Disclaimer: Stephenie Meyer owns everything Twilight related. No copyright infringement is intended and there is no financial gain by myself in this story. The original characters, plot, and setting are the property of the author, NTJB. Please do not reproduce this story without the express permission of the author.
A/N: Hi :)
Chapter 27- "Why" Girl
August 11, 2010
A "why" girl.
When Ms. Evanson bequeathed me with the illustrious title, I had accepted it graciously. I think I lived it the first twenty years of my life. To be more accurate, I demanded other people pursue the whys in the world. Jake, my mom, Alice, and Edward. But when it came to facing my own whys, I couldn't handle it.
I never understood how others couldn't face them head on. I thought finding the truth would lead to their absolution. You find out the truth, you find real happiness. I had been so naïve to the kind of irreparable damage one truth could cause. The only thing that could fix it was time. And, as usual, it wasn't moving fast enough.
A month had passed since my phone call with Ms. Evanson, but the news about Carlisle continued to torment me as if it were revealed to me yesterday. I didn't dare try to delve deeper into her cautionary words about "Edward's limits." Edward might have hurt people in the past, but he wouldn't hurt me.
I was the only one who understood Edward. I didn't have to find out why he was. Nothing he did before mattered. He was good to me now, and he would continue to be because he was a good man.
No matter how many times my body tensed at the memory of Ms. Evanson's first words to me—a why girl. I ignored them and held Edward tighter. If a man with a questionable past dated my mom, the why girl would demand she leave him. If it were Leah, that girl would drag Jacob out of that relationship with her bare hands. Yet in my own circumstance, I had her bound and gagged.
Carlisle was dying, and I still couldn't tell Edward. I couldn't see the viridian again. He deserved a little happiness, for just a little longer, or whenever Emmett decided it was time. I just couldn't do it. I didn't want him to close himself off and run away again. He disappeared when Liam died, and something deep down told me he'd do it again for Carlisle.
This assuredness was a constant struggle. Everyday for the last month, I woke up in Edward's arms, questioning my decision. The why girl, armed with her spear, was ready to strike down the lie and carve out the truth. The revelation scene replayed in my mind before I opened my eyes:
We would be spooning; so, I'd roll over to face him.
I would stroke his face, rough with scruff, and reveal his father was dying.
He wouldn't cry or scream. He would remain calm. He would shut his eyes and bury his face in the crook of my neck.
When our gazes would meet, I would see the viridian. That's when I'd open my eyes.
I never knew what to do after seeing the steel. I always thought whatever I saw in real life would be better than my imagination. And, in a way, it was.
When I opened my eyes and rolled around to face him in real life, his eyes were brighter than they were in my mind. I could see his soul in them. He was happy.
His nightmares hadn't returned since we moved into the penthouse. I never smelled cigarette smoke again. I never asked him "why," and he never shut down. Slowly but surely, he was opening up. I was as well... about what I wanted him to know, anyway. Still, living together was as natural as breathing for us. We were learning more and more about each other and loving every second of it.
I loved karaoke, something he wasn't too into when I dragged him into a bar in Koreatown. I understood why he had his misgivings when I heard him attempt to sing Kings of Leon. He was more out of tune than I was when I attempted to sing Beyoncé. It was embarrassing as all get out, but that's why I loved karaoke. It was the only place where we didn't have to be our best. We didn't have to even attempt it, but even if we did and failed, it was okay. Edward was a good rapper, though. Too good in fact.
"I didn't know you liked rap," I said as he paid the bill. My voice was raspy from all the belting. He signed the receipt with a sheepish grin.
"There's a lot of things you don't know about me." He pulled at his ear, his grin vanishing. "This hasn't been the most surprising, has it?"
After the bartender handed him back his credit card, I kissed his cheek. "No," I whispered in his ear, tugging at the same ear. "And if what I already know is the worst, then I can handle the rest."
There wasn't a day where I wouldn't wonder about the rest. I would catch the tail end of a heated phone conversation when he'd come home from a meeting with Ben or another failed audition, and my curiosity would peak. But I promised him space and didn't want to be the kid he said I was. Besides, whenever he was in one of those moods, I knew how to get him out of it. I was becoming a pro at it. Finding out the whys of Edward Cullen came organically. I no longer had to fight for it. All I had to do was sit and watch him.
We went to The New School one afternoon at the end of July, and he let me into his life as a musician. The three movements from Beethoven's Piano Sonata 14 showed all the sides of him that I'd seen and that I never wanted to see again.
The swamp-like melody of the first shrouded him in a darkness of which I had seen only fragments. He hunched over the bench as if trying to hide and he played the entire movement so softly. It was a ghost weeping. The second flowed from his fingers like a stream. I was transported to the mornings since June when he was so playful, so open, how he loved my chocolate cake. I thought to make another as he reached its final jovial notes. For the final movement, he slammed his fingers down on the keys so hard he could've destroyed the ivory. I had heard this movement dozens of times prior to this, often hearing versions that were played in a frenzy. Edward played it with fury.
I didn't know where it was coming from, which was what frightened me more than the sight of him virtually beating the keys. I touched the scar on the back of my neck when he arrived at the movement's climax. The remnant of his last violent act marked me in a way I found easy to forget. It wasn't that violent to begin with.
I didn't know how to respond when he asked me what I thought of his performance. But when he asked me to join him on the bench, I willingly consented. I felt his tense body ease as soon as his arms enveloped me. He breathed me in like he loved to do and was happy once more.
I was emboldened by his happiness and kept the why girl's questions at bay. He shined brighter every morning. I would not let her snuff him out.
This morning, I was ready for his green pools. But even before I opened my eyes, I knew something was off. When I reached down to lift his arm from my waist, anxious to see his light, it wasn't there.
The bed was empty. Edward's arms weren't around me. The sheets behind me were bare.
On the floor in front of the closet door was his opened gym bag. It was empty.
Clutching my stomach, a wave of intense cramps seized me. It was day two of my period, a.k.a. the day hell decided to reside in my uterus.
I hopped off the bed, the stinging pain in my knees long gone. Searching for some Midol in the nightstand drawer, I found a note beneath the lamp. In Edward's messy scrawl, I breathed a sigh of relief reading:
Left early for a meeting with Ben about the play. I'll be done around 1. -E
A second later, my cell phone played a few seconds of Beethoven from the love seat. I had left it downstairs if my memory served me correctly. Edward must have brought it up here. I downed the Midol and crossed the bed to pick it up.
Three messages. All from Edward, starting at 7:30 a.m.
Edward: Good morning. Hope you slept well. I didn't want to wake you this morning, so I left you a note. I'll be at The Public Theater with Ben all morning. Enjoy fresh bagels and coffee downstairs.
Edward: Missing you.
Edward: Hey, still asleep, sleepyhead? Ben wants to stop by and meet you. We'll be back around 1. Don't be nervous.
Good. I wanted to meet Ben, too. He had to be nicer than Emmett. He sounded nicer when I overheard him in the hallway.
Me: Can't wait. Hurry back.
Downstairs, the bagels were still fresh but cool on the countertop in the kitchen. The coffee was tepid. Warming up the coffee in the microwave—another Jetson-like gadget built into the wall with a "sensor steam cook cycle"—I decided this would be the time to do what I really didn't want to do but had to.
I couldn't let this go, not when I thought the worst of her and said as much. I had to apologize to Alice. Not only was it the right thing to do, I needed her. I had to convince her to help Edward with his play.
When I called her, she picked up on the first ring.
"Bella? What happened? Did you reach Emmett? I've been worried sick!" Her words were a jumbled mishmash of hollering and expectations.
Rather than go over this on the phone, I invited her to Pinkberry on 82nd. Thankfully, she agreed. This exchange would be so much more pleasant with froyo.
Half an hour later, we sat on a hard white plastic bench inside. She ordered, and I copied her choice: frozen chocolate-flavored yogurt with coconut sprinkles. I felt like I was in a futuristic play room at a Chuckie Cheese. The bright pink walls and pure white floor were an unusual decor for this part of the city. It didn't assuage the situation, though. It was just as cold as the treat in my little cup. And the sugar in my system didn't make what I was about to tell Alice any easier.
"How's your summer so far?" she asked, eating a couple coconut flakes at a time.
"It's good. Couldn't be better." I gobbled my yogurt.
"Good. You look it. I mean, you look good."
"Thanks." I blushed.
"Oh. How's the new place?"
"It's great. Never knew I'd live in a penthouse like the one at 880. Ever."
She shrugged. "I guess if you like a bunch of dogs and old people. Have you begun your research, yet? Or whatever you guys do for your senior thesis?"
I hadn't thought about school since May and didn't plan on doing any of my work until next week. I thought I'd do more analysis on Disney and Shakespeare. The editor of The New Yorker hired me because of it, so why not? I didn't want to humor Alice with an answer, though. This was just small talk. I didn't invite her here for small talk.
"Really don't wanna talk about school, Alice."
"So, what do you wanna talk about?" Alice asked. She lowered her cup to her knee. "You haven't spoken to Edward about Carlisle, have you?"
"Um, not... not that. I don't wanna talk about that."
"So you have told him? Is he alright?"
I dug up a spoonful of the yogurt, focusing too hard on the brown puddle at the bottom. "I can't say..."
"Okay." From my periphery, I saw Alice slide back against the rubbery wall. "Why am I here if you don't wanna talk about school or Edward?" She swirled the froyo around and around until all the coconut flakes disappeared in the mix.
"I wanna say I'm sorry for calling you a liar. I don't know how much that's worth, but I found out the truth. And I'm sorry."
"So you did speak to Emmett!" She turned to face me, placing her cup in the space on the bench between us.. "I told you he'd come around. How's Carlisle? Is he okay?"
I shook my head and immediately regretted it. Alice gasped and covered her mouth. I felt terrible, slumping my shoulders, feeling like an idiot. She thought I was saying Carlisle's condition deteriorated.
"No! Sorry to freak you out!" I twisted my hair over my shoulder. "I didn't talk to Emmett. I don't know about Carlisle's condition. I just know that you told me the truth."
"Okay?" She cursed, dropping her face into her hands. "Why did you shake your head if it wasn't about Carlisle?" She mumbled into her hands, wiping tears away from her cheeks.
"I'm sorry, Alice."
"Yeah, we got that cleared up. Apology accepted. Who told you the truth?"
I shook my head again. "I won't say right now."
She took my empty cup out of my hands, placing it in front of her cup. "Why not?"
Keeping my eye on the white cardboard, I replied, "It doesn't matter."
She huffed. "Well... Do you know if he's alright?"
"I don't know how he is right now, no," I muttered. It was the truth. I had spoken to Ms. Evanson a month ago. "Doesn't your mom know?"
"My mom's been doing fieldwork in Egypt since the end of July. I haven't spoken to her since she left."
"God..." I squeezed my eyes shut, mulling over how I would ask her the next question without seeming like a sleazy salesperson. I needed to do it, though.
Edward needs this.
"What? What's wrong Bella?" Alice's voice wavered. "Hey, are you gonna throw up again?"
"No..." With a sharp turn of my head, I cocked an eyebrow. "No, I'm fine."
"Are you pregnant?" She touched my knee, her face a mask of concern. "God, don't tell me you are."
"No," I replied calmly. I shifted my legs so that her hand fell away. "I'm not."
"Are you sure? You threw up at the office last time I saw you and now you look like you're about to again."
"Yeah, I'm sure." I got the cramps to prove it.
"Nothing. I've just been over-thinking... stuff."
"Do you need to see a doctor?"
"No. No, I'm fine." I shook my head then looked into Alice's face. She looked genuinely concerned. Her reaction overwhelmed me. It also cemented something Edward wouldn't like at all. I could start to trust Alice again.
"I need to ask you for a favor."
"What is it?"
I picked up my cup. Swallowing the last of the yogurt, I squished the remaining coconut flake on the bottom.
"It's really serious. I hope you'll think about it."
"Hey... wait a minute. Did he do something to you?"
Flinging the spoon and empty cup into the trashcan on my left, I stood up. Here we go again. When I faced Alice, she crossed her legs and stared at me expectantly.
"I think the better question is what did he do to you to make you ask me that?" I shoved my hands into the pockets of my jean shorts.
Alice fluffed her bangs, which were blown straight today and falling into her eyes. "That's not fair. You asked me for a favor. Now you're asking me to talk about something that you know I don't wanna talk about. Which is it?"
"I just want you to be straight with me."
Alice kept mum, looking around the store, which was beginning to fill up.
"Okay," she finally said. "I, um, have a hair appointment on 68th and 7th. Let's walk through the park to talk."
I checked the clock. I had an hour before I had to meet Edward and Ben. He didn't know I was with Alice nor did he have to know. Asking this of Alice wouldn't take long. I should have enough time.
The palpitations in my chest caused my voice to shake. "I have an appointment in an hour. So, I won't keep you."
It was a steamy day in New York. The air was thick with the promise of rain. The wait was a long one. It wouldn't rain until later tonight. The humidity slowed my pace but Alice was sprightly. When we reached the end of 68th and 2nd, I pulled my hair-tie from my wrist to form a ponytail. My neck felt like it had been roasting in the oven for hours. I still needed to cut my hair but never got around to it.
"So, we've been walking a few blocks, and you haven't said anything. What's the favor?" Alice asked.
Do it, Swan. Just come out with it.
"Edward, he... He's producing a play." We crossed the street as I said this. Alice was a couple of bouncy steps ahead of me.
"Wow. Cool." The dull tone of her voice wasn't as impressed as her words. She rubbed her forehead. "Which one?"
"Cat on a Hot Tin Roof." A frog had leapt into my throat and moved in. My voice wouldn't stop shaking.
"Hunh. Is that Tennessee Williams?"
"Umm, yeah. Yeah. It's Edward's favorite play."
She turned onto 68th St., heading west to 3rd Ave. without another word.
"It is interesting." I hurried after her. "And Edward will be great in it. He wants to play Brick."
"Sounds like a lot of work, but I know he can do it. Where does my favor come into play? Forgive the pun."
"Edward ran into some trouble and can't get out of it."
"What kind of trouble can you get into producing an old play? Does he not have the rights to it?" She turned around and walked backwards.
"I don't think so. He just needs some money."
"Money?" Alice furrowed her eyebrows. Then, she turned and walked ahead of me again.
"Yeah," I said after finally catching up with her. We reached the curb on 3rd. "I don't know how much, but it sounds like more than he has."
"That's ridiculous. Edward's loaded. He has more money than Saudi Arabia. Or at least his dad does."
Pulling at my t-shirt's collar, I felt defeated already. Alice was gonna say no. She wouldn't help her former step-brother after all. She didn't care as much as I had thought.
"I guess so."
"Why doesn't he ask him? Carlisle would give Edward the world."
"I don't know. I don't talk to him about his father too much."
We waited at the corner for the light to change.
"So, umm, you don't know how much he needs, and you don't know if he's asked his father yet but you're asking me." She stopped and faced me with her arms crossed. "That's the favor?"
"Umm..." I rubbed the back of my neck. "Yeah."
"Does Edward even know you're here? Or that you're asking me?"
"I know I haven't thought this through..."
"Do you remember the last time we were together? He couldn't stand the sight of me. What makes you think he'd accept this money from me?"
"Alice, you said you cared about him. You wanna see him do well, right?"
"Yes. On both accounts, yes."
"He wants this play more than anything else in the world. No, he needs this. If Carlisle dies tomorrow from this godforsaken disease, he will need this play to sustain him. He wouldn't say no if you gave this to him... or... if I gave it to him."
She dropped her arms, walking ahead again the moment the crosswalk sign turned from the red-orange light to white. After leaving Lexington Ave. behind, she still didn't stop. Wiping my brow and the back of my neck, I raced behind her. I expected the conversation to end because of her quick pace, but she kept talking.
"You seem to be making this up as you go along."
"I am. Still, it'll work. Edward trusts me. He won't have to know where it came from. He'll never know."
Now only a stride behind her, I watched Alice bow her head and pull at the chain on her neck. The oddly-shaped silver pendant that I saw twice before appeared yet again between her slender pink fingers.
"Who gave that to you?" I asked. I took a deep breath. My abs were beginning to cramp. I did a little stretch to relieve the strain.
"What?" Slowly, she lowered it to her chest.
"Um, someone important." With every word, she picked up the pace. I had to jog to keep up with her. This hair appointment must've been quite an experience. "He's no longer here with us."
"You know, Edward's acting because of him." I could barely get the words out between my huffs and puffs.
"I do." Finally, Alice slowed her pace down.
"You know I wouldn't ask you if Edward had other options."
"You don't even know his options." Alice stopped. "You've never talked to him about this, remember?" Then, she kept going.
I didn't know how to counter that and remained silent as we reached Madison Ave.
"How about this?" Alice began. "You tell me how much it is, and I'll think about it."
"So, you'll do it? You'll give me the money?" My heart skipped and replaced the frog in my throat. Calm yourself. She hasn't really said yes, yet.
"No. I'll think about it."
"I'll find out how much it is and call you as soon as I find out. Alice, this will mean the world to him."
"Right." Alice groaned. "I really gotta go. Bye, Bella." She sped up, walking way too fast for me. Another couple of long blocks was Central Park and home. I didn't want to follow her, anyway. Edward could be there with Ben already. Walking down 5th with her was too much of a risk. She didn't seem to notice I wasn't following her, anyway. I guess she was as glad to get rid of me.
As she ran down 68th, I turned the corner on Madison.
So, I could trust her, after all. And even better, she'd help Edward. She said she would think about it, but if she didn't want to do it, she wouldn't have even asked for a dollar amount.
Alice would give me the money.
Edward would get his play on that Public Theater stage.
Everything would work out.
This was easier than I thought.
All I had to do was continue to lie to him.