A/N: Thank you so much for the support I received – I know, it's been a while since I last updated, but the next chapter will come swiftly. This one was hindered by a lot of long, long hours of work.
Also, feel free to check out a two-part one shot I recently posted – The Bunk Bed Diaries.
Pippapear will always get props for being a character I'd never write – she'd be too perfect to be believable.
EdwardI'm awake somewhat confused and sore to a fucking alcohol-less hangover. Groaning, I turn to the food Bella undoubtedly left for me, wondering where the hell she is and why is there a bag of peas wrapped around my purple knuckles.
Still in yesterday's clothes, which is becoming a seriously messed up habit, I move to undress and throw them in the washer. I am a simple man with simple aspirations: getting clean pajamas and sliding into Bella's guest bedroom bed, as soon as humanly possible while sporting an inhuman headache.
As I set the alarm on my cell phone, trying to make sure I won't sleep the whole damn day away, I see Emmett sent me one of his characteristically detailed texts: call asap.Like the dumb asshole I am, I do just that.
"Edward, where are you? How soon can you get here?" I hear him ask as soon as he picks up. No hello, good morning, how are you crap, that's nowhere in this Neanderthal's vocabulary.
"I'm at Bella's. And what are you talking about? I'm not scheduled to work this weekend, I have the whole damn week off."
"You did, because you were getting married. Now, your absence is not that well justified, is it?"
"It doesn't fucking matter," I grumble. "No one can expect for me to show my face there today."
There's a pause before he dramatically delivers the next piece of information:
"Well, Tanya showed up."
I'm more than a little surprised at that - and even as I mentally salute her for her effort to get back on her feet so soon, it also makes me take a long, hard look at what my work experience will be from now on.
But it could be worse.
She could work on my division. As my boss.
The last thought makes me cringe.
"Whatever, man," I finally answer, "I'm not going. I'm taking a sick day. I'll call Banner next, let him know."
"No worries, I'll keep your ass covered," he assures me, disgustingly jovial, the lucky bastard that got married to the right girl straight out of High School.
"Oh, and how's that hand? Up for another round against my jaw anytime soon?"
I flip the cell phone shut after verbally flipping him off; at the moment, he's the least of my problems.
Carrying an overstuffed shopping basket, I make my way along the alleys of the little supermarket, trying to figure out what I'm forgetting. I'm finally content after remembering Edward's favorite brand of yogurt - or, at least, it was his favorite, six months ago - and start angling for the checkout lines.
But, on my left, I notice something; biting my lip, I turn to the shelves. Stuffed in between the toothpaste and peroxide rest the condoms and the pregnancy tests.
I have no idea if I'll be needing some of these.
The condoms, of course, not the tests.
A part of me hasn't come to terms with everything that happened, and I did mean what I told Edward: time to process is just what we need. But, in all honesty... another part of me can't help but be hopeful that we do need condoms... soon.
I cringe at myself, thinking a bout of abstinence might just be what the doctor ordered.
I still throw that pack of condoms on top of my overflowing basket, ignoring the old lady holding the foot lotion and a reproving scowl.
With the Sunday morning rush, it takes me an hour to get home. Edward isn't lying on the couch, where I left him, but standing in his pajamas in front of my stove. The smell of grease is permeating the air, and my nose crinkles even as the sight soothes and welcomes me.
"Good morning," I greet him, not knowing what to expect of his mood.
"Morning," he answers, turning briefly with a half smile. Something has happened, I can tell.
"Just cooking brunch."
He's forgotten how much I hate being dismissed. I sigh.
"That's not brunch. That's a heart attack on a frying pan."
"Give me a better alternative," he grumbles, using only his unwounded left hand and leaving a mess behind that proves just how ambidextrous he really isn't.
I move behind him and lay the groceries out side by side on the little kitchen isle, by the sink. "I have blueberries; I could make us some pancakes. I also got your yogurt - and that nasty, overly acidic coffee you love so much. Want me to grind some?"
"You don't need to do that."
I needn't turn to see my offer has done little for him - all I can do is ignore the crushing want to lock my arms against his waist and rest my head on his shoulder-blades, just to hear him breathe and soothe him.
"What is it, Edward? Just tell me," I beg, knowing all about his tendency to quietly, but quite obviously, ruminate his every frustration.
"It's Sunday and I'm having brunch with you. What does that tell you?"
His clipped commentary makes sense.
"I know you usually have Sunday brunch with your parents but... I'm sure they didn't mean to shut you out," I try reassuring him, "this whole situation was just unexpected, Alice isn't even in the country, and, knowing your parents, they're on the phone, doing damage control."
The damage we caused, I mentally add.
He groans out an unconvincing "you're probably right" that let's me know there's nothing I can do for him.
So I just pile strips of bacon on top of an oversized slice of toast and watch, slightly disgusted, the male version of emotional eating.
EdwardMonday comes around, after a Sunday that consisted mostly of moping and not talking to Bella about anything of importance, and I'm just so relieved. Obscenely relieved.
I thought I'd have problems with my family, but not getting invited to brunch was... I don't know. There's no record of it in our family history. Not even when my mother was convinced I'd knocked up one of my girlfriends - which, turns out, just had an unhealthy relationship with Mexican food - she skipped our weekly tradition. Not even when she was in the hospital after her knee surgery and, let me tell you, two large men holding platters of pancakes might just have been the strangest thing those nurses in Orthopedics have ever seen.
I'm not just a spoiled 20-something-kid.
I'm not just worried about what they think of me - I'm worried about what happens now. I can't very well hide Bella and what we have, or are on our way to having, but, on the reverse of it, introducing her as my girlfriend so shortly after the whole "there-won't-be-a-wedding-anymore" fiasco is bordering on unacceptable.
I was still hoping I'd have the chance to do it, even if it involved removing all the sharp utensils from the table beforehand.
And this is why Monday is glorious. Monday I get to forget about this whole mess, also known as my personal life, and shut it outside my company's building. Today I get to address architectural issues with other people's houses and office buildings, and just be a coffee-inhaling part of the big, beautiful corporate machine I always said I wouldn't get caught working for.
Monday is good. Sorry, Garfield.The plans for the new Victorian-inspired mansion three months away from being born on the outskirts of town lay before me on my desk; my project assistant isn't here - I gave him the week off, thinking I would be off myself - so there's more work to keep me distracted.
My hand is still sore, but only slightly swollen, which enables me to work with ease. I'm so caught up on getting things done that I don't even hear my boss as he approaches me.
"Good morning, sir," I manage out, sitting up straighter. The older man looks distraught, as if he was being forced to do something against his will.
"Before we discuss anything, I just wanted to thank you for coming to work today. McCarthy told me... Well, it doesn't matter," he changes the subject, and I'm suddenly alarmed. What the hell did that big idiot use as an excuse? "It shows dedication. And I know you've always done a good job here. I just need you to assure me that these personal issues won't interfere with this office."
I nod, understanding his point.
"Of course, sir. Everything that isn't work-related will stay outside the building, as far as I'm concerned."
I watch him nod and start discussing the first floor plans just as quickly as one flips a dime, turning back to his «kid with a box of crayons» personality.
For the first time since Friday night, when I finally broke down just enough to call the best friend who'd abandoned me, the woman I love more than life itself, I feel like things are normal.And normal has never sounded as good, no matter how much I love Bella and how much I don't regret it.
I'm doing a good job of showing Banner just how dedicated I am when Emmett comes in, his shoes squeaking as he stops, undoubtedly having spotted our boss.
"Yes, McCarthy?" the older man asks, with a hint of a scowl.
"Ehrm... Sir, Edward is needed in the copy room."
"The copy room? Why?" I ask, confused.
"There's a problem. Big problem. You need to come now," my big lug of a friend demands, his face serious for a change, and I apologize profusely to Banner before leaving my office.
"You better not have gotten anything stuck on that copier, yet again..." I start to growl at him as we walked the corridors.
"This better be the end of the world, Emmett, or I'll..."
"Punch me in the face?" he suggests, making me sigh in anger, avoiding balling my hand in a fist. That would have really hurt, reminding me just how unable I was to cause him any physical damage. "Trust me, you'll thank me for coming to get you."
As soon as I catch sight of the room, at the very end of the long corridor carpeted in crimson, I finally realize what he means.
Losing my ability to keep walking as I process the image, I stop dead in my tracks.
In the dim light of the small room, I can just make out the two women, facing away from me. One has unmistakable red hair, artificially straightened; the other, shorter, is a few steps behind, and I'll be damned if I haven't memorized the exact shape of her back and brown curls.
I can hear words being exchanged between the two of them, and Emmett turns back to give Banner yet another piss-poor excuse.
I'm not even that upset about how this whole thing will affect me at work - I can't even think about it. I'm frozen in shock and utter disbelief, in that sort of twisted fascination one would feel while watching a train wreck.
Because that's what this is.
So much for normal.