A/N: Twilight and its characters belong to SM
This was the original CPOV Part 1 of Strawberry Stand Still, but I had to cut it, because the chapter grew epically monstrous, and this bit just didn't have enough significance to merit the extra wordage. It is a nice insight however.
It was nearly five when I received the call from Esme regarding Bella's visit. I never would have shown it in the tone of my voice on the phone, but I was infinitesimally resentful for the way she so casually put the responsibility on my shoulders alone. It was the poor boy's birthday and she meant to dangle the forbidden fruit before his eyes and have me snatch it away at my discretion. She wouldn't be forced to survive the aftermath.
But it was his birthday, and even though it seemed a cruel method of granting what was likely one wish of his, I opened the door with a wide smile at Bella's soft and timid knock.
She stood meek and shyly, or one might assume her shy if they didn't fully understand her mental state. She cradled a large box in her arms. Birthday cake as Esme informed me. I felt compelled, as I stood aside, to tell this girl that Edward did not prefer birthday cakes. Every birthday we had attempted to celebrate with him, it was made quite clear that any fuss over the event would be swiftly attacked. I couldn't fathom seeing her spirits crushed when he did such a thing. She must have been rather excited for the escape from her punishment, just to have it dashed by Edward's harsh position on celebrations.
She didn't greet me, or really even acknowledge my presence aside from a small glance in my direction that seemed more anxiety driven than for politeness's sake as she entered the foyer.
Esme would be deeply disappointed at her lack of manners. I made it a point to omit this from my recap of events unless she expressly asked me for such information.
I led her to the dining room with only a few words, as not to make her more uncomfortable until Edward had arrived. When I knocked on his door, I had already prepared myself for his dismal silent treatment of me. It had been this way for fourteen days and though I rather detested the immaturity of the act, I was resigned to waiting for him to break the silence. I had pushed quite enough.
I was pleasantly surprised when he began to speak. It was progress in my mind, even though the words he spoke were meant to be sarcastic and scathing. Many people had a difficult time relating to Edward, but I had seen quite enough by now to know that the scathing insults were his method of pushing people away. People he felt he could be close to. If I was still one of those people, I considered myself lucky.
"Bella," I began when I noticed him becoming exceptionally flustered with me. His eyes shifted focus to mine finally and I could sense his whole posture change. "Is in the dining room waiting for you." With cake. Please don't be so hard on the poor girl. She couldn't have known.
He pushed past me, and I suddenly noticed he was wearing the same clothing from yesterday. I frowned at the back of his head as he made his way down the flights of stairs. He was neglecting himself and was failing to take his health into consideration. His eyes were darker from lack of sleep and... don't think I didn't notice the way he nearly stumbled over the last step. I always noticed. It was absolute agony to watch him deteriorate in such a way, but I couldn't push him. Not about this.
I held my breath as I watched him enter the dining room, bracing for... whatever way he grew irritated with this odd girl. He captured her in a tight embrace before I could understand what was occurring, and for a brief second, I was irrationally concerned I would be forced to pull them apart. I did no such thing.
I watched in fascination as he swayed them from side to side affectionately for a long while. I eventually shifted uncomfortably and leaned against the door frame, feeling utterly disgusted that I had to be so intrusive on this particularly intimate moment. My resentment towards Esme swelled once again at this feeling. I watched as he turned his face to her ear and appeared to be whispering something. She shook her head. I was frustrated at the exchange I couldn't supervise. I didn't want to let Esme down.
Bella suddenly released his neck, peering at me over his shoulder. "As long as Dr. Cullen allows." She spoke just loud enough for me to hear, and I was grateful. They were discussing the length of the visit. I gazed back at her and attempted to make it clear in my friendly expression that I would do my best to make it as long as possible.
"Please, call me Carlisle." I corrected her. It was fairly unnecessary for her to use my last name. She had been sleeping under my roof for three months after all. I think we were past the formalities. I watched as she led him to the table and...
Edward's gaze finally landed on the cake.
I stiffened in anticipation of his impending ire.
He smiled at her and sat down in a chair.
I frowned down at my shoes with a sigh. Bella clearly fell under a separate standard than Emmett and me. I was briefly frustrated and envious that he could celebrate with this girl and yet his family was meant to ignore such occasions while he hid in his room. Would it have been so awful to enjoy it, if not for our sakes alone?
And then as I watched him begin eating her meal and speaking to her with a large smile that I hadn't seen in... years, I was once again reminded, Bella always fell under another set of rules for Edward. I was amazed at how my presence was suddenly entirely ignored. He took her hand beneath the table and held it. He made satisfied moans that seemed to make her smile wider. She spoke about their family and friends and when the time for cake arrived, I was baffled at her ability to make Edward submit to eating it without any resistance whatsoever.
The only time I had bought him a cake, it was an utter disaster. I had spent countless hours on the phone with a very exorbitantly priced gourmet decorator to perfect the decadently tiered cake. When he saw it, he seemed rather disgusted by the gesture all together and it sat dormant until I finally allowed Emmett to consume it on his own.
It was the last time I bought him a birthday cake.
And now he was consuming hers with a large grin and an abundance of sounds to attest to the fact he was enjoying it.
I watched him push the plate aside when he was finished eating. They moved close to one another, their heads lying casually on their arms atop the table while they spoke in hushed whispers. I felt completely ridiculous having to supervise such an innocent display.
But it was still necessary.
I oversaw their exchange with varied feelings of awe, embarrassment, and envy. I was awed at their intimacy without even being… intimate. A simple touch of their hands was enough to make them both quite visibly at ease. It was rather fascinating. This made me feel embarrassed. To be watching them so closely and scrutinizing their contact was ridiculous. But mostly I was envious.
I had seen this version of Edward only once before. Years ago in a hospital room when we first met. When I had first decided to bring him into my home and watch him grow and flourish under my tending. Long before this day, when our relationship had been reduced to scathing insults and unbridled rancor, it wasn't uncommon for me to see that smile.
I suppose he wasn't the only one to blame. I had put to much faith in my wisdom back then. I was devout in my belief that my insight and careful mentoring of the boy would lead him to the illustrious path he was destined for. I was a fool for not considering his refusal to allow me to do so.
I had tried every method possible of getting through to him. I spent years attempting to break the barrier between what he showed me, and what was truly bothering him. I spent my days with particular colleagues gaining information on various techniques to penetrate the defenses of deeply traumatized adolescents. And it didn't take a professional to understand that Edward was, in fact, deeply traumatized.
They all told me the same thing when I returned to them, unsuccessful in my attempts to gain his trust. It took patience.
For years I remained as patient as I could possibly allow given the circumstances. But then Bella Swan moved to Forks and suddenly, Edward let that barrier down. It took me a long while to realize they were even close, but once I saw him, holding her in the middle of the gym floor of the high school, I just knew.
All on his own and without any careful approaches, he had finally found someone to confide in. And as I watched them interact following the incident, I realized he had found something much greater than a mere confidant.
It was a positive sign, and even though I felt a sense of spite that I couldn't be that person, I encouraged the relationship for a long while. As long as I possibly could.
I watched as they moved closer on the dining room table. Bella was relaying a childhood memory that made me stifle a giggle. Alice always was the perfectionist. It was no surprise to see her upset over a destroyed sand castle.
But they began getting closer. Too close. And suddenly their foreheads were touching and I was uncomfortable with their intimate proximity in my presence.
"I think perhaps Bella should go home now." I spoke in the least intrusive voice I could manage, and yet still seemed to startle the poor girl who had completely failed to realize I was still in the room. Her lips fell to a frown as she glanced back and forth between Edward and me, and I felt angry with Esme once again. She was making me the bad guy today.
Edward was exceptionally perturbed as he sat up and met my gaze. "Why? We aren't doing anything wrong?" He asked, clearly agitated and sorrowful for her impending departure.
My stomach twisted in anxiety as I glanced down at my shoes and scratched the back of my neck. "Please, Edward. Don't make a scene." I pleaded. It would do no good to make such a hostile show in front of Bella. He could attack me once she was safely next door, and I'd take it, because I always had.
He appeared as though he was preparing to defy me when Bella finally stood up and disarmed him with a kiss on his temple and a bag of cookies.
She moved to leave, so I gave her an abundance of space to exit as she departed. "Goodbye Dr. Cullen." She shuffled out the doorway to the living room and I had opened my mouth to once again correct her before I realized it was fruitless. I'd omit this from my conversation with Esme as well.
Edward sat in his chair for many moments as I stood stoic, and utterly apologetic for ruining what was meant to be a happy day for him. There were many things I wanted to say as I stared at the back of his head. I wanted to say happy birthday, but it felt offensive and ironic given the circumstances. I wanted to say I was sorry and I'd do my best to encourage a repeat allowance from Esme, but I didn't want to see him disappointed when I failed. So I stood silent and prayed he'd still grant me the gift of his scathing insults, because it was the absolute best I could possibly hope for.
But the scathing insults never came, and I was eventually resigned to leaving him in the room alone, gazing at the birthday cake, devoid of the one lone sliver he had eaten.
A/N: I sigh. Daddy C laments. I weep. I post. You read. You sigh. You go read the rest of the chapter if you haven't already. I thank.