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Connections

Summary:
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The Cullen’s are surprised to find out that Bella comes to Forks already knowing about the world of vampires. Not only that, but there is a deep connection to their kind. Will they be able to keep Bella safe when nomads put her into even more danger?
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5. Chapter 5

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Chapter 5

(Bella’s POV)

The rest of the week just got more and more difficult for me to keep grasp on my emotions. With the embarrassment of hobbling around on crutches, anger over the strange looks and hushed whispers I still got from the majority of the students at school, sorrow and guilt over the loss of my mom, and the pain of being away from Thomas – I was at my breaking point.

Then added to all of that was the very severe case of unease I felt over the complete one-eighty Edward pulled in his treatment towards me.

When I look back at that first day, I understood the initial anger, maybe even hatred that I saw on his face. But after the phone call we shared later that night, I was left feeling somewhat better.

It was just funny how things could change. If I wasn’t careful, I knew I would end up with a severe case of whiplash.

For the rest of that week, the closest Edward and I got was through phone calls, and even those phone conversations didn’t go like I thought they would.

That first phone conversation we shared, it had been nice, friendly even, with no indication that he held such contempt for me. I took the time at the end of each day to call him; I wanted to find out how he was doing, but I also hoped to find out if there was anything I could do to make things easier on him. Unfortunately, each phone call lasted no more than a few seconds, because as soon as he answered all he did was growl into the phone. I could never be positive what he said during his growls, but it sounded like he said something about not being ready yet. Before I could even stop him, he’d hang up on me.

Regardless to say, I was deeply disappointed and somewhat hurt by his reaction.

Now, all I felt was bafflement. I had seriously thought that at some point, he and I could become friends. Something I had truly believed was a possibility after that first night, but it appeared that I was completely and utterly wrong. By the second phone call he hung up, I had a feeling that all my hopes of a possible friendship with him were unlikely.

I just couldn’t understand it. Had I done something to offend him? Did he decide that my inclusion into his family’s lives wasn’t worth the effort he had to put forth? That was something I understood, I mean … I knew that I was plain, ordinarily boring for a seventeen year old girl. There was nothing to recommend myself to a family of vampires. That is, unless you factored in Thomas, and even then, Thomas’s involvement with the Cullen family did not mean that I had to be included too.

I just couldn’t help but wish I knew what I had done to upset him; if I could find out, I could try to make it right with him—couldn’t I?

That first week of school, I slowly found myself getting into a routine of sorts. I woke up each morning to a grinning Alice in my room. She always stayed just long enough to retrieve the shirt I had slept in, before she headed back home to deliver it to Edward.

And just like we had discussed, both Alice and Emmett drove me to school each day. This was the best part of my day, because regardless of how bad I was feeling, Emmett always had me smiling by the time we got to our destination. For some reason, he loved to tell me raunchy jokes. He said he knew he had succeeded in getting to me if he could make me blush, which I did with each and every one he told.

Why my embarrassment was so entertaining for him, I would never know. And it didn’t seem to matter what was bothering me, Emmett just had this innate ability to get my mind off the things that were bothering me. Something I would always be grateful for.

Edward ended up skipping school the rest of the week, which meant I went to biology class every day by myself. It was just one more thing that made me feel guilty, but Alice assured me that this would change next week.

Regardless of Alice’s ability to see the future, I wasn’t as optimistic as she seemed to be about the situation we found ourselves in.

During Friday’s biology class, Mr. Banner explained a new project that was to be worked on with our lab partner. Yeah…that was just my luck, I would be assigned a project that I would have to work side-by-side with my lab partner outside of school hours, when said lab partner wouldn’t even get on the phone long enough to have an actual conversation with me.

Mr. Banner went on to explain that all work for the project had to be done outside of class and the assignment made up half of our final grade. He also stated that as a way to guarantee that both partners put work into the project, he made it clear that each person had to write their own report that detailed the findings and their own conclusions to what they discovered.

It was at the end of class that Mr. Banner asked me to stay after, so that he could talk to me.

“Isabella,” he said, looking extremely uncomfortable and still seemed to be determined to not call me by my preferred name. “I know you haven’t met your lab partner, Mr. Cullen, but are you going to be okay working with him on it?”

“I don’t see any problem in working with him,” I replied. I could tell that there was something more he wanted to say, but it looked as if he was nervous.

“I know you are new to this school, and that you have come to us after a horrible loss to your family. I’m also very aware that due to Mr. Cullen’s absence, you have yet to even meet him, but would you mind being the focal point for your group’s project?” he asked, sounding a bit worried about my response to his request.

“I don’t mind. I know I haven’t met Edward yet, but I’ve become friends with both Alice and Emmett Cullen. I should be able to work with Edward easily enough.” Or at least I hoped so. It could get a bit complicated though, given the fact that he couldn’t be near me without wanting to kill me.

Mr. Banner smiled. “That would be wonderful. You have no idea how relieved I am that you joined this class when you did. I had been very worried about assigning this project, knowing that Mr. Cullen had no partner.”

I thought about why he would be worried for a moment before it finally dawned on me. “You were worried because of the fact that he was adopted?” I asked him.

“Yes.” He seemed a bit embarrassed at confessing that to me. “Nobody really knows this about me, but I too was adopted, and I can understand the limitations that there can be when it comes to information regarding your biological family. For me personally … in my own situation, I have absolutely no information as to who my birth parents even were. Though I’ve heard that Mr. Cullen was adopted as a child and that he knew his parents for a little while, it may be too painful for him to look back on that time.”

“I understand, Mr. Banner, and I am perfectly happy to be the subject for our project,” I assured him.

***

I spent my time during gym class sitting on the bleachers, being extremely pleased with the fact that I had a valid excuse not to participate. I only wished it could last indefinitely.

Since there was nothing else to do during class, I texted back and forth with Thomas about the Biology project. He promised to send me all of the information that I would need for his Higgenbotham side of the family, which only left the Swan side of the family that I would truly have to do some research on.

Thomas reminded me of the package that would be waiting for me when I got home from school. I had no clue what it could be, but he mentioned that he hoped I would be okay in accepting it. He also made me promise to call him before I opened it, so that we could talk about the contents inside the package.

It definitely left me with a feeling dread when I thought about what it could be. Never in a million years would I have been able to guess what it actually was.

“Why so quiet today, Bella?” Emmett asked while he was driving me home.

“Oh, it’s nothing,” I said quietly. “I just have a lot on my mind.”

“Like what?” he asked.

“Well, for starters, I was wondering if Edward was acclimated to my scent, yet. We’ve been assigned a big biology project today that we are to work on with our lab partner. It’s a project that has to be worked on completely outside of class, and it’s going to make up half of our final grade.” After a moment silence, I continued, “I’m fine working on the project by myself, but at some point he will have to write his own paper on my findings. It was one way to make sure that both partners put some effort into the project and I hate to think that my work could inhibit his ability to get the grade he’s used to receiving.”

Emmett laughed. “Bella, you’re too much. Are you telling us that you’re more worried about disappointing Edward? That you think he would be upset if he didn’t get anything other than a perfect grade on this project? A project, you are technically supposed to be working on together?” When I only nodded, he only laughed some more. “Let me tell you something, Bella, if my brother isn’t ready, or man enough to work on this entire project with you, than he’s a pansy who deserves whatever he’s got coming to him.”

“But it’s not fair to Edward – if he’s in a lot of pain due to how I smell to him,” I protested. “Plus, I don’t mind doing the work myself.”

“No, Bella,” he said in a tone that told me I had better listen to him. “What isn’t fair, is you doing all of the work for a project the two of you are supposed to work on together. It’s not fair to you, if his only involvement in the project is the paper that he has to write himself.” He seemed to be really upset about this, though I couldn’t understand why that would be. I could tell that he had more to say, so I let him continue. “Yes, I understand that we have been through high school numerous times, but that should not mean that you need to be the only one working on this outside of class. When an assignment counts for half of your final grade, that typically means that most of your time outside of class will be spent working on it. Bella, it’s only fair that Edward should have to put some time into this as well.”

“Emmett, it seems to me that as soon as Bella explains the assignment to Edward, he will do the right thing. He won’t pass all of the work off on to you, Bella, he’ll insist on helping,” Alice piped in quickly. It seemed she wanted to try and calm Emmett down, who seemed really irritated by our discussion.

“Honestly you two, it’s no big deal. I’m fine with working on the majority of this project by myself. If Edward’s not ready to be around me, I’m not going to force him to.”

“Shut up, Bella!” Emmett scolded me. The tone of his statement was enough to have me close my mouth.

“When you get home you will call my brother. Do you understand me?” I only nodded my agreement before he continued with his instructions. “You will explain the entire assignment to him. In return, Edward will have until the time that I get home to make the right choice about his involvement in this project. If he doesn’t make the right choice, he will be having a discussion with my fist.”

I was shocked. Would Emmett seriously fight Edward over this?

“Bella, it’s not even worth arguing with Emmett on this, because if he wasn’t the one to get after Edward about this, I would,” Alice said. “Now, go get inside, call my dear brother and explain the assignment. We’ll take care of him on our side.” When she noticed my eyebrows rise she tacked on, “Only if it’s warranted.”

I knew I had to give up. There was no point in trying to convince them into letting me do this assignment on my own. I would have to tell Edward about the assignment.

When I got home, I awkwardly got out of the car and used my handy-dandy crutches to help me get in the house. I wanted to stall, and I knew if I let them help me into the house, I would have to make that call much sooner than I wanted to.

I hobbled my way upstairs to my room and noticed that Charlie had been home at some point during the day. On my bed, I found the package Thomas told me about; just one more dreaded item on my to-do list.

My eyes kept looking at the small package on my bed and I could feel my resolve start to break. I knew that if I didn’t get the call over with soon I never would, so I pushed away the dread over the package and made the call.

“Hello, Bella,” his velvety voice answered the phone on the first ring. The tone surprised me. It was different from the voice I had dealt with over the last few days. I just didn’t understand, in that moment, what that change meant.

“Hi. Um…how are you doing today?” I bumbled my way through my greeting, but I felt tongue tied.

“I’m doing quite well.” I could hear a hint of amusement in his voice.

“Well, that’s good,” I said quietly, trying to keep calm. For the life of me, I just couldn’t understand why after just two lines I felt myself get irritated with him. Maybe it had something to do with the fact that he was acting as if there had been no awkwardness between us.

“To what do I owe the pleasure of this phone call today?” I knew his tone sounded much like the tone I had heard that first night on the phone, but I couldn’t help myself from feeling as if his voice was mocking me.

Why was he suddenly being so … nice? With all of the other phone conversations, or attempted phone conversations we had since I sprained my ankle, Edward had been annoyed and angry. There was no kindness, no friendliness in any of our other phone calls. So what suddenly changed today?

I didn’t know what he hoped his question would do, but all it succeeded in doing was in making me snap.

“Oh, never mind!” I huffed.

“Bella, what’s wrong?” he asked quickly. He sounded truly flabbergasted by my outburst, but I wouldn’t give him the chance to try and say any more.

“What’s wrong? What’s wrong? Well, I’ll tell you what’s wrong.” I could feel the heat of anger run through my body and I threw my crutches across my room. So, he wanted to know what was bothering me? Well I tell him what’s bothering me.

“I show up to this town only knowing my dad. My only hope had been that at some point I would get over the grief and guilt I feel over my mom and Phil. On my first day of school I come across your family. Something that I realize should terrify me, but it didn’t; instead I felt calmness, because the only other true confidant that I have in my little world is just like all of you, and while you all can’t replace him, I somehow don’t feel as lonely because I know you’re here.”

I knew I was probably not making any sense to him, but when I got like this, I exploded like a volcano. I just let everything out in my own diatribe and just hope that in the end it would help me feel better. Majority of the time, I probably didn’t make any sense to the other person involved in my outburst, but it was as though I had to purge it all out so that I could feel better–at some point in any case.

“Then … well, after our first meeting in the cafeteria I’m left feeling guilty once again, but this time it has nothing to do with my mom, it has to do with how my scent affects you. So, I decide that I will try to be as nice as I can be about the situation. I offer to change classes so you don’t have to skip class all of the time, but no, you assure your family that you will get over whatever aversion it is that you have with me.”

I felt my habitual angry tears fill my eyes, the one thing I hated more than the anger itself were the tears I inevitably shed each and every time I got mad. “I do everything I can feasibly do, Edward, to try and help you get to that point. I have at the most, three one-lined phone conversations with you since I injured my ankle, where the longest line you say to me is, ‘I need more time’, and even that’s a guess. To be honest with you, I don’t know what you said, but the anger, the animosity I heard come from the phone told me more than enough. Now, I’m left to believe that the friendship I hoped we could have at some point is a lost cause.”

“Bella,” he tries to interrupt me, but I don’t let him.

“Let me finish, Edward. It’s the least you can do after your treatment towards me.” When he remained quiet, I continued. “Today, I call you, not because I was eager to talk to you, or to be hung up on like all of the other days, but because I needed to inform you of a special project you and I have been assigned to work on together for Biology. A project I was completely willing to work on by myself, but your brother and sister won’t allow me to. They said that you would be okay with this, that you could maybe actually participate in this project, but now I’m not so sure I want you to work with me on it.”

I began to think that maybe I would just be better off staying away from the Cullens altogether.

“If your problem is my interaction with your family then I will apologize to both you and Rosalie. I am sorry for interfering and from now on I will avoid any and all contact with your family. I will handle this project on my own. I will send you copies of all of my work so you can put together your own god damn paper. “

I couldn’t understand where all of this anger was coming from, but I knew that I needed to get off the phone. “You can tell Alice and Emmett that I will arrange for my dad to take me to school until I am able to drive myself.” And I hung up the phone.

I had no clue where all of that came from, but there was one thing I did know, Edward didn’t deserve any of it. If I hadn’t already been so weighed down with my own feelings of guilt, grief and loneliness, I would have been able to handle his sudden change in behavior better than I did.

I gave in and let the angry tears fall, and my attention was once again directed to the package on my bed. I knew it probably wasn’t the wisest choice to open it, in that moment, but I needed something to distract me.

I knew that if I called Thomas in this moment, he would instantly know that something was bothering me, and I would never get to the point where I would open the package. So, I opened it by myself.

I gasped in shock at what I found inside the box. Inside was the locket Thomas had given to my great-great grandmother Ruth, after she gave birth to their one and only child. It was a family heirloom that had been passed down through the generations, but with a very specific time frame to when it was passed down. The locket was passed down to the oldest child after the birth of their first child. My gran had given this to my mother the day I was born, and I wasn’t supposed to get it until I had a child of my own. Even then, it should have been given to me by my mother, not Thomas.

The fact that I was getting the locket so early made my grief unbearable. I understood now why Thomas had warned me that this item was coming early. It also explained why he would have wanted me to call him before I opened it.

The sad truth was … I was the last possible family member who could receive this; I was the last person Thomas had in his family.

What were once angry tears were now turned into deep guttural sobs that quickly got the better of me. I completely forgot about the anger I had been feeling just moments ago with Edward. Now, I could only concentrate on the heart-wrenching pain that I felt rip through my chest.

I cried over the loss of my mom and Phil.

I cried over the pain her death caused my dad, a man that still after all this time loved her deeply.

I cried for having to leave Thomas behind.

I cried because I was sick and tired of feeling the loneliness I felt deep inside of me.

And I cried because I was just too tired of holding it all in anymore.

I had no idea how long I cried, but at some point I felt cold arms gently, pick me up and place me onto their lap. I could feel my head being placed in the crook of their neck and whoever it was gently began to play with my hair. That action alone reminded me of my mother, she had always done that when I was sad, and knowing that I would never have her here to do that again only made me cry harder.

I had no idea who was holding me, but in that moment I didn’t care. It felt good to be held; it was a temporary relief to the pain I felt and I just wanted it to last a little bit longer.

Eventually the tears subsided, but it left me so exhausted that I drifted off to sleep.

**/**

(Alice POV)

As soon as I saw Bella getting angry on the phone with Edward, I called Esme.

“Hello.”

“Esme, can you do me a favor?” I asked quickly.

“Of course dear, what’s wrong?”

“Bella is on the phone right now with Edward.”

“Yes, I can hear her getting upset. Is she going to be okay?” Esme asked me in a concerned voice.

“Not really. She could really use someone like you right now. Would you head over to her house? She will need a shoulder to cry on.”

While Esme was agreeing to head straight over to Bella’s, I heard Emmett growl as his own temper took over.

“Why that stupid, idiotic, no-good-dickwad.”

Trying to make light of the situation, even though my own temper was fighting to break through, I tried to distract Emmett. “Dickwad? Really Emmett, I would have figured you could have come up with something more inventive when coming up with nicknames for our brother.”

I got a slight upturn of the lips but I could see that it wouldn’t help lessen his temper. “Emmett, please let me talk first when we get home. Edward didn’t do anything wrong with this phone call, it’s just a bubbling up of emotions that has finally caused Bella to get so upset. If at the end of our conversation, you still feel the need to beat him up, you can.”

As soon as Emmett pulled up to the house I got started.

“You really are an idiot, aren’t you Edward?” I scolded Edward when I got home. It was going to take everything I had to keep Emmett from systematically ripping Edward into shreds right now.

Luckily when we got into the house, Jasper was coming downstairs. I knew that if things got out of hand, Jasper was going to be needed.

When we walked into the living room I saw Edward’s face, I could see he was already beating himself up. He didn’t need Emmett to step in and make things worse.

“Alice, why is Edward an idiot?” Emmett asked me with a hint of suspicion in his tone. “Did Bella call him or not about the project?”

I could see Emmett look over at Edward with a warning in his gaze that promised retribution if he did anything wrong.

“She didn’t get that far. When Bella called, she was so thrown off by Edward’s change in demeanor towards her that her emotions just couldn’t handle it anymore.”

“What do you mean by the change of his demeanor?” He looked over at Edward and asked, “How have you been treating her?” His low predator’s voice was viscous and he was starting to lose his ability to restrain himself.

I sighed. “Emmett, he never intentionally treated her badly on the phone this week. You know Edward.” When his look only got angrier I continued. “Edward was beating himself up over his own weakness for Bella’s scent that she took his curt tone as a rejection. She had no clue that his rude behavior had to do with him coming down hard on what he sees as a weakness of his restraint.”

Emmett immediately got into Edward’s face. “So let me get this straight and please tell me if I have this wrong.” He looked at me and began to explain, “After only knowing Bella for a couple of days, I can already see that it’s in her nature to worry about others. She has this need to make sure that the people in her life are okay, a need to try and alleviate whatever pain or unhappiness someone may feel and instead of holding in your own self-contempt towards yourself, you lashed out on Bella when all she wanted to do was call and make sure you were okay?”

When Edward only nodded, I could tell Jasper was trying to help keep Emmett under control and he was having a difficult time with it. I looked over at Jasper and saw how he strained his shoulders were, if we didn’t get Emmett calmed down soon, Jasper may even lash out at Edward.

But it was only moments later when suddenly Emmett’s shoulders sagged and he looked at me with such pain on his face. “Why didn’t you warn me that Edward had been handling these phone calls so poorly? I never would have talked Bella into calling Edward about that stupid Biology project if I had any idea that he had been treating her so unkindly. I would never have knowingly put her in that kind of an uncomfortable position.”

I knew he was right, but I didn’t realize that Bella was going to internalize everything that Edward had done as a slap against her. “I didn’t realize that she was taking his behavior so badly.” I looked over at Edward and saw the despair in his eyes. You really need to start thinking about how your treatment of people can affect the ones around you. Do you realize that by hurting Bella you are hurting Emmett and me, too? We care for her and we would never have urged her to talk to you about this assignment if we knew it was going to cause her to react like this.

He looked at me and winced at my thoughts, but then asked, “What do you mean react like this?”

And I showed him the vision I had of Bella breaking out in tears after her phone conversation.

Edward’s face only got more upset with himself. “I have to go talk to her. I have to get her to understand that my anger this week was not meant for her.”

I stopped him. “I don’t think that’s a good idea right now. When I saw her breakdown coming I called Esme and asked her to go be with Bella.” He looked at me with a look that said he wanted to fight me on this. “Bella needs the comfort of someone like Esme right now. She needs a mother’s love and Esme is the closest one available who can offer that comfort right now. Please Edward, just let Bella have some time.”

(Esme POV)

Bella was beyond devastated right now, understandably so, especially when you took into consideration everything she had gone through in such a short amount of time. I was surprised she hadn’t had more breakdowns, or maybe she had and Alice just hadn’t seen them.

When Alice called during Edward and Bella’s phone conversation and told me that after Bella got off the phone she was going to need someone there to comfort her, I didn’t hesitate. I ran to the Swan residence in hopes that I would be able to help her when she needed it.

What I found broke my heart. I found Bella in her room, lying on the bed in a fetal position with her hand grasping a necklace of some kind. I saw the packaging paper and assumed she had just gotten it that day and whatever it was had probably caused the majority of this breakdown and my son’s behavior was just a starting point.

I didn’t even think before I acted, I just rushed over to her and put her in my lap so that she could cry into my shoulder. I did what any mother would have done to a heartbroken daughter—I rubbed her back and played with her hair, hoping that it would help to calm her down.

It took a while, but eventually she cried herself out and ended up falling into a peaceful sleep. Not wanting to startle her when she woke up, I laid her gently on the bed and covered her with an extra blanket I found at the end of her bed.

I felt my cell phone vibrate, so I very quietly answered, “Hello?”

“Esme, you’ve got to let me speak to Bella. I have to apologize to her. I never meant for her to think that I didn’t like her. I have to convince her that she is welcome to spend time with our family. That she doesn’t have to stop all contact with us because I was so rude earlier. Please Esme…please let me speak to her,” Edward begged on the other line.

“Edward, I don’t think that would be a very good idea,” I spoke quietly so I wouldn’t disturb Bella’s rest.

“But Esme, I have to apologize,” Edward begged. “I don’t think I can handle it if she hates me. I never meant to make her feel as though I didn’t like her. I was just trying to be cautious.”

“Edward, you weren’t being careful with her, every time you spoke to her over the last couple of days you have been nothing but rude.” He tried to cut in, but I stopped him, “The tone you used towards her was so angry, so hateful I’m not surprised that she became suspicious and angry when you were finally being nice. You have to understand that she’s not just dealing with your issues over her scent.”

“I know that, Esme,” Edward whispered.

“Please let me finish, Edward. I need to say this.”

“Okay, I’m sorry for interrupting.” I could hear the sadness in his voice and I wavered for a minute. I knew he never meant to hurt her but it was something that he was going to have to deal with.

“Edward, in the last month she has lost her mother, an event that is hard enough under normal circumstances but to factor in the way her mom was killed, it just makes it all the more difficult to accept. She has had to move away from her home; in addition to that, she left her closest confidant that she has ever had so that she can come live with her dad. Now don’t get me wrong, I know she loves her dad, but moving in with someone you haven’t lived with since you were a baby is going to take some time for adjustment. And that doesn’t even delve into the fact that she also has to adjust to a new school and all new classmates. That’s a lot for one person to have to deal with and she doesn’t need you and Rosalie’s temperamental and childish behavior adding to the stress she’s already under.”

“I know Esme, I know, but you need to let me apologize to her,” he begged.

“I can’t Edward, she cried herself to sleep. You need to give her time. I think there was more to this breakdown than just you. It appears she got a package from Thomas, and I think whatever it is that she got from him caused most of the tears that she cried this afternoon.” Not wanting to let him totally off the hook until he put things right with Bella, I added, “But that doesn’t mean you can get away with the way you have treated her this week. Your behavior towards her did not help the situation.”

I sighed. “At some point, Edward, you’re going to have to realize your actions affect more than just yourself. The fact that I know you so well, I know that the anger you conveyed when you talked to Bella earlier this week was actually self-inflicted and not meant for Bella, but Bella didn’t know that. She heard your anger and instantly thought she had done something to offend you.”

Finally, after a few more minutes of talking Edward down from coming over here to apologize, I got off the phone. I spent my time watching Bella sleep peacefully. I could see her forehead scrunch up whenever her dreams took her someplace she found unsettling.

A little while later, I went and sat down in her rocking chair and decided I would give Thomas a call. I had yet to talk to him, but I thought if I understood what he sent to Bella, the significance of it, I may have been able to help ease her pain.

“Hello,” Thomas answered.

“Hello, Thomas, this is Esme Cullen.”

“Oh. Hi Esme, how are you doing?” he asked, sounding a bit awkward.

“I’m doing fine.” I felt a bit shy on how to ask, but I decided it was probably best to just get it over with. “I’m sorry to bother you, but I was wondering if I could ask you a question about Bella.”

“That’s fine.” He seemed a bit happier at the idea of talking about Bella, which helped me feel more comfortable with the call. “Ask me anything you like.”

“Did you send something of a sentimental nature to Bella?” I asked, hoping that he wouldn’t get upset by my question.

“Actually, I did,” he answered in a sad voice. “She was supposed to call me before she answered it so that we could discuss what it was.” Thomas took a deep breath before he continued, “If I had to venture a guess I would have to assume that she opened it on her own?”

“Yes.”

“She broke down, didn’t she?” Without giving me even a second to answer his question, he went on. “I should have known that would happen. I knew she may be upset to get this so early, but I thought that would be it. Is she okay?” he asked, sounding helpless.

“I think she is dealing with a lot of emotions, and they just got to be more than she can handle today. I came over as soon as Alice informed me of Bella breaking down in her room. She has cried herself to sleep, but I wanted to check with you to see if there was anything I could do to help make this easier on her.”

Thomas sighed, “That’s very nice of you, Esme. I am indebted to you, for your kindness.”

“No debt is owed, Thomas. Bella is a very special girl who has gone through more than anyone should have to deal with in such a short span of time. I would do anything to help her get through this,” I explained.

Bella really was the most kindhearted person I had ever had the privilege of meeting. If I could help her in any way possible, I would.

“Bella was right about you,” Thomas said. “When she gave me a description of each of you, she told me how loving and nurturing you were. She told me how you helped take care of her when she injured her ankle. Thank you.”

“I was happy to help,” I told him, and I was; I had a feeling that Bella was an intricate part of my family’s future happiness. I would do anything within my power to guarantee that she was okay.

“Now you’re probably wondering about the gift I sent?” he asked.

“Only if you’re willing to tell me, I only want to know what you’re comfortable telling me.”

“That’s fine, Esme, I don’t mind telling you. The locket I sent to Bella is a family heirloom. I gave this locket to my wife, Ruth, right after the birth of our son, Daniel. When Daniel and his wife Katie Sue had their first born, Mary, my wife passed it on to Katie. It has made a similar passing with each and every generation. The fact that Bella is receiving it now by me, instead of her mom, was probably upsetting to her. I broke the tradition doing it the way I did.” He sighed frustrated, and then continued, “I never wanted her to get upset. I should have waited to give it to her when I got up there, but I wanted her to have a piece of us with her, now, instead of later. I thought it might be helpful having a piece of her mom with her.”

“I understand, Thomas. You wanted her to know she was loved and that her connection to your family will never break. It was a very thoughtful idea and it may have transpired differently if she hadn’t just had an argument with Edward,” I confessed to him. He had a right to know that there were some difficulties between Bella and Edward, nothing that I could see being a long term problem, but something that was a concern nonetheless.

“What kind of an argument did she have with Edward? What happened?” I could hear the concern and a sound of protectiveness come into his voice. Once Thomas got to town, Edward was going to have to tread carefully when it came to how he treated Bella.

“Did Bella tell you what transpired the first day at school?” I asked, wondering how much he knew.

“She didn’t, but your husband told me that Edward had to leave right away due to his reaction to Bella’s scent. That you all were working with him, by exposing him to Bella’s scent on a round-the-clock basis so that he could get acclimated to her. Is that correct?” he asked.

“That is correct. Each day, at least twice a day, Alice is bringing Edward something with Bella’s scent attached to it so that he has constant exposure. He has stayed away from school during this time, not wanting to inflict any harm to her.”

“That makes sense, and I’m extremely grateful that you are all working with him on this, but why did they get into an argument?” he asked, sounding confused.

“Well there is something you should know about my son. He has a tendency to beat himself up when he feels that he is not handling something the way he thinks he should. All week long he has been in a miserable mood, angry with himself and every time Bella would call him to check and see how he was doing, he would be so caught up with his own hatred he never realized how rude he was acting on the phone. Unfortunately, Bella didn’t realize that his anger was not meant towards her, but was directed towards himself.”

“Let me guess, she had enough of his behavior and she went off on him?” Thomas asked with a chuckle.

“Actually, it was his change in demeanor with today’s phone call that set her off, though I think it was the final straw for her. My son, Jasper, had mentioned that he has felt her emotions getting more unsettling throughout the week, what with starting a new school, injuring herself, not to mention the fact that she is still dealing with her mother’s death, I can fully understand why she would finally breakdown.”

“Esme, what happened with today’s phone call?” he asked me.

“Today’s was Edward’s first day of handling Bella’s scent with any form of true restraint. When Bella called him, his happiness…well, I guess you could say it was the straw that broke the camel’s back,” I admitted.

“Is Edward going to apologize to her?”

“Yes. In fact he called me begging to have the chance to apologize a little while ago, but I thought it was best for her to rest.”

“I had gotten a little blip that Bella was angry about something, but at the time I was meeting with the realtor regarding her mom’s house. I wasn’t able to get away and in fact had just gotten off the phone with him a couple of minutes ago.”

“Have you had any luck?”

“Actually, a young couple is interested in buying it. They hope to make several renovations to try giving the place a new sense of beginnings, but I think we will be able to close as early as next week.”

“That’s wonderful. Does that mean you’ll be able to come up here soon after?”

“I’m hoping to move into a little house I found online in Port Angeles by the end of next week.” I could hear the happiness in his voice when he said that. I was sure he was very anxious to get closer to Bella.

“What about your own house that you have down there?”

“I’m actually going to be renting it out. I figured that I should keep the place, in case one day Bella ever wants to return to the Phoenix area.”

And I was sure, Bella being his only living relative that he would want to ensure her happiness. I could only imagine how lonely he was being separated from her right now.

“Will you let us know if you need anything? It doesn’t matter what it is. If you want some help with the move to Port Angeles, or if you need something for Bella, please don’t hesitate to ask.”

“That’s very kind of you, but I don’t want to take advantage of your kindness.”

“You wouldn’t be doing anything of the sort. Most of my family already considers Bella a part of the family, which means you are, too. We help and look out for our family so I want you to take my offer seriously. Please?” I requested.

“Thank you, Esme. That means the world to us.”

“Did you want me to have Bella give you a call when she wakes up?”

“Let her know that I’m here to talk if she wants to when she wakes up. A lot of the time she has to work out her feelings on her own before she will open up to anybody else. Bella has a selfless nature, and she’ll do whatever she feels she needs to do in order to protect the feelings of others. There are some days that she will be very quiet, she’ll refuse to open up but once she’s ready she will talk to me about it.” He paused for a moment before he continued. “Renee always said she was a lot like Charlie in that way. She will agonize over a decision or work her way through her emotions, but once she’s settled regardless of what it is, she is for the most part fine.”

Though I understood her need to protect the ones she loved, I just hoped she didn’t let herself hurt too much before she would finally turn to someone.

“If you could also let her know that I have sent her the items she needs for our side of the family for her Biology project?”

“Of course I will.” This must be the project I heard her mention for a moment while she was talking to Edward on the phone.

“Thank you again, Esme, for everything.”

“You’re welcome. I’ll talk to you later, Thomas.”

“Bye.”