Sunday, August 14, 2016 | By: Drotuno

Six - Chapter 6 & Pics

Six – Chapter 6
New York City
Her mother… Her own fucking mother! That thought had me on my feet and pacing as Esme whispered calming things to Bella.
My fingers threaded into my hair and gripped hard as I fought my temper. It was one thing that my biological parents had used my talents for their gain, but to sell me out to…
“Edward!” Alice hissed from the sofa, but I couldn’t reel it in, and she saw it. She could see the outcome should my temper get away from me, and it wouldn’t have been the first time.
I shook my head, my hands falling down to my sides, but the shift in the room was my fault. The tumbling of books, the shatter of glass, the scrape of furniture – it sounded like an earthquake.
“Son,” Carlisle called, grasping both sides of my face. “Edward, stop. Control it. You know you can!”
I shook my head, my glare on his face. “Her mother…sold her?!” I ground out through gritted teeth.

“Edward,” I heard beside me softly, and it was the one voice that seemed to get through when nothing else was. When I drifted my gaze to the pretty girl on the sofa next to my worried mother, she shook her head. “Edward, it wasn’t…like that. Well, maybe a bit, but she’s…sick. My mother’s an addict, thanks to her boyfriend, but my mother sober wouldn’t have done it.” Another stack of books tumbled off the shelf. “Are… Edward, are you doing this?” She pointed around the room to the fallen books, the broken frame of a picture, and the side tables I’d shoved away.
My nostrils flared when I nodded once.
“Stop. Please. Don’t tear up your home. It’s not worth it; she’s not worth it.” Her soft voice sounded so accepting, maybe even a little defeated, and so very fucking tired.
“Listen to her, son,” Carlisle urged in a soft whisper. “What’s important is the now, not the past. You of all people should understand that.”
The dull, pounding headache that had been slowly ebbing and flowing all day in class gave another eye-watering throb. I squeezed my eyes closed and reached up to rub my temple, letting my breathing slow to something more even.
“I’m sorry,” I whispered, pressing the heels of my hands into my eyes to rub hard at the ache.
I wasn’t even sure to whom I was apologizing – my father for losing my control, my mother for the mess I’d made, or Bella for scaring her with my temper.
My eyes opened to Carlisle’s concerned expression, but his thoughts were centered around my visceral reaction to not only Bella but the need to defend, protect, and even comfort a girl I barely knew. I snorted humorlessly at that but didn’t say anything. I couldn’t explain a damn thing about it.
“That’s why they want her back,” I told him. “Because she escaped. Because she’s seen the inside of Volterra.”
I spun my head to look at Bella, who frowned a little at that, but her thoughts were of the day she was taken, the blurry moments of when she was there, and the day she’d been aware enough to jump out of what looked like a hospital room and a prison cell that had been combined into one single entity.
Kneeling in front of her, I spoke softly as I rubbed her hands. “What else, Bella? Show me everything. What else do you remember?”
“Not much. I…I was drugged from the moment they took me,” she answered back. “My talent wouldn’t work. I couldn’t concentrate hard enough to put up a window. I remember the sounds of machines, like when someone’s on a breathing machine in the hospital, but it was…bigger? Like there were a bunch of them. And…and…uniforms!” she gasped, and her hands had turned over to grip mine fiercely.
“Um, like medical?”
“Well, yeah, but also like um…m-m-military.”
My eyebrows shot up when she showed me a moment she could barely remember. A dark uniform with several medals and achievements pinned to it, but there wasn’t a face. Her memory was blotchy, but she seemed to be rolling down a hallway on a stretcher. The corridor was lined with windows, showing what looked like endless rows of patients in beds, including IVs and nurses.
“Show me when you jumped, Bella. Please.”
She shook her head, toying with my fingers. “It’s not much. I was just awake enough to go and jumped far away from Seattle.” Something in her mind and her facial expression was sad about that statement.
“Where’d you go?”
“A place my dad took me once…”
A picture of natural beauty appeared in her mind – mountains, trees, wildflowers, and a small wood cabin. The sun was setting between two mountains, sending orange/red rays over everything. It was breathtaking.
Nodding, I gave her hands a gentle squeeze. “Thank you,” I said softly, “for showing me.”
“Bella, did you ever hear anyone talking?” Dad asked, sitting down across from us.
“Not much. Just normal stuff like a hospital – blood pressure, tests, stats – that sort of thing.” She shrugged a shoulder. “I did hear someone say genes and weapon once, but I told you I was a little out of it.”
My dad sat forward, leaning his elbows on his knees. “My greatest fear – aside from something happening to my wife and children – is that Volterra is playing around with genetic or biological weapons.” He gestured around to Alice, Esme, and me but looked back to Bella. “I have a theory that VI is using sixxers to test their genetic make-up. They’ve approached just about all of us, Bella. They tried to take Alice and Edward from us when the two were just children. Edward was about thirteen, and Alice was ten or eleven.” He shook his head. “They tried to get Jasper back in Texas before I found him living on the streets.”
Bella’s eyes widened, and she looked from Carlisle to me.
Smiling, I tapped her chin. “I told you, Bella. We’ve all been there, been where you are, right now. Carlisle?” I said, jerking a thumb his way. “He found Alice and me in a mental hospital. I was eleven years old, and Alice was only nine. My parents were in prison, and Alice was all alone.”
“No I wasn’t,” Alice piped up from the chair, and her smile was soft and her memories sweet. “I had Edward. He protected me because he knew what I was. We kept each other’s secret in there.”
Prison. Bella rolled the word around in her mind as she avoided my gaze.
“Ah, that’s a long story.” I smiled when she glanced up at me. “My parents weren’t exactly…noble. And neither was I. Think you’re the only one to take something that didn’t belong to you?” I tsked, shaking my head. “No, Bella. You and I have a lot more in common than you think.”
“I don’t want to steal!” she snapped.
“I didn’t either. But sometimes, you have to simply survive. I can’t judge you on a fucking thing. None of us can. Except maybe Esme here. She’s pretty close to saint-like.”
My mother giggled, which in turned caused everyone else to chuckle. “Hush, Edward.”
“Yes, ma’am.” I focused back on the girl in front of me. “Look, Bella,” I said through a sigh. “No matter what my siblings find out about your friend, we can help protect you. We’ll help you figure out how they found you, but I’m pretty sure they have someone like Carlisle, who can sense others like us, so it doesn’t shock me that they have lookouts in every city. They found us in Chicago, Jasper in Austin, and they tried to find Emmett and Rose upstate, but they’d already left for the city.”
“We’re safer in numbers, sweet girl,” Esme added. “Together, my family is strong, capable, and talented.” She wrapped her arm around Bella, giving her a hug. “Here, you’re safe. Here, we can watch over each other.”
Bella’s face heated, and she felt like she’d be a burden, like someone’s problem to fix.
“No, pretty girl.” I shook my head. “You’re no one’s problem, but you are one of us. And you don’t deserve to be hunted down by a pack of wolves who only want to exploit what we are.”
Her mind was a whirlwind of thoughts. She was so used to running that it was taking all she had to even stay here in the apartment. She was so very scared of so many things – getting caught again, causing us trouble, depending on someone other than herself, and somewhere deep down, she thought of her mother. Where I thought there’d be resentment, there was only worry. And all that I heard had to have shown on my face, because her face reddened.
“Don’t. Don’t feel sorry for me,” she whispered, looking away. “Jesus, it must get old hearing that stuff all the time…”
I huffed a laugh but shook my head. “Which is it, Bella? Does it get old, or does it come in handy? ’Cause I can tell you it’s both.”
Her beautiful face twitched into a small smile. “Fair enough.”
“Without Edward’s gifts, he and I would’ve been taken that day in Chicago by Volterra,” Alice said softly, and Bella’s gaze turned her way.
My sister’s memories were different than mine. She’d seen a vision just as we stood in line for our food at McDonald’s, but I’d heard the bastards coming, and they’d known what our talents were and what we’d looked like. My own reactions had been out of control. Between the visions that Alice was having at the moment and the thoughts of the goons sent to take us, my temper and fear had culminated into a complete mental meltdown. Fryers had exploded, windows had shattered, and every light bulb in the building had busted. They’d blamed a faulty fryer in the end, but at the time, some had thought a bomb had gone off. However, it had given me the opportunity to get my sister out of the building and somewhere safe.
My nostrils flared with that memory. “They were…relentless.” And that statement had me turning back to Bella. “I may or may not have destroyed a McDonald’s that day. I don’t know how you lasted this long alone, Bella.” I shook my head slowly. “Although, your talent is damned impressive.”
Her cheeks blushed pink as she nodded but gazed down at our hands still clasped in her lap. “Thanks. It wasn’t always so…controlled.”
“As you saw just a minute ago, mine still isn’t,” I teased, winking when she locked her gaze on mine. I pointed around the room at the broken glass and dropped books.
“Edward is very powerful,” Esme said proudly. “Which is why Volterra want him…and Alice. My hunch is they’re watching my husband.”
Carlisle sighed but nodded a little. “Aro is ruthless, but he also went to medical school the same as me. It’s quite possible he seeks me out, but how they’re tracking Bella is beyond me. Unless they have someone with a talent that can do that…something similar to mine.”
We all jumped a little when there was a commotion at the front door. I only heard my brothers’ minds when I stood up to face them. Rose wasn’t with them. However, it was Jasper’s mind that hit me first. It was panic and disbelief and sadness, and the latter was specifically aimed toward Bella. He already liked her, having only just met her, but he liked her talent, understood her circumstances better than any of us, and he thought she was spunky. He liked even more that she was driving me crazy. So the thought of bringing back bad news was almost too much for him.
“No,” I breathed softly, shaking my head. “Jasper, tell me that’s not the outcome.”
He merely shook his head.
It was Emmett who stepped forward. “We… That…” He rolled his neck, the vertebra crackling with the movement, and every inch of my brother flexed in his ire. “That Mr. Jackson, he’s… They found him in another alleyway. He’s… We heard someone mention heart attack, but…he’s gone.” Emmett shook his head slowly, looking pissed and helpless at the same time. Sometimes, those two things were hard for him to reconcile.
“No,” Bella whispered from behind me, a sob wrecking her.
“Shit,” Emmett groaned, looking at me apologetically, and he stepped by me. “You must be Bella. I’m…sorry… I mean, I’m Emmett, but I’m sorry. My Rosie, she’s following him…his body. She wanted to know what happened. She’ll tell us when she knows something.”
Bella’s teary eyes looked to me, only one word entering her mind. Alone.
“No, Bella,” I said, kneeling next to Emmett. “You don’t have to be alone. We can protect you.”
However, it was Esme who caught her attention.
Wrapping an arm around Bella’s shaking shoulders, she whispered, “Let’s get you settled. The guest room is all yours, and you can stay as long as you like. Okay? You and Alice are about the same size, so we can get you something clean to wear. Until we know more about your friend, I’d feel better if a beautiful young girl wasn’t on her own. Please, Bella.”
Bella’s whole frame shook, but her mind was mad and scared. My face flashed to the forefront, my sincerity, my coming to get her when she’d called, and the fact that we all had the same fear. Those beautiful brown eyes locked on to my face, and she finally relented with a single nod.
New York City
I was almost completely numb as Esme led me down the hallway to the guest room. It was like I couldn’t quite believe the news Edward’s brother had shared about Mr. Jackson. I’d wanted to scream that it wasn’t true, to hit the very large Emmett and make him take it back. But deep down, I knew. I knew he wasn’t lying. I knew poor Mr. Jackson was gone. But I had to keep myself together. I’d already wigged out enough in front of Edward and his family. So I swallowed back the emotions threatening to spill out of me and focused on putting one foot in front of the other.
“Right in here,” Esme said as she opened the door to a spacious room filled with gorgeous furniture.
I hesitated in the doorway, once again feeling out of place.
“Come in, Bella, please,” she urged sweetly.
Unable to deny the pleading in her tone, I stepped into the room and glanced around. “It’s beautiful, Mrs. Cullen.”
She made a clucking sound and shook her head. “Just Esme, sweet girl.”
I couldn’t help but tease her. “All right, Just Esme.”
Her tinkling laughter made me smile, even though my heart was heavy with grief and fear.
She opened one of the two doors and said, “This is your bathroom. Towels are right here—” pointing at a cabinet just inside the bathroom “—along with shampoo, soap, toothpaste, and a toothbrush. I keep everything stocked in case the kids have a friend over or Carlisle finds another young one in need of help.” She smiled fondly. “Now, if I remember correctly from Jasper’s first day with us, you’re going to want a long, hot shower.”
Shaking my head, I said, “Oh, no, I won’t use up all the hot water, I promise. I’m used to taking quick ones when I can.”
“No, baby,” Esme said sadly, moving to me and cupping my face gently. “You take as long as you want. You’d have to be in there for hours before the hot water ran out. From now on, you don’t have to worry about things like that. You just worry about yourself, about making yourself feel better. I know relaxing in the hot shower will help that.”
Stunned by the absolute generosity and warmth she radiated, I nodded, willing the tears back. “Thank you,” I whispered, unable to meet her eyes.
She took a deep breath and then stepped back, clapping her hands once. “Okay, so… Shower, and when you come out, there will be some things on the bed for you to wear if you’d like. Are you hungry?”
“Not right now, but thank you,” I answered. “Maybe after my shower.”
Nodding, she smiled. “Well, as you can imagine, with that crew out there, we have plenty of food in the house, so anything you’d like, just ask. If I don’t have it here, I can send one of the boys to the bodega down the street to pick it up.”
When I opened my mouth to thank her again, she shook her head.
“No more thank-yous. To see you safe and comfortable will be thank you enough.”
I smiled gratefully and then waited until she’d left the room, closing the door behind her, before I stepped into the bathroom, which was just as opulent as the rest of the apartment.
Marble covered the floors and walls, and there was a gorgeous tub in one corner, with a separate, glass-enclosed shower beside it. A white vanity sat across from them, with a large, lighted mirror over the sink. All the fixtures were polished chrome, only highlighting the expensive feel of the room. Off to the side was a sliding door, half closed, behind which I could see a wall-mounted toilet. I stood there stunned for a minute, mentally comparing this to the bathrooms in the ratty motels I’d stayed in off and on the last year. Forget the rest of the apartment. Just give me a blanket and pillow, and I could sleep in the tub and live in this bathroom for the rest of my life.
I felt a shiver at that thought, at the idea of spending the rest of my life in this apartment. What if I’d completely misjudged Edward and his family? They all seemed so wonderful, but what if I were wrong? Edward had said I could leave anytime, that I could jump in and out without worry. Could I really? I suddenly needed to get out, to make sure the freedom being offered wasn’t a lie.
Grasping my backpack tighter, I faced the bathroom door and opened a window through which to jump. As soon as the random-looking New York City alley popped into view, I stepped through, nearly gasping with relief when I was able to go without issue. Surely if they were planning to keep me for Volterra, they’d have drugged me or found some other way to keep me from jumping out. Squeezing my eyes closed, I draw a deep breath in and silently repeated to myself to trust my gut and to trust Edward and his family, and then I opened my eyes, threw up a window, and jumped back into the bathroom.
Everything was as I’d left it: quiet and empty. No one was waiting for me, guns drawn or needle at the ready.
Slowly, I set my backpack on the floor, locked the bathroom door, turned on the water, and then began to strip off my dirty, ratty clothes and shoes.
I hesitated before picking out a shampoo, conditioner, body wash, and washcloth, and I hung a towel on the hook outside the shower before carefully opening the door so I didn’t drop anything. When I stepped into steam moments later, I literally sighed at the feeling of the hot water on my skin. I found the built-in shelves for the things in my hands and set everything down. Then I ducked my head into the stream of water. By the time it sluiced down my face, it was mixed with tears of grief as I cried quietly for the kind old man who’d been my only friend for a year.
Mr. Jackson had been kind, funny, sweet, and caring, and he’d deserved more than to become a punching bag for a couple of thugs after one insignificant girl. And I knew… I knew that was the reason he was dead. If it hadn’t been for me, he’d still be alive. Someone from Volterra Industries must have seen me talking to him, and when I disappeared, they assumed he would tell them where I’d gone. I knew I would carry that guilt with me for the rest of my life, but I vowed to somehow make it right, no matter what I had to do.
By the time I stepped out of the shower a few minutes later, I was cleaner than I’d been in as long as I could remember. The floral-and-citrus-scented body wash had left my skin feeling soft and smelling fantastic, and the hot water had my muscles loose and relaxed, a definite change from the normal, everyday, “fight or flight” tenseness. Now I was just tired. Emotionally, physically… I felt drained, like a battery completely run down that needed to recharge.
I quickly brushed my teeth with a purple toothbrush from the cabinet and grabbed a comb to take with me to the bedroom. When I walked out of the bathroom, one towel wrapped around my head and another around my body, I was thrilled to see a few stacks of clothing lying across the bed – T-shirts in red, green stripes, and a pretty light blue, as well as khaki shorts, jeans, and a pair of soft, heather-gray yoga pants. I had my own underwear – stolen from a department store a few months before and hand-washed in the sink whenever I stayed somewhere private overnight – on under my towel, but I was happy I wouldn’t have to put on my old clothes.
After dressing in the yoga pants and blue T-shirt, I climbed onto the big bed to comb out my hair. I was nearly done when there was a quiet knock on the door.
“It’s Edward,” a voice said from the hallway. “May I come in?”
“Yes, come in,” I answered, pulling my knees to my chest and wrapping my arms around them.
The smile that greeted me automatically had me responding in kind, and I ducked my head, hiding my now-warm cheeks in my knees.
“You look better,” he said, and I snorted as he rushed to add, “Not that you looked bad before. You just look clean and fresh, and… I’m sorry. That didn’t come out right either. I—”
Laughing, I stopped him by waving a hand around, as if to wave off his words. “I understand. I feel better. Your mom was right about the long, hot shower. It did wonders.”
His cheeks were pink as he held out a hand. “Alice said your feet were cold, so I told her I’d bring these to you.” When he opened his hand, a pair of blue fuzzy socks were in his palm.
“Thank you,” I said quietly. “These will help.”
After a moment, I stammered, “H-Have…um…” I bit my lip before looking up at him. “Have you heard from Rose yet?”
Shaking his head, he frowned. “Not yet. I’m sure when she knows something more, she’ll call.”
“What was she following him as? I mean, a cat’s pretty obvious, isn’t it?”
He chuckled. “Yes, definitely. Emmett said she was going to try going in as a mouse. She could climb up into the ambulance and hide out that way. She can even go as far as becoming a fly if she had to, although that has its own risks – bigger prey, vehicles…”
“A random newspaper,” I added, chuckling.
“Right,” he agreed with a snort. “Anyway, I don’t anticipate hearing from her for a couple of hours.”
“Oka—” I said, only to have it interrupted with a yawn I quickly hid behind my hand. “Sorry…”
“Don’t apologize. It’s been a long, stressful day. Do you want to take a nap or come out and get something to eat? There are a few hours to dinner, but we have plenty to snack on till then, or we could put together a sandwich or something.”
I started to tell him a sandwich would be good, but another yawn escaped before I could speak. “I guess I’ll try a nap. I haven’t been sleeping well lately.”
“I’m sure,” he said, frowning. “Well, you’re safe now, so just rest, pretty girl. We’ll keep the demons away.”
“Thanks,” I whispered, setting the comb on the bedside table. “And tell Alice thanks for the socks.”
Edward smiled. “I will.” He strode quickly to the door and then turned. “Oh, and Bella?”
When I looked up at him, he tapped his temple.
“No guns or needles, I promise. But I’m glad you decided to stay.”
I blushed, making him chuckle, as I remembered my thoughts when I’d jumped back into the bathroom, and then he closed the bedroom door behind him, leaving me alone.
Slipping under the blanket and sheet, I quickly got comfortable in the luxurious bedding. I was clean, warm, and safe, and the combination was so relaxing that even as my thoughts centered once more on poor Mr. Jackson, I easily closed my eyes and drifted off.


trbuie said...

Bella's whole dam life just makes me cry. so so sad....

Kristi said...

Life with Edward and the Cullen clan will be so different for Bella. Who is watching Carlisle? Now that Bella has sided with his family, does that put them in greater danger?

Snoopylover said...

Looking forward to hearing more about Edwards talent. And how's he's going to use it at Volterra. To destroy that house of horrors that Aro has built!!
Poor Bella, she has been through hell and back... Mr. Jackson. :(

Great chapter :D

Unknown said...

Nooooooooo! Not Mr. Jackson. Hope Rose can find something out.

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