Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Ex Delicto Chapter 26

It's hectic around my house this morning. We went without power for two hours last night, and school is delayed. Send coffee!
Let's see how Bella fares out of the hospital.

Every single thing was unraveling around me. The doctor discharged me as being physically competent to be released but, in my opinion, I was not as mentally or emotionally ready to be home as I would have liked. Esme and Carlisle were on the brink of divorce, her faith in him shattered by his actions toward Edward. Emmett was estranged from the family, deciding that he didn't want to be around me or Edward, putting a strain on the family dynamic. Then Charlie, in anger and frustration, had gone on a rampage and fired half of the employees of the city of Seattle. Jake was demoted to traffic cop after he admitted that he was flirting with a woman that turned out to be a hooker paid off by Newton; his uncle being the only thing that kept him from getting fired. He claimed the woman was giving him pertinent information, but he deserved the cracked skull, in my opinion.

And me… I was falling apart at the seams. Edward was just barely holding the jagged pieces of me together, something I couldn't seem to do myself anymore. The night terrors were so real, so tangible, I would fight off Edward while he tried to calm me. I had a scent trapped in my lungs, of dampness, blood, and a soulless monster. I could smell him in my dreams, the way the acrid odor of fertilizer clung to his skin as he came for me again and again. I'd ripped more than one set of stitches thrashing around, and finally the doctor gave me something to help me sleep without dreaming.

I didn't know where the badass version of myself went when I got home. I kept going over that day in my head, at all the mistakes I'd made. When it came down to it, I failed myself. I went from focusing on survival, to focusing on healing the pneumonia, to just… living. I was trying to live hour by hour, some days minute by minute. I had panic attacks now, and I couldn't fight off the feeling of foreboding.

Newton was dead, so I couldn't watch him being torn apart in the courtroom. No witnesses, no victim impact statements. It pissed me off that he had avoided the justice system I believed in so strongly. I also knew there was no way in hell he'd gotten away with everything for this long without help. There had to be a mole in the department, someone that told him Dad was coming for him that Monday. Someone that helped him cover everything up and hide when the deputy chief went looking for him. I had no idea if that person was still coming for me, or who they could be.

Aro DeLuca would have a trial. He would spend plenty of time in jail since he thought adding breaking and entering to his list of charges was a dandy idea. As happy as that made me, he wasn't the bigger picture. He couldn't replace Mike and suffer the worst injustices of the prison system, the way that bastard had deserved. What did it say about me that I wished Mike had been tormented instead of dying, taking the easy way out?

I knew that it wasn't over. I hated feeling weak, someone who couldn't take care of myself or go through a full day without a panic attack taking me down. I was wretched, lashing out at Edward as he tried to help me.

"You need to go!" I screamed at him, fisting my hair at the scalp and yanking until the pain brought me to the present. "I'm no good for you," I wailed, the tears overcoming me. The room was too close, everything looming and feeling like it would touch me if I wasn't curled into myself protectively.

"No." It was impassive, authoritative.

Dragging in air, listening to it whistle through my lungs, I frowned at his monosyllabic answer. "What?" I wheezed.

"I'm not leaving," he replied sternly. "I'll go in the kitchen. Do you need anything?"

I couldn't understand why he hadn't bailed yet, why he put up with my lunacy. "Nothing," I whispered, just needing space.

I watched Edward walk out of the room, and I practiced deep breathing, visualizing a safe and happy place. He didn't deserve my ire, or my insanity. I envisioned a sunny meadow filled with wildflowers and wind whispering through the tall grass. Edward lay by my side, smiling sweetly at me as I unbuttoned his shirt and trailed my hands over his chest.

The bubble burst when that scent crept back in, the flowers wilting and decaying and giving off a rotting smell. I blinked, trying to focus on my living room; my pictures, my books, my knick-knacks. I was safe, I was at home. He couldn't touch me anymore. A different odor was overtaking the apartment, and I realized that Edward was brewing coffee on the other side of the wall in my kitchen. I stood, glancing at my pajamas and robe, and felt disgusted with myself. Making a hasty decision, I rushed into the bathroom and stripped before I could change my mind. Ignoring my reflection in the mirror, I turned the shower on and stepped in. I scrubbed roughly, careful of my stitches but getting truly clean for the first time in a long time. I'd underestimated the value in washing my hair and face, brushing my teeth and shaving. I felt like a new person as I climbed carefully out, wrapping a towel around my naked body. The steam was overpowering my bathroom, so I opened the door before my claustrophobia could kick in.

I stood in front of my bedroom mirror and dropped the towel. I forced myself to study the array of colorful bruises and reminded myself that they were badges of survival. I would have physical scars, but I accepted that I needed to work to ensure I didn't also have emotional scars. I didn't want to be a broken woman, unable to stand the presence of others or even myself. I wanted to be strong again, the way I'd always thought I was. Flawed, but courageous. That was to be my goal.

With that in mind, I made my way to the kitchen without bothering to dress or hide my imperfections.
When I walked in, Edward glanced up from the little desk in the corner that was bathed in weak sunlight, a coffee cup frozen halfway to his mouth. I took in the way his eyes gave me a once over, inspecting for damages the same as I had done. Then his gaze landed on my face and I gasped slightly at the burning heat I saw there. I took two tentative steps toward him, and he finally set the cup on the newspaper he'd been reading before extending a hand to me. I closed the gap between us with more purposeful strides, accepting his offered hand. To his credit, he kept his eyes locked on mine.

"What, uh… how are you feeling?" he rasped, and I watched his chest rise and fall rapidly.

"I'm trying."

"That's all you can do," he agreed.

"I need to lie down. Will you hold me?" I watched his eyes carefully, and I saw the patient, understanding love shining from them.

"Of course."

I stepped back to give him room to stand, gesturing for him to go first. I wasn't quite brave enough to let him watch me walk across the apartment naked. When we reached my room I grabbed a clean nightshirt from the drawer and slipped it on; it wouldn't be fair otherwise. Edward had turned back the covers and I slipped in under the cool sheet, watching him reach behind his head to grab a handful of shirt and yank it off. I faced him for a moment when he climbed into bed with me, then rolled and let him pull me against him. There was comfort here, for now, and I relaxed into his embrace. I felt his hands stroking down my hair, fanning the wet strands out across my shoulder. A whisper of breath met my ear, and I shivered as he spoke into the shell.

"Sleep, my love. I have you."

I breathed steadily for a time before I felt the pull of sleep, allowing it to take me into the void. I woke up screaming, thrashing against Edward's chest and scrambling to stand. My chest was heaving painfully as I stood there breathing hard, and Edward blinked up at me, cradling his jaw.

"Did I- did I hit you?" The words scraped my throat as I said them, the regret brutal in my heart.

"It's fine, sweetheart. You had a nightmare," he answered soothingly, placating me.

"It's not fine! What the fuck is wrong with me, and why aren't you pissed about this!" I turned away from the bed, pushing my hand through my hair. I couldn't even cry anymore, I was just so tired of everything.

"I'm not fucking going anywhere, Bella." He was suddenly behind me, maybe a few feet away, and there was anguish in his voice. "I thought I made it perfectly clear that I am here, no matter what. I'll give you space if that's what you need, but I'm not giving up on you."

I dropped my face into my hands, sobbing without tears. It took me several minutes to realize I was hyperventilating into another panic attack. Edward's strong arms went around me, and he cradled me to his chest, his hand cupping my head. "Deep breaths, don't fight it. I love you, you're safe. You're safe."

I didn't think I'd ever feel safe again, but I burrowed into his chest and held on regardless.

"We need to find a therapist, Bella. You need the tools to deal with what you went through. You can come with me to mine, and decide if you like her enough to see her on your own."

He was right, of course. I would continue down the rabbit hole if I couldn't climb out. I nodded. "You're right."

Edward is loyal to the core.

Thoughts and feelings on Charlie, Jacob?

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