AN: Yous still with me? Great, thanks! I received so many great and encouraging reviews the last chapter. I'm a shmuck for not responding to all of them, but I FLOVED them.
This chapter is unbeta'd as my beta is out of town. I wanted to get it out, though, so when she gets back, I'll replace this one with the beta'd version.
"Where's the farthest you've ever traveled?" Edward asked as he played with a lock of my hair that was sprawled across his plump pillow.
For the past two hours, we've been holed up in his room, on his bed, while he asked me the most random and silliest questions. It was the first time I was invited into his bedroom to stay the night. I wish it was on better terms that I ended up snuggled up to his side.
Before I was lead into his bedroom, Edward found me curled up in my own bed. I thought I had been quiet in my crying, as I was trying my hardest not to be heard. Apparently, I wasn't as quiet as I had thought.
It was three weeks since the run in with Eric and I had yet to actually do anything about it. I told Edward that I would go to the police, but it was easier said than done. In the meantime, I could see – and feel – Edward's patience running thin. He was trying to hide it, but I could see the tick in his jaw and hear the deep, frustrated breaths when I said I needed just a few more days. After time, though, I gave myself a deadline, and tomorrow was it.
I tired telling myself that I was doing the right thing. I knew I was doing the right thing. I took the hottest shower that my body would allow, trying to scrub the filth from every pore, needing any remnant of my previous life to swirl down the drain with finality. There would be no conceivable way any officer would believe my story if I left any trace of the miscreant I used to be.
But it wouldn't go away.
I felt the dirty claws of every man I ever let touch me. Every germ riddled bench I slept on, every disgusting trash bin I stuck my hand in, every dingy alley that I hid in lived within every skin cell and no amount of scouring could rid any of it.
My body was red and raw when I crawled in my bed, trying to hide from the demons that shadowed me. When it became too much, I stuffed the heel of my hand in my mouth, bit down, and cried. It wasn't a soothing cry. It was a cry that was calling for my mother to hold me. A cry calling to my father to protect me. A cry calling for freedom that it seemed I was never allowed.
It was a cry that brought Edward to me.
"Paris," I answered. "After I sold my first piece, I used that and some money that I had saved and paid for Rose and me to take the trip. It was my dream, at the time, to go to The Louvre. Have you ever been there?" I asked Edward. He shook his head no while wearing a sweet smile. "It was the most disappointing thing." I smiled ruefully.
"Really?" he asked surprised, his head lifting off the pillow a bit..
"Well, I mean, don't get me wrong. How many people can say they've seen the Mona Lisa in person?" I tried to explain. "But it was just so hectic. I don't know why, but I wasn't expecting that. The Mona Lisa makes me think of tranquility, serenity – so when I was pushed around by people trying to get a better look, it blew my mind."
"It still must have been something else, though. To be there."
"Are you kidding? It was like a religious experience. It's like…think of the Holy Shroud of Turin, assuming it's legit," I clarified. "People flock to be in the presence of an inanimate object. You don't go to see these places hoping that you're going to get an autograph or a meet and greet. You go just to see; to witness greatness. That's what the trip was for me."
"And Rosalie?" he asked. "Did she like it?"
I snorted. "Rose didn't give two shits about it; not that I even wanted her to go with me. She was there was the shopping and the food. She gained eight pounds on that trip. Good times," I sighed.
"Would you ever go back to visit again?"
I didn't have to think long before I answered. "No," I said firmly. "I've learned the hard way that life's too short so I would want to go places and do things that I haven't before. There's a lot of this country alone that I always thought I'd get to see. There's Rosewell, the Holocaust Museum in D.C., the Bodies Exhibition in New York, walk the Golden Gate Bridge. Once upon a time I was going to do all that."
"You still can, you know," he said while running his hands through my hair.
I shrugged a shoulder. "I suppose." I began playing with an invisible thread on the pillowcase, nervous and refusing to look at him. "Would you want to, uhh… go with me to any of those places if I were to ever go?" It was presumptuous of me to assume we'd be together that long but if I could choose someone to travel with me it would be Edward.
"It depends. Would you ever go to a rodeo with me?" he asked seriously. I looked up to see his smirking face.
"Seriously?" I laughed.
"Fine. I'll settle for a bar with a mechanical bull."
Despite my wariness for tomorrow and the skepticism that came to mind about the duration of our relationship, I found myself laughing for the first time in weeks. It was wonderful.
Why did they have me wait in the small, grey room when the officer wasn't ready?
True to their words, both Edward and Dr. Maggie Brash had accompanied me to the police station. I called her two days ago and asked if she was free to come. I honestly thought she wouldn't be able to come or suddenly remember a prior commitment she couldn't break. I was just as grateful for her as Edward.
It would have been preferable if I could have just sat and waited with them outside, instead of sitting in the interrogation room like some criminal. I guess on some level I was a criminal, but that was before.
My leg began bouncing and my anxiety was building the longer I waited for someone – at this point anyone. The longer I waited, the longer I had to think. Thinking wasn't good. Thinking gave me the opportunity to second guess my decision to press charges.
"Sorry to keep you waiting, Ms. Swan," the police officer said as he walked into the drafty room while looking down at a file. I don't know what I was expecting, but he wasn't it. He was a very handsome, older man with a full head of salt and pepper hair. He had a very chiseled and strong jaw. His skin was surprisingly sun-kissed for someone living in Washington. I assumed he had just returned from vacation.
"No problem," I mumbled, although it was a huge problem. Thirty more seconds and I would have bolted.
"Okay, well," he began as he took a seat across from me. His voice was strong and confident, but not authoritative. "Just for the record, I'll be recording our meeting. Alright?" He placed an ordinary digital recorder at the center of the table.
"Sure." I shrugged. As if I really had a choice in the matter.
"Good. Okay, so let me explain how this is going to go. We'll begin with your recollection of the event in question, followed by some of my own questions. With me so far?" He asked. I nodded quickly. "Good." He organized a legal pad in front of him at an angle – he was left-handed – turned the recorder on, and began speaking.
"Detective Albert Joles. It is April 14, 2013." He stopped to look at his watch. "9:17 AM. I am here with Ms. Isabella Swan. Ms. Swan, can you please, in detail, recount what occurred on January 3rd, 2012."
With a deep breath, I began from the beginning. "The day before the incident I was approached by a man I knew…"
It took two and a half hours, including two breaks, to tell Det. Joles everything. I held nothing back, as I didn't want any omissions to come back and bite me later. I told him what I knew about Ericsson and about James involvement. At first, I was hesitant you use James' real name lest I get him in trouble, too. In the end, though, I realized that the more "witnesses" I had, the better for me. I told him about past homelessness and prostitution. I told him about my current living situation and occupation. I hoped that he would see that I wasn't another junkie or scorned lover trying to get revenge on a pimp or ex-boyfriend.
He asked me – wanted me to make it completely clear – that I said no.
"And there's a rape kit already?" he asked for clarification even though I had already mentioned that also.
"Good, good," he muttered while taking down notes on his legal pad. I watched as he continued to scribble on the pad.
"So what happens now?" I asked when I finally could take the silence anymore. The ticking of the clock and the scratch of the pen to paper was deafening.
"Well, an order of protection will be put in place immediately and he'll be brought in for questioning." He scanned his note quickly and sighed deeply. Surprisingly, he turned off the recorder. "I'm going to be honest with you, Ms. Swan, it was a smart move to get the rape kit done when you did. That, and James, are you're strongest bets of putting this guy behind bars – assuming that he is guilty."
"Will it go to trial?"
"It's hard to say at this point, but it's a probability. Do you have a lawyer?" I shook my head no. "Get one, because I can guarantee that he will lawyer up. And I have no doubt that they will try to assassinate your character and the validity of your story."
"I'm screwed, aren't I?" I asked out loud.
"No, not necessarily, but it won't be a cake walk." He stood up, gathering his things, and I followed his lead. "Ms. Swan, I'll be in touch."
"Are you sure you're alright?" Edward asked for the seventh time in as many hours. It was endearing in the beginning, but now it was just annoying the hell out of me.
No, I wasn't fine, but that didn't mean I wanted to talk about it either.
"I'm fine," I answered. "I just need…" I didn't even know what I needed anymore. I thought that maybe finally reporting the rape – getting it off my chest – would help, but it didn't. I actually felt worse. I felt dirty all over again. Having Edward around didn't help, either. He was hovering and breathing down my neck. He meant well, I knew this, but still. I didn't need him asking me if I was okay. "I just need air."
Without waiting for a response, I grabbed my jacket and keys.
"Well, wait a second and I'll go with you," he replied. I held back from huffing in annoyance.
"No. I need to be alone; get my mind right," I gently countered.
"But it's almost nine. Walking the streets this late isn't the safest thing," he argued.
The irony in his statement.
"This is me we're talking about. There's nothing out there that I haven't encountered already," I laughed dryly. "I just want to clear my head, okay?"
I need see the twitch in Edward's jaw; the one that told me that he most certainly wasn't okay, but he wasn't going to fight me, either.
"How long do you think you're going to be? And make sure you have your phone on you."
"Not long. An hour, if that," I said, at the same time pulling my phone from my jacket pocket to show him I had it with me. I walked over and kissed him lightly on the lips. "Thank you. I'll be right back."
The night was cool, almost perfect. It was clear enough to see a few stars that littered the sky and the blinking lights of passing airplanes. I was enjoying the open space and anonymity that the street provided me, so I was unsure of how I found myself entering a dirty looking bar. It was stereotypically small with a pool table in the far corner and a juke box in the other.
I walked to the bar, unsure of how to even order anything other than a beer, but I didn't want that. I wanted something stronger- faster working. I stared at the various bottles behind the bar. I recognized a majority of them, but only knew the taste of a few of them. The pussy in me wanted to order a slushy pina colada and carefully sip it to avoid a brain freeze. I didn't even know if a place like this made pina coladas.
Using scientific methods, I choose which ever one my eyes landed on when I finished a silent 'Eenie Menie, Minie, Mo'.
"Jose Ceurvo, please," I told the balding bar tender. I took the piss-looking liquid and sat at the farthest seat at the end of the bar.
I sniffed the contents of the glass and scrunched my nose in disgust. It didn't stop me from taking a sip, though. It was a familiar, but none at all pleasurable, burn. I snorted in disgust at the irony of it all.
Tequila. It seemed like tequila always played a part.
With a great amount of effort, I down the rest and shoved the offending glass away. Drinking still wasn't for me, but it was what people did when they needed to forget their problems, so that's what I did.
I sat at the bar and people watched. After awhile it became a game that I was either winning, or more likely, losing. Every time I saw someone flash a fake or condescending smile, I took a sip of the apple flavored ale that was actually pretty tasty. If someone genuinely laughed, I took two sips. If someone looked like the world was crumbling at their feet, I sent a silent salute and took a long pull.
The longer I played, and the better I became at locating the unaware players of my game, the fuzzier the playing field became. Smiles became grimaces, laughter became screeching, and depression became resolution.
"They're on to me," I mumbled to myself. "They're watching me, too." I narrowed my eyes in suspicion, hearing all the hushed words that they were talking about me. I didn't need this, though. I had a man at home that didn't love me, yet, but wanted to fuck me eventually.
I stumbled my way home, avoiding the cracks in the sidewalk that had deepened and widened while I people watched. I tried walking around telephone poles that teleported themselves to rest in the middle of my path, mocking me with their girth. How did one walk around a pole that shared the same circumference of the Earth? It was impossible without bumping into meteor rocks and satellites that had taken the shape of humans.
"Bella?!," I heard as I rummaged through my ever growing deep pockets for my keys. I was right in front of Edward's building when the man, himself, materialized in front of me.
"Lover!," I slurred, throwing my arms around his neck and peppering his face with sloppy kisses. "I missed you. Where'd you go?"
"Are…you drunk?" he asked, looking aghast.
"Do you know what's a funny word? Aghast. Like, what kind of word is that?," I laughed. "Aghast…aghast…a ghost," I laughed again, holding my belly.
"Let's get you upstairs."
"Oh, I like the sound of that," I purred drunkenly. I ran my hands up and down his chest, feeling the hardness that I had yet to familiarize myself with sans clothing.
"To sleep, Bella, to sleep," he corrected sternly. "And to sober up," he added.
He guided me into the building and into a waiting elevator.
"I don't need sleep, you know. I used to do a lot of things without sleep," I pouted. On my tiptoes, I brought my lips up to whisper in his ear. "I used to fuck even though I went without sleeping. I could fuck you." I slide my arms up his chest again and dug my fingers into his soft hair.
He detached my arms from his hair with an angry look on his face. "That's enough, babe."
The elevator dinged and in too quick of a motion we were entering his apartment. The movement made me slightly nauseous and very dizzy.
"We're going to my room?" I asked playfully when I noticed what direction we were heading. "So you changed your mind. I like that."
He sighed loudly. "No. You're going to change into some sleep clothes and I'm going to get you some coffee and something to eat." He sat me on the bed and with a kiss to the forehead he walked out of the room.
Oh, yeah? I'll show him.
With slow, and somewhat careful movements, I undressed myself. Everything was going alright until my foot got tangled with my pant leg. I was about to fall right on my ass, but was able to catch myself on the mattress.
Taking my bra off proved to be more of a problem and I couldn't remember how I usually did it. My arm was twisting in weird and painful ways, but for the life of me I could get the clasp to give.
"Motherfucking fucking shit…how the hell does this thing work? God…damn…torture…device." I continued wrestling with the stupid metal clasp.
Finally giving up with the enhanced protection bra, I gave myself a once over in the mirror. My eyes were glassy and bloodshot, but in the past I managed to score a quick john looking worse.
"Ed-wardo," I cooed as a fumbled down the hall. I found him in the kitchen with his back turned to me. "Hey, honey," I called.
"Yeah?" He turned to look at me and dropped the roll of paper towel he was holding.
"I look good, right?" I did a twirl that had the room continuing to spin when I already stopped. "I tried taking the top off, but it wasn't budging." I shrugged. I closed the small gap between us, wrapping my arms around his head and into his hair. I brought my lips to his which he greedily enveloped with his.
My tongue danced with his, the taste of coffee was still strong. I moaned into his mouth when I felt his thumb brush against my nipple. He freed my breast, and began pinching my nipple between soft touches. With his other hand, he rubbed between my legs. I pulled him closer, wanting to feel him go deeper.
I broke away from his mouth his, but trailed my tongue from his mouth to his neck, inhaling deeply along the way.
"I can make you feel good," I whispered before biting down on his ear. People use to pay me to make them feel good. Maybe he forgot that. "I'll give it to you; you won't have to take it from me."
Edward stopped moving in my arms; I was losing his interest. I had to think fast, but my thoughts were watery and blurry. Way too slow and inconsistent.
"If it'll make you feel better to steal it, I'll let you. Just love me back, okay?"
"Bella, stop!" Edward commanded. "You're drunk and clearly not thinking straight." He was angry. "Let's go to sleep."
"Can I sleep in your bed tonight?" I asked, fighting to stop the tears from becoming more than just a sting in my eyes.
"No." He shook his head sadly. "I think…it's better if you sleep in your bed tonight."
"You don't…want me?" I whispered. Slowly and painfully I was beginning to sober up.
"I'm sorry." He shook his head. "Not tonight and not like this. C'mon, let's get you to bed." He walked me to my room. "Do you want a shirt or something?"
"Yeah, please." He grabbed one of my sleep shirts and pulled it over my head, careful not to touch me any more than necessary.
"What the hell was I supposed to do, Rose?" I heard Edward asked, irritated. I could hear Rosalie huff over speakerphone.
My head was pounding, my stomach ached, and my mouth tasted like gunk. Sleep didn't come easy last night and only after tossing and turning for half of it, did I manage to fall asleep. The worst part, though, was that I remembered everything from last night. Why couldn't I be one of those people who got drunk, did stupid shit, and couldn't recall any of it the next morning?
"You didn't have to push her away," she argued, her voice gruff with frustration.
"I didn't push her away," he scoffed. "She basically gave me permission to… you know. I didn't know…" He stopped talking when he heard the shuffling of my feet to get away. I couldn't listen to him recount the details of last night. Not only where they private, but they were completely humiliating and not something I wanted Rose to know about.
I climbed on top of my bed, bringing my knees up to my chest. I wasn't surprised to hear a knock on the door less than a minute later.
"How much did you hear?" he asked when he took a seat next to me. He grabbed my hand closest to him, holding it between his.
"Not a lot, but enough," I answer honestly.
"Do you remember last night?"
I nod. "Yeah," I croaked out. I turned to look at him. "You can say the word rape, you know? It's just a word that doesn't mean anything unless you give it power," I began softly.
"Does it have power over you?" His voice is hesitant, as if he was unsure if he was offending me with the question.
"No," I answer, shaking my head. It's true. As bazaar as it may seem, it's not what physically happened to me that kept me up at nights. It hasn't made me leery of men or afraid of my own shadow. Being raped didn't make me feel like a victim, or have the sudden urge to go protesting in D.C., shouting that I didn't ask for it.
"So then what happened last night? Why were you so upset? It was the statement, wasn't it?"
I shrugged my shoulders. "I don't know. Well, I mean, what's the point in doing all of this? Nothing is going to happen to Eric. He's him and I'm me." I shrugged again, but this time I felt the all too familiar sting of tears. I wiped them away before they fell. "It's just," I rasped around the lump in my throat, "I don't want people to look at me like that- like I'm the pariah. They're going to whisper that it was my fault and that I brought it upon myself. I know I agreed to meet him, and that's my fault, but I said no, Edward. You believe me, right? That I didn't want it to happen?"
"Bella! Bella, calm down," he instructed, wrapping his arms around me. "You sound like you're about to have a panic attack." He squeezed me in a side hug and kissed the side of my head. "I know you weren't a willing participant and others know that, too. I know you think that nothing is going to happen – that justice won't be served – but you have to have faith that things will work out."
I snorted at his choice of words. "Faith? Really?"
"Yes, faith. You may not have it, but I do. I don't know how this is all going to pan out, but I refuse to believe that Eric is going to get away with this."
Edward was so sure. I would laugh if I didn't think it was rude. Honestly though, I was grateful that someone had faith in me, because in the end, when everything was said and done, I would need someone to help me pick up the piece as I was pretty sure I wouldn't survive this.
AN: This story is coming to an end. I would estimate about 5-7 chapters left, but we'll see.
To my American readers and friends, have a safe and happy 4th of July.