A/N: Hey gang! I apologize for the delay in getting this posted. Ah, real life and junk, ya know? But thanks for being patient with me :)
I don't process much of anything as I exit the church, struggling to keep from falling apart. I know that somewhere along the way I pass the groomsmen, the bridesmaids, Esme, Carlisle, and other stragglers whom I don't even register as my feet try to outrun each other in their attempt to get me out of there as quickly as possible. I don't slow down or hesitate as I ignore their questioning stares and shocked expressions.
But the thing is, they all let me go. No one tries to stop me.
When I finally push my way through the heavy front doors that lead out into the parking lot, I have my hand covering my mouth as I choke back sobs. I fight to gulp down the fresh air, as if my lungs are weighted with water. I can feel my body folding into itself and my shoulders and back shudder with the effort of holding it all in. By the time I've stumbled down the front steps and into the parking lot, I'm biting down on my fist in an attempt to stifle the sounds that are somehow still escaping from somewhere deep inside of me.
But when my feet hit the gravel, I feel as if I've hit a wall and everything I've been trying to hold back comes erupting out at once. My entire body trembles as the tears begin to fall. A small sob turns into a hiccup, and soon I'm crying like I haven't cried in years – crying like I haven't since I was sobbing in a bed of broken glass and torn magazines on the floor of the old apartment.
I cry for Garrett, for Edward, for every single person sitting inside that church who will soon be told it's time to go. I cry for my mistakes, for truth and honesty, I cry for everything for the last five years. I cry for me, for my incurable disease, for my aching, aching heart. I let go and I cry.
And I don't even know how long I stand there until I hear what is maybe the only sound that has the power to snatch me from the depths of my hysteria and pull me to the surface.
The crunch of something light moving quickly across the gravel parking lot and then, "…Momma?"
A gasp passes through my lips as I wipe at my eyes to find Masen standing at my feet. His beautiful copper hair is a mess, his brown eyes are wide as he blinks up at me.
I fall to my knees and wrap my arms around my boy, rocks digging into my knees, my chest still shuddering as he leans into my embrace. His hands find their place around my middle and he holds on tight as I lift him off his feet to hold him better in my arms.
I hold him so tight I'm afraid for a moment that I'm hurting him. But when he nuzzles himself further into my chest, I blink up at the sky as the tears roll more slowly down my cheeks. I hold my boy, my universe, my everything in my arms and I never want to let go.
"Baby, you look so handsome," I choke out, running my hands down the sleeves of his tiny little tux jacket. And I ask, "What are you doing out here?" when it occurs to me that he's supposed to be inside with the guys. I sniffle, the world slowly beginning to come back into focus as I try to wipe my eyes dry.
"I told you we'd wait out here for you," comes the reply, and I look up to see Charlie standing over us. Though his tone is consoling, his moustache twitches and I think he's trying really hard to not look proud of himself.
"Dad…" I choke, my eyes filling with tears all over again as I stand with Masen in my arms and fall into my father's waiting embrace. He holds me so tight that I have to wonder if he's thinking the same thing I just was when I held Masen.
They say there's some things about your parents you just don't understand until you become a parent yourself.
I'm pretty sure this is one of them.
"Grampa let me throw rocks," Masen says, his voice muffled because his face is pressed between mine and Charlie's bodies. And just like that I'm snorting in laughter.
"Really?" I ask, and my father kisses the top of my head before I crouch to set Masen back on the ground.
"He said I couldn't hit the signs, but I did," Masen says proudly, looking up at his grampa as if to confirm. I straighten Masen's jacket as I follow his gaze.
"He also said to not tell anyone," Charlie replies, a twinkle in his eye.
"You know, for a cop, you're a pretty bad influence on the kid," I sniffle again, eyeing Charlie as I stand. "I'm going to call you when he's sixteen and it's beer bottles he's throwing at street signs."
"Not my jurisdiction," he says with a knowing smile. "Besides, I better be long retired before the time Masen's old enough to drink a beer."
"I can drink a beer," Masen interjects.
I look down at him and find myself laughing as I wipe my eyes. "Not yet, you can't," I say, ruffling his hair.
"Yeah I can," he insists. "I'm almost five years old, Momma."
"That's a long way from beer drinking age," I say, taking his hand. Charlie has started weaving his way through the cars in the parking lot, so I follow. "How about you stick to juice for a little while longer?"
He gives in, pouting. "Fiiine."
"Oh come one, it's not so bad," I say. "You're always telling me how much you love apple juice."
"Can I have some now?" he asks, brightening.
"Uh… How about we stop on our way home?"
"'Kay," he agrees.
"'Kay," I repeat with a smile as I squeeze his hand. Then I dig a Kleenex from my back pocket and wipe my nose. Masen is watching me as we weave through the parking lot.
"Are you sick, Momma?" he asks.
I smile as I ball up the tissue and shove it back into the pocket of my jeans. "Just a little sad, baby."
"Don't be sad," he says, reaching again for my hand. And he sounds so genuinely concerned that I almost tear up again.
"Sometimes it's okay to be sad," I tell him.
"Like when I get sad 'cause Grandma Esme makes me eat all my broccoli's before I get ice cream?"
I laugh. "No, that's different because broccoli is good for you, you goof."
Masen seems to ponder this for a moment. "How 'bout when I get sad 'cause Daddy goes away?"
I look down at him, and it takes me a second to catch my breath. "Then it's okay," I tell him softly. "Because you love Daddy."
"I love ice cream too," he says matter-of-factly.
I laugh loudly and mess up his hair again. "You're way too smart to be my kid," I tell him, and he grins in response. When I look up, I see Charlie has stopped beside his old red pick up. It's the same one I learned to drive on when I was sixteen. I grimace when I see it.
"You drove that all the way from Forks?"
Charlie shrugs as he pats the hood. "Even this old gal needs to stretch her legs once in a while." And then he looks at me, and he doesn't even have to say anything for me to know exactly what he's asking.
"Let's go," I say softly.
He doesn't ask me if I'm sure, he doesn't ask if I'm okay, or if I'm going to be okay. He just pops open the door and helps Mase get in the backseat before sliding behind the steering wheel. I take a deep breath before walking around to the passenger side, my hand hesitating on the handle for just a fraction of a second before I pull it open and climb in.
Any moment now, everyone will know. They'll be filing back out of the church, or staying to collect the flowers and the dress and the decorations, thinking they know, or knowing they don't. Wondering why. Maybe some people will be upset, some might even be annoyed we wasted their time. Perhaps they'll catch a glimpse of this old red truck as it pulls out of the parking lot, and they'll wonder how? How could someone possibly do that?
Garrett will drink with his friends, because that's how they'll take care of him. I'll go home and pack his things, because that's how I'll take care of me. And Garrett's friends will try and make him feel better, but they won't be lying when they swear that I don't deserve him and that it's all for the best. The guests that leave here today, they'll call their friends, their parents, their coworkers and tell them, remember that wedding I went to today? You'll never believe what happened…
And for the briefest of moments, I'm so aware of the future. It just seems so clear; I'm so sure.
Rose might come by with wine and Emmett might stay with Garrett. Rose will wonder about her own wedding day. Emmett will think about his brother. But tonight they'll go home and lay in each others arms and wonder if they're bad friends for not stopping this sooner, for not speaking up, for not trying harder to convince us.
They'll wonder if they could have made a difference, just to avoid the hard truth that there was nothing they could have done.
Masen and I will sleep in his bed tonight because sleeping in mine seems wrong. Charlie, he'll probably spend the night and make us breakfast in the morning – scrambled eggs and burnt toast, and then he'll swear my toaster is defective.
There's only one future that remains unmapped in my mind. One last question that needs answering.
"Hey, Dad?" I ask just before he reaches down to put the truck in gear.
He pauses as he glances over at me.
"Can we stop at a gas station on the way? I… promised Mase I'd get him some juice."
Charlie nods and shifts the truck into first. "Sure thing, sweetie."
Our future is meant to be a mystery. It's supposed to be unpredictable. But there are always details that we are unconsciously certain of – the smallest events that never catch us off guard, the ones we take for granted. It's knowing that you're going to drink a cup of coffee on the way to work in the morning and that you'll eat dinner when you get home. Or that you'll cry at the ending of Pay it Forward. Or that you'll tell your kid "good game" after soccer, no matter how well they played. Some things are for certain. People are predictable; certain events are bound to happen.
Like how, when Charlie pulled the old truck out of the parking lot and left a small cloud of dust in our wake, I looked in the mirror and knew that one of the biggest, hardest, most important days of my life was over.
The thing about life though, is that we aren't meant to see into our futures. There's no point if we get up in the morning and know exactly what to expect of our day. As much as we try and convince ourselves otherwise, nothing is ever actually for certain. Because along the road of the predictable events that lead us from one day to the next, the smallest of bumps can throw us completely into the unknown.
I thought the worst was over.
I had no idea it was only about to begin.
Charlie pulls into the parking lot of a 7-11 when the church is a good ten minutes behind us. Masen is asking a hundred questions about today: Momma, what about the wedding? Where's Garrett? Do we still getta dance tonight? Am I still having a sleepover at Grandma Esme's? Why are you crying, Momma?
I'm doing my best to answer all his questions as diplomatically as possible. I don't know how much of it he really understands, but he always manages to surprise me. So I try and be as honest as possible. No baby, I tell him, we're not having a wedding anymore. It's just going to be you and me for a while, baby. We can still have a dance party at home. And maybe you can have a sleepover at Grandma's tomorrow night.
I don't know if he gets it, really. But he sits back and seems to silently ponder what I've told him. Then finally he says, "Okay, Momma. I love you."
Tears fill my eyes but I smile so big when I tell him, "I love you too, sweetie." And when Charlie pulls the truck into the parking lot, I flip down the visor and wipe the dust from the vanity with my fingertips before checking my reflection.
And really, it's about as bad as I expected. My eyes are red, puffy. My make-up is all but cried off. I dampen my fingers and wipe under my eyes a few times, like it really makes a difference. I take a deep breath, and I'm still kind of stuffy and gross and my sinuses feel like they're stuffed with cotton. My reflection doesn't lie about all that I've been through today – I look like hell and my eyes feel like if I closed them for longer than a blink I'd have to fight to open them again. But the thing is, despite how shitty I look, I've never felt more like myself.
"Do you want me to go in…?" Charlie asks, and I can feel him watching me as he puts the truck in park.
"It's okay," I say, flipping the visor back up. I unbuckle my seat belt and twist around so I'm facing Masen. "I'm going to get you some juice," I tell him. "Do you want to come in with me?"
Masen nods enthusiastically and I lean into the back to help him out of his seat belt.
"We'll be right back," I tell Charlie as I open the door and climb out, Masen on my heels. "Do you want anything?"
"I'm okay," Charlie dismisses me, his eyes unconsciously scanning the parking lot for any signs of trouble like the good police chief he is.
"All right," I say, and the rusted door squeaks and groans loudly in protest when I close it behind me. Masen seems to find this amusing, because he's giggling when I reach down to take his hand.
"It sounds like a monster," he grins, mimicking the sounds until we reach the front doors. "Doesn't it sounds like a monster, Momma?"
"I think you're the only monster here," I joke, leading him towards the back of the store where the coolers are. "Now, what kind of juice do you want?"
He goes for a Monster energy drink and I laugh. "There's no way you're getting one of those, my little monster."
"It's what Daddy drinks," he argues.
"And does Daddy ever let you try it?" I ask, wandering farther down the aisle where the bottles and cans aren't so pumped full of sugar and caffeine.
"No," he admits with a frown.
"Exactly," I say. "Now how about some apple juice? Or look at this, peach and raspberry. That sounds good, don't you think?" I grab one for myself and a second one for Charlie because I know he'll change his mind and drink half of mine once we're back in the truck.
Masen's face is pensive as he contemplates the rows and rows of beverages. I watch him and my heart clenches like it does every time he gets that look. His expression is exactly the same as his father's, and I feel like I'm looking down at a mini-Edward.
"How 'bout… chocolate milk?" Masen finally asks, his face brightening.
"Sure," I agree, grabbing him one and tucking the bottles under my arm.
"Can I have a candy, Momma?" he asks when we pass the sweets on our way to the cash register.
I purse my lips. "Just one," I tell him. "And you have to share with me and Grampa." He grabs a pack of red Skittles and just kind of shrug to myself. We don't eat a lot of candy, and I've always had a soft spot for Skittles.
Just before we reach the front, I pass the bin where today's papers are stacked. I hardly glance at it before I slide one stealthily under my arm, like it's no big deal. Like whatever is inside there won't change everything.
Masen tugs on my shirt. "Momma, look! It's Daddy!" And my heart kind of freezes before I realize he's pointing at the paper under my arm. He's on the front cover too? Jesus.
The cashier has her eyebrows raised as I place our items on the counter, and I give her my most polite smile. I know how this looks. It's not the first time Masen's told strangers his father is Edward Cullen and they look at me like I'm deranged for letting my son believe such nonsense. Last trip to Wal-Mart, Mase pointed out the cover of People Magazine to the young couple behind us and proudly told them, "That's my Daddy. He plays the guitar." They looked at me and told me I had issues.
And I'd only laughed as I threw the magazine on the cart because they had no idea.
Once I've paid for our goodies we head back out to the truck and settle ourselves back inside. I pass Charlie the spare drink I grabbed, and he looks grateful. But his eyes are on the newspaper on my lap.
"You know what's in here," I say, and there's no question in my voice.
He nods slowly, like it's just occurred to him that I don't. "And… you, uh, should probably have this, too." He twists and reaches into the back seat, here he pulls something from the pocket behind him. My palms feel clammy when I recognize the small, flat box he passes me.
I kind of laugh, but it sounds nervous and weird. "You went and got this?"
He shrugs. "Thought it might be important. I didn't look inside."
"Thanks, dad," I say softly as I set the box on my lap. Masen starts asking for his milk so I twist off the cap and peel back the seal before I hand it to him.
"Try to not spill it all over Grampa's truck," I tell him with a smirk, because if I know my son there's a pretty good chance half his drink will end up all over the peeling floorboards.
"I won't," Masen promises.
"You're so cleaning that up," Charlie mutters across the bench seat and I roll my eyes.
And once Masen is focused on drinking his milk and Charlie is focused on backing the truck out of the parking space, I take a deep breath and flip over the newspaper. I thumb through the pages until I find the Entertainment section, and I pull it free.
I close my eyes for one, two, three beats and then I look down. I have my thumbnail between my front teeth, and my head quirks to the side as I scan the bold headline. I feel my heart racing, but I know, I know. Every muscle in my body feels tensed as I read it again and again and again until the letters begin to form words that slowly begin to sink in and make sense.
Except it still doesn't make sense.
I read it once more before my trembling fingers unfold the paper and spread it out over my lap.
Edward Cullen Announces Departure from Black Velvet Kings.
I can feel my heart hammering in my chest as I gingerly run my finger over the crease that runs through the middle of the article. I slowly read each word separately just to be sure my mind's not playing some kind of trick on me. But it's not – there's the same picture I caught a glimpse of earlier and today's date printed in the margin at the top, and this has to be right. I draw in a shaking breath and hardly blink as I begin reading the article:
Fans of the band are dumbfounded by the announcement that was leaked early Friday evening when Tyler Crowley, Black Velvet Kings bassist and back-up vocalist, let it slip in an interview with Rolling Stone Magazine that tonight's show in Portland would be the end to the band's epic journey together. The band's manager, Jasper Whitlock, confirmed the rumours shortly afterwards, delivering the shocking news that "Edward Cullen would be taking a permanent leave from the music industry."
Cullen has been lead-singer and guitarist for the band Black Velvet Kings for over seven years, and quickly became an entertainment icon shortly after the band's first studio album was released in 2006. Unlike many over-night success stories, both he and the band have maintained a credible reputation both in the spotlight and out of it. Cullen is well known for his contrasting quiet disposition and extraordinary stage presence, and has remained one of the most respected musicians by peers and fans alike. Though despite Cullen's efforts to stay out of the headlines over the years, the fans and media have always paid special attention to the young star.
Insiders are reporting that Cullen's decision to leave the band coincides nicely with the marriage of his ex-girlfriend to former band mate, Garrett Anderson. Fans have already theorized that the timing of Cullen's announcement no coincidence. His ex is rumoured to be the inspiration behind nearly every one of Black Velvet Kings' chart-topping hits and is said to be the reason why Cullen has remained infamously single for the past five years. But regardless of speculation, publications across the globe have begun the scramble to clench an exclusive interview with Cullen and be the first to answer the question on everyone's mind – just what exactly could motivate a man to quit so obviously in his prime?
At the time of the time of publication, Cullen was unavailable to comment, perhaps stirring the rumour pot even further. But Whitlock released a statement claiming that "Edward's decision has been weighing heavily on his mind for some time now, and the guys have known since they hit the studio last spring that it would be their last album with [Cullen] as front man. I can assure you there was no headline-worthy falling out or dramatic ending, and after tonight all members will part on good terms." Whitlock also says he is "extremely doubtful" the singer will ever return to the music industry. Fans and musicians alike are trying to reach out to the band and shortly after the announcement was confirmed, Dave Grohl, who toured with Cullen and Black Velvet Kings in 2007 with his band The Foo Fighters, commented on his Twitter that he "is devastated to see one of the good ones leave."
The timing of the announcement comes just hours before the band's record-breaking sold out show at the Rose Garden in Portland, wrapping up their worldwide 'Audience of One' tour. Ticket value for the show has tripled overnight and continues to climb as the most die-hard of fans try to score a spot in the audience for the very last show for one of the biggest and most legendary bands in rock and roll. Police will be on scene tonight to keep crowds under control, and those who were lucky enough to get tickets for the big show are being directed by to give themselves plenty of extra time as traffic is expected to back-up along the major routes leading to the arena…
By the time I get to the end, I have tears in my eyes and can't make out the last few lines of the story. I simply stare down at the paper, the black print swimming before my eyes, and the words I've just read ringing in my ears. My stomach is churning and my mouth feels dry and I wonder for a moment if I'm going to get sick. But I don't – I just sit there and look at the picture printed alongside the article. And I mean, this time I really look at it. It's a quarter-page colour photo of Edward, blue and yellow lights illuminating him up on stage and a wide, a contagious grin on his face that makes my heart feel light. He hand is curled tightly around the microphone; and it's taken close enough to see the beads of sweat that seem frozen to his skin in the fraction of time the photo was taken in. And he's just looking out at the crowd like he's trying to breathe in and absorb every last moment of the chaos before him.
As I inspect it, I realize that the caption beneath the photo says it was taken only two nights ago. And if there is any truth to Jasper's statement then this is a photo of a man saying good-bye even though the rest of the world doesn't even know it yet. He knows this will be one of his last shows, one of the last times he'll be up on that stage, one of the last times the crowd will be screaming his name. He's saying his good-bye and yet he's… happy. Happier than I've seen him in years. I trail my fingers down the photo and feel a smile that I can't hold back tug on the corners of my lips.
I wonder why he didn't fight harder to tell me. Obviously he had to have known the story had hit the papers; he had to have known there was a chance I'd find out like this. But the more I think about it, the more I think I get it. Because whoever wrote the article is wrong – it is a coincidence that his last show is tonight. This isn't some kind of last-ditch attempt to get me back; it's not some kind of strategy to get me to pick him. It's not about me at all. He wanted out of the game whether or not I married Garrett today.
And the more I think about it, I realize that the signs have been there for years. Hell, maybe they were there all along. And he's tried to tell me – I just haven't been listening.
I remember the look on his face just before I walked away from him behind the church – how there was something he wanted me to know so badly, something he wanted me to see. He wanted me to believe in him when he said he was coming home, but I dismissed it without even a second thought. And I want to be angry with myself for not believing in him, or with him for not trying harder to tell me, but I'm not.
We never could get it right, he and I. And today is no exception.
And I think, maybe, that I get why he didn't tell me he was leaving the band. He didn't use it as a bargaining chip because he didn't want me to choose him just because he was "retiring" – or whatever the hell it is you do when you're a twenty-five year old musician. He wanted me to walk away today because I couldn't stand to be with anyone else but him. He wanted me to give us a chance in spite of the obstacles we'd have to overcome in order to be together. He wanted me to stop my wedding because I couldn't bear the idea of being with Garrett for the rest of my life and never having another chance with him.
I pull the box out from under the newspaper and stare down at it. Despite the fact that it's just a small box, it feels so awkward and heavy. I shift it around between my hands, and though I know there's not much in here, there's so much in here. I blink down at it and think about his words in the letter that's inside.
When you have the chance to say something substantial, he wrote, and you let the moment pass you by, the words you don't say can be far more consequential and life altering than the ones you do.
And I realize that… coming to the church today, it wasn't about everything he said. It was about everything he didn't say. It was him letting the moment pass him by. It was about not saying the words that could have changed everything.
Because by not saying them, by not telling me, that makes just as big a statement as it would have had he showed up there today just to tell me the news.
More so, even.
And I think that's maybe when Garrett realized. I think that's exactly when he let go.
Because he got it.
Because Edward, most of all, wanted me to look back on this day knowing that whatever I'd decided… it was for me.
There's a tightness in my throat and I have to swallow hard to push it down. I look over at Charlie, who has one hand on the steering wheel and the other on the gear shift as he navigates the Seattle streets, taking us to my home on the outskirts of the city. And as I watch him I think of how Charlie… and Rose… they had to have known. And maybe they got it too. Maybe it's why Rose didn't put up a fight when I asked her to help me out of my dress. Or why Charlie knew to wait out in the parking lot for me.
"Mom, can I read some news?" I'm pulled from my thoughts when Masen pipes up from the backseat. I turn to see him looking at the paper in my hands, his eyebrows raised expectantly.
I raise my eyebrows back at him, and I feel a thousand times lighter just looking into his face. "You want to read the news?" I repeat.
"Well… what section would you like?" I ask, fighting back a grin.
"Sports, please," he says, and then looks over at Charlie. "Grampa only reads about Sports."
"That is true," I say, looking over at Charlie. And then I lift up my hand and whisper conspiratorially to Masen, "But I think he only looks at the pictures."
Charlie scoffs and Masen nods in agreement.
I pull the Sports section free and hand it back to him. "You gotta let me hold onto your chocolate milk though. You can have it back when you're done."
"'Kay," he agrees, and I trade him and set the bottle of milk in cup holder on the floor between Charlie and I. Masen holds the paper in front of him and stares at the front page, squinting intensely at the print like Charlie does. I hold back a laugh as I turn to face forward. Sometimes I would give anything to see the world the same way Masen does. Charlie is grinning widely as he glances back Masen in the rear-view mirror, and I have to wonder if he's not thinking the same thing. I guess it's kind of amazing how one person can bring so much happiness into your life.
"So, Dad… how did you know?" I ask him curiously. "How did you know to wait outside for me?"
He glances at me quickly, his eyes roaming over the newspaper before they snap back up to the road. "Old man intuition," he tells me with a wink.
"Right," I snort.
Charlie tries to hide a small grin before he clears his throat. "I guess I didn't know," he stresses the word, his voice more serious now. "But I do know that I didn't raise a daughter to do something unless she was a hundred percent sure about it. And Bells… I don't think I realized how unhappy you really were until today. I don't think anybody did."
"I don't even think I did," I admit quietly.
Charlie doesn't reply, and the humming of the twenty-year-old engine under the hood of the rusted truck fills the silence.
"I feel like crap, but I also feel I did the right thing," I say. "I mean, yeah, the right thing probably would have been letting go of Garrett years ago, but…"
"You can't go back," Charlie finishes for me. He sounds like a man who knows, who lived with many regrets when his wife died far too young.
"Exactly." I take a deep breath, my brain feeling like it's never had so many things to think about at once.
And I'm tired of thinking.
So I look down and reopen the box that sits on my lap. The letter Edward wrote is still folded and sitting on the top, like it had never even been touched at all. I pull it out and run my nail across the fold as I hold it. I wonder if he left this behind on purpose – if maybe he walked away, still hopeful that I'd come back, that I'd change my mind. Or perhaps it was too much to pack it up and take the weight of the reminder with him. Or maybe, maybe he'd just simply forgotten.
But it doesn't matter, not really. Because it still found it's way back to me. And as I set aside the letter with trembling fingers, I find a white, skinny envelope hiding beneath.
I know what's inside before I even touch it. I look down at it and in that moment I know exactly what he wants. And my jaw clenches and for a second I'm angry because he can't actually think I'll do this. He can't think that today, after everything…
I'm shaking my head in disbelief as I pluck the envelope from the box. It feels heavy though I know it's actually not. And I'm still shaking my head as I slide open the envelope and I pull out four tickets and four backstage passes for tonight's show in Portland. I fan them out in my hands, and I don't know whether to laugh or cry when I see what he's scribbled on a tiny scrap of paper that falls out from between the thin pieces of cardboard.
There will be twenty thousand people in that audience, and I'll be singing for one.
It's an invitation, a promise, the hope that keeps propelling us forward.
It's poetry and art and desire all rolled into one.
It's the last whisper of a prayer from the man who thought he had everything.
But it's too much to ask.
Because the tears have hardly even dried, and I can't even entertain the notion of being there right now. I'm exhausted and it's nearly three hours from here and at this moment I just need to take care of myself.
I shove the tickets back into the envelope and reach for my phone to tell Rose I have tickets for her and Emmett if they want them, but I realize I've left it at the church. I'll call her when I get home. Maybe Carlisle and Esme will want to go, too.
They should be there.
It's his last show, after all.
And my eyes well with tears at that thought because it's his last show.
And I'm not going to be there.
I'm the same girl who, at one time, never even missed a single rehearsal. And I'm not going to be there for his very last show. And despite everything… it still matters.
"Hey," Charlie says gently, and I look up at him with eyes that are swimming with tears. He reaches across the bench seat and squeezes my hand. He sees the tickets on my lap. He knows.
"Dad," I say, my voice cracking. "I keep telling myself it's not about him but it just seems so impossible when he's everywhere."
"You should be used to that by now, sweetie," Charlie replies, and I can feel him watching my face for a smile.
I let out a breath and suddenly it's like I can't stop. Like the words have to come out. "You know, I could never let myself consider having a relationship with Edward after he left…" The words get stuck for a moment, but they're still there, and they're fighting their way to the surface. "I guess, I was just so disappointed in him for so long. And even after he started to come around a little more… I didn't want to be the one he got to leave behind. I didn't want to sit around, waiting to hear from him, wondering what he was doing at every moment of the day and wondering in the back of my mind if what he was telling me was the truth. I didn't want to have to pick up a magazine and read the speculation of his relationship status just because he happened to be standing next to some actress long enough for somebody with a camera phone to snap a picture of them together. And it's not that I couldn't trust him, but I don't think I could trust myself to trust him. It's just that I loved him so much-" I wince, like it's physically painful to even think about. "And to be honest… I didn't want to have to deal with the pain of missing him all the goddamn time."
Charlie kind of clears his throat, and I don't think he used to me saying so much at once. "But Bella…" he says, and his voice is gruff but his eyes are soft. "Didn't you go through all of that anyway?"
I laugh and dig the heels of my palms into my eyes as I shake my head. He's absolutely right, of course.
"I just don't know how I feel about him anymore," I admit, my voice a hoarse whisper. "I don't know him anymore. And he doesn't know me, either. I told him about the MS today, and that changes things, whether he wants to admit it or not. And these tickets? I don't get it. I just don't know what he expects from me…"
"Bella," Charlie says. "Maybe he just wanted to give you the option. It's not like he's got a helicopter scheduled to fly you out to the show or anything. Er… he doesn't, does he?" he glances at me sideways and I can't help but smirk as I shake my head.
"Not that I know of, at least."
Charlie looks relieved to see my small smile. "Well, maybe he just wanted to make sure that if you wanted to be there… then you could go."
I shrug, because I guess he could be right. "He just lives in such a completely different reality sometimes. I know he tries, but sometimes the music just takes him so far away. He forgets how the real world works. And this?" I hold up the newspaper and shake it a few times. "This scares the hell out of me." I cringe when I remember Masen in the backseat, but he's so quiet as he clutches the Sports section and stares out the window, lost in his own little world.
So much like his father, that one.
"It's okay to be afraid," Charlie says, and I'm reminded of earlier when I told Masen that it's okay to be sad sometimes.
"I just wish he'd told me," I say, a little bitter. "And before today, I mean. I should have found out before the papers, right? Like he could have told me this spring when he apparently decided all this."
"There could be lots of reasons he didn't say anything," he says gently. "And would it have made a difference, anyway?"
I shrug, and I feel it all beginning to wear me down. Today has been too big. I can only move in so many directions at once, and right now I'm not even certain I know which road leads home.
"I guess I'll never know," I say sadly.
Charlie eases the truck to a stop at a red light and turns so he's facing me. He glimpses down at the envelope, then back up at me. I know what he's thinking. And I look at the clock, doing the math. If we leave right now, we'd make in time for doors.
"So, Bells. Where are we going?" he asks, and it's such a loaded question that I feel like I'm nearly knocked backwards with the force.
I tip my head against the headrest and close my eyes. I let out a long breath that trembles and aches and tugs at my heart.
"We're going home," I whisper.
A/N: Fun fact time? The name of the BVK tour (Audience of One) is inspired by a Cold War Kids song called Audience. And the name of Black Velvet Kings is from a misheard lyric of that song. The lyric is actually "black velvet cake" but when I first hear the song I heard "black velvet kings" and thought it was kind of cool. And obviously it stuck :)
I know I know I can't thank you enough for reading. But. Just. Thank you.