This will be short-just 5 chapters-and is already written. Updates will probably be once a week, although I can't promise that I won't get impatient and update sooner.
All characters and recognizable story components and plotlines belong to Stephenie Meyer. No copyright infringement is intended.
I sit just inside the glass door that leads out to the balcony, but I'm not looking outside. Laid out behind me is a breathtaking 18th story view of the Seattle skyline at night—the deciding factor when we leased the apartment 3 years ago. I haven't looked at it in months.
I stare instead at the picture in my hands—just an ordinary 5x7 in a simple silver frame. Her face smiles out at me; chocolate eyes bright with happiness, wavy sable hair flowing past her shoulders, pink lips curved up and ever so slightly parted. I know that she is wearing a dark blue dress that bares her shoulders, and that I am standing next to her in a black tuxedo. I know that one of her legs is in a walking cast, and that our arms are wrapped around each other. I know these things because this picture from our junior prom has sat next to whatever bed I am sleeping in for the last 4 years, but I don't see them right now. All I see is her face, happy and in love.
My phone beeps twice; it is 11:00. I stand up, picture still in hand, and walk across the living room, down the hallway, into the bathroom. I set the frame down on the counter and shed my clothing before stepping into the shower. As I wash, my eyes never leave hers as they smile at me from the laminated snapshot stuck to the tiles with putty. I notice that the lamination is starting to separate a bit at the corner; I will have to replace it again soon.
I step out and grab a towel to dry off, my eyes finding hers in the mirror. As I brush my teeth over the sink, I study the shape of her face, the quiet beauty of her soft smile, the slight blush on her cheeks. The wind had picked up a little in the late afternoon, and a few strands of hair had blown across her face in the instant before my finger had pushed the button. This picture is laminated as well, stuck to the mirror with more putty. I learned early on that tape doesn't last long in the bathroom; the steam from the shower destroys it within a week. The putty lasts much longer.
Finished, I grab the frame back off the counter and make my way to the bedroom. I gently place it back on the nightstand where it belongs before turning the light off and sliding into bed. Tomorrow is Sunday, so there is no need to set the alarm; I don't have to be anywhere until 12:30, when I meet Alice at Gianna's for lunch. I take one last long look at her sitting next to my bed before I close my eyes and focus on the blackness, pushing all thoughts out of my head and willing myself to sleep.
I dream of her; I always do. Beautiful face twisted in pain and shock, tears just starting to form in her horrified eyes as she turns to run. Over and over again, like a tape stuck on repeat. But that's all I dream of, and I wake up thankful.
I don't want to go out, and I don't want to see Alice. But my sister doesn't take no for an answer, so when she called me on Tuesday to ask if I had plans for lunch on Sunday I didn't even bother trying to come up with an excuse. It's not that I don't love the little pixie or enjoy her company, because I do. But being with her now, seeing her pain—and even worse, her sympathy—is almost more than I can bear.
I know Alice picked Gianna's because it is convenient to my building, but I wish she had chosen somewhere farther away. It will only raise questions I have no intention of answering if I drive the 3 blocks instead of walking, so I don't have the option of studying what's tucked into the visor of my Volvo. As I walk I decide that I will insist on paying, and have maybe 5 seconds to look at the picture slid into the front see-through pocket of my wallet.
By now I have arrived at my destination, and as I step inside I spot Alice at a table in the corner. I walk over and sit down across from her, studying her face as I do so. Something is different; she looks…nervous? She immediately starts chattering about nothing in particular, so I sit back and wait for her to get to the point. Because I know that there is definitely a point to this lunch; something that she didn't want to talk about over the phone, something she isn't quite sure how to say. Finally, as our empty plates are being cleared, she is quiet. When we are once again alone she draws in a deep breath and lets it out in a rush.
"I've been seeing somebody once a week for the last month and it's really been helping me deal with everything and I really think it might be a good thing for you to do, too. She gave me the number of a colleague who she says is very good at dealing with this kind of thing, and I really, really think that you should give him a call."
It takes me a few seconds to sort through the word vomit and understand what she is saying, but when I do my response is immediate and unequivocal.
"Edward, please just give it a shot? It's been months, and I don't know how much longer I can stand to see you like this! You're like a zombie, you don't talk to me, you don't ever go anywhere or do anything. You haven't even signed up for any classes when the new semester starts. You keep blowing Jasper off, and Emmett hasn't heard from you in ages. Mom and Dad are terrified, and to be truthful so am I. I lost my best friend Edward, and now it feels like I'm losing my brother, too. Please? Just…please?"
She is crying now, the tears rolling down her cheeks and her arms wrapped around her stomach, and I realize that I haven't been fooling her at all. Alice knows there is more going on than I have told her, and our parents are worried as well. I don't want to talk to this person she mentioned, but hurting my family is not an option. They have shed enough tears lately; I won't draw out their pain. If my agreeing to see…someone… will make them feel better, it is a small price to pay. It won't help me, but nothing could possibly make things any worse, so what the hell.
"All right, Alice, give me the number."
She sniffles and reaches into her purse for a tissue to dab at her eyes with. "Will you please promise to call him and set up an appointment?"
I growl softly. "Alice…"
"Fine! I'll call first thing Monday morning! Are you happy now?"
She smiles tremulously. "Yes. Edward, I know you don't want to do this, but I really do think that it would help. Bottling everything up just isn't healthy, and since you won't talk to your family or friends, I don't know what else to do."
"I said I would, can we talk about something else now, please?"
We exchange a few more sentences, I pay for our lunch (over Alice's objections, but I insist), and walk home. For the rest of the afternoon and evening I sit on the couch, looking through the albums that now reside permanently on the coffee table. At 8:00 I call for take-out Chinese, and by 9:00 I am back in front of the balcony door, holding the silver frame in my hands as I once again ignore the view. I don't want to go to bed, I know that after today's events the night ahead of me will not be a good one. But when my phone beeps twice, I obediently stand and go through my evening routine. Just like last night. Just like every night for the last 4 months.
I am successful at keeping my mind clear until I fall asleep.
I dream of her; I always do. Beautiful face twisted in pain and shock, tears just starting to form in her horrified eyes as she turns to run. Over and over again, like a tape stuck on repeat. But then it changes, continues, and I see what comes next. I was right; it is not a good night.
I wake up gasping for air, and the first thing I do is turn my head and focus on the picture sitting on the nightstand as I try and regulate my breathing and slow the racing of my pulse. Eventually I am able to push everything out of my mind and I see nothing but her smiling lips, her happy eyes.
The woman who answers the phone asks me to hold please, and then a deep voice introduces himself and says that he has been hoping to hear from me. He has openings on Tuesday and Thursday, and would like me to come twice a week to begin with. I had hoped to put it off for longer, but I think of Alice and agree to be there tomorrow at 3:30.
The day passes like most others, but I receive more than the usual number of calls. Alice is first, and there is no avoidance or small talk like at the restaurant. She cries again, but I am pretty sure that this time they are relieved tears instead of sad ones. By the end of the day I have talked to my mother and father, as well as Emmett and Jasper. Alice has been busy, but I can't find the will to be upset. There are worse things than having a family that loves you, people to worry about you.
The apartment is spotlessly clean, the pizza remains thrown away, the lights turned off. I sit on the sofa and stare at the coffee table, but can't bring myself to open one of the books sitting there. I can't quiet my mind tonight, and know better than to look while distracted. I glance at the piano sitting across the room, and for a moment almost contemplate playing before shaking off the thought with a bitter laugh. I am restless, jumpy, but not stupid.
My elbows are digging into my knees, hands pulling at my hair in frustration. I want a drink, but I poured all the alcohol in the apartment down the kitchen sink months ago. My hands need something to do, so I go to the kitchen and pour a glass of water. Open the freezer and add some ice. My feet need somewhere to go, so I find myself walking through the rooms, touching things randomly. I adjust already straight frames, move a vase 2 inches to the left, pull a book off a shelf and flip through it as I walk around, only to set it down on an end table a minute later.
My phone beeps twice, and I want to heave the tumbler in my hand through the nearest window. My routine has gone to shit, and I curse Alice as I contemplate the night ahead of me.
For the first time in recent memory, I go to bed without completing my nightly routine. No shower. No staring. No pretty brown eyes laughing into mine. I keep my gaze focused straight ahead as I make my way down the hall. My eyes stay closed as I disrobe and slip into bed; a bed we never shared, that I have only ever slept in alone. In the back of my mind is the thought that perhaps I can avoid the dreams tonight, but the rest of me knows better.
I dream of her; I always do. Tonight there is no beautiful face twisted in pain and shock, tears just starting to form in her horrified eyes as she turns to run. Tonight there is only what came later, and I wake up with a face wet with tears and a throat raw from screaming.
It is 3:49, and I sit on a soft brown leather couch as I avoid the eyes watching me from behind wire-framed glasses. The pleasantries have been seen to, and the first questions have been asked. Questions I'm not sure I want to answer. What point is there in dredging everything back up? I shift uncomfortably on the cushions, and the silence stretches on.
4:09, and I am talking. Halting, softly spoken stories of high school, and biology labs, and pretty pink lips caught between pretty little teeth. Of freesias and strawberries and the most beautiful deep brown eyes the world has ever known.
8:38, and I am once again sitting on my own couch, staring at the closed books in front of me, wondering if I dare open them after the events of the day. But it has been too long, and I can't keep my hands from folding back the first cover, can't keep my fingers from tracing full lips and arching brows. Can't keep my eyes from drinking in the captured moments of a happy life.
I dream of her; I always do. Beautiful face twisted in pain and shock, tears just starting to form in her horrified eyes as she turns to run. Over and over again, like a tape stuck on repeat. But that's all I dream of, and I wake up surprised and thankful. It was more than I expected.