Beta'd by HollettLA :)
Secrets & Wishes
If I pretend I'm asleep, Edward won't offer his advice. I hear him shuffling around the bedroom after his shower, and I hear his humming as he picks out a shirt to wear. It's one of those little Edward-isms I've grown fond of.
It's a big day. Masen's starting fourth grade, Anthony's a year ahead of his peers and is starting third, and Edward is taking on a new class of high school freshmen. Seeing as he has an early faculty meeting, the plan is for him to drive ahead, and then I'll take the boys to school at eight. The high school is just across the street from where Masen and Anthony will be, so Edward will run over to wish them well on their first day.
He continues his humming while getting dressed, and I crack one eye open to check the time. Yeah, it's gonna be tight, but I can't face another lecture. I know I've avoided Mom for too long now.
Sunday through Tuesday was no issue. I was "sick" and didn't talk to anyone on the phone. Then word of the disastrous reunion reached Mom at work on Wednesday, and Alice's mom told her everything that happened. Naturally, Mom called me the minute she got home yesterday, and it was harder to dodge her call then.
Edward's phone rings, and I'm a little peeved that he answers the call when I'm sleeping. Well, for all he knows.
"Morning, cousin—oh. Hello, Esme."
"I'm good, thank you. Why are you calling from Carlisle's phone?" There's a pause. "I see. Yes, I heard he was moving out this week—pardon?" Another pause follows, this one longer. "He told you that, huh?" he chuckles wryly. "Yes, it's true. Isabella and I are together."
This suddenly got interesting.
Carlisle's reaction to finding out we're together was less dramatic. I suspect Edward confided in his cousin earlier and that Carlisle either knows about Seattle, or he was aware of…I don't know, feelings developing. Regardless, he was only happy for us.
Edward sighs and sits on the foot of the bed. "No, Esme, I don't believe she's too young for me."
I smirk into the pillow.
"If we're rushing, that's our concern, yes?" Now he's losing his patience. "If you ask me, I want us to buy a house together yesterday—for goodness' sake, I'm not having this discussion with you, Esme. I have to go to work—" He sighs again. "Goodbye."
He's quiet for a beat, and then I feel the bed shift. He leans back against the mattress and slips a hand under the covers, up the back of my thigh. Farther up, farther up, and he pushes away the covers before the bastard literally bites my ass.
I yelp, and he smacks my butt.
"Call your mother." He leaves the bed, and I scowl at nothing and rub the sting he left behind. "You're a horrible actress, little one."
"Bastard," I groan.
There's something hysterical about watching two boys bicker about the adjustments of backpack straps. Standing in the parking lot at their school, Anthony says it's ludicrous the way Masen wears his pack, and Masen claims Anthony's way is for nerds.
"Your backpack will bounce off your butt," Anthony insists. "The straps are supposed to be tighter. Like this." He shrugs and sticks his thumbs into the straps, his backpack sitting higher on him.
"Like I said. Nerd." Masen rolls his eyes.
"No name-calling," I warn him. Peering across the street, I see Edward coming into view, and he jogs the last distance. Charcoal slacks, light blue button-down, and a tie that matches his pants make for one delicious-looking teacher. Plus, those glasses.
"I'm sorry I'm late," he says as he reaches us. "I was arguing with another teacher." At his pointed look, I know he's talking about Kate. It must've been another one of their delightful phone calls.
They've had the most vicious fights over the phone nearly every day this week. It started on Sunday when Edward yelled at her for letting the box of secrets and wishes fall into the wrong hands. Her roommate was supposed to have given it to the principal, but someone, somewhere down the line, had neglected to acknowledge the friendship between Principal Banner's sister—aka, Kate's roommate—and Alice's mother. That's how Alice had learned about the box, which she took so she could make copies of the notes.
One fight had turned into years of resentment boiling over, and there's always something they feel the need to yell at the other. Last night, it was Kate who called because she couldn't believe the "nerve" Edward had to list me as Anthony's emergency contact at school. She said that…from Oregon…kinda far away to be the emergency contact.
"I won't ask," I say with a slight smile.
Edward kisses my temple, then squats down in front of Anthony. "Nervous?"
"Not particularly," Anthony answers. "I've studied my map, so I know where my classroom is."
"I'll walk him to class, Edward," Masen says.
"That's sweet of you, buddy." Edward stands up and gives Masen's shoulder a squeeze. "I have an early day, so your mother and I will pick you two up at three."
Most of the students are walking toward the school, so I slip my hand into Edward's and kiss the boys' foreheads. "Be good, okay?"
"I'm always good." Masen smirks.
"Oh, boy," Anthony mumbles under his breath.
Edward and I stand there and watch the boys head inside together, and the moment is significant to me. It's one of those family things, I guess. Maybe he feels the same, because he hugs me tightly.
"I love you," I murmur.
"I love you too." The corners of his eyes crinkle in that sexy way.
"So…" I rock on the balls of my feet. "Was it just me or did I hear something about buying a house?"
Because I happen to know I only have a six-month lease, and he has a one-year lease. Which expires early next spring.
"It's possible you heard something," he chuckles. "I take it that's not out of the question?"
"I'm glad to hear it."
"I'm gladder. In fact, we could sit down and talk at length about—"
"Go see your mother, Isabella."
"Okay, this is justified procrastination," I reason with myself. Upon seeing Angela entering the grocery store, I make a turn and decide I could stock up on cereal at home. Not to mention eggs—actually, I do need to grocery shop. Anthony and Edward have both declared that my apartment is cozier, so that's where we end up staying when someone is spending the night. And they all eat as if they're pregnant.
Grabbing a cart, I walk into the store and keep an eye out for Angela as I shop.
Bread—yes, toast. Bagels for Edward. Sourdough for me, which Edward calls hipster bread.
The only one from school I keep in touch with right now is Jasper, and no one knows less about Angela than him. He and Ben aren't on speaking terms with their wives as they get ready for their divorces.
Emmett has taken time off work and is in Texas now. I'm the mother hen who forced him to agree to weekly texts, though he didn't seem too reluctant to go along with it.
I haven't seen Rose, but I've heard she's staying with a friend in Seattle.
I'm gonna text her soon. I hate what she did, but…I guess I just want her to make amends in the right way. She shouldn't hurt herself for the sake of it. Then she'll never be able to move on.
Down by the produce section, I spot Angela picking out apples. I grab a box of blueberries on the way. No ring on her finger, I note.
She looks up and offers a tired smile. "Hi, Bella."
"Hey, hon. How are you?"
"Oh, you know…" She lifts a shoulder. "It's hard, but I suppose it needed to happen. I've known far longer than Alice has. I kind of got used to it."
I furrow my brow, concerned. "What do you mean got used it?" No one should have to get used to someone cheating.
"I've known about his sexuality since we started trying for a baby," she explains. "He told me about Jasper, and…I don't know. I guess in the end it didn't hurt as much as the thought of standing on my own two feet. Ben was ashamed and knew coming out wouldn't go well with his mother and siblings, and I wanted to keep what we had. I was fooling myself."
"Hey. Don't be too hard on yourself."
"I know," she sighs softly. "Anyway. Once I get settled in—wherever I'm moving—maybe he and I can be on better terms, but right now I don't want to see any of them. Have you talked to Alice?"
I shake my head. "Doesn't seem like anyone else has either."
"Shocker," she mutters. "I'm staying at my parents' so I don't have to run into her."
Understandable, given that they're neighbors.
"I should go," she says, checking her watch. "Jessica's filling in for her cousin at the post office, and I want to drop off a package before her shift starts. Do yourself a favor and steer clear of pretty much everyone who didn't get smashed to bits in Alice's show. Everyone's gossiping about it."
"Noted." And already on it.
Half an hour later, I've dropped off the groceries at home and made my way to the clinic. Parking right outside, I can see Mom wrapping things up with a patient.
My smile has always been automatic when I see her talking about animals. She's so passionate about our field and cares genuinely about every critter. I remember she cried when I told her I wanted to follow in her footsteps.
She laughs at something the man is saying and brushes back her wavy sidebangs. Then she's nodding and rounding the counter. She walks over to the wall where we keep the drawings kids have given us, and she points at one in particular. She's talking about me, about a dog I once rescued, and it's a story she tells anyone who will listen.
I swallow a rush of emotions.
It doesn't matter where I came from.
I leave the car and climb the steps, opening the door to the clinic.
"Bella!" Mom smiles widely. "I was just telling Mr. Carter the story of when you saved Champ."
I smile politely and shake the man's hand. "Next time she tries to tell you the story, remind her you've heard it."
He chuckles, and I reach down to pet his pup. It's a cute little French bulldog.
"Oh, you," Mom says, waving me off.
She and Mr. Carter chat for another minute before he leaves with the promise of picking up the special diet food Mom's ordered for his dog next week. In the meantime, I find myself studying Mom a little closer. As if seeing her in a new light, but I'm not sure I do.
The sense of betrayal is there, but so is a newfound appreciation. Everything they've done for me is based solely on choice. She and Dad didn't have to take me in.
"Long time, no see." Mom narrows her eyes at me, half playful, and flips the sign in the window saying we're on lunch break. "That must've been a dreadful cold you got stuck with."
"Yeah." I force a chuckle.
She sighs and smiles ruefully, but there're traces of worry, too. "You've been avoiding me, Bella, and I think I know why."
"Oh?" I fidget with the hems of my hoodie sleeves.
She nods and walks over, her hand squeezing my arm gently. "I admit I was shocked when I heard it, but I never wanted you to feel the need to hide it from me, honey. If you're happy with Edward, that's all that matters to me."
I make a choked squeak, and she hugs me. Edward. She thinks it's because of Edward. Oh God. She could've learned the truth about us a million ways at this point; everyone knows. And that's why she thinks I've avoided her, 'cause I'm in love with her friend.
I return the hug out of reflex, my senses flooding with her familiar perfume.
"I was worried," she admits, not letting me go. "Then I spoke to Edward the other day, and that man adores you. I heard it so clearly."
Letting out a breath, I hug her harder and close my eyes. "I guess I was scared you wouldn't approve."
She chuckles lightly and inches back, and her eyes are glistening. "You're a smart young woman, honey. I trust your decisions. So. No more hiding, okay? I want you to be able to come to me with these things." She touches my cheek. "My daughter's in love."
I grin and choke out a laugh. "What's that, a mother's intuition?"
"That's exactly it." She grins.
I shake my head. "Speaking of hiding, when are you going to tell me about Carlisle?" Oh yeah, she did not see that coming. I snort and throw an arm around her shoulders. "Call it a daughter's intuition, but I know you're banging Edward's cousin."
"Bella!" she chastises.
"Bella," I mimic. "Come on, let's head out for lunch. Your treat."
"So you didn't tell her?" Edward furrows his brows.
"No. I couldn't." I hand him another plate to dry, then start washing the wineglasses. "Chances are she'll find out I know someday, but…I don't know."
"She's your mother," he finishes with a softer expression.
I nod. "She is." In every sense that matters.
He chuckles quietly and returns a stack of plates in a cupboard. "If I didn't know any better, I'd say you're keeping a secret."
I roll my eyes and grin. "Well, what's Forks without some secrecy?"
"You're asking for trouble, dear." He kisses my cheek. "I'll go check on the boys. It's never good when they're quiet."
I finish doing the dishes, then pack away the leftovers so Edward and I can bring that for lunch to work tomorrow.
Later, I find them all in Masen's room, and Edward is helping them with homework. I stay in the doorway, content to just watch. Both boys can share Masen's desk for now, though we'll have to buy a bigger one soon. It'll be another eight months before we move in together, so our best option is to change whatever we can in their separate rooms. Next weekend, we're putting up a bunk bed here, for starters.
"That's great, Masen." Edward leans over him to check his work, nodding thoughtfully. "You could add something about Chance, maybe?"
So serious. It's a short "essay" about how they spent their summer, yet Edward, ever the teacher, is treating it like a dissertation.
"I'm writing about the bear," Anthony says.
"Oh yeah, I forgot that." Masen gets back to jotting down his summer activities.
I smile to myself and give them some privacy, opting to watch TV and enjoy a little peace and quiet before the nighttime routine. Sitting down on the couch in the living room, I let out a sigh of contentment and hope it's okay to find this ridiculous sense of joy from something so domesticated as homework and dishes. It's all Edward and Anthony joining Masen and me that's made the difference.
Edward appears a few minutes later and sits down next to me, and I wordlessly hand him the remote. There's a medical journal I can read while he catches up on the news.
"I love this." I just had to say it.
He drapes an arm around my shoulders and kisses the side of my head. "If you love it half as much as I do, I can't wait for our leases to be up."
"I may be counting the months," I laugh softly. "I want a big kitchen and a yard where our future dogs can run around."
"That many, huh?"
I nod, nod, nod. "Five."
He barks out a little laugh and shakes his head. "Will you walk them every morning before work?"
"What do you think we have kids for?" I retort jokingly.
He hums instead of finding me funny, and he side-eyes me curiously. "You know, I'm not sure two helpers will be enough for that. Either you have to bribe me with sexual favors to assist in the constant dog-walking, or we make plans for an extra room."
Jesus Christ, this man. I shake my head, amused, anxious in a good way, and head over heels. "Sex will never be a currency in our house, Edward. To be on the safe side…" I clear my throat, oddly nervous even though he's the one who broached the topic. "Maybe an extra room? Maybe."
"Maybe." He smiles slowly and dips down for an unhurried kiss. "Like you said, to be on the safe side. Because we're leaving my library alone."
It's a deal.