~** All the President's Men**~
"When I can again write to you, or where I shall be tomorrow, I cannot tell."
~ Dolly Madison
Bella's leg bounced nervously, her body unable to hold back the anxiety she felt as she clutched the small silver phone in her hand, her lip firmly tucked between her teeth.
It was easy in theory; a simple phone call to her best friend explaining how her life was going. Yet for Bella, it was anything but, considering her life was nothing like she'd thought it was.
Bella wasn't Charlotte Byrd, small Alaskan town bookstore and bakery owner, but Bella Cullen, First Lady of the United States.
The task of reconciling those two people into one person, into her, was daunting. It was what had finally pushed Bella to tell Edward she needed help. Although she felt like she'd made great strides in learning about her past through spending time and talking with him, there was still so much left for her to sort out. Bella realized that she needed someone else to help guide her.
And as much as she knew Edward wished he could do it, she knew it would be more of a hindrance, than helpful. The weight of his expectation for her to remember, to garner even that smallest glimmer of memory from her previous life, would flicker and flame into a large inferno of need, only to be brutally extinguished with disappointment and pity when he realized Bella wouldn't be able to remember.
It was unfortunate, but a sad truth that Bella understood.
There was a reason people sought out therapists to help them with mental issues instead of relying on family and friends; an outside party could be impartial, where loved ones could not.
Still, Edward's warning and hesitance was heavy in Bella's mind, not to mention the anticipation of how Tanya would react to such life-altering news.
"No time like the present," Bella mumbled, pushing herself to get things over with as she dialed the familiar number.
"'Ello?" Tanya greeted, her voice slightly muffled.
"Tan? Hey, it's Bel- um, Charlotte," Bella stuttered, having grown accustomed to using her real name.
"Oh, hey, Char! How goes it?" Tanya exclaimed, her voice coming clearly through the line now, bright and cheery. "They treating you right at that center?"
"Um, yeah, I'm good. I've been very well looked after," Bella said. She didn't want to lie to her friend, but she knew she couldn't just blurt everything out right away. Not if she wanted Tanya to believe her anyway.
"So what's been going on in Kodiak?" Bella asked, still needing a few minutes to prepare herself for her big reveal.
"Oh, Charlotte, you know nothing big ever happens in this town," Tanya laughed. Bella bit her tongue, knowing how quickly Tanya would be singing a different tune.
"But I should tell you, you know your friend, Peter?"
"Yeah, what about him? Is everything okay?" Bella wondered.
"Well, it seems… well, um… he's sort of seeing someone now," Tanya hesitantly told her. "I know you two had been dancing around each other, but apparently, he reconnected with his old high school girlfriend, Maria Okpik, and has fallen head-over-heels in love with her again. I hope you're not upset."
"Oh, gosh no!" Bella exclaimed, relief flooding her body. "I'm glad, actually. I only wanted him to be happy, so this is great."
"Are you sure? I know you'd finally decided to get out there and start dating again, but you shouldn't take this as a reason to go back to waiting. You know you can't put your life on hold anymore…"
Bella knew there wouldn't be a better opening than that, so she took a breath as she shut her eyes, briefly sending up a short prayer that this was the right thing to do, before she spoke.
"Actually, I've got something to tell you.. about my past life," Bella hedged.
"Really?! Oh, God, Charlotte, did you remember something?! Is the drug trial working at that memory center?" Tanya asked in excitement.
"Well, um, I'm not at a memory treatment center, actually. I've been in Washington, D.C."
"With the President."
Silence hung in the air for a long minute before Tanya's confused voice came through the line. "What? Like of the drug company?"
"No, of the United States."
"The United States President? Like Edward Cullen, United States President?"
"Is there another one?" Bella joked.
"No, I'm… I just… um, forgive me, but what the fuck are you doing with the United States President, Charlotte? Are you in trouble or something?" Tanya said with worry.
"No, no. Nothing like that… I'm fine, I swear."
"Then again, what the fuck?" Tanya demanded.
Bella knew it was time to bite the bullet, so she simply said it. "I'm his wife."
More dead silence followed her admission, long enough this time that Bella checked the phone to make sure they hadn't been disconnected. "Tanya? You there?"
"I am, but I think you might not be. Not to be a bitch, Charlotte, but where the hell is this coming from?" Tanya wondered, her voice filled with concern for her friend.
Bella proceeded to fill Tanya in from the beginning, back from early July, when Edward had swooped into town and carted her away on Air Force One after revealing who she was. Tanya listened intently, expressing her disbelief and fascination with the tale as Bella continued to explain how she and Edward were working to uncover her memories, not to mention making new ones.
When she was finished, Bella sat on the edge of her seat, unsure and wary of Tanya's reaction, but needing her best friend to help her now more than ever.
She only hoped Tanya would come through for her.
"Wow. I… just, wow." Tanya cleared her throat, before speaking again. "Well, Char- um, I mean Bella, I mean… shit, what do I call you now?" Tanya grumbled, causing Bella to laugh, easing the tension between them.
"Bella is fine, if you don't mind," she finally said.
"Okay, Bella it is. This is crazy," Tanya said incredulously. "I want to say I can't believe it, but now that I think about it, you do kind of look like her. And you did show up not long after she was killed, too, right?"
"Yes, I did. It's a little strange no one picked up on it before, you know?" Bella said.
"Yeah, but you were in such bad shape, and your hair is different, not to mention your tan… I guess it was enough to fool us all. I mean, why would you have been in Alaska when the plane went down in Arizona?"
"I've said the same thing to Edward, but he is adamant that someone should have noticed something, realized it sooner."
"Can I just say how surreal it is to hear you talk about the President like he's any other guy? I mean, the guy is ridiculously attractive and powerful, and yet you're going on like he's just another sled-driver. I'm going to have to get used to that, I guess."
"It was an adjustment for me at first, too. He's really great though, Tan. So smart, and funny, and caring. He's got so much I know he wants to share with me, to tell me about our life together, but I can see him holding back so he won't overwhelm me. He lets me go at my own pace, hanging out when he can here at Camp or talking late at night when his day is through. He's just…" Bella trailed off in a dreamy sigh, her mouth curved into a smile as she pictured Edward.
"Girl, you've got it baaaaad," Tanya teased, causing Bella's cheeks to flush. "And if what I remember is right, that man has it bad for you. I doubt that's changed, right?"
"No," Bella agreed shyly. "He's made his feelings pretty clear."
"All good ones, I trust?"
"Yeah, definitely good ones. I'm just scared," Bella allowed herself to admit.
"About?" Tanya asked, concern once more coloring her voice.
"About what happens when this gets out. About how I can live this life, as the President's Wife. The expectations I have, that everyone will have. About my feelings for Edward, his family, the nation finding out, our daughter…" Bella swallowed thickly. "I have a seven-year-old daughter that I don't remember, Tanya. What if when she finds out, she hates me for leaving? What if they all hate me?"
"They won't hate you," Tanya said soothingly. "How could they? This wasn't your fault, honey. And you've done everything you could in the past four years to get your memories back."
"I know, but what if I could have done more? I just moved on with my life, instead of still searching for them. I could have—"
"Hey, no, don't do that," Tanya stopped her. "You did all that you could, and when nothing and no one came for you after four years, you tried to move on. No one could blame you for that."
"I'm just worried, Tanya. What if I'm not cut out for this life?" Bella asked quietly.
"You need to ask yourself a simple question," Tanya said. "Is it worth it?"
"Is what worth it?"
"Will all the possible drama and craziness you'll have to face be worth it, to be with them? To get your life and memories back? To have the part of yourself you've always wondered about returned? To have your family?" Tanya clarified.
Bella's brow crinkled, a wisp of light hair falling across her cheek as she thought about Tanya's words. It didn't take her long to answer.
"I think so. I want it to be."
"Then everything will work itself out," Tanya reassured her. "And I'll help you any way I can to make sure it does."
"Thank you, Tanya," Bella sighed, more tension leaving her body at her friend's certain words. "I needed to hear that."
"Of course, honey. That's what I'm here for," Tanya said. "Now, let's talk about something really important," she continued with a serious tone.
"Okay…" Bella wondered, unsure what could be more important than what they'd already discussed.
"Is Mr. President as hot as he looks on TV?"
Bella laughed, the sound tumbling from her lips as she shook her head. "Wha-what?"
"Is. He. HOT? Or better yet, is his secret weapon big?"
"Oh, my God, Tanya!" Bella shrieked.
"Oh, what? Inquiring minds want to know," Tanya said dismissively.
"That is none of your business!" Bella exclaimed.
"Oh, please, Bella. That's man's package is a matter of national interest for all women."
"I am not telling you anything about Edward," Bella stated clearly, shaking her head in amusement though her friend couldn't see it.
"Fine, be that way. But I'll get it out of you one day, you can bet on that." Tanya chuckled.
Bella smiled, happy and light. She knew Tanya would be what she needed, helping her to cut through her fears and set her on the right path.
Though there was still a lot for Bella to overcome, knowing she had someone in her corner was a tremendous relief. And it made Bella ready to face even more, in every area of her life.
She couldn't wait to see Edward and start taking those forward steps with him and their daughter.