Stephenie Meyer owns the characters.
Learn to Feel
I sat at my desk staring out the window at the students gathered in front of the school. My life had come full circle, and I was back to observing, only this time it was another generation I was just a spectator for. They were young, and hopeful, and so innocent that my heart ached for them.
A car pulled up, a sophomore boy climbed out and headed towards the door with a clinched jaw. His mother jumped from the car and ran after him, digging frantically in her purse for money. He took the twenty from her hand and turned without a word to continue walking.
The mother stared in silent anguish as she watched her baby pull away from her towards manhood. I wanted to run out and beg him to turn around, and thank his mother for the fertilizer she placed so faithfully on that supposed money tree. I wanted to tell his mother to not give up on him, as he became more, and more silent, and that someday he was going to be a wonderful man she could be proud of.
Learning life's lessons was hard and demanded cracks and calluses on our feelings. Edward and I had more spackle on our souls than we ever thought they could hold, but we were here, and still madly in love… If love meant quiet nights and long back rubs preferred to wild sex.
We married this time at the courthouse in Port Angeles with Jonathon and Lizzy as witnesses. I traded my coke stained hoodie for a dark blue chiffon dress my daughter designed herself. Edward insisted the line, 'til death do us part' or 'as long as we both shall live,' be removed from the vows. Instead we said, 'forever.' It was absolutely perfect.
We found it much easier to make sense of the world when it was tiny and contained, so we didn't move to Chicago after our kids left to attend Northwestern. We stayed in tiny Forks and let Edward build a medical equipment trade company from a home office, as I taught English Literature at Forks High.
Jonathon dropped out of college after his freshman year to become a musician. He writes musical scores for movies and is making a name for himself at only twenty-three. He actually wears ragged jeans and various artists' shirts.
Lizzy, majored in design and has gone into business with Alice making upscale clothing. She has been in a relationship with the same man for the past four years, much to my relief. The wild rebellious girl was gone, and the serious woman in love, took her place.
Her graduation was a real eye opener. I could tell Edward was really nervous about something and finally spilled after we landed in Chicago.
"Carlisle would like me to attend a counseling session with him," he stated hesitantly.
"I think that is a wonderful idea," I smiled.
"Um…he wants you there, too."
"Why?" I felt my heart speed up, and worried for the tentative peace we had built over the years.
"It's part of his therapy, not ours. You can refuse to answer anything you deem inappropriate," Edward assured me.
"Right, when has Joyce ever let us refuse to answer," I pointed out.
"Can we give it a try, for me?"
Of course I couldn't deny my husband anything, so we went.
The therapist was a young man, totally opposite of Joyce in every way. He was all business and I could tell Carlisle intimidated him, just a bit. The room was set up with chairs in a semi circle in front of the two chairs Edward and I were instructed to sit in. I wasn't sure what was going on and began to mentally prepare for a showdown.
"Welcome, Edward and Bella," Dr. Linton started. "I know the strained history of your relationship with the family…."
"Strained?" I interrupted. "Carlisle was an ass."
"He's tolerable now," I smiled.
Carlisle chuckled and I had to admit the guy responded to honesty.
"Carlisle, can you tell Bella something you admire about her?" The doctor instructed.
I shook my head and prepared myself for an evasive answer. Carlisle stared at the floor and for a second I thought he honestly couldn't come up with anything. He finally lifted his head and his eyes watered.
"You remind me so much of Elizabeth."
Well, fork me! I never expected that response and it sent me right into tears.
"Then why didn't you want me for Edward?" I choked out.
"Because love like that hurts too much, I never wanted him to feel what I had felt. Don't get me wrong, I love Esme, but it isn't all consuming like I had with Elizabeth."
"Bella, can you tell him something you admire?"
"You are a wonderful grandfather," I said bluntly. "And you learned your lesson about messing with me."
"You forgave too easily I'm afraid," Carlisle's tears began to fall from his eyes. "I wish I was a better father," he admitted.
"Dad," Edward began, "let's stop being stuck in the past. Can't we just let it go and move on?"
Carlisle nodded and smiled gently, "Regret is a hard pill to swallow."
"Then let's stop regretting things. Whatever has happened in the past brought us to this spot, surely it wasn't that bad," Edward stated.
There was a soft knock on the door and Rosalie and Emmett walked in. Em smiled at everyone, but Rose looked terrified. I now understood what was going on and looked forward to getting all the pent up emotion out in the open.
"Edward, Bella," Carlisle said, "I want you both to feel free to speak your mind and say whatever you want to say to any of us. Hopefully, having Dr. Linton here will make you feel this is a safe environment."
"I would like to tell Rosalie how sorry I am for how I treated her," I spoke up.
"We are here to apologize to you, Bella," Carlisle pointed out.
"And you apologized to me long ago," Rosalie added.
"I know, but not in front of everyone. I admire you Rosalie and I misjudged you so many times."
Her eyes dropped and she mumbled, "No, you didn't. Being a mother has shown me how brutal I was, I owe you the apology. I was also the one who suggested to Carlisle to make Edward marry Lauren, the merger would have happened anyway. I thought she could help him, but I learned how wrong I was. I wasn't trying to hurt you, Bella. I was seriously thinking of Edward."
I could see the sincere change in her whole demeanor and I had to acknowledge I had always been jealous of her beauty and strength.
"I was so jealous of you," I admitted. "And then finding out your history with Edward…."
"You bastard," she sneered at Edward as she crossed her arms over her chest angrily.
Edward quickly scooted to the edge of the chair to tease her. "You owe me an apology, Rosalie, you freaked me out and you know it," he laughed. "You don't do that to a guy the first time."
"He's just a pussy, babe," Emmett offered to appease his furious wife.
"I'm missing something here," Carlisle said confused.
"No you're not," we all said in chorus.
"Fine," Rosalie said as she kept her arms crossed, "I'm sorry, Edward."
"Thank you," he answered and scooted back in his chair.
"I'm sorry you were such a pussy," she added.
"See," Edward yelled to the therapist, as he pointed at Rosalie.
"I'm afraid I am as lost as Carlisle," the young man admitted, causing us all to chuckle uncomfortably.
Luckily, there came another knock and spared us from spilling the details.
I inhaled sharply when I saw Jake and Tanya walk in. I had not seen them for years and really didn't care to ever see them again. Jake looked right at me and smiled, but I only scoffed at him. I was shocked to see how poorly plastic holds up over the years.
Edward looked at the therapist in shock. "How is this supposed to help? There is nothing we need to resolve here."
"Yes, there is son," Carlisle admitted. "I paid Jake to try and steal Bella away from you."
"This is all old news, none of this matters anymore," I said defiantly.
"I just want to explain the vote, Bella. I never wanted to keep you in a wheelchair and made sure the vote would pass. I voted no after the majority voted to assure you would get the grant. I wanted to keep the path clear for you and Edward, if you didn't fall for Jake's tactics, and voting no would look like I had tried to stop Edward from profiting from company funds."
"Why didn't you tell me years ago?" I asked.
"I could have, to make myself appear less heinous, but I wasn't the nice guy. I did everything I could to keep you away from Edward, to spare him pain, not out of hate for you."
"Thank you for telling me."
I turned to Tanya. "I didn't steal Edward from you; he was never yours to begin with."
"I know, and I truly love Jake, I just couldn't admit Edward finally fell in love. Can you forgive us?"
"It's all so over, I forgave you long ago," I said to her.
"I have one more thing to admit," Carlisle said with pained eyes.
"Okay," Edward and I said in unison.
Carlisle looked so tormented and I began to really fear what he was going to say, when another knock came to the door.
"Come in Alice and Jasper," I yelled out.
We all laughed, except Carlisle, and my smile faded. I wasn't prepared for the person who walked in and only knew who she was by Edward's gasp.
"Britney?" I asked in complete shock.
Edward nodded and let his head drop. I looked at her, the only other woman on the planet that Edward thought he loved. She was still pretty and looked completely professional, like she just walked into a board meeting.
I looked at Carlisle as tears fell from my eyes. I didn't understand why he would do this to us. We had worked so hard over the years to wipe that pain from our lives and he was bringing it right back, flaunting it, to hurt us.
"I'm so sorry," he whispered.
"Why?" Edward managed to ask in complete disgust.
"I thought I was helping you," Carlisle said in shame.
Only then did I understand what Carlisle had done. Britney didn't just show up in Germany, she was sent there. Sent to do what Lauren wasn't able to accomplish.
I turned to Britney and glared at her. "You didn't love him?" I asked in anger. I was so torn. I wanted her to profess her undying love for Edward, and at the same time, I wanted her to say she couldn't stand to be near him.
"I grew to love him very much, but at first it was only a deal I had with Carlisle."
I hurt so badly for Edward, I wanted to get him out of the room and away from the pain he was being put through. He didn't deserve to feel this, especially just so Carlisle's could be rid of his guilt.
"Edward," she continued. "I would have been very good to you. I would have loved you with everything I had, but you only loved me a little. You're not hurt over my betrayal; you are just hurt your father tried to manipulate you."
"Bella," she said to me, "I tried everything I could to think of the get Edward to want me. I had to settle for being his distraction. I took him to my flat, had him in my bed, and he still only thought of you."
"I never loved you at all, Britney," Edward confessed. "I needed support. I needed my father, but he let me down, yet again."
I wanted to jump on my chair and scream for joy. He never loved you, so take that you British bitch. But I settled for taking Edward's hand in mine possessively.
"It was the vilest thing I have ever done son, I am so sorry. Esme helped take some of the pain away for me and I wanted someone to be able to do that for you."
"Why didn't you mess with Emmett's life?" Edward asked quietly.
"Hell, that one's easy," Emmett answered. "He never loved me as much as he loved you. You were part of Elizabeth, even I can understand that. I had a great stepdad to fill the void Carlisle left me with, but you only had him. I'm sorry, bro."
Carlisle remembered with tears in his eyes, "When your mother died you spent that entire night crying. I tried to comfort you, but you pushed me away and called out for her."
"Of course I did, I was a child," Edward said in anger.
"I wasn't, and I felt the exact same way. I vowed that night I would toughen you up, so you could get over losing her. I hoped it would somehow toughen me, too."
"You, of all people, should have understood how much I love Bella. It should have made you compassionate, especially to a little boy who needed his father after losing his mother." Edward said directly to Carlisle.
"I need you, Edward. I need you now, just like I did then, I just didn't realize it."
"I have always been there for you," Edward yelled.
"I know," Carlisle said softly. He looked so weak and so humbled. "You have always been so much better than me… a better man, a better husband, and a better father. I just need to know you will remain after knowing everything I did to you."
We all sat in silence until Edward stood and walked towards Carlisle, his fists were clinched and I was terrified he was going to hit his father. Instead he pulled him into a hug and let Carlisle weep on his shoulder.
Rosalie stood and walked towards me, I would let her punch me if she wanted, I owed her one. She leaned over and hugged me awkwardly, so I stood to pull her tightly into my arms.
"He was actually pretty damn good, for a virgin," she whispered into my ear.
"Let's not tell him, he's had enough to deal with today," I laughed.
I hugged Jake and smiled courteously at Patty, afraid her fake tan would rub off onto me if I hugged her. Now I had to face Britney.
"This is awkward," I admitted to her.
"I have to confess, I wished it would have ended differently," she smiled, but her eyes looking me up and down were anything but surrendering.
Her perfect British voice made me want to beat her with a cricket bat. She was actually looking into my eyes and saying she wanted my husband. He was mine, my savior who gave me legs and kept my dead heart beating, my lover who taught me everything I needed to know about pleasure, and my husband who lovingly gave me two children for us to cherish.
I heard a loud hiss in my head, those damn cats that followed me throughout this whole ordeal, reminding me I had something better because Edward Cullen looked up that day. They wanted me to join them in the fight they had waged all these years.
"I have to confess, I kind of want to scratch your eyes out for what you did to Edward," I smiled back. "And you are lucky I learned forgiveness from my wonderful husband, or I would shove a crumpet up your ass."
I watched her condescending smile fade into a panicked grimace. I giggled and relaxed when I heard loud, contented purring in my head.
I felt a soft tap on my shoulder and turned to see Carlisle's outstretched arms. I stumbled forward into a sincere, loving, embrace. Edward wrapped his arms around us both and kissed our heads. I was fully aware how he had totally ignored Britney… it felt great.
All the drama seemed so long ago. Our lives were boring and safe now, and my heart was stress free. I smiled at my students as they entered the classroom and pitied the long road they had in front of them.
"Mrs. Cullen, why do parents think we are so dumb?" A girl asked me as she slammed her books onto her desk.
"We just want to spare our children pain, we don't think you are dumb," I assured her.
"We are old enough to know what we feel," she continued. "We are not imbeciles."
"Of course you know what you feel, it is how to handle those feelings that needs to be learned, and unfortunately it can be a painful process."
"What was the hardest thing you learned," she asked, genuinely curious.
I smiled as I drifted through my lifetime of memories. "Learning to feel, because that is what life is, a combination of feelings that you have to learn from."
"Did you?" she said softly.
"Oh yes, and I learned life feels wonderful."