Giving something new a try. I've had this in my head for months, it just kept building, apparently my outlet for stress was to torture fictional characters with misery. I've never written a lot of angst, so we'll see how this goes. This isn't going to knock Home Ice Advantage off the priority list, so readers of that story, no worries. I have the next chapter almost finished so I'm hoping to send it off to beta this weekend.
Beta, oh yeah, I don't have one for this. Like I said, writing this is more of an outlet for stress so it's more of a "when the mood strikes, jump on it" kind of thing, so I'm gonna try to do this on my own. Hopefully I did a moderately decent job cleaning it up. If not, feel free to throw rotten tomatoes at me.
He pulled into the driveway of the large home set back from the road that he'd worked so hard to be able to buy for her. The tiny apartment they'd called home for three years had been suitable—it had served its purpose well enough—but he'd always wanted more. He'd had an image in his head of what his future would look like, and the perfect house was one piece of the puzzle.
His career was taking off, his company in such high demand that he was having trouble keeping up. The money coming in allowed him to not only bring home a bigger paycheck, but expand the business quicker than originally planned.
His family was doing well. He didn't get to see them as much as he liked, but everyone was happy and healthy every time he did get an opportunity to visit. His mother doted, his father advised, and his brother taunted, just like old times.
And the perfect girl, he had her. She'd walked into his life freshman year of college. He was at an impromptu party in the dorms, and she'd arrived with her roommate, doing her best to blend in with the walls so that nobody noticed her. He'd spotted her instantly and crossed the room to get to her before someone else did. He'd tried to charm her and soon realized that lines didn't work at her. She'd only arched a brow and laughed in a way that let him know she wasn't impressed. He'd changed tactics and cut out the games. It took her a little while to warm up to him after his abysmal start, but as he shared stories about himself, she began to reciprocate. So distracted by each other, they didn't notice that the party had died out until her roommate came by to see if she was ready to go.
After that night, Edward and Bella had been inseparable. Four years (and a degree each) later he was working odd hours trying to get his IT company off the ground, making himself available nights and weekends in an attempt to draw big clients with his flexibility and availability. She was making coffee and answering phones at a marketing agency, grasping every opportunity to learn by being a fly on the wall. They made plans for their future but agreed to wait until their lives were more stable.
Another two years went by until she'd moved up from errand girl to an associate with her own projects to plan and execute, and he'd built a steady client base that kept his pockets lined and his company thriving. On one knee, he'd asked her to marry him and she'd said yes, smiling through tears even though he'd never kept his intentions a secret.
As he walked up to the house he noticed how dark it was inside. A light was shining from the back—the kitchen, he assumed, or maybe the dining room—but every other room was pitch black. Under the porch light he glanced at his watch and cursed. He'd lost all track of time, and it was way past eleven. He'd promised her he'd be home hours ago and prepared himself for major groveling.
If he'd thought the house seemed dark, it didn't compare to how quiet it was. It was one of those unsettling moments where nothing was out of place yet everything was wrong. As soon as he'd walked through the door he knew something was off, though he couldn't pinpoint what it was. He held perfectly still, listening for any sound but hearing nothing but his own breaths. She was probably already asleep, but he couldn't shake the feeling that something wasn't right.
Quiet steps led him from room to room where everything appeared to be as it should. In the hall, her shoes had been kicked off haphazardly to the side. In the living room an afghan was tossed over the back of the couch and a book abandoned on the end table. In the kitchen everything was spotless, put away in its rightful place. In the dining room, however, one place setting still sat at the table having long ago gone cold. The guilt twisted in his gut, and as he turned to walk out of the room a flash of something caught his eye.
Lying between the silverware and a full glass of white wine was a diamond ring.
Racing up the stairs, he beelined for the bedroom. He knew she wouldn't be there but couldn't help the disappointment at finding out he hadn't misread the situation. The bed was still made, not a pillow out of place. The closet was full so if she'd packed she hadn't taken much with her. There was a small, empty space on the top rack where an overnight bag used to sit. In the connecting bathroom her toiletries were missing.
Stepping back into the bedroom he stood with his fists on his hips, looking around as he tried to figure out what to do next. He ran back down the stairs and found himself back in the dining room where he shoved the plate off of the table and watched it skid across the floor. The spike of adrenaline from the act prompted him to do the same to the ceramic bowl full of fruit at the center of the table, the crash and scattering of shards strangely therapeutic. He picked up the ring and closed his fist around it, enjoying the bite of metal and gemstone in his skin, almost hoping it would draw blood. With a roar, he threw it as hard as he could against the wall.
Without looking back, he grabbed his keys and jogged to his car.
Skidding to a halt in front of a small house across town, his fingers tightened around the steering wheel as he stared at her car parked at the curb. He'd had a few places in mind, but he had a feeling this was where she'd be. He half expected somebody to come out of the house; to greet him, to stop him, to yell at him . . . something. But it was silent. A few lights were on and a flicker in the front window told him that someone was watching TV.
He took a few moments to calm himself down. Nothing good would come of storming in there with emotions running high. Once he felt sufficiently leveled out, he got out of the car and made the long walk up the front path.
Halfway through knocking, the door swung open to reveal Jasper casually draped against it with a bottle of beer in one hand.
"She isn't here."
Caught off guard, it took him a moment to respond. "What do you mean she isn't here? Her car is right out front."
"She isn't here," Jasper repeated with a little more force. "The girls took off right after she got here. They took Alice's car."
Edward was starting to lose patience. "Well where did they go?" Even he could hear the frustration creeping into his voice, all attempts to mellow out failing with each passing second.
Jasper held his hands in the air and shrugged, shaking his head. "Not a clue, man. The way she was crying, I figured the less I knew the better. My only concern was to stay the hell out of it."
Edward cursed under his breath, and when Jasper opened the door and motioned him inside, he followed. They detoured to the kitchen where Jasper pulled a beer from the fridge and passed it over to Edward who just looked at it without drinking.
"So you really have no idea where she is? Where they went?" As much as it went against his ego and sense of masculinity, he wasn't above begging in this moment. "C'mon, anything?"
"Have you tried to call her?" Jasper asked.
"Of course I tried to call her. All the way over here I tried to call her. It went straight to voice mail every time."
Jasper whistled and shook his head. "I'm sure she'll be back. If it's any consolation, they didn't take much with them. They can't be planning more than a night. Maybe you should go home and just wait it out."
Edward laughed, low and humorless. "Yeah, I'll just sit around and wait. She leaves without a fucking word and the only thing I can do is wait. Bullshit." He stood up, slamming the full beer on the end table, and spun around to Jasper. "If you see her or hear from her, you can tell her . . . you can tell her . . . fuck it. You know what? Don't tell her a goddamn thing."
With that, he stormed out of the house and back to the car, his bravado slipping with each step.
He went back to the house and waited.
The lightened sky and the tick of the second hand of an old clock were the only things marking the passage of time. For the first couple hours, he was able to count the passing hours by the number of empty bottles scattered around him, but he'd stopped some time ago. All he knew was that Saturday morning had come and he was mostly sober.
If he didn't know better, he would've sworn the birds outside were mocking him with each cheerful chirp. Didn't they realize everything was falling apart? He hated feeling helpless, and until he could do more than sit and wait, that was the only thing he could feel. By nature, he just wanted to fix the problem, to find out which pieces broke and put them back together. But until she walked through that door, he had no way to begin. Until then he'd sit here and fiddle with the ring he'd salvaged from the mess in the dining room.
With each drink he'd imbibed the night before, different scenarios played out. Sometimes he was angry with her, laying the blame for the situation at her feet. Other times he listed his own failures and wondered how this hadn't happened sooner. But now, in the morning light, he was just tired. Physically, mentally, and emotionally drained.
He rested his head back against the couch and closed his eyes, trying his best to disconnect from it all. He hadn't realized he'd fallen asleep until the crunch of tires woke him up with a start. The sound of the car pulling into the driveway was recognizable on its own, but if there'd been any question in his mind that she'd finally returned, the hiss and scrape of the garage door would've told him.
After the long, lonely hours spent in his own head, he refused to get up from his seat to greet her on principle. He'd waited all night, a little while longer wouldn't kill him. Silence stretched for long minutes; she must've been sitting in the car working up the courage to come inside. When he finally heard her enter the house his heart sped up but he focused all his effort on remaining outwardly unaffected.
Inside, he was a mess, and as he caught his first glimpse of her in twenty-four hours, she seemed to be just as bad. There was so much trepidation in her steps, in her posture. She'd only glance at him for a split second before diverting her eyes elsewhere. She wrung her hands as she leaned back against the wall as if afraid to come too close. Her clothes were a bit wrinkled, her hair a little wild, but what got to him the most was the dark circles under and red rings around her eyes.
And somehow, when all he wanted to do was be angry with her, she was still beautiful to him.