Sunday, August 28, 2016 | By: Drotuno

Six - Chapter 8

Six – Chapter 8
New York City
It was light out when I woke up, bright enough that I knew I’d slept in later than I probably should’ve. For a moment, I couldn’t remember how I’d gotten back to bed after my nightmare. Edward had still been awake when I’d stumbled out of the bedroom, heading to the kitchen for something to drink. I’d grabbed on to the company like a lifeline, still reeling from the memories my dream had brought to the surface – my mother, ignoring me as the men from Volterra Industries dragged me from the house, where I’d been dropping off groceries.
Forcing my mind from going down that path again, I focused back on Edward. We’d talked more about his ability, and I’d told him about Jake. I’d wanted to know more about his ex – Tanya, he’d said – but it really wasn’t my business, so I’d let it go. We’d started watching a documentary on TV, and I must have fallen asleep on the couch, because I had a vague memory of being in Edward’s arms, of him soothing me as he carried me to the guest bedroom. I didn’t remember him tucking me in or leaving the room, but I’d been comfortable enough to sleep hard the rest of the night and well into the morning.

I got up, took care of things in the bathroom, including a quick shower – no matter what Esme had said, I didn’t want to take advantage of their generosity by spending forever under the hot spray – and then got dressed in another of the outfits left for me by Alice. When I walked out to the living room, I realized quickly that I’d interrupted an argument.
“Not an argument,” Edward said with a shake of his head, flashing a smile my way. “Just a slight disagreement.”
“Good morning, sweetheart,” Esme said, setting down the cup of coffee she’d been holding. “Did you sleep well?”
“Good morning.” I gave her a small smile. “Yes, thank you.”
“The mattress was okay?”
I chuckled softly. “More than…especially after the ones I’ve been sleeping on.”
She smiled – I could see a hint of sadness in her eyes, even with the smile – and then turned back to Edward. “You’re going, Edward. Bella will be fine.”
“Yeah, bro,” a voice said from the other side of the room. I looked over, startled, to find Jasper sitting with Alice at the table. Both had what looked like bowls of cereal in front of them. Jasper continued, “Ali will be here, and Em and Rose will be back in a couple of hours. They only have classes this morning.”
“But I can’t leave—”
“Edward,” I interrupted. “I’ll be okay. If you need to go to class, go. I don’t want to interrupt your life more than I already have…”
He frowned and moved until he was standing in front of me. “You aren’t interrupting our lives, Bella. And I can’t le—”
“You can,” I insisted. “I’ll be fine. Please…” I already felt like I was taking too much from the Cullens, what with the clothes and food and place to stay. I couldn’t take away their lives outside the apartment too.
Edward looked as if he were going to say something more to me, but instead, he turned to Alice and asked, “You haven’t seen anything?”
The diminutive brunette shook her head. “Nothing, Edward. See?” She froze for a moment and then smiled. “We’re going to do some online shopping and have some girl time until lunch, when Emmett and Rose get home.”
Edward sighed. “Okay.” Reaching out, he brushed a loose hair away from my face before tucking it behind my ear. “Use that phone and call me if you need anything. Promise me, pretty girl…”
I nodded quickly. “I promise. Besides, you’re only a window away, right?” I said with a small grin.
He chuckled. “Right.” Then he turned to Jasper. “All right, Tex. Let’s get going.”
Jasper leaned over, kissed Alice on the forehead, grabbed a backpack from beside his chair, and stood. “Yes, sir.”
Edward picked up his own bag from the couch, gave me one last look, and then left the apartment with Jasper just behind him.
After a breakfast of cereal – Esme had said it would be no trouble to make eggs or waffles or even French toast, but I’d promised that cereal would be fine – and coffee, I looked up when Esme set a computer in front of me and Alice slid into the seat beside me.
“I know you won’t want to go out,” Esme stated, “but you need some new clothes.”
My cheeks heated in embarrassment. “I can’t aff—”
“Hush, sweetheart,” she chided. “Let me do this for you, Bella. Please. It’s something Carlisle and I want to do. We want to help you in every way we can, and getting you some new things to wear is just a small part of that.”
Her expression was so sincere, it was all I could do not to break down.
“Okay,” I agreed quietly. “But I don’t need a lot…”
“Jeans, sweaters, T-shirts, skirts, a couple of dresses, not to mention new unmentionables and some socks,” Alice stated succinctly, making Esme laugh. “I’ve seen it.”
“Never bet against Alice,” Esme warned me playfully.
I chuckled, feeling a bit more of the weight on my shoulders lighten. “Okay, okay. I have no idea where to start…”
We spent an hour shopping on four different websites, and even though I’d protested the additional cost, Esme had insisted that everything be shipped overnight. In addition to the three pairs of jeans, four sweaters, ten T-shirts, two dresses, six pairs of socks, and eight bras and panties, they’d talked me into three pretty blouses, a few pairs of shorts, a new jacket, heavy coat, two pairs of sneakers and a ballet flats, as well as a large new backpack, and my own preferred toiletries. When she learned that I loved to read, Esme had tried to get me a Kindle, but I’d been able to put her off. I had a feeling it might show up sometime soon regardless. I felt bad about the expense even without the e-reader, and I’d told her so, but with tears in her eyes, she’d made me promise to stop worrying about the cost and just allow her to take care of me.
“Now, if neither of you need anything from me right now, I’m going to go work on the cross-stitch I’m in the middle of,” Esme said, standing up from the computer. To me, she added, “A nurse from Carlisle’s hospital is having a baby, so I’m making her a blanket.”
“My mom used to sew,” I said wistfully. “Back…before.” I laughed. “She tried to teach me, but I was all thumbs.”
Esme smiled and patted me gently on the shoulder. “If you ever want to try again, just let me know. Neither of my other girls are interested.”
“Not true,” Alice piped up. “I can do some sewing but not needlepoint like cross-stitching.”
Giving her daughter a look full of love and pride, Esme leaned in and kissed the top of Alice’s head. “Yes, I apologize. You can knit with the best of us, honey.”
Once Esme had left the room, Alice asked, “Do you want to go into the living room? We could watch a movie or something.”
I nodded, realized she couldn’t see, and voiced aloud, “Sure. It’ll be good to just sit and relax and not worry about anything.”
She grinned and stood. “I know the feeling. I think for the first two months after Carlisle and Esme took Edward and me in, I didn’t want to do anything but sleep and sit in here beside Esme.”
“She was born to be a mother, wasn’t she? You can just feel it in the way she speaks and treats all of you.”
Alice agreed as we settled into the couch and she set her folded cane on the coffee table in front of her. I noticed she didn’t use it but had it with her all the time anyway. I thought about asking why, but before I could vocalize it, she smiled.
“I don’t need it here in the house.” She tapped her temple and grinned when I made a noise of surprise that she was answering my unasked question. “Everyone knows not to move furniture or leave their bags or shoes out where I could run into them, so I know my way around here. I take the cane with me everywhere just in case. For the times I do need it, I know I’ll have it with me.” Before I could say anything, she growled and held up a hand as if she could see the nails on it. “This is chipped, isn’t it?” She turned her hand around for me to see.
I looked closely, and the light-pink polish on one of her nails had indeed been chipped on a corner. “Just a little bit, yeah.”
“I thought so. I can feel the rough edge.” She sighed. “I’ll have Rose paint them when she gets home – maybe I’ll go bright-pink this time…”
“Umm, I can do it…if you want, I mean,” I said tentatively.
“Yeah?” Alice brightened. “That would be great!”
She jumped off the couch and hurried out of the room, faster than I’d have thought possible. Back in less than a minute, she settled in beside me on the couch and held out everything I’d need: polish remover and cotton balls, two bottles of polish, and a manicure set.
I laughed, shaking my head. “Done this a few times, have you?”
She shrugged with a grin. “I can’t see them, but I love getting them done.”
Picking up the polish remover and a cotton ball, I got to work. After several minutes of silence, I said, “Can I ask you a personal question?”
“Of course,” she chirped, and even though I was sure she knew what I was going to ask, she waited for me to speak.
“Edward said you were in a mental hospital?” She nodded, giving me the silent okay to keep going. “Why? When were you… I mean, where were your…” I sighed, laughing softly. “This feels so intrusive. I know I don’t really have a right to ask about your past. I just… I’m curious about everyone. I’d never met anyone else who had an ability before Volterra, and of course, I was out of it there, so I couldn’t exactly speak to anyone.”
Alice laughed. “It’s okay, Bella. Really. My past isn’t a secret.”
As I worked on her nails, she told me her story.
“For as long as I can remember, I’ve had visions. When I was young, it was nothing too intense – a rip in my tights for one of my ballet performances, a coming storm when I was supposed to be going to the park… Little things like that. Neither of my parents had an ability that I know of, so they simply chalked it up to dreams, like it was a fear I had about ripping my tights – stuff that just happened to come true. A few weeks after I turned seven, we were coming home from church one Sunday afternoon when I was gob-smacked with a vision of a car accident. It was so vivid and so violent that it scared the daylights out of me – bad enough that the fear and the pressure in my head burst all the blood vessels in my eyes.”
She paused, swallowing. “It scared my parents – not just the blood but what I told them I’d seen. My dad turned us around and was taking me the hospital, driving extra carefully after promising me he’d do so, but we were at the stop sign at the bottom of a hill, and a truck came over the hill and the driver’s brakes didn’t work. He slammed into us and pushed us into the intersection. My parents were killed instantly. I had a broken leg and cracked collarbone, and they quickly discovered I’d lost my vision.”
I felt my tears welling up. I knew how it felt to lose a parent, and to lose both at once, when she was that young… “God, Alice… I’m sorry,” I whispered, taking a shaky breath.
She smiled sadly. “Thanks.”
“How did you end up at the mental hospital with Edward?”
“When I was released from the hospital, it was to a foster home because I didn’t have any other family, aside from a great-aunt, who had dementia and lived in a nursing home. I was trying to adjust to being blind, suddenly I was being assaulted with all these visions – none so violent as the accident, but much more than anything else I’d ever experienced. I figured out quickly that trying to tell someone about them just got me labeled as a liar, an attention-seeking problem child, or crazy. Finally, after two years of group homes and foster homes, when I wouldn’t give up trying to get someone to believe me and the state couldn’t find anyone else to take me in, they admitted me to the hospital. By that time, I’d learned to keep my mouth shut about the visions…until I had one the day I was admitted. That was how I met Edward. He believed me from the beginning, and he’s protected me ever since,” she finished with a smile.
“Wow…” I shook my head. It was a crazy, horrible, sad story, and I wasn’t sure what to say.
“Yeah,” she agreed. “But it all led me to the Cullens. Carlisle and Esme truly became a mother and father to Edward and me both. Now…I couldn’t imagine life without all of them.”
I finished painting the last finger and said, “You were both lucky,” and then I laughed nervously. “I mean, not lucky, because I mean, what you went through, but that…”
She giggled. “I know what you meant.” Sobering, she nodded. “Yes, we were. Who knows where we’d be if Carlisle hadn’t found us.”
“Don’t you?” I teased. “Ms. Psychic.”
Laughing, Alice pulled her feet out from under her. “Silly Bella. I see the future, not the past. Now, will you paint my toes to match, or should I wait for Rose?”
“Give ’em here,” I said, reaching out to snag a foot. Then I paused and grinned. “You did shower, right?”
She wiggled her toes. “Sniff ’em and find out.”
“No thanks!” I recoiled, laughing. “I’ll take your word for it.”
By midafternoon, I felt significantly more comfortable in the Cullens’ apartment. Rose and Emmett had gotten home shortly before lunch, and the time I got to spend with them had let me get to know them – as well as Alice and Esme – better. Emmett looked like a boisterous, loud, funny guy – and he was funny. But he was also surprisingly quiet. His love for his family was easy to see. Esme barely had to ask for his help with something before he was jumping up to do what he could, and he went out of his way to spend time with Alice because Jasper wasn’t home. But it was truly Rosalie – stunningly beautiful, even with the small scar on her temple – whom he obviously lived for. As for the girls, Alice was sweet and warm-hearted as could be. Rose was definitely snarkier and more sarcastic but not in a mean way. Both were smart and funny and had worked to include me in their daily activities.
Esme reminded me of my own mom, before my dad’s death, before Phil and the drugs. She was loving and affectionate with each of her children – a warm smile, gentle hand on the shoulder as she passed – including me in with them. And it was obvious she enjoyed spending time with all of them, and vice versa.
After spending time together, chatting about their classes – I found it particularly interesting that Alice was taking most of her classes online – everyone split off to do their own thing. I took Edward at his word and slipped into his room to find a book. He had an amazing range of genres and authors. From Stephen King to Shakespeare, Jane Austen to Alexandre Dumas… It was the last I gravitated toward, and I plucked The Count of Monte Cristo off the shelf without a second thought. I hadn’t read this in years, but it had always been one of my favorites.
I was so absorbed in the book that the knock on the open door of the bedroom took me by surprise, and I looked up to find Edward, a smile on his face as he gestured to the book.
The Count, hmm?”
Nodding, I smiled. “I love the setting of the book, how Dumas makes me feel like I’m in Paris with Dantès. It’s one of my favorite books.”
“It’s one of mine as well,” he said and then gestured to the room. “May I come in?”
“Of course. It’s your house,” I said wryly.
He shrugged. “But it’s your room.” After taking a seat in the chair beside the bed, he asked, “How was your day? Did everyone behave?”
I laughed softly. “Of course they did. And it was a good day. Your sisters are great, and your mom…” I sobered. “You guys are lucky, really.”
He smiled, although I noticed it didn’t reach his eyes. “We are, and believe me, we all know it.”
We were both quiet for a minute, and then I spoke.
“Alice told me about the car accident that killed her parents. I can’t imagine if I’d lost my parents at that age. Sixteen was hard enough…”
“Is that when…” His voice trailed off.
“My dad died?”
He nodded.
“Yeah.” I swallowed back the swarm of emotion that thinking of my dad always brought to the surface. “I’d just turned sixteen a few weeks before. He was the police chief of the tiny town we lived in. He responded to a domestic disturbance call, and he was trying to talk the husband down, but the guy shot him. He died on route to the hospital.
“My mom tried to hold it together. And she did for a while. But he was her world, just as much as I was, and without him, she was just…lost. We moved to Seattle less than a year later.” I finished in a whisper, tears welling up in my eyes, “Within two years, she’d met Phil and had become an addict. So by the time I was twenty, I’d really lost both my parents and was basically alone.”
“Come here, pretty girl,” Edward said softly, standing and pulling me into a hug. His strong arms wrapped around me, his warm hand smoothing up and down my back in a comforting embrace. “You’ve got us now, yeah? You aren’t alone anymore.”
It was something he’d said before, but the reassurance was appreciated. I nodded, taking a deep, shuddering breath, and felt my tense muscles relax under his touch. “Thanks,” I muttered into his shoulder.
“Anytime, Bella.”
The atmosphere at dinner was a bit lighter than it had been the night before. Everyone chatted about their days, talking about what they’d done in class or around the house. The conversation continued well past dinner, when everyone gathered in the living room to hang out for a while together. It was during a lull in the conversation that Carlisle cleared his throat.
“Bella, I spoke to the medical examiner today…about Mr. Jackson.”
I swallowed nervously. “O-Okay…”
“He’s ruled it a heart attack, so the body will be ready for release tomorrow.” He continued softly, “I thought since he had no family, that I could have him released to me. He can be cremated, and then you can figure out where you’d like to spread his ashes…if that’s something you’d like the chance to do.”
Nodding, I said quickly, “Yes, please. I think he’d like that.” Maybe I can somehow get him to Atlanta… I could take him home.
“Atlanta?” Edward echoed my thoughts aloud.
“Um, yeah. He told me stories about growing up just north of there. He always wanted to go back but never did.” I drew in a deep breath and let it out slowly. “Now he can.”
“Good. That’ll be fine,” Carlisle said quietly. “I’ll make the arrangements tomorrow, then.”
I whispered my thanks and then stood. “I think I’m going to take a shower and then read for a bit before bed. Good night, everyone.”
They all said good night, and Esme stood to wrap me in a hug.
“You have everything you need? Can I get you anything?” she asked softly in my ear.
“I’m okay,” I promised. “Just tired. Thanks, Esme.”
“You’re most certainly welcome, sweetheart. Good night.”
I smiled once more and then headed to the bedroom.
When I got out of the shower a few minutes later, there was a quiet knock on the door. I slid a clean T-shirt over my head and then called out for them to come in.
Edward poked his head in and smiled. “Just wanted to check in and see if you needed anything.”
I returned his smile. “Thanks. I’m okay.”
“Okay, then. Wake me if you need me tonight, Bella. No matter what time it is.”
Nodding, I said, “I will. Thanks, Edward.”
We said good night, and then he closed the door and I climbed into bed, hugging The Count to me for a moment before opening it to the page I’d left off earlier in the day.


LoLo-50 said...

I'm glad Bella is finally feeling a bit more comfortable with the family. Just wondering when she will figure out that Edward is in love with her and her with him.

Kristi said...

Has Bella ever tried to take a group of people with her through a window portal?
Will Edward insist he accompany Bella to Atlanta when she releases Mr. Jackson's ashes?
Any chance the VI is watching what Carlisle does with their victims body?
The family has warmly welcomed Bella into their lives. Let's hope she can feel more relaxed and let them take care of her.

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