Sunday, August 21, 2016 | By: Drotuno

Six - Chapter 7 & Pics

Six – Chapter 7
New York City
“Please pass the mashed potatoes,” Jasper requested, and I handed them across the table.
Dinner was usually a loud affair, both mentally and verbally, but today everyone was subdued. Esme was busy fawning over Bella, making sure she ate and asking her all about her life – at least things Bella was willing to talk about concerning her life.
Even more, it was difficult to keep my eyes off Bella. Her hair was down, flowing around her shoulders in deep-brown waves. There wasn’t the stiff posture that she usually carried – in her mind, she’d called it “fight or flight.” And despite the sadness in those warm brown eyes, she looked like she felt a hell of a lot better since she’d showered and napped for a bit.
However, her mind was anything but relaxed, even when she’d slept. She wanted to know what Rose was seeing, she wanted to run, she wanted to hide, and she wanted revenge; that last thought made me smile, but I hid it behind my glass before taking a sip. I couldn’t say that I blamed her on that one, because Volterra had taken the life of an innocent man. She blamed herself, though she shouldn’t.

I focused more on my plate than the faces around my parents’ table. Everyone’s thoughts were continuous and worrisome. Alice was searching, seeking, riffling through every vision she could in order to see Rose, Bella, and anything to do with Volterra. Emmett was solely concentrated on Rose, and his nerves were a bit on edge because he hadn’t heard from her in hours, but he stayed quiet. Jasper was upset that he’d brought home bad news to a girl he thought deserved a break or two. But it was to my dad’s mind that I listened closely.
He’d already called the hospital where they’d transported Mr. Jackson’s body, requesting they take at least a preliminary look at him. Because Carlisle had been the man’s doctor at one point, the request didn’t exactly come out of nowhere. He was also hoping that Rose would be able to see what they found. He was, however, really angry at Volterra. His mind kept going over the last time he’d spoken to Aro – the enormous fight they’d gotten into about sixxers and power and “cures.” Carlisle didn’t think any sixxer needed to be “cured,” and he wondered at what point Aro had changed from removing someone’s talent, to playing around with their genetic make-up.
I shot a raised eyebrow his way, saying, “Money.”
He snorted, nodding his head a little. You’re listening to me when this pretty thing keeps sneaking glances your way?
I grinned, shrugging a shoulder. “You are louder.” I tapped my temple.
Bella and Esme came to a halt in their conversation because Bella had caught the exchange between us. I shot her a wink, but it was Emmett who chuckled, leaning close to her.
“Get used to it, Bella,” he said softly, grinning my way. “He hears everything, which he can’t help, and he’ll act all put-out that it’s nonstop, but he sometimes enjoys it, uses it, feeds on it.”
“Never mind that he can manipulate what someone’s thinking,” Jasper added, chuckling when I tried to kick him underneath the table.
“Really?” Bella gasped a little, her eyes wide as she tried to compare it to hypnotism.
I shook my head and sighed. “I can’t make someone run around and cluck like a chicken. I can push a thought at someone, briefly make them think it’s the truth.” When she looked curiously my way, I added, “That day in the bodega? I made Bart think you’d gone the other way, not down that alley. And I paid for what you took so he wouldn’t call the police. I wanted him to let it go.”
“Oh,” she muttered, frowning down at her plate. “Um, thank you.”
“Aww, he’s all noble now,” Jasper crooned dramatically. “Asshole.” He turned to Bella. “You’ve seen only a glimpse of his ability, Bella.” He pointed around the room. “When he’s really pissed…”
“That’s enough,” Esme chided softly, which always had a better effect than when someone yelled. “No one in this house is perfect.”
“I accidentally sent my dad to the beach once,” Bella blurted out suddenly, smiling and nodding when we all laughed. “I did. I was probably…twelve? Maybe thirteen. He was mad at me for a poor test grade, and he’d grounded me. All my friends were going to the beach that weekend, and we were arguing about why I couldn’t go. The window popped up behind him out of my control, and he fell back into the sand. Luckily, no one saw him fall out of thin air. He was so mad because he’d been dressed in his police uniform for work, so he got sand in everything, but he was laughing, too, because he knew I couldn’t always control it.”
The table exploded into laughter, though my laugh died quickly when Bella’s thoughts shifted from a man with an impressive mustache and warm familiar eyes to a gray, marble tombstone. The dates meant he’d died only a few years ago. To her, he’d been her rock, the one thing that kept everyone together, but without him, her mother had been lost. The last thing she thought about was a recent visit to that grave.
“I’m so tired, Dad. I’m tired of running. I’m tired of being hungry, dirty…of stealing to survive. I’m tired of looking over my shoulder every minute of every day, of never feeling safe, no matter where I am.” Her tears continued as she purged to the tombstone. “I’m not living, Daddy. I’m merely existing…and it’s exhausting. Maybe… Maybe Edward and his family can help me. At least give me someplace safe to stay for a few weeks, somewhere I can sleep without worrying someone will come busting into the room and take me by surprise.”
Hearing the heartbreak, the utter exhaustion in those tears, made me want to gather Bella up into my arms and keep her safe. I wanted to prove that she was safe with us. It also explained what she’d been frantically babbling about today when she’d called me for help. She’d left New York altogether to go visit her father’s grave all the way on the other side of the country. It was hard to wrap my head around that. It also made me realize that in order for Bella to stay, she had to want to stay. There would be no keeping her if she ran. She could disappear into the wind, and no one would be able to find her. If Volterra was having a bitch of a time keeping up with her, I wouldn’t stand a chance.
Something about that had me excusing myself from the table. My bedroom was at the end of the hallway, and I walked straight into it, right to my desk. Yanking open drawers and rummaging through all my shit, I finally found what I was looking for. It didn’t take long to find everything I needed or to make a quick phone call. By the time I was finished, there was a tentative knock on my bedroom door. I knew who it was before I opened it.
“Hey,” Bella said, looking up at me nervously. “I… Edward, I didn’t mean for you to see that…”
I huffed a laugh. “Don’t apologize, pretty girl. Like Emmett said, I can’t help but see it. I’m sorry about your dad.”
Her nose wrinkled a little, but she nodded. “But you left like you were upset… I didn’t mean…”
“It’s okay. I promise.” Waving her closer, I said, “Come in. I have something for you.”
I opened the door wider, leaving it open to make sure she wasn’t uncomfortable. She gazed around my room, her thoughts filled with memories of her own room at one time. I saw purple everywhere, music, books, and clothes. The typical girl room. When her eyes landed on my bookcase, the need to reach out and touch was almost overwhelming for her. I’d forgotten just how much the little shit meant when you couldn’t have it.
“You read anything you want off those shelves, Bella,” I told her softly, sitting down on the edge of the bed. “You don’t even have to ask. Okay?”
“We share some of the same titles…or at least, I used to have them.”
I smiled a little at that and nodded. “Feel free.” I waved a dramatic hand along the shelves just to see her smile. “Anytime. Even if I’m not here. Okay?”
She nodded vehemently, smiling again. “Was that…”
“No, I actually have something else for you. I didn’t realize I was dealing with an English major,” I teased, smirking her way.
She laughed, her cheeks blushing pink as she looked down and away from me. “I hardly think one semester of college counts as long enough to have picked a major.”
“True. I’m a junior and I still haven’t picked one.”
Her giggle was adorable, but she looked at what I was holding out for her – my old cell phone.
“Take it. It’s my old one. I just upgraded, but this one’s still good. I just added you to my account,” I explained to her.
“I can’t, Edward. People are tracking me…looking for me.”
“Right. You. Not me. This is my name, my phone, new number. Hell, I think I left some music on there. It’s yours. Keep it and use it. E-Even if…” I sighed, shaking my head and looking up at her. “Even if you don’t stay, Bella. I hear your mind, and I know this is a lot of trust we’re asking of you, but…we can’t make you stay. I am asking that you at least keep in touch if you do decide to go. Everyone in the family is still programmed in there…and me.”
She looked down at the device in her hands. I’d even found an old charger cable and some headphones. “Why?” she whispered, her eyes tearing up and her voice cracking just a bit.
I smiled sadly, shaking my head. “I don’t know. Maybe it’s because I remember what it was like to be alone, trying to just get through each day. My biological parents… They knew what I could do, and they used it, used me to steal from people. I was eight the first time we stole someone’s ATM card because I’d heard the PIN number in their thoughts, and I was eleven when I’d had enough. I was the reason they went to prison, Bella. I got them caught.” I wrinkled my nose at that, meeting her sincere gaze. “That’s a story for another day, I promise.”
“Okay.” She nodded, looking down at the phone in her hand.
“Maybe it’s because all of us live with the same fear, but we shouldn’t have to. Maybe it’s because I had someone help me. Or maybe it’s because I think you’re way too beautiful to have been handed such a shitty deal, and it’s time to stop running.” I grimaced at that. “I’ve said too much.”
Her laugh was a giggle and sniffle at the same time. “Can you really manipulate thoughts?” she asked suddenly.
I stood up from the bed, coming to stand in front of her. “Mmhmm,” I hummed with a nod. Reaching out, I gently touched her face. “Despite what you think, Bella… You are worth it. All of it.” I urged that into her mind and waited to see her reaction. Her blush was deep, and I could feel it against my hand.
Her eyes closed, and she sighed deeply. “Thank you.”
Bending at the knee a little, I waited until her eyes opened. “Don’t thank me. Just believe it.”
She nodded, but we both turned when we heard an explosion of voices down the hall.
Gazing back at Bella, I whispered, “Rose is back.” Fearful eyes gazed back up at me as she nodded. “You ready to hear what she has to say?” I asked her, and she nodded again.
I guided her back down the hallway and into the living room, where Rose was being checked over by Emmett and then Esme.
“I’m okay,” she said, falling down onto the edge of the loveseat, and Emmett joined her. When she caught sight of Bella, she smiled sadly. “Hey, good to see you here.”
“Thanks,” Bella whispered, taking a seat with me on the sofa.
Rose focused on Carlisle. “I didn’t…watch, by the way. I merely listened to their assessment of what they saw. The detectives who were called to the scene wanted to know what they were dealing with, so they stuck around to ask questions. I rode in as a mouse, staying small and riding in on the gurney. Once I was inside, I moved to a spot behind a garbage bin.” She turned to Bella. “Your friend put up a helluva fucking fight. Sorry, Esme, but he did. His hands were pretty beat up – split and bruised knuckles, small fractures. There were no cuts or bullet holes. He was a mess, but they think he fought so hard that his heart couldn’t take it. No needle marks, no major blood loss, just bumps and bruises.”
“So…” Emmett dragged out softly. “They beat him to death? For what? For information on Bella?!”
“Well, yeah. Though, the police don’t know that. They just think the old man was mugged. His pockets and shit were empty, but he’d been identified by just about everyone in that neighborhood. They know who he was, but they honestly think he was mugged. A few witnesses came forward about some men they didn’t recognize, but the descriptions were pretty vague.”
“Felix,” Bella whispered, a tear rolling slowly and sadly down her cheek. But the man in her mind was someone who’d tried to catch her for the longest time.
“You’re safe, Bella,” I whispered in her ear, looking to Carlisle. “He’s a big f-f-f…guy. About Emmett’s size. There was another man with him.”
“Demetri.” Bella whispered that name too.
“He’s a bit smaller.”
“I-I-I think Demetri is a s-sixxer. Felix is just…”
“Lemme guess,” Jasper said a little gruffly, sitting forward a little in his seat. “Felix is the muscle. Demetri is the hunter.”
Bella nodded. They killed him because of me.
“They killed him because they’re assholes,” I whispered in her ear. “Remember that. And remember that your friend, Mr. Jackson, wanted you off the streets, and he made damn sure to protect you. He fought for you.”
“In the end,” Alice piped up sadly, tilting her head a little as a vision hit her hard, “we’ll all fight.”
“Welcome to The Real Housewives of—”
I clicked the remote control, seeking out anything to make me tired, but the noise in my head was too loud. After Alice’s prediction that we’d all end up fighting, everyone had gotten quiet, only to go their separate ways for the night. When Bella had shot up from the sofa, she’d needed time to process, to think, to grieve for her friend. Rose, Esme, and Alice had all wanted to go to her, but I’d stopped them because the girl’s whole world had shifted and changed completely in the span of about ten hours.
Bella was used to being alone, used to dealing with shit alone, and she needed to wrap her head around some of it before she could speak. Tears had been shed silently, and memories of the gentle old man who had taken a young, scared, homeless girl under his wing had made her smile through those tears. There had been shared meals, old war stories, and raunchy jokes, but she’d adored it all. Eventually, tears had dried on her cheeks as she fell into a deep sleep.
Now the entire apartment was quiet, except for the TV in the living room where I couldn’t find a damn thing on. I couldn’t sleep, due to the minds that were on overload.
Carlisle and Esme had immediately called our sixxer friends in Alaska to check in, see if they’d had any trouble from VI as of late. Emmett and Rose were sound asleep after doing things that I’d have rather not seen. Jasper had been curious as to what Alice had seen, but that conversation quickly turned to me and why I’d been so concerned with a girl I barely knew.
However, Alice had shut him up by saying, “He didn’t know me, either, Jazz, but he protected me all the same because we were different than everyone else. And he was only eleven then. He could see.” She tapped her temple. “He can still see, Jasper, so it shouldn’t surprise you when he protects someone who can’t protect themselves, or in this case, shouldn’t fight alone. He’s done it for all of us. He’ll do it for her because she’s the key. This family needs her, but even more…Edward needs her. She’s important because she helps him, too.”
I flipped the channels on the TV, not understanding Alice’s predictions but trusting them all the same. Stretching out lengthwise on the sofa, I stared blindly at the flickering screen, trying my damnedest to ignore the ugly turn that Bella’s dreams had taken. Running – constant fucking running. Fear and hunger and tears and betrayal radiated out of the guest room. Somewhere in there was a memory of the last time she’d seen her mother – a woman who looked like a worn-out, ragged, older version of Bella – the bitch couldn’t even look her daughter in the eye as two large men escorted Bella from a house that was disgustingly filthy. A man off to the side chewed a barely there thumbnail as he watched them manhandle Bella. When money exchanged hands and a needle made an appearance, my eyes squeezed closed at the same time Bella gasped awake.
It took her a second to realize where she was, but she was up and out of bed in a hurry. The door opened, and footsteps made their way down the hall. Bella was heading for the kitchen, but my face entered her mind as she saw that someone was awake in the living room.
“Bella?” I called softly.
Her breathing was heavy, like she’d really been running, and she spun my way.
“C’mere, pretty girl. Sit down.” I got up from the sofa, muting the TV and settling her down on the cushion. “Want something to drink?”
She nodded vehemently. “Yes, please.”
“Soda? Water? Tea? Juice? Milk? Hot chocolate? Coffee?” I rattled off, grinning when she snorted up at me. “Beer? Vodka? Bourbon? Wine?” I kept going just to see her crack a smile.
For a split second, she debated on getting completely drunk, but her mother’s addictions stopped her cold, so she answered, “Juice.”
Smirking, I continued, “Apple, orange, grape, pomegranate…”
“Jesus, Edward…” She finally laughed a little, and it was gorgeous.
“Big family, bigger grocery bill,” I explained, walking into the kitchen when her mind told me what juice had caught her attention. I handed over a bottle of apple juice, kneeling in front of her. “You okay?”
She was still a little shaky when she nodded, lifting the juice to her lips. “What time is it?” she whispered, wondering why I was up.
“Almost two thirty. And I can’t sleep.”
Her eyes locked on to mine, and her face asked the question more than her mind did.
Chuckling, I got up and sat on the sofa with her. “Imagine trying to sleep in a room where there’s a party going on, or a business meeting. Everyone’s talking…or in my case…thinking. Loudly.” I tapped my temple but shrugged a shoulder. “Once everyone’s asleep, it’s quieter. Dreams are softer than conscious thoughts.”
“You can see dreams?”
“Mmhmm.” I nodded. “Sometimes, though it’s usually flashes of things, colors, faces.”
Her nose wrinkled. “It really does have pros and cons.”
Chuckling, I nodded again. “Yeah, it does.”
“What’s the worst part?” she asked, apparently looking for a distraction.
“Headaches.” I raked a hand through my hair. “They were worse when I was a kid. I can deal with hearing ugly things, weird things, even thoughts about me, because I’ve heard them my whole life. But the constant droning of thoughts makes my head hurt, which in turn causes my telekinetic abilities to get a little…wonky.” I grinned at her light laugh at my choice of words, but it was true. “Things go a little haywire, as you saw earlier.” I pointed around the room where I’d accidentally broken shit. “I’ll be hunting down new frames for Esme soon. If we break it, we have to replace it. It’s the rule around here. And with all these talents in one household, you can imagine there’s been some destruction, especially with three boys in the house.”
Her grin was beautiful as she tried to imagine Emmett, Jasper, and me roughhousing like normal brothers but then added in the idea of Emmett’s brute strength and my ability to move objects without touching them.
“Yeah, pretty much. Add Jasper’s speed and ability to climb walls, and you’ve got a recipe for disaster…and lots of repairs.”
Giggling, she shook her head. “And the best part?”
“Being able to protect us. I can hear when someone’s coming for us or if someone means to do something wrong. In school, bullies never stood a chance. Girls can be meaner than boys, especially toward my sisters. I’ve gotten in more fights over Alice than anyone. No one picks on her without consequence. She can’t physically defend herself, but mentally, she is a force of true power. She’d tell me what someone had planned, and I’d…end it. And that started back at the mental hospital. We arrived the same day.”
Bella sipped her juice and glanced up at me, thinking it was rude to ask but then realized I’d hear it anyway.
Huffing a light laugh, I shook my head. “Does it help with girls?” I laughed again. “Yeah, I guess. I can at least see through bullshit. I think it would surprise you how vivid a woman can think.” I wrinkled my nose and shuddered a little. “The joke is…if only a man could read a woman’s mind… Trust me, you don’t want to. It’s complex and filled with things that focus on meaning. ‘What does he mean by not calling, when he says this, when he won’t commit?’ On and on… And men are more black and white. He’s probably not calling because he’s playing video games with his buddies for hours. And he’s completely shocked when he catches hell for it.”
Bella laughed, remembering a guy she’d dated in high school. “Well, that explains some things, I suppose.”
“I’m still human. I still fuck up.” I chuckled. “I was dating someone and still didn’t heed the mental warnings, so… I dunno. I guess it only helps if I’m smart enough to listen.”
A flash of anger crossed her face over whatever betrayal she thought I’d endured. Then she tried to conjure up just how beautiful the girl could be. Models’ faces, women she’d seen before, and girls with wicked bodies all swirled together to create a picture of perfection.
“Uh, no. Tanya was…is pretty. But trust me, she’s not perfect.”
Bella’s mind shifted from trying to imagine what Tanya had done – and she assumed cheating, which was correct – to remembering a high school setting. I saw a tall guy, tan skin, dark hair, and a motorcycle. There were fights and moving boxes, tears, and a healthier-looking version of Bella’s mother loading up a moving van.
When Bella caught me watching her, she smiled sadly. “Jake,” she said in answer to my raised eyebrow. “Not everyone is smart enough to listen to the voices in their head.”
I snorted, nodding in agreement.
“He hated my ability to jump. Said it was unnatural and weird. So when I moved, we were done. I visited once, but he’d found someone else, someone ‘normal.’”
Narrowing my eyes, I shook my head slowly. “Well, he’d just love this whole house now, wouldn’t he?”
She laughed. “Yeah.”
I sighed deeply. It wasn’t the first time I’d heard sixxers referred to as unnatural or even evil. Devilry had been used once or twice. I could imagine several decades back that the witch trials were more for sixxers than actual witches. It wasn’t easy being different, even more difficult when someone close didn’t accept those differences.
“I’m sorry,” I said, putting my feet on the ottoman and turning my head her way. I smiled when she did the same. “About Jake, your parents, and Mr. Jackson.”
“I’m sorry, too.” She was apologizing for whatever she assumed Tanya had done, but mostly she was sorry for being an intruder into my home. That last thing was unacceptable.
“It’s not your fault.” When she started to argue, I pushed on. “It’s not, Bella. I promise. People make choices and decisions they have to live with, and even though they caused a shit-ton of trouble for you, it’s their decisions. Fuckery has a way of circling back to people – both good and bad. You gave Mr. Jackson someone he could care for, someone to focus on instead of his own bad position in life.” I tapped my temple so she knew I’d heard it in his mind. “In turn, he gave that goodness back by protecting you when he had the chance. It circled around.” I shifted a little so I was facing her a bit more. “Carlisle found Alice and me, took us away from some really ugly things, and he taught us how to control our talents, use them to protect ourselves and each other, and he gave us this…” I waved a hand around. “A home. A family. And in turn, we protect it, guard it against people who want to take it away. It circles around,” I repeated. “Consider this – you…here…now – a part of a new circle. Okay?”
Tears welled up a little in her dark eyes, and she nodded.
“Good.” I nodded once, picking up the remote control and handing it over. “Now…find us something to make us sleepy.”
Her grin was adorable, and she started going up the channels. “Something boring? Or comfortable?” she asked.
“I don’t need the mating practices of snails, Bella, but something to zone out to,” I explained with a chuckle.
She snorted but kept flipping.
“Welcome to The Real Housewives of—”
I laughed softly, nodding in agreement.
She finally settled on a travel show, something centered around Yellowstone National Park. I wanted to ask her just how her talent worked. Could she merely see a picture or something on the screen and go there? Or did she need to have been there before? But I let it go for the night, settling into the sofa next to her. Where some women’s minds were silly or shallow or even constantly thinking, Bella’s was calm and relaxed at the moment. And that made me happy because I know just how fucking scared she truly was. The rest of my family had finally dozed off, and my mind started to calm down. It was a nice break from all the activity earlier in the day.
I wasn’t sure the show had been on thirty minutes before Bella’s head fell softly to my shoulder. Her even breathing, the slight twitch of her fingers, and the smoothing of her worried brow told me she was completely out. I couldn’t help but smile and drop a barely there kiss to the top of her head that was resting against my cheek.
“Let’s get you to bed, pretty girl.”
I shifted as best I could without disturbing her, shut off the TV, and lifted her up. With an arm around her shoulders and one under her legs, I carried her down the hall to the guest room that would be hers for however long she wanted it. I set her gently down on the bed, pulling the covers around her.
Something shifted, changed inside my chest, and I swallowed thickly to contain it. No one would ever hurt her again. Deep down, I knew it was ridiculous feeling this way so soon, but she seemed so vulnerable at the same time she was so very fucking strong. The fact that she’d let her guard down and fallen asleep on my shoulder, when she was used to sleeping with one eye open twenty-four-seven, wasn’t lost on me.
Brushing her hair from her face, I silently wished her only good dreams. I turned off the light and closed the door with a soft click before making my way to my own room. Finally, the house was quiet enough to sleep.


Kelly said...

Love this story and your Edward..he's awesome. It's great to know he can hear Bella. Great twist!

Kelly said...

Love this story and your Edward..he's awesome. It's great to know he can hear Bella. Great twist!

Anonymous said...

So glad that Bella is opening up a little bit and slowly learning to trust. But I'm so sad about Mr. Jackson and wish some really foul harm oh Felix and Demetri. grrrrrr......

LoLo-50 said...

love this story and Edward is already attached to Bella,She wants justice and to avenge the death of a friend.The bad guys really need to suffer.

lilypad said...

So happy that Bella feels somewhat comfortable.

Kristi said...

Alice set the tone for everyone's future with her last vision. How long before that battle?

Unknown said...

Loved their conversation. It's nice Ed could make her feel more comfortable.

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