Howdy! Welcome to the next installment of Osa Bella. Sorry I am a little late tonight with this update. Sleep deprivation + work + babies + oh, fuck the excuses anyway. It doesn't matter now.
In some other news, Osa Bella is going to be part of the Fandom Gives Back fundraiser for Alex's Lemonade Stand. For those of you who might be interested in an Edward Point of View outtake of Osa Bella, stay tuned because that's what you'll get if you want to donate to the cause. A team is being set up for those of you interested in playing along, and we'll let you know as soon as we have all the pertinent info on that ourselves.
If .pdfs float your boat, you can download Chapter 16 right here.
I say something along these lines every time I post, but I have to say it again. The best part of Osa Bella is you. Thank you for sharing in this experience with me-it is turning out to be so much more than I ever expected. I am a sap. A sap with an ardent love of sarcasm, yes, but a sap all the same. I'll see you all in the comments.
Oh PS: If you're so inclined, please stop by OB at fanfiction.net and give love. Mr. Myg is now addicted to checking OB stats. And yeah, I named my story after a tampon. Sorry.
Edward didn't come to school after the Lake Crescent camping trip and I was glad. My dream of him, and us and the death of the spirit bear had been a stark warning from my unconscious mind, and I was determined to heed it this time. Don't go near him, the dream said. He's dangerous.
I think I always knew he was a danger to me. Not because I thought he'd ever hurt me, but because he awakened something in me that felt hedonistic and out of control. The dream told me I had allowed my love for Edward to dwell far too close to the surface. I was going to have to dig a hole in my heart and bury it there alive if I could find no way to kill it.
Derek and I talked about Jesus and faith and how that would figure into our relationship moving forward. He understood my concern about his boundaries with the students and I understood his concern that I respect his faith, and I did. But that argument pulled back the cloak of my optimism and revealed a grittier side to all the compromising I'd been doing in our relationship. He believed I had embraced his faith as my own, and he was more than disappointed to find that wasn't true.
Edward came back to school a little over a week after the camping trip. The morning he came back I saw him pull into the parking lot as I was walking into the building. He made no eye contact with me. No small wave. No casual good morning smile. He was avoiding me but I didn't understand why.
It's for the best, I told myself. Don't read into it.
I went inside and picked up my mail. There was a memo from Red on top.
"Faculty and Staff: Do not allow students to go into the woods behind school property. This is a directive from Forks Police Department. Aggressive bear activity has been reported in the vicinity of Forks. Parents are being advised not to allow students in the woods unsupervised. This advisory is in effect until further notice."
We'd been tracking bear activity in the Thoreau Club since the fall and this was the first time any aggressive behavior had been reported. I called Charlie.
"Yeah Bells, we had an incident in town late last night. A black bear attacked a guy coming out of the Mill. It was late, but he messed him up pretty bad. He's in the hospital."
"Oh no," I said. "Why did he get attacked?"
"I don't know," Charlie said. "He swears he wasn't provoking it, but he was pretty buzzed, so who knows?"
Red knocked on my door and stuck his head in. He nodded as though he had some urgent matter to speak to me about, so I got off the phone with Charlie.
“I need to speak to you about the Cullen kid,” he said.
Oh shit, I thought as my mind raced back through the many transgressions I had made when it came to Edward. What was it going to be?
“Which one?” I asked.
“Edward. We got a tip from Mike Newton that he stole all the formaldehyde from Banner’s lab.”
“Really? You’re going off something Newton said about Edward Cullen? Mike hates Edward because his girlfriend has a crush on him.”
“Still, I want to get to the bottom of this.”
“Did Derek report it missing?”
“Yes, this morning.”
“But why would Edward do that?”
“Drugs,” he said. “I find this kid to be really disturbing, Bella. Like, he could be a dealer, or maybe a shooter, you know?”
“Edward is no drug dealer and he’s certainly not a school shooter.”
“Just talk to him.”
“Why doesn’t Dale do it? He’s the disciplinarian, not me.”
“Edward will talk to you.”
“So you’re asking me to use my relationship with the kid to fish for information that might get him arrested?”
“I’m not asking you. I’m telling you.”
After the bell I walked down the hall to Derek’s room and looked through the crowd of hurried students for Edward, thinking I could grab him before class and clear the whole thing up. I saw him duck into Derek's room, again ignoring me, even though I was right across the hall from him and I knew he'd seen me. I was about to get him when Jessica stopped me.
“Miss Swan I need to talk to you. It’s about Mike.”
“Sure Jess. Can you come see me after this period?”
“I don’t think it can wait. Mike and I broke up last night. He seems really depressed and I’m not sure what to do.”
“I’ll get him after class, ok?”
“Okay," she said. "I'm really worried."
"Thanks for letting me know,” I said.
I knocked on Derek’s door and heard his annoyed response. I stuck my head in. “What do you need, Miss Swan?” he asked.
“I need Edward.”
“Really?” Derek looked over at Edward, who was staring at me with a murderous glare. Derek noticed it as well and gave Edward a warning look. “Will he be coming back?”
“Not sure,” I said and gave Edward a smile, but it didn’t put a dent in his sour countenance. He looked hatefully at me. Something really wasn’t right.
“Mr. Cullen, you’re excused. Come see me for the homework assignment before the end of the day,” Derek said.
Edward hesitated. For a moment I thought he was either going to hit something or throw up. Instead he gathered his books and then walked swiftly past me with his head down and waited in the hall.
"I have to talk to you privately. Can we go to my office?" I asked.
“No,” he said. "We can't."
What the hell was wrong with him? He'd never been this difficult, with anyone, let alone me.
"Well, we have to talk."
"We'll have to talk outside then."
"Okay, fine," I said, impatiently.
Edward walked down the hall and out of the school and I followed him, trailing behind at a good distance.
“Are you coming or not?” he asked as he stood at the trailhead leading into the woods behind the school. I pointed to the picnic tables off to the side of the building. He gave me a frustrated look and then walked over and took a seat and pulled out a cigarette.
“You can't smoke that on school grounds,” I said.
He lit the cigarette anyway, taking a long drag and blowing it out into the sky.
“What do you want?" he asked.
“Look, I know this is going to sound stupid, but there’s a rumor that maybe you’re lifting formaldehyde from Derek’s lab,” I said.
“Mike Newton told you that?”
“No,” I said. “Is it true?”
“Yeah, it is.” He sat down and was leaning back on his elbows, perching casually on the picnic table, eyeing the cloud cover overhead.
“Really?” I was totally surprised by this. “Why the hell would you do that, Edward?”
“You’ll never believe me.”
He took a drag off his cigarette. “If I didn’t take it, Mike was going to take it.”
“And do what with it?”
“Nothing good,” he said. “I told you that kid wasn’t stable.”
“Do you have proof?”
“Not the kind anyone will accept.”
“You’re making a serious accusation. If you don’t give me evidence, you’re going to be in big trouble for this, even if what you’re saying is true.”
“I don’t have any evidence that Mr. Colter or Mr. Dale will believe. I don’t care if I’m in trouble.”
“I mean police trouble, Edward.”
“Just tell me how you know,” I said. “I’ll believe you.”
He looked at me for a moment, thinking.
“Come on, Edward. You can tell me,” I said.
“I can hear people’s thoughts," he said.
“I am serious. I know for a fact that Mike is the one who said I took the formaldehyde because I heard him think it. And I know he was going try to make an explosive with it, which he can’t do, but he doesn’t know that.”
I stood there, stunned. I had no response. Was Edward in the middle of some kind of parapsychotic episode? Grandiose thinking? Maybe he was manic. That would explain the soft signs of aggression he was displaying. Maybe it would explain the theft too. That must be it.
“I knew you wouldn’t believe me," he said. "So just do whatever you have to do, it doesn't matter anymore.”
"Of course it matters," I said. "Have you been sleeping okay?"
"I told you I don't sleep."
"How many hours do you sleep a night?"
He shook his head in frustration. "Are we finished? Do you need to call your father now or something so I can be questioned? I'm done talking to you about this."
The breeze picked up and I felt it blow warmly across my neck as my hair flew across my face. I pushed it from my eyes when suddenly Edward lurched off the table.
“Are you all right?” I asked.
He glared at me then, again with a murderous stare. “Edward?” I couldn’t deal with the intensity of his anger. I stepped towards him to close the distance. He stepped back from me and put a hand out in warning. He looked paler than I’d ever seen him. His eyes were black orbs, hollow with anger.
“Don’t come any closer.”
“What’s wrong? Are you sick?”
"I knew it was too soon to come back." He closed his eyes and shook his head and staggered back another step. “Get back inside.” He glared at me. “Now.”
“What the hell is wrong with you?” I asked.
Then he turned and disappeared into the woods, right where he shouldn't go. I walked up the path after him but I saw no trace of him anywhere.
“Edward?” I called, picking up my pace. “Where are you?” I hurried along, deeper into the woods, hoping I wouldn't run into any bears. Red was really going to give me hell now. All I needed was to lose a student out here after last night's bear attack.
I don’t know how far up the trail I was when I heard a sickening guttural sound, sort of like a wild animal struggling. I pulled my cell phone from my pocket and dialed the office.
“Put Red on the phone,” I told Doreen.
“What is it Bella?” Red said, impatient.
“Red—I lost Edward. He’s sick or something—he ran off into the woods. I heard an awful noise just now. You’ve got to send someone out here right away. Get Derek.”
“You lost him? Damn it, Bella. There are directives from your father, nobody is to be in the woods behind the school. Where are you?”
“I’m looking for him.”
“Well get back here right now. That’s an order.”
“I think something is really wrong with him. He might be having a manic episode. Call Dr. Cullen. I’m just off the trail, up about twenty yards.”
I hung up and kept picking my way through the forest. I kept calling out for him, but heard nothing.
I heard an animal, maybe a deer, dart through the trees behind me. I jumped, startled, and then tripped over a tree root the size of my calf. I stumbled hard and fell to the ground.
Searing, shooting pain spread up my leg from my ankle, causing me to cry out as my body surged, sickened with adrenaline. I felt around my ankle and it started to swell and then my entire leg began to throb. The skin on the top of my foot burned where it had been abraded by the bark of the tree root. Blood dripped onto my pants, my shoe. My face was streaming with tears as I began to carefully pick bark out of the cuts.
My phone rang. I took it from my pocket and was about to answer when it was suddenly ripped from my hand.
“Shhh….” Edward whispered as he took the phone and covered my mouth with his hand. It was just like my dream of him, I thought. He took his hand from my mouth and leaned over me. His eyes had changed color again, from black to amber. How could that be? He silently motioned for me to look into the distance where an enormous dark shadow was lurking. A black bear. Maybe even the black bear from the attack last night.
“Are you hurt?” he asked quietly.
“Shouldn’t we make a bunch of noise or something, so it gets frightened away?”
“Not this time.”
“Mr. Colter and Derek are on the trail looking for us—go find them and they’ll come for me. You need to get out of here now.”
“Forget it,” he said, and lifted me into his arms.
“That really hurts,” I said, as my body tensed from the movement.
“Oh my God—you're bleeding.” His body went rigid as his eyes caught sight of my bloody foot. Was he afraid of blood? His eyes went swimming back into his head. He buried his nose in my hair and inhaled deeply, making me breathless and uncomfortable. A low groan escaped from his lips and my heart raced.
“Where are we going?” I asked, a hint of panic in my voice.
“What kind of a question is that?” He sounded annoyed. “Where do you think I’m taking you?”
“I’m in a lot of pain,” I said.
“Do you think you broke it?” he asked.
“I don’t know but it really, really hurts.”
He sat me down on the ground and looked at my foot.
“Can you move it?” he asked.
I tried but it hurt too much.
“Okay, don’t move it. Let me see.”
He unstrapped my shoe and carefully removed it, but got blood on his hand, which made him stop. He was absolutely motionless looking at the small spot of my blood on his palm. Then he brought his hand to his face and took a deep breath and appeared to almost shake. He turned his head to look at me, a terrifying look about him.
“Edward? What’s wrong?” I asked.
“Nothing,” he shook his head. “Nothing is wrong. Everything is just fine.”
It wasn’t me he was trying to convince, that much I could see. He pulled another cigarette out of his pack and lit it, inhaling deeply.
“I’m sorry,” he said. “It’s just that, well, it’s hard to explain.”
I looked over his shoulder and saw the bear had suddenly turned its attention toward us, and then cocked its head, almost like it had recognized who we were. Then it started lumbering through the woods in our direction, aggressively.
“Edward, run!” I cried.
He gave me a hard, pained look and then stood up. “I’ll be back in a few minutes. Don’t move.”
Then he was gone.
I tried to remember what Charlie told me about surviving bear attacks, but the only thing I could remember in my intense panic was that you should hang up your garbage when you camp to try to avoid them, and it was too late for that. So I just did what I thought was my best hope. I played dead.
Tears stung my eyes as I tried to lie still, but my heart was racing so hard I was absolutely certain they could hear it all the way in the school yard. There was no way this bear was going to believe I was dead if I couldn’t find a way to calm myself.
I lay there, silent, hoping that either the bear would buy my charade and leave me alone, or that it would have the decency to kill me quickly. One thing I did not want to contemplate was death by bear mauling.
I could feel the bear drawing near and heard its footsteps plodding ever more quickly in my direction. Then I heard something else. A gust of wind rustling the undergrowth. The bear roared, angry as something else caught its attention. Then I heard a grotesque thud followed by a sickening, pain-filled roar.
I opened my eyes and saw Edward hauling the bear off into the woods. It was almost a repeat of my dream, but I was certain I was awake. Was I hallucinating? Yes, the pain and the stress combined must have induced hallucinations. Perfect.
“Bella!” I heard Derek call out from several yards away. “Where are you?”
“I’m over here!” I cried out, my voice breaking as I waited for him and Red to reach where I lay on the ground.
But there was no way I was going to explain to Derek or Red or anyone what I'd seen. I had no desire for my boss or my fiancé to know I was hallucinating. If I was teetering on the edge of madness, it was for me to know and nobody else to find out.
In the Emergency Room, Dr. Cullen confirmed that I’d broken my ankle, and when I had a few minutes alone with him, I shared my concern about Edward's mental status.
"I'm very concerned," I said. "Does he have any history of bipolar disorder?"
"Well, this is a typical age of onset, and today he stole from the school, and then he told me he can read minds. He also admitted he's not sleeping. Have you noticed any significant changes in his behavior?"
"Hmmm," he said. "I will definitely have him evaluated."
"I think you should," I said. "He's got such a bright future, and I would hate to see him in trouble over this. If he's manic, it's not his fault."
"Thank you, Miss Swan," he said. "I appreciate your concern."
I came home with a cast, a bottle of Percocet and orders to stay off my feet for a week. But I had no intention of staying home alone with my growing anxiety and a bottle of pain killers.
After bringing me home from the hospital, Derek made dinner and we sat on my couch watching the news. He’d been strange all afternoon. Distant. Like he was annoyed with me, but I had no idea why.
"What's wrong?" I asked.
"I don't understand you sometimes," he said.
"What do you mean?"
"How could you run off into the woods after a student you knew had stolen dangerous chemicals? Especially after Red put out that memo about the bear warning?"
"I was afraid he was manic," I said.
"Weren't you afraid for your own safety?"
"No," I said.
He got up and took my plate and carried it into the kitchen. He came back and sat at the opposite end of the couch.
"So, you're mad at me?"
"I'm confused, Bella," he said. "I just can't believe what poor judgment you showed today."
"I don't think it was bad judgment."
"Look at you," he said. "You broke your ankle and almost got attacked by a black bear."
I didn't know what to say to him. What he said was true, but I didn't know why he was being a dick about it.
"It was an accident," I said.
"I've got a bunch of grading to get to so I'm going to head home."
"I was hoping you might stay with me tonight," I said, a little pathetically. I was in a lot of pain and really didn't want to be alone. "You can grade here. I won't bother you."
"Not tonight," he said. "You picked a terrible week to break your ankle."
"Gosh, how inconsiderate of me," I said. "Next time I'll check your schedule before getting injured."
"Good night, Bella," he said, unmoved by my sarcasm. Then he paused and bent down to kiss me quickly on the cheek.
"Night," I said, not looking at him.
As annoyed as I felt, I still cried when I heard the front door slam shut. I knew exactly where this was headed. He was going to break up with me.
The woods. The bear. Edward. Derek. The pain. The rejection. The emptiness. It all assaulted me in that awful space created in the wake of Derek's cold exit. I took an extra Percocet and briefly considered washing it down with a beer, but didn't.
I was overloaded with insecurity. Derek wasn't going to marry me, I knew it. My unconscious mind had told me as much in my nightmare at Lake Crescent, but I hadn't believed it. And I wasn't ready to be alone again. I thought about the overwhelming, engulfing loneliness that I'd lived with for five years after Zack died, and I was terrified of its return. But it loomed that night, a dark and destructive force waiting to consume me.
I hated Derek for leaving me, and he hadn't even left yet.
I lay on the couch, first crying, then sobbing. My head filled with mucous and pounded until I thought I would vomit. I sobbed heavily and loudly, alone there in my little house, wishing it would just crumble down on top of me. I felt as though my whole life was just this pathetic, painful mess and I hated myself for being so weak. I gripped the bottle of Percocets in my hand and thought about taking another. I frightened myself with how little I cared right then about anything but finding some relief from my tormented mind.
And then out of nowhere, he appeared.
Edward stood across the room from me. I thought I'd hallucinated him at first. The sight of him made me cry harder.
"What are you doing here? How did you get in?" I asked through my streaming tears.
"I'm sorry," he said. "I was worried about you."
"Bullshit," he said. "You are not fine. What happened?"
"Nothing." I started crying again.
"Please tell me." He crossed the room and stopped a few feet away. He turned his head and took a cigarette out and sniffed it, but he didn't light it.
I gripped the pill bottle tightly in my hand.
"You can't be here," I said.
"I'm not leaving until I'm certain you're okay."
I was immensely grateful for that, but tormented by it. I looked up at him, biting my lip to fight back the tears.
"I'll be okay," I finally said. "I was just having a moment."
"I need to check something," he said, and then he came and knelt by my side. "Don't move."
I didn't move a muscle, I didn't even breathe. He gently brushed my hair away from my face, out of my eyes, and soothed my forehead with his cool fingers. He wiped the tears from my eyes, and then he leaned over me and ran his nose alongside my own and inhaled deeply.
"I'm stronger than I thought," he said.
"What do you mean?"
"Be still," he said, then he placed his hand gently over my heart. I could feel my heartbeat begin to slow a little as I relaxed under his touch. My hand opened and the bottle of Percocets slipped out and rolled onto the floor. He stopped and looked down at it, and then looked back at me. I expected a question or an admonishment or raised eyebrows. But instead he just kissed me very lightly on the lips, a soft breeze from the cool spring night. I inhaled his cold breath deep into my lungs and parted my lips under his, like I might be uttering words in some silent language of the heart.
His kiss obliterated the agony of my grief, destroyed the ache of my isolation. It redeemed me, but it was a twisted, wretched sort of hope that I found there. And the little death I thought I could fake, the one where I thought I could stop myself from loving him? It was a lie. It was the biggest lie in the history of lie telling. It was legendary.
"Edward," I said. "This is all so fucked."
"I know," he said.
"I'm afraid you're manic."
"I'm afraid you're depressed," he said. "What were you doing with those pills?"
"Nothing," I said. "It's just my pain meds. My ankle is broken."
"I know," he said. "How many did you take?"
"Just one," I said. He gave me a skeptical look. "What?"
"Are you sure?"
"Yes," I said. "Edward, I'm not that far gone. I was just upset."
"I know, but you still haven't told me why."
"Because," I said, but I didn't know what to tell him. Where would I begin? That I was inappropriately in love with him? That I had seen him carry a bear off and thought I might be going crazy? That I thought he was crazy? That Derek was about to dump me? "It was a difficult day."
"I'm sorry," he said. "That's my fault."
"No it isn't," I said. "How much trouble are you in?"
"Don't worry about that. It doesn't matter."
"Did Carlisle take you for an evaluation?"
"Oh, that," he said. "I'm not manic, Bella."
"You've got all the signs."
"Okay, well I can see why you'd think that. Not sleeping. Stealing. It fits. But I don't have pressured speech or racing thoughts and I'm not violent or hyper. I was just having a difficult day."
"You think you can read minds," I said. "That's a delusion."
"I can read minds," he said. "It's not a delusion."
"What am I thinking right now?"
"I can't read your mind."
"I know you can't."
"It's okay if you don't believe me," he said. "I wouldn't either."
I wanted to believe him, though. I wanted to believe he could read minds and that there was some other magic about him that would make sense of the intense comfort he brought me as he held me, protective and unfailingly until that extra Percocet brought me the mercy of sleep.