I put my coffee down on the table and curled my legs up underneath me, turning to look at him stony-faced. "Edward," I said in my best no-nonsense tone. "I have no idea what the fuck happened last night. All I know is that you tried to put something in my coffee and you carry a knife around in your back pocket. I don't have a clue why and I don't think that I really want to know why. But I do want to know what on earth is going on in your life that makes you seem so miserable all the time. I've tried to get you to tell me so many times, but you always stop yourself just before you get anywhere. I'm not going to let you avoid it this time; it's the least you can do."
He stared at me for a long moment after my little speech. Then his coffee joined mine on the table. "If I asked you to come somewhere with me, would you?"
"Yes," I answered truthfully. "Why?"
He sank back into the sofa. "Then you better get changed. This is something I can really only show you."
And this love, it's better; it may take me forever.
But I, I just gotta let you know, oh
And this love, it's crazy; it's the one thing that can save me.
And I, I'm just trying to take it slow, oh
'Cos I'm about to fall; you better look out below
-Look Out Below (This Love), Holiday Parade
Victim of a Teenage Nobody
Chapter 28 – A Chance to Explain
I did as Edward said, getting changed and then following him out to his Volvo. The drive was silent, completely silent. I was unsurprised when we pulled into the hospital car park, though I had no idea why he was bringing me here.
Edward opened my door wordlessly, and I pulled my hair across my face and fixed my sunglasses into place before getting out and then following him through the squeaky-clean corridors. It smelt like bleach.
"Don't… don't jump to conclusions," Edward said quietly then, and his voice sounded so 'little boy lost' that I reached out and took his hand.
"I promise I'll at least give you a chance to explain," I murmured, squeezing his hand. I must've been mad. Almost my entire being was shying away from Edward, telling me not to do anything that he said. Almost. My heart still needed him like the rest of my body needed air to breathe.
I hadn't been paying any attention to the signs that directed us, and I regretted it when we went through double-doors to a small reception area, wishing that I could at least have some idea of what was ahead of us.
As soon as the doors shut behind us, a woman with auburn hair glanced up, and her hazel eyes lightened with recognition. She smiled. "Edward, I was hoping you'd come in today. He's…" But she trailed off when she saw me. "Oh."
Edward pursed his lips and glanced at me over his shoulder before turning back to the woman: Carla, her name-tag read. "Yeah… um… just dropping by. Can we go through?"
Carla looked straight at me though she directed her question at Edward. "She's with you?"
Nah, I'm holding his hand because I accidentally super-glued myself to him… but carry on, don't mind me.
"Yes." Edward's voice was stony.
I adjusted my sunglasses and hid even further behind my hair, knowing that she had recognised me.
"Okay. Um… well… go ahead." She didn't seem to know what else to say.
"Thanks." Edward pulled me gently toward a side door.
"She was strange," I commented under my breath when she was out of earshot.
Edward laughed a little, but the sound was strained. "Bella, do you have no idea what just seeing you does to people? She's a lovely woman; she was just a bit star-struck is all."
"You sound like you know her well." I tried, and failed miserably, to sound casual.
He chuckled again. "Jealous, love?"
Edward squeezed my hand. "Don't be. She doesn't compare to even half of you." He paused for a second and then said, "Actually, do be jealous. It's really quite adorable."
I nudged him with my elbow, but I was smiling. "Hey, you. You're walking on a fine line here; don't push it." I instantly regretted bringing that back up. How had we been joking around like that just after something so horrible?
Edward became serious then, whether that was because of my comment or because we had come to a door, I didn't know. He pursed his lips and I looked up at the notice on the door. It read Cody Cullen.
I looked at him, my brow furrowed with confusion. "Your nephew?"
He hesitated. "Yeah," he said slowly. "Kind of." And then he pushed the door open and gestured for me to go in ahead of him.
I took a deep breath, almost afraid of what I would see, and then went into the room. There was a little clear plastic incubator in the middle of the room, tons upon tons of wires running in and out. There was even a beeping machine wired up to the little body in the cot, though I had no idea what that was for. I felt my breath catch in my throat and I swallowed gingerly before moving forward another few steps until the baby came into view.
I gasped for many reasons. I gasped because this baby, so tiny, so cute, so… perfect, was so imperfect; he looked so tortured wrapped up in so many wires. I gasped because his little eyes opened ever so slightly and he looked right at me when it didn't look like he should be able to even lift his eyelids. But, mostly, I gasped because of his appearance. He had a small mop of dark browny-bronze-coloured hair atop of his round, but still structured face. His nose, chin and cheekbones were like a carbon copy taken from the man standing behind me.
And I knew. I knew that there was no way in hell that this child was Edward's nephew. No nephews looked so very much like their uncles… unless incest was involved. Which I sincerely hoped wasn't.
I tore my gaze away from the helpless little boy to Edward.
But Edward wasn't looking at me. He was staring at the baby, and I had never seen him look so heartbroken and agonised in all of the time that I had known him. If I had thought that I knew what pain was like before this… I had been so, so wrong. It hurt me to look at him.
"Edward," I whispered.
His eyes lifted to my face.
I didn't know what to say so it was silent for a long moment. Eventually I said, "Why didn't you just tell me?"
Edward linked his fingers together and then crossed the room, sitting in one of the horrible red plastic chairs by the incubator. "I don't want pity," he said simply, but quietly.
I shook my head and went to sit beside him. "I don't mean this-" I gestured to the wires and such before us "-I mean…" I pinched the bridge of my nose. "Edward, he's not your nephew."
He was silent.
After a while I peeked up at him. He was still staring at the baby, a wistful expression on his face.
"Edward?" I prodded gently.
"No. No, he's not."
"Why didn't you tell me?" I repeated as my brain exploded into a million questions.
He smiled slightly, and leant back in his chair. "Bella. What was I supposed to say when you found that photo? 'Oh, yeah, that's my baby son but chillax, it's no biggie'?"
I scowled at him. "No. All this time, Edward, you've been so… so… I don't even know what the word is, and this kid is the reason! You could have just… said something and… God. I thought that you had another family somewhere miles away. Not a… a baby with…" I stopped short. "What's wrong with him?"
Edward sighed and sat forward, leaning his elbows on his knees as he fed a hand through the hole in the cot and gently stroked along his son's wrist. He was so gentle, but not hesitant, and seeing him like that made my heartache. "He has Tetralogy of Fallot. It's a congenital heart disease. He has to have three operations to get better."
"How many has he had?"
"One," Edward answered flatly. "And that one nearly killed him." He ran a hand through his hair. "Shit, just yesterday he was…" He squeezed his eyes shut and then turned and looked directly into mine. "This is why my life is so messed up, Bella. I… I have baggage. Tons of it. Shitloads. And it's all crappy."
I nodded. I was quiet for a moment and then I asked the question that was at the forefront of my mind. "Where's his mother?"
Edward sighed. "She died in childbirth."
I tentatively rested my hand over the one that sat on his knee. "I'm sorry."
"I didn't really know her," he admitted. "Remember when I told you about the girl… the girl from Denver?"
"The one with the tattoo?"
He snorted. "Of all of the things you could remember… But, yes, her."
"So… what… who… how…?" There were so many questions in my head that I couldn't choose which one to ask. Eventually I asked quietly, "Does this… does he have anything to do with… the knife?"
Edward sighed. "He has everything to do with it."
I felt relief surge through me. He hadn't even explained himself yet but, somehow, knowing that he had only carried a knife because he had to rather than because he wanted to already had be trusting him implicitly again. "How?"
He pursed his lips, twisting his jaw to the side. "Well… um… it's kind of messed up."
"It's okay. I'll listen before I do any running, I promise."
His lips twitched slightly at my feeble attempt at a joke. "Okay."
And then he told me. I have no idea how long we sat there and he told me things I had never expected to hear. I was entranced as he told me about the costs of Cody's operations, and his uncle, and how he hadn't intended to fall in love with me, but had.
When he had finished telling me, I sat in silence for a while, stunned.
"Say something," Edward begged me after the silence had gone on for what seemed like forever.
My shoulders were hunched over a little in fright. "I…" I didn't know what to say, but then I settled with whispering, "Why does your uncle…?"
Edward came and sat between my legs, taking my face in his hands. He looked into my eyes as he answered me. "I don't know, Bella, but I promise I am going to find out. I promise."
I felt tears trickle down my cheeks. "But… I haven't done anything. He can't… I mean…" I bit my shaking lip. "I'm scared."
Edward's arms came round me and he gently lifted me so that he could sit on the seat I was on and shift me onto his lap. I hid my face in the crook between his shoulder and neck, and I cried. I cried because someone hated me so much that they didn't want me to be alive anymore. I cried for Edward and his crappy, messed up situation. And I cried because I had believed that Edward was the bad guy. Even though he had told me that he was, he had been wrong. So wrong. He was the good guy in this. He was the one who was trying to do the best he could for the baby he hadn't initially wanted. He was the one who hadn't been able to take my life even to save his son's. He was the one who had to live through this shit.
After a while I lifted my head and said, "When is his next operation?"
"A week on Saturday," Edward answered slowly, his brow furrowed slightly in confusion. "Why?"
"How much is it?"
Edward hesitated before saying, "Seventy thousand."
I shook my head. "Why didn't you just tell me? I'm rich, Edward. I have more money than I know what to do with. Let me pay. Please."
"But I can't just let you…"
"Is your pride worth more than his life?" I interrupted.
Edward sighed and rubbed his face with his hand.
"Look, I'll let you pay me back. I'll even charge you interest if you want me to… just please. I can't bear to see you suffer like this." I pressed my palm to his stubble-dotted cheek.
After a moment, he nodded against my hand. "Okay. But I want to pay you back. I'm his Dad; I should be able to pay for things like this."
Hearing him say that plucked on my heartstrings. I smiled slightly and bent my head forward to pepper his face with little kisses before kissing his lips.
"What was that for?" he asked, but he was smiling.
"You're a brilliant Dad, Edward," I told him softly. "If he knew what you're doing for him, he'd be completely in love with you. Just like I am."
His smile widened. "Thank you," he said simply.
I skived off of school that afternoon; called in sick. It wasn't like I'd be able to concentrate with these thoughts swirling around my head anyway. Edward drove me back to the hotel and walked me up to my suite. When we stepped inside and shut the door behind us, I turned to face him.
"Please don't leave me alone," I whispered desperately.
He pulled me into his arms, hugging me against his chest. "I'll be here until you order me away," he promised in my ear.
I beamed against him. "You'll be here for an awful long time then."
Telling Bella about Cody was like someone had taken a huge weight off of my shoulders. Though, I supposed, in a way, it had taken a weight off of my shoulders; I didn't have to choose any more. I didn't have to pick one over the other.
Bella asked me not to leave her alone, which I completely understood. I had just told her that someone wanted her dead. She had dealt with it pretty well so far, but I guessed that a major breakdown was just around the corner.
So I stayed with her. We didn't do much. Bella decided against TV – she said it was too antisocial – so we worked our way through games of cards instead. She taught me the ones she knew and I taught her those that I did; she knew a lot more than I did. She told me that she and Emmett had played a lot with her Mum when they were younger. When she spoke of her mother, her tone grew wistful and her eyes were unfocused.
I knew how she felt.
We were halfway through a game of cleg when we were interrupted by a knock at the door. Bella's posture became rigid and her frightened eyes met mine. I knew that we were both thinking the same thing: James. Or, at least, I was thinking that. She was probably thinking 'Edward's uncle', since I hadn't told her his name. I hadn't just in case she went to the police. That could be a catastrophe. Since we didn't have any proof whatsoever other than 'he said' 'she said' there was no way that James could be convicted of anything. Besides, he could afford a good enough lawyer to talk himself out of any legal situation, especially if there was no proof. If we reported him and it went to court with no evidence… there was no way that James would let either one of us live long enough to find some kind of proof.
We sat there, frozen, for a while. Then the knock came again.
"It might be Emmett," Bella whispered. She dropped her cards to the floor, and stood up.
I did the same. I slipped her hand into mine and we walked together to the front door. For a moment, I regretted not stealing my knife back; it had given me a sense of security, even if I felt guilty for just carrying it.
Bella hesitated, took a deep breath, and then opened the door.
It was Emmett.
When we saw him there, I exhaled slightly in relief but Bella practically sagged against me.
I analysed her expression. She was very pale and the panic that was written all across her beautiful, beautiful face made me feel sick. Perhaps telling her had been a mistake. Not that I had had much choice.
Emmett narrowed his eyes at us suspiciously. "Am I interrupting something?"
"Cleg," I said flatly.
His eyes narrowed further. "Is that code for something?" He paused. "Actually, I don't want to know." He turned to Bella. "B, I need to talk to you. Just go over and finalise your schedule for the next few weeks, and the concert dates."
Bella sighed, irritated. "Do we have to? I mean, we've been through it a thousand times."
I interrupted Emmett. "Yeah. Bella, it's a good idea. You talk with Emmett; I have to go and grab a few things." I stared into her eyes, trying to tell her through that medium what I couldn't in words with her cousin in earshot: that I had to go out, and, this way, she wouldn't be alone.
"Okay," she said quietly.
"I'll be back real soon," I promised.
She nodded forlornly.
I pulled her into a hug and whispered in her ear, "Don't worry. No one will hurt you with Emmett around."
She hugged me back, pressed her lips to my throat and then let me go; all of me, but a hand. "See you in a bit. What, an hour maximum?"
That was code for her limit of how long she could cope without me, I imagined. I thought about what I had to do. "Forty-five minutes," I told her, squeezing her hand. "Maximum." Then I shot Emmett a quick smile and made my way out of the hotel.
Now I had forty-five minutes to get this shit sorted. Once and for all.
A few minutes later, I was sat outside of James' office, waiting to be called in. He was talking to Aro. I wondered what they were talking about in there. I wondered if Aro had told James about my feelings for Bella. I wondered if James even gave a shit.
I wasn't waiting for long. Aro came out, and sat down next to me.
"You okay kid?"
I stared at him for a long moment, trying to figure him out. I still hadn't forgotten the last conversation we had had, when he had hinted that Carlisle had wanted him to work for James. I didn't believe that; my father had hated his brother with the passion of ten thousand suns.
"Yeah," I relied after a while. "I'm okay." I stood up to go into James' office.
I glanced back. "Yeah?"
"You're not a bad person, you know. No matter what James makes you do, you're not the bad guy here."
His words sent shivers of worry, and panic down my spine. I just nodded, and knocked on the door.
"Enter," James called boredly.
I pushed the door open and stepped inside, closing it behind me.
James looked up. "Ah, Edward, just who I was looking for." He shut a book that was open on his desk and gestured to the seat across from him. Then he turned back to his things on his desk. "Take a seat."
"No," I refused. "I'm not here for a long talk. I'm here to resign. I quit." I slapped my hand down on his desk, pulling his attention back to me.
James laughed. "Edward. We've been over this. You can't quit; I've already paid you tons of money."
"Is it the money that matters to you?" I spat. "Fucking money. Money can't buy you life, or love. Money is the root of all evil, you know that."
James just shrugged. "That is irrelevant. The thing we are talking about is that you cannot quit."
I reached into my back pocket and pulled out my wallet. I opened it up and pulled out some money that I had borrowed from Bella. I threw it down on the desk. "Take it. Take it and let me go. I can't do this any more."
James looked at the money suspiciously. He reached forward and took some, leafing through it.
"It's real," I told him through gritted teeth.
"Indeed it is," James agreed. "Where did you get this?"
"That's not your concern." I stuck my hands back in my pocket. "Please. You said that once I've done this I can go. Well, I'm done."
James' head shot up. "You've done it?"
"No. But I'm done."
James got to his feet then, his fists clenched around the cash. "You're done when I say you're done. Not before. You will get rid of Bella Swan."
"Why?" I roared. "Why do you want this so much?"
James stared at me for a long moment. And then he cracked up laughing. "Oh, Edward." He continued to laugh.
"What?" I asked with a sigh. I was fed up with James and how he found the fucking up of my life hilarious.
"You are so much like your father," he chuckled. "Always fall in love with the wrong girl, don't you?" He laughed again.
I gritted my teeth and clenched my fists. But I didn't deny it. "My mother was not the wrong girl."
"She was from a poor family; we were from a rich family. Of course she was the wrong girl."
I scoffed. "Ugh! What century are you living in? Love stopped being separated by class years ago."
"Hmm. I suppose she's not the wrong girl as much as you're the wrong boy…" He pursed his lips and then shook his head. "Nevertheless, I want her dead."
"And if I refuse to kill her? Will you get Aro do it like he killed her mother? Why did you do that? Why do you even want this? What kind of bastard actually wants such a kind, beautiful, selfless girl dead, huh?" I was fuming now.
James glanced at his watch, bored. "Look, Edward, I'm sorry, but I have things to do. The simple version of this is that I'll give you four more weeks. And I'll have people shadowing your every move so there's no lying, or running away. If the girl is not dead by then… well, someone will have to pay for that, won't they?"
I narrowed my eyes slightly. "Are you threatening to kill me instead?"
James shrugged. "Or… well, I'm of the understanding that there's an important person at the hospital whose little life is hanging by a thread?"
I glowered at him. "You wouldn't fucking dare."
His smug face was fucking asking for it. I pulled my fist back and was about to snap it back and hit him in his motherfucking jaw, but someone caught my fist.
"Come on, Edward. Walk away, man." His voice was hushed in my ear.
I hesitated, but Aro pulled on my arm again. I sighed and lowered my arm before letting Aro tug me out of the room.
"Remember, Edward, four weeks!" James called after me.
Four fucking weeks.
The weight that had been lifted was suddenly dropped back on my shoulder, and this time, it was twice as heavy.
Hey guys! Sorry about the looooong time between updates. I have no idea why but this chapter was a real bitch to write, and then I started a new story, and now I'm on holiday… you know how it goes… real life really gets in the way sometimes huh? :L
***BTW!*** I have done some editing to the prologue because some bits weren't quite tying in with the little changes I've made since initially planning it. If you're one of the few people who are relying on the prologue to guess the ending then you might want to re-read. They're only very little changes though so it won't matter if you don't go back.
And now some self-pimpage ;) I started a new story! :D I have a good feeling about this one :) It's two chapters in and it starts off pretty angsty but I have different plans for the latter half of the story… it'll stay angsty but also a little happy… kind of. Ah you'd see what I mean as soon as you read the first chapter ;) Anyway, it's called 'Taking Chances' and this is the summary:
AU/AH When Edward moves to Forks to escape his demons the last thing he expects is to be taken under the wing of impulsive bad girl Bella Swan. But Bella is battling demons of her own and the pair may have more in common than they could have imagined…
So yeah :)
Next chapter: Edward finds out why James wants Bella dead, and Bella drops a bit of a bombshell… just a little one ;)
I don't know when I'll next post… ASAP is all I can say. No previews this time, though, folks. Sorry :(
Reviews are appreciated all the same! :)
Thank you all!
*Added Note* Since a few people have already asked, no, Bella cannot go to the police because LIKE EDWARD SAID they don't have enough proof to have him convicted. He would just get mad and do something really bad.