WARNING: May be triggering for some. Involves a controlling relationship. Read at your own risk.
I am thinking of continuing this as a multiple-chapter story where each chapter can stand on its own, sort of drabble-y.
I sit quietly in the brightly lit room, feeling the hard metal chair beneath me, the concrete floors beneath that. My eyes focus on a darkened stain. Blood? Rust? A combination of both?
How many prisoners have come through this very room, sat in the very chair across from me? How many family members, friends, loved ones, enemies have sat in the very chair I sat in, waiting impatiently, anxiously for the prisoner to arrive.
How many victims?
Not many, I had been told by my lawyer, which was why he was so against my visit today.
It had been a month since the trial. A month since my former lover had been sent to prison—a month since I was the sole witness to the case that sent him here.
It wasn't as though he had denied any of it, though. He had gloated. Smiled. Fucking smiled as he recounted the feeling of his fists soaring across Mike Newton's face. His bright green eyes, enigmatic and alive with the memory, had found mine as I sat in the back row of the court, hoping he would not have a chance to see me, to speak to me before I gave my testimony.
Of course, he had. He always had been able to find me. No matter where I went, no matter who I was with, he managed to find me.
This time it was Mike, my live-in boyfriend. Last time it was James, and then Eric, and then Laurent. The cycle is never ending. He wants me, and he is desperate to have me through any means necessary.
The sound of a metal door clicking open pulls me from my reverie, my body jolting into the present, my spine straightening the way Rosalie had told me to sit.
"Confidence, Isabella," she had said. "Don't let him think you have any thoughts left for him."
Easier said than done.
Especially when he shuffles into the room in a brightly colored, orange straight jacket. It looks better on him than it should. He looks better than he should. My lawyer had convinced me that he would be getting what was coming to him in prison. He'd be beaten mercilessly by the other prisoners, controlling on the outside, but weak to the inside gangs and nobodies. Clearly, this was not the case.
He looks as though he is striving.
His green eyes pierce me as he holds out his arms, waiting for the guard to release the cuffs. I have half a mind to ask him to leave them on, but I don't want to give him that kind of power.
"Ten minutes," the guard barks, shoving him towards the small, metal table in the middle of the room.
My eyes follow the guard as he leaves as much space as he could, standing just beside the door. He becomes immobile, still as a statue and stares straight ahead. He must be used to this.
I ignore him for as long as I can as he pulls out the chair that suddenly looks too small for his tall stature, his long legs having to bend at the knee just so they wouldn't collide with the corner of the table. I study his arms, exposed beneath the turn up of the long sleeves. Even his forearms look different. Harder, smoother. It seems he has been working out—and he had already been in pristine shape.
Finally, he makes a small noise in the back of his throat. One of amusement. One of contentment.
"Couldn't stay away?" His voice is just as velvety as ever, just as pleasing to my ears, but my eyes snap to his in annoyance.
Staying away from him is hardly the problem.
He has a five o'clock shadow forming across his jaw, chiseled as it had always been and I have a vivid memory of the way that stubble felt as it rubbed against my inner thighs.
His eyes, brilliant emerald, sparkle under the fluorescent lights, his mouth curves up at one end in that ridiculous crooked grin that I had fallen hard and quickly for when I was too stupid and naïve to understand what this man was capable of.
I watch his mouth as he speaks again, having no intention of carrying on with his delusions.
"You know I forgive you for speaking against me in court, right?" He leans forward, resting his elbows on the table as though he wants to invade as much of my personal space as he can. "I know you were trying to protect yourself and I would never be upset with that. I want you to be safe. I want you to be happy."
I lean back in my chair, flabbergasted. Out of all the things I thought he would have said, this was not one of them.
"Happy?" I hiss, feeling the telltale quivering of my bottom lip when I'm moments away from angry crying. But he wouldn't get tears from me—not anymore. "I was happy, Edward, until you ruined it for me. Again."
He moves back too, his fingers spreading wide against the table. He studies the spaces in between his digits and I watch the shadow of his long eyelashes flicker across the tops of his cheekbones.
"Maybe in the short term," he mutters under his breath. I have to strain to hear. Suddenly, he glances up at me, his eyes captivating me as they had years ago. "But he will never be able to fulfill all of your needs. Not him, not the vet, not the librarian, not the mechanic. None of them will ever be good enough for you. No one will ever be good enough for you."
I can't help it; I call his bluff. I know my therapist would have been shot red at my antagonizing, but I honestly cannot help myself.
"No one?" I question drily, staring across the table at him. His brow furrows for a split second before smoothing once more. "Not even you." It wasn't a question.
He smooths his hands across the table once before burying them against his lap and leaning into the table. He tilts his head, watching me from a different angle and I can feel the heat rising to my face. I hate more than anything that I can still be affected by him like this.
"I never said I was deserving of you," he remarks.
The anger boils in my blood. I feel like I could spew fire from my fingertips if I really want to. I wish I could touch him so that I could slap him. I wonder if the guard would turn a blind eye.
"Then why do you fight so hard for me?" I spit, glaring over at him. "Why am I constantly having to warn potential boyfriends of you? Why do I have to deal with their brush offs of those warnings until you come back, trigger happy and ready to fight? Why have I had to sit in bed the next day, crying my eyes out as I apologize to this guy—Mike, James, Eric, whoever it may be?" I'm so angry, I don't even notice the tears dropping from my eyes until one rolls far enough down my cheek that it lands on my lip. I taste the drop, too watery to be salty. I think I've run out of salt in my body; I've cried rivers of it over the past few days.
Edward sits still through my rant. It's nothing he hasn't heard before, and the tears are nothing he hasn't seen before. The only difference now, though, is that he is hearing them and seeing them in prison instead of in the bedroom of my small apartment, or in the parking lot beside my car, or in the hallway of an academic building. He will find me; he always has.
But I have something to go on, now. Something to make the words I cry more accurate, more plausible.
He is in prison for assaulting my boyfriend. Mike has pressed charges on him. I can only hope he will heal with the time he is in here.
The guard by the door is becoming impatient. I can tell because he keeps glancing at the watch on his wrist, counting down the minutes. We must not have many left because I can see the handcuffs dangling from his belt, ready to be put to use.
Edward clears his throat and I can see the burn in his gaze. He's hurting as he always is. I hurt him by moving on.
"Maybe," he says quietly, his eyes shifting between mine and I wipe the tears hastily, "there would be no apology if you came back to me."
My teeth click together in anger. "I gave you a second chance. I gave you multiple chances, Edward."
He doesn't respond for a moment because he knows I'm right.
"You were too controlling," I continue. "I felt like I had to walk on eggshells with you. Your anger was…" I trail off with a shake of my head. I don't need to explain this to him again. And if I do, then that's the problem right there.
I can already see the gears turning in his head, trying to come up with a way to keep me here, to excuse his past behavior.
"I was never abusive towards you, physically or otherwise," he says at last, his shoulders slumping just slightly. "I know I had anger issues—have," he corrects when I scoff, "but I would never hurt you."
"It wasn't me, Edward," I explain, my tone the same old tired quality. "It was everyone else you hurt. Any guy who spoke to me, any guy who looked at me. It was…hell for me, carefully choosing every move I made so that I wouldn't put someone else in a compromising position with you. I had no friends by the end of our relationship. You were too possessive." I suck in a breath, knowing the truth hurts both of us. "You killed me, Edward. You took everything from me until I had nothing left."
I watch his Adam's apple move up and down as he swallows heavily. Again, this is nothing he hasn't heard, but it seems like this time he's actually listening to me. Usually, he's too wrapped up in his anger, his own pain, to really listen to what I am saying to him.
"But," he starts, and then backs off, raising a hand to run it through is bronze hair. It sticks up at all ends and it pains me to remember doing exactly the same with my own hand. He pulls his bottom lip in between his teeth and then releases it, dragging his teeth across the dark pink flesh.
I wait, patiently, impatiently, simultaneously wishing our ten minutes were up and that they were just starting.
Finally, he drops his hand and glances up at me, his eyes desperate. "I loved you with everything that I was. Doesn't that count for anything at all, Bella?"
My stomach jumps at his nickname for me. I haven't heard that name in over a year.
"We were only sixteen. Did we even know what love was?" My answer and follow up question is rhetorical, but I know as soon as the words are out of my mouth that we did, and that was the problem. He loved too hard. It was his only fault.
His eyes flare, his lips flattening into a straight line. He's angry. It's his telltale signs and I wonder if I hadn't been able to read him so well, even when we were in high school, if I wouldn't have been the butt of some of his anger, too.
"I knew what love was, Bella," he hisses, "and I still know what love is. There's only one person in this world that I love, and it's you, and you can't tell me otherwise. Call it obsession, devotion, desperation, but what I felt for you when we were seventeen has only increased. No matter how long we are apart, I will always wait for you. You're the only one for me, no matter how many other guys you fuck—"
I'm already standing before he even gets the last word out because I already knew where he was going with this.
The anger behind his spitfire eyes, his passionate words dies and turns to fear as his gazes follows me and he reaches out desperately, trying to hold on to me, to keep me in the room, to make me listen, but the guard is already barking his orders. "No touching!"
I had almost forgotten about him for a few seconds, but he's making his way towards the table.
I take a breath and look over at the guard, nodding once. His hand releases the baton on his belt and he leans back against the wall, closer than before. He starts to pull out the handcuffs. I glance at the clock on the wall—we still have three minutes, but this is going nowhere.
Edward's breathing is heavy, his chest rising and falling rapidly as he leans forward, his feet hooking around his chair.
"Bella," he's begging, his emerald eyes shimmering with what appears to be unshed tears. I fight the distress building up inside of me at the sight. "Please, I—I'm sorry. Just, wait. I won't…" he breaks off and he lets his gaze finish for him. I can see the realization behind his eyes that when I leave this room, it may be the last he sees of me for the rest of his five-year sentence. And he's panicking.
I hate that the feeling is almost mutual.
"Listen," I say instead of sitting back down, "the three years we had together were…astonishing. Amazing, but troubling. Anxiety-inducing, but life-giving at the same time. I don't know how else to explain it. I was so loyal to you for three years, and all I'm asking is for the same loyalty from you now. Loyalty to let me be happy, to let me make my own decisions."
"Can you answer me one question?" he asks desperately, his fingers running through his hair again. He's pulling at straws, hoping to draw me in as he always could. Always can. I only shift my chin a little higher in answer, pulling the strap of my purse a little tighter over my shoulder.
He takes my silence as acquiescence, which it is, and puckers his lips just enough that they draw my gaze. He swallows again and licks his bottom lip.
"Did you ever love me?" he asks.
The air that leaves my lungs surprises even me, and I almost want to laugh.
I bite on the inside of my cheek, trying to keep the tears at bay. I hadn't planned on crying today, and here I was, about to break down for the second time. But that was what Edward did to me; he pulled everything from me. All the emotions I thought I had buried, all the memories I spent months trying to forget. But how can I forget the way he touched me, kissed me, loved me when I compare every other man to him?
It's not fair to me or anyone else, and I need to work twice as hard now to forget him.
"Of course I did," I answer, and his eyes soften just a hint. "That was the problem—is the problem. I loved you too much to realize what you were doing to me."
I hope, as I push in the chair and move around the table with a large width that he caught onto the past tense verb.
I want him to forget me, too. I want him to move on. I want the past three years apart to disappear for him.
Despite everything, I want him to be happy.
So, when I hurry out of the door and into the dimly lit hallway, the sound of his pained groan is enough to buckle my knees. I hate that there's still a part of me, deep inside, that wants to comfort him. I hate that there's a part of me that is still in love with him, just as desperately as when we were sixteen.
Rosalie is waiting for me outside of the prison, her long blonde curls blowing gently in the wind as she leans against her red convertible. Her perfected eyebrows, arched high in wonder, dip and furrow as I near. I'm collected in her arms by the time my knees buckle for the second time, the tears free-falling like a broken dam.
And that's what I am.