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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:


8. What Renee Revealed

Rating 0/5   Word Count 6287   Review this Chapter

What Renee Revealed

BPOV

I settled onto the couch with a sigh. I’d been excited to leave the hospital this morning until I realized that meant walking from the cruiser to the couch. Every step pulled at my ribs, and there wasn’t much anyone could do about it. I wouldn’t let Edward carry me in – it would look strange.

It didn’t help that Charlie had confirmed what Alice had seen last night. Renée was coming to Forks. Apparently, she’d been thinking about coming up to help with final wedding preparations, and then when I’d had my accident, she’d decided I needed her. I disagreed, but apparently I didn’t get a vote. I hadn’t been in a very good mood since then. Charlie was heading to the airport soon to go and pick her up. My only saving grace was that she was going to stay in the Forks Motel instead of sleeping on the couch of Charlie’s tiny house.

“Bells?” asked Charlie from his recliner, “when are you due for pain medication next?”

“About fifteen minutes,” I said, squinting at the clock on the ancient VCR.

“Edward, would you mind running to the pharmacy and getting her prescription filled?”

Edward looked surprised, but nodded. “Sure. Should I pick up anything else while I’m there?”

Charlie looked flustered. “Ummm… no, we should be good.”

“Okay then, I’ll be back soon.” He bent and kissed me before he picked up his keys and headed out the door.

I looked at Charlie expectantly.

He stared at his hands. He looked like he was expecting a scolding.

“Bella, uh, did I, uh, offend, um, Edward yesterday?”

I stared at him blankly. What was he worried about?

“When I was talking to you yesterday, what I said about getting you out of foster care - he didn’t think that I meant anything against Carlisle and Esme?”

It finally clicked. The Cullen’s cover story of course was that Carlisle and Esme had adopted the rest out of foster care.

“Dad - Carlisle and Esme aren’t foster parents. - Edward and the rest are adopted.” I didn’t know why I felt the need to explain this, but I did.

Charlie continued on, determined to make his point. “I just didn’t want him to think I was speaking rudely about foster parents. Some of them are great. From everything Renée said, yours were very nice people.”

I nodded.

“It’s just… I know I haven’t always been the nicest to Edward, but he’s really proven himself lately, and I didn’t want him to think that I was going to go back to treating him like I used to. There’s nothing wrong with being adopted.”

I gave Charlie a little smile. “He really hasn’t said anything about it, Dad. I’ll ask him when he comes back though, all right? I’m sure he knew what you meant.”

“Thanks Bells.” He settled into his recliner, remote in hand, and then looked at me out of the corner of his eye. “What happened to Edward’s parents anyway? Are they still out there somewhere?” I was amazed at how easily Charlie and I were talking about difficult topics. Guilt combined with curiosity were powerful motivators to get Charlie to talk.

“Oh. Umm, no. They died a long time ago.” I looked down at my hands. I hated having to lie to Charlie. “Edward doesn’t remember them very clearly.” There. That was all the truth.

“That’s a sad story.” said Charlie, his voice suspiciously gruff. He turned the TV on.

One sports news update later Edward came through the door.

“I’m sorry that I came in without knocking, Chief Swan,” he said, setting several bags down on the kitchen table. “I was hoping that Bella would be sleeping and I didn’t want to take a chance of waking her.”

“Call me Charlie. What’s all this?” Charlie asked, looking at the bags.

“Well, Bella’s prescription says it has to be taken with food. You have to pick Renée up at the airport, I can’t cook much, and Bella is supposed to be resting, so I picked up some snacks.” He dug through one bag, pulling out a familiar box. “Pop tarts!” he said with a triumphant smile.

I couldn’t help but smile back.

“Oh… well, that was very thoughtful Edward. You should ask Bella to give you some cooking tips when she’s feeling better…” he trailed off awkwardly. I laughed to myself. It felt good to have Charlie trying to get along with Edward.

Charlie looked nervously at the microwave clock. “I’m going to head out now Bells, if I’m going to meet Renée’s flight in Seattle.”

My good mood evaporated, and I frowned. Edward gave me a sympathetic look as he quickly put the rest of the snacks away and joined me in the living room. Charlie sighed, and came over to the couch to kiss my cheek. “It’ll all work out Bella. You’ll see.”

“Thanks Dad,” I said, not really believing him. How could this ‘work out’?

Charlie said goodbye to Edward as he gathered his keys, and then he headed out the door.

Edward looked at me. “Time for a Pop Tart and some pills?”

I made a face, but nodded. Edward got up, and opened the package. I giggled at the sight of him reading the box. “Just stick them in the toaster and push the button down.” I instructed from the couch. He did, looking all the while like he was handling a bomb that could go off at any moment.

A few minutes later, he came back, carrying a plate with Pop Tarts and pills in one hand and a glass of water in the other. “Eat Bella,” he ordered. I did. The Pop Tart was a nice sweet treat after a couple of days of hospital food. I took the pills like a good patient when Edward handed them to me. I didn’t say anything, and Edward seemed lost in thought as well.

Finally, he asked, “What was Charlie worried about? Something about me?”

“He thought you might be offended by what he said yesterday about not wanting to leave me in foster care.”

“Why?” He looked startled.

“Well, that is your cover story in Forks, right? Adopted by Carlisle and Esme out of foster care?”

“Well, yeah, but even if I was, I wouldn’t be offended. No one should stay in foster care if they have a competent loving parent to care for them.”

“I know. He’s just worried that you’ll think he’s gone back to hating you.” I smiled. I liked not having to worry about Charlie being mean to Edward.

“It’s nice that he’s being polite. But even when he wasn’t, it didn’t really matter to me. I love you, and nothing your father says can stop that.”

“I love you too.” I yawned.

“Bella, you should take a nap.” Edward said gently.

“I know, but I’m scared.” I shivered. Nightmares had plagued me last night, and I really wasn’t in the mood to do it again.

“I’ll wake you the second I think you are having a bad dream,” Edward promised.

“Will you be right here?” I asked, grabbing his shirt. Some awkward, and mildly painful moving around later, we were cuddled up together on the couch. Edward’s arm was wrapped around me, and he began to hum my lullaby. My eyes drifted closed.

I cringed away from the weight on my bed. I cringed away from HIS voice. I tried to stay as still as possible, pretending that nothing was happening.

“Bella,” said two voices. One was HIS voice, and I shook in terror at the sound. The other was more familiar. Soft and velvety. Why did I know that voice? “Bella, wake up.” The velvety voice said again. Wake up?

I snapped my eyes open. Edward was there, and he’d woken me, just as he’d promised. I sighed.

“The same dream?” he asked softly.

I nodded. “Mostly. Nothing happens really, I’m just so scared. I hate it.”

“I know. I don’t know what to tell you.” Edward sighed too. I felt bad that he looked so helpless.

“There’s nothing to say. You do so much to help me. You really do.” I squeezed his cold hard hand.

I sighed again. “Edward, do you think that there’s something wrong with me?”

He looked confused. “Because you are having nightmares? I think that’s normal under the circumstances Bella.”

“No, because I forgot all this. I just keep wondering, what kind of person just forgets being.. molested?” It was the first time I had said the word out loud.

“Bella, it’s normal for humans to repress things that are hard to deal with. And didn’t you tell me after what happened in Port Angeles that you are good at repressing unpleasant things? What happened in Phoenix never seemed to bother you after the fact either.” He grimaced at this. He’d really wanted me to have issues after that. He thought it would make me leave him; that my fear would keep me safe from him.

“I know. I guess… I just never expected any of it to catch up with me. It’s scary to think that that stuff could catch up with me like this has.”

“I know Bella, but I don’t think it will.”

I sighed again as the front door opened, and Alice danced in.

“Hello! Are you two all done with the serious stuff now? Because Bella needs to have some lunch, and I’m here to help with a shower.”

“Oh, yes please. A shower sounds wonderful!” I felt the low mood I’d been in start to lift a bit at the idea of getting clean.

“All right then. Bella and I are going to go upstairs and get her all nice and clean, and you, Edward, are going to heat up a can of soup on the stove. You are going to read all the directions and you are going to stir it or else it will burn.”

Edward smiled at his bossy sister, rolled his eyes, and nodded. Alice helped me to my feet and we headed upstairs.

A short while later I was clean, dressed in fresh pajamas, with my hair combed out and braided neatly. It hurt more than I was willing to admit to, and it was always embarrassing to be so dependant on someone else for simple things like washing. Alice was really good at making it all seem normal. (She wasn’t embarrassed, so why should I be?) It was all worth it though, to feel clean again.

Edward propped me up on the couch with pillows and sat next to me as I balanced the tray with soup and drink. I knew he was waiting to catch my lunch when I spilled it and was grateful. I held the spoon awkwardly in my left hand. The soup tasted good. (and wasn’t burnt. Alice had yelled down the stairs.)

The phone rang, and Edward got up to answer it, taking the now empty tray with him.

“Hello?”

“Hi Charlie?”

“Yup, she’s fine, she’s slept a bit and Alice came by to help her get showered.”

“I’ll let her know. I’m sure she’ll be glad to hear that.”

“Well, you know what I mean.”

“All right, we’ll see you shortly.”

He hung up, and looked at me.

“Charlie and Renée are at the hotel and she is going to check in and drop off her bags, and then they will come here.”

I nodded. I was determined not to freak out. I needed to talk to my mother. She was going to answer my questions.

Alice stood up. “I’m going to go now.” She lightly kissed my cheek. “I’m sure it will be fine.” I nodded, knowing she couldn’t see anything until Renée decided what to say.

Edward sat behind me on the couch again. I took another deep breath.

“I’m going to stay calm. I’m not going to freak out. I’m not going to yell at her.”

His hand rubbed the back of my neck, tracing random patterns. We sat without speaking. I was glad that I was clean, it made me feel less helpless, less vulnerable.

A car door shut in the driveway, and then another. They were here.

“Bella? Bella, sweetie? Are you sleeping?” Renée called out from the door. A wave of homesickness overwhelmed me and I whimpered under my breath. No matter how my mind had demonized her over the past few days, she was still my mother. Edward wrapped an arm around me and gently hushed me.

Renée came into the living room. “There you are Bella! How are you feeling?”

“I’m… all right Mom.” I let her hug me, awkward around Edward’s arms. I was glad he didn’t let go. Charlie waved and said he had to go to work. He left.

“Do you need anything?” Renée fussed. “Water? Have you been taking your vitamins? It’s very important to have all your minerals and nutrients to heal.”

Vitamins and supplements were Renée’s latest fad.

“I brought some homeopathic arnica pellets, they’re suppose to help with bruises and breaks.”

I took the sweet little pills she offered, knowing it was easier to take them than to argue.

“Edward, it’s nice to see you again. Have you been looking after Bella?”

“I try.” Edward’s voice was polite, but curt.

“Are you terribly disappointed about the wedding date needing to be changed? Are there any other relatives who needed to rebook their tickets? Have you picked a new date yet? I was talking to Esme but she says they are waiting on your decision.”

“Since Bella was only released from hospital this morning, we haven’t had a chance to discuss that yet.” Edward was upset and his voice was getting colder and more formal by the second.

“Relax Mom. Alice can work wonders. We’ll get it sorted out later.”

Renée sat down and began to talk about all the problems with air travel, how lucky for Phil and his broken leg that the wedding was delayed “He’d be so disappointed if he wasn’t able to be there!” and how she still couldn’t believe that we were getting married so young.

“I know I always joked that you were born middle aged Bella, but I did think I warned you about the dangers of getting married so young.” She waved a finger at Edward. “You must have done some pretty fast talking to convince my Bella to walk down the aisle with you.”

I was horrified. Renée’s overbearing attitude about the wedding was embarrassing, I desperately wanted to ask her about what happened with Steven and I knew Edward’s nerves were frayed and he would snap at her if I didn’t make her stop talking. I didn’t want to end up in a situation where I would feel compelled to defend Renée. I was done defending Renée.

The panic welled up inside me and I blurted out the first thing that came to mind.

“What happened to the money that Charlie sent for therapy after I was in foster care?”

Renée turned so pale I thought she might pass out. “Bella, why are you… what? Surely you don’t want to talk about … that… now, just before you get married! I mean, you already know that story!” She gave a nervous little laugh, as though I had told a bad joke.

“No Mom,” I ground out from between my teeth. “I don’t. I didn’t remember a thing about it until earlier this week.”

“What do you mean? You didn’t remember? You… oh… oh my God.” Renée covered her mouth with her hand.

I started to shake with emotion, and just like he had when I talked to Charlie, Edward asked what I couldn’t.

“Bella’s been having nightmares about what happened, and she’s remembered bits and pieces, but she not sure on the details.”

Renée’s mouth opened and closed like a fish.

“Why don’t you start by telling us how you met this … Steven.” Edward injected his name with venom. Renée shot Edward a scared look, but she began to talk.

“His friend was dating my friend. We met at a bar. It was hard to find guys my age who weren’t turned off when I said I had a little girl. Steven said that he could tell I had a child - I looked like a natural mother. He told me that he loved children. We went out a few times and I introduced him to Bella shortly after.”

Edward gave a very quiet snort.

“I don’t remember meeting him. Did we go out?” I said quietly. We usually went out to meet Renée’s new boyfriends. I could vividly remember the steakhouse we’d gone to when she’d introduced me to Phil.

She looked guiltily at her hands, and made a face like she was trying not to cry. “We went to a McDonald’s - one with a playground. He went on the slide with you. Bought you an extra ice cream when you dropped the first one. I was so happy that you were getting along.”

I was lost in thought. When Charlie and I had talked, I had remembered things as he told me about them. I could now vaguely remember having a tantrum at bedtime, and waking him in the middle of the night after a nightmare. As Renée spoke I could see Steven in my mind - not the terrifying HIM who haunted my dreams, but the funny friend who bought me an ice cream.

“Charlie said he noticed that I was different, did you?” I asked, still unable to meet her eye.

She made an angry face. “Of course he did. Charlie though you were different every year - what would he know?”

Hot, angry tears welled up in my eyes. “Did you notice anything Renée?” I growled. It was the first time I’d called her by her first name to her face. She gasped as though I’d slapped her.

“I, I, did, I just didn’t know what I was noticing,” she stuttered.

“Like what?” I tried to keep my voice under control. If I broke down, I knew she’d try to hug me and I really didn’t want her to touch me right now.

“Well, it was lots of things. You and Steven seemed to get along so well. I broke my rule and let him sleep over really early on. You were so happy to see him that first morning, I thought I’d made a good decision. We all went to brunch. He suggested that we all dress up; he convinced you to wear a dress.”

I remembered it as she spoke. I’d been watching Power Rangers, and he came and sat beside me. He’d known the characters’ names. I’d been so impressed. He’d hugged me - a little too tight? It was too easy to question everything in hindsight.

“What else?” Edward asked. I hadn’t even noticed that Renée had stopped talking.

She swallowed and wiped her eyes before she continued. “It was spring, and we all spent a lot of time together. He always wanted us to go out ‘as a family’ - never just the two of us. He said he understood that you and I came as a package deal, and there was no use pretending otherwise.”

“Didn’t that seem weird to you?” My voice was harsh as I tried not to cry. Edward held me tight.

Tears were flowing down Renée’s face. “No,” she said in a broken voice, “it seemed like a dream come true. It was what I wanted - a man of the house, a father for my daughter.”

That stung. “I have a father!” I shouted.

Her temper flared as well. “Oh course. He was a great help from another state. He hardly knew you!”

“And whose fault was that!” I could hardly believe my ears. My parents had always spoken respectfully of each other, never complained about having to share me. “You’re the one who took me and ran away.” I began to cry, sobbing into the couch so I wouldn’t have to look at my mother, despite the protests of my ribs.

“Renée this is not the time for your problems with Charlie.” Edward’s voice was hard as stone. “Answer the questions. It’s already been a very long day for Bella.” I stopped crying and sniffed as Renée gave Edward an angry look.

“If she’s so tired, then maybe she should sleep.” Renée spat the resentful words at Edward.

“Maybe she should make up her own mind,” I answered back. I hated having people talk over me. “You said it was weird that he always wanted us all to go out together. What else?”

She looked at her hands again. “He liked you to be dressed up. You’d always been a tomboy; preferred jeans and t-shirts. You wanted me to cut your hair off short, but I wouldn’t. All of a sudden you were wearing dresses everywhere, and begging me to put your hair into pigtails and braids. I didn’t really connect the dots - not even when he started telling you how beautiful you were. You loved his compliments. You would tell me ‘Steven will love this’ while we were getting dressed. He gave you little gifts constantly. Hair clips and cheap jewellery. You’d glow. You were so proud to wear his gifts.” Renée’s voice didn’t break, though the tears were streaming down her face again. I could remember standing in the living room in Phoenix, opening a little wrapped box holding a child’s necklace and being so happy.

Edward’s posture stiffened behind me, drawing me to more recent memories. I wondered if we were both thinking of my bracelet and how reluctant I’d been to accept it.

“When did you first get an idea that something was wrong?” Edward asked quietly. Something in his voice made me think that he was responding to something Renée was thinking.

“The first time we all went to the fair. Steven took you on the Ferris Wheel. You were thrilled, and thought you were so grown up. When you came back, your face was funny - paler than usual, and then you threw up. Steven joked that you must have had too much junk to eat, but something seemed wrong.”

I was lost to the memories. The popcorn and cotton candy. The games. The view from the top of the Ferris Wheel - hands touching where they shouldn’t. Confusion. Shameful words. “Do you know what that dress does to me? Of course you do, youre a whore just like your mother.” Nausea.

“Bella!” Edward’s voice drew me back. “Bella! Are you all right?”

I shook my head, vomit still threatening. Renée left the room, and returned a moment later with the mop bucket.

“Still in the same place,” she said to no one in particular as she handed the bucket to Edward.

Edward somehow managed to twist around to see my face. He laid his cool palm on my sweaty cheek, and spoke very quietly. “Bella. We don’t have to do this today. We can wait. If you vomit you could put a rib through your lung. Please.”

I shook my head again. The nausea had passed. “Edward, I know. I do. I wish I could wait, but not knowing… it’s worse than anything she could say. It’s every bad thing I could ever imagine.” My face was wet with tears, though I couldn’t remember when I’d started to cry.

I turned my attention back to Renée. “After that, how long was it until you caught him in the hallway?”

She gulped. “Too long. You’d been to Forks and back. I had other signs staring me in the face. All the signs were there. Nightmares. You always had your hands down your pants. You were wetting the bed. You wouldn’t go to sleep without a fight for anyone but Steven, so he started sleeping over more often.” She sighed. “I don’t know how I didn’t see it. I don’t think I wanted to.” Her voice was thick. “He never came to bed at the same time I did. He’d wait until I fell asleep. I didn’t think about it. Of course it was strange, and things weren’t… right between us in the bedroom, but I thought you were happy Bella. I swear I did.”

She sniffled. And I had to hold myself still. I didn’t have any sympathy to spare for her. She might have thought I was happy, but if she felt that things weren’t right she’d still found it easier to do nothing.

“And then one night I woke up and realized that the hall light was on. I went into the living room, expecting to see Steven watching TV, like he usually was, but he wasn’t there. I was on my way back to the bedroom when he stepped out of your room. He said he’d been checking on you on his way to the bathroom, but it didn’t make any sense. We had a bathroom in the master bedroom. And his face was flushed, and he looked like he was lying.” I gripped Edward’s hand tightly in my own, unwilling to let myself fall into the memory of that night.

She sobbed. “I couldn’t lie to myself anymore. But there was this little voice in the back of my head that kept telling me I was wrong. That kind of thing wouldn’t happen to Bella, I wasn’t that kind of mother…so I didn’t let him stay over anymore. I lied, said that Charlie was causing problems, and that he’d have to see less of Bella. And I watched. I wanted to see if you would get better without him around. You didn’t. And I really started to second guess myself.”

She shook her head. “I’ll be right back, I need a drink of water.” She almost ran to the kitchen. She stood for a long time in front of the open fridge.

Edward whispered in my ear, “She needs a minute, her thoughts are going to pieces. Are you all right?”

“Yes,” I said under my breath, “It’s just… unbelievable. It’s hard to realize that it’s my life.”

The fridge door closed and Renée came back and sat down. She stared at her hands in her lap.

“I’m sorry Bella,” she began, starting to cry, “I don’t know what else I can say. It sounds terrible to say that I valued my relationship so much, but I was so scared that I was right, and praying that I was wrong. At the time it made sense. I didn’t know for sure.” She wiped her face on her sleeve. I shook my head in disbelief as she continued.

“You were still having the same problems. Nothing changed when Steven stopped sleeping over - the nightmares, the bedtime fights, the wet sheets, all of it was exactly the same. It wasn’t too long after your Grandma died, and I had no one to help me. I was on the verge of letting Steven stay over again. You were so happy to see him when we’d go out all together… I thought we were safe in public. He talked constantly about how much he missed getting that time to see you, how much you must miss him putting you to bed, how stressed I looked, from dealing with everything on my own… it sounded so good.” She sobbed again.

I was beginning to feel strangely distant and emotionally cut off from the story Renée was telling. My voice didn’t sound like my own when I said, “And then I broke my wrist.” Automatically, I looked at the cast on my right wrist, still desperately trying to stay in the present, to avoid the memories crowding in.

Renée nodded. “You broke your wrist. And it wasn’t until we were back in that familiar hospital that I realized how much you’d changed. You wouldn’t look the nurses in the eye. You wouldn’t talk to anyone - not even to answer a question. The nurse who did your Triage knew us. Her name was Betty, she was older and had a granddaughter your age. She was always scolding you for tripping and needing stitches, or spraining something, and you’d laugh at her, and tell her you hadn’t done it on purpose. This time, nothing. It was like you weren’t there.

“At first, I think she thought it was because you were in pain, but by the time we’d gotten back from x-ray she looked suspicious. She got you settled in a little room to wait for your cast, and pulled me into the hall.”

Renée swallowed. I was still frozen in time, watching the scene unfold in my memory as Renée spoke.

“She asked me what had happened. My gut was telling me to trust her; that I should tell her, but I was so scared. I didn’t know what would happen. She looked me right in the eyes and said ‘That beautiful little girl needs a mother, not a coward’. And I just started to talk. I told her about all the changes in your behaviour, and my suspicions about Steven. I hadn’t even really admitted it to myself…”

She bit her bottom lip and shook slightly. “I went back in to wait with you, and then a social worker called me into to the hallway. Sophia Tynes. She…” Renée closed her eyes. “She asked me if I was still “seeing” Steven. I said yes without thinking, and the word was out of my mouth before I had time to tell the whole story… that I didn’t leave you alone with him, and he didn’t stay over anymore. It was the stupidest thing I have ever done.” Renée opened her eyes and stared past my head. Tears rolled down my cheeks. I hated that I felt bad for her, but I knew it must have hurt her when they took me away.

“Ms. Tynes looked at me like I was one inch tall, and stupid as well. She said that they would have to “remove you from the home” while they investigated.” She grimaced as if in pain. Edward’s arm around me was like a weight - he was frozen in place. I squirmed in my seat, trying to get more comfortable.

Renée looked at me, noticing my tears for the first time. “Do you really want to hear the rest of this Bella?” she asked in a rough voice.

I nodded, unable to speak. Edward sighed softly behind me.

Renée continued. It sounded as though if she stopped, she wouldn’t be able to start again. “I wanted to know what this investigation would involve. She mentioned a physical and it made me feel sick that you would be alone. I knew that they would be looking for signs of… damage.

“Betty came up behind me, and gave me a hug. She promised me she’d stay with you and hold your hand.”

I could remember someone - an older woman - holding my hand. I had been terrified during the examination, I could remember how hot my cheeks had felt; it was so embarrassing. I’d been convinced that it was my fault - that somehow this was punishment for being glad that Steven didn’t get a chance to touch me anymore.

I’d cried and the older nurse, (Betty?) had wiped my face and told me I was being brave. I was crying again now.

Renée kept talking. “They told me to go home, but I wouldn’t leave the hospital ‘til you did. It was so unreal to sit there without you.” She made a weird choking noise. “The social worker came back to tell me that they hadn’t found any physical evidence of abuse, that you were still… intact. I was glad, but she told me that it would be very hard to press charges.” I shuddered. “Based on what I had told Betty, and the reports of a few other nurses, they were going to move you to a foster home. They wanted to have you evaluated by a psychologist.

“I begged her to let me take you home. I explained that Steven didn’t stay over any more. She gave me that look again, and said ‘That’s not good enough. There can be no contact at all. Anywhere. We’ll discuss Isabella’s placement again when he is out of your life.’”

Edward moved behind me. It surprised me - vampires don’t get uncomfortable. “Renée,” he said in a strangely pleading tone, “Why didn’t you just break up with him?” I wondered again what he was seeing in her thoughts.

She started to pull at a thread on the hem of her shirt. “I did. The next day was one of the worst of my life. I had to call Charlie, which… didn’t go well. And after a few hours, I called Steven.” She took a deep breath, but didn’t speak.

“What did he say?” My voice sounded strange in my own ears.

“I told him what had happened at the hospital, but not that I had accused him. He got very angry. He said that it was your fault, that you were crazy, and made up stories, and lied all the time. He thought I would believe him. It was awful to listen to. I knew then that it must be true.”

“Oh, god!” The words came out of my mouth before I could think. My last hope that this was all a crazy dream was gone. The detachment I’d had while listening to Renée fell away, and the pain of Steven’s betrayal hit me full force. I choked on a sob.

“Bella?” Renée’s voice was concerned.

Edward helped me turn a bit so that my face was hidden in his chest. I cried over and over, “He hurt me,” while Edward gently stroked my hair.

My tears flowed on and on for what seemed like a long time. I gradually became aware of what was going on in the room. Renée was crying quietly in her chair. Edward stopped soothing me and started trying to get his cell phone out of his back pocket.

“Alice?” he answered.

“Yes.”

“Sounds good. How long?”

“All right. Thank you.”

“I will.” He hung up.

He looked at Renée. “My sister Alice is on her way. She’ll take you back to your hotel.”

I looked at him, and he looked back, ignoring Renée, his eyes full of concern. “I’m sorry Bella. You need a break. You are going to take one. Have a nap and then I’ll go and get Renée if you want to keep talking. She’s here for a week or two. Right now you need time to process this. Please.”

I nodded. I hated that he was taking over like this, but I knew I was at the breaking point. If I didn’t deal with everything I’d just remembered, I wasn’t going to be able to move on.

Moving on. Moving forward through this. I was vaguely aware of Renée hugging me and apologizing, of Edward propping me on pillows again. I couldn’t concentrate on them. I’d come to two realizations, and they were equally important.

First of all, I had been molested as a child by mother’s boyfriend Steven. Hearing what he had said, remembering everything that had happened as Renée told the story had confirmed it. I had to be able to say it. I couldn’t hide from it any more. It was a terrible thing, and part of me mourned for what I had gone through. What I had lost.

Another part of me knew that secondly, I was going to move on from this place. Rosalie’s words were echoing in my head It happened a long time ago, and it doesn't change who you are inside." Deep down, this part of me knew that she was right. This was the starting place for moving forward.

“Bella? Bella, are you all right?” Edward held my hands as he kneeled in front of me.

“I will be. I just… it’s real now, you know? All this time, there was a part of me that wasn’t sure it had really happened. But, while Renée was talking, I could remember it.” I shuddered. “But, I mean, I just realized that things are going to get better. I’m not always going to feel like this.” I was rambling.

“Shh Bella,” Edward settled himself back on the couch with me. “Go to sleep.”

Safe in his arms, I did.