A/N: I don't own this. We all know who does.
Thanks to Pamela Lorraine (drivingedward) for prereading this. :)
Thanks to MariahajilE for keeping me in line and fixing my brain spewings. She's amazing. Truly. :) She edited this from her hospital bed. HER HOSPITAL BED! You don't get any more wonderful than that, and I couldn't possibly be more grateful to her. :)
FYI - The flashback here was supposed to be in Ch 54, but I didn't want to interrupt the flow at the end of that chapter, so it's here instead.
Keep in mind it's been FIVE DAYS since Bella last saw Edward. I know it feels like more, but that's all it is. ;)
Friday Pt. 3
About a million different things ran through my mind in the quiet moments after he said my name. One stuck out more than the others, for some reason. It was something that had happened a few weeks earlier, and though I hadn't paid it much attention then, I could clearly see now that it was just one of many pieces that belonged to the puzzle I didn't even realize I was struggling to put together.
We sat alone on my sofa, Edward playing with my hand as the television aired some random crime drama I'd never really paid much attention to before. My head lay on his shoulder, and my eyes were closed, allowing me to absorb the peacefulness I felt. I was happy. After Alec's death, I didn't think it was possible to feel so much joy again, but I was truly and totally happy. Edward was a big part of that, and I couldn't imagine my life without him in it. Things were progressing for us, and I was anxious to see where they would go.
As another commercial started, Edward's cell phone buzzed. He ignored it at first, but when I lifted my head and looked expectantly at him, he let go of my hand and shifted enough that he could pull the phone from his pocket. After looking at it for a moment, he sat it down on the armrest and picked up my hand again.
"Is everything okay?" I asked. It was a little late to be getting calls or texts for work, but I thought it might've been his family or something. I wanted to be sure there wasn't a problem.
"Yeah. It's fine. Just work stuff," he said with a smile to me before turning to focus on the TV show he hadn't been paying attention to.
"You sure? It's kinda late for work stuff, isn't it?" I asked.
"It's just about an appointment I have tomorrow. Nothing big. I promise," he said.
I brushed off the nervous feeling growing in my stomach and relaxed against him again. I had to do the same thing a few more times over the next several days, always asking if everything was okay and always hearing Edward reply that it was fine, that it was just work stuff. It didn't make me feel any better.
While glancing at the table as I was approaching them, I'd noticed Edward's phone lying next to a stack of pictures. The one on top was the interior of a house, so I knew it wasn't a new office location Edward and Bree were meeting to talk about. Edward's eyes were still focused on mine when I finally spoke.
"I figured I'd have to come find you since you're obviously avoiding me," I said, trying to keep my voice level and strong.
"Bella, I just—"
"You must be Bree," I said, cutting off Edward as I turned to the woman sitting at the table with him. "I'm Bella."
Her face lit up as she smiled. "Oh, Bella! I'm so happy to meet you. Edward's told me so much about you."
"Really?" I asked. "Because today was the first time I'd ever even heard your name."
Her smile faltered then, her eyes flashing toward Edward for a moment before looking back at me. "Oh. I'm sorry. I didn't realize that—" As she spoke, her phone rang, causing her to pause. She looked down at it buzzing on the table next to her water glass before reaching to pick it up. "That's Brady, the seller's agent. If you'll excuse me, I'll just go meet him outside and give you two a minute. It seems like you might need it."
With that, she stood and walked away from the table, and after my eyes followed her out of the area, my gaze returned to Edward. His eyes were focused on my dress, which I was glad about. I wanted him to see me, to see what he was missing. After another moment, he finally looked back up, meeting my eyes.
"Bella, I'm not sure where to start," Edward said.
I shook my head. "You know what? Don't even worry about it. Aro already filled me in about the new office. Congratulations," I spat out. More than anything, I was hurt by Edward's behavior over the past several days, but I was also angry, and for the moment, the anger seemed to be winning.
"That's not what this is," he said.
"I can tell. I have eyes. I can see the pictures. I'm sure you and Emily will be very happy in your new house. Hopefully you can find the time to let her come back and visit every once in a while," I said, my words full of venom as I continued to stand in front of him, seething with anger.
"What are you talking about? Bella, you don't understand. If you'd just let me explain—"
"You've had enough time to explain, and you chose not to. I'm so fucking angry at you, Edward. How dare you do this to me, to our kids. What's wrong with you? This isn't how adults interact. When you have a problem, you talk to each other. You work through things. You don't run away and hide and keep secrets from one another. I don't work that way," I said, trying my hardest to keep my voice level and calm so I wouldn't attract too much attention our way. He stared up at me from his seat, a confused look on his face as he tried to come up with something to say to me.
"I know Jane screwed you up. I know she didn't do things the way she should have, but you went along with it, and now you're doing the same thing to me that she did to you. How dare you pull that whole 'I need some time' shit on me. I deserve better than that. I don't know what I did that made you run from me, but no matter what it was, I don't deserve to be treated like this. I shouldn't have to beg people for information so I can track you down. I feel like some jealous teenage girl spying on her cheating boyfriend."
I could hear whispers, and when I glanced around the room, I noticed several people looking in our direction. There was no possible way things between us would be resolved in the middle of the restaurant, and I didn't want to make any more of a scene than I already had.
"I'm sorry. Whatever it is I did, I'm sorry. I never wanted to push you away," I said, feeling the sadness creep in, suppressing the anger I'd been spewing at him. "I really don't want things to be over between us. I can't even think about it without feeling like I'm losing my mind. But you can't treat me like this. We can't function on what works for you. It has to be both of us, and if you can't do that, then you need to tell me. Soon. It's not fair. I care about you and our children, and you're hurting all of us right now."
I felt my eyes starting to water, and I knew I needed to get out of the restaurant before I caused an even bigger scene by throwing myself on the floor and begging Edward to fix us. I wasn't sure why I'd thought confronting him in a crowded restaurant on a Friday night was a good idea, but I was starting to question my sanity. We needed privacy, which was something the dining room we were in couldn't provide. I'd made a huge mistake, and I felt like a fool. As I stood next to him, contemplating my quickest exit, I felt his hand wrap around mine, pulling me slightly toward him.
"Bella, I don't want this to be over," he said so quietly it was nearly a whisper. "I can't live without you. Don't you know that by now?"
I shook my head. "Not anymore."
"I'm so sorry," he said. "I was trying to do right by you. I pushed you into this, and I know it was too fast. I just thought if I could give you a little space, then maybe you wouldn't regret us someday."
"I will never, ever regret us. I don't need space, Edward. I need you."
He looked down at our hands before squeezing my fingers. "I know that's what you say, but I don't think that's really how you feel."
I pulled my hand away from his, instantly feeling the loss of his skin on mine. "How can you say that? You think I'm lying?"
"No, I don't. I think you want this so much that you're not being honest with yourself. We weren't in the same place in our marriages, and I understand that. It was wrong of me to push you into something new so quickly. I'm trying to rectify that."
I stepped away from the table as I shook my head in disbelief. "You're rectifying that by breaking my heart?" I asked.
"No. Of course not."
"Because that's what you're doing. I know what I want, Edward. You should have enough faith in me to trust me when I say that." I sniffled and wiped a tear from my cheek as I took another step away from him. "When you figure things out, you know where to find me."
"Bella…" he said as I walked past him and toward the staircase that led downstairs. I had to get away from him before I completely lost it. "Bella!" he yelled, but I didn't stop.
As I reached the stairs, I saw Bree returning with a man and woman behind her. I didn't recognize the man, but the woman was familiar to me. It only took a few seconds to remember where I'd seen her before. Her eyes met mine as she took the last step on the staircase, and I could see the same look of recognition in her I'd just experienced.
"Bella, are you leaving?" Bree asked, to which I nodded, glancing her way but not trusting myself to say anything. I was hoping to get out of the restaurant before Edward had a chance to stop me. "I would really love it if you would stay so we could get your opinions on the office space and the homes I found."
"I need to go. I'm sure Edward can handle it," I said, looking again at the woman who stood behind her. Tanya. From the birthday party at the roller-skating rink. I would've known her anywhere.
"Edward!" she called loudly as her eyes shifted to something just behind me. "There you are!" The growing smile on her face disgusted me, and I could almost see her claws coming out.
I didn't need to turn around. I could feel Edward just behind me, and as relieved as I felt that he was coming after me, I still had the urge to get away from him before I made an even bigger fool of myself.
"Do I know you?" I heard him say.
Tanya stepped around Bree and the other man, making her way toward Edward. "Oh, you're so silly," she practically cooed at him. "I've been waiting all week to see you." She walked past me, reaching for Edward's arm as she continued to smile up at him. "I just wish we could be alone, you know?"
"I'm sorry. I don't know you," he said, taking her hands off of his forearm as he inched closer to me.
"Sure you do. Don't you remember? Rose set us up at that birthday party a while back. I haven't stopped thinking about you since, you poor man." She reached for him again, but Edward stepped closer to me, putting his arm around my waist.
"Rose didn't set us up. I never would've agreed to anything like that," Edward said.
"Tanya, what are you doing?" the man standing with Bree asked, clearly confused by what was happening.
"Edward and I go way back, don't we?" she replied, tracing a finger across his chest.
"Is this why you wanted to come along tonight?" the man asked. "Because this is very unprofessional."
"Bella, this is Brady Fuller. He's the agent representing the seller of the office space," Bree said. "And apparently you know Tanya, his assistant."
"Unfortunately, we've met," I said, inching toward the stairs. Edward's fingers tightened on the fabric at my waist, pulling me deeper into his hold.
"Are you—?" Tanya said as she looked back and forth between Edward and me. "Holy shit. You're together, aren't you?" she said with a disgusted tone to her words.
"Bella's my girlfriend," Edward told her. I could feel his chest against my back as he leaned into me. I didn't want to like it or crave it, but I couldn't help myself. No matter how upset I was with him, I still wanted him.
"Her husband, like, just died. You know that, right?" Tanya spat, crossing her arms over her chest as her eyes burned into mine. "Boy, you didn't wait long, did you, Bella?"
"Tanya, that's quite enough," Brady said as he stepped toward Tanya. "Let's go sit down, shall we?"
Tanya huffed in aggravation before moving closer to Edward. "When you're done with her, come find me. I can give you what you need. You'll never be happy with a two-timing whore like her."
"Tanya!" Brady said, grabbing her arm and pushing her in the direction of the table. "I'm so sorry. Please know I had no idea anything like this would happen tonight. I never would've allowed her to accompany me if I had," he said to me and Edward.
Tanya pulled her arm free from Brady's hand, stumbling backward as she tried to gracefully regain her balance. "Don't make excuses for her. It's sick what she's doing," she said loudly as her arms flung out in my direction. "Going from one guy to the next before her husband's even cold in the ground? Who does that? She's the worst kind of— AHHHHHHH!" she yelled as she collided with a waiter carrying a tray full of dinner entrees and drinks. The plates fell from the tray and directly onto Tanya, layering her with a variety of food items and staining what I was certain had to be a dry-clean-only dress. Some type of chowder slowly slid down over her shoulder and chest as a few wayward shrimp caught in her hair. There was pasta on her dress and the floor around her, and there was some kind of gravy-covered meat stuck in the neckline of her blouse. Several drink glasses had fallen off the tray, splashing her with everything from coffee to liquor to soda. She yelled incoherently as she stood frantically wiping at her face and dress, trying desperately to rid herself of the wet and sticky mess she'd caused.
"Ma'am, I'm so sorry!" the apologetic waiter said, quickly retreating to the bar area to get some napkins as Tanya continued to squeal and flail about.
"You idiot! Don't you watch where you're going?!" she shouted, flinging shrimp to the floor.
"I'm sorry! I tried to get out of your way, but you ran right into me! Here, let me help you," he said, grabbing the steak from her shirt and wiping at her neck and shoulder with a few napkins.
"Get off me! You've done enough!" she yelled, slapping at him as she stood in the middle of the dining room, dripping all over the carpeted floor.
Brady gave Bree a stack of papers from his briefcase, apologizing and promising to call her the next day to set up another meeting time. He reached forward and grabbed Tanya by the elbow, steering her toward the staircase. "You've done enough damage here tonight, and I've had enough of you. I'm calling you a cab," he said as they hurried past us.
The wait staff quickly got to work cleaning up what was left of the food and drinks, apologizing as several customers at the bar laughed at the crazy lunatic who was currently being hauled off by her boss.
"What do you mean I'm fired?!" I heard her yell just before Brady dragged her out the front door of the restaurant.
Edward stood behind me, his hand still clutching the waist of my dress. As things began to calm down, Bree returned to the table, leaving us alone. "Please don't go," he said, his lips near my ear. "Just give me a chance. Please."
It took every bit of strength I had left in me to shake my head and pull away from him. "I'm sorry," I said as I hurried down the stairs.
It would've been a great exit if I hadn't tripped on the last stair, stumbling and slightly twisting my ankle. Instantly, Edward was thundering down the stairs, rushing to my side, and helping me as I tried to right myself and continue on my way. I stepped down on my left foot, feeling a sharp pain shoot up my leg.
"Ow!" I said, grabbing onto the newel post of the staircase and hopping on my right foot. Stupid stilettos I'd worn. The heels were so high they were like death traps, and I really should've known better. I hadn't ever worn them any place other than the bedroom, and that was just for fun. I would have to remember they weren't public shoes. Not for me, anyway.
"Let me help you," he said, wrapping his arm around my waist again.
"I'm fine," I said through gritted teeth. I just needed to get out of the restaurant with as much dignity as I could manage to scrape together.
"You're not fine," he said as I tried to take another step and whimpered at the pain.
"I can do it. Just let me go."
He let out a deep breath. "I'm not letting you go—not now, not ever. I'm gonna take you home."
"Edward, don't—" I said just as he bent down and lifted me into his arms. "Put me down!" I slapped my hand at him, shocked he would be so bold as to pick me up in the middle of the busy restaurant.
"No. You need me," he said quietly in my ear as he started toward the door.
He was right; I did need him. I needed him more than I wanted to admit to myself. I certainly needed him more than I wanted him to know in that moment. I hesitantly wound my arms around his neck, letting my head lean against him and tucking my face into his neck. It was a feeling I'd honestly begun to think I would never experience again. If it was the last time it ever happened, I intended to soak in as much of it as I could, so as we left the restaurant and started down the sidewalk that led to the parking lot, I quit fighting him.
Neither of us spoke. I held on as he walked around to the back of the building where the parking lot was. Once we reached it, I knew he'd spotted my car as he continued walking past his truck.
"I'll drive you home. Emmett can come get my truck, and I'll get it from him tomorrow," he said.
I didn't say anything until we reached the passenger's side of my car and he let me down, making sure I could lean against the car and not have to stand on my foot. "I'm fine. I can drive myself," I said, staring down at the asphalt.
"Bella, you're not fine. You can barely walk. I'm not letting you drive yourself home like this."
I played with the strap of the bag I'd been holding, refusing to look up at him. It was quiet where we were, and we stood for several moments like that—me leaning against my car and him hovering over me. A slight breeze blew a few hairs across my face, and Edward reached up to move them, tucking them behind my ear.
"Why don't you want me?" I softly asked. I could feel the tears building again, but I needed to know. If tonight was really the end for us, I needed some kind of closure on our relationship. I wanted to know what had changed between us.
Edward's fingers ghosted along my cheek before he slipped them under my chin and lifted my face, forcing me to look at him.
"I want you more than you could possibly know. I always have, and I always will."
I didn't know what to say. I was so confused and worn down that nothing came to me. I just stared into his pretty green eyes and hoped with everything in me that he actually meant what he was saying.
"Give me a chance to fix this. Please. I've really fucked things up, and I'm sorry, Bella. That wasn't my intention," he said sadly as he continued to look into my eyes.
I wanted to be cruel. I wanted to treat him as badly as he'd been treating me. I wanted to tell him I needed time and that I would find him when I was ready. I wanted to tell him he was right, that he really had fucked things up and I wasn't sure if we could fix them. I wanted to push him away from me and drive home, not giving him a second thought. But I couldn't do it. I loved him, and even though he'd been acting like a jerk all week, the yearning to be with him was still stronger than the desire to kick his ass. I knew then, as we stood there in that parking lot, with him asking me for another chance, that I would always want to be with him. I wouldn't always make it easy on him, and there was most definitely a lot of talking that had to happen before things could ever be the way they had been before. But I loved him. I was willing to try if it meant there was still a chance for us to make things work. I wanted a chance for us to build a life together.
I nodded, sniffling quietly. "We should talk."
"Let me drive you home," he said.
That was the moment where the not-making-it-easy part came into play. I didn't want to play games with him, but I wasn't going to just roll over and give up, either. "I don't need a white knight to rescue me, Edward. I can drive myself."
His lips pulled up on one side, giving me a small half-smile. "I know you don't. After this week, I don't think I'd qualify as one, anyway."
I shrugged one shoulder, not saying whether I agreed with him or not. He reached for my bag and pulled out my key ring, clicking the button to unlock the doors. After opening the front passenger door next to us, he gestured for me to sit inside, but I didn't move.
"Wait for me, okay? I left my phone and stuff on the table in there. Let me go get it, and then I'll take you home and we can talk. I'll tell you everything. I promise," he said before leaning into the car and placing my bag and keys on the seat.
I watched him for a few more moments but still said nothing. As he stepped back from me, his eyes met mine again.
"Wait for me?" he asked.
"I won't be here when you get back," I said.
I bit into my lip, feeling my breaths begin to quicken. I shook my head, looking back down at the ground. "I'm sorry, Edward. I just... I need more time," I said, using the same words he'd used on me just a few days before.
"Bella, please," he said as he stepped closer to me, shrinking down to look into my eyes as he took my face in his hands, his fingers closing around my neck and his thumbs rubbing over my cheeks. I could see panic building in his eyes. "Please wait for me. I'll only be a minute."
A tiny nod was all I could give him, because I didn't mean it. I couldn't lie, but I needed the alone time that the drive home would give me. Just an hour alone with my thoughts would be more than enough. Then I would call him once I was home and we could talk. Maybe if it was over the phone, it would be easier and I'd be able to keep my composure a little better.
"Okay?" he asked again, thinking I was agreeing to stay put until he returned. "I'll be right back." With that, he leaned in, but I turned my head to the side so his lips caught my cheek instead of their intended target. His sigh as his forehead pressed against my temple showed his disappointment, but he didn't try again.
"Two minutes," he said as he pulled away, watching me closely as he took steps toward the restaurant. I turned as he continued on, watching him until he was back on the sidewalk, jogging up the incline that led to the front of the restaurant. He looked back at me once more, making sure I was still there, and then turned the corner.
I felt bad about what I had to do, but I was out of options. Maybe if I left him confused and worried for an hour or so, he would be better able to understand my view on the past week. Maybe then he would listen to reason and we could fix things. Maybe that would help us have a chance at a future together.
I knew I only had a few moments, so I reached into my car and grabbed the keys before closing the door and hobbling to the driver's side. It took a few seconds to get the door opened and get situated inside. I rested my head on the steering wheel for a moment, letting out a deep breath before putting the keys in the ignition, starting up the car, and backing out of the parking space. I took the exit farthest from the restaurant entrance to make sure Edward wouldn't see me, and then I hurried toward the road that would take me home.
A/N: Ohhhh, Tanya. :D Karma really does come around. :)
Next chapter = the BIG talk. I've already started writing, so hopefully the wait won't be too long. :)
Reviews get a teaser. I'll send them after I get the chapter written. ;)
Oh, and about my two other incomplete stories (because a few people asked) – hopefully after this story is done I can conquer those. That's the plan. ;)
Thanks for sticking with me. :)