Thursday, September 16, 2010

Chapter 21

If Only...

On Tuesday, August 25th at precisely eight-oh-four pm, Ian Edward Cullen made an unexpected, and complicated, entrance into the world and the awaiting arms of his mother. Named after Rosalie's father and his own uncle, who would undoubtedly also be his greatest role model as he grew up, Ian's physical features took after—neither. Instead, he was nearly a spitting image of Rosalie herself as a newborn with platinum blonde fuzz for hair, milky blue eyes, and her delicate, dainty features.

As his mother and father cradled him in their arms, Bella and Edward sat together, squirming under the weight of their stifling silence. He was angry and brooding, his inability to let go of his mood fueled by the adrenaline from his prolonged state of anxiety working its way out of his system. She, on the other hand, just felt—well...stupid. Stupid and foolish about summed up the feelings causing her extreme discomfort in his presence. When his nurse came in at nine and informed her that visiting hours had ended, and if she'd like to spend the night she'd need to get a pass, she squared her shoulders long enough to politely say goodnight and make her escape.

The following morning at breakfast, when her parents asked her what time she was going to head out to the hospital to see Edward, she answered only with a silent shrug. She hadn't been sure if she was going to visit him or not, but she'd been leaning more toward the not after experiencing the tension between them the night before.

Charlie and Renee shared a look that went entirely unnoticed by their daughter, both of them worried over her abrupt change in behavior. The last time they'd seen her so withdrawn had been when she'd been distressed and depressed over being stuck in her hospital room. Before then, they couldn't remember the last time she'd been in such an emotional state.

All morning she shuffled around her parents house in her pajamas, having not bothered to shower or change when she woke up. When she joined Renee at the table for lunch, still wearing her pajamas and the addition of a robe, Renee finally cracked.

"Bella...what is it, honey? What's wrong?" she asked softly, reaching over to place her hand upon her daughter's forearm.

"It's nothing. I'm just tired today and didn't see the point in changing when I don't feel like leaving the bed anyway," she answered, staring at her plate and contemplating how she was going to manage forcing the food down when she'd barely gotten breakfast down as it was. She was tired—physically, emotionally, and mentally.

"Are you getting sick? You don't feel warm," Renee worried, placing the back of her hand against Bella's forehead. Bella jerked her head away, neither rudely nor politely, just in an absent and sluggish motion that worried Renee even more.

"No, Mom. I'm just tired, okay? It's nothing to worry about. I just didn't sleep well last night, that's all," Bella reiterated, feeling her entire body sag in the chair. There was no way on earth she was getting that food down—or more importantly, keeping it down.

Renee let it go, biding her time until Bella disappeared back up the stairs before snatching up the phone and stepping out onto the front porch. Something was amiss with her daughter and the only place she'd been the day before was the hospital.

"Hi,'s Renee. Is everything okay with Edward today?" she asked, rubbing her forehead with her fingertips anxiously.

"Yes, he's fine, why? They actually just wheeled him down to meet his new nephew a few minutes ago," Esme replied.

"Oh, Rosalie had the baby already? I hope everything's okay," Renee frowned, her hand coming to a rest over her heart.

"Everything's fine," Esme chuckled. "Ian's perfectly healthy, just a little early, though he did cause quite the stir. Is everything alright, Renee? You seem upset."

Renee sighed, looking out over the yard as she tried to figure out if something had happened to cause her daughter to slip into a funk, or if she was downplaying an oncoming illness so as not to worry her. "I'm not sure. Bella's, all day. I'm really hoping she isn't coming down with something, and if she is, that Edward hasn't caught it already with how much time they've been together recently."

"Oh dear," Esme gasped. "Edward didn't appear to be getting ill, but I'll keep a close eye on him. Please tell Bella I hope she feels better soon. I know she'll be missed sorely around here."

"I will, and please congratulate Emmett and Rosalie for us," Renee returned, not feeling even the slightest bit better after ending the call.

As Bella laid in bed, alternating between napping for brief minutes and shedding tears that agitated her even more than she already was because it was just pitiful that she felt this way to begin with, Edward tried to keep a smile on his face whenever he was in eyeshot of someone in his family. He'd been successful thus far, but he'd been longing to escape to the privacy of his room for hours.

He felt like the world's biggest prick for how he'd yelled at Bella the night before. Even if it hadn't been such a chaotic twist of events that had kept her from returning, even if she'd just chosen to go home instead of coming back, and regardless of the fact that she'd thrown away his disgusting lunch, he'd had no right to speak to her that way. Not after everything she'd done for him—for all the help she'd been willingly and gladly offering him.

Holding his nephew had been great, but it had been overshadowed by his disappointment in himself. Just knowing little Ian and Rosalie were doing well was enough for him, but unlike his nephew and sister in-law, he didn't have a clue how Bella was faring in the wake of his atrocious behavior. He wanted nothing more than to steal away to his room, without someone following behind him, so he could call her.

Unfortunately, he didn't get that chance until well after seven at night, but the moment his door shut behind the last person, he snatched up his cell phone and quickly scrolled down the call history list to her number. His finger only wavered for the briefest of moments before pressing down upon the call button.

Bella growled into her hands as she wiped furiously at the tears in her eyes when her cell began to ring, again. It had been going off practically nonstop since four and she'd been ignoring it each and every time it went off. She didn't want to talk to anyone. She never even bothered to check and see who was calling her, and she didn't this time either as she slammed her hand down over the blasted device, and smashed her thumb into the button that sent the call to her voicemail.

The very second it silenced, she buried herself back under the blanket and closed her eyes against the tears—only to have them shoot open ten seconds later when her phone rang, yet again.

She'd finally grown tired of the forwarding game and reached over to shut it off, but froze when she saw Edward's name on the screen. As she stared at it, unsure if she wanted to answer it or not, it eventually silenced itself as his call went to her voicemail.

"Stupid...stupid...stupid..." she chanted to herself, fresh tears spilling from her eyes as she dropped her phone clad hand down onto the mattress. Why she'd even contemplated answering it when he probably just wanted to rip her a new one for not bringing him decent food, or for not being there to fluff his pillows and tame his boredom, she didn't know, but the fact that a part of her had wanted to answer his call made a round of sobs erupt from her chest.

When it went off a third time in a row, she jerked upright in bed, tears streaming down her face but her sobs quieted as panic shot through her. What if it wasn't him calling, but someone trying to get a hold of her to tell her something had happened to him?

Without giving it another thought, she'd flipped the phone open and brought it to her ear, answering it while trying to keep her voice steady, but failing horribly. The moment Edward heard the tremor in her tear strained voice, his eyes closed and shoulders sagged.

"I'm sorry," he murmured, shaking his head at himself for being the reason behind why she sounded so miserable.

Dumbfounded by his agonized voice and words, she said nothing, merely bit down on her lip to keep from sobbing yet again.

"I'm sorry, Bella," he repeated, his voice impossibly even more pained. "I was an ass and no one in my life could have deserved it less than you did."

"No," she whimpered, releasing a shaky breath as she fought to keep herself composed. "It was my fault. I should have ignored Emmett and found a way to tell you."

His lips pursed to the side, realizing he'd thought the same thing the night before, that having been the basis of his anger, but the words he spoke next were entirely truthful, "Bella, it's not your job to keep me in the loop of what's going on within my family. It's their job to do that and I had no right to get mad at you like I did."

"But I was thoughtless and I made you sit there worried for hours," she spluttered, losing her fight against her tears. "And I threw your lunch out before I left, Edward!"

"That you did," he managed to chuckle, albeit painfully—and not physically painfully for once. "But Bella, missing one meal won't kill me. And yeah, I worried, but I've seen my little brother in a panicked state before and I can't blame you for not leaving him alone. If the situation had been reversed, I don't think I would have been able to either, though if the situation were reversed I'd still be in a physical state capable of strong arming him down the hall with me to a phone. I highly doubt you would have been able to manage that."

"No...I definitely wouldn't have," she laughed tearfully, making Edward smile slightly and sigh in relief.

"So have I redeemed myself at least enough to convince you to come tomorrow and help me pack?" he asked, his grin growing just a bit as she gasped.

"They're letting you out?"

"Saturday morning is the official eviction long as nothing else goes wrong," he shrugged, once again not wanting to get his hopes up too high. "It's still two and a half days away, but I think seeing this place almost empty will help remind me that at least this part of my recovery is almost over."

"Well then..." she trailed off sighing softly to herself as she wiped her eyes on the sleeve of her bathrobe. "If it means I'm free and clear of walking in and finding a Sullen Cullen every morning until they give you the boot, consider your bags packed."

"Will you really come tomorrow?" he asked softly, knowing he couldn't blame her if she woke up in the morning and had a change of heart.

"Yeah...I'll be there," she answered, her voice just above a whisper and it tore him apart because she didn't sound happy like she usually did when she said she'd stop by the next day. She just sounded—resigned. And a moment later she bid him goodnight, nearly cementing the feeling within him that it wasn't something she really wanted to do.

"Goodnight, Bella," he mumbled, snapping his phone shut and dropping it on the bed after he heard the call disconnect. He slammed his palms into his eyes and then dragged his hands roughly over his face.

"Fuck me...I'm such an idiot," he grumbled to no one but himself.

As darkness slowly overtook Edward's room, loneliness like he'd never known it before began to creep over him, swaddling him in a cocoon of self pity as he stared unseeingly at the flickering eight inch television screen beside him. Sometime shortly after eleven—and he only knew the time because credits rolling in front of his face had prompted him to glance at the clock—his room door opened and shut quietly, but he paid no mind to who was entering. No one that mattered would be entering his room at such a late hour. He didn't need to look to verify it for himself that it was just his nurse coming in to take his vitals, or something else just as irritatingly repetitive.

"Edward? Are you sleeping?" the last voice he expected to hear in his room at that time of night asked softly. Soft and timid, as if afraid of receiving a verbal lashing.

"Bella?" he whispered, his head snapping to the side. "What are you doing here?"

"I, um...I couldn't sleep," she said quietly, slowly shuffling toward him. "I called your nurse ahead of time and got the okay to get an overnight that okay?"

"It's more than okay," he sighed, relieved that he hadn't run her off permanently.

She fidgeted in place for a moment before holding out a nondescript brown paper bag toward him, "Haagen Daz Java Chip, right?"

"You brought me dessert?" he asked, quirking a brow at her, impressed she remembered his favorite brand—and flavor.

"It's...more of a peace offering?" She'd meant it to be a statement, but she'd begun second guessing herself and it ended up sounding like a question.

"I don't want it," he shook his head, taking the bag from her and tossing it onto the nightstand beside him before reaching out to wrap his hand around her wrist and pulling her toward him. She only put up a slight resistance, making him tug once gently until she was seated on the edge of his bed and close enough that he could pull her into his arms.

"I'm sorry...again," he whispered, tightening his arms around her as he repeated back to her the last heartbroken words she'd spoken to him before saying goodnight and all but running from the room the previous night.

"Me, too," she sniffled, burying her face into the crook of his neck as she wrapped her arms around his shoulders.

Edward held her until her silent tears had ceased dropping onto his shoulder and soaking through the t-shirt he was finally able to wear. After the last twenty four hours, he doubted he'd ever be able to forget how easily he could hurt her with just his hot temper. Having grown so comfortable with her company, and longing for it when she wasn't near, he said a silent prayer that he'd never treat her so horribly again.

When he released her, he scooted himself to the edge of the bed and patted the mattress between them, inviting her to join him. He wasn't about to make her sleep in an uncomfortable chair when she'd come to him in the moment he'd least deserved it. When she settled in beside him rigidly, uncomfortably, he wrapped his arm around her and pulled her into his side.

"I missed you today," he whispered, resting his chin atop her head and rubbing the arm he'd pulled across his chest.

With her head ducked down and resting on his chest, her face out of his line of sight, Bella had to squeeze her eyes shut against the shards of pain shredding her heart to pieces.

If only he knew it hadn't been his anger, but the way he'd spat the word friend at her that had cut her so deeply.

If only he knew how much pain she was willing to endure just to one day feel as though he truly considered her as a friend.

"I missed you, too."

If only he knew how being in his arms while knowing, deep down, that it wasn't because he cared for her the way she cared for him, tore her to pieces that ignited themselves into scorching flames that seared her from the inside out.

If only.

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