The threat her dad posed almost seemed like a sweet release from her monotonous grief, but she couldn't do that to him. Bella couldn't just leave him behind. Flawed as she was, she didn't abandon by choice.
Although her dad appeared pained every time he brought it up, he eventually grew tired of pushing for her to get better. Carlos was exhausted, seeing his daughter revert to her old closed-off personality.
Once more, seeing the conversation beginning to resurface, Bella would actively look away when the same guilty look crossed his features.
The sensation of never truly resolving her distress manifested itself in the form of unhealthy relationships.
Her friends fell off to the sides, and Bella could only stand captive to her depression, watching this lifeless creature destroy everything good in her life. Days turned into weeks of unreturned messages and phone calls.
Bella didn't even know where to begin. She spent weeks just understanding Emmett left her and that she left alongside him.
She never thought heartbreak could be that bad until she realized it wasn't heartbreak that left people devastated, but instead, it was the gaping hole left behind in the absence of love, the void missing a heart. Her inability to emote made it more challenging to comprehend the feelings threatening to burst at the seams.
Hell, even tears left her without a word of when they'd return. Almost as if they knew Bella's existence based itself on her undesirability.
God, she wished she could cry, but when her chest heaved and breaths gasped without sobs, not a single tear wound up on her cheeks. She couldn't even wallow correctly.
"Nena," Bella fought back the urge to wince and braced herself in her seat. She barely noticed her dad's grimace as he realized his mistake in using her nickname, "Bella, maybe it's time you revisit Pheonix. Your mom may not be there, but you need to start thinking of schools, and maybe, visiting old friends will help?"
Oh, she relaxed into the seat. Slumped down, she hadn't heard that proposal yet.
Bella just stared at him and looked down as he shifted uncomfortably under her gaze.
"Okay," he quickly double-backed, "de veras, you'll go visit your friends?" He wiped his mouth free of crumbs and visibly settled down from his excited outburst. "Your friend thought you were mad after you never answered their message." Bella's brows furrowed, and she wondered what friend they were referencing. "At least that's what your mom said."
"Are you talking about Jesse?"
When her dad nodded, she grew even more confused.
She'd sent him a message months ago, and he never answered. He never even bothered calling her or saying not interested.
"Hmm, I didn't know."
"Well, your Mom and I can pitch in, and we can buy you a ticket to visit a couple of schools." He reached across the table and clasped his hand over hers. "Let me know how we can help. I want you to be alright."
She wanted to be alright too. Honest to God, or whatever there is out there, she tried her best. It pained her that she couldn't just erase the family from her memories. Bella didn't so much as look in their direction.
She went to school. She read the same books. She even tried to take up hobbies, but she found it pointless as quickly as she took up a new one.
It's just not the same anymore. Even the vibrant colors of early fall morphed into dull and muted blobs of grey. And no matter how hard she tried, it never improved.
Bella fought to the best of her abilities to move on through catharsis, but it seemed to worsen.
Whether it was the looming presence of Cullen's left behind or the parental concern from her dad, she expedited the process as best she could without upsetting people. By shoving her feelings down her throat and into a gurgling mess of anxiety in her intestines.
On days like today, she wished the entire family left her behind in the dust so she could breakdown and rise from the ashes reborn. If only because the watchful amber eyes that trailed after her added insult to injury. Whether they were unable or unwilling to let her out of their sight, Bella detested their surveillance.
Bella ignored her guilt as she all but ghosted their establishment to work at Newton's sporting goods. She couldn't get herself to face the family that all but reminded her of her shortcomings. Her inability to keep a relationship alive with-
She sighed, slamming her book closed on the countertop of the front desk. Mike jolted from his trance straight onto the floor off his seat. Bella ignored the glare and huff from her companion as she put away her items.
"Sorry, Mike." She muttered to him and helped him from the floor. His frown instantly turned into a wide smile. He moved to ruffle her head endearingly but stopped halfway, thinking better of it.
"It's okay." He shrugged and sat back down. "You know..." he shifted in his chair to face her. "You can make it up to me."
Bella's brows furrowed in question at his change in demeanor. "Is that so?" She waited patiently.
"Let's go to the beach with the gang?" He nervously ran a hand along his pant leg. "We know the summer started off rough, but let's start the school year with a good time?" His blond brow twitched nervously, and she had to stop herself from comparing the shade she ingrained into her memory. "We're seniors now. We only get that experience once."
She folded into herself and left her shift without so much as a glance at her friend.
On the walk home, Bella glossed over her interactions with her friends over the summer.
Every one of them was too scared to bring up the apparent singlehood and sadness in her person. All because she left herself wallow in self-pity. Bella cursed herself for allowing one girl to hold so much power over her, but in doing so, she realized how much she missed her.
All of them.
Even the ones left behind.
Fed up with the guilt she felt for trying to distract herself. She bit her cheek in determination as she texted an apology to Mike.
Without another thought, Bella dialed Jess.
"Bella? " She winced at the poorly hidden shock in her best friend's voice.
"Am I stupid?" The silence, on the other end, grew louder with each step she took. Bella almost hung up in fear and regret of reaching out without warning, but the response interrupted her mid-thought.
"No, you're not ." She heard a small chuckle. "But it is dumb to wait this long to reach out, though. I missed you. We all missed you."
Bella slumped on the exhale, the full weight of her actions crashing down on her. "We-" "I-" She couldn't do it.
"We don't have to talk about it." Bella felt tears taunt her, threatening to fall, but never flooding her face. " We can pick you up if you want? Bella, we really did miss you."
"Tomorrow." She kicked a rock on her path. "We can plan tomorrow."
The walk back felt good. Great even. Bella shook off the trancelike cloud from her vision as her limbs lost their numbness.
As Bella walked home, she shrugged off the sensation of someone watching her, knowing full well, it was very likely the case. That she left her family partially behind to ensure her safety without considering Bella's opinion, undermined didn't even begin to explain her feelings every time the family would appear conveniently near her. At least they never engaged with her over the summer and so far the new school year, choosing to watch from a distance.
At that moment, Bella squared her shoulders and set her mind. She couldn't erase them from her memory, but she could willingly forget. Hand gripping her bookbag, she set about conditioning herself to remove them from her life.
" Fuck off ." She mumbled into the empty road, knowing thoroughly well it worked when the sensation of eyes on her receded too.
A smirk spread on her lips, a dark feeling brewed in her stomach at the victory. Bella could get used to this feeling.
Satisfaction sat on her tongue, equal parts pleasure, and pain.
Naturally, it only made sense for her power trip to result in consequences. What consequences? Oh, like running into your--exes mother at the grocery store the following day.
Bella felt heat rush up to her neck, and a familiar feeling of deja vu settled on her mind. The run-in encounter at the grocery store, but this time Bella couldn't be bothered with appearances. She nodded respectfully in greeting because her parents didn't raise a malcriada.
"Bella," she froze in place, her hand on the box of graham cracker, "it's nice to see you." She fought back her scoff at her act. Bella nearly believed her, but she knew better. The family hadn't left her alone the entire time. "You don't come around anymore."
She wanted to scream, yell, even curse her out, but when she turned to face the woman, the fight died on her lips. Esme's heart-shaped face typically pulled into a smile, looked devastated. Her discomfort grew as she realized Esme hadn't done anything wrong. In fact, she wanted her family unified more than anything. Even if they didn't care for her like she once believed, Bella knew Esme probably hurt more than she let on.
"I know." She winced when her voice cracked. "Sorry I've just been busy with school and college applications." It wasn't entirely a lie. Even consumed in her misery, she spent most of her focus on getting the hell out of the town where her heart disappeared. "Well, I hope you're doing okay." She hated that she cared. It made her feel week for giving in without hesitation while also making her hyperaware of her flaw.
"Listen, Ro--" Bella retracted physically, knocking into another customer's cart harshly. She groaned as her side throbbed and glared at the man who shot her a look. When she really wanted to kiss him in gratitude for providing an interruption from looking into pitying glances.
Seeing the pause, she shot out, "I gotta go." Bella waved as she fled from the isle and decided on purchasing the smores ingredients with Leah later.
In the car, she dialed her friend notifying her of the new plan before heading off in her direction. The steering wheel tightly gripped in her hands. The brunette gave into the liberating mindlessness of driving—no music or voices.
The road, her only company, facilitated peace.
The white and yellow lines blurred on the winding asphalt, along with the canopy of trees.
For the first time in a while, she didn't think of her or Emmett. Bella just existed without them, and she basked in the emptiness of it all.
Soon, she reasoned with herself as she parked the car in front of Leah's. Soon she'll forget about them, whether willingly or unconsciously, but until then, maybe distractions will help.