Stephenie owns all things Twilight, you know this.
Huge thanks to UofMAnne, radar1230, oscar519, ShortHappyLife and IAmToWait for reading/beta-ing and general hand holding.
This song makes me think of my friend lie_2me. Consider this for you.
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"I'm living in a hurricane and all he can say is 'man, ain't it such a nice day.'"
– 'Dead Flowers' by Miranda Lambert
He says he doesn't understand me. He doesn't know why I act the way I do, or say the things I say. It's because he doesn't know me. He stopped trying years ago. After our son was born he lost interest in me almost completely. Conversations were hard. Sex was out of the question. I was disgusting, after all. My body had been mauled carrying his child so of course he wanted nothing to do with me. Eventually I returned to "pre-baby" weight and he deemed me worthy enough to touch.
Then another son came.
It's not just about sex, though. Jacob has seemingly lost all interest in me. He doesn't ask about work, though my job is a noble one. I don't make a lot of money but I enjoy what I do. Jacob doesn't ask about my friends or even why I don't go out with my friends anymore.
And in truth I don't mind… much. I get busy with the kids and the house and well, life.
I am the perfect wife: cooking, cleaning, rearing his children, and carrying a full-time job. Those things don't keep a man from straying these days. He thinks I don't know. He thinks I'm stupid. I'm not stupid.
I never have been.
The slamming of the door brings me from my thoughts. I expect one of the boys to come running into the kitchen where I stand at the sink. But they don't. Jesse is at baseball practice and Levi is at the neighbor's house doing homework. Instead, I see my husband, a duffle bag slung over his shoulder, clad in a t-shirt that's tight over his broad chest and muscular arms. He's been at the gym. He's at the gym every day. In his hands is a bouquet of flowers.
It's a beautiful gathering of lilies.
I hate lilies.
Tulips have always been my favorite. They remind me of my grandmother, and if my husband had ever bothered to ask he'd know that. Instead, he smiles like he's just won the lottery and hands them to me to put in a vase. A quick kiss and he's off for a shower while I finish dinner. The boys are home soon and I usher them upstairs to put their things away and clean up before their father comes back down.
I briefly wonder if he's washing the stench of another woman off of him today or if he saves that for his weekend trips to the gym.
"Looks great, babe." My husband kisses my cheek and pinches my ass at the same time. He's a real charmer sometimes.
"Thank you," I answer softly. Levi smiles up at me with dark curls and big brown eyes and makes me remember why I'm still here. I kiss his head and run a hand through Jesse's messy black hair before settling into my chair. Jacob serves us, making small talk with the boys about their day. He doesn't ask about mine. He never does. Jacob thinks my work at the shelter is ridiculous. I don't get paid much, but it's not about getting paid.
It's about helping people and making me feel like more of a person by doing so.
When dinner is done Jacob and Jesse are in the backyard and Levi is in the kitchen with me.
"Mommy? Can we make cookies?" Levi's eyes are big and hopeful as I hand him soapy dishes and he rinses them while standing on a chair.
"Not tonight, baby. Mommy's tired." I tap his nose with a soapy finger and he giggles.
"What are you tired from? Sitting at the shelter all day? Organizing pamphlets?" Jacob enters the kitchen, snickering at his own joke. Jesse frowns behind him, always my protector.
"Mom works hard," he says and wraps his arms around my waist.
"I know, kid. Go take a shower." Jacob pulls Jesse away from me and gives him a slight push toward the stairs. He goes with a look back to me. I can see the love and concern in his eyes. He's only ten, but he knows. He knows when things are good and when things are bad. Jacob doesn't think Jesse knows anything. Jacob isn't very smart sometimes.
"Why don't we open that bottle of wine we've been saving?" Jacob asks with his arms around me and his lips to my ear. I shudder, but not because I like what he's doing. I shudder because I'm disgusted. He wants to touch me, to have sex with me after – God only knows what he's done this week.
"Like I said, I'm tired." I shrug out of his arms and help Levi down from his makeshift stool. "Go get ready for bed." I kiss his head for good measure in case he thinks my tone is too short. If Jesse is my little warrior then Levi is my artist – six and sensitive. Dad jokes that we will one day see Levi on the news for tying himself to a tree so no one will cut it down. Dad jokes a lot.
"You're always tired," he says as he trails his fingers up my arms once Levi is out of the room.
"Well, I do keep your house clean and your kids fed and work a full-time job, Jacob." I step away from him to finish washing the dishes and he follows, his muscular arms around me again. Jacob is relentless and usually ends up getting what he wants. I will give in eventually, but I'd like to finish the dishes so I don't worry about them and can concentrate on pretending to enjoy sex with him.
I put the boys to bed (though Jesse claims he doesn't need to be tucked in) and slowly make my way to our bedroom where Jacob is no doubt waiting for me. He's standing in the middle of the room when I enter and comes to me swiftly, closing the door behind me and pulling me to him. He's already hard and I'm already bored. I haven't enjoyed sex since Levi was born. It has become impersonal to me, the intimacy gone from his lips and hands. It has become all about power, dominating me and saying filthy things. He used to tell me he loved me during sex. Now the only words I hear are pussy, cock, and fuck. That isn't the Jacob I married. That's the Jacob that I fell out of love with. The one who got the high-paying job and thought I was disgusting during both of my pregnancies. The one who wanted me to stay at home and wear a pearl necklace like I was June Fucking Cleaver.
I don't even like pearls.
I let him do what he wants with my body. I make the right sounds and move the right ways. I've gotten very good at pretending. Jacob doesn't know the difference. He kisses me softly, tenderly even. Then turns his back to me, leaving me to my thoughts and my disgust with myself. I take a shower and sit on the cool tile and cry, silently though ardently enough that I feel a little bit better.
I need to get out.
The next day dawns quickly. A night of sleeplessness leaves dark circles under my eyes, but no one notices. Apparently I look the same as always. Jacob kisses me passionately, sloppily, before leaving for work and thanks me for the night before. I force a smile and watch him walk to his car before ushering the boys off to the bus stop.
Somehow I've made it to the shelter. It's free medical treatment day and there is a new doctor today. The other ladies are talking about him before I even lay eyes on him. I vaguely hear the words gorgeous, single, and gay. I don't pay any attention to them. They're catty and slutty and I'm pretty sure one of them has fucked my husband. I just go about my business, giving them orders and going behind them to fix things.
"Excuse me?" A soft voice breaks my train of thought. I frown and look away from my computer screen and the budget I'm trying to fix.
"Can I help you?" I ask as I am met with the most vibrant green eyes I've ever seen.
"I was just wondering if there was a sign-out sheet?" The voice is quiet, melodic even, the lips it falls from are a lovely shade of pink. I finally tear my gaze from his mouth and focus on his face.
"Sign-out?" I ask, completely befuddled by the person in front of me.
"For the medical care? I'm going to take a lunch but…" he trails off, unsure of what to say.
"Are you volunteering?" I ask as I hand him the clipboard.
"You could say that." He smiles and signs his name with a flourish then hands me back the board with a lopsided smile.
"You'll be back in an hour then, yes?" I manage a weak smile back at him.
"Yes ma'am," he says before leaving me. I glance at the clipboard and find his name.
Dr. Edward Cullen
The doctor returns precisely one hour later wielding two cups of hot chocolate.
"You looked like you could use a pick me up." He smiles over the counter and sets the cup in front of me. His smile is contagious and I feel my lips curving upward. It feels strange to smile.
"Thank you, Dr. Cullen."
"You're welcome, Isabella." His smile grows and I look at him, befuddled again.
"How did you…?"
"You have a nametag." He points to my chest and I feel my face heat up. Stupid.
"Oh. Oh, right," I mumble and go back to my computer screen.
"Have a nice day, Isabella."
My day finishes nearly the same time as always. I am usually first to arrive and last to leave. Only today was different. Today Dr. Cullen walked out with me.
"Listen, I know this is forward but – do you want to have dinner with me?" he blurts as he runs a hand nervously through his auburn hair. I feel my face flush.
"I'm sorry. I have to get home." I try to step around him to my car.
"How about coffee? One cup?" He smiles the way he did when he was standing at my counter, and I can't tear my eyes away from him.
"I'm sorry, Dr. Cullen – "
"Edward," he interrupts.
"Edward. I'm sorry, Edward. I'm married," I say as I finally pull my keys out of my bag.
"Oh. I see. You know, you could have just told me you aren't interested. There's really no point in lying." His green eyes narrow accusingly..
"I'm not lying!"
"Well, you aren't wearing a ring." His gaze settles on my hand and I give a quiet groan. I don't wear my ring. I've been asking for a new one since Levi was born and Jacob hasn't bought me one. Mine is too small and uncomfortable.
"It doesn't fit," I say a bit too harshly and reach into one of the internal compartments of my purse and pull out my engagement and wedding ring set. Thank god I never took the rings out of my purse after taking them to the jeweler for a price on getting them re-sized. I thrust them into his hand as my proof and Dr. Cullen recoils slightly and frowns.
"I'm sorry. I shouldn't have been so pushy," he mumbles and I sigh.
"It's okay. Thank you for coming here today. We all really appreciate it," I tell him and a genuine smile graces his already handsome face, making him even more good looking.
"You're welcome, Isabella. You're very welcome. Have a lovely night." Dr. Cullen reaches down and squeezes my hand and I swear his thumb brushes right over my bare ring finger.
Surely I imagined it.
At home the boys are not fed or washed. Jacob is on the couch and they are fighting in the foyer. I pull them apart and send them to their rooms before starting dinner. I'm fully aware that I'm slamming cabinet doors and frozen things around the kitchen in hopes that my husband will hear and ask me what's wrong.
Jacob never asks what's wrong anymore.
I finish dinner and set it on the table. Then I call my boys, serve them, and leave. I have to. I love them – Jesse and Levi. I really do, but something inside me snaps and I can't be in the house anymore. I'm a little restless and shaken up from my encounter with the new doctor. I don't want to be someone's cook or nurse or launderer. I want to be me, just Bella – for one night.
I drive myself to a small coffee shop on the other side of town. A little mom-and-pop that's stayed open despite the burgeoning amount of Starbucks that are everywhere. I order a latte and find a seat in the corner. The music is dull but it helps to numb me, to keep me from thinking.
I don't want to think anymore.
"Fancy meeting you here." A soft voice brings me from out of my own head.
"Dr. Cullen!" I start and nearly spill my coffee. He steadies it and goes to take the seat across from me, raising his eyebrows in question. I nod my permission..
"It's just Edward. Remember?"
"Just Edward. Right." I fight the smile on my lips because his is so damned contagious.
"What are you doing out here? I figure your husband would be fighting for you to stay in the house."
"Please," I snort and lean back in my chair. "I'm practically invisible in my house."
"Hm." He frowns and fingers the lid of my cup. "Well, if you were my wife I wouldn't let you out of my sight."
I can feel my face heating up under his gaze but I don't dare tear myself from his eyes.
"Oh. Things just get crazy with the boys. We both get so busy…" I manage to look away and focus on the table in front of me, though I can still feel his eyes on me.
"Boys? You have kids?"
"Two. Jesse and Levi." I pull their pictures from my purse to show him, completely out of habit. Edward smiles as he flips through them.
"They look like you." He hands me the pictures back and I smile. No one has ever said that to me.
"More like their dad, I think." I tuck my pictures away and Edward starts asking me questions about the boys. What sports do they like, do they like to read, favorite colors and songs… so many things that I can hardly keep up with his questions. Edward eventually moves on to questions about me. They are similar to what he asked about the boys, only deeper – more meaningful. He asks me everything from my favorite color to what my most beloved childhood memory. In the short time I've spent with him he's asked me more questions than Jacob has in the past six months.
Before I know it hours have passed and I realize that I should have already put my children to bed.
"I'm sorry, Edward. I've got to go. I'm sure they're wondering where I am." I stand up and he follows.
"It's late, I'll walk you out." Edward opens the door for me and leads me to my car.
"Thank you for talking to me. I needed that." I smile up at him.
"Of course. It was a pleasure," he answers and then leans down to kiss my cheek. I back away without even thinking. "I'm sorry!" he exclaims in a worried whisper.
"No. I mean – I can't. I'm sorry," I say and turn away from him quickly. I'm barely in the car before my tears are spilling hot and wet on my cheeks. It takes me a moment to figure out why I'm actually crying. I wanted Edward to kiss me.
I don't know how I make it home, but I do. Jacob is waiting for me.
"Where the fuck have you been?" His voice is low and angry once the front door is closed.
"Out," I say as I push my way past him.
"Out? What the fuck does that mean?" He grabs my arm roughly and I flinch.
"Lower your voice, I'm sure the boys are sleeping." I try to pull away but he holds fast.
"No thanks to you," he growls as he shoves me.
I hit the banister and try to keep the pain from my face. I will not let him have that satisfaction. Jacob has never laid a hand on me that way but tonight will most certainly be the last night he ever touches me.
"I've put them to bed every night of their lives. One night surely won't kill you, Jacob." I spit the words and take the stairs two at a time then lock the bedroom door behind me.
The next morning Jacob acts as if nothing happened. I feed the boys and usher them off to the bus stop. Jacob kisses me on the cheek before leaving for work.
I'm not going to work. I'm going to follow my husband.
Bella Black is most definitely not known for being stealthy, but I make do today. It doesn't take long for me to realize that Jacob isn't going to his office or his gym. I've followed my husband to a hotel across town. Excuse me, a motel across town. He gets out of his car, oblivious to mine across the parking lot and greets a young, blonde girl with a hefty embrace.
Blonde. All these years and I never knew he was into blondes. I don't stay long enough to see them go inside. The hug in the parking lot of a motel is enough proof for me.
When I get home I move into my plan of action. I have to be quick in case he comes home early.
When the boys return from school I usher them upstairs to pack a bag of their personal things as I've already packed their clothes. They put their things in the car and head to the neighbor's house. I've told them we're going to visit Grandpa. Jesse eyes me skeptically but Levi, bless his soul, is too excited about a road trip to think about anything else.
Jacob is home soon after. His cheerful smile is odd to me. My eyes are clouded with the hatred that I'm feeling for him.
"What's wrong?" His steps falter as he makes his way to me.
"Don't touch me. Don't you fucking touch me!" I back away and into the kitchen.
"Bella? What the hell is wrong with you? Where are the kids?"
"They're not here. I won't be here much longer either.".
"What have you done with my children?" he yells and swings his arm at the counter, knocking over a coffee cup tree. The cups shatter against the tile and my breath catches in my throat.
"They're fine, Jacob. I'd never do anything to hurt them. I'm not you."
"What are you talking about? Are you on drugs, Bella?"
"Where were you this morning?" I ask.
"Work, where the fuck do you think I was?" He runs a hand through his dark hair and kicks at a random shard of coffee cup.
"I saw you. Downtown. I know where you were." My voice is weak and my lips are trembling. I can feel my eyes stinging with tears, but I don't want to give him the satisfaction of seeing them fall.
"Bella… I – that was a meeting." He gives a lame attempt at an excuse, and I laugh loudly.
"Don't lie to me, Jacob." I'm calmer than I thought I'd be. His head falls.
"No. I'm done here. The boys and I are leaving. I will not sit around and be your perfect Stepford wife while you fuck some tramp."
"She's not a tramp!"
"Oh my God. You're fucking defending your whore. How many have there been, Jacob? I know that she isn't the first one!" I throw my hands up and storm past him to grab my keys and purse.
"Wait!" he yells and tries to grab my arm, but I pull away faster than last night. I meet his eyes then glance over his shoulder. The lilies are there in their vase of water that's gray and marred with their death. I fight a wry smile at the irony and face him once more.
"No. This is over. We'll be at Charlie's if you want to talk to the boys." I open the door to find my sons waiting for me. "Tell your father goodbye." I step aside as Jacob kneels down and takes our children into his arms. I can see the beginnings of tears in his eyes but I look away quickly.
"I love you," I hear him whisper. Levi returns his father's words but Jesse gives him a simple goodbye before taking my hand and walking to the car with me. I know Jacob is standing at the door but I keep my eyes away from him, intent on pulling out of the driveway and away from our home.
As I drive I can't help but think about Edward. I think about how one night in a coffee shop made me feel more wanted than I had in nearly ten years. I can't help but remember the hurt look in his eyes when I left him alone in that parking lot. But then I'm disgusted with myself that I spent so much time in the company of a man who wasn't my husband. That I let him make me feel the way I did.
I didn't want to be like Jacob. I would not dishonor my family that way.
One Year Later
"Jesse, I know you don't want a babysitter but I need to know you're safe."
"I'm eleven, Mom. I can take care of myself and Levi."
"The last time I left you alone you ended up tied to the kitchen chair and Levi ate the entire package of Oreos." I take his face in my hands and he frowns.
"He's very fast," Jesse grumbles. Levi laughs from behind him.
"Be good for Angela, okay?" I kiss them both and head to my new volunteer position.
My divorce was finalized quickly. Jacob admitted to his infidelity and the monthly support he was ordered to pay was enough that I could stay home with the boys. Still, I loved my old shelter and being able to help the people that came through it. I liked being a smiling face that they would get to see, even if I was the only one that day.
I haven't seen Edward since the night we had coffee. He didn't return to the shelter during the few weeks that I stayed there. Of course, that didn't mean that I didn't think about him. The night I spent talking with Edward gave me the courage to do something I thought I'd never be able to do. I will always be grateful to him for showing me that shadow of my long lost self.
Jesse is having a hard time with me being gone two nights of the week. He is the man of the house now and he takes his job very seriously by worrying too much for a little boy.
The new shelter is just a few miles from our new house across town. Jacob still lives in the old house and the boys visit every other weekend. They come back exhausted from all the things he plans for them, sports games, park outings – Jacob is a good father.
He was just a lousy husband.
Tonight I'm preparing for a new volunteer doctor. He owns his own practice so he can't come in until later. There are a few of the regulars already waiting.
"Evening, Bella," Jessica, another volunteer, greets me.
"Hey, Jess. The doctor here yet?" I ask as I settle at my desk.
"Just got in." She gives a sly grin and I laugh to myself. Jessica's a flirt despite her long running engagement with her high school sweetheart. That can only mean one thing: new doctor is a looker.
"That good, huh?" I grin and shuffle around some papers.
Jessica opens her mouth to speak but a smooth voice interrupts her before she can get the words out.
"I'm ready when you are, ladies," the doctor says and I turn so quickly I think I give myself whiplash.
Wide green eyes set against pale skin meet mine. I feel the blood rush to my face almost as quickly as my mouth turns to dust.
"Isabella?" My name falls from his lips like an ancient prayer and my heart clenches in my chest.
"Edward." I smile and get up from my chair. He walks toward me, almost in slow motion, and before I know it he's enveloped me in his warm embrace.
"It's so good to see you," he whispers into my hair. I nod, fully aware that Jessica is still standing behind me.
"It's good to see you," I agree and pull away, suddenly embarrassed.
"I'll just… get to work." Edward smiles and leaves me and a stunned looking Jessica to our paperwork.
"You… know him?" she asks once he's out of earshot.
"We've met," I say and take my seat again. I can feel Jessica's eyes on me but I keep quiet. My insides are suddenly dancing the conga; it's a bit unnerving and I don't know how I make it through the rest of the night.
Jess leaves an hour after I arrive and I enjoy the quiet that I so rarely get at home. Soon enough, the patients are seen and Edward is at my desk, a bag slung over his shoulder and a smile on his face.
"I didn't think I'd ever see you again," he says as we walk through the dark parking lot.
"It's been a busy year." I tell him and he laughs quietly.
"How are the boys?" Edward asks when we reach my car.
"Good. They're good."
"And your husband?"
"Ex. Ex-husband." I answer and I can see his eyes light up in the glow of the street lamp.
"I'm sorry to hear that." Edward tells me. His voice is apologetic but his face is hopeful.
"Thank you, Edward." I touch his hand softly and turn to my car. "I should really get home and relieve the babysitter."
"Of course." Edward agrees and takes a step back. "Have a lovely night."
"You too." I give him a small smile and climb in the car then watch him walk to his. He stops a few feet from it, tugging at his hair and from the looks of it, talking to himself. After a moment he turns back and stalks back to me, his face determined. I roll the window down as he approaches.
"So, about that dinner?"