We're far away from Forks, now. And what a lovely city Knives is- the perfect place to start afresh, don't you think? Edward is long gone and Jacob loves his wife-to-be. Bella is not happy- but then again, she hasn't been for four years. She's used to it. But mistakes have been made, and a destructive chain of events has been set in motion. Nothing can stop it. The storm is fast approaching- it's too late to get out now. Much too late. The Cullens are back.Char made my banner. She's an awesome person who has good things waiting for her in the afterlife.
I'm alone, And more alone with every passing day; The danger is increasing every second that I stay. But the storms are fast approaching, And I cannot get away.
8. Things Screw Up Further.
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I had tried everything. I had shut my eyes. I had hidden in cupboards and behind doors and behind tall people. I had even headed off to the A&E when I needed to be in the canteen. But it didn’t matter what I did or where I went; he would always be there. And he would always be watching.
The hair on the back of my neck tingled in a way that was growing increasingly familiar, and I turned away from the computer screen, looking for that giveaway flash of bronze. However, my cursory glance proved that the reception foyer was clear of vampires and Med Students- I was safe from ambush by either. I closed my eyes and pressed my fingers to my temples. Was I just being paranoid? Imagining things that weren’t there? Probably. I would just have to add 'insane paranoia' to my ever growing list of problems.
I turned back to my spreadsheet and changed a few appointment times. Linda was on the phone taking down a number. I tapped my fingers on the faux-wood of the desk, waiting as the archaic computer froze, unfroze momentarily, waited for me to click, then froze again. If it had belonged to me I would have put my foot through the stupid machine already. I was reminded strongly of the piece of junk that still stood on my desk in Forks.
Which reminded me that I needed to ring Charlie.
Yesterday had been pure unadulterated hell. My making-up-for-pretending-to-be-ill-so-I-could-discover-the-truth-about-Jacob’s-fight day, sat next to an unknown red-head and surrounded by Doctors on strange unfamiliar shifts, and nurses I had never met before. Plus, the hospital was always busier on weekends, so I had had more than my usual hail of phone calls and order forms and spreadsheets and complaints and patients (but, thank whatever Holy Power governs this lowly planet, no Medical Students). I had spent the whole day worrying about Jacob and his suit fitting; I couldn’t shake the feeling that he was going to march through the front door sporting a sleeveless jacket and shorts, saying something like “I thought about getting a regular suit, but I decided this would be much more convenient.”
He hadn’t, but he hadn’t bought the suit either. Apparently, Jacob had grown since his last fitting, so alterations had to be made. I swear, if he got any bigger we would have to move; he had already lost hundreds of brain cells on the kitchen ceiling.
And then we had stayed up until two discussing RSVP’s and seating plans and where we would go on honeymoon, if we weren’t already so far down the debt tunnel there was no discernable ray of light for about thirty years…
“Bella!” My head jerked up as something grabbed my shoulder and shook it. “Wake up! The phone!”
Linda's voice pulled me back from the brink of sleep. I blinked blurry eyes and yawned slightly. The incessant ringing leaked into my ears. I groaned, and blindly reached out for the receiver, missing and grabbing a stapler instead before my fingers finally grasped it. I took down an appointment, hung up, and yawned again.
The unrelenting sleepless nights were really taking their toll on me. I had made myself two coffees this morning but they had obviously had no effect- all I wanted to do was curl up in bed and go to sleep. I would have napped my way through yesterday if I hadn’t had to make up for lost hours. I just couldn’t shake the constant fatigue. And I couldn’t resolve it either. Infected minds to their deaf pillows will discharge their secrets; and although that particular sensory deprivation might be true of my pillow it wasn’t true of Jacob.
My tiredness was clearly very obvious, because it hadn’t even slipped under Linda’s radar. “You’ve got eye-bags big enough to carry my shopping in, B! You sleeping okay?”
“Yes,” I replied, my initial retort to anything Linda ever asked me. Lying was becoming my first response. It was also my response to anyone who called me ‘B’- not even Renee had shortened my name to just the one letter.
Linda was blissfully aware of my inattention. “I used to have this friend who didn’t sleep for four days. She would just eat a load of candyfloss and drink skinny vanilla lattes. And then she slept for seventy solid hours.”
“Really,” I said, not even realizing I had replied. My mind had two levels; the level that worried and thought and did work and was actually active- and then the level that handled Linda.
“Yeah! I can’t remember what she was called but we went to school with each other… what was it? I can’t believe I’ve forgotten! Sarah? Sam? No…”
It couldn’t be long until my lunch break, surely? I just wanted to go to my lesson with Marley. It was the one thing I got up for. Half an hour to go. Thirty minutes. I could handle thirty minutes.
“Sophie! Sophie Smith! I remember she was really weird, she used to wear those boots with the soles that were like forty inches thick and listened to Slipknot and wouldn’t eat nothing except from but boiled potatoes-“
“Morning, Bella,” a deep voice grunted at me, and I glanced up into a lined face of a Doctor I didn’t know the name of. My primary elation at escaping Linda’s nails-down-a-chalkboard conversation withered and died as he shot me a condescending smile dropped an armful of papers in front of me. I stared at them, and then at him. “I was wondering if you could take these up to Doctor Cullen for me. Tell him they’re the insurance forms he’s been asking me for.”
“Er,” I said, trying very hard not to tell him to do it himself. “Well, I’m a bit busy-” (this was a lie, but I would rather saw off my own fingers with a ruler than unnecessarily enter Carlisle’s office) “- couldn’t you ask an orderly?”
He looked disgruntled. “Everyone’s busy, Bella, what with all these medical students. I’m sure it wouldn’t take you very long. I’d do it myself but I’ve got to operate on someone’s brain in fifteen minutes; although,” he looked at me with the air of a teacher dealing with a disobedient student, “I’m sure that arranging schedules is equally important as life-or-death surgery- doubtless it’s pivotal. However, no-one is going to die if you leave that phone for two minutes.”
He shot me a disapproving look, and then cleared off. I carefully bandaged up what was left of my tiny, shriveled ego and stood up. I set myself a reminder; another person to dodge in corridors.
I didn’t have sufficient bravery to glare at his back, so I scooped up the papers and swore at him in my head. Linda was, as ever, oblivious to insults and snobbery. Her mind was chugging along its usual one-track line.
“Doctor Cullen… he’s one hunky chunk of man-meat…”
I pulled a smile onto my face to hide my disgust, grabbed the pile of paper, and started towards the elevator. My arms groaned with the weight. The corridors were busy with circling med students, laughing and eating sandwiches, and laughing with their mouth full of sandwich, and spraying sandwich into my hair. I ran my fingers through it and shook a few soggy crumbs out, slightly repulsed. My stomach grumbled, but I ignored it. I would eat when I got home- I had left my lunch on the kitchen table. Which was a typically crap thing to do.
The elevator was at the end of the corridor, and I pressed the button with my elbow, seeing as every other part of my arm was employed with holding up my vast array of paper. The little screen told me the elevator was at “B”- basement level. I tapped my foot as I listened to the whirring of the machine as the box inched its way up the shaft. The elevator was renowned for its slowness- it belonged in an antique shop. Or a museum.
There was a click, and then a ding, and then a groan, as the doors screamed their way open. I shifted the paper in my arms and yawned again, looking into the box-
And into those eyes that had been staring at me all day.
And then I knew for sure that I was monumentally and totally screwed.
Rational Bella flew out the window and lovesick Bella took over. My body fell away and all there was left of me were my eyes, and his eyes, and all that was important was that I never looked away, never- just stared into those eyes for all eternity, for ever, forever...
A little voice in my head mused over the way Edward Cullen could erase every thought in my head and just leave me gawping. Something about his body, the way he stood, the way his hair fell in disarray around his angular, beyond handsome face...
There was another scream of metal as the doors started to close; the elevator box started to disappear. Edward shot forward, quick as blinking, his hand holding the doors back. My eyes jerked to the indents his fingers had left in the metal, staring for a second at how long and white those fingers were- and then they went back to his eyes. He was so close; I could have reached out my hand and touched him. I could see every single part of his face; his lips, how dark and red they were, how soft they looked. I could see every hair of his eyebrows, every separate eyelash. The darkened shadows that hung under his cheekbones. And his eyes- they seemed endless, wells of molten gold, and I just wanted to take a deep breath and jump, and fall and fall until I could find a little path of his soul on which to sleep.
He was still holding the elevator door open. It was so hard to think and stare at him at the same time. He didn't move. His eyes were on me and his expression was unreadable. His gaze sent a funny feeling through my body; like someone had poured jelly into my stomach.
My mind told me not to get into the elevator. It was the rational part of me, telling me the rational course of action. And every other single fiber of my being told me that I could not, would not look away. I would not rip myself from him again.
He was so beautiful. That familiar awe invaded my senses. How could I have ever thought I was worthy of him? How could he have ever deluded himself into thinking that same thing? He was perfection.
Through my rose-colored spectacles, he seemed to be pleading with his gaze, asking me to come on in. His eyes seemed to be begging the same things as my heart; the desire for closeness, reunion… His arms still held back the door, and the part of me that I could not control instantly deciphered this as his wanting me there. My broken mind didn’t realize that this could not be, that he had made quite clear his absolute indifference towards me a long, long time ago. None of that sensible stuff filtered through- at the moment this was about me, how I felt, and any animosity he still harbored toward me was completely irrelevant. Selfishness dictated my movements.
I stumbled over the entrance. He quickly drew back as I passed. My eyes floated around his face, drifted to his eyes again. I tried to see something in them; but if eyes are the windows to the soul he had pulled down the blinds. They were completely indecipherable. What was he thinking?
But as I walked past, for just a second, I could swear I saw a flicker- was that terror?- in his eyes. But this could not have been- the mask of perfection shows no fear.
The elevator doors dragged their weary way across the entrance, and then we were alone, just the two of us, isolated. The weight of the situation slowly descended upon my shoulders. There was a sharp silence. The elevator hadn’t even started moving- doubtless it wouldn’t for another ten seconds. And I just stood and stared, and he stood and stared. It was as if we had never seen each other before. My arms were full of the wrong thing; I could feel electricity whizzing away against my skin. And again, I wondered… what is he thinking?
Edward looked the same as he always had. Tall and strong. My peripheral took in his perfectly creased shirt, just hinting at the sculpture that lay beneath. Long piano-fingers, the kind that, if bestowed on the ends of my hands, would quickly get me to far higher levels. The broad shoulders. Perfect, tousled hair.
If Bernini had finished Apollo and Daphne and decided that it wasn’t beautiful enough, he would have carved Edward.
The only thing that set him apart from stone was his eyes- and I could not look away from them. They were focused on me, and as they moved my eyes would follow, follow each flick and turn as he gazed over me. It was as if he was familiarizing himself with a map he would not be seeing again. If my gaze could have left his eyes I would have done the same to him.
And then his eyes jerked up and he was gazing directly at me again. And our gaze locked into place.
It hurt, of course it did, to look him in the face. Drinking in every perfection, every angle, every stretch of pure white skin, every faultless shape and line; knowing the whole time that, in my face, he would be seeing new lines, new creases, the omnipresent bags under my eyes. He would be seeing how tired I looked, how old, how my eyes were bloodshot and my eyebrows were permanently downturned. I probably looked alien to him. An old alien.
And with the realization of my ugliness, especially when stood next to him, I turned away.
I could no longer show him my face. Because I was ashamed of the changes he would see within it. It was almost laughable; the only thing that made me strong enough to do the right thing was my own vanity. Not rationality, not sensibility, not even any remaining desire not to commit complete adultery.
I winced at the thought. Adultery. Such a harsh word. Infidelity, maybe, would be softer. Ultimately, though, the meaning was the same. And both were very equally applicable to me. As the elevator jarred to life, Jacob’s face popped into my head. My heart pounded. Jacob Jacob Jacob Jacob, I thought over and over. Remember Jacob, remember where you belong, remember your place.
On the side of my body closest to Edward, there was a constant patter of electricity, or some other force that caused me pain, a pain which I knew would only be soothed by contact. The tension mounted and mounted. I could almost feel it between my fingers. It probably had something to do with the way his eyes were boring into me, rays of heat that were boiling up all my emotions and making them increasingly difficult to hold back. I closed my eyes firmly, blinking hard. I was not going to lose control. I was not.
A load of self-loathing thoughts kept strolling through my mind, and I had no clue where they were coming from, but they did definately not make the situation easier.
Whirr whirr whirr went the elevator.
Even though I was no longer looking at him, I could sense his body. Beautiful, frozen at the height of perfection. I was past my peak and I could never go back, but he- he -and anyone who beheld him- could enjoy it forever. He could brush a tousled lock from his face, and laugh from his pedestal. Who could blame him? It was pathetic, the way I longed after him. The way I longed to reach out, cross the steps between us, run my fingers along his chest, meet his gaze, loose myself- perhaps… lean in, maybe even-
There was a slight grate as the elevator wires complained of age.
I could feel my eyes heating, and I shut them tight. I was seriously overworking my tear ducts lately. Another sign that not only was I an unfaithful liar, but I was also not the strong, unbreakable person I had imagined myself to be. I was able to hold on to reason for just about as long as a dog could resist a bone. Absolutely pitiful.
For God’s sake, Bella!I internally yelled at myself. Why couldn’t I get a grip? I hated that he could do this to me, that merely by standing next to me he could rip down every wall I ever built. I was obviously crap at construction.
The gentle buzz all around was the only sound except from my own breathing.
I could see the floor, the walls, the button pad, but I could not see him. Was he still watching me? What was he thinking?
Involuntarily my head jerked to the side. He wasn’t looking at me. Of course not- what was there to see? His fists were clenched and he was stood straight was a poker. His lips were set and his eyebrows were straight. I couldn’t read a single thing in his face or body language that suggested the same feelings I felt. I could only see anger. The empathy I had imagined at the elevator entrance had been fiction, invented by my own desperate mind.
The elevator whirred and I could feel the slow rise.
I felt liquid gathering under my eyelids, and I snapped a hand up to wipe it away. My fingers were shaking, and I clenched them tightly against the paper so that maybe he wouldn’t see. I was blushing furiously. This was horrible- horrible horrible horrible. I froze as he shifted- my heart stood still as he seemed to debate further movements- and then it sank to my stomach when he moved no further.
With this slight stir a flood of dreams and wishes overwhelmed my senses, and these dreams… for the brief seconds they existed in my mind, I wanted them. I wanted them like no-one has ever wanted anything; a powerful, all-pervading, incredible force of pure desire. I wanted to run my fingers through his hair and feel his in mine. Wanted to watch the sun set fire to his skin, and run my finger along its smooth surface. I remembered how it had felt- like glass. I wanted to marvel at how something can spark so, and yet feel so cold. I wanted to trace every single part of him and keep it all forever in my grasp. I wanted to curl up in his arms and cry for all I had had and all I had lost, and I wanted to feel the perfect smoothness of him all around me, and know that he loved me and that I could have all I wanted.
Entirely selfish. Stupid. Vain. Typical Bella.
The drone of the elevator hung in the air.
I hadn’t been concentrating on holding everything back, and, unbidden, a sob escaped my lips. It was a vile, ugly gasping thing, and in my shock my eyes snapped open and a tear fell to the ground. I sniffed loudly and turned to the other side. All he would be able to see was my hair. It was clean, at least. Not too much of an eyesore.
Maybe fifteen seconds had passed. I didn’t even know where the elevator was going. The top floor, by the feel of it. Beneath my feet, the surface vibrated.
I heard him shift, and I stood still, waiting… waiting for something to happen; for him to speak and my resolve to crumble; or for the elevator to reach its destination so I could make my escape.
I barely had time to hear the fake concern in his breathy word, because at that moment the doors scraped open and then I was out, and moving along the corridor as fast as I could without actually running. Hopefully if I kept moving forward I wouldn’t fall. I was clutching the paper tightly so I wouldn’t drop it. I sniffed again as I walked, knowing that the tears on my face and the red circles that would be pinpointing exactly where to stare would just be making me even less attractive than before. I headed quickly along the floor, passing staring orderlies and a Doctor on his cell.
I knew where Carlisle’s office was, and when I reached it I drew to a sudden halt and leaned against the wall, catching my breath and closing my eyes tightly, trying to put everything back under control, lock it all away, back where it belonged. I breathed in and out. I blew my hair out of my eyes. I gave an enormous, vulgar sniff to clear my airways.
I lifted up a hand to press a finger and thumb to my temples, and noticed a searing pain in my palm; looking down, I saw a long, white edged paper cut running across my skin. I groaned, clenching and unclenching my fist to gauge how much irritation this was going to cause. It stung in protest to the movement.
The tears had subsided, although I was sure my eyes were still red-rimmed. I just needed to get this done so I could make it to Marley’s lesson. Turning to face the door, I didn’t even pause to take a breath- simply knocked and entered.
Carlisle was sat at his desk in his white-walled office, in front of a computer. He glanced up, and his eyes lingered only for a fraction of a second on my blotched appearance. Then he tactfully turned back to his screen, clicking the mouse and frowning.
“Are those the papers I asked Keith to collect for me?”
“Yes-“ and here despite all my incomparably worse problems, I hit a block on how I should address him. Sir? Too formal for a person who had once been like an uncle. 'Carlisle' was too informal. Doctor Cullen would have been a compromise; but...
“Yes,” I repeated, feeling, and sounding, like an idiot.
I walked over to his desk and placed them down. My footfalls were silent on the deep carpet. He glanced up and smiled.
My stomach rumbled. A merciless God obviously sat above me plotting more ways to rip my day into shreds. The noise was incredibly loud in the otherwise almost-silent office, echoing above the drone of the hate. My face was a mask of horror.
Of all the days to forget my lunch, I chose today?
I blushed right to the tips of my fingers. Carlisle glanced up, smiling his fatherly smile.
I smiled weakly. I probably looked a right sight; red eyed, red faced, mouth twisted into a forced grin. Like some kind of sunburned, mentally unstable… lemur.
“Ah well, it’s nearly lunchtime.” He said optimistically, reaching out for the papers, standing them up and tapping them against the desk, so they were uniform and straight.
“I forgot my lunch,” I said. I’m not sure why I said it. I guess I had so many things I couldn’t say that it wasn’t a surprise that a flyaway worry broke loose and flew into someone else’s ears.
Carlisle did look genuinely sympathetic. His face molded into the definition of beautiful sympathy; it had never really struck me before how really attractive he was. Of course, he wasn’t in the same league as-
I stopped that thought before it could trigger even more pathetic tears.
“Well, you could have mine; it is only a prop, after all.”
I blushed even deeper. “I’m fine. Sorry. Didn’t-“ I wasn’t thinking about my words and I just sounded like a moron. “I’m okay. Don’t worry about it. Thanks for the offer, Si…Car- Doctor Cullen.”
“It’s Carlisle, Bella.” His eyes seemed to be searching mine, and I had the disturbing feeling that he was seeing more of me than I wanted him to. He had that intuitive, caring look which denoted close friends and family, and it made me uneasy.
I looked away, turning towards the door. “Is there anything else I can do for you?” I asked, hoping beyond hope that he would just say no.
“No.” I think he might have noticed my extremely obvious sigh of relief. I walked quickly across the room, silence making the air heavy. “Oh, and Bella?” Carlisle’s voice cut through it like scissors.
“Yes?” I replied, putting on a fake, calm sounding voice.
“Make sure that cut on your hand is clean.”
I shot him a quick smile that was as fake as my voice, and stepped out into the corridor.
As soon as I was under the strip lights I could feel his eyes on me, and then I knew for certain that I could not stay inside these white walls any longer.
I didn’t take the elevator, instead flinging myself down the stairs, running down down down, my fingers bumping along the banisters. My shoes clicked against the floor- cheapo heels from a charity shop- as I went. I reached the ground floor in the time it had taken the elevator to get halfway up the building.
I knew that Edward was no longer staring at me, but still, a weird claustrophobia had taken over and I had to get outside. I walked quickly past the front desk, and Linda didn’t see me. I pushed past a young woman with a toddler, and then I was outside. Breeze played on my skin.
The air was so fresh in comparison to the domesticated smell of the hospital. The wind blew my hair out of my eyes and the fine rain cast a damp layer over my skin. The sky above was completely grey. I breathed out.
I walked around the edge of the hospital, trying to calm myself down.
I was almost disgusted by how weak I was. The sharp light of day illuminated the ridiculousness of a mental breakdown, after only forty seconds in an elevator with an ex of four years. What was I, fifteen? I was supposed to be an adult, and yet I couldn’t stop myself sobbing like a baby. Tears didn’t suit a tired, matured face. They just looked stupid. Silly.
I came to the back of the building, and found a discreet little wooden bench next to two huge trash dumpsters and an ambulance with four slashed tires. I sat down and drew my knees up to my face. My patella fit neatly into my eye sockets. The yard was deserted except for myself, and I could hear nothing but the distant rush of traffic and far off voices.
My mind turned back to inevitable thought trails. It was better than I thought it all over here, because I couldn’t do it at home. Jacob would expect happy marriage-glow Bella, not the actual, real this-is-what-I’m-like Bella.
Edward. The name gave me chills. So many emotions that were attached to it; love, lust, betrayal, anger…
Edward. There was a difference between the Edward in my mind, and the Edward who had been stood next to me. The Edward in my head was the fictional, invented man who adored me and overprotected me and drove me crazy and who I loved, fiercely loved. And then, there was the real Edward. The Edward who I didn’t deserve and who could never want me. The Edward who I was angry at, the Edward who had deserted me and left me- the tornado that came, worked its destruction, and then left me to pick up the remaining pieces. And the Edward that I didn’t just love. The Edward I idolized. The Edward that sat in my thoughts and dictated my dreams.
I could remember what his arms felt like, wrapped tight around me. I could remember, a distant voice in a hall of memories, the feeling of being safe. Of having what I wanted and knowing that it was possible that I would have it forever. Of not wanting for anything else.
The thing I found it hardest to keep a lid on, I decided, was the longing. The need to reach out and touch, grab even, the knowledge that all you ever wanted was so close, and yet you could not have it, and that you would always be alone. I needed to feel his skin against mine. And I couldn’t. It’s inexpressible.
I knew what I wanted. I wanted him, and I wanted to be free of Jacob, and I wanted to live forever, and I wanted to be beautiful. I wanted to escape the constant feeling that there was nothing I could do that was worth anything. I wanted to escape the knowledge that whatever I could do, there would always be someone who could do it better, making my entire existence completely pointless. Before, I had existed to love Edward. Now… what was my use? Why was I here? If I just disappeared, would anyone really even notice?
And then there was that other question; why me? Of all the people in the world, surely there were those who deserved this suffering more! Someone somewhere was happily shooting babies and stealing money from poverty stricken families; couldn’t fate bestow upon them the burden of unrequited love? Why did I have to play the Ugly Sister while just about everyone else got the part of Cinderella? Linda was married. Jessica Stanley was married- I had the torn up wedding invitation to prove it. Charlie was with Sue. Even freaking Adolf Hitler had a wife. Why was I the loveless one?
No. Wait. Jacob. I actually forgot I was getting married for a second. The knowledge re-added itself to my ever growing baggage.
The rain was getting heaver, and my hair was growing damp. It would shortly frizz and curl uncontrollably. I groaned, and straightened my legs out again. Marley’s lesson next. That would be okay. I could beat out some frustration on the keyboard.
Marley hadn’t been able to come to the lesson; he was swamped with Med Student stuff, along with all his actual work. I understood, but it was annoying. It was the one thing I looked forward to. I spent my lunchtime doing scales and wishing I had remembered to bring food. The rumbling of my stomach had receded to a dull ache. What kind of idiot forgets her own lunch? I don’t even have enough brainpower to get an ants motorcycle around the inside of a Cheerio.
When I returned to the desk, Linda was staring at me curiously. I returned her gaze as I sat down. “What is it?” I asked, perhaps for the first time actually willingly beginning a conversation with her.
“An orderly just came with something for you,” she said. I raised my eyebrows. “On your keyboard,” she said.
I turned and looked.
It was a sandwich box.
And attached to it was a small post-it-note, upon which was written, in instantly recognizable cursive font-
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