You still with us? We’re going through a time jump after chapter two. We don’t want our story to be a bajillion chapters long, reading about every tiny thing our characters experience. It would be very tedious.
Now, again, none of this is ours. We’re not famous or anything. We don’t get paid for this. Sigh … On with it!
Five Years Later …
Bella looked around her apartment with the sea of boxes that held her possessions from her life in New York, all except the silver frame that held the picture of her and Angela together.
It had been five years since the horrible accident that took Angela’s life and in that time Bella threw herself into her medical training. She had found that if she worked herself to the point of exhaustion, she wouldn’t think as much about Angela, or the emptiness of losing her twin. She also avoided making connections with coworkers. Bella refused to have her heart shattered again with the loss of someone she loved. She did, however, make sure that she called her parents on a regular basis, knowing that they were also dealing with the pain.
What Bella lacked in empathy for her colleagues, her peers, she made up for with her patients. They were only people who mattered in Bella’s mind.
Everyone else in the Swan family handled Angela’s death differently. Renee threw herself into her work, taking on many new clients and at one point she had to hire someone to help her out. Renee hired a recent college graduate, Alice Brandon, and she took the young girl under her wing.
Charlie dealt with his pain by finding out what caused the fire, almost to the point of obsession. After scouring every inch of the burnt-out building, he determined that it had been started by someone and that it was not a random accident. Whomever did it, was very thorough, not leaving any evidence implicating their identity. They had used paint thinner as an accelerant in the maintenance closet located on Angela’s floor, across from her apartment. Charlie would never stop looking until he found the person who started that fire and make them pay for the death of his daughter.
After five years of living in New York, Bella was ready to go back to Seattle after she had finished all her training and was currently a well sought-after Gynecologic Oncologist. Sloane Kettering had wanted her to stay in New York City and offered her an excellent employment package to do so, but she really wanted to be close to her parents. She missed them and missed that connection to Angela. So, Bella applied at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Center, or The Hutch. Within few hours after submitting her resume and credentials, Dr. Victoria Howard called her. Dr. Howard was the head of the gynecologic oncology department at The Hutch and was excited to see that someone as qualified as Dr. Isabella Swan would want to leave New York and come to Seattle. Bella’s reputation preceded her as being an excellent physician, not giving up on her patients, no matter how dire their prognosis.
“Dr. Swan?” Dr. Howard asked.
“Yes, this is Dr. Swan,” Bella answered, as she was taking a walk around Central Park, enjoying the early spring weather.
“This is Dr. Victoria Howard of Fred Hutchinson Cancer Center. Do you have a moment to talk?”
“Of course,” Bella answered, stopping at a park bench and sitting down.
“I wanted to talk to you about the your resume that you submitted.”
“Alright. I hope I didn’t forget to put something on it,” Bella said.
“No, on the contrary, I was excited to see that someone of your exemplary qualifications would like to work at The Hutch,” Dr. Howard breathed.
“Thank you. I wanted to move home to be closer to my parents and I’ve only heard phenomenal comments about the center,” Bella explained.
“We really try to make it as comfortable for those who are battling cancer and with that being said, I would love to offer you a position. I think you’d be a great fit in our family.”
Bella was shocked. She didn’t expect to get a call this soon, but to get an offer without an interview was unheard of. “Don’t you want a face-to-face interview?”
“Dr. Swan, your qualifications speak for themselves and we would be honored to have you join our team,” Victoria said. Bella agreed, laughing nervously. Victoria went on to tell her the salary and benefits package.
Bella was shocked, at first, to hear the salary, because it was larger than she ever expected. They also explained that they would assist with moving Bella out to Seattle, covering the cost of movers, as well as a flight home. Hearing this, she smiled widely, over the moon at how things were falling into place. Before ending the call, Bella smiled and said, “I would be thrilled to work for you. I’ll need to give my notice and make arrangements to move from New York to Seattle.”
“Just keep me updated and I look forward in working with you.”
Once plans were solidified, Bella resigned from Sloane Kettering and dates were set in stone, Bella called her parents to give them the good news. They were extremely excited that their daughter was moving back home. Bella asked her mom to start looking for condos or townhomes near the hospital. When Renee asked at what price point she wanted to stay in Bella gave her a figure that shocked her mother. She had no clue that her daughter could afford such an expensive home, but Bella assured her that it wouldn’t be an issue thanks to her hiring bonus from The Hutch.
Unlike many of her peers, Bella had an inheritance from her maternal grandparents to pay for both her undergraduate education, medical school, and her apartment that she lived in Tribeca, only having expenses such as her cable bill, electricity and a weekly grocery delivery service. She had taken the money she had earned during her residency and fellowship, outside of her expenses, and placed it into a savings account, with a good dividend. That money, along with life insurance policy payment that she had been given from Angela’s death, was going to be used as a down payment on her future home in Seattle.
Bella had been floored when she had been contacted by the insurance company. Her twin sister had named Bella as her sole beneficiary. Bella didn’t even know when Angela had done this, but this was so her, always planning ahead, just like their father. Angela’s spirit had been with Bella over the years and Bella knew that she would give her a sign which place would be the perfect home for her.
As Bella packed up her life in New York and finished out her time at Sloane Kettering, Renee went on several open houses and house tours, looking for the perfect place for Bella. She would take a video of her tours, sending them to her daughter. That way Bella could get the feel of each place. Each location had it pros and cons, yet none of them seemed to be right for Bella. She didn’t want to worry about the upkeep of house and some of the condos were too masculine.
Well, that was until Renee walked into the condo on 2nd Avenue. The condo Renee toured was in Seattle Point of View. It was high atop one of the most coveted buildings within the vibrant heart of the city. The condo was a spectacular two-bedroom penthouse that was luxurious from the entryway to the outdoor living space. With a massive entertaining space on the second level that overlooked Elliott Bay and the Seattle cityscape from its private rooftop deck with a hot tub, TV, sound system, fireplace and BBQ. It was steps away from the Market, dining, retail district, museums and light rail. The floor to ceiling windows allowed the rooms to be flooded with natural light and seemed to brighten the room, even on the rainiest of days.
Watching the videos and hearing her mom’s excitement, she knew this was the place. The other condos and townhouses seemed cold, impersonal, but as soon as she saw the first minutes of the video, she felt this warm, comforting, welcoming feeling and this was the sign from Angela. She was sure about this place.
She called the listing agent, making an offer on the place and few days later was the proud homeowner, putting down earnest money. Upon her arrival in Seattle, Bella would sign the paperwork for her new home. Placing a call to her parents, Bella told them the amazing news about her getting her dream condo. She also asked if her mother could get going on turning it from a blank living space, to a home that fit her personality and tastes.
No expense spared.
This was her forever home.
As the movers came in to collect the boxes the few pieces of furniture she was bringing, Bella made sure to place the framed picture in her carry-on luggage for safe-keeping. This was her favorite picture of the two of them together and she kept it in her office, so she could be close to it while at work. There were, of course, other pictures of the two them together, but this one was the one that captured, that even though they had different interests and future aspirations, in the end they were joined by their “jeans”.
“Dr. Swan, is there anything else?” the mover asked.
Bella looked around the now vacant apartment to find that all the boxes and furniture were gone, leaving only her luggage. “No, thank you. Do you have the address for my new place in Seattle?”
“Yes, ma’am. We should arrive in seven days. We’ll call you when we get close.”
“Great. I’ll see you on the other side of the country,” Bella chuckled, shaking his hand and signing the paperwork.
After the movers had left, Bella’s car service arrived, loading up her many bags to the car. She would be checking all her luggage, except for her carry on, purse, and her medical bag. Her orange, leather medical bag with her name imprinted on the side had been a gift from her parents when she graduated from medical school. She was so excited that they had not selected the standard black or brown medical bag. It would be something that Ang would approve of as well, because she always wanted her twin sister to be a stylish doctor.
The car service took her to the departure gate at JFK for her United nonstop flight to SeaTac. One of the attendants saw the amount of luggage that she had and wheeled over a luggage cart to make it easier for her. She checked all of her luggage, paying the fee for the overweight bags at curbside check-in. With a smile, she took her boarding pass and made her way through security and to her gate. Settling into her seat, she propped her feet up on her carry-on and pulled out her cell phone.
“Hey, Mom,” Bella said.
“Are you at the gate, sweetie?” Renee asked.
“Just waiting to board. We may be delayed. It’s kind of rainy and shitty,” she responded, wrinkling her nose at the dreary weather.
“It’s rainy and shitty here in Seattle,” Renee quipped. “If you’re delayed, it’s no big deal. I’m off until you’ve moved in fully into your condo.”
“If it’s not too late, can we go over there today?” Bella asked.
“You have to finishing signing the closing documents, taking ownership,” Renee teased. “You don’t have keys, yet. But, yes, we can go after you do that. Jenks, our attorney, is meeting us at the title office.”
“Awesome,” Bella chirped. “Did you pick up the certified check from the bank?”
“Yes. I nearly had a heart attack at seeing all those zeros,” Renee chuckled.
“I bet, but Mom I’m fine with the price and I’m able to afford this home easily. I just hope that the interior designer’s bill is not too big.”
“Damn, I thought you were a doctor, but it sounds like you are trying your hand at a comedy act,” Renee quipped.
“FLIGHT 263 TO SEATTLE, FIRST CLASS IS BOARDING.” The attendant announced over the loudspeaker.
“Mom, I have got to go. They’re calling my flight,” Bella said, taking her feet down from her bag and sitting it upright. “I’m not going to be delayed after all.”
“Okay, baby. I will keep an eye on the arrival times and make sure I’m at the airport in time to pick you up.”
“Grab a cart and meet me at luggage claim. Also, borrow Dad’s SUV.”
“Oh, let me guess, you used all the luggage you owned to pack?”
“Mom, the movers won’t be here for a week. I want to at least have something to wear and things to keep me going until they arrive.”
“Such a planner, Bells. Enjoy your flight and I will be waiting. Love you, Bella and I can’t wait to have you home,” Renee sighed. “I’ve missed my baby girl.”
“Me too, Mom,” Bella said hanging up from the call. Placing her medical bag on top of her carry-on luggage and placed her purse over her shoulder. She walked to the jetway, scanning her boarding pass and sat down in her seat. Holy shit, there was a lot of legroom, generous seating and no fighting over the armrests; she could get use to first class.
After the mandatory announcements, the plane finally taxied down the runaway and climbed to the cruising altitude, flying to Bella’s new life in Seattle. The six-hour flight provided her the opportunity to read a few articles in her medical journals. She also read for pleasure, getting lost in a trashy romance novel. When they plane landed, Bella left the book on the plane. It was so over-the-top with unbelievable sex and insta-love. “Nobody has that,” Bella muttered to herself.
Bella definitely didn’t have that. She was so focused on her job, only reaching out to some guys when she was ‘horny’. It wasn’t about romance, but about performing a biological function and getting off. She was emotionally closed off, even more so after Angela’s death. There were always a fine pieces of man meat that were more than willing and when they were done, she would dismiss them, having no need for leftovers. She poured her emotions into her patients. They needed her more than she needed the physical affection and love of a man.
Walking through SeaTac, Bella went down to baggage claim and saw her mother. She was waving excitedly, scurrying over to Bella and hugging her tightly. “Bella,” Renee breathed, rubbing her back. “I’m so glad you’re here, sweetie.”
“Me, too, Mom,” Bella said, kissing her mother’s cheek. “Did you dye your hair?”
“I wanted to try blonde,” Renee quipped. “So, I had my stylist add highlights. It lightened it up and affectively hid the grey. Double bonus!”
“I like it,” Bella smiled, looping her arm through Renee’s. “You have the skin-tone to pull it off. If I went blonde? I’d look like a corpse.”
“I guess you didn’t get much sun in New York since you spent almost all your time working. Maybe you can take a few days and go out to the bay and soak in what little sun we have. Dad went out and opened up the beach house a few weeks ago and did a little fishing.”
“Did he go alone?” Bella asked, worried that her father was spending so much time alone, thinking about Angela and who had set the fire. The beach house was only a small two bedroom cottage on the beach that they would go to every summer and enjoy. Angela and Bella would build sandcastles and when they got older, laid on the beach in their bikinis, much to Charlie’s dismay.
“No, Carlisle went with him, wanting to get away from the city. He didn’t want to listen to people complain about everything for a few days,” Renee explained. Carlisle and Charlie had become close after the fire, as did Renee and Esme, working collaboratively with the various charities Esme chaired and using Renee’s unique design eye.
Carlisle and Esme had attended Angela’s funeral, which touched both Charlie and Renee’s heart. A few months later, they showed up at their door, with a casserole for them. Renee asked them in and if they would like to stay to enjoy the meal they brought. At first they declined, but Charlie explained that they would enjoy some company. It was too quiet in the house and Bella had left almost immediately after the funeral, unable to take the pain of being home. So, she escaped as quickly she could, throwing herself back into work and shutting down emotionally.
That evening, Esme helped Renee with the setting up the food on the kitchen table, preparing a salad and uncorking a bottle of wine. They sat down and enjoyed the meal together. It was the first time since Angela’s death, that Renee and Charlie had forgotten, even for a moment that she was no longer with them.
That was the beginning of a close friendship. Esme and Renee became as close as sisters. Charlie was a tougher nut to crack since he knew something that Renee or even Carlisle didn’t. He was hesitant to build a friendship with Carlisle, since he was his boss, but Carlisle was persistent. After sharing a bottle of scotch and letting Charlie rage over Angela’s death, they became friends. Carlisle gave Charlie the chance to really let go since Charlie had to be strong for Renee.
Renee looked at her watch. “We need to shake our tail feathers if we’re going to make it to Mr. Jenks on time. Traffic has been horrible recently. I will be so fucking glad when they get the new bypass open.”
“MOM, you said fuck,” Bella gasped.
Bella just shook her head. There was no doubt where she got her colorful language from. They quickly found all her luggage, however Bella had to count them twice to make sure she got it all. Perhaps, I did pack too much, she grumbled mentally. Pushing the heavy cart through the airport and out to the short term parking lot, where Renee had parked Charlie’s SUV, they loaded up the stuff into the back. By the time they got all the luggage in, they were hot and thirsty.
“Mom, run by a Starbucks, so I can get a Iced Passion Tango Tea.”
“Don’t they have Starbucks in New York?” Renee asked jokingly.
“Yeah, about every ten steps, but nothing is like the original.” After a quick stop at the Starbucks in Pike Place Market, they were on their way to the title office, meeting Mr. Jenks’ there.
Jenks, an older man who knew Charlie in high school, stood up and hugged Renee. He turned to Bella, his eyes wide. “Isabella? The last time I saw you, you were a little girl!”
“I grew up, Mr. Jenks,” Bella shrugged. “And I’m a doctor now.”
“Your mom and dad told me all about that, but I haven’t seen you since you were … gosh, fifteen?” Jenks breathed. The last time he had seen her was when Renee and Charlie changed their wills, when Renee was at her sickest. “Well, you’ve grown into a beautiful woman.”
He hugged her and they went into the office. With a flourish of paperwork, pens and a very large check, the condo was officially Bella’s within an hour. The keys were pressed into her hands. In a rare show of emotion, Bella was practically vibrating with excitement. With another hug from Jenks, Renee drove her daughter to the condo. Leaving her bags in the car, they went up to the penthouse and Bella smiled.
“You like it, baby girl?” Renee asked as she watched Bella move through the open space.
“It’s more beautiful than I could even imagine,” Bella answered, running her hands over the sleek quartz countertops. “I saw the video, downloaded the pictures from the realtor’s website and just stared at them. But, seeing it? Being here? It’s a dream come true, Mom.” She blinked to her mother, pressing her hands to her chest. “I feel like I’m close to Angela here.”
“You feel that too?” Renee asked, shocked by Bella’s admission.
Bella wrapped her arms around Renee and squeezed her tightly. “Ang always finds a way to let me know what she thinks and is with me when I need her most.”
Renee wiped the tears from her eyes. It had been so hard not having Angela around. However in her darkest times, when she felt so overwhelmed by Angela’s death, Renee could swear that she felt the delicate hand of Angela on her shoulder. “I do, too.”
Bella pulled back, wiping her own tears. “Alright, let’s get home, so you can show me what you have planned for this empty space.”
“I’ll show you tomorrow at the office. You look exhausted and I want to cook you a home-cooked meal. When was the last time you had that, hmmmmm?” Renee asked, giving Bella a playful glower.
“Um, high school?” Bella giggled. “I don’t cook! You know that! I have my meals eaten on the fly or delivered, Mom.”
“It’s not like you don’t know how, Isabella Marie,” Renee snickered. “Come on, baby girl. I think that your favorite meal is on the menu.”
“Enchiladas?” Bella asked, her mouth salivating.
“Yep!” Renee smiled, guiding Bella out of the condo and back to the SUV. They drove home. Renee all but shoved Bella into her bedroom to take a nap while Renee began making dinner, chopping the vegetables and preparing the enchiladas. As she was putting the casserole into the oven, the garage door opened and Charlie walked in. “Hey, love. Catch any bad guys?”
“No,” Charlie snorted. “But, we determined what went wrong with that pizza place near Pike Place. The owner was so certain that it was foul play, but it wasn’t. Faulty wiring.”
“It wasn’t up to code?” Renee asked.
“Technically, it was up to code, but the rodents ate through the wiring, causing a spark,” Charlie smirked. “It was a health code violation which resulted in destroying that pizza joint and causing water damage to the shop next door.” He slid his arms around Renee’s waist, kissing her lips. “Did you pick up, Bells?”
“She’s sleeping. Her day started early and she told me she was working double shifts until her last day,” Renee explained. “These next three weeks, while moving her into her condo and getting her settled, is like a vacation for her. She works too hard.”
“I wonder where she gets that from?” Charlie asked.
“From both of us,” Renee sighed. “And … I’m worried about her, Charlie. She’s so closed off. The only time I saw any sort of emotional reaction was when she signed the paperwork for the condo and when she told me that she felt like Angela told her to get the condo. Other than that? She’s …”
“We all handle grief differently,” Charlie snapped, his anger flaring. He was pissed off at the elusive arsonist, displacing so many residents and murdering his daughter. He was disappointed at Edward Cullen, who was the firefighter that tried to save Angela. Edward Cullen was the best and brightest. He should have been able to pull her to safety. He’d never tell anybody about his anger or disappointment. He kept it bottled up tight. The only person who saw his emotions was his loving wife. She shared them, but in a different capacity, but she understood his feelings. Charlie blinked to his wife, who was pouring some rice into a measuring cup. Her face was flushed and she was moving rigidly. “Nee … I’m sorry.”
“Charlie, I love you so much. I get your emotions. But, I worry about you, too,” she said, her eyes brimming with tears. “You think I don’t know? I know you’re obsessed with finding that monster. I also know you’re fucking pissed at Carlisle’s son. The middle one, who was a firefighter. Um, Edward? He was there at Angela’s apartment. You told me that. But, put it this way? How do you think he’s handling it? He never came back to work. As far as I know, he’s in Boston.”
“He better not be a firefighter,” Charlie growled.
“And what if he was?” Renee argued. Charlie shot her a look. “He’s not. He’s working in the fire investigation unit. From what Esme told me, Edward hasn’t been in active blaze since that night. He had night terrors when he stayed with his parents. He pulled away from his family because he felt ashamed that he lost Angela. He was there, Charlie. He watched her die. You be pissed all you want. Yes, we lost our daughter. She died unnecessarily, at the prime of her life. But, the Cullens? They lost their son. If I had to guess, Edward is going through the motions, just like Bella. Not living, just a shell in this nebulous limbo.”
“I never thought of that,” Charlie muttered, walking to the fridge and pulling out a beer.
“Have you ever asked Carlisle about Edward? You know all about Emmett and Jasper,” Renee said, popping open his beer and taking a sip before leaning against the island. Charlie’s cheeks reddened and she got her answer. “We had an unimaginable loss. We lost a child. Bella lost her sister. The Cullen’s had the same. Edward may still be alive, but he’s shut them out. From what Esme told me, he feels like he let you down. He respected you, Charlie, even considering you a friend, a mentor. And losing Angela? It shattered him in ways that you or I could never understand.” She kissed his cheek. “Watch the rice. I’m going to wake up Bella. And don’t stare at her like she’s a ghost. It’s creepy.”
“It’s hard not to,” Charlie grumped. “She does something and it reminds me of Angela.”
“They are identical twins, Charlie,” Renee deadpanned. “And Bella doesn’t really look like Angela anymore. Her hair is longer and curly. She’s also really thin. So, be nice.”
“I am nice,” Charlie argued as he watched his wife ascend the stairs. “I just miss my baby girl.” He slugged back his beer and eyed the rice, stirring it every so often. Renee and Bella came downstairs. He noticed, almost immediately, the dramatic change in his daughter. Gone was the wide-eyed girl who left to become a doctor, only to be replaced by a waif with vacant eyes and gaunt cheeks. She smiled when she saw her father, hugging him tightly, but the smile didn’t reach her eyes.
It was true. Grief was an individual emotion. Some people drew strength in times of great sadness. Others? They wasted away, working the motions of life and never truly living.
After dinner, once the food was put away and Bella was back upstairs, Charlie ducked out and called his friend. “Hey, Carlisle,” he said, sipping his beer.
“Charlie, how are you?” Carlisle asked.
“Good, good. Bella’s home and she’s moving into this huge condo, starting work at The Hutch. She’s some big-time cancer doctor and …”
“That’s excellent, Charlie,” Carlisle said. “You must be so proud of her.”
“I am,” Charlie answered, taking another pull of his beer. “Um, have you heard from E-E-Edward? He didn’t come to the funeral and obviously …”
“I talk to him nightly,” Carlisle replied. “He’s living in Boston now. I can’t say if he’s happy or sad living there, but he’s doing okay. Why?”
“I should thank him for trying to save my little girl,” Charlie whispered, a few tears falling onto his cheeks.
“You know?” Carlisle whispered back.
“I knew when I read the file. I blamed him, Carlisle. I … I was so fucking angry at him and betrayed that he’d …” Charlie hissed. He slammed his beer. “I’m sorry. I’m just … struggling. Seeing Bella …”
“I understand, Charlie,” Carlisle said. “Edward left Seattle because he felt like he let you down. He couldn’t look you in the eye without feeling overwhelming guilt. Esme’s brother works for the Boston Fire Department, and got him a position in the Fire Investigation Unit. He’s one of the men in charge, now.”
“Good. That’s good. Um, if you talk to him, you tell him I’m proud of him. I, uh, gotta go. Talk to you later,” Charlie said, hastily hanging up the phone. He turned it off and pinched his nose. Finishing his beer, he went inside and up to the bedroom he shared with his wife. He needed her comfort, her loving arms and her quiet strength.
The next day, Bella and Renee drove to Renee’s design studio and showroom. Inside, there was a beautiful woman with long brown hair with golden highlights. She glided over to Renee, handing her a cup of coffee. “I finished the changes on the Sorrento renovation and sent them over proofs for their approval,” the woman chirped.
“Thank you, Alice,” Renee said. “Alice Brandon, this is my daughter, Dr. Isabella Swan. Bella, this is my right hand and kick-ass assistant, Alice.”
“Nice to meet you, Alice,” Bella smiled, shaking Alice’s hand.
“I’ve heard nothing but amazing things about you, Isabella,” Alice breathed.
“Bella, please. Whenever I hear ‘Isabella’, I think like I’m in trouble,” Bella chuckled.
“Apologies. Do you want some coffee?” Alice asked. Bella nodded and Alice darted to the back, to a swanky coffee bar and poured her a cup. “Here you go.”
“Mom, you’ve upgraded the studio,” Bella quipped. “A coffee bar?”
“When the first lady of Seattle has me on speed dial, I needed to posh up the studio for my swanky clientele,” Renee smirked. “Ali, can you pull up the plans for Bella’s condo?”
“The Seattle Point of View Penthouse?” Alice asked. Renee nodded. “Projected on the big screen or on your laptop.”
“Laptop, Alice. I love you, baby girl, but the projector is a pain in the ass. I save that for big-wig clients,” Renee said, wrinkling her nose.
“I’m not a big-wig?” Bella teased. Renee rolled her eyes, opening her laptop and pulling up the presentation from Alice. “So, you’re going to use my existing living room furniture?”
“Couch, yes. That piece is timeless. We’re going to update the cocktail table and decor. And in the kitchen, we’ll put in some stools at the island to make it a more functional space.”
“I like this piece above this seating area,” Bella said, pointing to a colorful hanging piece of artwork. “Are those lights?”
“No. Alice is an artist and she designed that,” Renee answered.
“They’re hand-blown glass pieces,” Alice chirped. “They’ll really add some color and warmth to the room. I also have a chandelier that you might like for the dining room. The existing one is a bit … um, well … dated.”
“I like that piece. Let’s go for that chandelier, too,” Bella said, giving Alice a genuine grin. “I like your work.”
“Thank you, Bella,” Alice breathed. “Renee, she encouraged me to add some of my pieces to your condo in the hopes you’d like them. We have a similar style, she said.”
“Well, I do,” Bella nodded. “Very much.”
“There’s one portion that I haven’t tackled and that’s this bar/billiards area. Alice, can you come up with something?” Renee asked.
“Do you want it to remain a bar/billiards area?” Alice asked.
“Bar, yes. Billiards? Eh,” Bella shrugged. “I’d love a library.”
“I’ll get to work on that,” Alice sang, darting to her computer.
“What about this outside area?” Bella asked. “I noticed that the furniture was still there.”
“It comes with the condo, along with all of the outdoor entertaining space, which includes an outdoor kitchen, fire pit, hot tub and television. If you don’t like it …” Renee said.
“No, I do,” Bella nodded. “Now, let me see the bedrooms and bathrooms.”
By the end of the day, the designs for Bella’s condo were finalized. The furniture was ordered and what could be delivered would be arriving with the rest of her belongings inside of a week. Alice’s design for her new library would require some renovations, but Bella adored her unique take on what a home library should look like. The three of them went out for a late lunch/early dinner and Bella felt like Alice could be a friend. She was young, but was respected by Renee and her energy was a breath of fresh air. Alice and Bella exchanged cell phone numbers, planning on meeting up at the condo in a couple of days to meet with the building management regarding the proposed renovations.
With the blessing of the building manager, Alice reached out to one of the contractors used by Bella’s mother to get permits to demolish the billiards room as well as begin renovations for the library. They would not be done before she went to work, but the prospect of having a library made Bella happy. She also wanted to put a music stand in there, along with one of Angela’s violins.
A week after Bella’s arrival, the movers called her, saying that they were an hour away. She contacted the building manager and the freight elevator was ready for their arrival. By the end of the day, all of Bella’s belongings were unloaded and put into their respective rooms, using the second bedroom as storage while she unpacked. Renee and Charlie helped, along with Alice, who was a whiz at organizing things. It took two days to get all of Bella’s boxes unpacked, save for her books, which would be unpacked in her new library when it was completed.
At the beginning of the second week in Seattle, Bella purchased a car. She never needed one when she was in New York. She either took the subway or a car service, if it was late. Bella purchased a Volvo XC90, in a gunmetal grey. It was sleek and safe, which was a requirement, per her father. Once she had transportation, she called Dr. Victoria Howard, explaining that she was nearly settled in Seattle. With that said, Victoria made arrangements for Bella to come in early the following week to fill out her employment papers for taxes, get her ID badge and get settled into her office. Victoria also wanted to get to know Dr. Swan, to see what made her so driven.
The two women met in the main lobby of The Hutch. “It’s nice to meet you face-to-face, Dr. Swan,” Victoria smiled, shaking her hand.
“Likewise, Dr. Howard, but please call me Bella.”
“Only if you call me Victoria. Come, let’s have a tour of the facility. You’re not due to meet with HR for another hour,” Victoria smiled. She looked at Bella, seeing a small woman with a warm smile, but there was a hidden pain in her eyes. Victoria didn’t want to press it. She could see Bella becoming a friend, but for now, she needed to keep things professional.
While on the tour, Bella marveled at the state-of-the-art equipment and the welcoming atmosphere of the facility. It was a research hospital, but obviously patient care was of utmost importance and they didn’t spare any expense when it came to providing comforts. Nurses were compassionate, with a tender smile. Doctors actually listened to their patients as opposed to treating them like a lab rat. It was an amazing building and Bella was eager to get started in her work.
“This will be your office,” Victoria said, gesturing to a large space, with warm cherry cabinets and matching desk. “You will be issued a tablet and all of your notes must be dictated before you leave for the day. Though, your supervisor from Sloane Kettering said you rarely left.”
“I’m determined to help my patients,” Bella said. “Even if I have to stay with them, I want to put them at ease. It’s an unbearably terrifying moment in their lives. I’m not giving up on them. Even if the prognosis is less than ideal, I’ll fight with them for as long as they want to fight. I’m not a quitter, Victoria.”
“I can see that,” Victoria smiled, but her face softened. “But, you can’t quit life, either.” Bella looked up at her with surprise. “I see a lot of myself in you. I’m in my forties, not married, only had the ‘flavor’ of the week to warm my bed when I wanted it. I was and still am dedicated to my job. But, I missed out on life. Hindsight is always twenty/twenty. I let the man who was perfect for me slip away because of my ambition for my job.”
“Victoria,” Bella said, her voice icy cold.
“I’m happy you’re here. You’re a stellar physician and your reputation precedes you. That’s not always a good thing,” Victoria murmured, arching a brow. “Don’t quit your life.” Her pager went off and she glanced down. “HR is waiting for you. Let me take you down there.”
Bella nodded woodenly, following Victoria. The silence surrounding them was filled with tension. When they reached HR, Bella stared at her. “Why? Why did you say that about quitting life? You don’t know me.”
“I don’t, but I’d like to,” Victoria said. “But from your references, your dedication to your craft, you seem … like a shell.” She gently patted Bella’s arm. “You have my cell phone number. If you want to talk, call me. If not, I’ll see you next week.”
Bella didn’t call Victoria. She felt that Victoria had no right to say those things to her. When Bella stepped into The Hutch that following Monday, the words that Victoria said to her were the furthest from her mind as she met her first patient. “Hello, Mrs. Cullen, I’m Dr. Isabella Swan. Your primary physician, Dr. Snow referred you to us because you’ve been experiencing some pain in your abdomen?”
“A bit like cramps, but I’ve been through menopause. It’s also focused on one side. He had me get an MRI and an ultrasound. He said that there’s something on the scans but he’s not sure. He sent me here for more tests. I asked for the best. Dr. Howard said you’re the best,” Mrs. Cullen sniffled, shifting in her flimsy paper gown. She blinked up at Bella, tears in her emerald eyes. “Please help me?”
“I’ll do everything in my power, Mrs. Cullen. I promise you,” Bella said, taking the woman’s hand. “Now, let me examine you. I promise to be gentle, but tell me if you feel any discomfort.”
“Cullen, you’re needed over on Commonwealth Avenue,” Chief Holland commanded.
“What do we have, Chief?” Edward asked, reaching for his coat and walkie-talkie.
“Apartment complex fire.”
Edward’s heart skipped a beat hearing it was in an apartment building. Even after five years, he still thought of that night and the young woman.
Deep breaths, Cullen. Just breathe. It’s not the same apartment.
After his phone call from Uncle Eleazar, he began to think that maybe this was what he needed to do. He knew that he couldn’t go back to his department, with the possibility that he would run into Charlie. He knew that he needed to apologize, but he didn’t know how to start.
And the words ‘I’m sorry for your loss’ don’t even begin to scratch the surface of what Edward felt about Charlie, Renee and his family.
Even though he couldn’t go back to his firehouse, he also knew he didn’t want to leave the brotherhood the fire department. After talking it over with his parents, who told him that they only wanted him to be happy and healthy. They would miss him terribly, of course. After thinking it over, weighing his options, Edward took Uncle Eleazar up on his offer.
Esme and Carlisle helped him pack up his apartment into his Bronco, donating his belongings to charity. Edward decided to drive across country to Boston. He would just buy new furniture for the apartment. He only needed his clothes, personal items, and pictures of his family.
He took his time driving cross country, stopping off and taking in the sights. When he made it to the Grand Canyon and stood at the edge overlooking the vast magnitude before him, he had an epiphany. It was close to sunset the canyon walls display fiery red and golden hues, which reminded Edward of a fire. Then, they took on softer colors of blue, purple, and green, giving him a comforting feeling that something or someone was trying to make him feel better.
The rest of the trip he found himself time and time again with that same feeling, but couldn’t understand how or why it was happening. By the time he reached Boston, he felt better not only physically, but emotionally. He was more at peace with what happened that horrific night, moving forward in his life.
Eleazar had got him all set up with a job and an apartment on Newbury Street. He only needed to complete his qualifications and testing to become a certified Fire Investigator. He would be working with Felix Greene, who was a friend of Eleazar.
Felix had been with the Boston Fire Department since he was eighteen, working his way up through the ranks. As much as he loved fighting fires, he loved figuring out how or why they started. It was a puzzle to him. Eleazar had told him all about Edward and what had happened to him in Seattle. At first, Felix was concerned about Edward’s mental state, but after a short amount of time, he could tell that Edward was handling the grief. He got the feeling that Edward would never go back to being a firefighter. The few times that they had gotten to a site before the fire was contained, he could tell that Edward was uneasy and anxious about the blaze, watching the flames warily.
Getting the exact address from dispatch, Edward grabbed his gear and hopped into the fire investigator vehicle, driving to the site. When he arrived, there was only one crew left, keeping an eye out for hot spots or any embers, that would cause a flare up.
“Cullen, good to see you working this one,” Peter said, shaking his hand. He was one of the firemen from Engine 18.
“Do you have any information that would lead me the right direction?” Edward asked.
“The north-west corner was the hottest.”
“Thanks. After this, how about meeting me down at O’Malley’s for a pint?” Edward asked.
“Fuck, that sounds good. Just let me have a chance with the hotties before you take them all,” Peter laughed.
“What can I say? I know how to use it to make the women scream,” Edward joked, even though he did have the reputation for only wanting a woman for one-night stands. He never wanted to open his heart to a woman. He wasn’t a manwhore, but he was not in the proper emotional state for a relationship.
“Funny, asshole. Call me when you get done,” Peter said.
Edward began his investigation, carefully going through the building and looking for signs of where the fire started. After taking several samples and lots of pictures, he was ready to go back to the office and begin to evaluate what he found. As he was driving back, his phone rang and he pulled over to see who was calling him.
“Hey Mom,” he answered.
“Hi, sweetheart,” Esme whispered, hating the reason for her calling him. She had debated when and how she would do it, but she knew he would be upset if she didn’t tell him at all. She wanted to wait until she started her treatment. That way, she could give him good news with the bad.
“Mom, what is wrong?”
“Are you somewhere we can talk?” Esme asked.
“Yeah, just sitting in the car.”
She blew out a breath, “Edward, I have been diagnosed with stage two ovarian cancer.”
Edward heart dropped and he tried to stop his hands from shaking. His mom had cancer. “W-W-When? H-H-H-How?” Edward began, but couldn’t seem to get a complete sentence out without stuttering.
“I haven’t been feeling well, so I went to Dr. Snow and he ran some tests. He found something on the scans and sent me to Fred Hutchinson Cancer Center. The doctor there ran more tests, finding cancerous cells after a biopsy. After a long discussion, we decided on a form of action and I’ve already started a treatment.”
“Is this doctor any good?”
“She is one of the best in the country. We’re very lucky to have her here in Seattle. She believes that we will beat this and I’ll be fine,” Esme explained.
Edward didn’t know what to say. Esme was the best mom. She always knew how to make him and his brothers feel better when they were sick, but now she was sick and he was in Boston. He was so far away from her and if she needed him, it would take him hours to get to her.
No, that just won’t do. I can’t … I need to be with her … he thought anxiously, wiping tears hastily from his face.
“Edward, darling are you okay?” Esme asked, worried that he hadn’t said much.
“Yes, Mom. Just thinking.”
“I know this is hard for you, but your dad and brothers will look out for me and I promise to keep you up to date.”
“Not good enough,” Edward said gruffly. “I’m coming home.” He knew he had to be there for his mom. It was more important than the ghost that kept him away for five years.
A/N: We had a time jump and we hope that you liked this chapter. Bella’s settled in Seattle and Edward’s moving back.
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We’ll see you in a little bit with chapter four! If you liked what you read, please review! It means the world to us!
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Tufano79 and HeartForTwilight