Title: Coup de grâce
Disclaimer: Edward Cullen is owned by SM, too bad she won't let him get laid. I'm just helping him out.
Summary: "In a certain state it is indecent to go on living." Nietzsche
Submitted for the 'To Kill a Cullen' Contest
Please check out the other entries here :
Okay, so this is my first piece of fanfic ever, so please be gentle with me. It is not very straight forward, but thats on purpose, I'm sure you'll figure it out. ;) Anyhow, I would like to warn you that if a fic with abortion in it would enrage you, this probably will too, so IF YOU'RE STRONGLY PRO-LIFE DON'T READ. There is no abortion in it, but there are similar things...
I would like to thank my beta, AmyBeth, and Caitlin. I really couldn't have done this without you.
I woke up today to the sun shining and birds singing in the sky. It's a beautiful day. We knew that we wanted to wake up early, so I didn't close the curtains last night. I turn my eyes to my wife. Even though there are dark hollows beneath her eyes, and her skin tone is paler than ever, she's still the most painfully beautiful thing I have ever seen. I watch her back fall and rise ever so gently, its rhythm reminding me of the waves softly hitting the shore in slow succession under a numbingly blazing afternoon sun. The tantalizing shape of her lips mesmerizes me, even after all these years. I reach out to touch with my fingertips. I feather them gently over her top lip. Her eyes slowly open and she blinks a few times, then a smile slowly illuminates her face. This is my sunrise.
This is the day I'm going to kill my wife.
I'm running around my mother in the grocery store. She is pushing that cart really slowly. I'm sulking while she stops and is taking her time to pick out the perfect tomatoes. This is taking forever. I really just want her to be done, because we've already got my Apple Jacks cereal which will have dinosaur markers in it, and I just want to have them. If I ask really nicely, mom will let me open it in the car, so I can see if I got the T-rex one. I bet I did though. I already have like three other ones and I never really wanted them in the first place. As I'm thinking about how cool having that marker will be, suddenly a big man with a big mustache stops his cart next to us.
"Good afternoon, Mrs. Cullen. How are you?"
"Good afternoon Chief Swan. We were just shopping for dinner tonight. How are things?"
"Ehmm..." He looks behind himself and it turns out he's not alone. "Come, Bella, introduce yourself." A little girl is hiding behind him, not wanting to come out from the cover of the man with the mustache. She peeks out for a moment, and looks at me with huge brown eyes like Bambi's. She looks scared. Then her face gets all red and she ducks back behind the man. "So… she's a little shy, my Bella. She just came to live with me, and it's all very new for her. I can't even get her to tell me what she likes. I bet your little girl could help us out." Hey, I'm not a girl! My mom looks at him like when I walk in the house in muddy shoes. Uhhh-oh. Big man is in trouble.
"He's a boy, Daddy." A weak voice comes from behind big man, and he looks surprised.
"Of course, he just has such huge eyes and… really long eyelashes. He's a beautiful boy, Mrs. Cullen. Really… khm… beau… handsome little fella." I feel sorry for Bambi-girl. She has no mom to come to shop with just a big mustache man. "Okay, so then we will be on our way. Good day, Mrs. Cullen."
"Good day, Chief Swan. Come on Edward." My mom says and now she's smiling. I don't think she's mad anymore.
"Wait. I thought you wanted to get her something she likes!" I shout after them. I reach up on my tiptoes and get the Apple Jacks out. "Here!" I walk behind the man. Bambi-girl's face is still red and she's clutching her dad's pants. "These are really cool. They have dinosaur markers in them. I already have a few, so this can be yours." She's looking at my really shyly and slowly reaches for the box.
"Thank you, Edward." She says and I'm wondering if there's something wrong with her face, it's so red. I don't ask, instead I just smile at her and say:
"You're welcome, Bambi-girl."
"Good morning, Edward." I know she loves my name. Still, after all these years she never calls me darling or honey, or anything else, yet in moments like these she makes it sound like the most intimate endearment.
"Morning, love. How was your sleep?" I pull her tiny hands with her bony fingers up to my mouth and kiss her wrist. Then her fingertips. Then her palm.
"It was good. Really good. I dreamt we went to see the pyramids and Elsa got lost and we found her racing camels outside with the Scarecrow from Oz, by a hot dog stand. It was so weird. But it's been so long since I have dreamt. I liked it." Her response is unusually long and cheery. As animated as she used to be in her sleep, with her sleeptalking, nowadays she's like a rock at night. Nowadays I would stay up to listen to it all night. But last night she has dreamt. Today will be perfect.
"I'm glad you liked it." I smile at her and open my eyes wide to prevent the liquid gathering from spilling over. She will not see the pyramids with Elsa. There is a painful knot in the back of my throat that fights to break free, and reduce me to a wailing mess. I will not let it win. Not today. To prevent her from seeing it I hug her small form close to me and kiss her, channeling all the passion of my unshed tears and mute sobs into that one kiss. She kisses me back with an equal fervor, putting her hand under my jaw, caressing me with her thumb. After a few minutes of kissing I nuzzle my face in her neck and breathe in deep breaths. I hug her to me and just hold onto her and try to make myself believe we have all the time in the world.
"Mommy!" Elsa shouts, storming into the room. "Tell Carlisle to leave my Barbies alone. I'm never allowed to play with his toys, and now he just…"
"I told you that you can play with my other toys, but you always want the Transformers." Carlisle strides in the room after his sister. "You are too young for those. Right, mom? How are you, mom?"
I'm really anxious about tonight. I check myself in the rearview mirror one more time. Okay. I think I look fine. I'll ask for a second opinion. Swan is a girl after all. I honk the horn again. Charlie glares out at me from the window. Sorry Chief, if you'd have bought a decent ride for your girl, I wouldn't wait around here every morning to give her one. Bella literally stumbles out of the house, getting her feet caught in the doormat. I laugh. My ever so klutzy Bambi-girl. She gets that permanent blush all over her face, and walks to the car with her head down all the way.
"Hey, Bambie-girl! What took you so long?" I ask pulling out of the driveway. She clears her throat. "What? Are you sick? Anyways, so I wanted to ask you something. Do you think I'm… this is going to be so weird, but I need to ask you this. So do you think I'm… you know… hot? Or handsome or whatever? Or do I still look like a girl?" I laugh nervously. Then I look at her wanting to know her opinion really fucking badly. She is staring at me with a face pale as I've ever seen and eyes so wide they put Bambi to shame. "Oh, god I know its not like we are that way, or anything, but… I'm sorry, I know I shouldn't have asked, I just…"
"What?" When I look at her again she is staring at her lap intently while toying with her hands, getting red as a tomato, again, smiling to herself.
"I've always thought you were really handsome, Edward. And a good person, too. Always." Phew. That is comforting. I guess I don't have to worry so much about tonight then.
"Thanks." Then we drive on in silence. I feel like she's watching me, so I turn to her and yes, she is. "What?" I smile at her totally confused. Sometimes she is so odd. It's like she's waiting for me to do something. And I have no idea what that is. She keeps staring at me, but then she just turns to look out the window. We arrive at the parking lot. I get out and get my bag out of the trunk. Bella keeps looking at me weird, and I have no idea how to handle it.
"Look, Bella, I only asked because you were the first girl I met today. Other than mom, and well… you can't really get an honest answer to a question like that from your mom." I chuckle. "It shouldn't make things weird." If I thought she was looking at me oddly before, I obviously had no idea. She statres at me for a few seconds that feel like ages, and then looks down.
"It won't. Let's forget it ever happened." I instantly feel relieved.
"Good." I go to hug her like I usually do, but she pulls away. Before I can ask her what the fuck is wrong again, someone puts their hands on my eyes. I reach up and touch them. Soft hands and long nails that feel like smooth pieces of plastic as I touch them.
"Tanya!" I laugh and turn around to kiss her with my new confidence. I'm "handsome", man.
"Hey, Eddie! Have you decided where we are going tonight? Oh, hi Bella!" I'm just about to answer when Bella suddenly interrupts.
"I have to go. Don't worry about giving me a ride home, I'll just go with Jake. Bye Edward!" She is already half way across the parking lot when I turn around to tell her I can take her home.
"Wow, when did she have her braces removed? And that dress… Bella's really coming out of her shell, isn't she?" Tanya asks looking after her smiling, while she hugs me and reaches up on her tiptoes to kiss.
"She had her braces removed? What dress?" She is just walking inside, indeed, in a frilly light blue dress, her shoulders slumped. Her hair's down too. I really haven't realized she had her braces removed. So that's what it was all about. Then it registers with me that she wants to go home with Jake. That mutt. Bella's entirely too innocent to hang out with the resident La Push biker pothead. There is a tense knot in my stomach that makes me want to hit something when I think about her on the bike, holding him between her legs, her hands clutching onto him with her frilly blue dress blowing in the wind. In that moment I decide she'll be riding home with me.
When I go back to our room Bella's still in bed, playing with Elsa and Carlisle and their toys; the Transformers, too. I smile and lie down with them. I join in with the Cinderella barbie, because Bella won't give up Optimus Prime. He's a famous ladies' man.
Elsa suddenly lies back on the bed, dropping Bumblebee in the process, managing to get Carlisle really pissed. No more Bumblebee for you, young lady. "I'm hungry, Daddy. I want pancakes." She looks at me expectantly. I look at Bella for approval on this next activity for today.
"Sure, honey. Let mommy get ready then we can go downstairs." We continue to play on the bed while Bella gets ready in the bathroom. Now Elsa has Optimus Prime. Bella walks out of the bathroom slowly, sitting down in the chair in the corner of the room. She looks really tired. I get up, go to kiss her and just pick her up.
"Okay, let's go down. I'll lead the way, I have the princess after all." I smile at Bella and kiss her on the forehead this time. We go downstairs, Bella and Elsa settle down to watch Sponge bob, her favorite. Bella is trying to persuade Carlisle to join them.
"Okay. I guess I can watch it, but just now. How come we don't have to go to school today, Dad?"
"It's Friday. Aren't you happy we're extending the weekend?" I have to turn away for a moment. I go to the kitchen and start making the pancake batter. Luckily our apartment is an open kitchen floor plan, so I get to see Bella cuddle up with Carlisle and Elsa watching TV, Elsa constantly asking Bella questions, Carlisle holding her close. I keep on flipping pancakes and trying hard as I might to keep my mind from falling back to that dark place of complete despair. I have to hold it together, for them. I cannot be selfish right now.
I can hear the music blasting louder and louder. I don't need directions anymore. The trail of beer cans and cigarette butts are the today's bread-crumb leading to the modern gingerbread house of delights. Shit, I'm exhausted. This long distance things sucks ass. I just took my exams early and travelled ten hours, so I could surprise her with us spending the weekend together before going back to Forks, only to find Bella went out tonigh. I feel like I might pass out from exhaustion any moment. I hope Angela was right and they're at this Volturi place.
I bypass a platinum blond girl with short hair heaving into a trashcan, with her dress ridden up so high you can see her underwear. Lovely. So this is how Bella spends her free time when I'm not around. I walk in the dark and suffocating 'pussy den'. At least that's how the dude I asked directions for described it. The stale air of cigarettes, sweet perfume and sweat hits me, numbing my head even further. I crave the cool air of night now. I walk around, scanning the room, pushing people aside. Hands are grabbing me, a girl starts to grind on me, I shove her away. I just want to know if Bella's safe and possibly take her back with me, and go to sleep. I spot Rosalie and Emmett in one corner and Alice dancing with some gangsta wannabe. But what I see next breaks me, knocks the breath out of me like monstertruck, a deep hurt that doesn't stop and just twists more painfully out of control. I have lost the ability to move as I watch Jacob cuddling Bella in his lap, her head resting on his shoulder, caressing her face kissing her hair. His hands are all over her and she's holding onto him too.
Then something snaps in me and it's like I'm watching myself from outside having no control over what's happening anymore. I don't condemn what I do, but I don't think it would matter if I did. I walk up to Jacob, shove Bella off of him, grab him by the collar and start punching him. I feel him punch back, but it doesn't register. I won't stop hitting until I have the power to go on. Bella is shouting, pleading with me to stop but I just push her away. Emmett and gangsta hold me down. I'm screaming at Jacob, but I have no idea what comes out of my mouth. Rosalie and Alice are hugging Bella whose shoulders are shaking. I restrain my urge to punch, but I'm still full of vicious tense and hurt. I look at my traitor girl, crying to our traitor friends and bile rises in my throat.
"We are done, Bella. We are fucking done." I get out from the grip of Emmett and the other dude, and I just want this day to be over. I might just want my fucking life to be over at this moment too. I march out of this damn place as fast as the sweaty bodies will let me. A sea of heaving, moist, faceless bodies. A Friday night inferno. I still want to fight, hit or just feel pain. Anything is better than dealing with what I might suffer if I think about what has just happened. I get free into the cold night and my body wants to run but my head tells me to curl up and cry. I can't decide what to do. I just start walking, wanting to think about anything else than what I just saw.
"Edward! Edward!" I would know that voice anywhere, and never once in my life have I seen myself shying away from it, wanting to drown it out. She shoves on my shoulder so I stop and turn around. There are black tears streaming down her face, she's barefoot and wearing some kind of stretchy blue dress. Even now she looks too fucking good to be true. "How dare you? How the fuck do you dare to just come here and beat up my friend and humiliate me like this?" Despite the absurdity of the situation, I laugh. It's bitter and painful, but at this point there's really nothing else for me to do.
"Humiliate you? What, like ruining your perfect date-night with that asshole, who came here from Forks just for you? Maybe I should apologize. I'm only your fucking boyfriend after all; I shouldn't have intruded on you philandering in peace like you usually do. Sorry Bella, next time, when you're fucking around tell me, so we can avoid this humiliation." I want to walk away, but before I can turn she slaps me. I don't look away, just rub my face slowly. "On second thought, you'll have to warn your next boyfriend. Just to avoid confusion, you know."
"You're an idiot, Edward. I've been waiting for you to come back, and talk to me about…" she starts sobbing and I have the strange urge to hug and comfort her at the same time wanting to shake the shit out of her for doing this to me. I do neither. "But because you are so insecure about us, you wont even listen to me, and the first thing you do is just beat the shit out of the person who does, just to prove you're man enough, because that's the only way you know how. But you don't have to Edward, I…"
Man enough? I grab and kiss her so forcefully our teeth knock together, bite her bottom lip so hard I might draw blood. She kisses back and I palm her ass and pick her up and take her to some alley, closest place out of sight. I smell the disgusting stench of garbage, but I don't care and push her up against the wall, her hands are already in my hair and her legs around my hip. I lose myself in this fog again, seeing things happening as if I were just an observer, along for the ride. I'm not in control anymore. This will be our last time, I'll make it worth my while. I grab her tits forcefully while rhythmically thrusting my pelvis into hers, feeling her heat shining through our clothes. I hear my grunts and her breathy moans, but it's just a soundtrack, independent of me. Then I look into her hooded, seductress eyes, and all is still in my world.
I snap out of it. I cannot do this to her. Farewell-fuck her like a rapist in an alley. I halt my movements, and put my forehead against the cool brick wall next to her head, breathing hard. She is grinding on me for a few seconds, then stops.
"I can't do this, Bella. I can't do this to you. And I can't believe you did this to me." I sigh.
"Please." She whispers quietly into the night, resuming her grinding. And she's a forceful, demanding, greedy little thing, my Bambi-girl. If this is the last thing I can give her, I will. I start kissing her neck languidly, while thrusting my clothed body into hers. Then she reaches for me, unfastening my belt, unzipping my zipper. My mouth gets more demanding on her neck, sucking and biting the flawless flesh. I think I could bite into her with all my worth and she'd bleed to death. Right here, in front of me, and then no one else could have her. But I cannot exist if she's not here. I'll have to settle knowing she'll find what we had with someone else. Now that might kill me.
I'm lost in the heat, I cannot stop myself. I let go, and there are tears maybe hers, or mine and grunts and gasps and claws and bites and tugs in my hair and her smell and thrusts that are so forceful they leave me with nothing. Then I feel and hear her rapture overpowering her. I go on, ready to give her everything I have, even though I know I'm already left with nothing. And when I do I feel empty. Not relieved. Hollow. I don't know where to go from here. I know I'm supposed to let go, but I'm not ready. I don't think I'll ever be. We breathe on and she kisses my head, with an impassive look on her face and says something that makes me ecstatic and devastated at the same time, ready to tear me into two.
"Edward, Charlie has cancer."
After breakfast I gather the plates while Bella gets a snuggie and goes outside to sit down in one of the chairs on the patio. The sun is shining on her and she is bathing in it, tilting her head back. Will be building a sandcastle as Elsa requested. Carlisle is bringing out all of his toys in a basket, walking with a slow determination on his face, arranging them meticulously in a row in the sandbox. I think he knows today is different. Elsa comes out carrying a plastic bag and proceeds to dump all of its contents into the sandbox with a single move, knocking over some of Carlisle's carefully lined Transformers. Naturally, that gets them started. In a few seconds Carlisle comes demanding justice.
"Let's build the sandcastle first. Then you can play with your toys around it, how about that?" I hold Bella's hand and as we walk to the sandbox. We are working together smoothly, only Elsa is never satisfied with her duties and wants to do the "stuff that Carlisle does". When it starts to resemble an actual castle and I'm about to carve out little details on it I see the tense look on Bella's face.
"How are you, love?" She catches herself and smiles at me, a smile that she doesn't mean.
"I'm fine. Can you just get me a chair or something? My back is tired of all this sitting." We both know it's not the sitting that's making her back tired, so I go inside and get the pill out from the secret stash inside my coat. It's not in the pocket, but I ripped the thread, and the pills are actually inside the lining of the coat. I keep all her pills here but one. I take out one, get a glass of water. I take the chair and the pill to her. She gets out of the sandbox and sits into the chair, and looks at the pill thoughtfully then swallows it down with the water. I lean down to kiss her forehead, she smiles at me than hands me back the glass.
"Thank you, Edward." I just go and put the glass down on the table in the patio.
"Why does mom need medicine, dad? Is she still sick?" For a moment I don't know what to say. Carlisle saves the day.
"Let just build this damn thing." He is looking down, digging his shovel forcefully into the sand. I know I should call him out for swearing, but I can't find it in myself to care today. But Elsa's eyes get huge and she looks at me in shock.
"Carlisle said 'damn'. That's not a nice word. You mustn't say it, Carlisle." Then she turns back to me, her eyes still as huge as another little girl's were a lifetime ago, in a grocery store, shopping with her dad. "He says it all the time when we're alone."
"You shouldn't teach things like that to your sister, Carlisle." I say, fiddling with the bucket. We resume building the castle, with all kinds of reinforcements and I even add a few towers on the corners. We boys are working quietly, Elsa babbling on about where her barbies will live in the castle and goes to get flowers and other trinkets to decorate their towers with.
"Mom has fallen asleep." Carlisle observes, still digging up sand even though we are finished with the castle. Indeed, she has. We set out to build another castle with Carlisle, while Elsa gushes about how beautiful it is and decorates the first one to her satisfaction, she even brings out her barbie pool.
"You should bring her in. She'll get cold." Carlisle says, not looking up from what he's doing. He's right, but I want her to be here with us, even when she's asleep. I want to keep her with us always.
"Let's all go in. I'll make you guys sandwiches."
"No, dad, I'm not done yet. This whole side doesn't have flowers."
"You'll finish them later." I pick Bella up, she stirs and holds onto me and we go inside where I put her on the sofa. I help Elsa wash her toys while Carlisle takes his inside the house. I set out to make a few ham and tomato sandwiches for the kids and one with mayonnaise for Bella. I wake her up. This is not something I would usually do, but today's different. I want us to have every meal together. We settle in the living room to eat, Carlisle sitting next to Bella, holding onto her, while Elsa is intently coloring in one of her books. I think we are happy.
"I'm sorry, Edward, just… no."
"I told you I would say no. Why must you always know better?" She huffs, and storms out of the room, leaving me there on my knee. I put away the little, offending, stupid box in my pocket and go out of the room in a daze. She said no. I still can't believe it. She is sitting on the sofa, flipping channels without ever leaving it on one for more than a second.
"But… why? Don't you love me?" God, now I sound like a teengirl the morning after prom. That'll definitely win her over.
"Edward, we've been together for more than ten years. Why on earth would you question my devotion now?"
"Maybe because you won't marry me? Bella, I know what your parents had was all kinds of fucked up shotgun teenage wedding and pregnancy to boot, but now that we are both over 25, together for more than ten years, surely you would see us as more than just a casual fling? It's not gona change things."
"Then why should we do it? You said it, it won't change things. Therefore it's pointless."
"It won't change things for us, but it will change our status. Everyone will know you're it for me. That you're not my girlfriend, that I could dump tomorrow. They'll know I'm not looking anymore. Don't you want that?" That and because my wife is more mine than my girlfriend. But Bella would have issues with it if I made that point. My effort is not wasted, the look on her face softens a little. The blue glow of the TV makes her look like some kind of mysterious underwater angel.
"Everyone that matters knows this already. We are high school sweethearts, Edward, who survived reunion. Why do you care so much about what random strangers think?"
"Bella, if you're so fucking immune what other people think why don't you just go out naked on the street when the weather gets hot enough?" She rolls her eyes, than starts to snicker. Than it turns into a full blown laugh and she rolls to her side on the sofa, unable to stop laughing. I join in because… well because when Bella laughs like this, I must laugh with her.
"I bet you'd love that. Me going out naked. Maybe I wanted to, but until now I thought you would be opposed to it." She keeps on giggling. "Jeez, Edward, you get all tense and grabby when someone looks at me a little too long in my work out clothes. Me going out naked would make your head explode." Those workout clothes are snug. And she has an ass that begs to be bitten. It's natural that I don't like it when other men stare at that her. I've toned my jealousy down to a very tame level, but Bella's still so unassuming when it comes to these things, like the innocent little fawn she is. I just hoist her up over my shoulder, answer her butt's calling and take her to the bedroom. She squeals all the way, demanding to be put down calling me a caveman when her giggling lets up for long enough. I put her on the bed, and I crawl on top of her putting my head under her T-shirt. I start talking to her belly.
"Talk to your mom. Tell her that you want her to marry your dad." I say kissing Cullen Jr. through her belly." Tell her that he loves her very, very much, and wants you to be called Elsa Cullen."
"We will call her that." She says now trying to bat my head away from her stomach but I don't relent. "If she's a girl. What will he be if it's a boy?"
"It's a girl, I can feel it."
"Well, I can feel it's a boy and I'm the mother." I just roll my eyes and lie down next to her.
"Don't change the subject. Marry me Bella. Please." I say burrowing my head in her shoulder.
"I don't want to have a wedding and all that bullshit. It's totally pointless." She's not talking anymore, but whining. That means she's about to give in.
"This is important to me, Bella. Please, just do this one thing for me and you can ask me anything. It doesn't have to be a big production. We can go to Vegas and do it however you want. Please, Bella." I start kissing the yummy smelling skin over her collarbones and we keep lying there, my wet kisses the only sound in the room. This wordlessness is getting old and I'm just about to say fuck it, when she starts to mumble.
"But you'll be my slave for life."
"I'm about to marry you. I thought that was obvious."
"You'll owe me big. And if I ask something you must do it. Every time."
"Don't I always?" I ask her beaming. She just scowls at me. "Okay, whatever you ask. I'll do it."
"Yeah. We can get married. You should look into those Vegas tickets. I always wanted to go. And make it fast. I don't want to wait just to go there by the time I'm as huge as a house. Now give me that damn ring."
Elsa looks up from her coloring, looking at me with a smile on her face.
"I want you to play for me, daddy."
"Yes, daddy, play for us." Bella snickers. She told me she loves watching me play the piano. She finds my hands moving on the keys "erotic". And Elsa enjoys it too. I've seen her tinkering on it sometimes, but she has the attention spam of a butterfly, so she never really tries for long, but we might send her to lessons soon.
I. I might send her.
I get up and sit down at the piano, and Elsa sits right next to me. I start out with chopsticks, and then she demands the Sponge Bob theme song and sings along happily. Than she asks for My Bonnie lies over the ocean, and before I know it she's choosing all of the songs, making us sing along to all of them. Even Carlisle joins in quietly, burrowing his face into Bella's side. Before long Elsa is about to demand the Sponge Bob theme song again, when I decide to play Bella's favorite, Clair de Lune. She tears up, like always when I play this song, and she looks at me with her eyes saying much more than I could ever comprehend. The kids don't really like this song, but Carlisle is motionless next to his mother while Elsa is watching my hands mesmerized. When I finish, the quiet doesn't feel like silence. It feels like absence. I can't deal with it. So I start playing the Sponge Bob tune again. Only Elsa sings along this time.
"Yeah, and by the time they got the discussion about the reduction of the dividends payable, the head of… Are you even listening to me Bella?" She used to really enjoy listening to me go on about what happened on the board meetings. Me being able to attend, if not to participate, was a big deal. I'm really optimistic about the future, this means good things.
"Yeah, sorry. I'm just so tired, that's all. And then I can't sleep in the night." I take a good look at her. I know staying at home with a five year old and a three year old can be trying, but she really looks worn out. Maybe we should hire a nanny?
"I think you should stop that diet, love. Its making you look tired. I can't remember you being this skinny since high school. I know it was important to you, but I'm worried you're overdoing it." I know she wants to get back in shape before she goes back to work, but this is ridiculous. Can someone become anorexic after thirty?
"I already stopped like two months ago. It gave me these constant stomachaches. They were really bad, and they haven't gone away. Plus I really can't seem to fall asleep at night. I'm trying to eat healthy now, but I'm just not hungry. See, babycarrots?" She holds up one little carrot and then does her obscene little show with it.
"Are you sure you're okay, love? If these stomachaches are not going away maybe you should see a doctor. Let me look at you." I pull her to me from her chair, under the lamp, my worry melting away, ready to play. She is smiling at me with a mischievous glint in her eyes.
"Well, I'm not sure you're qualified enough." She says looking in my eyes.
"My dad's a doctor. I inherited the title. You're in good hands, Bella."
"Wow, I actually married someone with a title. You should have told me about it before you proposed. Might have gone smoother, you know. Will Carlisle Jr. inherit it too?"
"Of course he will. It will remain in the family for all generations. Now open wide." She is under the lamp and I play the part with her face in my hand, looking down her throat. I try to look serious but I burst out laughing. Then I look at her beautiful face, just staring at her, looking into her eyes. God, she's hot. But then I realize something seems off. I can't believe I'm seeing right, but the whites of her eyes seem to be a bit – yellow. And as I look at her more carefully I see that her skin is not it's the usual pale tone.
"Bella, how long have you had these stomach aches?"
"Well, good doctor, ever since I've seen you with your…"
"Seriously, Bella. When did they start?" I ask looking at her. I feel worried, it might be nothing, but the very thought of her being sick makes me uncomfortable. I inspect her face anxiously, wanting to find what's wrong and cure it, like you could actually inherit a Dr.'s title.
"Come on Edward. Just because Carlisle Sr. is your dad, doesn't mean you can diagnose me." She laughs.
"Bella, your eyes, they are… a strange color." She seems surprised, and goes to check it out in the bathroom mirror. I reach for my phone to call dad.
"Stop, we have to wait for mom, Elsa! You're so stupid!"
"Daddy, tell Carlisle to stop yelling at me. I'm hungry." I put a pizza on her plate before she starts to cry. Carlisle can tell something is wrong. I think he might know everything, that's the reason he is so tense. Even if he does, it's not fair to take this out on Elsa.
"I'll go wake her up." Carlisle walks over to the sofa and wakes Bella. Slowly she walks over to the table, and he's holding her hand with a look so serious on his face it makes him seem way past seven. "We made you your favorite, mom, Mac and cheese ."
"Thank you, sweetie. It smells delicious." We start eating and there is a heavy silence that is broken by Elsa, yet again.
"I want a princess costume, mom. I saw it on TV this morning. And I loved it. I really need one like it. Lisa already has one, and she'll wear it to school if her mom lets her. She said her mom also had a princess costume when she was young. Did you have one, mom?"
"What? No. I was a bee once. I also remember being little red riding hood, because I had a red raincoat and Charlie forgot to buy a costume."
"Poor mommy. What was daddy on Halloween?"
"I was once a mountain lion. You know, mom wanted to be Ernie and Bert one Halloween but of course I told her no. She would have none of that of course, so she conspired with Esme. I only realized I was a Bert in school when I looked into my costume bag." I make them giggle so I continue. "I was really embarrassed because all the other boys were soldiers and action heroes, and I was angry at grandma and mom, so I didn't even go near them. On top of that, everyone thought I was a clown because of my orange nose." We actually have a really fun dinner together, Bella and I telling the kids stories from when we were young.
"How long do I have?" Bella. Here I am, about to go mad, yet she's the one who's been told her tumor is inoperable, and she's asking the questions. She's the sane one. I'm useless.
Dr. Jenkins sighs. "Four to seven months is a safe bet. If you continue with the chemotherapy and stay in the hospital, or some kind of well equipped hospice system, it should be around seven or six." We don't say anything. I don't know how to deal with this, and I know I have to be strong for her but my mind is like soapy hands grabbing desperately for something to hold onto, everything I touch slipping through them. "I know it's a lot to take in. I can recommend you some support groups, or a hospice system, or even some counselors here at the hospital. I have all the information here, in this dossier." He hands it to her. "Please do not hesitate to contact me."
I just hold Bella's hand; I don't think I can let it go. We just sit in silence while he's checking his files again.
"Mrs. Cullen, didn't you call me earlier this week about having problems with the sleeping pills?" Bella looks up distractedly from gazing at the floor. Then she remembers. "Yes… I… They didn't work. I really can't sleep nowadays and the pills you've subscribed me were… they weren't effective at all. They just made me tired but I still couldn't sleep."
"Well, with your type of medical cocktail a little insomnia was to be expected. The last pills you were on were quite strong, however. I guess I will have to prescribe you this." He starts scribbling something down. "Its very strong, Mrs. Cullen, but will make you sleep like a log. You're supposed to take one every night before bed, preferably when you're in bed, it is extremely strong, you might not make it up the stairs. Don't mix it with painkillers and the dosage is not a best recommendation. I am obliged, by law to warn you that taking more than two pills may cause death."
"Thank you, Dr. Jenkins." He asks her a few more things but I zone out. I cannot focus anymore. We stand up, shake hands, walk out the door. We are headed down the corridor. But then Bella stops and hands me the prescription.
"Could you just go and get it?"
"Why, aren't you coming?"
"I just… I want to be alone now, Edward. I'll be waiting outside the by car. Just… please." I just nod mutely and hand her the keys.
I stand in line, get the medicine, and walk to the car. She is standing next to it, gazing far away. Neither of us says anything as I take the keys from her. I open her door. She sits in. I walk around to her side. I sit in too. Then we just sit there. Looking out the window. Her little hands slowly and tentatively reach for mine, holding onto it ever so gently at first her grip getting minutely stronger. It breaks me. I start tearing up and I'm holding onto her with all my worth. A lifetime is not enough. Now they tell us its months. She stays strong and there are only tears rolling down her hollow cheeks, I'm bawling in a fucking parking lot, leaning on her.
"Do you have the pills?" I just nod. Then I remember what he said. These pills could kill her. I know she'll be mad at me for this, but I just have to keep them with me. Holding onto these lethal things of hers, little pieces that could destroy her deludes me into thinking there is something for me to do to keep her from death. My mind makes itself up and I feel like holding onto these pills is like holding on to her life. I cannot prevent this from happening. My brain knows this, even if everything else in me protests against it, but if there is nothing for me to do, not even this little delusion, I can see myself slipping away. I must keep it together, for her, for Elsa, for Carlisle. And right now that means holding on to these pills. For however long I can. I cannot give them to her.
"I… I want to… I need to keep them with me, Bella. I'm sorry, I just…"
"Shh. I want you to keep them." She understands. I kiss her wrist, her palm, her tiny fingers.
"What about Carlisle and Elsa? Do you think…?"
"No. Don't tell them. Please."
"Okay." We stay there for a while. Time seems to speed us by and stand still at the same time. Inside my head it's like those old display boards at the airport, with the letters rolling on it constantly, not settling on anything for more than a fraction of a second.
"Good night princess." I kiss Elsa on the forehead, tuck her in and head to Carlisle's room. Bella is hugging him tightly, whispering something in his ear, her eyes shining with unshed tears. Carlisle's face however is hidden in her neck.
"Good night, my handsome boy." She says showering him with kisses. "I love you, so very much, Carlisle. Never forget that. And be nicer to your sister, she needs you." She tucks him in and stands up. Her steps are faltering, simple things, like walking from one room to the next take effort. I turn away, and see that Carlisle is looking after her with tears in his red eyes. I don't know what to do anymore. I go to touch him, tell him another lie, but I can't bring myself to do it. He flinches away from my touch and turns towards the wall with his back to me.
"She's not going to get better, is she?" I don't know what the point of this charade is anymore.
"No. She won't." I go to touch him again, tell him something comforting, having no idea what that could be.
"Just leave." He says hiding his face in the pillows. His shoulders are shaking with his sobs. I lean down and kiss his head, when he suddenly turns around and clings onto me, surprising me with the strength his seven year old little body. "But we love her so much. This is not fair." He says in a weak, shaky voice. I just nod. We remain there, rocking for a while, waiting for his crying to abate, I'm trying to hide mine, but it seems nothing escapes Carlisle. I guess it's a wasted effort.
When his tears run dry I kiss him on the forehead one last time before tucking him in. He turns his back to me and tells me good night. I close the door as I leave his room, switching off the light.
Bella's waiting for me outside of Elsa's room. She smiles at me her beautiful smile.
"Let's go to sleep, Edward."
"But, please Edward, listen to me!"
"Oh, don't worry, I am. And for the last time, my final answer is no." Ever since we've been in that hospice home she's been on this issue. If it were anything else, I wouldn't be hesitant to indulge her. But this is the one thing I cannot give.
"Don't you see, Edward? We can only put it off! You can't stop this. I know your control freak mind thinks that resisting this is the good thing but I assure you its not! We've already lost this, Edward."
"I won't kill you, Bella. How could you even think of that? I don't understand how it ever occurred to you to ask me that."
"Well first of all because you have the pills, and second, you wouldn't be killing me. I would be taking them myself. This is my choice."
"By enabling it I'm as good as murdering you with my own hands, Bella." She sits in quiet for a while.
"At this point, I'd rather die by your hands than this disease." This makes me so angry I could spit.
"Why can't you wait for it, Bella? We could have hired a nurse; you could go to chemotherapy…"
"Edward, that shit is making me awful. It's hard enough to cope with the pains like this. I told you I won't do chemo again. It's pointless; I wanted to spend my last months living with you, not in hospitals getting chemo and out on meds outside of them."
"Well apparently you don't want to spend them living with us. What is it Bella? Why can't you just do everything to live as long as you possibly can?" She sighs and looks down on her hands in her lap. Her wrists are so thin and bony. Looking at her now I struggle to see the strong and content woman she was just two years ago, with her being so skinny, a scarf on her head where the most beautiful brown hair used to be. I see all these things, but I still haven't comprehended the fact that I already know. That she's going to die.
"You remember when we went to that hospice home a few weeks ago?" She asks timidly. Of course I do. At the end of the visit she clamped up and wouldn't talk for hours. Then the next day she came up with this ludicrous request. "I went off on my own, and I… I went to the patient wing. I saw this guy, lying in bed. He was unconscious and so thin he was almost skeletal, Edward. You could literally make out all his bones and… you just couldn't tell right away if he was dead or still alive. There was this woman coming out of her room, with tears in her eyes, and she looked so… empty. She was devastated, Edward. And he was holding the hand of this little girl, walking out next to her. She had on a red coat and had pigtails. She just reminded me so much of Elsa. And when they came out, she turned to her mom and asked "When is daddy going to die?"." She takes a deep breath and looks down.
"I know you're strong enough to bear going though this, Edward, but god knows I don't want you to. Not you or the kids. I don't want to cause you more pain, having you waiting for my death. I have two months tops, Edward, and the pains are so horrible at this point, I'd probably spend them stung out on meds anyways. I just want to go with having my happy memory and giving you one as well. I don't want you to wait around for my unconscious body to die. I don't want it, and not just because of you, but because of me too. That's not the last memory I want to give Carlisle and Elsa. Not the last memory I want to give to you." My eyes are burning. I don't know what to say. I can see that's what she really wants, but I won't be able to give in to her. It's just not possible.
"You can't ask me this, Bella. You just can't."
"This is important to me, Edward." She smiles and I roll my eyes at her referring this back to my proposal. "I have done everything you've asked me, that was important to you. Even things I didn't want to do, sometimes. But I never regretted them, because it made you happy." She is playing with the hem of her hoodie. She looks so lost in that thing, its almost comical. "Edward, the other reason is… I want you to be with me on this. I want you to help me make that perfect last day. I want you to hold my hand. You don't even have to approve. You just have to… be there. For me." I don't say a thing. I don't know what to do. God knows, I don't want to give in to her, but she always was stubborn. I have never even dealt with her impending death. And now this.
Bella, asking me to take her life. I know it's her choice, but enabling it for her… makes me a murderer. However, just the thought of her trying this on her own has me scared shitless. I would have said a month ago that she wouldn't do it, but then I never thought she would want me help her die… Images of finding her dead in the house plague my mind. They make me lose it. She sits passively in her armchair, looking at my face, trying to decipher my jumbled thoughts, no doubt.
"I've lived a full and happy life, Edward. Worked hard, I achieved things, experienced true love, had kids, who turned out to be perfect in almost every way. This is a lot more than what most people can say." She reaches for my hand. "I've reached acceptance. I know what I can and cannot do. You were with me throughout my life, which makes me the luckiest woman. Now I'm inviting you to be with me in my death."
Bella and I walk into our bedroom holding hands. She changes into her nightgown, but I stop her.
"No, Bella… Don't put on anything tonight. I just… want to see you and feel you." She seems hesitant at first but gives in after a few seconds. We get into bed and I reach for the scarf on her head. I haven't seen her without that thing for weeks.
"No, please. I don't want you to see."
"It doesn't matter to me, Bella. It wasn't your hair I fell in love with." I look into her eyes and suddenly the universe is split in two. In one the woman in front of me is skinny and bald, wasting away with her deathly pale skin color; I see someone who is already halfway in a better place, so close to God she could almost talk to him. In the other I see the most beautiful creature I have ever laid eyes upon, with her chocolate brown eyes that have the power to warm your soul, and are so mysterious you could spend days gazing into them and not get bored, I see her hands that worked for us, making food, doing laundry, I see her skinny body that carried our children to this world. I see an angel.
I break down for the last time today, holding her to me. "I can't do this, Bella. Ask me anything, but this. Please." She is shushing me, hugging me back, stroking with gentle hands that feel like butterflies' wings in my hair.
"I know. I know. But you must do this, Edward, you promised. This is the last thing I ask of you. Could you live with yourself, knowing you didn't give it to me?"
"How could I live with myself knowing I did?" I whisper back. But I already know I'm defeated. She wants this, today was everything we'd hoped for it to be; anything else will be poisoned from today onwards, knowing I've broken my promise to her. Knowing she's here because of me, against her will. Knowing I'm not strong enough to face what is inevitable.
That and I always was a sucker for giving Bella whatever she wanted. God knows, putting up with me all this time, she deserved it. I start kissing her and I don't stop until I've covered every inch of her body.
"You know where I left the letters for you and the kids. I want you to do what you promised me to do, Edward." I just nod my head feeling the burn in my eyes again. Until recently she was reluctant to ask me for base necessities. Now she asks for the impossible. I cannot move on. I will try, for her, but I already know that will not happen. But I don't want to deny her anything now.
"I will, love."
"I love you so, so much. This is just so…" As I hold her to me with silent tears rolling down her face I know that deep down she's angry too. If there was justice in the world, she would be with our third baby, craving ice-cream with pickles in the middle of the night; if there was any semblance of fairness, it would be me, not her. But there's not much justice in the world, or semblance of fairness. Angels are not meant to stay here with us.
I reach to kiss her, knowing that this is the last time. I start out slow, gently tasting her chapped lips, then she moves to deepen the kiss, tracing my lip with her delicious tongue. I open my lips to her, letting her tentatively invade my mouth and my senses with her warm breath and dizzying scent. I caress her cheek, stroking her tongue tenderly with my own, she is holding on to me with all her might like clams to a rock. I'm letting her lead the kiss, then she starts sucking on my bottom lip, signaling that she wants me to take control. I slip my tongue into her mouth, slowly, the way she likes it. We spend a little eternity in that kiss. She breaks it by pulling away panting, with eyes that shine happily, putting her forehead against mine.
"I'm cold, Edward. Please, let's go to sleep." I help her crawl under the covers, and tuck her in. This is my last chance to back out. But after everything we've been through, I'm powerless to deny her. I reach into my discarded jeans, where I keep her sleeping pills, always on me. I give her the whole box now, not just one pill. She opens it with steady hands, getting out four pills into her palm. I have the sudden urge to twist them out of her hand, take them away, flush them down a toilet, to scream at the top of my lungs at her until my throat is so raspy I cough blood. But I remember everything she told me, everything I've promised, and I restrain it. I watch her swallow them one by one, washing each down with a sip of water from her glass.
On this Friday night, after a perfect day, with our children peacefully sleeping in their rooms, I'm murdering her.
She lies back down to the bed with a serene look on her face, and turns her face in my direction. I hold her to me tightly, barely able to hold back my sobs, tears are wetting my face.
"You know, Edward… If I could do it again, I'd only change one thing." She's quiet and her eyes are already closed, but I hope to god I get to learn what that one thing is. "I would… I'd have married you sooner." And she lets out a weak laugh. I laugh too but I don't mean it, and I wish I didn't. Never have I ever thought laughing could be so excruciatingly painful. I hug her even more tightly to me, so tightly I'm afraid I might crush her, but then a little voice in the back of my head tells me that it doesn't matter anymore. That's all it takes; all the dams brake. She's already asleep, while I weep like a baby, holding onto their favorite toy.
I wish I could make myself believe that this is just another night. I want to. I want to fall asleep, thinking she'll be here to wake up with me in the morning, and the one after that, and the one after that. I want that so badly, I feel like I could move continents for it. But my mind doesn't trust these little delusions anymore. It feels betrayed because in the end they were all for nothing. I cannot hide any longer. I don't have Bella to lean on anymore, and I must be there for Carlisle and Elsa to have someone to draw strength from. I must man up, and face reality. So I listen to her breathe. Its making me lose every ounce of sanity I held onto, waiting for her to float away. Her breaths are getting slower and slower. I'm sick and I want to go away desperately, but I know I'd add another unforgivable sin to my already hefty list if I left her here. So despite all the hurt, I stay, burning from the inside, watching her. I never thought looking at someone sleep could fill me with such a dreadful anticipation.
Her breaths are shallow, few and far in between. It must be near now. I lie gazing at her until I hear her last breath, and swear I feel something leaving my body too. Something important, the absence of which I know right at this moment, before having lived with that absence a minute, that I will always feel. I won't ever get it back until we are reunited. But I know we will be. We must be. I lie awake holding onto my Bambi-girl, dreaming of that day.
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