Thank you to all my readers! I started replying to reviews but just couldn't get through all of them before this chapter was due. For those who haven't heard on Twitter, I'm trying to get back on a schedule. Wisp should be posting on every other Thursday now. Yes, I know it's Wednesday today, but I was ready early. ;-) Also, we're heading toward the end of the story, believe it or not. I can't tell you exactly how many chapters, but it definitely won't be fifty more!
Content Warning: This chapter contains references to past abuse.
Also, Wisp's section is in present-tense rather than past on purpose. She lives very much in the present, and so that's the way she's written. If you go back and look, the other chapter in her PoV is done in present-tense as well.
All standard disclaimers apply.
Committing to change was the hardest thing Tanya had ever done.
While she fully committed herself to the idea of change and admitted wholeheartedly that she needed to learn new, better ways of being, there would always be a part of her aching to fall back into old patterns of behavior. She struggled with those familiar reactions almost like an addict, and she understood that they would always keep some sort of hold over her. Her automatic responses were hers, after all, and the new, more gentle behaviors were not.
She could learn, though, she told herself. She could. It was necessary; her time in Venezuela told her that much. If she wanted to be a happier and more spiritual being, she needed to learn, and change.
Old circumstances brought out those old urges, though, and being with Edward again only exacerbated the situation. He was a good guy—truly good—the best she'd ever dated, and now that she was more emotionally available she wanted very much to try again and make their relationship work this time. She understood at least some of the reasons why they previously could not be together, and she was willing to admit that part of the problem had been her. Previously she had wanted the outward trappings of a relationship more than she wanted the emotional connection. She'd wanted to show off her sexy, intelligent boyfriend all over town; being seen with him boosted her ego hugely. Eyes lingered on Edward, and thus lingered on her. She was a beautiful woman and could admit that as a matter of fact, but she was also just as self-conscious on the inside as any other female.
Being with Edward calmed those concerns. Not only was he ridiculously handsome and good down to the bone, but he was genuinely interested in her. He gave a shit, which was difficult to find in a man. Never during their relationship had she ever questioned if he cared for her. He showed it in every gesture, spoke his emotions with every word. That was just part of who he was.
Which was why she couldn't really blame the young woman he'd taken into his care. Edward made it so goddamn easy to love him. How could any female resist?
But while Tanya couldn't blame Wisp, she could and did feel a certain amount of resentment and unease about the situation. Edward had described to her a child much younger than the young adult Tanya met at his parents' cabin. It was hard to tell because she was small for her age, but the shape of her face and body told Tanya that this was no child. The look in her eyes when she watched Edward said the same. Whatever else she may or may not be capable of, Wisp was very much in love with Tanya's ex-boyfriend, and Tanya didn't know what to think. It was only to be expected, she guessed, but that didn't make it a good idea.
Alone for the moment while Edward bathed the girl—also not something she felt comfortable with—Tanya roamed slowly through the familiar cabin. Edward had brought her here several times when they dated, and the only change she could see between then and now was the addition of Wisp's possessions to the décor. Pictures hung on the walls, done in paint, colored pencil, and oil pastels. Some of her art supplies were piled neatly next to the coffee table, and a cat bed sat near the couch. She had not yet seen the cat, which must be Wisp's, because Tanya just didn't peg Edward as a cat person. Dog, maybe, but not cat.
Wisp was truly talented, if these pictures really were made by her. Edward had never been a liar, and so Tanya trusted that he'd told the truth about the girl's talent. She was not a trusting woman by nature—yet another thing she was working on changing. In fact, during their extremely odd dinner, Tanya found herself wondering whether this Wisp was duping Edward completely. Maybe she was just an ordinary woman down on her luck, needing a home and some financial help. Maybe she made up this elaborate ruse and didn't have special needs at all, and she'd successfully conned Edward, his family, and his friends into believing a huge, elaborate lie.
Logically, Tanya knew this just couldn't be true. Her head understood that, no matter how clueless Edward was, he wasn't that clueless. Plus, nobody would need to concoct such a strange story to earn his sympathy and his aid. He'd probably give it just for the asking.
But, though Tanya's head could tell her the logical reason Wisp wasn't faking, her intuition was silent. This was the part she understood would never change, no matter how hard she tried. She lacked the small inner voice, the gut feeling, calling her one way or another. She could not intuit, and this was not something she was capable of learning. You either had it, or you didn't. Her lack galled her even now. Edward had more intuition than she did, and he was a man. But what could she do? No amount of yoga or meditation could make a gift appear where it was absent.
In the kitchen, Tanya ran her hands over the gleaming edge of the stainless steel sink, along the clean counter. When she first was invited to Forks to meet Edward's parents, she'd felt shunned at being sent to stay in the cabin instead of the big house. Only with Edward's gentle explanations did she learn Carlisle and Esme were merely humoring their son, who craved quiet. Even in his childhood home, he was more comfortable at the cabin.
Tanya hadn't minded once she realized they didn't have to keep quiet at night. There was no one around to hear when she got loud, and she definitely took advantage of this unexpected benefit.
Now her cheeks warmed, recalling. She and Edward had made some very, very good memories up in that bedroom. They had indisputable chemistry, despite their relationship issues.
What would happen tonight? Edward had promised that Wisp had her own bedroom and would be sleeping there, but after spending the evening watching him interact with Wisp, Tanya wasn't quite sure he'd be able to uphold that promise. She knew Wisp was used to sleeping in his bed, but unlike sitting on his lap, this wasn't negotiable to Tanya. If Edward couldn't keep his ward out of his bed, Tanya was leaving. It wasn't right; it just wasn't right. Yes, the girl had been through hell and back. But that wasn't Tanya's fault, or Edward's. She needed to learn to sleep alone. Mentally, Tanya added it to the list of things she felt the girl needed to learn.
Edward's cluelessness about Wisp's manipulation made no sense. He was a smart guy, and he supposedly knew a lot about people and relationships. He had a doctorate in sociology, for fuck's sake! Regardless, he did not seem to understand the exact nature of Wisp's attachment to him—possibly because he chose not to. Tanya wasn't stupid, and she remembered just how awkward the last couple of months of their relationship had been. Both knew it wasn't working, but neither wanted to say so out loud. It was as if they thought no one had to hurt if they kept their mouths shut. Now she understood that it would have been better to call it quits sooner, to minimize the pain and regret on both sides. Then as now, though, Edward seemed willing to just plow along without forcing anyone, including himself, to change. He was a pretty amicable guy. And maybe that was the answer to the question—maybe he just loathed conflict enough that he made himself believe there was never any problem.
Not that this was good for him—or for Wisp, or Tanya herself. Impersonating an ostrich and sticking his head in the sand was doing no one any favors.
Staring out at the blackness of the night, her own reflection in the window staring back at her, Tanya half-listened to the noises from the bathroom. Wisp giggled, soft and low; Edward's voice answered with rumbling words Tanya could not discern. Realistically, Tanya had known the woman was completely dependent on Edward. After all, wasn't that the subject of his very long story last weekend when he'd met her in Seattle? But hearing him talk and actually seeing it for herself were two very different things. She had not been prepared for the way Wisp looked at Edward, or the absolute devotion in his hands when he touched her. He had never, ever, touched her, Tanya, like that. He was so attuned to Wisp, so loving, and yet so clueless at the same time. He knew that she was unhappy having Tanya around. He just didn't know why.
Well, Tanya did. Wisp didn't like her because she saw her as competition, and in a way she was. Whether as a friend or a romantic partner, Tanya would invariably take up time Edward would otherwise have spent with Wisp. But in other ways, there was just no competition. Wisp could not be a romantic interest for Edward. She probably couldn't even be a friend—not really. She needed too much, and she was too badly damaged, too far behind mentally. They couldn't have an intelligent conversation. What could Wisp really offer to Edward? Other than a warm body—one he couldn't fuck—Tanya was honestly drawing a blank. Their relationship was very one-sided. It was only to be expected, considering Wisp's limitations. But the fact remained. What did Edward get out of this? And how long would he be willing to continue?
Edward stood quietly next to the countertop in the bathroom as Wisp brushed her teeth and rinsed her mouth. She'd come a long way, learning to do a lot of her bathroom routine on her own, but she refused to take the initiative unless he was right there with her. She would not bathe alone, and Edward didn't feel the need to push her. Not now. Especially since Tanya's visit was creating enough of a disturbance in her routine.
"Little Wisp, sweetheart," he said, brushing the corners of her soft mouth with a towel, "we need to talk about what's going to happen tonight. I know we've had some hiccups over sleeping in your own room, but tonight I really need you to be good and stay where you belong."
She looked up at him with her big brown eyes, so sweet and trusting. "My Edward."
"Yes—always. That will never change. I promise. But you have to understand, sweetheart. Tanya is my friend and is going to stay in my bedroom with me, and people just don't sleep three to a bed. So you need to stay in your own room. Can you understand that?"
She didn't answer, which unfortunately could mean anything. Usually he could see her emotions so clearly, but today her delicate little face was like a blank mask. He could sense disquiet in her, which could easily be explained as confusion as she struggled to understand Tanya's sudden appearance and where she fit into Wisp's world.
When he'd asked Emily in passing how to introduce Wisp to people outside her current circle, Emily had replied, "Carefully. Give her time to feel them out for herself." If that was the advice, then he would just keep going, allowing Wisp to draw her own conclusions when she'd had enough time. She would soon see that Tanya meant no harm.
"You can have Pet up there with you," Edward added, though this in itself wasn't so spectacular. Pet slept where she pleased, which was often with Wisp. She clearly took her job as Wisp's companion very seriously. Other than the terrifying time when she'd been lost, she was never far from her person. The few times Wisp had to leave the house, Pet threw monumental feline tantrums, tearing up everything she could reach and meowing herself hoarse. The living room needed new curtains and some of the fabric leaves attached to Wisp's bed were chewed and clawed beyond recognition.
Whatever. It was worth it to see Wisp's face when she cuddled her cat. Getting that furball was one of the best decisions Edward had ever made.
"I don't want you to be scared or anything," he continued, mentally ticking off his checklist. Wisp was bathed, dressed in soft, clean pajamas, her hair combed smooth, her teeth brushed. Her nighttime bathroom routine was done. He slipped his arms around her and picked her up from the counter. "You can watch movies quietly or look at pictures in your books. You don't have to go to sleep right away. But you have to stay in your room, okay?"
She was quiet as he climbed the stairs, and when he opened her bedroom door Pet poked her little black head out from under the bed. Edward set Wisp down on the air mattress in the middle of the small room and knelt next to her.
"I know you can do it," he said. "Show me how strong you can be, okay? Emily says we should have done this a long time ago."
Fuck, he didn't like the way this felt. It was his own fault for letting things drag on this long. She should have been sleeping in her own room ages ago, but he was too soft to put his foot down when she cried. Now it was clear he'd only made things worse. It felt like Tanya was pushing Wisp out when, really, she had very little to do with it.
"I feel like I failed you," he murmured. "I feel like I fail you all the time, even though most of the time I have no idea what I could've done differently. This time, I know."
Wisp watched him warily as Pet climbed into her lap. She scooped her cat against her chest, hugging the ball of fur close. It looked extremely awkward, but Pet blinked blissfully and began to purr. Her front paws worked, left, right, left, right, kneading the empty air.
"Sometimes I wonder about that." He slid a hand down the smooth fall of her damp hair. "You know I love you. I don't know—maybe I'm not so great at showing it. I don't know how to be firm about things." He leaned forward, bumping her forehead with his. Pet reached up with one paw, patting his cheek.
"Yes, but you sleep here tonight. Fuck, I'm sorry." He breathed in as she exhaled, a soft puff of mint in his nose and on his skin. Why was this so difficult? Why couldn't he have done this a month ago? Then it wouldn't matter if he wanted Tanya to sleep in his bed with him.
"Yes, you can keep Pet with you."
"No. I'm going to sleep across the hall." He pointed. "In my room. You're going to stay here, in yours."
Wisp's face scrunched up in an angry scowl. Clearly she now understood what he meant. "No."
"No, Edward." She shook her head furiously. "No!"
The ache in his heart grew exponentially at the fear in her big brown eyes. How could he do this? But also, how could he not? He wasn't stupid; if he couldn't keep Wisp out of his bedroom, Tanya would leave and he didn't want that. He needed someone in his life to keep him centered and sane, and Emmett couldn't be that person when they were in the middle of a fight. Jasper was too busy with work. Alice he'd never been all that close with. Esme and Carlisle were wonderful, but they weren't friends.
"Don't hate me," he begged, though the logical part of him was pretty sure Wisp couldn't hate him, no matter how firm he was. She just wasn't capable of it. His heart was not, however, so easily persuaded. That broke every time he saw her close to tears.
"Tanya?" she asked, her eyes flicking to the empty doorway and back.
Edward was tired. Tired of hurting, and of causing hurt. "Tanya is going to sleep over there with me."
Wisp shook her head furiously. "Tanya," she said, and patted the pristine little bed she'd hardly ever slept in. "Wisp." She pointed through the doorway, across the hall where Edward's bedroom lay.
He couldn't help but chuckle, despite how uncomfortable he felt. "Thanks for the input, but that's just not going to work this time. It's not just about Tanya. This is your bedroom, and you need to learn to sleep here."
"No." She shook her head firmly.
"Let me try?" a female voice said. Edward turned his head. Tanya hovered in the doorway, tall and blond, her bare feet digging into the carpet. She tried to smile at Wisp, though there was something not quite right about it. Edward overlooked the strangeness of the gesture. She was trying, after all. "Wisp," she said, "I know you like Edward."
"My Edward," Wisp replied, her brown eyes glittering with resolve. "My Edward."
"I don't know," Tanya said, tapping her chin with a finger in an exaggerated gesture. "I think if you really loved him, you would do what he says. That would give him proof that you love him."
"I don't know if she can understand—" Edward began, but he stopped when Wisp's narrowed eyes opened wide. He watched as she struggled to comprehend Tanya's words, looking to link together the pieces she understood with the ones she did not. After a moment, her lower lip quivered.
Though his first urge was to comfort her, Edward made himself stop and look to Tanya instead. Tanya had at least gotten Wisp to listen instead of just refusing to accept what he was telling her.
"Only if you behave."
Tanya wasn't telling the truth at all—he was Wisp's Edward regardless, no matter what she chose to do. Even if she threw the biggest fit of her life, he wouldn't stop loving her. He couldn't. But Wisp was silent and still, not arguing anymore. She gulped, face white, and cast a glance between Tanya and Edward. Pet struggled as her grip tightened, and she dropped the cat to her lap. With a glance Tanya's way, Pet slunk back under the bed.
"Can you be good and stay in here?" Tanya asked.
Wisp's thin chest heaved with a quick intake of breath. "Be good," she whispered. "Stay."
There was something strange in her voice. But she didn't argue and didn't try to leave the room. Edward felt caught between comforting her and letting this happen. It needed to happen. While he didn't approve of coercion, Tanya was getting results. Results he himself had failed to achieve. And if he kept coddling Wisp, she would never learn. Wasn't that what Emily always told him? That tenderness only went so far, and sometimes the word "no" was necessary? Wisp couldn't understand why he wanted her in her bedroom and Tanya in his, but did it really matter? How much was it necessary to explain? His poor little Wisp looked miserable, but she was never going to accept the separation sweetly, no matter how it came. Maybe letting Tanya be the bad guy wasn't so bad.
"That's good," Tanya said with a nod. "Good night, Wisp." She offered another smile that wasn't quite right.
Wisp didn't answer.
Edward exhaled slowly. This felt more and more like a bad idea, but on the other hand, Wisp was quiet instead of arguing. This had to happen, he told himself. She needed to sleep in her own room. It wasn't about Tanya, really. It was for her own good.
"You're such a good girl," he murmured, pressing a kiss to the top of Wisp's head. She smelled like the shampoo Alice bought her, sweet and fruity. It was her special smell. "I love you, sweetheart. You sleep well, okay."
Silent, eyes still huge in her pale face, Wisp still did not answer.
In her room, door closed, Wisp listens to the noises across the hall. She thinks she knows those sounds. They remind her—well, some of them do—of the things her owner liked to do to her body when she lived with him. He would go in and out, in and out, and it didn't matter that it hurt her and sometimes she would bleed. All that mattered was making him happy. She learned very quickly to lie still and let him do what he wanted, because if she didn't he would hit her and still go in and out anyway. Struggling wasn't worth it.
But she does not believe Edward would ever hurt anyone, even Bad Tanya, the new lady Wisp does not like. Edward is good. Edward is gentle. So maybe she is wrong about the noises? She can hear Bad Tanya laugh. Sometimes, Wisp would cry during the in-and-out, but never laugh. She did not know she could laugh until she came to be with Edward. Laughing is good, so maybe she is wrong about the noises. They can't be in-and-out noises, because the in-and-out is bad and laughs are good.
Because she is confused, and because she misses Edward, Wisp reaches up and turns off the light in her comforting Neverland room. She pulls open the door and crawls out into the blackness of the hallway. In front of her is Edward's closed bedroom door. He likes to sleep with the door closed. Wisp is used to it, so she does not feel guilty in any way as she silently turns the doorknob and inches the door open.
It's dark inside, just like the hall. Her eyes have not adjusted yet, so the velvet darkness looms in front of her eyes, striking her blind. But Wisp lifts her little nose, and after a breath she does not need to wait for her sight to change. The smell, though it is faint by the door, hits her memory hard. It's the in-and-out smell, the smell that happened when her owner would push in and out of her body. His body smelled and then her body smelled, and the noise of the in and out surrounded them. He would do it everywhere in the house, but always on the floor. Never on the bed, because she was not allowed on the bed. If she ever got on the bed, he would spank her and spank her.
Tanya chuckles. "Mmm..." she breathes, a low moan of physical pleasure.
Wisp closes the door as silently as she opened it.
Back in her room, she turns on the twinkly little overhead string lights and curls up on her air mattress. She's shaking slightly though she doesn't realize it, and she pulls a soft fleece blanket up around herself. Pet sniffs her nose, and Wisp holds still so the cat will give the tip of her nose a rough little sandpaper lick. Sleepy, Pet readjusts herself on the mattress and closes her eyes, vibrating gently at a soothing pitch. Wisp pulls her close, rubbing her face in the scruffy black fur. She loves how it feels to hug her cat, loves how much she knows Pet loves her back. Pet may not talk in words like Edward, but Wisp understands her just as well. I am here with you is what that vibration means just now. I am asleep, so I am not scared. If I am not scared, you should not be, either.
Pet is good at knowing when to be scared, so Wisp tries to trust her.
It's not easy.
Lying on her air mattress, blanket tucked to her chin, Wisp knows where she is. But at the same time, her mind dips and swirls, triggered memories warring with the walls she's had up for so long. That smell...the in and out noises...
She does not like the in and out at all, but until she woke up in Edward's life, it was the only thing she could remember men wanting her for. In and out of her mouth, in and out between her legs. It's what her owner wanted, and Bad James, when he took her away. Dr. Gerandy too, though her memories of him are watery and vague, like the memory of a dream. Everything before her owner is fuzzy in her mind. It swims like fishes, glinting silver here and there with sharper clarity, then diving back into the deep where it shows only the merest shadow. She thinks she knows Dr. Gerandy is a real person, but only because Edward and Emmett took her to his house and she was able to see and smell and touch.
Father did not want to do the in and out with her. He got mad at her because Dr. Gerandy made her do it. He yelled at her and then he locked her outside and would not let her back in. That was when her owner appeared and gave Dr. Gerandy green paper and took her away.
She doesn't really remember what happened after that. Just living with her owner. He made her crawl and he fed her yucky food that tasted terrible and made her stomach hurt. If she talked or walked, he beat her and locked her in a black room for a long, long time. Eventually she stopped talking even in her head. Now she remembers, or thinks she does, that she used to stand on two feet like Edward and Rose and Esme. She used to talk. Father would make her memorize long strings of words she didn't understand.
There's so much she doesn't understand, even now.
Why did Father want her to talk, but her owner did not? Why did her owner want to go in and out with her body but Father did not? Why is it so hard to remember? Why can't she sleep curled up on Edward's chest tonight, and why is Tanya making happy noises if Edward is going in and out?
The rhythmic sound of the bed stops at some point, but Wisp is not ready for sleep. She wants so badly to understand, but language is still a barrier and people a mystery. She has offered her body to Edward before and he always refuses. She thought maybe he did not like the in and out for some reason, but he's doing it now with Tanya. If he does it with Tanya and not with her, does that mean he likes Tanya better? Or does it mean he likes Wisp better because he doesn't want to hurt her?
But that makes no sense, because Tanya does not sound hurt. She sounds happy. In and out does not make Wisp happy. It hurts and she hates it, but she would let Edward do it if he wanted because she loves him more than she hates in and out.
And why is Tanya here, anyway? Is it just because Edward wants to in and out? To Wisp, this is a stupid reason. But people do a lot of things she doesn't understand, so maybe it's true. She runs her fingers through Pet's soft fur, and the vibration from the cat's chest doubles. Pet doesn't confuse her. Pet is simple, like Wisp herself.
With a little sigh, Wisp digs her sharp shoulder further into the air mattress under her. She snuggles deeper into her blanket, missing Rose. Rose is not as confusing as some other people. She tries hard to understand what Wisp needs. Sometimes it's a hug, and sometimes it's an explanation. Rose has taught her so many things, and Wisp wishes she could explain everything. But Rose and Edward are angry at each other, and Rose does not come to see her anymore. Not unless Edward is gone. Wisp doesn't understand why, but she notices. Even when she doesn't understand, she notices.
Memory swirls around her, and Wisp doesn't like it. She wishes it would all go away. If she could, she would erase everything in her life before she woke up in this little cabin, safe with Edward. Nothing before Edward was good. Nothing was safe. The way she lived before Edward was not normal, but she doesn't know this. All she knows is that a lot of people hurt her, and only Edward ever kept her safe. Now that Tanya is here, sleeping in his bed, Wisp wonders if he will forget about her. Maybe he will not want to be her Edward anymore? Maybe Tanya is here to replace her? Silent in the now-silent cabin, Wisp wonders what she did wrong, and what she can do now to make it right again. How can she prove to Edward that she loves him and needs him? Tanya does not need him.
But maybe Edward is tired of taking care of her? Maybe he likes Tanya because she does not need him? Tanya is lots of things Wisp is not. She is tall and strong. She walks and talks. She laughs at the in-and-out, and she is not afraid. Maybe that is what Edward wants. After all, he let her make dinner with him, and now she is sleeping in his bed. Wisp did not get to make dinner, and she is alone with Pet now.
Wisp wants to be good for Edward. She loves to make him smile. Sometimes she gets confused about what he wants, but this seems fairly clear to her: he likes Tanya more than he likes her right now. She would be just like Tanya if she could, but she doesn't know how.
She thinks maybe she can learn, though. Then Tanya can go home, and everything will be exactly as it was before.
A/N: Yes, I know nobody wants to see Tanya and Edward together. Have faith, people. Everything in its own time.