|Gift of the Magi
Author: BabyItsColdOutsideContest PM
My heart was back in Seattle, shattered on the floor with the glass from the picture frame. Only three years in and it looked like my marriage to Edward Masen was falling apart. Entry for Baby It's Cold Outside O/S ContestRated: Fiction M - English - Hurt/Comfort/Romance - Bella & Edward - Words: 7,706 - Reviews: 23 - Favs: 99 - Follows: 18 - Published: 11-09-10 - Status: Complete - id: 6465706
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
Baby It's Cold Outside O/S Contest
Title: Gift of the Magi
Rating & Any Needed Warnings: M for mild language, adult themes
Word Count: 7108
Pairing: Bella and Edward
Summary: My heart was back in Seattle, shattered on the floor with the glass from the picture frame. Only three years in and it looked like my marriage to Edward Masen was falling apart.
Disclaimer: I don't own anything.
And here I have lamely related to you the uneventful chronicle of two foolish children in a flat who most unwisely sacrificed for each other the greatest treasures of their house. But in a last word to the wise of these days let it be said that of all who give gifts these two were the wisest. - "Gift of the Magi", O. Henry
~*~*~6 Days before Christmas~*~*~
Stomping the snow that clung to my shoes onto the mat in front of the door, I turned my key in the lock and pushed it open. The weak winter light barely illuminated the foyer, leaving the rest of the living room shrouded in darkness. Charlie was still at work, a fact for which I was grateful. I just couldn't deal with more questions right now.
It was embarrassing to be here alone, but I was grateful he was letting me move back in- it's not like I had a lot of options. I was also grateful that my job as an editor allowed me to work remotely for the most part. This whole thing was painful and embarrassing on so many levels, the fewer people I had to discuss it with, the better. I felt like a failure that it had come to this and I was angry that it seemed like Edward didn't even fight it, he just let me walk away. It was a week before Christmas and I was leaving my husband.
I glanced briefly around the house, everything was just as it had been growing up, the ugly floral print sofa circa 1985 and Charlie's worn, brown leather recliner took up the majority of the room. The television was situated prominently between them, with the cable box likely still tuned to ESPN. It felt like going back in time. Maybe if I just went upstairs, I could wake up and be seventeen again. I could go back to before everything fell apart and my heart was broken.
After bringing in my suitcase from the car, I made my way up the stairs to my old room. Nothing had changed here, either, since I left for Seattle to go to college eight years ago. I'd only spent one night here since then: my wedding night. Charlie always insisted on coming to visit me, he said he didn't like the idea of me on the road alone for so long. It just sort of became a habit we never gave up, even after I wasn't alone anymore.
I quickly made up the bed with sheets, sagging heavily into the creaky mattress and curled underneath the covers. I needed to sleep away the rest of this day, to escape from the emotions churning away inside, threatening to sink me. I reached for the second pillow I always used, only remembering that it wasn't there after my hand had already grasped at the empty air beyond the bed. Turning on my back, lying in the center of the bed, I stretched out, easily clearing the bedsides with my arms extended to their full span. No extra pillow. No extra body. Fucking twin bed.
"I can't do this anymore, Edward. I just can't. I don't think you even see me, anymore." I was rummaging through the closet, looking for the big suitcase. I spotted it on the floor, behind a large plastic container and pulled it out. The very first thing to go in was a small package that I had been holding onto for a few days, waiting to give it to him Christmas morning. Now I couldn't even think about the untidy implications wrapped up neatly in that box. I was putting things into the suitcase slowly, silently begging him to stop me, to beg me to stay. My silent pleas fell on a silent heart; he never moved from the couch in the living room where he had retreated after I told him I was leaving and found the suitcase. I slammed the front door so hard on the way out I heard a picture frame hit the floor and the glass shatter. Only three years in and it looked like my marriage to Edward Masen was falling apart.
~*~*~5 Days before Christmas~*~*~
I woke up the next morning to the smell of burned toast and overdone eggs. I was momentarily disoriented, my mind trying to overlay the pale blue walls I expected with the vibrant purple surrounding me. The previous day came flooding back and I realized simultaneously why the room looked funny and why it smelled awful: I was back at Charlie's house and he must have tried to cook.
The moment I was conscious enough to recognize my surroundings, and consider the smell, I was out of bed and running towards the bathroom, my stomach churning uncomfortably. A few minutes later, face washed and teeth brushed, I was feeling much better. I realized that Charlie probably still needed my help.
Quickly throwing on some clothes, I made my way down the stairs and into the kitchen where light haze of smoke stung at my eyes. Charlie was standing at the open kitchen window using a dishtowel to fan the smoke outside. The two of us working together fanning and quickly the haze had dissipated and the chill of outside air made the room bone-numbingly cold. He closed the window and looked at me, smiling sheepishly.
"Cooking, Dad, really? You know I would have fixed us something when I came down," I said, in an effort to keep the mood light and avoid the questions I knew he had.
"I know, Bella, I was just trying to take care of you," he replied gruffly, before muttering to himself, "someone has to."
I felt like I'd been slapped. "You don't know what you're talking about," I whispered angrily.
"You're right, I don't know what happened." He turned his back to me but not before I saw his cheeks pink up with emotion. "All I know is that I got a call yesterday afternoon from my baby girl, crying, saying she needed somewhere to stay. So, I may not know exactly what went on, but obviously, if he was taking care of you like he was supposed to be, you wouldn't be here now."
"Dad, stop! It's not that simple, it's no one's fault. He didn't do this by himself. I don't know what's going to happen now, but I still love him. I can't listen to you talk badly about him," I said vehemently. I knew I was his little girl and that it was killing him for me to be in pain, but I could only deal with one person's hurt right now: mine. Charlie was going to have to deal with his on his own. I was sure that was heartless, but the fact of the matter was, I felt pretty heartless. My heart was back in Seattle, shattered on the floor with the glass from the picture frame.
He sighed heavily, scrubbing his hands over his face. "I'm sorry, I don't want to make this harder for you. If you want to talk, I promise to listen."
I walked over and hugged him closely, whispering, "Thanks, Daddy."
He patted my back awkwardly before stepping back and clearing his throat. "Okay, well then. It looks like I've ruined breakfast, so why don't you go get dressed and we'll go to the diner."
I really didn't want to go anywhere. The thought of the town gossip mill having new fodder with my solitary return made my stomach turn. But, I didn't feel like I was in a position to argue with him. He was letting me live here without question and not knowing how long it would last. The least I could do was go with him to breakfast.
I had just gotten out of the shower when I heard Charlie answer a knock on the front door. I couldn't make out what he was saying, so I got dressed and made my way back down.
The second trip into the kitchen this morning smelled more pleasant than the first. I was hit with the buttery, sweet smell of breakfast foods. Scattered across the table were styrofoam trays filled with assorted dishes: eggs, biscuits, bacon, and, one container that remained closed but had a note with my name on it.
I looked at Charlie questioningly.
"Diner delivered it," was all the explanation he gave.
"I didn't know the diner delivered," I said off-handed, reaching into the cabinet for plates.
"They don't. Seth just brought it by, refused to say why, just that Sue told him to drop it off." He shrugged noncommittally.
It seemed odd, but I wasn't going to question it.
We sat down at the table, Charlie heaping his plate with the food from the other trays and I reached for the one with my name. I opened it curiously and then stopped short when I saw what was inside. French toast. The slices stacked one on top of the other with just a small bit of syrup smeared across each piece, exactly the way I loved it. The way that Edward had made for me every Saturday before it all went to shit.
I shoved the food away and ran up the stairs, throwing myself on the bed and willing the tears away. I wouldn't cry, not until I was sure there was something to cry over. The beeping of my phone alerted me to a missed call and my heart skipped a beat as I picked it up. Alice Cullen. It was only Alice. Edward hadn't even bothered calling. I almost felt relieved, I didn't think I was ready to talk to him yet. And best friend or no, I really wasn't ready to talk to Alice.
Our sex life was suffering severely with all the hours that Edward was working, he was so tired all the time and I felt bad keeping him awake just to make love. I had decided that maybe if I put some extra effort into it, he would see how desperately I needed him and how much it hurt me that he no longer seemed to ache for me the way I ached for him.
I bought a gorgeous, black lace lingerie set, complete with a garter belt and silky hose that attached, the smallest pair of panties I'd ever seen and a bustier that made my boobs look amazing. I left my hair cascading around my shoulders, wavy and tousled. I looked fucking hot, if I did say so myself.
I texted Edward to make sure he was coming home on time, which was after dinner these days. Once he confirmed it, I lounged on the bed, provocatively, offering myself up to him. The hungry look in his eye when he saw me, set my body on fire. My whole body literally ached and burned for his touch. Before I could even register his movements, he was naked and laying beside me, caressing me all over, his lips hot and wet on my nipples, fingers dipping and swirling between my thighs. He made quick work of removing the panties and garters. In no time at all his hard, smooth shaft was positioned just outside my wetness.
"Edward, we need to...," but he silenced me with his tongue caressing mine and when he entered me moments later I couldn't remember what it was I was telling him. He was stretching me, filling me, touching everywhere I needed him to be. I looked up into his eyes and for the first time in months I saw my Edward looking back, actually seeing me. He had the same look of adoration that he used to wear routinely. Overcome with emotion, I wrapped my arms around his body, burying my face in the crook of his neck, clinging to him as we made love desperately. It wasn't long before I was drowning in pleasure. Wave after wave crashed over me and I sobbed in relief, crying out his name. As my orgasm ebbed away, Edward gave in, coming with whispered words of love and devotion. We fell asleep shortly afterwards, wrapped up in each other's arms. I felt hopeful that things were going to be different.
The next morning, I woke up to a cold bed. Edward wasn't there. And he wasn't in the kitchen, either. There was a note taped to the top of the long-cold coffee maker saying he was at work. Again. It was another Saturday without French toast together. All the tentative hope I'd had the night before evaporated. Nothing had changed at all. I didn't understand why he didn't want to spend time together anymore. But, I was too afraid of the answer to even ask.
~*~*~4 Days before Christmas~*~*~
The start of the my third day back in Forks was much more successful as far as food went: we had cereal. However, my plans for hiding in the house, again, were shot to hell when Charlie asked me if I had anything important I needed to do.
"No, I guess not. I was just going to hang out here," I said, trying to use my tone to convey my sincere desire to do just that.
"Well, I think I'd like to get a tree, since you're here and all," he said, not looking at me directly.
It occurred to me just how much Charlie might have missed having me around here during the holidays. We really only had a couple of Christmases together after I moved here, just before Junior year of High School. Once I moved out, he always spent the few days before Christmas with me in Seattle, then later, me and Edward. He came back to Forks for Christmas Eve and Day to let the guys with families spend their time with them.
Trying to set aside the pain in my chest, I nodded my agreement to Charlie, barely managing a watery smile.
We walked through the tree farm, moving from one tree to the next, looking for the perfect one. I'd always loved Christmas trees, the prickly, silky feel of the needles, the spicy, sweet smell of the sap. The way a real tree can make a room breathe with life, and the lights strung across its branches can make the space surrounding it feel magical.
I couldn't help thinking about the Christmas four years ago when the tree was even more special. Edward and I had only been living together about six months, having just graduated college that spring, so it was our first Christmas in our own place. We had come home with the perfect tree and Edward had offered to set it up for us to decorate together while I made us some dinner. I walked back into the living room a little while later to see the lamps off and only white lights on the tree illuminating the room. In the center of the tree was a single ornament, a black velvet box wrapped in a white and gold ribbon that held it to the tree. Edward told me to take it down and open it. Inside was a ring with a single diamond, I turned around to see him on one knee. "Marry me, Bella," he'd said. I'd happily and tearfully agreed.
My chest ached with the memory and I needed to get back to Charlie's. After quickly pointing to a tree, I walked towards the front with him to pay. He seemed to sense that my mood had shifted and wasn't going to fight to make me stay out longer. As they loaded the tree into the back of Charlie's old red truck, I waited by the shack that served as the check-out stand. The younger woman, whom I didn't recognize, behind the register eyed me like she was trying to place me.
"You're Chief Swan's daughter, right?" I looked at her suspiciously, wondering if this was the beginning of the interrogation about my prodigal return.
"Yes," I tried not to sound rude, but make it clear I wasn't answering any questions.
"I was told to give you this," she said handing me a bough wreath, wrapped in a light colored ribbon.
My confusion must have been evident, but she just shrugged, with a small smile and went to help another customer.
I looked at the thing closer, the ribbon finally catching my eye. It was beautiful, white silk lined with gold on the edges and gold swirls carefully embroidered on the surface. It looked exactly like...but no, it couldn't be.
"Excuse me, miss? Where...," but I was interrupted by the honk of Charlie's truck and his yell at that moment.
"Come on, Bella! Let's go."
Shaking my head, dismissing the errant thought, I held the wreath closer to me before getting into the truck and heading back to Charlie's house. The outing had taken up all my energy reserves and I was asleep within minutes, lulled to sleep by the gentle rocking of the truck and droning of the tires on the pavement.
"Edward, do you think you could take some time off in the fall? Maybe we can go away somewhere, just us?" I asked nervously. We were laying in bed, it was late and he had only been home an hour. Things had been strained between us lately, with all his work hours and my own looming deadlines. I was hoping that with enough notice, he would be able to make it work.
"I don't know, Bella. It's only July, do we really need to think about this now?" He was already almost asleep.
I knew that I should be more sympathetic. He really was working a ridiculous number of hours lately, but if he was always either getting ready to leave or coming home to sleep, when the hell was I supposed to talk to him?
"Never mind. Go to sleep, forget I said anything." I tried not to sound bitter. We hadn't even been married three years and this was what we'd been reduced to.
He reached over and pulled me close to him. "I'm sure we'll do something special, baby," he whispered.
I didn't understand the small smile on his lips and it did nothing to assuage my fears. That was the first time I thought maybe we really were in trouble.
~*~*~3 Days before Christmas~*~*~
Charlie had gone into work for awhile the afternoon of my fourth day in Forks and I'd spent most of my time watching mindless televisions, making sure to avoid It's a Wonderful Life, and vegging on the couch. I still hadn't heard from Edward, but at the same time I hadn't contacted him, either. I think we both just needed some time away from each other.
I definitely wasn't expecting anyone to visit, so when I heard a car in the drive, I just assumed it was Charlie, home early. Until there was a knock at the door. I jumped up to open it hesitantly and then was shocked to see Alice's mother, Esme, standing on the front porch. Esme Cullen had been like my surrogate mother after I befriended Alice my first day of school here. She even helped me dress the morning of my wedding, after my own mother, Renee, flaked out on me.
"Bella, dear, it's good to see you," she said, leaning in to gather me into her arms and hold me in a motherly embrace. My body sagged into hers, I didn't realize how much weight I was carrying and how much I needed a mother to help shoulder some of it.
"Come, let's sit down and talk. Do you want coffee, I'll make us some?" she asked, quickly moving into the room, eager to help take care of me. I still hadn't spoken, but just shook my head, not offering any explanation for my refusal.
I sat on the couch, feeling overwhelmed. I wanted to talk to Esme and I knew that she expected me to, but I'd spent so much time lately wrapped in my head that I didn't know exactly where to start.
After she came back in a few minutes later carrying her steaming mug, she sat beside me on the couch. I couldn't make out if Alice had called her and told her that I was hiding or if she had just heard I was in town and figured I needed her, either way, her presence was appreciated.
I was thankful that we sat in silence for a few minutes. But, eventually, Esme cleared her throat and turned to look at me.
"Tell me what happened, Bella," she said softly.
"I don't know, it just...I guess it's been brewing for awhile. Nothing in particular was horridly wrong this time, I had just reached my limit for dealing with it. He was never home, he stopped being interested in talking to me, it felt like we were just existing together. I tried talking to him about it, but he would just tell me that it was work and things would get better soon." I finished quietly, determined, once again, to hold myself together and not cry.
She didn't say anything, just put her arm around my shoulder and let me take my time telling her everything.
"I think he still loves me, when he was home, he was still affectionate and caring. But, I don't know if it's enough. I mean, how important can our marriage really be, if he would put his job before us so often?"
"Oh, honey, I've seen the way that boy looks at you, he would do anything for you, Bella. Are you sure he really knew how you felt?"
"I tried to talk to him several times, but I don't know. I was afraid of the answer, so I never pushed too hard, I suppose." My cheeks flushed as shame washed over me at that admission.
"Well, it's not too late, honey. Every marriage goes through these rough patches. Maybe you both just need some time away from the situation and each other, some time to remember why you were married to begin with. There's nothing wrong with that. This is one of those 'for worse' times you promised to try to work through. Until you've told him exactly how you feel, you can't say that you've really tried."
Our conversation continued on for the next hour, Esme was supportive and understanding, never giving false promises that we would absolutely get through this, but giving me hope that we could. Her relationship with her husband, Carlisle, had always been heartwarming to witness, so her words held a lot of weight with me. Eventually though, she moved to stand and I followed her off the couch. We both walked towards the front door, Esme somehow knew that I needed time to process now. She pulled me into one last hug, which I eagerly returned.
"You love him and he loves you. That's not a panacea, but it's a good place to start." She said gently before leaning back and smoothing my hair down.
"I'm here if you need me, no matter what. And I know that Alice can be a bit hard to take, but she's worried about you. Don't discount her willingness to listen. We love you very much."
Despite my resolve not to cry, I found myself tearing up, my lips pursed and chin quivering in an effort to hold back the threatening wave of emotion. Part of me wished that Renee was here to help me through everything, but a much larger part of me understood that Esme was a much better role model and more supportive than my own mother ever would have been.
She looked at me concernedly, but I just shook my head gently and gave her a watery smile. I felt like she understood more than she let on.
"I love you, too, Esme. Thank you, for everything," I whispered as she opened the door to let herself out.
Just before she walked completely out, she reached for something on the porch, turning around to hand it to me. I saw that it was a bunch of flowers and reached to take them. The sight of the bouquet left speechless. "This was sitting on the bench outside when I came in. I think they might be for you," she said with a smile and then she was gone, closing the door quietly behind her.
I looked down at the purple tulips in my hand. They were my favorites, but only Edward would know that. I didn't know how he would have gotten them here and why he would have brought me flowers, but not called me. However, there was no doubt in my mind they were from him.
I had never really considered what kind of flowers I preferred before Edward, I hadn't been on very many dates and just graciously accepted whatever the particular boy had brought me. When Edward had shown up at my door with the purple tulips, I was completely enamoured with them. They were beautiful. He looked at me so nervously, fidgeting with the wrapper around them as he held them close to himself. "These are for you, Bella. I, well, I know that roses are traditional, but I just couldn't get you roses. They seem so...common. And you aren't. Common, I mean. And I saw these and they were strong and beautiful and unique. Like you."
Sighing heavily at the memory, I walked into the kitchen to put the flowers in water. Maybe it was time to call Edward, except that I wasn't sure if he wanted to talk to me. Yes, he had left the flowers for me, but he hadn't said anything, maybe he still wanted more time. For not the first time in the last year, I was at a loss for how to approach him, worried that I would only make it worse. I knew that if we were going to make it through, I was going to have to get over this fear, but I just couldn't yet.
I was a couple of days late and chances were it was nothing, because Edward and I were always careful. I figured I'd take the test just to be sure and when it came up negative, I didn't think anything of it, just dropping it in the trash.
Later, Edward came out of the bathroom looking mildly stricken. "Was there something we needed to talk about, Bella?"
I looked at him confused, "Not that I know of, why?"
"I just wondered, there was a pregnancy test in the garbage."
He still looked like he was panicking, which didn't make any sense to me. We'd been married a little over two years by then, if we got pregnant it wouldn't be such a huge shock.
"Well, it was negative. I just took it to make sure since I'm a couple of days late. It's not a big deal, I'm sure I'll start sometime soon," I shrugged, I really wasn't getting the reason to worry about this.
His face visibly relaxed when he realized that I was sure it was nothing. I tried to hide my disappointment, not that I wanted a baby right now, but I thought it was something we were thinking of in the not too distant future. His reaction made it pretty evident that we weren't on the same page at all.
~*~*~2 Days before Christmas~*~*~
Overnight a very light snow had fallen, leaving a light dusting that made the world sparkle in the weak morning sun. As I looked out the window in my room though, I could see the clouds building to the North, hinting at a much larger storm coming.
All through the morning and early afternoon, the light through the windows became gradually fainter until by late afternoon the gray dreary light was muted even further by the beginning of the snow storm. I was agitated and anxious. There was a heavy sense of dread as the sky seemed to press further in, the air foreboding and thick.
Charlie had called earlier to say that he was staying at the station overnight. I had gathered candles, flashlights, and blankets downstairs in preparation for the inevitable blackout. Now, I was at loose ends. My hands were jittery and my legs restless, my emotions were threatening to spill over.
As the storm started to bear down, I sat in Charlie's recliner at the picture window in the living room to watch the snow, my own inner turmoil building with the storm. The only light came from the white twinkling lights on the tree, lending the room an ethereal glow. It was the scene for lovers, for beginnings, for futures. It felt profane to be here alone.
My hands were wrapped around a mug of hot cocoa and I had an afghan covering my shoulders, both of them helping to ward off the chill from sitting so close to the window. I watched the snow come down in ever thickening cascades; blowing, dancing, twirling until it blanketed the ground in pristine white. I wanted him, more than I ever could have thought possible. But, more than that, I wanted him to want to be here with me. The lack of contact this past week was evidence of his indifference.
The snow reminded me of Edward's and my beginning, the first time I realized I loved him. We had been dating a couple of months when a winter storm had closed down campus. Since we were both living in the dorms, we decided to meet up to play in the snow together. The entire school had apparently had the same idea and it was a bit chaotic with everyone laughing and throwing snow. Edward led me to the outskirts of campus and after a short walk through the woods we came to a meadow. The snow there was perfectly smooth and undisturbed, it was made for making snow angels. Laughing, we laid down beside each other, in the center of the field, spreading our arms out wide, moving them back and forth in wide arcs. After a few moments I realized that Edward was now sitting beside me and I sat up to see why.
My eyes had gone wide at the sight before me. He was sitting almost perfectly still and looking at me with so much adoration, it made my heart ache. I knew without a doubt that I loved him and would love him forever.
He reached out to cup my cheek, whispering into my ear, his voice husky and warm in the crisp, cold air. "I know it's early on and I don't want to scare you, but Bella, you have to know: I love you and one day I'm going to ask you to marry me." He swallowed nervously after his admission.
I looked up at him, a smile playing on my lips. "Well, you should know that when you ask, I'll say yes, because Edward, I love you, too."
After our declarations we had run back to my dorm room, shed our now wet clothes and made love until late in the afternoon, whispering words of love and promises of forever.
In the living room of Charlie's house I jumped, startled by a sudden, small 'pop' as the house was suddenly enveloped in darkness and utter stillness. The storm had finally taken out the electricity.
As the storm unleashed its full fury on the world outside, so did my heartache. The wrapped package I had brought from home sat in my pocket, feeling like the only thing that was anchoring me to the world in this moment. My only connection to Edward here in the dark, surrounded by chaos and beauty, and the beginning of possibilities and the possibility of endings. I curled up in the recliner, buried under blankets, completely alone and sobbed.
"You have to come see this house! It's perfect! I mean, I know we're waiting, but it's god, it's everything we've talked about. It's an open house, I'll wait here for another twenty minutes, call me back! I love you!" I left a message for Edward, practically bouncing in place, I was so excited.
Not even five minutes later, he called back asking for directions and met me ten minutes after that. We walked through the house together, his face a mirror of the awe I felt. The hardwood floors gleamed with aged patina, the leaded transom glass in the interior doorways was wavy and warped with the memories they held, the wrap around porch surrounded the front of the house, like it was holding the family safe inside. I saw our family in that house, saw the children we would have, saw holiday meals and Christmases. I saw it all and I thought he did, too.
One of the owners, Mrs. Cope, had walked with us through the upstairs pointing out the features. She paused when we came to the front bedroom. My breath caught at looking in the room. It was made to be a nursery, the lightness and airiness begged for children to grow inside its walls. She smiled knowingly at me, patting my hand, while I leaned into Edward's side.
"This house needs a family. I think you two would be the perfect couple to give it just that," she said wistfully.
We left that day with heavy hearts. After talking to Mr. and Mrs. Cope, we realized we just couldn't do it right now, we didn't have the money. I think they were as disappointed as we were. They gave us their phone number in case we wanted to try to work something out, saying they weren't in a hurry to sell and could wait a little while.
I knew we couldn't have it right then, but I really thought we would work toward it- together.
But, then everything changed. He started working longer hours. He didn't dream with me anymore about when we were going to start our family and when we were going to buy a house, not even where we were going to go on vacation. He was barely home anymore and when he was I felt like he didn't see me, even when he was. It had only been a year since we looked at the house and everything had fallen apart.
Christmas Eve day dawned with a freezing, brilliant blue sky. I blinked rapidly as my eyes tried to focus around the blinding sunlight streaming through the picture window in the living room. The power still wasn't back on and I was freezing, my nose numb and breath coming in small clouds. I snuggled under the blankets further, trying to conserve body heat.
Just before I had finally cried myself to sleep the night before, I had vowed to call Edward first thing this morning. I was done waiting around, I wanted answers and I wanted to know if we could fix this. I was no longer going to watch passively as our love faded away. Esme was right, it was time for me to fight, instead of letting my fears keep me silent.
I was relieved to find I was still firmly resolved to do whatever it took to talk to Edward. I also realized I had a feeling of peace that I hadn't felt in several months. I honestly didn't know what was going on in his mind, I didn't know if we could make it through. But, no matter the outcome, I would know that I had done everything in my power to make it work.
Sitting up in the recliner, I stretched all the aches and kinks in my back, while trying to clear my head of the last remnants of sleep and gather my thoughts. I reached into my pocket, fingering the package there, and what felt like a weighted anchor last night, now brought a smile to my face.
I peeked out the window into the yard beyond, expecting to see the yard covered with a smooth, undisturbed sheet of snow. The sight I was greeted with caused my eyes to widen and my heart to race. The yard was covered in snow angels, dozens of them. It must have taken more than an hour for one person to finish them all.
I quickly moved to the front door, throwing it open and was again greeted by a sight that made my heart race: my Edward. Without hesitation I threw my arms around his neck as his arms went around my back, holding me to him, desperately clinging to each other.
He was the first to speak, "Please, Bella. Please tell me it's not too late. I love you so much and I'm so sorry you felt neglected. Please." His voice cracked at the end.
I reached up kissing his lips, letting him know wordlessly that it wasn't too late. The spark I felt as soon as our skin touched was a visceral reminder of everything I had allowed myself to miss out on the past five days because of my stubbornness and the resentment I had allowed to build because of my fear. I pulled him into the house, helping him remove his cold, wet jacket before we piled under the blankets I had brought down last night. I had initially sat on one end of the couch, still not quite knowing what to expect. Edward immediately pulled me onto his lap and wrapped his arms around me again. I leaned back onto his chest, resting the back of my head on his shoulder, with my lips against his neck and sighed contentedly. Neither of us spoke for several minutes.
It was tempting to let the relief his nearness brought lull me into a false sense of security. But, we had a lot to talk about. I didn't expect the conversation today to completely fix us. I used my new sense of resolve and new found courage to speak first this time.
"Edward, why didn't you call me? You let me walk out without saying anything. I thought maybe you didn't want me anymore," I asked quietly. Because even though I was determined, I was still afraid of his answer.
He held me tighter before answering. "Baby, I was honestly caught completely off guard, I didn't know you were so unhappy or that I had failed you so miserably. The last words you said before you left, that I didn't see you anymore- Bella, they broke my heart."
I opened my mouth to interrupt and apologize, but he reached up to press his fingers gently against my mouth, asking for my silence. He kissed the top of my head before he went on. "I'm not trying to make you feel guilty, Bella. I'm just trying to explain." He took a deep breath before continuing. "So, that night I tried to think of what I could do to show you that I saw you and that I'd always seen you. I sent you breakfast that first day, hoping you'd know that I loved our French toast Saturdays and missed them, too. I had hoped you would forgive me and call. When I didn't hear from you..." He trailed off quietly and I could only speculate just what he had feared about my thoughts.
"So, the next day, I tried the wreath with the ribbon. I wanted you to know that the second time you agreed to be my wife was one of the happiest days of my life. But, you still didn't call and I was really afraid that it was too late," he said.
By this point my own regret and guilt was manifesting itself in the tears streaking down my face. I was so very, very wrong about this week. I wondered what else I could have been wrong about this whole last year.
"I sent the flowers knowing that it would be obvious that they were from me. I figured if those didn't get you to talk to me, then nothing would." He looked so miserable, his eyes were rimmed with dark circles, slightly reddened, his mouth turned down.
I turned around on his lap so that I was straddling him and could pull him into my arms. "I'm so sorry, Edward. So, so, fucking sorry. I should have called, I wanted to, but I just kept telling myself that if you really wanted to speak to me, you would have. I was actually going to call you this morning, I couldn't wait anymore. But well, you were already here."
He nodded against my neck, "When I went to bed last night, I told myself I would do whatever it took to make you believe that I love you. And I do, love you, Bella, with everything I am. I thought the snow angels might help you remember that day in the meadow."
"I love you, too, Edward. More than you can imagine. I'm so sorry it came to this before I talked to you. But, one thing I still don't understand is what happened, it felt like you were pulling away and you were always at work. I felt like you never had time for us anymore, like I had become invisible."
"Bella, you're the only thing I've been able to see since you dumped your tray on me in the dining hall six years ago. You could never be invisible to me."
I blushed, still all these years later, at the memory of that moment of epic clumsiness. Even though it brought me Edward, I still couldn't believe I had to cover him in chicken noodle soup first.
"As for why I was always at work, I have something that might help explain," he said, gently moving me off his lap to sit beside him, before reaching into his pocket and pulling out a small, wrapped box.
I looked at him curiously as I took it and started pulling the paper off. I lifted the lid off the box, inside was what looked like a house key. Taking it out of the box, I turned it over in my hand, looking to see if there was some further explanation attached. From what I could see, it was just a normal house key.
"That, Bella, is the reason why I was working so much this last year. It's the key to our house."
I blinked back the tears that were forming in my eyes, swallowing thickly, I asked, "What do you mean 'our house'?"
"Baby, I saw the way you looked at the house. It was ours the minute we walked through the front door. It was ours the minute I heard you begging me come to 'just look'. I saw us there, you were sitting in the front upstairs bedroom, rocking our child in your arms. I saw a huge table in the dining room with our family and friends surrounding us for holiday meals. I saw skinned knees and first steps, and growing up and growing old. And I know you saw those things, too."
I kissed him with everything I had, all my fears and hopes, all my love and every ounce of passion- I poured it all into the kiss. I got it back from him ten fold. And then, I knew it was time to tell him.
"I, um, I have something for you, too," I said quietly, reaching into the pocket of my sweater and pulling out the package. I had no idea what possessed me to grab it last night when I was gathering the blankets and flashlights. But, I was so very glad that it was there.
I handed the box to Edward, handed him our future tied up in a bow. My heart beat fervently in my chest, I bit my lip in nervousness. This moment felt full and ripe and heavy with possibility. He unwrapped the present quickly and then he was pulling off the lid. I watched his face intently, wanting to see each emotion as it played across his features.
There was only one: joy. Sheer, unadulterated joy.
He reached his hand out and was caressing my lower stomach almost reverently.
"Really?" he whispered.
I nodded my head, grinning, "Yep, seven and a half months and then we'll be able to put the nursery to good use."
We still had work to do to fix everything that had gone wrong this last year, work to do so that we could be the parents our baby deserved. But, he loved me and I loved him and that was a damned good place to start.