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.

"Sometimes people are beautiful.
Not in looks.
Not in what they say.
Just in what they are."

- Markus Zusak

Chapter 26


Somewhere along the way, Edward lost track of time, and before he knew it, December was upon him. By then, he'd fully adjusted to his new life in Forks with Bella and Alexis. There were moments when he couldn't believe just how fortunate he was. Sometimes he believed it wasn't fair. After all the terrible things he'd done, Edward often felt like he shouldn't be comfortable in his life. Sometimes he wondered if there was still something terrible in store for him. Something that evened out the bad he'd committed with the good he was experiencing. Whenever he voiced these fears to his therapist, she would remind him that actually he actually had suffered. Every time he witnessed the violence between his parents, he'd suffered. Edward still felt it wasn't enough.

December was also Alexis's dance recital, which she reminded him of every day for the past month, and Bella finishing college. Whilst Alexis looked forward to her recital with excitement, Bella tried to downplay her own achievement, but Edward knew deep down Bella was proud of her accomplishment, and he was proud of her as well. Unfortunately, Alexis's dance recital fell on the same night as Bella's graduation. Not surprisingly, Bella chose to go to Alexis's recital instead.

"I wish there was a way you could still go to your graduation," Edward said late one evening as he and Bella sat on the steps in his backyard watching Alexis practice her steps for the following night.

"It is what it is," Bella replied. "I wouldn't miss Alexis's night for anything. Not that she would let me anyway."

Edward sighed. "You worked so hard for it. You should at least have your night."

"It is what it is," Bella repeated. "Besides, it's not like if I don't go they're going to take the degree away. It's just one of the many sacrifices of being a parent. Alexis's night is more important than mine."

Edward didn't like it. Often he felt that Bella had given up or was denied too many things because of her situation. He knew nursing was not something she'd wanted, and it really hurt him when he remembered that she'd had to give up her dreams because of what he'd done. He knew, without a doubt, that had he not turned her world upside down five years ago, she would be living the life she'd always envisioned.

"Maybe we can still go out and celebrate," he suggested.

He hadn't forgotten her agreement to go out and celebrate with him once she was finished with school. Despite wanting badly to reconcile the relationship they'd had, Edward was determined not to push her or coerce her into doing anything she didn't want. This time around, she called the shots in their relationship.

"That sounds good. I don't think Renee would mind watching Alexis for a few hours, and it will be nice to go out for a bit."

Edward looked at her, confused.

"What?" she asked.

"Nothing. Sounds like a date then."

She looked at him curiously when he said the word "date," and for a moment, Edward wondered if he'd crossed a line, but she smiled a few seconds later and said, "Okay."

The next night, after they'd arrived at the hall where the recital was being held, Edward and Bella left Alexis in the back with her dance teacher to get ready with the other students, while they went out into the front hall where the other parents and family members were waiting to go in.

The small hall was already packed with people.

"Where's Renee? I thought she was meeting us here." Edward commented.

"So did I, but as per usual, she's running late. She probably lost track of time again."

As they stood waiting, a voice came on over the speakers announcing that the recital would be running a few minutes late. There was a subtle groan from the people in the hall.

After a few more minutes of waiting, Renee arrived out of breath.

"I ran in from the parking lot," she explained. "I thought I was late."

"The recital is running late," Edward explained.

Now it was Renee's turn to groan. While they waited, Renee spoke of the volunteer work she'd been doing that day which led to her being late for the recital. Even though he was listening, Edward found his eyes automatically drifting a bit while he listened, and just towards the back of the hall, he saw her. Esme. She was mixed in amongst the other parents so she wasn't easy to spot. She seemed to have noticed Edward before he had noticed her. When he met her eyes, she gave him a small smile. Edward didn't return it.

Despite her best efforts to get in contact with him for the past several months, Edward had been ignoring her calls. If Bella had run into her since their first meeting, she never mentioned it. Edward thought Esme would have left Forks after several failed attempts to communicate with him, but he was wrong. Esme seemed determined to make amends.

"Excuse me for a minute," he said to Bella and Renee. Because Bella and Renee were facing away from Esme, Edward assumed neither of them had seen her.

Moving quickly, Edward kept her gaze as he waded through the sea of guests towards her. When he was close, she stepped around a corner, hiding herself from view. Edward stepped around the corner as well. Now they were both hidden from Bella's view.

"I know you're angry..." she began before Edward cut her off.

"Angry? What are you doing here?" he demanded. He hadn't meant to speak to her so roughly, but his emotions always seemed to get the better of him when he spoke to Esme. After all this time, they were still raw.

Esme looked at him with sadness in her eyes. "I came to see Alexis's recital," she said softly.


"Because regardless of the fact that you and Bella are working hard to keep me out, she's still my grandchild. You and her are the only family I have left. Everyone else has abandoned me."

"And you think showing up here uninvited will help solve that?"

She didn't respond.

"Look, I get that you're in a tough place now, but you being here isn't a good idea."

"How long am I supposed to stay in purgatory? What do I have to do to make amends to you? To show you how sorry I am. I've given you your space. I've tried apologizing to Bella. What more do you want? I've told you I'm sorry for the pain I caused you. I was selfish for choosing Carlisle over you, Emmett and Jasper, but I can't change what happened. If I could, I would."

She looked away from him for a moment to catch her breath. When she looked back, Edward could almost see her heart in shatters. "I just came here to see Alexis's recital. If you don't want me here, I can leave."

Edward hated the devastation on her face, but most of all, he hated that he cared.

"Stay if you want, just don't let Bella or Renee see you," he said briefly before walking away.

"Thank you," he heard her whisper softly. He didn't turn around.

By the time he'd returned to where Bella and Renee were, Renee was gone. Only Bella stood waiting. It was then that he noticed that the hall wasn't as crowded anymore.

"Everything okay?" she asked.

"Yeah. Where's Renee?"

"She went in already. I was just waiting for you to go in," she said as she gave him a curious look.

"Okay, well we might as well go in," Edward said as he opened the door into the hall for her. "Alexis would never let us live it down if we missed a moment."

Overall, Alexis's recital was both comical— as a bunch of four year olds tried to remember their steps while mimicking their dance teacher at the side of the stage— and endearing. Flashes were going off continuously in the hall, and when it was over, Alexis broke position to wave at them. Edward didn't see Esme for the rest of the night.

Alexis spoke nonstop the entire drive back to Bella's house as she recapped everything that had happened that night. She was determined to catch Edward and Bella up on everything that had occurred behind the scenes.

"How come the lady was there again?" Alexis asked suddenly from her place in the backseat.

"What lady?" Bella asked.

"The lady from the supermarket and in the picture."

"You saw her?" Bella asked.

"Yeah. She was in the back next to Emilie's mom."

"I don't know why she was there." Then Bella looked at Edward. "Do you know why?"

"Can't say I do," Edward replied as he avoided Bella's gaze. It hadn't even occurred to him that Alexis might both see and recognize Esme despite only meeting her for a short moment.

Alexis didn't mention Esme again for the rest of the drive, and neither did Bella.

Once they arrived back at Bella's house to drop off Alexis, Bella and Edward stayed long enough to get her ready for bed. They left only after she'd fallen asleep.

"So where are we going?" Bella asked as Edward pulled away from the curb. Just like with the ice cream shop, Bella hadn't the slightest clue what Edward had planned. Edward couldn't help but notice that she trusted him enough to get into a car with him and let him carry her to some unknown place. Very slowly but surely, she was opening up to him.

"I was thinking maybe we could go to a lounge or something to celebrate. I know you don't like anything fancy."

"Sounds good. We could try that new one, Pure, in Port Angeles. It's supposed to be good, but I haven't had a chance to check it out."

"Okay, sounds good." He wondered whether or not she would mention what Alexis had said about seeing Esme.

He still didn't understand what had brought her there tonight. Even though he would never admit it to anyone, writing Esme off was not easy. For a long time, despite her faults, Esme had always been his source of comfort. Despite having both parents while growing up, she really was the only parent he'd had. At the same time, while it had been easy to look past her faults and mistakes when he was a child, now it wasn't so simple. His not wanting Esme in his life didn't just have to do with Bella. It was a whole culmination of events that led to that moment, but regardless of his reasoning, it still felt like he was cutting off a limb whenever he thought about severing ties with her.

Pure Lounge was just as calm and laid back as it was advertised. It was definitely more on the upscale side. There was a policy of booking in advance, but Edward was able to pay extra for them to have a table despite the short notice. He saw Bella shake her head in slight disapproval when he handed one of the waiters several extra bills.

"They would have had us waiting hours," Edward said in his defense as they sat down.

"Right," was all she said.

"Can I start you off with some drinks?" the waiter asked once they were settled.

"Whatever you want," Edward told Bella. "My treat."

"I don't know," Bella said looking at the menu. "It's been a long while since I've drank."

"What do you recommend?" she asked the waiter.

"The Absinthe Cocktail is a favourite."

"Okay, I'll try it."

"And for you?" he asked Edward.

"I'll just have a dry martini."

"So how does it feel to be a college graduate?" Edward asked once they were alone.

"It feels pretty damn good."

"I still wish you'd been able to go to your graduation."

"It's fine," Bella assured him again. "I wouldn't have missed Alexis's night for anything."

"That was pretty hilarious," Edward said, referring to Alexis's recital.

"Yeah, and before you know it, it will be time for the Easter pageant."

"There's an Easter pageant?"

"Yes, and it's just like all the other shows. One kid always pukes, and someone always picks their nose and then eats it."


"Yeah. But they're all cute so you get used to it after a while."

They were silent again as the waiter brought their drinks.

"So what did Esme say when you went to talk to her?" Bella asked suddenly when they were alone again.

She'd caught him off guard, and he didn't have time to hide the surprise on his face.

Bella laughed a little. "I knew she was there from the beginning," she said.


"I saw her come in, and when you left before going inside, I figured you'd left to talk to her."

"Oh, but I really don't know why she was there. I was just as surprised as you were."

"Oh, please. We both know why she was there. She wanted to see you."

"Not really. She said she'd come to watch Alexis perform."

"Really? Huh. Well maybe it's one reason, but I doubt it's the only reason. Have you spoken to her recently other than tonight?" Bella asked as she raised her hand indicating to the waiter to bring another cocktail.

"Not for a while."

"Why not?"

"I don't know. I guess after all this time, all the resentment for what she caused is finally coming out. Right now, I can't seem to look past what she did."

"Well, you can't hold on to that forever. You have to forgive her at some point. After all, she is your mother."

"Can you forgive her?" Edward asked.

Bella gave him a face. "No, but she's not my mother."

"Okay," Edward said slowly. "Then what is if the roles were reversed? Would you have been able to forgive Renee if it was her?"

Bella thought for a moment before she answered. "Okay, you have a point, but just because I might not doesn't mean you shouldn't at least consider taking my advice."

"Why are you advocating for her all of a sudden?"

Bella was silent for a second as she looked down at her glass. "I know what it feels like to not have my family around anymore and be left alone. I understand how she feels, even if our circumstances are different. I know that loneliness. You are the only family she has left. It can't be easy to be rejected by your only family."

The reminder again of that dark period in Chicago made Edward's mouth run dry. No matter how much she'd hated him then, at that moment, he hated himself more for what he'd done.

Bella sighed. "I'm not saying that she and I are about to become BFFs. But I guess I just feel bad for her. Also, she's the only parent you have left."

"Yes, but I wonder, all this came about because Carlisle died. If he was still alive, would she have made this drastic change?"

"If I had stayed in Chicago, would you have?" Bella countered. "It's not what caused the change that's important. It's what arises out of it."

Edward gave her an amused smile. "When did you become a philosopher?"

"Ha ha."

Edward loved that they'd reached a point in their relationship where they could actually joke around with each other despite still dealing with the serious issues.

The waiter was just finished catering to another table when Bella stopped him to ask for another drink.

"Don't you think you've had enough?" Edward asked. Even though she'd switched from the absinthe drink, she was on her fourth drink. He knew in high school Bella had been able to hold her alcohol, they'd both had, but whereas he'd kept up the habit since then, he wasn't sure if she had.

"Not really, but I think that maybe that's the alcohol talking." She sighed as she began passing the tip of her index finger over the rim of one of the glasses. It was her tell whenever she felt confused or there was something pressing on her mind. "This is the first time I've ever drunk this much since high school."

"You never went out drinking after that?"

"How could I? I'd only just finished high school when you'd taken me. Then after that I was pregnant. Then I had Alexis, so going out to drink wasn't much of an option."

Bella spoke so nonchalantly about her past that Edward was beginning to realise she was teetering on the edge of being drunk.

"I'm not going to lie though," she continued. "The alcohol makes this whole situation way more tolerable."

"What situation?" Edward found himself asking despite already knowing the answer.

"This," she replied, waving her hand between them. "Us, here. It's easier to shut the voices up in my head that tell me I'm making a huge mistake being here with you, with alcohol."

She was no longer on the edge; she was drunk. Edward had forgotten how brutally honest alcohol made Bella.

"I'm sorry that it takes alcohol for you to want to be here with me," Edward said sadly.

Bella shook her head. "It doesn't make me want to be here with you. Before the alcohol I came anyway. It just makes the part of me that says I'm foolish for trusting you shut up for a little while. My morals have been silenced."

Edward didn't know how to respond to that.

"We sure do have one fucked up relationship. I'm pretty sure this is what you call the honeymoon stage of a domestic violence relationship," Bella went on. Then she looked at him with narrowed eyes. "I have to keep an eye out for the next stage."

"Maybe we should head out," Edward said. While part of the reason for wanting to get her out of there was to get her away from the alcohol, the other was that he was afraid of what else 'Honest Bella' would say.

"Why? It's still early."

"It's after three." Edward pointed to the clock just over the bar. He raised his hand and indicated to the waiter to bring the check. Unfortunately, the card machine wasn't working so Edward had to go to the side of the bar to pay.

"Do you want to come?" Edward asked Bella as he stood to follow the waiter.

"Nah, I'll just wait here."

"Are you sure?"


"Okay, I won't be long."

Edward followed the waiter to the side of the bar where he was able to pay. When he reached back where Bella had been waiting, he found her missing. He felt as though his heart had dropped right out of his chest.

Quickly scanning the room, he looked for any sign of her, but he came up empty. She hadn't gone the way he'd been or he would have seen her. Instead, he went looking in the opposite direction. He went towards the bathrooms, hoping she'd gone there, but there was a long line outside the women's room. If she had gone there she would have still been in the line.

The room where they had been was not large, so Edward was sure if she'd been there he would have seen her. He went outside instead to look. Up the street there was a couple standing by the curb and several men standing under a streetlamp smoking. It wasn't until he looked down the street that he finally saw her.

The relief he felt quickly turned to anger. During the few minutes that he'd been looking for her, his mind has thought up all sorts of things that could have happened to her in her intoxicated state.

"What are you doing out here?" he demanded as he walked up to her.

She met his angry eyes with her own. Alcohol or not, Bella was still Bella. "I needed air. I didn't know how long you would be," she replied with the same anger. "Or am I supposed to ask your permission first?"

"Don't bullshit me with that, Bella. Do you have any idea what could have happened to you while you are in this state?"

"Oh, fuck you, Edward."

"Come on," he said reaching for her hand, but she pulled it away from his grasp and stomped ahead of him.

"Why are you mad at me?" he asked following behind her.

She stopped suddenly and started rubbing her forehead with her fingers. "I don't know." She sighed. "I just want to lay down for a bit. I feel like I'm about to pass out." She swayed slightly where she stood.

Edward held out his hands to catch her in case she started to fall. Taking her hand gently again, he led her to his car. When she was buckled in, he went over to the driver's side and got in. It wasn't until he was pulling away from the building and turning onto the road that he realised she was asleep.

"Bella?" he called, taking one hand off the steering wheel to shake her gently. She didn't respond.

"Bella?" Edward called a little louder, but she was gone to the world.

When Edward stopped in front of Bella's house more than an hour later, he realised he had a small problem. He knew Bella was planning to get into her house using the spare key she kept; the problem was he didn't know where it was hidden. He tried shaking her awake to find out, but she was still out cold. He considered knocking on the door, but all the lights were off indicating Alexis and Renee were asleep, and he didn't want to wake them. So instead, he decided to take her to his house so she could sleep it off.

Bella was still unresponsive when they arrived at his house, and Edward had to carry her into in. Very gently he laid her on the bed. When he was sure she was okay, he left her in the bedroom so he could take a shower and change his clothes.

When he came back into the room, Bella was no longer asleep. She was sitting up in bed.

"Where am I?" she asked. Edward could see that she was still a bit dazed. The effects of the alcohol hadn't worn off. He wondered if he should get a bowl incase she was about to puke.

"You're at my house. I didn't know where the key was for yours and didn't want to wake Renee so I brought you here to sleep it off," he explained. "If you want I can take you back to your house now."

"No, don't bother."

She didn't say anything for a while, seemingly lost in thought.

"Maybe you should go to sleep," Edward suggested.

She looked up at him, as if she'd forgotten he was there.

"I don't know why you put up with me," she said.

"What do you mean?"

"I mean, you're so oddly different from your father and brothers. I don't understand why. Bandura would be stumped if he met you." She looked at him curiously. "You know I hated you for a really long time. When I was pregnant with Alexis, I was even afraid I would hate her because of you."

"You should really go to sleep," Edward said again. He knew she would be horrified tomorrow by what she had confessed in her inebriated state.

"But now," she continued as if he hadn't spoken. "You make it really hard to hate you or even dislike you. It's easier to admit I still have feelings for you when I'm drunk."

Edward felt as though his breath had rushed right out of him.

"Do you know I still have the ring you gave me on our wedding day?"

"Really?" He thought she would have gotten rid of it a long time ago. "Why did you keep it?" he asked, sitting beside her on the bed.

"I don't know. I don't know what I'm doing. I never know what I'm doing. Maybe Eryn is right, maybe I am crazy."

"Eryn?" Edward asked. Now she wasn't making much sense.

Bella looked at him and smiled a little. "You really have changed. I like this new Edward." Then without any indication, without any signal, she leaned forward and pressed her lips against his. It was so unexpected he was caught off guard, but when he recovered, he couldn't help his response. He kissed her back. He pushed her gently on her back as his hands trailed up and down her leg. He'd wanted her for such a long time. At that moment, he wanted things to go far between them. He wanted to feel her again. It had been so long. But he knew he shouldn't. He wasn't Carlisle. He would never take advantage of her in her current state, despite how much the 'Cullen' side of him begged. Even if it felt like he was ripping himself apart by pulling away from her. He would never do that to her.

He pulled his lips away. If they ever got together again physically, it would be her decision, and it could never truly be her decision while she was not sober.

He stroked her face, though. He couldn't help that. He'd wanted to touch her for so long. He knew she wouldn't be happy once she found out what she'd said tonight, but for the moment, he embraced it. Unlike when they were in Chicago and she'd lied about having feelings for him just to get away from him, this time, the alcohol brought out her honesty. He preferred her honesty, but he wouldn't push her when she wasn't fully in control.

"You should sleep," he whispered.

She sighed. "You really are nothing like your father or brothers," she said.

"I'll be in the guest room if you need me," Edward said as he stood to leave. He hated leaving her, even for a moment, but he knew he should.

"Stay with me," she said.

"I don't think I should." He didn't know how he could handle being so close to her while still holding on to his morals.

"I trust you. I know you won't do anything you shouldn't," she said.

He thought about it for only a moment before getting in with her. This could be his last night— and chance— to be close to her. Tonight could be a step forward or a step back, and he didn't want to waste it.

Edward still kept distance between them.

"Do you think we'll ever have a normal relationship?" she asked.

"Weren't you the one who used to say being normal was overrated?"

Bella laughed a little, but Edward could tell she was already drifting off to sleep.

He ached to reach out and touch her again, but he stopped himself. His determination not to push his luck outweighed his need for physical contact.

It didn't matter anyway; within a few minutes Bella was already fast asleep. Edward sighed sadly as he rolled onto his back and looked up at the ceiling. He thought about what she'd said about alcohol making it easier for her to admit she had feelings for him. While it did make him feel hopeful, he hated that it took alcohol to get her to speak to him about how she felt. All he wanted was for them to reach a comfortable point in their relationship. The problem was, a comfortable point didn't necessarily mean they were together; it only meant they'd finally figured out what was best for each other.

You can find me on Twitter XxMementoMorix

Much thanks to BelleDuJour and kitchmill.