TLS Angst Contest Entry
Word Count: 10,813
Pairing: Edward and Bella
Title of Story: The Long Black Veil
Story Summary: Nobody knew. Nobody saw it. Nobody knew but him. Nobody knew she cried for him and that she would cry over his grave in just a few days. It was a secret as to why and he was going to keep it that way. Even though one word of the truth could save him, it would end her. He'd rather die than have her suffer.
"It's a tragedy!"
"She deserved it!"
"Yes! A sinner like her deserved death!"
Isabella looked up at her mother in horror. She was confused. Her young and innocent mind couldn't comprehend what was going on. She was terrified and clung to her mother's skirt for dear life.
She feared. Oh, Lord she feared so much.
"Don't listen to these people, Isabella, my dear. Nobody deserves death. Everyone deserves forgiveness and God is the only one that can judge."
"Then why is she dead, Mommy? "She looked at the body in the middle of the road covered in a white and blood stained sheet. The woman's blonde hair stained red, danced with the breeze that smelled of death.
"Because she made someone really mad."
"Because she did something bad."
"Burn in hell!"
All the women wore black veils, even her mother. Her mother pulled the veil tighter to her head and looked for a way out of the crowd.
Isabella hurried her feet to catch up, not wanting to be left behind. She didn't want to stay with all those people and the dead woman.
She hoped she never did anything wrong as that dead lady did. She would always be a good girl. She would be an angel like her daddy said she was.
Many nights after that one, she had nightmares and worried sick.
She knew it.
She knew she was no longer a child.
She knew it because of death.
She didn't want to die.
There was an ache deep in his chest. He would forget to breathe and the world around him didn't mean a damn thing. There, in the middle of a room, by his mother, by his cousins, laughing with him or there standing at the door of the church every Sunday she would be.
Her long brown curls adorning that beautiful face he thought of for so long and sometimes even dreamt...
It was as if she had no mercy.
No mercy for his poor and foolish soul.
She was cruel and she didn't even know it.
There she was again. She licked the cotton candy off her lips and giggled when she made the mess worse. Her brown eyes seemed to shine even brighter when she laughed and there was the ache again in his chest.
He shoved his hands into the pockets of his jeans and stared down at his feet wondering when this hell would finally end for him.
He tried to listen to the laughing children and the music of the carnival instead, but no. It was impossible to close her out of his mind.
"Hey Ed, we're headed down to the lake. Get your shit and let's go!" Mike said and patted his best friend on the back.
"I ain't goin', Mike," Edward muttered and started to light a cigarette.
"You are goin! You're my best friend, Ed. I need you around today. I'm nervous as hell."
"Why?" Edward asked, looking into his best friend's eyes.
They had grown up together. They were practically brothers. Mike's mother had ran off with some foreigner and Mike's father had never shown his face. Esme, Edward's mother, had taken him in without questions when Mike was only eight.
The boys shared rooms, clothes, meals and friends. The only thing not making their brotherhood official was their blood.
Edward would give his life for his brother and he knew Mike would do the same. Mike was two years younger than him, and even though it wasn't much of a difference, he had always felt responsible to protect his younger brother and look out for him.
Lately it had been making sure he didn't drink too much.
"I don't know why you're nervous. It's a day like every other."
Mike nervously scratched at his sweaty red neck and cleared his throat. "Please, Brother? You'll understand soon enough.
The lake was where all the young people came to have fun and drink beer without getting into trouble. Edward had always felt older than his age and hated that all these kids would ruin the peace of the lake. He had been out of school for two years now while Mike was just celebrating his graduation. He felt particularly older amongst Mike's friends.
Mike had always been the charmer while Edward had been the serious mature one. Mike had all the luck with the girls while Edward brooded into his books and studies. Mike was loud and was the cause of the party's laughter while Edward was quiet and reserved.
That's the way it had always been and that's the way it was at the lake.
Edward sat by the water, away from everyone, looking back at her.
She was sweaty from the hot Southern sun and even at that she was beautiful.
She was perfect.
She was a witch. Of this he was sure of.
She was gorgeous in her light yellow dress.
How could she have a hold on him like this? It didn't make any goddamn sense.
She laughed at something he said and it filled Edward with rage. He angrily threw a rock into the water when he noticed how he ran a hand down the soft and pale skin of her back.
"Damn you. Godddamn you, Bella," he muttered to himself.
He angrily stared into the sunset until he felt a large hand pat him on his shoulder.
"It's time," Mike said.
"Time for what?" Edward asked him confused.
Mike took a deep breath and showed Edward what he carried in his pocket.
"I'm gonna ask Bella to marry me, Brother."
The ache Edward felt almost destroyed him in that moment.
He couldn't breathe.
He couldn't see from the anger.
It was unfair.
He had never wanted anything more in his life. He gave everything to his brother, his home, his parents, his room, his clothes and he couldn't even have this single thing?
He thought surely Mike would do the same to Bella he did with all the girls he had dated. He would break her heart and leave her. After that Edward would be able to love and lust over a girl that was nothing to his brother. No longer would he feel the deadly guilt for loving the woman that belonged to his brother.
But now...he realized would have to live with it for the rest of his life and knowing it almost killed him.
"Are you sure?" He asked, trying to hide the lump in his throat.
"Very much so, Brother."
"You're very young, Mike. Maybe you should wait..."
Mike laughed and playfully shoved his brother. "I'm eighteen, Brother! It's time. Besides, if you had a woman like Bella, wouldn't you marry her in a blink of an eye?"
Edward looked over at her. She was giggling with her friends and looking at Mike with adoration in her eyes that all about murdered him.
He gulped and turned towards Mike. "Yes. I would."
He would take her with him so far away and love her like she deserved to be loved, but it was impossible. He could never have her.
She cried with joy, hugged and kissed Mike. Everyone applauded and cheered the newly engaged couple, while Edward stood in the dark with a new bottle in his already shaky hand.
The world looked a little crooked from what his green eyes could see.
It all seemed wrong.
He slurred a bitter congratulations even though nobody could hear it.
He chugged the amber liquid, held back the tears and let the devil's water numb the pain.
Her hands shook and her heart raced.
Esme cried as she dug the needle into the black cloth.
She didn't understand why this was happening. She didn't understand how it had come to this. She knew it was love. Was she not allowed to have it?
They were being punished. They were being punished for loving each other.
She knew she was being irrational. She had known that what they were doing could lead to doom and they didn't stop.
But they loved each other.
Wasn't that worth dying for?
"Bella, why don't you come over here so I can measure your head for the veil?"
She looked beautiful.
She always did.
But there was something about her in white and with that big smile of hers. She seemed almost godly. Nobody was worthy enough to be in her presence.
She walked towards Mike, hanging onto her father's arm tightly, looking happy and nervous all at the same time.
Full of agony Edward turned his eyes away from her. He tried to concentrate on the guests as they watched on as the love of his life married the town's golden boy.
He numbly stood by his brother as he promised his eternal love for Bella and as she did the same for him. They were announced as husband and wife, kissed and laughed at the applause from the guests.
Edward sat at the bar the entire night as the happy couple danced and kissed and hugged everyone else. He drowned himself in alcohol and prayed to God this ache would one day die along with the love he felt for her.
He had met her first.
She had just moved to this town and he was the first one to welcome her as he helped her father move their things into their new home.
She was like an angel. Sweet and shy. She offered him tea and he accepted. They talked about her starting school and what she would miss about her old neighboring town. They talked about how he visited her old town all the time and asked why he had never seen her before.
She talked about missing her mother's memory that seemed to linger at her old house. She turned away when her eyes filled with tears and thanked him when he didn't press on.
He left that day with her on his mind and was not been the same since.
She went to school with his brother. Of course Mike noticed her too. Who didn't? With her big brown eyes, deep and rich, her long silky curls and her closed lip smile, often subtle but honest, only a fool wouldn't notice her.
He was busy helping his father with their business, a business Mike wanted no part of. He didn't have time to find her and ask her on a date. When he realized his brother had beaten him to it, he held back with his anger. Being the reserved man he was, he never told Mike about how he felt and his brother was no mind reader.
So he waited.
He waited until Mike would tire of her like he did with all girls, but he never did and each day filled him with a bitter ache.
"Edward, I think you're the only who hasn't congratulated us, Brother," Mike said. Edward could feel him standing behind him and he only guessed she was with him.
He slowly turned around, afraid he was too drunk to do it any different.
Sure enough, there she was, looking tired from celebrating, but still perfect and holding on tightly to Mike's hand.
Edward stood up, ready to put on a show, but she quickly stood a little closer to Mike as if asking him to protect her.
Yes, that's right. She was scared of him. Out of anger and confusion, Edward had done nothing but give Bella the wrong impression. She thought he hated her. He ignored her and only answered her questions with short answers. He coldly told her he had no interest in being her friend when she had kindly asked him to forget their differences for Mike's sake and be her friend instead.
That would have been worse. She would eventually figure it out.
Or worse…he would give in and do something awful.
"Congratulations," Edward mumbled and patted Mike on the shoulder and gave Bella a small smile that didn't reach his eyes.
Mike laughed and accused his brother of being drunk.
Edward didn't deny it and went back to drinking all while glancing at the bride. She caught him staring a few times, but he was sure the pain he felt in his chest reflected on his face. She would read anger instead of pain and turn away.
While dancing with Kate, James accidently bumped into Edward.
Already frustrated and angry, Edward pushed him.
"What the hell is your problem?" Edward angrily asked.
James stood up and pushed Edward back, but then received a hard right hook to the face and then another and then one more.
"Edward!" Esme shouted.
"Edward, calm down, son," Carlisle shouted while Mike and Emmett pulled Edward away from a bloody James.
James bitterly spat blood from his mouth and promised vengeance.
Edward started to calm down, but the pain in his head and the booze made the world spin. He slowly started to realize that the entire town had attended the wedding and were staring at him with fear.
He felt embarrassed and most of all ashamed.
He felt his heart stop when he caught Bella staring with her frightened brown eyes. They didn't shine like they did with Mike and that's what hurt him the most.
He realized she was never his and he never lost her.
He never had her.
He had no right to be upset.
He pulled away from his brother and cousin and left the party. He would be forgiven the next day. It was the drink that made him that way. Not his broken heart.
Or that's what they thought.
He would never dare himself to correct them.
The black veil smelled like coffee. Bella only guessed Esme had spent all night sewing and drinking the black liquid.
She grabbed it from her head and threw it on the ground.
"He isn't dead yet!" She shouted, making the older woman jump.
"So when am I having my first grandbaby?" Esme asked with glee.
Bella smiled at her mother-in-law and touched her belly. "Whenever God says its time. Mike and I have been trying. We're hoping soon. Mike is the one that is the most anxious," she responded with a smile.
"I bet you have been trying hard to have one, you naughty girl!" Alice shouted.
Bella blushed, but felt better when Esme giggled at her niece's silliness.
"Well, whenever it happens, I'm sure you'll be full of joy," Esme assured her. "Bella, why don't you and Mike come on over for dinner tonight? I bet you're tired of cooking for him all the time."
Bella shook her head. "I love cooking for him. Especially because I know he's tired from work."
"Well, regardless, I miss you and my son. Come on over."
Bella sighed, "Is Edward going to be there?"
"Well, yes, he will be. Why?"
Alice giggled. "Bella thinks her brother-in-law hates her."
Esme gasped and looked at her for an explanation.
"I don't hate him. He's just..." Bella struggled to find the words. "I just think I'm his least favorite person in the entire world."
Esme shook her head. "Oh, dear, Edward is the nicest, kindest and most respectful young man there is. Well...besides the incident at your wedding, he really is a good man. He doesn't hate you."
"He does, Esme. The way he looks at me...I shake just thinking about it."
"You gotta fix that," Alice chimed in. "My cousin Mike love his brother. If Edward hates you, it's gonna become an issue later on. As a good wife, you should get his brother to like you."
"Alice is right, sweetie. Why don't you and Mike come over tonight and you try to mend things with Edward?"
Edward was reserved. She had known this and accepted it since the first time she met him. He was quiet and he was this way with everyone he came in contact with, but nothing compared to the way he treated her.
To everyone else, he smiled and even made small talk at times.
With her, he didn't speak and never gave her a moment of the day.
With the passing of the weeks and months, what she hoped would mend itself worsened.
"You have to fix whatever it is that is wrong between you and my brother," Mike said one night. She was embarrassed that even he noticed it.
"I will," she promised.
And so she set off to do just that.
Mike had told her that Edward was the quite the lone wolf. He had gotten himself a small house not too far from town and the Cullens.
They hardly saw him.
He was always at work and never made time for friends and it seemed no time for his brother either. Bella felt like this was her fault. She was the one that kept him away. She had done something to make him hate her, so she was going to fix it.
Sometimes Mike would leave town for a few days for work, leaving Bella on her own. So one night, she made dinner for two and packed all of the food in a basket and headed to Edward's home.
She was afraid he would get angry at her unannounced presence, but when he opened the door she was greeted by a shocked face and a soft voice.
"Bella? What are you doing here?"
She gave him a cautious smile and lifted the basket higher so he could see it. He quickly took it from her hands and offered her to come in.
Edward's home was small and simple. It fit him well. Somehow, it made sense and she liked it very much. There were books scattered all over his living room and on top of an old piano.
She explained that she didn't want to have dinner alone and he didn't question it. She served him after taking the plate out of his hands and forcing him to sit down. He just stared on as she fixed him a drink and placed the plate full of homemade food in front of him.
She asked him to say grace and he did. They ate quietly and only gave each other odd looks and nervous smiles.
"I sure do appreciate ya,'" He finally said. "I haven't had dinner in quite a while. It feels like I'm awfully busy lately. But I don't get it. Why are you here?"
She smiled and with her napkin in her shaky hands wiped her mouth.
"I just wanted to bring you dinner," she simply said. "Mike says you ain't got time to even cook for yourself so I wanted to do something nice."
He nodded and somehow looked a bit disappointed.
"Something nice for your husband's brother."
"Well you can go home now. You don't have to force yourself to keep me company." He stood up and abruptly started walking towards the sink.
"Look, I can come by tomorrow night, too," she suggested, trying to ignore that he seemed upset. "I'll cook some chicken and you'll like it. I make it good, I promise."
"I'm sure you do," he said and gently pulled her by the arm towards the door. She stepped outside and slowly took the empty basket from his hands. "I'm sure you're a great cook, but I don't need your pity, Bella. I don't want to make you uncomfortable so I suggest you don't come back 'round here no more. I just want you to leave me alone." He closed the door without waiting for her to respond.
"Where is my food?" Mike asked. He had been in a bad mood for few days.
"It's cooking," she answered him.
"I don't need your fucking sass, Bella."
She gasped at his language and jumped when he slammed his hands down on the table.
"I work all damn day. All I ask is for my wife to have dinner ready for me when I get home. You can't even do that."
They ate in silence and when they went to bed, she turned her back towards him.
She couldn't believe he had talked to her in the way that he did. She had never seen this side of him
And it scared her.
"Black looks good against your pale skin," Alice said.
"Well, that's a strange thing to say in a time like this, Alice," Bella muttered.
"I know. I don't know what I'm saying anymore. It's like nothing makes sense," the younger girl said. "I can't believe my cousin did that!"
Bella glared at her. "You don't know anything!"
"Neither do you, Bella!"
Oh, but she did. She knew more than anybody ever would.
She covered her face with the black veil and let the tears fall from her eyes.
He sighed deeply and took the basket from her hands. "Bella, I told you I didn't want you around here and then you show up. You're a stubborn woman," Edward said and led Bella to his dining table.
She smiled and started making him a plate.
"You know, I can serve myself," he said, with an annoyed sigh.
"I know, but I want to do it for you. Now sit down, Edward. You're so stubborn."
She grinned to herself with she noticed a hint of a smile on his lips.
They ate in silence, but he commended her on her cooking several times. She asked if she could take a look at his books while he helped himself to a third plate and he let her.
She was surprised that most of the books he owned were some of her own favorites. They talked about some of them and about her dreams of going to school to study literature.
"Why don't you go?" He asked.
She giggled at him as if he was making a joke. He looked at her confused. "Edward, I'm married. I just can't go off to school. Mike has a job and we have a house here."
Edward gently closed the book they were discussing and looked down at his hands. "You must really love my brother to stay in this town for him."
She smiled, but didn't respond.
"Where is my son?" Mike asked.
He was drunk.
He had just arrived after spending a week away from home and he was drunk.
Bella bitterly laughed to herself as she washed the dishes and remembered that the last time she had seen him, he was having multiple beers with his buddies outside the house.
She remembered that she had promised Edward to come over with dinner, but she hoped that he would realize Mike was back and that it would be impossible. She hoped he was doing okay without her.
They had spent so much time together. She realized that while she was with him, Edward seemed lively and even open. She figured he was just lonely and needed someone to talk to. She didn't mind being that person. He was so much fun to talk to about books and any other subjects. He made her feel comfortable and treated her kindly when he wasn't trying to push her away.
"Mike, sit down. You're going to feel sick in the morning if you keep drinking and moving around like that."
"Shut up! Where's my son?"
She didn't respond and dried her hands.
"We've been married for eight months and I still don't have a goddamn son!"
"Maybe if you didn't used God's name in vein he would gift us with one."
Mike's darkened with anger and Bella immediately wished she hadn't said that. He quickly stomped his way to her; his heavy work boots making the floor of the old house cry.
He roughly grabbed her upper arms and shook her.
"Bella! I want a baby. Let's make one," he slurred and slammed his lips to hers.
She tried to pull away, but he was much too strong. She managed to pull her mouth from his and shout. "Mike, you're drunk. Not like this. I don't want to make our baby this way," she cried.
But Mike didn't listen. He ignored the tears running down her face.
That night, she closed her eyes and tried not feel the disgust she was feeling for her husband as he finished above her.
He fell to her side on the bed and quickly went into a deep asleep, smelling like stale beer and cigarettes.
She felt guilty for feeling the way she did. He was her husband and she had promised him and in the name of God to love Mike no matter what happened. But the thoughts running around in her head were disrespectful and she quickly forced herself to fall asleep, after swearing she would never think of of him in that way again.
Edward wasn't home the days that followed and didn't try to communicate with her. She decided to resign and move on.
She was angry with him. How dare he ruin everything? She tried to ignore how much it really bothered her.
"It's been a year," Esme said as Bella helped her cook Sunday dinner.
"Yes," Bella simply answered.
"When are you going to give Mikey a son?"
Bella froze and felt her heart break. It wasn't that they weren't trying. It wasn't like she purposely didn't get pregnant.
It just wasn't happening.
There was nothing more she wanted to give Mike. He had been so depressed lately with his job and their money issues. He would take it out on her, blaming her for not giving him a baby. He was at times rough with her to the point that it hurt when they made love.
Made love…she almost laughed bitterly at the phrase.
"Mike is really not my son, but I love him like one. A real woman is a mother. Don't hold back, Bella. Give us a grandson," Esme said, kissed Bella on the cheek and left the kitchen.
Bella wept. She cried into her flour covered hands and gasped for air.
She didn't know what to do.
"You seem ill," he said.
"I just need to eat."
"Well, I don't need you to be sick."
"You don't need to yell at me!"
Bella sighed and hoped he couldn't see the anger in her eyes through the black veil.
"Mike said your sink might be actin' foolish and that he doesn't have time to fix it," Edward said, standing at her door and holding a tool box. He had cut his hair making him look younger, but hadn't bothered to shave.
She smiled at him and let him in.
He took a moment to study the home she shared with Mike and gave her an approving grin. "You have a lovely home, Bella. My brother is a lucky man."
She shook her head and led him into the kitchen.
He immediately went to work after accepting a glass of water from her. She offered to stick around in case he needed her help and he agreed.
She let her eyes wander as he busied himself. She approved of the stubble on his cheeks and of the beads of sweat rolling down his face and strong arms.
He sat up and wiped his forehead. He took a large gulp of water and she stared at the way his Adam's apple bobbed.
She had never realized how beautiful her brother-in-law was, but quickly snapped out of her daze when he asked her what was wrong.
"Nothing," she answered. "Let me make you lunch. I want to repay you for fixing the sink."
He smiled and shook his head to decline her offer. "You're always cooking," he said. "I'm not hungry. Why don't we just have another glass of water?"
"I have lemonade. How about at that?"
They sat on the kitchen table and talked about his work. How Carlisle was thinking of retiring and leaving everything in Edward's hands.
"But may I confess something to you?"
"I don't want to do it. I don't want to stay in this town," Edward said.
Bella didn't understand why hearing him say he wanted to leave made her uneasy. "Then why don't you tell him that?"
"Because he has nobody else. Mike wants nothing to do with our business and doesn't help us out. My father is getting old and I feel awful."
"You don't have to, Edward." She placed her hand over his. "You're a good man. I'm sure he'll understand you."
He didn't respond, but took her hand in his. He gently rubbed her pale skin with his thumb making her breathing speed up. She watched as his eyes wandered up her arm and stop when he noticed the angry dark bruise on her upper arm.
"Bella, what's this?"
"What do you mean nothing? It's an ugly bruise."
"I fell. Nothing to worry about."
"I don't believe you."
She nervously giggled. "You have no reason not to believe me."
"I guess you're right."
They spent the rest of the afternoon at the lake. She laughed at his childhood stories and she found herself talking so much. Edward was easy. He was simple and warm. He made her laugh and didn't lose his temper.
She wondered why he had hated her at first. He didn't seem like a man capable of such a feeling.
They spent hours together during the weeks that passed. When Mike left town, she would come over to Edward's house with dinner. He would even wait for her at his door. He let her borrow books and at family dinners when everyone else was talking about nonsense that didn't interest either of them, they would talk about books and other subjects they both seemed to love. They would laugh and tease each other over silly things.
Every time she left his presence, she would find herself smiling at the memories they had made seconds before and anxiously waited to see him again.
Visiting Edward had become her favorite thing in the world. She couldn't wait until he had time for her or for Mike to leave town.
He was quickly becoming a friend. A very good friend. Until his mood swings would kick in and he would ask her to leave. He would spend days without talking to her.
Maybe he did hate her. It was such a shame, because she found that she liked him.
"It's so cold. It won't stop raining."
"I think the rain is the least of our worries."
"I'm just saying, Bella. Can't I not think of something else besides my son's unfortunate life for one moment?" Esme asked.
"I guess, Esme. I guess you can."
Bella jumped when the empty beer bottle Mike had thrown across the room smashed against a wall. "I'm tired of this!" He shouted. "I'm tired of my father giving everything to Edward. Just because they share blood! And then you!" He stomped over to her.
Bella tried to get an obstacle between them by standing on the other side of the kitchen table, but Mike was much too fast.
"You can't even give me a son!" he spat on her face. "You fuckin' bitch. You're not a real woman."
She gasped with widened eyes. She managed to pull away and slap him across the face.
But he didn't let her win.
He never did.
He always left her bruised and crying.
He raised his fist high up in the air and that is all Bella remembered the next morning when she stared at her red and swollen face.
He had never hit her like this.
She cried for her dead mother and for her father who had moved so far away. She ran to the person she thought could help her.
"What did you do to him?" Esme asked.
Bella, full of confusion, looked at her in shock. "What?"
Esme examined Bella's wounds and bruises. "What did you say to him, sweetie? You must have said or done something silly for him to react this way."
Bella angrily pulled away from her mother-in-law. "Yes, that must have been it," she muttered and left.
It was a cold and rainy day and she could feel the rain seeping into her clothes as she ran out of her in-laws home.
She sobbed and hated herself for not being stronger. She hated being and feeling like a weak woman. She would do anything to change what was going on.
She knew Mike wouldn't be home, but she couldn't bear being in that house.
She found herself standing in front of Edward's door. She knocked and knocked until her knuckles stung. The sounds of her sobbing were muffled by the thunder and the tears running down her face disguised by the rain.
But when Edward opened the door and looked at her, he quickly knew something was wrong.
He pulled her inside his house, out of the rain and into his arms. "What's wrong, beautiful?" he asked and she sobbed into his neck.
She coughed and sobbed and dug her fingers into his back as she tried to hold him closer. She didn't care if he hated her. She had come to realize he had always been kind to her, regardless of anything else.
She pulled back and cringed when he gasped at the large bruise under her eye and swollen cheek.
"What happened, Bella? What's this? Did...did my brother hit you? Tell me!"
She cried, letting her face crumble and the tears run down her cheeks. "Edward? If I couldn't give you a baby, would you hate me? Would you think less of me?"
"What?" He asked in disbelief. "What are you talking about?"
"Just answer me, please!"
"No, I wouldn't hate you or think less of you just because you can't have a baby. Why are you asking?"
She didn't answer; instead she shoved herself into his arms again and continued crying into his chest. He wrapped his arms around her and she was grateful he was letting her release her pain.
"I swear, Bella, if my brother did this to you, I'm going to kill him. You should be caressed and loved. You should be held and loved again and again. Always and forever and ever."
His words and soothing voice helped her reach calmness and peace. She closed her eyes and wished she could stay in his arms with her face resting against his beating heart for longer than this single moment.
After a few minutes she felt his warm lips against the cold skin of her forehead.
"Jesus, beautiful, you're freezing," he whispered and rubbed her arms with his hands.
"How can you call me that when my face looks like this?" She asked, bitterly.
He sighed and let her go. She was about to protest, but he took her hands in his. "I'm going to get you a towel and some ice for that bruise. I'll be right back."
She watched as he disappeared into another room and rubbed her face with her hands. She winced as she ran over her bruised cheek and eye accidently.
She looked around the house for the first time since she had arrived. His usual scattered books were present on the small table of his living room and on the couch.
She smiled. It seemed the only good and happy memories of the past year were the ones she had of him talking about his books and the moments they spent together when she would bring him dinner.
She picked up the book that he had seemed to be reading before she interrupted him. She caressed the title of the book with her fingers and turned each page with care. She stopped at the page that held his bookmark.
It wasn't the words or the story that held her attention, but instead it was what he was using as a bookmark. It looked like an old photo and when she took it in her hands and flipped it around to see what it was her eyes quickly recognized the images.
It was a picture of her. A picture of only her.
It was a picture of her the night of her wedding. She had always wondered what had happened to this photo. It had disappeared, never to be seen again.
She didn't understand why Edward had it.
She froze when she heard the creaking sounds of the floor. She turned and found Edward holding a towel and a bag of ice and wearing a look of worry on his face.
He didn't respond or move as he stared at the photo in her hand and dropped the items he held onto the floor.
"Edward, why do you have this photo of me?"
Once again he said nothing. She slowly walked over to him and stood so close to him she could smell his scent. "I don't understand," she whispered in a shaky breath, while he looked down at the floor.
"I think it's best you left, Bella."
She didn't give up.
"It doesn't matter. I think you should get home."
She forced him to look at him by pulling his face down with her hands.
"I don't understand. I thought you hated me. I thought...I thought you hated me so much. This whole time..."
He looked into her eyes, with tears filling his own. "I could never hate you," he exhaled. "It's impossible. You're so good and pure. How could I possibly hate you? I hate that I can't stop thinking about you. I hate that you never let me get you out of my mind. You're cruel, Isabella. You're cruel and beautiful."
She let out a broken sob, ran her hands over his chest and fisted his shirt. "Why didn't you tell me? Why didn't you ever say anything?"
"Because you ain't mine," he whispered. "You ain't mine. You're my best friend's wife."
"But you love me?"
He gave her a watery smile. "I do. So much," he answered with all his heart.
She wiped his face with her soft hands and slowly neared his lips to his.
He didn't move, letting her make the decision. She wasn't hesitant and did not ask him. She pressed her lips to his.
She didn't realize she was ruining him forever.
He took her face in his hands and pulled her as close as he possibly could and deepened the kiss. She softly moaned as he licked her lips, letting his tongue caress hers.
It had never felt this way.
She didn't remember feeling this when Mike kissed her.
She didn't know how it felt to be cherished and loved the way Edward made her feel with just a kiss.
She had been such a fool.
They kissed a longer while. She let her hands run up his chest and around his neck while her lips moved with his in a soft, but passionate dance.
When he pulled his head back, separating his lips from hers, it took her a moment to open her eyes. She exhaled a broken breath and brought her fingers to her wet lips.
She now saw something else in his eyes that she was sure she held in her own as well.
"Beautiful," he said and pulled her close once again to kiss her.
From her mouth, he ran his lips down to her chin, jaw, the spot behind her ear and then to her neck. Holding her head with one hand, he ran his other one over her left breast making her moan by his ear. She kissed his cheek and eyelids and nose and chin, whatever she could reach.
She didn't realize they were moving until Edward gently pushed onto his bed.
"You're so beautiful," he whispered as the moonlight made its way through the windows, lighting his way. He pulled his shirt over his head and she wasn't ashamed or felt guilty when her greedy eyes took in every detail of his beautiful torso.
She ran her hands over his chest, enjoying the feel of the small amount of hair there. She caressed his strong and hard shoulders and arms. He grabbed her hands and placed them over head and on his pillows. While looking into her eyes, he gently removed her skirt and blouse, caressing each inch of skin he uncovered.
He kissed her belly and ran his kisses up to her breasts. He licked and kissed the skin that her bra didn't cover and attached his mouth to her neck as he started to take the garment off.
She moaned and moved underneath him. She could feel the wetness of her arousal between her legs. She raised her hips, desperately trying to find friction as he drove her into madness with his wet kisses and the sucking of her neck.
"Please!" she begged.
He finally freed her breasts and took a small pink nipple into his mouth. She moaned loudly at the wonderful sensation. She buried her hands into his wild hair and gasped as he cupped her pussy and pressed his palm hard against her opening.
"Edward!" She called.
"You're finally mine," he whispered and took her other nipple into his mouth and continued to trace her opening with his fingers, feeling how much she wanted him.
"Please," she moaned. "Please, Edward."
He kissed her neck, then her mouth while one of his hands squeezed her right breast. His free hand removed her underwear and she so easily let him. She opened her legs, letting him fall between them and whimpered when she raised her hips to meet his. He drove his jean covered erection into her center as he licked, nibbled and kissed her face, neck and breasts.
She gasped for air, feeling her lungs burn in need and her skin heat up with each passing of his hands. She ran her own fingertips down to his backside, into his jeans and kneaded at his flesh.
He thrust into her one more time, silencing her whimper with a desperate kiss. He stopped his movements and rose up to support his weight above her with his arms and knees and just stared into her brown eyes.
She looked into his as they breathed each other in with heavy breaths. She forgot all about her life outside the walls that made up his home. She didn't dare herself think of the impending doom this could lead to.
It was just his adoring eyes and gentle and loving hands. She didn't even hurt like she had been earlier today.
He took a deep breath and kissed her forehead, before standing up and removing his pants. She didn't dare herself look anywhere else but his eyes. He hovered above her once again, his breath fanning her hair and his eyes caressing every detail of her face and body. She wanted to cover herself with her hands. Never had she been looked at so meticulously, but he quickly sensed her fears and kissed her on the side of the mouth.
"You're perfect here," he softly kissed her eyelids, her cheeks, neck, "here," and her collarbone and breasts. "And here. You're just perfect."
He moved his mouth with hers and muffled her moans as he aligned himself, ready to enter her. When he slowly pushed inside her, he removed his mouth from hers to let her whimper and eventually scream in pleasure when he found himself all the way inside.
She squeezed her eyes shut and arched her back, showing off her neck for him to kiss. She opened her eyes after a long moment to see why he hadn't moved. His beautiful face was calm and peaceful. His eyes were closed and his breathing steady making his sweat glistening chest rise and fall. He waited, feeling how tightly she gripped his cock and how warm and wet she was. It was too much he whispered to her. It was too much knowing it was for him.
He moved slowly at first. She tried to kiss him back, but the way his cock filled and stretched her made it difficult to own her movements. Sloppily, lips, tongues and teeth found each other for brief seconds before he drove deep into her again and again. Each time his hips met hers in a faster pace than before, the pleasure crippled her. When his thrusts became harder and rougher, she dug her fingernails into his back and screamed into his neck. Remembering she needed to breathe, she gasped for air taking in his scent. She licked his neck, tasting the saltiness of his sweaty skin and it was never enough. She sucked, bit and kissed harder with each of his thrusts.
He wrapped her legs around his waist and drove her into her harder, encouraging her to scream and not hold back. His fingers found her clit and when he started to rub, she whimpered and thrashed underneath him. It only took a few more deep strokes and she suddenly tightened her legs around his waist, her eyes closed and her mouth opened with no sound.
It felt glorious. It felt heavenly. She was certain she didn't deserve this feeling.
She was sure she was she had never felt like this before. She opened her eyes when she heard him groan, wanting to watch him come apart for her. He roughly drove into her once more and released inside her, muttering a few unintelligible words.
He gently let his body rest for a moment on top of hers, keeping himself inside her and snuggling his face into her neck. She softly ran her hand up his arm and into his sweat soaked her and listened as he controlled his breathing by her ear.
He pressed his lips to the side of her jaw and when he started to move out of her, she quickly held onto him, forcing him to return.
"No," she whispered. "Don't move. I'm afraid. I'm so afraid."
"Of what, love?"
"That if you move and leave me, it'll all be over. I don't want this to end," she cried.
She felt his hands caressing her face and wiping away her tears. He moved out of her and pulled her on top of him. She rested her head on his chest and wrapped her arms around his naked body. They didn't say anything for the rest of the night. She fell asleep listening to his heart beat and feeling his lips kiss her temple and forehead from time to time.
She knew that what they had done was wrong. It was wrong in the eyes of God and wrong to everyone else. But the next morning, when she woke up to sweet and tender kisses on her face and lips and when he entered her once again, she realized it didn't matter.
All that mattered was the undeniable and unexplainable need she felt for Edward. It completed her in a way she never imagined.
How empty her life had been before.
It frightened her. Maybe if she was alone, it wouldn't. But that wasn't the case.
But she also couldn't be a coward anymore.
She couldn't hide behind the black veil like he wanted her to. She wasn't going to listen to him and she was going to pay for it, but death would not conquer her. She wouldn't let it.
She won't let them.
She owed that to herself and to what they had.
Mike questioned her strange mood in the days after. She was quiet. She no longer answered his verbal attacks and when he roughly pulled at her arms or shouted, she just pulled away and returned to her chores.
In reality, she was counting down the hours and minutes before she could run to Edward again. Every time he opened his door to find her there, his face lighted up and the grin on his mouth was the most beautiful thing she had ever seen.
He would pull her inside his house and kiss her until she melted into his arms. He made her weak and all her defenses crumbled down. But this was a good thing. She wasn't constantly worried that he would become upset or yell at her. She trusted him with all her heart and was always able to let go and just be. She was at peace and there was no need to fight.
This is how it felt to be loved. He wasn't shy about it either. He would whisper it in her ear when they were connected and when she would wake from a slumber. His touches and kisses said it too.
The way he looked at her at family dinners when nobody was paying attention made her lose her breath and feel that constant arousal between her legs she felt anytime he was close. Then soon enough they would find themselves behind the house or in an empty room, kissing and touching.
She knew Edward felt guilty at times. He would be extra nice to his brother and parents, but the guilt couldn't overpower how she made him feel.
They were going to hell.
But before him she had already been living in it.
Why couldn't she have these moments of happiness?
"What happened to your face?" she asked as he let her in the house one day.
"Nothing, love. It was nothing."
"What do you mean nothing? Your eye is almost closed shut!"
He sighed and rubbed his neck. "James Hunter. We bumped into each other in town and…I guess he's still pissed about me punching his lights out at your…at the wedding."
"It's been long time since then," she said in disbelief.
"I know, I know. He shoved me and punched me before I could do or say anything. Everyone in town seemed to be there and so we got separated before I could hit back. I wish I could have told him it wasn't anything against him."
"Why did you fight him that night?"
He smiled and pulled her into his lap. He kissed her chin and then her lips making her hum. His kisses when they were not in his bed were always gentle and loving. "I was angry," he whispered. "I was heartbroken and so angry. The girl of my dreams had married someone else. I just took it out on the wrong guy."
Her eyes quickly filled with tears and he kissed her mouth again, hoping she would stop. "Don't cry, beautiful."
"I just wish-"she cried and buried her hands in his hair. "I just wish I had waited for you."
He smiled sadly at her and with his thumb caressed her bottom lip. "You had no way of knowing. Don't blame yourself."
"I don't want to live like this anymore," she confessed. "I don't want to hide and only have these small windows of time with you. I want to stay with you until the sun comes up and until it goes down and all over again."
"Maybe we can have that."
"What do you mean?" She asked and stared into his green eyes, hoping he had the answer.
"I don't know. But I'll think of something, love. Don't give up on us now."
She nodded and closed her eyes as he placed a soft kiss on her nose. "I won't," she promised.
"How about we go to Greenwood this weekend? It's far and nobody will know who we are. We won't have to hide."
She nodded and smiled into his kiss, already excited to have just another moment with him.
"Edward," she moaned as he drove into her. The headboard of the hotel's bed slammed into the wall making her giggle.
He interrupted her laughter with his mouth and tongue. She quickly forgot about the slamming headboard and screamed and chanted his name as he deepened his thrusts.
She bit into his shoulder as she came making him grunt and slam his cock inside her a few more times before she felt his own release filling her.
He kissed every inch of her face, breasts and neck as he slowed his strokes. It was as if this would be the last time he would ever have her and he needed to consume her completely. She could feel his release leaking out of her and onto the cheap sheets of the hotel bed.
She smiled at how he couldn't keep his hands off her at the movie theater and at the restaurant. She had signed them into the hotel as he hurried to park his truck and carried their weekend bags inside.
The man at the desk had given them a knowing and judgmental look as they hurried up the stairs, but they couldn't find it in themselves to care.
She slept in his arms both those days and nights. They made love in the shower, after breakfast, forgot their plans for a second day out in town and instead spent it in bed. She couldn't detach herself from his skin. Kissing his chest in the mornings and on the lips when they said goodbye upon their return.
When Mike came home late in the night, she pretended to be asleep and tried not to grimace or angrily shout at him when she noticed the smell of stale liquor.
"Bella? Bella, wake up!"
Bella snapped her eyes opened to find her husband looking down at her with widened eyes. "What is it, Mike?"
"It's my brother!"
Bella quickly jumped out of the bed. "Edward? Is he okay? What's wrong?" She couldn't get him to answer any quicker.
"He's…he's in jail."
Mike looked pale and even frightened. "They say…they say he killed a man."
Bella gasped in disbelief.
"He killed my friend. He killed James."
Mike paced with around the sheriff's office while waiting for word of his brother. Bella consoled a sobbing Esme while holding back her own tears.
"I don't think my Edward did this. He's innocent!" She said to her daughter in law.
Bella nodded and hugged her close.
When they were finally allowed to visit Edward, Mike led the way in a hurry. He really did love his best friend. His brother.
"We're going to get you out of here soon, brother," Mike promised a very tired looking Edward who didn't dare look at Bella. "We all know you ain't no murderer. This is all a huge mistake. James was into some funny business and everyone knows that too."
Edward shook his head. The black circles under his eyes making him look older. "There were three people at the scene. They all swear it was me…or at least they say that the killer looked a lot like me."
"They're all fucking stupid!" Mike shouted.
"The death penalty," Edward muttered with no emotion. "If I can't prove it wasn't me, I'm gonna die."
Esme sobbed and kissed her son through the rails while Bella stood frozen behind her. She wanted so desperately for him to look at her.
"Well, when did it happen? When was James murdered?" Mike asked.
Edward took a deep breath. He looked like he was going to be sick. "Saturday night," Edward whispered.
"Well, tell the judge where you were that night!" Mike shouted.
Bella began to shake. She knew exactly where he had been that night. He had been in the arms of his best friend's wife.
"I can't," Edward simply said, looking down at the floor.
He listened as Esme and Mike lectured him. They needed him to save himself.
When they left, Bella stayed behind.
He didn't look up. His watery and tired eyes stared lifelessly at the ground.
"Edward, you have to tell them," she cried.
"No. They'll blame you and I'm so scared they'll hurt you," he cried. "They'll kill you like they did with Mrs. Johnson many years ago when they found out she was cheating on her husband. They'll stone you, Bella! I'd rather die than let that happen to you."
"They won't hurt me. You'll be there! You'll be there with me."
He let the tears fall from his eyes and took her hands in his through the bars of the jail cell. "They all saw me fight James in the middle of that day. They all believe it was me. They ain't gonna change their mind."
"They have to! You're innocent."
"I'm a bad person," he said. "I betrayed my best friend and I made you part of that and I'm so sorry."
"Don't you dare! Don't you dare ruin what we had! You love me, don't you?"
He squeezed her hands in his and nodded. "I do. So much."
"And I love you, Edward." She realized she had never said those words to him before. How much time had she wasted. "I love you."
A few weeks passed and Edward was finally given a court date. They had spent the days investigating as Edward was not talking. He refused visitation, including Bella.
Two days before the hearing, she spent her morning throwing up and feeling ill.
She wondered if it was because of the nerves. She wondered if it was because Edward's mother was already sewing a black veil for her to wear at her brother-in-law's funeral. She yelled at Esme until Mike pulled her away.
She wondered if it was because she dreamt of black veils and the dead woman on the street. Images of Mrs. Johnson's blood stained body and the voices of the angry town people calling her awful names turned into images of her.
Then it all became clear. The realization filled her with fear. The same fear that crippled her when she was eight years old and holding onto her mother's hand when she realized what had happened to Mrs. Johnson and when she lost her childhood cloud of innocence.
All the remorse and guilt she had been feeling these past few weeks could not compare to what she felt now.
The day before court, she convinced the police officer at the front desk to let her talk to Edward. He looked saddened and exhausted. Waiting his impending doom was eating him away.
"I told them to tell you not to come. I love you, Bella. I love you and that is why I need you to live and stay away from me."
"I can't!" She cried. "Don't ask of me this ridiculous request. I need you to live as well."
"I already told you…"
"I'm pregnant, Edward."
He finally looked up at her with widened eyes and an open mouth.
"What? What did you say?"
"I said I'm pregnant. I'm having your baby, Edward."
His face broke and a strong sob escaped his chest. He rested his head against the metal bars that separated him from her. "How? I thought…'
"It's Mike. He's the one that couldn't do it. It wasn't me," she cried. "You have to stay alive so you can take care of us."
He shook his head and cried.
"Take care of our baby, Bella." He caressed her womb through the cell bars, but she pulled away.
"No! Now, more than ever, my goal is to keep you safe! I have to keep you and our baby safe and alive."'
"You don't have to die!" She shouted, but he was already getting used to the idea of death in exchange her life.
His mother, Esme, and all the women wore black veils to mourn the death of James and his own impending end. Bella covered her tear stained face with the veil, but he could still see the pain in those brown eyes he loved.
His hands shook as he watched her emotionless face stare out of the crowd. She sat in the crowd next to her husband and mother-in-law, pretending to be the less pained person.
Nobody knew. Nobody saw it. Nobody knew but him.
Nobody knew she cried for him and that she would cry over his grave in just a few days. It was a secret as to why and he was going to keep it that way. Even though one word of the truth could save him, it would end her. He'd rather die than have her suffer.
He didn't utter a word or blink when the judge asked for his alibi. The old man shook his head already making up his mind about his own verdict.
Edward took one last glance at his family. He knew Mike didn't understand why he didn't even attempt to defend himself. His mother was starting to believe that her son was a murderer and his father, Carlisle, looked devastated.
The only one that knew the truth was her.
Guilty. That was going to be his verdict.
The judge asked everyone to be quiet so he could share his and the jury's decision. Edward's heart pounded in his chest and before he was to be told that death would be his punishment, he turned towards Bella. He wanted to look at life and love in the eyes before the gloom of his end clouded his mind.
He knew she was the love of his life the moment he saw her for the first time. And now, before being sentenced to a cold end, he still believed the same. She was his love.
The judge started speaking, but Edward wasn't paying attention.
Instead, he watched as Bella slowly stood up, removed her veil and made her way to the judge.
"Bella, don't!" He pleaded.
"Mrs. Newton?" The judge asked.
"He's innocent," she said.
"Mrs. Newton, we've already made our decision."
"But you haven't heard it all."
"Bella, please, go sit down!" Edward begged.
"You have proof that your husband's brother is innocent?"
She nodded. "He wasn't in town the night of the murder."
"He was with me," she said and the court room quickly filled with gasps and murmurs. She continued speaking with no emotion in her face and tears in her eyes. "I can prove it. There is a hotel, an hour away from here. The man at the front desk. He can attest to it. He can say I was there with…with Edward."
The judge with no success tried to hush the crowd. He ordered for Bella to be taken in for questioning while Edward was held back by the guards.
He looked over at Mike and his parents who all now looked at him and Bella with disgust and hate. It was strange that they dealt better with the notion that he was a murderer than with knowing the truth.
He begged the guards to keep her safe.
It was late in the afternoon when they informed Bella that she could leave. She raised her head up and opened the door to the world outside.
There, waiting for her were the women and men of the small town she had called home.
It had rained all morning and the ground was all mud making her steps unsteady.
"You deserve the worst!"
Bella tried to quickly make it through the crowd of judging mouths and eyes. She jumped when someone threw mud at her. Her eyes quickly filled with tears at the humiliation, but she tried to hold them back.
She was being pushed and tugged and finally landed on her knees. The mud oozed through her fingers and the crowd became louder with judgment. She looked up and noticed a young girl staring at her with confusion in her face.
She felt bad for the child as she had been in her same situation many years ago. She wasn't alone either, but she hoped her mother was as merciful as her own Renee had been.
"Everyone deserves forgiveness," she remembered her mother saying. She hoped it was the truth for herself.
She hoped she deserved forgiveness. She never meant to hurt anybody. She had selfishly searched for love and had found it, but failed to realize it was too late. She let her heart lead and ignored her mind.
Suddenly, she felt a pair of hands gently pulling her up. Someone had mercy for her.
He was always so gentle.
She stood and couldn't believe his green eyes were staring into her own. He looked tired and broken, but beautiful and hers. Still for her.
"Let's get out of here," he whispered. Those simple words made everyone around disappear and the mud under her feet had never felt so solid. She gave him a watery smile and placed her hand in his.
Nobody knew. Nobody saw it. Nobody knew how much she loved him, but that didn't matter, because he knew and that was good enough for her.
Her mother was right.
Forgiveness was for everyone.