|The Shadow That Remains
Author: iambeagle PM
ON HIATUS because I suck. A past tragedy left Bella desperate and destroyed, until a recent accident changes everything.Rated: Fiction M - English - Angst/Romance - Bella & Edward - Chapters: 9 - Words: 24,192 - Reviews: 1,103 - Favs: 724 - Follows: 1,059 - Updated: 02-29-12 - Published: 12-30-11 - id: 7691265
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
Disclaimer: No copyright infringement intended.
Said your love was known. I'm standing up on it.
I couldn't help but feel betrayed as I walked out of Edward's apartment. I knew I was being a hypocrite and I understood we were in this position because of my decisions alone, but knowing that didn't make it any easier; knowing that didn't keep me from feeling devastated.
After taking a few moments to collect and convince myself not to walk back into his apartment, I started the car, trying my hardest to keep a clear head for the drive home. Once I was inside my apartment, I set down my phone, keys, and photo frame on the coffee table, then ran straight to the bathroom.
Dropping to my knees in front of the toilet, I heaved and retched until there was nothing left in me; until I felt empty. I closed the lid and flushed the toilet, my back against the wall as I sat quietly, feeling weak and dazed as my mind replayed everything that had happened over the past few days.
A few deep breaths later and I was finally able to stand, avoiding my reflection as I rinsed out my mouth. I reached past the shower curtain to turn on the water, remembering that the knob had to be set on cold for the water to run hot. I pulled the ratty shirt over my head and unbuttoned my jeans, kicking them off and leaving them discarded on the floor.
I stepped into the shower, goosebumps covering every inch of my body. It was tempting to allow myself to wallow, to let myself waste tears and time and hot water on what could have been. Instead, I quickly washed my hair and body, keeping my mind free of any lingering thoughts. Wallowing would get me nowhere. I needed to focus on how to fix things rather than what I could have done to avoid what already was.
I dried off then dropped my towel to the floor, not bothering to pick it up before walking into my bedroom. I dug through the neatly folded clothes then pulled on a pair of sweats and a long-sleeved shirt, which I remembered belonging to Edward. At least there was some evidence that he'd once existed in my life.
I walked across the cool wood floor, making my way into the living room. The deafening silence made my skin crawl, so I flipped on the television. The low hum of people talking on the evening news did nothing to calm my nerves or distract me.
Quickly, I became bored with the news and found my attention being pulled towards the photos across the room. I stood, inspecting photos from various events that were placed around my living room. Excluding Charlotte, Emmett and Charlie, I didn't recognize anyone else in the photos, which must have meant they were colleagues. It dawned on me that the only photo containing Collin was the one that had been in the kitchen on the fridge. I also realized Angela was in none of the photos, which seemed a little odd. I didn't have the energy to dwell on that because my phone began ringing, startling me from my thoughts. Emmett's name flashed on the screen, along with a photo of him shoving a ridiculous amount of nachos into his mouth.
"That's the worst contact photo ever," I said, giving him a small laugh. He was quiet for a moment, maybe trying to remember exactly which photo I was talking about.
"Yeah, that was taken the night I proposed to Charlotte. Everyone was shocked she said yes. I think I still had nacho cheese on my face." His laugh was genuine as he recalled a memory I wasn't capable of ever having again.
"Well," I said, unsure of what to say.
"You weren't sleeping, were you?"
"No," I answered, jumping as someone pounded on my front door.
"It's me." Emmett spoke loudly enough that I could hear him through the door and the phone. "Open up."
I hung up, slowly walking towards the door to let him in.
"Hungry?" he asked, holding up a bag of what I assumed was Chinese food.
"I am pretty hungry," I whined as my stomach grumbled from the mere smell of food. "Where's Char?" I shut the door behind Emmett, following him into the kitchen.
"She's exhausted," he said as he unloaded the food onto the counter. "She wanted to make sure you had something to eat, though. We weren't sure if you had groceries."
I hummed in response, pulling two plates from the cabinet. I had a feeling Charlotte's absence wasn't due to her being tired, but I wouldn't comment on that. I needed answers about Edward and Claire and my life, and I knew Emmett would be more apt to give them to me without Charlotte around. We filled our plates with food and settled in the living room. I let him eat in silence for a few minutes before I spoke.
"So," I began, watching Emmett chew slowly, waiting for me to continue. "Claire, huh?"
"Shit," he muttered, setting down his fork. "You really had to bring this up before I even got to the egg rolls?" I nodded, unapologetic. "Fine. How did you find out?"
"Does it matter?" I asked lamely, pushing my food around on my plate. "She practices yoga, Emmett. She is blonde and she glows and she-"
"Isn't you," he interrupted with a forceful tone.
"Exactly. That's the point, isn't it? She's not me. He doesn't want me," I stressed, leaning forward to grab my water.
"Bullshit." He laughed humorlessly, pointing at me with an egg roll. "You don't believe that any more than he does."
"What else am I supposed to believe?" I asked pathetically. "How do I compete with her?"
"You don't," he said simply, shooting me a sympathetic smile. "There's no competition, Bella. You win, hands down." I sighed, reveling in the raw truth of Emmett's words.
"So, what do I do now?" I questioned, needing Emmett to hand it to me straight, because I had no idea where to go from here.
"Well." He stretched his arms above his head. "You just gotta wait now. He'll come around."
"I'm not very patient," I whispered, staring down at my hands.
"Tough shit. You're gonna have to learn to be." Emmett went back to devouring his food, as if he hadn't just given me hope I didn't know existed.
"So...patience." I let the word roll off my tongue, knowing Emmett was right.
"He just needs time, you know? You did a real number on him, Bella. It was fucking tough to watch, but-" He paused when I frowned. "That doesn't matter now, I guess. You'll fix it."
I thought back to how Edward reacted at his apartment and my chest began to ache. Edward, whom I had so clearly broken, wasn't going to make this easy for me and it was absurd for me to demand him to. Though he was all I knew and remembered, all he knew and remembered was the hell I'd put him through. I couldn't expect him to just gladly accept me back into his life. I'd have to rely on patience, time, and trust to be enough.
"Thank you," I said quietly to Emmett. He lifted his head, mouth covered in sweet and sour sauce, and nodded in approval.
After we finished eating, I put the leftovers in the fridge and said goodbye to Emmett, instructing him to have Charlotte call me tomorrow. Even if she didn't approve of me trying to get Edward back, she was still one of my close friends and I didn't want her to feel uncomfortable around me. Besides, I really couldn't fault her for caring about her brother. Once Emmett left, I brushed my teeth then I laid on the couch, flipping aimlessly through the channels until I fell asleep.
I awoke to a dry mouth, a slight headache and a pounding door. It took me a second to get my bearings and realize that I was in my apartment on my couch. I slowly sat up, wincing as the knocking on the door picked up again.
Standing, I shuffled over to the door, peeking through the peephole. I stepped back and paused, trying to figure out who was standing on my doorstep. Rubbing my eyes with the back of my hands, I peeked once more, then groaned as I realized who it was.
"What do you want?" I croaked through the closed door.
"Good morning. I wanted to talk," Collin replied in a chipper tone.
I let my head fall against the door with a thud, which did nothing to help my headache. "No, thanks. I'm good."
"Bella, I brought Starbucks," he claimed. "Chai tea, your favorite."
I hated to admit that I perked up at this news. I lifted my forehead and sighed, unlocking the deadbolt. I opened the door and stepped aside, crossing my arms over my chest as he walked in.
He smiled widely. "Hey, you."
"That's not a Chai tea latte," I pointed out, hating the way his eyes swept over my body.
"I know." He smiled again, looking pleased with his gesture and handed me one of the plastic cups of tea.
"That was nice of you, but this isn't coffee."
"Oh, I see." Collin pursed his lips and stepped further into the living room, inviting himself in. "Well, you don't drink coffee."
"Excuse me?" I asked flatly.
He hesitated before replying, seemingly caught off guard by something. I followed his line of sight, realizing he was staring at the photo of Edward and me. "I was saying, uh," he cleared his throat, "that you drink tea now."
"No one drinks tea," I deadpanned.
"Well, I know for a fact you don't drink coffee. Besides, tea is healthier for you." He shrugged, sipping from his straw.
"That can't be true," I argued.
He didn't react for a second, narrowing his eyes while inspecting my face. "I'm quite certain it is true, but it doesn't matter."
I refrained from rolling my eyes and brushed past him, leaving him in the living room as I rummaged through the kitchen in search of coffee. But to my disappointment, I found nothing, not even a coffeemaker.
"How is this possible?" I half-screamed, slamming the cabinet shut. "Coffee is my life."
Collin laughed and entered the kitchen. "You don't really believe that, do you?"
"Why wouldn't I?" I asked seriously, becoming annoyed merely from his presence. I could handle talking to him with the promise of caffeine, but now that that was no longer an option, I needed him to leave. "What did you come here to talk about?"
"Us," he said, giving me an odd smile. Odd in the way that it wasn't Edward's.
"We broke up," I stated, stalking past him back into the living room. "Look, I'm sorry I don't remember you, but I'm at a loss. I don't know what else to say that will make you understand. I can't be with you because-" I'm in love with someone else. I figured I'd spare him and leave that part out.
"Because of Edward," he said, slowly nodding and trying to look understanding. He sat down on the couch, leaning forward, elbows resting on his thighs.
"Well, if I'm being honest, yes. Because of Edward."
He was quiet as he thought, his face unreadable. "Why can't you understand where I'm coming from? This isn't just confusing for you."
"I get that-"
"I don't think you do," he said sternly, standing and walking over to me. I bit the inside of my cheek, unsure of his next move, his next words. "Five days ago, you were my girlfriend. The night before the wreck, you were in my bed, laughing at something I said. I can still smell your shampoo on my pillow, Bella."
My chest heaved and I stared up at him, uncomfortable with his proximity and what he was claiming. I'd been so busy thinking about Edward and what I had to do to get him back, I'd completely disregarded how this would have affected Collin. I searched his face, knowing all too well how he felt. He wanted me the same way I wanted Edward, and for the first time I felt sympathetic towards him.
"I know how you feel. I do," I mumbled, looking down to break our eye contact.
He reached out, placing a hand on my shoulder. "You couldn't possibly know how I feel. This is driving me fucking crazy."
"Collin," I said with force, pulling away from his touch. "I'm sorry about what happened, but this," I brought a hand to my head, "only remembers Edward."
He opened his mouth and began speaking, most likely to refute what I was saying, but I interrupted him. "And this," I placed a hand on my chest, "Only remembers him, only ever belonged to him. I'm so sorry. I don't want to hurt you, but I can't be with you just because we were together before the wreck. That's not fair to either of us."
"But what if you regain your memory? What if you remember me?" he asked, his voice earnest and his gaze soft.
I shook my head, hoping he'd understand and respect what I was saying. "Even so, it won't change anything. I know how I feel about Edward and I'm certain those feelings will never lessen. Again, it's not fair for me to be with you if I'm not fully yours."
"But you were with me," he argued, becoming agitated. "What am I missing here? You broke up with him, so your feelings obviously lessened."
"That's none of your business," I said in frustration, trying my best to keep from yelling for him to leave my apartment and my life.
"Unbelievable," he mumbled, gritting his teeth together. "You could try getting to know me. You liked me once, I'm sure you would again."
"Okay." I blinked, losing my patience. "Well, you're obviously not comprehending what I am saying, so it's probably best if you leave." I'd tried acting more sympathetic towards him, but it was apparently futile. He didn't want to listen or understand, and I wouldn't allow that to be my problem.
He shook his head, his lips curling into a cocky smile. "Alright. I just..." He stepped closer and I shoved the cup of tea into his hands. I quickly thanked him for thinking of me and bringing me tea, ushering him towards the front door.
"Hey," he said, sticking his foot between the door and threshold before I could lock him out. "I'm still going to be around. I don't want you to get upset again, so I'll lay off. You have my number. Don't be afraid to use it." I smiled tightly at his last words before saying goodbye and shutting the door.
Once I was sure Collin was not going to come back and try talking to me, I thew on a pair of jeans, keeping Edward's shirt on. I pulled my hair back, then grabbed my phone and called Charlotte. If I had to go out and buy coffee anyway, I figured I'd see if she wanted to grab breakfast. When she didn't answer, I called Emmett, who answered immediately.
"Hey, I have a quick question. I just tried calling Charlotte but she didn't answer," I said, slipping on my sneakers and grabbing my keys.
Emmett laughed. "That's not a question."
"Clever," I teased. "Is she there?"
"She's right here, hold on." I heard mumbling and rustling before Charlotte spoke.
"Hey. Sorry, my phone is upstairs. How are you feeling today?" she questioned, and I didn't detect a single ounce of animosity.
"I was about to run out to grab coffee, but thought maybe you'd want to meet up for breakfast," I suggested, trying to sound chipper.
"We just ate," she said, sounding genuinely disappointed. "You don't drink coffee."
"Of course I drink coffee. No one gives up coffee," I scoffed, locking the front door behind me.
"You did," she mused, laughing lightly. "Edward has your coffeemaker, you know," she suddenly informed me.
"No, I did not know that. Why would he have it?" I questioned, not really caring what the answer was because I had a proper excuse to go over and see him.
"You gave it to me, but you know how we use our Keurig religiously. His was outdated, so I gave it to him. I didn't think it was a big deal-"
"It's fine. I promise."
"Maybe we can do lunch a little later if you're up for it," she proposed, quickly changing the subject from Edward.
"I'm sure that'll work," I answered. I hopped in my car, making plans to meet up with her later while I drove straight to Edward's apartment. There was a chance he wouldn't be there and there was an even greater chance that Claire would be, but I couldn't let that stop me.
It took fifteen minutes to muster up enough courage to walk up to Edward's door, and another five minutes to actually knock on the damn thing. I tried convincing myself I was merely being patient by not immediately knocking on his door, but I knew that was a lie. I was confusing patience with fear, and nothing would be achieved if I allowed the latter emotion to take over.
Five seconds after I knocked, I was relieved when Edward was standing there, not Claire. He didn't look the least bit surprised to see me standing at his front door at nine AM on a Saturday.
"Nice shirt," he remarked, skipping the part where we exchanged hellos.
I glanced down, realizing I was still wearing his shirt. My fingers pulled at the hem of the shirt, feeling self conscious as he stared me down.
"It's yours." I stated the obvious, watching his Adam's apple bob as he swallowed. "Anyway, I need coffee," I said politely, evenly.
Edward rubbed his eyes, shaking his head. "There are, like, ten Starbucks on the way here. Surely one of them has something to your liking."
"Okay, let me rephrase: Apparently, I lost my mind and decided to shun coffee." I smiled when he didn't react. "I quit drinking coffee and gave Charlotte my expensive coffeemaker, which obviously wasn't good enough for her because she gave it to you, and now I want it back," I said, using one breath. "Please."
"Oh. Well, that's all you had to say," he teased, hesitantly returning the smile I'd given him. "Come on in," he said, fully opening the door without a second thought.
I peeked inside, holding back from making too quick of a move. "I don't want to...intrude," I commented, trying to keep my jealousy under control.
"Since when do you not want to intrude?" Though his expression was composed, I could hear the amusement in his tone.
"Are you alone?" I finally asked, keeping any heightened emotion out of my voice.
"Does that matter?" He knew it mattered and my blank stare told him just that. "I'm alone. Get in here," he said in a low, gravelly voice, tilting his head to the side.
"She's not here?" I asked, walking in once he muttered 'no'. "So, y'all don't have sleepovers? Don't tell me she's," I gasped, "religious."
The corners of his mouth twitched, and I knew he was fighting with himself against smiling at my dig towards his girlfriend. "Stop."
I shrugged. "I'm just curious." And beside myself with jealously because she doesn't deserve you.
I stood by the table, trying to sneakily glance around his apartment while he was busy retrieving what I needed. I took pleasure in the fact that I didn't spot any photos containing Claire. For the most part, everything in his apartment was in the same place as I remembered.
He caught my attention as he spoke, but I found it hard to focus on his words. Instead, I quietly watched as he leaned over the counter, reaching behind the coffeemaker to unplug it. I bit my lip, want and need and lust taking over me as his shirt slightly lifted. My eyes locked on the strip of skin and boxers that were revealed, taunting and teasing me. He turned around and I pouted, my gaze having no say as it was averted from his exposed skin.
"First you take my photo frame, now my hand me down coffeemaker. What are you gonna take next, huh?" he questioned, scratching the back of his neck.
I glanced around his kitchen, pretending to search for something else to claim as my own. But all I wanted was standing right in front of me, and he was already mine, even if he didn't agree.
"We both know what I want," I stated, honesty and boldness coating my words.
He swallowed hard, unsure of what to say before returning to his task at hand and pretending like I hadn't affected him. I tucked my hair behind my ear, trying not to become upset that he merely ignored my comment. I could understand if I had made him uncomfortable, but it was silly to pretend as though everything we did and said didn't greatly affect each other.
"I can wait," I suddenly proclaimed, feeling my throat constrict as I held back from becoming emotional.
"Okay. It won't be much longer." He waved me off, detaching the water reservoir from the coffeemaker and turning on the hot water. "I'm pretty sure I haven't cleaned this thing since Charlotte brought it over."
"No. I'm not talking about that," I said, willing my voice not to shake. "I meant I can wait for you."
The kitchen was suddenly eerily quiet, save for the water splashing against the stainless steel sink. I stared at his back, wanting to rush over to him, but giving him a moment to digest what I'd said. He turned off the water and finally faced me, keeping his back against the sink for some sort of support.
"Bella," he muttered, eyebrows pulling together.
"You don't have to say anything. I just wanted you to know that I can wait," I reiterated. "Even if I have to just be your friend." I inhaled a deep breath. "I can do that. I'll take what I can get."
"You're not good at being patient," he stated quietly, burning his gaze into me.
"Neither are you," I shot back with determination. He rewarded me with a small, genuine smile.
His words from yesterday resounded in my mind. There's nothing left for you. You took it all. He'd trusted me, willingly gave me everything he had, and I gladly accepted it all. If what he claimed was true, that meant I still had everything. I was still in possession of his heart, his happiness, his love. Now I had to figure out a way to piece it all together again, to make him whole.
A/N: Holy smokes. Feel free to punch me in the face for taking so long to update. I appreciate y'all taking the time to read this story.
Hev99 beta'd. Livie79, Mshavisham79 and Deranged-Dreamer pre-read. I owe them everything for keeping me sane. I have no idea how they do it.