Title: The First Scream
Pairing/Characters: Bella, Charlie
Length: Short Story (approx. 820 words)
Summary: Set in the blank space of Bella’s life (New Moon) after Edward leaves. This is the first night that Bella has her nightmare.
The First Scream
I was running again. It seems like I was always running for some reason or another. This time I was running through the dark. Again, not all that unusual, for me anyway. As I moved, I realized I wasn’t entirely surrounded by darkness, as I’d originally thought. It was gloomy in the forest as I scrambled down the wooded path. I kept moving, searching in the near blackness, stumbling along in the semi light… it had to be there… I just had to keep moving…
A little farther and I’d find – what? What was I looking for again? And just like that the darkness surrounded me, completely enveloping me in its black, choking grip! I was sinking, drowning in the pain of realization that there was nothing there for me. I struggled against an unseen force, my lungs raging against the pressure, my throat sore from the struggle of trying to fill them with air.
“Bella!” A voice, frantic and worried, called out to me. The picture flashed across my mind, causing my heart to cry out in agony. A pair of endless gold eyes…
“Bella!” My eyes flew open as I was shook roughly by the shoulder. My throat was hurting, my vision blurred, and my lungs were protesting the lack of oxygen. It took me a few seconds to realize that I was screaming. The sound cut off abruptly. I was shaking, this time of my own accord, as I raised a quivering hand to wipe the tears from my face. I drew in a gasping breath as Charlie stared down at me, eyes wide with terror and concern.
“Bella, are you all right?” His voice was gruff and shaking a little. I must have scared him with my screaming.
“Bella?” He asked again and I nodded weakly.
“Just a… Bad dream.” I squeaked, my voice crackling from the force of my screaming. Charlie frowned. He looked like he wanted to say something, but decided against it a moment later.
“Are you going to be all right? Did you… Um… Want to talk about it?” He was clearly uncomfortable; probably even more than I was. I attempted a bland shrug. I don’t think it came off as unaffected as I’d hoped.
“Really, Dad, it was… nothing.” I grimaced at the unspoken truth behind the words. Charlie misinterpreted my expression as reluctance. He nodded once, resting a hand on my shoulder.
I knew it was there, but I couldn’t feel it, thankfully. As long as I was awake, I could remain numb, heedless of the pain. This I could live with. Barely, but enough. It had to be enough; it was all I had. Charlie leaned in carefully and placed a fatherly kiss to my sweat-soaked forehead. A few stray tears escaped at the thoughtful gesture. I knew how difficult it was for him to be openly affectionate with me. I must have really frightened him.
“Try going back to sleep, kiddo,” he added quietly as he turned to leave. He was at the door when I whispered,
“Thanks Dad.” I wasn’t sure he’d heard me at first, but his shoulders shifted slightly and then he whispered back,
“Don’t mention it.” He closed the door behind him, and I tried to make myself go back to sleep, like Charlie said, but I couldn’t get my eyes to close. I was still wide awake when Charlie got up to get ready for work. I could hear him moving in the hallway, trying to be quiet in case I was still sleeping. I sighed, knowing that I would have to put on a brave face and get up sooner or later. In the questionable light of the day, it was harder to reconcile my terror with the relatively harmless images in my dream.
Stop being silly, Bella, I scolded myself as I stumbled out of bed and prepared to face the day.
After a while, Charlie stopped running into my room every night when I screamed from my nightmare, but I knew he was worried still. Every now and then, I would catch him watching me closely when he didn’t think I noticed.
We never spoke about that night, and I preferred it that way. I didn’t have to remember the way the pain and despair squeezed air and the throat-wrenching scream from my lungs. I didn’t have to remember the terror of waking up in a cold sweat, pitching harshly as if I had really been running, rather than just a dream. I didn’t have to remember period, and denial was, well maybe not bliss, but it was less bad. But just because I chose not to remember didn’t mean that Charlie would forget. I sometimes wondered what he was thinking; but then I would look in his eyes and know. He was reliving that night.
The night of my first scream.