BPOV — TWO AND A HALF YEARS AGO
The wheels on my shopping cart creaked as I pushed it down the aisle, but I didn't care. I couldn't care. Not right now, anyway. I needed food, and wine — lots of wine. Stopping in front of the chips, I grabbed a bag of Cheetos and some pretzels, throwing them into my basket hazardously. Next, I headed for the cookies, tossing two bags of Oreos and one package of oatmeal cookies in with the chips.
I'd just stopped outside of the freezer where the ice cream was when I heard my name being called. Turning, I almost groaned when I saw Rose and Alice standing there.
"Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough or Double Fudge Brownie?" I asked, turning away from them. "Eh, fuck it, I'll get them both."
Grabbing a gallon tub of each, I added them into my basket before turning toward Rose and Alice. They were staring at me, pity dripping of them. Yeah, I was pathetic, I knew it, but seeing them looking at me like that just pissed me off.
"Did you need something?" I snarled, causing them to flinch.
"No," Alice replied, quickly.
Rose, however, scoffed. "Damn, Bella, you look like shit. You didn't even bother changing out of your pajamas."
Shrugging, I looked down at the pair of black and red flannel pajama pants and red T-shirt I was wearing. They were Edward's. I'd stolen them from him when I was . . . pregnant with Charlotte. Tears filled my eyes and I tried to be discreet as I turned and wiped them away.
I missed her.
"So," I mumbled. "Didn't realize there was a dress code for the grocery store."
"There's not, but when was the last time you showered?" Rose leaned toward me, sniffing. "You smell like piss."
"Thanks so fucking much, Rose," I hissed, grabbing my shopping cart and walking away from them. It was summer break and I didn't have school right now, I could go a few days without showering, right? "Remind me to repay the compliment when your world is torn apart."
"Bella!" she called, but I ignored her.
She didn't understand, and I hoped she never would. My heart had been ripped out of my chest, my soul set on fire, and my life destroyed, all because I hadn't been born into the right family.
Stopping in the liquor section, I added several bottles of wine to my basket and then headed to the registers to pay for my groceries. Rose and Alice were standing in the front of the store with Emmett. Upon seeing me, he tilted his head in my direction, causing Rose and Alice to look at me.
I did my best to ignore them as the cashier rang up my groceries and I swiped my debt card and paid. Yanking my bags off the counter, I tried to walk past Emmett, Rose, and Alice, but they stepped in my way. Emmett reached out for me, but I stepped backward.
"I'm in a hurry," I said, trying to step around him.
"Bella, why don't we go get some dinner?" Emmett suggested.
"Sorry, I can't. Edward and I are going out to dinner tonight." The lie fell of my tongue effortlessly. Edward and I barely spoke nowadays, much less enjoyed a meal together.
"Okay. How about tomorrow night then?" he pressed. "Edward doesn't have class or work, right? So, the six of us can go out. It'll be fun."
"Maybe," I mumbled. "I don't know, but I'm late so . . ."
Brushing past them, I rushed out to my car, stowed my bags in the backseat, and climbed in behind the wheel. Tears burned my eyes as I fumbled with my keys, trying to get the right one in the ignition so I could start my car. They slipped out of my fingers and dropped to the floorboard. Screaming, I slammed my hands against the steering wheel.
"Stupid motherfucker!" I raged. "So fucking stupid!"
Movement at the front of the store caught my attention. When I looked over, I saw Emmett walking toward me. I reached down, grabbed the keys, started my car, and took off before he could reach me. The last thing I needed right now was to deal with him and his pity. Save it for someone who cares, because right now, I certainly didn't.
I sped out of the parking lot, nearly hitting another car as I pulled out into traffic. The other driver honked their horn at me, but I simply flipped them off and kept going. They could all go to hell for all I cared.
When I got back to the apartment, I grabbed my groceries bags and headed upstairs. I unlocked the apartment and placed all of it on the coffee table before walking into the kitchen and getting a spoon for the ice cream and a glass for the wine. Dropping down into the sofa, I poured myself a glass of wine, swallowing it all before refilling it to the brim again. Setting it on the floor, I grabbed the Double Fudge Brownie ice cream and tried to forget about the hole in the middle of my chest.
He was late — again. Edward was supposed to be home three hours ago, but once again I found myself sitting on the sofa alone. Tossing the empty ice cream container onto the table, I reached over and picked up the long, slender bottle, refilling my glass. I'd finished off the first bottle and this would be the end of the second bottle, but I still wasn't feeling its splendid effects. I wanted to forget my life, to numb the pain, but right now, it wasn't working.
The shrilling ring from the phone echoed through our apartment. Knocking the empty bottles to the floor, I scrambled to my feet and stumbled into the kitchen, pulling it off the base and bringing it to my ear without checking the caller ID.
"Hello," I mumbled.
"Bella?" I froze. Esme. Esme Cullen was calling. "Bella, are you there?"
"I — I . . . no," I whispered, letting the receiver fall from my hand. I slumped against the wall, sliding to the floor, and folding into a ball on the kitchen floor. I could hear Esme through the phone, calling out my name and begging me to talk to her. But I couldn't, not right now. She'd pushed and pushed and pushed me until eventually, she went too far. Esme Cullen may not have literally pushed me down the stairs, but with each hateful glare, each despairing word that she spat over my relationship with her son, she'd made her feelings clear. She hated me, hated that Edward chose me, and hated our daughter. How could I ever talk to anyone who could hate our daughter?
A deafening silence filled the room as I waited for Edward's reply. I wouldn't be able to handle it if he didn't love me anymore. Though Edward and I had been drifting apart over the last few years, my heart still belonged to him. After losing my father, and then Charlotte, I couldn't live through him walking away from me, too. Edward had owned my heart and soul since the moment he kept me from falling on my face in the parking lot outside of our dorm.
"How can you ask me that?" When he finally spoke, the devastation in his voice had my eyes snapping to his. The look of pure agony etched on his face caused my heart to race. Edward placed my hand over his chest. "How can you question how much I love you? I'm here, aren't I?"
"Now," I said, quietly. "But what about over the last few years? You weren't there then."
Edward sighed. "I tried to be. I really did, Bella, but you pushed me away."
"I did not," I argued, pulling my hand out of his and trying to push myself up in the bed. The deadweight from my lower body was a constant reminder of how pathetic I was now.
"You did," Edward murmured. "The drinking?"
Closing my eyes, I turned my face from his. "Yeah, I suppose you're right there."
"Hey, look at me," Edward urged. Though I was reluctant, I turned to him. "I've never stopped loving you. Not once. But when you pushed me away, lashing out at me because of what happened, I couldn't handle it, baby."
"Couldn't handle me, you mean," I whispered.
"Not you. The guilt," he replied. The next words he murmured had his lips trembling and his chin wobbling. "It's my fault that Charlotte died."
Before I could say anything, the door to my room slid open. I huffed and looked over as thin woman with snow-white hair came into my room. She was wearing a dark power-suit; ones women usually wore when they were trying to dress for success, as Alice would call it. The thought of her had me flinching into my pillows. Edward was right; I couldn't keep hiding from Alice, Rose, Emmett, and Jasper. I just didn't need them feeling sorry for me once again.
"What do you want?" Edward snarked. I was taken aback by his hateful tone. Shifting my eyes from the woman to him, I just stared at him. "That's Irina Donaldson, the hospital's public relations director."
"Oh," I murmured, understanding. I turned back to her.
"It's nice to meet you, Mrs. Cullen," she said, but I didn't believe her. There was a tone in her words, one that said I'd made her life hell.
Of course, I didn't care. My life was falling apart. "What can I do for you?"
She smiled — her lips pressing into a thin line. "We've been receiving mail for you here, Mrs. Cullen."
"Mail?" I didn't understand. Who'd be writing to me? And why would they be sending them to the hospital.
"Yes, quite a lot of it actually." Turning, she walked out of my room, coming back in a few minutes later with a large, white crate filled to the brim with envelops. She placed them on my rolling table and plucked one off the top, handing it to me. It was addressed to me, but I still didn't understand. "There are four more of these down in my office. I need to know what you'd like me to do with them."
"Um, I don't know," I stammered, feeling overwhelmed. I shifted my eyes over to Edward, who looked just as shocked as me.
"Have them sent up here," he said. "I'll take care of them."
"Okay." Irina nodded, and turned to walk over to the door. However, she paused and looked back at me. "Mrs. Cullen, the press is breathing down my neck for a statement from you. I've done what I can to keep them at bay, but they're getting impatient. I don't want to pressure you or anything, and I know you're dealing with a lot right now, but . . ."
"We'll handle it," Edward said.
Irina nodded before walking out of my room. I released a deep breath.
"Don't worry, baby, I'll make sure the press leaves you alone," he insisted.
I sighed. "Edward, about what you said before —"
"Don't worry about that, baby," he said, interrupting me. "We'll talk more later."
"Let's look at the letters," he said, reaching for one, but I grabbed his hand, pulling it to my chest. "Bella."
"Why do you think Charlotte's death is your fault?" I asked, needing to know. We'd left too much unsaid for far too long.
Edward's eyes flittered shut and he shook his head, but a moment later, he stood up and started speaking. "Because I saw the way my . . . Carlisle and Esme treated you, but instead of closing them out of my life, I kept trying. If I'd just been stronger, more insistent," he sighed. "I don't know. Maybe, they never would have been there that day, and Charlotte wouldn't have died. I'm sorry, Bella. I am so sorry for not being the husband you've needed."
"Edward," I cried.
"I didn't know how to handle it, you know. I wanted her — so bad. She was supposed to be my little girl, and I never got her. I felt cheated. When you pushed me away, I got angry — really angry."
"Me too," I muttered, thinking about how out of control I'd been. "I know I wasn't an easy person to be around. Maybe that's why you pulled away, but nobody told me how to handle losing our daughter."
"Bella, I'm not going anywhere." Edward sat on the side of my bed and cupped my face between his hands. "I've made a lot of mistakes over the last few years, mistakes that almost cost me you. I won't let you go — not now, not ever. That's a promise."
My eyes filled with tears, which spilled down my face. "I love you, Edward. I never stopped."
"I've always loved you, baby," he whispered, leaning in and brushing his lips across mine.
For the first time in months, Edward was kissing me. Maybe — just maybe — we'd be okay.
Thank you for all the reviews. I am flabbergasted by the response this story has gotten. Now, I know Bella is being a bitch right now, and that won't be changing for a while. Grief is not easy to deal with, and it take time — sometimes longer than we're prepared for. Just remember that I am a HEA writer.