A/N: This is a story I have been working on for more than a year and a half, a little bit here and there. It was just something that struck me out of the blue one day while I was listening to music (as you all know tends to be a theme for me), and the song that inspired the title (same name by the band Westlife) came on, and this is what popped up in my head. It has been a challenge on myself to write, even though it's taken me a very long time, since there are a few sensitive topics in this particular story. The first is probably made clear in the summary and in the initial chapter here, in that Edward and Bella are married, but far from happily. Another is that Edward did not have a happy or simple childhood at all, and writing Carlisle as anything but a gentle and caring man was something equally challenging on myself. And I know topics such as these will not be something that some readers will want to read. So if this is something you need to pass on, I completely understand that. It's just an Edward that would not leave me alone and get out of my head.
On a side note, I know it's been a while since I've updated With One Word, and I will be posting the next installment or two today, it has just decided to go silent in my head for ages now. I am trying to poke that Edward and Bella with a stick or something to get them talking to me again so I can finish, they are just being stubborn and not cooperating.
Chapter 1 ~ I Know She Still Loves Me
I know she still loves me
But I don't think she likes me anymore
~I Know She Still Loves Me - George Strait
As I lay here alone once again, I can't help but allow my mind to drift down the path I have been trying to avoid for three months now. How much I love her, miss her, and what a stupid ass I've been, even though my pride has not allowed me to admit it. But also, how the fuck we ended up in this mess in the first place.
Everything had started out so perfect in the beginning, as it usually does. We didn't have much, but we were still under the deluded belief that love would be enough. Then the debt started to pile up—school loans, cars, bills—and then, on top of it all, she wanted a baby, and I didn't. At least, not until we were more stable, I told her.
We both began working more, trying to get ahead, and it seems like, in that process, we started to grow apart. But she was still beside me every night whether I came home on time at five, or crept in silently at three in the morning, so everything seemed fine. Our bills slowly got paid off, we bought our first, small house together, and then…the baby issue rose again.
I came up with every reason I could think of to avoid it. I was never home and it wouldn't be fair to her or the kid. Our neighborhood wasn't the best place to raise our family, our house was too small—you name it, I tried it.
Soon enough, we were fighting all the time, and if you ask me now what even half of them consisted of, I most likely won't be able to tell you. And tonight, I find that it doesn't matter at all. We reside under the same roof, but we've been living separate lives—her in the master bedroom, and me on the couch—but it only took one statement from her tonight in the middle of one of our arguments to set my world off axis.
"Edward, I think it's time we just face the music and get a divorce. I can't do this anymore, and we are both wasting our lives together, because we will never want the same things," she said with tears in her eyes and shaking her head.
"You want a divorce because I won't give you a baby? Like we are in any state to have a baby right now," I retorted in disbelief.
"Exactly. We're not and we never will be. What are we honestly still doing together?" she asked, her lip trembling.
"I thought we were together because we loved each other, but obviously, I was mistaken," I snapped bitterly.
She drew in a deep breath with her eyes closed and then they opened again, there was a new sad, yet determined look in them. "Edward, I love you, but you won't go to marriage counseling with me. You've made it very clear that you do not want to be a father, and that means that I have to sacrifice something I want so much, it hurts. I want to be a mother, and I would love to be one to your children, but I can't have that. I've been working at a job I hate for seven years while you've built up your career. I have taken a back seat to everything you wanted. You don't want a divorce, but tell me something, Edward. When is this marriage going to be about what both of us want and not just you?"
To that, I had no reply. She wasn't entirely wrong, about any of it. Nothing she had ever wanted in the seven years of our marriage had come to fruition. Aside from having a baby, she never got to go back to school, or live outside the city as she'd wanted, and she had pleaded with me to go to marriage counseling with her—and I wouldn't. I refused to admit that our marriage was in that much trouble, and whatever problems we were having, I didn't want to share with a third party.
"I'm going to the courthouse tomorrow, and I'm going to file," she said softly, the first tear slipping down her cheek. "You can stay, I'll move out. Otherwise, the house is going to need to be sold, because I can't afford it. I don't want anything, I just really think it's best that we cut our losses before hurt each other anymore."
I had watched her walk back upstairs, my heart pounding and my throat tight, collapsing back onto the couch in shock.
My wife is going to file for a divorce. She is leaving me for good. Even though I can still hear her upstairs, she is already gone. It's been two hours and I can't sleep, finding it hard to even breathe. I don't want to lose her.
Bella is my life, my entire world. My everything. How could I have let things get this far? And for what? Petty fear?
I rise from the couch and make my way upstairs, standing outside the bedroom we used to share and I hear nothing from inside. I push the door open and find the room completely dark except for the sliver of light from the bathroom, slicing a line through the center of our bed like a divider. My wife lays to one side of it, staring up at the ceiling, while the other remains cold and empty, as it has been for so long now. A visible representation of the space that has come between us. I brace my hands on either side of the doorframe, pinching my eyes closed as I feel my heart shattering all over again.
"Please don't leave me, Bella," I whisper in a voice I can barely recognize, lifting my head to gaze across the room at her through blurred vision.
Bella's eyes close but she remains otherwise still, and my grip tightens on the wood and my breaths become more difficult to take. She is resolved, shutting me out—our marriage is over. Everything I have ever wanted, she is taking away, since it all resides in her. "I don't know what else you want me to do, Edward. My heart can only break so many times before there is no putting it back together again."
I slide down the doorframe until I settle onto the floor, staring at the other side. "Do you really still love me?"
"That was never in question," she replies softly, the first hint of emotion crackling her voice. "I love you so much, it's actually killing me inside. But what are either of us getting out of this marriage right now other than pain?"
I clasp my hands behind my neck with my elbows resting on my knees. "I'll do anything, Bella. I'll go to marriage counseling, we can have a baby, anything you want. Please, just don't say it's over. I love you so much. I'm begging you, please."
I hear the movement of the blanket, but for some reason, I can't bring myself to glance over at her. Probably because I don't think I can bear seeing that look on her face again, telling me that I've lost her. "Edward, a baby is the last thing I want right now. It's not the answer to our problems. If that's all that mattered to me, I would have left you years ago."
I finally turn my head toward Bella to find her sitting on the side of the bed, the trail of tears streaming down her face glistening on her skin in the dim light from the hall. Her fingers are clenched on the edge of the mattress and her lips are pressed into a thin line. "What do you want?"
My voice is soft in a gentle request; I'm willing to do anything to save my marriage, but her expression doesn't change. "I want the man I fell in love with. The Edward that wouldn't have waited until I had a foot out the door already, so to speak, before he told me that he loved me and thought our marriage was worth fighting for. I want to go back three months to when I first asked you to go to counseling with me and have you say yes, to show me that we meant that much to you then. Not as a last resort because I've asked for a divorce. And for you to want our baby because you want to start a family with me, instead of just giving me what you think will save our marriage. But all of these things are impossible."
I shake my head and rise from the floor, walking over to her and kneeling at her feet. "Baby, I'm right here, and I've always loved you. I meant every vow I made to you the day we got married and that's never changed. I'm sorry it's taken me so long, but please, give me one more chance."
"Then talk to me and stop shutting me out," Bella replies with a sob, but still held my eyes. "I didn't get married to live alone like this, even with you here. And I won't stay if it's going to remain this way. I want a life with you, not an obligation you feel the need to hold up your end of. I'm not asking you to beg me to stay. I need you to tell me why I should."
"I love you, Bella. You're everything to me. I'm more sorry than you'll ever know that I've made you so unhappy," I tell her, reaching my hand up to her cheek but she turns her face away from me. "Baby, please, tell me what I need to do."
"I can't tell you that. There's no step by step manual on how to fix a broken marriage," Bella whispers, shaking her head and I feel my heart plummet with the word "broken". It sounded so final. "I've never doubted that you love me, Edward, even when you didn't say or show it. But somehow, we still ended up right here."
I lower my head, barely an inch away from resting on her knees. She's never pulled away from my touch like that, or ever sounded so defeated when she's spoken to me. And that scares the hell out of me. "Will you please go to counseling with me? I know I have no right to ask that after refusing you so many times. If it doesn't work and you still want to leave me, I'll let you go. But can we please try?"
"I don't want you to let me go," Bella says softly and I feel her fingers running gently through my hair. It's been so long since I've felt her touch me in any way, I nearly crumble right there and I allow my head to rest on her lap. "But for this to work, you'll have to talk. It's going to take effort on both our parts, or it will be pointless to even go."
I nod, sliding my hands over her hips to rest on the small of her back. "I will, I promise."
"And complete honesty, no matter the topic, and not just what you think I want to hear," she continues and I nod again, holding around her waist even tighter. "Okay, I'll make the call. But while we're doing this, it will probably be best if we continue to sleep separately. We need to build up from the foundation again and it might confuse things otherwise. If you want, you can take the bed. I know the couch has been bothering your legs and back lately."
I close my eyes and sigh; I know she's probably right, no matter how much I want to be beside her at the moment. But there is no way I'm making her sleep on the couch. I broke us, not her. "No, Bella. I'll be fine. Thank you."
I lift my head to look at her, taking her free hand and kissing her knuckles. Again, she doesn't pull away and meets my eyes instead. "Let's get some sleep. I'll make the call in the morning before I go to work."
I nod and rise from the floor, still holding her hand. "Are there any other rules to this?"
"Like what?" she asks, gazing up at me questioningly.
I squeeze her fingers gently and take a deep breath. "Can I tell you I love you and kiss you goodnight?"
Bella stands up in front of me, her lips trembling with a nod of her own. "Tonight, yes. After that, let's see what the counselor says."
"Okay," I reply, even though I'd hoped for a slightly different answer. My hands shake as I bring them to cradle her face and lower my lips to hers.
Bella's fingers grip my shirt at my sides, releasing a half-whimper, half choked sob as she returns my kiss, as I feel a tear hit the tip of my nose where it rests on her cheek. I continue holding her face, praying that this won't be the last time I feel her lips against mine, or her touch. I keep kissing her with that terrifying thought in my mind until we both need to breathe, but even then, I rest my forehead on hers.
"I love you so much, Bella," I whispered, tracing the pads of my thumbs over her damp cheeks.
"I love you, too," Bella replies just as softly, brushing her lips against mine once more before stepping back from me and sitting down on the bed again with her eyes lowered. "Goodnight, Edward."
I sigh—she won't even look at me. I can only hope I haven't hurt her beyond repair. "Goodnight."
With that, I make my way back to the door and look at her one last time before closing it behind me, hearing her cries once again from inside the moment it clicks.
Please God, let me fix this.
Thank you if you're still with me here. You guys are awesome :)