The story deals with adult subject matter and occasional description of explicit sexual abuse. Not meant for underage readers. Read at your own peril. And oh, Twilight belongs to SM. This is just a fanfiction.
"Bella, breakfast is almost ready! Would you like to come down to the kitchen? Maybe you could help me with the eggs?" Sylvia called out in her typical chirpy, sing-song voice, standing at the bedroom door. She called her 'Bella'. No one else did that in the house. No one other than her husband that is.
She sat by the large bay window, curled up into herself, with her knees close to her chest. She hoped against hope that maybe if she didn't answer, Sylvia would give up and go away. Of course, her hopes were for naught. Sylvia wouldn't leave until she'd made sure Bella had eaten a properly balanced breakfast that was custom made for her body's nutritional needs. That's what she was hired for. Sylvia Cope was her personal, live-in nutritionist. One of the perks of being married to a rich man, she thought bitterly.
Surely enough, Sylvia walked into the bedroom a few moments later, "Come on Bella, I made your favorite, bacon and hash browns. You'll like it. Please, just give it a chance," she said with a bright smile, as if she was talking to a child. Bella hated to be treated like that.
I am not a child! I am twenty two for god's sake!
A twenty two year old, ex-alcoholic who is incapable of taking care of herself.
She knew Sylvia was only trying to help, that it was her job to make sure she ate at regular intervals so that she wasn't below her minimum acceptable body weight anymore, and more importantly, so that she didn't look sosick to the outside world. She really didn't want to embarrass her husband any more than she already had. But these days the idea of sustenance of any kind made her cringe. Food meant a longer existence; an existence she was no longer too keen on. But like every other aspect of her life, she had given up the right to have any say in the matter a long time ago.
Trying to keep her revulsion out of her face, she appealed to Sylvia for leniency, "I'm really not hungry right now; could I please come down in an hour? You made me a really big dinner last night, remember? I'm so full still. Please." She thought reminding Sylvia of the large steak dinner would buy her some time. Not today.
"Bella, that was more than fourteen hours ago. It's almost noon now. If I let you wait any longer, you'll be complaining about lunch. Didn't we agree, no more skipping meals? Please, Bella. I'll eat with you, just come downstairs with me. We will use the sunroom today, what do you say to that?" Sylvia said in a motherly voice.
They'd had a differently worded version of this very same argument nearly every day now for five months. Sylvia never gave an inch. That's why she was so good at what she did. She had an advanced degree in nutrition, and was trained to counsel patients with eating disorders. She'd been persuaded to take an unplanned sojourn from her flourishing practice for an inordinate amount of money to be Bella's personal nutritionist slash caregiver. Though she had the credentials to offer counseling, her work with Bella was strictly limited to nutrition. A therapist, Dr. Angela Weber, came by twice a week to tend to Bella's emotional and addiction issues. The very best money could buy.
Why check into rehab when rehab can come to you?
Bella closed her eyes and exhaled in defeat. She got up and walked downstairs with Sylvia.
"Do you want to help with the eggs, Bella? No? Ok, then just go to the sunroom, everything else is served. I will bring over the eggs in a jiffy." Sylvia pushed her gently in the direction of the room while she disappeared in the kitchen with a smile.
Bella made her way to the sunroom, rightfully called for its brightness and light, and took a seat at the table closest to the glass paneled wall. Once upon a time, this was her most favorite part of the house. She could vividly recall the day she'd brought her mother to the house, giving her the grand tour. It was soon after her husband had confessed his love for her. Renee was ecstatic; she took everything in with a glint in her eyes and couldn't stop talking about how happy she was for her daughter's good fortune. She couldn't believe her luck; to be invited into this grand palace as a guest. It seemed like a lifetime ago. Bella's parents lived in a nice ocean-side house in Florida now, courtesy of her husband of course. She hasn't seen them in nearly a year.
Her thoughts were interrupted by Sylvia's vivacious voice, "Here you go. Tell me what you think of the hash browns, I tried a secret ingredient. If you can guess what it is, there will be a reward," she said as she sat down the tray with eggs, and made a plate for Bella with all the right picks of food that made her breakfast today. It was part of her techniques, to engage Bella in inane conversations about food, in the hopes that it will trigger an interest in eating. Bella hated these childish ploys and never responded, but it didn't stop Sylvia from trying. She placed the plate in front of Bella before serving herself and sitting down across from her.
"Go ahead, tell me what you think. You have three guesses, and the reward is I won't bother you again until dinner time. That's right, you will get a free pass for lunch today. But only if you can guess it right," Sylvia said with her trademark smile. This was a new bargaining chip. Sylvia never gambled with the main meals. Bella smiled at the thought of how clever and effective the trick was. It succeeded in making her ponder if she'd be able to guess it right and win some alone time for herself that day.
She looked down at her plate and nearly choked. She couldn't bring herself to eat. Not even for the lure of an afternoon to herself, without having Sylvia or Rodney, her personal security detail, trailing her around. At least Rodney never came inside the house. A day without having to fight a battle over a meal would be good.
She didn't know when this shift took place in her; when it was that she stopped feeling hunger pangs. Was it before she'd started drinking? She couldn't be sure. All she ever felt now was empty, but the idea of filling the void with food was unbelievably painful. Food meant a longer life with clearer thoughts, waking up to more days of emptiness, and more nights without him. It meant vaster grounds for her guilt-ridden mind to wander and forage for more reminders of how completely she'd destroyed everything.
Noticing her lack of initiative, Sylvia prodded her gently, "Just take a few bites, sweetheart. You're getting healthier every day; you've made so much progress. You need to keep it up, honey. I know you want to get better. You told me so. Bella, you need to eat. Please try."
Bella looked up, silently begging her with lost, sad eyes. She didn't say anything, words were useless. She knew she'd have to give in eventually. Her husband was very clear when Sylvia and Dr. Weber were hired that he expected her to cooperate fully in getting her weight back to normal and quitting alcohol. She of course acquiesced; she'd never disobey him. She just didn't know how to cooperate fully with the therapist when she had to be selective about how much she could share about her personal life. That dilemma aside, she'd done everything he wanted. She hadn't touched alcohol since she had been released from the hospital six months ago, she diligently sat through the twice a week therapy sessions, and ate what Sylvia placed before her, albeit with great degree of reluctance.
Seeing Bella's continued disinclination, Sylvia took a deep breath and shook her head unhappily. She didn't like what she'd have to do now to make Bella eat, but it was the only trick that seemed to persuade her reluctant patient to pick up the spoon at each meal time. "Bella, think about your parents. They miss you, you know. How will you visit them if you don't get better first? And what about your husband? He is so worried about you. He expects to see progress Bella. Do you want him to come home and sit here with you instead of me? Cause you know that will happen. If Mr. Cullen is told that you are refusing food again, he will come and oversee your every meal. Is that what you want?"
Like expected, her words had the desired effect. Bella instantly reached for her the fork and started cutting off pieces of eggs and bacon on her plate. "No, no. Please don't disturb him. I will eat. See, I'm eating," she said as she shoved down the first mouthful.
Sylvia watched her eat while picking at her own plate. It clenched her heart to see the sight before her. Bella's eyes were frantic and brimming with tears. Each spoonful a war waged and each swallow a battle won. Sylvia didn't like how Bella reacted to the prospect of her husband's presence during meal time. She'd come to suspect that there might be something sinister behind the beautiful façade of the loving and concerned husband that Mr. Cullen sported. She of course hadn't seen or heard him ever speak to Bella unkindly, and he was literally spending a fortune to ensure she regained her health, both mentally and physically. Bella herself had never once suggested anything that might imply that she was being held in this relationship against her wishes. Yet, something nagged at her heart. Something wasn't right and she couldn't put her finger on it. She wondered often if the vast age gap between the two could be a contributing factor. She could only hazard guesses, but it bothered her tremendously to see Bella suffer this way. Threat or blackmail might work in the short term, but it wasn't a healthy way to truly help someone who suffered from food issues. It felt like she was causing more harm than good by twisting Bella's hand like that. But it was made abundantly clear to her that her job with Bella was to only make sure she regained her weight in a healthy and steady fashion, by whatever means necessary. She was only answerable to Mr. Cullen, and as long as her weekly reports showed a steady upward progression in Bella's weight chart, there wouldn't be any complains. But she couldn't shake the feeling that what she was doing was wrong. She cared about Bella and she didn't like how forlorn and hopeless she looked most of the time, as if life was a burden that she was being forced to bear.
Bella ate her food with determination. The inherent repulsion her body felt to the process gave her frequent pauses when she had to stop and drink water to wash it down before resuming her meal mechanically. She couldn't taste anything; her taste buds seemed to have gone on a permanent hiatus. If she were blindfolded, would she have been able to tell what she was eating? She doubted it.
Finally, when their meal was over, Sylvia gave her a pat on the shoulder encouragingly, "Good girl! Now that wasn't so bad, was it? Can you tell what I used in the hash brown?"
Bella shook her head. She couldn't even remember what she ate moments ago, let alone how it tasted, even though the reminder sat like a thousand pound boulder in the pit of her stomach. She felt sick and defeated. She didn't like the mental acuity or clarity of recollection that came with a full stomach.
"Come on, just throw out your best guess. What have you got to lose?" Sylvia kept trying to cheer her up.
"I don't know, pepper?" Bella tried half-heartedly.
"That's hardly a secret, but at least you tried. So, guess what? You don't have to beat me off with a stick for lunch. You are off the hook for the rest of the day. We both deserve a break once in a while, don't you think?" Sylvia offered jovially.
Bella's eyes lit up for a moment at the thought before losing the light again. She nodded quietly and whispered, "Thank you."
"What do you say we go for a walk? It's a lovely day out," Sylvia hedged. They both knew that Sylvia was only trying to put a polite spin on her professional responsibility. Bella was not to be left alone for at least two hours after a meal, lest she tried to purge herself. Bella never made herself sick on purpose and Sylvia knew that by now, but she preferred to err on the side of caution. One never knew when a new symptom might manifest itself, especially given how unique Bella's case was, for unlike the majority of the sufferers of anorexia and similar afflictions, body image never played a role in her illness. She never seemed too fixated over how she looked, nor did she ever express any torrid need to be thin. She just didn't seem very interested in eating – or anything else for that matter. Not at all, in fact.
Bella didn't bother to break the illusion. She nodded and accompanied Sylvia silently for a stroll around the estate ground. The house was built on a thousand acre plot, with a hiking trail leading up to a cliff with a spectacular view. They walked together up the trail and when they came to the cliff side, Bella sat down on an outcrop of rocks, looking out to the open ocean.
"How are you Bella?" Sylvia asked meaningfully, as she sat down on a nearby rock. She'd been trying to forge a friendship with Bella for some time now, to get her to trust her. It hadn't been very successful so far but she was nothing if not persistent.
"I'm fine, you take care of me so well," Bella answered with detachment, keeping her eyes trained at the ocean.
"I know you are doing great physically. But how is the girl inside holding up? How are you doing? How are things between you and Mr. Cullen?" Sylvia tried again.
"Everything is fine, Sylvia," Bella answered with a little edge to her voice. Sylvia was veering too close to the restricted grounds. Bella wouldn't indulge her curiosities any more than she would if the questions came from a society page reporter – or her therapist even. Her husband valued his privacy dearly. She knew better than to compromise his armor.
"I understand if you don't want to open up to me. I won't pressure you, but Bella, I hope you talk to someone. Talk to Dr. Weber. Don't keep things bottled up, it's not good for you. I know you're hurting inside and…Bella, you can't just fix your body without healing your mind.
"I care about you Bella, I want you to know that. Not just as your nutritionist, but as your friend. Please don't be too proud to accept help," Sylvia said in a somber tone, hoping she was getting through to the younger woman, knowing most likely she wasn't.
Back at the house, Bella spent her day more or less like she had for the last six months: quietly sitting in her room, pretending to read a book, pondering her past and reminiscing the memories of love lost; wondering if her sufferings were suited for her crimes. Had her pound of flesh been exacted yet, or was there still a long way to go? It was with those thoughts that she drifted off to sleep that night.
She woke up in her bed later that night with a distinct feeling that she was no longer alone. She could sense the presence of her husband sitting across the room, watching her from his usual spot. Her breath hitched in fear. He hadn't been to this room in the last six months. She didn't even know where he spent his nights any more. Did she really think he'd leave her to her own devices forever? She was getting better physically, so it was only matter of time before he had returned to punish her for her crimes. She'd been given sufficient time to recuperate. Now it was time to return home, to the hell of her own making.
She trembled in fear, her heart threatening to beat out of her chest. She clenched her eyes shut. Maybe she was only imagining his presence. Maybe it was only a nightmare.
He is not here. He is not here.
"I know you're awake, Isabella." His deep voice shattered all false hope. She opened her eyes and finally looked at him. She could see him from where she lay, sitting in his armchair, as beautiful and regal as he looked the first time she saw him all those years ago. Only his eyes were different. They were dead; completely devoid of any hint of life or hope. They didn't even show any glimmer or anger or rage. Just hard, cold nothingness.
I did this to him. I made him this way. I deserve all the sufferings in the world.
She pushed herself off of her bed with shaky limbs and slowly stood up. She pulled down the straps of her cotton night dress over her shoulders and let it slide down her body and pull at her feet. She walked over to stand at the center of the room, right in front of her husband. She knew the drill. She'd gone through this innumerable times since the night of her wedding. For the first time in six months she desperately wished the house hadn't been made alcohol proof. She'd nearly forgotten how much harder it was facing this sober. She longed for the numbing haze intoxication used to give her. But this was her punishment, so maybe she should embrace and accept the added pain the sobriety brought. She deserved nothing less.
She stood before him, naked and ashamed, not knowing how long her husband would see fit to keep her in that spot. It could be anything from five minutes to five hours. It depended on his mood. Her heart beat fast as she fought the urge to bring up her arms to cover her breasts. He'd told her not to do that on their first night together. She was to bare herself completely, so he could see who she really was; as a way to make reparation for misleading him before. It was only fair.
She tried to focus on something mundane in the room to escape what was really happening.
Maybe he will only make me recount my crimes; maybe he won't go any further tonight.
Although, she couldn't be sure if it was any better than the other things she had to endure. Confessing to committing the ultimate act of betrayal with minute details, or accept the violence with which he took from her what he felt was rightfully his. She couldn't be sure which hurt more.
It doesn't matter; I deserve both.
She didn't know how long he sat there, watching her fidget and tremble. Then he stood up and walked over to where she stood.
Violence it was.
She took a shaky breath to brace herself, but he didn't make a move to touch her or instruct her to go to the bed. She could smell the alcohol in his breath which made her crave it again. Why wasn't he saying anything, she wondered. She wished he'd get it over with already, one way or the other. This waiting was wearing down her nerves.
Then he spoke, but the words he spoke were not the ones she expected to hear. It left her stunned and shaking.
"Happy birthday, Bella."
Then he was gone.
AN: Thank you for reading and giving me a chance. I'd love to hear your thoughts. I'll send out a sneak peek of what happens later in the story to all those who review; not necessarily from the next chapter though. Come find me on twitter if you have any questions, or just want to chat. You can find me at: (at)ToTheDreaming.
I can't post this chapter without thanking BellaScotia and mamasutra, my ff mentors in this mad, mad world of fic writing. They are brilliant authors and remarkable human beings, and most days I can't believe my luck that they bothered with me at all. Not only did they hold my hand through panic attacks, but BellaScotia preread the stuff that I have written so far. They even got their own crew involved to look over my work (Thank you Mel and Icarus!). I don't have words to thank them properly. Please check out their stories, if you are not reading them already. You can find them here:
I'd like to thank lulabelle98, my beta extraordinaire, for cleaning up my mess. I have learned from her that everything I ever knew about comma usage was wrong. I am hoping she will stick around to help me relearn everything. Check out her stories at: http:/www(dot)fanfiction(dot)net/~lulabelle98. You can follow her on twitter too: (at)lulabelle98
Sorry about the long AN. I promise to keep a lid on it in the future chapters.