AN: I'm back! I need to apologize for the lack of update... Real life gets tough when you're into the last month of being a senior in high school (five more days of classes!!!). And I need to apologize in advance. I know for a fact that I won't be able to get the next chapter out until after graduation at the beginning of next month. But! To hold you over, I give you an extra 2000 words and an answer about Edward's past. Maybe you won't want to kill me now... No? Oh well, I tried.
I would also like to thank everyone who reviewed, favorited, and put my story on alert, especially Oriana de la Rose. She is amazing and this story wouldn't have been posted without her encouragement.
Disclaimer: I don't own anything. Surely everyone already knew that.
Chapter 2 – The Undeniable Truth
"Oh, Edward," Bella moaned as my hands ghosted over her skin. "I need you."
"Bella, beautiful Bella," I said, unable to look away from her face. My body rested above hers, skin touching skin. I pushed some of the hair out of her face as she continued to breathe deeply, almost heaving for breath.
I shot up in bed, only to find myself alone in my sparse bedroom.
"Fuck," I muttered. I ran my hand through my hair and took a few deep breaths to try to calm my heart.
That was the third dream in a week I'd had about Bella. I had an idea about the reasoning, but I had to check my calendar to be sure. Heaving myself out of bed, I padded into the kitchen, not caring what I looked like. Just like every morning, I passed the one picture hanging on the walls and smiled sadly, giving into my one daily moment of my past life.
When it became too much, I sighed and moved on. I walked through the kitchen on autopilot, going through my usual routine. Set up the coffee machine, glance at the empty box of cigarettes, grab something easy to eat, and stop in front of the calendar. I brought my finger across this week to stop on Saturday. I saw a small heart drawn in the bottom corner.
"I knew it," I groaned.
Dreams of Bella less than five days apart usually meant that my body was not-so-subtly telling me I would see her. I tried to stop the dreams, but they just kept coming. I figured it came with the territory.
I loved her.
She knew it.
But her stupid society had stupid rules and she refused to break them. And because of that, she wouldn't allow herself to tell me how she truly felt about me.
I sighed, remembering the first time I'd asked her about it outright.
I met her outside New Moon pizza and smiled at her. It was the first time in a while that she came in her own clothes, rather than something her mother forced on her for a date. She blushed slightly in the light, but smiled as well.
We were greeted warmly by Jacob at the door. He led us to our usual, secluded table. After a year of coming there regularly, he knew where we liked to sit.
Bella sat down and I made sure to sit on the opposite side of the table, as always. As much as I wanted to be able to touch her, as much as it would calm me down to be physically closer to her, I knew that it would be too much for her.
"So, what's up in the world of tattoo art?" Bella asked eagerly. "Tell me everything. Have there been anymore drunken coeds getting their soon-to-be-ex significant others' names tattooed on their arms?"
I chuckled. "Thankfully no," I answered. "Though it is fun to mess with them by designing it to my standards rather than their specifications."
"Oh, you need to tell me about those," she begged, looking desperate for information. Like this was her only means of getting rid of something plaguing her mind.
"I'm sorry," I said, keeping the tone light. "There's a strict patient-artist confidentiality contract signed when the customer comes back to have the offending body art removed. I'm not at will to speak of it without permission." She groaned, but couldn't keep the smile off her face. I knew she caught the joke in there. "Besides," I continued. "I have a feeling you just wanted to distract me from the fact that something's going on in your life."
Bella looked down at the table sheepishly, gently pushing her fork around in front of her. "It's not a big deal, Edward. Just forget about it."
I watched her, trying to gauge her feelings to try to discern what was going on in her life. But she never let me in enough to understand. Only to guess.
"You know you can tell me anything, right, Bella?" I asked softly. Slowly, she made eye contact with me again. Her expression was softer and a weak smile played at her lips. She nodded. "Then you know that I'm here to help you. Nothing you can say is going to scare me away, but seeing you like this makes me think that something is wrong, whether you want to admit it or not."
Bella sighed. "It's this whole high society business. My mother wants me to plan every single second of every single day and use it to become a better housewife," she grumbled. "But I don't want to be a housewife. I want a husband who will love me and let me help him provide for the family. I don't want to be my mother." She looked into my eyes, silently pleading with me to understand. "I don't know how much more of it I can take. She hasn't found anyone for me yet, thank God. But the thought is there."
"Then run," I said bluntly. "Run away and don't look back. I'll help you, Bella. I'll get you out."
I wanted her to run away from them. To run to me. But I knew she wouldn't. she never did.
"That's really sweet, Edward, but you know I can't," she said sadly.
But I couldn't just leave the conversation like that. She needed to know her options. I wanted her to know that she could get out if she wanted to, and she'd have a place to stay and someone to care for her.
"Bella, I'm not doing this just because it's the right thing to do as a friend," I started. "I'm doing this because I care for you. As more than a friend. I can't bear to see you miserable." I put my heart on the line and hoped it was enough.
Her eyes bugged out at my words. Her jaw dropped and I could tell her thoughts were buzzing around her mind nonstop. I couldn't blame her; I'd given her a lot to think about. I should have just let it go. Let her think it out on her own.
But, no. I had to keep trying.
I reached over and cupped her cheek in my hand. The table was narrow enough that I didn't have to extend my arm too much and I knew that I could reach her. I gently pushed off my seat and, before either of us knew it, my lips touched hers.
For a second, we stared at each other, eyes wide, but my eyes closed and I lost myself in the sensation of kissing Bella. My lips moved against hers and soon she responded in kind. I could taste a hint of strawberries on her skin and the scent of freesia filled my nose.
"Bella," I whispered against her mouth before continuing.
Hearing her name made her pull away though. Her eyes opened slowly and her expression made me back up and sit back down. I saw a mix of surprise, hurt, and something else.
I couldn't tell.
"What was that, Edward?" she said cautiously.
I ran my fingers through my hair and sighed. "I just got through basically spilling my guts and you ask me what that was?" I muttered. She was clearly even less experienced in this department than I was.
"What are you talking about?" she said. She got a cute crease in her forehead, but I didn't notice.
"Bella, I love you," I said. "I've loved you for a while, but I'm sick of hiding it. I needed you to know."
"No," she breathed. "No, this can't be happening." She buried her face in her hands, still muttering to herself. "Not this. Anything but this."
"Bella?" I hesitantly reached out and touched her shoulder, hoping to get some kind of response. But she jerked away from my hand. "What's wrong, Bella?"
When she looked up, her eyes were brimming with tears. "You can't love me. I don't want you to love me." She tried to blink the water out of her eyes, but a few tears fell down her cheeks.
"What do you mean?" I asked slowly. A declaration of love was usually considered a good thing, but Bella was acting as if it was the worst thing that could have happened.
"Edward, it's just not possible. You need to promise me that you won't mention it again," she said, pleading. "Please promise me."
"I just needed you to know, Bella," I said. There was no keeping the hurt out of my voice. Bella flinched at my tone, knowing that she said something wrong. "Of course I promise."
The view of my boring kitchen refocused in my eyes. I groaned and dropped my coffee mug haphazardly into the sink.
There was nothing good about remembering that night. It just hurt too much. After Bella left the restaurant, I made a point of drowning my sorrows in old karate movies and pot smoke. I was messed up for the next three days. Emmett had to make a point of come and insure that I got some food in me. He hid my stash and insisted that I sleep it out. It's been almost two years since that night and it was still painful.
I heard a knock on my door and sighed. "Edward?" Rosalie yelled. "Don't make me come in there. You better not be smoking again."
I opened the door, fully aware that I was clad only in sweatpants. "I've been clean for a year and a half, Rose. I'm not about to blow it now."
"Well, good. Keep it that way." She walked into my living room, carrying a tray with two coffees on it. "I wasn't sure if you'd had your coffee yet, so I figured I'd come prepared."
"Only one cup so far," I said, taking my cup from her. "I threw the mug in the sink just before you knocked, so thank you."
"Why did you throw it in the sink? You usually have at least three cups before you go into work," she noted. I just sighed and ran my fingers through my hair, my most noticeable tactic to avoid anything. Rosalie noticed right away. "What were you thinking about? The accident?"
"No, for once, but thank you for bringing it up," I grumbled bitterly. Her expression morphed into some strange combination of sympathy, pity, and apology. None of which I really cared for. "No, I was thinking about Bella."
"Ah, the mystery woman," Rose said. "Yeah, that does usually tend to set you off."
"I'm not making her up, Rose," I said defensively. "She's not some figment of my imagination designed to help me prove to you that I'm not some misanthropic, anti-social, hermit of a human being."
"Then please, feel free to prove it," she said. She crossed her arms across her chest, making sure not to spill her coffee.
"Rose, you've seen the effects she's had on me. Isn't that enough?"
"For now. But I would like to meet her to at least thank her for changing you," she said.
I just shook my head. I was disappointed that I couldn't do this for Rose, but it wasn't up to me. "It's not my choice, Rosalie. She's not exactly… she's not like us per se."
"I don't care if she's half dolphin," Rose said. "I still want to meet her."
"I'll ask her, how about that?" I suggested. "Now, can I get ready for work alone, please?"
Rose smirked. "Nope," she said cheerily. "You're not going to work today. You need a break, so I called a couple of the interns in."
I glared at her. "And what, pray tell, does this break include?"
"Oh, Emmett's coming over in a little while," she shrugged. She took a big sip of her coffee. "I believe he's going to try to get you back into the world of sports."
"Great," I groaned. I downed my coffee and flopped onto the couch. "There's no point in trying to get out of it now. He's probably-"
"Don't worry, I'm here!" Emmett burst through the door with his traditional six pack of beer and bag of potato chips. "We are going to have an awesome day, bro! We're not leaving this apartment and you won't care."
"Emmett, I don't know if it's such a good idea," I started.
"It's never a good idea," he said. He stashed the food in the kitchen before coming back into the living room and putting his arm around Rose. She smiled up at him and leaned into his embrace. I cleared my throat softly and Emmett had the sense to look away from Rose. "Besides, you used to love baseball."
"Yeah, back when I was still in college." There were a lot of things that I liked back then. Not many of them ever came back. Not even baseball.
"Come on, Eddie," Emmett said, looking like a pouty four-year-old.
I grimaced and sighed. "If you promise not to call me Eddie again," I said. "Ever."
My cousin grinned and pumped one of his fists into the air in victory. I swore he was about to go into some victory dance too before Rosalie stopped him.
"Okay, big guy, let's not get too full of ourselves," she said with a chuckle. "I'm going to work now, so you two are on your own. Emmett, I expect at least two of those beers to still be full when I get back. Edward, at least pretend that you're enjoying yourself. For Bella if no one else." I glared at her, but she just smiled innocently. Rose stood on her tiptoes to kiss him goodbye, though she knew she would see him in a few hours during her break.
"Alright, bro, let's get you re-instated into the world of America's favorite pastime," Emmett said as Rose shut the door on her way out. I wanted nothing more at that moment than to follow her, but my fate was handed to me in the form of a bag of potato chips.
There was no way I was getting out of sitting on my ass for the rest of the day.
"Oh, come on! That was the stupidest call you've ever made! He was totally on base!"
After five straight hours of watching games, baseball was starting to creep back into my mind. I was reacquainted with old favorites, learned about newcomers, and found myself yelling at the television like I used to.
"Yo, Ed, sit down! They're fighting it," Emmett said with a chuckle. "I guess you're back into the game, huh?"
I plopped myself back onto the couch and watched the coach's argument with the umpire. Raking my fingers through my hair, I debated how much to tell Emmett about the reason I was changing. "I guess I am," I started cautiously.
"Any particular reason?" my cousin questioned as he took another swig of his beer.
"Yeah, but I'm not sure you're going to like it."
He whipped around and glared at me. "If you're smoking again, I swear I will beat the shit out of you."
My eyes widened, not having even considered him thinking of that. "Fuck, no. Do you really not trust me?"
Emmett sighed and chugged the rest of his beer. If he'd answered right away, I would have known he was just faking his sympathy. "I'm really sorry, man. But you need to understand the shit I've watched you go through. The hardest thing I've ever done was watch you sit on the couch and twitch with a fever after I trashed your stash. I don't want you to go through that again."
I sighed and rested my head against the back of the couch. "I know, Emmett. But it still stings that that's the first thing that pops into your mind. It has nothing to do with drugs. I'll never get into that shit again."
"Well, that's good to hear," he said. "Do I get to know the real reason behind this staggering transformation, then?"
"I suppose you're entitled to know, but I still have a feeling you won't like it," I said, running my fingers through my hair. I launched into the story of how I'd met Bella and everything I'd been through with her. "I'm seeing her this weekend and I hate seeming like the lifeless bastard I am around you guys. And frankly, I'm sick of being like that around you guys."
Emmett listened intently through the entire story, interrupting only for clarification. He watched me pace as I talked on and on. The baseball game was long over, the reporters now analyzing it, but neither of us cared. My cousin was suspiciously quiet as I finished telling the story though.
"Well, that explains a lot," Emmett said after a minute of silence.
"What the hell is that supposed to mean?"
"It means that I now understand many of your changes and why you get so depressed after you go out," he answered matter-of-factly.
"Yeah, I guess it would." I sighed and sat back down on the couch. Emmett turned to look at me, but I stayed facing the muted TV.
"You really do love her, don't you?"
I nodded slowly. "I really do, but nothing will ever come of it."
It was the most depressing conclusion I'd ever come to, but it was accurate based on Bella's reactions.
"I'm sure it'll all work out in the end," Emmett concluded. That was the end of that conversation.
Emmett left with Rose around nine that night. Rosalie assured me that the shop was still perfectly intact and that the interns hadn't ruined anything. I didn't completely believe her, but it would have to do. I would see for myself eventually.
I was left by myself once again, but I felt a little more alive. Maybe things were starting to look up.
Then I caught sight of the picture on my wall. Specifically the newspaper article resting in the lower right corner.
"Shit," I muttered. "Looks like I'll be late to work tomorrow."
I stood in front of the picture for a few minutes, leaning against the opposite wall, trying not to break down, before I could call Rose to inform her I would be late. I didn't say anything about why, but I had a feeling she already knew.
Sleep didn't hit me for a few hours until after I let the wave of memories and mixed emotions hit me. There was no way I would feel refreshed in the morning.
I woke up with a throbbing headache, but it was better than expected and I was able to ignore it after I chugged a few cups of coffee.
Ignoring everything I usually went by, I had a total of six cups of coffee that morning. It was a tradition to drink more than normal on the worst day of my year, but it never went past four. I figured the added bonus of dealing with the Bella-related issues was finally getting to me.
I walked out of my apartment building and headed straight for the florist. The girl behind the counter smiled sadly when she saw me. Kate knew exactly what I was there for; her family was very close with my aunt and uncle. She went to the back room and came back with a bouquet of roses and a single white lily.
"Thanks Kate," I said, handing her the exact amount of cash.
"No problem. Give them my regards, will you?" she said as she gave me the flowers.
I headed back through town, guarding the flowers against the rain that had just started. The weather is starting to match my moods, I thought absently.
It took a little over twenty minutes to get there, but I finally spotted the little, wrought-iron gate. I was soaked, but my jacket had kept the rain off the flowers so far. I took a deep breath before opening the gate.
The cemetery was quiet and empty at this time in the morning. I pushed my way through the wall of rain and followed the familiar path toward the cherry tree in the back corner of the property. At the foot of the tree lay the only gravestone I cared about. I read over the words that I'd written and looked over time and again, and fell to my knees in front of it.
Edward A. Masen Sr. Elizabeth C. Masen
6 September 1967 – 10 May 2004 14 July 1969 – 10 May 2004
Faithful to the end,
Taken much too early.
"Five years," I murmured. "Five long, lonely years." I gently set the flowers in front of the stone, the roses under my mother's name, the lily under my father's. I gently placed my hand above my heart, knowing there was one reminder that I would always have.
I silently thanked the weather for the rain. I couldn't tell if I was crying or not. But I could definitely feel a lump rising in my throat as I ran my fingers over their names. What I wouldn't give to have them back in my life.
At first I didn't recognize the connection. What did Bella have to do with my parents? Then it clicked.
She was the one thing I would never give up. If having my parents back meant losing Bella, maybe it was for the best. Maybe it was part of that foolproof plan my mother always rambled on about, sacrificing herself for the sake of my future. It sounded exactly like something she would do.
"You'd love her, Momma," I said softly. I couldn't have spoken louder even if I wanted to. "She's a lot like you were, but much more stubborn. She's loyal, adorably clumsy, doesn't care what others think of her for the most part, and, boy, is she beautiful. I wish you could meet her. She could hold a conversation with you, Dad. She's read almost everything you had on your bookshelf. Her anger management is drowning in classical music. She's absolutely perfect."
My voice was hoarse, but I kept talking. I explained exactly what I'd told Emmett the night before, but as I spoke to no one, I remembered telling Bella about my past. That was one of the best nights I'd ever spent with her.
Bella walked through the doors of New Moon Pizza and waved to the staff before heading straight for me. She had a cute light purple dress with an off-white formal coat over it.
She looked beautiful.
She plopped herself into the seat across from me unceremoniously, almost ripping the coat off her shoulders. "Please tell me you brought a change of clothes for me," she begged.
I grinned and set an Old Navy bag in the middle of the table. "I believe you owe me now," I said as she rifled through what I brought.
"Yeah, yeah, it's in the coat pocket. I'll be right back." She ran to the bathroom, leaving me alone.
Jacob walked up to the table and smiled at me. "Should I even bother asking anymore? The two of you always order the same thing. But your predictability is charming."
"Careful, Jake. If you keep this up, Embry's going to come hunt me down," I chuckled.
"Nah, he's cool with it. He said it wouldn't care as long as he got some of the action," the man in front of me suggested.
"Sorry, man. I'm not really into that stuff," I answered, using the same response as always.
"Well, at least I tried," Jake said with a shrug before leaving to get the food.
Bella came back then clad in the sweatpants and tank top I'd provided her. She looked much more comfortable and had thrown her hair up in a ponytail. "I have a feeling I owe you a lot more than a mix CD for this," she said. She pulled the case out of her coat pocket and slid it across the table.
"Really, Bella, don't mention it." I picked up the CD and scanned through the list of songs. It was the best way I could find to learn more about her without asking her point blank. She hated being the center of attention like that.
I froze as I got part of the way down the list. I could feel the color drain from my face.
Her song. Why did Bella have her song on this list?
"Edward? What's wrong?" Bella's voice broke me out of my reverie. I could hear the panic in her voice. "Is there something wrong with the CD? Oh god, I didn't give you the one mean to be for Alice, did I?"
"No, Bella," I assured her. "There's nothing wrong with the CD."
"Then why does your face happen to be the same shade of white as my napkin? You're scaring me, Edward."
"It's her song," I whispered, looking back at the list. "I haven't heard it in three and a half years. I don't think I can do it yet."
"Who?" Bella asked softly.
"My mother. This was her favorite song," I said. When I met Bella's gaze, my eyes were welling up with tears. "And I'll never get to see her again."
"What do you mean, Edward?"
I sighed and focused on the pattern in the wood on the table. This was something Bella needed to know about me if we were to be friends or anything else. It was really the only thing that she didn't know about me yet. "My parents are dead, Bella."
Her eyes widened and she shook her head, starting to answer, but I cut her off.
"Four years ago, I was a normal nineteen year old. I was at a good college, on my way to a decent job in medical research. Everything was fine. I had no reason to hate my life." I took a deep breath and my eyes unfocused as I remembered. "It was the last week of classes in my sophomore year. They were coming to stay in town until classes ended and then take me home with them. The hotel they were staying at was across town, so they got a rental car. My dad insisted that they drive me back to my dorm after a late dinner.
"There wasn't much traffic. There was only one other car in the major intersection, but my dad didn't see him until it was too late. The other car had swerved into our lane, hitting us head on." My voice cracked as I spoke. Bella reached over and took my hand, urging me to go on and comforting me at the same time.
"I was in the back, but I had my legs turned since there wasn't enough leg room. My parents were crushed. I called 911 in a panic, but they just acted like it was no big deal, saying they would get there as soon as they could. I fought to untangle myself from the wreckage before I could get to my parents. They were both crushed to death already, but I could still see their fingers entwined. The last thing in the world they could do to show they cared." A tear rolled down my cheek.
"It was a drunk driver," I continued angrily. "He was three times over the cutoff for being drunk and going twice the speed limit. He suffered limited mobility from the waist down and suffered a minor concussion. I lose both my parents and he gets a fucking concussion. He ruined my life."
"So that's why you're on your own," Bella guessed. She kept her answer short, but there was a leading question underneath that comment. Bella was carefully, but obviously, hiding her reactions in an effort to keep me talking. She thought that if I wasn't worried about how she would respond, it would be easier for me to continue.
For the most part, she was right. But I had to keep going, even if I knew this would hurt.
"No, not completely," I sighed. "At first, I went to live with Emmett and his parents, my Aunt Esme and Uncle Carlisle. But I couldn't look at them every day and how they would interact and know that I could never have that with my own parents again.
"It screwed me up. The first thing I tried was cutting, but it didn't help enough. I only did it twice. I'd heard that alcohol helped take the edge off, but I swore never to touch the stuff. I flipped out anytime anyone even suggested it. Having your parents killed by a drunk driver while you're in the car tends to leave an impression for things like that."
Bella nodded, but didn't try to speak again, for which I was grateful. Now that I had started talking, it all just came tumbling out.
"I dropped out of college. I felt like there wasn't a reason to be there anymore. But before I left, there was one party I went to, figuring I would just drown myself in some feeling other than what I'd been going through. There was one guy in the corner who looked like he was the king of the world. Like nothing could ruin his life. When I asked him about it, he just smiled wider and handed me a small bag. He promised me it would get rid of all my problems. That was the beginning of the cocaine addiction."
I saw Bella cringed as I described this. I wasn't happy about this period of my life, but she needed to know. I had to keep talking. It hurt to see her response, but it was better not to hide it from her.
"It took Emmett about three months to figure out what was going on. By then, I'd turned into a shadow of the person I'd once been. Nothing was the same. But Emmett didn't agree that drugs were the solution. He found my stash and trashed it, making me go cold turkey. There was nothing I could do."
"But it worked, right?"Bella's worried voice made me look up at her. She was incredibly concerned and I hated myself for wanting – needing – to tell the truth and ruin it.
"He got rid of the cocaine addiction, yes. But by then, I'd started experimenting. Once Emmett had stepped in, I focused on marijuana. I couldn't go more than three hours without a joint. My family couldn't notice the effects from that. It was too much like the effects from grieving, but I felt better mentally. They never noticed the smell. It kept me stable enough to get an apartment. I had money from my parents, but I hated using it. I wanted a job to earn my own money.
"I was walking through town to see who was hiring when I saw Twilight. I realized there was one thing I could do to always have something to remind me of my parents. That was when I got my first tattoo. It seemed like someplace I wouldn't mind working, so I asked Garrett, the manager at the time, if he was hiring. That was the best day I'd had since the accident."
Bella took my pause as an indication that I was finished. "Was that it? Is that how you started healing?"
I shook my head sadly and saw her cringe again. "No, Bella. I wasn't even on the road to healing until I met you. All I did was eat, smoke, sleep, and work. I was a wreck, Bella. I didn't think there would ever be anything to help me. But you did."
Bella was stunned. "No, it had nothing to do with me. You were fine when I met you. A little stoned, I'll admit, but fine."
"Only because seeing you made me want to be whole again. I'm nowhere near that point yet, but you put me on the right track. You will never have any idea how much you've helped me, Bella."
She squirmed in her seat, clearly not happy with my conclusion. She wanted to argue, but she knew that I was just as stubborn as her. "As long as you're healing," she finally said. "And you know that you should never hesitate to call me if you need to talk."
"I know, Bella," I said with a smile. She always made sure to tell me that, but I never wanted to burden her. I couldn't burden her. But she needed to know.
I couldn't have asked for a better reaction from her. She supported me while silently criticizing all my bad choices.
"She's all I need and all I can't have," I said, once again focusing on my parents' grave. It was time to leave them again. I placed my hand above my heart, over the first tattoo I'd ever gotten. "I love you both and I'll never forget you." I ran my fingers over their names before I finally found the strength to get up.
I let one tear fall down my cheek before turning from my past and heading back to the real world. The only thing that allowed me to do that without reverting back to lifeless, drugged up Edward was the thought of seeing Bella.
That was enough.
I walked into Twilight fifteen minutes later and found Rosalie in the middle of creating a sketch for a girl around my age. Rose spotted me and looked up.
"You okay?" she asked, sounding genuinely concerned.
I smiled and nodded. "Yeah, I think I'll be fine."
AN: There you have it. Please review. Just don't come hunt me down. I'm sure I can find someone who wouldn't be very happy. I promise I'll try to get it up as soon as I can, but it won't be for at least two weeks. Reviews might get it here faster... Please take this as a major hint to review.
Next chapter: Edward gets to see Bella again.