Number of Photo - 38

Story Title - Grenade

Story Rating - M

Story Summary - Take, take, take it all but you never give. Should've known you was trouble from the first kiss. Those words now haunt Edward as he tells the story of how he met Bella one morning in a coffee shop. What happens when the one person you vowed to love forever and gave everything to just tosses it in the trash?

Grenade

Today I sit across from my wife. The woman I asked to spend the rest of my life with.

Today we are with our court appointed therapist. Court appointed.

My wife is seeking a divorce for reasons unknown to me.

Today is the day we get to hash it out in front of a stranger, all because I refused to sign on the dotted line.

Today is the day my wife, the love of my life, the mother of my child, will tell me why she wants a divorce and I in turn will tell her why I don't.

I get the luxury of telling my story first.

"I met my wife when I was a resident at Chicago Memorial. We didn't meet because she came into the emergency room or was set up by friends. We met in a coffee shop down the street from the hospital. She was just starting her junior year in college, getting her degree in business.

I'd love to say that one of us spilled coffee or tripped over each other's messenger bags. I saw her, she saw me, and we smiled at each other. I took the risk and sat down at her table; she closed her laptop. We sat and talked all day and had dinner that night. We exchanged phone numbers and emails and both said we'd call.

I did. I called her that night and asked her for coffee in the morning. She said she had class at eight, so I suggested we meet at seven. At six the next morning my pager buzzed as I was just getting out of the shower. For the first time in a long time I didn't want to answer it. The last thing I wanted to do was cancel a coffee date but I had no choice. She said she understood and would call me later to set up another. When I went to process the patients chart the nurse told me I had a visitor. When I looked up she was standing there, smiling with a cup of coffee for me.

That's when I knew.

I didn't know then that I wanted to spend the rest of my life with her. But I knew she was the type of woman who could handle a doctor's career. Be a partner with someone who kept odd hours.

I was right, until I wasn't.

That morning I asked her out on a date and she accepted.

I wanted this date to be special, something she would call her girlfriends and gush about. I wanted to woo her, show her that she wasn't wasting her time with me. I went all out; more than I ever had before with any other girls. I took her to dinner at this little bistro not far from campus. We sat under on the patio with tea-light candles providing us just a little more light than the sunset. We walked side by side to a little salsa club. She surprised me when she pulled me right onto the dance floor. Her body moved along mine like we've known each other for years not days. When last call was shouted I knew I wasn't ready to end so with her hand in mine we made our way to the harbor stopping at the all night coffee shop. We sat, snuggled close, my arm around her shoulders, her head resting in the crook of my neck. We didn't speak as we watched the sunrise we just listened to the waves crash against the dock and the seagulls recount their days to their friends. I walked her to her door later that morning with the promise of another date.

We started dating exclusively after that. Everything was perfect. We would talk throughout the day and she would surprise me at the hospital when I would end up stuck there. It was those moments that made me want to her in every way. I wanted everything to be right, so I didn't pressure her for sex. But I wanted her. I wanted her in every way known to man. The way she would look at me. The way she smelled. The desire I felt just by holding her hand consumed my thoughts but I wanted our relationship built on something more than just sex. When we it finally took our relationship to the next level it was her, she asked me if I didn't feel that way about her. That whole time I thought I was respecting her as a person, but I was wrong. That night we took the next step in our relationship and once we did, I had no doubt I would spend the rest of my life with her.

That summer she asked me to come home and meet her parents and I happily agreed. She had already met mine and they loved her. They treated her like she was part of the family. I found myself competing for attention from the two ladies in my life. After a month or so I was never surprised to find them waiting for me in the waiting room with lunch. It became second nature for them to be together when I was working on the weekends. I loved every minute of it. We flew to Seattle, Washington. It was my first trip west. During the flight she told me what to expect. How small her town was and how everyone knew the business of others. I learned that her neighbor is the town gossip and if anyone wanted to know something they just went to Old Lady Jane to find out. We rented a car and drove to her parent's house. I was nervous but couldn't wait to meet the people responsible for such a wonderful, caring woman. I wanted to thank them for allowing me to spend time with their daughter.

Her parents were remarkable and so welcoming. Their house was warm and smelled of homemade apple pie. There was a certain comfort being in their home, one that I knew I wanted to bring into any home we'd share in the future. Her dad loves to fish and asked me to tag along. I had never been fishing before but I wasn't about to pass up the offer to spend some time alone with him. So we went fishing and spent the morning together out on the lake. Not once did we cast out or drop a line. We talked about life and the future. He asked questions and I answered them all truthfully especially when he asked if I love his daughter. That was the easiest question of all because there was no doubt in my mind that I did. We had a party on the beach and bar-be-ques with the neighbors. I was introduced as her boyfriend and her mom gushed that I was a doctor, "something to be proud of" she said. I wanted to make her family proud.

During the trip, I asked her father for his permission to marry his daughter. I told him that I didn't have a ring, but I knew I wanted to ask her and would do it soon. But I needed his blessing first. He agreed and welcomed me to the family. Said he saw the love in his daughter's eyes when she looked at me; saw the way I looked at her and couldn't be happier that we'd found each other.

The start of her senior year was a challenge for us. She had to work a lot harder and spent a lot more time at the library. I was starting my own rotation and our schedules didn't mesh. Our coffee dates were far and few between and our real dates were maybe once a month.

We fought. I hated it. I would cry when I was in the 'on call' room after hanging up with her because I was so in love with her. After two months I had had enough. I asked her to move in with me. I figured that if we were at least in the same bed at night and at the same table in the morning, we could fix this, because this was worth fixing. I didn't want to be away.

I found her in the library, she was asleep, her nose buried in a book. It was the first time I had seen her in days. So I set the cup of coffee down in front of her and shook her awake. She smiled and I knew I did the right thing by seeking her out. I pulled her into my lap and held her. We both cried for each other and for our relationship.

She moved in that weekend and we made a deal: one date night a week regardless of our work and study schedules. We made a deal, if we couldn't do dinner and dancing we would opt for Starbucks or watching a movie while sitting on the couch. We made it work and it was the best thing we could have done for each other.

I asked her to marry me on New Year's Day. We spent the night with our friends, a luxury I was rarely able to afford because of the hospital. The next morning I got down on bended knee and asked her to be my wife. She said yes.

Happy didn't cover what I felt. I can't describe the emotions I was feeling, other than saying I loved her more than anything.

A summer wedding was planned. Our ceremony would take place after her graduation on a beach near her parent's house. When I called my family it didn't even occur to me to want to have the wedding closer to home. Everyone was so excited to fly out to Washington.

After graduation, she left and went back to Washington. This was planned, but I hated every minute of it. I was away from her for two weeks and didn't actually see her until two days before the wedding. My body ached for her. After living with her for months, being with her whenever she was near, I felt sick to my stomach that I wasn't with her.

We talked daily, texted all the time, but it wasn't enough. My routine was messed up. I would wake and wonder I didn't smell fresh coffee brewing or I would panic in the middle of the night when I didn't feel her next to me, thinking she was ill and needed my help. I never knew a body could be so dependent upon another. When I arrived in Washington I had dark circles under my eyes; she was so upset. I took the longest nap of my life that day all because I got to feel her pressed up against my body. She was my security blanket.

Our wedding was perfect. The day was gorgeous and my bride, breathtaking. The weeks I was away from her all came together in such harmony. She planned the most exquisite wedding on the beach, right out of a fairytale book.

We honeymooned in Hawaii and had a week of sightseeing and love making. I can still recall images of the time we spent there, it is a set of memories and I'd love to visit again. The sand, the surf, the sight of my wife in her bikini with her sun kissed skin, all things I'd visit again.

After we returned to Chicago, she started working. Her office was just down the street from the hospital and this afforded us the opportunity to at least ride to work together and meet for lunch. We went back to the coffee shop where we first met and started having our morning coffee there before parting ways. She loved her job and I loved that she was happy. I would do anything to make her happy.

A year after we were married we got news that her mother had stage four cancer. I held her in arms as she cried as she told me the news. Being a doctor I knew her mom's time was limited and I encouraged her to fly home and be with her mom. I didn't like it, but this was the least I could do. We didn't need her income, so leaving her job really wasn't an issue. I promised to fly out there as much as I could to be her and her family.

She left the next day and as much as it killed me to let her go, I knew that I needed to be strong for her and do what needed to be done to make sure her needs were taken care of.

I flew out every two weeks, working doubles and swapped days off so that I would have a four day weekend every other week. I went from seeing my wife every day to only seeing her eight days a month.

In the third month her mom got progressively worse. Her time was getting shorter. It was also during this visit of mine that we conceived our daughter. This wasn't planned but it was a godsend. After she told her mom that she was pregnant, her mom hung on. This gave her mom something to look forward too, she wanted to meet her first grandchild and she did.

I took the last month of her pregnancy off from the hospital and went to Washington. Our daughter was born there with me by my wife's side and her gravely ill mother in the waiting room. After she was born, I went out and wheeled her mother into the room where she held her only granddaughter in her arms for hours.

A week later she was gone.

We never left Washington. At least my wife and daughter didn't. She refused to return to Chicago. I on the other hand had no choice. I left Washington without my wife and daughter and because of this, we fought.

'If you love me you'll stay', she kept saying. I told her that I loved her more than she could ever comprehend, but I needed to return; I couldn't just quit my job. I wanted her to come back with me; we had a home there. She refused. Said her dad needed her. I said that I needed her, that she was my wife. I said her that I wanted my girls to come home with me, so we could be together. In the end it wasn't enough.

I boarded a plane back to Chicago without my newborn daughter and wife. In fact, I went to the airport alone because we were fighting. I hated every moment we weren't speaking. We weren't even sharing a bed.

When I returned to Chicago, I called her. It went to voicemail. This went on for days, until I finally threatened that didn't pick up the phone then I would file for full custody. It was an idle threat, but it got her to call me.

We talked for hours; we cried for even longer. I missed my wife and wanted her. I needed her to be with me. She asked me to move, to leave my job in Chicago and move and so I did.

I gave notice the next day. My boss was surprised and disappointed but he promised me a recommendation at the hospital near her father's in the event a job opens up. I was an unemployed doctor with school loans. I was stupid. We had to break the lease on our apartment when I couldn't find anyone to sublet leaving use with a rent payment on top of a new baby. I was screwed.

I rented a U-haul and loaded up all our belongings, towing my car behind as I drove across half the country. I was pissed off and bitter that I was doing this by myself but there wasn't anyone to watch the baby, so I did it without complaining. I think what pissed me off the most is that she didn't even try to come up with a solution, she just expected me to get it done.

It took me three days, three long, hot days of travelling. When I arrived, I found a note on the door saying they had gone to dinner and to make myself comfortable. I crumpled the note and threw it away I was so pissed off. I didn't think it would be too much to ask that she be waiting for me when I arrived. I did this all for her and what did I get in return? A note?

My anger subsided when she came running into the house. She jumped into my arms and peppered me with kisses, whispering that her dad had taken the baby out to his friends' house and that we had some time alone. She pulled me upstairs to her room and we made love, repeatedly. I told her that I loved her more than life itself and that I needed for us to be happy and in love. We needed to be connected as husband, wife and family. We needed to be able to live our lives as planned and she agreed. In fact, she had found us a house about a block away. We could move in the next day. I was elated.

Until reality reared its ugly head.

I had no job, I reminded her. We had bills due. She said her dad knew the Chief of Staff at the hospital and there was a position open if I wanted it. I had no choice.

The next day we moved into a three bedroom house with a fenced in yard and a wraparound porch and back deck. We had more living space here than we did in Chicago and for half the money. We also had a lot less income but we'd manage.

After the first month, the bills started coming in. I had to ask my wife to get a job I never wanted to do that, but the difference between this hospital job and the one in Chicago was the number of zeros in my paycheck. She was livid. Who would take care of the baby, was her argument. I told her if we didn't put food on the table and keep the lights on, the State would. That earned me a slap across the face.

After a day of getting the cold shoulder my wife apologized. I don't know where it came from, but she opened. Said she felt like she was failing me and that we had such a perfect life in Chicago until everything happened with her mom. Then the baby came and she felt like we missed out on being a married couple before we had kids. She went on to say that she was torn between being a wife and being a daughter and that she had to learn how to balance everything out.

I agreed with her and showed that she was the most important person in my life. I promised her that our lives would be the same again; we just needed to find our footing. That night that we conceived our second child.

She wasn't ready and neither was I. Our daughter was just a few months old and we were already struggling financially. We didn't need another baby, but accepted it.

She found a job in the hospital working in administration. We drove in together and instead of stopping for coffee, we now stopped for tea. Our daughter went to the hospital daycare, where we could check on her during the day. Our days were just about perfect.

We started attending church on Sundays with our neighbors. It was something people in a small town did and she wanted to be part of the community. We were a young family and I was the local doctor; so we made ourselves available.

When she was two months pregnant, she came to find me during work, complaining that she didn't feel well and that she was cramping. I carried her to labor and delivery and performed an ultrasound. I had to tell my wife that her body was rejecting the baby. I held her while she cried in my arms over the loss of another person in her life. I held her hand while the D & C was performed and agreed she would get an IUD for birth control. We'd wait five years before trying again.

We were happy as a family. Our daughter was healthy and our marriage was solid. At night we held each other and we were content.

I never thought I'd like living in Washington, but my father-in-law made sure I did. He took the baby when he could and he and I became avid sports fans together. My White Sox taking on his Mariners quickly became a tradition. We feasted on delicious food prepared for us by my wife and she'd sit in the middle with her White Sox hat and Mariners' t-shirt. I was happy.

Life was good.

We had just celebrated our fifth anniversary, and I wanted to take her back to Hawaii but we couldn't afford it, so I picked up extra shifts and did some doubles. She wasn't happy. Vacation isn't worth not sleeping next to each other at night she said over the phone. I agreed but I wanted this. I wanted to be alone with her for a week with no worries and commitments. So I continued to work and continued to piss her off.

When you worked as much as I did, things start to slide. You become less attentive. You don't notice that your wife cut off six inches of her hair or bought a new blouse. You don't recognize the different color comforter that covers your bed each night or that your wife is now wearing clothes to bed.

This is where I failed as a husband.

I was working so much that I missed everything. I missed dinners that I promised I would be home for. I missed the appointment that was set up for our daughter so she could start school. I missed church on Sundays with my family. I was in trouble.

My wife no longer slept next to me, the gap between the gap between us felt as long as an all night shift at the hospital. Our communication was literally "hi" and "bye". I'd kiss her on the cheek and sigh because it was wet from crying. I didn't know what to do. It wasn't like I could just stop working the shifts. I had already agreed to take them so I had to wait it out. The money was nice too. It was such a comfort to see the padding in the checkbook. I felt like I could actually breathe a bit knowing that if something was to happen the funds would be there to cover it.

When I came home after working a double plus my normal shift after being gone for thirty-six hours, I found a suitcase by the door. I hollered throughout the house for my wife and found her in our bedroom, crying. I kneeled down in front of her and asked her what was going on. All she kept saying was, how could you? How could I what? But I never got an answer. She left and took my daughter with her.

A week later I'm served with divorce papers and now I sit here because my wife won't talk to me and I refuse to sign the papers. It's been four months since she's walked out and now I have to leave her messages in order to see my daughter. I want to know why. Why we are here when we should be at home being husband and wife?"

Today I cry. I cry in front of this therapist that I do not know and my wife who refuses to look at me.

The therapist puts down her pen and just stares at me, at us. My wife doesn't move an inch until I bring up the divorce papers. I catch the slight movement of her head. It is quick, too quick for me to make eye contact with her.

"Bella, Edward gave his side of the story. Do you have anything to add?"

She shakes her head.

"A condition of your divorce is the requirement of counseling. Are you not willing to participate?"

She adjusts herself in the chair, folding her hands over her knee. "I'm willing to participate," she whispers.

It is the first time she's spoken since we walked in here.

"Why are you seeking a divorce, Bella?"

"He's a cheater."

"A what?" I yell.

"You cheated. I caught you."

I rake my hand through my hair, tugging at the ends. I can't believe what she's saying. I don't understand why she would lie like this to get out of our marriage.

"Edward, what do you have to say to that accusation?"

"I want to know what she's talking about. I have never even looked at another woman with that sort of intent. This is such…"

"Bella, tell us your story."

"Mine doesn't differ much from Edward's. I mean, I may see things a bit different with the move to Washington and whatnot, but the gist is the same. For a while we were fighting and had to live apart due to family emergencies but we always seemed to find our way back. Everything started going downhill when he started picking up additional shifts and working doubles. There were times when he wasn't home for more than a day. I'd get random phone calls, but nothing more. I have – or I guess had a hard time understanding how a small town doctor could be so busy. It's not like when we lived in Chicago and I knew he had patients all day, I knew not to expect him home for dinner. Our town is nothing compared to where he used to work.

"The night before I left I paid a visit to Edward. I thought I'd bring him dinner since he hadn't made it home. The hospital was quiet, almost too quiet. When I got to the nurses' station they pointed to the on call room where he was resting. As I approached the door, I had a bad feeling but opened it anyway.

"When I opened the door, I found Edward sleeping, but he wasn't alone. Curled up next to him was Rose from our church. The memories of what I had heard a few weeks back came flooding to my mind. People were saying that she was interested in my … in Edward. She boasted to church members that she knew our marriage was rocky and that she knew how to take care of a man's needs that weren't being met at home.

"I was so upset when I heard that from people I considered my friends. Edward and I weren't having problems; he was working too much and I wanted him home with me and Sam. She missed her daddy. I missed my husband. I thought that living here would afford us more family time, not less. I know we have student loans that we're paying off and I know this vacation was important but nothing should be more important than family.

"I felt broken, but I didn't want to believe he would do something like that. I called Edward after I calmed down and asked if he'd be home for dinner, he said he would. So I made arrangements for my dad to take Sam that night so we could reconnect. I waited until the candles had melted and the dinner was cold before going to bed. I was awake when he came home. He showered and crawled into bed. He leaned over and kissed me on the cheek and told me loved me before rolling over, his back facing me.

"I got out of bed and went to sleep on the couch, he didn't even notice. I cried myself to sleep that night. My sobbing wasn't enough to wake him. In the morning it was like that night never happened. He woke up, got dressed and came downstairs. He kissed me on the cheek and told me loved me then out the door he went.

"From that point on, my mind started spinning. Every time I saw Rose, I couldn't help but wonder if my husband was sleeping with her. The thoughts literally made me sick. I couldn't eat and sleep was so sporadic. The only time I saw Edward was at work, and that was when I would go looking for him. But he was always busy. After a while I stopped looking.

"We fought over his long hours and how he was never home. I told him that I didn't care about the stupid vacation, I just wanted my husband to sit down with us at the dinner table. He promised he would be home for dinner that night. Swore up and down that he would be there to eat with us, and when he didn't show up I went looking for him that's when I found them together in the on call room.

"The sight of them together broke me. I didn't want to believe that he would do this to me, to our family but he did. After everything that we had been through, for him to cheat on me, like this . . . I couldn't, so I l left. I packed up mine and Sam's belongings and we went to my dad's. I filed for divorce a week later and was shocked when he didn't sign. I don't understand why he won't sign, why he wants to drag this out in court. I'm giving him his freedom. He can have his lover or return to Chicago."

I sit there listening to the lies Bella is spewing, the cop out she's using to get out of our marriage. I have to sit here quietly and respect the rules. I want to jump out of my seat and make her look me in the eyes and tell me that she believes I would dishonor her in giving my body to another woman. Her words made my stomach turn.

"Edward, would you like to respond to Bella?"

I nod. My knee is bouncing. My body temperature is rising. I want to explode.

"I can agree that I was less then attentive toward Bella and Sam in those few months. I was trying to give my wife a much needed vacation, a second honeymoon. I know she didn't want it after she saw what it was doing to us, but I had already made the commitment at work to cover the shifts so people would cover mine in return.

"The accusation that I'm cheating is so far-fetched. I shouldn't even have to defend myself but I will." I turned and looked at Bella, something our therapist suggested we not do so that emotions don't affect our words, but I can't help it, she needs to hear me this way.

"From the moment I met you, you have been it for me. The connection I have felt from day one is enough to sustain me throughout my life. I have never looked at another woman in a lustful way. You are my life and the fact that you think I'm cheating tears me up inside. I can understand you thinking our marriage is broken, but to say that I'm cheating, to tell me that I've gone against my marriage vows, that hurts, Bella. I've never been dishonest with you. I would never bring another woman into our relationship and disrespect you like that.

"I don't know what you saw that night, but I swear to god I have never touched Rose. I would never touch her or anyone else for that matter. You are the only woman I want to touch, the one I want to hold at night, the one I want to feel up against my skin."

"But I saw you," she whispers.

"What did you see? Did you see me touch her, Bella? Did you see my hands upon her body?"

Bella stares straight ahead not answering.

"Bella, I didn't cheat. I haven't been with another woman since I met you that day in the coffee shop. I haven't been with anyone since you took Sam and walked out on me."

The hurt that I'm feeling is beyond words. My heart is in my throat. Months . . . she's been gone for months because of something she thinks she saw. I fight to hold the tears back, but they come.

"You didn't even ask me. You just left. You just quit on us because that was the easiest thing for you. We are supposed to be stronger than this. All the shit we've been through. I get that I fucked up trying to do something for you, I see that now and I know I can't change that, but this shit . . . this divorce is bullshit, Bella. You fucking quit on us, not me."

How the hell can everything end up like this? I don't get it, after everything I've done.

"I've given up a lot for you," she whispers.

I can't believe what I'm hearing. I look at her with my tear streaked face. "What have you given up? Tell me. Did you give up your job? Did you move thousands of miles away from your family? Did you go into debt to make someone happy? Tell me, Bella. What exactly did you give up for me?"

"Mr. Masen," the therapists interrupts.

"No!" I scream. "I want to know what she gave up. I have the right to know. I want to know how it compares to what I've been dealing with. Because all I know is that I met her in Chicago, not here. She moved there for school and not once did she ever mention returning to Washington after graduation. Not once did she ever say she wanted to live in a small ass fucking town. She never had a problem with our lifestyle in Chicago, so what did she give up?"

"I think we've had enough for today. We'll meet again next week. Your homework assignment is to list what it is that you want from each other."

Great, just what I need: a homework assignment. Bella's list will be short . . . a divorce. She's willing to let go of everything because in her messed up mind she thinks I'm having an affair. I don't wait to be dismissed; I just get up and leave, slamming the door on my way out.

The drive home is long and miserable. A town with few traffic lights and I hit them all. I avoid looking out my window each time I stop for fear of who is in the car next to me. I can't stand the finger pointing and hushed conversations that take place when I'm near. I sit in the driveway staring at a house that I didn't want but embraced because it was what she wanted. What our daughter needed. I don't know if we would've moved out of the apartment in Chicago, we both loved it and it was maintenance free. Now I have lawn to mow and shutters to clean, appliances to fix and holes to patch up.

The only bright spot of being here today is that I get Sam for the night. I'm allowed one day a week. I should have had her all day, I've spent my day in a therapy session with my soon to be ex-wife, plus I met with my overpriced attorney. What a great day.

Bella pulls up while I'm still sitting in my car. I get out and make my way to the side where Sam is buckled in her booster seat. I smile at Sam and help her out of the car. She kisses her mother who decides to get out of the car, for what reason, I could care less. I pick Sam up and make my way up the steps to the house that I don't want and can't afford.

"Edward," she says my name and it makes my heart jump.

I turn and look at her; she's closer. She followed us to the house. "I'll drop Sam off with you tomorrow before you leave work."

"Can we talk?"

I shake my head.

I unlock the door and set Sam down, telling her to go turn on the TV. "We don't have anything to talk about. Everything was said today in that room. You gave up everything for me and I in turn apparently cheated on you. We are getting divorced; it's what you wanted. I'll sign the papers tomorrow."

"Wait," she says as I turn to walk into the house.

"I'm done, Bella. You made yourself very clear today. I get it. This," I spread my arms out wide, "isn't want you wanted. I have learned my lesson, believe me. And you know what? I didn't want this either. I never wanted to live here, but I did for you. I did because this is what you needed. I had a good job in Chicago, one that provided me enough to support you.

"You wanted this divorce? You can have it. I'm going to propose a custody agreement, because I'm not staying here. This place holds nothing for me. I'm going to go back to Chicago. We'll figure something out for Sam. I'll pay for her to fly out for holidays and summer vacation. I'll come here for her birthday or whatever but I'm not staying."

"Don't," she whispers.

"Don't what? Don't leave. Why not? You want me to walk around this town looking miserable? Will that make you happy? Do you want to see me suffer more than I already have?"

"No."

I stuff my hands in my pockets and hang my head; I am defeated. I have nothing left. "You just don't get it. I love you more than life itself. I would never hurt you like this. Never in a million years did I expect you to walk out on us."

"I didn't know what to do."

"How about ask me? How about corner me and knock the shit out of me. You just gave up. I have fought for you every time. I didn't let anything get in the way. Relationships are work; things aren't always going to be smooth sailing. When you love someone you fight for them, you don't just walk out."

"I thought you were having an affair."

"Jesus, Bella. That's just . . ." I am frustrated with this back and forth. I want my normal life back, not this emotional roller coaster we've been on these past few months. "Look, I'm going to go spend some time with Sam."

I turn and walk back into the house not waiting for her reply. I'm sick of talking about the affair I didn't have.

The week drags. Work is starting to become unfulfilling. The joy of being a doctor is being completely sucked out of my life.

And then there's Rose.

I find her in the break room and sit down across from her.

"Bella and I are getting divorced," I say as I stare into my coffee cup.

"That's too bad."

I nod in agreement, "It really is, because I love her and never thought this would happen to me."

"Shit happens, Edward. You accept it and move on."

"I've been having an affair," I say looking up for her reaction. She smiles and winks at me.

"That must be some lucky lady to take you away from your wife."

"Lucky?"

"Oh come on, Edward. You are the hottest man within two hundred miles. The minute word is out that you are going to be single, they will be lined up at your door."

I smirk, "Will you be one of them?"

She just smiles and my blood boils.

"Here's the thing, Rose. Bella thinks you and I are having an affair. Now why would she think that?"

She shrugs.

"You don't know? I'm contesting the divorce. That means there will be a trail and that means I'm going to drag you into court." I stand up and throw my cup of coffee away. "When you are ready to come clean, let me know. I hear perjury means jail time."

I walk out of the break room and start my rounds. I manage to see one patient before I'm paged. When I make it to the nurses' station, I find Bella and Rose in a heated argument.

"You're a home wrecker, you know that? In high school you couldn't keep your legs shut and nothing has changed."

"Oh that's rich, Isabella. You went off to Chicago, bagged yourself a doctor and brought him back here to shove in our faces. I'm just teaching you a lesson in humility."

"How? By ruining my family? We have a daughter, Rose. We are a family. Your lies are tearing us apart."

"What lies? You believe what you want. Not my fault I can please a man."

"You bitch," Bella yells and raises her fist. I run over and wrap my arms around her waist.

"Come on, baby, she's not worth it," I whisper in her ear.

"Is she lying, Edward? Tell me here in front of everyone."

I place my hands upon her face, "I never touched her, Bella. I swear on everything that I am. I have not disgraced you."

She collapses in my arms. I can't help but think this could all be avoided if she had just asked me point blank. It would have saved so much heartache and pain. Time has been lost and feelings altered.

I walk Bella to the on call room and set her down on the bed. When I see her face, her eyes are red and her cheeks are wet from crying. I pull her hair away from her face and wipe her tears.

"What brought this on?"

She looks up at me. "I've been thinking."

"About what?"

"About us."

"I didn't think there as an "us" anymore. I told you I would sign the papers and I did. Your lawyer should have already called you. You got what you wanted."

"What if I don't want that anymore?"

I stand and start pacing. "So what? I'm supposed to just forget the last few months. Go back to being your husband?"

"No, but I thought we could try. I'm not saying that I come back tonight and act like nothing has happened, but we could try. We could date."

I chuckle. "You want me to take you on a date?"

She nods.

I kneel down in front of her, "Are you going to trust that I'm only yours?"

She nods again, fighting more tears.

I stand and make my way to the door, "I'll pick you up at seven." With that, I walk out of the room to go finish my rounds. There is also a hitch in my step as I think about what is about to happen. Bella wants to try and I know that is what I want as well.

It's been a long time since I've dated Bella or anyone for that matter. I find myself standing in front of the mirror questioning myself and my appearance. Did I do the right thing by giving in so easily? My mind is telling me no, saying I'm an idiot for just giving her what she wants. But my heart is screaming, hell yes. Give into her and make her mine forever. I love her, always have. Who am I to deny my heart and her?

I could tell myself that I'm doing this for Sam but that would be a lie. Children experience divorce and long distance families daily, they adjust. I'm doing this for me, because I want Bella.

I forgo the tie that has been hanging around my neck and leave the top buttons undone on my shirt. I add slacks because knowing Bella she'll be in a dress. We've always had the unspoken agreement that if we wanted a casual night one of us would say something so that the other didn't over dress. I finish getting ready and make my way to Charlie's. I remind myself that this is a date, regardless of who it is with so I stop and get Bella roses, because I know they will make her smile. I hope they will show her how serious I am about us.

I want there to be an "us". I don't want to be introduced as Sam's dad sometime down the road at a family function or get the call I know I would dread, that Bella's met someone else. Something like that would kill me. The thought of another man touching my wife, the idea alone makes my skin crawl.

When the image of an unknown man and my wife embracing pops into my head, I have to pull over. It dawns on me that Bella is experiencing the same thing. She saw Rose lying next to me in the small bed. Why Rose was there, I'll never understand. This small town bullshit is beyond me. I know they weren't friends in high school, but for someone to deliberately set out to destroy another human being and their family is beyond comprehension. The simple fact that Rose thought I was interested in her floors me. I have never given a clue that she was intriguing.

How that woman thinks she can compare to my wife just floors me. I don't do fake and Rose is all that plus some.

I continue my drive to Charlie's and I'm surprised to find that he's not here when I pull up. The thought quickly enters my mind that Bella is going to cancel on me, that this is just some nasty joke to make me think we stand a chance. I'm trying to remain positive, but there is so much hurt inside that I second guess everything.

I pick up the roses and exit my car, walking the path to the door. If I had dated Bella in high school, I would have had to make this walk many times. With the roses set out in front of me I smile as she opens the door.

My wife stands in front of me, her hair cascading down her back. She wears a black dress that stops just above her knees. My eyes trail up her body and notice that her dress starts to part just above her waist, the fabric separating her breasts.

"Bella, you look . . ." The words get caught in my throat because I'm enthralled with what I'm seeing. To say my wife looks hot is an understatement. She is going to snag every man's attention tonight, whether they want to give it to her or not. I mentally adjust our plans for this evening and decide that our first date needs to be revisited. Dancing is definitely on the table for tonight because I need to feel her up against my body, even if it is the last time.

"Is it too much?"

I shake my head back and forth, slowly. I swallow the lump in my throat and encourage my brain to start functioning.

"You look amazing," I say. "Actually, that isn't even the right word. Jesus Bella, you are going to turn some heads tonight."

"I only want to turn one," she replies.

Oh my head is turning baby.

"These are for you." I extend my hand forward and hand her the roses. Bella's smile is all the thanks I need.

She motions for me to enter. I stay in the foyer and wait for her to return. When she does, she's carrying a shawl. I reach out and take it from her; she turns and I notice that her back is bare. Her dress dips down to her waist and I have to discreetly adjust myself before I brush up against her.

I can't help myself. I kiss her shoulder lightly before covering her up. My mind starts to visualize the way things use to be with us, clouding my mind with thoughts of what I want to do to her and her body. I rest my head on her shoulder and sigh.

"We have a reservation; we should go."

I don't wait for her to respond; I open the door and wait for her to exit before me. I walk one step behind her and reach for the car door purposely brushing my hand against her body. I open the door and wait for her to get in and situated before closing the door and jogging to the other side. I try not to be in a hurry, but being away from her for even that small moment pains me.

The drive to Port Angeles is quiet. We talk mostly about Sam and the Chief of Staff position that is coming open next month. Bella asks if I'm going to apply and I shake my head.

"Why not?"

I don't want to answer, because I don't want to get my hopes up. Not because I want the job, I'd love to have it, but because if we continue with the divorce I'm going back to Chicago.

"I ripped up the papers."

"Why?" I ask.

"I want to try," Bella replies quietly. "I'm not ready to give up."

I sigh and grip the steering wheel with a bit more tension. "What's changed?"

Bella fidgets with the hem of her dress before answering. "I never wanted to believe that you would cheat on me and when I started hearing those rumors, I thought, why would these women say these things? It's not like we are friends and are hanging out. We go to church together. These are supposed to be god fearing women, and yet they are happily discussing the downfall of my marriage and how the town harlot is sinking her hooks into my husband. I didn't want to believe them but when you wouldn't come home at night, especially after I asked if you'd be home or you would tell me you would be I started wondering.

"What if he's cheating? What if you aren't enough for him anymore? I mean look at you, Edward. You are so handsome, a total catch for any one of these women here. Rose isn't the first one to say that I went to Chicago to bag me a doctor.

I try to keep my emotions in check while she goes on. This really isn't the time or place to have this conversation, with me behind wheel, but I'm not going to stop her. I know she didn't set out to get herself a doctor, I would have never suspected that from her. We were just in the same place at the same time, nothing more and nothing less.

"The night I showed up at the hospital everything was so quiet. I couldn't believe that you were at work when there wasn't anything going on. I expected to have to wait in the lounge for you to get a minute to just sit down with me. That's all I really wanted was to sit down with you, to hold you and ask you to come home with me but . . ."

Bella stops and takes a deep breath. I'm afraid to look at her for fear I'd see tears. Tears that would ruin everything she's worked so hard on for tonight.

"She was there when I opened the door. You were facing the wall and she was behind you, her hand resting on your hip. I froze. I didn't know what to do so I left. It didn't escape my notice that Tanya was laughing quietly behind me the whole time. All the nights when you didn't come home or when you showed up so late and went right to the shower flashed through my mind. I couldn't believe I had been so stupid. When I got home I went through all your stuff looking for evidence, looking for something to tell me I was right. When I didn't find anything I convinced myself that you just left everything in your locker at work, that you were being sneaky because you didn't want to get caught."

I pull into the restaurant parking lot and turn off the ignition. I rest my hands on legs, fighting the itch to reach for her, but I wait for a sign from her that it will be okay to hold her.

"Why didn't you just ask me?"

"I was afraid to face what I thought was the truth. I didn't want to hear you tell me that you'd grown tired of me and needed something new. I couldn't look you in the eye while you told me you didn't love me anymore." Bella chokes on her words at the end and I can't resist any longer. I reach for her over the console and pull her into my arms.

I weave my fingers into her hair, resting my forehead upon hers. My nose skims around hers, and I can't help but want to kiss her. My lips strain with desire to connect with her, but I can't. I can't just forget what she's put us through.

"Bella, I didn't cheat. I haven't cheated with my eyes or my heart. I can't continue to tell you that I love you more than life itself if you aren't going to trust and believe in me, believe in us."

Bella nods. "Can you forgive? Please tell me you can forgive me. I love you so much I can't let you go. I don't want to be without you another day."

I pull away and look her in the eyes and smile. "We have a reservation waiting for us and I have plans for us later."

I can't answer her question, not right now. I want to wine and dine her, show her that I am still the man she fell in love with years ago. With all these words and feelings between us, we need more than just a car ride in Port Angeles to fix things.

I help Bella from the car and escort her into the restaurant. We enjoy a quiet dinner and a nice bottle of wine before I'm walking her down the street to the dance club. Bella balks at first, but I pull her inside wrapping my arm around her as I lead her to the dance floor. We dance for what seems likes hours before we hit the bar for drinks to cool off before I return her to the dance floor.

I love watching her body move, especially against mine. I hold her tight during slow songs and move myself against her body during others. We stay until closing, walking hand in hand back to the car. I kiss her, just like I did on our first date, up against the car with my hands roaming. Her hands in my hair, mine all over her body.

"Take me home," she whispers against my neck.