DISCLAIMER: Twilight belongs to Stephenie Meyer. Any copyright infringement is not intended.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: I highly suggest listening to Anthem of the Angels before or while reading this story.. it plays a lot into what the plot and aids in setting the tone. Plus, I just like Breaking Benjamin and would recommend their whole album anyway. Enjoy!
CHAPTER ONE - SAY THE LAST GOODBYE
There is nothing left of you,
I can see it in your eyes,
Sing the anthem of the angels,
And say the last good-bye.
I keep holding on to you,
But I can't bring you back to life.
Sing the anthem of the angels,
And say the last good-bye.
- Anthem of the Angels, Breaking Benjamin
The woman next to me was not the one I had pictured the rest of my life with. In fact, the woman next to me was not the one I had pictured the rest of my night with. It was supposed to be short and sweet, a quick fuck to distract me from what I had waiting at home. When we were finished I was supposed hail a cab and head back to my apartment. But there I lay at 2:30, listening to her heavy breathing as she shifted and pulled the hotel sheets tighter across her breasts. Her heavy scent saturated the air around me, causing my head to swim in a gardenia-filled haze. The alcohol had worn off, and I was starting to feel the effects of a nasty hangover. The backs of my eyelids burned, and every time I closed them, they scorched a painful path across my dry eyes that made me wince. Sighing, I ran a hand through my hair.
I gently pulled myself out of bed so as not to wake her. Digging around on the floor, I found my boxers and quickly pulled them on. I picked up my iPhone from the night table and slid my finger across the screen. I wasn't sure what I was expecting to find when the phone came to life, but I was neither surprised nor disappointed when it showed I had no missed calls or texts. Bella wasn't wondering where I was.
She had stopped doing that a few months ago.
Silently, I went through the quick task of pulling my clothes on. My shirt was wrinkled from lying on the floor, but, as with everything, I had an excuse ready. Tucking it into my black slacks, I twisted through the buttons and shrugged into my jacket. I slipped my things into my pocket and set my glasses on my nose. I ran my fingers through my hair, knowing it would do nothing to calm the mess but not really caring. I found that I didn't really care that much about anything anymore.
As I thumbed through my wallet, I looked over my shoulder at the woman- girl- asleep in the bed. She had been so innocent, so shy, so pure. She'd slipped under the sheets the moment we got there, and insisted I fuck her in the missionary fashion, underneath the covers. She had barely made any noise, and when it was over did nothing but kiss me on the cheek, roll over and fall into a deep slumber. It was almost charming, but I found that it wasn't enough to satisfy me. I was restless and dissatisfied.
I wanted to sleep in my own bed.
I didn't want her to feel like a whore, so I scribbled a quick note on the hotel stationary telling her to buy herself breakfast and a cab home with the sixty dollars I left her on the dresser. Making my way to her side of the bed, I crouched down and lightly brushed her brown hair away from her face. For a moment, I almost wished that when I pushed the hair back, I would see cream skin with a hint of sleepy blush, long eyelashes and the delicate cheekbones of the woman I knew was sleeping in my bed back at my apartment. But I was in a hotel room, and when I pushed the hair back, I found plump, round cheeks and a delicate dusting of freckles. Sighing, I leaned forward and placed a light kiss on her forehead. I didn't want to leave her this way. It almost didn't seem right. But I had to leave.
I paid the bill for the room, much to my mortification and the night clerk's amusement, and was seated in a cab not ten minutes later. The streets of the city were not deserted, as they would be in any other area. This was New York, and seemingly, no one ever slept. The traffic was almost as bad as it was during the day, and I wasn't surprised that we were held up not five minutes after leaving the hotel. I just sat numbly in the seat, staring blindly into the bright lights of Madison Square Garden.
It was going to take a good hour to get home. If we didn't hit any lights.
It was approaching December and there was snow already on the ground. As we drove past the roadside shops and stores, I tried to ignore the Christmas decorations in the windows. I still hadn't bought Bella her Christmas present; I wasn't even sure what she would like. I knew she wouldn't be satisfied with diamonds or a closet full of outfits from Nordstrom, but we had grown so far apart that I didn't know what would make her happy anymore. I had bought her a new violin last year, and I knew for a fact that it still sat in it's platinum and freshly-cured black leather case on the top shelf of our closet, hidden behind boxes of high school mementos. I'd bought her a necklace the year before that and had yet to see her wear it.
I wasn't even sure if we were going to put up decorations this year.
The cab ride was shorter than I expected, and I tipped the driver generously when we pulled up the the ritzy entrance of my apartment complex. I felt like a prick but I barely acknowledged the doorman as he held open the gold and glass doors, and I breezed past the woman seated at the reception desk. The bellhop knew which floor I lived on, and was quite used to my showing up so late. He barely spoke a word to me. His name was Ben something or other, and I had a creeping suspicion he knew what I was doing out so late but luckily, he chose not to say anything to me. When the elevator cruised to a halt at the thirty-fourth floor, I shoved a twenty into his hand and slouched from the elevator. The doors slid closed and I was alone.
I could hear the wailing all the way from the gold elevator doors. Bella was awake and playing her violin. She had set up her studio in the back of the apartment, but I could still hear the music she played from outside in the hall. I paused for a moment, leaning one foot against the wall and resting my back and head against it. In these moments, when she played without an audience, I could witness the real Bella, the Bella I had fallen in love with in high school and moved to New York with to start my career.
The woman I had married.
The music was achingly sad, the minor notes floating through the walls and piercing through my heart. She wasn't playing something for a recital or performance; she practiced those so many times I had them all memorized. She was playing something she had written, compositions that she never let me hear anymore. And it was full of so much heartbreak and pain that I wanted to sink to my knees and weep. She had somehow been able to transpose my own feelings into music, and it cut me so deep that I felt my soul would bleed out right there onto the carpet. When I closed my eyes, they didn't just sting from the after effects of alcohol.
They stung from unshed tears.
As her piece drifted to a close, I knew I couldn't stand in the hall any longer. I fumbled in my pockets for my keys and slid it into the lock, quietly opening the door. The lights in the foyer were dimmed, the light soft and somber. I dropped the keys into a bowl on the table by the door and the jarring clink echoed across the marble floor. All at once, the strains stopped and I steeled myself for confrontation.
Only it didn't come. I heard the door at the back of the apartment open and close softly, and then another door opened and closed as well. The sound of rain came from the bathroom and I knew that she had gotten into the shower. I ran my fingers through my hair as I made my way through to the bedroom. I began undressing as I went, knowing that as soon as I touched the bed I would fall asleep. And waking up in an Oxford shirt and slacks was uncomfortable as hell. I quietly pushed the door open and dropped my clothes onto the floor, not caring about putting in the basket for the laundry service. The maid could do that in the morning. I quickly slipped on a pair of cotton pajama pants and pulled the covers back, sliding between the satin sheets and waiting for sleep to come.
I don't know how much time passed, but Bella eventually got out of the shower. But instead of coming into the bedroom, she went back to the studio. She must have figured I was asleep, because I didn't hear the final click of the door being closed. I listened as she moved about, adjusting her chair and plucking softly at the strings of her violin. She flipped through papers, dropped her pencil. Finally, she picked up the violin again and began to play another song that was equally as sad and melancholy as the first. I pressed my palms into my eyes, knowing I would have to talk to her eventually.
I silently slid from a bed for the second time that night and made my way across the carpeted floor. Quietly, I made my way across the hall and stepped through the door. She was seated peacefully on a crafted wooden chair that her friend Jacob's father had given us as a wedding present; her, rather. He hadn't been too fond of me. The wall of the room had been built in a way that I could hide behind it, unseen by her, and watch her for as long as I wanted to. And for an instant, that's what I chose to do. In that moment, it was crystal clear to me why I had fallen in love with her all those years ago. She was beautiful. Her hair was pulled into a delicate chignon at the back of her neck, but several mahogany strands had escaped and were lying wispily around her face. The lights were dimmed, casting a golden glow throughout the room which caused her long lashes to cast shadows on her pink cheeks. She was dressed plainly in a white wife-beater tank top and black yoga pants, but that didn't bother me as much as it normally would have.
She was sitting ramrod straight, the violin crooked between her shoulder and chin. As the music picked up in emotion, she began to sway back and forth, her arm movements more sweeping and dramatic. I felt my eyes drift closed, momentarily transported to another time when we had been able to walk through the hallways of our high school, hands all over each other, without a care in the world. I remembered the first time I'd seen her, the first time I'd spoken to her. The first time I held her, the first time I kissed her, the first time she told me she loved me. I was caught up in the moment, reliving the glory of our young life as a couple, and didn't realize I'd whimpered in sorrow at the loss of it until her music ubruptly cut off.
My eyes snapped open. I was at a loss of what to say. I stepped from behind the wall.
"What are you doing here?"
I raked a hand through my hair. "I live here, sweetheart."
Even from where I stood, I saw her chocolate eyes frost over as she closed herself off from me. She began to pack up her violin.
"No you don't, Edward. This is a rest stop for you, a place you come to sleep and eat if you don't have prior engagements." She looked pointedly at me. "And even sleeping and eating seem to be happening elsewhere."
It was the same argument every time... she always complained about how I never spent any time with her.
"Well I'm sorry, things have just been a bit busy. It gets really chaotic at the office around-"
"Don't you dare say 'around this time of year," her tone was absolutely lethal. "You haven't spent more than three hours in this house since July."
"Well, shit, Bella. I didn't know all of my actions were being monitored. I'll remember that I need to spend more time here next time I have back-to-back meetings and conference calls with Tokyo on top of million dollar mergers and acquisitions."
She stood from her chair, the top of her head barely coming up to my shoulder. Her voice was rising quickly in volume. "Well maybe I'll remember that next time your mother calls, asking how things are going and wondering why we haven't been to visit her in almost a year. I will be sure to tell her all about your mergers and acquisitions."
Here we go again. I was beginning to lose patience with her. "Look Bella, if you want to visit my mother so fucking badly, I will buy you a plane ticket right now and have you on your way by this time tomorrow."
"That's not the point!"
She shoved past me and began making her way to the kitchen. I followed her, knowing that it would only make things worse if I just ducked into the bedroom and collapsed on the bed. At the moment, I was severely regretting not just staying there and waiting for sleep to come. It would have arrived at some point.
"Please then, Isabella, tell me what the point is. Because I'm quickly losing patience with you and-"
"Go to hell!"
I tried to keep my eyes away from the perfection of her ass as she bent over in the refrigerator, pulling out lettuce and tomato and turkey. She slapped them down on the island, grabbed the jar of mayonnaise and began assembling a sandwich. She would have seemed completely normal, only I noticed her hands were shaking and she could barely hold the knife steady.
"Here, let me do it," I said, reaching for her. "You're going to stab someone."
She aimed the knife at me. "It will be you if you take one step closer."
I sighed, rubbing at my eyes. I was quickly growing tired. "What do you want me to do, Bella? I have to work, and as much as that upsets you, I can't help it. We aren't in high school anymore. We can't just drive to your house or crash in my bed. You want a nice apartment to live in, you need good food to eat," I glanced at her, noting how emaciated she looked, "and you need someone to pay for all the fancy recital shit. I can't give you that unless I work. And unfortunately, it takes up a lot of my time. I'm sorry that upsets you, but it's not something I can just stop with the snap of my fingers."
She had finished her sandwich and just stood, looking at me. Her eyes were dead, her shoulders slumped. "I don't need any of that," she said softly. "I never have. I just need you to love me."
And with that she was gone. She moved past me swiftly, wiping at her eyes as she went, and disappeared into the darkened area of the house. I closed my eyes and took a deep breath. It hadn't been nearly as bad as I had expected, but that made me feel like even more of an asshole. For one, she had grown accustomed to me coming home late, and didn't even put up much of a fight anymore. And for another, I didn't even feel moved to see her cry.
I had grown just as accustomed to it as she had.
As I turned to the fridge to get a bottle of water, I looked out into the living room. It was the least used room in the entire apartment, and was really only utilized when my sister or Bella's father came to visit. It sat, untouched, in all it's pristine glory, just begging for someone to come in and sit on the plush white couches or turn on the 52" plasma TV or read the classic novels on the shelves. But the superficiality and materialistic things weren't what caught my eye.
In the corner of the room sat a Christmas tree, minimalistically decorated, lit by the glow of a tiny silver star. I walked forward and ran my fingers over one of the branches, unable to stop the childlike thrill that raced through my veins at the discovery that it was real, in fact, a real Christmas tree. I fingered a few of the ornaments, admiring Bella's taste. They were simple but carried so much meaning behind them. A tiny ceramic violin. Silver wedding bells with our anniversary engraved on them. A smaller replica of the space needle that I had bought her on our first date to Seattle. A few ornaments from our parents. As I looked down the tree, a small silver item caught my eye. I bent down to look at it.
There was a present underneath the tree. A present to me from Bella.
I sat on the couch, my head resting in my hands, my elbows on my knees. I was determined not to cry, but I could feel a slight stinging at the back of my eyes. I could not fathom how things had gone so wrong. How two people that had been so desperately in love could go so, so wrong. Bella and I could barely speak to each other, and even when we did we fought about something so trivial, by the end of the argument we didn't even know what it was we were fighting about. I didn't even remember the last time we'd gone out; sure, she walked around on my arm at office parties and I on hers at performance ceremonies, but we hadn't gone out to a nice, secluded dinner in over two years. Not to even mention sex. I hadn't made love to my wife like a husband should since she and I had started sleeping in seperate rooms. Sometimes I fucked her, but that was out of pure sexual frustration, or any other kind of frustration for that matter. She never seemed to enjoy it and slithered out of bed- or off a table or a wall or the couch- almost before it was even over. I could not remember actually loving her physically since after our honeymoon. And that was over three years ago.
My marriage to the girl I loved was in tatters, and I chose to escape it at work or in the arms of another woman. She chose to escape it through music and performing in front of thousands of people. We were literally two people living under one roof almost as roommates. The thought bothered me, but I couldn't bring myself to contemplate on anything anymore. I was too tired. Deciding against the trek back to the bedroom, I leaned back against the couch and closed my eyes. Within moments I was peacefully and deeply asleep.
I awoke to the smell of bacon and eggs. Running a hand over my face, I stood from the couch, cringing at the kink in my neck. Just one of the many pains of this marriage, I thought to myself ruefully. I slowly made my way into the kitchen to find Bella sitting at the bar, a bowl of granola in front of her, the newspaper spread out over the table. She was already semi-dressed and ready for work; she worked as a part-time waitress at a small cafe down the street. I told her I made more than enough income for the both of us and she didn't have to work, but she insisted that she needed to make herself good for something and went against my wishes of quitting.
She looked calm and relaxed as she scribbled through a cryptogram, one of her many activities. She was wearing a pair of light jeans and a black t-shirt, her bare feet wrapped around the legs of the bar stool. She massaged her neck with a delicate hand, and I was moderately surprised to see that it was the same spot my neck was kinked. I winced.
"Good morning," I said politely.
"There's food in the warming drawer."
I reached into the oven and pulled out a plate she had made for me. "It looks good, baby."
She didn't respond, silently continuing with her puzzle.
I sat down next to her, silently picking at my food. "The Christmas tree... you did a good job."
She looked over at me, surprised. "You noticed?"
I chewed on a piece of bacon. I slept in Sofa City, sweetheart. Of course I noticed. "I did. Didn't you notice when I didn't come to bed?"
She blushed, her cheeks turning a delicious pink. "I slept in the studio."
I sighed, cursing internally. "Bella, you don't need to sleep on the floor."
"I had a blanket and pillow."
I shook my head, slamming my glass of orange juice down on the granite countertop. "This is ridiculous."
She shrugged, standing from the bar and walking to the sink to deposit it. "Don't you have to go to work now? You'll be late."
She was still upset about last night, and she wasn't going to let me forget it. Sighing, I stood. "I guess I'll go get ready."
I showered quickly, shaved, and was in the bedroom buckling my watch Bella came in. She noticed me standing there, without a shirt, and turned to walk away. I turned.
She froze near the door and made no move to leave as I drew up near her. I stood closely behind her, close enough to touch but still holding back. All I wanted to do was grab her by the hips and pull her against me, but I knew that if I so much as made a move, she would bolt. I leaned down to breathe in her ear. "I'm sorry for last night."
She nodded. I placed a light kiss on the skin under her neck. Shortly after I pulled back, goosebumps erupted on her skin and I was delighted to know I could still elicit responses from her body.
"Forgive me." Kiss.
She sighed, slumping forward. "Don't do this, Edward."
"Don't do what?" Kiss.
"Try to placate me with sex."
"Baby, if I were trying to placate you," kiss and a small sweep of tongue, "you would know it."
She wriggled away. "You can't do that!" she burst out, and I was surprised to see tears in her eyes. "You can't just make up for a fight by trying to have sex with me. It should be more than that!"
Now with the melodramatic harpy routine.
"God, I can't do this. I have to go to work."
"Yeah, do that. The answer for everything, just go to work. Best avoidance technique right there, you have it perfected!"
I had reached my boiling point. "Well what the fuck do you want from me? You want me to love you but you don't want me to have sex with you. You're like a fucking one-woman circus with so many acts I can't keep up! You complain about me not spending enough time with you, yet every chance you get you're trying to get me out of the house. Just what is it that you want?"
She opened the door. "Just leave, Edward."
"No!" I came up behind her, grasping her shoulders in iron fingers and spinning her toward me. I came severely close to shaking her. "No, you're not just going to clam up and play the meek and abused lamb here. You started this fight, now you need to finish it. What. Do. You. Want?"
"You!" she exploded. "I want you!"
I ground my mouth hard against hers, but she shoved me back angrily.
"I want you to be home at a decent hour so you can sit down and have dinner with me, not walk in at three in the morning to slip conveniently into bed. I want you to be home and decorate the apartment for Christmas with me. I want you to go for walks with me in Central Park or go with me to pick out a dress for my next recital. I want you, here with me, not rushing out at every possible moment and having nothing to do with me!"
"Oh for Christ's sake, Bella. Here we go with the same thing again. You got your wish, I'm leaving."
I grabbed a sweater from my dresser and yanked it over my head while simultaneously elbowing past her out the door. She followed me into the foyer, watching as I slipped into a trenchcoat. "You know," I said, turning to her. "For someone who is so desperate to be loved, you sure don't put out a lot."
Her jaw dropped. I had the satisfaction of seeing her face crumple before I turned and strode out the door. I heard her quick intake of breath, and luckily my back was to her and she couldn't see the grimace of pain that flittled across my face. Only until I was safely on the outside did I let my facade drop and pause to hear her reaction; had I stayed inside, I would have probably been cursed out, possibly slapped. Safely in the hallway, I leaned my ear against the door. What I heard rent my heart to pieces.
She was sobbing softly on the other side of the door.
My day at work did nothing but sour my mood further. On the phone with Germany, I slipped and called the Head of Acquisitions a "two-faced horse's penis that had his thumb up his ass."
"Look, Mr. Hahn, I'm sure that everything is in perfect order," I said in broken German as I stared out the window of my office at Central Park. "We just need to have a quick look at your books."
"If this merger was already at the point of being closed, as you have said," he responded angrily, "there would be no point!"
I sighed. "Look, I'm doing all I can to satisfy both clients here," I responded wearily. I rubbed a hand down my face. "Just send over as much as you have, we will go through it, and hopefully by this time next week-"
"Incompetent!" he roared. Personally, I had no idea why he wouldn't just send us the damn files we requested unless he had something to hide. I suspected he did.
"Mr. Hahn, is there something we should know about that would in any way compromise this merger-"
He let lose a string of swear words in rapidfire German that I couldn't begin to comprehend. Tired and a bit over the conversation, I let fly the only expletives I knew. As I finished speaking, the other end of the line became eerily quiet. It wasn't until I heard the beeping of the dial tone that I realized he had hung up on me. Needless to say, although it wasn't completely on accident, it wasn't the best thing to say for good business, and I was ripped a new asshole for it.
My day continued to worse as I was propositioned during lunch by my boss's secretary. She slipped in the overly large breakroom, pulled a yogurt from the refrigerator and plopped down next to me, rubbing her hand up my thigh and breathing sexy words in my ear. And I was fucking extremely close to receiving mind-blowing head when said boss popped his head in the door and announced to her that break was over.
Something told me she wasn't necessarily going back to work at her desk.
Sitting at my desk hours later, I looked down at the clock on my desk, a congratulatory gift from Bella when I first got the job- ironically enough- and realized that it was nearing eight thirty. I sighed, knowing there was no way I was going to make in home in time to try to have dinner with Bella, if she would even want to. Deciding it was useless to even try, I went back to typing up my e-mail to the Head of Marketing who was considering purchasing a media platform. I finished that and decided to go through and tidy up some charts, and by the time I was finished with that it was damn near eleven o'clock. I gathered my things, locked my office door and headed down to catch a taxi.
My breath surrounded me in a cloud as I stood on the icy curb, trying to catch hail a taxi. I didn't even notice the homeless man until he was nearly right on top of me.
"Excuse me, sir," he asked softly.
"Holy shit!" I jumped and nearly stepped off the curb.
The man looked nervous and slightly ashamed.
"I'm sorry to bother you, but do you have any spare change?"
I stared at him. His skin was red and there were the beginning signs of stuble growing on his face. I could see the old scars of acne and the newly forming ones from scabs that looked like they were boring holes in his face. His hair was matted and he shivered slightly as he stood, a good few inches shorter than I, rocking back and forth. He wasn't wearing much, and I knew it must have been cold for him. He looked at me expectantly.
Just then, a cab pulled up to the curb, and I stepped toward it without a word. As I opened the door and tossed my briefcase inside, I turned to him. "I'm sorry, I don't have any money on me." And with that I slid into the seat of the taxi and urged the driver to pull away as quickly as he could. He looked at me, the strangest expression in his eyes, and pulled away from the curb, and I watched the man's face fall outside the window. Reaching into my pocket, I pulled forty seven dollars out of my pocket.
When I finally entered the apartment at around eleven forty-five, I was instantly struck with how eerily quiet it was. Normally when I got home, I could hear Bella playing the violin or showering or cleaning the kitchen. I could smell something cooking or her strawberry perfume. I could usually sense her. But at the moment, I heard nothing. I smelled nothing. I sensed nothing at all.
For a few seconds, I said a silent prayer of thanks. Not seeing her meant that we wouldn't be fighting... yet. I would have a few minutes to myself, could drink some liquor and maybe read a little before she got home and we fought again. So, I did just that. I went to the bar in the den and poured myself a highball glass of scotch and settled in front of the electrical fire place. I swirled the amber liquid around, silently contemplating how I was going to approach her and apologize for that morning. I skimmed through an economics book that I had purchased a while back, and as the time passed found myself becoming more and more agitated that she wasn't coming home.
It wasn't until I made a move to put my book away when I noticed a manilla envelope lying on the glass coffee table. Intrigued, scotch and book still in hand, I walked over, set my glass down and picked the papers up. As my eyes took in the title, my heart plummeted to my feet.
PETITION FOR DIVORCE
PETITIONER: Isabella Marie Swan Cullen
DEFENDANT: Edward Anthony Masen Cullen
I barely registered what happened next. My book hit the floor and the next moment, my hand had grasped the glass of scotch and hurled it at the wall with speed quite similar to that of the baseballs I used to throw back in high school. The glass shattered against the wall with a resounding smash and rained onto the floor. The amber liquid smeared, running down in small rivers. That was the only thing that was in motion in the room. I stood completely still, barely breathing. Time itself seemed to stop.
The shattered glass barely mattered to me, because it was nothing compared to my shattered heart.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: This storyline is still emerging through the framework, so please let me know what you think. Too dramatic? Realistic? Let me know! I will post a playlist on my wall soon, so stay tuned. Please review and let me know what you think!