His eyes drop to the floor, his lips pressed in a hard thin line. I watch his face as he absorbs this new information, struggle to keep his expression neutral. I know it must be killing him, the fact that I had pretty much placed his life into the hands of complete strangers. I can't imagine how vulnerable, how exposed he must feel.
"I'm sorry," I repeat. I can't say it enough.
Edward takes my hand, entwining his fingers through my own.
"Bella. Please don't apologize. Thank you. You saved my life."
"So...you're not mad?" I ask.
He still can't look at me. I watch his face, searching for some kind of recognizable emotion behind the mask, but I can't decipher him.
After a beat, he answers,"No."
"You are mad."
I can't stand these silences anymore. I'm sick of trying to guess what he's not saying.
"I don't believe you." I grab his face in my hands, lifting his chin and forcing him to meet my eyes. "This suffer in silence thing has got to stop Edward. I can't read your mind. That's how people get hurt."
I meant to be gently chiding. I regret the words almost as soon as I utter them. He immediately grasps the darker meaning, one that I had not intended. Of course he would. "That's not what I meant–" I start.
"I'm sorry. I'll never stop being sorry. I could never be angry with you. Ever."
"Then tell me what's going through that head of yours."
"I just need some time. To get used to other people knowing about me."
"You don't need to worry about Rose. And Emmett...well, he's kind of implicated in this now." Poor Emmett. I don't know what Rose has told him, but he seems to have calmed down a bit. "I know you don't like talking about being a...your condition, but I wonder if you wouldn't mind answering a few questions, if he asks? He might be under the impression that you're like...my hostage?"
My words give him pause, but he finally nods. "Okay."
We are interrupted by a loud knock on the door. I open it to find my roommate on the other side clutching some clothing in her hands, eyes closed tightly.
"Are you decent? I didn't want to walk in on you two doing it."
We are so far from having sex it's not even funny. I don't even know how we are going to get back to that place, if it is even possible.
"You can open your eyes."
She opens one eye, quickly giving me the once over. I think she has invented a reason to come in, so she can check on me. Satisfied that I am unharmed her eyes slide over to Edward who is now staring at the floor.
"Here," she says, shoving the pile into my hands. "They're Em's clothes. He's bigger than Edgar but they should fit."
"Thanks Rose." I grin. I'm touched, really. She deliberately got his name wrong and she won't address him, but this is the Rosalie Hale equivalent of putting out the welcome wagon. I'll take it.
"So...there's no food in the house and we're going to pass out if we don't eat like, within the next hour. We were thinking about getting brunch. You want to come? Mimosas, blueberry blisscakes, maybe we could get to know your bf better?" She nudges me with her hip in encouragement.
I look to Edward, but he's still studying my floorboards. I'm torn. He doesn't want to go to brunch, I'm sure of it, but he would never say so. I can see him wanting to avoid the crowds, the strollers, the 'maybe we could get to know your bf better'. I like how she casually threw that in with the blisscakes. I wonder how he feels about the 'bf' part.
Rosalie is still waiting for an answer. He doesn't want to go, I don't know if I'm in the mood either, but my roommate just made this really nice gesture...and Edward does looks like he needs to eat.
"When are you leaving?" I ask.
"Okay, we'll meet you downstairs."
After she leaves, I turn back to him apologetic. "I hope that's okay? I couldn't really say no."
"Here." I hand him Emmett's clothes. He takes the clothes from me and we both freeze. Suddenly shy, I don't know whether I should turn around or leave the room so he can change in privacy. A few months ago he wouldn't have hesitated to drop that pink towel.
I don't know how to act around him anymore. Is he my boyfriend? It feels like too small a word for how I feel about him. Boyfriend. I can't see Edward Cullen being anyone's boyfriend, much less mine. He told me as much, early into our relationship. So much has happened since then though, so much has changed. I don't know what to think.
I wonder if the same thoughts are running through his mind. He turns his back to me without a word. I face away from him, but I can still see his body reflected in the mirror on the back of my door. What I see makes my heart ache. I watch the muscles of his back move, the faded scars, shiny and pink stretched over too prominent ribs. I need to get some food in him. It is quiet save for the sound of clothes rustling, a zipper being zipped. When he is done, I turn back. He's wearing his own shirt, but it hangs loosely on his body, as do Emmett's jeans.
I guess I should change out of my night clothes as well. I want to be able to slip off my gown without thinking, I want it to be normal. To not have to second guess every word, every movement, like tiptoeing around so many emotional landmines.
"Bella? What baby?"
I think I've only imagined his voice, but there it is. The question I was dreading. I thought perhaps it had slipped past him, lost in my angry tangled rant earlier. But Edward misses nothing. He always knows. I would have told him. Eventually. If I hadn't I'm sure Rosalie would have bullied me into it. Or just come out with it herself, in her inimitably blunt manner. I just didn't expect to have to tell him so soon. I thought maybe he'd kiss me first at least, that's how these reunions are supposed to go right?
I should say something soon. He's waiting for me to speak. His face is ashen. Fear? Dread? I place my hand over his heart, knowing I will feel it beating out a frantic staccato rhythm.
I don't know how to say this. How do I tell him? It doesn't matter how I say it, this knowledge can only hurt Edward.
I've had a few weeks to live with this. I hadn't admitted it to anyone, and it took me a long time to admit to myself that what I felt most of all was...relief. I felt guilty. This was not how I was supposed to feel. It would have been different, if I had wanted to get pregnant. But I was not ready for a baby. I don't know if I ever will be. How do I tell him? Make him understand. I'm taking too long to answer. I'm still feeling his heart go thump thump thump. He covers my hand with his own.
"Bella? Are you...pregnant?" It comes out so quietly, almost a whisper, but he may as well have screamed the words. It feels as if a bomb has just just detonated in my room.
I slowly shake my head. I can't speak. I know if I do, my voice will break and I won't be able to stop the tears. I can't look at him so I close my eyes. He's so near, I can feel his breath on my cheek.
I nod once. I hear the soft gasp, and then his arms folding around me, cocooning me. As if by doing so, keeping me close, he can shelter me from my pain, and all of the ills unleashed upon the world. I am limp in his embrace, sinking into him. We fumble, we fold, we wall to the ground, and we cling to each other.
He murmurs that he's sorry, over and over again in my ear, never letting go. "Oh God...I'm sorry, I'm so sorry. I didn't know. I left you all alone...I'm so sorry..." he whispers.
"I wasn't alone. Esme and Carlisle took care of me. And I had Rose and Em. It's okay..." I say weakly, but my voice sounds small and unconvincing.
I've been too afraid to lift my gaze, but I do so now. His face looks the way it did the morning I discovered his secret. It looks the way it did at the hospital when we thought one of us would be dead by morning.
"It's not okay."
"You didn't know. It...it was an accident. It's no one's fault."
He shakes his head, eyes glassy. "Bella, you need to stop."
"Forgiving me. I've done nothing but cause you pain, over and over and over, since I've known you. I..." he pulls at his hair. "...I nearly killed you last night. And now this..." His eyes drop to my abdomen. You keep on forgiving me. Why? What do I have to do Bella? Tell me. Tell me," he pleads, his voice pained. Urgent. He grasps both my hands, a prayer. His grip on me is so tight, it is almost painful. He wants me to hate him. I think it would make things easier on Edward, justify the self-loathing he's been carefully cultivating for the last two decades. I can't hate him.
"You can't...you can't ask me that."
"You can't keep forgiving me Bella. I don't deserve it."
It's so quiet now. I hear the front door slam and Rosalie and Emmett's voices floating up to my window. Edward speaks with such certainty. If he could just let me love him, let himself be loved. Believe he was worth loving. Our lives feel like an eternal loop, doomed to repeat the same actions, the same heartfail over and over again. Something has gone awry, some defect in our dna that makes it impossible to find happiness with each other. If I let things go on as they have, let events take their natural course, I see no future for us.
He's still holding me. It feels nice in his arms, but I'm afraid if he lets go of me it will be goodbye. For the last time. I extricate myself from his embrace, standing. He kneels before me. Edward wraps his arms around my waist, pressing his face to my abdomen. He closes his eyes, his lashes as dark and heavy as I remembered and kisses my belly softly. I run my fingers along his jawline, feeling the familiar roughness of his beard.
"You're wrong. You do deserve it. I forgive you Edward. I love you. I almost lost you once, I'm not letting go this time."