Disclaimer: I am not Stephenie Meyer, and therefore I own nothing. Sadly.
A/N: Well, here it is. It's been a long time coming, but finally, here is the tenth chapter of Unread Messages! And this time, no, it's not a fake out. :)
I just want to take the time to thank all of you for being so understanding and kind. I read all of your reviews and all of your messages, and believe it or not, they did help me a great deal, both to fight my way through writer's block and to get through everything real life has thrown at me. I can't promise weekly updates, but I can promise that there will be plenty of updating from now on. Like I said, this story, as well as the other stories I've started, will all get finished within due time, and I'm sorry I've made you wait as long as it is. Thank you so much, though, for your kind words and your prayers, because you guys are, first and foremost, the reason I continue to write on this site, and my inspiration. I really didn't want to leave you guys with an unfinished story, and I don't intend on doing it, so please, don't worry.
Anyway, I don't want to stall you anymore than I already have, so I won't say anything else. I hope you enjoy.
I don't really remember how much time I spent on the piano bench with Edward, rocking back and forth and listening to the music he made, I just know that I didn't want to think about anything else while I was. The minutes seemed to turn into hours, and neither of us seemed to have a sense of time and place. I knew in my heart that this didn't change anything, and it honestly never could have. It didn't change the fact that he'd hurt me, that he'd done something horribly wrong while he was away, that he'd betrayed me, that he'd changed. It didn't change the fact that I knew I still needed time, that we needed to talk -- talk as Edward and Bella, face to face and in person -- and that I still haven't found it in myself to forgive him. In those short few hours, though, I think we both found it didn't matter.
We were both broken, both in our own ways. Maybe that was what brought us together now, in the same room, in each other's arms. Even though I was the one coming to him for comfort, just a look at his face and I knew that we were comforting each other, at least for the moment. He was no superhero, and time and experience had shown that he was very far from the perfect image I had created for him in high school. He wasn't to be put on a pedestal, because none of us could be anymore, him especially. He had made his set of mistakes, as had I. All of us were broken, lost, confused, hurt, shuffled up and thrashed under the hardship, but maybe Edward was the worst off after all. While he seemed to be the most put together, one look up at his eyes and I knew he was falling apart just as much as I was. He could hide it behind a façade all he wanted, but I knew better. Maybe that was the problem.
I didn't know how to fix him, though. I couldn't find it in myself to ask him of anything, and though we'd talked online, it had always been about me, or about Alice. Alice needed both of us, and though I knew she was angry at Edward in her own way, she had asked for both of equally. She needed all the help she could get, and by the conversation I had overhead, maybe she wasn't getting enough of it from the people she needed most. It didn't make sense, all that was happening. It didn't make sense how all of us, too many of us, had suddenly become lost in one place, shoved together. Maybe Jasper was trying to escape. It only made sense. Sometimes, when I was alone in bed with no one to judge me but myself, I had some of the same thoughts, the same doubts.
It didn't make it right, though. It didn't make it right to even try, let alone think about it. While we were all lost and broken in our ways, maybe I was finally learning that this was the time we needed to come together for each other. It wouldn't be long before Alice's baby was delivered, and then what? Would the baby have a father, as well as a mother? Would Alice even keep the baby? I didn't even know if she'd considered adoption, but at the moment, it seemed like the best option. Maybe it would be better, both for the baby and for her. The baby would have a family, a family who could love and support it, and Alice would be able to move on from the experience, to heal. At the same time, it just didn't seem like Alice.
The music from the piano was soft and downbeat, setting the mood in the quiet piano room. Edward and I didn't talk for those hours. I sat on his lap like I always used to and he rocked me back and forth like a small child. I knew part of me should be bothered by this, but I couldn't bring it in myself to care. I had grown and matured, but it didn't mean I wasn't weak sometimes. While Edward was no superhero, neither was I. That was something I was quickly coming to realize. Maybe I didn't always have to be the strong one. "It's getting late, Bella." His voice was solemn, and I knew the undertone as soon as I heard it. He didn't want this to be over anymore than I did, because we both were unsure. We didn't know where this would lead, or if this meant anything at all. When I looked up at him I saw his face expressionless, but this time, I could see through it. He looked like he was about to fall apart, just as I felt. This time, though, I needed to be the strong one. I wasn't ready, and somehow I had the feeling he understood.
"I should go." My voice was firm, even though inside part of me just wanted to stay here, to fall asleep in his arms. That would be the easy thing to do. Walking away from the comfort and the normality we used to have was difficult, but sometimes, as I'd learned over the course of my time with the Cullens, the easiest thing to do wasn't always right. He nodded his head, and with a final note, the piano music stopped, leaving silence. I sat there on the piano bench next to him for a minute or so, and then I rose to my feet. I knew I needed to say something, but what did I say to the boy -- the man -- who had hurt me more than anyone else? What did I tell the person who had changed and morphed so many times right in front of me, had left me so unsure? I knew how I felt inside, but coming to terms with it was different. Part of me felt like I shouldn't feel like this at all, but it was still there. "I'm not ready," I reminded him quietly, shaking my head. His green eyes watched me, silent. "I'm not ready to forgive you yet, Edward. You hurt me." My voice didn't shake, and inside, I was just a little proud of myself.
"I know you're not." His voice was soft, gentle, and I almost didn't like it. I wanted him to be angry with me. I wanted him to yell a bit, to be the person he had been when he had first shown up at my doorstep after he had come back from Europe . When he was accepting and understanding, it was almost like I couldn't do it at all. His eyes, though, they held a kind of pain that hurt me just to see it. Part of me wanted to break down, but I knew I couldn't. "Take your time, I'll be waiting. Bella, what I did was terrible, but you need to understand.." His voice trailed off.
"Understand what?" I pressed after a minute or so of silence.
"Understand that I did what I did and I can't take it back. I still kissed that girl at the party, even if it didn't mean anything. I still acted like … How did you phrase it?"
I didn't need to think about that one. "An impersonal asshole." I let the rest of the words sink in, letting him continue.
There was a small smile on his lips, but it was faded, barely there. It was more than likely forced. "Right. An impersonal asshole. And I don't have an excuse for that, either. I'm not going to make something up for you, but I'm not sure I can ever be… I'm not sure if I can ever be the man that you deserve --"
"That's bullshit, Edward."
He looked taken aback, and I couldn't believe that, even after all this time, he still didn't get it. I rolled my eyes, a disgusted noise coming from my throat despite myself. How could, even after this evening, he still not get it? I'd tried so hard to convey the message to him, but it'd never seemed to sink in.
"Edward, you were more than enough for me. You've always been enough for me, even when you were only the person I talked to everyday online. You've been my best friend, my confidant, and the person I loved for longer than either of us realize. I don't know how you don't see it." He opened his mouth, but I shook my head, silencing him. "I don't want anymore of this crap, okay? I told you, I'm not ready for it. You need to figure it out. You need to decide before we can even begin to have this talk. You need to figure out who you are and you need to accept it before we can get anywhere. I'm not just going to forgive you. You need your time, too."
"Bella, I've changed so many times I can't even begin to know who I am anymore." I opened my mouth, but this time it was his turn to shake his head, standing to his feet. He looked more broken than I'd ever seen him, in that one single instant. "But I'll try for you. If that's what it takes, I'll try. I've made mistakes, but God, you were never one of them. You were the one thing I did right." He paused, letting out a soft sigh. "I love you. I've always loved you. I think I will always love you."
I wanted so badly to be able to return those three words, but this time, they just didn't come.
"Well, maybe you should have thought about that before you kissed your dad's secretary."
"Bella, I can't take it back --"
"But you can make up for it. You can figure it out, and come back to me when you have the answers." This time it was my turn to force a smile, turning away from him and walking toward the door. With my hand on the knob, I gave him one last glance. "I'll be here, Edward. I've always been here." And that was more of the truth than even I was ready to admit. Whether he understood the significance of it even I didn't know.
The walk down the stairs seemed longer than usual, but all I wanted to do was get out. I'd given Edward something to think about, but now more than ever, I knew I had to do the same. I had to figure it all out, just as Edward did. We all did, now. We had gotten ourselves involved in this mess one way or another, and now it was on us to make it work, and to solve it. Little by little, this was starting to seem less like a mass catastrophe, a string of unrelated tragedies. There was a purpose in all of this, I knew it. Even if there wasn't, I knew I still had to look for it. I still had to try.
I had grabbed my bag and intended to head out the door and out to my truck, but as soon as I walked out onto the porch, I knew I would be staying longer. Alice was sitting on the very first step by the door, a fleece blanket wrapped around her once small figure, now engorged by the baby growing in her stomach. She was crying. I couldn't see her face, but I heard her sobs, and without thinking I was rushing to her, sitting next to her. We hadn't talked -- really talked -- in such a long time, but it didn't stop that immediate reaction.
"Bella. Bella, oh God…" She sounded so embarrassed, like I'd just caught her doing something terrible, and immediately she hid her tear-stained face from me. My stomach lurched, and I almost couldn't take it. "I'm sorry. You weren't supposed to see this…"
But for some reason, I felt like I had already seen worse. Thinking about how she'd acted lately only proved this. The blank stares, the one word answers, the hollow smiles. She wasn't Alice anymore, and at least if she was crying she was getting out the emotion I once had seen so much of. It was horrible to think it was a good thing my best friend was crying, but the only thing I could do was put my arms around her, wishing I had the words to comfort her. Lately, though, I wasn't so sure I was in the right mind to comfort anyone.
"Alice, it's okay," I assured her, knowing I needed to. Even though I was hurting just as much, it didn't mean I wanted her to. I wanted Alice back, my bubbly best friend, but right now I wasn't even sure if it was possible. "It's all okay. We're going to get through this…"
Alice wrapped her blanket around me, pulling me tighter, and I felt closer to her than I had in weeks. She shook her head, wiping her tears before she turned to look at me again, barely suppressing the sobs I knew she was holding back. "No. No, it's not okay. And I hate how everyone says that…" I didn't know what to say, but she quickly continued. "We. Like, like we're all in this together or something… We're not. It's not all of us, Bella, it's all me. I'm the one who's got a baby growing in her. Do you know I fucked everything up? This is our senior year, Bella. We're supposed to be going off to college after this. We're supposed to be going to the mall like normal kids, going to prom, hanging out on the weekends and going on dates with our boyfriends. What the hell happened to us? I mean, even Edward… You guys would've been fine if all of this didn't happen, you were so close…" She trailed off, looking away again. I heard the sob she let escape then, and I just couldn't handle it. Why the hell did she blame herself?
"Alice." My voice was firm. It was shaky, and I didn't have the conviction I had upstairs with Edward, but nonetheless, I tried to get her attention. "Look. What you did was a stupid thing to do, no one is denying that. You should've used protection, and you guys should've talked instead of running away and having sex, but I'm sure you've heard it from everyone else." Alice let out a bitter kind of chuckle, and I hated hearing it. It just wasn't her. "But it's over now. We can't do anything about it. And Alice, we are in this together. All of us. We're here for you, no matter what you choose to do. You need to stay strong, Al. You need to…"
"What about you and Edward? Don't you think I screwed that up, too? What if I hadn't gotten pregnant? Would Jasper even care about me, then? Bells, everything is screwed, I can't believe --"
"Edward and I would be in this situation whether you got pregnant or not." I hated admitting that, I really did. My voice cracked a little, but I forced myself to pull it back together. "He… He has all these things in his head. I don't know how they got there, but they were there before you got pregnant, Alice. I don't know about me and Edward, but it doesn't have anything to do with you. You're not the reason we're fighting, okay? Don't blame yourself."
There was a smile on her lips for just a moment, and she laid her head against my shoulder. "Thanks, Bella." She paused for a moment, and I almost didn't know what she was referring to. "For everything. You've always been a real friend."
There was silence for a while, and then Alice shifted, letting out a little gasp. I bit my lip, a little scared. She was getting so big. The baby wouldn't wait very long now, and little by little we were getting closer and closer to the due date. "It's kicking, Bella. The baby is kicking," she told me, taking one of my hands and placing it on her stomach. I was uncomfortable for a second or two, but she held my hand there, and I felt it. There was life inside of her. For so long I had been thinking of this baby as a curse -- a misfortune -- and for just a moment, when I looked up and saw that little flicker of life in Alice's eyes, as well as felt it, I had a feeling we were thinking wrong. And maybe, just maybe, we could get through this.
"I can't give the baby away. I know I should, but I can't." Her voice was breaking when she spoke again, and I didn't know how to respond. All I could do was hug her, trying not to hurt her or the baby, and listen to her as she broke into sobs. And after a while, I was crying too, though I wasn't sure why. I was crying for the baby. I was crying for Alice. I was crying for Jasper, who just couldn't seem to make up his mind. I was crying for Edward and our rocky, barely existent relationship, torn apart at the seams. I was crying for Carlisle and Esme, who had never been there to see how amazing their own kids were, to coax them and guide them like they both needed. I was crying for Victoria and James, whose wayward parents didn't seem to care. I was crying for Jacob back with Leah, for their new baby, for the relationship I knew would be a struggle. I was crying for all of us, the whole mess of us who had somehow gotten involved, all tied together. And in weeks, I just hadn't felt this good.
My head snapped up at the sound of the voice, and I almost didn't believe it. Standing on the Cullen's front porch was Rosalie Hale, her golden hair glowing in the moonlight.
"Do you have a minute? I'd really..." She took a breath, biting on a full lip. "I'd really like to talk, if that's okay."
A/N: Ah. So, what did you think?
As always, I love your reviews and your feedback, and now is no different. I plan to get another chapter out within the week. I've been having very little free time, lately, but I have most of it written, so you can definitely count on it. I do think a lot of important subjects were touched on in this chapter, though, and the one to follow only digs deeper into them.
And, of course, the end was a bit of a cliff hanger, I suppose. Some of you were wondering when Rosalie was really going to get involved, and here is your answer. Emmett is about to play a much bigger role as well, though with Rosalie I guess you'll just have to find out, huh? :)
Please send me your thoughts! You know I love to hear them.