Contest: Season of Our Discontent Anonymous Angst Contest
Picture Prompt Number: #10
Pairing: Rose/Edward, Edward/Bella, Rose/Riley
Word Count (minus A/n and header): 5553
Warnings and Disclaimer: This story involves deep and heavy themes including drug use, rough sex, mental illness, attempted suicide, abortion, not necessarily in that order.
The first time Edward tells me he loves me, I almost believe him.
It's that knowledge, the knowledge that I am living in a lie, that jars me out of my haze of complicity.
Edward is so genuine when he said the four words – I love you, Rosalie – that I forget who and where we are. My parents, sitting to one side, are sipping champagne. His parents, sitting on the other side, are also tipping back bubbly. It all falls away and it's just this intelligent, handsome boy in front of a Christmas tree, looking me dead in the eyes and lying the most beautiful lie.
Some part of me knows that Edward is genuine, too. He actually believes that he loves me, but we're stuck in this robotic Stepford-esque life we've been born into.
We listen to our parents. We get good grades. We stay out of trouble. We're friends with the right people (Alice Brandon is my best friend and Jasper Whitlock is Edward's).
We're both so used to this life that we don't see how entrenched we are. We're over our heads with the reality being force-fed to us, nearly blind of the world outside. Our parents have been friends since before we were born. They love to tell people that they knew when we were born that we were fated to fall in love and get married. Destined to be just like them – married young, successful careers, beautiful families.
We're seventeen when Edward declares his love for me. We've dated for two years. Our lives and families are so enmeshed together that I don't know who I am without him, and I suspect he feels the same. We were childhood friends, awkward middle grade neighbors, and high school sweethearts that seemed to have it all. Almost every memory I have is of all of us together. I can scarcely remember a family trip that was just The Hales or just The Cullens, and usually The Brandons and Whitlocks are there, too. When I think about it, I begin to wonder why the hell rich people can't vacation alone, then decide maybe I don't want to think about it too much.
Somehow, the axis of the Earth shifts when he speaks the words. We both fall deeper into the lie, even though I feel like I've finally woken up in the Matrix. I willingly swallow the red pill and turn into the smug bitch that knows.
I know and I continue to live in the lie.
It's not that I don't love Edward; I do. I just don't love him like I should. I love him because he's always been there. He's always been the one I was expected to love. Deviations from the grand plan were never an option, though I do think about what a life with someone else might be like.
The most we'd done before his declaration of love was some heavy petting. After, he begins to worship me in intense and interesting new ways, our progression following the path that's been set for years. I eat up the attention and the orgasms. Though sloppy at first, they become expert and well-practiced on both our sides. Weekends are spent with our idyllic parents in their idyllic vacation homes sipping wine, skinny dipping at night before we explore each other in vulnerable ways, and playing card and board games with our parents to keep them appeased. I love that the grown-ups treated us as equals, allowing us the same privileges they have, and the first time I have a little too much wine at dinner and go from a pleasant, warm fuzz in my brain over the edge into somewhat sloppy drunk, the feeling of power over my own life thrills me.
I am a grown-up, at seventeen, and I think maybe this isn't so bad, this cookie cutter façade of a happy life. When we're alone, I can even pretend sometimes that this might be enough to sustain us for sixty years together or more. We laugh, we talk, we find common ground, and we can be quiet and still together. We trust each other almost implicitly - we've been through all these years together, after all, neither of us abandoning the other in what we both know is this world of insanity surrounding us.
Our parents don't let us sleep in the same room, but they frequently leave us alone to play golf or do other boring socialite things. In the hot sunshine, we make love on my bed. Edward is kind and caring. He's serious to a fault, studious and determined. He knows he will go to Dartmouth or Yale. He will become a doctor. He will provide everything I could ever want or need in life. All of these things he reminds me of frequently. I'm never quite certain if he's trying to convince himself or me. Perhaps both of us.
When we're naked and tangled, his guard sometimes slips and the sadness oozes from him in the dark quiet moments after we've come. Sure, he does what he's supposed to in the moment, touching and kissing the places he's learned I like, but never does he explore or try to do anything more. He doesn't dare suggest we expand beyond our familiar routine and position. Oral sex and missionary position having grown rote at seventeen, neither of us willing to branch out, does not bode well for what intimacy will be like at thirty, and I begin to suspect he feels the same way. I wonder if he's begun to think about a life with someone else, too.
We're caged animals, trapped and knowing our fate, with no clue how to change it.
I can almost see him wanting to ask for more, wanting to find more. But he never does. The shimmer of desire glows around his edges but doesn't permeate his solid exterior. He will comply. He will obey his parents. He will have a good life. Even though he secretly itches to rebel. I've grown depressed and repressed, wanting something more but already medicated into sheer complacency about it all.
It turns out that neither of us has to go very far out of our way to create rebellion; it finds us.
It finds us on a bitterly cold December day. It's winter break from our senior year of high school and we're all enjoying a joint family vacation at the cabins. Plus signs appear on the pregnancy tests I'd bought the week before in a blind panic that my always-regular period is absent. The entire week was spent thinking positively. Thinking minus signs.
I consider my options. I could not tell Edward and take care of things by myself. Somehow, the dishonesty of that eats away at me, and I realize also that I'll need him if we're going to do what I suspect we will. Maybe he'll just want to get married. Sure, it's really early for that. Sure, it's not really what either of us wants, but we can make it work. We've pretended this long, right?
A few days later, I steal a private moment with Edward. When he thinks I'm trying to fuck him, he lets out the tiniest puff of frustration, and I can see him working in his mind to find the route that will get me off the fastest so he can go back to whatever it was he was doing before I interrupted. He'd never turn me down – he likes playing his part well and wants to keep me happy, just as much as I do. He pulls my body close to his, burying his mouth against my neck.
"Edward, stop," I breathe out against his cold skin. "I have to tell you something."
When our eyes meet, I see a glimmer of hope. It's the same hope I've held onto at times; the hope that one of us will be the stronger one and shatter the image we've held onto all these years. That one of us will be the one to let the other go, allowing us both to be happy and free and find the life we're meant to live.
He has no idea what is about to hit him.
He blinks about forty times, rapidly, his eyes widening and then narrowing, his head shaking. He's already doing mental calculations and trying to get us back on the track we'd been on seconds before I fucked it all up.
"I'm pretty sure you know the how," I say, half-snorting. "I don't know when or how far along I am."
"Maybe it was a false positive?" he asks, mood instantly soaring with the possibility.
"I Googled it. Doesn't seem likely."
The moment some tiny part of me hoped for – where he wrapped his arms around me and told me it would all be okay – never comes. Edward turns and walks away, opening and closing the front door without bothering to stop and put his jacket back on. I grab it, clinging to the part of himself he's left behind, and step to the window, watching. Halfway between our houses, in knee-deep snow, he falls to the ground. He sinks to his knees, the snow seeming to almost cocoon him, his head in his hands as he rocks back and forth.
Not only have I fucked up my life, but I have fucked his up, too. It's taken me until that moment to realize just how I've shattered his dreams, too.
Never does it occur to me to ask my parents for help. I know what the Hales would say, and even though that's probably the direction we'll go in anyway, I want to steer that ship myself. I'm an adult now. I drink wine. I fuck. I'm grown up.
Except that in the stillness of night, I rest one hand against my flat belly. The other covers my mouth to muffle the sobs that wrack my body and conscience.
What have I done, and what am I about to do?
I've never felt more alone and child-like. Never felt more in need of guidance and love and the acceptance and understanding I'm certain to not find.
Edward and I grow quiet in the following weeks, withdrawing from each other and our perfect, beautiful lives. My mother repeatedly asks me what's wrong, but her words are hollow, the panic in her voice evident only because her daughter has failed. At what, she's not certain, and for that I'm thankful. Our carefully constructed house of cards has not only been blown down, a tornado has swept through our lives. A tornado the size of a blueberry.
That's what I'm told when I go to my doctor: my baby is the size of a blueberry. I'm seven weeks pregnant, according to everyone's calculations. When I ask for the name of someone that can helpme, my doctor blanches, but hands me two cards. One is for a clinic, one for an adoption center. I'm alone and visiting my regular OB/GYN. The one I've seen for years. The one that my perfect mother sees. The one that brought me into this world.
I didn't want Edward to go with me to the doctor - I repeatedly told him I could handle it on my own. Besides, if he went with me, people might ask questions I'm not ready to answer.
At school the next day, I tell Edward about the entire visit. I start making blueberry jokes at every opportunity. My friends certainly think I've gone insane, Alice and Jasper exchanging looks over our lunch table. I don't know if it's my way of coping or maybe I really am going insane, but somehow if I joke about it, I can't be doing this terrible thing.
I research as much as I can. By eight weeks, my baby is the size of a bean.
By thirteen, he or she will be gone.
The designated day is a Saturday morning, the final of three appointments, so that Edward can go with me. I insist he doesn't need to – I'm still insistent that I can handle everything myself. Somewhere deep inside, I know he needs to make sure I actually do it. I wish he was coming with me because he loves me enough to want to go, but I know better.
Naked but for a flimsy cotton gown, lying on the cold table, I yearn for them to somehow be able to numb my entire body. I want, not for the first time, them to numb my heart and my brain. I know down to my marrow that I will never forget this morning, this moment. The smell of the building, the sad eyes of every other woman and girl there, the cracked and peeling paint in the corner of the procedure room.
Each scrape causes more tears to fall to the cheap, dirty floor. My legs are open, my most private body parts on display, my humiliation high. The hum of the blood pressure cuff distracts me periodically. The pinching and pulling makes me feel like my entire body is going to be sucked into what I know is a small cannula inserted into my cervix. Edward's hand practically crushes mine as he sits by my side.
Even deeper than the cramps and ache is the pain of failure, disappointment, and worry.
I don't want to marry Edward. I don't want to bear his children. But what if this was it? What if I've irrevocably erased my ability to be a mother because of youthful mistakes? The fear consumes me as the noise of the room buzzed around me.
"I'm so fucking sorry," Edward whispers into my ear.
His voice and hand keep me steady when my vision becomes dizzy from pain, and I close my eyes. He whispers to me, soothes and apologizes. His cool fingers stroke my sweaty forehead. His eyes mirror my pain when I open mine to look into them, and I wonder how. How can he feel so deeply about this? As deeply as I do?
Our tears fall one after another, the stream of sorrow joining together and pooling on the floor. It is the only tangible evidence of our grief, and it, too, will be wiped away in a matter of minutes.
What seems to take hours actually takes nine minutes. I've timed it on the clock on the wall. Nine minutes to destroy my soul, even though I know it is the only reasonable choice for us at the time. The war of emotions is so heavy inside me. I'm the only person to blame for what's happened. I could have said no, to the sex, to the procedure, to any or all of it. I've made my choices and owned them like the grown up I so easily pretend to be.
When we're finished, Edward drives me home and tucks me into bed. My clothes feel too much, too heavy, too scratchy, too everything. I'd undressed down to my panties. I spend the entire day there. I cry, I bleed, I cramp. I cry more. Alice calls and I lie and tell her I'm sick. Food poisoning, I say. I'll be fine by Monday... And a small part of me so deeply hopes it's true. I'll see her at school, and life will go back to normal. I cling desperately to this hope; it feels like the only thing I have left.
Edward texts me a few times. He's trying, and it's sweet. I don't want sweet. I want the pain and booming self-flagellation of my thoughts. Not even my best friend knows my deepest shame, the shame that Edward and I are now bonded together forever by.
That night, Edward sneaks into my room unannounced and uninvited. When he arrives, he strips himself bare. Pressed together beneath the covers, nothing left between us, we hold on. I have no more tears left, just deep and gaping wounds that I have no idea how to begin to heal. When I wake up in the morning, he's gone, as if I'd imagined it all.
I continue to mark time in my head. Blueberry has advanced to grape. My hands sometimes sneak down, imagining the roundness and swell of an apple inside my body.
My school work declines. I'm not surprised; days I would normally be in class and nights I would normally have spent studying turn into nights I spend forgetting. Trying to forget. I will do anything, seek any solution to give me a second of freedom from my pain, guilt, and sadness. I meet a boy named Riley at the 7-11 one afternoon. He looks just the kind of dangerous I'm looking for in my life. He marvels at my expensive car when I drive us to someplace to eat, my mascara-stained cheeks when I tell him things I've never dared to tell anyone else, and the sad eyes I can't hide.
My parents would surely disapprove, which makes him absolutely perfect. He's from the wrong side of town, wears the wrong kind of clothes, and aspires to nothing. At first, he's just a friend. An unbiased ear for me to vent my frustrations and a willing leech to eat the food and drink the drinks I will certainly buy for us.
Edward begins to come over less and less. He doesn't hold my hand at school, or kiss me sweetly anymore. Even the facade is starting to slip beyond my grasp now. The shred of happy potential I had left disappears like a wisp of smoke.
My baby would be the size of a cantaloupe.
In the lunch room, we sit across from each other, ghosts.
Inside my head, chaos is king. I lose track of which day of the week it is, thanks in small part to the happy white pills Riley gladly places on my tongue. I can see the desire in his eyes when I let my cheeks hollow around his finger as he pulls it out of my mouth. We still haven't crossed any lines, but I can feel them getting thinner, stretching tighter between us.
I rush through my routine to get ready for school only to discover it's Saturday. My mother corners me. She demands to know what I've done to push Edward so far away. Why did I have to be such a bitch, she asks. I had everything right in front of me and I blew it, she says, sneering at me and dripping with palpable hatred.
If I had blown it, I wouldn't be in this mess, would I, Mother?
I don't dare speak the words out loud, but they rattle in my mind for hours. Random outbursts of giggles only I can hear and understand.
When my due date passes, I skip school. We all stuck around to go to the same college, but I can't bear to look Edward in the eyes anymore, to feel that shame. Not today. I text Riley and he fucks away my pain all day. He's deliciously angry, finally having been allowed into my house and inner sanctum, and hurts me in ways I can't hurt myself. His fingernails bring my blood to the surface. His fists cause blooming purple on my skin. His cock reminds my body what a dirty whore I am. His words dig deep into my soul.
He does exactly what I've begged him to do, leaving just as quickly as I want him to be gone. When I can move again, I check my phone and see a text from Edward asking me if I'm okay. I reply with a smartass answer about never having been better. It's true. I feel alive. I hurt and ache and bleed and remember.
Alone in my bed, I think about how maybe the boring sex with Edward wasn't so bad. I can't remember ever feeling this hollow inside. I wonder if maybe there's a chance for me to make things right.
Over the next few days, Edward turns from grey ghost to colorful man. I know it's her. I've known about her for weeks, could see it in his eyes and the in way even his steps seemed lighter, but thought he would never.
He wouldn't dare. He can't leave me, not now. Not after everything we've been through.
He doesn't, though.
He doesn't leave me. He just begins fucking her.
Sunday dinners at my house, sitting next to him, I can smell her on him. He smiles at my parents, holds my hand, kisses me at the door.
My spiral goes into overdrive. I call Riley more, part of the time to fuck and escape and remember and feel, and part for the pretty pills he brings me.
The sadness I feel at having no place to go and grieve my loss is overwhelming. I wonder if I had a plot, a gravestone, some physical reminder that I did go through it all, if that would help? Would it make the buzzing insanity in my head quiet, to sit in the sunshine and apologize to the dirt?
"There are things you have to accept in life, Rosalie," my mother says one afternoon. "Concessions you make for security, for love."
I want to scream.
I do. Many times, in my mind.
I scream at Mother. I scream at Edward. I scream at Bella.
Mostly, I scream at myself.
As tightly as I can, I try to hold onto Edward. No way am I going to let him off the hook so he can parade into his beautiful life with pure little Bella. Fuck no. If I have to suffer, he has to suffer, too. I see the pitying looks she gives me in the hallway, and I want to punch her right in the fucking face. There are days when my fist shakes with the need to make her hurt like I do.
Who the fuck does she think she is, anyway? She knows nothing at all about me. She is the other woman. She is just as much of a whore as I am. Edward is mine. She's the one that deserves to be pitied.
The distraction she provides me is a welcome one, though. I plot and plan. I follow her, watch them together when they think they're alone. For weeks, I think about what I can do to sabotage them, convincing myself I can somehow become who and what Edward wants and needs. My thoughts of what I want to do to her are mostly deep and dark. Scary, even to the person I'd become, but thrilling and intoxicating at the same time. I call Riley less and avoid his texts and calls.
One night, I sit at my desk, researching more war tactics. The sound of knuckles on my window scares me and I jump, then see it's Edward. I'm frustrated and angry he's intruding in a way that feels way too personal for what we've turned into.
I open the window, letting him in. "What are you doing here so late?"
His long legs make it across my room in three strides, eyeing my computer screen I've made no attempt to hide.
"Rosalie, you have to stop." He crouches down on bended knee, looking me in the eyes just like he did that first night he told me he loved me.
"Stop what?" I ask innocently.
I know I can't keep the pretense up forever, but I can try. The corner of my mouth tugs up in what I know is a psychotic little smirk. I kind of like not caring what anyone thinks about me.
"You and I both know we were never …" Edward begins pacing, fingers pushing against his face as if he can contain the inevitable if he just pushes the thoughts back into his brain hard enough. "We aren't good for each other. You know that. I know you don't love me. You have Riley."
The unspoken is what crushes me, because in that moment, I know I will never get another chance with Edward.
Maybe I could have. Now I will never.
As if it's a new learned normal, my body curls into a fetal position in the hard chair. My knees tuck up and under my chin, the edges of my toes curling over the seat, hands covering my face. I've become a slip of myself, skin and bones folded in on each other.
"Just go," I say.
"Rose, I can't. I'm worried about you."
In all the years I've known Edward, he's never called me Rose. Never.
"Why the fuck are you worried about me now?" I practically shout. I take my head out of my hands, looking up to glare at him. "You don't care about me. All you care about is your precious reputation. Fuck you, Edward. Get the fuck out."
I'm all fight, but it's words only. I'm so tired I can barely think about standing to show him how much I don't need him.
"That's not true at all," he says, stepping toward me. "I do care about you. You don't eat anymore. You don't smile. You don't go out with your friends. Alice says you won't even return her phone calls or texts. Even your parents have asked me if I know what's going on."
His hand rests on my hair and I jerk away. I don't want his pity or his concern.
Edward bends down to his knees, thumb curling around my chin as his fingers warm my cheek. "Rosalie, look at me. Please."
I don't want to look. I know if I look at him, I'll see the truth. I'll see and feel his disappointment in me, all of my failure and the hurt I've caused him. I can't take on anyone else's pain; doesn't he know I have enough of my own?
My balance falters for a second, legs burning with the effort of keeping my body still, and I push my arms out to steady myself. Edward takes that opportunity to help me not fall, and tilts my head until I look at him. I can almost feel the bumpy healed-over scab of our time together in his gaze. He's happy again, and I am miserable. Maybe at one point, I've contributed to his pain, but now he's smashing me to bits every day by going on with his life. How does he just move on?
You don't deserve to go on, whore.
"I may not love you like I once did, but I do care about you, Rosalie," he says quietly. "I want to help you. Please let me help you. We can figure this out. I don't know how yet, but we will. You need to fill out college applications, go to class. You need to... You need to move on. Find someone that loves you and understands you."
You don't deserve love.
The reel of shame in my mind spins twenty-four hours a day.
"No one understands me," I whisper back. My voice is cold and clear. Emotionless. I accepted my fate long ago. "No one will love me. I'm broken, Edward. Broken."
"You might be broken now, but you can get help."
"I don't want help."
You don't deserve help.
"I'm not leaving until you agree to see someone. I'm scared for you. Riley is … and you just … You need help."
I know he's serious; Edward will sleep on my floor and drive me to see a therapist in the morning to prove a point. He is stubborn to a fault. He'll find some ridiculous explanation to give our parents and his pretty, untainted girlfriend, and they would buy it without question. He gets way with every-fucking-thing, every fucking time.
"Fine," I say. "I'll call someone tomorrow, okay?"
He lets out a gust of air, whooshing guilt out of his lungs and inhaling hope. "Thank you."
After a kiss to my cheek, he stands up and leaves. That's all it takes – a promise so hollow he has to have seen right through it, but he somehow accepts it and goes.
The next day at school, he leans against my classroom door and asks if I've called. After school, he's waiting at my car. Doesn't he get it?
A week goes by and I'm certain he's given up. Glad he's given up. Glad he's stopped asking me. Angry he's stopped asking me. I was so easy to throw away.
Friday, I arrive home to both of my parents at the table. With Edward. Everyone looks so serious. So sad.
So disappointed. So exhausted from fighting with myself and everyone else.
I've failed more people now. Edward has spread my failure. It wasn't enough to contain it to us, apparently.
"Rosalie, please sit down," my mother says, her voice quivering just the slightest bit.
"Is what Edward tells us true?" my father asks, his coldness chilling me to the bone. He can't even bear to look me in the eyes when he speaks.
I don't need to lie to them. They deserve the truth. They deserve to know that their daughter is a worthless murdering whore.
Hours of conversation pass in front of me, almost as if I'm not there. Plans are made for me. Calls are made for me. Suddenly, the carefully constructed grown-up control I have finally obtained in my life is stripped away.
I'd fucked up in the worst ways, and now they are going to make me pay for it. I barely listen as they discuss rehab and therapy and in-patient programs, my brain too busy working up a plan of my own. They don't want to help me, they want to take care of things before they get even more out of control and the whole town knows what a whore their daughter is.
I know where everything I need is. I write the letter over and over in my head, reworking phrases and getting details just right. It has to be perfect. It has to be epic.
Edward leaves. My father leaves.
"Things happen, Rose," my mom says. "We'll get through this."
Her tone of voice betrays her words, saying nothing but Ihateyou.I've ruined her perfect reputation at the country club.
When she's gone, talking with my father in the study, I take my time. I walk quietly, as quietly as I can. I make my way down the hall, remembering when I was eleven and walking the same path into my parents' bedroom. It was a week before Christmas and I was sure I'd figured out my mom's hiding place for our presents.
This time, instead of sneaking into her closet, I carefully listen as the magnet holding the medicine cabinet closed in her bathroom releases, opening my future. Medicated and sedated, that's my mother. Finally, it comes in handy for me. The orange bottles almost purr in my hand, sexy little things that have arrived to give me freedom.
The steps to my bedroom are nearly filled with glee. Lightness and peace I haven't felt in over a year surrounds me. As I sit composing my letter, pencil scratching loudly against paper as I write frantically, I smile to myself.
No one is going to tell me what to do anymore. No one is going to tell me who to love, or how to live, or what not to do.
I write my happiest memories.
Then take five blue pills and dig out my flask from my desk drawer.
I recount Edward loving me, imagined or real. I wish him well with Bella, and tell them that I've finally accepted that she's a better woman that I. She deserves him; I never did, never would. I know she will have the fat, adorable babies I'm not destined to give birth to. She will love him in ways I'm not capable of loving anyone anymore.
Then I take five white pills, and five more blue pills with my favorite vodka, the sting and burn making me smile again. The muscles in my face are unfamiliar with the motion, having forgotten the movement long ago abandoned.
I write about a life of control - everyone's control over me. I apologize for being such an amazing failure once that control had been turned over to me. I can't even say anymore where I went so wrong, I just know that there's no coming back.
I think about Blueberry, who would be almost six months old. I wonder what it would be like to hold him or her. I've never had a newborn in my arms, or a baby. I never will.
Five yellow pills go down. The last of the blue and white spill into my palm, and I chase them with more vodka.
This is my penance. My pain.
The words blur on the page – from my tears, from my hand loosening around my pencil.
My body relaxes and slides off my chair, down to the floor, and I curl into myself a little.
Finally, my brain is quiet. Finally, my body is numb. Finally, I find the peace I seek.