"Tell me what you don't like about yourself."
"I think you would know better than me, you are the professional after all."
He looks up from the papers in front of him at the sound of her voice. He squints at her as if trying to figure out a puzzle. "Bella? What are you doing here?" he asks confused.
"Um, I'm not Bella. My name is Angela, Angela Weber. Am I in the wrong room," she asks looking around the office nervously. "Aren't you Dr. Cullen?"
"Uh, yes… I'm Dr. Cullen," he shifts uncomfortably in his chair. "I'm sorry, you look like someone… like someone I'm very familiar with."
If there is one person that Dr. Edward Cullen knows better than himself, it would be his wife, Bella Cullen. The woman sitting in front of him bears a strikingly parallel appearance of his wife. However, the woman before him has an accent, whereas his Bella does not. He also can't tell what eye color Angela has, as she is hiding behind very large sunglasses, which take up a large portion of her face. I hate when people wear sunglasses in buildings; it his highly unnecessary, he thinks to himself.
Dr. Cullen doesn't know why his wife would be sitting in the chair opposite him anyway. Dr. Cullen is a plastic surgeon at a private practice he owns with his brother's girlfriend, Dr. Rosalie Hale. Emmett and Rose actually met through Edward when he and Rose decided to go into practice together. They went to college together, and after medical school opened up Oceanfront Shores.
Bella and Edward were childhood sweethearts. They grew up in the small town of Forks, Washington and were inseparable. After high school, they grudgingly went separate ways. While Edward went off to Dartmouth, Bella went to Brown University to get a degree in visual art. They were apart for four years, but still managed to stay together through it all. Eventually they married before Edward started his internship and residency.
"Oh," she blushes.
Edward wishes that she wasn't wearing those stupid sunglasses so that he could see her eyes; he could always read Bella's eyes the best. They were the window to her soul he always said to her; his favorite feature of Bella's.
"So tell me what you don't like about yourself," he asks again.
"I was hoping that you could tell me. You fix people up all the time; what do I need fixed? My husband has been distant for a while, and I was hoping to gain his attention again."
"Ms. Weber, it's not my job to tell you what to get fixed. You are the one that walked into my office today; obviously there is something about yourself that you are unhappy with. But if you're only doing this for your husband's sake, then I think that you should revaluate why you're really here. Plastic surgery is not a cure for marriage problems."
"We're not having problems, per se. We're just… there… not moving forward. I don't even remember the last time we've made love, but that's beside the point. I want a change, and I want you to be the one to help me. Maybe my nose, or lips," she ponders out loud. "Perhaps a boob job. What do you think doctor? Which part needs the most work?" She stands up then and turns so her backside is facing him, "Or would you say I need work done on my ass?"
"Um…" he stutters. "I don't feel comfortable commenting."
"I'm asking your professional opinion on the matter, it's not like I'm propositioning you or anything. Unless you want me to," she says questioningly, part of her eyebrow raised above her glasses.
"That is highly inappropriate. I think that perhaps I should refer you to my partner, she would be able to help you with your inquires better anyway," he replies gathering her paperwork into her file.
"No, no. I'm sorry doctor; you're absolutely right. I have never done that before," she starts to cry. "I promise not to let that happen again, but please, I want your opinion. You're a man so you know what men like, I don't need a female opinion, if I did I would talk to my girlfriends."
"I really must refer you elsewhere; it's our policy once a client has made a pass at us that we refer them to the other to keep a professional work environment."
"Please," she sobs. "I'm sorry Dr. Cullen, I'm just so lonely and you reminded me so much of my husband. Just give me your recommendation and then I'll speak with your partner, I promise."
He sighs and runs his hands through his hair, "It's hard to give a recommendation Ms. Weber. I don't know what your husband finds attractive. If I have any recommendation at all it would be to speak with him about your unhappiness and then ask his opinion about the surgery."
"Dr. Cullen," she says more firmly, "I'm asking your professional opinion on what you think I need work on. Forget my husband; as a man and a plastic surgeon, what would you fix about me?"
Edward groans and finally relents, "As a man I would personally say that there is nothing I would change about you. As a surgeon I would recommend complex blepharoplasty, more commonly known as eyelid plastic surgery. For me eyes are one of the first things I notice about someone; they can be very expressive. You're too young to need any sort of aging procedure such as a facelift and it doesn't look like you've had children so there is no need for a tummy tuck or anything along those lines."
A few tears fall from behind her dark glasses, "Thank you for honest opinion Edward; I really appreciate it." She stands from her sitting position and exits the room.
Edward is left dumfounded, staring after her retreating form. He's very confused over what just happened. Usually when people come into his office to get work done, they know exactly what they want; he might offer a suggestion here or there but his personal opinion is never sought out so deliberately.
He's not one to walk around imagining giving "Jane" a nose job or "Joe" a pectoral reduction. He likes that everyone is unique. Edward didn't go into plastic surgery because he is obsessed with looks; he went into plastic surgery because he wants to help people become who they are. His main focus of the practice is doing pro bono work. He finds great satisfaction in helping someone whose face was burned beyond recognition and giving them back their identity. Or helping someone that lost six hundred pounds find their true self again for the first time in years.
No, Edward never really found pleasure in giving someone a boob job because it's what's popular at the time. So when Angela Weber, a beautiful woman, walked into his office today asking him to fix something that wasn't broken, he felt disgusted. He knew it was part of his job to do those types of surgeries, but if he could sway someone in the opposite direction, he was all for it. However, he knew that those were the types of surgeries that helped pay for the pro bono ones that he enjoyed doing for people.
That was one of the constant problems between Rose and Edward. Edward wanted to do more pro bono cases, but Rosalie didn't want to do any. It wasn't that she was in it entirely for the money, but she didn't believe in doing something for nothing.
The rest of the day went by slowly for Edward, Tuesdays always did. Mondays were always busy with post-op consults and any problems that may have arisen over the weekend. Tuesdays were new patient consult days where surgeries were tentatively scheduled for future dates. Wednesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays were a mix match of pre-op consults and surgeries, leaving Edward exhausted in the evenings.
When Edward walked in the side door Tuesday night, he did not hear Bella anywhere, nor did he see any signs that dinner would be waiting for him. Figuring she must be in her studio, he sluggishly makes himself a sandwich and collapses on the sofa in his den. Bella didn't feel it necessary to have a TV in the living room, claiming that it would take away from time with family and friends. So on nights when Edward was too tired to read, he made camp in his den watching mindless sitcoms on the television.
A few hours later, Edward wakes up and finds himself still on the couch with the TV on in the background. He stands up, stretches out his body, and turns off the TV after noticing it's almost eleven. That's odd, Bella is usually never in her studio this late, he ponders. Because he hasn't seen Bella since he climbed out of bed this morning, he decides to go up to her studio on the third floor of their massive estate.
He never wanders up to her studio; he could probably count only a handful of times he's actually been up there. Bella is adamant that her studio is her space and that she doesn't want to confuse it with other parts of her life. At first Edward felt rejected from that part of her life, but he couldn't begrudge her that. He did the same thing when it came to the practice; he tried to never bring his work home with him and therefore never discussed it with Bella. They only thing he really brought home from work was his exhaustion.
Once he reaches the landing on the third floor, he tentatively knocks on the door. Hearing no response, he opens the door to a dark room. He flips on the light switch and looks around the room for signs that Bella was here. Not seeing any current projects, he makes his way back downstairs to the bedroom where he hopes to find her asleep. When he turns on the light in the bedroom he has mixed feelings of disappointment, happiness, irritation, and confusion. He's disappointed that he didn't find her, happy that she didn't go to bed without him, irritated that she didn't bother to tell him where she was, and confused as to where she actually would be this late.
Edward does a quick check of all the rooms in the house, hoping to find Bella asleep in her favorite reading chair or typing frantically on her laptop in some obscure position. Coming up empty, Edward checks his cell phone and house phone for any missed called or messages. None. He picks up his cell phone and dials speed dial number one.
"Hello," Bella sniffles when she picks up.
"Bella, where are you?" Edward asks annoyed that she didn't bother to call him earlier. He's too confused to pick up the faint cries from the other side of the line.
"Um… I'm by Alice's," she mumbles.
"Why didn't you leave a note, or call me?" he snaps in response.
She laughs humorlessly, "It took you this long to notice that I wasn't even there?"
"No, I noticed your absence as soon as I walked in the door. I just figured you were in your studio and didn't want to stop what you working on. So I made a sandwich and fell asleep watching TV in the den. I woke up and thought it was odd that you hadn't come down yet or woke me up or anything. I went up to your studio and you weren't there so I scoured the entire house and came up empty. No note, no phone call…" he trails off hoping she'll fill in the empty spots.
"I'm sorry I didn't leave a note. I didn't think you would really notice that I wasn't there."
"Of course I would notice. Why wouldn't I notice? You're the only thing in this world that keeps me sane."
"Oh," she says a way of response.
"Oh? That's all you have to say?" he asks incredulously.
"When are you coming home?" he whispers after several long agonizingly silent seconds with no response.
"It's late. I'll probably just come back tomorrow sometime. You should go to bed; you'll be tired in the morning. You don't want to mess up someone's face because you stayed up talking to me."
"Bella," Edward whimpers. "You're more important than work. Please come home."
"It's late," she reiterates. "Get some sleep; I'll see you tomorrow."
Edward hears the click of the other line cutting off but he can't bring himself to take the phone away from his ear. After several minutes of inactivity, the phone starts blaring the annoying busy signal in his ear and he is forced to end the call. It's late, that's all he gets. No "I love you" or "goodbye" even, just "it's late."
What happened? They used to be so happy and now she's not even coming home to him. It's not that Bella's never stayed at her friend's house before; it's just that he knows it's different this time. They haven't spent quality time together in quite sometime. He's afraid of what this night apart will do to them. Will there be more to come; is this the beginning of the end?
Edward didn't sleep that much that night. When his alarm went off Wednesday morning, he methodically turned it off from his position on the sofa. He couldn't bring himself to sleep in their bed alone; it would make it seem somehow final. He went through his morning routine robotically, not even noticing that he didn't put any sweetener in his customary cup of coffee. He didn't even notice the lack of sugar when he took his first sip, nor when he took his last.
Across town in a tiny apartment, Bella lay on her friend's sunken in sofa staring blindly at the ocean out the balcony screen door. It had been a long night for Bella too, the day before hadn't been any better either. After sitting across from her husband in his office, she felt exhausted and broken. She was nervous when he called her out right away, and then dejected after a small lie and fake accent made him believe she was someone else.
The past year had been hard on Bella. Edward and Rosalie opened their practice and Edward pulled away from her. She doesn't think he did it intentionally, but it hurt all the same. She wanted Edward to share everything with her, but he never did. He said that he wanted to keep work at work, and she understood that on some level, but it put a huge rift in their marriage whether he knew it or not. He tried to keep his work and personal life separate, but she had to deal with his exhaustion and frustrations; he didn't leave those behind at the office when he came home at night.
Bella couldn't imagine Edward ever having an affair, but the longer his hours grew and the less he talked about his work life Bella began to worry. Edward and Rosalie made a strong bond during college and medical school; she was often jealous that Rose held a part of Edward that she never would. It wasn't for a lack of trying on her part, but Edward liked to compartmentalize. There was his personal life with Bella, then school life with Rosalie, and then eventually work life with Rosalie. Not only was Bella jealous of their easy friendship, but Rose was inhumanly gorgeous. It's no wonder she went into cosmetic surgery, to make everyone else as pretty as her.
Rose and Bella never really got on; Rose always held an air of superiority whenever she was around Bella, which she hid very well when Edward was around. Edward was frustrated in the beginning when Bella and Rose didn't click, but he would not believe Bella when she told him about things Rose did or said to her. Bella knew that Rose was after Edward and Edward was blissfully unaware. Once Rose and Emmett met, she hoped things would get better between them and they did on some level, but there was always that hidden resentment Rose held towards Bella which she couldn't understand.
So after months and months of Edward pulling away from her, Bella had enough. She decided to go to his office and pretend to be someone else to see what Edward really thought of her, to see what Edward thought she needed to get fixed. When she propositioned him, she was elated that he turned her down and relieved that he immediately tried to refer her to Rosalie. At the same time she was absolutely horrified that she propositioned him, that was not her intent going in. She irrationally felt rejected by him, even though he didn't know it was her that he was rejecting.
When he tried to get rid of her she was proud of him, but she wasn't leaving without her answer. She was happy that he tried to sway her from surgery and told her to speak with her husband, which she was ironically enough. When he said that he wouldn't change anything about her she was so relieved, until he made a different recommendation: eye lid surgery, because eyes are expressive. It nearly broke her heart. He always told her that her eyes were his favorite thing about her, and now he was recommending surgery?
Bella tried to hold in her tears at his office, but she couldn't stop them from falling. She left quickly without waiting for him to fulfill his referral; it's not like she would have gone through with it anyway. After she left his office, she immediately went to Alice and Jasper's place. It was a small, cozy apartment they shared, they were currently saving money for Alice to open a boutique. When Alice opened the door, Bella fell to the ground and started weeping. She felt like everything Edward ever told her was a lie.
Alice didn't ask any questions, she helped Bella up from the floor and led her to sofa where she continued to cry. After her sobs subsided, she told Alice about what happened and how her marriage has been going for the past year. Alice wasn't completely surprised by what Bella told her, she suspected they were having problems for a while because Bella had been coming over more frequently than she ever had before. When Jasper got home from work, he made them dinner and they all sat around avoiding the big elephant in the room.
Around the time Edward was expected home, Bella started getting nervous about an impending phone call from him. However, it never came. The farther away from his arrival time it got, the more anxious and depressed she got. He didn't even notice that I'm not home, she kept repeating to herself. Eventually Jasper noticed her change in demeanor and she broke down again telling them. Not long after, did she finally get the phone call she was expecting hours earlier.
Bella was irritated by Edward's condescending voice when he talked to her; demanding to know where she was, not even sounding the slightest bit worried. His arrogance only cemented her choice to stay at Alice's for the night. She could understand his thinking that she was in her studio, but she still felt unwanted. Of course he fell asleep, she thought bitterly, he's always so tired when he gets home. When his voice lost the self-righteousness, Bella almost caved and went home to him. But what would that accomplish? That she followed his orders like his little pet? No, she made her decision and now she had to follow through. After she hung up on she mumbled "I still love you" to the dead line, before she broke down crying again.
She eventually convinced Alice and Jasper to go to bed. In the mean time, Bella lay awake staring at nothing, only having brief moments of unconsciousness before waking herself from crying. Taking one last look out the window, she decides to get up and make breakfast for Alice and Jasper to thank them for taking her in last night and letting her cry on their shoulders.
Lost in thought, Bella didn't hear Alice and Jasper enter the room. She glances up at the wall to check the time when she spots Alice standing in Jasper's embrace in the doorway looking at her sadly. Awkward, melancholy smiles are exchanged before breakfast is served. Bella feels even more remorseful for intruding on her friend's sanctuary when Alice is uncharacteristically silent during breakfast. After everyone is done eating, Bella quickly cleans up the mess she made and says her goodbyes to her friends, promising to call them later with an update.
On her way home, Bella glances at the clock knowing that Edward should probably be on his way to work already. Just to make sure, she aimlessly drives around town to avoid having a confrontation with him when she is still half asleep. When she finally makes it home, she collapses on the sofa and falls asleep.
A couple hours later, Bella awakes and finds herself surprisingly inspired. She makes herself a cup of tea and retreats to her studio. She takes out a large white canvas and sets up her easel, paints, and brushes. Bella takes a sip of her tea and dives into her art.
With everything on her mind lately, Bella hasn't been able to find focus or drive to sit in her studio and create something that is suppose to be beautiful. So when she suddenly found that this morning, she couldn't refuse the pull she had to the third floor, although her work wouldn't be considered beautiful today.
An alarm on her phone brought her out of her trance she found herself in. She hastily turned off the alarm, and sat back in front of her painting, examining it fully for the first time since she started. The outer edges were all lined in black, illuminating the center scene giving it almost an ethereal glow. The center was an image of the side of an angel hunched over on the ground on its knees. The angel's face was hidden in its hands, which were also on the ground. Its wings were spread out around it, but visibly shrunken in to its side, making him look incredibly broken and vulnerable. There was still a lot of work to be done on it, but Bella was very satisfied with her work so far.
She quickly washed up, grabbed her cold mug of tea, and went down to the kitchen to prepare dinner. It was such a conscious routine Bella preformed daily that she didn't even stop to think about the differences tonight would bring to her life. She was just finishing up when the door opened and a haggard looking Edward walked in. She immediately fought the urge to rush to his side, cup his check, and ask if everything was all right. She knew everything was not all right; there was no point in asking when she already knew the answer.
Edward looked up and froze, shocked to actually see Bella in the kitchen making dinner like every other night, as if nothing had changed. His day at work was anything but pleasant. He was constantly thinking about Bella and whether she would be there when he got home tonight. She said she would be home sometime, but that left the entire timeframe open to interpretation. He struggled with himself when he left for the office this morning, his mind protesting to stay home and wait for her so they could talk. He knew it was pointless to wait for her when he didn't know when she would be coming, but going to work turned out to be just as pointless. He was distracted all day, not really paying attention to what was going on in front of him.
"You came home," he stated.
"I told you I would," Bella shifted nervously from her position in front of the stove. Her carefree demeanor from painting immediately gone, replaced by uncertainty and hopelessness.
Edward snapping out of his daze promptly dropped his briefcase and jacket and ran to Bella, pulling her into a fierce hug. He buried his face in the nook between her head and shoulder sobbing uncontrollably, finally letting the emotion out that he had bottled up since their conversation last night.
Bella was momentarily stunned by Edward's action, but instantly gave into her desires and squeezed him back with everything she had, tears of her own falling from her eyes. After several minutes of holding and crying, Edward pulled himself away enough to kiss away the tears on Bella's face, the action causing more to fall from her eyes. They eventually detangled from each other, Edward grabbing her hand and leading her to the sofa.
"I don't understand. Why didn't you come home last night?" Edward asks weakly, searching for answers in her eyes.
"I needed space to think and someone to talk to," she responds.
"Think about what? Why couldn't you talk to me about it?"
"You. I had to think about you. I don't know if I can do this anymore," she says looking away, avoiding his eyes.
Edward blanches at her answer. "Do what anymore?" he whispers looking down at his hands already knowing the answer, but hoping for he's wrong.
"Us," she says turning back to look his face. "It's killing me Edward." Edwards head snaps up to her face again, "Everyday I feel like I'm losing you more and more and I don't know what to do. I'm losing myself. I feel like I'm the only one trying to make an effort and you just take and take from me, like a leech. I don't have anything else to give…" she trails off.
"I'm so sorry. I didn't know I was hurting you," he cries. "I love you so much Bella. I guess I have been taking you for granted lately; I don't think I'll ever be able to forgive myself for the pain I've caused you. Why have you never said anything to me before? What happened that finally sent you over the edge? It couldn't possibly be that I didn't look for you sooner last night. I thought you were in your studio and then I feel asleep on the couch."
"No, it wasn't that necessarily, but that sort of just put the nail in the coffin. It was at your office yesterday. I feel like everything you've ever said to me has been a lie."
"So that was you," he whimpers in disbelief.
Bella continues not even pausing to acknowledge Edward's interruption, "Why would do that? Why would you lie to me for all these years? Was I just some naïve little girl that you wanted to keep house for you when you were off at work? Where did I go wrong? All I ever did was love you," she sobs with tears rolling down her face.
"No that was never the case Bella. Ever," he replies hastily. "I love you so much, with everything I have. I never lied to you; I don't know what you're talking about. Why would you come into my office like that yesterday? I don't understand; were you testing me? Do you not trust me or something? I would never cheat on you if that's what you're thinking; I love you."
"I didn't intend on propositioning you when I went in there, but then I couldn't help myself. Do you even remember the last time we made love? Because I sure don't. I went in there to see if you would give me an honest opinion about what you thought about the way I looked. I thought that maybe I could get some work done and you would be interested in my again. And then what you finally recommended, it shattered me Edward.
"I couldn't go home after that so I went by Alice. Then you didn't know I wasn't even home until you were going to bed. Do you have any idea how that makes feel? Like you couldn't even be bothered to look for me when you got home, even if it was just to say hi or tell me that you were home. But no, you didn't even notice until you realized that you would be going to sleep in a cold bed, alone," she says her voice turning hard at the end.
Edward listened silently, with new tears constantly falling. "I didn't know it was you," he whispers. "I originally thought it was you when I looked up, but the voice was wrong, I couldn't see your eyes, and you denied it. I still sort of thought it was you in the back of my head, but I didn't understand why you would be there asking those questions of me.
"If you would recall, I told you that I wouldn't recommend getting any work done. But you were insistent that you wanted an answer so I told you complex blepharoplasty. There are two reasons I said that. One: it is one of the most expensive surgeries to get done and I wouldn't mind the extra income to allow me to perform more pro bono surgeries. And Two: I couldn't see your eyes. Didn't you think it was strange that I recommended a surgery without even being able to see your eyes behind those ridiculous sunglasses you were wearing? I would never had recommended that if saw your eyes, and if I did I would have known it was you.
"I'm sorry I didn't look for you until I was planning on going to bed. But I honestly thought you were in your studio, and I know you don't want me up there so I didn't check when I came home. I know that sounds like an excuse, but that's all I have…" he trails off running his hand through his hair wearily.
"I never wanted to shut you out from my studio Edward," she says softly fiddling with her fingers. "You always refused to share your work with me, so I felt like I should keep mine to myself too. I figured if you wanted to keep yours separate, you probably wouldn't want to be bothered with mine either."
Edward's face crumbles even more from her admission, "I didn't mean to make you fell that way. I felt so rejected when you said you wanted to keep that separate from everything else. Now I know that's what you were feeling when I closed that part of myself off from you. I'm sorry. I don't know how many times I can say that to make you believe it. I didn't mean to pull away from you. I didn't even realize I was doing it. I was naïve to think that I could separate work and my private life when I'm working fifty plus hours a week. I'm so sorry Bella," he reaches for her hands warily. When he doesn't notice any resistance, he grabs her hands and kisses the backs of them.
"I'm sorry too," Bella says after a short pause. Edward starts to protest but she gives him a look telling him to keep quite. "I'm sorry I let it come to this. I should have talked to you about it sooner. I didn't think it would manifest into this so I let it go in the beginning. But you're right, you can't really separate work from home when you spend almost more time at work than you do at home when you're not sleeping. I know you tried to not bring your work home, but you did anyway whether knew it or not. It's hard to deal you being exhausted all the time and then being frustrated or annoyed for reasons I don't know and therefore can't help you with. That put a lot of stress on me.
"Today is actually the first time I've been in my studio in almost two months because I have been so preoccupied with other things that I wasn't in the right frame of mind to work. I can't handle all this stress anymore Edward. It's not good for me. Sometimes I'm so inside my head that I can't even eat, and if I do I throw it up later. At first I thought I might be pregnant, but then I realized that was impossible because we haven't had sex in so long. I can't do it anymore Edward, and I won't."
Edward panics as fresh tears fall from his eyes at all the pain he has caused his wife unknowingly. "Don't leave me. I'll do anything. Couples therapy, I'll quit my job, anything you want Bella. I can't lose you; it'll kill me. I could barely stand it last night. I had to force myself to go to work this morning because I knew you would be coming home and I needed to talk to you. Please don't tell me it's too late for us," he pleads.
"Edward," she says breathily, wiping the tears from his face. "I never said I was going to leave. I'm not going to lie and say the thought hasn't passed my mine, but I'm not giving up on us. I can't give up on us. It killed me to stay away from you last night, but I couldn't see you after that. I was so confused and hurt. I'm sorry I did that to you, to us. I'm not asking you to quit your job or for us to go to therapy, I just want to work on us together. If things don't change, we can revisit those ideas then. But I hope it won't come to that, I have faith in us to get through this."
"Okay," he says giving her a small smile. "There's just one thing I want to ask of you though," she nods signaling him to continue. "Don't run from me again. If you're scared, hurt, confused, irritated, anything… talk to me. Don't let it fester unless you need time to calm down so we don't get into a huge fighting match or something. And I'll promise to do the same in return."
"Okay," she smiles in agreement. "I love you Edward. I hope you know that."
Edward beams at Bella, relief evident in eyes. "I love you too. I never meant to cause you any pain."
A/N: This was just a little something I had floating around in my head the past couple days, so I thought I would jot it down. It turned out a little different than I originally planned, but that always seems to happen when I sit down to write. This was a different writing style than my previous stories so let me know what you think. I don't plan on writing anymore of this story unless I get a lot of requests asking me to. Please drop a quick note and let me know what you think, I'm usually pretty good at responding to most comments I receive.
Hope you enjoyed.