Beyond the Pale Contest 2
Title: The Last Time
Pen Name: stmurr
Disclaimer: Twilight character names belong to Stephenie Meyer. All characterizations, plot lines, backgrounds and details belong to the respective author.
Image that Inspired You: #8
Summary: In the face of ultimate closure, Edward reflects on the night that changed his life forever; 'You know they would never let us be together. This is the only way.' My entry for the Beyond the Pale 2 contest. AH
This story contains non-graphic depiction of corporal punishment any may be a trigger for some readers.
Along with hand-holding, cheerleading and 'atta-girls', MarchHare5 beta'd and luvrofink pre-read.
I walk, shoulders slumped, feet shuffling, down the long, cold hallway, knowing this will be the last time. Decades of fear, rage and desolation have been absorbed into the very walls, until they can contain no more, leaching out and covering everything like a grimy aura.
Over the years I've become a favorite of the staff, quiet, remorseful, content in my solitude, always trying to better my fellow man; I have become a legend in these perversely hallowed halls. I lost everything that bloody night so many years ago, and yet I persevere.
Warm hands lead me into a small windowed room; one side of the glass has a dozen hard, metal folding chairs, the other houses a metal table, a switchboard covered in buttons, a clock and a phone. My handlers maneuver me into the position they want me and remove themselves to talk quietly on the other side of the room.
The door on the other side of the glass opens and another entourage shuffles in, taking their places, some anticipating what's about to happen, some dreading, but all I can see is Bella. She looks like she always does on our weekly visits, quiet, demure. Sometimes, if I stare at her long enough, I can still see her as the small, childlike woman who loved me seventeen years ago. Tonight is no exception. Tonight, for the last time, I see her she was that night.
"Edward, I don't know if we should do this," Bella said softly, twisting her small hands together and pulling them roughly apart. She wore her emotions on her face and her heart on her sleeve. I could live a thousand years and never find a gentler person.
"I know that! God, baby, don't you think I know that? Don't you think that if there were any other way…" I sighed. "Bella, my parents will never understand the way we feel about each other. They'll never let us be together. Is that what you want? Do you want to watch me marry someone else because you were too scared to do something about it?" My hand drifted to her belly. "Do you want our children condemned and ridiculed because their mother is just some piece of ass I fucked on the side?"
She flinched away from me, though I wasn't sure if it were because I raised my voice or because of what we were talking about.
I lowered my voice. "Baby, you know what my parents think of you. You know they would never let us be together. We've been over this…"
"But… Edward, this isn't the eighteen hundreds! They have no say in who you date or marry. Let's go to Vegas tonight. We could be married by Thursday, and then no one could stop us, baby; no one could keep us apart. We could—"
"They'll cut me off, Bella." I leaned my forehead against the cold window, sighing heavily, before I lowered my voice to a whisper. "They told me last week when I told them I asked you to marry me. Mom said that if I go through with it, not to expect a penny in support now or as an inheritance." I looked at her through my lashes; she was wavering. Her steely resolve was starting to falter in the face of the obstacles my parents were engineering.
"We can make it, baby. We don't need their money. As long as we're together… We can make it. Right?"
Even as she asked, I could see the answer in her eyes. She wasn't a stranger to pinching pennies and stretching paychecks. She knew all about having the lights and gas turned off for non-payment, not having enough to eat, or getting evicted for not paying the rent. I knew she didn't love me for my family's money, but I knew she craved the security I could provide.
I leaned over the console and wrapped my arms around her the best I could in my low Chevy Camaro. "Bella, baby, we've been over this. This is the only way for us to be together." I feathered kisses across her jaw. "I love you, so much. I don't want to be apart from you again. Ever. Again." Finally reaching her mouth, I kissed her deeply, letting my tongue dance across her lips before plunging into her mouth. I knew I was overwhelming her; it was something I did often, but we had to do this.
She sighed deeply, almost despondently, and finally, finally agreed. "Okay, baby. Okay. Let's go over the plan one more time."
I let out a heavy breath and leaned back in my seat, twining my fingers through hers to keep contact. "We go in through the front door; this time of night Mom and Dad are usually watching TV in the den, so they won't hear us. Two shots. I'll hit Dad first to get him out of the way, then you shoot my mom. Remember, don't aim for the head; it's not a big enough target. Aim for the body. If you miss or you don't think you killed her, shoot her again. You have six bullets; that should be plenty." I could see her trembling, but I knew; I just knew she was with me. I leaned in to give her a quick kiss before continuing with the next, hardest part.
"Now, if Emmett's home—"
"What? Emmett? You never said anything about killing your brother, too!" she shrieked. "Edward, we can't do this. It's one thing to kill your parents… I mean, yeah, I get it. I do. They don't want us to be together. They're trying to keep us apart. But we can't kill Emmett! He's only thirteen. Edward, he's just a baby—" She broke off, sobbing.
This time I squeezed myself into the tiny backseat and pulled her after me, curling her into my chest. I breathed in the light fragrance of her hair and rocked her as she cried. After decades of time passed, her sobs tapered off into whimpers. I continued to rock her, whispering words of love and adoration, until she drew a shaky breath and pushed herself up.
"Please…" Her voice was rough, but she soldiered through. "Please, baby, tell me why we have to kill Emmett."
Those words sapped the last of her energy, and she collapsed against my chest again. I kissed her forehead and looked deeply into her sad brown eyes. "If he's home, he could identify us. Look, if he's not home, then it's fine. Right? He won't be home. He's never home on Tuesdays, so no problem, right? We'll just," I paused. "After we,"—I shuddered—"kill my parents… we'll head to Napa Valley, just like I said. We'll get there tonight and do regular touristy stuff until we get the call."
Bella looked lost as she stared over my shoulder at the night scene outside the car. Suddenly she blinked, a spasm shuddering her entire body. She shifted in my embrace until she straddled my lap and wrapped her arms around my neck. I could see the decision in her eyes as she leaned down to kiss me, but I waited for her to say the words. Her trembling body belied her steady voice.
I blink away the memory of that night and watch the woman who used to love me, who still loves me, stand on the other side of the glass. She still wears her emotions on her face and her heart on her sleeve. She looks at me with sadness, determination and love. There is no fear hiding in the depths of her eyes. She knows this is the end—the end of us. Although what we could have been ended almost two decades ago. I sit, unmoving, as the memories of that night again filter through my mind.
I cut the engine and rolled my car down the hill, coming to a stop in front of the house next door to mine. Bella and I sat quietly, each lost in our own thoughts, staring at the large front door of my family home.
Her husky voice broke the silence. "Are you ready, baby?"
This was it. It was time. I nodded.
She reached for the handle.
"Wait!" I practically screamed. "Bella, I can't do it! I can't." My head fell forward, and I whimpered. "I can't. I'm sorry, baby. So, so sorry."
Her slender arms wound around my neck, and this time she shushed me. She was the rock, the strength, the foundation of our relationship.
"It's okay, baby," she crooned. "We'll find a way to be together. Maybe in a few years—"
"No! No, Bella! This is the only way. Can't you see that? Don't you want to be with me?" I sobbed like a pussy. "Don't you love me?"
"Oh, Edward! Baby, of course I love you! I do! I want to be with you, but, baby, if you can't do this, then what—"
I took a deep breath and shuddered. "You have to do it. You have to do it, baby. It's the only way…"
She jerked back like she'd been slapped. "You want m-m-me to do it? Alone? Edward… I-I just… I don't know if I c-can."
I crawled over the console and cupped her face in my hands. "Bella, I wish there was another way, but there isn't. I want to be with you, only you, but my parents… Bella, I have a date Saturday night."
"Are you—are you breaking up with me?" she asked, her voice trembling and thick.
"What? No! No, baby, no. I'm telling you what they expect. What they want me to do. Baby, I love you, only you. And I want to be with you, only you. But I can't do it. I can't go in there and…" My voice trailed off, and I looked away. "I'm sorry, baby."
We sat silently thinking about what this would mean for us. With one last glance at the front door, I started to turn the key in the ignition.
"Wait." Bella's interruption was much quieter than my own.
I shook my head and tried to turn the key again, but her hand covered mine.
"Wait." She paused. "You'll be right here?"
She unconsciously nodded along with me before holding out her small, shaking hand. "Give me your gun."
The harsh light of this room is a stark contrast to the quiet intimacy of that night. We line up on either side of the glass, the spectators and the killers, the criminals and the innocents.
As she is led away, she turns back again. I love you, she mouths before taking her place on the other side of the glass. Always.
I offer a half-smile and a small nod. I know.
I watch the hustle and bustle as the players take their positions on either side of the glass. Then, all is still.
A diminutive man steps forward, rubbing a handkerchief along his forehead and clearing his throat. A surprisingly deep voice says, "Prisoner number 94-4836-S, the State of Washington and a jury of your peers has found you guilty of three counts of murder in the first degree, and you have been sentenced to death by lethal injection." He clears his throat nervously and steps back.
Both sides of the window freeze; some are looking at the clock ticking ominously behind a metal cage. Some are staring at the phone, willing it to ring or stay silent. I only have eyes for Bella.
As the second hand sweeps past the twelve, marking 12:01 a.m., the phone remains silent. There will be no call from the governor tonight.
An officer turns a key in the switchboard and presses a button. The deadly chemicals begin their descent through the tubing. Bella closes her eyes, but I have waited over twenty years for this moment. Through the planning and wooing, the convincing and manipulating, through eight hundred eighty-four prison visits and countless court appearances, waiting for this moment kept me going.
I move from my seat to the glass, tapping until her eyes meet mine. There is still no fear in her eyes; she did this for me, for love. She has made peace with her God. She stiffens. I see the confusion in her eyes as she catches the triumph on my face. My smile widens as I watch her life fade.
To everyone else, my smile is seeing justice finally served.
"You'll be right here when I come out?"
I left when I heard the first shot.