It was certainly an odd afternoon. Bella had expressed interest in hockey. Yes, she was actually sitting on the sofa with her legs pulled up to her chest as she watched intently. How bizarre. Maybe I was imagining it... Yes, that was it; I had clearly drunk one Budweiser too many today. But when she spoke, there was no denying her actual presence.
"So is this like... the sixth inning or something?" she asked, obviously in an attempt to create conversation. I cast her a pitiful look, taking a bite out of my fish filet.
"More like the third period," I corrected her, restraining myself from rolling my eyes. Honestly, Bella was the easiest person to live with. But whenever sports were involved, it would have been nice to have a son.
"Oh," Bella replied, mildly shocked. "I must have been confusing it with soccer or something." I shook my head slightly, not bothering to correct her.
"So what's with this sudden interest in the flat-screen, Bells?" I murmured, wiping fish grease off of my chin. Bella shrugged.
ever since Edward took me to play baseball..." Bella explained,
forcing me scoff.
"That was last May, kiddo," I pointed out. "Now it's... Well, Bella, it's been a year. And this is the first time that you're-"
"Okay, Dad," Bella snapped, cutting me off mid-sentence. She slammed her paper plate down on the end table, completely betraying her calm, logical self. "Edward's coming over and I wanted to talk to you. You've been treating him like a criminal ever since he came back." Damn. That's where she was going with this. But could she honestly blame me? He had left her broken-hearted for months- no letters, no calls. And then he had the nerve to show up on my doorstep carrying my daughter in his filthy arms after she had been missing for three goddamn days! In any decent father's book, this certainly qualified him as a criminal.
Then again, I was of two minds about that Cullen boy. My resentment boiled constantly, right at the forefront of my mind. One wrong move and I'd gladly rip his head off. God damn it, he had hurt my little girl. On the other hand, Bella seemed so much better now that he'd come back. She seemed almost whole, and I knew it was because of him. Had there even been a point of leaving? It was as if he had been here all along... That would have saved us a whole lot of trouble.
Bella eyed me carefully before speaking. "Edward's bringing custard tonight, if that's okay. Esme made it for us. I think that she wants it to be a peace offering between you and her son, so I would very much appreciate it if you ate it." Damn. It would be delicious; Esme always sent over treats, and they always forced me to postpone my diet for the next day.
"Custard?" I demanded. "Four months of no contact, four months of misery, and it'll all be solved with custard?"
Bella appeared to plan her words carefully, though I could tell that I had struck a nerve. "Dad, it's not a peace offering for me. It's for you. And it would help if you accepted it, because Edward isn't going anywhere so it'd be good for all of us if you got over yourself and accepted him as a part of the family." She brought a bite of barely-touched fish to her mouth and swallowed it quickly. "He likes football. And- and cars. You could actually have a pleasant conversation with him about... about local crime and such." I froze, unable to picture myself actually talking to the air-brushed jackass.
"'A part of the family'?" I repeated, annunciating each syllable. Bella nodded firmly, her eyes glued to the television as if they were minutes away from announcing the winner of American Idol. It was an insurance commercial. "He is not and will never be a part of this family." Bella stiffened, running her hand through her chocolate-colored waves.
"We're not that much younger than you and Mom were," she pointed out quietly. Ah. That was what this was about. They were getting married. Well, I certainly was not going to sit around and watch that happen. Of course, hypocrisy was on her side due to the fact that I had married at eighteen, but reality was on my side.
"I see," I muttered bitterly, stabbing a piece of fish with my fork. "But times have changed. I can tell, Bella, that you don't want this. Your mother would never have gone to college, but you want to. I can see it in you. You don't want this." I gestured around to the fish filet and the cramped living room. Bella shrugged, obviously thinking that this wouldn't be such a bad life anymore. Of course not. Nothing was 'bad' when Edward was around...
We continued eating without speaking, listening to the forks scrape across the plates. Finally, I mustered up the courage to ask her what I had meant to ask all along. "Bella, how could you just take him back? After what he did to you?"
Bella dropped her fork, sending it spinning across the wooden floor. She followed its progress, delaying the inevitable task of explaining herself. When she did look up, there were months of sadness in her eyes.
"I love him, Dad," she replied simply. Of course. I should have seen that one coming; Bella was always one for playing the 'love' card. Still, I shook my head, a bit disgusted. He didn't deserve her love.
Before I could argue, she raised her index finger. "How old were you and Mom when you fell in love?" she demanded, like a lawyer defending their client. "Or even when you got married? Not so much older than Edward and I are, right?" I nodded stiffly, rolling my eyes. No use arguing with the truth. Subconsciously, my eyes meandered over to the wedding picture of Rene and I that I kept hidden behind Bella's prom picture. Edward had been cut out of that one.
"You never stopped loving Mom?" Bella whispered softly, though I could tell that she already knew the answer. I coughed uncomfortably, grimacing as she continued speaking. "You don't have to answer that. I know the answer." She paused and took a deep breath. "What if Mom weren't married to Phil? What if she decided to come back to you after all these years? Would you take her back?" The silence that followed was deadly. It was forbidden territory, bringing up Rene under these circumstances. But more than anything, she was damaging my pride. She was right. I'd never stopped loving her mother. If I had thought that there was any possibility of things working out, that Renée could be happy here, I'd take her back in a heartbeat. I'd welcome her with open arms... I swallowed, trying to work up the nerve to answer. Bella was hard to argue with. She might look like her mother, but she'd inherited my tenacious temperament.
"You don't have to answer that one either. I can see it in your eyes," Bella murmured, just as I opened my mouth to confess the true answer. "They say that I'm a lot like you, Dad. But Edward isn't like Mom. He came back."
Abruptly, my daughter rose from her seat and picked up her fallen fork. I closed my eyes as Bella disappeared into the kitchen, tripping over the small piece of raised wood in the doorway. As if on cue, the doorbell rang. Edward was back. My own love had left me ages ago, and now I understood. She was not coming back, but he was. And as long as he kept coming back, it would be okay.