I hope this chapter finds you well. Some of you may recognized this chapter, I posted a while ago and then took it down when I realized I had completely screwed up and written the whole thing in third person, not from Bella's point of view.
I apologize for all the time it has taken me to update this story and write a new chapter. I had decided a while back to give up writing altogether, some personal things occurred and it just seemed like the right thing to do.
Anyway, circumstances have changed and I have decided to pick up the figurative pencil and paper again and take another stab at writing. I find it difficult to jump back in and encouragement would be greatly appreciated—you can be honest with me and tell me if it stinks!
I hope you enjoy this and please review!
Look forward to hearing from you!
Flipping the lights in my classroom on, the room filled with bright fluorescent light. Fatigue threatened with every step, tossing my bag onto the table I sank into a chair rubbing my tired eyes. It had been a long week; pulling myself together I grabbed my lunch heading towards the refrigerator and stashing it on the door before making myself begin the say. With my first student not arriving till seven thirty I headed to the staff room to make a pot of coffee.
Things were bad, no matter what way I looked at it, it was awful. Clicking the pot of coffee on I stood waiting for it to brew, coffee would help. Leaning against the counter I continued my torment. It all started with that fateful dinner, how I could allow things to go that far without tell him the truth, explaining the situation. Pouring a cup of coffee I knew why, he was so different from everything in my life, from Mike's attitudes and anger. Sighing I rubbed my eyes heading back to my classroom and sinking into my desk chair. Edward, his name brought goose bumps to my skin. I shouldn't have gone in the first place, that was the truth, the plain underlining truth. But Edward, he had been so inviting, so handsome, and so different from everything, he was my escape.
Coffee with him had been thrilling and talking to him so easy, he didn't know my past, didn't judge me. A clean slate, when was the last time I had one of those. I sighed unintentionally. The conversation had flowed from one topic to another effortlessly, unlike with Mike. Thinking of him made me cringe; Mike was a trip back to reality if I ever needed to be reminded what my life was really like. Edward had given me a glimpse into a different life, a life I would gladly trade Mike in for, but it didn't matter now. I had made a complete and utter fool of myself.
But that kiss, the kiss I could still feel on my lips. The kiss that had my body reacting in ways I never knew possible. I could feel a blush rising to my cheeks at the thought. How I wished I could take it back, take it all back.
"I'm engaged." The words fell from my lips before I could stop them.
Edward pulled away and stared at me, his eyes darkening a shade deeper. Emotions flickered over his face and his hands found his bronze hair. Closing his eyes he took a step back taking a deep breath.
"Of course you're engaged," he muttered, eyes still closed hand tugging more roughly through his hair. Exhaling again he took another step backwards, away from me and bumping into his own vehicle. Opening his eyes, he stood as still as stone, his green eyes boring into me.
"Edward, let me explain," I began reaching towards him; he needed to understand and hear my side of the story. Edward shrank away shaking his head.
Clearing his throat, he smoothed his hair down pulling his keys out of his pocket and flipping them around his fingers. "No need," he returned his voice gruff, eyes staring at a point in the distance. "I'm sorry, I misunderstood. Ms. Bella, I hope that you and I can still be cordial. Have a goodnight." Forcing a smile he nodded his head in my direction before climbing in his car. As he drove away I stood watching him go, feeling an unexplainable emptiness engulf my heart.
Since then I hadn't seen him, I was convinced he was avoiding me, and truthfully I was grateful for it. I wasn't sure how I would react to seeing him or what I would say furthermore what he would say. I was here from open to close every day, in my vain attempt to save every last cent before my student teaching, I had only seen his mother dropping off and picking up.
"Ms. Bella?" my eyes shot open, and there stood Hailey, hovering in the doorway. She was watching me in her timid way. I sat up immediately smoothing out my shirt. "Can I come in?"
"Of course," I answered checking my watch. It read seven fifteen. She was early, really early. Normally she walked in at eight thirty with her grandmother. Gathering my thoughts I stood and smiled down at the little girl, she was gazing around the empty room apprehensively. "Why don't you put your lunch away?" I suggested.
Hailey nodded bashfully taking her lunch box and heading towards the kitchen area in the back of the classroom. My gaze drifted to the door, there stood the man who'd taken over the majority of my day dreams.
"Good morning," I greeted finding my voice and averting my eyes. I couldn't bring myself to look at him but I could feel them following me as I walked around the room busying myself with the menial morning tasks. His eyes followed my every move and I couldn't take the scrutiny, turning my attention to Hailey, I smiled. "You're here early today."
Hailey nodded closing the refrigerator and walking towards me. "Grandma went home."
I couldn't help myself; my eyes flitted towards Edward's for confirmation. His eyes met mine for an instant before he looked away. He busied himself with studying the bulletin board collages of the frog unit we had just finished. If he didn't want to talk I wasn't going to push. I was the one who had screwed up, not him. I turned my attention back to Hailey. "Did you eat breakfast?"
Hailey shook her head, her eyes widened with fear of disappointment. "Daddy, what's for breakfast?" she asked turning her doe eyes on him. Edward ashened, his eyes meeting mine crestfallen. It didn't take a rocket scientist to figure out he hadn't thought that far ahead.
Running his hands through his hair, he groaned. "I forgot," he muttered, his eyes imploring. "My mother left last night. I'm on my own and I have a meeting in the city. I'm not used to all of this," he blurted like he was confessing a sin.
I nodded in understanding glad he had finally broken the weird tension. "Well Hailey, it just so happens that I have some oatmeal I was going to eat. Would you like to share some?"
Hailey nodded enthusiastically and I chuckled, I wasn't if it was me or the oatmeal that excited her. "Okay Daddy, go to work. I'll see you later," Hailey said taking her backpack and hugging her father's leg. "Love you Daddy."
Leaning down Edward held her tightly kissing her forehead. "I love you too Hails-Bails. Daddy will see you later." Turning to me, he smiled a crooked smile and for the first time I caught a glimpse of the Edward I had first met. "Thanks."
"Have a good day," I called as he turned and headed down the hallway. I exhaled for the first time it felt like, I hadn't expected to see him and now I had I didn't have a clue how to react or what to feel.
"He dropped her off this morning," I whispered as I walked around the classroom checking to make sure the children were all asleep on their mats. "He dropped her off and didn't say anything."
Rosalie nodded only half paying attention as she carefully cut out stencils for our afternoon art project. "And," Rosalie answered. I stopped and peered at her. How could she not understand what I was trying to say?
Sinking into the child sized chair next to her I picked up my own pair of scissors and continued working on my project. "And he didn't say anything. He didn't even want to look at me. Rose, tell me what that means?" My eyes flitted over to where Hailey lay sleeping.
Rose rolled her eyes putting her scissors down and turning her concerned gaze on me. I knew what was coming next, her blue eyes bore into mine and I groaned averting my eyes. "It means that you told him you were engaged after he kissed you. A kiss might I add you haven't stopped talking about for a week." I tried to ignore her as her words sunk it, picking up the next piece of paper I set to cutting it. "You can ignore me if you want but you know I know it bothers you more than you care to admit." Rose was quiet for a moment as she took a sip from her can of diet coke. When she spoke again her voice was softer, less harsh than before. "What did you expect?"
Dropping my scissor, I hid my face in my hands. What had I expected? Hostility, anger, resentment, instead I was greeted with an icy disposition, and an awkward tension in the space between us. Maybe it was everything going on with Mike, his hostility, his anger that I had projecting to see Edward behave the same way. His lack of reaction was worse, uncharted territory. With Mike I knew how to handle every mood and nuance. Edward was the opposite. I stopped myself; it was the patterned I had created over the last week, the comparison between Mike and Edward. At first I allowed it because Mike was my experience, but now when I made the comparisons there was sharp yank in my gut, it was useless anyway, it didn't mattered. I know that I tried to explain it away as professionalism but when I thought of Edward, my mind drifted to the kiss, the way my body reacted, the tingling electricity that made the little hair on my arms stand on end.
"Listen, you're his kid's teacher. You have to see each other every day. Don't make a big deal of it. You made your choice," Rosalie continued in a softer manner than I expected. "Not that it's the right choice, but it's the choice you made."
I sighed, picking up my scissor again. Rosalie was right; there was nothing I could do, I had made my choice.
"Where's my daddy?" Hailey whimpered standing by the window of the empty classroom. I was wondering the same thing as I packed up my bag. Where was Edward, he was already a half hour late. I tried calling his phone but was sent to straight to voicemail. I was torn; I wasn't sure whether to be worried or perturbed.
"I don't know Hailey, but can you help me with something," I asked trying to keep her busy so she wouldn't freak out. "I'm going to need someone to help me hang some of our ocean animals in the hall. Do you think you could help?"
Hailey nodded, her usual vibrant smile wavering as she glanced towards the window again. "I'm so sorry," a deep voice called from behind.
Hailey turned eyes brightening and ran into the open arms of her father. "Where were you?" she asked, her voice shaking, I could almost hear the tears fighting their way to the surface.
Edward picked her up balancing her easily on his hip. His eyes found mine and there was no wall, no solid barrier in his eyes, Edward stood there, his eyes asking for forgiveness. "I got stuck in traffic," Edward explained.
I nodded collecting Hailey's lunch box from the fridge and her backpack from her cubby. "You should have called," I said handing him Hailey's belongings. "The school closed at six-thirty it's after seven."
"I'm sorry," he breathed shifting Hailey's weight, her arms were wrapped around his neck, she wasn't letting go anytime soon. "There was an accident and my phone," he reached in his back pocket pulling it out and waving it slightly, "died. I need to pick up a car charger."
"Well, next time try to call," I said politely forcing a smile. I was annoyed, but somehow looking into his eyes and seeing Hailey hanging onto him tightly made me less exasperated.
Edward nodded, shaking his head. "I'm sorry, really. I'm trying it's just me and it's the first day on my own. I will call next time." He smiled genuinely trying to smooth out the situation. I could see how he was so successful in business. "I mean there won't be a next time," he back tracked. "See you tomorrow, Ms. Bella."
"Goodnight Hailey, Mr. Cullen," I said picking up my bag.
"Call me Edward," he said smiling crookedly at me, melting my irritated demeanor. "I'll see you tomorrow."
"Good morning Ms. Bella," Hailey called from the doorway. "I brought breakfast today, look!" She ran into the classroom holding up a box of instant oatmeal proudly.
"Good morning. That's great," I answered. My gaze shifted to the door where Edward stood smiling at me coyly, I could tell where Hailey got it from. It was a few minutes after seven according to the clock above the door; Hailey was having another early morning and I had a feeling this wouldn't be the last. Edward entered the classroom dropping off Hailey's backpack in her cubby.
"Figured I owed you," he jested hanging her backpack on its hook. "Can I keep the extras in her bin?"
"Yes of course," I answered heading towards the kitchen to make some breakfast. Busying myself with the process of heating oatmeal, I could hear Edward saying goodbye to Hailey.
"Have a good day, Ms. Bella," Edward called. Popping my head around the corner, I smile back at him, a silent truce made between us.
"You too, Edward."
"Daddy's late," Hailey huffed crossing her arms and sinking into her chair. I bit back the laugh that threatened to escape. He was in fact late, fifteen minutes late to be exact. "He's always late," she breathed shaking her head disapprovingly.
If Hailey hadn't been so cute in her annoyance I probably would have been upset too. "Maybe he's stuck in traffic," I offered. Hailey shook her head and continued her puzzle halfheartedly.
"I miss Grandma," she muttered, her bottom lip sticking out in a dejected pout. I could see how this little girl had her father eating out the palm of her hand; it wasn't hard with a face like her's.
Leaning across the table I picked up a puzzle piece examining it. "I bet she misses you too."
"I'm sorry, I'm sorry," Edward called bursting through the door, hair askew looking frazzled but handsome. "I know, I know I should have called but I thought I would make it."
Hailey turned glaring at her father. "You're late," she huffed getting up and walking to her cubby, I couldn't help the giggle that escaped. I threw up my hands over my mouth stifling the laughter. Pursing my lips I began finishing up the puzzle splayed across the table. Edward approached Hailey gingerly getting down on one knee.
"You okay Hails-Bails?" Edward asked, his eyes going between Hailey and Bella.
"Hailey was just telling me how much she missed her grandmother," I explained, standing up, I turned away to give them a moment, busying myself putting the puzzle where it belonged. "Maybe she would like to call her tonight."
"Would you like that Hailey?" Edward asked picking his daughter up and hugging her closely. She wrapped her arms around his neck and nodded, burying her face in the crook of his neck all was forgiven. Picking up her belongings he turned to face me. "Thanks," he breathed. "I'm really sorry, really. It won't happen again."
"I'm going to be late."
I stared at the phone, four days of Edward running, and my irritation was at its peak. Closing my eyes I swallowed back her agitation, Hailey was watching me. "How late?" I asked.
The other end of the line was quiet for a moment. "I'm leaving the city now. I got caught up in a meeting and I'm on my way. I will be there as soon as possible," he said rushing his words. My eyes checked the clock, it was six fifteen, if he hit no traffic by my calculations the earliest he would be here by was a little after seven but the likelihood of no traffic was minuscule considering the time. "I am so sorry."
I smiled at Hailey trying not to alert her, stepping into the hallway and out of ear shot. "Should I call one of your emergency contacts to pick Hailey up?"
"You could," Edward began. "But none of them would be there before me."
I could feel my frustration bubbling to the surface. There had to be a better way to handle this, I needed to find a solution; being agitated would not help the situation. "The point of an emergency contact is so they can be there when there is an emergency, like this."
"I'm sorry," he breathed, and somehow I could picture him pulling at his hair in exasperation. He was quiet for a long moment. "I don't have anybody. It's just Hailey and me, and I'm trying I swear."
Leaning my head against the wall I sighed, I could understand his situation. When I had no one, wasn't that when Mike had helped me. Edward was alone, a single dad trying to do it all and my heart broke for Hailey. She was the one suffering the most in this situation. "Listen," I began tentatively. "Why don't I take Hailey this evening?" I offered.
"What do you mean?"
"Let's be honest you're not going to be here for at least an hour maybe more. Why don't I take Hailey out to dinner and you can meet us at the diner and pick her up."
"Are you sure?" Edward asked uncertainly. There was hopefulness in his voice. "That would be great actually."
I peered down the hallway, making sure no one was coming before continuing. "This is against policy since I'm not on the release form," I whispered.
"Oh, should I call and add you?" he asked. "I don't want to get you in trouble."
"Umm, no. I'm the only one left. Your verbal consent should be enough. Does that sound good? We will be at the Georgia Diner," I stated shaking my head. How did I get myself into this situation?
"Yeah, that's great. Listen, I'm really sorry for putting you out like this. I am really trying. Am I keeping you from anything?" he asked.
I shook my head as if he could see me. "I'm fine. Why don't you call me when you're close?"
"You're the best, really," he paused. "See you soon. Tell Hailey I love her, okay?"
"Will do, see you soon," I hung up the phone and tried to calm my hammering heart. Entering the classroom I was greeted with Hailey's doe eyed expression. Sitting in the chair next to Hailey I smiled down at the little girl trying to figure out how exactly to explain the whole situation to this little girl. "So, how do you feel about breakfast for dinner?"
After cleaning up the classroom and packing up our bags I grabbed a spare booster seat from the supply room and set Hailey up in the back of my car. Hailey was in good spirits as they drove to the diner, chatting away happily.
Arriving at the diner we settled into a booth in the back. After ordering our food, Hailey set to coloring on her placemat. "So," I began. "Did you get to talk to your grandma last night?"
Hailey nodded putting down her crayon to take a drink from her sippy cup. "Yup, we used the computer to call her and I even got to see her. Grandma was really happy."
"What about you?" I asked, taking out my phone and flipping through my text messages. Quickly I typed a message to Mike letting him know I was going to be late, again. Then a second to Rosalie letting her know what was going on.
"It was fun; I got to show Grandma all my art work."
I regarded the little girl sitting across the table from me. There was so much I didn't know about this child's past. I made a mental checklist of the things I did. One, Edward was a single father trying to do it on his own. Two, they had moved from Texas to start over here. Three, Edward was concerned for his child's upbringing, that much was clear from the fact he didn't want to raise her as a city child. Stirring my coffee with a spoon I tried to piece together what I could infer. Clearly Hailey's mother wasn't in the picture, the question was why. Had she died, was Edward a widower? My heart broke for the man even now. Had they gotten a divorce? I pondered for a moment; in most divorces the mother got custody, what had the situation been that Edward won? Was it his money? His power and influence back in Texas? Those thoughts only led to more questions. One fact was clear; Hailey never spoke of her mother, not even when other children asked. She hadn't included her in the family portrait and her information wasn't on any of the school paperwork. When asked, Hailey would shrug her shoulders and pull away, becoming the introvert that walked through the classroom doors on that first day.
"Do you like my picture?" Hailey asked bringing me back to the present.
We continued to chat until the food arrived. Hailey readily dug into her French toast, while I pushed around my food. My mind too consumed with everything, checking my phone I noticed a text from Edward.
Just off the turnpike. Be there in a few.
Turning to Hailey I smiled feeling relieved and anxious. "Guess what, your dad is going to be here soon." Hailey squealed with excitement, her eyes on the door. I could tell the moment Edward walked into the diner. Hailey was bouncing up and down and waving wildly. I involuntarily smoothing down my hair before realizing it and abruptly stopping. That train is long gone; I berated myself as he approached the table.
A moment later, Edward slid into the seat next to Hailey. Wrapping an arm around her, he hugged her to him, kissing her forehead affectionately. Turning to me he smiled, a blazingly genuine smile. "I owe you one," he said, his voice low, eyes locking with mine.
I tried to ignore the electric energy that buzzed between us. It was the same as the day he had kissed me, thick, almost tangible. Pushing my food around, I nodded averting my eyes. "Listen," I began knowing if I looked in his eyes I wouldn't be able to say what needed to be said. "I don't want to come off rude, but you can't keep doing this." I ventured a glance in his direction.
His hand were in his hair, a sign I now knew symbolized he was frustrated. "I know, I really am sorry. It's just, I am trying to figure it out. I didn't realize it would be so hard doing it on my own. It wasn't supposed to be this hard," he said the last part more to himself. Turning he looked me dead on his voice hardening, "I'm sorry I keep doing this to you, this isn't your problem. I will handle it, consider it handled."
I felt numb; I hadn't meant to make him feel inadequate. "You can't do it on your own; you need to ask for help." Reaching over the table I tentatively laid a hand over his. His eyes softened for a moment before he pulled away; he placed them securely under the table, out of my reach. Before I lost my courage I continued. It was an idea I had been mulling over since yesterday. "Why don't I take Hailey home in the afternoons-"
"I don't need any help, I'm fine," he replied, jaw clenched. "I just need time to figure this all out."
"Okay," I continued cautiously. "Why don't I just do it for a few days, while you're figuring it out? Think of Hailey, wouldn't you rather her be home then worried as she waited for you at school?"
Edward gazed down at his daughter, watching her for a moment as she continued to color. "She worries?"
I nodded, watching the features on his face contort. I could see past his frosty exterior, past the façade he was clinging to, knowing his daughter was the most important thing in the world to him. "She stands at the window watching and waiting," I said lowering my voice.
Edward's resolve broke, clenching and unclenching his fist. "It would only be for a few days," he began hesitantly.
I nodded before he changed his mind. Our eyes met, making another unspoken agreement. "Just a few days."