I own nothing beyond the musing in my head. Thank you to BusyBrie for betaing and Rhonda for pre-reading!
Warning: Obviously the topic of this story is a bit unique, and if you are absolutely, positively opposed to reading about Edward with other woman, aside from Bella, looked for the bold sentence and skip to the word 'Now.' You have been warned.
Time seemed to zoom by when it was just a Tuesday to a Thursday, which I became very thankful for. I also knew we were nearing our time to re-evaluate our appointment schedule, but at that point I still felt two times a week was needed. I hoped Dr. Garrett agreed, because I still had so much to get through. Not just how it ended with Lauren, but also how it started with her. I still feared for the future. I wanted to be a better man; I have to be a better man.
As expected, Shannon wasn't at her desk, but there was a smiling face in her place. Unlike normal days where I would be told to walk right in, I was told to take a seat and Dr. Garrett would be out to get me shortly.
Of course, only seconds went by before the door opened and I walked back.
I took my seat on the couch, a little more anxious than I was on Tuesday. I had finally gotten over the hump of admitting to my first sexual act outside of my wife, but now I had to remember the immediate downfall. While the guilty feelings and questions didn't hit me automatically, the second I came home and saw Lauren again it became a completely different experience.
"Any big changes?" Dr. Garrett asked conversationally as I nodded my head.
"The divorce should be finalized within the next thirty days," I announced with a smile on my face. I felt so much relief knowing that I could finally put my life with Lauren behind me, no more hiding. "I'm giving more than I wanted to, but I just want this over with. I can live with the agreement and Lauren went through with signing this time, so now it's in the hands of the judge."
"That is excellent news," Dr. Garrett agreed. "I'm never happy when a couple divorces, but given your circumstances, I'm glad the fighting is over."
"You and me both," I replied as I lay down in my typical spot.
"So, you went home…" Dr. Garrett shifted gears while I sighed.
My last two days away were as uneventful as the first two. I never saw Tanya again, nor did I tour the hotel bar. Lauren had taken to ignoring my calls, and after one super late night, we landed the deal we wanted. Everyone I had traveled with had gone out for a celebratory drink, but that was about as exciting as it got.
On the plane ride home, though, reality began to sink in. I had immediately put my wedding ring back on the next morning, but I'd gotten so wrapped up in work that I hadn't had a lot of time to think about it. I knew if I didn't wear it, someone would notice and I didn't want that, so it was more out of social obligation than anything. But while I sat on the plane and stared at it, I realized what I had truly done. Whether I wanted this arrangement or not, whether I had agreed to it or not didn't matter anymore. I had done it. After spending my entire adult life only being intimate with one person, I had now doubled that number.
Lauren talked about how this wouldn't change us, but I wasn't naïve enough to believe that now. My mind was living proof that we were never going to be able to go back in time as if none of this had happened. Then I started thinking about the future and what it would mean for that. We had been talking about trying to get pregnant for a while now, but I knew there was no way in hell that was going to come up as long as this was happening. Now that it was done, though, did it mean being open was over? She had done her thing, I'd done mine; was that it? I wasn't sure how I felt about that either. Tanya had showed me a side of myself I didn't even know existed and I wasn't sure how to ignore that now. I was always so loving and gentle with Lauren; could I be anything else? Could I take her like an animal and still be able to live with myself? Would she want me to? It felt like the bubble we had been living in had completed burst open and now I didn't know how to act.
I had way too many questions piled up in my head. By the time I got home, I was just as confused as I was when I left. Lauren's car was in the driveway, but she didn't greet me like she typically did. I tried not to be hurt about that, but I had to admit that I was. This was her idea and all, and I thought when we were together we were supposed to pretend like nothing was different. At least, that was how Tanya explained it, but Lauren and I didn't have any rules to follow. Did all couples have the same rules? I groaned and went in search of my wife.
When I got to our bedroom, I found Lauren asleep on our bed. She didn't even flinch as I unpacked my bag and separated the clothes that needed to go to the dry cleaner's. She still hadn't moved a muscle while I was in the shower. Finally, once I was dressed again, I sat on the edge of the bed and nudged her a bit to try and wake her up.
"Lauren," I called just above a whisper. Fear overtook me as I realized I would have to face my wife. I loved her; even after all this ridiculous nonsense, I knew I did. She was everything to me, but when she opened her eyes I was not expecting to see such hurt behind her eyes.
"Hey," she croaked. I could tell her mouth was dry and she genuinely seemed like she was sleeping, versus simply ignoring me. However, it wasn't her voice that had my attention. She began to scoot up in bed as I leaned down to kiss her forehead. Immediately my nose became assaulted with perfume and my thoughts were pulled away to a time before this mess started. Guilt pounded through me as the weight of the world began to crush me. "Edward, what…" Lauren attempted to get out, but I moved my lips from her forehead to her mouth and cut her off.
I pulled the blanket completely away from Lauren's body and covered it with my own. My mouth kissed every inch of her body as I pulled off her dress first, followed by her panties, before removing my own clothes. It went on for well over an hour as I whispered words of love over and over again until we were both a heaping mess.
"I'm not sure how I feel about being more detailed than that," I admitted in real time.
"It's okay," Dr. Garrett explained. "I don't need the play-by-play, but it's safe to assume you went from one extreme to another. When you left, you were disgusting by her, but then you came home and became very loving."
"Yeah," I agreed as I sat up. "I was so angry with her for even thinking about this, about that guy, about everything, that I guess I never really dealt with any of that. Then I came home and it was like I saw the woman I'd married again. I loved Lauren truly and completely, and I felt like, at that point, I didn't even know myself anymore, didn't know my life. Looking back, I can see that it was doomed from the start, but at the time I felt like I was grasping onto anything I could. Not just because I loved Lauren, but also because I wasn't ready to admit that I was wrong. What I should have done was simply walked away, told her to do her thing after we were divorced, but there was no way my pride was going to let that happen."
"Go back to that," Dr. Garrett called out. "Why do you think it was pride? Pride because this was your wife and you are man, or because of your family?"
"Both," I started. "Part of me felt like I had failed her as a husband. Like, if I had done my job she wouldn't have even been thinking about this type of stuff, but on the other hand, there was no way I was ready to call my family and tell them that they might have been right about Lauren."
"Your actions sound very bi-polar," Dr. Garrett joked, and I laughed.
"That is one way to think about it," I replied off-handedly. "But I guess you'd be right. In a way, I turned into two different people, and over time, I learned to control my switch. I'm just left to figure out how I even managed to form the switch. This wasn't what I wanted by a long shot; I like traditional values, dating, marriage, children, family, work, not sleeping around with the goal of just having fun. If my parents found out, I'd be mortified, yet I still did it…why?"
"Only you can answer that, Edward," Dr. Garrett reminded me as she looked up with a serious expression. "Despite my degree and experience, sometimes there are even things I can't tell you because I wasn't there. I'm also not a mind-reader, so while I do look for cues that you're holding back, I'm not in there."
I sighed and nodded.
"If I were to wager a guess, I would think your answer is very multi-sided. On one hand, you are romantic with traditional standards; at least, that is what you call yourself. Do your actions line-up with that mindset? Not really. We also know you're stubborn and accepting help, guidance, and advice has not been your strong suit. There is a reason why most young marriages don't work, and it's not necessarily because the couple is young. It's because you haven't stopped growing yet. I imagined if you looked back and truly opened yourself up to who you were at eighteen, even twenty-one, you'd find that you're nothing like you were then.
"Edward, your biggest barrier is yourself. You say that you wanted this and that, but your actions don't speak that way. You may want that now, you may push for it in future relationships, but you're looking back at yourself two years ago with your feelings of today. You're simply not the same man. Even if this hadn't happened, everyone changes over time. It's not always big or dramatic, but we grow and evolve as we learn and experience new things. I think what you need to stop holding onto is what you think you wanted; instead, focus on what happened and learn from that," she preached as I nodded.
My mind slowly took over itself as I began to go over her words over and over in my head. I wasn't sure she was right, yet I wasn't sure she was wrong. Did I have a set way of wanting to be without actually acting that way? If I were being honest, I didn't really have an answer for that. It scared me to think that I had been looking at myself through rose-colored glasses, too. Yes, Lauren suggested this, but I jumped in head-first, and after the first few weeks, I didn't question much. Sure, there were hard times and adjustments, but I never fought her. All talks of the future seized and we lived in the moment.
"Edward," Dr. Garrett called out after a second to grab my attention. My eyes snapped up, even though the wheels in my head hadn't stopped turning. "Why are you here?" she asked directly.
I blinked rapidly at her as the confusion and clouds began to clear. Why was I here? When I first met her, I told her I needed help dissecting what went wrong. That I needed to figure out how to ensure my future wouldn't be marred by the past, but really, I was pretty sure along the way that something had changed and I hadn't even realize it. Somewhere along the way, this became more about me and less about the relationship.
"I'm here because I want to be a better person," I started with a cough to clear my throat. "I'm here because I want to be a better man. I want to feel like I deserve the good in life, and that I deserve to have a future that isn't dictated by my past. I'm here to fix me."
"Then that I can help with," Dr. Garrett replied with a nod and a smile. I was pretty sure it was some huge breakthrough, but really, it my head hurt a little too much to process it.
"Next week, I'd like to discuss your reaction when you found out Lauren hadn't gone along with the plan and then how the plan reformed. It's not just that this was something that only happened once or twice; this went on for years, and if I understand correctly, with multiple people. We're going to talk more about that while we get to the her you speak so cryptically about. Have you talked to her since you started coming here?" Dr. Garrett questioned.
"No," I answered. "After the last time I saw her, I wrote her a letter and swore that I wouldn't call her again until I knew I deserved to be someone she spent time on. I know it sounds like I'm probably here a lot for her, but it's not just her. It's a lot more than just her, but I'll admit she was my driving force when I first started."
"That is good to hear," she remarked. "I can't help you fix your relationships with people, I can't help you fix the past, but I can help you reevaluate yourself. Edward, you're not broken, you just lost track of who you were along the way and it's time to regain that. That is why I'm here."
"Thank you." I moved to leave, feeling like a weight had been lifted off me. I didn't even realize it had been sitting there, but I finally felt like I had a purpose in the world.
When I got to the car I was surprised to see a text from my brother, Emmett. I frowned as I thought of the last conversation I had with him, but was excited to see the text he sent out was an announcement that he and his wife, Rosalie, were expecting again. I sent back a quick congratulatory message, letting him know that I had received his text. I assumed it was a mass text since it didn't start with my name, which would have been typical of Emmett, but I knew our relationship was still strained. Of course, that was completely my fault and I knew I'd have to call sooner or later to apologize for what happened on Lauren and my last trip home.
However, I knew if I wanted to see my new niece or nephew I'd need to suck up my pride and get through the 'I told you so's.' Coming from Emmett and Rosalie it would be different. Unlike my parents, they knew what was happening in my marriage. It was a complete accident on my part, but they'd known and they both let me have it the night before we flew home. Right before I started driving away, it dawned on me that I hadn't actually talked to them since the divorce was announced.
I sighed, realizing I'd need to fix that soon.
First and foremost, I'm sorry this is late. If you're on my FB, I've been a little more specific there, because I'm going to be pretty vague here. This is to protect the identity of a friend-note, this isn't MY personal life, but the life of someone else I happen to really care about. When I started writing Blind Intentions, none of my friends had their child go missing. When I wrote Meeting Myself, no one came knocking on anyone's door claiming to be their long-lost child. While writing Ch 7, a marriage that was once considered a solid rock, that had started to crumble, confirmed an affair, and it rocked me. Rocked this because I couldn't even open the doc I was writing in-through a talk with Rhonda (my pre-reader) I realized I needed to take everything I was feeling, for my friend, and translate it-so I did. And, in this case, I think Ch 7 is better for it...just ridiculous late.
I can not promise to update next week, but I will promise at least bi-weekly. I get in phases where I can write 9 chapters in 10 days (Meeting Myself, anyone?) and then others, where I've been rocked, and it's harder because I begin to overthink. I think I'm past the overthinking, but I'd rather warn you.
For those wondering about Bella-she's coming, I swear, and it's won't be a quick, boom, HEA either-so I promise, for every chapter she isn't in it, there will be a chapter where she will be :)
Thank you for your support via twitter, fb, and through PMs. Ya'll rock!