Saturday, May 25, 2013 | By: Jenny

Hard to Love Chapter 8

Chapter 8
Present Day
The air was wet and chilly when I stepped outside the hospital doors. It was the middle of the afternoon, but the sun was covered by a thick, gray layer of clouds, so it felt much later. Pulling the hood up on my sweatshirt to avoid the slight rain, I checked my messages.
Dad was in with Bella. He wanted to make sure she could breathe on her own, which she could. So now, it was on her. The medicine keeping her asleep would wear off in the next several hours. My dad was sure we’d see some changes by morning. Most of the swelling had diminished to a point that made everyone working on her very happy. I was afraid to hope, but I couldn’t help but wish.
The only message I had was from Alice. It seemed Chicago’s weather had finally let up and cleared them for take-off, so they were probably already in the air. I needed to brace myself for their arrival. Not so much Jasper, but Alice could be...emotional.
I started to turn around to go back inside, when I heard, “Yo! Mr. Cullen!”
I recognized the kid instantly that was biking across the parking lot. He came skidding to a stop in front of me on the sidewalk.
Hey, Shawn,” I greeted him, smiling when he was too winded to speak for a second.
Hey,” he panted, holding up a finger. “I just heard...about Miss Swan...and I...” He eventually caught his breath. “Man, I’m sorry about your girl,” he finally sputtered out.
Thanks. What are you doing here?” I asked, helping him heave the bike onto the bike rack.
Mom,” he sighed, pointing toward the hospital. “She got a job...answerin’ phones or somethin’,” he said, but then grinned. “Now we don’t have to move.”
Smiling, I nodded. Shawn was my student that had lost his father in Iraq, and the possibility that they needed to move was one of his biggest concerns. He’d moved several times, more times than probably Emmett had with his dad when his father was in the military.
That’s good news,” I told him, patting his shoulder.
Yeah, definitely,” he murmured softly, looking down at his sneakers. “Look, I just...I wanted to tell you thanks. Not many people understand what... Well, what it feels like. I mean, I didn’t really know my dad, but...”
You still miss him,” I finished for him, waiting until he nodded and looked back up at me. “It’s normal to miss him...and to be mad at him, which you were the last time we talked. It’s all a part of the grieving process. And everyone handles it differently.”
He nodded, shoving his hands into the front pockets of his jeans. “Yeah. I’m not so mad anymore. But my mom is sad.”
I took a deep breath and let it out. “And she will be. I can’t imagine what she’s feeling. Though, I have a pretty good idea.” I pointed toward the hospital, my heart constricting with the pain that Shawn’s mother must be feeling. Looking back to him, I said, “You just have to be there for her. Kind of like how your friends were there for you. I’m pretty sure that stunt Ray pulled in the cafeteria last week was just to see you laugh.”
Shawn snorted into a deep laugh. “Oh, man...the look on Mr. Colwell’s face!”
Exactly,” I said with a chuckle. “However, Ray deserved detention for loosening the salt shaker on the teacher’s table.”
Shawn nodded, still smiling. “I didn’t think my friends would get it, but...”
Friends understand more than you think.” I shrugged a shoulder. “Well...the ones that truly care, anyway. And sometimes, you have to explain it to them.” With the approaching visit from Alice, I couldn’t imagine that truer words had ever been spoken.
He nodded and we walked through the front doors together, but before we went our separate ways, he stopped me.
I just wanted you to know,” he started, smirking a little. “The whole school’s pulling for her...for you. Mrs. Cope announced that you’d be out for a while, but to keep you in our thoughts. I even think the art class is workin’ on somethin’.” He took a step away from me toward the side hall. “So don’t be surprised when a million cards show up. Or one ginormous one.”
Chuckling, I shot him a wave. “Bella would like that. Honestly.”
I made it back to the ICU, still sporting a smile. Rose was in Bella’s room when I pulled back the curtain. But the sight in the bed made my heart pound. Gone were the tubes, except for the oxygen wrapped under her nose. Her chest rose and fell with each breath she took, her long eyelashes rested against her pale cheeks, and a few of the IV bags were gone. She looked like a sleeping angel...or Sleeping Beauty. I couldn’t decide which.
Everything looks strong, Edward,” Rose stated, placing a hand on my shoulder. “Your dad told me to tell you that all her levels are good, the swelling is down, and we should start seeing signs of her waking up by morning.”
Nodding was the only thing I was capable of, but she understood. Rose pressed a kiss to my cheek, wrapping an arm around my shoulders.
She’s tough, sweetie. From all the stories you and Emmett have told me from when you were kids, she sounds tough as damn nails. Knowing her now, she’d do anything for you, so she’s got double the will to fight,” she whispered, squeezing my shoulder before leaving the room.
Leaning over her, I simply stared at her face for a moment, finally giving in and kissing her lips just one time very lightly.
You’re so beautiful, Princess,” I sighed, pressing my forehead to hers. “I’ve missed seeing this face without all the...” I gestured to my own face like she could see me. “They keep telling me you should wake by morning,” I told her after giving her lips another light kiss before sitting down. “You might wanna rethink that,” I snorted, rolling my eyes. “The hurricane known as Alice is on her way to you now.” I grinned when her heart monitor bleeped oddly a couple of times. “Good news is that Jasper’s with her, so at least he’ll keep her under control.”
I sighed, dropping my forehead to her thigh. “I can hear you now... ‘She’s not that bad, Edward,’” I mocked her. “‘She’s just hyper, and she’s a good friend.’”
I kissed her thigh and then set my chin on it, looking up at her. “You didn’t always think that way, Bella,” I reminded her. “I almost had to step between you. Especially, when it came to me...”
~oOo~
Age 19
The library at UW was quiet as I typed on my laptop. I glanced up when Bella sat down in a huff, spreading her books, computer, and purse all along the table, but it was her face that stopped me cold. She looked like an avenging angel.
Princess?” I asked, afraid I’d done something wrong. “You okay?”
I want out of the dorms. Why can’t we live together?” she hissed, her cheeks flushing pink, but her eyes were dark fire.
Oh,” I groaned, shaking my head. I got up and walked around the table to take the chair next to hers. “Because our parents asked us kindly to live on campus for at least the first two years, Bella,” I told her. “And they are paying for college. It’s only one more year...less than that, actually.” She rolled her eyes my way, and I chuckled. “She’s that bad?” I asked, leaning an elbow on the table and reaching up to touch her very sweet, but very put-out face.
Bella groaned, her brow furrowing. “She’s not...bad, really. She’s just...social.”
Snorting, I shook my head. After our parents’ request that we live on UW’s campus the first two years, Bella and I had ended up in different dorms. My roommate was perfect. Jasper Whitlock was straight out of Austin, Texas, fairly clean, and very, very laid-back. We were both looking into education, so we had a lot of the same classes. We got along extremely well. In fact, he’d become a damn good friend over the last year and a half.
Bella, however, had not been so lucky. Her first year, her roommate had been fine. Bree had been a shy, quiet girl, and she and Bella had gotten along perfectly. Bree hadn’t come back this year, and for some reason, the school had paired Bella up with someone that couldn’t be more opposite. Alice Brandon. She was a southern socialite out of Mississippi, a rapid-fire talker, and a party girl. The mere idea that she could crack a book was laughable, but she seemed to be a decent student.
And she didn’t like me. At all.
It wasn’t really me she didn’t like; it was the idea that Bella and I had been together so long. She didn’t understand how we weren’t living it up in college, weren’t taking advantage of the freedom away from home. In other words, she thought Bella should be partying and sowing wild oats – like she was. Plus, she detested how protective I was over Bella when we went out, which was rare anymore, because I definitely wasn’t changing how I did things. She thought me controlling, yet she constantly picked on Bella for how she dressed, which pissed me off to no end.
I just want to stay with you,” Bella whined, cupping my face and looking all pitiful. “Why is that bad?”
I kissed her lips, grinning a little. “Because our parents aren’t stupid, Princess. They know we’re probably going to be together after this year is over. I think they want us to experience time apart before we move in together.”
Maybe I could just sneak in with you and Jasper,” she pouted, smirking when I laughed. “I know, I know,” she finally sighed, waving a hand. “I get it. I just...wish she’d let some shit go, you know?”
Grimacing, I nodded and then kissed her cheek. “I gotta finish this paper, baby. But after that, we can get something to eat, okay?”
She nodded, kissed my lips, and muttered, “Sounds good. Love you.”
Love you, too, Princess,” I sighed against the top of her head when I got up to go back to my chair.
College was a busy time for us, so we took advantage when we could. Bella and I were in some of the same basic classes together, but she was going for business management, whereas I had considered teaching or some sort of counseling. I wanted to help kids like me.
After that evening in the library, it was almost a week before I saw Bella again. We’d just been swamped – papers, tests, and classes took us away from each other. But Friday had rolled around and Jasper and I wanted off the damn campus, so he’d suggested pizza and the movies. We headed to Bella’s dorm, which was pretty deserted since it was the start of a long weekend. As we hit her floor, we looked to each other when we heard raised voices.
The door was cracked, so the sight of them practically nose to nose was shocking. It was usually me that did all the fighting. I started to interrupt, but Bella’s angry tone brought me up short.
Alice, I swear to God...you have no fucking idea what you’re talking about. What Edward and I have is good. So good, in fact, that you couldn’t possibly understand,” she said, stepping closer. “It’s not the high school sweetheart thing you think it is. You have no idea what we’ve been through, what he’s been through.”
I shifted on my feet, looking to Jasper. He looked concerned, but stayed quiet.
Bella started to pace, but rounded back on Alice. “I don’t need parties or dress clothes...and I sure as hell don’t need that guy you just forced on me. I’m good...trust me.”
Can’t you see he’s controlling you? He glares at every guy that looks your way. You can’t even go to the party over at the sorority because he’s coming to take you out.”
Bella laughed humorlessly. “I think you have that backwards, Alice. I don’t want to go with you.”
He’s got you brainwashed,” Alice huffed, folding her arms across her chest. “What’s this drama you’ve been through? What did that poor pretty boy go through that was so bad? Plastic surgery?”
I moved quickly because if I hadn’t, Bella would’ve tackled Alice to the floor. “Easy, Princess,” I soothed her, wrapping my arms around her.
Her face was fierce and hate-filled, and for the first time, I was pretty sure I needed to appeal to the parents about getting Bella out of the dorms, if only to stop her from killing her roommate.
You don’t deserve to know,” Bella sneered, pointing over my shoulder. “And I would never betray him like that. It’s none of your business.”
I chuckled at how protective she was, but she’d been that way our whole lives, even more since we’d fallen in love. Though, at that moment, she was so very sexy that it was almost distracting.
Turning to Alice, I said, “You know, Bella was free to go with you tonight. I wasn’t stopping her. She asked me if she could come with us. And the way I act when we’re out is to keep her safe, not control her. She means a helluva lot to me, so forgive me if I don’t want anything to happen to her. Her father is a police chief and he specifically asked me to keep her safe, so considering that man saved my life, I’d do anything he asked.” I raised an eyebrow at her, but Alice glared impassively back my way.
Edward,” Bella sighed, shaking her head.
What? He did.” I shrugged a shoulder, smirking when she cracked a small smile. “And you can tell her whatever you want to about me. I don’t care. But it won’t be right now, baby, ’cause I’m starving. So if you’re comin’ with us...we gotta go.”
Bella giggled, kissed my lips, and spun around to grab her coat. She turned back, catching sight of Jasper leaning casually in the doorway.
Hey, Jasper,” she sang with a wave.
Darlin’,” he greeted with a nod, but his eyes drifted to Alice, who looked like a pouting child. “So you’re the famous Alice,” he drawled, tilting his head at her. “I don’t get it. They’re pretty damn happy, so why do you care?” he asked her, waiting for an answer that never came. “Hmm,” he hummed, still assessing her from head to toe. “No, I do get it... Edward’s not the controlling one. You are.”
You...” Alice started but stopped when Jasper held up a hand.
Let me guess... Oldest child of old money, and your parents told you that their way is the only way. Maybe even told you who to date and who you’ll marry, which would explain your fear of an asshole boyfriend, and that’s not Edward, by the way. And you’ve come clear across the country just to be rid of them. Yet...you act just like them. You hate what you don’t understand, and I’d bet a wad of cash that you don’t have a lot of friends back home, yeah? Bella’s right; it isn’t any of your business. The world is filled with a shit-load of people, all dealing with their own pains, pasts, and heartache. You should learn now how to get along with them. To...live and let live, so to speak,” he said with a grin and a grand wave of his hand. He sniffed, finally pushing himself up straight. “Now... What’s so special about a party filled with shallow, drunk people?”
Nothing. I just... Everyone will be there,” she argued, jutting her chin out.
I won’t be,” he countered. “I’ll be down at Mazzio’s, grabbin’ a slice of pepperoni. You’re free to join us – that is, unless you’d rather guzzle from a beer-bong...” The tone in which he spoke made that sound like the dumbest idea on the damn planet, which I thought was his goal.
I had to bury my grin in Bella’s hair. Jasper was different, but he truly did live his life by the “whatever floats your boat” mentality. If it didn’t concern him, he didn’t give it much thought.
Alice didn’t say anything, but she grabbed her purse, which probably cost more than my car, and stepped out into the hallway.
Jasper offered her his arm like a gentleman, looking back at us. “Ya’ll comin’, or what?”
I held up a finger. “Give us a second, J. We’ll meet you downstairs.”
Okie dokie,” he sang, leading a speechless Alice away.
I shut the door and turned around to face Bella. Moving quickly, my mouth was on hers before I could stop myself, lifting her up by her ass onto her dresser. I didn’t know why I was reacting the way I was. I couldn’t help it. The mirror rattled as I pressed myself against her, and Bella’s legs wrapped around my hips, pulling me closer as she kissed me right back just as deeply, just as fervently. We were panting heavily when we finally pulled apart.
I love you,” I stated in a whisper. “And I know you would never betray me, Princess, so if you need to tell her...tell her. Okay?”
She cupped my face, kissing me one more time.
I know I’m overprotective. I can’t help it.” I shrugged a shoulder.
She smiled. “You make me feel safe, Edward. I’m okay with that.”
I smiled right back at her. “Good.”
Bella snorted into a soft laugh, shaking her head and rolling her eyes. “And to think...we were keeping them separated because we thought they were too different...”
Laughing, I set her down onto the floor. “No kidding. Well, this should prove interesting. Ready, baby?”
Yeah, I guess,” she sighed, but stopped me. “You really want her to know?”
I trust you, Bella,” I told her, opening the door.
Yeah?”
I kissed the side of her head, crossing my heart. “Always.”
~oOo~
Present Day
Snickering to myself, I shook my head slowly. “I didn’t think it was possible, but she truly mellowed out after that. Jasper had a lot to do with it. I’m sure we owe him.” I picked up Bella’s hand and kissed her palm. “Alice became a good friend to you...to us. I’m pretty sure you told her about my mom. You never mentioned it, but she stopped hating me, at least.”
I was probably putting it mildly. Alice had eventually come to me and apologized. She settled into a pretty hefty class schedule, because she was studying art history, and we’d found out that Alice and Jasper had more in common than we’d really ever estimated. They’d been inseparable in college after that night, and eventually, we all left the UW campus. Bella and I had gotten a place together, as had they.
Jasper studied World History, eventually going on to publish several books on World War II. They now traveled together – Alice spending time in various museums, while Jasper researched the local history. In fact, they’d been in Paris when I’d left them the message about Bella’s accident.
Laying my head on her leg, I reached up and trailed a finger down Bella’s face. “They’re worried about you, baby.” I sighed deeply, trying to relax. “We all are. They’ll be here soon to see you.”
I stayed quiet for a moment, tracing her eyebrow. “I miss your eyes, Princess. They tell me everything, and now, I feel a little lost without them. I can always tell when you’re happy, sad...turned on,” I said with a grin. “They get so dark. But they’re so beautiful. They always are to me.” I sat up, kissed each closed eyelid. “I hope when they open again that they’ll look at me like they always do...like you can see into my very soul. The soul you saved.” I kissed her cheek. “I love you, Bella. And I’ll be here when you wake up.”

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