A/N: All credit to SM. She owns stuff, I just mess with it. I am hoping you guys will like where I'm going with this and I hope that the flow is just right. I want to thank Chloe and all the girls on FB who have pimped me, interviewed me and featured this story on their blogs and in their FB groups. The response still has me blown away. Thank you, guys, so much. I didn't get to any of the reviews from last chapter. I am so sorry; I have just been trying to write my heart out before I go back to work. I will get to them. I promise. See ya at the bottom.
Thank you SarcasticBimbo for you amazing Beta work.
I'm kind of stunned, but in a good way. I think I have a boyfriend, and even though the situation seems impossible, I believe in Mama Es when she says:
"No worries sweet girl, you and my baby boy will be together real soon, sooner than you think."
Esme will be going back to Florida tomorrow, and I miss her already. It was Saturday and she had been here all week. She was going to leave last Saturday, with Rose, so she could go see Edward on Sunday, which is his visiting day.
But something happened on Saturday morning when she and Rose came to the coffee shop to say goodbye to me. I should say someone, Lauren happened.
I was stocking the coffee cup shelves in the retail area. Jessica and Lauren were working the front counter. Ignoring them was quickly becoming my favorite pastime. I could slip into my head and hum the two songs that seem to be a constant loop as of late. And all I see when I close my eyes is red tinged hair and green eyes.
I didn't even notice when the door chimed, signaling a customer. I was crouched down stocking a lower shelf. I heard my name and Rosalie's voice.
"Is Bella here?" Rosalie asked Lauren, who just stared at her, mouth agape. Rosalie's beauty tended to do that to people. The girl, as sweet as she is, is nothing short of a true knockout in every sense of the word.
"Hello! Do you speak? Or are you part of some special needs outreach program, or something?" Rosalie huffed snapping her fingers in Lauren's face.
"Umm, what? Why do you want Virginella?" Lauren snapped.
"Does it matter? Is it any of your business? And what did you just call my sister-in-law?" Rosalie hissed.
I knew I had to step in before Lauren's teeth became really friendly with Rosalie's fist.
"Rose, I'm over here, I thought you guys were-"
"Yeah right, your sister-in-law? Oh please, Virginella is the biggest cock tease on campus. Who the hell would marry her?" Lauren was trying to stand at full height with her boobs, or lack thereof, puffed out.
"What is she?" Rosalie asked, pointing her perfectly manicured finger at Lauren with a look of disgust on her face.
"Oh my god, is this the prison guy's sister? You were so desperate to find someone who wanted you, that you wrote to a guy in prison!" She and Jessica both started to double over in laughter, and what really broke my heart was that Ben joined in.
He'd told them everything. All the things I told him in confidence, he told them.
"Classic Virginella, no guy on this campus is dumb enough to be with your frigid, ugly ass so you take a guy who is probably never going to have to see you."
This started them laughing again and I was biting down so hard on my lip to keep from crying I was drawing blood.
"What the fuck did you just say about my son?" I heard a voice so cold, I swear I could see frost forming on the window. I jumped and I think I might have whimpered.
"Umm, excuse me?" Jessica straightened up.
"Listen, you little tramp. I don't know whose bed you fell out of this morning, but you obviously hit your head and lost what little bit of common sense you had left after all the chemicals you must use to get that putrid shade of blonde ate the rest of your viable brain cells. But you don't know me, or what I'm capable of. If you were smart you would consider that before you ever think about hurting my daughter-in-law or speak ill of my son again," Esme stalked toward the counter.
"Furthermore, being a virgin in not something to be ashamed of. Riding every cock in a five-mile radius is. If you don't leave my family alone I will make sure you and your already tarnished reputations suffer in ways you couldn't even imagine in your most hellish nightmares, capisce?" Esme said, stomping her heel on the wooden floor.
The three of them looked ready to wet themselves. I, on the other hand, was relieved that her wrath was not directed at me.
"Uh, you can't talk to us like that. Bella, I swear you need to get your felons under control before I call James and get you fired," Lauren said crossing her arms across her chest.
"Esme please, I can't afford to lose this job" I whispered.
"Oh psh, please. I could own this place. Just because you think you're on your own doesn't give anyone the right to treat you this way. My god, sweet girl, what have you gone through to make you take treatment like this?" she asked, turning to me while speaking quietly.
"I do what I have to do. I want to get my degree. What others say about me, is something I'm used to ignoring, so I just don't-" I let out a breath and let my voice trail off.
"No, this is unacceptable," she spat and turned around.
"Lori, is that your name? I want you to call the owner, I want him here this instant, or else I will make such a scene and raise so much hell, he won't be able to get a coffee in this town let alone peddle it, now run along," she said dismissing her with a wave of her hand.
I had to cover my mouth to hide the snort that was threatening to come out.
Lauren and Jessica looked at each other and then they both turned and glared at Rose and Esme. Esme looked like she was about to explode.
"Okay frick and frack. I'm going to speak very slowly so that my directions are easy enough for you to understand. I want to see your boss, in this store, now. I want you to go call him. Now, run along and don't make me wait any longer than I have to. Tell your boss that Esme Cullen doesn't wait for anyone," she huffed and turned to me.
"I was coming to tell you we're gonna head home, but I think I'm going to send Rosalie alone. You and I are gonna spend some time together," she declared.
"Esme, you don't have to, I'm okay here. Those things they say, the way they laugh at me? It's honestly nothing new. I hate what they say about Edward, but it's my fault for thinking I could trust Ben. I honestly thought he was my friend," I let out a breath.
"You're taking this week off, it's the first week of summer break. I want you to show me around, I won't take no for an answer and I will even cover your wages for this week. Consider it a side job," she said with a wink.
I knew saying no was absolutely out of the question, so I just nodded and said, "Sure Esme, whatever you say."
"You're such a smart young lady. Why you've already figured out this planet is an easier place to live when I'm content and have the things I want," she said with a flick of her wrist.
She approached the counter and Ben's eyes went wide.
"Hey Judy, do you mind getting me a cup of the mud water you, Frick and Frack attempt to pass off for coffee?" she slapped her hand on the counter.
"Uhh, who? Judy? My name is Ben," he said pointing to his name tag.
"Oh no, you see, Ben may be the name your mother thought she was giving her son, but when a boy turns into a gossiping drama queen, where I come from, said boy is usually homosexual. Therefore, he becomes our Judy. You are either a closet hen, or you're trying to get into a cock swinging contest with my son. And, sweetie, it has to be the former, because the thought of you going against my son, Is almost laughable. Now run along and get my coffee," she said dismissively, staring at an imaginary crack in her nail.
"Bella, sweetie, would you be a dear and make me a cup of coffee? It seems as though Frick, Frack and Judy here have been stunned out of any coherent thought process. After that I want you to get your things, we have a lot to do today," she said, typing out something on her phone.
"Esme, I really honestly can't leave. I'm scheduled until 2:00 pm and I have to get the shelves stocked and-"
"Bella, it won't be a problem, besides, I will compensate you for your time if need be. I just- please, just let me spend some time with my future daughter-in-law," she pleaded, and it was so cute. Rosalie was watching this with this look on her face that told me she was trying so hard to keep from laughing.
"What are you laughing at?" I asked, pointing at her with a smile.
"Reminds me of when she ambushed me at the grocery store I worked at three nights after I met Emmett," she said shaking her head.
"Bella, I know this is all new, and I know you don't have experience with people looking after you, but that part of your life is over. Even if you and Edward remain just friends, you couldn't be more my daughter if I'd given birth to you. I feel like you need us, my family, just as much as Edward needs you. Let us look after you," Esme said, grabbing my hand.
It was so warm and maternal, something I hadn't experienced since my mother died.
"Umm, okay, but I do need to get back to work. I will come after I get done, I'll be fine," I promised, giving her hand a squeeze.
"Oh, no, I'm not leaving you alone. I'm going to get some work done in that corner over there. That way if Frick, Frack and Judy get out of line. . . believe me, I have ways of making them live to regret it," she said with a kiss to my cheek.
"Hey Rose, get back to your hubby. Thank you for coming to see me. For taking care of Edward. You know, everything," I said.
She stunned me and wrapped me in a hug. "You know us girls gotta stick together. I will email you after I visit Edward tomorrow. I will try to get back out to visit a couple of times this summer. But you're bringing your ass to Florida. We might be able to swing a visit with you and Edward?" she asked and I couldn't help the smile, feeling my face light up.
"Yeah, exactly what I thought. Friends my ass. Bella, falling for him is not the worst thing in the world, and I know he feels connected to you. Let it happen, what's the worst that can happen? You fall in love and make pretty babies. Oh, how horrible, he's gonna get out soon. Esme never makes promises she can't keep, so I trust her when she says Edward will be home before the end of summer," Rose whispered.
"Wait, what? What do you mean the end of summer? He said he was looking at fifteen years. I mean, he's only been in for less than a year. How is that-"
"We'll have a heart-to-heart at our slumber party tonight, and don't plan on being in this dump tomorrow. You and I have a lot to talk about," Esme said as she snatched her latté from Ben and scowled at him.
He looked scared and I just wanted to laugh. He stared at me for a second and he had this weird look in his eyes, like he'd lost something. I didn't understand.
I hugged Rosalie and told her to give Edward a hug for me tomorrow when she saw him.
"Call me when Em picks you up from the airport, and tell my son to not drive his father too crazy while I'm away," Esme said, kissing Rose's cheeks.
"I'll keep the wolf pack in line. I need to go check on Ali and Jas; you know, make sure he lets her come up for air," Rosalie laughed.
"Oh, leave them alone, they're newlyweds," Esme laughed.
A large Native American man in a dark suit stepped into the coffee shop and walked over to our group.
"Mrs. Cullen, the pilot called. The plane is ready; we should get you into the air. Mr. Cullen won't stop calling to check on you," he said with a smile.
"My husband, the worry wart. Thanks Embry, can you call him and tell him I will be in air in the next hour? Mom, you and Bella have a great time, we'll talk. Love you guys," Rosalie said sliding her sunglasses over her eyes and following the large man.
"Okay, well, I will be over there in the corner. I have some work to get done, and you're off at two right? We'll get going and do a few things," Esme said heading over to a corner table.
The rest of the shift was silent. Lauren and Jessica wanted so bad to say something to me but every time they would look at Esme they looked like they wanted to cry.
Ben, was the ballsy one. He cornered me as I was washing some bakery trays. "Bella, I- please, don't go to him. He's no good for you. He's in prison for god's sake. His family, they kill people, he kills people. You're too good for him," he whispered.
"So good that you thought it was cool to spill all my secrets to Jessica and Lauren? So good that you joined them in laughing at me? So good that you never once defended me? Ben, no, for the first time I feel like I have a family, I have people to look after me who are interested in me. No, you will not mess this up for me. Edward may not be a choir boy like you, but even though he's locked up a few hundred miles away, he's taken better care of me and shown me more affection than anyone in my whole life. I'm not a frigid bitch, I just don't know how to be affectionate. Did you ever consider that?" I said fighting back the tears. I don't know why all that spilled out, but it did.
"Well, then let me show you. Bella, you're beautiful, you're smart, and so sweet. He'll destroy that. I won't, you should give me a chance," he pleaded.
"Too late, I waited for you to notice me, but you always had Lauren and Jessica sitting on your shoulder, telling you I was wrong, I was defective. And what makes me defective? I won't drop my pants for anyone who seems interested?" I asked.
"Bella- I don't know. I never thought of you as defective" he said as he went to touch my face.
"Too little, too late, Ben. Edward is who I want, I don't want to be your charity case," I said as I turned to rinse the last tray and set it in the air rack to dry.
"Oh, get either Frick or Frack to work tomorrow, I'm taking a personal day," I said as I threw a towel on the counter and clock out.
"You're gonna turn into one of them Bella, I can't let you do that," he said.
"I would rather be them than be the fake bullshit that you have going on with Lauren and Jessica," I said, swiping my time card and walking out to the front.
~~~~~Inside & Out~~~~~
"So where are we going?" I asked as Esme ushered me into the back of a town car.
"Well, I figured we're going to have a slumber party, we should get some new pajamas," she said as she told the driver to find the nearest mall.
"I have pajamas, we can just stop by my house," I said.
"Why do you have such a problem with people wanting to do nice things for you? Bella, you're such a sweetheart, so deserving with such a great heart, to know you is to love you," Esme said, turning to me.
"I don't know how to accept affection, I've never had it, I am just used to doing things for myself," I explained.
"Bella, I mother, that's what I do. I want all my children to be happy and spoiled and have everything their hearts desire. My husband and I have the means to do it, so I do, and honestly, Edward is going to be worse than I am. Bella, no one will ever think bad of you for letting your family take care of you," she said with a kind smile.
"I just- I mean, I have Phil, but he honestly told me that the tuition and rent would always to be paid, but to stay away. He wanted nothing to do with me," I shrugged.
"Why does he still pay your bills?" Esme asked.
"I honestly don't know, I mean he was always nice to me as a little kid. Then when my mom got sick, he pulled away and he got more and more cruel with me. Then, when I was sixteen, he told me that I had to move out when I turned eighteen, but he would make sure I had what I needed. Luckily for me I was always smart, so I got a bunch of scholarships, and decided I didn't want to live on campus. Phil said he would pay my rent as long as I didn't go overboard. I mean, technically, I don't have to work, but I don't like to call him or ask him for anything," I confessed.
"Well, you never have to. But, darling, I think there is more to that story, and if you want me to, I can find out," she said with a smile.
"I don't, I feel like there is more but I honestly can't survive anymore hurt, so I just let it go. Whatever it is, I hope it's worth it for him," I said.
"Such a good heart, Bella. Too good, we're going to teach you that you are worth it, you are worthy of love and you're so special. Trust me, you're perfect just the way you are, there are no defects or anything wrong with you, and I will tell you that until you're sick of hearing it and you believe it."
I could only shake my head, I think she and Rosalie had paid me more compliments in the short time I spent with them than I had received since my mom passed away. It shook me.
"Tell me about your mom," Esme said.
"She was my best friend. She loved books more than I do. Even after I could read I would just lay with her and let her read to me. She was a free spirit and a little bohemian. She loved bare feet in the grass, she was amazing and gentle and kind," I said, feeling the pinch of pain that came with talking about her. But as time went on it got easier to talk about her.
"How old were you when she died?" she asked.
"Fourteen, but she'd been sick since I was twelve. She fought the cancer so hard, but it was already pretty advanced by the time they found it. She was tough and lived longer than they thought she would," I said.
"She sounds like an amazing woman. She raised an amazing little girl. I think it was fate that brought you to us, even though you're technically a grown up, you need a lot more mothering, and guess what? You're stuck with me," she said.
"Tell me about Edward, what is he like?" I said, smiling when I said his name.
"Oh, my rebel without a cause, the baby of my babies. Edward is like you, a gentle spirit that loves with everything he has. He is selective about the people he allows around him, but in the life he lives, he has to be that way. He loves music. He is super quiet, I swear I want to put a bell on the boy at times. He loves food and his grandparents. In his eyes his father hung the moon; his brothers have always been his heroes."
"Esme I thought you said your husband only had one son?" I questioned.
"I like how observant you are. I met my husband when my oldest son Emmett was four and my middle son Jasper hadn't even been born yet. I was a trophy that my first husband picked up when the cameras were on, or he needed to throw a party. He had no interest in me. I was alone and the pretty piece of eye candy as he climbed the ladder. He was a sheriff, and now he's a judge. The judge that convicted my son is my ex-husband. He hates me because I embarrassed him; the Sheriff's wife leaves him for a suspected mobster."
"He has a deep seated hatred for Carlisle, always has. His career was focused on bringing Carlisle and the syndicate down. In essence, he pushed me toward him. It was all he talked about, he had pictures of Carlisle and his family all over his office, and all women want a bad boy. I had to see what he was about, if he was worth the obsession. I never meant to fall for him, but I did, I fell for the man sight unseen."
"I left my former husband the night I met Carlisle, and married him the day after my divorce was final. He wanted to get back at me for leaving him. He was further embarrassed when someone leaked that he wasn't paying his court ordered child support and ruined a lot of credit he had because he wasn't doing anything for the boys. He would flake out on his visits with them. They just bonded with Carlisle. He was there for them, he was there when Jasper was born, named him, gave him his middle name. So what is happening to Edward is partially my fault. This was his way of getting back at me and my husband, but I have never been a weak woman, I always have a plan B. I always have ways. So when I say my son is coming home, I mean he will be coming home," she said.
I was stunned into silence; this was Esme, a woman who seemed the epitome of grace and could never do a bad thing in her life, had just told me she left her husband for another man while she was pregnant. Wow.
"Did I shatter your perfect image of me, dear?" she asked with a wink.
"I, oh my god, you're like a superhero. I would have never been strong enough to do that. You have every right to be happy," I said.
"Edward will be twenty-three next month; I have lived the most amazing life for the past twenty-five years. Carlisle is an amazing man, he does things that are questionable, but he is the man I always dreamed of and I will love him until my last breath," she said with a wistful look on her face.
The car slowed as we pulled into the mall and I was into my own head.
"Bella, my son is a good kid, I mean I know that drug trafficking is bad and people should say no to drugs, but at the end of the day good, bad or otherwise, I know the men in my family. My husband is a good man, all three of my sons are good men. Don't let what others say about Edward affect what you think about him."
Shopping with Esme is an experience. I tried to tell her no, that I didn't need anything. I fought I stomped and she just basically told me to deal with it. I had a good time, I laughed as she told me stories about Edward as a kid and all the hell he put her through as a teenager.
When we left the mall I had a whole new wardrobe, so many new things. I was never going to be able to fit all of this into my studio apartment. I was afraid to show Esme where I lived. Not embarrassed, but afraid. I was afraid that someone in my building would see the car and see her jewelry and try to hurt her. I could admit my apartment wasn't great, it was tiny and musty, but it was a good price and didn't make Phil angry.
It wasn't in a great neighborhood, but it was a ten minute walk in either direction to work or campus. I didn't have a car, so wherever I lived had to be close.
When I gave the driver my address his eyes bulged out of his head. He clicked the locks on the doors as we turned the corner.
We stopped in front of my building and Esme took a deep breath. "I am definitely going to have my husband look into your inheritance, we have to get you out of here," she said, rubbing my shoulder.
"No one messes with me, I'm okay. I know it's not the safest, but it's home and it's cheap," I said as I shrugged.
"You're a young woman who lives on her own. I would worry about you," she cried.
"No offense, Esme, but I've been living here for close to a year and a half now, and nothing has happened to me, I will be okay," I grumped as I climbed out.
"You may be a sweetheart, but you have some set of jewels on you, young lady," she said as I unlocked the entry door.
"Well, if I'm ever going to stand a chance against you and Rosalie, I needed to find them ASAP," I winked at her.
"Yeah, but here's the thing princess, the queen's job is to protect the princess, and the queen gets what she wants. The prince would cause a goddamn hurricane if he knew the queen left his fair maiden here unprotected, not going to happen," she said.
"Look, when Edward shows up at that door, and puts a ring on my finger, then he can tell me when the princess is going to move, but until then be glad I let you take me shopping. The living situation stays as is," I said as I folded my arms and narrowed my eyes.
"Fine,, but I should tell you, your bitch brow needs work" Esme said as she walked through my living room.
"Yeah, well, I'll keep that in mind," I said.
~~~~Inside & Out~~~~~
The week with Esme was amazing. I got to see parts of Arizona I would have never been able to see on my income. I went to the spa and got my nails and hair done. We got massages and I worked on my final project. Friday night, my last night of class, Esme took me to my favorite steakhouse to celebrate my perfect grades.
"I had an amazing week with you, Esme, I'm gonna miss you when you leave in the morning," I said as we finished our dessert.
"It was a lot of fun, young lady, you've worked hard. You deserved it," she said as she sipped her coffee.
"I don't know when I will get to see you guys again. I told Edward in the letter I sent him this morning how much I adore you," I gushed.
"I will be sure to tell him how amazing I think you are when I see him tomorrow," she said.
"You're lucky. I can't wait to see him. I sent him the paperwork for my visitor privileges, now I just get to wait," I grumped.
"I'll have my husband see what he can do to get the paperwork pushed through. Once we get the okay, we'll get you to Florida, but Rosalie will be here to see you Thursday," she said.
"I'll be busy until then. I have work, I have work every day," I said.
Sunday, Esme left and I cleaned up my apartment and watched a few movies. Monday morning I had work and then I went home and made some dinner and started reading a new series of romance novels.
The rest of the week was the same boring monotony. It was Thursday when my life was turned upside down. I was pretty jumpy all day. Rosalie was due to arrive later on this evening and we were going back to the Canyon, so I had to hurry home and pack. I was working. I had started to load the bakery case. I was working on a coffee cup display when the bell above the door chimed.
"Bree, can you get that?" I called over my shoulder to the new girl I was working with.
"Bella?" A velvet voice I'd know anywhere came from behind me. I turned around and gasped. I had to be hallucinating.
"Edward? How did you-Oh my god, are you really here?" I asked.
"I told you I would come for you the second I could. My mother had me on a plane the second I got out. I'm sorry, is this okay, like better than alright?" he said with smirk.
"I can't believe you're here. Oh my god, did you just quote our song?" I whispered.
He nodded and laughed. "Yeah as corny as it is, I just did" he said as he walked forward and wrapped his arms around me.
"I've been waiting to do that since the second letter. Please tell me this is okay," he whispered in my ear.
It felt so right, I never wanted to let him go.
"Yeah, don't let me go, it's okay. I mean, definitely better than alright," I whispered, resting my head on his shoulder.
I lost all sense of time, and professionalism. I was standing in the middle of my workplace, holding onto the man I had given my heart and my words to for the last three months. Everything was perfect until a nasal, annoying voice broke up my happy bubble.
"Well, holy shit, Virginella finally stopped being a cock tease and let someone touch the goods," Lauren sneered.
Edwards head whipped around and his stare was as cold as ice.
"So which one are you? Frick, Frack, or Judy? Whichever you are, I got a bone to pick with you," he said as he leveled her with a hard stare.
"That would be Frack" Rosalie said walking into the coffee shop, "and you're gonna have to wait in line cause I've been waiting to pop her one."
Yeah, this was gonna be interesting.
A/N: Yeah, this is it. I been working on this for days and I finally thought this was right. I hope it does you guys proud, I really can't wait to see what you guys think. Thank you for hanging out with me.