Okay, this was my entry for the 'Season of Our Discontent Anonymous Angst' Contest. This is my first time writing angst, so I figured it was best to start with a O/S instead of a multi-chapter. I might've died trying that.
This story was inspired by a particular pic, which you can find up on my profile. Many thanks to 22blue for hosting this and to all the judges and people who read and voted.
Also, as a warning, there are no explicit scenes in this story, but there is emotional trauma for the characters to deal with.
Many, many thanks to my beta Songster for working with this. Her input was of great help. :-)
Once again, I don't own Twilight.
Ok, enough talking, more reading...
The only sounds I can hear in the room are the ones from the clinking of glass and the silverware hitting the plates. Cutting and scooping and moving food around.
The fish is particularly good tonight, just the way I like it. I'll have to say something to Maggie about it, she always does a great job with tending the house, making sure everything works perfectly.
I put the fork aside and move my hand to take the glass of white wine in front of me, a way to enhance the flavor in my mouth. When I lift my head to take a swig, I see the other person in the room, at the other side of the table. Had it not being for this movement that allowed me to see her, I never would've guessed we're actually two people in the dining room.
Me and my wife.
Me and Isabella.
She's staring intently at her own plate, as if cutting vegetables and fish is the most difficult of tasks, something that requires all of her attention and time. I watch her cutting the food in perfect stripes and picking up the exact amount of everything with the fork before putting it into her mouth. When did she start feeling the need to do that? To have each mouthful be perfectly proportioned? We used to eat hamburgers with our bare hands, grease dripping down our hands and elbows.
Before taking the glass to my lips, I sigh. The usually faint sound, now reverberates around the room due to the lack of noise in here. For a fraction of a second, the echo of it is almost deafening, taking me back to nights when all you could hear were breathy moans and pleas. No more words were necessary back then.
That moment ends when she too hears the now loud sigh, and her eyes shoot up to meet mine. It's such a strange action coming from her, the meeting of my eyes, that it actually makes me widen mine in return. She hasn't made this much eye contact with me in such a long time, that staring at them, at her, even if it's for a second, makes me realize that I've already started to forget how they looked, the details that drew me to them in the past: that caramel tint in them or that golden stripe in her left one.
Now those details are nothing but a memory of times when I knew her body better than my own, memories that are fast becoming hazy in my mind, making me believe that perhaps they were a figment of my imagination all along.
Could my mind be so cruel?
When she sees my reaction, or maybe like me, meeting my eyes is foreign to her as well, surprise flickers in them, lighting the brown and making me see for a moment the gold I was just thinking I had imagined.
In other times, her surprised look would've cut me, much like the knife she's holding in her hand has been doing to her fish. These days, seeing that face, one that tells me she hadn't noticed that I've been sitting right in front of her for the past twenty minutes, barely scratches the surface.
It's how we live now: alone in a big house even when the other is right there.
Her shock lasts but a second, as if indeed she's already used to not meeting my eyes anymore, at not noticing I'm here. Then they go back to that familiar look that I've become accustomed for the past three years: indifference. Indifference at seeing me in front of her? Indifference at being in this situation? I don't know and I'm afraid of the answer.
No longer do I see the warmth of brown eyes looking at me, eyes that could make me do anything she wanted. Eyes I could read easily and that could read mine just as well. Instead, now they're dull and lifeless, a blank stare directed my way.
She doesn't see me anymore, and I often wonder if that's a conscious effort on her part, or if in that brain of hers she already erased me from her life, like a I'm a blind spot in her vision. I know I haven't stopped seeing her, being aware of her, as much as I've tried to. It's futile in the end, we've been married for seven years, I can't not notice her completely.
I also know that this quiet limbo we're stuck in will have to stop at some point. The question is who will be brave enough to take the step? Brave enough to face that once we open our mouths, things will either end or change, for they can't continue to be the same.
She gives me a small nod of her head and goes back to her food.
That curt nod makes me angry, like she's in front of some acquaintance and not her husband. I want to slam the top of the table with my fist and tell her to look at me, to acknowledge me with more than a simple glance. I'll even take trite words from her if that means I'm more than a warm body in front of her.
I want so many things from her and I'm sure she wants the same, or more, from me but much like our lives in the past years, I do and say nothing. I don't have the strength to be the one who says something. I grip my napkin tightly and swallow the bitter taste of my words and let things go as usual.
Indifferent. Peaceful in the surface.
I go back to my fish, to move the vegetables around the plate. My appetite is lost now. It usually happens whenever we're like this, whenever I'm reminded of how much we've grown apart.
"I'm going on a trip to Madrid on Tuesday. I'll be back by Friday for the party at the Henderson's."
This is the most she's said to me in weeks and it's startling in the silence of the room. For a second I let myself go into the sound of her voice. It used to be one of my favorite things about her: the lilt of her voice when we talked about our plans or even the most random of things; the way words would form and roll off her tongue, my name never sounded better than when she said it. I could read her moods from just a few words from her lips.
That short moment disappears when I match the voice to her words. They're both cold and to the point, nothing like the times when we used to whisper crazy things in the middle of the night after making love.
Much like her before, I nod my acknowledgement and before I can say anything more, she leaves the room with her Blackberry in her hands not looking back.
It's not like I'll say anything, really.
I sit there for a few minutes, staring at her empty seat in front of me. She sits so far away now, all the way on the other side of the table. I chuckle at that. The ocean in between us went from emotional to physical almost naturally, Now everything has this distance. Ever since that day.
I fumble with my wedding ring. Such a simple circle that meant so much promise at one point and now I have no idea what it means anymore. Maybe 'sticking with it until the end'?
This space between us feels like an ocean some days and I'm certain that at some point, we won't be able to see the other shore anymore. It will be nothing but a distant memory, a simple dot in the horizon, a place we used to visit.
I tried talking to her, at the beginning, but she closed herself off and left me out, locked me out. Now all our talks are about dinner parties, associates' lunches and what we need Maggie to do here at the house.
Neither of us dare to talk about how suffocating our nights with friends are, pretending we're fine and proving it by holding cold hands when we walk in; how vacant these dinners here at our own house feel. At the same time, these are the only moments we truly have with each other.
How pathetic is it that I actually wait for these cold dinners?
Maggie appears from the kitchen and keeps me from dwelling more on this.
"Was everything ok, Edward?" She takes in the sight of the half eaten plates.
I love Maggie, she's been with us ever since we got here, seven years ago. She's patient and caring and a great woman to confide in.
For a second I wonder if my wife talks to her as well.
"Yes, Maggie, thank you. Everything was incredible as usual." I set my napkin down while she picks up everything.
She smiles softly, but it's a little strained. She knows all about our silent nights here at the house. She has been the one to witness the change in both Isabella and myself first hand. There a very few pretenses around Maggie.
"Very good then. Would you like some dessert as well?"
"No thank you. I'll go to my office for a little while before going to bed. Have a good night, Maggie."
"All right, then. Goodnight, Edward."
I leave the dining room and enter my office. I need to send some emails and work for an hour or two.
I'm already tired and I haven't even started.
Two hours later and the sound of the keyboard and soft music fill the room. I'm already done with this, but if I'm being honest with myself, I'm also biding my time before I head up to our room.
I hate to do this, but I can't stand the silence in there either, even when the need to have her in bed with me is overpowering.
Isabella often reads before bed or works sometimes while I pretend to sleep with my back to her. I have to look away from the life that we seem to be caught in, but I can't get any rest until she turns off the lights and rolls to her own side. Neither of us says goodnight to the other anymore. There is also a big space in between us in that bed, and it's one that I can barely stomach some nights.
The bed used to be such a warm place for us, somewhere where we could be ourselves without pretenses. Just us playing and loving and talking until late at night, or until noon on weekends. Just us, naked in every sense. Now it's just a place to lay at night and let sleep take us, a place to forget what we face when the sun comes up again. I could be sleeping in the guest room and I'd get the same effect.
There is no warmth anymore.
When I see the time, I know it's safe to go to bed, so turning off the lights, I head upstairs. The hall is dimly lit and there is no light coming from our room.
Our bedroom is the second door to the right, but my eyes always fixate on the door at the end of the hall. That door that remains closed all the time. I know Maggie enters it once a week to keep the dust off, but always leaves things the way they were before.
I haven't entered it in a year, I don't know how long it's been for Isabella. That day had been hard enough to make me avoid that room altogether. Yet, I always stare at the white wood for a few moments before entering our bedroom.
Running my hand through my hair, I feel like opening it tonight, to see one of the tangible things that led us to this place, to be this distant. Maybe things will make more sense if I cross that threshold, if I face what I should.
I sigh heavily, and before making up my mind completely to the idea, my hand grips the doorknob to the room where my wife lays, not the one down the hall.
Silently, I enter and start getting ready for bed. Once I'm ready, I notice that she's facing my side this time and I can see her face under the moonlight filtering through the window. The light barely illuminates the room, but I haven't seen her like this in such a long time, that I welcome every little moment.
My hand itches to touch her skin, to feel the softness and warmth there. It tortures me to feel like I'm forgetting it, much like her eyes. For years I studied her body and reactions to my touch and now I can't even bring myself to simply touch her cheek.
I lay there under the covers, feeling the cold of the bed sheets on my bare chest. Coldness, I should've gotten used to it by now, it's not just within the rooms of our house, but between us as well, everything feels cold.
I turn away from her like I do every night. Only this time the action is not to turn away from the life we're living; it's to not face the reminder of the life we're slowly letting slip through our fingers. And as much as I want to close my hand into a fist and stop it, it's like grains of sand now, impossible to stop.
I fear that it's already too late, that maybe there is nothing to catch anymore or if there is, it's so little that it might not be worth it.
For the first time, I wish I had slept in the guest room.
The next day, Saturday, I go to meet Jasper and Emmett for lunch and to catch up. It's very hard to do so these days, with Emmett having a newborn baby at home and Jasper helping his fiancée plan their wedding. We always tease him about that.
It's also a good way to get away from the house once in a while. The air often feels thick when it's just the two of us, without work acting as our buffer. Weekends are the days where it is just us.
Neither of us can take it.
Jasper and Emmett. They're my best friends since I can remember; we've been through a lot together. But much like most people, they don't know everything that happens in our lives. They might be able to notice that things are not all that right, but I always divert them from asking more on the subject.
Thankfully, they drop it.
Now that they have their own lives to worry about, I feel jealous of the bliss they share with their families, of this whole new world that opened up in their lives. I can tell they want to talk about it some more, to share their bliss, but it's painful for me to listen to. And it both feels like a relief and a pain that they understand and drop the subject quickly.
They smile when they talk about their families.
I loathe that I don't want to see them.
We continue talking a little about our jobs and mutual friends. It feels easy to be like this with them, there are no acts and it's just like when we were in college, only now we're discussing the current economy instead of where the best party is going to be tonight.
"You're going to the Henderson's on Friday? Man, that James gives me the creeps. I'm always around Alice when he's in the room," Jasper says when I tell them of my plans for Friday night.
I know what he means, James is a creep and everybody knows it. It's common knowledge that he cheats on his wife with anyone willing to sleep with him and she's not filing for divorce only because she would lose too much.
James is always making a move on any woman that catches his eye, single or married. I've caught him several times leering at Isabella. In the past, I'd usually go over there and stake my claim on my wife. She'd often get mad at me for being so possessive, saying that she could handle him just fine, but James is the kind of guy that hardly takes no for an answer.
I still gave her what she wanted a year ago, after that day. I don't approach them anymore when he goes to her, I only stare at them from afar, trying to see if she'll tell him to get the hell away or not.
They usually talk for a while and I can see him trying to catch her eye while she looks the other way. She never pays him much attention, but she never backs off or sends him away either. I wonder what is it they talk about. She doesn't say anything afterwards to me, she doesn't even mention it.
Once I caught her looking at me when I didn't move from my spot across the room; it was the first time I didn't move to help her. I didn't know what to think of her expression. She looked surprised that I wasn't going over there, but she also seemed to look resigned.
Ever since then, she doesn't look back at me when James approaches her.
"Yeah, Isabella is doing business with James' father-in-law, so we need to make an appearance. If it were me, I'd stay home and watch a movie."
"Or work." Emmett interjects.
"Or work." Probably work. I can't even remember the last time I watched a movie and simply relaxed.
The rest of lunch goes as usual, talking and watching Emmett inhale his food.
When I get home late in the afternoon, there is nothing but silence, so much so that I have to go and turn on the stereo.
It's Maggie's day off, so she left us some food to heat up later. When I open the fridge I see two plates, one next to the other, sitting there. There are two notes on top of them as well as instructions for the oven.
But it's the note on the plate next to mine that catches my eyes. Or more like, the first word on it.
I know it's the name of my wife, but seeing it there, in blue script on a little yellow piece of paper completely shows how little intimacy we share nowadays. I have to close the door and take a breath.
Bella. Bella. Bella.
I haven't called her that in close to a year, ever since the fight that pretty much sealed the deal for the rest of our relationship. The last time I opened the door down the hall.
We yelled, we blamed, we threw things. We hurt. She locked me out of her life that day.
Ever since, I call her Isabella and she calls me Edward, no terms of endearment from either one of us under any circumstances, not even in front of friends. For the two years before that, every time I called her Bella she would flinch or leave the room, like it reminded her of our former life.
After that fight, we both put on our masks, something pretty to show the rest, to cover all the pain and disappointment that it was our lives. Calling her Isabella is a way to keep up the façade, to really separate from our life before that day.
She's no longer Bella and I'm not that Edward anymore.
It doesn't bother me really, I'm so used to it now that I don't even think of the word Bella anymore. We're so apart that it doesn't slip through my thoughts, even when I let my guard down. I find it fitting though, because she's not Bella anymore, she's Isabella. Bella died years ago in that car accident.
I decide not to eat after all. Once again, my appetite is gone.
Instead, I head for my office and pour myself a glass of scotch. I sit down in front of the fireplace and let numbness take me.
I laugh at that. My fucking life feels like a never-ending state of numbness. And every time I feel anything, I bury it down. Emotions have no place in this house anymore.
I stare at the mantle and look at the pictures there. The only light in the room comes from the fire in front of me, but I know these photos by heart by now. I barely have to glance at them to know what they show. I never seem to convince myself to take them down and replace them with something more artistic and less familiar.
I see her and our friends, our vacations and holidays, elegant parties and barbecues in backyards. Years of life and happiness flow from picture to picture, each more happy than the other one.
So many plans, so many hopes. Gone.
I hear the clicking of shoes outside of my office. Isabella must be home already from her day at the spa or something equally time consuming. Much like me, she'd rather spend her weekends outside of our house, trying to avoid encountering me.
The noise stops outside of my door and I see a shadow covering the light under the door. She's right there, a plank of wood barely keeping us apart. I stop mid drink and stare at the unmoving shadow for a few moments. Neither of us move.
What is she doing? Does she want to come in? She must know I'm here; she must've seen my car in the driveway and the faint light filtering under the door from the fire.
Is this it? Is she coming in here to talk to me, to put things on the table? To finally talk and either end things or try to make them better? Both thoughts I can barely stomach. If she wants us to end, my life without her in it looks so empty, as laughable as that thought is in our current situation. So many things that we planned for our future will no longer be and I don't mean just with her, but with anyone else for that matter. Could I move on with someone else in my life? Having a house and kids and family vacations?
But before anything, we need to face the state of our marriage, to accept responsibilities and blame. She needs to hear what I have to say and I do as well.
The thought of that happening is almost crippling. It makes me leave my glass on the table by my side and rest my elbows on my knees.
We need to talk and the prospect of saying the words that will hurt us both is almost as bad as actually uttering them. By trying to save our marriage, we could also destroy it irrevocably with words that can never be taken back, even if they are true.
I fix my eyes on the shadow under the door, willing it to do something, I just don't know what exactly.
I get my answer a second later, when the shadow moves and there is only light seeping through the gap under the door. That is followed by the click of her shoes hitting the marble floors she insisted on remodeling six months ago.
I let my breath out. Out of relief? Out of exhaustion?
Once I don't hear any more noise, I take my drink again and let the burn in my throat and the buzz in my body be the only thing to focus on.
Isabella left for Madrid early this morning. I barely saw her before she had to head for the airport. It's not unusual for her to leave our house like this, so I didn't expect a goodbye from her.
There is a lot of work when I get to the office so the rest of the day passes with me focusing on that.
For the last year this is all I seem to do: work. If I don't finish something here at the office, I take it home with me. It's not like Isabella will mind that much, since she pretty much does the same on her end.
We both use work as an excuse to not be in the house that much. I usually offer myself for big projects that I know will take a lot of my time. Isabella does the same, only her job requires her to travel a lot of the time. I put projects between us, she puts countries.
When we first married, we knew we worked at demanding jobs. We knew we'd have to put work in front of everything else at some point, but we knew it wouldn't last, that it would be only for a few years before we made a name for ourselves in our respective fields.
There would be plenty of time for family later on.
Work used to be something that, even though we loved it, was a means to make our lives better, to create the future that ultimately we really wanted: a family. For that reason, there was no doubt in our minds that if we needed to quit in order to be home more often, we would.
Work now is only an excuse not be at the house, to not face what we should. It's the only reason we don't fight as much as we used to a year ago.
When I get to the house later that night, Maggie is in the kitchen waiting for me.
"Good evening, Maggie." I smile. She's one of the few reasons that I smile these days.
"Good evening, Edward. How was your day?" She asks while finishing dinner.
It's so foreign to have such a simple question warm me so much. She's asking because she really wants to know, not because I'm her boss. She cares about what I have to say and even gives me input if I ask her.
Isabella hasn't asked me how my day was in forever. Not that I asked her either.
"Good, busy as usual." I pick up a piece of homemade bread, warm and fresh from the oven.
"Too bad it keeps you away from home this much." I think she knows why I take on so many projects, but she never really calls me on it.
I hum noncommittally.
"It's just the two of us tonight. Why don't we eat here in the kitchen?" I ask her and change the subject.
"That would be lovely. It's been forever since we've talked." Because I'm afraid of what she'll hear and see in me.
After changing clothes, we sit at the table. Tonight it's pasta, garlic bread and red wine.
"So how are your kids, Maggie?" I ask while pouring her a glass of wine.
"Oh, great. Chelsea is going to college this year. She wants to be a lawyer. Can you believe it?" She sounds so proud of her. For a second, that familiar jealous feeling grips me. I force myself to keep it down.
"That's great. I remember her always fighting with me over the amount of cookies I should give her." I chuckle and settle on my seat. "And Alec?"
"Oh, he's a senior this year. Dating, partying, studying, all the usual."
"A senior? Already? But he was barely a ten year old when I met him."
"Don't remind me of that. These kids grow up so fast. They're gone in the blink of an eye." Her words hit me like a punch to the gut. 'They're gone in the blink of an eye.'
I look from my plate and she's staring at me when she says that, gauging my reaction, waiting for me to say something.
"Maggie," I croak.
"Edward, it's time." I feel her hand on mine; I feel warmth traveling up my arm, yet I feel so cold. I know she's right, I've known for a while, but I've convinced myself that it's Isabella's decision, that she will take the first step and I'll follow.
I've been a coward.
I've deluded myself with that idea for the last year, thinking and praying that she will. But feeling Maggie's hand on mine like this and hearing her affirmation that it's time to do this, it hits me that it won't happen like I've wanted, it will simply never happen, no matter how much I wait and wish for it.
Isabella closed that door after our fight last year, quite literally, and she won't open it back.
"It could be over."
There is silence in the kitchen, just not the same when I'm with Isabella.
"Yes, it could, but you both can't live like this anymore, Edward. Neither of you is moving on, you're both stagnant and it's killing you little by little. Do you know how long has it been since I've seen either of you laugh or simply smile? You're both hiding in your jobs all week long and then spending as much time apart as possible."
Has it been that obvious?
"I can see that you still feel something for her. It's obvious in the way you look at her, the few times you allow yourself to do so. But this thing between you two is destroying you. It's already evident in both of you. You need to do something."
In the back of my mind I know she's right, she's known us for years, she can see more than anyone around us, maybe even ourselves. But at the same time, she truly doesn't know, she doesn't know what it's like to be in this situation.
To feel like a piece of you is gone forever, to knowthat it's lost forever and yet still having to go on each day and pretend that you can actually live like that. What a joke.
She doesn't know.
Nobody knows until they have to face that they've lost their future in a second, a simple second that changed everything for the worst.
"Does she talk to you?" I ask.
I see Maggie regarding me for a moment, I know she won't lie to me, but she's measuring what to say. How much to say.
"She talks and I listen."
I nod. I'm glad she has someone to talk to, but at the same time, it makes me angry that it's not her own husband.
In a haze, I get up from the table, leaving Maggie behind without a single word back to her. I don't know what to say anyway. To fuck off? That I'll do something? Neither sounds much of an option, but I know they are.
Going to my office, I sit at the desk and turn on the small lamp there. With measured breaths, I decide to open the bottom drawer to my left. Slowly, the picture there makes its appearance, revealing inch by inch its image to me. Once it's open, I debate whether to take out the picture or close the drawer back again and leave it there for another year again.
I don't think I make the decision, or at least I don't realize it, but next thing I know, I feel the cold of the glass and the hardness of the frame in my hands. I move it under the light.
Much like the photos at the mantle, I know exactly what I'll see in this one. At one time, I stared at it so much that I could make a drawing of it by heart. Of course I'll never forget what it looks like but when my eyes hit the image just now, tears burn my eyes, as if this is the first time I'm seeing this.
I sob at noticing that I had actually forgotten some details.
"I'm sorry." I take the hard frame and hug it tightly to my chest, as if the action will prevent the image in the photo from leaving me, like it never should've. This protection is far too late now.
Because it did leave.
I rock softly and feel my tears roll down my cheeks, mourning the loss of so much more than what this frame shows, that ,my life doesn't feel like much anymore. For the last three years I haven't been living, I've only been walking around in this shell of a man and doing the things that I'm supposed to do in this situation. The things everyone told me I had to do.
To move on.
But how could I if there is nothing to move on to? No destination to make my way to. I've been driving aimlessly just waiting for the time when I see some sort of sign on the road to 'turn here', to 'stop', to 'not go back', any kind of instruction that tells me I'm on the right path, or even direct me to the right path.
But nothing, I have nothing of that kind. No map and no one who sits by my side to take this trip with.
I look down at the picture and trace the lines with the tip of my fingers. It's a little blurry, not just from the tears in my eyes, but the photo is as well. You have to know what you're looking for in order to see it.
"I'm so sorry." I whisper into the room.
I'm sorry for letting things get this far, for not doing anything to stop them.
I'm sorry for having to make that decision that changed us.
So much was lost that night three years ago.
I set the frame under the lamp and after looking at it longer, I turn off the lamp. This time, I don't put the frame back in the drawer.
When I get to the house from work on Friday, I see Isabella's car in the driveway. I tense for a second and mentally prepare myself for the coldness once again.
The house felt empty without her, and sadly, it does with her in it as well. Every room feels cold, it's almost like you can actually feel the fog whenever we let out a breath. I know a house shouldn't feel this way, but I know this is how we work.
I head for my room and I find her there wearing a black cocktail dress and putting on her earrings.
Because I can't help it, I stare at her legs and bare arms. They glow under these artificial lights and they remind me of those times when I used to run my hands on them, on all of her.
The memory is both painful and welcome.
"You're late." Her cold eyes look at me from the reflection at the mirror. Her words are just as cold.
"I got held up at the office." She knows that is hardly an excuse these days, I stay until late because I want to, not because I have to. She doesn't call me on it.
"We're supposed to go to the Henderson's party. Did you forget about that?" I did, not that it matters to me. Her tone is accusatory, she doesn't believe that this wasn't on purpose.
"Yes, I did." I loosen my tie and start taking off my clothes, laying them on the bed.
I can feel her eyes following me. It's a strange feeling to have, I didn't think I could actually remember it after so long, with her always avoiding looking at me. I wonder if she feels my eyes on her occasionally.
"Well, we're gonna be late now." She's angry as she picks up her small bag.
I find that amusing, this is the first spark of emotion she's shown in months and it's over a party that I know she doesn't want to attend. She only wants to continue to do business with the Hendersons.
"You can go without me. I don't feel like going there and watch James touch my wife," I spat. I'm angry as well. This is what our lives have turned into, social events that we have to go to, and pretend that we like those people when in the past we used to laugh at their actions.
I know it's a cheap shot to bring up James, but seeing her eyes like this, with that fire flickering in them, awakens the need to see more of it. I need to see anything in them besides indifference.
She spins in my direction and there it is, what I've been waiting for, fire dancing in her eyes, the anger making her skin flushed.
"What did you just say?" Her words are controlled.
"I said that you better go without me. I don't want to see James touch you all night long."
"I can't believe you're saying this. And why do you even care if he's near me at these parties? Since when do you care who I spend my time with?"
I've always cared, it's her that doesn't want me to.
"Well, I'm sorry, I didn't know I had to be okay with the fact that another man touches my wife. I guess I'll be okay with it from now on."
We're both raising our voices and finally the room is filled with noise and not that dead silence that always engulfs it. Even if these are not the sounds I was hoping for.
"Well, you seem to have been okay for a long time now. You don't even-" She shakes her head for a moment. "You know, what? Go, don't go, I don't care. I'm out." For a second, a feeling registers in the pit of my stomach at hearing her words. Dread? Hope? I'm out. Does she mean to the party or altogether from this?
She picks up her coat and heads for the door, slamming it behind her. I stay rooted to the spot and stare at the space she just left. The door and the frames near the wall are still vibrating from her action.
With her gone, I can almost feel the ripples of anger she left behind, spreading all over the walls, covering everything in the room, blanketing it in a different light. Now I feel the anger too, hers and mine, and it's too much to just let it lay there like other times.
She's angry at me? I'm not alone in this marriage, contrary to what this feels like. We're both in this, we both either fight or give up. We've been having a one person marriage for too long now.
How things change. We went from doing everything together, even picking up the cereal we eat each morning, to this state of our marriage, one neither of us is willing to break free from.
Only this time, I'm not going to perpetuate our unmoving position. This time, the anger changes into determination.
I walk to my dresser and at the far end of the first drawer I find the keychain with the one single key that I had to hide to keep me from using it.
I hesitate for only a second before striding out of our room and to the door at the end of the hall that I've been avoiding and longing to open at the same time for the past year. I stop before it and wait.
I count my breaths and stare at the white door in front of me, my hand grips the key and I welcome the pain that the indentations leave on my palm. The hallway is lit and at eye level with the door I see the slight faded shapes that adorn the wood.
With my other hand, I trace them reverently, like I always do when it comes to this. To her.
Softly, my hand moves over the lines of her name. It took us months and long discussions to settle on it.
"Emma." I whisper, as if saying it any louder will make it disappear.
Yet the faded wood, shaping her name in front of me, does show that it's disappearing. What used to be loud and clear, it's now but a whisper of what it used to be. A whisper that is always present around us.
I rest my head against the door, tired already and I haven't even opened the door yet. I close my eyes and I know what I'll find inside, Maggie hasn't moved anything since the last time I was in here a year ago. Of that, I'm sure.
Taking a big breath, I let the determination from before, engulf me. I need to do this.
With shaky hands, missing a few times, I place the key in the hole and turn it. When I hear the click of the lock, the signal that I can enter, that determination almost falters.
Closing my eyes for a moment, I embrace the pull this room has over me, I hear its calling, one that I've been afraid to answer. I'll finally open the door and let the memories wash over me once again, drown myself in them one more time before letting go.
I turn the knob and prepare to let these feelings hit me for the first time in a year, to feel something.
The room is dark, so I run my hand down the wall to my right, looking for the light switch. When I find it, I click on it.
Our baby's nursery.
White light shines brightly and pours down the pink and white walls, starting at the ceiling and illuminating each detail in the room around me that Bella and I worked on with care. Much like any first time parents.
The moldings at the top of the walls, all especially ordered to fit our idea for the room, with stars and moons, because we were giving her the universe.
The furniture that we waited for months to arrive because my pregnant wife always seemed to find a flaw in them and we had to send them back. As imaginary as they were.
The dresser full of tiny clothes that we bought every time something caught our eyes, even when we knew she'd probably wear them only one time.
The rocker by the window with the small couch in front of it, so Bella could nurse her and I could sit in front of them, watching and marvel at the both of them. My girls.
The photo frames with our pictures so the baby could always see us and of Bella's changing body as our baby grew, each photo in a sequence.
This so much more than I remembered. Every detail was well thought out, yet looking around, I still find things that I had forgotten we had here.
My chest tightens and my stomach twists. This is not how it was supposed to happen. By now, we would've replaced the crib with a small bed and saved it for future babies.
No. This is definitely not how things were supposed to happen.
I move inside the room, my steps muffled by the carpet that matches the rest of the room. Even here there is silence to be found, only this time, it fits its surroundings. There is no life to rejoice here, no laughter to bounce off the walls. With her gone, there is no sound I want disturbing this.
Slowly, I move to the crib to my left.
I pass a shelf that has toys and things that I never knew about until we found out we were pregnant. At the center of it, a picture of the ultrasound of that first time we were able to see that she was a girl.
It's the same picture that I now have on top of my desk downstairs.
I get to the empty crib and I notice the folded blanket Bella bought just because she said it was soft and the baby would love it. She even tried to sew her name at the corner. She cried when it came out crooked. We still kept it.
Fuck. So much hope and love to fill this room. Now those feel like a distant memory in my life.
I feel the soft fabric with the tip of my fingers, almost afraid to touch it, and lift it to my nose. It doesn't have that baby smell, not because it's been three years since she's been gone, but because there was no baby to wrap in it in the first place.
I grasp it tightly to my nose and a muffled sob explodes against the blanket. I feel sickened that I'm taint it with grief when it should've been love.
I cry for Bella and all that she doesn't let out, I cry for myself for having to make the choice that changed our lives. I cry for our little girl who was gone before she'd even been born.
But most of all, I cry because I can't truly regret making that choice if it saved Bella's life.
Flashes of that night three years ago run before me, now much clearer and stronger than before.
The blood. So much blood from my pregnant wife.
The emergency room and the endless waiting.
"What do you want to do, Mr. Cullen?"
"Save my wife."
Her face when I told her the news. I had to be the one who told her.
Her face full of horror and sadness.
That night was the worst of my life, losing our little unborn baby. It tore me apart having to choose between saving my wife's life or our baby's, the words leaving me empty inside. At the moment, there was no way both could survive, it was a choice between saving one or losing them both.
I've had to live with that for three years and everyone told me it was the right decision, that we could have more babies and move on. I'm not sure how much they believed their words.
Thinking about moving on with life doesn't work when your wife can barely stand to look you in the face.
I sob again when I remember the next two years and how reality hit me one year ago; that the night of the accident I also lost Bella. My wife is no longer the woman I married; she buried that one deep inside, never to let her out again.
My Bella had dreams and hope and so much love, it was impossible not to love her back. She saw the world in such a bright light, I was envious of her at times.
This Isabella is the contrary, never showing emotions and the ones she does show, are anger and resentment. I can see it in her eyes that she blames me for that night, for the accident and for not making the right decision in her eyes. That I should've taken the other road home, that I never should taken her out on a rainy night. That I should've chosen Emma instead.
These were all words she spat at me the last time I was in this room, filling it with hate and blame. Her eyes were almost black as she stared at me, trying to wound me with her words as much as she was hurting. Could she not see that I felt, still feel, the same? That it was my baby too who died that night?
I couldn't enter this room again after that fight.
I loud cry startles me, but it's not from me, it's coming from the door of the nursery.
When I turn, she's there, one hand covering her mouth and the other one covering her stomach, clutching the fabric of her dress. Her eyes are wild as she surveys the room.
I know what she sees, something different that I do.
Furniture that she spent months picking out. Now useless.
A crib and a rocking chair to go with them. Now empty.
A wall of photographs of us. Now meaningless.
"What the hell do you think you're doing here, in my baby's room?" She says angrily, keeping her eyes on me as she walks in my direction with slow steps.
"Emma was my baby too." I'm seething.
"Get out!" She's right in front of me, her nostrils flaring and her face red from yelling. I don't care, I'm not moving from here.
"I will not let you do this, take her like this, like she's someone only you lost. I lost her too and it hurts, God, it fucking hurts. I lost that future too." I say with my voice raised.
She doesn't say anything, she only stares at my eyes. She looks at me much like that night, a year ago when she last showed emotions. A fight I cowardly walked away from and let her have it.
The sting in my cheek that I feel next barely registers. She's more resigned than anything else when she sees that I'm not moving from here.
"Please, just go," she whispers. Her voice is soft and for just a second, I hear the voice of Bella, my wife, not this cold woman in front of me.
We stare at each other and all I see in her eyes is pain and blame. Everything else that my Bella had before the accident is either gone for good or buried too deep. I wonder if she even knows where to look for anymore.
Her look changes to pleading, she's pleading me to leave, to let this go once again. But I can't do that, can't she see that? Can't she sense that this is it? The moment of truth?
My face must've shown that this was it, because a second later, her eyes show fear – no – panic, utter panic. She knows that she needs to talk about this, it won't go away.
She breaks the stare and turns for the shelf, picking up the stuffed animals lined up there. She murmurs words of 'baby' and 'alone' and frantically, heads for the rocking chair and sits them there. She goes back and forth between the shelf and the chair doing this.
"Please, just go. I just want to be alone." Her whispers are pleading and desperate and slowly she starts to crumble.
"No." I say determinedly, because she needs to hear this, she needs to break down after all this time. She never did, only short moments of anger that she quickly swallowed and then moved on. Seeing her like this, so weak, I don't care whether she hates me after today.
I go to her and from behind, I encircle her middle, trapping her arms and the stuffed animals. She tries to wiggle her way out, but I hold her strongly.
"Let me go and leave, Edward. Leave!"
"No, I told you I'm not. I made that mistake a year ago, I won't do that again."
She still tries to wiggle her way out of my arms, she even starts kicking me, but I don't let go. I can hear her crying once she sees that I'm keeping my word and not releasing her. Her sobs shake her body and one by one, the toys she has been holding fall to the floor.
"Let me go! I won't let you touch her things. It's your fault she's gone. Why do you care?" Does she think I'm gonna take everything out of this room?
"Because she was my daughter too, Bella! Of course I care, I loved her too."
Her body still tries to break free from my grasp and she bends, falling towards the floor. I still hold her until we're sitting, with her bending at her middle and me trying to calm her.
"No, you didn't. You never would've let her die if you loved her."
Her words hit harder than the kicks she made before. She thinks I didn't love Emma? I loosen my hold on her and she takes the opportunity to break free from my arms. She leans against the wall to my right, trying to get away from me. Like always.
"How can you say that, Bella?"
"Because you should've chosen her, not me." Black tears run down her cheeks from her ruined make up. I haven't seen her this disheveled since that night a year ago.
"Is that what you really wanted? For our daughter to live without a mother?"
"If she was alive, then yes."
I knew she blamed me for it, but I did as well, I still do. That's why I let her have her hate, let her say the words I felt were true as well. She's only voicing what I felt at the time. But I know better now, I would've lost Bella as well and that is something I couldn't have lived with.
"We could've had more kids after her." I say the words everyone told us after the accident.
"And forget her just like that? How can you say that about her? Like she was nothing to you." Her eyes are wide, like she can't believe the concept.
"It doesn't mean we'll forget her. I loved her too, but I had to choose and I chose you, the woman I married. And I'd do it again." Now it's my words that hit her.
I feel her fists hitting my chest after that. She surprises me and I fall backwards to the floor. She never stops hitting and crying. I don't stop her.
"No, no, no. Why her, Edward? Why did it have to be our baby?" Her words are loud and she chokes on her tears as her punches lessen. My arms go to her back.
"I don't know, Bella. I don't know. It was an accident, everything that could go wrong that night, did. There was nothing anyone could've done." I feel my own tears threatening to fall.
"No! It was your fault. I told you I wanted to stay home, but you said things would be okay."
"It was an accident, Bella. An accident." I repeat over and over. If she doesn't believe it, then we'll never be okay.
"My baby, my beautiful baby," She repeats over and over.
"It was my baby too, Bella. If I could change things and bring her back, I would, but I can't. I can't." I move my hand to her cheek.
"It should've been me." She's still crying, but her sobs are gone now.
With those words I grip her closer to me. For months after the accident, I feared that she'd do something to complete that thought, that in the end, I'd end up losing both of them.
"No, no. I couldn't lose you too, Bella."
She looks up at me from my chest and suddenly, I want to kiss her and touch her. It's been so long since I've had my wife with me, like this.
I take her face in both my hands and move my thumbs to feel her skin. So soft, much more than I remembered. Her eyes are red and tears are dried around her eyes and cheeks, but this woman in front of me is the closest to the one I married seven years ago.
From pain or blame, her tears show that there is still something inside trying to break free after all. The breach between us a little less wide.
Never taking my eyes off her, I move my mouth to hers. At the first contact with her lips, our bodies take on a life of their own. They feel.
She grabs my shoulders, while I hold her head and her lips against my own. They're flushed and sweet as usual, but she feels different now. With the mix of her own taste and the salty tears, I kiss a new woman. A woman that is both the Bella I married and the Isabella that has been hiding her pain.
With frantic movements, we start undressing each other, it's never fast enough, so many clothes get ripped. We need each other, we need this.
I know this is not the best situation to do this, but we need to feel close to each other. We need to take this burn that runs between us and threatens to consume us, because after tonight, this might be the last time we're together, this might be the last of the fire we thought would never wane. I'll let it burn me if that's the case.
The next minute passes fast, and then we're both naked, touching and kissing and licking. It's never enough, I don't ever want it to be enough.
Our hands never stop touching and squeezing tentatively, getting familiar with the bodies we used to know so well. Right now, we're truly getting to know each other again, finding the skin and places that used to drive us crazy. I smile when she moans, just like before, when I kiss her collarbones.
I lower my body and kiss her's; it's like discovering her all over again. She's thinner than before, but still maintains her curves. When I get to her lower stomach, I catch her fading scar. An ever-present reminder of that night on her body.
Bella gets what I'm seeing and tries with her hands to push me over.
I kiss it softly with my lips, closing my eyes for a second, saying a silent prayer to that baby girl and the life we lost. I feel her shivering, sobs shaking her body hard from my actions. I wonder if she lets herself see the scar, to mourn our loss.
The scar is still too deep for both of us.
I move my body to cover her and kiss her tears away. When I enter her, it's better and worse than before. Her body molds to mine, much like my own does to hers. Almost on its own, mine starts reacting to her movements, doing what it knows she wants to bring her pleasure.
We've done this so many times, it's almost automatic now, but the feelings and the connection are what made each time different that the others. This time is different too, and the hurried movements match what we're both feeling at the moment.
This could be our last time. That makes the pleasure painful.
It could be too late for us.
I kiss her and lick her chest and never stop the movement with my hips. The tension in my stomach grows and I can feel her body tightening around me as well.
Fuck, it's been so long.
Our bodies know what they want, but it doesn't make it any easier for us. For when I start feeling that my release is closer and closer, the dread starts to pour down my back, making me shiver.
There is so much running through my body now, because of her, because of our situation. It's overwhelming to feel all this at once after not feeling much for so long. I choke back a sob when I feel myself getting closer.
Pain. Loss. Love. Hope. Guilt. Sadness.
I feel all of that in the tight knot at my chest as the tension in my body grows and feels like it will snap at any second. When I look down at Bella, her eyes are staring at mine and from her unshed tears, I know she's feeling something similar.
I hold her stare as much as I can but when it becomes too much, I have to close my eyes and bury my face in her hair and neck. My body still moves, faster and harder and it's never enough and too much at the same time.
More. More. More.
When all the tension reaches its peak and lets go, the release is much more powerful than I expected, my body letting go of everything that has been carrying for far too long. It goes on and on and on and every second that passes leaves my body emptier and feeling more hollow than ever.
Much like before, it's pleasure and pain at the same time.
I keep my face buried in her hair while we catch our breaths and I feel tears falling freely. I simply cry for whatever comes next, or for what might not come after all.
I feel her tears on my shoulder and I move above her, trying not to crush her. We just look at each other while the tiny droplets fall. Hers down her temples and mine to her hair.
I can see that dark cloud covering her eyes fade for a moment and I hope it lasts, for her own sake.
"Are you ok?" I ask her.
"Yeah." Nodding, she doesn't say anything else.
I move to the side and bring her to me, she rests her head in my shoulder and I hold it there, close to my heart. Like this, we lay tightly wrapped around each other. It feels like all those nights years ago.
We're unwilling to let go of the other, to stop touching, afraid that after we part, we won't be able to find each other again. It feels like two survivors drifting in the ocean, swaying with the waves around us. If we let loose of the other, the water will swallow us. We'll get lost in that mass forever.
We've been pushing away from each other, avoiding what's important, but at the same time, clinging to the string between us that's still there. We're both scared to let go and scared to try again. I can't kid myself into thinking that this night will change that.
It might be too late for us, the grief and that ocean between us much too great to deny by now. I'd love to think that we could make it, that love can conquer all, but I truly don't know. Love is simply not enough sometimes, more when it's been thrown into the back of our lives.
We twine our hands on my chest as I play with her fingers. The stones from her wedding ring catching the light from the ceiling.
"What do we do now?" I ask into the room. Maybe it's to her or maybe to myself.
"I don't know." She whispers.
Thank you for reading.
If you have the time and the willingness, I'd love to hear what you think of this story.
See ya around, sweeties.