Chapter 5: Understanding
"One lemongrass tea," she sits the cup down on the counter. Her eyes roll when I try to hand her money. "I already told you; your money is no good here, Edward."
"Just because you're my sister, doesn't mean I shouldn't pay for my food."
"You didn't order food," Alice shoots back, tapping her little finger towards me.
"Then you didn't let me finish my order," I point back. "One ham and cheese, please."
"Now, you sound like a different kind of doctor," she laughs. "On whole wheat?"
"Of course." I lay my money down and take a seat while I wait. I prefer the table by the window. The busy street is interesting to watch and it's one of the few tables that won't wobble when I type. One of these days I will make good on my promise to fix them for her.
When things settle down, Alice takes a seat with me and talks while I eat. I try my best to pay attention, but my time is short and it is divided between her and my laptop. She never makes me feel bad about it, though.
"So what have you been up to? You haven't been in for lunch much this week?" Alice eats the pickle I leave on my tray and I push the laptop aside to not further my rudeness.
"Just working, mostly. Dad asked me to help out at the hospital. They are pretty short staffed and that along with my practice eats up most of the week."
"Yeah, he said something about that when I saw him," she takes a bite of her pickle and I try not make a disgusted face. "I'm glad you could sneak away, today. I missed you."
"I missed your ham and cheese," I smirk.
"Haha, you know you missed me, too." She is waving the pickle in my face and I go back to typing. "Ugh, there's another rush. Gotta go. Call me if you get stuck at work. I'll bring you some food."
I smile and nod. "Thanks."
Her arms go around my neck and a kiss is planted on my head. I shoo her away and she laughs; tending to her customers. My lunch hour is almost up and I need to go back to the hospital. I wish I could have talked to Alice more. I wanted to tell her about Sunday.
Movement catches my eye and I look up. It takes me a moment to place where I know her from. It's the girl from the gas station. She looks a little better than the last time I saw her, but her appearance is still confusing. She is holding her hand around a paper cup like someone might take it away. Her eyes are looking at the counter like she is hungry, but she is wearing Burberry and leather boots that would make my sister jealous. Clearly, she can afford anything the bakery has to offer, but she doesn't move. It reminds me of the first night I saw her; with the candy bars. Her basket was full of items, even alcohol, but she was looking at the candy display like it would break her if she bought one.
She catches me staring and doesn't look happy about it. When she sits at my table, I almost want to laugh at her accusations, but in truth, it's not very funny that someone feels threatened by me. The last thing I need to be known as is a doctor who stalks people in his free time. More than that, I should also be a little worried that she thinks I am trying to proposition her.
Suddenly, her attire makes a little more sense.
She mentions the cemetery and I feel uncomfortable. It was not a good day. I don't remember seeing her there. A part of me wants to ask her who she was visiting, but I stay quiet. I type a quick email to my father and tell him I am running a little late. She still thinks I am trying to get a…date…and mentions that my wife doesn't matter. I cannot listen to anymore of her ramblings. I try to be friendly, telling her my name and make it obvious that I have nothing to hide, but she isn't buying it. The only thing left is to tell her this is where I eat lunch when I'm working, and if she is uncomfortable by my presence, do not come here on those days.
She seems to understand and walks away. Her paper cup is left on her table and I feel badly. She drank hardly anything. I wave to Alice as I exit and she smiles. Bella's paper cup gets dumped with my trash and for some reason, it bothers me for the remainder of my day.
After a long, long day, I am finally free. I poke my head into my dad's office and say goodnight, or morning, whichever and he tells me to get some sleep and he'll see me tomorrow. As I am leaving, a group of nurses rush to the arriving ambulance and I wait three minutes in my car for my pager to beep. Nothing happens and I am relieved that I get to go home.
My house is dark and quiet when I arrive; same as usual. I pull open the door to the fridge and poke around, looking for something, but I'm not really hungry. I grab the jug of chocolate milk and drink what's left as I make my way up the stairs. Sophia, my housekeeper, leaves my clothes on the dresser and I want to call her right now and tell her not to bother coming back. My mother would kill me, however. She raised me better.
I pick up the piles and put them away in my closet, cursing under my breath and find something to change into. I am too tired to shower. Morning. Yeah…morning. I rest my head on the pillow and stare at the place next to me. It is vacant, yet so, so present. My hand rests over the space and I close my eyes.
Sophia is rambling and making way too much noise as I try to pour coffee and hurry my way out of the house. She has the television up way too loud and I have to wonder who the hell works for who. Am I just a sucker, or what? I don't have time for a confrontation on the issue. I grab a stale muffin from the box Alice left last week and my coffee and climb in my car. The coffee spills, making a mess all over the console and I am already way past my limit of irritations this morning. Traffic is hellish and I am breathing hard as I rush into my office. The girls at the front desk notice and smile sympathetically at me. Rosalie rolls her eyes and hands me a chart.
"Still wearing an S underneath that coat, Dr. Cullen?" She quips, following me down the hall way.
"I need to clone myself," I grumble.
"Well, not to make your day any worse, but Seth Clearwater is first up this morning." She smiles and I hate my life. "Good luck, Doc!" She pats me on the shoulder and walks away laughing.
I take a deep breath and open the door, giving a smile to Leah, Seth's mom. "Good morning. How are we today?" I read over the chart as she replies.
"Good, Dr. Cullen. Yourself?"
I want to laugh. "I'm pretty good, thank you for asking. Alright, we have a big day it seems." I need to make this sound fun. Seth hates needles and today he is getting a vaccination. He usually screams and cries and this is not the way I want to begin my work day. I pull out a badge from a drawer and take a seat on the rolling stool. His eyes look afraid and Mrs. Clearwater smiles. "You get your Big Boy Badge, today. Did you know that?"
It earns me a smile and he reaches for it. "But first, we need to take a test. Can you do that for me?" He nods and I smile. "Okay, hold on to the badge and I am going to give you a little test. Big Boys don't cry, though, so you have to be brave. Alright?"
He nods again and I let him have the badge. Mrs. Clearwater sits him on the table while I ready his shot. I open another drawer and pray there is candy. There is, and I need to be nicer to Rosalie. She knows my vices so well. I pop a Jolly Rancher in my mouth and shove a few in my pocket for later. Plus, one for the kid.
After I am done with Seth, I tend to the rest of my patients and breathe a sigh of relief when my mother shows up to take over. She hates working in the hospital, but loves kids. It's a good trade. Kids love her and she is an excellent Pediatrician. I spend thirty minutes in the break room before my shift begins at the hospital. I drink a cup of tea and try to rest my eyes, but the other doctors want to discuss golfing this weekend and I achieve nothing. I stop in my father's office to ask him if he'd like to join us this weekend, but he isn't there.
I walk the halls, killing the last five minutes of my time and see him sitting in a room with a patient. I know it is rude to enter, but I just want to say hello and let him know I made it here. To my utter shock and surprise, he is tending to Bella. Her appearance is no longer confusing; it is frightening. Her face is puffy and there are scraps and cuts on her face, not to mention the bandage around her head.
She is a…prostitute…from what I have gathered and my first thought is that this is how this happened. I watch the news and as wrong and stereotypical as it for me to think this; I just can't help it.
There isn't much on her chart when I read it over. Contusions and obvious things I can see with my own eyes. I'm relieved nothing is broken, but bothered that she won't tell me what happened. It reminds me of when I met Tanya. Her attitude is similar and it pisses me off. Either she has a pimp who beats her, or a John. This isn't my world, but I'm not that naive.
Like I said, I recognize the behavior.
My questions are only upsetting her and I need to stop. She isn't Tanya and saving Bella won't help that situation. She needs to rest and I tell her as much. I use my father's office to call Jasper and ask him if he can work seeing Bella into his schedule today. He says yes, but means no. I promise to let him use my box-seats this weekend. It's a good trade. I get the test back from the lab and read them over, feeling my eyes threatening to pop out of my head when I see she is pregnant.
This changes everything.
I go back to her room so I can try and ask more questions, but she is gone and I…am having the worst day ever. Well, second. The second worst day ever.
I only know her first name and have no idea how to locate her. The rest of the week is long I pray that if she needs help, she will remember that I am at Alice's bakery every Friday. It's my only connection to her.
Sophia has left dishes in the sink and crumbs on the floor and I can't take it any longer. I fire her and feel bad, because even though she is a shitty housekeeper, I am taking out my anger on her and making a mountain out of a molehill. I give Rosalie a list of things I need to her to do when I see her today and she eyes me funny when she sees finding a housekeeper on the list. It's not really her job, but she sees how close to the breaking point I am and does it without question.
She is a blessing.
"One lemongrass tea," Alice sets down my cup and waits for the rest of my order. There is a smirk on her face and I finally find something amusing this week.
"I think I'll live a little on the edge today and have pastrami on rye. Extra mayo. And a brownie."
Her eyebrows lift. "Wow. Tough week?"
"You have no idea." I slide her my money and she doesn't argue. I take my tray and sit at my spot. The food is good, but does nothing to fix the sourness I feel inside. She sits with me and presents my brownie. She baked it fresh and it is still warm. There is even milk to wash it down.
"You're too good to me," I wink at her and take a bite.
"Dad said you lost a patient this week?"
I take a sip of the milk and nod. "She left before treatment."
"I don't know, Alice. She just did. Scared of being in trouble? Doesn't like hospitals or doctors? I don't know. People are fucking crazy." I am fully frustrated and the brownie no longer tastes good. I push it aside and rub my face.
"I'm sorry. It's not your fault, though. You can't save everyone, Edward. No matter how hard you try."
My eyes meet hers and I see the regret she harbors. "Don't I know it, Alice."
She shakes her head. "That's not what I meant. Look," she sighs and closes her eyes. "I'm only making this worse, forget it. Counter is busy, I need to get back to work and let you eat." She stands and her arms hug my shoulders. I rub her hand she tells me to call her later.
I tear pieces off my napkin and ignore the brownie. My lunch hour is almost up and I need to get it together before I go back to the hospital. I am good to no one with this attitude. I am about to leave when my eyes catch a pair of familiar brown. I am instantly relived and smile, thinking she came for my help, but my spirit dies down a bit when anger hits her face and she sits as far away from me as possible.
I need to say something, though. Walking away would be wrong. Asking for help is not easy and maybe she is too afraid. Bella sits, filling out a job application and I am a little stunned, but definitely pleased. If she wants the job, it is hers. Alice would do anything for me. I try to be light and joke with her about stalking me, but it doesn't work. I try going a different path and use honesty; getting right to the point.
Her words are hurtful. I hope with all of my heart that she honestly doesn't feel neglected by my care. I only left her to rest for an hour. She should have been fine. I want to say something about it, but her patience is thin and I am once again late and I hate disappointing Carlisle. I get right to it and ask her about her pregnancy. She seems stunned by my words, though her mouth doesn't say anything. Something I say strikes a cord and she is done with me. She is up and she is leaving and my brain cannot think fast enough to stop her. Alice stares at me as I call Bella's name, following her out of the bakery.
She keeps moving and I don't want to cause a scene, but I need her to know that I can help her; that I want to help her. She turns the corner and is gone again. Defeat returns and I go back inside to collect my abandoned items from my table. Alice asks, but I offer nothing, waving her off and saying I don't have time. I pause as I step outside and glance over my shoulder, back into the bakery. It is probably a fat chance, but I go back in and lift the crumpled paper ball out of the trash before anyone can ruin it.
Bella Swan and a phone number.
At least it's something.