It hurts so bad I can hardly breathe. And there is this thing in my mind... it is whispering to me, tempting, demanding, promising even. It doesn't have a solid shape; it is wafting and drifting apart and once it has put itself together again, it looks like a capsule. But I know it is more like a casket. A ravenous thing that will swallow the love and the pain all together and drag it down and out of reach and into oblivion if I let it. A promise of peace. So easy... it would be so easy... and final.
I'm keeping the thing in balance. An oily-shining thing it is, a brand-new capsule from down there, pitch black both inside and out. Pitch black like the place deep down inside of me where it came from. That place... no trespassing. It crawled up from the bottom of my mind when the hurt set in and I made it stop mid-rise and I now I'm holding it there. The thing is hungry. It's making me sick.
The thing is hissing and whispering like a demon. 'Give up,' it says. 'Give her up; she's not worth the hurt... you can only take so much, and you know it... give her up, give her to me... I'll make it better... you're not carved out for this... let go... your mind is too weak, too fragile... for the sake of your sanity, give it to me... love is pain... I'll make it all go away... you'll be safe... don't fight me... I can help... give up...'
I want it to shut up, so I can listen to my own thoughts instead. Which is silly, because I know those are my own thoughts, too. They're just not what I want to think.
I'm undecided. It is an un-nerving condition, being undecided. I'm keeping that thing in balance, within reach, just in case... She just promised she won't send me away, and I think she means it, but just in case... You never know, right? They had send me away once and I don't even know if she missed me. Did she ask for me while I was gone? You never know... I need this thing.
I raise my head to look at Bella, but I can't hold her eyes and another rush of nausea makes me groan. I wasn't prepared for this, not prepared. Nothing could have possibly prepared me for this. For the power she has over me, the things she can do to me. Maybe I should have known, but I know nothing. So many questions...
I need to calm down. I need to breathe. I need her eyes but I cannot find them. I want her eyes back. She's already half lost to me; can't she see that? I want her back. I need to tell her to come back right now. Right. Now.
"Please don't leave me."
I feel so sick and weak, even my voice doesn't work. Did she hear me? Should I try again? It is like one of those nightmares when it is a matter of life and death that you speak, and you open your mouth and you try so hard, but nothing comes out until it is too late.
She takes me in her arms as if she just got me, as if she knows, and oh... maybe she does! She says she won't leave me, and that thing inside me is raging. Maybe she means it. What if she doesn't? What if she does? I'm scared and undecided, but that's the point. Being undecided is the beginning of insanity. I need to make a decision. Like Esme did when she took me home. Knowing I might never love her back, knowing how damaged I am, knowing I would bring her pain and trouble... she decided to love me nonetheless. That's what she did, right?
Knowing that I have to decide, I decide easily. I choose the hurt. Loving Bella is worth bearing it. I realize that not loving Bella is just no option. If she doesn't leave me, like she promised, it will be worth all the pain in the world. And even if she'd leave, I'd still be loving her.
The thing wails and screeches, as I force it away with all I have. My body is shaking with the effort my mind makes to let go of its false promises. And then...
And the thing is gone.
I'm still scared. And I still love her. I'm scared because I love her. But I've decided.
"Ok," I say, as if that's all there is to know. But I know nothing. And the not-knowing is deafeningly loud in my head. "I have more questions."
… why does it hurt did you love your husband where is he now did you send him away were you sad when they took me away did you miss me do you love someone else now did I hurt you there in the kitchen do you notice I cannot look at you do you know why can you help me understand are you afraid do you think I'm being difficult do you want me to try harder do I embarrass you are you sad that you don't love me how come I still think you do how do you care for me will you let me make love to you again...?
So many more...
FORKS, JULY 2004:
"I'm so glad you're here," Esme stage-whispered as she ushered the girl in and closed the front door behind her. "Are you nervous? You don't need to be... ah, look who's talking. I'm nervous as hell." She smiled wryly at her guest.
After introducing eight different nannies to Edward, each of them highly-qualified and trained to work with special kids like him, Isabella Swan, high school junior, underage, underweight and so uncoordinated that she would probably kill herself by accident before she reached legal age, was the best candidate for the job. Well, she was the only candidate. Edward had made sure she was.
"I'm not nervous at all, Mrs. Cullen."
"Oh good..." Esme was actually relieved. Edward would probably notice if Bella was uncomfortable in any way and get anxious. He had given her his special version of the stink-eye all morning because she'd been so excited. "This is just a test today anyway," she continued. "You two had a great connection this once in the parking lot but I just want to make sure it'll be here to stay, ok?"
"Ok." Bella nodded earnestly.
"Just don't be upset if it's gone, Bella. You never know with Edward."
"I understand, Mrs. Cullen."
"Well, then... he doesn't speak, but he is very intelligent and understands everything, so it is important to speak to him even though he doesn't answer. Just act normal. But oh... I think you should not try to touch him this time. Maybe better wait until he -"
"Darling, you're making the girl nervous," a male voice interrupted Esme's instructions, and Bella was actually grateful to be saved by Dr. Carlisle Cullen. She had heard everything before; Esme had been very thorough the last time. Plus, Bella had a little crush on the good doctor who was extraordinarily handsome and charming. However, it wasn't true that she deliberately tried to injure herself on a regular basis just to get stitched together by his gentle hands, like her best friend Angela used to tease her. Bella Swan wasn't that crazy.
"Hi, Dr. Cullen," she greeted him cheerfully.
"Isabella," Carlisle smiled at her warmly. "How's your wrist?"
"As good as new."
"Glad to hear that. I really hope you're not planning on shedding any blood in our household, especially not your own or Edward's." The stern look that replaced his smile caught Bella off-guard and she opened and shut her mouth twice in an attempt to phrase a proper answer, before Carlisle suddenly smirked again. "I'm kidding, Isabella, relax. I'm really glad you're here. Thank you for coming."
"Oh...," Bella clutched her heart and giggled nervously, "thank God. I'm glad to be here, too."
"So this is the big moment, hm?" Carlise said and exhaled a long breath. He laid one arm around his wife and gently pulled her close. "Actually, Esme and I had agreed not give too many instructions. I assume you know we tried to introduce several nannies to Edward?"
When Bella nodded, it was Esme who continued, "Well, we really don't know why he was able to connect to you so easily, but we have a theory, sort of." She looked at her husband who gave her waist a little encouraging squeeze. Then she said, "Bella, something very special we cannot explain happened between you and Edward. But we also think it might have helped that neither of you were expecting anything, you know?"
"And that you, my dear, weren't expecting anything either," Carlisle reminded his wife. Then he turned towards Bella again. "We both believe Edward is capable of sensing our expectations, hopes, disappointment... and that's stressing him out. With each new try, we prepared the hell out of both the nanny and Edward to make sure their first meeting would go smoothly, but well.. I think we just put too much pressure on it. Maybe he doesn't need an expert for special kids; maybe he just needs a friend."
Carlisle paused to let his words sink in. He knew that, despite her young age and still childlike exterior, Isabella Swan was a very mature and responsible person, and that she would understand the significance of what he told her. "You are the only person, apart from my wife, who Edward ever tolerated touching him."
"Really? Just you and Mrs. Cullen but no one else... and now me?" Bella asked, incredulously wondering what could be so special about her.
"No, Isabella," Carlisle corrected, and a sad smile briefly crossed his face. "Just his mom, and now you. I haven't had that privilege yet."
"I'm sorry, Dr. Cullen," the girl whispered, really grasping the weight of what he told her for the first time.
"When you and he met, you both were completely unprepared, Isabella. No pressure, no expectations. He didn't even know you'd be there. We decided to keep it that way."
"You didn't tell him I'd come here today?"
"No," Esme confirmed. "As far as Edward is concerned, you're a surprise visitor. He is outside on the patio, and if you don't mind, we'd like for you to just go to him and say hi, and whatever will happen will happen. We'll be just watching from a distance. We'll be with you in a heartbeat if anything should go wrong, of course."
Bella looked from Esme's eyes to Carlisle's and back. She couldn't quite understand their worries, as she remembered the boy had been nothing but adorable and sweet like a lamb when she met him. But she could see suppressed hope and anxiety in both their faces, and for the first time in her life she felt significant. Dr. and Mrs. Cullen trusted her to be the one – and the only one at that - who could make their son's life better, and she was eager to prove she was worth it.
"Ok, I'm ready, so... let's give it a try?"
"My wife will show you the way," Carlisle said quietly, "I'd better stay back. Thank you so much for doing this."
"No prob, Dr. Cullen. I really like Edward." Bella chimed. And seeing the handsome doctor smile and playfully pointing a pistol finger at her as if they were old buddies, she felt like she'd already achieved something really good.
Esme couldn't keep herself from wringing her hands as she guided Bella through the generous living room and towards the big glass sliding doors that lead to the patio. She bit her tongue to not give some whispered last-minute instructions. Even though she had witnessed the parking lot miracle first hand, she wasn't quite as calm and trusting as her husband, because she had also been the one dealing with Edward's anxiety attacks that had ended each of the previous 'tests'.
But still... the almost painful feeling of hope she just couldn't keep in check grew, as she watched Bella now. Totally oblivious of the luxury around her, the skinny girl quickened her pace as soon as she caught sight of Edward. When they stepped outside, Esme had to take a little jump in order to catch up and get her hands on Bella's shoulders to make her stop.
Bella took in the boy who was sitting on an upholstered garden swing, head bent and eyes cast down. He was as pretty as she remembered. Like she had the first time, she immediately noticed his long lashes which were wet and spiky now, just like his hair. And he only had on swim trunks and a hoodie. No shoes. There has to be a pool somewhere around the house, she thought.
Edward had one leg pulled up under him, and his eyes were trained on the open book he was balancing on his knee. His other leg that was barely long enough to make his big toe touch the ground gave a steady momentum to the swing. There was no way he could have not noticed his visitors' presence, and though Edward gave no outward sign that he had, Bella suspected he was just pretending to be that absorbed in his reading.
Esme took a deep breath and put a smile on her face before she said softly, "Edward, sweetie, look who is here. Do you remember Isabella?"
Without averting her gaze from Edward, the girl whispered over her shoulder, "Just Bella." But Esme quietly shushed her, rubbing Bella's shoulders in a silent apology. "Isabella has come all the way to say hi to you. Do you want her to say hi to you, darling?"
There was no visible reaction from Edward. Bella decided to take Esme's last words as her cue and just do it. "Hi, Edward!" she practically hollered.
Esme winced and held her breath, and even Carlisle, who was watching from the opposite side of the living room, involuntarily took a step forward and pulled his hands out of his trouser pockets.
Edward's head had jerked up at the sound of Bella's voice; he was now looking at her, motionless, and his expression was impossible to read. Without the drive of his leg, the swinging died down quickly. When it stopped, Edward stood and the book fell to the patio with a loud thud. He didn't even blink at the noise but started to walk towards Bella as soon as his bare feet touched the ground.
"Oh my God..." Esme breathed. Tentatively, she released Bella's shoulders and took a step back.
When he stood before Bella, Edward reached out for her left hand and examined it intently. She knew at once what this was about. "You remember me, right? I'm B... Isabella." Just like he had done in the car, Edward circled the back of her hand with his thumbs. "It's gone for good," she assured him, "Told you, you did a good job, didn't I?"
Edward took a small, shuffling step closer to her and closed his eyes. When he slowly leaned forward and Bella bent in her knees, just enough to allow him to rest his forehead against hers, Esme covered her mouth with her hand to stifle her sob.