So you remember my story 'Chemicals'? Well, this is it in two-shot form (and further editing/improved). Because I honestly think this story is going to be a lot better in a different format like this one. I don't want to drag that story out, so this is it.
Please review, I appreciate it!
"I don't feel good, mommy." My daughter mumbled, seconds before she threw up all the contents of her stomach onto my freshly cleaned kitchen floor. Unfortunately, some of the…splatter landed on me.
The second she stopped retching, Allison took one look at the floor and burst into tears. Trying desperately not to gag and embarrass her further, I crouched down slightly and pulled my daughter into my arms. "Shh…it's okay, Allison." I comforted her, kissing her forehead and noticing she felt pretty warm. "Edward!" I called loudly, still hugging Allison tightly. "Please come in here!"
"What's-" Edward rounded the corner into the kitchen not a full minute later, his face immediately contorting slightly in disgust, causing Allison to cry even harder. I narrowed my eyes at my husband of nearly ten years and he offered me a small, apologetic smile.
"Take Ali upstairs while I clean this up." I said softly. "Please take her temperature." I added. Edward nodded and opened his arms to our daughter invitingly. Allison looked up from the crook of my neck with her bottom lip jutting out and her eyes rimmed in red.
"Come on, baby." Edward crooned, wiggling his fingers. Allison sniffled and then slowly walked over to him before practically jumping into his open arms. She locked her arms around his neck and her legs around his waist, burying her head into his chest. I watched as Edward gently rubbed her back, then smiled at me and slowly retreated upstairs.
As I started to clean up the mess on the floor, my mind wandered freely.
If you had told me ten years ago I'd end up married to Edward Cullen bearing his two children, I'd think you were absolutely and completely insane. Back in high school, where we met, Edward and I had been complete polar opposites.
I had spent the majority of my time in library studying, while he was always the center of attention. I studied, he partied. Simple as that. We kept our distance from each other and hardly spoke.
And then came the year that would change everything. It was my first year of college, and I was all geared up to be starting school at the Chicago Institute of Art. And it turned out, Edward was headed to the University of Chicago. I had sat down on the plane, leaving Seattle and all the loneliness of high school behind, when none other than Edward Cullen sat down in the seat next to mine. We had exchanged awkward, surprised greetings and then fallen into an uncomfortable silence. But somewhere in the middle of our flight, that all changed. We started talking about college…and then simply became fascinated with each other.
Edward told me about the full ride football scholarship he had gotten to Stanford, and how he had decided to turn it down because he was sick of football and his heart was no longer in the game. Instead, he was studying to be a composer at the University of Chicago. My heart had practically melted right then and there. Our conversation had then drifted towards me and my art, which had gotten me a substantial scholarship.
It was like we had become two different people over the summer. I had broken out of my shy, reclusive shell, and Edward was less cocky and arrogant. We ended up sharing our first kiss by the end of that plane ride. Two months later, we had fallen in love and were living together.
And not eight months after that…I had gotten pregnant. My parents had not been very happy, to say the least, but Edward had been positively thrilled. He had proposed on the spot and we got married when I was four months pregnant.
It was at that point in my life that I decided I needed to put my college education on hold. Edward had been extremely against it, but had eventually given in. We scraped together the money we had, took a loan from the bank, and then managed to buy a house perfect for our growing family. Edward had to commute a lot further for his classes, but he insisted that it was worth it. Three months after we moved into the house, our little baby was born.
Evan was the most beautiful little baby boy. He had my chocolate brown curls and deep brown eyes but all of Edward's handsome features, down to the adorable dimples on his cheeks. It had certainly been a difficult time for me- none of my few friends in the city knew anything about babies and Edward and I's families were both back in Washington, but Edward and I had pulled together. Evan was nine years old now, and completely obsessed with football. I can't tell you how many times that boy has dragged his father outside to play.
Our second child, Allison, was born four years later. Edward was out of school and had a good job while I stayed home with Evan and Allison. She was nothing like her big brother- Allison was a hyper five year old while Evan was a much more subdued nine year old. They didn't even look alike. Allison shared Edward's emerald green eyes and bronze hair, but my heart shaped face and other facial features.
Needless to say, life has not turned out how I had planned. I was a twenty nine year old housewife and mother of two with a not even half completed college degree. I hadn't even painted a single thing in months, and painting had been my passion for a long time. I was too busy with housework and Edward and Allison and Evan, not to mention the six month old rescue mutt we had just adopted, Jacob.
But I was deliriously happy. Before this all happened, I had never wanted a family. Things had drifted far from my original plan, yes. But I could easily say that my life had been changed for the better.
It took me a while, but I finally got the floor cleaned up. I stood up and stretched my arms over my head, trying to relax my stiff muscles. Just as I did so, Edward came down the stairs. "She has a fever of one oh two point three." He informed me, going to the sink to wash his hands. "Do you want to take her to the doctor, or should I?"
"No, I'll do it." I sighed, rubbing my forehead. "I'll take her first thing tomorrow morning after I drop Evan off at school. Then I'll have to go to the store. Is there anything you need?" I asked, going over to the refrigerator and glancing over the grocery list that had been assembled.
"Um…I don't think so." Edward said, coming forward to give me a hug. But he stopped short with his arms half embracing me. "You reek." He whispered teasingly. I pulled away from him slightly, sticking my tongue out at him.
He leaned forward playfully and kissed me sloppily, making me laugh and kiss him back just as sloppily.
"I'm going to take a shower." I groaned, pulling completely away from him and heading towards the stairs. Just as I made it up the first step, Edward grabbed my arm and held me back.
"You know…Allison is fast asleep already." He murmured in my ear, his hand moving down to rest of my butt. "And Evan is playing at Tyler's house until after dinner time." I turned around and raised my eyebrows at Edward, who was grinning with a twinkle in his green eyes.
I knew that look well. "Oh?" I asked, bringing my hands up to play with his unruly mess of bronze colored hair. "And what did you have in mind, hmm?"
Edward paused for a moment, his eyes glimmering and his pink lips twisted up into a seductive smile. "Maybe…" he leaned forward and gently kissed me on the lips. "I could join you." He suggested, kissing me more fiercely.
"Hmm…I guess so. If you really, really want to." I shrugged, feigning nonchalance. Edward rolled his eyes at me and then scooped me into his arms easily before hurrying up the stairs; kissing me over and over again as he did so.
In no time at all, we were locked in the master bathroom and Edward was tugging at my clothes, trying to yanking them off. I laughed and started unbuttoning his shirt, clucking my tongue at his impatience. "Fill up the bathtub." I whispered in a low voice, kissing his forehead.
Edward did so without asking questions, and I watched him as I slowly slid my sweatpants off and let them slide to the floor, along with my underwear. As the water began to fill the bathtub, Edward came over to me and unclasped my bra and gently slid it off, letting it fall on the floor as well.
He started placing gentle kisses all over my exposed body, and I shuddered slightly at the contact, fisting my hands in his hair again. "Get in." I mumbled, reaching over and turning the water off. He did so, but soon pulled me in after him splashing water on the floor; my loud laugh echoing throughout the small room.
"Shh…" he whispered, grinning against the curve of my neck and kissing the sensitive spot behind my ear. "We can't wake Allison up, silly."
I sat in front of him, and he gently kissed my shoulder blade as his hands started to work their way from my waist up to my breasts. I groaned quietly and pushed back into him as he started massaging my breasts tenderly and my head fell back to rest on his shoulder. His soft kisses silenced my moans.
And suddenly, he stopped, but his hands didn't move from where they were. "Bella." He said my name in a whisper, but his tone was one of alarm and shock.
"What?" I asked, tilting my head back to face him. His expression was serious and grave. "Is something wrong?" Edward's face was pale, and he swallowed loudly. His thumb pressed gently on the side of my right breast, and I winced slightly. "That hurt." I whispered, still unsure of what had him so worried.
"Bella, there's…um, something here." He pressed the spot again, this time much more gently. "A bump."
I froze, my mouth dropping open. "A bump?" I asked in a quiet voice, trying not to let terror saturate my tone.
Edward swallowed again and nodded, taking one of my hands in his and guiding it to the side of my breast. He pushed my fingers against it, and I felt it. Sure enough, there was a sizable bump on the side of my breast.
"Oh my god." I breathed, panicking. "Oh my god!" Edward held me tightly against him, kissing my neck.
"It's okay." He said in a firm voice, but his hands were shaking slightly. "Tomorrow, I'll take off work and we'll go to the doctor. It's okay. It's going to be okay." He repeated.
I nodded, but tears started to well up in my eyes.
What did this mean? Did I have breast cancer? Or was it nothing? My heart was pounding loudly as Edward continued to hold me; our romantic, spontaneous mood ruined by the unknown. What was going to happen to me?
To our family?
"It could be nothing." Edward assured me. His grip around me did not loosen, though.
"Or it could be something." I whispered, the worst case scenario's racing through my mind.
Edward shook his head and squeezed me tighter. "Stop it. Don't think like that." He said in a low voice as tears started to trickle down my face.
"Don't tell Evan or Allison." I said after a moment of silence. "I don't want to worry them over nothing…if it's nothing." Edward nodded and leaned his forehead against my shoulder. I could feel warm tears there, but Edward quickly wiped them away.
"It's going to be okay." He said again, and I could only pray that it was true.
"Mrs. Cullen, your mammogram results came in…and they're positive. You have breast cancer…I'm so sorry." The woman's voice was cold and unfamiliar, and I nearly dropped the phone on the floor.
"Oh." I whispered, blinking several times. "What…what now?"
I heard the woman rustling some papers over the phone, and then she cleared her throat. "Dr. Gerandy would like you to schedule a consultation with him as soon as possible. Your husband is highly encouraged to attend as well."
"Okay. Thank you for the call." I said, my voice cracking. Then I hung up the phone and slid to the floor, in a daze. This couldn't be happening to me. What if I didn't make it? I had a husband and two children- I couldn't just leave them. They were my everything; they were what I lived for. I slowly slid off my wedding band, holding it loosely in between my fingers. I held it up to the light and read the words inscribed on the inside.
You are my life now.
I clenched the shimmering gold ring in my hand as I started to cry, ducking my head down and wrapped my arms around my knees. I had to be strong. I had to survive. Because Edward had once told me that he didn't want to live in world where I didn't exist. And I didn't want Edward to be in pain. I wanted him to be happy.
So I stood up. And I went on with my day, because I was going to be strong. For Edward, and for our children.
I was still in a daze as I heard the garage door open later that night. Evan came in first, his red bookbag slung around his shoulder and a piece of paper clutched tightly in his hands. "Mommy, I got all the words on my spelling test right! And it was really, really hard! But I got an A plus!" he said excitedly, waving the paper in my face just as Edward walked into the house, holding a sleeping Allison in his arms.
"That's great, sweetie." I said to Evan, kissing his cheek and taking the crumbled paper from him. I smoothed it out and looked it over, forcing myself to smile. "Good job."
Evan smiled and Edward came over to me, giving me a soft kiss on the lips. "How was your day?" He asked, obviously noticing how jumpy I was acting. I gave him a small smile and leaned my head into his chest for a moment, trying not to cry as he gently wrapped one arm around my waist; still holding Allison.
"It was fine." I said, my voice thick with emotion and tears. Edward looked down at me, his eyes wide.
"Did you-" He stared to ask, but then Evan pulled on the hem of my shirt.
"Will you put my test on the fridge?" He asked, not noticing the pain and emotions in the air. I nodded stiffly, wiping my eyes quickly as Edward reluctantly dropped his arm from around me.
I ruffled Evan's hair and moved towards the fridge, grabbing a magnet and pinning the piece of paper to it. "Of course it goes on the fridge, silly." I said, blinking a few times to get rid of my tears. "You did such a good job; I'm proud of you. You can go watch television until dinner for being my smart little guy."
"Because football players have to be smart, right dad?" Evan asked, turning his attention to his father. "Otherwise I won't get a scholarship when I go to college."
Edward laughed dryly, shifting Allison in his arms. "Sure thing, little man. Helps with the ladies, too." He said, giving Evan and pat on the back.
Evan gave me a quick hug before running into the living room. I heard him turn the television on, and then wiped my eyes.
"Bella…" Edward said softly, and I shook my head.
"Put Allison in her room, please. She's still getting over her fever and she's exhausted." I whispered, closing my eyes tightly. I felt Edward softly kiss my temple, but by the time I opened my eyes he had already gone upstairs.
I continued to work on dinner, keeping my thoughts trained on happier things instead of the cancer raging in my body. I heard Edward come back downstairs, but I didn't turn around. I didn't want him to see my red eyes and nose, not to mention the tears streaked across my face. But Edward gripped my elbow and turned me around.
His eyes were red as well, and glazed with tears that had yet to fall. "The doctor called?" He guessed, his voice scratchy and rough. I nodded and then couldn't contain my tears any longer.
They fell freely as I collapsed into Edward's arms, and he held me tightly, his body rigid against mine. "Cancer." I whispered, my voice low. "It's cancer, Edward. And…and it's probably spreading." I managed to whispered, my sobs wracking my body violently. "I can't die." I said, and Edward squeezed me tightly.
"You're not going to die." Edward said roughly, and I glanced up at his face. Tears streaked down his face as well, but his expression was one of defiance. I shrugged and continued to cry, burying my face in his chest once more.
"You're strong. You're not going to die, my love…I love you so much, Isabella. More than my own life." He whispered against the top of my head, his voice calm.
"I love you too." I managed to choke out, and Edward's hand came up to stroke my hair.
We stayed together, standing there for what seemed like hours but was really mere minutes. Until the timer went off and it was time to face the music. We had to go on, no matter what the circumstances. I could not, would not, let my children have their childhood's marred by this infliction.
"Some breast cancers require the hormones estrogen and progesterone to grow, and have receptors for those hormones. Those cancers are treated with drugs that interfere with those hormones, usually tamoxifen. Low-risk, hormone-sensitive breast cancers may be treated with hormone therapy and radiation alone."
The doctor was talking, but I found it nearly impossible to focus.
Edward and I sat side by side in Dr. Gerandy's office, holding hands while he explained things to the both of us. It was extremely hard to hear, but I knew I had to do it.
"Breast cancers without hormone receptors, such as in your case, are of higher-risk, and are treated more aggressively. Cycophosphamide plus doxorubicin are some treatments available." Dr. Gerandy said, and Edward squeezed my fingers a little tighter in his. "The drugs damage DNA in the cancer, but could cause serious side effects later on. We could add docetaxel, a taxane, to your treatment as well. Taxane attacks the microtubules in cancer cells." The doctor continued to talk, but I found my mind wondering again.
What in the world would be say to our children? They were so young, so innocent…I didn't want to take their childhood away. I wanted Evan to kept playing football, because he loved it so much, and I wanted Allison to continue being the sweet, energetic little girl she had always been.
Then, Edward tugged on my hand gently and I snapped back to attention, blushing a little bit.
I had to stop letting my thoughts wander. I wanted to know everything possible about this cancer so I could beat it.
"Radiation is usually added as well to take care of cancer cells that were missed by surgery, which usually extends survival."
"Aren't there risks to radiation? Like for the heart?" Edward interrupted, his lips pulled down in a slight frown.
Dr. Gerandy nodded solemnly. "Although radiation is helpful, exposure to the heart may cause some damage or maybe even heart failure later in life." He explained, and Edward and I exchanged a fearful look.
"And what about chemotherapy?" I asked, leaning forward slightly.
"We're going to start you on chemotherapy first, to see how well that works. You'll come in as an outpatient once and week and we'll get you set up with a hickman-line. There's a good chance you'll experience some nausea and vomiting, but you'll also be given an anti nausea drug to try and keep that under control. If the chemo doesn't take effect…we'll have to schedule you for a mastectomy and remove your right breast. Later, you can have an implantation."
I sucked in a deep breath, trying to absorb everything.
There was just so much to take in.
"And what about breastfeeding? After this, will it be possible to do that?" I asked, and Edward shot me a confused look.
We hadn't talked about the possibility of another child in at least a year. But if I made it through this, I wanted another baby. I wanted to have another child with the husband I loved so much.
"You won't be able to breastfeed from your right breast." Dr. Gerandy said without missing a beat. "There would be too much tissue loss for that breast to properly lactate."
I nodded, and Edward put his arm around my waist. His face was like stone, and I so wanted to know what he was thinking right now.
Our discussion continued for a while longer, and it only got scarier from there. Hearing all the things that could go wrong…it was horrible.
Absolutely, mind numbingly horrible.
Usually, sitting around the table with my children and husband made me feel better. But not tonight.
Telling my children that I had cancer…I wasn't sure how they would take it. I wasn't even sure how to tell them that I was sick.
"Evan, Allison…" I said carefully, and both of them looked up at me from their plates. Seeing their wide eyes…Evan's dark brown ones and Allison's bright green…it somehow made this much harder. I wasn't sure what would happen to that sparkle in their eyes after this discussion. "Daddy and I have…we have something we need to talk to you about."
"Am I grounded? Because I really didn't mean to break the swing, it just-"
"No, Evan. You're not in trouble." Edward said, but he didn't look up from his plate and his voice was low and rough.
I took and deep breath and gripped my fork tightly in my hand. "I'm sick." I finally said, unsure of how to tell them just how sick I really was.
"Like I was sick last week?" Allison piped up, taking a gulp of her juice. "Because it's okay mommy. You'll get better soon, like I did." I tried to smile at that, but I felt tears rush to my eyes and threaten to spill over.
"Mommy is sicker than you were." Edward said softly, lifting his head. His eyes were red, but tears had yet to fall.
"With what?" Evan asked, his eyes wide with alarm.
"There's this disease called cancer." I said quietly. "And it can happen to anyone, on any part of their body. I went to the doctor last week, and they found a tumor. I have to start treatment real soon, or I won't get better.
Edward nodded, his eyes fixated on me. "Your mother is going to be very tired and sick, okay? We don't want you to be scared, because that's something the medicine mommy has to take causes."
Allison's eyes were filled with tears then, her bottom lip trembling. "When will you get better?" She asked in a small voice.
"You're not going to die, right?" Evan asked, and then the tears I had been holding back broke through.
Everyone else was silent as I sobbed; holding my face in my hands as my body racked violently. Then Edward suddenly pulled me out of my chair and held me tightly against him, rubbing my back and kissing the top of my head. Then Evan joined the hug as well, his arms tight around my waist. And then Allison, who clung to my legs and buried her face into my waist.
We were all crying, although Evan and Allison didn't completely understand why. That must be terrible…Not knowing why something so terrible has happened to your family.
"This is the last call for Flight 129 to Seattle. Last call for Flight 129." The loudspeaker blared, and Edward and I hurried to hand over our boarding passes and then quickly found our seats on the plane.
We were going home to tell our families about my cancer. Edward and I had left the kids and the dog at home with a friend of ours, and we were headed on our way to stay in Seattle for three days. Edward had taken off work, so that wasn't a problem, but I still felt terrible about leaving the kids so soon after we had broken the news to them.
"Hey, are you alright?" Edward asked me as the plane started to take off.
"Yeah." I whispered, staring straight ahead. "I was just thinking."
Edward's hand found mine and he squeezed gently. I could feel his eyes on me, but I didn't turn my head. "It's going to be okay." He assured me. "With chemo or maybe even surgery…everything is going to work out."
"You don't know that." I whispered, tears filling my eyes for the thousandth time since we had gotten the news. "I could die. I could leave you and Evan and Allison-"
"Stop saying that." Edward said through his teeth, interrupting me. "You're not going to die."
I nodded, simply not having enough energy to argue.
"There she is! How's my little girl?" The second Edward and I stepped off the plane, I heard my mother's voice. And out of nowhere, she suddenly had her arms around me.
"Hey, mom." I hugged her back and then pulled away slightly and looked down. I didn't really want her to see the dark bags under my eyes; the result of way too many nights staying up late worrying. "I've missed you." I said, and Edward touched my arm gently, comforting me.
I spotted my dad and my older brother Emmet hanging back slightly with huge smiles on their faces. "Hey, Bells." My dad said, walking forward and giving me a quick hug. "We've missed you too." I smiled again and then glanced over at Emmet, who, to my surprise, was holding hands with a beautiful blonde woman and grinning at me expectantly.
As Edward and my parents exchanged greetings, I hurried towards my big brother and threw my arms around his neck. "Em! It's so great to see you!" I exclaimed as he lifted me up into the air and twirled me around quickly.
"You too, little sister." Emmet said in his deep voice, the one I had missed so much.
I hadn't seen any of my family members in over a year, and I haven't been here to see them since Allison was born. I wished I could see them more often…but there just was too much to do.
"Who's this?" I asked, gesturing to the blonde woman as the six of us walked to the parking garage. Since we were only staying for three days, we had easily fit all of our things into our carryon bags; not wanting to pay all the extra money for luggage. We had to save all the money we could in order to pay my hospital bills, thanks to our lousy insurance deductable.
"This is Rosalie Hale." My brother said proudly, a big smile on his face. "My girlfriend."
It was about time Emmet got himself a girlfriend- since we were in high school he's never been serious about any kind of relationship. Now that he's thirty one, it's fine time for him to settle down.
"Oh, Em, that's great!"I exclaimed as we approached my mom's van. "Hi, Rosalie. I'm Emmet's younger sister Bella." I introduced myself and she stuck out her hand, which I shook. "And this is my husband Edward." I added, climbing into the van.
Edward and I sat in the very back while Emmet and Rosalie took the middle.
"Hi." Rosalie said, her voice high and musical. "It's so nice to meet you- Emmet has told me so much about you and Edward." She said, and I flicked the back of Emmet's neck.
"What have you been telling her, Em?" I asked teasingly, flicking him again. "Lies?"
Emmet winced and clutched the back of his neck, pouting as he did so. "Hell no, Bells! I'm way too afraid of you and your freaking pitbull over here to ever badmouth you."
I laughed and so did Edward. But the term 'pitbull' was actually quite fitting. I had never met a more defensive man than Edward, not by a long shot. He always found a way to take care of me if I was hurting. And right now…I'm really hurting.
When we got back to my parents house, I was thoroughly exhausted and excused myself to bed without eating dinner. I was worried, definitely. I had no idea how I could break the news to my family, especially because I have not seen them all in so long. Emmet lives near our parents, but I'm all the way in Illinois and rarely get the chance to visit any of them.
So I couldn't sleep. I stirred restlessly, trying to falling asleep but knowing that I wouldn't be able to until I got this off my chest. I slid out of bed and glanced at the clock, thankful that it was only a little after nine o'clock. Pulling my messy hair back into a ponytail, I hurried down the stairs and into the small living room, where everyone was sitting and watching television.
Rosalie had already left, it seemed, so only my family members were here. Edward spotted me first, and he patted the spot on the couch next to him invitingly. I took a deep breath and sat down as my parents and brother glanced over at me.
"Is something wrong, Bells?" Emmet asked, looking concerned. I took a shaky breath and clenched Edward's hand tightly, feeling tears rush to my eyes.
"What's wrong?" My mom asked urgently, and my dad turned the television off without question.
I bit my lip and buried my head in my hands, trying to gain some control. "I got some bad news from the doctor." I finally managed to say. I couldn't bring myself to look up and see their faces. "I have breast cancer." I choked out, and nobody said anything.
Edward tightened his grip on my hand and I felt him kiss the top of my head gently.
"Oh my god." I finally heard my mom say, and I looked up then. Her face was red and I saw tears in her eyes and running down her cheeks as she stood up and walked over to me. She hugged me tightly and stroked my hair gently. "It's going to be alright. I'm here for you, baby." She whispered, rocking back and forth slightly.
"Me too." Emmet whispered, and he too came over and hugged me, pulling me off the couch. Edward and my mom joined into our hug, and eventually my dad came over as well.
My dad had a hard time showing too much affection, so it really meant a lot to me that he was being so emotional with all of us. I didn't want any of them to cry, but it felt wonderful to have them with me.
The next morning, I woke up and there were dry tears crusted on my cheeks. I quickly started to wipe them away before Edward woke up, but he suddenly grabbed my head. "What's wrong?" He asked in a whisper, kissing my hand. "Are you okay?"
I shook my head, biting my lip to contain more tears that threatened to fall.
Edward was silent, holding me in his arms and rocking me back and forth, whispering soothing words of comfort into my ear. And before long, my tears were gone, and no more built up.
"Better?" Edward asked, and I nodded.
"Much…thank you." I said, wiping my eyes for good measure and getting out of bed, trying to make my day as normal as possible. "I thought maybe we could eat breakfast here and then go over to your parents." I said, putting my bra on and slipping a tee shirt on over it. "Sound good?"
Edward sighed and pinched the bridge of his nose. "Yeah, that sounds fine. Now listen…I didn't want to mention this to you this before, but our class reunion is in two months, remember? And we already paid for the plane tickets and for the dinner…"
"What…do you want to go?" I asked, physically shuddering as memories from high school flooded my mind.
My mind went back to that place, that place that had been, at sometimes, pure hell for me. Back to the place where I had been made fun of, back to the place where Edward had been one of those who had inflicted the worst teasing.
"Only if you do." Edward said in his velvet voice, standing up and putting his arms around me.
"I don't know." I whispered, leaning my head back against his shoulder. "It depends on how I feel." I said, invading the real issue at hand. I didn't want to remember those bad times of high school. A lot of our classmates didn't know Edward and I were married- we had gotten married in Chicago in front of roughly fifty people and hadn't sent out announcements or anything like that…because people would never believe that the lowly Bella Swan would end up married to Edward Cullen, who had basically been a god in high school.
"I love you." Edward murmured, squeezing me again and then moving away from me to get dressed. "And I never want you to forget that." He said, and I nodded.
It was like he could read my thoughts.
"Bella! Edward!" The second we got out of the car in front of Edward's parents house, Edward's sister in law, Alice, was running out of the house towards us. "I've missed you!" She called.
Alice had been in Edward and I's class, while Jasper was a year older. She had been one of the few people in school I could call a friend, and I had appreciated that in ways I couldn't fully express.
"Hey, Alice." I said, trying to hide how tired I was. This week had just been to draining on my mind and on my body. "I missed you too." I managed to say as Alice put her arms around both Edward and I and squeezed tightly.
"Well, come inside." She ordered, giving Edward a peck on the cheek. "Your mother is fixing us all lunch." Alice informed us, leading us into the house.
I always got the feeling Esme and Carlisle Cullen didn't like me much. They were never rude- always very kind and polite- but they still made me feel a little uncomfortable, especially whenever they brought up Edward and I's life together.
The elder Cullen's adored their grandchildren, but one of them would always manage to say something offensive like, "Children are such a blessing…but it's a shame you had to rush into getting married." Comments like that always made me angry, but Edward didn't seem to notice them. He just let them roll of his back.
"Edward! Oh, baby, it's so good to see you!" Right as Alice led us through the house and into the kitchen, Esme dropped what she was doing and gave Edward a big hug as he said hello to her. "And Bella, you too, of course." She added, giving me a quick hug and then went back to chopping vegetables. "I'm so glad the two of you found time to visit. Edward, you work too much." She pouted, and Edward laughed.
"The bills need to be paid, mom." He shrugged, sitting down on a barstool at the counter. I sat down at the one next to him and prayed Esme wouldn't make this conversation an awkward one.
"Well…you wouldn't need to work so much if Bella maybe got a job. Honey, have you thought about it? You're a qualified young lady, you should be able to get a job somewhere!" She said, and I bit my lip.
It's really too bad Edward actually likes his parents…"I have a job." I said tightly, and Edward sighed quietly. "It takes a lot to keep a house going. Especially when we don't have the money to hire some help." I added, and Esme raised her eyebrows slightly.
"Just a suggestion." She said lightly. "Now, Alice, you go get Jasper and Carlisle from the den and we'll start lunch."
I sat down in my seat on the plane, breathing a sigh of relief. It was all over. The hell that high school had been for me…it was all over. I was an adult now, and nothing could hold me back. It was a new place and a new life and I could start over.
No more popular kids, telling me I was a loser. No more feeling insecure and hiding in the library or in the art room. No more eating lunch by myself and praying for people to just leave me alone.
But…no such luck.
I picked up my book and started to read when I felt and heard someone sit down beside me. I turned my head slightly to see the person who was now occupying the seat next to me, and I swear my heart almost gave out.
It was Edward Cullen. Star quarterback of the Forks High School football team, prom king, and one of the people that had been so terrible to me all throughout high school.
He recognized me at the same time I recognized him, and the smile slid off his face. "Um…hi." He said awkwardly. "Bella, right?"
"Yeah." I muttered, blushing. "Hi, Edward." He nodded and sat stiffly in his seat, staring straight ahead as the plane took off and even as the seatbelt light turned off.
"Hey, Bella?" Edward suddenly spoke, looking at me out of the corner of his eye. Even though I had come to despise and even dread him in high school, I couldn't help but notice how handsome he was. He had mussed bronze colored hair and piercing green eyes and the most amazing bone structure I had ever seen. "I just wanted to say that I'm sorry." He said in a quiet voice, and I stared at him with shock. "And I want you to know that…that I've grown up over the summer. I'm not the same person I was in high school, and I really do regret how my friends and I treated you."
I blushed bright red, but continued to stare at him. "Um…thank you?" I managed to squeak out, and Edward grinned the most beautiful crooked smile I had ever seen.
"I just really needed to get that off my chest." He murmured. I nodded again and we were silent for several more minutes until Edward spoke again. "So, are you going to school in Chicago?" He asked.
"Yes. I'm going to the Institute of Art." I said, actually perking up again. Art was the one thing that could make me forget about high school. "You?"
"Yep, me too. University of Chicago." He said with a charming smile.
I could just guess how he had gotten into that school "Let me guess…football scholarship?" I asked wryly, and Edward chuckled quietly.
"Actually…no." He said, surprising me. "I kind of turned down a scholarship at Stanford to go to the University of Chicago. I'm studying music." He said, not at all ashamed.
My jaw actually dropped at that. "Music?" I sputtered, surprised. Edward laughed again, I'm assuming because of the look that must have been on my face.
"Yeah, music. It's kind of been my 'thing' since I was a kid…it really calms me down. Even more so than football. So, much to my parent's dismay, I made my choice." I laughed and Edward smiled at me. "So, what kind of art do you do?" He asked, ripping the napkin on his tray into little pieces.
"I paint." I said, watching his swift fingers. "It calms me down too, just like music does for you. By the way, what kind of music?" I asked, honestly curious.
"I play the piano." He informed me, taking a drink of his soda. "And I want to be a composer."
"Wow." I said, raising my eyebrows. "That's really impressive, coming from someone like you." I said this without thinking, and I instantly brought my hand up to my mouth in embarrassment.
"Someone like me." Edward said in a monotone, cocking one eyebrow. "Yeah…I guess I've been a pretty big prick, huh?" He asked, and I burst out laughing, still holding my hands over my mouth. I didn't say anything, but Edward shrugged. "I am seriously, seriously sorry." He said in a low voice, taking my hand. "Do you think you'll ever be able to forgive me?"
I glanced at him, trying not to smile at the look on his face. "I'm going to need more persuasion than that." I said, smirking.
Edward sighed dramatically, and squeezed my hand tighter. "Bella Swan, I am truly sorry for every single thing I did to you in high school. Calling you names, being a jerk…just everything that I did. I know that I was wrong, and it is definitely not something I am proud of. You're a smart, artistic, beautiful woman and-"
"You think I'm beautiful?" I interrupted, widening my eyes. No one had ever called me beautiful before, other than family members.
"Yes." He said simply, his cheeks flushing slightly. "You are beautiful, Bella. I'm serious." I stared at him for a moment, stunned. I couldn't believe this. Edward Cullen thought I was beautiful, even after all the girls he had dated in high school and despite his own beauty.
"You don't believe me." Edward said in a quiet voice, his hand coming up to gently stroke my cheek. "But it's so true." He whispered, and then he leaned over slightly and kissed me, right on the lips.
Before this, I had never been kissed. Not once. I had nothing to compare it to, but I was sure this kiss was an amazing one by anyone's standards. The pressure of his soft lips against mine was perfect, and the way his hand cupped my cheek…it was flawless.
"I think…I think that I forgive you." I managed to say once Edward pulled away from me slightly with a smile on his lips. "That was…amazing." I said, blushing. "Do you…do you like me?" I asked, and Edward smiled sweetly.
"I really like you, and I don't know why I didn't see this before. So much could have been different." Edward said, kissing me again. "Bella…once we get to Chicago…do you want to go on a date? You know, with me?"
I stared at him for a moment and then nodded. "I would like that."
"I don't feel well." I whispered in Edward's ear about halfway through dinner. "I can't eat anymore of this."
When Esme Cullen made dinner for the family, there was one rule. You finished what was on your plate. I made me feel like a little kid again, but to be honest…Esme scared me a little bit so I always did so. Unfortunately, I had been feeling like vomiting all day and thanks to the stuffing, mashed potatoes, and vegetable soup sitting in front of me, the feeling was just getting stronger and stronger.
Edward bit his lip and looked down at my nearly full plate. "Just go then, love. You're an adult and you don't feel well. She can't control you, and she can't tell you what to do."
"I think I'm going to go to bed early." I said loudly, and Esme glanced from my face to all the food left on my plate.
"Don't you think you should finish eating?" Esme asked pointedly, and Edward placed his hand on my knee and squeezed gently. "I made dinner for everyone to enjoy."
"I don't feel well." I explained, my cheeks flushing as I stood up with my full plate in my hands. "It's delicious…but I just don't think I can eat. I have a stomachache."
Esme pursed her lips and moved some of the food left on her plate around. "Sit down at the table, Bella. If you don't like the food don't bother lying to me about not feeling well. Just say what you think." I felt Edward start to tense up beside me as he squeezed my knee tighter. "You're going to sit at the table until everyone is done." She said sternly. "I have a feeling you don't really have a stomach ache." She added under her breath, and at that, Edward lost it.
"Are you calling my wife a liar?" He asked angrily, and Esme stared at him with surprise. Edward never raised his voice at her, at least not that I knew of.
"Edward, you know how we do things-"
"Dammit, mom. Bella has cancer." Edward snapped, and everyone fell silent.
I stared down at my plate, my cheeks flushing red. I heard the clatter of forks being dropped on plates, and I squeezed my eyes shut; willing the tears not to fall again. No one spoke. Edward, Esme, Carlisle, Jasper, and Alice were all silent.
"Come on, Bella." Edward said, breaking the silence and grabbing my hand and pulling me up from my chair. "Go get your bag packed, we're leaving."
"Don't do this, Edward-….I'm so-" Esme started to say something, but Edward stomped out of the room, dragging me behind me.
We hurried upstairs and Edward pointed me towards our unpacked suitcase while he fumbled with his phone. I packed with tears running down my cheeks as Edward called- and yelled at- the airline until he got us a flight to Chicago leaving tonight. In three hours, to be exact. I would be home in no time, which I was thankful for. I wanted to hug my children and go to bed.
Then he went downstairs, presumably to say goodbye to his family members. I sat on the bed after I was done packing, not wanting to face anyone.
"Bella? It's Alice…can I please come in?" Alice called through the door, knocking quietly.
"Yeah, Alice." I sighed, knowing Alice wouldn't do anything to upset me. Alice, to put it simply, was my favorite of the Cullen family. Besides Edward, of course. "Come on in."
Alice walked into the room and closed the door behind her before coming to sit on the bed next to me. She drew her knees up to her chest and hugged them closer to her body, staring at me. "Bella…are you okay?" She asked in a quiet voice, leaning her head on my shoulder. I didn't answer, but bit my lip to hold back the tears still threatening to fall. "Come on, Bella. Talk to me."
"I don't want to talk about it okay, Alice?" I finally snapped, glaring at her. "It's all we ever talk about, and I just want it all to stop."
She stared at me for a moment, and then nodded hesitantly. "Okay, then. How are the kids?" She asked, changing the subject skillfully. "Do they like finally having a dog? Evan's been pestering you for a while now about getting one."
"Yeah, they do." I said, managing a very small smile. "Jake is really a sweet dog."
"That's good." Alice said with a smile. "Bella, I know you don't want to talk about it, but I'm here for you, okay? If you ever need anything at all, you can just call me and we can talk. Hell, I could even catch the first plane to Chicago if you needed me to."
I laughed quietly and gave her a hug, just as Edward came back into the room, holding the keys to the rental car. "Come on, Bella, let's go." He said gruffly, and I slid off the bed and into his arms. Edward hugged me tightly and kissed my forehead, glancing over at Alice afterwards. "Bye, Ali." He said kissing his sister in law's forehead.
"Bye. I'll try and talk to everyone, alright? I'm sure that by the time you get home mom will have left about fifty messages on your machine, apologizing."
Edward shrugged and grabbed our suitcase, walking out of the room as Alice and I followed him. When we got downstairs, Carlisle, Esme, and Jasper were clustered in the living room and they glanced up at us as we passed them on our way to the door.
But again, nobody said anything.
They all just let us leave.
Edward and I walked into the house quietly, hoping not to wake the kids up. "I'll go tell Angela that we're home." I whispered in Edward's ear. He nodded and took our suitcase and headed upstairs to put it away. I walked quietly into the living room, relieved to see Angela awake and reading a book instead of sleeping. Angela was a friend of mine from college, and she loved watching the kids. She didn't have any children of her own, and I knew how she liked to play with them.
"Angela." I whispered softly, and her head jerked up. "Hey, I'm sorry we didn't let you know earlier, but we decided to come home early. We'll still pay you for the entire weekend." I said quickly, reaching into my wallet and pulling out the money designated to pay Angela.
"Oh, it's fine." Angela said with a smile, getting up and pocketing the money. "And thanks."
"I hope it's okay that we came home so late." I murmured, patting her shoulder. "Thanks for watching the kids, were they good?"
Angela laughed quietly and nodded, walking with me towards the kitchen. "They were fine. Evan picked on Allison a little bit, but he stopped when I told him too. And Allison wouldn't eat her dinner, but eventually I convinced her to finish it off."
I laughed quietly and walked her to the door, waving as she left. "Drive safe!" I called softly, and then closed and locked the front door as Angela got into her car.
Closing my eyes briefly, I took a deep breath before heading upstairs and peeking my head into our bedroom, where Edward was unpacking our suitcase. "Let's go tuck the kids in." I said softly, and Edward nodded. "I'm really glad we're home, after everything had happened."
"I know. I'm sorry, baby. My parents-"
"It's fine." I interrupted him, shaking my head as I pushed the door to Evan's room open. I smiled slightly at the sight of my sleeping son; sprawled out on his bed on top of the covers and wearing his flannel pajamas inside out. I leaned over his sleeping form and kissed the top of his forehead, mussing his brown curls as Edward kissed his forehead as well.
Evan's eyelashes fluttered slightly, but he didn't wake up. "I love you." I whispered in his ear, and then tucked his blanket's around him better. Casting one last look at him, Edward and I left the room and Edward pushed the door shut quietly before opening the door to Allison's room.
Allison wasn't even sleeping in her bed; she had curled up on the floor in the fetal position, wearing footie pajamas and clutching tightly to her blanket. "Ali." I whispered softly, touching her shoulder gently.
"Don't bother." Edward laughed, picking her up easily and moving her to the bed. "She's out." I nodded and kissed her forehead as well, running my fingers across her pudgy cheek and tucking her in properly, then falling back into Edward's arms.
"Let's go to bed." I whispered, and Edward sighed in agreement, whisking me out of the room and into our own.
"I love you, Bella. No matter what." He promised, taking my left hand and kissing my wedding band.
"I love you too."
Two months later:
"Hey, honey." Edward walked into the kitchen, tossing his keys on the table and leaning over to give me a kiss on the lips. "How are you feeling?"
I shrugged my shoulders, running my hand over my head, which was adorned with a headscarf to the hide the baldness. Chemo treatments had been started right away, and although some patients don't end up losing their hair, I did. Even though Edward insisted I was still 'the most beautiful woman he had ever seen', I felt so unattractive…my usually pale skin was even more pale, and there were deep bags under my eyes and my cheekbones looked sharp against my sallow skin.
"A little nauseous and tired." I murmured, and Edward sat down at the table with me. I could hear Allison and Evan playing noisily in the living room, and I could see Jake running around in the backyard through the kitchen window. "What's that?" I asked, propping my elbows up on the table and nodding to the envelope in his hand.
"It's an overdue bill." Edward said shortly, dropping it on the table and pinching the bridge of his nose. "We're screwed, Bella. We need to cut back more."
"I don't think we can cut back more." I protested, tears forming in my eyes. "Instead of buying Allison new pajamas like she needs, she's wearing your tee shirts to bed. Evan needs braces, but there's no way in hell he's going to be able to get them. We're clipping every freaking coupon we can get our hands on. You have to carpool to work, because we can't even afford gas all the time!" I burst out, putting my head in my hands.
Edward exhaled loudly, rubbing my shoulders. "We have to, Bella. It's either cut back or find somewhere else to get the money." He said in a low voice.
I stared at him for a moment, defeated. "Your parents." I finally said, squeezing my eyes shut. "We have to ask them, Edward."
"Are you sure?" He asked gently, knowing how I felt about his parents and accepting charity from them.
"I don't know what else we can do." I said pathetically. "We need money, Edward. Or we're going to be buried so deep in these bills, we'll never get out. Our credit score is complete and total crap, there's no way we'll be able to take out a loan, our insurance is shitty…we've only got so much money in our savings account. It's all that's left."
He hesitated, running his hands through his hair. "I could get another job. Or a better job." He suggested, and I shook my head.
"No! You're hardly home as it is, with all the overtime you've been pulling…and you love your job." I said, wiping the corners of my eyes with the sleeves of my sweatshirt. "Maybe I could get a job-"
"Absolutely not." Edward said forcefully, smacking his hand down on the table. "I have no problems with you working, Bella, you know that. But now? You're exhausted enough as it is, and it's almost summer. We've got no one who will watch the kids all summer for free and no money to pay someone." He took my hand gently and brushed his lips across my knuckles. "We'll ask my parents." He finally agreed, and I nodded, leaning over and kissing him on the lips.
"Do you think you could make dinner for Evan and Allison?" I asked softly. "I think I'm going to head upstairs to take a shower and then go to bed."
Edward nodded, not looking at me but looking down at the table instead. "Do you want me to bring you up something to eat?" He asked after a second, and I shook my head. "I'll call my parents after dinner." He added, finally looking at me and managing a small smile. "But I'm not going to ask them for money over the phone, Bella. We need to go and visit them."
"Honey, airfare is way too expensive, and we can't afford to drive, either-" I interrupted, but Edward held up his hand, stopping me.
"Our ten year class reunion." He reminded me. "We already bought plane tickets like four months ago, remember? They're for next week. We don't have to go to the reunion if you don't' want to, but we are going to use the plane tickets to go and talk to my parents." Edward said softly, and I sighed loudly before nodding my head and going upstairs to get some sleep.
When the doctor told me that I had cancer, I knew that things were going to change, and fast. There were the things you would expect: being tired all the time, losing my hair, becoming almost scarily skinny…things like that. But there were other things that had changed as well; things I hadn't expected to.
I hadn't expected complete strangers to look at my scarf covered head with so much pity, I hadn't expected my children to be so…afraid of hurting me, and I hadn't expected my husband to be fighting so hard for me. I was supposed to be the one who was sick. When I woke up in the middle of the night to throw up, Edward was always right there beside me, holding back my hair and comforting me. When I had no appetite and was too sick to eat, Edward would stay with me and try and find some kind of food that I would be able to keep down. Honestly, him doing all of that for me didn't make me feel any better. It made me feel guilty. I was supposed to be the sick one. I had brought this plague into our home. We were struggling because of m. My children were afraid because of me. And my husband was desperate. Because of me.
But we avoided all of these issues. Instead, we pretending that everything was okay. These moments, the ones in which we could ignore my illness, were precious and rare, and we took advantage of them.
Tonight was no different. Edward had cooked dinner- which I was feeling well enough to keep down- and Allison and Evan were prattling on about school and friends; the trivial things that children take for granted. At the moment, Evan was going on and on about football, and of course, Edward was egging him on. I knew that it had been an extremely hard decision for Edward to give up football, such a promising career for him, but he always said that he didn't mind so much, because him going to Chicago instead of Stanford was what brought him to me. But when it came to Evan…football was important- it was supposed to be his ticket to a successful life.
"…and then Coach told me that I could be the starting quarterback for next week's game." Evan was explaining.
Allison looked up, her tiny nose scrunched up. "Why do you play football? It sounds boring to me!" She exclaimed.
Evan rolled his eyes at his baby sister, and Edward and I exchanged a small smile.
"Because that's what I want to be when I grow up. A football player." He informed her, and Allison brightened.
"Oh! Well, when I grow up, I want to be mommy." Allison said seriously, looking over at me with an adorable smile on her face. Edward chuckled and I smiled back at my light hearted daughter. Then, the illusion of normalcy and safety was shattered by my oblivious son.
"No you don't, dummy." He said calmly, shoveling a forkload of food into his mouth. "Then you'd be sick, and you might die."
We were all awkwardly silent for a moment, Allison and Evan totally unaware of the tension building in the room. "Evan Anthony Cullen." Edward said in a steely, tense voice, and I bit my lip.
"Edward, he doesn't know-" I said softly, but he cut me off.
"Your mother shouldn't be defined by the fact that she is sick- she's a wonderful, interesting woman, and Allison should look up to her." Edward's jaw was tense, and he was obviously clenching his teeth tightly. "Anyway, she's going to be fine." He added, but I noticed that his voice wasn't as strong and confident as before. There were tears in Evan's eyes, but Edward's stern look didn't falter. "Go to your room." He said in a firm voice, and Evan shoveled the last of his food into his mouth before standing up and running upstairs.
I narrowed my eyes at Edward, and he sighed heavily, pushing his chair back and standing up from the table. "Yeah, I know." He grumbled, and then followed our son upstairs.
Allison and I continued to eat dinner and we talked about school, and our upcoming trip to visit Edward's parents.
Despite my feelings for Carlisle and Esme, Allison and Evan adored their grandparents and loved visiting them. They always got spoiled rotten by their grandparents and came home with loads of new presents.
Carlisle and Esme had been surprised when Edward and I had told them that we were coming for another visit, with the kids this time, especially because of how our last visit had ended up. Eventually, Evan and Edward came back downstairs. Edward had his hand on Evan's shoulder, and they were speaking quietly. Evan walked right up to me and threw his arms around me, burying his face into my shoulder.
"I'm sorry, mommy." He said in a small voice. "I love you."
"It's okay." I whispered, kissing the top of his head and running my hands through his silky smooth curls. "And I love you too, Evan. Always."
"Don't be so nervous." Edward said gently, squeezing my thigh. "It's going to be fine."
"That's easy for you to say." I grumbled, looking out the plane window and then looking away quickly. I had never been too good with heights, the nausea that came along with the chemo treatments wasn't helping any. "Your parents actually like you." I hissed, casting a look at Evan and Allison, who had fallen asleep in their seats.
Edward sighed noisily, cupping my chin in his hand and forcing me to look him in the eyes. "Bella, it doesn't matter what anyone else thinks of you." He said in a low, serious voice. "You mean the world to me. Nothing will ever come between us. No matter what anybody says or does, you will always be in my heart. Forever and ever, Bella. You're spot never can and never will be replaced. You have my heart and have had it for ten years now. And no matter what demons come into our life, things will be okay." Edward looked deep into my eyes, and then kissed me softly on the lips. "Like I said, baby…forever and ever."
"I love you." I whispered to him, kissing him again and then wiping tears out of my eyes. "Thank you so much." I added, holding his hand tightly. "You're doing everything you can to make things normal for the kids, and you're trying to take the pressure off of me…I really appreciate it."
"I love you too, Bella. And it's not a problem. I'm your husband, I'm supposed to be here for you, whenever you may need me."
It was already late when we got off the plane, and Allison was asleep in my arms. Evan was tired as well, and was clinging to my side sleepily. Edward directed us towards the baggage claim, where we waited for our bags in mostly silence. Allison stirred as we waited, and looked around in confusion. "Where are we?" She asked, twisting around in my arms, confused.
"We're at the airport." I said softly, setting her down on her feet. "Remember? We're going to spend some time at Grandpa and Nana's house." Allison just nodded, and then we were silent again. By the time we got our bags off the conveyor belt, Allison was asleep again. Edward left Evan and Allison and I sitting on a bench so that he could go pick up our rental car, and then we would be able to leave.
Evan sat at my side, fidgeting restlessly. After a few minutes, he looked up at me with wide eyes. "Mom, why are we staying with Nana and Grandpa?" He asked curiously, and I smiled at my son, running my free hand through his curly hair. Evan was always so innocently curious, even now as he was growing up. He had been my first baby…I didn't want to see him changing and growing up.
The answer to Evan's question was more complex than his young mind could understand, so I had to give him the watered down, simple version. "Dad and I have a party to go to at our old high school, and Nana and Grandpa are going to watch you and Allison for us." I explained. "Also, it's been a long time since you've seen your grandparents, and they love you so much." I added, and Evan seemed content with my answer. But I could tell there was something else on his mind. "Baby, is something else bothering you?" I asked, and Evan furrowed his eyebrows, looking up at me.
"When are you going to get better?" He asked, and my heart caught as I saw his eyes fill with tears.
"I don't know, Evan." I said softly, wiping at my own eyes and tightening my grip around Allison, who was still sleeping. "Soon, I hope." I murmured, and Evan nodded his head again.
Then, his eyes darkened slightly. "Don't tell dad I asked you." Evan said, and I frowned at him. "He told me not to bother you about it anymore…he said it might hurt your feelings." He explained, and I only frowned more. I knew that Edward had our best interest at heart, he always did, but could he not see that Evan was simply scared?
"It's fine, Evan. I promise." I told him, and then planted a kiss on the top of his head. "I love you."
The car ride to Forks was long, and seemed even longer when I was so tired and uncomfortable. Edward drove while Evan and Allison fell asleep in the backseat, but I wasn't feeling well enough to fall asleep. Once we finally arrived at Carlisle and Esme's house, I was so tired that I could barely walk, let alone hold Allison. Edward used his spare key to get into the house, and we tried to be quiet, but that was impossible with two children under the age of ten. The second we got into the house, which was dark and cold in the night, Allison woke up and started crying softly. She was tired and confused and scared of the dark, a terrible combination.
Evan then started complaining about having to share a room with Allison, and despite our attempts to quiet them down, Carlisle soon appeared at the top of the stairs, wearing his bathrobe and frowning in confusion. He flipped on the light switch, and Evan and Allison instantly quieted down.
"Sorry." I said weakly, blushing as my father in law came down the stairs. "They're tired-"
"It's fine, Bella." Carlisle said easily, taking Allison from me and kissing her on the forehead. "How's my girl?" He asked her, and Allison smiled bashfully, burying her face into her grandfather's chest. Carlisle greeted Evan and Edward and I as well, and then directed us upstairs. "Edward, you and Bella can sleep in your old room, and Allison and Evan can sleep in the spare room." He said, and then looked down the hall towards the master bedroom. "And please try and keep it down…you know how your mother can be." Carlisle said, and I couldn't help but smile. I definitely 'knew how Esme could be'.
Finally, we were able to get everyone situated and into bed. But even as I lay in the soft, comfortable bed with sheets with an incredibly high thread count, I could not fall asleep. Edward's steady breathing told me he had already drifted off, but I could not. It was no secret that my mother in law disliked me. Edward knew it, Carlisle knew it, and I knew it. And tomorrow, I knew that she might hate me anymore. I was going to ask her for money…and Esme believed in pride and honor.
Would she frown upon Edward and I asking for money?
I asked myself that question over and over again, even though I already knew the answer.
Of course she would. She was Esme Cullen.
The next morning, Jasper and Alice came over to pick Allison and Evan up to take them over to their house for the morning, so that Edward and I could have a word with Carlisle and Esme. My in laws knew something was happening, because as the four of us sat around the kitchen table, Esme pursed her lips and Carlisle crossed his arms across his chest. "What's wrong?" Carlisle finally asked, and I took a deep breath and chose to speak first.
"You know that I have cancer." I started, and Edward gripped my hand tightly, keeping his hand ducked. "And…we can't exactly afford everything." I said softly. "The bills are really piling up and things are getting harder and harder to manage…" I looked up, meeting Esme's eyes. "I don't want to see my children suffer because of my cancer. And they will, if we can't pay for the things that they need-"
"How much?" Esme asked, cutting me off.
Edward cleared his throat, picking up his head and looking at his parents. "Ten thousand." He said softly, and I heard Carlisle suck in a quiet breath. Esme opened her mouth to say something, but Carlisle beat her to it.
"I'll go get my checkbook." He said softly, and I exhaled heavily in relief.
"Carlisle!" Esme hissed, and he shook his head at his wife.
"I'll go get my checkbook." Carlisle said again, his voice steely. "Esme, why don't you get Edward and Bella some breakfast?" He added, and Esme huffed indignantly. She stood up and walked towards the stove, but then turned around as soon as Carlisle was out of the room.
The look in her eyes was fiery, but I wouldn't exactly call it anger. "You stay strong for them, you hear me?" Esme hissed, and Edward and I gawked at her. "I won't have my grandchildren suffer either."
Forks High School didn't look nearly as bad as I remembered it. Physically, it was all the same. Weathered brick, unpaved parking lot, trees everywhere…just how it used to be. But I was more confident now, much more so than I was in my youth. Circumstances have changed me, and I know I'm not that outcast that I was in high school. I'm a different person. Edward looks uneasy as he parks the car, and I don't blame him. The last time he was here, he was different too. But it wasn't exactly in a good way.
The old Edward wasn't half the man my Edward was. He had been self-centered and stuck up and unbearably popular. I remember the parade of cheerleaders that used to follow him around, and the ones he had dated through our four years of high school. As far as I knew, none of Edward's old high school friends knew who he had ended up marrying. And I hadn't really had any high school friends to speak of, so people would be surprised to see the two of us together.
It had taken me a long time to get ready. After much deliberation, I had worn a plain black dress, a pair of embellished sandals, and my typical headscarf. Wigs were expensive. Well, at least quality ones were. And even with the money from Carlisle and Esme, we didn't really have enough money for things that were not totally necessary. So I was wearing a head scarf, and everyone would know. Since the diagnosis, I haven't given my physical appearance much thought. I know I've lost my hair, a lot of weight, and some of my youth, but I never realized how skinny I had really gotten. It was a little scary, but there was nothing I could do about it. My doctor was confident that the chemo would do its job within the next couple of months though, so maybe I could get back to my normal self eventually.
"Are you ready to go in?" Edward's soft voice broke my train of thought, and I swallowed nervously before nodding my head. Edward gripped tightly to my hand as we walked inside, and I instantly clung to him even tighter. In high school, I had been a loner. In high school, Edward hadn't wanted me. As if he sensed my despair, Edward softly kissed my temple. "I'm right here, love. I'm not going anywhere." He promised, and I let myself relax just a little bit. The reunion was being held in the old gym, and there were tables and a bar set up. Edward and I were quiet as we found our table, and unfortunately it was filled with Edward's old teammates; the guys he had played football with for all four of his high school years.
Instantly, I felt myself clam up as they all exchanged hello's and introduced each other to their wives. It wasn't a big surprise to me that Tyler Crowley had ended up marrying that bitch Lauren Mallory, and Mike Newton had gotten stuck with Jessica Stanley. They just stared at me, confused, when Edward said that we were married. And Lauren was the first one to speak.
"You look so skinny." She said wistfully, looking me up and down. "I'm jealous."
And then a new conversation started up, and I was forgotten. But I couldn't believe what Lauren had said. It wasn't rude or mean…it was just unbelievable. What kind of woman would think looking like this felt good? I was so skinny that I could practically feel my bones sticking out of my skin, and my entire body felt tight, with my skin stretched over my bones.
I just leaned into Edward and focused on the meal that was seat out in front of me as everyone else ate and talked happily. They talked about their high school memories, and I wasn't surprised to discover that none of them even remembered me. I didn't eat my meal- I wasn't even hungry. I just watched as Edward's eye lit up as he and Tyler and Mike talked about their football days and all the fun they had together in high school. Part of that fun had been ignoring me. I didn't like Edward like this. I hated to see him reliving the past, especially when the past was so painful to me. I hadn't expected to be a big part of the conversation, but Edward, my own husband, barely spoke to me. It hurt.
Eventually, Lauren and Jessica said they were going to wander over to the bar and asked me if I wanted to come along with them. Even though I wasn't supposed to drink, I grudgingly got up and pecked Edward on the lips before walking off with Lauren and Jessica. I just didn't want to hear about Edward and high school any more than I already had.
"So, Bella…when did you catch the eye of Edward Cullen?" Lauren asked, taking a sip of the martini she had just ordered.
I spluttered slightly mid-sip, surprised that she had just brought it up out of the blue. "Um, right before my freshmen year of college." I said shortly, taking another drink of my soda. "We both moved to Chicago, and that's when we got together." I explained.
Jessica nodded, looking me up and down. "Do you have kids? What do you do? Where do you live?" She fired off the three questions in quick succession, and I blinked rapidly as I tried to digest what she was asking me.
"Yeah, uh, we have two kids. I stay at home and Edward is in advertising…we still live in Chicago." I said, and those pieces of information seemed to satisfy Jessica. She and Lauren started talking about other people we had gone to high school with, and I just focused on my soda. I didn't want to be here. At first, I had thought that this could be a type of closure for me, a way to forget high school for good. But instead, it was bringing back even more painful memories. I had kept myself so secluded and alone that I had hardly known how to act around others. It had been utterly pathetic, and it was no wonder kids had made fun of me and that I didn't have any friends. I had basically brought that all on myself.
After what felt like hours but was really only several minutes passed, someone placed their hand on the small of my back. I turned around, startled, and came face to face with Edward. "Are you ready to go?" He asked me, his voice slightly pinched. His eyes were dark, and I reached up and touched his face with concern.
"Are you alright?" I asked, but Lauren cut me off, flitting over to Edward's side.
"Aw, are you guys going to leave so soon?" She asked, taking a large drink. "You're only been here for an hour or so." Lauren pouted, and I fought the urge to roll my eyes. She didn't care about me, it was just the Edward Cullen effect.
"No, we really have to get going." Edward said with a tight smile, and then without another word he took my hand and walked me over to the coat check. After the woman at the desk handed us or coats, Edward helped me put mine on before quickly tugging on his own coat.
We walked out to the car, and I observed Edward out of the corner of my eye. "Are you alright?" I asked again, noticing how tightly his jaw was clenched and how angry he looked. He shook his head, not speaking, and yanked the car door open. I got in without another word, and buckled my seat belt before Edward got into the drivers side. Then we just sat there, parked in the parking lot.
"I'm sorry that I was ever like that." Edward said, his voice hollow. He looked at me, and his green eyes were still full of anger. "They had…absolutely no respect for anyone." He muttered, and then leaned across the center console and kissed me hard on the lips. "I love you so goddamn much, even though you're too good for me."
Other than Esme, I was the only one up the next morning at seven o'clock. We were both in the kitchen, but neither of us spoke to each other. Esme was banging around with pots and pans- getting breakfast ready for everyone, well I sat at the kitchen table feeling nauseous and nursing a glass of water. I could feel her eyes on me every once and a while, but I just ignored it, sipping on my water and trying to just relax. The reunion was over. Nothing in our lives had changed. It was all going to be okay.
"Are you nauseous?" Esme's words startled me, and I whipped my head around to look at her, blinking stupidly.
"Um, yeah." I managed.
Esme took a step closer to me, wiping her hands on the apron that she was wearing. "I know what will help. Just a moment." With that, she held up her perfectly manicured index finger and turned back towards the kitchen cupboards, sifting through the spices. "Here." She said, holding up…ginger. I winched slightly; I hated the taste and smell of ginger. "Don't turn your nose up at it." Esme scolded, reaching into one of the kitchen drawers and producing a teaspoon. "Take a half a teaspoon of this and it should help." She informed me, shoving the teaspoon, half filled with the pungent ginger, in my hand.
I accepted it awkwardly, swallowing it down quickly. "Thank you, Esme." I said, coughing loudly and taking a big sip of my water to try and get rid of the awful taste of ginger lingering in my mouth.
She nodded and turned back to whatever she had cooking on the stove, not speaking to me anymore. Several minutes passed, and as I wondered how she knew about the use of ginger to cure nauseas caused by chemo, Edward padded into the kitchen. "Morning." He said sleepily, kissing Esme's cheek before sitting down next to me at the table and kissing me softly on the lips.
"Now at you're up…I wanted to talk to the two of you alone." Esme said brusquely, immediately sitting down across from me at the kitchen table.
"Okay…?" Edward said hesitantly, obviously taken aback as well. He gently placed his hand on my thigh, squeezing reassuringly.
Esme nodded, and folded her hands on top of the table. She looked cool and calm and collected as always, but I saw that her hands were shaking slightly. "Edward, I never told you this…but seeing as Bella is now going through the same thing…I thought I could give you both some advice." Esme cleared her throat and looked me in the eye before continuing. "The summer before Edward started fifth grade, I found out that I had breast cancer. Not wanting to worry Edward or Jasper, Carlisle and I decided to send them to spend the summer with my sister. We did that, and I got a double mastectomy and then implants by the time they returned home to start the school year. I know what you're going through, and I know that you two are a hell of a lot stronger and braver than I am. You'll be just fine."
With that, she took another deep breath, and then fell silent. Edward stared at her, his mouth slightly open and his eyes wide with disbelief. "You had cancer?" He asked incredulously. "Why…why the hell didn't you tell me? I understand not telling Jasper and I right when it happened…but why not later? Why wait until now?"
"I know that a lot of the time, I come off as a mean, heartless person." Esme said, staring right into my eyes. I blushed slightly, looking at Edward instead of at her. "But I want what is best, no matter what it takes to get there. So every single time I've ever been hard on you, on anyone, it's because I want them to be better. And Edward, look how wonderfully you turned out. And you, Bella. Over the years I watched you become a lot stronger and confident, and I hope some of that is a result of how I've treated you."
I gaped at her, shaking my head slightly. "You were terrible to me to try and make me a better person?" I asked in pure confusion.
Esme nodded easily, looking down at her manicure. "Well, don't you think it's worked? While you still kind of let me push you around…you stopped taking crap from me, and it's pretty obvious that you want to prove yourself to me when I've seen the real you for a long time. I've known that you're vivacious and strong for a long time, but it took you until now to prove it to me."
I don't when the second/final part will be out…hopefully within two weeks!
Xoxo- Melodyella aka Mellie