A/N: Hey there! A few months back, I wrote this scene for the Fandom for Mental Health Awareness Compilation. Huge thanks to everyone who was involved in that project.
To those of you who've read The Cullen Legacy, what you'll find here is a scene from that story, which many have asked for throughout the years. This scene corresponds with Chapter 15 – The SUV, but here it's from Edward's point of view. You may want to refresh your memory and reread that chapter to understand the finer details laid out here, but you'll get the gist either way.
Betad by the wonderful Michelle Renker Rhodes (although I tinker through to the very end so all remaining mistakes are mine). All the usual disclaimers regarding Twilight and its characters apply. Thanks, and enjoy!
TCL Outtake - House Number 452
My fingers tap out a steady beat on the Expedition's console. It takes me a minute to realize that what I'm doing is keeping pace with the anxious thrumming in my chest. On the SUV's radio, a deejay announces the morning weather report in a cockney accent so thick he could've said snow or heat wave and I wouldn't know the difference. Across the street, a string of turn-of-the-century residential houses, all in the same cookie-cutter style, line the block: white and brown Tudors with bowed windows, red-steepled roofs, and white picket fences leading into what appear to be quarter-acre back yards. The one in the middle of the block, the number 452 painted in black on its door, is the one we've been staking out for the past half hour.
The drumming fingers curl into a fist, which I pound against the console a few times - first shallowly, but with each consecutive blow, my impatience grows.
"Emmett, this is bullshit. Whatever we're doing here can wait. Right now, my priority is speaking with Bella and figuring out what the hell happened seven years ago. Let's head back to London and find her."
Despite my tone and request, Emmett's eyes remain sharply trained on the house. "That's exactly why we're here, Edward - to find out what happened seven years ago."
"I don't get why you think she'd come all the way out here after her plane lands instead of heading straight to her London flat. She'll be jet-lagged after that flight, and she'll probably want to rest and leave the family visits for later. Besides, if our argument back home left her half as fucked in the head as it left me-"
"Tell me again what she said back in Oyster Bay."
Drawing in a deep breath, I exhale long and slowly. "When I told her I came back for her seven years ago, she was…shocked, to say the least. Called me a liar. That goddamn friend of hers apparently never told her I spent two weeks asking- no, fucking begging her to help me get in touch with Bella. She never even told her."
"Then Bella didn't know you came back. She assumed you forgot or just disregarded her. I suppose that might explain why she'd…but then why wouldn't she…?" Retrospective and pensive, Emmett ruminates so quietly it's more as if he's speaking to himself than to me. He scrubs his jaw with the palm of his hand, mumbling unintelligibly.
"It might explain why what?" I rake a hand through my hair when I receive no response. "Look Em, I appreciate your coming to the U.K. to dig around on my behalf, I really do. But God, you didn't see the look on her face after my father cornered her back at the house. She was beyond panicked, and she wouldn't even slow down long enough to tell me why. She just threw all her things in a bag, jumped into her car, and sped away saying she had to get home. Then you call and tell me to get my ass over here; meanwhile, I was already on my way. And when I get here, you won't even tell me what's going on."
Emmett's gaze doesn't waver from the house. "Ed, buddy, I apologize if I'm being cryptic. But I think the best thing is for you to see for yourself."
"See what for myself? What the hell is going on?"
Yes, at this point the frustration is getting the best of me. It's been a long goddamn twelve hours. A long twenty-four hours. A long week. Hell, it's been a long seven years since that fateful day in the hotel room, and I need to start getting some answers.
While I watch Emmett, waiting to see if I'll finally receive a straight answer from him, his eyes abruptly shift away from the house and flash to the rearview mirror. My gaze follows. A black cab rounds the corner of the narrow block - a block so narrow that Emmett has the SUV parked halfway up the curb to allow room for passing traffic. The cab doesn't try to pass us. Instead, it parks a few feet behind the SUV on the opposite side of the street and in front of house number 452.
Emmett's eyes slowly trail to mine. He takes a breath and grips my shoulder. "Are you ready, buddy?"
As he speaks, the back door of the cab opens in my periphery. I turn in time to catch Bella stepping out. She looks exhausted, miserable, and…just beautiful. But there's an obvious edge of agitation surrounding her, and my hand instinctively moves to the door handle.
When her head whips around, I follow her trajectory to another car now parking behind the cab. The moment it stops and the driver becomes recognizable, my lips curve into a sneer. It's the blond she calls her best friend – Rosalie, the lying, deceitful-
I'm distracted by the soft voice as well as by the giggles which follow. Searching for the source, my eyes find a little girl running out of house number 452 with arms outstretched. She blurs by, her long hair waving in the wind, and I assume she's running to the blond - to Bella's friend. Her small mouth is pulled up in a wide grin. And as I watch her, my heart gives a painful and inexplicable lurch.
She looks…familiar. For one long moment, all other thoughts abandon me. I could swear I've seen her before, yet at the same time, I can't for the life of me imagine where.
Turns out, the little girl doesn't run to the blond.
She ends up cradled in Bella's arms. Bella is the one who picks up the child and swings her in the air before pulling her in tightly. It's Bella who runs her hand through the child's long reddish-brown hair. It was Bella who ran in a panic from my house back at Oyster Bay as if she couldn't get home soon enough.
The same Bella who's just been addressed as "Mummy."
"Stay calm, Edward."
Barely registering Emmett's words of caution, I step out of the car.
Bella either sees or senses the movement. When her eyes find me, her mouth falls open. In the quiet of the early morning, the hitch of her breath is audible. Her brown eyes grow and shift between expressions ranging from stunned to absolutely horrified. Meanwhile, a strange charge permeates the cool air around us, as if all matter has suddenly come to a standstill and left everyone within its perimeter in a state of paralysis. Only the little girl in Bella's arms seems immune to the charge. She picks up her head from the crook of her mother's neck and twists and turns in her arms. Round, green eyes meet mine.
Round…green eyes meet mine.
A handful of images rush through my head in quick succession:
I'm a young boy spending a summer afternoon with my mother on the small beach behind our house. I trace her eyes as the bright sun shines above us. She smiles. "They're Masen eyes, darling. I inherited them from my father, and you inherited them from me, and someday, you'll probably hand them down as well…"
Next, I'm back in that hotel room with Bella seven years ago. We're in the shower making love while clouds of white steam billow around us. I pull out of her only long enough to reach down and remove the condom because I may die if I don't feel her without it. "I just need to know what it feels like without…what you feel like without…"
Following that image is a Christmas Eve a couple of years ago. Aunt Esme and I are flipping through old picture albums. "Edward, look at your mom when she was six years old. Her hair was so long and beautifully copper! And look at those bright green eyes just like yours."
The last image which flashes through my mind is only a couple of weeks old. Bella and I are in the bathroom at the D.C. fundraiser where she stormed back into my life. I'm on my knees, delirious with pain after her eager attempt to castrate me. She crouches before me and smiles an undeniably wicked smile. "This here was just a taste, Congressman Cullen, of how I have you by the bollocks…"
The entire time these images scroll through my head, Bella's daughter holds my gaze.
Bella's daughter…with the green eyes…
Voices and careful movements carry on around me. A breeze whips up the little girl's long copper hair. I'm unable to break away from those eyes – from my eyes.
She's gone in the next instant, whisked away behind the now closed doors of house number 452. I blink out of the spell cast by those eyes, but my head spins. Somehow, I find myself face to face with Bella, who looks as bewildered as I feel. My mouth moves around disconnected, disjointed thoughts.
"I…I sent Emmett to London. I thought there had to be…more…there was just so much anger in you, Bella, but I knew…of course I knew how badly I'd messed things up with you…every single day of my life since then I've wished I could go back to that moment, to tell you…though it had only been one weekend, I knew you, and you'd never hurt me…not the way you were threatening to…it simply wasn't in you. I wasn't scared of you, Bella, but not because I felt cocky, the way you kept accusing me, but because I was so goddamned elated to have you near me again – even if it was this different, harder version of you. After what I'd done, I didn't want to send him to interfere in your private life. But this time, I had to know what I was missing…if I was missing something. And now…"
Now…my God, now…
I fist my hair hard to see if it'll help me focus, if it'll help me hold on to one cohesive thought. Bella simply stands there, her dark eyes wide and wary, her lips in a straight line as if despite what's just happened, what I've just seen, she doesn't have one single word for me.
I've got to keep talking or else I might lose my fucking mind here. "Emmett called me yesterday a few minutes after you drove off. He said I had to come to the U.K." - I snort - "as if I wasn't already on my way. But he wouldn't…" A deep, ragged breath escapes me, and I know that despite my efforts, I'm a hair's breadth from some sort of mind or heart failure, possibly both. "He wouldn't tell me why…he said he couldn't tell me over the phone, and now…Bella..."
She remains tight-lipped, refusing to verbalize the words I already know but which I can't seem to fathom. They need to be spoken aloud. They need to be yelled and then justified.
"Bella, what the hell is going on here?"
While she continues to stand there and stare at me as if she hasn't a clue what I'm asking, I move around her and rush toward the door – the door which the child with the green eyes just disappeared behind.
That manages to elicit a reaction.
"Edward. Edward, what are you doing? Where are you going?"
Now she's on my heels. Now she wants to talk.
"Edward!" She rushes in front of me.
"Bella, get out of the way."
I'm past wanting to hear from her because she's had…she's had what, weeks…years? I need to see with my own eyes.
"I want to see her. I want…"
"You want what? What exactly do you want?" Her voice is bitter, tinged with more than an edge of warning. When I try to move in closer, she doesn't budge. Instead, her spine straightens, her entire demeanor oozing the fierceness which has marked her every move for weeks now. "You don't know what you want, Edward. You never have. This is not a game! You can't walk through that door on a whim or to simply satisfy your curiosity! You can't push yourself into her world for a few hours and then be on your way until you figure out what exactly it is that you want! She is not a game! She's-"
"SHE'S MY DAUGHTER!"
The words erupt with a force which wrenches every last breath from me and makes Bella reel back. They're howled into the air, brutally declared yet even as I shout them, even as they fill and wrap themselves around every fiber in my being, they're accompanied by a parallel thought: no matter how emphatically I roar them, they're far from an explanation.
At that moment, I love the woman before me, and I hate her because this can't be happening. No matter how badly I sinned against her, no matter how many tears I made her shed, this goddamn punishment will not fit the crime, not in a million years. I broke her heart so she kept my daughter from me? Now I'm bellowing in the middle of an unknown English street because it took Emmett to tell me to get my ass over here?
Bella either senses my turmoil or maybe my eyes give it away because this strong, confident, successful, and possibly heartless and deceitful woman actually retreats a few steps. I stalk closer.
But then it hits me all at once, exactly what's going on here. Instead of moving forward, I stagger backward.
"Jesus." I fist my hair to keep my head from exploding. "Jesus, she's my…she's my daughter."
And Bella just stands there.
I sneer down at the woman who may be…who may be what? A liar? A deceiver? The mother of my child - a child who up to five minutes ago I had no idea existed.
"Bella, I want to see her. Please move out of the way."
"Edward." She stops, swallows, and starts again. "Edward, I think you should leave now. Take some time to calm down and think about-"
"What? Leave? You expect me to leave?"
"Think about what you're doing! For once, stop being so goddamned selfish and think about how your actions may affect others besides yourself!"
My head jerks back, utter disbelief at her gall racing through my heated veins, but she keeps spewing her vitriol before I can point out the irony of her words.
"You can't walk in there, get to know her for a few hours or a few days, and then be off or simply go back to business as usual! That's not how it'll work this time! I won't let you break her heart! And the alternative would mean you'd have to give up everything, Edward! Everything! Stop and think about that, and you'll see it as clearly as I do! Your senatorial aspirations, any future bid for the White House, all of that would blow up in your face when we both know that's what you've always wanted!"
Who the hell is this woman? Who is this hard, bitter and purposely obtuse woman who's obviously disregarded absolutely everything I've tried to tell her and show her since she blew back into my life like a hurricane threatening to destroy me?
"What I've…what I've always wanted? I came back for you! I came back for you and…and you were hiding my daughter? You don't know me at all, Bella, if you think for a moment that I'm just going to turn around and leave! Now move out of the way and let me see her!"
"I was never hiding," she says, her voice shaking.
"Bella, move out of my way," I grit through clenched teeth.
"Edward, leave. Now."
I'm about to pick her up and move her out of the way myself when Emmett's voice penetrates the fog of fury cocooning me.
"Edward, Bella is right. We should go - for now. You both need to calm down and think."
"Edward, listen to Emmett. It's been a hectic twenty-four hours - for the both of us," Bella says.
For one moment, the shakiness in her voice, the plea in her tone squeezes painfully at my heart. Despite her hard exterior, she's terrified. I know the pain I once caused her, the wrongs I did her, yet the last thing I've ever wanted is for her to hurt. Even during those long years when I had no idea where she was or what was going on in her life, she was still the most important being in mine.
"No," I say clearly and concisely.
A whimper escapes from between her lips.
Again, it's Emmett who forces me to see reason. "Edward, look man, I know you're confused, but think of the little girl. This isn't the way you want her to see you."
The little girl - the cherub-faced being with my eyes, my mother's hair, and something…something, which from the moment I laid eyes on her, I knew was pure Bella. The child who embodies the best parts of the two women I've loved most. Squeezing my eyes shut, I try to think. I attempt to reason when all reason has left me.
The little girl - my…daughter. There's fear in Bella's eyes right now, and if I force my way inside and the little girl sees the fear in her mother's eyes, what will she think of me? What will she see in my own eyes?
"Go, Edward. Think about what you really want to happen here because if you ever walk into this house, then you'd better be ready to give up everything else. There's no trial period here, no testing the waters. I won't let you play with her – not for one single moment. You don't get to have a peek into her life and then walk away until you decide what you really want. Nor will I allow you to keep her as your dirty little secret. With her, it has to be all or nothing."
I reopen my eyes and train them on the woman before me. What I really want to do is shake her - reach out and shake her or better yet, shake myself until everything in my head and heart oozes out and pools at her feet. I want to lay myself bare so she can see once and for all what's inside, all my regrets and apologies. Perhaps if I lay before her confessions and remorse marked in blood, they'll satisfy her thirst.
But this punishment...it doesn't fit the crime.
"Edward, let's go." Emmett lays a hand on my shoulder, pulling me back, and this time, I allow it. Yet before I turn, I see Bella's shoulders curve in on themselves, her breath escapes through narrowed lips, and her dark eyes shutter heavily.
Bella. My sweet, innocent Bella. The woman I've spent almost seven years memorializing into perfection.
Jerking away from Emmett, I face her once more. "I'm sorry, Bella," I hiss, "for the lies, for my moment of indecision, and for being so fucking weak back in that hotel room. You didn't deserve any of it, and I'm so damned sorry. But I'm not that weak man anymore, Bella, and I will be back. Don't doubt that for a second."
She stands there, eyes wide and full of defiance despite the silent, solitary tear rolling down her cheek. My heart and mind swell with an insurmountable urge to pull her into my arms, to soothe her, to calm her and do whatever I can to take away her pain. My God, this is Bella. My Bella.
Turning away from her in that moment is the hardest thing I've ever done.
My legs move stiffly and with an awkward gait I've never known. When I look up and spot her friend, Rosalie, standing a few feet away, loathing as I've never known rushes through my veins and limbs. The intensity of it makes my entire frame vibrate and burn. She holds my gaze as if she's unable to look away. Then she bursts into tears. If I could strike her down with my glare, I'd have no regrets.
Emmett's hand curves around my shoulder again. His voice is low yet firm. "Let's go, Ed. We've got a lot to talk about."
With a sharp nod, I shift my eyes away from the blond bitch and allow Emmett to guide me to the car. As we peel off, leaving behind Bella and my daughter, the SUV's tires screech in protest.
Now you know what was going through his head.
Link to 'Stories by PattyRose' is on my profile page.