Disclaimer: You know the drill. I only play with the characters, SM owns everything.
Chapter 21: Overreaction
The next few days passed by smoothly. After the initial surprise and pleasure of my mom coming out all the way from Florida to Seattle to visit us, I found out that Edward had given Renee a phone call a couple of days back, and had asked and then organized for her to fly out here to see us for a week or two.
Sometimes I really wondered if Edward actually could read my mind, because my mom was just what I'd needed, but I'd only realised that when I'd seen her standing in the doorway five metres from me.
So, the only lower note of the past couple of days was the times when I'd been meeting with Molly, the vampire lawyer that Edward knew and had told me about. She was very kind and professional, but I'd still had to go into detail about my history with Jack- and Edward. In my mind, I'd left and stopped being married to Jack quite a while ago- even before the Cullens came back into my life- but technically, I was still his wife. This was an aspect that Edward and I chose not to talk too much about- it made Edward tense up and me uneasy.
I did not plan on being legally married to that asshole for much longer.
Of course, there was still the... twist that Jack was still Jenny and Ben's biological father, which definitely complicated things; but after several questions about my past and intentions, Molly had assured me that she wouldn't have too many problems smoothing everything out. After the things Edward had told me about her, I believed Molly, too. I know next to nothing about law and divorce and the technicalities of it, but Molly had done a pretty good job explaining things out to me.
Today, Edward very kindly offered to take the kids out for some fun at a playground so that Renee and I could go out for lunch somewhere and catch up on everything, just the two of us. I didn't have to see the question in her eyes as she'd watched Edward and I very observantly to know that I had a lot of explaining to do. According to Edward, all she knew was that Jack was fading out of the picture, and Edward was... well, here. How much she knew about our relationship, I hadn't quite determined yet.
The sun appeared to have gone away again; the miserable clouds and rain were back. Despite the horrible weather, Seattle still held its own, and I couldn't compare it to Forks- Seattle was much bigger, and busier. Mom and I found a cosy-looking, not too packed indoor restaurant in downtown Seattle at half noon. We found a small booth in a corner by the window, quickly took our orders for drinks, and then she wasted no time beating around the bush.
"You have a lot to explain, Bells," She said as soon as the waitress had walked away.
I half sighed and half chuckled, "I know."
I knew that the reason Renee was being more curious than angry –like Charlie had been- about the fact that Edward was back was because she hadn't been there when he'd left me all those years ago, and hadn't seen the depressive zombie I'd turned into as a result. She waited impatiently as I collected my thoughts, and I finally came to the conclusion that it would be best to simply get past the hardest part: Jack.
I explained how over the past few months he'd acted less and less like a father and husband, and more and more violent- as soon as the word 'violent' was out of my mouth, Renee's jaw had dropped down, her eyes widening; she had clearly not been expecting that, and I felt guilty for not easing it onto her instead. I knew that she'd probably expected me to say that Jack and I were getting divorced because it simply didn't work anymore or something like that. Our marriage hadn't, but mom was clearly expecting something a bit less extreme.
I quickly explained how Carlisle Cullen and Edward had been assigned as my doctors at the hospital, and how Edward had helped me and my children ever since then, and about the most recent reencounter with Jack in Forks.
Leaving out some parts where necessary, of course.
"So the asshole's in jail, I hope?" Renee demanded when I'd finished... it was odd to hear her swear.
I sighed. "Not exactly. He's in the hands of the police, but not in jail for now. We still have to testify and go through a whole bunch of legal stuff," I explained, "Molly- that's the lawyer- is helping a great deal though."
She was quiet for a moment as she processed things. Every now and then she would murmur some angry comment about Jack under her breath, but nothing else. I'd had to assure her several times that Edward, Charlie, Jake and the rest of the Cullens had been angry enough- were angry enough- with Jack and that it had and was being more than taken care of.
"And Edward?" Mom asked softly after a few moments of silence.
The waitress came just then with our food, and I hesitated about what to say before speaking again.
"What about him?"
Renee rolled her eyes and laughed, lightening the mood, "Don't give me that, honey, you still blush as much as ever you know!" Naturally, I blushed further, and she smiled before sobering a bit. "Seriously, though. I know that there's more between you two than you're letting on. Spill!" She begged at the end like a teenager, and I laughed again.
"Edward-" I hesitated and sighed again, before finally finding my words, "He hurt me a lot by leaving Forks, mom, and he knows that- but he only left for my benefit. He felt that... he was a bad influence on me, and his Dad had also gotten a better job offer somewhere else..." I was surprised that the white lies were coming rather easily, "But... I wouldn't have coped with all this Jack drama without him, and he and his family protected me, and... and not just me, mom. Jenny and Ben, too. They're all kind to them unconditionally, you should see how great they are with them, especially Edward, and he treats them like they're his own, and he- he..."
I trailed off, not knowing what else to say, and also letting out the breath I'd been holding while talking- no, while ranting. The blush returned.
"I know," Renee said, smiling, "I can tell. He loves them, Bella." I nodded- I knew this already.
"And he obviously loves you, too very much," She continued, softly. I met her eyes, expecting to see a question about how I felt about him, but it wasn't there. All I saw was a statement- she already knew.
"You don't have to pretend that you don't love him; I know you do."
I looked down at my food and busied myself with taking a bite of my lasagne. My silence was an agreement to what Renee had just stated, and I knew that she knew that. I could feel her eyes on me as I kept my eyes on anything but her. I'd spent too much time with Charlie- and more time away from her- to be comfortable talking about my feelings for very long.
"And are you okay with everything, now?" Renee persisted after a moment. I finally looked up, confused.
"Of course...?" My statement sounded like a question, because I didn't know what she was referring to.
"I mean- you and Edward have talked and sorted everything out?" She clarified. An uneasy feeling settle in the pit of my stomach as I tried to place what tone she'd asked the question. Concern? Doubt?
"Well, sure," I said dumbly, unsure of what else to really say.
Renee sighed and took my hand across the table, "I just mean that- well, you two have been through a lot, and trust me, sometimes you can think that everything has been resolved and talked about, but... it's not."
"Is that what you think?" I asked, a little too sharply, "About Edward and I?"
"I- well, yes," Renee admitted. I bit my lip and brought my eyes down again.
"Trust me, mom, we've talked," I said quietly.
"I'm not saying that you haven't," She replied gently, and squeezed my fingers, "I'm just saying that after seven years apart, it would be normal if you weren't finished talking and dealing with everything." I processed her words for a little while, turning them over and over again in my head. She waited, unusually patient.
Eventually, I took notice of the time on my watch, and realised that we'd in fact been here longer than I'd gauged. I stood up, pulling out my wallet and signalling the waitress for the bill.
"We have to go," I told Renee softly, "I better give Edward a break of the kids."
And just like that, our rare, in-depth conversation was over.
Renee and I had both carefully avoided talking about the topic of the day's lunch, Renee because she sensed that I was on thin ice in that area, and me because I... well, was. The next day, when I came home from work, I was finished. I'd spent the whole day stacked with work, and then stayed an hour past my shift to finish an article that was due the next day. I'd then got stuck in the city traffic, but was thankful that Renee and Edward were at home with the kids- no doubt keeping them occupied.
However, when I just the front door of the apartment behind me, I found only Renee sitting on the big comfy sofa with the kids, the children's channel on the television on, and all three of them chatting happily while Jenny and Ben ate their dinner.
"Hey, I'm sorry I'm late," I said to no one in particular, giving everyone a hug and a kiss. I thanked Renee for preparing the kids' food, and tried to wait a few minutes before asking the inevitable. She beat me to the punch, answering my unspoken question.
"Edward had to rush out a couple of hours ago. Something about an emergency business meeting?"
Inside, my heart froze and then began to race. I'd never heard that term for someone who was a doctor. Sure, emergency trauma room, emergency surgery, which was normal for a doctor. Bus business meeting? Yeah...didn't sound as common.
If he'd told Renee that he had something to do with the hospital, or family, I would have assumed that it was either true or he'd gone hunting. But Edward had never, not once, gone hunting without telling me. Hell, even when he left me after my eighteenth birthday, he still told me. And Edward was a very thorough, smart man- I had no doubt of that.
Which was why something as simple as him slipping 'business meeting' over some more sensible excuse set my heart racing, and then stopping. And then racing. And then stopping.
Where the hell had he gone so suddenly?
He left you.
I quickly pushed that second thought out of my mind. He wouldn't leave me again, not after everything that had happened and that we'd been through.
"Baby, are you all right?" Renee asked me, concerned etched on her face.
I blinked back to the present, and then swallowed. "I'm fine, I just... I'm tired. And need something to drink." I didn't wait for her response as I quickly dropped my bag and went over to the far other side of the room, where the kitchen was. I grabbed a glass out of a cupboard and began to fill it up with some water while simultaneously pulling out my cell phone from my pocket and dialling in Edward's number.
"Bella?" The sound of Edward's beautiful, velvety, warm voice filled my ears, and relieved me to some extent- but not fully.
"Edward, where are you, really, right now?" I demanded in a whisper, not wanting Renee or the kids to hear, even though mom had gone back to talking with the kids and feeding them their dinner.
There was a couple of seconds silence before Edward answered me, "Bella, honey I'm so sorry I left without a note, there's just this errand I have to run-"
"What errand?" I insisted.
"It's nothing big, but I really do have to go-"
I began to panic again. Why couldn't he just tell me?
"I'll be back tomorrow morning-"
"Don't hang up on me!"
"I love you." And then the line cut.
Suddenly, I was just eighteen again, and we were in the forest, and he was walking away from me. No- he'd already gone. Suddenly, he was leaving me again. I wasn't boring this time- I was just plain and full of baggage.
Except that this time, I wouldn't stumble and trip when I ran after him. I couldn't let him go again. Not after he promised- no- swore that he wouldn't.
I think it's fair to say that I wasn't thinking too clearly.
"Bella, where are you going?" Renee asked, alarmed, as she saw me heading for the door.
"I have to go out quickly," I said as I let myself out of the front door again. I slammed the button for the elevator, and it was thankfully empty when it finally- after what felt like an eternity and a half- opened.
Mind you, unthankfully- Edward could have been in there.
This was one of the rare moments where I hated the fact that my apartment was one of the furthest up in the complex. As soon as the door opened on ground floor, I ran out, out the main glass sliding doors, through the dark round the corner to parking lot.
To come face to face with Esme Cullen.
"Esme!" I have squeaked and half choked out in relief. The Cullens wouldn't leave with one of them here. I threw my arms around her for all the life I had, determined that I would use every ounce of strength in my body if it meant keeping her here- and keeping the Cullens, too. I didn't know why she was in my apartment's parking- until a horrible thought struck me. She was here to pick up Edward's things from his apartment. And then I began to sob, and hold on even harder, if that was even possible.
"Bella!" Esme exclaimed concern crystal clear in her voice, even for someone like me, who was going mentally deranged.
"Don't leave again!" I begged pathetically.
She froze for a second, and then her small, cool arms folded around me, and she hugged me tightly. "Bella, we're not leaving," She said softly but firmly, "Is that what you thought?"
"Edward's... not... telling me where he... is!" I cried in between sobs.
"We're not leaving," She repeated as held me closer and stroked my hair in a caring, motherly way- like the way Renee used to when I was little.
At this point, in the back of my mind and the back of my mind only, I was starting to become aware of that fact that this could well be a major overreaction. But she still wasn't explaining where Edward was, or why he wouldn't tell me where he was. Or, why he'd left in such a hurry in the first place.
"Aren't... you coming to pick up his stuff?"
She was quiet for half a second before speaking, "Bella- no. Alice phoned me because she saw you freaking out; I came over to calm you down, honey."
My heart stopped for the hundredth time that night. "Alice is leaving, too?" I whispered.
"Bella," Esme said, and I felt two cool hands come around my face, gently but firmly lifting my face up until I was forced to look into her big, kind, amber eyes.
"None of us are leaving, Bella. I understand that it's normal for you to be having some doubts about it after everything you've been put through, but we. Are. Not. Leaving. We all love you very much, sweetheart. Especially Edward," She chuckled slightly despite the serious moment, "He's crazy about you."
Slowly, but surely, I felt myself begin to relax, little by little.
"Where is he, then?" I whispered as Esme pulled me over to sit down on the bench in the small area with flowers and bushes.
Esme hesitated, "He- he insisted that he talk to you about this himself when he gets back. I think it's a good idea."
I swallowed, "Oh. Is it serious?" I wanted to slap myself the second the words were out; of course it was serious.
"It's nothing to worry about," Esme answered in a reassuring tone, "But he did insist on talking to you himself." I swallowed again, the lump in my throat slowly dissipating. He's not leaving. He's not leaving. He's not leaving. I sat there, quiet for a few minutes, before I turned my head to face Esme.
"I'm sorry for overreacting," I said, ashamed, "I do trust you all, I just-" I stopped when she held up her hand and smiled.
"It's okay, Bella. I understand." I sighed, becoming more and more relieved by the second. And stupid. But mostly relieved.
"When will he be back?" I couldn't help but asking.
"In a couple of hours. Do you want to go back up to your apartment? It's breezy out here."
I hesitated. I knew that I should go up and be with Renee and my children, who were probably all wondering what had gotten into their daughter and mother. And it was quite cool out here. But on the other hand, despite the fact that I believed everything Esme had just told me, I still felt some hesitance and letting the only Cullen who was currently with me go. Naturally, I couldn't tell her that, she'd think I was some clingy freak.
Esme seemed to read my thoughts, though. "I'll come up with you," She said, "It's about time I met your mother, anyway," She winked at me, and I smiled despite myself. So she came back upstairs to my apartment with me, and after Renee had given me the once-over, introductions were made, and Jenny and Ben- who looked like they'd been getting ready for bed- were squealing that 'Es' was here.
The four of them sat down to talk while Renee did all the coffee and biscuit offering- naturally, Esme politely declined- but I excused myself, saying I was tired. And I was- I was exhausted.
After saying goodnight to Jenny and Ben, a hot shower and getting into the loosest clothes I could find, I stuck my head in the main room to find Renee and Esme still talking happily in the kitchen. Satisfied, I climbed on top of the bed covers, determined not to fall asleep until Edward came back. Unfortunately, I didn't succeed.
I woke up later on to the weight of the bed dipping beside me. It was dark and I'd somehow gotten under the covers, but then I was being pulled into his protective arms and embrace, and was surrounded by the most comforting scent in the world. I buried my face into his neck, inhaling his scent. "You're back," I breathed hoarsely. Edward's arms tightened when I spoke, and I felt his cool lips kiss my ear before he spoke.
"I'm back," he murmured, nuzzling my ear, "Esme and Alice told me what happened. Bella I'm so, so sorry-"
I cut him off, though a bit sleepy, "It wasn't your fault, Edward. I overreacted." I paused, "But I do want to know where you were."
Edward sighed, and his cool breath tickled my ear, "It's a long story, love. Is it ok if we talk about this in the morning?"
I was sleepy and content enough that my curiosity could take a break. "Ok," I mumbled, snuggling closer into his body. "'Night."
"Goodnight love. Sweet dreams." He pressed his lips into my nearly-dry hair. And then, just when I was so close to falling asleep that I might as well have been, I heard him whisper into my hair, "I love you so much, Bella. There is no way in hell that I'm ever letting you go."
Apart from 400 words at the beginning, I wrote all of that today. I've been having so much writer's block, and then today my fingers touch the keyboard and BAM! Thank you for the support on this story, itis very much appreciated :)
So this chap kind of a has a mix of stuff, huh? Now, I know someone is going to think that Bella overreacted way too much, but she still has stuff to work through, just not the same stuff. I promise I'm not dragging! And about the whole divorce/Jack/legal stuff, -just being honest here- I don't know a lot about stuff in that area, which is why I'm being relatively vague. Sorry!
There are around 2 more chaps and an Epilogue.
Thanks for reading, and you know that Reviews are very much loved.