Sunday, March 2, 2014 | By: Drotuno

Masen Manor Chapter 4 & Pics

Chapter 4
August 2001
BELLA
The infirmary was just down a long hallway from the dining hall, and the path was quiet on a Saturday morning. I left behind the school side and entered into more of the administration offices. I passed by a woman at a desk, typing away at a computer, and found the door with Dr. Cullen’s name on the outside, knocking lightly.
A man’s voice sounded from the other side. “Come in.”
Opening the door slowly, I peeked in. Standing at a desk with a file in his hand was an extremely good-looking man, with blond hair and hazel, almost golden eyes. His smile was warm, friendly, reminding me of Mrs. Cullen.
“Ah, you must be Isabella Swan,” he greeted, walking to me. “I’m Dr. Carlisle Cullen. Please, come on in.” He sat down behind his desk after gesturing to one of the chairs in front of it. “Have a seat. My wife says you prefer the name Bella. Is that correct?”
I smiled and nodded.

“Very good. Bella it is,” he said with a smile. He set the file folder down and rested his elbows on the desk. “I’m not here to give you a physical. All your charts seem in order. Mrs. Cullen simply wanted me to talk to you, see if there was anything that I could maybe do for you or see something that perhaps someone had missed.” He chuckled when I shook my head, frowning in confusion. “Can you humor me, Bella? My wife wants to make sure you’re okay to start class on Monday, but she also wants to make sure that the teachers are aware of your situation, and in order to do that, I need to make an assessment.”
He stood up from the desk and walked around to me. “I’m not going to force you to speak with me if it makes you uncomfortable, Bella. I would, however, like to take a look at you. Do you mind?”
I shook my head no and stood up in front of him. I was used to doctors being curious and looking me over, and Dr. Cullen was just like his wife: very comfortable for me to be around.
“Good,” he praised, tilting my head just a little so that he could examine my scar. His touch was gentle, cool, but the room wasn’t exactly warm. “I see they did their best to make the scar as minimal as possible, but according to your file, the stitches ripped? Nightmare, if I’m not mistaken.”
I nodded, and he waited for me to sit back down before taking his place back behind the desk.
“Like I said, I won’t make you speak, but I have some questions. I’ll do my best to keep them yes or no,” he told me, leaning forward. “The nightmares have subsided?”
I tilted my hand back and forth that answered him as “so, so.”
“So you still have them,” he surmised, and I nodded in answer. “Just not all the time.”
I nodded again.
He glanced down at the file, turning a few pages. “When you received this injury, I’m assuming you were prevented from speaking, yes?” When I nodded, he did, too. “Your vocal chords weren’t severed, but they were rather damaged, so not talking would’ve been best in order to allow you to heal. Okay, then… Did your parents put you in counseling afterward? I could imagine that you’d need grief counseling and speech therapy.”
Frowning, I nodded, but spoke anyway. “It didn’t work,” I whispered nervously, gazing down at my hands in my lap.
He smiled warmly again when I glanced up. “That’s okay. Everyone deals with traumatic experiences differently. With what you’ve been through – the loss of a parent and your injury – I can’t imagine it has been easy. And thank you for answering me; I know you’re nervous and uncomfortable speaking aloud.”
At the mention of my dad, I shook my head and looked away. I didn’t want to hear it. I didn’t want to discuss it. I fought the tears in my eyes.
“My apologies, Bella,” Dr. Cullen said, his voice filled with a sadness I wasn’t expecting. When I waved him off, he sighed deeply. “No, truly, I am sorry. My intentions weren’t to upset you. I have more questions, but we can stop.”
I shook my head vehemently.
“Okay, if you’re sure.” He waited for me to nod before going on. “I’m sure you’ve heard it all, Bella, but my guess is…you didn’t speak much in therapy, therefore you truly haven’t released the grief and anger inside you. You haven’t talked through it.”
I’d heard that theory before, so I simply shrugged. It was the reason one of the therapists had suggested writing in a journal.
“Do you remember that night, Bella?”
“Some,” I whispered, frowning again.
He nodded, like he’d assumed as much. “Understandable. Considering your age and how long it’s been, it makes complete sense that you would’ve forgotten some of the events, or even blocked them out.”
Again, I shrugged, because I didn’t have an answer, but I’d heard it before when doctors would speak with my mother.
“One more, sweetheart, and I promise we’re done,” he vowed firmly, yet gently. “Bella…was anyone brought to justice for the whole thing?”
My gaze snapped to his, my eyes burning with tears. “No!”
My voice came out louder than I’d expected, and I gasped and started shaking. I rarely raised my voice above a whisper. What he didn’t know was that was my nightmares. I was completely aware that no fingerprints, witnesses, or suspects had been found during the investigation. My father’s killer, my would-be killer, was still free, and it scared me to no end. I’d simply learned to live with it.
“Easy, Bella. Deep breaths,” he soothed, kneeling next to me. “It’s okay. You’re okay. I’m so sorry. Stay with me. Look at me, Bella.”
I locked eyes with golden eyes. They were strange, yet so calm and soothing. Dr. Cullen’s face was actually very handsome, seemingly young, but he came across as very wise. He was also extremely worried…and looked to be angry.
“When I tell you that no harm will ever come to you inside this castle, would you believe me?” he asked me firmly. “I promise that you’re safe. Do you understand?”
I nodded fervently, finally able to take a breath and let it out slowly, because there was a part of me that could see that Dr. Cullen meant every word he was saying. And oddly enough, I believed him.
When I nodded one more time, he smiled and gave my shoulder a gentle squeeze.
“Good.” He stood up in front of me. “Bella, my wife will make sure that all your instructors are aware of your condition. She’s making allowances for your lack of verbal participation. What that means is that some of your teachers may have you write your assignments instead of speaking. You’ll be scored as if you’d given your reports orally. Make sense?”
I nodded in understanding. It was how I’d been graded at my last school. My mother had gotten doctors’ notes to excuse me from any oral work, like book reports, debate classes, and the like.
“Before you go, I’d like you to do me a favor, Bella,” he requested as I stood up. “If you have any problems, I’d like you to feel free to come to me. Even if you just sit quietly for a little while. And Mrs. Cullen asked to extend that invitation to her office, as well. Okay?”
Smiling up at him, I nodded, placing my hand over my heart as a vow.
“Good girl,” he said with a soft laugh. “You may go now. And good luck your first week of classes.”
I waved at him over my shoulder and left his office.
~oOo~
The first day of classes was different than anything I’d ever experienced. It was my first time with a uniform, which wasn’t too bad: red and black plaid skirt, white button-down shirt, and a black cardigan.
Alice and I went down to the dining hall for breakfast together. She was as chatty as always, and it turned out to be a good thing, because the more she talked, the less people bugged us. Though, I kind of assumed she knew that. Alice’s little talent was interesting to say the least, and I still wasn’t sure I believed it, especially so early in the morning.
She scooted closer to me, stirring her oatmeal without looking at it. She was staring off across the dining hall with narrowed eyes.
“Dammit,” she sighed, looking up to me. “Brace yourself. Mike Newton’s taken an interest in you, but that’s not the worst part.” When my eyebrows shot up, she snorted humorlessly. “His interest in you seems to have pissed off Jessica Stanley.” She turned in her seat to face me. “Look, they think their shit doesn’t stink, Bella. They can be really fuckin’ mean.”
I chuckled softly. She didn’t know mean. I’d seen it all in my old school. People who had been my friends suddenly weren’t, and they’d said the nastiest of things, spread the worst rumors, and constantly tried to play pranks on me. Some of the latter I’d been able to avoid, but not always.
I glanced up when Mike strolled across the dining hall like he owned it. He wore some sort of crooked smile that made it seem like he was trying too hard, when in reality, it looked like he needed to go to the bathroom.
His hand shot out once he made it to the table. “Mike Newton.”
I looked to Alice, who was rolling her eyes, but she helped me out. “Bella Swan, and she doesn’t talk, Mike. Go away.”
“Shut it, psycho,” he snapped.
“It’s psychic, you asshat,” she countered. “She really doesn’t speak, so this dumbass thing you’re doing will fail.”
Looking to Mike, I shrugged a shoulder apologetically, but like everyone else, his eyes fell to my throat. His eyes widened, and he turned to Alice.
“What happened to her?”
“I don’t know, nor is it anyone’s business. Go away,” she said to him, taking a bite of her oatmeal. “Messica is about to lose her shit. You might wanna go clean up on aisle two.”
“She’d smack you for calling her that.”
“I’d like to see her try,” Alice purred with a wicked smile, taking another bite. “She’s tried before. I always see it coming.” She tapped her temple and turned back to me. “C’mon, Bella. We need to get to class.”
“God, Brandon, you’re such a freak,” he snorted, shaking his head, but he stopped laughing when I raised my eyebrow at him and snatched up my backpack.
We stood up and threw our trash away, but Mike caught up with me.
“Yo, Bella, I’ll see you ‘round, ‘kay?” he said, grinning like a loon, and he shot me a wink. “You should stay away from psycho here; she’ll only drag you down.”
I rolled my eyes to Alice, who laughed, linking our arms together. I wasn’t sure what to make of the guy, because if Alice was a freak, then what the hell did that make me? I shook my head and pushed my way by him, dragging Alice with me.
“Good, I was hoping you wouldn’t fall for that creepazoid’s shit,” she said softly, and we both watched as Mike and Jessica walked by us, the latter looking pissed off. “And don’t worry about Messica. I dubbed her that for a reason.”
Grinning, I glanced over to her for an explanation.
“She’s a hot fucking mess, that’s why,” Alice answered my silent question. “She and Mike are friends with benefits. Hell, I’m not even sure they’re really friends to start with, but whatever… She’s a spoiled little rich girl from D.C. Daddy’s some big-wig congressman or some shit. She and Mike hook up all the damn time, but then they fight all the damn time, too. It’s insane, and rather unhealthy, if I’m being honest.”
That last part came out mumbled, but I chuckled at her, which made her smile as she guided me into the first class of the day: biology.
When Mrs. Cullen said that the classes were small, she hadn’t been exaggerating. Depending on the subject, some grades were combined, which still made for the smallest class I’d ever attended.
Alice was with me through most of them, though we were taking different foreign languages. She was taking French, while I was taking Spanish. However, we shared the same history, calculus, biology, and English Lit classes, all of which seemed much more in-depth than the ones I’d taken in public school.
Every teacher, though, seemed to react differently to me. Some merely ignored my existence, while others over-compensated by keeping me after to explain what would be required of me. Calculus, biology, and history had no oral reports, but English and Spanish did, so those two teachers stopped me to give me schedules of what I’d need to turn in.
As I’d expected, I was the target of a lot of curiosity. Stares and whispers followed me all day, and by the time I made it to my room at the end of the day, I was a touch grumpy and exhausted. Thanks to Mike and Jessica, the rumors had already started.
I tossed my backpack onto my bed, falling down next to it.
“That bad?” I heard, and I glanced up to see Alice there with a grimace on her face. When I shrugged grumpily, she sighed. “Yeah, I’ve heard the talk already. At a school this small, you can’t really stop it.”
I waved it away, falling back on my bed. When I felt the bed dip, I glanced over at Alice.
“One rumor is that you can speak, but you don’t like to,” she said softly.
Sitting up next to her, I nodded, but swallowed nervously. “I can, Alice, but…” My voice was barely above a whisper.
Alice’s face lit up, and she hugged me out of the blue. “No worries. I wasn’t pushing. It’s all good. We can pass notes if we have to.”
Smiling, I nodded.
“Listen, I need to start some homework already. Wanna head down to the library?” she asked, and I nodded again, reaching for my backpack. “When we’re done, we’ll grab dinner.”
I followed her down the hall and the main stairs. Once inside the library, Alice found us a table in the corner and set her stuff down. I got started on my Spanish homework while she went off in search for a book she needed. I glanced up when a shadow loomed over me, but smiled at Rose, gesturing to the chair.
“Hey, Bella,” she greeted as she set her books down. She sat down across from me, asking, “How was your first day?” She grimaced, her hand smacking her forehead. “Shit, my bad…I forget you don’t speak. Umm, was your first day okay?” she asked with a grin. “I swear, Emmett’s verbal vomit is rubbing off on me.”
I laughed softly at her rambling and nodded to answer her, but pulled a piece of paper out to write her a note.
Don’t worry about it. And my day was fine…overwhelming, but fine.
She smiled. “It can be a bit much on your first day.” She pointed toward the shelves. “I’ll be back. I need to grab a couple of books.”
I nodded and went back to my homework. Alice and Rose came and went with different books, but I was alone at the table when I finished up, so I decided to pull out my journal. Whispers met my ears, and I glanced up to see Mike looking my way, but instead of Jessica with him, there were a couple of boys, one of whom I recognized from Emmett and Rose’s tour. Tyler.
They didn’t even bother to lower their voices when they spoke about me.
“What do you mean she doesn’t talk? You mean she’s shy, right?” Tyler asked in a harsh whisper. “She was quiet on Emmett’s tour, but…”
“No, man, she doesn’t speak,” Mike told him. “And that scar on her neck is probably the reason. What do you think? Attempted suicide gone wrong?”
“Maybe she was raped at knife-point,” Tyler suggested. “I’ve seen that shit on TV, you know? And just how the hell can someone get through life without talkin’? You need to talk to do…well, everything!”
Taking a deep breath, I let it out slowly, focusing on my journal. I’d certainly heard worse theories over the years. I tuned them out and started writing.
Hey Daddy… I got through my first day at Masen. The work is different, harder, but so far, I think I’ll do okay. I’m looking forward to playing the piano later this week, but right now, I simply don’t have time. They have me allotted for a Mr. Harris after class on Friday, so we’ll see how it goes. I may try to sneak down to the auditorium to practice before then. I hope I can, anyway.
I’ve made a friend. Alice. She doesn’t seem to care that I don’t talk. She’s my roommate and in most of my classes. You’d like her, Dad. She’s a tiny thing. Spunky. And she seems to think she can see the future. I don’t know about that, but she’s pretty accepting of me. It’s been a long time since I could call someone a friend.
There’s also another girl, Rose. She’s my dorm captain. She’s really nice, too, so far.
A part of me is glad to know that they’re okay with me. Another part feels weak, vulnerable. I have a hard time forgetting just how bad things turned out with Maggie. We’d been friends since the first grade, but suddenly, she turned on me. I don’t know if I can face that again, Dad. It really hurt the last time. If that happens here, then I still have to live in the same room with Alice for the rest of the year.
The rumors have already started, but I’m trying to ignore them. A part of me wishes I was like everyone else, that I could chat away like Alice to anyone, despite their opinions of me. And Rose seems to be able to walk into any room and own it. I just can’t do that. I don’t know how.
I was forced to see the school doctor on Saturday before classes started. He asked about you, about my voice, and if anyone was ever arrested for what they did to us. I got scared, Daddy, but Dr. Cullen promised me that I was safe here, that no one would get to me here. I want to believe him – I really do – but again, knowing that the men who did this are still out there makes me feel weak, small.
Alice rushed to the table, her eyes wide. “If you want to avoid another run-in with Newton, you’d better haul ass. He’s about to come over here.” When my eyebrows rose up, she nodded. “Why don’t you take our stuff to our room, and I’ll save you a seat in the dining hall.”
Nodding, I packed up my things at the same time she did. She handed me her bag, grabbing my sleeve. “Take the back stairs up, turn left on the third floor. It’ll be quicker, and you’ll most likely miss him.”
I shouldered both bags and snatched up my journal. I wasn’t quite through writing in it, so I thought I’d bring it with me to dinner. I followed her directions and deposited our things just inside our door. However, when I exited the girls’ dorm, I could see Newton looking for me. Turning right instead of left, I made my way down the corridor, turning again and again.
Footsteps caught up with me, so without thinking, I ducked behind a tapestry, holding my breath. As male voices and heavy footsteps raced by, the wall I was leaning against gave way, and I stumbled a few steps back, though it wasn’t a wall I’d been leaning against. It was an unlocked door.
The first thing I registered was the stale smell of the room, but there was also a faint touch of spice or woodsy scent that lingered. When I turned around, my mouth fell open. I had to have stumbled into the east wing, because there was dust and destruction everywhere. Large open windows allowed the setting sunlight to illuminate broken stairs leading up to somewhere dark. There were holes in the walls, a destroyed fireplace mantle, and shattered floorboards. But my heart broke into a million pieces at what was in the middle of the room: a busted piano.
I couldn’t tell how old it was, but it was truly an antique. The legs were bent and broken at an odd angle, the cherry finish was cracking, peeling, and fading, and there were several broken or missing keys. I could well imagine that in its day, it had been beautiful, but now it had to be the saddest thing I’d ever seen.
I shook my head, setting my journal down on the top. My fingers traced ever so lightly over the wood, then the keys. Tears welled up in my eyes, simply because it seemed like such a crime against an instrument I loved so much. One of my tears fell to one of the keys at the same time I heard shuffling at the doorway I’d fallen into. Or was it behind me? I glanced around, seeing nothing but shadows and debris, until a booming voice made me jump.
“Newton!”
I recognized Emmett’s voice, and I rushed quietly to the door I’d stumbled in, pushing it closed until I heard steps moving away.
“Dude, come with me,” he ordered, and I peeked out around the tapestry. “I’m not gonna tell you again about that east wing, so I’ll let Mrs. C do it for me. You too, Crowley. Let’s go.”
I waited for them to turn the corner before leaving the east wing and stepping back out into the main hall. Just as I remembered my journal, Angela appeared around the corner that Emmett, Mike, and Tyler had turned. My heart sank, and I gave the secret door a glance before faking a smile her way.
“Hey, Bella. Boy, that Mike guy’s in trouble,” she said with a giggle, jerking a thumb behind her. “I’m heading down to dinner. Wanna walk with me?”
I cast one last glance over my shoulder at the same time I nodded, memorizing the tapestry so that I could come back later to grab my journal. The thought of it just hanging around there where anyone could stumble upon it scared me to death.
Angela joined Alice and me at our table. She was really sweet, almost shy, but she was yet another person that didn’t seem to mind that I didn’t talk. I ate, silently answering anything that was asked of me, but my mind was on getting back up to the east wing. When it came time to leave, Alice gripped my shirt once Angela bid us good night.
“You can’t go tonight,” she said cryptically. “You’ll never get past everyone into the east wing.”
My mouth gaped at her, but she nodded.
“I mean it. You have to do it after breakfast and before class in the morning. The hallways will be deserted. Got me?” she asked.
“How’d you…?” I whispered, narrowing my eyes at her, but she smiled a little, tapping her temple. Rather than tempt it, I sagged in defeat.
The next morning, though, she was a huge help. She told me exactly when to leave the dining hall, and she was completely right. The corridor was empty as I hurried to the hanging material in the corner. With a glance behind me, I dove back behind the tapestry, finding the door still cracked the way I’d left it.
The room was exactly the same, the smell exactly the same, only the lighting was a little different. It was a touch lighter, seeing as how the rising sun seemed to shine directly through the large windows facing the back courtyard. However, the shadows at the top of the stairs seemed darker, creepier, and I swore something moved up there. My first thought was rat or ghost.
Shaking that last silly thought out of my head, I smiled when my journal was exactly where I’d left it: on top of the poor ruined piano. I picked it up, hugging it to my chest, and gave the sad instrument a longing touch before quickly turning around.
Adjusting my backpack, I peeked out into the hallway, exiting the east wing. It wasn’t until I sat down next to Alice, who was wearing a smug smile, that I opened my journal, just to make sure it was intact. I looked at my last entry, thinking of jotting a few more things down, but my heart stopped. My entry wasn’t the last thing written.
There was an entry just below mine, in the most beautiful script I’d ever seen.
You’re not weak. And you are safe here.
~oOo~
EDWARD
I was in my own personal hell.
Bella Swan was everything Esme had said she was and everything that Giselle had promised…and then some. I’d been unable to stop myself from taking the tour with the new students, only I’d taken it just on the other side of a thick stone wall.
I’d caught glimpses of her through Rosalie Hale’s and Emmett McCarty’s minds. They liked Bella, sympathized with her. Though, Rosalie had more reason to respect Bella than anyone. They had very similar backgrounds.
Every mind, from Lauren, the disgruntled freshman, to the rather egotistical Tyler, had noticed Bella. Most noted the scar that slashed across her throat. One girl, Angela, had had a sweet, concerned mind. Quirky little Alice Brandon, whose mind was always a colorful blend of present and future, found Bella to be a chance at new friend, which they both needed terribly. But every last one of them noticed her beauty. And she was exactly that: a beauty.
I’d been able to hide in the shadows in complete stillness. The pull, the draw to go to her, was something that was unnerving. I’d merely wanted to see her. I’d only wanted to sate my curiosity, but it had backfired. Seeing those deep brown eyes in person – the eyes that had haunted me for a hundred years – ruined me.
Bella had been nervous, which was to be expected in a new environment, but she’d also been taking everything in around her with those wide, open, curious eyes. She was small in stature, no more than a few inches over five feet, with long dark hair that glinted with a touch of deep red in certain lighting. It was her smile that was breathtaking. It hadn’t appeared often during the dorm captain’s tour of the castle, but when it had, I’d almost fallen to my knees at the power of it.
And she was completely and utterly silent. Not only did she never open her mouth to speak, but I couldn’t hear her thoughts. Her mind was closed to me, which made my decision to avoid her a good one. With Leah’s predictions of death and red eyes, the only thing I could put together was that something happened to my beautiful swan. If I couldn’t hear what she was thinking, then there was no way I could approach her. I couldn’t allow it. I wouldn’t and shouldn’t. It wasn’t a chance I was willing to take.
My last sight of her that first evening had been through the shadows of the library. The group of new students had been about to make their way into the dining hall. I’d stopped breathing altogether when she’d glared back into the library, almost in the direction I’d been standing, before Alice had dragged her into the dining hall. It was as if she’d sensed me, felt someone’s eyes on her.
I’d hidden away in the east wing the rest of the night. No one had bothered me, though I’d heard their worry…and curiosity. They wanted to know if Giselle – and Leah, for that matter – had been right after all this time.
It was Carlisle’s meeting with Bella that destroyed me. It was so very wrong to eavesdrop, and even worse to witness through Carlisle’s mind what should be a private consultation. But I knew what he was going to ask her, and there wasn’t anything that could’ve stopped me from taking the dark hallway to his storage room.
My eyes drank her in, my mind begging to hear her – thoughts or voice – but I received neither for the first few minutes of their talk. Her heartbeat said she was nervous, but her smile and her actions were polite and kind. Normally, her blood would’ve been the first thing I’d have noticed, but I was shocked when it was last on the list. Bella had a floral scent about her, but there was no enticement, no need to drink that came with the scent of humans. It was always there, and I always ignored it, but with her, it simply didn’t exist.
She liked Carlisle – it was clear to see that – but I watched when his mind went from concerned physician to protective parent. She’d won him over in less than twenty minutes.
He vowed to her that he wouldn’t force her to speak, but something inside me reared up feral and ugly when he touched her. He examined her scar with nothing but a clinical eye, but he’d heard the low growl behind him.
Son, you shouldn’t be here, he chastised, but made no request to me to leave. You may not like what you hear.
Shamed at being caught, I stayed anyway.
He knew her chart inside and out, so when he eyed the scar, he already knew the facts about it, though he asked her anyway. During her attack, she’d been cut from one side to the other, and the doctors tending to her had given her small stitches in order to minimize the scarring, which would’ve probably worked, except that a few days later, she’d been having a nightmare, which had resulted in her trying to claw those same stitches out with her bare hands. It was why the scar was so prominent, why it was jagged.
Carlisle asked her about therapy and counseling, and I could’ve sworn an angel spoke when her sweet voice finally…finally met the air.
“It didn’t work,” she whispered, grimacing at him. Speaking made her heartbeat skyrocket into something that sounded like hummingbird wings.
He thanked her for speaking when she didn’t have to, when he knew it made her uncomfortable, but when he mentioned the loss of her father, her fear was practically palpable. It stepped into the room like another entity. It was at that moment that Carlisle stopped being a doctor and everything in him wanted to protect her.
He apologized profusely and sincerely, asking if she wanted to stop. She didn’t, which told me she was stronger than most people gave her credit for.
“Okay, if you’re sure,” he told her, finally giving his theory on her. “I’m sure you’ve heard it all, Bella, but my guess is…you didn’t speak much in therapy, therefore you truly haven’t released the grief and anger inside you. You haven’t talked through it.”
Her shrug made me smile, and my guess was that she’d probably heard it all since the incident. However, Carlisle’s next thoughts of the questions he was going to ask her made me frown. I wanted to stop him, not because I didn’t think she could handle it, but because I didn’t think I could.
“Do you remember that night, Bella?”
“Some.” Her voice was tentative, soft, and very wary.
“Understandable. Considering your age and how long it’s been, it makes complete sense that you would’ve forgotten some of the events, or even blocked them out.”
Bella shrugged again, but her shoulders hunched in a way that said she didn’t like talking about any of it. Carlisle, at this point, was damn sure that she’d blocked out some of the events in order to simply survive.
“One more, sweetheart, and I promise we’re done. Bella…was anyone brought to justice for the whole thing?”
“No!”
“Carlisle,” I growled low in warning, but it was loud enough that he could hear me. It was inexplicable, my need to protect this girl that I hadn’t even met. Her pounding heartbeat echoed in my ears, her breathing was shallow and weak, and her brow broke out into a sweat, but it was the salty tears that hurt me to my very bones. Bella was having a panic attack.
Carlisle calmed her, soothed her, and vowed to her that she was completely safe at Masen Manor. I wasn’t sure that was true, considering what I was and how drawn to her I’d already become, but he wasn’t lying to her when he told her those monsters that had tried to take her life wouldn’t come near her while she was here. That was the damn truth. They’d find themselves six feet under if they tried to touch her. And my mental vow mirrored Carlisle’s.
Once she’d calmed down, he offered her a place of solace in his office, though Esme had told him the same thing, which he also told Bella.
The moment she left his office, I needed out of the castle, away from it all. I kept to the hidden passageways all the way to the underground tunnel that led out to the woods. Before I could change my mind and fall at her feet, I left the castle grounds at the fastest run I could manage.
I hunted – almost over hunted – but finally collapsed down onto a fallen tree next to a lake. I stayed there until the sun set. The night was warm and still, making the water look like glass.
I heard Carlisle’s mind before he appeared next to me. He sat down at my side, placing a hand on my shoulder. His thoughts were filled with concern for me, curious as to what had sent me from the school so quickly, and overflowing with his talk with Bella.
Gazing out over the water, I sighed. “It’s true,” I stated firmly, so softly that no human would’ve ever heard it, but Carlisle did.
His eyes were on me. “What’s true, son?”
Meeting his warm gaze, I opened my mouth to speak, only to snap it closed. My hands balled up into fists, my eyes closed briefly, and I glanced out across the water again.
“She’s my mate,” I murmured.
Carlisle squeezed my shoulder. “You’re sure?”
Nodding, I leaned forward, resting my elbows on my thighs. “I feel it. It’s the same pull I see in your mind for Esme. It’s all I can do not to run to her, Carlisle.”
“Yet you come here,” he said, mirroring my position by leaning forward.
I gaped at him. “She’s only sixteen! She’s so damn young, and she’s been through hell! What would you have me do? You think she’d fare any better with me?”
He snickered softly, shaking his head. “I thought the same with Esme. She was too young when I first laid eyes on her. I had to step away, or really, I suppose I waited for her.”
Blinking at him, I saw his mind. He had faith in me, and he knew that a few years was a blink of an eye to us. I’d already waited a hundred years for the idea of her to materialize, so a few more would be nothing. Above all, though, he wished for my happiness.
“But at what cost?” I asked him.
He sighed deeply. “I don’t know.”
“She’s so broken,” I murmured, feeling my chest constrict at the thought of what Bella had been through already at such a young age.
“Not broken. Perhaps a little damaged,” he countered firmly. “She’s extraordinary. She was left for dead, yet pulled through. Her strength is her biggest ally, though she probably doesn’t see it. Her inability to speak aloud, which causes her to become nervous, makes her feel weak. It’s written all over her face when she actually does it.”
Nodding in agreement, I said, “All the more reason for me to leave her alone, Carlisle.”
Smiling at me, he squeezed my shoulder. “Maybe.” He chuckled at my narrowed gaze. “Edward, you say she’s your mate, you say you’re already drawn to her, and I see a light in your eyes already – something that wasn’t there before. I’d be willing to bet that her blood held no flavor to you.” He laughed when my eyes went wide. “That alone tells me she’s your mate, but son, you need to ask yourself this… If she’s already changed you, then imagine what you could do for her.”
I shook my head, but he stood up from our log.
With one last squeeze to my shoulder, he simply said, “Think about it.”
I did exactly as he asked. In fact, all I could do was think about it for the next day. I had gotten no further in changing my mind about stepping into her life come the first day of classes. I kept tabs on Bella through the minds of students, teachers, and staff. She quietly worked her way through the day, with a tiny, all-seeing Alice at her side.
My east wing was two floors above the library, so from there, I could hear everything that went on down there. I was amazed that Alice could predict Mike Newton’s behavior, only it honestly wasn’t that hard. He was an arrogant boy, thinking himself to be a ladies man, when really, he simply knew exactly what to say to get his way. Bella escaped the library to the girls’ dorms, and I lost track of her.
Turning back to my computer, I tried to focus on the accounting spreadsheet in front of me, but all the numbers seemed to blur. Pulling up a search engine, I barely registered my fingers as they typed against my will.
Charles and Isabella Swan, Boston, Massachusetts
I hit enter, closing my eyes before opening them again. There were a few articles, the same ones that Esme had read in Bella’s home. The case was considered a cold one, simply because there had been no leads, no evidence, and no witnesses. Charles Swan had been an understandable target, considering his career as a judge. My guess was that he had more enemies than he could shake a stick at, but according to his record, he was an upstanding man, clean of any illegal activities. He’d never allowed bribery or blackmail to get in his way of doing the right thing.
One article stated that the evidence pointed to a simple break-in. It seemed they’d woken a thirteen-year-old Bella up sometime around midnight. She’d instantly run to her father, and that had been the big mistake. She’d walked in on his murder, so the attackers had tried to end her life as well. The whole scene had been discovered by her mother, Renee, sometime around one in the morning.
“Where was your mother, Bella?” I muttered to myself, deciding to do another search.
Renee Higginbotham-Swan-Dwyer
Just as I hit enter, I heard a door to the east wing open up downstairs. Quickly, I shot up from my desk, stepping silently into the shadows. My brow furrowed as I saw the last person I’d expected to see. Bella. In her arms was a ragged-looking notebook, but it was her beautiful face that made me wish I could hear her thoughts. The sadness that took over at the sight of my old piano was heartbreaking. I could even smell the salt of her tears as small fingers simply had to reach out and touch.
She’d set her notebook down as she took in her surroundings, but Emmett’s voice echoed in from the main hallway. Bella tiptoed to the door she’d left open, but through Emmett’s thoughts, I could see who she’d been hiding from. Mike Newton. Shaking my head, I shifted to see her better, and her eyes shot up to my dark hiding place on the stairs. Once her way was clear, she left.
My eyes fell to the notebook she’d left behind. I shifted on my feet, knowing that touching it would be so wrong and that she’d most likely come back for it, which was another reason to stay far, far away from it. However, I heard Angela speak to her in the hall, taking her down to the dining hall and farther away from her personal property.
In the blink of an eye, I was down the stairs and picking up the notebook. It was drenched in the scent of her – flowers and fruit and human sweat. Thumbing through it, I saw page upon page of her handwriting. Groaning, I slammed it down for a moment, bracing my hands on either side of it. I glared at it, wishing it would simply disappear, but it didn’t. Every word inside that book was from Bella’s mind. It seemed she had a voice, but it was a silently penned one. And she wrote every word to her father.
“I’m already going to hell,” I muttered, flipping the book back open. I soaked up every word, every fear, every triumph, and every failure. The guilt I felt was completely overshadowed by my curiosity to know more…and more and more. However, it was the last entry, the entry most recently written down, that caught my attention.
Bella was scared, feeling weak at opening herself up to new people, possible new friends, because she’d been hurt before. She’d liked Carlisle and already felt a kinship with Alice Brandon and Rosalie Hale. Her fear of being found by the men who’d attacked her was evident, so I did the only thing I could do. I wrote in her book.
You’re not weak. And you are safe here.
It was all I could think to say, and it didn’t even cross my mind as to what she’d think when she saw it. I couldn’t even stop myself. I hoped she’d chalk it up to the “haunted” wing of the castle, but she needed to know that she was anything but weak and that anyone who dared to touch her again would not live to tell about it. Snorting humorlessly to myself and setting the notebook in the exact same place she’d left it, I walked away.
~oOo~
I’d avoided everyone inside the castle for a couple of days after Bella’s notebook entry. I worked by myself in my living quarters, ignoring all who came to visit. Not even Jasper could get through to me. And I couldn’t bring myself to finish the internet search I’d started.
It was late Wednesday afternoon. I’d been inputting new student records and tuition payments in to the program I’d written. Payroll was next on my list, and I’d just started to calculate hours for the kitchen staff when I heard it.
It was faint, coming from several floors below, but it was unmistakable what and where it was. I knew the sound like the back of my hand. It was the grand piano on the stage of the auditorium, and it was being played by someone who truly knew what the hell they were doing.
Jumping up from my desk, I bolted down the passageway that ran alongside a few main hallways. I took the steps down to the backstage door. Silently, I cracked it open, slipping through the costume closet, only to plaster myself behind the stage curtain.
Bella’s small frame seemed to be lost on the big stage. The piano itself looked too big for her, but she was a master behind it. She started tentatively, beginning with Debussey, melting into Beethoven, and finally, ending with something I didn’t know. She was so lost to the music – something I completely understood – that she barely acknowledged that someone had opened the auditorium doors.
She smiled shyly at Alice, who happily plopped herself down in the front row.
“Don’t stop!” she told Bella.
My first instinct was to agree with her and say the same thing.
Bella played one more song, this time by Chopin, only to morph into something contemporary, which made Alice laugh.
“You’re really good, and…” Alice froze and her eyes raked around her. “You seem to make…this place happy.”
Bella looked at her curiously.
Alice shrugged. “Sorry. Sometimes, I get impressions of things…things I can’t put my finger on. I want to say it’s ghosts, but that doesn’t fit either. It’s why I’d asked Emmett about the east wing, because I get…feelings whenever I’m near there, so if it’s ghosts, I’d love to know. What I meant is, your playing gives off a good vibe.”
My brow furrowed as I read Alice’s mind. It wasn’t a ghost she was seeing. It was me. She just didn’t know what I was. It made me wary to move, simply because the two girls a mere twenty feet from me were damned observant, but Alice saved me.
“If you’re done, we can grab dinner,” she suggested, and Bella nodded silently, giving the piano a longing look. “I think you’ll be okay when you see Mr. Harris on Friday. I hear he’s pretty nice,” Alice soothed.
Bella smiled and got up from the piano bench, but suddenly, she glanced backstage, almost to where I was standing. For a split second, I wondered if she could feel the draw as much as I did.
Alice and Bella walked out of the auditorium together, and as soon as the doors slammed shut, I took off. I turned right instead of left, meandering through the castle. I ran as quickly as I could, hardly caring that students heard something they couldn’t distinguish, though they assumed it was just the noises of the castle.
I practically fell into Esme’s office.
Her eyes narrowed on me, but her mind suddenly cut off. “Edward, what’s wrong?”
“I can’t do it,” I told her, knowing I sounded cryptic and crazed. “I can’t let Harris teach her. But I can’t…” I shook my head fervently.
She got up from her desk and walked to me. Placing her hands on either side of my face, she forced my gaze to hers. “Edward, I know you’re worried, but you need to know that your father and I have complete faith in you. I went to see Leah, and I agree with her… You make your own destiny, despite what you’ve come to believe. If you want to tutor Bella, I’ll tell Keith now. He’s got enough to be doing with four other students, and I honestly think she’s above his level. I’ll simply tell him that my husband’s nephew will be taking on the new student.”
“I can’t stay away from her…”
“I know, son.” She soothed me by pushing my hair from my forehead. “And I honestly think Bella will surprise you.”
My brow furrowed, but Esme’s thoughts were open. She was sure that Bella would prove to be the best thing to ever happen to me.
Shaking my head, I sighed deeply. “And what will I be to her? Her undoing, is what.”
Esme laughed. “Was I Carlisle’s undoing?”
Smiling in spite of it all, I let out a laugh. “No.”
“Then shut up, Edward. I love you as if you were my own son, but I think it’s time for you to do the job you were born to do, that you’d trained as a human to do, and one that may change your life,” she told me. “For the better,” she tacked on before I could argue.
I sagged under her gaze. I couldn’t argue with her logic, and I couldn’t stay away from Bella any longer. I needed to be in her presence, and I wanted to know more about her than what she’d put down in a diary.
“When?” I asked in a whisper.
Esme smiled. “Friday afternoon…after class. Meet me here, and I’ll take you to her.”
I rubbed my face with both hands, ending with a rough rake through my hair. Letting out a defeated sigh, I said, “Okay.”





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