Chapter 2 - Nothing Left
The entire world tilts; I fall forward, gasping, and it's the opposite of numbness. Memories flash and whirl as my mind tries to process the trajectory that caused the implosion.
I clutch the edges of the opening in my floor; the items at the top of the pile are both hazy and sharp in my vision, blurring and re-focusing in a continuous loop.
The piece of white paper.
I reach out a trembling finger, inexplicably afraid it will turn to dust, to cease to exist, as I touch a fingertip to it. It's so familiar I recognize it instantly. It's worn with creases, tattered around the edges. A lifetime ago, I removed this very same scrap of paper from my pocket more times than I could count. The beautiful handwriting done in pen is faded now, but I can still read the words—I know every stroke of the pen by heart.
There's something else happening to the hole in my chest now. A grief that goes far, far deeper than anything anyone can comprehend. My universe tilts further on its axis, and I have to clutch at the edges of the wood to keep myself half upright as I reach out an unsteady fingertip again, this time to touch the photograph.
The fold line down its center is still prominent—Edward's perfection on one side; my stark ordinariness on the other.
"You're not good for me, Bella."
It rips and tears, the coldness in his voice from that wretched day in the woods. I can't succeed in banishing the memory like I usually manage, and the pain surges cruelly to combine with the new pain.
How strange it is that the very thing that has kept me from the impossible truth is also was divulges it. Because, while his words confirmed what always made more sense, the coldness in him belied it.
The iciness of his voice, the hard flatness of his eyes...
I wrap an arm around my torso as if it might keep the pain at bay. It doesn't; I'm coming apart as I stare into the floor.
The worn piece of paper.
The CD case.
The plane tickets.
The dried corsage from prom.
Flowers from the meadow—dried too, but carefully preserved.
The Edward that placed these items with such painstaking care cannot have been so cold, so expressionless as the Edward in the woods that day.
Unless he was lying.
In the woods.
The absolute, unwavering vehemence with which the truth implodes into my world, and the speed with which it happens, imparts a second startling realization: a part of me, if only subconsciously, knew it all along. My hallucinatory Edwards, conjured by my subconscious, have, after all, outwardly manifested this truth.
The anger in his voice, each time I put myself in danger.
My subconscious wasn't simply giving me what I desperately wanted.
He wants me to be safe.
He cares if I live or die.
He loves me.
Edward loves me.
He never stopped.
I'm not sure how I'm managing to breathe through the pain now. Perhaps this is why my conscious mind so easily accepted the lies. Perhaps it was trying to protect itself from this pain. A different kind of pain. Because the most obvious question now becomes why? Why did he leave?—and of course I know the answer to this too; it seizes around the jagged hole in my chest, shredding and tearing.
He left to save me.
He left to save me from himself.
There's a shaking claiming my entire body, a rapid tightening in my throat, a sharp pressure building in my eyes, and I've gone so long without this kind of outlet to the pain—the numbness hasn't allowed for it—that it's frightening when it happens. There's nothing to be done about it now, though, and for once I let it consume me without fighting it; it will be useless to try, I know. Not now. Not ever again.
The startling but unshakable truth cracks something open inside me.
I collapse forward on my hands and knees and begin gathering up the items with fumbling, frantic fingers, trying futilely to hold them in my arms all at once; the only remaining pieces I have left of his existence.
No, Edward, no!
My cry is soundless.
I shudder and jerk.
The moment in the woods. The events leading up to it. His remoteness.
Without warning, I'm picturing him, kneeling right here, carefully sealing away his heart beneath my floorboards.
I shudder, the sob tearing out violently. There's a ripping in my soul, and what's left of my world is coming apart in pieces. The items are spilling out from my arms as quickly as I collect them up again, trying to hold them to my chest, desperately, uselessly, as if it might bring him closer to me.
As if it might bring him back to me.
No, no, Edward! I sob. Why would you do it? Why? The desperate agony chokes me. I'm screaming at him inside me with everything I have. I don't care what you are! I don't care about any of it! Not my humanity. Not my life. Not my stupid soul. There's nothing without you! Nothing!
I will him to hear me. Come back! Come back!
I try to imagine where he might be at this moment. I try to imagine that he can hear me. I try to imagine I can reach him. I try to imagine I can will him come back. Because there's nothing left now. Nothing left in me to survive this meaningless life now. I can't. I won't.
I curl up on the floor among the scattered remains Edward left behind, hidden beneath my floorboards all this time. I press a single photograph—the one beneath the first—against my chest, above the empty hole where my heart should be. It's the photo of Edward in the kitchen, beautiful beyond imagining, his eyes bright and alive.
I lie there, knowing I can't survive this but unable to find a way to move at all, to figure out what that means.
It takes a while. My room grows darker and darker as the sunset comes and goes, and I still don't move. Charlie doesn't arrive; he must be working late, but I don't notice. A light pattering of rain begins to sound against the roof.
This is when something else happens. Something pushes its way through the unbearable pain, slowly, but fierce and immutable. Insurmountable.
It doesn't matter how long it takes.
It doesn't matter how impossible it will be.
It doesn't matter what outcome will follow.
I will find him.
There's nothing else left but this.