Chapter Fifteen: Found
Time is of the essence. I was surprised to find how fast it had started it move, after moving so slowly for so long. Autumn was here, and Charleston was beautiful. The air was crisp, and the leaves were changing to their fall colors.
A lot of positive things had come forth in the months that had passed. I sold my house, which thankfully Jacob's parents didn't care about, and was now living with Rosalie. I enjoyed living with her, but I was in the slow process of finding my own, much smaller, place. Truthfully, she loved having me around, and I was glad to have the steady company. She had been incredibly busy planning her wedding, which would take place at Emmett's house on the beach. I needed to find a place soon, before Rosalie moved out, but I promised to look after the boutique while she was away on her honeymoon.
I was afraid of lapsing back into a depression; that's the last thing my baby and I needed. So, I decided I had to keep myself busy. Rosalie lived above her boutique, so I started helping her around the shop when I wasn't writing. In fact, I was waiting to hear back from a publisher about a small novel I had finally completed. Billy had helped me get it into a well renowned publishing company.
I wrote all the time now, and it was funny to me, because I had to experience such sadness and loss, just to be able to write. But, I wrote about love, the love I learned through Edward. Though it was too brief, and he was no longer in my life, I still thought of him more often than not.
There was still no word, and no sign of where he was. To me, it literally felt like he had vanished into thin air. If I wasn't pregnant with his child, it would be as of he never existed. I stopped trying to understand it all a long time ago, but each time my mind slipped, my hand went to my growing stomach, and I smiled.
Soon enough, by the end of next week in fact, I would know the sex of my child. Rosalie wanted it to be a girl, naturally. I would love a girl of course, but secretly, I prayed for a boy. A boy with green eyes and bronze hair would be ideal.
It was a Wednesday afternoon in September, and I was watching Rosie's Boutique while she stepped out for lunch. She was bringing back Subway, and the baby in me couldn't wait to be fed. I was organizing paperwork on the counter aimlessly and had helped a couple customers with their purchases.
There was a woman who shuffled through some clothes before bringing a few items to the counter. I recognized her immediately, and frowned.
"Jessica Stanley?" I choked.
"Hey, Bella! Wow, I didn't know you worked here."
"I don't. I mean, I'm just helping a friend out."
"Rosalie is divine, isn't she? Her craftsmanship is perfect. I don't wear anything else but her clothes."
"That's kind of you. I'm sure you're excited about her contract with Belk."
"You better believe it!" Jessica smiled widely. Her short brown hair was styled perfectly, her acrylic nails fresh, and her smile was fake. She dated Jacob in high school before he dumped her for me. I cringed at the memory. I took her items and began to type their codes into the scanner.
"I'm sorry about Jacob," she said quietly. I nodded.
"It's sad," I agreed. I could feel Jessica's eyes on me, and it made me as nervous as it did in high school.
"Bella Black!" she boomed. I squinted my eyes. "Are you with child?!" Her southern accent annoyed me. And who the hell said that sort of thing anymore? I turned to face her slowly and nodded once.
"Oh, how wonderful," she gushed. "A part of Jacob to have forever!" I laughed nervously.
"When are you due?"
"March," I said.
"I better see a baby shower invite!" I forced another smile and placed her purchased items in a bag. Should I tell her that the baby isn't Jacob's? I wasn't ashamed of it being Edward's, but I also felt that it wasn't any of Jessica's business at all, so I kept my mouth shut.
Suddenly, Rosalie burst through the front door, saving me from Jessica. She was carrying a bag with our food, and held a bright green flier in her right hand. She hurried over to me after saying goodbye to Jessica, and flung the Subway bag onto the counter. She shoved the green flier towards my face. I frowned and took it tentatively.
"Read," she commanded. I chuckled and looked down to the paper, losing my breath at the sight of "Edward Masen" written in bold font. My eyes looked back to Rose, who nodded knowingly to me.
"Edward Masen," my throat burned at the sound of his name coming through it, "Is to be awarded Best Acrylic Artist of the Year, Thursday night at eight pm." I finished in a whisper. I hesitated, then threw the paper in the trash can next to me. It stared up at me, so I kicked it over.
"Bella," Rose said.
"No," I snapped. "No way. He left. Why should I go to him?" Rose leaned forward on the counter and tapped her chin.
"I dunno... hmm, because you're carrying his child? Oh, and because you fucking love him?" she offered. I shook my head and tried to fight the truth of it all. "You can't say he never tried for you, Bella," she whispered. My shoulders dropped.
"What would I even say now?" I asked, defeated. "After looking for so long and finding nothing, I couldn't bare it now."
"You tell him the truth," she replied simply. I groaned as I looked down to my belly. I pointed to my pregnant stomach.
"He'll see this, and immediately freak out."
Rose smiled. "You're barely showing, and you can wear a loose shirt," she said with a roll of her eyes. Rosalie knew that I was trying to get out of going in any way I could.
I looked down to the hand that rested over my stomach nearly all of the time, and thought about what my child would gain from having its father around. I instantly began praying to whomever would listen, that Edward would listen, too.
"I guess I should start with an apology." Rosalie nodded sweetly.
And Edward needed to know about our baby.
The Gallery of Artist Awards wasn't far from Rosalie's place. In fact, it was only two blocks away, so I decided to walk, hoping the time and chilly air would help me sort my thoughts. I had many different ways that I wanted to approach Edward. Sadly, it was with every emotion imaginable. I wanted to cry in his arms; I wanted to slap his face; and, I wanted to yell in his ears. I wasn't sure which one of them would actually happen, though, and that worried me. First though, I would apologize to him.
I stood idly in the back of the gallery that was littered with esteemed artists and their families. A local newspaper team was here as well, but enough time had passed since Jacob's death, that I was considered old news. Rosalie dressed me in black slacks, teal flats, and a bright yellow shirt. It was technically a maternity shirt, but they were worn popularly enough by people who were not pregnant, that I could get away with it. The hardest thing to keep from doing was touching my stomach. It was like second nature to me now, but it would surely give my secret away.
I felt pretty, with my hair pinned back and a little makeup on my pale face. Rose said that if it ended badly, at least I would look good, and Edward would know it, too. It wasn't until I finally spotted him that I wished I could turn and leave unnoticed. He wore a linen khaki suit, light brown shoes, and his hair was as wild as the sky in a summer storm.
I stayed hidden behind people when the ceremony had finally ended. Edward carried his new plaque around proudly, and I found that I was happy for his grand achievement. But, now it was time to confront him. He stood on the opposite side of the room, looking better than ever before, smiling with other artists for the newspaper.
I carefully maneuvered through the crowd and broke free into an open space. It was then that Edward's green eyes found me. His smile dropped from his face just as a photographer's flash went off. Then, his smile returned, and it was wide as he stared at me. I frowned, confused. Wouldn't he be mad at me? I shuddered, and slowly slipped back behind some people after Edward gave me a nod.
After a few minutes of waiting outside the gallery, Edward finally walked out. My stomach hurt the instant I saw him again. The chilly night air helped keep my cold sweats away. His white linen button up was open at the top, reminding me of his chest hair. His smile made me blush, though I wasn't sure why.
"Hi," he said, sporting his crooked grin. I smiled, and took the flute of champagne that he was offering me. I kept it far away from my mouth, though. Since getting pregnant, a strange twist of fate made the smell of any alcohol make me nauseous, but I thanked him anyway.
"So, how have you been?" he asked, nonchalantly. That was when the anger returned to me. He was starting with pleasantries, after he left with no word? After all of the searching I did? Apparently in Virginia, his parents had chosen to remain unlisted. Wasn't this the twenty-first century? Maybe he was expecting my anger.
"Fabulous," I replied sarcastically. Edward turned and looked out at the street. "I sold my place and live with Rosalie two blocks down. You?" Edward nodded, then shrugged his shoulders and sipped his champagne.
Then, something bubbled from deep within me, and I couldn't catch it before it escaped.
"I'm pregnant," I blurted. Edward's head snapped to the right, back to me, and his jaw was slack. I nearly squinted my eyes, preparing myself for the blow, but it never came. His eyes flashed down to my stomach, then back up.
"I'm happy for you," he said sadly. I frowned.
"Happy for me?" I scoffed.
"I guess you got what you always wanted from him." His voice was quiet, but it was laced with venom and agony.
"It's yours," I spat angrily.
"What?" he replied immediately. The look of disbelief on his face was gut wrenching.
"How could you think it was his? I told you how long it had been since he and I," I cut off, unable to finish. This wasn't about Jacob, and I didn't want it to become that way.
"How is it mine?" he asked. "Especially after all that talk of you not being able to carry a child." He slowly took a step closer towards me, but I backed away. Then realized he just wanted us further away from the gallery entrance. I fumed, but waited until we stopped walking a few steps down.
"Shit happens. I didn't plan it anymore than you did, and its not like you were swimming in condoms," I shot angrily.
"Why didn't you tell me?" he seethed.
"Tell you how?" I nearly screamed, my left hand waving in the air. "Where the fuck were you?"
"I moved to Virginia," he shot back. "After trying to get ahold of you for weeks on end, and you not giving a damn."
"Oh, well I'm so sorry for not running to you immediately after viewing the body of my husband. He died, remember?"
"So did my wife, Bella!" He ran a hand through his copper locks. His eyes still snuck glances at my tummy.
I sighed, "Well, I came looking, but all your shit was sold. I tried calling-"
"I gave up, Bella. I was heartbroken."
"So was I!" I yelled, tears beginning to swell in my eyes. "I'm sorry I pushed you away, but I was lost. I literally had no idea what I was doing."
"And you think I know it all, huh?" I looked down to my feet in shame. "Looks like you still got what you wanted," he said, nodding to my pregnant stomach. My eyes shot wide.
"You think," I started, then a scoff stopped me, "You think I planned this? That I wanted it this way?"
He shrugged, "Didn't you? Admit it, Bella. You wanted what you couldn't have, took it, and then that was it. You had no true intentions of leaving Jacob." My eyes were open so wide that it began to hurt, and I took a step away from him, my tears disappearing.
"You heartless asshole," I said strongly. "No wonder you can't keep women from cheating on you, when you act like this. I didn't use you anymore than you used me, Edward." I pointed a finger at his face. "And I'm going to have this baby, and raise it, and love it, with or without you."
"Even if it's mine," he forced through clenched teeth, "If Jacob was still alive, I wouldn't have ever known because you were so fucking worried about your reputation." That was it, all I could handle. Unfortunately, I came here expecting something much more than what I got. I splashed my drink over his face, dropped the glass flute, which shattered on the pavement, and turned on my heel.
As I stalked away, I suddenly felt his presence behind me.
"Bella, wait. Stop walking!" I did as he asked, but I didn't turn around. I could hear him wiping off his face. "I've been drinking, with all the hype over the award... I'm sorry, okay?"
I slowly turned around to face him, because I wanted one last look at his perfect features. "Don't," I whispered. "Just don't." And then, I started to walk away again before I could see his face fall. This wasn't supposed to happen this way. How could I have been so naive? We weren't meant to be because of everything we went through, and put each other through.
For half a block, I could feel Edward's eyes on my back, but not even they could stop me and my baby from walking away now.