The Underside of Earth - Chapter 10
Chapter 10

EPOV

I wake with a start, forgetting where I am and whose bed I'm sleeping in. Taking a look around, I notice the room I've woken up in; the room is painted a soft, yellow color with slightly feminine d├ęcor. There is strand of holiday lights that hang around the room that I didn't notice until just now, giving off a warm, golden glow and the carpet is a bluish color, shag; I see the outline of what appears to be an art easel in the corner and I remember. I'm at Bella's…and apparently in her bed. The events of the previous night flash through my memory and I slowly flip over to my other side to look at the woman lying beside me.

Bella still sleeps next to me on the plush bed and does so very quietly; I can barely hear the air escape her lips as she breathes. Studying her face, I notice a faint splattering of freckles across her nose and cheek bones and there are tiny, new hairs that grow along her hairline. Her nose is dainty and as I study her harder, I notice that her red lips are slightly disproportionate - the right side of her top lip has a pinkish outline further out from the rest of her lip, when the left side doesn't. Her hair partially fans out around her head on the pillow while some of it is stuck to her face. My fingers twitch, desperate to move the hair from her face, but I'm afraid I'll wake her so I leave it as it is. Her form is small and frail – something I can tell even under the heavy blankets that cover her.

Everything about her is so womanly: her petite frame, her hair, her nose, the fan of her eyelashes along her cheek. She is incredibly beautiful, something I noticed the first second I ever laid eyes on her, but there is also something else about her that seems to lure me to her. As much as I hate to admit to myself, I'm growing very close to this woman. This heart broken woman, who needs to be fixed and I have no idea if she wants to be fixed, or whether she'll let me be the one to fix her.

Bella sighs in her sleep and it breaks me away from my thoughts. Gently, I lift myself from the bed so as not to wake her and make my way downstairs. Searching through her cupboards, I locate her coffee grinder and beans as well as two mugs. There is a dull pounding in my head from the consumption of alcohol last night so I quietly make my way to her bathroom in search of something to dull the daggers I feel at my temples.

When I open the medicine cabinet, I'm not ready for what I see. There is a variety of incredibly strong pain killers: Dilaudid, Oxycontin, Percocet and I immediately wonder what kind of pain Bella has endured to be prescribed these types of meds. Spotting the Ibuprofen, I quickly grab the bottle then shut the door, feeling like I'm invading her privacy. I may be really curious about the meds and why they're in there, but it's rude to snoop. I tap out six of the tablets and fill the cup next to the sink with water, swallow three of them down, and then refill the cup with water. Quietly, I re-enter the bedroom and set the cup of water and the remaining three ibuprofen on the bedside table. Bella sighs again and I quickly try to make my way out of the room without waking her, but she's already awake.
"Good morning, Edward. Is that coffee I smell?" she inquires.

I turn around in the doorway to face her and smile. "It is, and I just set a cup of water and some Ibuprofen on the table by the bed for you. I'm not sure how many you take, so I left you three.

"Three is what I take. Thank you. I'll be down shortly."

I nod and turn back around, making my way back down to the kitchen. The coffee is ready so I pour out two cups, and then go in search of cream and sugar. I'm unable to locate the sugar, so I open the fridge and look for cream or milk, then see a small jug of French Vanilla flavored coffee creamer. I pull that out and set it beside her cup and then open a few drawers in search of a spoon.

Not even a minute later, Bella stumbles into the kitchen. Her hair looks like a bird started building a nest in it, only to abandon the job halfway through.

"My head is killing me. Why did we decide to add whiskey, again?" she asks as she grips her head, massaging her temples.

"The whiskey was all your idea. Not mine," I remind her and chuckle.

She rolls her eyes at me and stumbles up to the island, sitting down one of the bar stools. She picks up the coffee creamer and dumps a hefty amount of creamer into her coffee, then stirs.

"Do you want some coffee with that creamer, Bella?" I tease.

"I know, right? I could probably just drink the creamer," she admits, then takes a sip of the coffee. She gasps. "Shit, I do that every fucking day." She looks at me and explains, "I burned my fucking tongue."

I quickly turn around and move to the coffee pot to refill my cup, because honestly, hearing her say the word 'fucking' so early in the morning, or at all, kind of does something to me, and if I don't distract myself, I may sport an unwelcome erection.

Turning back around, I take a sip, then sputter, because now I've burned my fucking tongue. Bella laughs at me and I return the eye roll. We are in her kitchen, her sitting at the bar and me leaning against the counter, drinking our coffee. At first, it's comfortable, and if I admit it to myself, really fucking nice and something I could get used to, but then the atmosphere seems to grow tense, leaving me feeling slightly awkward.

"So, ahh…" I start.

"Look, Edwar…" Bella says at the same time.

We both stop and laugh nervously. "You first," I offer.

She nods at me. "I'm really sorry about last night, Edward. Um, sometimes I have bad dreams…and I'm really sorry that you had to witness that. But I want to say thank you, I'm actually really grateful that you were here."

I don't really know what to say. I have questions – a lot of them – but something about the look on her face and in her eyes tells me not to ask them today. "I'm glad I could be here for you, Bella."

She offers me a small, soft smile and looks down at her coffee. The awkward silence continues and I quickly finish off my coffee. I should be heading home anyway.

"I think I'm going to take off. I need to stop at mom and dads before I head back to Seattle and I don't want to get home too late, either."

Bella stands up from the island and walks with me toward the front door. Grabbing my coat, I slip my arms inside and over my shoulders, pull my stocking hat from the pocket and stick it on my head. Bella has a funny look on my face, but quickly shakes herself, noticing that I'm watching her.

"Okay, well. I guess this is goodbye then, but I'm sure we'll see each other at some point, with our group of friends and all," I say, praying that this isn't the end. I don't know what it is about this woman, but I want to know her more. I want to help her and I want her to want to know me more. I reach down to give her a light squeeze around her shoulders, because she all of a sudden looks like she could cry, then open the front door. As soon as I do, she speaks.

"Wait. Um, I know that you were unwillingly thrown into my mess of a life, Edward, and I'm sorry for that, truly. I just – I think that I would like to talk to you more, if you'd be open to that. I like you, and I can see us being friends. Do you think we could be friends?" she asks.

I sigh, relieved. "Yes, we can definitely be friends, Bella. That would make me quite happy, to be honest," I admit. "I already have your number; did you save mine when I called that time?"

"Yeah, I have your number," she replies.

"Okay. Call me whenever you want. I tend to have a lot of free time when I'm at the hospital and a call would be nice."

On my drive home, I think over the events of the previous evening. The easy banter between Bella and myself, her sadness, depression, the meds in her bathroom cabinet...but mostly, that episode when I heard her screaming on the floor above me.

Nothing could have made me move faster.

My eyes finally fall shut, and remain that way. The alcohol makes it easy for me to relax on Bella's couch and the heat from the fire still makes the room cozy and warm. I feel myself drift but suddenly jump awake. Was that a scream I heard or was it a dream? I hear another scream, and it is definitely real.

I jump up from the couch, tripping over the afghan that covers me, but catch myself and run up the stairs in twos. I run to Bella's room but she isn't there, the bed, empty. I retrace my steps and see she is not in the bathroom either, and head down the other hallway, where I have yet to see.

There is a door only five steps from the doorway to the bathroom and I see Bella's shadowed form sitting on the floor, not quite inside the room. She is crying and murmuring but I can't make out what she is saying. She grips her stomach and begins to panic in her sleep so I quickly sit down on the floor behind her and scoop her up into my lap. She shudders and quiets, but continues to cry.

I hold her to me, unsure of what to do or what is going on, smoothing her hair away from her face and humming quietly to calm her down. After a few minutes her body relaxes into mine and she seems to have once again, fallen asleep. Without jumbling her around too much, I climb up on my knees - with her still in my lap - and stand up to take her back to her bed.

As I stand and turn to head down the hallway and back toward Bella's bedroom, something I see in my peripheral vision catches my attention. I peer around the door jamb to further inspect what I had seen, Bella still cradled against my chest.

I squint my eyes a little more and if it's what I think it is, I'm looking at the shape of an infant's crib.

WHAT. THE. FUCK?

I want to inspect further, but Bella mumbles against my chest and I remember that I'm still holding her, so I pull myself from the doorway and carry her back to her room, lay her down in her bed, and pull the covers up over her.

The images from last night continue to loop through my mind. Was that a baby crib? Was that really what I had seen? Or is my mind conjuring up random images to further haunt me? And if that was a crib, what does that mean? Was Bella trying to have a child before her husband died, or was she already pregnant? If so, where is the child?

Questions. Questions plague me on my drive home.

Three Months Later

I hand over the needle and scissors to Gloria so she can sew the patient up and walk out of the OR to clean up. After removing my mask, I immediately begin to wash my hands, scrubbing out. Lena, an intern, sidles up next to me and begins to wash her hands.

"Great surgery, Dr. Cullen. You were amazing," she says suggestively and giggles a little bit.
I contain a groan and tell her thank you, and continue to wash my hands. This is how it is for me. I get hit on a lot at work, which, I must admit, gets annoying. I'm here to save lives and help people, but then there are these people who insist on trying to pick me up after a surgery, or during a surgery, and everywhere in between.

"Good job to you as well, Lena," I tell her and quickly escape through the door. I pray she doesn't follow me; the prayer doesn't work. I pull my phone from my pocket before she has a chance to catch up to me and press the "1" to listen to my voicemail; I have three. The first is from my dad, calling to find out how the surgery went, the second, from Alice, asking about tickets to the symphony that I'm not using, and the third one is the important one. The third message is from Bella, saying she is calling to find out how the surgery went and to call her when I can. I listen to the message one more time, wanting to hear her voice, then delete it. I've come a long way, for several weeks there, I was keeping them all.

I return the call to my dad to let him know that the surgery went well and the infant is doing fine. He asks when I plan to visit again and I tell him that I have to check my schedule, but I have some time off soon. When I finish that call, I quickly send Alice a text to let her know that the symphony tickets are hers. Before I can call Bella, I have to talk to the parents of the infant I just operated on. I sit and talk with the parents for twenty minutes, going over the entire surgery with them and then handing them off to a nurse. I give them my cards and tell them to ask the nurse any questions they have and to also make an appointment with their pediatric cardiologist for follow-up. They will be in the hospital for a while, depending on how long it takes for their child to recover, but it may or may not be me who they will see during their stay.

I finally make my way outside and take in a deep breath of fresh air. It's a cool May day and I'm getting really excited for the summer. It has been a long winter and I'm looking forward to being able to get back to Forks and visit my parents…and Bella more often.

I pull my phone from my pocket and send Bella a quick text message telling her that I will call her as soon as I get home and am showered. I head to the parking garage to get my car and go home.
I wake up shaking and sweating, with the sheet of my bed stuck to me. Another nightmare. I look over at the clock and see that it is almost four o'clock in the morning. I lay there and think about the dream, about the emotions I felt in the dream and the emotions I'm feeling now. It's always the same dream, over and over again. Bella running from the library and then Bella in the water, floating, her hair a halo around her head.

In the dream I don't save her, because one second she is there in front of me, and I reach out to grip her arm, but in the next second, she is gone, pulled away from me by a wave. I swim around in an attempt to find her, coming up out of the water and shouting her name, but she isn't there. I get more air and go back under, and just in that instant, I see her sinking down, down, down. It's always at that point in the dream that I wake up, sometimes yelling for her, and other times not.

I've never told her about the dream, afraid that if I do, she'll feel guilty and she already carries to much guilt. Part of the dream stems from the anxiety I feel from not being close to her; I want to be there for her, yet can't. As time has passed, in these three months, we have gotten much closer, and Bella has begun to confide in me, tell me bits of her history, but she has yet to tell me her real story. I know part of it has to do with that spare bedroom in her house that I carried her from that last night; it has everything to do with it. The story of what happened to her and what she feels ruined her. I want to know what happened to her, feel that without knowing, I can't truly help her until I fully understand and she can't truly help herself, but I don't push her. It will come in time.

I've also asked her on several occasions if she has started seeing a therapist. Anytime I bring it up she says that she has a few in mind, but quickly changes the subject. I have let her get by with it for too long now, and know that I need to have a real long talk with her.

After about ten minutes, I know that I won't be getting back to sleep as I can't seem to shut my brain off. I wander into the kitchen, flip the light on, and prepare the coffee maker to brew. As the coffee starts perking, I head to the bathroom to take a quick shower so I can wake up a bit more…and take care of my usual morning 'problem.'

I quickly wash my hair and body and, because I don't want to have a 'problem' for the remainder of the day, I quickly rub one out. When I step out of the shower the bathroom is steamy and warm. After drying off, I use the towel to wipe down the mirror and throw it into the hamper. The stubble is beginning to grow in along my jaw line and above my lip, so I grab my razor from the cabinet, along with the shaving cream, and make a quick job of removing the itchy growth.

I don't have to work until later in the evening, so I pull a pair of my more lived in jeans from the bottom drawer of my dresser and a plain white t-shirt. I don't bother with socks because I don't plan on leaving the house for some time, and if I can be barefoot, I prefer to be.

I emerge from the bedroom and walk back into the kitchen to fetch a cup of coffee and nearly jump out of my clothes. Perched on top of my kitchen island, is Alice, sipping her own mug of coffee.
"Gee, Alice, so nice of you to pay me a visit unbeknownst to me. It's six o'clock in the morning. What are you doing here?" I ask as I fill my coffee mug.

"Hello, Brother. It's nice to see you, too. I actually just flew in from Chicago and was too tired to start driving home, so I thought I'd come here and catch a few z's, but you were already awake when I got here...and the coffee was brewing, so here I am," my sister explains, barely taking a breath.
"What were you doing in Chicago?"

"I'm opening a new store there, and I had to go out and interview a few people for possible new staff," Alice replies, then takes another sip of her coffee.

"Well, congratulations. That's great. How are the wedding plans coming along?"

Alice eyes sparkle a little and I wonder why I just asked that. "They are coming along perfectly. I still have plenty of time, but you know me, I like to get my ducks in a row way ahead of time."

I nod, agreeing with her. "How's Jasper?"

Alice's eyes sparkle even brighter and she smiles. "Great as usual. Oh, before I forget, the Seattle weekend has been rescheduled."

"What are you talking about, Alice. I live in Seattle," I ask, confused.

"Oh, I forgot you weren't in on the initial plan. A group of us are coming to Seattle for some weekend fun. You're invited. Now, I know you live here blah blah blah, but come out with us. You never do anything fun anymore, Edward," Alice says in a pouting tone. She even throws out her bottom lip like a two year old.

"Oh put the lip away, Alice. When is this "Seattle Weekend of Fun?"

"Three weeks from now. Check you calendar," Alice replies.

I nod at her and she looks at me expectantly. "What, now?"

She sighs, flabbergasted, "Of course now, dummy. I don't want you to forget."

I roll my eyes at her and set my coffee on top of the counter and go to retrieve my calendar from my shoulder bag. As I walk into the living room, I look out the window and see the sun's rays beginning to color the sky, but a bit further off a large storm front makes its way toward us. Another day of rain, but that's typical. I don't really mind it as I planned to stay inside most of the day anyway.

"I'm open. I'll just mark the sheet at the hospital to let them know I'll be completely unavailable that weekend so they don't schedule me for on call. I haven't taken any time off for a while, anyway."

Alice lets out a little squeal and claps her hands a couple of times. I snicker and mark my calendar as "family time."

"And before I forget, who all is going to be tagging along for this Seattle Weekend of Fun, Sister?"

Alice noticeably blanches at my question and I grow a bit nervous. "Alice?" I ask her suspiciously.

"Um, you already agreed to go, Edward, so there is no backing out after I tell you, okay?" she pleads.

I run my hand through my hair a couple of times, pushing it back from my face and pulling it a bit out of frustration. I should know better, Alice has always been a tricky little thing, whether it was getting her way with our parents in one way or another, or convincing our high school gym teacher to excuse her from participating in a certain sport she disliked, Alice was sneaky.

"Please, Edward." She throws me the bottom lip again. Did I mention she's conniving? Yeah, she is.

"Fine, Alice, but if the suggested company is not company I particularly care for or can stand, I'm bowing out at the first opportunity, okay?"

Alice smiles again. "First of all, don't be a priss, Edward. And second of all, I guarantee you will enjoy the company."

I don't say anything, just wait for her to tell me.

"It's RoseandEmmettandBella."

She says it so quickly I barely catch the last of the names. I mentally pick out all of the 'ands' from between the names. Rose. Emmett...and Bella. Bella would be coming. There definitely won't be any backing out of this.

I look at Alice again and she has a shit-eating grin on her face. She hops off of the island and heads into the living room, on her way, she calls out, "I'm going to catch a nap. Wake me in a couple of hours."

All of a sudden, I need to get out of the house. I run to my room and change out of my jeans and throw on some loose shorts, socks and my running shoes. I could really use a run before it starts to storm.

The Underside of Earth © 2009-2010 loss4words
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