Disclaimer: Characters belong to Stephenie Meyer
This story was last published on 6/20/10.
There are 24 chapters in this story.
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Bella and I lived a normal life for the next ten years. We had a son, Chike, and a daughter, Abi. We cherished our family and spent every spare second together. I love Bella as much today as the day I married her. I thanked God daily for all the good in my life.
Bella and Rose decided to pool their money and opened a crisis center for women who were victims of assault. It was a not-for-profit center and donations poured in every time either one of them gave a speech.
I was so proud of Bella when she was asked to testify in front of congress regarding International rape and human rights abuses. They had no idea what they were in for when Bella sat at the microphone and looked at the all male committee.
Her road to recovery wasn't totally free from flashbacks. We were having a family barbeque and a bug crawled across Bella's leg. She screamed and backed up to the wall, tucking into the fetal position and cried loudly.
I got on my knees in front of her and spoke softly, "Bella, never again. I'm here and I won't let anything ever hurt you again."
She raised her head and looked at me with terror in her eyes. "Did I make any noise, is he coming?"
"You can make all the noise you want, love, I won't let anyone touch you," I said with force and she dove into my waiting arms.
She would have nightmares every once in awhile and snuggle up to me, but they faded over the years.
I worked my way up the ladder at the hospital and now oversaw all the outpatient clinics. Tanya eventually moved to Alaska when her patient load lightened, and I really hoped it was all my doing.
I finally got my chance to say everything that had built up inside of me over the years. I wasn't naïve and blinded by my feelings of gratitude to be home. There were several things I wanted to address.
Edward flew with me to Washington and sat directly behind me as I spoke, giving me the emotional support I needed. I had looked into the backgrounds of the committee members I would be addressing and found several with less than stellar characters.
I worked with women at the crisis center and I was prepared to give these supposed gentlemen a whole new way of looking at things.
I wore a pin stripped suite dress with four inch heels. I was going to look these men right in the eyes when I stood next to them. I found out the Ugandan ambassador was going to be in attendance and I couldn't have been happier.
I sat down and pulled the microphone to my mouth.
"Good afternoon gentlemen. I feel it is a privilege to sit before you this day, to share my experience of injustice. I went to Uganda to help train individuals from various villages to act as medical technicians. My husband and I wanted to give something important to the country and felt knowledge was the most valuable thing we could bring them."
"I landed at the airport in Kampala and was falsely arrested for drug trafficking. The supposed cocaine was really Gold Bond powder, easily distinguishable if anyone had bothered to investigate. I was taken to a prison the government refuses to admit exists where I was beaten, raped, and starved. Not once did anyone from the American embassy come to see me."
"I was never brought in front of a judge or given legal counsel. My husband paid money to a prison warden to have me moved to a clean, safe, facility. My charges suddenly changed from drugs to subversion of the government. My husband dressed as a nun to enter the prison, leaving me with the costume, he went to pay the warden and we both simply walked out the front door."
I had purposely left Jasper out of the written testimony.
"I was met by government official in Germany where I was told not to speak about my abuse and keep my escape quiet. My own legal counsel told me to keep quiet for the sake of other Americans being held around the world. I listened because I didn't know better, but I know better now. I know it is wrong to silence the victim for the sake of a corrupt country. I made it out alive and I should have been screaming from the rooftops, letting the world know what had happened to me."
"I now work with women in America who are being victimized. Ambassador Chakiiki, Uganda is not the only place where women are violated; it happens everywhere and maybe we need to look at what the hell is wrong with you men. When did it ever become okay to use your penis as a weapon?"
"When men hit women, who are naturally weaker, it doesn't make them tough, it makes them cowards. And when a man uses his penis as a weapon, it makes him pathetic. A very wise Priest told me you have the spouse you deserve. I must be a very good person, because I have an amazing husband."
"For you men who think you need to sneak around with young women, because your wives are not satisfying you, I would like to ask you a few questions. Have you gained weight, stopped taking her on dates, forgetting to be mannerly as you belch, and fart, and pick your noses? Exactly what is it about you that deserves her attention? Yet we constantly hear it is the woman who has the audacity to age and refuse to suck your dicks. Gentlemen, you have the spouses you deserve."
"When women are violated you do not weaken us, you weaken the value of men. It is easy for a loving man to fill our minds and hearts with tender, loving experiences. A rapist is not memorable because he takes nothing, we are not defined by our vaginas, but too many men don't understand that simple concept. I was raped by weak, stupid men, but I was violated by a corrupt government who values money more than people, as well as my own country, that had to nerve to ask me to keep quiet. I will now listen to my own advice and speak loudly."
"You did not need to hear from me today, because there is nothing I can say that you haven't already ignored. Your trysts are abuse gentlemen, you break the sacred trust of the women you vowed to be faithful to, and you abuse the women you whisper your lies just to wield your weapon. If you want to hear about the abuse of Americans and human rights violations, talk to each other Senators. Ambassador Chakiiki, children in your country are being used as sex slaves, and rebel soldiers, and for you to sit here and pretend you are doing something by listening to my testimony is nothing but mindfucking your own people."
"I dare you to silence this session today. And I am willing to debate in front of a camera anyone from this committee. Thank you for your time and attention."
The room was absolutely silent, not one person had a question or a comment. I sat with my hand over my mouth to stop the laughter from bursting out. Bella stood and took my hand before proudly walking from the room.
As soon as we stepped out the door of the hearing we were descended upon by reporters, all wanting to ask questions about the real topic, what was going on in Uganda? Bella talked truthfully and eloquently about everything she had witnessed, from the lack of medical care, to Lulu's inability to have a simple crutch without it putting her in danger.
We were asked to come to New York for a round of morning talk shows. Bella talked about the crisis center and how she teamed up with Rosalie to help other women know there is a bright future ahead of them. One interviewer asked if Bella forgave her captors, since she was a former nun.
"I leave it up to God to forgive, because it is Him who is truly hurt by our willingness to abuse each other. I make mistakes everyday and hope I am offered the same Grace."
I stood at the side of the stage and watch Bella. I remembered the innocent nun who entered the village that day. I felt God had cursed me to send a beautiful young woman to work with me. But she slowly changed my life, by bringing me understanding and making me a better man.
She taught me how to be free to love completely, and not just for my own ego. She taught me how to forgive myself for the awful person I had been, and accept the love my family had to offer. She taught me the value of liberty is in the way we treat each other, and not in our own selfish desires. She was my absolution.
We arrived home late and the kids were already in bed. Lulu was now a sophomore in college and had agreed to stay with our children while we were gone. She ran to the car when we pulled into the garage.
"Oh my God, your testimony is all over youtube. You freaking rocked, Bella," Lulu laughed, proudly showing off her perfect teeth now.
"She was amazing," I agreed and watched Bella's face redden.
"Rosalie called, and she's pissed. She said the clinic has been overrun by reporters and she had twenty seven messages in one day," Lulu told Bella.
"I hope she asked for donations," Bella said as she went inside to use the phone.
I gave Lulu a big hug. I never believed she would make it to this age when I first met her. Now she was a tall, beautiful, bright young woman who dated often. She had such a kind heart, which led her to become my only friend when I had exiled myself from my family. I now had everyone important in my life and I cherished them all.
I was very proud of the spotlight I was able to put on the clinic but a part of me wondered what kind of firestorm I had created. I dialed Rosalie's number and waited for her to answer and let me have it.
"Bella?" she answered.
"If you want to bitch at me, I don't want to hear it," I told her.
"We have been offered space in Tacoma to open a second clinic," she screamed into the phone.
I had to sit down as her words sunk into my brain. I had worried we were simply a novelty, a former nun and a beautiful woman open a clinic because they had been raped, but people wanted to help. They heard my words and felt the same way I did.
"Rose," I said through tears, "We did it, we made a difference."
"You did it, Bella. You hit those men where they lived by showing them what dicks they are. Girls are coming out of the woodwork to admit they had been approached, or hit on, or seduced by these guys. Even their wives are speaking out."
"I only spoke the truth," I said and felt a bit of worry for Edward. I wondered if his past was going to be made public for people to ridicule.
I hung up the phone and found Edward lying in bed watching the news. He looked up at me and smiled. "Did you see how Chike was sleeping?" he laughed, "His whole lower body is hanging off the bed."
"I'll move him," I said and walked over to Edward.
He hit mute on the remote and took my hand. "What's wrong?"
"Nothing, I love you with my entire heart. And I am so proud of the man you are. If reporters dig into your past it won't matter to me," I said.
He laughed loudly and it made me mad, since I was speaking from my heart. "Fine let them grill your nuts," I said and pulled away.
"Bella, I wasn't that horrendous. I was a single, male, college student. Any reporter looking into my past better be willing to have their own revealed. And do you really think Tanya will surface after what she did?"
"I'm going to check my babies, when I come back you better be ready to welcome me to our bed properly," I said with a wink and headed down the hallway.
I opened Chike's door first and saw he was now securely on the bed. His room was covered in posters of various sports figures and he had a soccer pillow tucked under his arms. I looked down at his perfect face, so full of innocence and hope. I knew his ability to be a good man depended on the way Edward and I would raise him. I wanted him to value people and service, not money or fame.
I kissed his cheek and he rolled over. I headed to Abi's room, which was all ruffles and pastels. She was buried in a mountain of dolls and stuffed animals, which she called her 'babies.' Abi adored Lulu and never seemed to notice her prosthetic leg. I hoped she could remain so blinded by people's insides and not their outsides. I hoped she would never know what it was like to be victimized, but I also knew if it unfortunately happened, she would not be destroyed. I would teach my daughter to be strong and courageous, just like Joshua of old.
When I finally returned to my room Edward had some candles lit and some soft music playing. I removed my clothes and climbed onto the bed. He turned onto his elbow and stared down at me, without making a move or coming any closer.
"What are you doing?" I asked him as I ran my fingers down his face.
"I'm loving you," he whispered.
"You're only looking at me," I pointed out.
"It's the same thing," he said and took a deep breath as his eyes canvassed my body.
"I am so lucky," I told him truthfully and leaned up on my elbow to kiss him softly.
He pulled me against his body and deepened the kiss. Our trip back east was so hectic I didn't get any intimate time with him. I sighed and lay back, pulling him with me. He took my hand and pulled it to his body and I felt something different.
"What's that?" I asked with my mouth still attached to his.
"Something new," he chuckled.
I pushed him onto his back and looked at the new jewelry. It was a silver bar instead of a circular ring and the ball at the end was engraved with E & B. I smiled and ran my finger over the declaration as he struggled to keep his breathing steady.
"Thank you," I said and he pulled me back into his arms.
Our physical declarations of love were not as frequent, but we found other ways to show each other how committed we were. If I had to choose a life of no abuse, but I couldn't have Edward, or living the nightmare all over again to have him, my choice would be easy. The love overpowers the pain.
Giving up my vows was not turning my back on God, he still loved me and valued my service, and my proof was Edward. God was not angry if he let me have something so wonderful. Edward was my absolution.
Surrogate a/n...would love to hear what you thought of this story. Reviews are love...and I'm sure that Sandi would like to see some!