Okay, so I'm a day late--sorry! But this one is one of my longest chapters, so I hope the extra wait it worth it!!! Let me know what you think, please!! :)
Chapter Thirty-Five: Hope Restored
Alice and I remained unmoving, kneeling side-by-side in the chapel for an immeasurable time. It was not until the doors of the chapel were gently pushed open and quiet footsteps approached us that I raised my head.
Carlisle stood at my side, looking down on Alice and myself in bemusement and wonder. I nudged Alice with my elbow, and she too raised her head to see our father. We both rose from the kneeler and seated ourselves in the pew.
Carlisle sank gracefully to one knee, crossing himself, before he slid into the pew beside me, Alice and I scooting aside to make room for him.
“You two never cease to surprise me,“ Carlisle said, speaking in a low voice as he looked from one to the other of us. “This is the last place I would have thought to find either of you.”
Alice gave him a grim smile. “It was the only thing I could think to actually DO,” she said quietly. “Waiting helplessly was driving me insane.”
Carlisle returned her smile, then looked at us both. “Bella is slowly improving. The chest tube is draining the fluid from her lungs, so her breathing and heart rate are normalizing. Her fever is down a little. We've transferred her from the ER to the ICU for right now, so two visitors at a time may be with her. Charlie's already there now.”
I was up, flashing past Carlisle and out the chapel doors almost before he had finished speaking, Alice on my heels. “Slow down! You're going to draw attention to yourselves!” Carlisle hissed behind us, following more sedately.
Reluctantly I made a deliberate effort to humanize my movements, sensing Alice behind me doing the same. As we passed the windows in the waiting area, I was surprised to see how light it was outside; it seemed to be mid-morning. Stepping aside, I allowed Carlisle to pass before me to make a show of leading us to the ICU area, although Alice and I knew exactly where it was.
Carlisle pushed through the doors of the ICU, escorting us to a private room in which Charlie sat on the far side of the hospital bed. My eyes were immediately drawn to the still form in the bed, and if I had been able to cry, tears would have been streaming down my face at what I saw. I heard Alice's soft gasp behind me as we slowly approached the bed.
Bella was incredibly pale, all color leached from her cheeks, her freckles appearing abnormally dark against the whiteness of her skin. Huge purple circles colored the skin below her closed eyes. Oxygen tubes were taped to her cheekbones as they had been in Phoenix, and an IV was inserted into the crook of her arm. A much wider tube was inserted in the side of her chest, draining fluid into a bag hung on the side of her bed. Her breathing still required extra effort, and I could hear the wetness of her lungs with each rattling breath she took.
This was far worse than Phoenix.
Yes, there the doctors had worked on her, but she had been stable throughout their treatment: setting her leg, taping her ribs, taking MRIs of her head and checking Carlisle's perfect stitches, binding the open wound on her hand. In Phoenix Bella had never been in the ICU for those injuries...with a crash cart on standby in the corner of the room.
Charlie looked up when we entered and gave Carlisle and Alice a grim smile, ignoring me.
Carlisle cleared his voice quietly before speaking. “The ICU regulations allow for family only—which I've talked the nurses into waiving—and for only two visitors at a time. But if it's okay with you, Charlie, I'll allow Edward and Alice in for a few minutes with you, and then they can take turns staying with Bella.”
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