Chapter Forty-Four: Repercussions

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This chapter took a little longer than I was hoping--I'm in the middle of school planning for next week when I start homeschooling our three boys who are starting grades 6, 9, and 11, plus I start teaching an online course in writing the MLA Research Essay for homeschoolers around the world. If any of you are homeschooled and would like to take my courses, send me a private message and I'll give you the company website where I work.

Thanks for reading and for being such GREAT fans!! Love you ALL!!! :)

Disclaimer: Stephenie owns it all. Even Edward Cullen. Drat! At least she shares. :)

Chapter Forty-Four: Repercussions

I'm not sure how long I remained kneeling in front of Bella's bedroom door. A buzzing in my pocket pulled me out of my self-flagellation and my renewed vow to never allow Bella to become a vampire...no matter what.

With a resigned sigh, I drew my cell phone from my front pocket and glanced at it; there was a text from Alice.

Of course there was.

I'm sure she had seen everything. I closed my eyes for a moment, steeling myself for my sister's none-too-tactful directives. After taking in three deep breaths, I achieved at least the outward appearance of calm, and the inward ability to focus on Alice's text.

Get your ass back in there and calm Bella down, you idiot, I read.

If the situation had been less fraught with agony, I would have at least smiled at my sister's perceptive message, if not chuckled.

But far too much was riding on how I handled my loss of control—humor was the farthest thing from my mind.

As I pulled myself to my feet with great effort, I became aware of sounds emanating from behind the wrecked door of Bella's room. The quiet sobs shaking her bed, paired with occasional rough gulps of air, stabbed at my heart more sharply than any stiletto knife.

God, what have I done?

And how could I explain my overwrought reaction?

It seemed impossible.

My phone buzzed again in my hand, and I read Alice's new message:

Just focus on calming her down right now. Work on the rest later.

I nodded, realizing the wisdom of my sister's advice. Then another buzz directed my eyes back to the screen to read:

Just so you know, you and I are going to have a very loooooong talk tonight, Edward. And I am so going to tear you limb-from-limb for upsetting my best friend, you ass. So get the hell in there—no excuses.

But I still stood there, my feet seemingly adhered to the worn wooden floorboards outside Bella's room. Then a fourth text message buzzed at me:

NOW.

I pocketed my phone and sighed. Yes, Alice was right; I needed to calm Bella first and leave explanations for later. Taking a deep breath, I gently knocked at her ruined door, asking quietly, “Bella?”

I heard the creak of her ancient bedsprings as she pulled herself to a sitting position. Her bedclothes rustled as she moved, and she sniffed several times before bending to retrieve a tissue from her bedside table, blowing her nose and sniffling a few more times. I heard her take in a deep breath, then another, apparently trying to calm herself.

She was refusing to allow me to calm her.

As much as I knew I deserved to be raked over the proverbial coals for my loss of control and for my violent reaction, Bella's refusal to let me hold her and quiet her sobs struck at my heart again, the pain strangely physical in its intensity.

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