Chapter Ten: Hideous Truth
My mother, Victoria Taylor, walked out on our family when Alice and I were nine. No explanation, no letter… She just fucking left. Even though she had tried to keep in touch with us over the years, like paying us unexpected visits every once in a while and sending us postcards and gifts from wherever the fuck she was, I had always wanted to cut her from my life since she was the reason this family was so screwed up.
That was why this morning when I woke up, walked downstairs, and found her sitting on the couch with her arm around Alice, I marched right back upstairs. It was too late though; Dad had already seen me, and he insisted that I come back down and greet my mother since, according to him, it was "the right thing to do."
"Ah, Edward! My boy. You look taller and even more handsome than I remember." I shrugged out of her embrace with disgust when she tried enveloping me into a hug. Everything about her made me sick. Her smile. Her perfume. Her voice.
"Victoria…" Dad cleared his throat uncomfortably. "Esme will be here in half an hour…"
"Relax, Carlisle," she smiled warmly at him, and the sound of my father's name upon her lips made me want to punch something. "I won't be long. I just wanted to let Edward and Alice know that I will be in town this week and I'd like to spend some time with them."
"The whole week? Really?" Alice enthused, and her face lit up like she had just won the freaking lottery. "Wow. That's great! Where are you staying at, Mom?"
Ugh. Mom. I hadn't uttered that word aloud since she left us.
"A hotel nearby," she said. "Well, if you and Edward aren't busy for lunch later, why don't we go out and eat?"
Alice said "Yes" the same time I bellowed "No." Dad glared at me, for being rude I assume, and Alice looked equally pissed off. I didn't get them. They were treating Victoria like she was some goddamn guest that we were lucky to have. This is the woman that cheated on you, dumbass. This is the woman that walked away from her mistake because she was a coward who didn't have the courage to stay around and clean up her mess. Of course, I couldn't tell them all those things because they didn't know. No one did.
"I see. You're busy today, so how about tomorrow? We can have dinner together."
I turned away and rolled my eyes. "Can't. I have something I can't get out of." I was a good liar, but this time I didn't make an effort to sound convincingly. There was no need; I wanted Victoria to know she wasn't worth a second of my time.
"What a shame," she murmured. "It's alright though. Alice and I will still have a lovely time. Right, darling?"
"Of course, Mom!" My sister laughed. "I'm sure we'll have a better time now that Edward won't be there to spoil our meal!"
Scowling, I clenched my fists, blood boiling under my skin. How dared she, showing up at our home like she was still a part of our family and pretending nothing had happened? And more importantly, what the fuck was wrong with Dad, being civil to the woman who walked out on him nine years ago? I couldn't stomach another minute of this polite bullshit.
To make things more complicated, Esme chose then to show up. She had been away for two weeks in Scotland visiting her grandfather, who was like a Scottish earl something. "Sorry. I didn't realize you had company," she murmured, shooting a look of confusion at my dad when she saw us sitting and standing in the living room.
"Esme, this is Victoria. Victoria, Esme. My fiancée." I could tell my dad was uncomfortable as he made the introduction. When Victoria shook Esme's hand and said how nice it was to finally meet her, I felt like my head was about to explode with fury. Unable to stand another minute of Victoria, I stomped to the kitchen, enraged. Screw breakfast. I'll just get a cup of milk and a slice of bread and eat them in my room.
"Edward?" I was going to snap at the person behind me, who I had guessed was Victoria, but I calmed down after realizing it was only Esme. She pulled me into a hug, and unlike the one I received from Victoria earlier, Esme's felt warm and sincere.
"You don't look so good, Handsome. What's the matter?"
"I'm just… a bit pissed that she's here."
She gave me a sympathetic smile and squeezed my hand. She knew how I felt about Victoria. "She is your mother, Edward. You can't change that."
I bobbed a nod, sighing when she gave me another hug. It was then that I realized that Victoria had been watching us all along from the couch, looking hurt by the exchange between Esme and me. Good. I wanted her to know what I held against her was personal.
I woke up to the sound of Edward's cursing and yelling from the other side of the wall. I assumed he also threw something at the wall, since I heard something breaking into pieces, and prayed that what I heard wasn't actually the sound of the windows shattering for Mrs. Cullen's sake.
Tentatively, I tiptoed down the hall. Even though Edward hadn't been mean to me since our blowout about my mom, I still didn't know what to think of him. There were times that he irritated the living daylight out of my just by being in the same room but there were also times that I felt it was possible for us to be friends.
The Cullen family were in the living room. By the window stood a beautiful woman with chestnut hair cascading down her back, dressed fashionably in a pink suit with her arm around Alice. "Bella, this is Victoria, Edward and Alice's mother." Carlisle smiled awkwardly, putting an arm around Esme, who looked equally uncomfortable.
At the sound of my name, Victoria turned to my direction and smiled. Letting go of Alice, she took small steps towards me with her hand held out. "Very nice to meet you, Bella. I'm guessing you are the brave girl who saved Elizabeth. I read all about you in the paper." Not knowing what to say, I smiled in response.
"Now, are you staying with us for breakfast, Victoria? I can ask Silvia to set another plate-"
"Oh, there's no need. I actually have an appointment this morning," said Victoria, cutting Mrs. Cullen off. "I must get going. I'll call you later, Alice, and tell Edward he's welcomed to join us if his plans get cancelled."
The disappointment was evident in Alice's eyes. "You're leaving already, Mom? You just got here!"
"I'm sorry, honey. We'll catch up at lunch."
Mrs. Cullen showed Victoria the door, and I caught a "What's she doing here?" in the midst of Carlisle and Esme's whispering. It was clear that no one in the Cullen family but Alice was thrilled that Edward's mom was here. Was that why Edward was acting moodier than usual this morning?
Upon returning to the living room, Mrs. Cullen asked Alice to call Edward down for breakfast. When Alice refused brusquely, I volunteered to go up there since I was going to fetch a jacket anyways. The second my offer slipped through my lips, however, I regretted it. With Edward being this furious, I probably wasn't the best person to get him to come out from his room.
Okay. You were stupid enough to offer. Now be stupid enough to follow it through.
I trotted up the stairs and walked swiftly to Edward's room, figuring the longer it took me, the more likely I was going to chicken out at the last minute. The wooden door jerked open, taking me by surprise just as I was about to knock. He flinched when he saw me standing in the hall, in front of his room, gawking at him like a moron.
"What do you want?"
I felt a cold sweat steal over my forehead. "Breakfast's ready and umm… your grandma wants you to come down." It was then that I noticed that his knuckles were bleeding. Unthinkingly, I reached for his left hand to get a closer look, briefly forgetting it was Edward Cullen standing before me. "You're bleeding!"
He jerked his hand back so abruptly and aggressively that I nearly yelped in alarm. "Mind your own business!" he barked, glaring. Again. Stupid. Stupid. Stupid. Breathlessly, I darted downstairs, hoping he wouldn't chase me down and, I don't know, break my arm off.
Breakfast couldn't have been more awkward. Alice glowered at Edward the entire time while Edward looked as if he could kill. Mrs. Cullen tried to dissipate the tension in the room by talking about the wedding, and Carlisle and Esme responded enthusiastically, as if they hadn't noticed the anger on Edward and Alice's faces. After a while, when the adults ran out of topics to discuss, it was just the sound of forks clinking against plates filling the room.
Alice broke the silence by casting a belligerent look in her brother's direction. "So, Edward, I am curious. Who's important enough for you to blow off Mom? You said you were busy."
Edward, throwing his fork down to his plate, glared at her. "I didn't stop you from having lunch with her, did I? So shut up."
"Edward!" Carlisle chided.
Alice shot up from a chair all of a sudden and jabbed her finger at Edward, who was now eyeing her with disdain. "It's your faultthat Mom rarely visits. With your attitude, I wouldn't want to, either!"
Instead of exploding in rage, like he normally would, Edward just looked at Alice with a dark, scary expression that even stopped Mrs. Cullen from saying whatever it was that she had planned to say. "She doesn't visit because she doesn't give a damn about us, Alice. All she's ever cared about is herself. If these meaningless, once-a-year visits are enough for you, then you know what? Good for you. You can pretend that we're just one big happy family, but do not force me to live in your fantasy bubble with you."
He sounded so calm and collected that I kept waiting for the blow that I was sure would come. I didn't even realize I had been holding my breath.
Alice's lips quivered. "Mom loves us, alright? She does."
Edward let out a contemptuous scoff and looked away from her, which made Alice bristle. "Apologize to your sister, Edward!" The blood had drained from Dr. Cullen's face.
"For what?" Edward retorted. "What I said was true. Now if you'll excuse me," he got to his feet, his chair scraping against the floor.
Nobody said anything when Edward dashed for the door, slamming it as he left the house. Maybe they were used to his temper. I knew I was.
That afternoon, Riley and I made plans to meet at Starbucks for coffee and my mood brightened as soon as I spotted him in the corner booth. His warm, inviting smile did funny things to my heart; I grinned at him like a goof and took the seat across from him.
"Sorry I'm late," I said, giving him a peck on the cheek.
"Don't worry about it; you're right on time. I was just so excited to see you that I came early," he winked at me. I emitted a small, embarrassed laugh but deep down I was really happy that Riley treasured what we had as much as I did. He pushed forward the Caramel Frappuccino and Brownie that he ordered for me.
Riley and I almost never ran out of things to talk about, and even if we did, the silence wasn't awkward at all. We covered pretty much everything; from his classes to my dad, and then the Cullens. I told him about Victoria's visit this morning, and how the entire family had been acting weird ever since. He said he didn't really remember much about Victoria except she was quite the looker; he had only seen her a few times when he was a child.
"So how are you getting along with Edward these days? Is he still giving you a hard time?" Riley asked, taking a sip of his coffee. My hesitation before answering his question didn't escape his notice. "Jeez, is he still that awful to you?"
"No," I said quickly. "I mean, he still hates the fact that I'm living in his house, but we're not ripping each other's throat out." I didn't add the fact that I was acting so stupid around Edward lately that I was practically giving him an invitation to snap at me.
He laughed. "That sounds reassuring, I guess." We caught a movie afterwards and I insisted on it being my treat since he had paid for the coffee and pastry, and also lunch the day before. The line was obnoxiously long; we must have waited twenty minutes just to get the tickets. "Wait here," Riley said. "I'll get us some popcorn."I told him thanks and watched him with a smile as he walked away.
My smile faltered when I spotted Edward and a gorgeous dark-haired girl exiting an expensive Japanese restaurant across the street, her hand on his arm. She was beaming at him, but he wasn't smiling and it seemed that his attention was elsewhere.
"Okay. We're all set." I didn't even notice Riley approaching. Turning at the sound of his voice, I muttered "Thanks" and stuffed a piece of popcorn into my mouth, hoping he hadn't seen me watching Edward and that girl. "Isn't that Edward and Bree?" he chuckled. "They seem… cozy."
Bree. That was when the fact that she was the girl who I had stepped on when I first met Edward, the same day Mrs. Cullen was shot, dawned on me. Wow. It seemed like it happened in another lifetime.
As if Edward heard Riley's comment, which he couldn't have from where he was standing, he swept his eyes around and narrowed them when he saw me and Riley. I turned away instantly, not wanting him to ruin my date or affect my good mood. "Come on, Riley. We're going to miss the previews." He wrapped his one of his arms around my waist and held the popcorn in his other. From the corner of my eye, I peeked just to see how Edward reacted to that, or whether he reacted at all. They had already walked away.
"Emmett, if you don't stop taking food from my plate when you think I'm not looking, I'm going to break your fingers," I threatened, smacking his hand when he tried to snatch one of my fries. He and Rose met up with Riley and me for dinner at a new deli shop close to his place, which was also only a block away from Bella Villagio. He was also being a giant pain in the ass.
"I'm starving!" he whined, gesturing to his now-empty plate.
"Order more! Besides, I don't see you taking anything from Rosalie's plate, even though she's outside talking on the phone!"
Emmett threw me a "Are you freaking crazy? She would kill me" look, pinched one of my fries before I could react, and shoved it in his mouth with a smirk to rub it on me. I scowled at him while Riley laughed.
A minute later, Rosalie returned with a wide smile, practically bouncing back to our table with excitement. "Guess what."
"You won the lottery?" Emmett offered, muttering, "Do you guys want to order some chicken wings? I'm still kind of hungry."
"You won a trip to Hawaii?" Riley chuckled.
"Jude Law proposed?" I giggled. Rosalie was crazy about British actors, and ever since she saw the new Sherlock Holmes movie, her latest infatuation had been Jude.
She glared at all three of us. "No, no, and no. Though what you said," She pointed her index finger at me, "could still happen." Emmett rolled his eyes. "Okay. My uncle's ice cream parlor reopens tomorrow."
I still can't believe that it'd been four months since the shooting took place. The police still hadn't figured out the identity of the person who tried to kill Mrs. Cullen, and they were guessing that she wasn't working alone by how fast and successfully she was able to get away from the crime scene. Rosalie's uncle lost a lot of customers after the shooting, since most people began regarding it as "the dangerous part of the Bronx". He got the windows replaced, which cost him a ton of money, but decided to close down the shop for a while, just until the entire thing blew over.
"Great. Now we have one more place to hang out," Emmett said cheerfully.
"Man, I wonder if the police will ever catch the person who did it," Rosalie shook her head wistfully.
Emmett scoffed. "That person must be either insane or heartless. I mean, who the hell is sadistic enough to shoot a sixty year-old in the head? She needs to be locked up in jail or sent to a mental institution or something." Rosalie shot him a pointed glare and kicked him from under the table. Emmett, realizing what he had just said, turned to me with remorse. "Oh, fuck. Bella, I'm so sorry. I didn't mean-"
"It's fine," I cut him off with a smile. Mom had been in the mental facility for so long that comments like that didn't really bother me anymore. The nurses said that she was finally making progress on mental recovery; she hadn't broken down into tears or harmed herself in the last two weeks, but they wanted to keep her for another couple of weeks to make sure she was really stable. Dad and I were ecstatic, of course.
"I'm stupid." Emmett flicked himself on the forehead.
"Em, stop it!" I chuckled. "It's okay. I wasn't offended." Riley gave my hand a squeeze and threw me a sympathetic smile.
We chatted for another hour, Emmett ordered some more food, and Rosalie suggested we all go clubbing with it being a Saturday night. I turned her down since I had promised Mom that I'd visit her tomorrow morning and I didn't want to oversleep. Mrs. Cullen's apartment was dark by the time I returned. Tentatively, I took deliberate steps across the living room, feeling a little uneasy in the eerie darkness. Spotting a dim light in the kitchen and hearing the sound of glass clinking, I relaxed. I didn't like being in this apartment alone, since it made me feel even more out of place.
I walked over to the kitchen, expecting to find Silvia about to take off for the night. To my bewilderment, it was Edward, sitting on the kitchen island and drinking out from a bottle of wine. I wondered what he was doing home this early on a Saturday night. It was so dark in the room that I could barely make out his silhouette, despite the candle flickering from the counter.
"Hey." I was just about to turn away when I heard his voice.
"Hey," I said, taken aback.
"What were you doing, spying on me?"
I swallowed. "I didn't know it was you. I thought-"
"Would you relax?" he laughed, cutting me off. "It was a joke."
I muttered "Oh" then asked if I should turn the light on. He waved me off and said the light was giving him a headache.
I fidgeted, unsure what I should do while he took another sip- gulp- of his wine and sighed, throwing his head back. I realized he had drunk half the bottle already. No wonder he was being so civil to me- he wasn't sober.
"Umm… I'll just get a glass of water and leave," I mumbled, shuffling toward the cabinet.
"Do you mind staying?" he asked, catching my wrist. My heart accelerated when he stared straight into my eyes. "I don't like drinking alone." Why he wanted my company was beyond me. Was he so drunk that he didn't even know who I was?
I hesitated. "Okay, I guess."
It took me two tries to get myself on the island; I could have sworn I heard him snicker. When he asked me if I wanted some alcohol, I declined.
"What do you have there?" I had forgotten about the CD that I had just bought. I handed it over to him, expecting him to criticize my taste in music, like he did to everything else that I liked. "You like Skillet?" he sounded incredulous.
"Yes," I said, defensively. "Is there a problem?"
"Did I say there was a problem?" He raised his eyebrow. "I have this CD." Oh. Well, what do you know? "Look, I'm sorry about this morning. I was mad at my… that woman for showing up and I took it out on you. I shouldn't have yelled like that."
Wow. He must have been really drunk if he was apologizing.
Now that I was closer to him, I noticed how much of a wreck he looked for the first time. Not that he didn't look good- he did, even though he was only wearing jeans and a wife-beater - but he looked…troubled. His eyes were bloodshot, and he kept grimacing and tapping the side of his head, like there was something inside that he wanted to get rid of.
"Are you okay?" I half-whispered.
"I don't know. I don't fucking know." His voice cracked, and he buried his head between his hands. I wanted to do something to comfort him, maybe throw my arms around him, but I knew I shouldn't. "Do you know how it feels to know something you're not supposed to know? Something you have to keep from everyone you know, even your family?" He drank from the bottle again, this time emptying it.
"Why can't you tell your family?" I asked, unsure where this was going.
"Because it's too late to say something now," he whispered. "I should have said something all those years ago."
Fuck. My head was killingme.
"I don't understand." Swan's voice was so quiet that I could barely hear her. "Look, you don't have to tell me anything-"
"My mom left us when I was nine," I cut her off, wincing when my thoughts traveled back to that afternoon. "She left without a word, and it devastated my dad, since my dad gave up a lot to be with her. A month later, she mailed the divorce papers, with a letter about how she married my dad too young and wasn't ready for marriage. She assured him there was no one else," I scoffed in disdain. Victoria was so full of shit. "She made her leave sound so righteous that it's sickening."
She waited for me to continue. She was probably asking herself why I was dumping all of this on her; to be honest, I had no idea why I was doing it.
"That's the story that my family was fooled into believing. What they don't know is that my mom cheated on my dad with his best friend. I saw them together, you know." I cringed when images from that afternoon started replaying in my head: Victoria inviting John over when my Grandma was away on a business trip and my dad was in a conference in Europe. Alice and I were sleeping over at our friends' house; now it makes sense why she was so eager to get us out of the house. I came home that day because I had forgotten to bring an extra shirt, and before I left the house, I wanted to say goodbye. I went to my parent's bedroom, knocked on the door then threw it open. John and Victoria were kissing on the bed, topless.
"Oh my God," Victoria breathed, her eyes widened. "Edward, sweetie, let me explain-"
I ran, because I was afraid of what she had to say.
"Oh, God," Bella whispered.
"I've kept it a secret all these years. I wanted to tell my dad, but in the end I found that I couldn't because it would kill him. The two people that he cared about the most, betraying him like that…" I shook my head, thinking back to the days when my dad used to walk around the house like a zombie after the divorce was final. He loved her, and he took it harder than me and Alice.
"That man." Swan looked to her feet, frowning. "Did you know him well?"
"I thought I did," I chuckled. "In fact, you know him, too."
Surprised, she whipped around to face me abruptly. The candle casted a soft glow on her skin, and for a second there, I felt tempted to reach out and touch her cheeks, to see if they were as soft and warm as they looked. "I know him, too? What are you talking about?"
"That man is John Biers. Riley Bier's father."
Her eyes were wide and round as she sat there gawking at me, agape. "Ri… Riley's dad? Does Riley know about this?"
"No!" I said, and I could tell I startled her when I raised my voice. "This is why I haven't told anyone. Do you realize how many people would be hurting if the truth got out? I'd rather have my dad think my mom only left him because she wasn't ready to be tied down. If he knew the truth…" I shook my head at the thought. Dad would have been crushed- no doubt about that. John was his best friend; they grew up together, and he was the closest thing to a brother that he had. "And Riley… he used to adore his dad. Hell, I used to envy him for having a dad like John. It just didn't seem right to tell him. I mean, I didn't need to fuck his family up too, you know?"
She let out an uneven breath; I guess all of this was too much for her to process right on the spot.
"Edward." I tried running again when Victoria found me sitting on a park bench, tears rolling down my face. "Listen to me-"
"No! Get away from me!" I screamed when she put a hand on my shoulder.
She covered her mouth with her other hand and sobbed. "It was a mistake, Edward. I didn't mean for you to found out. Please don't tell your father. It would hurt him so much…"
"I'm fucking stupid," I sighed. "I should have said something then. I tried. I did. But I always end up chickening out." I thought back to the time when Victoria visited us for the first time after my parents' split- a year after the divorce. I was so angry at her for showing up without any remorse for what she had done that I almost blurted everything out then. It was what she said when she came up to my room to see me that stopped me. Telling him won't change anything, Edward. Your dad will be hurt and imagine how he would feel if he knew that you knew about John all this time and didn't tell him anything. He would be mad at you, sweetheart. And you don't want that, do you? I hated her for being right. I hated that smile on her face after she finished speaking. "I'm a coward."
Swan hopped off the counter and stood in front of me, placing her hand on mine. "You're not a coward, Edward. You just don't want to hurt the people that you care about. No one can blame you for that."
Maybe it was the alcohol talking. Maybe it was the way her brown eyes bored into mine that made me think, Hey, Swan wasn't that bad a person to have around after all.
Author's Note: I'm so sorry for the long wait- writer's block is extremely annoying! I'm not completely satisfied with the way this chapter turned out but I didn't want to make you guys wait any longer. I hope you enjoyed it anyways. PLEASE REVIEW!
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