EPOV — PRESENT DAY
"What?" I asked, moving so that I was sitting on the side of Bella's bed.
"I want to adopt Evan," she said again, but before she could utter another sound, the door to her room opened and she snapped her eyes over and began yelling, "Get out! Get the fuck out!"
"Bella." At the sound of Rose's voice, I looked over my shoulder, unsurprised to see her, Emmett, Jasper, and Alice standing there. They'd been relentless in their pursuit of my wife. Though I knew they meant well, they were starting to piss me off.
"Get out," I snarled, standing up. "She doesn't want to see you. How many times am I going to have to make that clear?"
"Look, just wait," Emmett said, putting a hand up to keep us from interrupting. "You've been through hell, but we want to be here for you. For both of you. We know —"
"You don't know shit," Bella snarled, ripping the blankets off of her legs. "Look at them! I can't feel them, I can't move. I lay here every day, waiting in vain to feel something. But I don't. My legs are useless. I'm broken, so excuse me if the last people I want to talk to right now are you!"
"But why?" Rose begged. "What did we do that made you hate us?"
Bella's eyes fluttered to a close. Though I wanted them to leave, to make my wife smile, I knew she needed to face them. And they needed to hear her reasons just as much as she needed them to understand. "I don't hate you. I love each of you, but it hurts to be around you."
"It hurts?" Alice cried. "Why does it hurt?"
Bella opened her eyes and looked at my sister. "Because you have everything, and I'm dead inside."
Though I could see the shock on their faces, I understood how Bella felt. Sitting on the side of Bella's bed, I grabbed her hand, bringing it up to my lips. "I feel dead inside, too."
"Why? Why do you two feel dead inside?" Jasper asked, sliding his arm around Alice, who had tears falling freely down her face.
"Everyone I've ever loved has left me," Bella murmured, and I immediately felt guilty for adding onto her pain. I may not have left her in the physical sense, but I had emotionally. "My mother didn't want me, my father died. Charlotte was stolen from me." Bella paused and looked at me before she spoke again. "While I know it's not all his fault, Edward wasn't there for me, either."
Guilt once again filled me, knowing that I hadn't been the husband my wife needed me to be.
"Now, I'm broken," Bella added. "Both physically and emotionally. So I'm sorry if you don't understand why I can't be around you when everything in your lives is so damn perfect."
"You think our lives are perfect?" Jasper asked.
Jasper leaned his forehead against the top of Alice's head. My sister had tears dripping down her cheeks. "We're afraid to start a family," he murmured, causing everyone else to look at him. "After losing Charlotte, we're terrified to even try. We loved her, too. We wanted her, too. But what if we try and . . ."
"Fail," Alice whispered when her husband's words hung loosely in the air. "We never left you, Bella. You're not the only one who has lost their parents, but we're still here, still trying to keep some since of semblance during a fucked up situation."
"You have Jasper's parents," Bella groused. "You have people that welcomed you into their family, Alice."
"I don't," Rose quipped, causing everyone to look at her. "You had an amazing father, Bella. One that loved you with every breath he took, but I didn't. The person who fathered me preferred to smack me around, tell me what a stupid whore I was. He didn't hide the fact that he blamed my birth for the reason why he got saddled with my bitch of a mother, who would rather drink her problems away. She never hit me. No, she just threw me at my father, taunted him with me so that he knew he'd never be free of her."
Rose pulled away from Emmett, who grabbed for her, and walked to the other side of Bella's bed, sitting on the edge so that she was facing my wife. "You made me feel needed, Bella. You made me feel like I had a place in our crazy, little family."
"Family?" Bella grumbled, placing her hands on the bed and attempted to push herself up. Huffing when her lower body just laid motionless, Bella shook her head. "I don't have a family. All I have is Edward, and I am desperately trying to hold on to him."
"I'm not going anywhere," I whispered, sitting back on her bed and grabbing her hand, bringing it up to my lips. "Ever."
"Neither are we," Rose said, standing up.
Bella shifted her eyes from me to Rose, then to Emmett, Jasper, and Alice, before looking back at Rose. "Yeah?"
"Even if I never walk again?" Bella pressed.
"Yes," she replied.
"Bella, you're stuck with us," Emmett added, causing Bella to look at him. "We're family. We've never turned away from you or Edward in the past, and we certainly aren't going to start now."
Bella shook her head, turning away. Tears flooded her eyes, and her lips began to tremble. "I hope not."
"Edward." I turned to Alice, who had a frown on her face. "We're not leaving you, either."
I nodded. "I know."
An awkward silence filled the room. Only the sound of Bella's soft weeping could be heard. I wanted to hold her, to sooth her, but I couldn't. Bella needed a few minutes to collect herself. She hated people feeling sorry for her, people pitying her like this. It was one reason why she waited months to tell them about her father's death, why she rarely talked about Charlie Swan to anyone but me. Bella had carried the weight of the world on her shoulders for far too long, and I hadn't helped her any.
"We should go," Jasper said, clearing his throat. "If you two need anything . . ."
"Just call," I mumbled. "Yeah, we know."
A sigh slipped out of his mouth, but he didn't say anything. I knew I had been a prick to him, too. Jasper had been my best friend since I was ten years old, and I needed to set things right with him, too, but Bella was my priority. She hadn't been for too long.
"We'll check on you later," Alice said, giving me a look.
Once again, I found myself nodding. One by one they left, each of them reminding us that they loved us, that they wanted to be here for us. The sentiment was great, but Bella and I needed to work on us before we could focus on repairing our relationships with them. Sliding the door closed behind them, I released a deep breath and turned back to Bella.
"That was . . . intense," I murmured.
Bella didn't say anything, just tilted her head to the side.
"Are you okay?" I asked.
"No." She shook her head. "I'm not sure how to feel right now. They make it seem so easy, but . . ."
"It's not," I finished. Walking over to her bed, I sat down next to Bella, placing my elbows on my knees. "I'm scared."
"Of what?" she asked.
"To adopt Evan," I murmured, looking at her. A look of anguish filled her face so I quickly added, "I'm not saying no. Just that I'm scared."
"Why are you scared?"
I sighed. "I'm afraid that I'll love that little boy, only for him to be taken from us," I admitted. "My heart already aches for him, and I don't even know him. Bella, I'm scared to love him."
"I am, too," she whispered. "But I still want him to be ours."
"Are you sure?" I asked. "Because you and I are barely okay. Are you sure we should even be considering adding him to our family?"
"No," she cried, bringing her hand up to her chest. "But in my heart, I feel like I'm already his mother. Just . . . just think about it. Please?"
Nodding, I heard myself promising her. I wanted nothing more than to be that little boy's father, but did I have anything to offer Evan?
TWO YEARS AGO
"I can't believe we're doing this," Bella muttered from the passenger seat of my car. Stifling my sigh, I looked over at her. "We should just send their money back to them and stay in the apartment."
"I can't live there anymore, Bella," I told her for the tenth time that morning. "It's too hard. We can find another apartment if you'd rather, but we could use the money. You know, get your loans paid off, put some up in savings."
"Guilt money," she snarked, turning and looking out the window. "Once again, Carlisle and Esme are trying to buy your love and you're letting them."
"No, I'm not," I said, unsure if the words coming out of my mouth were the truth or not. "But the apartment — it's not home anymore."
"And the new house will be?" Bella asked, looking over at me.
I shrugged my shoulders as I pulled up in front in front of the post office. "I don't know. I hope so."
"Yeah, I know you do," Bella muttered, turning away from me again. "Hope is lost, though. It died along with Charlotte."
Closing my eyes for a moment, I blew out a heavy breath and opened the door to the car, climbed out, and shut it harder than I intended. Once again, I found myself unsure what to say so instead I gripped the envelope inside my hand tighter and walked into the post office. Due to a small line, I had to wait a few minutes before it was my turn. The young man behind the counter looked flustered as he took the envelope from me.
"Do you want delivery confirmation?" he asked, laying it in front of him and looking up at me.
"Yes," I replied. "Also, can you stamp it so that the carriers know not to bend it? There are photos inside."
The man simply nodded before he reached under the counter and brought out his stamp, slamming it down right next to my parents' address. Once I'd paid for postage and the confirmation, I headed back out to where Bella was waiting for me. She had her knees pulled up to her chest and her head resting on them. When I slid into the car, she looked over at me.
"Well?" she asked. "Did you send them?"
I smiled, thinking about how the day after I was arrested, Bella and I went back to the house they'd paid for and spent the better part of the afternoon destroying every inch of it. Then, just to spite Carlisle and Esme, we'd sold the house to a developer who had the intention of tearing it down and building three in its place, but not before Bella and I managed to take several snapshots of the renovations. Petty? Yes, but it felt good to take my anger out on something. "Yep. They should be getting pictures of their precious house in a few days. I'm sure they'll just love what we've done with the place."
"Still think we should send their money back to them, too. In single dollar bills or rolls of quarters," she groused.
I laughed, though even I could hear how forced it sounded. "Tempting."
Bella hummed, but didn't utter a word.
Unsure of what else to say, I started the car and pulled out of the parking space and headed toward the interstate. Bella turned and looked out the window as I drove. She had been so angry about my parents forcing a house onto us, trying to buy us off. I wanted to believe that she was pissed at them, but I knew the truth: Bella blamed me for not getting rid of them years ago. Hell, who was I kidding? It was my fault. Everything that had gone wrong in our lives was my fault.
Twenty minutes later, I pulled up in front of a small, two bedroom house. Compared to the large, brick house those people tried to buy us, this place was a dump. The white stucco house was barely bigger than our apartment, but at least there we'd have a yard, not that we would need it. Sighing, I shut off the car and looked over at Bella. She was staring at the house, a frown curved downward and a harsh look in her eyes.
"If you really don't want to buy this place, we won't," I murmured, drawing her attention to me. "We can stay at the apartment, and . . . I don't know."
Bella's eyes fluttered closed for a moment before they opened and she looked back at the house. "It's fine."
"No, it's not," I grumbled. "I just . . ."
"You what?" she asked, shifting her attention to me.
I shook my head. "Nothing."
"Clearly it's something," she snarked.
I huffed. "I think we need a fresh start, someplace new."
Bella nodded as a car pulled up behind us. "You mean away from Charlotte."
"No, I . . ." But before I could finish my thought, Bella threw open the car door and climbed out, slamming it shut behind her. Blowing out a gust of air, I clenched my hand into a tight fist, resisting the urge to slam it through the window. Instead, I took a deep breath and climbed out of the car, meeting Bella and the realtor on the front porch so we could do a final walk through before we signed the papers and closed on the house.
"Hello, Edward," Jane Sinclair said, giving me a wide smile. A short, plumpy woman, she had an annoyingly nasal voice. "Are we ready to proceed?"
"Yes," Bella said, cutting me off. "Let's get this over and done with."
When I lifted an eyebrow in her direction, Bella simply shrugged her shoulders and followed Jane into the house. The house wasn't anything special. The living room was small, the kitchen was old and needed to be updated, and the two bedrooms needed new paint and fresh carpeting, but except for the size of the living room, we could make this place a home. Bella and I could start over, maybe reconnect again.
"Well, I guess all that is left is signing on the dotted line," Jane said, laying the paperwork out on the kitchen counter and holding a pen out to me.
I shifted my eyes over to Bella, who was standing next to the back door with her arms wrapped around her torso. Clearing my throat, I pulled her attention to me. "You still want to do this?"
Bella nodded. "Yeah."
Though I could tell she didn't, I took the pen from Jane and placed one hand on the counter while I read through the paperwork. Since we were able to pay the full purchase price for the house upfront, all we had to do was sign the paperwork and transfer the money to the seller. Shifting my eyes to Bella, I drummed the pen on the counter a few times. After taking a deep breath, I signed my name across the dotted line, and prayed that somehow, I'd get my wife back.
Thank you for all the reviews. Gonna be honest, not sure I love this chapter. I really struggled a lot with this one. Every time I sat down to write, I'd find myself staring at it and cringing what I'd write. So, yes, I know it sucks, but I've decided to let it go and move onto the next chapter. On a positive note, there has been a HUGE decrease in the prices of my books. The majority of my ebooks are only $1.49 now, which one at $0.99 and two at $3.99. If you'd like to look them up, you can find me on Amazon under the name Lisa Bilbrey, as well as on Barnes and Noble.