I realize it has been a VERY long time since I have updated. I don't have any excuses other than the fact that time has been an issue along with writer's block. (I guess I do have some excuses.) I am hoping that I still have some readers out there that are interested in this story. I'm posting this chapter to see what kind of response I get and to help me decide if there is enough interest to continue this story.

I was going to write a brief summary of Bella's story for you, but everything I started writing seemed to condensed. I encourage you to re-read Chapters 1, 3, and 5to get caught up in Bella's life. Edward's chapters are 2, 4, 6, and 7. I am hoping that I will be able to combine their stories relatively soon. Keeping up with the different timelines is becoming extremely difficult.


Chapter Eight—A Heart Is Shattered

Bella woke with the sun blazing through her bedroom window. "Shit!" she screamed as she rolled over to check her alarm clock. 7:45…

"Shit, shit, shit!" she cursed while untying her legs from the blankets on her bed. "Emmmaaa! Honey, wake up! You'll be late for school."

Bella ran into her daughter's room and stopped in her tracks. Emma's bed was empty, her blankets thrown haphazardly over the end of the footboard. "Emma?" Panic rolled over her body and she felt her heart begin to race.

Where is she?

Bella took a deep cleansing breath and began searching the rooms upstairs, all the while calling her daughter's name. She was a light sleeper; surely she would have heard Emma this morning. Her daughter wasn't known for keeping quiet. She was all about routine as well. She didn't like her morning rituals disturbed. Bella was the one that got her up and ready for school. She knew Emma would have thrown a fit if it were any other way.

The house was quiet…unnervingly so…as she tripped down the stairs and into the dining room. "Emma?" The light was on in the kitchen and she thought she smelled the faint scent of burnt toast in the air. Emma was nowhere to be found. Bella's breathing quickened and small sweat beads rolled off her forehead.

"My phone…where's my phone?" she whispered while tears formed in her eyes.

Next to her phone, she spotted a small piece of paper. On it, Mike's messy scrawl…

Honey,

Thank you for last night. I decided to let you sleep and took Emma to school this morning. I don't know what time I'll get out of work today, so you'll need to pick her up. Don't forget its mom's birthday also. Don't worry about getting a present; flowers and a card will do, I think. Don't wait up. I could be late.

Mike

Bella let out the breath she didn't know she was holding and sunk to the floor. Tears cascaded down her cheeks as she held on to the small note as if her life depended on it. She felt like an elephant was sitting on her chest and she still couldn't get her breathing under control. She was losing it.

The last time she felt this way was when Emma was four months old. She and Mike had had a huge argument, about what she couldn't remember. Bella attempted to leave the apartment they were living in with Emma in her car seat, and before she could blink, Mike was ripping her daughter out of her hands.

"You can go," he seethed, "but Emma's mine and she stays with me!"

"Emma's my daughter too," Bella replied back fearfully. She never thought that he would use their daughter against her, and she realized, at that moment, that Mike would stop at nothing to keep her where he wanted her. He knew she would never leave Emma. She was her life. It was at that moment that Bella realized she was stuck. Mike had more clout in the community than Bella did. He knew more people; people that knew a different side of Mike than the one he showed at home. Bella was trapped.

Bella's phone rang in her hand causing her to jump and her heart to race faster than it had before. She wiped the tears from her eyes and looked at the caller ID. The number was one she didn't recognize and instead of taking the call, she decided to let it go to voice mail. Whoever it was would have to leave a message.

Bella took a deep breath and slowly got up from the floor. What was she going to do today? She knew that she had to go and get the flowers and card for her mother-in-law, but after that…she didn't know. Mike had taken Emma to school, it might be a good idea to go and check on her. She made a mental list in her head of the errands she could accomplish while making her way to the bathroom to get ready for yet another drab day.

When had her life become so routine? She remembered a time when she was full of life and the world was within her reach and now…she felt like she didn't know what to do with herself.

Her life with Mike hadn't always been so mundane. When they first got together, she loved the quiet times with him when they would sit in the same room and just be; now she could barely stand to be around him at all. When did things start to change? She remembered when she used to enjoy the same things he did…camping, fishing, etc…but now the very thought of doing those things made her cringe. Was it her? She longed for the butterflies in her stomach when he used to walk through the door; the electricity she felt when he touched her tenderly and told her how beautiful she was. Where did that go? When did she become so unsatisfied with her life? Where had the vivacious young woman she used to be gone? These were all questions that Bella found she asked herself on a daily basis.

Her thoughts switched to the stranger she saw in the bookstore; his long legs stretched out in front of him while he read his paper. She had studied his face while he read. He had a strong, chiseled jaw line, soft full lips that she noticed he unconsciously licked as he read. His brow creased ever so slightly when he came across something that confused him. When his gaze landed on hers, she couldn't help but notice the warmth that crept to her cheeks when he caught her staring. In her mind, she imagined what it would be like to kiss him, to run her fingers through his unruly bronze hair. She had never been intrigued by a man like she had when she saw the stranger that day. Never before had she ever entertained the thought of kissing someone other than Mike. It wasn't like her to have an emotional affair, let alone with someone she had never officially met. This man unnerved her with that one look and since then, she couldn't stop thinking about him. She seemed to see him everywhere she went; although she knew it was only twice, she couldn't get him out of her mind. When she spied him across the street, talking on his cell phone her heart raced. He commanded respect. It oozed out of him. She remembered his frustration as he talked to the person on the other end of the line. He wasn't getting what he wanted. For some reason, his confidence excited her; made her think of things she shouldn't and would get her nowhere.

Stepping out of the shower, Bella wiped the steam off of the mirror and took a long look at herself. Her hair, although shorter, was wet and clinging to the sides of her face and down to her shoulders. She watched as the water droplets slowly trickled down her cheeks from her bangs to drop onto the vanity she was leaning on. Her brown eyes were dull and lifeless and dark circles were clearly visible. The lack of a good night's sleep the evening before had definitely taken a toll on her. Her body shook as she remembered Mike waking her up to fulfill his need. What time was that anyway? She didn't remember looking at the clock, but knew because of the deep sleep she was in, that it was well past the time he should have been home.

Bella stepped away from the mirror and grabbed a towel from the cabinet. As she dried her body, she began to look at herself in a way she had never done before. She had never really saw herself as attractive, but upon further exploration she found that her legs were lean with a slight muscle tone to them that she hadn't noticed before. As she reached the apex of her legs with towel, she realized she needed to do something to tame the wild beast growing below. Chuckling to herself at such a crazy thought, she mentally told herself that she would call Rosalie to schedule a bikini wax…pronto.

When she reached her stomach, she stopped drying. She had never been comfortable with the state her stomach was in. She knew there was no amount of sit-ups that would help make her stomach flat again. She had very little stretch marks, but did sport a huge scar from where they had to take Emma by emergency C-section. Over the scar lay the extra skin that she couldn't get rid of by exercise alone. She hated this part of herself more than any other part of her body. If she had the money, she knew she would do something about it, but she didn't. She knew she shouldn't allow her mind to continue down that path.

Bella stopped her inspection and quickly finished drying. This kind of thinking was going to get her nowhere. She had things to do today, and wasn't going to wallow in self-pity about things she couldn't change right now.

Twenty minutes later, Bella was sitting in her car in front of Emma's elementary school. She knew she was being stupid—going to check on her daughter—she needed to make sure her little one was okay. Grabbing her purse from the seat next to her she exited her car and started for the front of the school.

Inside she saw several children walking the hallways, some in straight lines like little ducklings following their mother, while others were scattered and not paying attention to where they were going. Bella walked to the office to check in before heading over to Mrs. Whitlock's room.

Mrs. Peters was on the phone and looked up as Bella entered the office and smiled. Pointing one finger up to tell Bella to hold on, she continued her conversation.

"Mrs. Morgan…yes…I understand you are going to be late…no…I do not have his name in Alex's file…yes…I see…okay…yes, I am writing his name down now," Mrs. Peters rolled her eyes and had a strained smile on her face. Bella couldn't help but laugh as the conversation continued. "Okay, Mrs. Morgan…yes, I wrote it down…excuse me? The name I wrote? Edward Mason…yes, okay…he is now authorized to pick Alex up at any time…yes…okay…thank you for calling."

Mrs. Peters hung up the phone and blew out a strangled breath. "I swear that woman is going to be the death of me! And to think I have to deal with her for another five years! Hi, Bella. What can I do for you today?"

"Hello, Mrs. Peters," Bella began, "I'm just here to check on Emma. She made it to school okay today, right?"

"Oh yes, dear," Mrs. Peters replied, "Mr. Newton dropped her off this morning, although he was a little late in doing so. Did you get to sleep in?"

"Something like that…," Bella whispered as she signed her name to the visitor's log on the counter. "I'm just going to go see Emma, and then I'll be on my way."

"Alright, have a great rest of your day!"

Bella waved at the woman and made her way out the door and down the hall to Emma's classroom. The hallway was empty now but sounds could be heard coming from inside the classrooms.

When she reached Room 8, Bella peered through the glass and into the room. Alice was sitting in an overstuffed recliner that was missing two of its stubby wooden feet. In their place were a few books to keep the chair from toppling over. It was bright orange, and the handle that would have been used to recline the chair was broken. Bella immediately spotted Emma sitting in the front listening to Alice read a story. Mrs. Whitlock was animated as she read; her eyebrows rising as she read an important part of the book.

Bella should have been content just looking in the window knowing Emma was safe and sound, but before she could think, her hand was on the knob turning the door to the room.

All eyes turned toward the sound.

"Mrs. Newton!" Alice exclaimed.

"Mommy!" Emma called out at the same time while tripping over the other students to get to her mother.

"I'm sorry to interrupt, Mrs. Whitlock," Bella explained sheepishly. "I needed to make sure that Emma got to school today."

"No worries…no worries. Come on in. We were just finishing a story." Alice pointed to another hideous chair next to hers. "You can sit in the special seat."

"Oh no! Really…I just wanted to make sure she was here." Turning to her daughter, "Honey, I'll pick you up after school, okay?"

Emma nodded her head, gave her mother a big hug, and slowly walked back to her spot on the floor.

She started to walk back out the door, when Alice stopped her. "Bella, wait!"

Alice told her students to go to their desks and take out a picture they were working on earlier and ushered Bella out the door.

Once outside the classroom, Alice turned toward Bella. "What's going on? It's not like you to come check on Emma during the day." Alice placed her small hand on Bella's shoulder.

Bella didn't have many friends, but had gotten to know Alice during Emma's kindergarten year. She had volunteered at the school several times to keep herself busy and the two of them had hit it off immediately.

"I slept in late today and woke up to find Emma gone." Tears threatened to form in her eyes and she took a deep breath to ward them off before continuing. "I was in a panic when I couldn't find her. Mike left a note, but I just needed to see for myself that she was here." A single tear escaped as she finished.

"Do you think Mike would run off with her? I know you have been having some issues, but do you really think he would do that?" Alice asked, rubbing Bella's arm.

"I'm…I'm not sure." Bella stuttered. "Things at home have been a little strained and…"

Alice wrapped her arms around Bella. "It's okay. Look…I have to get back in there before mayhem ensues. I'm here for you okay? Give me a call later and we can chat more."

Bella nodded and pulled away, wiping her tears that were now flowing freely. "I'm sorry, Alice," she began, "I shouldn't have come here. I was just so worried."

"You're welcome anytime. You know that." Playful squeals erupted from inside the room and Alice quickly opened the door. "I really need to go. Call me," she whispered, hugging Bella again. She walked into her noisy room and commanded the attention of the students inside.

Mindlessly, Bella drove to the florist to pick up a vase of flowers and a card for her mother-in-law's birthday. Mrs. Newton was a sweet woman, but one that Bella was never able to connect with. She was devoted to her husband, a controlling man ho never allowed Mrs. Newton to have a life of her own. She lived the life that Mr. Newton dictated. She was only ever going to be his wife and a worker in his store. When they retired a few years ago, Bella thought that this would be the time for her mother-in-law to venture out and find activities that she enjoyed. That idea was quickly squashed when Mr. Newton fell ill and Mrs. Newton had to take care of her ailing husband. They lived on a meager income of disability from the state and Mr. Newton never allowed his wife to take another job to support the family. Bella felt sorry for her. She hoped that someday Mike's mother would find the happiness she deserved.

Bella saw so much of her father-in-law in Mike. She never felt free to venture out on her own…to look for her own interests and passion…she was only to be Mike's wife and Emma's mother, and Bella found that now more than ever she wanted so much more than that. She didn't realize until recently how stifled she actually was. She was still fearful, but knew that in the long run she needed to find out who she was again; to find the woman she was supposed to be…she just didn't know how to accomplish it.

She found a simple vase and had the florist fill them with her mother-in-law's favorite flowers. The white and yellow daisies looked beautiful, with a small amount of greenery and baby's breath mixed in. Her next chore was to find a card that Mike would accept.

Bella spent 20 minutes looking through the cards at the Hallmark store when her phone rang. She looked at the caller ID and not recognizing the number, decided to let the call go.

Her phone beeped, signaling a new message and Bella dialed her voice mail and listened to the voice on the message.

"Bella? This is Angela. We met at Rosalie's salon a few days ago. I wanted to call and tell you that we are looking for a part-time teller at the bank and I thought you might be interested in applying for the position…okay…well…feel free to call me back. My cell phone number is 555-3429. I look forward to hearing from you."

Bella quickly wrote down the number and decided that she would call as soon as she delivered the flowers and card to Mike at the sporting goods store. Mike hadn't said anything about cake or any gathering that was going to take place at his parents' house, so she knew she needed to get the specifics of the when and where's of the event that evening.

When she finally got to her car and started driving through town towards the store, she thought she had better check to make sure that Mike was actually there before dropping the gifts off.

"Newton's Sporting Goods"

"Hi, Russell, it's Bella…is Mike there?"

The silence on the other end of the line made Bella feel uneasy. "Ummm…yes he's here, but he's with a customer right now," he answered quietly.

"Okay…no big deal. I got the flowers he requested for his mother's birthday and a card. Can you have him call me when he's free please?"

An audible sigh of relief could be heard, "Sure…I'll let him know as soon as he's finished. Good-bye, Bella."

Bella looked at her phone when the line went dead. Odd. She thought to herself. Russell was one of the few employees the Newtons had at the store. He was a great employee, always willing to work when needed and was the kind of young man that didn't have to be told twice when something needed to be done. Bella liked him and thought that Mike took advantage of his kindness far too many times over the years of running the business.

Instead of waiting for Mike to call, Bella decided to quickly stop by the store to show Mike the bouquet for his mother. Pulling into the parking lot, she had a feeling of dread rush over her. Her heart fell into her stomach and she had a distinct feeling something was very wrong.

The bell rang over her head and Russell looked up with a smile on his face that quickly faded when he saw Bella walk through the door.

"Bella! I was going to…I mean…I gave Mike your message…Um…he's out right now and said that he'd be back in about," Russell looked down at his wrist realizing his watch wasn't there. "He'll be back."

"It's okay, Russell. I'm just going to put these in the office and do a little paperwork before I head home to change for dinner." Bella began to walk toward the back of the store, but Russell grabbed her arm gently.

"Bella…"

The look in his eyes made the uneasiness in Bella's stomach begin to grow. It was as if he were pleading with her not to take another step.

"Russell, I'll only be a minute then I'll be out of your hair." Bella gently withdrew her arm from Russell's grasp and gave him a small smile.

The closer she got to the back of the store the more uneasy she felt. It was as if her conscience was telling her to stop, turn around, and go home. She knew she should listen, but there was another part of her that needed to find out why she was feeling the way she was.

When she reached the door, she paused. She could hear muffled voices from within the room. She turned to look at Russell who had a look of horror on his face. She gripped the vase in her hand a little tighter before opening the door.

It took her mind a few seconds to register what she was seeing. Jessica was bent over the desk, her skirt gathered around her waist. Mike was behind her holding onto her hips while he pounded her backside, his white ass plainly visible. The couple didn't hear the door open and continued their activity. When Bella's brain caught up to what she was seeing, she gasped and dropped the vase of flowers. The sound of breaking glass and Jessica's scream shook Bella from her dream state.

"Bella! It's not what you think!" Mike stammered. Jessica quickly pulled her skirt down but left her panties around her ankles.

Unable to utter a word, Bella left the room, leaving the flowers and her heart behind.


A/N: There you have it! Any response would be appreciated. I know it's been a long time, and I can't promise quick updates, but I do want to finish this story. Whether or not I post it on FF is up to you...so REVIEW!~~~~Thanks, Jbluvs2sing