(FORKS, AUGUST 2004)
"What do you mean, he spoke?" Carlisle's voice rose an octave with surprise at Bella's sudden revelation. With a quick glance into the rear view mirror he made sure there was no one driving behind them, then he pulled over. When the car came to a standstill, he shut off the engine and turned in his seat.
Bella wasn't looking at him but at her fingers, that were nervously fiddling with the lid of the empty Tupperware box in her lap. She looked uncomfortable, to put it mildly. 'No wonder', Carlisle thought. It had been a strained evening for all of them, what with Edward behaving so strangely.
When he came home from his shift tonight, Bella had still been there when she should have been home long since, and his apparently very agitated son was clinging to her for dear life. Edward was on the verge of an anxiety attack, and no cooing or pleading would make him let go. Esme was also very upset. She even once tried to take Edward's hand and drag him away from Bella, half-heartedly so. But that had only made things worse.
It turned out the only way to put Edward to sleep tonight was with Bella at his bedside, holding his hand. The girl had assured the Cullens several times that she didn't mind, and so Carlisle called her father, explained the situation as best as he could and then had asked for permission to have Bella stay for a little longer, promising to see her home himself as soon as Edward was asleep. Chief Swan had not been exactly thrilled, but Carlisle told him it was an exceptional, one-time situation that would most likely occur never again.
Little did he know...
But now that he was looking at the squirming girl in the passenger seat, he finally got the notion that there was more behind this evening's events. And the information she had just blurted out without warning shook him to the core.
"Edward spoke? To you?"
Bella kept her eyes trained on her hands and nodded.
"God, Isabella, that is... why didn't you mention it before? And what did he say?"
Bella drew in a shattered breath before she merely whispered, "He said just one word; he said 'no'. But he did it twice, and I'm sorry, but I... I... I didn't want you or Mrs. Cullen to get mad at me, and I know I should have called when it happened, and I wanted to, but..." The last words came out between hiccoughs and sobs, and her shoulders were shaking.
"Now, now...," Carlisle soothed. He gently took her small hands; they were ice cold. He started to rub them comfortingly between his palms. "Isabella, won't you tell me what has happened today? I promise, I won't get mad at you, and neither will Esme. But we need to know, don't you think?"
And so Bella told him. About the planned garden picnic, the dog, Edward, his cry, the spade, the cookies, the escape... everything.
She told Carlisle about the word Edward had first yelled at the dog and later whispered to her. She told him about how Edward had clung to her all day from the very moment he had dropped the spade.
She told him that she didn't really know why she hadn't called Esme but had removed every trace of their disastrous picnic and the whole dog incident instead, like she needed to conceal a crime. She didn't even remember how she had managed to remove the blanket and dishes from the lawn, or put the spade back into its place, with Edward holding on to her all the time.
All she remembered was, that there hadn't been any more cookies on the lawn when she went outside, and that she had waited almost two hours before opening the door, to make sure the dog was gone. She repeated that special bit of information several times; like it was her very pivotal point. "I swear, the dog was gone, Dr. Cullen," she sobbed, "I searched the grass for cookies, but there were none. And the dog was gone."
Carlisle was having trouble wrapping his head around the story he'd just been told, but his heart swelled for both the distraught girl and his brave son. He tried not to think about what could have happened to the kids, but focused on the fact that they both got away unharmed. He pulled Bella into a hug and held her for a long while, telling her that she had done well and that he was proud of her. He rocked her gently, telling her how special she was to his family and how thankful he and Esme were for her being such a good friend to Edward. He told her everything would be all right, until her tears had dried.
And all the while, there was one thought repeating itself over and over in his head: 'Edward spoke!' He couldn't wait to give the news to Esme.
How long have I been standing here already, staring at the front door? I don't want to be here. I try to feel ashamed about even thinking such a thing, because I know I should be ashamed. But it doesn't work that way. This is my parents' house; this is home. Or it is supposed to be... but I want to be somewhere else. I want to be with Bella, and I can't feel any shame for wanting to. She is home to me now.
I miss her.
We were together all Sunday. Talking. Touching. Making love. And she let me spend the night. More talking, more love-making. I didn't know I could do that much talking, but it was easy as always with Bella. I like the talking. But I like the touching more. I miss the touching. It's like I can still feel her... her hands, her skin, her lips... everywhere on me. And then again not. I guess this is what phantom pain feels like.
She went to work in the morning and we said goodbye in the stairway. I started missing her the very moment she left the house. I felt lost, disoriented. I wanted to follow her, but of course I didn't. I knew it was ridiculous, but the urge was so strong. I stood there in the stairway for quite a while, scrutinizing the strange feeling of being uprooted that had come over me.
I think I would have followed her eventually, but I don't even know where she works. She is a cashier in a drugstore; that's what she told me. But where? What drugstore? I wish I had asked her. And how long is her shift? Maybe she's at home already. What if she doesn't come home? What if something happens to her? How can I go inside and have dinner with Esme and Carlisle when I don't know where Bella is and whether she is ok? I can't even call her. We didn't exchange numbers...
My cell phone in my pocket vibrates and interrupts my frenzied thoughts. It's only then I notice I've been tearing at my hair again. It's a bad habit. I'll probably get a head-ache later. Doesn't matter. I whip out my phone and flip it open. It's Esme.
"Sweetie, are you coming? We were just wondering if you -"
"I'm here," I cut in. There's a moment of silence, then I hear a typical 'Esme' sigh.
"How long have you been 'here'?"
"Edward, are you all right?"
"No," I say truthfully. My heart is beating much too fast and I have trouble breathing. I can't stop thinking about Bella, can't stop imagining the crazy scenarios of all the bad things that could happen to her. I can't stop thinking, 'What if she doesn't come back?'
Before I can say anything else, the front door of my parents' house opens and Carlisle comes out. He takes in my appearance, and whatever he sees, it makes him forego any greeting.
"Edward, what is it?"
As always, it is hard for me to talk to Carlisle, or to even look at him. That hasn't changed much. But I hear genuine concern in his voice, and this is an emergency, sort of. I raise my head and my eyes find that special spot right next to his right ear, about 4 inches above his shoulder, and I suck in a wheezing breath.
"It's Bella, Sir," I choke out. "We need to call her." I'm losing it; this is silly. I need to get a grip.
"Edward." I hear them both call my name, Esme over the phone and Carlisle right in front of me. He steps a little closer. He is telling me to calm down. He is extending a hand towards me as if to touch my shoulder. And I'm losing it. I drop my cell and its shell shatters into pieces as it hits the pavement. I flinch and tug at my hair. Darkness floods my field of vision from the edges until there's just a small circle of light left in the center. And then Esme appears in my pinpoint view. She pulls my hands out of my hair and I'm taking gulps of air and, thinking of Bella, I know I need to come back. I need to come down. This is important. Esme's lips are forming words. What is she saying? I need to focus.
"...it about Bella? Take a deep breath and tell me what happened."
Right. Bella. What happened? "She left." No, that sounds stupid. "For work. She's at work, and I... I don't know..."
"What, darling?" Esme is rubbing my shoulders; it drives me insane. I don't want her comfort now. I need to find Bella; I need to know she is ok.
"I don't know where... I don't know..." Calm down, calm down, breathe...! All this anxiety is only making things worse, but it is so hard to pull myself together with Esme's frantic rubbing and stroking. I brush her hands off of me and take a step back. She casts a quick glance to Carlisle and when she turns to face me again, she looks hurt.
"What has she done to you?" she whispers, and there's an angry crease between her brows. Done to me? Who? Bella? No! What...? Another rush of panic. Please, no... why doesn't she understand?
"Edward." It's Carlisle. I can't deal with Carlisle now. Not when even Esme is being difficult. I don't want to. Not now. But his voice is insisting, and from the corner of my eye I see him lay a hand on Esme's shoulder, keeping her from further inquiry.
"Edward," he says again, "son, what is it you don't know? What's troubling you?"
Oh... right question, good question. Relief floods through me because the right question always helps me to say what needs to be said. I manage to look at him, well... at his chest, that is. My stomach turns; there's a burning in my throat and in my nose, and I know if I don't say it right now I won't be able to say it at all. I feel my face contort the very moment I speak, and the words come out like a moan.
"I don't know if she'll come back!" I blurt out the essence of my dread. And then everything gets blurry. My eyes are burning now, too. I blink, and they spill over. Hot. Wet. Down my cheeks. Weakness. Pain. "What if she doesn't come back?" I whisper, to no one in particular. It's just a thought. A terrible, irrational, devastating thought I cannot get out of my head.
"Oh sweetheart... did you two get into a fight?" Angry Esme is gone, caring Esme is back. I shake my head no. Speaking is impossible right now; I can't stop swallowing. I don't even know what it is I'm swallowing over and over.
"Then what... why...?" Esme starts again, but Carlisle interrupts her, squeezing her shoulder with intent.
"I'll go and get her," he says. "I know where she works."
Before I can even think, my head shoots up and my eyes meet his. And what I see there makes me hold his gaze for the first time ever. He understands. He understands what I'm going through. I hear Esme gasp.
"Don't worry, I'll get her," he says again. "If she's already home, I'll pick her up there. You and Esme just go inside, calm down and set an additional place in the meantime. I'll find her, Edward, and I'll bring her here, ok?"
God, yes! I swallow once more. A shudder runs through me, head to toe. My eyes drift away and settle on the safe spot next to his face again. I only manage a few words, but I mean them. I feel them.
"Thank you, Sir."
(FORKS, AUGUST 2004)
"Shall we open it?" Bella asked excitedly. She was getting a little impatient, since Edward had been staring at the wrapped present she had brought for minutes now. She had been rattling on about how much fun it had been for her to make what she thought was the perfect thing to give to him, without giving anything away, of course. "Come on," she huffed. "I would think at least you should be a little bit curious."
Well, Edward wasn't exactly fond of surprises, except for when it came to Bella's cookies. And there weren't cookies under that wrapping, that much he could see. It was flat and soft. He eyed it warily.
"Don't you want to know what I made for you?" Bella cooed.
Edward looked up at her with a totally earnest expression, and said, "No."
'Great', Bella thought, 'his favorite word! Oh no, wait... it's his only word!'
With a dramatic sigh, she snatched the package off the table and started to unwrap it herself. She chuckled when she saw Edward craning his neck.
Oh yes, he so does not want to know what it is!
The last piece of paper wrapping fell away, and what came forth was a piece of red fabric. She quickly pulled it behind her back and got up from her chair. She rounded the table and held out her hand; Edward took it without hesitation and followed her into the hallway. In front of the big coat rack mirror, Bella grabbed him by the shoulders and turned him so that he faced his own reflection, and stepped behind him.
"Close your eyes and raise your arms," she commanded with a smirk. Edward did as he was told; he trusted her completely. Which was a huge mistake, because Bella quickly stripped him of his polo shirt and then insidiously took advantage of his vulnerable posture. Without warning she tickled his armpits, resulting in a severe squirm-and-giggle fit on Edward's behalf. They ended up in a heap of limbs on the floor, with Bella's hands trapped under Edward's arms, both kids snorting and gasping for air.
After that, it took quite a while until Bella had made the boy resume his former position, face to the mirror, arms raised. He was still grinning and his arms twitched overcautiously when Bella moved closer. "Tickle-truce!" she snickered. "I promise! Stay still now..."
Gently, she slid the red fabric, which turned out to be a t-shirt, over his arms and head, and smoothed it down. "There you go," she whispered.
Edward looked at his reflection in the mirror and smiled. The black lettering stood out prominently on the bright red shirt. He didn't quite get the main point of it, but he was excited that Bella had made something especially for him. Very much so.
"Do you like it?" Bella asked, biting her lip.
He turned to look at her, and nodded.
She still worried her bottom lip, looking a little anxious. So Edward decided to rise to the occasion and make an effort to let her know, really know, that he indeed liked her gift. He softly spoke his second word.
Then he turned around again, oblivious of Bella's surprised gasp behind him, and admired once more his new, unique piece of clothing. The print on his chest was showing back-to-front in the mirror, but Edward had no trouble reading it.
It said, 'Chatterbox'.