I wanted to thank every single one of you who took two minutes of your time to send words of encouragement my way, through reviews, private messages or facebook. It was very much appreciated and helpful! And NatDarcy, thank you for being so patient with me!
Special thanks to my beta, cejsmom, and my pre-readers! This story is such a teamwork!
Disclaimers: I own nothing but the plot, Emma and Juliet. © Stephenie Meyer.
Song: Sad, by Maroon 5. (Thanks, Wen!)
¤ You Came Too Early ¤
Chapter 22- Terrified
I was completely lost in my thoughts, absently nibbling my thumb's nail, as I watched Edward interact with his daughters. It was beyond amazing how his mood had improved since he had asked – no, demanded – that everyone leave. The whole atmosphere in the house had changed.
I was further away in the dinning room, claiming to help by cleaning up the table, but really I was just standing there watching, the back of my thighs leaning against the back of a chair, arms half-crossed, a smile on my face that was hidden by my fingers.
"Emma, I swear to God, if you do it, I'm gonna throw you in the pool!" Edward's voice wasn't half as threatening as he hoped. The only response he received was an excited, girly giggle.
By asking everyone to leave so quickly, Edward clearly hadn't thought about all the cleaning that needed to be done. I'd offered my help, which he'd accepted with a grin and the girls instantly joined in, causing more trouble than anything. Emma currently had a hold on the moveable tap above the sink, and was targeting it at her father and sister. Juliet was cracking up, her laugh filling the room, as she hid behind Edward's legs. My ex-husband had both his hands raised in front of him, warning Emma of the worst possible consequences if she were to go through with her plan.
Honestly, he's just inviting her to do so.
As soon as the thought crossed my mind, Emma's fingers clenched the tap and the waterspray hit Edward right in the middle of his chest. Edward's reaction was instantaneous; he took a step forward and grabbed our girl, flipping her upside down. Emma shrieked with laughter, losing her hold of the tap.
"I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I'm sorry!" she cried out, her arms reaching out to touch the floor.
Juliet danced her way around her father and sister, doing a little jump of victory, both fists in front of her. "Let's throw her in the pool, Daddy!" she exclaimed.
Edward threw his head back and laughed out loud at Juliet's war-cry. I, too, couldn't hold my laughter anymore. From where I was, I could see that Juliet had been hit; the whole right half of her brown hair was wet and stuck to her cheek. And she sure had taken note of Edward's earlier threat.
At the sound of my laugh, Edward's head turned towards me. His smile was radiant, his eyes bright with happiness. It barely lasted a second – Emma's kicking legs got in the way – but it managed to make me aware of my surroundings. Shaking myself out of my daydream, I turned around and grabbed the remaining plates and glasses on the table. My heart was suddenly beating faster and I could feel the blush creep up my cheeks.
"Snap out of it, Bella," I urged myself under my breath.
"Okay, enough, kiddos. Why don't you go and watch some TV while Daddy and Mommy finish here," Edward said, droping Emma back on her feet.
He made us sound like a team, I thought with an aching smile.
"I'm dripping," Juliet whinned, and I could hear Edward's low chuckle mixed with Emma's higher one.
"So am I," he said. "Come here."
I walked closer just in time to see Edward bend his knees and wipe up Juliet's hair with a clean dishtowel. Emma smiled at me when she saw me approaching, but I couldn't help the mom in me and looked disaprovingly at her. She shrugged and left quickly.
"I'll wait for you in the TV room, Jules," she said visibly glad to have not received a scolding. I stayed out of it; I was aware she was playing with her dad, and if he didn't want to use what just happened to discipline her, I wasn't going to interfere.
Sensing me behind him, Edward gave me a quick glance before finishing off with Juliet. "There you go, baby," he said, passing a hand through her hair in an attempt to fix it.
"Thank you, Daddy." Juliet hugged his neck with her chubby arms and kissed him quickly on the cheek before turning to run after her sister. "Emma, wait for meeee!" I couldn't help but laugh at her.
Edward sighed happily as he stood up. "They're playful this morning," he said.
I nodded, placing the dishes in the washing machine. "They're happy. Actually, they are kind of reflecting your mood." I wasn't sure Edward ever realized how much our state of mind had an influence on our children. I stood straight and looked up at him, feeling my blush spread over my face. He was already looking back with a soft smile on his lips, but that wasn't what made me blush. His t-shirt – his white t-shirt – was completely drenched, making the fabric stick to his chest and abs, completely transparent. "Oh!" I choked.
If Edward noticed where my eyes – and mind – had gone, he didn't show it. He just took a step closer to me and shrugged lightly as he admitted; "Yeah, well, I am happy."
My eyes grew bigger; he made it way too easy for me to associate his happiness with me, and I was trying hard not to go there. So when he reached a hand out, as if to touch my cheek with the back of his fingers, I backed away instantly and went to the table to grab the last remaining items.
"Bella?" He called out to me, his voice sounding doubtful. I turned towards him and forced a smile. "You okay?"
"Sure." I shrugged and went back to my task, needing those few seconds away from him to calm myself. When I reached the kitchen again, Edward came to me and grabbed the dishes I was carrying. Again, he smiled at me, like the simple task of cleaning and doing dishes together meant the world to him.
Please, Edward, I begged silently, don't do this. Don't get my hopes up.
Shaking my head – and the fear that started to creep inside me – I switched to the one topic I knew we were on the same page; our kids. "Did the water reach Juliet's cast?" I asked.
"No," Edward said. "I checked." Of course he had. Juliet's well being and healing wrist was a huge concern of his.
I changed direction. "Looks like you've had a lot of cleaning to do, this morning."
"God, don't remind me." He chuckled and I joined in. Of all the toilet episodes I'd had to deal with at home, I was kind of glad he got to experience one himself.
While my mind was retelling myself some of the incidents I'd had with the girls growing up – which had made me wish their father was still around more often than not – Edward walked closer to me. I didn't notice until his hand touched my arm; I gasped.
He only smiled at me. Again. "It's all done. Thanks for your help, love."
I looked up at him, my heart aching. Softly, afraid to ask but needing to know, I said: "What are you doing, Edward?"
His smile fell. No doubt he'd realized the seriousness of my question. His eyes searched mine. "What do you mean?"
"I mean, you know... this. You. Me. What do you expect? What are you hoping to—"
"MAAHH-MMY!" We both startled and I chuckled, shaking my head to disperse the tension. Being interrupted had become something we were getting used to by now.
"I should go see what they want," I told Edward, who nodded. He let me leave him there, but I could feel his eyes not leaving my sight right until I got to the living room. "What is it?" I asked my girls, my mood completely transformed as I re-entered my 'mommy role'.
"Mom, Juliet broke the TV," Emma told me, pointing at the blue screen displayed on the televison.
"That's not true. I just pushed one button," Juliet explained further, bringing me the remotes... all of them.
"Oh, okay." I looked numbly at the remotes in my hands, not knowing where to start. "You should ask your da—"
"DAAA-DDY!" Both girls screamed before I could even finish my sentence, which made me jump.
"Gosh!" I breathed, irritated.
Edward's laugh filled the room as he joined me. With a soft hand at the small of my back, he re-oriented me towards him so I could give him the remotes. I held my breath up until his touch left my body, remembering too sharply the embrace we'd share this morning and how it had made me feel. His touch had always had such an effect on me, but Edward didn't seem to be as destabilized as I was.
"So," he exclaimed with a smile for his daughters, grabbing Juliet who was close to him. "What other trouble have you two created?" He sat on the arm of the couch, Juliet on his lap, as he let her explain which remote she had touched. Emma joined them, grousing about her little sister. I used the moment to slip away.
I went to Edward's downstairs bathroom and splashed some cold water on my face as soon as I closed the door, hoping it would shake me out of my confused state of mind. The whole morning had been unsettling and I needed to find my focus again. As I looked at my reflexion in the mirror I couldn't stop a smile as I touched my lips, remembering too clearly the feeling of his lips on mine this morning. I knew it'd felt too real to be only a dream.
And here I was again, surprising myself to hope. "Don't, Bella!" I snarled. "You're being ridiculous!"
Of all the days I'd been here, today was the day Seth's words decided to haunt me. They echoed in my mind, begging me to be careful, to not get hurt again. It had been my brother's only concern when I'd told him I was coming to Los Angeles. Yet, letting myself get too close to Edward, letting myself to hope... it was the perfect way to end up hurting again.
And God knew I couldn't go through another heartbreak with that man.
Everything was different now. The whole dynamic had changed, and though Edward seemed to be quite satisfied with it, I, on the other hand was lost. As much as I'd wished for Tanya to go and for Edward to realize what he'd been missing out on with his family, now that it was all happening for real, it scared me.
Words like 'I loved you' and 'I'm not moving on' – or the simple use of that nickname 'love' – seemed way less meaningful when I knew he had a girlfriend. I was realizing, with a heavy heart, how I'd been protecting myself and hiding behind the fact that Edward was in a relationship. To hope and hurt alone in the corner was one thing. To see your chance hanging ahead of you and daring to take it was way more terrifying.
Basically, I was just freaking scared to get hurt again. A part of me was telling me that we needed to 'slow the fuck down!'; another part was really wondering if I wasn't imagining it all, wanting more proof, craving it. Was Edward really interrested in me again? Did he really want to make it work? Did he suddenly decide I was worth his time?
And more importantly, once everything would be said and done, where would all that bring us? Would we have enough time with one week left to rebuild five years of misunderstanding and hurt? Wasn't it incredulous to think it could ever work again between the two of us? It wasn't only our relationship that was at stake, but our day-to-day lives and our children's. A lot of changes and effort on both parts would have to happen for it to ever work again...
And then I thought... was I thinking way too far ahead? The truth was I had no idea where Edward stood. All I knew was that he'd broken up with his girlfriend, which hadn't seemed to crush him even a little. Instead, he looked lighter and thoughtful, like he was rethinking his whole life, every decision he'd ever taken. Despite how it felt, I had to stop thinking it was all about me.
Wiping my face with the soft, thick hand towel, I reasoned with myself. The past week had been great despite all the drama and surely I could handle another one. I'd just need to stop blushing at every smile Edward would send my way. I could mainly concentrate on my daughters and their well-being. That I could do; after all, it was what I've been doing for the last ten years of my life.
I exited the bathroom and joined my family in the living room. No matter how disfunctional we were, they were mine. I noticed the television working in the background, but no one was watching it. Edward was still sitting on the couch's arm, Juliet on his lap. Emma was lower on the couch, arms around her legs. Her shoes were on the cushions and it made me cringe, but Edward didn't seem to mind.
He was telling them about Tanya.
I couldn't help but walk closer and listen to their conversation. He was doing great, in all honesty. He explained to them how he'd been wrong to think that he and Tanya could ever be more than just friends. He also apologized for ever introducing Tanya to them as 'his girlfriend', that he realized now how that could have been confusing for them. He told them how there was – maybe – a possibility for them to see her again – eventually – but surely not in the next few days.
Our youngest nodded lightly each and every time her father was making sure she understood what he was saying. Other than that, she didn't seem all that much bothered. Just a lot of 'okay, Daddy', 'huh-uh' and 'sure, Daddy', followed by occasional shrugs.
Emma, though, seemed more affected by the news. She didn't do much commenting, rather she looked at her father with sadness... or was it? Now that I was looking at her, really looking, I deciphered her expression as being one of guilt?! Edward didn't seem to notice, but I promised myself that I was going to talk about it with her later. Just as the thought crossed my mind, Emma's eyes rose above the back of the couch and met mine; she crooked a weak smile at me.
I was probably reading too much into it, but just like me, she looked afraid to hope. I hated how much she understood what wasn't being said; I wished she was as clueless as Jules. It just strengthened my need to take care of my children first. I wouldn't allow them to get hurt through all of this and no matter what Edward's plan were for the future, I had to make sure he understood that part.
The sound of a car turning into the driveway brought me back to reality and I welcomed the distraction.
"I'm going," I called out to Edward.
I didn't see him agree, but I heard it in his voice when he called back, "The keys are in the top drawer of the table that stood by the door." He'd jumped to the same conclusion as me; no doubt it was one of the guest from yesterday coming back to get their cars.
I opened the front door in time to see both Victoria and James get out of the same cab. I frowned; they were both wearing the same clothes as yesterday, their hair was dishevelled, and they looked like they hadn't slept at all. It wasn't hard to guess what they'd been up to, but the thought made me feel ill at ease. Wasn't Victoria in a relationship with that dancing guy? Tanya's friend?
"Hi! Bella, isn't it?" she asked as she reached me, her long, impressive red hair floating in the wind behind her. She was rather friendly so I smiled at her.
"Victoria," I welcomed. "How do you do?"
"Good, good," she said with a smile, pushing her hair off of her face. "Great, actually. Oh!" At the same moment, James had joined her on the treshold, half-slapping, half-grabbing her ass. After the shock, Victoria just giggled.
"Hey, Bella!" He smiled roguishly at me, and I could easily tell that he was still drunk. Or drugged. "Whatcha still doin' here?"
"Well, I live here," I replied naturally, until I realized what I'd said. "I mean—"
"Bella?" Edward's reassuring voice behind me was such a relief. And when he walked closer and his arm gently slid around my waist in a sort of protective way, I let him. I even dared to lean into him; he just held me closer.
"Eh, Cullen," James stammered. "You're keeping your babies' mama to yourself now, aren't you?"
Victoria just smiled. "Hi, Edward!"
Edward ignored Victoria and eluded James' question. Instead, he sighed, shaking his head. "Fuck, James! You're even drunker than you were last night."
"And you look like you peed yourself," James said matter-of-factly. I restrained a smile.
"I'm not letting you drive your car," Edward replied simply, ignoring the jab.
"No, no. Relax," James nodded confusingly. "Vic here will drive me home."
Edward's gaze switched to Victoria and he inspected her with seriousness. "You okay?"
"Yes, Edward. I'm fine." Indeed, she did look in better shape than James.
"What about Riley's car?" Edward asked.
Victoria shrugged her shoulders like she couldn't care less. "He'll come and get it himself." She wrinkled her nose in derision. "He's a big boy, you know."
I looked up at my ex-husband. He was wearing a frown on his face, but shrugged as he reached to grab the keys and give them to Victoria. No doubt he wanted to stay out of it, whatever it was. At the same moment, Emma and Juliet walked out of the living room and joined us.
James waved at them. "Hello, midgets!" he said. It was funny how coming out of his mouth the nickname sounded like an insult. Both kids sensed it and frowned. Juliet even crossed her little arms, pouting.
That was Edward's undoing. He let go of me, gently pushing me out of the way, and walked closer to the door. "Okay, that's enough," he snapped at Victoria. "Take him the fuck away from my house." And he slammed the door in their faces. Beside me, Emma cringed at the violency of the door clacking close.
Juliet snuggled with me for a few seconds, then placed herself in front of me and glared at her father. "Mommy! Daddy said a bad word!" she pointed out disapprovingly.
"He did," I acquiesced, my hands grabbing her hair and brushing it back in a ponytail. It was just a habit, really. I had no elastic with me.
Edward looked back at Juliet, a sheepish expression on his face. "My sincere apologies, princess," he said to her before looking up at me. "But f—k" – he mouthed the word – "I can't stand the guy!"
I nodded with a smile. "I've noticed." There were a few seconds of silence then and I used them to look at Edward. He was the only one of us that was still wearing his pyjamas – pyjamas that were still pretty much damp. The water on his t-shirt had slowly merged with the top of his pants, darkening them, and well... he did look like he'd peed himself. I stifled a laugh.
"Okay, sweethearts," I said, gently pushing Juliet in front of me and urging Emma to follow with a nod, "let's go play outside while Daddy go upstairs and changes for the day."
Edward seemed to find the idea pretty awesome. He grinned at me, thanking me with his eyes, before climbing the stairs two at a time.
After the long, busy day we'd just had, I was glad to finally settle down with my girls to watch some Disney movie. I could hear Emma and Juliet run and shout and laugh from upstairs, where I had urged them to go and change for the night. They were still pretty much on a high from the day we'd just given them, and here I was hoping a movie would calm them before bedtime.
The microwave alarm beeped at the same moment my parents returned. I welcomed them with a mouthful of popcorn.
"Hi, honey." My mom embraced me. "How was your day?"
A shriek, followed by giggles from upstairs reached us and I grinned. "It was good," I said, not lying. We had had a blast with the girls today even if it didn't exactly turn out the way I'd hoped at first.
Of course, this wasn't enough of an answer for my mother. "And Bella? Have you spoken with her?"
My smiled fell and I shook my head. "Not really." Then I brought some popcorn into my mouth to avoid the conversation and surprisingly my mom seemed to get it and didn't push further.
"Alice and Jasper say 'hello'," my dad intervened.
I nodded. "How come they didn't come in?"
My dad actually snorted. "Oh, son, after the way you threw us out this morning. They didn't want to bother you." And for the first time of the day, I felt a little bit bad about my earlier behavior.
But just a little. "Oh, well," I said, shrugging. It had been worth it.
At that moment, the kids joined us, jumping down the last two steps. Just like I had asked them they were wearing their pyjamas, but they both had the gifts Bella and I had bought for them today while we'd walked on Hollywood Boulevard. After a stop at Aro's recording studio so Bella could fax Jasper's manuscript to her co-worker, the girls and I had decided to take her on a tour.
Juliet was all shades of cute, with her light summer pyjamas, pale yellow with a small white flower print. She'd kept her high ponytail that make her ears stick out in an adorable way and she had on her new pair of sunglasses. She looked like a little diva.
Emma had declined the sunglasses, setting her mind on an ankle bracelet made of shiny shells. Once she put it on she couldn't remove it, rather having to wait for it to fall off by itself. The day it does, she'll get to make a wish. I knew this for she had explained it to me twice today. And she was currently explaining it to her grand-mother, holding her foot up by hands and having to hop to stay balanced while she spoke.
I chuckled at her, turning around to go get Bella. The girls were busy with their grand-parents and I was going to try and convince Bella to join us for the movie. She'd gone outside with the excuse that she had still some work to do and the day was still warm enough.
I knew it was just a way to avoid me.
One step forward, two steps back, I thought to myself, disappointed.
I'd been naïve to think that once I'd made it clear that Tanya was out of the picture things would become easier between Bella and I. That hadn't been the case at all. She'd felt rather distant all day long.
I'd been more than pleased to finally show her where I was working – when not in my own music room at home – to show her how far I'd come. Far was the old bedroom in our appartment where I composed lullabies for Emma. I didn't want to brag about my success, not at all, but I did want to share that part of my life with her. I always had.
Despite my enthusiasm, Bella had stayed reserved, hiding her thoughts from me. At first she had looked impressed, but the more I showed her, the more she became pensive, and even a little sad. I was afraid she was seeing this place, Aro's studio – with its three floors of white stone, granite and huge tinted windows, surrounded by palm trees, with its recording booths full of recent technology, its two huge music rooms that could contain a whole orchestra, and all its prizes and nominations displayed all around – as further proof I choose right by leaving her. Yes, I'd been lucky to be discovered by Aro Volturi. It didn't change the fact I should've never left.
I was certain of that now, but I wasn't sure Bella was seeing it that way. I was going to have to make her understand.
"Penny for your thoughts," I'd tried reaching her with humour.
She'd looked at me, heartbroken. "Not now, Edward."
Then the girls had joined us and Bella had recovered her splendid grin. She'd devoted her attention to our children after that, and I decided to do the same. It was the best thing to do at the moment.
Being in Burbank and so close to Hollywood, Emma and Juliet firmly decided we needed to show the area to their mom. We'd started by taking Bella to the fourth-floor viewing platform of the Hollywood and Highland mall, so she could get to see the famous Hollywood sign... which Bella was quick to declare as one of the biggest tourist traps ever! I couldn't help but laugh out loud at her fit, which was very much justified. Then we took her on a walk of Hollywood Boulevard; both Bella and the girls appreciated the Walk of Fame and Grauman's Chinese Theatre very much. I think Juliet must've taken a picture of every single star that appeared on the walk. Later, we ate at an In-N-Out Burger – at which Bella hadn't succeeded to hide her moans of pleasure – and finished the day at the beach, the four of us enjoying some ice cream and the sunset while we walked along the shoreline, enjoying the waves.
And so, even if the day didn't hold all of my expectations, I couldn't deny that it had been a great one with both my girls and their mother. We'd had so few of them before, even when Bella and I were still married. We were too busy with school and all that we'd thought was important, that we'd missed out on so much of our family time. I was glad that my kids could enjoy such moments with their parents now. We owed it to them, but we also owed it to us.
I'd believed that Bella would have been thrilled that I broke things off with Tanya, that I was ready to put her, and our family, at the top of my list of priorities. Yet, things were left unsaid between us, once again. And I hated it. I wanted to know why she was reacting this way, yet I realized how I hadn't told her the reasons behind my actions, nor what I was expecting from now on.
Miscommunication was the bane of our relationship and we needed to work on that. Me first.
I wanted to let Bella know of my feelings and expectations without scaring her. I wanted to set right the priorities between my family and my music. And I wanted Bella to know that I was ready to pick her this time around.
And yet, I realized that while I needed to tell her that, I also needed to know her feelings and wants. I'd thought we were on the same boat – I couldn't have imagined the signs – but after today, I wasn't so sure anymore. Truth was I didn't know much about Bella. I knew her past, her hopes and heartbreaks, but what about now? I had little knowledge of what her life was like at the moment. Could I fit in? ... Would she want me to? There was so much we still needed to talk about. The past, the present, and the future as a whole. And though we needed to spend time with our daughters, this was a conversation that we needed to have, face to face, as adults.
I threw a look behind me and saw my parents and the girls leaving the bottom of the stairs to go settle themselves in the living room for the movie. It gave me an idea.
With a smile, I knocked on the patio door to signal myself, and slowly slid it open. Bella raised her head and smiled back at me. "Hey," she said quietly, almost awkwardly.
"Hey yourself," I replied, closing the door behind me. The only lights were coming from inside through the patio door, from the roof of the pergola, and from Bella's laptop on her lap. She looked beautiful in the dim light.
I made my way towards her and sat on the low table in front of her legs. "We need to talk," I said.
She raised an eyebrow and smirked, but she avoided my eyes. Instead, she reached out and grabbed some popcorn from the bowl on my lap. "Sound serious," she said, trying to dismiss me with humour.
"It is," I agreed, placing the bowl of popcorn beside me on the low table I was sitting on. I bent over to set my forarms on my thighs; I was closer to Bella this way, her knees were between my legs, but her laptop was still between the two of us. Slowly, to give her the time to save her work if need be, I closed her screen towards her with one finger. Bella didn't move to stop me, rather she drew back to allow me to close it completely.
She looked at me with big brown surprised eyes, waiting for me to talk. But I knew with the day we had today and her behaviour, she wasn't quite ready to hear what I had to say. I'd made my decision about trying to get my family and my wife back and maybe it was not thought through, but I wanted to act on it without wasting any time. It just felt right.
Bella was clearly somewhere else. She was distant, almost scared. Maybe it was a way to protect herself and I could hardly blame her, but she needed to hear what I had to say.
Now wasn't the right time, though. We were both tired, with my parents and our children too close by. It could easily end up in a fight – there were a lot of thing we needed to set right before we could step to the next level. The more I thought about it, the more I was convinced my idea was the right one.
And so, instead of getting to the heart of the problem like I'm sure Bella was waiting for me to, I said, pleasantly, "Tomorrow is my parents' last day here with us." Like I'd guessed, Bella frowned, confuse. I smiled. "How about we let them have a night with their grand-children... I'm gonna take you out on a date."
Bella didn't reply right away, making me nervous.
"A date?" she finally replied, doubtful. It was almost vexing.
"Don't look so surprised," I said grumpy despite myself.
She let out a timid laugh. "It's just... well, we've never had one before."
She was sadly right. And here I was, wondering why our relationship didn't work out the first time around. I'd been young, and stupid, and took her for granted.
But this woman deserved to be wooed. Properly. And I was going to show her I was capable of doing so.
To be continued...
A/N: I'm well aware that this chapter was frustrating. It wasn't meant to stand alone; it was first planned as filler between two important chapters that, unfortunately, real life forced to be posted by months apart. :( I'm so very sorry for the unannounced hiatus.
But for those who are wondering, I'm finally settled in our new house after lot of hard work and stress! Baby turned out to be a girl ღ and she's now due in four weeks (more or less)! And the best news is, I am now off of work, for a whole year! Hopefully now life will calm down a bit and let me have some 'me-time' to write faster (between two bottles at night, maybe).
Drop me a review for luck! ;)