Dread bubbled inside Bella’s chest. The cold, callous eyes of Carlisle stared back at her. Icy chills filled with anxiety, were the warning signs her body conveyed to her that trouble was on the horizon. She’d made a conscious effort to avoid the uncles, red flags flapped in the breeze whenever they were around.
“Is there somewhere private where this can be discussed?” Carlisle’s question wasn’t meant for her, yet something inside snapped at his rude and, honestly, disrespectful tone.
“Actually, there isn’t.” Bella could feel her back bone solidifying as Carlisle’s face clouded in surprise. “Dr. Black and I are discussing a private family matter. I will contact you when we are finished.” She turned her attention back to the handsome face of Dr. Black.
“Bella, this is about Edward.” Carlisle snapped moving further into the room.
Bella had placed Edward and the family dinner on pause the moment her cell phone rang. “Well Edward can take a number as well. I’ll deal with him another time.” Her frustration was climbing. She needed to get to her brother’s room, just to see for herself he was all right, so that she could kill him with her bare hands. All the sacrifices she’d made for the men in her life, giving up her dreams, her home and the way she had always felt about herself, losing her identity after entering into a marriage she didn’t want and selling herself into a life she didn’t recognize. “Right now I have a real family member who needs me more than just to take another ridiculous photo.”
Where had this boldness been when she’d stood before this man and sold her soul to him? Why did fate choose this moment to give her the inner strength to say what she really felt?
“We know about James, Isabella.” She hated how he seemed to know everything about her world, while she ran around in a near constant state of confusion.
“Then you also know he needs me more than Edward.” Bella allowed the frustration of the past six months to come out, leaving no room for misunderstanding that she was unwilling to leave this room, this hospital to attend a dinner she couldn’t give two shits about.
“Isabella, Edward was involved in a car accident just a short while ago, the doctors took him directly to surgery.”
Bella was enough of a decent human being to separate the feels he forced to form in her from the caring nature she had from the first breath she took.
“We were told his condition is serious.”
Dr. Black motioned for Carlisle to come into the room, shutting the door behind him. Bella hadn’t noticed the white phone hanging on the wall beside the door, until Dr. Black picked up the receiver and began dialing a number and waiting, with his hand on his hip.
“Yes, this is Dr. Black. What is the status of Edward Cullen?”
Carlisle had taken a seat in Dr. Black’s vacated one, catching her attention by placing a hand over hers, which Bella withdrew as soon as she realized.
“Elizabeth is on her way here. She wanted to be in the room while I spoke with you.”
Bella paid more attention to Dr. Black and the way his hand found his dark hair, tan fingers combing from brow to crown, over and over.
“I’ll be there in a few minutes, let me just talk with his wife.”
Months of cruel words followed by periods of silence were all but forgotten as Dr. Black turned to face her.
“It’s my understanding your husband has suffered a major head trauma as a result of a car crash. As of right now, his brain function is still at good levels and with the exception of a fractured skull, his injuries are limited to minor cuts and bruises.”
Bella looked to the door as a soft knock echoed in the room. Carlisle rose to his feet, opening the door as a red eyed Elizabeth took her place at the round table. Bella noticed Dr. Black didn’t stop for introductions or to question the new person in the room. Bella surmised she was the only new person in this equation, the only one kept in the dark about more than she ever dreamed of.
“Given your husband’s preexisting condition—“ Dr Black started, but the twisting of Elizabeth and Carlisle’s heads in each other’s direction, confirmed the story had just begun.
“What condition?” Bella spoke the words without caution, she knew the possibly that the doctor who stood before her could be on the Cullen’s payroll, one able to be twisted in whatever direction they wanted their version of the truth to follow.
Dr. Black’s eyes never left Bella’s as he delivered the words which would forever change everything Bella knew about the man who lived across the marble hallway.
“Sometime ago, your husband was diagnosed with a disorder which renders him unable to control his delivery of speech. Much like Turrets, with the largest difference being the ability to convey hate and bitterness, instead of curse words More concerning is the change in his personality.”
Bella’s mind traveled back to so many times where his words had cut her, severing her into a ball of tears.
“The family sought the advice of a somewhat reclusive physician from the Amazon. He had seen only one other person with the same condition as your husband.”
Bella could hear the doctor speak, but only half listened. Was this why she was chosen to be Edward’s bride? The price paid for a non consensual marriage, one which would never be consummated, another slash at her person. Or had that been as a result of this disorder?
“….and learned of the only temporary reprieve from the disease.”
Bella’s eyes and attention flashed to a red faced Carlisle. She had seen him this angry once before, only this time she wasn’t afraid. He held nothing over her as she had no intention of helping James out of this situation.
“No!” She spoke with force, tired of being used and turned about, frustrated with the silence which had cost her so much. “I want to hear what Dr. Black has to say. You’ve had the last six months to tell me this and all I heard from you was silence.”
Dr. Black had a hint of amusement in the corners of his professionalism, something Bella felt she could work with. With a nod from her, Dr. Black continued.
“As I was saying, there is a hold, if you will. When Edward is placed in front of a live camera, only then is he able to hold off the Hulk, as he refers to him.”
As if discovering the hidden city of Atlantis, Bella’s mind clicked, realizing with clarity all the moments Edward had addressed her with a gentle spirit. All the flashes of the camera as they waited for the valet to bring his car around or the schools he opened with her at his side, placing his hand in the middle of her back, warm and comforting. Was he holding more than a dangerous monster back? Could the Edward who gave her a home, clothes and the silence she needed, be the man who lived in the shadow of the angry side of his personality.
“Edward and I formed a friendship shortly before he began his collegiate studies. Many afternoons you could find us at the local basketball courts or batting cages. He said it helped to release the rage his inner demon created when he couldn’t let him free.”
Like a tiny star floating into the room, bright and building, the compassion Bella was born with began to return. Dr. Black was a good man, not one influenced by dollar signs or how far the Cullens could take him.
“I was happy to read he’d married, something we talked about a couple of times. Glad to see he had found a girl who could look past the disease and see the man he is inside.”
Bella contemplated Dr. Black’s words as they made their way to the surgical waiting area. Reporters huddled near the elevators, waiting to catch a glimpse of one of the family members. Bella ignored their shouts of her name, asking if she knew where Edward was going when the accident happened. Or why she hadn’t been with him at the time of the crash.
“Mrs. Cullen, I’m going to lend my expertise with Edward to the surgeon who is working on him now. I’ll have a nurse bring you news as soon as we have anything to share.”
“Dr. Black, please, call me Bella. I can’t thank you enough for everything you’ve done this evening.”
“Well hopefully, the next time we speak, it will be good news about one of the men you love.”
Bella highly doubted that. James had shown he was as selfish as he was strong. Edward was fighting a battle he could not win. Neither man wanted her love or her concern.
For three hours, Bella sat waiting for news of her husband. A nurse had come by after the first hour letting her know her brother had been taken to the psych ward for observation, he would not be allowed any visitors for three days. This news suited Bella just fine as it would take at least that long to get over being angry at him. After hour two, Elizabeth and Carlisle joined her, both with faces which dragged the ground. She refused to acknowledge Carlisle’s presence in the room, giving him back a sample of what he had given her. Elizabeth held her rosary beads in her hand, silently praying to whatever Saint she believed in, never breaking the silence the room packed in.
Finally, just as the sun began to spread the pink and yellow colors of a new day, Dr. Black emerged from the surgery doors, his eyes hollow with exhaustion.
“Bella, Edward is in recovery. His vitals are stable and he is holding his own. Now, I don’t want to give you any false hope, he is nowhere near out of danger. But I can tell you, if he survives the next twenty four hours, it will look a lot better for him.”
Bella nodded her head as Elizabeth hugged Dr. Black. Carlisle had been joined by a freshly showered and pressed Charlie, Bella chose to ignore that rotten bastard, as well.
Carlisle tried to get the ladies to eat something, both refused. Well Elizabeth declined, but Bella just didn’t answer him and walked away. About an hour after Dr. Black told them he would see them later, another man in a lab coat called Bella’s name. He introduced himself as one of the surgical residents assigned to monitor Mr. Cullen’s condition until Dr Black could rest and return.
Bella was not prepared for the sight which greeted her as she walked into Edward’s room. Gone was the man who commanded a room with his good looks and crass attitude. In his place, was a pale and sickly, sliver of a man. His head covered in white gauze, a clear tube sticking out of the top of the dressing, yellow liquid flowing down the tube and into a cylinder container. To the side of his bed, a large machine echoed a constant beep, a reflection of his heart beat Bella assumed. His skin was nearly translucent and his eyes were both swollen as if stung by a bee, bruises followed the outline of the swelling. A white tube, looking very uncomfortable, sat stiffly inside his mouth. Tubes of every size and shape crossed and twisted along most of his body. The resident spoke softly as he explained what everything was, although to Bella he may as well be explaining quantum physics. A single plastic chair sat hidden in the shadows of the room, Bella approached it, her body sagging with exhaustion. Placing her bag on the floor beside Edward’s bed, she sat her tired and achy body into the cold, unforgiving chair. Elizabeth mumbled something, but Bella didn’t process it.
She remained silent, watching as Edward’s chest rose and fell with the swishing of the machine. Several nurses came in and out, adjusting the clear bags of whatever hung over his bed. They offered food, drink, a new chair, and even reading material, a suggestion which caught Bella’s fading attention. There, in an older nurses hand, was her lifeline. The book which had granted her strength when she felt she couldn’t go on.
“We always encourage the family to talk to them. Let him know how much you love him and can’t wait for him to wake up.”
Bella had other plans, she waited patiently as the nurse left the room, closing the solid glass door behind her. Bella opened the book, the pages worn from many reads. Pulling the chair closer to his side, she spoke loud enough for only Edward to hear.
“For six months you have treated me with contention, ignoring me until it suited your needs. Now, you will be silent and listen to how a real man treats a woman. Even if the man is a fictional character, he made the situation better.”
Edward’s world felt as if it were spinning, like too many drinks and not enough food. He had no clue which end was up and which was down. The voices he heard sounded like the teacher from the Charlie Brown cartoons he watched as a child. His head pounded as if it were being used as a snare drum, yet his arms and legs were useless, he couldn’t move them no matter how hard he tried. Feelings of exhaustion took him over and he gave into the dark pool of sleep.
Time had no place here, no mat to welcome it. Edward wished someone would turn off the beeping noise as it distracted him from the angelic voice he tried to follow. She spoke of a great love, one wrapped in friendship and longing. He thought of his Bella, his beautiful wife, who would never see past the monster who ruled the land in his head. He hadn’t heard the monsters grumbling and for that he was thankful. He hated to hear the nasty words he saved just for his Bella, discrediting her gentleness, calling it weakness. The beast preferred Angela, and her ability to be just a cruel as he was.
“Anthony, how do you do that? How do you say the perfect words at just the right time?”
Edward envied this Anthony guy, the one his angel spoke of as she told her fairy tale. A man who walked to the ends of the Earth, just to grab a star for the love of his life, Marie. He would be happy to do the same for his Bella, if only to see her smile for a second. But the monster would ruin the moment, lash out and destroy the star.
“I don’t do anything special. You bring this out in me. You have me twisted most of the time, craving to be deeper inside you.”
This Anthony was a lucky motherfucker, being able to be so close to the woman he loved. Bella would never let him in, allow him to explore the skin which hid behind her modesty. Edward would give anything to bury his nose in her innocence, feasting on her delicateness. But she would never love him, never share the passion he held for her.
For three days Bella sat in that chair, ignoring Carlisle’s pleas for her to go outside or get a good night’s sleep in her own bed. Dr. Black had returned later the first night, encouraging her to continue reading the sappy love story.
“Hell, I wouldn’t be surprised if he wakes up just to tell you to shut up.” Dr. Black had been kidding, but Bella understood his meaning.
She wanted Edward to wake up, let him know she didn’t hold the past against him and even though she wanted to help him keep his secret, she also had some demands she wanted him to meet.
On the third day, news came that James was allowed visitors. His recovery seemed to be positive, with no damage to any of his organs. Bella closed the third book in the series, just as Anthony was begging Marie to believe him when he tells her of his innocence, a story she was prepared to hear from James as well. Carlisle tells her he’ll stay with Edward and not to worry. Bella continued to ignore him and walked from the room.
James is sitting up in his bed, eyes hollow, looking more like a recovering zombie than a professional athlete. She closed the door upon entering the room. She may have plenty of things she wants to say to Edward, she has just as many to say to the man in front of her.
“Bella, oh man. I’m so glad you’re here. They won’t release me unless I have a place to stay and I can’t get into my condo—“
“Stop.” Bella held up her hand and backs up to reopen the door, all while staring at her brother. “Charlie, I know you’re in the hall, get in here.”
Less than a minute passed when a timid Charlie stood in the hall directly behind her.
“James, I didn’t come here to save you. You’ve proven time and time again it isn’t possible. I gave up my dreams for you, my hope for a happy life and children, even my passion for what I love most.”
James opened his mouth, ready with the lie he’d spent the better part of the morning constructing, one which made him need the sister he couldn’t stand. Fear filled his throat, creating a lump he couldn’t swallow down.
“Charlie, give me five hundred dollars.” Bella put her hand out, palm up, in Charlie’s direction. Her gaze never faltered from James’ face. The sound of crisp, new bills rubbing against one another, was followed by the feel of the money being placed in the palm of her hand. Clamping her hand tight, she took two steps to the end of the bed, to place the money on the white blanket tented by the shape of her brother feet. With her hand raised slightly above his toes, she opened her hand, letting the five bills flutter to the cotton field.
“There, now you can afford a room at a hotel or a hit of whatever drug you prefer, the choice is yours.”
“But—“ James started his protest, but this time Bella was prepared.
“What you cannot do, is drag me on inch further into this web of lies you have woven. You have taken everything you can from me and I am finished. If I pass you on the street, I will treat you as you have treated me all these years, with disregard and ignorance.”
James shouted her name over and over as she walked down the hall. She knew her brother was not smart enough to concoct this wild scheme by himself and she would figure out how he ended up in jail that day and what ties the Cullens had to him. But for now, she would return to her husband’s bedside, reading to him the words which just as Dr. Black said, might wake him up.