Monday, May 27, 2013 | By: Jenny

Hard to Love Chapter 9

Chapter 9
Present Day
The sun wasn’t even up when I walked back into the hospital with two cups of coffee from the little place across the street. The hallways were calm, except for the occasional footsteps and the beeping of medical equipment here and there. I expected my dad to arrive any minute; he always worked early.
The ICU was quiet, but they’d had a pretty rough night. There was another patient across from Bella that had flatlined a few hours ago, and they’d busted their asses to get the little old lady back. She was scheduled for open heart surgery later that day.
When I made it to the nurse’s station, Tanya looked the worse for wear. Her usually tamed strawberry blond locks were wrapped up in a haphazard ponytail.
Here,” I said, setting down the extra cup of coffee, along with some creams and sugars. “You looked like you could use it.”
Tanya laughed wearily. “I look that bad, huh?”
Grinning, I shrugged. “It’s been a long night.”
That it has,” she agreed with a deep sigh, stirring the coffee. “Thanks, Edward.”
Mmhm,” I hummed, peeking over into Bella’s room, but she was just as I’d left her.
She’s holding steady,” Tanya stated, leaning against the desk. “I kept an eye on her while you were gone.”
And that’s why I’d bought Tanya the coffee. She – and Rose, for that matter – went above and beyond their jobs to watch over Bella. Rose was a friend, but even though Tanya didn’t have to go that extra step, she did. I could imagine that some would say that it was because my dad was a doctor, but I wasn’t so sure. Tanya seemed to genuinely care about her patients...and the people in the waiting rooms.
She wasn’t from Forks, I’d come to find out just by chatting with her to make the nights go by. She was originally from Alaska. She had two sisters with families of their own, and she was the only unmarried one. She’d moved to Seattle, but had found Forks to be a little more like her hometown and a better fit, especially when she had a little boy to raise by herself. She’d shown me pictures; little Liam looked just like her, all the way down to the color of his hair, only a touch darker.
How’s Mrs. Connors doin’?” I asked, pointing to the room across from Bella’s.
Better. She...” she started, but looked down the hallway when a voice I’d recognize anywhere met our ears.
Oh, hell,” I said softly, taking a deep breath. “Brace yourself,” I muttered, shaking my head, but I stepped away from the nurse’s station to greet Alice and Jasper.
Darlin’, you have to calm down,” Jasper chided gently, placing a hand on her shoulder, but he caught sight of me. “Edward...”
Edward!” Alice gasped, breaking away from him and rushing to me. She threw herself around my middle, hugging me tight enough to knock the wind out of me. “How’s she doing? Where is she? What are they saying?!”
Jasper raised an eyebrow from behind her, taking a deep breath. “Alice, he can’t answer if he can’t breathe.” He tugged her back, but reached for my hand, pulling me into a harsh hug. “We’re sorry it took so long, but you okay, man?”
I nodded, gesturing to the waiting room. “Let me explain everything, and then you can see her.” Once we were sitting down, I pointed toward the door. “Tanya’s pretty cool, but she’s strict when it comes to how many people can be in the room.”
Alice and Jasper listened as I told them everything that had happened since Friday – the accident, Bella’s medical issues and progress, and how it was now the waiting game. The hard part was telling them what might happen once she was awake – possible memory loss and brain or neurological damage. Those possibilities made my chest ache. I could handle just about anything, but it would absolutely kill me if she didn’t remember stuff – well, me.
So when does your dad say she’ll wake up?” Alice asked, wiping a tear away.
I frowned and swallowed nervously. “He’s hoping sometime today. They think the swelling’s gone down enough, though I’d be willing to guess he’ll check on her first thing this morning before he starts anything else. He always does. And the medicine should be wearing off shortly. It’s all up to Bella now.”
Edward?” Alice whispered through tears. “Can I see her?”
Yeah, Alice. C’mon,” I told her, leading her down to the end of the ICU. I drew back the curtain and walked straight to Bella. “Hey, Princess. Guess who’s here,” I whispered against her forehead.
I grimaced when Alice broke, a sob ripping through her. Bella was so full of life, always smiling, always laughing, that to see her laying so still was a shock.
Can I... I mean, can she hear me?” Alice sniffled, looking from me to the bed and back again.
I shrugged. “That seems to be an opinion that varies around here. I’ve been talking to her,” I said, placing a hand on my chest. “Some of the nurses say yes, my dad’s not sure, and some people say no.”
Jasper studied Bella with a solemn expression, but we let Alice have a moment in the room. He looked up to me, his brow wrinkled.
You hangin’ in there?” he asked, leaning back against the wall.
I shook my head. “I’m—”
Runnin’ on fumes,” he finished for me. “Ed, you’ll kill yourself staying up here twenty-four-seven.”
I’m not leaving her. She wouldn’t leave me,” I countered firmly. “It is what it is.”
He smiled crookedly. “Yeah, true.”
Alice stayed with Bella for a few, while Jasper and I caught up. Since they were staying in France, he was taking the opportunity to study the beaches of Normandy. It was most likely going to be his next book. Alice, on the other hand, was finished with her lectures and simply enjoying all the museums Paris had to offer.
Holy shit, you made it!” I heard behind me, and I turned to see Emmett coming down the hall and Rose getting ready to take over for Tanya.
Em,” Jasper greeted, shaking his hand. “It’s good to see you again.”
Hugs and greetings were passed around when Alice came out of Bella’s room. Jasper didn’t have a lot of family, and Alice wasn’t on good terms with hers, so during college and afterward, they’d spent the holidays with Bella and me in Forks with our families. We’d all gotten along.
Jasper broke away just briefly as everyone chatted, and I watched him bend to Bella’s forehead and drop a kiss. What he whispered to her, I had no idea, but I smiled when her heart monitor fluctuated a little during the steady beats.
When he came back out, he sighed, looking exhausted as he placed a hand on Alice’s shoulder. “Is that little lodge still around?” he asked.
It’s the only place in this tiny town,” Alice teased, grinning up at me.
Don’t hate on my hometown,” I argued petulantly with a chuckle. “And you guys can stay at our place. The spare room is yours if you want it. You just have to put up with Felix bein’ nosy.”
Alice giggled. “I love that cat. I swear he speaks English.”
He understands it just fine,” I snorted, shaking my head. “Do you remember how to get there?”
I can show ’em,” Emmett offered, grimacing a little as he rubbed the back of his neck. “I...um... I need Bella’s computer. That’s why I’m here before openin’ the shop. I’ve gotta pay my boys, and there’s a few bills I gotta take care of. I sure as hell will be glad when she’s better. At least I can talk to her about this shit.”
I smiled, handing him the house keys. “Thanks, Em. And I’m sure she’ll be fine with whatever mess you leave her,” I teased, because numbers weren’t Emmett’s forte – they were Bella’s. While Emmett could bake and create just about anything, he couldn’t manage the office, so Bella ran the business side of things.
After another round of hugs and promises to be back after a bit of rest, Emmett led Alice and Jasper out of the ICU. I sat down in my usual chair and picked up Bella’s hand.
They came all the way from Paris to see you, Princess,” I sighed, kissing each finger. I grinned against her soft skin. “I think Alice hates Forks, but I think Jasper likes it. He always has.” I took a deep breath and let it out. “I’m glad we moved back, Bella. It’s better here. It feels like where we should be. I was never so glad to get the call from Mrs. Cope at the end of my internship. You were going crazy working at that little shop in Seattle...”
~oOo~
Age 24
I dropped my phone onto the couch, smiling a little, but spun around when the front door of the apartment flew open and then slammed closed with a heavy thud. Bella was livid. She was more than that. She looked like a volcano about to erupt, with flushed cheeks, lips in a firm line, and eyes blazing.
Jesus, Princess! What’s wrong?” I asked, walking to her and taking her briefcase, her purse, and her coat and dropping them all onto the table.
He’s so...so...stupid!” she growled, her fists clenching at her side. “I can’t deal with it. I’ve tried and I just can’t.”
I sat down on the sofa, pulling her down with me. “Talk to me...”
James! He never listens to what I tell him, and then he gets pissed at me when things go wrong,” she muttered. “He’s an asshole.”
Nodding, I kissed her head because James was an asshole – a moody, flamboyantly gay, trust fund baby...asshole. He treated Bella like she was an idiot, but she way outsmarted him. If he wasn’t careful, he’d run his small jewelry shop into the ground. Personally, I thought he simply just hated women. It was his life partner/business partner that had hired Bella right out of college two years prior. Marcus was the talent between the two. James was the money. While Bella made enough to support us both while I finished my Master’s, she’d had to suffer through more of James’s tantrums than I could count.
I adore Marcus, but I can’t...” She took a deep breath and let it out, looking up at me. “You’re a sight for sore eyes. Let’s just end it there.”
I chuckled, kissing her lips. “You’re lookin’ pretty good yourself, Princess,” I told her.
It had been a rough two years after Bella had graduated from UW, because I still had more school, which included an internship. We’d struggled to survive, and we’d stayed in the same cheap apartment that we’d moved into our sophomore year of college. It wasn’t always easy, but we’d managed. Time together had been scarce, though.
And I may have a solution for all of it,” I hedged nervously.
You bought a winning lottery ticket, and we can now live on a big ol’ boat, going anywhere we want?” she asked, grinning when I snorted into a laugh.
Umm, no.” I smiled her way when she groaned. “But...I think I got an offer today that may change everything.” She turned my way and I cupped her chin. “Actually, it’s two offers, so that makes it a decision we need to make. Together.”
Bella’s brow furrowed, but she waited patiently.
The crisis center offered me a full-time position today,” I told her. “They’d start me out with good pay and benefits. I’d pretty much be in charge of the teen center... Well, underneath Peter.”
Edward, baby, that’s awesome!” she squealed, launching herself into my lap.
Smiling at her, I hugged her close. “I know, right?” I said with a chuckle. “And I was all stoked about it...until I got home. I had a message with another offer.”
Where?” she whispered, running her fingers through my hair. She looked so proud of me that it was almost breathtaking.
Someplace I didn’t tell you I applied, because I didn’t think the position was going to be there,” I started, wrapping one of her long curls around my finger. I swallowed nervously and met her gaze. “Mrs. Cope from Forks High called, and apparently, their counselor position is gonna be open by the beginning of the next school year.” Bella’s mouth fell open, but she needed to hear it all. “Look, baby...it’s less money, less responsibility, but it—”
It’s what you want,” she finished for me, and I nodded, gazing up at her. “So we could...go home.”
Smiling a little, I nodded. “Yes, but...there’s your job to consider. There’s more money and opportunities here in Seattle. I want to talk about this, Bella. This is...important. It’s our lives. I don’t want any regrets here. Okay?”
She shifted on my lap, playing with my tie. She finally just loosened it and tugged it off, setting it beside us on the cushion. “What if...” She placed her hands on either side of my face and kissed me briefly. “What if I told you I didn’t care? That I’d turn in my notice to Marcus tomorrow?” She didn’t wait for me to answer. “And what if...I told you I spoke to Emmett yesterday and he needs help?”
Yesterday? Why didn’t you say somethin’?”
She giggled and shrugged. “’Cause you distracted me!” she accused. “One second, we’re watching TV, and the next, we’re going at it like bunnies! How’s a girl supposed to think?!”
Laughing, my head fell back to the couch. “Sorry! I can’t help it. Next time, when you’ve got something important to say, I suggest not wearing my T-shirt. Just my T-shirt,” I growled against her neck dramatically.
She snorted and rolled her eyes, shoving me back. “So yeah...Emmett needs help. I’ve tried to help him from here, but he’s flailing. He could use someone to help with the business side of things so he can concentrate on what he does best, which is bake. He wants to expand into catering, but he can’t without the help.”
Our eyes locked, and we were quiet for a moment.
However, Bella nervously bit at her bottom lip before adding, “Plus, I didn’t know how you felt about Forks. I mean, you’ve got some pretty bad memories from there.”
Taking a deep breath, I let it out slowly, considering my response. “I do. I have some really good ones, too. I’m sorry I didn’t tell you I applied at Forks High, but I honestly didn’t think it was in the running.” I trailed a finger down her beautiful face. “Bella, I don’t think of my mom when I think of Forks. I think of us. Does that make sense?” I asked her, and she nodded, her eyes tearing up a bit. “I want us to be...happy with whatever decision we make, ’cause I think we’re in this for the long haul. We could make it work either place.”
She kissed me sweetly. “I’m glad you feel that way,” she whispered against my lips. “And I want us happy, too. So...why does Forks sound right?” she asked, tilting her head at me.
I smirked a little. “’Cause you and I aren’t about making money. We never have been. And we’ve always been able to just...be ourselves there. You would be able to do what you really do best with Emmett – and with the respect you deserve.”
And you’d be working with kids like you wanted, but without as much stress as the crisis center,” she countered. “No offense, Edward, but the crisis center makes me nervous, especially where it is and how late you work. You could get hurt.”
I tugged her lip from between her teeth and nodded in agreement. “Is that our answer?”
Her eyes teared up again. “We’d be working closer to the same schedule, too,” she added, shrugging a shoulder. “I miss you. I hate going to bed without you. Those nights scare me.” She finally locked gazes with me. “Edward, I wanna go home.”
~oOo~
Present Day
I’ve never told you no to anything you wanted, Princess. I’m incapable of doing it. Felix is a prime example of that – pathetic creature that he was when he showed up,” I said with a soft laugh. “So when you told me you wanted to come back to Forks, I was in.”
I sat forward and kissed her cheek. “And holy shit, Bella, it’s been the best year of our lives! I’m not sure I’ve ever felt as...whole as I have this past year. My job is great, the kids are amazing, and you’ve fucking flourished working for Emmett. And we get to go to bed together every night just like you wanted. I can’t imagine our lives any other way, baby,” I said, emotions taking over just a little. My eyes burned as I kissed her fingers again. “It’s why I just...knew it was time to take us to the next level. I’m so ready, Bella, and I need you to wake up. I miss you so much...”
The heart monitor bleeped, but it was much more rapid than I’d ever heard it. I scooted forward and ran a flat hand over Bella’s forehead and over the top of her head. I swallowed nervously when her brow furrowed under my fingers and her hand twitched in mine.
I think I stopped breathing for a second when her eyes squeezed tighter, but finally opened for the first time since I’d said goodbye to her before work on Friday morning. Confused, hazy brown opened up to the ceiling, and I pressed the call button on the side of her bed.
Rose rushed in, checking machines, Bella’s pulse, and finally smiling down at her.
Easy, Princess,” I whispered, holding her hand and kissing her fingers. “You’re okay. I’ve got you.”
I’ll call your dad,” Rose said softly, but we both stopped Bella from pulling her oxygen line away from her face. “Looks like she’s comin’ around,” she sang softly with a big smile.
Dark brown locked with mine, and I held my breath.
Edward?”
Every bit of stress, worry, and heartache left me all at once, and a sob ripped through me as I leaned over and kissed her forehead. My name never sounded so damn good. “Yeah, Bella...I’m right here, Princess.”

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