The Underside of Earth - Chapter 7
Edward POV

I wake up to my pager going off at four-thirty; slightly disoriented, I look around and remember that I'm in the on-call room after working a late shift last night. Out of nowhere, the nervousness hits me like a ton of bricks as I remember what day it is. I stay put on the bed, waiting for my rolling stomach to cooperate with me – it's a good thing it's empty.

Ever since the day I met Bella, my life has been passing by in odd spurts. The few days after the incident I was off of work and spent them with the family. I was kept busy by Mom and Alice while visiting, but as soon as I returned to Seattle and was back to work, I didn't have much to distract me but work itself; some times it worked, but most times, not.

I knew that Bella needed some time before calling me; I expected it. She would need to get home and get back into her life and just plain sort this shit out in her head; hell, even I had to do that. So that's what I did, then I waited for her to call me, because she said she would.

But the first full week went by, and then, so did the second.

By the middle of the third week, I wanted to pull all of my hair out. Why hadn't she called? Didn't she want to know what happened?

I tried my best to keep myself busy. I worked longer shifts at the hospital than I should have and did my best to stay under the chief's radar. I didn't need him harassing me about getting enough rest and having a life outside of the hospital; the long shifts worked for a short time, and I temporarily forgot about the dreams and images that plagued me. When I finally made it home late in the evenings or early mornings, all I could manage to do was throw myself on the bed and pray for sleep. Like I said, it worked for a while, a very short while. A couple weeks after the "incident" I began to have weird dreams - disturbing dreams - dreams where I was too late in saving her.

The third week passed. The fourth week…I got pissed.

I was angry with Bella for not calling me, and pissed off at Emmett for not making Bella call me, and even pissed off at Alice for repeatedly telling me to give Bella the benefit of the doubt.
"She needs more time, Edward." Well, I'd had plenty of time, 'cuz what the fuck about my feelings, my thoughts, my dreams?

I gave her plenty of time; she chose to avoid the entire situation, which resulted in her trauma becoming my trauma. I couldn't get it, or her - if I was being honest -out of my head.

I was really beginning to dislike Bella. In some of my most angry moments I would see her face under that water, and I felt sad, and angry, and maybe a little scared too. I saw the image of her face when I closed my eyes at times, or in my dreams. I saw her beauty and her pain, and that was when I began to like Bella.

It was the Tuesday of the fifth week when I finally broke down and called Emmett for the second time. All it took was a "Hey, Edward," and I kind of just unloaded on him. To his credit, he didn't get pissed off at me as I ranted and raved about his sister and not being able to understand her thought process. I mean, I would want to know if it were me.

Emmett reassured me that Bella didwant to know, but that her pain had been deep, and that she had been through too much to simply overcome everything and come to terms with her past. He told me she'd had a hard year, and you just can't push healing. He said that it was easier for her to put off talking to me because by doing so, she could delay the imminent onslaught of fresh pain that hearing the story would cause.
The way he spoke about her past sounded a bit cryptic to me, but I didn't know her whole story. After I ended the call with Emmett, I was left quite confused and felt slightly guilty for being mad at her…well, just a little.

Emmett had advised me to call her, though, and I agreed that I needed to. It was time to get this out in the open so she and I could get past it. I didn't really want to call her, as I wanted her to call me, but apparently, that wasn't going to happen. Alice herself had warned me not to be calling her every five minutes to see if we could talk, but I had given her over five weeks, and this shit just needed out.

I gave myself one more day to think over what I wanted to say to her before I finally called.

The day has finally come; I am meeting Bella at her place today, at two-thirty this afternoon, and I'm nervous as hell.

I move from the cot and dial the number from my page and get the news that my six o'clock surgery on an eight week old is being rescheduled due to a fever. I really wish I could be in that surgery right now, concentrating on valves, vessels, and blood flow. Instead, I'm a nervous wreck, practically pulling every unruly strand of hair from my head.

I grab my bag from my locker and chat with some of the nurses for a while, giving them a few last instructions. I make one more round checking in on patients and finally make my way out of the PICU. I throw my bag into the back of the Volvo once in the parking garage and head back to my house.

The drive from the hospital to my place doesn't take long and soon I pull into my garage and head inside. It's now just a little after eight in the morning, but if I'm going to make it to Forks on time, I'm going to need to leave no later than nine o'clock or I won't make the four hour trip in time. I run upstairs and quickly throw together a weekend bag, packing a few sets of clothes as well as the essentials. I make my way into the closet and step out of my scrubs, debate on what to wear for a few minutes, and then scold myself, because it doesn't really matter. It's not like it's a date or anything. Huh, what brought that on? I need comfortable; this is going to be weird. I opt for my favorite pair of faded blue jeans and a button down shirt and my black Nike's. Casual, but comfortable. Yeah, that's how I think I should look; I don't want to come off looking like I am trying too hard. Trying too hard for what? For crying out loud, has someone slipped me some estrogen?

Shaking myself from the ridiculous thoughts running through my head, I grab my bag and head down to the kitchen, drob the bag by the door to the garage, then grab my phone and dial Mom & Dad's.

Mom answers. "Cullen Residence."

"Hey Mom."

"Hi, Edward. Aren't you supposed to be in surgery right now?"

"Yeah. We had to reschedule, the infant had a fever."

"Oh, that's too bad. But it's better to be safe. So, are you heading home soon then? Are you going to stop out to the house before going to see Charlie's daughter?"

I somehow keep forgetting that Bella is Charlie's daughter and that my mom and dad have that connection to her family.

"Well, I planned on going straight to her place, but that was only if I left right after surgery. I think I may get to town a bit sooner, so I think I will be. Is Alice supposed to be around?"

"No. Alice said she had to run to Tacoma for something. I didn't ask what for."

"Is Dad at the hospital today?"

"No, but he's on-call, so who knows what his schedule will look like. You know, Edward, if things start to get strained with Bella, you could bring her over here. I know your father would love to see her."

"Why would things get strained, Mom?" I ask, slightly annoyed. I don't want to be bothered by her suggestion, but I am.

"Calm down, Edward. I just know how passionate you get when telling a story, and just how you are in general. And this is quite a story to tell…so just keep it in mind. If you need a break, come on out."

"Okay. Thanks, Mom. I guess I'll be there a little after one o'clock or so."

"Ok, talk to you then, dear heart. Love you and drive safely."

"I will. Love you too, Mom." I disconnect the call. I love my mom, but at times, she is a bit too forward, although very considerate.

I quickly walk through the house and make sure all the lights are off and that the front door is locked. I never use it, but I still always check it. Yep, locked. I grab my bag and head out the kitchen door to the garage, locking it behind me.

As soon as I'm outside of Seattle, I grab my iPod and turn on some music; not really sure of what I'm in the mood for, I set it to shuffle. I try to focus on the upcoming conversation with Bella, and to imagine what she is going to say after I've told her. I think about how I'm sure she will react, but after awhile, the music variety has me imagining odd scenarios. I turn the shuffle off and just settle on classical.


The drive is long and after a while I think back to that day when I finally left the hospital, feeling like a bundle of nerves. What should have taken me a little over an hour to get back to my parents house that day, instead, took forty minutes, and that was even in the shoddy weather. When I banged my way into the house, mom was the first person I encountered. She knew from one look that I was ready to explode. She silently walked over to me and wrapped me in her arms. Petite as she may be, she is a fierce mother and protector. The hug was all it took, I just dropped the entire bomb of the afternoon and evening on her. She listened fully through to the end, and when she knew I was finished, she began to ask questions. After talking for about an hour, she casually changed the subject, somehow knowing that I was ready to be done talking about it all; I was relieved. I had nothing more to say of it.

Throughout the past five weeks, she had occasionally brought it up, but I would quickly change the subject and she would drop it.


The drive to Forks is entirely too short in my current frame of mind, but, after four hours of driving, I decide that I can't predict how this is going to go down; I'm now resigned to wait and see. I pull up in front of my parents home, still wondering how the rest of this day will go, and park my car in front of the house. I step out and stretch my legs and arms before grabbing my bag from the back seat, and head inside. I place my bag by the door as I quietly remove my shoes, then pad up the stairs.
"Mom? Dad?" The house is quiet, but the lights are on.

"I'm in the library, Edward. Come on up." I retrace my steps to grab my bag and climb the flight of stairs, turning into the library. My dad sits at his desk rifling through a stack of papers.

"Hey, Dad. Where's Mom at?"

"Hi, Edward. She ran to the market to get a few ingredients for supper. She said that she would try to get back before your…appointment." He eyes me, and I can see the corner of his mouth just barely lift.

"What?" I know that look. And his tone at the word appointment; by appointment, he means date.

"Nothing really, it's just that your mother is getting a little excited with this, and I told her she shouldn't. This is hardly a celebratory gathering. And besides, you two aren't even planning to come out here, correct?"

"No, not at all. And she needs to keep her head straight about this. This is so far from being a date. It's going to be more depressing than anything. And if we do show up, it may not be under the best of circumstances."

He nods, looking sad for a moment, then composes himself and changes his expression. "Edward. Just… be gentle and tell her slowly. As much as you want to get it over with - and she probably does as well - you need to make sure you get every detail out there. Don't throw it all at her at once. Give her some time to swallow it all down. Okay?"

I nod, agreeing. I glance at the clock and realize we have now been talking for thirty minutes.

"I better get going, Dad. I have to be there by two-thirty. What's Mom making for supper anyway?"

"Alfredo with asparagus and chicken."

My stomach grumbles; she knows that's my favorite. She did that shit on purpose.

"Terrific." I grab my bag from the floor just outside of the office and head up to my old bedroom on the third floor. I toss it on the bed as I enter and make my way into my bathroom to make sure my shirt hasn't gotten all wrinkled on the drive. The shirt is fine, the hair is horrendous…as usual. I flip the light off in the bathroom, and in the bedroom as well, before heading back downstairs to the kitchen. Mom is just returning with her shopping bags and trying to hurry to the counter before she drops a bag.

I quickly grab the falling bag and then start pulling ingredients, helping to put them away. I turn and face my mother. "So, alfredo? Why on earth would you be making that when you know I won't be here?"

"HA! You're not the only one who likes it, Edward. It's a free country and I can make what I want, when I want."

"Yes, it is, Mother, but no one really likes it that much, except for me."

She shrugs. "I felt like making it."

I shake my head at her and the conversation is over with her leaving the kitchen. I follow her out, but she starts to head up the stairs. I look out one of the windows and see that within the forty-five minutes I have been here, it has started raining. I hop down the stairs and grab a jacket from a peg beside the front door since I didn't bother to bring my own.

"I'm taking off; I want to drive around for just a bit and still get there a bit early," I yell up the stairs.

Mom walks down a few steps. "Don't forget what I said, Edward. And be nice."

"I'm always nice. Bye." I wave at her and open the door before she has time to comment.

Once in my car, I shake my hair out and start the car; turning it around and head into town. The rain is really starting to come down, so I don't drive around for long. I locate her home and notice that it is only ten minutes after two; I'm really early, but don't want to put it off any longer.

I park my car in her driveway and put the hood up on my jacket. I have to run to the front door, with the rain coming down in sheets, my clothes are soaking through quickly. The front stoop is covered, and for that I'm thankful; but it won't help my hair out one bit, it's already clinging to my head and water rivulets run down my neck and into the back of my shirt. I should have brought an umbrella; I'm sure I look similar to a drowned rat.

I raise my hand to knock on the green door but it remains in the air, unmoving; the anxiety and stress of the last almost six weeks swirling in my chest. My nervousness makes me sweat a little, even in this cold, and now I'm praying I don't smell. Maybe I should go back and put on more deodorant; I should have done it when I was assessing my hair and clothes at home.

Just knock damn it. My fist makes contact with the door and I wait...and wait. I knock again. What's taking her so long?

"Just a minute. I'll be right there."

After a few minutes the door is opens.

I'm not expecting what I see. She's still beautiful, like I remember, but she appears to have lost weight, which actually has me fearful for her. They only times I've seen her was in the library - when she was running - but I was never able to get a close look at her face. The only other times I had seen her was when I pulled her from the ocean, looking close to dead, which was quite unpleasant, and then at the hospital. Even there she was pretty, but she looked incredibly washed out and sallow. I notice her staring at me, waiting for me to say something. Snap out of it, Edward!

"Ah, hi. How are you, Bella?"

"Hello, Edward. I'm good, come on in." She opens the door wider for me and I step in.

"You're early. I was counting on the last twenty minutes to finish up in the kitchen," she says as she walks into the house. I shut the door and quickly follow after her.

"Sorry, I got into town a little earlier than expected, my surgery this morning was canceled. I can help in the kitchen, if you like."

"I'm almost done, but come in." I follow her into the smallish kitchen and seat myself on a bar stool at the island.

"So why was your surgery cancelled?" She moves around the kitchen fluidly, looking into the oven and inspecting her creation.

"Well, the infant I was to operate on had a fever. I can't do the operation when there is an infection present, so we had to reschedule. The child needs the surgery, but she can go without it for a few more weeks."

She nods and continues to bustle around. "You want something to drink? I have a spicy, sweet wine, beer, or water."

"I'll take a beer. Thanks."

She bends over and reaches into the refrigerator; I would be lying if I said I didn't check out her backside. I did...and it is a very nice backside, but now is not the time to dwell on that, if ever. She turns back around, and thankfully my eyes are not still focusing on her pert little ass. She opens the bottle of beer and hands it to me.

I gladly take it from her and take a swig of it. "Thank you."

"Forgive me for saying so, Bella, but are you eating well? You look like you've lost weight since I last saw you, and you were skinny to begin with. I would know."

She had her back to me, standing at the sink, but quickly spins on her heel. She eyes me in a not-so-pleasant way.

"I do not intend to be bitchy here, but let's get one thing straight, Dr. Cullen…"


She lets out a huff of air. "Edward," she replies, with the tone of agitation evident.

"This is not a hospital, or a doctor's office, or even some small family practice for that matter." She pauses and gestures around her, waving her arm. "This, is my home, my safe haven. So I would appreciate it if you would check your stethoscope at the door. If you can't do that, then we're done here."

I look down for a second, buying time, and then back up into the brown pools of her eyes. My voice comes out quiet, yet rugged. "I apologize. You're right, but I have to admit that I am a bit concerned for you."

"I appreciate it, Edward, but there's no need to be, so...just, stop it. Okay?" She turns back around, returning to the oven and opens it.

If she weren't so skinny to the point of worrying me, it would almost be funny. Funny that this slight woman is putting me in my place as if I were a child. With anyone else I'd feel patronized, but for some reason I don't with her. However, her small frame is far from funny; I'll have to figure out a way to fatten her up a bit. Making plans, Cullen?

She pulls a tray from the oven and the divine smell hits my nostrils. My stomach immediately growls in response, eliciting a smirk from Bella.

"That smells absolutely divine, Bella. What is it?"

She laughs and it sounds like tinkling wind chimes. "Individual spinach quiches with shitake mushrooms, shrimp, bacon and a little bit of seasoned brie. I made dessert tarts as well."

"That sounds mouthwatering, what are the dessert tarts if I may ask?" My stomach growls even louder and my saliva glands seem to be working overtime. I hadn't realized I was so hungry until now.

"They're black and red raspberry tarts with a sweetened cream cheese. Of course, the berries are not in season now, but I still had some in my freezer from last year. They tasted fine after I thawed them, and there was no freezer burn."

She sounds a little nervous explaining herself, like I will think frozen berries are disgusting. "I'm sure they will taste perfect. Are we going to be eating soon?"

She smiles a little and now I simply feel like a goon; pretty soon I will resemble a drooling dog. "Yeah, we can eat now, Edward. I just want to put these on some plates and we can go into the living room. Um...feel free to look around if you like." She gestures to the rest of the house with the spatula she holds in her small hand.

I get up off the barstool, grab my beer from the island, and head out of the kitchen. In front of me is the living room, where Bella has a fire going. The house must be a bit old as there is no main light fixture in the room, but lit up with a variety of lamps, and of course the fire as well. A few pieces of artwork decorate the walls, and I make my way to the mantle to inspect the piece that rests above it.

It's maybe the most pivotal piece in the room and one of the most moving pieces I have ever seen. The atmosphere of the painting is nostalgic, and serene, but slightly haunting. There are mostly gray and blue hues with dirty-tan undertones. The light in the painting shines hazily through trees of a surrounding forest. The lone subject of the painting floats in its ubiquity; it invokes a feeling of shyness.

A Black Swan.

I search the painting, looking for a signature from the artist, just barely finding it. Just above the gilded frame in a deep scarlet paint is the signature. IB. IB? It takes me a moment and then in my mind, I see the name on the file I held five weeks ago. Isabella Black. She painted this? I move to the next painting in the room which is in a completely different style from the first painting. Again, IB. There are several other paintings in the small room, but they are all by various other artists. I retrace my steps back to the mantle, and lean in closer to look at the signature.

From behind me, a throat clears and I jump, bumping the grate in front of the fireplace. Thankfully, it doesn't fall over, although I almost do.

"I'm sorry, I didn't mean to startle you. See something interesting?" She sounds like she is holding in a laugh.

"Go ahead, you can laugh. You scared me a bit. I guess I was engrossed. Ah, how long were you standing there?"

She laughs just a little. "Not long, only a few minutes."

I feel my eyes bug a little. This incites a bigger laugh from her. It's a nice sound, I need to figure out how to get her to laugh like that more often. Much more often.

"I'm just kidding; I barely just walked in the room."

She walks the rest of the way into the room and sets the two plates on the table in front of a tan couch. "I'll just get my drink and then we can eat…and then talk." She sounds so reluctant to say the last part.

"Okay." I make my way to the couch and sit down at the far end. She returns with her drink and sits in the chair opposite of me and grabs her plate.

"Dig in?" It escapes her as a question.

I grab my plate and we both begin to eat. An awkward silence settles between us, but I'm not sure I should start yet.

"This is really good, Bella. You didn't have to cook, but I must tell you I'm glad you did."

She nods. "You say it's good like you're surprised. Had you pegged me as a horrible cook, Edward?

I like when she says my name. It sounds nice coming from her mouth, in her voice, rolling off her lips. I clear my throat. "No no. Not at all. I...that came out all wrong, I apologize."

"It's perfectly fine. I'm chiding you anyway, you seem nervous."

I take a deep breath. Honesty is best. "I guess I am a bit. It's just been a while, and to be honest, I'm afraid of how you're going to react to what I tell you." She simply nods.

"Well, why don't we just enjoy the rest of the meal, and then we can get to that."

We eat the rest of the meal talking about random things here and there. When we're finished, I help her carry our plates back to the kitchen and offer to help her wash the dishes; she refuses and says she'll get to them later. I turn to go back to the living room but see her reach into a cabinet above the refrigerator. She pulls down a bottle of whiskey.

She turns around and looks at me, raising an eyebrow. "One shot glass or two? I'm going to need liquid courage for this."

I don't think getting sloshed is a good idea for me, or for her, but I don't think one will hurt. "Two."

She nods and grabs two shot glasses. She gestures to the living room once again and I walk that way. My stomach churns a little bit.

"Could I use your restroom first?" I ask.

"Oh yeah. It's upstairs though, at the end of the hall." She points in the direction with her head.

I make my way up the stairs and to the restroom, close the door behind me and flip the light on; my nerves are bundling up in my stomach. I splash a bit of cool water on my face and then towel it dry. Assessing my hair in the mirror, I notice that it has dried, resuming its poofy defiance to me. I take a few deep breaths to clear my head and head back downstairs. Bella sits in the same spot as when I left her, waiting, with two shots poured and sitting in front of her. She picks hers up, so I sit and do the same.

"Um…I would toast, but this is not really the toasting kind of situation." She shrugs and tips the shot back. I follow her lead.

I have to agree. This is definitely not a toasting situation.

She screws the lid back on the bottle and after a few moments, looks up to me. Fear is etched into her eyes and her shoulders are quite rigid.

"Try to relax. I'm going to try to soften this the best I can, but I am going to tell you everything."

She nods and sits back in the chair. "Ok, just go then."

So I do.

I tell her everything. I tell her about running through that downpour, following her. When I saw her bend over, and then straighten and run again. I tell her the way the sand felt under my feet and how it seemed to feel like such a long time before I got to the water and that she was already submerged. I explained my fear that I would be too late in that moment, knowing I still had to get that far out into the water and she was already under.

I tell her I was thankful for the lightening while submerged in water for the first time in my life; it allowed me to see underwater in the murky ocean to find her.
I explain what she looked like when I finally found her in the freezing water. Her hair flowing out from her head, like a halo.

I continue to tell her our story, but by the time I hear her breathing begin to pick up, I'm almost to the end.

"Your brother pulled both of us to shore. I was close, but I thought we were both going down because I was tired and my limbs were beginning to tingle. I gave you mouth to mouth and you finally spit up water. And then you began apologizing to Emmett. After that, he took you to the hospital, and I followed, and you know the rest."

I wasn't looking at her, and hadn't through most of the story. I stole a glance now.

Tears streamed down her face as she too, looked down at the floor. She quickly looked up and caught my eyes. She stood up and started pacing in the small room.

She was looked trapped, boxed in. Unsure of what I should do, I thought of Esme.

I quickly stood up. "Come on." I held my hand out to her.

"What? Where?" Her last word came out all choked-up sounding; heartbreaking.

"We both need some fresh air, maybe even a little bit of rain to get us out of this current mindset. Let's go."

She contemplates for a minute then swiftly goes to the front door and grabs a jacket from the antique coat tree. She hands me mine and opens the door; the roar of the rain is almost deafening.

"Should I grab an umbrella?" she asks loudly, trying to talk over the roar of the rain.

"I don't think it'll help. We will just have to run for it. My car is unlocked." She nods and I run first, knowing she will need to shut the door and turn the light out. I briefly worry about the fire, but it was close to burning out. Besides, we won't be at my parent's for long.

She is in the car after several moments and looks at me. Out of nowhere, she busts out laughing. "I'm sorry, but your hair is quite ridiculous in this rain."

I grimace at her a bit. "Well, Ms. Black, I'm glad I can amuse you." Truly, I'm just thankful that she is no longer crying; it was too heartbreaking.

She looks out the window as I start the car and then back to me. "So, where to?"

I back out of the driveway and head towards my parents house. "Someone else wants to see you tonight."

She looks at me sharply, questions in her eyes.
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