Cancerous

Sad Phone Calls

Chapter Three - Sad Phone Calls

Meanwhile, Charlie received a phone call from a French morgue, informing him of the death of his daughter Isabella Marie. They regretted to inform him it was against policy to send dead bodies out of the country, and they had already cremated the remains. They offered to send him the ashes if he preferred, which he accepted.

Charlie only had a few phone calls to make as Bella had not been close to many. He called Renee and Phil, Billy and Jake, and Angela Weber. He had learned that the Cullens had left town earlier that week and wasn't sure whether or not they were with her on her travels, but wanted to call Carlisle just in case. He checked with Forks Hospital to obtain Carlisle's emergency forwarding number, as legally, any doctor who moves must provide future contact information, in case they need to be contacted later about a previous patient.

Carlisle picked up after the first ring. It had been less than a week since Bella's birthday, so they weren't settled into their new place yet.

"Hello, Dr. Cullen speaking."

"Hey, Carlisle, it's Charlie."

"Oh, hey, Charlie, how can I help you?" Carlisle was surprised and worried for Charlie to be contacting him now. He heard Edward hiss from his room and come rushing down to the study. Alice was on his heels, having come out of her and Jasper's room. Esme was on her way upstairs as Charlie replied.

"Um, well, I just wanted to invite you and your family to Bella's memorial next week. I don't know if any of you were with her when she passed away, but we're just going to have a small remembrance ceremony to celebrate her brief life with us. You know she was never one to enjoy anyone making a fuss over her. I know you didn't know her long, but I'll always be grateful to your family, particularly Edward and Alice for allowing her to experience a somewhat normal life for a while. I'm glad she got to experience the whole boyfriend/best friend thing before she passed. She truly loved your family and was glad to be a part of it for the time she had."

The vampires were all silent, overwhelmed with shock, fear, and guilt.

"When?" Carlisle choked out, wondering when she had died and how.

"It'll be on Saturday at ten, at my house. If you can't make it, I'll understand."

"We'll be there," Carlisle replied swiftly, his mind still unable to process that his daughter was gone.

"Thanks, Carlisle. See you then." Charlie hung up, and Carlisle stared blankly at his phone before it began beeping at him.

The whole family turned to stare at Edward, who was shaking his head in denial.

"What happened to her?" he demanded, glaring at Alice.

She glared ferociously back at him. "How the hell should I know? Some ASSHOLE insisted I not watch her future!"

Edward sank to his knees. "She can't be dead. She promised to take care of herself!"

Rose snorted. "You mean the danger magnet? Like that was a promise she could keep. What do you care anyway? You obviously didn't love her that much if you were able to leave her."

Edward jumped to his feet and shouted in her face, "How dare you? I left to protect her!"

Rose snorted again. "Yeah, that worked really well, didn't it? She didn't even last three days without you."

"How was I supposed to know that would happen?" he screamed.

"Dude, this is Bella we're talking about, right? The girl who almost got squished by a van only a week after starting school, that almost got gang-raped in Port Angeles because she made a wrong turn? The girl who was hunted by a rogue tracker and fell in love with the one vampire who desired her blood more than any other? The girl who couldn't walk across a flat surface without tripping?" Emmett reminded him. "The bigger question is why didn't you expect this to happen?"

Edward groaned and shook his head. "I just figured we were the most dangerous part of her world, and if we removed ourselves, she would be so much safer."

It was Emmett's turn to snort. "Um, yeah, without us, or more specifically you, she would have been squashed by the van or killed by the rapists months ago."

"At least Alice's visions were right. Either she would become one of us or Edward would kill her," Rose remarked snidely.

Edward growled and snarled at her. She just rolled her eyes. "Whatever, Edward. She begged you for months to change her or allow her to be changed, so you have no one but yourself to blame. I didn't want to condemn her to this life if she had another option, but it's better than being dead."

"I didn't think you believed that," he accused.

She chuckled grimly. "If I didn't believe that, I would have let Emmett die rather than bring him home for Carlisle to change. I'd much rather have Emmett here with me making both of our existences worth living than have let him die and suffered through all these years alone. I may be disappointed that I can't have children, but I would never have tossed Emmett aside the way you did Bella, so she clearly wasn't really your soulmate."

Edward looked ready to kill her, and Carlisle interrupted their exchange. "You know, she may have a point there, son."

He stared at his 'father' in disbelief. "What?"

Carlisle continued thoughtfully. "Now that I think about it, you wouldn't have been able to resist changing her once you tasted her blood. Really, once you tasted her lips. I just chalked it up to our diet and your incredible self-control, but you would never have been able to deny her sexual advances, and you would have changed her as soon as she was in danger from James. If not then, then certainly when you found her bitten, you would have simply added your venom to his. I was shocked by your choice at the time, as it is not one I would have made in your shoes, but I assumed we were underestimating your control and your desire to protect our family's secrets. I realize now though, that it really represented a lack of commitment on your part. You didn't change her, because you instinctively knew your bond would not last through the transformation, that she was not meant for you. You simply enjoyed finally not being the odd man out, not being alone. You were intrigued by her silent mind and her scent, and once you found her willing to be with you, you took advantage of it, albeit subconsciously."

The rest of the family was looking at Edward in disgust, all except for Jasper.

"Don't judge him too harshly," Jasper interjected. "Bella never had faith in their bond. She never trusted his love for her. She instinctively realized they weren't meant for forever also, but she loved our family more than anything. So, she was willing to give him a chance, because she wanted so much to be a part of our family. She knew if she broke things off with him, she would lose the rest of us too. I know you think she was an open book, with nothing to hide, but you're wrong. She did keep secrets.

I promised her I wouldn't tell you, but she was in great physical pain in the weeks leading up to her birthday, worse even than when she was recovering from James. In fact, it was eerily similar to the burning of the change. When I confronted her, she assured me she was having it checked out by a specialist and didn't want to worry everybody until she had answers. Since she assured me the pain and the silence were both temporary, I agreed to keep her secret. Whenever she was here, I did my best to ease her pain.

The night of her party, when I tried to bite her, I could sense her emotions. She wasn't afraid at all. She was full of happiness, relief, acceptance, longing, GRATITUDE. She was longing for the bite, for the transformation. She desperately wanted to become a vampire, WANTED me to bite her. Even more significant, she TRUSTED me to bite her and not kill her, even when I was pouncing toward her. Even though I was attacking, in full vampire mode, my brain was still registering and responding to her emotions. The weirdest part was that even though my beast, the Major, wanted to bite her and drink from her, he fully intended to stop before draining her. He never intended to kill her, but was focused on changing her, recognizing she would be perfect as a vampire and knowing it would be a complete waste to kill her.

When I was pulled away from her, she felt resigned, disappointed, fearful, angry, frustrated, and even betrayed. I felt like I betrayed her in failing to bite her. Yet, her feelings of betrayal were not directed at me. She forgave me instantly. Her feelings of betrayal were directed at Edward. She was angry with him for stopping me. She was not fearful of being bitten. She was fearful of NOT being bitten."

Now the family was staring at Jasper.

"Why would she possibly feel that way?" Alice wondered.

"Maybe because it confirmed that Edward was just playing with her, that he really didn't want her forever and was just lying to her about his feelings for her," Rose offered bitterly.

"Oh, Bella!" Esme sobbed leaning into Carlisle. "My poor daughter!"

"I can't believe we listened to you, Edward!" Emmett shouted. "Apparently, you had no more right to decide her future than the rest of us did. She wasn't your mate. She was just your sister. How dare you make me leave my own sister, you bastard?"

Carlisle sighed deeply, feeling more exhausted than he ever had since his own change. "Fighting won't bring her back, children. I, for one, am heading back to Forks in hopes of finding out what happened to Bella and to lend support to her grieving family. The rest of you may do as you wish."

Each of them voiced their intention to join, and so they quickly made arrangements to catch a flight back to Forks from their new home in New York.

The Cullens were surprised at how few people were present for the memorial. Was this the sum total of people who cared about Bella? Their family alone made up nearly a third of the audience.

Once everyone was seated and quiet, Charlie stood up in front of the group. He had a projector and screen set up with pictures depicting Bella's childhood.

"Bella was always an easygoing, loving child. She was a peacemaker, bringing people together and calming tense situations. Even as a toddler, she was always thinking of others, quick to share her toys and things with others. As a result, she had many friends in elementary school. She was always intelligent, observant, perceptive, and intuitive. She saw the world differently from everyone else and always surprised us with her interpretations and deductions. She was helpful, outgoing, and confident.

Then she was hit with her first bout of cancer, just after puberty. She had only just begun her monthly cycle when she lost all her internal reproductive organs in surgery. She spent months with radioactive treatment, frequently sick and weak. The odds weren't good at the time, but my Bella was always a survivor. The months of treatment took their toll though. She withdrew into herself after that, becoming shy and withdrawn, though still loving and helpful. By the time she was able to return to school, her friends had moved on to others and rumors had circulated causing her to become somewhat of a pariah. She worked hard to overcome and by the time she started high school, she had managed to make a new place for herself.

Unfortunately, the cancer came back, in her brain this time. She went through neurosurgery and then many months of chemotherapy. Amazingly, she didn't lose her hair, but she did suffer through most of the other side effects. The tumor had caused some permanent damage, affecting her balance, rendering her forever clumsy. This round of cancer and chemo took away her self-confidence, though she still managed to be trusting, loving, and forgiving, with such a bright attitude and outlook on life. By the time she was finished with the chemo and fully in remission, her mother Renee had gotten remarried. Bella wanted Renee and Phil to be able to travel together without having to worry about her, so she volunteered to come live with me.

I was thrilled at the chance to really get to know my daughter before she moved along into her eternity. We debated about whether or not to give her complete medical history to the hospital or school, but Bella convinced us to keep it quiet. She knew with such a small town, the information was bound to leak and become gossip. She didn't want to be the object of speculation, nor did she want anybody's pity. She just wanted to be able to live a normal life like a normal teenager while it lasted. The doctors had warned us that the cancer would likely return and that if it did, she wouldn't survive the third bout. She knew she was on borrowed time and chose to make the most of the time she had.

It turned out to be quite a blessing for Bella that she came here, as she was able to have a boyfriend for the first time. She also made her first real friends since elementary school. I was thrilled at the time she was able to spend with the Cullens and also with Angela Weber. She was so happy for the past six or seven months, and finally started acting like a normal, carefree teenager. Unfortunately, she began feeling the pain in her bones at the beginning of the school year. She didn't tell me at first, not quite ready to give up her freedom, knowing nothing could be done anyway. The day before her birthday she finally went to the specialist in Seattle. It was convenient that her friends, the Cullens, were all busy with preparations for her birthday, as I'm not sure she would have left them to go get checked if they weren't all busy.

Two days after her birthday, she received the results. She cried all night, not knowing how she would tell her new friends the news of her condition. The doctors predicted she only had two weeks to a month left to live. I spoke with her before school, and she promised she would talk to Edward after school and then the rest of his family. When I got home that night, she had dinner ready for me. She assured me she had spoken with Edward right after school and then told me she wanted to travel with the limited amount of time she had left. She wanted me to remember her strong and not have me watch her waste away. The doctors had given her some strong pain medicine, so she was still able to function. I gave in quickly to my daughter's last request and let her go.

I got the call a few days later. She passed away in her sleep with a smile on her face. I want to thank all of you here today for the joy, love, and acceptance you brought into her young life and for giving her a chance to experience the best life had to offer, instead of the pain she lived with for so many years. My Bella loved all of you as well."

He took his seat and everyone was quiet, each dealing with their own pain.

"No wonder she was so eager to become one of us," Rose sobbed, speaking too low for human ears. "She knew she had no future as a human. She knew she could never grow old, never have children, any more than we could. At least as a vampire she could still experience the rest, could still exist."

"I knew it!" Jasper whispered back. "I told you she was longing to become a vampire. She knew she was going to die. Oh, man! She knew that night the cancer was back, that her time was almost gone! No wonder she was so upset when Edward prevented her change once again. Gutless bastard! This is all your fault. You've been blaming me, but I would have saved her. You killed her. You condemned her to a painful, lonely death. Golden boy, my ass."

The last line was muttered resentfully. He was tired of being the scapegoat of the family, allowing them to unload their bloodlust and negative emotions onto his weary shoulders, while then claiming he was the weak one. Hadn't any of them figured out he absorbed their weakness and fed them strength? Did any of them appreciate him, even half as much as one fragile human girl had? He had never felt love as pure and deep as the love Bella poured out upon him and his family. Bella had figured out the truth about Jasper in the weeks before her birthday, when he eased her pain and fed her peace. Not only had she recognized what he was doing for her, but she quickly made the leap to understand he did it for the whole family. He did it naturally, unconsciously, simply as a way to make life more pleasant for everyone, including himself. She was the one who pointed out to him that he was far from weak, that he was a huge part of his family's strength, because of the sacrifices he made for them on a daily basis. She was the one who had told him he was much stronger than he realized, that his willpower and self-control would rival Carlisle's if the others weren't around to bring him down.

It had taken a while, but the seeds she planted, along with the respect, trust, and love she fed him, had helped those ideas take root in his mind. He had intended to confront his family about the ways they affected him and what they could do to help minimize the risk for the whole family, like by hunting more often, but he wanted to wait until after Bella's party. Unfortunately, after the party, they had more pressing concerns, and that little plan for discussion had fallen by the wayside.

"Why didn't she tell me?" Edward wailed under his breath.

"Did you give her a chance? Or did you start right out with telling her you were leaving her and didn't want her to come with you?" Alice demanded.

Edward moaned as he thought about it. "She still should have told me."

Esme looked at him in complete and utter disappointment. "She had too much pride to beg, Edward. If you outright rejected her, she would never push herself on you. Oh, no! The rest of us just abandoned her too! She would have come to us if we had stayed. She must have thought we didn't love her, that we didn't want her if she wasn't with Edward, that she wasn't really part of our family after all. How could we do that to her?"

Edward was devastated as his family's thoughts accused and condemned him for his choices and his treatment of the girl they all loved. For himself though, a large part of him still felt he had made the right decision. He still believed she was better off dead than as one of them.

"I need to be alone for a while," he told the others and then ran off through the woods. Deliberately keeping his mind focused on simply running through the wilderness, he ran to the airport and caught the next plane to Italy.

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