After a forced marriage filled with violence, Bella escapes from Edward with their unborn child. Almost four years later, Edward has found her and their daughter and he refuses to let them go.

When a strong woman recklessly throws away her strength,

she is worse than a weak woman who has

never had any strength to throw away.

- Thomas Hardy

Chapter 21

The Change

"I'll love you forever, I'll like you for always. As long as I'm living, my baby you'll be," Bella read, and then for what felt like the hundredth time that morning, she closed the book and waited for the question she knew was coming.

"Can you read it one more time?" Alexis begged.

"I've already read it over and over."

"Just one more. I like when the mommy rocks the baby." Alexis picked up her bear and slowly began rocking it the same way the woman in the story had. Then she paused. "Why does she keeping rocking the baby?"

"It's her way of keeping sane and reminding herself that no matter how crazy her little boy drives her or how badly he behaved, she still loves him. It's like when you ask me to read the same book twenty times in a row, and I keep reading it," Bella said, as she reached over and tickled her daughter's sides. Alexis's laugh filled the quiet morning.

It was early. Almost too early for anyone to be awake, but an early bedtime the night before led to Alexis being wide awake early the next morning. Bella could see a few early morning rays through the mass of trees.

"When is Daddy coming back?" Alexis asked.

Bella sighed. She hadn't told Alexis that Edward had returned the night before. She thought it would be nicer if he surprised her.

"I don't know. He should be soon," Bella said. If there was one thing Alexis was good at, it was persistency.

"But he's coming for your birthday, right?" Alexis asked.

Bella cringed slightly at the reminder. Her birthday was never something she celebrated before when it was just her and Alexis. The day would pass without her even mentioning it to her daughter. This year was different. Renee had circled and highlighted the date in red ink on her calendar so there was no chance of it passing quietly.

To Alexis, Bella replied, "I'm sure he will."

There was hardly a chance that Edward would let the day pass quietly.

When Bella could hear Renee moving about in the kitchen, she and Alexis finally decided to leave the bedroom. The morning went by as usual. Bella wasn't sure when Edward would show up, but she assumed that he'd want to go back to the regular routine where he picked Alexis up from camp. After leaving Alexis in her room to get changed, Bella went into the kitchen where she found Renee standing by the counters, surveying the room.

"Have you thought about selling the house?" Renee asked just as Bella sat down.

Bella smiled slightly. "Good morning to you, too. Yes, I slept well. How about you?"

Renee laughed. "You know subtlety isn't my strong suit."

"No doubt about that," Bella said. "What was it you asked?"

"Have you thought about selling this house and getting something bigger?"

Bella thought about it for a second. Renee took her silence to mean she was upset.

"Oh, never mind," Renee said quickly. "I just wondered if you ever thought about moving to something bigger. I didn't mean to upset you."

Bella looked at her confused. "I'm not upset. It's just that your question caught me off guard."

"Oh. It's just that I'm not sure how you came to have the house?" Renee said, ending her sentence more like a question. Renee still didn't know about what happened from the time Bella went missing in Florida to when she came to Forks.

"I don't know," Bella stated. Whilst moving to something better did seem like an appealing idea, she wasn't sure she was ready. It was a lot to consider so early in the morning. Bella was so used to where they lived now that a small part of her was repelled at the idea of change.

She was saved from having to answer by Alexis walking into the room announcing, "I'm ready!"

Alexis then went around the counter to Renee to hug her goodbye.

"Think about it," Renee said softly over Alexis's head. "You don't have to, but it's just an idea."

Bella nodded, indicating that she would think about. After dropping Alexis off at camp, Bella went back to the house. This was usually the time she spent in class, but her semester had ended a few weeks before, leaving Bella with some time alone. Renee was gone, so Bella looked forward to catching up on the sleep she'd lost with Alexis's early morning rise.

Before she could head back to bed, the ringing of the phone stopped her.

"Damn," she muttered to herself. Sleep would have to wait.

"Hello?" she asked as she picked it up.

"Bella?" A familiar voice came through the other line, pushing any thoughts of sleep out of her mind.

"Alice?" Bella asked in surprise. It had only been a short time since she'd last seen her, but already Bella missed Alice like crazy. Before Alice had left, Bella had given Alice her number and made her promise to call as soon as she could. "How have you been? How are things with your family?"

"It's been great!" Alice said. Bella immediately picked up on the difference in Alice's voice. She sounded happy for once. "Being away from all of that now, I can't believe how long it took me to leave." She sighed. "My family really missed me. When I was with Jasper, I was completely isolated from them." She sighed sadly again.

"So how have you been?" Alice asked. "I heard Edward came back the night before."

"How do you know that?" Bella asked.

"I'm still in touch with Rosalie. Seems Esme isn't doing too well," Alice said as a matter-of-fact.

"Hard to remember that someone like that actually has feelings," Bella mumbled to herself, but Alice heard it anyway and laughed.

"So, how are things with you and Edward?"

"He's only been back one night. Not enough time for anything to happen."

Alice huffed. "Sure it is. A lot can happen in one night."

"True," Bella admitted. "It seems Edward found out about how Esme treated me while I was in Chicago."

"Really? Rosalie didn't tell me that."

"He was mad, because I didn't tell him."

"I don't think he was so much mad at you as he was at himself," Alice said.

Even though Alice couldn't see it, Bella's eyes narrowed. "What's that supposed to mean?"

"It means that unlike his father and brothers, Edward is actually seeing the error of his ways."

"So what am I supposed to do? Accept that Edward's behaviour was as a result of his bad childhood? That he didn't mean to do it, and it was just something he couldn't control? Isn't that just human nature?" Bella asked angrily. "To find someone or something else to blame for their actions? If some kids shoot up a school, blame Marilyn Manson. Does passing the blame to others make it better?"

Bella could hear Alice sigh on the other line. "It doesn't make it better," she said. "It just helps to understand him a little."

Bella didn't answer for a moment, and when she did, even she could hear the stubbornness in her voice. "What Edward did was inexcusable, and I'll never understand."

"In every aspect you shouldn't even have to try to."

The line was silent for a moment.

"Out of curiosity, are you still legally married to Edward or have you divorced him?"

"Legally I'm still married," Bella admitted reluctantly.

"Really? I thought you would have been quick to divorce him."

"So did I," Bella said, seeing no reason to be guarded with Alice. "I guess I'm a little worried about the backlash of filing for divorce."


"This just doesn't just affect me, but Alexis as well. I don't want this to turn into a custody battle. Rocking the boat seems like too dangerous a feat. I run the risk of it tipping over on me."

"I see your point."

"Maybe if I push him away hard enough, he'll give up and file for divorce himself, and cut all ties himself. Including with Alexis."

"I don't see that happening," Alice said slowly.

On the other side, Bella could hear someone speaking to Alice.

"Okay, give me a minute," Alice said to the person.

To Bella she said, "Well, I hope you figure it out."

"So do I."

"I have to go now, but in case you need anything, you can always call me." Alice said, before calling out her phone number for Bella.

"I will," Bella promised.

After hanging up the phone, Bella found that she was too antsy from her conversation with Alice to sleep. She still had several hours until Alexis came home from camp. Even though, just a few minutes ago, she'd liked the idea of being alone, she missed Alexis's company. Aside from asking the same question a hundred times, Alexis had the ability of making Bella feel like all of her problems had disappeared.

A few hours later, the sound of a car stopping in front of the house alerted Bella to the fact that her time alone was up. She opened the door just in time to see Alexis jump out of Edward's car and run up the pathway toward the house. Edward was right behind her.

"Look, Mommy. Daddy's back."

"Really?" Bella said, feigning surprise. She couldn't help but laugh at Alexis's enthusiasm. It was hard to believe that she'd only known Edward for a few months. Edward gave Bella a small smile.

"You hadn't tell her I'd returned?" Edward asked, as he walked up the steps to the house.

"Nah. I figured it would be more fun if you surprised her."

"It was. You should have seen her face," Edward said.

"She really missed you," Bella admitted.

"Same here," Edward replied.

While Alexis went inside to put down her things, Bella stayed out on the front step with Edward.

"What are your birthday plans?" Edward asked abruptly.

Bella thought about it for a minute. Before, she'd been so preoccupied with trying to keep a roof over their heads and making sure that Alexis had everything she needed that her birthday was seen as something of inconsequence. Alexis's birthday was a celebration; hers was just another day.

To Edward she replied, "I have nothing planned. I'm not sure if Renee does. It's a work day for me anyway so most of it is going to pass there."

Edward looked away thoughtfully while Bella was filled with dread. She was relieved when Alexis came back out with her bicycle, giving her the opportunity to go inside.

From the kitchen window, Bella could see father and daughter. Alexis rode up and down the street while Edward stayed close by watching her. Whilst a small part of her wished Edward wasn't in the picture, a larger part was glad that he was there. Not for her but rather for Alexis.

Standing there watching them now, Bella thought back to that first day after she'd left Edward. She'd assumed that the hardest part of it all was the escape. It wasn't until she was finally free that she realised how very wrong she'd been.

No sooner had she broken the surface of the water and submerged far enough down, did she begin to swim towards the canopy of trees that would block her from security's sight. When she was sure that it was blocking her from view, she resurfaced. Security was scanning the water from the bridge, but they couldn't see her.

Bella knew there wasn't any time to waste. Pulling herself up from the bank, she ran as far from the river as possible. From the lumber and steel placed to the side, she realised she was in the parking lot of a construction building. Prior to her leaving, Eryn had given her some directions as to where to go, so crossing out of the parking lot, she came onto an avenue. Once out on the street, she began to walk with a brisk pace down the street, away from the river.

A few blocks down, she found the shopping centre that she'd told Edward she'd wanted to go to. Walking towards it, she stopped off at the first shop she could find, to purchase some dry clothes. The woman behind the counter gave a quizzical look at Bella's soaked state. Bella avoided her gaze as much as possible. She kept looking over her shoulder to see if she was being followed. A few minutes after leaving the store, she found a bathroom and quickly changed. Every sound made her jump. Her nerves were on edge, and she knew she would be on edge for a long time. Safety and security were no longer in her future.

After discarding her wet clothes in a nearby bin, she continued away from the shopping centre. She was afraid to stay there any longer than necessary. It would be one of the first places the security team looked.

Not until she was several blocks away did she really allow herself the time to pause. She was in a large park. Couples and families went about their business around her. Adrenaline had kept the fear at bay, but now it came in a rush that left her breathless. She collapsed onto a bench.

Despite the fear, she felt relieved. She'd done it. She'd finally gathered the strength and ran. She was free. The thought brought a small smile to her face. Bella thought for a moment about Edward. He would be furious when he found out, and if he found her again, he would show that fury. Shaking her head, Bella dispelled the thought from her mind. Now was not the time to be thinking about it. She had to keep moving. It was the only way to survive.

Bella did her best to remain inconspicuous. Not drawing attention to herself was important, but as the mind always did when you are on edge, Bella felt as though people were staring at her. She felt as though it was written on her forehead that she was on the run from her husband.

Almost half a mile from the shopping centre, Bella found the bus stop Eryn had told her about. The idea was to get as far away from the area as possible. She could only go so far on foot, so the rest would be by bus. As she stood waiting by the bus stop for the bus to arrive, Bella couldn't help glancing over her shoulder every few seconds. Every van that drove by made her heart race. Every time someone passed behind her, she would jump from fear.

When the bus finally arrived, she didn't even wait for people to get off before she hurried on. There were a few grumbles of protest from the other passengers. Bella found a seat towards the very back, determined not to be caught by surprise by anyone. She wouldn't let herself breathe a small sigh of relief until the bus had pulled away from the curb. As the bus drove through the busy Chicago streets, Bella kept her eyes peeled for any sign that she was being followed. Every time the bus stopped to pick up passengers, her body tensed, and she couldn't relax until they were on the move again.

When Bella got as far as the bus could take her, she disembarked quickly, and took another one. Luckily, this one was waiting when she arrived, so she didn't have to wait for it. By the time the sun had begun to set, Bella had rode three more buses, before finally disembarking the last one. She hadn't eaten anything since breakfast, and the constant fear had left her tired. She wanted nothing more than to lie down for a while.

After turning down the street, Bella walked away from the bus stop. Her feet ached, and she hoped that the place wasn't too far. After a few minutes of walking, Bella finally reached her destination. She pulled out a small piece of paper from her pocket. On it, Eryn had written an address. Bella double checked that she was at the correct place. She was.

Even if she hadn't had the paper, she would have known it right away. The building was in need of some serious renovations. A few of the windows were broken and had been boarded up by cardboard. Even the pavement was cracked. From her spot, Bella could see a few women and children walking up the steps into the building.

After crossing the street, Bella walked up the steps. Whilst the outside had suffered damage, whoever ran the place had done an impeccable job of keeping it neat on the inside. The woman and her child who'd entered a few minutes before Bella were now being directed through another door.

Behind a desk, a kind, elderly woman stood and greeted Bella as she walked up. The woman looked tired but happy, as if she'd seen a lot today, but it hadn't changed her demeanor.

"Hello, dear. How can I help you?" There were wrinkles at the corner of her eyes and mouth when she smiled.

"Umm." Bella wasn't sure what to say.

Despite Bella's lack of words, the woman seemed to understand the words Bella couldn't say.

"Don't worry, dear. No matter what happened before, you're safe now," she said, as she gently rested a hand on Bella's. "Just head through that door," she pointed to the same door the woman and child had gone through. "Dinner starts in a few minutes."

Bella didn't know what else to say, so she just smiled slightly and nodded. Her steps seemed to echo as she walked the few steps to the door the woman had pointed out. When she'd pushed it open, Bella found herself in a crowded hall. Women and children of all ages sat at tables conversing in loud voices. While Bella was in the entry office, the voices had been muffled by the thick door, but now that she was inside, she realised how loud it was. It was a little overwhelming.

Even though all the women and children were of different ages, they did share one thing in common. Home was no longer safe.

Eryn had told her about the battered women's shelter one night while they were charting out the course Bella should take when she left. The shelter provided some remnants of safety and security. Bella didn't want to risk staying outdoors for too long, lest Edward's security team found her. She hoped that there would be less of a chance of finding her here, than if she'd checked into a motel.

Just to the side, people stood in line with trays to collect the dinner being served by volunteers. Bella grabbed a tray and joined the line.

She was handed a small tray piled with different types of food. Each of the volunteers gave her a sympathetic smile as she passed them.

The hall was crowded, but Bella was able to find an empty table in one of the corners. Even though she was hungry before, Bella found it difficult to eat, but she hadn't eaten since morning so she knew there was no way she could skip dinner as well.

"Never seen you around here before," a voice said, a few seconds before a tray landed opposite to her. The owner plopped herself down opposite to Bella without being asked.

The woman looked about the same age as Bella. Her hair was cropped short, and she wore a dirty long sleeve sweat shirt that covered her arms, but on her neck, Bella could see finger print marks. The woman reeked of cigarettes and something much stronger.

"Well?" the woman asked, as she took a pack of crackers off the tray and began opening it.

"This is the first time I've been here," Bella said, once she'd recovered herself from the unexpected guest.

The woman nodded. "I'm Amy," she said, holding out her hand.

"Nice to meet you," Bella said uncertainly as she took Amy's outstretched hand and shook it.

"So what's your story?" Amy asked.


"Yeah. What brought you to this little slice of hell?"

Bella didn't know how to respond.

Amy seemed to sense something in her silence. "Oh I see. It's a secret. No problem. I guess the better question is what made you leave?"

Again, Bella didn't know how to respond so she remained quiet.

"Okay, I'll go first. Boyfriend of five years was a huge jackass, but I guess I was the bigger one, because I kept going back to him. Even after he'd broken my arm twice. Anyway, he died last year from kidney disease leaving me alone and pregnant. A year later, here I am. Apparently I didn't learn from the first jerk, because I found another one just like him. I left him a few days ago after he threw me through a table. Now I'm just waiting to get back on my feet. Your turn."

"Ummm," was all Bella could muster. She hadn't known Amy more than fifteen minutes and already this stranger had shared her life story.

"Okay, you don't want to talk. That's fine," Amy said with a shrug. Then Amy smiled a cunning smile. "So when are you due?"

Bella's expression froze. Amy just smiled. "It's a gift," she said. "My mother always had a knack for telling when a woman was pregnant, and I guess she passed it on to me."

"Okay," Bella said, still trying to recover from the shock of it.

"Are you keeping it?" Amy asked.

"Yes," Bella replied. She'd remained mostly silent while Amy was talking, but for some reason now, she felt the need to speak. Making the decision to keep the baby was a decision that she was actually proud of.

Amy gave her a disappointed look. "You're crazy to keep that kid," she said pointing her finger at Bella. "I gave mine up for adoption as soon as it was born. It was a tiny thing. I had no chance of raising him myself. Figured I'd let someone else do it. If you're here it means you don't have much of a life elsewhere, so what type of life are you giving your kid? Seems kinda selfish." Amy spoke in a nonchalant way. As if she was talking about the weather and not an unborn baby.

"Well, I guess it's your decision anyway."

In other circumstances, Bella would have liked the company, but right now, all she wanted was to be left alone. Also, Amy was placing new dilemmas in front of Bella, and she wasn't sure she could handle much more right now. Bella was already close to her breaking point.

After a dinner in which Amy did most of the talking, and Bella just picked at her food, Amy led Bella to another room where the beds were laid just a few feet apart from each other. The room was pretty cramped, but the owners had tried to squeeze as many beds into it as possible. Another one of the volunteers gave her a bag of toiletries and told her to pick whichever bed was empty. There were already several women with their children inside of the room. Some asleep, some conversing quietly. One child was crying for her father and asking to go home. Bella found an empty bed on the other side of the room.

As Bella passed in between the beds, she thought about what Amy had said. She was right. Bella had been so preoccupied with escaping that she hadn't put much thought into what she was going to do now. This living situation was only temporary, and either way, it wasn't the type of life she wanted to bring a child into. Nor was it the ideal situation.

She was eighteen, pregnant and on the run from her abusive husband. That wasn't the best life for anyone. Let alone a baby.

She thought about what Amy had said about giving her child up for adoption. It did seem like a viable option. One that Bella really needed to take into consideration.

"Happy birthday," a voice said, a few seconds before Bella felt something poke her in the eye.

"Ow," Bella, as she opened her eyes.

Alexis was standing in front of her, a huge smile on her face. "Happy birthday," she repeated.

Bella smiled in response. "Thank you." Reaching over, Bella pulled Alexis into her arms. "And thank you for the painful alarm."

"You're welcome. Grandma has something for you. You have to get up," Alexis said, as she grabbed one of Bella's hands and started tugging.

"Okay, I'm up," Bella said.

Alexis stayed close by Bella's side as she got ready, often prompting her to hurry up if she thought Bella was moving too slow.

"Now close your eyes," Alexis said, when Bella was finally ready.

"Okay." Bella quickly complied.

She felt Alexis grab her hand and start pulling her towards the kitchen. As Alexis pulled her, Bella still reached her hand out just in case Alexis accidentally led her into a wall.

"Okay stop," Alexis said a few seconds later. "Now count to three, and then open your eyes."

Bella fought to keep the smile off of her face. "Okay." After she'd counted slowly out loud, she opened her eyes to see Renee and Alexis standing by the counter holding a plate.

"Surprise!" Alexis shouted, while Renee said, "Happy Birthday."

Bella smiled in response. "Thank you."

Bella saw that the plate they were holding contained pancakes. There was another stack on the table behind them. Bella had to fight the urge the laugh when she saw that the pancake on her plate had teeth marks in it. Bella guessed that breakfast was courtesy Alexis.

Renee seemed to have guessed the question in Bella's head, because she answered it for her.

"Alexis made your breakfast this morning." She too was fighting the urge to laugh.

"Really?" Bella asked, feigning surprise before reaching over and hugging her daughter in thanks.

"Happy birthday," Renee said, as she pulled Bella into her arms. There were tears in Renee's eyes. This was the first birthday in a few years that Bella got to spend with her mother. Bella didn't want her to be sad so she was quick to change the topic.

"Did you send her in to poke me in the eye?" Bella asked suspiciously.

Renee laughed. "No, I just told her to wake you up. What method she chose was her own doing."

After breakfast with Renee and Alexis, Renee left Bella at home while she dropped Alexis at camp.

Bella had assumed she would be working on her birthday, but while Renee was gone, she'd received a message from her manager giving her the day off. The message had stumped Bella. She couldn't understand how her birthday was grounds for a day off. It was the first time she'd ever heard of something like that happening.

She'd considered insisting on going to work today, but decided not to push it. One day off couldn't hurt. For the most part, her birthday was quiet. Aside from going to lunch in town with Renee, the two stayed home.

Just after three, Edward's car stopped in front of the house. Bella hadn't heard the car stop, but Renee had so she went to open the door for Alexis. Edward was close behind her. Bella hadn't noticed the box in Alexis's hands until she was standing right beside her.

"Mommy, I bought you something," Alexis said as she placed a large gift wrapped box in front of Bella. Bella's eyes immediately shot to Edward's and narrowed. She knew he had something to do with this.

To Alexis she said, "Thank you." After picking Alexis up, Bella gave her a hug.

"You have to open it," Alexis said, pointing to the box.

"Okay. Why don't you help me?" Together, they began tugging at strings and paper, until all that was left was the box. Bella's jaw dropped at what was inside.

"How?" Bella asked, looking up at Edward.

"I remembered that you'd loved it while we were in high school," Edward explained, as Bella continued to gaze in surprise at the new camera Edward had bought her.

"I can't accept this," Bella said. Cameras like those were expensive, and whilst it was true that she'd always wanted one, she definitely didn't like the idea of Edward spending all that money on her.

"But that would hurt Alexis's feelings," Edward said. "She picked this one out herself."

Bella shot Edward another blazing look. He was smart. He knew Bella couldn't not accept a gift from Alexis.

"Thank you, Alexis," Bella said.

"Well, I'd better go," Edward said.

"Wait, but you can't go. We have to sing Mommy 'Happy Birthday,'" Alexis said.

Edward gave Bella a small smile while he answered Alexis. "I can't stay. I have work to do."

Bella knew he was only saying that because he knew his presence wasn't something she wanted. A small part of her wanted to tell him it was okay for him to stay, but she kept quiet about it.

Alexis sighed sadly. "Okay." She looked crestfallen.

"Goodbye, Renee," Edward said as he was leaving. "Happy birthday, Bella."

Then, with one last wave, he turned and left.

Renee raised one eyebrow at Bella.

"What?" she asked.


The rest of the evening passed quietly for which Bella was glad. She'd never been one for extravagance and being able to spend her birthday with the people she loved made it great. Even though she never mentioned it, Bella knew that this birthday reminded Renee of the time when Bella had been missing. How Renee passed those days Bella didn't know, and she didn't want to ask.

When night had fallen, birthday songs were sung and Alexis was finally in bed, Bella sat on the front step with Renee. They talked about different topics. Mostly they reminisced about life in Florida. They even talked about Bella's father. As the conversation began to dwindle, and Bella was contemplating going inside, Renee suddenly asked a question that had been burning inside her for a while.

"So, figured out what is going on between you and Edward yet?"

"Again, Mom, subtlety is not your strong point."

Renee shrugged, unaffected.

Bella sighed sadly. "I don't know. I'm still trying to figure out what I want. All I know is I want to make some changes. I'm not really happy with the way things are, but I don't know what I want."

"Well, sweetie, you'll have to decide what you really want before you can go for it. No one can make the decision or change for you. You have to make it for yourself."

"That's the hard part. I don't know what I want."

"Don't worry, you'll figure it out soon enough," Renee said, patting Bella's hand softly. Bella wondered what Renee's advice would be if she told her the full truth about what happened between her and Edward. So far, Renee's advice had been non-biased. She didn't know the full story. There were several times throughout the last few months that Bella had contemplated telling Renee the truth, but she stopped herself before she did. Renee didn't need that burden. Once Bella told her, she couldn't un-tell her.

It was getting late, and a sudden chill filled the night air, so the two went inside a few minutes later.

In the days that followed, Bella thought a lot about what Renee had said. She was right when she'd said that it was up to her to make the change. The problem was that she kept wanting change, but when it came to actually going through with it, she found it difficult. It was one thing to want change, and it was a whole other thing to actually make it happen.

One afternoon in early September, as Edward brought Alexis home from school, Bella stopped him before he could leave.

"Wait," she called, just as he was walking the path to his car.

"Yeah?" Edward asked as he turned.

Bella took a small deep breath before she asked her question.

"I was thinking, maybe you would like to have Alexis some days? So instead of having to come here to see her, you could take her to your house."

Edward looked at her surprised. "Where is this coming from?"

For some reason, he seemed dismayed by Bella's proposition.

Bella sighed. "I realised it wasn't fair to you to make you keep coming over to my house to see Alexis."

"I don't mind," Edward said quickly, wanting to assure Bella that he had no qualms about going to her house every day. Unfortunately for Bella, that was the problem. If she really wanted to break from Edward, she would have to start the separation now. It wasn't fair to keep leading Edward on like that. It was time they start living separate lives.

"No. You deserve your time with her without me breathing down your neck."

Edward didn't seem pleased, but he nodded anyway. "Okay."

"What times are fine with you?"

"I'm free most days. I bend my work around the times I spend with her."

"Okay, maybe a few hours each week twice a week? And overnight on weekends?" Bella asked uncertainly. She didn't want him to think she was dictating how much time he could spend with his child. It was something they needed to work on together seeing as it affected both of them. When she did file for divorce, they had to be able to cooperate when it came to raising Alexis.

"Okay. How about Saturday noon to Sunday noon?" he suggested.

Bella breathed a small sigh of relief. She'd thought that Edward would be more difficult. If he was willing to work with her, then that was a good sign. Maybe if she filed for divorce, he wouldn't be difficult.

"That's fine," she said.

"Alright. I'll bring her back to you tomorrow by six."

"Okay," Bella said.

If they kept this up, the amount of time Bella actually saw Edward would be reduced to a few hours each week in between exchanges. She hated that Alexis would now be reduced to being passed from parent to parent. She just hoped that in the long run, it was for the better.

Once the deed was done, and the problems had been ironed out, Bella had assumed that she would get used to the new arrangement, but a small part of her wasn't sure if it was the right choice. She'd been so used to Edward being around most days, that his absence was hard to miss.

On the first day of her and Edward's new arrangement, Sebastian had invited Bella out to the local coffee shop. Edward wasn't expected to bring Alexis back for a few hours.

"So how was practical today?" Sebastian asked as they waited for their orders.

Today was the first day Bella had gone in for field work in the hospital. Even though she was making decent money at her job, she didn't want to stop her degree now. Her first experience in the hospital had been nothing short of horrifying.

"I almost fainted," she said to Sebastian.

Sebastian laughed. "You'll get used to it," he said.

"I doubt that."

Once they'd received their drinks, they found a spot close to the door.

Bella still couldn't figure out what it was, but something about Sebastian always put her at ease. It was the complete opposite to when she was with Edward. She and Edward had so much history that it was hard to see him without seeing their past. Bella had been so caught up on her thoughts that she hadn't realised that Sebastian was asking her something.

"What?" Bella asked. Her brain wasn't working at its fastest right now.

Sebastian smiled slightly as he repeated himself. "Would you like to go out with me?"

"What?" He'd completely caught her off guard.

"It's just that the last time we went out, I had a really good time with you. I was hoping we could do it again. This time on a real date."

"Real date?"

"Yes, a real date."

Bella thought about it for a moment. Really, there was no reason for her not to go out with Sebastian. She wanted change, and really, this was her chance to try change out. If it didn't work, then at least she tried. It was time she stopped holding onto the past and embraced the future she could have.

Sebastian was still waiting for her response, so to him she said, "Okay. Let's do it."

So, what's everyone been up to?

The book Bella reads in the beginning is a children's book called

Love You Forever and is written by Robert Munsch.

You can find me on Twitter XxMementoMorix

Special thanks to kitchmill and BelleDuJour.