Thursday, June 21, 2012 | By: Drotuno

Coming Home Chapter 31 - Bella

~oOo~

Seattle... Friday, May 14, 2010 at 5:33 A.M.

I had just pulled a batch of chocolate chip cookies out of the oven when the phone rang, startling me enough that I nearly dropped the tray, burning my finger in the process.

"Ow, shit," I hissed as I reached for the phone and hit Accept.

"Bella? What's wrong?" Edward sounded alarmed at my curse.

The corner of my lip turned up in a smile as I stuck my finger in my mouth to soothe the sting for a second. "Hi," I said, my voice breathy, without thinking to answer his question.

"Hi, sweetheart," he chuckled. "Wanna tell me why you answered the phone like that? I'm sorry if I woke you up."

"I wouldn't have cared if you had," I told him, shaking my head and moving to the sink. My finger wasn't even really red, but it still stung a bit. I turned the cool water on and held it under that while we talked. "I couldn't sleep, so I've been baking cookies to take to Forks later. The phone startled me, and I almost dropped the pan. It's all good, though. No cookies were harmed," I teased him.

"You all right, beautiful? Not burned?" His concern was sweet and made me smile once more.

"Nope, just hurt a little, but it looks fine. I'm going to turn off the oven and just let these cool, so we can talk." I moved to do just that before walking into the living room. "Is everything okay? I didn't expect to hear from you so soon."

He barked a laugh, and I realized how that must have sounded.

"Oh, God," I groaned, shaking my head. "I didn't mean it that way." Laughing, I said, "I'm glad to hear your voice, truly. I just figured you were probably busy so I would have to wait to talk to you on the phone until after the weekend."

His laughter died, and he was quiet for a moment. "You sounded shattered in your email, sweetheart. It just about broke my damn heart, and I couldn't wait another moment to call and hear your voice. I'm so fucking sorry about little Christopher."

I sighed, getting comfortable on the couch. "Thank you, Edward. I can't help but blame myself just a little bit, ya know?" He made a noise like he was about to protest, and I hurried to continue explaining what I'd meant. "I know I didn't put the bruises there, but I've known for weeks that something was wrong, and I just didn't trust my instincts. If I had...if I had spoken to the principal weeks ago, he wouldn't have the bruises and..."

Feeling like I was going to be sick, I closed my eyes and breathed through my nose, willing the nausea away.

I must have been quiet for too long, because Edward prompted me, "And what, beautiful?"

Without opening my eyes, I mumbled, "Cigarette burns. Two fresh and several old spots on his upper back, near his shoulder."

I broke down in tears again, feeling the weight of knowing I could have saved Christopher from at least the latest round of abuse had I gone to the principal when I'd first suspected what was going on. Edward murmured soothing words and sounds, his voice wrapping itself around me in as much of a hug as he could give me at the moment, and let me cry it out.

"I-It's m-my f-fault h-he d-didn't g-get ou-out o-of th-there s-sooner." My tears made my words come out as broken as I felt at the moment, and I was close to feeling like I was going to hyperventilate.

Edward cursed under his breath, barely loud enough for me to hear. "Isabella, put that thought of you being responsible out of your head right now. How many days did you take food for him to make sure he had something to eat? How often did you speak kindly to him? It may not feel like it, sweetheart, but I promise, you helped him more than you know. Remember, he's the one that wouldn't let you go when he had to tell his story."

Eventually, Edward's sweet words broke through and helped calm me until I was sniffling, but not crying.

"Talk to me," I requested, needing to hear his voice. "Just...anything."

He hummed in thought, and the sound just...did something to me. My heart melted a little, and a small smile crept up on my face.

"You know, Emmett having to streak wasn't the only bet he's lost. And Jasper's no fucking saint." He chuckled. "When we first arrived at base camp here, there was a squad that was really into golf. They set up a small driving range on the base and everything. Um...Emmett can't golf...but he thinks he can. He thinks if it's a sport, then he can at least attempt it."

I rolled my eyes, well aware of Emmett's boastful nature on his sporting abilities.

"They used to challenge each other to different tests of ability, kind of like HORSE in basketball. They'd say where they were hitting it and where it was going to land, and if they did it, then the next guy went. Losers usually had to do something stupid, like steal the CO's Jeep or take something from the General's office.

"We were new...I told him not to take the challenge, because he swung a golf club like a baseball bat, and they are two completely different things. He lost miserably. Even Jasper beat him, and Jazz hates golf.

"They made him eat a scorpion. One of those big bastards, too. Asshole was sick for days..." he finished with a snicker of amusement.

"Oh my damn," I laughed, shaking my head. "I bet that's when he told Rose he had come down with the flu. Why he hides that shit from her, I'll never know. It's not like she thinks he's a perfect angel..."

He laughed again and then asked, "So you were making cookies, hmm? You said to take down to Forks?"

"Yup," I answered, popping the "p."

"Mmm," he moaned softly. "If you happened to set some of those aside for me, I might be convinced to...make it worth your while."

I had a hard time not melting into a puddle on the couch at the purr in his voice, but instead, I decided to tease him. "Sergeant Masen, I think you just like me for my cookies..."

"Beautiful," his voice rumbled, low and sexy, "the cookies are just a perk. They say the way to a man's heart is through his stomach, you know..."

Giving a truly girlish giggle, I said, "Well, I might have a few already boxed up. I suppose I could address it to you."

"Good girl," he replied, making me laugh once more.

With a sigh, I looked at the clock. "As much as I don't want to, babe, I need to go. I have to finish one more batch of cookies and pack for the trip. We're leaving straight from school."

"You guys be careful on the drive down. Email when you get there and let me know you arrived safely?" There was a hint of worry in his voice, which was totally endearing – even if it was unnecessary.

"I will," I promised.

"Good. I'll be sure to check before we head out for our shift."

I smiled at the thought of him waking up and checking his email first thing. "Hey, Edward?" I couldn't let him go without one last thing...

"Yeah, sweetheart?"

"Thank you," I said, my voice breaking as I remembered why he'd called. "It means a lot that you called and let me cry. I feel a lot better than I did an hour ago."

"Anytime, beautiful," he sighed. "Anytime."

I didn't want to say goodbye, so instead, I simply said, "I'll talk to you again soon," and then hung up the phone, my head falling back to the couch as fresh tears filled my eyes.

~oOo~

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