A/N: This is for Amelia and everyone else who made me feel guilty for not working on this story more. (That means you too, Jennifer, Deva, and everyone who PMed me!) Thanks for giving me that push to break through the writer's block that has plagued me for most of this chapter.
Well, it was y'all and the song I had on repeat for most of this: "I Drive Alone" by Esthero.
THANK YOU to Jen, who made this so much better than it was before, and to Caitlin for catching the small stuff that I missed.
Chapter 16 – A Broken Promise
"Mornin', sweetie," my mom greeted me somberly when I walked into the kitchen, still groggy from just waking up. "Do you want some coffee?"
I stumbled over to the table and plopped down into a chair. "Morning, Mom," I mumbled. "I'd love some."
She handed me a steaming mug just the way I liked it. I took a sip of the hot goodness and then almost immediately set it down again. Unconsciously I sat up straighter and ran my hand through my hair in a vain attempt to flatten it the second I saw a dressed and very alert Edward enter the kitchen, which was a silly reaction really. Why should I care what I looked like now? What did it matter in the grand scheme of things?
The reasoning escaped me, but it didn't stop me from reacting like a girl who hopelessly loves the guy who just walked into the room.
"Hey," I said, suddenly feeling perkier than I had seconds before. Renee smirked a little at my 180 change, knowing full well the cause for it.
"Good morning," Edward replied politely, coming over to me and dropping a quick kiss on the top of my head. "Who wants breakfast?" He looked down at me and then over to Renee.
Renee smiled briefly before answering. "Thanks, Edward, but I already ate with Phil before he had to leave. Help yourself to some coffee, though. It's fresh."
"Thanks, Renee." He walked over to the counter and poured himself a cup. Then he turned to lean against the counter, blowing on the hot liquid to cool it down. "How did you sleep last night, Bella?" he asked, looking at me over the rim of the cup.
I shrugged, remembering the strange dream and restless night I'd had. "As well as can be expected, I guess."
"Did you have any bad dreams?"
The blood drained from my face at his question. Why did he ask that? Did he know what a lousy night I'd had? Had he heard me toss and turn?
"No," I replied, picking up the cup of coffee and drinking it to signal I wanted the subject dropped.
Edward nodded, accepting my answer. He then turned to Renee and they started discussing what their plans were today. I sipped my coffee and stared down at the tabletop, contemplating my night.
I had actually slept horribly, but I wasn't going to admit that and give Edward and Renee one more reason to worry about me. I'd spent most of the night tossing and turning, trying to block the image of Charlie lying lifelessly in his coffin. The only time I stayed asleep long enough to dream, it had consisted of me becoming eighteen again and witnessing Jacob's betrayal. Of all the times I remembered dreaming about that day before, this was the first time I hadn't felt heartsick afterward. Instead, when that moment in my memory occurred when I walked into Jacob's living room and I saw him locked around a girl who wasn't me, I felt almost… wistful. I couldn't explain why I had felt that way. I just had.
Seeing him yesterday had most likely stirred some hidden feelings of days long past inside of me. Possibly because it all happened during the last month or so I lived with Charlie. I certainly didn't feel wistful about Jacob. I felt… nothing toward him. He was just another person in my past who I had lost contact with, albeit voluntarily instead of it being one of those things that just happens when you move on with your life.
Strange dream… but with a positive result. Because right after I relived Jacob looking up and seeing me standing there, I simply sighed his name, shook my head and walked away. The moment I walked out of Jacob's house, Edward's face floated to the forefront of my mind and my dream shifted to the day he had shown up completely unexpected, leaning against the doorway of my classroom.
Those few moments had been the most peaceful ones I'd experienced last night.
Thinking about it now made me smile to myself and I looked up, watching Edward interact with my mom, effortlessly charming the pants off of her. God, he was good looking… and smart… and sweet… and thoughtful… and so many other things that I would need a week to list them all off.
I didn't deserve him.
Edward glanced over and caught me staring at him. I quickly dropped my eyes to the table again, feeling my cheeks heat up as a blush spread across them.
Come on, Bella, I chastised myself. There's no reason to get embarrassed for looking at the man you love. Gathering up a surge of willpower, I forced myself to lift my gaze back up to Edward's face.
Renee said she was going to start putting together boxes so we could "get crackin'" on packing up Charlie's stuff – something I was not looking forward to – as Edward and I locked eyes. I didn't notice her leave the room; I was too focused on trying to catch my breath.
The air grew heavy with tension as the world around Edward and I faded until there was just him and me. I started shaking, almost vibrating in place, but still we stared into each other's eyes, frozen in place.
He took a step forward and whispered my name just as I opened my mouth to say… I don't know what I was going to say.
But right then the doorbell rang. The tension dissipated and the world came crashing back down as Renee called out that there were some friends of mine at the door. Slightly disorientated from what had just taken place, I got up and walked to the front door in a daze, only realizing I still wore my pajamas and no bra when I saw who was standing in the foyer.
"Hey, Alice, Jasper," I said meekly, crossing my arms over my chest and flushing in embarrassment.
"Bella," Alice greeted brightly. "We're here to be your slaves. Do with us what you will."
A pair of strong, warm arms encircled my waist from behind me, cradling me against a firm chest. I couldn't help but smile as Edward kissed my cheek and whispered into my ear, "Why don't you get dressed? I'll make breakfast and entertain your slaves until you come back down."
"Okay," I replied, glancing over at Alice and Jasper before making my escape. Edward informed them of the plan as I walked upstairs, the image of Alice's sly grin lingering in my mind.
For reasons I will never know or even begin to understand, we found three (THREE) Big Mouth Billy Bass fish in Charlie's closet. They were just lying on the top shelf, taking up space that could have been better used for his quite impressive collection of antique six-shooters. Also something I had no idea he had. Jasper pretty much flipped when he spotted the six-shooters, which were in various spots around Charlie's room. He then went on to describe, in excruciating detail, the origin of each one and how much they would cost in today's market.
Edward rolled his eyes whenever I looked at him during Jasper's long ass explanations, which made me internally smile because I felt like he got me. He understood.
Still, I was grateful for Jasper, and Alice and Edward and Renee, because they successfully kept me occupied the entire morning and well into the afternoon, never giving me time to dwell on why I was standing hip-deep in boxes full of things that had been pulled from various rooms. There were the boxes that were going to be donated to Goodwill, the ones that would be put into storage until I had the room to take them with me, and the ones that Renee was shipping home for her. And that's not including all the trash bags of stuff I deemed unworthy of donating. The 'Nobody In Their Right Mind Wants That' pile, as Renee and I started calling it.
Angela showed up around dinner time and offered to take us all out, just to 'get away for a while'. I definitely needed to, which I think Edward knew as well because he practically pushed me out the door the moment I had my coat on. Renee declined the offer, opting instead to head back to the hotel and spend the remnants of the evening talking to Phil on the phone for a while since he had traveled back for spring training.
"So, how are you holding up?" Angela quietly asked me as we made our way up the steps to the Lodge, which was the only decent place to eat in Forks, trailing behind the others.
I shrugged. "Fine, I guess. Edward's been invaluable these past few days."
"He is Johnny on the spot, isn't he?" she said with a smirk.
I pushed against her shoulder playfully. "You're one to talk. You've been my 'Johnny on the spot' for the past year or so."
"I know." She stopped abruptly and looked at me, pausing for a couple beats before she blurted out, "Bella, you know I'll always be here for you, right?"
"Oh, Ang. Of course I know that." My eyes started stinging from the quick build up of tears that always seemed ready to spring forth at any given minute now. "Come here," I said, waving my hands in front of me back and forth. She moved forward and we hugged as tightly as we could and still breathe.
"You're my best friend, Angela. Nothing's going to change that," I whispered into her hair. She tightened her arms around me for a brief moment, responding the only way she knew how without completely breaking down inside a public restaurant, especially one in a town where everyone knew everyone else's business within ten seconds.
Suddenly another set of arms encircled us. Angela and I broke apart and looked down to see Alice burying herself in between us. She glanced up with a small guilty smile. "Sorry, I wanted in on the hug, too."
"That's okay, Alice," I said, putting an arm around her shoulders. Angela followed suit and we became a huddle of three people. It was a nice feeling being so close to warm, breathing, living people.
A hesitant cough made us look over at Jasper, who was standing nearby and appeared very amused. "Are you ladies planning on joining us some time tonight?"
Alice broke away first and swatted playfully at Jasper. "Shut it, silly boy, or we'll drag you into the middle!"
"No! Please, anything but that!" Jasper mock screamed, holding up his hands in protest. Angela and I laughed as Alice taunted him some more. God, it felt good to laugh. When was the last time I had done that? Ages... maybe longer, it seemed.
Eventually we made our way to the round table where Edward sat, hunched over and staring gloomily down at a menu. He straightened up and smiled when he saw us approaching. I sat down next to him and he captured my hand in his, lacing our fingers together and tugging me toward him. I learned to the side and looked at him with a questioning expression. "You're smiling," he marveled.
"Am I?" I asked, unaware that I had been in fact smiling since rediscovering what it felt like to laugh and just enjoy being out with friends.
"Yes." I heard a twinge of sadness in that one word, which confused me. Why would my smiling sadden him? The waiter appeared then and that question was pushed to the back of my mind while I picked out what I wanted to eat, finding I actually had an appetite.
"Bella..." Alice said with what sounded like the beginning of a request.
"Yes?" I replied, slightly wary, shifting my focus from the salad in front of me to her.
"Well, you know that Jasper has to leave tomorrow to go back to work, so I was wondering if..." she trailed off and twisted her napkin between her hands on top of the table. I had a vague idea what she wanted to ask and decided to throw her a bone.
"Alice, do you want to stay with me until you go back to Seattle?"
She immediately brightened up and beamed at me from across the table. "I'd love to," she said, barely restraining herself from squealing. "I'll bring my stuff over first thing in the morning."
"Okay" was all I said before going back to my food. I really was strangely hungry. Edward sighed beside me and when I glanced at him, he just shook his head and mouthed, "Nothing."
I loved my friends, but I couldn't keep up with them, especially since I'd had such a crap night of sleep. By the time Angela dropped Edward and I off at Charlie's house, he was pretty much holding me up while I dragged my feet in a zombie-style walk toward the front door. And, for what felt like the zillionth time, Edward tucked me into bed. He whispered good night before kissing my forehead and walking out of the room. I was asleep before the door closed behind him.
The next morning I woke up with a gasp, a light sheen of sweat on my upper lip, and my heart pounding so loud it was the only sound I heard. Nightmares were never fun to come out of, but this one I wanted to purge from the depths of my subconscious. If I never dreamed that one again, it would be too soon.
I lied on my back in bed and stared at the ceiling while my heart rate dropped to its normal rhythm. The smell of bacon made its way to my nose and I breathed in deep, exhaling with a smile. I loved bacon. My outlook on life always improved when I had bacon in my stomach.
Kicking off the covers, I scrambled out of bed and made my way downstairs, halting in the archway of the kitchen to take in the scene. Alice sat at the table, turned away from the kitchen entrance, talking to Edward's back while he cooked bacon and eggs on the stove top.
"I don't know how I'm going to tell her," Edward finished saying as I paused just behind the wall and peeked in.
"You did everything you could, right? It's not your fault," Alice replied.
What did he need to tell me? It was something bad, that much I gathered.
Edward sighed and his shoulders slumped. "I know, but I wanted to be here for her. I promised her I wouldn't leave her."
"You're leaving?" I interjected sadly without thinking, startling them both. Edward and Alice spun around to look at me standing just inside the kitchen, frowning and feeling dejected.
"Bella," Edward began, pleading me with his eyes to understand. "I was going to tell you after you had some bacon."
I smiled wryly at his lame attempt to butter me up with one of my favorite foods. "Where are you going?"
"My boss called about an hour ago. Apparently the substitute they got to teach my classes had a medical emergency and they can't find anyone else to cover for me. But it's only until Friday," he rushed to explain when my face fell. He was leaving me. He'd swore he wouldn't do that.
Edward strode toward me and wrapped his arms around my shoulders. "I'll be back as soon as I can," he promised as I leaned into him.
"When do you have to go?" I asked softly.
"As soon as I can. My next class is at two and Alice is graciously lending me her car to drive back."
I glanced at the clock over his shoulder. It was 8:20 and he had a four hour drive ahead of him. Damn it. Did I even have another hour with him before he had to rush off? Hugging him tightly, I buried my face into the crook of his neck. "But I don't want you to go," I whispered.
"And I don't want to go, love," he replied, stroking my hair and back in one fluid movement.
I don't know how long we held each other, wrapped up in our own little unfair world, but when we separated, Alice had already set out plates of food on the table and filled three cups with orange juice. She smiled sadly in understanding as Edward and I sat down.
"It'll be alright, Bella. I'll be here, as will your mother and Angela. The time will fly by, I swear," she said with forced cheerfulness.
"Thanks, Alice." I stared down at the bacon, frowning because it mocked me with its natural curve in the shape of a smile. Et tu, bacon? How am I supposed to enjoy you when you're stabbing me in the heart like that?
Well, this certainly put a damper on the morning.
We finished eating and Alice said she'd take care of the dishes while we said our good-byes. I trailed after Edward as he grabbed his bags from the living room and walked to the front entrance. He set the bags down near the door and turned around, gathering the courage to say good-bye. Actually I don't know if he did that last thing, but I like to think so.
He opened his arms and I crushed myself against him, finding my favorite spot to rest my forehead against the side of his throat.
"I'll call you when I get there, okay?" I nodded as he continued, "And you have my cell phone number, so if you need anything, don't hesitate to call me."
"Okay," I agreed, knowing I wouldn't call him unless it was something serious. I didn't want to bother him so much that he decided I wasn't worth the hassle. He had already done more than enough for me, going above and beyond what anyone else would have done in his situation. Of course I also knew that I would have to talk to him at least once a day, just to hear his voice.
I was seriously bordering on pathetic right then, so I stepped out of his embrace and dropped my arms to my sides. Looking up at him, I realized I could very easily tell him I loved him right here and now. Then he would know and it would be one less thing I carried around with me.
But I couldn't do that. I couldn't burden him with that knowledge, not if I didn't know how he felt in return. Didn't I just decide not to bother him? Way to stick to your guns, Bella.
Edward cupped one side of my face and bent down to kiss me softly. I let him control the kiss, knowing full well that if I let my defenses down, I would tackle him to the ground in a desperate attempt to keep him here. He kept it chaste, but nipped my bottom lip before pulling back to look into my eyes. I silently screamed at him, I love you! Don't leave me! I love you! But I could tell it didn't work. Going up on my toes, I placed another light kiss on his lips before stepping back again.
"Be careful," I cautioned him.
"Okay," I sighed. "You need to go or you'll be late."
He nodded in resignation. "Bye, Bella."
"Bye, Edward." I lifted my hand and did a small little wave as he opened the door and looked back at me.
Don't cry, I warned myself. Don't you fucking cry. You can be strong just this once. Then you can cry.
Edward shut the door behind him and that was it. He was gone.
"It will be alright. I promise," Alice said from behind me. I spun around and felt my bottom lip tremble as she rushed to me, encircling my waist with her arms just as I broke down.
There was only so much a girl could handle in a given week and I had long since reached that point. This was just mean-spirited now Like the world held such hatred for me that it would away take my only form of comfort in the storm of grief and sadness that was my life.
Really, world? Why did you hate me so? What have I ever done to you?
"Shh," Alice said soothingly, rubbing my lower back in a circular motion. "Come on, I think there's some bacon left..."
"You always know how to sweet talk me, Alice," I joked tearfully, pulling myself together enough to wipe away the remnant wetness on my cheeks.
She smiled as she took my hand. "It runs in the family," she quipped, leading me back to the kitchen for some comfort food.
A/N: Just to clarify, this story isn't completed yet nor have I stopped writing it, even if it takes me months to update. We've got another 6 or 7 more chapters to go, so hang in there. They're coming... eventually.