It was a difficult thing to do, to leave on Sunday night. Tearing myself away from Bella and Teddy was one of the hardest things I'd ever had to do.
I hadn't wanted Bella to leave that night, but she'd insisted she had to go home and get some things. I'd told her I could wait while she gathered what she needed, and she'd finally agreed that was the smartest thing so I didn't have to make the trip back again in the morning. She'd known I'd never let her walk here with a suitcase.
As I watched her move around her small apartment, I was once again rather glad things had worked out this way. I was sorry Kate was ill, but it provided me with the perfect opportunity to get Bella out of here. Despite it being spring, her apartment was damp and chilly. I took a quick peek in her cupboards and refrigerator while she went into the bathroom for toiletries and wasn't surprised how bare they were. She was cutting back on groceries.
That wouldn't be the case now.
Teddy was thrilled to see her the next morning and beyond ecstatic when I told him she would be looking after him while I went away. He was used to me coming and going and never put up a fuss, although he was always extra cuddly when I got home, which suited me fine, but he didn't even blink when he found out Bella would be there.
The next few days were busy with work, showing Bella where everything was, making sure the house was stocked with everything she could need in case she felt like baking or cooking. I was pleased to know she could drive, and I had her take the car out to make sure she was comfortable driving it. She went to see the owner of the diner, who wasn't pleased with her request to not work until I returned and informed her not to bother coming back. I rejoiced at the fact, while quietly assuring Bella all would work out. I had no intention of her returning there.
The house felt so right with her in it. Saturday afternoon was overcast and rainy, and we spent it up in the loft—the three of us. Hours flew by with board games and teasing. Teddy's laughter rang in the room as Bella made faces when she went down a chute or got the wrong number in "Trouble." She added something I didn't even realize was missing.
She completed us.
And after Teddy went to bed, the loft became a refuge I never wanted to leave. With each of us curled into a chair by the fire, her hair often still damp from a bath, Bella and I got to know each other. Words, stories, glances, and smiles were shared over wine. Our hands often clasped as we talked about something more personal, offering a level of comfort I had never experienced before. She listened as I told her how, not long after giving birth to Teddy, my wife, Jane, informed me this wasn't the life she wanted. I thought she was dealing with post-partum depression—she hadn't been happy since Teddy was born—and desperate to help, I agreed when she told me she needed to get away for a while. I thought she'd come to her senses quickly, but after a couple of weeks went by, I received a call from her saying she wasn't coming back. I was stunned that she could walk away from her only child, but she did. Divorce papers had followed a short time later.
I sat quietly for a while, with Bella beside me, holding my hand. I lifted my eyes to her. "I had barely gotten over her leaving us when she was killed in a car accident."
"Edward," she breathed.
"Looking back, I realized she hadn't been happy even before Teddy came along. I had been lying to myself, thinking I could love her enough for both of us. But the truth was, neither of us loved the other the way we should have." I smiled sadly. "I can't regret it, though— I got Teddy. He's my life."
"You're a wonderful father."
"He's a great kid."
Her smile was luminous. "Yes, he is."
I encouraged her to talk about her soon-to-be ex, Alec. She had so many feelings of guilt, worry, and fear that she'd never talked about with anyone. The loneliness she'd been experiencing since arriving in Seattle at times almost crippled her, she admitted sadly, having no one to share her fears with or to rely on. I wanted her to talk to me about her fears. I wanted to help soothe them. I wanted to be the one she knew she could rely on. Her words started out slowly, but as we grew closer, she opened up more, sharing her pain. I wanted to find the scumbag who had destroyed her life and caused her to lose faith in not only herself but those around her. I wanted to beat him senseless for causing her such pain.
I was determined to help her find that faith again.
Each night, it became harder to watch her walk away from me down the hall to her room. Each night, my lips lingered a little longer on her soft cheek as I bade her good night. And each night, her quiet sigh made me want her even more.
I sighed as I settled myself into the seat on the plane, already wishing it was returning instead of leaving. I knew Bella and Teddy would be fine. Rose had come over and met her; the two of them had gotten along well, and she'd let Bella know to contact her if she needed help. My parents had left for their trip; my mother had been distraught at not meeting Bella before she left after Rose filled her in on the current situation. She'd laughed quietly on the phone when I assured her that Bella wasn't going anywhere if Teddy and I had anything to do with it. I let her think I meant that I wanted Bella only as a nanny—I wasn't ready to share anything else yet. She would be surprised at the quickness of all of this, and I was, in fact, surprised myself. But it felt so right. The three of us felt so right.
We needed her. And she needed us.
I frowned as I thought about Bella and her situation. For her sake, as well as mine, I hoped her divorce would be final soon. I wanted to help her with the debt she was struggling with, but I knew that would take time. She was still leery of discussing anything that personal.
I sighed as I shut my eyes, leaning back into the seat as the plane began its take off, and I thought of what I'd accomplished.
I'd gotten her out of that apartment—at least for now and hopefully for good. I had her in my house. She was safe. She was slowly opening up to me, and I hoped soon, we would cross the friend side and move on to being more. I would go as slowly as she needed.
Maybe when I got home, I could arrange for her sister and niece to come visit. She'd like that. I wanted to do lots of nice things for her. I wanted to make her smile and see her eyes light up with happiness. She literally made Teddy glow these days, and I knew I hadn't smiled this much in a long time. She made everything right.
Now I wanted to make things right for her.
I walked through the airport rapidly. I wanted to grab my luggage and get home. It had been a long few days, and I was anxious to see Teddy and Bella. Bella had been great, sending me emails and pictures of Teddy doing fun things, and I'd spoken with him every night before he went to bed. He sounded happy and content.
I'd also called Bella back after he was asleep and talked to her. Hearing her soothing voice sharing other stories of their day made me feel better. Telling her details of my day was a new experience for me, but she always asked, and I found I enjoyed having someone to talk to about my day. I was looking forward to talking with her when I got home.
I grabbed my bag off the carousel as I heard one of my favorite sounds in the world: my son calling for me.
Grinning, I dropped my bag and scooped up the pint-sized body barrelling toward me. Little arms wrapped around my neck, holding on tight as I hugged him.
He leaned back, his face lit up with a beaming smile. "We surprised you, Daddy! We came to get you!"
I laughed as I kissed his warm cheek. "That you did, kiddo." Looking over, I saw Bella watching us, smiling shyly. Holding Teddy, I picked up my bag and crossed over to her. Leaning in, I kissed her cheek as well, conscious of her warm fragrance. "Thank you," I breathed. "Great surprise."
"I've never been greeted at the airport before."
"You sounded like you missed him so much, and he missed you. I thought we'd pick you up and get you home faster. Teddy has lots to tell you."
Teddy's hand cupped my face, pulling on my cheeks to look at him. "We saved you supper, Daddy. Bella and me made it special for you."
"Perfect. I'm starving."
Bella bent down and picked up my bag. Unable to resist, I slipped my arm around her waist, pulling her close. Now I had both her and Teddy nestled against me. I grinned at them. "Let's go home."
Teddy sat on my knee while I dug into the plate of chicken and rice Bella and Teddy had "made special" for me. Despite the fact I had spoken with him every day I was gone, he'd chatted away all the way home and hadn't stopped talking yet. The park, the library, the public pool—so many places he had been, and so many adventures he'd been on. He prattled on about his new friends and wanting swimming lessons and how he and Bella had baked more cookies and banana bread, which he informed me was his new favourite food. I revelled in every word.
After coffee and a slice of the beloved banana bread, which I had to admit was probably now one of my new favourites as well, I ruffled Teddy's hair. "It's late, buddy. Bedtime."
"Will you tuck me in?"
"And be here in the morning?"
"Yep. I'm here all day." I slid him off my knee. "Pajamas. Brush your teeth. I'll be up in a couple minutes."
He wrapped himself around Bella's legs. "You come too, Bella? You won't leave yet?"
I frowned. Why would he think she was leaving?
Her hand caressed his hair as she nodded and smiled down at him. "I'll be up soon and say goodnight before I go."
His little feet thumped loudly as he ran upstairs, while Bella and I exchanged an amused glance.
"He's so happy, Bella. He's obviously enjoyed his time with you. Thank you." Then I became serious. "But why does he think you're leaving?"
She looked surprised. "You're home now, Edward. You don't need me to stay."
"I have to go into the office on Friday," I offered, thinking fast. I didn't want her to leave.
"I'll come back then. You can spend time with Teddy tomorrow."
"It's a waste for you to go back to the apartment and come back on Friday. You can just stay in your room and be comfortable."
"I know it isn't much, but it's my home for now. I have to go back," she stated gently. "I can't stay here forever. You should go and tuck him in while I pack my bag. I won't go until he's asleep. I promised him." She smiled at me as she left the room, and I stayed where I was, finishing my coffee. What she'd said was true. Except I didn't want it to be. I wanted her to stay here.
Forever sounded pretty good to me.
Tenderly, I tucked Teddy's arm under the covers, still in shock over his whispered confession.
I had read his story to him, smiling at his enthusiasm for Bella's good night kiss. He'd frowned as she left after promising to see him on Friday. He'd looked up at me, his unhappy expression mirroring mine, I assumed. He'd pushed himself up, closer to my ear, his voice soft as he asked, "Can Bella stay, Daddy? You ask her?"
"I'll see what I can do, buddy." I knew I had to prepare him for waking up to her not being here. "But you know, Teddy, she has her own home, just like Kate does. She'll be back on Friday," I soothed him.
He shook his head. "No, Daddy. Not like Kate."
"How come, bud?"
He shook his head again, his hair flopping over his forehead with the exertion. He looked at the door and then back at me. His voice was very quiet when he spoke. "Bella's my wish, Daddy."
I pulled back as the meaning of his words hit me.
He stared back at me earnestly. "I saved two wishes so it could happen, Daddy. I want Bella to live with us. I want her to be my mommy."
"Teddy—" I had no idea what to say to him.
"You hafta ask her, Daddy. That's a grown-up job. Grams told me that when I asked her how to get a mommy. But I picked her. I like her."
I ruffled his hair, wishing it was that easy. "There's more to it than that, buddy."
He frowned. "Don't you like her, Daddy?"
"Yes, I like her."
"It's my wish," he insisted. "I saved it."
"Listen, okay?" I implored him. "Stuff like getting a new mommy takes time. I can't just ask her. There are things you have to do for that to happen."
"Oh. Like rules?"
"Yes." I nodded, relieved. He understood rules. "There are rules I have to follow. It takes time. You have to be patient." I drew in a deep breath. "It might not work, buddy. Sometimes, all the wishes in the world won't make something work."
"But you try? She'd be a good mommy. And then you not be lonely."
I blinked at the sudden moisture in my eyes. "I'll try, Teddy. But you have to keep it a secret for now."
He snuggled into my chest with a yawn. "You can do it, Daddy. You can do anything."
I'd held him as he fell asleep, amazed at how much I wanted to be able to make his wish come true.
I wanted Bella here for him and for me.
Now, as I looked at his sleeping form, I knew I had to go and talk to Bella.
Getting her to stay here was step one.
Getting her to love us would be step two.
Then forever would be in my grasp.
The wishes are revealed. I think Edward is sort of wishing the same thing.
See you on Thursday.
Thank you for reading.