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 :)
As with the beginning of Part 2, Part 3 begins with a glimpse of the present. Here is "Growing."
"Growing" is a continuation of what happened in "Fleeing." If you remember in "Fleeing," Bella had just left Edward and ran out to the stormy city streets, alone, with no idea what to do or where to go.
Part Three- Growing
June 20, 2011
No fever or dread or emptiness.
I don't even feel hollow inside and don't understand why. Every other time we've parted, I felt incomplete, incapacitated even. Tonight, I feel like I could breathe. My mind is clear and a serenity sweeps over me unlike anything I have ever felt before.
I run all the way up to 80th St., soaked to my bones, dirty with rainwater, but feeling good. So good.
Then, I proverbially kick myself. I didn't plan for this at all, leaving my cell phone and all my other belongings at the penthouse. Now no one can get a hold of me or I, them. I never bothered to remember their numbers, either. I think the only number I know is my dad's because he's had the same number since I was six, but I can't call him. I'll never hear the end of it if he were to take me back to Forks. My dad is not an option. He will never be one.
As I drop my head back, the warm water flooding my ears and mouth, I worry if the real pain will come later, late at night when I'm sleeping in a strange bed, alone, without Edward's arm around my waist. Or when I awaken to a world of white instead of green, would I run back into his arms to drown in his eyes?
Then again, who did those eyes belong to?
"Hollywood's made of lies and liars. I will never be one of those people. I will never be a liar, Bella."
Edward told me this last year. The stage is his safe haven, his classroom, his nirvana. Hollywood is a cesspool of imitators and phonies. He would never make a film. He wouldn't follow Brando's footsteps. He would chart his own course on stage, the only medium where he found Truth. This is what he said adamantly not only to me but the NY Times for fucks sakes. The Edward I love would stay in New York.
Love. God, how could I claim that? It isn't love. It never was.
I shake my head, screwing my eyes shut over something even more infuriating than Edward's raison d'etre. He never told me he sent the audition tape. After five months, after we promised to be open with each other, he lied to me.
Yes, my decision is apt. I am doing the right thing. It's time I stop thinking with my heart and start thinking with my brain. My heart hurt so much for so long, it needs tranquility. The why girl will know how to take over from here. Perhaps she'll be strong enough to assuage the pain... which has yet to take hold of me.
Flummoxed by the absence of it, I walk over to the nearby building, leaning into the warm rough cement.
What's wrong with me? This should be harder.
"Bella!" I hear a familiar baritone voice behind me, but it's not Edward's. I get so hot, I swear the water drops on my skin turn to steam. I never thought I would hear this voice again.
"What are you doing here?" I turn to look up into the fudge brown eyes of a man who I thought would be at Edward's side tonight, not mine.
"I'm here to help, Bella." Emmett popped the collar of his polo and walked over to me to share his umbrella. "We wouldn't have asked you to do this for Edward without helping you."
"I- I don't need your help. Your brother needs you."
"Edward will be fine. Come on, let's get you out of the rain." Emmett moves to take my hand, but I cross my arm around my middle.
"You didn't see him, Emmett. He's really hurting."
"He's gonna get help, but you gotta come with me now."
His log-like arms curl around my shoulder, and he guides me to a black Mercedes at the curb. It's his father's car. The last time I was in there, Carlisle was the one who shared the backseat with me. I never wanted to return after that talk, yet here I am.
"To the Plaza, Peter." Emmett says to the curly-haired faceless driver, and we depart.
Emmett hands me a bottle of ice cold water which I gulp down to the last drop. It's delectable after an afternoon and evening of crying. I shiver when I'm done. The AC in the car is on full blast.
"Why are we going to the Plaza?" I accept a gray Stanford sweater he hands me and pull it over my head. Rubbing my hands together, I hear him pull out his iPhone to make a call instead of answering me. This was a Cullen trait that frustrated me to no end. They kept mum on just about everything. I used to think Edward was purposefully taciturn, but it looked to be genetic.
"Yeah, I'm headed to the Plaza right now." He listens. Then, he says, "Good. I'll see you in half an hour." He hangs up.
We stare straight ahead, the rain making the city blurry and abstract. He is silent beside me. This is the brother of a man I would've married. I have seen him countless times. Hundreds of words passed between us since Christmas, yet I know as much about him as I do Quantum Physics.
Just then, I hear the driver hum a song on the radio. It sounds vaguely familiar, but I can't put my finger on it until it reaches the chorus.
It's "Keys," Jacob's song from his new album.
When Jake gave me the first ten tracks for Christmas, I was inundated with one booty-shaking song after another. This song was the sole ballad. The moroseness that got to me the moment I heard it hits me now. It isn't the best record. It sounds so much like Bruno Mars. But it does make my stomach tense, something Bruno's songs never do. I clutch it, thinking of Jake's whereabouts now.
He must be in San Diego, just beginning the final leg of his tour. Who knows where he'll go next? He has so many opportunities ahead of him. He has talent and such a big heart. And if this song becomes a hit, he'll have money, too, something he and his family never had before. He would make Billy so happy and his mom must be smiling down on him now that he gets to live his dream.
When I hear the line, "I wish I was a smarter man. My songs just won't do," I thank the stars he broke up with Leah. Finally. Jake deserves a girl to tell him he was smart everyday. Now with his success, he can have any woman he wants.
Jake's bright future is blinding compared to mine. Mine is a dark labyrinth in comparison, but it was nice to know at least one of us will excel in life.
I rub my cheeks, realizing what this means. This is it. He won the bet. And now he's the most famous kid from Forks.
My stomach churns.
When the song ends, we're at the front of the Plaza.
"Why don't you just let me go?" I plead with Emmett.
"It's not in Carlisle's or my best interest." Emmett lowers his gaze and pulls at the crease in his khakis. "We want you to be well."
"Why do I have a hard time believing that?" I turn to look into his eyes. "You wanted to make sure I left him and stayed gone, didn't you?"
He shrugs. "You don't have to believe anything I say. We're here now, so let's go."
Emmett is as chatty as a monk as we walk through the lobby and ride the elevator up to the 10th floor. Continuing to mull over his generosity, Edward's words in the elevator echo in my mind.
I was his life after a turbulent year. It all passed by so quickly, especially after Alice left and I moved back into the penthouse. I blot out the Fall, wrap it up in kindling and burn it. It doesn't exist. November never happened. All that matters is 2011. The past will no longer hold me in shackles. I live for the future, and I have my life to define. This life can't be Edward's anymore. It belongs only to me.
The white door at the end of the hallway opens slowly with a frail pale hand. The cold dark green eyes of a man who prodded me for months to leave Edward judge me. A Giants cap covers his bald head instead of the black beanie he wore the last time I saw him in March. His white button down and gray slacks hang off his thin body. Emmett must've had a hard time feeding him.
"Bella, it's nice to see you," Carlisle slurs. His words are hard to understand, but he chews through each syllable as best as he can. With every word, my confusion about being here disappears. Emmett and Carlisle do wanna make sure I follow through. Edward is all alone and they choose to be here, finalizing their executed plan.
I see a white robe and toiletries on the bed. A wingback chair is near the bed, as stately as a throne. Across the bed is a TV that sits on top of a large mahogany dresser. Nothing else is on the dresser save for a white envelope. There are more bottles of the same water Emmett had in the Mercedes on top of the mini bar.
"We made sure the fridge was stocked," Emmett says behind me. The fridge is next to the mini bar. "You can order room service if you prefer it to candy bars, though."
I fold the sweater around me, tighter. This room is just as cold as the car.
"You guys... you've been great. Thank you. But what do you want from me?" I walk over to Carlisle to make sure he can hear me. He had a hard time understanding me during our last conversation. Then again, he didn't want to understand me. "I left your son, okay? I'm not going back."
"Not hard of hearing, Bella," Carlisle says. Emmett offers his hand as his dad takes a step to the chair, but his dad does a slight shake of his head. After a long drawn out breath, he takes his time shuffling to the chair with his back hunched over. Emmett follows him the entire way. When he gets to the seat, he can't lower himself without Emmett's assistance.
After a few minutes of catching his breath, Carlisle lets Emmett wipe his brow with a small hand towel. It reminds me of an instance when Edward did the same Christmas morning. Carlisle thanked Edward profusely that afternoon as he helped him get around. He was in such good spirits. He just heard the best news from his doctor that day. He was gonna live into the new year after all.
Carlisle is a lot quieter now. His breathing is belabored for another few minutes before calming.
"My dad has something for you," Emmett says. He walks over to me, then reaches behind me on the dresser for the envelope. It has the golden seal on the top left-hand side: the two p's. They're mirrors of each other. I graze my lower lip with my teeth.
"We had an agreement," Carlisle says. "And you've done your part. Now we'd like to give you your reward."
"Reward?" I gulp as Emmett hands me the envelope. It's unsealed, so I lift the flap to find a check inside for one hundred thousand dollars.
It slips from my fingers to the floor.
"I, uh, won't be needing that," I stammer.
"This is tough for you..." I scoff at Emmett when he says that, and he grimaces. "We know what you're going through because my dad went through it, too. He doesn't want you to have to endure what he did."
"And I told him in March that Edward's fine. No, he's better than fine. But how could he believe such a thing? He's never around."
"Quiet." Carlisle steeples his fingers together, leaning his chin across them. "Take the money."
"Bella, if you won't take the check for yourself, take it for Edward," Emmett states. "He'll worry about you otherwise, and we need him to focus over the next few months."
"On what? On this biopic? What makes you so sure he'll go now that... I've left him?"
Carlisle sighs. With a bowed head he replies, saying something I can't understand. This happened often during our last conversation. I cried when he struggled with his words that afternoon. I felt so helpless. This time, I am thankful that Emmett's here to help ease Carlisle of his agitated state. After a couple minutes, he relaxes and is able to speak again.
"No one can stop Edward..." With his elbow, Carlisle pokes Emmett in his side, and he finishes for his father.
"My mom never got a chance to make a film with a major studio. It's my dad's final wish to see Edward on film. He wants him to do everything my mom couldn't. Edward does too, now. And he wants to make Dad happy, Bella, before it's too late. You can't get in his way, okay?"
Just then, someone knocks on the door.
"Be happy. It's what Edward would want for you," Carlisle says, regaining his grasp of words.
After another couple of light raps on the door, Emmett lumbers over. All three of us are greeted by the excited blue eyes of a tiny blond.
It takes a couple seconds for my mind to catch up with my eyes as Jane looks up into Emmett's eyes with the biggest smile on her face.
"What's she doing here?" At the cusp of sounding like a banshee, I rein in my voice.
"Good news. Edward wants to know more about the biopic." She gets up on her tiptoes to kiss Emmett on both cheeks. Then, she saunters into the room, her blond ponytail swinging behind her with each graceful step to kiss Carlisle on his cap.
"Hey! You-" I start off saying to Jane, then I glare at Emmett, who bows his head. "Jane was the one who was with Edward?" I grind my teeth. "What's going on?"
She crouches down to stroke Carlisle's cheeks, totally ignoring me.
"Everything will be great, Dad," she coos up to Carlisle. "You'll be on set with him everyday if you wanna be. My father said it's a closed set but let me sneak you in. Of course he can do whatever he wants. He's the director."
"That's what I like to hear," Carlisle's grinning from ear to ear as if she's God incarnate. I am at my wits end all the while. My face is as hot as a boiling pot of peppers.
"Dad?" With a couple of stomps, I stand next to her so she can see me plain as day. I'm fuming but trying not to let it all out because then Emmett and Carlisle would look down on my immaturity and she'd get the upper hand. I might not be with Edward anymore, but I sure as hell didn't want him hanging around her.
"Say something, groupie?"
Ugh! I hate when she calls me that.
"You can't do this." I curl my hands into fists so hard they hurt. I stare at Emmett who stands behind Carlisle's chair with tense eyes. His shoulders are tense, too, the way his brother's get when he's upset.
"Emmett, you know this..." I glance at Jane. "...is no good."
"It is. We've spent months working on it together. It's happening, Bella."
I don't understand any of this. Why are Emmett and Carlisle chummy with the evil puppetmaster while I'm being shipped off with a pity check? Throwing money at me like I'm a prostitute? What is Edward about to get himself into?
"I'm gonna get Weinstein on the phone on our way to the airport." Jane rubs Carlisle's hands. He gazes at her completely smitten. "We can get Eddie to meet him tomorrow afternoon and on set by Wednesday."
"Good. I want to see my boy be good in this picture, Jane."
"He'll be the best Newman ever. He'll be more Newman than Newman himself."
I'm red in the face throughout their exchange, unable to breathe.
"This is a mistake, Emmett," I say through my teeth. "There'll be other movies Edward can make for Carlisle, other directors who don't have the name 'Volturi'." Jane and Emmett help Carlisle up as I say this. She laughs the entire time, so amused by me. Then, she helps Carlisle to the door while Emmett turns to me with a frown on his thin lips.
"Bella, there won't be any other movies. This is it, okay? Dad needs this."
"Coming Emmett?" Jane asks at the threshold. Carlisle squeezes her hand tight. He looks like the luckiest man in the world after that walk. Jane makes a far better companion than his son.
Emmett turns his head slightly, rubbing his chin on his shoulder. "Let me take care of this first," he murmurs.
"Okay, but don't be too long. Our flight leaves in a couple hours."
Emmett nods as Jane pulls the door closed.
"What the fuck was that about?" I hissed. It was harder to keep calm without Jane here. "Why are you cavorting with that control freak?"
"She's Edward's ex." Emmett pulls out his phone and speaks down to it. " Are you really gonna let your pettiness and jealousy mean more than Dad's happiness? Let it go, Bella. You're not Edward's girlfriend anymore, remember?" He puts his phone away, then looks directly into my eyes. "What you say doesn't matter." When he turns to leave, I stop him, my tiny hand like a child's on his huge sinewy forearm. He cocks his eyebrow until I pull away.
"You can't trust her, Emmett. You know that. She'll hurt Edward again."
Emmett stands still a moment, rubbing his eyes with his thumb and middle finger. "Jane's the best thing that has ever happened to him. We would never be able to give my dad his dying wish without her." He walks behind me, bends over, and picks up the check and envelope. "Take the money, Bella." He holds my hands and tries to gently place the paper in between them, but I push him away repeatedly. We begin a tug of war.
"I don't want it! I don't want anything from you, alright?"
The crumpled pieces of paper fall to the floor after my exclamation and Emmett folds his arms across his chest.
"You're living in a fantasy if you think you can survive alone in this. You're gonna need all the help you can get. I know what happened the last time Edward left."
"How did you-"
"Edward told us. And he went through a lot of shit, too." Emmett peers down at me. "My dad and I don't want you to suffer through that again, neither of you. We just wanna make sure you're okay. You can do whatever you want with this money. You can go back to school."
"How-" Shocked, I crane my neck up at him. "How did you know about that?"
"Edward and I discussed it a couple months ago. He just needed some advice." Incredulous, I back away. "Don't be ashamed of what happened, either. It's gonna be fine. Just take the money."
Edward told Emmett something as private as me dropping out of Tisch, but he couldn't tell me about this movie or that Jane was involved? Why did he always pull away from me?
"Ugh! Ugh!" But I don't want to talk about this with Emmett because he won't give a fuck. No, something else bothers me. "I don't get it." I crouch down for the check and jab it in Emmett's chest. "You can give me a hundred thousand dollars, but couldn't give Edward ten thousand for his play?"
"That was Edward's decision, not my dad's. Edward wanted to do that on his own. We would've helped if he asked. You know how my brother can be, Bella. And this money's for you, so you can be happy."
He's saying these things about Edward that's spot on. Edward wouldn't let anyone help him with the play. He built the sets himself. He bought the wardrobe. Still, I remembered Emmett's behavior around me the first time we met and last Christmas. He thought I was an afterthought, a rebound girl. He was so dismissive towards me that I had to bend over backwards to impress him. Nonetheless, he refused to accept that Edward really cared for me. This is why this act of kindness seems so random.
Why give me this money? Why do they want to be the good guys to a girl they can't stand?
So, rather than heed Emmett's advice, I rip the check once, twice, thrice, and a fourth time. He crosses his arms over his chest with a grim look darkening his face.
"I won't let you buy me off." I pull the sweater off and throw it at him. He lets it fall to the floor. The Stanford insignia lands face down."You tell Jane she'll never be able to control Edward like she used to. He will never be hers again."
"Don't you get it?" Emmett snorts. He raises his arms in the air. "Look around. Do you see him here? He didn't even follow you out of the penthouse, I did. So think of that when you sit and worry about what Jane's gonna do with him. You need to worry about yourself, Bella. Your life with my brother's over."
Emmett drops his arms and shakes his head with a furrowed brow. Then, with an exasperated huff, he turns around and pulls the door behind him. The minute click holds the deepest irony. I heard doors slammed shut before and this was more akin to those than it seems in this moment. Edward slammed them but always walked through them again. This door... There is such a finality to this click. Edward never opened or closed it. He may never.
Emmett was right. Edward didn't come after me. Something deep down tells me that I will never see Emmett again, Carlisle either. I hold myself, shivering in my damp dress, as I realize with certainty that I'll never see Edward again. The eternal nature of the word cripples me: "never."
It is clear now, why I feel no tingles or fever or emptiness: my heart stopped beating.
I clutch my chest, the thump-da-thump hitting my palm in the way that it is supposed to. But there is no fire in my blood. It is a regular beat, one I could not remember having before. I always knew Edward would come back because he needed me as much as I needed him. That's why my heart kept beating. It beat for him. In this moment, however, he's with Jane and his family, people who never wanted me to exist. It's as if I have an implant in me. Foreign heart. Foreign blood. Foreign beat.
Or maybe this was my heart before I found him. I sit on the edge of the bed, getting used to the dull steadiness, unsure of what this means.
My life. I don't have a life, nor do I have a home or anyone to turn to.
I can't leave the Plaza. I have nowhere else to go. I have no money. None of my friends are in New York. Only Edward remained in my circle of friends because I made it so. Besides Jake, I pushed the rest of my friends away. Alice is gone, and she'll never come back. She saved my life once already. It would be cruel to ask her for help after what she went through last the Fall. I'm not close enough to Ben or Jessica to ask them for a favor. Erik hates me now. London is a possibility, but I won't be able to afford the ticket, neither will my mom.
Now, there is no one. There is this strange white bed without Edward in it. I have nothing but my brown eyes.
All of a sudden, I hear a knock on the door.
Not into seeing Jane's mug again, I ignore it. As I pull off my dress, I hear the knock again. I tie the robe around me, disgruntled. The third time I hear the knock, I trudge over to the door.
When I peer through the peephole, a bellhop waits patiently with an envelope in hand.
"What do you want?" I ask after I open the door.
"Miss Swan, Mr. Cullen asked me to give you this." He hands me the envelope, which looks like the one from before with a Plaza logo on the left-hand corner, but I push it back in his hands.
"You can keep it," I say, searching his jacket for a name tag. "Seth. Thanks."
I begin to shut the door when his hand blocks it.
"I'm sorry, Miss. He told me he wouldn't accept no from you." He offers it back, and I snatch it from him.
I tear it open to find a folded sheet of paper inside. Before I can read it, the bellhop steps away from the door and picks up a suitcase from the floor. It's mine.
"He asked me to give this to you, too." I stare at him as he walks into my room to place the suitcase on the table. It's soaked.
Emmett couldn't have done this. He didn't know where my suitcase was for goodness sakes.
The bellhop walks back to me.
"Do you need anything else, Miss?"
I shake my head slowly, pulling out the letter as Seth walks out. Right before I hear another click, as loud as the evening's thunder, I open the paper.
The dull heartbeat races, but it's not like it was before when I shared my heart with him. I didn't feel this numb even when the Klonopin hushed the world's stimuli. A screen blocks me from the world, now, and I don't know how to take it down. What if the world's necessary truths will remain hidden?
Last year, Jessica told me several things that I still can't believe, things that should've been obvious. I didn't see them for years, these very necessary truths, because I didn't want to. Now, I can't even ache for Edward if I wanted to. My unwillingness to see has paralyzed me.
I thought I would need another addiction tonight, because I thought the pain would be too great. Edward's sorrow should have destroyed me. Now, I stand in the middle of a room at the Plaza freezing to my bones and little else. No drug is required because the world has become an unnecessary truth.
I had to see it again. Somehow, my brown eyes would see all the truths of the world without Edward.
In the silence, I hear Beethoven. The hopeful first notes of the sixth symphony's first movement is coming from the suitcase.
Unzipping it with shaky fingers, I see my clothes in there. At the top is Edward's gray Beethoven t-shirt.
The sight of it slows the beat in my chest.
The phone lights up the composer's scowl from beneath. Emmett's words are like mist when I pull it out. He was wrong. I was right all along. Edward won't go to Hollywood.
I expect to see Edward's Facebook profile photo. I never took a candid photo of him.
Instead, I see a friend.
Edward chose his necessary truth. It's in Harvey Weinstein's and Mr. Volturi's hands.
After I hit "Accept," and hear that familiar voice, my heartbeat thumps a little faster.
It turns out I have one friend in New York after all.
Here are the lyrics to Jacob's song:
"Keys" by Jacob Black
Chorus: The keys to your soul
They could break my heart in two
They're like heaven and tomorrow
Your brown eyes are my truth.
Holding so much pain and fear,
I wish my tears washed away the lies.
You're in a cage and only I could hear
How scared you are, your cries.
If only you see your eyes like I can.
I wish I can show you.
I wish I was a smarter man,
My songs just won't do.
I will write a million
And you will never know
All of my feelings
All of your sorrow.
In my soul, I see
Your brown eyes, complete.
I've reached 250 reviews and 200 Favorites. You guys, thank you so much. Along the way, I've had such deep conversations with fascinating women and I don't know what I'd be without them. Each review is tremendous, but 250 is as good as Bella's chocolate cake.