Okay folks, here's one outtake I never expected to write. The arena showdown between Edward and Renee. Hope it lives up to what you've all imagined went down!
Standing under the hot spray of the shower in the Wild locker room, I should have been on top of the world. Twenty minutes earlier I'd scored the game winning goal in game four of the first round of the playoffs, bringing our team to a 3-1 series lead against the Calgary Flames. Xcel Energy Center had been electric, the fans on their feet more than in their seats and the guys on the ice all felt it.
I felt it, too. Until the buzzer blared and the cheers and adrenaline died down. Then my mind was right back to the issue that had been plaguing me for days.
Bella. More specifically Bella's mom.
It had only been twelve days since Renee Swan showed up at Bella's door. Alice had called me that night and ever since that phone call my stomach had been in knots.
I still didn't know a lot about the woman. As much as Bella had opened up to me over the past weeks, there was still so much about her life before she arrived in Minnesota that she hadn't shared. But I knew enough. I knew Renee pushed Bella back on the ice before she was healthy enough to skate. I knew how defeated Bella had sounded the night when she'd told me a little about her relationship with her mom and how scared she was that dissolving their professional relationship might destroy their personal one. I remembered watching her on TV at the Olympics a few years earlier and how the woman had snuffed out the light in her daughter's eyes at a moment when she should have been on cloud nine. Most of all, I knew that the woman I'd fallen in love with was fading away right in front of my eyes and I had no idea how to stop it from happening.
The locker room was quiet when I finally emerged from the showers, most of the guys already off to celebrate the W. Lately I'd been racing through my post-game routine, eager to get upstairs to get my girl in my arms. Tonight though something just felt off. I'd caught a glimpse of Bella through the glass at the end of the game and she'd looked so...empty. So instead of rushing through my shower, I took my time, dragging my feet as I toweled off and got dressed.
I wanted to hold her. I wanted to shake her. I wanted to save her, but I didn't know how.
"Hustle up, Eddie!" Emmett stuck his head back around the corner and called out to me. I blew out a cleansing breath as I finished tying my shoes. While I was eager to get upstairs and hug Bella, to feel her soft lips against mine, I dreaded what I'd see when I looked into those deep brown eyes.
Turns out I didn't need to worry about that. When we found the group waiting on the concourse, those eyes were nowhere to be found.
Rose and Alice shared a telling look before my sister pulled me aside.
"She went home. Said she wasn't feeling well."
"Is she okay?"
Alice shrugged, a hesitant gesture that was completely out of character for my confident, positive sister. "She didn't seem like herself. She hasn't seemed like herself since…"
"Yeah, since." I blew out a breath and slumped back against the wall.
"What are we gonna do, Edward?" Alice whispered. I glanced over at her and noticed she was on the brink of tears. I'd been so caught up on my own feelings that it hadn't occurred to me just how much this was affecting anyone else. Alice had bonded so quickly with Bella and despite how bubbly and friendly my sister was, it had always been a challenge for her to find true, lasting friendships. My heart wasn't the only one breaking here.
I held my hand out, pulling my sister into my arms, taking as much comfort as I gave when she laid her head on my chest. I wanted to tell her not to worry, that everything would be okay, but I could never lie to her, especially not about something so important.
"I don't know, Ali," I murmured, squeezing her shoulders and laying my cheek on her head.
"Hey slow pokes, let's go," Emmett cut in a few moments later, oblivious to the mood. "Dad got us a reservation at that Italian place across from Mears Park and he's buying."
"Always thinking with his stomach," Alice muttered, stepping away and brushing her fingers under her eyes.
I pulled my phone out of my pocket, hitting the button to power it back up.
1 new voicemail
My stomach churned with a mix of excitement and anxiety.
"Are you coming?" Alice asked.
"Yeah. You guys go ahead. I'll catch up." She nodded, giving me a small smile before moving away, ushering our family outside. I waited until they were out of sight before lifting my phone to my ear.
"Hey, uh, it's me. I'm sorry I didn't stay after the game. I'm not feeling very well so I'm just going to head home and go to bed. You don't have to call me. I'll probably be sleeping so, yeah. Have fun tonight, you deserve it. Edward, I - just, uh, congratulations, I guess. I'll talk to you tomorrow. Good night, Edward."
Despite her insistence that I needn't call, I hit the button to dial her up right away, only to feel those knots in my stomach twist violently when it went straight to voicemail.
I wanted to delete the message, to erase how uncertain and timid she sounded. I wanted to rewind to two weeks ago when she'd laughed and lept into my arms, her eyes sparkling with happiness, confident that I'd catch her and hold on tight.
Part of me wanted to rush over to her place, to pound on her door until she let me in, not just into her apartment but into her heart.
I wasn't in the mood for a party, but I knew if I went home I'd drive myself crazy, so I slipped my phone back in my pocket and headed over to the restaurant.
An hour later, I realized it was useless. I tried my best to join in the conversation, to break down plays with my dad and the guys, to laugh and enjoy a drink and a meal with my favorite people, but I couldn't stop thinking about the one who was missing.
Downing the last of my beer, I excused myself and stepped outside, pulling out my phone again. I knew I hadn't missed any calls this time, my ringer on the highest setting, but it still panged to see that blank screen. My thumb hit the button to dial her up before I could talk myself out of it. Call me a masochist.
Straight to voicemail again. I don't know why I'd expected anything else.
I couldn't go back inside and fake a smile in front of my family, just the thought of it was suffocating. Instead I shoved my hands in my pockets and crossed the street to the park, my special place, made even more so after Bella and I shared our first kiss only steps away from where I walked.
That moment had been perfect. Freaking magical, even. My hands in her hair and on her soft cheek, her breath warm against my lips as she moved closer, and closer still until it was no longer her and me, only us. Together.
The road hadn't been easy, falling in love with her, yet it was the most effortless thing I'd ever done.
The sparkling lights in the trees felt dull now, mocking me with memories that suddenly felt so out of my reach. Wandering aimlessly, my mind spun, desperately trying to figure out some way to fix this and coming up blank.
Feeling defeated I boosted myself up on the edge of the platform, burying my face in my hands.
Fuck. How did everything go so wrong so fast?
I'm not sure how long I sat there wallowing in self pity, but I wasn't surprised when I heard familiar footsteps approaching.
My mother hopped up to sit beside me, her soothing nature wrapping me in comfort just as completely as her arm wrapped around my shoulders.
"I thought I'd find you here."
I sighed and leaned into her. "Mom. I don't know what to do."
She said nothing for a minute, simply scratching my head the way she always had when I was struggling.
"Bella is a strong girl."
"I know she is. That's why this is so frustrating."
"The thing is," she said, turning my face to hers. "She doesn't know it. She's strong, but she's also vulnerable. For a huge portion of her life she's been told that the only value she holds is as a competitive figure skater. And the person telling her that is the one person who should be telling her how much value she has as a person, not just a skater. She's been isolated, manipulated and controlled for so long. So despite the fact that you're telling her something else, and I'm telling her something else, and Alice and Rose, and all of us are telling her differently, it's hard for her to hear us, to think any other way."
"So what? I should just give up? It's hopeless?" I stared off into the lights, afraid that my misery would transform to tears under my mother's understanding gaze.
"No. You shouldn't give up. But it's not going to be easy."
"I wish I could fix this for her. No matter what happens, she's going to get hurt."
"Yes, she will. She already is."
I knew she was. I could hear it in her voice, see it all over her face. And it was killing me.
"I love her, Mom."
"Oh baby," Mom sighed, squeezing her arm around my back. "I know you do. I could see it on your face that first night you saw her at the game."
"Why can't she see it?"
"Because she's afraid to believe it. But she will," she said with such certainty, patting my back. "Just have faith in her and don't give up. "
"I don't want to give up, but...what if she never lets me in? What if she never loves me the way I love her?" I whispered, giving voice to my deepest fear.
"My sweet boy," Mom nudged my chin up with her knuckles. "What if she does? It's a risk. Maybe the biggest one you'll ever take. You're right. You can't fix this for her, but you can stand by her while she figures it out. Will you stick, when no one else in her life ever has?"
She held my gaze for another moment, then leaned in and kissed my forehead. She left without another word, knowing me enough to leave me to digest her words. As always, just talking to my mom made me feel better.
Maybe I couldn't swoop in and save Bella, but I was going to be right there by her side as she saved herself.
The next morning I showed up at the rink early, determined to get through to Bella. I knew she'd be there practicing and while I'd debated waiting until later in the day when I wouldn't interrupt her time on the ice, when I was sure she'd be alone, I couldn't put it off any longer. I'd tossed and turned all night, haunted by those hollow brown eyes. This had to change.
As I parked my car in the lot, I noticed the doors to the arena fly open, Phil storming out with Renee following a few moments later. Perfect. Things would go a lot smoother without either of them there to interfere.
I quickly made my way to the doors as discreetly as I could, though it didn't seem to matter. Renee and Phil were caught up in themselves, bickering loudly in the corner of the lot.
"Give her an hour or two to calm down. She's just being dramatic," Renee insisted. My jaw clenched at just one more example of how she so easily dismissed her daughter's feelings.
Stepping into the arena I spotted Bella instantly, hunched over on the bottom bench of the bleachers. She looked up when the arena doors clanged shut, her eyes widening in surprise, but she didn't smile or light up like she had every other time I'd seen her since that very first day at the airport. She looked weary and discouraged and I knew exactly who was to blame.
"Hey," I said, crossing the room to lean back against the boards across from her. I wanted more than anything to take her into my arms, to hold her until everything but her and I disappeared. But that wouldn't change anything, so instead I crossed my arms and kept my hands to myself.
"Edward, hi. What are you doing here?"
"I came to check on you. My mom and Alice said you seemed upset last night at the game."
"Yeah, just some stuff with Phil. It's fine." She shrugged, her eyes focused on her feet.
I waited for her to elaborate, to tell me what had happened, but it quickly became clear that was all she planned to say.
"Yeah, why?" Her eyes remained glued to where she swiveled the toes of her sneakers on the cement.
"God, Bella, if you have to ask then I don't even know what to say anymore. I don't know how many times I have to tell you, ask you, beg you to just talk to me. Let me in. Stop hiding yourself away from me. It's not fair to either of us."
"When was I going to talk to you?" She asked, her eyes continuing to scan the room, looking everywhere but in my eyes. "It just happened yesterday afternoon and you had a game last night."
"That's such a lame excuse, Bella, and you know it." My patience was quickly waning, worn thin by the toxic mixture of desperation and worry that had been fighting it out in my head. I wanted to remain calm, to find a way to break down that wall that she'd built around her heart, but panic and frustration were setting in fast. All the carefully thought out words I'd practiced flew from my mind as I grasped at anything I could to keep her from slipping away.
"It's not an excuse. We've both been busy. You've got more important things to think about right now than if I'm getting along with my coach."
"Do you really believe I've been too busy to realize what's going on here? You're turning into a ghost, Bella. You've barely spoken to Rose or Alice since your mom showed up. You don't answer your phone, you barely answer your texts. You didn't come to the game. I know, I told you it was fine. I'm not holding a grudge here; it's just one more example."
"It's not a big deal, Edward."
"It is!" I shouted, hating the way her shoulders curled as if trying to protect herself from me, but no longer able to hold back. "It is a big deal Bella. How is this supposed to go anywhere if you can't trust me enough to tell me about what's going on in your life? How can I trust you when you keep so many things from me?
"It doesn't affect you," she mumbled.
"That's fucking bullshit! Of course it affects me. I l-" I cut myself off, keeping just enough self control to know this was not how I wanted to give her that part of myself. As terrified and angry and discouraged as I felt in that moment, the love I felt for her was so much stronger. Failure wasn't an option. I had to get through to her, to make her listen, to believe. With that in mind, I knelt before her, giving in to the need to touch her. I wrapped my hands around her arms and held firm. "You matter to me. More than anything. If she's hurting you, she's hurting me. If Phil's hurting you, he's hurting me."
Come on, baby, fight back. I know you have it in you.
She raised her chin, those beautiful dark eyes meeting mine, and I finally saw what I needed. A spark of hope.
Before that spark had a chance to catch, the doors to the arena crashed open. Bella's gaze dropped back to her lap as Renee stomped across the concrete toward us, but that little spark had been just enough to set a blaze in my heart.
"Isabella go get changed." Renee snapped, her furious stare fixed on my face. She didn't know fury, not the way I did as it burned in my veins. I wouldn't cower, wouldn't back down. If she were an opponent on the ice I'd be throwing my gloves. But this wasn't a game, and there was so much more at risk than five minutes in the box.
"Mom," Bella protested.
"Bella," I softly cut her off. "It's alright." I looked at her, doing my best to bank the fire of my anger so she'd know it wasn't aimed at her. Dimly I recalled my conversation with my mom from the previous night, my realization that I couldn't save Bella. Maybe I couldn't, but I could sure as hell wage this battle, hopefully inspiring her to take up the fight for herself.
She nodded, softly brushing her fingers down my cheek before she stepped away, bolstering me with a single touch. The moment she disappeared into the locker room, I turned my attention to the woman in front of me.
"What was your name again? Edwin, was it?"
A weak opening shot. Did she really think she was going to get to me with such cheap and obvious tactics?
"Edward," I corrected her, rocking back on my heels.
"Well, Edward, I'm only going to tell you this once. Leave Isabella alone."
"That's not for you to say, Renee."
"It's Ms. Swan, and it is for me to say. You're distracting her and Isabella can't afford to have anything dividing her attention right now. She needs to focus, to train."
"She needs to live her life. One that includes people who actually care about her for more than what she can do on the ice."
"You don't know anything about it. We've worked for years to get to this point and I'm not going to let her throw it all away over a fling with some dumb jock looking for a good time with an easy girl."
Oh fuck that. No one was going to talk about my girl like that, not even the woman who gave birth to her.
"No, you don't know anything about it. Or about her. Bella's not an easy girl, she's amazing. I could go on for hours about how special she is, but as her mother you should already know that. The fact that you don't is such a shame."
"I don't need some scruffy hockey player to tell me anything about my daughter." She sneered, her eyes scanning me derisively.
"Apparently you do. She bends herself over backwards trying to please you, because you're her mother and she loves you but all you do is take and take, draining her dry, tossing that love away the whole time instead of embracing her and realizing what a gift she is," I contended, towering over Renee to drive home my point.
"I'm very aware that she's a gifted skater…"
"No," I cut her off, sharp as a blade. "Bella is a gift. And you keep throwing her away."
She huffed and curled her lip at me, stepping away to rest her hands on the boards. "My relationship with my daughter is really none of your business."
"Like hell it's not. I refuse to stand by and watch you suck the life out of the woman I-" Dammit. I needed to get a lid on my emotions, because there was no way in heaven, hell, or on God's green earth that I was telling this woman those words before I could say them to Bella herself. "Bella's important to me. And when someone I care about is hurt, it's very much my business."
"That's very cute. And it's sweet, this whole knight in shining armor routine you're trying to play," Renee mocked with a dismissive wave of her hand. "But let me set you straight. Isabella doesn't need saving. She needs training and discipline. To win. Isabella needs me."
"No, she doesn't. You need her. What are you going to do when you realize that but it's too late and you've already lost her?"
"She won't walk away from me," she declared with a smirk. Her confidence was unwavering, but instead of deterring me, it drove me on.
"She did walk away from you," I reminded her. "She came to Minnesota on her own. She's started building a life here -"
"What life?" she scoffed. "She's been living in a fantasy for the last few months. A game of make believe with you and your family trying to convince her that this illusion is anything more than just pretend. But playtime's over."
I started to respond, to argue, but Renee plowed on, cutting me off with a flick of her wrist. "No, no, you've had your fun with her but it's time to get back to work. The Olympics are in less than ten months and Isabella will be there on the top step of that podium. That's where she belongs. These past few months were nothing but a frivolous waste of time."
Rage flared through my veins, tightening my muscles, clenching my jaw. How dare this woman trivialize what we had, what Bella had built for herself these last few months since arriving in Minnesota. I wouldn't stand for it.
Drawing on every intimidation tactic hockey had taught me, I stepped toward her, my 6'2" frame towering over her. Before I could open my mouth and get out a word I heard the faint clang of the locker room door opening. Looking across the arena to where Bella stood, I felt the hard edge of my anger soften. I realized it was pointless trying to argue with the woman in front of me. Her opinion didn't matter. The only person I needed to get through to was the beautiful girl staring at me with nervous eyes. And in order to do that, I had to get her away.
I narrowed my eyes at Renee and practically growled. "You don't know anything. We're everything. Bella is everything. And you're nothing."
Then I turned and walked out the doors of the arena, praying that Bella would come after me. When she burst through the doors less than ten seconds later, hope swelled in my chest, but not enough to snuff out the frustration that had been burning me alive for days.
"Edward, I'm so sorry. What did she say to you?"
Me. Of course she'd be worried about me and not herself.
"It's not me, Bella. I could give a shit what that woman has to say about me. It's what she says about you. The way she treats you. And you just let her! Why the hell do you let her act that way toward you? Do you think that's okay? That it's acceptable for her to berate you? What that woman does to you, it's practically abusive. It is abusive, it's emotionally abusive, and you just stand there and take it from her! Why, Bella?" I ranted. I paced. I felt practically unhinged.
"I can't explain it, Edward. It's how it's always been."
"And that makes it okay?"
"No, it's just the way things are. It's the nature of this life. You don't know what it's like."
"What do you think my job is, Bella? I'm out there getting pressure every day to perform, to be better, to skate faster and hit harder. So yes, I think I have some concept of what it's like and the kind of pressure you're feeling."
Standing there in that parking lot with my palm cupping Bella's cheek, I pulled out everything I could think of to try and break through that miserable wall she'd built around herself. To let me in. Let all of us in.
It doesn't have to be like this. We care about you. You don't owe her anything. You don't have to earn our love. We just want you to be happy.
No matter what I said, that wall stood firm, impenetrable as ever.
She didn't expect me to stay. I could tell by the despair in her eyes, the defeated slump of her shoulders, the way she protectively wrapped her arms around herself.
She didn't trust me and goddamn that hurt. Maybe I was wrong. Maybe she didn't feel the same way for me that I thought she did. Maybe that fire and strength I thought I saw in her was just wishful thinking.
No. Fuck that. I knew Bella. I knew in my heart that there was more to her than this. I loved her. I believed in her. I just needed her to believe in herself. To believe in me. In us.
So while it ripped my heart out to even say the words, I gave her a push and hoped to God I wasn't wrong.
"I can't keep doing this." I dropped her hands and took one step backward, my feet heavy with lead at the mere thought of walking away from her. "I can't keep putting myself out there if you won't believe in us, believe in yourself, enough to fight."
I turned and took one step away, every cell of my body telling me to stop. To stay. But I couldn't force her to let me in, and I couldn't stand by and watch her destroy herself.
Please don't let me walk away, love.
Her breath sobbed out behind me and my heart shattered.
One word and those broken pieces knit right back together again, stronger than ever before. She wrapped her arms around me and held me tighter than I'd ever been held in my life. My breath heaved out in relief and I turned and held her back as that fucking wall came crumbling down, whispering promises, assurances that I'd never let her fall.
She looked into my eyes and said the words I'd been longing to hear, needing to hear: "I trust you. More than I've ever trusted anyone."
There was a long road ahead and I knew it wouldn't be easy on either of us, but with her cheek pressed against mine and her breath caressing my ear, I knew we'd make it through anything. Together.
Sorry this one took so long to post! I was hoping to finish the final outtake I had planned but...life. I still have that one in the works but I'm not sure when I'll end up finishing it, but I promise I WILL finish and post. I'll give you a hint: it'll be fairly extensive and covering a pretty eventful year for sweet Hockeyward. He deserves all the good stuff coming his way and I know I'm excited to see it play out, hopefully you are too!
Thanks as always to my dear soulmate for cheerleading, pre-reading, and always being there. Thanks to all you readers for sticking with me and all your encouraging words! I love hearing from you so please take a moment and drop me a quick review or PM to let me know what you think!