A/N: This is the third time I'm posting this. FFN is having some serious issues, but I hope this makes it to you! Enjoy, and I'm so sorry for the delay.
Fifteen years, fifteen million tears
Begging 'til my knees bled
I gave it my all, he gave me nothing at all
Then wondered why I left
Now he sits on his throne in his palace of bones
Praying to his greed
He's got my past frozen behind glass
But I've got me
~ Taylor Swift, it's time to go
I closed my eyes, leaning my head back under the gentle spray of the shower. It was my second shower of the day, but my quick one this morning in a tiny little lodge in Port Angeles wasn't enough to wash away the last week, the last month, of stress and anxiety away.
Edward's shower was like heaven. The water fell like rain over my shoulders and there was the lingering scent of his own shampoo in the air. In the corner, opposite of his own stash of shower essentials, was my own.
A wave of guilt washed over me and I leaned my head back again, this time letting the water wash over my face and take the few tears that had started to sting my eyes with it.
Maybe it was hindsight being twenty-twenty, or maybe my nervous breakdown from last week really did block out every logical thought in my mind, but I regretted every single thing that happened after I walked into my office to greet Irina. I shouldn't have let her get inside my head. I shouldn't have gotten so defensive when I asked Renata about it. I shouldn't have said any of the things I did to Edward when I got to his place.
I had no experience outside of Edward, but I knew he wasn't playing games with me. I knew our relationship wasn't just about sex or convenience. I knew all of those things and I still let one lie convince me everything was a lie.
I shook my head, wiping the mixture of water and tears off of my face, and turned off the shower. I could dwell on all of my mistakes, relive every fuck up I had made in the last week, or I could try to solve things one at a time. That was the last piece of advice Doctor Stanley had given me when I talked to her over the phone the day before yesterday.
Wrapping myself in a towel, I smiled at the counter. Everything was where I had left it. There wasn't much of my stuff cluttering up the place, but there were a few things here and there that I left to make going back and forth easier. I took it as a good sign that Edward hadn't immediately thrown away all of my things after Friday.
I shook my head again, knowing I deserved him to had thrown away everything and also knowing he wouldn't have done it. I grabbed one of the bottles on the counter and sprayed it through my hair, hoping it kept the frizziness away.
When I opened the bathroom door, to head to the closet to find some clothing, I was greeted with the sight of Edward on the floor of his bedroom, Lady practically running in circles around him. I leaned against the door jam and watched as they played, a smile on Edward's face as she let out a high-pitched bark at him.
My giggle gave me away.
"Are you sure you're okay with having her around?" I asked when his attention turned toward me. They obviously got along, but dogs were a lot of work. They were messy and needy and loud, even one as tiny as Lady. Even with my lack of relationship experience, I knew getting a dog was a decision you should make as a team. When I saw her in Forks, though, my life felt like it was in shambles and then she smiled up at me and I was a goner.
"Yeah," he nodded, chuckling when Lady pushed herself under his hand for some pets.
"Are you sure? She'll probably make messes and chew up your things and…"
"I raised twins," Edward told me, a wry smile on his face as he got up and walked over to me. "Do you have any idea the kind of mess two toddlers running around a house can make?"
I pressed my lips together. "No."
"Nothing Lady could do would cause half of the damage those two did when they were small. Besides," he shrugged, almost sheepishly. "She's the cutest goddamn dog I've ever seen."
I couldn't stop the ear-splitting grin from covering my face. "Right? I gave her half a bag of treats the first day I had her just because she kept asking for more and I couldn't say no."
I had always wanted a dog. Lady and the Tramp had been my favorite Disney movie and I had always had this vision in my head of getting my own little cocker spaniel like her one day. It was just an errant thought most of the time. Then, when I was walking to the diner a few days after getting to Forks, a woman was walking down the street with a couple older spaniels and a smaller one trotting along behind them.
I asked her if I could pet them, and she told me the tiny little copper one was about six months old and left over from a surprise litter of puppies her and her husband had a while back. She was the only one that didn't get sold, but they were hoping to find someone soon because they didn't have the space or ability to care for three dogs.
She was mine that night, after I got off work at the diner and picked her up.
It wasn't the smartest decision. Getting a dog was about a fifteen-year commitment. I had no job, wasn't even in my own town, and had a maybe boyfriend at home who should have his opinion heard on the pet as well.
Finding her was the one good thing that came from my trip to Forks, though.
Edward chuckled, pressing a kiss to my forehead. "I'm glad you have her."
"Me too," I nodded.
"I'll take a quick shower and meet you downstairs?" Edward asked.
"Oh, sure," I muttered, stepping out of his way so he could get to the shower. My eyes acted on their own accord, following him as he sauntered into the bathroom. Staying excitedly locked on his back as he pulled his t-shirt over his head, enjoying every new inch of skin that was revealed. I could have sworn my mouth started to water as I watched him dig his phone out of his jeans pocket and toss it on the counter before he reached in to start the water.
That was when he caught me, as he turned around with his hands already unbuttoning his jeans.
There was still this awkwardness in the air. We weren't back to normal, and I felt odd and jumpy around him. I almost assumed he'd frown and close the door when he caught me staring. Instead, that crooked smirk slid across his face as he unzipped his jeans.
I turned around quickly, shaking my head and stalking toward the shower. I could have sworn I heard him chuckle behind me.
The awkwardness was probably all me. I felt guilty every time I looked at him. Wasn't really sure how I was supposed to act now, if I could really just resume happily holding his hand or reaching up for a quick kiss just because I wanted one after everything that had happened.
I froze when I got to the closet. I didn't have too many clothing options, but I did have a Tonight Show sweatshirt and a pair of leggings to throw on, so that was what I went with.
Lady and I headed downstairs. After letting her outside, and keeping an eye on her the whole time to make sure she didn't end up at the bottom of the pool, I let her wander around the house. I kept an eye on her, my ears listening to see if she got into anything she shouldn't, as I absentmindedly looked through the impressive bookshelf by the bar.
It was a whole wall, dividing the living room and the bar area, stacked with books. There were a few photos and trinkets scattered throughout the shelves, but there was no lack of reading material. I recognized a few of them, from school and from what Edward had loaned me the last few months.
My eyes fell on a cluster of framed photos. One I recognized immediately as the photo Edward had Alice take of us during our Thanksgiving trip. The same one he posted to Instagram that ended up one of the most liked photos on the platform. There was another of him and his kids, also from our Thanksgiving trip, that I admired for a minute. They were this cute, little family of their own. Irina would always be lurking in the background somewhere, but Edward and Masen and Lucy embodied a solid unit of family and love that I couldn't help but admire.
I moved on to the last picture on the shelf, frowning at it until I could place it. Lucy had taken it on one of our first few shifts volunteering at the animal shelter. She was sixteen and an avid selfie taker, and had pulled her phone out as we were all walking dogs outside and snapped a picture. I never thought twice about it. Now, it was sitting on Edward's bookshelf.
"That's one of my favorites," Edward's voice was soft but close, coming from right behind me.
I set the frame back down, too scared to turn around. "I didn't ruin everything, did I?"
Edward's answer was quick and firm. "No."
We'd already had most of the conversations we needed to, out in the woods behind the diner. I knew he regretted writing that check to Renata and he listened to me spit out a dozen apologies for my reaction to it.
Still, it wasn't until his hard no when I asked if I had ruined everything that I let myself breathe. I turned around and quickly buried my head in his chest.
"I'm sor- "
"You don't have to keep apologizing," he breathed into my hair. "We both made mistakes, and we both took accountability for them. Now we learn from our mistakes and move on."
I let out a sigh, feeling like I was breathing for the first time in days. He made things sound so simple and easy sometimes. Where my brain liked to overanalyze every little thing and twist them into things I needed to apologize or make up for, Edward had a much clearer and unbiased way of looking at situations.
"There is one more thing we need to talk about, though," he admitted quietly. A tiny grunt bubbled up in my throat, making Edward chuckle. "It's nothing bad."
With a gentle squeeze of my hand, he led me to the living room. We sat on the couch, and I curled my feet underneath me and turned so I was facing him. He grabbed his wallet from the table, pulling something out of it and handing it to me.
I frowned down at the check. It was made out to him, from Renata. For three-million-dollars.
"What is this?" I asked cautiously, my eyes still double counting the number of zeros.
"Renata paid me back my… investment. She wants you back."
The last week had given me absolutely no clarity on my job situation. I had tried to quit four times, each time Renata told me it wasn't accepted. I didn't know what I would do once she did accept it, but I knew I couldn't keep walking into that office knowing I was only there because of a check.
"I thought you should know," he told me gently. "Her not wanting you to quit isn't about the money. She wants you back because of you."
I let out a deep breath, still frowning down at the check. It did make me feel a little better about the whole thing, knowing there wasn't still a three-million-dollar price tag hanging over my head. There was also the voice in the back of my head that told me Renata never did anything she didn't want to do. She was well known throughout the industry as being a bit of a hard-ass. Even with the bonus of the money, I sincerely doubted she would have hired me if she hadn't thought I would bring at least a little something to her firm.
"I'll think about it," I said, handing the check back to him, frowning when he didn't reach out to take it.
"I didn't write that check to buy your job," Edward told me truthfully. "I wrote it to invest in you, in your future, and I want you to have it. If you don't want to go back to the firm you can use it to do whatever you want. Start your own firm, start an animal shelter – "
"You really need to stop trying to give me money," I gasped, staring back down at the outrageous number of zeros on the check.
"No one has ever taken care of you before," he admitted, his voice sounding tense and tight. "I don't want you to have to do everything on your own all of the time. Not when I can help it."
I knew his intentions were good. The money wasn't some write off or bribe or anything like that. I didn't know what I was going to do about my job, if I would try to go back to work with Renata or find something new. I knew I didn't have the expertise to start anything on my own though, not a firm or a shelter or a business of any kind. Which meant that three million wouldn't do me much good other than be a safety net for rent should I find myself unemployed in a week.
I looked over at Edward. He looked nervous, but the nerves did little to dull how handsome he was. His cheeks were a little red, probably from the warm shower he had just taken, and his hair was a few shades darker because it was still damp. He was looking out the window across the room, so I got a perfect profile view of him and the line of his jaw and the curve of his nose and the tiny freckle he had right under his ear.
I had no idea what I wanted out of my life, professionally. There was one thing I knew, without a doubt, that I did want.
I scooted closer to him, holding out the check. I saw the look on his face, knew he was about to argue again, so I spoke before he got to it. "Put it towards the house."
Confusion immediately covered his face. "What?"
"I have… no fucking idea what I'm going to do about my job. The one thing I do know is that I want you, and I want to live with you sometime in the near future. So… put this towards whatever house we – you decide on."
Edward took the check slowly, leaning with his elbows on his knees as he stared at it. "Do you still like that first house?"
"I – yeah, that was my favorite."
He'd shown me dozens of houses the last few weeks. All were beautiful, but I constantly went back to that first one.
"Do you want to go look at it Monday?" he asked, eyes on me now, without any hesitation or indecision in them.
For the first time in weeks, a bubble of hope and excitement filled me up. "Sure."
Edward smiled over at me, dropping the check on the coffee table and leaning back in the couch. "Okay."
"Okay," I nodded, giving him a smile of my own. I scooted closer to him, weaving my arm through his, and rested my head on his shoulder.
I was exhausted. The last twenty-four hours had been draining, the last week excruciating, and the last month just a slow build-up of my life caving in on me. I felt like I could breathe again, though. Like even though I felt like I was lost in the middle of the ocean, I had my head above water for the first time since being tossed out of the ship.
My body was slow to wake up, probably because I was buried under a comforter too soft for words, all of my limbs somehow intertwined with Edward's. Once I was awake enough to form a thought, I let my eyes pop open. The curtains were closed, but I could catch a dim light seeping through the cracks that told me the sun was probably setting behind them. I didn't remember actually getting in bed, but I was pretty sure I fell asleep on Edward's shoulder in the living room.
My eyes fell to the man in question, still blissfully asleep beside me. His hair was a mess, having dried in practically every direction by now. His eyes were closed, but I could see some faint, dark circles underneath them that I knew weren't there a week ago. Before I could submit to the wave of guilt that wanted to wash over me, his words from earlier crossed my mind.
Now, we learn from our mistakes and move on.
I wasn't great at either of those things, as evidenced by all of the choices I had made in the last month, but I was trying.
On their own accord, my fingers gently ran through his hair, attempting to smooth it down, but it only popped back up in their wake. I chuckled to myself, my hand falling to his cheek. His eyes twitched, but stayed closed. Even stayed closed when I heard Lady's paws scratch on the bathtub.
She had a thing for napping in a tub, which was a little weird, but at least that saved me from having to get up and check on her.
My attention drifted back to Edward. My life before him was hazy to me these days. I survived just fine before, but that's all it was, surviving. College was just a big blur of tests and books, an odd pleasant memory with Rosalie thrown in. Maybe it was stupid or unfair to hinge all of my happiness on the man peacefully sleeping beside me. But, he changed my life and he changed me, both for the better, and any kind of life without him wouldn't be much of a life.
I leaned forward, pressing my lips softly to his. I whispered his name, waiting for a minute to see if he would wake up, before pressing another kiss to his lips. That one did it, his arms slowly tightening around my waist as his eyes slid open.
"Hi," he said, his voice rough from sleep, but a lazy smile on his face.
"Hi," I smiled, finally feeling like myself again, like I could kiss him whenever just because I wanted to.
I did just that, reaching up for another soft peck. His hold around me tightened and eventually our breath was mingled and his tongue was dancing with mine in the most toe-curling way.
"I missed you," he panted, eyes bright and on me.
I cupped his cheek, my fingers falling down to his thankfully not-so-swollen bottom lip. It looked much worse the first day than it did now, which was a relief. My hand ran down his bicep, his warm skin under my fingertips sending a jolt of adrenaline through my veins. I made a path up and down his arm a few times, before my hand eventually made it back to his hair and I pulled him in for another kiss.
One of his hands slid down my waist, not stopping until his fingers wrapped behind my knee and hitched my leg around his hip. As soon as my leg was in place, he thrust his hips against me. His cock, already hard, hit me in just the right spot, making my breath come out in a shaky gasp.
"I missed you, too," I breathed out, whimpering as his hand squeezed my thigh to keep me in place as he thrust up against me again.
He rolled us over and ended up hovering over me. He quickly pulled my sweatshirt over my head. A small smile tugged at my lips when his eyes darkened as he realized I wasn't wearing a bra, quickly disappearing as warm lips wrapped around my nipple.
My hands dug into his hair, eyes squeezing shut as he kissed and bit and tortured each breast before making his way down my abdomen. He took a moment to make me squirm as he licked my navel before tugging the rest of my clothing down my legs.
"Life is so… dull without you," he mused, quietly enough that I wasn't sure if he was talking to me or himself.
I watched him toss away his jeans while he was up, not missing the movement when his palm wrapped around his cock while his eyes looked me up and down. He hovered over me again, the delicious weight of him pressing me into the bed. His fingers intertwined with mine, stretching my arms up above my head.
After disconnecting my lips from where they were happily enjoying the skin at his neck, I fell back against the pillows. His eyes were immediately on me, a smile on his face.
"What?" I asked, feeling my cheeks heat up. It was the kind of stare that meant something, like I had drool on my chin or a bird's nest of hair on top of my head.
One of his hands untangled itself from mine and came to cup my cheek.
"You make everything better," he sighed softly, taking my breath away.
It was something I had always told him, sometimes only because the words fell out of my mouth before I could stop them, but it was always true for me. I never really thought it would have been how he felt, though, because I tended to cause more problems than I solved. It made me happier than I thought it would to hear the words whispered back to me.
I freed my hands, digging them into his hair and pulling him down for a kiss. My legs wrapped around his waist, pulling him as close as possible. I groaned against his lips when one of his hands snuck down my abdomen, two fingers easily sliding inside me.
"Please," I panted, my entire body feeling like a live wire. "Please."
My nails dug into his shoulders, toes curling when he removed his fingers and slid himself inside me. For as frantic as I had become, once we were connected I was in no hurry. I watched Edward move above me, let my hands become reacquainted with every inch of him I could reach.
Most of our words were mumbled, incoherent declarations of love or need. It wasn't until later, when we ended up face to face on our sides, that the frantic energy returned. His hands were tight, gripping my thigh and pulling it up higher around his hip as he moved. I buried my head in his shoulder, muffling my cry as I reached my peak and groaning when I felt him do the same.
Our legs were still a tangled mess, Edward now on his back beneath me as I was sprawled out on top of him. There were no words, didn't need to be, as I let his fingers drifting up and down my spine lull me back to sleep.
"Edward," I whispered, sitting on the bed beside a sleeping Edward. I knew he was half awake, he had been tossing and turning when I got up, which I knew was a sign he was waking up as well.
His eyes popped open, frowning when he saw me. "You shouldn't be awake, and you definitely shouldn't be wearing clothing," he groaned.
I smiled down at him, leaning over to press a kiss to his pouty lips. "I'm going to take Lady on a walk."
Right on cue, Lady hoisted herself on the bed, looking Edward right in the eye. Like she was telling him to hurry it up so she could get going. Edward chuckled, shaking his head and reaching up to scratch her fluffy little ear.
"You can stay in bed," I told him, knowing he was probably twenty seconds away from saying he would go with me. There were still dark circles under his eyes, though, especially since last night didn't involve much in the way of sleeping. "We won't be gone too long. She's got tiny little legs."
Edward cupped the back of my head, pulling me back down for another kiss. "Be careful," he warned.
"I think I can handle a walk through the neighborhood."
"Your key is right where you left it," he added softly.
I pushed back against the wave of guilt. "Thanks," I sighed, not able to resist one more kiss before I got up.
Lady followed me down the stairs, practically sliding down on her stomach she was moving so fast. I hooked her up to her leash, grabbing my phone and headphones from my bag as well. I grabbed my key quickly, avoiding thinking about the moment I put it there and instead noticing that the pretty glass vase that usually sat on the table was now gone.
Edward's neighborhood was beautiful. Rolling hills with a canopy of trees everywhere for seclusion at each house. Lady was happily prancing along beside me, making me glad her breeder had her pretty well trained before I got her. There was no pulling or darting in every direction. She did find a good stick early on, though, to carry around on her adventure.
I took a deep breath, the crisp California air filling my lungs better than any breath I took while I was in Forks. I knew going there was a mistake. Knew it when I got in the car with Emmett to take me to the airport, when I was on the plane, and especially when I got there and Charlie just… didn't care.
He was happy to see me, but he showed absolutely no interest in me. He didn't ask about my life or my job or my boyfriend that I knew very well he knew about. At first, I convinced myself I was being selfish. He had just had a heart attack and I wanted him to ask how I was doing. Then, that first full day I was there, his oldest daughter that wasn't me walked into the hospital room and he did nothing but gush over her. Asked how she was, how her day at school had gone, every single thing he had never once worried about when I was with him.
It broke me. Because that was all I had ever wanted from him. I knew Renee was a lost cause, she was never going to care. But I had been holding on to the hope for years that maybe Charlie did. But, if my trip to Forks had taught me one thing, it was that earning my father's love or attention was a lost cause.
Maybe that realization would help, though. Make it easier to move on from that whole part of my life.
"You don't need them, Bella. I know it hurts and you want them to care. Everybody wants their parents to care. But, you got yourself out."
Edward's words from that night floated through my mind. I hadn't really gotten myself out, not until I got on that plane with Edward the next morning. It felt different this time, too. Like I could breathe better, like I had a life to look forward to.
The lyrics to a song from a playlist Rosalie shared with me flooded my ears.
That old familiar body ache, the snaps from the same little breaks in your soul. You know when it's time to go.
"Hey," I shouted, finally walking back in the front door. "Sorry I'm late. We got lost and then my phone died. But, then I recognized these bushes that I snuck through that night I – "
My words died on my lips as I rounded the corner to the kitchen where Edward and his entire family were gathered. Esme and Alice were preparing some food on one of the islands, while Edward and Lucy worked on something on the other. Carlisle and Masen sat side by side watching the work getting done. To make matters worse, Rosalie and Emmett popped their heads out of the pantry as I walked in.
Rosalie, of course, had a giant smirk on her face. "The night you what?"
I pressed my lips together, searching for some kind of explanation. "I had to come over for this, um, work thing, and I…" I trailed off, no plausible excuse coming to mind.
"Valliant effort, Bella," Carlisle told me with a friendly smile.
Thankfully, that was the moment Lucy spotted Lady.
"Oh, my God!" she squealed, rushing around the counter to where a very happy Lady jumped around to greet her. "You got a dog?"
"Yeah," I smiled, reaching down to unhook her leash. I watched, my smile growing bigger by the second, as Masen and Lucy both fell to the ground by Lady. They both looked ecstatic, even Masen who rarely showed that much emotion. The whole scene tugged at my heart more than it should've, and I started to wonder if my quick decision to get Lady had anything to do with the fact I knew they both wanted a dog.
"What's her name?" Lucy asked, smiling as Lady flopped on her back for her to rub her stomach.
"Lady," I told her, grabbing the water bowl I had stashed in the corner of the kitchen and filling it up.
"Like Lady and the Tramp?" Masen asked.
"She's the cutest thing I've ever seen," Lucy gushed, still petting Lady even as she drank some water. "I can dog sit whenever you need."
"I'm going to take you up on that," I said, before turning back toward everyone else in the kitchen. "What's going on?"
I crossed my arms over my chest, remembering I was in one of my many Tonight Show t-shirts and regretting the choice immediately. It wasn't a formal gathering by any means, but I was the only one in a t-shirt and leggings.
"We had to bring the kids back so we thought we'd bring some food over, too," Esme said with a kind smile. "
"Mom called me to bring the potato salad. Then, I called Rosalie," Alice said with a happy shrug.
"I didn't know they were coming until they all filed in through my front door," Edward added, tossing a mock frown in his mother's direction.
"Well, I should go change, then," I sighed, tugging at my slightly sweaty t-shirt.
"Oh, I like the shirt," Esme smiled, before frowning over at Edward.
"I got her that one," Rosalie interrupted with a smile. "It was more of a cruel joke back then, before the whole sneaking-through-the-bushes thing."
"You can come with me to change," I said quickly, grabbing Rosalie's arm and pulling her towards the stairs. I felt my cheeks burn, a contrast to her uncontrollable giggling.
By the time we got upstairs, her giggling had died down. She stood in the doorway of the bedroom while I walked in and sat on the bench in front of the bed and untied my sneakers.
After a minute I felt her sit down beside me. "So?"
"I swear to God, if you ask me about the bushes – "
"I'm not going to ask you about the bushes. I was going to ask you how you were doing."
I took a deep breath, leaning over my knees and resting my head in my hands. "I think…" I sighed, still unsure of myself. "I think I'm ready to let it go. I still hate them and I still wish things had been different, but I just… I want to get on with my life now."
I was exhausted. From more than just the last week, the last month of confronting my long locked up demons. My entire life had been a struggle, not as horrible as it could have been, but horrible enough for me to feel like I was fighting to stay afloat since I was eight. And it left me so fucking tired.
Rosalie's arms wrapped around me, and I tossed mine over her shoulders as well.
"I'm sorry I let you go. I should have – "
"It's not your fault," I interrupted. "I probably wouldn't have listened to you if you had tried."
"You're sure you're okay?" she asked, pulling away to look at me.
"Yes," I nodded.
"Good," she sighed. "I'm glad you're back."
"Me too," I nodded.
"So… now can we talk about the bushes?"
"Rosalie," I whined, grabbing my shoes and stalking off toward the closet. I heard her chuckles die out, and figured she headed back downstairs. I pulled on one of the few remaining clean piece of clothing I had here, a soft blue sweater and a pair of dark jeans.
Once I was dressed, I went back out to the bedroom with the intention of heading downstairs, but instead I plopped myself down on the edge of the bed. My brain felt like it was moving in a hundred different directions, all of my problems pulling my attention all over the place. It was easy to tell myself or Rosalie that I was ready to let everything go. Actually doing it was another story.
All of the anger and pain and frustration was still buried in the back of my mind. I never talked about it and I never came to terms with it, I simply let it fester in my subconscious for years. I had been trying to talk about it, really trying the last few weeks in my sessions with Doctor Stanley, but I knew I was still holding back.
I also knew I didn't want them holding me back anymore. It was obvious I couldn't move on with my own life until I moved on from my childhood, no matter how good my avoidance skills were. And it felt like I was on the brink of a life that was everything I could have ever hoped to have one day.
There was a house full of people downstairs. People I could trust and talk to and have by my side for the rest of my life. They weren't my family, not by blood, but they could be my chosen family.
I liked the mysterious smiles Esme always gave me and the quick little jokes Carlisle always tossed around. I enjoyed listening to Jasper talk about his work because it was simultaneously intriguing and sometimes a little horrifying. Alice simply being around tended to bring a smile to my face, because she had the kind of energy that you couldn't help but feed off of, and it meant a lot to me that she thought to invite Rosalie and Emmett, too. And, I had quickly come to care for Masen and Lucy in a way I never expected.
I was scared, I realized. Scared that I didn't know who I was without my past holding me back. Scared that, even with therapy, I'd never be able to really move on and enjoy my life no matter how many times I told myself that was what I was doing.
My eyes fell to my bag on the floor, and I quickly rummaged through it and grabbed the already well-worn piece of paper. I heard the clinking of her collar before I saw her, smiling when Lady pranced around the corner and jumped on the bed beside me. I crossed my legs underneath me and she rested her head on my knee.
I opened his letter, skipping over all of the apologies that were no longer needed and going directly to the part that made me feel like, maybe, I wasn't a lost cause. The part where he told me he loved me in a dozen different ways without writing the words themselves, where he was somehow able to talk about me without once bringing up how mentally fucked I really was.
I jumped when I felt warm hands on my legs, dropping the letter to my lap only to see Edward kneeling in front of me.
His voice was soft and tentative when he spoke. "Are you okay?"
I bit my tongue when I was about to tell him I was fine, nervously scratching Lady's back. I watched his eyes fall to the paper in my lap.
"I wasn't sure if you ever got it."
"I did," I answered stupidly. Obviously. "I just didn't know how to respond. I read it… a lot."
I set the letter aside, both of us quiet for a minute. Edward's hands rubbed my thighs gently while I fidgeted with my fingers in my lap.
"What if I'm never normal?" I asked, my voice nothing above a whisper.
One of his hands reached up, cupping my cheek and making sure my eyes were on him. "You are normal."
I shook my head. "What if I can never let it go? If I'm stuck being sad and angry and scared forever?"
Edward stood up, quickly tugging me to my feet and wrapping his arms around me tightly. "You won't feel like that forever," he said gently, pressing a kiss to the top of my head. "I know everything is hard right now, but it won't always be like this."
"Promise?" I asked weakly.
"I promise," he nodded, kissing my temple. "I love you. No matter what."
My returning I love you was muffled against his chest. My own constant back and forth was annoying myself, so I shook my head to clear it of the fog. I stepped back, wiping at my eyes, and taking another deep breath.
"Do you want to stay up here? I'm sorry they all showed up. I can – "
"No, it's okay. I want to go down."
I wasn't usually the large gathering kind of girl, but I genuinely enjoyed spending time with his family. The commotion might be a nice distraction. Lady jumped off of the bed, running ahead of us downstairs.
Edward wrapped his arm around my waist, and I flashed back to the time he did it as he was walking me to his car, for our first date. I had squirmed and nearly jumped out of my own skin at the contact. Now, the action felt as natural as breathing.
Progress. I thought. If I could go from completely socially awkward and unsure how to act around him to this, maybe I was capable of changing. Of moving on and enjoying myself.
"You can be in charge of the grill with me," Edward told me as we headed downstairs.
"You won't let me near the sharp knives, but you think I can be near an open flame?" I smiled at the busted expression on his face. "I was cutting the lettuce a couple weeks ago and Lucy looked at me like I was crazy for using the tiny little knife you always give me."
"We just need to work on your knife skills," he sighed. "So I don't nearly have a heart attack every time you're in the kitchen."
I smiled up at him, not quite sure how he could always move on from a heavy subject to playful banter so easily. It was one of the many, many things I loved about him.
Everything stood still for a moment, kind of like the afternoon when I was putting the ice cream in the freezer and listening to Edward and his kids talk. The afternoon when I realized I had too much to lose, the moment that probably started my inevitable breakdown.
It was still true. Losing any tiny part of what I had now would be devastating. But, I also realized that I had a lot to gain, too. A lot of moments, big and small, to look forward to. A lot of people that would, one day, turn into family.
Maybe my head was all over the place now, and maybe I'd have some good times accompanied by some not so good for a while, but my decision was made.
I wasn't going to let my past ruin my future. Not anymore.
A/N: There isn't much more to say here, other than thank you for all of the continued support on this story. It never fails to make me smile when I get a review, and I'm so happy we can continue our journey with Closure.
I'm not sure exactly when that'll publish, so make sure to have me on author alert!
Thanks again, and see you soon!
PS: for updates on Closure and probably a teaser or two before it's posted, follow me on twitter: fragilefanfic :)
PPS: lyrics in the middle of the chapter are from the title song, It's Time To Go.