Sunday, June 15, 2014 | By: Drotuno

Masen Manor Chapter 25 & Pics

Chapter 25
April 2002
Frowning, I flipped through the small sketchbook that I’d dragged onto the plane. I’d drawn my Bella’s face more times since we’d taken off than I ever had in one sitting: Bella playing in her recital, her sweet tears of happiness at the first sight of me; the beautiful vision of her sleeping in peace next to me, her gloriously smooth bare shoulders; and finally, the vision of her in my bed while hugging a pillow.
It was that last one that killed me. It was the last sight of her I had. She’d watched me dress, gather my things, and barely let me leave. While it had been the single most sensational weekend of my entire existence, it had torn me to pieces to have to walk away from her. Again. It had taken several kisses, more tears than I could catch, and a plethora of promises to pry myself from her grasp. By the time I’d fallen into Jacob’s car, I’d wanted to vomit with the emotions coursing through me.

He’d given me mental space as he drove, but had sworn to me he’d watch over my girl. In fact, he was planning on taking the train with her – and Leah, for that matter – the day Bella went home. I’d thanked him, but it came out sounding slightly bitter, which merely made Jacob grin my way and keep driving. He knew not to push, simply because he knew just how hard it was on all of us to be split up and what Alice’s change meant to the family. And he truly saw us all as family.
My forehead thumped to the plane’s window as Alaska drew closer. My eyes took in clouds and the night sky and an expanse of land beyond my immortal vision. It was a patchwork of different landscapes, and I scowled, knowing that with every second, I was getting farther and farther away from where I truly wanted to be.
“Time to put your tray up,” I heard from the aisle. When I looked up at the flight attendant, she smiled. “Pretty girl. You’re talented.”
“She is,” I sighed, smiling at the pencil drawing on the tray in front of me. “Thank you.”
I shook my head, thinking that as a human, I’d barely been able to draw stick figures. The ability to recollect and put down on paper came with my change into this life. That, along with my speed, were the unexpected perks.
“I’ll take your trash,” she said, her mind filled with my looks. She found me attractive, and it intimidated her.
I handed her the glass of melting ice in amber-colored liquid, wishing for the first time in a hundred years I could get drunk – anything to take away the pain of being away from Bella.
The attendant glanced at me again, wondering if she should ask if that was my girlfriend, but she thought better of it when I turned my attention back out the window, basically dismissing her. I didn’t want to encourage her. Her thoughts were shallow, yet laced with low self-esteem; someone had broken her heart at some point. As sad as that was, I didn’t care.
Eventually, the light came on for seat belts, and I could feel the plane’s slow descent. Anchorage started to loom closer. As the pilot announced the weather and time, I sat up straighter. I had to shake myself of the funk I’d wallowed in since leaving Masen Manor. I’d promised Bella that I wouldn’t take my missing her out on everyone else. I’d sworn to her that when I was feeling that way, I would call her, or at the very least…write. Patting the front pocket of my shirt, I made sure I had the other promise I’d made her: a letter to give to Alice.
The plane touched down, and it was another several minutes before we disembarked, but I shouldered my bag, nodding once to the flight attendant on my way out. I smiled when it was Jasper waiting for me.
“I thought I’d better pick you up. Tanya was considering letting you hike it,” he taunted with his slow, lazy smile.
“I’m sure she was,” I chortled, shaking my head. “Thanks, though.”
“Mmhm,” he hummed, slapping my shoulder as he led me out to the car. “I’d ask how it went at home, but…” He narrowed his eyes at me, laughing a little. “You’re pushing out a whole bunch of shit.”
Grinning, I waved him away. His mind told me what I was emitting: determination, resolve, a touch of lust, and pain. The last two went hand in hand, he was assuming at that point, and I simply nodded.
We got to the car, and he started it up but didn’t back out right away. “Thank you…for coming back. Alice saw you waver a couple of times, not that we would’ve blamed you, but still… Thanks. I can’t… I just know it isn’t easy, brother. I feel it.”
Taking a deep breath and letting it out, I nodded. “You’d do it for me.”
“In a damn heartbeat. And I swear to return the favor someday,” he vowed, and in his mind, I saw he meant it, that he’d talked to Alice about her visions of Bella’s future.
“I’ll remember that,” I told him. However, I couldn’t help but tease him. “Seriously, you could just pay me back by toning down all that lust…”
He laughed, backing out of the garage parking space. “Yeah, we’ll see…”
May 2002
The giggles of two girls echoed through the trees. One was pacing restlessly back and forth and the other was traveling through the speaker of my cell phone. It was Sunday – two Sundays away from my flight into Boston – and we’d just finished a hunt.
Since my return to Denali, I’d done my best to stay positive, despite the pain, the heartache, and the pure instinct to run back to Bella. However, Sundays were the best day of the week. We would hunt near the closest cell tower, yet as far from humans as possible, in order to allow Bella and Alice to chat. When they were done, they left me for my own conversation.
The first call between the two had been both good and bad for the girls. We’d taken Esme’s advice and used the speakerphone, and Alice had rambled to Bella for almost a half hour with apologies that she’d needed to get out of her system. Bella, in turn, had apologized for not being able to tell Alice exactly what we were, that she’d wanted to, but she’d had no choice because it wasn’t her secret to share. Alice understood, but Bella had been in tears, and it had resulted in Alice getting upset.
However, I realized that every call was forcing Bella to speak. She had no choice. According to Esme, she hardly said ten words throughout the week, but during her calls to Alice and me, she’d chatter away while in my living quarters in the east wing. So it became a weekly thing.
“Alice, stop!” Bella begged through her laughter on the other end, and it made me smile.
“What? I’m just saying... Watching the hunt is sexy,” she defended in her usual rambling way. “You should see Jasper; he’s like a gazelle…all graceful and shit. Oh, wait, maybe you shouldn’t see Jasper. But…Edward! He hunts like a…a…big cat…”
Snorting in to a chuckle, I shook my head and sat down at the base of a tree next to Jasper and across from Tanya and Irina. We tried not to eavesdrop, but with our enhanced hearing and having to stay nearby just in case a human should wander too close to Alice, it was unavoidable.
The giggles rang out again.
“God, I’ve missed that sound,” I murmured to no one in particular, but they all glanced my way, and Jasper nodded and smiled next to me.
“Bella’s laugh?” Irina asked with a smirk, twirling a blade of grass in her fingers.
She was just as beautiful as Tanya, though not as snarky and playful. Out of all the Denali sisters, she was the mellow one, calmer in personality. She’d been happy to hear that I’d found my mate, that the long-awaited prediction had been true.
“No, both of them…just that,” I clarified, gesturing to the happy chatter. “When Bella first arrived, she was silent as a church mouse, and Alice had been…ostracized by her classmates, thanks to two little—”
“Shitheads,” Jasper provided with a growl, his scowl was fierce and deadly.
He’d not quite forgiven Newton and Stanley for their “prank” on Alice, which had started the chain of events leading to her change. He loved her as an equal to him, but he hated that it had been against her will. It was hard to reconcile for him. Jasper – like me with Bella – would’ve given Alice all the time in the world to decide, but he’d not even had the chance to tell her the truth about us…or himself. Those choices had been stripped away.
“That works,” I said with a laugh. “Anyway, the two of them…clicked. Alice instantly became fiercely protective of Bella, who accepted Alice’s sixth sense without batting an eye. Bella didn’t have to speak out loud; Alice could read her facial expressions like a book, though I assume her visions helped her. They needed each other. These last few weeks have been hard on them.”
Jasper nodded in agreement next to me, but didn’t say anything. He adored Bella, especially now, considering how hard she’d fought with him for Alice’s sake. He respected her loyalty, understood her fears, and was still awed by her strength. He loved her like a sister, and he’d kill for her. All she had to do was ask…especially when it came to her stepfather.
“Who’d Bella talk to first?” Tanya asked, breaking me out of Jasper’s thoughts.
“Esme,” Jasper and I said at the same time with matching grins and laughs.
“Oh, of course.” She chuckled.
“That was before she’d even come to school,” I explained. “It was during the interviewing process in her own home. Bella said Esme made her comfortable.”
Tanya and Irina nodded, both smiling understanding smiles. Esme was really easy to be around for anyone. It made sense to them that Bella felt that way.
“What are you gonna do about that asshole stepdad of hers?” Tanya growled, sitting forward a little. Since she’d helped me in Boston that night, she’d wanted to know the progress of Bella’s situation. She’d offered her help again, should I need it, but what she really wanted was to meet my girl. She had to set eyes on the woman who had changed me completely.
My nostrils flared at the mention of Phil. “I don’t know,” I sighed, shaking my head. “I hate the thought of her in the same city as that man, never mind the same damn house, but I have no choice but to send her home to her mother. With the police reopening the case and Bella’s eighteenth birthday looming closer, Phil may do something rash. He was desperate the last time I read his mind. He was shocked to see just how much she’d changed in less than a year. She was talking – albeit minimally around him – her grades were fantastic, and she has me.” I grinned evilly when the girls laughed. “The latter of which makes him nervous.”
“Oh, I bet,” Irina concurred, shaking her head. “If she’s alone, with only her family, then he can manipulate the situation. From just what you’ve told me, it sounds like he planned this thing from the start. I imagine Bella’s survival of that night threw a wrench in it. Not only did he probably wait to see if she’d live, but if she’d ever be normal. If he’s playing the mother for a fool, he’d have to act like the concerned lover, stand in as a support. All eyes would be on Bella, so it wasn’t like he could finish what those two monsters started.”
“Exactly,” I agreed. “I’ll be interested to read his mind when Bella finally tells the police her side of the story.”
Jasper growled, glancing over at me. “The fact that he brings his friend into that fucking house… I think he’s testing her, Edward. I’d have to be there to be sure, but I swear to God, it’s like he taunts her with him. No wonder she’s uncomfortable…or panics.”
“Don’t get me started,” I sneered, turning to the girls. “Demetri’s brother…Alec Brown.”
“Ah, Demetri… Wonder how he felt that next morning,” Tanya mused, grinning at my chuckle. “Bet he didn’t remember a thing.”
“No, probably not. Jenks has had a man on him since that night,” I told her, but turned to Jasper, “and we figured out the oil smell Bella said she thought she’d caught that night. The Brown brothers’ father owns an auto repair shop. Both Demetri and Alec work there.”
“Let me guess... It’s not just an auto repair shop,” Jasper surmised.
I shook my head. “No, the Browns are deep into illegal activities. What I want to know is what Phil owes them, because he wouldn’t be so desperate for the money otherwise. Did something go wrong with the steroids thing? Or is there more?”
“You know who would know, Edward?” Tanya piped up, holding up a finger. “The girl Alec’s with. You talk to her, you may get some answers, but you’ve got to do it the right way…and nowhere near the brothers. You said you keep seeing the same girl with a black eye, right?” she asked, tapping her temple. “I’m betting that’s Alec’s girl.”
“You may be right,” I sighed, my head falling back to the tree trunk behind me. “I can’t go near Alec yet. With the police asking questions again, Jenks and Clearwater are telling me that Alec and Phil are avoiding being seen together. I’ll know better once I get to Boston.”
Jasper nodded. “And Jake’s going with you, right?” he asked, and when I nodded, he grunted, satisfied that I’d have help. He knew I’d need to hunt occasionally, that I’d have to go out to ask questions, so he wanted to make sure that Bella would stay protected when I wasn’t with her. “Though the negative side of Jake is that he can’t read minds.”
“That’s true, but I don’t have a choice,” I said, my head spinning in Alice’s direction. She was having a vision of a group of teens hiking this way. “Alice…” I warned her.
“I know, I know,” she sighed forlornly, walking our way. “I’ll talk to you soon, Bella. Here’s Edward…”
She handed me the phone once everyone stood up. As they left the area in a rush, I slowly walked deeper into the woods, but still stayed near the cell tower. I couldn’t say I was disappointed. I couldn’t wait to lose myself in a long conversation with my girl.
Finding a new spot to sit down, I smiled. “Hey, beautiful. I miss you…”
“I miss you, too,” I sighed, falling back onto the couch.
Sundays had quickly become my favorite day. Talking to both Alice and Edward made the time apart not so bad. It wasn’t ideal. I missed Edward to the point of pain, and even though I didn’t have his arms, I had his voice.
“You should get mail tomorrow, sweet girl,” he told me.
“Yeah?” I asked, smiling even bigger that I’d have our journal back. “God, I love FedEx,” I proclaimed, which made him laugh. “How was your week?”
“You first, Bella,” he begged. “I need to hear your voice.”
Chuckling, I shook my head. “It’s school, Edward. There’s not much to tell.”
“Um, okay…”
I thought for a moment. My weeks were boring, and they dragged slowly. I wasn’t sure which was worse: hoping for Sunday to hurry so I could talk to him and Alice, or hoping that school would end so that I could fall into his arms. Either wish made time creep.
“They’re getting ready for graduation. Emmett and Rose are excited. They’ve already been accepted into Dartmouth together, so they’re practically on cloud nine. Oh, and Mr. Harris asked me to play for the ceremony,” I told him.
“Yeah? What? For the walk?”
“Yes, and then after they get their diplomas. There are only twelve graduating, so it’ll be a short thing.”
“I’m sorry I’ll miss that, love,” he sighed, sounding truly upset about it.
“I’m not. You made it to the most important one. This is a piece of cake. When I play that, I’ll know I’m only days from seeing you, Edward. But I’ll still have Esme video it for you.”
He laughed. “Good. I love watching you play. I miss it.”
Smiling, I nodded, even though he couldn’t see me. “Well, personally, I was hoping to play that piano at your house.”
“Until your little heart’s content, my love,” he said, his voice taking a deeper tenor.
It was sexy and sweet, and I wasn’t sure he even knew he was doing it. It reached through the phone and wrapped around me like his touch. It made me want things that I couldn’t have while he was so far away, and it was unfair to even voice them aloud. My hands shook as I fought it, because to say it would make Edward feel bad, and he despised being so far away from me as it was.
“Um,” I whimpered, squeezing my eyes closed. “I’ve got all my tests coming up this week,” I blurted out there, just to change the subject. “I think I’m good, but Esme says next year will be harder.”
“The last year always is,” he agreed. “I’ll help you. Plus, next year, you’ll start applying to colleges.”
My brow wrinkled at that statement. “About that… Um…what happens with us when I go to college?”
His chuckle was nervous and soft, and I could probably guess that his hand was clawing at his hair. “I’d… I’ll probably follow you, Bella. I don’t know how else to do it. No matter where you choose to go.”
My grin was silly and stupid, but ridiculously happy.
“Is that okay?” he asked tentatively.
“Pfft, yes. Though, I don’t know how it would work.”
“It’ll work however we want it to work, Bella. Depending on where you go, we could attend classes together, or I could work from home remotely for the school. I’m… I… None of it matters, not a single detail. You and I can decide what works best for us, but…I’d rather do it face to face. Not over the phone when I’m thousands of miles from you. And you never know what may happen in the next year, Bella, so… As much as I’d love to plan this, I’d rather wait. This summer coming up is weighing heavily on me, so until I can get you safely back to Masen, I can’t really think straight. Understand?”
“You’re really worried?”
“I am. Maybe it’s overthinking, or maybe I’m just paranoid when it comes to you, but…I can’t let anything happen to you. You’ve gone through so much already, but now…you’re minemy responsibility, my future, and my soul. I won’t allow someone to harm you again. Not while I’m still walking this earth. I can’t explain in words just what it means…all these changes. It’s utterly out of my control. I’m sorry if it’s intense and scary, Bella—”
“Edward,” I interrupted him. “Enough. I get it. Or at least…I’m trying. And it’s far from scary. I’ve told you that before. I’ve been scared. You don’t do that to me.”
He sighed, but I heard a light chuckle in it. “I know, I just… I never want you to feel smothered. I want you to live your life the way you want it. I say that because if you’re truly serious about being with me…always…then I want you to live. Truly live. Go to school, travel, attend loud, drunken college parties…” He chuckled when I broke out in a laugh. “See whatever you want to see, love. I’ll never stop you, and I’ll be there with you, if that’s what you want.”
“No, wait, sweetheart. Hear me out, okay? Seeing Alice’s choices so abruptly snatched from her is hard. She’ll always be eighteen. She can attend college eventually, but I see what she’s missing out on. Everything that the two of you could’ve done together is now gone, like a puff of smoke. If children are something you want, I’d step away... We’d find a way. It wouldn’t be me, but…” His heartbreaking rambling was killing me.
“Edward, stop!” I begged him, tears filling my eyes. “Just stop, please.” When he stopped talking, I took a deep, ragged breath. “What’s all this?” I asked him, but he stayed quiet for a moment. “Y-You explained to me that I could have faith in us…in being your mate. If that’s the case, then these worries you’ve suddenly thrown at me aren’t warranted.”
A sigh escaped him, and it sounded relieved. “Being away from you is hard. We’re never doing this again.”
I giggled and sniffled at the same time. “I’m okay with that,” I replied instantly. “But you listen to me, Edward Cullen… You said I was made for you, and I feel that’s truly the case, so if that’s true, then what does that tell you?”
“That I should probably shut up and be grateful.”
My laugh was loud, and it echoed through the east wing, but even better was the deep, sexy chuckle that joined me. My muscles relaxed at the sound of it.
“College is something I’m interested in, Edward, but children…” I shrugged a shoulder he couldn’t see. “I don’t know. I wasn’t a baby doll type of kid. I’d rather play the piano or fish with my dad. I may have had one, maybe two dolls my whole life. I don’t see myself having kids.”
“You could change your mind, Bella.”
“I could. Or I could stay exactly the same. I trust I can come to you with it, Edward. Modern medicine is a fantastic thing. Just ask Carlisle. I don’t need you to step back for anything. If I chose to have a baby, I can have one without touching a human man.”
The growl that rumbled over the phone was harsh and sharp, but I kept going.
“But I love you. Unless they could be partially yours, then…no. I can’t see it happening, Edward. I just don’t.”
“Yeah, never leaving you again. It obviously makes me stupid,” he muttered belligerently, which made me giggle. “I love you, too, Bella. And I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to…lose it. I just see the reality of it in Alice. She’s good at covering some things up, but she can’t hide from me. She doesn’t regret anything, but I worry that it will change.”
“I doubt it. Alice is pretty adaptable. She can roll with some pretty hefty punches.”
“I’m seeing that, love. And of course you can always come to me,” he told me, his voice softer, nervous. “I didn’t mean to imply—”
“Shut up and be grateful.”
He laughed. “Yes, ma’am.”
The train filled slowly, the aisles a cacophony of noise and chatter. My hands could hardly keep still, because I knew that at the end of this long train ride, I’d finally set eyes on Edward after four very long weeks. He’d called from the airport in Anchorage just before I left the east wing with the last of my stuff. He’d been adorably sweet and practically tumbling over his words to let me know that he’d see me very soon. He wasn’t going to make it in time to meet me at the train station, but he swore he’d see me soon.
I glanced out the window, shaking my head at the poor station employee trying to keep all the students and some of the Masen Academy staff organized and calm in order to get us on board in some sort of timely fashion. It wasn’t working. Everyone was too hyper, ready for summer break. And for the small senior class, it was the last train ride they’d take. I couldn’t imagine that feeling.
My eyes drifted past the station’s roof to catch the bare glimpse of one of Masen Manor’s towers in the distance. The big, dark castle felt more like home than Boston now. Even without Alice’s excitable predictions, I knew I’d always be attached to it. Coming here, this year of school, had changed me forever. Edward had changed me forever.
Aside from the whole thing with Alice, I wasn’t sure I’d change a thing about coming here. Though, my best friend was taking to her new life like only Alice could – with a laugh and smile and a “Meh, fuck it” type of attitude. On one of our Sunday talks, she’d admitted to me that even though she was sad she couldn’t see her family again – especially Grandma Mary – she knew eventually she would’ve never gone back to Mississippi. She would’ve liked to have said goodbye, but she knew she couldn’t, so she’d accepted it. She said being away from me was harder.
Looking down at the journal in front of me, I smiled a little, letting out a sigh. And then there was Edward…my personal Masen Ghost. He was beautiful and sweet and protective, and despite how rough our beginning was, I couldn’t imagine anything different. He’d helped me rediscover myself without hardly doing anything other than having endless patience and a crooked smile just for me.
I reread his last entry in our journal that I’d received just before the graduation ceremony, preparing to write him back on the trip back to Boston.
My beautiful Bella,
By the time you get this journal back, you’ll be packing to leave the castle. Something about that hurts a little. You have no idea how perfect you look in my room, like you were always supposed to have been there. Hell, maybe you were in some way. Maybe Giselle’s prediction placed you there in my mind, and you never left.
I can’t wait to see you. This last week has been the longest of them all, I swear. My heart and mind have been solely on you. I couldn’t concentrate for anything, no matter how hard I tried, which more than one time almost ended disastrously. I almost brought Alice too close to some people camping. At that point, I knew I needed to get back to you, if only for my own sanity.
I can leave knowing that Alice is on a good path. She’s determined to stay on the right diet, and she wants to get to the point where she can see you. Those two things alone seem to be guiding her more than anything. She’s still a long way away from being under control. Her moods are quick to change, and she’s still easily distracted with humans, though she fights it every step of the way. She uses her visions to remind herself of who they are, that they’re people with families and friends. It works for her. It’s very similar to my mind reading. She wanted me to tell you that she’s watching out for us while we’re in Boston.
My love, if I’ve learned one thing during our time apart, it’s that I need you. Before you, I would’ve trudged along my life, not really living. I’d watch mated couples, not understanding how important and intricate it all was. I’d roll my eyes at declarations of love and worry. But now I get it. I understand what it’s like to be completely connected to someone, to have everything I say, do, and think be about them. And I know just how comforting it is to hand my heart over to you, knowing you’ll protect it, cherish it, love it.
God, Bella, I know I complained about the lust that Jasper pushes out, but it’s not the feelings that bother me; it’s having the feelings without you here. It’s knowing that if I came to you, you’d welcome me with open arms. Being away from that was too much. It was too hard.
I don’t know what Jasper and Alice plan to do, but I know for a fact that I can’t ever be this far away from you for this long. Ever again. I’ll help them in any way I can in the future, but not when it takes me from you.
When we get to Boston, I want to wrap my arms around you and never let go. I want to take you out, show you off, and kiss you until you’re that sweet, blushing, giggling thing in my arms that I live to see. I want to see places you’ve talked about, like that music store you like so much, your old school, and your favorite places to eat. And at night, my love, I want to hold you in my arms, touch you. I feel I’ll go mad if I can’t touch you again, to watch you fall apart as you’re wrapped around me. I probably shouldn’t write these things, but they’re the truth. I’ll have to go slow the first time I see you, sweetheart. I’ve missed you too much, so keep that in mind. I never want to hurt you.
Have a great last week of school, Bella, and a safe trip back home. I’ll see you soon.
All my love. Always.
There was a slight desperation to his tone, but his beautiful words still made me smile. The desperation I could understand; it matched my own. As much as Esme, Carlisle, and Jacob had tried to keep me company in Edward’s absence, it was really him that I needed. My nightmares had been awful, almost to the point that I hated sleeping, and the ache in my chest never really went away, except when I talked to him on the phone.
I turned the page to answer him back, when a familiar voice caught my attention.
“No, I said I wanted to sit with Bella,” Leah huffed, rolling her eyes up to her son, who looked resigned.
“Okay, but Ed said don’t scare her with your predictions,” he warned, giving me a wink behind her back.
Giggling, I patted the top of the table in front of me.
“You think I’m heartless, Jacob Black?” she asked, sliding across the seat until she was in front of me. “He thinks I’m a mean old witch.”
Jacob scoffed. “Sometimes, I wonder…” When I tsked at him, he merely grinned back and shrugged a large shoulder. “Technically, she’s considered a witch, Bella.”
Rolling my eyes at him, I smiled at Leah’s amused chuckle, but she reached for my hand.
“I have something for you,” she told me, toying with my charm bracelet.
She reached for a little leather pouch that was hanging around her neck, dumping the contents onto the tabletop. I saw stones and metal coins and something furry, which I could only guess was a rabbit’s foot. She picked up one of the coins, attaching it to my bracelet, all the while humming to herself.
I pulled my hand back to examine it. It was round with a design much like a sun, but around it were different symbols or runes of some sort. It was silver and beautiful, about the size of a nickel.
“Thank you,” I whispered, and she smiled, putting her pouch back around her neck.
“It’s for luck,” she stated, her expression serious. She tapped a finger on it, nodding once. “It’s to ward off those who mean you harm, those who are plotting evil against you. It will repel it or return it back to them.”
“I’m pretty sure Edward’s gonna return it back to them just fine,” Jacob muttered, winking my way when I snorted into a soft laugh.
“Yes, well, a little help won’t hurt,” she countered with a smirk. “Edward takes care of enough people, so I figured he could use a hand.”
Smiling her way, I thanked her again. Her love for Edward was all over her aged face. It sparkled in her black eyes, and for a split second, I saw the young girl that Edward spoke of so often, the one he’d once described as sharp-tongued and smart.
The train’s whistle blew at the same time two tall figures made their way down the aisle. I scooted over so that Emmett and Rose could join us.
“There you are. I was wondering if you were staying behind,” Rose teased, smirking my way. When I chuckled and shook my head, she handed me a slip of paper. “My contact info,” she stated softly. “If you need to talk or maybe want to attend one of my group meetings, just call me. We won’t be leaving New York until August.”
I glanced down at the paper. She’d written her email address and phone number, but she’d also added the days and times the group meeting for survivors of violent crimes met. The one she usually went to was in Brooklyn, but occasionally, she went to one in New Jersey if she was visiting Emmett.
When I glanced up at her, I smiled. Emmett gave me a wink and his usual dimply grin. Rose’s face was blank, but I knew that she was fighting her emotions.
“I’ll miss you,” I whispered, frowning up at her. “Good luck at Dartmouth,” I told them both.
Rose’s façade broke, and she hugged me. Hard. “You, too. And don’t you dare stop talking. Show the damn world that they can’t—”
“Keep a good bitch down,” I finished for her with a sniffly laugh, which made Rose laugh with me.
“That’s what I’m sayin’,” Emmett cheered, nodding once with pride. He turned to Leah. “Break out the tarot cards, Miss B. Let’s see how things go. Can you play ‘Go Fish’ with those bad boys?” he asked, just to hear her laugh.
The train started to move, pulling slowly away from the station as Leah pulled out her cards and started to shuffle them.
The whole way to Penn Station, she playfully told Rose and Emmett their fortunes. They were dealt a love card, which wasn’t surprising, but they were also dealt strength and prosperity and fertility. That made Rose beam, simply because she wanted children more than anything. I was happy to note that not one time did the death card show.
A few tears were shed once the train pulled into Manhattan. I hugged Rose again. I’d miss her, especially at school the next year. Without Alice and without her, I wasn’t sure what I’d do.
The ride from Manhattan to Boston was quiet. Leah dozed as Jacob read a book, so I wrote in my journal back to Edward. When we finally pulled in, Jacob stopped me, his face a mask of determination.
“Edward wanted me to tell you that he’ll be there as soon as his plane lands. Once I get Mom settled at his place, I’ll be close by. Should you need me, call. You’ve got my number, yeah?”
I nodded to him. I didn’t know how to thank him for uprooting not only himself from his home, but Leah, too. Edward was convinced Phil would try something, though I’d be willing to bet it wouldn’t be my first night home. He’d leave me to Chelsea and my mother.
Jacob smirked. “Don’t thank me. Edward’s right; you can see everything on that face of yours,” he said with a laugh. “Just…watch your back, even when you know we’re around. Got me?”
“Good,” he grunted, turning to help his mother up. “See you ’round, Bella.”
It was Chelsea picking me up again. Because it was the middle of the week, I knew Phil would be at work. Though, I was surprised to see my mother with her when I finally made my way through the crowd to the usual newspaper stand. I rushed to them both, my mother getting to me first.
“Bella,” she sighed with relief, a beaming smile on her face when she pulled back to cup my face. Her brow furrowed a little as her thumbs traced the dark skin beneath my eyes. “Sweetie, haven’t you been sleeping?”
I nodded. “Finals and nightmares,” I whispered, wrinkling my nose, but you would’ve thought I had shouted my answer, because my mom’s eyes teared up.
“Well,” she huffed. “It’s summer, baby girl. You can sleep in however long you want.”
Grinning, I nodded, turning to hug Chelsea, who’d been watching us proudly.
“Good to see you, sweet girl!” she gushed, kissing my cheek. “How’s that handsome thing of yours?”
I nodded, smirking at them both. “You’ll see him.”
“Oh?” Mom asked, as we toted my things through the station. “He’s in Boston for the summer?”
“Yeah,” I sighed happily, blushing when both women giggled like girls at me.
My mind was on Edward pretty much the whole car ride. With every glance at the time, I knew he was still in the air. I actually didn’t expect him until after the sun went down, simply with just how bright the day was, though clouds were rolling in slowly.
Once we were home, Chelsea emptied my bags of every piece of clothing I owned so she could wash them, which made my trunk much lighter to drag up the stairs. As usual, I avoided the sixth step, but practically fell into my room.
I sat down on the edge of my bed, trying to acclimate myself back into my home, but I felt off, like I didn’t fit there anymore. For a moment, I wondered if that was a part of missing Edward, of being too long away from each other…or if it was something else altogether.
I put away my things, leaving most of my stuff for school in my trunk and stowing it in my closet. I cleaned up a little, finished my note back to Edward, unlocked my window just in case, and made my way downstairs. I was surprised to see that Phil wasn’t home yet. When I got to the kitchen, Chelsea smiled over her shoulder at me from her place at the stove.
“Help?” I offered.
“Yeah, sure. You can set the table, sweet girl. Your stepfather won’t be joining us. He’s working late,” she told me, and I fought my smile at her eye roll, but there was something dark in her expression.
It was just the three of us when we sat down to eat, but my mom paused for a moment before she picked up her fork.
“Bella, you need to know something,” she said tentatively, taking a deep breath. When she locked gazes with me, she looked like she was bracing herself for the worst. “They’ve reopened your father’s case. Some detectives are taking a new look at it.”
My eyebrows shot up, not because I was surprised at the news. Edward had already told me about the cold case detectives, but at the fact that my mother was actually sharing this information with me.
“I just… I didn’t want you to be surprised when they come to see you. I know you… I know it’s hard for you,” she rambled, but glanced back up at me when I placed my hand on hers. “I don’t mean to upset you, but I think…” She seemed to gather her bravery and nodded once. “I think it’s a good thing.”
“Me, too,” I whispered.
That brought both women up short, but Chelsea grinned. “Thatta girl,” she praised.
“I may have to…” I started, but shrugged.
“They said you could tell them however made you comfortable. They aren’t heartless, and they’re aware of previous tries,” Mom stated. “So you can write it down if you must.”
“Okay,” I agreed.
“Really?” she verified, and when I nodded, taking a bite of my dinner, she wiped away tears. “Okay, I’ll call them in a day or two or three, let them know you’re ready.”
A loud bang made us jump, but we looked up to see Phil righting his briefcase that he’d obviously dropped. His face was empty of all expression, but my eyes narrowed when he seemed to put on a mask. A big smile spread over his face, and he walked behind me, dropping a kiss to my head.
“Bells, it’s good to see you,” he stated, taking a seat by my mother.
I opened my mouth, only to shut it, but a sense of calm and comfort washed over me. Smiling, I knew Edward was close, if not upstairs in my room.
“It’s Bella,” I corrected him for the first time ever, shaking my head. “Not Bells. Not to you.”
Chelsea got up from the table, quickly making him a plate, but she was clearly biting the inside of her cheek when she set it down in front of him. Phil’s eyes narrowed on me and his face paled, but again, the mask slipped back on.
“Fair enough, Bella. Guess you’re all grown up since you’ll be a senior next year.”
My mother and Chelsea latched onto that topic and took off with it. It became a buzzing conversation that I tuned out as I finished my dinner. Once I was full, I stood up, waving to them that I was going to my room.
I couldn’t get up the stairs quickly enough, practically tripping over the sixth step. I wanted to know if my heart was telling me the truth. I wanted to know if I could feel him when he was close.
Pushing open my door, I smiled at the sight on my bed. Closing the door behind me, I turned the lock. I wasn’t sure my childhood bed had ever looked so good. Surrounded by purple and white was the sight I’d needed to see for weeks.
His smile was as crooked and sweet as always, and in his hands was our journal as he leaned back against my headboard. He looked windblown and perfect, his hair sticking up everywhere. He was in dark blue jeans and a black sweater, a white T-shirt showing at the neck. His legs were crossed at the ankle, and he looked almost too long for my bed, all legs and arms.
“I need to get better locks,” I told him, grinning when he chuckled.
“That won’t stop me, love,” he replied instantly, swinging his feet down to the floor.
I shifted on my feet, trying to find restraint not to bowl him over, smother him in kisses, and wrap myself around him.
“Don’t fight it, Bella.”
“But you said…”
“Forget it,” he groaned, opening his arms. “Forget everything I said. Just let me hold you.”
A sob erupted from me as I flew across the room and into his arms. I buried myself in his neck, inhaling the scent that I loved so much. Mixed with sandalwood and the clean soapy smell was a touch of the scent of the closed-up airplane. My hands balled up his sweater into fists as my emotions overwhelmed me.
“Let it out, love,” he soothed, rolling us until we were on our sides, face to face, in the middle of my bed. “It’s okay. Believe me, if I could cry, I’d be right there with you. I’ve missed this gorgeous face so damn much,” he whispered, all while dropping sweet kisses to my forehead, cheeks, and lips.
I grasped either side of his face, just staring at him. He was so perfect and looked so happy, with warm honey eyes, that I smiled through my tears. He was just…beautiful. And suddenly, the feeling of not fitting in at my home vanished completely. Everything settled into place because Edward was there…with me.
“God, I’ve missed you,” I sighed, kissing his lips.
He wrapped a strong arm around my waist, hugging me as close has he could get away with, though I could feel him shaking.
Pressing his forehead to mine, he closed his eyes. “I will never leave you like that again,” he vowed.
Giggling a little, I only had to turn my head slightly to kiss him. “Sounds good to me.”
His face grew dark for a split second as he turned slightly, obviously listening to something going on in the house.
When he faced me again, he said, “We need to talk about what just happened down there.”
“Hmm,” I hummed, nodding a little. “He’s pissed.”
“He is. He’s scared, too.”
“Is he doing anything tonight?” I asked, shifting closer and tangling my legs with Edward’s.
“Then he can wait,” I stated, grinning when a growl vibrated my bed.
Edward smirked, but kissed my lips. “Yes, my love…he can wait.”


aelita48 said...

The school is finished!
Edward is back. What is going to make Phil?
Thank you, it is a good chapter.

Canadaci said...

As always another wonderful chapter. Getting close to closure.

Evelyne-raconte said...

Super chapter, I love it. Thank you for sharing.

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