A/N: So the vote was pretty solid. 76% for Jacob and 23% for Carlisle and Esme (don't ask me where the hell the last 1% went. I have no idea). Thanks for being so great with reviewing and voting!
On with Chapter TWENTY-FOUR!!!
"Maybe that's something you need to do. Keeping it inside all the time can't be good for you."
"I told you about him, didn't I?"
"You know what I mean, Bella."
I sighed. I did know what he meant. "Just give me a little bit of time."
"You don't even need to ask. But don't wait too long, we don't know how long he'll be in the area for."
I nodded and pulled away. Before I could turn back around, Edward grabbed me again and put his lips on mine. I immediately melted into his body and put my hands in his hair. I opened my mouth, but tried not to get too carried away as I felt that familiar fire I seemed to always have inside me whenever he was with me start to grow. His tongue gently stroked mine and I moved my hands from his hair down to his chest. we continued to kiss for a few more seconds before we both pulled away and glanced at Marie, who still hadn't noticed anything amiss, at the same time.
Edward grinned at me and quickly kissed my forehead.
He always made a bad day a little better.
Chapter 14: Enough For Now
For the next few days I went back to work, but I wasn't fully there. I had written down Jacob's phone number and then deleted his message.
I felt as if I could hear horror music every time I looked at that little sticky note.
What was he going to do if I agreed to see him? What did he want to talk about? I didn't delude myself into thinking he wanted to get back together and if he did, I wouldn't have him. My greatest fear though was what he wanted in regards to Marie. He knew she existed; I remembered telling him way back when that I didn't want an abortion. And he sort of acknowledged her in his message. Did that mean he wanted to see her?
I wasn't sure how I felt about that. Some would argue that as the father, he had the right to see his daughter, but I gave him that chance and he threw it back at me. He gave up his rights to her that day.
But... I had no idea what he was like now and if he wanted to see her, what kind of hell he would give me to do just that. I didn't want to get caught up in a custody case. If he wanted a relationship with her, then maybe I would allow him visitation rights, after he's proven himself, but no custody. I didn't think I could ever trust him with custody.
I voiced these worries to Edward, who was nothing less than patient and comforting to me.
"What if he tries to take her away from me?" I whispered at night. We were wrapped up on my couch. I had put Marie to bed half an hour earlier. The only light came from the TV, which was playing quietly, neither of us was really watching.
Edward rested his chin on the top of my head and tightened his arms around me.
"I don't think he'd be stupid enough to think he could gain custody of her, even if he only wants partial."
"What if he tries?"
"Bella, give me one good reason why the court would take his side. You told him about the pregnancy and he turned away. He hasn't sent any money or contacted you in years. He doesn't know Marie at all. He doesn't even know what she looks like; they're complete strangers. He can offer no reasonable excuse for his absence in her life thus far. In a case such as this, you're in complete favour. He's done nothing while you've done everything. Besides," he said. "If he does take you to court, I can hire you Chicago's best lawyer to fight tooth and nail with him."
I relaxed a little, knowing what Edward said was true. I still worried, but I took comfort in what he said.
If Jacob just wanted visitation rights, however, I was conflicted. I said I may allow them, but only after he's proven himself. I've always wanted a father for Marie and it would be a lie to say that during the first year I left Phoenix I didn't dream of Jacob coming back, begging for forgiveness, and vowing to help care for our baby. Of course that never happened, and if he had called back then, I would have been more eager to see him, but now, I didn't even want to think about him.
I didn't want to take Marie away from her father and I was afraid that if he wanted to see her, and I refused, she would somehow find out and resent would grow in her. Especially when she's older. But he hurt us so much and I didn't want to expose her to disappointment, not from him.
Then again, you have to let them make their own mistakes for them to learn, right?
If she were much older, I'd ask her what she wanted, but she wasn't, and therefore, I made the decisions.
As confused, worried, and conflicted as I felt, there was one thing I was sure of, and that was that I had to contact Jacob. If I didn't, it would eat up at me for the rest of my life.
So it was four days after Christmas, on the twenty-ninth of December, that I called Jacob back. I hoped he was still in Chicago.
My heart was beating so fast as I listened to his phone ring on the other end, I thought I was going to pass out.
Heart stopped. Flat line.
The sound of his voice, though I already heard it from the message, made me pale and start to sweat. Jesus Christ, we weren't even speaking face-to-face yet and this was how I was reacting. I had to pull myself together.
"Hello?" he said again.
"Um, hi," I said, trying to hide the emotions in my voice. "This is Bella Swan."
There was a pause on the other end.
"Bella?" It was barely a whisper.
I sat down at the kitchen table and put my forehead in the hand that wasn't holding the phone. My elbow rested on the tabletop. "Yes," I said quietly.
He paused again before clearing his throat. "I, um, I guess you got my message."
A long pregnant pause.
The emotions going through me, just at the sound of his voice, were overwhelming. I shuddered, thinking of seeing him face to face. I prayed I'd be able to handle it. The silence on the other end continued and I wondered briefly if he was still even there. Part of me hoped not.
Finally, I heard him exhale slowly. "It's been a long time."
And who's fault is that? I thought bitterly, but instead said, "Yes, it has."
As stimulating as the conversation was, I wanted him to get to the point.
"Please stop with the small talk, Jacob," I said weakly. I dragged my hand down my face and placed it on my lap. I absentmindedly played with a loose thread on my pants.
"Sorry," he said. He paused again. I could tell he was just as uncomfortable and nervous as I was. This comforted me a little bit. He continued, "I want to meet with you. Please."
"I haven't forgotten about how and why we... broke up, Bella. I've changed, I've grown up, and it's been hanging over my shoulder."
"And making amends."
I took deep breaths. "Are you living in Chicago, now?"
"No, I still live in Arizona. I'm just here on business. I leave the day after New Year's, though."
"This meeting isn't something you can say to me over the phone?"
"No, I want to meet you face to face. Please, Bella."
I tugged so hard on the thread, it snapped off. I rubbed my forehead again and bit my lip. This was the reason I was calling Jacob back in the first place, wasn't it? To meet him? To see what he wanted? It appeared he had good intentions, but I was far from trusting him. I closed my eyes and sighed before saying, "Okay."
"You'll meet me?" The relief was clear in his voice.
"Yes." I hoped I wouldn't regret it.
"Thank you, Bells." I cringed at the use of my nickname coming from him. I didn't want him to be so casual with him. It was far too painful and awkward.
"How is tomorrow for you?" he asked.
"It's fine," I replied.
We set up a time and place and then hung up, but not without more 'thank you's on Jacob's part. As soon as I hung up the phone, I went to my bedroom and collapsed on the bed. Marie was napping in her room.
I cried quietly into my pillow, hoping she wouldn't hear me and wake up.
* * *
"Bella, it will be okay," Edward soothed for the five hundredth time that morning.
It was the next day, and I was about to leave to see Jacob. I had told Edward about our phone conversation last night and though me made me feel much better, he could do little to calm my nerves. Today, he was helping me by watching Marie at my apartment for however long it took to see Jacob. I hoped it would not take long at all. For two reasons.
The first was obvious; I didn't want to be with Jacob any longer than I had to.
The second was that this was the first time I'd be leaving Marie and Edward alone together. Sure, they'd spent time together and got along very well, almost as if they'd known each other for much longer, but was he ready to look after her without me there? He volunteered to, but I couldn't stop worrying.
"Are you sure you two will be okay here by yourself?" I asked.
Edward pressed a firm kiss to my lips and said, "We'll be fine. It will only be for an hour or two and I'll call you if anything goes wrong, which nothing will."
"Okay," I relented. I fidgeted some more.
"Do you need me to come with you?" he asked.
I shook my head. This wasn't the first time he asked me this and I declined him every time. I knew it was hard for Edward to just send me off by myself to see my ex, someone who I only remembered painfully. He was keeping his emotions to himself, though sometimes I caught glimpses of them in his eyes. Mixes of worry, anger, care, and protectiveness. I tried to reassure him the best I could, even if I couldn't even reassure myself.
"I need to do this on my own. Jacob doesn't know about you and I'm afraid anyone else with me will just make it worse. This is my, um, thing to deal with. I can't keep leaning on you for everything."
"I know. I just worry."
I reached up and kissed his cheek. "I know you do."
I stepped out of his arms and said louder, "Bye Marie. I'll be back soon."
"Bye!" I heard her say from her room. I kissed Edward one last time before leaving.
I could see the conflicted expression on his face as I stepped out the door. I wondered if it mirrored mine.
Jacob and I had agreed to meet at the coffee shop a few blocks away, at my suggestion. I wanted a neutral place. A safe place. As I walked down the street, my mind kept giving me pep talks, trying to prepare me for the inevitable onslaught of feelings upon meeting him. I wrapped my coat tighter around me, not only to block out the December chill, but almost as if warding off what was to come.
I reached the coffee shop far too quickly for my liking, but entered swiftly, before I could chicken out. I blinked, hit by the warm air inside, and looked around for Jacob. I spotted him almost immediately.
He had definitely changed. I no longer saw the nineteen year old boy I once knew, who loved cars, motorcycles, booze, and drugs. Instead I saw a... well, a very normal looking young man. His hair was cut, his face more mature, and if I was a stranger who saw him on the street, I would think him very respectable.
He saw me just as I saw him, and I could see him looking me up and down. Not checking me out, but seeing how I've changed.
With a deep breath, I started slowly walking towards him. I was right about one thing; the emotions I felt at seeing him were almost smothering me. On the outside I kept my composure, but on the inside, I felt there was a hurricane. Anger, betrayal, sadness, frustration, and disappointment welled up the most. They were swimming in my eyes, I was sure. But memories of our good times together were there too, and that just made the disappointment all the more bitter.
All these years, I had hoped I had moved on from this, to put it lightly, bump in my life, but I knew I hadn't. Hopefully, this meeting would help me let it go.
I reached his table and he motioned to the chair across from him and smiled lightly. Or he tried to smile. Nevertheless, his face looked almost calm. Such a contrast from the last time I saw him.
"Bella," he said quietly. Almost a whisper. I nodded back in greeting. I didn't trust my voice yet. "Thank you for meeting me," he continued.
I nodded again.
"So... how have you been?"
I twisted my fingers together. "I've been good. You?"
"I've been good, too. I've cleaned myself up. I'm not an addict anymore."
He fidgeted in his seat, breaking away his calm and revealing how nervous he was.
"Um, as I told you over the phone, I've changed. I've made many amends in my life, but this - you - has been hanging over me for years. I want to get closure and then finally move on."
I internally rolled my eyes. Typical Jacob. He may have looked different, but he was still the same. He just wanted to meet me to ease his guilty conscience. Not to benefit others, just himself.
Instead of calling him out, I just nodded for the third time.
"I want to know about... um, about the, uh, the..." he stammered, and I knew immediately what he was talking about. Or who he was talking about.
"You want to know about the baby," I said. This time it was his turn to nod.
"Did you... keep it?" he asked.
"I did. She's five now." I stared at the tabletop.
He spoke again, "What's her name? And where is she?" He looked around, as if she would somehow magically appear. I guess the drugs did a number to his brain cells as she obviously wasn't with me.
"Her name is Marie and she's at home with my boyfriend," I said shortly.
Jacob looked back at me. "I see."
We sat there for a minute without saying anything.
"Did you want anything to drink?" he asked, nodding towards the front counter. I declined.
"No thanks." More silence.
Finally becoming annoyed with hedging around whatever he wanted to do, I said, "Jacob, what do you want?"
He sat up straighter, seeming as if he was preparing himself for something. "I wouldn't be surprised if you never want to see me again and it must have been a shock, a bad one, when you found my message. I promise I will get out of your hair after this." He paused. "I just wanted to make sure you're all right. And I want to give you this."
He pulled out an envelope from his coat pocket and put it on the table in front of me. I looked down at it questioningly.
"What is this?" I asked, picking it up.
I glanced up at him, but his face gave nothing away. I gingerly opened the envelope, as if there was a bomb in there, and pulled out... a cheque.
For ten thousand dollars.
I dropped it on the table as if it were on fire.
"Jacob!" I hissed. "What is this?"
"It's a cheque," he replied, looking at me as if I were an idiot.
"For ten thousand dollars!" I said, in an angry whisper. "Why are you giving me this money?"
He looked shocked at my anger. "It's for Marie," he said. "After I picked myself up and went to college, I sold my car and my motorcycle. I knew I should have given you money long ago for the baby and saved up for the day I would meet you again. I'm not filthy rich, but I have a good job."
"Jacob, you can't buy my forgiveness."
"Just take it, Bella."
"I can't," I said, putting it back in the envelope. "And what do you mean you'll 'get out of my hair after this'?"
"I meant exactly that. I promise I won't try to contact you in any way after today. I won't bother you again. I'm sure that's what we both want."
"Now I really cannot except money from you." I pushed the envelope back to him. "You don't even want to see Marie?"
"Bella, you have to know that I never wanted kids. Not with anybody, not just you. How the hell can I make a good dad if I don't even want to be one? Besides, isn't that what you want? Would you let me see her if I wanted to?"
"I... I don't know," I answered honestly. I wasn't sure how to react. Relief he would never show his sorry ass around here again, or anger that he didn't even care enough about his own kid to want to meet her. It was tearing me up, the conflicting emotions.
"You know this is best. I have a girlfriend back in Arizona and she feels the same way about kids as I do. I didn't choose to have a baby with you."
"And you think I did?" I said darkly. "You shouldn't even be given the choice. What kind of 'amends' is this, Jacob? Toss me a cheque and then disappear again? Do you feel that just because you've given me money that you've done your duty as a parent? That giving me this cheque is giving me your responsibility as well?"
He didn't know what to say.
"No, wait. You tossed away your responsibility years ago. Jacob, this doesn't make things better. Giving me money and then turning away is not making up for your actions."
"What do you want me to do? Did you want me to file for custody of the kid? We're strangers! I don't want to be tied down with a child for the rest of my life!"
"It shouldn't matter what you want. I wanted many things and I never got them."
"You could have given her up."
"I never said I didn't want the baby you asshole. I'm saying that you have a responsibility, whether you chose it or not, and just like the first time, you're taking the easy way out; running away. You say you've changed but you haven't. At all." I quickly breathed deeply and closed my eyes, trying not to cry. I couldn't show I was weak. "After I got your message, I was thinking about giving you a chance with Marie. Albeit, a small chance, but still a chance. She's still young enough that you could have easily fit into her life. Even with just visits and phone calls!"
"Just take the money. This isn't what I want. I'd also appreciate it if you never told Marie much about me. I don't want her looking for me when she's older."
I wanted to take his head and smash it into the table, like a damn action movie, but resisted. He was a lucky bastard that I did.
I stood up and put on my coat. "No, I won't accept your money. I don't want it." I shook my head. "After everything that's happened today, please stay true to your promise and never contact me again. Goodbye."
I turned to leave and noticed we attracted the attention of several people in the shop. I quickly mumbled an apology and hurried towards the door.
And then I left.
Away from someone worthless.
And towards two people worth everything.
I never saw Jacob Black again.
A/N: Slightly shorter chapter. Happier times coming. Review please. And no, I didn't misspell "cheque". "Check" is the American spelling and I am Canadian. :) By the way, in case you were wondering about the chapter title, it is after The Fray's song, "Enough for Now". It's on the playlist.
January is hell month for me as it comes with these horrid things called exams. You guys have been SO great with patience and understanding. Thank you, thank you, thank you!
This story is nearing to a close, I think. There are a couple of major loose ends to tie up (Renee... Rosalie...) but I think it will be finished in about six chapters, most likely. I have a plan to get this story done by the end of winter at the latest so I can concentrate on finishing A Vision Stained With Red. I have many new story ideas, one in particular which I've been writing in my head, that I want to get started on. As I work these out, I may be removing and/or adding story ideas to my profile, so don't be surprised if an idea that was there yesterday, is no longer there tomorrow. :)