Disclaimer: Stephenie Meyer owns all things Twilight
Edward PoV of Chapter 11
I'm struggling to understand how it's possible to feel so at ease in another person's presence, while simultaneously being hyper-aware of every movement, every sound, they make. It's even harder to comprehend, when these movements and sounds are mostly so familiar to you that you don't even have to see or hear them happening to know what they look and sound like. I say mostly, because there's a new side to Bella now that wasn't there before. It's almost like our divorce has unlocked another side to her, and it's one that I wish I'd known before.
We're both at Jasper's birthday party. He's finally forgiven me for what I did to Bella, although things aren't the same between us as they once were. That pretty much goes for everyone in my life these days though. I've let them all down one way or another, I can see it in their faces, feel it in the extra distance they now keep.
Ironically, the person who feels most affronted is Angela. I ran into her at the gas station around a month ago. It was the first time I'd seen her in a while, but apparently time hasn't healed all wounds for her. Setting eyes on her again after all that has happened, and after a break, makes me see her in a whole new light. I have no fucking idea what I was thinking in risking my marriage for her.
She used to be a sweet girl when she was with Ben, God knows what happened between them to turn her into what she's become. Looking back now at the time I spent with her, it's like I was functioning with my eyes only half open to the whole picture. Actually, scratch that. My eyes were completely open and seeing everything, I'd just somehow managed to sever the link between my eyes and my brain. Nothing I was seeing was actually being processed, looking back now though, it was all there. I berate myself constantly for my idiocy, and no more than when I see Bella.
Tonight is the first time that I've really enjoyed myself in a long time. I almost feel like my old self again. Not the stressed out individual that let himself be ground down by life so far that he lost sight of what he had, and made some seriously fucked up decisions as a result, but myself. The real me that I feared had been lost forever. The relief at knowing I'm still the same person after all makes me even more content.
It's strange being part of a group with Bella, but not being together. I think this is the first time it's happened since we divorced. She seems happy tonight, but something's off, like she's maybe a little on edge. I wonder what the problem is, and whether it's me. I hope it isn't, I don't want to keep her from enjoying herself.
I cast discreet glances her way as we eat dinner. She sips her wine and I notice that her cheeks are already flushed. I fight to keep from staring at her. Everyone else is in deep conversation when she stands, gathers an empty plate in either hand and carries them from the room. Nobody notices as I collect some more dirty dishes and follow her out.
"Hey," I say softly, trying not to startle her. She sets the plates down, and turns to me.
"Hey, Edward," she says. She moves forward and reaches out to take the dishes from me. I can't take my eyes off her. I know her so well, and yet even this close, she looks different to me. She catches me staring and smiles a little, but I still feel as though I've been caught out doing something I shouldn't. She seems unperturbed. "So, how are things with you?" she asks. I'm pleased that she's showing an interest, and even happier that I can answer positively. I can't hide the genuine smile that bubbles up inside me before it reaches my mouth and stretches the corners of it wide.
"Good, actually. I'm well," I reply. Her eyebrows raise ever so slightly. I've surprised her.
"I'm glad," she says genuinely, smiling back at me. I'm about to ask her how things are for her, when Jasper finds us and pulls me into the living room to try and settle an argument. Regretfully I offer Bella a silent apology for the interruption. More regretfully I recognize that she doesn't seem to mind the interruption.
The rest of the evening passes quickly. I glance at Bella several times, but she never seems to look my way. Have I dropped off her radar so quickly, I wonder?
Emmett and Rosalie get up to leave first. Em's still talking to Jasper, so I make my way into the hall to say goodbye to Rosalie. I stop when I see that Bella beat me to it, hanging back to let them finish talking, but close enough to hear their conversation.
"Are you excited?" Rosalie asks her.
"A little excited, and very scared," Bella replies. I'm instantly alert, wondering what they could be talking about.
"Relax, you'll be just fine. I think city life will suit you." Rose embraces Bella, as I process what I heard of the conversation, before realization slaps me sharply across the face.
I want to turn and run away. I want to grip her and shake her and beg her not to go. I do neither. I stand my ground, pushing my hands into my pockets to stop me from touching her. And that's how her gaze finds me as she embraces Rosalie. She looks startled, but the expression quickly makes way for one of guilt; one that's only intensified by the way she averts her eyes.
As Emmett enters, he envelops my wife…no, my ex-wife…in a hug so huge that she actually cries out in shock. I know there's nothing in it, for one thing his dedication to Rosalie is complete, and for another, Rosalie is standing right beside them, but it doesn't stop the irrational flash of jealousy that streaks through me when I see her in his arms. I try to push from my mind the nagging thought that, actually, one day I probably will have to see her with somebody else. The only thing that will hurt more than that, will be the knowledge that it's my own fault that she's free to be with another.
During his final goodbyes, Emmett tells Bella that he'll see her in a couple of weeks, before calling her 'neighbour'. She carries herself with yet more guilt as she closes the door slowly behind them. Alice and Jasper have gone back into the living room, and I can see that she's going to try and pass me by. I'm not going to let her though. Like some kind of masochist, I feel the need to have her spell out to me exactly what's going on.
As she moves past me, I reach out and catch a gentle hold of her arm.
"Bella?" I say, her name coming out as a question, feeling strange on my tongue. "You're leaving." She fidgets a little and looks as though she'd rather be anywhere else.
"Yeah. I've been offered a job in Seattle."
"No. Putting resources together."
"Right." I wonder if this is something she's always wanted to do, or a convenient escape. I hate myself a little more for not even knowing the answer to this question. There was a time when I'd known all of Bella's dreams and aspirations. I realize that I lost touch with that intimacy long before she threw me out of our bed. There's something else I need to know. "Were you going to tell me? Before you left, I mean." The fact that everyone aside from me knew that she was moving away, stings.
"Of course I was going to tell you, I've just not really seen you since it was all decided. Anyway, it's only for twelve months; I could be right back here in a year's time." There's something about her words that make me feel a little like a child being scolded for behaving unreasonably. "How are your parents?" she asks. I know it's a deliberate attempt to change the subject, but I go with it.
"They're good," I tell her, thinking about how much easier my mom and dad have been to live with since the counselling and medication began to have a positive effect on me. I'm still unsure whether it's down to my perspective of the situation being clearer, or if they are actually behaving differently. "They've backed off a little anyway, which I assume is a good sign." I offer her a smile and feel my stomach flip a little as she returns it. For that split second she looks carefree and young. It reminds me of the first time I saw her. "I just really need to move out of their house now," I say, sharing a little more. "I wish finding a decent place to live was a little easier."
"Oh God, tell me about it. You should see some of the places I looked at in Seattle." My happiness is clouded by the reminder that she's leaving, but there's something more. Her words make me wonder if I should be worried about her safety. Seattle isn't Forks, not by a long way. Almost without thinking, I take her hand in mine.
"I don't like the idea of you in the city, Bella. Promise me you'll stay safe." I'm deadly serious, but she actually giggles.
"Is this a safe sex talk?" she asks. That was the last thing I was expecting her to say, and as hypocritical as I know it is, I definitely don't welcome the thought of her having sex with anyone else. I need some air. Releasing her hand I leave the hall.
Sambuca. I've been a part of this tradition on Jasper's birthdays for several years now. This year I'll have one for old times' sake, but I'm not going down the usual road. In my experience, it gets very messy from here.
I watch Bella walk in and take a place eagerly at the front next to Alice. She's already obviously affected by the wine that accompanied dinner. A part of me feels nervous at the prospect of her sinking shots too, there's a determination evident in her face and her stance; she's looking on this as a challenge. Her serious demeanour in the situation is almost amusing.
I move behind her, unable to resist reaching out and touching her with a hand on her waist.
"You don't have to do this, Bella," I tell her. I hope she recognises it for what it is - a good-natured comment. Her head flicks around so her face is close to mine. She falters a little I notice, the determined mask slipping as she looks at me, regarding me in a way that I haven't seen for a long time. A spark ignites a tiny flickering flame in my chest. Did she feel something? Dare I hope that she could ever feel anything for me again after what I put her through? I can't be sure, but I can hope.
I'm still looking into her face when an almost tangible shutter comes down. She looks away as she pushes my hand away from her body, so slowly that I'm not sure if I imagined the flesh of her fingers lingering on mine for a moment before she begins to apply a little force. Convinced that I had felt the hesitation, I try to wrap my own fingers around hers, but it only chases her away. She pulls her hand out of my reach, holding it safely in her other one in front of her.
I back off, but I watch her closely. One, two, three shots of Sambuca. One, and then another of tequila. Half an hour passes after her last shot. I walk into the kitchen as Alice walks out. Bella's there, propped up against the counter, eyes closed, body swaying – there's no music, it's all in an attempt to remain upright.
"Are you ok?" I ask. She opens her eyes, squints as she struggles to focus, and then her mouth breaks into a sloppy smile as her drunken brain catches up and realizes who I am.
"Hey you!" she says. I watch in amusement as she sidles over to me.
"Are you drunk?" I ask her, knowing that she is, but wanting to see if she'd admit it. She tilts her head from side to side as though considering the question, before nodding.
"Maybe a little," she says, smiling at me as though we're sharing a secret. She makes a cute drunk, I think to myself. My stomach drops a little as it hits me just how much I miss her. For a moment, all of the progress I've been making falls away, and I feel exactly the same as I did as I crawled across our bedroom floor, begging her to let me stay.
I close my eyes and breathe in deeply, trying to pull the pieces of my heart back together and compose myself. When I open them again, she's right in front of me. She tilts forward, planting her hands on my chest to stop herself from falling into me completely, and lets out a soft giggle. I smile a small, sad smile, but I'm too choked with emotion to actually speak.
Bella's hands are still on me. I look into her face and she looks back at me, head on one side. Her hands turn to fists, trapping handfuls of the fabric of my shirt, and she pulls me down to her. I pull back and look into her eyes. Behind the glassiness of alcohol is something else. A challenge; an unfamiliar hardness to her face as though she's trying to prove something. And as she moves to kiss me, I realize that's exactly what she's trying to do. She didn't want me to touch her before she was this drunk, it's all just alcohol-induced faux boldness.
I consider what to do. What I want more than anything is to gather her up in my arms and hold her and kiss her and make promises that I wouldn't even think of breaking now that I know what it's like to hurt her and lose her. I feel a kind of desperation to do it, because I know for a fact that as soon as she's sober again, my chance will have passed, because there's not a hope in hell that she's going to let me this close without the alcohol flowing in her veins.
And it's that thought that makes my decision for me. It's part selfishness because I know that if I do take advantage then she'll hate me more than ever tomorrow, but mostly it's because I know that, despite her actions saying she wants me, I know that she really doesn't. And I'll respect that, because I owe her that much and a damn site more besides.
I move my head to the side and she misses my lips as I intended. I don't straighten up though. I'm greedy for something…anything I can get that she won't hold against me too much later. I push my nose into her hair and breathe deeply, my stomach doing somersaults at the familiar smell.
"I miss you so much," I say quietly, finding courage in not having to look at her as I say it. She pushes me back against the counter and presses herself against me.
"Then come back to my place and show me," she demands. Her face is confident and sexy as hell, and she's using her eyes on me in a way she never has before. I push her away a little so that she's not close enough to feel the evidence of how she's making me feel. I know Bella though, and this isn't her. This is her trying to prove something to one or both of us.
A comment she made flashes through my mind, one from the night she confronted me.
"Why don't you fuck me like that? Is that why you did it? Why you started this whole thing? Am I too vanilla for you, Edward? Am I boring in bed?"
And in that moment I see clearly what this is all about. If it wasn't so ludicrous, I would laugh at Bella thinking that she doesn't measure up to Angela. You made her feel like that, I remind myself. And although she doesn't show these insecurities to me when she's not drunk, that fact that she behaves this way when her inhibitions are lowered speaks just as loudly as if she were to stand in front of me and tell me the truth about how much I've damaged her self-worth.
Jasper enters the kitchen just as she pushes herself against me again. He stops short and his eyebrows shoot up as he takes in the sight of Bella draped all over me as I'm backed against the counter. She's oblivious to his presence and doesn't see the helpless look I give him to let him know that this isn't my doing. He clears his throat and Bella turns her head.
"Oh!" she exclaims as she steps back. "I was just…uh….I'm not feeling too good. I think I should be getting home, it's late." She takes another step away and stumbles, landing on her knees, giggling. Jasper and I both step forward to help her to her feet, but it's me she looks at as we hold onto an arm each. She has this adorable pink blush to her cheeks, partly from the alcohol, but intensified by the embarrassment of the fall.
I'm lost in her eyes, and I'm pretty sure we share a moment, before Jasper asks her if she's ok and she looks away to answer him.
"I'm fine, but I really do need to go. Edward will you take me home?" she turns to me. I look at her and then I look at Jasper, who I can tell is screaming at me in his head to say no.
"Yeah," I answer, annoyed by his concern. "Of course I will." I look back at Bella and she smiles at me.
"Ok, I need to to find my jacket and say goodbye to Alice," she says.
The moment she's out of sight, Jasper's next to me. He grabs my arms and yanks it hard. I trip over my feet at the suddenness of the movement, then pull my arm back out of his grasp.
"What the fuck, Jas?" I half-yell, not wanting to be overheard. He's up in my face now, his nose close to mine.
"You do anything other than deliver her safely to her door, Cullen, and I'll cut your balls off myself," he growls at me.
I could fight with him over his possessiveness, but actually I'm glad that Bella has somebody like him looking out for her. I push past him without saying a word and find Bella standing by the front door as Alice whispers words that I can guess, into her ear. As I pass Alice I get a similarly ferocious look as I got from Jasper earlier. Bella meets my gaze and rolls her eyes at them, before grabbing my hand and dragging me out of the door. Nobody bothers to say goodbye to me, but I can feel their eyes boring into us as we climb into my car.
Bella manages to fall asleep during the five minute ride home and I'm glad that I'd decided to drive instead of drinking tonight. I have a feeling that walking Bella home would have been a much more laborious task.
I get out of the car and walk around to the passenger side. I pull the door open but she doesn't stir. Leaning over her, I unfasten her seatbelt and gently shake her to try and wake her. It takes me a minute or so of shaking her and offering encouraging words, before she finally wakes and manages to stand up. I'm determined to make sure she's safe, so as she unlocks the door, I follow her inside. I turn back from locking it behind us, to find her lowering herself onto the staircase.
"Hey," I say, putting my arms around her and propping her back up. "Come on, let's get you to bed." Her eyes open and she raises her eyebrows.
"Ok," she replies, looking me up and down, before taking my hand and pulling me up behind her as she begins to climb the stairs. I follow her with the sole intention of seeing she's safe. I repeat this to myself several times, just so every part of me gets the message.
In her bedroom she sits to pull her shoes from her feet. I ask if I can use the bathroom, and she waves me through the door in the corner. When I'm done I step back into the bedroom, and then freeze. She's lying on the bed completely naked, one hand on the pillow beside her head, and her flawless skin glowing in the light of the bedside lamp. I try to take a deep breath in, but it's too shaky to fill my lungs completely.
"Bella." My voice sounds unfamiliar to my ears as I say her name. It's as though I can hear every confused emotion that I'm feeling in that one word.
"Edward." She reaches her hand out to me. "Come over here and let me show you exactly what you missed out on for all those years." I'm trying to keep eye contact with her face, but my eyes keep wandering over her once so familiar body. It looks just as it always did, and I know exactly how each and every inch of it feels under my hands and mouth. I want to know it again. I want to know her again.
I take tentative steps to the bed, and let her pull me down when I get within her reach. Her mouth finds mine easily, and we kiss, our lips remembering exactly how to move together, my tongue tasting her for the first time in what feels like an eternity, but at the same time maybe as recently as yesterday.
It's as her hands move to the waistband of my jeans, that common sense finally snaps back and slaps me in the face. I break the kiss.
"You have no idea how much I'd love to, Bella," I tell her honestly as she whimpers in frustration. "But you'd despise me in the morning and I can't stand for you to hate me any more than you already do." I feel my face twist in pain as I make my confession to her. I sit up and rub my hands across it to try and relieve the tension there. When I open my eyes she's looking at me in a completely different way. The hardness on her face is still there, but there's a chink in it as she opens her mouth and tells me that she doesn't hate me.
"That's the problem," she mumbles. I have no idea how her confession makes me feel. On the one hand I'm ridiculously happy to hear that she still has feelings for me, but on the other, it makes her refusal to even consider a reconciliation – since I'm guessing that's not what she has planned tonight – even more frustrating and heartbreaking.
"Then even more reason to stop now," I say. She says nothing, and when I turn to her again she has her eyes closed and her breathing has slowed. A part of me is relieved to be able to leave the discussion there, but another part of me longs to hear more on how she feels about me.
I manage to maneuver her beneath the covers on her bed, and then sit beside her, propped up against the headboard. As she sleeps, I run my fingers up and down her arm and talk to her. I tell her about how bad I still feel – and always will – for what I did to her. I tell her what's been happening with me, all about my therapy sessions, and finally I tell her how I'm feeling right now. Finally I drift to sleep wondering if this is the last night I'll ever spend with Bella, and wondering how I'll cope with having to leave her again in the morning. Or rather, how my heart will cope.
Please leave a review! Would love to know what you think of Edward's perspective of the night :o)