A/N: Thanks as always to RachelFish. One day, I will give her the best hug ever. And thank YOU for reading my words.
A good song for this chapter: "Headlights Look Like Diamonds" by Arcade Fire
As Bella and I start our run the next morning, I know there's something wrong. I could tell the moment she opened the door. I try to ask, but of course she doesn't want to talk about it. It's getting really old.
I keep glancing over at her as we jog down Meeting Street. She's stuck inside her head again. That's why I'm shocked when she blurts out the thing she says when we're halfway to the Battery.
"He said he was sorry."
"Who?" I ask without thinking. Oh.
"I woke up to thirty-seven emails on my phone this morning, and I'm pretty sure they're all from him."
I have to press my lips together to keep from cursing out loud. But in my head, I call him every name in the book. Once I'm sure I can keep my cool, I decide it's time. A little prodding is in order. Whether she knows it or not, she needs it. "Please tell me if I'm overstepping my boundaries here, but what does he want from you?"
"I didn't read the emails."
"What about last night?"
"What about it?"
Apparently I can't keep my cool after all. My breath leaves my lungs in a sound that's harsher than I intend. I slow to a jog before stopping altogether, hands on my hips, chest heaving from labored breathing and trying to keep my frustration reined in. "Bella, you can't keep doing this."
She stops and turns to look at me. "Doing what?"
"That!" I take another breath to keep from yelling, because I know I sound gruff. "You can't keep everything bottled up inside and evade every question. 'I'm fine' only works for so long. You're so closed off to everyone."
A myriad of emotions flash across her face. Shock, confusion, hurt, and—worst of all—anger. "I thought…" Her voice breaks slightly. "Edward, you were supposed to be the one person in my life that doesn't bother me about all this stuff."
My blood simmers in my veins as we stand there looking at one another in shock. "I'm sorry," I say in a strained voice. "I didn't realize I was bothering you."
The look behind her eyes is troubled, regretful. "Edward, I—"
I hold up a hand to stop her before she can go any further. I'm tired of keeping everything in. Tired of checking my emotions and opinions at the door. I don't know how she does it all the damn time. "No, it's fine. I don't want to bother you anymore. Let's finish this run."
"That's not what I meant," she says quietly, not meeting my eyes.
My frustration grows. I close my eyes, gather the bit of patience I have left, and take a leap of faith. "I want you to be able to open up to me, Bella. For the past month, I've been watching you war with yourself. You might think you're good at hiding it, but it shows all over your face. You think this is all your fault. You feel like you're not good enough."
Finally, finally, I get a reaction out of her that's neither passive nor detached.
"Don't tell me how I feel!" she yells. Her voice is angry, but it's clear that she's holding back tears. "You have no idea what it's been like. My entire life changed in the five minutes it took for him to dump me. I was in shock. Even now, when I see something that reminds me of what we had, I feel like there's a hole in my heart. But when you're around, Edward—" She stops and covers her hand with her mouth as the tears fall. "You make me forget about things. You distract me from it all. You're… You're the best friend I've had in a long time.
And fuck if I don't feel like an ass for upsetting her, but I want her to open up, to show some sort of emotion. I pull her to my chest, hugging her tightly and resting my chin on the top of her head. "I'm sorry." I sigh. "I just hate to see you like this."
There's no mirth in her short laugh. "I feel like this is the only way you've ever seen me."
I laugh too, though there's no trace of humor in mine either. "It's understandable."
She pulls away much more quickly than I'm ready for and swipes at her tears. "I just want to move past this so badly. I'm not even sad anymore. I'm just angry."
My heart clenches. "I know you are. I wish there were something I could do to help."
She gives me a watery smile. "You've done so much, Edward."
To me, it's nothing. I want to do much more, be so much more to her. As we stand here together, I watch her close herself off again. Her body language goes back to the tense posture she holds when she deems a subject closed for discussion. I feel my own shoulders and jaw tense in response. And we're back to this. As soon as I think we're making some headway…
"Want to head back?" she asks.
"Yeah," I say, sighing. "Let's walk for a bit." I'm in no mood to run. My chest is tight, and my head is starting to pound. There's an edge to the silence that falls over us. So I'm unnerved and a little pissed off when she tries to lighten the mood with small talk.
"What are you doing for Thanksgiving? Big family dinner and all that?"
I nod and tell her about the dinner my parents host every year. I try not to let irritation come through in my tone, but I doubt I'm succeeding. I ask about her plans, and she tells me that her parents usually a dinner too, but on a smaller scale. It sounds much more pleasant than the hubbub and noise at my parents' house. Plus, Bella won't be there. Even if I'm frustrated with her, I always want her there.
She sighs heavily and asks if I'm ready to pick up the pace again. I turn my head to see a somewhat panicked look on her face. I know why she wants to run. She wants to run away from whatever's inside that beautiful head of hers. I don't want to watch her fight herself anymore. "Uh, shin splints," I lie. "You go ahead, though."
She doesn't say goodbye. She just looks at me with regret, turns, and runs. She's good at that.
I slam the front door harder than I intend when I get home. Emmett and Rose sit on the couch watching football, but the loud noise from the door catches their attention.
"Dude, what's up?" says Emmett.
"Bella?" Rose sits up and gives me a sympathetic look. She knows how I feel. She's been here. Maybe not in the same way, but she knows.
"Why is she so broken up over that asshole?" I yell, letting my anger loose.
The only movement Emmett makes is to raise his beer bottle up to his lips again.
"Because they were together a long time," Rose offers. "It takes a while to get over stuff like that sometimes."
I shake my head and collapse in the recliner. "I know that. I just wish she'd talk to me."
"She doesn't even talk to Rosalie, bro. What makes you think she'd talk to you?"
Rose gazes at Emmett in a lovesick way before she nods and turns back to me. "She has to deal with things on her own, Edward. She'll come around eventually."
The truth hurts. Maybe she doesn't feel as close to me as I do with her. I shrug and run a hand through my hair.
"You know what I think?" Emmett asks.
I laugh, but it sounds more angry than anything else. "God only knows what you're thinking, Emmett."
"I think we need to go out to some hole in the wall and just get trashed."
I start to say no, but when I consider the prospect… I think I need it. "Actually, that sounds like a very good idea," I tell him.
"All right!" he says, and his expression tells me he was fully expecting me to say no. He sits up and rubs his hands together, but he seems to have a second thought when he looks back at Rosalie. "If that's okay with you, I mean."
"What?" she scoffs. "That's nonsense. Go out with your brother."
He leans forward and kisses her on the nose. "Have I told you how much I love you?"
I look away and just seethe. My mood isn't going to improve being around these two. "I'm going to shower and—I don't know. Take a nap or something."
"Rest up, bro. We're partying it up tonight!" Emmett calls after me with a loud laugh.
"Partying it up" is not nearly the phrase to describe what we do that night. We go to Big John's Tavern. A definite hole in the wall, but a historical one, because there isn't anything in this city that's not historical or completely touristy.
"That guy's such an asshole," I slur. "And you know what the worst part of it is? The worst part is that it's all my fault."
Emmett slams his empty glass down on the bar and gestures to the bartender for another shot of whiskey. "How the fuck is anything your fault?"
"I introduced that fucker to Charlotte!"
"Yeah? So? That doesn't make it your fault. He made a poor decision that he has to live with."
"Yeah, well, Bella has to live with it, too."
"You gotta stop that, man. You can't do anything to make her better. Accept it and move on."
"I can't move on," I mutter before knocking back my own shot.
"I don't mean move on completely. We all know there's more between you than either of you lets on."
I jerk my head around to look at him, which makes me dizzy, and I feel like I might fall off the barstool.
"Easy there, little brother," Emmett says. "I just meant that you have to let her deal with her crap on her own. You can't fix it."
I rest my forehead on the bar briefly. Some loud music starts up, and Emmett taps me on the shoulder.
"Dude, watch this shit," he says.
A girl in ridiculous high heels climbs on top of the bar. She's so wobbly on her stupid shoes that I'm surprised they let her up there. I know what's going on, and I groan. This bar has bras in all shapes, sizes, and colors hanging from the ceiling. It's a crass tradition. Girls get up on the bar, take off their bras, and hang them from the ceiling all for some stupid t-shirt. I avert my eyes, embarrassed for the girl, even if she shows nothing but complete confidence.
Emmett grins lazily. He knows what I'm thinking. "You wouldn't think it was pathetic if it was Bella's tits you were seeing."
"Shut up," I mumble. I won't say I haven't thought about Bella that way, because God knows I have…many times.
We down a few more beers. I don't even remember how we get home until I find the note on my bedside table from Alice the next morning.
She's confused. Give her some time. She'll come around. There's some ibuprofen and Vitamin Water on your bathroom sink. Love you!
When my head stops pounding and I can actually think clearly, I formulate a plan. Bella needs space. I need a little patience. If that's all I can give her right now, I'll do it.
So I decide that maybe a little time apart will do some good. To tell the truth, I'm still a little miffed at her comment about me "bothering" her. In the heat of the moment, that one little word dug its claws deep into my restraint. I've been there for her since day one, and it's been so easy up until now. I've been the faithful friend and listener, the one friend who's refrained from giving her advice or insisting that I know what's best for her. And the one time I try to get her to talk to me, I'm bothering her. I hate that word. My chest starts to tighten slightly as I think of it again.
Yeah, a little time is exactly what we both need.
So when she calls me on Monday to see if I'm running, I tell her I already have, and that I really have to finish writing my poli-sci paper. We don't talk for the rest of the week. I try my best not to brood like Alice says I've been doing. I go to classes, write papers, and take my runs on the beach instead of downtown.
By Friday, I've had enough of my moping and figure out that I'm being an even bigger bastard by implementing this "space" thing for both of us. Rose's brother Jasper is back from Paris, so the six of us are meeting up for dinner tonight. While I sort of want it to be just Bella and me, it's the perfect opportunity to test the waters and see whether she's angry with me. I can't stand that thought. Or the thought that I've hurt her in some way. We haven't talked since Monday.
I tell myself I'm being an ass and make a side trip to a florist on my way home from school.
By the time I step outside of the flower shop, I shake my head and wonder when the hell flowers became such a complicated thing. Whatever happened to just buying a thing of roses or something? At the florist's insistence, I picked pink tulips, which apparently mean deep caring. I doubt Bella will know that. Who knows that kind of thing?
I have to admit, though, that they're the perfect representation of Bella and everything I feel for her. I scribble a quick note to tuck in with the flowers, then drive to her house and quickly place them on her doorstep and leave before anyone sees. Who knows? Maybe she does know a little something about what flowers stand for. It's a long shot, but part of me hopes she does.