s in the bag?” I asked Alice, pointing the canvas bag under her chair.
“That dry shampoo stuff, like what we used in Phoenix. I know you’re going home tomorrow, and it didn’t look like you’d want to bother, but there was a chance you’d change your mind, and I wanted to be prepared.”
“No thanks. I’ll just have to go home grubby. You can be in charge of helping me shower there.”
She laughed. “You’re right. Oh, and all this talk about weddings reminds me, we need to start rescheduling yours.”
I groaned. “Is it going to be hard to do?” I didn’t want her to be stressed out over it.
“Oh no, I’ll call in a few favours, it’ll be lovely. It’ll just take a few phone calls,” Alice assured me.
Edward smiled. “And by a few, you mean a few hundred?”
Esme interrupted, “Why don’t Rose and I head home with you and see what we can do to help?”
A quick flurry of bags and hugs and Esme, Rose and Alice headed out.
Carlisle bent to hug me. “My shift is starting soon, so I’m going to go now too. I’m glad that you are feeling better and let me know if you need anything.” I nodded. He left.
Edward and I stared at each other. “Bella, you don’t have to do this tonight if you don’t want to.”
“Edward, I need to know, I’m just scared.”
“I know, love.”
“What if he says I’ve made the whole thing up?”
“Then we will deal with that. But I really doubt it will happen.”
“I’m just so scared to talk to him.”
“Bells? Who are you scared to talk to?” Charlie had arrived. I gulped.
“Charlie? I need to talk to you.”
“About what, Bells?” He was frowning. Edward held my hand in his. I took a deep breath and tried to form words, but they wouldn’t come.
“Bells, what’s wrong?”
“Dad, do you remember the last time I broke my wrist?” I blurted out.
Whatever Charlie had been expecting it wasn’t this. His face fell, and he sat heavily in the other chair. Rubbing a hand over his face, he cleared his throat.
“Why are you bringing this up now, Bella?”
“Because I need to know what happened… I don’t remember enough…and…I think I remembered more a few days ago, but I don‘t understand it, and I just…” I bit back a sob. I needed to stay in control for the moment. Edward began to rub my hand.
“Oh Bells, didn’t your mother talk to you about all this?” Charlie’s eyes got wider.
“No - never. I didn’t remember anything other than spending time in foster care, but I didn’t know why…” I choked. Edward took over.
“She knows that Renée has most of the answers, but she wanted to talk to you first, and get your side of it.”
Charlie looked sick. He swallowed loudly, took a deep breath and began. “I didn’t notice anything until you came up to see me the summer before you turned 7, and even then I didn’t know what was up. It was a lot of little things, and I didn’t know what to make of it at the time. You were jumpy as heck, and wouldn’t talk much. You’d never been an outgoing kid, but I couldn’t take you anywhere new, or get you to talk to the people you did know.
“God, Bells, you were like a different kid. You were homesick for the first time. You wouldn’t go to bed without a fight, you’d be up in the middle of the night, you wet the bed, you had nightmares. I think that summer was when you started talking in your sleep, but I couldn’t make anything out. You wouldn’t eat. I really thought you were just going through a difficult stage, and figured it was bound to happen. You‘d always been such an easy going kid - no parents are that lucky.” He rubbed a hand over his face.
“Now, of course, I see it. But back then we didn’t do training on identifying signs of abuse and even if I had, I don’t know if I would have been able to admit that it was happening to my own kid. I’m so sorry Bella.”
Silent tears were streaming down my cheeks.
“I sent you back to Phoenix, and your mother said she was dealing with a few of the same things. “ He sighed. “Then you broke your wrist. I got a call from Renée telling me you’d broken it and that they were going to set it. I hated when you got hurt, so far away, but it’d happened before. Not an hour later Renée called me back in an absolute panic saying that you were being taken into foster care for suspected abuse.
“Honestly, my heart stopped. Renée was hysterical, and she wasn‘t making any sense. I did manage to get the name of your social worker. She wasn’t able to tell me much more. She said that because I was out of state, they would wait and see if long term care was needed - if so, you would have come to me.”
Edward shifted beside me, still gently rubbing my broken hand. I swallowed again.
He looked at me desperately. “Bells, you have to believe me. I would have fought for you. I wouldn’t have left you with strangers. But the social worker, Sophia, called a few days later to say that they couldn’t prove anything, and you were being returned to your mother’s custody. She said that as always, I had the “right” to challenge for custody through the courts.
“When I called Renée to find out what had gone on, she wouldn’t say much - just that her boyfriend was suspected. I told her to break up with him, and she said that they were breaking up. I threatened to go for full custody and she laughed at me and said that no judge in their right mind would take a girl from her mother. I knew she was right. I’m sorry if that was wrong.” Charlie’s voice got huskier as he finished making the longest speech I had ever heard from him.
“I don’t understand how you wouldn’t remember it though Bella. You went to therapy.”
I shook my head. The room had taken on a strange, dream like quality. “No, I didn’t.”
Charlie frowned. “Bella, I sent money for therapy, you must have gone. The next summer you were… not back to normal, but more who you are now. A little quieter than before, but not so… upset all the time. No more fighting…”
“No I didn’t go,” I said. “I’m sure of it. I remember most of what you said, I know I would remember therapy. I don’t remember exactly what happened to me, but I KNOW I didn’t got to therapy.”
Next to me, Edward had gone vampire still. Charlie’s face got redder and redder. “Fucking Renée,” he muttered under his breath. “What the hell was she thinking?”
I felt like I’d been punched in the stomach; Renée’s betrayal was now confirmed.
“Dad, it’s not your fault. You did everything you could have.” I let go of Edward and reached out to take Charlie’s hand. “Thank you for everything. You’ve always been a great Dad, and I love you.” Perversely, I was grateful for this opportunity to share my feelings with my easily embarrassed father. He needed to know before I was gone; I didn’t want him to blame himself.
Charlie’s face had gone a concerning shade of red.
“Love you too, Bells,” he said gruffly, the persona of Chief Swan reasserting itself. “You’ll always be my little girl, even you when you are married,” he added, bending over the bed for a hug.
He sat back down and his expression darkened. “So, what brought all this on? Breaking your wrist again?”
Edward answered for me. “No. She had a flashback at my house a couple of days ago, and a much clearer nightmare that night. She’s had a few more nightmares since then.” Edward looked at me to confirm and I nodded.
Charlie looked confused for a moment and then his face exploded with shock when he realized what Edward and I had been doing when I’d had the first flashback. No father wants to think about his daughter’s sex life. It was too much.
“You…oh…really…Bella…you…” He was almost hyperventilating when he gave a big sigh. “I’m so sorry Bella,” he said again.
His pager started to beep. He checked it automatically, but didn’t move. For the first time that I could remember Chief Swan looked like he might leave the citizens of Forks to their own devices. In the end, I knew he wouldn’t - and I wouldn’t want him to. A second later he was standing up.
“I should go -domestic disturbance - that’ll be Carl and Shirley. I won’t leave if you want me to stay though Bells.”
“You should go Dad. I really need some time to think anyway. And Edward is here if I need anything.”
He bent to kiss my cheek, promising to come back the next day to take me home.
When he was gone, I looked at Edward. He looked sad. Neither of us spoke for a long time. Finally, an orderly delivered my supper.
“Bella, you should eat something,” Edward coaxed, opening the dinner tray. Dry roast beef, instant mashed potatoes, canned peas… the look of it turned my stomach and I gagged, successfully holding back vomit. Vomiting wouldn’t do my ribs any good and would hurt.
Edward, in the second I’d be fighting my body, had shoved the food tray out of the way, and picked up the metal garbage can, obviously prepared to catch if he had to.
“It’s over. I won’t puke,” I said.
“Are you sure?” asked Edward. When I nodded, he put the garbage can back. “Good, I was worried that you were going to put a rib through your lung.” He kissed my forehead. “Bella, are you all right?”
“I don’t know. I’m not going to be sick, and I’m not sad… it’s just so much. And I still don’t have any real information. I’m still going to have to talk to Renée. Edward, how am I going to talk to Renée? How am I going to look at her and ask her why I didn’t remember that I was molested? How?”
“I don’t know, love. We’ll get through it though. I’m here for you.” I leaned into his rock hard shoulder. I couldn’t even cry.
Edward’s cell phone beeped.
“I thought you weren’t supposed to use those in a hospital?” I asked.
“Alice would let me know if it would be a problem,” he said absently. He looked a little upset.
“What is it?”
“A text from Alice.” He frowned. I started to worry.
“I thought so. What does it say?” I held my breath, expecting the worst.
“Renée is coming here. She’ll arrive tomorrow.”
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