"The most frightening nightmares are the ones that laugh at you."
This was a dream, and my dad, Charlie, was drinking again. Therefore, it was more like a nightmare. It was always clear that he had reached his maximum level of intoxication when he started to laugh at everything.
The chaos of the particular night that was featured in this dream began when I walked into the living room, and my father threw an empty beer bottle at me while laughing his maniacal laugh. The bottle hit me in the stomach, and I stumbled back at the impact.
I asked where my mother was, and he answered with, “Hell if I know. Now get your ass in the kitchen and get me another beer.”
I could feel the sting from the bottle on my stomach, and with tears already brewing, I staggered my way to the fridge. Before I even reached my hand out to the handle, his drunken voice rang out again.
“What the fuck is taking so long?!”
Please don’t come in here.
Time stopped as I waited for his next move. I could hear my own rapid breathing along with the distinct pound of his boots becoming as loud and threatening as a jackhammer.
And suddenly his dirty fingers dug into my shoulder, and I was flung to the tile floor. I could feel the pain reverberate through my entire head when it forcefully smacked against the hard floor.
I looked at my dad’s face, and he only laughed again.
“Get up. You look stupid laying down there on the floor.”
His voice sounded as if he were speaking into a tunnel, and my vision became hazy while I struggled to obey and stand up. I was unable to and only made it to my knees before I collapsed to the floor again, landing on my back.
When I heard laughter bellowing from him even louder, I knew he was watching me, disgustingly amused by the cruelty he was imposing on me.
I laid flat on my back and wished he would just finally kill me to spare me of this pain, this indignity.
Instead, he threw the fridge open, and his form disappeared behind the door.
“Damnit!” He yelled. “I’m out of beer!”
He slammed the door shut.
I stayed still. My head was throbbing, and the ceiling was spinning, making me feel like I was sinking into the earth.
Oh, how I wish I was.
Although this was a dream, I could remember that I began to drift away as I laid on that floor, my entire being aching for an escape, and my eyes fell closed.
I cried out a second later when I felt his fingers wrap around my forearm, and he yanked me up roughly, forcing me to my feet. The taste of fear was so potent in my mouth that I nearly gagged as I swayed from dizziness and my hand searched for something to brace myself.
“I told you to get up, girl!” He spat at me. “I swear to God, you’re fucking useless!”
I said nothing in response and clung to the stove since the entire room was now spinning. I breathed through my nose, fighting with all my willpower to stall the tears that were threatening to escape down my face.
The pain in my head was becoming more localized but was not letting up at all. A stabbing sensation was present at a particular spot on the back of my head, and I placed my hand to it.
This terrible dream brought all the memories of that night with it.
Memories of the blood that spotted my fingers after I touched my injured scalp.
Memories of my father’s drunken laughter.
And memories of him walking out the front door, informing me that he was going to get more beer and that he’d be back in an hour.
It was the last night I saw my father alive.
As he stepped out of the house, he left me with parting words that continually haunted me in my nightmares ever since.
“When I get back, I may bring my gun in, and I may use it….on you or me.”
I wailed a shrill inhuman wail as I pulled myself from sleep.
It sounded like a “dying animal”, as the saying goes.
A chill hit me immediately, and I felt the cold sweat dripping from my skin and falling onto the already soaked bedding.
I wasn’t sure of where I was. All that registered was the sound of my screaming, the terror of my father’s last words, and that fact that I felt and was completely alone.
Then suddenly I was surrounded. I was encased in what felt like a thousand arms, each one providing its own amount of soothing comfort.
I grasped onto the form that was holding me, knowing nothing else except that it felt right and safe.
Then his voice broke through my cries. “Bella, it’s okay. I’m here.”
I was in bed when her tortured scream yanked me from sleep, and I nearly jumped out of my skin at the sound of it. I panicked, not having a clue of what the fuck was going on. I didn’t even think as I ordinarily would have and dashed straight to her room, desperate to rid her of whatever or whoever was making her cry out like that.
I could barely see in the faint glow coming through the blinds of the window. But her piercing scream aided in finding her without difficulty.
I went to her quickly and sat on the bed. Reaching down, I wound my arms around her waist then immediately pulled her into a tight embrace.
I started to rock her gently and rub small circles onto her back as she clung to me, wrapping her arms around my neck and still crying loudly. The way she held on to me suggested that she realized it was me, but I couldn’t be certain. So I decided to say something, anything.
“Bella, it’s okay. I’m here.”
Then the worst and best possible thing happened.
First, she called out my name in an airy strangled voice that damn near broke my heart. She then pulled back and with a delectable force that almost shook me to the core, smashed her mouth on mine.
The instant our lips connected, I was overwhelmed with bewilderment, and I didn’t know what to do. My desire for her that I had attempted to keep dormant took hold of me again. And as much as I knew I should have, I couldn’t bring myself to break the kiss.
The atmosphere changed in that half a minute that our faces were pressed together.
The waves of anxiety and fear that had been crashing about the room disappeared. And it was suddenly quiet but for the mundane sounds of the clock ticking on the wall and the air blowing through the vent above our heads.
I kept my eyes tightly closed the whole time. A hard line formed in my forehead as I fought with all my strength not to kiss her back.
I lost that battle and fully pressed my lips to hers with an equal amount of force. I was absorbing as much as I could of her sweet mouth before she abruptly ended the kiss and returned her head to the crook of my neck with an exasperated sigh.
Although it had only lasted mere seconds, the kiss left its mark on me. My lips burned for more while my mind teetered on the line between elation and frustration.
I knew we had crossed a boundary, and we were now in dangerous territory that we would most likely not be able to come back from.
The exchange of miniscule physical contact we had just shared was pretty much the single most intimate experience of my life. There had been plenty of women and even the screamers couldn’t match the quiet intensity that Bella had just kissed me with.
I knew that as much as I wracked my brain, I would never be able to pin point what brought her to kiss me. Whether she acted out of impulse or overwhelming relief, I was still astounded by her total lack of inhibition, her ability to make me shudder just by putting her lips on mine.
I continued to shush her through gritted teeth and a clenched jaw as I tried to regain my composure.
She eventually calmed, and as I continued to hold her, I asked, “Are you okay?”
She sniffled. “Not really.”
“Do you want to talk about it?”
“I was dreaming about the last night I saw my father before he died.” She stopped, sniffled again then took a deep breath. “When my dad drank, he would get…mean. He would laugh a lot and get violent.”
I exhaled sharply, knowing the meaning behind her words and already disliking her deceased father. “So he hit you?”
She shook her head against my neck. “Not every time. Only when I tried to talk to him.”
My eyes widened.
Only when she tried to talk to him?…Was that supposed to make it all right?!
“It’s not okay that he hit you, Bella.” I told her quietly.
She took in my words passively and continued, “He threatened me with his gun before he left the house in his truck. I never saw him again after that night.”
An accident. I now understood what she meant when she had said it previously.
I was angry. Angry at the mother fucker for treating her so horribly and then threatening her life when she had done nothing to deserve it. The fact that he was dead almost made me relieved because I would have been tempted to track him down and kill him myself.
I took a deep breath in an attempt to subdue my growing animosity.
She pulled away slightly, so that my hands were no longer wrapped around her waist but were barely resting on it.
We were face to face now. Lines of tears glistened on her face in the pale light, and I brushed them off with my thumb.
“Bella, why don’t you take one of the Valiums Dr. Honaker prescribed for you?” I asked, knowing it would be the best way to alleviate her stress.
Her expression turned frightened, and I immediately became concerned.
“I don’t like being drugged.”
“It’ll help you sleep.” I said gently, trying to reason with her. But then something she had just said struck me, and I was suddenly attacked by curiosity. Her aversion to anything to do with doctors and meds was obvious, but I had never had the gull to ask why.
“Can I ask you something?”
She eyed me warily. “Okay.”
“Why don’t you like doctors and medications?”
She diverted her attention down to her lap. “I had to talk to doctors after my dad died. I told them about the abuse and all the drinking. Then they asked if he ever…assaulted me, and I told them he hadn’t. But they checked me anyway.”
She was becoming visibly uneasy. Her breathing quickened and fresh tears were beginning to form. I could feel my own throat burn as I was consumed with sympathy for her. Never had I met somebody who had been through so much yet was still managing to endure. After what she had just shared with me, I didn’t blame her for not liking doctors and for not wanting to take the medications; Too many memories were probably dragged up.
I lowered my head closer to hers, willing her to look up at me. “I understand.” I whispered, dropping the issue of the Valium and inadvertently saving her from becoming more upset.
She nodded, giving me a small smile, and said, “Thanks.”
I calculated my next words carefully. I needed to convey that I would be there for her, but I also didn’t want to scare her.
I looked into her eyes and nervously asked, “Are you gonna be okay? Or do you need me to stay? Because I’ll sit in this room all night if you ask me to.”
She didn’t answer at first but only looked back at me in stunned silence. Then her lips gradually turned up into a light clumsy smile.
“Um,” she started, “that’s okay, Edward. I should be all right now. Nightmares usually only come once a night.” She shrugged.
Her words were not going to ease my worry, and I prepared myself for a restless night.
I assured her once again that I would come back if she needed me, then left the room, feeling like I was walking out of a dream.
The shock of the chaste kiss almost made me think I had imagined it. But I knew it was real, and I knew it was very wrong.
The feelings that I was forming for Bella were entirely improper. My job was to protect her and provide her with a place to stay. I was not supposed to fall for her. But as much as I would try to fight it, I knew my feelings for her were solidified the moment her lips touched mine.
I walked to my bedroom reluctantly as I was now conflicted with wanting to stay so she’d feel safe, and just simply wanting to stay to be near her.
I laid awake in my bed, dreading the next day that was going to be equally challenging. I would be spending the day at the crime scene and away from Bella.
The crime scene left us with virtually nothing to work with. The crime lab found no unidentifiable prints (indicating gloves were most likely used), no questionable fibers or hairs, and all the blood in the room matched the DNA of the victim.
It was the first day Newton and I had been allowed to walk the scene thoroughly, but we worried it wouldn’t help much. All the neighbors had been checked out and had alibis, and the family could not come up with any enemies or even a jilted lover.
Lauren Mallory appeared to be a good girl.
We walked into the bedroom and noticed the spot where Lauren Mallory’s body had laid. She, of course, was no longer there and a large brownish stain from the blood pool was left in her place.
The armoire where I had found Bella grabbed my attention next, and my breath hitched as overlapping memories flooded my mind. Most of them featured Bella’s various panicked expressions as she sat inside.
“Cullen.” I heard Newton call behind me.
I blinked, pushing her face from my thoughts so I could focus on the job. “Yeah.”
“You gonna get to work anytime soon?” He mocked.
Fuck you, prick.
“I am working, Newton. What the hell are you doing?”
“I call it a walk-through. You know, part of the job.”
I turned to him, my foot itching to meet with his balls in an aggressive fashion.
I chuckled and shook my head. “Then let’s get walking, rookie.”
We started in the living room, where Newton bagged a receipt that he found on an end table that was dated the presumed day of the murder.
“So Cullen, you got the Swan girl staying with you, I hear.”
I rolled my eyes. “Yeah, what about it?”
He shrugged. “Nothing. She’s cute. I was just wondering what your personal policy is on mixing business with pleasure.”
I narrowed my eyes at him. “Newton, I’m only going to say this once: Nothing like that is going on, and shut the fuck up about it. Got that?”
He put his hands up as if to signal his surrender and laughed. “Hey man, your touchiness speaks volumes, but don’t worry. I won’t say shit about it anymore.”
I nodded, satisfied that he would at least keep his mouth shut and proceeded to the small kitchen.
An empty glass with a white ring at the bottom sat on the counter, and I bagged it, knowing it was likely nothing of importance.
Slightly withered daisies and dandelions were in a vase on the windowsill. I glanced at them passively and was about to turn my head when something in the sunlight caught my eye.
I stepped forward, my gaze focused on a particular spot beyond the vase of flowers.
I was looking at the outer windowsill, where a collection of dust had accumulated over time. But the sun shining on it lit up something in the dust, something that could be easily missed by inattentive eyes.
I squinted and leaned over the counter to get a better look.
Let me know what you think!