After three failed attempts to hold a phone conversation with Isabella Swan, I give up and bury my phone under a mountain of laundry while I distress.
The ironing board, a brand new can of starch and a pile of clothes in various sizes.
Small school uniforms, a few dress shirts and business slacks.
I should call her. In some cosmic way, I feel I owe her that much. She is in fact the reason I have a happy daughter sleeping down the hall. But every time I hear her voice, broken and hesitant, I clam up and shut my damn phone like a coward.
Sure she could call me back – my number's popped up three consecutive times – but she doesn't. She's giving me the space I asked for and I'm playing with her like she's a fucking yo-yo.
In truth, my emotions and thoughts are pretty unstable lately. I would kill for a beer right now, but I don't consume alcohol when Marley is in the house.
I press half a dozen shirts on autopilot, stopping when I burn the hell out of my thumb with the iron. I head to my office to do some business and am surprised to see an email waiting for me on my private account.
No heading and a few simple words, but they're effective.
There is absolutely no pressure here. Take your time and I'll be here when you're ready. Please, for my sake, don't call until you're ready.
~ Isabella Swan
I feel like such an asshole.
I reach for my phone and realize it's in the hamper down the hall. Perhaps it would be easier to email her. Let her know that I got the results, but what could I say?
Congratulations! It's a girl.
I dig my phone out of the laundry basket and call my mom. It's late but she's a parent and always just a phone call away. She's disappointed in how I've handled the situation.
"What are you hoping to get out of this conversation, Edward?"
I run a hand threw my hair. "I don't know. I was a mess when I got the results."
"Oh, sweet boy," she coos. "Why don't you just call her? Don't hang up this time and make arrangements for you to see her face to face? Perhaps it would be easier in person."
"I'm not ready for her to be close to Marley." I sigh. "I don't think I will ever be ready for her to come around."
"And that's why you need to meet with her. You said she lives in Seattle? Why don't you arrange to fly out there? Marley can come stay with Nana and Pawpaw." She breathes heavily. "I know it's difficult, sweetheart. We never thought something like this could happen when you decided to adopt."
"Yeah, no shit."
Another deep breath. "You can't treat her like this, Edward. She never asked for it. Call her and figure it out. I'll wash Marley's favorite sheets and tell your father to go buy a tub of Moose Tracks."
"Her favorite is pumpkin at the moment."
She laughs. "Of course. Stop stalling, sweet boy. Call her."
She hangs up without another word.
I find Isabella's number in my history. One ring, followed by another... and another… and another.
"Hello?" She sounds utterly defeated.
I open my mouth but nothing comes out.
"Please… say something. Anything," she pleads.
"I got the results," I blurt out. "I– I would like to meet with you."
She gasps. Probably in shock that I've finally spoken.
"I'm not comfortable with the idea of you coming to Florida though. If you don't mind, I would like to come out to Seattle. I can't promise you anything other than a conversation though. Please understand that."
She sniffles. "I'll take whatever you have to offer, Mr. Cullen." I then hear the sound of rustling papers.
"I'd like to come out soon. My mother offered to keep Mar– her." I take a deep calming breath. "Would tomorrow be too soon?"
Another gasp and some more rustling fills the silence. "No. Not at all. Give me one second to pull up flights and I'll order your ticket. I haven't flown in a while so I don't know what kind of information I'll need."
"That won't be necessary. I'll pay for my own ticket and rent a car once I get there."
"But…" she sighs. "You're coming out here for me. The least I can do is pay for your plane ticket."
"Like I said, it won't be necessary." I reach over and grab my laptop. "I'll book a flight and call you when I land. We'll figure everything else then."
"Thank you, Mr. Cullen. You don't know what this means to me."
"I'm not promising anything, Miss. Swan. My daughter's wellbeing is of the upmost importance and I won't compromise that whatsoever."
The door to my office swings open with a loud bang and Marley's red tearstained eyes find me.
"Daddy, I had a bad dream," she cries.
It's quiet on the other end of the phone and I'm frozen in surprise.
"Who are you talking to?" Marley asks, rushing over to me. "Is it Nana? Is it Rose? Is it Pawpaw? Uncle J? Can I say hi?"
"Shh… No, Muffin. Give me just a second and I'll take you back to bed, alright?"
She sniffs and nods her pretty little head.
I turn my chair around and whisper hurriedly. "Miss. Swan, I'll call you when I land."
"Oka–" She's cut off by a sob and she hangs up.
"Who was that, Daddy?"
"Just a telemarketer."
I have to explain to a four year old what exactly a telemarketer is as I prepare her a glass of warm milk.
"What was your bad dream about?" I ask, leaning against the counter while she sips from her X-Men coffee cup.
She winces and shivers. "You 'member that big spider that chased me and Nana out in her flowers?"
"It climbed right in my window and said 'I'm gonna eat you, Marley.' And I screamed and ran. And then I woke up."
"That sounds terrible."
She nods stiffly.
"Guess what?" I ask as she rinses her cup.
"No. You get to go have a long sleepover with Nana and Pawpaw tomorrow."
Her brows furrow. She clenches the towel in her hands. "Why? How long? Where are you going to be? Are you going to be lonely?"
"No, Muffin." I pull her into my arms and she clutches my shirt. "Daddy has to go on a quick trip to Washington. Do you know where that is?"
She shakes her head and burrows into my shoulder.
"It's way across America."
"How will you get there?"
"I'm going to fly in a plane."
She gasps. "Can I go? Oh please, Daddy? I want to fly! Oh please? Please?"
"Not this time, Marley."
She asks me why.
I never lie to my daughter.
"There's a lady that needs to give me something out in Washington. I'm going to fly out there and get what she has to give me and then I'll come home to you."
"Is it important?"
"Is it about my birthday?"
She yawns. "What exactly then?"
I kiss her head. "We'll talk about it when I get back."
"Can I sleep with you in your room tonight?"