Edward Cullen pulls the car to the side of the highway. He presses his forehead against the steering wheel and balls his hands into fists. His chest feels like it will explode at the same time that he feels like he'll be sick to his stomach.
"Edward, calm down," his sister Alice begs through his Bluetooth earpiece.
He is not calm.
"Take a deep breath, okay?"
He feels physically incapable of breathing deeply.
"Just promise me you won't tell Angela," he begs.
"We just have to think about this rationally. It can't be as…"
"God, Alice, just stop it!"
Edward's worst fear has just come true. He does not have time for rational thought. He's supposed to ride in on his blue Volvo-steed and save the day. You see, Edward fixes things: complex computer networks at his former job, his parent's aging house, his other sister Rosalie's ballooning mortgage… not to mention his wife.
Actually, when it comes to Angela he does more than fix; he saves. He saved her thesis paper from digital oblivion the first time they met. With the help of a ring, he saved her from moving away after college to take a less than desireable job. He saved her business from bankruptcy the year before she was diagnosed with breast cancer. He thought he'd helped save her life with his health insurance policy. These days he simply saves her from worry.
He saves her from the troubling knowledge that he's ironically sunk his life savings into saving. Mortgages and loan repayments and insurance co-pays and deductibles and experimental treatments carry inevitable costs. Edward managed to put his entire extended family at ease, yet in the process, pull the rug out from underneath himself.
Lately, after Edward settles his wife into bed and settles himself in front of the computer monitor, he balances his finances like a game of Jenga. He writes appeals to insurance companies. He writes to pharmaceutical companies looking for charitable gifts. Afterwards, he goes to the guest bedroom (as the old master suite has been converted to a sick room), swallows a sedative and stares at the ceiling. He feels his saving grace is that Angela will die before she knows what has become of it all.
In his car on the side of the road Edward sobs - a deep, ugly sound that startles him.
He cannot fathom facing his wife and telling her that the last string he had been hanging from has snapped. He has no income and no savings, and very shortly they'll have no health insurance coverage.
"Rosalie owes you -" Alice insists from the other end of the line.
"What the hell is Rosalie going to do?"
"I could maybe -"
"Alice, stop it."
Edward does not appreciate when others try their hand at fixing.
"Well, what are you going to do, then?"
Edward stares at the open highway stretching out in front of him. He has the impulse to drive away toward the horizon, avoiding the exit that would lead toward his home. He would pick up in another city, find a new job and a healthy wife and pretend this all had never happened. But even as he daydreams, he knows he cannot leave. He must face his mess. He must find a way to fix it.
"I'll figure something out, Alice. I always do. Please don't breathe a word of this to anyone, okay?"
"It's going to kill me keeping this from mom and dad."
"It'll all be over before you have to worry."
"Well, okay, I guess. Take care, Edward. Say hi to Angela for me."
"I'll do that. Night, Alice."
"Night, Edward. Love you."
"Love you too, sis."
Edward wipes his eyes, puts his car into drive and grips the wheel. He leaves the highway at the appropriate exit. He follows traffic rules. He holds it together once more.
After the home nurse is relieved, Edward enters his old bedroom. Angela's eyes are closed. Her flat chest rises and falls unevenly. Her skin is dry and pale. Her eyelids flutter as he takes a seat in the chair next to the bed.
"You're home." Her smile is thin. Her eyes are brown and clouded, like the sky over Los Angeles on a winter evening.
He bends and kisses his wife's cheek and his fingers grasp the cotton cap on her head. "I'm home," he agrees, but his body feels anything but comfortable.
"Good day?" his wife asks.
"A day. Let's leave it at that." He kisses her forehead for good measure. "How about you?"
"Hannah got the pain meds right."
"Did you eat?"
Angela closes her eyes and turns her head so that she is facing away from her husband. Edward realizes seconds after he's done it that he's used words that would inevitably end the conversation. Angela hardly eats these days. It's a sticking point between the two of them – one of the few.
"You should try to eat more," he insists.
"I'm tired, honey."
"Maybe when you wake?"
"That sounds good."
With another kiss to his wife's cheek, he's in the clear until he must wake Angela for her eight o'clock meds. He opens the refrigerator but realizes he isn't hungry either. Instead of food, he grabs a beer and heads out the back door. He stands at the edge of the yard they've never used. He walks over to the wire fence enclosing the vegetable garden they've never planted. He kicks at a fence post, but it doesn't budge. He kicks again, and again, and then uses hands and heft to tug and tear and pull it all up and out of the ground. Beer spills, wire cuts at his palms and tears his jacket, dirt clouds fill the air around him. Edward chokes and stumbles backwards, tossing the mess onto the ground and surveying the only outward evidence of his shame. The ruined, misshapen mess is disgusting, like the beer-soaked, dirty clothing he's suddenly wearing.
He pulls off his jacket and shirt, unbuckles and pulls his belt free from its loops. Stopping in the mudroom, he kicks off his shoes, tosses his dirty clothing in the washing machine, steps out of his pants, and pulls his t-shirt over his head.
Edward runs the shower water as hot as he can bear. He closes his eyes and wraps a hand around himself, but it's not Angela that he pictures in his mind's eye. Angela isn't the woman he mentally undresses, pins to a tabletop and pounds until she writhes and shouts. This woman is alive and whole. She is strong and limber. She shouts and pulls at his hair and bites at his shoulder as he cums inside her.
When Edward opens his eyes, he sees that he isn't pounding a woman with his cock, but bathroom tiles with his free fist. He presses his forehead against the wall and gasps as hot water pelts his back. His chest heaves and something within it feels as if it crumbles. He wonders what will grow to fill the empty space his life's purpose has left behind.
A/N: If I were a good fanfic author I wouldn't leave things there, but I'm a very bad fanfic author.
Much undying love to my beta, SereneInNC and my nutbunny & pre-reader, Obsmama. Without them I might not have had the courage to post any of this. So, yeah, totally, blame them. I kid. Kinda.
As we go forward: 1) This is totally a work of fiction. I've never destroyed former employees. 2) I make no apologies for either B or E. I'm just going to see where they take it.
It looks like this little ditty is going to update on Fridays.
Until next time,