AN: Words can not express how sorry I am for the time it took to post this. Finding time to write it was a main factor, but also, once I found that time, actually completing this chapter was proving difficult. Thinking on it now that it's done, I'm pretty sure it's because it's the last official chapter and part of me just didn't want to let it go. That being said, have at it!
HUGE thanks to LyricalKris for being the beta queen that she is and to barburella for her snarky words of encouragement. Love you both.
Once again, I do not own…
I didn't know whether I was relieved or annoyed when my father found me walking from Bella's. On one hand, I was happy that I didn't have to walk all the way home, but I didn't really want to be trapped in a car with him. I didn't say anything, just chose to gaze out the window, my mind replaying all the ways I'd managed to fuck things up.
"Your grandfather called." A pause. I sucked in a breath, waiting. "He explained what happened." Another pause. "Edward, I never knew things would go this far."
I turned until I was facing him. "You knew?" I was surprised by how even my voice sounded. My father sighed, his grip tightening on the steering wheel. "You knew?" I asked again, watching as his shoulders drooped. "Dad?"
He looked over at me then, a quick glance, and I noticed that he appeared to have aged since the last time I saw him. "I knew of his plans for you and James. But I didn't think it would come to this."
I took a deep breath, trying to control the anger I could feel spreading through my veins like fire. "And you just let me go? Let me just walk in there, scared out of my fucking mind because I had NO CLUE what the hell he wanted!" I was shouting now, my voice echoing through the car. "Do you know what happened? Did dear old Gramps tell you that because of his little game, I've lost everything?"
"No, I don't want to hear it."
Thankfully, getting anywhere in Forks only takes five minutes max, and I was out of the car before it came to a complete stop. Throwing open the front door, I quickly headed to the stairs, climbing them two at a time in a haste to get to my room. My mother's voice trickled up the staircase after me, calling out to me, but I ignored her.
I stopped in the middle of my room, taking deep breaths as I looked around. My eyes immediately fell on the photo collage I had hanging on my wall next to my bed. It was the one Bella had made me for my birthday with pictures of us together and happy.
My hands clenched into fists as a guttural yell ripped form my throat. Suddenly I was moving, grabbing anything I could get my hands on and throwing it to the side – somewhere else, anywhere else. Crashes sounded out around me as my belongings shattered against the wall or whatever surface they came in contact with. Without thinking, I grabbed the collage off the wall, my body tensed ready to throw.
I slid down the wall, the collage between my hands. Tentatively, I reached out a finger, lightly tracing it down the side of her face in one of the pictures. She was smiling up at the camera, her eyes shinning with mischief.
I didn't know I was crying until the tear hit the frame.
"Edward? What have you done, son?"
I heard my mother gasp and then one set of arms was trying to lift me off of the floor while the other set was trying to remove the picture from my hand.
"No," I growled, hugging the frame to my chest. The hands that were grabbing at it recoiled.
"Edward, son, you're sitting in glass. We need to get you off of the floor."
My legs felt like jelly as Carlisle helped me into a standing position. He led me over to the bed, and I collapsed on top of it, rolling away from my parents.
"I'll get the broom," I heard my mother whisper and then a shuffling as she left the room.
The side of the bed dipped down and I heard my father sigh. "Son, I-"
"Don't," I whispered. "Just please go."
"Dad, just go."
He didn't respond, but I felt the bed move as he stood up and left, closing the door behind him. Hushed whispers drifted in from the hall and then silence. Sometime later, I fell into an uneasy sleep, the photo collage still clutched to my chest.
It was dark outside when my stomach decided that I couldn't lay in bed anymore. I gently placed the frame on the comforter and pushed myself off of the bed.
"Motherfucker!" I shouted as something sharp pierced the bottom of my foot. I reached over, fumbling blindly, trying to find the damned knob to turn on the lamp by my bed. Light flooded the room, and I blinked furiously as my eyes adjusted to the change. Once the black spots were gone, I glanced around my room.
"What the hell?" I muttered to myself, falling back onto the bed. To say my room was disastrous was an understatement. It looked like a fucking hurricane had blown through. Clothes were strewn everywhere. Magazines, papers, DVD's – anything and everything was on the floor. And –
"Fuck," I groaned when I noticed my flatscreen…on the floor instead of hanging on the wall…with a giant crack down the screen. "Great job, Edward." I went to stand back up only to be reminded of the pain in my foot. Looking down, I saw shards of glass littered around my bed, with a piece sticking out of my heel. Groaning, I pulled it out and threw it on my nightstand. Carefully, I made my way into the bathroom where I cleaned the cut before covering it with a band-aid.
I caught my reflection in the mirror above the sink. I looked like shit. I let out a laugh as I rubbed my hands over my face. Well, if it looks like shit and feels like shit…
My stomach growled, louder this time. Forgoing the shower because it seemed like too much effort, I splashed some water on my face and hobbled my way downstairs to the kitchen. My parents must have gone to bed as the whole downstairs was dark, and I said a quick thank you to the ceiling, not wanting to deal with them. I flipped on the kitchen light, momentarily dazed by the brightness. There was a plate of food, covered in saran wrap on the bar, with a note card propped up in front of it.
In case you get hungry.
I crinkled the note in my fist and threw it toward the trash can. A few minutes later I was sitting at the bar eating the reheated food my mother had left out for me.
"Edward?" I froze. "I thought I heard you down here." My father walked by me, heading toward the fridge. He grabbed a glass from the cabinet and filled it with water before coming to a stop, leaning against the bar. "You did a nice number on your room."
"Maybe you should stay in the guest room tonight. At least until we can clean it up."
The guest room. Bella's room.
"We have other guest rooms," my father said quietly, as if he knew what I was thinking.
"Son, we need to talk about what happened."
"No, we don't need to talk about anything." I pushed back my plate and stood up. "I need…" I paused, running a hand through my hair. "I need to think."
Carlisle nodded and let me walk away. I grabbed the broom as I passed the hall closet before heading up to my room. Once there, I swept all of the glass into a pile in the corner. From there, I picked up my clothes, separating the clean ones from the dirty and throwing those into the hamper. The TV was next. There was no way to salvage it;it was dead. So, I put it next to the pile of glass to throw out tomorrow.
I cleaned…and then I cleaned some more. I cleaned my room. I cleaned my bathroom. I washed my sheets. I washed my clothes. And during all of this…I thought.
I thought about who I was when I got here and about who I thought I was now. I thought about what happened in Chicago and the million of ways I could have avoided that situation. I thought about James, my Grandfather, my parents, Alice and Jasper, Rose and Emmett and their children.
But mostly, I thought about Bella. About our relationship. About what I wanted.
"Dr. Cullen? Dr. Cullen, are you even listening to me?"
I blinked, bringing the room back in focus. My hand was poised over a form, pen ready to sign, but I couldn't remember what I was doing for the life of me. A figure shifted, and I looked up, seeing Heidi standing behind the nurse's station. Her arms were crossed over her chest as she observed me through her glasses.
"I'm sorry, Heidi. What?"
She sighed, shaking her head. "Exam room three is waiting to be discharged."
Ah, yes, the paper I was signing. "Shit, I'm sorry, Heidi." I quickly jotted my name down on the form and handed it to her.
"Language, Doctor," Heidi teased, swatting me with the paper as she walked by. "Oh and Dr. Cullen?" I turned to face her. "Go home, get some sleep. You're working yourself too hard."
Giving her a weak smile, I turned and grabbed the next chart. Heidi sighed behind me, but said nothing more. I flipped open the chart, reaching for my coffee cup next to me.
"Shit!" I exclaimed as the cup tipped over, spilling its contents all over the desk.
"That's it! Go home!" Heidi shouted, running around me in a hurry to save her work. She grabbed some napkins from a drawer and began wiping up the mess. Every time I tried to help her, she just batted my hands away, so I ended up just standing there like an idiot, watching her. When she was done, she threw the saturated napkins in the trash and turned to me, hands on her hips.
I threw my hands up in surrender. "Ok, ok, I'm gone."
"Thank God," I heard her mutter as I walked away.
My stomach growled as I walked into my dad's office, placing my lab coat on the hook behind the door.
"Shut up," I grumbled to my stomach. I heard laughter behind me and turned to see Carlisle sitting at his desk. "Oh shit, sorry. I didn't realize anyone was in here."
He just smiled and shook his head. "You want to grab some lunch?" He looked at his watch. "Um, dinner?"
I ran a hand through my hair, looking down at my feet. "Naw, I'm good. I'll just grab something at the house."
Carlisle stood up, walking around the desk until he was in front of me. He placed his hand gently on my shoulder. "Get some sleep, son."
I nodded and turned to leave when he stopped me. "Oh, and I believe this is yours." I looked down at the newspaper in his hand. I nodded again and took the paper, leaving quickly.
I didn't go straight home. Instead, I found myself sitting in a corner booth at the Forks Diner, a cup of coffee in front of me and a burger on its way. I pulled the newspaper out of my jacket pocket and laid it flat on the table. Red circles were spread around the page, highlighting places of interest. I spent the next hour refining my search and making phone calls.
Two bedroom, one bath, garage…
One bedroom, one bath…
Two story house, three bedrooms, 2 bath…
Room for rent…
House for rent…
Yawning, I rubbed my hands over my eyes. After destroying my room, and during the subsequent clean-up, I came to the conclusion that it was time for me to grow up. Time to stop letting people make choices for me. Time to state my independence, as fucking lame as that sounded. My first step: move out of my parents home. And thanks to Gramps, I had the funds to make this happen.
Throwing some cash on the table, I gathered my things and stood up. I had just stepped outside when out of the corner of my eye I saw movement. I turned quickly, just barely moving my head out of the way of the fist that was heading straight toward it.
"What the fuck?" I shouted in surprise when I saw who it was.
"How could you do that to her?" Jake shouted, gearing up for another punch. "You're a fucking prick! I knew you couldn't be trusted."
"Congratulations, you and the entire fucking town," I growled back. "You wanna hit me? Fine. Take your best shot. Hit me." I stood there, arms spread out. "It can't hurt me any worse than I already am. Do it."
Jake paused and then slowly dropped his arm, shaking his head. "Nah, man. I'm not going to give you that satisfaction. That's just replacing one pain for another. And you," his eyes narrowed. "You deserve all the fucking pain in the world. Let me guess, you got spooked by the pregnancy scare and went running for the hills? What a man."
My eyes shot up. "Pregnancy scare? What the fuck are you talking about, Jacob?"
"Oh don't give me that shit. Bella -"
He didn't get to finish his sentence as I suddenly had him pushed up against the side of the Diner. "Is Bella pregnant?" Jake's eyes were wide as he stared down at me. I fisted my hands in his shirt, giving him a hard jolt. "Damn it, Jake! Is she pregnant?"
"You really don't know," he said, sounding surprised. He must have seen something in my eyes because he quickly continued. "No, man. She's not." I released his shirt and stumbled back. My eyes were roaming everywhere, but I could focus on nothing. "She took a test – the boxed kind and then the doctor kind. She's not, but she thought she was. I just figured…the reason you two…"
"Yeah, yeah," I waved him off, not really listening. Still in a daze, I stumbled to my car, fiddling with the lock until it let me in. The moment the door closed, my vision cleared. My hands clenched around the steering wheel, and I could feel my jaw tightening.
Why wouldn't she tell me this? The car started with a roar and I peeled out of the parking lot, spitting up gravel in my wake. I broke about two dozen traffic laws as I sped toward her house, not stopping until I was parked across the street. My car was off and I was out the door, turning to slam it shut when I saw her.
At first, she was just a flash in the bedroom window. A few moments later, her figure returned, bathed in the warm glow of the lamp that was beside her bed. I watched as she pulled her hair up into a messy bun, running her hand across the back of her neck.
I sagged against the door frame, my anger leaving me. I could remember the touch of her skin, how smooth and soft it was. I closed my eyes, trying to center myself. When I opened them back up, Bella was busy doing what looked like folding laundry. With a sigh, I climbed back in my car and slowly drove away.
My mind was racing, almost matching the pace of my heart quite nicely. Bella had thought she was pregnant. When did she think this? Was it before I left for Chicago? I thought back, remembering how tired she seemed. When did she take the test? Was she alone? Was she scared? What did she want the results to say?
And most importantly, why didn't she tell me?
I would have hopped on a plane and been back here so fast –
I slammed on the brakes, ignoring the angry horn behind me. Everything suddenly made sense. The break-up. Why Bella wanted me to think about my future. Why she wanted me to be sure about what I wanted. It was all so clear.
"Get the hell off the road!" someone shouted, and I looked up to see the car that was behind me a second ago speed past me. I flipped him off before slowly easing my foot off of the brake.
I made it back to my parents' house, parking my car in the drive and walking inside. My movements were automatic, mimicking the path I took on a daily basis. Somewhere from the back of the house, my mother called out for me. I ignored her, climbing the stairs to the darkness of my room. I collapsed on my bed, kicking off my shoes.
For the umpteenth time that week, my mind was reeling. I reached for my phone, even got as far as dialing her number, before throwing it back down on the table. She didn't want to talk to me. She didn't want me to know about this. She wanted me to decide what I wanted, and I promised I would try. For Bella, I would try.
The sun had long set as I lay there staring at the ceiling. Someone knocked on my door once, but I couldn't tell who or when. They ultimately left me alone, and for that I was thankful.
"Mr. Cullen, I'm calling you about your interest in the house."
It had been a few days since I made the calls inquiring about places for rent. I picked the first one I went to. It was a one-story, one-bedroom house with a living room, kitchen, and dining room. There was even a smaller room next to the bedroom that I could use for an office or storage if needed. The price was good, and it was more than I needed, but it was a place of my own.
Esme was sad that I was leaving, but Carlisle understood. I needed this. Emmett and Jasper helped me with the move, neither of them saying much aside from Emmett's comments that I was a big boy now.
They stayed for a little while after everything was in, drinking beer and eating the pizza I'd had delivered. Emmett reminded me of the twins' birthday party that coming weekend, and the two of them left.
Once they were gone, I leaned my back against the closed door and looked around. Boxes were strewn around the living room along with the empty pizza boxes and beer bottles. I had no furniture aside from what was in my bedroom, and there was no food in my fridge, but I had a place. It wasn't home, but it was a start.
I woke early the next morning, disoriented at first. Nothing was where it normally was, and it took me a few minutes to get my bearings, but I felt more rested than I had in days. I showered quickly and threw on my work clothes, pausing at my reflection. I barely recognized the person I saw. Slowly, I brought a hand up to my chin and felt the stubble that had taken residence there. With a sigh, I let my hand fall and grabbed the razor off of the counter.
This was a new day and for the first time in awhile, I felt a glimmer of hope.
My rounds were fairly routine, and the morning flew by. Seeing my father at work suddenly seemed, I don't know, different. I think he was aware of it, too. I still felt like his son, but now I also felt like his colleague. He smiled at me in the hallways, asked about my first night alone, and even looked a little embarrassed handing me leftovers from my mother.
"She just wants to make sure you're fed," he said, handing me a bag filled with enough food to feed a family of eight.
I laughed. "It's actually perfect since I haven't had time to get to the store."
What I ate for lunch didn't even make a dent in what my mother had given me, but I still made a mental note to hit up the grocery store on my way home.
Home. A place that wasn't my parents'. It still felt weird even just thinking that. Shaking my head, I washed my hands and began making my way up to the nurses station to see what the afternoon held for me.
"I'm not lecturing, I'm stating facts," I heard a voice say from around the corner. What was my sister doing here? "And I think that -"
"Alice?" I asked as she stepped around the corner. I couldn't understand the multiple expressions that passed over her face before she quickly looked behind her.
"E-ed-Edward. H-hi," she stuttered out.
"What are you doing-?" My eyes widened when I saw who was behind her. Bella. My heart was pounding while my mind tried to think of what to say. "Bella," I whispered, my voice not hiding my surprise.
Her brown eyes looked frightened as she frantically glanced between Alice and me. My hand clenched into a fist at my side. I wanted nothing more than to reach out and hold her, touch her, anything.
"I'll meet you in the car, Alice," she mumbled, pushing past me. Her arms brushed against mine, and I felt that same spark that I always did when we touched. But before I could say anything, she was gone, the door closing behind her.
"Edward? Edward?" I blinked, turning back to my sister. She crossed her arms and glared at me. "I would tell you to go after her so you two could talk, but I know you wouldn't."
"She wanted this Alice. Not me, her. I just…" I trailed off, not really knowing what to say to her. Her face softened and she reached out, placing her hand on my arm.
I gave her a small smile before straightening up. Bella was here, at the hospital. "Wait, is Bella…is she okay? Alice?"
Alice dropped her arm to her side. "She's not sick, if that's what you're thinking. She was here visiting Charlotte." I let out a breath I didn't know I had been holding. "I should go." I nodded and moved to side so she could pass me. "Edward?" I turned around. "Congratulations on your new place." She gave me a sad smile, then turned and walked out.
I leaned against the wall, rubbing my eyes and replaying every moment that had just happened. Should I have done something different? Said something? Asked to see her later? I didn't know the rules here. Was I supposed to make the first move even though she initiated this?
"You okay there, Dr. Cullen?" I looked up to see Heidi walking toward me, a pile of charts in her hand. I pushed off the wall and gave her what I hoped was my best smile.
"Never better, Heidi. You need some help?"
"Nah, I got this. But you could take one off the top and maybe get to work." Her tone was harsh but the smile on her face let me know she was just joking with me.
"Yes, boss," I agreed, pulling off the top chart as she walked by. I flipped it open and quickly glanced over it, pausing when I saw the name. "Perfect." I snapped it shut and headed off toward the room. I knocked quietly on the door before stepping inside.
"Well, well, I was wondering when I was going to see you around here."
I chuckled to myself. "Good afternoon, Mrs. Stanley. How are we feeling today?"
"Please, you know to call me Charlotte." She coughed, and I quickly poured her a glass of water. Her frail hand squeezed mine gently before taking the glass. I helped her take a sip before placing it back on the table. "Thank you," she smiled and I gave her small nod and opened her chart.
"It looks like your vitals are finally stabilizing. Lungs appear clear. Your blood pressure still looks a little low, so what I'm going to do is-"
"Enough of all that," Charlotte interrupted with a wave of her hand. "You just come over here and sit down. We need to talk."
"Now Mrs. Stanley – I'm sorry – Charlotte, I believe I am the doctor here and therefore am the only one authorized to give orders," I said with a smile, shutting the file and placing it on the foot of her bed. Charlotte said nothing, just gave me a stern look and patted the bed next to her. I laughed, but followed her instruction.
She fixed her blanket, folding it so it lay on her lap and settled back into her pillow. "I had a visitor earlier today."
I took a deep breath. "I'm aware."
"She hadn't been by in awhile, but I wasn't worried. I know she's a busy girl, and I knew she had you." My eyes shifted down toward the bed. "I knew something was wrong the moment she walked in here. What happened, sweetheart?"
I expected to see anger in her eyes but when I looked up all I saw was concern. "What did she tell you?" I asked, my voice sounding small.
"Oh come on, now. You know Bella. She didn't tell me anything because she didn't want me to worry. Said she was fine, 'right as rain' I think were the words. But I know that girl. I can tell when something's not right. And based on your reaction, my observation seems to be correct." I didn't say anything, just fiddled with the end of my lab coat. "I'm not going to ask you what happened, that's none of my business. But I do know, that she's not one you just let go."
"Then why did she choose this?"
"You have to understand Bella-"
I stood abruptly, startling Charlotte. "Oh, I understand her. She's frustrating, and indecisive, and flighty. She likes girly TV shows, even though she says she's they're not girly, but come on! Gilmore Girls? How much more girly can you get? And she's stubborn, oh boy is she stubborn." I began pacing by the bed. "And she's a child. Do you know that she pouts when she doesn't get her way? Well, she does. She does this little thing with her eyes and her lips, and then I just give in, because I can't say no to her. That's why we're here now. Because I couldn't say no to her when she said she wanted a break. I should have though. I should have fought. I should have said something, anything to prevent this. But I didn't. So, what does that make me?" I turned to Charlotte, begging her with my eyes to explain everything.
She didn't say anything, just calmly reached over for her glass of water. I hurried over to the table to help, holding the cup while she took another sip. "Do you love her?" I almost dropped the glass, but caught myself and placed it back on the table. I looked back Charlotte. "It's a simple question, son. Do you love my Bella?"
"I do," I answered, sitting back down.
"Good. Correct answer," she smiled and I couldn't help but join. "She loves you, possibly more than she knows. That makes her scared."
"I knew it!" I exclaimed. "Why wouldn't she tell me? Why wouldn't she talk to me about her fears?" I asked.
"Maybe for the same reason you never told her yours. Am I correct?"
That stopped me. It was true. Simple as that. While I knew Bella was scared of something, I couldn't blame her for keeping it from me when I was doing the same thing. I sat back down on the bed.
Charlotte slipped her hand over mine. "You know, being in here really got me thinking about my life. What I've done with it, what I didn't do. I want to share something with you that my grandmother told me. Life is not about waiting for the storms to pass. It's about caring and loving those people dear to you while you still can. While you still can touch them and see them and they are still among us." She gave my hand a gentle squeeze. "Fight for it."
I cleared my throat. "Sounds like I should be paying you to be here."
She smiled, patting my hand before letting go. "I've just been around a long time."
"Well, if you keep up the way you are, you should be out of here in no time." I stood up and grabbed the chart off of the bed, scribbling down her vitals.
"Thank the heavens. I need to get Jessica out of that bookstore." I looked at her over the top of the chart. Charlotte sighed and shook her head. "I love my granddaughter. But that girl does not have one ounce of business sense in her. Where she ever got the idea that I would leave the shop to her, I will never know." I bit back my smile as I jotted down her O2 count.
I flipped the cover closed and smiled down at her. "Well, Mrs. Charlotte, looks like we're all set for now. If you need anything, just let me know."
"Thank you, Dr. Cullen. You're just as kind and gorgeous as your father."
"I don't know. I think I get my good looks from my mother," I laughed.
Charlotte's eyes sparkled at my words. "Now, that's a smart man." She winked at me and I turned to leave. "Dr. Cullen?" I paused, turning back. "You have to risk falling in order to fall in love. Remember that and you'll be fine."
My conversation with Charlotte stayed with for the rest of the week. She told me to fight for Bella. I could do that. I would do that. Now I just needed to figure out how. I didn't want to just show up with flowers or jewelry and profess my undying love for her. That wasn't me and that for sure wasn't us. I needed something that would prove to her that I was here and I wasn't going anywhere.
I signed off my last chart of the day and was heading out the door when something caught my eye. I stopped in front of the community bulletin board, reading the newest addition.
"You got some hidden talent we don't know about, doc?" Heidi asked from behind me.
I didn't answer, a plan already forming in my head. "When did this go up?"
"Joe came around this morning. Trying something new." She eyed me warily, obviously curious about my interest in the flyer but she didn't push it. "Are you heading to your brother's?"
"Yeah. Stopping by home real fast, then heading out to help set up for the party. Bounce houses and all." Emmett had rented two bounce houses for the twins birthday party: one princess castle and one race car. The party was the next day, but I agreed to come early to help out.
"Here." She reached under her desk and pulled out two brightly colored bags. "Tell them Happy Birthday from the woman who helped deliver them."
I laughed. "I'll be sure to pass that along. Have a good weekend, Heidi."
"You too, Dr. Cullen."
I grabbed the bags and headed out, but not before snatching the bright orange flyer off of the board. The entire drive to Seattle was spent trying to hash out my plan. Was I crazy? Could this actually work? I would have a lot to finish by Tuesday, but if it could be done…
Maybe the better question was, was I brave enough for this?
Emmett and Shane were in the driveway playing with remote control cars when I pulled up. Shane dropped his remote and threw himself at me before I was completely out of the car.
"Damn kid, look how big you've grown. You're like at least 20 feet taller than the last time I saw you."
"You're silly," he giggled before wiggling out of my arms. "Look what Gampy got me!" He grabbed my hand and pulled me over to where Emmett was by the cars.
"Gampy?" I mouthed at my brother.
"Rose's dad," he answered.
"Look!" Shane exclaimed. "They go fast. VROOOMM!" I watched as the little blue car went speeding across the drive, weaving in between my tires. Once Shane was completely distracted by his new toy, I turned to Emmett.
"How you doing?" he asked.
I shrugged. "Okay."
"She's going to be here tomorrow."
"I know." I had been agonizing about it all week. Emmett didn't say anything, just stared at me. "What?"
"Are you going to say anything to her?"
I sighed. "I don't know. I figured I would see how things went." I gestured to Shane who was bouncing after the car. "I don't want to ruin their party. Any discussion that Bella and I need to have won't take place here."
"Bella's making my cake!" Shane shouted.
I smiled. "Then I bet it's going to be delicious."
"I got hoes, I've got hoes in different area codes (area, area codes, area codes), hoes, hoes, in different area codes"
I quickly reached into my pocket, fumbling to get to my phone. I knew who it was before I looked at the screen. James.
I hadn't spoken to him – let alone, thought about him – since I'd left Chicago. I silenced the call and dropped the phone back in my pocket. Emmett was staring at me with a questioning look on his face, but I just shook my head, turning my attention back to the little boy.
I raced cars with Shane for a little bit before Rose called everyone in for dinner. Afterwards, Emmett and I began setting up the bounce houses. They didn't take as long as we had anticipated, and we finished just as the sun began to set. Retrieving my bag and guitar case from my trunk, I excused myself to the guest room.
I was showered and lying in bed, quietly strumming the guitar when I noticed the red light on my phone blinking. With a resigned sigh, I placed the guitar on the bed next to me and dialed my voicemail.
"Uh, hey Edward, it's James. Look, dude, I know we haven't talked since – well, some shit went down and I think we should talk. Call me."
Call him? There was nothing I wanted to say to him. I deleted the message and lay back on the bed. I tossed and turned but eventually fell into a restless sleep.
Children's laughter woke me the next day. Rubbing my eyes, I sat up and glanced at the clock on the bedside table. 11:47am. Shit. The party was due to start at noon. I quickly hopped out of the bed and threw some clothes on before running down the stairs.
"Sorry! I'm up! I'm here! I-" I skidded to a stop at the bottom of the stairs. Bella was just walking in the front door carrying a giant box which I assumed was the cake. She paused momentarily when she saw me, but quickly looked away as Rose walked up.
"Sorry I'm late," Bella said quietly, almost as if she didn't want me to hear. "Trying to figure out how to move two cakes took a little longer than I anticipated."
Rose tutted. "You're not late, and I told you to only make one."
"Princesses and Cars don't really go together." Bella smiled then, and while it didn't quite meet her eyes, it still took my breath away. It had been too long since I'd seen a smile upon her face, and I knew I must have looked like a complete idiot standing there staring, but I couldn't stop.
"Here, let me help you," Rose was saying.
"NO!" I shouted causing both of them to look up at me. Bella looked surprised while Rose looked like I had sprouted two heads or something. "I can get them. Rose, you should be with the twins."
Rose glanced from me to Bella, a wary look on her face. Bella gave her a small nod, and Rose sighed, but thankfully walked away. I slowly walked over to Bella. She was doing everything she could not to look at me, but she let out a gasp when my fingertips brushed hers over the box.
"I got it," I whispered.
She dropped her arms quickly and nodded. Without a word, she walked past me into the kitchen. I followed her, placing the box on the counter.
We spent the next few minutes in silence, delicately removing the two cakes from the box. A million thoughts were running through my head. There was so much I wanted to say. My emotions ran from nervous to anxious to angry – every spectrum of the goddamn emotional rainbow.
"Thank you," Bella said suddenly, her voice like a bell in the silence. It took me a moment to realize that she was speaking to me.
"Oh, um, you're welcome. These look delicious. Shane was really excited that you were making the cakes. It was the first thing he told me when I got here. Well, not the first thing, but the first thing when I mentioned your name. Not that I was talking about you." Shit, I was rambling. I stopped and took a deep breath, closing my eyes to center myself. When I opened them, Bella was still there, her brown eyes staring right into mine. "Bella," I breathed. She took a step back, heading for the door. I instinctively reached out to her. "Bella, wait. We need to talk."
Bella eyed the door, then looked back at me. "Not here. This isn't the place."
"Then when?" I asked.
"I-I don't know. Just not here." She turned to leave.
"I know, Bella. I know about the pregnancy." She pivoted sharply, her eyes wide. "I mean, I know that you thought you were pregnant."
"Alice," she hissed under her breath.
I shook my head. "Jake."
She let out a harsh laugh. "I should have known."
"Why didn't you tell me?"
"Because it turned out to be nothing," she sighed. "I was overly stressed. That, and the birth control pills I was on were doing some weird shit to my hormone levels – mimicking pregnancy symptoms. Doctor put me on a new pill. Voila. Cured. No big deal." She shrugged nonchalantly before walking out of the kitchen.
I stood there staring after her, my hands balled into fists on the counter. No big deal, my ass. I saw it in her eyes. Bella lied. It was a very big deal.
She didn't speak to me the rest of the day. I tried to talk to her, but she always managed to be busy or just gone all together. I couldn't even catch her eye.
I took a break from Operation: Get Bella Back to play with Shane in the bounce house. Not gonna lie, that shit was fun. Until Emmett decided he wanted in. Bounce houses just aren't built to withstand that kind of weight.
By the time we pulled the house off Emmett, a majority of the people had left – Bella included. I gathered up my things, said goodbye to everyone, and headed back to Forks.
Was I pushing too hard? Was I not pushing enough? I hated not knowing what to do. My eyes fell to the orange flyer on my passenger seat. I spent the entire ride home going over my plan.
It was dark by the time I arrived back in Forks, but I had everything planned out. Now, I just needed to somehow get Bella to the Mill Creek Bar. Five minutes later, I found myself parked outside her house. I knew what I had to do. Without thinking, I jumped out of my car and ran up the steps. The door opened before I reached the top and I stepped back in surprise, not expecting to see my sister.
"Edward? What are you doing here?" she asked, crossing her arms. Was she mad at me again? I swear, I would never understand the way women think.
"I need to see Bella." Alice gave me a pointed look. "Come on, Alice. I just need to ask her something. That's all. Then I'll leave." She didn't move, just quirked her eyebrow at me. "I messed up. I get it. I'm not fucking perfect, but with Bella, I feel like I'm pretty close. I have to show her that. I have to tell her-" I paused suddenly, looking down at my sister who was now smirking at me. "What the fuck am I telling you this for? I don't want you back."
Alice rolled her eyes. "Bella's asleep, Romeo. I was just leaving."
I reached into my back pocket and pulled out the flyer. "Alice, do me a favor, please, just get her there." Without a word, I ran back down the steps and flew home, anxious to finish my plan.
"Is she here?" I asked for the umpteenth time that night, frantically looking around the crowded bar.
"If Alice said she'll be here, she'll be here," Jasper said, patting my shoulder.
I nodded, knowing that I was annoying him with my constant questions. But I couldn't help it. I was nervous as hell ,and I was doing this sober. Mill Creek was packed. I think the entire town showed up for the first annual open mike night. Come show off your inner talent – that's what the flyer had said. So far, maybe only two people had inner talent.
"There's Emmett," Jasper said, waving towards the back.
"Great," I muttered, watching my brother and his wife walk toward us, followed by my parents. Everyone exchanged greetings as I ran my hand through my hair trying to calm the butterflies in my stomach. My turn was coming up next and so far, no Bella.
"Next up, we have our very own McDreamy." I groaned as Joe, the bar's owner, introduced me. He felt the need to personalize every person's intro like this was American Idol or something. "Let's hear it for Edward Cullen."
Shooting one last look around the bar, I stood up and made my way to the stage, guitar in my hand. My mother squeezed my hand as I passed by, knowing how much I hated public performances.
Joe gave me a small handshake before jumping off the stage, heading back to the bar. I took my seat at the bar stool placed in the center of the stage and adjusted the mike. I quietly strummed a few chords, making sure my guitar was in tune before addressing the audience.
"Hello, for those of you who don't know me, my name is Edward Cullen." There were a few whistles and cat calls, mostly from my family's table. "I, uh-" My voice trailed off as she walked in.
She came. I couldn't help but smile as she timidly made her way through the crowd, following Alice to where my family sat. Bella took the empty seat that I had vacated next to my mother. I watched as she took a deep breath then looked up, finally meeting my gaze. I tried to read her expression, get any clue to what she was feeling, but I couldn't see properly through the spotlight. Someone cleared their throat then, reminding me that I was sitting before a crowded bar.
"Sorry, guys. I'm a little nervous tonight," I admitted, with a shrug. I straightened up, pulling my guitar closer to my chest. "Someone told me recently that I don't know what I want. She said that I don't know myself. But isn't that what life's about? Figuring out who you are? I think Steven Tyler said it best when he said, 'life's a journey, not a destination'." A few people laughed and I smiled with them. "Maybe she was right, maybe I don't have a fucking clue." I paused briefly, my eyes finding Bella's. "But what I do know is, I want her there while I try to figure it all out." I shifted my eyes away from Bella's, looking out into the crowd. "I'm not a songwriter, so just bear with me for a few." I cast a glance over at Bella before closing my eyes as my fingers softly began strumming the guitar strings.
How does it feel to know, that I can't get you off my mind
Oh, I can try
But you get inside my head, and that would be just fine if I knew
What I was to you
Am I forgettable
Is mine the name that ties your tongue
Or am I memorable
Is there a chance I could be the one
Have I changed anything
Is there a place you keep for me
What have I become to you
Define me, define me
I opened my eyes then, keeping my head low, just focusing on the strings.
What am I supposed to do
I'm scared of reaching out to you to have you pull away
I'm not afraid of letting go
But it would sure be nice to know the right card to play
The music grew softer and I found myself lost in the slow rhythm, lost in it all.
Have waited ever patiently and I
Have come up with a few simple things that you
Could say to reassure me that you're mine
One last time
My eyes sought out hers then, needing to see her, needing her to hear me.
Am I forgettable
Is mine the name that ties your tongue
Or am I memorable
Is there a chance I could be the one
Have I changed anything
Is there a place you keep from me
What have I become to you
Define me, define me
My fingers strummed faster as the music picked back up. I sang out my final plea to her.
Am I forgettable
Is mine the name that ties your tongue
Or am I memorable
Is there a chance I could be the one
Have I changed anything
Is there a place you keep from me
What have I become to you
Define me, define me
The last note played out before the room erupted into applause. Any other time, I would have basked in the attention, but not tonight. Tonight I was too focused on the brunette currently making her way to the exit at a brisk pace.
"Bella!" I shouted, jumping off of the stage. I shoved my guitar at Jasper, grabbed my jacket and took off after her, ignoring all the people shouting at me. I pushed open the door, running out into the brisk night air. "Bella! Wait!"
She stopped then, turning slowly until she was facing me. Her face was illuminated from the light of the parking lot, her brown eyes wide as she watched me walk towards her. I wished more than anything right then that I was able to read her mind.
"Bella, I-," What was it about her that rendered me incompetent of speech? I reached in my jacket pocket, grabbing the jewel case and shoving it at her rather ungracefully. "Here."
She looked confused as she carefully took the CD from my hand. "What-?" she began to ask.
I shrugged, suddenly feeling really stupid. "Well, since I threw your other one in the lake and all..."
A faint smile played on her lips as she looked over the New Kids On The Block CD in her hand. "Thank you," she said softly.
"You came," I said, stopping a few feet in front of her.
She nodded. "Alice was pretty adamant about it." That sounded like my sister.
We stood there in an awkward silence as the wind blew around us. I shifted from foot to foot as I tried to figure out how to break the tension.
"That was beautiful," she finally said. "Your song, I mean. Your song was beautiful."
I couldn't deny that my freaking heart warmed just hearing her say that. "I meant every word of it, Bella. I-"
"God, Edward. I don't know if I can do this. I mean, look at us!" I was, but I had no clue what she was talking about. "We fight all the time. We're two completely different people. I mean, why should this work?"
And of course the heavens above decided that this would be the perfect moment to open up the skies. Freezing drops of rain began falling as Bella turned back to me.
"Why do you love me?" she asked suddenly, yelling over the rain.
"What?" I asked, completely taken off guard by her question.
She closed her eyes for a moment, and when she reopened I could see the moisture in them that wasn't from the rain.
"Why do you love me?" she asked again, slower this time, challenging me.
I shook my head in frustration. "Fuck, Bella," I shouted over the roar of the weather. I didn't know where she was going with this, but damn if I wasn't going to take the opening. "I love you because we do fight - all the time. I love you because you make make me feel things - I mean, really feel things, and I'm not just talking about the sappy shit."
I walked closer to her until I was able to lower my voice from a yell and the toe of my shoe was just barely touching hers. "You make me feel confused, and unsure, and nervous, and I also feel free and alive, but mostly, I feel complete when I'm with you. I love you because you know my past and yet you still gave me your heart." I reached up, brushing a lock of hair off of her face. She turned into my touch as a single tear fell down cheek, mixing with the rain. "I love you because you're not afraid to call me on my bullshit, in fact, I think you get some twisted pleasure out of it." She let out a choked laugh which made me smile. " I love you because you're you, Bella. Pure and simple. You're it for me. I -"
I didn't get to finish my declaration as Bella wrapped her hand around the back of my neck and crushed her lips to mine. I stood frozen for a second, paralyzed by the feel of her, but then instinct took over, and I wrapped my arms around her, pulling her body close to mine.
Heaven, I was fucking in heaven. Her mouth parted slightly, and I took the invitation, sliding my tongue inside her, tasting her again. It had been too long, and my body craved her. Bella let out a little moan, and suddenly I had her pushed up against the nearest car, my mouth devouring hers with a sense of urgency I had never known.
A clap of thunder sounded out, startling us both, and we finally broke apart, gasping for breath. I kept my forehead against hers as I smoothed back her hair, trying to shield her from the rain with my body.
"I want to be with you, Bella. Please tell me it's not too late. Baby, please. Tell me you still want to be with me."
"I do," she answered. "I just can't help thinking that I'm selfish for making you stay."
I silenced her with my finger. "No, don't. Don't do that. Don't over think this. Please."
"Edward! What the hell are you doing out there?"
I turned around to see Emmett standing underneath the overhang of the bar. I held up my hand asking him to give me a minute, and I turned back to Bella. Fuck. She was over thinking it. I could see it in her eyes.
"Bella," I whispered, taking a step back.
"Dude, you know it's raining, right?" Emmett shouted.
"Fuck, Emmett!" I yelled at him. "Give me just a god damn minute!" He held his hands up in defeat, and went to go back inside when he stopped, his eyes following something across the parking lot. I closed my eyes. Knowing that she was gone even before I turned back around. The sound of a truck started off in the distance, and I looked to my right just in time to see Bella drive off.
"Shit, Edward, I didn't see her behind you. I thought you were just, you know, having an artist's moment or something." Emmett apologized as I pushed past him in a hurry to get to my car.
Bella's house was dark when I arrived. I parked outside for awhile, waiting, hoping she would show up. When two hours passed and nothing, I gave up and drove home. I would talk to her tomorrow and we would finish this. I knew the one place that she would be where she couldn't run away.
11am found me pulling up outside the Forks Bookstore. I knew she was here because I parked behind her truck. The OPEN sign hung like a beacon of light on the door, just inviting me in. I was running on three hours of sleep and about five cups of coffee when I burst through the door.
Bella was standing behind the counter, writing something on a clipboard as the door banged against the wall. She jumped, looking up at me. Her anger turning to confusion then to surprise as she watched me stalk towards her.
"You can't keep running, Bella. Damn it. And you can't just kiss me like that and then fucking leave. Every time I plan something to say to you, you end up leaving, and I never get to say what I want to say. Well, that ends now."
She opened her mouth but I kept talking. "You say you're selfish for wanting me here. Well, what if I'm the selfish one? Huh? Did you ever think of that? I can't lose you, Bella. Not now, not ever. I have a job that I actually kind of love, and that I work damn hard at. I'm good at it. And I have a house, now. I don't know if you knew that or not, I mean, you probably did. But I have a house of my own. And I did it for you. Yes, I've changed, I'm not going to deny that. But I've changed for you, because of you."
Bella looked down at the counter, fiddling with her pen. I knew I should probably slow down, but everything was just coming up.
"I screwed up in Chicago, I realize that. You were right, we can't keep not telling each other important shit. I should have talked to you. But damn it, Bella. You thinking you were pregnant is pretty damn important, too. You should have told me. I should have been there." I placed my hands on the edge of the counter as Bella looked up at me.
"We've both fucked up and we both have been burned, but I need you. I need you, Bella. And you say you want to be with me, too, but I don't know. Do you? 'Cause last night...last night, I fucking bared my soul...IN THE RAIN...like some Notebook shit, and you couldn't even tell me you loved me."
I was so riled up that I was panting like I'd run a marathon. But Bella just stood there, staring at me. "Are you going to say anything? Huh?"
She tilted her head to the side and slowly raised her right hand, pointing at something on the counter. Confused, I followed her line of vision to where a little white sign stood.
Ring the bell for service.
My eyes shot back up to her face. I stared at her in disbelief as I tried to figure out what she was - or wasn't saying. She was trying not to smile, holding her bottom lip in between her teeth.
"God damn it, woman!" I launched myself over the counter, banging my hand on that damned bell at least twenty times. Bella squealed, jumping back, but I grabbed her around the waist and pulled her toward me. "You're truly evil. You know that?"
Bella shrugged. "Well, you've got to stop coming in here all angry all of the time." She grasped my shirt, pulling me closer. "I'm sorry that I left last night. I just...I needed time to process everything you said. It was a lot and, I don't know, I got scared."
Ha! my inner self triumphed.
"I was going to come see you today, after I got off work. I just needed the night."
I leaned back against the counter, bringing her with me. "I understand. So what does this mean? For us? Is there an us?" I asked carefully.
"I want there to be. We have a lot of shit to work out, though."
"Yeah, we do," I laughed, agreeing with her.
She smiled up at me. "But I want to work it out together." And then she said it.
"I love you, Edward."
I brought my hand to the side of her face, cupping her cheek gently. "I love you too, Bella. So fucking much."
And because I couldn't stand being apart anymore, I leaned down and kissed her. This wasn't like the kiss last night. This was slow, tender. This one felt like I was home.
AN: There will be an epilogue and I will save all of my sappy thank you's for that. But I do want to say a HUGE thank you to everyone who is still with me on this (and I hope you're still out there).
The song Edward sang is Define Me by Brett Young. This song, for me, pretty much sums up Edward in this entire fic. My main inspiration for writing this came from that song. Beautiful song. I fell in love with it when I heard Brett sing it live with just a guitar.
Thank you again! And see you in the epi!