The Issues We Both Have

by Melissa Treglia

Edward held the tiny wolf charm up with delicate fingers. He visibly swallowed hard, and I gazed up into his alien-yet-familiar golden eyes.

A snarl ripped through his chest, but died before it passed his lips. He lowered his hand and let the charm dangle from my bracelet. In a flash, he was by the window, staring out it with his back to me.

"Why did you accept that... trinket... from him?" His voice was so forlorn, it tore my heart in two.

"He's my friend," I replied. Wasn't it obvious to him?

He whirled, his golden eyes blazing with sudden anger. I jumped back. "Friend?!" he growled. "What kind of friend sexually assaults a woman he claims to care about?!"

I winced.

"He forced himself upon you, Bella! And now you accept his gifts?" He sighed, and his posture and expression became more carefully controlled, as if he'd locked away the rage before it could break free of its cage again. "Look. I know I'm not the most tolerant gentleman in the world. In my desire to protect you, the one person I love more than anything in the world, my behavior has gotten out of hand. Believe me, Bella, I want more than anything to make myself worthy of you. And there is no reason for you to accept any mistreatment. From him..." He swallowed hard. "From me."

"Edward..." I began, my voice soft. "How could you be unworthy of me?"

"I have treated you poorly in the past, Bella. Forcing you to do things you didn't want to do, taking apart your car because I was jealous of your friendship with Jacob. I'm so deeply sorry, love. But you don't have to accept my behavior." He was kneeling before me now, like a supplicant before his queen, pleading for her to stay her hand and show mercy. His gaze was lifted again up to mine. "And you don't have to accept Jacob's bad behavior either. You shouldn't. Please, Bella, have a care for yourself."

Tears came to my eyes. Staring into those strange ever-changing irises, I was hit with a realization: he too was broken. He was a broken, deeply wounded man who had accepted death ages ago, who now was forced to live in a world that was no longer his own. For all his education, for all his strength, for all his years... he was every bit as lost in this as I was.

"Edward," I whispered. "I don't know what to tell you. I've never loved anyone but you. I don't know how to be a girlfriend, so I can't teach you to be a good boyfriend."

Edward's gaze was downcast again, his expression wry. "Maybe we should both consider couples counseling. To work out the issues we both have."

The issues we both have, I repeated mentally. My gaze dropped down to the chain on my wrist. I stared at it a long moment, before taking it off my hand. Resolutely, I got up and walked to the trash bin, and dropped it in.

I took a cleansing breath, released it, and stepped back. Then I turned to the love of my still very young life. "Therapy sounds good. Charlie wanted me to go, when..." My voice caught on the words, but I nonetheless forced them out. "...when you left. I wasn't ready then, but I think I'm ready now. I'll ask him for the number."

A small smile tugged at my lips, and I placed my hand in his larger and colder one. "Let's learn how to be better for each other."


A/N: Jacob's forcing a kiss on Bella qualifies as sexual assault, and is a felony in Washington state.