Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Chapter 6

The Awakening of One

Eight thirty am Monday morning, exactly thirty one and a half hours after the call for North Orchard Street's fire had gone out, brought a stream of blinding sunlight into room 612 and across Isabella Swan's face. The light was warm on her face and bright behind her eyelids, beckoning them to open to the world around her. As she slowly began to wake, the incessant beeping from somewhere within the vicinity along with a foreign hum caused her brow to furrow in confusion as she reached up slowly with an aching arm to remove whatever the hell was on her face.

In the moments before she opened her eyes to survey her surroundings, she swore she'd never again allow Tanya and Irina to drag her out to another club where she'd get shit-faced in the quickness because of her low tolerance to alcohol with a side of unwillingness to dance. She also resolved herself to get her damn key back so they'd stop playing practical jokes on her in the middle of the night. God only knows what hideous shade of 'Bobo the Clown' they'd painted her face this time.

"Hey there, kiddo," Charlie sighed in relief as he made his way from his chair to her bedside upon noticing her beginning to stir.

The last day and a half had been torturous for him and Renee as they'd sat vigilantly beside her, waiting for her to regain consciousness. Seeing his baby girl finally begin to come back to life again caused a wave of relief to spread across every weary and nerve wracked bone in his body.

Bella startled at the sound of his voice and her eyes shot open as she sprang forward in the bed with a sudden and unexpected surge of intense pain searing the left side of her body and causing a hoarse wail to erupt from her chest.

"Oh God...Bella, honey, don't move so fast. You'll hurt yourself even worse," Charlie rambled, his hands fidgeting and unsure of what to do to help her as she gasped breathlessly.

"What happened? Where am I? What happened?" she panicked, looking around the room frantically.

The oxygen mask that had been over her face as she slept hung loosely around her neck as her right palm rubbed against the center of her chest. It felt strange, tight and as though a massive weight was bearing down against it causing her discomfort as her breaths wheezed in and out of her lungs.

"You don't remember?"

Her father's question confused her as she coughed, trying to alleviate the uncomfortable pressure in her chest and bringing forth a series of loud barks filled with ill sounding crackles. The sounds of her coughing reminded her of those of a child with croup, but produced nothing and the discomfort remained.

"Remember what?" she rasped. "I went out with Tanya and Irina and took a cab home from the club just after midnight..." her croaking words began coming slower as her memories of the night before started to filter into her mind.

"And then I...went to sleep...oh God...the fire...there was a fire. What happened? How did I get out of there? The last thing I remember was the smoke filling my apartment."

Her pulse had taken off rapidly in distress as the images of her smoke filled apartment flashed across her mind. The fear she'd felt as she staggered through the blinding smoke rose within her again just as instantly as it had when she'd felt trapped within the sweltering blackness. Bella's breaths began to shallow, short whistling bursts of air moving in and out of her lungs.

"Kiddo, relax. You need to calm down or they'll want to sedate you. Everything's fine, Bella. You're okay and haven't been hurt badly."

His soothing tone and attempted comforting words had little effect as she began shaking her head and hyperventilating as he tried to reaffix the oxygen mask to her face.

"'d I...I was the hell did I get out of there?" she sputtered as tears began to build in her eyes, her words and staggered breaths fogging up the clear plastic covering her nose and mouth.

Charlie wished Renee would hurry the hell up in bringing back the coffee they both so desperately needed because he was severely out of his element and hadn't the slightest clue how to calm their daughter down. He'd always been good at the gory part of being a parent, cleaning up and affixing bandages to the bloody cuts and scrapes that would make Renee pale and nearly faint...but making tears disappear had never been a skill he'd possessed.

In most cases, just like in this moment, his complete ineptitude in that department usually only made them fall harder.

"Shit...Bella, please calm down...please? I'm begging you, sweetie...just please, breathe and settle down, please?" he stammered anxiously.

Only the sight of one of the two women in his life could reduce him to a bumbling imbecile. Tears of strangers he could handle, but those of his wife or child he could not. They were his Achilles' heel and just the sight of them could bring him to his knees and have him offering them anything in the world just to make them stop falling. The knowledge of which had often made him wonder how many times they'd used it as a weapon against him in the past.

"," she rasped hoarsely between her rapid shallow breaths. Trying to slow and deepen them was becoming increasingly difficult and she worried she'd soon begin to lose consciousness as she had many times before.

She'd been prone to hyperventilation ever since childhood and she hated it just as much now as she had the first time she'd experienced it after a nightmare caused by her stupid cousin's Boogeyman story during a sleepover when she was five. She hasn't been on friendly speaking terms with her ever since.

"I will...but not until you calm down," he answered firmly...well as firmly as he could given the circumstances.

Her eyes snapped shut tightly, her right hand fisting the bed sheets fiercely as she focused on her breathing. It hurt like hell each time she tried to fill her lungs with the fresh oxygen, the pressure nearly unbearable. She'd managed to get it under control after a few minutes, but she expended her limited energy in doing so and began to sag tiredly. Charlie lowered himself down onto the side of her bed and helped her lay back slowly so as not to send another wave of pain shooting through her side.

"One of these days you're gonna have to outgrow that before you turn every hair on my head gray, Bella," Charlie tried to lighten the mood, relieved that she'd managed to not black out for once, and tucked the elastic band securing the mask to her face behind her ears.

"Psh...Mom digs your salt n pepper strands. She says it makes you more distinguished," Bella chuckled coarsely before taking in a deep wheezing breath and settling her gaze on her father. "Tell me...please?"

Charlie ran his hand back and forth over his mouth as he cleared his throat and nodded to her. "No one's sure where exactly where the firefighter found you, but we're pretty sure you'd been unconscious when he did. With your history...the doctor thinks you may have fainted from a mix of the smoke and your tendency to hyperventilate while panicking."

"Is that how I got hurt? From falling when I passed out?" she grumbled, her voice slightly muffled as she rolled her eyes at her own ridiculousness. Only she would panic and make herself pass out inside of a burning building. When her father didn't answer, her brow furrowed as her eyes shot over to see him shifting uneasily and looking in every direction besides hers.

"It's it?" she breathed, making his eyes dart back to hers worriedly as he shook his head.

She had absolutely no recollection of anything that had happened after making it to her living room. For all she knew, she may very well have managed to stumble out of her apartment and fall down the stairs in the midst of some oxygen deprivation induced state of incognizance. The thought of what could have happened to her, if that was the case, terrified her.

" least we don't think so. There was a bit of an...accident when he was carrying you out of the building," he answered, unsure of how much he should tell her.

"What kind of an accident?"

She desperately needed to know what had happened while she'd been unconscious and oblivious to the danger she'd been in. Just the inability to remember practically any of it alone was tremendously unsettling, but the knowledge that her injuries had presumably been obtained after she'd already passed out compounded that sense of unease significantly.

"Um...honey, maybe now's not the right time to talk about this. You've need to rest and regain your strength," he attempted to reason with her but only received the "I'm-not-letting-this-go-so-get-to-talkin" glare in response.

"Jesus, help me God if your mother wipes the floor with my ass for upsetting you I'm holding you accountable," he grumbled exasperatedly as he shook his pointed finger at her.

"Daddy, please. I need to know," she frowned behind her mask. The fact that he was hesitant in answering her was putting her on edge severely. It only took one glance into his daughter's eyes to know there was no way he was weaseling his way out of this conversation, so with a dismal sigh he began speaking.

"Part of the ceiling in the downstairs hallway collapsed before he could make it out of the building with you," he began, resolving himself to give her the barest of details. "He jumped over the pile of debris because he had no other way to get you both out of the building...but they think when he landed his knee gave out and you landed on your left side when you both fell."

" made it seem horrific and it was hardly anything," she scoffed after letting the information sink in for a minute and dropping her head back against her pillow and staring up at the ceiling. "He's okay though, right? I mean...besides his knee?"

And again, Charlie's silence had her eyes darting back to him. "Dad? He's okay, right?"

He released something mixed between a groan and a growl, nearly ready to send a search party for his wife so he wouldn't have to answer. He should have known better than to assume his thoughtful and caring daughter wouldn't ask if the man who'd saved her life had been injured in the incident as well.

"Charlie," she demanded, sitting up slowly. She was getting irritated with his unwillingness to answer her questions. She may be laying in a hospital bed and not feeling entirely well by any means, but she didn't feel the need to be tip toed around.

"No, Isabella! He's not okay, alright?"

The moment his sharp tone hit her ears, Bella recoiled as tears sprang to her eyes. The way he yelled at her made her feel as though he felt it was her fault he'd been injured...and the thought that he may be right in feeling that way caused her heart to skip a beat as it sank into the pit of her stomach.

Charlie instantly regretted his harsh tone toward her when her eyes filled with hurt and turned away from him. She'd done nothing wrong, it'd been his fault for giving into her to begin with and it wasn't fair of him to snap at her for his inability to remain firm in his resolve to wait until she'd recuperated before giving her answers that would undoubtedly cause her further distress. He wished he could take back the last half hour, and more importantly the pain he'd caused her that had made her unwilling to turn her attention back to him when he'd taken her hand gently between his own.

"I'm sorry, sweetheart...really I am..."

His apology was abruptly interrupted by the door to her room opening and Renee's voice echoing within the short hallway entry, "Hun...they didn't have any more regular and I waited for someone to brew a fresh pot but it was taking too long so I just got you a dark that okay?"

Bella's eyes finally turned in his direction, still watery as she swiped at her lower lids with one of her knuckles. Charlie squeezed her hand and leaned in to kiss the side of her head, "I'm sorry, kiddo. I didn't mean to snap at you like that, okay?"

"'s fine, Renee," he called out as Bella nodded to him and he got up off the bed to help her with whatever it was she sounded to be struggling with in the entryway.

Turning the corner, he had to roll his eyes at the massive bundle of balloons, teddy bear, and bouquet of flowers she was waging war with while balancing one of the cups of coffee atop the other in her left hand. He took the cups of coffee from her hand as well as the flowers and bear and snickered as she wrestled the rest of the balloons through the doorway.

"Was all this really necessary?" he asked as he shook his head. She paused behind him and scoffed incredulously as she balked at his back.

"Of course it was. I want my little girl's room to be filled with cheer when she wakes up."

He chuckled under his breath and smirked at Bella's quirked eyebrow, "Too late," he mouthed to her, leaving Renee completely unaware as she turned into the open area of the room.

"Oh,'re already awake," Renee nearly squealed as she released the ribbon tethers she'd been grasping and rushed toward her daughter, leaving the balloons to scatter across the ceiling behind her. "How are you feeling? I didn't wake you, did I? You're not in pain, are you?..."

"Mom!" Bella tried to snigger but her mood had turned too sour to pull it off believably. "Take it down a notch, please? I'm feeling...confused, worried, and a little tired. No you didn't wake me, I woke up on my own about twenty minutes ago or so, and right now the pain is tolerable."

Her answering words came slow as she struggled against the pains in her chest, one caused by her injuries and the other by her emotions, but each equally discomforting.

"Are you still feeling disoriented? The doctor said it was likely you would be when you woke up, but if that's why you're worried, don't be. He said it should fade."

Bella bit back a groan as her mother started babying her, smoothing down her hair and brushing her feathered bangs away from her eyes before adjusting her hospital gown collar as she rambled on. She felt like she was ten years old again and stuck in bed with the flu when she began fluffing pillows and fixing her bedding to ensure she was "as snug as a bug in a rug."

"No, Mom. I'm worried about the firefighter that saved me. Dad said he'd been hurt badly."

"Isabella!" Charlie wailed, wide eyed and throwing his hands up in the air as if to ask her "What the hell, kid?"

Renee's withering gaze darted over to him as she pursed her lips, "Charles Swan, you're really in it to win it, aren't you?"

"Win what, dear?" he grumbled as his head fell back against the padded chair.

"The giant ass of the year award," she deadpanned, verbally slapping him in the back of the head. "Was I the only one present in the room when Dr. Gelvin informed us she'd be distressed when she awoke and it'd be best to keep her as calm as possible?"

Bella took pity on her poor old man and reached her IV clad arm out to wrap her hand around her mother's and give it a squeeze to get her attention.

"It was my fault, Mom. I wouldn't let it go because I need to know what happened to the man that saved me. Please tell me? It'll stress me out more not knowing."

Renee passed a concerned eye over her daughter, taking in her still flushed skin spattered with the bruises that had been uncovered when she'd washed away the dirt and ash with a warm moist rag, and listening to the strained and coarse sounds of her breathing. She'd never experienced fear before in the way she had when they'd received the hospital's call, informing them of their daughter's near brush with death. She felt she owed everything in her life to the man that had saved her only child and, in truth, that's what had taken her so long in returning from her "coffee run."

She'd been making excuses to run down to either the cafeteria or the gift shop repeatedly since their arrival and being fully informed of the events that had transpired. Excuses that enabled her to pass by the waiting room on the same floor so she could inquire about the young man's condition and repeatedly offer his family her words of gratitude and consolation.

She wasn't daft enough to believe that Charlie had suddenly become inflicted by both a weak bladder and a phobia of private bathrooms either.

"Honey, I know you're worried about him," Renee sighed as she gently held her daughter's hand. "We are too, but we're also worried about you and you don't need any additional stress right now, sweetie."

Bella shook her head at her mother, wondering at what age she would finally come to understand her daughter and realize that, while she meant well, sometimes what Renee felt she needed was the complete opposite of what she truly did.

"Bells...what are you doing?" Charlie shot forward out of his chair as Bella pulled the oxygen mask off her face and tossed it aside.

"Getting up," she rasped, throwing the blanket off her. "If you two...won't tell me. I'll find someone...who will."

Just the action of sitting up and turning so her legs were hanging off the side of the bed had rendered her breathless and slightly lightheaded. The fact that such a minimal amount of activity had as great an impact on her energy was incredibly disconcerting, but she chose to ignore it, determined to do what she must to obtain the answers she so desperately needed. She was stubborn as a mule if nothing else in life.

Charlie grumbled under his breath as Renee began arguing with Bella, causing her breathing further distress to the point where the monitor began blaring an alarm because her oxygen saturation had dropped from hovering in the upper nineties down to mid eighties.

"Enough," Charlie huffed, lifting his daughter in his arms and laying her back down in the center of the bed.

"You rest," he ordered with a stern look to Bella before turning his gaze to his wife. "Renee, back off. None of this is doing her any more good than just telling her would."

He helped Bella reaffix the oxygen mask to her face, his eyes darting back and forth between hers and the monitor at her bedside as he instructed her to breathe deeply and slowly. Moments later, they heard her room door open and a nurse appeared, asking if everything was okay. She took inventory of Bella's vitals and made friendly small talk as she increased the oxygen rate flowing into her mask and hung a fresh bag of saline, ignoring the awkward tension within the room. With a meaningful look at both Charlie and Renee as she began to retreat, telling them in no uncertain terms that they'd be asked to leave if they caused her patient any further distress, she notified them Bella's doctor would be in to check on her shortly.

"Bella sweetie," Charlie sighed, rubbing her blanket covered leg gently. "He...he was hurt badly. The floor wasn't stable and when you both landed on gave way and he fell into the basement."

Bella gasped, her right hand flying to her mask covered mouth as her father's pained eyes settled on her own. A million questions ransacked her mind, but only the one of most importance passed her lips.

"Is he alive?"

Charlie nodded just once, never breaking their gaze as he continued to speak to her, "He's hanging on so far, but they're not sure what condition he'll be in when, or if, he wakes up."

"Honey, you have no idea how lucky you are to still be here," Renee began to tear up as she sat down on the other side of Bella. "His brother said if he hadn't realized the floor was caving in and yelled at him to grab you, you would have fallen with him."

Her mother's words were like a swift kick to her gut. He'd had a chance to save himself, but he'd given it up for her...for a person he didn't even know...

"Do I know him? I mean...have I ever met him before?"

She wasn't exactly friends with any firefighters, but having grown up as a cop's kid, she'd met quite a few of them over the years and was acquainted with them enough to exchange casual greetings in passing if she ever ran into them in public. It made her wonder if it was someone she knew and that was the reason he'd spared her his fate.

"No...not that I'm aware of anyway. Most of the guys you know are all old men my age," Charlie shook his head, but a sudden though occurred to him. "You may know his brother from high school though, Jasper Cullen? He went to Mt. Tahoma, but I think he was a year or two ahead of you. Edward had already graduated when you started freshman year there."

Bella tried to rack her brain for a memory of him, for either of them, but was coming up blank. The only thing she recognized was the last name, and she only recognized it because the fire Chief's name was Cullen. She'd met him a handful of times before and knew a little about his family, mostly that he came from a long family line of firefighters and he had a few sons. She'd never met them, that she could recall, but nearly everyone that lived in Tacoma knew that much about them. Their surname was nearly legendary in their small area of the world for being associated with the dangerous profession.

"I don't remember them," Bella finally responded, shaking her head. Granted, that shouldn't have been all that surprising seeing as how she'd been rather shy and introverted during her younger years. By her senior year she may have only been able to name a quarter of her classmates at most—and that was only because they'd shared a large number of the same classes for four straight years.

"I'm not really surprised. He didn't seem to remember you either, but his father does...he didn't recognize you that night but when he saw your mother and I here...he immediately knew who you were and was relieved to hear you seemed to be doing okay."

Bella's heart broke at the tormented look on her father's face. She could only imagine the heartache the Chief and his family were going through at the moment having one of their own fighting for the life he sacrificed for her. If he didn't survive, she wouldn't fault them for holding her accountable. She knew she wouldn't be able to because she'd blame herself as well.

It was in that moment, as a quiet knock rapped at the door signaling her doctor's arrival, that she resolved herself to be there with him through every second of his recovery. He hadn't abandoned her in her time of need and she'd be damned if she abandoned him in his.

"Isabella," the doctor smiled kindly as Charlie moved back to his chair as he approached her bed. "It's good to see you awake. How are you feeling?"

"My chest and side hurt...mostly my arm and shoulder, and it's a little hard to throat is kind of sore too," she answered as best she could. She still had relatively no idea what injuries she'd sustained.

"Hopefully I can shed a little bit of light on what you're feeling," he smiled again as he took a seat on the edge of her bed. He seemed very kind and well mannered, and it put Bella at ease nearly instantly.

"You inhaled quite a bit of smoke during the fire and it has irritated the lining of your lungs, which is why you're experiencing the difficulty breathing and most likely a tightness or pressure in your chest when you inhale."

Bella nodded in understanding as he continued. "The pain in your arm and shoulder is stemming from the impact it took when you landed on it, but there's nothing indicating anything greater than some general muscle soreness or bruising. The x-rays we took during our initial exam came back negative, however, I want you to let me know if that pain doesn't subside over the next few days as it may indicate there's something else causing it, okay?"

As he spoke, he took her arm and rotated it in various directions, assessing her range of motion and level of pain by the faces and noises she'd make. When he was finished, he felt confident that she hadn't sustained any serious injury to her extremity or shoulder joint and that the soreness was just that, soreness.

"What I'm most concerned about at the moment, is your throat. On a scale of one to ten, can you rate the pain for me?" he asked as he reached up to press his fingers along her throat.

"About a four? Maybe?" she phrased as a question, unsure how to actually rate it. She'd never had an injury prior to that moment that required a grading scale of any kind; just typical bumps, scrapes and bruises associated with typical childhood injuries.

He nodded and sighed slightly as his hands came to rest in his lap. "While it's not uncommon for victims of smoke inhalation to experience a sore throat, I'm afraid your discomfort may have been exacerbated when you extubated yourself."

Bella's brow furrowed in confusion. She was familiar with the medical term from the countless hours of research she did for a living, but what confused her was that she couldn't remember ever having a breathing tube down her throat—or waking up and pulling it out.

"I was intubated?"

"Yes, it was the quickest way they could get your oxygen levels up on scene to prevent you from suffering permanent brain damage," he answered with a soothing tone. He didn't wish for her to become distressed over the information as many patients tend to do, and in his years of practice, he'd learned that using soothing and gentle tones helped calm his patients.

"You came to in the middle of a catscan exam and removed the tube before we could get in there. You were quite agitated so we gave you a mild sedative, thinking it would just relax you a bit, but it put you completely back under."

Charlie cleared his throat, scratching his sideburn as the doctor tilted his head to regard him, "Bella doesn't do well with many medications. If it can cause drowsiness, it'll knock her out cold."

"That explains a lot," he chuckled, his head bobbing slightly as he turned his gaze back to Bella, whose cheeks had tinged a faint pink in embarrassment. It was true. She couldn't even handle over the counter cough syrup without falling asleep within minutes of taking it.

She listened as he explained that once she'd removed the tube, her oxygen levels had held steady on their own and they had no indication she was in critical condition by any means so they opted to monitor her closely rather than reinserting the breathing tube. He also informed her that he'd schedule her for an exam of her throat to check for any serious damage she may have sustained from the rather violent tube removal.

"When will I be discharged?" she asked, not enjoying the idea of being stuck in a hospital room when the only place she really wanted and needed to be was by Edward's bedside.

"We'll be keeping you here for a few days more at least for observation. Your lungs need to clear a bit yet and we'd like for you to get to a point where you can tolerate light activity at least without desating, but for the rest of today, all I want you to focus on is getting some rest. As long as your levels continue to be stable, tomorrow we'll attempt to get you up and moving around a bit and see how you do, okay?"

"Kay," she answered, looking him straight between the eyes as she nodded once and forced a small smile across her lips.

After he politely took his leave, Bella closed her eyes and relaxed her head back against her crinkly pillow. She paid no mind to her parents talking quietly as she silently counted in her head, using the beeps of her monitor to keep a steady pace.

And once she reached the insignificant number of three hundred, she opened her eyes and pulled the oxygen mask that tethered her to the wall off her head. Her legs swung over the side of her bed and as her feet hit the cold linoleum floor, her mother choked on a breath.

"Bella!" she cried out. "What are you doing?"

"I have be," she answered as she steadied herself on her feet and turned to grab her saline bag off its hook. She'd drag it all with her if need be, but she wasn't about to spend the rest of the day staring at her own four bland taupe walls.

"Isabella, you heard what the doctor said. You need to rest today," Charlie admonished sternly.

With saline bag in hand, and the rolling monitor under her left hand, she ignored her parents and began taking slow unsteady steps toward the door. Of all the obstacles, mainly her parents, she had foreseen thwarting her mission, the one thing she hadn't...was her own body.

Just the actions of lifting herself from the bed and taking not five steps had her panting for short breaths that crackled and whistled in and out of her lungs. The lack of oxygen being absorbed by her lungs and infused into her bloodstream had her vision blurring and her legs growing weaker by the second. Charlie's arms had wrapped around her just moments before she would have careened toward the floor and he rushed the two normal for a healthy person's distanced strides back toward her bed.

"If you keep trying to get up I'll have them strap you down, do you hear me?" he reprimanded fiercely, rife with concern as he hurried to administer the oxygen she so urgently needed. Her saturation levels had slipped into the seventies in just moments.

"I want..." she trailed off, unable to catch her painful breaths.

"I don't give a damn what you want. What you need is to keep your ass in this bed until told otherwise, understood?" he ordered, his tone dripping with finality. There was to be no argument, and regardless if she was no longer his adolescent child but his twenty four year old adult daughter, she knew better than to test him.

...But that didn't mean she wouldn't try again later.

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