Solace ~ h.s.

If he weren't there... I don't know what would have happened.

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10. ⪻ 10 ⪼

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Niall and I pull up outside my childhood home, where an unfamiliar Range Rover sits parked on the pavement out front. My heart races almost immediately upon seeing the old white house on London Road. The flowers in the flower boxes seem in full bloom, even with the rain sprinkling heavily down. I can't help the sickening feeling that overtakes my body upon seeing the old place.

"Alright?" Niall asks me, his eyes cast in my direction as soon as he's parked aside, what I can only assume is, Harry's vehicle.

In all honesty, I don't know how to answer his question. Am I alright? Of course I'm not. I feel the need to vomit up my entire breakfast and then take off running down the high street.

"I don't know if -"

Before I can finish my fearful concern of staying inside, or rather outside the house, the wooden front door swings open with a loud clatter. The small legs of my brother come bouncing out the front door, shouting excitedly. He comes running towards my side of the vehicle, shouting my name and trying to yank the car door open.

"Annie!" He exclaims once he's got the door open, giving me absolutely no time to prepare. "You're home!"

"I'm home." I shudder slightly as I swing one leg out of the vehicle and step down onto the gravel. For the first time since the accident, I scoop my brother fully into my arms and stand tall with him remaining there.

The familiar burn and deep pain of my healing ribs and shoulder ache wildly, but I push the pain away; focusing on what's right in front of me. Edward's small legs wrap around my waist as I hold him tight, savouring the moment between the two of us. "I missed you so much, baby."

As Edward hums to my confession, my eyes scan the neighbourhood around us. There's a woman walking her small Yorkie, holding an umbrella overhead. She gives me a solemn head nod before turning and pattering across the road. Then there's the neighbours chattering quietly in their garden two houses down, eyes scanning over Edward and I every so often.

Northwich isn't an incredibly large town, so everyone kind of knows about everyone's business. When there's a death in the town, people talk; when there are two deaths at the same time from the same family, people talk more.

"Let's go inside." I say in a hushed tone, seeing a few more people gather from their homes. When our dear neighbour, Mrs. Krumblems, makes a move to come towards Edward and I, that's when I draw the line. I clutch Edward in my arms and spin around, bumping directly into Harry.

Gasping heavily, hissing in pain slightly, and trying to hold in a yelp of shock and surprise, I clutch Edward tighter to me to keep him from slipping from my arms. He doesn't even get a word out before I'm hurtling myself and my brother into the house.

"Belle." Harry calls after me as I drop Edward onto his feet and scamper quickly into the lounge.

With heavy breaths I pull the curtains in the room closed, taking a small peak at our neighbours. Their eyes feel overwhelming on my body and I almost scream out for them to stop staring. Even in the confines of our home I still feel their beady little eyes all over us.

"Annabelle." Harry says again, his voice echoing from behind me as I grip the curtains.

"They need to mind their own business." I say aloud, completely ignoring Harry's presence. "Their own fücking business." I breathe out, shaking my head and releasing the curtains from my hands. From beyond me, I hear a small gasp at my words only making me curse in my head from my sudden outburst.

My parents and I try to refrain from any harsh language in the house or around Edward. He's presumably heard some choice words on the telly or even when we're in town, or in Manchester. But I don't think he's ever heard it from me directly.

"You said a bad word."

Slowly, I turn around to face the boy. My eyes fit to the two men also standing in the room. Niall has a hand placed on Edward's shoulder, giving it a small squeeze as they stand near the edge of the room. Harry stands only a couple metres from my position near the sofa, his eyes scanning me as if I'm being examined at the hospital again.

"Right, my apologies." I say, straightening up at bit from my small outburst of odd behaviour and stream of accidental curses. "May I speak with Edward for a moment?" I ask, looking at the two men, "Alone?"

The men give each other sideways glances, before directing their eyes to me. I widen my own eyes at them a bit, wanting them to grant me this small favour of privacy with Edward.

If I don't tell him now, I don't know if I'll ever.

"Please." I nearly plead, seeing as the two have not made an attempt to leave the room. Harry clears his throat and looks back towards Niall.

"Uh, we'll go make some lunch?" Niall says in a questionable tone as Harry takes a few steps towards me. I look up to him as he places a hand on my upper arm.

"Do you want me to stay?" I shake my head.

"No, I can do this on my own. Go help Niall with lunch." Harry appears reluctant, continuing to stand in my personal bubble with his hand on my arm. "If I need anything, I'll call out, okay? Now go."

With a slight push at his arm, Harry is exiting the room with a hand through his hair.

I take a seat on the sofa behind me and motion for Edward to come over and join me. He obeys, climbing up and sitting directly beside me.

"I need to tell you something, Edward. I wanted to tell you sooner, but I wasn't sure how exactly to do so." I feel my mind reeling at a mile a minute and even then words can't seem to be properly produced.

"What is it?" He questions, seeming generally interested, which crushes my heart in pieces.

"You have to know that I'm not going anywhere, Edward, ever."

I need him to know that once the truth comes out I won't abandon him or ever leave him.

When Edward gives me a slight nod of understanding, I take that as my cue to continue.

"I know that you've been curious as to where mummy and daddy are and you have every right to know."

How do I say this? Do I say it bluntly or do I beat around the bush?

"Mummy and daddy haven't been around because they... they died in the car accident that we were in. Do you understand?"

Edward looks up at me with big eyes, blinking slowly towards me. I can see the confusion, hurt, and slight fear in his facial features; they mimic my reaction when I first found out. I know he knows what the term "died" means, for we've sadly dealt with death before.

"They're... dead?" I gulp loudly and nod my head a bit. "Like Goldie and nan?"

"Yes, like Goldie and nan." I agree, thinking back to the goldfish that died late last year. He took that death relatively well, but it was just a fish.

When our nan died around six months ago, Edward was more sad then, as to be expected. He cried for a few days and then he slowly got better, especially after getting to say goodbye at the funeral. I have no idea how he'll react to this news. It's been days and I still cry at the drop of a hat.

"But Goldie never came back, and neither did nan."

"Yes, they never came back."

Edward casts his gaze to his knees, bowing his head ever so slowly. His bottom lip quivers and before I know it, a single tear drips onto the sofa. My breath is caught up in my throat and I have absolutely no idea what to say or do.

What do I say? What do I do? Oh God, what do I say?

I've usually been ace at comforting Edward when he's sad. But I just don't know how to do it properly today.

"Awe, baby, I'm so sorry. I am. I'm sorry I didn't tell you before, I just didn't know how. I wanted to tell you at home, not in that hospital."

Edward cries out, letting the tears flow freely. I allow myself to cry too, grasping onto the boy as we both sob for our losses. I find comfort in holding him when I can't hold onto anyone else. We have each other and though it may feel as if we need more, I can survive with just this.

"I'm so sorry, baby. So sorry."

Edward wraps his arms around my torso and buries his face into my chest. I gasp lightly for a breath of fresh air, but I only take in tainted oxygen from grief. Setting my chin atop Edward's head, my bloodshot eyes scan the room sadly. Memories are all around us, making everything about ten times more overwhelming.

There are the family photos that sit atop of the fireplace. On the floor sits the rug that dad insisted we purchase, though everyone besides him thought it was the ugliest decor ever. Mum's favorite quilt from her late mother sits on the arm chair near the doorway that leads to the kitchen.

Before my brain can continue to overthink and overreact, my eyes spot a curly headed man standing in the doorway to the kitchen. My breath hitches in my throat at the sight of him just standing there, watching sadly. His jade eyes give Edward a good look before they fit back onto my face.

I shake my head, feeling the tightness in my chest slowly begin to surface. My eyes focus on the shaking of my hands on the back of Edward's head and back.

It's only a matter of time before I'll be breathless on the floor, screaming silently out for help.

"Niall." Harry calls over his shoulder to his friend before moving swiftly into the room. He reads me well, recognizing the signs that I'm on the brink of a breakdown. With long strides he makes it to the centre of the room in only a step or two, kneeling down before us and reaching for Edward. "Hey buddy, it's alright."

With two hands under his arms, Harry tries to pull Edward away from my trembling body, but only receives a loud scream and wail from the small boy. Harry shushes him, tugging him off me a bit harder as I feel the constricting in my chest growing.

"No!" Edward screams at the top of his lungs, the sound barely making a dent over the ringing in my ears. He continues to scream as I stand from the couch on wobbling legs.

My eyes dart around the room, seeing Edward reaching out from me and his mouth open as he continues to yell. The sounds around me don't even click in my brain, everything seeming as if it's on mute. My eyelids flutter lightly as my legs give out a bit, but I steady myself with shaking hands and heavy breaths.

Harry mouths my name, possibly calling out though I can't hear, as he grips Edward against his body. I shake my head, bringing my hands up to my ears as if trying to block out the chaos around me. Things move in slow motion, my blinking eyes coming to a close for the last time before gravity gives out and everything slips into darkness.

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