The Black Balloon Contest
Title: Holding On
Your pen name: RaeCullen
Disclaimer: I don't own Twilight. That is obvious. I just had a bit of fun making Edward and Bella emo.
To see other entries in the Black Balloon Contest, please visit the C2 page: http://www(dot)fanfiction(dot)net/c2/78669/3/0/1/
A/N: Thank you to LittleClareStar and BellaMadonna for their beta work. My writing wouldn't be the same without their sprinkles of awesomesauce. Thank you to NanMcCullen, Silver Sniper and ReachingAsIFall for their prereading skills and unyielding support. Nan gave this her 'Seal of Approval' so out came the squeeing.
A shadow of a man, I'm nothing less
I'm holding on, still holding on
And every now and then life begins again
I am holding on, still holding on.
- Crawl - Breaking Benjamin
Four years, three hundred sixty days, six hours and twenty five minutes.
That's how long it's been since I discovered that she'd left.
Just left. No warning. No goodbye. No explanation.
Just left me.
It is April 21st, just four days before the anniversary of the beginning of my own personal hell and endless anguish.
However, now the once-intense ache that use to start in my chest and expand into every limb and nerve ending, has dulled over the passing years into a constant, quiet numbness. The numbness has become a welcome feeling. Anything is better than the searing, screaming pain and emptiness I felt during the first two years without her.
This time of year, though, turns my world upside down; when the numbness flares once again into a throbbing ache.
The anniversary of her departure always sends me on a downward spiral of depression that no one can drag me out of. My world becomes black, instead of the usual gray. For most of the year, I can put on my game face and pretend that I am fine; that I'm a whole person. But I'm a fraud; I'm not whole, not by a long shot.
I hadn't been whole for four years, three hundred sixty days, six hours and twenty-five minutes.
I rarely leave my apartment during this time of year, only when it's an absolute necessity. My apartment is always dark, the shades drawn and very little artificial light surrounds me. I ignore phone calls from my parents and the few friends I have managed to keep. I don't want to hear the pity in their voices. I don't want to hear the cacophony of platitudes such as 'It'll be okay, Edward', 'You need to move on Edward', 'She isn't coming back so get your sorry ass off the couch and live your fucking life, Edward.'
I've heard it all before and I don't need to hear it again.
I walk around like a zombie, functioning but not at all living. The sun is just another heart shattering reminder of all that I've loved and lost. The nights are the hardest. During the day it's much easier to pretend that I am happy and whole. But during the night, when I am surrounded by darkness and encased in the coldness of my sheets, I am reminded that I am alone. The empty blackness reminds me that I will never again feel the softness of her skin or the warmth of her embrace. I will never again feel the way her lips move against mine or the breathy sounds she makes when I touch her. During the night, my heart shatters the loudest and I am reminded that she doesn't love me, she never had, and she will never be mine again.
I should be angry, but there is too much pain and confusion in my heart to make room for anger and resentment.
The first year after she left was the hardest. I called her parents every day, but they refused to tell me where she went and told me to leave her alone. I would scream "I don't understand!" but they would simply hang up the phone, giving me zero answers.
I have not suffered through anything as painful as the suffocating agony of the day I discovered she was gone. The pain is still as real today as it was then when I allow myself to think of it. It feels like a thousand knives are stabbing repeatedly into my heart and stomach.
The worry has been endless. Is she okay? Is she happy? Healthy? Was there something I could have done to protect her from whatever reason she had for leaving? Could I have changed her mind?
I've always blamed myself for her hasty departure. Did I not tell her I loved her enough? I failed at the one thing I always promised her I would do: protect her and love her. Because if I had loved her enough she wouldn't have needed to leave. I know I am a failure who doesn't deserve to be loved by anyone.
Eventually I gave up hope that I would find her again. It was no use trying to find someone who didn't want to be found. I had to move on. At the very least, I knew I must put on a show for my mother. It killed her to see me falling into the darkest pits of Hell that had become my life. So, for her, I acted as if I had moved on.
I put on a show for everyone around me. I became a master actor, building up a facade of a happier man. I finished college, and although I applied to medical school, just as I had always planned, I can't bear the thought of actually going. Much to my parent's dismay, I decide to take a year off. I tell them I need to "figure shit out" before I can make such a huge commitment and decision.
In reality, I'm just not ready to face life without her. To face any part of the plans we had made together.
I ignore the pain in my chest and the way my thoughts always travel back to her and the ideas we once had for our future. Against my will, I remember a time we discussed going to the same college and building a life together. She wanted to be an architect. She had an indescribable and natural talent for drawing. A ghost of a smile finds its way to my lips as I remember the countless hours she would spend curled up on her bed, or mine, drawing in her sketchbook. The memory is so vibrant and clear that it's almost as though it only happened yesterday.
I want to shut my brain off and close out the memories, but I can't. The memories are always the strongest in April. The rest of the year I manage to block them out. I can practically smell her scent and see the way the hair always fell in her face, but she never would tuck it behind her ear because she couldn't be bothered to remove the pencil from the paper until the sketch was completely finished. I see the way her perfectly arched eyebrows would furrow together in concentration and she would bite on her bottom lip until it became chapped and raw.
The sound of her voice floats and whispers around me, staking me through my heart and straight through into my soul.
The realness of the memory causes me to bend over at the waist and clutch at my chest. I squeeze my eyes closed tight, but it only makes the picture of her beautiful heart-shaped face appear more vividly in my mind. I think that maybe I am literally being ripped apart at the seams. I can't breathe.
I reach across to the coffee table where my anti-anxiety meds sit in the bright orange bottle, quickly yanking the top off and swallowing one glorious pill. I don't need water anymore to take it down. The choking feeling is welcoming and slightly comforting.
I sigh before leaning back against my couch. I close my eyes and I wait for the little capsules to begin working their numbing magic.
The sun begins to shine through the curtains. I squint, the light a harsh contrast to the darkness of my apartment.
I decide I should, though I really don't want to, leave the comforting isolation of my apartment. I am suddenly unusually aware of being bored and my mind is more than overwhelmed by the unwelcome and yet essential memories. Perhaps some fresh air and sun might pull me from the wreckage that is my life.
I walk down the crowded sidewalks of the city, the sun shining brightly, almost blinding me. This is the first time I've seen the sun in weeks. The exact amount of time I can't be sure of. The time just blended together now. The brightness of the sun is a stark contrast to my mood and the emotions inside my crumpled soul. I'm dead inside. I don't deserve to feel the warmth of the sun or the happiness it that comes with it.
I sigh, deep, long and embarrassingly loudly. My feet carry me along with no particular destination in mind. I start to admit to myself that it actually feels quite wonderful to get out and stretch my legs. I ignore the concerned and curious looks of the strangers passing me by. I'm sure I look slightly frightening and more than a bit of a mess. I haven't bothered shaving in a few weeks, so the hair that lines my jaw is thick and a bit longer than I'm used to. My hair is also much longer than I like to keep it, the front falling into my eyes. I'm constantly running my hands through it, out of nervous habit and the need to be able to see when I walk.
I set my gaze on my feet, watching each step carefully as I take it. I find myself studying the uneven pavement; the cracks and inconsistencies in the concrete. Each square reminds me of myself, a bit shattered, broken and barely holding itself together.
Suddenly, I'm jostled, my shoulder colliding with someone's side. I gasp at the contact, a spark jolting through my insides. It was the most external pain I've felt in five years.
"Hey buddy, watch where the heck you're going," a voice scolds me.
I bring my head up, preparing myself to apologize for bumping into the stranger.
I'm staring into a pair of deep brown eyes that I never expected to see again.
My mouth falls open.
I feel as though I am seeing a ghost.
I have to be delusional.
"Bella," I breathe, my voice barely audible. My heart is pounding wildly in my chest and echoing through my ears. I'm afraid to speak too loudly in fear that she will vanish into thin air. She's here, right now, and standing in front of me.
She eyes me suspiciously for a moment, almost as though she's trying to figure out how I know her name. A sharp pain ripples through my chest and I choke back all the words I'm dying to say. It's clear she's doesn't recognize me or possibly might not even remember who I am. I don't know what hurts worse, seeing her in front of me now or realizing she doesn't even remember me. Does this mean she hasn't thought about me at all? Missed me at all?
Then I remember I look like a lumberjack crossed with a caveman and I let out a heavy breath.
"Bella. It's me, Edward."
Her eyes are wide then and she seems just as shocked to see me as I am her. Her mouth opens and closes a few times like she's searching for something to say. No sound comes out.
She is beautiful and looks almost exactly the same as I remember, only now there are deep set purple circles under her eyes and her hair isn't as vibrant a brown as it once was. I notice that she isn't as thin as she used to be, but I find myself instantly attracted to her new figure. Despite the California sun, her skin is very pale. I see new freckles have splattered themselves across the bridge of her nose. I'm over come by the intense need to run my fingers across them.
I try to speak, but nothing comes out. I am entranced by the deep brown pools of her eyes. I can't bring myself to look away from them.
My heart is racing and it looks as if she is about to bolt. I'm frantic as I search for something to say, something to keep her here.
Despite the agonizing pain in my chest, I feel a seed of hope take root. She is in the same city as me and, by coincidence or perhaps fate, we have found each other again.
"Mommy, Mommy I want ice cream!"
It is only then I notice that we're not alone. Reluctantly, I drag my eyes away from Bella's beautiful and shocked face, and lower them to find the source of the tiny voice.
A loud gasp escapes my lips and the wind is instantly knocked out of me and I am having trouble breathing. I feel a panic attack begin to set in.
What. The. Fuck?
I can not pull my eyes away from a pair of stunningly green ones.
I'm openly gawking at the little boy whose tiny fingers are wrapped around Bella's. I feel like I'm staring into a mirror, looking at my four-year-old self.
The same dark green eyes.
The same unruly brownish-red hair.
I force my eyes back up towards Bella's; hers are wide and horrified. I open my mouth to speak, but she cuts me off.
"C'mon Noah. Lets go get our ice cream."
The sound of her voice nearly brings me to my knees. It's suddenly just as soft and melodic as I remembered it to be. My eyes close of their own volition as an emotion I know well creeps its way up from my chest and into my throat. I swallow the agony down stiffly, just as I would swallow down a Prozac. I want to cry. I want to grab her and put my arms around her. I want to feel her skin and her warmth just to know she is real.
But I am a coward and I do none of those things. I open my eyes again just in time to see her pick up the little boy, holding him tightly in her arms and practically run down the street.
Away from me.
My mind is screaming at me to run after her, to yell for her to stop, but I can't. I am frozen in place. The shock of seeing her again has yet to wear off. A thousand questions are passing through my brain like a strange emotional powerpoint presentation. What is she doing in California? Is this where she ran off to? Who is that little boy? He called her Mommy? So that means..?
My legs feel weak and my knees are shaking. A chill runs repeatedly down my spine despite the eighty degree weather. I run my fingers through my hair again and again, my fingers tugging at the ends recurrently, and I find myself groaning. Anger and hatred course through my veins. Only I'm not angry at Bella, but myself for letting her slip through my fingers when she had just been within my grasp.
Irrationally, I can't think about this here.
I make my way back to my apartment, my legs carrying me much faster than they've moved before.
Once I have finally reached the comforting darkness of my home, I do the only thing I can think of.
I leave again. I drive to see my mother.
After Bella left, my mother became my best friend, my confidante. The majority of the time I was able to hold it together for her, not let her see how truly damaged I had become. But she was always there for me. During the first year, I felt myself regress back into my childhood. I felt myself turn into a little boy that needed his Mommy. I would go to her, unable to breathe or calm the war of emotions raging inside of me and she would help ease the pain. She would tell me to lay my head in her lap and she would run her fingers through my hair, soothing me and speaking to me as though I were a mere child. Her voice was always soft and gentle, telling me that I would move on; that I was so young; that the pain would dissipate with time.
I never believed her. It didn't matter though, because I knew what she was telling me came from a good place. It just hurt her to see me suffering. She had nothing but my happiness and best interests in mind.
I pull up to my parent's house and I'm driving so fast into the driveway that I practically park on the grass, nearly racing into the garden that surrounds the front porch. My mother would kill me if I drove over her rhododendrons.
I bolt out of the car and up to the front door, not bothering to knock. I make my way to the kitchen, knowing this is the best place to find my mother.
She's sitting on a bar stool at the island in the middle of the kitchen, flipping through a magazine. She looks up, her eyes wide, shocked, to see me standing there. "Edward, what are you doing-"
I interrupt her, too keyed up to be polite. "I saw her."
"You saw who?"
"Bella. I saw Bella, Mom."
She blinks, her mouth falling open. She looks as though she is about to speak again, but I cut her off.
"She's in California. What are the odds?" For the first time in years, I feel my face pull into a smile, on its own accord, as I speak. The shock of the last hour is beginning to disintegrate; a sense of excitement and hopefulness settling in.
She stands up, moving towards me almost cautiously. She approaches me like you would a mentally unstable person.
"Are you sure?" she asks, cautiously.
I nod. "Positive. I spoke to her."
Her face pales at this news, and I can't imagine why.
"You spoke to her," she repeats, her eyes moving away from me to look at the ground.
I nod again. "Well, we didn't have a conversation. My mouth wasn't exactly working. I was in a bit of shock. But she was standing right in front of me. I heard her voice. She was with a little boy. He called her 'Mommy'. The weirdest part is he looked just like me..."
My mothers face gets a little paler at the mention of the little boy. I feel my eyebrows pull together in confusion. She's acting awfully strange. I thought she'd be happy for me. I'm getting another chance. Just when I thought there would never be a light at the end of the dark tunnel known as my life, it finally appears.
She turns her back to me before going to the liquor cabinet. She pulls out a bottle of vodka, popping it open and pouring it into a glass. I watch her move about the kitchen as she makes a drink. What is she doing?
"Mom? What are you doing?"
She sighs before taking a sip of her drink, her eyes closing as she leans against the counter-top.
"Mom? Am I missing something? Why aren't you happy for me about this? This is good news."
"Let's go sit in the family room." Her voice is barely above a whisper. She walks towards the family room, drink in hand. I follow dutifully behind her.
She leads me towards the couch were we both sit down slowly. A feeling of unease settles deep in my stomach, making me feel like I want to throw up. Whatever she has to tell me definitely isn't going to be good news. Never in my twenty-three years of life had I ever seen my mother so restless, uncomfortable and drinking before noon.
"Edward, there's something I need to tell you. Something I should have told you a long time ago. I'm so ashamed of my behavior, which is why I haven't been able to bring myself to tell you. I've tried. So many times I've tried to tell you," my mother begins to explain, but she's not making much sense and I look at her with what I'm sure is a bewildered expression. I have no idea what she could possibly have kept from me. Her hands are shaking as she brings her drink to her lips, taking a long sip from the glass.
I watch her expectantly, waiting for her to continue. I'm not sure what to say.
She closes her eyes and takes a deep breath before she starts speaking.
"Please let me get it all out before you speak."
"Okay...," I reply hesitantly, becoming more and more anxious as the seconds pass.
"Do you remember when I used to volunteer at the hospital when we lived in Forks?"
I nod my head, unsure of where she was taking this. She wasn't looking at me, instead focusing on the ground in front of her. I wasn't quite sure if that was meant to be a rhetorical question.
"I loved volunteering my time there. With you older and in school, I didn't have much to do at home. Plus, it gave me an opportunity to see your father more than I would have otherwise." Her smile was tight and it faded just as quickly as it appeared.
"I was just finishing up my rounds one day, on my way to bring your father some lunch, when I overheard some of the nurses talking. I heard your name, so of course I stopped to listen. They were gossiping in whispered voices, so I knew it was wrong to be listening, but I knew any mother would have listened had they been in my shoes. Anyway, they were saying how Bella had been in earlier that day... for a pregnancy test. They had just received the results. They were positive."
I can feel the color drain from my face as my breathing suddenly became shallower.
"Of course they were talking about you because the whole town knew you and Bella were together at that time so of course you were the father. They were laughing and saying what a shame it was, Dr. Cullen's kid with all the potential in the world to follow in his father's footsteps was throwing his life down the drain for a small town hussy."
My vision turned red and anger flared deep into my bones. How dare they gossip about us; how dare they call my Bella a hussy.
"I was immediately angry that they were talking about you like that, and of course you know I always liked Bella, so I was angered that they would call her such a terrible name. But the shock of finding out that she was pregnant with your child when you were just 18 snapped something inside of me. I couldn't focus on anything but the need to protect my baby. Those nurses had one thing correct. You couldn't be a daddy at 18 and throw everything away that you'd worked so hard for. As a mother, I could not let that happen. I had to see you reach your full potential, no matter what the cost."
Confusion still plagued me and the shock of finding out that Bella had been pregnant all those years ago was nearly debilitating. That's why she had left? Why had she not told me about the baby? So then the little boy with Bella today was... is... my son.
"Oh my god," I spoke, my voice just a whisper. I lean forward, placing my elbows on my knees and my head in my hands. Digging the heels of my palms into my eyes, I was trying to push away the tears that were threatening to fall.
I have a son.
The air in the room is suddenly very hot and thick, making it difficult to breathe. I suck in ragged breaths, trying to gain control of the conflicting emotions flowing throughout my body.
If my mom had known, why hadn't she told me about this? Why had she kept this from me for nearly five years?
I had to see you reach your full potential, no matter what the cost.
Her voice echoed through my head and it suddenly felt like I'd been kicked in the gut.
She couldn't have.
She wouldn't have.
"Mom...?" My voice cracks under the weight of my world suddenly crashing down around me all over again.
"I love you Edward. Just know that everything I did, I did because I love you." My mother's voice is nearly hysterical now.
I begin shaking my head back and forth, my finger tips digging into my scalp. "No. No. No. No."
"I did a terrible thing Edward. I know I did."
"What did you do?" I ask, pretty sure I already knew but needing to hear the truth from my mother's mouth.
"I made Bella leave. I went to her and told her I knew about the baby. With me, I brought a letter that I told her was written by you."
"What was in the letter?" My voice was demanding and angry. I refused to look at my mother. Something deep inside me already had a good idea of the answer to my question, but I refused to believe my own mother would stoop so low to hurt the person I love the most in this world and to hurt me, her own flesh and blood.
She took a deep breath and out of the corner of my eye I saw a tear roll down her cheek.
"It said that you knew about the baby and you didn't want to have anything to do with it. It said you didn't believe the baby was yours, that... that... she was a... whore," her voice choking on the word, "and it could be anyone's. It said that you didn't love her."
My stomach cramps and I feel like I'm going to be sick. I actually retch a little, the sour taste of bile filling my mouth. Everything feels surreal and I'm struggling with the fact this conversation is happening. The wound in my heart is ripped open, the pain going even deeper by the news that my mother – my own mother – sabotaged my life and happiness. She took away the one thing in the world that meant the most to me.
"How... how... how could YOU?!" I'm screaming now and unable to control the war of emotions that is building up inside me, expanding upwards from my chest and into my throat. The air is leaving my lungs in frenzied breaths and I feel like I'm about to have a panic attack.
I jump up and off the couch, before pacing frantically back and forth.
"You watched me suffer for five years! You are the cause of my suffering and the drowning in my own self-loathing. You knew how I blamed myself for her leaving and all along it was YOU! How can you live with yourself?" My heart is pounding loudly in my chest, echoing up through my ears. I think my stomach might have fallen into my feet.
"I know Edward, I'm so sorry. So, so, sorry. You will never know how much. There were so many times I wanted to tell you, but I couldn't bring myself to cause you more pain."
"Sorry isn't good enough. You ruined my life. I hope you're happy with yourself. Was it worth it?" I just stare at her; my disgust evident on my face. "Are you happy? Did I reach my full potential?" My voice is filled with so much hatred and venom I don't even recognize it as my own.
I turn my body so I'm facing her and I can do nothing but glare at her. I don't even know what to do with the anger and hatred that has suddenly pierced me to my core. Generally speaking, I was not an angry person. I'd spent the last five years hurt, confused and frustrated but never angry.
"I never knew I'd be able to hate my own mother." The words are lethal and I can't stop them from leaving my mouth. I watch as her face crumbles and she begins sobbing, her frail body shaking violently on the couch.
She places her hands on the couch, on each side of her body, pushing herself up to her feet. She steps toward me and I immediately bring my hands up, palms facing out.
"Don't," I seethe, continuing to glare at her. "Don't you even fucking try to touch me."
"You're dead to me."
With those last four words I turn and practically sprint from the room and out of the house.
As I burst through the door and into the fresh air, I'm barely aware that the sun is no longer shining; it's hidden by clouds and the air has cooled.
I stop running when I make it to my car, and I'm glad my mother hasn't bothered to follow behind me. I'm panting, my stomach cramps and I bend over at the waist, trying to ease the pain.
How dare she interfere in my life! How dare she chase away the most important thing to me; chase away my very reason for existing! Tell Bella those lies? How could she do this to me?
I again feel the bile rise up into my throat, causing me to heave and heave, the contents of my stomach spilling onto the grass. I wretch until there is nothing left to come up. And then I wretch again. I sit down slowly, leaning up against the front tire of my car. I grab at the hair falling over onto my forehead, tugging hard. Tears stream down my face at the thought of how much pain my Bella must have been through. How could she believe that I didn't love her? That I would say those awful things about her? How?
Suddenly, an image of my Bella in her old bedroom in Forks flashes in my brain. I see her on the bed, her body curled in around itself as she sobs, barely able to hold herself together. Her eyes are sad and her cheeks are tear streaked.
The image is so real and painful it brings on another round of vomiting. I gag, throwing my body forward so I'm on all fours and I remember I didn't eat anything today so nothing but stomach acid is finding its way out.
Spitting into the grass, I get up off the ground, wiping my mouth with the back of my hand. I take a deep breath before getting up and opening the drivers side door and climb in.
I'm lucky; I make it back to my apartment alive because I don't remember anything about the drive. When I open the door to my apartment, I let out a loud angry and frustrated growl. My vision is blurry and I can see nothing but dark colors of frustration and pain. I feel almost as though I'm outside of myself, watching everything in slow motion. I start knocking down all the books and objects from the book shelf. I hurl the cushions off my couch and across the room. I make my way into kitchen, leaving a path of destruction as I go. I throw the dirty dishes that line the counter of my kitchen onto the floor. The porcelain shatters and skids across the title.
I yell out again, gripping at my hair and tugging so hard I don't know how I have any left. I barely feel the pain on my scalp because the agony in my chest is overshadowing everything else. I throw my body down on to the floor and push myself up against the wall. Tears are streaming down my face and I don't even remember when they started falling again - maybe they never stopped. I start slamming my head against the wall, forgetting that there is a shelf above me with cookbooks and magazine's on it and they fall down upon me.
"FUCK!" I yell, slamming my fist into the wall next to me, leaving a slight crack in the plaster. I look down at my legs and I notice the White Pages laying open across my thighs.
An idea pops into my head and by the grace of God, I manage to calm down enough and am able to search through the directory without tearing any of the pages and someone upstairs is finally giving me a break because her address is listed.
"Thank you," I whisper hoarsely, tilting my head towards the ceiling.
I lean back against the wall, taking a deep breath and willing myself to calm down. I need to come up with a plan. I want to do nothing more than drive over to Bella's and talk to her, beg her to listen to me and explain that I had no part in what my mother did five years ago. The rational side of my brain however knew this wasn't a very good idea. I would most likely frighten her, though I'm sure I would already look like a stalker showing up at her house after running into her on the street. Though, I'm not really giving a fuck at the moment.
My head is suddenly pounding, the intense emotions of the day catching up with me. I close my eyes and try to steady my breathing.
Taking long, deep breaths, I feel my body begin to relax, exhaustion settling into all my limbs, and eventually my mind succumbs to darkness and the ache in my chest briefly turns back into numbness.
I'm jolted awake by the ringing of my cell phone. I groan, stretching out my aching muscles. I fell asleep on the kitchen floor, half leaning against the wall and half stretched out across the floor amongst the shattered pieces of dish ware. I just let my cell phone ring because I don't have the strength to talk to anyone.
The muscles in my back are throbbing and there's a kink in my neck, making it difficult to move. I moan in pain as I try to get up off the floor. I see a crack of sunlight peaking through the blinds indicating that I slept the entire night on my kitchen floor. No wonder I'm in so much pain.
Standing up, I stretch out my body again, reaching up towards the ceiling and turning my body side to side. My joints crack and pop causing me to wince a little. My head is still pounding and I feel like I just spent the entire night boozing my sorrows, like I've done too many times to count, and now have the worse hangover of my entire life.
I only wish I'd drunk myself into a coma. Instead, the reality of last night hit me like a ton of bricks. Yeah, a huge stack of bricks laced with betrayal and misery.
I look down at the floor and see the town directory at my feet. I pick it up remembering Bella's information being listed. I tear out the page and I can't help the small smile that forms on my lips.
I'm going to talk to Bella today.
The thought is both terrifying and exciting. I make my way through the tornado wreckage that is my living room and into my bedroom. One look at myself in the mirror confirms that my initial thought to shower and shave is a good idea.
I look like a God damned hobo.
After taking the quickest shower of my life, I trim up my beard and throw on some clothes. My stomach is twisting and knotting from nerves so I don't bother eating anything. I'm too afraid I'll end up throwing it all up anyway. Besides, I'm not really hungry.
I jump in my car and follow the directions I printed out on MapQuest to Bella's house. I'm surprised to discover that she only lives ten minutes away from me. I don't know how long she's been in California, but it's amazing we hadn't run into each other until yesterday.
I pull up to the curb outside of Bella's house and my heart starts beating so rapidly I really start to panic, thinking that I might actually throw up all over the passenger seat of my car.
Deep breaths. Take deep breaths, Edward.
I close my eyes and lean my head back against the seat. I'm trying really hard to take deep breaths, but the more I try to calm my speeding heart, the more rapidly it beats.
I turn my head to the side, to look at Bella's home. It's tiny and modest, much how I remember Bella being herself. There is a small sedan parked in the driveway and I'm hopeful that it's Bella's.
With one last deep breath and a prayer to God, I open the door and make my way up the walkway to the front door.
I run my fingers through my hair as I hesitantly bring my other hand up to knock softly on the door. I can hear footsteps approaching and the panic starts to rise up in me again. I push it back down. I need to stay calm and composed.
The door swings open and my eyes meet a very shocked pair of brown eyes. My knees get weak at the sight of her again. She's so beautiful
I feel my body begin to sway as my heart beats heavily against my ribcage.
"Bella," I whisper and I feel so overwhelmed from seeing her face again that the emotion and elation begins to seep from my eyes.
"Edward." Her voice is icy and her eyes are narrowed. I'm taken aback by her cold demeanor but then of course I remember that she probably hates me. "What are you doing here?"
"I... I... wanted to talk to you..."
"Now's not really a good time." Her tone is still cold and detached. She's avoiding making eye contact and I'm quickly loosing confidence.
"Please. Please Bella."
My voice is nothing but a whispered plea. I'm willing to get down on my knees and beg her to talk to me if that's what it takes. Just before her eyes close, I see flicker of sadness move through them and it nearly breaks my heart into multiple pieces. I can see the pain and despair reflected back at me. The same anguish I knew she was seeing in my eyes.
"I don't know Edward."
I close my eyes tight and I feel myself falling to my knees. I'm kneeling down on the porch in front of her before I even know what I'm doing. I hang my head downwards and am shaking it back and forth quickly before the words just start tumbling out in a jumbled mess of begging and sorrow.
"Please, Bella. I had no idea. I didn't know about the baby. I didn't know. I swear to God I didn't know. I never would have... I wouldn't."
I can feel hot tears trailing down my cheeks. My body starts shaking and I bring my face back up to look at Bella. She has tears streaming down her face and she's biting on her lip, a habit I remember well.
She's not saying anything, but she's not shutting the door in my face either. In fact, she's now standing on the porch, the screen door shut behind her. I take this as a good sign so I just start talking.
All at once, everything starts pouring out. My heartache and misery from the moment I discovered she left until now. I tell her everything. I don't sugar coat any of my pain, I just let it all out. I tell her how badly I've missed her and when she left she took a huge chunk of my soul with her. I tell her that I haven't been able to live since she left. I've just been existing and barely functioning. I don't care if it makes me sound pathetic. It's the God's honest truth.
I explain the events of the last twenty-four hours. From the feeling first bit of hope and happiness I've had in five years when I saw her again to the moment I went to my mother's and she explained every hurtful and cruel thing she did.
"Bella you have to believe me. I would have never said those things about you. I would have never told you I didn't want to have anything to do with you and the baby. I loved you Bella. I still love you. God Bella, I love you so damn much. So fucking much."
I move my body so I'm no longer on my knees, but sitting on my ass instead. I stretch my legs out in front of me and wince at the feeling. I rub my knees, trying to put some feeling back in them. Kneeling on concrete for ten minutes is definitely not good for the legs.
Bella lets out a sign as she makes her way over to me and sits down beside me.
"You have no idea what it felt like to think that you didn't love me," she whispers.
I shake my head back and forth rapidly. "I do know how that feels, Bella. That's exactly how I've felt every day for the last four years and three hundred sixty-one days. I thought you didn't love me. I hated myself Bella, because I thought I didn't love you enough, that I didn't do enough for you. Bella I've loved you since we were ten years old."
We sit in silence for several moments letting the words I've spoken resonate in our minds, the only sounds in the air are coming from the birds chirping and the wind blowing around us.
"Bella, I want to know you again. I want to be in your life. I want to get to know ourson.Please let me into your lives. Please. I can't live without you any longer. I can't live like this, deal with all this pain anymore. Not when I know you live just ten minutes from my apartment. Please just give me a chance to prove to you how sincere I am."
She puts her head in her hands and she's so close to me that I can feel the heat radiating off her body. She runs her fingers through her hair and sobs. She's sobbing so fucking hard. If my heart wasn't already so broken, it would crack and shatter all over again at the sight. I want to hold her so badly that my fingers are aching and twitching at my sides, just begging me to let them touch her.
She sighs, wiping her eyes. "My heart is telling me to believe you, but my mind wants me to be much more cautious. I can't just bring you into Noah's life. It's been five years Edward. Five years. We need to get to know each other again. I need to learn to trust you again before I can even think about trusting you with Noah." She looks at me then, a small smile forming at the corner of her lips and my heart flutters with hope.
"I want to know you again. I want Noah to know his father."
She looks at me, and I feel hope beginning to fill my heart. I'll do anything; anything you say."
Her eyes warm just a little more as she continues, "Okay, I'm willing to try. I want to try."
As soon as the words leave her mouth, I'm grinning so wide I think my face might crack. I reach for her hand and she willingly accepts it. Our fingers intertwine and my heart bursts with so much happiness its nearly overwhelming.
"I've been holding on this long, I'm not about to give up now. Your willingness to try is all I'm asking for."
Two Months Later
Bella kneels down next to Noah, taking his tiny hands into hers. She looks him in the eye before speaking, "Noah, baby, I have someone I want you to meet."
"Okay." Noah's voice is soft and curious.
Bella's eyes meet mine, motioning for me to kneel down to Noah's level. Doing as she says, I crouch down so I'm resting back on my heels. It feels like a thousand butterflies have taken up residence in my stomach. Never in my life have I been so excited and nervous about any one thing. I so desperately want Noah to like me; to except me.
Bella takes a deep breath before reaching for my hand, giving it a squeeze and then letting go. She smiles encouragingly at me, before turning her full attention back on Noah.
"Noah, this is Edward," she takes another deep breath, watching Noah carefully. "Baby, he's your daddy."
Noah's eyes move back and forth between Bella's and mine, processing the information.
"Daddy?" he asks, his voice still small.
Bella nodded. "Yes, baby. He's your daddy."
His eyes find their way back to mine and suddenly a wide smile spreads across his face. Noah launches his body at me, throwing himself into my arms. I catch him without difficulty, wrapping my arms tightly around his small body.
I squeeze my eyes close tightly, a new emotion slowly bubbling upside me. I swallow, pushing it down. Tears pool in the corners of my eyes. I can feel them leak over the edge and slides down my cheeks.
He's accepting me.
I open my eyes, meeting Bella's gaze. Her own eyes fill with tears.
Reaching my arm out, I motion for Bella to come to us. In an instant, she is in my arms. Bella and Noah. With me in my arms. I choke back a sob. Happiness I never knew I'd find again fills me to my very soul. I bring my hand up to cup Bella's cheek. I pressed my lips to hers softly. She tastes like strawberries and salt from her tears.
Pulling back I smile at her. "I love you," I whisper.
"I love you," she whispers back. I press my lips to hers once again.
My heart is full of love, eclipsing the pain of the last five years and I know there is a long road ahead of the three of us, but I can't wait to make the journey because here with the most beautiful woman I'd ever known and our son is where I always knew I needed to be.
A/N: Thank you for reading. Review if you're so inclined! =)