Big thanks to Caren and Clare for betaing this bad boy. Also to Silver and Maria for their comments and suggestions. Puffy hearts to you.
Readers: Thanks for waiting so patiently while I adjust to some changes in RL.
Disclaimer: While I'm trying to make this story as realistic as possible, I am taking some creative liberties with Edward's paralysis. Please keep this in mind while reading. If SM can write a story about sparkly vamps who impregnate a human with a demon spawn – then I can take creative license with paralysis.
Oh yeah, and I don't own Twilight.
Cause I did enough to show you that I
Was willing to give and sacrifice
And I was the one who was lifting you up
When you thought your life had had enough
And when I get close, you turn away
There's nothing that I can do or say
So now I need you to tell me the truth
You know I'd do that for you
So why are you running away?
Why are you running away?
On the way home from my first day back at work, I found my thoughts drifting back to the tangled mess that was mine and Edward's relationship – as it often did these days.
When the time came for me to go back to work, I was beyond thrilled. Principal Cope had called to see how Edward and I were doing, as well as to check to see when I felt I'd be ready to return to school. It almost embarrassed me how quickly I jumped at the chance to go back. Edward and I needed time apart. It had been three weeks since he'd returned home and we'd spent almost every waking moment together. Our only time apart had been when he was at physical therapy or when I went to the grocery store. I'd been thankful for these small breaks, hoping the time apart would eventually help our relationship.
His disgruntled attitude about everything was tearing me up and eating away at me. I was no longer an emotional mess; I simply became resentful of him, which led to me only becoming more upset for that way toward him after everything he'd been through. After everything he was still going through – everything we were going through.
I hadn't brought up him seeing a therapist since he'd been home, even though I told Emmett I would. I wanted to give him time to adjust to the changes in his life, and part of me really hoped that I could help him through this own my own. But his depression was only getting worse and I'd slowly started to realize that this was all much bigger than what I could do for him, and that he really needed professional help.
Despite his self-deprecating attitude, I was actually proud of him for not turning to substances like he would have in the past. I would be lying if I said I hadn't been terrified that I would come home from work to find him strung out on something, drunk or who knows what. But I hadn't and I didn't feel like that was going to happen either.
It seemed that huge doses of brooding and hits of self-pity were his drugs of choice these days.
Although he wasn't flat out saying it to me, I knew he felt like he was worthless now that he didn't have full use of his legs. I knew how his mind worked. It shredded my heart to know that he believed he was nothing now. It didn't seem to matter how many times I reassured him that I loved him no matter what, he had a thick skull.
Before I knew it, I'd pulled up into our driveway. The drive from Forks Elementary to our home was a short one anyway, but I'd been so lost in my thoughts I hadn't even realized I'd made it home.
I sat for a moment and then after climbing out of my car, I leisurely began pulling all my work stuff out of the backseat and walking toward the front door. I was exhausted. My kids had all been so full of energy, excited to have me back. I just wanted to cook dinner, relax and then go to bed.
"Edward," I called out as I unlocked the front door and sat all of my stuff down in the foyer.
"Hey baby," he yelled, his voice floating out from the kitchen. My eyebrows shot up past my forehead and into my hairline at his chipper tone.
Cautiously, I walked toward the kitchen and peeked my head around the corner to see him cooking.
Edward was cooking?
Was this a dream?
"Hey..." I responded warily, wondering where the hell my grumpy fiancé had gone and who this happy replacement was.
His head turned in my direction at the sound of my voice, and a smile lit up his face. I hadn't quite realized how much I'd missed that shining crooked smile of his until the shock of seeing it, after such a long absence, had worn off.
Am I in the twilight zone?
"I made some spaghetti," he stated, turning his attention back to the pot on the stove in front of him, stirring the sauce around with a wooden spoon. "Can you grab some plates for me? I couldn't reach." He gestured toward his wheelchair and shrugged his shoulders in a sheepish, mostly embarrassed gesture.
"Um sure..." I responded, walking across the kitchen. I pulled a couple of plates down from the cabinet and walked over to set them down on the square, wooden table. I turned back to face Edward and watched him wheel himself around our small kitchen.
"Why are you looking at me like I sprouted two heads?" he asked, chuckling.
"Well, not that I'm complaining, but any particular reason for the positive mood shift?"
"I'm going back to work!" Edward shouted, his smile widening, his green eyes alight with excitement. The first true bit of happiness I'd seen on his face since the accident. I didn't know whether I should be excited for him as well, or feel a little agitated because apparently I couldn't make him that happy. I decided instantly that it was a completely selfish thought; I knew exactly how much Edward loved his job.
"That's great!" I told him, leaning down and kissing him gently. He responded immediately, threading his fingers in my hair and sliding his tongue along my bottom lip. We kissed for several seconds before he pulled away and turned back to finish dinner.
I stood there, dazed and confused. Yeah, he definitely hadn't kissed me anywhere close to that either since he'd been home. I needed to call Mike, Edward's boss, and thank him immediately.
"Yeah, I called Mike today to check in, you know, make sure I still had a fucking job, and he asked when I thought I would be ready to go back to work. I told him as soon as possible would be great. Baby, the noodles are done, will you pour them in the colander?" he asked, interrupting the flow of his story, pointing at the pot of boiling noodles before jumping right back into his tale. "So he told me that if I was up for it, I could come in tomorrow and help him with some paperwork for a new development project they're working on. I told him 'Fuck yeah!'" Edward laughed as he pulled the garlic bread out of the oven and set it on top of the stove. "This is just what I need Bella, I can feel it."
I smiled and nodded. I was inclined to agree. I thought Edward going back to work was just what he needed. It would give him something to do, remind him that he was worth something without the full use of his legs, that this paralysis did not define him.
Edward worked for Newton Construction, a family owned company who also happened to be the most successful in all of the surrounding counties. They built everything from commercial buildings to shopping complexes and residential homes. Edward had been the project manager on several of Newton's residential developments from Forks to Port Angeles to Sequim and sometimes even all the way to Seattle or Olympia. He'd always worked hard and went well above and beyond his job description, and I knew it was because he loved it so much. Though, as much as he enjoyed managing projects, he loved getting dirty with his crew and working with the builders even more. He lived for getting dirty, sweaty and creating things with his hands.
I also lived for him getting sweaty and dirty and doing things with his hands...
I shook my head, clearing all of those thoughts away quickly. That wasn't going to get me anywhere. Even with his stellar mood, I knew he wasn't going to feel up to anything like that.
"So do you think you can drop me off at Mike's in the morning? Emmett said he would pick me up in the evening when we were all done for the day. Mike said I could just hitch a ride with him to the site since it's in Sequim," Edward explained, filling his plate with spaghetti.
We spent the rest of our evening lounging around, a semblance of how we used to be peeking through the darkness of the last several weeks.
Maybe things really would get better after all.
Just as I felt things were finally getting back to normal, Edward's mood began to shift, and not in the positive way I had seen after he'd found out he could return work. I'd definitely spoke too soon.
Edward's first few days back to work started out just as I'd hoped; he was excited, energized and overflowing with positive thoughts. With each day that passed, his mood slowly started to go downhill. It wasn't significant at first, barely noticeable actually, just some signs of slight agitation. But then he started closing in on himself again, which pissed me off to no end because I felt we had finally began to make some progress.
Each day, Emmett would drop him off at home, and I could sense Edward's irritation in the way his shoulders slouched and his eyes seemed so far away. Before I could even ask him to talk about it, he'd shake his head and retreat into silence; I loathed the silence. I didn't understand why he couldn't just talk to me. Before the accident, we'd always been able to talk to each other and I hated that it had suddenly changed. I hated knowing that one accident had altered his personality so significantly and irrevocably, ultimately creating a huge change in our relationship.
It hurt too much to think about.
I suddenly realized the enthusiasm of Edward going back to work had just been a sense of false hope, that it was just one step forward and now it seemed we were taking several steps backward. It was beyond frustrating.
I'd managed to gather small bits of detail here and there – both from Edward and Emmett. Apparently, the company had changed over to a new computer program and Edward was having a hard time adjusting. This little bit of information baffled me even more because Edward was a very intelligent man and I knew he would be able to figure it out in no time. He had never had trouble learning new things. Obviously, it would be an adjustment, as all new things were, but I had no doubt that he would catch on before too long. He'd only been back to work for four days, and when I'd tried to reason with him, to insist that he couldn't expect to understand everything instantly, he wouldn't hear of it.
Sometimes, I felt like crashing my head into a wall over and over again.
Upon leaving for work this morning, I saw a newfound determination behind Edward's deep green eyes. I wasn't a religious person by any means, but I prayed this new look of intensity meant the day would go at least marginally better than the previous ones for Edward. A war was waging within myself – my mind shooting down my hopeful thoughts, while my heart begged me to hold on.
A car door slamming and loud yelling pulled me from my thoughts. I quickly ran to the front of the house and opened the front door to find Emmett and Edward yelling at each other in the driveway.
Just as I stepped outside and onto the porch, Edward began wheeling his way up the ramp and was into the house before I could get a word out. His head was pointed downward, but I could see the glower of his features a mile away.
I looked at Emmett, my eyebrows raised in question.
"I don't fucking know, Bella," Emmett responded, shaking his head back and forth while scowling. "He was like this when I picked him up. Wouldn't say a word to me. I told him he better get his fucking act together or he was really going to hear it from me. He started yelling all this incoherent stuff, pretty much lost his shit."
"He...he was happier just a few days ago. What happened?" I stammered, at a loss for words. I buried my face in my hands before running my fingers through my hair and groaning.
I squeezed my eyes closed tight and shook my head back and forth.
I will not cry. I will not cry.
"Bells, it's going to be okay."
"Is it, Em?" I snapped, whipping my head around to glare at him, even though his tone indicated that he was attempting to be comforting. "Because I don't think it is. How can it? It's like he had a lobotomy in that hospital or something. He's not even close to the person he was before the accident."
I was practically shaking; frustration and confusion taking over every pore and muscle in my body. Emmett walked over to me quickly and pulled me into a hug. He didn't say anything for a few moments, just holding me while I calmed myself down.
"You didn't ask him about seeing a therapist yet, did you?" Emmett asked, not accusing, simply curious. I shook my head and pulled myself out of the hug.
"I think it's probably time he and I had a conversation about it though. I know I can't help him out of this by myself." I frowned and stared down at the ground, hating that I wasn't enough for him. I'd never felt this helpless in our relationship before. I'd always known what to do to help him through whatever funk he was in. Deep down, I knew this situation was much more difficult than anything else we'd ever experienced, even more than his drug addiction in college.
"Bella, you know this is so much bigger than you and him. No one doubts your love for him right now, but you can only do so much." Emmett always seemed to know exactly what I needed him to say.
"Thanks, Em," I told him, giving him a small smile. "I should probably go in and face the storm." I cringed, hoping Edward had calmed down some.
"Anytime. If you need anything don't hesitate to give Rose or me a call."
I nodded. "You know I will."
We said our goodbyes and I slowly walked into the house. Closing the door behind me, I locked it quietly and headed toward the kitchen. Edward wasn't in there, so I knew that he must have been in our bedroom.
Taking a deep breath, I walked down the hall and opened the door to find Edward sitting in his chair, facing the large picture window.
"Edward?" I asked hesitantly. He didn't say anything, just continued to look out of the window.
Closing my eyes for a moment, I breathed deeply through my nose before walking across the room and taking a seat on our bed.
"So, um, how was work today?"
Edward grunted in response and I rolled my eyes. At least he acknowledged that I was in the room. I bit at my finger nails nervously, not really sure what to say.
"Did something happen?"
He grunted again.
I rolled my eyes up toward the ceiling. Lord help me.
"You seem...upset," I said quietly as I studied his profile. His features hard set and his eyes staring straight ahead. "Will you please talk to me?" I hated the pleading tone in my voice, but I was getting desperate.
All the confusion and frustration over Edward's erratic behavior and unpredictable moods from the last several days, and really since he'd returned home after the accident, had finally reached its crescendo and I felt myself snap, suddenly losing control. I didn't understand him and he wasn't helping me by ignoring all of my attempts to support him. Again and again he shot me down. I wasn't just hurt anymore, I was pissed.
"God damn it Edward! Will you fucking talk to me?" I yelled, standing up and taking two giant steps across the room so I was standing next to him. "You have to talk to me!"
My breathing was heavy and I felt like I might pass out as my heart pounded against my chest. Anger and hurt surged through my veins.
"I don't feel like talking," he replied, his voice surprisingly calm.
"Well I do!" I snapped. "I can't keep fucking doing this. I can't live like this. Your moods are out of control."
"You would be pissy too if you found out you'd never be able to fucking walk again," he countered, his eyes finally moving to meet mine.
I rolled my eyes. "Spare me the melodramatics, Edward. You don't know for sure that you'll never be able to walk again. You heard the doctors—"
"Doctors don't know shit," he mumbled under his breath.
"Oh and you do?" I asked, arching my eyebrow at him and crossing my arms over my chest. "Did you get a medical degree I don't know about?"
Now it was his turn to roll his eyes. He didn't say anything though, instead he ran his fingers through his hair, tugging on the ends—his signature move of frustration.
"I think you need to speak with someone. A professional," I stated, my voice firm and strong. Much stronger than I felt on the inside; this conversation actually terrified me.
"What, like a fucking shrink?" he asked incredulously, cutting his eyes over to me before returning to his visual analysis of our front lawn through the window.
"Yes, a professional. You aren't handling this well."
"I don't need to talk to anyone. I'm doing just fine," he replied, sounding somewhat like a petulant preschooler.
Before I even realized what I was doing, I walked over to the closet and pulled out an overnight bag.
"You know what? Fine. You don't need to talk to a professional, you don't need to talk to me..." I hastily started throwing whatever I could reach into the bag in my hand. "Then I guess I don't need to fucking be here. Because apparently, you don't need anyone."
He spun his chair around so he was now watching me as I tore apart our closet. I slung my bag over my shoulder and glared at him. "I'm going to Rose and Emmett's." Just for tonight. Maybe two, just to clear my head.
Space was what we needed before I said something I truly regretted. I was already losing all sense of control over my thoughts, emotions and words, I couldn't let myself go any further.
He didn't say anything; instead he just stared at me. His facial expression was blank and unreadable. My heart plummeted into my stomach and I could feel my face fall with it. He didn't even care. The moment the words fell out of my mouth, I felt that perhaps I was overreacting, but I just couldn't handle this constant negativity and his refusal to even try to get better. He wasn't my Edward anymore.
Again, my mind warred with my heart. The logical side knew, that we couldn't continue on this same path, our relationship wouldn't make it. My mind knew that we needed space, that perhaps something as drastic as my leaving was just the required action for Edward to realize the full effects his behavior had. But my heart – my heart was aching. It wanted Edward to stop me, to tell me not to go, that he didn't mean it, that he needed me.
After the longest few silent seconds of my life, I turned on my heel and walked out of the bedroom, slamming the door behind me.
They are not breaking up. Bella needs space (can you blame her?). Thought I should reiterate that so no one freaks out on me. =)
Thanks for reading!