Amidst the shock and excitement of having their visas approved a storm began to brew.
The boys, after a celebratory glass of champagne with the girls on the terrace, withdrew to the silence of Jasper's study to begin making their plans and the necessary calls that would set everything in motion.
That was Edward's first mistake. Excluding his wife.
His second mistake occurred a few hours later, after dinner had been consumed, the baby put to bed for the night and after his mother, sister in law and brother in law had happily gone off to bed themselves.
He didn't mean to do it. He didn't even think about it as he did it either.
He and Bella were still outside. With the others settled in for the evening they often sat outside on the terrace and talked, or smoked and talked, or just smoked depending on what was going on in their heads at the time. This night was a little different. They were both keyed up from the excitement of knowing that they were headed to Australia permanently.
Edward's head was full of plans, contingencies, conversations he was likely going to have with contractors and agents and his attention wasn't wholly with his wife.
Bella was excited too. Nervous but excited about her new life. Eager to get started. Desperate to help and looking forward to celebrating physically with her husband who had been distant and exhausted for weeks while they had waited for the letter to arrive. Now that it had she'd assumed things would change. She assumed, even knowing that new stresses would fill her husband's days now, that he would be relieved that this first hurdle had been crossed. She had been sure that his excitement would turn into desire, just as hers had.
And so, as they sat outside, she slid her hand onto his thigh and squeezed as she watched him blow smoke out over his beautiful lips.
Expecting him to grin – or at the very least acknowledge that she'd touched him – he did something that hurt her very much. He brushed her hand off his leg and stood. As he began to pace slowly back and forth Bella could only stare at him in shock.
They weren't an overly affectionate pair. At least not publically. They kissed chastely, shared touches of comfort and support no matter where they were or who they were with, but in company they were quite sedate. When they were alone they were quite different.
They almost always touched more intimately. They almost always made out like teenagers and they almost always made love at night once they'd retired to their room. As soon as their door was closed to the outside world at night they fell into one another's arms.
They weren't aggressive nor particularly verbal, but they were passionate and Edward had never, not once, brushed her advance away before and Bella's belly tightened in pain as he did so.
He paced left then right once or twice then ran a hand through his already unruly hair, his mind focussed so wholly on the issues facing him now. "Jasper wants to employ a project manager but I don't know," he said as though he couldn't see the distress on his wife's face. It seemed like that because he actually didn't. So wrapped up in his thoughts and worries he didn't notice Bella fold in on herself as he spoke because he was staring beyond her. "I don't know if there's time to vet someone, you know?" he asked himself more so than his wife. He didn't wait for her answer either. "I know what I want done in the spaces and I don't know if that will translate to a project manager who doesn't have a musical background so I think I'm going to have to just go there myself. I can't trust anyone else with anything so I'm just going to have to go there and do everything myself. You stay here and help your sister with the baby."
As he said the words Bella began to tremble. The pain of his words stung like a thousand bee stings. Brushing her hand away had hurt too but that was nothing compared to how she felt as she listened to him plan her life.
Rising from her seat at the table she straightened the tablecloth and set his cigarette lighter beside his pack and then lifted her eyes to where he still paced. He hadn't looked at her at all since the others had gone inside. He was so caught up in his own thoughts he couldn't even spare a thought for her at all. And to Bella that was the ultimate insult. Knowing how her life, and his, had been controlled before he had cast aside her thoughts and her own need to decide things for herself and that hurt.
Never one for confrontation Bella slid her arms around her waist just as she used to do before meeting him and sighed. "Fly safely," she told him and strode into the house and right up the stairs to the second floor.
She raced into their bathroom and shed her clothing quickly, all the while trying to stave off the tears that were threatening to spill over from her tired eyes. She brushed her teeth and used the toilet and then climbed into their bed wearily.
He hadn't followed. He hadn't noticed her pain and he probably hadn't even heard her parting words.
Bella lay in their bed and cried. Edward paced out on the terrace.
Esme was the first one down the stairs the next morning, as was normal. What wasn't normal was for her to find her son still out on the terrace, still dressed in yesterday's clothes and quite obviously asleep. Strewn about the surface of the table was a stack of paper, each of which had list after list in his scratchy handwriting on it.
She touched him lightly on the shoulder but he startled all the same.
"What? What?" he shouted as he came to.
"It's just me, darling," she said softly as she sat by him and put a hot cup of coffee on the table in front of him. "Why didn't you go to bed last night?" she asked as he scrubbed at his face with his palms.
"Dunno," he mumbled, still not fully awake. He stretched his arms over his head and craned his neck from side to side but he felt awful for having slept sitting up in a less than comfortable chair. "Too much to think about," he muttered as he picked up a piece of paper, read it and then threw it back down onto the table. "Never going to be possible to get everything done on time," he sighed as he stared at his notes.
"Lucky you aren't doing it alone then," Esme sighed in response before rising from the table and going back indoors to the kitchen to start breakfast.
Edward sipped his coffee carefully and stared out over the yard, his eyes unfocused and his brain a swirling mess of information and indecision. Not since he'd set foot at camp as a guest had he felt so pressured. Since meeting Bella, and then standing up to his father, he'd had a sort of peace of mind that he'd only ever dreamt of having before. Now though, with the deadline of just three months looming all he could think about was the pressure he'd put himself under.
"Go and shower and wake up properly," Esme told him as she came to collect his empty mug.
He could only nod his agreement, words failed him as he went over yet again just how complicated he'd made his life. Bella was asleep on her side with his pillow between her hands. She looked so serene, so untroubled as she snuffled in slumber. Edward found himself watching her intently, wishing that he hadn't complicated his own situation quite so dramatically with his plan.
Her life was still very simple but his was now so convoluted and so risky he began to wonder whether she had the right idea all along by only reaching for something as simple as furthering her education.
He left her there sleeping peacefully and went into their bathroom to shower. He stood under the hot water for a lot longer than he usually would and allowed it to stream across his aching back and shoulders while he rested his forehead on the tiles.
The bed was remade and the room was empty when he emerged from the steam filled room ten minutes later. He dressed in clean clothes and threw his dirty ones into the hamper and then went downstairs to greet his wife and hopefully stake a claim on some of the breakfast he could smell.
He kissed the top of Bella's head in greeting as he went by her at the kitchen counter to grab another cup of coffee. Alice and Alicia were already in attendance and he called his greeting to them where they sat in the thin line of sunshine in the sitting room as he made his way back outside to the terrace.
He gathered all his pages of notes into one pile and read over them as he sipped from his cup.
Bella watched him through the kitchen window with sad eyes. She'd never felt so detached from him before and it hurt even more in the cold hard light of day to realise that his 'plans' meant so much more to him than she did.
Draining her coffee cup Bella moved around the counter and put her breakfast dishes into the dishwasher before she thanked Esme for the meal. "Do you need your car this morning, Ally?" she asked her sister as she moved through the sitting room towards the stairs.
"Nope," Alice replied. "I don't think Jaz is going anywhere so if I need one I'll use his."
Bella nodded to show that she'd heard and understood and then she raced up to her room to collect her wallet and cell. She was back in the sitting room in under a minute and after snatching the keys from the hook in the hall she called her thank you to her sister before slamming the front door behind herself. She wasn't even at the end of the driveway before Esme was on the terrace questioning Edward.
Edward was at a loss as to what his mother was implying. It wasn't unusual for Bella to go out on her own and it wasn't unusual for her to take Alice' car when she did. He simply didn't see a problem.
"But how often since you two were married has she left this house without kissing you goodbye?" Esme asked with her hand on her hip.
That was unusual. He couldn't deny that. He couldn't think of a single instance where his wife left the house without first kissing him goodbye and second, letting him know where she'd be and for how long.
"Did she say anything to you before she left?" he asked his mother but she was already shaking her head. "She probably just forgot to come find me," he shrugged. "She knows I'm busy with all this," he said, swiping his hand in front of himself at the mess of papers. "She probably didn't want to disturb me."
Esme eyed him carefully. She had the knowledge of decades of tension within a home under her belt and she knew and understood the behaviour she was seeing. A wife doesn't 'forget' to kiss her husband goodbye when she leaves home, even on a simple errand. A wife who doesn't want to kiss her husband just leaves. A wife will disturb her husband any time if she wants him to know where she's going and when she'll be back. But only if she wants him to know. Esme had a sick feeling in the pit of her stomach.
"Did the two of you argue last night?" she asked.
"No, of course not," Edward replied defensively.
"Did she kiss you goodnight when she went up to bed? Did she ask you to come to bed even though you were busy making your notes?"
Thinking back on the evening before Edward couldn't answer those questions because he'd been so wrapped up in his own head he honestly couldn't recall anything other than his own actions and words.
"You're seeing something that isn't there," he told his mother.
"If you're sure," Esme said softly and went back inside. Alice gave her a sad but knowing smile and with that the two women had to be content.
If Edward was sure everything was alright and Bella hadn't said it wasn't then that was an end to it. But both women knew it wasn't like Bella to leave the way she did.
Jasper, less than fresh after a restless night's sleep himself, joined the group a few minutes later and commented on the absence of his sister in law. Alice told him she'd gone out for a bit so he poured himself a bowl of cereal and read the paper at the kitchen counter. When he was finished he asked Edward to join him in the study so they could continue their tasks.
Both men could see the value in being physically present on site as the work went ahead but it was Jasper who voiced his displeasure at being apart from his family if they did go soon.
"Bella will stay behind with her, they'll be fine," Edward said, waving his hand in dismissal at Jasper's concerns.
"Bella said she'll stay behind?" Jasper asked disbelievingly.
"I told her I was going to go now and she said fly safe, so yeah," Edward mumbled as he tore another yellow page off the legal pad and screwed it up in his fist. "The timeline for the auditorium is off I think," he added, quickly switching back to his plans.
"Whoa, back up there a bit," Jasper barked. "You told your wife you were going on ahead to Australia?" Jasper asked, his anger rising steadily in his system at his brother in laws lack of tact. He hoped that Edward was over simplifying the conversation and that he didn't really word the situation that way.
"It was your idea!" Edward barked back. "You said we could only pull this off if we went there and oversaw everything in person."
"That's not what I mean," Jasper hissed. "Forget the fucking plan for a second and think, man. You told your wife you were going to fly to Australia to oversee the renovations."
"So?" Edward scowled. "I am allowed to make that decision for myself."
Jasper leaned forward in his seat and just stared at Edward for a good long minute. "Tell me how the conversation went."
"What?" Edward asked, sick of rehashing something that wasn't important.
"Humour me," Jasper sighed.
"Fine," Edward huffed. "I was outside thinking about what you'd said about hiring a project manager. I was telling her that I didn't like the idea. That I didn't think we'd have much luck finding someone with a music background who could do the job so I told her I agreed with you that you and I should just go there and be hands on while the whole thing takes shape."
"Okay, so after you said that did she say she was happy with the idea that she should stay here if Alice decided she wanted to stay?"
Edward, again, tried to think back on how the conversation had gone to find the answer to that and found, again, that he couldn't remember Bella saying anything at all. "I don't think she said anything at all about that. She just told me to fly safely," Edward mumbled.
"And after that? What did she say after that?" Jasper hissed, his concern rising.
"Nothing. She went up to bed but I stayed outside mapping out plans and shit. I fell asleep out there. Mom woke me up this morning."
"Christ," Jasper sighed. "The two of you didn't talk at all this morning?"
"No but she was perfectly fine," Edward argued.
"Where's she gone this morning?" Jasper asked.
"When will she be back?"
"If she comes back," Jasper sighed as he reached for the handset to the house phone on his desk. He dialled Bella's cell number while Edward stared at him through his scowl.
What was everyone's problem this morning he wondered to himself as he watched his brother in law redial Bella's cell for a second time.
"Iza-bee its Jaz," he said, obviously to her voicemail. "Give me a call and let me know you're okay. Better still, come on back to the house and we'll have a chat, you and me." He hung up the handset then frowned at his clueless brother in law. "You," he said as he pointed, "fucked up. Big time."
"What the fuck?" Edward shouted as he got to his feet. "I have no idea why you all think there's something wrong because there isn't. She went to run an errand and forgot to kiss me goodbye. It's no big deal. She's got nothing to be upset or stressed about!"
Jasper, leaning forward in his seat again, levelled a stare at his clueless brother in law. "You don't think she's got anything to be stressed about?" he asked seriously.
Edward began taking the steps to committing his third straight, successive mistake as he made to reply and he didn't even realise it.
It wasn't even five in the morning and Emmett's cell was ringing. He used a very explicit, very Australian curse to punctuate just how much he despised whoever the caller was, scrubbed his palm over his heavy eyelids and told Rosie to go back to sleep before he yanked the offending item off his bedside table and growled a very angry 'yeah' into the handset.
"Em its Bella," came the reply and Emmett immediately let go of some of his animosity.
Time differences weren't his American friends strong suits. "Hey Bells," he replied a little more kindly as he tucked the phone between his ear and shoulder so he could use both hands to pull on some sweats. "Talk to me girly," he told her as he headed for the living room.
"Oh Em," Bella sighed on her end. "I don't know where to start. It's all gone wrong."
Hearing the anguish in his friends voice made Emmett feel sick. "Everyone's alive and well there right? Start with that first then we'll have a yack about what's going on for you," he told her as he flicked on the already full kettle.
"Everyone's alive and well," Bella informed him and a little of the anxiety he'd been feeling fell away. "But nothing's exactly right here and I don't know how to fix it."
"From the top, girly," Em reminded her as he splashed a little milk into his mug.
"It started yesterday when we got word that we've been approved for the visas," Bella sighed and Emmett had to wonder how anything could've gone wrong after such brilliant news. "It's Edward, Em. He's changed. He doesn't want my help or my input and he's deciding shit for me just like my parents used to..." she sobbed.
Topping off his cup with the now boiling water Emmett sighed long and hard. "Ok Bells, don't cry little one. It'll all work out. How's about you tell me exactly what he's deciding for you and we'll go from there."
So she did. She told him everything. About how Edward had pulled away from her touch the night before, about how he'd ignored her while he ranted, about his plans to do everything himself and how he said she should just stay in the States until it was all finished.
Emmett was so pissed at Edward but did his best to keep calm as he listened. There were two sides to every story and Em was only getting one side on this call, after all. He encouraged her to keep talking, to tell him everything while he took small sips of his coffee. And at the end of her tale he did his best to support and encourage her without making excuses for Edward.
He reminded her that his advice all along, even way back at the start when they first met at camp, was to talk to one another and to be honest. If Ed was as ignorant of the problem as Emmett thought he might be then getting Bella to explain why she was so upset had to be the first step to fixing the bigger problem.
Reminding her new husband that the reason they met in the first place was because they'd had their right to choices removed was the second step.
Getting the two of them to sit down and run through how to achieve both their goals simultaneously was the third.
Bella listened carefully as Emmett spoke. Most of what he said she'd already thought of herself but she needed her newly level headed friend to help her decide how to deal with her mess.
Emmett had to wonder how he'd fallen into the role of relationship guru for his two friends but didn't shirk the responsibility. It was too important a job and he knew deep down that Bella and Edward were perfect for one another. So he did his best to reassure his friend that talking out the problem was always going to be the best place to start.
Thankfully Bella agreed.
But first she had one or two things she needed to complete in town before she could go back and set things right with her husband.
She spared just a few minutes to ponder how her sister was going to feel about her decisions but in the end she went with her gut instinct. Her ride home was a calmer one than the trip to town earlier and Bella had if not a good feeling in her stomach about the prospect of making things right then at the very least she felt more confident that she had taken some steps to beginning the process.
Those thoughts flew right out the window when she arrived home.
Alice, baby Alicia on her hip, met her sister as she came into the house and Bella could tell from the crease in her brow that something wasn't quite right. Esme, whose nose came poking around the corner of the kitchen as Bella approached, gasped quite loudly and ducked back into the kitchen as quickly as she could. That too piqued Bella's interest and her concern that not all was well in the house.
The next clue came as she registered the raised voices coming from the direction of Jasper's study. Even though she was unable to make out the actual words Bella had no problem deducing between whom they were being shouted.
"What's that about?" she asked her now cringing sister.
"Come into the kitchen and I'll make you a coffee," Alice said by way of answer but Bella wasn't having it.
Brushing away her sisters offer she dumped her purse and keys on the console table in the hall and strode purposefully toward the study, Alice and Esme's begging pleas for her to leave it alone ringing in her ears as she went.
A once again oblivious Edward chose that exact moment to leave his seat opposite his brother in law and cracked open the door just a little as he prepared to leave.
His eyes blazing fire and his lips set in a grim sneer he barked the words that left his wife breathless as she waited on the other side of the door.
"I may have hated every fucking minute of being at university but I did well in those classes, Jasper. I passed with honours and I remember every fucking word of what I was taught. The very first rule is you don't let emotion and relationships cloud your judgement in business. It's a fundamental and one I don't intend to ignore. The second is to surround yourself with a team with diverse specialities. You don't know squat about music or how to teach, and neither does Bella. I need your funding and your skills as a lawyer to make this project work, that's true. But leave the rest to me. As for my wife, she brings nothing to the table as far as this project is concerned. She'll be just one more thing I have to worry about if she goes out there with us right now. You worry about your wife and I'll worry about mine."
As his last words dripped off his tongue Edward pulled the door fully open and made to leave the study. He came hard up against his already crying wife. The shock and pain on her face was fully evident this time because for the first time in days Edward truly looked.
"Bella..." he began but that was as far as he got.
The slap to his cheek was so hard, and delivered with so much anguish, that he had to step backwards as the sting registered in his brain.
Bella said nothing for a long time as she stared at her husband. She'd never struck anyone before but she did know how it felt to be slapped. She should've felt sorry, guilty even, for striking her husband but as she stared at him she found that she didn't.
Instead she too stepped backwards until there were a few feet of distance between them. With clenched fists hanging by her sides she raised her eyes and stared her husband down.
"I begin classes in nine days. I start work at camp in five. I have a flight in eighteen hours. There are seats still available if you want one. I'm staying with Rosie and Em. I might bring nothing to the table as far as your project goes, Edward," she spat, "but you bring nothing of yours to help me achieve my goals either. Think about that. And then think about the things you and I talked about way back at the start. About being able to make your own choices. About how much you despised your fathers attitude to conducting business. About the promises you made to me in that pressing shed that night. Then think about how you've behaved here today and decide for yourself what it is you really want. You know where I'll be."
As she turned to leave Edward tried again to call her back but he knew before he tried that it was futile. She was gone, away up the stairs, before he got the last syllable of her name passed his lips. And then he was left standing there, outside Jasper's study, with his wife's hand print clearly defined on his left cheek. Stunned. Shocked. Ashamed and guilty as hell.
One by one her family came to her.
Alice first, as always. Her sisters wellbeing high on her list of priorities, as always. Hurried words of support were given and accepted and Alice was sure to be clear with her sister that her decision to go to Australia and begin her future was the right thing to do.
Alice had never expected Bella to stay behind and 'help her with the baby' because Alice didn't need help with the baby. She was grateful for any assistance she got, but she was careful to make sure her sister understood that Alicia was her responsibility and she and her husband would hash out their own plans when the time came to make them.
Esme, apologetic and apoplectic for her sons actions and words the previous few days came next. She too encouraged Bella to chase her own dreams and promised that she'd stay and do whatever Alice needed her to do in order to make the move to Australia as smooth and as easy as possible for her sister.
Jaspers visit was similar to the others in that he too offered Bella his support and encouragement but different because it was sprinkled with foul language.
Jasper was appalled at Edward's behaviour and the words that had been spoken in anger in his study. As such he didn't bother lowering his voice when those things were discussed way up on the second floor in Bella's room. He secretly hoped Edward was listening, and listening hard as he told his sister in law that she wasn't to worry about him, Alice or their baby, that he was responsible for them and that if Bella felt she needed to go to Australia and begin work and study now then she should go.
Bella sat on her bed as they spoke. Encouraging her, reassuring her that everything would sort itself out, that Edward didn't mean what he said. She told each of them her thanks for their kind words and for their love and support.
Logically Bella knew that he didn't mean them. Edward wasn't his father. He wasn't cold or calculating and he certainly wasn't the sort of person who could hurt her so fundamentally without remorse. Especially over a business decision. But even knowing that Bella was so angry and so hurt that the words of quiet comfort her family offered her made little impact when delivered by everyone but the one person she needed to hear them from.
More resolved than ever not to waste the chance she'd been given to break free of the life her parents had designed for her Bella rose from her bed and began to pack her life into her suitcases once again.
It didn't take long. It never did. Within the hour everything she owned was stowed carefully and neatly into the very same cases she'd gone to camp with. Her room was tidy, the bathroom clean and her ticket, passport and purse were sitting on top of her folded clothes for travelling.
Two hours after she'd slapped him Edward still hadn't shown up in their room. She didn't even know if he was still in the house. Unable to handle the solitude of what was going to be her last day there she went downstairs to spend some time with the others.
As she suspected Edward wasn't there. A quick glance at the key rack hanging on the kitchen wall showed Jasper's car keys missing and Bella knew then that Edward had gone out. And just as she had done earlier in the day he'd left without acknowledging her in any way.
Far from being hurt by that she was grateful. She'd much rather Edward get out and get some air, clear his head or whatever it was he needed to do, before they spoke next. And she knew that they would talk. He wouldn't let her get on that plane without at least talking first.
And if he did, well, she'd cross that bridge if and when she came to it.
And so Bella spent a pleasant afternoon with her family. They laughed and joked as they took care of Alicia and as preparations for the evening meal began they spoke a little about the plans that had already been made and about the ones that would need to be made very soon.
By the time the meal was placed on the table Edward still hadn't returned. A tense air permeated what should have been a jovial farewell meal.
Bella had to leave for the airport before dawn the next morning so she said her goodbyes to her family before heading upstairs to bed. Waving away Jasper's offer to drive her himself she booked a taxi and stood her suitcases at the foot of the stairs.
And still Edward hadn't returned.
When the alarm on her cell chimed at 4 in the morning an already awake Bella silenced it with a sigh. The other side of the bed was cold and unoccupied.
She showered efficiently and dressed in the clothing she'd already laid out. She remade the bed, straightened the room and bid her temporary home a last goodbye before going down to wait for the taxi. It came on time, for once, and with butterflies knocking around in her stomach Bella settled herself into the backseat with a heavy heart. Her husband hadn't returned. He wasn't going with her.
Edward hadn't returned to the house because he hadn't had time to.
That and the idea of facing the rest of the family before he made amends with his wife seemed abhorrent.
And so Edward did the only things he could think of to do.
He bought a ticket to Australia.
Next he arranged for someone to collect his things from the house, box them up, and forward them to Crossroads.
A quick call to Emmett, who gave him a bigger dressing down than even Bella had, gave him the confidence to do what he needed to do next.
The call to Rose was riddled with cursing and recriminations, and quite a few threats to his person, which Edward accepted with as much good grace as he could muster. After a little grovelling he secured himself one of the private guest cabins at the camp for the foreseeable future.
His last stop before heading to the airport was to his father's house. Bella had said what she'd said about his father's business dealings for a reason and Edward had heard her loud and clear. She wanted him to see and understand that the way he'd behaved had been very reminiscent of the way his father behaved when it came to business. Win at all costs was his father's way. The cost of winning wasn't going to be his marriage Edward thought as he stood on the doorstep poised to ring the bell.
The housekeeper let him in with a polite but sad smile that left Edward wondering what it was about. He didn't have to wait long to find out. When he asked where he might find his father the maid waved toward the hallway and scuttled back in the direction of the kitchen without a word.
His father was asleep in his chair in his study despite it being midday. There were several empty liquor bottles strewn over the surface of his disaster of a desk and the smell in the room could only be described as rancid. No wonder the maid had looked sad.
Shaking his dad awake, and stepping back quickly to avoid being struck should the older Cullen male come to aggressively, Edward could only goggle at the shell of a man who opened his eyes gingerly.
"What do you want?" Carlisle said gruffly from a dry throat once he'd seen who it was who was in the room with him.
It was an interesting question, Edward thought. Tossing a months worth of newspapers off the chair that faced his father's once imposing desk he sat and stared at the man who gave him life for a good, long minute before answering.
An inch of stubble made him look older and the greasy hair made his complexion look pasty. Edward had never seen his father look anything other than immaculate, so the state of the man shocked him.
"I've..." Edward began, and then stopped to reconsider his words. "I'm going to..." he stuttered before running a hand through his hair and taking a deep breath.
"Spit it out," Carlisle groaned as he refilled his stained glass from the last inch of a bottle of scotch.
With wide eyes Edward watched his father gulp at the alcohol in disgust. "I'm not you," he said strongly.
Carlisle stared over the desk at his son and had to agree. "No, you're not."
"I don't want to be you either."
"I don't recommend it," Carlisle sneered. "Why are you here? Why now?"
The answer came easier this time. "Because I did something today that looked and sounded just like something you would have done or said and it scared me."
At that Carlisle's eyes widened. Slumping against the back of his chair he took another bottle from where it stood at his feet and poured himself another finger of scotch. "Nothing worth having comes easily," was his only comment.
"Is this a 'you have to break a few eggs to make an omelette' thing?" Edward sniggered.
"It happens," Carlisle shrugged.
"And when you hurt someone you love to reach your own goals, when that happens, is that just a part of being a businessman?"
Carlisle's gaze steadied while he considered. "You'll do better if you love no one." The anguished grunt Edward let escape from his mouth made Carlisle smirk. "Ahh, the fair Isabella. Learning the true cost of success is she?"
"Actually no," Edward said as he got to his feet. "I'm learning the cost and it's Bella who's teaching me. I fucked up, that's true, but I'll make sure it isn't my wife that pays a price for any success I achieve."
"Admirable but naive as always."
"I'd rather be naive and still have my wife," Edward hissed across the table before moving towards the door. "We're moving to Australia. I've bought some space and I'm opening a music school and theatre. Bella's going back to school. We're leaving today. We won't be back. Goodbye, dad."
Carlisle was on his feet immediately, though very unsteadily. "A music school?" he laughed condescendingly. "Ten years at college and you're going to be a music teacher? Well, good luck with that," he laughed.
Edward turned and smiled at his father. "Yeah. I'm going to teacher music. It's going to be amazing. But the best part, the very best part of all of it, is that I'm using the money grandfather left me that I screwed you out of to make myself happy. No, that's not true. The very best part is that my wife is going to be there with me every step of the way and I'm going to make her happy too."
Seething on the inside Carlisle did his best to keep his outward appearance neutral. He couldn't know how badly he failed. "You'll blow through that money inside a year and she'll be fucking miserable right alongside you!" he shouted as Edward went through the door and out into the hallway.
"Possibly," Edward smirked over his shoulder. "But we were happy before either of us knew I had the money in the first place so we can just go back to that no problem."
With that he strode down the hall and out of his father's house for the last time.
He whistled all the way to the airport.
Emmett's smiling face was clearly visible over the heads of the other travellers in the arrivals terminal when Bella came out from customs. She waved as she spotted him and his cheesy grin and over exaggerated wave in response made her smile.
It was the first smile she'd indulged in since leaving her sister's house the day before. Or was it two days before? Was she now a day ahead of where she'd come from, or a day behind? She was still pondering that when Emmett wrapped her up and hugged her tight.
"Good to see you, girly," he said into her hair before letting her go and taking her carryon luggage into his huge hand. "Come on, Rosie's dying to see you."
Excited to be seeing Rose again too Bella let another smile form on her lips and tried as best as she could to set her worries aside. At least for the duration of the trip to camp.
Edward slapped a hand out to silence the alarm on his cell phone and sat up in the tiny single bed slowly. His whole body ached and his brain was fuzzy and disoriented. He took a second to look around and slowly it dawned on him that he was at camp and not at the Whitlock house anymore.
The cabin was just as he remembered it. Small, cosy and far too quiet without Bella in it with him.
With just four hours sleep under his belt and a raging case of jetlag fogging his head he stood under the hot shower for a long, long time. He'd made it to Melbourne before his wife but had then had to endure the long wait until Emmett left to collect her at the airport. Sleep had been the best option but it had taken him a long time to succumb. Now he felt unsettled and nervous, just like he had the first time he'd come to Crossroads. Things really had come full circle he thought to himself as he dressed.
He'd arrived the first time under pressure, unsure and with no clue how to achieve a future of his own design. And here he was again in almost exactly the same circumstances. At least this time it was of his own doing he thought as he snapped the latch closed on his watch.
"I'm nothing like my father," he reminded himself as he stared at his haggard reflection in the tiny bathroom mirror. "My project is not more important than my marriage or my family," he chanted.
Bella arrived at Crossroads just as Rosalie was finishing up for the day so a noisy, tear stained reunion was had right in the foyer of the administration block. Rose, having been filled in on the situation by Emmett, and then again by Edward after his arrival, was as eager to see the pair settle their differences as Em was. But Rosie was all for letting Edward stew, just a little bit, in solidarity with her female friend, so she took Bella into her office for a bit of a chat.
Em, knowing Ed was waiting the cabin to surprise his wife, bounced from foot to foot as the two women rehashed every word, glance and nuance from what had occurred between the newlyweds.
Just as impatient as ever he finally gave up the wait and made his way to the cabin himself. He found Ed right where they'd agreed he'd be and settled into the other chair under the awning opposite his friend just like he'd done so many times when they'd both been guests on personal missions.
"Are your ears burning, mate?" he asked as he took a cigarette from Edward's pack.
"Sorry?" Edward asked, confused.
"You're really gonna have to get with the lingo fast," Emmett laughed, confusing his companion even further. "The language," he told a bewildered Edward. "You're going to have to work out the slang fast now that you're going to be living here. I was asking if your ears were burning because the girls are gossiping like fish wives about you in the office."
"Christ, I can only imagine what Bella's saying," Edward muttered before running a hand through his hair nervously. "Rosie will still bring her down here though, right?"
"That's the plan."
"How does she look?"
"As knackered as you do," Em chuckled. "Have another smoke. Calm down a bit, you're sweating like a racehorse. Rosie won't torture you for long."
"I'd deserve it if she did," Ed replied sadly and noted that his friend nodded in agreement even though Em wasn't one to take sides.
While the two boys sat rather impatiently under the awning Rose gave Bella a key that she said was to the residence up behind the pressing shed but was really the second key for the cabin Edward had taken. They talked briefly about Bella's course schedule and how they could make the hours she'd agreed to take on at camp work around them and then a little bit about where the best place for Bella to buy a car from would be.
Fading fast, her jet lag and sadness catching up with her, Bella was eager to just fall into the bed at Rose and Emmett's house and dream the rest of the day and night away. But Rose had other ideas.
Rising from behind her desk Bella hoped they'd now make their way to the house but as they walked along the pathway between the dining hall and the private cabins Rose told her friend that she'd made some changes in a couple of the guest cabins and wanted Bella's opinion on how the work had turned out.
With a sigh Bella agreed and as the two women made their way up the path towards cabin two Emmett wished his friend good luck and hightailed it towards his own home further up the hill, leaving a nervous and sick feeling Edward staring at his oblivious wife walking towards him.
Bella, with her eyes cast down and her arms wrapped around her waist as she was wont to do in times of stress, had no idea she was walking towards her husband.
"I've repainted all the other cabins but Emmett and Edward's old one is the one that's seen the most changes," Rose said with an unseen smirk as they neared the awning. "Check it out and come up to the house when you're ready."
Bella, finally lifting her eyes, was about to say she didn't really feel like entering Edward's old cabin right then but stopped short at the sight before her.
Dishevelled wasn't the right word to use at the sight of her husband. Haggard came close.
Sitting in the chair he'd always taken when they'd been guests, with the obligatory pack of cigarettes at his elbow, he looked tired and stressed and as beautiful to his wife as he always did. Even as angry as Bella was she could see the sweet, vulnerable man she'd fallen in love with right there under that awning.
"How?" was all she managed to get out of a fast thickening throat.
"I took an earlier flight than you did," Edward answered gruffly, the long flight lack of sleep and worry turning his usually melodic voice into that of a two pack a day man twice his age.
Neither of them noticed Rose stepping away and following Em up the path towards their home. Neither of them was aware that other private guests were coming out of their rooms to make their way down the path towards the dining hall for dinner. All they saw was each other.
"Why are you here?" Bella asked as she took the chair opposite her husband. "May I?" she asked, nodding towards his pack and lighter.
"Of course," he answered, passing both to her. "I'm here because where you are is where I belong, but most of all I'm here because I'm so fucking sorry for the way I behaved the past few days."
"You couldn't tell me you were sorry in the three hours I sat in our room alone at my sisters?" Bella asked acidly before lighting her cigarette and leaning back to exhale. "You couldn't see the queues given to you, or listen to Alice, Jasper or your mother, while we were still in the same house to work out that you should say you were sorry? You flew to the end of the earth to say you're sorry to me, Edward?"
Sighing heavily Edward lit another cigarette for himself and leaned back in his chair before he began to speak. "It's true I didn't see the signs you were showing me. I didn't notice how I'd upset you, how hurt you were by my actions and words. Not at first. Not that night anyway.
"I admit I was so caught up in all the things that needed to be done here that I didn't notice how I'd hurt you that night. I swear that I never meant to hurt you. I never meant to exclude you or to ignore you that night. My head was just full of detail after detail that I just didn't notice."
"Do you realise that I touched you that night?" Bella asked. "When you were sitting out on the terrace and I came out, after everyone else went to bed, I put my hand on your thigh. Do you remember that?"
Edward thought hard for a few seconds before admitting that he did not.
"You brushed my hand away," Bella all but sobbed. The sting of that rejection was still fresh inside her. "You brushed me away and started pacing and ranting about all the work you had to do here. It was like I wasn't even there."
"I'm so sorry," was all Edward could say to that.
"And then," Bella continued, ignoring his apology for the time being, "you said you were going to have to come here right away and do it all yourself because you couldn't trust a project manager, or even Jasper, to do any of it right.
"You told me that I should stay behind and help Alice with Alicia, Edward," she said, leaning forward and staring him down to punctuate her point. "You didn't ask me if I wanted to stay behind. You didn't ask if I wanted to come here and help if I could. You told me I should stay behind."
"I took your choices away," Edward mumbled.
"You did. Just like my parents used to do. All you could see was what you had to do, what you needed to do, and right then I was just superfluous to all those plans. That hurt, Edward. That hurt so badly. More even than you brushing my hand away that hurt because it made me feel like I'd shaken off the constraints of my parents, and escaped Jake, only to find myself right back where I started with someone else making decisions for me. I started wondering if I'd made the same mistake your mother made with your dad."
"Jesus Christ," Edward muttered, tears filling his eyes at the pain in her voice and now so evident on her face. "I never meant to do that," he insisted. "I'd never willingly do that to you Bella, I promise. I'm not like him. I swear I'm not. I just got so caught up. I lost sight of what I'd been fighting for and I'm so sorry I made you feel that way."
Again ignoring his apology Bella pressed on, determined to air all of her grievances as everyone around her had advised her to do. "When I left the house the next morning do you know where I went? What I did?" she asked.
"You went to book your ticket," Edward nodded.
"That too," Bella conceded before continuing. "But it's not all I did. I went to town and sat in a coffee shop and talked to Emmett for ages. He listened, Edward. Really listened. He didn't tell me what to do but he did give me some advice on how to make you understand how your behaviour affected me."
"As stupid as it sounds I didn't know I'd hurt you like that," Edward insisted.
Waving her hand to make him stop Bella pressed on. "Whether you knew or not isn't the issue, Edward. Em helped me see that. The issue is that even though we're married, a partnership, the first time something big came up you isolated me. You tried to take on all the responsibility and pressure all by yourself when you had me to lean on. Our partnership wasn't the first thing you turned to to help you make sense of what needed doing. You ignored me, hurt me and kept me out of the decision making process and that's what Em and I talked about. About how to make you see that you didn't and don't need to do everything on your own. So I talked to Em for a bit longer about those things and then I talked to Rose about the offer of the job here. She assured me I could start whenever I was ready and then I went to an internet cafe and enrolled in the courses I want to take here. Then I went and bought my ticket.
"I thought that if I bought the ticket I could go back to the house and prove to you that I wanted and needed to be where you were. That I didn't want to stay behind. I thought that if I showed you my enrolment forms, and told you the hours I'd agreed to with Rose, that you and I could sit down and map out how I could spend the rest of my time helping you with the school project. I thought you'd see that even though I have no real idea about anything business related I'm good with numbers and was willing to do whatever it was you needed me to do."
Finally realising the magnitude of his fuck ups Edward swiped at his eyes with the back of one hand while reaching across the table with his other to clutch at his wife. "You did all that and came home to me ranting about how you couldn't help me," he stuttered. "I didn't mean any of it. Well, I did, but not in the way you think. I swear, Bella, that I didn't mean that you couldn't help me. I swear that I didn't mean to make you feel useless. I promise that I want you here with me. But I don't want you bored, or resentful that the project is taking all of my time. I want you here I just didn't want you sitting around waiting for me to come home exhausted and stressed."
"That was my choice to make," Bella said sternly. "I don't know what was said between you and Jaz in his study that made you react with the words you chose but I can tell you that I've never felt more betrayed than I did listening to you say them," she admitted. "I'm glad to hear you didn't mean them, or at least not the way I took them, but you have to know that nothing could've hurt me more than to hear my husband say those things about me."
"I was stressed," Edward said and when Bella began to protest he shushed her with a hand and went on. "And I know that's no excuse. I know that. I didn't stop to think about anyone other than myself. I admit that too. My head was filled with the enormity of the project and I panicked about how I was going to make it all happen in the time frame we'd been given. All I could see was the fallout from failing and I panicked. Our whole future is wrapped up in the success of this school, Bella. Not just mine, not even just ours. Your whole family, my whole family's future depends on me making this project succeed and I panicked."
"I can see that," Bella conceded. "But you have to know, you have to see now, that you don't have to do it all alone. It's true that everyone's futures rely on this working out. I agree with that. But you have to see that none of us expects you to do it all yourself. Jasper has and will work just as hard as you to make it all happen and even though Alice and I have nothing much to add we're ready, willing and able to do whatever you need us to do. Even if that's just being there to talk to at the end of a shitty day. If you succeed we want to be at least partly responsible for it and if you fail we don't want the blame to be all yours."
"I can't fail," Edward gasped as a pain gripped his chest at the thought of letting everyone down.
"And I don't think you will," Bella replied, smiling and meaning it for what felt like the first time in weeks.
"It's so risky, though," Edward sighed, squeezing her hand hard.
"And we all knew that before we started the process. But everything worth having is risky, Edward. Think about the risks we've both had to take in order to just be together. Neither of us took those risks without thinking hard first and none of us went into this project without thought either. Everyone is ready to do what you need them to do, you just have to let us help you, darling," she cooed softly.
"I don't deserve that, from any of you," Edward gushed as he stood and pulled her up with him. "I'm so sorry. You won't ever know how sorry I am that I hurt you," he murmured as he buried his nose in her hair and drank her in. "I don't want to let you down and fail at this but if I manage to succeed and you aren't beside me it'll be worthless anyway. Please, please just tell me you still want me? Even after the way I spoke to you and about you. Please just tell me."
"Of course I still want you," Bella half laughed, half sobbed as she clung to her shaking husband.
"I'll stop now, give it all away, break all the contracts and take you home if that's what you want. Just please, please lets be together," he sobbed.
"I don't want you to do that. But I have to tell you how happy it makes me to hear you offer," Bella half laughed against his throat. "I want to see this succeed as much as you do and I want to be right here with you when it does.
"And I forgive you. If in the future you feel overwhelmed by the tasks ahead please just promise to talk to me about it. I can't help if you won't let me and I don't want you having to deal with all of our futures on your own."
"I promise, I promise," he swore. "And I'll apologise to the others too. Right away."
"Good," she told him as she pulled away a little. Cupping his cheek in her palm she smiled up at him. "Now, I'm assuming you've rented this cabin for a bit?" she asked and grinned when he nodded that he had. "Good. I don't know about you but I'm dead on my feet and need to sleep."
"Me too," he agreed.
"Then let's sleep and tomorrow we'll start work. Together."
"Together," he agreed again.
They went into the cabin with grins on their faces at the memories just being there invoked. Content that they'd settled their differences they shucked their clothing and slid into the tiny bed and held one another close.
"I'm meeting with the contractors at eight tomorrow morning," Edward mumbled as sleep began to cloud his brain.
"I'm going down the mountain to buy a car first thing, we'll share a taxi," Bella whispered as she too succumbed to the bliss of sleeping in her husband's arms.
A/N: Thank you for reading.