A small note to start regarding the tragedy in Paris this past weekend and all of the attacks occurring from terrorist groups. It's awful and heartbreaking and no words can really comfort those affected the most. We can only hope for change. Love instead of hate.
This story has political themes and I know my own personal views comes through at times. However, I am not trying to demonize any affiliations or groups and I hope nobody is offended from anything in this fic. Most of the poking (especially at the GOP) is done for humor in the story. Anyway, I just wanted to clarify that this fic isn't meant to demean anyone. That's the last thing I want, particularly when there are such tragic things going on in the world which are being debated and influenced politically right now.
Thanks to Julie, Liv, and Steph for prereading. Also much love to the mini. Thanks for the laughs, support, and everything you give every day.
I'm always tinkering with my docs until posting and any errors are mine.
My father watched our approach with his usual expression of calm and superiority, while my mother didn't even attempt to hide the cold gleam of calculation in her eyes. I had seen that look many times growing up and each step we took closer increased my wariness.
The positive side was that although we were backstage, there were still plenty of people and cameras around. Her behavior likely would be at the very least hospitable with so many eyes and ears honed on us.
In fact, she swept me up in a hug as soon as I was close enough. "It's wonderful to see you, darling," she said loud enough for others to hear, her fake hug almost crushing. "Why are they all here?" she hissed in my ear, her normal vitriol plain and clear only to me.
And maybe to Edward, who squeezed my hand in support.
I sighed, wishing there was some way to speed up time and have this ordeal already finished. This short stop was solely for the benefit of the campaign—damage control, according to Caius—and I couldn't wait to be back on another plane and headed for the start of Edward's promo tour. I didn't see our side trip so much as damage control as a way to bring a peaceable solution to everything.
Making a few appearances in support of my father and putting on a façade of a big happy family for the cameras was a way to show my father's political realm that Edward and I were happy. We were married. We were a proper and complete family with nothing indecent or immoral happening. It was a way to keep scandal away and unattached to my child. The true reason for all of this.
I didn't think Edward completely agreed with this assessment or my reasoning, but he was here anyway.
Because he loved me.
And that was an even better reason.
Yes, our literal marriage between liberal Hollywood and conservative Republicanism was unorthodox, but Edward and I worked. We were good together and perhaps the demonizing of each side toward the other could be dampened instead of inflamed by our mutual affection.
At least that was what I hoped.
"They are all here because we are on our way to Japan for the first premiere and stopped here to do this for you."
She pulled back with a small snort, muttering. "They could have waited at the airport."
Esme sailed in to stand next me, grinning. "Then we wouldn't have had the pleasure of seeing you again. I've so been looking forward to it."
"Mom." Edward let go of my hand and moved to her other side, keeping a firm grasp on her punching arm.
Mother briefly narrowed her eyes at Esme and linked her arm around mine. "Well, regardless, only you and…" She paused, glancing from Esme to Edward. "Your husband will be needed with us on stage. After that will be an interview for the four of us with Bill O'Reilly."
Edward grunted. "Wait. You mean that Fox News blowhard—"
Father stepped into our close circle, clearing his throat loudly to drown out Edward's words. Caius then popped up in the middle like a jack-in-the-box with a clipboard.
He stared down me and Edward. "You two will just smile and nod. I have already arranged that you will get no direct questions. You only have to be there. It's a show of solidarity."
Jane appeared and nodded grimly. "Yes, that is all that was agreed to. No interviews for Edward or Bella."
Mother gripped my arm tighter and glared at Jane. "First of all, this is my daughter. Second, I don't know what right you think you have to say what and when anyone can say or ask anything to her. Third, it's moot anyway since Caius already took care of the terms to this interview."
I was about to speak up on Jane's behalf but she beat me to it.
"Oh, I have every right," Jane said, flames in her eyes. "We represent Bella now."
Father leaned forward, almost in a whisper. "Not here, Renee. We can discuss it privately later."
Jane was steaming mad from the look on her face, but kept her thoughts to herself. Edward seemed to be enjoying the little show between Jane and my mother, but I wanted to move things along. The sooner we got this over with, the sooner we could be on our way.
Caius seemed to be of a similar mind because he quickly got us organized and heading toward the stage. I disentangled myself from my mother and held fast to Edward's hand. Our progress was slow, with father taking every opportunity to shake hands and chat up several of the big donors lining our path.
"That beady-eyed dickhead could be a movie director," Edward murmured in my ear at one point.
I stifled a laugh. It was quite a production they put on when they wanted to with Caius whispering to my mother the names of the next cash cows in sight while Father chatted with others. Then vice versa. It made the donors think they actually knew all of their names.
Edward was even brought into the schtick unwittingly as a distraction when several of them wanted to shake his hand. I was happy he kept his cool and obliged without argument, although he did send me a few private eyerolls for dramatic effect.
Edward could always keep me smiling.
We finally made it to the stage, running into the Peter Ryan entourage on its way off. Mr. Ryan was my father's biggest obstacle in his bid for the Republican nomination. He was a fiery, opinionated, pulpit-pounding politician with zero tolerance for anything. At least that was the persona he seemed to take on in the public eye. I knew better than anyone what the media pundits and rumors proclaimed about a person didn't always match up to reality.
However, Mr. Ryan had two points against him in my opinion.
One, I had already met the man once and he didn't leave the best impression from my recollection. It was years ago, and it likely had nothing to do with me since I was usually only used as decoration, but he wasn't a pleasant man. The fact he and my father didn't get along probably increased the discomfort factor. Although, now perhaps I would have a different perspective considering I didn't like my parents much either.
Two, I was told he was the person who leaked the news about our pregnancy. I wasn't sure if I believed that or not. Edward didn't. He thought it was my mother for sure.
Our respective groups passed each other with little fanfare, but my father turned to Edward as we waited for our signal to come out.
"Did you see the commercial Ryan started running in New Hampshire?"
"Well, considering I live in California that would be a no."
I bit my lip so I didn't smile from Edward's sarcastic tone, but Father rolled along like he didn't even hear it.
"All family values. He's making me sound like some degenerate low-life. Like I have a team of gay immigrants in my living room performing abortions for fun."
Edward shook his head. "And I suppose that's my fault?"
Father waved his hand. "No. Not really."
Edward was about to remark, probably about the not really, but Caius gave Father a signal to come onstage. I shrugged at Edward and mouthed I was sorry. There was no excuse for my parents' behavior sometimes but it wasn't unexpected either.
He made a funny face at me and leaned over to whisper in my ear. "Do you think the family values voters would like it if I pulled a pair of your panties out of my pocket and waved them around during his speech?"
I laughed into my hand, hoping he really wasn't carrying around any of my underwear in his pockets, yet knowing the probability was high he had done just that.
We followed my parents onto the stage, the roar of applause deafening and the bright lights blinding. I wanted to keep hold of Edward's hand, but we were instructed not to touch each other on the stage. Only to stand side-by-side behind my father.
That was the big one.
We had to remember to smile.
No matter if we had heard the speech—or some variation of it—a million times before.
I tried to listen and be involved, even if it was only in a peripheral capacity. I really did. But this was the first time I had Edward standing next to me at one of these functions and I was curious what he thought of it all. Of course he would tell me all of his thoughts afterward, and I looked forward to the comedic relief of those, but there was something to be said about being in the moment.
I glanced quickly at Edward to find him standing tall and beautiful, a small smile gracing his sculpted face. He looked perfect.
I knew at once he wasn't paying a bit of attention and wanted to laugh again. Biting my lip, I brought my focus back to my father. He spoke about making government smaller and fixing national deficits that made us vulnerable to other countries. He talked about national defense and being the most powerful nation in the world. As he went, the crowd grew louder and louder in support.
My father had always been a top-notch public speaker. That gene obviously decided to pass me by.
I was even starting to be moved by his rousing words and peeked over at Edward again to see if he felt anything.
My stomach flipped when I saw that he was staring back.
I quickly turned toward the crowd, already feeling the blush fire on my cheeks. But then the crowd, the speech, my parents, they all went away when I felt the featherlight touch of Edward's fingertips brush down my arm, along my wrist, then slide over my palm until he was holding my hand in his.
They might not have wanted us to touch each other, but there was no way I was letting go.
With the speech over, Caius quickly ushered us to a quiet conference room set up for a television interviews. I smiled seeing that Jane had bullied her way into the room and was harassing someone wearing a headset. They seated us around a small table where I took a place between my mother and Edward. The crew chatted around us as we waited for Mr. O'Reilly.
My father leaned across the table toward Edward, speaking quietly. "Listen. We've decided to take the campaign in a new direction. Instead of trying to move farther to the right, we're going to appeal to more moderate Republicans. There is no way for me to sway some of the ultra-social-conservative voters at this point. I need to reach the ones who have more modern views. Caius thinks we can pick up a lot of people in the more populated areas. Big cities, particularly in the Northeast and California."
Edward stared at him like he had three heads. "Why are you telling me this? I don't give a f—" He broke off, sending a fake smile at Mother's gasp. "Flip."
Father sighed and gave Edward a reproachful glance. "I want to work with you on some rhetoric regarding the next debate in a few weeks. You are part of my people now. You should know these things."
Edward shook his head. "Uh, no. I'm not part of your people." He pointed at me. "I'm her person. I'll show up and wave when we have to, but that's it. Keep the rest of this shit to yourself."
Father seemed dumbfounded. "Don't you care about the government of our country?"
Edward shrugged. "As long as I have running water, I don't need to know how it got to my house. I figure the same goes for the government."
Father's face kept turning more red and I hoped he wouldn't have a heart attack right here in the interview room.
"Do you even vote?"
Edward leaned back in his chair, tilting his head as if thinking hard. "Once or twice. Well, once. I'm pretty sure."
I reached across the table and grabbed Father's hand before he started spouting the importance of democracy and how a single vote made a difference.
"I promise to make sure he's registered for the next cycle, even if we have to vote absentee."
Luckily Edward didn't have time to respond because Mr. O'Reilly finally arrived and made his greetings while getting wired up. Edward did find the time to tickle my knee under the table and make me squirm. He smirked when I pushed his hand away and tried not to giggle.
Then Mother poked my side and ended the moment with a hard stare. I didn't know how she knew what was happening under the table, but she could probably detect any happiness within a mile radius and felt it her duty to extinguish it.
I held back a sigh and fixed my public mask of dignity on while straightening my posture. Edward continued to slouch back in his seat, perhaps a small act of defiance.
Jane and Carmen were stationed just behind the cameras, and I gave Jane a nod when she smiled over at me. Edward and I were not supposed to be asked anything, but I knew it was best to pay close attention to everything said just in case.
The first few questions were routine and Father reiterated parts of the speech he had just given. However, I stiffened slightly when I heard Mr. O'Reilly say my name.
"So, now that your daughter, Isabella, has married the famous Edward Cullen, has your campaign changed at all?"
There was a definite pause before Father answered and I wondered if this was unexpected. We weren't supposed to talk but I wasn't sure if it had been agreed upon that there would be no talk about us.
"We're extremely happy to welcome Edward to the family. Having a new son of the house has not changed any of our campaign goals in the slightest. He's been a joy to have around, and as you can see, is very involved and interested in the process."
Edward's knee bumped mine and it took all of my strength not to look over to see his expression. I only hoped he was keeping a straight face.
"Yes, but there are rumors that more than a few in the party are unhappy with your recent politics and are throwing their support to Peter Ryan instead of you. What do you say to these?"
"I don't respond to baseless rumors, and I'm afraid that's all you've got there, Bill. We are full steam ahead, and in the lead in all the polls by the way, toward the Iowa primary in February."
It was clear Mr. O'Reilly wanted to dig deeper and poke the bear, but held back due to whatever arrangements had been made. I knew we were being let off the hook, whether because attacking my father so soon after grandfather's death would look bad or maybe there was some exchange of favors or money. I didn't know the real reason, but it was a relief that the interview wrapped up with no further commentary on me, Edward, or our marriage.
And especially not the pregnancy.
The only reason I agreed to help was because I thought it was what would be best for our child. It certainly wasn't for my parents. So, not having to delve into mine and Edward's personal life with interviewers was a bonus.
The whole ordeal hadn't been nearly as bad as I feared, and I actually felt hopeful about everything. The baby, the campaign, even my parents.
As soon as it was over, we walked over to the next room, Jane and Carmen both full of compliments for the interview going off without a hitch. They then left us at the refreshment table and Father asked Edward to join him for a moment.
"Where?" Edward asked. "We need to be back at the airport soon."
Father nodded. "It will only be a minute or two. There are few people who would like to meet you."
Edward glanced at me and I nodded. It was fine. I would just have some orange juice and wait for him. Unfortunately that left me alone with my mother. She didn't wait long after they had exited to make me regret letting Edward go off without me.
"That wasn't too horrible, I suppose." She stared at me over her glass of wine. "It would have gone so much better if James was here with you instead."
I gripped my glass tighter so it wouldn't accidentally fly out of my hand and spill all over her Chanel suit.
"I guarantee it would have been much worse since I can't stand him."
She sniffed. "See how you talk now? How you act? Ever since that actor got his hooks into you, you've been impossible." She frowned and looked me over, up and down. "If your antics ruin this campaign, I will make you regret it."
I clenched my teeth, keeping myself from screaming. "You make me regret a lot of things." I placed my glass on a table and turned to walk away.
She grabbed my arm before I could leave. "You never listen. I tried to warn you. Tried to get you the best, but you threw it all away. You should have gotten rid of that little bastard you're carrying and done the right thing."
I snapped. It was like watching from above while someone who looked a lot like me swung her other arm around and slapped her own mother's face. It wasn't clear which one of us was more surprised, but she let go of her grasp on me and held her hand to her cheek.
Both my voice and my body were shaking, from shock and from rage. "You're right about one thing. I've changed. Changed for the better. Meeting Edward was the best thing that ever happened to me. I'm happy. We're happy." I swallowed the tears in my throat and lifted my chin. "I actually feel sorry for you. You will never know love or happiness like I do because all you have inside you is greed and malice. You spread your hate everywhere and one day it's all going to come back on you. You're the one who will end up living with all the regret."
I turned and stalked toward the door. Being anywhere else would be better than being in the same room with her for another moment.
She didn't let me leave without one last parting shot, though.
"I should have just gotten rid of you like I wanted to instead of listening to your dope of a father."
I opened the door, swinging it so hard it hit the wall with a bang, and rushed out of the room. My eyes were stinging with tears, but I wouldn't let them fall. Not here. Not in front of her.
I was barely paying attention and almost ran over someone as I stormed out.
"Oh, I'm sorry," I said. "I didn't see you. Please excuse me."
He apologized too, but I didn't take any time to listen to him. I had to get away. I had to find Edward.
But it wasn't Edward who found me hurrying down the hall, it was Esme.
I stopped and spun around at the sound of her voice, but couldn't yet look her in the eye. If I did, I knew I would break down and that was not an option.
"Are you okay, honey?"
I nodded. That was all I could do. The lump in my throat was too big for any words to come out.
She didn't push me for anything else. She simply took my hand and led me toward the rest of the family. I could almost feel my strength returning with every step we took.
"Whatever it is, it's over now. We're leaving."
I forced my mask back on, more than ready to be away. But even though we were leaving, I had a feeling it wasn't completely over.
When we boarded the plane and finally took off, Edward let out the biggest sigh.
I reached over to hold his hand, sending him a smile. "I'm so proud of you. You made it through the whole rally without once saying the F word."
He raised an eyebrow in my direction. "Believe me. It was on repeat inside my head." He brought my hand up to his mouth, kissing my knuckles. "You know, after I made that last round with your dad and Jane corralled me, we ran into that Peter Ryan guy on the way back to you."
He nodded. "Yeah. He was quiet about it, but he just said he wanted to let me know it wasn't him or any of his staff who leaked our news."
It was likely someone from our side had done it to get us in the game. At this point, it really didn't matter so much who.
"Are you going to tell me what's wrong?"
I looked back up to find him watching me and shrugged. "Why do you think something's wrong?"
He snorted. "Because I know every look on your face."
I smiled. "Not every look."
"Yes, I do." He kissed my hand again. "Your face is better looking than mine, and that's saying a lot, so I have it pretty much memorized."
I laughed and unclicked my seat belt, leaning over to rest my head on his shoulder. "Something did happen, but I really don't feel like talking about it now. Is that okay?"
He put his arm around me. "You never have to do anything you don't want to do with me. You know that."
And with that, he let it drop just like I knew he would. In fact, he didn't say much more, both of us trying to unwind and digest all that happened. When the stewardess came by with drinks, Edward downed a couple bourbons and fell asleep soon after.
I was happy he was relaxed, but I couldn't stop thinking about what my mother had said to me.
She had never wanted me born.
That was a pretty awful thing to know.
I placed my hand over my belly, sending my own child a silent promise that there would never be a moment when he or she wasn't loved and wanted.
AN: Next up will be movie promo time. Red carpets and interviews and parties.
Oh, and Kate.
Thanks to those of you still reading and reviewing. I appreciate it! I'll be working to get this story and my vamp fic finished as soon as I can.
I haven't been reading much fic lately, except Getting Blitzed by Nolebucgrl and Negative AB by ooza (both are great!), but I have been reading a ton of books. I've been sucked into the Outlander world quite deeply and my love for Jamie knows no bounds.
My friend Olivia Evans (aka Livie79 in Twific) has her second book being released on December 1st! It's called Brooklyn & Beale and it is a must read. I just love her characters and the story so much. I hope you will support our fandom authors, buy a copy and check it out!