AN: Thanks to babylopez2008 for beta-ing, and DreamOfTheEndless for your words of encouragement.
"Same again?" The bartender's gruff voice breaks me from my reverie.
"Uh." I look down at the glass in my hand and notice that it is drained of it's contents. When did I drink that? I clear my throat and nod for another double of Jack and coke.
What? It's been a shitty day. The worst.
I shouldn't even be here. I guess you could say I am drowning my sorrows. Lord knows I need to. Either that or I'm just fueling the Irish in me. You take your pick.
The bartender returns with my drink and places it in front of me as he takes the empty glass away.
"You wanna talk about it?" he asks on his return.
Do I look that desperate?
"You got the time?" I reply, figuring I could actually use someone to talk to to. Who knows, I might feel better after talking about it to someone who's neutral to the situation.
He looks around the room and says, "It's kind of dead in here. I'm all ears."
I chuckle quietly. What happened to me? I don't come to bars and waste my money on overpriced drinks, or talk to strangers. Hell, I don't usually drink anymore!
When did life become so... so difficult?
My hand finds it's way to the short strands of my bronze hair, something which I've been told I do when I'm stressed. I'm surprised I have any hair left. I scratch my scalp quickly and return my hand back to my fresh glass.
Do I really want to talk to a complete stranger about my life?
There's someone waiting for me at home that I should be talking to. My girlfriend of four years; Bella.
Shit... I shouldn't be here.
I drain the contents of my glass with several gulps.
"Thanks, man," I tell the bartender, "but I should be getting home. How much do I owe you?"
I settle the tab and leave quickly. Luckily our home isn't too far away. I can just walk it. I'm also hoping it'll give me some time for the effects of the alcohol to wear off. Maybe I should get some gum so she won't smell it on my breath. Yeah, that seems like a good idea.
I stop by a shop on my walk back home so I can pick some up. As I move through the aisles of the store, I find myself in the alcohol section. I usually don't walk down them, but today I decide to pick up a cheap bottle of wine to take home with me. It's one of the brands that Bella likes, though I have no idea why. Tastes like piss to me. Then again, I'm not always picky about what I drink, or used to drink. I almost end up buying a second bottle too, but reason that its best I stick with one.
As I leave the store with my purchase, my footsteps become deliberately slower. Maybe I should have stayed at the bar and waited until I knew Bella might be asleep. It almost feels as if the wine bottle in the bag I am carrying is weighing me down.
Damn! I didn't even pick up any gum. How could I forget the one thing I went to the store for? I guess I was distracted.
How much have I spent today on alcohol? I shake my head to clear the thought from my mind before my alcohol fueled brain provides the answer. I hope Bella doesn't find out. Who am I kidding? Of course she will. I wonder how long I can hide it from her.
Once I round the corner onto my street, I take my cell phone from my jeans pocket and turn it back on. I figured turning it off earlier was better than throwing it into the Puget Sound. I can't afford to buy a new phone at a time like this.
Four missed calls... all from Bella. I'm such a shitty boyfriend. Why does she put up with me? I mean, she refused to marry me so why is she sticking with me? Should I try asking her again? Not today, obviously. It seems like I have some explaining to do when I get in anyway. I ignore the missed calls and return my cell to my pocket.
I enter the brownstone cautiously and slowly climb up the flight of stairs to our door. I take my time finding the right key to put in the lock.
Will she be angry with me? Upset? Will she even be in?
The door creaks on its hinges as it opens up under my touch. Our apartment is small, but homely. Straight away, I walk into the kitchen to the right. Most of our place is open plan, so I am a little surprised to not see Bella around. I also feel a little hurt. I can't explain why. Did I really expect her to be waiting for me when I couldn't even pick up the phone?
No. I'm not an idiot... well, okay, I am about some things.
I leave the bottle of wine I bought in the refrigerator to cool for a bit. It's not as if anyone is here to drink it.
I close the door and lean against it, peering around the apartment, wondering what to do with myself. It's too quiet.
I decide to take a shower to wash away my day and clear my mind. The effects of the alcohol are wearing off now, so a shower will help to keep me awake for when Bella gets back from wherever she is. I'll give her a call once I'm showered and dressed. That way I can spend some time thinking of what I could say to her so she isn't angry with me. I know she will be, I'm just delaying the inevitable.
I head to our bedroom as our bathroom is an en-suite. I find it odd that the door to the room is closed. We never shut it. I pull down on the handle and open it slowly. Sure enough, the curtains are drawn, shading the room in darkness, and I can see the outline of a person under the covers facing away from me.
I hear myself sigh in relief as I at least now know where she is. I am glad I didn't call her as I can see her cell on the bedside table.
I hope she wasn't waiting for me to call.
Hang on, why is she in bed and asleep? It's still only the early evening. Is she sick?
Yet another reason why I am no good for her; I wasn't here when she needed me.
"Bella..." Her name escapes from my lips before I can stop myself. I don't want to wake her if she needs her rest.
I take a seat on the edge of the bed and run my fingers through her loose hair with all thoughts of taking a shower forgotten.
"Bella." I hear him whisper my name.
I can't answer. Why should I when he couldn't even answer the damn phone? I want to scream at him and demand to know where the hell he's been. I called his office but they couldn't tell me. Instead they told me he had been fired. I mean... he didn't even have the decency to tell me that. I had to find out from his secretary. Excuse me, his ex-secretary. She seemed a little too pleased with my ignorance, but Jessica has always been a bitch to me.
I tear falls from my closed eye lids. I can't even move to wipe it away. I just... I don't have the energy.
I feel the bed dip from behind me. A moment later his hand comes into contact with my hair. It angers me even more that his touch still seems to calm me.
"I love you," he says as he removes his hand. "I don't deserve you."
His words break my heart. I can feel it shattering in my chest.
This time I can't stop the silent tears that flow onto the pillow beneath me. When it all gets too much, I begin to sob. I'm not able to stop myself from doing it.
"Bella, Bella, Bella."
A strong pair of arms envelopes me while pulling me up from under the covers. Edward settles me on his lap, hugging me close while trying to calm me down. He strokes up and down my back and places soft kisses on my head. I use his shirt to dry my eyes. When my tears finally stop, I slowly look at his face. His eyes show nothing but concern for me.
"Tell me what's wrong. Tell me how to fix it," he pleads.
What's that? I smell...
"Have you been drinking?" I all but shriek as I push myself from his lap and back on to the bed. He tries to grab on to me, but clutches nothing but air instead as I am too quick for him. I think my outburst shocked him. I didn't mean to say it so loudly, but I just can't believe it. Or maybe it's the alcohol slowing his reactions down.
"It's not what you think," he finally says.
"What the hell, Edward? Have you, or have you not, had something to drink that contains alcohol? It's not a difficult question!"
I must be wrong because he still can't answer me. Instead, he plays with his hair and chews on his lower lip. I almost want to slap him. So I don't let my anger get the better of me, I quickly leave the room. I hear Edward call after me but I don't reply. He hasn't answered my question, so why should I talk to him? I'm pretty sure of the answer anyway, but I want to hear the truth from him.
I head into the kitchen and take a bottle of water from the fridge. Before I close the door, I notice something that wasn't there earlier. I pull out the bottle of wine from the shelf and stand it on the counter.
"It's your favourite," Edward says from behind me. I turn to see him standing on the other side of the island counter. At least there's some distance between us so I won't be tempted to throw the bottle at him.
"You honestly thought I'd want to drink this?"
His face crumples. "Please, just tell me what to do," he says. "How do I make this better?"
"This? What is 'this', Edward? The drinking problem you won't admit to? The fact that you were fired today and couldn't be bothered to tell me? The number of times you ignored my phone calls? Or the fact that you apparently can't even remember what today is?" My voice becomes louder with each word and I can once again feel the threat of tears. Will I ever stop crying?
"You know about that?" he asks as he places his hands in his pockets.
"Seriously? In all of that, that's the main thing you picked up on?... I honestly don't know why I bother sometimes. I'm obviously wasting my life here."
"Why are you with me if you won't marry me?" he asks in a sharp tone.
"I can't keep having the same argument with you."
I breathe in and out deeply while Edward just stares at me. If I didn't know any better, I'd say he actually seems upset. I walk away from the kitchen, leaving the water and bottle of wine behind on the counter. I slump down on our old sofa and place my head in my hands, willing the beginnings of my headache away. After a few moments, Edward decides to join me as I feel his weight on the cushion next to me. I can't bring myself to look at him though.
"I don't think I have a drinking problem," he begins.
"Please, just let me say this."
I let him have his moment. Who knows how many we have left together at this point.
"I have the odd few." I manage to stifle a scoff. "Today was a bad day. I needed something, you know?"
"Oh, I know, Edward. But the rest of us manage not to take it out on a bottle."
"Is that why you won't marry me? You think I drink too much?"
"No, I know you drink too much. You're the only one who doesn't."
"What do you want from me, Bella?" he asks, sounding annoyed. "You want me to stop drinking, I will. You want me to answer my phone, I will. I'm allowed to have a bad day."
"You really don't remember what today is?" I question him. It hurts my heart that he doesn't. I don't want to believe that he's forgotten.
I take his silence as a no.
"Remember that miscarriage I had?" I ask sarcastically. "Yeah, you said you would come with me to the doctor's office so we could discuss our options... remember that now?"
Edward places his hand on my shoulder in an attempt to get my attention. I shrug it off. I'm not in the mood for his excuses or his sympathy.
"You want to know why I won't marry you?" Here come my tears again. "I can't remember the last time you told me you loved me. I'm not someone who's into big gestures, but even I think your proposal could have been a little more romantic. I mean, do you even love me anymore?"
"How can you even ask me that? You know I love you!"
"Do I?" I ask as I finally look at him. I notice that his eyes are glazed over. Maybe I'm finally getting through to him. "Ever since the miscarriage things have been different between us."
"Of course it has! You shut yourself off, Bella. I couldn't get through to you."
"You're blaming this on me?" I shout. I stand from the sofa, eager to get away from him, and walk to the other side of the small room. "You know just how much I hated myself for losing our child. I still do."
Edward races over to my side and grabs on to my shoulders. He lowers his head so our eyes are level. "I could never hate you for what happened, Bella. You shouldn't either. It wasn't your fault. I will keep telling you that, no matter how long it takes for it to get through to you."
How could it not be my fault? I was the one carrying it. Anything that happened to it was directly due to me; it's provider, carer... mother.
"Is this why? Why you said no to my proposal?"
"Why would you want someone who can't give you a child?" I hear myself say quietly.
I immediately find myself enveloped in his arms tightly.
"I love you, Bella. You. Not your child bearing capabilities, but you as a person... for who you are. You are my life... if we can't have children then that's okay." He pulls back slightly to look at me. "If you want to be a mom, we have other options. We will keep trying too. If it's what you want, I'll make sure you have it."
I nod, not truly believing his words. My point will be proven when he wants to start a family. Getting pregnant the last time was an accident; a happy one though. I didn't know I wanted to be a mother until I thought it was going to happen. For so long I've believed I that I had nothing. I mean, losing the baby, thinking Edward wouldn't want me anymore... I even went as far as to suspect he was having an affair. He was just never around after it happened, like he didn't want to be near me. I would go to bed alone and also wake up by myself when his side had obviously been slept in.
"What are you thinking?" I hear him ask as he releases me completely from his arms. "Please let me in. Share it with me and let me help."
"What happened to your job?"
"Really? That's what you're thinking?"
I nod slowly.
He takes my hand in his and walks me back over to the couch. He sits closer to me this time and I don't feel like pushing him away like I would have done earlier.
"It was just downsizing," he says, sighing as he rubs his thumb in circles on my hand. "There's not enough money to pay everyone's wages. I wasn't the only one who was let go today. But we'll be okay for a while. I'm getting a severance package from them. That will help while I look for another job."
"Why are you being so calm about it?" The Edward I thought I knew would have blown a fuse over this. Maybe he did earlier and I just missed it?
"I realise now that there are more important things. I wasn't in a great place earlier which is why I turned off my phone. I just wanted to be alone. I can see how selfish that was now though."
"Not selfish," I say. "I see why you did it. I'm sorry I over-reacted about it. I knew you had been fired, I just..."
"It's just one thing after another, isn't it?" he concludes.
We sit in silence for a few moments, with both of us having a lot to think about. Edward moves first and pulls me into his lap.
"I hope you know just how much I love you," he says into my hair. "I can get through anything with you by my side. Losing a job isn't easy... neither was the loss of our child." He places his hand on my stomach. I lower mine to join his and link our fingers together. "But I can't lose you. I wouldn't cope... not without you."
"I had no idea what to do when it happened, Bella," he adds, talking about my miscarriage. "I felt... lost. You're the person that grounds me, but you couldn't because you were so distraught. I guess in a way I felt like I was being punished. Maybe that's selfish of me, but I just..." He sighs deeply, taking a moment to collect his thoughts and emotions. "A part of me believed you didn't want me anymore, but I know you were just grieving. I was too; I still do."
I'm surprised that his words haven't reduced me to tears this time. Instead, they fill me with some hope. Maybe I'm being the selfish one here. I guess we should have worked through this together. I just couldn't handle it at the time. I couldn't handle a lot of things.
"I can be better," he continues. "For you, and for me. I won't drink anymore. I'll look for a decent job. I'll love you like you deserve. I'll be the boyfriend that's good enough to have you in my life... maybe one day you'll let me be your husband."
I press my face into the side of his neck and breathe him in, inhaling the scent that I always associate with home. This man will always ground me, and after everything, I know he will always love me. If he says he will do something, I know he will.
After a moment, I'm strong enough to reply to him. "You had better find a job quickly."
"Why's that? Don't you want me around?" He chuckles, but I can tell he's nervous too.
"We're going to need money," I reply. "You know... if you want that wedding."
He stills beneath me. His free hand comes up to my chin and nudges it so I'm looking directly at him. His gaze is intense, as if he's searching for something.
Finally he smiles at me, a big, crooked grin.
"Marry me, Bella?"
Instead of answering him, I hold his face in both of my hands and kiss him with everything that I am.
We eventually pull away from each other, both slightly breathless.
"I'll take that as your yes then?"
I laugh for what seems like the first time in ages. I don't want to lose this feeling. For some reason, I think the rest of my life will be filled with moments like these.
"Yes... I'll marry you."