AN: I want to thank ADT216 and AnthroBug for beta'ing this o/s for me.
I also want to thank SoapyMayhem for the Dear Seth banner.
Disclaimer: All things Twilight belong to SM
"Hey, you look kinda lonely, want some company?"
I was zoned out, looking into my coffee cup while waiting for my breakfast to arrive, when I heard a sweet voice come from above me.
I had been coming to this small hole-in-the-wall diner every Sunday since I had moved to Chicago from New York. It became my own little tradition. Every Sunday, I would come in around ten in the morning, and order my usual Lumberjack breakfast consisting of pancakes, eggs, bacon, sausage, and home fries. I would eat half of it and take the rest with me. Never once, in the four months since I had moved here, did I miss a Sunday. I had also never once heard the voice, or seen the face, of the person that was now talking to me.
When I finally looked up to see who it was, I was blown away by what I saw. He was one of the most beautiful men I had ever seen. Nothing about his looks was ordinary. His hair was in casual disarray. On anyone else, it probably would have looked hideously disheveled, but on him it was perfect. His forehead even seemed to be the right size – not too long or short. His cheekbones were high and defined, yet very masculine- just like his jaw. Eyebrows that would have seemed sculpted, except for the few stray hairs that quickly banished that notion, rested on top on the most intense emerald eyes I had ever seen.
The beauty that this stranger possessed was almost too painful to look at. What made it even worse was that I could see myself falling for someone like him, based on looks alone. However, his genuinely friendly smile hinted that there might be more to him than beauty.
Finally remembering that he had spoken to me, I shrugged my shoulders, giving him a noncommittal answer. I was torn. I wanted him to stay, but at the same time I wanted him gone. There wasn't room for another man in my life – that part of my heart was already taken.
He sat down with a grace no man had any business having.
"I'm Edward," he said, offering me his hand. I took it and smiled back at him.
"Bella," I said, without offering anything else.
"Are you new around here? I don't think I've seen you before."
"I actually moved here about four months ago from New York. I usually come here every Sunday, around the same time. I've never seen you around here, either," I said, offering a lot more information than I had intended.
"Ahh, well that explains it. I've been gone about five months. I was doing some business down south."
"Oh, yeah? What do you do?" Since it didn't seem like he was going anywhere, there was no point in not striking up a conversation.
"I'm the president of Cullen Realty, Inc. I spent some time in Mississippi - thinking of expanding my company over there. I needed to see if it was worth the time and effort."
"Wait a second," I cut in. "Cullen Realty helped me find my current apartment, but they didn't seem like a big realty firm, like you're describing," I said.
"There is a smaller division that deals with residential real estate, which is the one you're talking about. We keep that office rather low key to give it a friendlier feel," he informed me.
"Is your last name Cullen?" I asked and he nodded. "I think it was your wife, Alice, who actually helped me find my apartment. She's really great," I said while smiling. I remembered all the phone calls and visits from New York, trying to find an apartment before I moved. Alice was extremely patient, and even offered up her spare bedroom during one of my visits to Chicago.
The horrified look on Edward's face immediately had me worried. They must have been having marital difficulties or something, for him to have looked at me like that.
"I'm sorry for bringing her up if you two are not on good terms. I didn't mean to upset you," I quickly apologized.
He held up one hand, as if to stop me from opening up my big mouth again.
"She is not my wife; she's my sister. Now if you can give me just one moment, to calm myself and get the thought of Alice being my wife out of my head, that would be great. I'd be extremely embarrassed if I threw up on you right now."
I couldn't help but laugh at the truly disgusted face he wore. After a minute, he was able to calm himself down, and I was able to silence my laughing.
"You know, now that I think about it, you two do look alike," I said, hoping to absolve myself of my blunder.
"Yeah, we do. Our brother, Emmett, looks like us, also. He's VP of the company. Alice does double duty as financial advisor and realtor."
After another few minutes of conversation, my gigantic plate of food came. When the waitress set it down, a knowing smile spread across my face as the familiar smell assaulted my olfactory sense.
Edward looked at my plate and then at me with wide eyes.
"Can you really eat all that?" he asked, sounding awed.
I can, but I don't.
"No. I don't eat it all. I eat half and take the other half to go," I told him.
If the circumstances were different, I would offer him some, but they weren't so I don't. The other half was for someone else.
We spent another half hour talking and getting to know each other. I told him about my father, Charlie, a retired NYC cop, and my mother, Renee, a kindergarten teacher, and how they have been happily married for over twenty years.
When he asked me why I moved to Chicago, I gave him the short answer - change is healthy.
After my food was brought back to me, wrapped, I walked over to the register and paid my bill. I could feel Edward behind me. I turned to finally say bye to the stranger that had actually proven to be good company, after all. Although, at this point, I had forgotten what company was supposed to be like, since recently, I was by myself. He was the only person I talked to anymore.
"Um, do you think that maybe I can have your number…to call you sometime?" he asked nervously.
He looked utterly adorable when nervous, I thought to myself. I could tell that he was a very confidant man who wasn't used to being flustered. I would have laughed, but I didn't want him to think that I was making fun of him. He just looked so… cute.
"How about you give me your number? I'm going to be kind of busy this week, so it'll probably be better if I can call you when I'm free," I lied to him.
I had no idea whether I was going to call him or not. I needed time to figure it out and not feel like I was betraying anyone.
"Really?" he asked, looking hopeful. I nodded and flashed him what I hoped was a convincing smile. It must have worked, because he jotted his phone number down on a napkin and told me I could call whenever.
We finally parted ways, and I reached my apartment another fifteen minutes later. Feeling extremely guilty, I sat down and wrote him a letter.
God, how I miss you. Like I've written to you in all my other letters, I really regret moving to Chicago. I wish you could be here with me now. I love you so much.
I should be with you right now. I should be holding you while you sleep, or feeding you when you're hungry. I want to bathe you, look into your eyes, and just hear your laugh. I just want…you.
I have to tell you something, Seth. While I was sitting at the diner, I met someone. He was nice and easy to talk to. He gave me his phone number to call whenever I'm available. I don't know what to do. Would you mind if I did? You know I won't if you don't want me not to.
I will be writing again, soon. I love you with all my heart. This is not good-bye, this is I'll see you later.
~6 DAYS LATER~
"Hello?" a female voice answered.
I looked at my cell phone to see if I had dialed the correct number – I had.
"Hi, is Edward there?" I asked the woman on the receiving end.
"Sure, one minute," she said. I heard a low thud – the sound of the phone being placed down.
I was a little nervous and slightly annoyed. I was hoping that the woman who answered wasn't a girlfriend or wife that he hadn't told me about. Quickly feeling bad for thinking that about him, I dismissed those thoughts. Throughout our whole conversation last Sunday, he had said nothing that would have indicated that he was being deceitful. I started to realize that I was looking for a fault in Edward, like I did with every guy that wasn't Seth.
"Hello?" Edward said into the phone.
"Hi, Edward," I greeted him.
"Bella? I was beginning to think that you weren't going to call. I'm really glad you did, though." He sounded a lot more enthused than I thought he would be. I felt a small smile forming.
"Yeah, sorry about that. I've just been kinda busy," I lied to him again. The truth was, I was still undecided on whether to call or not until five minutes before I actually did.
"If you're busy I can call later," I said to him, suddenly not sure calling was a good idea.
"No," he practically shouted at me, causing me to giggle a little. "How have you been?"
"Good," I replied. "I don't know if you're interested, but I heard that there is a carnival in town. I was going to go alone, but I thought that maybe you would like to come with me," I offered him an invitation.
"Sure, I would love to. I haven't been to one in years. Do you want me to pick you up, meet there, or what?"
"How about we meet there? If we get on each other's nerves we have an easy getaway," I responded, laughing.
"Good idea. I can tell you're a big pain in the ass," he joked back.
After another few more minutes of ironing out the details, we hung up. I spent about an hour getting ready for our "date." I was nervous again, since this was something else I hadn't had to do in so long.
"You look great," Edward said when we finally met up. The always dependable blush made an appearance.
"Not too bad yourself," I replied.
"Bella, I've wanted to do this since the moment I saw you. Please don't get upset, but can I kiss you?" he blurted out.
I was instantly shocked, but not upset. I would be lying if I said that I hadn't considered kissing him, too. I didn't trust myself to answer, in fear of squeaking like a crazed fan girl, so instead, I nodded shyly.
The gleam in his eye when I agreed to the kiss was remarkable. The green seemed to get brighter, somehow, and glistened. He looked like someone had told his five-year-old self that he could open up his Christmas gifts early.
Very slowly, he cupped my face with his two hands and leaned forward. He gave me a chaste peck on the lips before coming forward again. This time, he added more pressure and opened up his lips slightly, taking a little of my bottom lip. It was sweet and sensual and…not enough.
It was something that was completely out of character for me, but I took charge and deepened the kiss. Edward seemed happy to oblige and opened up for me. Our tongues danced, but never fought for dominance. When I finally decided air was important, I slowly pulled away, leaving light pecks before detaching myself completely.
"Wow, that was…nice," Edward commented, almost dreamily.
"Nice? Just nice," I retorted, teasing him.
"Ok, that was fucking incredible," he smiled.
"I thought so, too," I responded smugly.
After the amazing kiss, we left to the carnival and spent the rest of the day going on every ride available. i had to coax him to get on some that he would normally steer clear of. We stopped every so often to eat whatever we saw. By the end, we were bloated with cotton candy, pizza, pretzels, and funnel cakes.
As good as it was when we were eating the junk food, it was as bad afterward. Instead of taking a break and letting our stomachs settle, we hopped right back onto the rides. It wasn't until we both felt that we were going to throw up, that we finally rested. There was a stage set up to support local talent. We sat there and watched a few bands, some magicians, and a small comedy act.
When it was finally time to call it a night, Edward walked me to my car. We shared another amazing kiss, and I officially gave him my phone number. All in all, it was a great first date. However, in the back of my mind, I felt nothing but guilt.
Once I got home, I quickly changed into my sweats, took out my stationary, and wrote my letter.
I want to start out by telling you how much I still miss you. You were on my mind all day. With that being said, I need to confess something to you. Do you remember when I told you about Edward, the man I met at the diner? Well, we went out today- we went to the carnival that was in town.
I hate to admit it, but I did have fun. However, I couldn't help but wish that it was you that I was with. You and I should have ridden on the rollercoaster and Ferris wheel together. We should have stuffed our faces with funnel cakes and pizza. You could have unsuccessfully tried to win me a stuffed animal. I just wanted you there.
Please don't be upset with me. You have to know that I would give anything to have spent the day with you instead. Please forgive me. I love you.
~5 WEEKS LATER~
"Hello?" I greeted the person on the other end of the line. Because it was an unrecognizable number, I had no idea who was on the other end of the line.
"Hey, Bella," I heard Edward respond.
"Oh, hey. Where are you calling from? This number doesn't look familiar."
"I'm in my father's office at the hospital. I was going to call you later about this, but my dad needs to know now. The hospital is holding a ball in celebration of a huge donation they recently received. Anyway, I'm going to support my father, he's giving a speech, and I wanted to know if you'd be my date."
He said this so fast that I was surprised that I even caught it the first time around. He sounded flustered and absolutely adorable.
"First off, Edward, deep breaths in and out." I chuckled. "I would love to go with you. When is it?"
Edward let out a relieved sigh. "Oh, thank you, babe. It's in two weeks. It's a black tie affair. Do you have enough time to get ready?" he asked worriedly.
It couldn't possibly be the same event that I was already scheduled to attend as Seth's liaison. However, I was only fooling myself; I knew it was.
"Yeah, that should be enough time to find a suitable dress," I reassured him.
"Do you need any money?"
"Edward," I snapped. "I don't need your money, and even if I did, I would never ask you for it," I seethed.
I realized immediately that I was irrationally angry, and I was taking it out on Edward. I hadn't explained to him my aversion to money. I hated that a lot of people seemed to think that money was something that made everything all better.
I always hated receiving gifts. I felt that the money could have been better spent instead of on something that the recipient probably didn't even like and would stuff in a junk drawer. Why not donate the money instead to someone who needs it? Like the money that was given to the hospital.
Edward remained quiet on the other end of the line, surely taken by surprise by my outburst.
"I'm really sorry about that, Edward. I really don't like talking about money or gifts. I don't think I ever told you that, and it wasn't right that I lashed out like that," I apologized and hoped he would accept it.
"Don't worry about it, Bella. It was a dick thing of me to ask, but you gotta know that I wasn't trying to insult you or anything."
"I know, baby. Look, I'm gonna go shopping in a few days for a dress that I'm sure will turn heads…hard." I flirted with him, hoping to lighten the mood.
Fortunately, it worked, and I heard Edward make this odd noise that sounded like a mix between a chuckle and a groan.
"I'm sure heads will turn…hard," he teased back.
We talked, flirted, and joked with each other for a few more minutes before he had to leave for lunch with his father.
I loved talking and spending time with Edward. I knew that in the few weeks that we had been seeing each other, that I was really falling for him, even on the road towards loving him. And that was causing a heavy guilt to consume me. I knew that I wasn't available, and yet, I wasn't willing to let Edward go.
Two weeks later, I was standing in my apartment, pacing in my living room, waiting for Edward to come pick me up.
A few days after he invited me to the ball, he told me that I would be meeting the rest of his family. The severity of meeting his parents didn't actually hit me until I woke up this morning, and that's when panic set in. I hadn't been in the position to meet a guy's parents in a long time.
I called Edward in a frenzy, hoping that he could talk me off of the ledge that I would probably be freefalling from. He assured me, or tried to assure me, that his family was going to love me. I wasn't so sure. If they knew that Edward wasn't the only guy that held a piece of my heart, they would surely demand that Edward stop seeing me.
Ten minutes later, I heard the buzzer, indicating that Edward had arrived. When I opened the door, I was greeted by one of the sexiest sights I had ever seen. Standing in my doorway, was Edward dressed in a black tuxedo with polished gold cuff links. He looked like he had used a little gel to try to tame his wild locks. However, there were still stray hairs that refused to behave and fell in his eye. He was utter perfection.
"Hi," I said, suddenly feeling extremely shy in his presence.
"Hi, Bella," he said quite seductively. "You look very…edible," he whispered, letting his lips lightly graze over the shell of my ear. His words sent an electric sensation straight to my core.
When I went shopping for a dress, I made sure to look for the sexiest dress that I could find. After searching in shop after shop, I finally found the dress that I knew Edward would love. It was a long, black gown that had a low cut front, stopping right above my breast, with a halter neck. In the middle, was a metallic buckle strap that tied in the back. The back was low cut; it stopped mid-back. It hugged my curves perfectly.
"Do you like it?"
"Actually, no, I don't like it," he responded seriously, causing me to wonder why he had a change of heart. I was absolutely crestfallen and was beginning to feel very naked in front of him.
"Oh, um, yeah, ok," I stammered. "I think I should have something more appropriate in my closet. Just give me a minute to look," I told him as I began to panic at the thought that I may not have a replacement dress.
I was fighting back tears that I couldn't afford to let fall. Having to change would already make us late, so having to redo my makeup wouldn't be an option.
Edward grabbed my wrist when I turned towards my bedroom.
"You're absolutely right; this dress is highly inappropriate." He leaned in to whisper in my ear again. "I'm having highly sinful thoughts of things I want to do to you in that dress, but I don't have time to act on right now. However, I forbid you to change."
I could feel the heat in both my cheeks and lower area.
"Really? This dress is okay?" I whispered.
"No, it's not okay… and that's why I love it. I'm just going to have to make sure I keep you by my side all night," he said while pressing his erection into my thigh to let me know how much he appreciated the dress.
Forty minutes later, we pulled alongside the valet at the Grand Ballroom. Knowing that Edward's parents were just a few hundred feet away did nothing to calm my nerves that were once again beginning to surface. Sensing my anxiousness, Edward gave my hand a reassuring squeeze.
The ballroom was exquisitely decorated in gold and black. White table cloths with alternating gold and black runners were draped over the tables. On each table was a beautiful crystal bowl with gold flakes and tealights.
"You ready?" Edward asked me as we started making our way to our designated table.
I tried to give him my most confident smile, even though I was anything but.
"Baby, please don't worry. My parents are going to love you because they know that you make me happy," he said, trying to reassure me again.
My heart swelled at his words. If I wasn't sure before, I was now certain that I had fallen in love with Edward Cullen.
We continued to walk towards our table. I really was more confident now to meet his parents than I was earlier in the evening.
Sitting at the reserved "Cullen" table was a rather large gathering of people. The only person I recognized was Alice.
When we reached the table, every man there stood up to greet Edward and me; I guessed all the Cullens were gentlemanly.
Edward walked up to a rather striking blond man and gave him a warm embrace. I noticed that they shared a similar jawline and sexy smile. However, this man had beautiful blue eyes; this had to be his father.
When they broke apart, Edward called me over. "Bella, I would like you to meet my father, Dr. Carlisle Cullen."
"So this is the young woman that has Edward enraptured," Carlisle teased as he took my hand in his.
Predictably, I started to blush immediately.
"It's so nice to finally meet you, Dr. Cullen."
"Please, call me Carlisle."
I blushed again and nodded.
Edward ushered me to the next member of his family, is mother. She was a lovely looking woman. Her hair was a caramel looking color, and her eyes were the same color has Edward's.
"Mom, this is Bella. Bella, this is my mother, Esme."
"I'm so pleased to meet you, too, Esme," I told her warmly. Instead of the handshake that I was expecting, she engulfed me in a tight hug. I recovered quickly and hugged her back.
"I'm so glad my son has met you," she told me in my ear before we broke apart. I beamed back at her, extremely grateful for her support of our relationship.
"Bella, this is my brother Emmett and his wife, Rosalie."
Emmett was a giant of a guy, but he had an obvious adorableness to him. Short, curly, dark brown hair rested on top of his head. His eyes were the same as Carlisle's. However, his most obvious feature was the deep dimples on each of his cheeks that only deepened when he smiled. Like I said, he was adorable.
Rosalie was just too beautiful for words. Her blonde hair flowed down her back, and you could tell that it probably never suffered from split ends. Her body was…flawless. Nothing else needed to be said.
"So this is the infamous Bella. The one Eddie Boy here won't shut up about," Emmett said loudly, and I was sure the people across the room could hear. I guessed it went with the blush that they could also see from across the room.
"Shut up, Emmett," Edward said embarrassedly.
"Hi, Emmett, Rosalie," I greeted them both, taking a cue from Esme and hugging them both.
"Don't mind the oaf I call my husband," Rosalie said after we pulled apart.
"Bella, you remember Alice," Edward said, pointing out Alice. "This is her husband, Jasper Whitlock."
"Oh, Bella, it's so good to see you again. That dress is absolutely devilish; I love it. How's the condo?" she asked with the exorbitant amount of energy that I remembered from last time.
"It's great to see you too, Alice. The place is wonderful. Thank you again for all your help."
I turned to Jasper. "It's great to finally meet you, Jasper, after everything Alice told me about you before. I'm sorry we didn't get to meet earlier."
"You too, Bella. I feel like I already know you with the way Alice talked about you before and with the way Edward talks about you now," Jasper drawled. I forgot that Alice had told me that Jasper was originally from the south. Like a southern gentleman, Jasper took my hand and kissed the back of it.
We spent the next half hour getting more acquainted with each other, before Carlisle was introduced to make his speech. After the thunderous round of applause died down, Carlisle began and greeted those in attendance.
"We are here to celebrate the donation that was graciously given to us by a great man, Seth Volturi. Mr. Volturi was generous enough to bestow upon the hospital five million dollars and an annual gift of two hundred thousand for a minimum of ten years with the possibility for an extension. Chicago Hope Hospital could not have asked for a more generous donor. However, it is with great disappointment that Mr. Volturi could not be here with us to celebrate his honor because of circumstances keeping him in New York…"
After Carlisle mentioned Seth's name, I just zoned out. No one wanted him to be here more than me.
When Edward told me about a ball in honor of a donation, I immediately knew which one he was talking about, although I tried to deny it. What I was not aware of though, was the donation was made to the same hospital where Edward's father was Chief of Surgery at.
After I accepted Edward's offer to be his date, I called the gentleman in charge of the reservations, and told them that I, too, could not attend. They genuinely seemed disappointed that neither Seth nor I could attend, but told me to give my regards to Seth. I was also informed that they would deliver the news to the hospital.
Suddenly, there was another round of applause, signaling the end of Carlisle's speech. I felt guilty that I had become so lost in my own thoughts of Seth, that I couldn't pay attention to what I surely knew was a great speech.
The rest of the night was spent eating a delectable three course meal and dancing. True to his word, Edward kept me by his side all night. Many times throughout the night, he not so subtly found ways to touch or brush up against me. I wasn't complaining.
When the ball was winding down, and everyone was ready to take their leave, I made plans with Esme, Alice, and Rosalie to get together for either drinks or lunch. Far too quickly, they all became very dear to me. I just hoped that I wouldn't end up hurting them like I would possibly end up hurting Edward.
Deciding it was far too late for Edward to drive home, he spent his first night in my apartment. I would have thought that I would feel weird having him there, but it was quite the opposite. He looked like he belonged here with me when I saw him open the fridge to get something to drink or head to the bathroom.
When I invited Edward to stay over, I did not realize that we would experience our firsts with each other. We both said I love you to each other for the first time and made love together for the first time. I also gave him the spare key to my apartment and told him that he was welcome to come over anytime, whether I was there or not.
I was feeling extremely content, and it was eating at me. I shouldn't be this happy with Edward when all I really wanted was to be with Seth. I didn't tell Edward any of this, but on many occasions I seriously considered packing up and moving back to New York.
When it was four in the morning and Edward had finally fallen asleep for the night, I crept back into the living room and grabbed the usual paper and pen.
I knew that donating that money was going to be a great idea. I told you! I wish you could have been there. I know for a fact that they would have loved for you to have been there. It was beautiful and the food was magnificent. But like always, the only thing, the most important thing, missing was you.
I feel like such a fool, Seth. I feel for Edward. I even told him I loved him. I'm so sorry.
I don't know what I'm doing here without you. No one knows this, but I wake up some nights hardly able to breathe, like my life is literally being sucked out of me. Those are the nights when I miss you the most.
I know I fucked up, and you could never forgive me for what I did, but I'm not asking you to. I just want you to know how much I love you and how much my world revolves around you, even though you're in New York. You have to realize that I would give up Edward in a second to have you in my arms.
I have faith each and every day that we will be together one day.
~4 MONTHS LATER~
As I was getting the drinks out of the fridge, I heard the intercom buzzing. I walked over having a good idea who it was.
"Hello?" I asked the person on the other end.
"Hey, babe. I forgot my keys. Can you let me in?"
I laughed to myself because we were going to have the same conversation that we always had when he forgot his keys.
Edward and I have become quite serious since hospital ball where I met the rest of his family; since the time since we slept together and exchanged "I love you". I haven't told Edward, but I have felt guilty every time I've said it to him; not because I didn't meant it, but I couldn't help but feel like I was betraying Seth.
The knob turned, and Edward walked in with a sheepish grin, knowing what was coming.
"Yes, I forgot my keys, and no I am not putting my house keys with my car keys," he quickly said.
"Hi, Edward. It's great to see you, too. Sure, I would love a kiss," I replied, laughing.
"Well, I just wanted to get that out of the way." He leaned down towards me. "Hey, baby," he whispered and gave me a smoldering kiss.
"Thank you, Casanova. Pour yourself something to drink. I have to use the bathroom."
When I was done using the bathroom, I saw Edward standing in the middle of the living room with no drink in hand.
"Who the hell is Seth?" Edward seethed.
I could feel my face go pale and all the oxygen leave my body. Edward was angry. Even worse, Edward was holding my letter to Seth.
"What?" I replied with a shaky breath.
"You heard me. Who the hell is he?" he repeated.
Immediately, I lunged at Edward, ripping the page from his hand, but was careful not to tear it.
"Who the fuck do you think you are? This is private and none of your fucking business," I retorted, my anger quickly rising.
"Do I know him?"
"No, you don't. He's still in New York."
"Do you love him?" Edward asked.
"Yes," I replied quickly with no hesitation. I could never, ever deny my feelings for Seth.
"So what does this asshole have that I don't?"
I saw red. I was fighting the violent urges that were about to erupt. In the past year, I had developed violent thoughts when I became enraged. I either wanted to hit someone or something. However, I was always able to control it; I had never hit anyone before. Edward was only the second person in my life that I had to struggle exceedingly hard not to become violent with. Edward should've considered himself lucky compared to the other guy, though. I didn't want to just hit the other guy, I wanted to murder him. Luckily for him, I never got the chance, since he was arrested.
I was too busy trying to calm my breathing to answer him. Edward had called my Seth an asshole.
Finally, after a few more minutes, I was able to slow my breathing and calm down. However, I was still upset, but reining it in since Edward was ignorant on the matter.
"Choose," Edward simply said.
I let out a dark laugh, even though his comment was far from funny.
"I can't," I responded, looking him in the eyes.
"Can't, or won't?" he asked.
"Can't. But believe me, if I could, Seth would win every time. I don't love anyone more than him – even you, Edward."
"So why are you with me now? Just go to Seth," he said, now more sad than angry.
"I can't…not yet, anyway," I responded, my own sadness blanketing me.
"Why?" he asked through a clenched jaw. His anger was rising again.
I didn't want to admit anything. I had yet to say the words out loud to anyone. I always avoided talking about Seth. Talking about him only made the situation more real, even though it couldn't get any more real.
However, I truly did love Edward; I could even see a future with him. I figured doing it quickly, like ripping off a band aid, would be best, but not necessarily easiest.
"I can't be with Seth because he's dead," I told him, looking him straight in the eyes, fighting back tears.
His eyes widened, taking in what I had just told him. Any small amount of anger that he was still harboring, visibly evacuated his body.
It was a long time before he talked. I didn't try to break the silence. Instead, I was grateful for it, since it gave me time for my own words to register. Saying those words brought back the pain that I fought so hard to deal with.
"Were you two married?" he finally asked.
I shook my head. "Seth was, is, my son," I answered, losing the battle of tears.
Edward let out a hard breath with my latest admission. It almost sounded like he was punched in the gut. Maybe that's what I did when I told him. I'm sure he wasn't expecting that.
"How?" he asked in his own shaky breath.
"It's a long story," I told him, walking to the couch to sit down. I wasn't ready for this today. Shit, I would never be ready for this. I had never had to tell my story to anyone. Those who knew were already in my life, not needing a recap of my downward spiral.
While I zoned out, looking out the window, I felt the cushion next to me dip as Edward sat down.
"I have all the time you need. I want to know, Bella. Let me in so I can help you. If you're going to be sad, let me be sad with you."
I closed my eyes and took deep breaths - something I always did when I had to ready myself to do something unpleasant. Slowly, I turned to Edward, ready as I'd ever be, to recount my story for the first time ever.
"When I was about fourteen, I went to the doctor because my menstrual cycle was irregular. They did some tests, took blood samples, things like that. I even went to a few specialists. Anyway, one doctor told me I would probably have difficulty conceiving when I was older. I was upset, but I was fourteen so I got over it quickly. At the same time, I was dating a guy named Marcus. We were friends at first, but things developed between us. When we finally started to become intimate, he never used a condom, opting instead to use the Pull and Pray method." I sadly laughed as I recalled the memories of us being certain that this method was extremely effective.
"Anyway, it was working for us for awhile. I had a few pregnancy scares while in my teenage years. There were times when he told me that I had to be pregnant. However, every time I took a test, it came back negative. I told him about what the doctors said, but he didn't really believe it until the pregnancy tests continuously came back negative. With this new confirmation, we became reckless. We never used a condom and he didn't bother to withdraw either."
"I was with Marcus all through high school and college. We moved in together during my second year of college. During my last semester of my last year, around March, I slowly started to become sick. I got headaches and stomachaches that never went away. At first, they were easy to forget and I was able to go about my day. However, as the days passed they only became worse."
"One morning, I had to wake up early for a new job I was starting. I was feeling okay, considering the aches that I tried to put at the back of my mind. I was starting to feel worse as the day went on. I had to take the bus home that day. The ride was never longer. Someone must have been looking down on me that day, because I was able to hold myself together until I got home. I just couldn't stand any longer. I went back to bed almost immediately and didn't get up until the next day. I couldn't even walk the ten feet to the bathroom without holding on to the walls for support."
I had to stop for a second because the memory of the pain was making me feel ill again. Letting the uneasiness fade, I continued my story.
"I didn't even have the strength to stand to take a five minute shower; I went two weeks without bathing. When I finally could muster up the strength, I had to sit in the tub every so often to prevent dizziness. Washing my hair was out of the question since that would take more time and energy that I didn't have. My hair became so tangled. I was too ashamed to ask Marcus for help, so I just cut it."
"Eating was something else that was out of the question. My stomach hurt so badly, but I didn't know if it was hunger pangs or something else. When I did try to eat, I just couldn't get it to go down, or even chew. After a few attempts, I gave up, preferring to starve. I lost so much weight."
I took a break in my story to look at Edward. Throughout the story, I had just stared out the window. I couldn't look at him while I was recounting the worst days of my life. He truly looked sad, which made me feel sad for him; I wasn't even at the worst part. I took another breath, again steeling myself to continue.
"I was always in pain. The only time I was granted relief was when I was asleep, but once consciousness hit me, so did the pain. I prayed every night to God that he not let me wake up the next day. I was in so much pain that I just wanted to die," I recounted.
Looking back now, it seems dramatic, but not at the time. The pain I felt everyday was something I could spend forever trying to describe but never get right.
"After almost a month, I finally decided to go to the hospital. I didn't have insurance, which prevented me from going sooner. I really thought I was dying. I did the whole triage thing, answered the routine questions, and peed in the cup like I was asked to do. The nurse asked me if I could be pregnant and I quickly told her no, ruling out that possibility. When I was finally seen by a doctor, he asked me again if I thought I could be pregnant. I explained to him why I believed I couldn't get pregnant. He told me that I could be experiencing gallstones and wanted to do an ultrasound to make sure. He left then to get whatever results he needed. He came back about fifteen minutes later…telling me I had a positive pregnancy test. I was seven weeks pregnant." It still remained one of the best memories of my life.
"I asked the doctor if he was joking, to which he responded that they didn't joke in the ER. I was pregnant. God, I was ecstatic, relieved, and scared all at the same time. When I told Marcus, he was scared at first, but very quickly came around and was excited right along with me. I finally knew what I was suffering for."
"The pain never faded, though I never had morning sickness," I scoffed. "I had all day sickness. I was still in school, though, so I couldn't stay in bed. I was graduating in a few weeks. Luckily, I only had two classes with awesome teachers. I explained my situation and they were extremely supportive, telling me to take off when I needed to and not to worry about making up any classes. I actually missed my graduation ceremony; I was still too sick to participate."
"It wasn't until I was about six months along that I actually started to feel like me again, considering that I was pregnant and all. I was almost nine months when Marcus and I decided to go see a movie. We basically lived around the corner from a movie theater, but always drove a little farther to the bigger one. After the movie, we decided to go get something to eat." I stopped there.
I was so close to losing it in front of Edward. Taking additional breaths, I once again prepared myself to continue my story.
"On the way to the diner, we were hit by a drunk driver. Marcus was pronounced DOA when he reached the hospital. I was in and out of consciousness. Apparently, I had been out for about three days. I guess I must have been really out of it, because it wasn't until I heard the doctor coming in my room that I noticed that I could see my feet. I hadn't been able to see my feet for the last two months. My belly, my son, my Seth…was gone," I cried.
In a very fluid motion, Edward picked me up and cradled me in his lap. He was trying to give me comfort and offer me support, even though I didn't deserve it. I couldn't comfort my son, so no one should be comforting me. I didn't want the comfort, but it felt nice. I didn't want to break apart from Edward just yet, so I started talking while he held me.
"The doctor explained to me that our car was hit with so much force, that the placenta detached causing me to lose Seth; too much time had passed for them to save my baby. Supposedly, I lost a lot of blood as well, but at that point I didn't care. My only real reason for living was gone. I felt like a failure to the son I never got to meet. I kept asking myself why. Why couldn't they save him and let me die? Or, why couldn't I have just died with him?"
"I stayed in the hospital for three weeks, recovering. In that time, Marcus was buried, but I refused for them to do anything with Seth; I, his mother, was going to bury him. Not even a week after I left the hospital was everything arranged for Seth's burial. I was selfish and didn't want to have a ceremony; no one knew him but me and his father, so there was no need for a ceremony."
"What about the guy, the drunk driver?" Edward asked hesitantly.
I didn't mean to, and it wasn't meant for him, but I menacingly glared his way.
"The guy? The drunk driver? The drunk driving motherfucking cop?" I seethed at him.
"No," Edward said, visibly shocked as he found out the driver was a cop.
"There was a trial and the drunken cop got convicted of vehicular manslaughter. I later found out his blood alcohol level was .12. He got ten to fifteen years. Supposedly, they went hard on him. But he'll get the opportunity to get out. I won't get my son back," I replied, trying to hold back more tears.
"There was also going to be a civil suit filed, but it never got that far. The criminal trial remained private. The press weren't allowed. However, when the NYPD got hold of the civil suit, I was basically given hush money, I guess you can say. According to my lawyer, the cop had a drinking problem and the NYPD did nothing about it, although they knew about it. I was granted an undisclosed amount to keep from soiling the good name of the fine men in blue," I scoffed.
"How much?" he asked.
"Enough…but not enough," I sighed. Edward looked at me confused.
"I got enough so I really don't have to work again, if I don't want to. Do you remember the hospital ball you took me to?" I asked and he nodded. "Do you remember the name of the donor that the ball was held in honor of?"
Edward took a minute to recall the ball from months ago.
"I think his name was Seth Volturi," he said. His eyes widened again, realization hitting him.
"Was that you- all five million?" he asked and it was my turn to nod.
"I…we donated the money, in Seth's name. I was going to that ball anyway, before you invited me," I informed him.
"No amount of money will ever bring back the only joy I never got to know. Not only that, so many lives were destroyed. I told you my father worked for the NYPD. He retired early; he had at least a good ten years left in him. He was so disgusted with them, but he couldn't take it anymore. Not to mention Marcus' family."
"Aside from the letters, how have you been coping?" he asked.
"My moving was my way of coping. After I buried my son, I spent every day at his grave. Hours went by that felt like minutes. Every night my father or mother had to come get me and remind me to eat or sleep. They thought that moving would be a good way to help me start to heal."
I let out a small chuckle at the futile act of moving. "I live like he is with me. I act like he is following my example; doing what I can to make him a stand up person. Do you know how I go to the diner every Sunday?" I asked, looking at him. He nodded. "I order the big breakfast, things that I know that he would probably have liked. I only eat half, and I always take the rest to go. You can look on any corner and find a homeless person; whoever I spot first gets the rest of my food. I was going to teach Seth to be a charitable person, hence the reason for the charity to a hospital I know does a lot of good," I sobbed.
"Can I ask you one more question?" he asked nervously. I motioned for him to continue.
"How come you close your letters with 'Your Bella' and not 'Your mother' or something similar?"
"Because I failed him as a mother; I was supposed to protect him, help him grow to a healthy, loving man. I don't want to disrespect him by calling myself his mother when I couldn't fulfill my duties to him. I'll always be his, though, however he accepts me."
I suddenly felt very tired, all the way down to my bones. Edward must have sensed this when he looked at me. He picked me up, bridal style, and carried me to the bedroom. The last thing I remembered was Edward taking off my sneakers and jeans, then covering me with my blanket. I feel asleep very soon after.
I woke about three hours later, around two in the morning. Edward was sleeping soundly beside me. My head was killing me from all the crying. I took pills to help with the ache and then made my way to write to my son. Sitting down, I saw stationary paper sitting on the coffee table. I picked it up, curious as to what was written, and began reading.
I want you to know how truly lucky I am to be with such an amazing woman like your mother. I could never be good enough for her, or for you. However, I want, I need, you to know that I am going to try to make her as happy as you made her. I could never compete with you, but I would never try.
You are with your father right now, and for that I am grateful; you are not alone. Your mother misses you a great deal, as I am sure you already know. She will never forget you and I'll never forget the story she told me about her journey with you. You made her happy in a way that I never could. One day, I hope, we will be able to give you a sibling for you to look down upon and help guide. I want to begin my own journey with her. However, it will only be with your approval.
AN: Thanks for reading. I usually don't ask for it, but I would appreciate a review, whether you liked it or not. Although this story is told using Twilight characters, Bella's pregnancy back story is my own, expect for the deaths. Although I was sick throughout a good majority of my pregnancy, my son born very healthy.