AN: I own nothing.
For the first time, in a long time, I woke up without dreading the day ahead of me. I wouldn't have to find things to fill my day, or rely on Alice, Emmett, or my father to babysit me. Today, I woke up with a purpose. Today, I would actually do something that mattered. Thank God.
After wrapping a towel around my wet hair, and securing the tie of my robe, I stood staring at the almost empty closet in front of me. My plans for only being in Forks for a week obviously hadn't panned out, and my lack of wardrobe showed it. I hadn't planned on needing anything remotely dressy for anything other than the funeral, and as I slid the black dress off of the hanger, I realized I would have to go back to Phoenix and soon. I couldn't show up to work wearing jeans, shorts, and t-shirts, even if I wasn't technically an employee, until then, I'd have to make do with what limited clothing I did have.
As I pulled a bra out of my suitcase, I tried to ignore the questions bouncing around in my head. I shouldn't care if Edward was going to stop by and see me, show me the office he'd arranged, or even ask if I had a plan for Emily. We'd agreed to put our past history behind us and move forward for the sake of that poor woman, but that didn't mean that the two of us would be going to lunch, meeting up for coffee in the break room, or even seeing each other outside of the office. I'd decided to stay, to help Emily, but that didn't mean that I had to invite the heartache that was sure to happen with Edward. We'd agreed to be friends, and I would honor that, but there would still be boundaries. There had to be. Eventually I would leave Forks and return back to Phoenix for good, and creating more ties between the two of us wouldn't make the departure any easier. Leaving Alice, her kids, Emmett, my father, and Sue would be hard enough… I didn't need an additional complication thrown into the mix.
With all of that in mind, it still took more time than was normal for me to get ready. Driving through town, I double checked my make up at every stop sign and light, and as I pulled into the Hope House parking lot my stomach bubbled with nervousness.
"Jesus, Bella." I put the car in park and shoved my bangs off of my forehead. "He's seen you naked for-", I stopped that train of thought before it went any further and made myself get out of the car.
Crossing the parking lot, I smoothed out the fabric of my dress, tossed my hair off of my shoulder, and tightly gripped the handle of my bag. When I pulled open the door, I gave Bree a polite smile while walking to her window.
"Hi, Ms. Swan," she grinned up at me while quickly punching numbers on her telephone's key pad. "Edward said you'd be starting—Hi, Mr. Cullen, Ms. Swan is here. Yes, sir. Okay." She hung up and then pushed a button to unlock the side door. "Come on back, he is on his way up here."
"Thanks." I pulled open the door and made sure it was shut firmly behind me. "And please, call me Bella. I appreciate the gesture but Mrs. Swan was my grandmother and I really hope I don't resemble an eighty year old chain smoker."
Bree's laughter was more like a little girl's giggle than the sound an adult would make, but when she saw Edward walking towards us, she stopped and went back to smiling politely, rolling her chair back towards her desk. "Welcome to the team, Bella."
I nodded in appreciation before pulling my bag onto my shoulder, and once Edward was closer, tried to smile. "Hey."
"Morning," he said, reaching behind to take a set of keys off of counter I was leaning against. "Bree, hold my calls until I get Bella settled in, okay? And call Carolyn to make sure Emily is okay with meeting around two."
Motioning for me to follow him, Edward took off down the hall while twirling the key ring around his finger. It took a few strides for me to match his, but once I was beside him, I asked. "Two? I don't want to waste a whole day."
"Well, unfortunately, before you can start doing anything I have to get you to fill out some paperwork." He turned a corner, walked past two offices, and then started unlocking a door. "You also have to meet the rest of the staff and review her files with her psychologist. Two o'clock is pushing it as it is."
I followed him into my office, muttering something about bureaucratic red tape, and then dropped my bag on one of the chairs. "Then let's get this over with. I don't want to waste any more time than I have to."
He laughed quietly, handing me the set of keys. "Well, this is your office."
"Chair, desk, filing cabinets- all pretty standard. Feel free to bring your own pictures or decorations if you want." He walked around the desk, straightening the cord to the phone. "Your extension is 117; dial nine to reach an outside line-"
"Seriously, Edward?" I asked, crossing my arms across my chest.
He smiled. "Come on, your paperwork is in my office."
I expected his office to be further away from mine, but when he walked across the hall and pushed open a door, my steps faltered. "You're across the hall?"
"Is that a problem?" He asked, motioning for me to sit down. He closed the door behind us and walked around his desk.
"No…" Hoping I came across as indifferent rather than slightly nervous, I did as he asked and sat down. I'd been prepared to see Edward occasionally, talking to him only when I'd really needed to. I was not ready to be faced with the daily encounters that were sure to happen.
As he dug through a side filing cabinet, I looked around his office, smiling when I saw a picture of two toothless grinning children. Pictures of Peter and Charlotte, of Alice, and his parents were scattered across the desk and filing cabinets while framed Crayola drawings sat on his bookshelf along with several different plaques of appreciation. The diploma he'd earned from the University of Washington was framed and hung next to a sketch of the Hope House building. It was very much like Edward, having small pieces of the most important things in his life, sitting around the office he occupied most days of the year.
I picked up a picture of Edward playing with his niece and nephew, the three of them rolling around on the floor, and smiled. "You would have made a great dad."
The moment the words left my mouth, I wished they hadn't. And judging the look on Edward's face, he was just as surprised by the comment as I was. Slowly, he shut the sliding drawer, dropped the file he was holding onto the desk, and then looked down at me.
"I'm sorry," I whispered. "I shouldn't… not here."
Carefully, he sat down and smoothed down the fabric from his tie. "People here… they don't know what happened and I would really like to keep it that way if at all possible. A few know you, know about you and me, but they don't know the how and why of why it ended."
"Do they know about Renee?"
He shook his head. "People who knew you back then probably remember very little of how your mother was. They remember her now; remember how much she gave to this community."
Looking down at my hands, I frowned. "How the hell do you constantly put up with that? I know you hate her, Edward. Just being in her house, or her office, turns you into an entirely different person."
"I don't want to talk about it, Bella. Okay? This isn't…" His hands roughly scrubbed his face before he looked at me again. "One day, not here, I will tell you. But right now, I can't."
I nodded once.
Flipping open the manila folder, Edward pulled several different pieces of paper. "All of this is pretty standard; non-disclosure, confidentiality, HIPPA agreement, and background check."
I took the paperwork he handed me and started reading over them as he kept talking.
"For obvious reasons, security here is very strict. You'll be given access to certain areas of the building, others will be restricted. Your badge will also double as a keycard for the parking lot outback."
Signing my name, I asked him if anything, other than Emily's husband and brother showing up, had ever happened. From my peripheral vision, I saw him shake his head.
"I'd like to keep it that way, too. Anytime you're here late or on the weekends, and I'd really prefer you not to be, security will walk you to your car. If you have a guest, they will be required to enter through the main entrance and check in at the front desk."
Nodding, I handed him back the signed forms. "Got it."
"Aside from the abused women's and children housing, we also have after school care, tutoring, and elderly services." He slid a map of the building in front of me. "The after school care is here, the elderly center next door to it, and the residential housing is in the back."
I watched as his fingers moved across the page. "Yeah, I read about it in the information Jasper gave me."
He nodded before leaning back in his chair. "I'm sure I don't have to tell you this, but, any information regarding Emily stays in this building. It doesn't get discussed with anyone, even employees, unless you clear it through me first. The only exception would be Jasper and that is only because he has represented her previously, or tried to anyway."
"Who do I report to?" I asked, already knowing the answer.
"Me." He raised his hand. "Technically, you aren't a paid employee, but for all intents and purposes, I am your boss. You clear everything through me. Court dates, hearings, meetings, concerns- all of that-"
"Not happening." I said, shaking my head. This was already an issue. "I'm not one to be micromanaged, Edward. And you know it."
He leaned forward, resting his forearms on the wooden surface of his desk. "I am responsible for every person in this building including you, Emily, Jasper when he is here, and even my sister when she volunteers. That isn't something I take lightly, especially given the past… issues… we've had with her family. You want to do this? Then you play by my rules, Bella. I expect the same thing out of everyone else in this organization."
When I didn't argue with him, he continued.
"You can meet with Emily any time you want to, as long as she agrees to it. You can take her out into the garden, into an office, or even out in the parking lot. But, she does not leave these premises unless I know about it beforehand."
"And if she chooses to leave on her own will?" I asked him.
Edward's facial features tightened. "She's only done it once and ended up back at our door two months later with her face mutilated. I can't force someone to stay here, and I wouldn't even try to. Emily has every right to leave if she wants, but until all of this is finished, I pray to God she doesn't."
I nodded, opened my mouth to say something, and then stopped when I saw the way he was looking at me. "What?"
"I don't know how to say this without pissing you off."
Taking a breath, I leaned back in my chair and crossed my arms across my stomach. "Let's have it."
"This whole ordeal, with Emily, something about it doesn't sit right with me. The way her brother, her husband, react any time I see them… it isn't right. This goes beyond spousal abuse."
"And you want me to be careful."
Edward picked up a pen, started twirling it around his fingers, and then continued. "I need you to promise me you'll tell me if something happens. If you find something out, if you see anything, you'll tell me."
"As long as you promise to trust my judgment, then sure." I lifted one shoulder. "This isn't my first experience with psychotic spouses, Edward. If I find something that can help Emily end this, I need to know that you won't haul me into the office and chain me to a chair because you're scared I'll get hurt. I don't need an overprotective shadow following me around and I definitely don't need you to make this more complicated than it already is. No more episodes like what you did to Jasper."
Shaking my head, I held up a hand and interrupted him. "I don't need you to protect me, Edward. I know that it goes against the grain with you given our past, but I can't do my job if you are hovering over me. At this point, her family has no idea who I am or if I am even involved. I can go to the reservation, being Sue's step-daughter, and no one will give it two thoughts. You, on the other hand, will stick out like a sore thumb."
"I don't want you going to the reservation without-"
"Edward."I cut him off. "Let me do my job."
His jaws moved, telling me that he was grinding his teeth together, but when he threw the pen down onto his desk I knew I'd won.
"You promise me that you'll be careful, promise that you'll tell me what is going on, and I promise I will trust your judgment unless I am given a reason not to." He met my annoyed gaze head on and smiled before tacking on, "Tit for tat, Bella. Like I said, I'm responsible for you and Emily."
I sighed. "Fine."
"Say it, Bella."
Meeting his eyes, I said the two words that he'd always required. "I promise.
Sitting in one of the conference rooms with Edward next to me, and Emily's psychiatrist across from both of us, we went page by page through her records. There were years of ER reports, ranging from contusions to broken bones, dating back to when she'd only been a teenager.
Flipping through the pictures, I shook my head at the bruises that marked her body. "She was sixteen."
Edward took the picture I was handing him. "From what we can piece together, she was fourteen or fifteen when she moved here. No parents, no grandparents, the only family we've ever been able to contact was her brother."
Clicking my pen, I pulled the legal tablet closer to me. "When is her birthday?"
"September thirteenth," Doctor Miller answered. "Nineteen eighty-one."
I stopped writing and looked up at her. "What?"
"Same birthday as you." Edward's voice and very quiet when he answered me.
It wasn't unusual for people to share birthdays, happened all the time, but for some reason the information left my stomach feeling like a piece of lead. "If we're the same age and she lived here as a teenager then Leah and Sue probably know her. Leah graduated from high school the same year we did."
From next to me, I heard Edward sigh. "I never even thought about that."
"Leah? And Sue?" Dr. Miller asked. "Who are they?"
I answered her while still writing. "My step-mother and her daughter. They're from the reservation, still have property on it."
"I don't know a lot about Emily's childhood, or even adulthood, but I doubt that she had friends in school. If the abuse has been going on since she was fourteen, if not before then, she would have been withdrawn and reclusive. This may be a dead end before it even starts."
Dropping my pen, I looked across the table at her. "You ever been to the reservation, Doctor?" She shook her head and I smiled. "You have close to a hundred and fifty people living on less than 6 miles of land. If she moved to the reservation as a child, someone would have known about her. Trust me."
"They don't talk to anyone, Bella. Jasper and I-"
Turning my chair to face him, I smiled. "You and Jasper aren't me. I grew up out there, remember? Dad's best friend lived there until the day he died ten years ago."
He nodded, silently agreeing that I made a point but he didn't like it.
I closed the file folder in front of me, knowing that this was just going to be the beginning of Edward's disapproving looks. Before the week was out, I was going to go to the reservation and he was just going to have to deal with it.
"It is ten till two," I said, standing up. "I'd like to meet with Emily now."