“No! You have him mistaken for someone else, you...have...to...” My words felt foreign to me, as did my slumping body that melted into nothingness behind me. I felt my body hit hard as I fell, not able to stand upright. I couldn't describe my pain, my shock, my disbelief, nothing felt right, as if the whole world was off its orbit. I looked up to the stars and found nothing but a vast black mass of emptiness. My ears felt muffled as a strange shadowed figure came into view, his lips moving as if he were speaking, but I couldn't hear him.
“Ms. Swan, Bella, can you hear me?”
He didn't look quite right to me. Nothing looked right. I couldn't form words. Why was he looking at me like that? His eyes bulged, his mouth moving so fast that he carelessly spit as he spoke.
“Bella, breathe, you have to breathe for me. Everything will be alright, just breathe.”
“Officer Platt, maybe we should call the ambulance. She's taken it pretty hard.”
The lights were so bright that it hurt my eyes. I wanted to cover my eyes, but I couldn't perform that simple task because I couldn't feel my arms or anything else for that matter. What was wrong with me? Why couldn't I feel anything? I was beginning to lose focus of the pretty lights. Where was my dad? Why wasn't he here to help me? Surely he must have heard something was wrong with me. Did I get hit by a car or something? It wouldn't be the first time, I suppose. I could barely hear the voices around me, and I tried my best to listen to them so I could find out what had happened to me.
“Oh no…! You shouldn't have told her like this, not after that family just dumped her the way they did. You should have had Billy Black come to tell her,” Adele, Bella's neighbor, scoffed the officer.
“We are to tell the next of kin, ma’am. There isn't anything else we could have done in this situation,” Officer Platt countered.
“Charlie was all she had left here. That poor girl, you should let her boss know that she won't be in for a while. How is she supposed to handle the details of the funeral all by her lonesome?”
No, no, no, it can't be… Char…Dad is...gone…Funeral? If I couldn't feel anything before, I sure couldn't now, except for a piercing scream which I couldn't quite place.
“Adele! See what you’ve gone and done? Ouch, she has some lungs on her,” Officer Platt almost screamed out.
“I'm going to give her a sedative and then we'll take her in.” The EMT stated.
“He was a good cop, Arlene, and this was his only child, so take good care of her. Geez, she's gonna need a lot of support. We should round everyone up and help with the arrangements. I don't think Bella is going to be in any shape to handle all this,” Officer Platt suggested to the rest of the officers.
“Well, I'll get a hold of the Blacks and let them know, and I will get a hold of others that can help. That poor girl lost everyone she cared about. I wouldn't be surprised if she loses her mind after this,” Adele almost said to herself as she walked away with curlers and a pink long ruffled nightgown on.
My head was spinning, darkness invaded my brain. I couldn't feel, couldn't stay coherent enough to hear anything, and the pretty lights were fading fast. What was happening? Why did I feel so lost, so alone, so...desperate to let it all end right here and now? The lights dimmed out like the wind blowing out a candle. The lights were the only thing keeping me at the surface and at one point I wanted to stay at that surface, but now, for some odd reason, I couldn't exactly say why, but now I welcomed the darkness. It was home to me for so long inside, now it felt right to allow it to consume me on the outside as well. Ceasing to exist, lingering in the dark, never to feel the pain, the loss, the utter desperation that I felt every single day.
Bella just let it all go. Just disappear, and you will not feel anything anymore. An unknown voice whispered.
I could swear that was my voice bouncing off of something, yet I didn't mutter a word of it. I never contemplated suicide, it really never crossed my mind, but whatever had happened to me or was happening to me, I knew it wasn't suicide. I was sure it was death coming, creeping up on me slowly. Even though I should have been afraid of it, I wasn't. It had become my closest kin and I embraced it with open arms. No matter how death found me now, it was here and I wasn't going to shy away from it. What was the point really? Somehow I knew I had lost everyone deep down in my bones, so why should I fear the ultimate ending?
I relaxed my mind and hoped for the best in the next life, if there was one. I wondered if I would see that bright tunnel of light from near-death experiences that others have talked about. I didn't belong in hell that I was sure of, so I was truly hoping not to feel the depths of hell's burning flames crawling up my feet to engulf me. So I waited; I waited for something to happen, and it took forever to happen to be honest, but finally the bright light came. Only glimpses of it came in between the darkness. It played its own game back and forth for a while. It confused me. Wait...was this a sign telling me that I was in limbo? Even in death nothing could go right, why am I not surprised?
“Bella, you're back…?”
A voice... I heard a voice! Was it a long lost family member that perished some time ago? I wondered on that idea at first, until I took in the words that voice spoke. Am I back? What did that mean? Had I been here before in another life or something? The statement begged me to ask for the answer, and so I did, or tried really, but my throat constricted against me and left me little to work with, but I tried a little harder, and finally I said “Back?” That was all I could muster. My throat screamed in agony for relief, for...water? That threw me off. Why would I need water, why would I be thirsty? I was dead after all, right?
“Bella, open your eyes for me please. It will be alright, sweetie. We'll take care of you.”
I couldn't really explain what was happening now, but I had this sneaking suspicion that maybe I hadn't died. I could feel my body, I could smell a distinct aroma of rubbing alcohol, and I could most certainly feel the woman that spoke to me touching my arm, patting if you will. As she asked, I slowly opened my eyes and I was blasted with the bright light above me. Then the woman came into view with her blue button-up nurse shirt that was covered with clouds. Her smile saddened me and I couldn't figure out why.
“There you are, sweetie. We have been waiting a while for you to come around. Did you know you have been out of it for almost a week? They were worried that your comatose state would stick its ugly face around longer than it has, but I knew you would come around sooner. You're a strong young woman, Bella. Charlie would be proud of you...”
“Would be?” Why did she say that? I was confused.
“Oh no, I’ve gone and said too much...Please forgive me, Bella. I-I will go and get someone for you. I'm so sorry...” she spat out, covering her mouth in disgust as she walked away quickly, not giving me any time to ask her again what she meant. It didn't take long to come to terms that I was still alive as I sat there in the hospital room alone, and it didn't take me much longer to pick apart what she had said, and I lost it.
My dad, my dad was gone. I remember now. Officer Platt caught me as I was walking to the house. He looked grim, his eyes were empty. I greeted him with a nice tone, although his expression worried me a little. I wondered what had happened. Police business, I was sure of that, and he was probably looking for Char…Dad, so I smiled hiding the worry I had and told him that my dad wasn't home, that he should be at the station, but he would have known that, right? I stopped mid-sentence, stiffening my body. I couldn't quite explain why I did that, but I knew I should have. Another officer came into view and stood behind him, and before I knew it my mouth opened and asked the question that anyone dreaded in this situation.
“What is this about officer?”
“Ms. Sw…Bella, can we go inside and talk?”
“No.” My voice was stern; it had to be, because I couldn't move from my spot if I tried. Just tell me what it is. Where is my dad? Why isn't he here? Just tell me what is wrong?” I was asking questions so fast that I swear I couldn't breathe. My chest constricted, my legs wobbly, my heart sped so fast that I felt that a race car wouldn't be able to keep the same pace, and there it was, the answer to all my questions came in the form of three words...he passed away.
My heart sunk, no, it just evaporated right there in the hospital room and I couldn't breathe again, but my tears welled up so much that I couldn't see anything anymore. Almost a week…? That's how long I've been out of it the nurse said. Did I...Do I not get to say goodbye to my dad? Did they have the funeral without me?
“Oh, Bella,” I heard a voice say, but I couldn't respond. I couldn't breathe. I was trying but I couldn't.
“Thomas, get a paper bag, quick. She's hyperventilating.”
A few seconds later I was feeling something pressed against my mouth and told to breathe and try to relax. I shut my eyes tightly and tried to heave their pleas and then finally, gradually, I had calmed down enough to open them again, but not without tears still claiming their destination down my cheeks. An older woman was bent over the side of the bed, trying to console me with her saddened eyes.
“Bella, my name is Pamela, and I'm the grief counselor here at the hospital. It's clear to me that you understand the tragedy of your father's death and I'm truly sorry for your loss...”
“Please...I just want to know if his...funeral has already taken place. Did I...miss saying...goodbye?” I interrupted her. I didn't want to hear the babble that she was taught to say, it wasn't important to me. What was important is what I had asked her.
“Bella, you can always say your goodbyes in other ways, sweetie. It doesn't have to...”
“So what you are trying to work around is the fact that I did miss saying goodbye to him, am I right?”
Her eyes fell to her lap, realizing that I wasn't going to let her finish as she'd hoped, and then she said in a whisper, “Yes, I'm afraid so, Bella. They tried to wait...”
“I wasn't strong enough...”
“No sweetie, don't blame yourself. It wasn't that you weren't strong, and no one is blaming you for not being there. Some people take this sort of news harder than others. What happened to you only shows how much you loved him, is all. You should never try and blame yourself. As I said before, you can say goodbye in other ways. He knows you loved him and not being able to be there for the funeral doesn't mean that you loved him any less,” she trailed off with a somber look.
I couldn't talk anymore after that. I needed to think, to grieve, and she understood that and let me be.
Another day had gone by and I was to be released today. I was told that Billy and Jacob were going to take me home, which was of little comfort to me. Although my health was good, the hospital argued with me about their protocol to seat me in a wheelchair to get to the entrance downstairs. I was fine and they knew that, but my stubbornness apparently didn't win them over and I was stuck in a wheelchair. I was greeted at the entrance by Billy, and it was odd because I was actually eye-level with him in his own wheelchair, and then Jacob came strolling behind with his head down, watching his feet.
“Bella,” Billy strained to keep his voice steady. “I'm sorry, honey. Charlie was my closest friend. He will be greatly missed. Here, I have something for you, it's a picture...”
I held out my hand for him to stop. I just couldn't handle anything right now but going home. I needed to rest and wrap my head around all this...alone. I was grateful for the ride, but other than that, I just couldn't handle anything, and he understood quickly. Almost to my street I felt guilty for the way I treated him earlier, and whispered that I was sorry for my behavior, but it was his turn to stop me.
“Bella, I understand, I really do. No need to be sorry. I will keep the picture until you're ready for it, alright,” he said as he smiled as big as the Grand Canyon trying to ease my worry.
We pulled into the drive and my body tensed. I wasn't expecting this, or better said, I just didn't think about how it would affect me, coming back to the house knowing my dad wouldn't be there. My hand that had a hold of the inside knob tightened its grip as the rest of me began to shake uncontrollably. Jacob ran to my side of the vehicle and opened my door gently. Although I didn't know him that well, he could see my fear and his eyes reflected mine. He held my hands and helped me out and said “Bella, if it's too soon for you to be here, we can take you somewhere else.”
It became clear to me as soon as he said that that yes, it was too soon and I knew where I wanted to be, but I wanted to be there alone, so I asked them to take me to my dad's resting place and they had no problem with it, but what they did have a problem with was dropping me off after I said thank you for their help and that I would walk home. They argued, but in the end it was my decision, and although they almost growled at me over it, they finally left me at the front gate of the cemetery, where above me it said.
My skin ran cold. The sky began to turn different colors as it came close to turning to its slumber for the night. I never asked them to show me where he was in there. It was silly to do so when I knew I just had to look for the freshest grave. Just thinking of that made me cringe. From now on, whenever I wanted to speak to my dad, this...this place...is where I would have to come. Never will I see his smile warm me, never will I hear his laughter or see the smirk on his face when he was at a loss for words, never would I hear him screaming at his favorite team on the television when they would lose a game and never...would I hear him say...I love you, Bells. It just didn't seem real to be standing here right now, standing here knowing that I had to say goodbye in this way, having to say goodbye to him period. Why did I lose everyone that I cared about?
The night sky was coming fast; I could see hues of gray, pink and yellow off on the horizon, darkening the quiet, too quiet, deafening cemetery. I had to mentally push myself to walk past the gate and enter. It was almost like a force of nature fighting against me when I tried. Trying to get past it after dark was like a warning from beyond saying:
No living person allowed past this point after dark
Acting as if I was about to alter the worlds of the living and the dead, I quickly chalked it up to just being nerves, and I was almost certain that my brain was against me too, trying to convince me that I shouldn't be here yet.
I wasn't strong enough when he passed to be here when they had the funeral, so I was adamant that I was going to be strong enough to do this now, no matter how much I wanted to put this off, so I pushed through the invisible force that tried to stop me, whether it be the powers of beyond or just me trying to stop myself, and I walked through, but not without still having reservations of what I was doing so soon. I walked what seemed like forever, even though this cemetery was small to me. I knew I was walking at a snail's pace, but I had to find my courage and make it strong, because it was fading fast, and then two rows to my right in the right corner, there it was, a heaving pile of fresh dirt below a plaque that I was certain had my dad's name on it. I stood still for a long, long moment and I felt the tears flow, the cold night air chilling them down my cheeks. I shut my eyes tightly and opened them forcing myself to walk. The closer I got, the closer the name on the plaque came into focus, and when I knew I could read it clearly, I stopped again and read it,
Charles D. Swan
Loving and Devoted Father
In the arms of an angel
May you reach your heaven
Rest in Peace
I read everything but the dates. I couldn't read that part, the last date would have been too much. Too... final. I wasn't ready to let go that way yet. I knelt down beside the lump of dirt and cried aloud. I wept not only for the loss of my dad, but for the loss of the only man that I would ever love, the loss of the only person I would ever call my sister. In this...place, I felt that it was the only place that I would be able to finally say my goodbyes to them in the end when that came. In a sense, I would have to bury them all in this one grave. I knew moving on wasn't an option, but to come here and speak to my dad and to the rest of them as if they all lied here somehow gave me a strange yet comfortable feeling. My mind truly worked backwards.
I decided to lie down next to my dad and talk to him in whispers, hoping somehow, somewhere, he would hear me, and I stayed that way for a while until I heard a familiar voice that stunned the air right out of me and I knew I must have fallen asleep.
“I'm so sorry, Bella. I would have come sooner if I would have known.”
That...voice...it haunted me for so long, and I tried my best to bury that part of my brain that kept it to memory and I thought I had finally erased it, but I see now that I was very wrong. I shut my eyes tightly, whispering under my shaken breath “You're not real, you're not real. Please stop haunting me. I can't take it anymore, especially not now.” Chanting that over and over until... again... I heard that voice that made my heart pound in my chest and also made it plummet to god knows where in despair.
“Bella, I can assure you that I am real. I promise I'm not haunting you.”
I don't know what came over me then. I stood up so fast that I surprised myself and went in the direction of his voice, finger ready to push through his ghostly image to prove he was haunting me. I stared the trickster in the eyes while I went at him saying “Not real, huh, what do you call this then?” I pushed my finger towards his chest hard and ---just as I thought--- it went right through Edward’s ghostly image. The mirage of Edward returning after I buried him inside for so long had squeezed my heart tight, as if there was much left to hurt. I felt one single tear fall down my cheek and it enraged me.