Here is the break-up portion in Edward's point of view. I'm a bit nervous what you think of him.
This was written for the Fandom Gives Back Author Auction, requested by autumnltd. I hope this lives up to what you wanted!
Thanks to XIX for the speedy betaing. I triangle you.
Disclaimer: Stella = not mine. Stephenie = all hers.
Edward saw it coming before he was certain Bella knew what she was going to do, so in hindsight, he was very surprised at his reaction. He was what Esme always called, he didn't know… obstinate? Resigned? Something along those lines, a staunch iron grey color, hard and unrelenting, something always present in the bowels of nature.
He knew he had seen tragedy, but he had always pushed past it in order to get back to the colors. The bright greens and the lilting, swirling yellows that swept past his eyes, colors he chased like butterflies through fields that never ended. He saw things through rose-tinted glasses that he never spoke of, because while he clinically understood the bad, he had to participate in life, and it seemed to be better for everyone involved that he forgot it happened.
He had lived a fairly normal life, despite everything. He slept and ate and went to school and made decent grades and laughed and loved and masturbated to illegal downloads. He drew on the back of napkins and painted inanimate things in different lighting and told everyone he was fine, just fine.
Until that girl with the brown and peach and ivory, that girl with the infuriating mouth and the devastating smile who tripped over her own two feet and told him where he could put his attitude. She had opened him up with a something heavy, something cruel – a wrench or pliers, but when she had gotten him there, she soothed him with her warm orange love and taught him that it was okay to not be fine, just fine.
But there were bigger issues, ones he knew they would come to eventually. And now, the girl who pried him open was sewing herself shut right before his eyes.
So, he was surprised – but maybe not so much – about his reaction when his door clicked shut and he heard the dull thuds of her ankle brace hitting the stairs. He was passionate but benign – especially lately – and usually took out his frustration on a canvas and well, he had to start somewhere.
Edward picked up the picture he had painted of her beautiful profile – the tight chin and the small, turned up nose and the long, dramatic eyelashes. Then he slammed it down on top of the lamp, puncturing a hole straight through it.
He heard the sound of the front door closing, and then his name, frantic on the lips of Alice. He could barely understand, and he moved on, throwing things against the wall and watching as they splashed light and vision in ways he could understand. Visceral destruction matching what he had learned never to say – I'm broken, and I don't know how to pick up the pieces.
"Edward, stop!" He was wrenched away from the broken shards of glass on the floor, cutting into his hands and rinsing them with blood. Alice was crying, holding onto his forearms.
"I'm sorry," he murmured, trying to pick the ice-colored blown sand out of his palms. "I bled everywhere."
"I don't care about the blood!" she sobbed. "Your hands, Edward. Your beautiful hands." She led him to the bathroom, crying silently the whole way. "What happened? What happened? Where did Bella go?"
"Bella," he whispered, and said no more. He closed his eyes and tried not to wince as Alice used tweezers to pluck out the glass, each further opening the wounds. When she was finished, he saw the screaming crimson on his hands but couldn't believe it was real, the liquid that had seen the inside chambers of his heart was now streaming in rivulets down his hands, out of his body, forever.
He walked back into his room after Alice had wrapped gauze around his cuts. He had a thought of maybe trying to sleep – he was so, so tired – but he looked at his bed and saw her, saw her underneath him mere hours ago, her wide oak eyes giving him an anchor to this earth. They had stared him through to his pink insides, to his easily punctured organs, and told him she would never cut him open.
He breathed out heavily, collapsing to the bed. It hit him like a wrecking ball, iron and black, right over his head.
She had really left.
"I have to go," he said to Alice, who was still hovering there, half in tears.
"What? Where are you going? Edward, your hands, you can't drive – "
"I have to go," he repeated, gathering his keys and shoving his wallet in his pocket. He stepped into his shoes and threw on a jacket and launched himself out the door.
"Edward!" Alice cried, following him down the stairs. "Please, stay, we can talk about this – "
"I have nothing," he said. "To say. Just…"
It was Carlisle, standing at the door, looking weary.
"Dad, please. I have… I can't stay. Please."
"If Esme left you, what would you do? Could you take it if the woman you fell in love with after you never thought you'd love again left you?" Edward fidgeted, popping back and forth on his toes.
Carlisle looked down, remembering his late wife and how he thought his heart would never stitch itself back up. "Go," he said finally. "But come back to me. I love you."
Edward flew out of the house, into the ice blue night, the air catching in his lungs and making him feel more alive than he wanted to right then. It hit him hard, and he doubled over, the pain of over a decade hitting him with a stone-grey mallet.
"Stop," he demanded, clawing at his stomach as he stumbled to his car. "Stop it."
He climbed into his Volvo and did not look back.
"I'm okay," he said into the phone the next morning as he crawled back into Forks.
"Edward," Esme breathed. "Please come home. I miss you."
He swallowed deep in his throat, the hot tears he never let fall creating a lump. "I'm coming."
"Don't ever scare me like that again. I love you."
"I know," he whispered, even though he wasn't quite sure of anything at the moment.
After he had taken off last night, he first went by the Swan's to make sure Bella had made it home safely. Esme had taken her home, as Edward had picked her up – and she couldn't drive anyway, could she, because you painted that picture of her and she was so beautiful that night, blinding ivory smile and flushed cheeks, the color of peaches bursting off Georgia trees –
She had been there. Her lamp was on and he could see her silhouette through her curtains, small and fragile and beautiful and God, he couldn't stand it. He couldn't stay near this house; he would fall out of his car and climb up that tree and fall into her room and climb into her bed and fall in love with her a little more every minute and beg her to always be his, to always let him touch her, because he didn't need to paint her, she was already art incarnate.
So he moved on, speeding up dangerously in the rain, and had taken the one-oh-one and the one-oh-four and whatever the other roads were, on autopilot, all the way into Seattle. He didn't stop, just kept driving aimlessly around the city, soothed by the scorching yellow lights and feeling comforted by the people milling about, despite the late hour. He was not the only one awake; he was not the only one searching for answers in the drowning orbs of the city.
He bought himself coffee – what better city – and then drove around some more, ignoring the hotel he had surprised Bella in a month ago. She had looked so beautiful, like a Grecian princess, with her dark hair and eyes and that dress, and – and you are fucked, Edward.
When he pulled into the driveway, it was almost two-thirty in the afternoon. He stumbled out of his car, his legs weak from lack of use. He walked up the steps and met Alice on her way out.
"Edward," she breathed. She rested her forehead against his chest, and he gave her an awkward hug back. She was not the most affectionate person, Alice – and it was strange to hold his sister; she was all bones. "I'm going to… I'm going to make this better."
"I'm fine," he said softly, because he did not know what else to be.
Alice nodded. "I know." Then she sidestepped around him and walked out to her car.
"I need to ask you something," Esme said that night as he helped her make dinner.
"Okay," he said neutrally, his heart picking up in his ears, loud and excited. He wondered if a heart attack felt like that.
"Watch your cuts," Esme said after a minute as she watched him chop Romaine lettuce for the Caesar salad.
"I'm fine," he said. He'd been saying that a lot in the past eighteen hours.
"I know," she breathed. He had been getting that response a lot in the past eighteen hours. "Edward, I need…" she stopped stirring the pot on the stove and turned to him. "I'm about to be in a bit of an awkward situation, and I need you to tell me what to do."
Edward looked up at his stepmother. Her face was sweaty from standing over the stove, and still she was so lovely, even in her concern. "Yes?"
"It's about Bella's job."
He stopped cutting. "What about it?"
"Lucy wants her job back, and I… I don't want to give it to her." Esme pushed her bangs off her forehead. "Despite what happened… Edward, I adore Bella. I adore her entirely on her own, with nothing to do with you."
"She's wonderful," Edward agreed, starting up the cutting again.
"Yes…" Esme said sadly. "Tell me what to do, Edward. I don't want to give Bella up. I don't want to give Lucy her job back. But after what happened, I need to know… does Bella want to cut ties with all of us?"
Edward considered the question carefully. "I would… I don't. Bella said she would…" He swallowed. "Try… try to make it as if she never existed. So it would be easier? For her? I think? I don't…"
Esme closed her eyes and put her palm over her mouth. "Okay."
"I don't – " The tears he had been fighting rushed to the surface, seeing someone else in pain because of his own. "I don't know if… she wants… but I think it would make it easier on her. A clean break," he choked, and set down the knife.
"Okay. I love you. Okay," Esme said, walking over to him and gathering him in her arms. It was strange, again, being held – and he was so much taller than Esme, so he had to shrink, but the love was there, and he clung to it.
He knew how fleeting love could be.
The next day of school conjured up images of Bosch's painting of Hell. That's how he felt – tortured on so many different levels. He had two classes with Bella; he knew he would have to see her, sitting there, beautiful and possibly – maybe – not even sad. Maybe she would be talking to Mike in the hallways.
Then he caught sight of her ahead of him, her head down, shuffling through the crowd. Her shoulders were ducked, and her hair was piled on her head, and she had on that ugly threadbare sweater that made her appear washed out, but his heart said that didn't matter because it pounded so hard in his chest, it was like it was trying to break free and get to her.
He saw Alice beyond Bella, walking towards him, and Bella saw her, too. He knew Alice had gone over to Bella's house yesterday, but apparently whatever Alice had said, Bella had not been moved by. Alice took one look at Bella and shook her head, disgusted. Bella's shoulders tensed, and then she was in the bathroom, and Edward was angry, irrationally, at his sister.
He caught up to her and grabbed her arm. "Don't do that, Alice."
Alice grabbed her arm back and glared at the bathroom door. "What she did was inexcusable. Don't tell me you've forgiven her – "
Edward shook his head. She hadn't spoken to him, but he would forgive her, he knew he would, right now, because God, everything hurt. "There's nothing about this situation I can forgive," he said instead. "She hasn't asked for forgiveness. She did what she had to do."
Alice stared at him like she wanted to scratch his eyes out. "You don't mean that; I know it's killing you!"
He was about to respond when her scent hit him, so strong it nearly bowled him over. Bella had her own scent, not one conjured up by body washes and perfumes. It was clean and a bit oily, with an undertone of sweetness that he could never describe. It was on all her clothes, her bed sheets, in her hair, and all over his heart.
"It's okay, Edward," she said quietly. "I deserve it."
Edward was really baffled by that. No one deserved to be ridiculed for having the strength to make tough decisions. Besides, he couldn't blame her for feeling the way she did. Sometimes, he thought it was a good thing – she could be far away from him, safe, and he could love her from afar and keep her painted inside the deepest part of his soul.
"Just because you don't love me anymore doesn't mean my family has to ostracize you," he answered in a low voice, trying to sound like he was fine. "You and Alice were friends before I came along and ruined your life."
Bella gaped at him, and some of the beautiful, familiar color rushed back into her cheeks. "I don't… I don't love you anymore?"
It could have been a question. It could have been a statement. But it hurt too much to stay around to find out. He could practically feel himself bleeding inside, the bright crimson blood rushing to the surface of every raw wound. He turned. "I'm… I have to go to class."
He walked away, and turned back once to see Bella and Alice embracing. Then he turned back around and kept walking.
"There they are," Alice whispered in his ear, waving to Jasper and the small blonde girl sitting next to him in the booth.
"Great," Edward groaned, causing Alice to swat at him.
They were in Seattle for the weekend, at Alice's insistence. They were staying at Jasper's cozy apartment downtown, and Edward was enjoying himself more than he had in a while.
He missed his brother. It was hard for him to work out why – his stepbrother was a strange creature, but maybe it was because he never compromised. He spewed out facts and let you take them for what they were. He didn't play games, and he was the calmest color Edward had ever seen – the color of the ocean after a summer rain.
The girl, Jane, was a friend of Jasper's that he had met in a class dedicated to Southern Confederates. Jane was an actual descendent of Robert E. Lee, and Alice had seen green for weeks at the excitement in Jasper's voice.
But she was harmless, and very sweet, Alice reported over the phone a few weeks back. This was while Edward was still with… with her, and he had barely listened.
"Jane, you remember Alice? And this is my brother, Edward." Jasper always introduced him as his brother, never his stepbrother.
"Hi," said Jane with a sweet smile. Her teeth were straight but a bit discolored, and they looked off under the red lipstick she was wearing.
"Hi," said Edward, sliding in next to her. "It's nice to meet you."
"Oh, you too," said Jane. "I'm just…" She looked around at Jasper and Alice, who were completely engrossed in their own conversation. She dropped her voice. "Okay, please do not take this the wrong way."
"Okay…" Edward said. Nothing good ever started out like that.
"I'm pretty sure they're trying to set us up," she whispered. "And that's really awkward for me. I just broke up with my boyfriend, and Jasper's been so nice – and he casually mentioned his good-looking younger brother was going to be here this weekend… and well, I took the bait. But…"
"It's okay," said Edward quickly, mortified. He hadn't even considered that this could be… a… a date. "No, I totally understand – "
"I'm sorry if I seem like a bitch off the bat, saying that. I'm just, I'm not – have you ever wanted something so badly even though you're not sure if it can still be yours?"
Edward laughed loudly, the first real laugh that had bubbled out of him in weeks. Jasper and Alice turned at the sound.
"It seems like you two are getting along," Alice said with a smile. "Your dress is really cute, by the way, Jane."
Jane picked at the black cotton dress she was wearing. Edward surveyed her with an artist's eye – her face wasn't quite symmetrical, and her eyes were too round for her heart shaped face. But she had nice hair, so blonde it was almost white, and her part was straight, and she smelled clean and fresh.
"Ah, thanks," Jane smiled. "It's my go-to dress."
"Every girl should have one," Alice said with a nod. Then she became absorbed in her conversation with Jasper once more.
"Your sister freaks me out," Jane whispered.
"Yeah," Edward laughed again. "She's a little overbearing. But she means well."
Jane played with her water glass for a second, and then turned to him. "It's not that you aren't good-looking…"
Edward held up his hands. "No, you really… there's no need to explain. I laughed earlier, because I understand all too well."
Jane nodded. "Were you forced into this, too?"
"Not exactly forced. Coerced is a better word." He tugged at his hair a bit.
"Coerced," Jane said with a smile. "I like that word."
It reminded him so much of something Bella would say that his heart gave way to the weight and hit the bottom of his stomach. "Yeah," he agreed. "It's a good one."
Edward couldn't believe how easy it was to be around her. She was funny and quick and had a dampened beauty about her. And it was like she had no preconceived notions about him; she knew absolutely nothing of his past, so he could be exactly who he wanted to be. And when he showed that he wasn't fine, she admitted she wasn't either.
"Yeah," she said, sipping on her third diet coke. "It's like a big fucking game, you know?" She covered her mouth. "Sorry, about the swearing. When I get going – "
"It doesn't bother me," Edward insisted.
She took a deep breath. "When Alec broke up with me, my mom looked at me and said, 'get out of bed, put makeup on and go about your day. It'll get easier if you realize that life goes on.' And that's solid advice, yeah? So that's what I did. And now it seems like I do it so much, I'm not even Jane anymore. I'm just this girl who had her heart broken but was told that life goes on instead of… you know, that I should feel that pain. Now, it comes in like… big, giant bursts. Like…" She looked up at him.
"Go on," he urged.
"Like now. I'm looking up at you, and you're great, Edward. You're really… you're so handsome, and you have this amazing gentleness. But it's like, I'm looking at you and clinically recognizing you as a guy any girl would be lucky to date. But I can't stop looking at you and wishing it was him. And that's… oh God, I'm so sorry, I shouldn't have said that, I'm such a bitch – "
He took her hand, the first hand he had willingly held since Bella. "I'm really glad I came here, Jane. I feel like I've found a friend in you. Or maybe even a sponsor," he laughed. "Like I'm at an AA meeting, like I come to you with my progress. Because God, I understand. I'm so in love I can't see straight. And I miss her every day, all the time."
Jane squeezed his hand. "We're a fucked up pair, yeah?"
Edward laughed. "Yeah. Coming here was great. But it also hurts…"
"Because you realize that you're so much more in love than you thought you could be, yeah," Jane finished, taking her hand back and swiping at the fallen hairs around her eyes. "Listen to us, crying like a bunch of old women. We're eighteen! We should be gyrating our asses to hip-hop, snorting lines off of random girls' stomachs, having wild passionate sex outside the restaurant… and yet we're getting emotional about people who couldn't bother to stay emotional about us."
"Thanks," he grimaced. "That really puts it in perspective. Because I didn't have anything else to be depressed about."
Jane punched him in the arm. "Well, you know what they say about rock bottom."
"That all you can do is lay there, waiting to die?"
Jane rolled her eyes at him. "No. That we have nowhere to go but up. We might plateau here for a while, stay at a constant suckage, but eventually… we're going up, Edward. I can feel it."
Alice gave Edward a smug smile when he and Jane exchanged phone numbers at the end of the night. They promised to keep each other informed of their progress, and Alice caught him with her elbow and teased him about getting her number so quickly.
"Are you going to call her?" Alice asked as they walked back to Jasper's apartment.
Edward shrugged. He told Jane he would call her if he saw his light at the end of the tunnel, his hand to help him out of the well. He told her he would call her if his love gravitated into his orbit once more.
"I hope so," he answered honestly.
Getting in and out of the classes was always the hardest part of the day – well, the classes he shared with Bella, anyway. He was always torn between staring at her drawn, pale face and rushing so she couldn't see his. He was taking out his books when she walked up to him that day, and his heart gave such a lurch he dropped his pen.
"Here," she said, her sweet voice ringing bright blue in his ears. He looked down at what she was offering him, and it was their notebook, their sanctuary all those months before words had flowed.
He took it from her, a strong smell of lemon wafting from the pages. "Thank you," he said softly, holding it between his hands. This book was so precious to him, and he never thought he'd see it again.
"Edward, I…" He watched her fumble, chew on her chapped lips that he wanted to feel so much underneath his own. "Just… open it. When you… when you can."
He was going to rip it open as soon as he was out of her line of vision. He didn't care if it was good or bad or a 'stay away from me forever' – anything, anything from her beautiful fingers transferred onto these pages was a reprieve from the numbing sort of emptiness he felt every day.
He wasn't fine. He wasn't at all. He was learning that, slowly. He had thought about her words a lot in the past weeks, realizing that she was right to an extent. He couldn't walk around afraid his whole life of something that… well, he didn't really see it as irrational but he could understand why others would, but a fear nonetheless that was crippling to him and his art. He had not been able to paint a thing, draw a thing, sketch a thing since she had walked away from him. And even if they never came to an agreement about the painting of her, he knew for certain that she would always be connected to his art now. And that maybe he could find his reason to start coming to terms with his past so he could have her in his future.
"Okay," he said to her, and she turned on her heel and went to her seat.
When he got to his car that day, he ripped open their notebook, his eyes scanning all the words between them – her beautiful writer's script and his messy artist's scrawl. He could feel the slightly crumpled pages underneath his fingers before he got there, the feeling of paper that had been soaked in water.
Yellow. Everything was yellow. Every last page.
He sucked in a deep breath, letting his mind take him back to the time where she had sat in his room, beautiful strong girl, telling him colors and letting him come back down to earth through her solidarity. He had rushed over to her and grabbed her and spoke to her, whispered to her, told her the color that shone from his heart –
"Yellow," he choked, putting his forehead against the pages. "Yellow is sorry."
He texted Jane after dinner. He had told Alice, and she was hesitantly happy for him, but that wasn't enough. He needed someone to feel his true elation – someone who knew loss and could understand what possibly gaining it back could mean.
While he waited for an answer, he paced around his room, his energy bright colors, all frazzled like a rainbow. Three weeks – it had been three weeks. Why had she waited? Did she truly think he would give up on his stance of not painting her? Did she not understand that while it killed him to be apart from her, that it would end him entirely for her to be hurt by his hand?
That made him stop. What if this apology had… terms attached to it? What if she was sorry only because she had hurt him, not because she had broken up with him? What if she would get back with him only if he relented? No, he couldn't do that… it wasn't stubbornness, she had to understand! It was a legitimate fear.
Well, it's about time. What are you going to do about it?
Edward pondered over Jane's text. What was he going to do? It wasn't – it wasn't up to him. Was it? Bella had known that he never wanted to be apart from her… he begged her not to go, but she had, and so it was obvious that he… no, it was on her. If she wanted him – oh God, his stomach turned… Bella could want me.
He never considered this an option.
I don't know? Should I do something about it?
Jane's reply was very quick.
She reached out to you. It's your turn. Wouldn't you want to know how your apology was received?
Edward nodded as he read her text. Yes, yes – that was a very good point. Bella must be frantic, worried about this reaction. Or – he scratched his head – maybe she wasn't. Maybe this was her final goodbye, this blank apology colored in the notebook he fell in love with her in.
Edward had no idea how to reach out to Bella without making himself sound desperate. He loved her still, and knew that anything he said to her would make himself sound over the top and perhaps it would drive her even farther away.
And truth be told, he didn't trust her not to do that. Edward sat down on his bed and closed his eyes, bright bursts of yellow and orange dancing behind his lids. He pressed with the heels of his hands, praying for some sort of answer.
No, he decided finally. Today was not the day for forgiveness of Bella. Today was the day he would begin to forgive himself.
Carlisle looked up as Edward entered the room, his heart pounding uncomfortably. His parents had broached this topic many times before, but Edward had brushed them off with an assurance that was he was fine, just fine.
Edward had admitted to himself that he was not fine, just fine. He had admitted to himself that he didn't know how to be fine, just fine. Then, he had to admit to himself that he wanted to be more than fine, just fine. He wanted to be a man worthy of a girl who broke his heart but could mend it the second she wanted to.
He was a fool, and a sucker, and all those derogatory words men in love get labeled with. Perhaps he saw things with blinders on, but maybe that was good. He didn't have many goals in life – he wanted to paint and he wanted to be happy. Well, he couldn't paint without her and he wasn't happy without her.
But he wasn't happy in general. And he wanted to be.
"I think it's time," Edward said softly, looking his father in the eye.
Carlisle nodded his head. "I think you're right, son."
At around ten o'clock that night, Edward trudged back up to his room, emotionally worn out. Esme and Carlisle had talked to him for hours – he finally opened up to them, poured out the truth, told them why he was so afraid of every day and why Bella Swan left him. He told them about Tanya and about his parents and that he was ready to talk to someone besides Bella, who was young and had problems of her own, and didn't deserve the weight of all his burdens. He had shed a few grudging tears, and so had Carlisle, and Esme needed a box of Kleenex for all of hers.
Carlisle promised to call around in the morning for psychiatrists in the Seattle area. Edward didn't know if it would help, but he was tired of putting up the shades and pretending like he didn't need help.
He grabbed his phone and thought of every color he couldn't paint because the sweet girl that had held his heart so delicately in her palms. She had left him because his burdens were too great for her tiny shoulders, and he had never given her a chance to think otherwise. And suddenly, he knew what to say, how to speak, how to reach out to the foolish, beautiful person he needed, no matter how many times they broke each other's hearts.
What's another name for a purple-grey?
He waited for a moment, but she didn't respond. She was probably sleeping, and he missed her, and her breath on his chest, a damp spot by morning. He wanted her there, right then, and they didn't have to speak as long as he could touch her.
His phone buzzed beside his head.
He smiled, delighted she was playing along – that she remembered this game, and that despite everything, she had accepted him so long ago. She had stripped him completely, gutted him open, yet the hint of what could come for them in the future left him with a soft lavender glow in his heart. If they could survive this, they would be stronger than ever before.
At the end of this mess, he only wanted one thing: her heart, just for him, entirely bare.
I was going to say every second I have to spend without you. Goodnight.