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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.

4. Bella - Acknowledgement

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I got up from the bed feeling most odd. I was sure that I had been having the nightmare again, but then it morphed into a dream about my life with him. He always used to calm my bad dreams away, and I was almost certain I heard him say that he was never going to leave me again and hum my lullaby. I hadn’t heard that tune for so long, not even in my head, that I doubted that I would really recognise it if I did hear it again now. I shuffled my way to the bathroom and began my now nightly ritual. I really did need a lot of human minutes and I half smiled at the thought. The pain was shocking. How could I have just made the joke about bodily functions that he and I used to share when he spent all his free time, especially the nights, with me? I hadn’t realised how much I missed someone with whom l could laugh. Jake and I had much in common but we never did share a sense of humour. I don’t recall us ever laughing together. How much would that realisation weigh in my thoughts about what place I would let the Cullens have in my life? Then it dawned on me. I hadn’t made any sort of a decision about him and already he had declared that he would be at my home to see me for the third evening in a row. Once again I was letting him make the decisions! But I knew that it wasn’t the same as before. If I firmly decided that I didn’t want him to come here, he would respect my wishes. My problem was that I didn’t know what I wanted. So far I had managed to avoid looking at his face. When we were together before I could barely bring myself to look away from it. I didn’t want to see sincerity there – I had believed his words before, now I wanted his actions to be how I judged him, nor did I want to see pity, shame, guilt or anything else to suggest that it was not really desire for my company that kept him coming back. My final lesson of the day was Alice’s senior class. I didn’t think that I was going to be able to pull off an attempt to pretend that she was no more than a student to me. I was just going to have to take the bull by the horns. “Before we start today, I want to tell you that I have known Alice Cullen’s family for a number of years. I don’t want any of you to think that this will benefit Miss Cullen in any way. On the contrary. Unless she has changed a great deal in the years since I last met her, I know Alice to be extremely bright and to have different way of looking at things. To that end, work that would earn the rest of you an ‘A’ will get Alice a ‘B’. An ‘A+’ would be a ‘B+’ or ‘A-‘. Anything that gains Alice an ‘A’ will be worthy of publication. Does anyone have a problem with that?” I glanced around the room to gauge reactions. Alice looked a little miffed, but pleased that I had acknowledged our past relationship. Some of the rest of the students were looking at Alice with a little pity while others looked smug. I began the lesson. It ended up being a part social history and geography lesson as I wanted the class to consider how his world influenced the work of Dylan Thomas. Most of the class didn’t know that he was Welsh which meant he was certainly not English despite being British! At the end of the lesson Alice waited until everyone else had left. “Esme will be pleased that you’ve decided to acknowledge us.” “I thought it better to be open as to the fact that we know each other without going into details. To be honest, I was sure that I would slip up at some point if I didn’t and I can’t afford to do that or the stress of worrying about it. I need to make a good fist of this job. I have been a qualified teacher for five years and although I have had good reports from all the short term vacancies I’ve filled, this is the first post I’ve been offered that even suggests the possibility of a future. I have a one year probation, one or two semesters is usual, but with my medical history, physical and mental, no one wants to take a risk on me when there are other teachers available. I was the only applicant for this job. I cannot give the school board any excuse to look for another teacher. So bearing that in mind, do you think you can warn your family for me, please? I especially need you to get him to promise to be discreet. It’s good that he isn’t coming to school, that helps me, but Alice, I’m scared.” “Don’t be. You and Esme used to be friends. Esme lost touch when we moved away but we’re all pleased at the co-incidence that has allowed us to meet up again.” “Yeah, really pleased to meet up again. Anyway, I’ve got an appointment with Carlisle. Apparently he likes to see all his new patients before they need to see him.” “I know. He warned Edward not to read his mind about you and if he does catch the odd snippet he has to immediately forget it.” “Good. I’ll see you later Alice. I’ve got to go.” I collected all my stuff together, grateful that Alice allowed me my pride and didn’t do it for me, and went to my car for my drive to Carlisle’s office at the hospital. Carlisle was waiting for me as I hobbled along the corridor. “Bella! It is so good to see you. I, I, I find I don’t know what to say to you. I am so sorry that we’re meeting again in these circumstances.” I was very conscious of Carlisle’s assistant’s listening ears, but clearly Alice had already spoken to him to let him know that I had decided to acknowledge a previous acquaintance. “Why don’t we go into your office and get the boring stuff sorted and then if you have time perhaps we can catch up a bit.” “Yes, of course, come in. You must know that I read the account of your injuries in the medical journals. I just wish I had realised at the time it was you. And naturally I have now looked at your records and I can’t believe you managed to survive the crash. And for you to be walking is unbelievable. You must be in tremendous pain.” “Some, but I’m sure he told you of what happened last night.” “Actually he didn’t.” Carlisle must have seen my start of surprise at that. “Then you should tell me if it’s medically related. But Edward did ask my advice about what can be done to make life easier for a couple of friends of his, Jane and Joe. Apparently Jane was severely injured in a car crash, not as bad as your records show you were, but bad enough. Do you know this Jane and Joe?” Carlisle asked with a smile, clearly knowing who they were meant to be. “Yes, I met Jane and Joe in Port Angeles one March evening twelve and a half years ago. What does he think he’s doing? I can’t afford even the merest hint of impropriety.” “I know you have no reason to believe me, Bella, but he loves you, completely and forever. We are very set in our ways, including temperament. When change happens, as in when he met and fell in love with you, there is no going back. He is not able to stop loving you.” “You’re right, Carlisle, I have no reason to believe you. I trust you implicitly professionally, though.” “We know we cannot change the past, but Edward cannot stand by when he can make life easier for you. He won’t do anything more to hurt you, but you will be doing the whole family a great favour if you allow him, and the rest of us, to do something to ease our consciences.” “I don’t like people spending money on me, especially guilt money.” “On the off chance that we might have forgotten, Edward did remind us of that fact when he started spewing out ideas of what we could do. Goodness, you should have heard some of the suggestions. Anyway, let’s get the boring stuff over with. Can you get into that gown and I’ll order some more up to date scans. You seem to be listing more than these scans indicate you should be so something must have changed.” Knowing that my medical insurance wouldn’t cover me for anything related to previous conditions and that scans were not cheap I went to argue. Carlisle must have guessed what I was about to say. “You should know that all the medical costs of all the school staff are free at this hospital, you just need to confirm that you work at the school at billing.” I nodded acceptance even though I knew that Carlisle must have arranged it once he saw my records and knew I would have to pay for it all. I only hoped that the rest of the school staff were not going to be as expensive as me. If I didn’t know that the Cullens had unlimited money at their disposal I would never have been able to accept their charity, no matter how much I needed it. The scan did show something different. Something was growing next to my carbon fibre spine and pushing at my left shoulder blade – new bone. “The human body’s ability to heal itself is amazing. The damaged bone from your right shoulder blade is still growing, which is not unusual since it happens with broken bones all the time, but there is nothing telling it where to stop so it is just pushing your new spine and left shoulder blade out of alignment. I’m afraid you’ll need another operation. The best option would be to re-shape the new bone growth and adjust the carbon fibre inserts accordingly. You’ll need about two weeks away from work though and I gather that you won’t accept that.” “No. Since I hadn’t noticed anything more than a dull ache it can wait until the end of the semester.” “I doubt that it will cause any more harm to wait a few more months, but the ache will intensify.” Pain was not new to me. I shrugged my acceptance thanking fate for placing me at the same town as the Cullens when I needed them since I had run out of money to pay for operations myself and needed some time to build up my savings. I told Carlisle what happened the previous evening with my back seizing. He said that the new bone growth was pushing on my ‘spine’ so the muscles were under more pressure. The seizing was likely to happen more often until the bone was re-shaped. “Given that, I want you to take this alarm. Carry it with you everywhere. I can programme any number you want into it so that the person is contacted immediately and can come to your aid.” “I’ve managed up until now. If he hadn’t been there last night I would have eventually managed to get myself to bed.” “But you would have been in a great deal of unnecessary pain. I’m putting Esme’s number in. Esme can be with you within three minutes of you pressing the alarm and you can be relaxing in no time at all. Think of it as doing Esme a favour, letting her feel that she is helping you.” I took the alarm and muttered “You’re as bad as Alice.” “Speaking of Alice, it might be as well if you work out how to get hold of her at any time in school in case it happens there. Alice can be more discreet about helping you, something that I think concerns you. Now I want you to remember your heart. No undue strain on it. This is serious, Bella, does seeing Edward strain your heart because if it does, I will persuade him to stay away? I remember how your heart used to beat, I don’t need a stethoscope or your Cardiologist’s report which, incidentally, is out of date, to know it is not strong. I know you are on the transplant list for new heart and lungs, but you need to keep calm and stress free.” “Truthfully, once I got over the shock, I’ve been okay. He tells me when he is coming to see me so I’m not surprised. He probably remembers how I hate surprises.” Carlisle offered me a new prescription for all my meds and reminded me to call him if I needed to any time since, as I knew, he didn’t need much sleep. I laughed a little at the joke. I really had missed being with people that I could joke with. I was in the middle of one of my exercises on my hand when he knocked at the door. “It’s open, come in” I said in a normal voice knowing that he would still be able to hear and carried on manipulating my left hand. “That doesn’t look like the most effective way of working that hand” he said after three seconds of studying what I was doing. “It’s not, but it’s the best I can do.” “But not the best I can do. Let me.” And with surprisingly warm hands, he gently took my damaged left hand and started to work the muscles. “Why are your hands warm?” I blurted out. “And Carlisle’s were too. How come?” “Heat pads. They’re designed for people with arthritis. We keep them in our pockets. As we massage the pad it generates heat which warms up our hands. That’s why we’ve started standing with our hands in our pockets all the time.” I had to admit, I hadn’t noticed. But I’m not a vampire with a brain capable of focussing on a number of different things at once. I watched his hands work mine quite expertly for a while. “Is this something that Joe has learned to do to help Jane?” I was a little snide. “Yes” and I could hear the smile in his voice. “Carlisle said you remembered meeting them in Port Angeles. I was surprised that you remembered something so minor.” “I remember everything you ever said to me, even the parts I wish I could forget.” “Then you must remember how much I told you I loved you. Why is it that you can believe the lie, but not the truth?” “I believe the version that your actions demonstrated to be the truth.” “I told you early on in our relationship that I should be strong enough to leave you because I was not good for you and if I did put you in danger I would leave. I even said that it proved that I cared more for you than you did for me.” “Yes, but you knew in Phoenix what effect you leaving would have on me, but still you went.” “I thought you would get over me. You were an eighteen year old human, your memories would fade, I was sure.” “Which shows how little you really knew me for all your supposed love.” “I thought it was my chauvinistic arrogance that was responsible for that. How long should I keep doing this?” I looked at my timer. It had about a minute left to run. He clearly saw the direction of my glance because he just grunted an acknowledgment. “Something I wanted to ask you, how did you find out about the wolf pack? We thought that they had died out and, in any case, they were supposed to be as big a secret as we were.” “Jake stopped being my friend for a while and I blamed the gang from the reservation that he had joined. Anyway, you already knew that he had told me about Quileute legend of the ‘cold ones’, and when I went to confront him about the gang he reminded me of the story. It didn’t take long for me to work out what had happened to him. If Victoria hadn’t kept trying to get me he might not have needed to change.” “Why? What do you mean?” “The wolf pack only develops when vampires are about and he hadn’t changed before you left. There haven’t been any new wolves for eleven years, since Victoria made her last appearance. And a couple of the old wolves have been able to stop transforming and start aging again.” “We never knew we were responsible for the pack developing. We’ll have to discuss the implications before we go back.” “So you were planning on going back?” “In about fifty year’s time. Do you think you would have still been alive?” “If I had my heart and lung transplant, almost definitely, without it, possibly.” “You need a transplant?” “Eventually. I’m on the list, but so low down that I’m not likely to get one for years if ever.” “I knew there was something very off about your heart beat, but I thought it might be more to do with your mind rather than the heart itself. Good grief, I’m surprised you didn’t collapse in shock when you heard my voice.” “I almost did. Thank goodness Alice was on the ball enough to pull me out of the fugue I was entering. How did you know it was me? I don’t look the same, especially from the back.” “The same way Alice knew who the new English teacher was as soon as she walked into the classroom, your scent.” “I thought she would have seen me coming again.” “You did keep jumping into her mind, but she knew that thinking of you upset me so she ruthlessly shut down the thoughts. This is the first school I’ve been to since Forks so a part of me was thinking that was the reason you were in our heads more than usual. This time I only managed one day of my senior year. It’s the longest I’ve gone without matriculating.” We carried on talking about nothing major, just catching up. Or so I thought until “Why don’t you listen to music anymore?” he asked. I felt my heart skip a beat then start jumping erratically. I knew I was in trouble. He of course knew there was a problem straight away. He made me lie down and was on the ‘phone, presumably to Carlisle, in a second. Two seconds later he was holding one of my heart tablets and a glass of water towards me. It seemed no time at all had elapsed and I could feel my heart calming, my breathing ease. Naturally Carlisle came to check on me. “Bella, what did I tell you about stress on your heart? What if this happens when you are alone?” “This only happens when I’m with people and I wear medi-alert and carry medication around my neck whenever I leave my home. The only way to stop it is for me to live in a bubble, and I’m not going to do that because it’s not living.” “So being with me is killing you again” he sounded almost tortured. “Stop being so melodramatic. You said something that caught me off guard. Anyone could have asked the same question and gotten the same response, in fact more than one person has.” Why was I trying to comfort him? “Then perhaps we need to work on eliminating the reason for the question.” He was talking as if it was understood that he was going to be part of the ‘we’. A part of me wanted to argue with his assumption; but a bigger part, a part that was growing, understood and accepted his assumptions. Hadn’t I known twelve and a half years ago that I was unconditionally and irrevocably in love with him? That didn’t mean that I saw a way for us to spend our life together anymore, just that I would always love him and want to be with him. “Are there any other taboo subjects that we need to deal with?” “You used to be the biggest; I guess I’ve gotten over that. I don’t know what being with you will throw up, though.” I surprised myself. I didn’t say it sadly, or crossly, more wonderingly. I had no doubt that both he and Carlisle would hear that. “Your heart, at school when you heard me speak, it stopped completely!” I didn’t know whether he was more shocked at the fact of it happening or at the fact that he had only just realised. “Yes, I thought that I was going to die. It was odd. I was thinking that the last thing I would hear was your voice, but I wouldn’t see you again. It soon started itself though. I don’t know how I got through the following lesson.” “And still, you haven’t looked at me.” “And I’m not going to. Not until I decide.” I knew I didn’t need to explain further.