After our therapy session, I took a cab back to the office. I would have loved to go home and had time with Bella but Carlisle and I had to get our job finished. Surprisingly, the project did complete on time. I still ended up working late as the client wanted to take Carlisle and me out for a drink (or three) to celebrate. Okay, it wasn't really 'working' late but I couldn't exactly say no. Networking is a huge part of my job and imperative to my business. It means that sometimes I have to hob-knob even if I don't particularly want to.
When I got home after nine-thirty that night, Bella was in the living room and put her laptop away as I walked in. I was pleasantly surprised at the gesture especially since at therapy she seemed less than enthusiastic. I mean for someone who wanted therapy she wasn't as receptive as I thought she'd be once we got there.
"How did it go? Did you manage to get the job finished?" Bella genuinely looked interested as she asked.
"We did. Somehow, with hard work from our team and sheer good luck, the job wrapped up on time just before six."
Bella looked at her watch. "It's quarter to ten. What have you been doing for the last four hours?"
When I told her we were invited out for drinks to celebrate, she was less than impressed. Bella turned it around to make it seem like it was my idea to go out for drinks; that I chose my job over her. No matter how many times I tried to explain myself she twisted things so I was the bad guy once again.
"We had our first counseling session today and I guess I thought maybe tonight would be different. I thought you'd want to be home with me."
Once again, it was like I was talking to a brick wall. How many different ways could I say the same thing? Bella simply wasn't getting it.
"God! Why can't you understand that I had to go?"
"How'd you like it if I blew you off for the evening?"
I said nothing but the look on my face gave myself away. What? I'm a guy and it had been a long while since I'd had any sort of action. A night of my wife blowing me off sounded good. And, apparently, too good to be true – Bella's face told me she clearly wasn't amused.
"Can you be serious?"
"Can you give me a break? I bet Esme isn't bitching out Carlisle right now about going for a few drinks after work."
"Carlisle and Esme aren't having problems in their marriage, are they?"
"Nice." Bella spat as she brushed past me.
Sure, I could have let her go, but I didn't want to. Truthfully, the last thing I wanted was to fight. I was exhausted; fighting took energy I didn't have. I wanted to work with her, not against.
"Walk away from me. I'm sorry, okay? I am. I would have much preferred to be home with my girls but I was obligated to go out. I wish I could make you believe that."
"All I wanted to hear was 'I'm sorry." No 'buts' afterwards, just 'I'm sorry.'"
"I'm sorry. " I gave her a smile, a peace offering. "Why don't I pour us a glass of wine? We can sit on the couch and talk about our day."
Thankfully, Bella agreed.
As we sat together, I asked her to tell me the three good things from her day, as instructed by the therapist. Number one was that we went to the counseling session. Two, that the girls went right to sleep at bedtime, and three was that she got some writing done while she was waiting for me.
When she asked me about my three positive things, I should have taken a page from her book. Instead I told her I was glad the job finished on time so we avoided penalty. That I was happy being home with my feet up on the coffee table and finally, that I had the next two days off.
"You don't think going to therapy was a positive thing?"
"No, no I totally do."
"Why didn't you list it then?"
"I don't know. I was thankful for those other things. Does it matter?"
"It mattered to me."
"Well, sorry I didn't give the answer you wanted me hear."
Bella rolled her eyes.
Fuck! Why did everything turn into an argument?
"You know what, going to therapy was the highlight of my day. Better?"
"That's not….Never mind it's fine."
I knew it wasn't really fine but I wasn't about to argue that moot point. If she wasn't going to share how she really felt then screw it - I wasn't going to pull it out of her.
"Jake said we're supposed to talk about the negatives of our day. Why don't you start?" Bella looked at me expectantly.
Before I thought any more about it, I said the wrong thing. Again.
"It certainly wasn't fun to come home from work and get bitched at by my wife."
Yes, it was most definitely the wrong answer.
Bella got up and stormed out of the room. My dilemma was if I should follow her or not. I rolled my neck as I debated and then went after her. Bella was in our room, sitting on our bed. Just sitting there. Hands in her lap, blank look on her face.
"Fuck, I'm sorry. I keep saying the wrong things. I'm being honest but maybe I shouldn't be. I don't know." I drew my hands through my hair in frustration as I sat down beside her.
"I'm sorry I bitched at you when you got home. The whole night I was feeling bad that you were working so late and it turns out you were at a pub. I understand it was work related but it doesn't make it any better. I always feel like I come in second place."
I wanted to interrupt to correct her – make her understand that she was always the most important thing in my life but I kept quiet and let her finish.
"You work long hours, come home, and the girls crave your attention because they haven't seen you all day. After they're in bed, you're either on the phone or working on proposals for work. And tonight I played second fiddle to drinks with the guys. That stung."
I sat down beside her.
"Bella, it wasn't drinks with the guys."
"I know that, but it felt like I wasn't a priority for you once again."
"It's not like that. Fuck. My job's important. When you chose to stay home with the girls—"
"We chose, Edward."
"Fine, when we chose for you to stay home with the girls we knew what it meant, mostly longer hours for me. I don't think you realize but that puts a lot of pressure on me to provide for my family. Yes, I have late business meetings, often work from home, and have drinks with clients. I don't want you to feel like you're in second place but if I don't work, we don't have money coming in and our whole lifestyle would change. Is that what you want? I'm not being facetious - I'm genuinely asking. If you want me to scale back, then you'll need to go back to work."
Bella shook her head. "I want more time with you. You, Edward. Don't you get that?"
"I want that, too. Sometimes, I feel like I get home from work you're too busy for me. You're either with the twins, writing, or talking to your online friends." I shrugged because it was a two-way street.
"First of all, yes, I'm with the girls a lot. Hello? I'm the mom – the only parent they see some days."
"It wasn't meant as a dig, I apologize. I'm simply stating a fact. And yes, I'm on the computer at night after they go to bed. I need down time too."
"Don't take this the wrong way but is it really so hard being with the girls all day? I mean they have a two and a half hour nap in the afternoon. I'd be putting my feet up and talking to my friends then."
"Edward, when was the last time you did a load of laundry? And I mean washed, dried, folded and put away? Not just start the washer?"
"Vacuumed? Washed the floors? Grocery shopped? Dusted? Scrubbed a toilet? Watered the plants? Fed the stupid fish?"
"Uh….we have fish?"
"Exactly. Those things don't magically get done. I'm not sitting around on my ass all day. There's still a household to take care of. And if you're not doing it, I am."
"I guess we each have different roles we've taken on. I pay all the bills; do maintenance on the cars; take out the trash. Maybe we should have a check list for the jobs we do?"
"And who's to say that taking out the trash is more important that scrubbing the toilets? Should we keep score of how many diapers and or accidents we each clean up in a day?"
I chuckled. "I think you'd win that one."
"I know I would."
We sat on the bed, not touching and not speaking for a moment as we both reflected on what the other had said. Maybe she had a point. Perhaps her 'job' was as important as mine.
"I didn't think this would be so hard." Bella finally broke the silence with a quiet voice.
"Being married with kids. It's hard. I'm not saying I'd give back Avery and Audrey because I love them to death. But I do want a break from them sometimes. Having kids has changed us. I miss how we used to be." Her shoulders shrugged up.
"I know what you mean. I miss the nights we'd spend making love, and lazy, naked Sunday's fucking the day away."
Bella shook her head like I'd missed the point. "Not just that, Edward. I miss us. Talking without fighting; holding hands while we watch TV. You know, the other things that also make us a couple."
Oh. Yeah, I meant that, too.
"You heard Jake today, it's everyday couple stuff. We'll get past this. You, uh, didn't have a whole lot to say at the session though." I was trying to word things carefully so I wouldn't get myself into trouble. Again.
"Yeah, well, I was still upset about the fight we had the night before."
I nodded because I could appreciate that.
"And honestly, some of your comments today ... well, they sort of pissed me off."
"I'm really trying to make an effort here even if it doesn't seem that way." I reached for her hand, threading our fingers together. "I really do like that we're talking more."
"How come every time we talk turns into a fight, though?"
I shook my head. "I don't know. We've got some shit to figure out. But we made the first step today seeing Jake."
"Thanks for agreeing to go."
"It was the right thing to do. I realize that now."
We each got ready for bed after that, brushing our teeth side-by-side. We worked in synch; I'd brush, she'd spit; I'd spit, she'd brush. I know it's stupid, but it made me smile. I spit for the final time and rinsed out my mouth.
Bella answered me with her brush still in her mouth.
"I love you."
Bella removed the brush and looked at me for a moment, like I'd said the most obscure thing ever. I moved close enough so I could encircle her into my arms. Instead of molding herself into my embrace, she pushed against my chest, breaking us apart.
"I 'ave to spit," she explained. Leaning over the sink, she spit and rinsed her mouth out before she turned to face me again.
"What did you say?"
"I love you." I nodded as I re-confirmed my words. When she didn't say it back, I admit, I started to panic. Telling someone you love them without the immediate confirmation is rather daunting, especially in the light of our current situation. I looked deep into her eyes, trying to decipher the tears that were forming. Did she not love me anymore? I was afraid to question her; scared to know what she was really thinking but either way I had to know.
Then I realized it didn't matter. I loved her. I knew that in my bones. If she didn't love me, well, I was going to have to fight even harder to make her fall in love with me again. As I was about to give up - on hearing the words, not on us - Bella lifted her hands up. I placed mine against hers - palm to palm – and our fingers threaded together.
When Bella finally spoke, she didn't say the words I'd hope she say in response to my 'I love you.'
"I know you do."
I changed my mind - it did matter. In a big fucking way! 'I know you do'? What the fuck was that supposed to mean? It wasn't good, that's for damn sure. If our hands hadn't been clasped together, I would have been clutching at my chest in a desperate attempt to quell the pain in my heart.
"Wow. Uh…" I tried to walk away from Bella but she held fast to my hands.
"Don't! Let go of me."
Bella released my hands, dropping hers down to her sides then looked down at the floor. I wasn't having that.
"Look at me," I commanded. I needed to see her eyes when I asked my next question, her eyes wouldn't lie, even if her words did. Slowly, she looked at me, tears pooling.
"Do you love me? Tell me honestly, Bella. Because if you don't love me anymore, I…we… fucking hell." I looked away, not wanting to know the truth because it might be the death of me.
She paused. She fucking paused!
I pulled back, not to walk away but to sink to the bathroom floor. In shock I sat there, with my head on my knees, arms wrapped around them. In therapy, Jake had asked if we were still attracted to each other and she'd said yes, but attraction didn't necessarily equate love.
My wife didn't love me?
What the fuck?
Bella sat down beside me on the bathmat, resting her head on my arm. Her tears stained my shirt but still she didn't utter the words I longed to hear. Inside, to my core, I felt completely empty. Void of comprehending anything let alone what the words 'I know you do' meant.
We didn't speak as we sat there. What was there to say? The woman I gave my heart to seven years before didn't want it any more. My mind was empty, my body numb. I didn't even have it in me to cry – there simply wasn't anything left of me.
Eventually Bella stopped crying. The silence in the room was deafening to my ears and each passing minute I felt more and more alone.
At some point we made our way to bed. Though farther apart than we'd ever been before, I was desperate for her touch. I reached for her hand in the darkness and held on for dear life – for she was my life - and she was slipping away. Though I had a death grip, Bella never let go. I didn't know if that was pity or a possibility. I prayed for the latter but it felt like I was hoping against all hope.
I can't wait to read your thoughts on this chapter.
Thanks to Lolo84 and Capricorn75 for their dedication with this story. Thank you for reading.