I sighed, restless, and let myself fall rather ungracefully onto Edward’s bed. Our bed. I made the correction in my mind only grudgingly. I was now used to being “kidnapped” every time Edward’s thirst got to be too much and he left town to hunt, but it didn’t mean I had to enjoy it. Yes, he had told me that he himself was the only one who could hold me hostage, but after what had… happened with Jacob, it seemed that was not the case. I didn’t really mind as much as I let on—only when Alice decided to unleash her inner shopping monster on me and drag me to the mall in her sleek little canary-yellow sports car.
This evening, I had claimed to be more tired than usual, and headed upstairs to lay in the big, and unnecessary, bed that Edward had gotten to put in—ugh—our bedroom. Of course, Alice knew why I was really going upstairs. The wait till he got home seemed impossible to sit through, and chatting amiably with Alice, while trying to hide my glances at the clock every few minutes—nay, seconds—was unbearable. I tried to ignore the dark part of me that speculated on the fact that I was nowhere near good enough for him, and maybe he wouldn’t come home at all. Maybe he had finally seen that he was right to leave the first time.
I wondered briefly, if he left again, would it hurt as much as… as the first time? Would I see it coming, knowing now the signs that would clue me in to his departure, and in that way, be better off than I was... before?
Of course not, I snapped at myself. Edward wouldn’t leave again. He wouldn’t… would he? I had become accustomed to him being around all the time very quickly. I liked to think that it was like he had never left, like I had never been ripped apart at the seams, but I wasn’t so much of a fool as to think that things were exactly the same. No, Edward’s increased self-loathing made it apparent that things were different now. Not bad, though—if anything, they were better, because we both knew that we could not live without each other.
Well, that I could not live without Edward.
It was obvious that I had fallen apart the moment that Edward left—I had even fallen into some unresponsive coma, apparently. According to Charlie and Renee, at least; I couldn’t remember for the life of me, and was pretty sure that I didn’t want to remember. I tried hard enough to keep thoughts of when I was aware of the pain as it was. But that was me. It couldn’t have hit Edward that bad. After all, he was the one to decide to leave. The pain must have been slightly dulled for him—he knew what was coming; he knew what the hurt was going to be like.
He might leave again.
He could. It was painfully obvious, and I didn’t see how I had not given the thought real time to introduce itself before. I was more attached to him than he was to me. Sure, he proposed to me, and he gave in to my persistent plea for him to change me, and take away my virginity once we were married, but my intense love for him bordered on obsession. No, it much more than crossed the border; it was quite plain to see that.
The realization that Edward was quite capable of leaving me again hit me like a brick. I even let out a small noise as the air suddenly whooshed out of me. It was some cross between a whimper and an “oof!” as my mind suddenly spun out of control. My arms came up to wrap around my torso, an old reflex drudged up from then. I masochistically forced myself to think the words: When Edward left.
It hurt. Oh, God, it hurt. I shakily laid my head down on the pillow nearest me, releasing a breath I had been holding haltingly. Images of my past came back to taunt me, mock me. Edward’s cold silences and glares, just days before he left my life. Our walk in the forest. Edward’s own lips forming the words “I don’t want you to come” before my very eyes, defying every word he had ever said to me before this. Falling to the ground in agony—not physical pain, but pain inside that took over my senses, made my heart pound, and then stop altogether for a beat or two, raw pain that ripped me open.
And memories even worse—going home to no pictures, no music, no little scrap of Edward left in my life for me to pore over and reassure myself with. The horrible chance that, one day, I might forget about the existence of Edward Cullen altogether.
I took a much-needed breath, and my heart panged. I winced. I felt a slightly familiar feeling tugging at the edges of my chest. Even my arms couldn’t squeeze tight enough to satiate this achy feeling I had inside. It was strange, like I had felt it before, but a long time ago. I gave in all too willingly, and felt shock as a burning sob ripped through my chest.
Ah—there it was.
Giving into it almost felt good, and I let my breath catch in my throat and tumble out harshly, heavily. Sob came after sob came after sob; the tears began to flood ceaselessly from my eyes, and I was blind to the world around me—blind to everything but the pain inside me.
“Bella!” The shocked voice sent my system spiraling downward even further. I screwed my eyes shut tight—I knew what this was. This was my familiar subconscious voice filling in the blank for me, trying to supply what was missing. I knew the difference between my Mind’s Edward and Real Edward—it hurt to think his name—by now. I had to admit, though, that this figment of my imagination was very convincing. His Voice at least—I didn’t dare to open my eyes, in case of what I might or might not find. I was either afraid that I was going to see him there and know that I really had gone crazy, or that I wasn’t going to see him, and the fact that he was truly gone would be thrown into my face.
“Bella, oh, my Bella—what’s wrong? Love, calm down, I’m here, I’m here…” the Voice continued to speak its soothing words. Suddenly, the Voice had ice-cold arms too. I felt them wrap around me, smooth hands pulling at my owns arms wrapped like a vice around the proverbial hole in my own chest. I tried to keep my arms where they were, but the hands were so much stronger than I am, and they easily replaced my own appendages. They didn’t hold me nearly tight enough, though—they were careful, too careful.
That was strange. My Mind—pain—Edward usually wasn’t worried about being careful of my fragile human body, or about the blood that coursed through my veins, so close to the surface that one light swipe of his teeth could have me pouring blood.
The fact that even my own hallucinations had to careful around me and couldn’t even comfort me without handling me like a porcelain doll made my sobs stop and a sort of frantic hysteria take its place. I clawed at the arms holding me tight against a marble chest—a figment of my imagination—and kicked my legs at the perfect legs beside my own. “Uhnn!” I let out a frustrated noise—I couldn’t get away for the life of me.
“Bella, Bella, tell me what’s wrong!” The Voice was alarmed, panicking. “Alice, get up here! Something’s wrong with Bella!” Frantically, The Voice called for someone who I knew was gone too, who couldn’t help me now. Another clean break.
In an instant, there was another set of arms holding me down, and another Voice too. “What’s happening, Edward?” I hissed, the name used by another sending tremors down my spine, making me surge against my restraints. “She wasn’t like this a minute ago!” The other Voice, his Voice: “I don’t know, I came back and she was like this! Why weren’t you watching her, why didn’t you hear her!?” He was angry, angry at his sister.
Angry at me. It made no sense… there was no reason for him to be angry at me, but my subconscious quickly reasoned with me. I was keeping him here, where he didn’t want to be. Where he could be with other mates, others on more his level…
“Bella, listen to me. Bella! Listen to what I’m saying!” I couldn’t ignore that, not with my mind scrambling to find some little bit of Edward to grasp onto you. My thrashing weakened, and the Voice continued to try and calm me down. “Bella, open your eyes, please, darling. Bella.” I was shocked to hear the Voice waver, and then break. Edward—wince—shouldn’t be unhappy, and his voice only broke when he was truly upset. After all, he was a perfect vampire.
Open my eyes? It seemed very hard to do, almost like there was a blinding light in the room; my eyes just couldn’t seem to open, they had been slammed shut tight for so long. But after a long moment’s effort, they cracked open.
Three very different voices: mine, cracked and hoarse from sobbing; Alice’s, musical and flute-like but confused as to what had brought on my round of hysteria; and his. Edward’s. Broken and heart-wrenching and the way and angel would sound if he had his heart broken.
I had felt shock throughout my body other times, earlier this evening, but now I was too far gone to feel anything but slight surprise. I realized after a moment that there were two very beautiful vampires kneeling above me—truly there. I saw, and felt, and heard, and smelled them there. And I realized that I truly must’ve gone crazy. Since I had apparently finally gone nuts, I found no reason not to voice my thoughts aloud.
“I’ve gone crazy.” My voice was matter-of-fact—now that I realized it, it seemed perfectly reasonable, the right thing to happen.
Mind Edward’s brow furrowed and his frigid hands held my face securely. “Bella? Bella, you’re not crazy. Bella, I’m here. Bella, I didn’t leave.”
Didn’t leave. Didn’t leave. Didn’t leave. Didn’t leave. Didn’t leave. Didn’t leave. Didn’t leave. Didn’t leave. Didn’t leave. Didn’t leave. Didn’t leave. Didn’t leave. Didn’t leave. Didn’t leave. Didn’t leave. Didn’t leave. Didn’t leave. Didn’t leave. Didn’t leave. Didn’t leave. Didn’t—
A harsh gasp left my bones rattling. I felt for the first time since this evening had gotten out of hand that the air was actually reaching my lungs, like I was actually being sustained by the oxygen entering and exiting my body. “Didn’t leave.”
The expression on his face was frustrated and shocked and still careful and everything all at once. He looked like he was trying to figure out what was going through my mind at his words. “No, Bella, I didn’t leave. Bella, I’m still here. Still here, love. Still here. Still here. Still here. Still here. Still…” I realized then that he had only said it once, and it was my own voice repeating the words over and over again.
He looked as if he thought that maybe I had gone crazy. “Bella? Bella, you’re scaring me. Say you’re alright, sweetheart. What are you thinking?” He seemed frazzled enough without knowing what I was thinking too. His sentences were choppy, short, all over the place, not Edward-like at all. Something told me, though, that this wasn’t Mind Edward.
This was Real Edward.
Next to me.
Right here next to me.
“Oh, Edward!” His eyes widened as I finally seemed to have a real reaction. Not a second went by before I flung myself at him, ignoring all boundaries he had ever set, and crushing myself to him. He was really here; my Edward wasn’t gone. He was right here. The more I repeated the words, the more they seemed to sink in, the more I realized that Edward was here to stay.
Here to stay. Here to stay. Here to stay.
I felt Edward’s arms wrap around me tight, holding me against him. His strained, but still melodic, voice reached my ears. “Thank you, Alice. I think we’ll be fine now.” I was only concentrating on his voice, so Alice’s reply remained unheard to me. I did hear Edward say, “No, I’ve got it handled,” back to her though. I assumed that she had left the room, not having heard the door shut but remembering that she was a vampire and was unnaturally quiet in everything she did.
I marveled at the sudden clarity in my mind. My hysteria had vanished the moment it occurred to me that Edward hadn’t left me after all. At least, I was coherent enough to feel sorry for Edward, who remained wrapped around me, clueless as to what had caused this all. His voice soon reached me and I shoved my thoughts away to listen to him.
“Bella, Bella, my beautiful love…” He seemed to be fixed on saying my name as many times as he could. “Bella, are you alright? Talk to me, please. I need to know that you’re okay.”
The heaving sobs that were leaving me breathless slowed down till I was able to speak around my pants. I spoke without thinking about the repercussions, about what it would do to my immortal love. I spoke stupidly, but could you blame me after everything?
“I thought you didn’t love me anymore.”
The cold arms holding me to a marble body suddenly tensed, the muscles in them bulging against my own skin. Edward was a frozen statue, an Adonis in a state of shock. I wished I could see his eyes, see those golden orbs that so often gave away his emotions to me. I wished I could see his brow, if it was furrowed showing his troubles, or a smooth slate betraying nothing. I wished I could see his jaw that clenched and became even sharper when I slipped up and something stupid—like I just had.
When he spoke again, the fury in his voice made me shrink into myself, frightened, for the first time in a long time, for my life. And this time, it wasn’t James with his pitch-black eyes, it wasn’t Victoria with her flaming hair, it wasn’t Aro with his menacing gentile manners. It was Edward Cullen, the love of my life, who was scaring the shit out of me.
“You… thought I… didn’t love you.” It was a statement, not a question, and I found myself unable to speak for my terror. So I just nodded into his hard chest. I had only seen him once or twice like this before. I was glad now that I couldn’t see him—the wrath in his eyes would have been inescapable. “You thought I didn’t love you.” I wondered if he thought that repeating it would make it easier to believe, and then I remembered that that was what I had been doing just moments ago.
Edward began to push me away, and I held onto him for dear life, but it was impossible to overpower him and his vampire strength. I hid my face, letting my hair fall to form a curtain between me and him, bringing up memories of that day that seemed so long ago, the day I had hid my face from him in a school biology room.
He grabbed my face roughly, and the motion made my stomach flip. Not from the usual reason, though—on most occasions, when Edward took my face in my hands, it meant a kiss was coming, and kissing Edward was my favorite thing to pass time with. Nothing could describe the rush I got when he pressed his lips against mine, or, more often, I smashed my lips against his.
No, it was different now. My stomach did a somersault, because his hands, rough against my cheeks, actually hurt. It hurt. I wasn’t any stranger to pain—I had been clumsy all my life, and it wasn’t unusual for me to fall down the stairs or trip and sprain a wrist at least once a week. Then, when vampires and werewolves and such were introduced into my life, I grew used to danger and the pain that usually went along with it. However, as many times as I had been hunted down by malicious vampires and been harmed, I had never once had to associate physical pain with Edward.
His hands were tight and unforgiving, and whenever they moved the tiniest bit, my teeth would mash together. I winced as he tilted my head so he could look at me. His eyes were as angry as I had imagined them, but I refused to meet them, keeping my eyes off to the side. I could see him out of my peripheral vision, however, and though it was too low for me to hear, I could tell by his bared teeth that he was growling at me. “Bella, look at me.” Silence. “Bella, damnit, look at me!”
“You’re hurting me!” I wrapped my too-weak hands around his wrists and tugged as hard as I could, flailing my leg out and landing a blow on his shin. I felt a searing pain spread through my big toe, and knew instantly that it was broken. I let out a loud cry, and my eyes stung with tears, half because of my anger and the other half from the pain in my jaw and foot.
He instantly let go, swearing, and rolling over to stand up at the edge of the bed, standing so his back was facing me. I let out a halting breath, not bothering to wipe the tears from my cheeks. I ignored Edward for the moment, and pulled my leg up, tearing off my sock, to inspect my foot. When my hand brushed my rapidly swelling big toe, I whimpered. Edward glanced over his shoulder, and stopped.
“What did you do?”
“I kicked you.”
He didn’t say anything, but after a long, pregnant pause, came to sit next to me. He reached out to take my foot in his hands, but I scooted back quickly. I didn’t want him touching me right now. His face clearly showed hurt, but I ignored the pang that I felt in my chest at his pained expression. It almost made me forget about the ache in my toe.
“Bella… my love, please, just let me talk to you.” I said nothing, but let my head nod once. I heard him let out a relieved breath, and then suck in another anxious one before he spoke again. “Bella… why would you think that I had left you?”
Oh, if only he knew. If only he knew that I didn't deserve him, that he—Edward Cullen, resident Forks God—could do so much better than me—me!—human, pathetic, klutzy Bella Swan. I tried to slow my breathing, get myself under control again. But as I opened my mouth to explain myself calmly, everything I had been feeling in the past two years poured out of me—in two sentences.
"You're perfect," I sobbed, curling into myself, attempting to quell the throb in my chest. "You're perfect, and I'm me."
Edward laughed a frustrated, humorless laugh. "Bella, you've got it backwards again, love. Don't you realize that that's what I say to myself every night as I lay by your side? 'She's perfect, and I'm me.'" He disregarded my desire to stay away from him, and grabbed me by the shoulders, gripping them lightly. "Bella, will you never get that you are the most amazing human—no, the most amazing person, vampire or not—that I have ever met? And I don't deserve you in the least. But it doesn't matter whether I deserve you, because I'm done trying to give you up, Bella! I'm not going to leave you, ever. And that's that."
He grabbed my face in his two hands, and despite the fact that the last time this had happened I had been hurt, I was so struck by his words that I couldn't stop him. He murmured more soft soothing words to me as he kissed my salty tears away. He thought... I was perfect? He thought I was perfect.
Edward Cullen thought I was perfect?!
The thought was laughable, and I quickly readied myself to protest.
But as my tears stopped pouring down, and his silky-smooth lips brushed closer and closer to my mouth, I felt every bit of fight left in me give out, and I wrapped my arms around his neck, inviting him to take me in his embrace.
If he thought I was perfect, and that was keeping him at my side... well, far be it to me to convince him otherwise.
I guess Edward was here to stay.