"Mr. Masen, your three o'clock canceled," my assistant, Aubrey says over the intercom.
"Thanks," I replied.
I turn in my chair taking in the Chicago skyline.
Criminal law wasn't supposed to be my area of practice, but Bella, and what she experienced, are what made me gravitate to it. My path led me to now being a Senior Partner at Gramps firm after he became sick and needed to step down.
I hated to think back to attending law school and the way I treated Bella. I had become my father with his cool indifference and I hadn't realized it until after she left me. I took her for granted, missing dinners and school functions for her. She was finally done with me when I had to miss the dinner she was throwing for her birthday.
It took her a week to find a new place after our final blowout. I ended up passing the bar but had no one but Emmett to celebrate with. He was the one who urged me to reach out to her, but her words of me not appreciating her still rang in my mind.
I thought back then that the more I built my career, if I were to try to reconcile with her, I would just be setting her up for more disappointment. My career was time-consuming and would have inevitably torn us apart.
I threw myself into my clerking job at the DA's office where I spent most of my time busting my ass. I even took on pro-bono cases from time to time at the legal aid offices.
My family told me I was running myself into the ground, but only I knew that I was trying to distract myself from missing her.
It was on one fateful night that Bella came into the bar I frequented with my coworkers.
I saw how upset she was and I couldn't stay away from her.
I knew from Emmett she was engaged.
Charlie had made his displeasure about the guy clear when he hung out with Carlisle and Mr. McCarty. He thought he was too stuffy for Bella.
Once I approached her, I saw how beautiful she still was, her beauty wasn't the only thing that struck me, it was her compassion. She wanted to know how my mom was, I almost told her she was still pissed at me for letting her go.
She was just as understanding about my siblings and genuinely smiled when she saw how big Emilia had gotten.
After that night, I let her call the shots. I met Benjamin once. He seemed nice enough but was too smarmy for her. The three months that followed their breakup were interesting, he did try to fight for her twice after they broke up.
I never once tried to get in the way, I figured that if Bella was meant to be mine, I'd let her make that decision. So for three months, we hung out getting to know each other again, during that time she became my best friend.
To this day, four years of marriage later, she was still my best friend.
We had only been dating again for five months before we left for Chicago when Gramps got sick. She had yet to put in for her Washington license to be a practicing therapist, so I put all my cards on the table. I didn't want to waste any more time and then I presented her with an oval cut emerald diamond ring asking her to marry me.
Charlie wasn't happy that we got married in a courthouse two days after we arrived in Chicago but I knew that he more than trusted me with her.
My phone pings on my desk.
I smile seeing it's a text from Bella.
Your daughter is anti-naps today. – B
I laugh at the picture below.
Penny's face was bright red and she was screaming her head off. I also noticed the 'My Daddy loves me!' onesie Bella had her in.
She was Daddy's when she was giving her mom a hard time.
We took a trip to Italy for a month last year and Bella came back with what she thought was the flu, but she was actually pregnant with our daughter.
We had an unsaid agreement that we were okay with not having children. After we got back together, we made an effort to enjoy our life together.
Penny was obviously a game-changer, but we loved her more than anything. I don't think either one of us over the past three months could imagine life without her now.
She's clearly too excited about her first plane ride to nap. – E
I try to keep it light because this trip was anything but light.
Five months ago, I came home from work to my very pregnant wife and her world turned upside down again.
"You home, babe?" I call from the foyer of the brownstone.
"Couch," she replies.
I walk in with her McDonalds and my True Food Kitchen, lean down giving her a kiss.
"I'm going to get these plated," I tell her, giving her another kiss.
When I come back from the kitchen with our food, I hand her the Big Mac she requested with extra onions and pickles, a filet O' Fish with extra cheese, and a large fry. I take my seat, putting her feet on my lap, and balancing my salad on the arm of the couch.
"What are we watching?"
"Real Housewives of OC: Legacy, my love," she coos with a grin.
I groan but endure it.
Once she's done with her food, she reaches for the mail on the coffee table. I watch her stop once she's three envelopes in.
"What?" I ask, seeing the distress on her face.
I take the offending envelope from her and open it.
"He's up for parole," I say with an edge to my voice after reading the letter.
"He's only served twelve years," she says, resting her hands over her bump.
My hand joins hers.
I read more of the details of the letter.
Royce is a model prisoner.
When he first arrived he had a record of going into solitary quite a few times, but he took anger management classes that the prison offered and found God.
She rolls her eyes once I tell her that part.
"Is there any way I can stop this?"
"You can write to the parole board," I tell her softly.
Her phone starts ringing and she says it's Rose.
She and Rosalie notified the parole board that they would be attending Royce's parole hearing and they both made it clear that they wanted to speak to the board.
We were to fly to Seattle tonight with our three-month-old. My nerves were all over the place, not only for Bella but for Penny too. She was so little and to interrupt her routine and the life she's used to was putting me on edge.
This is something Bella had to do and she had my full support. Also, with Rosalie by her side, I knew they would more than likely accomplish their goal.
Rosalie McCarty is a shark in the courtroom. I've even offered her a job at the firm. She and Emmett have discussed it, but they were both nervous to leave the life they built in Seattle. I understood completely but it wouldn't hurt to ask and have someone like her working for me.
I collect my messenger bag and phone, walking out to my assistant's desk. "Aubrey, can you have all my calls forwarded to my cell while I'm gone?"
"Sure thing," she says easily.
I made the short commute to our brownstone.
I hear Penny as soon as I'm in the house.
"Your dad is going to be home soon, do you really want him to see you like this," Bella says to her.
I walk into the living room seeing her bouncing her on her lap.
"Upside is maybe she'll sleep on the flight," I say walking up to her and giving both my girls a kiss.
I take Penny from her, holding her close.
This kid was like my mini-me, with Bella's nose and lips.
She earned her name because her thick curly locks were the shade of a penny. Looking at her Bella said that thought out loud and we went with it.
"Well good, you are on Penny duty on the plane," she tells me.
I hand Penny back to Bella, to run upstairs and get changed. I throw sweats on and then head down to load up my SUV.
Since we were getting a later flight, the airport was mostly dead. I carried Penny through the airport in her carrier while Bella navigated us to our gate. We were in first class and were seated first.
Surprisingly Penny slept through the flight, I could hear Bella mumble about how we wouldn't get any sleep tonight. I leaned over giving her a kiss, "I'll stay up with her," I promise.
Her fingers trace my jaw and she nods giving me another quick kiss.
Again, when Penny came, our lives changed immensely. I wouldn't say we were jetsetters, but we loved to travel, mostly to exotic beaches. We spent our honeymoon in Bali in a private villa, we didn't leave that villa the whole time we were there.
There might have also been a lot of nudity and sex on our parts on the beach, but that was then, this was now.
Bella finishes up feeding Penny, I take her to burp her while Bella cleans up.
My daughter blinks up at me and I lean down kissing her head. This girl owned my heart as much as her mother did.
We arrived in Seattle at a little past six. Rose and Em invited us to stay with them, but we wanted privacy and quiet. Henry was now four and quite animated. Penny needed mellow, maybe we did too.
Bella calls Rose when we get settled in our room to let her know we are here. They agree to meet up in the morning. As predicted, Penny did wake up multiple times through the night.
I step out of the shower, I can hear Edward's gentle murmurs to Penny from the room. Even though we never planned to have kids Edward was a natural father.
I know deep down he worried that he would be like his father but I think he was too hands-on with Penny to be like Ed.
When we first got back together he swore up and down that he'd become Ed when he was in law school. Maybe I was a pushover, but I felt like we were both still so young to handle the type of love we had for each other. Our love was overwhelming to us both and as much as I love him and that time in our lives, I don't think we were ready for it.
Now, we were the partners the other deserved. We support each other in our careers and parent on the same level.
He was the other half of my soul.
After Royce's parole hearing, I'd be going back to work part-time. I had spent the past two years working for a nonprofit. I was the resident therapist for a domestic abuse sanctuary in midtown Chicago.
At first, I almost didn't take the job, but Edward asked me why I wouldn't take it. It didn't pay much and I hated that I couldn't be an equal income-wise, so I told him this. He was the one telling me if the work fulfilled me then not to worry about the pay.
In the end, he was right. Even though he was the breadwinner, I was able to help women and men who were assaulted or struggling in violent households. The work was truly fulfilling.
Once Penny was born, I knew that I might have some difficulties with continuing counseling, but I would go out of my way to shield her from the darkness of the world. I couldn't fathom her going through what I did. I didn't want her to.
That is part of the reason we are here. I couldn't stand by and let Royce try to get out early. He needed to serve his full sentence. Rose and I were determined to see to that.
I stepped out into our room in my robe, Edward was stretched out on the bed only half-dressed in his slacks and nothing else.
"Got distracted?" I ask.
He has Penny squealing over his head.
He shoots me a sheepish smile.
"Just enjoying my time with her," he says honestly.
He did take a month for parental leave, but has been pretty busy at work since. I knew he beat himself up about his schedule. I believed we would find a balance, we just needed to figure it out.
We both take turns keeping Penny occupied while the other gets ready. My dad was meeting us at the restaurant Rose and I chose last night.
We wanted to strategize before the hearing this afternoon.
We're the first at the restaurant, Edward lifts an eyebrow at me when I get her out of her carrier.
"What?" I ask.
"Nothing," he says and I see the smile.
"No, tell me," I say cradling my kid close.
"Aren't you the one who said you don't get why mommy moms hold their babies when they come to eat?" he asks and in his knowing tone.
I glare before I respond.
"She's my security blanket at the moment," I tell him.
He laughs but keeps quiet as he glances over his menu.
Rose arrives next.
"Her pictures don't do her justice, Bella," Rose says, taking a seat beside me.
"She is pretty cute, but I think we're a little biased," I say with a laugh.
I let Rose hold her when our drinks came.
Dad makes his way to the table.
He lights up when he sees Penny.
Edward and I love that our families love her so much, but I think they'll spoil her since she'll be the only grandchild. We hadn't told them and weren't planning to, but she was it.
Edward got a vasectomy while the no-sex ban was in place after I gave birth to her. We figured it made sense to do it then.
This felt like something we could control since she decided to surprise us.
Rose told us that she and Em are having a baby via surrogate in the fall. She also tells Edward that she and Em have spoken about his most recent offer to join his firm.
I wonder if she's choosing now to take him up on it because Royce might possibly get out sooner rather than later.
"What's the plan when we get there?" Dad asks.
"We wrote statements and will verbally give them as well, I believe Bree Tanner will be speaking today as well," Rose explains.
"What about Alice?" I ask.
"I haven't talked to her personally, only Bree. She called my office when she got her letter," she replies.
I hadn't spoken to her since before she and Jazz broke up. She was moving to California for work and it was her clean break. I was team Jazz and that is where my loyalty would always lie.
Dad volunteers to stay with Penny out in the hall so Edward could go in with me when we get to the prison. The parole hearings happened in the administrative building which was relatively small.
Mr. and Mrs. King are in the hall when we arrive, they look withered with age and glare when they see us.
"I can't say I'm surprised they are here," Rose says.
I roll my eyes remembering one of the reasons why Royce was such a monster. His father.
Dad sits on a bench with Penny in her carrier right beside him. I don't want to head in until they do. I don't like the idea of them breathing the same air as my child.
"Bells, I got her and she is perfectly fine with me," Dad assures me.
I look down at Penny who is just looking around with her big doe eyes.
I nod, leaning down and giving her a kiss before Edward wraps his arm around my shoulders.
When we walk into the room I spot Alice.
She looks surprised to see me or maybe Edward since we were long broken up when she and Jazz went their separate ways.
There are six of us here to give statements, Alice and Bree's are the most damning. They both speak about how hard it is for them to live their lives and trust the people in them.
The more Alice speaks, I understand this is why she pushed Jazz away. That even though she was in a loving relationship she was always waiting for the other shoe to drop. I knew when they broke up Jazz thought it was mutual and they just were becoming different people.
He didn't give much thought to it but moved on with Maria and they now have Lucy. Alice couldn't move on in this capacity because she was always reliving her rape.
Edward squeezes my hand and I look up at him.
He must have seen the wheels turning in my head. Where I was going the more Alice spoke, my experience was different from hers.
I overcame my shame of what happened.
I moved on.
Not only did I have a healthy relationship with Edward, past, and present but I had other healthy relationships in between.
My statement was meant to stop him from getting out for the greater good of society. Rose and I were success stories because we used the tools and resources available to us to seek the help we needed.
I explained my background in assault and domestic abuse, and how I've seen men and women that seemingly have healed go back to old behaviors once they are free. Royce is behaving in prison but he hasn't been alone with a woman in twelve years.
Rose's statement is more or less the same, she is clear about what his release would mean to her. She adds that because of Royce, she can't carry to term and that he took the experience of her carrying and nurturing her children from her.
Royce's fists ball up when Rose and I give our statements, he never makes eye contact but it is obvious that we've gotten to him.
The other two girls were Freshmen when he assaulted them. They tell their truth about how they have lived their lives normally but started to have panic attacks once they heard there was a possibility of his release.
A small recess is called and we step out into the hall. Charlie is cradling Penny close, she's giving her hungry cry.
I take her to the restroom and Rose follows.
"How do you think that went?" I ask Rose while I adjust my nursing blanket.
"I don't think it looks good for him, but you never know," she says honestly.
"You both should be ashamed of yourselves," Mrs. King says standing by the sinks. "My son has spent more than enough time behind bars and you two got to live your lives."
Her voice rises.
There isn't much I can do due to the baby attached to me at the moment. Rose steps forward shielding me.
"Mrs. King, I don't think it's best that you talk to us," she warns.
"You finally found your voice," she sneers.
"I've always had a voice. I used it to defend myself against your son in court, if you don't leave I will report this incident to the board," Rose says calmly.
Mrs. King huffs, leaving her Chanel number five in her wake.
"Well, that was awkward?" I say, adjusting my kid so I can burp her.
There is a knock at the door before Edward's head pops in.
"Bella," he calls.
Rose giggles moving to talk to him at the door.
I clean myself up and take the baby over to them.
He takes Penny from me, holding onto her for dear life.
"I told Rose we saw Mrs. King rush out of here," he says.
"We're fine," I assure him.
We walk back into the hearing and the board announces they have denied Royce's parole and that he will be eligible for it again in the year.
"I can't get out because of those cunts," he roars, fist colliding with the table. He has just proven to us that he has no remorse for what he has done. He doesn't see what he did as wrong.
The guards rush forward taking him back into custody.
Mr. and Mrs. King follow their lawyers out.
I feel like I can breathe for the first time in five months.
Rose and I hug, tears flow with relief.
I know for a fact that I will be back in a year, and every year thereafter to make sure he serves his full sentence.
What he did to each of his victims was brutal.
What he created through his actions were survivors.
A/N: The end. I have started writing a new Mobward fic called Saints of Boston, it is inspired by The Sopranos, we'll see if you all like it. If I continue will be up to all of you. For some reason, a lot of you are reading my stories but not reviewing them. So I feel mostly due to lack of response why continue? Like I said we'll see where the next fic goes. Huge thanks to all of those reviewing and keeping me motivated with their responses. Can't forget to thank CoppertopJ for all her support and help too!