This chapter is being uploaded a little later than I wanted, but it kind of took on a life of its own and is, I believe, my longest chapter yet. So I hope that you all find the extra length worth the wait!!!
Chapter Forty-One: Going Home
Bella continued to regain her health after the illness that hospitalized her. For a day or two after our stroll along the river, she seemed rather subdued, her beautiful smile rare, her appetite delicate. I tried not to worry about how our difficult discussion may have impacted her recovery, but my family stepped in to assist Bella once again. Esme insisted on cooking new dishes to tempt Bella's capricious appetite, and Alice brought home new “chick flicks” to while away the long afternoons when Bella needed to rest on the sofa. Carlisle kept a careful eye upon my angel, always measuring her regained health, suggesting mild exercise to help strengthen her body and cheer her mind, so we took many an early evening stroll together, hand-in-hand. Slowly Bella became herself again, teasing my brothers and Alice, consenting to Carlisle and Esme's loving care, and desiring romantic interludes with me—within the confines of our “rules,” of course.
But soon Charlie insisted upon Bella's return home, and somewhat reluctantly she conceded. I entered Bella's bedroom on the afternoon of her leaving and found her sitting on the guest bed in the serene blue and white room while Alice zipped her duffle bag closed.
“Okay, Bella, you're all packed,” my sister said, her face sad. “Are you certain that you don't want to stay a few more days? Just a few? Carlisle would feel better knowing you were under his care. Esme will miss spoiling you rotten.” Alice paused her guilt-trip to wink at me slyly. “And my brother will miss you terribly.”
Bella laughed, but her smile didn't quite reach her eyes. “Yes,” she joked somewhat lamely, “We all know that Emmett simply can't live without me.”
Alice nudged Bella teasingly with her elbow, careful not to bruise her. “You know which brother I meant,” she protested. “Edward will be lost without you.”
I couldn't help chiming in, “And you know how terribly you'll miss Bella, too, Alice.”
“Of course I will!” my sister exclaimed. “You're part of our family now, Bella. Of course we're all going to miss you. We love having you stay with us.” She narrowed her eyes at me meaningfully. “And I'm especially dreading Edward's rotten mood after you go home. He's going to be such a pain to be around....”
I rolled my eyes as Bella laughed again, albeit weakly.
“Nice try,” Bella said, looking away from Alice's eager face. “But Charlie needs me. I so do not want to see the condition of that house after being away for nearly a month.” My sister rolled her eyes and huffed, rather put out at Bella's insistence upon going home, but at last she gave in with semi-grace.
“I'll take your bag down for you and put it in Edward's car,” Alice said helpfully. She leaned over Bella, kissing her first on one cheek, then the other, in a European-style goodbye. She then looked Bella squarely in the eye and threatened, “If you start feeling ill again, you're coming right back here, Bella Swan. I don't want you overworking as you take care of Charlie. Do you hear me?”
Bella nodded at my sister's serious expression, huffing, “I know, I know, Alice. I won't overdo. I promise.”
Alice smiled briefly, then her expression saddened. “I will miss you, Bella. There's nothing better than having my best friend living right here in our home.” She hugged Bella quickly then flashed down the stairs, Bella's bag hefted easily above her tiny head as she disappeared.
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