Beside Still Waters
Walk me to the riverside, where the water runs so deep
Push me to the edge of fine, so far down I cannot see
Drown me in a grief so real, I cannot feel the sun
Drop me to my knees, oh lord, forgive the things I've done…
It wasn't a conscious decision to dive in, but like everything else where Bella was concerned, I felt moved by a force I couldn't explain.
I'd noticed her horsing around with a circle of friends on the cliffs at La Push beach for the better part of an hour. She was the only girl in the group, but didn't seem at all intimidated by the escalating rowdiness. When the yelling started, I began to pay closer attention. They seemed to be egging each other on, and I watched as one boy after another took a running leap off the cliff to the catcalls and laughter of his friends. Emerging triumphant from the water, he would rejoin the group to watch the next person go. Eventually, the only one that hadn't jumped was the girl, and for a moment it seemed like she would back down. I could hear bits of indistinct banter coupled with words of encouragement, and she suddenly squared her shoulders and walked to the edge. She hesitated a long moment, then looked back, before straightening and launching herself over the side. Someone called out "Swan dive, baby!" and I heard a large splash as I watched her enter the ocean.
From my vantage point lower on the cliff, I waited for her to resurface, but the water remained unbroken. I didn't stop to think, didn't consider whether I was truly strong enough to swim against the current. I found myself diving down into the deep, cold blue, unable to see anything, yet somehow sure I would find her. My hands brushed against her hair, then wrapped around her waist as I fought to bring us back into the light.
As we lay on the shore gasping for air, it was hard not to stare. Pale skin, long dark hair, brown eyes…she began to shake with cold, and I wrapped myself around her, feeling the exact moment she relaxed into me. Her eyes closed, and I felt something fundamental shift; I no longer wondered what had brought me down to the beach that day.
Our chance encounter at a restaurant in Seattle had taken me by surprise; if I'd seen her before she'd seen me I probably would have ducked out of sight to hide like a coward. Instead I froze as she approached; dread coursing through me at the tongue-lashing I was sure to receive. It's not like I didn't deserve it, and worse. Instead, she grabbed my arm gently while looking in my eyes.
We hastily exchanged numbers, Renee glancing around nervously for any sign of Charlie's imminent arrival. I understood what her actions meant—we shouldn't be seen talking—and a whole new level of shame coursed through me. I had earned this—Bella's father had every reason in the world to hate me. He had entrusted me with his daughter, and I had failed him when I had failed her.
But I was so very tired of running.
And, whether I deserved it or not, I wanted to see my daughter…and my wife.
We had divorced, of course—that's what the paperwork said. That's what my mother told her friends at the club, and my grandparents when they'd asked. In the long run, it will be better for everyone…I could still hear her words all these years later. I'd wanted to scream better for whom…but had kept my head down and said nothing, convinced that what I had done could not be undone.
During my lowest point, I had received an invitation from my uncle Alec to summer in North Carolina. It had seemed the best way—maybe the only way—to put enough distance between myself and everything I needed to forget. So once again, when given the opportunity, I had run...
My hands were shaking so badly I almost couldn't dial the phone. I sent up a silent prayer to whoever might be listening. Please let Renee pick up and not Charlie…let it be Renee.
I took a deep breath. "Renee, it's Edward."
"Oh, Edward. I'm really, really glad you called. How are you?"
And I told her. Not every little detail, but enough. I needed her to know the depth of my regret; needed her to understand how sorry I truly was and how much I wanted to find a way to repair what I'd destroyed. More than anything, she had to know that I still loved her daughter, and that being separated from my own was more than I could bear. Would she help me?
There was silence on her end of the line, and for a moment I feared I had overstepped with my request. When she finally spoke, I almost broke down at her words.
"There is nothing I would like more. I can't promise you anything, though. You've got a hard road ahead of you with Bella, and I don't think there's anything I can say or do to make things easier for you. But you have a right to see Grace, and you need to exercise that right. You don't want to miss any more than you already have. Let me give you Bella's number."
I jotted it down, then said my good-byes. I would call that number. I would.
Just not tonight.