Something's Got a Hold of Me

May 1996

~AL~

How do you mend a broken heart? Can someone really forgive and forget? I asked myself those things everyday, but all I really wanted was to just forget it all. However, it was too difficult to forget when the problem insinuated itself in your life daily.

After Edward and I spoke at the beach, I had been avoiding him at all costs. He had been shoving himself in my face at every opportunity, and it was affecting my feelings of the whole situation. For some reason, he'd been working all the same shifts as me. He'd ask me daily to eat with him, he come in my office to talk and wouldn't get the hint when I'd ignore him, and he'd bring me stuff all the time. This afternoon it was a Starbucks coffee and a Snickers bar sitting on my work area with no note or anything, but I knew it was from him.

My heart ached too much to forget it all. And how could I forget when I loved that man with all of me. Instead of being angry with him, there were times I wanted to reach out and touch his face or kiss his full lips. Then I'd start to picture his beautiful mouth all over that bitch's and gag.

Rose and Alice had been busy with Emmett and Jasper, so we hadn't hung out much. I saw them almost everyday since we all worked together, but I felt awkward hanging out with the four of them. Not wanting to feel like the forth wheel, I'd go home after work instead of joining them at the bar. Rose would tell me to go out with Paul, Leah's brother, since he was so interested, and Alice would tell me to give Edward another chance. Yeah, Alice was pissed off at what he did, but she also said he was so sorry and she'd never seen him try so hard. She was rooting for him.

Paul called me constantly and we talked long hours about everything and nothing. Yes, he was gorgeous and sweet and just different, but, regardless of all that, he just wasn't Edward and that's where my heart was. And this whole thing was so weird because every time I spoke to Paul and enjoyed the attention; I felt like I was the one betraying Edward. How messed up was that?

Sitting in my office waiting for more flights to come in, my phone rang. Speaking of the devil. It was Paul.

"Hey," I said.

"How are you?" he asked.

"Good, tired. Just got home from work." He sighed. "Bella, can I ask you something?"

The change in his voice caught my attention right away. A bit surprised and scared, I answered, "Sure."

"It's just, well, I really like you and I've enjoyed our conversations, but I'd love the chance to take you out. You know, on a real date." He sounded so nervous.

My heart stopped beating for a split second in surprise –in shock. The words wouldn't process, my brain stopped working, and I had no answer to give him. He was such a nice guy and I didn't want to hurt him, but I knew I wasn't ready to move on, date again.

"Bella, are you still there?"

My body felt so tense and rigid. I allowed my elbows to rest on the table in front of me, one hand with the phone to my ear and the other holding my head up.

"Yeah, I'm here." I took a deep breath and exhaled slowly. I wanted to lie and say my calendar was too full or I couldn't get a babysitter. But he'd know and it wasn't fair to him. "Paul, I want to be honest with you because you deserve that. I like you a lot, you're a really nice guy, but I'm not sure I'm ready yet." Then I almost said … maybe I'd never be.

I heard him sigh again, and this time it sent a pain straight to my chest. Hurting him, hurt me.

"Listen, how about we compromise? Meet halfway. I'd love to grab a bite to eat with you, spend time with you in person, and talk some more. But, can we do it with no pressure? I mean, as friends."

"Yeah, sure. That's good." He sounded resigned.

It took us a few more minutes to make our plans, but he seemed much happier once we set it all up. My head lowered to the desk as I placed it on my folded arms so I could rest my eyes just for a few moments.

"Who was that?" Startled, I turned around to see Edward leaning against the wall next to the door. His posture stiff with his arms crossed over his chest. The expression on his face was hard, but he still had his sunglasses on so I couldn't see his eyes. When did he come in, and how long had he been standing there?

I narrowed my eyes at him, because, really, he had no right to ask me that.

"A friend." I didn't feel like being cooperative.

He took a few steps closer to me. His posture and the lines on his forehead showed his displeasure with my answer.

"What friend?" he asked, taking off his sunglasses and slipping them in his shirt pocket.

I stood up and sat on the worktable so we were eyelevel. Did I mention the conversation Rose had in front of Edward one night at the bar? I wasn't there, but Alice told me about it, and Edward expressed his displeasure with me. Rose let it be known, loud and clear, how much she wanted me to move on and give Paul a chance. So, Edward knew about Paul and the fact that he had been pursuing me. And I was sure he heard our conversation or at least some of it.

"Paul? It was him, wasn't it?" He clicked his tongue, shaking his head.

The expression on my face remained neutral. He wanted to be confrontational, I understood why, but I needed time without the pressure of him breathing down my neck. And I understood he was stuck in limbo wanting to resolve our issues, but I couldn't yet.

"Am I wasting my time? I mean, I thought we working on things." He scrubbed his face with his hands in frustration. "Look, Bella, I know I have a lot to make up for, and I'm prepared for the work, but you're not even giving me a chance." Walking toward me, he pulled out my chair and sat on it, facing me.

"I don't want to stand in your way of happiness, but I want to be the one to make you happy. The thing is, I know I can. It's … it's just … I fucked it all up, but I need you to give us a chance … me a chance." He leaned forward and grasped my hands.

"I love you, but if you really want me to let you go, you've got to let me know."

My heart stuttered in my chest, while tears pricked my eyes. Those words didn't sit well with me. I seriously felt anxiety at the thought of letting him go all together. Never seeing him again, or knowing that he would be mine if I wanted him to. It caused a serious wave of panic to go through me. So, I decided to voice my thoughts.

"Edward, I'm not ready to work on things yet, but I'm not ready to let the idea of us go either. I told you I needed time to think about things." I pulled my hands out of his and wiped my tears. "I love you. Perhaps I can forgive you one day, but I'm not sure I can ever forget. Do you get that what you did will leave a scar on me forever?"

~AL~

A few days before our non-date-date, Paul called to confirm. It was set that we'd meet at the restaurant. I truly didn't want him to pick me up that would make it more of a date than I was comfortable with.

So, on Saturday night, we met at a Peruvian restaurant in Torrance. He was waiting for me in the lobby and must have been watching the door, because as soon as I walked, in he strode toward me. Then it turned a bit awkward. He leaned over to hug me and I stuck my hand out for a shake. I felt bad, and hugged in that half-hug way guys do.

He looked really nice and smelled good, too, but he'd never be an Edward. Nobody ever would. There was no way I could ever stop comparing everyone to Edward. But I hoped Paul and I could become good friends, nonetheless.

"Hi. How are you?" I asked.

He smiled. "I'm good, thanks. You?"

I nod. "Good, yeah, thanks."

Paul led me to the chairs in the waiting area. "The host said it would be about a fifteen minute wait. Would you like something to drink from the bar?"

Glancing at the bar, I thought about whether it was a good idea or not. I felt a little nervous, and, perhaps, one drink would relax me a bit.

I raised my eyes to his and answered, "A beer would be great, thanks."

~AL~

The food was fantastic and the company was great as well. Our conversation flowed about light and easy topics. He asked a lot about Matthew, which I found quite nice.

"You know, I can't wait to have kids some day," he said.

I nodded, but the nerves crept in again. I hoped he wasn't hinting about having children with me. But I remained cool and collected, because when it came to Matthew, I was happy to discuss him with anyone willing to listen.

"They're fun and it's so rewarding. I love watching my little guy grow and learn. It's so amazing."

"I can imagine. Are you close with his dad?"

"Um, no, not really. At one point, he was one of my best friends. I think we crossed that line, mistaking love for deep friendship. Of course, it took me a while to realize something was wrong with our marriage. We were living like roommates for a couple of years, and, finally, I decided to get out before it got bad. But it ended up being bad anyway, he was a quite bitter with the whole idea of moving out." I shrugged.

"Sorry to hear that. Is that why you're not ready to date?" he asked. His face, so manly, strong with hard lines and scruff, but his expression was so open and eager. I had to look away, I felt so bad. This is a man that would make a woman very happy one day, but regardless of how nice he was, he just wasn't for me.

I shook my head. "No, actually I just got out of another relationship. The truth is, I met him while I was still living with my husband. And we clicked, and I realized I had a chance at true love. I just couldn't stay with Mike knowing that it was possible to feel that way." I explained, openly and honestly, everything that happened with Edward.

"Wow. And you love this guy?"

"Yes, I do." I could tell by the look in his eye and the tone of his voice that he wasn't judging me. He just really wanted to know.

With a nod, he asked, "And will you forgive him?"

I shrugged. "I want to. But I'm still hurting from it all. It's going to be hard to do, and I know I'll never forget. I don't know what I'm going to do. I just wish it never happened."

"Hmm, well, I can understand all that. But one thing I learned in life is if you truly love this man and he's capable of redeeming himself, then give him a chance. People make mistakes, but we are not our mistakes. Some like the feeling and keep doing it, but others realize that's not what they're about. They learn from it."

"Yeah, I think I believe that. It's just too hard to get over the pain."

"I understand, but you have to decide if he's the kind that learned or the kind that will keep doing it. And if your love is enough to get through it, you'll have to forgive him."

"You're right. I do. This needs to be settled either way."

"Bella, I like you. I really do. But I can see underneath all that hurt how much you love him. And I know a guy like me would never get a chance with you and all those feelings."

I laughed a little, because he was right. Regardless of how nice of a guy he was, I could never give my heart to him or anyone else, when it already belonged to Edward. It was time to make a decision.

~AL~

I hope some of you are still with me. I appreciate your patience so very much, as I've needed it. Hopefully, I can get back on some sort of schedule. No promises, but I'll try. Just remember I will finish this. :)

Thanks.