Chapter 17: Bella
For weeks I trained with each member of the family coaching me and guiding me, Jasper especially. We utilized the technique I had used to help him, with results I could never have imagined. I found I could actually push away feelings of bloodlust. I could control myself. I could live again.
This was the day I would attempt to go out into the world. Assured by Alice that I would be fine, I felt a gigantic weight lifted off my shoulders. Yes, I was nervous, but mostly I was excited. I couldn't wait any longer. After everyone left for school, Esme and I began our day. We were starting at the hardware store. She needed to shop for a new project of hers, and Carlisle was working the late shift, so he was joining us. I got into the back seat of the Mercedes and we made our way to Olympia.
As we walked thru the parking lot, Esme looked at me. "Don't worry, Bella. This store is quite large and Alice said there will be very few customers at this time of day. It shouldn't be too hard for you."
As we entered the store, the scents of humans were mixed with new fragrances, and a curiosity ran through me. Esme got a carriage and took out a list of items. She hurried away and Carlisle and I walked slowly through the aisles. As we came to the lumber section, the smell of the different types of woods was confusing. I bent down and sniffed a piece of pine. The pine scent was there, but there was something else that burned my nose.
"Chemically treated wood," Carlisle explained.
I was compelled to stop and smell each kind of wood. Most had been treated and was not appealing, but there were a few that were pure. The cedar and redwood were all untreated and smelled like the forests that I had spent so much time in. I favored the exotic woods; the Brazilian walnut was dense and oily, the Meranti was earthy and light weight but strong, and the Cambara from Peru had a pink color to it. I heard Carlisle chuckle behind me.
"What's so funny?" I asked.
"I'm just enjoying watching you take it all in. I take it you haven't really experienced this type of thing before?"
"No, not since I was turned. I've kept to the woods mostly, trying to stay away from people. This is the first time I've been in a store." It made me laugh to say the words. As a human, a store was an everyday thing, but this was so different. At this moment, I truly felt like a newborn. I looked past Carlisle to see a store employee approaching us. Carlisle heard him as well, turning to face the man and moving a bit closer to me, waiting for my reaction.
"Can I help you find anything?" The man asked. The scent of his blood was not as appealing as it should have been. I noticed his clothing was stained with paint and perhaps paint thinner, and that there was paint on his hands and speckled in his hair. The chemical smells were wretched and I had no desire to drink from him.
"No, thank you," I answered, expelling the air from my lungs.
"Please let me know if you need anything," he said as he walked away. Carlisle turned to me with a smile.
"You did very well." He praised, putting his arm around my shoulders. "Let's go over to the garden center. Esme would like us to pick out a few things."
The garden center was a large greenhouse, the air inside thick and moist, and there were six people inside. The burn in my throat was noticeable, but bearable, until all of a sudden, the fire reached up from my stomach and engulfed me, causing my lips started to quiver. I spun around to see a small child crying; a trickle of blood dripping from her finger, and her mother was trying to comfort her. I turned away and stopped breathing.
"Honey, I told you not to touch the cactus. It's OK. Let's get a band aid."
I closed my eyes and pictured my mother, thinking of the many times I had fallen and hurt myself, remembering how her voice had always comforted me. Walk away, Bella. Walk away. Slowly, my feet started to move and I walked up to Carlisle, who looked worried. I scanned the greenhouse, searching for an exit and saw a door at the opposite end. I had to remember to walk slowly, and it seemed to take forever to move at a human pace. I wanted to break out into a run. Walk away. Walk away. Think of that little girl's mother, think of her life; she is so young. There was so much she needed to learn and experience. Walk away. Keep walking. I finally made my way out the door. As I stepped outside, I inhaled sharply. The fresh air was a god send.
"Carlisle, I don't know how you do it." I said with a shaky breath.
"Are you alright? Would you like to wait in the car?" He was behind me now, his hand on my back, rubbing gently.
"No, I don't want to wait in the car. I'm fine now. It was just the blood... I was doing fine before the blood. I can't be that close. I had to get out of there." I started to pace. "Damn it. I was fine. I was in control. The damn blood."
Carlisle's phone rang. "Esme, we are right outside. Why don't you meet us at the car?" he said and hung up the phone. "Come, Bella, Esme is finished. She will be out in just a minute."
The thought that I'd almost faltered was infuriating. I huffed, starting towards the car, and when I got there, I reached for the door handle and pulled. I looked down to see the handle was in my hands, and no longer attached to the door.
"Oh god, I am so sorry, Carlisle. I..."
Carlisle quickly went to my side and opened the passenger front door, motioning for me to get in. I sat down quickly and buried my face in my hands. Within seconds, Carlisle was seated next to me.
"Bella, please calm down. Don't worry about the door. Everything is fine."
He started the car and pulled up to the front of the store as Esme came out. She loaded her purchases into the trunk and got into the back seat, putting her hand on Carlisle's shoulder.
"Is everything alright?" She asked.
"You wouldn't believe what happened in there." Carlisle said to her. "A small child cut her finger and was bleeding."
Esme gasped. "What? Bella, I am so sorry. I would have never put you in that position. My dear, I can't tell you how sorry I am."
Carlisle looked over at me. "Esme, you would have been so proud. Bella was within feet of her, and when she smelled the blood, she simply stopped breathing, turned around and left out the back door."
Esme squealed in delight. The whole situation was confusing to me. They were happy about how this had turned out? I had run away. I hadn't been able to take it. That didn't seem to be doing that well in my opinion. I looked at the road ahead of us and shook my head in confusion, and then looked at Carlisle, to find he was smiling. He had the look of a proud father.
"Bella, do you have any idea what you did back there? That was an amazing demonstration of control. Most vampires your age would have never been able to resist fresh blood. Never... At the risk of sounding like Edward, I am dying to know what you were thinking. What gave you the strength to walk away? Oh, and Esme, she walked- not ran- she walked calmly away. It was like nothing I have ever seen." He beamed with pride.
Carlisle reached into his pocket. "Oh, I almost forgot. Bella, this is for you." He held out his hand, and in it was a small silver cell phone. I took the phone and it instantly started to buzz, so I opened it.
"I hope you don't mind. I took the liberty of programming all of our numbers in already," he added, winking.
NEW TEXT from Alice
The message read: I saw everything. Congrats! Can't wait until girls' night. So excited!
Then the phone buzzed again.
NEW TEXT from Jasper:
I should be jealous, but I'm not. :)
NEW TEXT from Edward:
I miss you
NEW TEXT from Emmett:
I just talked w/ Alice. Holy Shit, Bell. You rock!
NEW TEXT from Rosalie:
Edward won't stop smiling
NEW TEXT from Edward:
You amaze me. I love you
I replied to Edward with 'I love you too.'
I giggled to myself then closed the phone. "Thank you for the phone."
And with that, we drove home. It dawned on me that this was the first time I'd truly considered this house my home, and everyone who lived here was my family. As we entered the house, I stopped and turned to Carlisle and Esme, stepping to Esme and wrapping one arm around her and wrapping the other arm around Carlisle. They embraced me without hesitation, and Esme kissed my forehead before stepping back and looking at me.
"Bella, you complete our family. You make us whole."
Esme and I spent the afternoon in my room. The walls in my room were screaming for something, and I had been undecided on what to paint. We had copious amounts of paint, in every color you could think of, and there were brushes and rollers strewn about. I looked out the window to the forest and the river. It was beauteous. Then it hit me… a continuation of this scene on the walls. I poured some brown paint into a container and stuck my hand in it. I reached up and with a long stroke; I pressed my palm against the wall and dragged it down. Esme looked at me curiously.
"I want to bring the outside in."
I continued using my hands to spread the paint on the walls. I used my fingernails to work in the details of the trees. Esme picked up a paint brush, spinning it in her fingers and looking over at me, seeing my hands caked in paint.
"Not using any brushes?" She questioned.
"I don't think so; I like the feel of the paint on my hands. What do you think Esme? Feel like finger painting?" I asked with a smile.
She threw down the brush and grabbed various shades of green paint. She started embellishing my tree trunks, painting on moss and leaves with her fingers. We put on some music and finished painting the left wall. Just as we began to clean up, I could hear a car coming up the driveway. Everyone was home from school.
Edward was the first to come through my door. He came to my side immediately, looking me over for a moment and raising one eye brow. I glanced down at myself seeing paint all over my clothes Esme's as well. We laughed.
"Finger painting is messy, but that was so much fun. I can't wait to paint the other wall." She smiled at me before leaving the room.
"Finger painting?" He asked.
I smiled and looked at the wall. "Yes, what do you think?"
He turned, his eyes scanning the wall; stepping closer he examined it for a moment. In a flash, he moved back to me, lifted me up, and before I knew what was happening, we were on the bed. He was above me; his hands in my hair, his eyes staring into mine. He leaned down and kissed me, and the moment his lips touched mine, my shield covered him.
She is remarkable. Like no one else in this world. I don't deserve someone so talented, so beautiful, and so strong.
I broke our kiss. "Don't think that way," I whispered.
I'm sorry. I can't stop marveling over you. You continue to surprise me. Every time I look at you, I am reminded of how stunning you are, body and soul.
I started to think about the fact that Edward and I had separate bedrooms. As I listened to his thoughts, I couldn't help but laugh when I realized that he was thinking about the same thing.
"That was weird." I said, Edward laughing with me.
Suddenly, I could make out Alice's voice. What's weird?
"Come in, Alice."
She stepped in the room. "So, what's weird?"
She's nosy too. Edward thought. I couldn't help but laugh out loud.
"Edward, I'm having a vision. I see you getting slapped in the head." Before he could move, she smacked him.
We all laughed and Edward and I sat up.
"Look at you, Bella. You need to get changed. Girls night remember?" She went into my closet, no doubt picking out my clothes for the evening.
Edward jumped off the bed and I brought my shield back in.
"I'd better go before Alice slaps me again. You need to get ready." He leaned over and gave me a kiss. "Have fun tonight."