Disclaimer: All the Twilight stuff belongs to Stephenie Meyer. No copyright infringement is intended. I'm just poking her fishes.
Sorry about the lack of update last week, but hey - this one is early, so there's a plus!
I forgot this for the last chapter, but thanks to Jiff Simpson for suggesting "Mary Poppins Carpet Bag" – I was running out of clever purse names! :)
Thanks to DK, the ever-present beta and her willingness to put up with my poking and probing. Actually, I think she likes it. Also Deeper Water, who does the Caged reading questions AND even supplemented last week with questions about Otherwise Alone! If you haven't checked it out, do so. Link on my profile.
"People mourn when they experience loss, and the mourning needs a name."
Chapter 28 – Tie the Knot
With Bella under me, wrapped tightly in my arms in the bed we shared at my Uncle's house, I could almost feel at peace.
The cool air from the air conditioning – God, how I had missed AC – mixed with the sweat on my back from the recent exertion made me shiver a bit. Bella still breathed heavily as she closed her eyes and leaned her head against the mattress. Afraid of crushing her, I moved to the side and collapsed to the sheets with my arms still wrapped around her.
My hand crept to her stomach automatically. I couldn't seem to help either the action or the intrinsic fear that accompanied it.
"What are you thinking?" Bella asked.
"Nothing," I lied. I shook my head and tried to clear it of thoughts.
"Yes you are," Bella argued. "Tell me."
I closed my eyes and took a long breath before looking to her face. For a long moment I didn't speak, but just looked at her. I tried to focus my thoughts on anything but red streaks on the floor, the acrid smell, and the sound of screaming in my ears.
Bella's hand moved over my cheek, and her eyes softened as they bore into me. I couldn't help but think about all those songs where people claimed they could see into each other's souls. I figured as long as she was looking at it, I might as well pour it out.
"Every time I think about…about it…" I paused and collected myself. My fingers tensed over her belly for a moment before I spoke again. "I see you…and blood. I can't make it stop."
Her fingers traced the edge of my jaw.
"I'm fine, Edward. Everything is going to be just fine."
"You don't know that."
"I believe it."
"Not the same." I looked away from her and buried my face against her shoulder.
She used her hand to tilt my head back to look at her.
"What can I do?" she asked. "What can I do to make this better for you?"
I shrugged. If I had any idea, I'd definitely tell her.
She blew a breath out her nose and scrunched her eyebrows together as her fingers tickled my cheek.
"Should we get married now?" she suddenly asked.
"Now?" I repeated.
"I mean today," she said. "Then I could go to the doctor on your insurance. Do you think that might make you feel better? Then we could have an ultrasound and you could see that everything was okay."
I stared at her long enough to determine she wasn't joking.
"It might," I admitted.
"Well, let's do it then."
That's how long it took between the time we walked into the Judge's office and the time he handed us a signed certificate of marriage to take down to the clerk's office for filing.
"Smile!" Chelsea's camera flashed in my eyes.
"Come on!" I said with a roll of my eyes. "Will you cut it out?"
"It's your wedding day," she said. "There has to be a few pictures."
"I'm in jeans, for Christ's sakes."
"Well, Bella looks lovely, even if you need a haircut," Chelsea said as she reached up and rubbed my head.
"You do need a haircut," Bella agreed.
She smiled at me, and for a brief moment everything was absolutely perfect.
Bella did look beautiful, just as Chelsea said. She was all decked out in a deep blue blouse and faded jeans that she claimed were getting too tight for her stomach, and she couldn't have been more lovely even if she had been in white satin or whatever. Even through the near shock of realizing what we had just done, I couldn't stop looking at her.
People always said when a woman was pregnant it made her glow, and in the summer sunshine Bella was doing just that. When she turned her smile on me, I felt like the light was coming from her and enveloping me in its warmth.
I reached out and wrapped an arm around her to pull her close. Still focusing on that smile, I kissed her softly there on the courthouse steps, and Chelsea continued to snap pictures.
"Shall we go to dinner and celebrate?" Aro asked.
I glanced at him with a raised brow.
"I haven't even gotten my first paycheck," I reminded him. "Not until next Friday."
"My treat," Aro said. "Consider it a wedding gift."
"You've done enough," I said. I grabbed Bella's hand and started towards the car.
"Edward!" Bella whispered harshly.
"Stop being like that!"
"Like what?" I asked.
"You know what," she insisted. "Aro wants to take us out and celebrate, and you won't let him."
I looked away as I filled my lungs with air. She was right about one thing – I didn't want to let him do it. I didn't want him buying us dinner, even if he did have a somewhat legitimate reason to do so.
Before I could open my mouth, I glanced around at all the faces staring at me and practically daring me to say no. I rolled my eyes again.
"Fine," I said. I turned back towards Aro, who was reaching out to wrap his arm around his wife. "Nowhere expensive."
"Of course not," he replied, and he ushered us all to the car.
True to his word, he took us to a reasonably modest, but still elegant little tapas place. Bella had never eaten that way before, and it was fun to watch her try to figure out what was going on. We toasted with a bottle of sparkling grape juice, and Bella giggled at the bubbles in her nose.
Mostly it was good to just watch her.
I had to watch her pretty much all the time.
As long as my eyes were on her, the knot it my stomach loosened up a little. It was when she excused herself to the bathroom and didn't come back after thirty seconds that I started to lose it. Chelsea went to check on her, and I hovered just outside.
"She's perfectly fine," Chelsea said as she stuck her head out the door. "Go sit back down!"
"Stay with her, okay?"
"I will," Chelsea promised.
I was still a mess until she was back at the table and I wrapped an arm around her.
"Don't do that again," I growled.
"What?" Bella said. "Pee?"
"Take so long!" I snapped back.
"The stall was out of paper!"
My hands clenched. I knew I was being ridiculous, but I couldn't help myself. I shoved the chair back, hauled ass to the curb outside the restaurant, and lit a cigarette. I could feel Bella behind me before she reached out and touched my shoulder.
"I'm sorry," I said as I spun around and wrapped my arm around her. Then I remembered what was in my other hand. "Fuck! You shouldn't be around this!"
I tossed the cigarette into the street and watched the sparks fly around in the wind.
"I'm not handling this very well," I admitted.
"You're fine," she said softly. "I don't expect you to be magically better after one session with a therapist."
"I don't want to go back," I reminded her.
"But will you?"
"Yeah." I sighed and touched my forehead to hers. Her fingers ran up over my temple and into my hair.
"We'll schedule an appointment with the doctor on Monday. Chelsea said she thought she could get me in quickly – it's her doctor."
I nodded, and Bella leaned her cheek against my shoulder.
"It's okay," she whispered. "Everything is all right."
I wished I could believe her, but I settled for faking it during dessert. We went back to Aro's house, and they quickly excused themselves to the movies.
"Are you okay?" Bella asked as I pulled off my shirt and dropped it on the floor. She came up behind me, picked it up, and shoved it into the hamper.
"I'm okay," I said. Before she could say anything else, I latched onto her arm and pulled her towards me. I buried my face in her neck and snaked my arms around her. "I'm sorry."
"For what?" she asked.
"For being an ass," I replied. "And for throwing clothes on the floor."
"You are a slob," she agreed.
"Sorry." I pulled her tighter against me, and she wrapped her arms around my neck. I felt her fingers running through the hair on the back of my head.
"You really need a haircut," she reminded me.
"I don't have much reason to get one right now," I said. "I'm not fighting, so I don't think anyone's going to pull it."
Bella tugged gently at the strands.
"Yeah, but when you do it I just get turned on," I said with a laugh. I picked her up and dropped her down on the bed. I crawled over her and started nipping at her neck with my lips.
"You're tickling!" she cried out.
"I know," I said with a smile. I stopped and leaned back enough to get a good look at her. "My wife."
Bella smiled, and her cheeks turned red.
"Kind of weird, isn't it?"
"I don't really feel any different," I admitted. I tucked my head back against her neck. "You know I've been yours since I first saw you."
"Have you now?"
Bella's fingers moved around my back and shoulders.
"I love you," she said quietly.
"I love you more," I replied.
"I changed my name for you," she countered.
"Hmm…Mrs. Cullen. I do like that."
"I do, too," she admitted.
I hushed her with my lips over hers as my hand worked the buttons of her jeans. I pushed them down far enough to get my fingers where they wanted to be, then proceeded to make her cry my name out over and over before I finally offered mercy.
I entered her slowly, pulled back, and entered her again. She surrounded me, engulfed me, and made me whole as I came apart inside of her.
All in all, it wasn't a bad wedding night.
The usual quiet morning in my uncle's household was interrupted with an early arrival to Sunday dinner. The voices, though the volume was low enough to not wake anyone upstairs, were heated and very familiar. I stopped my decent down the stairs and dropped my ass onto a step, unsure of what to do next.
I was supposed to be out of the house before this happened.
"He's been here for days?" Carlisle growled in a barely hushed voice. "My son has been here, at your house, for days, and you don't even tell me? Seriously, Aro?"
"You aren't going to help any of this if you go off on a tirade," Aro responded with considerably more calm. "That certainly never helped in the past."
"Nice," he muttered back. "I don't need that thrown in my face."
Leaning out slightly to peer down the coiled staircase, I could see both of them standing in the foyer, blocking my escape. My father was in tan pants and a light blue polo shirt, and he paced back and forth over the marble floor looking like he was in the rough, searching for lost golf balls.
"I'm not throwing it in your face," Aro said. "But I am reminding you why you need to calm the fuck down. He's upstairs, and this isn't an executive meeting."
"I know, I know," Carlisle mumbled. "I'm sorry, you're right."
They both walked off to the right and out of my view. As much as I knew no good could come of it, I quietly walked the rest of the way down the stairs and towards the entrance to the kitchen. I could hear them both drop down on the stools at the breakfast bar, and my father took several long breaths before he started talking again.
"How does he look?" he asked. "Is he okay? I mean, is he in trouble or anything?"
"He looks…okay," Aro said.
"That doesn't sound good."
I shifted to the other side of the door, and I could see their dim reflections in a large landscape painting in the foyer. Aro's hands gripped a coffee cup as he spoke.
"He called from the same area where the police picked him up the first time."
"Shit – at that nasty warehouse? Where they found him with that dead girl?"
A brief flash, a vague memory of police cars, sirens, an ambulance, and the pale, blank face of a woman whose name I didn't know flashed through my head. I blinked rapidly, but there was nothing else to the memory. There was nothing else except mental fog and heroin-induced apathy.
"That place was torn down years ago," Aro said. "But he wasn't far from the area."
"Is he…is he doped up again?"
"No…no," Aro said quietly. "He said he was tempted, but he wasn't high when I found him."
"Jesus Christ," my father whispered. His hands gripped at his hair for a moment as he leaned his elbows on the bar. "I thought we were past that. I thought that trainer said she was going to keep him clean."
"He's all right, Carlisle. He's safe and he's here. Be thankful for that."
"I can't believe you kept this from me," Carlisle said. "When we agreed you would keep tabs on him, this wasn't what we discussed. Did your PI even know what was happening?"
"I was planning on telling you over dinner today," Aro said. "The PI's reports come to me weekly, and the last one informed me he was no longer in his apartment. He lost track of Edward for a couple of days, and by the time he figured it out, Edward was here."
Another long sigh.
"So why did he call you? Why now?"
"Well, I have to admit it gets a little complicated at this point," Aro said. The image in the picture frame blurred as a cloud passed over the house and dropped the level of light coming in from the kitchen windows. There was some shuffling around and the sound of more coffee being poured into mugs. "You remember the young lady who attended Emmett's wedding?"
"She's expecting," Aro said. "Sometime in November."
A long pause ensued.
"I don't know what to think of that," Carlisle said quietly. "I…I'm a little torn here, Aro. You're the sensible one – what am I supposed to be feeling?"
"I don't think I can answer that for you," he said.
As much as I wanted to walk around the corner and start throwing things, I didn't. As much as I wanted to quietly tip-toe out of the house, I didn't do that, either. I just stayed right there to the side of the kitchen entryway and stared at the landscape artwork, waiting for the sun to come back out.
"I don't want to fuck this up again." I could barely hear my father's voice. "You have to help me out here."
"You were overwhelmed before," Aro said. "You have a chance to think clearly now."
"I thought I was then," he said. "How was I supposed to predict what happened? I just didn't want him throwing his life away…but he did anyway. In the process, I lost only thing I ever made that meant anything."
"He's not lost, Carlisle. He's still there."
"He's lost to me. He's been lost to me for nearly a decade. I nearly lost Esme, too. "
"Esme lost herself."
"Esme was lost to grief," my father corrected. "She died inside when she realized he wasn't coming home."
My chest clenched.
"It's all my fault," he said.
"You can't change the past," Aro replied. "You have to find a way to push forward. He's here now, and I'll keep talking to him, but you can't expect him to just turn around in a day and say everything is okay again. There aren't going to be any miracles here."
"He's here," Carlisle said. "He's here; he didn't die in the street. That in itself feels like a miracle right now."
"There's more you need to know," my uncle continued. "They were married yesterday."
"You have to be fucking kidding me." There was the sound of the kitchen stool sliding across the floor and a hard, dark laugh. "Do you have any more surprises for me, Aro? Because I think I've had enough."
"She's good for him," Aro said. "Young, but sensible. Probably more sensible than he is."
The sun came back out, and I could see my father's figure bent over the counter with his head on top of his arms. The stool was shoved out behind him.
"Honestly, Carlisle, I don't think she even knows."
"That's a no then?"
"Of course not," Aro snapped. "He doesn't have the money for a lawyer, and he hasn't exactly changed his mind about handouts-"
"It's not a fucking handout. It's his – all of it's his. There wasn't any point to any of it without him."
"Thanks," Aro chuckled.
"You know what I mean."
"I do, yes."
"Esme will be here in an hour," Carlisle said. "What am I going to say to her? She was a disaster after Emmett's wedding, and now all this? I don't even know where to begin."
"He wasn't planning on staying," Aro said. "He was going to be out of the house before you arrived."
"Do you think he'll talk to me?"
"I don't think so. Not yet – it's still too soon. He's seeing a counselor – give it a little time."
"What about her?" my father pressed. His voice escalated. "Miss Swan…err…shit. What's her name now? Cullen? Do I really have a fucking daughter-in-law married to a son who won't speak to me? Is this really what I managed to do with my life? Multi-fucking-millions and nothing that actually matters?"
My throat bobbed as I swallowed, and I closed my eyes for a moment. I kept my hands clenched into fists to keep them from shaking, but I couldn't do anything about the trickle of sweat running down the back of my neck.
"Keep it down!" Aro hissed.
"Sorry," my father muttered. "This is just a bit too much. She's going to have my grandchild, and I don't even know what to call her."
"How about you call her Bella?"
"Right." He let out a long breath. "Will Bella talk to me?"
The tightening of my jaw should have been loud enough to alert them to my presence. Just him saying her name had me ready to start throwing punches.
"I don't know," Aro replied. "Edward wouldn't like it, I'm sure of that."
"Jesus, Aro. Can't you throw me a bone here?"
My chest tightened as I moved around the corner and stood in the doorway. Both my father and uncle's eyes moves quickly to me, widened, and then blinked.
"Edward," my father whispered.
"Stay away from her," I warned. "Don't you say anything to upset her. If you say a fucking word to her, and she…if…if something happens, I swear to God, I'll kill you."
My hands were shaking, and even when I clenched them into fists, the vibrations just moved up my arms.
"I won't," my father said quietly. "I wouldn't – I swear."
His light blue eyes glistened as he spent a long moment looking at me.
"I never meant to hurt you," he said.
I laughed, and the sound was anything but humorous. My father looked away from me and down to the floor, and Aro took a slight step forward before he whispered low.
"Carlisle, don't waste the few words you may have here."
My father's eyes locked with my uncle's for a brief moment before he nodded and looked back to me.
"I'm sorry, Edward," Carlisle said. "I'm sorry for all of it. Everything that happened. I know if I had behaved differently…well…I don't know what would have happened, but at least you wouldn't have had to deal with it alone."
"Fuck you," I snapped back at him. "You think you can talk your way out of-"
Both of their expressions changed drastically as they simultaneously looked into the foyer behind me. I didn't have to look just to see who it was. I knew the feeling of Bella's hand on my arm. I wouldn't have said her touch calmed me, but I felt more centered.
"We need to leave now," I said without looking at her.
"Not yet," she replied.
"Bella, I'm not-"
"You don't have to stay," she said. Her eyes were on my father, and she gripped my arm a little as she started to walk towards him.
"Bella," I growled. I had no idea what else I wanted to say, but I didn't want her to do what I thought she was considering. She looked up at me and shook her head slowly.
"I need to know, Edward."
"I need to hear everything else. I only know part of the story, Edward – your part. I need to hear the rest."
"I know," she said as her hand came up and cupped my cheek. "I know what it is to you, and I understand, but there's more than just you and me to consider, Edward."
"I am thinking about the baby!" I said through gritted teeth. "That's why I don't want you anywhere near him!"
Her other arm came up and rested on my shoulder as she leaned against me.
"The baby needs love," she told me. "Yours and mine, of course, but the love of a whole family, too."
She glanced over my shoulder, and I could see Chelsea moving up in my peripheral vision.
"You put her up to this?" I growled at my aunt.
"It's time to make amends, Edward," Chelsea said. "We all need to move forward."
I took a half step away from Bella and ended up with my back against the doorframe.
My lungs fought for air as my head began to swim.
"Not now," I heard myself say.
Bella's fingers moved down my arms until they grasped my hands.
"Come with me," she ordered.
A moment later she was pulling me back through the foyer and into the adjoining living room – away from the kitchen – where she shoved me down to the couch and knelt in front of me.
"Do you need one of those pills?" she asked.
I was shaking too much to give her a clear answer, but I made sure I held onto her hands. I didn't want her going anywhere. Thankfully, the Balrog's Backpack was nearby, and she seemed to have my anxiety prescription in it.
I couldn't even remember the name of the damn things, I only knew they worked. The shaking stopped within a few minutes, and I was left with just the desire to sleep it all off – like the next morning after a bad night of drinking only without the headache.
"Better?" Bella asked.
I tilted my head to the side and realized she was still next to me on the couch.
"Yeah," I said. I glanced around and saw Aro just outside the room, looking down at me. My father was several feet away from him like he was trying to hide or something. Too fucking late for that. Chelsea was holding a glass of water and asking if I wanted any, but I declined.
"You're calming down a lot faster now," Bella observed. "Even after such a short time."
I nodded, but there were bits of the previous conversation that were still running around through my head.
"What did he mean?" I asked as I looked towards the foyer and then up at Bella. "What did he mean about Tanya?"
"I…I don't know." Bella looked up at my uncle, who was hopping back and forth between his left and right foot. "Aro?"
"She was our best way of keeping tabs on him," Aro said. "Once we realized he wasn't on the streets anymore – that someone had taken him in – we talked to her and made sure she was going to keep him straight."
"Made sure?" Bella took the question right out of my mouth.
"We paid her off," my father admitted. "Enough money to keep her working as a trainer indefinitely."
"What the fuck," I mumbled. I couldn't even quite wrap my head around what they were saying.
"She'd been hurt," Aro said. "She couldn't fight anymore and wasn't having much luck working as a trainer. We gave her the funds to get her training business going, and she met with my PI and told him how you were doing."
"Nice," I mumbled.
The medicine was making me feel sleepy. I wanted to be pissed off, but I found it just wasn't working. I had only been up an hour, and I was ready to just crawl back into bed. It was a feeling I fucking hated, but was still preferable to ending up in the hospital again.
I closed my eyes, stretched out on the couch, and placed my head on Bella's lap. I heard someone come over next to my head and kneel down beside me. When I cracked open one eye, I almost flinched back at how close my father was to me.
"Pretty fucking shitty," I mumbled. "Spying on me like that. Paying her to do that shit. Fucker."
"Edward," my father said quietly. "You can hate me for the rest of your life, and I will still make sure someone is looking out for you. Always. You wouldn't let it be me, so I had to improvise. I think you're going to understand that someday. I hope you will."
"Fuck you," I muttered again as my head swam a bit and everything went dark. By the time I was awake again, Carlisle Cullen was gone and Sunday dinner postponed indefinitely.
With the marriage certificate in my personnel file and Bella added to my insurance through Twilight Silver, she was able to get an appointment with Chelsea's OBGYN and really start to take care of herself. The doctor even gave her three months worth of prenatal vitamins, which are apparently really important.
I didn't even know there was such a thing.
"Do you think the lack of prenatal care contributed to what happened before?"
We had passed the magical three sessions mark a week ago, and she was being pretty fucking aggressive about some of the things we talked about. She said we were going to get around to talking about my current family, but I had to come to terms with the one I lost first. If I didn't do that, I was going to fail with the family I was trying to create, and I couldn't let that happen. So, Irina had been pretty fucking harsh. I kind of wished she was a fighter or at least a body builder – I wouldn't feel as bad if I ended up hitting her.
Of course, she was doing exactly what I asked her to do.
I shuddered a little, and then looked up to Irina.
"I never even heard of prenatal vitamins," I confessed, "or why Bella needs to make sure she has plenty of folic acid in her diet. I didn't know any of that shit until we saw Chelsea's doctor."
"Is that a yes?"
"I don't know," I said. "Angela's mother wouldn't ever talk to me or anything, so other than knowing…knowing what I could tell when I found her…well, I never knew anything else."
In my mind, there was a brief flash – a realization that I had just said her name and it hadn't made me double over.
"So you never found out what really happened?"
"What difference does it make?"
"Maybe none," Irina said. "Or it might make a lot of difference. It might give you some closure."
I dropped my eyes and fiddled with my fingers, which seemed to be the one thing I did more than talking during my sessions with Shrink Irina.
"Is there a grave?" Irina asked softly.
"Have you ever been there?"
I shook my head.
"Maybe you should."
I shook my head harder.
"Why not?" Irina asked.
"I just…can't go there. If I did, I'd probably lose my mind, and I wouldn't want Bella to see it."
"Why would Bella see it?" she asked.
"I couldn't do that by myself," I whispered. I couldn't look at her as I admitted my embarrassing fault. There was no way I'd be able to go there alone. I wouldn't make it past the gates.
"I'll go with you, Edward."
My eyes met hers.
"We can hold your next session there."
A long breath filled my lungs as I thought about it.
"I don't know," I finally muttered.
Irina leaned forward in her chair and focused on my eyes.
"How are you going to be a husband to Bella and a father to your child when you haven't let go of Angela?"
I hated the very idea, but Irina had this way about her, and it seemed like as soon as I said no fucking way, I found myself doing whatever she had suggested. This was no exception, and on Thursday Marcus drove me to the little Baptist cemetery where Angela was buried.
It took twenty minutes just to get out of the car, and another ten to walk the fifty yards towards the area where she was laid to rest.
Laid to rest.
It sounded so fucking peaceful, but all I could see was her lying on the bathroom floor, covered in blood.
"I can't do this," I whispered.
"Take your time," Irina said. "If it's too much, we can try again next week."
Leaning against the rough bark of a maple tree, I tried to stop myself from hyperventilating every time I looked over at the small, flat pair of matching gravestones with nothing on them but their names and dates. There was no way I was going to do this again, not next week, not ever. If I was going to make any kind of progress it was going to have to be now.
I took a step forward, and my fingers gripped at the tree bark.
My fingers flexed, and I took another step away. I could see the top of the stones with the simple names and dates on them. Angela's had both her birth date and the day she died, but the other one only had a single date on it.
"Matthew," I whispered. I looked up at my counselor. "She named him Matthew, after Angela's grandfather. Do people really name babies that…that don't live?"
"Of course they do, Edward. People mourn when they experience loss, and the mourning needs a name."
"Matthew," said again, even quieter than the first time. "He'd be nine now."
As the revelation hit me, I lost my balance and dropped on my ass in the dirt between them. A muted stab of pain went up through my tailbone, and the shock of it seemed to overwhelm the rest of my senses. My body convulsed once, and I ended up half flopped over my bent legs. My hands reached out, my right palm on the grave of my son I never knew, and the left on his mother's stone – the girl who never had a chance.
Anguished, terrifying cries rose up into the warm sunshine.
I have no idea how long I was there, or at what point I quieted and realized Irina was there next to me, her hand resting gently on my shoulder.
"I need Bella." My words were so choked I could barely understand myself.
"Of course you do," Irina replied quietly. "Let's go find her."
Instead of leading me over to the car, Irina took me to the office near the front of the cemetery. There was a small area with a desk and a chair and a room off to one side. Bella was there, sitting on a couch and waiting for me with the Big Bag of Horrors at her feet.
I glanced at Irina, who nodded once.
"She'll take you home when you're ready," my counselor said. She and Bella exchanged a quick glance, and then Irina was gone.
I stumbled at her as she stood up and helped me to the little couch. My arms went around her, and I was probably holding her too tightly, but I couldn't bring myself to loosen my grip.
"I'm not going to fail you," I told her. "I swear…I won't."
"You didn't fail, baby," she whispered. "You were just a kid."
I wasn't going to argue – I didn't have the energy. All I seemed able to really do was hold onto Bella and try to keep my focus on how her fingers felt as they moved over my cheek, up my neck, and through my hair.
"I love you," I whispered. "I'll never, never let anything happen to you."
"I know you won't," Bella replied. "I'm not going to let anything happen to you, either. I love you, Edward. So much…"
We clung to each other – Bella's hand against my cheek and my arms wrapped tightly around her – and I just listened to her breathing for the longest time. It was soothing and peaceful, like the slow rhythm of my heart in my chest. I remembered the sound of the baby's heart when we were first at the doctor, and my hand crept down to Bella's stomach.
"I want to believe what you said," I told her.
"What I said about what?" Bella asked.
"That…that you're all right. That you're going to be all right."
"I will," Bella said. "I promise, everything will be okay."
I squeezed my eyes shut as my mind tried to rebel against the very notion of making such an illogical promise. There were buses to be run over, planes to fall from the sky, and tidal waves to suddenly form in the middle of the river and drown us all out.
"I believe you." I looked up into her face. "I'm going to believe you."
Work remained good, for the most part. When I was left alone to just sit at my workbench and set stones, things went by fairly smoothly and quickly. The stones were cheap, but I still felt bad when I broke a few of them as I was relearning how to mold the metal into the right setting for the stone.
I mostly did rings, and I was starting to feel like a total shit for never giving Bella one. I was going to have to do something clever about that, but I wasn't sure what it was going to be. I knew I wanted to make her something, but I'd have to pay for the materials, and I didn't have the spare cash.
I selected a smaller sized bur and began to carve out the metal to fit the shape of the fire agate sitting next to me on the table. Just as I was getting ready to set the stone, the guy who swept up after hours came over to me.
"You just look really familiar," the dude said. "I know I've seen you before."
The guy had a greasy mullet and thinning goatee. He did pretty much fit the description of the usual Feet First clientele, so I wouldn't have been too surprised if he knew who I was. I tried to shrug him off, but the guy wouldn't take a hint.
"I just have one of those faces," I replied with a half smile.
"What's your name?"
"Edward," I replied.
"You been workin' here long?"
"Just a few weeks," I said. "Still trying to get the hang of this."
I waved a hand towards the workbench and hoped he'd take the hint and fuck off. He didn't, of course.
"I still think you look awful familiar," he proclaimed. "What did you say your last name is?"
"I didn't," I replied.
"Okay…so what is it?"
Deciding the guy was just never going to give up, and being far too tired to come up with any sort of clever retort, I just came out with it.
"Cullen," I said. "Edward Cullen."
"Cullen? Really?" the dude said with a smirk. "What are you, some distant cousin or something?"
"No," I replied.
"But you're related to 'em, right?"
"I guess," I muttered.
I put down the bur and turned to face the guy.
"I'm Carlisle Cullen's son," I growled. "Now do you think you can leave me the fuck alone?"
"Bullshit!" he called out. "No fucking way!"
"Whatever." I tried to turn back to my work, but pimple-cheeks was in my face again.
"Who are you really?"
"Jesus Christ!" I snarled. "You want a copy of the fucking birth certificate?"
The shift supervisor – one I didn't know, since I wasn't on my normal shift – came up to us.
"Is there a problem here, gentlemen?"
"Get this asshole away from me," I growled.
"I think you need to calm down," the supervisor said.
My fists clenched against my thighs, and I fought against the urge to start beating one of them with my fists while I kicked the other one to the ground to save for later. Remembering that the opposite of fight was flight, I shoved past both of them and made my way to the men's room where I did a little deep breathing until I calmed down. My shift was almost over, anyway, so I made myself fairly invisible until it was time to clock out.
I was going to have to figure out some way of dealing with this, or I was going to end up fired from the company I was destined to someday own. I decided to bring it up with Irina in our next session, but when I got there I discovered she already had an agenda for the day.
"I think I need some anger management," I announced as I walked into her office.
"I would tend to agree," she said, "but there are some key things you need to come to terms with first before that would be effective."
"Let's talk about all the wonderful things in your life," she said as I sat down.
"Uh…is that sarcasm?"
"No," she said, "not at all."
"Well," I started slowly, "I still have a job at the moment, though I probably came close to losing it today."
"Would that be the reason to inquire about anger management?"
"Got it. We'll tackle that later. What else?"
"I don't know why we're doing this," I grumbled.
"Part of healing is recognizing the positives, Edward. There are many positives in your life you choose to ignore in favor of focusing on the negatives. We have to move past that."
"The shitty stuff stands out. Everything that's happening right now reminds me of…of what happened before. Whenever we go to the doctor or Bella says something about how she's feeling…all of it comes back. I've done all this before, even though Bella hasn't. Every other word out of her mouth makes me think about…about Angela."
"But Bella isn't Angela," Irina said. "Did you love Angela?"
"Yes," I said.
"And do you love Bella now?"
"More than anything."
"How do you feel about the baby that is coming?"
"I don't know if I can survive that long," I said with a quick laugh through my nose.
"Why do you say that?"
"I just don't know how I'm going to make it through," I said. "I mean – Bella's just out of the first trimester. I've got months of this."
"And each day brings you closer to the end," Irina said.
"That's what it feels like," I agreed.
"That isn't what I meant," Irina clarified. "I mean it brings you closer to the end of the pregnancy – the beginning of fatherhood."
"I don't really think about that," I admitted. "The whole being a father thing. It's too…too abstract."
"Did you think about it when Angela was pregnant?"
"Yeah. Look where that got me."
"Edward," Irina leaned forward in her seat like she always did when she was trying to make some monumental point that would end up lost on me. "Everything happens for a reason."
"What the fuck is that supposed to mean?"
"Everything that happened in your past brought you to where you are now. Would you ever have had the opportunity to meet Bella if it weren't for the earlier tragedies in your life?"
"Are you saying Angela had to die for Bella and me to be together?" I stood up and pointed a finger at her. "That's the most fucked up thing I've ever heard in my life! Angela and the baby had to die so I could be happy with another girl? Are you fucking serious?"
"Of course not," Irina said softly. "Please sit back down."
I huffed through my nose as I slowly lowered myself back to the cliché couch.
"I'm asking you to consider the positive things in your life," Irina clarified. "Your focus is often on the negative aspects, but there are many good things that have happened to you as well."
"Yes, Bella," Irina agreed. "You also haven't relapsed again."
"What else?" she prompted.
"Um…I'm not on the street."
"You have an uncle who cares for you quite a bit."
I nodded again, noticed I was chewing on my lower lip the same way Bella did when she was deep in thought, and made myself stop it.
"Chelsea, too," I said. "Chelsea has been awesome – for Bella, too. I don't think Bella ever really had a woman in her life who did shit for her like Chelsea does. She's been like how Bella's mom was supposed to be."
"That's your uncle's wife, correct?"
"Yeah," I said. "Emmett's mom, too."
"Have you talked to Emmett since you moved in with your uncle?"
"Nah," I said. "He's on some big business trip in China or something. He won't be back until the end of the month."
"Your relationship with him remained civil while you were out of touch with the rest of your family."
"Mostly," I agreed. "We had our moments."
"You were close to him when you were younger?"
"When Aro married Chelsea," I said, "Emmett came along with the deal. We were about the same age, and we got along right away. It was good to have someone to hang out with during family gatherings and shit – I hadn't had that before."
"What about now?"
"His wife is a bitch," I said with a laugh.
"She just is. She was like that in high school, too. I think Emmett saw her as a beast to be tamed. They had an on-again-off-again relationship from about freshman year until three years ago. They got married last summer."
"But you didn't approve."
"I guess I don't care, really," I said. "Emmett loves her, so I guess that's the part that matters. He says she loves him, too, and I guess that's probably true. I still think she loves the money as much as anything."
"You walked away from the money," Irina noted.
"I made enough fighting," I replied nonchalantly. "Well, I guess I'm making more now, but it's not the same. Fighting was…"
"Was what? " she asked when I didn't finish.
"Cathartic, I think. Yeah, that's probably the best word for it. I liked fighting."
"Why did you stop fighting?"
"Well, I kind of got kicked out, for one," I reminded her.
"You were removed from cage fighting at one bar, Edward. There are plenty of gyms where you could practice boxing or various other fighting arts. Have you looked into that?"
"I didn't really think about it."
"Fighting isn't unhealthy," Irina said. "It's a good outlet for your aggressions."
"Bella doesn't like it."
"Bella doesn't like you making a living getting beat up," Irina corrected. "This wouldn't be the same. Why don't you talk to her about it?"
"I don't want to upset her." I shrugged once. "She always freaked out when I came home beat up, and she was upset when I just had a black eye or a particularly nasty bruise."
"Do you think fighting in a cage with random people who are trying to make a show of a blood sport is the same as putting on a pair of gloves and boxing with a trainer?"
"Then why do you think Bella would see them the same way?"
"Fuck you," I muttered.
Irina leaned forward in her chair.
"May I make an observation?" she asked.
"Since when do you ask for permission?" I countered.
"The first words out of your mouth every time I make a point you secretly agree with are 'fuck you.'"
"That's your second response to the same thing."
I crossed my arms over my chest, leaned back on the couch, and glared at her.
"And predictable number three," Irina said with a smile, "silence."
I was about to roll my eyes, but I had a pretty good idea that the number four was going to come into play if I did.
Four! Four ways of avoiding the truth! Ha! Ha! Ha!
I was never one to give up, but I finally admitted she was right.
Chapter End Notes:
Way back in the day I did group counseling for court ordered adolescents. The was one who say nothing but "fuck you" for three weeks, but he eventually came around. Made a damn good pineapple upside down cake, too. This chapter made me thing of him. :)
A lot of people have asked me how much is left, and though I don't know the exact number of chapters, we are getting close to the end.
I am off to bed - I have to work at 3am and need a little sleep first. Have a great weekend!
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