Hope Springs Eternal Contest

Prompt #7

Pen-name: Letzigprincess

Twitter: letzigprincess

Beta: X-NessieCullen-X (HUGE thanks to her for helping me with this big beast! I couldn't do it without you girlie!)

Title: The Moment of Truth in Your Lies

Word Count: 9,469

Rating: M

Pairing: Edward and Bella

Summary: When fifteen year old Bella Swan comes to live with the Cullens due to an intervention by Edward, a relationship is formed that will bind them together for life. Will they give in to the truth or try to keep up appearances? EPOV

Disclaimer: The characters and anything involving Twilight belongs to Stephenie Meyer. The plot belongs to me.

The Moment of Truth in Your Lies

Edward Cullen paced the floor in front of the bedroom door. His bedroom door. Jessica's bedroom door. He knew she wasn't stupid and he knew he shouldn't be doing this. It was going to end up killing them both if they continued on the way they were. All that he could think of is that he wished he were somewhere else, inside of someone else's bedroom, a someone else that would shatter Jessica if she found out. He just couldn't help it.

Pushing the bedroom door open, he stepped inside and winced when he found her sitting up in bed, watching some TV show that was on mute. Obviously, she had waited up for him. "Jess?"

"Go shower. You aren't getting into our bed smelling that way. I can almost feel her here with us. I'm so...fucking done, Eddie."

"I know..."

"Yet you still see her!"

A part of him thought she was pathetic, knowing about his extra-marital affair and not demanding a divorce. He wondered if marriages ever lasted. The married couples he knew were good at faking it in public but when it came to the privacy of their own homes-their own bedrooms-he wondered if it even mattered. Marching over to his dresser, he grabbed a clean pair of boxers and headed for the bathroom. The light flashing from the TV clicked off, darkening the room he left behind. When he came out, Jessica was nowhere to be found and he didn't have the energy to go find her. He'd been put through his paces earlier that night and had he known it was going to go down this way, he would have just stayed in that bedroom he longed to be in.

Edward Cullen went through stages when Jessica Stanley was one of his favorite people but then he also went through times when he couldn't stand to look at her. They'd dated on and off in high school, broken up completely while they each attended separate colleges, and then finally got back together after he ran into her at the dentist. Yes, the dentist. He was having a root canal done. When she stumbled into the waiting room and sat down beside him, he did a double take, wondering what the odds were of this happening.

To his sister Alice, it was a cosmic shift of the planet-something that fate had brought to happen. To his brother Emmett, it was a hilarious story. To his parents, it was a groan and a somewhat frustrated nod. No matter who you asked, though, Jessica and Edward seemed doom to once again repeat the past. This time, after boring dinner dates, awkward movie nights, expensive wine tastings, and a few stress relieving sexual release, something a lot less planned had happened. It was the last of these activities that brought him great joy and great sorrow. Only a mere six months after his God-awful root canal, Jessica Stanley messaged him-yes, she made this announcement through a text message-that she was pregnant.

It took everything he had not to take the beer he was drinking, dump it out, break the bottle and cut through a major artery. Okay, so maybe he hadn't really considered it; he just merely thought of it. In fact, he was actually busy at the time and didn't get back to her until the next day. Unlike Jess, it wasn't through a text message, though.

When he told his parents, he hadn't bothered to bring Jessica with him. Edward scoffed as he laid in bed thinking back on it now. They'd never been there for each other-not even when she was carrying his kid. His mother had simply walked out of the room and his father just shook his head. "Are you two planning to marry? Jesus, Edward, you aren't some high school kid anymore. You're twenty-three years old. Man up."

So, he did what he thought he had to do. A month later, he proposed to the mother of his growing baby. They were married at the court house, had a small dinner at his parents, and then dropped her off at home so that he could attend a week long job related seminar. By the time he made it back to what was now their home, it was time to start planning for their baby. He played loyal husband while he anxiously waited for the arrival of their son, Trenton Anthony Cullen. God, how he loved that little boy. He attended doctor visits with Jess, painted the nursery with the help of Emmett, and even assigned Godparents to their child-Isabella Swan and Jasper Hale.

Yes, the same Bella that was stopping him from loving his actual wife was the godmother of his child. He had to make her a part of the baby's life somehow. He couldn't live with only sharing this joy with Jessica. Jess had agreed because of this other sick, little fact; Bella had become close friends with her and had been best friends with him when they were younger. Edward had trouble understanding what the two of them had in common that bound them together. He wondered often if Jess felt sorry for her or if she just simply liked getting to be the privileged one. He had a feeling that when Jess walked around with Bella, someone who was usually covered in bruises, it made her feel more beautiful. That realization came to him two months after Trenton was born and he'd hated Jess for it ever since.

Isabella Marie Swan grew up in the city with her mom and stepdad. They were both nice people, Edward had been around both of them many times, but they weren't reliable. When Bella came to live with her father, a man who had lost his badge because he got caught doing something rather deplorable, her world was thrown into a blender. Edward first noticed something was wrong about three weeks after she had moved to Forks. Everyone was in awe of the new girl and Edward, having been only ten at the time, was not a huge fan of girls. He noticed, though, that she never looked at any of the people who flocked around her with affection or even interest, it was like torture to her. When he saw the hand-sized bruise during art class, his ten year old mind tried to figure out what had happened to her.

It wasn't until they were in middle school that he finally spoke up. Always an advanced reader, he had read a story where the main character was verbally and physically abused by his mother. The book was not put down for one whole night and the whole time he was reading it, his mind wandered back to that scared, brown-eyed girl that he'd come to know as 'Bella'. At first, his mom was upset when she found him reading the book, having heard of it herself and feeling it was not age appropriate for her son. He had been silent the entire time she questioned him about it. She hadn't done it to yell or get out anger, she was just genuinely curious about what he thought of it-Edward figured she was probably trying to decide if it was okay to let him finish the book.

When she had completed her questioning, frustrated that he wasn't really answering, just giving her non-verbal shrugs or nods, she asked him if he had any questions. So, as a young adolescent, he closed his eyes and asked, "What do you do if this happens in real life?"

Esme Cullen seemed to contemplate this question for a long time before answering, "Edward, sometimes horrible things happen to children. Some moms and dads can be really mean. Your dad and I love you very much. You don't need to worry about..."

"What if the person's dad is the only mean one? What if the mom lives far away?"

Esme glanced at the book in his hands and then locked eyes with him. Her face seemed to pale as she swallowed hard. It was what a parent did when faced with the fact that their child knew something beyond their years. "Edward, the mom in this book is the mean one. Where did you get that from?"

"Mom, I..." but he'd gotten scared. He stopped there and it took weeks to get the truth out of him. By then, the contents in that book had festered in his mind to the point that he was terrified for the tiny girl who always looked so haunted. Even when he finally told his mother the truth, he wouldn't dare tell who it was. Finally, just a couple days shy of his fifteenth birthday-when girls were starting to become appealing, he'd gone to a party. He had no business being there, having only decided to tag along with his eighteen year old brother, when he'd seen her. Bella was just sitting on her back porch, a half a block away from the party house.

Tired of trying to find someone older to talk to, he'd wandered over to her through the neighbor's backyards and didn't see the panic on her face until he was only two houses away. She jumped up, ran over to the short fence that stood between the yards of her house and her neighbors, and just shook her head frantically. At first, he wondered what was going on but as he got closer he heard what she was frantically whispering. "Go! Go before he sees you!"

Edward ignored her pleas and stood on the other side of the fence, getting more than an eyeful of the beer cans that lay abandoned all over the yard, up the porch steps and even lining the porch. The next eyeful he got was of her, the beautiful, tiny girl. This time, though, she wasn't in long sleeves and jeans. Now, she was in a baggy t-shirt and track shorts. Her skin had purple, yellow and even blue marks scarring it. When he heard a gruff voice yell for her from inside the house, he'd been a total pussy, backing away from her quickly. She seemed relieved and turned away from him, running into the house.

At a dead run, he went back to the party, finding Emmett and begging him to drive him home. Emmett was royally pissed but as they climbed into his Jeep, he began to look concerned. "What's up, man? You look white as a sheet..."

"I need to talk to dad," was all Edward's shaky voice could muster.

"Did something happen with a girl? You know you could always ask me about that stuff..."

"No!" he gasped, a little horrified at even considering what Emmett had told him. Then, he realized it was something that happened with a girl.

"Okay, okay! Relax. Don't tell him there was alcohol..."

Edward had quit listening as Emmett spewed a damage control lecture right when it had begun. He knew he had to tell someone what he saw. If he had any doubts of what was happening before, he was positive now. His mother was right, he had to be brave and tell them. He had to do it before Bella's dad could hurt her again. "Mom, where's dad? I need to talk to him. Now."

Esme jumped up from her position on the couch, "He's at work. He got called in to work the Emergency Room tonight. What's going on?"

Edward was passed tears, he refused to cry. No, now he was angry. She was too tiny. She was too beautiful. She was too important to be treated harshly by anyone. Through clenched teeth, along with clenched fists, he stood in the living room of his childhood home and did what he considered the most grown-up thing he'd ever done. He stood up for Isabella Swan. "Bella Swan. That's who is hurt by her dad. Dad has to stop him!"

Esme went to him then, motherly instinct kicking in. "Did you see her father?"

"No! I saw her, though! She lives by Emmett's friend and when I went over to her porch to say hi, she told he to leave before he saw me and her arms...there were bruises...and on her legs, too. He called for her and he sounded mad and she's scared, mom!"

"Okay. Calm down." She took him by the shoulders, looking deeply into his eyes. "Are you sure you aren't just misinterpreting this? Her father could get in a lot of trouble for what you're saying is happening. You need to be sure."

Edward would know later on that it wasn't about her turning her cheek and minding her own business. It had been about her making sure her young son hadn't gotten caught with a teenage girlfriend, pissing off the girl's father, and then over reacting when he retold the tale later. When Edward shook his head, taking his mom by the shoulders as she was doing with him and said, "Please, please help her," his mom sprang into action.

She called Carlisle at the hospital but he was with a patient. Edward felt like he was buzzing with adrenaline. Bella...Bella...please... "Mom, we can't just sit here!"

"Your father will call child services..."

"What if he's hurting her now?"

Esme glanced down at the house phone and then looked to the front door. "Alice!"

His mother had come up with a plan of her own. As Ally, his twelve year old sister, skipped down the stairs in her pj's, Esme kissed her forehead and then Edward's. "Stay with your brother. Don't kill each other. I'll be back in a little while."

'A little while' turned into six hours. Right around three o'clock in the morning, he had been lying on the couch, and he heard his father talking. "Take her upstairs." They weren't alone. He had jumped off the couch quick enough to see his mother leading Bella Swan upstairs. He had the unexpected urge to follow, to see for himself that she was okay.

Carlisle stepped in front of him before he could. "Give her space. Come on, I want to talk to you."

That night-well, very early morning-his father had explained that Bella would be living with them for a while. There was a chance that she would really need a friend. There was also a chance that she might not want to be around him at all. He was told to give her time. After their talk, he'd gone up to his room but noticed Bella coming out of the bathroom. They were headed back to their own rooms when she turned around, causing him to pretty much run into her. He caught her from falling, determined not to let her feel any more pain.

"Thank you," she said quietly, holding onto his shoulders. Her face was inches from his and it took a few minutes before he could respond.

"I wasn't going to just let you fall..."

"I mean about...earlier. Thank you."

He didn't know what to say. Telling her she was welcome didn't fit the situation. Instead, being the hormone-raged teenager that he was, he kissed her. It wasn't until she responded with kissing him back that he nearly did drop her. Regaining his composure, he lifted her up so that she was flat on her feet and walked away.

"Daddy, want peanut butter!"

The twenty-six year old Edward laughed as he woke up to his three year old jumping on the bed. "You can't eat just peanut butter, Trent."

"Aunt Bella does all time!"

He wasn't lying. To Bella, peanut butter was its own major food group. She was rubbing off on his son. That made Edward smile even wider. "How about we add some jelly and bread to that peanut butter?"

"Daddy, where's momma?" Trenton asked, stopping his bouncing and landing on the bed beside Edward. They were both staring at the ceiling.

"I don't know, bud."

Grabbing his son around the waist, he hoisted him above his shoulders and ran down the stairs with him. He kissed him on the head as he plopped him down on the couch in the living room. Jess was sitting in the recliner; it was obvious she'd slept there the night before. "Bella's coming to pick up Trent. We need to talk."

"Let me get him some breakfast first..." Edward said, heading into the kitchen. This wasn't good. He could hear the words now. Liar. Cheater. Divorce. Custody. The last was the only reason he didn't want to go through with a divorce. He couldn't leave his son. He'd seen what divorce had done to Bella. He wasn't risking some man he didn't know coming into his home and hurting his child. "Is Jacob in?"

"No!" Jess yelled back.

As if he didn't already know the answer to that question. He wondered when she'd start to connect the dots, when she'd start to realize that his absences correlated with Jake's leaving...or that he was more on edge when Jake was visiting with Bella. He wouldn't allow Trenton over there had Jake not been away; Bella wouldn't have allowed it either. Neither of them would have the heart to explain why Uncle Jake always yells at Aunt Bella...or why he hits her. Edward swallowed hard, as if the peanut butter he was currently spreading onto bread was lodged in his throat. He hated Jacob Black.

"Bella!" he heard his son yell before little feet made their way into the hard-floored entry way.

"Hey, buddy!" Bella exclaimed. Edward's blood pressure increased.

"Hey, Bella," he heard Jess's voice join them. "Thanks for this. I only need a couple hours. I was actually wondering...if maybe...I mean you and Edward have always been close..."

Edward rolled his eyes and smiled at Bella's response. "He doesn't listen to me, Jess. He never has."

Just then, Trenton came strolling into the kitchen and Bella helped him up onto a high stool in front of the little bar. Jess hadn't followed them in and Bella looked over Trenton's head to Edward. Today, she wore a pair of gray yoga pants and a white t-shirt; her hair was pulled back in a messy bun. Edward wanted to lick her neck. "Mmm. Peanut butter..."

As Edward set the plate down in front of Trenton, Bella grabbed the spoon from inside the container and bit down, closing her eyes and putting her head back. "Have you talked to your parents lately?"

"About what?" he asked, clearing his throat and trying to focus on cutting the sandwich in half.

"Ally's got herself a new beau."

"Oh, boy..."

"I think you'll like this one..." the mischievous way she said it made Edward frown.

"Who is it?"

Jess came in then, interrupting the conversation. "Who's who?"

"Ally's new boyfriend..." Bella began.

"Daddy, can we go grammy's later? I wanna go swimming!"

"Actually, Trent, we can go when you're finished eating," Bella said, ruffling the little boy's hair.

"Are you headed over there?" Edward asked.

"Yeah. Ally and I are helping her pick out paint for the pool house. We were going over there anyway."

"Alright. I'll grab his stuff."

When Edward was gone, Jess shook her head and nodded for Bella to follow her into the other room. "I don't know what to do, Bella. There's someone else. He hasn't touched me in weeks... There's nothing I can say. He's a good father. He's obviously a good friend. He's not a very good husband and that kills me but I really think we're both sick of each other..."

"Jess, I don't know what to tell you either. He hasn't mentioned anything about other girls to me. I'm telling you, we don't talk about that kind of stuff. There's too much...stuff between us to deal with the topic of other women that may or may not be in his life. If he does mention someone else, I'll tell you."

Both girls turned as Edward noisily came down the stairs, handing Bella a small bag that had a towel sticking out of it. "Everything from swim trunks to sunscreen is in there. Call if you need me. Are you planning to be there most of the day?"

"Yeah. Probably."

"Don't worry about bringing him home, then. I can stop by later. I want to see mom anyway."

"I done!" Trenton called, running around the corner and colliding into Edward-who picked him up and blew a raspberry on his belly. After getting him dressed and ready, they both came back downstairs and Trenton took Bella's hand. "I ready!"

"Alright, alright. I'll see you two later," Bella said, leading him to the door.

"Hey, wait!" Edward called, making them both turn back around. "Who's the guy? You never answered my question."

Bella gave him a Cheshire Cat grin as she continued to the door, opening it up for Trenton to step out.

"Jazz."

If that admission hadn't shocked him, the words out of Jess's mouth once Bella loaded Trenton into her car and pulled away did. "I know you and Bella's little secret. The two of you don't need to act like partners in crime. I wouldn't say anything to Jake..."

Edward felt like he was going to vomit...in fact he almost did. She didn't seem angry but she did seem sad. "Jess..."

"Before you say anything, just come sit down. We aren't having this discussion out here. Let's go into the living room."

He followed her in, wondering if trying to do damage control would even work. The web of lies was definitely getting more and more tangled. "I..."

"Just listen. For once, can you please just give me five minutes of your day?"

"Sorry."

"I'm tired of the late nights. I'm tired of the no sex. I'm not stupid but I am completely fed up with all of it."

"Bella..."

"What does this have to do with Bella?" Jess blurted, seemingly confused and irritated.

"Huh?" He had no idea what Jess was talking about now.

"I'm not talking about Bella anymore...I'm talking about you sleeping with other people..."

"I'm confused..."

"Edward, all I was saying was that I know Jake doesn't treat her very well. I'm not stupid. I saw some of the bruises on her when he's around. I know you know."

"Oh."

"I want a divorce. We've done everything you possibly could to still live together but I don't even consider us married. Couples therapy isn't going to work-you're never around to go with me. A romantic getaway is pointless because you won't leave Trenton for two whole days..."

"Jess, please. You can't do this..."

"Why the hell not? What does it matter? You don't love me!"

"I love Trenton!"

"That's not a good reason to stay together."

"You can't take him from me..."

"I would never keep him from you. Ever. He thinks you shit rainbows, Eddie. He's not stupid, though. He's growing up. He's going to know that you aren't the white knight he thinks you are. He's going to see that you aren't around. He's going to know why. I know you're seeing other women, Edward. I know that it's been a long time since you've really looked at me as someone you love. In fact, I don't even remember a time when it was that way. You married me because I was pregnant, not because you loved me."

"Jess..."

"I'm looking for a new place for Trent and I to stay and...'

"No. You get the house. Trent knows this as his home. I won't uproot him now. Jess, look, if this is really what you want, then I understand. I did love you and in a way I still do but there is...you aren't the only one."

"Well, from the fact that you aren't groveling for me to change my mind, I'm guessing we can agree to this?"

"What's going to happen with him? You can hate me, I expect you to, but I can't be away from him all the time. I love that little boy...he's my world..."

"Edward, it's going to take a lot of figuring out. A part of me is angry but another part is just so tired that I'm almost relieved this is over. I mean, we both know we were never particularly good for each other. I was pregnant and scared..."

"I never meant to hurt you. It's just..."

"I did love you. A long time ago. I love that you love our son so much. You're a good father, really. I just can't do this anymore. I'm not happy, Edward."

"I know. I loved you, too. A part of me always will but it's not enough."

Watching her cry brought tears to his own eyes. Reaching over, her put an arm around her shoulders and squeezed. "You know I'm still here for you...as a friend."

"Edward, who are we kidding?" Jess asked, grabbing a tissue from the coffee table. "We've only ever been friends. Thankfully, Bella was there to put you back together and no other girl got the chance to move in. God, we were so young. Now, though, apparently some other woman has swooped in."

"You going to be okay?" Edward asked, wiping a quick tear from under his own eye.

"Yeah," she smiled slightly. Then with a shake of her head asked, "What about you?"

"I'll be okay."

Walking up to his parents' house and going through the door that day was one of the most stressful things he'd ever done. It would take his mom a matter of minutes to realize he wasn't wearing his wedding ring-and it would take Bella seconds. Thankfully, she was out back in the pool with his son and his mom was nowhere to be seen. Approaching the sliding glass door that lead to the back deck, Edward looked out at the two of them, unable to keep the smile off of his face. As he watched her swim around as if playing some game with Trenton, he thought back to her first few days at the Cullen household so many years ago.

"Bella are you going to come down to eat?" Edward heard Esme ask through his bedroom door. He heard Bella muttered something unintelligible and then heard a door open. More talking ensued but the voices were too murmured to hear. Forcing his teenage self out of bed, he crept downstairs to find her sitting at the kitchen table. She looked pale and there was a bruise he hadn't noticed the night before on her right cheek. She clenched the seat of her chair with her hands and seemed to be hiding behind her hair.

"Morning, Edward. What do you want for breakfast? Bella refused to tell me her favorite so I'll let you pick. French toast or pancakes?"

"Easy choice, French toast," he smirked, plopping down beside the scared girl. She looked so small sitting there like that and he wondered if that was what she was trying to achieve. When Emmett came barreling into the kitchen, she jumped a little. Before Edward knew what he was doing, he had reached down and pulled one of her hands into his, bringing it to the table top and flattening it out in a calming manner.

"Bella! We have to do your hair after breakfast!" Alice beamed, skipping in behind them. Bella's eyes grew even wider. Thankfully, his mom stepped in.

"Ally, you need to calm down a little. Bella isn't a doll. Help Edward set the table while I start this. Em, go grab the newspaper from the porch."

Bella relaxed at that and Edward went about his chore. When there was a heap of French toast in front of them, Emmett's voice broke the awkward silence. "So, is Bella living with us now?"

"Yes," smiled Esme, looking over sweetly at Bella.

Looking to Edward, the forever un-tactful Emmett asked, "Isn't she the girl you made me leave that party for?"

Edward choked on his milk, practically dropping the entire glass onto the tabletop. Ally smacked Emmett and shook her head while Edward's mother tried to diffuse the situation. Bella, though, was staring at him with eyes wider than when she'd heard Emmett's loud voice. Clearing her throat, Esme sat up straighter and said, "Your brother knew she needed help so he helped her. He did the right thing."

"I was just stating what happened, mom..." Emmett replied with a little more attitude than was necessary.

It was obvious Bella hadn't really put two and two together; at least she hadn't figured out that he'd been adamant about his parents helping her. After the awkward breakfast was over, Edward followed Bella upstairs so that he could get in the shower and get ready to go over to Jasper's. The afternoon went by quickly but the outdoor pool was calling to him when he got back from his friend's house. He stepped onto the deck to find Bella in the most peculiar way. She was lounging back on a chair reading a book. This would be normal if the person wouldn't have been wearing a pair of dirty converse, a long-sleeved shirt, and a pair of jeans...in 75 degree weather.

He knew that he wasn't, but because of his involvement last night, he felt like he was more responsible for her than anyone else. So, he approached her carefully and sat down. She watched him but didn't say anything. "Bells, it's way too warm out here for that thermal shirt..."

"This is what I wore here. Your mom gave me some of your sister's pajamas last night but this is the only set of clothes I have. Everything's at my dad's. This book is from your dad's little office."

Edward nodded. "Well, obviously Ally hasn't gotten a hold of you yet. She'll have a closet full of clothes ready to go for you the second she realizes you need things. I'll be right back, okay?"

"Um, Edward?"

"Yeah?"

"Thank you," she smiled through tears that were starting to form. "It's not always that bad but last night was..."

"Hey, you're okay now. Are they going to let you stay here permanently?"

"I think so. I don't know. If I go back there, Edward, he's going to kill me."

"I won't let that happen," a naive, teenage Edward said reassuringly. "I'll be back out in a minute."

So, he sought out his little sister. Alice was just getting ready to go to Rosalie's when he knocked on her bedroom door. His poor parents were constantly shuttling them around to their friend's houses. "Um, I need your help but you have to promise you won't get too excited...Bella doesn't have anything. She has no clothes, no books, nothing. She's going to need something to wear today until we can take her... Alice!"

Edward was already chastising the little ball of energy. She literally jumped to her closet and began pulling out one thing after another, holding it up, and tossing it back in. "We can have a makeover!" she had exclaimed.

"No. Just give me a new set of clothes for her. She's upset and I highly doubt a makeover will cheer her up. Besides, I thought you were going out with Rosalie tonight. You need time to get ready." Edward couldn't help but roll his eyes at that, this was the only time he was grateful for his sister's hour long, leaving the house preparation. Alice slumped a little in defeat and handed him two pairs of jean shorts, a purple cami, and a band t-shirt. He averted his eyes while she dug through her underwear drawer and then looked down as she set two pairs of underwear with the tags still on them and one lacy white and one lacy black bra on top of the pile he was already holding.

"These should fit her. I bought them for Rosalie's birthday next week and I think they're about the same size in that um...area."

He swallowed hard but managed to get out, "What about socks?"

She just shrugged and gave him another new pair and then handed him a gently used pair of flip-flops. "It's too warm for socks today."

Walking it downstairs, he handed the pile to Bella who immediately began to blush at the pretty bras. Edward regretted not just letting Alice handle the situation. "Thanks," she said softly, taking the clothes and going into the house. He expected to see her back outside in the tank top and shorts but she came out instead in the band t-shirt, her jeans, and the flip-flip flops. A part of him knew she was wearing a set of underclothes but he was now in his swim trunks and for being a teenage boy, he didn't want to think about that at the moment. "It's really warm out here. Are you sure you don't want the shorts?"

Covering her arms, Bella shook her head. "No."

It wasn't until the next day that Edward suggested she buy a bathing suit while she was out shopping with Alice that he found out what was wrong with the more showy clothes. Alice had texted him to say that Bella absolutely refused to show her any of the bathing suits but Alice could see bruises on Bella's lower legs under the changing room door. He vowed to talk to her to try to make things better for her, so that night, he knocked on her door and she quietly told him to come in.

"Bella, why won't you ever wear shorts? It's nearly eighty degrees. School will be out soon...it's practically summer time."

"I can't."

"Why not?" he pushed.

When she began to cry again, he fought the urge to pull her close and hug her. Instead, very slowly, he reached over and took the bottom of her pant leg, pulling it up as gently as he could. "Edward, don't..."

It was too late; he already exposed some of the black and blue marks. "Bells..." he gasped.

"I told you not to. It's hideous. Please just leave."

"No. I just... Does my dad know it's this bad? Has he seen them?"

"Yes. They took me to the emergency room two nights ago. Please, please, just let this go..."

"You're really pretty," he blurted, panicked a little by the situation that was kind of his fault.

She blushed a deep red and brought her legs up to her chest as she sat on the bed. She didn't say anything but she did smile; he could tell she was trying to stop it, though. "Do people at school know about what happened?" she asked out of the blue.

"No. At least I don't think they do. I didn't say anything to anyone and mom and dad have Ally and Em sworn to secrecy. It's not our secret to tell."

She just nodded and picked at the seam of the comforter. When she looked up at him again, he realized there was no reason for him to still be there but the way she was watching him made him unable to move. Finally, he cleared his throat and said, "No one else is home. Do you want to go for a swim?"

She looked at him with a raised eyebrow and it was his turn to blush. "Um..."

"I didn't mean it like that! I didn't mean that we would...I just meant because Alice said you didn't want to be seen in a bathing suit and..."

Laughing softly, Bella shook her head and nodded. "A swim sounds fun."

The problem was, in a way they did let what he hadn't meant to happen begin to happen. They were just swimming laps when he stopped to rest, holding onto the side, when she swam over. They got to talking about school and friends, safe topics that wouldn't upset her, and before he knew it, they were kissing. Really. Kissing. As a teenager, he hadn't thought of how vulnerable she was or that he might be taking advantage of her and she didn't seem to want to pull away at all either.

His mom came home to find them talking and laughing and holding hands, thankfully she hadn't shown up sooner, but it was enough to worry her. She and Carlisle had discussed this. They didn't want two teenagers living together and in a relationship like that, looking back Edward understood it but he'd always hold a grudge over what happened the third day she was there when his mom sat them down separately and told them that it wasn't going to happen. Bella was already the only thing Edward could think about and it would cause a lot of arguments between him and his parents over the course of his and Bella's high school career-all up until they left for college.

Mesmerized by Bella and Trenton in the pool together, Edward couldn't help but notice the way Bella's suit clung to her. She was still tiny and he bet she could still fit in the bikini Alice had bought for her all those years ago. Her body had always been the one thing that could excite him, no matter how inappropriate the location. He looked to Trenton, watching as he splashed and smiled in the water, knowing if he kept looking at Bella he wouldn't be able to walk comfortably out to greet them. Once he was in decent shape to move, he slid the door open and called out a 'hello'.

"Daddy!" Trenton yelled.

"Hey, bud. Are you being good for Aunt Bella?"

"Yes," he said, trying to sound annoyed, like it was a stupid question but not quite pulling it off in the adult-like way he'd wanted to."

"He's always good for me," Bella chimed in, tickling the little boy and making him giggle. Then holding her arms out, she let him jump back into the water and caught him. Trenton's hair, which was usually spiked up, was now falling down in his eyes and Bella pushed it to the side, kissing his forehead. He needed to remember to take him for a haircut, the kid's hair grew fast...hell, he'd been born with practically a full head of it.

Edward sat down in a lounge chair and watched for a few more minutes before Bella pulled herself up the ladder-a sight that he loved-and he began drying off his son. Standing, he wrapped a towel around Bella, and had to refrain from hugging her. "Esme left to go paint shopping. Alice is all excited about it now."

"Well, there's something we need to talk about anyway and time for this one to take a nap. Come on, I'll put him down in my old room."

When they were both seated at the kitchen table that they'd eaten thousands of meals at, Bella leaned forward, "How's that left hand feeling?"

He smirked, knowing she would have noticed that. "A little lighter."

"Oh, yeah?"

"Yeah," he sighed, figuring he might as well get this over with. "Jess and I are both agreeing that it's what's best...for both of us. I don't think she's entirely happy with our life together..."

"She's sleeping with Mike," Bella interrupted quietly, reaching for an apple from the bowl in the middle of the table.

"Christ..." he Edward breathed out.

"I'm sorry. I heard it from Lauren but didn't believe her at first. You know how she can be."

"Why do you believe it now?"

"Because she wouldn't have let you go if there wasn't someone else for her to go running to."

"I suppose I deserve this."

"So, are you still going to keep this up? This little thing we have? What about the other girls, is it just not that exciting anymore? Do you regret it?" Every one of those questions could have sounded accusatory but she seemed genuinely curious. There was one question that he had trouble answering. I don't regret it. I'm not walking away from what we have and...Bells...there are no other girls. There never was..."

The shocked look on her face quickly changed to anger. "But I thought...you always made it seem like there were others. It was just me, then?"

"Why are you so mad at me?"

"Because I thought this wasn't about us. I thought this was just about you. My God, I single-handedly ruined your marriage!"

"Bells, you never did like Jess. You used to beg me to leave her and not just because you wanted me. You are happy with Jake. You just hated seeing Jess and I nag at each other all the time." He rolled his eyes at the 'happy with Jake' part; they both knew she lied when she told him that.

"I have to go." Edward watched her slide her chair back and throw her half eaten apple away. He couldn't believe she was having this reaction. He didn't really know what he expected but Bella being angry when Jess didn't even seem that angry made no sense to him.

"Where are you going?"

"Home!"

"For years this place was your home. What the hell do you have to go home to? Jacob?"

"Don't start on me about this again."

"I love you. Of course I don't want to see him do this to you anymore. Bella, we can call the police and get a restraining order against him. The two of you aren't even married! He has no power over you! I'm tired of having this conversation with you over and over again! He's going to seriously hurt you...or worse."

Spinning around, she glared at him so menacingly that he thought she could burn him to death with it. "You're throwing away your marriage because of me. Edward, do you know how fucked up that is?"

"You'd rather have the shit beat out of you by that asshole than be with me. Do you know how fucked up that is."

"You married her!" Bella replied as if that was the reason for this crazy thing they had going.

"You left! You fucking left! You got that scholarship senior year and we planned for college together and you got accepted to the ivy leagues and I only made it to community college and the next thing I know, it's five years later and I'm graduating, and I haven't heard a word from you in just as long. You walked out of this house that day and we literally never saw you again. Do you know how bad that hurt?"

"Your parents made it clear that they didn't want us together from the start..."

"What the fuck did it matter at that point? Christ, Bella, we lost our virginity to each other!" That seemed to quiet her and he couldn't even think straight, remembering that day. From the faraway look on her face, he knew she was thinking about it as well.

About two years after Carlisle brought Bella home, Edward and Bella found themselves left at home one night-which was rare when there were four other people living there. It was one of those times when he was 'broken-up' with Jess, which happened just about every other day and in high school no one thought twice about it. In fact, the girls seemed to love spreading the rumors about them and sucking up all the information about the drama. In their small town, there wasn't much else for teenagers to do.

Anyway, they had just finished watching the movie and, just like something out of a teen movie, she fell asleep and ended up leaning on him. It would have been fine had she not been wearing a tiny tank top that showed a lot more cleavage than his seventeen year old self could handle. He had no choice but to shift a little, trying to get comfortable in his too-tight jeans. It woke her up. Instead of her just pushing away and saying some type of apology, she just looked at him for a few moments and then an expression crossed her face that clearly showed that she had decided she was comfortable and if he didn't have any objections, she wasn't moving.

Soon, he found his hand on her side...then her hip...then he was holding the back of her leg as she laid on the couch, leaning against him. Seconds later, she sat up a little-and he pushed her up with the hand that was already on her leg so that she could bring her face up to his. Their lips met and the rest is history-as was their virginity. Neither of them really had a firm grasp on what they were doing but Edward was smart enough to remember where his big brother kept condoms. They had made it upstairs into his bed and it was definitely a learning experience for both of them. He lasted about thirty seconds and Bella wasn't even over the pain before he was done. He played around with her, though. Eventually, they did get better at the sex but the relationship would forever remain foggy.

He loved her. She loved him. It sounded like a perfect story but they were both taught that it was a bad idea. He really did understand how his parents felt but they sometimes made it seem like Bella and Edward were committing a huge sin by being in love. They weren't brother and sister. She was a friend who had come to live with them. Had Bella moved in during her college years, they probably wouldn't have cared. Still, a stigma always hung over their heads. So, he continued the immature high school relationship he had with Jess, barely considering himself her boyfriend. He never slept with her and they barely went on dates. When they did date, they were with friends. Jess really just seemed like an attractive friend.

Bella and him, on the other hand, were constantly with each other. Emmett was away at school and Alice was younger and didn't have the same group of friends. Edward and Bella studied together, read the same books, watched the same TV shows, anxiously awaited new movies to go see at the theater, and talked every night before bed. Sometimes, those talks turned into something a little more x-rated but they were always discreet and never let on that anything was happening between them come morning. Looking back, Jessica was just a way to get his parents off of his back when they said he was spending too much time with Bella.

Regardless, he had hoped that living away at college would provide Bella and himself with the chance to be together and not have to hide it. Surely his parents wouldn't care that they were together now that they were both older and not living under their roof. That dream was shattered when Bella left for a ridiculously expensive school and he was stuck in Washington. Within the first few months, Bella completely withdrew from him. They weren't really boyfriend and girlfriend and he also wasn't dating Jessica anymore.

His heart had broken the night Bella sent him a text, yes, she said this through a text-Edward truly came to hate text messages after the history he had with them, and explained that she could no longer speak with him. She had met a guy and fallen in love. His name was Jacob Black and Edward knew there was something seriously wrong with this guy from the beginning. Of course, stubborn Isabella Swan would never listen to him. He tried to intervene but eventually just gave up completely when she wouldn't even respond to his texts. It was over between them at that point and he suffered her prolonged absence right along with his family, knowing that they didn't understand even half of the feelings that he was going through.

He suffered through, though. While throwing himself into schoolwork and a music fraternity, he eventually got over his broken heart and even dated a few girls here and there. One girl he dated almost a year before they parted ways. Still, he never felt the same emotional devastation with those break-ups than he did just by thinking about Bella. After graduating, he had met back up with Jess and before he knew it, was buying a house, planning out a nursery, and throwing a shotgun wedding. Still, it felt like something was missing.

That something, or someone, showed up at the worst possible time. Three months before Trenton was born, Bella had contacted Alice to let her know she'd graduated with a degree in English Literature and was moving back to Washington. Word quickly got out and his mother welcomed Bella back with tears and open arms. His father went along with it. Alice took her on a celebratory shopping trip and Emmett had been away at school for most of Bella's time at the Cullen residence so he couldn't care less. Edward was the only one who couldn't come to terms with it. Even Jess, his new wife, was happy. He nearly killed over the night Jess mentioned that she had invited Bella to Lauren's birthday dinner. It was the first time Edward saw her in years and he didn't make it through the dinner. He left while everyone was ordering dessert, claiming a stomach ache.

Anyone else there who didn't know Bella that well, which was everyone that was there, would have thought she looked like her old self. For Edward, who had loved her through the worst time in her life, knew she was anything but okay. He'd seen that fearful look on her face before. He also didn't buy her bullshit story of why she chose to come back to Washington when she had smiled and said she just loved the small town. No, that was not the real reason. She was running from Jacob Black. He knew that was the issue but it wasn't like he knew her well enough anymore to confront her. That night, and for weeks afterward, he would lie beside Jess at night and think nonstop about his lost love and her safety.

Jess and Bella ended up becoming friends and it wasn't awkward because he had begun to completely avoid Bella. If Jess knew of their history, she never let on. A few months later, Trenton Mason Cullen came screaming into the world and Edward would be awake at all hours of the night for other reasons besides Bella. His life revolved around work, diapers, arguments with Jess, and exhaustion. Still, as much as he came to loathe his wife, he came to love his son tenfold. When Jess suggested Bella to be the Godmother, as she was close with Edward's family, Edward agreed. He actually had a full conversation with Bella the day she accepted that role and it was the first time he noticed the bruises.

She stayed only a few hours at the house, eating quickly and then leaving. She did tell him that she and Jake fought a lot so she decided to get a place of her own back in Washington. Now, though, Jacob had realized where she was and would make frequent visits to see her. He would forever work down south but always made trips up to see her. Edward didn't know why he bothered. All Jacob ever did was smack her around.

The night Jake hit her with the vase was the first night she'd called him. Jess was out with Lauren and he was home by himself. Trenton was staying with his parents because they took him to visit with Edward's aunt and uncle. Feeling strange for the opportunity to be by himself, Edward chose to stay in and get a few things done around the house-like unclog the bathtub drain and fix the garbage disposal. So, when Bella called, he dropped the wrench and headed over, scared to death that she was worse than what she was making it out to be.

That night, he'd sat the whole night with her, first picking out little shards of glass from her rib area and then helping her into the bath to get the dried blood off. Of course it hadn't been about sex. Still, the overwhelming feelings he had always felt for her began to trickle back. Shortly later, they slept together while Jess was away at the beach with Lauren and he was home by himself with Trenton. As Jess pulled further and further away, so did Edward, right to Bella. She made his life feel not so frustrating and she was always so good with Trenton.

Looking at her now in his parents' kitchen, with Trenton sleeping above them, he decided that it was probably best to just give her space. "I thought you were leaving."

"What about you?"

"I'm going to be crashing here for a little while. I need to talk to my mom about all of this. Besides, I don't want to disturb Trenton."

"Yeah, I shouldn't be here when you tell your mom what happened."

He just nodded and she gave a sad smile before turning to leave. When he heard the front door close, he climbed up to his old room and laid down beside his son. He knew he couldn't spend the rest of his life worrying solely about Bella. She'd made it clear that she didn't want his help and he had someone else to live his life for. The little boy in bed beside him snored away contentedly and Edward tried to sleep himself. He didn't know how long he was laying there but eventually the front door closed and he expected to hear his mom come looking for them, instead, about five minutes later, he felt the bed sink down and a body press into his back. He knew exactly who it was then.

Pressing her lips to the back of his neck, she put her arms around him and then whispered in his ear, "I'm sorry. I shouldn't have left without saying it back. I love you, too."

Turning to face her, Edward tucked her hair back behind her ears and kissed her forehead and then her lips. He thought back to when he'd said he loved her a little while ago in the kitchen when he was telling her about Jacob. He couldn't believe that it bothered her so much that she hadn't said it back to him at that point. Resting his head back onto the pillow, he held both of her hands in his and stared into her eyes, just as he used to when she'd have a nightmare involving the demons from her past and she would sneak into his room to seek his comfort. "Bella, you shouldn't be here. My mom will be home soon. We should go back downstairs at least."

"I agree to the downstairs part but I disagree with the first part. What we have isn't wrong and I'm tired to hiding it. I'm not keeping this from anyone anymore."

"Really?"

"If it's okay with you. I mean, God, we've spent almost a decade trying to hide how we feel about each other. I love you. I'm tired of us hurting each other and other people because we feel like we're doing something wrong. I want this. I want you. I'm sorry for earlier..."

"Shh..." Just then the front door opened and footsteps were heard in the entryway. "You're sure about this?" he asked.

"Yeah."

"Once my family knows, it will get back to Jess. She's a friend of yours. Are you sure about this?" he asked again, sounding even more careful.

"I'm only friends with Jess because it allowed me to stay close to you and Trenton. This is going to get messy. You have a child and Jake...well...yeah."

Edward wondered if it was possible to quit smiling. He'd wanted this since he was fifteen years old. He needed her, beside him, forever. "So you want to try this? The two of us in a relationship?"

"Yes. I'm truly tired of trying to stay away from you. I can't do it anymore."

"Well then, come on. The sooner we break the news to my mom the better it will be for everyone."

"What about Trenton?"

"He already loves you but he does have a mother. I'll never take him away from Jess but I know that you'll be there for him as well. Let's just take things slow. We waited over ten years for this. Why should we rush it now?"

Bella smiled and kissed his cheek, pulling herself up off the bed and waiting for him to stand up as well. Taking his hand, she walked him towards the door, bracing herself for the sit down with his mother. "And Jake? He'll try to hurt me again. He'll come after you. He's going to want me dead, Edward."

Thinking back to all of those nights ago when she'd said the exact same thing about her father made his stomach turn. The fear that brought tremors to her voice made him see red. Rubbing a small circle on her hand to calm her, just as he used to do before, he said once again with conviction, "I won't let that happen."

"And Edward?" Bella began with a small smile. "I promise to never call you Eddie. Ever."

Edward beamed, loving her all the more. He couldn't help but laugh. How his own wife didn't realize how much he hated the nickname she'd given him he would never know. This was just one of the five hundred reasons that he and Bella were bound together. They had history, they knew everything about each other, and they accepted each other regardless of each of their flaws. Holding Bella's hand as they made their way down the stairs, he couldn't help but think that love did that to people. It bound them for life. No matter how many people were against it, he knew there had never been anyone better for him than Bella Swan. It was time they both faced that truth.

This was a contest piece done for the Hope Springs Eternal Contest. I've discussed it a few times with my beta and have considered hashing the thing out and making it into a story. Either way, I hope you enjoyed it and would love to hear some feedback. Please leave me a review! Love, Letzy xx

Also, a current contest underway, the Show Me You Patriotism contest has a lot of great entries! Please check them out and remember to vote for you favorite! Who knows, you just might pick mine :) u/3982269/ SMYPContest