I had finally given in. My ridiculously tamed hair, new tie, and shiny shoes sat with me behind the executive editor's desk in the newsroom of the New York Times, global edition.
No longer the Daily Globe's special correspondent, instead of travelling to another dangerous coverage right now, I was boring myself to death reviewing a piece from our guy in Tokyo. Since we had people all around the world, I wrote, edited texts, and coordinated special pieces from our base in New York. Oh, have I already said I was bored to death? Yeah. I don't think this guy could be more like a bureaucrat if he tried.
That's the exact reason why I resisted so many times when Carlisle offered me this job over the years. But that was pre recession times. Pre everyone-being-fired-and-you-getting-an-unbelievably-over-priced-offer times. Pre weird-me-wanting-to-settle-down-and-have-a-ridiculous-American-dream-life times. Pre Bella times.
The woman changed my life in so many ways; there isn't a number to define it.
"Three hundred!" an intern shouted, as if it was lottery prize worth it.
Three hundred lives, you moron, I thought to myself. I bet the little sucker had never seen what three hundred human bodies looked like two days after a disaster like this one. And I knew that three hundred, as deaths toll was not even close. I bet tomorrow they will be assuming over thirteen hundred. And this number will get closer and closer to ten thousand by the hour. Now, that's more what we were used to see in situations like this.
By we, I mean Bella and I.
Last year was crazy. After Haiti, we covered the earthquake in Chile. Then, the Western Australian storms. Every time, it was sadness all around us. People losing everything: their loved ones, their houses, their entire cities. And I couldn't find in me to be sad. I was falling in love.
What a pussy.
I had sympathy, of course. I was no famous reporter, Jack Shafer with his "sorry pal, but your dying is my living" speech. Well, not anymore. Again… Bella.
But how could I not be a pussy? The girl is amazing. Not only beautiful and sexy, but clever, self-assured, sensible, and her photos? I can't even think about them. She was able to put her artsy ways into photojournalism with a never-before-seen elegance. The girl controlled light – I used to make jokes about it with her.
My little light magician. At one point, I thought I should write less, so our editor could show off her best ones more in the pages. Of course, she wouldn't let me do that.
Man, I miss her by my side.
Yet, what am I doing right now while she's on her way to a seriously dangerous crisis in Libyan territory? I was counting wrong numbers, coordinating the info-graphic geek maps- otherwise they'd find a way of putting Minamisanriku on the west coast of Japan, and editing cliché articles that did little to reveal real suffering.
Yeah, easy to criticize, not so easy doing it differently.
I looked at the clock and thought that maybe I'd be able to call and catch her before her plane left.
It went straight to voice mail.
Shit. That's what you get for being an ass. When she told me she was going to cover the protests and revolts in fucking Libya, I couldn't tame the anger, the fear … so stupid.
I did say she should think better, that it was dangerous, and that she didn't have to go. What I did not say was that I was proud of her, that it was a once in a lifetime opportunity, and that she deserved it.
Now I wish I could twist my own words.
Of course she snapped, she said I was being selfish and I pretended to be offended. Just pretended. Because she was right.
I ended our supposed lovely and celebratory lunch with a frown. And she tried to cheer me up. She tried to cheer me up.
I don't deserve this girl.
Despite that, I couldn't help when things took an interesting turn later that night.
I came home and she was putting clothes into a suitcase. The first thing that came to my mind was "fuck my life, she's leaving me". I could feel it in the pitch of my empty stomach. She was the best thing that had ever happened to me. And she was leaving.I had no idea what to do.
One last time, I thought.
So, I approached her from behind. She breathed deep. We weren't touching, but I could feel her heat. By the goose bumps on her skin, I knew she could feel me too. My fingers followed a path along her skin from her arms, over her shoulder, to the nape of her neck. I stepped closer; she had stilled what she was doing.
I leaned down and whispered over her ear, "please, girl … don't. Bella …"
I wish I could say more, but that would not be possible without chocking and making a fool out of myself. Since I was trying to convince her to stay, not to run away for good … I decided to shut up.
She turned to face me, but did nothing to get rid of my grip.
"Edward, we had this conversation earlier. I don't want to add anything more to hurt-"
Smashing my lips against hers, I kissed her. I didn't want to hear the words I was sure she was going to say, words to finish me, to break me in pieces, words that would hurt us even further. No way back.
I tried to take it slow and be gentle, but I was desperate. She couldn't be leaving me, giving up on us after a single misunderstanding.
"Bella, I need you. I need you. I need you," I whispered against her lips between kisses over and over until I could feel she was as frantic as I was.
Desperation led me into making love to her up against the wall again, like our first time. Except this time, we were in our closet, not inside a forbidden darkroom. Not amongst photo papers and smelly chemicals, but bathed in her perfumes and in between the clothing she was planning on to take with her.
So much could change in two years. I'd been so careful to avoid these type of… feelings. I could take being called a cold-hearted a-hole by most of the women I knew before. And this one here in my arms- for the majority of the past year we had developed the strangest passive-aggressive friendship I had never experienced, she had called me many things worse..
When we would talk about that first year, she would say we were never really friends, but frustrated lovers, who wouldn't have sex, she always defined.
"You can't say I was your friend," she said, throwing it in my face with a beautiful smile. "I hated you. Well, as much as you can hate someone you can't confess to love, not even to yourself." And we laugh.
We laugh so much.
She can't take her laughs away from me, can she?
Kissing her neck, feeling her inside with my fingertips, I get desperate and think about how this is so similar to when I took her that first time. I almost ruined the lovely blue dress I keep asking her to wear.
"Just for me, please."
"But you hate this dress."
"Yes, I do. As much as I can hate anything I love so much." And she laughs more.
I thought I couldn't. For what I did for a living, the crazy way I used to spend my life, I couldn't allow myself to fall in love. I'd never missed it. How can you miss something you never had?
But now I have. And I fear missing it.
For the first time in my life, I fear.
Not the horrors of war.
I fear missing her.
Her clothes on the floor are our nest and I pull her to the ground with me, where I push inside her and every moan becomes my bitter-sweet joy.
I want to say, "stay here with me", but the fear of rejection in my guts only allow the last words to form, which I whisper over and over, until we do. She does. With me.
I kiss her hands, her shoulders, her face.
"I thought you were going in three days." I try.
"Yeah, I was just … you know, organizing stuff."
"You still don't know how long?"
She shakes her head no.
"And when you come back you're going to …"
"What do you mean?"
She looked at me with startled brown eyes and I'm the one without words.
"I'll keep working with Jasper on special coverings. Why? Do you have different plans?"
"No, no. I just … I saw you folding so many clothes and emptying the drawers …"
"So? I'm picking some clothes. It's been a while since our last trip and you know how I hate packing. I've been so tired and I thought, maybe starting early would …"
"Yeah, yeah. Your regular traveling clothes will do, the climate there is mostly dry."
We kept on with small talk and I was relieved for my wrong assumptions, but the way we missed the you're-going-away-for-the-first-time-without-me, who's-going-to-take-care-of-you, I-don't-need-protection debate, only created more unease.
Sitting in the newsroom, editing these pointless articles, an even bigger unease settles over me as I remember those last days.
I tried to get in touch with her again, no success.
If her phone isn't working, how is her editor getting in touch with her?
Well, that I was about to discover. Reaching for my phone, I dialed his number.
"Aro, Edward Cullen here . . . No, I don't want my job back, you asshole . . . Yes, everything is fine . . . Very boring . . . I know . . . I know you said so . . . No, I don't care . . . . Ok, listen. I'm trying to reach Bella and . . . On her way, I know, but . . . What? Singapore is a long ways away from Libya, Aro. Why the hell did you send her there, Aro?"
I breathed deep, feeling my anger over flowing. Why would he send her there? And why was I just now finding out? Bottling my anger, I collected myself to continue my conversation.
"Yes, I'm calm, now. Ok, I'll listen . . . Yes, Yes . . . Ok, thanks for the information and oh, yes . . . Fuck you."
The fucker. I kept replaying his words and they made perfect sense, but that wouldn't calm me down.
She was on her way to Singapore, to take ship to Japan. Not a regular ship either, but an aircraft carrier.
I couldn't really blame Aro. Last night's tsunami in Japan, took the Libyan crisis from its priority place in international agenda. But to change Bella's plans and send her that way last minute?
The worst part is that I doubt that she had complained. My once self-conscious, safety-seeker was now an adventurous girl. She probably liked the new challenge, so spontaneous.
She looked so fragile when she left, breakable even. But in the same time that she's so tiny and small, the ever present strength coming from her made me think twice before letting the protective side in me come across; She could take care of herself. That was a big challenge for me this last year. It was second nature to care for her in every way. Since she surprised me in Port-au-Prince, that was an impulse I tried to refrain. Yeah, some things are easier than others.
She had been particularly frail these last couple of days, feeling dizzy and getting sick every morning. She tried to hide from me and before I could suggest that she postponed the trip, she argued that it was part of the job.
I just renewed all my vaccines doses and you know yourself how that can be annoying, she said. Yes, that I knew.
The world was buzzing around me and I was stuck. I had to get some work done.
But the next article I opened didn't digress my train of thought. It brought the threat of a nuclear disaster, with post-Hiroshima-Nagasaki disasters comparable to Chernobyl to my mind. I immediately thought of the extensions of a tragedy like that, the possibility of long-term genetic defects, considering even mutations among children born years after.
How many women survived the disaster only to be presented to such challenges years from now? And my girl was voluntarily one of them.
Then another thought hit me like a pile of bricks…
I was up and on my way to my boss' office before taking a second breath.
"Carlisle, I'm going to Japan."
"Whoa. Good morning to you too, Edward. Now, please take a sit and let's discuss this."
"No, there's no time. The government is sending aircraft carriers from all over the globe to help and there's one leaving Singapore in less than thirty hours."
"I know, that's what my White House sources said, there will be a presidential announcement soon. But why does this concern you?"
"The Daily Globe will have someone there to accompany the troops, their Humanitarian Aid, and the entire situation in Japan ... We need to be there too."
"We have someone in Tokyo already; you give me one good reason why I have to send someone else? And why that person should be you?"
All it took was showing him the articles we were being sent so far and how I thought they should have been done. It wasn't so difficult to convince Carlisle, he was after all the one behind my big offer to work here in the first place.
And it helps that I didn't have to pull the my-girlfriend-is-on-her-way-to-a-nuclear-threat-and-she-might-be-pregnant card. No one wants to pull that card.
After a tense 22 hours long Thai Airways flight, I got to Singapore with nothing but a briefcase and my very creased outfit. At least I had a toothbrush.
The half an hour cab ride downtown to the port felt like three minutes. It was a sunny, eighty-degree day outside, but I felt nothing. I only stopped to realize I was in another country, on the other side of the globe, when I was being led inside the aircraft carrier Blue Ridge.
An impulsive decision had brought me here, alone. And I hoped a more rational one would allow me to go back home with the best part of my life in my arms.
A/N: the last part should be here by now, but RL sucks. It's all done in my head, but I'll only write after my finals. Hit story alert if you can wait until mid July and… I'm sorry?
My French Twin is the best prereader ever. RobstenCuteness' banner inspired me (check on my profile). And Jess (kharisma2) pretty much saved this o/s with her beta skills. I flove you, girls.
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