A/N: I don't own Twilight, and the lyrics to the song, Same Old Thing. But I do own three copies of On the Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta. Don't ask.

Well, this fic was put up on The Lemonade Stand last week, hence the incredible outpouring of reviews - good and bad *cringes*. Well, I want you all to know how much I appreciate it. So I snuck in some writing in my cray, cray schedule. Believe it or not, Mercyrus, I do other stuff besides read books! Harrrumph. Anyway, here's Chapter 16.

You got a callous heart

From being torn apart

Now you labour everyday

Love life drifts away.

Oh no, it hurts me so.

- Same Old Thing, The Black Keys

Chapter 16 - Same Old Thing

I packed my bag hurriedly with shaking fingers, shaking core. I doubt Jasper would be so inclined to drive me back to the city – actually, I doubt Jasper was even around at all. But I didn't waste time worrying about that. I was mostly worried about facing Esme and sickened by the fact that I'd just lost a friend - just when things were looking hopeful.

I winced, remembering Jasper's pain and anger, his disillusion and scorn. Could I have avoided it all? A small part of me would like to believe that I should've come right out and told Jasper right from the get go; because perhaps then, he'd have helped me avoid ever running into Edward. But no matter how many angles I looked at our situation, I've come to the conclusion that fate is cruel and meeting Edward was as inevitable storms in the coasts. Hundreds of thousands of people in Seattle and I ended up meeting Jasper.

I've also reached the conclusion that Edward was a destructive force in which I was fated to collide with inevitably. He was a keg of volatile nitro-glycerin. Touch him, even lightly, and he shattered everything for miles – at least, everything that had to do with me.

With a last look around the bedroom, I left and closed the door softly.

I found the devil waiting for me, dressed in casual attire and lounging like he owned the world. Soft, cashmere V-necked sweater paired up with dress slacks completed his appearance that masked the weight he'd lost. He was all wiry muscles, thick unruly hair in severe need of a cut and green sparkling eyes with a smudge of dark shadows just below the surface of his skin. There was something different in the light of his eyes this time, a cautionary happiness, perhaps? Different from the haunted look of last night.

He came forward and snatched my overnight pack. "I'll drive you home," he announced.

"To Seattle?" I raised my eyebrow. "Are you sober?"

He blew a breath in my face, which hinted of minty toothpaste, his essence and zero alcohol. Dismissing the tingles that were brought on by his closeness, I searched around for any sign of Esme.

"Is Esme around?"

I noticed the way his eyes shifted everywhere, as if he avoided colliding into mine.

"She had to go somewhere," he responded evasively. "Are you hungry? I can make you tea and toast?"

"No, not really," I responded. Food was the last thing on my mind at that moment. Tension was wreaking havoc on my insides.

He looked at me then, his mouth curving into a grimace when he saw my teeth gnawing furiously at my lip. "She went and followed Jasper home."

I nodded, sick with dread.

"We can stop somewhere to eat if you want," he offered.

"No, I'm fine – really."

I couldn't stay in the house any moment longer. I needed the comfort and the silence of my apartment. It would be easier to fall into pieces alone, where no one could bear witness to how I really feel about the bigger mess I'd made of my life. And for some reason, the thought of talking to Charlie gave me a sense of calmness even if I was a little bit afraid of what he'd say about my impending marriage.

Head bent and sick at heart, I walked out of the house without checking or caring whether or not Edward followed.

I stood just outside the front doors, hugging myself tightly as the crisp, winter air shocked me into a state of full awareness. In the daylight, the Cullen's house looked even more majestic. The skeletal mature trees partially covered the ostentatious building. It had a sweeping driveway that circled around a spherical garden in the middle, bare from the season. But I didn't have the chance to marvel too much as Edward came bounding out of the house with my overnight bag in tow.

The sound of a vehicle starting softly pulled me out of my reverie. I watched him stow my bag into the trunk of a plush Panamera, and then turned to help me down the steps. I ignored his extended hand and opened the door myself haughtily.

I sat there, trying hard and failing to stomp the admiration of the gleaming leather and overall lushness of the interior of his car. Edward got in the driver's seat and adjusted all the settings and what-not that he needed to in order to drive.

When he was done fiddling with all the instruments, he turned and smiled wryly in my direction. "I haven't driven a car in a while," he pressed a button that automatically pulled the seatbelts across my middle and locked it into place.

I jumped, as a giggle bubbled from my throat. I stamped it down before it all came out. His world, his life…everything about him was a discovery. Still surprising, given the circumstances.

The engine purred like a sleepy cat as we circled the driveway then out the compound. Inconspicuously, I stared at the long fingers, the powerful hands that once had the power to soothe and still has the power to destroy my carefully made veneer. I closed my eyes and tried to remember what they felt like and scolded myself for being weak. Touching him would be a mistake; to let him touch me would be disastrous. Once again, he held my heart in his hands – a sick thought that I couldn't even deny. Blind anger flamed my insides, kindling an already burning feeling that I've harbored toward him. I quickly looked away for fear that it might consume me. Hatred was a mild word for him. He was in my bloodstream like a disease, a flesh-eating virus eating me from the inside.

I blew out a frustrated breath that earned me a glance from the man who occupied my thoughts. I looked outside and focused on the sights, holding my contemptuous tongue.

"How old were you when you married your wife?" My sick curiosity got the better of me. Admittedly, talking about his wife was probably a less volatile subject than talking about us.

"Twenty," he replied as he deftly maneuvered the car down the slope. "We made sense – us, Lauren and I." He threw me a sideways glance, as if he wanted to judge my reaction. "Business, it was all there ever was." He didn't broaden the subject but confirmed what Esme had mentioned before.

An awkward silence descended upon us, as my thoughts traveled down the road I'd rather not venture on.

"Did you love her?" I asked quietly; knowing it would hurt if he said yes, and anticipating he would say no just to save himself.

He was silent for a moment, and then he sighed. "No," he admitted.

"Don't lie to me, Edward," I said sharply. "Don't ever lie to me again. If you want to marry me, you'll tell me the truth for the rest of our miserable lives."

His shoulders slumped, resigned. "I am telling you the truth," he said soberly. "Lauren was everything I needed at the time when I thought marriage would complete my life. She was breathtaking to look at and she knew everything there was to know about being married to someone like me. She came from a family in my circle. And for one second, I thought that I couldn't have asked for the perfect life."

I welcomed the sting of his words. It would be pointless to deny that I was jealous of his dead wife.

"Years passed and she became a fixture in my life, literally like furniture. Something I needed but was replaceable, nonetheless. Do you know how sick it made me feel when she fell ill?" He asked through gritted teeth.

I remembered the emptiness of his green eyes, the loneliness that he never spoke of. How long he had felt that way, I wondered.

"Did she love you?" I asked with compassion. Against my better judgment, my heart ached at the lonely existence they had shared.

He laughed harshly. "Lauren couldn't love anybody," he said in a bitter tone. "She loved the life I gave her. Every time I looked into her eyes, all I could see was perpetual boredom. I think we both checked out of our marriage long before she got sick."

I got a flash of what our future would be like. How long would it take for him to break? How far would we have to go until we could never go back? And suddenly, all the hurt that I wanted to inflict on him didn't seem so potent in the light of day.

I shut my eyes and banished the thought of not seeing it through.

"Did she have lovers?"

He didn't answer right away; his eyes revealed nothing.

"Maybe," he said impassively. "There was a point in our lives where we just became business partners." He looked at me then, his eyes seeking mine. "We just got too comfortable with our situations – friendly but not in the way best friends should be, do you know what I mean?" He looked at me askance, and then continued on. "Look, I could tell you all the things that could excuse my behavior toward you – or even an excuse for the way I let my marriage fell apart. But the fact of the matter is, I can't undo all the things I did. I did what I did and have been suffering greatly for it," he turned away, his eyes back on the road.

"For a while there, there wasn't much to look forward to. And now that you're here giving me a second chance…well, it's all I could hope for. I don't care if you're in this to punish me or whatever your reasons are. All I care about is that tiny hope that one day, you'll forgive me and we could actually make this marriage work, without guilt, without the sins of the past haunting us all the time."

I nodded mindlessly.

But an errant thought irritated me. They were married for years without having any emotional connection. I tried to bite my tongue but morbid curiosity won out.

"And so you turned to other women?" I murmured; hoping it was soft enough that he didn't hear me.

"Yes," he responded brusquely. "You wanted honesty from me, Bella. And if it makes me look like an even bigger asshole to you, then forgive me. Because I will do whatever it is you ask of me."

Pin pricks of hurt poked at my chest. "Did you love any of them?" I asked grudgingly.

"No," he swallowed thickly before her turned his head to face me. "I'm not going to lie to you and say I didn't want any of them. I did – some more than others. I have a normal appetite for sex, Isabella. But love? No. There wasn't anyone but you."

"Don't talk about me," I said curtly.

"Sorry," he drew in his lip and threw a series of cautious glances at me.

The traffic was thickening as we approached city limits. For someone who claimed to have not driven for a while, he drove with expertise and finesse. From time to time, his eyes would flicker into mine with an expression akin to that of reverent wonder. Like he couldn't believe I was sitting there beside him…or that he was scared I would vanish at any point in time.

I yawned, fatigue suddenly seeping from every pore of my skin. This weekend has been a nightmare – emotionally draining. I leaned back fully on my seat, my head cradled in the lush leather head rest. I closed my eyes for a second, hoping that a shut eye would banish the imminent headache that was coming.

"Where do you live?" I heard him asked.

I mumbled my address, already adrift in a shallow slumber. The stress of the entire weekend tired me out. A few minutes later, I felt his hand stroking my cheek but I couldn't bring myself to move. I nuzzled his hand, half-asleep.

He woke me up sometime later. I jerked away when I realized his face was much too close for my sanity.

"Are you hungry yet?" He asked. "I just realized that you haven't eaten and I didn't want to take you home hungry."

I blinked the sleepiness away and found the pounding in my head had gotten worse. I looked around dazedly at the stillness of our surroundings. The car was parked across from Monsoon, an upscale Asian bistro on 19th Avenue. My stomach rumbled at the thought of gourmet Oriental food.

"I guess that answers my question," he smirked. The familiar smile brought an inexplicable ache in my chest, which I hid by looking away.

I ran my hand through my hair in an attempt to tame the wayward strands and looked down at my wrinkled dress with a grimace. I wanted to ask him if I looked passable for the place but I refused to let him see the same uncertain and hesitant girl of the past.

I shook off the last remnants of sleep and plastered an indifferent smile on my face.

"I could eat," I mumbled through another yawn.

It was barely eleven in the morning so the place was just starting for fill up for the brunch crowd. A most amiable hostess whose eyes kept straying to Edward seated us right away.

I wanted to claw her eyes out and suddenly froze at the thought.

Sometime between knowing how harmfully woven my life had always been to Edward and my resignation to a marriage of farce, I also realized that there was a possessive part of me that was always, and would always be reserved for Edward.

My appetite fled like a thin paper to the wind. I dawdled between taking small bites and pushing my food around the plate. My head was still pounding to beat of my pulse. In the meantime, Edward looked up occasionally and would frown from my lack of enthusiasm over the food.

"Do you want to order something else?" he asked for what seemed like the hundredth time that morning.

I sighed and put my chopsticks down. "No, it's fine." I looked up and met his eyes; wariness dimmed the green reflection in them.

"Can I ask you something?" He spoke nervously.

I shrugged my shoulders; pretending to appear apathetic when deep inside, I fought for every ounce of jubilation that I should've felt but didn't. This defeated Edward would take a whole lot of getting used to.

"Were you and Jasper ever lovers?" He asked warily.

I looked him straight in the eye. "Does it matter?"

He smiled; the bitter kind that added an edge and shadowed the beauty it usually held. "You know it does," he said.

"How many women have you had, Edward?" I asked flatly.

He heaved an aggravated sigh. "Look, don't ask me to be rational when it comes to you. You don't know what it's like to know that other men have had you. But if you and Jasper were ever together, it would kill me painfully…slowly."

I looked at him without speaking, watching the darkness cloud his handsome face. Deep inside, a tiny flicker of sick enjoyment danced around the edges of my merciless heart.

"You shouldn't have told me that, Edward," I began softly. "One of my goals in life is to see you bleed to death."

Hurt shaded his eyes, blinking as if he could send it all away. "Then watch my face when you tell me you slept with Jasper," he uttered the words slowly, with utter difficulty.

And I did – with the fervor of an art devotee to a painting. I scrutinized the colors of pain and the textures of his regrets. It was all there, on his face for me to revel at. But yet again, I couldn't bring myself to lie.

"I didn't," and the darkness slowly eased from his face, like a moving storm swept by the wind. "I can promise you this, Edward," I went on. "I'll never lie to you. When I do go to bed with another man, I'll tell you."

"And watch my face," he whispered.

"Ardently," I said with a sneer.

"Don't, Isabella," he muttered. "You're hurting yourself as much as me. Don't you see that?"

The bravado slipped away slowly. He was right. I was hungry for revenge no matter how much it would cost me – and Edward offered it every time he looked at me. The mechanics was too easy, the execution, however, was painful to see through.

I couldn't swallow another morsel of food after that.

Another hour later and he had the car parked right in front of Carmen's. His apprehension was apparent with the restless drumming of his fingers on the steering wheel. When he didn't make a move to unbuckle my seatbelt, I searched the door and the dash for the button. When that proved to be a fruitless task, I felt for a latch at the end of the nylon harness. I gave up when I found none.

"Edward, are you going to unbuckle me, or what?"

He finally looked at me, the palpable hunger was intense enough that I had to look away to hide the burning of my face.

"When will I see you again?" he asked. His hand hovered over my arm, then fisted just before he could make contact.

"I'll call you," I said quietly.

He reached into the inside pocket of his jacket for his phone then handed it to me. I quickly punched in the number at the apartment and returned the mobile back to him.

"Just call it once and I'll save your number." I shifted uneasily at my seat. He was boring a hole on my face, staring without blinking.

I sighed. It was awkward. "Now, can I can go?"

"You won't change your mind about marrying me, will you?" He was scared. I see it in eyes and the grim set of his mouth.

"I won't change my mind," I said with a bite of impatience. A few more awkward moments then he depressed a button on the side of my seat. I finally figured out how to unbuckle myself.

Finally free from Edward, I didn't waste any time opening my door. He was taking my belongings out of the trunk when I saw Carmen waving furiously at the window. She stopped mid-wave when she saw Edward walking around to my side. I looked down at my feet so she wouldn't notice my embarrassment. I left with one man and came back with another. I could only imagine what was going through her head.

"You live here?" Edward asked with a horrified tone.

"Yes," I said defensively. "For your information, it's a great place."

He nodded acquiescingly. "Can I come up?"

"I don't think so," I said, throwing cautious looks to where Carmen was still gawking.

"Can I at least walk you up?" He started guiding me toward the door of the café, to which I unconsciously pulled him behind the building to a private stairway that lead to the apartment upstairs, away from Carmen's probing eyes. I'd only let him as far as the hallway that lead to my apartment.

We stood there for what felt like forever; calculating each other's next moves. We were ensnared in an awkward duel. I was ready on the defensive while he gauged and analyzed his next move.

"I really have to go," I finally said, reaching for my luggage that he seemed to have grown an attachment with.

"When can I expect to hear from you?"

"I don't know, Edward," I snapped, irritated. "I'll call you when I've done what I needed to do, okay?"

He finally handed me my luggage after a few more wary looks. As I tried to turn away from him, he grabbed my arm and I stumbled on his chest. He grabbed the back of my head and tilted my shocked, angry face toward his awaiting lips. He kissed me hard at first – the kind that bespoke of his frustration; the kind that wanted to consume, the kind that I've missed…terribly.

My hand dropped the luggage and instantly grabbed on his jacket, pulling our bodies even closer. A flood of remembrance suddenly overcame my traitorous body; the familiarity of his touch, the electric current that zipped through my system, his taste. Everything came back in an instant that I had no choice but to respond. My hand traveled up his chest to his hair where I pulled with all the anger I could muster. But instead of feeling pain, he groaned then backed me against the wall.

His response was instantaneous, explosive. He lifted me up so our faces were at level. My legs snaked around his waist, bringing his hardness to my soft warmth. And then it was my turn to groan, out of the same pleasure, out of frustration, of anger and shame. His lips devoured mine with the same fervor as before, with the tongue that expertly sought every dark recesses of my mouth in the most hedonistic way possible. Time froze and all that seemed to matter was the incredible feeling of pleasure toeing the line of pain.

Then he stopped.

He breathed haggardly against my neck, planting soft kisses and mumbling his apologies.

I couldn't move; horrified by my adverse reaction. Every harsh breath was a testament to how easily he could have me. I was angrier with myself more than I was angry with him. I closed my eyes tightly and took deep, even breaths. When I was able to conjure up some semblance of control, I unwrapped my body from his and staggered to pick up my luggage.

"Bella," I'd heard him call. I fumbled with my purse in search of my house keys. I was shaken and ashamed. For all my talks of how he wouldn't be able to touch me, it was incredibly clear that my defenses were flimsy.

It took all my resolve and what was left of my dignity not to flee as if fire were licking my heels. I unlocked the door to the apartment, surprisingly, in one try, then slammed it closed to keep him out. Fortunately, he didn't even bother to try. Moments later, I heard his footsteps fading down the hallway.

The next day, I found myself surrounded by the familiar cacophony of nature – back in Forks, with cocoons of butterflies fluttering open in my stomach.

Charlie was predictably not in the house but in his studio, painting with the temperament of a man possessed…as always. I watched him for a while, considering he didn't even noticed he wasn't alone in the room anymore. There were speckled of white paint all over his plaid shirt, goops of red on his hair and streaks of blue running down his arm. I wish I could take a photograph of him. The passion evident on his face reminded me of a virtuoso, lost in the fury and zeal of his music.

I cleared my throat when I decided I've watched him enough – but still, he didn't even look up from the canvass.

"Dad," I called softly.

He finally looked at me, his eyebrow lifting. "What are you doing here?" He asked, surprised by my sudden appearance. "Don't you have school today?" He scrutinized my face, his features mellowing with worry. "Are you okay? You look like death." He carefully set down his palate and brush then picked up a rag that smelt of turpentine.

"Did I miss your phone call, or something?"

I just shook my head, re-arranging the muddled thoughts inside my head.

"I have to talk to you," I said quietly. "Come into the house. I'm in need of tea."

He followed me without a word, the distinct smell of paint permeating the air around us.

He sat down and watched me flutter in the kitchen. His face, etched with worry lines and age. More than ever, the heavy weight of what I was about to do rested on my guilty conscience. How could I put myself through this again? How could I do this to Charlie? He barely uttered a peep while I fumbled around making our teas. He had incredible patience – which, once upon a time, he wasn't known for. But I could almost hear the quiet whirl of the gears inside his head.

"It's too bad you don't drink, Dad," I said with a trembling smile.

"I'm gonna need some?" he asked, his eyes steady on my face.

I swallowed a lump down my throat then drew a cleansing breath. I could no longer prolong the agony of what I came to do.

"It's Edward, isn't it?" he blurted without preamble.

I gave him a watery smile. "You're so intuitive for your own good sometimes."

"I knew as soon as you came in," he looked outside absent-mindedly. "He's written all over your face."

I summon the words with staggering difficulty. "He's Jasper's brother."

He whistled under his breath. "Jasper is the guy you've been going out with the last few weeks, right?" He looked at me then, his face was a mixture of awe and stricken worry. "Small world." He added quietly.

"Edward lied about his name. Jasper invited me to meet his family and all of a sudden he was there – drunk and apologizing and a complete mess."

Charlie's eyes grew dark. "I see," he said tightly but he saw so much of the words that I've hinted at. It was as if he knew.

"Jasper found your painting in Edward's room and we had no choice but to tell him how that came to be," I choked on the words, remembering the humiliation of telling him the truth.

He put down his cup, staring at the scarred table with an intense scrutiny. "I'd guessed he had it," he mumbled.

"How come you didn't say anything?" I was staggered.

"We never talk about him, remember? It was the first thought that came into my head, for some odd reason. I don't know why someone would spend so much on that painting – more than what the asking price were."

"He had it hanging over his bed," I said passionately. "He looked at it day in and day out…H-how could he do that? To punish yourself daily like that!" I could picture the painting clearly. The stormy night, the anguished faces and the heartbreaking scene of a woman who'd lost the will to live, all because a man broke her heart. Stupid girl.

Along the way, something changed inside Charlie; like a sudden illumination came over him.

"I guess he wanted to share your pain," he whispered. "I never thought for one second that he didn't care about you. Otherwise, he wouldn't have told me the truth and we wouldn't have been any wiser. I just wish you were stronger. That is the thing that I couldn't forgive him for. He didn't think about the consequences." He added the last words with an angry fervor.

"Since you've been away, I've thought a lot about what had happened. And of course, I blamed myself for not being the father that you deserved. Maybe if I've given you the opportunity to live and see the world, you would have been able to see through a person, you wouldn't have fallen easily for him. But I can't forget the fact that you were only seventeen and he's ten years your senior. In my books, he's a criminal."

The white around his eyes were red, while his hands curled into fists in contained anger.

"He's been drinking himself to death over the last year."

Charlie nodded. "I guess that's one way to end your pain."

I remembered my mother's death and Charlie's coping mechanism then was not to die slowly. He buried himself alive in his work, slowly forgetting about a child who'd just lost a mother. Somehow, it didn't hurt as much anymore.

"And what about his wife?"

"She's been dead before he even met us."

"I guess he could've told me that then. Why couldn't he have just protected your reputation and married you, if that was the case?"

"But he didn't! And that's what I can't forgive him for. He was selfish – still is! All he cared about was - " I cut myself off, as I'd realized that we've had this talk before and that I was sick of repeating myself.

"Of course, you're right," he appeased me. "Of course you are and Edward knows it. Why else do you think he's been putting himself through this self-flagellation?"

I stared at the table. The hardest part is yet to come. But before I could speak, Charlie asked, "What about his brother? This…Jasper, was it?"

I smiled wearily. "That's over."

"What happened?" He asked concern in his face.

"Dad, didn't you just hear what I said? He found out about Edward and I. He'll never forgive me…or his brother for that matter."

He touched my hand, his fingers tender. "Bella, never is a long time." He said, smiling ever so slightly. "You'll see. Besides, if he can't see that none of these was your fault then it's probably for the best that you've separated ways. You're still young; you just need to learn from your mistakes and when you feel like Edward is sneaking up on you, just remember what it felt like."

"I'm going to marry Edward." I said in a rush of words that were barely incomprehensible. Then closed my eyes and waited for the explosion from Charlie. His fingers froze then withdrew. His breaths came in pants that reminded me of a person on the verge of an asthma attack.

"I'm going to marry him." I repeated quietly.

"Why?" His eyes were sad, as if he was watching me disintegrate piece by piece.

I opened my eyes then looked at Charlie straight on. "I want to punish him," I said with determination. "I want to put him through hell." To my ears, I sounded like a petulant child. Someone who'd not been given what she wanted.

Charlie smiled sadly. "I think he's been there and back, Bells."

My face was a bitter mask. I couldn't tell him that the sadistic side of me wouldn't rest until I bear witness to his suffering.

"You're only going to hurt yourself by hurting Edward, you know that don't you?"

I shrugged. "I can stand it if he can," I said flippantly.

"I don't give a damn if Edward can take it or not," he retorted with a slam of his fist on the table. "It's you I'm worried about. You'll destroy yourself if you go through this. Hate is like acid, it'll eat away at your flesh. Don't you think you've had enough suffering?"

He stood up; the crash of the chair against the floor jolted me from the haze of my despicable plans. His face was red with anger as he paced the length of our meager kitchen. "This is not you," he mumbled under his breath. "The girl I know was sweet, generous, loving child," he continued to pace the floor, once in a while looking at me with wild eyes, all the while breaking my already thinned resolve. "It's my fault…it's my entire fault…I can't believe this is what had become of you."

"Dad," I bit my lip; staving the tears at bay. "I am not fit for anybody else. Can't you see that? No one would want me and – and as sick as this may sound, I don't want anybody else."

"But don't you understand? I did the same thing to you. I shut you in a prison where the world can't touch you and now you're going to do the same thing. Only it will be worse because your prison sentence would be to a broken man whom you've vowed to destroy. I don't care how many times you've convinced yourself that this isn't as screwed up as the life you've known before Edward or how much you want to be with him – or worst, how much you think all of this is right…it's just not something a decent person would do!"

"Have you forgotten what he did to me, Dad?" I yelled. "I know what I'm doing is wrong. But I have no choice. He offered it himself. I'm going to see through it. I know it will kill me, kill us. But I can't back out. Now that he's back, I can't rest until I see the same pain I see in that painting!"

I stood up and took our cups to the sink. The tension in the air and Charlie's desperation to stop me from making another mistake were palpable in the air.

"You always have a choice, Bella," he whispered. "I've never had the opportunity to interfere in your life. But hear me now, please don't do this."

When he didn't hear a response from me, he sighed at the futility of his warnings.

"I've made up my mind, Dad," I said after a few moments. "Edward still has a long way to fall and I want to be there front and centre to watch him."

Charlie drew a harsh breath, and then rubbed his face with his paint-speckled hand.

"Child, you love him," he said, matter-of-factly.

I can only give him a bitter smile. "I do…passionately," I said. "Ironic, isn't it?"

He got up and walked out of the room.

I fled to my room. Since I've unloaded all the gory details to Charlie, all that was left was an empty, hollowed feeling – heavy and not at all like the feeling you get after unburdening yourself of a sin you've committed.


Nothing like that at all.