A/N: As always, references to Twilight Series belong to Stephanie Meyer.
Thank you for the well wishes and I hope you enjoy.
Chapter 28 – BPOV
She stood tall in her short stature, shoulders back, chin up.
Black heels, not nearly as high as the ones Tonya wore but not as flat as the sneakers she was used too.
The grey suit, pencil skirt and jacket, was flattering. A pink scarf around her neck added just enough color to make the ensemble soft, feminine.
Her dark hair slicked back into a ponytail, cinched tightly at the nape of her neck.
She looked professional, confident, in-charge.
Her movements mirrored my own, right down to answering Alice's phone call.
Could it be?
Was it possible?
Was that really me?
Adjusting to my new attitude was easy. Of course I faltered at moments but for the most part it came naturally.
It was like closing my eyes and leaping off a cliff.
I spoke what was in my mind…finally.
After all these years, I spoke what I thought.
I spoke without overthinking, without flourishing my every thought with doubts and awkward fidgets.
Looking into my own reflection was much harder to get used to.
The fabrics, the cut, the workmanship, I had no idea clothes could feel this good, could fit this well.
I couldn't refer to the materials by name, like Alice, but I knew how they felt against my skin and I loved it.
With Rosalie's help, my face was thinly masked, almost flawlessly, with make-up that felt more like creamy silk then the department store foundations and dusty powders that clumped and caked my pores so heavily that I vowed to never wear them again.
And the shoes.
The shoes, heels, which I had deemed long ago as someone's idea of torture, were now my favourite part.
My posture instantly improved in heels. The way I carried my body changed immediately.
I felt tall, graceful, polished.
My transformation from wallflower to whatever I was now, occurred in such a short time span that it was overwhelming.
I felt incredible but looking at the image of myself in the mirror – I almost couldn't recognize the small town girl from Forks.
I liked it.
I wondered what Angela would think.
She'd always envied the magazine celebrities for their wealth, their clothes, their everything.
I was the one telling her that none of it mattered. Now, here I stood, admittedly, the biggest hypocrite I'd ever known.
There was no time to dwell on that though. Alice was waiting downstairs.
A dab of lip gloss and I was out the door, grabbing my purse and overcoat on the way.
When I was about ten years old, Renee had moved us into a building.
The only one we'd ever lived in. I remembered it was old and musty and roaming through the cryptic hallways always scared me.
Back then, the elevator creeked and cracked as it dropped, or even rose, between floors.
It was tremendously slow and seemed to be such a waste of time.
In comparison, this elevator, the elevator to the penthouse, was the Ferrari of elevators but still seemed like a waste of time.
It wasn't fast enough.
It would never be fast enough.
It surprised me that Edward wasn't bothered by it.
He liked the prestige of high-rise real estate and felt the inconvenience was a necessary evil.
The doors opened to the lobby where I was faced with a full room of busy people rushing to get somewhere. Well-dressed, well-to-do men and woman scurried about looking for elevators, exits and other hotel amenities.
Another deterrent for me.
The hotel staff came at me from all directions, "good morning, Dr. Swan," they'd say as they passed by.
Being with Edward also meant giving up my anonymity. He was known and now – so was I.
Sure, in my small town, everyone knew me but it was different.
I smiled and nodded at each of them. Over the past few days I learned it was impossible to say hello to each person.
They moved so fast I couldn't keep up.
Outside, I searched the sidewalk for Alice's familiar face.
Cars, all shapes and models, moved in both directions at a moderate speed for the morning rush hour.
I was glad not to be driving here. The roadway was busier than the hotel lobby and I wouldn't want to be part of that race.
Everything about this place made me nostalgic for my quieter home in Forks.
An older gentleman dressed in a dark suit, inadequate for the current weather conditions, motioned to me from the side of a black limousine.
"Me?" I asked.
"Are you Dr. Swan?"
"Yes." I replied and the man held open the car door.
I peered inside before entering, "Hi Bella," Alice's sweet voice chimed.
"A limousine?" I asked.
"Yeah." Alice seemed embarrassed as she tried to excuse her lavish ride. "I have a lot of meeting today and I need to work on the run."
"Is this about Edward?"
"Some but not all." She replied, pushing the stack of folders off her lap and onto the seat beside her. "Thanks for having breakfast with me this morning. The café is not far from here."
I shot off a quick text to Edward letting him know where I'd be. He could pick me up from the café on his way to Tonya's office later.
Edward's side of the bed was cold this morning. I had no idea what time he'd gotten up or even where he'd gone.
All I had was a simple note resting on his pillow, written in his exquisite penmanship:
"Good morning my love. I'll see you soon."
"So." Alice began, redirecting my focus to present company. She continued to speak with an air of sadness and worry.
She had spoken to her parents, visited them, and felt the obvious darkness left in the wake of Edward's move.
At first look, Alice thought the despair was simply due to Edward's leaving the nest, unexpectedly.
In her intuitive way, however, she knew there was more to it.
After piecing together a few clues, like Emmett's reveal of Edward's distant behaviour towards his mother the night we left, a few comments from her parents and Edward's quick departure from the family home, she was convinced there was more to it.
"Alice I know you're concerned and I think you have every right to be." I hinted, "I want to tell you everything I know but I think this is a conversation you need to have with Edward."
It broke my heart to say that to her but what choice did I have.
If Esme and Carlisle weren't spilling about what had happened, who was I to tell all.
And most importantly, I couldn't betray Edward. He'd never forgive me.
Alice tried to understand and let me off the hook as best she could. She knew I was right. Talking to Edward was the best solution but talking to Edward wasn't always easy.
"We're here." She piped up as the car pulled out of traffic.
The café was bright and cheery. Not at all what I had expected.
To me, the word café meant dark and brooding. I don't know why I associated the word to that kind of environment but I guess it didn't really matter.
The menu was full of tantalizing breakfast options, all accompanied with fruit, juice and coffee or tea.
Alice placed her order and I followed, opting for an omelette.
Our conversation lifted while we waited for our meals to arrive.
Her main objective, from the moment we met, was to get to know me better. I appreciated her interest, being that she was Edward's sister, but there were some things I chose to avoid.
"Why did you choose to live in Forks?" She asked, innocently.
The simple answer was because of Charlie but I knew Alice would not accept just because of Charlie.
So, I injected a little more like the tradition, the roots, Jake, all things life with Renee couldn't offer.
I made sure to reinforce that my relationship with Jake was purely platonic in case Edward had ever mentioned him to her.
Fortunately, by the time I'd said all I had to say, the waitress arrived with our order.
The plates were filled with our main choice, the omelette for example, but were then piled high with a mountain of fruit, whipped cream and custard.
The food brought with it a new discussion as we tried to figure out where to begin and if it was humanly possible to eat the entire plateful.
The sadness lifted from Alice's eyes as we laughed our way through breakfast and mine too.
Thinking about my permanent placement in Forks drudged up memories of my own that I had locked away. Things I didn't want to remember.
Eventually, our conversation turned to the obvious topic.
"It's not going to be easy Bella. Are you ready for this?" She asked, concerned for me and for her brother.
I nodded. "The hardest part is not being able to stand beside him." I said. "I know he wasn't saving himself for marriage and I know he didn't rape that woman. I'll be ok."
"Well, rest assured his sex life is on trial. I know that's no comfort." Alice reached for my hand.
"I'm not going to run Alice. I know what you said was right. I'm either in it all the way or not at all. Edward and I have an understanding. I can take whatever is revealed and chalk it up to his past." I laughed nervously. "Boys will be boys, right?"
Alice reminded me of Edward's less favourable traits, his killer instincts in business, his lack of social etiquette, to put it nicely, and his questionable morals.
"He's no saint but none of that matters. His sex life, his extra-marital affairs, that's the main target in court and in the media. Tonya and I are working together to reinforce his better side and the fact that no other woman has come forward in the wake of all this to accuse him helps. But you need to know the press will make accusations and speculate on every facet of his life, including your relationship, which he's going to have to deny publicly because of his pending divorce."
I hated the thought of that.
Everyone close to Edward, close to his family, knew we were together. All the staff at the hotel knew we were together, or at the very least assumed it.
Even the Volturi's knew it.
I didn't quite understand why public opinion mattered so much.
If anyone was asked in open court they would have to answer honestly so why did it make a difference if I stood beside him, supported him, as his girlfriend for the news?
My questions were silent rants. Voicing them would only make things worse, make Edward feel worse.
This was Alice's business.
She knew what was best.
I hadn't been completely honest though.
Yes, I was prepared to hear about Edward's indiscretions. I was prepared for the media blitz and personal attack.
I was not looking forward to Charlie's, and Angela's and God forbid, Jake's response to it all.
"Ok, enough with the heavy." Alice moved on. "How do you like the penthouse?"
I rolled my eyes. "Let's just say I can't wait to go home."
"Oh Bella," Alice sympathized. "I don't think Edward will ever move back to mom and dad's."
"Oh no. I mean Forks. Your family has been so great but I need to go back to my small town."
"Forks? Does Edward know you're planning to go back?" Alice asked, concerned.
"Not me, us." I said without a second thought while checking the time, "excuse me for a minute, I need to visit the washroom before Edward gets here."
"Bella, have you talked to Edwa…."
"Hold that thought. I'll be right back." I didn't mean to cut her off but I really had to go.
I lingered in the washroom, for just a minute, to check my face, my hair, and my suit. My nerves were getting the better of me as time drew near to see Tonya.
There was something about her, something I couldn't explain, something that made my stomach flip flop with the mere mention of her name.
Why should she intimidate me? After all, she was just a woman.
An educated woman but so was I.
A perfectly put together, confident, and smart woman. So was Esme, Alice, and Rosalie, they didn't intimidate me.
My insecurities got the better of me in her presence and I couldn't help but wonder…why me?
Why would Edward choose me when he could have her?
And he could have her.
Maybe that was the something I couldn't explain.
It was the way Tonya looked at him as if she was inviting him, daring him even, to come get her.
I shook the thought out of my head.
They had their chance. They've known each other for a while. Longer than he's known me and yet, he chose me.
"That's right Bella." I took a deep breath. "He picked you."
The words had barely left my mouth when the creek of a stall door startled me.
I thought I had been alone in the washroom.
A woman, maybe in her late sixties, came out of a stall with a knowing grin on her face.
She'd obviously heard my little pep talk but didn't say a word as she rinsed her hands.
Embarrassed, I turned my back on the older lady and walked out of the bathroom.
I'm sure I heard her chuckle as I left.
I returned to the table only moments before Edward arrived.
"Good morning." He said to both of us with a half-hearted smile.
Alice returned his greeting in her usual happy way but I think we both sensed something was wrong with him.
I reached up, about to place my hand on his forearm, and ask him if everything was ok but didn't get the chance.
He turned to his sister, repositioning himself outside of my reach. "We're going to see Tonya now. You've talked to her?"
"Yes." Alice replied then proceeded to share details of there conversation.
Truthfully, I expected more. A kiss, a hug, some form of affection but got nothing.
Maybe he'd already spoken to Alice about his conduct in public. Maybe he had figured it out on his own.
Either way, it left me feeling a little foolish. Even after Alice's spiel, I was ready for something and would have openly reciprocated.
Edward reached into his pocket, pulled out his wallet and threw cash between our plates.
"Edward, that's not necessary." Alice protested.
It fell on deaf ears as he began to walk away.
"Are you coming, Bella?" He asked in a hushed tone.
I turned to Alice who simply shrugged her shoulders.
Something was bothering him.
Cars horns honked at us as Edward bullied his way through the busy streets.
At the best of times, he was an aggressive driver but today was the worst I'd seen.
"I'm sorry Bella." Instantly the car slowed down to the maximum limit. "I went to see a private investigator this morning."
I was shocked. It wasn't like Edward to be so forthcoming. Perhaps he was going to take our arrangement, my conditions, seriously.
"Yes." He ran his hand through his hair in typical fashion. "I'd hired one to watch Jane. I was hoping to get some information that would help in the divorce but apparently, I fired him."
"Apparently you fired him? What does that mean?"
Was I slow or did that not make sense?
"I spent a good portion of my days in a drunken stupor around that time." He looked so sad.
"Was there something specific you were looking for?"
"No. No, nothing. I …I was …uhm…just hoping." He stammered. "This is where Tonya works." He pointed to the building on our right.
I noticed his deliberate change of topic but decided to leave him alone.
Tonya's office was on the tenth floor.
As usual, Tonya was in prime form. Her subtle flirts weren't lost on me though Edward seemed unaffected.
I'll admit the first hour had been interesting as Tonya covered the basics of trial.
She discussed jury selection and the type of people she would consider viable contenders.
Edward was visibly pleased with her assessment.
Her witness list contained a few character witnesses, namely Jasper, Riley and Alistair.
We all agreed they were the best non-family member choices, although I thought a woman in the list would be beneficial.
"That's a good point, Bella. We could add Bree Tanner to that list." Edward said excitedly.
"Have you slept with her?" Tonya asked flatly.
Edward glared at his attorney, "no, I have not."
I got the feeling Tonya didn't appreciate my being there, being an active part in helping Edward, making suggestions that he actually took seriously.
Perhaps it was childish but thinking that way gave me a little satisfaction.
Moving on, she had found two people who had justifiable reasons to challenge Lucy's character.
Edward was confident there were more if need be. A few names Tonya was unfamiliar with rolled off his tongue.
Lucy was a follower and desperate for a man's attention. Between bitter wives and divorced men, Edward could have gone on for a while, he said.
Tonya was excited about the nurse, who tended to Lucy in the hospital.
The nurse would testify about Lucy's state of mind at the time of examination and also about the friend who tried to convince her to press charges of rape. A fact Tonya found out during discovery.
"The nurse is probably our best witness." Tonya said. "She'll make Lucy look like a vengeful ex-lover."
"Who's the friend or do I even need to ask?" Edward questioned.
Tonya shook her head, he didn't need to ask.
I wish he had though. I didn't know who they were talking about.
Then the hard part.
Hard for me.
Hard for Edward to acknowledge in my presence.
Tonya handed Edward his list of conquests. "Pick three from these. I've looked into them and they'd make good witnesses." She stated matter of fact.
Edward studied the list, which I wouldn't even look at. I didn't want to know how many names were on the sheet of paper.
After a few minutes, he spat out his choices.
"Maria was crossed out, Edward, she's married." Tonya said.
"Oh right." With his head hung shamefully, he glanced in my direction to gauge my reaction, before spitting out another name. "Sasha, I guess."
""And besides she's been subpoenaed by the prosecution. They're only calling one of your affairs, Maria. Can she hurt us Edward? I need to know." Tonya asked.
"No, absolutely not. Maria owes me. She won't say anything against me."
"What does she owe you for?" Tonya asked suspiciously.
Edward looked at me again. Regret practically written across his forehead. "She just owes me." He said.
The prosecution planned on calling only three witnesses in addition to Maria. The doctor who examined Lucy, Lucy herself, which seemed to surprise Tonya, and Jane, which infuriated Edward.
Tonya on the other hand was pleased with Jane's inclusion, noting she would appear as the scorned wife and not necessarily a credible witness.
"I should warn you both." Tonya stated, capturing both our attention. "Brady Fuller is the ADA and filling the first chair on this case. He's not a stupid man."
"I've heard about him." Edward hung his head.
"Well, there is a chance that if he feels backed into a corner that he'll call Bella for the defense."
"What? Why?" I demanded.
"Like it or not Bella, you are his current mistress." Tonya's voice was filled with contempt.
She made our whole relationship sound dirty and wrong. I'd never felt ashamed but came painfully close in that moment.
"Tonya." Edward warned.
"Well, it's true Edward." She changed her tone. "Being with Bella is proof to the jury that even during a rape trial and in the middle of a divorce, you can't stay away from women."
Tears welled in my eyes and Edward reached for my hand.
Is that really how people saw him?
Maybe this was all a mistake.
For the first time, I wasn't sure if I was strong enough to handle this.
I had no idea it would be like this and we weren't even in court yet. This was supposed to be a friendly zone.
"Fuller will use that to make it sound like a compulsion for you and that if you can't have it – you would be more than capable of forcibly taking it."
"Tonya, you can't let that happen." Anger raging in his voice. "You can't allow them to put Bella on the stand."
"I won't be able to stop it but we will prep you just in case. Ok Bella?"
I didn't know how to respond.
We broke for lunch. I needed air but instead, Tonya had pizza delivered to her office.
They chatted about common interests that meant nothing to me.
Chatted so easily and I wondered how they could do that.
Forget everything, the severity of everything, we just discussed.
I couldn't engage myself, I was too busy trying to prevent the walls of the stuffy room from closing in on me completely.
Edward must have sensed my distress…finally.
He wrapped his strong arms around me trying his best to provide comfort but I felt smothered instead.
Wriggling out of his embrace hurt him. I saw it in his eyes and I excused myself to go to the washroom.
I needed some privacy to let the tears flow, release the tension building inside my head.
It took some time to recompose myself. Edward and Tonya had finished lunch and continued without me.
I couldn't eat anyway.
By the end of the second hour, the interest I first noted for the legal mumbo jumbo had waned.
I got off the couch and crossed the room, hoping to draw some air from the draft coming in from the poorly sealed window.
"Are you ok, Bella?" Edward asked.
I nodded yes and encouraged them to proceed.
They didn't need me anyway.
I had nothing more to contribute.
It was time, in the fourth hour, to run through a mock trial.
Tonya played devil's advocate very well as she posed questions to Edward from Fuller's perspective.
Then she'd educate him on appropriate answers.
"…if they start this line of questioning, I will object. Don't let them goad you into answering. Keep your cool and your mouth shut." Tonya stated forcefully.
"Edward's going on the stand?" I asked.
"Haven't you been listening?" Tonya shot me a look. If we'd been cartoon characters there would be daggers coming from her eyes, directed at me.
I looked away. I tuned out after lunch, barely catching a word here and there, but wouldn't dare admit that to her.
Time seemed to stand still for me and yet somehow, miraculously, it had flown by.
It would soon be dinner time and I hoped this would be over and we could leave.
I tuned back in, hoping to hear something to that effect. Something like, 'ok we'll call it a day'.
That's not what I heard!
"Edward, I know you'd prefer we didn't use Sasha but she's a good, solid witness. She's educated, she's confident, she presents well and most importantly, she's not married. If I weren't your lawyer, you'd know I'd be up there testifying for you but I can't, so we have to choose the other strong women you've been with."
They laughed amongst themselves until they heard my gasp, "you would testify?"
The salty burn in my eyes resurfaced.
I searched for the truth in Edward's guilt ridden face but it was Tonya's smug look that confirmed it for me.
"Oh God, Bella?" Edward called after me as I bolted from the room.
The elevator, the damn elevator, took so long to answer the call button.
"Bella, please…." Edward begged as he approached me.
"Don't!" I put up my hand to stop him, the doors opened and I stepped in.
Edward's twisted and tortured face faded behind the sliding barrier.
The fresh air hit my face like a brick wall, taking my breath away forcing me to double over, gasping for oxygen.
"Are you ok Miss?" A stranger came to my aide.
"Yes." I replied, praying he'd just leave me alone.
I compelled my body to straighten up and thanked him for his concern before walking away.
I'd only made it to the end of the block when 'Angel' rang out from my purse.
Jake. His face filled my screen.
Did he have some kind of radar, or extra-sensory ability. His timing for my tragedies was uncanny.
"I can't talk now Jake. It's not a good time." I ended the call, without giving him a chance to ask questions. Hoping my voice was steady enough not to cause him alarm but I knew my attempt had failed when the song rang through again….
… and again.