Disclaimer: Twilight character names belong to Stephenie Meyer. No copyright infringement is intended. All characterizations, plot lines, backgrounds and details belong to Bella Baby24. Plagiarism is bad. Just say no.
A/N: I'm sorry about the delay in posting this chapter. I know I have not responded to everyone's reviews and PMs. If you have not received a copy of the last bribe, you can find it posted in the separate story, ''A Woman Scorned Outtakes." P.S. I will be finishing AWS and updating regularly. Please see the note at the end for more information.
IG- Thank you for holding my hand this chapter and for talking me off the cliff…. Even when I'm sure you wanted to shove me over the edge. I appreciate your honesty more than I can say.
"Edward, I really am sorry I wasn't there for you. I should've taken your concerns seriously and I should've agreed to go to counseling. We really did have a lot of issues. At the same time, I refuse to accept responsibility for your affair. Yes, I made many mistakes, but that is not on me."
Edward gave me a sad smile. "I know."
As I pulled out of the park, I smiled.
For the first time in years, I didn't feel nauseated when I thought about Edward…
"That asshole," I grumbled as I ran around Washington Park. "Motherfucking piece of shit."
A woman near me gave me a guarded look of concern. She'd been watching me for the last half-mile.
Yeah, lady. I know I'm crazy. Talking to myself like a fucking wackadoo…
I pumped my legs faster and left the poor, confused woman behind me.
My lungs felt like they were going to explode. I'd been pushing myself hard for the last few days in an effort to work through my newfound anger issues.
It wasn't working…
I was livid.
After my talk with Edward, I initially felt relieved and somewhat hopeful. He cheated on me because he was feeling neglected and unloved. For some reason, I was ecstatic to hear that Edward wished he'd never said he loved Tanya. I thought this knowledge would lessen the level of betrayal.
I was wrong.
The entire conversation revolved around how I wasn't there for him and how my neglect pushed him into another woman's arms. He yelled at me for only focusing on his flaws in "A Woman Scorned," yet he was guilty of the same thing.
Sure, I had neglected our marriage for a time, but I tried to fix things. When I thought back to the last eight months of our marriage, I realized the timeline was not as cut and dried as Edward made it out to be. The fucker had plenty of opportunities to talk to me about our problems, but he chickened out.
Suggesting marriage counseling once doesn't count.
I was sweaty and out-of-breath by the time I finished my run. Not to mention, I was still angry. Whoever said stress could be controlled with exercise was a fucking liar.
Good thing I have a session with Chelsea this afternoon…
"How'd it go?" Chelsea asked me.
I informed her all about my talk with Edward. Reliving the conversation added to my pent-up rage. I flexed my fingers and took deep breaths to calm myself. Chelsea noticed my demeanor.
"Why are you so angry, Bella?"
"I'm angry because his argument is bullshit!" I exclaimed. "I was sulking, thinking about what a horrible wife I was and how I pushed my husband away. Yet, when I stop and think about it, the actual chain of events was not how he remembers it."
"My parents' anniversary was eight months before I discovered the affair. For a week or so afterward, I was distant. I felt like I was alone. This was when I refused to go to counseling. During the next few weeks, I was made aware that I was up for Senior Editor. I told Edward that I would be working longer hours because the promotion was important to me.
"I guess he felt neglected because he pushed me to decrease my hours. I just felt like he should be more understanding. I had put my needs and desires on the backburner to support his dream to pursue medicine. I felt that he was being hypocritical. I appreciated that he wanted to meet me for lunch, but I often had meetings with authors.
"When he harassed me about work, I would get annoyed. I wanted to spend time with him, but I also needed him to realize that my editing was as important to me as medicine was to him. So when he backed off, I was relieved."
"Yes. I thought he finally got it. It seemed like he understood that I was trying to get my career on the fast-track. After I earned the promotion, I realized something was off. I didn't know at the time that Edward had given up on us. I just thought that we needed to put some extra effort into our marriage."
Chelsea took some notes before she asked, "What happened once you realized that you and Edward were growing apart?"
"I tried to fall back into our old routine. Only this time, Edward was too busy for me. I wrote it off as Residency hours. I never suspected an affair."
"During our last session you said that you felt like Edward would abandon you. Did an affair not fall into this category?"
"It never even occurred to me! I thought maybe he'd pull away emotionally, but I never thought he would cheat. We loved each other. Not to mention, he was always working."
"How did you feel about your marriage at the time?"
"I was concerned. Edward was so tired and distant. I just kept telling myself that it would all work out when his residency ended. I couldn't afford to lose faith in us.
"During the last month of our marriage, I really started pushing him. I tried to make dates and I met him at the hospital for lunch a couple of times. Our sex life had become nonexistent, so I bought lingerie."
I had to stop talking for a moment. I was nauseated thinking about my shopping trips to Victoria's Secret and Agent Provocateur. I dressed up and paraded around for Edward, yet he hardly touched me.
He had touched her…
"How was your sex life after your purchases?" Chelsea inquired.
"I can't handle talking about sex today. I barely have my temper under control as it is," I answered forcefully.
"Okay, Bella," she paused. "How'd Edward respond to your increased efforts?"
"He started acting like my Edward again. There were times when he was distant, but he seemed happy. He was thrilled when I told him I wanted to plan a special surprise for our anniversary."
"Then why do you think he went to her that day?"
"I wish I knew."
I spent time researching potential homes in the Denver area. After some reflection, I decided to continue living in a loft or condo downtown. I could always move to the suburbs later on. Now was the time to embrace my single-girl life where I could live in a home without a yard or good school system. Not to mention, it would be the first time since my divorce that I truly lived alone. After college, Edward and I had moved into our own place together. When we divorced, I lived with Esme and Carlisle, and then Alice, and Rose.
When I told Alice that I was seriously looking for a new place, she was disappointed. She asked me to reconsider moving out and told me that she would make an effort to keep the condo clean. Even after I explained that I was looking forward to having my own place, she started to clean regularly.
Alice had been cleaning all day today and I was worried about her. It had been awhile since she'd lived alone and I thought maybe she was scared. When I asked her about it, she ignored the question and insisted that she was a "big girl" who could handle living on her own. Then she'd make a joke about how I'd never want to leave the Riverfront Park area and that I would buy a condo down the hall.
Alice turned off the vacuum and exclaimed, "Damn, this place looks good."
"I know. Why am I moving out again?"
Alice flipped me off and replied, "I'm not that bad and you know it."
"Sure you're not. This is only the second time you've vacuumed in months."
She was about to respond when there was a knock at the door. Alice walked away while I continued to admire our clean condo.
There is nothing better than a clean home.
If only it stayed this way…
The slamming of a door disrupted my relaxing moment. Alice stormed into the room and spat, "You have a visitor."
"Who is it?"
"The Anti-Christ," she mumbled.
I had no idea who Alice was talking about. When I reached the entryway, I was surprised to find it empty.
I heard a muffled voice say, "Alice? May I please come in?"
Oh my God! Is that who I think it is?
I threw open the door and squealed, "Jasper! What are you doing here?"
He gathered me into a hug and exclaimed, "You think I'd miss Rose's engagement?"
Alice gasped behind me. "Emmett is going to propose?"
I tried to think of ways to defuse the situation, but I knew I was screwed.
Alice took one look at my face and said, "You knew."
"Yes," I answered.
"I can't believe Emmett wouldn't tell me!" she ranted as she stormed around. "How did he know before I did?" Her exaggerated pointing in Jasper's direction revealed how hurt and annoyed she was.
I couldn't blame her.
Emmett and I had gone to Tiffany's last week to pick out the perfect engagement ring. He was planning on proposing to Rose tomorrow night. Jasper and I were the only ones who knew about it besides the parents of the bride and groom. Emmett specifically requested that Alice not be told because she had problems keeping secrets. When I told him she would be pissed she wasn't involved in the ring-shopping or proposal-planning, Emmett said she would "get over it."
Jasper noticed my discomfort and replied, "Emmett called me to ask my permission."
"Well, Emmett should have told me," Alice spat. "I'm his fucking sister!"
Jasper glared at her. "Maybe if you could keep your trap shut, he would've."
"You heard me," Jasper said. "You're always running your mouth. Every time I see you, you never shut up. With all your talking, you often reveal things you shouldn't. Maybe Emmett wanted to actually surprise Rose."
"Fuck off," she countered. "You don't even know me. It's not my fault you can't relax and have fun. Sometimes I think you're a mute. If you weren't so hot, people wouldn't put up with you."
"Of course I'm quiet around you," he scoffed. "No one can get a word in edgewise. I still think you need to look into some Ritalin. It's nice to know you think I'm hot, though."
Alice flipped him off and stormed out of the room.
"Would it kill you two to get along? This is an important event for Rose and Emmett. I really don't want to have to mediate the entire time we're together," I sighed
"I'll try to be civil, but I can't make any guarantees," Jasper replied.
"How did all this animosity start?"
I was truly perplexed. They met when Rose moved to Denver. He stayed for a week after we helped Rose unpack, to help her get settled. At first, they were awkward and shy. Alec was sure they were sexually attracted to each other and if Felix wasn't in the picture, they'd hook up. That thought was thrown out the window when we all sat down to eat dinner together.
Alice and Jasper were polar opposites. She was loud and eccentric. He was calm and reserved. The only thing passing between them seemed to be annoyance.
Jasper sighed. "She just rubs me the wrong way. I expected her to be the wonderful friend you described. Then she opened her mouth and all she talked about was parties. Not to mention, she blurted some rude and hurtful things. I guess I was just expecting her to be different."
Rude and hurtful?
"Jasper, I can see how Alice might seem shallow, but she isn't. She owns her own event planning business. The parties she talks about have to do with her job."
"Of course," he huffed, "she'd choose to do something pointless and frivolous."
"Those parties aren't always so pointless and frivolous. She's responsible for planning most of the charity events in Denver. The woman donates time and resources so that foundations are able to raise significant funds."
"Fine. I'll admit that she tries to contribute to society by planning events," he mocked.
"Jasper," I sighed.
"Okay, okay. But you have to agree that she doesn't make a great first impression. Not to mention, her boyfriend's a dick. What kind of girl dates such an asshole?"
"Yes, Felix can sometimes be an ass, but he's also a good friend. Besides, they aren't together anymore. Please, just give them both another chance."
"Fine. But she'd better make an effort as well. If not, all bets are off."
I just nodded.
I would talk to Alice; however, I knew that she would be harder to convince to play nice. I loved the girl to pieces, but she was a stubborn bitch sometimes.
With a deep breath, I changed the subject. "Are you still planning on staying with us?"
"As long as it's okay with Alice."
"I'm sure it's fine," I replied. "You're family. Just let me get some blankets so you can sleep on the pullout couch."
I braced myself for Alice's temper as I walked down the hall to her room. I knocked twice before she answered the door, swinging it open with an annoyed look on her face. Before I opened my mouth, she said forcefully, "NO."
"He's not staying here."
She was in an aggressive stance, ready for a fight.
She doesn't know who she's messing with. I'm already extremely angry this week…
"Actually, Alice, he's staying," I replied breezily. "Jasper is family. Not to mention, the two of you fighting would really hurt Emmett and Rose. Don't you want to make this week wonderful for the two of them?"
She snorted, "Why should I care what makes it easier for Emmett? Besides, wouldn't it be better for everyone if Jasper stayed at a hotel?"
"This is supposed to be a wonderful time for Emmett and Rosalie. I know that you're upset with Emmett because he didn't tell you, but it's not like he purposely hurt your feelings."
"Fine, but I still don't see why I should let Jasper stay here."
I'd had enough of her selfish attitude. "Alice, you and Jasper are going to be part of the same family soon. The two of you need to learn how to get along," I stated in my deadliest voice.
She just shrugged.
"I mean it, Alice. If you two ruin everything, I'll personally kick your asses. Then, when I'm through beating you, I'll call Esme and let her finish you off."
"Fine," she huffed, "but he'd better be on his best behavior!"
This was going to be a long week…
The ringing of my phone woke me up. I looked at the clock and realized that it was seven a.m. on a Saturday.
Who calls early on the weekends?
I quickly hit talk and mumbled a greeting.
"Shit. I'm sorry, Bella. I didn't mean to wake you," Edward said apologetically.
"Edward, it's seven a.m. on a weekend. You'd wake most people up."
"Sorry," he sighed, "I'm just starting a shift and wanted to talk to you before I got caught up in work."
"Okay. What's going on?" I said with a slight edge to my voice. I was trying to be civil, but my week of epiphanies wasn't helping.
His obvious unease alerted me to how nervous he was. "I know we were supposed to meet tomorrow to talk, but would you be willing to meet Monday at noon instead?"
"I can do that."
"Sounds good. Go back to sleep, Bella."
"I'll try. See you tomorrow, Edward."
I fought back my agitation and figured I'd hold off until I saw him. Then I saved his number in my phone.
You never know… I might need it someday.
Later that morning I woke to the sound of Alice and Jasper fighting. Apparently, Alice purposefully banged pots and woke Jasper up. I knew I should stop them from killing each other, but I was exhausted. Instead, I quickly changed and left the apartment.
Today, Alec was helping me look for a new place. I had numerous lofts that I wanted to look at in different neighborhoods. Alec loved downtown as much as I did, and was interested in seeing the interiors of all the different residential buildings.
For the next five hours, we scoured all over the downtown area. In the end, there was only one loft that I was interested in. The problem was that it was located in the same building Tyler lived in.
Alec and I were debating whether or not the apartment was worth my sharing an address with Tyler, when he brought up a good point. "I don't think the issue is necessarily with Tyler, but his friends. Could you imagine running into him and a girl late at night?"
Add that to the list of things I never want to do.
"I don't want to know who my ex is sleeping with now. Besides, the booty-call temptation might be too great."
It had been forever. I hadn't had sex since Tyler. I wasn't sure I could live in the same building and not think about engaging in a repeat performance.
I really need to get laid. Or invest in a new vibrator…
"If you're going to participate in casual sex, there's no need to call Tyler. I'm happy to volunteer my services," Alec said with a wink.
"Nah," I teased, "you're too much of a gamble. How do I know that you'd satisfy me? I'd hate to lose our friendship over a crappy romp."
"But a good orgasm would be worth it? Glad to know my friendship means so little to you," he jested.
"You obviously aren't going through a dry-spell. A non-self-induced orgasm is worth a great deal to me right now. If I were you, I'd feel flattered."
Ironically, Alice was right and I found my new home across the parking lot from Alice's condo, in the other Glass House Tower. When a real estate agent showed me the penthouse unit, I fell in love.
I began negotiating with the agent as we were taking the elevator down to the lobby. When the doors opened, I saw Alec talking with two women. I immediately recognized one girl. She lived across the hall from Alec and always seemed to be leaving her apartment. The second was a tall, platinum-blond bombshell I didn't recognize. Alec looked uncomfortable and nauseated as the blond rubbed up against him like a cat. I couldn't decide if I was entertained by her blatant seduction attempts, or humiliated for her.
His eyes locked onto mine and his face broke out into a large grin. "Baby!" he exclaimed, "You're finally here! I've missed you!"
Before I could reply, Alec swept me up into his arms and pleaded, "Please play along."
I swatted his arm and teased, "Sweetie, aren't you sick of me yet? You saw me just this morning!"
He peppered my neck with kisses and said loud enough for the girls to hear, "If you don't stop talking about this morning, I'm going to be forced to keep you in bed for the rest of the day."
I ran my hands up his chest. "Don't tease me."
The blond woman was not amused with our display. She glared at me and huffed, "And you are?"
"Bella Cullen." I extended my hand and waited to see if she would shake it. She didn't. Instead, she looked at my hand as if she might catch a disease if she touched me.
I couldn't help but laugh.
Alec quickly interjected, "Forgive me. I'm being rude. Baby, this is Jane Volturi. Jane, this is my gorgeous girlfriend, Bella."
"Girlfriend," Jane snorted. "You don't have girlfriends."
Now it all made sense. Jane must have been one of Alec's past conquests. Either that or she hoped to be one. I felt like I should know who she was.
"True. I never used to be a one-woman man, but Bella here changed that," Alec said as he looked at me adoringly.
I gave him a quick kiss on the cheek to show my "love and devotion."
"Enjoy it while you can, sweetheart. Pretty soon he'll toss you to the side and make his way back to my bed," she stated flippantly and walked away.
The second girl immediately apologized. "I'm so sorry. I knew she would be difficult if she ran into you, but I didn't think she would be so blatantly aggressive."
"It's not a big deal, Jess but please promise never to have her housesit for you again," he teased.
She laughed, "No. I'm sure you'll be willing to get my mail and water my plants for free, just so you won't have to see Jane."
"Yes. I definitely will," he laughed. Alec looked at me inquisitively and asked, "B, have I introduced you to Jess before?"
"No, I don't think we've officially met."
"We haven't," she said and stuck out her hand for me to shake. "I'm Jessica Stanley. I feel like I should know you because I seem to always run into you outside my apartment."
"Yes. You constantly seem to be hurrying off somewhere."
"Oh, I'm a nurse at the Children's Hospital, so I'm always working different shifts."
"That would explain it then. I'm glad to finally meet you."
After saying our goodbyes to Jess, Alec and I entered the elevator. Once the doors closed, I cocked my eyebrow and asked, "Want to tell me what all that was about?"
"Right before you moved to Denver, I slept with Jane. She was house-sitting for Jess and we kept seeing each other. One night I came home drunk and she was there. Afterward, she turned into a real clinger. Unluckily for me, Jess was out of the country for another week. Jane consistently cornered me and even followed me after Jess returned home. It wasn't until Felix talked to her that she left me alone."
"Oh shit," I exclaimed, "is she Felix's crazy cousin? The girl the two of you are afraid of?"
"Yeah. For a while there, I thought I was going to have to get a restraining order against her," he chuckled. "Thank God she and Jess aren't that close. They work together and are acquaintances, but Jane isn't over here that often."
"But now she thinks I'm your girlfriend," I sighed dejectedly.
"Yes. What's your point?"
Just what I need…. A crazy, bitch stalker.
"Way to sic a psycho on me."
He laughed. "Aren't you glad that we'll be living in the same building, B?"
Monday afternoon I drove to meet Edward. As much as I wanted to rage at him after a long week of being furious about his skewed view of our marriage, I wanted answers more.
Keep it under control, Bella.
I continued to talk to myself as I walked through the park. I rounded a corner and found Edward waiting for me, sitting on a blanket. The man had his problems, but at least he was punctual.
I greeted him and sat down next to him. Edward must have been nervous because he couldn't look me in the eyes. Instead, he fidgeted with the edge of his shirt.
He took a deep breath and said, "I'm so incredibly sorry, Bella."
Yes, you definitely ARE sorry. Asshole. Okay, so maybe I needed to work on my anger control.
"When I told you I wanted to talk about the affair last week, I was telling the truth. I thought if I told you everything, if I explained how it all happened, you'd realize that I never meant to hurt you. For some reason, I thought if I could just explain to you what I learned in therapy, you would forgive me and maybe we could start over again."
I scoffed at his juvenile reasoning.
"I know," he stated, "it was dumb. I can tell you what I was thinking and I rationalize my behavior, but it won't change anything. When it comes down to it, it doesn't matter what my intentions were. I hurt and betrayed you, and I am so incredibly sorry. I wish I could do something to make it better, and make you love me again, but I can't."
Wait! Was this an actual apology?
I asked cautiously, "If you knew this before we spoke yesterday, then why did you still want to meet and talk about the affair? What do you stand to gain?"
"Nothing really," he said. "I'm not here for me. I know I hurt you. I just wanted to look you in the eye and tell you that I'm sorry I disrespected you and treated you the way I did. For the first time in a long time, I'm trying to do the right thing."
"So that's it? No long explanations or justifications, just an apology?"
I was annoyed and frustrated. I wasn't expecting a humble and apologetic Edward. I was prepared for a fight. I'd spent the entire week being an angry bitch for nothing, apparently. It was becoming difficult to maintain my righteous, angry stance.
Maybe I can be calm after all…
He sighed. "Whatever you want. If you just needed an apology, then we can be done. If not, I'll do whatever I can to help you move on. I've given this a lot of thought and after talking with Kate, I realize the best thing I can do for you is to answer any questions you may have."
Edward noticed the look on my face and quickly explained, "Kate Denali. Well, I guess I should call her Kate Gold now."
"Kate married Garrett? And the two of you talk now?"
What the hell?
Kate had practically been my older sister growing up. I'd lost her along with Tanya after the affair. Somehow, Edward still had her in his life. What had I done to deserve this?
"Yes. The two of them eloped last year."
"What the fuck?" I asked despondently. "How is it that you have an affair and get to keep my second family after the divorce?"
"Bella," he whispered, "it really isn't like that. If it makes you feel any better, Kate pretty much hates me. The only reason she puts up with me is because of Garrett."
"Well, it doesn't make me feel better, Edward," I exclaimed. "What would make me feel better is still having my family in my life. Why'd you have to sleep with Tanya? You could've chosen any woman in the world, but you had to fuck my best friend? What did I do to you to deserve that level of betrayal?"
After a moment, he said, "I'm really nervous about answering that question, Bella. I want you to understand that I NEVER loved Tanya. I'm scared that if I don't say this correctly, you'll walk away thinking I was in love with her."
What kind of double-talk is this?
I sighed. I really didn't want to put up with Edward's emo bullshit today. I just wanted some answers about why he fucked my best friend.
"Please just know that you are, and have always been, the love of my life," he said with passion in his voice. "I have never loved anyone more than I love you."
Edward's declarations were making me uneasy. I was concerned that he had to prep his answer with this announcement. Not to mention, I was sure that if I spoke, I would only yell hateful comments about how he showed me he "loved me more than anyone else" by screwing my best friend for a quarter of our marriage. However, I understood that it would be significantly easier for Edward to answer my questions honestly if I wasn't trying to castrate him… yet.
Let him talk himself into a hole, Bella. Then hammer him.
I nodded in response.
He took a deep breath and began. "I've always been a people-pleaser. Hell, my parents raised me to be one. I was only shown affection when I acted like the model child. I was granted attention when I acted out, but it never lasted. I always strove to please my parents. So when we married, I tried to be the ideal husband."
Breathe. I'm going to lose it if he's implying what I think he is.
"Edward, I never asked you to be perfect. I just wanted you to love me."
"I know, Bella. I'm just trying to explain the situation to you. Please hear me out."
I could see how difficult this was for him. His hair was standing on end from where he had repeatedly tugged on it. Not to mention, he was jittery. His hands were shaking.
"Looking back, I can see all the mistakes I made along the way. I was insecure and let my insecurities rule me. I was scared to veer off my life plan. I was afraid that if I tried to be a different version of me, you would never love me. Instead of talking to you about my fears, I made a comment during a phone call and convinced myself that you didn't care when you responded in a way that I didn't like. I let that one comment shut me down and I gave up trying to explain anything to you.
"In hindsight, I know that I can't hold you responsible for not knowing about my inner dilemma, because I never let you know the severity of the situation. I never fully explained to you that I was in a crisis with my career and my life. Yes, I brought up therapy, but I didn't let you know how dire I'd felt the situation had become. Instead, I got into something and then continued to betray you over and over. I looked you in the eye and lied to you every day. That is not how you treat a person you say you love. Love is not just a feeling. It's a choice and an action. My actions did not reflect the love I felt for you.
"Whether I felt you were paying enough attention to me or not, is not the issue. You supported me when I was in medical school, and then when you needed support for your career, all I could think about was that I selfishly wanted you home. You explained to me that your potential promotion was important to you and that the long hours were temporary, but I couldn't look past my own needs. It was hypocritical and selfish of me to expect your life to revolve around mine. Once again, I should have just told you what was going on and how I felt. Instead, I justified my actions by telling myself that I didn't choose my hours, but you chose yours. I convinced myself it was your fault because you were ignoring me.
"I wish I'd talked to you. Instead I looked outside of our marriage for some sort of validation. I let my insecurities take control and she swooped in on me when I was at my most vulnerable. I was constantly trying to please everyone around me, but Tanya never expected me to be anything other than myself. I know now that I was just afraid of losing you. I can't hold you responsible for things you didn't know about. I apologize for not having enough faith in you. I should have given you the chance to stand by me and support me through my personal crisis. I'm so sorry for the way I treated you, Bella. You deserved better than that from me."
There he is…
For the first time in years, I recognized the Edward in front of me. This was the man I had loved and married. He was humble, articulate, and sincere. He completely disarmed my anger. If he could be honest with me, then I owed him the same courtesy.
"Thank you so much for the apology, Edward. It means a lot to me that you are willing to accept responsibility for the affair. I also owe you an apology. I should have been more attentive during the last few months of our marriage. While my job was important to me, it was never more important than you. I should have taken the time to talk with you. You might have felt more comfortable sharing your thoughts with me if I was present and supportive. I'm sorry I took you for granted."
"Thank you." He smiled.
After a moment, I inquired, "One thing still bothers me. At the end, you said you might love Tanya. Why would you tell me that if you didn't truly love her?"
"I wasn't sure about my feelings for Tanya at the time. We shared mutual friends and a history. She loved me unconditionally. At one point, I determined that my life would be so much easier if I loved her too. I thought I could…"
Ouch. That hurt.
"If you felt that way about her, why did you stay with me? Why didn't you divorce me so you wouldn't have to sneak around?"
Why does this feel as raw as it did when we divorced? Shouldn't I be over this by now?
"I didn't want to be with Tanya. I felt angry, neglected, and confused, but I never wanted to leave you. On some level, I wanted you to notice that someone loved me unconditionally. I guess I just hoped that you'd realize what was right in front of you."
"So, what? You screwed my best friend to make me jealous?" I asked incredulously.
"It sounds dumb, but yes. I was acting out and it backfired."
"Acting out? Seriously? Like a child throwing a tantrum?"
"I'm not saying I was right or trying to justify my actions, Bella. I'm just telling you what my motivations were."
"I don't understand, Edward. Why did you go through the trouble of constructing such an elaborate and risky plan? Wouldn't it have been better to place all that effort into just communicating with me?"
"I didn't construct an elaborate scheme to hurt you. At the time, I wasn't even sure why I was doing it. I just wanted to be loved. It took me eighteen months of therapy to realize why I threw our marriage away over someone I didn't want."
"Yes. It was really disturbing that I was unable to articulate why I had an affair. I destroyed my entire life and didn't know why. It's not like I loved Tanya or wanted to be with her." He sighed. "Nothing was gained by the end of our marriage."
I finally understood. "That's why you wished you could love Tanya? So the affair would've been worth it in the end?"
Edward sighed in relief, "Yes. That's exactly it. Loving her would've made things easier."
"I just have one question though: If you were with Tanya to feel loved and to get my attention, why'd you push me away when I tried to reach out to you? Why wouldn't you end it and come back to me?"
"I was so happy when you started putting effort into our relationship again. I finally had my wife back, but at the same time, I felt so incredibly guilty. It was at that time it hit me full-force that I was screwing around with my wife's best friend. I was so ashamed. I decided to end my relationship with Tanya."
"It didn't seem like things were over on our anniversary, Edward," I said pointedly.
He winced. "I know. Tanya threatened to tell you all about the affair when I tried to end things with her. I didn't want to you to find out about our betrayal."
"So you just hoped I'd never find out? Or better yet," I paused, "you would continue to fuck her so I wouldn't find out?"
"It was either that or confess," he stated simply. "At the time, I thought it would be selfish of me to tell you everything. If it had been, let's say, you and Garrett, I would've never wanted to know. I decided at the time that if it came up, I would just tell you that I slept with a stranger."
"Why would you protect Tanya like that?"
"It wasn't about protecting her, but protecting you. If you ever found out I cheated on you, I wanted you to have your best friend. The thought of you knowing that we both betrayed you gutted me."
"If it made you feel so horrible, then why were you with her on our anniversary?"
Edward's face flushed and he started wringing his hands. He finally said, "Tanya told me you had to work late and needed to cancel our date. When I asked her why she was the one telling me, she said that you asked her to pass along the message because you didn't have time to call me. I was so angry that I agreed to go out to dinner with her."
"How did dinner turn into you fucking her on her kitchen counter?" I spat.
"We were just supposed to go to her apartment so she could change shoes. Supposedly, her heels were killing her. She came onto me in the elevator. I was hurt that you cancelled our date and I just folded."
"I would possibly believe that, if I didn't hear you say you'd been thinking about being inside her all day. It sounded more like a planned event than a spontaneous revenge screw, Edward."
His face flashed with guilt. "I was just so hurt. It was supposed to be an important night for us, and you cancelled. I just wanted to be with someone who cared about me and loved me. The entire time I was thinking of you."
Why do guys always say that? Is it supposed to make me feel better to know he imagined me? Gross.
"Edward, that is just wrong on so many levels." I sighed and continued. "By the way, I never cancelled our date."
"I know that now, but at the time, I thought you were distancing yourself from me again."
"At the time, I was really trying. I bought lingerie. I cooked you meals. I constantly tried to set up special dates for the two of us. Why would you think that I'd cancel our anniversary celebration without giving you a call? Even at my worst, I never had Tanya give you the bad news. Somewhere in the back of your mind, didn't you stop to think that your mistress might have ulterior motives?"
"I can see why you'd say that, but Tanya loved you. I didn't think that she'd lie to me about that."
"Edward, how much could Tanya really love me? She was fucking my husband. Besides, she knew that I was at her apartment. I texted her to let her know that I was picking up my boots."
"She knew you were there?" he inquired quietly.
I was jolted when Edward suddenly shouted, "That bitch! I can't believe she'd put me in that position! I'm going to kill her!"
"Edward, calm down."
"Calm down?" he yelled disbelievingly. "She set me up!"
"Yes, she may have set you up, but you're losing track of the big issue here. You were fucking someone that wasn't me. It sucks that your mistress betrayed you, but YOU betrayed YOUR WIFE!"
His eyes widened when he heard the venom in my voice. "Bella, I didn't mean it like that. You're right. Tanya's lie isn't what's important. I'm so fucking sorry. I should have never been with someone else."
"No, Edward. You weren't just with 'someone else,' you were with someone I considered to be a sister. You lied to me. Your betrayal not only ended our marriage, it also ended one of the most significant friendships of my life. Your and Tanya's charade destroyed my life. Most people wouldn't treat their worst enemies the way you treated your wife."
He just stared at me like a lost puppy.
"Do you understand what that did to me? I thought there was something wrong with me. I bought all that lingerie and tried everything I could think of to spice up our nonexistent sex life, yet I barely got a reaction out of you. There was no enthusiasm or appreciation. Just mild interest, if anything. Now I know that when I would try to seduce you, you'd recently fucked her. The thought of you double-dipping makes me want to vomit," I shuddered. "Do you know how many men Tanya has been with? Can you even comprehend the health risks you took for BOTH of us? Hell, she was my best friend and I wouldn't even drink after her!"
"I never slept with you both on the same day," Edward insisted. His tone indicated how offended he was.
"Seriously?" I gave an empty laugh. "You were going to fuck us both on our anniversary, Edward. On the day that we celebrated our love and commitment to each other, you would have let me suck your dick after it had been in her. That is wrong and sick on so many levels."
"The sad thing is that it's not even the worst part. Do you know that I don't even trust myself anymore?" I cried. "I thought that I could trust you and Tanya with my life. If I was so wrong about the two people who meant the most to me, then what are the other people in my life capable of? Hell, I sabotaged a perfectly healthy relationship because I couldn't trust my boyfriend to love me. I thought eventually he'd just grow tired of me and move on. I've lived the last few years, thinking I'm unlovable."
"I'm so sorry, Bella," he pleaded. "You are by far the most lovable person I know. Even when I've tried not to, I've loved you. I wish I could make you see that. Most of all, I wish I could go back in time and change everything."
"But you can't. It happened and we both have to live with the consequences."
Edward didn't respond right away. After a few moments of silence, he asked quietly, "Where do we go from here?"
"What do you mean?"
"Do you think that you could ever forgive me?"
I sighed. "I forgave you years ago, Edward."
His eyes brightened and filled with hope. "I'm so glad to hear that. Do you think that we could try to be friends again?" he asked. "See where things go?"
If only it were that simple.
"I forgave you, Edward, but that doesn't necessarily mean I trust you. I'm not sure how a friendship could work without trust," I stated honestly.
"Please. Just give me a chance to earn your trust. Let me show you how important you are to me," he begged. "I just want you in my life, Bella. It hurts to think about my world without you in it."
"I'm sorry, Edward."
We just stared at each other, his eyes pleading with me to change my mind. Like a train wreck, I couldn't look away.
What was I supposed to do?
I'd wanted to know the truth for so long. Yet, after all the build-up, it felt…. anticlimactic.
In books, the main characters would embrace and share a bittersweet moment, or they would determine to give their love another shot. But this wasn't a romance novel, and I wasn't a lovesick heroine.
In real-life, the moment wasn't sweet. It was just awkward as hell. I stood there and stared at Edward until he ran his hand through his disheveled hair.
I snapped out of my trance and said quietly, "Well, I'd better get going."
"Yeah," he agreed hesitantly, "me too."
As we walked to our cars, Edward turned to me. "I'll never love anyone the way I love you."
"I understand," I whispered.
And I did. I doubted that I would ever feel so passionately in love with another man.
"Why am I such a fucking idiot?" he jokingly asked himself. His voice was thick with emotion and I could tell he was trying to make light of the situation.
It had been an emotional day. He'd made his amends. I wasn't angry anymore. I quipped back, "It must be genetic."
"Yeah," he chuckled, "I'll be sure to tell Mom that you said hello."
We both laughed at the lameness of the joke. Our laughter quickly died when we reached the parking lot.
Edward started toward his car, but turned around quickly and pulled me into a hug. I was so shocked that I didn't move. I just stood there like an idiot and let Edward hug me.
With a soft kiss to the forehead, he whispered, "Goodbye, love."
After a longing look, he got into his car and drove away.
Now that we had talked about the affair, it felt like a chapter in my life was over. Not even the divorce felt as final as this moment. The optimist in me hoped that this time in my life was a stepping-stone to something better… that my great love story was yet to come.
Somewhere deep down…. I knew better.
A/N: As always, I appreciate everyone's constructive criticism. This week's bribe is an excerpt from Bella's book. I am going to try to respond to each review, but if it starts to become too time consuming, I will just be posting the bribe to the separate story, "A Woman Scorned Outtakes."
So here's the deal: I know updates have been really sporadic over the last few months. As a thank you for sticking with and supporting me, I will start updating AWS every ten to fourteen days. Hopefully, through consistent updates, you will realize how much I appreciate your time and dedication to this story ;)
Thank you to the following people for recommending AWS:
- To love and protect
- Thaigher Lillie
- WindowWardsGirl aka savanablue