TLS Angst Contest Entry
Word Count: 7,830
Title of Story: Watch Me Burn
Story Summary: There were a lot of words to describe my relationship with Bella Swan. I never imagined one of them would be over.
Voices murmured around the room. The occasional boisterous laugh echoed off the walls from someone who'd drunk too much. It happened every time Alex had a gathering at his house for his colleagues. Considering most of them were our old fraternity brothers, it really came as no surprise that people got a little rowdy. Recently though, things had calmed down. It was no secret that was largely due to the latest addition to the guest list.
Pushing the back door closed with my foot, I set a plate of burgers on the kitchen table and grabbed my drink. I'd planned to go back outside but stilled at the sound of Bella's laughter. I scanned the room. My back stiffened when I saw her, my grip tightening around my glass of whiskey.
With her hair hanging in her face, she swayed a bit and leaned into the guy next to her. He chuckled and steadied her as she stretched up on her toes and whispered in his ear. A smirk spread across his face at whatever she'd said, his eyes flashing to me when she reached up and squeezed his bicep. My jaw clenched and my pulse roared in my ears when she dipped her chin and turned her head until our eyes locked. Her blank expression and cold eyes made my stomach drop. Something wasn't right.
"You and Bella taking a stroll down memory lane?" Alex asked, his voice thick with confusion.
"I don't know what's going on with her," I answered, not taking my eyes off Bella. "She's been acting really weird since Heidi had the baby."
"Do you think it bothers her that we're already married and have a kid while you're still dicking around?"
I tore my gaze away from Bella and glared at my brother. "Fuck off," I scoffed. "First, you and Heidi are insane. Who proposes after two months of dating, then decides to have a baby less than six months after the wedding? Bella and I aren't ready. We both just finished school and started new jobs. We haven't had time to think about that shit."
"But you've been living together for almost a year. What are you waiting on, Edward? Are you having second thoughts?"
"Of course I'm sure. I―" I lowered my voice and looked around to make sure no one was listening. "I bought a ring a month ago. But she's been acting so strange. I don't know what to think. She was fine...until she wasn't."
"Well," Alex sighed, his eyes flicking to Bella, "you might want to figure that shit out."
I followed the direction of his gaze and had to fight every instinct in my body to keep from launching my glass against the wall before dragging her out of the room. Her finger traced the rim of her glass as she smiled up at the guy in front of her. She was flirting, and she wasn't trying to hide it. If anything, she was making sure I saw it. It was what she wanted, but I was in no mood to play this game with her. I didn't want to revert to how we were in college. When we'd push each other's buttons by flirting with other people until one of us snapped and dragged the other out of the room. It was fucked up, but we fed off the energy, the anger. We loved it. But that was a long time ago, and neither of us had done anything like that in years. Not until tonight. I had no intention of giving her what she wanted. Instead, I downed the rest of my whiskey and crossed the room to where Heidi stood with a group of friends.
Placing my hand on her shoulder, I offered her a small smile in apology for interrupting. "Where's Mags?"
Heidi grinned, her eyes darting over my shoulder before returning to mine. "Chelsea has her. They were in the living room about ten minutes ago."
"Thanks." I turned to go when Heidi tugged on my sleeve.
"Are you okay?"
"I'm fine. Seriously," I added when she only stared at me.
"Liar," she whispered, her eyes troubled. "What the hell is wrong with her?"
"Heidi don't. I love you, but don't go there. You know better." Heidi was a great girl and she was perfect for my brother, even if I did think they were crazy. But I wasn't the only person Bella had been treating differently the last several months. Heidi made no secret that Bella's attitude had pissed her off. Logically, I knew she had every right to be upset, but Bella was my girl, and I didn't give a damn who she was, no one was allowed to trash Bella to me.
"I'm sorry. I'm just worried about you."
"I know. Everything is fine. I'm going to find Mags." I leaned over and gave her a quick kiss on the cheek before turning toward the living room, purposely avoiding looking in Bella's direction. When we left the party she and I were going to talk. She was going to tell me what the hell was going on, and we were going to fix it once and for all. I wanted to marry her. I wanted her to have our children. I wanted forever. Whatever she was going through wasn't going change that.
"Hey, Chelsea." I grinned, dropping to the floor beside her and leaning against the couch.
"I wondered how long it'd take you to come find her." Chelsea laughed and handed me Maggie.
"You're lucky I was on burger detail, or I would have taken her from you as soon as I got here." I bent my knees and laid my niece on my thighs. "Hey, Mags. I heard you got your daddy good earlier."
"Oh, Edward. It was awful," Chelsea laughed. "I think he burned his clothes. She completely blew out her diaper while he was holding her."
"That's my girl," I chuckled and tickled her side. She made a gurgling sound in the back of her throat and grabbed my finger. Drool slid down her chin as she wrestled with me to pull my finger into her mouth.
"Do you think she's teething?" Chelsea asked, leaning across me to wipe Maggie's chin.
"I'm a child psychologist. I don't know a damn thing about teething." I brushed my hand over Maggie's head, the soft red hairs standing in every direction. She kicked her legs while she smiled and babbled.
"Well, you better figure it out. One day this will be you."
I looked over at Chelsea and smiled as she made faces at Maggie. "Yeah. One day."
"I'm ready to go."
I startled at the angry bite of Bella's voice. Her expression was hard as her glazed eyes darted between me and Chelsea.
"Now," she spat and stumbled forward.
My eyes widened, and I passed Maggie to Chelsea as Bella fell toward me. Leaning up, I managed to catch her arms and steady her before she fell into my lap. "What the fuck is wrong with you?" I hissed.
She jerked away from me and smoothed down her hair. "Nothing is wrong with me. I'm the same as I've always been."
I shook my head and stood from the floor. Wrapping my arm around Bella's waist, I turned toward Chelsea who was clutching Maggie and gaping at Bella. "Hey, will you tell Alex and Heidi we took off?"
"Yeah. Sure. Of course."
"Of course you will. Why don't you suck his dick while you're at it? Everyone knows you want to," Bella sneered.
I tightened my grip on Bella and leaned down until my lips were pressed against her ear. When I spoke my voice was low nothing more than a growl through clenched teeth. "I don't know what the fuck is wrong with you, but you need to shut the fuck up, right now."
Bella lifted her arms and pushed against my side. She tried to twist out of my grip, but I pulled her closer and held her tighter. "Tell Alex I'll call him later."
I wanted to tell her I was sorry, but Bella was drunk and acting like an asshole. Apologizing to the girl she'd just insulted would only make matters worse. Snatching her coat off the hook by the door, I pulled her through the front door.
"Get the fuck off me, Edward. Maybe I don't want to leave after all. Maybe you should go back in there with Chelsea and I'll find Paul. He didn't have any problem giving me attention."
I pushed her against the side of my car as soon as the words left her lips. Caging her body with mine, I pressed against her until she was trapped. "That's it. I've had it with your shit. Are you trying to piss me off? You want me to be jealous? Do you want me to fuck you like I used to when you'd pull this shit? Because you're testing my patience, Bella."
"You wouldn't know how to fuck me like you used to." She laughed, the sound hard and hateful.
"Get in the car," I demanded. She stared at me, her entire body radiating defiance. I took a step back and ripped open the door. "Get in the fucking car. Now."
She rolled her eyes and tripped into the car, her face twisted with annoyance. I reached across and fastened the seat belt before slamming the door. Pulling in several deep, calming breaths, I walked around the car and climbed behind the wheel. When I looked in her direction, her face was turned toward the window, her hair shielding her face.
The air was thick with tension as I made the short drive to our house. Bella remained mute and stone-still the entire way. Her childish sulking and ridiculous behavior had my teeth grinding and my jaw aching. When I pulled into our garage and killed the engine, she didn't move. I dropped my forehead to the steering wheel and squeezed my eyes shut. Yelling at her wasn't going to get us anywhere, no matter how much I wanted to.
With my forehead resting on the steering wheel, I turned my head in her direction and blew out a breath. "You gotta talk to me, baby. I can't help if I don't know what the problem is."
Bella made a disgusted sound and rolled her eyes before grabbing the handle and kicking open the door. "God, Edward. When did you become such a fucking pussy?"
I shoved my door open and met her at the back of the car. "I'm a pussy because I want to know what the fuck is going on with my girlfriend? Because I want to help?"
"No. You're a pussy because you didn't even get pissed when I was talking to that guy. You fucking walked away and went to find your precious niece and Heidi's amazing sister. Maybe you just don't care anymore. Maybe you want me to fuck someone else so you can have a shot at Chelsea. Is that it, Edward? You want to fuck other people? I bet Paul could fuck me like a man."
"Fuck you, Bella." I wrapped my arms around her and hoisted her over my shoulder. She struggled to break my hold, I wasn't putting her down. She'd officially gone too far.
As soon as the door slammed shut behind me, I set her on the ground and roughly pulled her back against my chest. "Is this what you want?" I hissed, palming her breast roughly. My heart thundered in my chest, and my cock hardened against the small of her back as she arched against me.
"I don't know. It's been so long since you've really fucked me, I don't even remember what it's like." She reached behind my head and fisted my hair. Yanking my head down, she pressed her lips to my ear. "I bet Paul knows how."
I slowly lifted my head and chuckled in disbelief. Dropping my hand, I cupped her pussy over her skirt and squeezed. "If you say that motherfucker's name one more time, I'm going to shove my dick in your mouth to shut you up." I walked us forward until her thighs hit the back of the couch.
I squeezed my hand over her pussy until she winced. "This is mine," I cautioned, my voice low. Kicking her legs apart, I pulled away enough to rip the back of her skirt until it fell to the ground. A wave of unease rolled over me, and I wanted to stop. This wasn't who we were anymore. This was us in the beginning. When we were young kids who got off on fucking with each other. Before I realized we were more and didn't need games and fights to love each other with passion.
Bella spun around to face me. She shook her head in disappointment as soon as her eyes landed on my face. "I knew it. I knew you couldn't do it. What a fucking letdown."
My lip curled in anger as I reached up and grabbed her hair. "You want me to fuck you hard? Tell you if you ever fuck another guy I'll kill him and you'll wish you never met me? That's what you want?"
"That's what I want. Be a fucking man. Show me you still know how."
I released her hair and grabbed the front of her shirt. She hissed and flinched away from me when the material dug in her skin as I tore it from her body. "Oh, no, baby." I tsked, dragging the straps of her bra down her arms. "You wanted this. Begged for it. Now you're going to stand here and take everything I give you."
I pulled her against me and kissed her hard. There were no soft licks or gentle tugs. She didn't want that type of kiss. She wanted raw and punishing. She wanted me to abuse her mouth until it was red, swollen, and we were both panting for air. With every passing second, our touches became more demanding, and I lost myself a little more. Bella's nails clawed at my skin as she wrestled with my shirt. When I made no move to help, she growled in frustration before sinking her teeth into my lip, the taste of copper suddenly filling my mouth. Stepping away from her, I swiped my thumb across my lip and chuckled when I noticed the bright red blood staining my skin.
"Oh, you really shouldn't have done that." I dragged my tongue over my lip, my eyes locked with hers as I unfastened my jeans. Standing still for a moment, I took in her heavy-lidded eyes. They seemed both manic and sad. Desperate and frantic. She shifted her weight, seemingly unnerved by my scrutiny. With narrowed eyes, Bella suddenly reached out and pulled me close. Widening the opening of my jeans, she wrapped her hand around my dick and squeezed. Hard.
"Fuck," I groaned, my eyes rolling back. My dick throbbed painfully, and my pulse roared in my ears as I rocked forward. As hesitant as I'd been to be with her like this, I couldn't deny how much I loved it. How much I loved to see that fire light her eyes. Wrapping her hair around my hand, I pulled her head back, licking and sucking my way down her neck. I slipped my hand inside her panties and skimmed my nose up the curve of her neck to her ear.
"Is this what you want?" I taunted, sliding two fingers inside her slickened pussy.
She rocked against my hand and her legs began to shake as I fucked her relentlessly with my fingers. "Not yet," I warned. "You don't get to come yet. Not after the way you've fucking acted."
She cried out, her hands clutching my shoulders when I added a third finger. I bent my knees and dropped my mouth to her breast. My teeth scraped over her skin as I flicked her hardened nipple with my tongue. This wasn't foreplay. It wasn't about making her come or turning her on. It was about pushing her to the point of madness, and then pushing a little more.
Every time I'd feel her begin to tighten around me, I'd slow my movements until she was whimpering in frustration. But when she swept her thumb over the head of my dick and started to stroke me, I was done teasing her. I shifted away and peeled her panties down her legs. Pushing my pants down my hips, I let them pool at my ankles, not bothering to step out of them. This wasn't going to take long for either of us. I grabbed her hand and tugged her away from the couch and against my chest.
Lifting my hand, I smoothed her hair away from her forehead. My touch was gentle, a complete contrast from my words. "I'm going to fuck you hard now. Are you ready?"
Something flickered in her eyes, and for a moment she looked like my Bella. Not the cold, hateful version she had been pretending to be. She blinked twice and stretched up on her toes, her lips pressing against mine in a way they hadn't all night. "Yes."
I swallowed and gripped her tighter. "Why do you want this?" It was stupid of me to ask. I knew she was dealing with things she wasn't ready to talk about, but I loved her. I couldn't avoid asking the question. She meant too much to me.
Her eyes drifted shut, and she was silent for several moments before she looked back at me. What I saw in her face was clear resolve and absolute truth. "I just want to feel like I did when we met. I want to remember what made me want you in the first place."
Any concern I felt was wiped away by her words and replaced with bone deep anger. She was being intentionally cruel. She wanted to piss me off. She wanted to hurt me. And even though I wanted to know why, I wanted to shut her up more.
Without bothering to respond, I spun her around and bent her over the back of the couch. I stroked myself once before clutching her hip with one hand and guiding myself inside her with the other. I shivered when her muscles contracted around me, the heat of her soft, silk-slick pussy making my stomach tighten. Leaning over her, I fisted her hair and pulled until her neck and back arched and the angle shifted, then I fucked her without concern or consideration. Just like she wanted.
She moaned and struggled to grip the couch as I slammed into her over and over again. Our labored breaths, the sound of slapping skin, and soft curses echoed off the walls of the otherwise silent room. When I felt her begin to tighten around me, I didn't stop. I released her hair and clutched her other hip, my thrusts so forceful, they caused the couch to slide forward. Bella cried out. I wasn't sure if it was from pleasure or pain, but in that moment I was too far gone to care. If I were being honest, I wanted it to hurt. I wanted her to remember this every time she moved. I wanted to give back just a little bit of the pain she'd inflicted on me with her cold and hateful behavior.
My legs started shaking, and white spots flashed in front of my eyes as my orgasm ripped through me. I came in long, body-jerking pulses that caused my knees to buckle and the air in my lungs to freeze like ice. Flexing my fingers once, I pulled out of her and reached down for my pants. With my jeans resting loosely over my hips, I walked around to the front of the couch where Bella was still bent over and panting.
"Bella." When she didn't answer or bother to look at me, I called her name again, this time with more force.
She raised her head enough where I could see her face, but she still refused to look me in the eye. "I don't want to talk."
I clenched my fists and turned away from her. She might not have looked me in the eye, but it didn't keep me from seeing the wetness on her cheeks. She was still shutting me out. Any relief I'd felt from coming was already gone as my frustration began to mount. When I spoke my voice was flat, detached, just like hers. "Neither do I. Turn off the lights when you're done here. I'm going to bed."
I didn't wait for a response before I moved down the hall to our bedroom. I didn't know if she'd come to bed. I didn't even know if she'd had an orgasm. And for the first time since we'd met, I really didn't care. A fleeting glance in her direction before walking into our bedroom was all it took to cement the fear and dread I'd felt inside. Her eyes were closed and her cheeks shone with tears. But what made bile burn the back of my throat was the satisfied smile that lingered on her lips. I knew Bella well enough to know her satisfaction had nothing to do with sex. She was happy I had walked away from her. She wanted me angry. She was using me to deepen and widen the distance she had been creating between us, and there wasn't a damn thing I could do to stop her.
When I woke the next morning, the sheets were cool and Bella was gone. I tried calling her several times, but she refused to answer her phone. When she finally did respond, it was with a short text saying she'd be home late and to not bother waiting up.
That day set the tone for the weeks that followed. I lived with a stranger. My Bella was nowhere to be found, lost to the secrets living inside her head that she refused to share. She was slipping away from me. Removing a part of me that was entwined with her, that existed because of her, us. But more painful than the process itself was the fact that Bella didn't seem to care.
I dropped my pen on my desk and scrubbed my hand over my face. The smell of stale coffee burned my nose. The endless piles of paperwork stacked around my office made my temples throb. I just wanted to sleep. I wanted to go to bed with Bella beside me instead of wondering if she'd pretend to have fallen asleep on the couch again.
Knuckles rapped on the door and pulled me from my thoughts. "Hey, Edward," Mike said. He leaned casually against the frame and crossed his arms over his chest. "Are you ready for the conference?"
I blew out a heavy breath and shook my head. "Not even a little. I actually wanted to talk to you about that."
"Yeah? What's up?" Mike pushed off the frame and fell into the chair across from me.
"I was wondering how big of a deal it would be if I bowed out of my lecture. I know it's last minute, but I've been dealing with some personal issues and going out of town right now is the last thing I need." I knew it was shitty to blow off a lecture I'd been scheduled to give for months, but when I'd agreed, I hadn't planned on my relationship with Bella falling apart.
Mike's face grew serious, and I knew my answer before he even opened his mouth. "It would be a huge deal. Enormous. You can't blow it off. I'm not trying to seem insensitive, but unless someone is dying, you can't back out. Not without repercussions. That's not it, is it? Is someone sick?"
I shook my head. "No. No one is sick or dying." Not literally, I added silently.
"Are you okay? I've noticed you've been a bit distracted lately. Anything you want to talk about?"
"No. Everything will be okay. I knew it was a long shot."
"I'm really sorry, Edward. You know I'm not trying to be a jerk, right?"
"I know you aren't. I understand. Really." And I did understand. This was a big deal for our practice. A lot of people were depending on me. It was dumb luck that I'd been invited to speak anyway. Letting my personal issues affect my job was unprofessional, to say the least. Especially when I didn't even know what those personal issues were in the first place. But the idea of leaving Bella for a few days, when everything was so strained, caused a dark sense of foreboding to swell in my chest. It was almost like if I let her out of my sight for more than a day, I'd lose her forever.
That night, as I packed my suitcase, I decided she wasn't going to avoid me anymore. I needed answers. I didn't care if she stayed out until after midnight. The sound of the garage door opening caused a lump to lodge in my throat. I peered at my watch, my eyes widening when I realized it was just after seven. Bella hadn't been home before ten in more than two weeks.
I felt her behind me before I heard her soft gasp. "What are you doing?"
Something about the way her words came out in a choked whisper calmed me. "I'm packing."
"You're leaving me."
I dropped the shirt in my hand and slowly turned toward her. Blood roared in my ears, and my pulse beat frantically. I wasn't sure which was worse: the fact that she could even say those words to me, or that she said it like a fact and not a question. "Leaving you? Why would you even say something like that to me? Do you think I'd just pack my shit and leave without so much as a word? Is that what you want? Is that why you've been pushing me away?" Suddenly it hit me. That's exactly what she'd been doing. Did she believe I'd just get sick of her shit and throw in the towel? That I'd leave with no word? Was that what she would do?
Not waiting for an answer, I crossed the room until I was in front of her. "Goddamn it, Bella. What the fuck has happened to you? To us? Why are you trying to break us? I want the fucking truth, and I want it now." Pulling her into the room, I slammed the door shut. "I'm not letting you out of this room until you talk to me."
"What does it matter?" She spat, pulling away from me. "You're leaving. There's not really anything left to say is there?"
"I'm going to a fucking conference. Which you would know if you bothered to talk to me or gave a shit about anything going on with me. But you've been so busy staying as far away from me as possible that I can see why it might have slipped your mind." The flicker of disappointment I saw in her eyes nearly sent me to my knees. It was confirmation of my biggest fear. She wanted us to be over.
"You're imagining things. Work has been―"
"Bella." I cupped her cheeks.
"―crazy and you've been―"
"Baby, please." I tightened my hands around her face and dropped my forehead to hers. "Stop. Please. Don't do this." She continued to talk, giving meaningless excuses that fell flat and insincere. Squeezing my eyes shut, I pressed my lips to hers. "You're breaking my heart."
Her words died in her throat as she lifted her hands to my wrists and gripped them. "I don't want to hurt you," she whispered.
"Then stop. Tell me what's going on. Tell me what I can do. I'll do anything."
She shook her head and smoothed her hands up my arms and around my neck. "I'm so sorry. About everything."
Her fingers twisted in my hair as she tilted her head and kissed me, her lips soft and gentle. My shoulders dropped, my arms wrapped around her, and I pulled her as close as I could. It was in that moment I realized how long it had been since I kissed her and how much I'd missed it. Her. "We need to talk."
"I know." She kissed my neck, her hands sliding down my shoulders, across my chest, and over my stomach. "We will." Her fingers pushed under my shirt and her nails scraped over my skin. "Touch me. Please. Just touch me."
The pleading tone in her voice and the sad look in her eyes broke my resolve. For the first time in weeks, my Bella stood in front of me, and there was nothing I wouldn't give her. I peeled off her clothes, my mouth and hands caressing each curve and swell of her body. When I eased her onto the bed and rocked against her, I felt the weeks of stress and pain melt away. Pushing my hands under her arms, I moved them around her back until my fingers clutched her shoulders. I pressed my chest against the swell of her breasts, and my thighs rested over hers until every inch of our bodies were touching. It still didn't feel like enough. Whispered apologies passed from her lips as I made love to her. When she shuddered and sighed as we fell over the edge, it felt like us.
The sky was beginning to lighten when I felt her lips against my shoulder. Without a word, she straddled my hips and moved over me until my muscles clenched and my body shook. When my alarm went off sometime later, she was already gone. I crawled out of bed and walked into the kitchen where a pot of coffee and a note sat on the counter.
Had to be at the office early. Good luck at the conference. -Bella
I balled up the piece of paper and flung it across the room. She'd done it again. She'd distracted me and avoided talking. And I'd fallen for it. Another realization hit me then. She hadn't said she loved me. Not on the note and not last night. Only that she was sorry. What exactly she was apologizing for, I didn't know. And I had a feeling when I found out, I was going to wish I hadn't.
I spent the next few days mind-fucking myself in every way possible. Bella surprised me the first day when she called out of the blue. She seemed like herself but different, almost manic. But after that, she didn't call again. She didn't answer when I called either. Her texts were short and impersonal. When I finished my final lecture, I didn't bother waiting until the end of the conference. I just wanted to get home to Bella.
I sent her a text that I was coming home early and I expected her to be there. If she wasn't, I was coming to look for her. Her hot and cold demeanor was fucking with my head, and I needed answers. I'd been as patient as I could. My bravado, however, was short-lived when I pulled into our driveway and saw her car.
Parking in the garage, I stepped out of the car and gripped my hair as I paced outside the door. Dread crept up my spine and worked its way around my chest, constricting my breathing and causing my heart to pound. The moment I stepped inside, I shivered. The house felt different. Cold. Wrong. I knew tonight would be different. There would be no avoidance. Tonight felt like revelations and heartbreak.
I wanted to turn around. Walk out of the house and get back into my car. Pull out into the street and away from whatever tonight would bring. But I couldn't do that. I couldn't be a coward. And I sure as fuck wasn't going to give up without a fight. I loved her. I loved her without reason.
Relaxing my shoulders, I opened the refrigerator and grabbed a beer. I looked on the freezer door for the bottle opener and paused when I realized it wasn't there. Nothing was there. No pictures, notes, schedules. Nothing. My eyes darted around the room, my heart starting to pound as I noticed little things missing. The sound of Bella's shoes clacking against the hardwood floors snatched me from my perusal. When she reached the doorway and met my gaze, her eyes were cold and flat, her smile small and strained.
I dropped my eyes and set my beer on the counter. I couldn't stand to see her look at me with those eyes. Silence hung in the air like a thick fog. Unease prickled my skin and twisted my insides. When she didn't speak, I let my eyes slide over her body, taking in every curve, the flare of her hips, and the swell of her breasts wrapped tightly in the dark fabric of her dress. "You look good." I was surprised by the smooth, even tone of my voice. It sounded completely normal, like I wasn't freaking out on the inside.
"Thanks," she whispered, her voice holding the same dull, flat edge reflected in her eyes.
"Going somewhere?" The sharp bite in my voice caused her to flinch. It wasn't intentional, but my nerves were on edge.
"Yeah. I have a dinner meeting."
"Cancel. I came home early so we could talk. You're not going anywhere." My expression left no room for argument. She wasn't running away from me again. And even though the thought of being trapped in a room with her and pushing until she finally told me what was going on felt like being led to my execution chair, I was done waiting.
There was a flicker in her eyes, something akin to sadness, and it caused my angry stance to weaken. The moment she saw it, her face smoothed and her eyes dropped, almost as if she realized her mistake. It was like a knife twisted in my gut. Her fists clenched at her sides as she pulled in a deep breath. The longer she remained silent, the more fear and anger boiled inside me. "Tell me what the fuck is going on," I roared.
"I'm leaving," she screamed, her face bright red.
I stared at her wide eyed. "What?" My voice was barely a whisper.
"You heard me. I'm leaving. We're done." She blinked back the shimmer in her eyes, but never averted her gaze.
My stomach dropped, and my vision blurred as the room spun. "What? No. What are you―" I couldn't think. I couldn't wrap my mind around what she'd said. "No. You don't get to leave me, Bella."
"That's not your decision to make. I have to do what's best for me. I deserve to be happy."
"Bullshit," I spat. "I have no say? I'm just supposed to accept this and let you go? We're supposed to be a team. Me and you. We make these decisions together. You don't get to throw us away!"
"Do you love me, Edward? Do you want me to be happy?"
"Of course I fucking do."
"Then don't ask me to stay. Don't force me into a relationship I no longer want," she pleaded.
I wanted to vomit. I wanted to hit something. I wanted to do anything that would close the gaping hole ripping my chest open. "How can you say that to me? We made plans, Bella. We have a future. We promised forever."
"You made plans, Edward. Oh, my God. Can't you see?" she yelled, her arms thrown out wide. "This is not the life I wanted. This is your life. Your plans. Your future. You wanted the steady job. Marriage, kids, and a white picket fence. I feel trapped. Caged. I feel like I'm suffocating. Do you remember when we first met? How we planned to see the world and work stupid odd jobs and live life to the fullest? That's what I agreed to. Not this."
I stood in stunned silence. Nothing made sense. Everything she said was complete bullshit. She wanted this house. She'd planned our wedding down to the color of her flowers. But the desperation I felt was so much greater than my desire to challenge her. "You want to travel? We'll travel. We don't have to get married or have kids. I just want you. Don't you know that? I don't care about any of those things. They mean nothing without you."
"I don't want that. I don't want you to give up your dreams so that I can have mine. Neither of us should have to make that sacrifice."
"I don't care about that stuff. Don't you understand?"
Tears rolled down her cheeks as she shook her head. "So are you telling me that you haven't bought a ring? That you don't have plans to ask me to marry you?"
"How do you―"
"And what about kids?" she continued. "I see how you are with Maggie. You're a child psychologist for Christ's sake. You've built your entire career around children."
"But you're my life, baby."
"You say that now. But what about in a year? Two years? What if you decide you want to marry and have children? I don't want that. Why prolong the inevitable? Why put off finding someone who shares those dreams with you?"
"Because I don't want someone else," I choked. Crossing the room, I wrapped my arms around her, ignoring the pain in my chest when she tried to push me away.
She cried out, her body rigid as she shoved against my chest until I stumbled back. Turning away from me, she wiped under her eyes and breathed deeply before facing me once more. When she did, her eyes were clear and her face was washed clean of emotion.
I felt like my entire world was breaking apart and shattering at her feet.
"I'm sorry." Her words were resolved and without an ounce of emotion. "I never wanted to hurt you."
Anger, sadness, fear, and longing warred inside me. I felt like I was coming apart at the seams, unable to grasp a hold of one emotion before another one came crashing down on top of me. "No you're not. You don't feel anything. You can't possibly feel sorrow. Because if you did, you'd be dying inside. Just like me."
Her eyes narrowed, the brown eclipsed my black as her lips pressed into a thin line and her chest rose and fell heavily. "Don't play the victim," she sneered. "You're not dying. You'll move on and find someone else. In time you won't even remember me."
"I could never forget you. I love you. How can you walk away from everything we are?"
"What are we, Edward? We're nothing. Just two people who tripped into each other's lives for a moment in time. We were never meant to be forever. Stop imagining what could have been and accept it's over."
My back slid against the wall as I eased to the floor. I searched Bella's face, looking for the girl who'd climbed the fire escape to my dorm room because she'd forgotten to kiss me goodnight. The girl who refused to leave my side for even a moment when my mother died. The girl who laughed and loved me with every inch of her body, both inside and out. The girl who cried when I told her I loved her and then yelled at me for taking so long to realize it. The girl who told me she loved me from the moment we met and would do so until the day she died. But I couldn't find her anywhere. She was gone. And the person she'd left behind was determined to break me until I was gone as well.
I pulled my knees up and flattened my feet on the floor. Digging my elbows into my knees, I gripped my hair. Loss swelled inside me as I mourned the girl I loved and the life we had planned. "What happened to you? Don't do this. Don't end us. I don't know how to live like that. Because a life without you?" I choked, my throat tight. "It's nothing. There's no life without you. Not for me."
She dropped her eyes to the floor, too much of a coward to look me in the eye. To see the crushing pain tearing apart the threads of my soul. In a soft spoken voice, so sweet that it reminded me of the times when I'd wrap her in my arms and promise her forever, she destroyed me. "I'm not in love with you anymore. I'm sorry."
I dropped my head in my hands and listened as her shoes clicked across the floor. The door closing behind her sounded like a cannon being fired. When the garage door shut with a clank, the house was shrouded in hollow silence. I remained on the kitchen floor until my muscles ached, and bright sunlight filtered through the windows. I moved numbly into the bathroom and leaned over the sink. When I lifted my eyes to the mirror, I didn't even recognize the man staring back at me. He looked defeated and broken. Like the life had been sucked out of him.
Turning on the faucet, I splashed cold water on my face and tried to clear my head. That's when I noticed. All of Bella's things were gone: her lotions, makeup, the place where her toothbrush hung. All of it was empty. I ripped open the drawers, but nothing of hers remained. I stumbled into the bedroom and yanked open the closet door. Empty hangers swung on the rod as I pushed my shirts from one side to the other, knowing I wouldn't find her things but unable to stop myself from looking anyway.
I backed away from the half-empty closet until my knees hit the bed. I sat heavily and looked around the room. All of her things was gone. Clothes, pictures, even the furniture she'd brought when we'd moved in together was gone. There wasn't a trace of her that remained. If I didn't know better, it was like she'd never been here at all. But I did know better. She might have stripped our home of any trace of her, but that didn't matter. No matter how hard she tried, she'd never be able to erase my memory of her. Because that was where she lived. Not in this house, but inside of me. And she'd just set me on fire and left me to burn.
The next few days passed in a blur. I wasn't expected back to work until the following Monday, so I took advantage of my free time by staying in a drunken stupor. I tried to call Bella, but she'd changed her number. She was really gone.
If I were being honest, I envied her. I wanted to know how she'd done it. How she managed to just stop loving me. Was there some kind of trick? Because I really wanted in on that secret. When I returned to work, I felt like I was living someone else's life. It was strange to continue on like it was just another day. Like my entire world hadn't been wrecked. I still hadn't told anyone. I wasn't ready for their pity. I wasn't ready to say out loud to another person that she'd left me. It was just another step away from the denial that none of this was real. That this was all just a bad dream and I'd wake up and she'd be there and she'd laugh at me and tell me I was crazy for dreaming about something so unrealistic.
By Wednesday, Alex and Heidi were both calling. I knew the longer I avoided them, the more persistent they would become. And I missed them. I missed Maggie. But the thought of seeing them together and happy hurt so much it was hard to breathe. When the doorbell rang that afternoon, my shoulders dropped in defeat. I walked slowly to the front door, trying to prepare myself for facing whichever one of them had had enough of my silence.
I was surprised when I opened the door and saw our mail man, Pete, standing on my porch, his arms loaded with mail.
"Mr. Cullen, I'm sorry to disturb you, but I can't fit anything else into your box. I wasn't sure if you were on vacation. I didn't want to return your mail."
My throat tightened when I thought about the reason I couldn't even remember to check my mail. "No," I said, clearing my throat. "I've been pretty busy lately. Thanks for not sending it back."
"Of course. I um―" Pete shifted his weight and cleared his throat. "I have a change of address request for Ms. Swan, but it doesn't have a start date on the form. If you'd like, I can pull out anything with her name on it and forward it."
I shook my head and tried to give him a reassuring smile. "No, that's okay. It's been a while since I've checked the mail. I'll go through it and drop it back in the mailbox for you."
With a nod and a sympathetic smile, Pete turned and jogged back to his truck. I closed the door and walked back into the kitchen, my legs heavy. Thumbing through the mail, my eyes stung at the small things I came across, like junk mail from random clothing stores addressed to Bella. I set aside her credit card statements and phone bill, but paused when I noticed several envelopes from a medical facility. Two, three, four I counted, all from the same place.
My heart lodged in my throat and my hands shook as I ripped open the top envelope. I scanned the statement, the words leaping from the page strangling the breath from my body. I opened the next and the next. Bile rose hot and thick in my throat as words my brain struggled to process twisted like a knife in my chest. Words like conclusive results and extensive damage slid together like pieces of a jigsaw puzzle, the test dates perfectly aligned with when she began to pull away. But it was the last letter that broke my heart and gave me hope all at once.
Probability of conception: Less than 5%
Stumbling to the kitchen table, I sank into a chair as I fought to stop the room from spinning. With my fists clenched around the papers in my hands, I shook my head. "You little liar," I whispered into the empty room.