Chapter Thirty-Four: Crisis of Faith

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Chapter Thirty-Four: Crisis of Faith

Vampires are supposed to have perfect memory, unparalleled recall. But I remembered almost nothing of the trip to the hospital once Carlisle climbed into the back of the ambulance with one of the medics, the other paramedic shutting the doors behind them. I vaguely recalled sliding into the passenger seat of the police cruiser beside Charlie at the wheel, but the thoughts of Bella's father did not, could not, permeate my mind.

When I thought back later, I realized that every moment with Bella in the ballet studio was crystal-clear. Not that I wanted to remember any part of it: Bella's screams of agony, her fragrant blood pooling around her fragile, broken body, the feeling—no, the knowledge—that I was going to kill her. Each detail was seared into my perfect memory.

But that twenty minutes in Charlie's cruiser between our house and the hospital entrance? I remembered hardly a thing except for the fear that gripped me so hard that I shook with it.

Charlie had barely seen Bella—Carlisle had gathered her into his arms as soon as we heard the sirens, lifting her from the icy water of the bathtub, carrying her soaking form down the stairs to meet the ambulance on our front porch. The medics knew Carlisle and acquiesced immediately when he ordered them to open the bay doors so he could lift Bella to the stretcher. The paramedics quickly strapped her to the gurney, and a mere moment later the ambulance was disappearing down our driveway toward the highway.

I don't even know if Charlie spoke to me during that interminable twenty-minute lifetime that he followed the wailing and flashing sirens, his own siren joining the cacophony of sound I blocked from my mind, to the emergency entrance to Forks Community Hospital.

Standing against a sage green wall, still as a statue, with Charlie pacing in front of me across the ER waiting room, my remembrance flooded back at last—and then only because Carlisle stood before us to report on Bella's condition.

The words were hazy, unclear—nothing my father said seemed to make sense; it was as if he were speaking one of the few languages I did not know. The words floated in front of me, utterly meaningless: influenza, pneumonia, pleural effusion. Then Alice was beside me, pulling me into a padded wooden chair, wrapping her slender arms around me. She was shushing someone, someone whose wracking sobs were shaking the chairs, disturbing the other people anxiously waiting for other reasons.

It took several moments before I realized that I was the one sobbing—dry, wracking cries bursting from the depths of my heart, trembling and shaking as vampires are supposedly unable to do. The first words that registered with me were Alice's calming mantra—repeated over and over for I don't know how long until I finally heard it:

“Bella's strong, Edward. She'll make it through this. She'll be fine. Bella's strong. She'll be fine. She'll make it, Edward. It's okay. Hush now.”

Alice's arms were around me, rocking me, attempting to soothe me. At last I raised my head, noticing that Charlie had sunk into a chair beside me, his head in his hands. I looked at Alice questioningly—Carlisle was gone. What had he said? I remembered nothing.

Alice whispered, too low for Charlie to hear. “They're trying to get her fever down, and they're pushing IV antibiotics to fight the pneumonia. Her heart rate is still irregular, so they're monitoring her. But because of that, they're worried about putting in the chest tube to drain the fluid from her lungs. They're doing everything they can.”

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