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Twelve years ago Edward left Bella thinking she would be safe and happy away from the dangers of his world. She wasn't. How can he make it up to her?
Each chapter written from a different POV with some overlap as the same incident is seen from a different perspective. Some new characters of my own imagination.
You know, all the recognisable characters are not mine. They belong to Stephanie Meyer and I hope I've used them in the spirit in which she created them.
24. Esme - Tanya's Invitation
Word Count 4482
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I wished Carlisle was with us. He was so much better in social situations than I was. People warmed to him, with me there was the problem of overcoming my natural shyness. Bella was one of the few people I got on with straight away, possibly because I could see that she was even shyer than I was! Now I had a houseful of guests who were complete strangers and I didn’t know what to say to them.
Luckily, before I panicked too much most of the Quileute left to go back to their own homes. For the thirty seconds after they had left no one said anything. I had to break the ice or Carlisle would turn up and it would still be utter silence.
“Isn’t it nice and peaceful now?”
“Embry and Tanya should arrive sometime today” Leah said as if worried that I would be upset.
I laughed. “Well by then no doubt we would be thinking that it was too quiet with just us. It is probably very hard for you Huilen, but I am used to having my family around me along with the accompanying noise and confusion.”
“It is usually just Nahuel and me. We do not usually mix with others.”
“Do you know how you want to live in the future? I mean I know you would like to convert to our diet, but would you want to continue your solitary lifestyle after a period of adjustment?” I wasn’t sure that it was fair to ask that question now when Huilen probably hadn’t even had the chance to take on board the consequences of Nahuel and Leah’s relationship.
“I do not know” Huilen confirmed my thoughts. “Nahuel and Leah may want to make a life together as part of Leah’s tribe. They are both hybrids and will find a degree of comfort in that acceptance. It will be very hard for me to adjust to a life of living among humans. Even though I fed just four days ago, I still feel the pull of Bell’s blood. How do you stand it?”
I wasn’t sure if she was asking me or Edward, but I answered anyway. “We love Bella so would never want to hurt her. But also we are very committed to our ideal of not feeding off humans so although it is sometimes hard, we resist. It does get easier with practice.”
“And you?” she looked at Edward.
“Nothing is more appealing to me than the scent of Bella’s blood so since I can resist that I can resist any human’s blood. Although I have to admit that it was very hard when I first met her, before I really got to know her. I even had to leave town for a while to get away from the temptation!” Edward smiled as he remembered. “Once I even tasted Bella’s blood. Nothing tastes better to me, and yes I have lived off human blood for a few years so I do have some comparison; but if I were to drink Bella’s blood it would in all likelihood lead to her death. That is an outcome that my entire being rejects because I will not live in a world without Bella. The equation is simple, if Bella dies, I die. So for my own self preservation Bella must stay alive.”
“So how did you taste her blood?” Leah asked as if she thought Edward was prevaricating.
“She was bitten by James, mate of Victoria thirteen years ago. To stop the venom from spreading I sucked her blood until there was no more venom in her system.”
“And stopping was probably the hardest thing you ever did” I said full of pride in my boy.
“No, leaving her was the hardest thing I have ever done” he replied, regret clear in every syllable.
I decided to change the subject. “Leah, do you live on the reservation?”
“No, when I stopped phasing, that is changing into a wolf, I moved to Olympia where I work as an accounts clerk. I don’t know if it is going to be feasible to keep my job now. I really cannot risk transforming into a wolf in the middle of the office because I’m annoyed over something. I will need to speak to Jake because he might order me to return to Forks for the time being, and Nahuel and I need to think about what we want to do. I’m not due back at work until January the third so I have until then to decide on that front anyway.”
I really didn’t think that it was very long at all. Poor Leah.
“I do not know what I would like us to do in the long term, but I think I would like us to be closer to your family while we both adjust to the changes in our lives. Would you mind not going to work in Olympia in January?” Nahuel asked her.
I knew that the imprinting meant that Leah would do whatever Nahuel needed her to do, but she seemed to glow at the idea that he would ask her as a favour, even one that was clearly taking her needs and comfort into account.
“If that is what you wish then I will send a message to my boss telling her that I will not be returning to work. I will also let my landlord know that I am surrendering the lease on my apartment. We will need to go there though to collect all my belongings. I’m sure I could store them at my mom’s or Seth and Angela’s.”
“Our garage here is very nearly empty if you wish to use that to store things” I offered.
“I think we walked past it. It would take a lot of cars for it to not be nearly empty!” For the first time Leah smiled at me.
I laughed a little with her. “At one point we had six cars in it while we lived here. There was still room for a few more. There was always the possibility that we would all want our own vehicle so we built accordingly.” I looked to Edward, “When will you wake Bella?”
“I suppose I could prepare the Jacuzzi for her now so that it’s ready as soon as she is. That travelling really wasn’t good for her so soon after her operation. Still she wanted to come and see Jake and his family so...”
“So that’s what you made sure she did” I finished for him as he left to prepare Bella’s bath.
Leah looked at me as if she wanted to ask something but didn’t know how. Nahuel looked at Edward as if he wanted to ask lots of questions but didn’t know how. The only one of us who seemed at ease was Huilen.
“Does Bells need a lot of looking after?” Huilen asked.
“Yes and no” I replied. “Bella managed without Edward for twelve years, eleven since the crash that left her so injured, but even though she has had two surgeries in the four months since we met up again I have to say that the care that Edward has shown, plus what little the rest of us have been allowed to give, does appear to have made a remarkable difference. Bella looks, walks and talks so much better than she did last September. And Edward is so much happier with Bella in his life so we have all benefitted.”
“I still don’t understand why, if he loved her then, did Edward not check up on her, not know that she was being targeted by some of your lot.” Leah sounded more frustrated than sceptical as I would have thought she would have really felt.
“Because following the usual pattern Victoria should have targeted Edward, not Bella. Bella should have been safer with him gone.”
Leah looked at me as if she wasn’t sure about something, like she was weighing up the pros and cons of a particular action. “She wasn’t safe from the second he left” she had clearly decided on a particular path. “Sam found her in the early hours of the morning in the forest. She was soaked through and completely catatonic. He could smell that she was alive, but he didn’t think she would be for much longer she was in such a state. The image of Isabelle that night has haunted him ever since. And since the pack share thoughts, it has haunted the rest of us too. Then there was the state she was in the first time Jake saw her in the hospital after the crash. That is why the pack feel so protective of her, except for me. I hated her and him for being responsible for putting those images in my head. I much prefer the images I’m getting now of a vampire being at her beck and call, doing something against his better judgement for no better reason than she wants him to. They’re a lot more entertaining.”
“Why does she have different names and why did she crash?” Nahuel clearly thought it would be a lot easier if she only had a one name.
“I’m afraid I don’t know, you’ll have to ask Bella. All I know is that her full name is Isabella, but when we first knew her she liked to be called Bella.” I didn’t want to talk about the crash.
“When she finally decided she didn’t want to live without Edward, about a year after he left her I think, she drove her car onto rail tracks expecting to be killed by a train. Apparently it is a medical miracle that she survived, but as you see, she still suffers from the injuries” Leah explained in what I thought was a non-judgemental way.
“So in trying to save her, he nearly killed her. That is why Edward looks after her so dearly” was Huilen’s opinion.
“No” Nahuel said. “That is why she makes the decisions in their relationship now. He looks after her so dearly because he loves her so dearly. That is how it should be.”
That was when I decided that I really liked Nahuel.
Luckily for my peace of mind, Embry and Tanya soon turned up. They took me a little by surprise since they arrived by foot each with a back pack presumably with their luggage.
They immediately lightened the atmosphere.
“Hey Leah. Welcome back” Embry said with a grin, “and welcome to the club” he added with a laugh towards Nahuel and Tanya.
“Hi Embry. Thanks and congratulations.”
“Let me introduce everyone” I said and made the introductions.
“Where’s Bells?” Embry asked.
“Recovering from the journey” I replied. “She’ll be down shortly. Can I get you a drink Embry?” and I felt guilty that I hadn’t offered one to Nahuel and Leah all the time Bella was absent.
By the time the refreshments were prepared Edward was carrying Bella down the stairs.
“Perfect timing, I’ve just made tea. And you look a lot better, Bella.”
“Feel better too, almost good enough to handle stairs.”
“There is absolutely no need for you to have to handle stairs at all so why put yourself through the agony? Stairs, like lifting things heavier than a cup of tea are verboten for another four days at least, remember.”
“Ja mein fuhre” Bella retorted.
“I hate to burst your bubble Bella, but it’s very hard to pull that sarcasm off when you’re still in his arms” I laughed at her.
Embry looked at Bella in resignation and asked what she had done now.
“Me, I did nothing. I had to have my broken rib cage replaced which meant a lot of work on my spine, detaching the old one and replacing the new, and a little bit of remodelling on my right shoulder where bone was still growing.”
Tanya looked a little embarrassed about Bella needing a new rib cage and Leah and Embry a little worried at the seriousness of the operation she had.
“Shouldn’t you still be in hospital Bells? It doesn’t sound like it was just a little op.”
“Not you too Embry. Carlisle said I could leave the hospital provided certain precautions were followed. I’m following them. I’m not lifting anything, I’m barely walking anywhere, I stand or sit with my back and shoulders straight, I keep my wound clean, my bruises cool, I follow my exercise regime, take all my medications and I usually see more of the doctor at home than I would in the hospital. So what’s everyone’s problem?”
Edward and I were amused. Everyone else looked at Bella as if she were an unexploded bomb as Embry reassured her that there was no problem, “honest”.
“Good, so what did I miss?” humour was once more restored.
Nahuel told her, and Embry and Tanya, what Edward said to Jacob about bursting into their room. Embry and Tanya laughed.
“I say we make sure we give him a real eye full if you catch a hint of him doing it again. I promise you he won’t do it again after that” Bella suggested grimly.
“I think I prefer the option of breaking his arms” Edward replied and I marvelled again at how Bella no longer blushed. I thought it a real shame.
Leah explained her and Nahuel’s decision for her to not return to work in Olympia.
“If you would like, you are very welcome to stay with us, for a short while, or long term, all three of you” Tanya offered to Leah, Nahuel and Huilen.
“Thank you. I will consider your kind offer” Huilen said.
Tanya pointed out that where they lived was almost half way between our current home and the reservation and was plenty big enough to accommodate everyone.
I thought it was very gracious of Tanya and probably a good idea. I didn’t think it was really the best idea to have Huilen in such close proximity to Bella for very long and where we lived in Carcrix was very close to the human population.
Carlisle called and said that he should arrive at Port Angeles at about five to ten. He asked if I would collect him so that Edward could stay with Bella.
“And although it is a small plane it is quite spacious if you would like to join me on it for a while?”
Thankfully we had been talking so fast that although everyone else would have heard, Bella didn’t. “That is very tempting love but everyone would know what we were doing and to be frank I don’t think I could bear to be on the end of Bella’s teasing about my sex life.”
Edward, who knew all about Bella’s teasing, burst into laughter. The others looked intrigued. I told Carlisle about Jacob barging into Edward and Bella’s room and how Bella thought would be the best way to punish him. “There are many times when I miss the old shy blushing Bella” I said whimsically.
“So do I love, but there’s no doubting that this one can hold her own in a family of vampires.”
And oh how true those words were.
Bella, since she had an afternoon sleep, waited up for Carlisle to arrive. After exchanging greetings with everyone and saying how much he was looking forward to hearing everything he suggested he took a few minutes to check Bella over.
“Everything is going well, Bella. You should be back at work by the end of January” Carlisle clearly thought he was giving good news.
“What do you mean the end of January? You said two weeks away from school before.”
“That was when it was just treating your shoulder and minor adjustments to your spine and other shoulder. This was major surgery. I had to replace your rib cage and deal with the damage caused by not doing it properly straightaway.”
“Well, no matter, I am not missing any school. And you, stop looking smug. You know the situation.” The latter point was clearly directed at poor Edward.
“Bella, be reasonable. I let you out of hospital early, against my better judgement; I cannot let you go back to work too early.”
“Carlisle, I am not missing any school so find a way to deal with it. No! I am not arguing with you about it anymore. Stop stressing me out. You know stress is not good for my heart. I am not missing any school.”
And Bella walked out of the room to the top of the stairs, clearly, despite us actually not being able to see, intending to walk down them.
“Oh dear, I think I’ll make her favourite hot chocolate. Does anyone else want a drink?” and I headed to the kitchen.
“You do not walk down those stairs!” Edward shouted. “I will carry you. Why do you have to be so stubborn?” I don’t think anyone made the mistake of thinking that he really expected an answer.
“You know why Edward” but Bella answered it anyway.
“I do love, honestly. But can you please try to stop hassling poor Carlisle? We don’t know what effect stress has on vampires.”
“I’ll try, but you know how Carlisle likes to learn, just think of me as a learning experience for him. And why is everyone staring at me as if I was radioactive?”
I certainly didn’t want to be the one to test her temper. “Here you are dear, I’ve made your favourite hot chocolate” and I knew I sounded flustered.
“Erm Bells, I used to think that you were the crazy one for getting involved with vampires. Now I think they are the crazy ones for getting involved with you” Embry said. “Yelling at them to stop stressing you out when your heart was beating perfectly normally and they were the ones getting stressed out.”
For a brief half a second I wondered if Bella was playing us and then I looked at her. She was gazing at Edward with an arrested look on her face.
“Was my heart really beating normally all that time?”
“Yes love, arguing with us did not affect your heart at all.”
“So I could do more stuff?”
“No it just means that we can argue with you when you’re being unreasonable” Carlisle replied, joining in the fray.
“Carlisle, I’ll take whatever precautions you deem necessary, I promise, but I cannot miss any school.”
“I’ll think about it while you’re sleeping. I’ll also think about giving you the presents I got for you, and no, I didn’t spend a cent. Now say your ‘goodnights’ to everyone and go to bed.”
I sympathised with Carlisle. I was so glad that she wasn’t my patient. But she did have many good qualities, including a loving heart as she leant, very carefully, to kiss Carlisle on the cheek in goodnight and waved to everyone else.
I knew Edward would be able to hear our conversation even if Bella couldn’t, but he would be careful about what he repeated to her: or at least I hoped he would be.
“Why is she so intransigent about missing school?” I thought Carlisle would know.
“I have no idea, but Edward appears to know and accepts it. So now I have to apply my mind to finding a way for her to carry out her teaching duties without doing harm to my excellent surgical work” he sighed.
“Perhaps now was not the best time to come looking for you with our little dilemma” Huilen was amused.
“No, now is an excellent time, if you wouldn’t mind just giving me a short while to catch my breath. I don’t remember Bella being this exhausting before.”
This time it was Leah who was amused. “Growing up tends to have that effect on people. They know their own mind, but worse, they know how to assert it.”
“Well Bella always did know her own mind, but you’re right, she now knows how to assert it. So, Huilen, you want our help to change your diet to vegetarian – that’s our little joke to say that we don’t feed off humans. Why do you want to change?”
Carlisle was right. The success of the exercise depended on a person’s reason to change. If it wasn’t something they felt strongly about then it was never going to work. That was why Laurent couldn’t stick to the diet, he didn’t actually believe in it, he just wanted to give it a bit of a go.
“I remember being human a little, but more, I remember my human sister, Pire, Nahuel’s mother. I loved my little sister and I remember how I felt when I knew I was going to lose her, and when she died. I do not want to be responsible for inflicting that feeling onto others.”
“Nahuel, what do you think about it?”
“I do not know any humans so feel no personal link to them. But I can see that they are creatures that feel pain, sorrow, joy and happiness. I also see how they love and are loved and how the loss of that love can have a terrible price. Since I can live without killing humans, I do not want to be the reason someone has to pay that terrible price.”
I was so pleased. There was a real chance that they could be successful.
“Why now?” another good question, I thought.
“Because until we met Kachiri and her coven and they told us of you and your lifestyle we did not think that it was possible for vampires to survive without human blood.”
“Nahuel, do you want to learn to hunt animals for your food, or do you want to eat the same as humans?”
“I will eat what Leah eats.”
“As much as I like eating a rare steak I really don’t like eating raw fresh kill.”
And Carlisle asked Leah and Embry about the pack’s usual diet and other things that I couldn’t see any relevance of, unless he was just gathering information the way he liked to.
“Would you let me see if I can take a little blood from you to run some tests, Nahuel? I should get more information about your physiology that way. My best guess, though, is that it is probably similar to the packs, but I would also like to do various other tests. There is one thing that you may need to bear in mind, Nahuel, the human blood may be the reason you are not aging any more. It might not be, but until we have all the information I won’t know.”
“I would like you to carry out all the tests you can to get all the information you can. I can make better decisions with more information.”
And I was reminded why I liked him. Carlisle seemed to have started forming a plan of action for helping Huilen and Nahuel. All he had to do now was to find a way to help Bella. I had every confidence in him.
As we talked into the night, Leah and Nahuel left us to go the room set aside for their use. It was nice to see that although the relationship was very new they left together holding hands. And Tanya and Embry followed suit.
Sometime after they had left Huilen looked at us and said “I think that they need to make their home together away from me. They have their life and I think I have a different one and I need to find mine.”
“I think you are right. The newness of their relationship makes it a surprise, but the bond they share is already very strong” I noted.
“For over one hundred and fifty years I have put Nahuel first. I never thought that I would have the opportunity to put me first, but now that I do I find that I am excited by it.”
I was struck by the sweetness of Huilen’s smile. The burden of being responsible for Nahuel had lifted and, although I knew it was not possible, she seemed to have become ten years younger.
It was during a few seconds of silence between us three that I became aware of sounds from Edward and Bella’s room. Bella was talking and she sounded quite distressed.
“I can’t miss any. It hurts. Why won’t the pain go away?” and then she clearly began to cry.
“Carlisle” Edward called, quietly enough not to disturb Leah and Nahuel.
I followed Carlisle upstairs. It was a heartbreaking sight.
Bella was lying in the bed with tears streaming down her face, holding her head in her hands. Edward was holding Bella still as she was clearly trying to toss and turn.
“Headache” Edward said.
I went to Bella and slid my hands under hers so that the coldness of my skin might soothe her.
“Bella! How bad is it?” Carlisle asked, unnecessarily harshly I thought.
“It hurts, but I can’t miss any.”
I didn’t think it answered his question but Carlisle seemed to think that it did.
“Alright Bella. I’ll give you something to make the pain stop” and Carlisle gave her an injection.
In seconds Bella had eased and was not fighting Edward any more. There were no fresh tears and she wasn’t clutching at her head. I went to get a damp cloth to wipe her face.
“I don’t know” Edward answered a question that Carlisle had obviously asked. “She was talking about you finding ways that would allow her to go to work as soon as the holidays were over before she settled to sleep. She said she had complete faith in you, but now I wonder if she was trying to convince herself.”
“Monitor her heart all night. I think that these headaches, which, tell me if I’m wrong, she hasn’t suffered from since you moved in together, are caused by stress. For some reason she is very stressed out at the possibility that she might have to take some sick days.” Carlisle was feeling a little guilty at his part in causing the stress for her.
“Yes. She has had no luck with her teaching positions and she thinks she only got this one because she was the only applicant. She has a probationary period of a full school year and thinks that the school would use any opportunity to advertise for a replacement and not offer her a permanent job. I think she is frightened that if she doesn’t have the job as a fall back she will choose to stay with me because she has no option other than suicide. She needs to have the job so that she can be sure that if she chooses a life with me it is because she really wants me.”
I felt so sorry for both Bella and Edward.